Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Month: March 2006 (page 1 of 3)

April Fool’s Day Prank

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Psst… hey.  It’s Neil’s Penis here.  Neil is asleep so I have to whisper.  

Saturday is my favorite holiday —  April Fool’s Day.  And I’m thinking of playing a little trick on Neil, right here on this blog.  Are you game?

I love April Fool’s Day.  Maybe its because I’ve always considered myself a bit of a jokester.  There’s nothing funnier than playing a little gag on Neil.  Sometimes, I pop up at the most inopportune times — just to bug and embarrass him.  I remember once rising into action during a pitch meeting with an important female executive who wasn’t wearing a bra.  I don’t ever remember laughing so hard in my life.

You might think me cruel, but actually, there’s a long literary tradition of the "Fool."  Was it not the Fool who was wiser than King Lear?

Have more than thou showest,
Speak less than thou knowest,
Lend less than thou owest,
Ride more than thou goest.

You’re surprised I know that?   You think just because I’m a cock that I’m not well-read?  Who the fuck you think writes all of Neil’s smart posts?  Without me, he’s a drooling idiot who writes cheap gags about Zelnorm! 

Most women think the Penis is the dumb one. 

"He’s thinking with the head down there, not the head up there"  is the typical cliched statement by a woman. 

But, in reality, I’m the real "brains" behind the person you call Neilochka.

In fact,  just this morning I was telling Neil how he could increase his female readership:

Penis:  "Write this down, Neil.  Here are the three posts you need to write over and over again to win over the female audience.  More stuff about how you appreciate a strong and intelligent woman.  More stuff about how you love little animals, particularly cats.   And more stuff about how your greatest joy in life is eating a woman’s pussy."

Neil:  "But none of that is…"

Penis:  "Just say it, you moron.  (looking towards heaven)  God, why were you so cruel to hang a penis like me on an idiot like him?"

All in all, I guess Neil is OK, even if he is a little simple-minded.  But that’s why I love playing gags on him. 

So, here’s my April Fool’s joke:

It seems that there’s one thing that Neil really hates about the blogging world — the way it’s been taken over by those only interested in self-promotion or marketing.  Neil thinks "real" blogs should be about mundane things — like what you had for lunch yesterday or why your ex-boyfriend is a jerk.  

A few months ago, Neil got fed up with all these so-called bloggers that he decided not to call his blog a blog anymore:

"From now on, I will think of "Citizen of the Month" as a "Shpritz."

shpritz:  a short spray of seltzer from a seltzer bottle

Every day, I will write a daily Shpritz.

And like a shpritz from a bottle, a literary shpritz will spray you in the face to get your attention, but it will never, ever stain your clothes.

Good-bye, blog.  Hello, Shpritz."

Neil is always slow to change.  Not only isn’t he on MySpace, like I am, but he doesn’t even own an iPod!  He is what they used to call "a traditionalist."  He thinks blogging should be about expression, not self-promotion.  This doesn’t really surprise me.  Neil is old-fashioned in everything.   For god’s sake, he thinks fucking with "the woman on top" is "getting kinky!"

So, here’s my idea.  Neil has a cold and isn’t going to read his blog again until Saturday; nor is Sophia because the schmuck got her sick too.  I suggest that that we totally hijack this post and comments and fill it with the things he hates the most — self-promotion and marketing. 

Yes, it’s the First Annual April Fool’s Day "Promote Yourself on Neil’s Blog and Annoy the Hell Out of Him."

Do you have a book that’s coming out?  Email me about it.  Or write something about it in the comments.

Do you want people to listen to your songs on MySpace?  Write about it. 

Do you have an online store selling jewelry?  Tell us about it!

Are you looking for a new job?  Promote yourself!

Do you think you would make a great wife?  Tell the men of America what your qualifications are! 

Do you run a sexoholic’s group and are looking for members?  Feel free to spread the word!

Is your son playing a tree in his third grade production of "Oliver!?"  Do you think one of your blog posts is good enough to be in the New Yorker?  Have you invented a new toilet seat?

Promote the hell out of your writing group, your play reading, your up-and-coming clothing line, your breast enlargements, your husband’s new law offices — anything!

Personally, I can’t wait to see Neil’s face on Saturday when he sees that his blog has been hijacked by his own penis! 

Ready for some promotional stuff?  I’ll get the ball rolling by bringing up Pauly D’s new book.

Blogger and comic genius Paul Davidson’s "The Lost Blogs" comes out May 8, 2006.  It sounds like a real winner — a humorous collection of lost "blogs" written by such famous historical figures as Jesus, Abraham Lincoln, and Gandhi.   Fellow blogger Kevin Apgar has set up a "Grassroots Blogger Book Marketing Campaign" for the book, and you can participate in the fun during the week of April 10-April 14 by writing your blog posts as your historical figure of choice!

Am I actually going to read Pauly’s book?  No fucking way.  I much prefer reading Shakespeare than nonsense like that.  But I’m gonna promote it anyway — just to ANNOY NEIL. 

April Fools, Neilochka!

My Zelnorm Tummy

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What am I doing wrong?  Everyone on TV using Zelnorm seems to get such flat stomachs.  I’ve been taking it for three months now to get that "six-pack abs" look, and I still get sand kicked in my face at the beach.  This product sucks!

The Best Teacher I Ever Had

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The best teacher I ever had was my eight grade social studies teacher, Mr. Molnia.    He was a middle-aged man who wore bargain-basement suits and the same pair of black shoes every day.   Most people probably walked past him on the street without giving him another thought.  I have no idea whether he was married, had children, or if he is still with us.  But this man blew my mind open with his radical ideas. 

It’s an old intellectual concept that "reality" is the superficial part of life — and the real action is going behind the scenes.   It was the Greeks who first introduced us to the "Platonic ideal."   Christian thinkers such as Aquinas infused Greek thought with Christian thought — creating a separation between heaven (the ideal) and earth (the sinful senses).  Later philosopher rejected this religious outlook, but still sought "the real truth" beneath the sensory world.  Hegel and Marx saw history as pushing society forward.   Marx’s vision  became the basis for Communism and Socialism.   Freud’s search turned matters inward, with the unseen truth usually having something to do with sex and repression. 

As an eighth grader, I didn’t know much about Marx or Freud.   Mr. Molnia talked about issues that I could relate to — like television, and the reality behind the facade.  He explained to our class that the networks existed as much for the commercials as they did for the programs.   This was an earth-shattering concept to me.  I always thought of TV as my friend.  Suddenly, I realized that it was two-timing me with the Milton-Bradley Company, telling me I needed to buy certain games just to get some action with his other friend. 

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Mr. Molnia told us to watch some of our favorite shows, and make note of the commercials.  By doing this, we could find out what type of audience they were shooting for, and we could get insights on how they’re trying to manipulate us.  Years before everyone was arguing about media bias, he was telling us that EVERYONE IS BIASED.   He told us to take everything with a "grain of salt," even text books.  He read us part of a book explaining that the "Founding Fathers" were as interested in personal gain as they were in forming a new country.  I couldn’t believe we were learning this stuff.  It was as if we had just found out that the world was round, and every other teacher had been telling us for years that it was square.

I felt a paradigm shift in my mind.

Now, Mr. Molnia was NOT some sort of ex-hippy.  He was far from it.   His biggest enemy was propaganda.  He showed us how it was used in Nazi Germany.   He showed us various American political campaigns from the past, and how their aim was to manipulate the populace.  He made us watch commercials for products, and how they used the same propoganda techniques to make us insecure and buy their products.  He taught us different  techniques — assertion, bandwagon, card-stacking, glittering generalities — not so we can become copywriters — but so we could analyze the false message that we are being told.

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Mr. Molnia has had a great impact on my life.    Whether it is good or bad is another matter.   I can be a stick in the mud at times, still questioning the accuracy of some "60 Minutes" segment.  I’m always curious about a media company’s advertisers, because that tells you a lot what their content is and isn’t going to be about.

For instance, Gawker, the wildly popular gossip site, which the New York Times has called “the national go-to spot for keeping up with the rich and scandalous, the media elite and the pop-culture trends of the moment.”

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Much of their website’s content involves mocking media companies and celebrities.  And who are their sponsors?  This week, it includes:

• Showtime
• Travel Channel
• NBC Blow Out
• American Public Media
• MovieBeam
• Hershey’s
• Don’t Come Knocking
• Speedo
• Basic Instinct
• H&M
• Dyson
• HSBC
• Toyota Yaris
• Brick
• Shatner DVD Club
• Delta
• Fox Searchlight
• Hard Fi
• American Apparel
• Nontourage
• New Line
• Sanctuary Group
• The New School

What does this tell you about their coverage?  Will they be mocking New Line this week?  And what does it say about the advertisers?  Why do they think that Gawker’s audience will want to buy "American Apparel" t-shirts? 

Sophia and I both love reality TV, but we get into endless arguments over it.  I don’t believe half of what goes on in those shows.   As a film school graduate, I can tell you now that there can be no "reality" with a camera in your face, a producer behind the scenes, an editor cutting the material, and music punctuating the emotions.  There is no doubt that someone like Steven Speilberg could film me typing this post right now, and manipulate things with lighting, editing, and music so you would be bawling in your chair after he’s done with it.

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One of my first student movies at USC Film School involved a scene with a baby and a mother sitting under a tree.  We put an ad in the trades, and we were shocked to get hundreds of professionally-made photos from mothers wanting to get their baby in a no-pay silent 16mm student film done by two inept amateurs.  We held auditions and met all these crazy mothers who wanted to get their babies (!) into commercials so they can make money for the family.  We picked some cute baby for the part.

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On the day of the shoot, the mother showed up with her baby — but there was some bad news.  The baby was sick and throwing up.  We were about to call up another "baby," but this psychotic mother insisted that her baby could "go on."  We ended up using this baby, shooting between the times she threw up on the actress.  Months later, after we cut and added music to the short film, people were touched by it, especially the scene with the "angelic baby."

You all know Kelly Clarkson, the shy girl from Texas who made it big on the first American Idol, right?  But did you know, she already lived in Hollywood before her audtion, working as an extra on Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and recording vocal demos with famed songwriter Gerry Goffin ("You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman").  She wasn’t just some cute local girl they found working at a Texas Walmart.

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Does it take away from her talent?  No.  But, it doesn’t surprise me one bit that her "story" was bullshit.

Here is one of the most famous photos documenting the civil rights movement. 

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It is Rosa Parks sitting in the front of the bus with a scowling white man behind her.  I’ve seen this photograph in many documentaries.   After Ms. Parks’ recent death, there was an article in the New York Times about this photo.  It seems that the man behind Rosa Parks is Nicholas C. Chriss, a UPI reporter who was writing an article about her.  He posed in the picture to make it look more dramatic.

Does this take away from Rosa Park’s heroism?  Of course not.

But I guess I am a Watergate child at heart — I don’t trust too many politicians or media outlets — no matter which side of the spectrum they come from.

Maybe that’s why I don’t write about politics at all.  Whenever I start believing something is true, I hear Mr. Molnia in my ear and start questioning what I’m being told.

On Saturday, 500.000 marchers walked in Los Angeles to protest proposed federal immigration legislation.   My first instinct was to side with the protesters — and my local NPR station certainly seemed proud of them.  I heard an interviewer talking about racism and Minutemen and how terrible it was that it was OK for Europeans to come to this country, but not Mexicans. 

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Suddenly, my bullshit radar went off. 

I was pretty sure I wasn’t for HR 4437, the border protection bill, but surely something needs to be done to stem immigration from Mexico.  As a resident of Los Angeles, it is a vital issue.

I turned to progressive Chicago blogger Alley, because she is always insightful on political subjects.   But I didn’t quite buy what she was saying today, either.

Do you have any idea what would actually happen to the economy of this country if we turned all of our hard working immigrant non-citizens into criminals, and/or if we actually succeeded in stopping illegal immigration from Mexico? Say goodbye to your clean office buildings and your cheap veggies and your Italian lunch in Downers Grove. No, really.

What proof do you have that your assertion is true? 

The truth of the matter is that it is a complicated issue.   I think conservatives need to remember that most of our grandparents came to this country as immigrants.  But, then again, most of these immigrants came legally.  Is it fair that certain illegals now get "amnesty?"  How do others legal immigrants feel about this issue?

I know progressives are concerned with the well-being of the immigrant community.  But I think we should also be concerned with our poorer citizens who are being pushed aside because there is too much demand for city services.   In Los Angeles, county hospitals are being closed because they have to care for countless numbers of illegal immigrants without insurance.   Our inner city schools are overcrowded because we have to educate these students.  And illegals keep the minimum wage down, further hurting the poorest segment of society.  

As you can probably tell by now, I am wishy-washy politicially, spending way too much time thinking about the other side of the story.  Thank you, Mr. Molnia, for making me a more intelligent, but more indecisive person.

Seize the Spam!

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One of life’s hard lessons is that sometimes, if you don’t act fast enough, you can can miss a big opportunity.   How many times have you said to yourself, "If only I had asked Susan to the prom?"  Or "Had I bought that house ten years ago, I’d be a millionaire by now?"

I’ve always found it hard to make decisions.  I’m a terrible procrastinator, the type of person who waits and waits and waits for inspiration.  But it’s a terrible approach to life.   I miss out on one opportunity after another.

For instance, a few days ago, I received an email for an interesting new internet service:

(ACTUAL EMAIL SPAM)

Find a sexoholic tonight! 

Offering a service that helps people get laid!  Plenty of sexoholics are in your area, wanting to have some fun!

No lame pickup lines… no flowers… no gifts… people here just care about sex 😉

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, around 70% of members already found a partner!

INTERNET ADDRESS

No, despite my having a cold, I’m all for having fun — especially when it doesn’t involve buying flowers.  And I’m always up for meeting some new sexoholics in my neighborhood.  Maybe we can even meet in my local IHOP.   But, I sometimes find it difficult to have "some fun" when I know that there are those who aren’t as fortunate.  Why is it that only 70% of their "members already found a partner?"  What about the other 30%?  Will I really enjoy being with some cute sexoholic if I am constantly thinking about the unlucky 30% back at the IHOP crying their eyes out into their "endless" pots of coffee.  I mean, they’re sexoholics, too.  Why shouldn’t they have a partner?

For days, I went back and forth, debating whether I should join or not.   Friends made fun of my "liberal guilt."   One friend, a Republican attorney, made a very compelling argument:

"Listen, there are always going to be winners and losers in this world.  There are people starving and you still enjoy going out for dinner, right?  Maybe the 30% of the sexoholic members have only themselves to blame.  Maybe they’re not approaching their sexoholism with enough gusto?"

That’s right.  If the roles were reversed, would those sexoholics care about me, sitting in IHOP with my pancakes and not getting laid?  NO WAY!  They’re a bunch of selfish sexoholics.   Maybe one of them might show me a video of the sex afterwards, but that’s like throwing crumbs to a dog.

Another friend, a psychologist, had another take on the situation:

"Are you sure that it is other people that are your real concern?  Maybe your real fear is that YOU would end up being in the 30% without a partner?"

That made a lot of sense to  me.  Imagine joining an internet sexoholics group and being in the 30% that never gets any sex?  How embarrassing!  That would make me feel awful.  My self-esteem would go for a nose dive.  It would bring back memories of high school dances where I would sit on the side with the other gawky guys and and make paper origami sculptures using our braces.   Sigh.

But then I looked at myself in the mirror and came to my own conclusion.

I’m not in high school anymore.  I’m an accomplished adult.  I’m a writer of C-list blog.  I somehow got a beautiful woman to marry me.  I don’t need to be afraid of being in the 30% anymore.  And if I am the 30%, damn it — I’ll knock the dirt off my pants, stand up, and face the world again, looking for a new adventure.  I have no fear.  I’m gonna seize the day!

I was just about to sign up for this service today when I received another email.

(ACTUAL EMAIL SPAM)

Find a sexoholic tonight! 

Offering a service that helps people get laid!  Countless sex-addicts are in your city, wanting to hook up!

No cheezy pickup lines, no flowers, no gifts, people here only want to get laid 😉

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, around 65% of members already found a partner!

INTERNET ADDRESS

65%?!  A few days ago it was 70%!  Does this mean it will be 55% by Friday?  No fucking way am I joining up with the chances of me getting lucky decreasing by the hour.  Why was I so stupid?  Why didn’t I sign up last week!  What was I waiting for?! 

Yes, another lost opportunity.

Teacher of the Year

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Many of the bloggers on my blogroll are teachers.  I frequently read their blog posts where they are complaining about their low salary and their bratty students.  Well, I have a message for all you teachers:  ENOUGH of your complaining.  Did you ever think that the problem with the American education system is YOU — the SPOILED American teacher?

You might ask me, "Who the hell are you — Neilochka — to talk to me in this condescending manner?"

I will tell you.

I am not just some dumb blogger mouthing off.  No, I am someone who has "made a difference," according to this letter I received yesterday in the mail:

"Dear Mr. Kramer,

I am proud to congratulate you on being selected for inclusion in the 10th Edition of Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers, 2005/2006.  I believe you will find this honor exceptionally gratifying since it comes from a successful former student who recommended you because you made a difference in his or her life

There is no greater reward for teachers than to be valued by former students.  Only high school and college students who have been cited for academic excellence themselves in Who’s Who Among High School Students, Who’s Who Among American High School Students – Sports Edition, The National Dean’s List, and the Chancellor’s List are invited to nominate one teacher from their entire academic experience. "

Do you hear that?  I, writer of Citizen of the Month, was nominated by one of my prized pupils for this esteemed honor.  Where is your nomination… BrookeNance Leesepea?   Janet?

I know what you’re thinking. 

"It’s all a scam, you idiot.  You’ve never taught a single class in your life."

Well, boo hoo.  Sure, I’ve never taught a class anywhere.  But think of all the educating I’ve done through my blog.

"It’s bullshit.  They just want you to buy the book with your stupid name included."

Of course I want to buy the book.  It’s an honor.  Something to show my grandchildren.   And I’m hoping some of you might want to buy the book as well.   You better be quick, because when these books are published, they sell like Chicken and Waffles at Roscoe’s on a Sunday morning. 

In fact, this is what Jeffrey Fix, Vice President of Student Programs, wrote in his letter:

"A limited quantity of these books are published each year — and they cannot be reprinted.  So, we urge you to act fast.  Order today, or you can reserve a copy now by including a payment with your Teacher Data Form.  We’ll bill you the balance in three equal installments."

That’s three equal installments.   Or "installments x 3," as I like to joke with a friend of mine who’s a math teacher. 

Teachers, it’s time to be awoken!  Our students cannot compete in the international marketplace without some serious reform.   Yeah, yeah, we can blame overcrowded classrooms, lack of money,  and Pizza Hut lunches as the culprits.  But the real problem is a lack of inspiration.

That’s where I come in.  I was included in the "Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers" because I "made a difference" in a student’s life.  Let me ask the other teachers out there:  Do you spend your time "making a difference" like me?   Or do you spend your time counting the days before summer vacation?

The Ladies Who Lunch

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Dear Megan,

As you know, Sophia and I had tentative plans to meet you — my long-time blogging pal — for lunch today as we passed through Riverside on the way back from Sophia’s interpreting job in San Bernardino.  I apologize for getting a cold this morning and not being able to make it out of apartment.  But even with my sore throat and my Dayquil-induced stupor, I had a bigger concern on my mind — it seems that you and Sophia STILL AGREED to meet for lunch.

WITHOUT ME.  

And you even showed her YOUR HOME.  

And from what I hear, you both GOT ALONG GREAT.  

Now, I am not a jealous person.  This is not the first time that someone has met Sophia and LIKED HER MORE THAN ME.   But this is a special case and it MUST STOP NOW. 

You and Sophia must NOT befriend each other.  If you do, it will be a disaster, not only for me, but for the ENTIRE BLOGOSPHERE.

Let’s put this in perspective.  You and I are BOTH bloggers, so I know you’ll understand of what I speak.  When I write a blog post about my relationship with Sophia, it is always told from my point of view.  This means I am always the innocent victim and Sophia is always the villain.  I’m the cute, lovable one, the guy every female blogger dreams about at night.  Readers from as far away as Malaysia have asked me, "What is wrong with that crazy wife of yours?  Can’t she see that you are the best thing since Hostess Sno-Balls?  If I were there, I would be "taking you" right now on top of the Hollywood sign!"

Can’t you see?  Blogging is the best thing to happen to me since… since… well, the introduction of Hostess Sno-Balls.

Luckily, Sophia does not have a blog to present her side of the story.  Thank God.

But you have a blog.  And we have many of the same readers.   Now imagine Sophia and you become buddy-buddy.  And I write something disparaging about Sophia in some angry blog post.   You read this post, because you never miss a post in your favorite blog, Citizen of the Month, since it is the best thing you’ve ever read since the label of a Hostess… well, you get the point…

But today, you are not happy with my post.  In fact, it outrages you, especially since you just happened to talk to Sophia about this "private issue" during one of your "Sex in the City" type lunches with the girls.  You know, one of those get-together where women reveal EVERY SINGLE THING to each other, something MEN WOULD NEVER DO.

So, now you’re upset and want to protect your "sister" because you feel obligated after taking that "feminism" class in college.   Slowly, I become your enemy.  You start writing gossipy stuff on your blog about me, at first in a subtle way like "I hear from a certain separated wife that a certain citizen’s little "soldier" is having trouble "saluting the troops."  Then, as your sisterhood strengthens, it’s "Good-bye Subtlety!"  All of a sudden, it’s "Newsflash:  Neil at Citizen of the Month Rejected from another Job.  Wife says,"Still Can’t Get it Up!"

Can you imagine the damage that would do to my credibility?  Readers would start doubting everything I write.  And like a set of dominos falling over on a kitchen table, bloggers everywhere would become skeptical of every single blog in the world.   No one would believe what anyone said.  The most frequent blog comments would become "That’s bullshit," "Prove it," and "Let’s hear what the wife has to say!"

Bloggers will stop blogging in fear of ridicule.  Readers will stop lurking in disgust.  The Technorati 100 will drop to the Technorati 1, with only Blogebrity left blogging about itself.  The internet economy will crash… again.  China will invade America and since our ports will be then run by China, the Chinese government will quickly take over our country.   We will all be forced to listen to the awful Chinese disco music they play at that Chinese-owned donut shop on Olympic Boulevard.  The world as we know it will cease to exist…

And this would all be BECAUSE of YOU, MEGAN!

Stop this DISASTER before it becomes a REALITY!

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The Racist Cabbie

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The movie Crash showed us all that racism is still very much alive and well in America.  Last night, on a hard-hitting Primetime, journalist John Quinones went one step further, exploring many important issues, including racism, in a show titled, "What Would You Do?"

In one segment titled "Dealing with a Racist Cabbie," a secret camera crew filmed passengers as they enter a taxi driven by a racist cab driver.  As the driver spewed his racist hatred, what would be the reaction of the various passengers?

"Are we all driven by prejudice and fear?  Do we all harbor racist thoughts?

Say you’re riding in a taxi and the driver starts a racist tirade — denigrating blacks, Arabs, Jews, Asians, or Hispanics. Would you argue with him, tell him to shut up and let you out, or just keep quiet? Or would you maybe even join in?"

To paraphrase John Quinones before the show cut to the commercial for erectile dysfunction:  "We were about to learn… "

Now I know many of you have already emailed me about this show, but in case you missed it — I was one of the passengers.   Some suggested that I didn’t combat the driver’s racism as strongly as I should have.  I will not apologize for what I said.  You all know that I am not a racist.  Imagine yourself in my position, alone in the cab with a talkative driver —

Here is the transcript:

Neil enters the cab.

"59th and Lexington, please."

"Sure thing.  You in town for a convention?"

"No, just visiting.  I’m meeting some of my blogging friends."

"Yeah?  You’re a blogger?  You know any Asian bloggers?"

"A few.  Why?"

"It’s just… Asians are the worst drivers.  I was wondering what type of bloggers they are?"

"This isn’t being recorded or anything?"

"Nah, nah, nah."

"So, I can be open with you?"

"Sure thing."

"Asians are as bad blogging as they are driving.  Especially those Koreans.  I don’t care if Jackie Chan is Korean.  They come to this country and think they can blog like everyone else."

"I hear you, buddy.  At least there aren’t any black bloggers."

"Unfortunately, there are.   Tons of them.   I don’t even understand half the stuff they write.  It’s always about rap music and big butts.  Sometimes, they don’t even tell you that they’re black and you’re reading them every day until they publish a photo of themselves and it’s like, "Holy shit, that motherfucker is as black as my leather jacket.""

"Holy shit is right.  They should make you post a photo so you can see who the blogger really is."

"Maybe it would work for the blacks, but what about the Jews.  Nowadays, Jews don’t even look like Jews anymore, with all that kabbalah crap going on."

"Oh, man, don’t get me started on those Jews."

"The Jews suck, man.  And I should know.  I’m Jewish myself.   You want a pain in the ass for the rest of your life, you marry a Jewish woman.  "Neilochka, fix my computer.  Neilochka, I bought you new pants.  Neilochka, eat my borscht."  They’ll drive you so crazy, you’ll want to hit your head on the mezzuzah!" 

"Man, oh Manischewitz.  Hey, tell me.  Is it true that Jews control all the money in the world and run the entertainment, medical, and legal fields?"

"Yes.  They’d run the blogging world, too — but they ain’t stupid.  There’s no money in it!"

"So, who runs the blogging world?"

"Who do you think? — the Pakistanis!"

The cab suddenly pulls over to the curb.

"Hey — why are you stopping the car?"

A camera crew approaches, along with John Quinones.

"Hello, I’m John Quinones of ABC’s Primetime and we’re conducting a experiment to see how people respond to a racist cabbie."

"What are you — a fucking Puerto Rican?" 

"You realize that this is being recorded and will be watched by millions of Americans…?"

"It will?  www.citizenofthemonth.com!  Come one, come all — even the Koreans!  I really do love Jackie Chan!"

Man and Woman: Morning

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"You were amazing last night," she said, stretching in my bed.

"I was?"

"I love it when a man is so masterful.  When he takes charge.   Why don’t you do that more often?"

"You liked it?"

"I loved it.  I want you to do it again tonight."

"I really wanted to please you so much.  So, I took those chances."

"The way you took your time… everything so slow… and then you went "all in.""

"It’s how you win in a Texas Hold ’em game.  I took a hundred bucks from all those women.  Woo-hoo!  The second time in two weeks.  Maybe I’ll win tonight, too." 

"I was so impressed.  But you’re giving me back my twenty dollars, right?  Right?"

"Sure," he said, bluffing.

Neilochka’s Blogging Tools

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Today’s "Citizen of the Month" post is going to be a little different.   I’m going to step from behind the curtain and invite you to do the same.   Maybe I’m just being sentimental having recently met three bloggers in person — the brilliant Danny, the glamorous Megan, and the outspoken Kate.  I feel like there is a strong blogging community out there, one of caring and mutual admiration, even if I probably wouldn’t let half of you crazy people into my house.

Let’s talk about blogging.  I want to share with you some of the tools I use every day.  Hopefully, you can share as well, with the hope that we can make blogging more enjoyable for everyone, especially new bloggers.

BLOGGING APPLICATION

I use WordPress for my blogging tool.  I can wholeheartedly recommend it.  There are terrific plug-ins for all sorts of enhancements.  I notice that most of you use Blogger.  Do you like it?   Hate it?    If anyone ever wants to move to WordPress, I’m more than willing to answer any questions — although I’m far from an expert.   Any unique pros or cons with your blogging application?

STATISTICS

If you’re like me, you’ve become obsessed over your statistics.   I use Statcounter.  It does the job.   Recently, I’ve noticed a whole flurry of new colorful "statistics" applications competing for our attention.   Here’s a good post about some of the newer applications.  Mint is becoming popular, but it costs $30.   Two others with good reviews (and free) are Blogbeat and Performancing Metrics.    It seems that some of the newer statistics have something Statcounter doesn’t — the ability to record where a reader is clicking TO from your site.  So, for instance, if I see too many of my readers are leaving my site to head over to Rabbit’s site, I know to take that damn blogger off my blogroll.

Frankly, I’ve been avoiding switching to another statistics application.  Just what I need — more blogging stuff to waste my time!

Anyone tried any of these new stat programs?

RSS AGGREGATORS

There are so many great bloggers out there, I sometimes get overwhelmed.   To help me organize my RSS feeds, I use Bloglines.   Bloglines helps me read several blogs at once in a "newspaper" style.  While it saves some time, you still need to click onto the site to read and write comments.  Lately, I’ve been using Bloglines a lot less, because I was starting to miss reading a person’s blog in his individualized template.  Everyone’s blog just looks the same in Bloglines and it starts to make me drowsy.

Still, Bloglines is an essential tool for reading blogs on the go.   Here’s ten cool hacks you can do with Bloglines, including such nifty actions as blogging right from Bloglines and reading your feed on your Tivo.

A promising competitor to Bloglines is Rojo, which combines an RSS aggregator with some interesting  tagging features and social networking options.

Google has the Google Reader and Technorati has Technorati Favorites, but I wasn’t too impressed with either of them.

Any other suggestions for making our blog reading a little easier?

RSS FEEDS

My WordPress blog creates it’s own feed.  I notice a large amount of bloggers use Feedburner to create their RSS feed, even if their blogging application already does it for them.  Maybe someone else can help me understand why.  I’m guessing that it’s mostly for statistical reasons — so you can know how many readers are coming from Bloglines, etc…

Can anyone explain it better than I can?

I notice that some bloggers choose not to have a feed at all.   This could be a pain if you love their site, but you read all your feeds in an RSS aggregator.  I’ve never tried it, but this application advertises itself a free online service that converts any web page to an RSS feed on the fly.

SPAM PROTECTION

I can really only speak about WordPress here.   I use Spam Karma and it works great, although every once in a while — for no apparent reason — it decides a dear reader is a spammer and puts him in moderation.  

I notice that most Blogger users now use that word verification.  Has it been working for you?

Frankly, I don’t really understand the business model of spammers.   Some of the spam is just nonsense.   Is it just a numbers game, with the spammers trying to get as many links as possible?  I understand that it is cheap advertising, but are there really that many people out there who are willing to buy their Viagra from some stranger on the internet?  Obviously so.  

NARCISSISM

Let’s admit it.  We all love to know if someone is talking about us.    While Technorati is the big daddy for self-checking, there’s also IceRocket, Feedster, Google Blog Search, Blogdigger, PubSub, and Blogpulse.  According to the influential Steve Rubel, Bloginfluence is the latest blogging ego tool (or blego, as the insiders call it).  You can go crazy seeing where your blog stands in comparison to others in the silly buy-and-sell fantasy world of Blogshares or the truly weird animal kingdom of the Truth Laid Bear ecosystem.  All this stuff is very dangerous to your self-esteem.  Just remember that the guy who has a million links and a zillion readers still isn’t making any money off his blog.   And if he’s spending all that time blogging, he’s probably pasty-skinned and out of shape — not a hunk or hottie like you.

I do check Technorati every day, but I avoid everything else.  I recommend the same.

BLOG TCHOTCKHES

This is a topic in itself — all of those weird and wonderful charts and lists and "what’s on my iPod" thingamajigs and Flickr doodads that everyone uses to make their blog unique.   I think some of them are a little too cutesy for my taste — or for anyone who’s not a fourteen year old girl.  I also think music playing automatically can be a problem if someone is reading your blog in their office.  But who am I to talk?  I write about my underwear on my blog.  To each his own! 

P.S. — Now I have a question for you.  Am I the only one in America not to have a MySpace page?  And what exactly is its appeal — making friends?  Dating?  Or making me feel like I’m the only one not to have a MySpace page? 

Meeting Barry at Canter’s

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Barry is one of my oldest friends from New York.  We’ve known each other since elementary school.  Recently, he took on a  job which requires him to travel a lot.  This week brought him to Los Angeles.  I decided to meet him at Canter’s Deli, one of the oldest restaurants in town.   I thought it would remind him of our days hanging out in coffee shops back in Queens.   Sophia adores Barry, too, so she braved the rain to come along.

On the way there, Sophia and I got stuck in traffic.  Barry called from the deli:

"What’s going on here?  There’s a line around the corner like at a movie opening." 

"Are you sure you’re at the right place?"  I asked.   "Canter’s Deli?"

"I’m right in front.  The line’s enormous.  And half of the people on line look like they’re homeless."

"Homeless? At Canter’s?" asked Sophia.   "He must be jet-lagged."

"You have to see this place.  Are you sure Canter’s hasn’t been turned into a soup kitchen?"

Barry made no sense.  But when we got to Canter’s, and we saw what he was talking about.  There was a indeed a huge line for take-out and the local news was filming the crowd.

What the hell was going on?

It turns out that Canter’s was celebrating their 75th Anniversary with old-school prices:  a hot corned beef sandwich, pickle, potato salad, and chocolate rugala for 75 cents!

I’m not sure why everyone was waiting for take-out, because we got the same deal sitting in the restaurant — without the wait.  What a deal!

Sophia, Barry, and I chatted for a couple of hours about all sort of topics.  It was sort of like blogging without the computer… and with better coffee.

Barry and I told Sophia stories about our school days together.  Sophia asked if we ever have been back to any of our old schools.

Barry and I laughed.  A few years ago, during a trip to New York, I met with Barry.   We were in a sentimental mood and decided to drive by all our old schools — Jamaica High School, Parsons Junior High School, and P.S. 154.    The school looked pretty much the same — except much smaller.  What seemed like a massive structure back then, just looked tiny now.   We talked about how life seemed so much easier back then, with nothing to worry about except doing your homework.  We found a hole in the fence surrounding the school playground and crawled inside.  We sat on one of the benches (with the same initials still cut in!) and remembered the exciting games of Ringolevio that we used to play during lunchtime.

How did we learn how to play Ringolevio?  Who remembers.  Does anyone play it anymore?  It was actually a very complicated game, with all sorts of teamwork and strategy required.  According to Wikipedia:

Ringolevio (also known as Ringolario) is a game which may be played anywhere but which originates in the teeming streets of Depression era New York City. It one of the many variations of tag. It requires close team work and near-military strategy. In some quarters this game is known as Manhunt which is really another game with different rules.

Two sides are drawn up, roughly of even number. One side goes out. The other counts to some number like 300 and then goes looking for them.

Anyone on the pursuing side can catch anyone on the pursued side by grabbing hold of them and chanting "Ring-O-Levio 1-2-3" three times in a row. If the person pursued breaks free at any point during this brief recitation, the person is not caught. If caught, the pursuer takes the pursued to an area called the jail (the area was called the base in some variations).

Jail is any confined area, typically between two parked cars or bushes where members of the pursued team are accumulated. Any free member of the team that is out can at any time free all team members in jail by barging into the jail without being caught and shouting "Free all!" This means that all members of the team in jail are now free and have to be recaught.

As we sat there, we wondered how many of the guys we used to play it with are now REALLY in jail?

We were also glad to see that kids never really change, because near the "monkey-bars" were two Asian girls playing "catch" with a big ball.  It was great to see the old playground still being used.  We got all sentimental and watched the girls play, big smiles on our faces.

Then, Barry turned to me and said:

"You know, I’m looking at you grinning and I’m thinking – if anyone passes by and sees us sitting here, it’s going to look like we’re two pedophiles."

"Boy, I think you’re right.  Let’s get out of here, before the police pass by."

As our Ringolevio days quickly faded in our minds, we hurriedly left the school grounds, never to return to our old elementary school.

I guess it was time to grow up.

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