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Posts Tagged ‘humor’
By MARGALIT FOX, The New York Times
Leonard B. Stern, an Emmy-winning writer, producer and director for television whose frantic search for an adjective one day led him and a colleague to create Mad Libs, the game that asks players to fill in blanks with designated parts of speech to yield comically ________[adj.] stories, died on Tuesday at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif. He was 88.
His death, of heart failure, was announced by his publicist, Dale Olson.
As a writer, Mr. Stern received two Emmy Awards, in 1957 for “The Phil Silvers Show” (a k a “Sergeant Bilko”) and in 1967 for “Get Smart,” on which he also served as executive producer.
Like Mr. Stern, Mad Libs — bound tablets of stories with blanks in strategic places — has a show-business pedigree. First marketed in 1958, it was born by way of “The Honeymooners” and introduced on “The Steve Allen Show.”
Mankind has been playing with language for as long as there has been language, and Mad Libs is assuredly not the first game of its ilk. In 2007, NPR reported on an Edwardian precursor called “Revelations of My Friends.” A slim volume published in London, it contained a set of stories, each masked with an overleaf. Players wrote designated words (“Place,” “Colour,” “Well-known person”) through cutouts in the overleaf, then lifted it to reveal the completed story.
But Mad Libs is undoubtedly the first such game to attain wide commercial success. Now comprising 120 volumes, the series has sold more than 150 million copies, according to its publisher, Price Stern Sloan, an imprint of the Penguin Young Readers Group. Since 2008, more than two million Mad Libs apps, which let the game be played on iPhones and iPads, have been downloaded.
A children’s game show based on Mad Libs was broadcast on the Disney Channel in the late 1990s.
Mad Libs was conceived in 1953, when Mr. Stern was writing a script for “The Honeymooners.” As he recounted in interviews afterward, he was casting about for a particular word. His friend Roger Price, a humor writer, happened by.
“I need an adjective,” Mr. Stern said.
Mr. Price obligingly supplied two: “clumsy” and “naked.”
Mr. Stern laughed out loud. The word was intended to describe the nose of Ralph Kramden’s boss.
The men realized they had a commodity. But no one would touch it: Mad Libs was too gamelike for book publishers and too booklike for game manufacturers. So in the late 1950s they published it themselves, storing the first printing — 14,000 copies — in the dining room of Mr. Price’s Manhattan apartment. He ate standing up for the next several months.
By this time, Mr. Stern was a writer for “The Steve Allen Show.” He persuaded Mr. Allen, who adored wordplay, to use Mad Libs to introduce his guests, with audience members furnishing the missing words.
“Steve would ask the audience for a noun, or an adjective,” Mr. Stern told The Washington Post in 1994. “I’ll never forget: ‘And here’s the scintillating Bob Hope, whose theme song is “Thanks for the Communist.” ’ ”
With that, Mad Libs sold ________[adv.], like hotcakes. A friend, Larry Sloan, joined the partners in the early 1960s to form Price Stern Sloan.
Leonard Bernard Stern was born in Manhattan on Dec. 23, 1922, and studied at New York University.
After an early marriage that ended in divorce, he wed Gloria Stroock, an actress. She survives him, as do their children, Michael and Kate Stern; two grandchildren; and a great-grandchild. Mr. Price died in 1990.
Mr. Stern was a creator or co-creator of several television series, including “I’m Dickens, He’s Fenster,” “Run Buddy Run” and “He & She.”
He also created, directed and wrote for the hit Rock Hudson-Susan Saint James series, “McMillan & ________[noun].”
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Once again, I am rushing around trying to spruce things up before guests come over. Don’t get me wrong, things are picked up and relatively organized, but why does it always seem that stuff just appears right before visitors are due to arrive? I know for a fact those dust bunnies I can see under the chair as I walk up the stairs were NOT there last night. Neither were the fingerprints on all the light switches, nor the smear across the front of the refrigerator. Where does it all come from? Maybe from the two teenage boys, the dog, the cat, and the perpetual remodeling projects in progress both inside and outside the house?
So, I take a deep breath, rip a drooping, yellow leaf off a plant as I pass by to answer the door, and have a sudden flashback of a weekend my family spent camping out in a friend’s backyard. There was nothing fancy about it; in fact, the yard was filled with 19 old cars, all in various states of disrepair, a few stacks of tires, some rusted yard implements, and several little buildings (shacks?) in need of a fresh coat of paint, among other things. There were three different enclosures filled with chickens, doves, parakeets, cockatiels, and finches. Not to mention three or four domestic turkeys, as well as two wild turkeys that hopped the fence one day, hoping to make new friends, and decided to stay. That yard was a little boy’s dream, bursting with endless possibilities of exploration and discovery. Resort-like, it was not.
The thing that sticks in my mind the most, though, is how much fun we had. Those turkeys were a riot. Every time someone laughed, those silly birds would gobble. Laugh, gobble, snicker, gobble, giggle, gobble, gobble. We spent time with precious old friends, cemented friendships with couples we don’t get to see too often, and started new relationships with folks we had never met before. That ramshackle yard, with the mismatched stools set around some old doors for tables, the tub from an old washing machine commandeered as a fire-pit, and the goofy gobbles of the turkeys, became a haven. It wasn’t the place (although it did provide a lot of atmosphere!), but the people that made the weekend so special—the laughter, love, and open hearts of good people just spending time together. I can’t wait to go back.
As you rush around this holiday season, trying to fit in all the activities and functions that are a natural part of this time of year, I hope you find yourself not worrying about the dust and fingerprints, the stray sock on the floor, or the wad of dog hair in the corner. I hope you laugh with the turkeys and delight in the people you are with. I plan to. And my friend waiting at the door? I just kick the cat toys out of the way and greet her with open arms and a smile that comes straight from my heart.
I had 2 leg injuries last year from falls (and I’m only 45). The female doctor said injuries are actually quite common among busy moms. I decided this “disease” needed a name so I named it Multi-Tasking Mama Syndrome. Do you have it too? I think we need a support group — the meetings should take place at a medical facility. Make sure to bring along your laptop, cell phone, kids, diaper bag… 1-800-555-MTMS
At Dinner one of my girls was speaking in a strange made-up language. When I asked her what she was doing, she said:
“I’m speaking “cat english” so our cats can understand me better.” - Sakura, age 7
You and your little one will have a blast when you join this group of adorable toddlers as they explore the farmyard. Come along on their delightful and joyful journey as they try to discover just which animal says ”boo.” ”Does a pig say boo? Oh, no! A pig says oink! And a pig goes grunt as it sqwuffles in the mud. Oink, oink! Grunt, grunt!” Could it be the cow? The dog? How about the horse or the mouse?
You’ll be smiling right along with the children and the animals as you moo, whoo, buzz, and cheep your way to the surprise at the end when the mystery is revealed and you find out that it is you who says ”boo”!
Review by Tina Elliott
“Why haven’t they made a movie about me yet?” — Ian (at age 4)
Techniques, Tips, Stories and More Than 100 Great Recipes
I’m hard-pressed to decide whether it’s the recipes or the humor that makes this book one that the Man-of-the-Family simply must have. Sloan’s wit will make any grill-fearing or even ”there’s nothing I don’t know about grills” guy want to hunker down in the easy chair and read the book cover to cover.
A must-have for any family prone to BBQ, Dad’s Awesome Grilling Book has recipes for appetizers, beef, pork, lamb, poultry, fish, burgers/dogs/brats, pizzas…the list goes on and on. Add to that its funny musings and really helpful technical info, and the book lacks for nothing. Get it for Dad.
Review by Ann Ruethling
From the author, Bob Sloan:
If you’re like me, then Father’s Day is a chance to make a request for someone in your household to provide you with your favorite food. For me, that would be some barbecue. If you’re also like me, you don’t trust anyone else to smoke the ribs or brisket but yourself. So what’s a dad to do? Well, here’s a solution that’s worked for me–have your wife and/or kids throw together these Barbecue Pork Burgers for lunch. They’re not true, pure, unequivocally absolute barbecue, but they allowed my family to feel as if they were making something special for me–Dad–on my Day of Days. The burgers, in fact, do have that essential barbecue flavor, which is a perfect fix to hold me over until dinner. That’s when the ribs I have coated with my special dry rub the night before will be coming off the grill. Hey, I know it’s supposed to be My Special Day and everyone is supposed to be taking care of me, but I just can’t help myself. Anyway, there is no greater gift than my family eating together–especially when we’re getting our hands messy in unison eating barbecue. For great smoked barbecue recipes, check out Dad’s Awesome Grill Book.
An exclusive recipe for Chinaberry Customers from Bob Sloan:
Barbecued Pork Burger
This burger captures the spirit of an authentic down-home pulled-pork barbecue sandwich. Let the sauce soak into the bun and eat it with a fork. It will definitely give you a heady barbecue rush.
- 1 1/2 pound ground pork
- 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
- 2 tablespoons favorite bottled barbecue sauce
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke (optional)
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 4 hamburger buns
Place the ground pork in a medium bowl. Add all the ingredients except the oil and gently mix together until just combined. Shape the meat into 4 burgers about 3/4 inch thick and 4 inches across, handling as little as possible. Make a 1/4-inch dimple in the center of each burger about the size of a half-dollar about the size of a half-dollar with the tips of your middle 3 fingers.
Place a skillet, preferably cast-iron, over high heat, and let it get very hot, about 2 minutes. Add the oil and spread it evenly over the pan. Arrange the burgers so they aren’t touching and cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Turn and cook 4 to 5 minutes more, or until the meat is no longer pink inside (160 F).
Serve in hamburger buns topped with additional barbecue sauce.
For charcoal grilled burgers, make a medium-hot fire (see note page 14). Cook the burgers for 5 minutes. Turn and cook 4 to 5 minutes more.
For gas grilled burgers, preheat on high until grill is very hot, about 500 F. Cook the burgers for 5 minutes with the lid closed. Turn and cook 4 to 5 minutes more, again with the lid closed.
Makes 4 burgers
Water will always hold a fascination for children. Whether they are physically in it or just watching it, children find equal parts excitement and relaxation from being around water.
Here are some suggestions for summertime play that include water:
- Sit by a fountain. We were at the park last week and my kids were so excited by the loud spurt of the fountain and the subsequent mist sprinkling down on them.
- Purchase a water table that can be used outside. I bought an inexpensive one a few summers ago, and on hot days my kids play with it in their bathing suits. Floating toy boats occupies them for hours.
- Take your children out on a small row boat on the lake or a speedboat in the ocean and let the water spray hit their faces! Don’t forget the lifejackets.
- Learn to swim. Our project for this summer is to teach my youngest son how to swim. In the past, he’s been hesitant about getting his face wet so we haven’t pressed the issue, but after some recent water safety lessons, he’s looking forward to getting back into the pool.
- Don’t have a pool at your house? Neither do we, but we do have a plastic kiddie-pool that the kids like to sit and splash in to cool off during hot summer afternoons (I’ve been known to soak my feet in there too!). Splash parks are another fun way to stay cool and children don’t need to know how to swim. Wear waterproof swim shoes to prevent slippage on wet surfaces.
- Turn on the sprinklers for a few minutes and let the kids run around on the lawn (Bonus: You’ll water the grass at the same time!). Throw in a few sponges to toss around and play splash tag.
- Fill watering cans and let the kids water your garden.
- Paint with water on the sidewalk. All you need is a bucket of water and a paint brush to create temporary art on the concrete.
- Hit the beach. The smell of the ocean, the sound and force of the waves, and the feel of wet sand underfoot is an experience like no other.
- My kids could spend all day at an aquarium, watching the fish in the tanks, getting hands-on in the tide pools, and learning about undersea creatures.
- Give the kids a surprise and spray them with the water hose unexpectedly while they are playing outside! Or pull out a bucket of soapy water and some sponges to give the car a wash.
- There probably isn’t an easier way for kids to connect with water than in a bath. A few cups, maybe a sieve and a spoon, and kids will happily play and pour water. Give them a few drops of liquid soap in a cup and have them stir up their own bubbles.
Delicious. Healthful. Economical. Fun. For mere pennies a pop, your freezer will soon be turning out some of the coolest treats in town. Pour fruit juice, milk, gelatin, or any other liquid into the four individual plastic molds, insert the cool penguin handles, and six hours later you’ve got detailed, sculpted popsicles featuring either a lion, monkey, elephant, or polar bear. Each mold will take up 4.5 x 4 x 2.5 inches of freezer space. Includes 8 tasty recipes.
(Or The Cherry Tomato-nator)
While I’m hoping to be proven spectacularly wrong here, I can’t help but hope a gardening article I recently encountered is not one of those deeply ironic signs of some ridiculously unnecessary science fiction-themed Armageddon heading our way.
By MELISSA TRUJILLO, Associated Press Writer - Fri Apr 10, 2009 11:25AM EDT
These gardeners would have green thumbs — if they had thumbs.
A class of undergraduates at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has created a set of robots that can water, harvest and pollinate cherry tomato plants.
The small, $3,000 robots, which move through the garden on a base similar to a Roomba vacuum, are networked to the plants. When the plants indicate they need water, the robots can sprinkle them from a water pump. When the plants have a ripe tomato, the machines use their arms to pluck the fruit.
Even though robots have made few inroads into agriculture, these robots’ creators hope their technology eventually could be used by farmers to reduce the natural resources and the difficult labor needed to tend crops.
Last spring, Daniela Rus, a professor who runs the Distributed Robotics Lab at MIT, began a two-part course. In the first semester, the students learned the basics of creating and using robots. By the fall, the students were ready to have robots tackle a real-world problem. Rus and Nikolaus Correll, a postdoctoral assistant in Rus’ lab, challenged the students to create a “distributed robotic garden” by the end of the semester.