The Comedy of Cantinflas



Some of you may have heard of Cantinflas, the Mexican comedy genius of the 20th century. Born Mario Fortino Alfonso Moreno Reyes in 1911, he started out as the son of a poor mail carrier, in a rough part of Mexico City. To make money in his teen years, he became a boxer. After that, his tendency toward hilarity led him to be in a circus show, where he participated as a sort of rodeo clown, and from there got into showbusiness. In 1936, he made his first film, No Te Engañes Corazón (or “Don’t Fool Yourself, Dear”) and then made 49 more films. His humor didn’t translate well into English (or other languages), so he was never well known outside of the Spanish-speaking world. One exception is Cantinflas’s role in Around the World in 80 Days, a 1956 Hollywood film.  Cantinflas inspired the Spanish verb “cantinflear,” which means to talk and talk and talk without really saying anything, as that was often what he did in his comedy. Personally, what I like most about him are his witty remarks and his smart-alecky behavior in his movies. There is a new movie out about Cantinflas’s life, called Cantinflas, which so far I’ve heard does not have very good reviews, but we should give it a chance anyway, shouldn’t we?


The Fun of Old-Time Radio


I always enjoy listening to old-time radio. Mostly I listen to Ozzie and Harriet, and The Couple Next Door. If you’re not familiar with these, you should definitely listen to them. Ozzie and Harriet was a popular radio comedy that aired from 1944 to 1954. It starred Ozzie Nelson and his actual wife Harriet Hilliard, as well as their two sons, David and Ricky, and Bea Benadaret as the hilarious maid Gloria. (The show initially used actors to play the boys, but later the real boys came on.) The show was sponsored by the International Sliver company, among others — and you can hear many old commercials for silverware on the program. The show centers around a family that gets into hilarious situations, usually caused by the dad. It was also made into a television show, which aired from 1952 to 1966.

The Couple Next Door is very similar, but centers around a family of three (and later four, when a new baby is born). The show grew out of another radio show called Ethel and Albert, which ran from 1944 to 1950, while The Couple Next Door ran from 1957 to 1960. Both were written by Peg Lynch, who also starred as the wife; the husband was played by Alan Bunce. They have a daughter named Betsy and later, a son named Bobby. Like Ozzie and Harriet, this show is about funny situations that the family gets into. Another wonderful character in the show is Aunt Effie, played by Margaret Hamilton, who also played the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz.

I hope you will all give old-time radio a try! Check out the Internet Archive for many more old radio shows.

The Pleasure of Jazz


I play the alto saxophone, and I recently learned a new song, “Lullaby of Birdland,” written in 1952 by George Shearing, with lyrics by George David Weiss. I really love Ella Fitzgerald‘s version of this song, because of her smoothness in singing it and because of how relaxed she sounds while singing it. I really enjoy playing it, too, because of the fast finger movements and the challenge of making your music sound laid back and relaxed. I already loved jazz, but this was new entree into the jazz world for me. I went on Spotify and downloaded a lot of jazz, and another song that I really like to listen to now is “Blue Bossa.” I hope you all check out these great songs and like them.

Nebraska: A Great Movie


I recently watched the Oscar-nominated film Nebraska. It is a terrific movie. It was rated R, for language, so I wouldn’t advise young children watch it, but it’s a movie that I think will become a classic. The movie was directed by Alexander Payne and stars Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb, and Bob Odenkirk. The film is about an older man named Woody (played by Bruce Dern) who gets a letter in the mail saying that he has “won” a million dollars. Everyone else knows that this is just a scam, but Woody is beginning not to think very clearly, and so he firmly believes that he has actually won the money. The story centers around Woody going from Billings, Montana, where he lives, to Lincoln, Nebraska, to find the money he has “won.”  He is accompanied on this journey by his son, David (played by Will Forte) and they stop off in the town where Woody grew up. They stay there for a while, and everyone there thinks he has really won a million dollars. I’ll leave the rest for you to find out when you watch the movie. I thought the acting was terrific, and just the emotion of the movie really felt genuine. I hope you enjoy this great movie. Here is the trailer:

Strangers on a Train


I recently posted on film noir. I had watched all of the films that I mentioned in the post except for Strangers on a Train.  But now I have watched this film, and I’d like to say it’s one of the best films ever made. It was directed by Alfred Hitchcock and made in 1950, and came out in 1951. It was based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith. It stars Farley Granger,  Robert Walker, and Ruth Roman. In the movie, a well-known tennis player (Granger) who gets on a train and, well, this will explain it for you:

This movie was extremely suspenseful, and the writing was excellent. This trailer above is not the original trailer, but has more of a summary of the movie in it than the original trailer does.

I hope you enjoy this movie as much as I do!

Birding in Minnesota


Spoonbridge and Cherry by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen


I recently took a vacation to Minnesota. I visited Minneapolis, Stillwater, and St. Paul. I took my birding supplies and found some of the most interesting birds I have ever seen. In Stillwater, I saw two great blue herons, many barn swallows, about ten bald eagles, a few crows, and some large birds that I didn’t have a chance to identify as they passed so quickly. In St. Paul, I saw a great white heron. But in Minneapolis, it was very interesting: the birds were so used to humans that you could literally sit down next to house sparrows, mallards, Canada geese, red-winged blackbirds, etc. It was a great experience. If any birders are reading this, I advise you to go to Minnesota. It’s amazing. I think I also saw two owls on the Uptown Theater sign in Minneapolis, but I’m not sure if they were real. I’ll look into it.



The hidden dark side of SeaWorld



Although this blog is about alternative diversions for kids  in modern culture, I would like to take a minute to talk about something I saw today that really bothered me. I saw today a documentary called Blackfish. This documentary was about SeaWorld. Now, you probably already know that SeaWorld has received a lot of bad publicity for a number of years. The first thing I would like to say is that there have been multiple instances of orcas killing other orcas and humans at SeaWorld. There is no evidence of this ever happening in the wild. So, in Blackfish, they show how there is evidence that these killings were caused by psychological issues with the orcas, because of their poor living conditions. In the documentary, orca researchers said that wild female orcas live up to around 100 year, and males live up to about 60 years, but at SeaWorld, both males and females live 25-35 years. Also in the documentary, they have film of SeaWorld workers claiming that wild orcas live about 25 years, and that in captivity they live longer, which is a false statement, according to the researchers. According to the documentary, the requirements for becoming a trainer as SeaWorld only revolve around your personality – not any expertise about orcas. For more information on SeaWorld’s hidden dark side, visit SeaWorld of Hurt.