the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Month: April 2006 (Page 2 of 3)

Name Changes: I Now Live In Blogosphere Estates

1)  My Favorite Cereal


I was walking down "aisle 10" in Ralph’s Supermarket today to buy my usual healthy, but cardboard-tasting "high-fiber" cereal, when I started reminiscing about the sugar-high cereals of my youth:  Lucky Charms, Trix, Frosted Flakes, and my all time favorite — Sugar Pops — or Sugar Corn Pops, depending on what year you started eating them.  I used to love those bright yellow crunchy bits of sugar that somehow were related to "wholesome corn" and kept their crunch quite well, unlike the wimpy and soggy Rice Krispies.   

My current supermarket had many cereals on sale, almost too many, and there was a whole section devoted just to Kellogg’s products.  But when I saw the familiar yellow box, I was quite surprised to learn that Sugar Pops were not called Sugar Pops anymore.  No.  Now, they are just called Pops.  The word "Pops" was written in some pseudo-graffiti font and there was some sort of promotion going on for snowboarding.  This was obviously a Sugar Pops for a new generation.   But are parents so stupid to think that Pops are any healthier than the Sugar Pops they used to eat, just because Kellogg’s dropped the "Sugar" from the name?

Maybe Sugar Pops are more successful nowadays as just Pops.  Changing names can be a powerful illusion, like changing Kentucky Fried Chicken to the heart-healthy KFC.

2)  Real Estate


When I was growing up in Flushing, there was a housing project across the street.  The residents were mostly those on welfare and other federal assistance programs.   While it was a noble idea in principle, it was a nightmare for the neighborhood.   The crime rate zoomed, and women were frequently attacked walking the streets.  After a few years, there was so much community uproar about "the projects," that they were closed down.  A few months later, they were taken over by a private company, quickly painted over, and renamed "Georgetown Mews."   My friends and I always joked about this, as if this ultra-pretentious name somehow transformed this ugly complex into something sophisticated.

With real estate so hot, I see this type of "naming" used all the time.   For instance, on the way to Palm Springs recently, I noticed what used to be an empty lot in a god-forsaken desert area between LA and Palm Springs.  Now, it has been transformed into "Rawhide Ranch," as if any actual horse wouldn’t immediately drop dead in the area’s 120 degree heat. 

New York and San Francisco have always been very successful in turning a rundown part of the city into some hip enclave.  Step one:  promote the area with some cool name like Tribeca, Soho, DUMBO, etc.  Los Angeles is now getting into the game by "trying to trick hipsters into leasing Skid Row lofts: the Old Bank District."

Why not?  It works.

3)  Concentration Camps


Changing your name is frequently a way of hiding your past.  When a company does something illegal, they often come back with a changed name — and a fresh start.  Sometimes a name is associated with a disaster. That’s why after ValuJet crashed in the Florida Everglades, they changed their name to AirTran.  It’s not surprising that Poland even wants to to rename Auschwitz.

"Poland is trying to change the name of Auschwitz concentration camp to emphasize that Nazi Germans, not Poles, were responsible for the most murderous center of the Holocaust.

The government has asked the United Nations to change the name of its World Heritage site from "Auschwitz Concentration Camp" to "the Former Nazi German Concentration Camp of Auschwitz.""

Who’s going to say that mouthful?  I think most people remember that the Nazis were the bad guys.   Name changing is a powerful instrument.  What do you think Poland is trying to forget about it’s own past?

I understand that living in Auschwitz might be a drag.  But, hey, why not just build a Six Flags there so Auschwitz can change its reputation from the "place with a death camp" to a "place for fun?"

In the Doghouse


Because of the last two posts, which contain elements of real events and private conversations that I was not supposed to uh, blab about online, I am temporarily living in the doghouse.  Unfortunately, my doghouse does not have internet access, so this will probably be my last post of the day.   Thank you to all who commented on the earlier post, which has mysteriously disappeared from the blogosphere.

It was great having lunch with you today, Liz.

And Happy Easter to all.

I’m going back into the doghouse.   Please send blankets.

Never Trust a Female Blogger


The recent discovery of the Gospel of Judas after 1700 years shows "Judas Iscariot not as a betrayer of Jesus, but as his most favored disciple and willing collaborator."

So, it probably time to stop using the word "Judas" as synonymous with "betrayer." 

May I suggest a new term — "Megan."

Yes, cute and lovable Megan, the blogger who befriended my wife despite my concerns that this friendship will only means trouble. 

Men, do not let this happen to you.  Keep your girlfriends and wives locked away when meeting fellow female bloggers.  Women will always betray you.  It’s like they have a secret sisterhood.

What happened?  Why am I so up in arms today?  

Well, yesterday, I was in a very happy mood.  I got all my passive-aggressiveness out in my blog post and I was pure positive energy.  I even thought I’d surprise Sophia when she came home by opening the door wearing nothing but my boxer-briefs.  But as I opened the door, all I noticed was a scowl on Sophia’s face.

"I hear you wrote about me on the blog today." she said.   "And you portrayed me in a unflattering light."

"Uh… no, I portrayed you as nice.  How did you know what I wrote about today?"

"Because Megan called me.  She didn’t like how you wrote about me.  She said I need to bop you on the head when I get home.  And if she could, she’d beat you up, too."

"Megan… called you up… about my blog post?"

This was utterly shocking to me.  My Megan… the blogger I used to flirt with in emails.. can she be turning into a fink rat informer?    If she did this, she just broke one of the major rules in the blogger’s handbook.  "Do Not Rat Out Blogger to Wife."

"You are so TAKING that post down now.  You promised that you would ask me first before writing about me."

"I can’t take the post down.  I’m getting tons of comments on it.  And you’re the good one in the post.  Really.  It’s all about how I’m the passive-aggressive one."

"Did you tell them how you bought the exact cake that I told you NOT to buy."

"Yeah, yeah, sure, sure… I made you look good and me bad."

"And I’ll say it again.  I’m not like my mother."

"Of course not." (add appropriate emoticon for sarcastic effect)

(Editor’s note:  The last two lines were never really exchanged, but were added for "humorous effect.")

Sophia is really wonderful.  Eventually, she said it was OK to keep the post (after making a few minor adjustments to the story).  I see it as a victory for male bloggers everywhere.  Like Woodward and Bernstein, I stood true to my story.   I didn’t let the woman call the shots.  

For once, I roared like a Belgian tiger!

Later that afternoon, we got ready to attend our second Passover Seder.  No cake debacles here.  Our second seder was one of the nicest I’ve ever been to.  Sophia and I were invited to the home of blogger Danny Miller, who not only writes his own terrific blog, but contributes to the Huffington Post.  So going to his big-wig seder is the blogger’s equivalent of going to the celebrity seder of Leonard Nimoy.  Danny and his wife, Kendall, have an amazing historic home, the brisket was perfect, the guests were interesting, Sophia sang wonderfully, and Danny’s daughter, Leah, impressed us all with a puppet reenactment of the Ten Plagues.

But perhaps the highlight of the evening was when Kendall served me the matzoh ball soup with two giant matzohs balls.

"I hear you like big boobs."

Obviously, Danny told this bit of information to his wife.  But that’s OK. I don’t mind Danny imparting that type of information to the world.  I know Danny would NEVER rat me out to my OWN Wife. 

Eh tu, Megan?



On any given day, I receive hundreds of emails from women who either want to marry me or see photos of my Adonis-like naked body.  The truth of the matter is that I’m not a perfect specimen of manliness, despite what you think.   I have one fatal flaw, my Achilles heel:

I am passive-aggressive.

I’m not a very combative person in general.  But if I feel that I’m wronged, I have a habit of storing that information in the back cages of my mind, where it waits, like a Belgian tiger in heat, ready to leap out and attack at the most opportune time.

Forget what I just said.   That was literary bullshit that doesn’t convey me at all.  My passive-aggressive nature is nothing like a Belgian tiger in heat.   That is way too aggressive for Neilochka.  My approach would be more like the sneaky snake, slowly trapping my prey in a devious manner.

Or as Sophia likes to say to me on more than one occasion:

"Neil, you’re such a woman."

Hey, it’s not me stereotyping women as devious sneaky snakes.  Blame Sophia.  But when you tell her this, just beware that she is like the Belgian tiger.

Last night, we went to Sophia’s parents house for Passover.   As we’re driving, Sophia wanted to see the cake I bought.  She wasn’t happy with the choice I made and told me so.  This irritated me, because I thought Sophia was acting too picky, but I let it slide, mostly because I know Sophia gets nervous when visiting her mother.

The meal was delicious until it was time for dessert.  Sophia’s mother didn’t like the cake and told this to Sophia.   Sophia said that her mother was too picky and defended my choice of cake, even though the cake really was bad.

Now imagine we’re driving home afterwards.  Would it be stupid of me to bring up to Sophia that she had acted before JUST LIKE HER MOTHER?   Do most women really want to hear this? 

Or was I being passive-aggressive?

I have this bad habit of remembering hurts from as long as ten years ago.  Maybe I should take a lesson from blogging:

  1. You write a post. 
  2. You get your comments. 
  3. And then you put that post in the archives. 

Have you noticed that hardly anyone ever reads you old posts once they’re done.  Sure, you get some spammers and some crazy people still talking about Lindsay Lohan, but mostly the past is past.  It used to bother me that I would write a cool post and then after a day or so, no one would care anymore.   But maybe this is a good approach for real life. 

How can you be passive-aggressive when you put all your old issues into your archives and never again look at them?

Passover Joke


For months, Moses has been telling the Israelites that he’s going to get them out of Egypt and lead them to the Promised Land.   But ever since Moses got involved, the Pharoah isn’t budging, and the overseers are only making them work harder.

The Israelites, kvetchy by nature, are getting annoyed.

One of the Israelites goes to Moses and says, "So, nu?  What’s going on?"

"Don’t worry," says Moses.    "God is gonna get us out of here."

"Yeah, like how?"

Moses looks up towards the sky. 

"If the Pharoah doesn’t give in, God will smite Egypt with a rain of frogs."

"Oh, boy," says the guy sarcastically.  "Like that’s gonna really work with the stubborn Pharoah."

"Believe me," says Moses.  "If the Pharoah resists that, God will smite Egypt with a plague of locusts."

The guy remains skeptical. 

"The Pharoah’s no wuss.  You think he’s just  going to give in because of some bugs."

Finally, Moses gets a little peeved. 

"Listen, you stiff-necked nudnick,  why don’t you trust me?  God will get us out of Egypt."

"OK, so let’s say he gets us out of Egypt.  What happens when we get to the Red Sea?"
"God will part the waters of the Red Sea to open your path to the Promised Land."

The Israelite scratches his head. 

"If God can do all that, why doesn’t he just walk us out of here without going through this whole big rigamarole?"

Moses nods in agreement.

"I know.  I know.  I asked God the same thing.  But it seems like He’s a bit of a drama queen."

Easter vs. Passover 2006: The Grudge Match

(Easter eggs vs. Passover matzoh balls)

Yes, it’s that time of the year again as Jews and Christians battle it out for Spring Holiday of the Year.

Let the Games Begin!



Marshmellow Peeps  (-10)
Cadbury Mini Eggs  (+12)


Fruit slices (+5)
Barton’s Kosher for Passover Chocolates  (-15)




Hot Cross Buns  (+25)
Assorted Easter Cakes  (+50)


Streit’s Macaroons  (-150)
Passover Cakes (-100)




Glazed Ham  (-150)
Leg of Lamb  (-50)
Vegetables   (+50)


Brisket (+150)
Matzo Kugel  (+75)
Gefilte Fish (-25)
Matzo Ball Soup (+350)




Making Easter Eggs (+30)
Rolling Easter Eggs  (+3)


Finding the Afikomen [hidden matzo] and making money (+100)




The Easter Rabbit (+20)


Elijah showing up to the seder to drink his “glass of wine.” (-1)




“The Passion of the Christ” — a violent and depressing movie (-25)


“The Ten Commandments” — old-school epic with lots of action and sex. (+140)




Bringing Heidi Klum to your Easter Dinner.   (+100)


Bringing Barbra Streisand to you Passover Seder. (+550)


You Decide


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.”


What I Learned on the Internet Today


Women, you’re Not a Failure if You’re Not in a Relationship

(terrific post by Stephanie Klein)

"It’s amazing how we think of ourselves as failures because something doesn’t work out.  Yes, we see it as a learning experience.  We see it as "for the best," but really, deep down, we worry that we’re failing at this.  At being with another person.  At making it work.  Instead of realizing, maybe it just wasn’t the right person.  No, screw maybe.  You’re not a failure when a relationship ends.  The same way you’re not a success when one begins.  Too many women are beginning to measure their worth on the merits of their relationship.  "But I was the only woman in that room without a ring on my finger, and it just…"  NO.  Stop that.  I’ve been her, too.  I’ve been in and out of "us," the kind of "us" with a ring.  It didn’t make me more of anything.  And it didn’t make me less once I was alone.  You’re failing yourself when you measure you that way.  Instead, value yourself on the strength of your female friendships, on the wise old women you can turn to for guidance.  On your ability to make people laugh, or think, or know that you’ll always be there for them.  Even when they feel like the failure."

Men, you are a Failure if You Show Any Fear

Self-Confidence — How to Develope the Self-Confidence You Need to Succeed in as Few as 31 Short Days!

"We should not apologize to ourselves. A sense of the dignity of life, and the sovereignty of the soul, should keep us strong and positive. We should be too big for the little habit of excuse-making. Self-depreciation never won a single battle of life. It has, on the contrary, killed ambition, weakened the will, and incapacitated thousands of men for noble work. Apology is weakness on parade. Avoid it. Observe some man who comes toward you, walking with short, jerky steps, his dress careless, the corners of his mouth turned down, keeping well to one side of the walk. As he passes, he gives you a hasty, frightened glance, which tells you unmistakably of despair, discouragement, and failure. The man’s whole life probably has been negative in its character and outlook. The daily, and perhaps hourly, streams of false suggestions poured into his mind have at last overwhelmed him and his life closes in an eclipse.

Many a man tormented by fear and timidity does not realize what a flood of negative thoughts daily affects him. He hedges himself in with suggestions of limitation, incapacity, and unworthiness. He constantly thinks not of how he will succeed, but of how he will surely fail. When Washington Irving was asked to preside at a public dinner to Charles Dickens, upon his visit to America, he hesitated and said he would surely fail. It was pointed out to him that he was really the man properly to direct that high function, and at last was prevailed upon to accept. But to many friends he repeated his fear that he would fail. The night came, and before a brilliant gathering Irving arose to speak. He made an excellent beginning, but suddenly stopped and brought his remarks to a close. As he sat down, he whispered to a friend on his left, "There, I told you I would fail, and I did!""

Women, you Can Be Successful as a Stay-at-Home Mom:

Our Life:  Feeling Successful as a SAHM

"It’s taken a long time but I’ve finally realized that my achievements are extraordinary every single day. It is this recognition that I have given myself that doesn’t just make me able to mop another floor, wipe another nose, scrub another toilet, prepare a meal and not really expect a whole lot in return and be able to do it without grumbling and complaining, but to actually do these things with joy. I can wash the same clothes every other day, shop for the same groceries, run kids to the same practices and lessons each week, and know that I’m successful, because I know if I wasn’t doing those things that may at times seem unappreciated, that my family members lives would not be as pleasant or enjoyable as they are. In the same way that a nurse, or a doctor takes care of yet another patient (Hopefully because it makes them feel good) or a marketing person comes up with yet another witty ad, or a lawyer closes yet another real estate deal and feels successful for it when they have been acknowledged momentarily with a monetary or sometimes even maybe more satisyingly with a personal compliment or thank you, I can feel successful when I have found a knew way to deal with my children’s arguments or created a new meal that "almost" everyone liked, or knitted a new baby blanket for the newest baby coming, or delivered a meal to a neighbour or freind in need, or spent some time doing one of my favorite things, writing because it brings me joy. If we go about these things with a positive happy attitude, not expecting anything more then the realization that we are raising a happy, loving family then that can be a reward in itself and we will truly enjoy it."

Men, you are  Committing Career Suicide as a Stay-at-Home Dad:

from the Wall Street Journal

"When Steven Greenfield, a 40-year-old software-development administrator in San Jose, Calif., started looking for work early last year, he found he had some explaining to do. Managers kept quizzing him about his decision to stay home the prior four years to raise his three young daughters.

One interviewer asked him if he was gay or "just weird, since ‘stay-at-home dad’ isn’t something a man is willing to admit to," he was told. A second interviewer accused him of failing to keep current with technology because "raising kids was too time-consuming," although the interviewer never bothered to ask Mr. Greenfield about any of his specific technological abilities.

A third, informed of Mr. Greenfield’s stay-at-home status, simply seemed at a loss for words. The interview wandered off track, and ended quickly."

Waiting for the Mammogram


This afternoon, I  accompanied Sophia  to Cedars Sinai for her mammogram.   There were six other women of varying ages in the waiting room.  As I played "Virtual Darts" on my cellphone, Sophia talked with the other women. 

One woman complained about how long it took for her to get an appointment.  Another woman said she’d been waiting for two hours in the waiting room.  Another joked that they make you wait for two hours in one waiting room, then they bring you inside to another waiting area, where you’re tricked into waiting another hour! —  the same gimmick they use at Disneyland to make you feel like you’re moving in line at Space Mountain.  

"And at least at Space Mountain, you don’t have to wear a smock that barely covers you," said the woman.

I probably shouldn’t have gotten involved in the conversation, but blogging has made me an ultra-curious person.  I now talk to everyone, hoping to get a blog post out of it.  I politely asked about the mammogram procedure — and everyone took turns telling me how painful it could be. 

"They squeeze your breasts like they’re in a vise.  Ouch, ouch!" said a third woman.

"I’m sure of one thing, said Sophia,  "If there was such a thing as a penile-gram, and men had to have their penis squished flat every year, I’m sure medical science would have come up with a better machine ten years ago."

All the women nodded in agreement — and looked at me as if I were the enemy.

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