the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Month: July 2007 (Page 1 of 3)

Table Settings: A Story Pitch for a Screenplay

Do you see how white I become after three days of not shaving?

Meet Bob. He lives in Redondo Beach. He’s a…uh… an accountant… but a loveable one. Imagine a cross between Tom Hanks, Luke Wilson, and Perez Hilton. One day, his girlfriend suggests he move out. He is distraught. He turns to his friends for help, but most of his friends are female and too busy getting ready to attend AccountantHer. When he asks if he can go to AccountantHer with them, they laugh at him. No man goes to AccountantHer! This makes Bob feel even more alone. He wanders the streets until he finds himself at a County Fair.

Bob may be alone, but this photo was taken by Sophia.

At the fair, he stumbles onto something he has never heard of — the table setting competition. Different “artists” compete by creating themes for their table settings. Bob is fascinated by this unique artform. He has found his calling. He decides that HE will become THE next table setting champion of America and regain his confidence.


He tells all his friends about his new dream, and they mock him, calling him “a dreamer.” Just when Bob is about to give up, he meets Mrs. Migashi, a mild-mannered health food store owner from Torrance, California, who just happens to be a famous table setter from Kyoto, and an expert in the Japanese form of this art. Mrs. Migashi does not have a son, and has always wanted to impart her wisdom to someone worthy of her knowledge.

“Teach me everything you know,” says Bob.


Bob immediately takes to the art, creating artistic table settings based on exotic locales and scenes from movies. He is especially proud of his dessert table titled “Lord of the Ring-Dings.”

Mrs. Migashi is not impressed.

“Table setting is not about throwing random paint around, like a Jackson Pollock painting.” she slowly says, educating him. “It requires discipline. Did you know that the dinner plate MUST be exactly one inch from the edge of the table? Or that points will be deducted if the knife does not perfectly align with the center of the water glass? Do you know the correct position and direction of the dessert spoon? Did you even know there WAS a dessert spoon?”

This one might have done better than 3rd Place if the artist didn’t use The Two Buck Chuck (the two dollar Trader Joe’s wine).

“But how will I ever learn all these things about table settings?” asks Bob. “How will I ever be ready for the National Championship in Tucson, Arizona?”

“You must focus.” says Mrs. Migashi. “You must wash my dishes every night, for two months, give me foot massages every other night, and take care of all my needs whenever I make a “booty call.”

“What does this have to do with table settings?” asks Bob.

“Do not question the master!” she shouts.

Two months and many booty calls later, Bob wins the National Tablesetting Championship, and regains his confidence.


A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month: Sex Advice for Men

Blame Week Continues

(Actually, Sophia and I took a break from life and are in an Orange County hotel spending our weekend eating Salvadorian food, listening to jazz (the wonderfull Jeri Brown) at this odd jazz club in a former bank vault, going bowling in Irvine, and playing Ms. Pac-Man at the bowling alley arcade. I won the bowling; Sophia killed me in Ms. Pac-Man. Tonight, when it gets cool enough for Sophia, we’re off to the Orange County Fair for some animal-watching, corn on the cob, and the table setting competition. My BlogHim post will be coming soon. I loved that other men wrote something in honor of their manhood.

As we were bowling, a group of young kids were having a birthday party at the lane next to us. The girls were hardly paying attention to the game, but talking and playing with each other. The boys were already competitive and making fun of the girls because they were using the “rails” to prevent gutter balls. It was as if the gender stereotypes of generations were already in place. I could still easily see these girls as attending some future BlogHer and networking with fellow women. But where would the boys go?)

Who’s to Blame?

Sophia thinks that I might be leading my readers into taking my side concerning any troubles that we are having in our relationship. Of course, Sophia and I are both responsible for where we are right now. I hope you will be open and not take one side or another. If anything, I think you can draw your own conclusions from the evidence on hand. Here is a little video of Sophia I took last night when we went out to our favorite night spot. Watch Sophia as she does an “innocent little” impromptu “karaoke” on my behalf. I think you can pretty much see who is to blame for everything.

Please note that the name “Neil” is translated into “Johnny” in Russian.

The Next Neilochka Adventure!

First there was —

Neilochka and the Sorcerer’s Wand


Audiences around the world loved the first book of the Neilochka series, as we first meet the young Neilochka, his separated wife, the Sorceress Sophia, and Neilochka’s trusty talking “magic wand.”  After the death of his father, the wizard-in-training and the Sorceress Sophia go on several magical and enchanting adventures, including the exciting battle over the Golden Coupon at Lord Dumbledum’s Olive Garden.

And then you were enchanted by —

Neilochka and the Chamber of Redondowarts


The second Neilochka book, another fan favorite, was the perfect blend of wit, whimsy, and macabre, as Neilochka and Sorceress Sophia try to live together in the mysterious Redondowarts School, an imaginative, garden-filled school of Witchcraft, Wizardry, and Purple Bathrobes.   The tone of this sequel turns dark as the duo face the evil Pink Dragon of Fire, but they are luckily aided by two of the series’ most colorful characters, the Baby Pigeon of Dimwit and Queen Abbbabba, the musical Dancing Queen.

and now, coming soon  –!

Neilochka and the Order of the Mistress


Soon, readers everywhere will be spellbound by the most breath-taking Neilochka book ever!  The heart of Book 3 is a hero’s journey, not just Neilochka’s search for fame and glory, but Neilochka’s journey into manhood.   Traumatized by her battle with the Pink Dragon, Sorceress Sophia is told by the Magic Headshrinker of Freudinroy that she requires healing.  Fans of the series will be shocked as the Sorceress requests that Neilochka leave Redondowarts for several months, giving her the space so she can work on her spells. 

But where will Neilochka go?  Will he go to the big city and reconnect with his long-lost mother or will he live as a prisoner in the Azkabian Bachelor Apartments of Muggyville?  Will Neilochka and the Sorceress ever reunite or is this their final chapter together?

Readers beware.  This journey is hard, filled with events both tragic and triumphant.  However, as long as Neilochka has his trusty talking magic wand, ready to  perform the protective Erecto Patronum when it is called for, he will never be truly alone.

Why You Shouldn’t Write at 3AM


It’s 3AM when my mind starts to tick, like the Walmart clock by the water glass, and I think of love and dirty dishes.

Should I wake her up, the one who is next to me? Should I call my pal Steve for advice? I’m sure he’s sleeping, like normal people with babies.

I enter my office. Alone, I reach out to thee, oh Internet! Friendly blue light of the monitor, guide my loneliness over the network. Transmit my tears through the connectionless protocols of your inner depths. You are fast, data switcher, like a sleek jaguar, wild and dangerous, and I am vulnerable, caressing the mouse like a woman’s breast, waiting to chat with the invisible!

When is it Our Turn, Katharine McPhee?


It’s nice to get the latest New Yorker in the mail (thank you Leesa!), but nothing is quite as exciting as receiving my Stuff Magazine fresh off the press. However, today, I received my August issue, and I was quite surprised (and disappointed) to find nice Valley girl and 2006 American Idol runner up, Katharine McPhee, splashed across the cover, wearing hardly any clothes.


This truly upset me because it is another example of the double standard that exists in this country. Why do half-undressed women ALWAYS get to be on magazine covers? When is it going to be OUR turn? I am ready and willing to appear on a magazine cover in my birthday suit if the price is right (at least $50 bucks and lunch at Wendy’s), but does anyone expect me to get any phone calls from Cosmopolitan or O or Saveur magazine or even Bloggers Weekly? Of course not. We men are virtually invisible as half-undressed individuals on magazine covers!

This is exactly why we need BlogHim — to discuss important issues concerning men. We will not rest until we get as much respect as mommybloggers ONLINE and get equal work as sexily-posed half-naked individuals on magazine covers.

Thank you, Taylor Hicks, for your support of BlogHim. We support you and your struggle to be accepted. We remember that it was YOU who won American Idol, not Katharine McPhee. We are honored that you are allowing us to show this recent photo of you, hoping that it will change stereotypes about our bodies, our selves, and our own need for exhibitionism and admiration. (salt and pepper chest hairs have been photoshopped out for that sleek “swimmer” look that is so popular with women and gay men)


The Guest Bloggers


It was inevitable. Our beautiful patio that I have been writing about for weeks, the beautiful locale that produced the lovely flowers and tasty tomatoes, had became a place that required “work” and produced “conflict.” All of a sudden, there were issues to be resolved:

Who is responsible for watering the plants?

Who should take care of the minutia of problems that crop up with live plants and flowers?

Who should get rid of the pigeons that have set up a permanent nest on our roof and no matter what we do, come back and crap on everything?

Who should rid the patio of the two wasp hives that have suddenly developed outside?

Who should spray the patio with scary pesticides after a quarter of of our plants have been eaten by pests? (I did — wearing a mask, goggles and winter hat to protect myself from the fumes!)

And who’s at fault for a broken pot — the one who tripped over it or the one who put it in the “wrong” place?

When I told Finn and Charming with Single about this, they suggested that the garden is a metaphor for marriage. What starts out all fun and romantic, falls apart if taken for granted. Like everything else, it NEEDS WORK to thrive.

All this drama has affected my blog writing. Have you ever been in a really bad mood or so upset at your wife that you couldn’t focus on writing a post, so you decided to ask someone to write a “guest post” for you?

Unfortunately, I had trouble deciding on who to ask to “substitute” for me at my blog. After all, who amongst you could maintain the usual high quality of “Citizen of the Month.” I certainly don’t want you plastering photos of your snot-filled babies or your LOLcats all over the place. (to my detractors — posting photos of Sophia holding out tomatoes is a completely different thing. Great writers and poets have been writing about gardens and the symbolism of vegetation since the beginning of time).

I walked to my local Starbucks, hoping to be inspired by all the conversation around me, but all I could think about was the same thing that had been on mind all day — why would Sophia (expurgated) when I told her that (expurgated), since — tell me if I’m wrong — isn’t marriage supposed to be (expurgated)?

“Screw it, ” I told myself. I don’t want to write anything today. If I had my druthers, I would just throw in another photo of Sophia in a dress, but then those literary NY bloggers will stop reading me, thinking me too superficial and “LA.”

So, I still needed a post, but I was dry. I had no one to turn to. So, I had an idea. Why not just pass my laptop to the Asian guy sitting next to me in Starbucks? I’m sure he can write a decent post for “Citizen of the Month.” It certainly couldn’t be worse than letting ONE OF YOU do a guest post!

Neil:   “Hey, what’s your name?”

Matt:   “Matt.”

Neil:   “What do you do, Matt?”

Matt:   “I’m a graduate student in economics at UCLA.”

Neil:   “Great. Here’s the laptop. Write about anything you want. My readers are curious to hear your views.”

The Love of a Woman by Matt (guest-blogging for Citizen of the Month)

Love sucks. Love is like a virus that first attacks the brain, then the heart. It destroy everything inside of you, until you are left dead and decaying on the hot pavement, the only sound that you can hear coming from your old apartment, as your ex-girlfriend screws that new guy she met, screaming his name like a wild coyote.

Matt suddenly started to sob.

Matt:   “I hate her… and love her.”

Neil:   “Uh, very interesting, Matt, but not really what I was looking for. I usually try for more “upbeat” posts. Your post is too depressing. But thanks for trying…. (under my breath)… nutcase.”

I grabbed my laptop and searched for another guest poster. On the opposite side of Starbucks, I saw another guy — a blond, beach boy type — sitting with his friend and laughing. He seemed to be in a great mood. I immediately ran over to him.

Neil:   “Hi, there. Would you like to guest post on my blog today?”

Pete:   “Sure.”

Neil:   “What’s your name?”

Pete:   “Pete.”

Neil:   “Go for it, Pete. Write for “Citizen of the Month.”

My Weekend by Pete (guest blogging for Citizen of the Month)

I had a great weekend. I love my life. On Saturday, I played some beach volleyball, then met this new girl on the beach. She looked great in her bikini. At night we went to see Transformers, and then she came back to my place. We must have f***ed all night. She was amazing in bed. She was insatiable. On Sunday, I went to church, as usual. When I came back, this chick was waiting for me with a homemade breakfast. She’s a great cook. We f***ed some more and then went out for some fish tacos. I was so hungry after all that glorious f***ing. At the Mexican joint, she told me how great I was in bed and that I was the best f*** in Redondo Beach…

Neil:   “Wait… wait… hold on… this post is way too upbeat for my taste. Your weekend sounds 1000x better than mine. And I really don’t like that last line about you in bed, because I’ve been trying to give my readers a different impression of what’s best in Redondo Beach.”

Pete:   “Hey, I’m sorry, dude. I’m just telling the facts.”

Neil:   “Well, like I said, the post is too happy. Just like the other guy’s post was too depressing. I’m looking for a post that’s JUST RIGHT.

The first guest poster, Matt came over, tears still in his eyes.

Matt:   “Hey, did I hear you say that this girl told you that you were the best f*** in Redondo Beach?”

Pete:   “That’s right.”

Matt:   “That’s bullshit. That’s what my girlfriend use to say to me.”

Pete:   “Well, sorry, dude.”

Matt:   “Wait a minute… is this girl’s name Meg?”

Pete:   “That’s right. Meg.”

Matt:   “That’s my girlfriend. You were doing my ex-girlfriend. You son of a…”

Matt grabbed Pete and wrestled with him in the middle of Starbucks.

The barista, a burly guy with a goatee, ran out from behind the counter.

Barista:   “Hey, stop it, you asses! Neither of you know what you are talking about. Meg told me that I was the best f*** in Redondo Beach!”

Matt:   “You too? You bastard.”

Matt threw a punch at the barista. Pete threw a punch at Matt, who went flying against the the glass of the pastry display. CRASH! The espresso machines became unhinged and blasted hot water upwards, blowing holes in the ceiling.

Neil:   “Yes!!!! I finally have a post to write. This is not too depressing. This is not too happy. This is JUST RIGHT!”


Update later:  I apologize for letting you read this crazy post, which really makes no sense at all.    Substitute this instead:


A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month:   Her Real Name   (I asked bloggers to tell me their REAL names, not their phony blog names. Feel free to add to the list)

Canadian Schmoozers


Schmutize honored me today with some inane wonderful “Power of Schmooze Award” that is going around the blogosphere. I’m not exactly sure what this award means — or even if it is a compliment — but I think it has something to do with a person being skilled in making social connections. Of course, this made me laugh, because in real life, I am the world’s worst “schmoozer,” but I’m not going to tell you that and ruin my image.


Schmutize is from Saskatchewan, Canada. Before I “met” her, I had never “met” anyone from Saskatchewan. In fact, I didn’t know how to spell Saskatchewan. The funny thing is that through her, I have now met several bloggers who live in Saskatchewan. I now have more people from Saskatchewan on my blogroll than I do from New York City. Isn’t that odd? I know this sounds very provincial of me, but WHAT THE HELL are so many cool people doing in Saskatchewan? I always figured that it was mostly sheep who lived in this province.

I love Canada. I really do. And in honor of Schmutzie and this fabulous award, I would like to honor all my virtual friends to the North. Not just in Saskatchewan, but all of Canada. So, today, all of my “Power of Schmooze Awards” will go to Canadians.

Typical Canadian businessman on his way to work.

In a way, it makes sense that Canadians would excel in schmoozing. Most Americans only care about America, not other countries, particularly a place as dull as Canada. Canadians who want to grab our interest really have to work overtime. They must learn to blog about things other than their usual interests — beer, hockey, and how much better their medical system is than ours. They must learn to schmooze.

I’ve always had a fondness for Canadians, especially their sense of humor. If a comedian in Los Angeles isn’t Jewish or black, he is a Canadian. As a child, I used to enjoy the pretentious animations of the National Film Board of Canada, almost as much as the aggressively-American Bugs Bunny. Am I the only American to consider “Degrassi Junior High” the best show ever created? Here’s another little secret — I have never found Saturday Night Live all that funny. SCTV — now THAT was funny.

Canadian Mommybloggers taking a break from the Canadian BlogHer Conference

I’ve been to Canada with Sophia — Vancouver, Montreal, Quebec City — a few times and always found Canadians very, uh… unfriendly people. Maybe it was because we were Americans and they resented it. I’ll never forget the time we were in a bed and breakfast in Quebec City and the French-speaking owner gave this fancy home-made jam to these German tourists for breakfast and not to us. Sophia thought she heard the owner mumble something under her breath about “Americans being warmongers and not deserving of jam.”

Despite our differences — Oh, Canada, I stand on guard for thee!

The official government sanctioned Canadian “Blogging” uniform.

My Five “Power of Schmooze” Awards to Deserving Canadians

1) Palinode of Regina, Saskatchewan. Not only is Palinode a witty blogger, he is Schmutzie’s husband. Can you imagine a husband and wife both blogging and not killing each other? I think he deserves a gold medal more than this award! The day Sophia starts her own blog and writes about ME and talks to HER vagina — that is the day I change my name and go into hiding, probably somewhere in Saskatchewan.

2) Eileen Cook of Vancouver, British Columbia. Eileen is a funny writer and an extremely sweet person. Her first novel is coming out in February. As a true schmoozer, she knows exactly how to sell books. For those of you who want to write a novel, take notes. Originally, the novel was called “In the Stars” and had a nice, romantic family-friendly cover. Now the novel is called “Unpredictable” and the cover shows a pair of sexy legs with high heels. Soon, I expect the the novel to be called “I Am a Sex Addict,” with a couple doing Tantric Position #24 on the cover. She knows how to sell those books! I expect her novel to be a bestseller. She’s a schmoozer, alright!

3) Pearl of Toronto, Ontario. The word “schmoozer” was invented for Pearl. She is one of my long-time readers and a good friend. She also KNOWS EVERYONE in the Jewish blogosphere. And you don’t have to be Jewish to like Pearl! Can a woman be a mensch? When she found out about Sophia’s surgery, she searched on the internet and found our phone number — just to call and wish her well. At first I was wary of her reading my blog, because she is religious, but I’m proud to reveal that even the religious can enjoy a good penis joke every once in a while!

4) Pearl of Ottawa, Ontario. Pearl is a brainy poet. I don’t understand half of her posts, but that makes her even more intriguing. Like most schmoozers, she is very clever. Rather than just having one blog, she has expanded to something like 25 blogs — on poetry, food, etc., creating a virtual blogging empire, and creating more schmoozing opportunities. I never know what to expect from her blog. She seems to be into everything — from sports to Buddhism. She still needs to learn that if she wants a larger American readership, she needs to be a little more simple. Americans like our bloggers one-dimensional. But I’m working on her.

Pearl is interested in positive thinking. Normally, that stuff bores me to tears, but I like the way she describes her approach in her post “Glad Game Explained.”

5) Peter DeWolf — of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Like his compatriot, Sween, Peter lives in Halifax. Like with Saskatchewan, I was mostly ignorant about the beautiful province of Nova Scotia. In fact, until recently, my only experience with the province was that Jewish families like to order “Nova Scotia lox” with their bagels. You mean people actually live there?!

You would think that anyone living in Halifax would be the laid-back type, but not Peter. He is the ultimate schmoozer. One blog wasn’t enough for him, so he started the humor blog, Burt Reynolds’s Mustache. Every day on this group site, another funny blogger writes a humor column. If you look at the list of bloggers, you will notice some very fine writers, but there is ONE important blogger missing. Yes, it is ME. You see, by the time I returned his email, all his slots were already taken.

“So, throw someone off their slot,” I demanded, in that bossy American style that Canadians hate so much. “Do you know WHO you are talking to, you Canuck?” (actually, can you call any Canadian a Canuck, or only French Canadians?)

“I can’t throw anyone off. Did you see how many hot girls are on the list writing on the site for me?”

At that moment, I understood. That is EXACTLY what I would have done. Stacked my list with hot babes.

Yes, I had passed the torch to a new generation of schmoozers.

And they were coming from Canada.

(Postmodern Sass — I know you are going to be upset, but you don’t count as a Canadian in my book right now, since you are in California)

We Canadians love you big strong American men!

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month: A Very Brief Windfall

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