The rambling thoughts of a Modern Orthodox Chassid (whatever that means). Contact me at emansouth @

Friday, June 29, 2007


The Toddler is tall. Very tall. Especially when compared to all of the other members of the MoC clan. (In fact, my friends suggest that I like going to Asia because it's the only place in the world where I can look most people in the eye).

TT's height creates challenges that we have not had to deal with with our other kids. To wit, yesterday morning, MHW went upstairs for two minutes to get clothes for TT. When she came downstairs, TT was eating chocolate that she had found in one of the kitchen cupboards. None of our other kids could have reached this drawer at the age of 26 months.

As a result, we have emptied many of our kitchen cupboards and jammed everything into the few that are above the reach of TT.

I am looking forward to the time when I will have an eight-year-old daughter who is taller than I.


Thursday, June 28, 2007

Sports Friday Extra: The Len Bias Curse

The Celtics, whom I worshiped as a kid, have been miserable for many, many years. You can trace their decline back to 1986 when they outfoxed a bunch of teams and manuvered to get the second overall pick in the draft. They selected the great Len Bias, a 6'8" forward from Maryland. He was going to be their ticket to sustained greatness for the next ten years.

The problem is, he accidentally killed himself with an overdose of cocaine two days after the draft. The Celtics have never recovered.


Sports Friday: Stick a Fork in The Yankees (and Other Important Matters)

The Yankees are cooked. Ain Mah L'daber. Any team that has to start Andy Phillips at first base is bad by definition. Moreover, Joe Torre is being exposed as the mediocre manager he was for years before taking over the talent-rich Yankees.

The Mets' magical season continues despite the pathetic hitting of a couple of key players. Jose Reyes is the best player in the National League and David Wright, after a slow start, is doing what David Wright does. If Pedro can come back strong, the Mets can go deep into the playoffs.

I missed the NBA draft. Did Isaiah do anything unbelievably stupid?


Extreme Sports Meme

Jacob Da Jew has tagged me with the following Meme about extreme sports:

1. What is your sport?

Loan distance road biking, of course. I actually started out almost twenty years ago with biathlons. These usually consisted of running 3 miles, biking 18 or 20 miles and running another 3 miles. I loved doing those races. After a while, I dropped the biking and concentrated on long distance running. In '94 and '95 I ran the New York Marathon, each time in the glacial time of about 4:30. About four years ago I dropped running and concentrated on biking almost exclusively. I've done many centuries and three rides of over 250 miles (in five days).

2.Why do you like this one?

Besides keeping me fit, I love the wind in my face, I love the challenge of climbing ridiculous hills. I do a lot of thinking on the bike. Most of my good blogging ideas come while I'm riding (or davening). I like to sweat.

3. How long are you doing this for?

I got my first road bike almost 20 years ago. I've bought two new bikes in the last 3 years.

4. Most painful experience.

I've had a few. During a biathlon about 18 years ago, I fell over my handlebars while sliding on a turn. Thankfully, I was ok. Three years ago, I fell while riding on a terrible path during one of the New York City century rides. I landed on my arm, just below my shoulder. Another few inches and I would have broken my clavicle. As it is, my arm hurt for over a year. Last summer, I got hit by a car (entirely my fault) and sheared off the dude's mirror. Had I not swerved at the last second, I would have been crushed. As it was, I didn't even fall off my bike. Just a big black and blue mark on my tush. And, just this past Sunday, I totally bonked in the Jerusalem heat while climbing Nes Harim, a very nasty 3.5 mile climb.

5. Most memorable experience.

Three. All during my first Alyn Ride. First, the climb up Metsukai Dragot near the Dead Sea. A mid day, crazy 3 + mile climb in 100 degree heat. Second, the 18 mile ascent from the Dead Sea to Jerusalem. I cried when I got to the top. Then, when we rode into the hospital at the end of the ride, I cried again. (On the running side, starting and finsihing the NYC Marathon in '94. Watching 30,000 people cross the Verazano bridge was spectacular. Finishing in one piece was a thrill).

6. Add tall tale or new question to Meme.

A question. "What do you fear in your sport". I fear getting a blowout or otherwise falling during downhills where you can reach speeds between 40 and 50 mph. I also fear riders who ride with ipods. They are hazardous.

I tag Psychotoddler, Ben Chorin and Treppenwitz (Is bourbon drinking considered an extreme sport?)


More on Visits

As I have noted on a number of occasions, one of the most difficult aspects of fostering is dealing with parental visits.

We are now at the point with TT that she understands what's going on when she has a visit and is extremely unhappy about it. She doesn't want to go and cries when she's picked up. Then, when she comes home, her schedule is completely off because she hasn't napped in the afternoon at the usual time. (She often falls asleep in the car on the way home and doesn't go to sleep until much later).

Visits used to make "Judah" and his brother nutso because they were so chaotic. Thankfully, TT's visits are not like that. However, we know that the older she gets, the more she understands, the more difficult the visits will become.

On the other hand, you have to feel very sad for birth parents who get to see their kid for a few hours a week. Some things don't have good answers.


Jet Lag

My trip to Asia and Israel came at a high cost, physically. I lost at least five pounds last week, and didn't get a decent night's sleep from Sunday through Tuesday the past two weeks.

I am hoping that we will not have to do this gig again next year. It's wearing me out.


Tedious Comments

The other day I posted about how nice it is that, despite the fact that my blog is generally a goofy, unserious forum of narishkeit, I occasionally get a deep and profound comment.

Unfortunately, the opposite is also ocassionally true. Once in a while I get bitter, angry and/or serious comments to posts written with tongue in cheek. To make matters worse, these comments usually have little to do with the actual posts; rather, they are usually tangential or unrelated to the point I was trying to make (goofy though it may be).

Unfortunately, rather than ignoring them, I often take the bait and find myself engaged in silly, pointless sparring with these humorless souls. These sparring matches are tedius and not constructive. Indeed, my first hiatus from blogging was a direct result of the tedium that came from dealing with trolls who were making life miserable with their unrelated comments.

I will try to do a better job of avoiding these traps.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007


As I've noted previously, The Toddler is a big fan of pizza. A very big fan. I like to take her for lunch to the pizza place whenever I'm around. She has a great time eating and hanging out. She is very social and it is not uncommon for her to wave at fellow pizza eaters of all types.

A while ago, I ordered spicy fries while she was eating her pizza. She tried one and never looked back. The only thing she likes more than pizza are spicy fries (could be her Sefardic background showing). So, every time we go for pizza, we share an order of fries.

While I was away, MHW took her to the pizza place for dinner. No one else was home so MHW decided to have a "girl's night out". She and TT walked to the counter to order. Suddenly, TT looked up and blurted out, "Fries".

Speaking of TT, when I got home on Sunday morning, TT decided to surgically attach herself to me. She wouldn't let me leave the room. I had to feed her, I had to bathe her, I had to put her to sleep. I don't remember our other kids being so clingy after my absence (but at my advanced age, I don't remember what I had for breakfast yesterday).

Her language is developing incredibly fast. She is now string three or more words together. This all happened while I was gone. Sheesh.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A Comment Worth Posting

One of the interesting outcomes of my blog is that, every once in a while, despite its inherent goofiness and non-seriousness, a commentor will leave an important, even profound, comment or I will receive such a thought by email.

Today I received such a comment from "AJewInTheAyalonValley" in connection with my "Freakiness - Lateness Connection" post.

It is certainly worth a post of its own so here it is in its entirety.

I very much enjoyed your interesting observation regarding the "freakiness – lateness connection" and wanted to share the following thought.

To over generalize, people fit into one of two personality types, the concrete and the abstract. The concrete personality is the doer, the man who places supreme value on the world of action and knows how to get the job done. "Just do it". This man is usually described as having "two feet on the ground" because his realism, rooted in his concrete outlook, enables him to see what action has to be done and he does it successfully. Because of concrete man's emphasis on the world of action he usually scoffs at abstract man, viewing him as an unrealistic, irrelevant, loser.

The second personality type views the world from an abstract perspective, placing much more weight on words, meaning, emotions and the spirit. This outlook tends to belittle what it calls the pettiness, small mindedness and superficiality of the world of action. In addition, not only does abstract man belittle action, he is prone to reject any trace of specific units, measurements, including those in the form of time. These men want to let their spirits soar, free from the shackles of time and space. (Hence they are often labeled as "freaks" by people who have the importance of action built into their worldview.)

Perhaps one of the most beautiful aspects of Halacha is the synthesis of these two opposite forces within us, bringing about complete harmony between our abstract souls and the concrete physical world that we live in. The angels feel that Torah is too abstract to be brought "down to earth". Physically oriented man sees this world as an action-defined world and therefore finds philosophy, poetry and song to be irrelevant "fluff". The Jew knows the secret of bringing about unity between the two.

May the abstract freaks and the concrete doers be zocheh to learn from each other and maximize the potential given to us, in this case allowing for a concrete, effective, punctual, soal soaring, beyond this world tfilla. Na'aseh V'nishma amru k'echad.
All I can say is Amen!


MoC Gets Fried

On Neis Harim
The Long and the Shorts of It

Speaking of freakiness, this week in the shul in Yemin Moshe, two guys wore shorts to shul on Shabbos. One guy was dressed all in white from big Breslovish knitted kippah to white hippie shirt (not tucked in, of course), to white socks and white sneakers...and white shorts.

A second guy came with a polo shirt, cargo shorts and sneakers. They even gave him an aliyah at mincha.

I know all about the more casual approach to Shabbos dress in Israel but shorts? To Shul? On Shabbos? When you're over ten years old? And you're an American tourist to boot? Help me out here people.


The Freakiness-Lateness Connection

I have observed that there is a freakiness - lateness connection when it comes to shuls. The freakier the shul, the more likely that its congregants will be late to shul.

I'm not talking 5 minutes late. I'm talking seriously late. Like completely missing mincha on Friday evening and coming during Lecha Dodi during Kabbolas Shabbos. Or showing up during Shemonah Esrei for Shacharis (or later) on Shabbos morning.

(There are exceptions. My own shul, which is right up there when it comes to freakiness, is one such exception. I think it's because the Moreh D'asrah stresses the importance of tefillah to such a degree that it even sinks in with the weirdos.)

This is also different from MO shuls where many people are also routinely very late. In MO shuls, it's because for such people, going to shul is a social obligation and has little to do with actually davening. I'm not sure why it's the case in freaky shuls. maybe it's because it takes a lot of time to dress in the costumes that many of them wear.

I'm not sure. Can anyone offer some insights?


Welcome to the Hotel Beijing

I arrived at my hotel in Beijing at around 10 p.m. on Wednesday. We were effectively guests of the government (through one of its banks) and were staying at a nice looking state-run hotel. (Although compared to the magnificent hotels that I had been in in Tokyo and, especially, Hong Kong, this was like a Holiday Inn).

Two things immediately made an impression. First, the clerks at the front desk did not speak much English. Second, and more importantly, the place stunk. Literally. I cannot even describe the smell because it was unlike anything I had ever experienced. For most of the next 20 hours my collegues and were subjected to to this horrible smell.

This led to a funny epilogue.

The conference ended at 5:45 p.m. on Thursday. At 6 there was a dinner hosted by the bank for all the speakers. (Luckily, I did not have to stay because I headed to the airport). Immediately after the dinner, as soon as our hosts had left the hotel, all of my remaining colleagues stealthily snuck out of the hotel and registered at the Hyatt.

If I never go to Beijing again it will be too soon.


Monday, June 25, 2007

Stuck in My Head

I have been tagged by Chaim to name the five songs that are currently stuck in my head.

I have spent 45 hours on airplanes this past week so I have been listening to a lot of music. The truth is that most of the songs that are stuck in my head are from my forthcoming new CD project and I am not yet at liberty to reveal them. I have been almost non-stop listening to the most current version (which includes all the music but some flute and sax which will be added this week). The master should be done by the end of July.

Other than that, I have been listening to Aron Razel's new masterpiece CD.

The songs from there that are stuck in my head include.

1. Derech Chadash
2. Lechah Dodi
3. Shabbos is Coming
4. Krembo Song
5. Kisheyavoh Lifnot et Beiti
6. Aifoh Niganti B'Kayitz Haacharon

These last two tunes are haunting songs of the last days of Gush Katif. Truly heartbreaking examples of Aaron's genius and depth.

Over to Psycho and Hasidic Musician.


Yamamai Royalties

I have two questions. How many performers have recorded Chaim Dovid's "Niggun" (popularly known as "Yamamai"?

Second, how many performers have paid him royalties?

I know that Lev Tahor and Shalheves have paid royalties. I know that there are at least two well known performers who have not. Are there more?

What is the halachic basis for thinking that it's yashar to take some one's music and not pay for it? The incredibly lame excuse that I've heard is that these musicians are popularizing the tune and therefore benefiting the author. Puh-Leeeze. (And, if that's the case, how about the decency of asking permission?).

If anyone records a niggun from U'Shmuel B'korei Sh'mo without paying royalties or working out a deal with me, I will personally go after them even if it costs me money to do so. That's not a threat. It's a promise.


What's With The Fish?

I landed in Tokyo on Monday afternoon after setting out from JFK on Sunday morning. I did not get to my hotel room until around 6 p.m. I had pretzels and a chocolate bar for dinner. The next morning (after waking up at 3:30 a.m. and going to the gym at 5) I had three bowls of Rice Krispies. That was it for the day.

Sadly, the kosher meal on my flight from Tokyo to Hong Kong that evening was going to be my main meal of the day. (While there are kosher restaurants in Hong Kong, I was going to be arriving too late). You can imagine my disgust when the main course comes in the form of fish. Fish! What where they thinking? Airline food is bad enough as it is. But, there are some things seasoned travellers would not even imagine eating. Like, for example, fish.

When I arrived at my hotel I was thrilled to see a basket of fruit awaiting me in my room. Never have I been so happy to eat a banana.

The next day followed the same pattern. Rice Krispies and nothing else (no time to get to a restaurant). Again, my meal was meant to be on the plane to Beijing. Salmon. Salmon was the main course. Ich kenesht. You can't make this up.


Sunday, June 24, 2007

On The Way Back

Suffice it to say that it's been an eventful week.

Starting at the end, I was delayed by El Al security for almost a half hour because of a gift I received (and duly reported) from the Chinese bank that hosted our conference in Beijing. Although the gift is very nice, I wasn't particularly happy about getting it in the first place because it's bulky and it meant shlepping it around from place to place.

Also tonight, just before leaving for the airport, I bumped into Mr. and Mrs. Treppenwitz in a coffee shop on Emek Refaim. It is always a treat to spend time with them albeit not quite as good as when we get together and eat ridiculous portions of food.

So much more to write about, including the "Stinky Chinese Hotel" (and I mean stinky quite literally), but it's boarding time.

If all goes well, I will be back on line in the morning/


Sunday, June 17, 2007

MoC: Packer of the Year?

I am about to embark on my week long trip to four countries with only a carry on bag and a back pack. How is this possible, you ask? A few reasons. I have very little hair so I don't need any hair-related accessories. I will be able to do laundry at my sister's house when I get to Israel on Friday. And, if I do say so myself, I am possibly the world's greatest packer.

(Why am I bothering to pack so lightly? I have only two hours to make my flight from Tokyo to Hong Kong. If I miss my flight I have to make a later flight that connects through Tapei and I get into Hong Kong at 1:30 a.m. instead of 10 p.m. Taking only carry on greatly increases my chances of making the flight.)


Saturday, June 16, 2007




Friday, June 15, 2007

Leaving on a Jet Plane....Again

Alas, now that I am on as big a blogging roll as I've been in a long time, I will be leaving Sunday morning for the Second Annual MoC Global Tour.

I will be visiting three cities in Asia in three days. I will be spending over 45 hours on airplanes between Sunday and the following Monday morning (but don't feel too bad for me...I managed to get upgraded to first class to Tokyo and will be flying business the rest of the way). The very good news is that I get to spend shabbos in Jerusalem on my way back.

So, it is not clear how much I will be able to post until June 25th.

What a wonderful opportunity to peruse my archives.


CD Update

I just listened to six of the tracks that will be on the new CD that I am producing. They haven't been finished or mixed yet but there is certainly enough there (vocals, keyboards, drums, guitars) so that I can get a flavor of the final product.

BH, I am very pleased with what I heard and with my decison to hand the project over to Aaron Razel.

He just needs to add a little percussion and some strings and we will be ready for mixing and mastering.

I will be seeing him next week in Israel and we will start working on the insert and cover.

One thing I can predict. One of the songs will quickly become a simcha staple and the Shiny Shoe chevra will start recording it. You can bank on that.


Is MoC a Good Father?

A Simple Jew asks.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007


A number of times during the production of my CD, U'Shmuel B'Korei Sh'mo, we would be finishing up a recording session at Creative Studios in Jeruslaem when in would walk Avi Singolda, accompanied by four or five guitars.

In each case, Singolda was preparing for the next recording session during which he would be laying down guitar tracks for other productions (sadly, mostly Shiny Shoe stuff. But a man has to make a parnasah). Although we did not use him on that project, I got to spend a bit of time with him. He is a charming and eccentric man and, by all accounts, probably the busiest session guitarist in Israel.

So, I was pleased to hear that Aaron Razel engaged Avi to play on my yet-unnamed new CD project.

In addition to producing the CD, Aaron had written all the arrangements. When Singolda came to the studio, he and Aaron discussed the arrangements. And then, Singolda began to play, completely ignoring many of the arrangements that they had discussed and doing his own thing. At the end he told Aaron, "You know you'll use what I did".

I love these guys.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

TT and OYS Gang Up On MoC

I arrived home tonight at about 7:45 but had to run right back out at 8:05 for mincha/maariv. I also had to give TT a bath (She insisted that it be me and, since she is the boss, I obliged).

Consequently, I didn't get to eat much of my supper before shul. I was only able to nail about three or four meatballs. I planned on finishing supper after shul.

Now, it turns out that there weren't as many meatballs as anticipated because TT ate quite a few more than one would expect from a two year old. As it was, MHW had to literally stop her from eating my entire portion. So, b'sach hakol, there wer only 8 or 9 of them.

I got home close to 9 p.m. and went straight for the meatballs only to find....drumroll...nothing but sauce. As he was about to leave for the bais medrash, OYS scoped out the meatballs. Thinking that I had finished my dinner, OYS consumed them in the mere blink of an eye.

This was one of those moments when one's gevurah is tested. I am pleased to report that I rose to the occasion. Rather than getting upset at OYS, I simply poured the sauce into the rice and had myself a major carbo load. What could be better for my biking than that?


More on Covers: A Poll

The Anchorite asks:

Speaking of covers...

I know that you have mentioned this before, any chance of some Michael Shapiro covers on the new CD?

I know that his particular brand of Judasim isnt exactly, er, "mainstream", but his songs - a diffrent story, from the soul to the soul.

Imagine, Avraham Rosenblum covering "v'erastich li"... I'm sure you can see the possibilites
I can indeed see the possibilities. However, my new CD project doesn't lend itself to that.

In fact, I once considered devoting an entire CD to Michael Shapiro covers but was advised against it by people whose opinions I value.

I have not dismissed the idea of covering individual songs of his in some of my future projects (May Hashem give me strength....and money).

So, here's where you come in. If you could cover only one song from Michael Shapiro, which would it be?


The Eighth Alyn Ride

I just registered.


A Child's Voice

The more I listen to Aaron Razel's CD, the more I like it. I think it is his best work yet.

There is one song, the fifth track, that made a tremendous impression on me. It is a short song, only slightly longer than two minutes. It is a sweet song about Shabbos, about how happy he is that Shabbos has finally come. Aaron sings it as a duet with a young boy. The only instrument is a piano which is played lightly.

I couldn't help but think of the contrast between this song, and more particularly, Aaron's use of a young boy's sweet voice, and the way the shiny shoe world exploits children's voices.

Aaron connects to the very essence of that voice; it's high pitch, its sweetness, its innocence, and uses it perfectly to express a sweet and simple thought; the wonder of Shabbos. In contrast, the shiny shoe world dresses up the sweet voices in monkey suits, makes them dance around in goofy choreography, and digitizes and distorts the very sweetness of their voices.

Hashem Yirachem.


Kiddie Update

It is difficult to keep all my constituents happy all the time but I realize that I haven't posted much on the little ones in our lives lately so here goes.

The Toddler continues to thrive, BH. Her language continues to develop nicely and she is as cute as ever. She has successfully processed the fact that when she goes to shul she gets a "yoppipop" so she is anxious to go there as often as possible. She also has a "terrible two" side which she is not shy about displaying. All in all, she is a very happy two year old. It is now one month short of two years that she has been with us and there is nothing new to report on that front.

A new dimension has been added by the return from Israel for the summer of the OOS family, including our two grandchildren. Shmuel, who is now 27 months old, talks in full sentences and is beyond cute. (He is fascinated by our automatic garage door which he'd never seen in Israel. He calls the garage a "good rahge". Far be it from me to correct him. In fact, I urge him on by asking "is it a VERY good rahge?" to which he responds, "very good rahge".)

The second biggest beneficiary of the temporary move back to the States (we are the first) is our granddaughter Atara who is 11 months old. Since Shmuel is often busy playing with The Toddler, he more or less ignores her rather than terrorizes her. TT isn't threatened by Atara and views her, instead, as a curiosity (although she covets the baby's pacifier which she is only permitted in the crib). Atara is very content to be left alone.

So, it's very leibidig at the MoC household this summer and we cherish the opportunity.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Covering Music

My recent post about appropriating music generated a lot of comments. My main points there were that there are Shiny Shoe J Music performers who cover other (generally non-Shiny Shoe) musicians' songs without paying royalties. I also noted that they frequently butcher the songs as well.

It is on this point that I want to elaborate.

What is the point of covering a song? Or, more to the point, what SHOULD BE the point of covering a song?

I submit that there are a few reasons why a performer would want to cover someone else's songs. First and foremost, the artist should think that the song is worth covering, i.e., that it has a certain beauty or depth that makes him want to sing it. Second, he should believe that he has a certain style, a certain way of interpreting the song that is different and that adds something worth adding. Stated another way, the covering artist should think of his work as a tribute to the original song; his unique way of showing his appreciation for a wonderful song by singing it in his own style. It should be done with care and trepidation that you are being true to the original artist.


The cover should also be true to the essence of the song. It should not take a song and change its "mahoos". It should not profane the song by changing its very nature from a beautiful and deep niggun to a prust and cheap one. It should not be done for the money. It should not be done because you haven't had a hit in a while and you're afraid you won't get any wedding gigs if you don't make a splash. It should not be done with a mindset of turning the song into your own and taking credit for its popularity.

And, of course, it should be done with the absolute commitment to pay proper royalties and not with the idea of misappropriating the song.


Monday, June 11, 2007

Aaron Razel's New CD

DISCLAIMER: Aaron Razel is a good friend, his new CD has, in addition to 11 new songs, the two songs he recorded for my CD, and I am currently working very closely with him on my next CD project. So, you can take everything I say below with a grain of salt. Or not.

The good news about Aaron Razel's music is that there is virtually no chance that any shiny shoe singer would even attempt to appropriate any of his songs. Those performers are far too short on talent, originality or creativity to attempt that.

His new CD, Connected To You, is in a class by itself and cannot be touched by the hoi poloi. I have only had a chance to listen to it a couple of times but it is so original and refreshing and can barely be compared to anything else out there in Jewish music.

And, unlike most Jmusic, most of Aaron's tunes are put to his own stunning poetry; there are only a few that are based on tefilos.

At this point, a few songs stand out. Ohr Chaim, Lecha Dodi (which will probably never be sung in shul on a Friday night (other than by Aaron) because it is way too complex), Shabbat at Last (sung very simply and accompanied by the sweet voice of a young boy) and the Krembo Song, a hysterical ode to the Krembo (Can you eat a Krembo on Shabbos if all you want is either the cream or the biscuit?). All in all a delight even at this early stage (Aaron's CDs have all grown on me the more I listen to them).


Friday, June 08, 2007

A Bump in the Road

A few years ago I was recruited for a job at the granddaddy of all investment banks. I was very psyched because of the prestige (and the money) that would go along with this job. I also thought that it was a perfect job for me. There was only one problem; my would-be boss was known to be an extremely negative person who was difficult to work for.

Nevertheless, I convinced myself that I could manage her and went after the job.

Things seemed to be going well. I met with a number of people and then was asked to come back and meet some more. Finally, I was asked to meet the big boss, the General Counsel of the whole firm.

It was well known at this institution that meeting the general counsel was considered a formality and, unless you drooled all over yourself or made a huge mistake, you were in. So, despite my misgivings about my new boss, I was very excited. The meeting with the GC went well.

The following friday I received a call from the headhunter. I was expecting the call to be a formal offer or, at a minimum, a discusion of price. You can imagine my shock when she told me that the job had been offered to another candidate.

It was as low a moment as I've had in my professional career. I was devastated for weeks.

Ironically, the person who got the job was a former colleague of mine. In fact, she worked for me at a previous job and I considered her a good friend. She, too, was well qualified (although not as qualified as me, IMHO).

It is difficult to describe how miserable my friend was at this job over the next few years. The boss made her life borderline unbearable. She finally quit, leaving behind very good pay and benefits for a much lower paying job.

In retrospect, not getting that job was the best thing that happened to me. Although I made less money during those years, I worked in a much more pleasant environment and, two years ago, was able to land my current, fabulous, job, which is an ideal shidduch.

It is clear that, although at the time I thought my world had caved in, being left at the alter by the fancy investment bank was merely a bump in the road.


Thursday, June 07, 2007

Appropriation is the Best Form of Flattery.

One of the downsides to producing a Jewish music hit, especially if you are a non-shiny shoe guy, is that the tune is (un)fair game for every Tom, Lipa and Yisroel in Shiny Shoe Land to record your song. Often, they butcher it by overproducing and adding all kinds of unnecessary noise or producing it to a techno-disco beat.

What's more, they rarely pay royalties. This is currently happening to Shlomo Katz in connection with his tune Niggun Nevo which appears on his V'Hakohanim CD. To my knowledge, it has been recorded by at least two other performers, one of whom has really (IMHO) detroyed it. So far, Shlomo has not seen a dime in royalties.

There is nothing an artist can do to prevent others from killing his songs but the even sadder part is that the royalties don't even amount to much; just 9 cents per song per CD if I'm not mistaken. It seems to me that if you're going to ruin someone's song, the least you can do is pay dor it.


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

OOS Visits the "Matzah Minyan"

Money Quote:

It requires a certain type of azus only frum Jews can muster in order to leave halfway through an eighteen minute minyan.

OYS graduates from his high school, DRS, next Monday, IYH.

It is a good time to offer words of hakoras hatov. Simply put, DRS has been great for OYS in many, many ways.

From a goofy 9th grader (is there any other kind?) OYS has grown to be a solid young man. He has excelled in sports, made wonderful friends, forged deep and important relationships with his teachers, rabbeim and Menahel and, acquired a love of learning and Yiddishkeit. MHW, of course, is mostly responsible but you cannot underestimate the impact of his school.

This is not accidental. The school, under the steady but inspired direction of the Menahel and his staff, has created an environment that is designed to achieve these kinds of results. But the results are not achieved through a cookie cutter methodology. There are different kinds of outlets for all types of kids, whether they are athletic, artistic, musical, creative, techno-geeky or studious. Each boy is encouraged to reach his potential in his own unique way.

And, importantly, there is a very big emphasis on personal relationships and mentoring and this, IMHO, pays huge dividends, because, as I have said before, mentoring relationships for teenagers are so, so important.

I am very busy at work and have not really had time to articulate clearly how pleased we are with DRS and why we think it is such a special place. But it would be wrong to let this milestone pass without at least letting the hanhalah and staff of the school know how much they have meant to OYS and us. Rock on.


JetBlue to Charlotte

Every year I take a trip to Charlotte, North Carolina, to pay hommage to the king. The day usually consists of endless meetings and yesterday's trip was no different.

What was different was that, this year, I decided to fly with JetBlue rather than the other, horrid, airlines that fly to Charlotte.

What a pleasure. First, we left from JFK, a mere 10 minutes from my house, rather than the dreadful La Guardia. Secondly, the plane boarded and left on time and was very clean and had more legroom than your typical airplane. Third, we got to Charlotte ten minutes early.

Also enhancing the trip was the fact that I was able to check into my hotel at 9:30 a.m. and rest for half an hour before my first meeting. (The past two years I did this gig in one day; never again. Staying overnight was much more civilized and I am WAYYYYYY to old for one day gigs).

The trip back this morning was even better. Again, we got in early on a clean plane.

All in all, a very pleasant trip.

I know that JetBlue got huge grief from their winter snafu, but I have always found them to be much better than the hoi paloi.


Monday, June 04, 2007

Is It Me Or Is The El AL Website Impossible to Get Through?

And, Is There Any Company With A Worse Service Culture Than El Al In the Entire World?

I have been trying for the past hour to book a flight on the El Al website using my Matmid points. It is easy enough to get a voucher. That's where the problems start, at least for me.

From the voucher, if you click "Ticket", it asks you to fill out a form that requires a "PNR", or reservation number. Unfortunately, it doesn't explain how to get a PNR and there doesn't seem to be a way to get one through the Matmid flow.

(One would think that there would be a place to make a reservation through the Matmid area but if there is one, I have yet to find it.)

So, I called El Al and selected Matmid from the menu. I waited 37 minutes to get an actual human to answer the phone. She was incredibally rude and could not help me and put me through to reservations where I waited on hold for an additional 12 minutes only to be told that there are no seats available for the dates I am looking for (or, for that matter, for the entire week surrounding that date.

About the only good thing I can say is that at least you are very unlikely to get blown up flying El Al. And that is not a small thing.


Klutz Kashas

I have been attending a morning halacha shiur for the past seven years. For the first five years we studied Choshen Mishpat (mostly commerce related laws) b'iyun. Since then, we have been studying Rambam's Sefer Hamitvos in order. After almost two years we are up to number ten, Krias Shemah.

It is important to note that I said this was a halacha shiur, not a machshavah shiur. My Rebbe also gives plenty of those.

Nevertheless, this has not stopped a few of the chevra from continuously asking machshava-based questions. The questioners are almost all ba'alei teshuvah and the questions are almost all halacha-related issues that they are having trouble processing personally. It has gotten much worse since we left Choshen Mishpat for Mitzvos Hamelech, especially since the first few mitvos are very machshava'ish to begin with (Yichud Hashem, Kiddush Hashem, Yiras Hashem, Ahavas Hashem, Krias Shema, etc.)

It is not hard to figure out why these questions come almost exclusively from ba'alei teshuvah (of course there are a number of ba'aleu teshuvah in the shiur that don't ask these questions). Ba'alei teshuvah tend to think much more about things while FFBs just take things for granted. We aren't thinking about the "whys" of halacha so much as we are thinking of the "hows". In other words, FFBs think, how do we reach this halachic conclusion rather than why is this so?

Of course, as you can imagine, given my great amount of ahavas Yisrael and abundance of patience, these questions drive me batty. Often, I want to tear my hair out (but, sadly, this is no longer possible). The good news is that my Rebbe is very adept at handling these questions and bringing the shiur back to where it's supposed to be. (My Rebbe is also happy to discuss these hashkafic questions privately and at length).

I often wonder whether I would be better off being like one of the guys who comes to shiur who has been sleeping through it every single day (I do not exaggerate) for seven years.


Sending an Almost-Man to do a Man's Job

Most morning's I make myself a wonderful cup of coffee with my wonderful Flavia Coffee Maker. In approximately 90 seconds, I have a deep, rich cup of Joe (or two) which I take with me to morning shiur.

This morning, however, I had to drop OYS at his high school at 5:45 a.m. for his senior trip. He asked me to pick up something from Dunkin Donuts so that he would not, G-d forbid, starve during the trip. So, instead of my Flavia coffee, I decided to save 90 seconds and have him order me some Dunkin' Donuts java.

After dropping him off, on my way to shul, I took a slug. Yechh. Sugar. There must have been 4 teaspoons of sugar in my coffee.

There is no point to coffee if you add sugar.

I text-messaged OYS and reminded him that I NEVER take sugar in my coffee. He apologized but noted that he didn't ask for sugar; it just came, unsolicited.

Thankfully, my fully-equipted shul has its own coffee machine (albeit not a Flavia) with its own servicable coffee. All was not lost.


Friday, June 01, 2007

The Dovbear Effect

On any day where DovBear links to me, I get about 100 extra hits.

Just thought you'd like to know.