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Monday, November 29, 2004

Dina in the box

In last week's Parsha, we learn that Jacob is punished because he kept his daughter Dina locked away in a box when he met up with his brother Esau. While this would be considered a prudent and rational thing to do, the Sages teach us that he was punished because he didn't care enough about Esau's wellbeing. Sure, the marriage would have been terrible for Dina, but she might have exerted a positive influence on Esau, possibly reforming him.

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.

Pulling out my hair...

I spent all day yesterday working on my computer. No, not the nice new 2.8 gHz Dell. That's my wife's. I'm not even allowed to look at that one. And not the beat-up old 333 mHz. That's the kids'.

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.

Kosher Music

This is the reason I went into the Jewish Rock business. Sounds a little like my daughter, but my daughter would never "open up a mouth" to me.

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

They're Magically Delicious! (Warning: in poor taste)

This guy comes to see me last week and complains that his poop has turned green.

"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


13 is a tough age for a boy growing up in a "mixed" community. All the respective groups are expected to start donning the uniform. Chassidim, Charedim, Modern, whatever. They go from being classmates to being members on competing teams.

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.

The Radio.Blog Shuffle

I've had some server difficulties at the music website, and they rebuilt it yesterday. An interesting byproduct is that the shuffle function of the Psycho.Radio now functions properly. Which means that you get a random playlist everytime you visit this site. Try it out.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Better luck next time, kid

We were at the music store last week when my daughter came out from her guitar lesson. She found me in my usual spot, perched atop a stool in front of a large stack of amplifiers, fooling around with the fretless bass. She began looking at the electric guitars and various effects pedals.

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?"
"No, Sir."

"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.

Speaking of Murray's Bagels...

...I got a "gift pack" in the mail from a hand specialist that I refer to. It's a couple of loafs of bread and a bottle of Roasted Garlic Oil. I'm pretty sure the bread is NOT kosher. The garlic oil has a hechsher: a "kof" surrounded by a Q.

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

Halo 2, baby!

You may not see me for a while....

Random Conversation

I think I'm starting to rub off on Blog in Dm.

Psychotoddler 101

For my 100th post I've decided to make like the networks and do a "clip show." This is also a good way to catch up with the Psychosphere, if you're new.

On Judaism:

Yom Kippur at the Shteeble
Modern Orthodox in a Frummy Velt
Kol Isha
The 10 minute Shmoneh Esrei


Fretless Bass
New Music
Jewish Music
Shiney Shoe Music


Out of context quotes
The Chain of Command


On Call


Lazor Babies
Another Psycho Toddler
Virus Alert

Other Stuff:

Terror Does Pay
Strange Dreams


I was invited to a wedding in Chicago. But I don't think I'm going to go. Aside from all the logistical issues (work, child care, music lessons), I'm still faced with the prospect of 3 hours of driving. Which wouldn't be so bad if I could at least eat dinner with my wife. But it's separate seating, which means I'll most likely be sitting with a bunch of guys whom I either don't know or don't want to talk to.

I can do that at shul.

The Blue Books

I've noticed a few new Siddurim (prayer books) in the bookshelf at shul. At first there was only one. A blue Siddur called "Tehilath Hashem." Then there were 3. Now there are 7.

What can this mean?

And how many do they need before they make their move?

Thursday, November 18, 2004

My Wacky Wife


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

Luke, I am your....Brother

Reading through Luke Ford's many posts over at Protocols, it has become apparent to me that there is at most one degree of separation between him and me. He has blogged about multiple people that I have had some relationship with.


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

Why you don't want me to shnorr for you...

Having kids in 3 schools means our give or get just tripled. To make up for this, we're trying to sell raffle tickets for the Boy's High School.

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!!!"

Toikey Day

Do you celebrate Thanksgiving?

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.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Please Don't Feed the Chassidim

A few Shabboses ago I arrived in Shul to the sight of about 100 non-Jews piling out of the Women's balcony and moving to the small sanctuary. I knew they were non-Jews because there were quite a few more skin tone variations than in our usual crowd, they were all wearing street clothes instead of black suits and long dresses, and they had little name tags on that said, "I'm not Jewish." (not really).

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

Falafel Fest

The band played last night for the TAM Falafel Fest. We did better than last time. I can tell because nobody covered their ears. I even saw one of the older Rabbis tapping his fingers on the table.

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.

Some standouts:

"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...

Is that supposed to make me feel better?

Over breakfast today my teenage daughter observed:

"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

Hold on to your butts...

I'm about to upgrade my computer from Windows ME (crap edition) to Windows XP Professional (less crap edition). It always makes me nervous to see dialogs like, "Setup is about to delete your Windows folder. Do you wish to proceed?"

So if you don't hear from me again, I'm in Windows purgatory.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Actually, I'm a Superhero

We had a guest over for Shabbos lunch, and he asked my kids if they knew what I did for a living.

"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.

Flute Lesson

My 10 year-old son had his first flute lesson. His teacher is a man I've known for 12 years and play with often. Since it takes about 20 minutes to drive out to his house, I just stayed for the lesson.

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.


I've been going back and forth with Dov Bear in personal correspondence about whether or not he should be on my links list. I try not to get political on this blog, so it might be appropriate to question whether I should link to someone who has an such an obvious political agenda.

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

Evil Dad

For years, since my first daughter was a tot, I've had the habit of singing Darth Vader's Theme (da da da, da daDa, da daDa) as my kids march to their room after a bath.

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!"

The Ten Minute Shmoneh Esrei

No matter what I do, I just can't seem to break the Ten Minute Shmoneh Esrei (the important part of the prayer service which is said standing silently). I've tried everything.

I've tried saying each word verrrrry sloooooowwwly.

I've tried..............putting...............long......
.........each......... word.

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.

Any suggestions?

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Gigs version 1.1

I made an error on the prior post about upcoming gigs.

We're playing Milwaukee TAM Pizza night on November 13, not 14. And it's really a falafel night.

December 11 in Chicago is the same.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

My Very First Shiney-Shoe Song!

For the inspiration for this song, look here.

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.

The Chupa part 2

I played a Chupa (wedding ceremony) last month. You may recall my earlier post where I said I enjoy them because they are easy and stress-free...

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 spoke with Lenny Solomon tonight. He's releasing a new Shlock Rock album, and this one will have 4 songs that were originally released on his Kesher albums. I asked him to name them for me, and as he got to "Veneemar," I drew a blank. So he sang it for me. And I got a sudden flashback of my first Kesher concert.

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.

Yeshiva Band

I went to pick up my son this evening from Mishmar (evening studies) at the Yeshiva, and while I was there, I caught the house band practicing.

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.

Rats Eat Website! Film at 11!

If you visited this site earlier today, you may have noticed that parts of it weren't working, like the Psycho.Radio. That's because the server hosting my music website was down all day. Apparently, rats ate into the Ameritech line leading to the server, and they had to send a man down into the sewer to fix it!

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

What I learned in Kollel tonight

From Baba Kama, 85a:

"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?

Lost in Translation

So yesterday, my 13 year-old and 10 year-old sons packed into cars with the rest of their classes, and drove down to Chicago to see a big Rabbi from Israel. The left just after 12, and didn't get back until close to 8pm. They spent about 6 hours in traffic, and came home tired and hungry.

According to my older son, the Rabbi spoke exclusively in Yiddish.

Was it worth it?


Looks like the band has two upcoming gigs:

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

Hurdle One

I can't believe my passport came so quickly! That took a week! Who says government is mired in red tape?

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.


Yesterday we had Meshulachs and Trick or Treaters roaming the streets in our neighborhood. At times I was hard-pressed to tell who was in costume.

I wonder if some Meshulachs left with candy, while some Trick or Treaters left with checks made out to Agudas Israel?