the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: Oprah

Oprah’s Big Give

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I watched this show on Sunday:  Oprah’s Big Give.   The very concept of the show made me uncomfortable:  An Amazing Race reality show where contestants compete by seeing who can give away the most stuff to poor, miserable, and disabled individuals in need.  It is a bizarre meshing of Oprah’s “My Favorite Things,” “Extreme Makeover Home Edition,” and “The Grapes of Wrath.”

Good Samaritan:   “Mr. CEO, I want to thank you so much for your generous donation.  This money will go a long way for opening a school for homeless children who lisp, and for hiring the finest in speech pathologists.”

CEO:  “Hold on, hold on.  Let’s wait until the cameraman shows up.”

Good Samaritan:  “What cameraman?”

CEO:  “Isn’t this donation for Oprah’s Big Give?  Aren’t you a contestant on the show?”

Good Samaritan:  “No, I told you on the phone I wanted to ask you for a donation for a school for homeless children who lisp.”

CEO:  “You’re doing this on your own?”

Good Samaritan:  “When I was younger, I lisped, and well, kids laughed…”

CEO:   “You mean you just called up and I let you in — and you have nothing to do with Oprah?”

Good Samaritan:  “Well, I saw how generous you were on her show last night and –” 

CEO:  “Get the f**k out of here!  I don’t just let anyone walk into my office.  I thought this was another donation for Oprah’s show.  I thought this was going to be on TV.”

Good Samaritan:  “Oh, I’m sorry.  But what about the donation?”

CEO:  “Give me that check back.  You’re an idiot.  Why are you collecting money for charity for NOTHING when you can be doing it on Oprah’s show and winning a million dollars!”

Good Samaritan:  “A million dollars!?”

CEO:  “My father always said, “Charity begins at home.””

Good Samaritan:  “Hell, yeah.  Can I borrow your computer for a second.  Let me sign on at Oprah.com.  I’ll come back here next time with Oprah’s camera crew.”

CEO:  “Now we’re talking charity!”

Neilochka’s Favorite Things 2005

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Welcome, readers.  I know you are here today thinking that this is just another one of my run-of-the-mill blog posts, but you are in for a…

BIG SURPRISE. 

(Hopeful gasp from readership)

In honor of Oprah’s annual over-the-top consumer-fest, Oprah’s Favorite Things 2005, which airs on Monday, I would like to introduce the first annual:

Neilochka’s Favorite Things, 2005! 

(Readers cheer wildly)

With the holiday season approaching, I want to offer some great gift-giving ideas.  But even more importantly, I want to say THANKS to all the new friends that I have made through this blog this year.

So, here it goes.  And remember, most of you will be walking away with GIFTS OF YOUR OWN!

(Readers get up and go crazy)

1) 

First up, I would like to thank you all for being such an intelligent and witty group.  When I first read you all, I visualized you as being very suave and sophisticated.  Unfortunately, I met a few of you and my image of you was quickly destroyed.  Some of you dress like real schlubs.  To rectify this, I would like to introduce my first favorite thing in the hopes that you will now start to dress as fashionably as you blog. 

Yes, I am talking about your very own ‘I Love Blogging" trucker hat!

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"I Love Blogging" trucker hats for everyone!

(Readers start chanting, "Neilochka!  Neilochka!  Rah Rah Rah!")

2) 

How many times have your rushed off to work and forgot to read the latest "Citizen of the Month" post? Sure, you can read it later or at work.  But wouldn’t you enjoy the post more when it is hot and fresh off the presses?  The answer is better time management.  For that, you need a timepiece that will always remind you when my latest post is up, and that will always be on Pacific Time.  Yes, you are some of the first people in the world to see my new "exclusive" line of watches that  I personally designed with Sophia’s assistance. 

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Yes, it is the "Citizen" brand of watches!   Each of you gets a choice of three of the finest watches made in the world!

(Readers scream in joy.  Several women take off their tops and wave their hard-to-unhook-bras in the air)

3) 

Many of you know that I have a special bond with my female readers.  I have never met a group of women who are as smart and sexy as you.  I feel I owe you a special thanks for all your love and support.  To show you my love, I’d like each of you to have another one of my favorite things of this year:  exact replicas of the $3.99 bouquet of slightly wilted flowers that I bought Sophia in an earlier post!

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(Several female readers faint.  Akaky has to give mouth-to-mouth to Tatyana)

4)

Speaking of Sophia, as my editor, she frequently calls me up to tell me that my post really sucked that day.  Sometimes, to better put her point across, she swears at me in Russian, a language known for its elaborate curses.   As a talented interpreter, actress and Russian dialect coach, Ms. Sophia Lansky knows all the proper curses in this extremely expressive language.  The English language is like Wimpsville  compared to Russian.   In English, it is considered inflammatory to say "Your mother!"  In Russian, they say, "Your mother like this and that, up, down, and around, and their mother, and seven coffins, too!"    Maybe because of Russia’s sad history, coffins are big in Russian.  You just don’t say, "F–k your mother!"  You say "F–k your mother through seven gates while whistling… and in her coffin!"  

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not big on cursing, so I’m been trying to catch up to Sophia by studying this book "Dermo!: The Real Russian Tolstoy Never Used!"  It is definitely one of my favorites this year.  If you always dreamed of cursing like a Russian sailor, this is the book for you.   A copy for everyone!

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(Readers cheer for Sophia.  Some male reader, drunk on vodka, reads from his new book and screams out to Sophia, calling her a "smokin’ hot piece of stuffed cabbage" in Russian.)

5) 

I’d like to give a special thank you to all my my anorexic readers.  It is your commitment to your unhealthy lifestyle that made my crappiest post into the most popular one.   Without you, I wouldn’t have my photos of Nicole Richie hot-linked all over the blogosphere.    You are the ones who made this site what it is today — not much.

What?  Is that a special guest I see coming it?  Yes, it is Nicole Richie herself!  And she is bringing each and every "Ana" site reader one of my favorite things — an In-N-Out burger from California’s best hamburger chain!

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(The Ana women would cheer, but most of them are too busy stuffing their faces with their first meal all  week and then running out to throw up)

6) 

Finally, I want to turn my attention to those who are most in need.  Because that’s what the Holidays are all about. 

I am talking to you, SHORT MEN.  

You have been nothing short of miraculous. You are another group of loyal readers, although you never read anything other than this one post about yourselves.  But I feel bad for you.  For months, my female readers have been shooting you down, saying that a man’s height is more important than anything else.  I know many of you feel insecure about your height.  That’s why I want to give  you the most important gift of all — your self esteem back.   This is truly my most favorite thing of 2005 — and it is not a consumer product.  It is the knowledge that in matters of love and romance, a man’s height is not the most important thing.   There are many ways to a woman’s heart, even when a man is short

NSFW… click here

The Body Woman

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My most popular post is titled “Too Skinny” – about the too skinny Lindsay Lohan and Nicole Richie.  Weight and body issues are an important subject for many women, particularly young women who look up to these actresses and feel ashamed of their own bodies.     The average dress size of the American woman is size 14.  Women are beautiful in all sizes.  Luckily, there are advocates who can speak to women about the importance of being comfortable with their own body – someone like Oprah.   Did you know that only three women were on the Discovery Channel’s list of the Top 25 Greatest Americans:  Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, and… Oprah Winfrey?!  (TV Guide, June 26, 2005)

I spoke to my friend, Brenda, also known as New York City’s #1 Oprah Fan.  I was surprised to learn that Brenda’s not Oprah’s #1 Fan anymore.

"When Oprah was fat, all she talked about was being happy with who you are.  Once she got thinner, she changed her tune.  Now, she’s like a recovering alcoholic, berating people for being fat.   If only you exercised more, ate less, did everything right.   That, and have a personal trainer and chef at your disposal!"

OK, so maybe Oprah is no longer an advocate for women on this subject.   Surely there are others who take the fashion industry to task for only designing clothes for very skinny women.  Take Cathy Horne, the New York Times fashion critic.  She used to weigh 190 pounds.   Oh, but then she started to feel like a phony.  How could she write about fashion if she was couldn’t — oh my god — fit into the designer clothes she reviewed?

Unlike art or music or other fields that receive critical appraisal, fashion is visually as well physically expressive. It necessarily involves the body. And I had been using only my brain to evaluate clothes. Because I had little personal experience with the physical side of fashion: the fit, the movement, indeed the pleasure that it can give.

What led me to think about this and to question, at least retrospectively, my fitness for the job was that in the last eight months, after a decade of slowly inching downward, I have lost about 30 pounds and now weigh 137. For the first time since my early 20’s, I can wear a size 8. People in the industry have noticed and complimented me on the change. But the picture wouldn’t be clarified until I went to see Andy Port, a friend and editor at The Times Magazine, to ask if she thought there was an article in any of this.

"Oh, definitely," Andy said. "Especially given your job and the way the fashion industry views weight." She added, on the verge of a shriek, "I mean, just think how many times a designer, after getting a bad review from you, said, ‘That big fat bitch!’ "

Now, Cathy Horne is a happy and fulfilled woman.  It was the fat that was holding her back from being the ultimate fashion journalist.   As a writer, I can absolutely relate.    To better write this post about weight and women, I have gained 30 pounds and undergone a sex change operation.  

If there is going to be a strong advocate for women being happy with their own bodies, it must come from the feminist movement.  I remember how my Aunt Tilly used to go on marches with Bella Abzug and complain about the male dominated society.  What I didn’t know was that the Bella Abzug is as old school as Run-DMC. 

The representatives of the “third wave” of American feminism are Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards, writers of the well-received Manifesta:  Young Women, Feminism and the Future.  Baumgardner and Richards are popular speakers on college campuses.  They separate themselves from older feminists by saying its OK to dress pretty and flirt with boys.  On their own website, they give another reason for their popularity.

Jennifer and Amy agreed to visit the class. What a night. One student said afterwards, "It was wonderful how they didn’t look like feminists."

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(photo by Ali Price)

I’m sure my Aunt Tilly would be the first to admit that Bella Abzug and Betty Friedan weren’t lookers.  And look how thin Jennifer and Amy are!  They look great!

Amy Richards also has an advice column titled “Ask Amy” on a feminist website.  Finally, we found a person who can help young women overcome their body issues.

Many years ago I used to get so many emails from girls saying: "I’m ugly, I’m fat, I hate my body." and I kind of towed the feminist line for a long time, which was: (saccharine voice) "Oh, that’s not true! It doesn’t matter what you look like! It’s what’s inside! You are a beautiful person!" And then I realized- first of all, when I would write that back to people they would, like, never write me back, ’cause I think they could just see through the phoniness.

In other words, the new answer is  “We’re feminists, but you’re fat.”

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