Friday, May 28, 2010

Utopian Children

Yesterday I went to hear some of the most talented children in NYC read excerpts from their own original stories. (In case you were wondering, yes it was on a date.)

There is a terrific place in the Manhattan called "Writopia Lab." It is a place where children of all ages who are interested in writing can go to develop skills, get their ideas onto paper, or just explore their own imagination. I have visited the lab once and it is truly a terrific environment. The children don't sit at tables with a paper and pen; they sit in nice comfortable couches with laptops. They are not limited to what they can write. They are encouraged to take their own ideas and mold them into a story.

Yesterday was their end-of-the-year finale event where almost 100 kids of all ages came to perform their excerpts. While the stories were incredible, the program was very well-run and the format was exceptional, I would like to focus on something that I saw there that is often difficult to find in adults, much less in children. The ability to perform in public takes guts, especially from a kid who speaking to an auditorium full of people that he or she has never even seen before.

Earlier in the day I attended my college graduation. I was actually a little embarrassed when the valedictorian delivered her address. While she seemed confident, she paused a few times for laughter (her own) and sounded like Pip from "Enchanted." It was bury-your-head-in-your-face time for every graduate in my row.

The point is that these kids were so impressive in their ability to speak in front of a large audience. I don't know if they were trained for that, or simply trained in confidence, but they clearly were not shaken by the size of the room.

If you are between the ages of 9-17 and want to go into writing or have or plan on having children between those ages, and want them to try to express their own creativity, Writopia certainly has my endorsement, and if you can't trust an anonymous blogger on the internet, who can you trust?

Help is on the Way!

For those of you new to this blog, first of all where have you been? Secondly, you should know that I have a bit of a problem with sarcasm. Well, the high-tech world of computer geekistry is here to help:

Hat Tip: a s

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Burning Nussach Question

This past Shabbos, the older of my two younger brothers (Hotdog) davened Shacharis for the amud. Now, being that Shavuos had just passed, Hotdog's Tefilah mind was still on the nussach for Shalosh R'galim. He startes Shochen Ad with its incorrect melody. This mistake caused me to glance at the younger of my two younger brothers (Hammy) and snicker about the incident (much like Hotdog and Hammy do to me when I crack while davening for the amud. However, I was a little taken aback when the gabbai walked up to the amud and asked Hotdog to change to a regular Shabbos nussach.

Later on in the Tefilah, my brother once again accidentally switched the nussach. This time, it was by the end of Kedushah. This time, the Rav leaned over and told my brother what nussach he should be doing.

Here is my question: How important is nussach. I am not talking about the words (i.e. words that are different for nussach Ashkenaz and nussach Sefard). I am refering to the tune that the chazzan uses for a particular tefilah. Who decides when to correct it?

If I were to use the Shabbos Mincha nussach during the week would people correct me? I happen to know that the answer to that question is 'no.' I did that in the very same shul with the very same Rabbi and the very same Gabbai. Nobody corrected me. What makes one nussach change more imperative to correct than another? What would have happened if my brother would have continued in that nussach? Would we have been required to duchan? What's the big deal with nussach?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Quote of the Chag- Shavuos

"Yeah, my Zaida likes to read the obituaries; it's like his onlysimchas."


Monday, May 17, 2010

The Story that Just Won't Go Away

Well, if you remember from a few weeks ago, I got a ticket. No, it wasn't for speeding or talking on the phone or smuggling in illegal aliens. It was for having tinted windows. Now, tinted windows are legal in most states and it is an extremely minor offense. In fact, it was supposed to be quite easy to get rid of this offense simply by removing the tint and showing the officer who issued the ticket (which I have already done, and have a signed document from said officer).

Supposed to be.

This weekend, I received a letter from the good ol' DMV saying that I now have a court date in August. I must come to this court date and argue that I should be exonerated of all agressions against a police officer (not a cop) who has already agreed with me. Oh, and if I don't show up, I lose my license.

There is one alternative. I could simply pay the $90 ticket and not have to go to court. I love how money solves everything.

Oh, and of course, I will be away in August. So on Friday I must go down to the DMV and find out if there is a way of switching the date or having someone else go for me or burning it down. Wish me luck.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Mr. Grammatarian

A friend of mine sent me this well, let's call it an essay. He wrote it about 5 months ago and posted it on Yeshiva World where nobody understood it. So here it is:

If you happen to run into a specialist in any field although he is very competent in his area of expertise he doesn’t usually proceed to ram his expertise down your throat. I have never received an unsolicited strep test from a doctor on the subway, nor has a fashion designer come strutting over to me and said “you would tho much better in a pink thirt, theriouthly”. But English Teachers, feel that the reason that they are placed on this earth, is to rid the world of people like me, I mean I….wait is that a proposition following a statement or a statement following a proposition, I think I dangled my participles also, what the heck is a participle anyway, it sounds like a part of the human anatomy, “Mom, Joe broke his participle, quick call a doctor. What? You can’t. Oh he’s giving you a strep test.” (this paper just went from a A+ to a B- because of this long digression). So here we go, this my official thesis statement, which I know should have gone at the beginning of the paper but I DON’T CARE!!!!!

I hate English Teachers, I the way that they feel the need to correct your grammar even when you are not in the classroom, or in their class, or even if you don’t know who they are. How many times have you found your self telling humorous anecdotes to your friends starting off with the words “Me and Yoel”, and before you even wind up for the punch line some English teacher will appear miraculously out of nowhere (he wasn’t part of the original conversation, which included my friends, English Teachers have no friends) and he will pull his pants up high and proclaim “Not me and Yoel, Yoel and I” and proceed to put his finger back in his nose. Do you feel better? Has a major evil been righted in the world? Will you be able to sleep at night, or will you toss and turn wondering which under privileged children in Africa might not ever even know the difference between a colon and a semicolon (Is a semicolon when you get half your colon removed, and is colon that man perfume stuff).

So please all you English teachers who lurk in the shadows of our conversations who wait for us to fall into the inevitable pitfalls of the English language (and break our participles) please go somewhere far away in Africa where the tribes will hail you as a scholar for your prowess of the English language.

Ironically, this friend called himself Demosthenes on Yeshiva World.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

David Horowitz

In a recent panel discussion in UC San Diego, David Horowitz received a question from a Muslim woman regarding one of his pamphlets.

The first thing that jumps out at me from this clip is that UC San Diego has an annual Hitler Youth Day. That is disturbing enough, but the fact that it's being promoted by a Muslim student organization really irks me. I know that the Nazis were allies with the Arabs during WWII, but I didn't think that Muslims believed that it would remain that way once Hitler was through with using them. He would have turned on them once they had served their purpose.

The second thing is that this girl thought that she would be arrested for verbally backing Hamas. I wish. But she does have a point. Once the US government has a suspicion that someone could be linked to terrorism, they could monitor him or her. I'm glad of that. And if this administration still considers Hamas a terrorist organization, she should be expected to be followed now.

I was a little annoyed that Horowitz didn't answer the question he was asked. Yes, I know he said that the rules of the Q&A were that the participants ask their questions and sit down, but he did gracefully direct the question and the ensuing conversation in the direction he wanted it to go. Once he had exhausted his attack, he didn't even bother to address the question that was asked.

It bothers me and worries me that there are people who openly believe that they hope that the Jewish people will gather in Israel so it will be easier to track us down. I hate the fact that this is allowed to happen without a major uproar from the Jewish community. If this was an attack on the black community, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson would be out in San Diego right now, urging the University to expel this student, who wisely gave her name for the internet to know who she is. But alas, it was against the Jewish people who are apparently not allowed to complain about such things. Maybe we should just hand out pamphlets.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


How hard is bowling? I know. I bowl like once every two months, but that's not what I'm talking about. People make fun of Olympic curlers all the time for not playing a real sport and getting credit for just that, but how difficult would it be for me to train for like five years and become a professional bowler? It can't be that difficult. Even a 12-year-old can do it.

May 11 (Bloomberg) -- Kamron Doyle has gone from birthday party bowler to money-winning professional in little time.

Doyle, a 12-year-old from Brentwood, Tennessee, became the youngest bowler to take home a check at a Professional Bowling Association tournament, the association said in a news release.

Doyle, bowling as a non-member, earned $400 two days ago after finishing 30th at Georgia’s Canton Open regional tournament. The money will go into a scholarship account.

The sixth-grade student had a 215.1 average, bowling 13 games in a 94-player field that included some of the top national tour professionals from the organization’s south region. Reigning PBA Player of the Year Walter Ray Williams Jr. won the event.

“I just practice and bowl in a lot of tournaments,” Doyle said in the release. “There’s no secret -- just go out there and do it.”

Doyle discovered the sport while attending a friend’s bowling birthday party as a 7-year-old, according to his mother, Cathy.

“After that, he was hooked,” she said in the statement. “Before we knew it, he was bowling three days a week and at this point I think he’s got about 60 bowling balls.”

Doyle is the youngest bowler to roll a U.S. Bowling Congress-certified 800 series, with a 279, a 278 and a 245 for a three-game total of 802 as an 11-year-old. He’s had two perfect 300 games.

The PBA is made up of more than 3,800 bowlers from 13 countries who compete on the PBA Tour or Regional and Senior Tour events.

This can't be all too difficult if a kid can rank 30th in a State. If I tried, I could learn the technique. All that is required in bowling is the same motion 12 consecutive turns. How hard could it be. There is no defense. There is no clock. There is no sand trap. It's the same thing over and over again. How hard could a sport be if drinking beer can only make it better. (No offense, golf.)

It's something to think about. I think I should work on an actual career before I allow myself to become a pro bowler.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Quote of the Month - May

At a rally for the State of Israel:

"When President Obama says that Israel cannot build in Jerusalem, our response should be 'YES WE CAN!'"

- Councilman Jim Gennaro

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Shusher

Aaah, the Shusher. One of my favorite people in the Young Israel. The Shusher has made it his (or her) responsibility to make sure that the Shul remains quiet during davening.

Here's the thing (that I am sure most of you can figure out): The Shusher tends to make more noise and be more disruptive than the people that he or she is trying to shush. I tend to be able to tune out random mumblings of dialogue from my neighbors, particularly because they are speaking on the same decibel level as the davening mumblers. It is quite easy to tune them out. The Shusher, on the other hand, is impossibly annoying to keep out of my head. While the Shusher believes to be doing a service for the shul, he or she tends to be the most annoying, noise producing, impossible to reason with member of the shul.

Case in point.

In one of the "Young Israels" I frequent, the Shusher is on the other side of the mechitza and generally pokes her head out from behind the curtain and proceeds to do her shushing duties quite superciliously. One guy who sits near me had enough of this and began to shush her for shushing too loudly. This sparked a nice war in the shul.

There is a Shusher in another "Young Israel" I frequent that I don't like, partially because of his arrogance, partially because of his confrontational attitude, partially because of his perpetuity to be wrong in his accusations. I have been the victim countless times of being falsely ridiculed by this particular Shusher. There have been many times when I have seen him talking during davening, and just wanted to go ever to him and shush him. I have yet to muster the courage, but I know there will be more opportunities.

For the time being, don't be a Shusher. Don't be the cause for a Shusher to do what he does. Come to a shul and daven.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Public Relations

I have to say something about Jews behaving in public. As long as I have been educated, I have been given two reasons for this. The first is that people look at Jewish people as if to expect something better; as if they represent a higher authority. This version plays well into the Chillul Hashem concept. The second reason is that the world hates Jews and it is up to us to change the perception of that. Public image is everything.

Here's my issue: Do others really have that perception of us? Do people who don't believe in our religion (and in fact may think we are wrong altogether) think that we represent G-d? Do they believe that we are a people who are better than they are in that regard?

If you are going to say that the reason to behave in public is that they hate us and are looking for more reasons to hate us, is THAT really true? Do you think we are hated more than any other minority in the world? Do you think Muslims don't tell their children the same thing: "the world hates us, so don't give them more of a reason to." Bill Cosby is always griping that this is why black people are hated. Are we more hated than they are?

This all came about because of a recent story that a friend of mine told me. She is a waitress at a semi-fancy restaurant. One day, a pair of frum mothers came in with their rambunctious children to have lunch. The children (there were seven between them) were running around the restaurant while the mothers were complaining about the service, why it was taking so long to deliver the simple food they had ordered and why the waitress was taking care of other tables before their food was delivered.

Obviously, this is not proper behavior for anyone, but what I didn't understand is why my friend kept hitting on the fact that these were frum women who represent an entire nation and are being judged by the gentile staff. The whole time she was telling me this story I was thinking "Hello! Haven't you ever seen movies or watched TV shows or heard news stories or listened to stand-up comedy that hits on this very topic?" It's not that people are judging frum Jews (or Jewesses in this case). They are complaining about obnoxious customers who need to have anything they want. After all, they are paying.

I just tend to think that people get too carried away in what they represent. Stop thinking that you have to behave well because you are representing a larger group. Be a decent person because you are representing yourself, and if you don't have the self-respect necessary to that, well then maybe you shouldn't venture outside the confines of your own home.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Mincha Meyhem

My travels took me back to my old high school for Mincha this past Shabbos. If there's is one thing I hate about returning to places that i haven't been in a while, it's repeating the same thing over and over and over again to a bunch of people who I haven't seen for months and won't see again.

They ask me what I am doing now- college, work, etc. and it's not as if they care; they are just trying to make conversation. But here's the problem:


If you want to catch up with me, call me, come to my home, find me on the street. DON'T TALK TO ME DURING DAVENING!

I try to brush such people off when they ask me how things are doing with a simple "you know, same ol' same ol.'" But they respond with "what was that again?" I don't want to have to go through with each person where I'm up to in college, how my job is treating me, where I am learning, how my dating life is (for some reason it's their business). I came to daven at the most convenient minyan available. Clearly, it inconvenienced me more than I thought it would.

Note to anyone who goes to shul: Please daven. It's what you came for, not to catch up with people. If you want to talk, don't talk to me.