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Sticky notes February 28, 2011

Posted by Samuel Snoek-Brown in Office, Smiley.
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Sticky notes. From my personal collection.

Several months ago I posted a photo of my smiley ink stamp and wrote about how much I love both getting and giving those little stamps of approval on schoolwork.

But the ink stamp is (slightly) less appropriate for my academic colleagues.  How to help spread the happiness when I need to pass along a message to a coworker?

Enter the smiley-face sticky note.  And for the record, it has never failed to amuse.

(I’m actually running low on these.  I think it’s time for a trip to the store….)

BONUS: Reader-submitted brother Jon February 26, 2011

Posted by Samuel Snoek-Brown in Clothing & Accessories, Reader submission, Smiley.
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My brother Jon. (Photo courtesy of Kate E.)

Ladies and gentlemen: my brother, artist and filmmaker Jon Snoek.

Apparently, he’s feeling jealous of all the attention my niece and nephew got earlier this month.  Just be glad you’re not looking at his armpits.


Also, on a completely unrelated note, typing “my brother Jon” in the caption has now gotten the Blues Traveler song of the same name stuck in my head.  So here, so you can share in that experience:

Smiley cheese sticks February 24, 2011

Posted by Samuel Snoek-Brown in Art, Food, Smiley.
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Cheese sticks arranged in a smiley face. Photo taken in Flora, TX, 28 July 2010.

Sometimes I just can’t help myself.  This past summer, my wife and I were back in the States, visiting our families in Texas.  At my in-laws’, I baked these cheese sticks as a snack one afternoon and saw an opportunity.

It made my wife laugh.  So, mission accomplished!  🙂

Smiley simulacrum: Arabic “smiley” February 21, 2011

Posted by Samuel Snoek-Brown in Public art, signs, & graffiti, Simulacra, Smiley.
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The Arabic letter "ta." Illustration I made on my computer.

I hesitate to call this is a simulacrum, because strictly speaking a simulacrum is supposed to be a mere imitation of an original, but this letter is not really an imitation of anything: it’s the letter “ta” in the Arabic alphabet, the phonetic equivalent of “t” in the Roman alphabet*, and I can’t really call it a simulacrum of a smiley any more than I could call the letter “t” a simulacrum of a cross or a plus-sign.  On the other hand, the letter “t”does look so much like a cross or a plus-sign that those images often replace the letter in pictographic signs and titles.  And in the sense that this Arabic letter always reminds me of a smiley face — and always makes me smile! — I think it definitely serves the function of a simulacrum!

Here in the United Arab Emirates, the letter turns up most often at the end of the Arabic word I know is “Emirates”: locally, the country’s name is often shorted to simply “Al Emarat,” which in Arabic looks like this: الامارات  (Look at the “beginning” of the word — Arabic is read right-to-left, so the “ta” sound at the end of the word actually appears on the left.  If the word doesn’t show up because of your language settings, check out the first few lines of the Wikipedia entry on the country.)

Just as one example, below is a plastic shopping bag from the Emirates General Market down the street from our flat.  Look at the Arabic name for the store across the top of the bag, and you’ll see the “ta” at the end of “Emarat” — the smiley-face, centered on the bag!

Speaking of shopping: the character also turns up at the end of the word for “sale”** a lot, and here in the UAE, something is always on sale!  So because I get to see this letter so often, I also get to smile quite a lot, too.


*  I wanted to double-check the accuracy of my claims about this Arabic character, so I dropped a note to my friend Dr. Rima Abunasser, a scholar in Arab literature, 18th-Century British lit, and pop culture who teaches at a university in Texas.  She wrote back that I had this right, and added this very cool linguistic info:  “This letter is used at the end of words (after the alef) to create a plural for female gendered nouns or to signal a female gendered noun in the singular.”  I’m not a linguist by any means, but I am a geek for languages, and I love details like this.  Thanks for the info, Doc!

** I asked Dr. Rima about the “sale” word, too, but she tells me there are a lot of words for “sale” in Arabic, so until I remember to take a photo of the word on display over here, I won’t know which one I’m seeing.  I’ll keep you posted, though.

Sidewalk graffito (PCA/ACA), Boston February 17, 2011

Posted by Samuel Snoek-Brown in Public art, signs, & graffiti.
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Sidewalk graffiti (PCA/ACA). Photo taken in Boston, MA, April 2007.

I was leaving my hotel early in the morning after a particularly good conference of the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association (in Boston that year), when I discovered this trifecta of awesome: a personal good-bye to the conference attendees, a smiley face, and my own name! I swear, I didn’t draw this, but I wish I had.

Boston, we PCA/ACA geeks ❤ you, too!

Happy Valentine’s Day February 14, 2011

Posted by Samuel Snoek-Brown in Art, Holidays, Smiley.
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For as long as I’ve known my wife, I’ve been drawing smiley faces on the cards I give her. Anniversary, birthday, Christmas–you name the event, and I’ve put a smiley on a card for her.  It’s become a variation on my signature, so when she sees my little smiley face she knows it’s from me.  Usually, I surround the smiley with a heart, because she is, after all, my wife.  This is of course most prevalent during Valentine’s Day, when I will often add smileys to existing hearts on the card and “seal” the envelope with a smiling heart.

Poster for the 1953 film Lili, from Wikipedia

I’m not the only one who does this.  Hearts have been happy for decades (the Wikipedia entry on the smiley currently includes a movie poster from 1953’s Lili, which shows not only the traditional smiley-in-a-circle but also a smiley in a heart), and I could have included a whole post of smiling-heart clip art.  But this year is a bit special for my wife and me, since it’s our 14th Valentine’s Day together.  The conjunction of 14 years on the 14th of February feels distinctive, so I felt this more personal post was better suited to the day.

So yes, that is the card and envelope I gave my wife today.

Today, spread a little love while you’re sharing your smileys, and help make the world not only a happier but also a more loving place!


BONUS: I like to make my wife special coffee drinks, like cafe lattes and mochaccinos, but I’m no barista.  So when I want to make shapes with cinnamon or chocolate on the foamy surface of her coffee, I have to use a template, which I cut out of cardboard.  The other day, I was straightening up our coffee area in the kitchen and tossed two of my templates, the heart and the smiley face, together on the counter.  Later, I realized they’d landed like this:

Heart and smiley templates, cut from the cardboard of a Linda McCartney veggieburger box.

I swear it wasn’t on purpose–they just landed that way.  🙂

BONUS: Happy birthday, Mom! February 13, 2011

Posted by Samuel Snoek-Brown in Art, Food, Holidays, Smiley.
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Today is my mother’s birthday, which I would like to honor with an apple.

Smiley-face apple--for my mother the teacher.

See, my mother has been a teacher for well over three decades, teaching everything from pre-Kindergarten to junior high.  When I was a kid, she bought a large chalkboard for me and let me use her old gradebooks (those old faded-greenish things that looked like ledgers–if you have a schoolteacher in the family, you know the kind I mean), and I would “teach school” for my stuffed animals and, when they were old enough to play along but still young enough not to know when the run away from me, I would teach my little brother and sister, too.  I tried to cover the three Rs, but I also liked to work in history when I could (often at the expense of math).  Later, I tutored other students in high school, and by the time I graduated, I knew I wanted to follow in her footsteps and become a teacher too.

My mother is retiring from our shared profession this year, so I feel like I need to get in one last teacher-related birthday wish.  Hence, this apple.

Happy birthday, Mom!

Spinning drum February 10, 2011

Posted by Samuel Snoek-Brown in Toys.
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Spinning drum. From my personal collection.

This looks a little like a limbless stick figure with some serious dangly earrings, but old-school Karate Kid fans will recognize this design as reminiscent of Mr. Miyagi’s handheld drum from Karate Kid II.  This doesn’t produce nearly the same rhythmic effect, so I wouldn’t recommend using it to learn the Miyagi family “drum technique,” but every time I spin it, I feel a pang of nostalgia and wind up wanting to dig out my old VHS of the movie.

Notebook February 7, 2011

Posted by Samuel Snoek-Brown in Emoticons, Office.
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As a writer, I like to keep a lot of notebooks handy.  Many of them are simpler than this, just a cheap flip-top memo book.  Others are much fancier, with faux-leather covers and ribbon bookmarks and little pockets in the back.  But few are quite as much fun as this one.

Also, I love how this smiley makes use of the emoticon by leaving the smiley “sideways” on the cover.

BONUS: Reader-submitted sand smiley and poster February 6, 2011

Posted by Samuel Snoek-Brown in Art, Reader submission, Smiley.
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These smileys come from 4-year-old Maeve, daughter of our friends Heidi and Rodney.  They’d come to visit us from Dubai this past weekend, and while they were here Maeve decided to make a poster for our front door with images special to Jennifer (the ladybug and cat) and me (the two smiley faces).  Later, we all went out into the desert for a “safari” adventure with dune-bashing and camel rides, and Maeve made a second smiley in the sand for me.

Thanks, Maeve!  These both are awesome!  🙂