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    Esther Blumenfeld  

    The purpose of this web site is to entertain.  My humor columns died along with the magazines where they were printed, although I cannot claim responsibility for their demise.  I still have something to say, and if I can bring a laugh or two to your day, my mission will be fulfilled.

    Everyone I know thinks he has a sense of humor.  Here is my unsolicited advice. If you try to be funny and no one laughs, don’t worry about it.  However, if you try to be funny and no one EVER laughs, you might have a little problem.

     

    Friday
    Feb222019

    THE CRUELEST CUT OF ALL

    I cut my finger again!   But before you become too upset, let me fill you in on my first encounter with a very sharp set of knives.  

    A few months ago, my son, Josh was visiting with me and tried to slice a loaf of bread.  He said, “Mother, these knives are so dull, I don’t know how you can cut anything.” So, he gave me a gift certificate, and for the first time in 25 years, I bought a new set of sharp kitchen knives.

    A few weeks later, I had some new neighbors over for dinner. They moved to Tucson from Canada, and I like them very much. Canadians are such reasonable, calm people, and seem to adjust to the shenanigans of we folks down-under with a smile and a shrug.  As a matter of fact, my friend Paul said, “To cure our government ailments, we should declare war on Canada—and surrender immediately!

    But back to my finger:

    I have learned to never serve bread with dinner, because when I started to slice it, my new knife sliced bread like going through butter and then through my finger.  Luckily, no spurting blood hit the bread. My guests suggested that I keep pressure on the wound, cover it and then keep my hand up very high. When the finger turned blue, they suggested that I loosen the bandage.
    Neither of them are doctors—just reasonable Canadians!  Irene is a world famous artist, and Lewis a prominent attorney and law professor. So, we talked about art and law and stayed away from discussing my finger.

    We had a really enjoyable evening, and they didn’t seem to mind that I pointed at the ceiling throughout dinner. We laughed and talked and ate and laughed some more. The evening was a success—especially when my finger stopped bleeding.

    So, one would think that I had learned my lesson.  Yes, I did!  Now I only buy sliced bread. However, I did not buy a sliced onion. Yes, it was a really big onion and a very big knife.  Happily, I still have five fingers on each hand.  Experience, even bad experience, does have an advantage, because I now know the bleeding finger drill..bandage, not too tight, pressure on wound and keep pointing up.

    Then, I remembered what a movie cowboy does, when he gets shot. He is bleeding and the bullet has to be dug out. He pours whiskey on the wound and bites down on a thick piece of wood. I had no wood in the house and used an anti-biotic cream.  So, I just drank the whiskey. It works!

    When I told Josh that I had cut my finger again with the knives he had bought me. He replied,
    “Don’t worry, Mom. I’m never going to buy you a gun!”

    Esther Blumenfeld

    Friday
    Feb152019

    SOCIAL OPPROBRIUM

    I don’t own a smart phone. I have a dumb phone. With a little flip, I can open it and take a picture—-but I have a very fine camera that I prefer—- and with lots of patience, I can text. The only thing I can’t do is to call Uber, and that’s okay with me, because my Mother always told me not to get into a car with a stranger. I rarely use my cellphone, and few people have the number. I prefer a land line because, by voice mail, I can screen my calls, and talk to the people with whom I want to speak.

    Admittedly, smart phones are a wondrous invention, but people’s inability to disconnect is an increasingly serious problem. Common Sense Media found that “69% of parents and 78% of teens check their devices at least hourly,” and, according to a global survey by Counterpoint Research, “Smart phone users spend between 3 and 7 hours a day on mobile devices”.

    So, communication with a friend now means Face-time with a screen, not with a human being. And, the harvesting of personal information has revealed the dark side of Silicon Valley’s let’s-all-get-connected idealism.

    Recently, when reading an article about technology, I had to look up the meaning of “dystopia.” It is the exact opposite of “utopia,” and a not so good place. Dehumanizing and extremely unpleasant, there is a long list of problems with data mining of information, and the insidious exploitation by bad players to manipulate information, influence national elections and foment violence. Lawmakers are beginning to take a hard look at unbridled technology, but they are not the only ones.

    On October 1, 2018, Wyndham Grand’s five U.S. resorts gave families a 5% discount on their stay, if they managed to put their phones in timed lockboxes. They knew they had a problem when guests, sat in beach chairs and had to check their mobile devices, “roughly every 12 minutes.” Some vacation!

    Wyndham started to offer perks to guests,  who managed to exist without their mobile devices. Lisa Checchio, Wyndham Hotel’s Chief Marketing Officer said, “Everyone wants to be able to disconnect. They just need a little courage.”  Are you kidding me? Courage is dismantling a landmine—NOT LOOKING UP FROM YOUR PHONE!

    I recently showed a young woman my flip phone. She said, “I am going to get one of those. My smart phone is taking over my life.”

     I suggested that she start a group where people stand up and say something like, “Hello, My name is Lisa, and I am a smart phone addict.” Whereupon, other members will raise their arms, wiggle their thumbs, look directly at her, and say, “Hello, Lisa.”

    Unfortunately, like all other addicts, smart phone users will fall off the wagon, but not to worry, they won’t hurt themselves ,because they are always looking down.

    Esther Blumenfeld

    Friday
    Feb082019

    WORDS COME IN HANDY

    After sharing my misadventures on radio, television, on the lecture circuit and in the classroom, I thought it only fair to give you some insight about some of the magazine editors I had to survive. Working for a magazine editor is a whole other kettle of fish, and sometimes as pleasant as encountering the Red Tide in Florida.

    When I started out, I was so happy to be published and paid for my work, that I could overlook the eccentricities of many editors, and like P.G. Wodehouse, I’d “just sit at a typewriter and curse a bit.” However, as I became more experienced and enjoyed having my name on the masthead of several magazines, I realized that editors often come and go as quickly as hair dressers, and with a bit of patience, I’d outlast them.  Also, it was an “Ah- Ha moment” when I realized that no magazine can go to print if writers don’t meet their deadlines. That is power! And, that is probably one reason I got so much work—consistency counts.

    The first article ever accepted by a major magazine was about gathering material for,  “Oh, Lord, I Sound Just Like Mama” (book written with Lynne Alpern). The magazine was Good Housekeeping. Big Time!  Big Check! and Big Disappointment when the editor called for a re-write because “The article is too funny for our readers.”

    Several years later, I submitted an article to another major magazine. It was rejected by their editors. However, when it was returned to me, the editors had inadvertently left their notes to each other in the envelope. One editor wrote, “Myrna, this is  a very funny, one page article.  I think we can get it for $500.00. What do you think?” And, Myrna replied, “You are right. It is hilarious, but do we need humor?”

    Okay, so now it was time to approach the notorious editor of Business Atlanta Magazine with an idea for a humor column.  He growled, “It will never work! Leave me the column you brought, but know that you have never worked for an editor as good as I am. Now get out!”
    He called that afternoon, and said, "I’ll put a contract in the mail today.” To his credit, he did give Lynne and me free rein to write on whatever subjects we wanted to write, and the monthly column became quite popular. Then, he resigned, and the new sweet-young-thing editor told us that she would give us topics to write about in our humor column. The first thing she said, was, “Write something funny about turtles.” As it so happens, turtle lovers don’t have much of a sense of humor, so before we had to write  the one about “ponies”, she was out, but we were still in for several more years, with several more editors, until technology won and the magazine shut down.

    Atlanta Magazine was another slick city magazine. However, the editor made the Business Atlanta editor look like a pussycat in comparison. He was a failed writer. To paraphrase H.G. Wells, “There is no passion in the world equal to the passion to alter someone else’s work”
    He had good writers, and I was happy to be associated with them and to be awarded a column. This editor wanted a “light touch” to bolster some of the stories in the magazine.

    One of my friends, the gifted writer, Tish Sweitzer (who has since written several books and plays) was assigned a story by this editor. She conducted 40 interviews for the article and submitted it to him.  He glanced at it and said, “This is not what I want! But, I don’t know what I want.” She sat in her car and screamed.  Tish had four small children, and her office was in a closet in their house. She was not given to screaming nor claustrophobia.

    When, this editor assigned a story to me about Buckhead, a very upscale area in Atlanta, he said, “ Give me a sidebar about a residential street.”  I said, “Which street?”  He said, “What?”  I said, “Tell me which street you want me to write about, so I won’t turn in the story and have you say,  ”Wrong Street!” He resigned and went to work for another magazine.  Not my fault!

    An editor for Lions Club Magazine offered lots of money for an article about humor in business, but for political reasons, he didn’t like one of the businesses we had included in the story.  There is an ethical line that journalists should never cross, and that was one of them. The rule is,” Be ethical and spell people’s names right!” So, I turned down the money, and submitted the story to Kiwanis Magazine. They took it, paid an even better fee, and it was reprinted in several  magazines around the Country.

    Through the years, my writings seemed to pop up everywhere—even in the National Enquirer, but that’s a story for another time.

     Now I’ll share with you the secret of becoming a writer. “Writing is easy. Just put a sheet in the typewriter and start bleeding.”  Thomas Wolfe 1900-1938)

    Esther Blumenfeld


    Friday
    Feb012019

    WALLEYED

    A student once said to his professor, “I have some new and good ideas.” After listening to him, the professor said, “Your new ideas aren’t good, and your good ideas aren’t new.”

    So, let’s consider walls.

    If you are looking for a really exciting vacation, go to Berlin. November 9, 2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the toppling of the Berlin Wall. Traces of the Wall still remain, and tourists from all over the world can buy tickets for, “The Berlin Wall Tour.”  There is also a “Cycle Route Tour”, and an “Art Tour,” where you can see remnants of the East Side Gallery of 100 artistic works. The most famous is, “The Fraternal Kiss,” depicting a kiss between the Russian leader, Leonid Brezhnev and the East German leader, Erich Honecker. This joyous celebration of the Wall does not include armed guards with shoot-to kill orders, so no tourist has to make a run for it.

    Another major walled attraction is Hadrian’s Wall, (Vallum Hadriani in Latin). Regarded as a British cultural icon—before they put heads on spikes at the Tower of London— Hadrian’s Wall is one of Britain’s major tourist attractions, and was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987. The largest Roman artifact anywhere, it runs 73 miles in Northern England, and was built to “separate the Romans from the barbarians (who are now Brits). Hadrian’s Wall was partly constructed to reflect the power of Rome as a political point by Hadrian. Hadrian and his Wall had to contend with guerrilla tribes from all over Europe and resistance from Scotland. Finally the Wall was defeated by dismal weather, rugged terrain and savage resistance, and Hadrian died of a heart attack.

    If wall tours appeal to you, you can book, “The Great Wall of China (2019) Top Tours and Activities,” “Great Wall Luxury Tours”, or “The Great Wall of China Walk.” It’s quite a long walk, but I guess it does not include the whole 3,100 miles. So far, it is the World’s longest wall.
    Badaling is the most visited section of the Wall (63,000,000 visitors in 2001) and in May and October visitor flow can be up to 70,000 per day.

    This Great Wall was built as a defense, but unfortunately couldn’t stop the vast Mongol Empire that invaded and consumed China, and later the Manchu forces that also breached the (by now, not so great) Wall.

    So with all of this wall history, what could President Trump do to persuade Congress to finance his wall?  The answer is so simple—-IT’S GOOD FOR TOURISM! If built, people from all over the world would come to the U.S. just to see the Trump Wall.  They could stay at the Border Trump Hotels and buy tickets for Trump tours.

    Also, I would recommend to the President that he quit saying that “Mexico will pay for the Wall.” Instead, he should say, “We will pay Mexicans to build that Wall.” It would be good for the economy of both countries. And, it is a fact that Mexicans know how to build, know how to dig and are very good with ladders.

    However, for some reason, only known to President Trump, he wants to encourage migrants from Norway to come to the U.S. However, if they would start coming in lots of boats, with their sardines and herring, I guess the President would need another six-billion-dollars for a floating Mar Wall—a very long floating Mar Wall. That idea should  buoy him up.

    Esther Blumenfeld

    Friday
    Jan252019

    ADVENTURES IN THE CLASSROOM

    For 8 years, my co-author, Lynne and I were hired to teach classes in The Continuing Education Department at  Emory University. This only supported the old adage, “Write a book and you are an expert.”

    Based on our books, THE SMILE CONNECTION and HUMOR AT WORK, we alternated between two classes, “Adding Humor to Your Life: The Salt-Free, Low-Calorie, Polyunsaturated, All-Natural Guide for Feeling Good”, and” “Writing Humor: But Seriously Folks!” The writing class taught people that it’s not so easy to write funny, and we discouraged as much of the competition as we could.

    When our third book, MAMA’S COOKING: CELEBRITIES REMEMBER MAMA’S BEST RECIPE, gained some success, the Director of Continuing Education asked if we could now add, “Writing a Cookbook for Fun and Profit” to the mix. Cooking has never been one of my favorite activities, but I learned a great deal about writing a cookbook, and was happy to pass this knowledge along to my students, although I also learned some useful tricks from them.

    A young man in the class told me that he thought that my cookbook class would attract, “some really interesting women who liked to cook,” and he figured that it was cheaper to pay for the course than to take several of them out for dinner. It seemed to have worked, because after the second class, he, and a very pretty woman student, never showed up again.

    However, the class was very popular and ended up with a waiting list. I discovered that all kinds of people want to write cookbooks for various reasons. Organizations want to raise money with club member recipes, chefs want to sell cookbooks at their restaurants, and some collectors of old family recipes want to share recipes handed down through the ages.  I had to caution them that a “fistful of flour” depends on the size of a baker’s hand.

    Some students had unrealistic expectations.  You can’t put a book together in November and expect it to be ready by Christmas. So, here are few questions I had them ponder on the first day:

     How many Mac and Cheese recipes do you want in your club cookbook? And how do you pick the best one without ending up with half of your membership not speaking to you—ever again!
    If you volunteer for the local Zoo, are you sure a cookbook is the best way for you to raise money?
    Do you know the difference between “4 servings” and “Serves four,”—especially if your guests are teenagers on a football team.
    Be sure to know the difference between 1 tsp and 1 tbsp. After all, cooking  also involves a bit of science and math. If it’s wrong in the book, forget the profit part.

    And, students had to recognize that selling a cookbook involves, as Mama, from the musical GYPSY, would say,  “You’ve got to have a gimmick!” Cookbooks have long shelf lives, because most of them are purchased by collectors. Many of these people don’t cook—they read—and they like to have cook book collections in their kitchens.

    Some authors have wonderful gimmicks, and their cookbooks are very successful. One of my favorites was MANIFOLD DESTINY, by Chris Maynard and Bill Scheller. It was a book with recipes for cooking meals on your car engine.  Internal combustion took on a whole new meaning for me.

    The gimmick that went wrong was the best seller, WHITE TRASH COOKING, published in 1986, by Ernest M. Mickler. Mickler didn’t get into trouble because of his recipes, but because of the photo of an unattractive woman on the cover of his book. Unfortunately, Mickler didn’t get her permission, in writing, to use the photo, and when the book was a huge success, the Ledbetter family of Alabama, shared all of the profits from his book with their attorney.

    Also, I found it of greatest importance to warn my students not to poison their readers.

    In 1992 Ballantine had to recall  GREAT CAKES by Carole Walter, because on pg. 499,  she had created a cake frosting decorated with lilies-of-the-valley, a poisonous flower. I understand that   both the American Medical Association and the NY Botanical Garden agreed that it looked great, but wouldn’t  recommend it for their cafeterias.  Ballantine suggested that people who had purchased the book cross out the recipe on pg. 499 or return the book for a refund.

    Of course, a poisoned cake might have its advantages, but only to Stephen King.

    In 2018, TALES FROM A FORAGER’S KITCHEN” by Johanna Holmgren was also recalled by Rodale Books for its recipe for “Chocolate Dipped Fungi.”

    Only one of my students found a real publisher for her cookbook.  It was on book shelves for about 10 minutes, but I was gratified to have been acknowledged as one of the people who had led her to her success.  I only wish she hadn’t misspelled my name.

    Esther Blumenfeld