Saturday, July 26, 2008

Happy Quinceanera To You, Happy Quinceanera To You,

With my Jewish friends, I've been privy to their children's bar mitzvahs. My rich friends celebrate the coming-of-age of their daughters' with debutante balls. And now my cultural world has been expanded once more as one of my Mexican friends sent out Quinceanera invitations for his daughter's upcoming 15th birthday. It seems that the Quinceanera is like a bar mitzvah or a debutante ball except that everyone speaks Spanish. As globalization reaches the level of families, would the ideal birthday then be that of a teenaged, Jewish girl who has rich, Mexican parents?

The Mouth-watering Elements of Comedy

I've been trying to figure out what makes a joke funny. Not the pie-in-the-face gag but the written or spoken jokes. I've noticed there seems to be at least six common elements. And just like cake recipes, if you skip any of these comedic ingredients or get them in the wrong proportion, your potentially delicious banter becomes a very distasteful disaster.

First of all, you begin with a tasty target. Any person, place, thing, or even an abstract concept will do. Don't worry about freshness. Many successful comedians have built their careers on old jokes.

Next, add hostility -- a pinch of anger or barrel full of frustration depending on your love of your target. Of course, be careful! If you don't use the remaining four comedy essences, you risk getting a punch in the nose instead of a laugh. That's why boxers are rarely funny -- just don't say that to their face.

So, to avoid bodily harm to ourselves, not only should we avoid taunting boxers but we need to mix in a little realism and a fisherman's-tale size of exaggeration. Realism because comedy usually comes from pain. And there's nothing more painful than the truth. Unless it's an IRS audit. But we're talking about comedy here, not torture. Exaggeration is an essential part because it's the unlikely aspect of our target that tickles our audience. But that's something you've probably heard a billion times already.

Finally, we have to cook the emotions of our audience. We have to build their suspense. Our joke has to tease until our jokees are ready to explode. Then, when the timing is right, we prick their soufflé of anticipation with the pointy end of surprise. If done correctly, you shall experience the sweet laughter that rivals a hot, baked Alaska (dessert, not the state).

So there you have it: target, hostility, realism, exaggeration, emotions, and surprise. Warning, if you get a great reputation for cooking up all these ingredients into tasty treats, you might end up with a lot of dough in your pockets.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Phenter's Love

My friend's name is Fenter. Being that it's the hip, groovy, neat-o and whacky cool thing to misspell words these days, he spells his name, Phenter. He used to be the kind of guy that was always gloomy and depressing to be around. But now that he has fallen madly in love with a little lady from Japan, life is good for him. Very good. It doesn't matter that her English is not the best. They have no problem communicating with each other through that universal language of adoration and affection. And if Phenter is happy, we all are happy.

The other day, we teased her about being just what the doctor ordered for Phenter and that maybe his heart might belong to another. She just laughed and said, "Oh no, Phentermine no prescription necessary!"

[Yes, I know it should read "Phenter mine, no prescription necessary" but I have work with what I'm assigned. Still, the joke works, yes?]

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Trash Fairies

I think my neighborhood is inhabited by magical trash fairies. Early today I placed my broken indoor furniture on the curb for the trash collection. Within hours, my "outdoor furniture" magically disappeared. Now there isn't a lot of traffic in my neighborhood. Yet somehow, my trash became some one else's treasure. I'm not complaining. I'm just glad that I wasn't asleep on that old couch when it vanished. Of course, if they left me behind, I could congratulate myself on not being "white trash."

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Itchin' For A Vacation?

A week ago I was in the throes of a much needed vacation. I got to have quality rest, good food, good company, and the chance to become a human buffet for several hundred hungry chiggers. Today is the first day that I didn't feel the need to scratch my legs and feet with a power sander.

The past seven days have been such torturous agony. Even the gentle glide of shower water on my legs would instantly become a maddening itch that I could not satisfy. I would have bathed using one of those industrial-strength steam cleaners to remove my lower limbs if it were possible. Of course, I would have been stumped as to how I would get around after that. Still, if I had a T-shirt that represent my vacation, it would read "I went camping and all I got was this irritating itch ... and this lousy T-shirt"

But today is a good one. So far I haven't had to bury my legs in gallons of lotion, anti-itch cream, and aloe gel. Today is almost like being on holiday from my vacation...

Why I Don't Have A Pet Dog

At lunch, my friends were going on about their various dogs. You could see the love in their eyes as they talked about their intelligent pets --- animals who have no problem rushing to the door when the doorbell rings even though it's never for them. And then somebody asked the inevitable question, "So Ron, how come you don't have a dog?" Gee, I don't know. Some days, it's 16 hours before I return home. When I do pass through the comforting doorway of my homely sanctuary, the only thing on my mind is dinner and sleep. Unless I have a dog that is ready to be served up in a bun with mustard, I don't think I could give any pet the love and attention that it deserves.

Of course, I could go through my children's old toys and find one of their plastic dogs. In the morning, I would set him by the door ready to greet me when I returned home after a long day. Such a dog would be great at tricks. I could say, "roll over" as I toss him along on the floor. He would be perfect at playing dead. And for lively game of fetch, I would only have to toss him along with a stick.

Image what a great watchdog he would make! A quick grab to pick him up, yell "attack" and then a forceful fling of my plastic protector at the unwanted intruder. When I'm not at home, I can string him up by the door so that when somebody breaks in, he will swing down from above and smack them in the face. (The only difference between being an attack dog and playing fetch is whether someone ends up with a bump on the head or not.)

Yes, I know all pets need exercise. So by putting him on a leash, I can take him for an evening drag. To make sure that my special friend feels like he belongs with all the other dogs, I could stop ever so often and scoop up fake doggie doo (only $1.50 at your local gag store). Sadly, he wouldn't be able to stop and sniff trees to check the latest pee-mail. Oh well.

Nah, I'm not worried about having a pet right now. If I wanted the trials and tribulations of caring for needy, smelly living creature, I would have stayed married ...

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

I Need Another Vacation Now

I realize that for most vacations to be successful you need to take half the clothes that you plan on wearing and spend half the money. So that's what I did last week. Success! The only way my much-needed vacation could have been better is if I taken twice the time off.

Sadly, today was my first day back at work. And in the midst of my chaotic job of playing catch-up, all I could think about was that relaxing ride in one of those soft, inflatable boats as my brother-in-law lazily pulled me along with his pontoon boat on the sunny Tennessee River. ::: sigh ::: It feels like today's overwhelming demands lasted much longer than those four days of sun and family fun of last week. Why is that?

Sunday, July 06, 2008


The first of July marked a sad day in the computer world. This was the first day that the effective, technologically proven operating system of Windows XP became unavailable to the world of hard-working computer users. On this day, productivity across the globe dipped. The only ones not mourning are the makers of the bloated, memory hogging system known as Vista and the producers of the ram (random access memory) modules. RIP XP ...

Thursday, July 03, 2008

patents and locks

What is the life of a patent, about 20 years? You would think that when Walter Schlage patented a simple key and lock mechanism almost a century ago, the patent would run out and everyone could freely use his invention. But here's how you get around that: take a design, make a minor change to it, you get a new patent. If your business can continue to hire intelligent workers for years to come, you can go several generations and corner the market on your unique idea.

At least, that was our company's plan with a inflation system for car seats. What we didn't expect was another company to come along with deep enough pockets to fund a gaggle of lawyers. They didn't have to invent a thing except the fabrication that our idea was their creation. Then it was a simple matter to eat away at our finances in court. Eventually we were faced with going bankrupt or paying royalties to this conquering company. We pay the royalties while allowing the product line languish and die.

So how is it that the Schlage keylock system is still a profitable patent? It seems that it was immensely successful when Walter started his business in the late 20s. And then in the 70s, his company was bought by the much larger enterprise, Ingersoll-Rand. Unfortunately, this business case does not seem to be the norm these days. so I have no idea how to protect a great idea from parasitic companies.