the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Month: April 2010

It’s a Wrap

The TCM film festival is over. It was a blast. There was such a varied audience at the screenings — from twenty-something hipsters to senior citizens. Thank you Jane Devin for the intro to the cool people at GM.

By the last screening, I was feeling very sentimental. My father was a big movie buff, and I saw many of these films for the first time on our old RCA TV, sitting with my father in his bedroom. He would have loved to see these classics such as Casablanca and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre on the big screen, in Hollywood. It was especially cool to see Tony Curtis, another favorite actor of my father’s, at a screening of Some Like it Hot.

My father always told me this story — which I only half believed — that he was stationed in Hawaii during the filming of “From Here to Eternity,” and was used as an extra in the famous fight scene between Maggio and Fatso (Frank Sinatra and Ernest Borgnine). Ernest Borgnine was at this festival, speaking about one of his other films. I tried really hard to meet him and tell him this story, but kept missing him by a few minutes.

There was one famous classic film actor who I avoided all weekend for the oddest “six degrees of Hollywood” reason. When I was in film school, I was making this twenty-minute student film, and cast this actress. By the second week, I wasn’t happy with her performance, so I hired a replacement. Believe me, it was excruciatingly difficult to do, one of the reasons I ran to “writing” and not “production” after graduation. The original actress was angry at me over my betrayal, and wrote me an email saying something like “You’re going to go far in Hollywood because you’re such an asshole.” Years passed. One day, I see a photo of this famous older actor who has appeared in 100 films with his new girlfriend, a much much younger woman — yes, her — the actress who thinks I am an asshole because I fired her from a student film. And there they were at the film festival together this weekend, still a couple — this famous actor and his long-time girlfriend who hates my guts. Do you think maybe she forgot about it by now? Do actresses every forget?

Anyway, for now —

— Hollywood has gotten back to business.

Across the street from the Hollywood Roosevelt, three working actors, Marilyn, Freddy Kruger, and Beetlegeuse discuss their latest screenplay at the Coffee Bean.

When I first stepped out of my house this morning, there was a new neighbor checking out my Buick Lacrosse in the drive-way.

“New car?” he asked.

“Kind of. I’m just testing it.” I answered.

I didn’t feel like it was necessary to go into all the details about my blog and the film festival. I was also trying to impress him.

“It looks like an upscale Lexus.”

I made note of his comment. I had never met this neighbor before, and for a second I wondered if Buick had paid an actor to come over, as a subtle hint that I should write more about the car on my blog.

The neighbor started asking me all these car-oriented questions. “What is the mph?” “How many cylinders?” Etc. I had absolutely no idea. I knew the car looked and felt good, and was impressed that the steering wheel could HEAT UP! Luckily, Sophia came out and DID know the answers, considering that she has a subscription to Car and Driver.

Afterwards, Sophia scolded me.

“Buick sponsored you to go to the festival. You should at least know SOMETHING about the car other than the fact that you can listen to Oprah on XM radio!”

She’s right. It’s time to start blogging with integrity. Today, I am going to be driving all around town so I can give you my honest opinion of the Buick Lacrosse. I have only owned Japanese cars since moving to Los Angeles. Will this car change my mind?

First up — I will play with all the cool buttons on the dashboard.

“Have you ever made out in the back of a car?” I asked Sophia.


“Yes?! With who? You never told me that.”

“Haven’t you?”

“Uh, no.”

I still haven’t.

You ever notice in car commercials and advertisements the person driving his car is always completely alone on the road?

Isn’t reality more like this? —

Live from TCM Classic Film Festival!

I expected blogging to take me to new places, but filming a promotional video for Buick on Hollywood Boulevard is certainly a very weird and exciting surprise! It was a surreal experience There are so many classic Buicks in these films, and now I was driving around town in a cool new Buick being filmed myself.

Ryan Seacrest — watch out!

Saturday’s highlight was seeing a screening of “Singing in the Rain” at the Egyptian Theater. Sophia and I had the best seats in the VIP section. Before the screening, the director of the classic musical, Stanley Donen, stepped in front of the audience and was interviewed by TCM host Robert Osborne. Stanley Donen spoke about his experience working with Gene Kelly, Donald O’Conner, and Debbie Reynolds. He also told us how he was only nine years old when he first saw Fred Astaire in a movie, and how this inspired his career, and when he was twenty-five, he was already directing Fred Astaire in a film. After the fascinating conversaton, Stanley Donen sat in the audience to watch his own film — in the seats RIGHT IN FRONT OF US. Talk about a story to tell your grandchildren. I saw “Singin’ in the Rain,” one of the greatest movies ever, while sitting behind the director — Stanley “Freakin'” Donen!

Four Movies a Day

In “A Star is Born,” the first film showed at the TCM Classic Film Festival, James Mason “discovers” Judy Garland and arranges for her to get a screen test. He tells her that her life is about to be changed by success and that she should never lose her soul to the chaos of Hollywood.

I could use a little bit of that advice on my second day of this film festival.

As my first sponsored blogging gig (I received full passes for two — entries to all of the films and parties — and a new Buick Lacrosse to drive all week, from the festival’s sponsor, Buick), I understand that I am supposed to be blogging about my experiences here, but the festival is so all-consuming from 7AM to 2AM, that it is almost impossible to find any time to write anything very good. Do film critics write on their laptops in the middle of the movie? So far, this film festival has been a blast, but if you have been to BlogHer, you’ll understand what I mean when I say it is also exhausting!

Here is a quick recap so far, as shown through iphone photos —

Thursday night was the red carpet opening, a screening of “A Star is Born.” The day leading up to the event was chaotic. We were supposed to drive our fancy new Buick to the event, but the care got lost somewhere near Phoenix, and we didn’t receive it until two hours before the screening. We still haven’t had time to fully appreciate everything this car has to offer. Sophia and I had other concerns as well — what to wear! I bought a new shirt, but then discovered that it required cuff links. Who owns cuff links?

I wore cuff links once, at my wedding. I did what I always do nowadays when I need advice — I went on Twitter and asked for help. A female blogger, a Martha Stewart type, suggested I create my own cuff links from two buttons and thread.

“It’s very easy,” she said.

Yeah, right. I opted to change my shirt.

I ended up wearing this. This same female blogger, seeing this photo, criticized me for looking “too conservative for the red carpet.”

I had an even bigger problem. Sophia wanted to dress the role of old Hollywood glamour, wearing her mother’s vintage jacket from 1950’s Russia. Although it had an authentic feel, something a star might have worn to the original opening of “A Star is Born,” the jacket was made of… uh, well, FUR.

I visualized Sophia and I stepping out of silver Buick, onto the red carpet, and immediately getting covered in blood from some zealot from PETA. I’m not sure Buick, my lovely sponsors, would appreciate this, so I begged Sophia not to wear it. Did I wimp out? Probably. Selling out to the man CHANGES YOU!

Off to the red carpet in our Buick!

Hollywood was all abuzz with the film festival. The headquarters was at the Hollywood Roosevelt, and most of the screenings were at the Chinese and Egyptian Theaters.

I impressed Sophia by proving once and for all that my feet are bigger than those of Kirk Douglas.

Here’s a little secret about the red carpet. It’s not really red. It is more “cranberry.”

Next time I dress like Alec Baldwin. I WAS too conservative.

On Friday, Sophia and I attended four movies. One of the was “The Producers.” I hadn’t planned to attend it because I had seen it so many times before. But when I learned that Sophia had never seen it before, I was curious to see her reaction. Hey, Mel Brooks — I chose you over a screening of “Casablanca!” Mel Brooks was there for a discussion, having just received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame earlier that day.

By the way, Sophia loved “The Producers.”

Sophia didn’t enjoy “The Sweet Smell of Success” with Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis, calling it “too dark.”

In the middle of the day, I met with a video crew, who filmed me driving all around Hollywood, talking about old movies and Buicks. Don’t laugh when I post this video! I was blabbing all over the place. Hopefully, they will edit most of it out.

I felt like one of those American Idol contestants making those music videos. It all happened so fast, that I hardly remember what I said or did. At one point, I was walking along Hollywood Boulevard like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever, en route to the screening of the film (even though the screening was not really happening at the time, or even on that day). Hollywood!

Off to another day of movies. So far, it’s been a great experience, but I am a little dizzy. One of the oddest things is having people ask me about my blog, and having to come up with answers for “What do I write about?” Now I understand why you all put up those annoying “blog badges” on your blogs. There is something about wearing a badge around your neck that makes you more legitimate in the eyes of others.

“Your blog sounds fascinating,” some actress-type said to me, thinking that I was someone of importance, seeing that I had the exclusive all-access pass.


I think I fell asleep last night while Fred and Ginger were dancing cheek to cheek in a screening of Top Hat, but I’m not sure.

TCM Classic Film Festival

After years in Los Angeles, I finally made it to the red carpet of a star-studded premiere. And ironically, it was blogging that brought me there. Danny and I are attending the TCM Classic Film Festival, thanks to the recommendation of blogging friend Jane Devin and the cool people at Buick. There are movies and lectures about classic movies from morning until night. Hey, Roger Ebert, is it humanly possible to see five movies in one day?I once made it through a special showing of the Star Wars Trilogy, but I had a headache for a week, and I was drugged up on coffee.

My first post about the event is going to be a little short, because I am rushing to the Chinese theater to see King Kong! Most of the films are at the classic Chinese and Egyptian theaters in Hollywood, so that makes it extra special.

Last night was a showing of “A Star is Born” with Judy Garland, a favorite of anyone who has tried to make it in Hollywood, or any gay male. I have seen the movie so many times, but never on the big screen. At the party after the movie, there was much conversation about Judy Garland and James Mason’s teeth because the big image allowed us to see how imperfect and coffee and cigarette-stained they were. Imagine, movie stars with REAL TEETH! Ah, now that is classic cinema!

I love “A Star is Born,” but this was a re-mastered version where they added material that was edited out after the premiere. Danny explained to me that the movie was not a total success at first, so the studio edited out some scenes to quicken the pace, against the wishes of George Cukor. George Cukor is a brilliant director, but I think the studio was right. Do you ever see the extended version of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” where Spielberg added in a sequence of Richard Dreyfuss walking into the spaceship and meeting the aliens. Sometimes, less is more. However, it was cool that they tried to be historically accurate and show the movie exactly as it was during premiere night.

Since I have a guest pass, I’m bringing Sophia to many of the films. It should be interesting to hear her reviews.

Today should be a wild day of screening. Here is my schedule of what I want to see:

King Kong
Sweet Smell of Success (with Tony Curtis in attendance)
The Producers (with Mel Brooks in attendance)
Imitation of Life (with Peter Bogdanovich, Juanita Moore, and Susan Kohner)
Midnight Cowboy
and The Day of the Triffids at midnight

Let’s see if I can keep my eyes open. (but free popcorn and soda!)

Since Buick is a sponsor of the event, they are also MY sponsor. For a week, I can drive around in a fancy, classy new Buick Lacrosse, a really cool car. Buick is smart. They are aware that some of us still think of a Buick as “Dad’s car,” rather than something cool, hip, and timeless — like Casablanca.

“So if they want to position themselves as cool and hip, why did they ask YOU to do this?” wondered Sophia.

Nothing could be farther than the truth about Buick being old-fashioned. This is one nice car, and even I’ll agree that I looked sexy driving it.

More later, including OFF-CENTERED photos of me ON THE RED CARPET.

V-grrrl’s Wonderful Heart

Copyright 2010 Veronica McCabe Deschambault (V-grrrl). Image may not be copied/reproduced, online or in print, without written permission.

My good blogging friend V-grrrl is having surgery this week for atrial fibrillation of the heart.  She’s been waiting four months to have this done.

Now, God loves to throw in obstacles.   Surgery is just not enough drama.  Why not have a volcano with an unpronounceable name, Eyjafjallajökull, blow up a week before the surgery, stranding her husband in Europe until four days AFTER the the scheduled surgery?

Luckily, V-grrrl’s brother is coming down from New York to help.


Good luck, V!


V — Before your surgery, I wanted to leave you with something inspirational, something to think about in case you get nervous before the procedure.  Unfortunately, I’m not very good at pep talks or new age sentiments.  Instead, I’d like to share with you this comment I received today on on a four year old post from a writer named Shane.  I think he says it better than I ever could in a stand-alone blog post.

From a comment on “Briefs or Boxers.”

What’s ironic about this is that a generation ago all guys wore plain white briefs.  It meant you were athletic and confident. Boxers were for old men and fat guys.  During the last 20 years there’s been a total reversal of this. I vote for briefs because they provide support. The sperm-count thing has actually been proven a myth, and in any case, what young guy actually wants to get a girl pregnant?  If you wear boxers your balls will hit the floor by old age. Plus, there not at all suitable for sports or anything athletic. The pendulum is swinging back towards fashionable briefs. Boxers only became popular in the early 90’s because of the baggy jeans style. They have no real function, except maybe as sleep-wear.  If a girl rejects you because of your underwear – find someone better.

Remember that.  If a girl rejects you because of your underwear – find someone better.  Translation — the wise man cares less about the material of the house, then finding a way inside!

Wait, what does this have to do with your surgery?  Well, actually nothing.  I SAID I wasn’t very good at pep talks.

Stay Strong.

Two Incompatible Self-Help Techniques

I’ve been spending some time this weekend trying to think my way out of some life issues.  I feel lucky to be in this blogging community, because so many of you are clearly fucked up as well, that I never feel ashamed about being honest with you about my own foibles, especially when it comes to my relationship with Sophia.

Recently, I have noticed several of you trying to improve your lives through some sort of self-help regimen.   I tend to see two distinct self-help techniques being used, and I’m having difficulty deciding which is the true path, if any.  These techniques both revolve around interpretations and re-interpretations of self — and how we see our own strengths and weaknesses.

Self-Help Technique #1)   I Will Myself to Perfection

This technique spits on  the concept of weakness.  Man was made to improve himself.  Each of us is our own master.  It is up to the individual to rise above the masses of sheep, Ayn Rand style.  You see this attitude in many of the exercise bloggers lately, especially in their hard-nose attitudes toward the overweight.  These individuals hate victim mentality.  Hard work is advocated, focusing on self-improvement.  The overweight are overweight because they are lazy and eat crap.  Those who live under the poverty line could rise about it — if only all they re-interpreted their self-image.  Personal achievement equals  hard work, and those who don’t reach a certain level in success — in romance, work, blogging, etc — didn’t have the right stuff.  The way to success is to turn the body and mind into a well-oiled machine.  All distractions must be eliminated.  Life must be organized, with five year plans, segmented into fifteen minute “progress” periods on the iphone.

This technique is attractive to me.  I am typically hard on myself, blaming my own weak brain for messing things up.  I admire a technique that is a bootcamp of the self, where your inner voice is a Sergeant (or Jillian Michaels) barking directions at you.  If you can’t take the heat, you don’t deserve the goods.  To succeed, I need to “reframe” my mind into a stronger way of thinking, seeing myself as soldier of success.  There is no excuse for not writing three novels a year.  I need to get off Twitter.  Procrastination is for weaklings.  Clearly my marriage is not working.  It is a time-sink.  Stop what isn’t working, and bite the bullet like a man.  The only one I need to please in life — is myself.  My voice is the ONLY voice.  When I quit blogging, I will take it down with me.

Self-Help Technique #2)  I Am Weak and Need Help

This technique grows out of the 12-step programs. Until recently, I knew very little about 12-step programs other than what I saw on TV.  But now that I have a few friends who are making use of these support groups, I thought I would do some research on how they work.   The history of organizations such as AA is fascinating.  Although these programs are not “religious” in dogma, a relationship with a higher being is part of the recovery equation.  This is not a technique where you push yourself to be perfect.  Quite the opposite.  You are acknowledging that you are have a problem which you cannot solve on your own.  You are accepting your weakness, and publicly admit it, going outside of yourself for support.  An addict will always be an addict, even years after his last drink or cigarette, because the weakness is a given, and the individual must always be vigilant.

This technique is attractive to me — even outside the context of a 12-Step Program.  It is a more gentle approach to self-therapy.  The individual can be kinder to oneself in accepting one’s failings.  I didn’t write three novels a year because I just didn’t.  I was weak.  I am never going to change unless I accept this, and look for help.  I will always have a tendency to procrastinate.  Rather than try to eliminate it unsuccessfully, I should accept it, and look for ways to control it, perhaps by sharing stories with others with the same concerns.

Technique #1 — De-focus from others and train your mind and body like an Olympic athlete.  It is up to you to make things happen.

Technique #2 — Stop fooling yourself that you are strong and see yourself for who you really are — weak.  Connect yourself to a higher power and others to help you from falling.

Any of this make sense?

Character and Self Doubt

I’ve having difficulty writing on my blog lately. I write posts and then scrap them. Too somber. Too sad. Too depressing. Too kvetchy.

Today, I thought I would shake things up by returning to the past. I would write a funny, sexually-oriented post, something I might have written in 2007. In the scenario, my blog character would bed six women at once. I prepared for the post by plotting out his lovemaking technique on a blueprint, setting the positioning mathematically — one woman riding him, one on his face, one women at each of his sides, his fingers inside them, and two women on each of Neilochka’s big toes.

Just as the women were getting hot and heavy, my blog character pulled away.

“I’m sorry,” he said, tears building in his eyes. “I can’t go on.”

The women were in shock, knowing Neilochka’s Don Juan reputation.

“It’s not you, it’s me.” he added. “I’m just not into fucking six women at the same time tonight.”

Now, it is a sad when a man performs poorly in bed in the “real world.” It is downright tragic when a “blog character” walks away from six babes wanting his body more than a pint of the best frozen yogurt.

But it isn’t 2007 anymore. Back then, my blog character was proud and cocky. He bragged about his blog being the greatest in the universe. He stood on top of the Empire State Building and hung a banner for all to see, “Citizen of the Month: Fuck Yeah!”

Life has knocked out this blog character, right on the mat, TKO-ed. Now he hobbles, half the man he used to be. In 2007, all six women in his bed would have had the orgasm of their lives. Now they all go to Yogurtland, noshing on the butter pecan frozen yogurt as a conciliation prize, leaving Neilochka alone, sulking, naked, vulnerable, his head in his hands, slouched over at the edge of his bed.

I’m ashamed of my blog character, this “Neilochka.” He is stuck in a rut. How long can he hang on to Sophia’s apron string, waffling between decisions, ping-ponging back and forth from LA and NY. And now this FIL subplot — how depressing! If my blog was a book, and I was the editor, I would tell the writer to cut out the last six chapters.

“You need to get this story moving. Throw in a new twist. This character is turning into a loser. He can’t even fuck six imaginary hotties? Who’s gonna read this book?”

It’s hard to write when you are ashamed of your blog character. I read your blogs, and you have created such excellent blog characters. So much movement and character change. Your blog characters have married, had children, changed jobs, overcome great odds!

My blog character, once a leader amongst men, has become static and unmoving, like a log in a old forest. He does not DESERVE to be the star of his own blog.

Neilochka was once a source of pride. Now he is a badge of shame.

I need to work on this character to make him relevant again to modern audiences.

Team WhyMommy’s Virtual Science Fair

I’m always complaining that Twitter is filled with inane conversations about nothing.   So how did I end up chatting with Susan of WhyMommy?  Sure, she’s funny and friendly, but did I mention that she is also an astrophysicist?   Uh, yeah.   Not intimidating.   Susan has also been active in raising awareness of cancer online, having faced inflammatory breast cancer in 2007.   Recently, doctors found a recurrence of the cancer.  Yesterday, she had surgery.

Stimey, the blogger behind Stimeyland, had a great idea — a way to send support to Susan, our friendly blogger/astrophysicist — A Virtual Science Fair!

From Stimey’s blog:

That is what Team WhyMommy’s Virtual Science Fair is all about. We want her to know that she is loved and supported. But we also want her to know that our love and support is not all because of the cancer. We love and support her because of who she is, not just because of what she has. She is not just a cancer fighter, but an incredible person, one who is passionate about science and especially women who do science.

Bloggers from around the country and, dare I say, world, have spent some time over the past few days doing science. We’ve done science with our kids or with our friends or by ourselves. And we are writing about it today to show Susan how she inspires us. How she is truly making a difference in lives all over the world by encouraging all of us to believe that we can be scientists, whether it be on the smallest, let’s-take-a-walk-in-the-park scale or the largest, I’m-going-to-get-a-degree-in-planetary-science scale.

Many of my regular readers will be surprised that I had a geeky attraction to science in school.  Classes in the humanities, such as English and social studies were easy.   I was in awe of the science students.  That is where the “real” geniuses lived.   Science geeks couldn’t bullshit the way through  assignments.  Only in an English class could you receive an A+ comparing Wang Lung, the main character in Pearl Buck’s “The Good Earth,” to Theo, the Cosby son on “The Cosby Show.”  In science, you had to show the money.

Because of the seriousness of science, I yearned to be a science geek.   Science is strong and manly.  English is for pussies who like Romantic poetry.  But as much as I tried to pose as a scientist, I didn’t have the right stuff, either the discipline or the pocket protector.  I was a pussy who liked poetry.

In my junior year in high school, still in denial over my true self, I convinced my parents to send me to a special summer science program at Michigan State University.  They didn’t quite understand why I wanted to go; I showed no interest in science.  They bought me a microscope and “science kit” for Hanukkah, and I never took it out of the box.  My favorite place in the Museum of Natural History was the gift shop.  I never watched Nova on PBS, only reruns of Monty Python.  But I was determined to prove myself in science.   To be someone with stature.

I wrote about my summer science program at MSU in a blog post in 2005.  When my experiment went awry (I was trying to solve the world’s hunger problems by growing some crazy type of super-wheat), I did what any disreputable scientist would do — I faked the data.  It was a low point in my educational career.  It was during that infamous summer of science, that the facade crumbled.  I would never be a true scientist, like Galileo, Jonas Salk, or Susan of WhyMommy.  Science is searching for the truth, and I lived in a world of lies and made-up nonsense.  So, I became a writer instead.  Fuck science.  Who needs the facts?  If I tell you that my penis jumped off my body and took a walk to Burger King on his own, are you going to ask, “Show me the scientific evidence?!” Of course not.

For many years, I laughed in the face of science.  My jealousy turned to anger.  Poor little spineless scientists, I used to say, needing to check the facts.  Needing “controls.”  Pasty-faced data heads living in sterile labs while I sat poolside in Malibu, Playboy bunnies lounging at my side, as I dictated my latest Jerry Bruckheimer-produced blockbuster about a comet heading for Earth.

“What did you say, Mr. Scientist?  That one lone fighter jet piloted by Mack Higgins, retired Air Force ace (Bruce Willis) cannot shoot down a comet 500x bigger than Jupiter?  Why not?  A scientific impossibility?  Ha Ha!  Science nerd.  Who cares?  You and your FACTS!  Next thing you’re going to tell me is that there weren’t dinosaurs on Noah’s Ark!  Hey, Playboy bunny, I need my dirty martini re-filled!!”

But as I have become older, the anger against science has faded.  I have seen the importance of science.   There would be no hybrid cars or iphones or vaccines or internet without science!  We need science.  If the world was only filled with English majors, life as we know it would cease to exist.  The entire universe would just be sitting around at home complaining about not writing their novels.  It would be horrible.  Life would be brutish, short, and very very bitter.

Now, for the first time ever, I will say it publicly:  Thank God for science!  I might have failed as a scientist, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the work of other great men and women.  One day medical science will cure cancer, and then we will all be REALLY EMBARRASSED for thinking Facebook was the greatest advancement in modern times.

Wait a minute.  What is this post about anyway?

Oh yeah, this post is supposed to be my entry in Team WhyMommy’s Virtual Science Fair.  I completely forgot about that.

My Science Fair Project is geared for the children — your children.  I am sure many of them are coming home from school, just like we all once did, asking the same questions, “Why do we need to learn these things?  When will we ever use geometry?  If I never intend to become a doctor, why study biology?”

The usual answer is “Shut the hell up and do it!”  But is that really the best response to your children?  Does it motivate our youth to learn science?


We need to show our children that learning math and science is important because it helps us THINK.  It allows us to SOLVE PROBLEMS, even every day things that we don’t usually associate with science.

For example —


Scientific question:  Can one of these sandwiches, sub-genus “Oscar Mayer Deli-Creations Complete Sandwiches” now selling at the 99 cent store, be made edible, by following a certain methodology, as outlined in the “directions” posted in the back of the box?

Hypothesis:  By following the methodology, I will have a very inexpensive lunch.


Step One  – Buy the Oscar Mayer Deli Creations “Focaccia Sandwich.”   Can the iterative process allow us to prove that this sandwich will be as Hot & Melty as postulated?

Step Two – Planning and Research.  Examination of variables involved.

Step Three  — After the “Italian Herb” Focaccia bread is split into two identical halves, the “bottom” element is arranged carefully in the rectangular “silver” microwave pan, which doubles as the part of the box containing the explicit directions and methodology of the process.

Step Four – Using a sharp tool known as a knife, the “steakhouse beef” is extracted from its plastic shell.

Step Five – The “Steakhouse Beef” is carefully arranged on the Focaccia bread, in such a manner, that at least 80% of the surface is covered with the meat.

Step Six – After carefully washing the “knife” to prevent contamination, the pepper ranch sauce is released —

— in liquid state, over the meat and bread.   It is essential at this point that, if you are using a lab assistant to help with the experiment, that you do not get de-focused by arguments over whether or not you are going to see a marriage counselor next week.

Step Seven — Repeat Step Six, using the Pepper Jack Cheese.

Remember, science is all about data and experimental technique.  Opinions and subjectivity, such as “This sandwich looks like a piece of ****” do not belong in the lab.

Step Eight — The other identical half of the Italian Herb Focaccia bread is reconnected, much like a strand of DNA, once again proving that even in science, there are still mysteries unexplained.

Step Eight — Well, let’s just say that the experiment got screwed up when an overzealous lab assistant placed the final variable into the OVEN rather than the microwave.

“The box said to put it in the microwave,” I said.

“It would be all soggy in the microwave.   It looks so much better now.,” replied the lab assistant.

“But I’m supposed to be doing a scientific experiment and following the directions.”

“So, lie.  Isn’t that what you always do when you do a science experiment!”

Sigh.  I’m never going to live that down.


Yes, you can can make a sandwich from a package.    Would I consider this lunch?  That I’m not sure about.

Heal fast, Susan!

Unconditional Love

Here’s a corny old Jewish joke about the unconditional love of mothers for their daughters (told with a little sarcasm):

Two women who haven’t seen each other in years run into each other on the street.

“How’s your daughter,” the first woman asks, “the one who married that surgeon?”

“They were divorced,” the second woman answers.

“Oh, I’m so sorry.”

“But she then got married to a lawyer.”

“Mazal tov!” the friend exclaimed.

“They were also divorced… But now everything is alright, she’s married to a very successful CPA.”

The first woman shakes her head from side to side.

“Mmmm, so much nachas (joy in Yiddish) from one daughter…”


My mother is back in Queens after a winter as a snowbird in Florida.    My intention was to live it up in my pseudo-bachelor pad all winter.   Life got in the way.    When I left Queens to come to LA, it was for a short trip.  I expected to return to New York in ten days, not still be in LA three months later.

My mother called five minutes after she walked in the front door.

“I am so mad,” she said.

I had left behind six bundles of dirty laundry and a broken dishwasher.

“Oops,” I replied, suddenly remembering that I promised to take care of things before my mother’s return, and never did , much like the “shower curtain incident” last year.

I wasn’t worried about my mother’s anger.   After all, she’s my mother.    I have been lucky with my parents.   I know a few of you got stuck with shitty parents.   I am pretty confident that my mother is going to continue to love me even if I caused a fire and burnt the entire apartment to the ground.

Unconditional love by a mother.


Of course, that same love can also ruin you.


Sophia and I had a fight last week over… yeah, the dishes.    One day I need to write a post on that one issue.   When we argue, I can feel the love disappear.   There is hate in her eyes.   The next day, when tensions subside, the love returns, as if a dark cloud has lifted.   This disturbs me.   It makes me feel very insecure.   I know, I know, your girlfriend or wife isn’t your mother.   Only your mother will give you that unconditional love.

Perhaps that is why I am looking up codependent in wikipedia.


I am very jealous of all the parents out there. You must feel this unconditional love for your children. It must be such a special feeling.   No one else can ever feel this special bond of unconditional love.

Maybe dog owners.   Remember Lassie?    That was unconditional love, right?


If there is one piece of advice about blogging that I can give to newbies without any reservations, it is this:   Never look for unconditional love online.   You won’t find it.   Through trial and error, I now operate on the assumption that I could lose 75% of my readers or online friends in one week by simply writing the wrong type of post or tweet.   Thank God for V-grrrl.   She’s like Mikey in those old Life Cereal commercials.   She doesn’t like anything, but still likes my posts.   I write half of my posts with her in mind.


It is Easter. The idea of unconditional love is an integral part of Christianity. It describes the belief in God’s love for humankind through the forgiveness of Christ.

Unconditional love is also central to Judaism, although the Jewish God sometimes confuses Passover with April Fool’s Day.


In Exodus, there is a moment when Moses shows his unconditional love for his people. Moses has just lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, and has given them the Ten Commandments.   What does he get in return?   He finds them partying with the Golden Calf, much like parents returning home early from their vacation to find their high school son having a wild party in the living room with more hookers than listed in Tiger Woods’ blackberry.

Does Moses show unconditional love?   Well, maybe not at first.   He curses them, throws the tablets at them, and several sinners die in a fiery blaze.   Let’s just say that anger management classes had not yet been developed.   But to give the dude credit, God later makes Moses an offer that most of us would jump on: “Let my anger burn against them and I shall annihilate them, and I will make you into a great nation!”

Basically, God is offering to get rid of all these schmucks and start over again with Moses in the chariot driver’s seat.  But Moses, for some unknown reason — maybe love is blind — begs for mercy:   “These people have sinned a great sin by making for themselves a god of gold. And now, if You would bear their sin. But if not—erase me now from your book that You have written!”

Translation: “Sure, these Israelites are are a bunch of sinning, high-maintenance assholes — just wait until one day when they have their own country — but I’m one of them, and I love them — despite it all — so just kill me too while you’re at it.”

Unconditional love.   Neurotic, maybe, but isn’t all love?


I know someone is going to comment here that the most important person to love is yourself.   Despite my kvetching, I do love myself.   I find myself very amusing and lovable.   But you just can’t hang around with yourself ALL the time.

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