the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Category: Art and Design (Page 3 of 3)

Size 20


Fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier was controversial yesterday at his 30th anniversary show during fashion week in Paris.   Amidst all the size 0 models, Gaultier included one size 20 woman, wearing a sexy black corset.   Some writers have said that this is a positive development for the fashion industry, opening our eyes to different images of beauty.

I frankly think it is a gimmick, more of a joke at the expense of those wanting to ban “underweight” models from runways.   Everyone knows that size 20 is not going to be the norm for fashion models, so this is just a one-time gag.   It would have been a serious move to actually USE a size 12 or size 14 model, but no way — that would freak out the industry.   Here, everyone can play with the concept in a cute way, but not really do anything about it.

In other news, CNN, in a attempt to add more diversity to their broadcast, has signed a prominent African-American to read the news on Friday evening.


Popeye Attacked by Anti-Spinach Mob


The title of this post is misleading.  I was going to write a humor piece about Popeye, but as I sat down to watch an old Popeye cartoon on YouTube, a long-repressed memory was awoken, much as the memories of childhood of Proust’s narrator in “Remembrance of Things Past” was awakened by the aroma and taste of a madeleine dipped in tea.”

As i listened to the final “boop boop” of the Popeye closing credits, I went back to my childhood, when I used to watch reruns of Popeye on a local New York TV channel.  I must have been very young at the time and I was fascinated by the triangle of Popeye, Olive Oyl and the villainous Bluto.

The plot lines in the animated cartoons tended to be simple.

A villain, usually Bluto (later renamed Brutus for a time), makes a move on Popeye’s “sweetie”, Olive Oyl. The bad guy then clobbers Popeye until Popeye eats spinach, which gives him superhuman strength.

I especially liked it when Olive Oyl melted in Popeye’s arms at the end, after he defeated Bluto.


As an only child, I was competitive with my father for my mother’s attention.  I think Freud would have loved to analyze my childhood obsession with Popeye.

I would ask my mother to cook some frozen spinach.  After they were cooked, I would have her  put the cooked spinach into a used can of Spaghetti-Os so I could make believe that I had a can of spinach like Popeye.  I have no idea why we just didn’t use a can of spinach!   Once I had my can of spinach as my acting prop, I became Popeye — in the same way Sir Laurence Olivier became Hamlet.  My mother was Olive Oyl.  She would go into her bedroom or the kitchen and cry for help.  I would eat some spinach out of the can with a fork, flex my bicep, and rush in to save her from whatever danger she was in.

Jeez, no wonder I repressed this.  How embarrassing!


I called up my mother tonight.

Neil: Guess what I’m going to write about in my blog tomorrow?  “Popeye and spinach!”

Mom: Really?  Be careful with spinach.  There’s all that bad bagged spinach coming out of California.  Remember to wash it first.

Neil: I’m not calling you about spinach.  Do you remember watching Popeye?

Mom: I never watched Popeye as a child.  I never liked him.   He had this one eye.  And creepy voice.  And weird body.


Neil: But you watched him with me.  Remember?

Mom: Did we?

Mom: Mom, it was a big deal for me back then.  I would be Popeye and you would be Olive Oyl — and I would rescue you?

Mom: We did that?

Neil: Yes!  Don’t you remember you would cook frozen spinach and put it in a Spaghetti-Os can?

Mom: Wouldn’t it make more sense to just buy a can of spinach?

Neil: I was going to ask you that!  Why did we do that?

Mom: I don’t remember this at all.  Maybe you played it with your friend Robert.

Neil: I played it with YOU.

Mom: I remember playing Scrabble with you.

Neil: Oh my god!  You’ve repressed the memory — just like I did!

Mom: And well… maybe it’s better that way.

Neilochka Sez: Boycott the Fashion Industry!


AP Newswire — Neil “Neilochka” Kramer, a popular blogger from Los Angeles, and a well-known advocate for women’s issues (despite him being a red-meat eating hetereosexual), has called for a boycott of many of the top fashion designers and most exclusive boutiques.

“A few days after writing my post on stereotypes against “fat” people, I went shopping for a Mother’s Day gift for my mother-in-law,” said Mr. Kramer.  

My mother-in-law is size 18-20, and as usual, it was impossible to find any nice clothes for her.  When I got home, I did some Googling on the fashion industry.  It immediately became clear to me that most fashion designers and popular boutiques do not want their fashions to be worn by anyone over size 12.  Even the popular H&M in New York doesn’t carry any large sizes. 

I think there can be a strong argument that these companies are involved in discrimination.  These fashion designers and boutiques are involved in an apartheid system, making everyone over size 12 a second-class citizen.  I say it is time for the female consumer to take back control.  I am going to start keeping a list of every designer and boutique that ignores larger sizes.  This list will contain some of biggest names in fashion.   I suggest that women refuse to shop in these stores or wear a designer’s clothes until the companies change their discriminatory practices against larger sized women.  I know most women are caring and supportive of each other, and will be glad to show support for their heavier friends.”

Some female bloggers were surprisingly unsupportive.  

“Not wear Dolce & Gabbana?” asked Joan, a Cleveland mother who writes the blog, “The Daily Fashionista. “Is Neilochka crazy?”

Other female bloggers just quietly dropped him from their blogroll.

There is a long tradition of the billion dollar fashion industry catering to what it considers the “thin” elite.   According to the Washington Post, H&M discontinued carrying larger sizes after being publicly scolded by fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld.

“Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld complained publicly that in a much-hyped collaboration, the company had manufactured his line in larger sizes. “What I created was fashion for slim, slender people,” he was quoted as saying.

The designer’s recent book, “The Karl Lagerfeld Diet,” encourages readers to subsist on raw vegetables, curiously named “protein sachets,” and little else — ostensibly with the goal of looking like the emaciated Lagerfeld himself, who pared his 5-foot-11 frame by 80 pounds on the plan.

Lagerfeld’s motivation? Not health, as he freely admits in the book’s introduction, but the desire to fit into designer clothes.

If you’re H&M, [industry analyst] Cohen asked, which is more important to the image of your brand: your association with Karl Lagerfeld or serving this market?”

Mr. Kramer thinks it is attitudes like those of Mr. Lagerfeld that have made this an important issue. 

“I really think this boycott idea could work,” insists the defiant Mr. Kramer.  “Look what’s going on in Georgia.  When women come together, they can be powerful.”

Mr. Kramer refers to the current protest going on at the Augusta National Golf Club, where Bill Payne, the new chair, has stated that he will uphold the all-male club’s practice of denying membership to women.  

“It was these women’s organizations that led the 2003 protest against the Masters Golf Tournament, and caused CBS to broadcast the event without corporate sponsorship for two years in a row.” 


Currently, these same organizations are trying to raise public awareness of companies who sponsor the Masters or whose CEOs maintain their Augusta memberships, which violates their companies’ anti-discrimination policies.

Mr. Kramer is anxious to speak with these women.

“I am trying to reach members of National Council of Women’s Organizations and the Feminist Majority and tell them about my boycott idea, said Mr. Kramer.  “If anyone could get this off the ground, it is these committed women.   My argument to them is simple:  The NCWO and the Feminist Majority consider male-only golfing as a way of keeping the old boy’s network alive.  I believe that a lack of shopping opportunities prevents large women from building important friendships with thin assoicates.”

So far, no one from these women’s organizations has returned Mr. Kramer’s calls. 

A spokeswoman from the Feminist Majority, however, told the New York Times that, “Most of our members have strong opinions on the fashion industry.  We call for the elimination of all fur products and the abolishment of the sweatshop.  But really, when you work hard to look thin, you want to dress nice.  Most of our members are not going to shop at Walmart with the fatties.”

Banner Days

What is the most important piece of Los Angeles architecture or urban design in the last ten years?  I thought about this after leaving the exhibit about architect Renzo Piano at LACMA

Most critics would probably say Frank Gehry’s Disney Hall.  But how much does this amazingly cool building really enhance the day to day life of the average Angeleno?  Not much.  It’s not something like the Empire State Building or Sears Tower, which citizens can see from miles away.  And downtown is just not that central for most of us.

As I left the museum, I saw what I think is the most important piece of LA "design" created in the last ten years — the banners that hang on light poles on the major streets all over the city.


Let’s face it, this is a driving city and Los Angeles is a hodgepodge of architectural styles.  I remember when I first came to town, I thought that this was one ugly-looking place.  Then suddenly, around ten years ago, these banners started showing up.  They were usually about classy cultural events, like exhibits or concerts.  More importantly, they gave the wide streets a visual unity.  While you were driving, you would see rows of banners all the way down for several blocks.  Suddenly Wilshire and Pico and Olympic and Santa Monica Boulevards weren’t as ugly anymore. 

Sure, it would be nice if the streets had rows of redwood trees, or shiny new skyscrapers, but at least now when I’m stuck in traffic on Pico, I can look up and be comforted by the fact that the Geffen Playhouse has a new production of a play with Jason Alexander, even if you couldn’t drag me to see it.

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