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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

This is Comedy?



So I finally got around to watching the two comedy specials that have been sitting on my TiVo. The first one was the Comedy Central Roast of William Shatner.

A roast of...William Shatner! What an inspired bit of programming! How could this not be absolutely hysterical! I'd been waiting all my life for this! Nobody is a bigger Star Trek fan than me! Well, except maybe for the celebrity roasters, who each got up and said, more or less word for word, "nobody is a bigger Star Trek fan than me." So I guess we're all big Star Trek fans.

So I booted up the TiVo, climbed into bed, dimmed the lights...and...waited for the funny to start. And it never did. How can you screw this up?? How can you make a roast of Bill.....SHAT....ner...and not have people rolling in the aisles? You don't even need to have comedians! All you need to do is show a few clips of him acting and people will have beverages shooting out of their noses! Add in a few select "song" clips, and the entire room will be incapacitated.

Well, actually, they did that. They showed a few minutes of clips and songs, and this was pretty much the only funny part of the show. The rest was painful. Really...really...PAINFUL. Uncomfortable painful. Like passing-a-kidney-stone-and-auctioning-it-off-for-charity painful.

Maybe I just don't get the whole "celebrity roast" thing. I'll admit, I haven't seen one since the 70's, when it just seemed like a bunch of Borsht Belt has-beens would get up and tell dirty jokes about each other. Wait, that's what happened here. Is the Borsht Belt still around?

Bill gives you SO MUCH material to work with! How hard can it be? All the jokes boiled down to these three subjects:

He's bald.

He's fat.

He can't act.

The end. That was it. In fact, that was it, exactly. Comic after comic got up and said, literally, "Bill, you're bald, you're fat, and you can't act." So that's a cozy 4 seconds. Maybe. If you put in pauses. What was the rest of the night? Dirty, offensive, racist jokes about the other roasters. And Star Trek's latest gift to comedy, a Gay Mr. Sulu. That's right. Not one presenter passed up an opportunity to describe in graphic detail the...RAMifcations (if you'll pardon the pun) of a GAY Mr. Sulu. Not even Mr. Sulu, who went on about it AT LENGTH (groan).

But what's the big deal about a gay Mr. Sulu? Half of the comedians on the stage were gay too, and by the time each comic was through with detailing the sexual habits of the various dais occupants, there was scarcely any shock value left for poor George Takai. So what do you do next, to keep the crowd interested? How 'bout some 1930's era racist jokes! Let's talk about how Lt. Uhura was the Enterprise cleaning lady! Or that Lisa Lampinelli (who TF is she, anyway??) sleeps with Black men! Hysterical!

Very quickly any connection to Shatner disappeared from the routines. I think it could have been anyone up there. The jokes would have been the same.

Oddly though, for a show like Star Trek that featured 3 Jewish lead actors, there were very few Jewish Jokes. Shatner himself had the best one of the evening:

"Why didn't any of you say something like, 'Shatner's such a cheap Jew, he only had himself beamed up after 7 when the rates were cheaper'?"

See, that got a chuckle out of me.

I faired much better with the second TiVo recording:

Bill Cosby: Himself

Even after almost 25 years, this act is absolutely, paralyzingly funny. And you can watch it with the kids!

What the heck has happened to comedy?

Katrina +1

I wrote this song last year.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Final Parody

My 14 year-old son Larry (currently blogging as "Rafiki") has released his first movie! It pits Iguana and The PT against the evil forces of Curly! Watch it here!

Tagline: "In this battle of wits, both sides are unarmed!"

(Note: It helps to have a passing familiarity with Japanese Role-Playing Games like Final Fantasy to appreciate the film).

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Blog Appreciation Day

August 24th is Blog Appreciation Day! Show your fellow bloggers some love by snapping a shot of their website in your hometown!

Here's one that was sent to me by Neil Kramer, who invented Blog Appreciation Day:



And here's one I sent him:












And now, the love goes out to....Toronto Pearl!



(BTW Pearl, you missed a phenomenal MSB show last night).

And while I'm passing out some love, I need to send some to my wife, whose birthday falls out on Blog Appreciation Day:

Monday, August 21, 2006

Whose Blog is it Anyway

Does anybody watch these home movies that I put up? I find that my comments go way down when I post a lot of movies as opposed to goofy stories that can be read silently. I think that's because a lot of you read blogs from work. Shame on you! Think of all the stolen productivity.

I've also discovered that the word 'blog' can be used as filler in much the same way the word 'smurf' was used when my sister was a kid watching that horrible, horrible, smurf cartoon.

"I just smurf you!"

"That's a mighty fine smurf you're wearing."

"Get your smurfin' smurf off my lawn, you smurf-head!"

Well, let's see if any of you were paying attention. Here's my bloggiest blog, which I blogged this Blogend with my blogily. I call it, "Whose blog is it blogiway?"

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Victory is MINE!



For nigh on 6 days and nights did I do battle with a beast most foul which had invaded Mrs. Balabusta's computer. I still know not its true name. Yet ultimately was I victorious in my struggle, and Mrs. B's computer is now cleansed of the vile usurper which had so plagued me through this time.

You can read the gory details here.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Motherly Love

A recent conversation with my mother:

Me: Mom, Lenny Solomon wants to hire me for a few jobs in New York. So I’ll get to see you.

Mom: When is this?

Me: September 15.

Mom: Wait, I have to check my calendar.

Me: Excuse me?

Mom: I have a few affairs. Hold on. Can you hold on?

Me: Uhh..I guess so.

Mom: September 4….September 10….when do you want to come?

Me: September 15.

Mom: September 15…no….I don’t have anything on the calendar. Why, do you want to stay here?

Me: Well actually, I can make some money playing a Bar Mitzvah if I spend Shabbos in Teaneck.

Mom: So you want to go to Teaneck?

Me: Well, I can tell him no, I’ll only do the Sunday job, and spend Shabbos with you.

Mom: So what do you want to do?

Me: I don’t know, what do you want me to do?

Mom: You can do whatever you want!

Me: Do you want me to stay with you or play the Bar Mitzvah?

Mom: Go play the Bar Mitzvah! You can see me Sunday.

Me: Gee mom, I’m getting all the warm and fuzzies from you.

Mom: Hahaha…you’re very funny.

Me: So you won’t be insulted if I spend Shabbos in Teaneck?

Mom: Why would I be insulted??

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Friday, August 11, 2006

Not a "Pet Person"

I was chatting with Stacey yesterday. Her dog, Lizzie, died suddenly after being diagnosed with cancer. Lizzie was her constant companion and a member of her family for more than 13 years, longer than her kids or even her husband. She is understandably devastated. I tried to offer my condolences (pay an online "shiva call", if you will), when she asked me if I'd ever had a dog.

So that's when I had to admit that, no, I've never owned a dog, and to be quite honest, I don't really like them. I've never been a "Pet Person".

OK, let's be frank. I'm scared of dogs. I have a "phobia" to dogs (cynophobia?). I cannot relax if there is a dog in the room. I constantly am afraid the dog will attack me or possibly lick me. Our best friend recently got a dog--a delightful little Boston Terrier. I have never heard this dog bark. He's cute as a button. I am terrified of him. I cannot sit down when I go to their house for fear of him pouncing on me. I know this is probably something genetic as Fudge and The PT have the same problem. However, Iguana is curiously immune and loves to go over and play with him and walk him.

I can't point to any specific "trauma" that triggered this. I've never been bitten by a dog. I recall being scared of dogs as a young child. My uncle had a big black lab and every time we went over, the same thing would happen. My father would ring the doorbell. Then the barking would start. Then one of my cousins would open the door. Then the dog would make a bee-line for me and try to tackle me. But after a little while, I could calm myself enough to pet her and maybe tolerate being in the same room. But I would never enjoy it. My mother used to tell me horror stories about German Shepherds during the Holocaust; maybe that has something to do with it.

So then the conversation turned towards her cats. Can't abide cats. I actually did get scratched by a cat at my Aunt's house when I was very small. Also I had a bad experience with a cat when I was engaged and playing a Shabbaton at Einstein with my band. I stayed in some resident's apartment for Shabbos. His wife had me sleep in the living room on the couch. She said, as she left the room, something to the effect of "and the cat will sleep in here with you."

I did not sleep a wink that night. Everytime I was about to nod off, the cat jumped on my head. Finally, exhausted, I lured the cat into the bathroom and closed the door. This was around 3am.

At 4am, their kid woke up and went to the bathroom and let the cat out.

So....not a Pet Person.

But I did have fish. I loved my fish. I had goldfish, and tetras, and a fakoktemus plecostemus, and even some fighting fish. I kept the fishtank going for about 5 years. Until The PT dumped a whole bottle of fish food into the tank.

I hope Stacey got a chuckle out of our conversation. May she know no more sorrow.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Exploding Toilets

At a highway rest stop, somewhere along I-94 in central Wisconsin...

Me: OK, The PT, go with mommy to the bathroom and make a pishy.

The PT (age 5): I don't have to go!

Me: I think you do.

The PT: (hopping from foot to foot) No! I made in Milwaukee!

Me: Then why are you grabbing your shorts like that?

The PT: (hopping from foot to foot and grabbing shorts at crotch) Uh...because I don't want them to fall down!

Me: Yeah, but then you'd be grabbing the top of your shorts, not the bottom.

The PT: (confused look)

Me: That's it! Just go with Mommy!

The PT: NOoooooo! The toilets are too LOUD in there!

Me: What? Fine. Come with me.

The PT: NOOOOOOO!!!! That's only for BOYS!

Me: (exasperated) Good grief. Wait, what's this? A "Family Restroom"? We'll go in here.

The PT: Is the toilet quiet in there?

Me: Sure...probably...I'll go in with you.

The PT: But DON'T flush until I leave the baffroom!

Me: I won't.

The PT: (stopping at the door) But what if it's automatic?

Me: An automatic toilet...?

The PT: Yeah, yeah, what if it flushes by itself??

Me: Well, maybe it won't. I'll make sure it doesn't.

We enter bathroom. There's no handle on the toilet.

The PT: Oh no!! It's automatic.

Me: Don't worry.

The PT: But what if it FLUSHES!!

Me: It won't.

The PT: But what if it DOOOOOESSS????

Me: WILL YOU JUST GETONTHATTOILET??? PULL DOWN YOUR PANTS FIRST!

The PT: But I don't have to make.

Me: GRRRRRRRR

The PT: OK OK.

The PT: (tinkling) Hey... I guess I really did have to--


KAAAAAA-BOOOOOOOOMMMMMM!!!!


The PT: (jumping about 3 feet in the air with her shorts around her ankles and her hands pressed up against her ears) I TOLD YOU IT WAS AUTOMATIC!!!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

We're on the Road to Nowhere


Despite the fact that we had nowhere to go, and despite $3.15 a gallon gas prices, the PT Clan decided to take a road trip anyway. I think after the past few years of driving in the van, staying in hotels, and eating out at Kosher restaurants across the country, we just got used to taking a summer trip. So we took a mini-road trip this year (big hint there).

This year was different in that the ultimate destination was not my folks' house. We had gone each year to visit my dad, who was too sick to fly out to Wisconsin (and didn't have much inclination to do so even before he got sick). So now that he has passed on, we don't have a good reason to drive there, and although I would love to see my mom, she is clearly not ready to have the eight of us descend upon her house at this time.

So, what to do? We basically took out a map and asked, what's the most interesting place we can go in a one-day's-drive radius from Milwaukee? That has kosher food.

...

Yup.

Nowhere.

Nothing real interesting in these parts that we haven't already seen. We go to Chicago all the time, not really much of a trip there. And we've gone East and seen Indiana and Ohio and there's nothing really compelling out there for us. So we went West (another big clue).

And aside from the requirement that there be Kosher restaurants, I added a new one this year: I need a minyan. I need to say Kaddish. I haven't missed a single minyan since the funeral.

So the trip was a little more interesting in that way. See, in prior years, our only contact with the Jewish community on the road was the restaurant, and you don't really interact with people there. This year, I had to get in touch with the rabbi, go to the shul, talk to people, etc, and I actually do feel like I've gotten to know the community a little, even in the 3 short days that we were there.

The only problem with this is that the "vacation" aspect of the vacation was dampened considerably for me and the boys, since you really don't feel like you're on holiday when you still have to wake up at 5 am to take a drive to the Jewish neighborhood for shachris. And then drive back for mincha/maariv later in the night. With the hotel being 25 minutes away, that added up to about 2 extra hours of driving just to and from shul. A little draining.

But hey, who hasn't come home from a vacation feeling like they need a vacation to recover?

Friday, August 04, 2006

Into the Lion's Den

My Blogging friend, landsman, and one-time dinner partner Neil Kramer writes an hysterical blog about Hollywood, Judaism, and...well...stuff I can't mention here. I can always count on a good laugh when I read his site.

Lately, however, he's come under attack by some of his readers for standing by Israel in the recent conflict. He brings up a good point, one that I've mentioned here and I've read over at other blogs:

How should personal blogs that usually deal with the mundane deal with world events? Should we even address them at all? What's the point when the political blogs do this much more thoroughly and persuasively?

The answer, it seems, is in a guest post that he wrote for Paris Pafait, a blog that has not been kind to the Jewish view of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Go read what he wrote. I think it shows that, perhaps, simple people like me and Neil can have more impact on the opinion war than you would think.

People expect rhetoric from the political blogs. And to a certain extent, they discount it as just that -- rhetoric. But Neil and Jack and Pearl and Danny and I have opened our lives to our readers. We're not just about Left vs Right or Republicans vs Democrats or Islam vs The West. We're about food and kids and tuition and love and family and Cave Men and movies and bass guitar and...you get the point.

When you say, "Jews are bad" or "Israel is oppressive", you're not just insulting some distant bad guy. You're insulting me, and Neil, and Pearl and the rest. I don't care if you hate the Republican Party, or if you think that Stem Cell research should be banned, or if you think Battlestar Galactica is for geeks. You're entitled to your opinions. But if you mess with the Jews, or Israel, you're messing with me. And I take that personally.

Maybe personal bloggers can do this better than political bloggers. We can keep it personal. We can make this a discussion between associates or friends, rather than a perpetually adversarial situation. Political bloggers or journalists have to remain polarized. Personal bloggers do not. We can listen to each other. I was listening to Sean Hannity in the car last night. A guy called up and spoke very intelligently about why he disagreed with Israel's position and the war in Iraq. And rather than hear him out, Hannity talked over him and tried to shape his argument into something ridiculous. I would have rather had Hannity listen to what the guy said and then refute his specific points, which from what I heard were easily refutable. But that's not how talk radio works. But it has to work that way in the real world or we're never going to get anywhere.

You may not expect someone as goofy as Neil to have such a well put-together view of the Middle East. That's why what he has to say is so important.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

What I can do



I can't watch the NBC Nightly News anymore. I love Brian Williams, and I grew up watching Tom Brokaw, but the current coverage of the War in Israel has sickened me. In its attempts to be "balanced" in its coverage, it has given equal time to Israeli and Lebanese casualties, and folks, the Israeli side of that equation just can't hold up. If you get your news only from Network TV, this is what you will learn:

War sucks. Wars should never be fought. Both sides in this war are right about some things, and wrong about others. Both Israel and Lebanon (?Hezbollah?) are inflicting civilian casualties. But Israel is clearly worse than Hezbollah (?Lebanon?). Why? Because Israel is suffering far fewer (civilian) casualties. Therefore, if we apply our moral equalizing lens to the situation, Israel is the bad guy, and Hezbollah is a bad guy, but not as bad, and Lebanon (man, how do you keep track of all this in a 15 minute news segment?) is the innocent caught in between. And as we know from Star Trek (the source of all morality), it is NEVER justifiable to inflict civilian casualties, even if it is the only way to destroy evil. Besides, yesterday's evil will undoubtedly become tomorrow's friendly Klingons. And...cut to commercial.

Honestly, how can a few pampered Israelis running to bomb shelters compare to hundreds of innocent women and children actually dying? Photo-journalism says the side with the most casualties will always win our sympathy and our support. Of course, Hezbollah knows this, and is working hard to make our news personnel into willing propaganda artists for terrorism.

So last night I switched off NBC and flipped over to Fox News Channel, and proceeded to clear off the table and load up the dinner dishes, when The O'Reilly Factor came on. All I can say is, THANK GOD FOR MICHELLE MALKIN. She was up there on my TV, MAKING SENSE. Saying all the things that were being left unsaid by the Network News, putting things in perspective, and taking the media to task for the ease in which they made assumptions, used semantics, and generally ignored facts in their rush to be balanced.

I'm getting my news these days from "right wing" sources. Debka, Bill Bennett, Robert Avrech (who's posting something every 20 minutes it seems), my mench Jameel, Treppenwitz, and others. And that works for me. But what can I contribute to the War effort? I'm not running over there to join the IDF. I go to shul and I daven and say Tehillim. I can give limited funds. Is that it? Is there no important role that I, a mild-mannered physician in Wisconsin, can play?

Actually, I think there is. In an earlier post, I mentioned that Israel is fighting a war on 3 fronts. Gaza, Lebanon, and the World Media. You can argue about how it's doing on the first two. But I don't think there's any question that it is doing poorly on the third. So maybe there's something I can do about that.

Now, I realize that the readership here is not large, and also I suspect that most of the people (let's not count the trolls) who come here feel similarly about Israel. So ranting and raving over here accomplishes little. Besides, Ezzie and Yourish and Malkin and Baleboosteh can keep track of the facts much better than I can and more eloquently to boot. And I realize that the reason you're all checking back here is that you're hoping I'll post more Caveman pictures.

So what can I do? I can fight the Media War in real life. I can talk to those who do get their news from the mainstream media. Who get "balanced" pictures and "sound bites" and are quickly becoming indoctrinated in Star Trek-like moral equivalence. Who haven't been shown the whole picture. Who haven't figured out that we are indeed in the middle of World War 3 and we'd better start acting like it or we will lose.

I can talk to my friends, my co-workers, the people who like and respect me, and tell them what I think about the War in Lebanon. And the shooting in Seattle. And the train bombing in India. And no, I'm not a right-wing nut job. I just have a little more perspective and I'm willing to help them connect the dots. These informal lunchroom discussions can make a difference. I just hope it's not too little and too late.