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Tyler’s Top Five Favorite Comedy Films

5. Blazing Saddles

This Mel Brooks joint is easily one of the funniest movies of all time, and also one of the most overtly obscene. Taking place in the “Old West,” this movie tells the story of a corrupt political boss who, in an effort to ruin the town of Rock Ridge, appoints a black sheriff to the town. Rock Ridge’s presence is impeding the progress of the railroad, but Sheriff Bart soon becomes a formidable adversary to Governor Lepetomane and the owner of the railroad, Hedley Lamarr. Blazing Saddles has many iconic gags and memorable lines, the recreation of which are definitely not suitable for polite company.

4. Office Space

A cult favorite since its release on home video, this movie has spawned a lot of pop culture mainstays, namely the “mmm, yeah…” of Bill Lumbergh, or Milton’s plaint about his Swingline stapler. This movie is funny in an “a-ha!” kind of way, drawing on the frustration with the nine-to-five office job lifestyle, every ounce of which is exhibited through Peter, Michael Bolton, and Samir. Just mention “the copier scene” and anyone who’s seen the movie can relate to wanting to take out their aggravation on an ill-functioning piece of technology they’ve been forced to interact with at one point in their career.

3. The Blues Brothers

They’re on a mission from God, but that doesn’t stop Jake and Elwood from raising all kinds of hell. This film is a classic by any means, and features cameos from James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Cab Calloway, and Ray Charles – giants of Soul music, in this fittingly music-centric movie. The black suit & tie look with black fedoras has now become iconic, and the nigh-indestructible car (which apparently has superpowers because it was kept parked near a power station) is a character in its own right. A lot of the comedy in this movie is big and over-the-top, but there’s comedy in the subtle moments too, such as when Elwood inquires stiffly about the Cadillac the brothers used to own but is placated when Jake explains that he traded it for a microphone. Great movie – but avoid the sequel.

2. Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail

A masterpiece of British cinema, this comedy is one for the truly nerdy. Chronicling King Arthur’s quest to attain the Holy Grail, and his acquisition of knights along the way, the journey is replete with zany characters, ridiculous situations, and danger every step of the way (sometimes with sharp, pointy teeth). This movie is the model of British humor, including the highest of the high-brow to the lowest of the low and levels of absurdity that border insanity. You’ll know you’re in good company if you ask a friend if a swallow can carry a coconut, and their response is to ask “African swallow or European swallow?”

1. The Big Lebowski

Of course this is on my list – it’s probably on yours, too. Endlessly quotable, the Coen brothers struck gold with this comedy film that’s since become a cult favorite. If you know what happens when you “find a stranger in the alps” or if you enjoy imbibing White Russians, chances are this movie has infiltrated your life in some way. There are so many bizarre, hilarious moments in this movie that it’d be pointless to attempt to fit them all into this post. It’s definitely the funniest movie in Los Angeles county, which puts it high in the running for funniest worldwide, and if you don’t agree, well, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.


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‘Tis the Season

It is that time again.

The nights have gotten longer, the days have gotten colder; you’re making a list, checking it twice and desperately trying to figure out where the year has gone. Seriously, I can’t be the only one wondering that, can I? It is the season for traditions ­­– whether they are time honored or brand new, and an occasion to stop and reflect on the events that have shaped your life and the people that matter most to you.

My mother spent more than thirty years as a school teacher and more time than that as a lover of books. As an elementary teacher, her preferred tool for teaching simple and complex ideas to children were picture books. As my mother, she showed me that just because a book is written and illustrated for children does not mean that adults cannot be moved, inspired or taught something about themselves. That idea motivated me to start my own collection of children’s books while I was still in high school and my collection now is well over 100 picture books. I want to make it clear though, that these books are not for any future children I might have; this collection is just for me…future children will get their own copies to drool over. Whenever I’m feeling bummed out or unmotivated, I’ll pull some of my favorites off the shelves, lay down on the floor and read. Words are inspiring to me, but at my core I remain a very visual person and the easiest way to put a smile on my face it to put a book in my hands that was drawn by my favorite illustrator: David Catrow.

I wanted to introduce you to David Catrow (if you are unaware of his work) during this holiday season because my love of his work began with a Christmas book I discovered nearly 15 years ago. My sister and I were wandering around our hometown bookstore waiting for our mother as she systematically perused books when we picked up a copy of “How Murray Saved Christmas” written by Mike Reiss, illustrated by David Catrow. I was instantly hooked. “How Murray Saved Christmas” is an absolutely delightful and hilarious retelling of the immortal ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas poem.

murray

Inept, yet loveable Edison Elf accidentally knocks out Saint Nick on Christmas Eve with his “Jack­-in-­the-Boxer” toy. Oh no! How is he going to get all the toys to the good girls and boys? Enter Murray Kleiner, owner of Murray K’s Holiday Diner. It doesn’t go perfectly; Murray has to deal with an ill-­fitting suit, fight against sleigh­-sickness, and has a tendency of falling down the chimneys and landing tush-­first. Disheartened and losing the Christmas spirit, Murray is confronted by a six-­year-­old boy. After convincing the boy that “Oh, Santa is real, kid. It’s wrestling that’s fake,” Murray really embraces his role as a Saint Nick substitute…even bringing toys to the not-­so-­good kids and saving Christmas.

Reading it the first time, my sister and I were laughing aloud so hard we had tears in our eyes and were getting peculiar stares from other shoppers. We couldn’t help it. It’s a hysterical book and 15 years later I laugh just like I did the first time. You really must read it and see the illustrations to get the full effect. It’s a perfect union of words and pictures and there is actually quite a bit of humor that parents and other adults would appreciate. (Mike Reiss has won several Emmy Awards for his work on the first seven seasons of the Simpsons and was the co-­creator of “The Critic”.)

santa claustrophobia
And if you like “How Murray Saved Christmas,” I’d recommend the follow­up: “Santa Claustrophobia,” also written by Mike Reiss with pictures by David Catrow. In this story, Santa’s therapist, Doc Holiday, sends Saint Nick on vacation in hopes that the time away will help him get over his newly developed fear of chimneys. Doc enlists the help of the other holiday celebrity inhabitants in the town of “Stinky Cigars” to make sure Christmas still happens…things do not go well. Election Day Donkey and Elephant can’t decide who should be in charge, the Easter Bunny paints trucks, planes and trains like they’re Easter eggs, and Groundhog eats the “Naughty & Nice” List. Don’t worry though, all does work out in the end.

I could continue to praise David Catrow well into the New Year, because when you combine the right writer with Catrow’s distinct and stunning illustrations, you get magic. To see more images of his work, see a complete listing of his books and to learn more about this incredibly talented man, visit his website. If you’re looking for a special present for a child, a parent or a friend, I would like to leave you with my top five David Catrow books, and wish for you to have a wonderful holiday.

1. Cinderella Skeleton written by Robert D. San Souci

2. Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon written by Patty Lovell

3. Our Tree Named Steve written by Alan Zweibel

4. I Like Myself! written by Karen Beaumont

5. The Boy Who Wouldn’t Share written by Mike Reiss

~Eliza G.

Eliza G

 

When she is not being a responsible adult and working at McKay’s, Eliza fills her time with numerous creative pursuits including: jewelry-making, etching, and crocheting. When she’s not crafting, reading, writing or plotting to take over the world, you’ll probably find her napping with her dogs.


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Yo! Lemme see that yo-yo, yo!

PICTURE_ONE

Yo-yos. They’re toys. You’ve probably seen some kid playing with one, or maybe you’ve played with one yourself, but what’s the deal with them? Where did they come from? How long have they been around? Who plays with them anymore? I’m going to attempt to answer these questions in a somewhat entertaining manner, and hopefully you’ll learn something about yo-yos that you didn’t know before reading this article. Let’s go!

From Stephen G. Miller’s Ancient Greek Athletics

Yo-yos have been around for a long time. How long? Well, at least twenty-five hundred years. In Stephen G. Miller’s book Ancient Greek Athletics he writes that the yo-yo was a popular toy in ancient Greece, and yo-yos were most commonly made from wood, bronze, or terra-cotta. The vase painting seen above, ca. 440 BC, depicts a Greek boy playing with a yo-yo. As old as the Greek records are, it’s believed that the yo-yo may have originated even earlier in China. Dude, that’s pretty old.

PICTURE_THREESo what’s the allure of this basic toy that’s lasted for more than two millennia? Some might say simplicity, which is definitely a factor, since few parts and a simple design help keep the yo-yo cheap, allowing it to continue to be a widely available toy. Yo-yos typically consist of two circular discs – these days made of plastic – that make up the two sides of the toy, and the sides are kept together by a metal axle screwed into the center of each disc. Each disc also has a groove in the middle for a metal spacer that sits on each end of the axle. A metal ring bearing rests in the center of the axle between the spacers and holds the string, allowing the yo-yo to spin, or “sleep” without automatically retracting up the string.

Image courtesy of YoYoExpert.com

Yo-yos experienced a resurgence in popularity in the 1960s and have been gaining momentum ever since. Yo-yo makers like Yomega and Duncan are major players in the yo-yo world, producing several different specialized models typically tailor-made for looping tricks, or for string tricks. Yo-yo competitions are now as commonplace as radio-controlled airplane contests, model train conventions, and horseshoe championships, finding its own niche culture among enthusiasts worldwide.

Gentry Stein, winner of the Class 1A championship of the 2014 World Yo-Yo contest

So if you’ve got some yo-yos lying around, break ’em out again and give it another whirl! Or if it’s not your thing anymore, I would love to check them out in the store. Now since you’re all jazzed up about yo-yos, enjoy this video of awesome yo-yo tricks!
-Tyler


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Fantastic Phrases

Words are wonderful things. They help us communicate with one another and offer us a wide range of ways to express various emotions. Occasionally, there comes along a phrase that is not only useful for communication, but is also fun to say in and of itself. The shape and taste of the syllables that form from certain combinations can be very palatable. Below I list my top 3 phrases that I love to say for the sheer experience of saying them. I encourage you to say them out loud as you read them. Using your “head voice” doesn’t do them justice. It’s all about the physical movements of the tongue and lips that make these phrases delectable.

3. “Edited it.” – I equate this phrase with the verbal, non-onomatopoeia version of a machine-gun.

2. “Avocado Watercress” – The best part of this phrase for me is the transition between the two words; the “cado water” portion, although the two “C”s help round out the two words nicely. All in all, a fun thing to say, and number 2 on my list of all time favorite phrases.

1. “Skeletal Metal Elephants.” – My favorite phrase of all time, this phrase has an amazing use of the letter “L” that doesn’t leave you tongue-tied, but instead rolls off your mouth like it was meant to be said in this way, and this way only.

I hope you enjoy saying these things as much as I do, even if you don’t really have use for them in your everyday conversations.

~Becky