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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.

     

    Thursday
    Jul212011

    A Mute Point

    When learning English, newcomers to the U.S. are advised to watch American television to hone their language skills. Of course, this includes all those commercials that pop up during television programs. I don’t know how these tenderfoots can tell the difference between some of the inane programming and the intrusive sales pitches, because sometimes they run together, and it must prove extremely confusing. 

    Recently, while watching the muted marketing on my set, I realized that not only are commercials shorter than they used to be, but one sales pitch blends right into another, which may or may not be related to the previous product. And they run into each other more quickly than before. Airtime is expensive, so obviously companies have decided to cram as many commercials as they can into as short a time frame as possible. Time is money! 

    Consequently, I de-muted (Is there such a word?) bringing the sound back, and began listening to the messages as they ran together.  I also grabbed a magnifying glass and tried to read some of the small print disclaimers written at the bottom of my screen. So, without naming the companies, here are some actual commercials that bump into each other. Consider yourself a newcomer to the English language:

      “If you develop an allergic reaction to this medication, stop taking it. Our product helps with stretch marks--- toaster strudel---pizza rolls--- diarrhea--- constipation. For a body in motion. What do you really want from your toilet paper? We’re America’s Natural Gas Company. Destroys odor on contact. This product will transport you to Hair Color Heaven. This is a dating service where God makes the choice. Don’t take this medication if you are about to become pregnant. Lipstick will last for 10 hours. Side effects dry mouth”.

     I especially like the life insurances that are sold to old folks for only a few pennies a day. They come with a lifetime warranty.

    Esther Blumenfeld (This statement has not been approved by the FDA)

     

     

     

    Friday
    Jul152011

    Summertime And The Living Is Hot

    There is nothing as sweet as the sound of rain on the roof after 80 consecutive days of dry, summer, desert heat.  Looking out of my window in the middle of the night, I dub the welcoming drops as “Angel Sweat,” as the large rocks in my yard begin to glisten in the light of the full moon. Monsoon Season has begun in Arizona. Arroyos will fill with water, and a few fools, who ignore the warnings, will have to be rescued or drown in the desert. 

    Visitors to my neck of the woods invariably ask, “Doesn’t it get hot here in the summer?” I am so tempted to respond, “Of course it gets hot. It’s the desert stupid,” but I don’t.  Instead I say, “Yes, it’s unbearable. I think you should move to Florida.” I suffer from the same malady that many people do after moving here. We want to pull up the drawbridge and keep the beautiful mountains and desert all to ourselves. Winter in Arizona is a delicious season, but summer is close behind, and it arrives every year without fail. I call it my “Blizzard Season,” because I know when to venture out and when to hunker down, but I don’t have to shovel it. 

    I, for one, enjoy summer in the desert. The evenings cool down, and I don’t mind getting up before 5 a.m. in order to hike my 2 miles in the mountains. By 7:30 it is quite hot, but I have enjoyed the birds, the deer, lizards and other creatures that venture out early in the morning. I have also quaffed a bottle of water. One day, after the rainfall, I found a puddle in the middle of a sandy path. In it, tiny tadpoles were paddling about. Yes, the desert is a wondrous and extremely weird place. By 1 p.m. I have already been up for 8 hours and find that a short siesta is a most civilized activity. 

    After it rains, the air is redolent with the smell of the creosote bush, a smell that no one can describe. Whenever you ask old-timers about creosote, the answer is: “They put it on railroad ties.” I assume they are talking about something extracted from the bushes---not the bushes themselves, because a bunch of bushes on the tracks would probably slow down our already sluggish trains. I have never put my head on a railroad track to smell the creosote. The woodsy smell is pungent, but not worth losing my head over. So, rain brings out the “heavenly essence of the desert.” Forgot to mention that the Spanish word for creosote is hediondilla, which means “little stinker.” I just saw a streak of lightening over the mountains. Can the rain be far behind? 

    Esther Blumenfeld (A desert rat and proud of it)

     

    Friday
    Jul082011

    Must The Show Go On?

    My friend, Jean enjoys avant-garde theatre and has dragged me to some rather strange productions. When she told me that she had tickets for a one-man show at a performance art studio, I agreed to join her, because I like her and figured how bad could one guy be? 

    The studio was located near some railroad tracks, and the small building looked as if it had been well shaken for many years. As we stepped inside, we were greeted with a view of assorted paraphernalia hanging from the walls and ceiling, that I assumed a performing artist might need from time to time. There were ropes, musical instruments, bicycles, whips, swords, balloons, masks, clown costumes, and a collection of extremely large paper Mache figures, which looked as if they had fallen off a Mardi gras parade float. Everything was extremely dusty. 

    Our seats were in the front row, because it was the only row, and I sat smack dab in the middle, facing a large, white enamel toilet that was plopped in the middle of the performance area. A recorded dirge began to play, but abruptly stopped, as the room became ablaze with light. The actor came forth, sat on the toilet and began to moan. At first I thought perhaps he was constipated, but then he began a conversation with an imaginary friend about his life. I wondered why he would be talking with a friend while sitting on the toilet. 

    On occasion, as his conversation became more animated, he would stomp his feet sending a cloud of dust my way. Consequently, my eyes began to water, and tears began to run down my face. Seeing my reaction, he surmised that I was inordinately taken by his performance. When I blew my nose, he, too, began to cry. That actor sat on that toilet for one hour, extremely moved by his own acting skills while delivering his lines directly to me. All I wanted to do was to jump up, flush that damned thing and get rid of him. 

    When the show mercifully ended, I tried to sneak out, but it was impossible, because the actor stood at the door gathering accolades. As I reached the blocked exit, he looked at me with a grateful smile. I blew my nose one more time, and blurted out, “Wow! That was really something,” as I escaped, gasping for air. 

    On the way home, Jean told me that she and her husband were going to take dance lessons. I called her a few days later and asked, “How did the lessons turn out?” “Not so good,” she replied. “My husband suffers from motion sickness, and the dancing made him nauseous, so we had to get our money back.” To know her is to love her. 

    Esther Blumenfeld (That’s show biz)

     

     

    Friday
    Jul012011

    Do It The Write Way

    There’s an old story about a man who approaches an artist and says, “I wish I had the talent to paint like you.” Then he approaches a musician and says, “I wish I had the gift to play like you. And, then, he approaches a writer and says, “If I only had the time-----.“ 

    I wish I had a dollar for every time someone has said, “I have a book in me,” and for all those occasions I resisted replying, “Perhaps that’s a good place for it to stay.” 

    When I taught writing classes, I often encouraged students to write family histories or get their original poetry bound.  No one should diminish the value of these projects for those individuals and for the people they love.  However, I take umbrage when they call themselves “published authors.” 

    For once, I want to clarify what distinguishes a published author from a self-published author. A published author gets an advance of payment on royalties that are paid to the author by the publisher. The publisher absorbs all of the costs of publishing a book. This includes paying an editor, an illustrator (usually one of their choice), paying publication costs, distribution and (if you are lucky) a publicist. When a company publishes a book, the author does not pay the publisher. The publisher pays the author. If authors pay to get their books published, then they should call themselves “self-published.” There is an ethical and professional difference. Always ask, “Who published your book?” When the author starts coughing, be suspicious. 

    Although most people can carry a tune, few would think that qualifies them a spot in the Metropolitan Opera. And, although everyone has the capacity to doodle on a piece of paper, few would expect their doodles to show up at the Louvre. However, an inordinate number of people think they have the ability to kick an author like Stephen King to the curb, because how hard can it be to write scary stuff? After all, who wouldn’t want to read about the family who got ptomaine poisoning from Aunt Emily’s meatloaf? 

    Most professional writers will tell you that writing is hard work. My favorite book review for OH, LORD, I SOUND JUST LIKE MAMA was the one where the reviewer wrote, “Many people will think they could have written this book, but it takes a lot of work to make it look so easy.” 

    I admit that book publishing is ever changing with new technologies. That’s okay. But, on the other hand, if you have lots of money and a matching ego, almost anyone can get published these days, and you don’t have to put up with rejection. For a hefty fee, you can hire people to produce your book. You can also pay people to distribute, advertise and even write computer reviews of your creation. It does help if you have a big empty garage, an extremely large family or many employees who are waiting for your book with baited breath as an inclusion in their holiday gift basket. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing dishonest about self-publishing, and a few people are successful going this route, but the successful ones are usually honest about the process that got them there. 

    If you really want to brag that you are an author and don’t think you have the “time,” you can even hire someone to write your book for you, and no one ever has to know that you never developed an idea, lifted a pencil or tapped a computer key. Of course, if you tried this with a violin, the audience would catch on right away, because being a professional musician requires some talent. 

    Esther Blumenfeld (practice, practice, practice)

    Friday
    Jun242011

    Not To Worry

    I come from a family of worriers. Sometimes when my phone rings, and I answer, “Hello,” my Aunt Ruth will say, “What’s wrong?” At that point, I didn’t know anything was wrong, but I start to worry that maybe something should be. 

    Recently, when I took a trip to Buffalo, New York to visit her, I said, “Aunt Ruth, you look remarkable at 96 years of age.” She put a finger to her lips, pointed heavenward and whispered, “Don’t remind him.” Aunt Ruth frets about everything. She worries that on one hand there isn’t enough food in the house for company, and on the other hand there’s too much food in the refrigerator for her to finish.  I worry that she is growing penicillin, when I discover a container of molding cranberries that are left over from Thanksgiving---and it’s the middle of June. 

    I once complimented her on the fact that I never sensed that she favored any one of her four children, and she replied, “That’s because I am mad at all of them equally.” She has a devoted family, and all of them are at her beck and call, and call she does---repeatedly---to remind them of what she reminded them of 10 minutes before. They take it with relatively good humor when she innocently claims, “I’m just a little old woman.” 

    She scoots around her house with a walker, but doesn’t drive anymore, so her grandchildren take her anywhere she wants to go. Friday is beauty parlor day and neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail shall keep her from that appointed round. As you might have heard, it occasionally snows in Buffalo. In the midst of a blizzard, Aunt Ruth needed to get her hair done. After all, it was Friday. So, one of her grandsons took her. When they returned home, a snowplow had cleared the street, creating a mountain of snow along the curb. “How, can I get out?” she wailed. “No problem,” said her buff grandson. He came around to her side of the car, opened the door and hoisted her over the snow bank. She arrived home, nary a hair out of place. Another grandson created the mantra, “Don’t worry Grandma.” Now when she champs at the bit, everyone chimes in with a chorus of “Don’t worry, Grandma.” 

    Aunt Ruth is a television news hound and faithfully follows all political happenings, and she isn’t shy about telling people what she thinks about everything. Her doctor was taking her blood pressure while she chatted on about the latest news reports. He listened, and then took out his prescription pad and began to write. “Is something wrong with me?” she fussed.“Your blood pressure is a bit high,” he replied.  “Here is your prescription.”  He had written, “You are no longer allowed to watch CNN.” 

    Fat chance! Did I mention that Aunt Ruth never follows orders. 

    Esther Blumenfeld (wouldn’t trade her for a million bucks)