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Story Sunday: Ig Nobel Prize Goes For Alligator On Helium

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Alligator On Helium Image
Image Credit: Lund University
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MSN & CNN

“Alligator sucking on helium wins parody Ig Nobel Prize”

Scientists are answering a question no one is asking. What would it sound like if an alligator sucked up helium? When a team of international researchers wanted to find out whether a gator’s vocalizations relate to its body size, they devised an experiment that would earn them the 2020 Ig Nobel (a wordplay on “Nobel” and “ignoble”) Prize for acoustics. Researchers captured footage of the snorting alligator in a helium-filled tank. In perhaps one of the biggest letdowns in the history of scientific study, it sounded nothing like a cartoon chipmunk. Now in its 30th year, the annual Ig Nobel Prize awards ceremony, usually presented at Harvard University’s Sanders Theatre, was conducted remotely due to pandemic restrictions.

Among this year’s other elite competitors, a study which demonstrated that meticulously groomed eyebrows are a reliable indicator of grandiose narcissism took home the prize in psychology. The prize in economics went to an international team of creeps (presumably) who wanted to know whether the rate of French kissing correlated with national income inequality. Based on data from 13 countries across six continents, they found that where kissing was more frequent, income inequality was also more likely to occur. Go figure. American Richard Vetter took home the prize in entomology for his brave study on spiders (which aren’t technically insects) that revealed most of his peers are, allegedly, arachnophobic. And, the award for materials science went deservedly (because it’s gross) to a collaboration between the US and the UK to study whether frozen human feces could be made into usable knives. Spoiler alert: It certainly cannot.

But, who could forget the most Ig Nobel moment in recent history? The medical education prize went to a roundup of sometimes ill-advised world leaders for showing that “politicians can have a more immediate effect on life and death than scientists and doctors can” during the global coronavirus pandemic.

Hannah Sparks
New York Post
September 18, 2020

Movie Monday: Blazing Saddles 1974

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Blazing Saddles Image One
Image Credit: imdb.com

Forty-five years ago, today, the most popular film at the box office was Blazing Saddles, a satirical Mel Brooks-directed western starring Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder, Slim Pickens, Harvey Korman, Madeline Kahn, Mel Brooks (three on-screen characters), Alex Karras, David Huddleston, John Hillerman, Dom DeLuise, Count Basie (as himself), Rodney Allen Rippy (as a young Bart), with uncredited appearances by Anne Bancroft, Aneta Corsaut (Helen Crump) and Patrick Labyorteaux (JAG TV series). Released February 7, it was produced by Michael Hertzberg and based on a story by Andrew Bergman. Bergman collaborated with Brooks, Richard Pryor, Norman Steinberg and Al Uger to craft the screenplay and, John Morris (The Woman in Red & Dirty Dancing) was composer.

An IMDB Summary:

The Ultimate Western Spoof. A town where everyone seems to be named Johnson is in the way of the railroad. In order to grab their land, Hedley Lemar [sic] (Harvey Korman), a politically connected nasty person, sends in his henchmen to make the town unlivable. After the sheriff is killed, the town demands a new sheriff from the Governor (Mel Brooks). Hedley convinces him to send the town the first Black sheriff (Cleavon Little) in the west. Bart is a sophisticated urbanite who will have some difficulty winning over the townspeople.

Quotes:
From Vincent Canby (The New York Times):

“[…] comedies, like Mel Brooks’s “Blazing Saddles,” the best title of the year to date, are like Chinese food. A couple of hours later you wonder where it went. You wonder why you laughed as consistently as you did. [It] is every Western you’ve ever seen turned upside down and inside out, braced with a lot of low burlesque […]. The trouble is that [it] has no real center of gravity. Harvey Korman, a gifted comic actor who is so fine as Carol Burnett’s television co‐star, tries very hard to be funny as a crooked businessman and sometimes succeeds. But, it’s apparent that he’s hard put to keep up with the movie’s restless shifting from satire to parody to farce to blackout sketch. [It] has no dominant personality and, it looks as if it includes every gag thought up in every story conference. Whether good, bad or mild, nothing was thrown out.”

Blazing Saddles Image Two
Photo Credit: hollywoodreporter.com

From Roger Ebert:

“It’s a crazed grab bag of a movie that does everything to keep us laughing except hit us over the head with a rubber chicken. At its best, his comedy operates in areas so far removed from taste that (to coin his own expression) it rises below vulgarity. One of the hallmarks of Brooks’ movie humor has been his willingness to embrace excess.”

From Mel Brooks (Interview at Creative Screen Writing):

“The writing process on Blazing Saddles was the complete opposite of the writing process on Young Frankenstein. Blazing Saddles was more or less written in the middle of a drunken fistfight. There were five of us all yelling loudly for our ideas to be put into the movie. Not only was I the loudest but, luckily, I also had the right as director to decide what was in or out.”

Trivia Bits:
James Earl Jones was to be the original Sheriff. Richard Pryor was next in line but, the studio wouldn’t finance it due to Pryor’s background.
Gig Young was originally cast as the “Waco Kid” but, collapsed on set and was replaced with Wilder.
♦ Warner Bros. almost didn’t release the film. The executives thought it too vulgar for the American public.
♦ Governor William J. Le Petomane (Brooks) was a take-off on the stage name of a French Flatulist.

Nominated for three Academy Awards and two BAFTAs. It won three awards. Recognized by the American Film Institute, it is listed as #6 of the 100 funniest American films.