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Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Hard Rockin Hamentashen

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photo by Gregory Titievsky

This past Saturday night I had the privilege of playing at Kfar Jewish Art Center's Purim Bash at Subterranean in Chicago. 3 bands played.


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photo by Gregory Titievsky

Unfortunately I had to miss most of this band, which featured Velvel on the guitar. But what I did manage to hear was very, very good. The singer was confident and on-key, the guitars sounded sweet, the drums, by ubiquitous Chicagoan Matt Kanter, were rock solid, and the bass player played with a pick! It's too bad the singer moved to New York, but I expect to hear great things from him in the future.

Ari Ben Moses Band:

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photo by Gregory Titievsky

I hadn't heard this band before, and was very pleasantly surprised. These guys play a well-crafted and tight blend of reggae, ska, Latin and "world" music. I normally don't go in for most of that, but they played so well and with such enthusiasm that I really enjoyed it. For part of the set I was upstairs in the "green" room (dressing room?) with Mendel, my guitarist (attempting to preserve my hearing!). Even he was impressed with these guys. And the music was all Jewish--not Hebrew, like my stuff, but taken from Jewish prophets, or about Israel, or spirituality. Nothing non-Kosher in the lyrics. From the Green room, they reminded me a lot of Matisyahu, but because they look like any other Reggae-World music band I guess they don't merit the hype.

Oddly enough, although they play what I would consider to be Jewish music, they don't play any Jewish events, sticking instead to the club scene for the most part. Once again, this reminds me why an organization like Kfar is so badly needed.

Moshe Skier Band:

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photo by Gregory Titievsky

It was after midnight when we finally took the stage, and unfortunately, some of the crowd was gone, including several people who came to see me and some bloggers (I guess they're people too) who had to leave. (My record for not meeting Cara, or even knowing what she looks like, remains intact). I don't know what we sounded like in the audience. From on-stage, I think we sounded pretty good. Despite the late hour we old men still had a lot of energy and rocked steady. And loudly. As usual, people were blown away by Mendel's guitar playing. I've played with this guy for 6 years and I still don't know how he does it. He can hand me his guitar, and it doesn't sound like I'm playing the same instrument. I think the music comes straight from G-d into his fingers. That's the only way I can explain it.

In the end I think everyone had a good time. I enjoyed hanging with Velvel and his wife. I'm very appreciative to the people who risked life, limb, and auto theft to come down to Wicker Park and hear us play, (even if they had to leave before or during our set). Thanks, too, to Gregory Titievsky for shooting pictures. Hire him for your Bar Mitzvah. And once again, thanks to Kfar Center for thinking outside the box.

The Chair Mk II

After the fiasco with the "ergonomic" chair back in October, which I broke in approximately 20 minutes, and which was wheeled away to chair-hell within a few days, I'd been using an uncomfortable-but-hard-to-break non-adjustable chair. To make up for this, several months later they installed an adjustable keyboard tray under my desk. This thing literally requires you to wrestle with it to get it to go up and down, because of the way that it "locks" into position. It's probably entertaining to watch me adjust this every week when I come in. On at least two occasions I've managed to flip the keyboard and mouse straight into the monitor. But I've gotten used to it.

This week, I came in to find another "ergonomic" chair in the office. No one knows where it came from or how it got there. It, too, is of the red cloth and plastic variety. It seems to be older than the first chair. A little used. And beat up. Indeed, there appears to be a gash on the top of the chair through the fabric, as if someone had attacked it with a sword. The plastic armrests have scuff marks on them, indicating that the chair may have been dragged along concrete on its side at one point during its lifetime.

It really looks sad. I felt sorry for it, so I decided to try it out. Not bad...It's actually comfortable. Feels...broken in. And it seems to have fewer moving parts than the prior model, meaning less things to get maladjusted or broken. The back is a little springy and seems to be pushing into my lumbar spine, but that's a good thing.

I think I'll adopt it and give it a new home.

The Incredibles

I saw "The Incredibles" last night with my family. I loved it! It was...incredible. I've never been disappointed with a Pixar film, and I wasn't let down by this one.

For some reason, this film really hit home for me. It's not just because I'm a superhero with a "secret identity." This is a film for anyone who's had dreams as a kid or adult and found them suddenly in conflict with the reality of daily living. And what happens when we abandon those dreams to pursue what we perceive as the mundane necessities of raising a family and making a living. We begin to resent our jobs, our spouses, and our kids for forcing us to give up what makes us special.

We have to figure out a way to make it all work. It's good for our own egos, but it's also healthy for our families. That's why, until my hands get so arthritic that I can't pick up a guitar, I'm going to keep playing.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Punk Prescription

I saw a new patient today who happens to play bass guitar, and I'm sorry to say that we wasted most of his visit talking about music (I extended the visit to make up for it). He asked me what I play. I tried to explain it to him. It's kinda like Jewish Punk, I guess.

What's that? I thought some more. "Well, from your point of view, it's like Punk Rock with unintelligible lyrics."

He asked me how that's different from regular Punk.

Rose's Story Part XX...

Pictures and Fates

One more after this.

Friday, March 25, 2005

The Chabad Gig

What a great gig! We played Chabad of Northbrook, IL last night. A big yasher koach to all the people who put this together and especially the guy who recommended us for the job. We (the band) had a blast! It would be unprofessional for me to review our performance...aw, what the heck. We were great. We could tell by the crowd reaction. It confirms an observation I've had for the last few months: Our level of mediocrity conforms pretty closely to the amount of "holding back" that we have to do. When we have to keep down the volume, intensity, or "rockitude" of our music, we don't do that well. When we can let loose, we sound great. Probably that's also a reflection of the particular audience involved.

Last night's audience was a mix of Chabadnicks, Modern Orthodox, various frummies whom I suspect came specifically to see us (including one award-winning blogger--hi! Your secret identity is safe with me!), some non-religious Jews, and a lot of Russians. In short, a perfect audience for us to rock-out in front of. And, to be honest, we weren't really that loud anyway, not compared to your average wedding band.

I got to meet one of our "fans," along with his beautiful family. I'm always happy to meet fans, although I like the general feeling of having people "out there" who like my music even if they don't know me personally. I suspect that now that I know him, there may not be anymore of those people "out there."

The crowd really made the evening. They danced a lot. I knew there would be dancing. They told me up front that they wanted dancing. I even put together a little dance set for the end of the second act, appropriately titled the "Hora Medley." When we were setting up, they told me to do the dancing at the end of the first set instead, so I changed the order. But it didn't matter. From the first song, they were all up on their feet, and pretty soon the mechitzas were back in place so men and women could dance separately.

I never considered the music we play to be "dance music." I've always thought of us as "listen to in the car" music. But not last night. They danced for the punk rock. They danced for the rockabilly. They danced for the reggae. They even danced for the blues. That was a new one for me. By the time I got to the "Hora Medley," I looked at the guitarist and wondered if we should even bother, since they'd already been dancing for 40 minutes. He shrugged his shoulders and we launched into it. Had to get "Al Hanisim" in there somewhere anyway. At the end of the evening, the Rabbi announced that there was a newly engaged couple in the room. So we launched into a spontaneous "Od Yishama" medley that had them up on their feet again.

As with Matisyahu, I was not sure if the Chabadnicks really liked our stuff, or if they were just trying to get the crowd into it. Well, they asked for some CDs, so I'm hoping this means that they liked it. They also asked us to repeat some songs, like "Tzama." One thing that this really brought home for me was that we need a new CD. We need something that reflects the way the band sounds now, not how I sounded 10 or 20 years ago. That's something we'll have to think about some more. MSB is really a live band, and it's hard to capture that in a studio. And then of course, there are monitary issues. Maybe we'll shoot for some kind of bootleg album.

Tomorrow night, we're at Subterranean.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Purim Bootlegs

And now it's time for America's favorite gameshow:

"Where's that *$&%^&* hum coming from!?!"

The band decided to tape this week's rehearsal in anticipation of our Purim gigs. It's mostly for internal consumption, but some of it didn't turn out half-bad.

While setting up for the recording, I plugged cables into the various amps and hooked up microphones and flipped on the power to the recorder...and was rewarded with a loud hum. I spent the next half-hour trying to figure out where the hum was coming from, and eventually isolated it to a wall socket.

After rearranging the entire room to use the other socket, things worked better. Now I know why I hate being a recording engineer. It's also a little tough to lead, play bass, sing and watch the recording levels at the same time. I could use, maybe 2 more eyes and an extra brain. But then I would look like some kind of insect/monstrosity.

Anywhoo, here's a couple of bootlegs from the rehearsal. Everything is live, including the feedback. Hope to see some of you at the shows. If not, here's what you'll miss:

Shoshanas Yaakov
Barchi Nafshi

Monday, March 21, 2005

A Very Shlock Rock Purim

This is from a Shlock Rock show in New York in 1991. Probably one of the last times the whole original band was together. If it seems there's a lot of me in this clip, it's because my wife took the video.

You may notice a little blond curly-haired kid toddling around. He's in High School now.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

It's all about me

Elana (8 year old): Gimme a B!

Yonina (3 year old): B!

Elana: Gimme an O!

Yonina: O!

Elana: Gimme an L!

Yonina: L!

Elana: Gimme an O!

Yonina: O!

Elana: Gimme a G!

Yonina: G!

Elana: Gimme an N-A!

Yonina: N-A!

Elana: What does it spell?

Yonina: YONINA!!

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Talking Head

I just did a phone interview with a reporter in Chicago to hype our upcoming Purim gig for Kfar Center. I'm pretty sure I sounded like a blathering idiot (is there some other form of idiot, I wonder?). I'm really not good at this. I tend to mumble and say things over and over. I'm not sure what the "sound bites" are supposed to be. I give out too much irrelevant information and gloss over the take-home points.

She seemed very pleasant and agreed with whatever points I was making. I tried to explain what Jewish Rock is, at least my definition of it. I really talked up the guitar player. I may have left her with the impression that I have some kind of man-crush on him. He is pretty good. Not that there's anything wrong with it. I sent her hunting on our website for some hi-res pictures, but warned her that we're not particularly attractive. She said we can't be any uglier than the Rolling Stones. True that.

I tried to explain that we play Jewish Rock because it's a fun, kosher way of playing the kind of music we enjoy listening to. Man, I wish I had actually said that last sentence to her. Most likely, it's going to come out as: Rambling physician/musician Moshe Skier thinks Jewish Music is lame.

Plodding along

For those of you who are keeping up with Rose's Story, I want to give a little update. I've been trying to keep up with daily posts, but as I get near the end I'm finding it's not as straightforward as the earlier chapters. It's starting to get a little out of order. So instead of just posting as I go, I'm going to try to transcribe everything until the end, and then go back and rearrange things, and then post them. So stay tuned.

In the meantime, my Mom called to tell me that, although she thinks I'm doing a great job on the website, my spelling could use a little work. In particular, she's not happy with my spelling in Latin. Apparently, if you look up spiritutum on Google, you can find it spelled in a variety of ways, and I picked the wrong one. I told her it was a typo.

You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can't fool Mom.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Blogger Sucks

I think if you do a google search of blog titles, this will be the most popular one for today. Comments don't work. They either don't come up at all, or they magically disappear when you try to post them. Unless you get the new and improved "The blog you were looking for cannot be found" popup.

Dashboards loading incompletely. Posts with the most intelligent, insightful and witty prose you've ever written suddenly vanishing into oblivion when you click the publish button. It's aggravating. It's annoying. It's...still free!

Why do people feel they have the right to complain about things they get for free? Here, blogger has been great for several years (months for me, at any rate) giving us free websites to publish whatever gibberish floats into our consciousness and asking nothing really in return. And as soon as it starts to misbehave (presumably because we ungrateful users have overloaded, abused, and comment-spammed it to its knees) we do nothing but complain.

I think I know why. We resent it. We resent what it has done to us. We have become way to invested in it. We rely on it. We need to check our sites over and over all day to see who's leaving comments, and how many hits we're getting, and who is linking to us. We love the attention the blog life brings to us.

And just when things are really starting to pickup...they've pulled the rug out from under us. It's like they've fed us enough to get us addicted, and now suddenly we're going through withdrawal.

So, Damn you, Blogger. Damn you straight to HEEELLLLL!!! Get your stinking paws off me...wait, sorry for the Charleton Heston nonsequitor. I guess I must really be strung out.

Use a napkin why don't you!

My 3 year-old has discovered the purpose of sleeves: to wipe her nose and/or mouth. She does it all the time now. At dinner, she sits on her chair with her plate and her cup in front of her, and after every sip, she puts the cup down, and then automatically wipes her mouth on her sleeve. Even if there are 3 napkins right in front of her.

While I'm relieved that she's gotten past the stage of just leaving food undisturbed on her face, it's getting to be a hard habit to break. I've taken to staring at her as she eats, and at the precise moment she's about to wipe her face, I say, "use a napkin!" And this works sometimes. But usually the next sip it's back to square one.

Yesterday, she developed a new technique. When I said, "use a napkin," she carefully placed the napkin on her sleeve, then proceded to wipe her face with both.


Rose's Story Part XVI: There's No Place Like Home


I have to confess that I actually don't know the story from this point on, and there's almost another hour of interview left. So I'm learning this stuff right along with you guys. You'd think that with Germany defeated, Poland liberated, that the Jews' troubles would be over. There's a PC convention that the Nazis were the only thing wrong with Europe, and everyone else were victims. Maybe not...

To quote Vladek Spiegelman: "and here my troubles begin."

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Purim with Velvel

Velvel posts his Purim performance schedule.

He's in more bands than I am!

Also does a better job at ennumerating multiple acts than I do with my pathetic mailing list.

Blind leading the Blind

I've been asked by a Christian doctor acquaintance of mine to come to a church men's group meeting he is hosting to discuss Judaism. I told him I'm a doctor, not a Rabbi, dammit, but he said that's ok, they're all doctors and non-clergy too. It's informal, it's not in the church, and they promise not to try to dunk me in a river and convert me.

So what do you think? Should I go? Will I cause more harm than good? I like to think that I make a Kiddush Hashem. Hopefully this will be an occasion to do just that.


I know you're dying to find out how I'm adjusting to a gas stove. It's been a real challenge, but I'm getting used to it. We were using an electric until it died.

One thing I like--the range heats up quickly. Frying an egg took forever with the old coil range. But the fire is hot as soon as it comes out!

I'm a Doctor, but I don't play one on TV

Apparently, Blood Pressure Drugs Reduce Death(TM). I know this, not because of the 4 years of med school, 3 years of residency, and 10 years of practice, but because a patient emailed me this morning. He said he read in the paper that these "new" blood pressure pills are better than his old ones, and maybe I should switch him.

I dutifully read the article and emailed him back. He's already on one of the pills, and he's on a relative of the second pill. So I guess he'll live another day.

What would I do without the laypress? I guess I'd just be practicing good medicine, instead of playing press secretary.

Rose's Story Part XIV...

...Unexpected Guests

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Rebel Priest

I'm posting a question for a friend (really).

(Seriously, it's not me).

(No, I really mean it).

(Look, I don't have this problem, OK, get off it).


(You KNOW what! THAT look)!

Anyway, (Stop it) I have a friend who's a Cohain (Jewish Priest) and he's getting married to a divorced woman. And he was told by his Rabbi that once he does that, he can no longer duchan, or do the priestly blessing. He's not Orthodox (neither is the Rabbi).

Is this true?

Rose's Story Part XIII...The Gestapo

Divine Providence. That's all you can call it. This part of the story is just miraculous.

You can ask, well the whole ordeal is so horrific that it could only be caused by G-d, so what does a little divine providence prove?

And I won't have a good answer for you. G-d's hand is visible throughout the Holocaust. You just have to look around a little. But men are still given free will and are responsible for their own actions.

In the places where the impossible seems to happen, you have to accept the intervention of the Almighty.

Monday, March 07, 2005

The Great Time Waster

My network has been out at work all day (until just now, actually), and it's amazing how much more productive I've been! Not able to answer email, blog, or IM my wife, I've managed to clear all the 3-foot piles of charts off my desk and answer all my phone messages.

And get the high-score on Spider Solitaire!

Alas, the network is back up.

Rose's Story Part XII...

...A Train Arrives

Sunday, March 06, 2005

The Ole' Bait and Switch

At breakfast this morning, I reached for my favorite part of the Sunday paper--the Circuit City section. Actually, that's not true. My favorite part is the Best Buy section, but Circuit City is probably my second favorite. I'm in the market for a new car radio, so I was happy to see that a CD player with the features I wanted was on sale. And lookee here! It's on sale at Circuit City for $30 less than at Best Buy!

So, after my hospital rounds, I went south to the closest Circuit City, which is still well out of my way, but worth the drive for a good bargain. I walked over to the car stereo department. This was the conversation as I approached:

Actually, first they ignored me. But after a while, this was the conversation:

Me: Hi, I'm here about the car CD you have advertised in this morning--

Circuit City Moron: Yeah I'm pretty sure we don't have that one.

Me: 's ad...did you say you're out?

CCM: Yeah, pretty sure.

Me: I didn't tell you which one yet.

CCM: Which?

Me: The JVC that plays MP3s, for $139?

CCM: Yeah, we're out.

Me: When did you run out? The sale started an hour ago?

CCM: We've been out for a while. You can't go by the ads. That's a national advertisement. It has nothing to do with what's in our store.

Me: Well, your national advertisement showed up on my local front porch, and that's why I'm here.

CCM: Well, we don't have any. Maybe we'll get some in this week. Maybe not. We have some others you can look at.

Yeah, some others that are more expensive.

Well, I realized I was getting nowhere with this bozo, so I went to look for another bozo, the store manager. He was busy talking to an elderly couple. For a while. Actually I was starting to feel bad for him. From what I could tell, it sounded a lot like the kinds of discussions I have with elderly couples. But after a while, he finished and he noticed that I wanted his attention.

He probably noticed because I was staring right at him from a distance of about 3 feet. Still, it took him a while to acknowledge me. I showed him the circular, which I had just picked up off the store counter.

Store Manager Moron: Can I help you?

Me: You see this radio you have advertised? Well I drove all the way down here for it, and apparently, you didn't have any when you opened this morning.

SMM: Yeah, well that's a national ad, and we don't have anything to do with that.

Me: Yeah, well it's a national ad for your store, so you really should have something to do with it.

SMM: Well, people come down here all the time looking for stuff in the ads--

Me: Imagine that.

SMM: --and sometimes we don't have it. We can't always be responsible for what they print.

Me: Actually, I think the Attorney General of Wisconsin thinks otherwise. There's something called "Bait and Switch." I heard about it on All in the Family. It's against the law.

SMM: Hold, on, we didn't say you can't have it. We can special order it for you. It'll be here in 7-10 days.

Me: That's nice, but I won't be here in 7-10 days. I'm here now. And you advertised something in this morning's paper at a ridiculously low price that you don't have. That sounds like a scam to me. I think I'll just go across the street to Best Buy and get it there.

But I didn't. I was so sick of the whole situation that I just decided to go home. There is a place where I can file a complaint online. But I didn't actually buy anything, so I'm not sure if it's worth filling out.

I'm thinking about just going to one of those car stereo places instead. I need to start supporting the little guys more.

I don't think I'll be reading the Circuit City section anymore over Sunday breakfast. I'm already getting indigestion just thinking about it.

Friday, March 04, 2005

And this may be the one who picks out my Nursing Home...

You know, you don't always realize what you say to your kids until you hear it coming back at you from their mouths.

Last night I was eating a reheated frozen falafel ball (yes, it's as good as it sounds). It was a little...crumbly. Bits of it got cought in the back of my throat, and I started to cough, gag, and turn blue. My 3 year old walked by calmly, and without even stopping to look, chastised me with, "Awww, why don't you cover your mouf!"

This past Shabbos, my wife was walking her to Shul, when she (the wife) slipped on some ice and landed flat on her face. She got up pretty quickly, and said, "I'm ok," but apparently not quickly enough for the PT, who frowned and said, "Stop making such a fuss, will YOU? You're giving me a HEADACHE!"

Rose's Story Part XI...

...The Convent

Thursday, March 03, 2005

The Big Question

A reader (and fellow second generation survivor...and musician) writes in:

Your Mom's story is incredible...Whenever I think of our parents histories and the Hashgacha Pratit [Divine providence] that allowed them to survive the camps or (if one was fortunate as were my parents) exile to lovely Siberia or central Asia.How did they reassemble their lives and create ours after spending years dodging the bullets meant for them.If G-d forbid history were to be repeated could we do the same? As an adult battling
responsibilities in the good times we are experiencing I have a new respect for our "Greene" parents and their comrades. This of course in sharp contrast to the "embarresment" they caused us as kids...funny accents and all else that comes with them.

This is the biggest curiosity about the Holocaust for me. That they went through and survived is incredible. But almost more incredible is that despite the scars that they undoubtedly have, most of these people went on to lead brilliant, productive lives in their new countries. They just hit the ground running. It's unbelievable.

I grew up in a community that was pretty much all survivors. They had their stories, sure. But they also got involved in all the little things. They had carreers. Children. Bungalow Colonies in the summer.

This is what I find interesting about reading Spiegelman's Maus. How he intersperses the scenes of true terror with scenes of his father nit-picking him about making a mess in the living room. I find this to be oddly familiar.

So what is it about the Jews that allowed them to survive the most monstrous period in Human history without becoming professional refugees? Why don't we see this as much with other persecuted groups around the world? Does it have something to do with being in Exile for so long, that we just learned to expect it?

Rose's Story Part X--Out of the Fire...

...and into Germany

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

We Have a Winner!

Congratulations, IP address 24.41.6.# at earthlink.net! You are our Ten Thousandth Visitor!

You win a special autographed picture of me, a pair of grapefruit goggles, and a kitchen magnet with all the major holidays and candelighting times from 1997!

Please contact me at once, and be prepared to send a check or money order for $24.99 to cover shipping and handling, and we will send you your gift at some point in the next 60-90 days!

Sigh. I know it's not much to brag about, but considering this blog is about absolutely nothing, I don't think I'm doing too badly.

Spelling Polish

One interesting by-product of my project to transcribe my mother's Holocaust interview is that I get to spend more time with her on the phone discussing the details.

I'm not one for phone calls. My long-lost childhood best-friend called me the other day and we exchanged monosyllabic grunts for about 5 minutes and hung up on each other.

I don't know if my mother had this in mind at the time, but during her interview she is constantly referring to Polish streets, places and people. And to a one, I spell them all wrong. So I call her after every few pages and go over my notes with her.

She could have been in the Signal Corps. She names every letter, although for some reason, she feels the need to use unique names for the same letter. Here's a typical conversation:

Me: Mom, how do you spell Dodwauka?

Her: WHO??

Me: Dudvovku?

Her: What are you trying to say?

Me: Dzudvorku?? That lady who lived next door?

Her: OHHH...Dudwauka! Let's see....'D' as in....daydream...
'u' as in.....underwear....
'd' as in... double
'w' as in.......

Me: W.

Her: 'W' as in....

Me: Ma, nothing else sounds like 'W'.

Her: ...waterfall....'A' as in....

Me: 'A', yes I know, next letter

Her: Alpine, 'U' as in....

Me: 'underwear'--

Her: upsidedown...'k' as in...kangeroo, and 'a' as in...

Me: Yes mom, thanks, I got it--

Her: Anniversary. Did you get it?

Ruf Ruf

We had a Ruf Ruf--sorry, I mean Auf Ruf (can't get out of the habit of calling it that since my cousin made me wise to it)--in Shul this past Shabbos. This literally means "calling up." A man who is to be married in the coming week gets called up to the Torah.

Then people throw food at him. This apparently has something to do with wishing "a sweet life" for the man and his future wife. In practice, it's usually a target shoot to see who can most accurately tag the guy in the head, possibly knocking him out. It's customary for the women to lob the peckls over the mechitza, without seeing, kinda like throwing a grenade into an enemy-infested bunker. Lately, some of the kids (and adults) have grabbed the ones that miss the target, and then try to hit him from close range.

In my day (do I sound old!) they used to pack the little peckls with nuts, rock candy and possibly small stones. In fact, for my Auf Ruf, my mother-in-law supplied me with a batter's helmet. This week, they just threw little soft gel candies. They didn't even make any noise when they landed smack dab in the middle of the Sefer Torah! What good is that?

I was complaining to the guy sitting next to me about how we had gotten all soft, when a nice size peckl zinged the old man in front of me right in the noggin.

Well, I guess he was glad it was soft. At least I didn't have to do CPR.