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“Brief Chuckles”
The Art of the Humorous Essay
“Brief Chuckles: The Art of the Humorous Essay” emerged from the experience of writing a “suburban humor column” for the New York Times. This lecture examines short humorous essays of historic figures in American literature like Mark Twain and Will Rogers. We then move on to contemporaries Calvin Trillin, David Sedaris and Dave Barry. Shorter essays from new media such as Webzines and blogs also are dissected. Special emphasis is placed on capturing American “vernacular language” and hearing the “rhythms” of effective essay writing.

“Way Out West”
The American West and Cowboy Culture
The story of the American frontier and the cowboy who “won the West” is a national folktale of unwavering power and inspiration. In fact, the romantic image of the lonesome cowboy ambling down the dusty trail has been assiduously cultivated since the days of the cattle drives and gunslingers of the Wild West.

This lecture explores the inception, meaning and ongoing preservation of the cowboy image. The American West is examined in popular literature from early cowboy comics to Zane Grey, Will Rogers and Larry McMurtry. This is augmented with the popular music of Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and Bob Wills. We look at the development of the ranch competitions, Wild West shows and modern day rodeo. And we explore the image of the silver screen cowboy, singing in the saddle and yodeling at the cattle ‘neath the pale moonlight.

Cowboy hats are optional. Whooping is a requirement.  

“The World is a Latke”
The Humble Potato Pancake is the Spirit of Multiculturalism
The potato pancake is a “tabula rasa” or blank slate upon which the tastes of many cultures—and often several cultures at once—can be etched.

“The World is a Latke” is a lecture and hands-on cooking demonstration that grows out of a love for entertaining. For more than 20 years, Roger Mummert had hosted “The Latke Festival,” a wacky cooking competition that encourages cross-cultural culinary experimentation with the potato pancake as its basis. The contest has been chronicled on CNN, Fox News, the Food Network and National Public Radio.

“The World is a Latke” draws on the varied cultures of participants in demonstrating exciting flavor combinations and in devising entirely new flavor combinations. It also defines a new style of entertaining for an increasingly diverse American populace.

Aprons are highly recommended...as are appetites.

“How to Read a Newspaper”
The Key to Literacy (and Higher SAT Scores!) is in Our Hands
Reading the New York Times provides a better education than attending Harvard, it often is said. Reading newspapers may even help a student to build skills and achieve SAT scores that will get them into an Ivy League college.

Yet, in this age of political blogs, news soundbites and satirical TV news shows, appreciation for the daily newspaper as a premier information source is often overlooked.

This lecture decodes the reporting of news and features and provides easy strategies for improving one’s vocabulary and understanding of the world.

Forget those expensive SAT tutors! Read the newspaper!

This lecture is appropriate to both adult and student audiences, grades 6 through college.

Las Mascaras de Michoacan
The Amazing Mask Carving Traditions of Mexico
The many colorful stories of Mexico are fondly told and retold through dances. Highlighting these dances are brilliantly colorful carved wooden masks. The art of designing and crafting these masks lives on in the artisan traditions of the state of Michoacan in the central highlands of Mexico.

With the assistance of a sister who is a noted anthropologist in Mexico, Roger Mummert has traveled to many villages and interviewed carvers of “mascaras” in their homes and taillers or workshops.

In this talk, participants don masks and act out the many stories, folktales, myths and passion plays that reveal the rich and ancient culture of Mexico. An extensive collection of carved Mexico masks and woven fabrics illustrate this talk.
           
The Stay-at-Home Dad
Tales from the New American Suburbs
The suburban American psyche resides in a gated community.

In this lecture and reading, Roger Mummert guides listeners through the awkward moments of raising a less-than-perfect lawn, abiding a dirty grill at a backyard barbecue, and walking a trendy crossbreed dog who’s a babe magnet at the soccer field. These are the quotidian issues that obsess this writer and lecturer—and amuse kindred listeners.

As a “stay-at-home dad” who often is the lone man at PTA meetings, Roger Mummert has more than peeked through the keyhole into real family life in the place where most Americans live; he has overstayed his welcome!

This lecture draws on Roger Mummert’s well-loved essays from the New York Times, commentaries that skewer American life and serve it up with a fat slice of ambivalence on the side.

Audiences relate to this everyman writer who has been called “Erma Bombeck with a penis.”