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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The Bat-Utility Belt

I'm this close to ordering a PDA. There's really no excuse for me not to have one by now. I'm horribly disorganized. I have contacts littered across 3 different computers in two different locations. I have business cards on my nightstand, dresser, my wife's dresser, my son's dresser, in kitchen drawers, stuffed in my George Costanza-sized wallet, and in 3 of my desk drawers at work. I have separate secular and Jewish Calendars hanging from my wall in my office (one covering the other), and I usually miss important meetings because I never bother to look at either. I've always been gadget oriented and technically saavy, so you'd think that by now I'd have one. My wife has a Dell Axim and she loves it. She runs her Jewish Aerobics class off of the MP3's she has stored on it.

There's only one thing that's keeping me from ordering one. The Bat-Utility Belt (BUB). I don't think I can put one more thing on it. Take yesterday, for example. Yesterday, I had my cell phone, my pager, and my digital camera on my BUB. But I also had a heavy key-ring in my right pocket, which has not only my house and garage keys, but also my car keys, my wife's car keys, her remote alarm key, and the remote garage opener (net weight: 2.5 lbs). Add to all that my previously mentioned George Costanza wallet (containing movie stubs from the last 3 movies I've seen and a healthy collection of guitar picks), and it's a miracle of science that my pants don't fall down.

So I can be forgiven for a certain degree of trepidation when contemplating the addition of yet one more device. This may be the straw that breaks the proverbial camel's back, or the block that destroys the proverbial Jenga stack, or the tap that breaks the don't-break-the-ice, or...well you get the picture.

You think they make a PDA with built in shark-repellant?

Monday, May 30, 2005

Happy Birthday PT!

Today the psychotoddler turns 4! So technically, she is no longer a psychotoddler. But I'm not going to change the name of this blog because psychopreschooler just doesn't have the same ring to it.

Anyway, in honor of this auspicious occasion, I give you a free ding dong joke.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Anakin Corleone

Having sat through Star Wars Episode III twice now (don't ask), I've had a little time to gather my thoughts on the film. I enjoyed it, but I don't think it accomplished what it was supposed to. It's not a bad film by any means. I think the artists that Lucas has surrounded himself with are the most talented and creative people in the industry. The atmosphere was incredible, particularly the night scenes on Coruscant. Although the generic city/beach/lava planets were less interesting than the brief glimpses we get of the truly alien worlds on which various nameless Jedi meet their demise. Here we see areas where it seems the artists were allowed to indulge themselves, possibly without much direction from Lucas, and I think that says something important about this trilogy.

Because beneath the incredible special effects, costumes, and John Williams soundtrack, is the story by Lucas, and it's not very good. These 3 movies were supposed to be about one thing: the metamorphosis of a good person into a bad person, and at the end of this third film, I still have no idea what turned Anakin Skywalker into Darth Vader. I don't want to ruin the film for anyone who hasn't seen it, but the transition is very abrupt. One second he's questioning whether he made the wrong choice, trusted the wrong person, and the next he's swearing allegiance to the Emperor, someone whom he thought was good, but then found out was bad. Is it possible? I suppose. But it makes no sense in the way it was presented.

On the way home from the theater, my wife brought up The Godfather. I think she's right on with the analogy. George should have spent a few hours watching The Godfather prior to penning this trilogy. Because that's how this type of story is done.

Anakin is no different than Michael Corleone. Michael is a rebel, a free spirit, someone who distrusts and hates the system and vows never to become part of it. He wants an end to violence, corruption, dishonesty. And yet we watch over the course of the next 2 hours how he is unable to escape his destiny. In the end, he becomes more ruthless and violent than the father whose path he tried to avoid. And we, the audience, totally buy into it. We understand it. We are sad for Michael, sure, and we wish that we could have found an alternate path for him. But by the end of the movie, we are all convinced that his transformation was inevitable.

What disappoints me about Star Wars is that all of the extra characters, the misdirection, the impossible to follow political maneuvering and plot lines, could have been jettisoned for a believable story which would have had more impact and truly answered the question of how a good man can become evil. Sadly, Lucas could have used a little help from his old friend Coppola.

Can You Hear the Bass?

In response to a request to hear the new bass, I'm posting Jonah and the Whale. This is a Moshe Skier Band cover of a Shlock Rock parody of a Brian Setzer cover of some other song. I think. Anyway, I recorded it as part of the rehearsal on 3/20/05, but I flubbed a couple of notes on the bass on the original take, so I took this opportunity to go back and rerecord the bass line, but with the new P-Bass.

Question is, can you tell which is the bass?

Different Perspectives

I went to see Star Wars last night with my wife and 15 year-old son. As we entered the theater, I wanted to sit up front, but my wife prevailed upon me to sit more in the middle. My son got up and sat way in the back. He said he had a better view from up there.

Maybe this reflects how much things have changed in the movie business. To me, movies are meant to be seen in theatres, on huge screens that stretch farther than the eye can see. You need to sit up close and get swallowed up by the picture, until it is all that you can see, and you feel like you're inside the movie.

My son, on the other hand, has seen the vast majority of his movies on small television screens. He's used to being able to take in the whole picture in one glance. This is compounded by my proclivity to buy only widescreen versions of films, again, to capture the cinematic feel of the films, but which ends up making the picture even smaller on a TV. My son can't relate to a huge movie screen where he would have to turn his head to follow the action.

I wonder if it has any other significance?

Friday, May 27, 2005

Tone Shift

Reviewing my posts over the past 9 months or so, I see a definite shift in the tone of this blog. I spent a lot of time writing fairly chareidiphobic posts. I still do, but it's not as often and the volume is definitely turned down. I wonder if I just needed to get something off my chest and now it's gone? Or maybe it'll flare up again when we get closer to the High Holidays.

Also there was a lot more ranting going on, and now it's more of a dialogue. But back then, I think only Velvel, Mochassid, and Adam Ragil were reading me.

Don't worry. There's still no agenda for this blog. Whatever seems to interest me will end up here. I'm planning some more autobiographical stuff and some more introspection.

Boy, that sounded borrrrrrrring. I'm getting old.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Third Bass

Disclaimer: This post may have “selective appeal.” I realize that it may be like one of those posts where people put up pictures of their cats. If that sort of thing bores you, go back to psychotoddler 102 and find something good to read.

I bought a Fender Precision Bass yesterday. In the words of Darth Vader, “The circle is now complete.” My first bass was a Fender Squire Bullet, basically a really cheap P-bass knockoff. But I haven't played a Fender in 20 years. Yesterday, that changed.


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The story of how I came to be a bass player is very un-original. It's been lifted from many, if not all, of the great rock bass players of the ‘60s and ‘70s. But to summarize: I was the second best guitar player in a two-guitar-player band. We decided that it would be better to have one less second-best guitar player and one more bass player. So I went out and bought a cheap one at Manny’s. It was a candy-red job with a smooth neck that played like butteh. It weighed a ton. It got stolen out of my car when I was on a date at Kosher Delight. So I won’t count that as bass #1.


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Bass #1 is the white Quest Manhattan. I bought that a few days after the Bullet got stolen, because it happened that I had been scheduled for my first ever studio recording when the theft occurred. So I ran back to 48th Street and played through all the basses I could find in the $300 range, and fell in love with the Quest. I had never heard of that brand, but it felt good and sounded great. I’ve played this bass for 20 years now. I’ve traveled around the world with it. It’s been on 30 or more recordings. It’s been in music videos. I have no compelling reason to replace it. Except that when I play in front of real musicians, I get funny looks. “Quest? Never heard of it.” Or, “Quest? Didn’t they go out of business in the 90’s?”


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Second Bass is a Washburn AB-20 Acoustic Bass. This came to me through hashgacha protis, divine intervention. I was not in the market for a new bass. However, at the time, I was taking my kids for piano lessons at the now defunct Mars Music in Brown Deer. I’d spend an hour in the acoustic guitar room every week while they played. I fell in love with the acoustic basses. They were all priced out of my range. But I fantasized about having one, maybe playing a kumzitz somewhere with a few guys on acoustic guitars and me on this bass, no amplifier. A pipe dream, really.

One day, a chossid came up to me and said, “I hear you play bass. Are you interested in an acoustic bass?” I don’t know where he heard about that. But I went over to his apartment, and sure enough, he had a beautiful acoustic bass. He told me he didn’t want it anymore. Too many bad memories about what he was like before he frummed out. He was trying to sever the old associations. At the time, I told him that I wasn’t in the market for a new bass, and I couldn’t afford to pay him what it was worth, and that he should just keep it himself. “Use it to play for your children. Write some Jewish music for it.” He was insistent that I at least borrow it for a while. So I brought it home and played it. I used it for a bass line on my lullaby.

A few weeks later, he told me that he really needed money. The Bostoner Rebbe, who had made him frum, was ill and needed someone to help him at home. The chossid, who was working in a nursing home at the time, wanted money for a plane ticket to Boston. I took this as my "sign from above" that I should buy this thing, and I wrote him a check. I used it in concert here. The bass does have some problems with the pickup, specifically that occasionally it stops picking up notes that I play on the bottom two strings. I’ve been told that it would take a few hundred dollars to fix it.


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Third bass is the new Fender P-bass. Again, I have not been in the market for a new bass. But I have always secretly thought it would be nice to have a P-bass. You can’t really be a rock bass-player without a P-bass. Whatever other instrument you play, somewhere in the collection there has to be a P-bass. It’s a rule. I’ve been told this over and over. Sure, I’ve fantasized about other basses, like a fretless bass or a 5 string, but I’ve never seriously thought about buying one of those, and I would probably never use them in concert. It’s hard enough playing a fretted bass and singing on key. Imagine trying that with a fretless! But a P-bass? Sure, I figured, maybe when the kids are out of the house. Still, week after week, I’ve been hanging out at the music store where daughter #2 gets her piano lessons. Most of the basses there are crap, and so there has been little temptation. Each one I’ve played reminded me of how lucky I was to have found the Quest in ’85.

Then last week, I walked over to Steve and said, “What’s new?” And he said, “That P-bass.” I took it off the wall. I don’t know how it ended up in their possession. It was quite unlike any of the other beginner instruments in the store. It was a used P-bass with a 1973 neck bolted on to a 1978 body. A few holes from where the string guards were removed (always hated those things anyway). A nick or two here and there. I plugged it in and tried it out. I was instantly in love. Such a feel! Such a sound! For the first time in 20 years, I was playing something that actually felt better than the Quest! It was as if I had found a precious jewel in a mountain of rubbish. I knew it wouldn’t last long. Someone would snatch it up soon. My only consolation was the knowledge that most of people who bought instruments here wouldn’t know a good instrument from a bad one, and would assume that a new bass is better than a 32 year old one.

I decided to give myself a week. During this time I secretly hoped that someone else would buy the thing and spare me the decision. But yesterday when I brought my daughter in, it was still on the wall, and still played as sweet. I called my wife and tried to explain it to her. 18 years of marriage seems to have resulted in some sympathy for me. To her credit, she told me to go for it if I could talk down the price. In return for which I would probably be paying for a shaitel that can walk and talk on it’s own. Hey, life is about give and take, no?

So now it’s in the bass-ment. I fired up a few CD’s to try it out. First a little Rush. Then some Elvis Costello. But it was really amazing when I started Pink Floyd’s “Money” and I couldn’t tell if the bass riff was coming from my amp or the stereo speakers. You really can tell a P-bass when you hear one.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Stuck

Sunday I spanked the PT. I can’t remember the last time I hit her, if ever. Certainly, I can think of many times when I’ve wanted to spank her, and there have been numerous times when she has deserved it. But I’ve never been much for corporal punishment. I’ve had much more luck with the carrot than the stick. Yet this kid has really been testing me. A few weeks ago, she was going through a stretch where she would wake up every night, around 3am, and start whining and crying. She wanted something, but wasn’t sure what. Nobody could help her. I’d wake up and hear her moaning, “Someboddddyyyyy…..” And then when her roommate, my older daughter, would get up to find out what she wanted, she’d say, “NOT YOU!” And then a few seconds later we’d hear, “Somebody elsssssssse….”

After about 3 or 4 nights of this I finally had it and got up to give her a potch. I counted to three (which usually works for me), but it wasn’t getting me anywhere that night. I picked her up and put her across my lap, then pulled down her pajamas. By this time my wife was standing over us with a look that said, “now what are you going to do, Hot-shot?” I looked down at her squirming on my lap with her little tush facing up at me and I started to laugh. I pulled up her pants and put her back in bed. My wife told her how lucky she was and how she’d better go back to sleep or else I really was going to give it to her. I don’t know what happened after that. The fatigue overwhelmed me and I got back to sleep somehow. After a few days, the PT tired of this routine and resumed sleeping through the night.

Lately she’s been getting what my wife refers to as “stuck”. She fixates on something and can’t get past it. It may be that she requires a certain response in order to continue with her routine. For example, the response to the question, “Is this my yogurt” is “yes”. A nod, or “uh-huh” or “yep” won’t do it, and she’ll repeat the question until she gets a “yes.” And it has to be from the correct person. If she asks my wife something and I respond, she gets upset. Sunday she got into a downward spiral from the moment she woke up. She kvetched all morning about this and that and refused to do anything she was told. She wouldn’t get dressed, go to the bathroom, come downstairs or brush her teeth. My wife struggled with her to get all of these things done, and finally we did manage to get everything but the teeth accomplished. Then it was time to go to the Nursing Home to visit her great-grandparents.

Halfway there she remembered that she had not brushed her teeth, and demanded that we turn the car around and take her back home. When it was clear that this was not going to occur, she started crying again. She continued until we got into the parking structure. Her wailing echoed through the structure, and this seemed to intensify her resolve. I realized we weren’t going to be able to take her upstairs like this. I sent my wife and the other kids on ahead and I stayed behind with the PT. Then I did something stupid.

I tried to reason with her. That just made her ANGRY. She wanted me to pick her up. I told her not if she was crying. She’d stop. I’d pick her up. She’d resume crying. I’d put her down. Rinse. Repeat. I managed to get her to the underground elevators. I told her there’s no way she was going upstairs unless she was quiet. She’d stop for a few seconds, but would continue if we started moving. I couldn’t get her past this. She was still stuck on not brushing her teeth. Finally I just turned her over and gave her a quick zetz on the tuchas. This must have startled her. She stopped crying. I’m sure it didn’t hurt. She had plenty of padding down there. I think that she never expected me to go through with it. After that we were able to talk about her crying and what we could to make her stop.

I'm very worried about her, and in particular, about our upcoming cross-country trip to New York. I can't take her out in public like this, and I don't want to get into a routine of physically punishing her, because I know that ultimately it will stop being effective. Her 4th birthday is coming up, and we've been trying to focus on this being a transition for her. When she turns four, she'll be too big to whine, that sort of thing. My wife gave her a "map" to show her how she can get around the part where she gets stuck. "See, when you're stuck, go down the other road." It seems to help. It's a map of Altoona, but the PT doesn't have to know that.

You'd think that after six kids, this would be easier. I may need to take a closer look at that "map". Sometimes I get lost myself.

Autoimmune Judaism

Hocker, Brainiac, and all-around good-guy Dilbert has a fascinating series of posts over at House of Hock on the current battles going on within Orthodox Judaism, and how this syndrome may have been unleashed as a response to the Reform Movement 150 years ago.

Read Parts 1 2 3

Help Wanted

I've been receiving requests for lyric sheets for the songs on my website, here and here. I'm looking for someone to transcribe the songs, both in Hebrew with appropriate punctuation, citing sources, and in English, and if possible with English transliteration. Most of the songs aren't long and come from the Siddur or Tehilim anyway. I'd be posting this online, so it would need to be browser friendly. Pay is Gornisht. Which is about what I make on my music. Must be able to tolerate my singing for long periods of time. Warning: May induce nausea or violent behavior.

If you're interested you can comment here or email me.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

You never can tell what some people will buy...

Having an MD behind my name definitely has its perks. For example, I don't have to buy my drug rep tchochkes online:

Xanax Pen

Seroquel Brain

Ebay search for "Drug Rep"

--thanks to Becky

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Clip Show

I think I need to do a clip show. Because I've noticed that there are some new readers here who probably have not seen my better side and may want some direction when wading through all the crap that I've written over the past 6 months since my last clip show (see psychotoddler 101). Not that this is the clip show. This is just me saying that I should probably do one. I mean, this isn't even a post that says I will do one, just a post that asks maybe I should do one. Well, not really asking. It's more of a rhetorical statement. So...basically I haven't said anything at all with this post. So, really, there's no good reason for you to read it, because so far there hasn't been anything of even remotely redeeming value here. I guess you're probably kicking yourself for having read this far. When you could have been doing something more productive, like, I don't know, picking lint out of your belly button. Although maybe you can do that while you read this. All I can say is, if you want consistently good material, you really are in the wrong place here.

I see you're still reading this. Well, there's no accounting for taste. Let's see, I should probably come up with something to say here...I was on call this weekend. That sucked big time. What else? My neices and nephews from Florida (is it Flah-rida or Flore-ida?) were here and they're pretty cute and tan. And it's good to see that Chofetz Chaim was unsucessful in purging the Star Wars trait from my brother-in-law, so there's hope for my boys after all. Oh, and for all of you who were afraid my previous post would attract all kinds of weirdos to the site, I'm happy to report that according to Sitemeter.com, I'm not being visited by any more perverts than usual. The vast majority of Google searches that bring new people here are related to MatisNOSPAMyahu and "I find your lack of faith disturbing." Actually, I find that disturbing.

sigh

I think I need to do a clip show.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Statin Wars Episode II: Revenge of the Zocor!

The cholesterol tchochke wars continue! First salvo was by Vytorin, with a wireless ball mouse. Today, the Zocor rep was in, with a huge box, which she said contains a Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease brochure, carb counting guide, a postcard for a free cookbook, the ABC's of diabetes pen (?!), teaching tool, blah blah blah--OK THANK YOU FOR STOPPING BY IT'S BEEN GREAT--Wait wait doctor! It also contains a mini wireless optical mouse.

Well why didn't you say so in the FIRST PLACE?? I took the box (which is about the size and weight of a PDR) and brought it back to my office, seeking to replace my newly acquired wireless but not ball-less mouse with a ball-free optical model.

Unfortunately, when they say mini-mouse, they mean mini-mouse. This thing is a good size for a toddler, not a grown-up. I can't use it at all. So I have to award this round to Vytorin.

Here's the confusing part: Vytorin and Zocor are both made and marketed by Merck. Why are they spending all this money to compete with themselves?

Anyway, I can't wait for Episode III. I'm hoping for a Lipitor PDA.

A Great Listener

Truly one of the most interesting and insightful people I have come across in the blogosphere, Shira dedicated her 103rd post to a critique of my music! This is quite a refreshing change from the usual reviews I receive which are generally along the lines of "You rock!" or "You suck!" or "You're too LOUD!!!!"

She has a discriminating ear (hopefully still intact despite listening to about 50 of my songs). Reminds me of why I like to perform--because there may actually be some people who like what I do! And you can tell she's obviously well-versed in the construction of music and deconstruction of bands. Musicians often forget that there is a second half to the performer--the listener.

It also reminds me of what I love about the blogosphere. Without it I would never have come into contact with the likes of Shira, and most likely my music would be sitting in boxes in my basement. It's interesting that, although I've been playing in bands for more than 20 years, this email exchange with Shira has been one of the first serious discussions of my music that I've ever had.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Pizza and Star Wars

I first heard of Star Wars when I was 10 and sick. I don’t remember what it was that I had. Being sick at the age of 10 meant a day off from school, spent lying in my father’s bed reading comic books. On that day, my father had bought for me a comic from the newsstand across the street. It was Issue #1 of Marvel Comics’ Star Wars. It looked like the dumbest story I had ever seen.

I was into Science Fiction by then. I had already moved past Star Trek, which I thought was too "smoochy," and into Space: 1999, with it’s "realistic" depiction of a base on the Earth’s moon, which just happened to be traveling through space at many times the speed of light due to an unfortunate space garbage accident.


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Then there was this Star Wars comic book. It was all wrong. To be fair to the artists, it was pretty clear that at the time they drew this first issue, they had not seen so much as a single frame of movie footage. Witness the green Vader on the cover. They seemed to be working off of the script alone, with maybe a few conceptual drawings for guidance. Of course, I didn’t even know there was a film version coming. This was all I had. And it looked ridiculous. Everybody was shouting, like they did in all comic books at that time. Every sentence was in ALL CAPS, AND ENDED WITH AN EXCLAMATION POINT! It looked like it was a story about robots fighting robots. White robots fighting gold robots. Explosions everywhere. Characters with names like "Artoo" and "Darth". No reference to Earth, or the Federation, or anything even remotely familiar. The only human I could see was a kid (!) wearing a Karate suit. It seemed a throwback to the old Flash Gordon comics from the 30s. Exactly the wrong direction from the hyper-realism of 2001 or Space: 1999. I put it down and moved quickly to the Spiderman comic.

By the time Star Wars was released to theaters, I had already been fed a steady stream of hype about the movie. I had read enticing articles in Dynomite! Magazine, and had seen amazing looking stills in Starlog. It looked nothing like the Comic. I was dying to see the film. It opened in one or two theaters in Manhattan, and there was nothing to do but wait for it to hit Queens. Several months (it seemed) later, it came to the Austin Theater in Forest Hills.

Being an August baby meant never having a birthday party in school, and my friends were usually in sleep-away camps over the summer. So it was a real treat when my Mom told me that she was inviting over one of my friends for pizza and Star Wars. We went out to eat, and then got to the theater about an hour before it opened to stand in line. We were the first ones.

When the theater opened, we ran all the way down to the front row. This was in the days when there were only one or two screens in the theater, and they were HUGE. Maybe 20-30 feet tall. We craned our necks backwards and waited for the show to begin. The lights dimmed, the Twentieth-Century Fox logo came on and then….BANG! John Williams' bombastic score accompanied the blinding yellow light of the words "Star Wars" as they exploded onto the screen and then quickly receded into space. Then the opening crawl, and then…we were moving. The camera panned down to an enormous planet. The most realistic looking planet I had ever seen on the screen. Tan desert and a blue band of atmosphere. Two moons. So beautiful and serene.

And then something flew over our shoulders very quickly. It looked like a bunch of flashlights shining in our eyes, but laser bolts were shooting out of it. It got very small very quickly. Then something much larger started pouring onto the screen, directly over our heads. It got bigger and bigger. It just kept coming. From that first row, it seemed to go on forever…

It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. When the movie finally ended, we tried to convince my Mom to let us go back in and see it again. It was like an incredible roller coaster ride. The genie had been let out of the bottle, and would never go back in again. For the next year, every birthday party my classmates had was "pizza and Star Wars."

I can never be 11 years old again. But thanks to Star Wars, I will never forget what it was like.

The Space Program

I'm one of those people who has to do something when he eats. I can't just sit and eat. I have to watch TV or read. Just the way I am, I guess. I'll read the side of the cereal box if nothing else is available.

Usually at work I read one of the magazines from the waiting room. I try to get Time or Motor Trend or something serious. Today we didn't seem to have anything like that readily available, so my receptionist pushed People across the table to me. Reluctantly, I decided to page through it as I ate my reheated-shelf-stable meatballs and spaghetti.

About halfway through, we both decided that someone needs to shoot Paris Hilton and Britney Spears off into space. I know it would entail a whole new national or even international Space Program, but in our opinion it would be worth every dollar invested.

Finally, a Decent Tchotchke!

The days of crappy drug tchotchkes may finally be over! Yesterday, the Vytorin rep (who is very purdy) brought me a couple of wireless mouses. Er, mice. They have balls, but whaddaya want for nothing. This week, everyone gets Vytorin! (Just kidding).

BTW, the mice have the balls, not the drug reps. Just wanted that to be clear.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Star Wars Criticism

The internet is plastered with opinions on Star Wars one way or the other. Often I see negative criticism rebutted with something along the lines of: "You have no right to criticize George Lucas. It's his movie and he can make it any way he pleases. If you don't like it, don't see it."

I'm sorry, but I think I DO have a right to criticize Star Wars. By my accounting, I own quite a bit of the franchise. Between movie tickets to all of the movies, including I believe 12 showings in 1977-78, and the RE-releases in the late nineties; VHS tapes (two or three times); DVDs; Books; Comic Books; Roleplaying games; Computer games; Video games; action figures (old Kenner AND new Kenner); Models; Games (Star Wars Monopoly anyone? First Trilogy or Second?); Breakfast cereals; Trading cards (all the series); Toy lightsabers, and various things broken by toy lightsabers; and many many many other Star Wars related tchochkes, I have invested THOUSANDS of dollars into George Lucas' pockets. The equivalent of a small car, maybe.

If I had just purchased a small car, and found it to be a lemon, I think I'd be within my rights to complain. Of course, I will withhold judgment on the series as a whole until I see the final (middle) episode. I hope I made a wise investment.

Mrs. Balabusta Strikes Back!

She doesn't like this post.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Radiostationversuche, Bewertungen zu kaufen!

Last week we got a call to participate in the Arbitron ratings for local radio stations. Yesterday morning I got a call from a radio station that I never listen to, telling me that if I listen at certain times during this week, they may announce my name on the air and I'll win $1000.

Etwas ist im Zustand von Wisconsin smelly.

Graeberschaendung auf bundesdeutsche Anordnung

For some reason, over the past few days I've been inundated by German spam. I'm getting subject headings like:

Blutige Selbstjustiz
Du wirst ausspioniert ....!
Vorbildliche Aktion
Auslaender bevorzugt (this one is popular)
Massenhafter Steuerbetrug durch auslaendische Arbeitnehmer

Does anyone know what this means? I am not visiting any German sites. And all this predates my post from Sunday.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

The Goatface Club

Look, this is Goatface. I have a goat for a face.

Wait, that's not what I wanted to type...

Let me start over.

Look, I hate chain letters. Or chain emails. I never respond to them or forward them. This is no doubt why I have never had any true success in life. Well, all that is about to change. Because now, I have been tagged by Goatface. I'm sorry, I mean Chaim. Yes that's it. Too many internet cartoons have been affecting my attention span. Where was I? Oh yes, Chaim. Chaim sent me this email and challenged me to perpetuate the Goatface club...

OK, look, here's the deal. I have to pick five of the following, then send a challenge out to 3 other bloggers, etc etc etc and so on and so on and so on.

So before I forget what I was going to do, here's the Goatface club:


If I could be a scientist...If I could be a farmer...If I could be a
musician...If I could be a doctor...If I could be a painter...If I could be a gardener...If I could be a missionary...If I could be a chef...If I could be an architect...If I could be a linguist...If I could be a psychologist...If I could be a librarian...If I could be an athlete...If I could be a lawyer...If I could be an inn-keeper...If I could be a professor...If I could be a writer...If I could be a llama-rider...If I could be a bonnie pirate...If I could be an astronaut...If I could be a world famous blogger...If I could be a justice on any one court in the world...If I could be married to any current famous political figure...(added by Tamara) If I could be a rabbi...



1. If I could be a painter...I would paint my house green. Because that's the color the PT told me to paint it. Also, I would first strip the old paint, then leave the exposed wood out during the entire summer, because I would not return to finish the job until it was winter. By then it would be too cold. Meanwhile, I would sit in front of the public library downtown and drink beer.

2. If I could be a lawyer...I would constantly ask people questions like, "and your 21 year old son, how old is he?"

3. If I could be an inn-keeper...I would serve only the best grog, and I would bring it 'round to the painter in front of the library. And I would advise people never to pay the ferry man. Don't even fix a price!

4. If I could be a writer, I would definitely write more interesting drivel than this.

e. If I could be an astronaut...I would get fired for sure, because I would be constantly davening shachris mincha maariv shachris mincha maariv...

And now for the challlllllllennnggggeeeee!!!!!!

I dare the following to break the chain...

Wickwire
Laya
Doctor Beannnnnnnnn.....muahhahahahahaaa

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Thursday, May 12, 2005

Moish

Mark.

Mark Mark.

Mark Mark Mark Mark Mark Mark Mark.

My name is Mark. It is the name I was brought up with. It is the name I am most likely to respond to. If you yell "Mark!" from across the street, I will almost certainly turn around (also if you yell "hey you", "stupid", or "eh, Steve!").

I know that Mark is a Christian name. It was also the name of my Mother's ex-boyfriend (and I have a daughter named after an ex-girlfriend). It was also a very popular name for any Jewish boy born during the '60s whose Hebrew name started with an "m" sound. Back in the day when you had to have an English name or you'd get picked on. Because, y'know, Irving is much less Jewish-sounding than Yisroel. So I had two names.

Of course, I had no idea that I had a second, Jewish name, until Moish told me. My earliest exposure to true Judaism came from Moish. As a toddler, Saturdays meant lunch with Moish and his wife, Boba. They lived a block away, and they were my mother's uncle and aunt. They were Orthodox, and we were not. So on Saturday afternoons, we went over to Moishe's house for cholent. We did this for years. We'd go over and eat white fish, then cholent. And then I'd go home and watch TV.

His name wasn't actually Moish. I gave him that name. My mother and aunt like to tell me that I was a bit of a brat. The kind of kid who throws himself to the ground and cries in the middle of a parking lot. Or hides in clothing racks at the department store. Or who wakes up his parents at 3 am demanding "TD time!" I can't imagine what it would be like to live with a psychotoddler like that.

One day Moish, whose name was actually David, told me that my name wasn't really Mark. He told me this in his thick, Galicianishe accent, which I frequently told him was "wrong" because he said "boorich" instead of "baruch." Uncle David took me on his lap, and said, "Your name isn't really Mark. It's Moish!"

I was appalled! Moish?? MOISH?? Why, that's just one letter away from moosh! No one was going to get away with calling me Moish, or Mooshy, or Moishele or any other weird sounding name. "YOU'RE MOISH!!" I yelled back at him.

And it stuck. The whole family called him Moish until he died prematurely of Parkinson's Disease. So I always remember him as Moish.

Years later, when we began having children, we decided to avoid this duality and give them only one name. Their names are their identities. They are Jewish Americans. Strangely, some of their names are showing up now on lists of the most popular secular names. The world turns.

Here is a picture of Moish. He's the one on the right.

Loser Post

Jack has a running debate on his site about whether Star Wars or The Lord of the Rings has had a bigger impact on western culture. It's worth checking out and adding your own opinion. Just be aware: Backwards Jack's comments are.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Bug in Mouth Disease

Sir or Madam: Do you need Medical Resistance?

Sound (asleep) Advice

I had another one of my kooky dreams last night (not sure when; sometime between admission #2 and #3):

I was counseling one of the more prominent members of my community on his video game and blog addictions. Setting aside the fact that he is very unlikely to have these addictions in real life (at least the video games), and that it's most likely some projection on myself, and who knows why I chose this particular guy, I don't think the advice I gave was too shabby.

For the video games, I told him to pick definite start and stop times for when he plays, and to stop exactly at the right time. If he can't handle that, he should not play at all.

For the blog addiction, I advised not looking at or composing any blogs until he answers all his email and does all of the work that he's supposed to do on his computer first. Once you start reading even one blog, it's very hard to get any work done.

And it goes without saying, as with all of the advice that I dispense, whether when I'm awake or asleep, I have no intention of following any of it myself.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Cincinnati Waits for You

I had an interesting lunch today with a drug rep who recounted his recent trip to Italy, including Rome and Florence. My partner countered with his golf trip to Scotland. And me?

I'm planning my upcoming road trip to Queens. Usually we drive down I-80 through Cleveland and Youngstown. But to spice things up this year we're considering a detour through Indianapolis and Cincinnati.

To tell you the truth, I found this whole conversation to be very depressing. I would love to go to Europe. Or Hawaii. Or South America. Or anyplace that doesn't have a K-Mart and a Piggly-Wiggly every few blocks.

I'm just looking at my reality and I don't see it happening any time soon. Between tuition, kashrut, and the expense of travelling with a family of eight, there doesn't seem to be any solution in sight. For a few weeks I entertained the thought of taking the family to Israel this year. To the extent that I actually renewed my passport. That was before the high school sent me a bill for $15,000 for each of my boys for next year. And before Yeshiva University informed me that tuition and room and board will be $34,000 for next year, and by the way, don't expect financial aid for children of physicians, regardless of where they fall on the income scale.

Of course, my wife and I considered just traveling somewhere alone. But although most of my kids are pretty good, the PT is really not ready to be left somewhere. And besides, I'd really like to be able to show them something nice for a change, not just the neverending concrete jungle that passes for Middle America. Although some of the mystique is lost when you have to travel the world with a backpack full of tuna and salami sandwiches.

Is it too early for my midlife crisis?

Friday, May 06, 2005

Potty Humor

Here's a transcript of the conversation I had with the psychotoddler while she was in the bathroom yesterday:

PT: Ding-dong
Me: Who is it?
PT: No, say 'who's there'!
Me: Who's there?
PT: Wettuce.
Me: Lettuce who?
PT: Wettuce in, it's cold out here ahahahahaha Ding-dong!
Me: Uh...who's there?
PT: Wettuce!
Me: I think you just told this one.
PT: No, say 'wettuce WHO'!
Me: I already know this one.
PT: WEEETTTUCCCEEE WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!
Me: Lettuce who?
PT: WETTUCE IN IT'S COLD OUT HERE AHAHAHAHAHAH NOW YOU TELL ONE!
Me: I don't know any 'ding-dong' jokes.
PT: Yes you do! You know the 'wettuce' one!

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Eine Kleine Nachtmusik

In case you were wondering, my oldest daughter and I are not the only ones in the family with musical talent. My youngest, the "psychotoddler" seems to have much potential as well.

Last night, she serenaded us with a selection of her current works during dinner, while accompanying herself on piano. We were in the kitchen, but she made sure to both play and sing as loudly as possible so we could hear her from the living room.

I'd have to call her work somewhat uneven. While some pieces, like "Spaghetti for Lunch" evoked a certain whimsical lightness, others, like "Banana in the Toilet" (in E minor, I believe), were more inscrutable.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Movie Minhag

OK, so here's a stupid question:

Is it OK to go to the movies during Sefirah?

Sefirah refers to the period of time between the Jewish Holidays of Passover and Shavuot (Pentecost). During this time the Torah commands us to count every day. You can read about it here, amongst many other places. For 33 days during this period, Jews also observe a period of mourning. This is to commemorate the 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva (the Rabbi Akiva of "Love thy brother as thyself" fame) who died during this period of time. Here is an excellent article on that.

Mourning includes avoidance of excessive "joy", shaving, and live music. People have different minhagim, or customs, regarding how to interpret this. Such as whether only live music is to be avoided, or also recorded forms. Modern technology has to be squeezed into older traditions.

Which brings me to the question my son asked me. He's very excited about Star Wars: Episode III. I can't imagine why. Everyone knows the series peaked with Episode V and has been mostly downhill since then. But that's a matter for eternal debate amongst the uber-geeks who know of such things. The problem is that according to everyone, the movie comes out during that period of Sefirah when the laws of mourning are in place. So he asked if he could see the movie.

I gave him the answer I was given when I was his age: You don't go to movies during Sefirah. Why not, he wanted to know. Well...er...you see... I don't know exactly. That's what I was told. It's not a concert, although there's music. It's not a party, although there are a lot of people in one room. So why shouldn't he go?

In trying to get an answer, I've come up against the same problem I usually have in these situations. I don't know who to ask. I'm reminded of a friend who asked a big Rabbi whether it was better to take off his Yarmulke when he went to see a rock concert. He was told it was better not to see the rock concert. Most of the answers I find are of the "it's no more forbidden than during the rest of the year" variety, which is an offhand way of saying you're a big heretic if you need to ask this question. And so I feel. And yet, I remember many occasions when I'd bump into a local rabbi at the movies. Granted, movies were different in those days. But we are talking about Star Wars here.

I guess that's the crux of my problem. I suppose if any of "those" rabbis were still around, I would have someone to ask. But it seems that I've missed the bus. The bus which has been carrying the rest of Orthodox Judaism farther to the right, to the point where it's never OK to see a movie. And here I am at the corner, not going anywhere, with my ticket in hand. So for a lot of these issues that actually affect me and my family, I really have no source of guidance. It's like, "If you care about the laws of Sefirah, then you're not the type of person who goes to movies, and if you're the kind of person who goes to movies, then obviously the laws of Sefirah are meaningless to you." So there's no context in which this question makes sense anymore.

I suppose I could do one of several things: I could wait a week or two, and then the laws of mourning are over. That's avoiding the question. Or I could tell him it's OK, since I can't find any good reason to say no. Or I could tell him it's better not to go, since maybe discretion is the better part of valor. Or I could get on the bus and stop watching movies altogether.

Or I could post this stupid question on a blog, and hope for an intelligent response.