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Monday, January 31, 2005

Hiding to Survive

I'd like to solicit some feedback from my readers. I'm considering posting the story of how my mother survived the war. It was published in a book called, "Hiding to Survive" by Maxine Rosenberg. Reading through the book, it's just about the right length, but in places she really didn't do my mother justice.

The story is horrific but also full of hope. There are unbelievable acts of cruelty mixed with equally unbelievable acts of heroism. Even reading the simplified version in Rosenberg's book, I can't stop my eyes from welling up.

No offense to Psychotoddler, but I don't think this is the appropriate place for the story. I would start a separate blog for the serial, which would likely be posted in 7 or 8 parts. I will either exerpt the book, or see if my mother is willing to rewrite it for me.

I'd like to get some comments and see if there is interest in this before I undertake it.

Free at Last?

I just paid off my student loans.

I should feel happier than this. This is something that I should shout out at the top of my lungs.


Nah, it's just not doing it for me. Why do I still feel this burden over my head? Maybe I'm just not used to it.

I've been in debt for over 20 years. I remember the day well. I had just gotten into Yeshiva College. My father showed me the letter. Then he marched me down to the Chase Manhattan Bank on Lefferts Blvd and had me sign my first student loan papers. And I've been massively in debt ever since. College was easy. Medical School was another story.

I graduated with well over 130 large in debt, which would translate to over 300k during the 30 year loan terms. I made some deals along the way and managed to get rid of the high-interest loans, used my home equity, whatever.

And I've been paying 4 figures a month for the last 10 years. And now it's done. So why don't I feel relief?

Maybe it has to do with 2 boys going to Yeshiva next year. Combined room and board: 30,000.

My daughter is looking at Stern College for next year. Who knows how much that will cost.

I still have 3 other kids in Yeshiva day school. Tuition is...well, whatever is left over.

Jewish education is way too expensive. I can't imagine what kind of debt my kids will be in when they are done.

We Now Return You to Your Regularly Scheduled PT...

Why do they put those crinkly pieces of paper in the socks at the store? Does anyone know?

Does it serve some kind of marketing purpose? "Hmm...these socks are soft, and seem like they may stay up...WAIT A MINUTE!! They don't crinkle. Forget it!"

Or is it some kind of subtle anti-theft device? "Excuse me sir. I couldn't help noticing that you were crinkling on your way out the door. Would you please empty your pockets."

Or maybe it's to help people who have to get dressed in the dark. "Come on...where are you...where are you...(crinkle crinkle)...Therrre you are! New socks!"

On a related note, several people have suggested to me that in order to prevent me from blowing my stack at regular intervals, I should send my socks down the wash pinned together to prevent orphaning. Come on!! Is it that hard to pair socks! I wear them in pairs! Why can't they get washed in pairs! Do I have to do EVERYTHING MYSELF!!!!!

Wait...no...don't back away....I...I didn't mean it...no seriously....I'm ok with this...I'm just kidding...what, you don't have to click to another site...I can handle orphaned socks...

Friday, January 28, 2005

Matisyahu Impressions

I'm not going to do a review of last night's Matisyahu show at Turner Hall. See Velvel for that. He's much more articulate than me. I am going to relay a few impressions that I got from the show.

Short Story: It was a good show.

Long Story:

If there's a line that separates the Jewish from the Secular music world, Matisyahu has planted himself firmly on the Secular side. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. I base this on a few criteria:

1. Presentation:

The show had much more in common with the typical Secular club/concert act than any Jewish music act I've ever seen. It reminded me much more of the band my daughter dragged me to see at the Rave. This has to do with the lighting, sound system, volume, quality of the performers and instruments. There was nothing shlocky here. It was for real. It's not an accident that this guy ended up on national TV, while Blue Fringe has not. His production values are slick.

This was basically a Reggae/Pop show. At no time was I in danger of understanding a single word he spoke or sang. It was like watching a hip Reggae band whose lead singer happened to be dressed like a Lubavitcher Chossid. In fact, in the few interludes where Matisyahu walked off stage, we were basically left watching a trio of Non-Jews jamming, and anyone walking into the room at that point would have no idea it was a Jewish event. (UPDATE: See the comments. Some of the band members are Jewish. My Bad)

One of the Chabad organizers came up to me in the middle of one song (I don't know how he recognized me in that dark hall) and said: "These guys are mamash shkutzim (really non-Jews). Can't you guys do this?"

By which I think he meant, wouldn't it have been much more inspiring to the legions of unaffiliated college kids in the audience if 3 Orthodox Jewish guys were up there playing this kind of music. To which I answered, "yes."

My band has always been about Jews playing music. That's why we do it. We are Orthodox Jews, who love rock, reggae, blues, etc., but must balance that with a desire to play for Jews, avoiding traif environments, and Shabbos gigs. And so we have the genre of Jewish Rock to accommodate us.

But of course, that's not Matisyahu's thing. He has decided (wisely) not to bother with frummy musicians, and their associated hangups, like jobs, families, Kollel chevrusas, etc. He's hired 3 professional musicians to travel with him and provide consistent, reliable backup. In this respect, he has more in common with the average Shiney Shoe Musician, who also uses non-Jewish pros, than with the likes of Blue Fringe, Diaspora, or the Moshe Skier Band.

Speaking of Shiney Shoe Music, this guy has got the pipes to put most of them to shame. On the occasions where he did a little Chazzanus, his range, tone, and intensity were right up there with the likes of Avraham Fried or MBD. I can easily see him morphing into the Boro Park music scene when he tires of the Reggae life.

2. Attitude:

This was the most unapologisingly goyishe shows I've ever seen a frum yid perform. No compromises. Yes, I know, he sang "Tzama" and did a little Chazanus. I look at that more as "shtick." Like if you had a Native American Reggae band, and for the intro of one song the singer started with a little Native American Chant. But then back to the Reggae, mon.

With most Jewish Rock acts, (including my own), the performers try to personalize the show for the audience, to connect with them. This is not done out of spirituality. This is for self-preservation. So you don't get booed off the stage. So when you play for older crowds, you play some of the softer songs, and when you play for college kids, you get more raunchy.

I got the distinct impression that Matisyahu would have done the exact same act whether he was playing to a sea of Black Hats or a room full of Rastafarians (last night saw both). But he is so uncompromisingly authentic that he can actually pull it off. I think people come away thinking that he's spiritual, intense, uncompromising, hip...and they really respect him for it.

I can tell that the Chassidim who were there didn't come for the music. Clearly, most of them are not into Reggae, hip hop, or whatever else was offered that night. They came to see what he could do, and I think that even they were impressed. The non-frum ate him up.

Personally, I think he played well. I like Reggae, but even I can't handle two hours of it. The show was a little monotonous in that respect. We do 3 or 4 Reggae tunes in our act, but we also mix it up with rock, punk, blues, rockabilly, which is why we play so many friggin songs. By the time the set ended, I was ready for it.

There's been alot of talk about whether what he's doing is appropriate, or whether he's making a Kiddush or Chillul Hashem. As far as Jewish Reggae goes, I have no problem with it. Reggae is itself a very spiritual genre, and the themes of spirituality, oppression, redemption, hope and sadness resonate well with Jewish values. It's probably a better match than Jewish Punk or even Rock.

And there is no question in my mind that he made a real Kiddush Hashem, both for the non-frummers in the audience and the non-Jews. He is the real deal. He is authentic, professional, and when I could understand him, a great ambassador for Chabad and the Jewish people. A real Mentch. (That by the way is my highest complement for anyone, even a woman).

Major Bummer #2 (major bummer #1 is here): It turns out my band wasn't snubbed for this show. One of the Chabad Rabbis introduced me to Matisyahu after the show, and said, "next time, if we ask you play with us, maybe you'll say yes." Apparently, they had tried to contact me 4 months ago to open the show and work on logistics with them, but didn't receive a reply, which they took for a lack of interest (probably they emailed the wrong person). They told me over and over that we would have been perfect for this, especially because, as mentioned above, the whole band is Jewish, and they've heard us do this style of music. Oh well, next time, next time.

Prodly beat me to the punch. It was nice meeting you, too.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Auschwitz Blogburst

I am a participant in the January Blogburst commemorating the liberation of Auschwitz on January 27, 1945. Information regarding the Blogburst, including other participants, is here. I'm posting the official text below. However, before I get to that, I want to share some personal connections to Auschwitz.

My mother is a Polish Jew. She survived the Holocaust at the age of 11. She was the only member of her immediate family to survive. She made it through the war by hiding, first in a chicken coup, thanks to the incredible bravery of a righteous Gentile, and then in a Convent, thanks only to the will of the Almighty, because the Nuns would certainly have turned her over to the SS if they had known that she was Jewish. Several major obvious miracles occurred which allowed her to survive; I may blog about them at some point.

My grandfather died in Auschwitz. He was known to have suffered from kidney stones. This was apparently also known to the Nazi guards at the camp, as they beat him mercilessly across his back until he died. He was about the same age that I am now.

My grandmother died in Auschwitz. She was a strikingly beautiful woman, a free spirit. Modern Orthodox before its time. I have pictures of her in a beret, riding a motorcycle. She died of typhus. She was in her twenties.

My aunt died in Auschwitz. She was four. There's some information about her here, and her picture was recently featured in a 60 Minutes documentary. When she was two, my grandfather gave her to a Gentile family to hide. They agreed to do so, but only if she would be raised as a Christian. He reluctantly agreed.

2 years later, the family brought her to the house where my mother was hiding in the chicken coup. They couldn't keep her anymore. She looked too Jewish; the neighbors were suspicious. She was captured in a raid of the coup. She was eventually shot in the head by a vicious German officer, after she sang a song for him.

It's hard for me to understand that there are people in this world who still don't know about these events, or are willing to say that they never occurred. It is even more incomprehensible that these types of things still go on, and that we in the democratic world lack the moral strength to say that no one should ever have to endure this type of cruelty.

Here then, is the official Blogburst:

The Holocaust, symbolized by Auschwitz, the worst of the death camps, occurred in the wake of consistent, systematic, unrelenting anti-Jewish propaganda campaign. As a result, the elimination of the Jews from German society was accepted as axiomatic, leaving open only two questions: when and how. As Germany expanded its domination and occupation of Austria, Czechoslovakia, France, the Low Countries, Yugoslavia, Poland, parts of the USSR, Greece, Romania, Hungary, Italy and others countries, the way was open for Hitler to realize his well-publicized plan of destroying the Jewish people. After experimentation, the use of Zyklon B on unsuspecting victim was adopted by the Nazis as the means of choice, and Auschwitz was selected as the main factory of death (more accurately, one should refer to the “Auschwitz-Birkenau complex”). The green light for mass annihilation was given at the Wannsee Conference, January 20, 1942, and the mass gassings took place in Auschwitz between 1942 and the end of 1944, when the Nazis retreated before the advancing Red Army. Jews were transported to Auschwitz from all over Nazi-occupied or Nazi-dominated Europe and most were slaughtered in Auschwitz upon arrival, sometimes as many as 12,000 in one day. Some victims were selected for slave labour or “medical” experimentation. All were subject to brutal treatment. In all, between three and four million people, mostly Jews, but also Poles and Red Army POWs, were slaughtered in Auschwitz alone (though some authors put the number at 1.3 million). Other death camps were located at Sobibor, Chelmno, Belzec (Belzek), Majdanek and Treblinka. Auschwitz was liberated by the Red Army on 27 January 1945, sixty years ago, after most of the prisoners were forced into a Death March westwards. The Red Army found in Auschwitz about 7,600 survivors, but not all could be saved. For a long time, the Allies were well aware of the mass murder, but deliberately refused to bomb the camp or the railways leading to it. Ironically, during the Polish uprising, the Allies had no hesitation in flying aid to Warsaw, sometimes flying right over Auschwitz. There are troubling parallels between the systematic vilification of Jews before the Holocaust and the current vilification of the Jewish people and Israel. Suffice it to note the annual flood of anti-Israel resolutions at the UN; or the public opinion polls taken in Europe, which single out Israel as a danger to world peace; or the divestment campaigns being waged in the US against Israel; or the attempts to delegitimize Israel’s very existence. The complicity of the Allies in WW II is mirrored by the support the PLO has been receiving from Europe, China and Russia to this very day. If remembering Auschwitz should teach us anything, it is that we must all support Israel and the Jewish people against the vilification and the complicity we are witnessing, knowing where it inevitably leads.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005


I'm going to try to make the Matisyahu show on Thursday. I want to see if he's worth all the fuss. It's going to be a little tough, because my wife teaches Kosher Aerobics that night, so we'll get there late. But it will be nice to be able to sit together at a show for a change. Usually I'm on stage.

Also, Velvel and Sklaro will be there. I don't know Sklaro, so it will be nice to meet him. I think.

I'm a little annoyed that they didn't ask my band to open the show. After all, I wrote one of the first, if not the first, Jewish Reggae songs back in 1985. But the guy running the show said he never heard of me. Really surprising considering that I rocked his Sukkah a few months ago. I need to fire my PR guy...oh wait...that's me.

Chassidic Reggae by the Moshe Skier Band:
Lechaim in Y'rushalayim
Baruch Hashem- Live "Unplugged" in Chicago
And from Even Shesiyah (sorry, can't get the funny symbols working):

Major Bummer!

I just got a call from the owner of Shank Hall. He knows what a Squeeze fan I am, and called to let me know that Glenn Tilbrook, lead singer and guitarist for Squeeze, is coming to town, and offered me free tickets and maybe a chance to open up.

Hold the date: April 24........WAIT A MINUTE!!!

That's the second night of Pesach!

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

We Are Not Alone

My son was home over the past week, which meant a major league stress test for my computer network. I don't know what it is with that kid, but all he has to do is look at a computer and it will crash, or hardware will fail, or vital files will corrupt.

In anticipation of his home visit, I upgraded all the operating systems to Windows XP, by far the most stable of Gates' products, and installed new antivirus software. Still, that didn't stop the frantic calls from coming in while I was at work:

"The network is down!"

"I can't get on the internet!"

"Shua sat on my glasses!"

Well, I couldn't help with the last emergency, but when I got home I began troubleshooting the network. It seemed the only real way to get it working was to unplug and then replug the router from the power outlet. So something was freaking it out.

At one point, when the network was down, I was working on the upstairs computer, which is connected via a wireless card to the basement router. I suddenly had internet access. Which was weird, because the wired computers did not. I tried browsing my internal network, which is when I discovered that I was not alone.

A whole series of unfamiliar hard drives appeared on my network list. Fortunately, they were named for the last name of their owner, who happens to live across the street. I quickly called him and told him that I was able to access his home network. I admonished him and told him he really needs to encrypt his wireless connection and get some firewall software. I hung up.

Then I quickly enabled encryption on my own network.

Behind Blue Eyes

A patient's daughter today told me that I have "beautiful blue eyes."

I have noticed that they tend to look more blue when they're bloodshot from lack of sleep.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Two Wild and Crazy Guys

More from the vault:

In 1986, Kabbalah opened up for Mordechai Ben David at Yeshiva University. Here's a clip from the show:

This and some other videos are available here. Or you can wait until I reference them here. We were pretty wacky. And I was way too skinny.

Friday, January 21, 2005

My Moral Compass

Note: This post has nothing to do with Luke Ford.

I've blogged previously about the effect being surrounded by right-wing frummies has had on my own frumkeit. If you're standing next to someone who's darker than you, you're going to look pale in comparison. The resulting negativity, lack of clarity, and continued criticism leads to self-doubt and low self-esteem at best, anger and resentment at worst. It can end up causing one to go off the derech completely.

I've seen the marginalization of people, who would in most communities be considered pretty frum, because of such things as TV ownership, or what music they listen to, or what type of yarmulke they wear. Without a positive example to latch onto, to say, "here's a frum person who knows Jethro Tull," these people start to drift, and become convinced that they are indeed sinners and unworthy of respect in the frum community.

Which is one reason I long ago adapted the concept of a moral compass. I've lived with all types of Jews, all over the spectrum, and I've needed to have someone to...emulate, for a lack of a better term. A role model. Long ago, I figured out whom it was.

There was a fellow I used to play with. When my wife and I first married, his family adopted us. I was impressed by how they seemed to have it all together. We would jam in his basement for hours, but when it was time for Mincha, his father would yell down the stairs, and we would all march next door to the shteeble to daven. Then back to more jamming.

Over the years, we have gone our separate ways. But when I wasn't sure if I was doing the right thing, I'd think back to him and his family. I'd ask myself, "What would they do?" And hopefully, the right answer would come. When my kids come home and tell me their friends taunt them for having a TV, or going to a movie, or listening to secular music, I tell them that there are frum Jews who do that, and still make it to minyan and learn with chevrusas. The light from the beacon is getting dimmer as the years progress, and we get further away, but I'm still looking in that direction.

Recently I've had reason to suspect that my moral compass is becoming disillusioned with the frum world. Maybe that means the frum world is changing. Maybe it means he is. I hope he can find his way as well.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

60 Minutes

CBS is apparently going to do a "Dan Rather" on my mother tonight. My mother, who is a well-spoken Holocaust survivor, was interviewed a few months ago by 60 minutes about a bust that was made of her late sister. My aunt was murdered at the age of 4 in a concentration camp, and the stories are told that she was shot in the head by Dr. Mengele after he asked her to sing for him.

Her picture is displayed prominently in the NY Holocaust museum. Apparently, an artist saw it and was touched enough to sculpt a bust of her. 60 minutes interviewed my Mom about how she felt about it. She told her it looks terrible and nothing like her sister. So they cut her out.

Anyway, if you want to see the segment, it's on 60 Minutes tonight.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Teen Day of Discovery

Our next gig is here. Contrary to my prior post, there is no smoke or mirrors involved. This looks like a pretty cool event for thinking teenagers who want to know how Judaism addresses the modern world.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Carlebach Video

To those of you who've had to endure my long and boring posts about computer woes and DVD difficulties, I offer a small reward:

I came across this little gem. In 1989, Kabbalah did a concert with Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. Here's a clip from the show, in glorious almost-color:

You may notice a certain familiar svelt fellow playing the bass...


The saga of the missing Shul seats continues...

Despite my kvetching to the assistant Rabbi, the shul elders have decided not to reinstate my row of seats. They are very serious about keeping the extra seats up front to make room for the new people.

They are also very serious about resettling my clan to the table in the back. How do I know this? Because last week, they moved the stickers that say "Reserved for Skier" out from under the white tablecloths and Scotch-taped them to the fabric side of the chair backs. So they are now visible to any who would sit there. Those who would dare now risk not only the swift justice of the Shul bouncers, but also having this sticker stuck to the back of their suit jackets.

So this past week we sat in our new makom kavuah. Owing to its location, just in front of the mechitzah, there is now a defacto aisle in front of the table. This sets up a new dynamic for me and my boys. See, before, we were behind the bima, and people would pass behind us to get to the other side of the shul.

Now the aisle is in front of us, so people have to walk past us to get to their seats. Invariably, they now stop, gaze down upon us, and make a face, as if to say, "What are you doing here?" At first this made me very uncomfortable.

Now I've taken to playing a little game with it. If they stop and gesture at me, I just lean to the side, exposing my little "Reserved" sign. As if to say, "See, I'm more important than you. I have a seat reserved for me. Where's your reserved seat?" You guys better watch it, or you may find yourselves displaced as well.

Anyway, I've found that this episode has helped me confirm my true position in the pecking order. It seems, the closer you are to the front, the more important you are (must be why my guitarist recently got moved to the first row).

I am less important than those at the tables, and this includes newbies. But I am more important than the people whose seats I took over, and who apparently now are forced to Daven at the Shteeble full-time.

Of course, by extension, we are all more important than those behind the mechitza.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Physician Heal Thyself

Woke up this morning and developed a horrible spasm down the left, back side of my neck. It goes into my upper back and towards my shoulder a little. No numbness or tingling in my hand yet.

I get this once in a while if I don't get enough sleep, or if I'm coming down with a viral infection. Or if I'm under stress. I think it's a combination of staying up late trying to get these blasted DVDs made, plus the fact that it was so cold last night that I spent all night shivering.

So now I'm walking around with my neck bent to the front and left, like Igor.

Funny part is I've seen 3 people so far today with neck pain, and I'm trying desparately not to let on that I have the exact same problem.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

The Village

We saw M. Night Shyamalan's "The Village" last night. I had not heard good things about this film, but I liked it. As with all of Shyamalan's films, you really can only watch it twice. Once before you know what's going on, and then once again after the surprise near the end of the film turns everything on end.

I'll save any spoilers for the comments, but I was uncomfortably surprised by how many parallels there were between the community depicted in the movie and the one in which I live. In particular, the absolute disdain the community elders have for the outside world, and the tactics they resort to in order to shelter their children from it.

I'm not sure if that's what Shyamalan had in mind when he made the film, but that's how it struck me. A very interesting allegory.

3 New Coasters




I have 3 new DVD coasters. After all the finageling necessary to get the new DVD burner working, I started transferring my old VHS home movies to DVD. It worked well. I used Windows Movie Maker (bundled with XP) to capture the very large files, and Roxio's Easy Media Center to burn them.

I burned the first 3 tapes without a hitch. I started getting fancy, even. Animated menu. Theme-based chapter titles.

But my next tape had a problem. It seemed that somehow, someone had taped "The Godfather, Pt. II" over the second half of the tape. That in and of itself pissed me to no end. I mean, it's not a bad movie, but I'm not going to get the footage of my newborn first son back. It left 27 minutes of usable video on that cassette. Not wanting to "waste" a whole DVD on 27 minutes, I decided to combine it with 30 minutes of my son's bris from 1990. (No it's not 30 minutes of watching a circumcision. Lots of shots of old Polish Jews who are now either older or dead).

Having successfully squashed the two titles onto one disk (now with your choice of viewing options!), I pressed the burn button and went to sleep. The next morning, I was dismayed to discover that it would not play on my DVD player. It seemed the menu didn't create correctly.

Do you know the definition of insanity? I am coming close. It is to try the exact same thing and hope for a different outcome. I tried again. 2 hours later, no difference. Thinking that maybe the problem was having two titles on the menu instead of one (really the only difference between this disk and the 3 prior successful ones), I tried combining both titles into one and reburned.

It really didn't like that one. The computer wouldn't even recognize this disk. So now I'm left wondering what to do. Is it the software? Hardware? Something unique about how I captured or edited the clip? Are the Sicilians pissed off at me for cutting out Vito Corleone?

One of my friends offered to "lend" me Pinnacle Studio to use for my video burning. I initially rebuffed him. I'm not into software theft at all. But after paying close to $100 for a media suite that can't seem to handle a 2 program DVD, and $4 in new coaster investments, I'm starting to see the value in at least "trying" a program out before laying down cash.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

The Jewish Rock Club Scene

There's a lot of text being typed up about Matisyahu and other Jewish Rock/Reggae/Whatever musicians and the appropriateness of their playing in Rock Clubs/Bars.

I'm not going to address the issue of teenagers, frum or non-frum, at these events. These kids don't belong in clubs that serve alcohol and are for 21 and over anyway. That's an issue for the parents and the club owners.

As a musician who has performed in rock clubs (both with Jewish and non-Jewish Bands), I'd like to give some insight as to why Piamenta, Blue Fringe, Soulfarm, etc. seek out such venues. It's not about kiruv, or making a point, or making a Kiddush Hashem, or making money (definitely not), or about trying to be a rebel.

It's about the music. That's it.

The kind of music that these bands play is best heard in this setting. What all these acts have in common is volume. This style of music is loud. You can't get the energy you need from a hip-hop jam or a guitar solo when you're playing at cocktail-lounge volume. I don't know how many gigs I've been at where we turned all the volume way down, the drummer was playing with brushes, and I practically whispered out the vocals, and there was still some old lady coming up to the band with her hands over her ears asking, no, demanding that I turn down. To the point where I just started playing acoustic guitars at those gigs to avoid the fuss. A different show altogether.

I played a show with The Moshe Skier Band at The Note (Chicago) last Lag Beomer, opening for Piamenta. The audience was all young and middle aged adults. Piamenta did a similar show the next day in a family-oriented environment. The crowd at The Note went wild for Yosi, demanding an encore. The crowd the next day hated him.

It's nice to be able to play someplace where you can crank up the volume, get some energy flowing, and play to a bunch of appreciative adults who love loud music and understand what we're doing.

And you know, maybe make a little Kiddush Hashem at the same time.

It's Just Not Fair!

A drug rep brought Krispy Kreme doughnuts in.

Bad Psychotoddler: Man, those doughnuts look sweet...
Good Psychotoddler: Yes, but they're not Kosher...
BPT: Sure they are...
GPT: ...in Chicago.
BPT: Come on, what could be unKosher about doughnuts, for Chissake!
GPT: How bout...lard.
BPT: LARD??? You still believe that fairy tale? That was put out by the Kosher industry to scare you.
GPT: Well, anyway, unless I know for sure that it's Kosher, I'm not eating it.
BPT: Awww come on...no one here is even Jewish. No one will know.
GPT: Well...I'll know. And the Almighty is watching too.
BPT: You think the Almighty cares if you eat a friggin doughnut? He's got Tsunamis and other stuff to worry about.
GPT: I think that if He wasn't serious about the Torah laws, he wouldn't have bothered giving them to us in the first place.
BPT: You're no fun anymore. I'm outahere. *Poof*

PT and GPT: Yay! More doughnuts for us!



I tried a new experiment in the Doctor's Lounge this morning. I took a packet of Nestle's instant cocoa, and poured hot coffee over it. Viola! A new drink!

Feeling pretty good about myself, I turned to a fellow physician and told him what I had done.

"I think I'll call it...Choffee!"

He looked at me.

"I do that all the time. It's called mocha."

Monday, January 10, 2005

The Digital Age

To all of you out there in the 21st Century: Let it be known that I have now officially come aboard. I have joined the Digital Age.

I purchased a DV Camcorder.

I am no stranger to video. As a child, it was my job to run the projector for our Super-8 film reels. When sound became available in the mid 70's, my father, an "early adopter," purchased a camera that would put Cecil B. De Mille to shame. It was my job to assemble it, maintain it, load the film, and run the projector. I was also responsible for splicing the 3 minute clips together into larger reels.

When video cassette recorders came out, we got one of those too. I looked a little like Michael Douglas in "The China Syndrome" lugging that thing around. A few years later, my folks gave us a VHS-C camcorder, that could fit in the palm of two hands. That was when my first daughter was born.

That camera has been slowly dying over the past ten years. It went down for the final time recently. Since we still have a few kids who are moderately cute, I decided to go ahead and pick up the new camera.

I'll admit, the idea of using digital media, with all the benefits that come with it, like crystal clear picture, high fidelity sound, and editability was appealing. But even more appealing was the concept of transferring my old VHS home movies to DVD. Those old videos are getting grainier by the minute, and my VCR is already older than most of my kids. So the camera is a bridge between my VCR and my computer; between the old analog world and the new digital one.

Like all of my recent computer experiences, the transfer was more difficult than I thought it would be. I've gone through 3 different programs, but I can't seem to find one that will both capture the video and burn it to DVD. I have several DVD-R coasters to prove that. But in my own, jury-rigged way, I have got it functioning. And it is megacool.

It's also fun going through the old videos. Some of them haven't been seen by my kids at all. Some videos are buried in hour 2 or 3 of a tape, and we never used to get up to them. Now they are available on a menu.

As with most parents, it seems we took way too many videos of child number 1, and almost none of the last few. I also came across some hidden videos of my wife's great-grandparents playing piano with my first daughter. They're in the nursing home now, and we had recently filmed them playing piano with my younger daughter. It will be interesting to compare the two clips.

It's also odd how old the first few videos look. I remember as a child watching old movies of my parents. The funny clothes and hairstyles. The old fashioned furniture. The unnatural way people moved or behaved in front of the camera. Now I look at the video I took just 16 years ago, and I get the same feeling. It looks like it was filmed a lifetime ago. And yet I can remember being there and holding the camera and calling my daughter's name so she would smile at me.

I guess that's why we film these moments.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Know Your D 'n A

To: Medical Staff
Subject: D&A Probes

It has come to my attention (through review of transcription) that we have been ordering D & A Probes for Pertussis. This activity is to be discouraged, as I have never heard of "D & A" and it is unlikely to lead to improved health care outcomes.

Similarly, "T & A" probes are not medically indicated.

Thursday, January 06, 2005


My daughter asked me to put down a bassline for a song she wrote. Recording into the computer is not fun. I couldn't hear myself play enough to tune the bass to her track. But despite that and the fact that I had a wicked split at the tip of my 4th finger it came out ok.

Take a listen if you're interested. She did all the guitars and vocals. Warning: Major Kol-Isha Alert:

Pride by PS

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Dial N...for Nursing Home...

It is an unfortunate aspect of my job that requires me to occasionally fill out death certificates. So it was with some sadness that I began to fill out the latest one, for an elderly, demented woman who died at the Nursing Home.

But wait...what's this? "Manner of Death...homicide???"

Is this a typo?

I can just imagine what's coming next:

A disheveled detective in a trenchcoat comes to my office to interview me.

"Gee, lieutenant, seems like a lot of effort to go through for death by natural causes."

"Oh no, sir, it's not natural causes."

"It's not?"

"No, sir, this is officially homicide. I'm from the homicide division."

"Homicide? She had heart failure!"

"Well...it may look like that, but see, there are a few things about this case that bother me..."


"...What? Oh, sorry, lost my train of thought...that happens all the time. The wife, she keeps telling me I should write things down..."

"Lieutenant, I'm sorry, but I've got a lot of patients to see..."

"Oh, I'm sorry, of course...I'll come by a little later." (Leaves)

Me to receptionist: "You think he suspects?"

"Oh, one more thing..."

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Some Violin

We're gearing up for the band's next performance, which is on January 30, at the local JCC. We'll be playing for the Teen Day of Discovery, which is a cool event where they try to turn kids on to Torah by showing them that you can find "Britney Spears" spelled diagonally in Hebrew letters in the book of Leviticus.

For this one, we're teaming up with our old violinist for the first time in a few years. She's a great player, and it adds a layer of sweetness to our otherwise spicey sound. Kinda like the J-Rock equivalent of General Tsao's Chicken.

If you'd like to hear her, check out the songs "Ki Vo Yismach" and "Shma" on the Psycho.Radio on the right.

Monday, January 03, 2005


That's the only way I can describe it. I've been downsized. At shul.
I came in one Friday afternoon before mincha, and my seat was gone. Not just the seat; the whole row.

And I don't just mean that someone was sitting in my seat. I've dealt with that endlessly in the past. I usually just sit somewhere else. I don't like to ask people to move. My first time in the shul, I didn't know anyone, so I picked the last seat in the last row (my default position). About halfway through the davening, this crotchety old Polish Jew taps me on the shoulder and says, "Geddouta my seat."

In those days, there was no shortage of seats in the shul, so I just moved up one row. A little while later, another tap on the back: "Why there so many people in shul?"

"There's an auf ruf*," I replied.

"Yeah? For who?"


Anyway, since then, I could never bring myself to ask someone else to "geddouta my seat." It wouldn't matter much, except that I like to sit with my boys, and kine-hora there are 4 of us. So the third row behind the bima has been our traditional makom kavuah, our designated spot.

Everyone knows it. That's where we've been sitting for the past 6 years, since we moved into the new building. Still, guests, and sometimes regulars will sometimes take our seats, if there's nowhere else to sit. Since I'm not always the first one into the shul, I deal with it.

But that wasn't the case this week. The seats are gone. No row. Where there were 3 rows, there are now 2. It was like that episode of the Twilight Zone where people kept disappearing ("no, there were only 2 of you..."). A little digging around revealed that the row had been cannibalized for chairs, which were placed elsewhere.

The configuration of the shul is as follows: There are a number of rows of seats with tables, presumably for men to place their sforim (books) that they can read while they are waiting for the Chazzan to catch up to them; then comes the bima (platform where the Torah is read); then the 3 rows of table-free chairs. More recently, a few more rows of tables and chairs were added behind this but in front of the mechitza (divider). The mechitza was pushed a few feet further back to accommodate this. Those new seats were grabbed up pretty quick, like they were plots of land in the new West.

So I spoke to the shul President and asked him what gives. I've been a dues-paying member for 13 years. What did I do wrong? Well, nothing personal, he told me, but there have been some new families moving in to the community, and they would like to sit up front with the tables. So they made an executive decision to take the "extra" chairs from my row (ie the whole row) and move them up front with some new tables. And then they moved the bima back a few feet to make room.

As I stood there with my mouth hanging open, he proceeded to show me why I shouldn't be so upset. We walked back a few feet, past where the ghost of my row would be, and he showed me the first table behind where I used to sit.

"See," he said, "we've reserved these seats for you." And he pointed to the table. I looked. I saw nothing. Other than the other people that were already sitting in our "reserved" seats. Then he said, "see, we put your name on these spots."

I looked again. I saw a white table cloth. I looked back at him.

"Well, actually, you'd be able to see the names, except that right now they are covered by a table cloth." He pulled up the table cloth, and sure enough, there were three spots marked "RESERVED FOR SKIER". Then he quickly recovered the table. He then encouraged us to claim our seats and went away. I looked down on the people at the table. They looked at me.

I had little interest in displacing someone else. To me, that's like saying "Palestine is taken, but we can make a homeland for you Jews by moving some tribes out of Uganda." But I think they had some rachmunos (pity) for my boys and me, and they vacated the seats. So we sat. And we did not look comfortable.

My guilt and anguish were misplaced, anyway, since the next morning the same people were sitting in those seats again. This time we just scattered around the shul and davened separately.

I think I need to do something about this. I have nothing against those people in the helige front rows who took my seats. But I'm not sure why I have to be the refugee.

Where's Adam Ragil when you need him?

*auf ruf- literally, "calling up". The Shabbos before a wedding, the groom gets called up to the Torah.