Flop, flop, flop, SWIM!

Ok, I am a sucker for cuteness. Maybe not that artificial cuteness of Anne Geddes or kittens and puppies posed unusually.  But the natural, everyday cuteness and ridiculous awkwardness of life – babies who drool on themselves, old people who smile with few teeth, or almost any animal scrabbling on ice – really get me going.  In recent CNN/iReport news, its’ all about the baby turtles.

The turtles have it all – awkward limbs, a struggle to survive, and people cooing over them with video cameras.  It’s moments like these that documentaries were made for.  I could watch millions of baby turtles struggle to get swept out to sea over and over again. In fact, now that I have this video, that’s exactly what I plan on doing.

But the delicacy of the turtles in those first scramblings for the ocean is made all the more poignant in the video.  many will be eaten in-egg, many more upon hatching, and most will never reach the sea.  For this reason, many beaches have systems in place to preserve the hatchling sea turtles.  Individuals may dig trenches to lead the babies to the sea, or carefully watch egg clutches to protect them from predators.  I’m not sure if these individual effort have had any effect on the greater number of sea turtles.  Still, if there is an effect, I wonder if it’s a good one.  Cute as they are, are there dangerous or harmful consequences resulting from a little protection?

Democracy = fewer jokes

During a recent conference, the International Society for Humor Studies discussed topics as varied as gelotophobia (the fear of being laughed at) and humor as a rehabilitation tool for prison inmates.  While I am something of a hypochondriac and now think I suffer from the gelos disease, I also think I am able to tell a decent joke.  I think, despite my upbringing in an affluent and democratic country with plenty of freedoms, I can still turn a punchline.

British sociologist Christie Davies might disagree.  He’s noted the way that Eastern Europe has poorer jokes now that the Communists are no longer in charge.  He sites new freedoms, especially to address grievances, as outlet outside of joke forms.  I can see this to a certain extent – tell a joke, play off a complaint as something ‘not serious’ and the repercussions are minimal.  It works for any kind of situation involving bitterness or fear.  But at the same time, it doesn’t seem like it would make the standard jokes of the day less funny.

Do we only laugh when things are bad?  I mean, I’m a big proponent of the ‘laugh so you don’t cry’ philosophy.  Lose the farm?  Have a laugh.  Break you leg?  Cackle away.  Near-death experience?  Now that’s terribly funny.  But still, there are happy funny things too.  Tickles are funny.  Certain words (frumpy, mongoose, or skedaddle) are funny.  And the old classics (like “your mom is an old classic”) are always funny.

So – what’s up with Eastern Europe?  Does their growing government need shelter from laughter?  Or are they all just keeping their mouths closed out of their own gelotophobia?