Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Month: August 2005 (page 1 of 5)

Creativity in Business

How many millions of dollars did it take to come up with these company names?

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Politics After Tragedy

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In today’s Huffington Post, writer/editor Katrina Vanden Heuvel writes about Hurricane Katrina:

Like all Americans I have been horrified watching the destruction wrought on New Orleans by this natural disaster. And I suppose like others who share the name Katrina, it has been eerie hearing and reading my name all over the news. But when Fox News started calling the hurricane, Killer Katrina, I started praying some rightwing idiot wouldn’t stoop so low as to personalize or politicize all of this human suffering.

I found this statement a little odd.  First of all, I doubt that this well-known liberal editor of the Nation was home watching Fox News.  Even if she were, why is she assuming that someone would personalize this human suffering?  Because the hurricane is called Katrina?  And her name is Katrina?  Right off the back, I know that this is someone with a big ego. 

Of course, someone with a bigger ego, Rush Limbaugh, actually did stupidly call the storm Hurricane Katrina Vanden Heuvel and warned his listeners that the left would use this tragedy against the right.

Katrina Van Heuvel rightly takes Limbaugh to task, saying that this is no time for conservatives to use this tragedy as a political tool.

Of course, in the same Huffington Post, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. writes an article practically blaming the Republicans for energy policies that caused the hurricane.

As Hurricane Katrina dismantles Mississippi’s Gulf Coast, it’s worth recalling the central role that Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour played in derailing the Kyoto Protocol and kiboshing President Bush’s iron-clad campaign promise to regulate CO2….This month, a study published in the journal Nature by a renowned MIT climatologist linked the increasing prevalence of destructive hurricanes to human-induced global warming.

Now we are all learning what it’s like to reap the whirlwind of fossil fuel dependence which Barbour and his cronies have encouraged. Our destructive addiction has given us a catastrophic war in the Middle East and–now–Katrina is giving our nation a glimpse of the climate chaos we are bequeathing our children.

Can we at least wait until the LOOTING STOPS before we get into politics over this?

Dude Thinks Like a Lady

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I noticed that one of my readers was participating in a "sex survey," so I quickly followed the link, all excited about adding my two cents.  When I got to the site, I was disappointed that all the questions were for WOMEN. 

Here I was, hoping to have some fun on a Monday night, and I was excluded.  But this is the internet, true?  And I’m supposed to be a writer, right?  I’ve created female characters before.  I think I know women pretty well.  I even once imagined life as a woman.

So, why not try to answer this sex survey honestly, as IF I WERE  A WOMAN

Maybe this will even help me get in touch with the feminine side of my personality.

So, here is Evercurious’s Sex Survey, with my answers AS A WOMAN:

1. Do you orgasm faster or easier when you masturbate?

Hmmm… let’s see.    If we are assuming that I am a woman and my partner is someone like my male self, and knowing first hand my abilities with women, I think the answer is clearly —

ANSWER:   MASTURBATE


2. If you use a toy, do you prefer penetration or clitoral stimulation?

A toy… let’s see.  Even though I’m supposedly a woman, I need to go into my own male past to better understand the question.  The only "toys" I ever remember using were when I was a teenager.  I was proud that all my pubic hair had finally grown in.  I had these two little green plastic soldiers that I used to play "war" with as a child.  I found it amusing to put these two soldiers in the middle of all the hair, as if they were trapped in the jungles of Vietnam.  I remember humming the the Wagner music from "Apocalypse Now."  I imagined my two soldiers hiding in the "jungle" as the Vietcong approached.  I guess if I were a woman, there would be more places for the soldiers to hide.   I think that would also probably be very stimulating.

ANSWER:  CLITORAL STIMULATION


3. What is one thing you would never do in bed?

ANSWER:  EAT COOKIES THAT MAKE CRUMBS


4. Approximately how short or long of a time does it take you to please yourself?

I’ve been lucky enough to please myself in as short a period as the length of one of those Overstock.com commercials where that hot woman keeps saying, "It’s all about  the ‘O.’"

ANSWER:  SIXTY SECONDS


5. Do you sometimes wish you would have just gone it alone after sex? (as in you are more productive alone.)

Again, are we talking about having my male self as the partner?

ANSWER:  GO IT ALONE


6. What is your favorite form of contraception?

ANSWER:  PRAYER


7. Which matters most? Girth or length?

Tough one.    I think I could better relate again by thinking of something in my past.  When I had my Bar-Mitzvah, I wore a tie that was short, but very wide in girth.  Does anyone remember those ties?  Those "wide ties" were once very fashionable.  

In the 1980’s I wore one of those skinny "New Wave band" ties that the "Talking Heads" would wear.  They were long and skinny.  

I don’t wear too many ties nowadays, but if I had to choose one, it would be the long, skinny one.  People would think I’m trying to look "retro."  If I wore the "girthy" wide tie, I would just look like a dork.

ANSWER:  LENGTH


8. What is your favorite position? (If an odd ball position, please describe.)

Easy.

ANSWER:  THE ONE WHERE I HAVE TO DO THE LEAST AMOUNT OF WORK


9. What is your favorite enhancement (toy, lube, contraption, etc.) to add to the fun of sex?

I once bought handcuffs, but I wasn’t sure how to use it.  How do you get it to fit around the penis?

ANSWER:  BIG SCREEN TV PLAYING "THE SIMPSONS"


10. When is your favorite time to masturbate? Have sex?

I subscribe to the same policy as Canter’s Deli on Fairfax Blvd.

ANSWER:  OPEN 24 HOURS
 

I Wanna Be Taken SERIOUSLY

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"That last post was so funny," he said to me.

"Oh, yeah!"  I said annoyed, "Wait until until you read my next post.  It’s going to be a SERIOUS analysis of Ecuador’s economy!"

I was having a "Woody Allen" moment.  You know, the one he had right after "Annie Hall" when he said to himself, "No more silly films.  Now I’m going to be taken SERIOUSLY."

One of my favorite movies is Preston Sturges’  "Sullivan’s Travels."  In it, a film director of escapist movies decides to become a serious director and goes to learn about "life" by living with the Depression-era hobos on the trains.

Today, every "artist" wants to be taken seriously.   Maybe that’s why supermodels never smile in their photos.  Even television people want critics to view their work as high art.  They show "retrospectives" of sitcoms like "My Two Dads" at the Museum of Television and Radio.  Porn stars now have their own award show.  Stuntmen are fighting for their own category in the Oscars.   Maybe because more of us are familiar with Desi Arnaz and "I Love Lucy" than Donizetti and "Lucia di Lammemoor," we need to make believe our low-brow tastes are as important as high-culture.  There was even a popular best-selling book by Steven Johnson titled "Everything Bad is Good For You:  How Today’s Pop Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter."   According to Johnson, we should let our children stay up to watch "Survivor" and "Fear Factor."

Go ahead and let them watch more television, too, since even reality shows can function as "elaborately staged group psychology experiments" to stimulate rather than pacify the brain.

Even the intellectually astute Michael Blowhard  has taken literary snobs to task for not appreciating the writing skills of sensationalist shlock-writer Jackie Collins, author of such books as "The Bitch" and "The Stud."

Why are many people’s attitudes towards popular fiction different than their attitudes towards the popular arts in other fields? By now, most sophisticated and educated people can see virtues in rock and roll; in sitcoms; in action-adventure movies; and in barbecued ribs, ice cream, and corn on the cob. Yet where fiction-books are concerned … Well, if these people are caught reading a blockbuster, they laugh, they apologize. They want you to know they’re slumming; they really do know better.  Really what they care about is the serious and good stuff.

I’m not a snob about these things and I like this reinterpretation of what’s high art and what’s low art.   Still, without sounding like a fuddy-duddy, there should be some standards, and there’s nothing as annoying as hearing a popular artist kvetch about their own popularity.  It’s one of the reasons so many Hollywood actors want to speak about politics.  They don’t want to just be a lowly actor and make millions of dollars for play-acting.  They want to be a force for good

Sitcom writers don’t just want to be sitcom writers.  It’s not enough to be making tons of money and getting your work on television.  You want to be taken seriously as a writer.  You may be a "writer," but the reason you’re not as esteemed as Dostoyevsky is because you wrote your first draft while drinking a ice-blended mocha at the Coffee Bean.  Dostoyevsky spent four years in the Siberian maximum security prison in Omsk, with ten-pound iron chains around his ankles and wrists in a lice-infested, filth-ridden “cemetery-of-the-living” which he later described in "The House of the Dead."  Now, even the Disney cafeteria isn’t that bad.

It seems ironic that so many artists are so concerned with being taken seriously when our culture seems only to care about what is popular.  The entertainment section of the paper is filled with stories about the top box-office movies and top-ten network shows.  Hollywood envies successful producers like Jerry Bruckheimer.  Who knows… maybe even he’s unhappy with his popular successes.  Is it possible that Jerry Bruckheimer is secretly writing a low-budget script about his loving relationship with his offbeat "grandpa" — a project without one car blowing up?

In the blogging world, you have popular sites like Gawker and Defamer that feed their audience snarky gossip.   They get large amounts of readers.  I have a friend who writes a fantastic blog on the topic of Earth Science.  He has three readers.  I would give you the link, but I think he would have a heart attack if too many of you actually showed up. 

Let’s hope that the producers of Gawker and Defamer don’t complain about not being taken seriously.

A popular artist who is overly concerned about being taken seriously is like the prom queen complaining that she wasn’t asked to be on the math team.   What are you complaining about?  We all want to be like YOU. 

Recently, there’s even been some fighting among the usually mutually-supportive women writers as some tried to separate themselves from the popular chick-lit label.   When Curtis Sittenfeld reviewed Melissa Bank’s "The Wonder Spot" in the New York Times Book Review, many saw it as an attack on the genre —  and an excuse for Ms. Sittenfeld to re-create her own image as a "serious" writer.  Popular chick-lit writer Jennnifer Weiner then responded to the review, mocking Ms. Sittenfeld:

"The more I think about the increasingly angry divide between ladies who write literature and chicks who write chick lit, the more it seems like a grown-up version of the smart versus pretty games of years ago; like so much jockeying for position in the cafeteria and mocking the girls who are nerdier/sluttier/stupider than you, to make yourself feel more secure about your own place in the pecking order."

Why is  Ms. Sittenfeld ashamed of the term chick lit?  It is very popular and has helped hundreds of other female writers to get published.   If you write a light book about a young woman in Manhattan juggling men while working as an assistant editor at a fabulous women’s magazine, chances are the book is Chick Lit.  If the book is about a poor female mine worker dealing with her mother dying of an inoperable tumor, chances are it isn’t Chick Lit

Soon, sitcom writers are going to complain about their work being called "sitcoms."   Will sitcoms soon be called Short Televised Humorous Novellas?

As some woman might suggest in a chick lit book, "Do you really need to have it all?"  Do you need to have popularity and be taken seriously?

As for myself, I’ll hold off on that article about Ecuador.  I still want as many readers as possible. 

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Changing the Subject

Just so I can move on from the uncomfortable comments I was getting about my relationship with Sophia, here’s a picture of a cute kitten to distract you.

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138th Post About Sophia

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(phone call this morning)

Sophia:  What are you doing later?

Neil:   Nothing.  You?

Sophia:  I almost had a date for tonight.   I spoke with this guy from Lavalife.com for a couple of hours.

Neil:  And?

Sophia:  He seemed pretty nice.  But then I told him to take a look at your blog. 

Neil:  Why would you do that? 

Sophia:  I thought he’d find it interesting.   He is a creative type.  

Neil:   (ADDED LAUGHTER SO NEW READERS DON’T TAKE THIS AS  SERIOUSLY AS THE FIRST COUPLE OF READERS DID)  He doesn’t want to see your separated husband’s blog!

Sophia:  I thought you’re always looking for new readers.   I thought you’d be happy.

Neil:  Well… thank you.

Sophia:  I told him the blog was very funny.

Neil:  And so?  What did he think?

Sophia:  Well… first the good news.  He liked the picture on top.   He liked the post where you said I had "magnificent breasts."  But then he said the other posts were way too long. 

Neil:  Too long?!  The last couple of posts, I hardly wrote anything at all.

Sophia:  He said he prefers those blogs where the posts are shorter and there are more links.

Neil:   How many links does this guy want?

Sophia:   Forget it.  It’s not that important.  He just didn’t "get it."

Neil:  Get what?

Sophia:  What’s a "Citizen of the Month."  What’s the joke.  Were you being serious or not.  Everything.  He just didn’t like it too much.

Neil:  Which post didn’t he get?  The last one with Katie Couric?  Should I make the post clearer?  Does he know who Katie Couric is?  Is he from this country?

Sophia:  Forget it.  Not everyone’s going to like your blog.

Neil:  Do you have this guy’s phone number?

Sophia:  What for?

Neil:  I’d like to ask him what’s wrong with the blog.  I’m open to suggestions.  He can be like my focus group.

Sophia:  I don’t have his phone number anymore.  And you’re not calling him.

Neil:  Well, obviously you did.

Sophia:  It’s over already.   I told him I wouldn’t go out with him. 

Neil:  Why is that?

Sophia:  I couldn’t possibly  date someone who doesn’t get your blog. 

Neil:  You told him that?  Boy, you’re a tough dater.  

Sophia:  After all, your blog isn’t that intellectual….

Neil:   I’m touched.  Thank you… I think… 

I am not sure what I am more concerned about – that Sophia is on Lavalife looking for dates OR that this guy didn’t like my blog.

Imagine

Imagine one day — when liberals and conservatives can live as one.

(Katie Couric at a future Hollywood benefit)

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I Married a Republican!

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Sometimes, I wish I were more political.   I love the passion of some of my readers like JJ and Tatyana, who if they met in real life, might have a fist-fight over George Bush — is he good or evil?

I was brought up in a liberal, union-oriented family.  My grandparents had a photo of Eleanor Roosevelt on the wall with the rest of the family photos.  During the summer, I went to Camp Kinder-Ring, a liberal Jewish summer camp in the Catskills.  It was not a religious place.  In fact, it was an anti-religious Jewish-Yiddish socialist-oriented camp.  On Shabbat, we gathered around the flagpole wearing all white and singing Yiddish socialist songs.  Of course the meaning was totally lost on most of the campers, who were mostly from Long Island and cared more about sex and soccer than socialism.  On the other side of the lake was a rival camp that broke away from this camp sixty years ago because while we were “socialist,” they were “communist.”

I went to Columbia College in New York.  There was one Republican in our freshman dorm.  All he ever did was complain that he didn’t get into Yale like his father.  We used to make fun of him relentlessly.

I didn’t really associate with many Republicans in Los Angeles when I first moved here.  Then I met Sophia.   

We may have fought over many things, but I don’t think we ever fought over politics. 

Actually, that’s not true.  There was once.  One election day a few years back, we promised not to vote at all, since we were going to cancel each other out anyway.  Later, we bumped into each other at the polling station.

Of course, I never considered Sophia a “real” Republican.  No real Republicans go skinny-dipping in Spain.  And I’m sure she never thought of me as a “real” Democrat.  Although I voted for Kerry, I wasn’t upset that Bush actually won. 

Here’s something we always talk about — which party is nastier, Democrats or Republicans?  Both of them create outlandish political ads – from Willie Horton to that recent ad accusing John Roberts of strangling women who wanted to have abortions. 

Sophia frequently gets phone calls from the Republican Party, trying to scare her into thinking that “liberals” are taking over the country.  Excuse me, Karl Rove, but where exactly is this happening?  Do Jesse Jackson and Michael Moore really control everything from their “love-pad” on the Upper West Side?

I also get calls from the Democrats.  They always are trying to scare me into thinking my “civil liberties” are disappearing.   Recently, some woman called about some teacher initiative that Schwarzenegger is trying to get passed:

“If this passes, God help us all!  California will become like Mussolini’s Italy.”

These scare tactics drive me crazy.  We Democrats are supposed to be the "smart ones."  So why am I always spoken to like I’m an idiot?  I’m sure there are many valid reasons for this intiative to be rejected, but I certainly didn’t hear any from this caller.   How about teachers will lose jobs?   It will hurt the economy?   But I really doubt the governer is about to bring over some of his goose-stepping family from Austria.   When I was on the phone with this woman, all I could think was that she should get a job writing movie ads for the studios:

“This is the one film you MUST see this year or you will DIE!”

Charlie once linked to a Slate article where writer Richard Rushfield did a little social experiment during the 2004 campaign. 

He visited Republican strongholds such as Bakersfield and Newport Beach sporting a Kerry-Edwards ’04 t-shirt and button, as well as Democrat bastions such as Silverlake and Brentwood in Los Angeles.

The result:  The Republicans were much more tolerant of the Democrats than the other way around.

Of course, it was a heated time during that election, but it got ugly at times.  Remember the whole red state/blue state thing?  Or that website that suggested that half the country break away from the ugly Bush states?  Whatever happened to rational dialogue?  I find conservative talk show hosts like Sean Hannity to be pretty depressing and unpleasant, but I expect more from liberals. 

I’d like to think that liberals haven’t become as nasty as some have said, but recently, one of my friends asked me:

“Did you know that you have a lot of conservatives on your blogroll?” (saying it in a tone usually reserved for child molesters).

I said that I didn’t really notice.  My only real criteria for putting someone on the blogroll is either the person:

  1. Has a sense of humor.

    OR

  2. Is a woman.

So far, no one has made any comments about all the “liberals” on my blogroll.  Is it because we expect liberals to be smart, sexy, and fun blogging pals?   Why can’t a Republican be smart and sexy?  After all,  I did marry one. 

Republicans are not so bad when you get to know them (except the crazy anti-abortion ones).   Through Sophia, I learned to better understand and appreciate “Republican” culture.  They have some valid ideas on economics and international affairs. 

Now, excuse me… I want to go and replay this Pat Boone album I have playing on my iTunes —

Granny, Won’t You Drive My Car?

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Dear Mom,

How are you doing in all that East Coast heat?  Are you making sure Dad puts on the air-conditioning?  Force him to.  Tell him you’re going to divorce him and he’ll have to make his own Cheerios if he doesn’t leave the air-conditioner on all night. 

Enjoying the blog?   Be careful when you read it at work.  You don’t want to get fired.  Although that would be sort of cool.  You could become a star in the blogosphere.  Like Dooce.  You can be the first mother fired from her job for reading her son’s blog.

Actually, I’m writing about something serious today, and I’m interested in your perspective:

Yesterday afternoon, Sophia and I met for lunch.  While we were driving down La Cienega, there was this car swerving in and out of lanes, as if the driver was terribly drunk.   We barely avoided colliding with it twice.  Sophia honked.  We figured it was some kind of drunk-off-his-ass kid.   As we sped up next to the car, hoping to pass, we noticed that it wasn’t any type of kid, but an elderly woman.   She was driving 20 miles an hour and wore glasses three times my prescription.  This woman was dangerous!  It made me think of that elderly guy who drove smack into the touristy Santa Monica Promenade a couple of years ago, killing 10 people.

You can’t really blame older people for wanting to drive in a city like Los Angeles, but why the hell do we allow them to do it — without some sort of safety net?   Los Angeles seems more concerned with smoking on the beach than all these dangerous drivers.

How many times have we joked about you and Dad having New York State driver’s licenses?   How in God’s name does New York keep on renewing your license?  When was the last time you drove — 1960?  And if I remember the story, you drove three blocks from that summer house in Coney Island to the boardwalk? 

And Dad?… he has trouble opening up the door to my Honda.  Have you ever actually seen him drive a car?  Giving Dad a driver’s license is as dangerous as giving Christian Slater some drugs to "hold for a friend."

Maybe Brooke will stop by the blog today and leave a comment about life driving in Florida.  Remember the last time we were in Florida?   Eighty year old men would get out from their wheelchair and into the driver’s seat!

Now, I don’t want to make this into an "attack old people" post.  If there’s one thing I hate about Americans is that we don’t respect our senior citizens.  And there are plenty of younger people who shouldn’t be driving.  It’s as if they make you take your driver’s test once — when you’re a teenager in your prime health — and then they just ship you off onto the freeway!   I wouldn’t be surprised to hear about a blind guy getting his license renewed.  Would you?

I know you’re thinking of retiring to Florida.  But with all those geriatric drivers, I’m getting a little worried about your safety.  Wouldn’t it be safer just staying in crime-ridden Flushing? 

Unless… oh, no, you better not be — you and Dad aren’t planning on DRIVING in Florida?  Because if you are, I need to warn the others now!

Love, Neil

Is MyFonts.com Trying to Convert Me?

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I was thinking of buying the Geneva font for some new project when I clicked on a button for some  "sample text."  And this is what I got:

"Verily the dark ex-Jew quit Zionism, preferring the cabala."    

This is absolutely true.

Are the people at MyFonts.com reacting to my last post?

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Is this a sign?  Josia at her Kabbalah site thinks so!

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