the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Month: October 2007 (Page 1 of 3)

NaBloPoMo – Day One (or Funny Women are Hot)


“Daddy, Daddy!” he cried, and I ran up the stairs, leaping over the Thomas LEGO Train  that I swore I put in the toy box just an hour ago.   “I’m coming,” I yelled.  Who knew that becoming a father would be like this — a life of big joys and even bigger anxieties?  When I entered his room, David was on the floor, still wrapped in his Transformers-themed blanket, his finger extended, showing me the “boo-boo.”

Sophia entered the room, interrupted the flow of my story.     

Sophia:  “What are you writing?  (looking over my shoulder at the monitor)  Who is that kid with us?”

Neil:  “I’m not sure.  While I was cleaning my desk, I found this disk of photos from 2001.  Do you know who he is?”

Sophia:  “Hmmm… no. ”

Neil:  “Is it possible that we had a child and we forgot?”

Sophia:  “You mean like we brought him shopping and left him there… and then forgot?”

Neil:  “You do have a habit of losing your keys.”

Sophia:  “If anyone would lose our child, it would be you.   Where’s my red bra you “said” you brought back from the laundromat?”

Neil:  I did bring it back.

Sophia:  OK, fine.   What’s the difference?  He’s not our kid.   He doesn’t even look like either of us.”  

Neil:  “I think I still have that sweater, though.”

Sophia:  “No, that’s the one you shrunk in the wash and we use as a rag.”

Neil:  “In case anyone asks, let’s call him David.”

Sophia:  “Asks about what?”

Neil:  “About our fake son.”

Sophia:  “And why are you writing your post like you are a father?”

Neil:  “I read on Twitter that one of those parenting blogs is looking for a writer.  I think they pay.   But you need to write about subjects such as “Daddy Depression.”

Sophia:  “Oh yeah?   Write away, Dad.”

Neil:  “I wonder why there aren’t any “Separated Husband” Blogs that pay bloggers?”

Sophia:  “You can start one.”

Neil:  “Eh, who would read it?  Every day it would be the same article –  “New Ways to Play With Yourself — Part #78.  I probably should just stick to Hollywood.  Online, I have no marketable niche.  I know very little about style or food or babies or gadgets.  I know nothing.  Well, I guess there ARE sex blogs out there…”

Sophia:  “Yeah, but you don’t know much about that either.”

Neil:  “Ha Ha.”

We laughed — we laughed for a very long time.  (Women, write this down.  It doesn’t matter the size of your boobs or what type of nail polish you wear.  If you can make a man laugh, you’ve won him.)  

Sophia:  “And what is this NaBloPoMo you’re doing?”

Neil:  “We’re all supposed to write a post every day in November.”

Sophia:  “Why?”

Neil:  “Why?  Why? Why so many questions?”

Sophia:  “Just curious.”

Neil:  “I don’t know why I’m doing it?  Some big-shot blogger somewhere wants us to do it, and we all follow like sheep.  That’s why!”

Sophia:  “But what can you write about EVERY DAY?  Do you have that much to say?” 

Neil:  “I can write about my life.   My adventures.   My wild sex life.  My female readers are always curious about what I’m like in bed.”

Sophia:  “I think these photos from 2001 might give your readers some idea…”




Seriously, funny women are hot.

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month:   Male Nurse

Be the Felix to my Oscar


Is there anyone out there who is excellent at managing their life? Do you effectively juggle work, family, romance, blogging, hobbies, writing, friends, and keeping up with “Dancing with the Stars?”

I need to talk with you.

How do you do it? Do you use any tools to keep yourself organized? Do you keep all your tasks on an online manager? Do you actually FOLLOW it? Have you ever tried working at home — and were actually productive? Why is cleaning the house such a drag? Do people with cleaning women have happier lives? Have you ever missed appointments to your therapist? Should I just drop Facebook completely since it is a time-killer? Have you ever been forced to masturbate using a timer because it wasn’t “slotted” into your daily schedule on Outlook?

I’m serious. I’m somewhat of an organizational mess. I know it looks like I’m a “together” type of guy because I blog frequently, but it is all a facade. I’m embarrassed to show you what my desk looks like. (Sadly, Sophia is not much better as an organizer. We stare at mounds of laundry together for entertainment at night)

My therapist is terrific, but so far, she is only good for helping me “understand” myself. When I asked her how I’m supposed to “change” just through understanding, she said that therapy isn’t supposed to be quick. She said that if I really wanted a quick-fix, I should turn to the internet instead.

So, that’s what I am doing.

Can someone be the Felix Unger to my Oscar Madison, and tell me how you keep your life organized and productive?

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month: I Sing, I Dance, But Dooce is Still Funnier

Dear Michael

Dear Michael,

Last night, on Dancing with the Stars, the final dance was a ridiculous group number to the classic song, Rockin’ Robin.   This song has been around forever, and has been released by several different artists, but without a doubt, my favorite version is yours, back from the early days. It captures your youthful energy, years before you became the King of Pop.   You were a star, even as a child.   And what an amazing child you were!   What talent.   I actually remember the days of the Jacksons, and those white spacesuits you would wear in your TV specials.

After “Dancing with the Stars,” I thought about you.   I watched a couple of your old videos on YouTube.   I love the Afro from the seventies! Everyone knew you were a brilliant singer and dancer back then, but no one expected your fame to shoot through the roof in the eighties.   I can’t think of any musical career like yours.   Is there anyone anywhere in the world who has never danced to a song on “Thriller?” (My favorite album is still “Off the Wall”)

I remember once being in Thailand, being driven in a tuk-tuk by a driver playing “Billie Jean” on the radio.

You were a role model to me, a symbol of a what could happen when you are talented.   You took your childhood talent and ran with it, eventually reaching the pinnacle of fame. You were the King of Pop!

And then you just went bonkers.   You seemed miserable.   You became the butt of jokes.   All my life, I was under the illusion that artistic success, fame, and fortune were the goals of life — and this would bring happiness to the one who attains it.   What went wrong with you?   Why were you fooling around with your face so much?   Who cares if you are gay/straight?   Didn’t anyone tell you that your obsession with young boys was unhealthy?   If I can find a good therapist in Los Angeles, couldn’t you?   It should have been as easy for you as… like your own song goes… ABC.

I hope you get your act together.   Maybe one day, you can go on tour again, maybe a couple of weeks in Las Vegas.   It would be a sellout.   I would go, unless it is really really expensive.   If so, I would just watch it on HBO a few months later.

If you don’t want to heal yourself for yourself, do it for me.   It makes me feel sad to think that you’re miserable.   If the King of Pop can’t be happy with everything he has, what hope is there for any of us?!

Fans Shocked at Bugs Bunny Gay Revelation

NEW YORK (AP) — Only a week after the announcement that the character in the Harry Potter series is gay, the fictional world is again shocked with the revelation by Steven Blanc, son of voice artist Mel Blanc, that the perennial prankster “Bugs” Bunny of Looney Tunes cartoons is also gay. This announcement, while unexpected, give new and clearer meaning to many of the on-screen exchanges between the smart-aleck “wacky wabbit” and his put-upon nemesis, Elmer Fudd.

Bugs Bunny was in love with his male rival, Steven Blanc says.

The author of “Bugs and Elmer: A Forbidden Love,” stunned fans at the Academy of Motion Pictures annual Warner Brothers Looney Tunes Night, when he answered one young reader’s question about Bugs by saying that he was gay and had been in love with Elmer Fudd for years.

‘”You have to remember that this was Hollywood of the Golden Age, even before Rock Hudson. The studio just wouldn’t allow it. Instead, Bugs and Elmer expressed their love for each using homosexual codes of the day, such as Elmer pointing a gun at Bugs, and Bugs responding with a squirt of seltzer in his face. Those in the closeted gay community clearly knew that Bugs famous “What’s Up, Doc?” was the password to get entry into the notorious Hammer Club on the Sunset Strip.”

The news of Bugs Bunny’s homosexuality brought gasps, then applause at the Academy, and set off thousands of e-mails on Warner Brothers cartoon Web sites around the world. Some were dismayed, others indifferent, but most were supportive.

” ‘BUGS BUNNY IS GAY’ is quite a headline to stumble upon on a Friday evening, and it’s certainly not what I expected,” added Looney Tunes fan Charlie Johnson, of Trenton, New Jersey. “(But) a gay character in the most popular cartoon in the world is a big step for gay rights.”

Note, November 2010:  This is not true.  It is a joke.  This was NOT approved by Warner Brothers.   And Mel’s son’s real name is Noel.  And just so you know — Bugs Bunny is probably my biggest literary influence.

The Werewolf: The Scariest Halloween Tale Ever

I don’t like Halloween. I don’t like that children walk around play-acting as if they are ghouls and goblins, as if it is all a joke. Because it isn’t. There are dangers in this world that are too gruesome to even talk about.

I told Rob to be careful. He was one of my oldest childhood friends. We were in our mid-twenties, single, full of vigor, our entire lives ahead of us. We were camping in Colorado. Neither of us knew much about camping, seeing as we were both nice Jewish boys from Queens. We wanted to try it… to see the stars at night. Before we left, we attended a class at Paragon Sporting Goods near Union Square, where we learned to pitch a tent and filter our water. However, no teacher could ever prepare us for… the wolf.

I told Rob to be careful. Don’t go to far from the campsite at night. He laughed. He was just going to take a pee. I heard the sudden rush of the leaves, the scream, Rob on the floor, and beady eyes of the wolf, blood dripping from its paw. When the wolf saw me, he ran away. Why? I will never know. I rushed Rob to a hospital in Boulder. He would be OK. He only received flesh wounds. Rob was lucky that I showed up at the moment when the wolf attacked. He would live. At that moment, neither of us knew that his living was an option worse than death.

After our camping trip in Colorado, Rob moved to Chicago, and we lost touch. I frequently thought about him. What was his life like? Was he married? I searched for him on Google, with no success. Last week, I received a phone call from Rob. He said he needed to open up to someone, to unburden himself from the years of terror. He told me a story that made my hair turn white.

The following is a verbatim transcript of the phone conversation:

Rob: “After our trip, I moved to Chicago to work for an investment firm. It was a good job and I felt that I was a success. I was dating a lot of hot babes and my life was good. The only difficulty I had was with my arm — where the wolf bit me. The wound would burn like hell, as if ten thousand needles were being shoved into my arm. I would get faint at work and pass out. I started making mistakes with my clients, even losing millions of dollars by selling stocks short. I was fired, disgraced. No on would hire me. My body felt weird, as if it was elongating. I noticed hair growing all over my body, at a rapid rate. I had an insatiable urge to eat meat, even raw meat right from the package at the supermarket.

The worst was when there was a full moon at night. I would wail like an animal. All I could think about was finding a woman, a virgin, and devouring her like a monster. My body grew grotesque and my clothes felt so constraining, that I shredded them to pieces. Full of blood-lust, I careened down North Michigan Avenue, naked, my ears flared, my fangs ready, growling as my nose smelled the scent of a nearby virgin. She was standing outside the Gap, having just bought a pair of khakis, when I stood on my hind legs, and raised my paws, ready for the attack. She screamed, her face in shock at seeing a man-wolf on a city street, but as she looked me over, she started laughing, hysterically.

I made a hideous growling sound, but she just chuckled and pointed.

“Your penis. It’s so small!” she said.

Horrified at her mockery, I ran from her while crying, the cold Chicago wind hitting my face. I raced up the stairs of my building and jumped into my apartment, closing the door behind me. Disgraced and embarrassed, I spent the night watching “Millionaire” and eating raw meat. I was a failure as a werewolf.

I tried several more times, whenever a full moon hung high over the city. I could feel the transformation of my body, the saliva that would build up in my mouth, and the deadly paws that were ready to pounce on a new victim, but whenever I would raise my man-wolf body in the attack position, the woman would laugh at my penis.

I went to my family doctor, Dr. Eugene Fishback. I told him that I used to have a normal sized penis, but ever since I became a werewolf, it shrunk.

“Very interesting, Rob.”

“I’m not Rob anymore, Dr. Fishback. I’m the Werewolf.”

“I understand that. But your insurance still has you down as Rob. It’s probably better that we stick with that for insurance reasons.”

“Yes, good idea. Thanks, Doctor. So, what about the penis?”

“Well, the test results show that you’re getting a tremendous amount of adrenaline in your system whenever you transform into a wolf, and it is having an affect akin to steroids. It is changing your body in many ways, one of them being that it is shrinking your penis.”

“How can I be an effective werewolf with such a small penis?”

“It is mostly in your head, Rob. I’m sure there are werewolves with all sorts of penises. It shouldn’t really affect your performance when you go out searching for prey.”

But it did. I’ve always been insecure about things. Even in elementary school I used to get Bs on my report card, and I didn’t feel as smart as you.”

Neil: Oh, come on, Rob… I mean Werewolf. You were always very popular. Grades in school didn’t really matter that much.”

Rob: “But they did to me. I felt the same insecurity as a werewolf. Here I was, looking all scary and dangerous, from the waist up, but one little thing below the waist made my victims laugh at me.”

Neil: “Could the doctor do anything for you?”

Rob: “He gave me some pills, but nothing worked. I just got headaches. I tried Prozac for depression. Nothing. I went to herbalists, Chinese doctors — nothing worked. Finally I decided I needed help. I enrolled in a 12 step program for Monsters and Ghouls who don’t quite live up to their own standards. There was a witch who would get yeast infections from riding her broom, a vampire without teeth, and the ghost who was too lazy to scare anyone.”

Neil: “Did it help?”

Rob: “Not really. But I made some good friends. I became particularly close with the witch, Syeira, and we sort of hit it off. We became friends… with benefits. Man, was she wild! One day, she saw that I was moping around, looking at my small werewolf penis, when she said she might be able to help me. She opened up an ancient book of spells, and started to chant:

Wagga Wanna Wigga
Make His Penis Bigger

The room started to shake and I felt a surge of energy in my body. I screamed. I revolved like a whirling dervish and was thrown against the wall. I dusted myself off and stood up… and Syreira had succeeded! My penis was twice as big as it was originally! It was the happiest day of my life. I grabbed her and made love to her for the rest of the night.”

Neil: “That’s great. I’m so glad that you are happy!”

Rob: “The story isn’t over. The true horror has not even begun!”

Neil: “Oh no!”

Rob: “We’re men, you and I. We always screw things up, right?. Despite being happy with Syreira and my now-successful life as a scary werewolf with a giant penis, I found it hard to commit to just one woman.”

Neil: “I hear ya.”

Rob: “After coming home from a long night ravaging a virgin, I’m not in the mood to do the dishes, or talk about “her day.” I told her that if she gets yeast infections from her broom, she should just stop being a witch and stay at home and clean. She didn’t talk to me for a week.”

Neil: “Yeah, relationships are tough.”

Rob: “One weekend, Syreira came home from some witches’ convention a day early, and caught me in bed f**king her sister. She went crazy, calling me every name in the book. I tried to apologize, saying she was partly to blame. After all, she’s the one who gave me my new penis. Shouldn’t I be sharing it with the world?”

Neil: “It makes sense to me.”

Rob: “She immediately ran to her book of spells, and chanted:

Woodle Yoodle Oodle
Turn Him to a Poodle

And the damn harpy turned me into a poodle. A little white poodle. That’s what I am right now. That’s why you never hear from me. Can you imagine how difficult it was to use the phone?”

Neil: “But what about being the werewolf?”

Rob: “I’m not a werewolf anymore. I LOVED being a werewolf! Now I’m a stupid poodle!”

Neil: “I’m so sorry, Rob. I’m so sorry.”

Rob: “And the scariest thing is that she kept the new penis on me, so as I walk, it scrapes against the floor, causing me pain — just to punish me for my transgression.”

Neil: “My God, how cruel.”

Rob: “Women who feel wronged are the cruelest.”

Neil: “This is the the most HORRIFIC story I have ever heard.”

Note: Be careful… on Halloween!

After Therapy

Neil:  Sophia, let me ask you something.  When I was with Pamela today (editor’s note:  this week I’m calling my therapist Pamela), I couldn’t help noticing that she had just shaved her legs, and she wasn’t wearing any stockings, and she was sitting with her legs crossed, so they were right in front of my face.

Sophia:  So what?

Neil:  Do you think she was hitting on me?

Sophia:  No.

Neil:   Do you think she was hitting on me as a TEST — a psychological test — to see how focused I was, or whether I could keep my concentration on my own issues?

Sophia:  No.

Neil:  It’s very intimate in there.  I’m telling her all these personal things. 

Sophia:  That’s why it is called therapy.  You’re paying her for that.

Neil:  So, she wasn’t hitting on me?

Sophia:  No.

Neil:   You’ve never thought about your therapist… in that way?

Sophia:  No.

Neil:  I don’t believe you.  You never felt anything for him?

Sophia:  No, it’s way too obvious.  It’s a cliche.   Falling for your therapist.

Neil:  I see… and you don’t do cliches. 

Sophia:  No.

Neil:  So, you don’t think about other men?

Sophia:  I didn’t say that.   I said falling for your therapist is a cliche.

Neil:  So, who do you think about?

Sophia:  Well… there’s the waiter at the Peruvian Restaurant.  He’s really good-looking.

Neil:  You’ve thought about the waiter at the Peruvian Restaurant?

Sophia:  Well, it’s not a cliche.

Neil:  So, are you insinuating that falling for your therapist means the person is… boring?

Sophia:  I never said that, either.

Neil:  You insinuated that.

Sophia:  You know, you should talk to your therapist about this.

A Year Ago On Citizen of the Month:   Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Confessions of a Poemphobe

One of the most surprising blogging relationships is my unlikely friendship with Dana and Liz Elayne of Poetry Thursday.  I say “unlikely” because they are both creative women very much in touch with their emotions and inner selves, and I live my life to avoid those things.   I really enjoyed their Poetry Thursday blog.   Sadly, they recently stopped publishing the site in order to focus their energies elsewhere. 

From day one, I appreciated the way these two women weren’t snotty about poetry.  They told me that reading poetry was good for the soul and the brain.  They used every trick in the book to seduce me into the world of poetry.  They introduced me to Billy Collins, to funny poets, and to poets who wrote love sonnets to women’s breasts.  They appealed to my interests and soon I was even reading poems about things foreign to me, like trees and animals.

Today, I was feeling sad about the destruction caused by the California wild fires.  The sadness made me think of poetry, and poetry made me think of Dana and Liz. 

A few months ago, Dana and Liz asked me to write a column for Poetry Thursday titled “Confessions of a Poemphobe.” I only had the chance to write three columns.  I don’t know how long Poetry Thursday will be archived online, so I’m republishing them here on Citizen of the Month.  Re-reading the posts reminds me how lucky I’ve been to meet such wonderful people like Dana and Liz.

* * *
confessions of a poemphobe — poetry for men

My Russian-born wife loves to watch professional figure skating. Together, we’ve watched countless competitions on TV and I’ve even been dragged to few World Championships. Whenever we’re sitting in the arena, watching all the lifts, axels and flamboyant costumes, we end up having the same discussion — why do Russian male figure skaters look so “masculine” and athletic, while the American men look so … hmm, how can I say this while remaining politically correct … like interior designers from West Hollywood? Why does each country attract such different types of men?

I think the answer lies in cultural differences. In the Russian culture, it is considered manly to figure skate, to dance ballet and to write poetry. I’ve attended Russian dinners where it is almost an obligation for the men to recite poetry to the hostess, while drinking vodka, of course.

I know I’m skating on thin ice here (ha!), but most American men are leery of artistic expression that is considered “too feminine.” While any ballet dancer is probably more athletic and stronger than a typical soccer player, how many fathers would want to hear that their son is interested in taking ballet lessons?

I think the TV networks and the U.S. Figure Skating Federation are fully aware of how figure skating is perceived by the average American man. When Michael Weiss, one of the few “manly”-looking American figure-skating competitors had a child, the ESPN cameras were all too eager to show him holding his baby in the air and kissing his blond model-type wife, as if to announce to America, “Hey men, he’s a figure skater AND a hot-blooded American man. It’s OK for YOU to watch the coverage with your wife!”

This ridiculous type of masculine/feminine stereotyping has affected my own enjoyment of poetry. I write fiction, screenplays, nonfiction. But poetry … what would my friends think?

What makes this especially sad is that I’m not some macho guy who watches football on Sunday or even fixes his own car. I’m an English major from an Ivy League university. I’m knowledgeable about the Western canon, from Blake to T.S. Eliot. I even enjoy reading poetry. But the truth is, poetry makes me feel awkward. Fiction feels more “masculine” to me. With fiction, there’s a plot — a thrust from point A to point B. Narrative deals with ideas and action. Can it be that this fear of poetry boils down to another cliché about men — the fear of expressing emotion and revealing vulnerability?

Of course, fiction requires emotion, but it is easier for the writer to hide behind a plot, a character or a concept. Writing poetry makes me feel naked, and no man wants to be seen naked, unless he works out at the gym first.

Like many men, I’m also more “practical” than my wife. It took me years to understand why a woman would want to get flowers. After all, they just die in a few days. Wouldn’t a blender be a better Valentine’s Day gift? Like flowers, poetry isn’t always meant to be practical, and this is sometimes hard for me to “get.” Sometimes there isn’t even a “point” to a poem other than it being an expression of emotion. I’m always looking for “meaning,” rather than taking the emotion in. The words, the image provoked or the music of the poem should be just enough to make a piece of writing special.

I’m learning to appreciate poetry more by reading poems, including many of the poems I see here on Poetry Thursday. It is good to be reminded that not all poems are about flowers or “girly” things, or topics that make you go out and buy a black beret. You can write poems about baseball games and pissing in the forest, and it can still be considered a poem.

Did anyone see the Rich Snyder poem “How Are You Doing?” reprinted in last week’s “American Life in Poetry?”

Rich Snyder is my new Michael Weiss. His poem reads like the poem of a regular hot-blooded American man.

How Are You Doing?

As much as you deserve it,
I wouldn’t wish this
Sunday night on you—
not the Osco at closing,
not its two tired women
and shaky security guard,
not its bin of flip-flops
and Tasmanian Devil
baseball caps,
not its freshly mopped floors
and fluorescent lights,
not its endless James Taylor
song on the intercom,
and not its last pint of
chocolate mint ice cream,
which I carried
down Milwaukee Ave.
past a man in an unbuttoned
baseball shirt, who stepped
out of a shadow to whisper,
How are you doing?

Reprinted from “Barrow Street,” Winter, 2005, by permission of the author. Copyright © 2005 by Rick Snyder. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.

* * *
confessions of a poemphobe — ‘wow! you are good!’

Lately, on my personal blog, I’ve been complaining about the whole system of “commenting” on blogs. After a while, these short little back-and-forth statements seem superficial, even frustrating. I wish I could be there with you, sharing a cup of coffee, rather than writing three sentences of encouragement. At other times, if you are having a bad day, I just want to hug you. Writing a comment saying, Don’t worry. Things will be OK! just seems phony and is NOT what I really want to say to you.

I find it especially difficult to comment on a poem. What is the appropriate response? I love the poetry of the Poetry Thursday participants, but how many times can I write Wow! You are good!

I come from a family of gabbers and kvetchers — so I love to talk. I can talk for hours about any subject, even those I know nothing about. Surprisingly, words frequently fail me when I experience something artistic. If I see a really great film, I want to keep the experience floating in my brain, not analyze the director’s vision or the acting of a new starlet. You can imagine the trouble I had dating when I was in film school. Brainy female film student always wanted to talk about the movie! Not now! I would say. It’s still fresh in my mind!

Language cannot always capture my true feelings about art. What is there to say the first time you see a famous painting, like Mona Lisa? It’s nice, but it looks smaller than I imagined just doesn’t cut it.

For me, poetry is the most difficult subject to discuss. In a novel or a film, I can talk about the narrative or characters. In a painting, I can talk about the color and movement. But how do you find the right words to talk about words that are more beautiful than yours?

If I like a Poetry Thursday poem, I usually write a variation of That’s wonderful! I know it’s lame, but I feel it is important to connect with the writer. (And frankly, everyone likes comments, even the dumb ones!)

I would like to write better comments. Maybe as I learn more about poetry, I can feel more confident in my ideas about poetic expression. I feel intimidated about saying what’s on my mind, particularly if I don’t understand a poem. For instance, I love the images in the first stanza of Carolyn Kizer’s “On a Line from Valery.”

The whole green sky is dying. The last tree flares
With a great burst of supernatural rose
Under a canopy of poisonous airs.

Do I really understand what she is describing? Not really. Under a canopy of poisonous airs? Huh? Is she talking about a forest fire? Now, honestly, if you were the poet, would you want me to ask you in the comments to explain this to me? I probably wouldn’t have the nerve to do it. Am I an idiot? I might ask myself, or is everyone just too afraid to ask the same question?

I understand that it is not a requirement to “understand” a poem completely. The poem can still work and be a little mysterious. But what can I say that sounds intelligent? How can I match the beauty of a poem with the appropriate response? Some of you are trained poets and can talk about the line breaks. I’m sometimes interested in mundane things — Is this autobiographical? How long did it take you to write this? Did you really write this in the bathtub?

Are these legitimate questions?

I think there are a lot of people like me — they enjoy poetry but are unsure how to participate in the discussion of it. I have no dreams of becoming a professional poet, but you want readers like me to keep poetry vibrant. I think poetry is too insular lately, with poets mostly writing for other poets. Any suggestions for how a layman like me can better participate in the conversation? Do poets actually want to know if someone doesn’t understand their poem? I hate saying Wow, nice! all the time.

* * *
confessions of a poemphobe — anger management, poetry style

Last night, I think I wrote my first real poem. By saying that, I mean that I expressed some emotion on paper that was consuming me, rather than just trying to be clever or witty with words. Unfortunately, this emotion was a negative one, and I’m not sure I enjoyed the experience of dealing with it. I’m certainly not ready to show YOU the result.

There’s been a lot of tension in my household over the upcoming surgery of my wife, and if life was high school, I would get a failing grade in “Handling Stress.” I had trouble sleeping last night. I tossed and turned, and had an unpleasant dream about being in a bloody fistfight in an alley. This was an unusual dream, because I’ve never been in a fistfight and I rarely go into alleys. I even punched the bedroom wall while sleeping, jarring myself awake and scaring the hell out of my wife.

It was four in the morning and I was wide awake, so I went to my office to write “something” on my computer. What that “something” was, I wasn’t sure. At first I was going to write a post for my personal blog about punching the wall, but I found myself getting lost in unknowns of the narrative.

Why was I angry? “I’m not sure.” Who was I angry at? “?????.” Time to look into therapy.

I decided to write a poem. Actually, I didn’t really “decide,” I just did it. It was a primitive poem, but since there was no narrative, the writing came easy. No characters. No story. Just an expression of the emotion named anger. It was a poem about a bloody fistfight in some unnamed alley. It was a bad poem, but it was cathartic.

But afterwards, I felt a little dirty. It was uncomfortable expressing anger ― even to myself. It’s not something you do in my family.

But back to poetry.

Poetry is an ancient literary form. It is a form that many use to express themselves with more intensity than other types of writing. Is that why I ran to “poetry” to deal with some unpleasant emotion? Has this happened to you? Does writing about your unpleasant emotions make you uncomfortable? Do you try to push them onto the page for your art or for your own therapy? Do you get worried about what others might think if they saw this part of you?

And most importantly, if you read an angry poem about a bloody fistfight in an alley, would you cross to the other side of the street if you encountered this “poet” walking in your city?

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month:  What Did You Have for Lunch?

Existentialism Explained: A Video Primer

Is living life like washing your car, going through the motions time after time, knowing that it is impossible for it to be perfectly clean?

From Wikipedia:

A central proposition of existentialism is that existence precedes essence; that is, that a human being’s existence precedes and is more fundamental than any meaning which may be ascribed to human life: humans define their own reality. There is no connection to literature either. One is not bound to the generalities and a priori definitions of what “being human” connotes. This is an inversion of a more traditional view, which was widely accepted from the ancient Greeks to Hegel, that the central project of philosophy was to answer the question “What is a human being?” (i.e., “What is the human essence”) and to derive from that answer one’s conclusions about how human beings should behave.

In Repetition, Kierkegaard’s literary character Young Man laments:

How did I get into the world? Why was I not asked about it and why was I not informed of the rules and regulations but just thrust into the ranks as if I had been bought by a peddling shanghaier of human beings? How did I get involved in this big enterprise called actuality? Why should I be involved? Isn’t it a matter of choice? And if I am compelled to be involved, where is the manager—I have something to say about this. Is there no manager? To whom shall I make my complaint?

Heidegger coined the term “thrownness” (also used by Sartre) to describe this idea that human beings are “thrown” into existence without having chosen it. Existentialists consider being thrown into existence as prior to, and the horizon or context of, any other thoughts or ideas that humans have or definitions of themselves that they create.

Sartre, in Essays in Existentialism, further highlights this consciousness of being thrown into existence in the following fashion. “If man, as the existentialist conceives him, is indefinable, it is because at first he is nothing. Only afterward will he be something, and he himself will have made what he will be”.

Kierkegaard also focused on the deep anxiety of human existence — the feeling that there is no purpose, indeed nothing, at its core. Finding a way to counter this nothingness, by embracing existence, is the fundamental theme of existentialism, and the root of the philosophy’s name. Someone who believes in reality might be called a “realist,” and someone who believes in a deity could identify as a “theist.” Someone who believes fundamentally only in existence, and seeks to find meaning in his or her life solely by embracing existence, is an existentialist.

A Study Says…

Don’t be fat because you will be seen as a lazy, low-performer in the office.

I’m not going to spend too much time analyzing this article for you. I read it three times, trying to understand why the logic of the piece made no sense to me. I would have more easily accepted the thesis if Penelope Trunk simply said that the skinny people of the world hate fat people, so we naturally discriminate against them in the workplace.  Instead, the author brings up SCIENCE, much like James Watson’s iffy “proof” that blacks aren’t as smart as whites.

From Penelope Trunk’s “The Brazen Careerist” at Yahoo! Finance

Before you get up in arms over how unfair it is to discriminate against people who are overweight, consider that there may be some rationale behind it. If you’re overweight, you’re probably not exercising every day. But regular exercise increases peoples’ ability to cope with difficult situations in the workplace and, according to University of Illinois kinesiology professor Charles Hillman, might even make people smarter.

And the same self-discipline we use to make ourselves exercise regularly and eat in moderation carries over into other aspects of our lives. This is probably why, in a study from Leeds Metropolitan University, people who exercise regularly were found to be better at time-management and more productive than those who don’t.

Exercise makes a worker more productive, and fat people don’t exercise, so they are “perceived” as lazy workers. But wait a minute — aren’t there fat people who are exercising? Aren’t there people who aren’t fat, like me, who are lazy as shit and rarely go the gym? The conclusion I got from this article isn’t that fat people are lazy, but that employers should require you to take gym classes as part of the job. Or that they should just hire Olympic gymnasts.

This article represents the worst type of career advice — give in to the irrational stereotypes of today, so you can “get ahead” to the detriment of the next guy who can’t get the fat off. There’s the winners (the skinny) and the losers (the fat). Don’t be “perceived” as the loser! And there is “science” now to explain away the status quo!

Remember when everyone thought that women were created to have babies and make dinner?

I’d like to see this author write a piece telling ambitious blacks to try to pass as “white” so they aren’t perceived as being “less smart.” After all, there is a study that backs this up. Who knows — it might help their career?!

I know I’m still thinking of becoming Christian to perfect myself (see previous post).

Jew Perfected


Am I the only Jew NOT insulted by Ann Coulter’s statement that Christians are Jews “perfected?” 

C’mon, Jews, who wants to be perfect?  When I f**k up, at least I have an excuse — hey, I’m Jewish, I’m not perfect. 

“I’m sorry, Sophia, that I forget to buy you flowers for our anniversary.  But, remember — I’m Jewish.” 

“Oops, I didn’t expect to come so fast and roll over and go to sleep.  But then again, I am Jewish.  I’m not perfect. It’s a thelogical fact.  Too bad.”

“Yeah, I dented the car again  Oy Gevalt.  If only I was perfect and drove perfectly like my Christian friends.  On the positive side, as a member of the Tribe, I’m good at making money — unless you are a really stupid Jew like me — who spends way too much time wasting his energy blogging to entertain a bunch of married women who don’t even put out for him.  But then again, I am Jewish, so what do you expect?  I’m nuts!”

Maybe I should convert.  Eh, I would screw that one up too.  No offense, Catholics, but the bread-body wine-blood thing is a little weird to me.  And Protestants – well, you’re just boring.

My biggest problem is that most of you  ARE Christians.   You’re Jews perfected.   We all know why I’m in therapy.  But what the f**k is your excuse?

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