Happiness is Ask Roger Anything

You can add to my joy, gentle reader.

Charles Schultz came up with one of the iconic comments in comic strip history in Peanuts. And do you know which character originally said, “Happiness is a warm puppy”? I will give you a hint: she was usually considered crabby.

“Some of the most simple joys in life are free. People tend to forget this and try to fill their lives with material objects that may give them temporary happiness but these things aren’t exactly fulfilling. Try to find something simple and pure that give you joy.”

Do you know what gives ME joy? Writing this blog. And I hope that it gives you a modicum of pleasure once in a while.

Having time to write it is very nice. God bless three-day weekends!

You can add to my happiness, gentle reader, and Lucy Van Pelt’s, I am sure, by doing the Ask Roger Anything… whatever it is, when you may ask truly anything. I promise to respond, generally within a month. I’d rather answer those than post my emergency pieces that only see the light of day if I get no questions, which happened last time.

I will, as always, answer your questions to the best of my ability, which waxes and wanes over time. Obfuscation on my part, though, is always an option, though, truth to tell, I have not used it as much as I had expected.

You can leave your comments below or on Facebook or Twitter; for the latter, my name is ersie. If you prefer to remain anonymous, that’s fine; you should e-mail me at rogerogreen (AT) gmail (DOT) com, or send me an IM on FB (make sure it’s THIS Roger Green, the one with the Vezina duck) and note that you want to remain unmentioned; otherwise, I’ll assume you want to be cited.

H is for “Happy”

Pharrell is overwhelmed by the experience of watching a simple idea—film yourself being happy—as it spreads around the world.

Pharrell Williams is a successful singer/songwriter/producer who was associated with a lot of hit songs in the past decade, including 2013’s “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk, and “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke.

He wrote and recorded HAPPY for the Despicable Me 2 movie soundtrack, with a video featuring characters from the movie released that summer. The song was disappointing, commercially, in the US.

Then in November 2013, Pharrell decided to make a new video with “appearances by Magic Johnson, Steve Carell, Jimmy Kimmel, Jamie Foxx, Miranda Cosgrove, Janelle Monáe, and many others.” It had “received approximately 5.5 million views as of Christmas Day, 2013,” and over 140 million by now. In case you missed it, LISTEN to the 24-hour version of HAPPY.

For all his previous success, it was the breakthrough of HAPPY that made Pharrell Williams most emotional. “Pharrell’s reaction is the one many of us have had to the remixes of his video: he cries for a long time, overwhelmed not only by his success but by the experience of watching a simple idea—film yourself being happy—as it spreads around the world.”

The song even made news when some Iranian young people were briefly arrested for appearing in a remake of the video.

It was #1 for four weeks on the Billboard charts, starting March 29, 2014.

Here’s Rico and Rebecca’s JibJab version. (Rebecca’s my first niece.) It was used in this Daily Show with Jon Stewart segment.

LISTEN to Jeremy Green’s viola cover of HAPPY. PLUS Weird Al Yankovic’s parody, TACKY.

WATCH this Soul Train mashup:

BTW, song titles aren’t copyrighted. LISTEN to HAPPY by the Rolling Stones.

In honor of ABC Wednesday’s Leslie getting married to Lorne recently, LISTEN to HAPPY TOGETHER by the Turtles.


ABC Wednesday, Round 15

The past, education, happy, sad

I don’t like studying anything in depth; I get bored.

paperrockNew York Erratic must be from New Jersey, she asks so many questions:

Are there any events in your life that you feel make good parables that you want to share one day with your daughter?

I was 51 when she was born, so there is a lot of my life to draw from. Huge parts of it she doesn’t know, significant events, and I’m not sure exactly when/if to tell her. Maybe if she asks. She DOES know about JEOPARDY!

I remember looking at photos of my mother with some guy she went out with before she dated my father, and initially, it was kind of weird, but hey, that was rather natural. When she would talk about it- I was at least in my 20s by then – and say, “Oh, I could have married” so-and-so, it was rather disconcerting. I mean, I wouldn’t have been me!

My daughter is ALWAYS asking me to tell her stories, and I always struggle to tell her some. I know I’ve not wanted to poison her with some of the racism that I’ve experienced, yet at the same, try to subtly let her know – and some of it she’s figured out on her own – that it’s not all in the past.

I suppose I could tell her about being a conscious objector during the Vietnam war or going to various demonstrations for peace and justice. Not sure I want to tell her how I quit a job without having one to go to, more than once.

Really struggling with this one.

If you could go back in time and talk to yourself at 10, 20, 30, 40, and 50, what would you say?

At 10, I was feeling pretty good about things. Got 100 in the spelling final. I started becoming real friends with the girls in my class. Maybe I’d say that I needed to develop more male friends, because, even to this day, I have a dearth of them. I’ve usually preferred the company of women, and not just in romantic settings. I have some great male friends, but they are in the clear minority.

At 20, I was married to the Okie. I’d tell myself to press her about what was going on with her that would lead to her leaving the next year. Maybe I would have gone to the Philadelphia folk festival (which we couldn’t afford) if it was THAT important to her. (Ah, something the Daughter does not know about yet.)

At 30, I had a good friend die and got my heart broken in a fairly short period of time. I’d tell myself to avoid a certain emotional entanglement the following year, though it felt so good at the moment.

At 40, I had just started my current job the year before. I would have suggested taking a temporary position when it became available because the whole path of my employment could have changed.

At 50, Carol was pregnant with Lydia. Actually, there’s very little I would have said at that point because it’s impossible to understand parenthood without experiencing it.

What do you think you didn’t study enough in high school and college?

In high school, it was French, though I DID put in the effort, I just didn’t GET it, past the first year or so. Wish I had had the chance to have taken it earlier. In college, I’m surprised, in retrospect, that I took exactly one course in music, which I aced, and didn’t participate at all in a choral group, at college, or a church or something.

Did you have to write a thesis for your graduate program?

It was not a thesis as such, but it was a long paper, close to 50 pages. I couldn’t tell you what it was about if you paid me. It was torture when I wrote it.

What’s your favorite subject to study in-depth? What is your least favorite subject?

I don’t like studying anything in-depth; I get bored. I like to know a little about a lot of things. Recently, I HAVE become more expert in START-UP NY (an attempt at an economic stimulus in the state) and NYS sales tax law than anyone ought to be, and still, I have to look up. I suppose I’ve picked up some knowledge of The Beatles and other musical entities of the 1960s and 1970s.

My eyes glaze over when listening to talk about cars; I couldn’t tell you a type of Chevy that doesn’t start with C (Corvette, Corvair).

If you could give one piece of advice to a college student today, what would it be?

Resist learning about job skills that you can go into today; the field could be gone tomorrow. DO learn about all sorts of stuff, and know-how to think, not just regurgitate back the facts. In other words, in spite of the great affection for STEM education in the country these days, and I’m not against it, I still believe in the value of a liberal arts education.
Do you read the funnies? What’s your favorite internet comic?

I seldom read the comics on the Internet, more as a matter of time. I’ve seen stuff I like online, such as XKCD, but it’s not part of the routine. (Here is a special version of the strip.) I read Pearls Before Swine, Luann, Zits, Doonesbury (when there’s new daily stuff) and Blondie, because it has evolved somewhat. Having said this, I did support the Kickstarter for the movie STRIPPED, about the history of the genre, so I am interested in the topic.

What types of jokes or humor make you laugh the hardest?

It’s language: clever puns, things that evolve from double meanings of words. Can’t give you an example, because, as I have often said, I can’t REMEMBER a joke I’ve heard since the age of about 12, even with fiscal incentive. But the visuals on the page, while not the best examples (but they are the last two on my Facebook feed) at least suggest the genre of humor.

I HATE, BTW, America’s Funniest Home Videos; the bits usually involve physical pain and embarrassment. I was at an urgent care place with Lydia a couple of years ago, and it was on the TV; my loathing was confirmed.

One more question, this from SamuraiFrog:

What makes you cry?

Music: The Barber Adagio I have almost a dozen versions of. Lenten music in general. But a great final movement of a classical piece will do it too, especially with organ power chord endings. I’ve mentioned some sad songs, associated with romance, in the past. Music evokes some very specific memories. Sometimes, songs, songs I associate with my former church in Albany make me very sad. Know what song used to make me weepy? Captain Jack by Billy Joel.
Movies: the first one was West Side Story when Maria yells “Don’t you touch him!” over the dead Tony, but there have been several since. An occasional television show will do this as well, but it’s been a while, mostly because I’m not watching much TV.
Other people being sad: I remember when Bobby Kennedy died and people were all sad. I wasn’t, but their tears became mine because THEY were hurting. That Kickstarter/Veronica Mars thing that you experienced made me sad for you, almost to tears, and surprisingly angry.
My melancholia: More now than in quite a while. Sometimes, even in the midst of a crowd, I can feel quite alone. And I cry and/or I get angry.
My daughter in pain, my wife in pain: the worst pain I ever saw my wife endure was after some surgery involving her jaw. MUCH worse than childbirth.

You can still Ask Roger Anything.

Happiness runs in a circular motion

“Time. I can always get more money, but I have only so much time.”


Dustbury, among others, has responded to the Happiness Project’s Want To Know Yourself Better? Ask Yourself These Questions.

If something is forbidden, do you want it less or more?

I suppose it depends on WHY it’s forbidden. If I think the reasoning is stupid and arbitrary, then I’ll want it more. If I understand the rationale for the prohibition, I’ll want it less. The way the world is, that would be a slight “more.”

Is there an area of your life where you feel out of control? Especially in control?

There are two ways I look at this. In my personal life, I have an eight-year-old, and that dictates a lot of my life. In the world, there are things (war, environmental catastrophes) being done, sometimes in my name, and it appears than I have absolutely nothing to do about it.

On the other hand, personally, I do love doing certain things the same way: my glasses go on the same place on my dresser every night; this is not obsessive behavior; this is the fact that I won’t FIND my glasses if I don’t put them in the same place every night.

What I do have some control over in the world is writing about it all.

If you unexpectedly had a completely free afternoon, what would you do with that time?

See a movie if there is a movie I want to see. Otherwise, read, with a baseball game on in the background.

Are you comfortable or uncomfortable in a disorderly environment?

This was Dustbury’s response: “Whose disorder is it? If it’s mine, it’s not too disorderly, and I usually know where to find things. If it’s someone else’s, I will complain, loudly.” Sounds about right.

How much time do you spend looking for things you can’t find?

Depends on what it is and the time available. But it does explain why I have a backup pair of glasses and a backup house key.

Are you motivated by competition?

Only in games. In fact, people who know me only from work or church have been startled by how competitive I am in hearts or backgammon. But in most settings, I am quite cooperative; I think it’s what drew me to librarianship.

Do you find it easier to do things for other people than to do things for yourself?

Goodness, yes. It’s much easier to help clean up someone else’s stuff than my own. I’d rather help move someone else than moving myself; no emotional ties.

Do you work constantly? or think you should be working?

I believe that the more I work, the more work there will be. At the library, I press more when we get past a week’s turnaround. I am in charge of my work blog, and I’ve been known to blog those posts at home when I have time. In any case, procrastination is not so bad!

Do you embrace rules or flout rules?

I seldom embrace rules, although I’ve developed my own over time. Dumb rules are just begging to be broken. But, of course, there is the cost/benefit thing going.

Do you work well under pressure?

Not especially, and external pressure is even worse than internal.

What would your perfect day look like?

It would involve exercise, such as racquetball. Time to read, time to write. A good meal or two made by someone else, at least one in a restaurant. And a massage.

How much TV do you watch in a week (include computer time spent watching videos, movies, YouTube)?

Maybe 10 hours. The shows I watch in the winter are replaced by baseball in the summer.

Are you a morning person or a night person?

It’s a curse from my wife that I’ve become a morning person because when I met her, I DEFINITELY was a night owl.

What’s more satisfying to you: saving time or saving money?

Dustbury: “Time. I can always get more money, but I have only so much time.”

Do you like to be in the spotlight?

Dustbury: “Not especially. I appreciate being looked in on once in a while — if I didn’t, I’d never have had an online presence at all — but being the center of attention is not something to which I aspire.” Also, I am rather shy. About 70% of the people I know personally would say this is a bunch of hooey – a few of them have done so – but it is true, nonetheless.

Is your life “on hold” in any aspect? Until you finish your thesis, get married, lose weight?

Dustbury: “I’m almost sixty years old. It’s too late to have anything ‘on hold.'”

What would you do if you had more energy?

I’d tackle those damn housecleaning projects, sorting stuff in the attic, and the like.

If you suddenly had an extra room in your house, what would you do with it?

The Daughter’s room is rather small, so her stuff creeps into the guest room and even the living room. The extra room would be her room with room for all her dolls and games.

What people and activities energize you? Make you feel depleted?

Ken Levine did this piece called Actors: How to give notes to writers. One can give criticism/suggestions in positive ways or in ways in which you want to rip someone’s face off. So some “helpful” people energize, because they are actually helpful, while others just enervate.

Energizes: Racquetball; learning new facts; writing what I want to write; getting in touch with people I like with whom I had lost contact; reading.
Enervates: Almost any rote activity, any mechanical task that I cannot master; nostalgia for its own sake; being outside in the midday sun.

Is it hard for you to get rid of things that you no longer need or want?

No. What I need has been shrinking, BTW, and what I want has most definitely diminished as well.

Do you get frustrated easily?

Depends on the task and what is at stake. The aforementioned mechanical ineptness does bother me some. But making a gaffe in a public address, not so much. Rude people are frustrating almost all of the time; many of them drive cars.

On a typical night, what time do you go to bed? How many hours of sleep do you get?

10:30 pm to bed; much past that and I’m sunk for the next day. I get up at sunrise, which, of course, varies with the season. I sleep more in the winter.

If at the end of the year, you had accomplished one thing, what is the one accomplishment that would make the biggest difference to your happiness?

I don’t seem to have a list of things to accomplish, at least those things that if I DON’T finish, my world will end. Perhaps that saves me from disappointment. Too many things arise; I try (and I emphasize, try) to take these things as they come.

Happiness Runs – Donovan
Get Happy – Judy Garland (from SUMMER STOCK, 1950). I learned this song in 1975 being in the play Boys in the Band.

Joy and Happiness QUESTIONS

I don’t know that Mother Teresa was happy living in squalor.

I was intrigued by a study mentioned here that suggests that people believe they would be happy if they only had 20% more money. Didn’t matter what their status: 20% seemed to be the most popular number.

At least until one gets to a point like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, when they actually not only start giving away their money, they encourage/cajole other billionaires to do the same.

So money, presumably, can make you happy. But does it bring you joy? I distinguish the two; to me, happiness is a more temporal thing. Joy is a state of being rather than a fleeting emotion. Weather with a high of 71F, with low humidity, makes me happy; looking forward to tomorrow – not a specific tomorrow – but almost every tomorrow, brings me joy.

A particular song can make me happy, but music brings me joy, listening to it, singing it. The Mets winning the National League East would make me happy (ain’t happening THIS year); baseball, the intricacies of the sport, brings me joy. Sharing information definitely brings me joy.

I don’t know that Mother Teresa was happy living in squalor, but evidently, it brought her joy in helping others. I think Gates and Buffett are experiencing joy giving away their money. I’ve read somewhere that, as a percentage of income, it is not the rich who are most generous donating to charities, it is those of the middle and lower economic levels who are more likely to help others. So the joy of helping others seems to trump the happiness of self, in some people, I gather.

People can take joy in God or money or family or nature or sex or Xbox, I reckon.

What makes you happy? What brings you joy?

Happy by the Rolling Stones
Being in love can make you happy.
Joy by Lucinda Williams
Losing one’s joy can be devastating

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