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.