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Godwin on Godwin

“Relatives don’t really show me any examples, but there was a point where my daughter, who is about to turn 20, when she was in her early teens, she thought it was a hoot when she was mad at me to compare me to Hitler. She’d look at me with a very mischievous look and say, ‘You know, you’re acting just like Hilter.’

via MetaFilter

The Day My Grandfather Groucho and I Saved ‘You Bet Your Life’

I hate to admit it, but I sometimes find it hard to imagine life without Netflix. Whether it’s watching all six seasons of “Lost” in a week or enjoying some cool documentary I otherwise never would’ve heard of, Netfix has, for better or worse, definitely become a part of my life. So, you can imagine my delight when I happened to discover Netflix had added the legendary ‘50s TV show, “You Bet Your Life” to its streaming service. The reason for my delight? The host of “You Bet Your Life” was none other than my grandfather, the one and only Groucho Marx.

It didn’t take long for me to devour all the episodes available on Netflix, and as I watched Groucho delivering his rapid-fire quips at the befuddled contestants, I couldn’t help thinking how amazing it was that I was sitting in the comfort of my den watching a TV show that made its debut in 1950, starring my grandfather.

But I also couldn’t stop thinking about how close every one of those classic episodes of “You Bet Your Life” came to being destroyed many years ago and how my grandfather and I managed to stop that from happening.

The year was 1973 and I was a 21-year-old right out of UCLA film school. Though most of my days were spent looking for a job, I did manage to squeeze in lunch with my 83-year-old grandfather at least once a week.

Lunches at my grandfather’s house in Beverly Hills in those days were usually full of surprises, especially since you never knew who might be there.

No longer out of the limelight, my grandfather was enjoying his status as a cultural icon now that such classic Marx Brothers films as “Duck Soup” and “A Night at the Opera” had been discovered by a whole new generation eager for something to go with the free-wheeling attitudes and politics of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Groucho and his brothers fit the bill perfectly and my grandfather was more than happy to oblige his new-found fans, many of them Hollywood celebrities. Among my favorite celebrity sightings at my grandfather’s house in those days were Alice Cooper and Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood.

This particular day, my grandfather asked me to be ready to accompany him on the piano, since he planned to sing for the invited guests: Jack Nicholson, Elliot Gould and the great French mime, Marcel Marceau. As I said, you never knew who would arrive for lunch with Groucho.

And I was always happy to accompany my grandfather on the piano, as he made his way through such songs, as “Lydia, the Tattooed Lady” and “Father’s Day.” Fortunately, I got some musical ability from my mother’s side of my family – my other grandfather was the legendary songwriter, Gus Kahn, who wrote such evergreens as “It Had to Be You,” “Makin’ Whoopee” and “Dream a Little Dream.”

I was the last to arrive that day and as I entered the dining room, Nicholson, Gould and Marceau were already seated.

As I took my seat next to Nicholson, he immediately raised his wine glass and offered a toast to my grandfather. As everyone lifted their glasses, Marcel Marceau turned to my grandfather and asked, “Groucho, if you don’t mind, is it okay if I mime the wine?

My grandfather nodded in approval and sure enough, Marceau, probably the greatest mime since Charlie Chaplin, proceeded to open a non-existent bottle of wine with a non-existent corkscrew, then pour the non-existent wine into a non-existent glass. Next, he lifted the glass to toast and then took an imaginary sip. I must admit, it was one of the greatest things I had ever seen, proving once more that lunch at my grandfather’s was always full of suprises.

As Nicholson began telling everyone about his latest movie, “The Last Detail,” which would be released in a few months, the phone rang and my grandfather, never one to have his lunch or a good story interrupted, asked me to answer it.

I walked into the kitchen and picked up the phone.

“Is Mr. Marx in?”, the voice at the other end said.

“Who’s calling?” I asked.

“I work at the NBC storage warehouse in Englewood Cliifs, New Jersey,” the man said. “We’ve got several boxes of 16mm reels of film from ‘You Bet Your Life’ and we were wondering if Mr. Marx wants any of it. If not, we’re going to destroy all of it tomorrow.”

“Destroy it?” I asked increduously. “Why would you do that?”

“We’re trying to clear space for the newer shows. There’s a lot of stuff from the ‘50s and ‘60s that we’re getting rid of. If Mr. Marx would like it, we’ll be happy to send all of the reels to him.”

I told the man to hang on and ran back into the dining room.

“Grandpa Groucho, there’s a man calling from the NBC warehouse in New Jersey, who says they’ve got several boxes of reels of ‘You Bet Your Life’ they’re going to destroy unless you want them.”

“Tell him to burn them for all I care,” my grandfather said, eliciting laughs from his guests. These days it was hard to tell if he was just doing his grouchy act for his invited audience or truly didn’t care.

“Grandpa, you don’t really want them doing the same thing they did to Oscar Levant’s show,” I said, referring to what had happened to all the copies of his good friend, Oscar Levant’s classic show from the ‘50s, “Information, Please,” when all of the kinescopes that existed were destoyed.

“He’s right,” Nicholson chimed in. “Groucho, that stuff is classic. Listen to your grandson. Let them send the reels to you.”

“Alright,” my grandfather said. “Maybe it’ll be fun to watch them again.”

Excited, I ran back and told the man to send the boxes to my grandfather’s house. And though my grandfather didn’t seem terribly excited about the prospect of getting a few boxes of 16mm prints, I couldn’t wait. My grandfather had a small screening room in his house with a 16mm projector and I figured I’d spend an afternoon watching the episodes that were now on their way to Beverly Hills.

As it turned out, it would take more than an afternoon to watch the episodes. Two weeks later, I got a call from my grandfather, who sounded more than a little angry.

“Get over here right now,” he growled. “There are five UPS trucks in front of my house. Each one of them is filled with boxes of 16mm reels of “You Bet Your Life.”

I rushed over to my grandfather’s house and sure enough, there were five UPS trucks parked in front. Each driver was wheeling dozens of boxes of film into the house.

“Where would you like us to put all of this?” one of the drivers asked me. “There are over 500 boxes and each box contains ten reels of film.”

5,000 reels of film, I thought to myself, as I watched the small army of UPS drivers putting boxes in any empty space they could find, including a now-vacated bedroom that once belonged to Groucho’s last wife from whom he was now divorced. I couldn’t help thinking this was beginning to resemble a scene from a Marx Brothers film, as boxes of film were stacked to the ceiling, literally taking up entire rooms. I also thought back to the man from NBC, who told me there were “a few boxes of film,” an understatement if ever there was one.

By the time the UPS drivers left later that day, my grandfather’s house – which was quite large – was filled from end to end with boxes of “You Bet Your Life” reels. And even though I knew my grandfather was angry, I was grateful that we had managed to save “You Bet Your Life” from extinction by NBC.

A month later, in early 1974, after checking the contents of the over 500 boxes and doing a little investigating, I had figured out that NBC had not only sent every reel of the original “You Bet Your Life” show, but also all the copies of “The Best of Groucho,” a syndicated version that included the show’s greatest episodes culled from the show’s original run.

Realizing there was a treasure trove of classic TV sitting in my grandfather’s house, I had a hunch that maybe other people besides myself would be interested in seeing some, if not all of it. After all, interest in Groucho was at a fever pitch, as the honors and accolades poured in from around the world — the Marx Brothers were even set to receive an honorary Academy Award that year.

It turned out I was right. The next day, I, along with John Guedel, the show’s creator and producer were sitting in an office at local station KTLA, where we pitched the head of programming our idea of running “The Best of Groucho” in one of their latenight timeslots. Though the executive loved the idea, he had one demand: Someone was going to have to go through every show, so they would have an idea of what they were running.

That someone turned out to be me. As I said earlier, I had been looking for a job and now I had one. I was paid $150 a week and my duties consisted of spending eight hours a day at my grandfather’s house, watching as many episodes as possible and archiving every one. As an added bonus, I ate lunch with my grandfather every day and he even took time to watch several episodes a day himself. I never told anyone, but I probably would’ve paid them $150 a a week to let me do it.

Two months later, “The Best of Groucho” appeared on KTLA, the same week my grandfather received his honorary Academy Award, and was soon running on hundreds of stations throughout the country. Since then, the shows have been released on VHS, DVD and now the various streaming services for many millions to enjoy, all because of a phone call from some guy working in a warehouse in New Jersey asking if we wanted him to send us some 16mm reels of “You Bet Your Life.”

Am I glad I happened to answer that phone call that day? What else can I say but, “you bet your life,” I am.

via Boing Boing

The Return of Whose Line Is It Anyway?


Comedian Colin Mochrie has just revealed in a tweet that the popular improv show Whose Line Is It Anyway? will be returning. Ryan Stiles also told The Wenatchee World that Warner Bros. will bring the show back in April with a new host, comdian Aisha Tyler, and the show’s original cast.

Oh, by the way, Whose Line is coming back. More details later.

— Colin Mochrie (@colinmochrie) March 1, 2013

Thanks Sara Harris!

via Laughing Squid

Hand-Drawn Floor Plans of Popular TV Show Apartments and Houses

The Simpsons

House of the Simpson Family (The Simpsons)

Azpeitia, Spain-based professional interior designer Iñaki Aliste Lizarralde (aka “nikneuk“) has hand-drawn an incredibly detailed series of floor plans that map out numerous popular television show apartments and houses. Prints are available to purchase on RedBubble, Etsy and deviantART.


Jerry Seinfeld’s Apartment (Seinfeld)

The Big Bang Theory

Sheldon, Leonard and Penny’s Apartment (The Big Bang Theory)


Dexter Morgan’s Apartment v.2 (Dexter)


Chandler – Joey & Monica – Rachel Apartments (Friends)

images via Iñaki Aliste Lizarralde

via Laughing Squid

‘Reinvented’ Nine Inch Nails to return this summer after five-year hiatus

NIN (Flickr)

After a hiatus of nearly five years, Trent Reznor is returning to his roots — the pioneering musician who played a huge role in bringing industrial music to the mainstream just announced that a revamped Nine Inch Nails will return to the stage this summer after a five-year hiatus. As reported by Pitchfork and announced via Reznor’s Twitter account, the band’s first shows will take place this summer, with a full arena tour planned for the fall and worldwide dates set for 2014. The plans sprung from work and discussions between Reznor and famed King Crimson guitarist Adrian Belew, which quickly snowballed into the idea of playing a show, and then “a lot of shows.”

We’re back.

— Nine Inch Nails (@nineinchnails) F…

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via The Verge – All Posts

What’s The Flavor Difference Between Scotch And Rye? [Infographic]

The many flavors of the great wide world of whiskey. Yes, bacon fat is an option.

Can’t quite tell the difference between a Speyside Scotch malt and an Islay? Want to sound sophisticated comparing the flavor profiles of a proper Kentucky bourbon versus a Tennessee whiskey?

Enter Sean Seidell, a Philadelphia-based graphic designer who has a knack for visualizing the the many flavors of our favorite foodstuffs. He’s previously taught us all we need to know about cheese, beer and coffee. Now he’s taken on the taste of whiskeys, from Irish single malt to blended Scotch to American corn.

So it appears that the difference in flavor you get in a rye whiskey, which can come from either the U.S. or Canada, and a Scotch, which are made from malt or grain (or a blend) and has to be aged for at least three years, is that ryes tend to be a little spicy, while Scotches have a bit more of a honey flavor. Irish whiskies are generally sweet and oaky, and a good Canadian single malt should have a vanilla taste.

Plus, now we know which whiskeys to stay away from to avoid that peaty taste (Highland and Islay Scotch, though the latter is the only option with hints of bacon fat). Most varieties share an oaky flavor, since many are aged in oak casks, and many have a buttery taste. But have you been detecting the slight eau de biscuit in Canadian rye?

via Popular Science – New Technology, Science News, The Future Now

PBS Inventors — Bob Butt, Inventor of the Long Island Iced Tea

Every bar serves them, but where do Long Island Iced Teas come from?!

PBS recently featured Bob “Rosebud” Butt in their “Inventors” series. Filmmaker and photographer David Friedman speaks with Bob about his boozy concoction, the Long Island Iced Tea. He invented it when he was a bartender at the Oak Beach Inn on Long Island in the 1970s.

…Bob may not be the first bartender to have made a mixed drink resembling iced tea — some stories say that a similar drink was mixed during prohibition — but Bob says he’s pretty sure he’s the first person to come up with this particular recipe. I’ve included Bob in this series because it reminds me that not every invention has to be serious, or for profit, or part of a larger plan.

via Laughing Squid

Lowra’s Perfectly Staged Papercraft Scenes





sick child

French artist Lowra cuts out her cartoon characters so they can interact with the real world. She’s nice enough, but I’d be careful around the cat. You’re bite-sized to him.

Link -via Pleated Jeans

via Neatorama

Zoe the Border Collie Performing a Bunch of Amazing Tricks

Polish photographer Alicja Zmyslowska created a beautiful video that shows an intelligent border collie named Zoe performing a bunch of amazing tricks with her owner and dog trainer Patrycja Kowalczyk. Alicja shot the entire video on her Canon EOS 7D digital SLR camera in Silesia, Poland.

music by The Piano Guys“What Makes You Beautiful”

video via ZolzaBC

via Most Watched Today

via Laughing Squid

Brain-machine implant gives rats a ‘sixth sense’: the ability to detect infrared light

Lab rat (shutterstock)

Scientists at the Duke Center for Neuroengineering have successfully given lab rats a sixth sense: the ability to detect infrared light, a part of the electromagnetic spectrum that is normally invisible to them. The rats were wired with a brain-machine interface that included an infrared detector — but the scientists implanted it in the part of the brain that typically processes the sense of touch. Initial training of the rats involved rewarding them with water when they successfully poked their nose into a port attached to a visible LED light. Then, over the course of a month, the researchers gradually replaced the LED lights with infrared lighting; those lights were picked up by sensors attached to the rats’ foreheads that connect to…

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via The Verge – All Posts