the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Month: August 2005 (Page 2 of 5)

Can Anybody Find Me Somebody to Hate?


I’ve always wanted to hate another ethnic or racial group.  Hatred gives a person a lot of inner power and focus.  My biggest problem in my quest for hating others is that I’m not that political.  My main interests tend to be music, food, and fantasizing about women.

I’ve tried hating black people.  After all, so much of urban crime is caused by blacks.  But then I remember that scene in “Do the Right Thing” where John Turturro admits to Spike Lee that all his favorite singers and athletes were African-American.  Where would American music be without black musicians?  We’d still be stuck listening to wimpy Jewish guys named Neil (Sedaka and Diamond).  I’m not a big fan of soul food, so that’s not a big plus for me.   But I’ve always found black women very sexy.   So, blacks are out for me.

I should hate Mexicans.  Look how illegal aliens are taking over California.  But I love Mexican food and I have a fondness for Mariachi music.  And this Mexican-born woman on the third floor of my apartment building is the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.

Do I need to bother bringing up Asians?   First of all, they have the food thing down pat.   Is there any cuisines better than the Chinese and Japanese?  I can’t stay angry at the Japanese for World War II when I think about sushi and green tea ice cream.  I don’t know much about their Asian music, but let’s just say Jewish men have a certain fondness for Asian women.

Jewish women are extremely sexy.  And Jewish food is great.  Why do so many people hate us?

I really want to hate Arabs.  Some of them really deserve to be hated.  But Middle Eastern food is delicious.  Even Israelis have to admit that much of their own food is modified Arabic food.  I predict that peace will come to the Middle East because of the food.  Arabic music is a little whiny for my taste.  But I would like to know more about Arab women.  So many of them are still stuck behind their burkas.  It makes me think that Arab women must be the hottest of them all, or else why would their men want to hide them from the rest of us?

Ethiopians:   food — yuch.  Music — so-so.  Women — gorgeous.

Indians:  food — yummy.  Music — annoying.  Women — amazing.

Italians:  food, opera, and great-looking women.  A trifecta.

the British:  bad food, the Beatles, the fabulous Kate Winslet

the French:  good food, bad disco-type music, chic women!

I was losing hope in my search for someone to hate.  But last week, there was a glimmer of hope.   I went with Sophia to dinner at the house of a co-worker, a Latvian interpreter.  This Latvian woman was the ugliest woman I’d ever seen.  The authentic Latvian dishes were absolutely awful.  Getting excited by the prospect of finding someone to hate, I asked the hostess if she had any Latvian music to play.   She put on a CD of a popular Latvian singer who sounded like a Slavic falsetto version of American Idol reject William Hung.  I was getting positively ecstatic – finally, I found a people to hate — LATVIANS!

I rushed home to Google to learn as much as possible about these petty little, pug-nosed Latvians.  I wanted to hate everything about them.  Then I found myself going to this link showing Olympic jumper Ineta Radevica posing in Playboy.  Damn it!


She Exists!

(Sophia Lansky)

Sophia was concerned that many of my readers were implying that this “Sophia” I’m always writing about is just a figment of my imagination.  So, true to form, she sprung into action and took this photo of herself with her cell phone while she was stuck in traffic on the 405. 

So there!  She exists.  Not everything on my blog is a lie.

TV is for Babies


The news hit Hollywood hard today.  Despite a slate of new summer series, it was a disappointing summer for the TV networks, with household viewing down 6% compared to last year.

Some cable networks are scrambling for new viewers.  This  morning, the Cartoon Network started a two hour block of programming for preschoolers, even children under a year old.

To tailor the cartoon block to make it more appropriate for young kids, the "Tickle U" block contains no shows longer than 11 minutes (most are closer to five minutes). Commercials are shown only on the half-hour, not between every cartoon.

Advertisers are also very keen on getting their products to this new demographic.

"This is a great advance for all of us in the advertising industry," said Morton Phonyperson, president of the Baby Advertising Council.  "I look forward to the day when babies across America say "Sugar Frosted Flakes" as their first words rather than "Mama, mama."

FOX, seeing potential in this new area of programming, has gone one step further by ordering 13 episodes of "Prenatal P.I.," a procedural drama about a 3 month old fetus who helps her police detective mother solve crimes at a Los Angeles C.S.I. crime lab.

A Good Excuse for No Post Today

Nothing new today, but not because I’m lazy.    Like a network TV producer, Sophia wished that her post wasn’t stuck in the weekend timeslot.

Me:  "So what do you want me to do?"

Sophia:  "Keep it up through Monday."

Me:  "But they’ve seen it already.  I don’t want Brooke to get bored and move on to some other guy’s blog.  I have to keep on producing new material all the time."

Sophia:  "Just one more day.  I like meeting all your readers."

Me:  "Yeah, and what’s in it for me?"

Sophia:  "I’ll let you come over tonight to watch "Entourage."

Me:  "I don’t even like that show.  You do."

Sophia:  "I’ll let you see me naked for five minutes before the start of the show."

Here’s the link to the previous post.

My “Lucy”


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…


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

And didn’t Ricky always forgive Lucy…?

Never Let Them See You Sweat


Thanks to everyone who made such nice comments on my “friendship” post.  I almost deleted the post after I published it, since I thought it was too wimpy – but I’m glad I didn’t.  I’m especially pleased to learn that I got other bloggers to think about the subject, including JJ, Ashbloem, Nicole, and Ascesis.  Even though we all live in different parts of the country – and world – we all have similar experiences in life.

Not all the responses to the post were positive.  One of my film school friends said it was a terrible idea to make myself look “bad” (meaning needy).  He’s a big fan of the maxim, “Never let them see you sweat.”  One of his favorite books is a self-help book by a professional jury-picker who writes about the “secrets” of stacking the jury by reading people’s dress, posture, and mannerisms  The book offers advice on how you can manipulate the world by using your dress and body language.  In my friend’s view, each individual is a private business that needs to be successfully marketed to succeed.  It is essential to show yourself in a positive light and never say anything bad about yourself… including your need for more friends.   The best way to get friends is to become more successful.  Then, friends will be knocking at your door.  Not surprisingly, my friend works in the entertainment industry.  

I understand where my friend is coming from.  The entertainment industry can warp your mind.  Nothing turns my stomach more than having to go to a “Hollywood” party.  Fear and desperation permeate the air, no matter how successful the group.  The reason:

Careers in Hollywood rise and fall faster than Pamela Anderson’s boobs when she’s bouncing on top of Tommy Lee in that sex video. 

The worst possible thing to say at a Hollywood party is “I’m out of work."  Everyone is afraid of catching the disease, like leprosy.   So, everyone (and I mean everyone, including the waiter handing out the cocktail franks) is “in development.”  No one believes this, but as long as no negative energy is released, everyone is relaxed and the party can proceed normally.

Keeping positive in Hollywood is not easy, or cheap.  People try to fight negativity by spending tons of money at the Learning Annex and the Scientology center.  I understand the need for this.  It’s so easy to get down on yourself that you sometimes need an outside source to help you delude yourself.

When I first move to LA, my neighbor was a pretty red-haired actress.  I wanted to ask her out, but I was too shy.  She wasn’t getting the acting jobs she wanted, so she started going to this EST-Forum type group to bolster her self-esteem.  And it seemed to work.  She didn’t get any more work, but her positive attitude went through the roof.  All of a sudden, she “knew” she was going to succeed.  There was no room for doubt.  She stopped talking to her regular friends because they were a “negative influence” who didn’t “believe in her abundant potential.”

While I was glad she was happier, I found her attitude adjustment a little creepy.  I also was concerned about the cost of all these “seminars” she took.  There was a new seminar almost every week, each costing a couple of thousand dollars. After each seminar, she would ask me to attend her “graduation.”  I kept on finding excuses not to attend, but there was a new graduation after each seminar, and I was running out of reasons.  

Finally, I agreed to go to one of her graduations.  I had no interest in this group at all, but I figured if I went, it might help me in my quest to see her naked and – well, you get where my mind was at.   I knew this group was probably cult-like.  Someone even warned me that they would try to “brainwash” me.  But I wasn’t very worried.  While some cults might appeal to me, I’m way too cheap to actually pay thousands of dollars for one.

My neighbor and I went to the group’s headquarters in Westwood.  The minute we got there, they shuffled all the “guests” into another room totally separate from the graduating students.  The door was locked and we never saw them for the rest of the evening.  Some graduation! 

A young guy with a well-trimmed beard stood in front of the guests, waving his finger at all of us.

Bearded Guy:  “You… all of you…are fuck-ups.  Every single one of you… Fuck-ups.  You don’t know shit.  And if you think you know shit, you know even less shit.”

One of the guests giggled.

Bearded Guy:  “What the fuck is wrong with you, fuck-up?

This was so weird that I was actually intrigued, as if I had stepped into a real-life movie about crazy people in California. 

“Finally,” I said to myself, “I’m seeing the real Los Angeles.”

The bearded guy kept on ranting about how fucked we all were.  Two female assistants handed out sign-up sheets where we supposed to write down our addresses and phone numbers. 

My mind wandered to thoughts about my actress friend.   I guess I wasn’t going to see her naked, after all.   It was clear that one of the "graduation requirements” was to drag another clueless victim into this nonsense.  But what bugged me the most was – why me?  Did I really look like such a “lost soul” that she thought I would go for this?

I got up to leave.

Bearded Guy:  “Where are you going?”

Me:  “I’m leaving.”

Bearded Guy:  "You can’t leave until we’re done."

Me:  "I’m really not that interested.  I’m sorry."

Bearded Guy:  "You should be sorry, you no-nothing fuck-up.  You signed up to be at this graduation ceremony."

Me:  "What graduation ceremony?  This… this… is just an excuse to get new clients.  And stop calling me names.  You’re rude… and I know what you’re trying to do.  I took psychology."

Bearded Guy:  “You really are fucked up.  Sit down.”

Some burly bouncer type stood in front of the closed doors.  For the first time since arriving, I got nervous.  My mind raced, trying to figure out what to do next. 

Me:  (to myself)   Should I just sit down and listen?  What could happen in an hour or so?  Or could something happen… I can’t be brainwashed in an hour?  But, wait… maybe I’m being brainwashed already?  Maybe I’ll become like one of those prisoners in the Stanley Milgram experiment I wrote a paper about in college Psych class?

Suddenly, I stopped thinking of my college psych class and reached into school memories that went even further back —  to my sixth grade civics class.  I remembered some speech I gave about the Declaration of Independence when I was chosen as my school’s “Citizen of the Month.” 

I turned and faced the bearded guy as defiantly as Patrick Henry must have stared down the British.

Me:  “This is a free country.  I have rights.  Have you read the Declaration of Independence?  The Constitution?   In 1789, something was written called the Bill of Rights.  Have you heard of it?  In it, it says that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.  There is free speech in this country.  And there is the inalienable right for me to move freely throughout this country.  And if I want to walk out those doors right now, I WILL walk out those doors.”

I marched to the doors.  The bouncer moved aside.  I opened the handles to the door and left.

I never brought up this incident to my actress neighbor.   I never scolded her or blamed her.  I understood that this craziness was important to her.  She needed this boost of confidence to make it in the entertainment business, even if she had to pay thousands of dollars for it.   And several years later, after we lost contact with each other, I did see her in a small speaking role on “Will and Grace.” 

So, maybe my film school friend is right: “Never let them see you sweat.” 

Maybe next time I want to write about Sophia, or my sex life, or my friendships on my blog, I’ll just say, “It’s in development.”

Full of Emoticons


A couple of days ago I got into a little trouble with one of my readers because the person misinterpreted something I wrote as true.  This is not the first time this has happened.  Sometimes, I stretch the point, such as when I wrote that I "slept with Tom Cruise."  Still, there are times when I want to express something personal, and I don’t want you to dismiss it by saying, "Oh, he’s just joking around."  Why am I the only one having this problem?  And then I realized why.  Most of you use those smilies (emoticons) when making an ironic or sarcastic point.   How many times have I seen a comment written to me that reads something like this:

 "Neil, you suck. Your blog sucks.  Your mother is a moron.  Your penis is smaller than Jude Law’s.  I hate your guts."  emoticon

Oh, look — she used a smilie.  She is joking.  Ha ha ha.  I love my readers.

I’m not sure exactly why I never use smilies.  I have nothing against them.  It could be because when I was a young student, I actually used a typewriter rather than a computer (so there were no smilies yet).   (Does anyone out there remember typewriters?  Has anything become as outdated as quickly as the typewriter?  Does anyone else feel bad for the Smith-Corona company?  Will I one day tell my grandchild about using "Wite-out" and they will laugh in disbelief?  But that’s something for another post.)

Today, I have smilies on my mind.   That, and religion.  What has caused more problems in the world than religion?  Why are the three big Western religion — Judaism, Islam, and Christianity — always at each others throats?  Even within the religions, there are divisions, usually between between the ultra-religious and the moderates. 

And why? 

I think the reason is similar to the one I had with one of my readers — interpretation.  For thousands of years, men have been fighting over God’s word.  What did He mean?  Which is the true religion?  Each religion is always fighting over the interpretation of the Bible.   Thousands of years of tsuris (trouble in Yiddish), and for what? 

If only God had waited a little bit — only had been a little more patient before he released his Word — at least until the arrival of the Mac in 1984.  Then, he could have used smilies to clarify things for all of us —

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters.   And God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light.  And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.  God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night.   emoticon

And there was evening and there was morning, one day.

And God said, "Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters."  And God made the firmament and separated the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament. And it was so.  And God called the firmament Heaven.    emoticon

And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.

And God said, "Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear." And it was so.  God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas.  And God saw that it was good.  And God said, "Let the earth put forth vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, upon the earth."  And it was so.  The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind.  And God saw that it was good.    emoticon

And there was evening and there was morning, a third day.

And God said, "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, and let them be lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light upon the earth." And it was so.  And God made the two great lights, the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night; he made the stars also.  And God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light upon the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.     emoticon

And there was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.

And God said, "Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the firmament of the heavens."  So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.   And God blessed them, saying, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth."   emoticon

And there was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.

And God said, "Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds." And it was so.   And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the cattle according to their kinds, and everything that creeps upon the ground according to its kind.  And God saw that it was good.   emoticon

Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth."  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.   emoticon

And God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth."  And God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food.  And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food."  And it was so.   And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.    emoticon

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