the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Category: Art and Design (Page 2 of 3)

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!

The Second Annual Blogger Holiday Arts and Crafts Fair

Welcome to the Second Annual Blogger Holiday Arts and Crafts Fair!

Today, you’ll be able to stroll through the fairgrounds and look at some of the terrific HANDMADE holiday gifts made by your own peers in the blogosphere.

We are here to celebrate all of the talented artists and designers who make our world a little bit more beautiful.  Can you imagine how miserable the world would be if we only had depressed and grouchy writers around, always eager to expose the seedy underbelly of life.

But today is about beauty.  And gift-giving.  And a little music.  And food.  And laughs.

And especially BUYING.  And what better way to get us into the buying mood then with the classic song from Oliver!, “Who Will Buy?”


Who will buy my sweet red roses?
Two blooms for a penny.
Who will buy my sweet red roses?
Two blooms for a penny.


Who will buy
This wonderful morning?
Such a sky
You never did see!

Here are some unique gifts that you can buy for your friends and loved ones —

Unique Plaque-mounted Victorian-Style Homes
by Geoff Meeker and Lisa McKay at JellybeanRow
artists in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
(Geoff Meeker blogs at Meeker on Media at The Telegram)

Handmade Wood Toys
by Little Alouette
toy designers in Columbus, Ohio
Little Alouette
(Amy blogs at Doobleh-vay)

Stained Glass Artwork
by GlassFancy
an artist in Hermitage, Tennessee

Handmade Cups and Espresso Sets
by Holli at Classic Rock Cupcakes/ Hollibobolli
a designer in Oklahoma City, OK
(Holli blogs at Baby Faith)

Prints, Gift tags, and Handmade notebooks
by Holly/Pixie of Bird Doodle
an artist in Toledo, Ohio
(Pixie blogs at Pixie’s Temple)

Throughout history, men have wondered what makes a woman happy.   And in every generation, there is a charlatan who comes along, insisting that he has the “answer.”  One of those phonies is the rapper Ludacris, who brags that he knows “What Them Girls Like.”

Relax & take notes,
While I’m put you up on game
Get a sweeter connect, then if i put you up on cane,
But you should grab yourself a seat and a Whisky Double,
Because the girls of the world ain’t nothin but trouble,

They like a little danger and might not admit it,
But they on for the chase and they want us to come and get it,

Nonsense.  As you can tell from this music video, he knows nothing about women.   I will tell you the right answer to “what do them girls like?”   Women like to receive jewelry as gifts.

Here’s some nifty bling that you can buy for your friends and loved ones —

by Karel Chan of Sunshower Design Jewelry
a jewelry designer in Portland

Beads and Jewelry
by Ainsley of Kaskaad Handmade Jewellery
a jewelry designer in Toronto

by Suzanne of Jewelry to Keep
a jewelry designer

by Joy of Goddess Joy
a jewelry designer from Morgan Hill, California

by Willow of Simply Willow
a jewelry designer in Kalamazoo, MI

Jewelry and Bookmarks
by Bijoux Designs For You
mother-and-daugher jewelry designers from Toronto

by Cindy of Ctthings
a jewelry designer from Ames, Iowa

Crocheted Art and Jewelry
by Heather of HMV Designs
an artist in Baltimore

by Jerri of Gems by Jerri
a jewelry designer in Comfort, Texas

by Mzz Thang of F-Shizzle Design Studios
a jewelry designer in Pittsburg, CA

Metal and Organic Jewelry
by Leader of Men
a jewelry designer in Vancouver, CA

Cufflinks and Jewelry Created from Refashioned Vintage Pieces
by Enthral Designs
a designer in Kingston, Nova Scotia

Crochet Wire and Beaded Braidlets
by Crochet Hooked
a designer in Lakewood, CA

by Renee of Renee Fensin Designs
a designer in Milwaukee
(Renee blogs at But Why Mommy?)

Handmade Loose Beads and Jewelry
by Sarah of Imagine That
a designer in Evansville, Indiana

All of us like to look good.  We like hip clothes.  We want the trendiest accessories.  As much as we try to hide it, let’s be honest with ourselves.   We’re material girls and guys.

Some boys kiss me, some boys hug me
I think they’re o.k.
If they dont give me proper credit
I just walk away

They can beg and they can plead
But they cant see the light, thats right
cause the boy with the cold hard cash
Is always mister right, cause we are

Living in a material world
And I am a material girl
You know that we are living in a material world
And I am a material girl

Here are some cool bags, clothing, and hair accessories that you can buy for your friends and loved ones —

Bags and Clothing Made From Recycled Materials
by Abigail Road
a designer in Regina, SK, Canada
(Abigail blogs at Abigail’s Road to Nowhere)

by Adam Avitable
a t-shirt designer in Alamonte Springs, FL
(Adam blogs at Avitable)

Felted Hair Assessories
by Fufukitty at
a designer in Iowa City

T-Shirts and Hats
by Winter of Rott and Roll Productions
a designer in Orange County, California
Rott and Roll Productions
(Winter blogs at Sunlight Sucks)

T-shirts embellished with Crystals
by Sonia of Sunshine Designs
a designer in Carroll, Iowa

Some people are just pain in the asses to buy a gift.  They either are very choosy or seem to own everything already.   For these troublesome, high-maintenance people, you need to shop carefully, because they are very particular.

Hush little baby, dont say a word
Pappas gonna buy you a mockingbird

If that mockingbird dont sing
Pappas gonna buy you a diamond ring

If that diamond ring turns brass
Pappas gonna buy you a lookin glass

Here are some beautiful pieces of artwork and photography to arouse the senses of your choosy friends and loved ones —

by Memory Layne of Memory Layne Creative
an artist in New England
(small sunflower painting price here)

Painting, Pottery, and Sculpture
by Annie of BlissfulArts
an artist in Taos, new Mexico
(Annie blogs at Blissful Bohemian)

2009 Calendar Featuring Nature Photography
by Greeblemonkey
a photographer in Denver
(Aimee blogs at Greeblemonkey)

by Parallex Photo
a photographer in Holyoke, MA

by Kim at 180/360
a photographer in Las Vegas
(Kim blogs at 180/360 Blog)

by Erin Cooper of e.cooper Designs
an art director and photographer in Denver/Oklahoma
(Erin blogs at Saucybritches and is the poster girl for the fair)

I hope you all enjoyed the arts and crafts fair.   Please continue browsing and while you look, enjoy a complimentary  piece of virtual cranberry pecan frangipane tart freshly made by Deb at Smitten Kitchen!

(photo by Smitten Kitchen)

(OK, so some ideas DON’T really work in the virtual world).

Also,  there are some good times to be had at Craftastrophe, a website that proves that artists and designers have a sense of humor.   Because they are the first to admit that not every handmade product comes out looking perfect —

Remember, The Christmahanukwanzaakah Blogger Online Holiday Concert is on December 23, 2008!

Buy Handmade This Holiday Season!

Long-Time Blogger Friend/ Sexy Poster Girl Saucy Britches, Photo by Peek Photo

The Second Annual Blogger Holiday Arts and Crafts Fair will be held on Saturday, November 22, 2008.

I love that so many of you are creative and talented people who can MAKE THINGS.  I suck at it.  One day, if I can ever find it in my closet, I will show the wooden “duck” note-holder that I made in woodshop in the seventh grade.  One afternoon in class, while sanding it down, I accidentally shaved off the duck’s head, leaving only the clothespin as “the beak” attached to a misshapen body.  After it was shellacked (poorly), it should have won an award as the ugliest object ever produced by a human being.  I think I gave it to my mother as a mother’s day gift.  Going to woodshop was like a prison sentence to me.

But you — you have talent!

Last year, right before the annual Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert, I took the Homemade Pledge and decided to honor those of you who make cool stuff with a special First Annual Blogger Holiday Arts and Crafts Fair.  It was a lot of fun.

The Second Annual Blogger Holiday Arts and Crafts Fair will be held on Saturday, November 22, 2008.

Any blogger who wants to sell his wares on that day’s is welcome to submit.  It can be your painting, jewelry, knitting, or photography, or whatever.  All you have to do is email me a JPG of ONE SAMPLE OF YOUR WORK, and a LINK to your Etsy account or webpage where you sell your work.  It is up to you to set up your own prices and sales.  I am just the showman, who dazzles the customers with lights and music, like a 21st Century Pink Floyd, while you convince them to buy the over-priced concert t-shirt.

Buy Handmade this Holiday Season.

(coming next week — information about the Third Annual Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert)

Almost Like Vienna

I’m beginning to accept a philosophy of life that combines equal parts idealism and cynicism  — everything good has the seeds of something bad and everything bad contains the potential for something good.  There are some problems with this new theory, so I won’t expound on it too much, because I might decide by next week that it is total hooey.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about — coming to New York and separating from Sophia is bad (and sad), but it has also has created some good.  I have gained some independence.  I don’t worry as much.  A few weeks ago, there was a problem on the E train.  Everyone had to disembark and wait for another train.  It was late at night.  It was hot.  It was crowded.  The wait was an HOUR!  Sophia would have just fainted, or glared at me all night for living in Queens, not Manhattan.  If Sophia was there, I would have gotten eanxious worrying about her discomfort, making things worse.  But since I was there by myself, I didn’t fret. I amused myself by taking artsy, but poorly-exposed photographs of the subway signs.  I had FUN.  I could only have had that experience alone.

I hear about this good/bad dichotomy all the time.  Having kids is the greatest joy in a person’s life.  Having kids is the biggest pain in the ass.  Working hard means I get well paid.  Getting well paid means I have to work hard.

One of the best things that has happened to me by coming to New York is a surprise — my bonding with my mother.  It is a good in a bad situation.  She is without her husband.  I am without my wife.  And for once, we are both “adults,” — or at least I pretend to be.   During this visit, we have become friends.  We went to the movies together.  We went to the theater.  We went to City Bakery and made fun of the skinny girls sitting next to us, picking at their fifteen dollar salads while we were eating our huge muffins.

Today, during lunch, my mother and I met Suzanne, a former workmate of my mother, at the Neue Galerie at 86th and Fifth.  The Neue Galerie is located in a former mansion of the Vanderbilts, and the museum is dedicated to German and Austrian Art. 

I’ve always liked German Expressionist art.  I especially love the work of Gustav Klimt. 

Gustav Klimt

Neue Galerie has one of his most famous works, the portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer.

Adele Bloch-Bauer by Gustav Klimt

I’m not sure my mother was crazy about some of the paintings in the museum.  Much of the German work from 1900-1930 is shocking, seedy, even ugly — as if these artists could see the festering amoralism of German culture of the time period.

Girl with Doll by Erich Heckel

“That girl looks like she is eight years old.” said my mother.

“I think she is eight years old.”

“Why would you paint a nude eight year old?  It makes me uncomfortable.”

“I think that’s what he was trying to do.”

“Who would want that in their house?”

“It’s probably worth thirty million dollars.”

“I still wouldn’t put it in my house.  Yuch.”

“You’re in a museum.  You’re not supposed to say “Yuch.””

“What should I say?”

“You should say, “Interesting,” but with a lilt to your voice to show your uncertainty.”

My mother walked over to a wall of Klimt’s sketches.

“I like this one better.” she said,

“Which one?”

“The sleeping nude.”

“I don’t think she’s sleeping.”

“It looks like she’s sleeping.”

“I don’t think she’s sleeping.”


Reclining Nude Facing Right by Gustav Klimpt

After walking through the galleries, we went downstairs to have dessert at Cafe Sabarsky, a restaurant decorated to look like an authentic Viennese cafe.  At first, after seeing the menu, we almost left.  Desserts were eight dollars each and coffee (no refills) was six dollars.  We decided to splurge. 

Cafe Sabarsky

My mother and Suzanne

Cheesecake, Rum Cake, Apple Strudel

The desserts were pretty good (we shared a rum cake, cheesecake, and apple strudel), but not really worth the fifty bucks.  In fact, we were all a little disappointed that the food didn’t really live up to the high price. 

Suddenly, my mother noticed a Mr. Softee ice cream truck pull up on 86th Street, directly outside the cafe window.  Two museum employees ran outside to buy themselves ice cream cones for $1.50 each. 

“At least the people who work here are smart enough not to spend fifty dollars on dessert from the cafe!” said my mother.

We all laughed, because my mother, my new friend, is funny.

Case: Clothes

Author Tom Wolfe

It shouldn’t surprise you that I spend so much time online.  I can make myself seem interesting just by using the written word, and before you know it, women are throwing me their virtual bras at me.

In the real world, very few people on line at McDonald’s want to hear me read my latest blog post to them.  Believe me, I’ve tried.  I even tried giving away free Happy Meals.  Not one woman takes off her bra.

I fit into this online world.  A clever line is worth a lot.   It is the online equivalent of driving a Ferrari into the valet stand at a Beverly Hills bistro.  And online, you don’t even have to tip.

As much as web designers tell you about the importance of “blog design,” none of us read a blog because of the looks.  We would read a good blog published on a plain white page.

I like this word-based system.  I have fun conversations with men and women of all races and ages, from twenty-something to seventy.  Even when I see your photo on flickr, I rarely think about you in physical terms.  Your words come first.  If you write sexy, you come off as sexy.  I mean, I’m not going to lie.  I do notice what people look like.  Some of you are so gorgeous!  I just don’t think about it that much or treat anyone better because of it.   I’m mean – great – you have amazing boobs — but I’m not going to be touching them, so what’s the point?  I’m going to spend more time hanging with the regular-looking gal who turns me on with her jokes.  I’m more likely to describe you as “that mommyblogger” or “that bitch from Wisconsin” rather than “skinny” or “fat” or “Latino”

Unfortunately, things change in the real world.   You are not going to be as impressed with me when you see me wearing two different socks and I forgot to zip my fly.  I’m not even going to bring up the half-shaven off chest hair.  The first thing we notice when meeting someone is how the person looks.  Before they even open their mouth, we’ve created a whole history for this person. 

After posting about the Nehru jacket, I spent a while reading “The Sartorialist.”  I found the comments fascinating.  Some entries had a hundred comments, each commenter “reading” the photo, infusing the subject with life and meaning.   Commenters seemed to “understand” the people in the photos from what they looked like, especially from what  the clothes “say.”   Readers discuss the personal lives of these online subjects — their inner confidence, their life history, and even their moral character.  All from one photo!  I was half-hoping that someone would write in that they had played a joke — and dressed up a homeless woman as a chic woman in Brooklyn.  Someone even wrote that they want to be “best friends” with a young female subject wearing a green blouse.  For the most part, the subjects are young, good-looking model types.  Don’t ugly people ever dress in interesting clothes?  Or are they too afraid of standing out?  I think I can understand that.  I’ve spent most of my life wearing clothes that would make me fit in.

I did find one older woman in one of the photos.  Everyone loved her.  They wanted her to be their grandmother.   Check out the comments.  I showed the photo to my mother.  Even my mother fell in love with her natural “style” and the fact that she kept her gray hair.  I have a feeling that this woman could probably have been both Clinton and Obama just by appearing in this photo!

(via The Sartorialist)

Call me Scrooge, but I was wondering if this was a nice woman.   How do we know she’s not an asshole?  Because of her clothes? 

Why bother getting a Master’s degree when you can better spend your money buying some interesting clothes?   Or does the Master’s degree enable you to AFFORD these clothes?  

Of course, I picked the wrong Master’s degree.

I don’t spend too much time thinking about my blog design because YOU don’t seem to judge me on it.  Would you like me to have a flashier, Dooce-like blog design?  Would that make my blog seem classier? 

In the real world, it is clear that you ARE judged by what you wear.  People make incredible assumptions about a person’s character and position in society.

It makes me think, that as a writer, I should spend more attention to what my characters wear.  I should also spend more attention to what I wear, especially here in New York.  I might actually have to think about matching my socks.

Question:  Make believe that you meet me for the first time.  You don’t know me at all.  You’ve never read my blog.  I am wearing a Nehru jacket.  Do you “read” anything into this?

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month:  Things Every Man Should Do Before He Dies — #6 Buy a Drink for a Woman in a Bar

The Nehru Jacket

If you met me, you wouldn’t think I am very fashionable.  I write.  I blog.  I go Target.  wear jeans and a t-shirt.  I go to the theater or a concert every now and then, but LA isn’t a very dress-up type of town.  I would be more fashion-conscious if I lived in New York.  Walking around New York is a little bit of theater, and it is fun to costume yourself.

I like sportsjackets.  I think I look good in them.  Sadly, I never wear them.  I like the jacket, but I hate wearing ties.  Because of this, I am attracted to this jacket I saw online – the Nehru Jacket.   I’m not sure what it is about this jacket, but it draws me in, telling me that I need to wear it.

via The Sartorialist

I’ve never seen a real live person wearing a Nehru jacket.  OK, maybe some Indian guy wearing traditional white garb that is similar in style.  To most people, the Nehru jacket is an outdated fad from the 1960’s.

The Nehru jacket has an interesting history:

The Nehru jacket is a hip-length tailored coat for men or women, with a stand-up or “mandarin” collar, and modeled on the South Asian achkan or sherwani, an apparel worn by Jawaharlal Nehru, the Prime Minister of India from 1947 to 1964. However, unlike the achkan, which falls somewhere below the knees of the wearer, the Nehru jacket is not only shorter, but also, in all respects other than the collar, resembles the suit jacket.

The apparel was created in India in the 1940s as Band Gale Ka Coat (Hindi/Urdu: “Closed Neck Coat”) and has been popular on the subcontinent since, especially as the top half of a suit worn on formal occasions. It began to be marketed as the Nehru jacket in the West in the mid-1960s; it was briefly popular there in the late 1960s and early 1970s, its popularity spurred by growing awareness of foreign cultures, by the minimalism of the Mod lifestyle, and, in particular, by the Monkees and the Beatles, who popularized the garment.

Did you know that The Beatles wore Nehru jackets for their famous Shea Stadium performance of 1965?

Sammy Davis Jr. owned 200 Nehru jackets.

Alas, the popularity of the Nehru jacket lasted only a few years.  By the late 1960s, the fad was over and the Nehru jacket fell into obscurity.

In the mid-1970s’s,  Johnny Carson was commissioned to wear Nehru jackets on his show, in the hopes of making them popular again, but it was too late.  Fashion had moved on.   The disco years were here.

More recently, the fashion was mocked when it was worn by Dr. Evil in Austin Powers.

I think the Nehru jacket is pretty cool.  Maybe I should try to find one in a vintage clothing store while I’m in New York.  Chicks will dig it.

The First Annual Blogger Holiday Online Arts and Crafts Fair

Arts and Crafts Fair Poster Girl Villanovababy

Welcome to the first ever Blogger Holiday Online Arts and Crafts Fair. 

This is your opportunity to be introduced to the artistic work of some of your favorite bloggers.  It’s the holiday season… the time for gift-giving.  Why not give a unique and handmade gift to your loved ones and friends this year — and support a fellow blogger at the same time?  I think you’ll find a varied group of artists, photograhers, and crafty folk represented here on this page.

Feel free to browse, both here and on the participants’ shopping pages.  You don’t have to buy.  Just enjoy looking at the work of those who are more talented than you, artistic geniuses who make you feel like an uncreative loser.  Ha Ha, of course that is a joke.  You don’t feel bad at all.  They’re ARTISTS.  Chances are that you drive a much nicer car. You get the last laugh!  Thank god for business school!

Of course no arts and craft fair would be complete without some food and entertainment.  Please nosh on our delicious homemade bagels, courtesy of Deb from Smitten Kitchen and Ari from Baking and Books. 

The Battle of the Homemade Bagels —

Deb’s Homemade Bagels

Ari’s Homemade Bagels

Sure, they’re only virtual bagels, but they’re COMPLIMENTARY.  That means they are free!  Woo-hoo! 

There are also two concert areas on the fairgrounds, keeping you entertained as you shop. On STAGE ONE, rock out with British indie band Arctic Monkeys, as they stop by the arts and crafts fair during their west coast tour.  On STAGE TWO, our more intimate staging area, we are proud to present one of America’s finest songwriters, Mr. James Taylor.

I hope you enjoy the Arts and Crafts Fair.  The doors are now open!

Gemstone necklaces from Gillian   
(blog — Tiddleywinks)

Photography from Lisa Duvall
(blog — Fat Chick Running)

Artwork by Kyra
(blog — Shaping My Way)

Photography by Schmutzie
(blog — Milk Money or Not)

Gift Tags by SAJ
(blog — Secret Agent Josephine)

Photography by Leesa
(blog — Piece of My Mind)

Artwork by Angie
(blog — Evangelinethan)

Photography by Susannah
(blog — Ink on my Fingers)

CONCERT STAGE ONE – Arctic Monkeys

Work by Liz Elayne
(blog — Be Present, Be Here)

Photography by Mary
(blog — Maliavale)

T-shirt by Dave
(blog — Blogography)

Jewelry by Sara
(blog — Moving Right Along)

Photography by Stacy
(blog — Jurgen Nation)

Gumball the Kitten Magnets by Bethany
(blog — Bethany Actually)

Artwork by Ellen Bloom
(blog — Los Angeles is my Beat)

Photography by Heather
(blog — Nabbalicious)


Purse by Abigail
(blog — Abigail’s Road to Nowhere)

Photography by 180/360
(blog — 180/360)

Custom Made Felt Pins by Ms. Sizzle
($5 plus shipping – email her at sizzlesays at gmail dot com)
(blog — Sizzle Says)

Photography by Sarah
(blog — Sad and Beautiful)

Baby/Toddler Clothes by Sarah
(blog — Susu g)

Photography by Di Mackey
(blog — Woman Wandering)

Fiber Quilts by Caron
(blogs — All and Nothing, And Still Counting)

Painting by Stacy Elaine
(blog — Pudgy Pigeon Enterprises)

Handmade Hats and Aprons by Leahpeah
(blog — Leahpeah)

Artwork by AscenderRises
(blog — Ascender Rises Above)

Photography by Aimee
(blog — Greeblemonkey)

Art Journal by V-Grrrl
(email her at veronica at v-grrrl dot com for prices)
(blog — V-grrrl in the Middle)

Baby Clothes by Jen Lemen
(blog — Jen Lemen)

Purses by Jaynette

And for those who would rather donate money as a gift, how about getting a cow or a water buffalo for a needy family via The Heifer Project? (thanks Not Fainthearted!)

Get Ready for “The First Annual Blogger Holiday Online Arts and Crafts Fair”


The meal is over. We’ve given thanks. We’re feeling spiritual. So, what do we do the next day? We fight over parking spaces in the mall and push old women out of the way so we can get our grubby hands on the latest “Touch Me Elmo” before the next person.

Is that any way to shop for Christmas and Hanukkah gifts? Do you really want to give your hard-earned money to Best Buy, home of “The Computer Salesman who Knows Less Than My Mother?” Do you really want to be stuck eating at the adjacent-to-the-mall Olive Garden ONCE AGAIN! (eh, screw you, Olive Garden lovers — tell it to my hand).

There is a better way. You can help support cool bloggers in their artistic endeavors. At the same time, you can give your friends and relatives very special, unique gifts — made by hand in someone’s kitchen in Tulsa, not in a sweatshop in Thailand.

Announcing —

The First Annual Blogger Holiday Online Arts and Crafts Fair!

photo by OMSH

I love artistic people, especially those who are crafty or in the visual arts. I cannot draw. My photographs suck. The only class I ever failed in school was Woodshop. I hated it. I was scared of using the saw. I ended up with a ridiculous-looking final project — a “chicken” paper holder without a chicken head. I wonder if my mother still has it at home? I am in awe of your artistic talent.

The Arts and Crafts Fair will be held next weekend,  November 30 – December 2, right here.  This gives the artist time enough to send the purchase before Hanukkah and Christmas.  To participate as a vendor, it is is very easy:

1) Send me a photo of one of your art pieces or crafts as an example of your work. This can be your knitting work, your photography, your paintings, etc. — as long as you created it and want to sell it as Holiday gifts! NONE of this has to be holiday-themed at all. It can be anything you want. The photo is just a sample of your work.

2) Send me a link to your online store, Etsy, etc. and to your blog. At your own store, you can sell anything or as much as you want. The fair is here to introduce others to your work.

3) Write a description of your work, if you want to.

All the links will go back to your blogs or stores, where you must deal with the shipping, etc. This exciting event is open to all bloggers, and artists of all skill levels. Show your stuff and promote your work!


This event will be a highlight of the Holiday season. If you need a gift, come on by! Even if you aren’t in a gift-buying mood, stop by and window-browse. The event will be more than just artwork and crafts here at Citizen of the Month. There will be food, laughter, and juggling (all virtual, of course). Artists, knitters, photographers who sell their work — start sending me a photo of your work today!

(and I mean YOU —Ascender, Caron, Ellen Bloom, Susannah, Leahpeah, Leesa, Ms. Mamma, Nabbalicious, Stacey, Kyran, 180/360, Sarah, SAJ, Stacy Elaine, Liz Elayne, Stepping Over Junk, V-Grrrl, Jen Lemen, Di, Abigail, Schmutzie, Kyra, Shoe of Salvation, etc. — did I forget anyone?)

(Coming up next — the announcement of the biggest event of them all — The 2007 Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert)


Why is Los Angeles So Ugly?

(photo by Supermod)

A few years ago, Sophia and I were driving through Northern California and ended up in a cafe in Carmel. We talked with a local resident, this gray-haired man, who complained about how stringent the community was in their building code. You couldn’t change the color of your roof without going through five committee meetings. I remember thinking this was so fascist, but I’m changing my mind today.


Because of all the beautiful photos you send me of the Fall leaves and trees that you found in your neighborhoods.

Most of you look like you live in pretty nice places. The question on my mind: Why is Los Angeles so ugly?

The answer: Los Angeles is just a chaotic mess, built together with no rhyme or reason. The city of Los Angeles could learn from Carmel. It needs stricter building and aesthetic regulations, and I nominate myself to be the Design Czar.

Here are the first three intitiatives as Los Angeles’ new Design Czar:

1) As Los Angeles Design Czar, I will take down 75% of all billboards.


I have a TV guide at home. I know what is on TV on Thursday night. I don’t need to have you remind me in my face with a billboard every five miles as I drive. I get enough advertising on TV and on the sidebars of YOUR BLOGS! What right do you have — ABC, or Cingular, or Bank of America — to stick messages in my face everywhere I go? Can a company legally own this air space? Can I put a billboard on my own house advertising “Citizen of the Month?”

Some billboards are fun, but they should be restricted to high traffic zones like the Sunset Strip or Hollywood Boulevard. But one day, I honestly hope that some pervert gets into an accident while looking at a slutty model in an American Apparel billboard — and then SUES both the city and American Apparel for causing the accident.


When Sophia and I were driving on the highway in the Berkshires, the first thing we noticed was — “No Billboards!”

Ugly, annoying, brain-numbing billboards — I am taking you down.

2) As Los Angeles Design Czar, I will require every mini-mall developer and landlord to submit every single design decision to ME because I don’t trust anything you do. Who builds these ugly pieces of crap?


I’m not one of those frou-frou people who can only bear to look at beauty, but these structures literally hurt my soul. It’s obvious that you need someone with a little creativity to monitor your work. From now on, everything will be ORGANIZED, color-coordinated, and easy to read — like a blog header. I know many of you landlords will plead poverty. You don’t have money to do anything pretty. I should just be happy that you are building something in the inner city. I say bulls**t! Being creative and aesthetically pleasing doesn’t require money.

Look at this —

(stock photo via Cruisin’ Mom)

Randy’s Donuts looks like it was made for twenty bucks worth of cement and Play-doh, but it says LA to me more than the twenty billion dollar Getty Center. It is funny, fake, but innocent in a loving way — now that is the Los Angeles we love! How about doing something fun?

Sorry, enough is enough. All mini-mall decisions now go through me.

3) As Los Angeles Design Czar, I will REQUIRE every business and every homeowner to have a REAL tree in front of their establishment or home — and no more palm trees.

(photo from Peggy Archer)

Homeowners will have to pay for the upkeep of the tree, or be fined. There will be a surcharge every time you register your car, in order for the county to plant a tree on the side of the freeway. I know there are all these “treehugger” types who like to voluntarily plant trees here and there and teach their kids about the environment. There’s no time for this feel-good liberalism. Take your kids to Whole Foods and show them the goat cheese. It’s time to get serious.

(Al Gore in an Inconvenient Truth)

There’s global warming. There’s the awful air quality of the Los Angeles basin.

I believe scientific fact:

Research has shown that trees can act as biological filters, removing large quantities of particles from the urban atmosphere (Broadmeadow et al., 1998, and Freer-Smith et al., 1997). As much as 234 tons per year in the Chicago, USA, area, a recent study showed (McPherson, et al., 1994). This is predominately due to their large leaf areas relative to the ground on which they stand, and the physiological properties of their surfaces – e.g. the presence of trichomes or waxy cuticles on the leaves of some species. Interception of particles by vegetation has been shown to be much greater for street trees due to their proximity to high intensities of road traffic (Impens and Delcarte, 1979).

Did you that 16% of HC emissions evaporative emissions that occur during daytime heating of fuel delivery systems of parked vehicles?

Evaporative emissions, as well as exhaust emissions during the first few minutes of engine operation are sensitive to local microclimate.

A simple solution: tree shade in parking lots. The California Air Resources Board came to conclusion after doing this experiment:

Two automated weather stations and instrumented passenger cars were located in unshaded and shaded portions of a parking lot in Davis, CA for a week in August 1997. Air temperature, solar and net radiation, wind speed and direction, and vehicle cabin and fuel tank temperatures were measured. Shaded surface area was approximately 30%, and canopy density was sparse and variable due to leaf drop. Peak daytime air temperatures at the shaded parking lot averaged 1 to 2°C cooler than the unshaded site. Temperature differences here are considered conservative due to the relatively sparse tree cover. Fuel tank temperatures of the shaded car were 2 to 4°C cooler than fuel tank temperatures of the unshaded car.

Larger temperature differences between fuel tanks of shaded and unshaded cars, compared to air temperature differences between shaded and unshaded lots, indicate that direct shading of the vehicle influenced fuel tank temperature (hence HC evaporation rates) as much as, or more than, the aggregate effect of trees on air temperature. Average vehicle cabin temperature was 26C cooler in the shaded vehicle for the period 1300 to 1600 PST.

Trees remove pollutants from the air. The leaves absorb gaseous pollutants—ozone, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and carbon monoxide. Not all trees are made equal for this job. There are some trees that emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can ADD to a city’s pollution, including eucalyptus, liquidambar, sycamore, poplar, oak, black locust, and willow trees.

The following trees are the best in lowering ozone:

hackberry; white and green ash; Canary Island and Italian stone pines; shoestring acacia; maple; palo verde; camphor tree; Australian willow (Geijara parviflora); Chinese pistache; thornless mesquite; flowering pear; frontier, prospector, Chinese, and lacebark elms; and zelkova.

Despite the iconic symbolism of the palm tree, most of the tall Mexican Fan Palms are not native to the area.


They were planted for promotional reasons or for the first LA Olympics in the 1930s. After that, they became symbolic of LA.

“They have no ecological or environmental value whatsoever,” says Carmen Wolf, program director for the Theodore Payne Foundation, which operates a native California plant nursery. Organizations like Wolf’s and the California Native Plant Society say that because palm trees are not native to the region in most cases (with the exception of the California Fan Palm or the Desert Fan Palm), they are not only more susceptible to disease and rot, but also damaging to the native ecology.

Sure, palm trees are cool-looking, but THEY GIVE NO SHADE. There is a reason no one walks in LA. You can get heat stroke walking the streets. Wouldn’t it be nice to have some REAL TREES — even if the leaves don’t change as dramatically as in Vermont?

I’m a realistic person. Los Angeles is never going to become as historic as Paris. Los Angeles is never going to become as green as Yellowstone National Park. But it doesn’t have to be SO UGLY!

And that’s going to change RIGHT NOW — with me as the new Design Czar.

Of course, I haven’t been elected yet as Design Czar, but Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has been voted in a mayor — and he seems to be interested in trees. He has started a program called “Million Trees LA.” Here’s what he says on the website:


“I have launched the Million Trees LA initiative; the plan is to plant one million trees over the next several years. This is a partnership between the City of Los Angeles, community groups, businesses and individuals like you, working together to plant and provide long-term stewardship of one million trees, planted all over the city with a focus on areas that need it most.

The trees will provide shade and save on energy costs, clean the air and help reduce the greenhouse gases that cause global warming, capture polluted urban runoff and improve water quality, and add to the values of our lives.”

I’m not sure how serious this is being taken. Frankly, I read the LA Times every day and I never even heard of this inititative until today. But until I’m elected, it’s a start…

Thank YOU for inspiring me with all the beautiful photos of trees and fall leaves that you sent to me through email. I’m still waiting for a few more Fall photos from some bloggers, so I’ll post them all next week.

California owes you one for giving us a little bit of Fall. I’ll send word to Arnold.

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