Storytime With Melvin

I’m not sure there is anyone my age that didn’t grow up with Mel Brooks’ movies. I was first introduced to him with his film History of the World Part 1. Blazing Saddles, Spaceballs, Young Frankenstein, High Anxiety, To Be or Not To Be, and so many others soon followed. While some of his films were … well, not so good … many made me laugh (and still do).

I soon learned that Mel wrote for Sid Caesar on Your Show of Shows. Then I learned he co-created the TV show Get Smart. Then I heard his 2000 Year Old Man stuff with Carl Reiner. I was gifted a Mel Brooks movie collection for Christmas one year with all of the movies mentioned above and a few others. I really came to appreciate this comedy genius.

Recently there was a book that came out about Mel that I saw at the book store. I was going to buy it, but it was like $45. I had heard Mel was writing his autobiography and I thought the book I had was it. It wasn’t. Not that I won’t ever buy that book at some point, but I wanted to read the stories from Mel himself.

I finally received Mel’s book in the mail today. I used a gift card I was given for Christmas to get it.

I read the reviews and they are favorable. Some say the title says it all and say “Mel is all about praising himself.” So what?! LOL Another guy said he literally read the whole book in one sitting because it flowed so naturally from story to story. I barely was able to get into the first chapter, but so far i am enjoying it. Maybe I am weird, but I can hear Mel talking as I read it.

My reading time is limited, so I am not sure how long it will take me to read it, but when I finish, I will be sure to post a review.

Modern Tech Can Ruin A Classic

As a fan of old movies and old TV shows, I sometimes find myself thinking about how modern technology can immediately take an entire show or movie and destroy it. Just to prove my point, I will quickly look at a movie that I have been meaning to write about for some time – It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963).

This movie is a classic and almost anyone who is anyone in comedy was in it. The main characters are played by Spencer Tracy, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Mickey Rooney, Jonathan Winters, and Buddy Hackett. There are countless comedian cameos throughout the entire movie.

Here is a quick synopsis: A criminal who has been just released from prison has a car accident and drives off a cliff. Five motorists who witness the accident rush down to help the driver (Jimmy Durante) who is fatally injured. Just before he dies, he tells the motorists about $350,000 that he has buried in Santa Rosita State Park under “a big W.”

As police arrive, and question the motorists (who say nothing about the money), they climb back up to their cars and all eventually pull over to discuss what has transpired. They decide that they will all go to see if there even is any money, but first begin arguing over the best way to divide up the money between themselves.

After failing to come up with a satisfactory way to split the money, it becomes every man for himself and everyone begins racing each other to the park. What they don’t know is that they are all being watched by a police captain who has been following the case for years. The remainder of the movie consists of car chases, plane mishaps, car thefts, and plenty of property destruction as the motorists race across the country to get to the money first.

You don’t have to think hard about what piece of modern technology would stop the plot of this movie dead in its tracks – a cell phone.

All these motorists would have to do is call someone close by to look for the money, right? As a matter of fact, in the film Ethel Merman’s character calls her son (Dick Shawn) to tell him about the money because he lives close by. However, the son is so dumb and doesn’t listen to her and gets in his car and drives toward her instead of to the money.

Sid Caesar’s character charters a plan for him and his wife and the actually arrive in town first. They go to a hardware store to buy tools to dig with. They enter the store as the store closes for lunch (who does that anymore?) and are locked in the basement. A cell phone would have easily allowed them to call for help. Without the cell phone, however, he and his wife manage to destroy the basement of the store with fire and even dynamite!

It’s funny to think about how modern technology could change or completely erase story plot. The characters only knew that the money was buried under a “Big W.” They didn’t even know what that meant! Many of them were shown driving in their cars guessing what it could be (A water tower, or a windmill). Today, you could simply type into Google or ask Siri, “What’s a Big W located in Rosita Beach State Park?”

You could easily watch countless movies and TV shows from the past and say, “That would never happen today!” Think about how many old detective shows or courtroom shows would be different just because of the use of DNA evidence today?

What IS important is to sit back and watch these classics understanding the culture of the day and remembering the time frame they were created in.

What are your thoughts?

Antiques and Other Thoughts

Old Treasures = Old Memories

Lately, I’ve noticed some things on Facebook marketplace that take me back to my childhood. This is much like when I have stopped by Goodwill or the Salvation Army. One time I was walking through Goodwill and I saw a brass teapot that my grandmother had on a table in her front room.

One day Facebook marketplace had an old oil lamp I recognized. I don’t remember who had this in their house, but I remember it being something that fascinated me. I would just sit and watch it.

This week, someone posted a piece of patio furniture that used to sit on my grandma’s back porch. I will always remember this glider. It was metal, so it got hot in the summer time. I also remember that when you got up, you had all these squares imprinted on the back of your legs! My brother found a picture of me in a rocking chair that obviously went with the glider. He seems to think the glider ended up at our house, and he may be right. I don’t remember. All I know is that someone was asking like $500 for it on Marketplace!

I remember there was a lamp that hung at my grandma’s (and I think my mom had one, too) that was an eagle. I want to say it was ceramic. I now it hung on a chain. It was heavy and I always seemed to bump my head on it!

I really wish there were more pictures of things like this in our old photo albums…

I’m A Moron

I had to make a call to my credit card company today to ask a question about something. When I called, it asked for the last four numbers of the card. I read them and the automated voice said that they didn’t match their records. I read it again and they said the same thing. Recently there was a fraudulent charge made and the cancelled the card and sent a new one. I shredded the old one (I thought) and put the new on in my wallet.

Man’s hand holding credit card to stop over spending on it

Yeah, nope. I actually shredded the new card and put the old one back in my wallet. I guess I am glad that I called with a question, or I would have never known I had the wrong card in there. What a dope!!

Little Moments I Treaure

Being back to work, I feel like I don’t get to see Ella. The last couple days when I get home, she looks bigger to me. I mean vastly different. I know this is only perception, but that’s how I feel. I know I am not crazy, cause Sam will say the same thing when she comes home.

This morning, I sat with her on the couch and she was drinking her bottle. When she finished, she snuggled up to me and took my finger in her hand. Man, that is one amazing feeling. I love when she does that. It was the perfect way to end my day!

A Quote to Post on Your Fridge

The following quote showed up in my Facebook Memories and I wanted to share. It comes from the great Sid Caesar:

“Do you know how important ‘NOW’ is? Enjoy it as much as you can, because no matter how much you want to hold on to ‘NOW’, it’s going to be ‘WAS’ !”

Enjoy the NOW!

Thanks for reading!

Books I Couldn’t Put Down

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I love reading.  I don’t get as much time to do it as I’d like.  I have a stack of books on my “to read” pile right now.  I really need to stop going to the library because every time I do, I bring home three or four and the “to read” pile doesn’t go down.

I was challenged to write this blog by another blogger I follow.  Interestingly enough, a different blogger had posted a few blogs about books and we had brief conversation about doing a blog like this, and then I received the challenge from a second blogger.

I took a piece of paper out and jotted down the first few books that came to mind and stopped when I reached 5 for the three categories.  Included is a brief description of each, should you be moved to read them.

Fiction

Pandora’s Clock – John Nance

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A plane carrying a “super virus” that could leave all the passengers dead within hours.  Word gets out about the plane and no one wants them landing at their airport.  Reviews I read afterward were not that great, but I enjoyed the book.

True Crime – Andrew Klaven

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A man is about to be executed for a crime he didn’t commit.  He tells his story to a reporter who investigates and finds the real killer.  It is a race against the clock to stop the execution.  I read this in one day!  I couldn’t put it down.  The movie made based on this book was a huge disappointment.

The One Man – Andrew Gross

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One of the best historical thrillers I have read.  A man is sent to sneak into Auschwitz concentration camp to save a man who has information that can start a war – or end it.  Loved this book!

The Godfather – Mario Puzo

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A classic!  I can re-read this over and over.  The story of the Corleone Crime family, which was turned into an Academy Award winning film.  A story you can’t refuse!

11-22-63 Stephen King

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What an amazing premise for a story!  Already fascinated with the assassination of JFK, this was a must read for me.  I was not disappointed.  A high school English teacher is recruited by a friend to stop the Kennedy Assassination by going back in time through a time portal in the neighborhood diner.  This is also on my “books to read again” stack.

Non-Fiction

Hiroshima – John Hersey

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Powerful and eye opening story of the bombing and aftermath of Hiroshima, Japan.  It is truly amazing to read the stories of people who survived this horrific event.

A Night to Remember – Walter Lord

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The minute by minute account of the sinking of the RMS Titanic.  I first read this in high school for my Survey of Non-fiction class.  It remains one of the most accurate accounts of the tragedy.

Maus – Art Spiegelman

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I read this for one of my first college classes.  The true story of a Holocaust survivor, as told by his son. It is a graphic novel based on conversations between father and son.

The Michigan Murders – Edward Keyes

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One of the first true crime stories I ever read.  Between 1967-1969, there were many murders of young women in the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti area of Southeastern Michigan .  The killer was being called the Ypsilanti Ripper.  At times gruesome, the story was fascinating.

Exit The Rainmaker – Jonathan Coleman

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I first learned of this book from a co-worker who was reading it one night at the radio station.  The book tells of the true story of Jay Carsey, a college president, who walked away from his wife, work, family and friends to start a new life.  I learned afterward that he not only did this once, he did it twice!  Carsey died in 2000, but his story makes you wonder just what makes someone do what he did!

Biography

Sid Caesar – Where Have I Been?

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Sid was a very funny guy, but boy did he have demons!  I had no idea just how many issues he had until I saw this one on a library shelf and picked it up.

Jack Benny – Mary Livingstone

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There are many other biographies about Jack Benny (by Irving Fein, Milt Josefsberg, and his daughter Joan Benny), but I chose this one written by his co-star and wife, Mary Livingstone.  I have read this one a few times, and even though the stories are the same, it just makes me love Benny even more.

One Fine Stooge – Steve Cox

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Steve Cox and Jim Terry do such an amazing job with this book on one of the most underrated classic comedians – Larry Fine.  Great stories, great photos, and a wonderful tribute to my favorite Stooge.

Moe Howard and the 3 Stooges – Moe Howard

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Moe on Moe.  In his own words, and with lots of pictures, Moe shares many stories from his days as leader of the Three Stooges.  This was one of the first books I ever bought on the Stooges, and remains one of my favorites.

Soupy Sez – Soupy Sales

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I wasn’t young enough to watch Soupy in the 60’s, but I did get to see his 70’s revival show on TV as a kid.  I also loved listening to his Moldie Oldies Show on the radio.  Soupy tells some great stories in this biography.

Closing Thoughts

I am sure if I really thought about it, I could come up with many more books I enjoyed.  For now, this satisfies the challenged posed to me.  What books are your favorites?  Tell me about them!  I’d love to add them to my list of books to read!

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