the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Month: November 2012

The Queen Mary

I’m going to utter the one statement that will single-handedly ruin my career in the media business: I’m getting old. I’m not just talking about physical age, but in personal interests: I’m more interested in the Queen Mary than the latest ship from Disney.

Last night, I was watching the awful Lifetime movie, Liz and Dick, the “story” of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, and trying to decipher why the movie was so bad.  Was it the poor casting? The stunted dialogue? The slow direction? Then it hit me — I was expecting a movie about Elizabeth Taylor when the film was about Lindsay Lohan playing Elizabeth Taylor. This was not a secret; the producers were open about the fact.  It was advertised as “Lindsay Lohan IS Elizabeth Taylor.”  The film was created for an audience obsessed with the trainwreck exploits of Lindsay Lohan. And since my fascination over Lindsay Lohan runs shallow, I found the movie dull.

Modern consumer culture is hard on the past. Selling requires “the new.” If everyone kept driving their 1995 Honda Civic until it died, the auto industry would collapse.  We are taught from an early age to convince our peers that an old car is an embarrassment to our friendship.  This consumer culture has a lot to do with the persistent racism and sexism in our society, since we become friends with those who can afford the same status class car, or send their kids to the same private school.

It was funny to see so many bloggers wringing their hands last week over the blatant consumerism of Black Friday, especially the mocking of all the ugly fat Americans waiting in line for hours outside Best Buy to buy a cheap Microsoft Tablet.  WE are the media now, obsessed with the new — even the Betas and Updates!  We make our money hawking products in sponsored posts!  If anything, we should pat ourselves on our backs for having the “influence” to convince our poorer friends to wait in line at Best Buy for a cheap tablet, just so they can become as cool as us!   The point of this rambling post is not to knock consumerism. I am as guilty as you in buying into the system. I am even PISSED that Sophia now has an iPhone5 while I am stuck taking photos with my Iphone4.

That said, I hope our love for the new over the old — the Lindsay Lohans over the Elizabeth Taylors, the iPhone5s over the iPhone4s, the under 30 over the over 30. the beauty of youth over the glamour of maturity, doesn’t turn us AGAINST that which isn’t easily commodified.

Sure, the Queen Mary, docked in Long Beach, CA, is a mediocre tourist attraction, a pseudo museum/hotel/brunch spot. It tries to be relevant, but the old ship is more like your Aunt Bessie who thinks she is a teenager because she watches The Voice. But I love the old. The old have stories.

I love old cars, old airplanes, old planes, old sewing machine, and old people. I’m getting older by the second, and I have no choice. I can feel my own connection to modern culture ossifying, as I find more joy in listening to songs of my youth rather than the latest hit. Sure, I fake my interest in Lindsay Lohan, because she is what we discuss.

But I’m more interested in Elizabeth Taylor.

Announcing the Seventh Annual Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert!

I’m going to be honest with you.  I woke up this morning wondering if the time has come to stop celebrating the unity of mankind (OK, peoplekind… damn feminists).

2012 has given religion a bad name.   For many of us religion now means fundamentalism and fanaticism, repression and destruction, rather than good will towards men (I mean people).  From conflicts over the American election to fighting in the Middle East, even God has gotten bored with our stupidity.

And our online world is not helping our cause.  What is the blogging “mantra,” taught to us by every social media guru worth his salt:  Find your tribe!   Find your tribe!  Find your tribe!

Which raises the question:  why bother reaching out to anyone outside of your tribe if it is bad for business?  Why bother listening and learning from others when life is all about “broadcasting” your views to a select demographic of believers?

Luckily, my tiny corner of the blogosphere doesn’t think this way.   My blogosphere listens and learns.  We don’t judge a man (or woman) by his belief system, or the color of his (or her) skin, but by the quality of his (or her) inappropriate humor.  And kindness towards others.   It is plan that has worked well for me.  I’ve even learned to love Lutherans, a religious group that tends not to be very good with telling jokes.

Can Jew and Christian and Muslim, Atheist and Mormon, Black and White get along for once?  Should I cut the virtual red ribbon, marking the official announcement of the The Seventh Annual Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert?


Angela from Fluid Pudding performing in 2007

This year we celebrate:

Christmas (Christian)– December 25
Hanukkah (Jewish) — December 8-16
Kwanzaa — December 26-January 1
Hijra (Islam) — November 15
Bodhi Day (Buddhism) — December 8
Day of the Covenant (Baha’i) November 28
Diwali (Hindu) November 13
Winter Solstice — December 21
New Year’s Eve — January 1

The online concert this year will take place on December 15, 2012, right here on this blog.   And this year, the concert will be published directly from New Zealand! (see my last post)

It is time to hear YOU PERFORM!   Sign up in the comments today.

Concert FAQ:

1.  Create an audio file or a video file of you performing a holiday song.  If you need technical help, ask me.

2.  You must be performing in the audio or video.   Don’t cheat and have your cute kids doing all the work.

3.  You can sing, play an instrument, recite poetry, dance the Nutcracker, or create music on your iPhone.

4.  Once completed, you have the choice of posting it on your blog or YouTube and sending me the link, or emailing me the complete multimedia file.   Try to get me everything by Thursday, December 13, 2012, two days before the concert!  That gives you plenty of time to be creative.

5.  If you don’t want to sing a song, send me a holiday photo for concert decoration.  It could be of your tree, menorah, or plain ol’ winter solstice if you are a heathen.

6.  The comment section is the sign-up sheet.    By signing up, we can see who is performing what, so we can avoid having ten versions of “Frosty the Snowman.”

7.  Most importantly — don’t be intimidated if you can’t sing.    We like to laugh at you.

8.  Here are the past blockbuster concerts —

2006  2007  2008  2009  2010  2011

Join us in the longest-running holiday concert online – The Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert, now in it’s seventh season!

Call to Adventure

For years, I’ve been complaining about the superficial nature of online friendships, my boredom with trading quips about pop culture or the ubiquitous “liking” of each other’s drunken photos on Instagram?

Real friends look at each other. They interrupt each other as they speak. There are moment of silence. There are shared cups of coffee.

But there is a major obstacle to transforming many of favorite virtual friendships into real ones.



In the eighth grade, our class had a substitute English teacher. He was a strange guy, a former hippy and a black belt in karate. Rather than teaching us anything about grammar, he told us about the U.S. military-industrial complex and the importance of “bringing it down.” Most of us had no idea what he was talking about.

One afternoon, at the end of his class, the teacher took me aside.

“I notice you read a lot,” he said.

“Yeah, I like books,” I replied.

“I’m going to give you a book that will BLOW YOU AWAY. It is my favorite book.”


He handed me a hardcover copy of this bizarre fantasy novel that, on first glance, looked rather dumb. It involved imaginary characters in a world called Middle Earth. The book was called “The Hobbit.”

If you are a long-time reader of Citizen of the Month, you now understand why my grammar is stuck in the seventh grade. I never learned grammar in the eighth grade. I spent the year reading “The Lord of the Rings.”

The Hobbit follows Bilbo Baggins as he reluctantly takes a journey from safety into a world of dragons, adventure, war, and treasure.

The book taught me a lesson — everyone must take a journey into the unknown. It is the only way to gain maturity and wisdom. I learned this in the eighth grade, and promptly forgot the advice for decades, preferring to live in safety, like the home-loving Bilbo Baggins.

I fear adventure.  You never know what God has planned for you along the way — a storm, a romance, a shipwreck, or death by eating blowfish a an exotic restaurant. And if you dare raise your fist towards God, angrily shouting, “How could you do this to me?” He will just laugh at you and say, “Sorry, Charlie, but YOU planned your own trip. It was your choice. So get off my back.”

I fear choice.  But I’m trying to change.


Every year, on the New Year, there are celebrations around the world, ringing in the new year, starting with the first time zone, in New Zealand.   New Zealand is the beautiful, mystical country where they filmed The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings.

Next month, like Bilbo Baggins, I will be making a journey.  I will be travelling to New Zealand to visit my good online friend, Juli, and share a cup of coffee.

So, this year, the Seventh Annual Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert will be broadcast from NEW ZEALAND!

The concert sign-up sheet — later in the week.

Update:  Today, Juli tried to dissuade me from taking my big adventure with this dire warning.

“There are no bagels in New Zealand,” she said.

Ha!  Like that old trick would stop me.   I’m not a sucker.  I have a secret weapon called “Google.”  — Brooklyn Bread and Bagels, Wellington, New Zealand.

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