OyChicago articles

8 Questions for Brad Kleinman, iPhone app inventor, YLD board member, and Busta Rhymes fan

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08/30/2011

8 Questions for Brad Kleinman photo 

While Brad Kleinman was living in Cleveland getting his master’s degree, he’d spend every Monday night having dinner with his grandma and her friends. Dubbed, “dinner with the old people,” Brad really enjoyed spending quality time with his grandma and hearing her and her friend’s unique voices and stories.

An engineer by training with an entrepreneurial streak, Brad knew he had something to share with the world— who doesn’t love their grandma? So he began recording his grandma saying, “Jewish grandma-isms” and put together his first iPhone app iGavolt. Now Brad (and everyone else) can hear his grandma wherever he goes!

And with the success of the first app, Brad caught the iPhone bug. Today, he has several apps on the market including, Groggor Factory, that builds 3d customizable groggors and Amy’s Mom, which shares hilarious answering machine messages from one extreme mother.  With even more apps in the works, Brad, in his spare time, is becoming quite the pro! To learn more about all of his app ventures, click here.

So whether you love your grandma, want to be a pirate, or enjoy creating iPhone apps, Brad Kleinman is a Jew You Should Know!

1. What is your favorite blog or website?
Tie between Mashable and DrudgeReport.

2. If time and money were limitless, where would you travel to?
I would travel around the world, but specifically I’d go to the Amalfi Coast, Australia, the Far East, and Israel. 

3. If a movie was played about your life, who would play you?
A mutant clone of George Clooney, Joe Rogan and Frank Sinatra.

4. If you could have a meal with any two people, dead or alive, famous or not, who would it be?
Albert Einstein and Albert Kleinman (my grandfather).

5. What is your idea of the perfect day?
Not in this exact order, but it would include: eating cupcakes, playing volleyball, and throwing Frisbee… all while hanging out with my fiancé and Busta Rhymes in a castle in the South of France. I will be wearing a cut off T and jellies.

6. What do you love about what you do?
The people I get to work with!

7. What job would you have had if not the one you have now?
Rock Star. Or a pirate. 

8. What is your favorite Jewish thing to do in Chicago?
Hanging out with Jews. Love’em.

Behind the Wheel…of the Wienermobile

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08/23/2011

Behind the Wheel…of the Wienermobile photo 1 

Photo credit: Michael Weschler

Like many women, Robin Gelfenbien experienced bullying during her younger years. But Gelfenbien found redemption in the most unconventional of places: behind the steering wheel of Oscar Meyer’s Wienermobile.

During her freshman year at Syracuse University, Gelfenbien was endlessly taunted and harassed by a group of boys. Although she eventually reported them and the bullying stopped, the rest of her college experience was permanently tarnished. Committed to her education, she stayed at school but suffered from low self-esteem and retreated into a shell of her typically outgoing self.

Along came the Wienermobile, and with it, a new beginning. Recruited during her senior year of college, Gelfenbien knew she had been meant for the job. But never could she have predicted that the experience would impact her life as profoundly as it did.

Almost twenty years later, the Jewish comedian documents her story in the critically-acclaimed one-woman comedy show, My Salvation Has a First Name: A Wienermobile Journey, coming to Chicago in September as part of the Chicago Fringe Festival.

Behind the Wheel…of the Wienermobile photo 2 

Photo credit: Michael Weschler

You’ve said that as a result of being bullied your freshman year, you “lost” your voice during the rest of college. Did you think the Wienermobile job would be the way to find yourself again?
I didn’t realize that I had lost my voice during college when I was driving the Wienermobile, but it’s obvious to me now. I basically shut down during those four years, and I thought the Wienermobile [job] would let me myself again, which is an enthusiastic, outgoing and silly goofball. Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be on TV, which is why I went to the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. Unfortunately, I didn’t take advantage of that education the way I had hoped because of the bullying. … I wanted to be a Broadcast major, but the bullying made me afraid to do the campus TV or radio show, because I didn’t want to be harassed more.

So how did the job end up changing your life?
It allowed me to partially reclaim my old self, who was spirited, exuberant and funny. All of that had been quelled through college. The job allowed me the opportunity to find my voice again, because I was being paid to be myself, someone who is outgoing, enthusiastic, and loves being around people.

Comedy is a popular medium for delving into issues that are less than humorous. Why is it such a powerful art form for dealing with dark or difficult material? 
They say that tragedy plus time equals comedy, and it’s so true. It has always helped me cope with whatever I’m going through. When you share a deeply personal story, the audience will come along for the ride, but if it gets to a point of being really heavy or uncomfortable, a quick joke or aside can lift that tension, and the audience will connect even more. I think comedy helps the audience relax and enjoy themselves rather than have to worry, “Is this person okay?” It helps show that you’ve gotten through something and even though it was painful, you’re okay now, and you can laugh about it. That gives people permission to laugh at our universal flaws and foibles and relate to your story even more.

You have quite a unique religious background. On your father’s side, you have a Jewish grandfather and Roman Catholic grandmother who raised your father in the Catholic faith. Your mother’s side of the family is Jewish. So how do you personally identify yourself? 
I’m a very proud member of the tribe. I was raised Jewish, and I celebrated the High Holidays. I always fast on Yom Kippur. I get offended when someone says that I’m only half Jewish or implies that I’m not Jewish because my father is Catholic. I might have gone to mass a lot, but just to see my uncle [who is a Roman Catholic priest named Father Gelfenbien.] I consider myself 100% Jewish even though I had some unusual Christian influences in my life.

How does your Jewish identity play into your work or affect your comedy? 
You know how stereotypically self-deprecating Jewish comedians tend to be. It definitely runs through everything I do. I never want to do things to make anyone else feel bad, but I could pick on myself all day long. I'm not perfect. I recognize how over the top I was to get the job [driving the Wienermobile] and I can laugh at it.

If there is one thing you want people leaving your show to keep in mind, what is it?
I want people to understand the power of people's words. What might seem like harmless teasing to some can have a profound impact on the person who's on the receiving end. It's an impact that, depending on the severity of the bullying, can last for many years.

My Salvation Has a First Name: A Wienermobile Journeywill be playing a limited run in Chicago, with performances Sept. 3-5, 10 and 11. For tickets and information about the Chicago Fringe Festival, visit www.chicagofringe.org. Information about Robin Gelfenbien and her show can be found at www.wienermobileshow.com. 

Public House

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08/16/2011

This is the first post by our new food critic, Kevin Friduss. You can check out his other reviews here.
 

Kevin_l  


In January, the building at 400 North State Street, became the newest royalty of Chicago sports bars. Like its brother Bull & Bear, this after-work, beer enthusiast restaurant and bar features some of the most radical new technology in the city. Welcome to Public House.

I recently checked out what everyone was raving about, and wasn’t disappointed. The menu comes in a rustic leather case right out of a Harry Potter movie and includes an index so you don’t have to go looking through every page. I highly suggest looking through the entire menu, as they have some incredible new and twisted items that you may not find at any other venue.

While Public House has bar food like fried pickles and homemade soft pretzels, I tried to stick to the smokehouse flare like the Kobe Beef Brisket Sliders ($11), which come with a spicy barbeque sauce, with crispy shallots on a brioche bun. For those people that don’t know what brioche is, it’s heaven on your taste buds, alone. I spoke with David Rekhson, one of the owners of Public House, who also owns Bull & Bear and Stone Lotus, who said the most popular item is the Multiple Mac & Cheese ($8). Why so popular? You can add items like chicken chili or wild mushrooms along other fun accoutrements into the mix. For the ultimate in Mac & Cheese, add everything for an awesome $30. I hope you like to share your food.

After your first course, check out their grilled flat breads, soups & salads, and an epic list of mouth watering entrees which features the best sandwich I have ever tasted. For those of you who love seafood, the Tiger Shrimp Burger ($12) is so good that you won’t want to put it back on your plate. Delivered on a Hawaiian sesame bun is a sweet and spicy shrimp patty topped with Balsamic glazed red onion arugula, tomato, and smoked jalapeno aioli. Not to be outdone, the hand cut fries leave an aftertaste on your palette that you won’t want to lose.

Finishing off your meal, award winning pastry chef and MOT Mindy Segal has desserts that you don’t want to miss regardless of how full you are. For example, take the Waffles & Bananas ($8), which comes with malted banana ice cream, toasted marshmallows, milk chocolate hot fudge, and a caramelized Belgium waffle.

With 10,000 square feet and 103 different types of beer, Public House is in a separate category of competing for “Best Bar” because of its Tap Technology that is exclusive to Twilight Traffic Controls, LLC. Each booth, like Bull & Bear, has its own Tap system to eliminate having to go to the bar for a drink. Not only can you request any type of 25 tap beers, but you can also hook them up to liquors such as vodka or whiskey. All you need to order is the juice, soda, or shot glasses. One of the coolest things about the menu at Public House is that each beer they offer comes with a description of what you can expect.

David notes that reservations are preferred up to a month in advance for weekends. If you are lucky enough to get a booth, your server will swipe a computer FOB, allowing each guest to consume up to 24 ounces of alcohol.

Reservations for weekly dinner service should be made a week or a couple of days in advance, but David definitely recommends making a reservation before coming. He added “there's plenty of first come, first serve seating in both of our bars, but these seats tend to fill up very quickly right after work.”

If you aren’t a beer drinker or you haven't secured a booth, cocktails still flow with the likes of Monk-y Business ($12) with Absolut vanilla, Bacardi raspberry, Navan, coconut puree, fresh lime juice, Demarera syrup, and acacia honey or a nice list of wines, ports, and sakes. Most of their specialty cocktails imitate a beer that they have on their menu so moving away from that brown ale or Mexican lager might be harder then you think.

Public House is for everyone; not just the tourist and after work drinkers. So come in, grab your friends, have a bite and a drink and relax in the newest hot and sexy sports bar in Chicago. Public House. Grill. Tap. Happy Place. This is a one of a kind, not to be missed, dining and drinking experience.

Are Jewish women bad daters?

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Interview with author of “Secrets of Shiksa Appeal: 8 Steps to Attract Your Shul-Mate”
08/09/2011

You all know I’m a bit of a yenta who likes to give sometimes unsolicited dating advice to my friends and Oy!sters and I like to set people up. So from time to time, dating/self-help books like Avi Roseman’s come across my desk. This one wasn’t exactly my favorite. While I get that some of the advice is meant to be tongue-in-check, after a while lines like…

“…We’re women (natural gold diggers) and we care way more about what he gives us than he cares about what we give him…”
“…Play the dumb blonde card…”
“…Let him think he’s smarter than you…”
“…A successful woman is not a plus in a man’s eyes…”

Became a bit much for this feminist.

But my biggest complaint with the book is that Ms. Avi (as the author likes to refer to herself throughout the book) advises the reader to play the dating game. The section on online dating is titled, “Let’s Write a bunch of Lies Shall We?” I don’t believe that “playing games” yield successful relationships, so that’s where I had to draw the line. But if it’s your cup of tea, you’ll enjoy the read— it’s entertaining, funny and cringe worthy all at the same time. I’m just not so sure I’d recommend it with any seriousness to a self-conscious single girlfriend looking for love.

To Avi’s credit, she couldn’t have been nicer during my interview and she admitted from the beginning that she knew her book would be controversial. With the title, “Secrets of Shiksa Appeal: 8 Steps to Attract Your Shul-Mate,” she knew what she was doing. See below for my interview and if you’re interested in learning more about the book, check out her Facebook page: Secrets of Shiksa Appeal.

Is Avi Roseman a pseudonym? Is this because you are expecting backlash?
Yes. I chose Roseman as a pen name so that readers would know that the author was Jewish. My real name is not Jewish-sounding at all. Also, I have a family friend who wrote a book about getting a guy to marry you and that was her one regret, because professionally it hurt her.

I know this your first book, what is your professional background?
I have an engineering background. I was in IT consulting and this is just something that I looked at as a creative outlet. I started it about three years ago, but just didn’t have any time to really commit to it and I was actually kind of afraid of…afraid to work on it, to finish it, just cause I wasn’t sure what people would think. I think it was fear that made it take so long and then I got over it and now it’s being published.

How did you come up with the idea for the book?
I’ve always loved self-help books and I know that a lot of the books written especially for Jewish women aren’t really about what men want. And this book is really about what men want and not what Jewish women like. A lot of the books for Jewish women are, “Rah, Rah go for it and do what feels right” and this book is about men and [what] they want and what we should do to attract them.

Why do you think Jewish women are such bad daters?
That’s a loaded question. I don’t think that they are all bad daters— I just think that some are. But there are a lot of very beautiful, talented, smart, accomplished Jewish women, but not all of that transfers over to the dating world. For instance, a woman can be very accomplished but to a man looking to date her, that doesn’t always mean a lot. It’s not necessarily a plus. Here you have a successful man and that’s always a plus. He’s going to get more women because he is successful. A successful woman is not necessarily going to help her. She might be too powerful, have too much money. She might intimidate men.

Why are Shiksas such better daters?
The book had nothing to do with shiksas at first. And then my boyfriend at the time, who was helping me out with the book, he just said you should call the book, “The Shiksa Appeal.” And I kind of thought about it and I was pissed off at first …this is terrible, but I was pissed off and intrigued at the same time. So I changed the direction of the book to fit the title. I know it sounds bad, but I just thought it was such a catchy title and I thought the theme was really interesting that I thought it was kind of a good direction to move the book into.

How did you come up with your eight steps?
I feel they are pretty logical— the eight steps. I don’t think there is anything there that isn’t normal. Like what you wear and how you act and how you date and how you do online and stuff. It’s all kind of logical…

What do you think is the most important step?
Obviously, the looks are important because that is what is going to spark interest. But holding interest is really the challenge. The chapter about challenge is a lot about attitude and respecting yourself and kind of maybe changing your attitude, so that it’s what is going to attract men. So your looks will attract him, but you have to have that confidence and self respect, too.

What do you think of Jewish dating websites?
Overall, I think online is great cause you meet people you normally wouldn’t in everyday life. People can expand social circles and it can be hard to break out and meet new people. If you live in a location without a lot of Jewish people you can look for them in a nearby place.

What do you think are the best and worst things a person can do on a date?
Best thing a girl can do on a date: Besides putting effort into her appearance, she should be positive, laugh, and accept compliments.

Worst thing a girl can do on a date: Ask him at the end of the date if you're going to go out again. If you like him, be sure to tell him you had a great time, but let him take the lead on the issue. Asking if you're going out again puts too much pressure on him, and he may feel uncomfortable.

What's the worst mistake you've ever made on a date?
I once told a guy on a first date I was writing a dating book for Jewish women. He freaked out. Lesson learned!

Is there anything else you want to tell the Oy!Chicago readers about your new book?
I would like Oy!Chicago readers to know that there are so many great Jewish potential dates out there, especially in an educated city like Chicago. Don't be lazy and say, "I can't seem to meet any nice Jewish guys/girls." Make that effort to go to Jewish events to find them. You may not meet your match at your first or second event, but keep trying. All you need is one.

Around the world

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08/02/2011

The good folks at Oy! asked me to write an article about myself.  For that reason I've decided to interview myself as if I am two different people. I guess in a way I am anyway. I am a writer, but I have a good story to tell too. So here goes: 

Around the world photo 1 

A few years ago, Lisa Lubin made a radical change. She quit her cushy TV producing job at ABC7 Chicago, sold her car and belongings, broke up with her boyfriend, and left the United States behind to travel around the world solo for 'one' year. She worked and traveled, and three years later, unpacked her bag in Chicago. Now she's building a new lifestyle and business, thanks to her travels and new perspective on life. 

What inspired you to quit your job and travel around the world? 
I have always loved traveling. Since I was little I loved exploring new towns and places. I would ride my bike down new streets mesmerized by something I’d never seen before. A few years after college I went backpacking for a month across Europe. That was it. I got the bug. I fell in love with the world and a world traveler was born. Since then I made a deal with myself to travel somewhere far during my vacation-time every single year and I did do that, but the longest I’d ever been away was three weeks (which was still longer than most Americans). I had never really planned on taking a year off before. In 2006, certain things in my life just fell into place and I realized I was "free" in a way. Then I read a book called One Year Off, by David Cohen. He and his wife took their three (!) kids around the world for a year. Then I realized if they could do it, I could do it. The opportunity was there and I needed to grab it.

Around the world photo 2 

A lot of people say that takes guts to do and it seems many want to do something like that, but just never do it. What do you say about that?
Many say I'm living out what others only dream of. And others have also said what I'm doing takes a lot of guts. The way I see it, those two things don’t exactly mix. I think in fantasy this is a dream trip for many. But in reality, the packing, leaving everything behind, quitting, and saying goodbye for a year is way too scary for most. I had thought about doing this awhile back, but even for me it was too much. But then somehow my plan seemed to slowly evolve right before my eyes and I was just going to do it. Kind of like most other big decisions in life, you never really know what the outcome will be until you do it. The biggest emotional obstacles are overcoming the fear of the unknown and also veering off the standard 'beaten path' that society sort of sets up for us. But my passion for travel allowed me to overcome any fear. Life is too short to put something like this off. If I did, many things could come up to prevent me from going. It was truly now or never.

How did you plan a vacation for 2+ years?
You don't. And you don't have to. As I went along, it became my job to sort out the next leg of my trip. Plus I tried to plan different and varied ways of getting to know each place. I didn’t want to be just walking around new cities and towns for a year. That could get old and I would have burned out very quickly. I took Spanish and surfing lessons in Costa Rica, rode through the narrow fjords and icy glaciers of the Chilean Patagonia, hiked up a snowy volcano in Ecuador, swam with dolphins off the coast of New Zealand, climbed high atop the Harbour Bridge in Sydney, sand-boarded the dunes of Dubai, kayaked between pristine islands of Belize, climbed like Moses to the top of Mt. Sinai, and successfully accomplished a two-week bicycle tour through the rice fields of Vietnam. I also found work in many places—I served up coffee and sandwiches in a café in Melbourne, taught private business English lessons in Istanbul, performed proofreading work for a Turkish media conglomerate, volunteered with the homeless at Christmas in London, worked as a research assistant at the University of Cologne, was a pet sitter and an ‘extra’ in Los Angeles, did public relations for a company in Madrid and did some English voice recording for a publishing company in Berlin.  

Around the world photo 3 

All these different activities also ensured that I would meet other travelers and also locals. My adventures have been amazing, but the best part would have to be all the wonderful people I have met from all corners of the globe—good, kind people. Connecting with people of all backgrounds has touched me in ways I will never ever forget.

Most people assume this was expensive. What did it cost? 
In a nutshell, my trip cost me less than it would have if I’d stayed and lived my 'normal' life in Chicago (when you take into account my mortgage payments, bills, and other monthly costs such as grocery bills and other random costs that come up each month). It certainly can be costly if you are staying at four and five star hotels and traveling in first class. But it can also be very affordable if you stay in hostels and budget hotels and get all the discounts you can. Most hostels average around $20 per night depending on the country you are in (in Costa Rica I stayed at one that was $6 a night for my own room (albeit tiny) and in Hanoi, Vietnam I had my own room and bathroom at a clean, budget hotel for $10/night. I usually travel alone—if you are able to travel with someone that cuts some costs in half. Now, things come up when traveling that raise costs such as special tours and trips—like taking surfing lessons or a boat cruise of the Galapagos Islands. But by saving money in cheaper countries you can make up for these costs. I cut corners where I could, but also didn’t want to deprive myself of some special ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunities. Plus, in a normal year just living at home, random costs like these often come up as well (car needs repairing, unexpected furnace replacement, etc.)…or even just trips to Target where I never could get out for under $100.

How has your life changed since your trip? 
The cool thing is in many ways my life has changed completely. I have yet to go back to a full time job and my freelance career has taken off around my blog, my writing, and my photography. I still freelance as a TV producer some, but I also just launched my own video consulting business, LLmedia. Since I have 15 years experience in television and now five years experience writing and marketing my own travel blog, it seemed the perfect way to bridge my two worlds and help other websites, small businesses, and entrepreneurs who are now trying to do their own videos for the web or their business.

Around the world photo 4 

What advice would you give to someone planning a round-the-world trip? 
Just do it! If you are already planning a trip then good for you! Because the hardest part is over—deciding to do it and figuring out how to make it work. I would definitely say it is not that hard. If you have the opportunity and the freedom to just go—grab the chance now when you can…don’t put if off for tomorrow, because something will always come up to get in your way. If you are organized everything kind of falls into place. I love the logistics, but it’s just a matter of making a ‘to do’ list and prioritizing. What are you going to do with your home? Car? Stuff? Find storage. Get a mover. Notify your friends, family. One of the best things I did was put a ‘call’ out to everyone I knew and ask for their friends or contacts anywhere around the world. I met some really cool people this way and had more local experiences by hooking up with friends of friends. Quit your job—a very fun thing to do! Or be lucky and get a sabbatical! Pack. Shop for travel gear. Buy some tickets and plan out some major things and at least a place to stay in your first country. And just marinate in the fact that you are doing something so many others “dream” of but never really have the balls to do!!!!

If you want more advice, I am hosting the Chicago portion of the second annual national Meet Plan Go event on October 18th. This inspirational night happens simultaneously in nearly 20 cities in North America and gives attendees information, support, and inspiration on taking their own sabbaticals and career breaks.

Around the world photo 5 

Lisa Lubin is a three-time Emmy-award-winning television writer/producer/photographer/traveler.  She documents her (mis)adventures on her blog, LLworldtour.com, with photographs and articles from the road/train/rickshaw/camel. 

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