Thursday, December 30, 2004
More bootlegs here.
(Thanks to Velvel for the recording)
Correction: Thanks to David M. and Velvel. You guys Rock!
But by far, the most disturbing movie I have ever seen is "Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory." Someone took me to see this movie when I was 5 or 6, and I think it scarred me for life. Wilder's character was pure Evil. Seeing that fat kid stuck in the pipe, then hearing a reference to the "boilers" after he shot through....Or that girl who turned into a giant blueberry?
I can't believe they let kids see that one.
The one thing about New Years that sticks out in my mind is that it was the only night of the year that my Dad would let me stay up until Midnight. And for some reason, at least in NY, every year they would run The Beatle's Yellow Submarine, and I would watch that in my parent's room.
I was disappointed to find out later in life that The Beatles had very little to to with that movie, and didn't even do their own voices. Still, I guess if you were tripping on acid, little details like that wouldn't bother you.
Tuesday, December 28, 2004
Monday, December 27, 2004
wifey: The music store called
wifey: your bass is ready?
You can't really tell inflection from the IM. Let's try a few permutations:
"YOUR bass is ready?" They must have called the wrong house,
because you didn't buy no BASS.
"your BASS is ready?" You bought a BASS?????
"your bass IS ready?" I thought it wouldn't be ready for a while!
"your bass is READY?" Ready? Ready for WHAT???
Honest, baby, I didn't buy ANYTHING...I just had them fix up my old one.
This last trip my son actually spoke to me for a while. He asked me about Beis Medresh. Specifically, if he should go to Beis Medresh. This is a program for boys after they finish HS. They spend all day learning, and doing some teaching and community work. Then I guess they go on to some other Yeshiva or possibly College.
The concept is somewhat foreign to me. You wouldn't know it to look at me, but for a while there I was actually...goal-oriented. I knew by 9th grade that I wanted to be a doctor, and by 11th that I wanted to major in engineering too. I had the next 10 years planned out. Skip senior year of HS and go early admissions to College. Then dual-major capped with two more years at Columbia for Engineering, followed by 4 years in Medical School. Then internship, residency, fellowship....
The notion of dreying around for a few years in Beis Medresh and then seeing what happens is something I have trouble relating to. Not that my plan was so hot. It went along for a while until it was partially derailed by two things: Rock 'n Roll, and girls. But I did make it most of the way through (after sitting in Mechanical Engineering classes and thinking "what am I doing here," I ditched the second major). I do understand the value in keeping an open mind. Far too many people end up on paths taking them in the wrong direction. But at least they're going somewhere.
So on our long drive I planted a few seeds in his head. What does he want to do with his life? Where does he see himself in 10 years? Wife? Kids? How does he want to support himself? That last point was very important. I want him to understand that he has to make his own living.
Maybe he's cut out to be a Rabbi, or a Yeshiva Rebbe. That's really the focus of the school. If that's his destiny, and if he's good at it, I'm all for it. But he will have to provide support for himself and his family. No handouts from me, and no shnorring. If he can figure out a way to make it work, gezunter heit. If not, he needs Plan B.
I don't expect a 15 year old to have answers for any of this. But he has to understand that he eventually will need those answers. As for Beis Medresh...I told him it's up to him. If that's what he wants, and he sees it as a step on a greater path, I'm fine with that. But I made it clear that he has options.
1966 Fender P-bass knockoff for sale. Neck is slightly warped. Some trouble staying in tune. Some minor scratches on the body, but looks ok from a distance. Full-scale fretboard. Amp plug loose; occasionally falls out. Pots could use some oil. A real bargain if you're not too particular!
Thursday, December 23, 2004
I can usually handle a little of that before turning on the CD player. But this sermon caught me by surprise, and I didn't have time to switch stations. And it was a commercial about a construction company! A construction company called, "Miracle Homes: A Christian based company." I've heard them get into the Christmas greetings before, but this time they had a kid reading 5 or 6 verses from the New Testament about "Our Lord, Jesus Christ" who will die for our sins and blah blah blah. That was the whole commercial!
What does that have to do with building homes? My grandparents were killed for being Jews. I feel like I was just Baptised against my will!
So we called a company, and my wife took off work to stay home and wait for them. And, surprise, they never showed up. So she ended up having our neighbor, an electrician, do the work.
Yesterday we received a bill from the first company for 85 clams. They said that they filed some paperwork with the city to let them know that they would be doing work at our house on the day that they never showed up. And now they want to be paid.
My wife, of course, called them right away and said, "You gotta be kidding, right?" No, they were serious. They wanted their money. She told them that she had to take off from work, and waited around all day and no one showed up. They said that they offered to reschedule. She said that she had to hire someone else to do the job. That's when they threatened her:
"You don't want to be telling me that. If it turns out they didn't file the proper papers, we'll send a building inspector out to your house. Then see how much it will cost you."
OK, I'm no lawyer, but it seems to me there are several problems with their story:
1. No way does it cost $85 for "papers" to the city. They fill out a huge form listing all the homes they're supposed to be in that day and submit it.
2. As far as I can tell, they never set foot in my home. I don't think I owe them a dime.
3. They cost my wife a whole day's work. Maybe I should charge them?
4. I don't know anything about "papers." I hired an electrician. He got the job done. I think it's his problem if he didn't file the appropriate forms.
What is it with contracters? I get nothing but tzoros from them. I don't think I've ever had a guy come in, do the job on time, correctly, and not overcharge me.
Wednesday, December 22, 2004
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
Saturday, December 18, 2004
I sent the link as an IM to my wife, and she replied with "sounds like a crackpot." I'll admit, he does ramble on abit. The truth is, I'd never heard of Rabbi Aharon Abadi (or his father) before, and some of the things he wrote, such as head covering being an optional minhag for men, strikes me as being way off the Orthodox mainstream.
So I read some of the responsa on the site, to see if I could gauge how he fits in with Torah Judaism. He seems to align on a few things, like married women covering their hair, niddah, hot water on Shabbos, etc. Things that a Conservative Rabbi would be lenient with. Other things are more inconsistent, like multiple conflicting posts on washing dishes with sponges on Shabbos. And there are some oddities, like his berating of a questioner for mixing up the order of the names of his brothers and father. And at times he seems to be making things up as he goes along. Other times, when asked for sources for his rulings, he writes something to the effect of, "go look it up yourself. If you don't already know the source, you're not capable of understanding my reasoning."
Still, I would like to think I can rely on what he says there. It's very appealing, because to me it makes sense. Not just on the hats issue, but on our need to appeal to normal nonaffiliated Jews, not just people looking for another cult to join.
So my question to you the reader is, do you know anything about Rabbi Yitchok Abadi or his children? Are they legit? How does the Torah Judaism establishment view them? Are they really respected Poskim from Lakewood, or are they the Orthodox equivalent of a Rolec watch?
Friday, December 17, 2004
Needless to say, the idea of stopping off wasn't my first choice, but we did have a little time to kill, so in we went. As she made a bee-line to where she wanted to go, I noticed a small used CD shop, so I told her I was stopping off. She was only too happy to be rid of me.
I found a few gems inside that actually made the whole trip worthwhile. First, I found The Best of the Stray Cats, which was really convenient, since I had the brilliant idea of singing "Sevivon" over "Stray Cat Strut", and now I could play the song for my guitarist. There's so much good music on this album that it's frightening.
Then I found Squeeze's album Cool for Cats. It's their second album, where they couldn't decide if they were punk or new wave. It contains gems like this one:
She used to do a topless
Down at the Surrey Docks
With tassels on her whatsits
She did a t'riffic job
Wow. I wish I could write lyrics like that. I dare anyone not to be in a good mood after listening to this album. My wife found me there after her spree and just rolled her eyes.
Well, that'll teach 'er.
Thursday, December 16, 2004
A few days ago, my "manager" (I won't say who she is, but suffice it to say that she lives with me) told me that she received a call from a prospective client. He heard us play recently at Chabad and loved us. He's been following us at local performances for a while.
He was asked to book a band for a cultural fair at the public school where he works. It seems there are alot of Russian Jews there and they want to do an Eastern European/Russian Jewish music thing, and he thought of me.
She told him that I really only play rock, and if he hires me, the kids will be disappointed because it sounds like they really want to hear Klezmer, and I don't do that. So she gave them the number of my flute playing friend who plays Klez. Thanks for calling, buh-bye!
Yeah, right, teenagers hate rock and prefer Klez. Especially Russians, right?
Ok, NOW you're fired.
The gig was for the "Winter Revue" at Ida Crown Jewish Academy. Which is sorta like a "prom" for Modern Orthodox. Except the guys dance with the guys and the girls dance with the girls (very progressive, actually). My wife being a graduate, she got a kick out of the whole thing.
It's always fun playing to an appreciative audience. Most of these kids' parents probably weren't even married when we did our first Shlock Rock album. With 21+ albums in the Shlock catalogue, it's interesting that these kids overwhelmingly requested material only from the first few albums, which coincidentally are the ones on which I appeared. Lenny went out of his way to tell people that I was the one who did the "shtick" on "Abarbanel." The kids went wild and knew all the lyrics.
The band was great. Unfortunately, we couldn't use my own band, but the people he brought in from NY were hot. The guitarist in particular was great. Very professional, great sound, fun to play with. We locked in for a few songs playing riffs together. Which is cool when you consider I just met him minutes before the gig and we had no rehearsal. The drummer was pretty good too. It was interesting that they both played with guys from my old bands, so we traded stories about the "old days."
In a way, I had more fun without my band. When my guys play, I feel responsible for them. So I have to rehearse with them, make sure they have the music, babysit them, etc. If they screw up, I feel like I screwed up. Not so here. I just played bass and had a blast. This was probably one of the tightest Shlock Rock shows ever.
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
It started off as a nice enough day. But as we hit the open road for the 80 mile trip to Manitowoc, we discovered that the weather was changing for the worse. The sky grew dark. The temperature plummeted. And we were attacked by 40 mph crosswinds on the highway that made the van bob and weave along the road.
Any rational person would probably looked at his wife, glanced back at the precious cargo in the rear view mirror, and turned the van around. Not me. I gripped the wheel harder and headed into the storm. "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!" I didn't literally say that.
After 80 miles of wrestling with the wheel we finally made it to Manitowoc. It would be kind to say that the city is less than attractive. It made me wonder what people were doing there. The big industry of the town, shipbuilding, was past its prime. As we arrived, balls of hail were impacting on the windshield.
We pulled up in front of the museum and went in. Luckily for us, the tour of the submarine was about to start, so we ponied up a ridiculous amount of cash (and I think became trustees of the museum at the same time) and got in line.
Yes, in line. Apparently there were a few other loonies out there who thought it was a good idea to take a tour of a boat in monsoon weather.
As we walked across the gangplank and onto the deck of the sub, I had a real concern that one or more of my kids might be blown overboard. So we had a buddy system where each person was responsible for someone else. I was kinda hoping we would walk over the deck and straight down into the sub. But the tour guide was sticking to the script, and that said that we had to stop by the conning tower to talk about the deck guns. We bundled everyone up and tried not to lose our grips on the slippery deck.
A word about the guide: This guy knew his stuff. He was a marine, not a submariner, and looked to be a WWII vet himself. I got the distinct impression that if my kids made too much noise, they might have to give him 20 pushups on the deck.
Once we got into the forward torpedo room, the temperature was much more comfortable and we could take our hats off. The tour went pretty well until we reached the control room.
I had gotten the psychotoddler comfortable enough that she would allow me to put her down, which my back was thankful for. In the control room, the guide was showing us all the switches and other doohickies that the sailors used to operate the boat. I was starting to get into it, when, almost as if in a dream, I heard him say something about the alert klaxon...and everything started to move in slow motion. I realized that if that thing went off when the PT was standing alone she would totally freak.
So I started moving towards her. She was on the other side of the chart table, next to my other kids. It was like moving through molasses. I finally got up to her just as the alarm sounded, and squatted down and put my arms around her. Unfortunately, she was standing right underneath the alarm, and when the "AAAAAOOOOOOOOOOGGGAAAAAAAAAA" went off she got the full blast of it.
She didn't cry right away. She was too shocked. But a minute later, the mouth opened, the tears started falling, and she started wailing. My wife had to take her into the next compartment until she calmed down. This didn't phase the guide, who must have been used to this sort of thing, and he went on with his shpiel. After a while the PT returned to the control room, but was obviously unhappy.
The tour ended and we went into the museum proper, which is pretty cool. There's even a play room with a water table where you can build and sink your own ships.
Then it was time for the long ride home. With continued bad weather, only this time in the dark. I let my wife drive.
It really is a cool place. In the summer.
"I need to upgrade my mother," he said.
If only it were that easy...
Monday, December 13, 2004
I responded that I feel the same way when I have to take call on Shabbos.
That's when the Hispanic doctor in the corner piped in with, "Of course you can take call on Shabbos. It's Pikuach Nefesh!"
She told me his last name. And that he's now a big Rabbi in Efrat, and she heard him speak and he's simply brilliant. I did recognize the name. There was only one guy in my class with that last name, so it had to be him. I mentioned his English name.
"Oh, so THAT'S his English name! I couldn't get it out of him!" she said. She told me his Hebrew name. I didn't recognize it. So I described him. Granted it's a description from 20 years ago, but apparently it still fits.
It's odd. From what I remembered of him, I wouldn't have pegged him for a great Talmudical Scholar with a band of students following him around the world. But I guess he didn't peg me for a Jewish Rock Star, so that makes us even.
I left the east coast 13 years ago. I haven't seen or heard from most of the people I spent my first 25 years with, including the 11 years spent at Yeshiva University. For me it's like a lifetime ago. Almost like it was a different person. Sometimes it's hard for me to see my wife hanging out with people she went to kindergarten with, while I seem to have dropped off the planet. I feel like an orphan at times.
Too bad he couldn't stick around.
Sunday, December 12, 2004
I should clear up a few things. It's true; at times I may come across as overly critical of the community and right-wing Orthodoxy in general. But I'd like to go on the record and state that despite the occasional oddities, I think that the West Side Milwaukee community is one of the most UNIQUE and AMAZING Orthodox communities in the world. It is this combination of the close-knit, small size of the community, coupled with a surprising amount of diversity, all rolled into one Shul, led by a charismatic Rebbe, that makes it work.
It is one of the few places where the Chassidim speak English, the Black Hatters are polite, and the Modern Orthodox daven Nusach Sfard. And despite the fact that a certain amount of conformity and antisecularism is stressed as the ideal, there is still room for people like me, even if we do live mostly in the closet. It makes me think that maybe there is a chance that the Jewish people can live together in unity.
So if you're a neighbor, and you enjoy this blog, I thank you. But please keep a few things in mind:
1. I will continue to use this blog as a forum to call attention to the interesting things that go on around me, be they at work, home or Shul. If this entertains you, great. Drop me a note and let me know what you enjoyed.
2. I will often use this as place to vent frustration with things that I observe or am subjected to. I find it cathartic and therapeutic.
3. I never mention names here, so any similarity between a person or event that you notice is purely coincidental, and therefore completely accurate. Please don't tell people that I'm dissing them. That's not the intent of this blog. If you find what I say offensive, please accept my apologies and find your entertainment elsewhere.
4. Please don't publicize this blog to other members of the community. Again, this is something that is fun and therapeutic for me, and I hope people around the world may find something in here that they identify with and which makes them feel a little less alone. However, people who don't normally read blogs will not take what I write in its proper context and may take offense, so please don't direct them here.
Finally, feel free to comment. Blogging can be great. It's put me in touch with Jews around the world. Maybe they can learn something from our community. And maybe there are things we can learn from them.
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
But Sandler's song isn't about Chanukah anyway, is it? It's about how many Jews are in the media. This seems to be an age-old obsession with Jews. It's as if by recognizing that some of the stars we see everyday are members of the tribe, we tacitly acquire some of their fame and talent for ourselves.
Reminds me of a particular episode as a kid. I was carrying my Mr. Spock doll (what, you didn't have one?) into the butcher shop, when Harvey the Butcher says to me, " 'Ee's a JEW." I tried to explain to him that, well, everybody knows that Mr. Spock is only half human to begin with! Sheesh! Well, maybe his mother was Jewish.
Tuesday, December 07, 2004
So I went to the bookstore and picked up 3 books:
Sharansky's "The Case for Democracy"
Brown's "Digital Fortress"
Asimov's "I Robot"
I've been trying to decide which to start on. Sharansky's book is topical, probably well-written, and is likely to reinforce my views on the Middle East. I remember hearing him speak at YU right after he was released from the Soviet Union. I remember being awed by over a thousand people singing "Seu Shearim" in unison in the echoey auditorium, and trying to spot the security agents. I can't remember anything he said.
Brown's book is guaranteed to be a page-turner. I can say that with confidence, since I've already read his 3 other books, and they're all pretty much exactly the same. I mean like he wrote them using a template, or Mad-Libs or something. ("Name of a villain: Janus. Name of a stuffy professor: Langdon. Foreign sounding hot babe etc....")
But oddly enough, it is Asimov's book that I am drawn to, and that is the one that I have started. I know, it's 54 years old. And the only reason it was displayed prominently is the Will Smith movie connection. But the truth is, when I was becoming frum, I really associated long Shabbos afternoons with pulp science fiction novels. No TV, no movies. What do to? I read Heinlein, Anthony, Bradbury, etc. Asimov called to me. What took me so long to get around to him?
I still get my fair share of "Merry Christmas" aimed in my direction. And I'm pretty sure everyone knows I'm Jewish. I do wear the yarlmulke, and yes, I'm tall, but most people can see it. I think that some people either don't know that Jews don't celebrate the big C or can't comprehend that anyone doesn't. And for some it's just an automatic thing, followed by a slower, "Oh, you don't do that one, do you?"
Still, I can't bring myself to say the "C" word. It seems to be something that's been ground into me from childhood. As if the very utterance of "Christmas" and in particular "Merry Christmas" will bring on an instant pogrom.
This is a big time of the year for Christians, and I don't want to poop on anyone's party. It used to bug me that public places, like the VA hospital, were completely plastered with Christmas decorations, even on Hannukah, but I've gotten over it. I don't bother correcting anyone anymore when they wish me a Merry C, and I don't try to explain that no, Hannukah is not the Jewish Christmas, and has nowhere near the significance to us that Christmas has to them, and that it's not a Jewish tradition to exchange gifts on one or eight nights, or that our big holidays were actually just a few weeks ago, why, did you miss them in all the Halloween fanfare?
So deck the halls with balls of matzah, and Merry Hannukah to one and all.
Monday, December 06, 2004
I went into the task manager first (ctl-alt-del). Since there was almost nothing installed yet on the computer, there should have been at most 3 processes running. There were about 10. Things like wintaskad.exe, and winsched, and bargain.exe, and a bunch of other things I didn't install. And when I tried to end-task some of them, they would just pop back in, like some weird cyber version of whack-a-mole.
Then I went to MSCONFIG and tried to uncheck the boxes for these programs so that they wouldn't load. But upon reboot, they were checked again. This was some NASTY spyware. I went to Adaware (from Lavasoft) and downloaded their latest program and attempted to purge my system of spyware. It found 325 offending processes (as my friend Strong Bad would say, "that is not a small number.") And then the program crashed while trying to delete them ("That's not a good prize!")
At this point I was starting to panic, thinking that the only way to cleanse the system is another hard drive wipe. My last ditch attempt was to see if any of these things could just be "uninstalled." I went into the control panel and ran the windows uninstaller. If this computer had been running software for a few years, like it had just before the wipe, it would have been tough to figure out what belonged there. But again, since I hadn't really installed anything, I just uninstalled everything that I couldn't identify. About 10 programs. And they were all spyware. And some were not about to go without a fight.
Several of them launched internet windows that took me through lenghty questionaires before unistalling. At the end of one, they actually wanted me to type in why I was not happy with their product. I typed in "f*** off and die" and it allowed me to continue. All of them had the "yes/no" dialogs reversed, like when you answer those long lists of drug/alcohol questions, and they're all supposed to be "no," except for one that says something like, "do you ever not drive drunk." So if you don't read every statement, it keeps the program on your computer.
Eventually I got rid of everything, and ran Adaware one more time, to kill the bugs good. And this time it didn't crash. Feeling pretty proud of myself, I proceeded to the Agatha Christie part of the tale.
Was it the teenage daughter? Who admitted to visiting some shady MP3 sites, the kind that apparently let you go to sites that you can't ordinarily get to because there are alot of numbers/letters/symbols in the URL (my body was slowly starting to twitch as she told me this)? Well, she was there last week, but not yesterday when the computer started freaking out.
Was it the computer-game playing son? Who occasionally feels the need to look up cheats, some in foreign languages?
Was it the son back from Yeshiva, "to do his laundry," who was also checking email and downloading "mods" for his favorite game?
Or was it the psychotoddler, who was last seen clicking away like mad at Noggin.com on Oobi and friends? Noggin's supposed to be safe.
Well, nobody was talking. Except the psychotoddler, but she said something like, "Well...Abba....you're too prickely...." Whatever that means.
I intend to keep up the interrogation. I suspect everyone...and no one...
Sunday, December 05, 2004
Saturday, December 04, 2004
Some things have changed over time. Certainly, since I moved to the Midwest, there are fewer dates. And Lenny doesn't call as much, since we use email. Although he does periodically call from Israel. And there's no more fast-forwarding through cassettes: we've gone from CDs to MP3s, and now he can just email me new songs.
However, the catalogue has grown considerably during the last two decades. It was no big deal when we had 6 or 7 albums to pick from. But he's putting out 1 or 2 new albums a year, and now there are over 20! So this week, he sent me a list of close to 60 songs to be ready to play! And it's less than two weeks until the show. And I've got my own band that's performing a few times during the next few weeks.
So I guess I'd better get busy. I'll tell you one thing: There's certainly a lot of variety in the Shlock Rock repetoire. Lenny's got an incredible amount of talent, and really deserves more respect in the industry.
Thursday, December 02, 2004
Motomama and Mochassid.
And though I've never actually met either one of them, and in fact, I don't even know their names, I do consider them to be friends, and I share in their loss.
From their written words, it appears that the two of them couldn't be further apart on the Jewish spectrum, and yet together they illustrate to me what is wonderful about the blogosphere.
No doubt, there is a lot of nastiness and hostility on the internet, and in the blogosphere in particular, where anonymity has allowed people the opportunity to hastily type and send the kind of vitriol that would normally never get past their lips in face to face conversation.
But it has also brought me into contact with people all over the world who share at least one thing in common with me, be it faith, heritage, love of music or wacky families.
And through this, I have been comforted to learn that I am not alone, stuck in a freezing cold Midwestern town, but part of a global community of people, some of whom think the way I do (and many of whom don't).
So Mo and MO, may you both be comforted amongst the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem. Despite our differences, we have at least that much in common.
If you come, and you know me from this blog, be sure to say hi. And if you don't want me to blow your secret identity, use the code word, "tipee-toe."
I will also be playing bass with Shlock Rock on December 15 at Ida Crown Jewish Academy, but I think that's a private show.
Wednesday, December 01, 2004
Maybe it's the Jewish thing or the New York thing or the short dark hair thing.
Could be worse.
Monday, November 29, 2004
It strikes me that this philosophy might also be applicable when describing the difference between the Modern Orthodox and Charedi worlds. The MOs are "out there," mixing it up with the non-Jewish world, hopefully impacting it in a positive way and creating a Kiddush Hashem.
The Charedim want nothing to do with the outside world. They hold that the "oylam is a goylam" and can only damage the Jews that are exposed to it.
The Sages conclude that Jacob was right to keep Dina away from Esau. His effect on her would not have been overcome by her effect on him. But Jacob was still punished for not caring. The "oylam" may very well be a "goylam." But it is still G-d's creation and we still need to care about it.
No, I 'm talking about the 866 mHz hot-rod of a computer that I built from scratch 4 years ago, for the sole purpose of playing computer games. Yes, I've been a computer game addict for about 12 years. Most of my kids have been raised, sitting on my lap, sometimes one kid on each knee, as we've chased down dark corridors after monsters, or blasted TIE fighters from the cockpit of our X-Wing, or driven bright red Ferraris down winding country roads.
But a funny thing happened about 3 years ago. I got tired of the constant cycle of poor performance, crashes, upgrades and filled-up hard drives. This was about the same time I walked past a PS2 in Best Buy and saw Gran Turismo 3 running, and I had to stop and stare, not sure if I was watching a live video or a game.
I gave up on computer gaming and switched to consoles. Not much of an improvement, you might say, but I spend a lot less time (and money) just trying to get things working.
But the kids have taken over my hot rod of a computer, and after doing G-d knows what to it, it began to crash constantly. Then my son begged me to let him get Half-Life 2, and I decided to try and fix the old computer.
There was a time, shortly after I first built it, when it was a lean, mean gaming machine. It was a beast. That was then. Built-in obsolescence has taken its toll.
So I formatted the hard drive and reinstalled Windows 98, all the drivers and bios settings...and watch the computer boot up to a screen of pure gibberish. That's pretty scary. I rebooted to safe mode and reinstalled the graphics drivers. Then I went back into the bios, trying to figure out why the video card says it's set to 2x AGP when the bios says 4x.
This went on for hours. After it seemed like the computer was finally behaving itself, my son and I started to install Half-Life 2. (By the way, for all you concerned parents/teachers out there, I know all about these games, and only let them buy games that I'm comfortable with, and that are playable in the presence of all of their siblings).
The installation took a few hours. Not a good sign. We actually went to Mincha and came back and it was still "thinking." Eventually we got it running...and were treated to almost a slide show. Very poor frame-rates. Not particularly playable. And then we went to open a door, and the game crashed altogether. I thought my son was going to cry.
I've had that feeling myself at times. We launched into several more hours of troubleshooting, driver updates, and internet searches. Many handfuls of hair later, it's working.
I'm so glad I don't play computer games anymore.
It's hard to get someone who likes heavy metal to like Jewish music, no matter how "upright" the performer. But Jewish music doesn't have to be lame.
Via Blog in DM.
Friday, November 26, 2004
"Did you eat anything...unusual?" I asked him.
"No....Well....I have been eating a lot of Lucky Charms."
I advised him to avoid the green clovers and go with more blue diamonds.
Wednesday, November 24, 2004
My son has taken to describing them based on "shirts." There's the wearers of white shirts with black vests (WSBV), the plain white shirts (PWS), and the colored shirts (CS). We belong to the CS team. We are the ones who have to worry about what shirt goes with what pair of pants.
But the socks are still all white.
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
She was followed by a man, slightly older than me, and his son, slightly younger than my daughter. The kid wanted to try out some electric guitars. As the area was small, I got up and moved to the other side of the stack with my daughter, to give them room to shop. Of course, we couldn't help but overhear the whole exchange.
Seems the boy was showing some progress in his lessons, and wanted a better guitar. The father was more than happy to comply, and was asking the rather young-looking salesman about the various types of guitars, in a way that suggested that he himself didn't play.
"What's a 'telocaster'?"
"That's what Springsteen plays."
"We don't like Springsteen, do we, son?"
"What's the difference between the guitars hanging behind the counter and the rest of them?"
About a thousand dollars, I thought, almost out loud.
It seemed clear he was intent on getting something really good, which to him (and the clerk) meant really expensive. I took a little pity on the man, and volunteered:
"You can't go wrong with a Strat." You can't spend too much, either.
"Thank you, sir," he replied.
The store clerk showed him some high-end Stratocasters.
"We don't care how much it costs. I want him to have something good."
My daughter looked at me, suppressing a smirk.
"Looks like you were born into the wrong family, kid."
I put the fretless bass back on the wall, too.
The hand surgeon is a frum Chabadnick.
I'm sure that most of the doc's that he sends this out to are not Jewish, but it's still disconcerting to get a non-kosher "holiday" gift pack from a frum surgeon.
Anyone have any info on the kof-Q hechsher? And just what am I supposed to do with the oil anyway (clean comments only please).
Sunday, November 21, 2004
Yom Kippur at the Shteeble
Modern Orthodox in a Frummy Velt
The 10 minute Shmoneh Esrei
Shiney Shoe Music
Out of context quotes
The Chain of Command
Another Psycho Toddler
Terror Does Pay
I can do that at shul.
What can this mean?
And how many do they need before they make their move?
Thursday, November 18, 2004
To: Galley and Kitchen Staff
From: Blue Squadron Leader
CC: Red and Gold Squadron Leaders
Date: November 16, 2004
Re: Menu changes
Until further notice the rations consisting of knackwurst with ketchup, mustard, kraut and sweet pickle relish shall no longer be served to the troops prior to teaching an aerobics course. It has been found that the byproducts of this unfortunate scheduling arrangement have been found in violation of the Geneva Convention accord, subsection regarding chemical warfare agents, of which this great nation is signatory.
It has not yet been determined if the Cajun spicy fries are a party to this war crime, although the allegation is under review by the Department of Defense. In our endeavor to err on the side of caution, the distribution of said Cajun spicy fries is hereby restricted to non-Tuesday and Thursday days until further notice
Hershey Worsch: I played bass for him in Chicago last year
David Deutch: Old acquaintance from Milwaukee. I'm actually more friendly with his father. Also teaches at my old HS.
Mayer Schiller: Once hired the guitarist and drummer from my old band to record Ramones tunes.
Anthony Beukas: Speech professor, and my director in 2 YCDS productions. (Also tucked in my shirt for me once).
Sam Glaser: Played bass for him a few years ago. Lives up the street from Luke.
Shlomo Porter: Another friend from Milwaukee.
We're both born in 1966. Coincidence? I think not.
We are both named after Apostles and have non-Jewish surnames. What can this mean?
I can only come to one conclusion:
I am Luke Ford's brother, secretly separated from him at birth, whisked off from Australia to Queens where it was hoped I might be spared the type of agony that Luke has obviously endured.
There, I've gotten that off my chest.
Now I can go back to blogging about internet cartoons and bad Jewish Music.
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
My wife has been doing very well tonight, with a witty opening line ("I'm calling to provide for your raffle needs!") and quick 1-2 follow-up punches. She comes across the name of a physician on the list.
"You know this guy, don't you? Why don't you call him?"
Sure, I think.
"Hello...er...Bob? Yes it's Mark. I know I never call...How'd you like to buy some tickets to the HS raffle? No? Well...OK...then. Yeah, see you."
"Gimme back that phone!!!"
When I was a kid, we always did. In fact, it was an affair for the extended family. We all gathered at the home of my one frum Aunt and had a big Toikey dinner.
Since I've moved to Milwaukee, I've found that I'm in the minority. The Wearers of Black (WOB) have pish-poshed it, calling it a "goyishe yontif," not appropriate to be observed by Jews.
Here's the interesting part: The WOB are for the most part American born, and many of them are Baale Tshuva, who come from families that celebrated Thanksgiving. My family are all European born, many from families that were Chassidic before the Holocaust, and started celebrating Thanksgiving after immigrating to the US.
My family certainly don't think there's anything un-Jewish about loving America or eating turkey. They come from countries that for 1000 years were Hell-bent on wiping them out, and finally did wipe out the vast majority of them. They love the US, and the freedom that they found here.
The WOB look at that same freedom as curse, because with the freedom to worship as we choose, comes the freedom to engage in secular pursuits, entertainment, and the escape from our Jewishness. Perhaps they subscribe to the notion that Jews can only flourish under the threat of persecution, and see Thanksgiving, which is a celebration of the freedom granted by America, as the key to our eventual undoing.
Me? I just like a big toikey. And maybe it's nice once in while to get together with the extended family, without worrying about driving on Yontif or who's going to stay where, or spending hours in Shul or at some boring simcha.
And yes, I'm proud to be an American who wears a Yarmulke.
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
Monday, November 15, 2004
The real tip-off though, is that they were exceptionally quiet. No talking. In fact, I didn't even know they were there until they began their mass exodus out of the balcony. I found out eventually that they were a group of Lutherans who were "studying" us for some kind of cultural affair.
Everytime I start to think that I'm pretty normal, something like this has to happen, and then I realize that to most people out there, I must be some kind of weird space alien.
At least no one threw peanuts. Because there's a sign that says, "No nuts in the Shul."
Sunday, November 14, 2004
Actually it was a pretty nice crowd. We played for some people who usually don't get to hear us, and they got to hear a bunch of songs that we don't usually play.
"Red House"- I'm not usually much of Hendrix fan, but we heard Piamenta do this in May and thought it would be fun to cover.
"Assia"- believe it or not we actually got a few requests for this Mooshy tune. It sounds about as good live as it does on the computer.
I also taught the band a Sparklifters song that we may add to the repetoir.
Next big gig is Chicago for the Melaveh Malka on December 11. I actually got a call from Chabad of Northbrook to play a gig that same night, but I already said yes to the Young Israel group, and that's a nice crowd.
Besides, I doubt the Chabad guys could top the payment of cold Pizza we're expecting from YI. But the Chabad will likely have more booze. Hmmm...
"You have a lot of hair for someone who's almost 40."
"I need a haircut," I replied.
Later, while at the barber's, I noticed a lot more gray falling into my lap. I don't exactly recall hitting my peak, but apparently, I'm already on the way down.
Thursday, November 11, 2004
So if you don't hear from me again, I'm in Windows purgatory.
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
Tuesday, November 09, 2004
"He's a Doctor," they all chimed in.
"Ahh, but what kind of Doctor?"
Finally one ventured, "I think he's an....intern."
"Internist!!" I yelled.
My guest persisted: "So what does that mean?"
More silence. Then: "I think he does stuff...y'know...inside of the patients."
"Yeah, y'know, not on the outside," added another kid.
The guest turned to me and smiled.
"Tell me about it," I sighed.
You may think that playing piano or guitar is hard, but he spent 30 minutes with my son just trying to get him to make any sound at all! We're not talking notes or scales or rhythm here. Just a sound! Towards the end, he started to get a little whistle out of it. His teacher was patient, funny, and inspiring--reminding me of why I don't give music lessons.
In the end I offered him a million bucks--because if you paid me a million bucks I still couldn't do it. He settled for a 20.
Through our trading of emails I've come to the conclusion that he's more than just a troll, seeking to get reaction to his inflammatory posts. I think he's trying to show that there are other facets to Orthodox Judaism. That we don't all think one way and vote one way. And he's occasionally entertaining when he's not being mean-spirited.
Looking back on my own posts, I think that I'm trying to accomplish the same thing, in a more soft-spoken and refined way, of course ;-)
I'll probably make a separate post about this in the future, but this blog shows that being Orthodox doesn't restrict you to a particular dress style, prayer style, occupation, or musical preference. We are individuals, and each of us has many potential talents and interests, and we are all capable of contributing.
This is true of many of the other blogs that I link to, so in this way, my link to Dov Bear is consistent.
But if he calls me a stupid pig farmer one more time, he's outta here!
Monday, November 08, 2004
I don't know why I do it. Just something about seeing a little toddler who can barely walk, wrapped up in an oversized towel, solemnly marching from the bathroom to the bedroom where I dress her/him, makes me think of that tune. And singing it keeps them moving.
The first five kids never had a problem with it. Last night I was finishing up with the little "psycho toddler" when she looked up at me, scrunched up her little face and said:
"Stop singing that STAR WARS SONG!"
I've tried saying each word verrrrry sloooooowwwly.
I've tried repeating each word 3 times.
I've tried taking a little snooze in the middle, just before "Slach Lanu", so that when I start beating on my chest, people will look at me and think, "he's only up to that?"
I've even tried using one of those new-fangled intralinear prayer books, where there's 3 words written on top of each other, some forwards and some backwords. But that just made me dizzy (maybe you need some kind of 3D goggles for that one).
But I still can't stretch it out to more than 4 minutes, 5 tops. And then I'm done, waiting around for 5 minutes for everyone else to finish. It's embarrassing to be the first person done...makes me feel somehow....inadequate.
I just can't figure it out. Even the Chazzan's repetition of the Shmoneh Esrei, out loud and slow, rarely takes more than 5 minutes.
Saturday, November 06, 2004
Thursday, November 04, 2004
I put this together tonight. Big YasherKoach to Mendy for coming over and helping me out. You can download the song here. (Right click and choose "Save Target As..")
Alternatively, you can listen to it directly on Psycho.Radio. Scroll down until you hear a song called "Mooshy - Assia". Mooshy is my "Shiney Shoe" name. From now on. Because I normally wouldn't be caught dead playing this kind of music. But when inspiration hits...
Dilbert, this one's for you.
Anyway...this one was kind of fun. It was for another doctor's daughter (I seem to get hired exclusively by physicians). Aside from the fact that everyone kept confusing me with the Rabbi (Jews with beards must all look alike) it went pretty smoothly. Except for when they changed the marching order without telling me. So we start playing this upbeat, children's flower girl song and nobody's coming down the aisle. After a while, a fully grown woman starts slowly marching down. Oops.
Right before the ceremony, an older gentleman came up to the flute player (whom everyone in town knows) and started shmoozing with him. They were all smiles and the old man walked out. Then the flute player dropped the smile and turned to me and said, "G-d, I hope they don't let him sing."
Of course, the old guy did the entire seven blessings under the Chuppah. The voice was somewhat reminiscent of Fred Flintstone, in the episode where he plays Superstone ("Beh-heh-heh-HEE-haw!"). I initially tried to follow him with chords on the guitar, and did ok until he suddenly modulated into unknown territory (my guitar doesn't do that note). The flutist kept poking me in the ribs ("see, I told you so"), but I somehow managed to keep my composure (kept thinking about baseball and dogs).
After it was all done, I went up to the physician and his wife (who are not in the least bit religious). And I don't know what came over me, but I just felt the need to say something. So I said:
"Mazal tov to you both. It's so nice to see two Jewish people getting married to each other. You must have done something right. You deserve a lot of nachas."
And they both smiled and nodded at me, knowingly.
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
I joined Kesher in 1985 when bassist Joey Friedman left the band. My first gig was a huge concert at Brooklyn College. We opened for Country Yossi and the Shteeble Hoppers, and I remember bragging to my future wife that Mitch the Shteeble Hopper gave me a lift home.
Kesher was a serious band. There wasn't much in the way of stage antics. We played the songs. We had to wear these matching argyle sweaters. I remember that this was one of the biggest concerts I had ever played. More than 2400 people. I learned all of the bass parts directly off the albums, and had one rehearsal with Lenny prior to the show. The keyboardist from Kabbalah gave me a lift to the show, and got a flat tire for his reward.
We opened with Moshe Shur's "Hafachta," and I remember we started with a "bang." A real smash of symbols and guitar, then launched into the song. We did a bunch of Kesher songs, straight off the albums. Lenny was hidden behind a stack of keyboards. You could sort of make him out between the upper and lower ones. Lenny and drummer Zvi were very tight and right on key with the vocals.
One of the last songs we played was "Veneemar." A standard, medium rock balad at the time. Lenny says he rerecorded it and it sounds different. I can't wait to hear it again.
I got a major case of deja vous. They had a drummer, bass player, and guitarist (in order of volume). They were playing a song named Gelt (believe it or not), which to me sounded like a typical late 70's disco/funk. They were OK.
There's just something about watching a bunch of clean cut Yeshiva guys in button down shirts, black shoes, and felt yarlmuke's jamming down with a power trio in the old Bais Medrash that reminded me of a certain band that took up all of my spare time in college.
I'll have to get them a CD of my old stuff next time I'm there. Hopefully it won't get banned by the Rebbeim.
Tuesday, November 02, 2004
"Assia demagan bmagan, magan shaveh"
A doctor who heals for nothing, is worth nothing
This is what I plan to start telling people who come up to me in the Kollel for free medical advice.
Come to think of it, this is a pretty obscure line of Talmud. I wonder if I should make a Shiny-Shoe song out of it?
According to my older son, the Rabbi spoke exclusively in Yiddish.
Was it worth it?
TAM Pizza Night, November 13th in Milwaukee
Young Israel of West Rogers Park Melaveh Malka, December 11th in Chicago
Both will pay us in Pizza. Not my first choice, but nobody wanted to pony up a lifetime supply of fishsticks.
Links and details about both gigs available here.
Update: Corrected the Nov 13 date; previously said Nov 14
Monday, November 01, 2004
I'm not clear for a trip to Israel yet, though.
I have to figure out the exact date of the wedding.
I have to figure out who will stay with my six kids.
I have to figure out what to do about my Christmas call.
I have to figure out what to do with my patients, since my partner is taking that week off as well (Christmas-New Years).
I have to get plane tickets.
I have to figure out how to pay for it.
Just keep jumping those hurdles.
I wonder if some Meshulachs left with candy, while some Trick or Treaters left with checks made out to Agudas Israel?
Sunday, October 31, 2004
Thursday, October 28, 2004
I don't know, maybe it's all this blogging about the Chevra lawsuit. It must be striking a chord, so to speak. You see, one thing I've kept out of the "official" history of my band is that we too went through a very tumultuous period. The recording of the first Kabbalah album led to a major split of the band.
I don't need to go into who was right or who was wrong (I still hold that I was right). We were a band with different personalities, trying to fuse our differences into a cohesive unit. The keyboard player was the "Lennon" of the band, coming up with grand ideas, and not caring how they got implemented. I was the nuts-and-bolts-obsessed "McCartney", worrying about budgets and overtime for recording sessions and musician schedules. Both of us were necessary in order for the project to get done. He became less and less of a presence in the studio as I took charge.
Inevitably we butted heads, and he split. A law student, the son of a prominent lawyer, he responded by suing the rest of the band. We fought it, but it left many bitter feelings. The album was great, and came in just slightly over budget. I haven't spoken with the keyboard player in 18 years.
During that time, I've listened to the music constantly. I don't know if he ever listened to it. It's been transferred to digital format, and it's on my website. I've thought many times about trying to contact him, to smooth things over. I wanted to say, "Look at what we did! Let's just get over it and be friends." In discussions with my former bandmates, I've always been discouraged from attempting it. "Who cares what he thinks?" "Why stir things up?" "What will it accomplish?"
Lately, as I've read of the Chevra and their Loshon Hora, I've thought about contacting him again. But I guess I'm worried that it will accomplish nothing more than another lawsuit. And who needs that aggravation?
So I had this dream last night. I've searched the web for his email address, and can't find one. Suddenly he shows up at my house, 1000 miles from where he's spent his whole life. He looks sad. I don't know what to say to him. I invite him over for Shabbos. After a while, I just look at him and say, "I'm sorry." And maybe it's not that I'm sorry about what I did. Maybe I'm sorry that whatever it was, whoever was at fault, it led to 18 years of animosity. 18 years where we could have shared in simchas and watching our children grow. Maybe could could have kept making music together.
Maybe it would have been great.
Ahhh, it was just a stupid dream.
Wednesday, October 27, 2004
My 13 year-old son quit piano lessons. We had him going for a few years, but this year has been hard, what with the Bar Mitzvah and his new responsibilities, which include an hour and a half at the Kollel each night. But I think the real issue was that his last teacher switched to Saturdays only, and we had to get him a new one. And this guy has been busting my kid's chops pretty hard. I think he turned him off. I mean, 4 weeks of 3 day yontifs, starting school and learning in the Kollel, and going into overtime preparing for the Bar Mitzvah, and this new teacher gives him a hard time about not practicing enough!
I did try to talk with the guy, but the damage was already done. My kid's got enough on his plate, and he doesn't need one more source of stress. I explained to my son that this will be his last possible year for lessons, since he won't get them when he goes away to Yeshiva. He understands, and he told me that he would rather work with me. So we're going to work on some of my old songs, and I'll teach him how to comp and do keyboard parts. And if it works out, we may do a little performance together (and with my daughter).
I've always felt that getting kids to study music was all about momentum (actually I think this is true about almost everything- exercise, learning, making minyan). If you can keep them going, they continue. If you let the momentum get lost, the game is over. It's kind of like starting a bar-b-que. You want to put enough lighter fluid on so that you can keep the flames going, but not so much that it blows up in your face. You hope that eventually the coals will catch and burn on their own. Until then, you try to keep the fire going by whatever means necessary.
Oh well. On the brighter side, my ten year old wants to take up flute.
We don't really want to play shmaltz-type bubbe gigs. Looking for a rock venue. So if you know of anyone who wants to host a really kick-tush Jewish Rock Band, let me know.
We're also working on a few Shlock Rock-related gigs for next year.
Monday, October 25, 2004
Sunday, October 24, 2004
But it's obvious that there's alot of terminology in here which would be meaningless to a non-Orthodox or non-Jewish reader. So I decided to write up a list of definitions of words that I've used in my posts.
Initially this was going to be just another post that I would link to up in the right upper corner. But it got so long, that I decided to make it a web page and put it on the band site. You can still get to it here. And I'll stick it up in the corner too. I'll update it as I come up with more jargon.
Thursday, October 21, 2004
Still, I find myself in the unenviable position of having to enforce a halacha with which I don't personally agree, but which if disregarded, would undermine my children's whole understanding of the binding nature of Jewish Law.
My daughter now takes guitar lessons with a woman teacher at the music store. She has been...pressuring is not the right word...suggesting that my daughter participate in a performance that her students are giving. My daughter is turning out to be a rather talented guitarist/songwriter. Unfortunately I can't really sanction her singing in public to men. I suggested that she speak with some of her teachers at school for some guidance. I'm her father, but I hardly consider myself to be a halachic authority.
If I give her carte blanche to do this, then I lose my authority to advise her about kashrut, shabbos an other things (don't think this doesn't become an issue with teenagers, even those schooled in the yeshiva system). Her teachers are mostly of the charedi persuasion, but there are a few involved in kiruv who understand these issues better. I think she was too embarrassed to bring it up.
I suggested that she play but not sing. I don't want to put her in the position of dictating to the non-Jewish teacher conditions for her performance ("make sure there are no men there..."). I think that would be hard for my daughter and create a chillul Hashem.
Bottom line is, I have to teach her how to be frum in this world, but still live a successful and fulfilling life. She has to know that, as Captain Kirk says, "there are a million things in this universe that you can have, and there are a million things that you can't have." Orthodox Jews who understand both sides of this are happy with their million. The others go astray. She has to understand her boundaries.
I expect the comments are going to fall into two camps. Those who call me a hypocrite for enforcing a rule which I don't like and which is out of touch with modern society, and those who call me a hypocrite for calling myself Orthodox but entertaining the notion that women's voices should be heard.
On reflection, I have to conclude that the years have not been kind to me. Not that I was any great prize when I was younger. I think my wife went out with me because the good looking guys in the band were already taken.
Her response upon seeing the photo: "Nice shot, Mustapha."
Tuesday, October 19, 2004
Boys to girl: Clean up the basement!
Girl to boys: No!
Boys to girl: Tell Abba we cleaned up the basement.
Girl to me: We cleaned up the basement
Me to girl: Tell the boys they need to do the kitchen and front room, too.
Girl to toddler: Tell the boys Abba says to clean up the kitchen and front room.
Toddler to me: Abba says to clean up the kitchen and...basement.
Me to toddler: I'm Abba.
Toddler to me: Yeah, you're Abba.
Me to Toddler: You need to tell the boys.
Toddler to girl: Abba says you clean the basement.
Girl (to no one in particular): Grrrrrr
Wife comes home.No computer for Abba.
Monday, October 18, 2004
I never know what to do in these situations. The last thing I want to do is tell him, "Thanks, but I can't eat these." Staff and patients occasionally bring me stuff that they bake. "I used only kosher/natural ingredients, so you can eat it, right?" Sooner or later I have to let them down. Otherwise it keeps happening.
Anyway I thanked my neighbor profusely for thinking of me and accepted the bagels. Man, that's one think I hate about the Midwest...you CANNOT get a good kosher bagel. With the tough exterior and soft interior.
If anyone knows if Murray's Bagels in the Village is kosher, email me stat! Before they get stale or my wife gives them away!
Sunday, October 17, 2004
Tuesday, October 12, 2004
I base this on his performance at his Bar Mitzvah this past weekend. No, it has nothing to do with his singing voice (which was sweet and clear...and LOUD), or his pitch (which was good).
No, my assessment is based on the fact that he demonstrated the two qualities that I think are essential to a good performer: confidence, and persistence.
You're probably thinking, "wait a minute; what about talent?"
Talent is nice, but it's really a minor part of the deal. What you really need is the ability to make people think you know what you're doing. Whether you do or you don't.
Confidence is the ability to get up in front of the crowd and not look nervous. To deliver your performance in the manner in which it was intended. I'm sure my son was nervous, but nobody could really tell. His voice was even, his speed was steady, and there was no hesitation in his performance. The gabbai told me that in all his years listening to Bar Mitzvahs, he's never heard anyone who sounded so at ease.
Persistence is the ability to keep going no matter what happens. You may forget a line, flub a note, whatever, but if you're a pro, it doesn't get to you. You just keep going. My son did a great job with this. I could tell that there were a few parts where he just didn't remember the tune. But I don't think anyone else could. He just kept going until he hit familiar territory.
To be honest, this last bit was what had worried me the most over the past few months. Early on, as I worked with him, he'd hit a verse where he couldn't remember what the trop (musical note) was. And he'd freeze up. He wouldn't be able to continue until he came up with the note. This is a lot like musicians who can't figure out what the next note is, or how to play it, and stop the song until they get it. You hear this with new piano players; the song is constantly slowing down and speeding up. At some point people reach an epiphany: that the momentum will keep them going and it will be alright. Or they don't. Those that do go on to be pros. Those that don't remain forever amateurs.
And so I drilled the poor boy for months, not to memorize the whole performance perfectly, because that's not always realistic, but to be able to roll with the punches and keep singing. That's what people remember. They remember who sounded like a pro, and who melted down on stage. After a while, he got it. And that's exactly what people commented to me about. "I heard someone yell out a correction, but your son didn't panic; he just repeated it and moved on. Wonderful!"
Ok, there was this one part, during the Haftorah. I had been standing right by the Bimah during the entire reading of the Torah (my son didn't look nervous, but I sure was). When he got up to the Haftorah, I figured I could sit down (because there's no memorization; all the notes are there). The night before, he was practicing the Haftorah, and he kept stumbling over the same few words (bozzezim or something). My mother noticed. She asked if this was going to happen the next day. I said probably, but he knows how to deal with it.
Well, he came up to the perplexing word...but skipped right over it. It took a line or two for people to notice that he was in foreign territory and then they started yelling for him to stop. I was behind him, in my seat, and I looked up to see his teacher looking through the book with him. They both appeared to be lost. After what seemed like forever, I saw my son slap himself in the forehead, and then he started up again. Just as strong and calm as before.
When it was over, I asked what had happened. It seems he had turned two pages instead of one, and just kept going. He was doing next week's Haftorah! It took a while for even him to notice, and then both he and his teacher got back to the right spot.
I think this would have been a show-stopper for most people. But you know what they say...
The show must go on.
It's a pretty sweet gig. About 1/5 of the shlepping, but 1/3 the pay, and 1/10 the stress. I just have to put together sheet music for the other players.
I'm not a tremendous fan of The Chevra (overproduced), but one thing they do that I really like: They post sheet music on their website. So I downloaded their Mi Ban Siach for the ceremony. I wish more bands would do this (especially with the old standards).
She said to me, "If you put the horsie in the tub, it will get roo-end." One week ago, she would have said, "rune'd," the Midwestern way (I just did an informal survey of my office staff, and they all say rune'd). But my mother, sister, brother-in-law and two nephews were over for the Bar Mitzvah and she's had very close exposure to them all.
Of course, my sister pointed out that we Midwesterners insist on calling a broooom a brum. And my mother has no idea what to do when my elder daughter asks for mayonnaise: "Mennaisse? What's mennaisse??"
And after 13 years in Milwaukee, I can't remember if my sister lives in Four-est Hills or Fahr-est Hills. But despite the fact that I went to shull and my brother-in-law went to shoe-ell, we luckily both ended up at the same place.
I myself have been told that I have no perceptible regional accent. I recently called a colleague in Boston who very obviously was from the Bronx. He, on the other hand, could not tell where I came from, even though we both graduated from the same Bronx medical school.
I suspect my lack of accent comes from the fact that I was raised not so much by a mother with a thick Polish accent (I had no idea that she even had one until I moved away from home) and a father with an equally coarse Brooklyn accent, as by TV. I spent so much time in front of the tube as a kid, watching sci-fi shows and sitcoms, that I really think that I learned to speak from listening to all that homogenized TV-land dialect.
I have also had a great knack for mimicry. As a kid, I did spot-on imitations of all my rebbes and teachers. In college, it was kung-foo movies and Monty Python. Now it's Strong Bad and Homestar Runner. Which is why, I think, after a while, I start to sound like the people around me. My kids are the same way.
So I shouldn't be surprised that my daughter is starting to sound like a New Yorker as she takes her bee-ath.
Wednesday, October 06, 2004
Last night we actually talked for a while. The accent is fun. Very upper class. Kinda like talking to John Cleese. I was surprised to find out how much we actually had in common. We talked about back pain and its relationship to musicians (especially guitar players), band dynamics, why it is that all the heavy lifting usually gets done by 1 or 2 band members, usually the ones with the vans.
I was surprised that he was actually in one of those British Punk type bands that I so admired. He usually makes no comment or sign of recognition when I run through Squeeze/Elvis Costello/Clash/Pretenders songs. Maybe that's a commentary on my skill as a bassist (or lack thereof). He told me he was friendly with the original drummer for Squeeze (my favorite band). Not the one on the albums. The one who left just before they hit it big. He got tired of shlepping them around in his van. I told him that I met Glenn Tilbrook last year (Squeeze's lead singer) and wouldn't stop shaking his hand until my wife pried us apart.
Of course, my daughter witnessed this whole exchange and it apparently has confirmed to her that I'm the biggest dweeb in the world. Hey, I'm getting too old to be cool!
Tuesday, October 05, 2004
Here's a coupla comments on the tradition biz:
1. When I moved out here, I davened only Nusach Ashkenaz. All the minyanim here are Sfard. I tried to keep Ashkenaz for a coupla years, but finally just gave up. Yom Kippur is really different. You know what? Big deal.
2. Over sukkos, we do the lulav in shul. I was taught to do it one way. The Rabbi here does it REALLY DIFFERENTLY. For a while I still did it my way. One year the Rabbi got up and said, basically, that it looks really bad to have a few guys swimming upstream, and really detracts from the beauty of the service.
He's right; watching all the lulaving waving in unison is truly a sight to behold. Maybe it was like this in the Bais Hamikdash. I got over it. I still do it my way at home, and teach the kids the same.
3. I stand during the repetition of the shmoneh esrei. Most people at the shul sit. I insist that my kids stand as well.
4. I don't wear any special hat. My kid's school requires a hat (black or chassidish) at Bar Mitzvah age, and a jacket. I've bought two Stetson's for the boys. They wear them to shul, but if they forget them, I don't make them go back for them, and when we're on the road, it's their choice. Does it look strange to
see the two boys with hats walking with their father without a hat? Maybe. Do I care what people think? Not so far.
Monday, October 04, 2004
But we have 2 Chabads. (Well, three, if you count the Messianic place, but they're in cherem now).
And, of course, they don't quite get along with each other. They compete for "resources" (ie affluent congregants). The youth director from the "new" Chabad saw us at our recent gig, and asked us to come and "rock out" his sukkah. So I gave him a price. Which he didn't care for too much apparently, since I never heard back from him. He was thinking more along the lines of "free food." Which musicians always appreciate, but not in lieu of cash money.
Oddly though, shortly after my last conversation with him, I got hired to play at the "old" Chabad. In 13 years of living here, I've never once been asked to play there. As my friend David Margulis says, "Ayn Tzadik be-iro (there's no righteous person in his own town)."
So we played there last night, and had quite a good time. We played with a few locals, going through the usual dinner and dance tunes (circa 1960). I got a little slap-happy with the bass (all that time in the music store is paying off). They kept plying us with liquor. At one point, when the Rabbi was telling his story, and I was playing a little background guitar, I felt the room spin a little. I turned to the singer, and we both started giggling.
At the end I asked if we could play some of our own stuff. So my guitarist did his version of Tzama. The younger guys really got into it. The elder Rabbi did not seem to enjoy it as much. My guitarist looked like he regretted the decision almost as soon as he started playing it, but being a pro, he kept going. Afterwards they asked for more, so we did our Carlebach/Beck jam.
They've already booked us for next year. Maybe we'll get free food. Anyway, tonight we're at Beth Jehudah.