June 30, 2006

Well, it’s the 4th of July weekend – in New England, the height of summer and vacation season. In Arizona, well, just more of the same. Millions of people everywhere are heading out on vacation, so today seems a perfect one to share this little vacation tale:

I got this note yesterday from my friend and co-worker Sharon, who just returned from an unplanned, extended spearfishing weekend on the island of Andros, in the Bahamas. Seems there’s only one company that flies planes in and out of there and it’s a “first come, first serve, unless you got da money, honey” system when the island gets as overcrowded as it did last weekend. Anyways, yesterday was her birthday, and she filed the following report to us at work, which I thought too good not to publish. She writes:

Thank you all for your good wishes! I made it home today finally, although with a considerably lighter wallet after what it took to find a way off this morning.

Now, however, I am missing terribly that warm, azure water and the lazy days, and now of course wish I could have put aside my worries about work and other obligations while stranded, so that I could have enjoyed it even more fully.

However, I really can’t complain — one guy came back without his arm. A shark ate it.

Well that’s one way to come back from vacation lighter than you when you left. I wonder if that fellow can now call himself an “arm”y of one…

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 15:57 | Comment (1)
June 29, 2006

album coverYep, the title of this post is nicked from the Bee Gees‘ own follow-up album to Saturday Night Fever. Kinda lame album cover, dontcha think – very ’70′s-ish, eh? OK, so the title of this post lacks creativity, but no one ever accused The Great White Shank of being that creative. After this post, I hope you’ll understand why…

Last night, I was sitting on the couch and minding my own business, enjoying watching the Red Sox treat Pedro Martinez and the New York Mets to an old-fashioned, “Welcome-back Petey!” whupping. Tracey was in her usual place at that time of day – in the office with the rabbits, using our $2K+ computer in its primary role (a solitaire game). I had just finished supper and had nothing on my mind other than anticipating Youk getting another hit (which he ultimately did!), when all of a sudden the strongest scent of Easter lillies overwhelmed me. As strong as if I were back at St. Anne’s Episcopal on Easter Sunday. Then, not seconds later, it was gone. Completely.

Immediately, I checked the clock – it 7:22 PM AZ time. The reason I checked was just in case I later found out someone I knew or was close to had died – then I could ask what their time of death was and see if it was one of those spooky Twilight Zone-kinda things. Where could the scent have come from? There was no need to see if it had come from outside – there’s no such thing as an open window or door here in Arizona come late June; heck, the temp was still over 100 at that time. I checked around the corner, and there was Tracey, still absorbed in her game. I knew we had no flowers or even scented candles in the house, so that wasn’t the cause.

The odd thing was, for that brief moment in time, the Sox seemed a million miles away, and I was left with a soft, lingering sense of emptiness – not calm, not sadness, not joy, just the kind of emptiness one feels when someone has left the house and all is suddenly quiet.

Very strange.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 15:06 | Comments (2)
June 28, 2006

One of the shining stars of the Red Sox season thus far is first baseman Kevin Youkilis. Over the winter, after kissing Kevin Millar‘s lard a$$ goodbye, I think the Sox had confidence in Youk make the full-time transition from third and do the job, but, just to be on the safe side, they also signed free-agent J.T. Snow with the intention that the two would likely split time between first over the season. (Snow was also acquired as an insurance policy in case the newly-acquired Mike Lowell‘s offensive woes in 2005 weren’t just a one-time thing.)

Boy, do things look different come the end of June.

Let’s first take a look at the hot corner: not only is Lowell playing arguably the best defensive third base in the American League (far better in my view than that perennial stiff/choker Alex Rodriguez), but he’s been cranking out doubles about as often as Gilbert, AZ does 100-degree days, and kept his average above .300 all season. Unless the injury bug rears its ugly head, manager Terry Francona should have nothing to worry about from this position for the rest of the year.

And over on the other side of the diamond? Hard to deny that Youk has surpassed nearly everyone’s expections. Not only has his defense been rock-solid, but he has become a fixture at the top of the Sox’ line-up. This is, in my view, one of the keys to Sox’ offensive success this year. Originally, Covelli Loyce (!) (Coco) Crisp was expected to replace that money-grubbing Yankee traitor Johnny Damon in the lead-off position – and he started out that way – but when he got injured a few games into the season, Youk took his slot and has garfed onto it like a sea leopard on an unsuspecting emperor penguin (yes, I watched “March of the Penguins” the other night).

Even after Coco returned, it took only a few games for Francona to realize that re-inserting Youk in the lead-off position served three vital purposes:

1) Youk’s command of the hitting zone and his high on-base (.422) and slugging (.496) percentages (both higher than traitor Damon’s, BTW) exploits Mark Loretta‘s bat-handling skills and helps set the table for big dogs David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez;

2) By putting Coco down to eighth (!) in the order the power in the Red Sox line-up gets extended in a very! big! way!;

3) Youk’s hitting presence gives the ninth hitter (more often than not, shortstop Alex Gonzalez) better pitches to hit. You can already see the difference, as the normally-anemic hitting A-Gon has pushed his average up 75 points (to .267) in the last few weeks.

Most people figured that losing Damon and third baseman Bill Mueller (now on the DL for the Dodgers) would cost the Sox in offense this year, but largely due to Youk, the Sox actually have a more well-balanced attack than they did last year, with the benefit of a much improved defense. If the Sox can figure out a way to jettison the disppointing Rudy Seanez, reduce Julian Tavarez‘ overall exposure, and pick up another reliable veteran arm for the bullpen around the All-Star break, they will be a force to contend with the rest of the year. And it’s really all because of one guy.

In Youk we trust.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 14:48 | Comments (0)
June 27, 2006

I have resisted writing at length about last week’s Episcopal Church and Presbyterian Church U.S.A. general conventions; I hesitate to do so even today, for, although a life-long Episcopalian who has preached in United Methodist churches and attended (albeit for a brief time) a Presbyterian seminary, I’m not sure: a) if it’s even my business to render an opinion, and b) that it even matters what the these ecclesiatical bodies do anymore, given the lack of influence they have both on their membership and society as a whole.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: the only ones who still care what The Episcopal Church (TEC) and the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. (PCUSA) do at their conventions are the rapidly-shrinking numbers of people who still call themselves members of these churches, for both not only have ceased to be a driving force in mainline American Prostestantism (having been replaced long ago by non-denominational “megachurches” who continue to thrive and grow by leaps and bounds), they have become virtually irrelevant (if not non-existent) as well, given their seemingly-innate ability to live in a never-ending state of controversy and chaos while turning a blind eye to the members they are losing in ever-increasing numbers.

Why this sad state of affairs? In my humble view there are two primary reasons:

1) A general de-emphasis of sin in any and all of its forms, which has resulted in: a) a watered-down commitment to the historical and moral teachings of the Church, which in turn has: b) reduced the overall meaning and importance of the sacraments of the Church as a vehicle by which the Church has importance and relevance in peoples’ lives.

2) The increasing willingness (and indeed, desire) to embrace a radical, so-called “progressive” gay/lesbian social agenda that seeks to undermine (and I would add, destroy) 2000 years of historical and moral teachings by hiding its agenda behind the oh-so-trendy and comfortable buzzwords of “diversity” and “acceptance”.

And I’m not the only one with this view. A decade ago, in his ground-breaking book “The Empty Church”, Thomas C. Reeves pinpointed exactly the challenges faced by traditional churches who abandoned the teachings of traditional Christianity to instead market themselves as “inclusive”, “diverse”, and “welcoming” as a path to renewal. And Colleen Carroll, in her book “The New Faithful: Why Young Adults Are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy“, provides numerous examples (anecdotal, but powerful nevertheless) of young people rejecting the churches of their youth and turning towards Roman Catholicism and orthodoxy in their personal search for direction, knowledge, meaning, and sacredness in their spiritual lives and church-going experiences.

They say nature abhors a vacuum, and in the case of TEC, PCUSA and others of their kind, the kind of people whose youth, commitment, and, yes, money that can invigorate dying parishes and denominations: young families, white- and blue-collar professionals, and new arrivals from foreign countries and cultures are voting with their feet and choosing religious institutions unafraid to teach and proclaim a strong belief system based on (gasp!) traditional Christian values. Just as important, these institutions expect their members to reciprocate, whether through tithing, ministry, or evangelism, in their personal lives and communities. Rather than worship at an altar of post-modern relativism erected on the dust of late ’60s/early ’70s progressive liberalism, these people are unafraid to embrace and proclaim Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior, leaving TEC, PCUSA, and those like them older, grayer, and at the mercy of radical gay/lesbian activists hell-bent on breaking any and every kind of perceived barrier in the name of inclusiveness and diversity as they themselves define it.

My good friend Dona and I have had this argument over and over, and it’s become increasingly clear to me – as it has to those in TEC who call themselves orthodox, conservative, or Anglo-Catholic – that there really is no more wiggle-room for compromise on these things. Given the decisions made by TEC and PCUSA in their most recent conventions, both denominations have made it clear the direction they intend to go, and the once-meandering brook of progressive liberalism that in such a short period of time has become a rushing river will further accelerate into a tidal wave that will soon swamp and extinguish all remaining vestiges of orthodoxy and tradition. On the TEC side, David Virtue believes the 2006 Episcopal convention is paving the way for an alternative worldwide communion. On the PCUSA side, highly-respected theologian Mark D. Roberts believes it’s the beginning of end of the church he once knew and loved.

The question is: Does it really matter? I mean, let’s face it, the old paradigm associated with the traditional church has, in almost every way, manner shape, and form, been completely and utterly swept away by a highly-mobile society and the information age. No longer are people bound to the geographical and theological confines of a given denomination. Whether it be the Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian, or Baptist, there are virtually hundreds of splinter churches available to anyone who has the time and passion to check them all out. Much like the modern-day supermarket, the Christian marketplace features a virtual cornucopia of options to choose from. Whether or not this is a good thing is something that can be debated, but it certainly can’t be ignored.

One indicator of the failure of mainline Protestant churches to attract, promote and teach the faith and faithful is the rapid growth of house churches. Jim Rutz, the chairman of Megashift Ministries and founder of Open Church Ministries has long been a major proponent of the house church as an alternative to the traditional mainline Protestant model. He notes in this article for WorldNet Daily that the house church community in the U.S. ranks second (behind the Roman Catholic Church and ahead of the Southern Baptist Convention) in overall attendance.

Please don’t think of the house church as a new fad. For the first 300 years of Christianity, house churches were the norm. In fact, church buildings were quite rare until the fourth century, when the power-hungry Roman Emperor Constantine suddenly outlawed house church meetings, began erecting church buildings with Roman tax money, and issued a decree that all should join his Catholic Church. If you want to stick to a biblical model, the house church is your only choice.

In China, the world’s largest church (120 million) is 90 percent based in homes. The cover story in this week’s World magazine (June 24) is on how Christian business leaders in China are beginning to change the whole situation in that country. Yes, even while Christians in many provinces are hunted down and tortured, CEOs of corporations in areas with freedom are changing the way government looks at Christianity. That is major.

Bottom line: Worldwide, the original church is back, re-creating the biblical model: “Day after day, they met by common consent in the Temple Courts and broke bread from house to house.” (Acts 2:46) God is again pouring out His power on plain folks, bringing a megashift – not in our doctrine, but in our entire lifestyle.

People can get up in arms about the direction (or lack thereof) of the church or churches they grew up in, but the fact of the matter is that everything has changed, and people have the right – and, in the interest of their souls, the obligation – to pursue any alternative that draws them closer to God. With all the options there are out there, one no longer has to “stew in a pew” and put up with teachings and doctrines they believe counter to their own belief systems.
Failing denominations like TEC and PCUSA that have hitched their wagons to the vague and shallow teachings and promises of post-modern relativism may well continue to exist (and, in some cases, even continue to thrive), but the sands are shifting away from them. What will be left when the day comes when the majority of their dioceses and synods are broke, and their beautiful churches virtually empty and unable to maintain their costly upkeep, no one can say. But that day will come, and those who have brought these once-vibrant and vital institutions to that sorrowful place in time will have only themselves to blame.

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 22:46 | Comments (0)
June 26, 2006

The uproar continues over the New York Times and L.A. Times revealing the existence of a secret government program used to monitor the financial transactions of suspected terrorists. As usual, both Hugh Hewitt and Michelle Malkin are on top of this huge story like no one else – and it’s a good thing, since you can tell that our friends on the liberal/progressive Left know that the NTY and LAT have done wrong, as neither they, the Democrats, the AP, al-Reuters, and/or the other major newspapers and major networks seem to have the stomach to pursue this story further.

(Constrast this muted response with the widespread outrage and condemnations proclaimed by nearly every liberal major media news outlet, Democrat Party leader, and even some senior Republicans following a similar outing of the NSA eavesdropping and data mining program targeting phone conversations between suspected terrorists in the U.S. and abroad back in January.)

The President today called the release of this info “a disgrace”, Republicans are calling for an investigation into the leaks, and the editors of National Review have (rightly so, in my mind) called for the revocation of White House press credentials for the offending newspapers. Hyscience is quick to observe that the Rosenbergs were executed for less. That might be going a little far, but not too, as far as I’m concerned.

National Review’s Andrew McCarthy believes the real issue here is the arrogance of dino-print-media editors who have somehow concocted the idea that the public’s right to know is more important than the lives of our fighting men and women risking their lives on a number of fronts in the Global War on Terror.

In my mind, what’s really happening is that, like the majority of those on the liberal/progressive Left, these newspaper editors are simply lost in a late ’60s/early ’70s post-Summer of Love, Vietnam War-era time warp, pining for those days when a powerful print media could take down an arrogant Republican president and lead the way towards the abandonment of an unpopular war overseas. Thirty years later, these same news organizations – who still can’t get over the fact that Bush won Florida in 2000, and are blinded by their hatred of the Bush administration as a result – are trying to relive once more their “glory days”, pathetically unaware or unconcerned that the world has changed radically since then.

This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. In it’s own mind, the liberal/progressive Left has all the ingredients they need to relive those golden days of yesteryear: an unpopular President seemingly obsessed and mired in an unpopular war overseas, and an unpopular Congress (with a Republican majority, no less) blocking the way to reform on every issue near and dear to their agenda. Unfortunately, what this mindset seems unable (or unwilling) to take into account is the fact that our enemy in the GWOT is not only familiar with, but quite adept at, using every sophisticated tool of the modern information age to do what it can to defeat the U.S. (and therefore, the modern West) in Iraq and Israel in the Middle East, to impose the teachings and observances of radical Islamic fundamentalism wherever and whenever it can. The sad truth is that the arrogant, misguided, and willfully reckless leadership at the NYT and LAT knew exactly what they were doing when they chose to publicize this secret program. And they knew why they were doing it.

It had nothing to do with the public’s right to know. It had nothing to do with concerns about governmental intrusion on personal rights and freedoms. It had everything to do with their blind and relentless hatred of George W. Bush and his administration. And for that, they have put in greater danger the lives of our brave men and women who have willingly volunteered to serve their country on the front lines of the Global War on Terror in the harshest and most dangerous conditions and circumstances imaginable.

But don’t tell that to the arrogant, elitist traitors at the NYT and LAT as they sip their vintage chardonnays in trendy restaurants and fern bars, and congratulate each other from their fancy offices securely segregated away from the poor unwashed masses whose interests they self-indulgently proclaim to serve. They should be ashamed of themselves, for, as a result of their excessive reporting, they have put their country and its interests at greater risk, and more innocent blood – American and otherwise – will undoubtedly be shed. And for that one can only hope that condemnation, charges, trials, and jail time will result. No one has done more to deserve it.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 16:50 | Comments (0)
June 25, 2006

Some observations following a day of travel that could have been a lot worse than it really was:

1. The recently-renamed Manchester-Boston Regional Airport in Manchester, New Hampshire is a joy to travel into and fly out of. Similar in size to Providence, I think, but the restaurant/bar there (I can’t recall its name) is better. They feature Smuttynose beers on tap, and being able to bide your time watching the Sox on TV while enjoying a couple-two-three drafts is not a bad thing at all.

2. Unfortunately, things started downhill as soon as it came time to board our flight for Detroit/Wayne County airport. A word here right up front: I used to love Northwest Airlines, and actually used to use them a lot – especially when I had the option of connecting through Minneapolis/St. Paul, the home of one of my all-time favorite British pubs (called the Lake Line Pub), which serves a fantastic beef stew and pint. I hadn’t flown Northwest for some time and was appalled at how their level of service had declined since the last time I had used them. Seems their methodology for boarding planes has been reduced to three stages: 1) anyone who needs assistance, 2) first-class, 3) every man for himself. Isn’t air travel stressful enough without having everyone from rows 6 and back lunging towards the gate like some half-a$$ed cattle call, especially when no one’s really checking how much carry-on luggage people are bringing aboard? I’m not much of a fan of anarchy, and Northwest’s lack of attention in this regard creates a situation that comes pretty close to it.

3. From the moment I sat in my seat at Manchester till the time I picked up my luggage at Phoenix Sky Harbor, the day was full of screaming, crying, wailing, and screeching infants. I sat in the row directly in front of a couple whose child screeched practically from the moment we took off from Manchester until we landed in Detroit. The couple tried everything to placate the child, but nothing worked – not even trying to talk like the infant or negotiating with him, both of which seemed kinda pathetic to me in a way. By the time we landed at Detroit, safe to say everyone’s nerves in our section were frayed worse than Rob’s Internet cable. And the couple didn’t even have the courtesy to apologize.

4. The original plan called for the same aircraft to take us from Detroit to Phoenix, but as soon as we landed, we were told that due to mechanical problems – I love to hear that, especially after landing – we were to go from gate A16 to A76, literally, from one end of a very long terminal (if you’ve ever traveled through Detroit, you know what I’m talking about) to the other, which means taking the monorail. After hearing a kid screech for the better part of an hour and a half, you can imagine my joy at seeing the monorail’s doors open to what can only be described as a airport day-care center. The car was filled with two families that included two infants, six or seven children anywhere between 5 and 8, and all the typical acoutrements one might find with such an arrangement: luggage, travel seats, children’s luggage, stuffed animals up the wahzoo, etc. As our rail car made its agonizingly-slow way above the terminal proper, I could only think of two things: 1) if I had a .44 caliber pistol in my possession, I would have gladly blown my brains out if it meant finding some peace and quiet, and 2) these people have to have a boatload of money to fly their families from one part of the country to another.

5. I know I’m going to generate some possible enemies here, but let me state for the record my belief that air travel should have a minimum age restriction. Look, I know we live in different times – heck, I didn’t take my first plane flight until I was 22 – and America is the land of unlimited possibilities and virtually-unlimited riches and unrestricted capitalism, but there’s something unsettling at seeing kids that age toting their Barbie or Discovery Kids! luggage through an airport like some juvenile jet-setter. I mean, if this is what parents are exposing their kids to at such an early age, what will they have left to experience when they’re grown up and out of high school or college? I mean, isn’t there such as thing as too much to soon? There’s no way children of that age can appreciate the privilege (never mind the cost!) of being able to do something most people on this planet will never – never – have the opportunity to do in their entire lives, and it just doesn’t seem right to me in some way. Am I alone in this? Am I wrong to think and feel this way?

6. Once we get to gate A76, I defintely need a cocktail to calm the nerves, so I grab a spot at a nearby lounge where I relax and keep an eye on my new gate. I’m part-way through a Sam Adams Summer Ale when all of a sudden I see a commotion and people scattering to the four winds of heaven. Hmmm, this can’t be a good thing, I think to myself. And it’s not. Come to find out our new plane also has mechanical problems – at least this time we find this out before we fly – and Northwest is now sending us all the way back to our original end of the terminal, to gate A26 – oh, and this time with a delayed departure time.

7. As I’m walking through the terminal (no monorail for me this time) I’m amazed at the number of young families – some with 3-4 kids and more than one infant – and can’t help but think how well the economy must be doing. I mean, there’s no way way anyone could look at the sheer number of people traveling yesterday of every age, color, and nationality, and not come away thinking we are living in a time of unmatched prosperity. Even with the increased cost of air travel, people are traveling and spending the dough to do it. It truly is astounding.

8. The luggage system at Phoenix Sky Harbor is the worst of any airport in the U.S. A word to the wise: anyone checking luggage through to Phoenix should add 30-45 minutes minimum onto their hotel or home arrival time, because this airport simply does not know how to move luggage in a timely manner. As many times as I have brought luggage back here, there is always a huge delay, and I’ve given up trying to figure out why.

9. Now it’s 10 PM and everyone from the plane is milling around the Sky Harbor baggage claim. It’s been a long day, and children are restless, infants are crying, parents are fried, and I’m just sitting far enough away to observe Travel, American Style circa 2006. As amazing as our nation’s air traffic system is – and it is an amzing system to behold – it’s not a pretty sight. But it’s not the airlines fault – after all, we all get the kind of service we deserve. We want our travel cheap and gratification instantaneous. Sad, but true. Suddenly, another child starts crying, and the mother, with a look of helplessness on her face, starts walking her slowly in my direction, as if I’m some welcome oasis in a sea of chaotic humanity. Another time, I might have offered up a meager smile and a word of encouragement, but not today – there’s just no good nature left in my exhausted state of being. I get up and move to another quiet corner of the baggage claim area, left to wonder – along with everyone else there – where the heck my luggage could be.

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 13:45 | Comments (4)
June 23, 2006

Well, it’s been an enjoyable week here on the East Coast, but all good things must come to an end, which for me means it’s back to the triple-digit heat of Arizona. It’s been a wonderful week filled with full green trees, golf courses, and meadows, welcome humidity, ocean breezes, Goodboys laughs, and the simple joy of being around friends, family, and familiar places. Since I’ll be traveling most of the day tomorrow, there will be no blogging, so I’ll catch y’all on Sunday. Before I go, however, thought it might be good to clean out the travel bag with these few items, so I don’t run afoul of those TSA folks!

* For me the shine is definitely off interleague play in Major League Baseball, and this week’s Red Sox schedule playing the also-rans of the NL East – los Bravos, los Nacionales, and los Phillies (alright, the Phillies) – has resulted in some pretty uninteresting and uninspiring baseball. It’s a good thing the Sawx have used this week to feature more of their young pitchers like Manny Delcarmen and Craig Hansen to go along with budding stars John Lester and Jonathan Papelbon, otherwise I’d be sleepwalking through these NESN games. Red at Surviving Grady agrees.

* The most relieved person on this planet after Phil Mickelson imploded at the U.S. Open had to have been Colin Montgomerie, who had his first major seemingly locked sitting smack-dab in the middle of the 18th fairway, 176 yards away from the pin. That Monty then took five – count ‘em, five – shots to get home from there should have gone down in history as the biggest major meltdown since Greg Norman at the ’96 Masters, but he lucked out when Phil blew up even worse, so both go down as just two more players who let this year’s U.S. Open get away.

* Another day, another classified government program critical to our succes in the Global War on Terror exposed by the lefties at the New York Times and L.A. Times. Hugh Hewitt and Michelle Malkin are outraged, and you should be too. People should be being charged with treason and going to jail for this kind of stuff, and frankly I’m getting sick of it. These newspapers think they’re doing the nation a service, but all they’re really accomplishing is providing regular reminders to the voting public that the dino-media have aligned themselves with Osama bin Laben and radical Islamic fundamentalists, and therefore can not be trusted in any way when it comes to responsible journalism.

* Of course, the NYT and LAT spilling new information about classified programs comes just two days after John Kerry’s pathetic call to retreat in Iraq went down in flames, and the news that the FBI had cracked a “homegrown terrorist ring” in Miami. One thought: if I didn’t know better, I swear I could see the hands of Karl Rove at work here – there’s no way the dino-media Left and its Democratic cohorts inside the Beltway could be so stupid, could they?

Filed in: Golf & Sports,Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 17:47 | Comments (0)
June 22, 2006

It is such a beautiful night outside the bedroom window, the familiar sounds of traffic hissing nearby and the occasional call of a night bird mingling with the happy sounds of whirring air conditioners and lawn sprinklers – I mean, does it get any better than this? While I intended to write about the controversial (and ultimately self-destructive) measures enacted at both the Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church USA conventions this week, my heart just isn’t into it – a prayer to the Blessed Virgin for inner peace, tranquility and direction seems sufficient enough for now – besides, they’ll be plenty of time for that next week once the dust settles and I’m back in Phoenix.

For now, the beauty and joy of this evening seems to call for some poetry, and this one courtesy of Opossum Sally seems to fit perfectly the quiet joy and longing that resides in my heart at this hour:

There, through the long, long summer hours,

The golden light should lie,

And thick young herbs and groups of flowers

Stand in their beauty by,

The oriole should build and tell

His love-tale close beside my cell;

The idle butterfly

Should rest him there, and there be heard

The house-wife bee and humming bird.

And what, if cheerful shouts, at noon,

Come from the village sent,

Or songs of maids, beneath the moon,

With fairy laughter blent?

And what if, in the evening light,

Betrothed lovers walk in sight

Of my low monument?

I would the lovely scene around

Might know no sadder sight or sound.

I know, I know I should not see

The season’s glorious show,

Nor would its brightness shine for me,

Nor its wild music flow;

But if, around my place of sleep,

The friends I love should come to weep,

They might not haste to go.

Soft airs, and song, and light, and bloom

Should keep them lingering by my tomb.

These to their softened hearts should bear

The thought of what has been,

And speak of one who cannot share

The gladness of the scene;

Whose part in all the pomp that fills

The circuit of the summer hills,

Is, that his grave is green;

And deeply would their hearts rejoice

To hear again his living voice.

On this night may you too feel all the longing, peace, and joy that only a warm mid-summer’s night can bring.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 20:37 | Comments (0)
June 21, 2006

Today is the Summer Solstice, otherwise known as longest day of the year up here in the Northern Hemisphere. In Arizona, the relative importance of this day is lost amidst the seemingly endless stream of 100+ degree days we’ve had for the last several weeks, but up here in the northern climes, it’s a reminder that, even though summer seeems to have just barely started, the succession of shortening days – at first, hardly noticeable but more so come August – can only lead to their ultimate conclusion in the cold, dark days leading up to Christmas.

Some interesting facts about this day can be found here.

For some, this day means a trip to Stonehenge, where the Summer Solstice attracts thousands of pagans, revelers (a.k.a. drunks), and curiosity seekers. Catholics use this day (or thereupon) to celebrate the birth of St. John the Baptist. For those who live north of the Arctic Circle, today begins a period where they are given the relief of a brief period of constant light following months of darkness.

One of my favorite associations with this day comes from the 1974 film of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby (also one of my all-time favorite films, by the way). In the film, there is this wonderful scene where Nick Carraway first meets his cousin, Daisy Buchanan and her friend, Jordan Baker:

Nick: Why candles?

Daisy: In two weeks, it’ll be the longest day in the year. Do you watch for the longest day in the year and then miss it? I do.

Jordan: We ought to plan something.

Daisy: All right. What’ll we plan? What do people plan?

Ever since I saw that movie, I have always tried to remember to light a lot of candles in the house on this day – I don’t know why, maybe it’s just stupid, or maybe it’s associated with some deep, ancient inner need for warmth and illumination of all kinds.

Of course, there are likely those whom, quite to the contray, dread this day because there’s just too much damned light. Like “the Judge” character in another of my all-time favorite film, The Natural (1984). In this scene, the new star hitter of the baseball team (Roy Hobbs, played by Robert Redford), is called into the office of the team’s owner (the afore-mentioned “Judge”). And here’s their disussion about the necessity of light:

Hobbs: This is a swell office.

Judge: Mere creature comforts.

Hobbs: Could use a little more light though…

Judge: Where you from, Hobbs?

Hobbs: All around, really. What about you?

Judge: …Please pardon the absence of light. You see, as a youngster I was frightened of the dark, and I used to wake up sobbing in it as if it was water, and I was drowning in it. As you will observe, I have disciplined myself against that fear, that now I much prefer a dark room.

Hobbs: The only thing I know about the dark is, you can’t see in it.

Judge: A pure canard.

Hobbs: What’s a canard?

Judge: A prevarication.

Hobbs: What’s that mean?

Judge: A lie. You can see, you know.

Hobbs: Well, not good enough.

Judge: You see me, don’t you?

Hobbs: Maybe I do, maybe I don’t.

Ain’t that just a great scene? Well, tonight, me and two of my fellow Goodboys – “Killer” and “The Funny Guy” celebrated this longest day of the year by playing nearly 9 holes of golf even though we didn’t tee off until nearly 6:30 PM. Because the course we played was carved out of the woods, there would be holes where we’d be bathed in a warm, golden late-day sun, while on other holes we’d find ourselves immersed in the refreshingly cool and deepening shadows of dusk. By the time it was too dark to see where we were hitting, it was nearly 9 o’clock – just a perfect way to end such a day.

—-

One final note: The Funny Guy says he heard this on the radio somewhere, so take it for what you will: the word is, if you own or rent the classic version of The Wizard of Oz, and then, as soon as the MGM trademark lion at the start of the movie roars for the third time, then simultaneously start playing Pink Floyd’s classic The Dark Side of the Moon with the movie’s sound turned down, Pink Floyd’s music provides a perfectly synchronized musical score from beginning to end. I don’t see how that’s possible, but who knows?

If anyone wants to try this out there to see if it’s true, please report your findings to The Great White Shank!

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 21:43 | Comments (0)
June 20, 2006

One of the great joys of summer here in New England is sitting out on a sun-washed deck or patio with family or friends, sipping an ice-cold Sam Adams, and listening to the sound of wind chimes mingle with the rustling of nearby trees full of their seasonal abundance. You may be in a quiet neighborhood or adjacent to a busy street, but either way, the gentle tinkling of wind chimes provides a quiet, restful interlude after even the most hustling and bustling of hectic workdays.

For some reason, I’ve always associated the sound of wind chimes with the oppressive breezes of a hazy, hot, and humid New England summer afternoon, but after living in Arizona for a few years, I’m amazed that we most often hear our wind chimes after it gets dark – maybe the cooling of the desert terrain and lack of moisture in the air causes the wind to come up at that time time of day, and it often lasts until after midnight.

Tracey and I have always been suckers for wind chimes – in fact (much to our neighbors’ chagrin, I might imagine) we have three different sets of chimes hanging over our patio – a small tinkling set of a dolphin motif given to us by our friend and neighbor Jana back when we lived in Louisville, a heavier, metallic set given as a housewarming gift by our realtor after we moved into our Arizona home, and a more traditional-looking set picked up in Kennebunkport, ME the better part of a decade ago – a set that has survived through icy winter blasts, numerous moves, and the blistering, super-heated breezes of an Arizona summer.

I’m not the first person to sing the praises of wind chimes – in fact, Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks penned a tribute to them, intending them to be part of Brian’s conceived “Elements Suite” that was to be a crucial part of The Beach Boys’ abandoned, then resurrected SMiLE project:

Hanging down from my window
Those are my wind chimes
On the warm breeze the little bells
Tinkle like wind chimes
Though it’s hard I try not to look at my wind chimes
Now and then a tear rolls off my cheek

Close your eyes and lean back now listen to wind chimes
In the late afternoon you’re hung up on wind chimes
Though it’s hard I try not to look at my wind chimes

The next time you venture out onto your deck or patio, take a moment to listen for the sound of your own wind chimes and allow their quiet serenity and beauty to wash over your senses. If you don’t have any wind chimes, for God’s sake, do yourself a favor and go out and buy some! You’ll be pleased at the way their multi-sensual beauty beautifies even the most drab of surroundings, and you too will find their soft sounds providing a lift to your spirits.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 21:06 | Comment (1)

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