Tuesday, October 27, 2015

We Are Experiencing Technical Difficulties

I had a vacation day today and it has been a busy one. Most of the day was spent gathering, sorting, and packing items from my house to send off to auction. I've collected quite a bit of mid century decor items, and now feel it is a good time to start downsizing the collection. Needing a new roof on the house also helped me make that decision.

So, I wasn't thinking much about finding today's humor, although I packed with the TV on, and did have some smiles with daytime television. Later, as we delivered the items to the auction house, we were helped by someone with a teasing manner and easy smile. We laughed along with him as we unpacked the items.

It wasn't until I sat down to watch the first game of the World Series that I found the laugh of the day. It came at the expense of FOX Sports when they inexplicably lost power in the middle of the game. Abruptly the game disappeared and we were treated to three sportscasters desperately trying to vamp their way through "technical difficulties." When their theme music began to play they thought it meant that the problems had been fixed, but they weren't. We were taken back to a live feed of the game that turned out to be Major League Baseball's International feed and what they were showing was a halted game, and confusion on the field. Apparently, when the TV network goes off the air, the game has to stop. (Instant replay was off the air too!)

Many years ago, "technical difficulties" brought many shows to a standstill. For it to happen these days seems almost impossible. As I write this, the power is back after another awkward transition and a visit to the in-studio broadcasters. The game is back on track, the "correct" broadcasters are once more on the mikes, and a good laugh was had by all.

Let's Go Mets.

Monday, October 26, 2015

We Girls Can Do Anything (with Barbie)

Recently, I opened up my storage shed and pulled out 14 large containers that housed my Barbie collection. From childhood, and especially from the 80s and 90s, I had collected various versions of this doll. When I had a larger house they were on display. When the kids and I moved to the teeny house they were relegated to the storage shed, to hibernate for 18 years. Their collectible value decreased gradually over the years, as the “collectible” market crashed along with the stock market. And, in some part, Barbie, herself, fell out of favor. There was a lot of talk about the doll creating inappropriate body images in the heads of girls (and probably boys too) and Barbie became, to some, the epitome of a brainless bimbo concerned only about her unattainable appearance. But, I would protest, this was not the Barbie I knew. OK, yes, she still had that figure, and feet molded to forever wear high heels. But bimbo? True, that intense pink aisle in the toy store is really a bit much. And some of the outfits border on indecent.

Yet, for me, that wasn’t really Barbie. For me, Barbie was the fiercely independent woman that many of us growing up in the 60s and 70s aspired to be like. It was something Mattel finally realized with the  “We Girls Can Do Anything” campaign. And, as I looked over my collection one last time before sending it to the auction house, I could see that Barbie. President Barbie. Astronaut Barbie (who wasn't available for the "we girls can do anything crowd" but did come along later). Veterinarian Barbie. Firefighter Barbie. Police Office Barbie. Barbie wrapped in historical garb from all sorts of eras – and admittedly, some of those outfits were more historically accurate than others. There was also an assortment of princess Barbies commemorating holidays and seasons — perhaps this was Barbie’s career of quintessential fashion model.

It has been said by other writers that Barbie reflects who is in charge of her at Mattel. When someone who has the Bimbo Barbie in mind, out comes that image. And perhaps that is the image that has been dominating Barbie in the intervening years that I wasn’t watching or collecting her.

So today, I was pleased to see a new commercial for Barbie. One that made me smile, and even laugh a bit. A commercial that uses humor to bring home a serious point about an enduring staple in the toy department, like her or not.  It makes me wish I had saved President Barbie or Astronaut Barbie from going to the auction.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Laughter of Friends

Laughter shared by friends is a joyous sound. To laugh in harmony with those who know you and all your foibles and follies is a wonderful experience. I experienced that today, more than once. Friends I have known for more (much more) than 20 years treated the LOML (Love of My Life) and me to a trip on a vintage train through the brilliantly colored woods of northern New Jersey.

Between the golden, russet and remaining green leaves we could glance the Delaware River, and the sunlight reflecting off it. We passed historic stone homes decorated for Halloween, and fields full of tall corn stalks. From inside the train we snapped photos and chatted. We discussed the yellow sports car that drove on the road running alongside the train track, keeping pace with the locomotive, stopping when it stopping, and continuing when we did. As we invented outlandish reasons that this car was accompanying our trip, we laughed. We laughed when three of us got tangled up in each others seatbelts preparing to drive home. We laughed in the restaurant as we had dinner. 

We laughed long, we laughed loud, we laughed in the comfortable and familiar way that old friends do. Proof positive that laughter and humor are part of the essential elements of friendship. And those that laugh with you will be there for you when things are not so funny.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Are You Kidding Me?

Today we drove into Philadelphia and tried to get into a certain museum. To our great surprise and disappointment, we were told that tickets for general admission were sold out. It seemed ridiculous, the parking lot had not even been full, but all we could do was stare incredulously and say, "Are you kidding me?" But no one was kidding,  joking or fooling around with us. Just keep moving, citizens, nothing to laugh at here.

We ended up going to another museum, and thoroughly enjoyed the collection and the architecture. We got to do some walking around in Philadelphia on a gorgeous day. And we eventually found our humor of the day, on a postcard in the museum shop. (See below) Even though the subject of the painting doesn't look particularly happy or amused, we applaud his efforts to "put on a happy face."

"Smile Face" by William Bahmermann, 1982

Friday, October 23, 2015

Finding the Funny

To be on a mission to find humor on a daily basis sounds like I am looking for comedy, jokes and hilarity under every rock. In reality, while hearty laughter is a great workout for both body and mind, the humor of every day can be a bit more subtle. Perhaps it is something that just amuses or tickles you, or just makes you pause and smile. Often this happens to me when I find a typo or malapropism in a piece of writing ranging from news reports to facebook postings.

Today, it was a press release from a local police department. The department was justifiably proud of being awarded a $7,000 grant to provide bullet proof vests for their officers.  The New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice awards these funds through a program called the State Body Armor Replacement Fund.  A great program, to be sure. Unfortunately, this program uses its initials quite a bit to promote itself. Yes, promote itself as the State BARF Program.

I didn’t just smile at this, I laughed. I read it over more than once, thinking I was misreading. No, it truly is called the State BARF Program. And then I realized, the initials are not unfortunate. They are downright genius. You might not remember the existence of  the Bullet Proof Vest Investment Program, or the Police Protective Equipment Replacement Fund, but you will remember BARF.

I dare you to forget it.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Looking for the Humor in Daily Life

Welcome to the Smile Side of Life — my newest blog. Here I will be looking at something that is both important to me, and a real life skill that all of us should strive to develop. Life is full of twists and turns that take us through, as Dickens said, the best of times and the worst of times. How we react, cope and move through these twists and turns controls our stress level, our happiness and even our health. And while being human means that there is a time to laugh and a time to cry, we can make our journey a bit easier by incorporating laughter and humor into our daily life. 

Some days it will be easy, some days it may be very hard, indeed. I remember in the time after 9-11, as a society we wondered if we would ever laugh again. The pendulum had swung all the way over into heartbreaking sorrow. But the pendulum is never static. Eventually it must swing the other way. We may try to control it — keep it swinging is a small arc near the center, where there is neither the height of joy nor the depths of grief. In this blog I will be dealing with that pendulum, and where it is swinging in my daily life. I will be looking for humor — used by me or someone else — to nudge that pendulum over, to see how actively seeking happiness and joy can help me — and perhaps, you — live on the Smile Side of Life.

I start this journey with a link to an article I recently wrote for the Rutgers Alumni Magazine. Meet Bart Sumner, and his story. He exemplifies the human need to have laughter and joy in life; not to discount or downplay grief, but to live through it and with it. Overcoming Grief With Laughter