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BONUS: We’ve had our best month ever — AGAIN! April 30, 2012

Posted by Samuel Snoek-Brown in Smiley, Web smileys.
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Hey, happy readers! Just a quick note to let you know that, for the third month in a row, we’ve topped our previous best-ever month of visits to the blog. It’s hard to see at first, but as of 11:30 pm, April has just edged out March for most hits. It’s not by much, but hey, every maxed-out month is a milestone in my book! Plus, April is a day shorter than March, so this is a big deal.

I love how the monthly bar graph looks like an awesome, long, water slide!

We might pick up a few more hits in the last 20 minutes or so, but right now, April’s total is 1,444, compared with March’s 1,431.

We have a winner! Again!

Thanks for reading, gang! You know, May has 31 days. Let’s see what we can do with that extra day! 🙂

PS: Don’t forget, we’re on Facebook, too!


Smiley simulacrum: wicker chair (back) April 30, 2012

Posted by Samuel Snoek-Brown in Decor, Simulacra, Smiley.
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Wicker chair (back). Portland, OR.

I was out walking the neighborhood earlier this week when I spotted this wicker chair on someone’s front porch. I only had my iPod with me, hence the Instagramish look; and I didn’t want to invade someone else’s yard to take creepy photos of their front door, hence the grainy quality (I love the iPod’s camera, but the zoom leaves a lot to be desired). Still, the smiley face on the back of that chair is unmistakeable, and I grinned the whole rest of my walk home.

Also, in case you’re starting to think my neighborhood is absolutely covered in smileys (it is): remember that happy taxi stroller from the last post? Yesterday, my wife and I went on a shopping run to our nearby mall (my wife has a fashion blog) and discovered a whole fleet of those same taxi strollers! Turns out that abandoned yellow stroller had been stolen from the Lloyd Center Mall! So if any mall cops are looking for that stroller, you might try patrolling Irving Park. It could still turn up. 🙂

Kid-sized taxi stroller April 26, 2012

Posted by Samuel Snoek-Brown in Car, Smiley, Toys.
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Kid-sized taxi stroller. Near Irving Park, Portland, OR, 23 April 2012.

The other night, Jennifer and I were out for an evening stroll through the neighborhood when I spotted this decidedly happy little taxi stroller parked on the corner near our neighborhood park. It seemed abandoned, but I couldn’t tell if someone had left it out for our friendly neighborhood freegans or had simply left it at the park and someone was leaving it aside for them. But either way, the stroller looked happy (and in good condition), so I grabbed this quick pic. Not bad for such low light and a simple iPod camera!

Here’s the taxi from the side, so you can see the “checkered cab” design along the doors:

OSS 117: Lost in Rio April 23, 2012

Posted by Samuel Snoek-Brown in Movies, Smiley, Video.
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Title screen from the DVD of OSS 117: Lost in Rio.

A week or so ago, my wife brought home two French movies on DVD, OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies and its sequel, OSS 117: Lost in Rio. They’re spy spoofs, a kind of French Austin Powers series, starring the delightful Jean Dujardin (he won this year’s Best Actor Oscar for The Artist) as the hopelessly out of touch, (almost) hilariously bigoted French spy OSS 117.

The original film is set in the 1950s, but the sequel — which is slightly less funny but is better paced, less manic, and so probably a better film overall — is set firmly in the mid-1960s. The ridiculously old-fashioned OSS 117 must now have to deal with women’s lib, the sexual revolution, and hippies. Yes, hippies. Which is why, if you look closely on the DVD’s title screen above, you can see — almost dead center on the screen — that indispensable icon of `60s hippie culture: the smiley face!

Et, voila! Il est la!

And if that’s not enough to get you grinning, go ahead and watch the movies, because they truly are hilarious.

Here’s a trailer for the second movie:

BONUS: a smiley face not smiling April 20, 2012

Posted by Samuel Snoek-Brown in Art, Clothing & Accessories, Smiley, Web smileys.
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This is not a political blog. But the smiley face is so useful a symbol that occasionally it creeps into politics, usually in cartoons. That was the case when I posted about the censorship of Mark Twain, and it was the case this past week, when political cartoonist Mike Luckovich included a smiley in his cartoon “Haves and Have Nots.”

Or, he almost included a smiley.

The first panel from the cartoon "Haves and Have Nots" by Mike Luckovich, from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 11 April 2012.*

Look closely at the t-shirt the man on the left is wearing. Recognize that half-circle of yellow and those two black dots? Seems this guy is wearing a smiley face shirt!

But where’s the smile?

Seems the guy’s arm is hiding it. And that’s probably not an accident: this family doesn’t seem very happy with this stack of tax forms on their kitchen table. But then, why put a smiley face on this guy’s shirt in the first place? Luckovich could have put anything on that shirt — a satirical mock-up of a corporate logo, a random drawing, nonsense words — or he could have put nothing on the shirt at all. Why go for the smiley and then hide the smile behind this guy’s arm?

I think Luckovich does that intentionally, to put the idea of happiness in our heads and then steal it away from us, so we can see just how unhappy this family is. But then, he could have gone for broke and shown us a frowny face instead, right? I don’t think so. For one thing, I think that would have been too obvious, too in-your-face. But more importantly, I think he doesn’t want to tell us this family is inherently unhappy, which a frowny shirt would imply (who would buy a frowny shirt but someone who’s already frowning?); rather, he wants to suggest that this family is inherently happy, or has the potential to be happy. Notice that the arm obscuring the smile is the same arm resting atop the tax forms, and that hand is holding the pen needed to fill out those forms. So it seems to me that the only thing interfering with that family’s inherent happiness is the fact that they “have to pay taxes.”

I’ve wondered before how often the smiley gets used to make a political point (in that case, it was regarding censorship), but now I’m also curious how often the smiley gets hidden to make a political point. Less often, I’d imagine, but it seems a subject worth researching.

Any happy readers happen to be librarians or pop culture scholars? Give us some answers, gang! 🙂

* (Because this isn’t a political blog, I’m only showing the relevant panel from the cartoon. But if you want to get political, you can check out the whole cartoon at the website for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where this cartoon first appeared on April 11. Just make sure you leave your political comments there, for Mike to see, instead of here.)

Shot glass (large!) April 19, 2012

Posted by Samuel Snoek-Brown in Kitchen & Bath, Smiley.
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A while back, my sister went to Port Aransas, Texas — a favorite vacation spot for her — and while she was there, she picked up this giant eight-ounce shot glass for me. She knew I’d love the smileys on it! (Thanks, sis!)

I certainly had my share of fun in my younger years, but to be honest, I’m not much of a “smile, you’re drunk” guy these days. I certainly don’t frown at being sober, as the back of the glass suggests, and it definitely doesn’t take six ounces of booze for me to become happy! All it takes seeing someone else happy — as in, seeing lots of smiley faces, which this glass certainly provides! 🙂

Shot glass (large!). From my personal collection.

So the only thing I’ve actually chugged from this glass is water. If you can’t tell from the photos, I keep it on my bathroom sink, next to the floss; this is what I drink from when I’m taking an allergy pill or rinsing after brushing my teeth. Gotta keep that smile clean! 🙂

Reader-submitted “Smiley Book of Colors” April 16, 2012

Posted by Samuel Snoek-Brown in Books, Reader submission, Simulacra, Smiley.
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My friend Anthony P. — a librarian — sent me a link to this wonderful article about a book called The Smiley Book of Colors, by Ruth Kaiser.

The Smiley Book of Colors, by Ruth Kaiser. Submitted by reader Anthony P.

I assumed from the title that it was a children’s book, but I was half wrong. It is a children’s book, of sorts, but it’s rooted in some pretty hard-core scientific research, “at once teaching (eternal) kids basic color theory and instilling in them the habits of optimism — a charming, light-hearted complement to the recent grown-up exploration of the science of smiles,” according to Maria Popova.

The book’s concept is simple: it pairs color-coded smiley faces with psychologically appropriate aphorisms about happiness based on the colors in the images. But what strikes me most about the book is that all the images are simulacra — examples of smileys occurring accidentally (or synchronistically?) in the world! To my mind, that approach invites children (and adults) to be on the lookout for hidden smileys everywhere, and with that mindset, we all wind up thinking about happiness a little more and becoming happy a little more often. 🙂

If you can’t afford to buy the book yet, or you tried to check it out from the library but it’s already on hold by someone else, at least check out the article about the book and browse some of the AWESOME smiley simulacra there!

Reader-submitted “smiley dispenser” poster + the “Take a smile” movement April 12, 2012

Posted by Samuel Snoek-Brown in Public art, signs, & graffiti, Reader submission, Smiley.
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"Smiley Dispenser." From the Smiley Company; submitted by Smiley Italia.

My new Facebook friend Smiley Italia sent this to me yesterday. It seems to come from the Smiley Company, but it’s not the first time I’ve seen something like this — I’ve caught sight of posters like this in hallways in real life, and several months ago, another friend of mine, Barbara, sent me a different version that you might be more familiar with as a popular Internet meme:

A quick perusal of Google images turns up several other variations, some of which look like these:

It’s such a wonderful concept, the idea that instead of a phone number for a babysitter or a guy selling his guitar, you can simply take a smile with you. I wondered where it started, but there doesn’t seem to be an origin story for this one — it’s one of those collective unconscious things that dozens of people thought up more or less simultanously and enacted spontaneously. Like the smile itself! 🙂

But while I was nosing around looking for an explanation of the “take one” phenomenon, I found a wonderful story about how “The Smile Experiment” worked in one religious educational community: “I figured, at the very least, that it would bring a passing smile to someone’s face who walked by,” writes Jewish Week online columnist Rabbi Marci N. Bellows. “Within a few days, they were all gone!”

The kids really seem to like them. When my door is closed, and they don’t necessarily know I’m working inside, the religious school students walk over and discuss the smiles. I heard one girl remark, “I took one and hung it up on my bedroom wall!” I heard another student ask his friend, “Hey, did you get one yet?” And other students seem to like knowing that I am smiling at them, even while they are home.

The adults have resonated, as well. After particularly challenging pastoral appointments, where a few tissues may have been used, some of my visitors have liked taking a smile home with them. Some of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah parents like the few moments of relief from party-planning stress that the smile affords. And some of the other staff in the building even take a smile home with them!

It seems like such a simple — even simplistic — idea. It’s just a piece of paper, after all. Why do we take such pleasure in seeing the smiley face up on the public wall? And, even more tellingly, why do we resort to taking one of the little tabs of smiley-face paper with us when we leave?

According to Rabbi Bellows, it’s about community — about communication and about communion. “I think that, at the risk of over-generalizing, the smiley-face pieces of paper symbolize the comfort and optimism that we find among the Jewish community.” Or, I would extrapolate, in any community to which we belong or want to belong. Knowing that someone, somewhere — even a perfect stranger — has a little happiness to spare and wants to share it with you, and you, and you over there, can have a fantastic emotional impact. Which is, after all, the point of this blog: the share the happiness!

“I pray that we each find something this week that will give us even the smallest bit of comfort, or even the tiniest hint of a smile, when we are otherwise feeling overwhelmed by the weight of the challenges we face,” Rabbi Bellows concludes. “May we remember that we are never alone, and that there is always someone out there who can help us, who can be with us, and who can remind us how to smile.”

My friends Smiley Italia and Barbara — and other regular smiley sharers like Crystal and Debbie and Dylan, and my friends at SmileyStore.com, and my relatives, and you readers, and so many, many others! — are out there, ready with a smile to share with you.

Do you have a smile you want to share with us? Find us on Facebook or leave a comment here!

Parking tag April 9, 2012

Posted by Samuel Snoek-Brown in Car, Smiley.
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Smiley parking tag. In Portland, OR (where else?).

My wife spotted this parking tag in a car while we were looking for a parking spot on our street. After we’d parked and headed back down to this car, the owner was climbing in to leave, but Jennifer flagged her down. “Um, excuse me, my husband runs a smiley face blog where he collects images of smiley faces. Do you mind if he takes a photo of your parking tag?”

The driver was awesome and waited for me to lean over her hood to snap the photo. I asked where she got it, and she said it was the parking permit for her work.

Now we’re talking! I would LOVE to work at a place that requires a smiley parking tag! 🙂

Turns out she works at the Moon & Sixpence British pub in the Hollywood district of Portland, OR. The parking tag isn’t for the pub itself but for a private lot nearby the pub. Which makes me wonder how much it might cost to get such a parking space. Not that I’m down in Hollywood often enough to need a parking spot, and if I was I’d probably take public transit to get there, but still…. I would like to get one of these parking tags!

Here’s a close-up:

Who wouldn't feel better about their day coming back to car with one of these in the window?

BONUS: More smiley Easter eggs! April 7, 2012

Posted by Samuel Snoek-Brown in Food, Holidays, Reader submission, Smiley.
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Not to be outdone by my own childish silliness, my sister’s kids decided to make smiley Easter eggs, too. As my sister wrote when she sent me the photo, “The kids made smiley eggs and wanted you to see them!”

Smiley Easter eggs by Zoey (the yellow on the left) and Aidain (the middle and right), my niece and nephew!

Thanks, kiddos! These eggs are awesome! I suspect a certain rabbit will like them, too, and might reward you with much chocolate and sugar…. 😉