Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Month: January 2011

The Importance of Sentence Structure in the “Date Question”

In some ways, I know less about “dating” now than I did in high school.  I never dated in high school, so obviously, being young and stupid, I naturally assumed I understood it all.  Now, after years of experience going bra-shopping with Sophia at Target and forgetting to buy flowers on Valentine’s Day, I understand the ramifications and complexities of every life decision, which can paralyze even the strongest of men.

This was my Facebook status update earlier —

“If you were a separated woman who lived on my block, and I asked you to go to the movies, would you assume that I am asking you out on a “date,” and what would you think are my “motivations?” Won’t this act forever change our current relationship? Why the hell am I asking YOU?”

I received several interesting responses.  Thank you, Facebook “friends” — some of who I know absolutely nothing about, but love you anyway — for your honest responses.  I wish I could go on a date with you.  But frankly, I would be too worried that you would write about the disastrous date on your blog, so forget about it.

The Facebook response that intrigued me the most came from Marie Angell, a singer from Houston, who indicated that asking a woman out on a date is primarily — about language.  As a writer, I love to think about the meaning of words.   Writing is about words.  Recently, I wrote a post that everything online is merely words.

So why can’t dating be seen as simple and controllable as being about words?!

This is what Marie wrote —

“Is this a date to you? If so, then you should say something along the lines of: I’d love to take you out–would you like to go to a movie on <date 3 days hence>.

If you just want to hang out as friends (for …now), you can say: I’m in the mood for a movie. How about you?”

So, in a nutshell, if a guy starts a sentence with “I’d love to…” he wants to get into the woman’s pants.  But if he says, “I’m in the mood…” he is saying that he hasn’t seen “The King’s Speech” yet, but hates going to the movies by himself.

Now, it is all clear.

The Recipe for a Happy and Successful Man

Editor’s Note: I know this post is rather odd.   Look at it as an experiment.

Every man instinctively knows the recipe for a successful and happy life. The recipe is as simple as the easiest homemade mac-n-cheese or a basic chicken soup.

The recipe for a man’s happiness contains three ingredients.  I call them Head, Heart, and Groin (or you can that last ingredient Dick, Cock, Johnson, or “the Big Fella,” whatever term you prefer).

If a man can satisfy the needs of each of these essential ingredients of his Life – Head, Heart, Groin – blending them artfully so they all work together reasonably well, he will be a happy man.

Let’s imagine your life as a soup. We are talking metaphor here, not a real soup, although I wouldn’t be surprised at all if there was an actual “Head, Heart, and Groin” oxtail soup  served at some food cart in the Chinese province of Guangdong.

The happy man is our final completed soup, ready to serve.

Sadly, few men are anywhere near Master Chefs when it comes to their own soups. 99% of men are completely amateur cooks.  They brazenly overpower their soups with one ingredient, act cocky and don’t follow the recipe at all, and get so distracted that they burn the pot, or in extreme cases, even burn down the entire kitchen.

Head, Heart, and Groin.  What does that mean?

We all want to —

1) satisfy our intellectual curiosity (Head)

2) love and be loved (Heart)

3) connect physically with another (a polite way of saying “get laid”) (Groin)

These ingredients are easy to find.   If these items were sold in a typical suburban supermarket, we would find them right on aisle 1, next to the other common kitchen staples, such as Heinz Ketchup, Diet Snapple, and Ring Dings.

If the ingredients are so easy to find, and the soup so easy to make, why do we fail to be happy?  If the answer is as simple as a recipe scribbled on the back of an index card, why are there a million self-help books giving us advice?

Most men have one basic problem.   They were never taught to use a measuring cup, so the soup never turns out right.

In my own case, my soup of Life always turns out over-salted, too spicy, or bland.

It’s not that I’m lazy or stupid. I’m working on perfecting my soup all the time, trying new methods and techniques, even adjusting the amounts depending on the life situation.  I just can’t seem to get my soup to taste right.

When I am alone in the house, I over-think every move and action.  My soup is mostly Brain.   It is like I have created a matzoh ball soup with a giant matzoh ball plopped right in the middle of the bowl, allowing no room for the broth.  The matzoh ball absorbs the liquid, and the dish can hardly be called a soup anymore.

This does not create happiness.  Too much Brain makes a bad soup.

One of the reasons I am writing this post right now is because I’m procrastinating from “real” work.  I cannot think today. My mind won’t rest.  I feel like one big brain, with my body irrelevant, and my body doesn’t like it at all.  I just want to take a nap.

When I leave my house, I tend to experiment with my recipe, hoping to adjust the balance of the three ingredients, striving for that perfect soup, and a happy Life.  I do this as a necessity, knowing that Brain soup will never make you friends.   But as an only child, I have always felt somewhat uncomfortable with others.  I think I also have some co-dependency issues, as you can from five years worth of posts about my relationship with Sophia.  When I connect with others, both in real life and online, my soup becomes heavy on the emotion and schmaltz — Heart.

At first, a Heart-heavy soup seems like a perfect recipe for relationships, but too much heart is like too much salt or chicken fat, or in the case of the matzoh ball soup, a matzoh ball that wasn’t molded correctly, so sits in the soup all soggy, crumbling like the New York Jets in this year’s championship game at the mere touch of the spoon.

A Heart-heavy soup is more edible than the Brain-heavy soup, but most people would pass on it the second time.  It gives you heart-burn.   Men who approach life with too much Heart frequently grow irrational, even crazy.  They are rarely happy.  When you see me on Twitter getting petty with you, you know what type of soup I am preparing in my kitchen.

The third ingredient for a man’s happiness is very important, although we sometimes keep this hidden from view, like MSG in a Chinese restaurant.   Without getting into too many of the details, there are specific personal reasons why I’ve been overcompensating my soup with Groin.    Have you noticed how many of my blog posts are all Groin, with little Head or Hearth?  I don’t intend this to be the case.  I just sometimes let the soup kettle boil and boil with too much Groin inside the pot until it is practically jumping off the stove

Some men enjoy being all-Groin.  In matzoh ball soup terms, their soup contains two round matzoh balls, and the matzoh balls can be quite tasty, but the soup is absolutely bland, as if the chef forgot to add anything else to the broth.

I frequently make this type of Groin-oriented soup online, especially in my blog posts, but rarely in real life.  I would be happier if I added more Groin to my real-life soup, and more Brain to my virtual version.

So, there you have it.  The three simple ingredients, the recipe to a man’s happiness.

Of course, I struggle, just like the rest of you, in creating the perfect soup.  My soup is always too much of this, or too little of that.

Being a Master Chef in Life is a difficult task.

Storytelling and Ideology

I go to McDonald’s almost every day for a cup of coffee.  There is one downstairs from my apartment building in Queens where I live, so it is convenient.  McDonald’s coffee is cheap, pretty good, and the location has wireless.  I can sit there for an hour and half without feeling guilty, like I do in a typically overcrowded New York Starbucks with limited seating, and others waiting.

About two weeks ago, I mentioned on Twitter that I was trying out their new oatmeal, and that it was mediocre.   I complimented McDonald’s for at least offering something healthier than the Egg McMuffin.  A few people commented back, mocking McDonald’s and their lame attempt to be “healthy.”  Others blamed McDonald’s for American’s obesity problem and vowed to never bring their children into the fast food chain.

It was a good and interesting discussion.  It was only a few days later that I felt a surprising chilling effect.  Knowing that McDonald’s is not a favorite locale of my readership, with all sorts of negative connotations, should I mention my daily trips to McDonald’s anymore?  How does this affect my “brand?”

Of course, I already know your response to that question.  You are all nice people.   You are going to say I should write about anything I want.  But I’m human, too, and I think peer pressure is a worthy subject to discuss, even when it is involved with something like storytelling.

I remember speaking out against the “People of Walmart” website, calling it mean-spirited, even though so many of you thought it was hilarious.  But let’s face it, millions of people go to Walmart every day, whether we like it or not.  How many personal storytellers have now decided NOT TO TELL their little story about their family’s trip to Walmart online because of the negative association the store has with their online friends?  How many women are afraid of telling some funny story about feeding their baby some baby formula, scared to death that they are going to be attacked by breastfeeding advocates.  Or is THAT the point?  To change people’s attitudes by peer pressure?

We are not talking about opinion pieces here.  We are talking about stories.  Human stories of life.  I think we need to make a distinction between opinion/news and storytelling.   Arguing about the Republican’s health care plan is political.  Arguing with a non-political story about a Republican-voting wife is not always appropriate.  It could just be a story about going to the doctor.  Even Republicans have to go to the doctor.

We all proclaim that the internet is about “giving voices” to everyone, and “letting everyone tell their story.”  But do we really believe it?  Perhaps what we are really saying is that “we want to free the voices that have the same beliefs that we do.”

Stories are a funny business, because not every single story is a moral tale, or even makes the hero look good.  For instance, there was once this fight in junior high, and my friend got involved, and rather than helping out, I ran away, wanting to save my own ass.  I’m sure you can see why I fear telling this story.  It is a tale of cowardice.  But it is a human story, a story of a specific time and place.  My eyes are already rolling from visualizing the comments, a combination of friends supporting me and trolls saying someone should cut off my dick.  Too often, we read each other’s stories like they are public announcements of confession or attacks.  Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

I supposed it is the job of the writer to present his unique story in a way that undercuts the reader’s stereotype.  One day, I would like to write a truly beautiful post about my local McDonald’s.  Yeah, yeah, I know it is a corporate giant and the food is terrible and is making our children into fat slobs.  I know all this, and I agree with you.

But I enjoy my cup of coffee in McDonald’s.  Rightly or wrongly, my McDonald’s attracts a very mixed crowd, and in my eyes, it is probably the most ethnically, racially and class mixed group I have ever encountered in one enclosed place.  There are blacks and whites, working class guys, and a businessman stopping for a quick bite before he runs for the bus. And you know what?  We are all nice to each other.  We have a common denominator — McDonald’s mediocre fast food.  Even though McDonald’s isn’t kosher or halal, I see both Jews and Muslims in the playground area with their kids, playing together.  In some ways, my local McDonald’s is our neighborhood’s public park, our Central Park — and even more diverse.  People write poems about Central Park.   Why not about McDonald’s?

But I wonder what the reaction would be if I wrote this glowing tribute the the Golden Arches.  Now if I had a McDonald’s advertisement plastered on my blog, THAT no one would care about.  But a personal opinion would be ripe for attack.  Would some advocate suggest that McDonald’s is “using” minorities for corporate gain by supplying them with cheap, unhealthy food?  Perhaps.  But that is not the story I am telling.  And it would ruin the point of my story.   After all, you might write a lovely tale about your family’s lovely luncheon at the organic food restaurant in the Village.  I’m sure you would not appreciate it if my review of your story was “typical long-winded stuff about a wealthy New York going to a cafe of overpriced food with other white, privileged patrons.”

I believe ideology is the enemy of storytelling.  Let people live their lives and tell their truth, without shame, even if the story doesn’t always fit into your box.   If you really want to hear “the voices of people,” you have to hear about visits to McDonald’s and Walmart — because that’s part of their story.

Note:  Speaking of stories, you can read a post I wrote for Studio 30+ about the pitfalls of searching for photos of topless women online when you are a 30+ male.

The Obvious

It is so obvious.  Really.  I’m not sure why it has taken me so long to see it.  Perhaps I wanted to be blind.  To humanize everything.  But every blog, every status update, every tweet that I read at three in the morning — it’s all about words.

Only words.  Not people.

Words.

Everything is writing.  Words.  And sentences.  And commas.

People write these words.  Nice people.  Jerk people.  Friendly people.  Even people who don’t care if I live or die.   All writing words that elicit an emotion from me.

But they are still words.   Words strung together in a meaningful manner like carefully chosen laundry on a backyard clothesline arranged by color and size to evoke a specific passion.  Love.  Disgust.  Or laughter.

Words  can create RED FLASHES in my brain, or make me cover me ears to protect myself from the SCREECHING ON THE BLACKBOARD.  But they are all words.

It is all writing.

You are all writing.  I am all writing.  We are all words.

That’s all.

We are not people here.   We are words.

The Silver Rule

I’m sure Martin Luther King Day is going to inspire many posts today, and each one will be different, and reflect the writer’s own interests, whether it be race relations, politics, or religion.

Martin Luther King makes me think of morality.  The civil rights movement of the 1960s was  all about morality, a clear case of right vs. wrong.

Unfortunately, not issue in life is as clear-cut.  Morality is a complicated subject.

I’m not a particularly religious person, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think about religious issues such as morality.  When I write about Jewish subjects, I tend to go for the cultural items — the bagels, the Yiddish words, the mother jokes — but I’m actually quite interested in Jewish religious thought.  I mean I like to mock it, too, because I figure God wouldn’t have given us a sense of humor if he didn’t want us to make fun of Him.

The Golden Rule is considered the basis for most moral thought.

“Do unto others as you want them to do unto you.”

The Golden Rule is as ancient as it is cross-cultural.  The ethic of reciprocity was present in ancient Babylon, Egypt, Persia, India, Greece, Judea, and China.

The Golden Rule is certainly a major part of the Torah.

However, there are two competing version of the Golden Rule, or more accurately, there is a Golden Rule and a Silver Rule.

The Golden Rule is frequently attributed to Jesus, even though it was around for centuries before his birth.

“Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (Matthew 7:12).

Christianity adopted the Golden Rule from two passages in Leviticus in the Old Testament.

Leviticus 19:18 —

“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself”

and Leviticus 19:34

“But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.”

Of course, the Golden Rule is older than both the New Testament AND the Hebrew Bible.  It first appears in Ancient Egypt (c. 2040-1650 BCE) and is even spoken about by Confucius (551-479 B.C.)

Early Christianity was eager to distinguish itself from the Judaism of Jesus, so much of the traditional commandments were seen as unnecessary, including the kosher and circumcision laws.  This was partly to attract new converts.   In order to separate the new religion from the old one, Judaism gets a pretty bad rap in the New Testament, where they are portrayed as a priestly people obsessed with outdated laws and corruption (like a Washington D.C. of the time!), preparing the way for centuries of anti-Semitism.

Since Christianity was presented as a religion of good deeds, it is no surprise that “Do unto others…” became so central to Western culture.

Unfortunately, early Christian leaders, focusing on positive stories like “the Good Samaritan” gave little emphasis to the flip side of the Golden Rule — “The Silver Rule.”

The Silver Rule was already an established part of the teachings of the great rabbis at the time of Jesus.  Hillel, an elder contemporary of Jesus, is have said to have written this famous line in the Talmud, Shabbat 31a, when asked to sum up the entire Torah concisely, as if it were a Twitter update:

“That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.”
—Talmud, Shabbat 31a

In effect, don’t do unto others that you wouldn’t want them to do to you.

This Silver Rule was not unique to the rabbis.  It was central to the teachings of Confucius.

“Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself” (己所不欲,勿施于人)
—Confucius, Analects XV.24

I think I personally follow the Silver Rule more than the Golden Rule.  I’m not sure if this has anything to do with years of Hebrew school or just my personal makeup.  The Golden Rule doesn’t energize my brain.

For example:

If I am walking out of my apartment building, and I see an old woman shuffling behind me, I would hold the door for her.  Why?  Out of instinct.  I don’t need to ponder the Golden Rule.

But let me change the situation:

I am rushing to catch the bus.  I open the door to head out when I see the old woman shuffling behind me.

“Hurry up,” I say to myself as she walks, as slow as molasses.

If I keep holding the door for her, I might miss my bus.

NOW is when I need a internal barometer, a belief statement to help me make this split second decision.

“Do Unto Others…” doesn’t help me.  I’m not being asked to do something positive.  I am wondering if the situation allows me to do something negative.   I need to think about the Silver Rule.

“Don’t Do Unto Others…”

Should I slam the door in this old woman’s face because I want to get to the bus?  Is it worth it?  Would I want this to happen to me, if the situation was reversed?  Won’t she think I’m an asshole?  What if I tell her that I am in a rush, so then she will understand?  Or should I just wait for the next bus?”

A little neurotic?  Maybe?  But if I were living in the South during the 1960’s, many moral questions would be presented to me every day, almost none of them about “doing unto others.”  They would be about “don’t do unto others.”

Why shouldn’t my fellow citizens have the same rights as I do?

The “negative” Silver Rule appeals to me.  It seems to me to have a concreteness necessary to make moral  decisions in the real world where NOT DOING SOMETHING WRONG comes up as frequently as doing something right.   We need to give everyone adequate health care not because I believe you would be kind enough to help me, because knowing you, you’d probably be too busy on Farmville to care, but because I would be outraged if I was in your shoes and couldn’t care for MY family.

Dr. Martin Luther King, like Gandhi, was a big advocate of the Silver Rule.

The Sad Tale of the Golden Globes Award Tweet

As a professional writer, there is nothing worse than finding out that someone else has written material similar to your own, and has gotten his work to the marketplace before yours. This can make your own project die an early death. Even if you have spent three grueling years writing your homo-erotic thriller about two Roman gladiators, thinking this is the most unique concept ever devised, if you read in the trades that Michael Chabon has just sold “Claudius and Octavius: The Forbidden Dance,” to Random House, you know the gig is up.

It is why so many writers end up drinking.

For the last two months, I have been hard at work on a secretive writing project that I intended to unveil to the world — today. I picked today because as an experienced blogger, I know today was the beginning of Hollywood award season, a primo time to grab attention on Twitter with clever wit. So, I was going to be ready for Golden Globes Award night with my secret project — the unveiling of the best snarky tweet that has ever been seen on the blogosphere.

For two months, I worked, preparing. I knew that if the stars were aligned correctly that night (and we all know how difficult that is nowadays with zodiac signs changing their position every year), I could use my online wit to make it into the newspapers. From there, your entire career can skyrocket. I hate to brag, but you do remember my mention in the Sunday Times of London in 2007 for my blog post about the that year’s Oscars ceremony don’t you? (that’s the freakin’ London Times, which makes me the equivalent of blogging’s Colin Firth!). (Oh, I have mentioned this article before. You mean a 100 times before? Oh, well.)

But now it is 2011. The action has moved from blogging to Twitter. If you want to make it in today’s world, you have to be witty in 140 characters. Brevity and sarcasm are key to most good tweets. People love it. Whenever I say something funny, I get more followers. Whenever I say something unfunny, like “What a crappy day. I am feeling depressed,” those exact same folks drop me like a hot potato. So it is important — at least on Twitter — to always be cocky, clever, and a little snooty. It is the method that seems to work best.

As I mentioned, knowing how important award season is online, I began writing my killer Golden Globe tweet back in November. I believe writing is rewriting, so I wanted enough time to expand on my concept. When the Golden Globe presenter announcements were made last month, I devised a list of celebrity/presenters, and matched them with appropriate jokes. I eventually narrowed my list down to a few select Hollywood actresses who either deserved to be mocked, or who gave me a strong opportunity to make a unique pun. After two months of grueling work, I finished my masterpiece tweet, which was to be published online on Twitter at the exact moment Jennifer Love Hewitt appeared on the red carpet before the show.

Here is my award-winning tweet:

“Hey, Jennifer Love Hewitt. Nice dress. Now we know why the show is called the Golden Globes.”

Isn’t that terrific? A perfect combination of sophisticated humor and “Hollywood insider” subtlety. I could imagine my followers howling with laughter — and I mean everyone — from the Ivy League educated career woman to the housewife who never went beyond high school, from the Beverly Hills mom in her Prada dress to the Walmart shopping divorcee from New Orleans. The tweet was so clever that I knew it would cut across all economic, racial, political, and religious divides, uniting a hurting country through laughter.

I turned the television on at 5PM as the red carpet ceremony began. The regular wits had already begun their work. Someone made a joke about latest Joan Rivers surgery. There were numerous boos and hisses over the Helena Bonham Carter’s dress. Some of these tweets were somewhat amusing, but I understood them to be written by lazy amateurs, spitting out one-liners without any knowledge of Twitter craft.

And then, Jennifer Love Hewitt approached the red carpet. As expected, she was wearing a tight dress that showed off her bosom. It was my time to shine, for me to bring Twitter to a halt with my amazingly snarky tweet. Would all of the Twitter servers be able to handle the thousands and thousands of retweets after I wrote my comment?

And then it came — a second before I was about to press publish — another tweet, written by a simple homeschooling mom with only 200 followers — I forget her name because I immediately unfollowed her:

“It looks like Jennife Luv Hewit has two big Golden Gloves as bewbs!”

I vomited.

This tweet didn’t get much of a reaction, for obvious reasons. She spelled Jennifer Love Hewitt’s name incorrectly. Worse, saying “two big Golden Gloves (sic) as bewbs,” ruins the concept. Let the audience put it together! Most readers would understand that the Golden Globes is a euphemism for her “bewbs.” If you say it out loud, it is insulting, and even worse — unfunny.

After this disaster, I was unable to publish my tweet. Even thought my tweet was 5000x more superior, a James Joyce’s “Ulysses” of a tweet compared to her Snooki, others would have called me a “copycat.” Other jealous bloggers out to destroy me would say I “steal tweets” and my reputation as a genius twitterer would be forever sullen.

So, while many actors, directors, and writers were honored tonight for their creative achievements, I will forever remember tonight as a sad one for the artistic world. It was the night that never saw “the wittiest, most snarky, most creative Golden Globes tweet ever written, that surely would have brought Twitter to her knees.”

Like “Jersey Boys” — The Movie

A movie version of my “Jersey Boys” post from December, starring me and my mother.

Violent Language

Even if Sarah Palin’s website didn’t cause Jared Loughner to go out and shoot Representative Gabrielle Gifford in this weekend’s horrific incident, few of us think Palin’s bulls-eye map was a very civilized way of making a political point.

But she has a right to do it.

As a writer, I lean towards freedom of speech and expression.  I don’t know how many times in my lifetime I have seen movies, books, or rock and rap music blamed for every ill in society.  Sarah Palin didn’t cause the killer to plan an assassination.  I don’t respect her use of gun imagery for political gain, but she has legal right, much in the same way that I believe a cartoonist can draw a cartoon of Mohammed without fear of being murdered.  It only becomes illegal when the person really cries fire — or calls for a jihad — or murder.

We are all vying for attention with our words and ideas, both in the old and new media.   Sadly, most of us have become just like Sarah Palin.   We use controversial metaphors in order to gain attention.  It is what sells.  It is what makes us watch and listen.  No one hears you clearly if you debate in a reasoned manner.  I thought this type of journalism might change with the election of the intellectual Obama, but, instead, he is called a wimp if he isn’t fighting like an angry dog.

But if we are going to honestly talk about violence in language and every day discourse, I say we also look at ourselves.  We live in a violent and unstable society, and there is a legitmate need for many of us to express our anger — at our government, our families, and even ourselves.  But are we getting too comfortable employing violent imagery in our writing to grab attention, much like Sarah Palin?

As a little experiment, I did Twitter searches on common phrases I read all the time online:

“I want to shoot someone.”

“I want to punch someone in the face.”

“I want to stab someone.”

And you’d be surprised at how many statements like this are made every MINUTE.  More surprising are the positive responses these statements get in return, usually a lot of laughter and agreement.   Clearly, we understand the context of the statements.  We assume the nice college kid writing “I wants to shoot the guy in the supermarket for talking loudly on his cellphone” isn’t REALLY going to shoot him.   The contrast of the statement and the reality is what makes the statement amusing.

We all enjoy writing “I want to punch that guy in the nose” every once in a while.  I know I do.  It is cathartic.  But I’m afraid that violent-aggressive language has become more of the norm rather than the exception, especially online.  I’m sure we don’t do it consciously.  It is the trickle down effect of a society obsessed with violence.   We find violence more “real” — and cooler — than sense and sensibility.   Hey, we can talk like inner city rappers  (even from our safe suburban homes!)  I would hate to think that this type of writing becomes as common in our society as it is for unstable twenty year olds to walk around with Glock pistols in their pockets.

How to Change Multitask Into Milkshake In Three Easy Steps

One of the changes I want to make with my blog in 2011 is to use it more as a tool to help other online writers improve their workflow.  As my circle of influential bloggers has grown, I have noticed that many of these important writers eschew the personal as limiting, focusing instead on the essential business and management tips that we all need to succeed.

While I realize that there are plenty of other blogs out there where you can learn “how to get things done,”  I think I offer different because of my unique background.   Rather than coming from a business school or the marketing world, I was an English major in college.   As a certified expert in that field, I can share with you some very specific techniques that I learned during my studies.

Today I’m going to show you how to use these techniques to help you handle some of stress in your life.  We all have too much on our agendas — work, family, community, etc!  We are overloaded with information and chores, stretched beyond our natural ability to multitask.

The word “multitask” has become our nemesis.

Before you can handle any problem using my “English Major Technique of Personal Change,” you must first write it down!  While you can do this on the computer, on programs such as Microsoft Word or Notepad, I prefer using an old-fashioned pen and paper.  I stock up on those black and white composition notebooks that you once used in grade school.  I consider these my personal “change” journals.  You can usually pick one up at Walgreen’s.  Ask you son or daughter if they know of any special deals.

Once you have your special “English Major notebook,” it is time to write down the incriminating word —

Multitask.

This will be difficult for many of you.  Writing out that word — in your own handwriting — will give you anxiety.  Your brain will start reacting.  “Fight or flight” will be your natural response.  You will suddenly want to vacuum the carpet, anything to avoid writing down this one word.

But don’t give up yet.  We are going to transform this negative “multitask” into the positive “milkshake” in three easy steps, using nothing but the two basic elements of my chosen profession — letters and words.

Multitask.

Step 1: Scramble the word, while exchanging the vowel “u” for the vowel “e.”  You should be left with something looking like this —

Milkstate

Don’t be concerned about the meaning of the new word.  It is not important at this time.  I’m sure it means something.

Step 2: Repeat this “letter exchange” formula a second time, this time changing the second “t” into a “k,” until you are left with  —

Milkstake

I am pretty sure this is not a real word, but again  — don’t be concerned yet.  It is part of the process.

Step 3: This is the final step.  By now you should feel confident enough to figure out the next step yourself.

Do you see it?

Yes!  I knew you would.  I told you this was going to be simple.

Just eliminate the other “t,” exchanging it with an “h.”  Your final result is —

Milkshake

And there you have it.

By using the powerful tools of the English language, you can finally get a handle on all the stress in your life.  In three easy steps you went from anxiety-producing “multitask” to a fun “milkshake!”  Go ahead, make the milkshake any flavor you want!

What flavor is YOUR milkshake?

Come back tomorrow as we learn advanced “English Major” management techniques, such as one I’m sure everyone will appreciate — how to transform “email inbox” into “a sexy lover” in ten easy steps!

A Year in Recap: 2011


Have a Happy New Year!

Written on December 27, 2011 at 9PM, via iPhone —

Well, I guess it is that time of year again when we all write our 2011 yearly recaps.

Let me just say for the record, that 2011 ROCKED MY SOCKS OFF!

I know some of you downers are going to write blog posts complaining about your year.  “Boo-hoo, my year sucked.”  “My poor hubby lost his job.”  “My cat died.”  “My father is in a coma.”  Hey, if you want to be negative, that’s your problem.  It doesn’t mean that I have to hang around letting your sour grapes pucker my mouth.

2011 was the greatest year of my life.

Of course, even the best of years has its ups and downs.

After my three novels were published in February 2011, sudden fame and fortune proved to be overwhelming.  In my post “Do You Really Love Me?” I wrote —

“People who previously ignored me, or unfollowed me on Twitter, suddenly wanted to be my best friend.  Do they like me for being awesome, or am I only awesome because I am so successful?  Being so successful is confusing!  Eh, why let it bother me?  As long as they love me, right?  And I love being me because I am so successful!  That’s what is MOST important!”

In March 2011, I explored the sudden explosion of good fortune in my love life, in my very popular post, “24 Hour F*cking” —

“F*cking three women a night, while the ultimate male fantasy, is actually — in reality — quite tiring.  If I knew this, I would have spent more time in the gym.  After f*cking the second woman, I just wanted to relax and watch the Daily Show.  But I didn’t want any hurt feelings, so I went down on the third woman to give her an orgasm.  The next day, I slept until noon.”

I got to travel a lot in 2011, and that was very exciting.  In April 2011, I did a month-long tour of the Middle East, thanks to the aftermath of a small little blog post I wrote on March 15, 2011.  As we all know, it is the little posts that garner the most attention.  But never in a million years did I expect my quickly written post, “The Hot Muslim Chick,” to become such an international hit, with 26 million page views —

“I’ll have a shwarma sandwich,” I told the owner of the Flushing, Queens cafe.  A large sign was on the wall that read “Halal” in bright red letters.  Under the sign sat a woman with bright green eyes.  She looked up from her falafel plate, directly at me, and I was immediately smitten.”

Not only was this post a literary success, and got my name in the New York Times, but the political repercussions were astounding.  I wrote about what happened in a follow-up post two weeks later, titled, “Blogging IS a Radical Act!” —

“How influential was my blog post?  You all know the answer.  Because of my storytelling in that post, Al-Qaeda decided to change their goals, deciding that terrorism was evil and that they would rather help orphaned pets be adopted by good homes across the Middle East.  The Arab world and Israel finally accepted peace, as the President of Egypt said, “because we were all swayed by the passions of the two lovers in Neilochka’s blog post.”  Even the Pope said the story was his inspiration for his world-famous “Easter Sermon” in which he stated, “Gay marriage is OK with me.  And you know what, I’ll admit it too — I’m gay.”

Of course, 2011 had a few sad moments — well not really sad, only slightly more bittersweet than some of the other events.  My mother decided to stay in Boca Raton rather than returning to New York in the spring of 2011.  While I knew I would miss her gentle smile if she stayed in Florida, I supported her political aspirations.  After all, she was always there for me.  I wrote about this heart-warming mother-son moment in my April 2011 post, “Madam Governor” —

“There were tears in my eyes during the swearing-in ceremony of my mother as the next governor of the State of Florida.  It was so delightful that all of her friends from Century Village came to the post inaugural ball, where they were entertained by Tom Jones — not the imitation Tom Jones that performed for them in 2010 — but the actual Tom Jones, direct from Las Vegas!   Oh yeah, she also moved the State Capitol to Fort Lauderdale, correctly arguing that “what kind of New York Jew wants to live in a goyish place like Tallahasse? Let’s just move the freakin’ capitol to South Florida!”

Was I just lucky in 2011?  I’m sure that is what many of you think.  But I don’t believe in luck.  I believe my success this year was due to the vision board that I created before the year began.  I revealed many of my “success” secrets in my May 2011 post, “Why I am So Awesome” —

“At the end of last year, in December, I wrote a post inspired by a Reverb prompt in which I was asked to come up with one word to associate with the upcoming year.  I chose the word,”Money.”

And “Money” it has been… all year.

After monetizing my blog, I realized that I was a complete idiot for not having advertising on my blog for the previous six years.  I was under the impression that ad networks paid very little, but this isn’t the case when your blog is as popular as mine.  I don’t like to brag, and I know that talking about money makes some people jealous, but let’s just say, depending on my taxes this year, we are talking about my blog making somewhere in the $3,000,000 range.  Not bad for one year’s work, right? And this is not including all the free flights, conferences, meals, and theater tickets that come with the territory of being such an influential player.

All because of my vision board and my ONE WORD.”

I went to several blogging conferences, and spoke at most of them.  I was on the fence about going to BlogHer again this year, and I probably would have NOT gone if Elisa and Lisa didn’t ask me to be the final keynote speaker, offering me a $500,000 speaking fee.

I wrote about my experiences at this year’s BlogHer in August 2011 in “BlogHer ’11” —

“Despite my initial reservations, I’m glad I went to BlogHer in San Diego.  I got to see so many old friends.  San Diego is perfect, the Mexican food is great, and I f*cked so many women this weekend, I hardly remember who was who.  Please — f I f*cked you, but never gave you a “I F*cked Neil from Citizen of the Month at BlogHer,” t-shirt, please DM me on Twitter, and I will have one of my assistants mail you one ASAP).”

2011 was also the year where Sophia and I finally resolved most of our issues.  In September 2011, she remarried, and I attended her wedding, which I wrote about in one of my most touching posts, “Sophia Wears White, Again.”

“Sophia’s new husband is a nice young Jewish man named Marc Zuckerberg, who runs the social media company, Facebook.  I was her maid of honor at the wedding, and got to wear my red dress again.  Not only is Sophia now completely financially secure, but her new husband thought my red dress was so cool, he gave me a 25% share of his company for being “such a joker.”

I was impressed to learn more about his company, Facebook.  Can you believe that he has been reading my status updates for years, not even knowing who I was, calling them “hilarious,” and the best updates EVER written!

My new book, “Neil Kramer’s Facebook Updates,” will be published by Random House next year.  I probably shouldn’t be telling you this but I met with Tom Cruise this afternoon for lunch.  He is very interested in playing me in the movie version.

I am such a lucky guy, aren’t I?”

Of course, no year is complete on Citizen of the Month without the big holiday concert, in which I give back to all the “little guys” in the blogging community.  This year, the concert was all sparkly and new, with a fabulous new name, “The Sixth Annual XBOX KINECT Blogger Christmalhijrahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert!”  It was the most profitable concert yet, thanks to me charging $1000 for each concert submission and a $25 virtual ticket price to view the concert ($15 dollars for live-streaming via the IPhone).

Thanks to XBox Kinect, I was proud of all the money I collected for charity, with 10% of all of the profits from the concert going to one of my favorite political causes, “The Re-elect Elaine Kramer for Florida Governor in 2015”

Can you see why 2011 was so awesome?  I wish it could never end!

I want to thank everyone who make 2011 such a great year for me, including the losers who are still kvetching about “their bad year.”  My advice to you: learn to get over yourselves!

Maggie Dammit, I miss you.  Come back to blogging!  Tanis, you rock!  I guess my blog did become more popular than yours after all.  Ha Ha!  Thanks for not taking it personally.  Kate, loved the pirate sequel.  I’m sorry your agent dropped you when she decided to become my agent instead.  Still love ya, babe!

I want to thank all my readers.  I hope it was OK that I was too busy all year to read any of your blogs this year, but let’s be honest — does it really matter?

Special thanks to all the women I f*cked this year.  I may not remember your names, but you will always be in my heart.

Tomorrow night, I’m flying down to Florida by private jet with Marc and Sophia Lansky Kramer Zuckerberg for a mega New Year’s party at the new Governor’s mansion in Fort Lauderdale, dubbed the Kosher Camelot.  I won’t be online much until 2012.

I can’t believe how much time I spent on Twitter in 2010.  I was such a loser back then.  Like they say, what a difference a year makes!

Happy New Year!   I love you, all!

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