the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Month: December 2007 (Page 2 of 3)

The 99 Cent Shoelaces

Welcome, readers.  Today is another example of a post gone wrong.

To set up the story, we need to go back in time, back to a brisk morning many years ago in Queens, New York, when Neilochka was born.  After a few months of baby shoes, Neil’s mother bought him a pair of baby sneakers, and he was smitten with the smell and feel of this canvas footwear.  For years and years, whenever you looked at his feet, he was wearing a pair of sneakers… or nothing at all.

The year is now 2007.  For the last year and half, Neil has been wearing a size eleven New Balance 713.  He has been wearing these sneakers practically every single day.  They’re not the best sneakers, but he has grown attached to them. 

On Tuesday, Sophia and Neil are flying to New York to spend some time with Neil’s mother, Elaine, a good-natured woman with gray hair, known for her hearty laugh and her excellent brisket.   Sophia and Neil will be in New York for 2 1/2 weeks.  Whenever they travel to New York in the winter, there is always a bit of tension before they go.  Neil wants to know why Sophia needs to take so much luggage.  Sophia gets worried about being cold in the street, but hot in the over-heated New York stores and subways.  Remember, they are both wimpy Californians.  It is an “effort” for them to walk a block to the supermarket, especially if there is a forecast for a drizzle. Scary!

As Neil and Sophia packed their gloves and hats and scarfs and turtlenecks, Sophia looked at Neil’s New Balance 713s and said, “Those sneakers look like shit.”

“No, they don’t.” Neil said in protest.  “They’re just a little lived-in.”

“The white shoelaces are all black, and they are shredded.”

That was true.

“Simple.” said Neil “I’ll go to the 99 Cent Only Store and buy some new shoelaces.”

Of he went to the 99 Cent Store.  He could have gone to Macy’s or Target, like Sophia told him to, or countless other stores, but as a man who loves a bargain, why pay more than 99 cents for white shoelaces?

Neil quickly found the shoelaces in aisle five of the 99 cent store, next to the polyester dress socks.  There were two displays of “Athletic” shoelaces.   One display consisted of packages of white athletic shoelaces.  The other, of the same “Coachman” brand,  was identical, except for the addition of a special “bonus pack.”  Along with the pair of white shoelaces, this package included ONE wrapped black shoelace.

I’ve already mentioned that Neil liked a bargain.  Why would he buy the first package, when he could get the “bonus pack” for free?

As he drove home, he started to chuckle.  Something struck him as very very funny about these black shoelaces.  He laughed as hard as he did when he found the typo in the New Yorker.  When Sophia met him at the door, he was still laughing.

“What’s so funny?” she asked.

“I have a great blog post for today.  Look at this.” he said.  He opened the 99 Cent Store bag and showed her the shoelace package.  “They give you a pair of white shoelaces, and then they throw in an extra bonus of a black shoelace.  But think about it.  What the hell are you supposed to do with ONE black shoelace?  Just tie one shoe?  Ha Ha Ha!”


Neil explained how he went back and bought another package of the shoelaces, just so he could have a pair of black shoelaces.  Still laughing, he ran upstairs and hunched over the keyboard, pounding out his latest humor masterpiece, wondering how many women will fantasize about having sex with him after they read his latest hilarious post about the bizarre package with one black shoelace.

Sophia entered.

“Whatever it is, not now.” Neil said.  “I’m in the groove.”

“Maybe you should ungroove for a second because I opened the package — and you were wrong.   It isn’t a pair of white shoelaces and one black shoelace.  It is two pairs of very poor quality white shoelaces and one pair of equally bad black shoelaces.  There are TWO black shoelaces, not one.  You’re such a dumbbell”.

“Oh.”  he said, Neil’s spirit falling like a weight.  “So that means my whole blog post is dead.”

“Well,  you could lie.”

“Lie?  On a blog?  Never?  Would Dooce lie?  Of course not!”

“Well then, I guess you need to come up with something else.”

Neil struggled for a while, but couldn’t come up with anything quite as good as the hilarious tale of the single black shoelace.  He procrastinated and found some busywork.  Neil even decided to lace up his New Balance 713s with the new white shoelaces.   As you can see, not only were the 99 cent shoelaces of poor quality, but Neil screwed up in another way — they were shoelaces for CHILDREN, and barely laced half of the sneaker.


Neil didn’t really find this turn of events very funny.  In fact, he thought it was quite sad.  Since he bought two packages of the shoelaces, he now had six pairs of useless shoelaces, four pairs of white and two pairs of black ones.  Still, a blog post is a blog post, and this is what he was stuck with. 

Communication Through the Ages


I usually work on my desktop in my upstairs office. Sophia works on her laptop in the downstairs living room in front of the TV. How do we communicate from such a distance? The medium keeps changing, but the message stays the same.

2003 —

Sophia (screaming at the top of her lungs, as if she was Alice on the Honeymooners): “Neil, did you throw out the garbage yet?!”

2005 —

Sophia (typing on Yahoo Internet Messenger, interrupting my blog reading): “Neil, did you throw out the garbage yet?!”

2007 —

Sophia (ringing me on Skype, interrupting my blog reading): “Neil, did you throw out the garbage yet?!”

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month: Tis the Season for More Male Insecurity

The New Yorker Typo


Now I understand what they mean when a creative artist like a musician or novelist hits his “sophomore slump.” After the terribly exciting Holiday concert, I stepped into a minefield by talking about religion and politics. I immediately went searching for a new post idea that I could put up quickly, sending the last post one notch down (and we all know that no one, except the crackpots, ever reads anything other than the last post!)

As I perused The New Yorker in the bathroom (thank you, Leesa, for getting it for my birthday last year), my next post leaped at me like a horny tiger. On Page 65 of the October 29, 2007 issue was a cartoon with a caption that read “I have my mother’s vindictive nature and my father’s garnisheed wages.” Garnisheed? The New Yorker made a typo! They wrote “garnisheed” rather than “garnished!” The New Yorker, cultural icon! And I, Neil Kramer, found a typo. I couldn’t control my laughter. Where were their famous editors? I ran to my computer and wrote a hilarious “letter to the editor” where I basically blackmail them into letting me edit an entire issue dedicated to myself and the “Cult of Citizen of the Month.” While it was a humor piece, I was also half hoping that the New Yorker would Google themselves, discover what I found, and be so impressed, that they decide to actually dedicate an entire issue to my sexual exploits.

I decided to google “garnisheed” to see if anyone else might have spotted the typo before me. Instead, I discovered something else.

gar·nish·ee (gärn-sh)
A third party who has been notified that money or property in his or her hands but belonging to a defendant has been seized by legal writ.
tr.v. gar·nish·eed, gar·nish·ee·ing, gar·nish·ees
1. To seize by garnishment: garnishee a debtor’s wages.
2. To serve with a garnishment: garnishee an employer.

WTF?! Garnisheed is an actual WORD?!

That’s it. I’m not blogging any more until this sophomore slump ends.

Republican Religiosity


Note:  Sophia suggested that I take this post down since it wasn’t in the spirit of the Holidays, especially since it is the post right after the big Holiday concert.   I did take it down, and then I remembered, from past experience, that everyone will just see it on Bloglines and Google Reader anyway, and I’ll just look like a wimp.  So, I put it back up.   Proud of me?

Unlike the Queen of Spain, who enjoys a little religious controversy now and then (see her current post), I’m a lover more than a fighter.  My point here isn’t to attack any religion, especially all you nice religious Christians and Jews who just sang your hearts out for everyone to hear, but to acknowledge that everyone’s religion is sort of weird if you really sit down and think about it.   That’s why it is called “faith.”  So, I’m not sure what Mitt Romney’s Mormon religion has to do with anything.   If I’m not going to vote for him, it’s because he’s a lousy candidate, not a Mormon.

OK, here’s the mediocre post.  It was difficult coming up with a topic after the concert, because everything I came up with seemed anti-climactic.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said he considers his rival Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith a religion, not a cult, but questioned whether Mormons believe “Jesus and the devil are brothers.”

Huckabee raised the question on his own in an interview to appear in The New York Times magazine on Sunday, and ignited a new flap in the up-for-grabs race to be the Republican Party’s nominee in the November 2008 presidential election.

Clearly, Mike Huckabee, needing to jumpstart his campaign, is insinuating that Romney is not fit to be President because of Romney’s religious background. He’s just not one of us!

Am I Republican? No.

Will I vote for Mitt Romney? No.

Do I agree with Mike Huckabee? Absolutely.

The President of the United States is the most important position in the Free World. We want a rational leader, one is is not swayed by “odd” beliefs or cultish stories masquerading as the truth. Do we want a religious “Mormon” running our country, his finger on the “button.” Of course not! Just take a “tour” of the Mormon temple in Salt Lake City on the way to Park City, like I did, and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Our country requires someone logical, someone we can trust, like a Christian or Jew, a person of religion who believes in FACT — proven historical events like immaculate conception, individuals getting resurrected, angels, and entire seas magically splitting open to let thousands of people walk through to safety.

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month: Why a Pillow is No Substitute for a Woman

The 2007 Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert

Logo Design by Vanessa of the Butterfly Blog (get an array of concert buttons for your site at her blog)


Were You There on Christmas Night?
sung by Lizardek (“the Swedish Celine Dion”) with Sharon Johns

Sleigh Ride
sung by Heather (“Broadway Baby”) of OMSH

Mele Kalikimaka
sung by Kerflop (“The Virtual Hawaiian Honey”)

Have Yourself a Very Merry Little Christmas
sung by the — Greeblemonkey and Ms. Sizzle (“the Simon and Garfunkel of Christmas”)

The Man with the Bag
by Vanessa “the Fourth Andrews Sister” of the Butterfly Blog (not her real talking voice!… she wants you to know)

Silent Night
by Erin (“Vivacious Voice”) Villanovababy (and hubby Tim Cooper on guitar)

Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah
sung by Sophia, (“Hot and Spicy Songstress”)

Coventry Carol
sung by NFH “The Minnesota Mantovani” from This Journey

Everyboy Got Pissed At the Party (a little adult)
sung by Whit “Rapper Whiteboy” of Honea Express

I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm
sung by “Ukelele Pam” of Nerd’s Eye View

Vermont Snow (an original song)
sung by MapleMama “Green Mountain Diva”

The Christmas Song
sung by Bec (“The British Barbra”) of Out of My Tree

Light Up (Himmelman/Broza)
by Psychotoddler (“Jewish Doctor Feelgood”)


Carol of the Bells
by Merry Mishaps (“They Call Me Merry”)

Mi Yimalel
sung by Danny (“Wilco’s Secret Band Member”) of Jew Eat Yet

Ner Li (Hanukkah)
by Otir (“the Female Jacques Brel”) of Un Jour a La Fois

I’m Dreamin’ of a White Trash Christmas
by AKA Monty (“Let’s Make a Deal”) of The Daily Bitch

O Little Town of Bethlehem
sung by Hilly (“The Hills Are Alive”) of Snackie’s World

Mon Beau Sapin (Christmas)
by Otir (“the Female Jacques Brel”) of Un Jour a La Fois

Baby, it’s Cold Outside
sung by Ms. Sizzle (“Ms. Claus”) and her special Santa

Te Harinui (a New Zealand Christmas song)
by Dee (“The Diana Ross of Down Under”) of Singular Scene

Hanukiah Li Yesh
sung by Tamar ( “the Philly Sound”) of Mining Nuggets

Christmastime is Here
sung by Angela “Jazz Hands” of Fluidpudding

“Light Up”
with Psychotoddler in a live concert version

from Kyran Pittman (“The Poetess of Song”) from Notes to Self

I’ll Be Home for Christmas
sung by Saviabella (“the Sweetheart of Saskatchewan”)

… and a special performance by Sophia (“Hot and Spicy Songstress”), who sings…

Flicker Wicker,
a new Hanukkah song she wrote especially for this concert, done to the tune of ABBA’s Super Trouper. (You know how much I love ABBA.)


Christmas photo by Whit

Christmas photo by Greeblemonkey and Ms. Sizzle

Christmas photo by Erin and Tim

Winter Wonderland photo by Vanessa

Christmas photo by Mckay

Christmas photo by Dutch Blitz

Hanukkah photo by Tamara Eden

Christmas photo by Whoorl

Christmas photo by Jennifer of Open Book

Christmas photo by Laurel

Hanukkah photo by Letter B

Creative Advent Calendar photo by Kerflop

Christmas photo by Assertagirl

Christmas photo by Cici.

Christmas photo by Alissa and Evan

Christmas photo by Gorilllabuns

Christmas photo by Jill of GlossyVeneer


Holiday photos by Shash


Happy Holidays! The Christmahanukwanzaakah Holiday concert will be re-broadcast on Christmas Day, so feel free to send me any new material if you missed today’s deadline, whether it be audio, video or Holiday photos.

Relive the memories! — The 2006 Christmahanukwanzaakah Holiday Concert

My Last Post, Redone as Rated G


I got flack over the last post I wrote from Sophia, my mother, and the estate of Irving Berlin.   Who advertises a holiday concert with smut like that? 

They’re absolutely right.   The holidays are a time for family, and I want your entire family — including your adorable, fresh-faced children — to be able to enjoy the festivities of the Christmahanukwanzaakah concert.

For that reason, I’d like to move the last post one down since it is NSFC (not safe for children), and remind you about the concert once again, this time in a sugar-plum fairy, wholesome way fit for all ages.

Wholesome Santa and the Radio City Rockettes

Remember, the concert is Monday.    All materials must be in by Sunday night.   Happy Hanukkah!  Merry Christmas!  Ho Ho Ho!  All the best during this holiday season, boys and girls!


Irving Berlin:  “You know, I thought the last post was pretty funny.”

Neilochka:  “Thanks, Irv.”

Irving Berlin:  “Nice bunch of Rockettes up there.  You know, in my day, I shtupped quite a few Rockettes.”

Neilochka:  “Really?  Hmmm, I’d like to hear all about it, but tell me after the holidays…”

Irving Berlin:  “There was this one dancer named Marion.   She was so limber, she could lift her leg over her head.  As you could imagine, this came in quite handy when…”

Neilochka:  “Irving… Irving… later!   After the holidays!!   For now, this blog is strictly G-rated — nice, not naughty”


The Ghost of Christmas Concerts Future


Two days ago, I was feeling very Grinch-like. 

“Why am I hosting this stupid holiday online concert?” I asked myself as I shuffled along Wilshire Boulevard, spitting on the floor.  “I don’t even like Christmas.  I don’t even celebrate the holiday.” 

I walked by a make-shift Christmas tree lot, set-up in the parking lot of a Chinese restaurant.  There was fake snow on the floor and tinny Christmas music was playing on a lonely speaker on the ground.  

“Bah, Humbug!” I said.  “I’m going to cancel the damn concert.  I don’t care about holidays and I don’t give a s**t about other bloggers anyway.  All they care about is advertising and links and NaBloPoMo and Facebook.  And their so-called “Holiday cheer” is fakery!  After the holiday, they just go back to stabbing each other in the back.”

That night, I started writing a blog post explaining why I was canceling the contest, and basically insulting every blogger I’ve ever met as a narcissistic loser or nutcase. 

“Why I should even write this blog for free when they all should be paying me $100 dollar a day each for the honor to read one of my posts.   Let Dooce entertain the masses.  I’m better than that!”

All the anxiety must have made me very sleepy, because I fell asleep on the couch before I had a chance to press “Publish.”

I was awaken suddenly by the presence of a shadowy figure.

“Sophia?”  I asked.  “Is that you?”

“No, Neil.  It is your father.”

It was the ghost of my late father.

“Dad?  What do you want?”

“What is this bulls**t about you cancelling the concert this year?”

“Eh, what’s it all for?  Hanukkah is already half over.  And we’re Jewish.  We don’t even celebrate Christmas.”

“But don’t you remember how much I loved Christmas?”

My father reminded me about how he dressed-up like Santa every year in the hospital he worked at.

“Well, you’re a more caring man than I am.  I’m selfish.  I ask you, “What’s in it for ME?”

My father’s ghost started to fade.

“Dad, where are you going?”

“Neilochka, my son, your heart has turned to stone.  I’m unable to change your ways.  Now the BIG GUN will come for you.”

“The big gun?  What are you talking about?  Who are you talking about? Are you talking about God himself?”

The entire living room shook like the Northridge Earthquake.   Smoke filled the room and another ghost walked towards me.  He was an older man, short, and smoked a cigar.  He was dressed in a brown suit and had bushy eyebrows.

“Neilochka… Neilochka…” he spoke…

“Who are YOU?!   You’re not God?

“Of course I’m not God, you schmuck.  I’m Irving Berlin.”

“Irving Berlin?  You’re the big gun?”

“Irving Berlin.  Born Israel Isidore Baline.  A nice Jewish boy like you.  My father was a cantor who certified kosher meat.”

“So what?  What do YOU want from me?”

“I also had my doubts about Christmas when I was your age.  What do I know about Jesus?  But then I said to myself, “What do these goyishe shmendricks know about writing a good Christmas song?  It takes a Yiddishe mind to come up with “White Christmas.”  You let some white bread in a cardigan like Bing Crosby sing it.  He gets the credit, but you get the dames.”

“The dames?  You got the dames from writing a Christmas song?”

“Come, Neilochka, let me take you to my Christmas past.”

Irving Berlin took my hand and we flew out the window.  We flew from Redondo Beach to Hollywood… and then into the past.  The Hotel Roosevelt on Hollywood Boulevard dissolved from 2007 to the time of the Golden Age of Hollywood.   It looked pretty much the same, just more glamorous.  We found ourselves in a penthouse room.   In front of the two of us was a scene from the past –  a younger Irving Berlin in bed with four Hollwood starlets.  

“You see, Neilochka.  Shiksas just love Jewish men who can write a good Christmas song…”

My eyed widened in astonishment.

“You mean if I put on the Christmahanukwanzaakah concert this year with all these female bloggers around… I will…?”  I asked.

“First… let me show you what will happen if you DON’T put on the Christmahanukwanzaakah concert this year.”

I grabbed the composer’s hand and back we flew to Redondo Beach, into the future — to MY FUTURE.  Time blew away like the wind and we found ourselves  in my  living room, watching the future Neilochka.  It was Christmas eve 2007 and I was sitting by myself, the laptop in front of me… my pants down…

“My God, what am I… am I looking at online photos of Penelope Cruz and playing with myself?!”

“That’s what it looks like!”  said Irving Berlin.  “Ha Ha!  The best part is that in a second, Sophia is going to enter the house with friends she invited over for some coffee and cake, and everyone is going to be shocked, especially the couple’s young daughter.”

“This is horrible.  I can’t stand it.  Stop it!  Stop the future!”

“What about the concert…”

“OK, OK, I’ll have the Christmahanukwanzaakah concert.  Just take me from this future.  Take me away.”  I screamed, sobbing…

I grabbed the arm of the ghost’s jacket and we flew out the window and into the night sky.  I was still crying.

“I understand now.  Thank you!  Thank you for letting me see what could happen.  I am a changed man!  I’ll never badmouth the Christmahanukwanzaakah concert again.  It is my duty to host the concert.  I want to be that inspiration, like you.  I want to make people happy.  I want to please those female bloggers so much that I get four shiksas in my bed, just like you did!  Please, Mr. Berlin.  Show me the alternative future.  Show me my REAL Christmas eve this year after I host the Christmahanukwanzaakah concert.

Time swirled around us like a  tornado and we were suddenly back in my living room on Christmas Eve 2007.

“Here is your REAL future, Neilochka.”

I was sitting on the couch, still leering at photos of Penelope Cruz, playing with myself.  Sophia was about to open the front door, her friends behind her.

“WTF?!” I yelled. “It’s the exact same future as before!  What about the concert?  What happened to me shtupping MY four shiksas?!”

“The concert was great.  But you with four women?  What the hell do you want from me, you nudnik?  A miracle?   I’m only Irving Berlin, not God!” 

The 2007 Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert

— is Monday, December 10th.  If you want to participate, send me an audio file or a link by Sunday, December 9th.  The songs I’ve already received are absolutely terrific, a great combination of fun and heartfelt!  If you are unable (or too wimpy) to sing, you can help “decorate” the set by sending me a Holiday photo of your family, your tree, your menorah, or something seasonal.   Or recite a poem.   Or make a video of you juggling snowballs.  If you are still having trouble recording your song, email me.

So far, we already have versions of Have Yourself a Very Merry Christmas, Sleigh Ride, and Silent Night.  You are welcome to do another version if you would like.  Remember to say what song you are working on in the comments so we won’t have too many duplicates.

Have fun making music!

How Many Jews Does it Take to Change a Lightbulb?


Happy Hanukkah!

I hate to get all Al Gore on you on a fun holiday like Hanukkah, but I love when traditions are reinterpreted. And what is Hanukah all about anyway? — energy!


The temple lights worked for eight days when there is was only enough for one, thanks to God’s Miracle. As Jews, we believe that we should be helping God with His miracles. Who knows if this global warming threat is as severe as some say? I don’t think anyone can argue that issues of energy and the environment are essential to our lives. Maybe Hanukkah can finally come out under Christmas’ shadow by being about a little bit more than dreidels and latkes:

via PJVoice:

Sometimes issues like global warming seem beyond our reach – but they are quite easy to address when a lot of us take the same steps together. Here is a painless step – one that can even save you money – to reduce our energy consumption. And cut back the greenhouse gas that we (indirectly) generate by using electricity, raising the issue of global warming.

JCPA (the Jewish Council for Public Affairs) and COEJL (the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life) have announced a program entitled “A Light Among the Nations — How Many Jews Does It Take to Change a Light Bulb?”

Here is the main step in the program: For Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, purchase and install an energy efficient, cost effective compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulb.

If you could conserve energy and help stop global warming in one simple step, wouldn’t you want to act? CFLs use 75% less energy than incandescent light bulbs. This means less production of greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution, and toxic waste. COEJL calculates that if every U.S. household replaced one bulb with a CFL, it would have the same impact as removing one million cars from the road.

So take this one easy action — install at least one energy efficient, cost effective compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulb to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For more information visit A Light Among Nations.

Of course, sometimes old-fashioned energy works better.  I certainly wouldn’t want my latkes cooked by solar power.

Jennifer Love Hewitt and the Los Angeles Times Ad

As long time readers of this blog know, I’m a stick-in-the-mud about certain things, such as advertising.  I have no problem promoting you or your photography, but it really bugs me to think of myself as advocating something I don’t believe in or know, just because I’m being paid.  Every few weeks, I’m writing another meandering post about putting up advertising, blah blah blah.  I know, it’s getting boring.  It’s just that I consider what’s on the page as ON THE PAGE, and I find it difficult not connecting the two.  A few weeks ago, I made fun of a huge Burger King advertisement on all of the blogs with BlogHer ads.  I like Burger King.  And maybe you do, too.  I just don’t want to see you complaining about the obesity of America when you are pocketing from the promotion. 

There was a lot of buzz yesterday about these photos of Jennifer Love Hewitt that showed up on TMZ, mocking her because the now size 2 actress was supposedly “fat.”  Here’s a photo of her ass. 


Frankly, I would have no problem holding that ass. 

Most of the buzz about this non-topic revolved around the nasty reader comments on the site, like “Looks like somebody needs to do some jogging….BADLY!!” or sleazy TMZ’s sarcastic headlines, making jokes about “I Know Where She ATE last summer.”  Of course, being me, what I most noticed on the site were all the advertisements on the sidebar– from ATT, the Los Angeles Times, and others.   It’s a free country, TMZ is very successful, and it is owned by Time Warner.  It is smart to advertise with TMZ.  However, I now consider ATT and the Los Angeles Times as advocates of unhealhy body images for women, and the mocking of anyone over a size 0.  Hey, they are the ones PAYING for this type of crap to be put on the internet.

So, I don’t feel bad at all saying that the Los Angeles Times hates people with bigger than size zero asses.  “That’s ridiculous!” you might say.  I don’t.  You wanted me to notice your advertisment, LA Times.  And I did.  So, I consider this an endorsement of the content on the page.  I bet you that your ass isn’t as nice as Jennifer’s anyway.

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month:  Exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum

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