Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Month: December 2010 (page 1 of 2)

Twitter Birthday Hell

I spent over an hour on Twitter this morning, wishing various bloggers a Happy Birthday.  I’m only writing about this minor life experience because I think by exploring it with you, I will give you some insights into how my brain works, and why I should return to therapy or at least quit Twitter.

Today is the birthday of Schmutzie, a blogger from SK, Canada.  I have known her online for five years.  I wrote a sentimental tweet to her today about how I cried from joy the first time I met her in person at BlogHer.  A little corny, but heart-felt.

Then I worried that it was a little too personal to be writing this in public.  But it was too late.

Today is the birthday of The Bloggess, a blogger from Texas.  She is one of the most popular humor bloggers online.  Hundreds of people were wishing her happy birthday on Twitter.  I didn’t want to get my message getting lost in the crowd, so I DM-ed her a “Happy Birthday, Jenny!”

Then I worried that sending her a DM rather than a public happy birthday was a little too personal.  But it was too late.

Today is the birthday of Magpie Musing, a blogger from New York.  I recently saw her at a party in New York and she is really cool.  I had already wished her a happy birthday on Facebook, so I didn’t think it was necessary to wish her a happy birthday again on Twitter.  But then I figured she would surely see my glowing birthday tweet of love for Schmutzie, and she would end up hating me for the rest of my life.  So I wrote a “Happy Birthday, Maggie” to her.

Then I worried that I was sending her too many Happy Birthday messages, and she might be wondering if I am hitting on her, or worse — stalking her.

Today is the birthday of Mimi Smartypants.  We are not friends and we don’t follow each other on Twitter.  But I have read her blog a few times, and she is a great writer, and always wanted for her to follow ME on Twitter.  So, I crassly sent her a birthday message on Twitter for the sole reason of her noticing me, and then hopefully saying to herself, “Who is this kind gentleman sending me this happy birthday message?  I must immediately go read his blog and comment on it, and then follow him on Twitter, because he is wonderful.”

Then I worried that I looked like a kiss-ass by sending her that Tweet.

After I send all these messages, I wanted to make sure that everyone felt the love equally, so I wrote another tweet wishing all of them a Happy Birthday by name, and then including a few celebrity birthdays as a humorous afternote (“also happy birthday to Mary Tyler Moore, Jon Voight, and Jude Law!”), which I found on some online “Who was born today?” site.

I immediately received a tweet from Magpie Musing, a woman of culture, that read “And don’t forget Pablo Casals!”

I was glad to see that my Happy Birthday tweet worked, and she didn’t hate me.  I decided it was safe to return to my sarcastic Twitter wit, and I replied —

“I think you just alienated half of Twitter with that reference.”

She returned with a rather serious reply, and a link to Pablo Casals on Wikipedia.

“Pablo Casals is a great cellist born in 1876.”

Now, I know who Pablo Casals was.  My tweet was a joke insinuating that most of the idiots on Twitter wouldn’t know Pablo Casals from Pablo Picasso.   The joke was mocking them and the highbrow reference.  And now everyone who followed Magpie Musing on Twitter was going to be under the impression that I was an ingnoramus who didn’t know Pablo Casals!  Hey, I watch PBS, too!

I quickly started typing a retraction —

“I do know who Pablo Casals is, maybe not as well as Mary Tyler Moore, but…”

Then I worried this tweet would make me look insecure.  Besides, nobody would believe that I knew who Pablo Casals was anyway.

I closed down my Twitter app and took a twenty minute nap.  I wasted my entire morning because of you.

F**k you, every single person who has a birthday today!

Snow Day!

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Vintage Subway Train

Every year during Christmastime, the MTA in New York City runs this special “Nostalgic subway train,” made up of subway cars from the 1930’s and 1940’s.  On a few Sundays during December, it runs back and forth between Queens and Manhattan.  To ride this old train costs the same as a regular ride and it makes the same stops as the M train.  Many regular subway riders had no idea this holiday train exists, and when it pulls into the station, they stare in wonder, as if they are seeing an iron ghost.

This holiday gimmick attracts three subsets of visitors: families with kids into Thomas the Train, Japanese tourists who read about this in some tour book, and very geeky, hermit-looking, New York men who wait all year for this occasion, and can name the model number of a specific E-train running in 1955.

And then there was me, of course.  I’m probably closest to that last group of train geeks, but not THAT bad.  I certainly didn’t wear a t-shirt that showed the map of the NYC subway circa 1972.

So, on the day after Christmas, I spent a good part of my day hanging out in the subway with other train geeks, unaware that a major blizzard was occurring outside.   (Ironically, the only trouble I had with mass transit today was with a modern bus that got stuck in the snow on the way home)

I can’t imagine many of you will be interested in this little video I made on my iphone.  I’m publishing it anyway, mostly for my childhood friend, Barry.

A few of these old style subway cars were still around, even into the late 1970s.  I remember these uncomfortable seats from when I went into the “city” with my parents.  The sounds of the old trains — the racket, the heat, the open windows — is a great way to connect to the classic era of New York life, not the upscale world of Madison Avenue, but of the working class.   The subways were gruffer and noisier.  I forgot how the lights flickered all the time, making the experience a little seedy, like the gritty street scenes from the old movies, where guys smoked and wear hats and were knifed in the alley for looking the wrong way, certainly not the same, slightly-boring Manhattan of today where Times Square is populated not by real-life Guys and Dolls, but the M&M store.

2010 – My Year in Blogging

Not only did my year suck in reality, but my blog was an uneven mess.  Some writers find their voice during stressful times.  I don’t.

Sure, I had some fun this year.

It was a year when several of my online friends gave up drinking and smoking, and to help Schmutzie and Tanis give up smoking, I matched their efforts by doing push-ups.  (My Neck is Getting Redder)

I sold out to the corporate man, or at least Buick, and was a representative at the TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood with my much more knowledgeable friend, Danny.   Ryan Seacrest doesn’t have to worry about me ever taking his job. (Live From the TCM Classic Film Festival)

I was even inspired by The Bloggess in May, and found my “red dress.”  (Find Your Red Dress, Uh – Wait a Minute)

I sang about Dreidels for our blogger holiday concert. (The Fifth Annual Blogger Christmalhijrahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert!)

Mostly this year was about sickness and death.

The Passing of Fanya, my MIL  (Fanya’s Funeral and The Closing of the Eyes)

The Passing of Vartan, my FIL  (Flying Non Stop and Vartan’s Passing)

The Sadness of Packing Up Their Apartment was especially hard on Sophia (Stuff and Farewell, Apartment 202)

And the Return to New York, which first began with BlogHer ’10 and my wandering of the street all night aimlessly  (BlogHer ’10)

Then, again, this wouldn’t be Citizen of the Month, if I didn’t have a few posts with mild sexual content, such as when I had a backache and a boner (Get Back) or imagined bringing a hooker upstairs to meet my mother in Queens (The Dating Life).

Some people really liked this post critiquing “the art of non-conformity,” although when I read my post now I have no idea what the hell I am talking about. (The Three Rungs of the Step Ladder)

By the end of the year, I had finally acknowledged that I could wrap up my year in one word:  anger. (One Word)

But for better or worse, the blog post that will be most remembered this year is this innocuous little item about an everything bagel, that was read by more readers in 2010 than every other post this year combined. (The Inconsiderate Breastfeeding Woman)

Thank you for all your emotional support this year.  It means a lot.


I told Angela on Twitter that I would buy her dinner if she took this photo while she was in Toronto for Blissdom.  I need more male friends.

Thank you, Lisa, for all those delightful dinners at your home in LA, and befriending Sophia.   Thanks, Jessica and Suzanne, for those times we hung out.  Thanks, Veronica and Di, for your great visit during Thanksgiving.  Thanks, Juli, Heather, and Marinka, for our funny IM conversations.  Thanks, Kevin, for attending that crazy Whirlpool event with me.  Thanks, Karen, for teaching me a little about Zen.  Thanks, Isabel, for always good advice.  Thanks, Camille, Allie, and Alexa, for introducing me to your terrific books this year.  Thanks, Sarah, for returning to your blog after a short absence.  Thank you to those who I emailed privately during the uncomfortable times; you know who you are.   Thanks to those I hung out with at BlogHer.

And I apologize, Jenn, for sucking you into Twitter.

Merry Christmas.  Happy New Year.  Health and Happiness to all. I’ll be back in 2011.

The Soup

“Chicken noodle!” called out the counter man in a loud deep voice.

The father went to the counter, took the bowl of soup, and carried it to the plastic orange booth where his five year old daughter was waiting.   He slid the soup in front of her, and her eyes showed surprise at the size of the bowl; it was bigger than her head!  She zipped up her winter jacket.  A cold blast would shoot in from the street each time a new customer entered and exited the deli, and she was cold.

Inside, the speakers played Christmas music.  “Winter Wonderland.”  Outside, two teenage boys were fighting in the alleyway between Crazy Chicken and Rite-Aid.  They were so heavily layered with clothes that they seem like chunky members of the Pillsbury Doughboys Fight Club.

The father and daughter were ignoring the real world outside.   It was time for soup.   He was from India and wore a Yankee cap.   She had bright, jewel-like eyes.

“Let me get you another napkin,” said the father, and went to the counter, leaving his daughter alone with the soup.

She was happy to be left alone, to explore this new delicacy.  Slowly she leaned forward, to peer into the bowl, as gently and respectfully as someone looking down for the first time from the top of the Empire State Building, conscious of the danger.  Her father had promised to take her there soon.  She would enjoy traveling with him on the noisy subway from Queens.

As the deli door opened and the cold jolted in again, the girl became as fearless as a soldier; she peered into the soup without hesitation or further reflection.  The hot rising steam from the soup created a foggy mask around her face and she disappeared from my sight.

Christmas Movie Pitch

“I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”

Premise:  So many parents today feel that they are “lying” to their kids if they tell their kids that there really is a Santa Claus, so a generation of children are growing up without the magic of Christmas in their hearts.  This is a movie to change all that.  What if a young boy learned that Santa Claus WAS real — very real — and presented him with the greatest adventure of his life?!

Plot:   Perfect A-student Ben goes to sleep on Christmas Eve, believing that Santa Claus is a myth and that his parents will be putting gifts for him under the Costco-bought Christmas tree.  But when Ben wakes up in the middle of the night, he learns that Santa is VERY real, especially when he sees his frustrated stay-at-home mother kissing Santa Claus under the mistletoe.  Ben, furious at his mother’s betrayal, takes revenge on her by setting up his hopelessly unemployed father with the vivacious Mrs. Claus, but danger looms when she turns out to be a sex freak and terrorist with ties to Al-Qaeda.  After Ben’s father is kidnapped to North Korea and tortured as a spy, Ben must team up with his mother, Santa Claus, the reindeer, and special Mossad agent Hermie “The Dentist” in the greatest roller-coaster holiday adventure of them all – to save his father, his family, and the Free World from the clutches of an evil regime, culminating in a final battle for the North Pole.  In 3D.

The Fifth Annual Blogger Christmalhijrahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert!

banner by the super-talented Brenda of Secret Agent Josephine

Welcome to the biggest blogger holiday concert on the internet!


Jingle Bells
performed by Mishelle of Secret Agent Mama

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Angels We Have Heard on High
performed by Angela of Fluid Pudding

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Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
performed in Finnish by Katja Presnal of Skimbaco Home,
Nina of Ninan-Tunnetila and Venla of MTV3 Finland

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photo by Heather of kinder. better. braver

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Don’t Stop Believing performed by
Blaine of Mighty Hunter and the Seattle Men’s Chorus

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Peace Train
performed by Faiqa of Native Born

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O Holy Night
performed by Shawn of Backpacking Dad

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photo by Danny of Jew Eat Yet

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Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town
performed by Jenn of Breed Em’ And Weep and the Mater

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Christmas in O’Hare written and performed
by Noel Katz of There’s Gotta Be a Song

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S’vivon
performed by Mommymae and her family

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photo by Trey Ratcliff

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Santa Baby
performed by Karen of Chookooloonks

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Christmas Island
performed by Fadra of All Things Fadra

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Winter Wonderland
performed by Sarah of Slouching Past 40

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photo by Schmutzie

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Baby, It’s Cold Outside
performed by Pam of Nerd’s Eye View and Care

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Happy Xmas: War is Over
performed by Nova of Ramona and her Mother and Brian

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Got Tell it On the Mountain
performed by Bon of Crib Chronicles and family

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photo by SoulChristmas

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Tutira Mai Nga Iwi (from New Zealand)
performed by Juli of Wellington Road and “Five”

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photo from Germany by Martin of Deutschland Uber Elvis

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Angels We Have Hear On High
performed by Sarah of Sarah and the Goon Squad and Lesley

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Where The River Meets The Sea
performed by Elly of BugginWorld and her brother

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photo by Angela of Dutch Blitz

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Frosty Rap
performed by Laurenne of Humans Are Funny and Kat of Girl at a Startup

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Here We Come A Wassailing performed
by Lauren of Merry Mishaps

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Tis the Season
performed by Momo of Momo Fali and family

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photo by Devra of Parentopia

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Holiday Blogger Song
performed by Mommy Niri

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Jingle Bell Rock
performed by Tanis of Redneck Mommy and family

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In the Bleak Midwinter performed
by Dawn of Not Going Postal

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photo by Marisa of Apartment 2024

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Christmas Time is Here
performed by Tracey Clark and family

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In My Window

performed by Otir of Un jour a la fois

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O Come Emmanuel
performed by Tiff of No Accent Yet

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photo from London by Camille DeAngelis

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Twas the Night Before Christmas
recited by Adam of Avitable

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Christmas Day
performed by Lauren of In The Pudding Club
and Eloise

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What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?
performed by Scott of Caveat Emptor

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Silent Night
performed by Genevieve of Gen with a G

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photo by Megan of An Acorn Dreaming

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S’vivon
performed by Melissa of Married My Sugar Daddy and family

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Marshmallow World
performed by Miss Sizzle of Sizzle Says
with Supple and Mr. Darcy

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Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer
performed by Jess of Hope Bomb and family

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photo by Jenny of The Bloggess

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Baby, It’s Cold Outside
performed by SubWow and friends

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So This is Christmas performed by
Erin and Tim of Cooper Multimedia

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Santa Baby
performed by Cecily of Uppercase Woman

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photo by Veronica of Compost Studios

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Jingle Bells (from Australia)
performed by Rachel of Sesame Ellis and family

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O Holy Night
performed by Cindy of Shrewsbury Chorale

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Auld Lang Syne performed by
Terra of Raising Zoeyjane

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photo by Laurie of Crazy Aunt Purl

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The Dreidel Song
performed by Haley and Cheaty Monkey of Cheaty Monkey

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A Hippopotamus Christmas
performed by Heather of The Hopeful Elephant and family

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Lefler Holidaytastic performed by Anna of Life Just Keeps Getting Weirder

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photo by Nance of Dept. of Nance

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Jingle Bells
performed by Loukia of Loulou’s Views

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Happy Christmas (War is Over)
performed by Sarah of Imaginary Binky and family

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God Rest You Wild Rooty
performed by Nicole of Ninja Mom

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photo by Mommymae

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Little Jack Frost
performed by Erin of Swonderland

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Family Christmas created by
Ilina of Dirt and Noise

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I’ll Be Home For Christmas
performed by Kristen of Rage Against the Minivan

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Baby, It’s Cold Outside
performed by Lotus of Sarcastic Mom and her husband, John

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photo by Lotus of Sarcastic Mom

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Good King Wenceslas
performed by Leah of A Girl and a Boy
and Simon

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Silent Night
performed by Amy of Selfish Mom

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Up On the Housetop
performed by Loralee of Loralees’s Looneytunes
and Carolers

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photo by Suzanne of Twenty Four at Heart

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Round and Round (Like a Dreidel)
performed by Neil of Citizen of the Month

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Hallelujah
performed by Amy of The Bitchin’ Wives Club

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photo by Mishelle of Secret Agent Mama

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You can also check out what has been done during the past concerts:

2006

2007

2008

2009

P.S. — Ticket prices to the concert were pretty cheap, so since you saved money, if you want to be generous, check out what caring bloggers are doing over at The Bloggess.

Real or Imitator?

As all writers online know from experience, it is always our most ridiculous posts that get the most attention. In between pouring my heart out in these reverb posts and breaking my back promoting next week’s big Holiday concert, I took a little break two days ago to re-tell a funny conversation I had with my mother. She had just seen a show in Florida where four guys sang the songs of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Being a snoot, I made fun of the show, calling it a copy of a copy (an imitation of Jersey Boys which is itself an imitation of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons).

So naturally, this post got linked to some sort of “Jersey Boys” forum, where I learned about the controversy over the Jersey Boys imitators.

My NYC musical theater friend, Noel Katz, explained it to me in the comments:

This may add to confusion, Kramer-family-wide, but the original Broadway cast of Jersey Boys (you know, the show about Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, featuring their hit songs) does a concert tour in which they sing the songs made famous by (you guessed it) Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. The producers of Jersey Boys aren’t happy about this, and had their lawyers delay the tour for some time. I know one of the performers, who points out that he and the others are making a lot more money than they were on Broadway. It sounds likely your mother saw them.

After learning about this controversy, I owe my mother an apology. It is quite possible that my mother saw the performers of the original Jersey Boys, who are now touring as Frankie Valli and the Four Season imitators. They would still be imitators of the original Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, but the ORIGINAL Jersey Boys from the original production, so my mother probably saw a more authentic “Jersey Boys” than the audiences seeing the show on Broadway!

Confused?

Perhaps this will be one of my blogging themes for 2011. What is real? What is imitation? And how do we know the difference?

In my Jersey Boys post, the final punchline was set-up by a response to my mother saying that an imitation Tom Jones is as good as the real Tom Jones:

“So, why don’t you hire someone who looks and sounds JUST like me to be your imitation son. That would be the same thing, right?”

“Maybe my imitation son would actually send me a Hanukkah card, hmm?”

By coincidence, I received an email from a complete stranger this morning. I was wary of opening it, thinking it might be spam, but something drew me into clicking on the link:

It was from a woman named Angela.

Hi Neil:

I stumbled upon your blog a few months back (don’t remember how), and have been immensely enjoying it. I generally don’t reach out to bloggers out of the blue, but I saw your blog posting and I had to email you to let you know that my hubby is your doppelganger. See a picture of him, next to your photo. Crazy, no? He dressed up as you for Halloween.

And, the similarity does not stop here. He used to live in NYC (the last place of residence was in Queens), and he was a copywriter.

Anyway, hope you’re not freaked out by my email; it’s not every day that you find someone that looks like you. Keep up your writing, and happy holidays.

Angela

At first, I wasn’t even sure if this was from a real person. Or whether I should be freaked out. But it was a real person. And she seemed normal enough. So, I responded back to my new friend.

Dear Angela,

Thank you for you lovely note. No one has ever dressed up as me for Halloween, so please thank your husband. This is a great honor. And I must admit, that your husband is a very attractive fellow.

Oh, and I have left a message with my mother that your husband will be sending her a Hanukkah card.

Thanks!

Neil

Countdown to the Big Show

It’s cold outside.  I have a hole in one of my gloves.  My last couple of posts have leaned towards the depressing.  I’m sure many of you feel the same way.   There is only one solution:  The Fifth Annual Blogger Christmalhijrahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert is coming to town NEXT WEEK!  It’s going to be the show to end all shows.  Bigger than the Beatles at Shea Stadium!  Or U2.  Or Kanye West.  Or even Justin Bieber!

This will be my last post until the big concert.  I need to save my energy to personally set the stage, rig the lights, and make the complimentary hot dogs for the guests.

So, I’ll remind you one more time.  If you want to participate, sign up in the comments over here.  Any search of “Top Holiday songs” on Google will lead you to a great many song choices for you to sing.  Or make up your own song.

Our concert will be an odd mix celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and the Muslim New Year of Al-Hijira.

If you are in New York City any time until February, the New York Public Library has a terrific exhibit titled Three Faiths: Judaism, Christianity, Islam.  If you wish to know more details about any of these Abrahamic religions, the NYPL website might be a good place to start.

Oh, yeah.  We will also be celebrating the Winter Solstice for those pesky atheists.

The concert is Wednesday, DECEMBER 15. I would like to have all files by DECEMBER 13.

When you make your audio or video, you can send it to me or post it to YouTube or Vimeo, and send me the link.  Video files are large and most email services have limits.  So if you want to send me the file, use YouSendIt.com or Dropbox.

WE WILL ALSO NEED HOLIDAY PHOTOS to decorate the page.  If you are a blogger, feel free to send me a personal photo that relates to Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or Al-Hijira.

Any questions, you know where to find me (probably on Twitter).

I’ll see you at the show.  Wear nice shoes.

Community

Reverb Prompt:   Community.  Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010?  What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011?

I read some touching responses to this “community” prompt today.  So many of us have found such comfort, support, and friendship through community online and offline.

I’m going to turn this prompt on its head.  Frankly, I’m tired of the overuse of the word “community.”  Social media has given the word a bad taste in my mouth.  It has become an abstract.  I get lost in abstracts.  While I understand the essential human need for community, not every group of three people needs to be considered a community.  I think there are far too many people trying to create a fake community as a platform for themselves.  A group of people who develop around my words, such as my commenters or Twitter followers, should not be considered a community, unless you consider me a cult leader.   A community is a give and take.

Maybe I’m being old-fashioned.  Maybe a community can grow around anything online, from Walmart to babywearing.   I guess we all belong to 100s of tiny communities online.  So what?  Has this made us less lonely or happier?  I saw more community fighting online than ever before.   Everyone wants to make each community into their own image.

I want to escape this world of abstracts.  It makes me ill to think of you as “traffic” or “a platform” or “followers.”   Maybe I’m the only one thinking that the word “community” means something more profound, and I’m not catching the wry winks you give each other, indicating that we all are in on the charade.

I don’t want to join, create or deeply connect with ANY community in 2011.  I want to connect with individuals.  That is my goal for 2011.  Boo community.  It will be the year of the Individual.

I can go on and on about the many different individuals I met this year, but I will just mention one, mostly because she was the first one who popped into my head.   She is a good-hearted individual that I connected with this year.  She is a nurse and mother on Twitter.   She is very supportive, and gave me good advice during the long illnesses of Sophia’s stepfather, despite having her own family challenges to deal with at home.   Thanks Heather.  And thank you to the other individuals online who made my year special.  You may be part of my community, but it is your individuality that touched me most.

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