I am a Yid. I like to rock. Veitur!

- [ Monday, June 27, 2005 ] -
Hack to fix Blogger bug

Blogger is still broken, with no word, yet, from any humans. There is no reference to this wide ranging issue on either Blogger Status or Known Issues.

I've been working on a couple different web pages, and I've been building my CSS skills recently. I did a search for the CSS clear property, and turned up with the answer. The hack is pretty easy. This is a temporary solution, making your code a little sloppier, and not a "fix." Only Blogger can fix the bug.

Add one of the following lines to your <style> section in the <head>:This, or a close variation, should work for most blogs. If you're having trouble, I may be able to give additional help. This code might have negative side-effects on your page if you use the CSS clear property for your layout.

UPDATE: Late Monday, I got an e-mail from a robot named "Andrea" telling me they're working on it. Blogger updated their status page, and posted a different hack to temporarily subdue the CSS demons released from the bowels of the Blogger machine. If one of my listed hacks didn't work, give the Blogger one a try.

- [ Sunday, June 26, 2005 ] -
Blogger is screwed (scroll down)
There are errant tags in every one of my blog pages that weren't there on Thursday. The errant tags are, <div style="clear: both;"></div>. I don't want them. It makes people think my blog is closed, or worse--"under construction."

I went to the Blogger website to look for help. I did some searches. I saw this on the bottom of the page:
Ask Support
Can't find what you're looking for in Blogger Help?

First check Blogger Status and our known issues page, then write Blogger Support and we'll see what we can do.
I checked both recommended pages. I think "see what we can do" means they will send you an automatic e-mail telling you to look for help on their help pages before you reply to the e-mail, asking for help again. Now I'm waiting for a second response. I hope the response won't tell me to refresh my browser or reinstall Windows.

Does anyone know how to make it stop? Does anyone know of other affected blogs?

If Google hasn't been taken over by Cyberdyne Systems Skynet robots or monkeys on typewriters, and a real person comes checking around here for clues, I want to show links to other blogs likewise affected to show that the problem isn't on my end. I know how good tech-support is for services I buy. I can only imagine the alacrity the Blogger team will have for my problem, as a non-paying consumer of their product.

Please comment here and link other blogs that are screwed.
I only know of a couple other blogs so far.(This post may come down after the issue is resolved and this post outlives its relevance.)

- [ Tuesday, June 21, 2005 ] -
Treyfe? Or Just a Little Phishy?
Photo by Jeff Kravitz, stolen from the Bonnaroo website

I love Matisyahu. His music is great and well produced. He works hard. He's a humble guy. He lives Torah and spreads Torah. He inspires people. His popularity grows by leaps and bounds. And that's only my opinion as a fan.

As a musician, I'm very appreciative. His popularity only increases the possible market for my music. As he does better, I do better. He's not the first, nor the best (he's definitely better than I), but he's the most marketable and the most popular. The untapped market of Jewish rock is blowing wide open, with Matisyahu on the cutting edge. He's opening the market to far more people than anyone before him.

He hasn't made it to Chicago once. I saw him perform in Milwaukee, and I would love to hear him again, especially in a closer and better-sounding venue. I'm bothered by something. He will be playing a show in Chicago this summer that I can't see because of religious reasons.

Matisyahu is scheduled to tour with Trey Anastasio, opening for the Midwest dates, including Chicago. In case you're unfamiliar, Trey was the lead singer of Phish (a hugely popular band with a massive following) and a huge inspiration and part of Matisyahu's spiritual life. Personally, I'm a big fan of Phish, and to a slightly lesser extent, Trey's post-Phish solo work. I've heard good things about the last time Trey played here, and with Matis as an opener, that show is going to be freakin' sweet. (Enjoy the bootleg of Matisyahu playing few songs with Trey at Bonnaroo!)

Unfortunately, the tour with Trey occurs during the Three Weeks, and more specifically, the Midwest shows are scheduled for the Nine Days.

During this Jewish mourning period, there are restrictions on many musical activities. The scheduling of these shows is problematic, not only because of his own religious circumstances, but also because his audience is primarily Jewish. True, most of this audience will be there for Trey. But these concerts are heavily advertised, and have the potential to attract many Jews who don't know better and even many that do. This temptation might even be greater given the current absence of a single "kosher" Chicago show.

Initially, it felt to me like someone who normally sells kosher food, now sells traife. But the feeling goes even a little deeper. Why shouldn't I be able to go to hear Jewish music, G-d's words and divrei Torah, being performed in the Nine days, when less observant and knowledgeable people will get to have this unique religious experience? It just seems so wrong, and I couldn't figure it out.

I posted this observation, and my questions on the JDub message boards. There has been some response, all of it supportive on this especially difficult topic. Some comments sound harsher than others, but in the end, we all love Matis and want him to do the right thing. More than that, we all want to judge him favorably and believe he is doing the right thing, and that everything is kosher.

One of the responding posts came from management, saying Matis got an authoritative rabbinical ruling that the activity in question is permitted. This response post was brief, vague and sounded like a brush-off. Totally unconvincing. I still felt that this was more of a public affront to his religious beliefs that are inseperable from his image, and thus deserving of a more public and thorough explanation.

Later, in a different thread, guest poster, Umass rabbi, posted the following clarification:
Hey friends,
I just spoke to a friend of the family and got the information on Matis playing during the nine days. It seems that there is a halachic difference between the nine days (i.e. rosh chodesh av until tisha b'av) and the actual week where tisha b'av occurs (i.e. post shabbos until tisha b'av). There is a lienency during the first set of days to play for various different reasons. Additionally the fact that the crowd is not entirely Jewish, (i.e. this is not a Mordechai ben David concert) plays a factor in the heter. FYI before Matisyahu agreed to play with Trey on these dates he and his wife both spoke to a reputable Beis Din about the situation. Sorry if this is a little halachic and dry but I wanted to clearly spell out what was shakin' and clear the air. Have a good one.

This sounds a little better, and more believable. From this point on, I'm assuming Matisyahu has a solid heter to play these shows. But I still feel bitter and whiny...

Stepping back from the situation, I see the schmucks who hassled Matis for his style of music when he played for a yeshivish audience at the HASC show (Goyish music will lead us away from Yiddishkeit!). I also think of the people who don't like that he plays in bars (Goyish venues will lead us away from Yiddishkeit!). And now here I am, upset that he's leading Jews awy from Yiddishkeit while playing during the Nine Days.

Narishkeit, I say! I'm done being bitter on this one. To simplify, I was experiencing a common feeling. Anyone not on my level of observance is clearly misguided. Those with stricter observance are ultra-religious nuts, and those who are more lax in observance are heathens.

I won't go to the show. I imagine that most Jews who are going to the show, would be seeing Trey anyway. Provided we don't have the arrival of Moshiach before then, I encourage Jews who love Matisyahu to avoid these shows to spare his soul from the strain. With G-d's help, there will be many, many more shows like this, or better, in the future. Please support Matisyahu by buying his CDs, attending his other shows, and spreading the word.

Matisyahu, mazal tov on this fortuitous gig. Kick some ass and show the crowd what you're about. Keep spreading the good vibes. Stay Holy. And please...

play (a kosher show) in Chicago already!

- [ Thursday, June 16, 2005 ] -
(not) Cheap Jewish CDs, part II

I'm also shopping for the newest Moshav Band CD, Malachim. I'm disappointed to say that I'm not pleased with their distribution.

Here is the results of my Google search.
  1. Israel-Music
    CD cost: $20.00
    Shipping: $4.00
    Total: $24.00
  2. AllThingsJewish.com, "Judaica and Jewish Gifts for All Occasions"
    CD cost: $15.00
    Shipping: $6.99
    Total: $21.99
That's it. Two places to get it. The first link is from an Israeli music website. I find the extremely high price to be standard for Israeli CDs. Shopping for CDs in Israel is an expensive experience. Israel also has an extremely high rate of media piracy. Are they related? Which one is the cause? The second link is also linked directly from the Moshav Band's website, thus indicating their preferred distributor.

$15 is a fair price for a CD (within the current music market), though not on the cheap end of the spectrum. They are a professional band with a professional sound, so I can accept it.

There is no excuse for $6.99 shipping (a charge that is all but hidden until after you enter a credit card number).

Sounds like a good time to call my local Jewish bookstores, right? $18.98 is cheaper by comparison. I called two local bookstores. Unfortunately, they don't carry it and they've never heard of it.

Not being associated with a major Jewish label, I know firsthand that distribution can be a pain in the butt. Currently, there are many businesses around that are geared for distributing CDs for a small band. The profit margins and amount of time that the artist needs to invest can vary, but no more than with a big-time distributor.

I've listened to the CD, and I'm going to buy it no matter what. It's a great CD. The $21.99 price tag makes me consider my budgetary restrictions.

Maybe I'll wait a little longer. I suppose the bookstores will eventually carry it. But I'd rather wait until the Moshav Band comes to town. I can buy directly from them. This is actually my preferred way of buying music from independent artists, as they keep a much larger percentage. That way, I don't have to pay the highly inflated (especially in this case) price of distribution.

Cheap Jewish CDs?

Does anyone know the cheapest possible place to get the newest Blue Fringe CD?

Here is my preliminary findings on the interwebs, based on a single Google search. Also, for the sites that require registration to find the total cost, I filled out a bogus address in my zip code, and a temporary e-mail address I got from my Bloglines, velvel.12103782@bloglines.com (feel free to e-mail me anything you want!)
  1. Judaism.com
    CD cost: $17.95
    Shipping: $5.95
    Total: $23.90
  2. Eichlers.com, "The World's Judaica Store"
    CD cost: $14.99
    Shipping: $7.63 (the extra high shipping charge looks like a great way for the store to grab more money without paying any royalties)
    Total: $22.62
  3. 1800Eichlers, "The largest Judaica Store"
    CD cost: $15.99 (the customer is also shown "List Price $16.99." On what list?)
    Shipping: $5.00
    Total: $20.99
  4. Mostly Music, "The heartbeat of Jewish Music
    CD cost: $14.99
    Shipping: $1.99
    Total: $16.98
I called my local Jewish bookstore. Music isn't their specialty and they have no reason to offer a reasonable price. 70 Faces costs $18.98.

All in all, $16.98 from Mostly Music isn't a terrible cost for the CD--especially for a Jewish CD. But this is only based on the market value. That's what people pay, so that's what I have to pay. Price fixing among the major distributors has been established and "settled," but the prices are still the same. Jewish CD producers and distributors were not part of the CD price fixing scheme, as lowering your prices to do so would miss the point. (Tapes are still priced a few dollars cheaper, in spite of being more expensive to produce.)

I'm proud to support the band Blue Fringe, and I can't wait to see them again (hopefully at another 18+ show). I hope they end up getting a decent percentage of my hard earned money from my forthcoming purchase.

UPDATE: In composing my next post, I remembered another local bookstore, with a slightly different clientele. Their price: $19.99.

- [ Friday, June 10, 2005 ] -
Short story:

While driving home from work with my wife today, the Journey song, "Any Way You Want It" came on the radio (the preferred station had a commercial). I began singing along in a half-mocking/half-real "rocking out" way. We had this conversation in which Becky made a great observation.

Becky: Who sings this?
Velvel: Journey.
Becky: You make fun of people for listening to this, don't you?
Velvel: Yes.
Becky: Why?
Velvel: Because it's cheesy.


Becky: They're like a cheesy Van Halen


Becky: ...Sammy Hagar Van Halen.

+ =

- [ Thursday, June 09, 2005 ] -
Deafening Silence
When I started Farbrengiton, I noticed significant interest, especially in the tiny echo-chamber of the JM blogosphere. Every time I had any update with the band, I would see it mentioned on other blogs.

If I still have any readers, you will have noticed that I'm plugging a new CD, "The Hebrew Vibrations Achdus Project." It's a fund raiser to save Gush Katif. The CD was released on Sunday, and I started plugging it on Monday on the blog. The silence was deafening. Not a single comment and not a single mention anywhere else. I plugged it on the JM Yahoo Group and again, I didn't get a single response.

I wrote a quick e-mail to the JM blogfather, the Hasidic Musician. I let him know that I noticed his silence and I was curious about his take. He has great opinions about music, and certainly there were old themes that have been discussed before, new themes to discuss, or even just a mention about something that a lot of popular Jewish rock guys got behind.

This is the response I received.
I suppose I haven't mentioned it because I'm on-the-fence about the whole situation.
Fine. Acceptable. I can totally understand not wanting to risk dividing your audience for the sake of politics that aren't even yours.
I'm also of two minds about the idea of American residents getting involved at all. On the one hand, I support free speech and all Jews have a right to be concerned about Eretz Yisrael. On the other hand, perhaps this is a decision that Israelis -- the ones who will be directly affected by the ramifications here -- should be making without outside interference, as it were.

If the CD had been produced by Israeli artists, I'd definitely have mentioned it. I may yet, I'll give it some thought.
I have a problem with this. I've never heard this statement from an Israeli who doesn't disagree with the "outside interference" in question. This statement is generally biased and only comes from outsiders who personally don't want to get involved or those who disagree with the specific instance of interference.

Every Jew is allowed to feel strongly about his brothers being evicted from their homes because politics dictates that a Jew isn't allowed to live in a certain region. Every Jew is also allowed to feel strongly that the politicians have some kind of plan, though not revealed, and that giving entire Jewish cities to our enemies will somehow (I don't see it) bring peace and stability.

This political situation is global. Especially after hearing the world cry about our elections, and every other nation shouting and throwing money into every other country's politics, how can anyone with a strong opinion afford to be silenced by others with more nerve? I'm of the belief that every Jew has a responsibility to voice his opinion for the future of Israel, and especially to stand up directly for the fate of fellow Jews. Israel is a haven for all Jews of the world, and needs to be open for every Jew in their time of want or need. It's not just a secular state. Every Jew is tied to the State of Israel. All of your enemies, inside and outside of Israel, already have their money tied up in her fate. Why would you leave everything up to them?

It is all of our fates that are tied to the Disengagement agenda. Not that it would change my opinion on outsiders trying to affect change, I'm planning on making Aliyah (the exact schedule of this is not for publication at this time). You can ask the Jews who lived in Germany in the 1940s--not everyone gets to take his time and plan his Aliyah. A safe Israel is a necessity for all Jews. Voice your opinion and be heard.

- [ Tuesday, June 07, 2005 ] -
Support Gush Katif
For those interested in a small act that they can actually do to help Gush Katif, feel free to print up this poster to publicize the aforementioned fund raiser CD, The Hebrew Vibration Achdus Project. It's a great CD for a great cause (at a great price).

PDF (104 KB) / GIF (165 KB)

- [ Monday, June 06, 2005 ] -
The Hebrew Vibration Achdus Project
Farbrengiton recently was asked to participate in a compilation, one of a political nature. I'm overwhelmed by the big names, on this CD, as Farbrengiton is an unknown, especially in comparison. I'm very happy it's for a cause that touches me down to my soul.

The Hebrew Vibration Achdus Project

Please purchase this CD to support your fellow Jews who would like to keep their homes, communities, schools, shuls and graveyards in Gush Katif. Listen to both your favorite artists and new artists sing songs about Jewish unity and redemption. Blue Fringe, Moshav Band, Soulfarm, Piamenta, Andy Statman, Pey Dalid, White Shabbos, Heedoosh, Farbrengiton and more. Proceeds from the sale of this CD will go to charities that are trying to save Gush Katif.

This CD is dirt cheap--$10 including shipping. Buy one now, and buy another for your friend. Save Gush Katif. Save the Jewish nation. Save the world.

I apologize for the division of my audience, though I don't think my audience is that divided. I hope our music will be inspiring, and encourage everyone in our positive message. We donated our song, "I am a Jew" to the cause of Jewish unity, and to allow Jews to live on Jewish land, as they have done continuously for thousands of years. I do not believe that excising the Jewish population from parts of Israel is a good idea in any way, nor is it inevitable. But what do I know?