the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Month: November 2010 (Page 2 of 2)

Feeling it For the First Time

Surprisingly, I’ve been doing quite well in New York, away from Sophia.  We’re still talking on the phone, exchanging stories of the day.  But not every day.  I have no idea what she has been up to this month.

A few weeks ago, I called Sophia with an odd request — change my Twitter password so I wouldn’t be able to get on and waste so much time, chatting for hours about nonsense such as the correct pronunciation of “gyro.”  It was time to do some real honest WRITING.

I cheated.  I fought the law, and I won. I discovered that the Twitter app Brizzly uses a separate password, so I was able to beat the system the entire time, continuing to trade barbs with Redneck Mommy.

During the last few days, there was some internet drama going on involving other parties (when isn’t there?) and it made me feel a little sad and depressed that my mind was being polluted with this information.  I decided it was time to try my detox again.  So, I deleted Brizzley, making me sans Twitter.  I became a free man.

The first day it was a relief.  Who needs to hear all these voices talking at me?

Today is day two.   And I’m ready to be chained to my computer again.   Without these virtual “others” around — I’m finally feel the loneliness and isolation of, well, being alone.  The voices of Twitter were protecting me, distracting me from feeling.  I’m still doing OK — I’m glad that I am here — and it is better for Sophia, too — but I’m feeling it for the first time.

But I picked the right person to change my password.  There is no way I could ever convince her to change her mind.

In all honesty, I’m an only child, and comfortable being by myself, alone with my words, probably even more than most of you.  But like they say in the Bible, “Man is not good until woman hands him an apple.” (my translation)  And your mother doesn’t count as this woman.   And I’m not talking about “that” apple either, a real apple.  You know, not the real shiny apple with names like Delicious or Fuji Apple.  You get what I’m saying?

Word and Image

I am in McDonald’s staring at a poster for the new McRib sandwich.  The photo shows this huge, juicy, succulent rib — the size of half a cow.  The photo is just begging you to buy a McRib.  Although I have never eaten a McRib, I do have experience with McDonald’s hamburgers.  I’m sure you all know what I’m talking about.  The photo shows a thick patty with a watery tomato, pickle, and lettuce packed on high on a bakery-fresh bun, and then when you get the burger, it is… a typical McDonald’s hamburger, a grayish, flacid disc that barely fits in the soft, limp bun.  So, I am asking myself — and you — why is this not considered false advertising?  There are stringent controls on the words that go into advertising.  A company can get sued for lying to their consumers with their words.  I can’t run an ad saying that if you come into my car dealership, I will sell you an Acura, and then give you a Corolla.  So, why hasn’t anyone ever sued McDonald’s for the fakery of their food photos?

My photographer friend, Kim, recently went to a class in Los Angeles to learn the techniques of commercial food photography.  From what she told me, it sounded like a fascinating class, with food photography an art form in itself.  She told me how sandwiches are stuffed with cotton to make them thicker, and food coloring is used to make chocolate look more chocolate-y.  And photographers get big bucks for this deception, on-the-set fakery done before the use of Photoshop.

Do you ever notice that readers like the “real” and “authentic,” in writing?  We like to read about struggle and drama.  On the other side, have you noticed that we tend to love the photographs that should be in a glossy magazine?  Beautiful settings.  And beautiful people.  Our families look near perfect.  Our yards are always clean.  The laundry on the couch is always hidden. Everyone has nice hair.  Special filters are used to create a mood.  Photoshop is employed to rid us of blemishes.

Of course, writing is also fake.  We have our own literary brush tools.  We can completely change the mood of a sentence, but switching a word, or adding punctuation.  Some of us are more poetic in our words.  If I say that my friend was “as angry as a bulldog,” I am giving you a visual picture.  But it is still manipulation, like a yellow filter, or the Hipstamatic app in the iphone.  My friend is not really a bulldog.  I’m not even sure bulldogs are “angry.”

I am not a photographer.  So I am curious.  Are you searching for any truth in your photos? If you take a perfect photo of a perfect family in front of a perfect home, are you trying to express the Platonic ideal of your family?  Are words more suited for communication and expressing truth (if you so choose), and photos more for beauty and glorified image?

I know media images of beauty are always a popular topic with my female friends online.  But I’m not sure we should trust corporate America to determine what is “real” for us, women or otherwise.  When I see those Dove “real women” campaigns, I mostly see photoshopped size 8 models instead of photoshopped size 2 models.

We tend to look down our noses at the use of  “advertising” techniques in writing, seeing them as manipulative, but applaud the same techniques in photography.  Why does beauty always have to be so “prettified?”  Why do we always talk about our search for truth and authenticity in art if we don’t really want to see it or express it in our images?

Does any of this make any sense?  Maybe not.  I’ll tell you one thing — that McRib sandwich looks good!

Midnight Train to My Blogging Roots

Sometimes it is important to pack your suitcase, climb aboard that midnight train, and head home. To get in touch with your roots. To remind yourself of why you started this arduous journey so long long ago.

In blogging terms, this means riding in the bumpy passenger car for several hours, watching the scenery out the window, traveling past all the monetization, the jealousies, the giveaways, the fighting over labels and conferences and cool kids, chugging over the mountains of who did what and when and why, into the tunnels of the time before the rules were set of what an online writer can and cannot say.

Yes, in blogging terms, this means — talking about what you had for lunch. Those were the days!

Remember those early days, when writing about your lunch WAS the point. We were all so naive back then, so primitive, like the apes in 2001: A Space Odyssey. We had just discovered the giant monolith, and did what was natural — we used stones as simple tools, that is until one of the smarter of our tribe realized that the rocks were better served as weapons to hit each other over the head.

No One Cares What You Had For Lunch.

I despised the title of this book the minute it came out several years ago.

Today I ate a tuna fish salad sandwich. It was a mediocre sandwich. Why? My mother has this terrible habit of buying low-fat mayonnaise (the store brand) which has this off-taste, almost metallic on your tongue.

I was especially excited as I created my sandwich because I had bought rye bread at the supermarket, and this type of bread always reminds me of my grandma’s tuna fish sandwiches, pieces of perfection in which dill and onions were delicately mixed in with the tuna. The bread was always sliced diagonally, and a red toothpick was stuck in each half. A dill pickle sat at the side, balancing the plate.

Alas, this supermarket rye bread was a fake. It didn’t have any caraway seeds inside or along the crust, which made the bread the equivalent of a Hooters’ girl without cleavage.

I drank a glass of Snapple Diet Green Tea with the sandwich. It was way too sweet, chock full of Splenda.

All in all, the lunch was a disappointment. But I don’t want to leave this post as a downer. Although the rye bread was bleh, it reminded me of how tasty a GOOD good rye bread can be (not this one), and I vowed to go on a trip this weekend to a decent bakery on Queens Boulevard and pick myself up a decent rye bread, proving that it isn’t always the specific lunch that is important, but the journey.

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