December 21, 2006

Happy Winter Solstice!

Maybe it’s just that, out here in the Valley of the Sun, you get so used to the days being long and god-awful hot, or perhaps it’s just the fact that I’m spending more and more of my days working from the house instead of commuting (more on that in another post), but this is the first year I’ve been here that I’ve really noticed how short the days are this time of year. Back in Massachusetts, when my travels to and from either my condo in Dracut or, later on, my apartment in Milford, it wasn’t hard to notice since all the commutes home (an hour each way) from Burlington this time of year were done in darkness, and you’d feel as if all you did was wake up, go to work, go home, and go to sleep.

Here in AZ, I notice the dark days more in the morning than at night, as, even though I’m up and around by 6:30 AM, the sun isn’t showing up in our yard until nearly an hour later. The occupants in the computer room could care less what the time is – they just know it’s dawn and time to eat.

The other thing I’ve noticed about these dark days is that a lot, and I mean A LOT, of people have really gone the whole nine yards when it comes to Christmas light displays this year. You know what that means – regardless of what the Democrats and their cohorts in the alarmist mainstream dino-media say, the economy is going great guns. I call it the ‘house lights syndrome’: the more lights and festive displays on peoples’ houses, the more optimistic they are about their situations and – more importantly – their economic futures. My guess is this will be a pretty damned good year for retailers – especially the online kind. Nice to see all the lights aglow when the nights seem so long.

Yes, we’re in the dark days, and it won’t be until the end of January that you’ll be able to tell that the days are starting to get longer. By that time Rob and his Saints will be getting ready for their Super Bowl appearance (BTW, get well soon, Rob – sounds like you got what I had!), and some of us Goodboys will be looking forward to our annual Vegas pilgrimage. Until then, I’m just glad I’m alive and able to see and appreciate the differences brought about by the shortening of the days during this holiday season.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:16 | Comment (1)
December 20, 2006

Seems the weather pattern that produced that massive and deadly storm that brought snow and power outages to the Northwest has ushered in some pretty cold (well, at least for here) to the Valley of the Sun. Not only did we get a little rain early on both Sunday and Monday morning, but word is that not too far from here some folks got sleet, and there’s snow to be had up in the mountains a couple of hours from here.

Of course, it’s all relative. The people around here might think it’s chilly, but to this New Englander, it feels like fall golf weather to me. The bougainvillea and lantana are still flowering nicely out back, and the swimming pool vacuum chatters away as if it were just another summer day. Whereas most people up north consider their fall work to include cleaning out the garden, putting up the storm windows, getting the furnace checked, raking leaves, and laying down the winter lawn protection, here, there are palm trees that need to be fed, a swimming pool that needs to be drained and refilled (an every-other-year task), and… well, I guess that’s about it.

…Oh, I did have to sweep the patio to get rid of the of the exta sand that leaked out when we added a new top layer to the sandbox where the tiki bar sits. And, I did sweep out the garage. But I would hardly call them fall tasks (or any tasks, for that matter).

Footnote: Notice one of the homeowners (Heidi Powell of Corvallis, OR) pictured in the link above? Now that’s my kind of people – she had rabbits out in her greenhouse but brought them in because of the storm, and likely saved their lives in the process! Good job, Heidi – give those buns an extra hug tonight!

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:06 | Comments (0)
December 19, 2006

ronettes Lately I’ve found myself rediscovering – for only about the gazillionth time – just how much I love the sound of The Ronettes. Of all the girl-groups who came and went in a flash across the AM dial back in the early-to-mid-’60s, none matched the tough, mature, raw sexuality of The Ronettes. Led by Veronica (Ronnie) Bennett (center, aged 19), her sister Estelle (right, 20), and their cousin Nedra Talley (left, 18), The Ronettes were a product of the Washington Heights section of New York, cutting some initial mediocre records and working as dancers behind higher-profile performers and DJs in local clubs until they were discovered at the then-famous Peppermint Lounge in 1963 by legendary rock producer and impressario Phil Spector.

Unlike the innocent, “goody-goody” personas commonly associated with the girl-groups of their era, The Ronettes wore tight skirts and shiny dresses slit up the side, heavy mascara, and their hair piled way high, and oozed a mature, sexual sound. Whereas groups like The Chiffons (“He’s So Fine”), The Shangri-Las (“Leader of the Pack”), The Crystals (“Da Doo Ron Ron”, “Then He Kissed Me”), etc. were the girls next door in soft dresses and blue jeans, it didn’t take much to imagine the exotic, all-grown-up Ronettes in high heels and lingerie. Much of this can be attributed to two critical elements: the incredible voice of Ronnie Spector, and the powerful arrangements afforded their songs by Phil Spector.

As Richard Williams has written in the Phil Spector biography “Out Of His Head”, “When the Ronettes made their first [Phil Spector] single, it was immediately obvious they were to the bright, chirpy little Crystals what Elvis was to Pat Boone. They looked dangerous, a threat to any average male’s self-esteem, but despite the challenge in their eyes they performed love songs in which they pleaded to the boys. This marvellously piquant contrast between promise and performance was made possible because of the emotions roiling within Ronnie Bennett’s hugely quavering, massively sexy voice, a pure pop instrument the like of which no one had heard before.” (And I might add, since.)

To understand the power, style and sexuality the made The Ronettes so different and unique during their brief heyday, one need only listen to five particular records:

1. “Be My Baby”. Their first single recorded and produced by Phil Spector, “Be My Baby” defines and exemplifies what one can accomplish with a 2 1/2 minute pop record if you have the goods, the whole package. Jay Warner, writing on behalf of The Ronettes on the Vocal Group Hall of Fame website, describes the allure and the power of this record:

Their first single on Spector and Lester Sill’s new Philles label in July 1963 is a classic, the Ellie Greenwich/Jeff Barry/Phil Spector-penned collage of castanets, maracas, strings and Hal Blaine drumwork titled “Be My Baby.” Ronnie’s distinctive, seductive vocal delivery, along with her now-legendary “who-oh-oh-oh,” drove teen boys wild, while Spector’s production drove the single to chart success. The July review in Billboard stated, “This is the best record The Ronettes ever made, and more than that, it’s one of the strongest records of the week. It was made by Phil Spector, and he has transformed the gals into a sock singing group who handle this dramatic piece of material with flair. Backing has a stunning, rolling rock sound that’s bound to make the disc score with the kids.”

Boy did it ever, and not just with ‘the kids’, either. Brian Wilson, leader and producer of The Beach Boys, has called it “the most perfect pop record of all time”; legend has it he would listen to the record for days on end throughout his own creative heyday and beyond, to the point of driving his family crazy. What gets me about this production is Spector’s in! your! face! guitar-piano rhythm section and the strings during the song’s instrumental break. Simply stunning.

2. “Baby, I Love You”. The second Ronettes’ single, released just four months after “Be My Baby”. What I find most intriguing about this song, besides its unearthly piano intro (played, BTW, by rock legend and session player Leon Russell), is the just-this-side-of-chaos percussion that absolutely drenches every second of the recording and provides the powerful backup to Ronnie’s pleading vocal. Some, like Warner, believe this a more sophisticated and powerful performance than “Be My Baby”, and I’m inclined to agree. Notice how the song’s title advances The Ronettes’ persona and how one can picture teenage boys imagining Ronnie (or their own love interest) singing this song to them. That, my friends, is what classic rock n’ roll was all about.

3. “(The Best Part Of) Breakin’ Up”. The third Ronettes’ single, released the same freakin’ month as “Baby, I Love You” (can you imagine any contemporary pop act conceiving of such a thing?). Boasting a heavy, insistent percussion and intricate backing vocals that “ooh” in and out with Ronnie’s heartfelt sexy lead (“C’mon baby…”), this, in my view, is the best they ever did and one of my all-time favorite pop tunes. Listen for the wicked cool harmonica that underscores the horns during the transitions between verses and chorus, and one of the best false endings ever done.

A quick note: Part of understanding what made The Ronettes’ songs work so well for them is the lyrics penned for Ronnie that advance their “tough girl, bad girl” persona. Consider the lyrics to “(The Best Part)…”, written by guys (Phil Spector, Pete Anders, and Vini Poncia), for guys. Care to guess who’s in charge of this relationship? (my boldings):

Baby, when we break up from a quarrel or a fight
I can’t wait to have you back and hold you oh so tight

Tell me why, I wanna know
Tell me why, is it so
That the best part of breaking up is when you’re making up
Best part of breaking up is when you’re making up
But after breaking up, be sure you’re making up with me

Every time you leave I get those teardrops in my eyes
They always seem to go away when you apologize

Tell me why, I wanna know
Tell me why, is it so
That the best part of breaking up is when you’re making up
Best part of breaking up is when you’re making up
But after breaking up, be sure you’re making up with me

Come on baby, come on baby
Don’t say maybe
Well it makes no difference who is wrong
Just as long as I’ll be with you

Baby I’ll be lonely ’til you’re back where you should be
‘Cause baby, I belong to you and you belong to me

Tell me why, I wanna know
Tell me why, is it so
That the best part of breaking up is when you’re making up
Best part of breaking up is when you’re making up
But after breaking up, be sure you’re making up with me

Come on baby, come on baby
Don’t say maybe

Sophisticated? Of course not. But notice how these are not your typical girl-group lyrics, where the singer is telling her friends about the boy she loves and/or can’t have. These lyrics are personal, insistent, pleading, and sung by girl directly to boy, in a way every adolescent could identify with, understand, and dream about.

4. “Do I Love You”. Considering the intricate, sax-and-rhythm driven power intro, this song – and Ronnie’s lead vocal – is much more mellow and understated than the previous three singles. Nevertheless, I find the overall sound mesmerizing and the vocals (lead and backing) incredibly sexy and romantic. The horns which drive the rhythm throughout employ some pretty inventive charts without distracting the vocals. A nice contrast from the “big sound” of their previous hits.

5. “Walking In The Rain”. Unlike the previous four songs, the primary attraction of this tune lies less in the performance then its message. Richard Williams: “Walking In The Rain” has the advantage of such a lovely lyrical idea [ed. note: by the legendary team of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil] …the girl says she’ll know Mr. Right when he comes along because he’ll enjoy the same things she does, like “walking in the rain”. A simple, lovely thought couched in a tune and arrangement which are genuinely delicate, despite the weight of [Spector’s production]. While there’s nothing particularly unique or inventive here production-wise (other than, perhaps, the use of a little more echo), it’s a fine performance nonethess. (Note: the song is perhaps better known from its remake by Jay and The Americans, whose interpretation turned it into one of their biggest hits.)

Unfortunately for The Ronettes, the material following these songs didn’t quite keep up, and by 1966 pop music was moving in a new, more revolutionary, direction. Following the commercial failure of his majestic “River Deep, Mountain High” single (by Ike & Tina Turner and deemed “too black” for white radio, “too white” for black radio), Spector became increasingly dispirited and disinterested in the careers of those whom he had helped build. While The Ronettes continued to make some fine recordings – “When I Saw You”, “Keep On Dancing”, and “I Can Hear Music” (the latter turned into a mini-classic two years later by Carl Wilson’s production for The Beach Boys), their salad days had come and gone. Nevertheless, one need only hear one of their major hits between other songs of the period to understand just how unique and powerful their sound truly was, and why they’re considered one of the all-time great girl-groups in pop music history.

For those wanting to discover for themselves the greatness of the Ronettes, might I suggest “The Best of The Ronettes”. Or, if you want to hear their work in the context of a greater Phil Spector listening experience, I’d highly recommend checking out his “Back To Mono” anthology.

…Oh, did I mention their devilish version of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” on Phil Spector’s Christmas album, “A Christmas Gift To You”? More on that in a future post. Given the time of season, very soon!

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:51 | Comments (0)
December 18, 2006

kofi United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan gave one of his “farewell” addresses the other day at the Truman Presidential Museum and Library in Independence, Missouri, and used the occasion to chide the Bush administration for “appearing” to conduct its war aginst terror at the expense of human rights. Annan, whose tenure thankfully ends on Dec. 31, rightly noted the U.S. was “in the vanguard of the global human rights movement,” but said, “that lead can only be maintained if America remains true to its principles, including in the struggle against terrorism.” Annan also used the occasion to openly question the Bush administration’s “unilateral” approach to its foreign policy at the expense of the U.N., asking, “Do you need it less today, and does it need you less than 60 years ago?”

Yeah, sure Kofi. Anything you say, pal.

When I first heard about the location Annan chose to give his farewell American address, I was perplexed. After all, Harry S. Truman – one of our greatest presidents, in my mind – was everything Annan was not during his tenure at the U.N. After all, when there were tough and unpopular decisions to be made, Truman met them head on. He wasn’t afraid to use atomic weapons, or take action in Korea, or dismiss Gen. Douglas MacArthur, or chastise a “do nothing” Congress when events demanded.

Now compare Truman’s presidency with Annan’s pathetic record as head crook of an institution full of tin-horn despots and crooks, desperately in need of a house-cleaning (a good fumigation wouldn’t hurt, either) and someone to restore integrity, trust, accountability, and usefulness in a world sorely in need of international leadership and honest diplomacy. But don’t take it from me, let Dr. Nile Gardner of the Heritage Foundation sum up Secretary General Annan’s tenure. It’s not pretty, folks, but Dr. Gardner leaves not a stone unturned with a withering attack, not only on Annan’s pitiful performance and lack of ethics as SG, but on the man himself:

Annan’s departure from office has not come soon enough. His 10 years in power have been a monumental failure, and he leaves behind an institution whose standing could barely be lower and a legacy that is a testament to mismanagement, corruption, and anti-Americanism. Over the past 12 years, the U.N. has been dominated by scandal, division, and failure. From the disaster of the U.N. peacekeeping missions in Rwanda and Bosnia in the mid-1990s to the U.N.’s slow response to the Sudan genocide, its recent track record has been spectacularly unimpressive. His successor will inherit a U.N. whose image has slipped to an all-time low.

The Oil-for-Food and Congo peacekeeping scandals have had a devastating impact on the U.N.’s reputation and have reinforced the view that the world body is riddled with corruption and mismanagement, as well as undisciplined in its peacekeeping operations. The failure of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights—now the U.N. Human Rights Council—which was populated with some of the world’s worst human rights violators, has added to the U.N.’s poor image. In addition, the tensions between Washington and Turtle Bay over the war in Iraq have contributed to bringing U.S.–U.N. relations to their lowest point in a generation.

Under Annan the U.N. has shamelessly appeased dictators and tyrants, from Baghdad to Tehran to Khartoum, and has stood weak-kneed in the face of genocide and ethnic cleansing. As head of United Nations peacekeeping operations in the mid-1990s before he rose to Secretary General, Annan never apologized to the victims of the Rwanda genocide, whose slaughter was the consequence of the U.N.’s failure to intervene, or to the families of Muslims massacred at Srebrenica while under the protection of U.N. soldiers. Annan’s lack of humility in the face of great human tragedy has been one of his greatest shortcomings as a U.N. leader. Nor has he ever apologized to the people of Iraq, whose former president he described as “a man I can do business with.”

The U.N.’s new Human Rights Council, touted by Annan as a breakthrough for the U.N., is an unmitigated farce, and the United Nations has largely jettisoned the principles of liberty and freedom. The Council’s lack of membership criteria renders it open to participation and manipulation by the world’s worst human rights abusers. Tyrannical regimes such as Burma, Syria, Libya, Sudan, and Zimbabwe all voted in favor of establishing the Council, in the face of strong U.S. opposition. The brutal North Korean dictatorship also endorsed the Council. When Council elections were held in May, leading human rights abusers Algeria, China, Cuba, Pakistan, Russia, and Saudi Arabia were all elected.

A series of peacekeeping scandals, from Bosnia to Burundi to Sierra Leone and Haiti, occurred under Annan’s watch. The largest concentration of abuse has taken place in the Congo, the U.N.’s second largest peacekeeping mission, with 16,000 peacekeepers.

In the Congo, acts of barbarism were perpetrated by United Nations peacekeep­ers and civilian personnel entrusted with protecting some of the weakest and most vulnerable women and children in the world. Personnel from the U.N. Mission in the Democrat­ic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) stand accused of at least 150 major human rights violations, and the scale of the problem is likely to be far greater.

The crimes involved rape and forced prostitution of women and young girls across the country, including inside a refugee camp in the town of Bunia in north­eastern Congo. The alleged perpetrators include U.N. military and civilian personnel from Nepal, Morocco, Tunisia, Uruguay, South Africa, Pakistan, and France.

The sexual abuse scandal in the Congo made a mockery of the U.N.’s professed commitment to uphold basic human rights. The exploitation of some of the most vulnerable people in the world—refugees in a war-ravaged country—was a shameful episode and a massive betrayal of trust, as well as an appalling failure of leadership.

The scandal surrounding the U.N.-administered Oil-for-Food Program has also done immense damage to the world organization’s already shaky credibility. The Oil-for-Food scandal is undoubtedly the biggest financial scandal in the history of the United Nations and probably the largest fraud of modern times. It shattered the liberal illusion that the U.N. is an arbiter of moral authority in the international sphere.

Established in the mid-1990s as a means of providing humanitarian aid to the Iraqi people, the Oil-for-Food Program was subverted and manipulated by Saddam Hussein’s regime, with the complicity of U.N. officials, to help prop up the Iraqi dictator. Saddam’s dictatorship siphoned off billions of dollars from the program through oil smuggling and systematic thievery, by demanding illegal payments from companies buying Iraqi oil, and through kickbacks from those selling goods to Iraq—all under the noses of U.N. bureaucrats.

Despite widespread criticism, Kofi Annan has never taken responsibility for a scandal that has irreparably damaged the U.N.’s reputation. A huge cloud remains over the U.N. Secretary General with regard to his meetings with senior officials from the Swiss Oil-for-Food contractor Cotecna, which employed his son Kojo from 1995 to 1997 and continued to pay him through 2004.

And there is more. I encourage you to read the whole thing. (Hat tip: Free Republic.)

There are few so-called “leaders” in the world I personally despise more than Kofi Annan. Although I have never been much of a fan of the U.N. since the days of U Thant, there could be a significant role for it to play in the world if it weren’t so full of fools, despots, and corruption. And Kofi Annan was the poster-child of the new U.N. – all talk, no action, no accountability. When people like Dr. Gardner and Claudia Rosett (whose tireless efforts to break the Oil-for-Food scandal were worthy of a Pulitzer Prize) tried to raise concerns over the scandals enveloping his position, what did he do? He attacked the messenger! So it should come as no surprise to anyone that Annan would use the setting of a presidential library to fire one last blast at the President whose country hosts such an “august” body. Obviously, just another petty and uncharitable gesture from a very small and petty man.

After thinking about it a little more, however, I finally figured out what possible connection Annan felt he had to someone like Harry S. Truman. You know what it is? They both took “Give ‘Em Hell, Harry!”‘s slogan “The Buck Stops Here” personally. For Truman, the “buck” stopped at the presidential desk in the Oval Office. For Annan, the buck stopped with him, too – it’s just that with him, it was then tucked tidily away, in his wallet.

So so long Kofi, don’t let the door hit you going out. And, to quote a great Blondie song, “don’t go away mad, don’t go away sad, just go away.”

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 01:37 | Comments (0)
December 17, 2006

witch Leave it to fellow Goodboy Ron “Cubby” Myerow to send his holiday greetings to the Nation accompanied by a picture of this fine (and I must say, anatomically bewitching) statue of the late actress Elizabeth Montgomery in her role as the witchy wife of the classic TV series “Bewitched”, as it stands in the Cubster’s humble abode of Salem, Massachusetts.

Of course, her playing a witch on a popular TV series and Salem’s identification with witches and witchcraft (although the Salem “Witch Trials” were actually held in a section of town that has since become Danvers, MA) makes the statue a natural and fun piece of architecture. Turns out it was erected in Salem’s Lappin Park and dedicated last year on June 15, 2005. Who woulda thunk it? (BTW, there’s a good bit of coverage on the dedication of the statue and the celebrities who came to to help celebrate the occasion here.)

Growing up in the ’60s, I must say Elizabeth Montgomery, at least to this growing teen, was one tall cool glass of water, if you know what I mean. Others in Goodboys Nation (like Cubby, for example) might choose her competition from a similar kind of TV series(that being, “I Dream of Jeannie” and the lovely Barbara Eden), but me, I’ll stay with Liz.

BTW, a similar kind of debate still rages among men gathered together over a brewskie or two when it comes to “Gilligan’s Island”. I mean, everyone knows there’s really only two kinds of men out there – “Ginger” men and “Mary Ann” men. (Of course, that’s not taking into account those men who would consider themselves “Professor” men, but that’s a subject for a different time, and I don’t wanna get into it!) Me, I’ve always been a “Mary Ann” guy, but I’m sure that puts me in a VERY small minority amongst the Goodboys – I know how those guys’ minds work.

Thanks for the picture, Cub – a bewitching holiday season to you as well!

Filed in: Goodboys by The Great White Shank at 01:54 | Comments (4)
December 16, 2006

mats Ain’t this a beauty? That’s Red Sox GM Theo Epstein on the left smiling next to an even-happier Daisuke Matsuzaka as the latter holds up the No. 18 jersey (formerly worn by that traitor Johnny Damon) he’ll be wearing as a member of the Boston Red Sox for the next six years. Ought to be one heck of an interesting year, and I for one can’t wait ’til spring training. And speaking of interesting, Gordon Edes of the Globe has this story on how the contract talks with Matsuzaka and his agent Scott Boras ended up being worked out. It’s a fascinating read.

Welcome to Red Sox Nation, Dice-K!

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 22:52 | Comments (0)

preacher My good friend Jerome is one wacky dude. The other day, he passed along to me this fab link from a wonderfully interesting blog called “Church Hopping”, containing lots of fun and interesting articles by its proprietor, Josh Rives. This particular link features ten Biblical verses I’m CERTAIN you’ll never hear preached on from any pulpit – not even an Episcopal Church one. (At least I think not, but, given the state of affairs in my Church these days, ya never know…)

Anyways, feel free to check them all (and the site) out, I think you’ll enjoy it. Here, for the record, are my three favorites:

1. “No one whose testicles are crushed or whose male organ is cut off shall enter the assembly of the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 23:1)

2. “Yet she increased her prostitution, remembering the days of her youth when she engaged in prostitution in the land of Egypt. She lusted after their genitals – as large as those of donkeys, and their seminal emission was as strong as that of stallions.” (Ezekiel 23:19-20)

3. “Then he went up from there to Bethel; and as he was going up the road, some youths came from the city and mocked him, and said to him, “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!” So he turned around and looked at them, and pronounced a curse on them in the name of the LORD. And two female bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youths.” (2 Kings 2:23-24)

Thanks, Jerome, for the chuckle. And Josh, great site!

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 01:17 | Comments (0)
December 15, 2006

barack I have to admit, I don’t get all this sudden hype about Illinois freshman senator Barack Obama. I mean, I DO understand it, but I don’t (if you know what I mean). From where I sit, I chalk up the sudden surge in Obama hype to one of four possible reasons:

1) He’s handsome, articulate, and a rather charismatic politician.

2) There is a hungering out there for anyone other than a “Bush” or a “Clinton” to run for President, and a fresh face and relative newcomer who doesn’t stand for “politics as usual”.

3) The Democrats deep down are scared stiff that Hillary Rodham Clinton will have no real competition during the 2008 primaries and they’ll be stuck with a Presidential candidate who is virtually unelectable.

4) It’s that dead time between the elections and the start of the new Congress (and, I might add, the run-up to the 2008 Presidential election), and there’s really nothing else to talk about at Christmas gatherings inside the Beltway.

You’ll notice I didn’t say anything about him being an African-American. Frankly, I don’t see that mattering a whole lot in this day and age. I have a feeling that if Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice or former SoS Colin Powell were at least keeping the door ajar to their own possible Presidential runs, the mainstream dino-media would be all over them too, although, as Republicans, in an obviously different way. (Especially SoS Rice, who oozes a similar – although in a different way – kind of star-power and charismatic presence.)

John Podhoretz in yesterday’s New York Sun dubs Obama the “Rorscach Candidate of 2008′, and I think he is on to something here: He explains:

…This is the key to his appeal, and it places Obama in a very unusual position for an elected politician: He is now the semi-official Rorschach Candidate of 2008.

The Rorschach Candidate is the one who provokes enthusiasm not because of the positions he takes but because of who he is. He doesn’t seem like a politician; he seems to be better than a politician – fresh, new, different.

There’s no way of knowing whether Obama will run. But his emergence as the Rorschach Candidate makes it clear that Democrats don’t want this nominating process to turn into a Hillary Clinton coronation – and that’s healthy for the party and its prospects. Just as George Bush was tested by John McCain in 2000 and made battle-ready for the general election, so Hillary will need some testing as well.

All the Obama talk also reveals just how easy Hillary might have it if he isn’t the one to test her: The enthusiasm he provokes is a sign that John Edwards, Tom Vilsack, Evan Bayh, John Kerry and others are exciting to no one.

(Hat tip: NRO’s Corner blog.)

While observers on the Left are wondering what Obama’s true political intentions are, and those on the Right are wondering what he’s ever done politically to warrant even CONSIDERING a White House run, I think it’s all in good fun and politically interesting. (In fact, I dare say the lack of an extensive political record might be considered a favorable trait to an electorate exhausted with all the political sniping, divisiveness, and gridlock of the Clinton/Bush presidencies.)

My personal nightmare is having to go into a voting booth in November, 2008 with only Hillary Clinton and John McCain to choose from. Talk about two Washington political insiders who talk out out of both sides of their mouths and never met a camera they didn’t like! If that’s the best we have to choose from in ’08, well….oh, wait a minute, our 2000 choices were Al Gore and George W. Bush, and in ’04 John Kerry and George W. Bush. Never mind!

Regardless of what anyone says 2008 is still a very long ways away – actually light years, politically. Just a year ago, people were talking up Virginia Senator George Allen as a strong candidate for the ’08; this past election, dude couldn’t even get himself re-elected to the Senate. There’s a lot of probing, politicking, and positioning to take place between now and a year from now. Whether Obama finds himself still in the mix is anyone’s guess, but it should be an exciting year.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 01:26 | Comment (1)
December 14, 2006

dudes Is this a cool picture, or what? Red Sox slugger David “Big Papi” Ortiz (R) welcomes new shortstop Julio Lugo into the fold. With non-stop coverage on NESN all day heralding the arrival and signing of Daisuke Matsuzaka, these are happy days in Red Sox Nation, for sure.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 20:37 | Comments (0)

Where did the year go? It seems like only a few months ago that I was hunched over the same table, the same accoutrements – address book, cards, stamps, pen, glass of Johnny Walker Red – ever-so-carefully laid out before me, Christmas music on the CD player, the room lights down and accented by the Christmas lights in the nearby windows and the fake tree nearby. Nevertheless, the calendar says it’s near mid-December, which means getting my Christmas cards out.

I have the same address book I’ve used for the twenty years Tracey and I have been married, and, while it’s running out of space, I have to admit, it’s held up pretty good. That address book has resided in Dracut, MA, then Louisville, KY, then back to Milford, MA, and now here in Gilbert, AZ – traveling thousands of miles to accommodate and fulfill it’s same annual raison D’être. Opening my address book each year, it’s at once amazing, humbling, wistful, and not a little awe-inspiring to see the progression of the years and seasons in the scratched-out entries of friends, family, and acquaintances who we have shared holiday greetings in the past – those who have moved (sometimes several times!), married, divorced, passed away, or simply dropped out of the social circles that can’t help but ebb and flow as the years pass both eventfully and quietly by.

Whenever I start my Christmas cards, I’m always reminded of when I was young, when you knew Christmas was just around the corner the day my mom would have my dad set up the folding card table in our livingroom with her Christmas cards and address box. Seeing that table come out was truly a momentous event, for it meant that putting up the Christmas tree was only days away, and – better yet – Christmas school vacation was just around the corner!

Every year, I look at the names in my address book and think, “this is the year I’m cutting down on the number of cards I send!” But I never do. In some cases, I don’t have to – the years and the times do it for me, all by themselves. Sometimes it’s sad, because I know the distance created between me and some of the entries in my address book are my own fault. Sometimes it’s awkward – like when, at Tracey’s behest, I’m the one who ends up writing out the cards to her dysfunctional family members. It’s hard for me to send a card without the salutation of “love”, but that’s a word her family seldom, if ever, used. So I don’t. Most of the time, though, it’s both satisfying and a joy, especially when you know the people you are writing to will receive your card with the same amount of pleasure you will theirs.

But as I write out my cards with different variations on the same theme – hoping the season finds people in good health and cheer, and expressing wishes for health and happiness in the New Year – I can’t help be struck by the deeper aspects inherent in the ritual. After all, you’re not simply just connecting with friends, family, and loved ones you’ve come to know and send cards to over the years, you’re willingly immersing yourself into a passge of time that, had their been no such ritual, you might never have otherwise noticed.

My mom told me earlier tonight that you send Christmas cards to people you haven’t communicated with since the last go-round because that’s what the holidays are all about, and I think she’s right. If the passage of time is the great equalizer we all share as human beings, it’s simple, annual rituals like sending Christmas cards out whenever the calendar points to mid-December that makes us understand that no one is immune to it.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:12 | Comments (2)


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