Isaac Kaplan

"Is it any wonder I've got too much time on my hands?"

Monday, August 14, 2006

Top 5 Beatles Solo Albums

My cousin used to be a big classic rock fan, before he sold all of his CDs. He had every Beatles solo album out there, even some of the Ringo stuff, but no Rubber Soul, no Abbey Road, no White Album. Why would such a big fan of John and Paul skip their best material? Because the solo albums were cheaper, my cousin reasoned. I guess that might've worked for him, but as for me, I'd rather have one Beatles album than 3 Paul albums.

But in case you want to follow my cousin's lead and pick up some Beatles solo stuff, here's my pick for top 5 Beatles solo album.

#5) George Harrison, Cloud Nine - George tries mixing his sound with the 80's, and it works really well. Forget the most famous song from the album, "Got My Mind Set On You," which I don't even like that much. There's so much good stuff on here, and the nice thing is that George is much more approachable when he tries doing the 80's than when he does the Indian stuff. The arrangements clearly sound dated (especially on "If That's What It Takes"), but the album is still solid.
Listen to: "Cloud Nine" "When We Was Fab" "Devil's Radio"

#4) Paul McCartney and Wings, Band On The Run - Most of Paul's solo stuff is crap, but this is as close as he ever got to his performance with the Beatles. The title track especially feels like a Beatles song, with that slow start and the suddenly rocky ending. Most of Paul's solo stuff sounds either like he's trying to do too much or that he doesn't give a darn. This album sounds just right.
Listen to: "Jet" "Let Me Roll It" "Nineteen Hundred And Eighty Five"

#3) George Harrison, George Harrison - You won't hear any of the songs from this 1979 release on the radio, but this is some of George's best material. The album might be George's wussiest album, but it brings out the best of his softer stuff. Plus, his guitar playing is still top-notch here. The only low point is "Here Comes The Moon," which doesn't even come close to its counterpart.
Listen to: "Love Comes To Everyone" "Blow Away" "Not Guilty"

#2) George, All Things Must Pass - Also known as the best double album ever. And even though there are a ton of songs on here, almost all of them are home runs. The Spector wall of sound is kind of annoying at times, and you kind of wonder what this would sound like without a lot of his shtick (how long till "All Things Must Pass... Naked"?). But nonetheless, this is a classic.
Listen to: "If Not For You" "Hear Me Lord" "My Sweet Lord" "Isn't It a Pity" "Wah Wah"

#1) John Lennon, Imagine - I've always thought of Lennon's material as hit-or-miss. You can have a song like "In My Life" or "Dear Prudence," and then a dud like "Because" or "Revolution 9." But with the exception of "I Don't Wanna Be A Soldier," everything on here works. I'm also sick of the title track, but "Jealous Guy" is my favorite John song ever, including his stuff with the Beatles. The songs are much better than the stuff on his Plastic Ono Band album, which was simply too raw for my tastes. But this piano-based album is excellent, and is easily Lennon's best solo work.
Listen to: "How?" "Oh My Love" "Oh Yoko" "Crippled Inside" "Gimme Some Truth"

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Middle-Aged Men With Cool-Guy Glasses

After a weekend in my parents' Flatbush-filled summer community, I saw something that's simply gotta go: 50-year old men with cool-guy glasses. You know, the ones where the side bars are 3 inches thick, or where the whole thing is made out of plastic. Or where they do something wacky with the colors, or the design. I mean, are these guys watching too many Devil Rays games or something?

It's one thing to be young and wear cool guy glasses. I can't stand how some of these guys think they're hot s--- for having those glasses, but you know what? They actually look good on a lot of people. It adds something to their face, and they even look half-normal with them on.

But when you're talking about a middle-aged man with a beer keg for a stomach, and a combover that's spread out like the Chinese fan I got for giving $5 to Chinuch Atzmai in 3rd grade, you're telling me that's normal? The guy looks totally uncool, and he thinks that a pair of plastic glasses will change everything? Suddenly, he'll be COOL, and all the 20-year olds will start shmoozing with him during davening? Gimme a break! Maybe after Weight Watchers, Rogaine, and Botox, he'll stand a chance.

I know, one day I might G-d forbid be a nerdy-looking 45-year old. And you know what? I'll be wearing the same plain pair of glasses I have on right now.

If someone's going through a midlife crisis, let them drive a convertible or go rollerblading in the park. I've got no problem with that. But these guys walking around with their nutty glasses look just plain goofy.

-- Another great cover: "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting," by the Who. I like Daltrey's vocals better than Elton John's. Plus, all the homophobics out there can now enjoy a very good song.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Sinas Chinam

The best part of the Nine Days being over is that you can write a blog piece ripping other people without some hand-wringer commenting how all of the blogs should be full of happy-feely stuff because sinas chinam destroyed the Bais HaMikdash. It's just that I find the term "sinas chinam" thrown around all over. The literal translation is "baseless hatred," and most of the time, when someone hates someone else, there's something to it, like the other guy screwed them over in business, or embarrassed them, etc. But how many people hate someone else for the heck of it?

Now according to the Torah, it would seem that any sort of Sinah is assur. The pasuk states simply that "one must not his brother in his heart," without distinguishing between baseless hatred and any other sort of hatred. But interestingly, the gemara which discusses the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash only focuses on baseless hatred. It seems like that is a step worse than hatred with a basis, and that's easy to understand. While the Torah forbids me to hate someone who screwed me over in business or was snobby to me in high school, that doesn't seem as wrong as hating someone for the heck of it.

- And a blog post that happens to criticize other people isn't "sinas chinam"! Just because someone criticizes other sects of Judaism doesn't mean they hate them. Heck, let's say I make fun of chassidim. I make fun of the Egyptian peyos and the broken English, whatever. It's wrong, it's immature, maybe there are elements of lashon hora in some cases. But is that sinas chinam? Just because I made fun of chassidim, that means I hate them? Doesn't sound very logical to me.

Frankly, I don't see that much "hatred" in the frum community. Obviously, many chareidim disagree with the MO, and vice versa. So maybe we don't necessarily love one another, which isn't too great. But "hate" is a strong word. How many of us really hate other Jews? Not just finding other people annoying, being indifferent to other, or just not being interested in having dinner with other Jews? But actual HATE?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Fasting And The Purpose of Fasting

I hate fast days. Especially the long, hot summer days. It's not like I get hungry, I just ger headaches, I get tired, and I can't concentrate on anything except for an old sitcom on a DVD. Back when I was in camp, some of the nerds played marathon games of Risk on fast days. But to do anything deeper than that? I simply don't have the energy, and I'm sure many people feel the same way. When I was in yeshiva, the mashgiach would give a mussar shmooze before maariv to discuss the inyona d'yoma. I tried going once or twice, very few people showed up, and I fell asleep soon after.

I always feel bad in a way. I can never get emotionally into a fast day, the same way I can feel a Shabbos or Yom Tov. Yom Kippur is different, simply because you're in shul all day, and the tefillos are simply powerful. But a regular fast day? I just feel like crap. And ironically, it's simply because I'm fasting that I feel like I get nothing out of fast days. I've always wondered if it would make more sense for me to eat and be able to concentrate on learning and reading about the issues we're supposed to focus on during a fast. Obviously, you can't do that, but sometimes I think I would get more out of a fast that way.

A big part of the problem: The lack of spirituality among us. How many of us think of our relationship with God? Do any of us feel close to God? After all, Tisha B'Av isn't about mourning the Beis HaMikdash per se, but rather about mourning the lack of Shechina among us and the resulting barrier between us and God.

But to feel that, you have to feel some sort of connection to God. And if you have no connection to God, you have no idea what you're missing. As it is, considering we never experienced life with a Temple, we don't know how much better life would be with it. We can speculate, maybe imagine it somewhat, but it's not the same.

Anyway, may it be God's will that we should fast no longer, and that we celebrate the redemption soon.