Tuesday, April 29, 2008

George W. Bush, Will You Please Leave Now!

A few months ago, I was inspired by the Rocks vs. Sox on Fox Seussical synergy and this was the result:


Immediately, I began to ponder how I could further use the Dr. Seuss canon of work and an idea struck me.

What if I take "Marvin K. Mooney, Will You Please Go Now" and turn it into "George W. Bush, Will You Please Leave Now!"? I'd change the rhymes to fit and include some pics and perhaps have myself a coffee table book-worthy piece of work.

I completed the song and drafted Word, PDF and PowerPoint versions. I then huddled with a lawyer who informed me that from a Dr. Seuss and photographer rights perspective, I couldn't possibly get this published legally without major licensing efforts.

I figured I'd submit it to satire or political websites and magazines for free, since non-payment would ensure I wouldn't get sued. I submitted it to several places, including Mad and Cracked magazines, but found no takers. (I was thrilled just to have something to submit to Mad Magazine!)

I decided that I'd just send it out to my list and see how viral it would become. I did that and immediately got pasted to the wall for my politics. People, I was just exercising my Seussian funny-bone! I don't necessarily think Bush is the worst president ever (okay, I give, he's the 42nd worst) and that Obama is the savior of mankind (obviously, that would be Hillary Clinton).

If you'd like to have a look at the ditty, please feel free to e-mail me and remember to vote come election day! (That's about as soapboxy as I'm going to get on this.)

Friday, April 25, 2008

Erin McKean!

I am a confessed word freak and TED geek. Imagine my delight when on the walking leg of my work commute this morning, the numero uno word freak and TED geek zipped right past me. Erin McKean is her name, but it wasn't at the tip my tongue so I didn't say hi.

Here's her bio on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erin_McKean

Here's her talk at TED: http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/161

She was wearing a dress patterned with letters, so I figured she either likes to literally wear her profession on her sleeve or she was headed somewhere for a talk or presentation.

When I got to my PC, I Googled furiously and finally found that she was speaking at Gel, which is basically the east coast version of TED!

Her topic was also fascinating! (last link on bottom): http://gelconference.com/c/gel08.php

How 'bout that?

(Here's her summary of last year's "Word-Lovers' Boot Camp: http://www.dictionaryevangelist.com/2007/04/gel2007-word-lovers-boot-camp.html)

Problem is, attendance at Gel costs $1,200, and attendance at TED costs $6,000. Why must it cost so much to be inspired?

Anybody want to sponsor me for next year? Either TED or Gel will do. :-)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Chassidim and the Turtle

During Chol Hamoed Pesach, Jews - most visibly Haredim (not Ultra-Orthodox, that phrase has been retired) - open the gates of their conclaves and reveal themselves, warts and all, as they burst into "the world."

While on the subway on the way home from work, I sat across from an old Japanese fellow who was holding a translucent container with two turtles inside.

In walks a 150-year-old Chasidish lady with her 27 grandchildren in tow. She sits down next to the Japanese fellow and spots the turtles. In Yiddish, she then begins educating her grandchildren on matters amphibiana. The conversation goes something like this:

Granny: "Kik kinderlach! A frush!" (Look children! A frog!)
Children: "A frush?" (A frog?)
Granny: "Yuh! A frush!" (Yes! A frog!")
Children: "Azoivee the makeh?" (Like the plague?)
Granny: "Yuh! Pinktlech vee the makeh! Uber groise!" (Yes! Just like the plague! But bigger!")
Children: "Oooooh!" (Ahhhhh!)

And I'm sitting there, playing Scrabble on my BlackBerry, praying they don't start speaking in English and showcase their zoological prowess to the rest of New York City. My hopes are dashed. The old lady turns to the Japanese fellow and begins yelling at him:

Granny: "Is this your frog?!!!!!"
Fellow: "Yao Ming?"
Granny: "This frog, you have more of them?!!!!!!!!!!!!"
Fellow: "Keyser Söze?"
Granny: "My grandchildren want to know about your frog!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
Fellow: "Hideki Matsui?"
Granny: "Shoyn, ehr fahrshteit nisht." (Alrighty, he doesn't understand.)

I exited the train at that point, deciding not to hold any grudges against ignorance in my heart. (My wife surprised me yesterday by taking me to http://www.shlomomusical.com/ and I was particularly inspired by the inclusion of a famous quote of his: "If we had two hearts like we have two arms and two legs, then one heart could be used for love and the other one for hate. Since I have but one heart, then I don't have the luxury of hating anyone.") Instead of grudging, I dedicating my energies to finding out the Yiddish word for turtle.

Back home, I asked my wife's grandmother (who is staying with us for Pesach along with my in-laws) for the word. She didn't have it handy, so I Googled my brains out and found that the German word for Turtle is "Schildkröte." That's fascinating, because if spoken quickly, it can easily sound like "shielded critter." I then found the Yiddish word, which is "vaser-tsherepakhe."

I'm happy I looked that up, though I doubt the subway party will do the same. The Japanese man doesn't have to, he knows the word is "Ichiro."

Just kidding. It's "kame."

Sunday, April 06, 2008


This morning I woke up at 5:15, hit the snooze button twice, davened, went for a three mile run, had breakfast, showered and did Daf Yomi all before 8:15, just in time for my family to wake up so we could all begin our day. :-)

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Meeting my Mohel

I met my mohel, Rabbi Weinberger, this past Shabbos. This is not usually news that people write home about, but I have a history with mine that makes running into him a bit more interesting.

The legend goes as follows:

After he was done editing me into a Jew, I was whisked away to whatever post-op procedure they had for me and the Rabbi commenced with his cleanup. Problem was, he was missing a single instrument, the very knife he used to perform the circumcision. He looked high, he looked low, it was nowhere to be found. I wonder if he ever wondered if he may have left it in my diaper or something, much like doctors are sometimes reputed to leave their surgical instruments inside their patients. Had he done so, that feature would have been added to the story as told to me, so he probably didn't.

He gave up after a few minutes, sealed up his valise minus his knife, and departed. I'm sure he had replacements and didn't worry too much about missing just one knife.

Eighteen years later, the bench on which my sandik sat broke and out of the crevice that was the faultline, the knife came tumbling, with my blood still upon it.

A person on scene, who happened to also have been on scene those eighteen years before and remembered the details of how the knife went missing, retrieved the knife, contacted the Rabbi and delivered it to him. The Rabbi, obviously c0nsidering these events quite mysterious and somehow meaningful, made a place for the knife in his breakfront at home where it remains to this day.

I had met him once previously. My folks (re)introduced me to him a few years ago and he regaled me with this story.

Back to this past Shabbos:

My neighbors had a baby boy (mazel tov!) and I was invited to the Shalom Zachor and Bris. While waiting for events to get started at the Bris, in whooshes Rabbi Weinberger!

As a complete aside, the ways in which Litvaks and Chasidim perform brises vary so incredibly, I'm suprised either party considers the other's brissim perfectly legal.

Litvaks prepare seven hours earlier, have at the ready 34 clamps, 17 scissors, 11 knives, surgical gloves and piles of disinfectants. They then address the organ with all manner of shiny metal devices before clamping and performing the bris.

Chasidim whoosh in four seconds before showtime, as if they've just performed a bris and are zooming out to another, with a valise manufactured in the precambrian era, have one knife, no gloves and some yellow powder. They address the organ from all angles like Tiger Woods addresses a putt on a curvy green, then swoop in (clamp shmamp!) and have it done in less than four seconds.

Back to our story:

The Rabbi whooshes in, does his whoosh bris, is about to whoosh out, but I tap him on the shoulder and he wooshes around.

The conversation goes like this:

Me: Hello Rabbi Weinberger, do you remember who I am?
Rabbi: [Pauses, looks me over]
Me: The knife story?
Rabbi: Boydik! (that's how you say "Bodek" in Chasidish)
Me: Yes!
Rabbi: Oyoyoy! Of course I remember you! Vait, hoo-ha, how long ago vuz dis story? Vait...let me think...uh! Parshas Emor it vuz, almost eggsectly toity-t'ree years ago. You vill be toity-t'ree imertzeshem in two weeks!
Me: [Jaw on floor]

And now you know why running into my mohel might be a litte more special for me than it might be for other people.