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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
    Sep142018

    WANT MORE JAZZ? IMPROVISE!

    Isaac Asimov said, “To succeed, planning alone is insufficient. One must improvise as well.”

    My,  mother-in-law, Fannie was an excellent cook. She said, “If you don’t have an ingredient—-improvise. ” She was a very smart lady, even though she never met Isaac Asimov.  However, I remembered her advise, when I read the instructions for a homemade, therapeutic hot pad; “Put rice in a big sock, tie off the end and put it in the microwave.”

    Since I didn’t have regular rice in the house, I put Rice-a-Roni in the sock. Now, when my neck hurts, it really smells delicious.

    My life has always been a bit improvised, and I have often zigged when I should have zagged, but I have no regrets. Lately, I have discovered that when you get old you improvise a lot. For instance being unable to lift a suitcase to the upper compartment on an airplane involves some improvisation. I play the role of an old lady, and block the aisle until some nice young fellow, playing the role of a boy scout, hoists the suitcase up for me. It works every time! Then I say, “Your MaMa raised you right!” Bingo!

    Improvisation is one of the core techniques used by actors.  It triggers spontaneity and sparks the imagination. One of the classic movie moments was when Jack Nicholson, in THE SHINING, improvised—-“Heeeere’s Johnny.”

    For a time, my son, Josh pursued a career in theatre. He was also a member of an improvisational comedy company that entertained in the U.S. and England. I am convinced that the skill of playing a character, without a script, and seeing how that character reacts in different situations has helped him think more creatively.  Additionally, his wife, Barbara said, “I can’t stay mad at him, because he always makes me laugh.”

    Paul Simon said, “Improvisation is too good to leave to chance.”  I guess he got that from George Burns who said, “If you’re going to ad lib, practice it first.” I would define improvisation as heightened communication with no moral implications such as telling a lie.

    A lie is a statement used intentionally for the purpose of deception, and carries a negative connotation. Big lies trick people into believing false or misleading information.  Big lie or little lie, the truth always comes out. In other words, “When the tide goes out, you’ll see who’s swimming naked.”

    Esther Blumenfeld (“A lie gives you the highest quality at the lowest price.”) anon

    Friday
    Sep072018

    WHY? WHY NOT?

    “Hurry, Child, ask your questions. Tomorrow, there may be no answers.”
    “Hurry, Child find your answers. Tomorrow, there may be no questions.” (THE CAT WHO SMELLED A RAT, Lillian Jackson Braun)

    When I was a little girl, “Why?” was my favorite word, and I assume, that for a very short period of time, it was considered charming by my parents. Dad always had patience and provided long, convoluted answers.  Mom’s solution was, “Because I said so!”

    When I got older, and went to school, my teacher’s favorite answer to, “Why?” was, “Look it up.” I think it was because she didn’t know the answers herself, because she would often say, “What did you find out?” As I matured, I drove my algebra teacher crazy with my, “Why?” And, he finally said, “You don’t have to know, “Why,” you just have to solve the problem.

    Every good attorney knows that you don’t ask a question when you don’t already know the answer, such as—-“Are you still  embezzling money from your firm?” That’s a tough one to answer other than, “Why are you asking?”

    The most frustrating ping-pong answer to,“Why?” is “Why Not?” “Why did you do that?” “Why Not?”

    The comic, Steven Wright knows how to ask questions such as—-“What’s another word for thesaurus?” Or, “If you didn’t know who I was, would you know if I’m a stranger?”

    I once drove my piano teacher into the bathroom when I asked, “Was Beethoven’s music so loud because he was deaf? Or, was he deaf, because his music was so loud?” I thought about that question a lot, because I hadn’t practiced. She didn’t have much of a sense of humor, but she sure could throw up. Maybe it was a pregnant pause, or maybe she was pregnant. I never did ask my parents, “Why isn’t she giving lessons anymore?”

    Of course, when a child asks, “Where do babies come from?” “Ask your Father” is always a good answer.

    In life, it is vital to find honest answers to your questions. That will hold you in good stead when you need to take a position on an important issue. “Why?”Because being wishy-washy just doesn’t cut it, because, these days, if you don’t stand for something, you just might fall for anything.

    Esther Blumenfeld (“Okay, So what’s the speed of dark?”) Steven Wright

    Friday
    Aug032018

    WHATS UP? WHATS DOWN?

     These days, it’s hard to know what to believe. My son, Josh claims that he is a science writer for NASA. To enter into the building where he works, I would need security clearance. So, I can never see his office. My daughter-in-law, Barbara is an attorney. She cannot talk about her clients, and, for that reason, I never ask her questions about her work.

    I can’t visit my son’s place of business, and I can’t ask questions about my daughter-in-law’s clients. They both claim that they have jobs. So, I have to take them at their word. I guess if I asked too many questions they’d have to kill me.

    I have a friend whose son is a trial lawyer.  I asked her, “Have you ever gone to court to watch him in action?” “No,” she replied. “Why would I want to do that?” Then, when I asked her, “Are you sure that he’s a lawyer?” she looked at me as if I am nuts.

    I say, “Give me the evidence!”

    When I was a journalist, I used to call people on the phone to get statements from them. I also interviewed people in person. Some of these people were celebrities, titans in business or politicians. No one ever asked for my credentials.  I had them, but no one ever asked. In those days, people used to trust each other to tell the truth. Naturally,  sometimes, given human nature, that was a mistake, but most of the time people were pretty forthright.

    Recently, we were told by our President, “Don’t believe anything you hear or anything you see.”
    That is easy if you are Helen Keller. To add to the confusion, Trump will twitter something in the early morning, and then contradict himself that very evening. So, I don’t know if I’m supposed to be a morning person or an evening person.

    Everybody claims that the other person is lying, and semantics are really taking a beating. For instance: Did the President “ban” a reporter from a press conference, or did he just not let her into the room? Obviously, she wasn’t in, so that means she was out. He could claim that he wasn’t “banning” her, but that he was only “barring” her from entering.  On the other hand, everyone knows that Trump never goes into a bar, so it “Never happened!” even if there were lots of witnesses.

    Mark Zuckerberg, the Father of Facebook, promised to remove lies and liars, who cause harm with “fake information,”on Facebook. However, he will allow Holocaust deniers, because he figures, they don’t cause harm, because they are just ignorant about historical facts, and that they don’t know they are hurting anyone. So, letting Jew haters come out the the woodwork to incite anti-semitism with lies is okay, because they are just plain stupid. Pleading ignorance of the law won’t prevent a person from getting a traffic ticket, but fomenting lies about Jews is acceptable. Mark also claims that he is Jewish, so I guess that’s supposed to make it okay. I hope his Mommy is proud of him and that her stock keeps dropping down the rabbit hole.

    We do live in crazy times. Taking babies from their Mother’s arms is okay, until it’s not and then, “Oops,” we’ve lost some of the babies. Playing footsie with dictators is lots of fun, until foot fungus becomes too much of an irritant, and playtime has to be cancelled. Truth seeking journalists are branded as “enemies of the people,” and sham universities are awarded more funds to hoodwink unsuspecting students.  

    Unbelievable! Up is Down,—-and Down is Up—- and the whole world is topsy curvy.

    Consequently, I think, that as a tribute to the Constitution of the United States,  our National Anthem should now become the Louis Jordan song from 1943—-
    “Is you is, or Is you Ain’t, my Baby? The way you acting lately makes me doubt—“

    Doubting and questioning are good! That is—unless they’re not!

    Esther Blumenfeld (Tom and Jerry have my vote)

    Friday
    Jul272018

    NOT ALWAYS SO SMALL

    My friend, Paula, and her husband, a prominent physician and renowned Professor of Medicine, were invited to a neighbor’s home to see their new Dachshund puppies. One of the puppies was not thriving,  and their neighbor said, “She isn’t eating, and I am afraid we are going to lose her.” Whereupon, the Professor of Internal Medicine said, “Maybe, she’s allergic to her mother’s milk.”  Sure enough, his diagnosis was correct! Word about the miracle cure must have spread, because a stranger approached Paula and said, “You must be so proud to be married to a veterinarian.”

    There have been studies comparing “small talk” to “meaningful conversations,” and in the past, psychologists thought that substantive conversations led to happier people, while small talk was linked to unhappiness. Tell that to the puppy, and we both say, (She barks) “Balderdash!”

    Recently, researchers have found that, “small talk is not negatively related to well being.” See, I told you so! I happen to like small talk. Any comedian will tell you that one-liners are the ultimate small talk.

    While getting my car serviced, I was sitting in the waiting room, and felt a drop of water on my head. I looked up and caught another drop from the ceiling air-conditioner. I reported the leak to a service person, and said,”Do you charge extra for the shower?” He replied, “No, but the towel will cost you.” That is a small talk come-back.

    After a young woman on the Comcast help line straightened out my television reception problem, she said, “Is there anything else, I can help you with?” I replied, “No, but now you don’t have to be nice for the rest of the day.” That line works every time!

    A friend of mine has a brother who drives a taxi cab in New York City. I think his major in college was mid-Tibetan history, and he is waiting for an opening in his field. Anyway, my friend is a writer, and his brother, the taxi cab driver, picked up a fare at a publishing house in the City. As the man got into his cab, he asked him,”Are you an editor?” “Yes,” said the man. The driver then said, “Here’s my brother’s manuscript. You are going to love it!” And, he gave it to the man as he exited the cab.

    A week later, the editor had lunch with an editor from another publishing house and said, “We don’t publish funny novels, but I think it would fit your list.” My friend, the writer, got a call that his book was going to be published, and it was later made into the movie, “Doc Hollywood.”
    Who needs a dissertation when small talk can accomplish that?”

    My first book, OH, LORD, I SOUND JUST LIKE MAMA also got published because of the smallest talk ever. The book had been rejected by Peachtree Publishers, because they already had their featured humor writer, Lewis Grizzard. Several months later, my co-author Lynne and I were guest lecturers at a writer’s conference at Jekyll Island, GA. In the lunchroom, I spied, the editor, Chuck Perry from Peachtree Publishers, and I said to Lynne, “I’m going to go say, “Hello” to the guy who rejected us. I approached him and said, “Hi, Chuck,” and he said, “Lewis Grizzard just signed with Random House, Do you still have, OH, LORD, I SOUND JUST LIKE MAMA?” “Yes, I do,” said, I.” “ Send it to me. We can publish it now,”was his reply.

    So, “Hello,Chuck” and “Yes, I do” sold 250,000 books.  That is small talk at its smallest—- and its very best!

    Small talk can also be an excellent coping mechanism. Years ago, my friend, Jeanne and I went to a restaurant that featured singers. The man singing into the microphone wore an open shirt, and his gold chains kept getting entangled in his chest hair. I ignored the singer as best I could, but suddenly he came to our table, leaned close to me and said, “Baby, Do you have a request?” I responded, “Yes, I do!”  “Go Away!” That is the essence of small talk.

    Small talk can also be dangerous: My parents hosted a fancy dinner party. Mother found a lonely sardine in the refrigerator, and popped it into the centerpiece on the table. Yes, that was either weird or avant garde. Never did figure that out, but back to the story.  My grandmother, suddenly reached into the centerpiece, and before anyone could stop her, she popped the sardine into her mouth—whereupon, she promptly spit it out and yelled—“Stop eating! The dinner is poisoned.”

    Small talk. I love it!

    Esther Blumenfeld

    Friday
    Jul202018

    LEAVING AN IMPRESSION

    My niece, Samara thought she was doing a good thing when she obtained the movie, ET for family enjoyment. Once her 4-year-old son, Elias realized that ET was lost and couldn’t get home, tears ran down his little face, and he said, “Mommy, I am not im-pwest  with this movie!”
    In no uncertain terms he let her know how he felt.

    There are times when we adults also need to let people know that we are not impressed with what they say or do. It can be difficult, but necessary, and sometimes you just have to let people know where you stand. However, there is a choice how to express ourselves. We can verbally knock  people over the head with a hammer like Trump does, or tickle someone’s conscience with a feather like Mr. Rogers used to do. But, there is also a happy compromise between hurting people’s feelings or nudging them too gently.

    For instance, the road in our community is private. It was in disrepair, and we all had to chip in to have it resurfaced. One of my disgruntled neighbors said to me, “I think we should fill in the community swimming pool to save money, because I never use it.” I replied, “Well, I think we should not resurface the road in the cul-de-sac where you live, because I never drive down there.” Obviously, he was impressed enough to never repeat his idea to me again.

    One day, another neighbor took it upon herself to say, “You spend too much for your yard service.”  Whereupon I replied, “I don’t care.” She seemed impressed.

    And, while I was taking a stroll through the neighborhood a few months ago, another neighbor came out of his house and said, “I just put a new roof on my house. Do you want to know how much I spent?”  “No, I don’t.” I replied and kept walking. He followed me and said, “But I want to tell you.” I replied, “I really don’t want to know, but if you can’t afford to put a roof on your big, beautiful house, you might want to get a smaller one that you can afford.” I thought, “Hooray, he will never talk to me again.” Wrong! obviously, I was talking to the neighborhood masochist, and he loved it!

    By now, you must know that I don’t live in Mr. Roger’s neighborhood.  The worst guy is the fellow who tries to make an impression by telling offensive jokes. He will always say to me, “Can I tell you a joke?” And, I will always reply, “Please don’t. Your jokes are never funny.” Then he will ignore me, tell his joke, and say, “What do you think?” and, then, “Where are you going?” Next time, on my way out of the room, I will quote my little nephew, Elias and say, “I am definitely not im-pwest!”

    Esther Blumenfeld  (“It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a neighborly day in the beauty wood, Don’t you be my neighbor!”) Mr Rogers-—kind of.