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Reader-submitted stencil(?) January 7, 2013

Posted by Samuel Snoek-Brown in Public art, signs, & graffiti, Reader submission, Smiley.
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I was browsing Facebook shortly after Christmas and I spotted this plywood stencil in a friend’s photos:

At least, I'm assuming this is some kind of stencil. Submitted by Monica D.

At least, I’m assuming this is some kind of stencil. Submitted by Monica D.

This is in Portland, “Where even the trash is happy,” according to my friend Monica. I told her I had to steal it for my blog, and she was happy to let me have it!

If I’d been quicker — by which I mean, if I hadn’t been slumping around in sweatpants feeling lazy from post-holiday food indulgences — I would have jumped in the car and tried to grab this off the street. But alas, it didn’t happen.

I will, however, keep an eye out for wherever this thing got painted onto a street or a building. Surely it won’t be that hard to find? 🙂


Smiley on construction instructions September 24, 2012

Posted by Samuel Snoek-Brown in Public art, signs, & graffiti, Smiley.
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Doodle on a “do not disturb” sign. Portland, OR.

I love how the smiley face has become a kind of universal symbol for “I know I sound bossy/mean but I still like you!” We drop it at the end of emails or Facebook comments we worry might get misinterpreted as mean-spirited; we add it to birthday cards whose jokes are (humorously) at the expense of the recipient; and, as this person has done, we add it to signs with strict orders. In this case, it’s a sign on an apartment in our building that the landlord was refurbishing, and the sign was instructing workers to stay off the newly-sanded and waxed wood floors and to leave the kitchen sink alone for a few days. But the first thing I noticed was the smiley face. 🙂

Olympics Opening Ceremony July 30, 2012

Posted by Samuel Snoek-Brown in Public art, signs, & graffiti, Smiley.
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Here at Uncle Smiley’s house, we are HUGE Olympics fans. But, *sigh* we live on the West Coast, which meant that while the rest of the United States got stuck waiting three and a half hours to watch the Opening Ceremony (and in the meantime had to sit on their hands to avoid checking Facebook, Twitter, or anything else Internet-related lest they catch spoilers of the festivities), we were stuck waiting an EXTRA three hours after that! It was enough to almost make us frown.

But then I got a message from my sister, who lives in the Central Time Zone and was watching the ceremony two hours ahead of us. She asked simply, “Did you see the smiley face in the Opening Ceremony?”

So now I had something else to look forward to! 🙂

The smiley face in question is this one, aired during a `70s and `80s musical number:

At least, that’s how it looked on our screen at home. (And thanks to Jennifer, aka Aunt Smiley, for catching a photo of it while I was feeding the cats!)

But strangely, though I scoured the Internet today looking for a clearer shot of the smiley face, no one else seems to have noticed it. The closest thing I can find, even when searching for “olympics opening ceremony smiley face,” is this one:

And to be fair, it is a kind of smiley. (The photo above is also mine. You can see a clearer version on the Vanity Fair website.) But it’s not the iconic one we caught almost two hours into the ceremony.


But wait — it gets cooler! While searching for the classic smiley during the ceremony, I also came across an image early on of the spectators in the arena passing around a giant beach ball. And guess what was printed on the ball!

(Click the image for the article I found it on.)

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!

Smiling cartoon in the sand March 26, 2012

Posted by Samuel Snoek-Brown in Art, Public art, signs, & graffiti, Smiley.
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Smiling cartoon in the sand. Clatsop Spit beach in Ft. Stevens State Park, Oregon.

My wife and I had the happiest day today! We smiled all day long, from our trip to the Goonies house in Astoria, Oregon to the rainbow we saw driving home this evening. So it was no surprise that, about two-thirds through our spring-break day today, we spotted a smiley face.

This happy cartoon is on the beach at Clatsop Spit, on the far northwest corner of Oregon, in Ft. Stevens State Park. To the right of this photo, the Pacific Ocean was lapping at the sand; behind us, the last remnants of the shipwrecked Peter Iredale rusted in the afternoon sun. To the left, a large black labrador frolicked up and down a sand dune. Ahead of us, children squealed and laughed in the chilly surf.

And here was this smiling cartoon, and my wife and me, enjoying a wonderful, happy afternoon. 🙂

Barge on the Columbia River November 28, 2011

Posted by Samuel Snoek-Brown in Public art, signs, & graffiti, Reader submission, Smiley.
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Back at the end of August, my wife and I went for a stroll in Kelley Point Park, at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers in Portland, OR. While we were wandering the sandy river bank, Jennifer spotted a large Tidewater barge floating down the Columbia and at about the same time, we both noticed a giant smiley face toward the rear of the barge!

Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera with me, so all I could do to capture the photo was to whip out my cheap cell phone and hope for the best.

This was my best:

The best, on my phone, is not so good.

You can sort of make out the Tidewater name and the vague yellow blot on the front of the barge (on the right), but it’s really, really hard to see.

Maybe if I cropped and enlarged the image on my computer….

Or maybe not.

The image is just too grainy and watery to be any good. And who knows when I’ll be lucky enough to catch a barge like that, giant smiley face and all, drifting down the Columbia again?

Fortunately, Tidewater sends barges like this down the river fairly regularly, and I’m not the only one who’s seen one and wanted to photograph it.

Enter Nick Adamson, aka “Dances with Phalanges” on Flikr, who, almost two years ago, saw the same barge on the same river (presumably from the same park? or perhaps he was over on the Washington State side of the river) and was lucky enough — or smart enough — to have his camera on hand. He was also kind enough to allow me to share his photo of the smiley face barge here!

"Barge on the Columbia 01-18-10," photo by Nick Adamson. Shared with permission.

Thanks, Dances with Phalanges! You rock!

Better still: you’ve made us smile! 🙂

Reader-submitted “creepy clown face” September 22, 2011

Posted by Samuel Snoek-Brown in Public art, signs, & graffiti, Reader submission, Smiley.
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"Creepy clown face." Submitted by Gromyt D Hodum.

I got this from a friend who, online, goes by the name Gromyt D Hodum. Which is awesome. But apparently she thought this dead-eyed little smiley face is a little less than awesome! “Creepy clown face that appeared at work,” she wrote when she posted this on Facebook. “Can’t Sleep, Clowns Will Eat Me.”

Ha! I love that she’s picked up on the bright red pushpin as a “clown nose,” and the X-eyes as resembling the classic + sign clown make-up, like this:

But I don’t think we have anything to fear from that hand-drawn happy face. But don’t X-eyes mean that guy is out for the count? Or dead?

Maybe we should be scared after all….

Nah. Just keep smiling! 🙂

BONUS: Reader-submitted water tower June 29, 2011

Posted by Samuel Snoek-Brown in Public art, signs, & graffiti, Reader submission.
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Smiley water tower. Submitted by Debbie H.

My mother and her good friend Debbie are on a road trip. They went to Graceland (!) and then headed north to Mackinac Island (!). It sounds like a fantastically good journey, so how terrific is it that in all that excitement, my mother caught sight of this excellent smiley water tower (“somewhere in Michigan”*) and immediately thought of my smiley blog? And just as terrific: the moment she pointed it out and mentioned this blog, Debbie whipped the car over and snapped this awesome photo!

Thanks, Mom and Debbie! Hope the rest of your trip is just as happy!

* UPDATE: I just saw a variation of this same photo, by Michigan resident Tim LaVere, on the Smiley Picture of the Week photo contest page at SmileStore.com. So now we have an exact location: “West Branch, Michigan, is known as the “City With A Smile” because of its bright yellow water tower with a smiley face.” Check out some photos of the tower being repainted here.

Got a smiley you want to share? Check out the “About the blog” page and send me an email! 🙂

Chalk smiley on a window screen May 12, 2011

Posted by Samuel Snoek-Brown in Art, Public art, signs, & graffiti, Smiley.
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Chalk smiley on a window screen. Photo taken in Boerne, TX.

This is at the place my brother and sister share in Boerne, Texas. My brother drew it there while I was visiting last summer, so of course I had to take the photo.

I like to think it would work like a kind of evil-eye/dreamcatcher for happiness: it would filter out all the negative emotions through the window screen and only let happiness into the home, and would only project happiness out into the world.

But that’s just my take on it.  🙂

Smiley street sign April 18, 2011

Posted by Samuel Snoek-Brown in Public art, signs, & graffiti, Smiley, Travel.
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"Smiley walker" on a street sign. Photo taken near the Museumquartiers in Vienna, Austria.

When my wife and I visited Vienna about a year and a half ago, we had almost as much fun reading the street signs, advertisements, and graffiti as we did visiting museums, churches, and parks. In fact, this blog was born in Vienna, thanks to a piece of smiley graffiti my wife spotted.

This is just a plain street sign showing a stick-figure pedestrian making his way to the Museumsquatier, where we ourselves were headed this same day. But some mischievous Viennese decided to cheer things up with a sticker, and now this pedestrian is a happy fellow indeed!


Detail of the "smiley walker."