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Sunday, December 30, 2007

Circulars

Remember when the Sunday Circulars used to be filled with products that were actually on sale? And by sale I mean "less money than full price." What exactly is the point of printing up a 40 page ad full of items that have been available for months and are still at their most expensive price? You're not fooling anyone!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Friday, December 21, 2007

My Kingdom for a Fish Stick!

Robert Avrech’s post about his wife Karen’s Free Lunch at Yeshiva of Flatbush, coupled with my recent obsession with finding old elementary school mates on Facebook, just kicked up an old memory.

Halfway through first grade, my mother finally took me to an allergy specialist in Manhattan who determined, after several long hours of poking, prodding and scratching which would probably have been a violation of the Geneva Convention, that my incessant coughing, sniffling and eye rubbing was due to me being allergic to…EVERYTHING.

EVERYTHING! Cats! Dogs! Mice! Trees! Grass! Dirt! Flowers! The entire month of May! And just about every food imaginable. And so, armed with this invaluable bit of diagnostic determination, she sent me back to school one day with a note laying out to the teacher exactly what, and more importantly, what NOT, I was allowed to eat at the school lunches.

Now, for the last 13 years, my wife and my kids (and rarely, me) have packed up sandwiches, juice boxes, cut-up apples, yogurts, and snacks, and zipped them into little lunch boxes and launched our little ones off to school where they would suffer through “cold lunches,” not knowing any better. Not so where I went to school. In Yeshiva Dov Revel, EVERY day was a hot lunch day. We lined up to have our trays loaded with noodles, potatoes, veggies, fish sticks, and the occasional vegetable cutlets (I called them, in my usual charming little way, “cocklets,” for such they resembled). I’m sure there were many kids who didn’t like these lunches (and for them there was always peanut butter), but I relished them.

Until, of course, the day my mother sent that note with me. Now, the truth is, I did pretty well with most of it. I didn’t miss the peanut butter sandwiches. I lived well without the “cocklets”. I even deftly avoided chocolate in all of its forms, and my mother and my friends’ mothers were quick to accommodate me with vanilla treats instead (until the day I found out that Twinkies weren’t kosher, but that’s a tale for another time).

But once a week, my resolve was sorely challenged, and crumbled. Fried Flounder Day.

I don’t know what it was about that meal. You could smell it all the way up to the classrooms. The aroma would waft through your nostrils during the march down the stairs, and it would permeate you during the long line up at the doors to the cafeteria. And of course, when my turn at the counter came up, I would take a serving on my plate.

And then the teacher…she was a Sabra, that one…militant in her determination to carry out my mother’s orders, would remove them from my plate and send me to sit in my place down towards the middle of the table. Where I would sit and stew and stare down at what remained of the meal, usually mashed potatoes and some macaroni…and plot my next move.

Which, at the age of six, wasn’t all that sophisticated. It amounted to me shoving all of my potatoes on to my buddy Jonathan’s plate, and then him sliding his fish, which he hated, onto mine. And then, timing my move down to the nanosecond, waiting for the teacher to turn and greet a colleague, I’d duck down under the table and consume my contraband lunch on the floor.

And sniffle and cough my way through the rest of the day. But man, it was worth it.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Blogworthy

I see the spaces stretching out between posts and I wonder if I should be blogging more often. I wonder if Psychotoddler has Jumped the Shark (answer: yes, probably around the time Cro Magnon Man appeared--the appearance of a pre-historic character is always a harbinger of Shark Jumping).

The truth is that there are a lot of things I'd love to blog about, but that Psycho Toddler has become a victim of its own success, and now I have to bite my tongue a bit more because the events or people I'd really like an outlet to blog about will probably end up reading what I write (and getting pissed off).

Then I think, maybe I should just write something just to keep up with it, but I get into the dilemma of trying to figure out just what is blogworthy. Sure, early on I could write about a drug chotchke or what I had for lunch and get away with it.

But now, if a week goes by between postings, is it really worth anyone's effort to read about the fact that I badly need a haircut (which would, to be fair, be the sum and total of the post)? Or that we ran out of Cheerios last week and I almost exploded? Or that my Griffin Tuneflex broke and I went through iPod withdrawal, but their tech support was awesome and they sent me a new one? Or that when the box for a new Webcam asserts that it can get "up to 30 frames per second", what it really means is "1 or 2." Or the fact that one of my patients gave me an itunes card and I used it for...The Best of Men at Work?

In Medicine we have this acronym "TKO" which refers to a token trickle of IV fluid used "To Keep Open" a vein so that the IV doesn't get clogged off even though you really don't have anything to put through it.

I'd hate to think this blog needs TKO posting.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The 2007 Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert



Neil Kramer (Citizen of the Month) has done it again, uniting all of mankind and creating Peace on Earth and blah blah blah.

Go visit and stop by our booth and say hi!
Happy Channuka to all my Jewish friends!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Upcoming Gigs

Here are a few chances to catch me playing live in the weeks to come:


December 8: Channukah Party at Beth Jehuda in Milwaukee with Milwaukee Simcha Band!

Notice how we took the poll results to heart and chose a name that wasn't even one of the choices! Actually we are still in a state of existential angst and can't decide on a name that we all don't hate. In fact, the word "Band" got tacked on to the end of the name by the person who made the flyer, over the very strong objections of our mandolin player.

Anywhoo, if you're in Milwaukee, drop by after Shabbos. I think it's like $5 a person. I really don't know who is playing or what we will be playing. How's that for publicity?


December 9: Shock Rock with Etan G and featuring the guitar and bass of Mendel and Me, heart of the lion Moshe Skier Band.

At the AYSH Synagogue in Northbrook IL, 4PM. Check out the website for tickets and information.


December 29: Young Israel of West Rogers Park Melaveh Malkah featuring The Midwest's Loudest Jewish Rock Band, The Moshe Skier Band. Probably. 9pm. A great venue for a great pretty good band.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

And Stop Calling me Hellmut

Hello, Hellmut

I've been searching for a man of my dreams, of my desire and I indeed hope that you are that person, and I have somehow fallen hopelessly and undeniably, though virtually in love with you. To be honest, I never thought I would ever utter those words, but now, they come forth effortlessly and with great sincerity. I'll be forever grateful to you if you show me just how shallow my life was. At last, I have a chance to give it depth and purpose.

It would probably be better to tell you this during meeting in person, eyes to eyes, but I knew that the proper words would escape me. I wrote you this letter instead. Please answer me http://www.********* after you read it, and we'll communicate.

Until I hear from you, I remain totally yours in thought and spirit.
Looking forward to hear from you


Juliana P

Dear Juliana P,

I'm really flattered that you feel this way about me. But I think it would be a really bad idea if we met. You see, my wife works out four nights a week, and if she caught me "eyes to eyes" with you she'd probably break my neck.

Not to mention that this is really not a great time for me to go to the Ukraine.

Thanks for thinking of me!

Your pal,

Not Hellmut

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I Now Possess the Phylactery of Litheness!

Some of you may think I'm just wasting time when I play Video Games. But after a fairly involved quest in Oblivion, I was rewarded with the Phylactery of Litheness!



I now have a permanent 5 point boost in my speed! Which means I can finish Shmoneh Esrei that much quicker than before!

Hmm

Er...

Never mind...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

K'Shoshana

The J-Blogosphere has two kinds of people. Those who divide the J-Blogosphere into two kinds of people, and those who don’t those who complain about things, and those who do something about them. MOChassid, as I have discovered, is both.

It was this incessant complaining that first drew my attention to the Blogosphere. While Googling for reviews of my band, I became aware of an ongoing kvetchfest between MOChassid and another Blogger named Velvel regarding the sad state of Jewish Music and their particular disdain for a genre that MO termed “Shiny Shoe Music.” I found myself agreeing with many of his points, although I suspect that there are more than a few of my own projects that would earn a place on his "hit" list.

But MO wasn’t content to just hock a chinek. He decided to do something about it, first through a series of concerts at his shul, Aish Kodesh, featuring the types of performers whom he felt represented the direction Jewish Music should be going, and then through the release last year of his first album, U'Shmuel B'korei Sh'mo.

With the release of his second album, K’Shoshana, MO is proving himself a force to be reckoned with in the Jewish Music industry. I’d plug this album for no other reason than to support a fellow blogger in his attempts to bring integrity and soul back into an industry that seems derailed by shmaltzy/cheesy/glitzy/computer-processed/homogenized/70’s Cop Show/disco/boy-band blandness.

But it helps that this happens to be a really good album, featuring two of my favorite people in the world, Aron Razel and Shlomo Katz (I’m not dissing Chaim Dovid; I’ve never had the privilege to play with him). Razel’s arrangements of 10 of Reb Shlomo Carlebach’s previously unreleased songs are clean and pleasing to the ears, and although Razel’s usual ingenuity is somewhat subdued to avoid overshadowing Carlebach’s material, it is still eminently present. Also present is the spirit of the late Reb Shlomo, A”H, whose legacy has been passed on to these three great performers. Katz, Razel, and Dovid each have quite different vocal styles, and yet they complement each other well through harmony and performance.

This album comes highly recommended and makes a great Channuka gift. In fact, I think I’m going to buy a copy for my own Rebbe, as this may be that one elusive album that the both of us can enjoy.

And don’t forget that my own Rock of Sages makes a great gift for that special, hard to please music lover.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Band Naming Poll ---->

OK, OK.

Enough already.

Seriously.

I want to thank all of you for all the wonderful and goofy names you volunteered. Some were really hilarious.

However, the boys and I need to pick one that is likely to get us gigs. Maybe even some paying gigs. And although I guess technically we could use different names for different types of jobs(i.e. goofy and irreverent for college shows or cafes, and stiff and formal for weddings), we're trying to keep it to one name for the sake of sanity.

I don't know that there's one name that really fits for what we do, though. We play some klezmer, but we're not really a klezmer band. And sometimes we're just a few guys on acoustic instruments and other times we're a big band with drums and amps.

So we're going to open it up for voting. The voting is absolutely non-binding. This is just for fun.

My personal favorite was West Side Shtreimel, but it was not a big hit with the boys, so we'll scrap that for the more conservative West Side Simcha. It still has that play on West Side Story going for it.

Milwaukee Klezmer Works, although it sounds like a sewage company, has that industrial revolution/garment district vibe that seems to work for klezmer so we'll leave that in. Although as I said, we do a lot of non-klez material as well.

Finally, to pay our respects to Old Goldie (and because we apparently already ran an ad under this name), I'm leaving in Goldie's Klezmer Band. No, we're not a Girl Group.

As much as I like Fakaktemus, I think it would be better used for a quirky side project (which makes no money).

Some of my favorites from your suggestions are The No Goodnicks, The Young Alter Kokers (still may use this for something), Kakamun (again with the feces), Klezmaniacs, Klezatzkah (fun to say!), Klezza Nostra (seriously, enough with the "Klezz"s), and a bunch more.

Shkoiach to all of you! Maybe some of you should form bands!

Now go to the sidebar over there ------>
Vote early, and vote often!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Book Review: The Hebrew Kid and the Apache Maiden

I don’t like Juvenile Books.

There, I’ve said it.

If a book is a certain width, height and thickness, if the type is of a certain size, if there are more than, oh, let’s say 20 titles in a series, my brain is automatically programmed to dismiss it as dumbed-down for a younger audience. My kids have over a hundred Animorphs books at home, and despite my obsession with Science Fiction and at times (let’s face it) outright desperation for reading material, I’ve never even considered reading a single page of any of them.

Call it a bad case of literary snobbery. It’s just my personal feeling that if a kid is old enough to read more sophisticated fare, he or she should read a real book. Books with training wheels just never made much sense to me.

I found this especially true for Juvenile Books aimed at Jewish kids. Aside from fulfilling all the above criteria, they also apparently have to pass through the strainer that removes all objectionable content, anything that might raise a kid’s eyes past the blinders, that might perchance introduce the child to some concept or idea that might somehow corrupt the young soul and send him or her reeling off the path. Literature by committee. Completely bland and uninteresting. Right?

Well, two things came along that changed my mind a little.

The first was Harry Potter. Yes, I know, Harry Potter’s last few books were tomes that would rival Merriam Webster, but the first book filled much of my criteria from paragraph three, and was even published by Scholastic. And yet, when the craze swept the nation, the world, and elsewhere, when even my wife was sitting on the couch reading this, I had to take a look. And I got sucked in like everyone else. Yes, the book was aimed at a younger demographic, and yes it was completely clear of sex and bad language and even the violence was relatively benign. But it was a piece of quality fiction. It was well written. The words flowed. The story was deep, the world richly developed.

I don’t look at the Harry Potter series as Juvenile Literature any more. I view it as Literature. Period. Accessible by kids, to be sure, but satisfying enough for a reader of any age.

So where is the Harry Potter of Jewish Juvenile Literature? Our Jewish book stores have racks and racks of books which have been sanitized by the religious establishment and seem to have been published mainly to reinforce what our little ones are taught in school, and maybe also to give them something to read lest they be tempted to reach for, gasp, secular Juvenile Books like Harry Potter or even…Animorphs.

Where is the J.K. Rowling of Jewish Literature?

Maybe it is Robert J. Avrech, a Hollywood Screenwriter who recently released his first book, “The Hebrew Kid and the Apache Maiden,” (Seraphic Press). Superficially, like Harry Potter, this book would appear to fulfill my criteria as mentioned above. Sitting on a shelf in your local Jewish book store, you might be tempted to pass it by. It’s the same size, weight, and smell as the other books surrounding it, and has as its cover a painting of a Jewish kid dressed like a cowboy with tzitzis flying in the wind. But you’d be making a mistake if you dismissed this as just another bit of religious fiction written by someone whose primary goal is to keep your kid in the shtetl.

Avrech is an adult writer who writes for real people in the real world. He has written a book that can stand up to any piece of secular fiction. It’s the story of Ariel, a soon-to-be Bar Mitzvah boy (named after the author’s own son who died tragically at a young age) who lives in the American Frontier in the years following the Civil War. Ariel’s family emigrated from Russia to escape anti-Semitism and constant pogroms. And what they find in the US…well, that’s for the reader to find out. It’s not necessarily what you think. Jews will face adversity wherever they go, and even in America, the most benevolent of the many places Jews have lived, there can be found great evil. But there is also great kindness, and Ariel and his family encounter many wonderful and surprising personalities, not the least of which is Lozen, the Apache Maiden.

The friendship Ariel and Lozen develop sheds much light on their two peoples, and by highlighting the differences he also backlights the similarities. This book is a Western, but it is not your parents’ Frisco Kid. Much as I love that old film, this story is not played for laughs. Avrech researched the period well, and through the reading of the book both young and old will learn a little something about what life was like in the Old West of the 1800’s.

Perhaps to make the book easier for the younger reader to absorb, the characters are familiar. The religiously impractical father. The overbearing-but-always-right mama. The older sister who just wants to fit in. The savage-but-noble Indian Chief. And Ariel…Ariel is our avatar. We observe through his eyes. We have to make the transition, as he does, from the Old World to the New.

So much changes for Ariel in his journey across the West. How does he hold on to who he is? Through the Torah. The traditions of the Torah, and the observance of Jewish Law keep Ariel and his family grounded through the entire unbelievable experience. Their stubborn persistence in sticking to their ways makes them pariahs to some, but paragons to others.

Jews can go everywhere, Avrech says. But they are never truly absorbed. Anti-Semitism follows them to the New World. But it is the adherence to Tradition that keeps them alive as a people. That is what our Torah is for. It is a lifeline that keeps us connected to our origins at Sinai, no matter how far our journeys take us, and no matter how strange our surroundings become.

Ariel laments with Lozen about the lack of a written language that will doom the Apache culture to gradually disappear. In the end, what Avrech tells us is that for the People of the Book, it is the book itself that brings us life.

What's wonderful about this book is that Avrech doesn't have to hit us over the head with this point. Read the story and it flows. And that is why this bit of Juvenile fiction is worth reading, at any age.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Fun With the SupportBot



Ask RoxAnn

Have a Question? Asking RoxAnn is the quickest, easiest way to solve the most common technical issues.

>Click to Ask<


Welcome to Roxio Customer Care.

You said:
Easy Media Creator doesn't launch

Our answer is:
The new Roxio Easy Media Creator 10 gives you creative inspiration and all the tools you need to enhance your digital lifestyle. Create, share and enjoy your movies, memories and music as only you can. Visit the Overview Page for more information.

If you need technical help with Easy Media Creator, please ask me again and be as specific about the problem as you can.

You said:
Easy Media Creator 10 doesn't launch

Our answer is:
I see you have a question about Creator. Are you asking about:

1.Product information?
2.A technical question about Easy Media or CD Creator?

You said:
A technical question about Easy Media or CD Creator

Our answer is:
If you are having technical issues, please ask me again and be as specific about the problem as you can.
You said:
The program doesn't start

Our answer is:
I see you have a question about Roxio software.

Are you asking about:

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2.A problem with Roxio software?

You said:
A problem with Roxio software

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If you are having a problem with Roxio software, please ask me again and be as specific about the problem as you can.

You said:
WHY doesn't Roxio Easy Media Creator 10 start?

Our answer is:
I see you have a question about Roxio.

Are you asking about:
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2.How to contact Roxio?

You said:
This program doesn't work at all

Our answer is:
I'm sorry I can't answer you at this time - please try rephrasing.

You said:
I hate you.

Our answer is:
Unfortunately, I still didn't understand you. If your question is of a technical nature, please state it as specifically as you can, being sure to include the product name and the version number.

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I had cheerios for breakfast. What did you eat?

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Did you eat cheerios for breakfast?

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It seems you haven't been getting the answers you need. So, that I can connect you with the right solution, please click on the link below that is most closely related to the topic you are seeking help on:
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If a piece of software is installed on a computer, but it never works, was it really installed?

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The following steps will completely remove any Roxio and Sonic software from your computer. Remove any Roxio and Sonic programs from Add or Remove Programs or use the Windows Installer Clean Up Utility if you receive a certificate file error while trying to remove the Roxio program. (Directions below) Follow[...to see more, please view the page I have opened in your browser]

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Now we're getting somewhere!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Name That Band!

I've come up with a few good band names in my time. Most of them have been unusable. Truth be told, PsychoToddler was originally destined to be a band name. But I didn't have a band to go with it so I used it for a blog.

Anyway, you probably already know that I've been involved with many bands over the years, and that frequently I'm involved in a few bands at the same time. What can I say? I'm a musical swinger.

My main band, MSB, is a hardcore Jewish Rock band. But sometimes I want to be...what's the word...quiet. Not so ear-splittingly loud. And sometimes I just want to strum a guitar and sing to a couple of people in a room. Or some old folks at the Home. And sometimes I want to stretch a little musically and try something new.

So for the last year or so, I've hooked up with a couple of talented guys who go to my shul, and we've been doing acoustic performances. We do a couple of my original songs, a few Chassidic standards, some Carelbach, the occasional jazz standard, and most recently, with the addition of our talented clarinet player, some Klezmer.

Now we're at the stage where we're tired of being called, "the guys from the shul" or "Mark and Adam and Bryan" and we need a name. Here are a couple of ideas:

Goldie's Klezmer Band (named after Bryan's grandfather, Nathan Goldstein, a retired NYC Cop, nice but confusing)

49th Street Klezmer Band

West Side Shtreimel

Milwaukee Klezmer Works

Mark and Adam and Bryan

Bryan and Adam and Mark

Adam and...well you get the picture

The Guys from the Shul

The Not as Loud Orchestra

Fakaktamus (this is what my daughter used to call the Plecostemus)

Anyway, we're looking for ideas. Please help us! Leave your ideas in the comments. I can't guarantee that we'll use them, but I do guarantee that we will read and laugh at them.

To give you an idea what we sound like, here are a couple of videos from a Melaveh Malka last year at the Young Israel of West Roger's Park:






Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Radio Interview Podcast

As promised, here are the podcasts from Sunday Morning's MaMaSh radio interview. I really hate my voice.

(Note: Frankenstein Edit: I had some problems with the upload and the posts are out of order. Try to listen to 1 then 2 then 3 for the best effect (click "Posts" to see the names of the podcasts). Also the commercials are in place, so if you like that sort of thing, enjoy. I am told an edited version is coming).

I'm thinking about doing periodic podcasts for PT related shenanigans, so you may want to subscribe if you have an iPod.


Subscribe Free for future posts  Add this player to my Page

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Hebron Trip

This coming week, Jews around the world will be reading from the Torah portion known as Chayei Sarah. I've always found it interesting what the Torah chooses to elaborate on and what it chooses to skip. It glosses completely over the origin and identity of Cain's wife, for example, while it devotes a large portion of the beginning of Chayei Sarah to describing Abraham's negotiation and purchase of the Me'arat Hamachpelah, the Cave of the Patriarchs, and the field in Hebron where it is located, from Efron the Hittite, as a burial site for his wife and family.

It is perhaps the earliest documented deed of sale for a parcel of land. And yet it seems incredible that, 3500 hundred years later, we are still arguing over who actually owns it. The cave, and the city of Hebron itself, home to the first kingdom of David, where he ruled before conquering Jerusalem, is one of the oldest and holiest pieces of Jewish land. And it is also a place that the world has decided must be free of Jews. Naturally, when we planned our trip to Israel over the summer, we decided that it is a place that our children must see.

We were very fortunate to get Jameel from the Muquata and David Bogner from Treppenwitz to be our guides.



Rather than get into a long and boring chronicle of the trip, I'm going to post some pictures and let them speak for themselves.




Driving through Hebron in David Bogner's car. He is dissecting the new Beatles Love CD as we drive past the rubble-strewn environs. Surreal does not begin to describe the moment.




The outside of the compound for the Me'arah. The Cave of the Patriarchs is neither a cave nor a tomb. Discuss.



Jameel and David Bogner approach the enclosure over the Mearah. Note, if you will, the stones used for the bottom half of the structure. These are identifiable by their size, their inset border, and the quality of their construction as Herodian Stone. This places the age of the structure at around the time of the Second Temple.



The stones of the upper half of the structure follow an undulating pattern which simulates waves when viewed from a distance. This same pattern was used in the construction of the Second Temple. Putting it all together, if the Romans had not sacked the Temple in 70 AD, it most likely would still be standing today and would look very much like this.



The entrance to the chamber that houses the Cenotaphs for Abraham and Sarah.



The Cenotaph, or false tomb, of Abraham. This confused me when I came here as a kid. This casket is NOT underground in a cave. But that's OK because Abraham isn't in it. Possibly this marks the geographic spot where the Patriarch is buried in the cave under the structure. Or maybe not.
While we were there, Jameel explained to us the history of the Me'arah and the city of Hebron, and relayed this fascinating story to us.



The very interesting chandelier which hangs over the cenotaph. I'm assuming the Arabs change the light bulbs because Jews aren't allowed in.



The smaller, side shul inside the enclosure. We managed to catch a Mincha prayer while we were there.




The larger main shul in the courtyard.



The ark where the Torah is kept in the larger area.



After the tour we were treated to an amazing meal courtesy of David and Zahava Bogner. Aside from Jameel and the seven bloggers I brought with me, we also met up with some old friends from Milwaukee, Safranit and her husband, who made aliyah a few years ago. From L-R: Jameel, Safranit, David, and me. Notice how Jameel and I are wearing the same outfit. I was truly mortified.



What series of vacation pictures would be complete without an obligatory pose from The PT, here joined by the "other" psychotoddler, son of Treppenwitz.

Below is a movie my son Larry took while we were there. In Jameel's defense, he does not normally sound like he's been inhaling helium. I edited the speed to mask his voice.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Radio Interview

Well, it's time to set your alarm clocks.

I'm scheduled to be interviewed by David Gertler for his Music For Motzai Shabbat (MaMaSh) Radio Programme, this coming Saturday Night (or is it Sunday morning) at 3am-5am EST.

We'll be discussing my "music."

The show airs on WMCA 570 AM in the New York area, and streams from http://www.talklinecommunications.com/

If you're in Israel, you can catch the show live during waking hours!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

What I'm Reading

I decided to add the "Library Thing" widget to my sidebar, which I freely admit to pilfering from Jessica's blog. Every so often I've toyed with the idea of blogging about the book I'm currently reading in order to demonstrate how eclectically hip I am, and since this is one of those rare instances when I'm not in the midst of a Asimov/Harry Potter/Tom Clancy book I thought this would be the perfect occasion.

I'm in the middle of The Amazing Story of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon, and I have to confess that all I knew about him prior to reading this book was that his wife, Ayelet Waldman, got into some hot water a few years back for writing that she loved him more than their kids.

After spending some time with this book (which means little since I'm such a slow reader), I'm starting to develop an attachment to Chabon of my own. This is a great, great book. I don't really know what it is about, but it makes me feel proud. Proud to be an American, where anything is possible, where you can get off a boat with nothing in your pocket and build an empire, proud to be a Jew, Europe's purge of which led to the end of culture and enlightenment on that darkening continent, proud to have grown up as a scrawny New York kid who read and drew comic books.

This book seems to be about all of that, and maybe more. It's about the American Dream. And at this rate, I may actually finish it in less than six months!

What are you doing Tonight...

...at 11pm EDT?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Go Pack

I was on call this past weekend, and had the occasion to visit a nice elderly lady who was in the hospital suffering from, amongst other things, dementia, heart failure, urosepsis and generalized weakness. While she had just the day before complained about all of these maladies, on Sunday I walked in to her room, and when I asked her how she was doing, she barked: "GO PACK!"

For a brief moment I thought this meant that she was feeling so much better that she was ready to be discharged. That was before I noticed that she was sitting, propped up in her bed, wearing a green and gold sweatshirt, with a napkin tucked in at the collar, eating her pancakes with diabetic syrup and staring at the TV.

"De Packers are playin', an' I feel fine," she elaborated.

I never fail to underestimate the Green Bay Packers' therapeutic medical effects. It is a documented fact that Wisconsin Emergency Rooms are significantly less busy when they play, and become correspondingly overcrowded as soon as the game is over. Although I haven't found statistics yet on whether winning or losing makes a difference.

Which leads me to the interesting article which greeted me from the front page of today's paper, showing a crew of Orthodox Jews, led by local Chabad-guy Shais Taub, davening Shachris at a tailgate party at Lambeau Field.



You can read the whole thing here, but this paragraph really resonated with me (emphasis mine):

"What's the point?" Taub said. "Number one, Judaism is not relegated to the synagogue or the study hall. When you're a Jew, you're a Jew everywhere. If a group of Jews want to go to a Packer game, we do it like Jews."

"Number two, Jewish pride," he added. "Some Jews should see this and say, 'You know what, there is nothing to hide.' I can be openly and boldly Jewish and do that anywhere on earth and go where I want to go."

Go Taub!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Don't Call Me

There are two reasons why you shouldn't call me:

1. I hate talking on the phone. Ask my mother.

2. Owing to the fact that she is now six and her chair is right below the kitchen wall phone, The PT has been answering all our phone calls.

Here's a sample of a few dinner time calls:

RIIIINNNNGGGG

The PT: (Jumps up on her chair and grabs the phone before anyone else can get to it)

The PT:

The PT:

The PT:

Abba: Say "hello"!

The PT: Erg....hewwo?

The PT:

The PT:

Abba: Who is it??

The PT: I don't know!

Mrs B: Hang up.

Abba: Wait--

Mrs B: Nobody's there.

The PT: (hangs up, sits down)

RIIIIINNNGGGG!!!

The PT:

The PT:

Abba: Say HELLO!!

The PT: Er....hewwo?

The PT:

Abba: Who is it?

The PT: Sounds wike a computer!

Mrs B: Hang up.

Abba: Maybe you should get on the phone.

Mrs B: Hang up, it's a computer.

The PT: (hangs up, sits down)

RIIINNNNNGGGG!!

The PT: Hewwo?

The PT: We're having hamburgers and fwench fwies and koowaide.

Abba (to Mrs B): It's your mother.

Mrs. B: Hang up.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Top 10 Reasons Why I Haven't Been Blogging

10. The Jewish Holidays

Do I really need to elaborate on this? Check the stats on your favorite J-Blogs and you'll see that Tishrei has not been kind to them. Add in the general trend of blogging around the work-week schedule and and it's small wonder that having half a week off, three weeks out of four, has played havoc with everyone's blogging.

In my case, also factor in the preparation for the holidays, the recovery from the holidays, and overall fatigue from getting up early for slichos and not being able to keep my eyes open much past 9 PM.

So I hope everyone had a healthy and a happy one, and now can we PLEASE return to normality??


9. Work


Being off for so many days means that I need to do that much more work the days that I'm in, which leads to totally packed clinics that start early, go through lunch, and end late. Blogging? What's that?


8. The kids have been home

Which is great and all but for many reasons it cuts down on my blogging. The primary issue is that they use all the computers, so my access to Blogger is quite limited at home. Unless I use the computer that our network lovingly designates as "abba", which, much like C-3P0 to Anakin Skywalker, is the little machine that I tinkered together in my days of youth and innocence, but whose relationship I now refuse to acknowledge, because it is obsolete and eccentric and has the annoying tendency to unceremoniously reboot itself while I'm in the middle of writing my most profound pos/////////////////////////////////////

DANG!! Where was I?! Man it's hard to keep a train of thought going through spontaneous reboots and ten minute restart cycles.


7. Facebook

Oh thank you Mr. Da Jew for inviting me to this enthralling internet experience known as facebook. Who thought up this thing? The Three Stooges? I spend hours a day logging on, getting poked, poking back, and getting poked again. And then people lob cows or pies or pirates at me and I'm supposed to be fascinated by this.

Look, I thought it was cool when fudge came home from college a few years back and showed me her facebook page and all her little friends from school who busily scribbled on her wall and joined clubs like "fudge's Mom is the most Awesomest" and stuff like that. Really, it's nice. And I kinda liked that it was restricted to college kids and that you were supposed to use your real name and that only people whom you really knew would have access to your profile.

But then they opened it up to everyone with an email address and now, correct me if I'm wrong, it's filled with middle-aged bloggers who use aliases (aliasi?) and have obscure Sesame Street characters as their screen icons while they cavort with the college girls. Ahem.

Anyway it seems a little creepy.

On the other hand, I did reconnect with an old college roommate who seems to know a lot of models.


6. The XBOX 360 is finally here!

Yes!! I pined and I pined! And I bought the washer and dryer! And then I got my kids to empty their little bank accounts and chip in on the beast! The 360 ROOLZ! Not that I have time to play it, what with all the blogging I'm supposed to be doing.

OK, there is this one game called Test Drive Unlimited, that's a cross between The Sims and Midnight Club, in which they model the entire island of Oahu and you get a virtual home and you buy cars and race them or just cruise around and enjoy the sights. And it's online so the other cars are sometimes real people from Sheboygan. And also you can shop for shoes. I'm serious!


5. My Musical Career

Haha just kidding. Actually I did play one gig over Sukkos and it was fun.



4. Heroes is back on TV

The best show on TV is back with all new episodes! And I have an HDTV in the basement! My wife and I are totally hooked on this, and I can exercise and spend quality time with her simultaneously. Besides Heroes, there's also Bionic Woman, which I'm having a hard time getting into, but as a child of the 70's I feel obligated to give it a chance. Plus it's by Battlestar Galactica producer David Eick, and Katee Sackhoff is in it, so there's potential. Maybe it'd be better if I watched from a Sleep Number bed. Purely by virtue of momentum, we've tried out Journeyman too, which seems to me like Quantum Leap minus Al.



3. Pinnacle Studio

I'll spare you all the technical details (because I know you won't read them), but my DVD authoring program, which I won't name (except to say that it's Roxio Easy Media Creator 7) suddenly decided to stop functioning, and no amount of defragging/uninstalling/reinstalling/patching would make it work again. And the only helpful advice I got from Roxio was "You can now purchase Easy Media Creator 10!" Uh, thanks, but no thanks. I'm not throwing good money after bad. So after some serious research (thank you, Google), I settled on Pinnacle's Studio software. Also the box looked pretty cool. And it comes with Green Screen. Literally. It comes with a big green screen. Like six by six. So you can eventually look forward to Youtube videos featuring the PT singing Ma Nishtana on the Moon while being stalked by a giant space cat.

Right now I'm focusing on transferring band performances to DVD (and going w i d e s c r e e n !) and putting together a compelling movie out of our 2 hours of Israel footage and some 800 odd pictures. Yeah, look for that real soon.



2. Blog fatigue

I think King Solomon said it best when he wrote, "there is nothing new under the Heavens...it is all futility." Was anyone else paying attention during the reading of Koheleth or is the theme of that thing, "life sucks, and then you die"?

Seriously, I think I've already said everything useful that I'm ever going to have to say, and anything else is pure nonsense. But hey, there's a market for that.


1. Self-censorship

Thank you, Anonymous Lurker, for coming up to me at that Bar Mitzvah the other night and DeLurking in front of my wife! She is now more convinced that ever that I give out too much personal information to total strangers on the internet and that we will one day come home to a completely different family stealing our identities, inhabiting our house, driving our cars, paying our kids' tuition, and writing our blogs. For all you know, I may already be an impostor.

Anyway, bottom line, more and more is becoming taboo. Sigh.

(Seriously, Anonymous Lurker, it was cool to meet you!)



Hey! Maybe I should make this into one of those...now what do they call them...oh! Memes! I guess I should...tag...some people...lessee...whom can I annoy...

I tag Ralphie, Stacey, and Mort the non-blogger!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

YEAR IN REVIEW!!

ROOOAAAARRRR!!!!

How it possible WHOLE YEAR go by and only two posts feature Cro Magnon Man?!

To make up, Psychotoddler allow Cro Magnon Man to do yearly post round-up. But not need to worry; Psychotoddler be back soon. Have only hairline skull fracture. Cro Magnon Man put up strong argument.

Hmm…now where to start?

Bizzarro

Cro Magnon Man know most of Psychotoddler readers come for weird, bizzarro posts featuring perplexingly obscure cast of fictional characters discussing everyday life situations with much humor. So Cro Magnon Man summarize these first:


HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

NOT SO FAST!! You think you pull fast one on Cro Magnon? You think just read funny ones then skip rest of post! Well Cro Magnon man may have brain size of walnut, but not get fooled by that trick! Cro Magnon move Bizzarro category to end!

Kids

Ugh. Cave children. Many of you think because blog named “Psycho Toddler” that it only about funny things his kids say. Cro Magnon read these stories. Stories just not that funny. Psychotoddler move many of them to other blog. Look there. Actually, not sure why need to come to this blog to read about Psychotoddler younglings, since all have own blogs already. Cro Magnon did find touching post about new fish family buy. Poignant tale of survival in PT household. Will fish live or fish die? Cro Magnon Man save you from suspense: Fish dead.

Blogging

Writing about blogging, Psychotoddler write about how blogging improve his public speaking skills. NOT. Some people have way with words. Others not have way. Psychotoddler also get all emotional when marking first yahrtzeit for father. Cro Magnon Man appreciate respect for ancestors. Also thank PT readers for supporting Psychotoddler through year of mourning.

Religion

Yawwwwwwn. Psychotoddler have religious angst again. What else new. Psychotoddler reach back to 2004 in desperate attempt to remain relevant. Not fooling anyone.

Shul

OK!! This where get interesting for Cro Magnon Man! Every time Psychotoddler write about shul, get VERY CRANKY!! They say Islam religion of peace. Not say that about Judaism! That for sure! Psychotoddler think fist-fight break out if he skip tachanun one more time! PT also get VERY ANNOYED at things other people do in shul. Cro Magnon have advice for PT: ROAR LOUD AND CARRY BIG CLUB!!

ARRRRR!!! Advice arrive TOO LATE!! Psychotoddler reign of terror OVER!! But, not too late to bring big club to shul. After all, it appear Psychotoddler turning into grumpy old man he so despised in youth. PT should know better. No escaping inner Cro Magnon Man.

On serious note, Cro Magnon think PT have good point regarding early minyan.

Car

And now something different. Psychotoddler write about car. Again. Why Psychotoddler not just get new car already? Cro Magnon know what problem is: Psychotoddler spoiled as child with too many toy cars.

Music

Oh, HERE big surprise: Psychotoddler write bunch of posts about his band! Did Cro Magnon say band? Meant bands. Post video of usual band playing big show that nobody show up to (especially like how camera man pan out to empty seats--nice shot!). Also post alternate acoustic act playing small intimate show that nobody show up to.

But that not all! PT contribute song to first online interdenominational interfaith intergalactic Holiday Special! Where Wookies when need them?

Psychotoddler explain to me (during brief lucid periods) that this blog started in part to give “inside look” into being in band. Heh. What exploding toilets have to do with that?? But not to digress, PT discuss interesting synchronicity between death of bass and death of patient. Cro Magnon think Psychotoddler reading too much Jung. Or listen to too much Police. Also tell of trials and tribulations involved with setting up home recording studio, and give free song. FREE SONG! It seem Psychotoddler not even able to GIVE songs away! Nobody listen! Maybe readers think something that cost nothing, worth nothing.

PT give us intriguing “inside look” at what go on at band practice. Note to Producer: Need MORE Triceratops Bell!

Finally Psychotoddler join atomic age and now last person on earth to buy iPod. Neanderthal Luddite.

Family Affairs

It a family afffairrr! It a family afffffaaaiirrr! What? Cro Magnon Man big fan of Sly and Family STONE. Psychotoddler write about how preparation for Bar Mitzvah of Curly leave him little time to write blog. GOOD! Enough crap on internet already! Unfortunately, after Bar Mitzvah, have more time to start blogging again. As punishment for readers remaining loyal, PT post pictures from his Bar Mitzvah and Wedding. Cro Magnon think PT look more refined with beard.

Mother of Psychotoddler think he losing his mind. Who Cro Magnon Man to argue?

Israel

Psychotoddler Clan go to Israel! Hilarity ensue! Hilarity ensue? Hellllloooo?? Hillllarity!! Where hilarity? Why it not ensue? Why only substantive Israel post about cemetery?? Then Psychotoddler write about crapmobile he forced to drive. Psychotoddler not have to travel to Israel to come up with that story. Cro Magnon Man hope hilarity coming soon. In mean time, PT post series of pictures only takeable in Israel.

Entertainment

And in World of Entertainment, Psychotoddler complain about new season of Battlestar Galactica, formerly best show on TV, now major shark-jumper. PT wonder why Movie Industry not able to offer truly family friendly cuts of popular films on DVDs when so many tracks devoted to Brontosaurus droppings. Psychotoddler begin and apparently soon abandon series of posts about DVDs he and kids watch while on exercise bike. Cro Magnon have the inside scoop: It because he watch nothing but crappy 90’s Sci Fi shows.

Cro Magnon Man have it on good authority that Psychotoddler like to tell people that he an architect. To prove point, he design computer game level based on own home, but filled with teleporting space cats, pig police, lizard men, alien egg pods and slime monsters with pointy teeth. Amazing how close to reality it is!


Bizzarro

ARRRRRR!!!!

OK!! Moment all wait for arrive! Patented Psychotoddler Bizzarro Posts!

First, PT attempt to market sheitels for men. Is it just Cro Magnon, or Psychotoddler obsessed with William Shatner? And Sheitels?

Do not disturb Psychotoddler when in Fortress of Solitude! Psychotoddler make some superhero, no? What his super power? Make toilet paper disappear?

Cro Magnon not sure if this post supposed to be about cars or about band. But demonstrate PT willing to go to “great lengths” for a gag. Like satellite imaging.

Psychotoddler fancy himself some kind of crimefighter in post about neighborhood patrol. Maybe if criminal need bathroom during perpetration of crime, PT get to use his toilet paper zapper and save day!

Everyone know Psychotoddler big nerd and not know first thing about football. Hey! PT! Ever hear of “write what know”?

FINALLY!!! ROOOOAAAR!!! Cro Magnon Man make appearance in Attack of Pod People! Really more of cameo. In truth, Cro Magnon hold out for more money, but get offered spin-off instead. However, even Cro Magnon at loss to describe what on Earth going through Psychotoddler head when writing this one.

Well, that about it for this year! Next time, PsychoBarbarian write round-up!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Radio Blog/Shmadio Blog

Wow. Based on the amazingly underwhelming response to my latest poll, it appears that most of you don't listen to my Radio Blog. Only 22% of respondents reported that they do, but let's be honest, one of them was me so we need to drop that figure by a quarter.

I probably shouldn't feel that bad, since fully 50% answered "what's a radio blog" so it's clear that my traditional obscurity in the Jewish Music world remains intact. For the record, the Radio Blog is located on the side bar of this blog, if you scroll waaaaaaay down, past the pictures, the web ads, the archives, the recent comments, the awards, the blogroll and the site meter, and looks a little something like this:




You can click on a song and listen to it streaming through the computer, and if you click the "pop up" button it will open in a small window so you can navigate away from Psycho Toddler, although I don't know why anyone would ever want to do that.

From the tepid response, it is clear that I don't need to bother updating it or adding new songs.

Please go on with your business and continue to ignore my musical talents!



UPDATE:



Due to the successful kiss-up campaign, I uploaded 5 new songs to the Radio.Blog! See the comments for details!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

My Village

I know what you say. I hear you murmuring behind my back:

"Psychotoddler, you're always whining about your neighborhood. Why do you stay?"

Here's why.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Jewish Reconnection Project, Episode 1

This is actually a pretty interesting video that was sent to me. It touches on a lot of the issues I've addressed on this blog before: being identifiably Jewish; the place of the Jew in America; what it means to "represent"; inferiority feelings that many of us have as a minority, etc.

It's worth a few minutes to watch it. It will be interesting to see how the other episodes turn out.
(Note to Todd: I'm not Shifra!)

Friday, August 31, 2007

Coming Soon: Sheitel Searchs

Mark my words: Your wife will soon be asked to remove her sheitel for airport security, or have it "patted down" for bombs and the like.

OK, OK, maybe I'm just a little sensitive about articles like this one on searching Turbans after The PT (age 6) was frisked on her way through Atlanta security recently.

Can we start screening more intellingently, please? Sikhs aren't blowing up airplanes! Neither are 6 year old girls and little old ladies from Miami! Muslims are!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

My Great-Grandfather's Grave

If I had to pick a theme for the family trip to Israel, it would be “connecting.” Connecting my kids with their cousins in Israel. Connecting our strangely out of place existence in the US with our roots in Israel. Connecting the stories of the Torah to the physical places where they occurred. Connecting our practice of Judaism with the land from which it sprang. Connecting the seemingly obscure laws of the Torah with the society for which they were written. Connecting the stream of Jewish continuity from our Forefathers through the Exile and finally to the place where we now reside.

For me there was an additional connection: Connecting with my own personal ancestry. I went to visit the grave of my great-grandfather, Abraham Silberberg. His story is recorded briefly here. But to summarize:


Abraham Silberberg is 3rd from right.

My mother’s paternal grandfather was a Polish Chussid who had the foresight to realize that bad things were coming for the Jews and immigrated to Palestine in 1938. He attempted to bring his children (there were 11) with him. But some of them refused to leave, thinking things would “blow over.” As we know, they did not. Almost all of his children were murdered by the Nazis, including my grandfather, Moses Silberberg, for whom I’m named. As my mother tells the tale, when he heard what had happened, he laid down and died.

His grave is in an ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives, in what is now considered “Occupied Arab East Jerusalem.” Apparently, Jews have been occupying Palestinian land for at least a thousand years, because that’s how old some of those graves are.

My cousin and her charming husband were nice enough to agree to take me to the cemetery and show me the grave. We drove through the Old City to get there. If you’ve ever visited the Kotel (Wailing Wall), odds are that you’ve seen my great-grandfather’s grave, because it’s clearly visible from the approach to the plaza.



The cemetery itself is in a bit of disarray. New paths are being constructed, and there are multiple Burial Societies involved in its upkeep, and my impression is that they don’t cooperate that well with each other. We had to climb over walls and up slopes to get to where he was buried.



Many of the graves look new. This is partially because the cemetery is still in active use and new graves are being dug. It is also because the Jordanians overturned many of the graves during their occupation of the area between 1948 and 1967. My great-grandfather’s headstone was one of those that were rededicated after ‘67. How do we know where it was? First, because my Aunt Sara and her husband visited the grave before the Jordanians took over. And second, because the Chevra Kadisha (Burial Society) kept meticulous records going back hundreds of years.



On our way over we passed numerous graves that were still in a state of disrepair. My cousin told me that there were many that either could not be identified or that didn’t have family to rebuild them. In fact we passed one “mass grave” that was constructed from the headstones of multiple unidentifiable graves.



I was told that the Arabs had looted the cemetery, and that the marble headstones were used to make toilets.



The view from the cemetery was spectacular. In addition to sprawling panoramic views of the countryside, we had a clear view of the Old City and the Intercontinental Hotel, where the PLO held its first meeting in 1964, its goal to remove the Jews from its “occupied land.” Since this was three years before Israel acquired the West Bank and Gaza, one must conclude that the occupied land in question was the rest of Israel. In the distance you can also make out the wall that is being constructed to keep terrorists out.

After zigzagging our way through various plots and climbing up and down terraced levels, we made our way to the actual grave. As you can see from the photos, it looks fairly new.



Here’s a close up of the top:



Translating roughly:


Here is buried
The rabbi and chussid
Abraham son of Shmuel
Silberberg of blessed memory
From the town of Jaworzno
He was sheltered all his days
In the shadow of the righteous men of Kozmir
Passed on 11 Shevat 5701 (1941)
May his soul be bound up in eternal life

-- - --

This monument was newly rededicated
Tammuz 5729 (1969)
By his daughter Sara
And her husband Yehoshua Shlomo
Wachsman from New York

-- - --

In remembrance of the soul of his righteous wife
Mother of the family
Malkah daughter of Reb Sholom
Passed 19 Elul 5698 (1938)
???? in the town of Jaworzno



In the front, too, there is an engraving commemorating his many children, including my grandfather, who perished in the Holocaust and who have no graves of their own.

We said some Psalms, and I put a little stone on the marker, and did the same for my uncle’s next to it. In the distance we could hear a gunshot. Or maybe it was a car backfiring. Anyway, it was time to go.

It was a sobering experience. I was angry at the thought that the day may come when I can no longer visit my own ancestor’s grave. I was angered by what the Arabs had done to this cemetery, by the continued perpetuation by them and the media of the lie that this is not Jewish land. And about how few of our own people seem to understand or care.

As I turned to start the trek back to the car, I saw the sun setting over the Temple Mount. And I was struck by how close we were to the Old Temple, and yet still quite far.


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Monday, August 27, 2007

Great Article from Fudge

My daughter Fudge managed to cobble this article together for the Observer while we were in Israel, even though she had to share the one computer with seven other people and even though it eventually exploded.

Talk about working under pressure! It's a good read, too. Reminds me why we need places like YU.

Where NOT to Buy your Succah

I was actually planning to buy a new sukkah this year. Then I got my kids' tuition bills.

Anyway, if I were going to buy a new sukkah, I wouldn't but it from this guy:

The owner of the websites described below, www.succah.com and www.succah.safewebshop.com, is in violation of Jewish law, in that he has not given his wife a get, a Jewish divorce decree. He has failed to comply with an order issued by the Baltimore Bet Din (Jewish court). Until he gives his wife a get, she is not permitted to remarry under Jewish law.

Sam Rosenbloom has a seruv issued against him by the Baltimore Bet Din. A copy of the seruv can be viewed at www.getora.com/seiruvim.htm .

Mr. Rosenbloom owns and operates an on-line sukkah business at http://www.succah.com . We strongly recommend that no Jewish person buy from his website, that no synangogue grant him an aliyah or other religious honor or benefit, and that no Jewish family invite Mr. Rosenbloom into their home or otherwise provide him with Yom Tov or Shabbat hospitality.

Thanks to Queenie's Mom for pointing this out.

Monday, August 20, 2007

An Explanation for my Avatar

If you have the good fortune to chat with me on Yahoo or Gmail, you may be bewildered by my Avatar. Bewilder ye no more:

Thanks, A Simple Jew (and Alpaca too!)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Need for Speed



Say what you will about Israeli drivers: the fact remains that driving in Israel can be exhilarating. I'm not talking about the gridlocked streets of Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, although there is still some challenge to be found there. No, I'm talking about the narrow roads that wind their way up and down the mountain ranges of Northern Israel. The sudden changes in elevation, hairpin turns, blind corners, and soaring vistas seem tailor-made for the video game racing enthusiast.

That is, if you have the right car. Sadly, I did not. As Fudge pointed out, I was driving the roads of my dreams with the car of my nightmares. I shouldn't complain. We were lucky to have any vehicle. Mrs. B's aunt managed to procure one for us at the 11th hour from some Charedi rental agency in Tel Aviv. The price was exorbitant, but at least we got a minivan.
However, it was not what one would call, a performer. If the Kia Rio that I rented when my car was in the shop was powered by a lawnmower, the power plant of the Kia Carnival contained, in my opinion, a gerbil in need of a hip replacement. And it was a diesel, so it was loud and smelly too. I'm not sure how old it was. This picture to the right, which resembles it fairly closely, is a 1999 model, according to the Russian auto sales site from which I stole it. I think. I can't really read Russian.

As far as I can tell, it was not capable of accelerating. Any forward movement of the van was on the basis of either gravity or possibly wind. Certainly, it didn't seem interested in going forward when I depressed the gas pedal. This was particularly distressing in situations where rapid acceleration was desirable, say when attempting to enter one of Israel's many traffic circles, or trying to make a left turn onto a busy road. This is usually what you'd hear, if you were sitting in the car with us:

Mrs. B: OK, that guy passed, you can enter the traffic circle.

Me: OK.

Mrs. B: GO!

Me: I'm trying!

Mrs. B: Why aren't you moving?

Me: I don't know! I'm pressing the gas! Wait...are we starting to go forward a little?

Mrs. B: Hurry up! That truck is getting closer!

Me: I'm flooring it! Hey, OK, now we're starting to move a little!

Mrs. B: Would it help if I got out and pushed?

Me: It might. Crap that guy is going to hit us!


I can only daydream about what it would have been like to cruise those roads in a Lamborghini. Well, I guess there's always video games.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Ooo that Smell

Henceforth, if anyone asks you if raw potatoes can go bad, the answer is Yes. Very Yes.

Only in Israel...and Middle-Earth





The Aron in the main courtyard at the Maarat Hamachpelah (Tomb of the Patriarchs) in Hebron






The Doors of Durin, Western gait into the Mines of Moria, from Tolkein's The Lord of the Rings








See Jameel! I told you!

Coffee!!


This goes out to my Homies who are still in the Holy Land...first decent cup of coffee I've had in more than 2 weeks! It'll be here waiting for you!


And last night I slept like a baby! Traveling is good and all, but there's nothing like snuggling up in your own bed.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Terrorist Killed in Old City After Snatching Guard's Gun

At least according to Arutz 7.

According to Ynet: Security guard at Ateret Kohanin yeshiva in Jerusalem's Old City shoots and kills Palestinian who snatched another guard's weapon and wounded him. Ten other people wounded in incident.

Meanwhile, our friends at the Jerusalem post say Jerusalem security guard kills Arab attacker in Old City.

And at Haaretz, Attempted attack in J'lem Old City injures ten. "The incident took place on Hanotzrim Street, near Jaffa Gate."

However you want to spin it (shouldn't the story be that some Arab grabbed a gun and shot at a bunch of Israelis?), we were there yesterday.

Only in Israel #5



Can I get a small salad, please?

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Only in Israel #4



Vending machine for candles at the Tomb of Rav Meir (yes, THE Rav Meir).

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Only in Israel #3




Hassidic Graffiti (Hey, that would be a great band/blog name!)


Can someone explain the whole "Na Nach Nachma Nachman MeUman" thingie to me in a way that doesn't make it sound like a cult or Avodah Zarah? I don't remember seeing all of this when I was in Israel in the '90s.

Only in Israel #2



You need to wear a black hat to cross the street:

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Do the Shekel Shuffle!

Step 1: Attempt to buy a few random things from the local Bodega Makolet. For argument's sake, let's say some instant coffee and a box of Waffle Crisp. And four bars of soap.

Step 2: Cashier: "We don't take Dollars" (pay with credit card).

Step 3: Follow signs to Bank (under big sign saying "Welcome to Nefesh beNefesh").

Step 4: Stand in line for a while.

Step 5: Teller: "I don't change Dollars for Shekels. Go over there and see Rivkah."

Step 6: Who?

Step 7: Teller: "That way!"

Step 8: Wait for only other woman in Bank to get off phone.

Step 9: Are you Rivka?

Step 10: Not Rivka: "NO."

Step 11: Where is Rivka?

Step 12: Not Rivka: "Rivka is not here today."

Step 13: Well, can you change money for us?

Step 14: Not Rivka: "No. Speak to Chaim." Pointing to cubicle to right.

Step 15: Cubicle to right is empty.

Step 16: Man in Cubicle to far right is on phone, behind sign that says "Not Working".

Step 17: Not Working: "What?"

Step 18: Can you change money for us?

Step 19: Not Working: "Yes, but you don't want to do that here. It's cheaper if you go to a money changer."

Step 20: AAAARRRRRGGGGHHHH