Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Category: Blogging and the Internet (page 1 of 56)

2016

Imagine a Hallmark Christmas movie. It’s about a beautiful and scrappy Southern single mom who falls for a city slicker who lives in New York City.  He says that he is a writer and photographer which apparently doesn’t mean the same thing in the North because it doesn’t require making a real living. Still, being an aw-shucks optimist, she thinks that he is the bee’s knees. He actually adores her too, but whenever he finds himself in a real relationship, he always has one foot mired in doubt. He constantly says stuff like, “this is too complicated,” “we live in different cities,” “we don’t like the same movies,” and things like that.

Eventually, our Southern heroine gets fed up with the New Yorker’s negative thinking, and as Christmas approaches, through pure serendipity, she meets a divorced Southern gentleman who only lives ten minutes from her home.

He is perfect. He loves the same football teams as her son and he can whip up the best fried chicken in minutes. Most importantly, he knows how to treat a lady. They make plans for Christmas together.

Meanwhile, back in the city of the birthplace of Trump,  the evil city slicker,  a complete ne’er-do-well with the carpetbagging black heart of a true Yankee, is suddenly awoken with jealous feelings. He sends her emails trying to make her feel guilty for finding her own happiness, attempting to manipulate her with the fancy words he picked up at some Ivy League university. What will our heroine do? Who will she choose? The true and honest local boy with the heart of grits, or the fast-talking neurotic big city jerk who only wants what he can’t have?

I think we know the end of that movie. I mean if it is a Hallmark Christmas Movie and not some Martin Scorcese film.

That was my 2016.  I am the villain.   Which usually is the best role in a movie.   But not in real life.

 I didn’t blog that much.  I have no blogging recap like in the old days.

That was my 2016.

Oh, yeah, in November, I went to Hillary Clinton’s Big Election Night Ball at the Javits Center where she was to be crowned the next leader of America.

That was my 2016.

Also, I took a lot of photographs. Some came out good.

But I’m healthy. My mom is healthy. Most of my friends are healthy.  And I’m still friends with the Southern girl.  So, it wasn’t that bad.

The Eleventh Annual Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert

Happy Christmahanukwanzaakah!   Welcome to the 11th annual holiday concert!

It was a tough political year for many of us, and there is much uncertainty in the world.  But let us remember that camaraderie and music are important forces for good.   They can inspire us, touch us, and lead us into battle.   There is work to be done in 2017.  Our system has failed many, especially those that are already marginalized.    One non-profit organization fighting for justice in our educational system is Being Black at School.  

Being Black at School is a national nonprofit advocacy organization focused on addressing the complexities of being a Black student in the American education system.   Our mission is to utilize data and policy analysis to foster a movement for schools that are safer and more equitable for Black students.

Please help them by donating what you can.    You can read more about their mission on their website.

Happy Holidays and enjoy the show.  

blkfade

photo by Karen Delaney Dino

blkfade

Tim Minchin’s White Wine in the Sun performed  by Eileen of Eileen Chong

blkfade

photo by Bonnie Stewart of The Theory Blog

blkfade

The Peace Carol performed by Elly of  BugginWord 

blkfade

photo by Erin Cooper

blkfade

A British Christmas performed by Noel Katz of  There’s Gotta Be Music 

blkfade

photo by Pam of Outside Voice

blkfade

Joy performed by Elizabeth Robinson  (Kizz) of  117 Hudson and Sara Stopek

blkfade

photo by TL Roberts

blkfade

Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah  performed by Angela of  Fluid Pudding 

blkfade

photo by Carol of Buttercup Counts Her Blessings

blkfade

Christmas, Don’t be Late by Veronica (with help by Kacey Musgraves)

blkfade

photo by Louise Gleeson of Late Night Plays

blkfade

Madre Tierra performed by Charlie Miller with Danny Miller

blkfade

photo by Deborah Grinter of Blossom Bombs

blkfade

Hark the Herald Angels Sing performed by Lara Bolte

blkfade

photo by Laura

blkfade

Sugar Plum Holiday performed by Jenny Kelly and family

blkfade

photo by Jane

blkfade

Los Angeles Jingle Bells performed by Ellen Bloom of LA is My Beat

blkfade

photo by Maggie Christ of Magpie Musing

blkfade

Across the Great Divide performed by Tamar Jacobson and Tom Jacobson

blkfade

card from GK Khalsa

blkfade

River by Joni Mitchell performed by Anne Riotto

photo by Loukia of Loulou’s Views

blkfade

Auld Lang Syne performed by Elisa Camahort Page  of SheKnows Media

blkfade

photo by Lotus Carroll

blkfade

God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen performed by Tina Rowley

blkfade

photo by Martin Karaffa

blkfade

Happy Xmas performed song by Marty, Kevin, Christopher, and Colin Long

blkfade

photo by Jessica Rotenberg

blkfade

We Wish You… performed by Alejna of Collecting Tokens and family

blkfade

photo by Judy Carrino

blkfade

Black and White performed by Neil Kramer of Citizen of the Month and Junius Harris

blkfade

  

photo by Karen Rivers

blkfade

Here are the past blockbuster concerts —

2006  2007  2008  2009  2010  2011  2012 2013  2014  2015

See you at next year’s event!

blkfade

NYC, The Five Boroughs, the 2017 Calendar

 

I’m always curious about what the kids want for Christmas and Hanukkah each year, so I’ve been talking to a lot of my friend’s children, asking them, “What gift are you hoping Santa Claus brings you this year?” I was expecting the answer to be some trendy Japanese Pokemon/Furby type toy, so I was shocked when your kids answered in one voice, “This Christmas I want a 2017 Calendar of New York City Photos!”

I many not have kids of my own, but I care a lot about your kids, especially about making them happy. I’m assuming you want the same for your children. They ARE the future. That’s why I’m offering these NYC photos of the five boroughs for only $16.99! Not $17. I’m beginning to understand how business works. Only $16.99!

You can buy this NYC calendar on my ETSY SITE.   Tell me what you think of my oddball choices of  NYC photos, not one skyscraper or famous site in the bunch.

 

Announcing the 11th Annual Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert!

11THChristmashanukwanzaakah-1

 In 2006, when this annual concert started, it was a celebration of the  internet.    Blogging was an avenue for the sharing of personal stories.   Even if you lived in the most isolated rural town in Alaska, you found yourself, through online storytelling, befriending black bloggers in Baltimore, gay bloggers in Los Angeles, and Jewish bloggers in New York.   Christmahanukwanzaakah  was our buzzword for our changing world — one of inclusion, diversity, and empathy.

We were naive.   As our virtual world grew, the problems of the real world flooded in, and eleven years later, when we thing of the internet, we think of the worst aspects of society — the  hate, bigotry, and trolling.  

In 2008, we voted in Barack Obama, the first African-American president.   In 2016, we voted in Donald Trump.

This year’s concert is not just a celebration of the season, but an affirmation of the moral underpinning that connects all religions and creeds –

‘Don’t do unto others what you don’t want others to do unto you.’

Yes, we love to share our stories and photos with our friends, but we also need to remember to protect each other, speak up against the bigotry that poisons our nation, and make a difference, no matter how small.    

Especially now.  

This year, for the first time, I will be asking for  small  donations, both from concert  participants and viewers, for “Being Black at School,”  a brand-new national nonprofit advocacy organization focused on addressing the complexities of being a Black student in the American education system.

I wanted to end the concert last year because I thought we all had enough of “blogging” as we knew it.   We had moved on to more practical ways to connect with others.   But I get a feeling that we all could use a bit of love, joy, and community this year.   And singing.  

Here are the past blockbuster concerts —

2006  2007  2008  2009  2010  2011  2012 2013  2014  2015

This year’s concert will take place on Tuesday, December 20, 2016  right here online.

It is time to hear YOU PERFORM!   YOU are the CONCERT.  That gives you about a month to work your magic.

Interested?  Sign up in the comment to perform.    You don’t necessarily need a traditional blog to participate, but at least have an online presence in Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, or Snapchat.   Be part of this long-running tradition!

Concert FAQ:

1.  Create a video (or audio) 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 write a symphony.

4.  Once completed, post the video on a place like YouTube and send me the link. Or just send me the file via Dropbox or email, and I will post it on YouTube.   Try to get me all files and links by Monday, December 19, 2016, the day before the concert!  That gives you plenty of time to be creative.

5.  If you are too afraid to sing a song, send me a holiday photo to decorate the concert page.  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 “Jingle Bells.”

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

Join us in the longest-running holiday concert online — The Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert, in it’s ELEVENTH blockbuster performance!

Skating by Vince Guaraldi performed by Angela Reiner Downing of Fluid Pudding

Writing for Self, Writing for Reader

disney

This is a post about writing online. It is written for myself, just to clarify something in my own mind, but I’ll share it with you anyway because if you also write online, maybe you have had similar thoughts.

Yesterday, I posted about the trip I took with Jana to Walt Disney World.  I titled it, “Walt Disney World: World of Laughter and Tears.” Clever, huh? Originally, I named it  “Walt Disney World: A World of Laughter, a World of Tears,” which  better matches the lyrics of “It’s a Small World,” but when I googled the title, I saw it was already taken by TEN OTHER writers!

Still, I liked the post.   When I started out writing it, I had three objectives, and I satisfied all of them.

1) Show off some new photos of Walt Disney World since I didn’t feel comfortable posting a million of them on Instagram where I would be mistaken for one of those dreaded Parent Bloggers.

2) Prove to my friend Danny that I could effectively mock the Disney ethos AND kiss Disney’s ass at the same time, just in case I ever want free tickets to some social media event there.

3) Prove to my friend Tanis that yes, I could go away for the weekend with a bright and attractive woman, and not have her break up with me.

Mission Accomplished to all three.

But did I really prove anything? And is this real writing?   What type of writer am I?   The stakes are so low.  It’s almost childish.

Recently, I had bookmarked this article titled “6 Simple Ways to Get More People to Read Your MEDIUM Posts.” (via Medium).  I read it yesterday while travelling in the subway.   The writer had very strong opinions about online writing.

You have to SELL your ideas in Medium, and the best way you can do that is to make it about people. Don’t say “I did this and that”. SAY, “You can experience this and that.” … why?… Because the viewer wants to learn something FOR himself. Not about you..

Let’s say you really want to tell a personal story about yourself and your horrible experience at a night club.

Don’t say, “I went there, I did this, and this happened, and then this happened…”

Start with something like,

“Don’t make the same mistake I did when you go to a NIGHT CLUB.”

See how that changed everything? ..The prospective? To other people?..

You can ALWAYS make any personal story about others if you told them what they can learn from the experience and how they can take caution so they don’t end up doing the same thing you did.

By the way, It could be a HAPPY story too.

But don’t write, “I went to Disneyland and did this and this and that, and it was amazing.”

No, you should start with something like,

“Here’s how YOU can maximize your trip to Disneyland with these simple (but essential) tricks.

I looked back over my last post. Immediately I notice that I failed to even write the traditional “I went to Disneyland and did this and this and that, and it was amazing” post.  My post is a slight of hand, nonsense to fill the space until I have enough nerve to say publicly that I had a nice time with Jana.

Now, let’s imagine I come home from Walt Disney World, but with a different perspective, one of professional writing. The first question I would ask myself if “Now that I’m home from my trip with Jana, how can I best use my writing and/or photography skills to make at least a measly $100 by sharing something about my experience?” I know.   $100.   But better than nothing, right?

Now to make some money out of this, I would need to pitch some story idea to an outside website or publication. Which one? And what is the pitch?

Of course, the story is already there, hidden in the middle of the post, when I write this sentence —

 “Can romance be found at a Disney theme park, a location crowded with crying children, stressed out parents, and senior citizens aggressively driving their rent-a-scooters like the extras in a Mad Max film?”

That’s it. That’s the story. Everything else is the piece is irrelevant to a reader looking for content.  This becomes a post about me using my experience to HELP OTHER PEOPLE decide if they should go with their girlfriend to Walt Disney World. That is a successful pitch for a travel or dating site, no?

Now is the bigger question.   Do I want to help others to “maximize the romance of going to Walt Disney World?”  Do I want to write this post?  Not really.

But that’s another problem.

 

The Tenth Annual Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert

holidays

Welcome to the The 2015 Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert! It is my honor to be with you here for the TENTH year of this concert.

Ten years!  Can you believe it?  Who knew that so many bloggers were also such talented singers and musicians?  And some even brave enough to sing so poorly?  I’m proud that we kept this concert running for ten years, and embraced the concept of diversity long before it was a social media trend.

munich

Munich’s Traditional Gay Christmas Market photographed by Marty of Deutschland uber Elvis

It’s been a fun run.   I’ve met some cool people during these concerts.  One year we  attracted an audience large enough to fill Radio City Music Hall!  I even turned down two offers of concert monetization; it just seemed wrong.   Commerce and Commercialization have absolutely nothing to do with the Holiday Season, right?  I know it sounds corny  because it is such a cliche,  but the concert was always about the community.

Jeez, that did sound corny.

Eh, what the hell.  It’s the holidays.  Embrace the corny.   So, to paraphrase Tiny Tim in the politically-correct version of “A Christmas Carol” – “A Merry Christmahanukwanzaakah to us all; God bless us, every one!”

Here are a few of the performers from the last decade who brought a little bit of joy each year:

Thanks again, and may we all be happy, healthy, and creatively productive in 2016!

blkfade

poster 1

First Concert Poster, 2006, of Jamelah

blkfade

Holiday “Hamilton” performed  by Jenny of Oh Jenny Mae

blkfade

Second Concert Poster, 2007

poster 2

blkfade

Silver Bells performed by Elizabeth Robinson  (Kizz) of  117 Hudson and Sara Stopek

blkfade

star

Third Concert Poster, 2008

blkfade

Cool Yule performed by Elly Lonon of BugginWorld

blkfade

concert 5

Fourth Concert Poster, 2009

blkfade

Holiday Imagining by Angela of Fluid Pudding

blkfade

Poster 5

Fifth Concert Poster, 2010

blkfade

Little Toy Trains performed  by Marty Long of Marty Suttle Long

blkfade

Concert 6

Sixth Concert Poster, 2011

blkfade

Wouldn’t it Be Loverly? performed by Danny Miller of Jew Eat Yet and his son, Charlie Miller

blkfade

Poster 7

Seventh Concert Poster, 2012

blkfade

Away in a Manger performed by Kristen Howerton of Rage Against the Minivan with Beer and Hymns members Chad Markley and Lauren Francis

blkfade

Concert 8

Eighth Concert Poster, 2013

blkfade

I Love New York at Christmas Time performed by Neil of Citizen of the Month and Jana of Jana’s Thinking Place

blkfade

Con cert 9

Ninth Concert Poster, 2014

blkfade

It’s The Time of Year performed by Noel Katz of There’s Gotta Be a Song, with help with his family.

blkfade

Concert 10

Tenth Concert Poster, 2015

blkfade

Bring a Torch, Jeanette Isabel by Sister Becky Swanson and Delaney

blkfade

menorah

photo by Tabatha at So Tabulous

blkfade

Ner Li performed by Tamar of Mining Nuggets

blkfade

pissing

pissing boy ornament photo by Veronica

blkfade

Can I Interest You in Hanukkah by Bonnie of Theoryblog at Crib Chronicles with Oscar and Posey

blkfade

bulb

photo by Alejna from Collecting Tokens

blkfade

Ava Maria performed by Cindy Louise Allen

blkfade

joy

photo by Annette Kiesow

blkfade

Jingle Bell Rock performed by Ellen Bloom, from the first concert in 2006

blkfade

Thank you for another year of online friendship, debate, drama, following, unfollowing, Tinder dating stories, laughter, and comfort during times of sadness.

love

Here are the past blockbuster concerts —

2006  2007  2008  2009  2010  2011  2012 2013 2014

Come Ye and Sign Up for the 10TH and FINAL Annual Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert!

concert1

Outraged over this year’s Starbucks red cups not being Christmasy enough?

cup

There is one institution that never fails to produce the holiday spirit — yes,  it is time for the official announcement of the Tenth Annual Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert, all new, all exciting for 2015!

The Last Concert.

TEN years!  Can you believe it?  This is going to be the blockbuster concert we have been waiting for!

Here are the past blockbuster concerts —

2006  2007  2008  2009  2010  2011  2012 2013  2014

This year’s concert will take place on Wednesday, December 16, 2015 right here on this blog.

It is time to hear YOU PERFORM!   YOU are the CONCERT.  That gives you about a month to work your magic.

Interested?  Sign up in the comment to perform.    Bloggers past, present, and future are all welcome.   It would be a special honor to have former performers return one more time.   Be part of this long-running tradition!

Concert FAQ:

1.  Create a video (or audio) 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 write a symphony.

4.  Once completed, post the video on a place like YouTube and send me the link. Or just send me the file via Dropbox or email, and I will post it on YouTube.   Try to get me all files and links by Monday, December 14, 2015, two days before the concert!  That gives you plenty of time to be creative.

5.  If you are too wimpy 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 “Jingle Bells.”

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

Join us in the longest-running holiday concert online — The Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert, in it’s TENTH and FINAL blockbuster performance!

Skating by Vince Guaraldi performed by Angela Reiner Downing of Fluid Pudding

The Hand

hand

Befriend the man who gives a hand, not shows his hand.

OK, I made that up. But it’s not terrible.

Welcome to my new blog template. At least for now. I suppose if enough people hate it, I will change it. I’m not married to it yet. This is my third blog template in eleven years.

Now for the bigger question — what to do with this blog? I’m human. I crave attention and validation. And I can get more interaction from most of you by posting on Facebook or Instagram. What makes this site special? A person might read one of my posts about kitchen sponges on Facebook because it is shoved at them on their newsfeed, but who in their right mind is going to click on a link to read the same material on my blog?

You will just say, “Talk to my Hand.”

Please do not take this as criticism of you, dear reader, but myself. A REAL writer will write whether there is an audience for his work or not.

“Then why not just submit your writing to other sites instead and make $ online?”

That’s a good question, internal voice! Which publication would be keen to publish articles about kitchen sponges?

Ten Years of Citizen of the Month – A Dedication

It was March 2005, and my first two weeks of blogging.  No one was reading Citizen of the Month, my “blog” named after a award that I frequently won in grade school for being such a goody-two-shoes. And without any comments, the idea of writing a blog seemed like a waste of time.

Then, a woman named Mary commented on several posts, writing notes such as “great post” and “you are a talented writer.” I was so excited; I was connecting with a stranger through my writing! This type of immediate feedback more satisfying that writing scripts for soulless Hollywood.

But then I noticed an oddness in the “IP address” of this Mary person. It was the same IP address as mine — not similar, but exactly the same.

This was because “Mary” was my wife at the time, Sophia, encouraging me under a false alias, not wanting me to quit.

This is a dedication to my first ten years of blogging.

I started my blog on March 7, 2005, on my birthday.

There are so many people to thank. Citizen of the Month has been a personal journey of my last ten years, and I have made countless friends along the way, like Frodo meeting the dwarves and elves while heading to Mount Doom. But there is only one person who truly deserves a special dedication to my first ten years of blogging — and that is Sophia.

If Citizen of the Month were a novel, it would start with my marriage to Sophia, proceed to my on-and-off separation with Sophia, my on-and-off divorce from my Sophia, and finally to the aftermath of my marriage, from my chapter with Juli in New Zealand, to therapy, to my first stabs at online dating.  Even my topical posts were filled with secret messages and personal details.

Even when Sophia wasn’t present in the online story, she was somehow in the background, such as when she hacked into my blogger address book and secretly arranged a virtual birthday party for me (with Danny‘s help) in 2007.

birthday1

My second decade of blogging will be a different story, one that I haven’t written yet, because I am not in complete control of the plot. My divorce is now further in the past and I live in another city. I haven’t been the greatest blogger of late, spreading myself thin on social media, but in my mind, everything I do online is a continuation of the personal journey that I started here on this space.

Thank you to everyone who ever stopped by, commented, or argued with me here on Citizen of the Month during the last ten years.  I promise to try to put the shine back on to my space.  Thanks to my mom, who has always been the most popular “character” on my blog, even back in 2005 when I got some laughs at her calling Citizen of the Month a “blodge.”   To Elan, who taught me everything.    To Martin, the best and most intelligent commenter that ever appeared on this blog.  Bon, Jana, Juli, Sizzle, Josette, Lotus, Megan, Pearl, Tamar, Sarah, Jenn — jeez, you know who you are.   Those names just came popping out and I apologize if I don’t mention you personally.  I even apologize again to  Liz from Mom 101 for calling her a Mussolini-type dictator for her “blogging with integrity” movement from years ago.

Throughout the years, I’ve always had an eccentric definition of a “blog.” I don’t see this space as writing or photography or a business. I’ve seen it as an extension of my life, as a living and breathing entity that expresses my inner soul, writing to myself, the wind, and sometimes just for Tanis, simply to annoy her.

And thank you, Sophia for always being supportive of my online life (except for the one time you called my favorite blogging friend, Veronica, on the phone and yelled at her for that one comment, but I promised I would never mention that), and for being my muse during the Golden Age years of my blog.

Now on to my second decade of blogging.

The Student of Arabic

It was a snowy night in the city. I traveled on the F-train, coming home from a literary reading in Brooklyn. A dark-skinned man with Mediterranean features sat across from me, reading from a book written in a foreign language. A strap-hanger, a college-age young man enclosed in a puffy blue parka, stood over the reading man, peering down at his book.

“I’m taking Arabic in college,” said the college guy to the foreign-born reader.

“Cool. But…”

“It’s hard. Arabic is. I could have taken French, but I decided to take Arabic. It’s more useful.”

“Yeah, probably.”

“Today, the teaching assistant in my Arabic class — he’s a cool guy from Saudi Arabia — took me aside, and said, “Trevor, you want me to teach you something new?” So, I said, “Sure.” And he taught me how to say ننظر في ذلك ضيق الحمار. Ha ha. You know what that means right?”

“No.”

“It’s “Look at that tight ass.” ننظر في ذلك ضيق الحمار.”

“Hmm.”

“How come you didn’t known that? You’re reading Arabic.”

“Actually, I’m not. I don’t know Arabic. I’m Pakistani.”

“Oh, well. Arabic is hard.”

“Yeah.”

“ننظر في ذلك ضيق الحمار. Look at that tight ass. I’m never going to remember that.”

The Pakistani guy looked my way, hoping to somehow end this uncomfortable conversation.

The college guy sighed sadly, as if he had always made the wrong choices in his life.

“Maybe I should have taken French.”

Truth Quotient:  90%

++++

In three days it’s going to be the 10th anniversary of Citizen of the Month.  For a week, I’ve been debating what I should say in my big “10th Anniversary Post.”  Blogging has been such a big part of my life.   Citizen of the Month never got any big awards or made me any money.   But I’m proud of the way I pretty kept to the same philosophy of writing throughout these years — write whatever the fuck interested me at the moment.   Sometimes funny, sometimes not.  In the real world, I’m a bit of a people-pleaser.   On my blog, I’ve wrote whatever.

Last night, I overheard a completely inane conversation on the subway, so I scribbled notes on my iPhone, and said to myself, “this should be one of the posts celebrating my ten years of blogging.”

Why?  Because no one else will like it.  That to me — is blogging, old school.

I’ll be back on March 7th to thank you for being such good readers and friends.

Older posts