Tuesday, March 30, 2010

#64 - The Best Medicine

With the ongoing debate regarding health care reform, I originally intended to weigh in with my opinion. Then I decided to take a different approach and explore one of the best things we can do for our health: laugh.

As the old proverb says, "Laughter is the best medicine." Who among us has not immediately felt a little better after a good laugh? Unless, of course, you start laughing while drinking a soda or some other liquid which then begins to exit from places it was never meant to travel. In that case, everyone else feels better after a good laugh at your expense.

Here are some notable quotes regarding laughter:
  • "Laughter is part of the human survival kit." - David Nathan
  • "Laughter is the shortest distance between two people." - Victor Borge
  • "Laughter is a tranquilizer with no side effects." - Arnold Glasgow
  • "Seven days without laughter make one weak." - Joel Goodman
  • "Laughter is an instant vacation." - Milton Berle
  •  "the most wasted of all days is one without laughter." - e.e. cummings

I got to thinking about the power of laughter after reading replies to a  Facebook post I made, in jest, wondering whether people understood my sense of humor. I decided to write this after reflecting on the heated and borderline hateful exchanges that take place on a seemingly daily basis between those on the left and those on the right. What these people need is a good pie in the face.

To paraphrase e.e. cummings, there have been many wasted days in my life, days when I did not laugh. Those days do not occur as often these days. That is partly due to having a five-year old beagle with the spirit of a puppy. Part of it is simply due to learning to see the humor around me.

Laughter has a number of benefits. It lowers blood pressure. It increases coordination of brain functions. It can even serve as a more enjoyable alternative to exercise. One doctor says 20 seconds of unrestrained laughter has as much benefit for the heart as three minutes of hard rowing. Laughter is no laughing matter.

Then again, it is. I find my days and evenings are more enjoyable if, at some point during the day, I find something (or someone) that makes me laugh. I daresay that a great many of the issues confronting us would seem less daunting and easier to solve if we could find a sliver of humor in them or if we simply took a laughter break.

Research also indicates that laughter increases production of endorphins, the body's natural painkillers. As Groucho Marx once said, "A clown is like an aspirin, only he works twice as fast." So make a point to laugh, even if it's at my expense. I don't mind.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

#63 - Random Musings

I don't really have a specific topic, but I realized I had not posted in a while, so I hope you'll forgive this series of brief and random reflections.

All weekends should be three-day weekends. Two days just doesn't seem enough time to recover and unwind from the previous week. It also is not enough of a buffer before the start of the week to come.

To me, it doesn't get much better than a Saturday afternoon sitting in a nice wooded campground, enjoying a nice glass of wine or a cold beer. Unless, of course, it is a Saturday evening in a nice wooded campground, enjoyed a nice glass of wine and a juicy grilled steak.

Television would be much better if it were a little less "real." Reality TV? Who are they kidding? What is so real about about putting a bunch of strangers and making them perform a number of artificially contrived challenges? And how many people do you know who can work out six to eight hours a day every day to drop 200 pounds of excess weight?

Anyone who claims insight into the will of God is either a con artist or is delusional. I now believe that no one faith has a monopoly on the Truth and that two people can have fundamentally different beliefs yet both be right - and wrong - at the same time.

I am discouraged by the name-calling and bickering that passes for political debate these days. Perhaps if we could find a way to concentrate of the ways in which we are alike instead of focusing on our differences we might better be able to find solutions to the issues our modern world faces.

Could it be that ignorance truly is bliss. I find I am much more peaceful on those days when I do not read the news or the political ramblings of others. I am much more at ease when I do not take the bait and respond to those with whom I disagree, for they cannot hear me anyway.

When I was younger, I loved to talk politics and to even argue politics with others. These days, I love to cook and take the trailer out for a weekend. Somehow, I think I am much better off.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Out of Control on Memory Lane

Since creating a Facebook account several months ago, I have been traveling back and forth through my past, reconnecting at least superficially with people I knew and worked with in my other life as a television reporter and later news producer.

I have found people from various places I worked: Rapid City, SD; Lafayette, LA; Kalispell, MT; Huntsville, AL. It has been an amazing journey down memory lane, but there are time it seems I am traveling a bit out of control. Tonight was one of those nights.

While checking in on Facebook tonight, I came across a Facebook group created for people who work or worked at KEVN-TV in Rapid City, my first news job. While looking through the photo album posted, I came across some very familiar faces from my time there in the 1980s.

Commenting on some of the photos, I said that time was one of the happiest in my life, even though I was working for a fairly low salary. (I started in 1983 at the princely sum of $9,200 a year.) Filtered through the time span of 25 years, I remember those days fondly. Looking at the photos also brought back some not so good memories.

In those days, I had a hard time making real friends and getting close to people. I suppose you could say I lacked the skill or the knack. I'm sure I alternated between trying to hard to make people like me and trying hard to act like I didn't care whether they liked me.

Part of it, I think, at least in those days, was a sense that I didn't really fit in with the rest of the staff. I don't know if any other members of the news staff felt the same way, but I felt at times unqualified and like an impostor. I had no college degree and no real background or training in journalism.

I got into television news because I liked to write and wanted to do so professionally. That is also the reason I eventually moved behind the camera as a news producer and the reason I left the business in 1993, after other facets of the job began to dominate the writing aspect.

Despite the personal difficulties I had in those days, I have very fond memories of Rapid City and of the people I worked with. I remember having a Fiat Strada with plastic interior door handles that broke off one winter because it was so cold.

I remember trying to get back up to the TV station one snowy December day and having to help push the car through a snow drift. I also remember a certain co-worked getting up on the table in a bar after his first experience (several glasses in the making) with a Long Island Ice Tea.

I remember doing a story on the still unfinished Crazy Horse monument, hanging off the side of the mountain by a rope, with only the guide's strength of grip between me and death. The whole time, I remember worrying not about dying but about dropping and breaking the then-new camera I had been allowed to use to shoot the story. The camera got back safely.

Most of all, I remember the great people I worked with and feel a deep sadness that I did not try harder to do a better job of staying in touch with them. I find myself wondering where they are now and hoping they might remember those days as fondly as I do.