Tag Archives: obituaries

It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad lib

When I was a kid, they didn’t make cars with DVD players in them. Even when my son was little, we never had such a thing in the car.

When we went on long trips, we played games like Twenty Questions, “I went to the supermarket” and a word game called Ghost.

Often when we got to our vacation destinations, and there was no television, we played games. I recall many seasons as a kid in Ocean City, playing Mad Libs. I cut my little word nymph teeth on Mad Libs.

For those who don’t remember, Mad Libs were–still are, I guess–short stories written with blanks in them. The blanks call for certain parts of speech to be inserted in various places in sentences within the story. The person who holds the book asks his or her play mates for nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs and exclamations, and occasionally, names of body parts or famous people, which, of course, are provided arbitrarily and without context. After all the blanks are filled, the holder of the book reads the story aloud. Hilarity ensues.

This past Monday, Leonard Stern, co-creator of Mad Libs, died at the age of 88. Amusingly, his Washington Post obituary was written in Mad Lib form:

“As a writer, director and producer, Leonard Stern was a legendary (noun) in show business. He had an (adjective) career that took him to (geographic place) with (celebrity name). Fond of (article of clothing), standing (a number) feet tall with a gray (body part), he (verb) more than a share of (noun), including (liquid).”

I was interested to learn also that Stern was a writer and producer of “The Honeymooners,”  “Get Smart” and a few other classic sitcoms. Apparently, Stern got the idea for Mad Libs when looking for an adjective for a Honeymooners script. He and a friend then began writing stories with blanks in them and took them to cocktail parties; the rest is history.

Yesterday I discovered a website that allows you to play Mad Libs online.*

Maybe on your next family trip to the shore—or at your next cocktail party—you can pull out your iPhone, log in and have a rip-roaring good time.

Rest in peace, Leonard Stern. You were a (adjective) (noun).

*By the way, I tested the Mad Lib-generating website. You can only imagine what I did to Hamlet’s third soliloquy.


Filed under All Things Wordish, Family and Friends, Sports and Recreation

Last words

Is anyone else a creature of habit when it comes to reading the newspaper?  I don’t mean that you read it but, rather, how you read it.

I’ve been reading The Washington Post every day for 27 years and still read it in print.  First the Business Section, then Metro, followed by the main section and, for dessert, Style.  On Tuesdays, the Health section comes first; Wednesdays it’s Food.  The Crossword page gets torn out, folded in quarters and filed chronologically in a bedside folder for later enjoyment. 

Recently, when honey they shrunk my paper, Business was folded into the main section.  And it just isn’t the same.

During my years as a corporate lobbyist, the Business section was everything.  All stories high tech and financial, where I focused, were to be devoured and responded to as part of a day’s work.  That’s why it still comes first–old habits die hard.  Mondays were especially fun in those days, when the announcements ran—and still do—about major players changing jobs around town.  It used to be that I knew about 75 percent of the movers and shakers whose names and job changes appeared in this feature.

These days, I recognize more names in the obituaries than I do in Washington Business.

I’m not  kidding.   At least once a week, I see a familiar name or face in the obits.

When I started reading the death section years ago, my parents (Mom lives out of town; Dad travels a lot) appreciated my letting them know when a family friend or neighbor had died.  More and more, my own contemporaries are making appearances in the back of the Metro section.

But even when they aren’t my acquaintances, I have come to really enjoy reading obituaries.  This might sound twisted, but I also enjoy attending funerals.  Please don’t get me wrong.  I grieve the losses of my loved ones as deeply as anyone.  But I appreciate the words that are written and spoken, and the music played, when they pass.

It is hard to sum up one’s life in mere words.  The fact is, the words that are chosen, and they way they are put together in final tribute, are an art.

To me, the most interesting obituaries typically include an unusual profession coupled with an odd or obscure hobby, musical talent or second language.  While the heading might read “Church Member,” we may learn that the deceased also made a mean pound cake or could whistle Bach’s Fugue in G Minor.

It’s hard, when reading the obits, not to wonder what will be written about oneself after passing.  It makes me approach my life a little more conscious of what might be said about me when I’m gone.

Chances are, when I go, I’ll leave my own write-up behind.


Filed under Family and Friends, Music, News, Reading