Wednesday, June 27, 2007

More merriment from a midwest movie maker :)

Ah, the power of poetry
of Rafiki
not to mention half his family. :)

Shoes tell Jew's tale

Well, I finally did it: After decades (on and off--mostly off while we were raising the Son-ster) as a folk dancer, I finally bought myself some dancin' shoes--dance sneakers, to be precise. They're well cushioned, but have a "split sole," which makes them flexible enough in the middle that you can point your foot. They also have a nice flat surface on the toe, for daring dancers who want to dance on their tiptoes, literally. But the reason why I bought them is that, unlike the regular sneakers that I've been wearing for Israeli folk dancing ever since my left foot developed an inflammation at the surgical site, they don't stick to the floor. It's darn near impossible to do a spin in shoes that stick to the floor.

As for the other glamorous (cough, cough) shoe pictured, that's half of my new pair of non-leather shoes. They're the wrong color for both Tisha B'Av (too "loud"/flashy) and Yom Kippur (this I'm wearing on the day when I pray that, though my sins be red as scarlet, HaShem will turn them white as snow?!). And they're not nearly dressy enough for Yom Kippur, either. Ugh. :( But my old cloth shoes hurt long before I had my foot surgery, so a sneaker-based shoe is probably the closest thing to half-comfortable that I'm going to get.

Chukkat: B'nei Yisrael as overgrown, ingrate children

Miriam was hardly even buried before B'nei Yisrael (the Children of Israel [Jacob]/Israelites) start griping to Moshe (Moses) and Aharon (Aaron) about the lack of water. Her poor brothers scarcely even had time to mourn. Maybe that's why Moshe got honked off and struck the rock.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Last music posts 'til after Tisha B'Av

The Nochi Krohn Band's "Ananim" (CD review)

You'd be hard pressed to hear this album in our apartment--but that's because I'm usually singing along at the top of my lungs! :)

Disclaimer: It's impossible for me to give a truly objective review of this album--as a former synagogue choir singer (alto), I'm a complete sucker for vocal harmony. :)

So when the band (brass, woodwinds, and all) comes in strong, then cuts off, and a trio of voices joins the party in a-capella harmony, singing a rockin' version of "Bor'cheinu, Avinu, kulanu k'echad, b'or panecha," I just eat it up. What a delicious take on "Sim Shalom!"

These guys don't play your (grand)father's Big Band music! Theirs is a delightful combination of Benny Goodman (twenty-first-century style) and Crosby, Stills and Nash with Hebrew lyrics.

Not everything on this album can be described as twenty-first-century Jewish Big Band music, though. The flute-accompanied folk-rock "Ki Heim Chayeinu" is beautifully simple enough to be almost a children's song. It's been in regular "rotation" in my head when I davven Maariv (pray the Evening Service). This song also shows this group's penchant for sharing the singing honors--not every harmony singer gets the honor of singing lead every now and then.

Another song that's been in regular "rotation" in my head is the very first song, "Ma Rabu," which I "hear" during Shacharit (the Morning Service). This starts out as a folk-rock piece with some very nice harmony singing, indeed, and finishes with brass and woodwind accompaniment. I like!

"Niggun Kineret" is a nice change of pace. It starts with middle-eastern influenced percussion, which continues throughout the song. Then the guitar launches into country-western mode. The middle section has some swingin' honky-tonk piano. Okay, the singing is Ashkenazi ay-yay-yay in three-part harmony, plain old-fashioned schmaltz. But the middle-eastern and country-western twists, not to mention the honky-tonk piano solo, elevate it a bit above the usual "shiny-shoe" (slick, over-orchestrated) music.

"U'vnei Yisrael halchu" is certainly one of the more unusual musical treatments of the crossing of the Reed Sea that I've ever heard. A little jazz, lots of harmony, plenty of brass and woodwinds, and a very fine musical "bridge" in the middle.

Sadly, the recording is not all fun and games. I generally tend to try to avoid thinking too much about some of the grimmer prayers found in Jewish tradition, so I would have made it a point to avoid listening to "V'nikeiti" too often. But the liner notes say that this song was written in memory of a man killed in a homicide bombing at a Jerusalem cafe while sitting at an outdoor table usually occupied by some of the band members.

On a more cheerful note, thank goodness the Krohn Brothers and their many musical friends who make up this band are kind enough to provide translations and/or explanations of all their songs. The title song, "Ananim," (the only one in Sefardi/Modern Israel Hebrew--I envy those who've mastered the ability to go back and forth between Ashkenazi and Sefardi Hebrew) is a real beauty, nicely written ("All songs composed and arranged by Nochi Krohn"), played, and sung. My compliments to the "chef," and company.

The last song, "Shalom," (oseh shalom bi-m'romav) is most notable not only for the country-western sound and the harmonies, but for the family feeling--it's a kick, hearing the vocal melody passed from one voice to a second and then to a third at the end, with a smashing three-part-harmony finish.

Many thanks to MOChassid--it was on "U'Shmuel B'korei Sh'mo," the album that he produced in memory of his father, Cantor Shmuel Ganz, that I was first introduced to the Nochi Krohn Band.

Nu, you still have a week to buy this album before the "Three Weeks." What are you waiting for?! :)

Gili Houpt has flown the coup

Rabbi Gili Houpt leading his farewell kumsitz in Central Park, Sunday afternoon, June 24, 2007. Photo by the Punster.

From an e-mail received June 22, 2007 from Rabbi Gili Houpt:

"After many great years living in Manhattan, my wife Chaya and I are moving across the Hudson to Passaic, NJ. I started this music list back in the summer of 1999 to inform a few friends of a kumsitz I was organizing in Central Park. Since then I've publicized thousands of concerts for hundreds of Jewish musicians, and the subscriber list has grown to well over 3,000 people!

I'm planning some music events for our last weekend in the city: Carlebach davening tonight, tomorrow night musical havdala and melave malka, and Sunday farewell kumsitz in the Park (see below for full info). Hope to see you before we move!"

It was a pleasure to spend some time yesterday afternoon in Central Park singing and, in my case, alternating between dancing and attempting to play harmony on the recorder (baroque flute) with Gili and the gang. Steve Miller was there on guitar, along with Stephanie on violin and Jonathan Zimet on flute. Steve will be taking over the kumsitz--the next one is scheduled for the Sunday after Tisha B'Av.

Best wishes to Gili and Chaya.

And we selfishly hope that Gili will be able to continued to send his Jewish music e-mails:

To be added to this group, send an email to:

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Heedoosh & Moshav: Ow & wow (concert review)

I finally found some earplugs that work for me. The foam ones fall right out of my ears, and the tiny in-the-ear-canal ones scare me--I'm afraid they'll get stuck. It turns out that the ones I liked years ago are the kind marked "waterproof." They feel a bit like clay, and they stick like clay, too--just park 'em over the outside of (not in) the ear canal, and they'll stay there until you take them off.

It's a good thing that I happened to have a box of those with me last Thursday night, because, by the time Heedoosh was halfway through their first song, I was already frantically digging through my backpack for them, and the Punster and I had our ears properly plugged not a moment too soon.

I'd completely forgotten that, the last time I heard Heedoosh, they were playing an acoustic set, probably due to some concern about disturbing the neighbors. Would that the same had been the case this time. But, unlike Makor's former home on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, the Knitting Factory is not in a residential area.

Let me summarize my reaction to the Heedoosh set this way: If I ever get within two feet of that bleeping bass playing, I'm going kick him in the . . . ankle.

I could barely hear the singer, and I couldn't catch the words.

I could barely hear the lead guitarist.

I couldn't hear the rhythm guitarist at all.

It didn't help that the drummer was also giving not only his drums, but, also, our ears, a heavy pounding.

Music shouldn't be a volume contest.

I advise those of you over thirty to skip Heedoosh's live concerts and buy their Meumkah Delibah CD, instead. It may or may not be to your taste, but at least, you'll be able to turn the volume down enough to be able to judge the music on its merits. I'm listening to their "Hiney Kel Yishuati" as I type, and I like what I'm hearing.

IMPORTANT UPDATE--Maybe the bass player wasn't at fault:

PsychoToddler said...

I wasn't at the show, but sometimes the volume problem is due to the sound man, not the musician. Of course, that's assuming the bass amp was mic'd and coming through a big PA.

Mon Jun 25, 08:28:00 PM 2007

So maybe I should cut the bass player some slack. To quote Pirkei Avot (Verses [Ethics] of the Fathers, chapter 1, paragraph 6,), "hevei dan et kol ha-adam l'chaf z'chut, judge everyone favorably" (rough not-so-literal translation: give every person the benefit of the doubt).

After a nail-biting intermission, I was greatly relieved to see that the Moshav Band was playing an acoustic set, as they'd played at Makor's former home. (Makor is currently "in the Diaspora," awaiting the renovation of their new space, and is sponsoring concerts, such as this one, in various venues in downtown Manhattan.) Yehuda Solomon said, in mid-performance, that Moshav used to be a very loud band, but they were trying something different. That's more than fine with me!

Moshav played a pile of music from their various CDs. Among other songs, they played their laid-back reggae version of Shlomo Carlebach's "Higher and Higher." (Yosef Solomon, the bass player, was playing the shy guy at this concert, for some reason--he spent almost the entire concert either standing behind another player or, in the case of this song, with his back to the audience, which was a pity, since he has a marvelous bass line in this one.) They had the same wonderful fiddler as at the last concert, and he just tore into the former mandolin parts on such songs as "Come Back" and "Lost Time," and every other song on which he had an opportunity. They also played such beauties as the migrant-worker's lament "Misplaced," their wonderful reggae song "Lift Up Your Head" ("Mal'achim shomrim alecha . . ."), and "The Only One" ("echad, echad, u-sh'mo echad").

This concert was a bit different from the last one that I saw, because the band had two guitarists at this gig, rather than David Swirsky alone. Maybe it was because David was playing rhythm guitar this time instead of lead guitar, but I really noticed the trading back and forth between him and Yehuda--even within a single song, they would switch who was singing the lead vocal part. I think I also noticed Yehuda more at the first concert because I was looking for the guy who sounded, on their "Best of" CD, like a chazzan who'd wondered into the wrong recording studio. But holy Moses, David has takkeh/mamash a voice!

The trading back and forth got a bit interesting when the band played "Streets of Jerusalem." First David sang lead, then Yehuda. Naive soul that I am, I had assumed that this song was autobiographical, and was left scratching my head, wondering which one of these guys had had his heart broken. Silly me. I guess there's more than enough of that heartbreak business going around for two guys separately.

At the end of the show (more or less), David and Yehuda came back onstage for a couple of duets. Good stuff! And it wasn't only the audience that was enjoying itself--the two of them were quite obviously having a wonderful time up there. Then the rest of the band piled back onto the stage for some more encores and a jolly good time as a group.

Moshav had me dancing in the back of the room. (For part of the concert, my "dance partner" was someone I'd met through Girls' Night On. :) ) I dare say that a grand time was had by all.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Internet: A catalyst for creativity

Letchworth State Park (Castile, New York), Upper Falls, with railroad trestle (May 28, 2007)

(See part one--with photo on top--here.)

How odd.

I never had any inclination whatsoever to do any creative writing until I started posting on televised-science-fiction message boards, when I suddenly found find myself writing "fan fiction" short stories (very bad ones) and poetry.

The same thing has happened to me as a blogger. Not only have I found a forum in which to discuss my perspective on various aspects of Judaism, etc., but I've also written scads of poems, choreographed five dances (which I originally distributed via DVD), and, lately, started snapping photos for the express purpose of posting them on my blog. Using YouTube has also been a pleasure: Now, I don't have to worry about who might be interested in seeing my dances or videos--I just upload 'em, and whoever's interested in seeing them can see them.

Self-publishing is a wonderful thing. There's nothing quite like the thought that someone might actually see my work to encourage me to create something.

How odd.

The Internet opened doors that I didn't even realize had been closed.

An eye for detail

"Steel and Stone Arches"

(Taken from near the Lower Falls, Genessee River, Rochester, NY, May 27, 2007)
(Glick on the photo to see it in greater detail--that'll give you a better view of the second bridge.)

When I was a kid in South Jersey (that's southern New Jersey, for my British readers, if any), I used to enjoy hopping the bus into center city Philly, taking a stroll down the beautiful Benjamin Franklin Parkway, and visiting the Philadelphia Museum of Art. What I remember most about the museum are two things. One is the building itself, a neo-Grecian "temple" set on a hill like a modern Acropolis. The other is the dog cage.

Yep, that's what I said.

It was a gorgeous Chinese dog cage with gilded bars and enamel decorations.

That's me. Take me to any museum in the world and I'll pass right by the paintings and go straight to the applied arts or crafts section. I'm far less interested in El Greco than in Grecian urns. I want to see the the carved wood letter openers from Kenya, the Native American reed baskets, the Tiffany lamps. I enjoy looking at ethnic costumes, porcelains from China and Delft, Bohemian and Venetian glass . . .

Take me to a Jewish museum and don't bother showing me the Chagalls--I'll be in the Ritual Objects exhibition rooms, looking at the lichten (candle sticks), kiddush cups, Sefardi Torah cases and Ashkenazi s'malot (Torah mantles) . . .

You get the picture.

A while back, Elie asked Shifra, "Is there a career path that you always wished you could have taken, but never did for reasons of circumstance or practicality? If so, what?"

Would that I had my girlfriend's daughter's aptitutes--if I could both add two plus two without a calculator and draw a straight line without a ruler, I might have become either an architect, a civil engineer, or an industrial designer. Sadly, I lack both mathematical aptitude and artistic talent.

But I love a beautiful, well-designed building, bridge, or piece of office equipment. Even a simple but ergonomically-correct and elegant kitchen utensil will catch my eye.

Conversely, I find poorly-designed structures and objects annoying. The keys on a computer keyboard are concave, but, for some dumb reason, the keys on some fax machines are not only convex, but a tad slippery, as well. Why? Did the designers want users' fingers to slide right off the keys? And what about what an old friend of ours describes as "user-resistant packaging?" How is one supposed to eat a cookie on the run when it's so tightly wrapped that one needs a knife to open the wrapper?

Lacking the aptitudes necessary to design anything myself, I've suddenly discovered, in my middle years, a way to appreciate the work of others--photography. I'm no good at it, but I've discovered it. :) (Tips on taking shots in the dark [literally] would be appreciated--I have no idea how to adjust the camera for low-light conditions, and The Family Physicist lost the instruction manual.) I enjoy taking shots of well-designed structures and objects, not to mention views designed by the Great Designer Himself.

You've already seen my photo of a fancy ceiling and chandelier in Grand Central Station, as well as a video and some pictures from my visual "subway series," and you'll probably see more of Shira's Shots in the future.

Speaking of a "subway series," I also have a poetry series by that name. Which leads me right into my next post . . .

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Understated & overlooked: A low-tech, low-key blogger's lament

On June 13, Jack published a post asking whether bloggers had made friends as a result of blogging. I was thinking about whether I should answer in the affirmative when I found myself in this rather discouraging situation: On June 12, I published a post about a major milestone in my life, and, over the course of a week, I got exactly five responses.

Contrast that with a more bells-and-whistles blogger who posted about a major milestone and got over 30 responses the same day.

I needed Sheyna's help just to set up a basic blogroll and a few links in my sidebar. (Thanks again, Sheyna!) Drop-down menus? In my dreams. Widgets? What?? Fans of fancy formatting will find little of visual interest here.

Then, of course, there are my more serious posts. Even when I publish something controversial, which I frequently do, I insist on civil discourse on my blog. Still, I once got over 60 comments, a quite respectable number.

By contrast, another blogger (not the same person as "bells-and-whistles blogger"), Mr. Contentious , who encourages quarrelsome commenters, has gotten as many as 245 comments on one post.

But posts on that blog can be rather like newspaper articles about a Gay Pride parade--the newspapers cater to the crowds by featuring photos of flamboyant cross-dressers rather than more mainstream men and women who just so happen to have same-sex attraction. Car crashes always draw crowds.

Blabbermouth that I am, I don't write just for myself, I write for the conversation. I enjoy a good discussion. But I am who I am. So I'll content myself with whomever drops by. Thank you for reading.

Monday, June 18, 2007

A post lost in the shuffle

Perhaps the next time I publish a post about reaching a major milestone, I should refrain from publishing any additional posts for at least 48 hours thereafter. I published this post on Tuesday, June 12, and, apparently, no one except Mark/PT has seen it.

Sunday, June 17, 2007 update: Hey, Mark, I finally figured out how to scan that photo! (See link.)

[I'm keeping this post (originally published Friday, June 15, 2007 at 1:18 PM) on top through next Tuesday. Please scroll down to see newer posts.]

Chana's Father's Day tribute

Blogging break over--dismissed from jury duty

That was quick. Usually, I serve on jury duty for more than one day. I've never been selected to actually sit on a jury, though.

In today's (civil) case, the plaintiff and the defendants decided to "settle" rather than going to trial. That's fine with me, among other people: Methinks my boss and officemates will be happy to see me back at work tomorrow.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

On a more serious note, here's Fudge's Father's Day present

Fudge thinks that, when it comes to parenthood, time is a precious commodity.

Funny Father's Day video starring Iguana

See something silly, hear highly humorous happening here.

Blogging break due to jury duty

I'm reporting for jury duty tomorrow morning, so I'll be away from a computer all day until either the court dismisses me or I'm finished serving on a jury.

Friday, June 15, 2007

A lone ranger, of sorts

I must admit that it feels pretty weird, on those mornings when my husband is teaching a class, to go to minyan without him and, as often as not, lately, find myself the only person wearing tefillin.

Olympic event, subway style: Parallel bars :)

Times Square station, June 14, 2007--same location as here.

No gilded statues here, but clay

A mosaic mural, to beautify the way

(Times Square station, June 14, 2007)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Negative thinking in Judaism

I once had a most interesting conversation with a former co-worker who's since gone on to a career as a stay-at-home mom. Somehow, we got on the subject of Sabbath lunch, and she expressed surprise when I told her that we don't make a big deal of it, and often have tuna sandwiches.

"Why? Is there a rule about that?”

"You have to have something hot for lunch. It's an inyan (? not sure that's the word she used) against the Tzadokim.”

Okay, here’s a long-winded but possibly necessary explanation:

As you can see (I hope) from the link, the Sadducees (Tzakokim) tended to interpret Jewish religious law pretty literally. One of their rulings—so I’ve heard—was that neither light nor heat is permissible on the Sabbath. Not so, said the Pharisees (P’rushim)—the rule is not that we’re not permitted to have light or heat, the rule is that we are not permitted to create light or heat on the Sabbath. If you light the fire before Shabbat, you’re permitted to use its light and/or heat on Shabbat.

In short, what my former colleague was trying to explain is that we have to eat or drink something hot at lunch on Shabbat to prove that we’re defying the ruling of the Tzadokim and following the ruling of the P’rushim, who ruled that one may keep previously-cooked food hot on Shabbat using some form of indirect heat created before Shabbat.

Now it was my turn to express surprise: “But there haven’t been any Tzakokim in about 2,000 years!”

Fast-forward a few years. My knowledge of the siddur (prayer book) having improved, I’ve noticed a few interesting b’rachot (blessings), and wondered about them.

“Blessed is [the One who] did not make me a non-Jew.

Blessed is [the One who] did not make me a slave.

Blessed is [the One who] did not make me a woman.”

Let’s leave aside (for once :) ) the obvious problem that a feminist has with the third b’rachah and ask, instead, why all three b’rachot are phrased in the negative.

An anonymous commenter to this ancient post of mine explained the wording thus:

“The trio of blessing God for not making "me" (e.g. a Jewish man) a woman, gentile or slave may well have been instituted to directly contrast with Pauline Christian theology, wherein there exists "no man nor women, Jew or Greek, free or slave, for ye are all one in Jesus Christ" (my own paraphrase of the verse). In other words, the purpose of these blessings is to asssert that there are differences between groups which Christianity, then on the ascent, sought to abolish. And we are not all "one in Jesus Christ".

A commenter on a much more recent post of mine disputed that explanation, stating that those b’rachot preceded the advent of Christianity.

In the final analysis, whether these b’rachot were a polemic against Christianity or against paganism makes little difference. The question remains why, in this case as in the aforementioned case concerning hot food on Shabbat, we find it necessary to continue to fight symbolic battles over issues that have long been settled, and/or, depending on your interpretation, why we feel this constant need to polemicize against, prove, and/or express our gratitude for what we're not, rather than praising HaShem for what we are.

The seasons of Sabbath

It's 3:30 PM on a Friday afternoon in December in the Salamone-Punster Palace, and the alleged king and queen thereof are tearing around the apartment like chickens with their heads cut off. All the food has to be fully cooked and on the hot tray. The garbage and trash have to be taken out, the carpets vacuumed. The lights that are going to be left on for Sabbath must be turned on, the lights that are going to be left off must be turned off, along with the computers. The table has to be cleared and set, and the wine cup, challah tray and cover, and candlesticks (preferably with candles in them!) set out. And don't forget to put the two challot (Sabbath breads) under the challah cover! Quickly--Shabbat candle-lighting time is 4:07!

Ah, but then, what a lovely leisurely evening! We can take our sweet time davvening (praying), eating, talking, singing z'mirot (Sabbath table songs), and reading, and still get to bed by 8 or 9 PM, and be sufficiently well-rested to wake up at a decent hour for synagogue services the next morning.

Of course, we don't get much of a Shabbos nap on Saturday afternoon. But we can go out on Saturday night by 6, no problem.

Contrast that to an Erev Shabbat (Sabbath Eve) in June, when licht-benching time is after 8 PM. On the one hand, we can get a ton of work done before Shabbat, which is a delightful relief. On the other hand, by the time we light the candles, we're too pooped to party. We have to davven quickly in order not to starve to death waiting for dinner until after Arvit/Maariv/Evening Service, and we're too tired to sing z'mirot.

True, we can take a nice long nap on Shabbat afternoon. But it's almost impossible to get anywhere on a Saturday night before 10:30 when Shabbat doesn't end until after 9.

Sometimes, I'm also sorry that it's become customary to have Maariv right after Mincha (Afternoon Service) on a Saturday. Is it against the law for a Jew to see a sunset on a Sabbath afternoon?

Ah, the challenges of being Jewish. Still, it doesn't hurt to have one day with no "screens"--no television, computer, video games, DVDs . . . not to mention telephones, radios, MP3 players, etc. There's something to be said for silencing everything except what existed on the original Sabbath.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Thirty years (!) and counting :)

[Sunday, June 17, 2007 update: The bride finally figures out how to use the scanner! :) ]

[Sunday, April 6, 2008 update: Having somehow neglected to save the scan to her computer, the bride figures out how to copy her favorite wedding photo from a previous post into My Pictures and upload it onto Flickr from there! In the interest of protecting what's left of her and her husband's anonymity, she then deletes the aforementioned scanned photo from this post, where it can be seen be anyone walking past her computer, and moves the bride and groom's picture here.)

It's hard to believe that the Punster is still putting up with me after all these years, but I'm not complaining. :)

Here's what we looked like 30 years ago today. (Eventually, I'll figure out how to use the scanner, and post a decent copy of that photo.)

Here's our finest accomplishment as a married couple. :)

And here's to another 30 years!

P.S. If you haven't yet congratulated Mark/PT and Chani/Mrs. Balabusta on their 20th, better late than never.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Veroba Variations (CD review)

What a hectic couple of weeks I had, a couple of weeks ago! We went straight from Shavuot to our son's graduation, followed by one of the worst weeks I've had in the office since I completed our last major project. By the time the following Shabbat (Sabbath) rolled 'round, I was too shot to rise and shine at a decent hour, so I was davenning Shacharit (praying the Morning Service) at twice my usual so-called speed in order to get to synagogue in time for k'riat haTorah. To console myself for my resultant nearly complete lack of kavanah (focus), I was singing short snatches of P'sukei d'Zimrah (Verses of Song, mostly a collection of psalms and other biblical quotations, sometimes called the Introductory Service) to myself. Imagine my surprise when I suddenly found myself singing--or at least trying to sing--a song I'd never sung in my life!

"Where on earth did that come from?," I asked myself. "Oh, yeah--it's from that new Gershon Veroba album."

Isn't it funny how music sometimes sneaks up on you? My first reaction to "Reach Out" was that the English lyrics of many of the songs on this CD were too hokey. There's also my obvious prejudice: Even though I'm currently limited to one and a half feet (so to speak) and a cane, I still react to music as a dancer, and the only song on this album that really makes me want to get up and dance is songwriter Elimelech Blumstein's delightful "Ana Avda." We heard Veroba sing that song at the Salute to Israel concert, and I danced through the whole thing, half the time with a hand on my trusty cane and the other half of the time with a hand on a security barrier. :). It doesn't hurt that the lead guitarist on this song is hard-rock guitar guru Yossi Piamenta. (His son Yehuda, who subbed for him at the Salute to Israel concert, is no slouch in the talent department either.)

Nevertheless, a few of the other songs seem to have made an impression. The one I was attempting to sing was Veroba's own "Va'ani," from Tehillim/Psalms 13:6 (last line), or, in the siddur/prayer book, at the very end of that long passage of miscellaneous quotes that follows Baruch Sheh-Amar. It reminds me a bit of a song that Veroba wrote and recorded with Shlock Rock some years ago, "K'vodo," about which Mark/PT, another sometime Shlock Rock band member, has said some very nice words. (You can catch a sample of Veroba's piano playing in his jazzy solo on Mark's "Someone Else's Place," also recorded with Shlock Rock--just scroll through the radio blog here 'til you find it.)

Another piece that I like is songwriter Elimelech Blumstein's "V'Ata Kisvu" (from Parshat Vayelech, Deuteronomy 31:19) . I think it's quite nice, once you get passed the shmaltzy/mawkish violin solo that opens the song, which is not to my personal taste.

You'll note my obvious preference for the Hebrew-language songs. That said, I did develop a liking for one of the English-language songs in spite of the hokeyness. "Man to Man," by Veroba, seems to have snuck past my anti-hoke barriers. It probably helps that I like the music, and that Veroba has a very fine voice.

Slowly but surely, I'm learning my lesson--don't dismiss a CD out of hand as "not quite to my taste." I never know when a song is going to "grow" on me. Hmm--time to take out some of those CDs that I decided I didn't like and give them another listen.

Friday, June 08, 2007

They don't make 'em the way they used to

Chandelier, fancy ceiling and window, Vanderbilt Hall (the former main waiting room), Grand Central Station, June 7, 2007. To see the ceiling's artistic detailing, as well as the window's fancy grillwork, in close-up, click on the photo.

Vanderbilt Hall is now used for exhibitions, crafts fairs, corporate presentations, and other similar temporary events. Sorry, folks, no simchas--the center aisle of this gorgeous room is the principal pedestrian thoroughfare leading from the main entrance to the main hall (with the famous clock), so one is never permitted to block it. (Eventually, maybe I'll figure out how to get a shot of that clock that isn't practically pitch black. I'm a very amateur photographer.)


Thursday, June 07, 2007

Jack asks, "How did you become a blogger?"

Hope on over to this post at Random Thoughts/Jack's Shack and write about it. Inquiring minds want to know.

Stairway to heaven . . .

or, at least, to the R train from the 7

Times Square subway station, approximately 11:30 PM, Wednesday, June 6, 2007.

(You might want to click on each photo and have a look at it in close-up.)

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Thank G-d for green

of spring and summer scene
and late sunlight
on May, June night
and flowers that I hold so dear--
thank G-d they come back every year

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Off, one way or the other, both at home & at work

I'm blogging from the office at this ridiculously late hour because our Internet service has been down at home since yesterday morning, due to connection problems in another part of New York City.

To make matters even more "interesting," none of the comments that I've posted within the last hour have actually appeared on the posts, though I can see them if I click on "post a comment." So don't be upset if the traffic gets kinda slow around here.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

A literal pain in the neck

(. . . or throat, to be precise)

Sigh--Been there, done that.

I've been lactose intolerant since my freshman year of college. I haven't been able to drink a glass of milk--even with lactose digestion aids--in years. I've only been able to go back to eating yogurt since they reduced the cup size from an official cup--eight ounces--to a more manageable six ounces. But lately, I've found myself eating a lot of cheese. Seriously, folks, how many protein sources 1) can be grabbed on the way out the door in the morning, 2) require no cooking (scratch the hard-boiled eggs), 2) won't spill on the floor/stairs/ground when you're on the run (so much for nuts)? And how many protein sources, other than string cheese in the form of mozzarella cheese sticks sealed in plastic packaging, are not only neat (not even a fork needed), almost odorless (handy at the office), and virtually indestructible? Not only can I leave mozzarella sticks on my desk all day, to grab when hungry and munch while typing, but we took a whole bag with us to Rochester last week--which means that they went unrefrigerated for several days--and they came home none the worse for wear.

Imagine my dismay, then, when, trying to figure out why my singing voice has been so bad lately, I checked the list of acid reflux triggers and found dairy products on it.

I've already pretty much given up mint of any kind, booze, aspirin, citrus fruit or juice, and any tea that isn't herbal (the tannic acid in even decaf tea being a problem). I never really acquired a taste for coffee. I never cared much cared for spicy food or pepper anyway, and have always tried to avoid it. But seriously, folks, tomatoes (what, no pasta sauce?!), nuts, chocolate (you've got to be kidding!!!), and now, cheese??! What's left???!!!

I can't even figure out whether I should be seeing the gastroenterologist or the otolaryngologist. All I know is that I'm tired of having my voice crack like a teenage boy's, and being limited to singing in my "bargain basement" range. What kol ishah?

Friday, June 01, 2007

Sheyna goes bowling: Tales from a blogger bash

What do you do when you're interested in Judaism and your staunchly Lutheran mother is adamantly opposed to your notion of conversion? Simple: You involve your friends in a conspiracy of silence. You enroll in a Friday-night bowling league, and, when your buddies pick you up in the car, you have them drop you off at the local non-Orthodox synagogue and pick you up on the way home from the bowling alley!

This, I heard at a blogger mini-bash
Which really was one heck of a smash

When I found out that Sheyna was in town,
I figured that, while she was around,
we should try to get together, even if it was just us two
So off we went to Deli Kasbah in kosher-restaurant land
(After St. Paul, MN, New York's glatt spots are grand)
And we took rather more than a few good looks
in West Side Judaica, where our author/publisher was delighted to see so many Jewish books
and took a short stroll in Riverside Park
just as it was getting dark
Then went to her hotel and chewed the kosher fat 'til midnight, Jew to Jew :)

A good laugh was had by all
when each of us her own husband did call
and announce, giggling, "I'm in a hotel room with a friend"
Of that little stunt, neither of us will probably ever hear the end :)

P.S. A little digging into the family history revealed that the Lutheran mother's mother, raised by Christian Scientist relatives after her mother's early death, had been born to a Jewish mother! A lost "tribe" has been found--or, rather, has found herself, and us.

I spy a firefly

Or as we used to say
when I was a kid in southern NJ
a lightning bug
I could practically hug
the little thing
a sure sign of spring
I've finally put my raincoat lining away!

White night

It's 8 PM and the sky is still bright
Springtime eves are such a delight
No more coming home from work in the pitch black
and wondering who hijacked
the light
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