Saturday, September 5, 2009
Defining humor and how to write about it creates the first challenge. Humor relates directly to the sensitivity of one’s funny bone for the nuances in life. The discovery of humor in unlikely situations takes talent.
What makes me laugh might not do the same for someone else. I don’t give up a chance to make a humorous connection in my search for silly because laughter’s my buddy. I humor on.
Humor must have evolved as a survival skill. Imagine primal humans hunting all day and suddenly a
sabre-toothed tiger charged from behind a bush. One hunter said to the other, “Distract him while I run back to the fire and get help.” Almost any situation can lead to a twinge of humor . . . for someone.
Dave Barry, a universally appealing humor writer, feels humor relates to fear and despair. The series, M*A*S*H, delved into these stressors of life and played with dark humor. Having the ability to add a humorous twist to any tragic situation, Shakespeare must have had strong stomach muscles from chuckling as he wrote. Even scientific research has shown the benefits of laughter in the healing process.
If we didn’t have laughter to keep us buoyant in a world that twirls way beyond our control, gravity certainly would keep us grounded. We need to stimulate our funny bones to release fears and anxieties. As Dave Barry says about humor writing, “A, keep it moving, and B, spend a lot of time writing it. And C, after you're done, show it to somebody.” I’d add, show it to someone who likes to laugh.
Creative Write: Find humor in a serious situation. Lewis Grizzard said when you write humor, you only have to look at the world from the front of your eyelids forward and soon you’ll see something funny to write about.
They don't listen
when he says he travels with ghosts
his head down, alone with his tracks.
They don't listen to his needs.
He rejects an engineer's view
since sunset's glare blinds him.
Learning listening skills requires patience and silence. Avoid using your voice to fill empty spaces in conversation.
Sit in a friendly chair. Focus on your breath as it moves in and out. Listen to sounds with full awareness.
At first, you will classify sounds as an airplane, car passing, or bird's chirp. Listen beyond the harshness of garbage trucks and jack hammers. Defining the sound removes you from it. If you concentrate long enough eventually you will let the labels go and notice only the energy.
Imagine listening to another person in this way without judgment or the need to push your views before the other finishes speaking. Try it!
Creative Write: Spend fifteen minutes listening to one side of a conversation you usually interrupt to clarify your view. What happens when the other speaks without your comments? Write about the experience.
Friday, September 4, 2009
Once a babysitter tried to make me fear them. Pointing to a creature that ambled in front of us, she wriggled her nose, made frightening fingers and yelled, “Icky. Icky” at my face.
At that impressionable age (hers), I felt determined no one would tell me what to like or dislike. I had to show, not tell, so I picked up the spider and put it on my tongue. I thrust both at her. She ran and never had to care for me again. Her shrieks still reverberate.
Ever since that bonding episode, I have enjoyed a communication with spiders. I marvel at their creativity and have spent hours watching web spinning.
Each fall, orange spiders the size of nickels weave their food nets on the corners of my house and attach to branches along front and side paths. When we had to eliminate termites from the house, I felt concerned for the spiders’ safety and called the zoo to see if they would take them overnight. A chuckle erupted on the phone.
Maybe they could rest in a fish bowl? I could transport them to the motel we had to live in during the process. How would they eat?
Finally, one morning I awakened to a notion that if I asked them to leave for a week or so, they might understand. Why not give it a try? I explained to each spider the situation. Stay and you take your chances with the termite ”evacuation” or leave and return when it’s safe. As I spoke to them, I also advised the termites they had options but one did not include return. They needed to find other places to spin.
I talked to twelve spiders in residence. In response, several days before the tenting only empty webs remained. Within two weeks they returned, their bodies plump and webs more glorious than before. I do have witnesses to attest to my efforts.
When new spiders arrive each autumn, I make requests. “Please move your webs higher by the front door, or to the sides of the paths. Then humans will not damage them and ruin your dinner.” I only have to ask once and they comply.
Creative Write: Write about an amazement you have encountered in nature.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Reversing my ancestors' process, I've spent a lot of time climbing and thinking in trees. During my Pasadena childhood, oaks, maples, magnolias, and sycamores offered clues to the seasonal shifts. While residents from eastern states termed California a "mono" climate, I learned to sense the beginnings of each season.
Within a kaleidoscope of subtlety, I have always felt sensations when one season scooted into the next.
In San Diego I have discovered autumn's early arrival. This visual guidepost accompanies my sense of seasonal change. Before the summer heat relents to crisp mornings, the ivy moves into oranges, yellows and scarlets.
Today, with the humidity of early morning, I had a hunch my indicator would reveal autumn tugging at summer's toes for cooling temperatures. Lower on the wall, leaves have started to gather in twos and threes. By early October their palate will overwhelm the green. Sounds will turn to crisp and crackle. With a hint of cedar, smoke will coil from chimneys.
Monday, August 31, 2009
Technology advances faster than I can run or mind move. I do my best to keep up and recently acquired a Dell computer that's lightning fast and wireless. Named TyreceBlue, his relatives appear with jolly singers in those Dell "lollypop" advertisements on television.
In the attempt to multi-task after a visit at the dentist's office, I drove to Staples for printer paper. I also needed a refill for my 2010 "page at a glance" desk calendar that informs me - non technologically - of monthly bills and appointments. I am not paperless in my WIFI or computer-driven life because one cannot predict when those tech-helpers in our will fail. It's vital to have back up.
During my walk toward the calendar section, sleek, black printers captured my attention. They looked so ready for action and had WIFI accessibility. I had to ask the clerk about their capabilities. As a result, I decided to upgrade my printer. My current HP version serves me well but over time the ON button has scrunched into its cylinder. Now it takes a whack to get it started and a fingernail to get it stopped. I soldier on.
Taken in by the ebony sheen, I took a Jet Knight home. Saturday evening, my husband and I struggled to set it up. By Sunday I had given up on our abilities to load the software and called HP's 800 number for help.
After a patient technician spent three and one half hours on the phone with me, Darth Vader still would not print. During that time I watched a spider build its web outside the window. It captured a bee, wrapped it in silk and dragged it up to a tree branch for supper. I read a third of a novel. It helped to turn the phone to speaker. When " Hello, Madam .. . " crackled through the air, I had to assist the technician as he moved the arrow around my screen from somewhere in India.
He directed me to perform several tasks. I accomplished each with ease over the screams of the neighbors splashing in the pool behind our house. Once I pushed the stop button in error and the printer shut down. "Well, I won't make it as an air traffic controller, " I chuckled. No returned laughter.
Sam loaded and unloaded the software three times after my insertion of the CD failed. We could get printing to occur but no scanning. Then a Congratulations! printed out but he warned me not to take it seriously.
How I envied the spider's dinner. My stomach growling, I begged the technician to give up.
"Please don't hang up yet," his voice said. He put me on hold and the melody that stopped and started during that half hour sequence I hope never to hear again. Finally his supervisor introduced himself and wriggled the arrow through a series of commands that scrolled the screen. Still - No printing. No scanning.
I begged, "Please. May we stop, " The arrow moved faster and beyond my control with agitated voices in the HP background.
"If you will let us know the best time to reach you. . ."
"No. Please. Send me an e-mail. I'll call you back."
"We appreciate your patience." The arrow returned to my control. I hung up and shut down TyreceBlue.
My husband and I drove down the hill for nice rounds of Margueritas for medicinal purposes.
Today, I returned Darth Vader to Staples and will return to my stuck print button with a sigh of relief. HP never sent me email to request another "chat."
Creative Write: Describe a day of technological challege. Discover the humor and write about it.