Monday, January 30, 2012

High Heels = A Hazard To Your Health

I never understood why women torture themselves by wearing high-heeled shoes. Granted, there is an added element of height, but the pain and suffering that tend to go along with such confining, unnatural footwear doesn't make it worth it from my somewhat rational, male perspective.

I often brought up the topic on a date, and most girls seemed to not mind wearing them, despite the blisters, foot pain and other annoyances.

Well, add to that list of concerns heart disease. Check of this report by ABC News, which features, oddly enough, a male reporter trying out high-heels.

If these things are indeed dangerous - aside from the risk of tripping, heels breaking, falling, and now chronic inflammation/heart disease - why should anyone seriously want to keep wearing them?

Has anyone's high-heeled shoes caused any tripping/needing to be caught awkwardness on dates?

For those interested in further gory details of what high heels do to you, and how you can kick the habit, check out this article here.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Maccabeats Marriage Update

Updated Image (as of 12/6/12) can be found here.

A year ago, on January 26th, 2011 I posted a gag picture I whipped up that featured the suddenly famous Maccabeats and identified which were married, engaged, or single.

Aside from the humorous element of appealing to all the Macca-fan-girls out there, I didn't think much of the post at the time. I went about business as usual, wrote a few more posts, and figured life would go on as it had until that point.

Then, a little over a week later the internet suddenly noticed the picture, and I was featured on blogs, Face Book statuses and even the Jerusalem Post's website. This humble little blog was flooded with visitors from all over the world. Talk about unexpected exposure.

In fact, that post continues to be the most visited, most searched (via word and image search), and most linked post I've written in over 2 years of blogging.

While a year has now passed, and people out there continue to in
quire via search engines which members of The Maccabeats are married, some things have changed and that picture is no longer factually accurate. I figure that as long as people still care about knowing this information, I don't want to mislead visitors and have impressionable young ladies pining away for a married or engaged man.

Therefore, I have put together an updated image (which looks pretty nifty, if I do say so) that relates the current marriage statuses of our beloved A Cappella singing sensations (click to enlarge):


With OVER half of the 14 guys in The Maccabeats now married or on the way, time is running out for any Jewish girls out there (and their mothers) who dream about Maccabeat zemiros at their Shabbos table.

On a more serious note, I recall hearing that The Maccabeats themselves weren't so happy with the initial post, and I imagine they won't be with this one either. Since the other post exists and cannot be taken back, I have created this new image to properly inform the masses at large who are already looking for this anyway. Sorry guys, if I have further offended you.

More important than the married or single status of The Maccabeats is their continued success at spreading the positive message of Torah Umadda and reaching out to Jews everywhere, religiously observant or not (yet).

I hope they can create more songs, more videos, and more albums (where is that second CD anyway!?) to further enhance our modern Jewish culture, and serve as a positive role models for our community, and the world at large.

P.S. This post will also be in lieu of Jewish Music Fridays because of my grad school work.

Update: From their Facebook status, it seems like their long anticipated 2nd album is almost completed!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Jewish Music Fridays: Jewish Dance Dance Revolution

Ever played "Step It Up," otherwise known as the Jewish Dance Dance Revolution, or officially "The Original Jewish Dance Game" at your local Jewish supermarket/Judaica store?

Well now you can play at home too, turning your personal PC or Laptop into a "Dance Machine!

You can buy the basic bundle, which includes the original version along with the dance pad and features "60 hit songs from top Jewish artists like Lipa, The Chevra, Dovid Gabay, YBC, and more!"

Then, when you want even more songs to dance to, you can buy the upgraded software version 2.0 that features "hits like Yalili (8th Day), Ah Ah Ah (YBC), Just Do It! (Yonatan Shainfeld), and the Maccabeats sensation "Candlelight!"

I have to admit that I do not own this product.

However, I think this whole concept is downright hilarious. For the longest time, video games have been a bit taboo in the more right wing Orthodox world. Now, not only is one available to play in public, but in the privacy of the home as well. The release of this product also assumes that the potential consumers out there own computers.

Granted, this video game is unlike others that contain violence, objectionable content, secular stories or values, which makes it less problematic than Mortal Kombat or Batman: Arkham Asylum.

Once it's been established as having kosher content, the makers/advertisers also dodge the potential accusation that this game is a waste of time, like one could say about something family friendly like Pac-Man by informing us that it is actually a fun way to exercise:

"Step It Up will change your perception of fitness. A fitness regimen can not only be fun, but include your entire family!"

Honestly, the same family fun and fitness could be achieved by playing the Jewish music you already own and create a fitness regimen consisting of jumping jacks, sit ups, push ups and other non-machine exercises. You'd also save $100+ and be able to have the entire family join in at the same time instead of taking turns on a single pad. You'd also probably get a better work out.

I certainly welcome the idea of maintaining one's health through exercise, but I don't think that people will typically get that much exercise from a dance pad. Yes, you can work up a sweat, as I described in my Dave and Buster's dating case study, but I don't think "Step It Up" can serve as a real substitute for an actual exercise regimen for people "ages 8-88."

I also wonder what this product says about popular Jewish Music as a whole. Most songs features on a secular Dance Dance Revolution game are really high energy, pumping dance/club songs, techno beats, or J-pop. Does this mean that these Jewish Music songs are somewhat equivalent?

Anyway, I don't intend to insult or denigrate the value "Step It Up," and I'm sure it is probably fun. Maybe even fun enough to try on a date - it could be a new activity along with the usual board game dates! I recall that there were a few guys who had DDR nights at YU... but that was entirely unrelated to their dating lives.

Does anybody own "Step It Up," or know someone who owns it? If someone would like to do a review and have it posted here, please send me an email.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Are Platonic Friends Possible?

Inspired by an interesting debate she witnessed, Tania over at Thinking Jew Girl asks readers if it is possible to have a close male-female relationship that has no potential for marriage, while both the guy and girl are actively dating other people.

I think the answer is no. That doesn't mean there aren't exceptions. But they are, in fact exceptions rather than the rule.

Case in point, "colloquiallyspeaking" replied that she had had such a guy friend who was beneficial in coaching her while she dated her husband, and now continues her friendship with him alongside her husband. While she concedes that adding physicality to the relationship can make things complicated, she adds that "a good emotional friendship is definitely possible and happens everywhere outside of the religious world."

I beg to differ, based on personal experience in secular academic institutions, as well as this completely objective and pseudo-scientific video that has been making the rounds on Youtube:

I think this video is very telling. As much women seemingly think platonic relationships with the opposite gender is possible, popular opinion from men seems to indicate the exact opposite.

From my own single experience from high school until marriage, I don't think I had female friends for whom I did not possess at least a small measure of attraction - even when the matter was openly discussed and the girl would adamantly say that she had no interest in anything other than a platonic relationship. I would certainly abide by her decision and keep things strictly platonic in terms of our interactions, but I couldn't deny that some residual feelings (or more) continued to dwell within me.

And that's the trap.

Can you honestly say that you could continue to be friends with a guy or girl, knowing they want no further development to that friendship, and successfully grapple with any ongoing feelings or spikes in attraction for him/her? That's very tough, to say the least.

I know I went through several cycles of waxing and waning of these troublesome feelings throughout my time in NCSY, while in Israel, and even at the start of my time at Yeshiva University. When I started dating, I was very aware of this distraction, and was reminded of this conflict by a married female friend (who was one of aforementioned single female friends) that I'd need to knock it off when it came to maintaining and cultivating female friendships while I was dating. And she was right. It made my life that much simpler, gave me greater focus, and allowed me to have success in my dating.

I'm reminded of an interesting observation that Rav Aharon Lichtenstein made during a Q & A session related to us by Rabbi Hayyim Angel. Someone asked Rav Lichtenstein if it was possible to have a platonic relationship, and Rav Lichtenstein, per his usual scholarly nature, went into a discourse explaining the true definition of a platonic friendship, which is actually between two men. I can't recall what Rabbi Angel said about Rav Lichtenstein's answer to the actual question, but I imagine he wasn't so encouraging.

Can anyone give an argument that demonstrates platonic male-female relationships are actually possible on a large scale instead of an exceptional minority?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Bashert In Other Religions

I found this very interesting post on which addresses the concept of having a "soul mate" from the perspective of several different religions, including Judaism.

The launching point for the article is a discussion of a Christian dating website that claims they can find G-d's match for its users. It seems there are indeed a lot of Christians out there that put a lot of stock in hoping to find their soul mate, which can keep them optimistic, or mire them in holding out forever, or even lead to divorce when they "discover" that the person they married wasn't the soul mate they had once envisioned.

The debate among Christians is intriguing. Some are very adamant that soul mates exist, yet others refuse to think that there is one specific person out there for every individual.

I was a bit surprised to learn that Muslims don't believe in the notion whatsoever. Apparently, it places the "fault" of divorce in G-d's Hands if He is also the one who makes matches. After thinking about it a bit, it makes some sense, especially with the belief of multi-virgin reward in the great hereafter and continued practice of polygamy in many areas.

I'm not such a fan of Christian author Dannah Gresh's attempt to understand the Hebrew word "Yada" - which she elaborated on in a separate blog on eHarmony (yes, the lone comment is me).

The conclusion seems pretty moderate, and reflects some values that many Jews also hold onto. Namely, your soul mate/bashert is who you make out of your spouse. Certainly once married, it is appropriate to take this stance, and thereby put all of your mental and emotional energy into espousing that concept for the health of the relationship. Pining after a unknown, other soul mate can only get someone in trouble, as we have seen with former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford.

For prior posts about soul mates, see here and here.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Wanting Shalom Bayis Vs. Needing Shalom Bayis?

I recently overheard a shiur given by Rabbi Zacharia Wallerstein on this past week's parsha. I say overheard, because ASoG was listening to it across the table from me as I was coincidentally reading this post by Rabbi Harry Maryles over on Emes Ve-Emunah which comments on that very shiur. He decries Rabbi Wallerstein's anti-internet plea stemming from a rather crazy internet-email/chat story which sounded as though it occurred in the mid/late 1990's (which I also heard and found a little strange). For more info about that, see Rabbi Maryles' post.

The point I strongly object to was related to Shalom Bayis (somewhere after the 20 minute mark).

Rabbi Wallerstein went through the concept of "wants" versus "needs." One pair, which I thought was appropriate, was "wanting" versus "needing" to be closer to HaShem. Too many people say that they "really, really want" to have a closer relationship with HaShem, but few people say that they "need" a closer connection to HaShem. Instead of "We want Moshiach now," it should be "We need Moshaich now." Point taken - I like the message.

But, Rabbi Wallerstein then said there is a difference between "wanting" Shalom Bayis and "needing" Shalom Bayis. He remarked that if you "want" Shalom Bayis, then you go to a therapist to tell you what to do, to tell you how to make your spouse happy. But if you say that you "need" Shalom Bayis, then you won't go to a therapist, because you will truly know what makes him/her happy and do that.

With all due respect, that's rubbish. Not only is it incorrect, it could be immensely harmful.

No one really knows what they're doing when they married. This is why pre-marital counseling is important, and groups like Shalom Task Force thankfully exist. Everyone needs to prepare in the best way that they can, with whatever time and resources that they can devote or access, to get ready for marriage before the big transition comes under the chuppah.

Having said that, even with reading every book out there, talking to every Rebbi, teacher, counselor, psychologist, married friend you know, and listening to every shiur you can attend or download, does not make you 100% fool-proof in your approach to marriage. Every individual situation is different, and no matter how well you think you know your fiance/e, there will be plenty of things he/she never told you or did in your presence before that will throw you for a loop. It's not inherently bad, and in many cases the conflict can be harmless or easily resolved, but it's all part of the process of coming together as husband and wife.

However, there are sometimes issues that can come up - whether there were something that was withheld from a spouse prior to the wedding, or some condition/situation/difficulty that arose anew while in the freshly married state - a young couple may not have the tools, knowledge, or experience to handle the problem. If this problem is causing unhappiness, and as a good spouse, you want to make sure your husband/wife is happy in life, then you will do everything you can to resolve the conflict.

But that does not mean that if you realize that peacefully working through the issue is a "need" that you won't need a therapist's help to do so.

One of my rabbeim is very, very encouraging, and appropriately so, when it comes to matters of this nature that the couple should see a professional counselor. He will even suggest that seeing a psychologist, who is clinically trained for his/her work, is better than seeing a Rabbi who is not. The professional has been given an education specifically to work with issues that can arise between couples, whereas a Rabbi may have personal experience and experience as a spiritual advisor, but lacks the breadth and depth that a PHD in psychology or master's in counseling provides.

Every couple must develop the a key to success in marriage: good communication. Without being able to talk openly, respectfully, sensitively, and sincerely with one another, you'll never be able to even broach difficult topics and satisfactorily reach a resolution through discussion. Sometimes this can be hard to do, and if you find yourselves talking in circles, above each other's heads, or past one another - then it is time to seek proper guidance.

All married couples need Shalom Bayis. On that point, Rabbi Wallerstein is correct. But to resolutely proclaim that someone who knows they "need" Shalom Bayis instead of "want" Shalom Bayis will have some greater understanding to successfully keep their spouse happy is utterly wrong.

If, as one should, firmly believe that Shalom Bayis is a true necessity, then he or she will have the courage to openly communicate with their spouse, and seek out professional help as needed to assist them in solving their ongoing difficulty. There is nothing embarrassing or shameful about utilizing the resources that are available, and there are plenty of observant, Jewish couples' counselors/psychologists in our world who are more than happy to offer their guidance and perspective.

There are too many young people out there today who have been damaged or otherwise uneducated by their personal experience, seeing what their parents did, or hearing mistaken notions from educators and rabbeim. When these role models let us down, whether intentionally or for lack of ability (and after all, no one is perfect) it's only proper to look for help in the right places.

May we all know, deep inside, that Shalom Bayis is an absolute necessity in married life, whether married or hopefully soon-to-be married, and may we all have the intestinal fortitude to take the right steps to achieve and maintain healthy Shalom Bayis in our relationships and homes.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Jewish Music Fridays: haMAKOR

This week's Jewish Music Fridays features a band that continues an established trend of musical performance from the well known and talented Solomon family: haMAKOR.

For those who don't yet know, the lead singer/front man for haMAKOR is Nachman Solomon, the younger brother of Yehuda Solomon (Moshav Band) and Noah Solomon (Soul Farm) and son of Ben-Tzion Solomon (Yeshiva Diaspora Band).

I randomly discovered their first CD, while in Manhattan Judaica browsing for something new to listen to. "The Source" had an interesting green tree cover image, but what took me by surprise was the little white label stuck on the front that said read:

I was already a fan of Moshav Band and Soul Farm, so I had to check it out.

The first thing I noticed was that Nachman's voice is similar to Yehuda's in many respects, as can be seen in this video of him covering Moshav's "Eliyahu Hanavi:"

I also found a few lyrics of some songs to be a little similar to a couple of Moshav Songs. But beyond those connections, haMAKOR has their own unique sound and groove. I happen to be a big fan of electronic/techno music, and haMAKOR is one of the few groups out there to use this in a very attractive and engaging fashion.

Unlike other performers who might overly rely on synthetic beats too much to the point of annoyance or in a way that ends up sounding like 80's music, haMAKOR utilizes electronic music along with their instrumental performance to create hypnotic, mesmerizing and otherwise really cool sounding songs.

Like Moshav Band and Soulfarm, haMAKOR's music is a mix of Jewish music, secular-ish songs that can have a spiritual theme or message, and some tracks that sound entirely secular. It's a nice mix, and provides a good bit of variety for fans.

The one thing I didn't like about "The Source" was that I felt it was too short, with only 8 songs. However, while researching for this post, I learned that they released a second album in 2010 called "World on its Side" and I didn't even know it!

I don't yet own it, but I plan to purchase it soon. I have listened to several of the songs that are posted on their Myspace page, and it sounds like they're continued to mature and develop their style. I particularly like "Shir Tzion:"

One of my favorite songs from their first album is the title/first track, "The Source." The intro is pretty funky and very unique. You've got to hear the recorded version to get the full psychedelic effect.

"Memories" is an example of one of their secular songs from "World on its Side"

In the end, haMAKOR is a rockin' and welcome contribution to modern Jewish music, that helps diversify the types with their unique combination of synthetic beats with the more typical guitars, drums, and bass.

For anyone who wants to check out haMAKOR's music, which I highly recommend, both of their full albums can be found on Myspace: 1) "The Source" 2) "World on its Side."

Further information about haMAKOR can be found on Facebook and Myspace.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

How About HER Summer?

On a recent Shabbos, ASoG and were guests at a meal shared by a small group of single young women who are dating. Of course, since I'm no longer in that stage of life, and as a part-time Shadchan, I always take any opportunity I get to hear what daters are saying. We eagerly listened and participated in what turned out to be a rather lively discussion.

Of the many points talked about, one in particular really irked me. One speaker remarked that she has struggled through numerous first dates wherein the conversation was stilted and didn't flow naturally. She explained that the reason behind the awkward verbal exchanges was the fact that there was no real exchange. On each date, she would inquire about the guy's interests, his family, what he did over the summer, what he's studying in college, etc - and not once did he then ask her about her life and interests.

"I just mentioned that I spent the last summer in HASC - no less than 3 times - and he still couldn't take the hint to ask me how my summer was!?" She complained in an exasperated tone.

I believe that she has every right to complain about this lack of social skills. I learned a term from Dr. Pelcovitz that applies to counseling but is very appropriate for this scenario as well: "volley."

Imagine if you were asked a friend to play volleyball with you, and he/she gladly agrees. You soon discover that every time you serve the ball, he/she ignores you and it thuds on the ground somewhere near his/her feet. That's not much of a game, is it?

The same concept applies here. In order to have a decent conversation, each dater needs to volley back to the other in order to keep discussion going as well as to have mutual and reciprocal information sharing. If he asks you how many sibling you have and what they do, it's proper to then ask him about his own siblings after you finish talking. If she asks about your summer activities or your Shana Aleph experience, it's only fitting to take the time to let her talk about what she did as well.

This doesn't have to be done in a rigid, mathematical way of exact give-and-take, firing back the very same question or introduction that your date initially offered. You can use something they said as a springboard to turn the attention back toward him/her. Each person should get their fair share of talking about him/herself - not to fulfill some egotistical need to flaunt their accomplishments, but to share part of who they are, what they're about, how they think, what they're like with their date.

If you don't really care to find out these sorts of things, then why are you on a date with them in the first place?

I'm pretty sure that the guys these girls had been out with were rather inexperienced and thus didn't really have a background of what it means to talk with girls on a date. Even so, I would hope they'd have some level of common sense to understand what I'm talking about. If not, then I pray they listen to feedback from shadchanim, assuming those shadchanim care enough to report such things as "he didn't ask a single thing about me the whole time!"

Most veteran daters know this by now. It seems simple, right? But if several young women complain that they've each had more than a handful of dates where this stilted conversation occurs, it seems like it could be a real problem.

I remember reading in "The Art of the Date" (I think) that one particular married woman used to take her younger brothers on practice "dates" so that they would learn how to do the sorts of basic things expected and avoid issues like what I've been describing. It stands to reason that shiurim discussing preparing to date need to cover more than halachos of yichud and hashkafa. You certainly won't get far enough to know if she's the one if you can't even talk to her about basic, fun stuff.

Also, for girls out there suffering from this unintentional neglect, I say take matters into your own hands and find something he said to use as a segue into talking about yourself. Although this might get annoying, I think it might help clue him in better rather than silently imploring to yourself that he ask about you. In either case, I think the guy is more at fault, but I don't believe a girl should just mentally throw her hands up in frustration, either.

So guys out there who are starting to date: Ask about her, too!

Have any of the female readers encountered this sort of behavior?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Jewish Music Fridays: Prodezra

Welcome back to Jewish Music Fridays! This week we have a very unique and rather talented artist: Prodezra!

I admit that rap/hip hop is not my favorite genre of music. I don't have a bias against the type of music itself, but rather I have come to distance myself from it because of how it has become so closely associated with negative subjects, foul language, mistreatment of women, condoning violence and drug use, among other things.

For me, music should be positive, inspiring, and meaningful. Everyone has their own specific tastes and each person connects to different things, which is why there needs to be different types of music to suit the interests and needs of many different kinds of people. Using music to promote causes and ideas that are harmful or offensive seems like a misuse of this gift.

Prodezra opened my eyes to the positive potential of rap/hip hop. In particular, the song "Liora," which is a tribute to Prodezra's wife, as well as Jewish women as a whole. I found the song to be refreshing and inspiring as it proudly proclaims positive messages about women, in stark contrast to all of the garbage out there in the secular music world that is misogynistic and insulting to women.

It seems like there is an increasing interest in this burgeoning field within Jewish music, and some of the artists are, like Prodezra, African-American converts. I think there are two major beneficial points from this development:

1) People who may have become acculturated to popular rap/hip hop music, whether raised religious or largely unaffiliated, now have a "kosher" outlet to enjoy that style of music instead of hearing nivul peh and harmful messages.

2) The horizon of Jewish culture is being broadened and becoming more inclusive. I think it's wonderful for people of different backgrounds who become part of the Jewish people to enhance our understanding and approach to the world. We can always learn something from everyone around us, especially from those who may be different from us. A ger tzedek is every bit a Jew like anyone born Jewish, but their previous experiences can be utilized to help create their own unique Jewish identity, as well as positively influence others to be broader minded and learn new things and new perspectives that they otherwise would never have reached on their own. This is a similar phenomenon to ba'alei teshuva who don't reject their past, but instead draw from their previous life to give more meaning to their practice of Judaism.

Prodezra happens to be a friend of mine, and I can attest that he is a wonderful, spiritually in-tune guy, a family man, and someone who cares about helping his fellow Jew through learning and inspiring others with his music. Unlike secular rappers who boast about their personal talents and how they are the best, most talented, wealthiest, strongest, or whatever other stupidly egotistical claim they can think of, Prodezra attributes all his talents and success as blessings from G-d. He draws inspiration for his music from Torah sources and Chassidus (notably Chabad). His message is positive and worth paying attentive to.

His musical tagline, "Beats L'shem Shamayim" couldn't be a more appropriate appellation for his work.

Here are a few other of the many songs Prodezra has created and uploaded on Youtube.

"ReJewvenated (J.E.W.)"

"Proud To Be"

"Where Are You? (24/7"

Prodezra also composes beats featuring other artists.

"Let Me In" featuring Nachman

The famous song "Change" featuring Y-Love and Describe.

Prodezra also produces instrumental songs:

"The Lamplighter"

"Ein Od Milvado"

As seen previously on this blog, Prodezra was also featured on G-dcast.

Check out more of Prodezra's music on Youtube, his website, Facebook. You can purchase his albums on iTunes and cdbaby

Ultimately, I think Prodezra's music might not be for everyone, but he certainly has a large audience which allows him to reach out and positively influence those who might not be otherwise interested in the more standard forms Jewish music.

I hope Prodezra continues to produce meaningful beats and songs that bring our distanced brothers and sisters back to their heritage, as well as opening up the ears, eyes, and minds of the rest of us to a broader appreciation of Jewish music and culture.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

It's Been A While...

...since I last updated. Sorry about the unannounced break from blogging. Between tests, Chanukah, and lots of travelling, I haven't had much time to write or read blogs as of late.

Since the blog was getting inundated with hits because of the Matisyahu, Maccabeats and Chanukah video posts, I didn't want any new content to be ignored/lost in the traffic.

I also wanted to give "Serendipity" as much exposure as possible, since I particularly liked the story and felt it was a big departure from my usual comedic style. If you haven't read and commented on it yet, please do.

A lot has been going on since I last posted, so I figured I'd compose several mini-posts to catch up.

1) One last Chanukah music video, which I was told about but forgot to post, "Maoz Tzur" by Except Saturday:

2) Overall, I think that the winner of the music video competition was Aish's "Jewish Rock of Ages," followed very closely by the "Miracle" by the Maccabeats. The main thing that made me like the Aish video more was the fact that all their songs were very sing-able and stuck in my head, which "Miracle" failed to do. Both videos had great production values, humor, and were executed very well.

3) Here is video proof that Matisyahu has joined the Maccabeats:

4) Of course, by now everyone should realize that my "interview" with Matisyahu post-shave is a clever forgery, as is the quickie Photoshopped picture I made of him wearing a white button-down shirt and black skinny tie. I was hoping to be the first to write about this humorous idea, but Jewlicious beat me to it, but thankfully didn't really expand on the joke or make the picture that sprang into my mind and later onto my computer screen.

5) The Maccabeats successfully raised over $80,000 for their Miracle Match campaign which benefits Gift of Life. Great job, guys - and everyone should continue to donate and help save lives.

6) Judablue announced via Facebook that have a new video in the works!

7) The Groggers are also apparently working on a new video, which will be filming in Florida.

8) I apologize for slacking off on the Jewish Music Fridays feature. I hope to continue that as a regular weekly update starting this Friday, G-d willing.

9) I submitted several of my stories to Mishpacha magazine. They praised my writing, including the sci-fi aspect depicted in a few of them, but didn't think the stories fit their readership :(

I'm trying to see if any of them are worth editing and hoping to hear back from them regarding what they would like to see in general in their published stories.

10) I recently read the book "Hush" (I know, I'm late). It's fantastic, gripping, moving, and scary. Everyone, Chassidic or not, should read it.

11) I am greatly dismayed by the disgusting actions of certain groups of chareidim in Israel. They do not represent Torah Judaism and this needs to stop. At any rate, here are two really great responses among the dozens that have been written and are must-reads. The first is an excellent critique of the whole situation: "The Curse of Violent Extremism" and the second is a very interesting analysis of the story behind the violent: "Ultra Orthodox extremism is a reaction to growing reform in the community"

12) New things upcoming on this blog: I (of course) have more posts and stories to share. I also am toying with the idea of rereading some of the dating and marriage books in my rather extensive collection and publishing reviews, which will probably be a monthly feature.

Anyway, it's good to be back.