Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: Queen Mary

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.

Power Struggles

armada1

I’m flying to Los Angeles on Friday for a couple of weeks, partly to take care of work-related matters.   I’m already feeling the anxiety.   Writing in Hollywood does not exactly fit my personality.   Networking is essential and there is a good amount of backstabbing.    In the entertainment industry, the aura of power is very important.   While I do have a competitive side, I would probably make a better junior high school English teacher.   That is more “me.”

One of the reasons I love blogging so much  is that I can avoid this competitive nature of writing.   Where else can I write a silly story and have pretty girls show up and applaud?   I don’t have to deal with agents or schmooze with people I don’t like — and best of all, the hero in the story gets to be ME, not Matthew McConaughey.

As blogging matures and becomes more business-like, it becomes just like Hollywood, which is people struggling for attention and power.   This used to trouble me, but now I just accept it.   It is human nature.   Sadly, life is less like a John Lennon song, and more like a game of music chairs or singing on American Idol.

I enjoy reading posts about the mom bloggers, because they are the most “successful” of the personal bloggers.  They have the most at stake, so there is always some internal drama going on that rivals “All My Children.”   “Important” moms argue over who is the most “influential,” as if motherhood was now a spectator sport.   Some writers now spend more time fighting over the direction of mommyblogging — what to say, what to do, what to call “mommyblogging” — than discussing their daily life.

I learn from these strong-willed individuals, much as I did with Sophia.   I have no problem with women being power brokers.  I wish I could be as strong and as sure of my opinions and wants.

You can catch up on the latest drama as my friend, Erin, Queen of Spain, who once rallied mom bloggers to “become a business,” now outs new bloggers as “carpetbaggers,” because they skip the “content” part of the writing completely, and just do giveaways.

I don’t disagree with Erin.   The bigger question is “who calls the shots?”   Who decides what a mommyblogger, or any blogger, should or shouldn’t do?   Who gives community leaders the power to speak for other individuals?

A commenter on Resourceful Mommy said it better —

What I find funny about this conversation (and several other conversations similar in topic and tone) is that the original Big bloggers were some of the first to push boundaries–the first pursued for reviews, the first to be paid bloggers and blog community leaders, the first to set up businesses connecting companies with bloggers.

It’s okay for one generation to redefine and raise eyebrows, but now everyone else must be controlled by their limits?

When there are limited resources, there will always be power struggles.  It doesn’t surprise me that as the economy has faltered, there has been more nastiness online.  People have agendas, sometimes personal, sometimes political.  This is the same for men and women.  Just watch an episode of “Survivor.”

stuart

On Saturday, I saw a production of Mary Stuart on Broadway, with Janet McTeer and Harriet Walter as Mary Queen of the Scots and Queen Elizabeth 1.   As with many dramas that were first produced in London, the acting was phenomenal.   I don’t know if I would recommend it to everyone.   It is talky, and I found myself dozing off a bit during the first act.    Luckily, during the intermission, I went into the lobby, turned on my iphone, and read about history on Wikipedia, filling me in on the backstory of this great power struggle of the 16th Century.

After the death of Mary Tudor, Henry II caused his eldest son and his daughter-in-law to be proclaimed king and queen of England.    From now on, Mary always insisted on bearing the royal arms of England, and her claim to the English throne was a perennial sticking point between Elizabeth I and her, as would become obvious in Mary’s continuous refusal to ratify the Treaty of Edinburgh. Under the ordinary laws of succession, Mary was next in line to the English throne after her father’s cousin, Elizabeth I, who was childless.   Yet, in the eyes of many Catholics, Elizabeth was illegitimate, thus making Mary the true heir as Mary II of England.   However the Third Succession Act of 1543 provided that Elizabeth would succeed Mary I of England on the throne.

This was an epic battle between two powerful women, between family members, between two religions, that changed Europe and the world forever.

Clearly, Erin of the Queen of Spain (funny how everyone wants to be a Queen!)  is not going to chop my head off for writing this.   She is a very nice women.   As I mentioned earlier, I learn from these dramas.  I shy away from conflict (at least in real life), although I admire those who take a stand and fight for it.   We all have to push ourselves if we want something worthwhile.   Even something as beautiful as all the money collected for the March of Dimes last week for Maddie required volunteers organizing and pushing for money, and focusing our energy on the importance of this charity, opposed to the many other good charities in the world, like prostate cancer or muscular dystrophy.  Even Good Deeds requires leadership and someone (or some organization) getting slighted.  Everyone wants the attention focused on them.

I perfectly understand the feeling.   One of the problems in my marriage was this feeling of a power struggle, over “who was in charge.”

Today, my mother and I were walking in Times Square when we encountered men dressed as cartoon characters. Kids would run up to, say SpongeBob, and the parent would take a photo. At first, I thought these were sanctioned characters presented by the Disney Store, but then I noticed that Sponge Bob was pushing for tips, and that the “Elmo” character was in direct competition with SpongeBob. He seemed to be pissed that the kids considered him “2008” and only wanted a photo with SpongeBob instead.   Two blocks away was the production of Mary Stuart, but I didn’t have to pay a hundred dollars a ticket to see great drama.  It was right in front of me.   Two hard-working guys (or gals), stuck in hot, uncomfortable costumes in the heat, battling for tips from tourists from Germany.

Another example of limited resources, and a power struggle for dominance.

Now, honestly.   Where ELSE can you ever read a blog post comparing mommybloggers, 16th Century English royalty, and SpongeBob?

By the way, the exchange I had with my mother over these cartoon characters was amusing.

My mother and I encountered Sponge Bob in the center “island” in the middle of 42nd Street.

spongebob

Mom:   “Who’s that?”

Neil:  “Sponge Bob.”

Mom:   “Is he supposed to be a piece of swiss cheese?”

Neil:   “No, I think he is supposed to be a sponge.”

Mom:  “Kids play with sponges?”

Neil:  “I’m not exactly sure he is a sponge. Let me ask my readers.”

I took a photo of SpongeBob with my iPhone.

Mom:  “You should take a photo of Oscar too.”

Neil:  “That’s Elmo.”

elmo

Mom:  “Everyone is taking a photo of the sponge, but no one is taking a photo of Elmo. Look at him. He looks so sad. He must be shvitzing in that costume.”

Neil:  “I don’t want to take a picture of him.”

Mom:  (Jewish motherish)   “Go on. Take a picture of him. You know you want to.”

We crossed the street and immediately ran into Mickey Mouse and Shrek.  While SpongeBob and Elmo were doing their shtick for tips on “the island,” these guys seemed to be professionals hired by Disney.

Mom:   “Hey, it’s Mickey Mouse!  You want a photo of him?”

Neil:   “I don’t like Mickey Mouse.”

Mickey waved at me.

mickey

Mickey Mouse:   “Hello. Do you want to take a photo of me?”

Mom:   “Go ahead, Neil.”

Neil:  “No, thanks.”

Mickey looked disappointed.

Mom:  “What about a photo of Shrek?

My mother looked Shrek over.

Mom:  “I thought Shrek would be bigger.”

shrek

Neil:   “It’s not really Shrek.”

Mom:   “I know that.   He’s in the Disney musical.”

Neil:  (to Shrek)   “Are you and Mickey working with Disney?”

Shrek:  “Yes.”

I pointed over to SpongeBob and Elmo.

Neil:  “And what about those guys?”

Shrek:   “I don’t know WHO they are.   They’re just doing it for the money.   They don’t care about the children.”

Mickey overheard our conversation and came over.

Mickey:  “Those assholes are stealing our customers.”

Mom:   “No wonder they call Bob a sponge.”

Neil:   “Don’t they need a license?”

Shrek:   “Who knows?  (to Mickey)  We should tell the cops on them.”

Mickey:  “Good idea.”

Mom:  “C’mon, Neil. NOW you have to take photos of your new friends!”

I caved in and took photos of Mickey Mouse and Shrek.   I lost the power struggle with my mother.

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