Thursday, June 30, 2005

Not Really Serious...

Pictured above is a frostingless birthday cake, in the shape of a pig.

I love Google image search.

Anyway, there really is no need for any of my loyal readers to get me anything for my birthday, or for our baby -- I was just giving voice to the brainless consumerist fantasies that drift through my mind while I sit at my desk, being oppressed by The Man.

Our registries were really created for our family and our familys' friends, none of whom read this blog and all of whom have been extremely generous with us in the past. I would like to sincerely thank everyone who has called or e-mailed with offers, and I am sorry if I sent out mixed messages -- you are all the best, and I love you.

For real, though -- you should rent Freaks and Geeks. For really, really real.

Oh, and you should check out this kick-ass mash-up of Matisyahu and the Rolling Stones, courtesy of Jewschool (who I normally wouldn't link to, since their ringleader Mobius is a self-proclaimed "post-leftist anarchist," which translates, in my own humble estimation, as "intellectually insecure poseur" -- if only he didn't make such cutting edge designs and find so many outrageously cool links.)

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

I Am Turning 30 in Three Weeks...

What's that you say? You wanted to buy me a 30th birthday present, but you couldn't decide what to get me, for lack of knowing what I wouldn't immediately throw out the window the minute after you left? You wanted to get me something that I actually might want to receive, and not something that you thought that I might want to receive?

Well, here's your shot, sucka! That's right! Here, in no particular order, is my customized wish-list of exorbitantly expensive 30th-birthday gifts, none of which I actually expect to receive from anyone, but which would make this whole 'transition' into the 3rd decade of my life (not to mention the other whole 'transition' into 'becoming a father', which will be happening after another month) much more enjoyable, tolerable and, let's face it, zany.

Freaks and Geeks Deluxe Edition DVD Set (pictured above)
Retail Price: $120.00
Reason: If you grew up in the 1980's and you've never heard of this TV series, you are really missing out, and this is coming from a die-hard 80's nostalgia cynic. This series, which was cancelled after one season (which, I gotta admit, might be one of the reasons it has become so cemented in the pop-culture lexicon as a cult-favorite, where (in my opinion) it rightfully belongs), came out in 1999, when I was in such a deep anti-materialist, anti-Americanist, anti-anything-not-Rabbinically-sanctioned phase of my life that, had I seen it then, I woulda been all "Man, this show is just re-commodifying collective memories of the corporate consumerist dreamland developed for a secularized society bereft of true spiritual or moral leadership!!!!" But now, seeing it in 2005, on the eve of my 30th birthday, I'm all "Shut up Rabbi! Freaks and Geeks rules!!!!!!"
Special Note: This Deluxe Limited Edition 8-DVD set, which has hours of extras, a few booklets, special packaging and all kindsa other junk, is seemingly only available from their site, and only for a limited time -- though I haven't scoured the entire Internet, I could not find mention of the Deluxe Limited Edition on eBay or Amazon, so caveat emptor, as they say...

Star Wars Trilogy DVD Set
Retail Price: $49.99
Reason: Aw, c'mon. Do I need a reason? Howsabout that 4th DVD?
Special Note: Yes, it's way more affordable, which is why my wife may already be getting it for me (shh!!! don't tell her I told you!), so check with me personally before picking this one up.

James Burke's Connections DVD set
Retail Price: $149.99
Reason: (from their website) This ten volume series was made in 1978. By turning science into a detective story, James Burke creates a PBS television series that will fascinate students and adults alike. As the Sherlock Holmes of science, Burke tracks through 12,000 years of history for the clues that lead us to eight great life changing inventions -- the atom bomb, telecommunications, the computer, the production line, jet aircraft, plastics, rocketry and television. Burke postulates that such changes occur in response to factors he calls “triggers,” some of them seemingly unrelated. These have their own triggering effects, causing change in totally unrelated fields as well. And so the connections begin...
Special Note: File this gift under the "to be passed on and/or watched with aforementioned new child, when the time is right."

Heritage: Civilization and the Jews DVD Set
Retail Price: $84.95
Reason: I had to have at least one Jewish DVD set on here. And this one looks like the best pick, even though I've never seen a single episode. I hear it's pretty good, and if I am going to try to make some sort of Jewish History Media Project at some point in my life (all specifics remaining heretofore undisclosed), I guess I should see what's already been done, and take it apart with my bare hands (which I unfortunately couldn't do with a rental copy).
Special Note: This also may be filed under the "to be passed on and/or watched with aforementioned new child, when the time is right."

McSweeney's and The Believer Super Subscription Combo
Retail Price: $90.00
Reason: Because I need something to read while riding on the train every day, and McSweeney's Quarterly Concern is a great magazine chock-full of pop-cultural and literary nudge-nudge-wink-winks (and the hyphenated phrases that describe them). I've seen The Believer once or twice, and it's pretty darn great, and it comes out 6 more times a year than the Quarterly! C'mon people -- give me something I can pummel those Jews For Jesus freaks in the subway with!

Wired Subscription
Retail Price: $20.00 (for 2-year subscription with free gift)
Reason: Allright, I'm a sucker, and this magazine is total brain candy... but what else am I supposed to read on Shabbos? Divrei Torah?

Tickets for 2 to 'Avenue Q' on Tuesday, July 19 at 8PM
Retail Price: $207.00
Reason: It's my 30th birthday! What other reason do I need to see a Tony-winning Broadway show?

Now, seriously. My wife and I would much prefer you to buy stuff off of our baby registries. Screw my birthday -- buy me a box of floss. Or a card. Seriously. We would really much prefer a carseat, stroller, or any of the other stuff we have registered for, because that sh*t is ex-pen-sive, if ya know what I mean. If you really want to buy me something, please leave a comment and I will contact you. Don't go flyin' off the hook tryin' to surprise me, now. Thanks.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Welcome Home Brother...

Above (on the left) is a painting of the Beit HaMikdash with the word "Jerusalem" written in trippy script across the front, hanging up in the woods.

Yours truly designed + painted it. Now go ahead and say what you were already starting to say about how mamish beautiful and inspiring it is... Go ahead, I'll wait...

From the Jerusalem Camp website:

Every year since 1972, thousands of people have gathered together in the National Forest of America to pray for world peace on the 4th of July. Over the course of a month, hundreds of camps are built in the woods and meadows that surround the meadow where the day of prayer and celebration occurs. Every type of person you can imagine shows up. Many cultures and groups are represented, as well as thousands of young searching souls.

As one would expect, a large percentage of these people are Jewish. We build what has become famous as the Jerusalem Camp and Circkle K Kitchen. We provide Certified Kosher Organic food to the thousands. Each day we have Torah Classes singing and cooking lessons, give out Jewish literature and make real life connections with the many young people that are desperately seeking for some meaning in their life. We also provide free plane tickets to those who are willing to go to Israel and learn (Click here to view our promotional video).

I personally was never a dirty hippie freak, like the many thousands of young Jews who go to the national Rainbow Gathering every year, tho', to be completely fair, I did, at one point, have an incredibly long Chassidishe beard (see below).

"Alla hu akbar!!! I am Florida citizen! I can learn to fly plane!"

Anyhoo, Jerusalem Camp 2005 is getting warmed up right now somewhere in West Virginia, mountain momma. While I'm not into "kiruv," and I don't like the idea of making non-religious people "frum," and I'm generally burned out with the "neo-hassidic hippie Judaism" that I was once so involved with, I do believe that a great thing is happening out there with Ze'ev, Moish, Shalom and that whole crew, so I would like to wish them all hatzlacha raba, and that their Shabbos davenning, as well as everything else, is a gevalt.

(link from 'laizer of Wilderness City, who I suspect is someone who I know and have had Shabbos with in the last year -- n'est-ce pas, 'laizer?)

Thursday, June 23, 2005

"Rise Like A Lion To Do G-d's Will...

"... and if He sends that lion to attack you, reach into its mouth and rip out its tongue!"

Allright, so if it's a leopard, whatever.

Alls I have to say is, Septuagenarian Kenyan peasant farmers who hear the voice of G-d rule. (Link from

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Why is it Glowing, Shloimele?

Just read a review of this new film (Flash required) on Adderabbi that actually made me want to see it. Evidently, according to another review on, it was featured at the Tribeca Film Festival this year. The video excerpts on the website actually look... good!

Rabbis, Rabbis Everywhere...

Above are some of my pals who have recently become "modern orthodox" Rabbis. From the far right (in imitation of the Semitic languages):

Leibush leads the Ghetto Shul in Montreal.

Gavriel leads Kehillath Aish Kodesh in Boulder.

Raz teaches at Yeshivat Simchat Shlomo in Jerusalem.

Ezra, as you can see from this article in Jewlicious, does outreach in Jerusalem's old city.

• Since Charlie (far right) never writes or calls, I have no idea what he's up to.

Not pictured (anyone got a pic?) is Yonah, who will be taking some sort of rabbinical position at the University of Florida Hillel.

I am honored to call these guys my friends.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Our Childrens' Nostalgia

Above is VHS Or Beta, one of a growing cadre of new bands out there (Ima Robot and The Chalets being two of the more tolerable ones among them) who are seemingly obsessed with sounding exactly like they sat down with Duran Duran, The Clash, Translator, Joe Jackson, Tommy Tutone, The Police, The Cars, The Go-Go's, Tony Basil, Talking Heads and The Cure for an ecstatic, all-night, almost too-imitative-to-be-considered-copyright-safe musical orgy.

Whoda' thunk that anyone would ever have wanted to rip off the 80's, which is collectively known as one of the most embarrassing decades of human civilization? I mean, hey, I love every 80's song ever made (with the one possible exception being "Pop Goes the World", the most annoying doink-bop piece of trash ever created, in case you were wondering how I really felt about it), but everyone knows that that's due to nothing other than good ol' nostalgia, which, as we all know, just ain't what it used to be.

It reminds me of the deporable (yes, deplorable even today) tendency of late 80's and early 90's pop music to emulate 60's music (see "Sowing the Seeds of Love," "The Dukes of Stratosphear," World Party, Jellyfish and way too many others), which was just freaking stupid and... well, just freaking stupid. Deee-Lite was the only group that could really pull it off, because they not only dove in head-first with an infectious, modern-retro Day-Glo theatricality, but they also brought hip-hop, funk and techno in to meet the 60's head-on, creating a new genre of retro-fusion that innovated as it imitated.

Thus, I just can't figure out how to feel about groups like VHS or Beta, whose tunes are certainly catchy to me, but, I suspect, only feel that way because they sound like they were recorded with the same instruments and in the same studio as "Rock The Casbah" -- are these truly great musicians, or just truly great poseurs?

(P.S. Just as a footnote on the whole "innovation during imitation" theme, I actually really enjoyed this video from The Chalets that I saw today on Screenhead, which has become my everyday, between-task desktop TV.)

Bar's Random Rantless Emes (vol. 10)

• There is a new CD out to raise funds to save Gush Katif. Please allow a thriving Jewish community in Israel continue to thrive (P.S. The jury is still out for Chazarmaveth on this one -- that's why this column is called "Bar's Random Rantless Emes").

The above CD is a compilation from the top names in the Jewish rock world including Piamenta, Moshav Band, Blue Fringe, Pey Dalid and Soulfarm. There's also some equally great up-and-coming bands, including Heedoosh, White Shabbos, Farbrengiton and many more.

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz has been elected to head a 21st Century Sanhedrin. Bitchin'!

• The son of an employee at my company won the National Spelling Bee contest. Check out how to spell "appoggiatura."

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Where Do People Find The Time... come up with stuff like this?

(P.S. If you haven't seen Revenge of the Sith (which, incidentally, if you rearranged the letters, could be titled Revenge of the Shit, which is a much more apt title, as the above link demonstrates), you won't get it.)

Scrabbled from, which looks like an interesting new place for me to waste more of my day.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

My Subway Fantasy

Collecting my backpack from my lap, I exit the Local Train at 96th Street amidst the crush of 7:30 AM commuters who want to get onto the Express Track. Ah, there's one waiting at the station. Quick, jam myself in through the door...


... as my nose is involuntarily thrusted by the force of someone else's elbow in my back right into this preacher-fucker's armpit.

Now I'm clinging onto a pole for dear life, while this man is yelling, nay, screaming into my very face about how homosexuals are sinners, how God is going to destroy me until I die, all while I just want to stand there, read my article/novel and drink my coffee in peace and fucking quiet, because it is my right to have peace and fucking quiet on my ride to work every morning at 7:30 AM. It is my inalienable right as a citizen of the United States to have peace and fucking quiet on the subway on my ride to work in the morning.

And sure, he might be right, I might burn in hell for eternity for all of my grievous sins. But at 7:30 in the morning, I'd rather endure the fiery thumb-screws of Hades being clamped unmercifully around my you-know-what than to have to listen to this guy screaming at us.

I just wanted to stand straight up to this guy, look him right in that cockeyed, bloodshot, slightly-off eye and say:

"Will you please just be quiet or go to another car right now? No one here wants to listen to you. No one here cares what you have to say. We just want you to be quiet and to go away. Can I have some support here, please? (looking around to fellow passengers, who nod their heads and fervently say "Yeah!" in agreement, knives darting from their eyes in dotted lines toward the stunned preacher-fucker, as I wave my arms around in little circles to whoop-up more momentum)."

To anything he tries to start and say, I fix my gaze upon his eyes and mantrically repeat, "Be Quiet." The words "Be Quiet" become a small chant, and soon the entire train car starts enforcing its collective will on this guy with the chant, "Be Quiet, Be Quiet, Be Quiet, Be Quiet!" until I grab him under the soft part of the arm and say, "Here, I'll even escort you to the door, sir," as the other standing passengers magically part-like-the-Red-Sea to let me bring this guy out of our car.

And no one quits till the guy is safely off the car, at which point the thunderous applause commences, whooping and whistling and slaps on the back, and I wave to the general commuting populace of this great city with a gregarious smile and the line, "Thanks, everyone. I'm going to read my book and drink my coffee now, in peace and fucking quiet."

Tomorrow, if that guy is on my train, I'm going to do it for real.

Friday, June 03, 2005

"If It Bennnds, It's Funny..."

"...if it breaks, it's not funny!"

Saw Glengarry Glen Ross last night, live on Broadway. Alan Alda as Shelley "The Machine" Levine, Liev Schreiber as Richard Roma, and Jeffrey Tambor as George.

(Tambor rocks, incidentally, not only because of his passing resemblance to Get-Off-My-Train!!! guy Vincent Schiavelli, but because he had a role in the long-forgotten but mind-blowingly ahead-of-its-time Max Headroom pilot back in 1985.)

Spellbinding performaces from the entire cast, worthy of every accolade printed on the big yellow banners hanging outside the theater. Ensemble acting at its lightning-fast, precisely-90-minute finest! The tiniest idosyncracies of Mamet's razor-sharp dialogue were handled so expertly that at times I completely forgot that these were actors on a stage with scripted lines and stage directions, who perform the same hour-and-a-half of blistering shouting-over-each-others'-lines dialogue every night of the week. The only thing missing from this Tony-nomiated "revival" script was the infamous tear-you-a-new-asshole monologue delivered with bone-chilling ruthlessness by the Alec Baldwin character in the first minutes of the movie adaptation.

All things considered, it's actually quite difficult for me to decide whose portrayal of Shelley "The Machine" Levine I like better -- Alda's or Jack Lemmon's (from the movie). Both fine actors, both at the top of their game with their respective performances. I thought I kept hearing Lemmon's screen persona creeping into Alda's performance... but then, I thought, why would Alda need to imitate anyone? He pulled it off spectacularly well, without any indication that he would've needed to watch any crummy movie adaptation to figure out his own character's motivations... but then again, perhaps I was just held too tightly within the hypnotic, spectatorial thrall of being-in-the-same-room-with-a-Famous-Actor to render an honest evaluation... I dunno...

(And by the way, speaking of cynicism towards the cultish reverence we Americans heedlessly and involuntarily pay to Famous Actors, I recently saw Team America:World Police, Parker/Stone's live-action, all-marionette film that features, among other uproariously hilarious (and/or disgusting) segments, a scene in which a whole slew of revered Hollywood actors/activists (Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn, Janine Gerafolo, Helen Hunt, Matt Damon, Samuel L. Jackson, etc.) get freaking blown the hell away with missle launchers, shotguns and automatic machine gun fire because, as Parker/Stone mention in the DVD commentary, "Hollywood actors are idiotic assholes who really suck.")

And on yet another side note, had dinner before the show at one of the nicest Kosher restaurants this side of the Atlantic, Le Marais. Tres magnifique! Nice to see the Kosher world really do it right.

Good Shabbos!

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Bar's Random Rantless Emes (vol. 9)

• Check out the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors.

zemerNYC is an experiment to create an effective bi-weekly promotional vehicle for NYC's Jewish musical world.

Matrix Healing - This is the first book written by a medical doctor to reveal the healing secrets of Kabbalah.

Kartoo - graphic map based searching.

Big Ass Fan -- geniuses at work!

Middle-Eastern Jungle Fever

Remember John and Yoko's Bed-In for Peace? No, you probably wouldn't. Unless you're my mother, you probably weren't born yet.

Anyway, John was Anglo. Yoko was Asian. They both hated the Vietnam war. In 1969, they held a week-long press conference from a bed in a hotel room in Montreal, jiving about peace. Wearing nothing but their jammies. Then, after getting visited by all sorts of famous people (including a Rabbi), they recorded "Give Peace a Chance."

Whelp.... in this week's updated version, two gay Israeli artists are staging a bed-in in a Brooklyn art gallery, inviting Arab men to come love them. This "installation" is called Sleeping With The Enemy.

From the article in

"We felt frustrated with the political situation in the Middle East," said Gil (one of the artists). "As Israelis, we grew up with Arabs but we were encouraged by the education system to hate and abuse them so we thought we must do something about it."

"So we decided to fall in love with one of them."

Thanks to Artkrush for the heads up.