February 18, 2007

exotica The warm weather has allowed us to finally leave the screen doors open, so my guess is the neighbors are wondering what those crazy drums, exotic sounds, and dreamy music emanating from the house at 1025 West Hearne Way is all about. Simply put, the exotica craze has landed at the Richard household, and out CD player is filled with the sounds of Waitiki, Martin Denny, Les Baxter, The Martini Kings, and Arthur Lyman. Soon the weather will be warm enough to sit by the tiki bar, sipping a boat drink, and allowing this music to transport our imaginations to places both far away and tropical.

What exactly is “exotica music”, you ask? Here are the basics, from Wikipedia:

Exotica is a musical genre, named after the 1957 Martin Denny album of the same title, popular during the late 1950s to mid 1960s, typically with the suburban set who came of age during World War II. The musical colloquialism, exotica, means tropical ersatz: the non-native, pseudo experience of Oceania (Polynesia, Melanesia, Micronesia, Southeast Asia, and especially Hawaii). While the South Seas forms the core region, exotica reflects the “musical impressions” of every place from standard travel destinations to the mythical “shangri-las” dreamt of by armchair safari-ers.

Exotica music seeks to capture the sounds and spirit of faraway places like the South Seas and the Far East through the heavy use of various percussion and woodwind instruments on top of mallet instruments like the vibraphone, marimba, and xylophone, oftentimes in jazzy and far-out arrangements.

There are a lot of great sites on the Internet providing anything and everything you could possibly want to know about exotica music, but here’s a few (in addition to to the artist pages above) I’ve found that will really get the juices flowing for anyone wanting to learn more about it:

* Tiki Wonder is your gateway to tiki culture in general, from which exotica music gets a lot of its current inspiration.

* The Tiki Room has many samples of exotica music for listening, including classic artists like Baxter and Denny to modern-day practitioners like Don Tiki.

* Extreme Music has an “Exotica History Tour” that will take you many places where I’ll bet it’s a heck of a lot sunnier and warmer than a lot of places are this time of year.

Click on any of these links and enjoy the dream!

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:23 | Comment (1)
February 17, 2007

If anyone need further proof just how far from mainstream Christianity the Episcopal Church has drifted, one need only read an interview given to USA Today last week by its new Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori. Now those who frequent this humble outpost of the blogsphere are probably well aware that I’ve been unimpressed by our new PB since her election at last summer’s General Convention, but I’d like to at least think I’ve been willing to give her at least some benefit of the doubt up to this point.

Well, after reading her latest comments, all I can say is, no mas.

Let’s just take a gander at some of the quotes the head of one of the worldwide Anglican Communion‘s churches made just days before leaving for this week’s Primate’s meeting being held in Del Alam Salaam, Tanzania:

…Yes [Schori says], sin “is pervasive, part of human nature,” but “it’s not the centerpiece of the Christian message. If we spend our time talking about sin and depravity, it is all we see in the world.”

Actually, Mrs. Schori, the concept of sin and sinfulness IS the centerpiece of the Christian message, for the greatest act of love ever known to humankind was our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ’s giving himself over to suffering and death for “the sins of the world”. Are you not aware of the following language in The Great Thanksgiving (BTW, this takes place during the Holy Eucharist, if you’re not sure):

“In your infinite love you made us for yourself, and, when we had fallen into sin and become subject to evil and death, you, in your mercy, sent Jesus Christ, your only and eternal Son, to share our human nature, to live and die as one of us, to reconcile us to you, the God and Father of all. He stretched out his arms upon the cross, and offered himself, in obedience to your will, a perfect sacrifice for the whole world.” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 362)

But I do understand your comment about sin and depravity – what a downer! I mean, you start laying that rap on people and next thing you know, you’re onto even more depressing concepts like contrition, repentence, and having to choose between serving two masters, right? Yuck! But seriously, Mrs. Schori, I think both you and your Church might find some benefit in focusing a little bit more on human sinfulness and the need for repentence, ’cause in my mind one of the biggest problems our society and culture faces today is its unwillingness to distinguish between right and wrong, and good and evil. There are differences, you know. Of course, that line of thinking would be abhorrent to those who worship at the altar of tolerance, acceptance, and diversity, as you do.

…[Schori] sees two strands of faith: One is “most concerned with atonement, that Jesus died for our sins and our most important task is to repent.” But the other is “the more gracious strand,” … It “is to talk about life, to claim the joy and the blessings for good that it offers, to look forward.

“Strands of faith”? This is nothing but clergy double-speak and complete, unadulterated bull$hit. I mean, heaven forbid if the Church’s traditional teachings and such, um, distasteful concepts as sin, atonement, and repentence should intrude on anyone’s shiny, happy pursuit of “claiming the joy” (whatever that means). A question, Mrs. Schori: whose joy, exactly, are we supposed to be claiming? Ours? God’s? And, at whose expense? David Virtue says it best, I think, when he characterizes this astonishing piece of nonsense as follows: “By dispensing with the reality of sin and the centrality of atonement, Mrs. Schori dispenses with the need for a bloodstained cross and a sin-bearing Christ, thus reducing Christianity to a “gracious strand” of social activism.” Indeed.

One other thought: Regarding Mrs. Schori’s desire to “talk about “life”. OK, let’s. I wonder (well, actually I don’t, I can guess for myself) what her view is on a woman’s right to choose? I’ll bet in her mind life really doesn’t begin until a woman, or a couple, says it’s convenient to them for it to begin. Ask her whether it is right to deny an innocent fetus its own birthright to “claim the joy and the blessings for good”, so that, it too, can “look forward”. My guess is, all you’ll get is a lot of hemming and hawing, with a few hubbada, hubbadas tossed in for good measure.

“God became human in order that we may become divine. That’s our task.”

Methinks, Mrs. Schori, you could benefit from taking a few seminary classes in basic Church theology, or perhaps consulting the Historical Documents of the Church found on p. 864 of the BCP. If you did, you’d understand that God did not “become human”; Jesus was both ‘fully human’ and ‘fully divine’ at the same time. And, basic New Testament theology tells us, we become “divine” not by any ‘task’ given us, but when we (as St. Peter wrote) become “partakers of the divine nature” by God’s “precious and very great promises”, which is salvation through Jesus Christ. But this can only come about, as Peter reminds us, “after escaping from the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire.” (2 Peter 1:4). In other words, by surrendering ourselves to God and not imposing our own wills, desires, and – dare I say – agendas upon Him as it suits our needs.

David Virtue has characterized Mrs. Schori’s message as a “false Gospel”, but reading her quotes (and there are more head-scratchers in the same article), it is hard not to come away with the sense that her’s is not false Gospel, but anti-Gospel. After all, if it is true (as the Church’s own Catechism teaches) that [my boldings]:

a) “The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.”, and:

b) “The ministry of a bishop is to represent Christ and his Church, particularly as apostle, chief priest, and pastor of a diocese; to guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the whole Church; to proclaim the Word of God; to act in Christ’s name for the reconciliation of the world and the building up of the Church; and to ordain others to continue Christ’s ministry.” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 855)

…then Mrs. Schori is preaching a far different Gospel than the one the Church – her Church – has historically and traditionally taught: the very same Gospel she, by the very nature of her office, has been charged with upholding. Why anyone desiring a closer relationship with God and His promise of salvation through the redeeming love and mercy of Jesus Christ would ever consider walking through the door of a church headed by someone with such un-Christian, squishy, and – frankly – loony beliefs is beyond me.

If Mrs. Schori’s quotes are accurate, and she truly believes what she is saying, one cannot help but ask in all seriousness whether there is a future for the Episcopal Church in the U.S.A. as it is now constituted. Oh sure, there’s no doubt it will still continue to operate in some faltering way, like some drunk staggering home after a bender, but with neither a strong message to proclaim nor a strong messenger to proclaim it, there seems little doubt that the end of this once-venerable institution as a vital and vibrant force in American Protestantism is at hand.

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 01:15 | Comments (0)
February 16, 2007

Not that it matters much, but:

I don’t see the big deal about House Speaker “San Fran Nan” Pelosi telling the Prez he doesn’t have the authority to invade Iran, or Hillary telling the Prez he’s got to go to the Senate before doing same. After all, no one in the White House has even hinted that a plan to invade is on the table, so it must be simple political posturing, right? What a bunch of morons.

Speaking of the Prez, on ABC News’ Political Radar blog, Teddy Davis reports that his former political strategist Matthew Dowd writes in Texas Monthly that President Bush’s “gut-level bond” with the American people “may be lost” because of the mess in Iraq. Speaking personally, I have to say I’m in agreement with Dowd, as I find it almost impossible to listen to the Prez and take seriously anything he has to say anymore. Bring on 2008! (Hat tip: Drudge)

I know having to sit on an airplane for 10 hours or even more makes for a bad air travel experience, but given the fact that New York airports are ALWAYS difficult to fly out of – even in the best of conditions – who in their right mind would even attempt to go there expecting to fly when a major winter storm hits the area?

So ESPN’s Jayson Stark has the Red Sox down as his choice for “most improved team” this year. We’ll see. I’m not sold on the bullpen yet, but Red at Surviving Grady has it right when he has one Manuel Aristides Ramirez down for his usual offensive exploits this year.

So former Miami Heat guard Tim Hardaway says he “hates gay people” and “would never play with one”. Well, Mr. Hardaway has every right to speak his opinion, but anytime you generalize about hating a group of people – for any reason – it makes you look small, defeating whatever point you were trying to make.

For Valentine’s Day, I made my lovely wife surf and turf. But another Arizona couple not far from here had a whole ‘nother idea of entertainment entirely. Wouldn’t flowers or candy have been good enough? (Hat tip: Shot In The Dark)

It must be Spring here in Arizona, as the mourning doves are making goo-goo eyes at our property like sharks circling a diver. My guess is there’ll be another maternity watch around here before too long.

Filed in: Golf & Sports,Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 01:05 | Comments (2)
February 15, 2007

anna I could never quite understand the media’s obsession with Anna Nicole Smith, the former model, actress, and celebrity who was found dead last Thursday in a South Florida hotel room. While I certainly understood how someone like her could gain celebrity status – after all, you don’t marry an 89-year-old Texas oil baron who dies the following year, leaving a $1.6 billion inheritance that you spend the better part of a decade fighting over with the guy’s family without someone paying attention – I could never figure out what it was about her that the media found so intriguing, or why she felt the need to have her so-called “talent” (or lack thereof) exploited by it.

Perhaps she felt the need to prove to the world that she was someone worth leaving a huge pile of money to, that she wasn’t just some conniving golddigger who managed to catch the gold ring (and then some) in life’s merry-go-round. Or perhaps she enjoyed and needed the limelight so much that she was willing to go to any length to market herself – even if it meant allowing herself to be publicly humilated by her own ‘reality TV’ show – and found a more-than-willing accomplice in a media-saturated celebrity culture that holds up the Parises, Lindseys and Anna Nicoles of the world as people with something more to offer society than their own thirst for excess and attention.

For what little I saw of her, she always seemed to me a sad, pathetic, and incredibly self-absorbed human being who spent her days squandering the good fortune life had paid her (no pun intended) and taking her celebrity status way too seriously – as if she thought she really did have some greater talent than most people saw. And I think that, in the end, was what killed her more than anything else – all those stresses, strains, and lifestyle abuses and trappings that go with trying to bridge some immense, invisible gap between the person you want everyone to believe you are and the one you truly are.

Sure, the days to come will likely be filled with stories about the actual cause of her death as determined by the coroner, and there will be continued speculation about how much of a role the shock and depression she must have felt since the strange death of her son five months ago played in her final days. But, regardless of what is printed and endlessly bandied about on the nighttime cable shows, the sad truth will remain that Anna Nicole Smith, for all her riches, lifestyle, and celebrity, had to wait until her death to find the peace and completeness she could never achieve in life.

And maybe there’s a lesson there for us all.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:53 | Comments (2)
February 14, 2007

My Dad always used to say that once February arrived, Spring was just around the corner. Didn’t matter whether the temps were around zero and the snow banks piled high all around you – Spring was almost here. I’m thinking he said that as much to cheer himself up as he did for those around him. Unfortunately for him (not to mention my Goodboys friends who were just easing into “Winter, Great American Southwest style” during this past weekend’s Las Vegas soiree), Spring’s arrival is gonna have to wait a week or two, as the Northeast is about to get socked with a nor’easter and a significant accumulation of ice and snow.

Good thing, then, that yesterday was “Truck Day” – a day celebrated by Red Sox fans all over. What is it, you ask? Truck Day is the day when the Red Sox equipment truck, laden with anything and everything having to do with Spring Training, begins its trek southward to the Sox’ Grapefruit League facility in Fort Myers. Pitchers and catchers have already begun arriving in force, and it won’t be long before workouts lead to the first exhibition games of the year.

Pretty soon, before you know it, the Boston television stations will all have their sports segments led by reporters dressed in polo shirts, looking tanned and doing their sports reports on green baseball diamonds, greenery and palms providing a much-welcomed backdrop for viewers house-bound by the frigid weather and wintery conditions. And by doing so, maybe Spring won’t seem that far away after all.

Truck Day – ’tis a wonderful thing!

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 01:58 | Comments (0)
February 13, 2007

Was thinking this morning while I lay in bed not quite ready to face the “real world” after another whirlwind Vegas weekend: the work week around here starts out with all the precision of a military drill team, as things seem to just happen at their appointed times, and there you are, just lying in bed like some lazy bum letting it all go down around you.

* 6:00 AM – The week starts with the revving of truck equipment outside the front as the trash collection guy makes his appointed rounds. Out here in Gilbert, AZ there are no trash ‘crews’ – just a truck that pulls up beside your black barrel (not the blue one – that’s for recycleables and are picked up on Thursdays), hoists it up, dumps the contents, and places it back down where it was. Our whole street of fourteen houses takes him all of five minutes to do.

* 6:20 AM – A click, the sound of water rushing, and then a whole lot of ‘scrubbing bubbles’-like sounds as the swimming pool filter chatters to life. I don’t know why it comes on at this time of day, just as I don’t know why its shuts off at 1 PM – much too early all around, in my view. But that’s territory only Tracey has domain over, so let’s leave it at that.

* 6:23 AM – Oops, the house must have gotten a little chilly as the central air clicks on, sending a rush of heat throughout the house.

* 6:30 AM: Some soothing piece of classical music ends like clockwork, replaced by the calm and measured tones of Sterling Beeaff reading the Arizona headlines on 98.5 KBAQ, the classical station here in Phoenix.

* 6:47 AM: That ticking sound in the water pipes indicates the front lawn watering system has just clicked on. In five minutes it will shut off with a quiet clunk, and the back lawn will be given the same morning shower treatment for the same period of time.

And that’s my queue to get up, give the rabbits some treats, and head to the bathroom for my morning constitutional. And all this without anyone having to lift a finger. What a marvelous, technologically advanced age we live in and take for granted!

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 07:30 | Comments (0)
February 12, 2007

viva Our Vegas whirlwind weekend is over, and after this post I’m hopping in my car for the drive back to Phoenix. It has been a GREAT time – lots of laughs, cocktails, great food, pretty girls, and, while no big wins at the tables, enough entertainment to keep you going without breaking your wallet. Now it’s back to the real world of work, responsibilities, rabbits, and paying those credit cards off. Nevertheless, as I make my way back, the adrenaline and pure excitement of this weekend will always be something I remember (and, undoubtedly, to re-live again and again whenever the Goodboys gather).

I think Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman must have had these very same sentiments in mind when they wrote the lyrics to Elvis’ hit song, “Viva Las Vegas”:

Bright light city gonna set my soul
Gonna set my soul on fire
Got a whole lot of money that’s ready to burn,
So get those stakes up higher
There’s a thousand pretty women waitin’ out there
And they’re all livin’ devil may care
And I’m just the devil with love to spare
Viva Las Vegas, Viva Las Vegas

How I wish that there were more
Than the twenty-four hours in the day
‘Cause even if there were forty more
I wouldn’t sleep a minute away
Oh, there’s blackjack and poker and the roulette wheel
A fortune won and lost on ev’ry deal
All you need’s a strong heart and a nerve of steel
So viva Las Vegas, viva Las Vegas

Viva Las Vegas with your neon flashin’
And your one armbandits crashin’
All those hopes down the drain
Viva Las Vegas turnin’ day into nighttime
Turnin’ night into daytime
If you see it once
You’ll never be the same again

I’m gonna keep on the run
I’m gonna have me some fun
If it costs me my very last dime
If I wind up broke up well
I’ll always remember that I had a swingin’ time
I’m gonna give it ev’rything I’ve got
Lady luck please let the dice stay hot
Let me shout a seven with ev’ry shot
Viva Las Vegas, Viva Las Vegas, Viva Las Vegas,
Viva, viva Las Vegas!

Viva Las Vegas, indeed!

Filed in: Goodboys by The Great White Shank at 07:24 | Comments (0)
February 11, 2007

So far, so good! Our Goodboys weekend has been a lot of fun. Not much time to delve too deeply into all the places we’ve been and the things we’ve seen, but here’s a brief review of some of the highlights thus far:

* While Red Square at the Mandalay Bay provided a wonderful meal and vodka sampler as usual, it had a strange vibe about it. The pretty girls from last year seem to have been replaced by a bunch of pretty boys (something we found true at most of the MB bars), and our cocktail waitress was run over by an inconsiderate boor who was only chastised after we forced the issue on one of RS’s security dudes. Have marked the MB as ‘off the list’ for future Goodboys visits.

* The Palms Hotel and Casino was very crowded. While many of the Travel Channel programs about Vegas tout the Palms as a hot spot for a younger crowd, at least from our brief look-see, it seemed like your typical Las Vegas casino.

* The Golden Nugget is just about the only place worth visiting the downtown area for. Plenty of $10 single-deck blackjack and open tables – and this was on a Friday night. We didn’t actually see the Fremont Street Experience, but the area was jumpin’ with with crowds listening and dancing to a variety of live music acts. Judging from the number of people, it seemed many like that kind of thing, but I feel more comfortable with the feel of The Strip and the action that comes with it.

* Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Las Vegas remains a great place to go for lunch or dinner, and it has one of the best gift shops around – especially if you know someone who’s a Parrothead. My favorite (and Killer’s as well): the “The Weather is Here, Wish You Were Beautiful” T-shirts.

* The Kokomo’s Bar at The Mirage once more lived up to our expectations, and the recent additions of new restaurants and lounges, including the fab Revolution Lounge (complete with go-go dancers!), has brought the Mirage back onto the A-list of must-see Strip attractions. I can’t wait to take Tracey there so she can see for herself how cool they’ve done the place up since we last visited.

* And of course, the Fireside Lounge at The Peppermill did not disappoint for the ultimate Las Vegas lounge experience. The cocktail waitresses were still tall and lanky, their long, black cocktail dresses making them a tall cool glass of water, indeed (if you now what I mean).

I’m not much of a gambler (I prefer to stick to $2 across-the-board bets on the horses and a little slots action here and there), but while learning how to play blackjack was a fun experience, it sure is interesting to watch others play. Last night, I was watching this Panamanian dude playing blackjack and on one heck of a losing streak. He had quite a roll of $100 bills with him that he kept peeling off one after another, so it didn’t seem to bother him much. Until, that is, when the streak finally got the better of him, at which point he just swore and walked away from the table. It was then I had the words to Keb’Mo’s song “Flat Broke and Busted” (from the Tin Cup soundtrack) in mind:

Flat broke and busted, just don’t seem fair
The Man in Heaven won’t hear my prayer
These dice are loaded, but I still can’t win
Flat broke and busted, crapped out again

Maybe tomorrow, I’ll see the light
And know the difference between wrong and right
My ship is out there, but it can’t come in
Flat broke and busted, crapped out again

Ah, Vegas, where fortunes are made and lost in the twinkle of an eye. When it comes to pure adrenaline and action, there’s nothing like it!

Filed in: Goodboys by The Great White Shank at 01:30 | Comments (0)
February 10, 2007

Even though you find things changed in one way or another every time you visit Las Vegas, fortunately it’s not like they turned it into some huge garden, trailer park, or nursing home, that’s fer shure. So, because I’ve got a 11 AM tee time today with my fellow Goodboys, I’ll keep it short and sweet, and simply direct you to this post I wrote last June while subbing for Rob over at CrabAppleLane Blog. Believe me, it’s just as pertinent today as it was then, and I have no doubt the Goodboys will be making the same rounds once the golf is over. Enjoy!

Filed in: Goodboys by The Great White Shank at 05:20 | Comments (0)
February 9, 2007

sign Greetings from the Sahara Hotel and Casino on The Strip in fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada! The Goodboys’ Vegas Weekend is here, and, while the rest of the lads won’t be making their way here (from the not-quite-as-exquisite Manchester, NH, no less) until tomorrow, ’tis far better to get up here a day early and find a decent place to stay for a night so you don’t have to do any part of the treacherous 6-hour drive from Phoenix to here in the dark.

Why so treacherous, you ask? Well, there’s really only one road from Phoenix to Las Vegas, and that’s Rte. 93, which takes you north through the Arizona high desert from Wickenburg through Wikieup, until you hook onto a brief stretch of I-40 before hopping back onto 93 in Kingman on the way to the Hoover Dam. Now safely in Nevada and in the Pacific Time Zone, pass through Boulder City and hop onto I-515, the road that ultimately takes you to The Strip. What makes this route so dangerous (especially during the Wickenburg/I-40 stretch), is that it’s primarily a two-lane highway with (when you’re traveling north) a bunch of hungover, sleep-deprived people traveling south from Vegas coming at you from the opposite direction. In fact, the road is littered with crosses on both sides of the road – sober reminders that it’s just as important to keep your head as it is to keep your wallet in while you’re enjoying your time in Sin City.

I didn’t bother to head over to The Mirage (where we’ll be staying) upon arriving here late this afternoon because I want to be just as surprised as the boys are gonna be when I see how our favorite muster point, the Kokomo Bar, has been upgraded (significantly so, it seems) since our last visit:

Kokomo’s, the popular flagship restaurant at The Mirage, has reopened with a fresh contemporary look created by premier designer Adam Tihany. Located at the entrance to kokomo’s in the main hotel lobby, this sleek new lounge becomes the focal point of activity. Situated in the Tropical Rainforest, this exotic bar features towering palms and a waterfall. Designs were inspired by tropical weather patterns and forces of nature featuring a field of iridescent silver fish sculptures suspended beneath undulating canopies and an emphasis on natural materials such as stone, wood and a live bamboo planter.

Sounds inviting, doesn’t it? So, after checking in and heading over to Gilley’s at the New Frontier for a bowl of their famous 100% cattle Texas Chili and some hot wings (served with a couple-two-three icy-cold Coronas, of course), it’s back to the hotel room to store up on sleep and await the chaos and hijinks that will surely come with the morning.

Filed in: Goodboys by The Great White Shank at 01:27 | Comments (0)

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