Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Month: March 2005

The Omorosa Strategy

The latest trend in reality shows, according to the LA Times, are shows involving pets, such as Animal Planet’s “Who Gets the Dog?” in which humans compete for the love of a cutesy dog.  When most of the losers don’t get the dog, they are crushed, but I was particularly surprised by Darren O’Hare and Ania Kamieniecki’s excuse when they  lost “Scooby” to another couple:

“We just thought of it as a fun thing, we weren’t looking to win” says Darren.  “We didn’t have our ‘Omorosa’ strategy.”

The Omorosa strategy?  Have reality shows so infiltrated our way of thinking that the name Omorosa carries so much weight to it?   Years ago, I remember my two uncles arguing at Thanksgiving dinner over who was the greatest strategist of World War II — Churchill or Stalin?   With the greatest generation fading, will Omorosa be remembered as this generation’s Sun Tzu?  Our Machiavelli?

Could it be that many of our missteps in Iraq are due to the Pentagon’s outmoded style of leadership?  Did President Bush have an Omorosa strategy?   Doesn’t our government see how much reality TV could be a mirror into our geopolitical world?

For example, in Iraq, isn’t it true that we were “Richard Hatch-ed” by the Iranians with the faulty intelligence about the WMDs?

What about the UN and our French and German “friends”?  This “betrayal” by our allies is not very surprising to any reality TV watcher.  Has there ever been a Survivor season where the strong guy who builds the shelter for everyone isn’t tossed off the Island the very next week by all the whimpering members of his “alliance”?  Isn’t the United Nations like the ultimate “Big Brother” house, all smiles when Julie Chen shows up on the monitor, but everyone gets busy backstabbing at night?

Would there be so many Iraqi uprisings if we ran things a bit more like Nanny 911?

Sure, there were some elections in Iraq and there is some progress with Syria, but can we we really win the hearts and minds of the Arab world?   Forget the neocons Paula Abdul-like optimism.    Is it really on the level?  As  Simon Cowell might say, very doubtful:

“Not if we continue to pick the wrong songs and sing them like we’re at a cheap karaoke bar.”

President Bush, if you really intend to succeed with your Middle East foreign policy, stop listening to those Pentagon wonks and watch some  “Apprentice.”

Microsoft Word: The Movie

Now that the Friendster movie that was discussed a year ago in Defamer finally has the go-ahead with Harold Ramis and Topher Grace aboard…

Grace plays a character looking for love while navigating technology such as instant messaging, camera phones and Internet porn.   (from comingsoon.net)

…Hollywood is abuzz with storielines based on other internet and software applications.  This is the ideaI time for me to dust off my old "Microsoft Word" script.

In this urbane Manhattan-based romantic comedy, set in the exciting and sexy world of book publishing, two strong-headed associate editors, one male and one female, find romance as they work together to stop web addresses in Microsoft Word documents from automatically turning into hyperlinks.

Another Myth Busted

Revenge of the Nerds

Revenge of the Nerds

In print and in movies, I frequently encounter the cliche about the nerdy kid, beaten up in elementary school, who grows up to become a phenomenally-successful entrepreneur.  Of course, he’s not really happy because he’s a jerk now, still having the insatiable need to humiliate his former bullies.

To put this myth to rest, I have my friend H here, who is visiting from New York. We went to school together. H was beaten up all the time by bullies.

Me: H, are you very successful now?

H:   No.

Me:   If you could, would you seek revenge on these bullies?

H:  Maybe.  (SIGHING)  But what can you do?

Me:  Have you ever encountered any of these bullies since elementary school?

H:  No…well, actually, indirectly I do know something about one of them.  He went to Queens College, became a teacher, and now he teaches my cousin’s son’s second grade class in Tucson.   How ironic is that?

M:  How does that make you feel?

H:  Good.  At least I know that asshole makes less money than I do.

M:  Here’s what teachers make in Tucson.

H:  (strong curse)

Another myth busted.   Not all nerdy kids beaten up in elementary school grow up to become successful entrepreneurs.

American Apparel… Hey, Zip Up Your Fly!

This morning I was in a grouchy mood reading about Robert Blake in my local Coffee Bean on Wilshire Blvd.   I decided to toss the LA Times and read the Los Angeles City Beat, one of those freebie independents in which you can learn about the latest cinema from Hungary and order an Asian escort at the same time.

On the back of the City Beat was a full-page ad for some company called American Apparel.  The company’s calling card was that their clothes were “Made in downtown LA.  Sweatshop Free – Brand-free Clothes.

I knew nothing about them, but I had seen their ads before, always with some half-dressed, thin,  pseudo-ethnic-looking girl pouting at me.  Since I was still pissed off from my “size-14” Beverly Center experience (see here),  I started ranting in my head about this company.

Here were more bad role models for young women on display.   The model looked like an underage porn star.  And what’s with this “brand-free” nonsense?   (read about Naomi Klein and the anti-brand movement.   And by the way, American Apparel, what’s with the big trademark symbol after your name?  That’s your brand!  And that pouty girl in her bathing suit.  That’s your brand, too!

I went home and checked out the American Apparel’s web page.   I did a 180.  The villain turned into a hero.  Senior partner Dov Charney seemed to care about his employees.

Charney’s socially responsible initiatives have included affordable health care for employees and their families, immigration support, free English and computer classes, subsidized lunches and bus passes, as well as a commitment to paying decent wages (averaging over $12.50/hour) for the company’s nearly 1,500 workers.

The NY Times wrote a glowing review on Dov Charney.   Here’s what CNN’s Lou Dobbs has to say about American Apparel (in QuickTime).  And guess what! — despite the skinny girls in the ads, American Apparel actually sells clothes to real live American woman in  L and XL.

I felt ashamed for judging a shirt by a label, or in this case, the lack of a label.  This was one of the good guys.  I decided to give Mr. Charney my first “Citizen of the Month” award for being a cool guy.

I decided to Google-up some more positive biographical information about the guy, not realizing that I wasn’t the first one who wanted to know more.   And I learned more.  You can learn a lot more about Dov Charney at Jewlicious, including his fondness for masturbation and his experience playing with himself in front of Jane Magazine reporter Claudine Ko.

I don’t know this guy and I don’t really care.  What interests me is that there is a fine line between a hero and a creep.   If he’s doing some good work, is it OK that he likes to run around his office in his underwear?  Not to compare this crazy Charney with one of America’s founding fathers, but is Thomas Jefferson any less of a hero since we learned about his connection to slavery?   What about JFK, FDR, Martin Luther King and their affairs?

So why did my opinion of this guy go down the toilet after hearing this?

Do we know too much dirt about society’s good guys to look up to them anymore?

Jack Bauer Gives Equal Time

Jack Bauer

Jack Bauer

24 is probably the only TV show that I watch consistently.   Last night, Jack was in a real jam, hiding out in a sporting good store as a group of bad-guy commandos approached him.  All seemed lost until two brave young men, the owners of the store, took up arms to help Jack (and the American government) in their battle against terrorism.

These two men were also Arabs.   And Fox was going to make sure you knew they were Arabs by inserting patriotic speeches about their father and America and 9/11.

I thought it was pretty cool, somewhat necessary, and a lot corny.

The moment was so “Public Service Announcement” that it almost seemed as if all the commandos stopped approaching and took a cigarette break just to allow these good citizens to finish their speeches.   I think it would have been better if these two young guys just helped out without much banter and then after the battle, Jack goes to shake their hands.

Jack:   “My name is Jack.”

Mohammed (shaking hand):   “Mohammed.”

I would have gotten the point.   But Fox clearly wanted to counter-balance the charges that they are portraying Arab-Americans in a negative way on 24.

Let’s see — the Araz family are members of a sleeper-cell out to kill millions of Americans.   How likeable should they be?

Dina Araz, the mother clearly shows a human side in wanting to save her son, Behrooz.   The son is Bin Laden’s nightmare, a true believer forever softened by the California sunshine and his blond girlfriend.   Is that the next problem that needs solving?

Next Week on 24:  Behrooz decides that his days of carousing with decadent American surfer girls are over and he is ready to settle down with a traditional bride from Yemen.

OhmyGod! A Size 14 in the Beverly Center!

The Beverly Center

The Beverly Center

Remember how in Tootsie, Dustin Hoffman’s character learned what it was like to be a woman by dressing as a female?  I was reminded of that movie when I went shopping this past weekend at my local mall.

The Beverly Center is one of the best-known of Los Angeles’ area many big malls.   The Beverly Hills – West Hollywood location brings in a lot of celebrities and wealthy folk.   Despite the tiniest movie theaters in town, it’s a great place for people-watching or encountering Nicolas Cage buying a gift for his latest wife.

F, my cousin from Israel, flew into town to attend a big anniversary party.  She thought she might be underdressed for the party and asked me to help her find a party dress.   I decided to take her to the Beverly Center.

F is thirty years old, a funny and attractive woman.   She said she wears a size 14.   I took her to the Bloomingdale’s in the mall.   A saleswoman told us that this Bloomingdale’s doesn’t carry any dresses in size 14.

OK, no problem.   Onward.   There were tons of stores in the mall.   We went to Ann Taylor, DKNY, Boss, Banana Republic, Max Studio, etc., etc., etc…. No dresses in size 14.   One boutique even had a sign on the window which read something like, “We don’t carry items over size 12.”   It was fairly intimidating, as if they were telling us, “Please don’t even walk in here and create bad feng shui with your fat cells.”

My last resort was the mall’s Macy’s.

I have clear memories of my mother (size 16-18) dragging me to the Macy’s in New York every year for their big Columbus Day Sale.   She said it was the best place to find dresses for work.   I used to help her search the racks in the big-size department (located in a dark section near the restroom, hidden from view like the the crazy family member no one wants to talk about).

But at least my mother was able to find some dresses there.

Not in this Macy’s.

I was told that they didn’t carry size 14 because this store was an exclusive “boutique” Macy’s, which I guess means “No Fat People Allowed.”   I asked a salesgirl if she knew any other malls where we could find a size 14.

I received a blank stare.

I saw a fashionable African-American woman in the cosmetics department who was clearly a larger size.   She looked totally comfortable in herself, as do so many bigger black women.   I asked her if she could help my cousin find a store for a size 14 party dress?  Her demeanor changed.   She looked shocked, as if I just “outed” her as a plus size woman and she would be fired immediately.

Is this what so many women have to go through — especially in places like Los Angeles?   The Beverly Center had plenty of clothes for all types of men, skinny to the fattest slob in town.   Shouldn’t a mall be required to at least have one store with a dress over size 12?

Men would have sued this place long ago.    Women of LA unite!

Blogging and Pajamas

Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson in pajamas

All my life I’ve felt the peer pressure, the intense desire to dress like the “others.”   When schoolmates laughed at me for wearing Keds, I bought Adidas.    When I became a teenager, out went the Wrangler’s, on came the Levi’s.   My mother told me to put on a jacket and tie when had I had my first job interview with Manny, her accountant.   Ten years later, I was told by a Hollywood agent to trash the brand-new jacket and tie I was wearing because I looked too much like an accountant.

Yesterday, I came across an article in Blogcritics.org titled, “What Kind of Pajamas Do You Blog In?

Bloggers are always getting accused of sitting around the house in their pajamas spouting off opinions. I suppose this is because you can’t take the opinions of someone wearing pajamas too seriously. What these folks don’t realize is the glorious history of the pajama and the qualities which make it the ideal form of clothing for deep and penetrating thought.

Today, of course, I went to Marshall’s and bought myself like pajamas.

I actually haven’t worn pajamas since moving to Los Angeles.  They seemed so East Coast.   But I guess I have to follow the crowd…

Sapphosexual: Been there, Done That

In last week’s New York Observer, Shazia Ahmad wrote about straight New York women meeting every Sunday evening at a friend’s apartment and watching Showtime’s The L Word.  Is the L word just the latest female bonding, apple-martini-in-hand, Upper-West-Side type show to watch over at Lisa’s apartment?  Ms. Ahmad thinks this strong curiosity about the show is more than just the demise of Sex in the City. 

Call them Sapphosexuals: straight women with a twinge of curiosity, a natural penchant for flirting with their female friends, and a high dose of emotional frustration with the city’s crop of narcissistic metrosexual males who perennially fail the Prince Charming test.  Why not date a woman?

As a male, I’m the first one to admit that men suck.  And they’re mostly ugly.  Who wouldn’t want to date a woman? 

A few years back, my relationship with a girlfriend went kaput.  Well, actually, she kaput-ed me.   I was angry and depressed.   But I had a life-changing moment.  I realized that I didn’t understand women and I never would. 

Ever.

I would try to become gay. 

Hey, I like guys.  I’m comfortable with them.  I understand them.  They’re not as high-maintenance, not as emotional high-strung, they like fart jokes, and according to Harvard presidents, are  better in science

I was living in West Hollywood and gay life was all around me.  I asked my friends Sean and Jaipur to take me out on the town.  Sean and Jaipur had been together for six years and were as cool as cool could be.  They were going to be role models in my learning to be gay.   I was going to be their Eliza Doolittle.  (if you are a male and don’t know what I’m referring to, you are definitely not gay).

That night, we went to one Weho (West Hollywood) club after another.  I wasn’t ready to dance yet or talk to anyone, but I was slowly letting my head bop to the disco-like tunes.  Unfortunately, the waitress was really hot and was distracting me from becoming gay.  There was also something disgusting about sweaty men dancing.  Sweaty women dancing are sexy.  Sweaty men aren’t, no matter how tight the shirt or abs.

I had to constantly remind myself that I wanted no more part of this other, estrogen-crazed sex — WOMEN, despite any cleavage they may have.   Wasn’t it Helen who was the cause of Troy’s fall?   

It was nice being with guys — rational, fun guys.   Maybe some of these guys were a little more concerned about appearance than my usual male friends. I had never been around so many pastel-colored tank-tops before, but this was a few years before any "straight" guy would let any "Queer" guy throw out his old bowling shirts on TV.

And then something happened that destroyed for me all the glamour of me becoming gay.  Sean and Jaipur started arguing.  It seemed as if Jaipur had forgotten to be home earlier that day when the dishwasher repairman showed up.

"Just like you, Jaipur.  Always irresponsible."

"And what about you?  Didn’t you say you were going to mail that birthday gift to my mother?  When I got home, it was still on the table.   But I didn’t say anything to you to make you feel bad.   Did I?  Did I?"

"You’re saying it now."

"Damn right I’m saying it now."

As the conversation heated up, I realized that if you put two men together long enough they will start acting just like a straight couple.   It wasn’t worth becoming gay, if I can get the same crap from a woman.   

This is why I whole-heartedly support gay marriage.  I say spread the torture around.    

As for the Sapphosexual group at Lisa’s apartment on 78th and Broadway, dream on.  If you think life as two females is going to be fun, think about this — the sex might be interesting, but which one of you is gonna take out garbage?

Hello

What’s on my mind this evening — the night of my first post?   It’s the future.   My future. 

I see it so clearly.

I’m a very spry 100 year old man, thanks to medical advances and the ability of the medical establishment to take chances with modern patient care.  Who knew that the diet supplement Trimspa would end up eradicating most illnesses from the world?  

I’m in my home of the future.  My grandson, Bar Code #466408736664, sits at my side, browsing the internet in eye-scan mode  (using the latest upgraded Intel mini-chip in his brain — the PC having disappeared decades earlier)..  Suddenly, he tells me that he’s at the Coca-Cola digi-Archives site (formerly the Library of Congress) and viewing this very first post that you are currently reading.

At that moment, I will be an old man remembering the early days of the Internet.  The 56K modem.  Netscape.  Those AOL disks falling out of every magazine.  That first illegal MP3.  That first post on the blog.

"Grandpa," #466 says with a twinkle in his eye.  "Man, grandpa, this post really sucks."

And just then, I realize that it isn’t a twinkle in his eye, but a reaction to one of those synthetic drugs he’s been taking at school.   I laugh, remembering how I was drunk while writing that first post.  

"He’d grown up just like me.
My boy was just like me."

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