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Friday, March 31, 2006

And Now a Word from Sean Connery

Thish is Sean Connery. I writing here to reshpond to commentsh thot whar made on a radio programme thot wazh broadcasht lasht night on WYUR, the sho-called "Isle of Manhattan." Parenthetically, I've travelled up and down the coasht of Scotland, and I've never sheen an "Isle of Manhattan." But that jusht goezh ta show yew the short of wild inaccurashy you cahn exshpect on thot shew.

On the broadcasht lost night, the hosht, one alias "Fudge," and her gang of irreshponsible lads, made sheveral shcandalous shtatements aboot my carrrreer, and I feel the need to shet the record shtrait:

Firsht of all, they dishplayed a complete ignorance of my heritage when they ashked me to sing that Russian song from "The Hunt for Red October." (Notish that I didn't shay "The Hunt for THE Red October," azh was shaid ovar and ovar on the shew). Are they daft?? Ken they no' tell that I washn't doing a Russian acshent in that film?? I wash very dishtinctly affecting a Lithuanian acshent thar! Perhapsh they're no' sophishticated enough to dishtinguish batween the tooo.

It may come azh a shock to the proprietarsh of the shtation that I am, in fact, of Scottish extracshion. Oh, I know, it may be hard to tell at timesh. Over my long an shtoried carrrreer, I've played charactersh from many differing nationalities. For exzample, my turn as the Shpaniard Ramirezh in "Highlander." Or the Englishman Alan Quatermane in "The League of Extraordinary Gentleman." Or an Irishman in "The Untouchables." Why, I even played an American azh Harrishon Ford'sh fahther in "Indiana Jonesh and the Lasht Crushade."

Shtill the ashked me to shing that infernal shong! Did they no' notish that I wash the only one in that sheen NOT shinging? Thar's a reashon for tha'. I don't shpeak Russian! Ne par le po Rushky! Get it?? Now, if they want to shing that shong, I shay, "Let them shing."

Shecond, they clearly are offenshively ingnorant when it comes to the highlightsh of my carrrrrrreer. Nay, I am NOT besht known fer my turn ash the ex-convict opposhite the shimilarly chameleon-like actor Nicholash Cage in "The Rock." You young lassies and laddies na' have the pershpective to remember my breakthrough rolezh in "A Bridge Too Far" (playing a Scotsman!) or my firsht film, "Zardozh."

However, if therzh one role thot I would prefer to be remembered for, itsh thish (no, not ash the old curmudgeon who befriendsh a gifted Black shtudent in "Finding Forreshter". What a load or pretenshious predictable tripe thot wazh..): My proadesht rrrole wazh azh Shir August de Wynter in tha rremake of "The Avengersh." And do ye ken why? Becaush I played againsht type thar. I wazh a mashk of pure evil in thot one. That sheen whar we all dressed up ash teddy bearsh and I utterred thosh immortal linesh..."Noone of yew know who I am, but I know all of yooo..." Pure Shakeshpeare.

UPDATE: Sean Connery's first Jeopardy appearance:

GI Jackson:

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Reader Mail

Just to prove that sometimes I do get positive feedback:

"I just wanted to let you know that your blog is actually as healing for me as it is humorous...

"I am 26 and estranged from my father, and his favorite song is "What a Wonderful World". I forwarded him the video of you and Iguana (which, btw, was so funny I can't even tell you!). It was the first time I have responded to his emails in over a year.

"I am not sure what will happen, as our past is quite a balagan, but I know that that email meant a lot to the both of us!

"Thanks again, and keep writing!"

Happy Doctors' Day!

What, you didn't know today was Doctors' Day? That's OK. Neither did I. I found out when I walked into the hospital this morning and saw a sign on a stand that said, "Happy Doctors' Day! Please enjoy a special treat in the Doctors' Lounge in gratitude for all you do for your patients!"

And sure enough, I walked into the lounge, and there was a little card table set up with granola bars and some other nosherei. But it's a little underwhelming. I mean, where's the marketing blitz? Why was there no sale at Target? No special Doctors' Day arrangements at FTD? Where are all my Hallmark cards?

I yearn for the day when Doctors' Day will be right up there with other important holidays like Sweetest Day and Boxing Day. Until then, I'll have to settle for cheap munchies and faux appreciation.

UPDATE: An eCard from Toronto Pearl...hee hee

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Please Welcome...Elianna Rachel!

Mazel Tov to Serach and Ezzie Goldish on the arrival of their new little blogger!

They should have as much nachos from the little tzadeikes as I've had from mine!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

RadioFudge Marathon!

If you tuned into Fudge's WYUR radio show last week, you heard me sing my High School Alma Mater and a guest appearance by Cro Magnon Man. Who will be on tonight's show? Maybe one of you! Listen online at WYUR.org from 7-9pm tonight (Eastern Time). Call in to 212-923-2471 for a chance of prizes!

What a Wonderful World


Vocals: Iguana (age 5)
(Terrible) Piano: Mark
Drums: Moe
Camera: Fudge

Special Guest Appearance by Larry (9)

Bonus Features: Alternate take

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Axcuse my Eccent

Minutes before meeting Doctor Bean at LAX for the first time in December, I had Mrs. Balabusta try on a stereotypical Wisconsin accent, just to mess with the good doctor. What resulted sounded more like a Jamaican cleaning lady, so we nixed the idea, and she ended up speaking in her normal voice. Of course, Doctor Bean still asked what kind of accent she had. That surprised me, because I didn't think she had one.

Turns out Mrs. B's accent isn't as neutral as I thought:

"Native Wisconsinites pronounce some words a little differently than their peers across the country.
Milk can sound more like melk.
Bag can sound more like beg.

"Two dramatic linguistic shifts are pushing toward the state from opposite sides. From Minnesota to the west comes the shift known as the Low-Back Merger. In this shift, the "o"sound is merging with the "au" sound. Example:
Caught is sounding more and more like cot.

"From the Southeast comes what linguists call the Northern Cities Shift. Examples:
Cot is sounding more like cat.
The female name Dawn is pronounced more and more like the male name Dan.
The name Dan, in turn, is pronounced more like Don."

Read more here.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

A Tale of Two Bathrooms

for Jack

Twice a week I do some consulting work. This takes place in a small office building in an industrial park. The building is run-down and airless, but it has one redeeming feature: It has a great Men's Room.

The Men's Room is in a prime location, at the cul-de-sac of a long hallway, far removed from the main work areas. I happen to be one of about three men in this building, and for some reason, the other two have the habit of turning off the light when they leave the bathroom. I don't know if this is meant to be some kind of signal, but the upshot is that when I round the corner of the hallway, I can quickly glance down towards the end and know instantly if someone else is in there.

It doesn't end with that. The bathroom has two stalls and a urinal, nothing special, but it is LOUD. By that I mean, there is some kind of fan or generator or condenser or something in there that is always making A LOT of background noise. That's right. It's what they call in the Bathroom business "covering fire." You can make all the noise you want and no one will hear you. I like to think of it as my own little piece of Heaven.

All was good until last week. Last week we moved to a new building. Aesthetically, it is much nicer. It has higher ceilings, more carpeting, big airy work spaces, and Muzak. But the bathroom...

I arrived last week and asked politely where the Men's Room was. They pointed me to a spot around the corner, right next to the lunchroom and directly across from where some woman sits. Hmm, I thought, there's a slight problem, but at least Muzak fills the air; it may provide some cover.

I ventured into the bathroom. I have to say, it was one of the best-smelling bathrooms I had ever been in. Some kind of active fragrance system. Whatever. I noticed only one stall. Now, in and of itself, the one-stall bathroom is not necessarily inferior to your multi-stall bathroom. At least you know someone isn't going to sit down next to you and attempt to smoke you out.

The Muzak was piped into the bathroom as well, but to be honest, it didn't provide the sort of noise-dampening I had hoped for. I could tell as I entered that the stall was already occupado. I opted to use the urinal in the meantime. Here's where the major problem emerged.

As I walked from the door towards the back wall, I passed the stall at an oblique angle, where the one major glaring defect came into full view: The Gap. There was a gap between the door frame of the stall, and the door itself. Now, I'm not talking about the upper or lower cut-aways. I've come to understand that for some aesthetic reason, or maybe it's a safety issue, bathroom stall designers have elected to progressively chop away at the amount of cover the door provides, both above and below. I can handle that. Although I'm still somewhat traumatized by that incident in first grade when those kids suddenly poked their heads over the top of my stall...

But I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about the side gap. As I walked past the stall, I came upon a certain angle at which I could now see a full floor-to-ceiling view of the stall occupant. True, it was only a 2-inch-wide gap, but as I walked past it, it panned its way completely across the man, who was obviously very intent on doing his business, and was just as startled as me when we made eye contact.

At that point I turned around and marched right out of there, knowing that I could never feel comfortable in that bathroom.

Alas, I have been cast down into purgatory.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Megillah Meme?

Ezzie tagged me for the Megillah meme, which I guess is to list thoughts that went through my mind during the Megillah reading. Do I still have to do this now that Purim is over? Well, anyway:

1. Everyone is staring at me in this Caveman outfit--cool!

2. Look, some Litvaks dressed up as Chassidim--how clever!

3. Hey, some Chassidim dressed up as other types of Chassidim--how weird...

4. Hmm...some Chassidim dressed up as Litvaks--how disturbing...

5. Everyone is staring at me in this Caveman outfit--how disturbing...

6. Good, no one took my seat.

7. Why are people clearing away from my seat??

8. Man am I hungry.

9. The Rabbi sounds great as usual, but making more mistakes than usual. I think he doesn't feel good.

10. I'm working on a killer migraine right now.

11. That's funny, usually the Rabbi repeats the whole pasuk here. This time he just repeated the phrase.

12. Other people noticed that too.

13. This fake club makes for a great grogger! Too bad it doesn't squeak.

14. Everyone is staring at me as I bang this club in my Caveman outfit--enough already!! Stare at the guy in the parrot outfit!

15. I'm getting light-headed.

16. Man, the story ends like 2/3 of the way through! Why does the Megillah keep going on and on and on...

17. I think that guy is taking pictures of me.

18. Where is Mrs. Balabusta? I want to get a picture with her.

19. I'm really hungry but now I'm also nauseous.

20. Thank G-d it's finished already!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Battlestar Galactica Finale--WTF

You know I'm a big fan of the new Battlestar Galactica. Right now it's my favorite (and pretty much only) TV show. I just watched most of the season finale (except the 30 or so seconds my TiVo missed at the end), and all I can say is--WTF??

The comments are available for discussion. Spoilers welcome.

Oh, if you are in some way not a geek (and yet find yourself reading PsychoToddler anyway) uh...Go Badgers!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Your Virtual Shaloch Manos

Dear Friend(s)
In lieu of actual Shaloch Manos that you and your family can enjoy,
This year, we've decided to donate money in your name to some obscure Yeshiva that you've never heard of.
Happy Purim!
From the Psychotoddler(s)

Monday, March 13, 2006

Cro Magnon Purim Special


Nothing more relaxing than having children home for holiday of Purim. Cro Magnon enjoy having teenagers back from Yeshiva.

Time eat breakfast.

ARRRRRR!!!!! Who eat LAST bowl of Cheerios and leave EMPTY BOX in cabinet?! Grrrrr....

OK...calm down Cro Magnon Man....it good to have family home. Need to sit back and enjoy. Eat Corn Flakes with banana instead. What worst happen?

Hmmm...now to biddness....

ROOOOAAARRRRR!! TEENAGER!!! CRO MAGNON need BATHROOM!! What teenager do in there for so long!!

Relax, Cro Magnon Man...get grip. What Cro Magnon need now is soothing video game with younger cave kids....

HAAAAAAAHHH????? What heck this supposed to be? Strange Japanese video game make no sense!! What Cro Magnon supposed to be doing here??


Cro Magnon can not TAKE IT ANY MORE!! Kids taking over cave!


Uhhh....never mind.

Early Breakfast

Because today is the fast day of Taanit Esther, I got up a 3:30 am to eat some cornflakes with banana and a glass of chocolate milk.

And now I feel completely blaaaahhhhh....

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Purim Blog Parodies @ The Muquata

I don't do a lot of post-pointing around here, but I have to write something about this.

Jameel @ The Muquata is organizing an absolutely hysterical series of blog spoofs over at his place. Most of them are spot-on, but I particularly like the lampoon of Jack's blog, which includes one of his classic audioblogs. And even though it's a woman doing the audio...I dunno, after a while I forget it's not really Jack.

This is such a great idea! Why didn't I think of it. Oh. I know. Because it would be a lot of work.

Nu, so where is PurimToddler already?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Great Debate...

...rages at Our Kids Speak. Only one can be right. Will it take gunfire to settle it?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Crisis Looms

Well, I’m back to having weird dreams. These last few nights, I’ve been dreaming that I’ve been running into old classmates from my residency days, and they are all more successful and fabulously better-looking than me. It’s no mystery where this came from. It came from the Auto Show.

I was standing next to the Pontiac Solstice, with my left hand stroking the hood and my right hand gesturing to Mrs. Balabusta as if to say, “Here it is, my new car.” And Mrs. B shot a look back at me which said, in effect, “You are the biggest loser I have ever seen,” when this guy came up to me from behind and said, “Hey, Mark!”

I turned around and saw this guy that I recognized from about 12 or 13 years ago. He looked great, his wife looked great, and we chatted briefly about what we’ve been doing with our lives and careers over the past decade and a half.

And then he left and I said, “Man, I really wish I knew who that was.”

But it came to me as we strolled around the show, and I even remembered his name after a while, which was reassuring. He was a guy I trained with (tangentially, at any rate) in my Internal Medicine residency in the early 90’s. And then the dreams came back.

Over the years I’ve had them, and they seem to reflect my concern that maybe I haven’t done as much with my life as I should have, and that maybe my old classmates have surpassed me professionally and economically and socially and that I have no one to blame but myself for my own inadequacy. It’s a little ironic that this latest kick comes at the Auto Show, as I’m looking to replace the car that I’ve been driving since I was actually in residency.

So maybe I’m not Chief of Medicine at Massachusetts General, and maybe I don’t have a house in Aspen and maybe I can’t afford to take a yearly trip with the family to Israel. The truth is that I have not been wasting my time. I have been raising 6 talented children, the oldest of which is in college and was just made Opinions Editor of her school paper, and has 2 internet radio shows. Yes, I see in her some of the over-ambitiousness that marked my college years, what with the double-major, double-minor, multiple band thing going on at the time.

And I guess I’m still busy multitasking as always, with family, career, shul, kollel, band(s) and blog(s) going full steam. So why feel bad? Maybe I should look at this as a good thing. Complacency is bad. It leads to stagnation, then regression. I should continue to want more, to strive for more. To feel hungry.

Maybe I just need a little kick in the pants every now and then to tell me, “Hey, the game’s not over. Keep moving!”

Monday, March 06, 2006

DVD Commentary

There are two kinds of people in this world:

The kinds of people who listen to the commentary tracks on DVDs, and the kinds who don't. Which are you?

I love to listen to the commentary. I almost prefer it to the actual dialogue. That probably has something to do with the fact that I love to think about how things work. I remember that after each Star Wars film, they would release a little "The Making of The Empire Strikes Back" or some such, which was really a little PR deal for the film, but I was always fascinated by these extra bits. I loved watching them make and then blow up the little models, I loved watching the guy walk around the set in the giant snowman suit with sneakers, etc.

When I listen to music, I almost can't hear a coherent piece. I have to break it down to individual instruments--there is the bass, and that's a horn part. Then I think about how I would play it, or how I would assemble the pieces, and I regard film in the same way.

So I love hearing all the little inside bits of information about why the director or writer or actor chose to do this, or decided not to do that. Or why there is a big "Blue Sun" emblem on that shipping crate in that scene of "Firefly."

Mrs. B, on the other hand, will not stand for it and makes me turn it off. So I guess opposites really do attract.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Aaron Razel part 2

I love this guy!

I caught my first glimpse of Aaron Razel shortly after I pulled my van up in front of the shul, and he came outside to help us unload. That automatically gave him a +1 on the Psychotoddler Mentch-o-meter.

Aaron is a sweet, friendly guy with a typical Israeli laid-back attitude. "Don't worry, it'll be fine." Contrast that with my inherent anal-retentiveness ("Can you PLEASE fax us some CHARTS!!").

After we set up the band, we made some time to go over the music with him. Aaron's music is fun to perform. It's complex, not because it's difficult to play, but because it goes in unexpected directions. And yet it still has solid pop hooks that keep it listenable. It reminds me of many of my favorite bands, including Squeeze and Billy Joel.

I don't know what Aaron was expecting from a back-up band. We had initially been told that he would be bringing charts (sheet music) with him. I realize "charts" means different things to different people. I've played with musicians who brought drum charts with each bang written out. Others have provided "lead sheets", with the melody and chords written out, but leaving the individual instrument arrangements up to the individual players.

Aaron faxed (at my desperate insistence) charts to us from Israel a few weeks in advance. By then I had already learned most of the music by ear anyway. But the charts were just lyric sheets with some chords written over the words. So I devised with my Talmudical skills one of two scenarios:

1. There's no possible way that we could figure out the music from these charts, so he definitely won't be playing the arrangements off the albums.

2. We don't have to bother learning the music off the albums, because if he really wants it to sound like that, he'll be bringing much more detailed charts with him.

Having come to that stunning conclusion (which was not to bother with the album), the band and I quickly concluded that we were screwed and we should immediately go back to listening to the album and memorizing it by ear note-for-note. After all, you can never be over-prepared.

Again, I'm not sure what he was expecting from us. Probably that he would play and we would follow along as best we could. And to be honest, if we had done that, it still would have been fine because Aaron is a great performer and a good leader. But having gone through all the effort of learning the great arrangements off of his live album, we wanted to play them!

So we set up a little rehearsal, and started running through the album in order. About halfway through the first song, "Shir Tzion", there is a bridge where the guitar and bass play this line in unison. After we played it, Aaron put down his guitar and came over and gave me a big hug. We played through the rest of the album, and again, I think Aaron was shocked to see me threading my basslines through some of his elaborate bridges, and he just kept smiling. He kept asking us, "How did you learn all this? I can't believe you memorized the whole album! How did you figure it out?" "We're AMERICANS!" I answered.

Afterwards, we had to sit down and figure out what we would actually play. Because looking around, we could see a room full of round dinner tables and a big buffet table running down the middle. Not the best venue for an all-out rock concert. I had visions in my mind of little old ladies with their hands over their ears yelling at the stage.

Still, I couldn't fathom that they had brought Aaron all the way from Israel to play cocktail music. Turns out they hadn't. Because right when I thought we were going to start playing, a woman came in pulling a harp and wanting to know where she could set up for cocktail hour. We didn't actually get on stage for several hours, after some speeches and a slide show.

During that time I wandered amongst the crowd, trying to steal food from the buffet table. That was a dumb idea, because many people mistook me for a waiter (maybe because of the white shirt and dark pants that I had chosen to wear). At first, I answered their questions (mostly "Young man, what is THAT supposed to be?") with "I don't know." But after a while I just started making stuff up. "Oh, that's pickled cow gall bladder. It's great with a tangy mustard sauce!"

The crowd was a little thinner by the time we got on stage, but those who stayed (both for Aaron, and, surprisingly, for the MSB), were ready for a show. And a show they got. We did start off at half volume, just to avoid any injuries, but we didn't have to stay down there for long. For those who know Aaron's music, we played "Zman Hageulah", "Hayinu Smaichim", "Bnei Haneurim", "Esa Einai", "Shnayim Sucar", "Tze Min Hateiva", "Hasne Boer", and an assortment of Carlbach dance tunes. At one point, as people were dancing, Aaron came up to me and said "Uh, they are doing this dancing thing...how do I get them to stop?" There was a lot of dancing and a lot of singing. People had a good time.

There were a few of his other songs that we had rehearsed and really wanted to play, like his wicked "Haggigah", but then we heard the word every band leader dreads, "Maariv" and we knew the show was over.

Well, I know that I had a great time playing this music, and I hope Aaron will call me again the next time he's in the area.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The Siyum

Ahhh, yes....Honey Cake and Clan MacGregor...now that's how you make a siyum.

And NOW....

Watch and hear me mumble my way through the actual siyum! (Note: this may be a large file).

Notice how much I move my hands around when I speak. Gotta work on that. Also notice how the other guy loses me about halfway through and there is almost no way for me to catch up. Enjoy!

This siyum was dedicated to the recovery of Leah bas Yehudis and Eliezer ben Perel.