Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: comments

Typical Middle East News Story Comment Section

@David Gold, Queens, NYC

Why should we prosecute the filmmaker simply for making a film, even if it is a badly produced one about Islam? Don’t we have free speech in this country? Do we want to throw the makers of South Park in prison for making fun of Mormons. The Muslims needs to grow up and not act like a bunch of babies when their prophet is mocked in a stupid movie.

@Ahmad Khan, Beirut, Lebanon

When you say “The Muslims,” David, who exactly are you referring to? Don’t you realize that accounts put active participation in the anti-film protests at between 0.001 and 0.007% of the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims – a tiny fraction of those who marched for democracy in the Arab spring. Most Muslims are peace-loving and have no interest in this stupidity. The Newsweek cover story on “Muslim Rage” was pandering to the lowest common denominator. The Muslim world does not hold the American government or its citizens responsible for acts of ONE irresponsible Israeli filmmaker, and the super-rich Jewish financiers who helped back the project.

@David Gold, Queens, NYC

You should know, Ahmad, that despite your glee in pinning this on the Jews, that the filmmaker was actually an Egyptian-born Christian, and was not financed by any “super-rich” Jewish financiers. Sorry.

@Matt Rallington, Waco, Texas

Oh, so it is the fault of the Christians, David! So typical of a Jew to turn in his Christian brother as the guilty party. It has been that way since Judas pointed his finger at Jesus, the Lord, Our God.

@Ahmad Khan, Beirut, Lebanon

I so agree with you, Matt, my Christian friend. Never trust a Jew. Look at how they stole the land from the Palestinians.

@Matt Rallington, Waco, Texas

Actually, Ahmed, I am a firm supporter of the State of Israel. The Bible says that only through the Hebrews will there be a War to End All Wars, causing the End of Days and the return of our Savior, who will then destroy all who don’t believe in him.

@David Gold, Queens, NYC

Including the Jews, Matt?

@Matt Rallington, Waco, Texas

Oh, definitely the Jews, David. You will live in Hell forever.

@David Gold, Queens, NYC

I see. Well, even though you hate the Jewish people, Matt, I respect your support of the State of Israel.

@Rivers Stillman-Thompson, Berkeley, CA

I’m an atheist, David, and I can’t understand how Jews can circumcise their sons like savages. This primitive practice should be banned.

@Ahmad Khan, Beirut, Lebanon

Actually, Rivers, Muslims also circumcise their boys and I find your views abhorent.

@David Gold, Queens, NYC

Right on, Ahmed. We agree on one thing. Oh, and our love of falafel.

@Rivers Stillman-Thompson, Berkeley, CA

I like falafel, also, David, but only if it is organic.

@Matt Rallington, Waco, Texas

WTF kind of name is Rivers, Rivers? Are you a dude or a chick?

@Rivers Stillman-Thompson, Berkeley, CA

Gender has no meaning to me, Matt. Every individual contain both genders.

@David Gold, Queens, NYC

What a fruitcake! Right, Ahmad?

@Ahmad Khan, Beirut, Lebanon

Yes, David. Definitely. 🙂

@Father Brian McMasters, Cleveland, Ohio

Hey, everyone! Are there any young boys on here?

@Matt Rallington, Waco, Texas

Father Brian, you are on the WRONG FORUM!

@David Gold, Queens, NYC

Neil, that was a really inappropriate punch line for this blog post.

@Ahmad Khan, Beirut, Lebanon

I don’t know about that, David. At least it wasn’t about Mohammed!

Are Blog Commenters “Real” Writers?

A few weeks ago, there was a raucous argument online over the unimportant question of the day — are bloggers “real” writers?

I have my own thoughts about this, but I’m all about spreading the love, so for all practical purposes, I edge towards saying “yes.”  If you write, you’re a “real” writer, whatever that means.  A “professional” writer might be a better writer, but then again, there are a lot of shitty books published about cats.

The problem is the word “writing,” which like “blogging” is too broad and meaningless.  A doctor is a doctor, but you don’t want a pediatrician doing your heart surgery.  Blogging is a new art, and a singular discipline.  A good blogger might write a boring book.  On the other hand, I have read blogs written by novelists that bore me to tears.  These professionals  just don’t “get” the community aspect of blogging, or the soap opera-ish, episodic nature of a personal blog.   No writer can write anything.  Screenwriters are considered the low end of the writing totem pole, but both Hemingway and Fitzgerald took stabs at screenwriting, with awful results.  Every art form is different.  A play is performed live.  A movie uses editing.  Blogging is writing.  But writing isn’t blogging.  And really — who cares?  The whole conversation reeks of insecurity.   I’m not ashamed to say I am a blogger.  I’m ashamed to say I make NO MONEY blogging.   But I am proud to blog.   I love it!

When we talk about “real” writers, I’m assuming we are all thinking about someone like Jonathan Franzen, a guy who writes BOOKS you can buy in a store.   Of course, I only mention him because other bloggers are talking about him, which just proves that blogging is all about immediacy.

Yeah, I hear you.  Blogging is exactly like writing.  For every person who says that blogging is real writing, I wonder how many times you have gone into my archives to read my “writing,” as if my blog was a collection of short stories.   Never!    Gotcha!

In some ways, bloggers are not “real writers,” in that blogging is just plain different.  Bloggers use links.  Links are as revolutionary as editing in a movie, and completely unique to the online experience.  You never see links in a traditional novel.  Imagine a novelist describing Doctor Zhivago’s house, and then including a link to a photo in Flickr.  Bloggers play off of one another, like improv players.  Someone writes an angry post.  Two hours later, someone writes another post responding.  Blogging tends to be topical and immediate, like my name-dropping of Jonathan Franzen.  “Real writers” write in isolation, their beards growing gray as they toil over their masterpiece for ten years in an abandoned cabin in the woods.  And here is the real big difference, at least according to me:  most bloggers allow COMMENTS!  Not too many “real writers” allow comments on their novel, unless you are one of those crazy readers who scribble notes to the author on the side of the page.

“WTF?!  Are you saying that his wife is his OWN SISTER?! You are a perv!”

If you want to feel like a “real” writer, shut down your comments and let your beard grow.  If you want comments, and enjoy the adoration, you are a blogger.  Be happy.

Of course, as times change, so will our ideas about “writing.”  In ten years, all books might have “links” embedded, as we read them on our Kindles.

Which brings me to the real point of this post — blog comments.  If you are one of those people who shook your fist and shouted “Bloggers can be REAL WRITERS!,” I have a another question for you.  “Do you consider commenting to be real writing, and if no, why not?”

I do.  I consider my comments an integral part of my post.  The comments on one of my posts can be more interesting than my post.  They are very important in humor blogging.  Have you ever read the comments on The Bloggess?  They are hilarious.  Her blog would not be half as fun without her comments.  Jenny and her commenters FEED off of each other.  In fact, their relationship is so strong, I think she should SHARE all of her advertising dollars with her commenters.

I see many bloggers complaining about a lack of comments.  They usually blame Twitter and Facebook.  I say, it is your own fault.  You don’t respect comments as “real” writing.  You consider stupid one-liners on Twitter as “writing,” but the comments on your blog as an appendage to YOUR brilliant post.  Is it any wonder that there has been a brain-drain from the comment section to the Twitter stream?   There has already been a book on Twitter Wit?  Can you imagine a book of blog comments?  Can you imagine anyone getting a sitcom deal or book deal from a blog comment?  Of course not.  No one really respects the blog comment.

The first lesson I learned at film school is that the auteur theory of film-making was hogwash, created to fulfill the need for critics to analyze a movie in the same way that they would a book — written by one author.

We tend to view our blogs under this same “auteur” theory, dissing the community aspect of the medium.    Of course, this doesn’t stop us from pimping our blog posts on Twitter, or constantly networking.  Blogging is not only writing.  It is part circus, part Borg.

I write my blog.  It is my words.  But during my five year writing journey, I have been guided by YOU as much as by my own life.  YOU have been part of my experience.  We all have been part of each other’s blogging life.  This is what we mean when we talk about this “community.”  If we all just want to write on our own and think of ourselves as “writers,” then let’s drop blogging and write our books.  But if we are going to blog, we should embrace “blogging.”

I am not a good commenter.  I am more comfortable talking about my own life, than reflecting on yours.  I consider this a fault.

Commenting is a skill.  It is real writing.  I greatly appreciate smart comments.  For the longest time, I have wanted to come up with some sort of blog award, solely for comments, something that would undercut the typical “Best Blog of All Time” idea, a concept that would embrace the community, not just the individual blogger making believe she writes in complete isolation.  Perhaps by enobling the comment as an art form, as “real” writing, we can energize commenting again.  Wouldn’t it be great to see a session at a conference where the speakers doesn’t suggest ways to “get MORE COMMENTS” but instead — “how to write more meaningful comments on the blogs of your friends?” — taught by some of the best commenters amongst us.

If I actually started a Commenting Award, my personal nominee would be Headbang8.  When he comments on one of my posts, he takes my topic to another level.   This is, despite the fact that I rarely comment on HIS blog, mostly because he lives in Europe and isn’t in my usual circle of friends.  I can tell that this isn’t a reader who has zoomed though 100 blog posts in one morning.   He has actually thought about the subject, and when he writes a comment, I consider him to be a collaborator on the post.

And just to show how much he means to me, I will now share all of my advertising dollars with him.

Here is one of his recent comments on my post about my “big ears.”

Americans are plastic people. Often, in the best sense of the word.

Live your dream. You want to be an astronaut? Sure! A doctor? A scientist? A millionaire? Anybody can be anything they want to be. I was born in a log cabin but grew up to be president. I was once a football player and now I’m an actor. I was once a cheerleader and now I’m a movie star. I was a Catholic, now I’m a Buddhist. Live your dream. If you don’t, you have only yourself to blame. You didn’t try hard enough.

That sort of thinking spreads to your body. If I have only one life, let me live it as a blonde. You can shape your body. If you’re fat, it’s your own fault.

I once worked on the advertising account of a product that had to do with teeth. My god, what baggage teeth carry! If your teeth are bad, it’s a marker of poor discipline (did you brush right as a child?) or social class (could your parents afford braces?) or old age (yellow = old and decrepit). People around the world shake their heads in amazement about an American’s obsession with his smile.

Amidst all this obsession about be-the-best-you-can-be, it comes as a comfort, from time to time, simply to say “I am what I am”.

That’s what your tribe is for. The people amongst whom you feel comfortable. Who know your experience. The people with whom you can let your hair down.

Generally, we are born into a tribe. Few of us change ourselves to be part of a tribe to which we don’t naturally belong. We see or find people like ourselves. And discover that though we may differ, the thing we have in common makes those other differences unimportant. That’s a source of great serenity, self-confidence and strength.

The big-eared. It may seem slight to build a tribe around. But it was enough to make you feel bad about yourself growing up. It had an effect on you.

These wing-nuts, these head-kites, these flesh-made Flying Nuns, these Basset Humans, these Dumbos are your people, Neil. Embrace them. Love them. May you never have to grow your hair long, ever again.

Now THAT is “real” writing. In a comment.

Imaginary WordPress Plugin: Automatic Comment Respond-o-Meter

Are your readers complaining that you never respond to their comments, or spreading mean-spirited rumors that you only email those female bloggers who can be seen on Flickr wearing tank-tops or extremely tight t-shirts that read “Fussy:  writing well is the best revenge?”  This plugin is for you.

Imaginary WordPress Plugin:  Automatic Comment Respond-o-Meter

Overview

This WordPress plugin allows you to respond to your commenters automatically, bringing a human “touch” to your blog and making your readers feel as if the blog administrator really cares about their opinion rather than just their “hits”.  Social media strategists and probloggers all agree that taking the time to “service” your reader will help you monetize your online property and increase you page views. 

Automatic Comment Respond-o-Meter has 350 unique responses to every type of comment.  Most responses are general enough that after publishing your blog, you can just go off to see a movie, and let the plug-in do all the work.  Your readers won’t know a thing.

The 350 responses have been scientifically picked to be as broad, but as positive-oriented as possible, delivered randomly.

The blogger “response” will show up several minutes after the initial comment, at varying times, so it appears to the average reader to be written by a busy, but lovable human being, and not the plug-in bot.  Gender set-up is done on the administrative page, as well as the level of “snark” that you want exhibited in your personal response.

This plugin requires a basic knowledge of HTML to modify your comment form.

Example of Use

comment:  I loved this post.  And it is so true what you say about American Idol.  I’ll be glued to the screen tonight!

automatic response after three minutes:  Thank you for that great comment.  You are the best!

Other popular responses include:

“How true!”

“Have you seen the Wikipedia article on this subject?  Fascinating!”

“Now I know why I chose you as my blog crush.”

“Can’t wait to see you at BlogHer!”

“LMAO.”

“I hate you.  Only joking!  I’m just jealous of how talented you are.”

“Dooce couldn’t have said it better.”

“That comment totally turned me on, baby.”

and the always useful, “Yes!!!”

Installation

Download the Automatic Comment Respond-o-Meter Plugin version 1.1 Beta
(For Imaginary WordPress 2.5+)  
Coming soon!

To install, unzip the files into your /wp- content/plugins/ folder. Then activate it under the Plugin menu in your WordPress admin.

If you want to modify the theme, it is extremely easy to do.  Simply make all the necessary changes to the following:

<ol class=”commentresponse”>

<?php foreach ($comments as $comment) : ?>

<li <?php echo $oddcomment; ?>id=”comment-<?php comment_ID() ?>”>
<?php echo get_avatar( $comment, 32 ); ?>
<cite><?php comment_author_link() ?></cite> Says:
<?php if ($comment->comment_approved == ‘0′) : ?>
<em>Your comment is awaiting moderation.</em>
<?php endif; ?>
<br />

<small class=”commentmetadataresponse”><a href=”#comment-<?php comment_ID() ?>” title=””><?php comment_date(’F jS, Y’) ?> at <?php comment_time() ?></a> <?php edit_comment_link(’edit’,’ ‘,”); ?></small>

</li>

<?php
/* Changes every other comment to a different class */
$oddcomment = ( empty( $oddcommentresponse ) ) ? ‘class=”alt” ‘ : ”;
?>

<?php endforeach; /* end for each comment */ ?>

</ol>

Blogging Talk #2

blog1.jpg

I remember when I started blogging, I promised myself that I would never write about “blogging.” Could there be a subject more boring? God help us when the first movie about bloggers comes out. The studios love to make movies about current trends (breakdancing movies, anyone?) Warner Bros., please don’t make a blogging movie with Reese Witherspoon as a young blogger who falls in love with blah blah blah!

Unfortunately for you, the more I blog, the more I’ve become interested in the actual subject matter of blogging.

So, here are three weekend blogging thoughts, sort of a sequel to my earlier post on blogging tools:

1)

blog2.jpg

What are these banner things? I’ve been blogging for more than a year, and I’m still not sure what most of these banners are for. Question for those who are involved in these groups:

“Does anyone actually come to your site from “Blog Universe” or “Blogtopsites?””

Blogarama? Blogwise? Bloggernity? Blogstreet? What the hell is all this crap? Frankly, I don’t trust any button that blinks on and off. And if you want more readers, isn’t it easier to just steal contacts from other blogrolls?

So, what’s the buzz, are any of these groups worth joining?

2)

party1.jpg

Let’s talk about readership. Recently I got an email from a new blogger saying how lucky I was that I had all these readers. While I’m honored (I mean truly honored) to have people come to my site, I was just as happy when I had three readers. In fact, too many bloggers around makes me anxious. I’m trying to be creative. Who needs all these other “creative” people hanging around making me feel insecure?

My biggest problem is that I enjoy writing. That means I’m like a hermit. I’m not used to interacting with hot blogging babes all the way from Indonesia! There’s just too many cool bloggers out there to meet and talk with. It all begins to feels like a huge party where you’re supposed to circulate yourself from person to person, making chit-chat. I’m terrible at parties. I usually talk to one person all night. I’m the type a guy who meets a woman, and stays married to her for nine years until she throws me out. I’ve already written about my total disinterest in ever having a menage a trois. Dealing with one woman is hard enough. I struggle sometimes making blogging a more intimate experience for me and for my bloggers-friends. Sometimes I wish for more interaction other than snippy comments back and forth. Maybe it’s just asking too much from blogging. It is what it is.

I recently moved my entire blogroll to a separate page and started doing a “Crush of the Day.” This has greatly lessened my anxiety. I can make believe that I’m having coffee and bagels with just one person at a cool diner, rather than in the middle of a wild party with drunken bloggers taking their tops off. I mean, that could be fun too, but NOT every day.

3)

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One problem I’m always having while blogging is remembering where I commented on. For instance, let’s create this scenario:

Sam writes a post about his beloved grandmother. I read his post and love it. I write this comment:

“Hey, Sam, your grandmother sounds cool. How old is she now?”

Sam is impressed that I cared about his grandmother. He writes a long comment all about his wonderful grandmother. And you know what — I forget to go back. I completely forget that I wrote that question. Sam notices in his stats that I never came back. He starts bad-mouthing me to every blogger in town, saying, “Neilochka is a lying phony asshole who hates my grandmother!.” My reputation gets ruined.

A few days ago, I came across two free online applications that follow your comments, so you can keep track of where you have been — Cocomment (review) and Co.mments (review). They sound like they could be useful. But I’m pretty slow in trying new things out (I still don’t have an iPod), so I mention this, hoping that some geeky guy like Kevin will try it out first and report back. The only bad thing about these “comment” followers is that, like with the cellphone, there’s no more excuses anymore for not answering back.

I will actually have to care about your boring grandmother.

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month: Russian Porn: First We Shovel Snow

You Decide

monk2.jpg

I hate all you bloggers out there.   All you ever talk about is:

“Me, me, me.  Read me!  Read me!” 

And I’m no better.   I’m like a trained monkey typing away to amuse a bunch of ungrateful strangers. 

At least Stephanie Klein gets paid to write.  

Or if at least I got to sleep with some hot female blogger — that would make blogging worth the trouble.  

“But no,” she said.  “You’re married.” 

Like that stopped her from jumping into the sack with that real estate attorney last September.  

I noticed Lynn started a Poetry Thursday segment.  I hate poetry, but I wrote one anyway.

Dark, Dark, Dark
It Makes me Weary,
Just Thinkin’ About
The Blogosphery

I would quit blogging right now, but I’m too wishy-washy to make my own decision.  That’s why I’m going to let Fate decide.  Whoever writes the FIRST SECOND THIRD comment — I want you to tell me whether to continue blogging or to quit immediately. 

YOUR DECISION will be final.  You will decide the future of “Citizen of the Month.”

monk3.jpg

My “Lucy”

lucy02.jpg

You always hear "nice guys" complaining about women who only want to go out with "bad boys."  I’ve never complained about this, because I feel the same way about women.  I’ve always been attracted to the "trouble-maker."  When I use that term, I don’t mean a female criminal with tattoos riding a Harley.  I mean the high-maintenance but loveable woman, the irresisitable female who is also a pain in the ass. 

I blame this on Lucille Ball.  Growing up, I was in love with "I Love Lucy."  While other watched reruns of  "The Brady Bunch" after school, I watched reruns of Lucy and Ethel in the chocolate factory.  Being a bookish kid, I guess I fantasized about Lucy because she was so fearless.   She was a handful to be married to, and Ricky sure complained a lot, but would he have it any other way?  His life could never be boring with Lucy as his wife.  Even though Ricky was the famous bandleader, it was clear to everyone that Lucy was the more interesting character.

Sophia spelled "trouble" from the minute I met her.  We were dating only a few days when she almost "accidentally" burnt her apartment down by leaving something in the oven for six hours.  She broke her toe while hopping in the living room.  She took to making and drinking this kombucha "mushroom" tea because it sounded so exotic and exciting, even though I told her not to, and almost poisoned herself.  When she forgot to buy me a birthday gift,  I came home the next week to a multi-colored custom-made $4000 ergonomic desk chair that we could not afford.  It wasn’t enough that she got a swing band and a klezmer band for our wedding, at the last moment she also hired some belly dancers she saw at a restaurant.  She was always spontaneous, ready to go for a drive to dinner — all the way in Bakersfield.

And this is only during my first year of knowing her.   

But the minute I saw an old photo of her with red hair — that was it.  I was in love.

Important news flash to all those about to get married:  The thing you most love about your spouse will also become the thing that will end up annoying you the most.

Sophia is unpredictable and uncontrollable.  Sexy and exasperating.  She always forgets that she should respect boundaries and will step over them for you — for good and bad.

On my blog, readers write all sorts of comments to my posts, some serious, some sarcastic, some mean.  On a recent post, a reader wrote something that sounded mean.

I got a phone call from Sophia.

Sophia:  I read your blog today.

Me:  Uh oh, what now?

Sophia:  It’s about one of your readers, "M."  First she was mean to you, now she’s dissing some reader of yours.

Me:  She was joking.

Sophia:  No, she wasn’t.  Remember she once emailed you, angry about some innocuous joking comment you made on her blog about the genitals of Japanese men?

Me:  "M" and I made up weeks ago. 

Sophia:  I think you should delete the comment, especially since it attacks one of your readers.

Me:  I’ve never deleted a comment before.

Sophia:  She deleted your Japanese comment.

Me:  You’re like the Lady Macbeth of the blogging world. 

I ended up deleting the comment.

Later on, I received an email from "M."  She said I was being too sensitive and that she was just joking.   "M" and I made up again.

A few hours later, I received another email from "M."  This time, she was not friendly.   She accused me of writing an anonymous and nasty comment on her blog.   I told her that I had no idea what she was talking about.   She said I called her rude and bitchy.  I said I didn’t write it.  She insisted that I did and she had proof — she checked her stats and the comment came from my IP address!

How could that be?   But then I thought about it.  What would Lucy do?  Who else was in my apartment today?

I called up Sophia.

Me:  Sophia, did you…

Sophia:  OK, OK, I wrote the anonymous comment.  I’m guilty.   I’m sorry.  Don’t be pissed.  I can’t stand it when I think someone is trying to hurt you…

Oy.

Sophia, my protector, my bodyguard.  She does it out of love, I know. 

And didn’t Ricky always forgive Lucy…?

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