Category Archives: Humor

The Whispering Gallery

My son the college student recently informed me that the Japanese phrase for fart, is literally translated as “Beef Whisper”.  It seems although he’s only a sophomore  he is already reaping the benefits of a college education.  Equipped with this new knowledge, I began to think…

There is a secret acoustic phenomena occurring deep inside Grand Central Station in NYC.  Actually, it’s not much of a secret as most people are always in the archway trying it out.  If one speaks directly into the corner of the wall, it can be heard clearly all the way across the noisy hall (If you haven’t tried it, and plan to, don’t read ahead or you might never try).  I wonder what would happen if one farted directly into the corner of the wall?  Would the person in the opposite corner hear it?  smell it?  Maybe that’s why it is named, “The Whispering Gallery”

GrandCentralStation

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Personalized License plates

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I saw this license plate on the jeep in front of me this morning on the way to work.  I recognized the Yiddish phrase “Vilda Chaya” meaning literally a wild beast.  That’s what my Dad would call anyone that cut in front of him at a buffet.   I guess that explains why she drove 70 mph on the shoulder and pulled in to a Dunkin’ Donuts.  Anyone else spot any  funny plates?

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The World Accordion’ to Larry

A friend of mine recently asked me if I want to join him in forming a Klezmer group.  He thought of me since I can play Jewish wedding songs on the piano.  The catch was that I’d have to learn the accordion since traditional Klezmer music doesn’t use pianos or electric guitars (the two instruments I can play).  It sounded like a quick fire challenge from Bravo TV’s “Top Chef” – “Today chefs, you will play Hava Nagilah using only an accordion and juniper berries”.  I was up for the challenge and was able to borrow an old accordion from a co-worker’s father.

I opened the case and a concentrated mildew smell hit me like a ton of musty bricks.  I was told the accordion was stored in a warehouse for a few years and might have endured some minor water damage (more like a few decades and the great flood).  I had to air it out for a week before I could even get near it.   When I finally was able to put it on, I realized how heavy it was.  The first day after playing it, my neck and back muscles were quite sore despite the fact that I work out religiously (once a month at our local JCC fitness center). Ok – Let me explain how it works.

There is a keyboard like a piano on one side and 120 chord buttons on the other side.  There are no labels or markings except for a rhinestone on one of the buttons, not that it matters since once you have it on, you can’t see anything.  When you squeeze the accordion it makes sounds and more of the musty smell blows into your face.  I downloaded some chord charts, but when I tried to practice in front of our bedroom mirror, everything looks backwards. Then I moved to the bathroom and tried playing with the mirrored medicine cabinet door opened and looked at my reflection in the bathroom mirror; the perfect sweet spot; but it does get a bit cramped when I fully extend the accordion and our bathroom is too small to accommodate more than three people and would be a tight squeeze for band practice; one in the shower (playing bass), me standing in front of the mirror and the lucky clarinet player who get the room’s only seat. If I wear my bicycle helmet which has a rear view mirror clipped on each side, I can be mobile, but you look pretty strange just wearing an accordion let alone a bike helmet with dental mirrors clamped on it.

To overcome this problem, I now practice twice a week at the Men’s Warehouse at a local strip mall.  They have a bank of tri-fold mirrors and if I stand on the pedestal; I can see a full 360 degree view of the accordion.  And although they’re very accommodating, you do feel a bit obligated to buy something.  So far I’ve purchased 2 suits, 5 pairs of slacks, and 4 dress shirts and matching neckties. Not only is it getting quite expensive but it’s a bit unnecessary as we have a casual dress policy at work.

Surprisingly, I am really enjoying the accordion.  It’s got some great benefits:

When I play our piano or my electric guitar at home, my kids complain that it’s annoying and they run up to their rooms and close their doors.  The good thing about the accordion is that it’s portable.  I’m able to chase them around, while still playing and I get the satisfaction of annoying them for about 10 seconds longer before they slam their bedroom doors.  It makes for some good quality family time.

During a recent storm we lost power for about 5 days.  Friends of ours who weren’t affected by the storm invited us to stay with them.  I told my wife and kids that I’d still be staying in our house to weather the storm like a captain staying with his ship.  My family decided to stay with our friends.  They said it was so they could have heat, hot water and TV, but I think they just didn’t want to spend 5 days in front of the fire listening to me practice the accordion.

After practicing one night at the Men’s Warehouse I put my accordion in my car and went to grab a few slices of Pizza.  Upon returning to my car, I noticed it had been broken into. I looked in the back seat and saw two accordions.

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From the desk of Dora Sell:

To help our marriage last, my wife Robin and I do NOT share a bathroom.  I took over the guest bathroom to avoid the arguments over clothes on the floor (mine), creepy loofah sponges (hers), hair in the shower (ours), etc.

We each have a stylish digital bathroom scale in our separate bathrooms.  A few months ago, her scale’s battery died.  It was one of those flat disc shaped lithium batteries.  She put it in her purse so she could match it correctly with a replacement one at the store.

A few days later we had arrived in Montreal for a family vacation.  Robin is a very caring individual and always ensures that she has some spare change for those in need.  She doled out some dollars to a few homeless people that we saw in the city.  It wasn’t until we arrived back home, that she noticed she couldn’t find the dead battery in her purse. Those Canadians have some funky $1 and $2 coins and it seems that she must have placed the battery in a guy’s cup at the Central Train Station.  He probably thought she was just another cheap American.

The other day, I noticed that my scale’s low battery status was illuminated and I removed my battery and gave it to Robin.  She decided to go straight to Radio Shack and get two of them before it ended up in the helmet of our local firehouse’s charity drive.  That night I installed it in my scale and it still lit up LBS.  I told her that the battery isn’t working.  She explained that LBS is also the standard abbreviation for pounds.  I think the battery in my head needs replacing.

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Technical Schmecnical

There are a lot of people today who live on the bleeding edge of technology. They eagerly responded to their Google+ invitations, have the latest iPhone & Kindle and can text as fast as a twelve year old girl. Then, there are my parents.

They made the conscious decision years ago not to go for the latest fad. Take the microwave oven for example. They were quite concerned that it could adversely disrupt the function of a pacemaker (not that they have one). When I told my mom that she could bake a potato in 8 minutes, she said, “I’m in no rush”. They weren’t believers in technology for technology’s sake (or for that matter, anyone else’s sake) and saw no need to jump on the push button phone bandwagon or even the electronic typewriter craze of 1968. They are even quite content on driving to the bank, standing on line and having to know what the hours of operation are (generally banker’s hours); only to make a withdrawal of $20. Although we were raised Jewish, maybe they’re some Amish blood in our family tree.

Dad is completely satisfied with the Royal typewriter that he’s used since the mid 1940’s. Although the letters are a bit misaligned along with the spacing, and occasionally a letter is red vs. black, it has been his trusted tool of the trade throughout his career as a CPA. He did purchase an adding machine in the ‘70s, but wasn’t satisfied and preferred totaling columns in his head and then transcribing the totals onto green ledger accounting pads. It never dawned on me that this was strange; being that he actually was an accountant. Recently he ran out of his 30 year supply of carbon paper and combo red/black typewriter ribbons and I had to purchase replenishments for him on Ebay as they are now considered collectibles.

I wonder what the IRS thinks of the tax returns he submits. This year he said to me, “You’re in the data processing field. Can you go to the world wide web and print me my tax forms” since they were no longer available at his local Post Office (which might be the next thing to be obsolete) and he couldn’t use the phone IVR system since he doesn’t have a push button phone. He specifically requested 8 different forms, their NJ State equivalents and 4 copies of each in case he makes a mistake. I started downloading the forms and printing them, but it would have used up a few pricy ink cartridges, a ream of paper and about an hour to collate and then deliver them to him. Luckily the IRS.gov had a mail delivery option. Yes, tax software would be a good suggestion for Dad if he had a computer. There will be no using Turbo Tax for him; He puts each paper form into the typewriter along with a piece of carbon paper and a duplicate form and enters all the required information sometimes pausing to use some White Out (another item available on Ebay). The process is arduous with today’s complicated tax laws and multiple schedules, worksheets and forms. Then he folds a large manila envelope so it will fit into the typewriter and addresses his tax return. When it’s complete it looks pretty much like a ransom note from a deranged kidnapper.

My parents have reluctantly embraced some technology out of necessity. They have adapters in many of their electrical outlets to accommodate their (relatively) new 3 prong appliances and had to reluctantly subscribe to cable TV since their rabbit-ear antennas were a safety hazard. Maybe they have the right idea – they saved a lot of money ignoring the rise and fall of the fax. They have never sent nor received one and are none the worse. Since I can’t IM them when one of our kids return home safely from a trip, they insist I give them the “signal”. That’s where I call them and hang up quickly (less than 6 rings at their age) to avoid the long distance charges (they’re not aware that nobody pays long distance charges these days, but I’m pretty sure they still do).

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Incorporating Social Media into the Synagogue experience

Here’s a letter I submitted to our Temple’s newsletter:

I recently read an article in Reform Judaism Magazine celebrating our ever-evolving faith.  Reform Judaism recognizes that our sacred heritage has evolved and adapted over the centuries and continues to do so.  The full and equal participation of women in our services is a powerful example of this.  Today, the tremendous rise of Social media has empowered people to seek freedom as demonstrated this past spring across the Arab world.  How can we, as Reform Jews, in Somerset County, NJ incorporate the power and value of social media to elevate our own Temple Beth-El experience?

 For one, we will obviously have to relax our “no cell-phone” policy and instead encourage the use of smart phones albeit in silent mode during our services.  Let’s allow our congregants to check-in on location based services like FourSquare when attending a TBE service.  There would be rewards (social currency) to promote this activity.  For example, the tenth person to check-in would receive a Minyan (the required amount of people to hold a service) badge, checking in at least once a week for an extended period would allow one to earn a Fromer-Yid (very religious) badge. If your entire family is in attendance, each would receive the gantza mishpucha (entire family) badge. 

 Let’s also utilize Twitter to inform congregants as to what goodies are being served at this week’s Oneg (after service snacks).  Let’s concede that some people (not me or you of course) base their attendance on whether or not chocolate rugalach or halvah will be adorning the tables in the social hall after the service.  Once one person reads a tweet that bagels and lox will be served at the Kiddish, the word will quickly spread (might I say schmear) to the entire local Jewish community raising service attendance and leading to an increase in Temple membership.

 Personal empowerment is a big driver of Social media.  Let’s allow our congregation to choose the closing hymn just like we vote for winners on American Idol.  Text BethEl1 for Adon Olam, BethEl2 for Hatikvah, or BethEl3 for Ein Keloheinu.   Of course we can’t open up the entire service to the wisdom of crowds.  Imagine if we were to allow people to vote for which Shofar sound would be bellowed from the bema?  There could possibly be 8 Tekiah Gedolahs and not a single Teruah.  Even the most talented Shofar blower wouldn’t be able to catch his/her breath. (The tekiah Gedolah is a set of notes played on a ram’s horn that can last upwards of 2 minutes) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJMv1XMIf_Q

Let’s fully embrace the power of Twitter.  Every time we tweet during a service or Temple function, we would include the hash-tag,  #TBE.  This would allow us to post Twitter results limited to those of our congregation on monitors installed in the aisles.  This activity would limit the amount of talking during the service and since all tweets would be posted and dissuade frivolous comments like “Look what she’s wearing to Temple – it’s a shanda! (embarrassment)”, or “Didn’t the Rabbi give the same sermon last year?”  However, it would encourage people to post relevant commentary and questions about this week’s Torah portion or a gentle request to lower the air conditioner.  For example this tweet could be responded to by others in order to avoid an embarrassing situation:

 “I have a really bad stiff neck – can I say my own name for the Misheberach (prayer of healing)?”

 Maybe we’re not ready to adopt all these ideas, but why not at least LIKE our TBE Facebook page and extend your TBE experience online?

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The perfect gift

I received many great gifts when I turned 35.  They included gift certificates to local restaurants, my own copy of Forrest Gump on VHS, a few bottles of booze and a very special gift from my friend Dave that I cherish to this very day.  It was an electronic shoe buffer with spinning fluffy pads that keep your shoes looking great.  One side was black and one was red although I’m really not sure why.  I generally don’t wear shoes that need to be buffed but it was proudly displayed in our bedroom until the kids began to play with it and it was then relegated to the walk in closet.

 

At my 40th birthday party, Dave gave me an even better present; a megaphone!  Early the next morning, (while still in bed) I used it to ask my wife what she wanted for breakfast.  She didn’t seem to appreciate waking up to the soothing sound of the megaphone, but it has come in handy. I used it to disperse some crowds at my kid’s parties and to get a word in edgewise at Thanksgiving dinner with our extended family.  Dave prided himself on giving gifts that you never thought of getting, but shortly after owning them, realized that you couldn’t live without them.  I responded to the megaphone by giving him a referee shirt when he hit the big 4-0.  He liked it, but his thank you note referenced it as prisoner’s uniform (yet another useful gift). 

Dave just turned 50 and I wasn’t sure what to get him.  I thought about getting one of those metal shoe measurement devices along with one of those low angled stools found in quality shoe stores.  It would make a nice gift set, but most people’s feet seem to stop growing by 50 and although it would be a stylish addition to their parlor, it wasn’t very practical. 

 That’s when it dawned on me.  I’ll get Dave something stylish, classy yet quite useful – monogrammed handkerchiefs!

It was the perfect accoutrement to adorn a fancy suit’s breast pocket or be more modestly placed in the front pocket of some casual slacks.  And talk about functional; you can blow your nose in it all day and after a spin in the washer along with your wife’s delicate knits, it can show up back in your dresser drawer all folded up nicely ready to re-use.  Think about all the tissues people use today! Handkerchiefs are the ultimate green gift (no pun intended) as they are great for the environment and save trees.  As a Doctor, Dave will be able to pull it out of his pocket and offer it to a sobbing patient who just learned that her Lupus tests came back inconclusive.  I made sure it was adorned with his initials, so as not to confuse it with his son’s handkerchiefs.  Dave will wonder how he ever lived without them.  He will learn to lovingly refer to them as hankies.

Its uses are endless.  If he’s playing Blackjack in Atlantic City and is dealt a poor hand, he can surrender by waving it at the dealer.  Imagine if he gets an upper respiratory infection.  Think of how disgusting it would be for him to blow his nose and cough into tissues and then just casually toss them in various trash receptacles around town.  Now, he’d be able to use his trusty hankie, and then just plop it in the hamper in the comfort of his own home.  I hope he enjoys his gift.

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