March 31, 2007

The Boston Red Sox open their 2007 schedule on Monday, and hope are high in Beantown. What do Red Sox fans have to look forward to, team-wise and blog-wise this year? Plenty!

1. Pitching. There is no question the Sox have a formidable starting five. While early on the idea of staring the season with a front-end of Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jonathan Papelbon, and Tim Wakefield was tantalizing, the idea of having no closer scared the bejeezus out of everyone. So, while putting Paps back into the closer role where he dominated last season improves the team’s chances overall, moving Wakefield into the 4th slot and replacing Paps with Julian Tavarez isn’t quite as impressive. But no worries: if Tavarez (or Wakefield, for that matter) falter, there’s Kyle Snyder from the bullpen and plenty of help down in AAA Pawtucket with the likes of Jon Lester, Kason Gabbard, and Devon Hansack – three young ‘uns any team in baseball would love to have on their rosters.

In the bullpen, as mentioned, there’s plenty of talent to get from the starters to Papelbon, with Snyder, Brendan Donnelly, Joel Pineiro (if he doesn’t get traded), and Mike Timlin from the right side, and Javier Lopez, J.C. Romero, and Hideki Okajima from the left. This is a deep staff, with an equally-deep pool of reinforcements down in Pawtucket. Arguably, the best pitching staff in the American League, and an oasis in the Baseball Desert when it comes to your typical pitching staff.

2. Catcher. Same as last year – all-around catching dude Jason Varitek back doing the 1, 2, 3, and 5 starting shift, with erstwhile backup Doug Mirabelli handling the knuckleballer Wakefield. There are concerns over Varitek’s age and his offense this spring after hitting a paltry, career-low .238 last season, but there’s few better when it comes to his preparation, handling of pitchers, and understanding the Keys To The Game. Were he ever to get hurt, the Sox like up-and-comer George Katteras, who will be playing at AAA Pawtucket this year.

3. First Base. This will probably be Kevin Youkilis’ last season playing closest to The Dugout on the first-base side, as it is expected Youk will move to third after third baseman Mike Lowell opts for free agency once this season is over. Until then, however, while Youk may not end up amongst the league-leaders in power numbers for first basemen, he is steady and rock-solid both offensively and defensively.

4. Second Base. OK, I’ll admit, this is a spot I don’t think the Sox are strong in. From all appearances, Dustin Pedroia does not appear ready for the bigs. His defense is OK, but watching him at the plate, all I can say is, “Great El Guapo’s Ghost!”. If the Red Sox offense starts off slow and Pedroia ain’t helping, don’t be surprised to see him back in Pawtucket and the steady Alex Cora in his place.

5. Third Base. A strength on the team, both offensively and defensively. Besides his quiet, steady and stabilizing influence at third, Mike Lowell has pop in his bat and should do a very nice job in the 6- or 7-hole in the Sox lineup. You don’t have to be a Soxaholic to appreciate what Lowell brings to the park both day in and day out.

6. Shortstop. I’ve never really understood why the Sox have always been so enamored of Lugo, but, now that we have him, I guess we’ll just have to see. There’s no question that shortstop is now as much an offensive as it is a defensive position on a baseball roster, and, while Alex Gonzalez played a great defensive shortstop last year, you need a player who can hit one Over The Monster more often than A-Gon did. Will Lugo’s offensive capabilities make up for the defense the Sox have given up as a result? We’ll just have to see.

7. Left Field. Manny Ramirez returns for another year of who knows what. The one thing you know you’ll always get from Manny is offensive prowess that few others in baseball possess. Does he do dumb things, like disappear during a pitching switch if he hears the Call of the Green Monster? Well, sure. Will he take a few days off around the All-Star Break? Most likely. But if the Sox are in it and Manny’s interested, there’s few more dangerous hitters in baseball. Not to mention that no other team in baseball has as feared a 3-4 combination as the Sox do with Manuel and David “Big Papi” Ortiz.

8. Center Field. Another position I think is potentially weak offensively (and, perhaps, due to his throwing arm, defensively as well). What’s up with Coco Crisp this spring? The happy-go-lucky and plucky center fielder of 2006 seems to have lost The Joy of Sox. His defense this spring has been just so-so and his bat kinda abysmal, and one wonders whether it’s because he’s been injured, or simply doesn’t relish the prospect of hitting eighth in the Sox lineup. Something defintely to keep an eye out for.

9. Right Field. J.D. Drew looks like everything advertised this spring, and I’m gonna predict the guy has a monster year. This year the Sox are going to add some new seats in the right field stands and call it “Conigliaro’s Corner”, but, as much as I respect the memory of Tony C. and what that memory means to Sox fans, we all know that right field is really The House That Dewey Built, as there may never be another patrolling that part of Fenway like Dwight (Dewey) Evans.

10. DH. “Big Papi”. Need I say more? A fave of all Fenway Fanatics, and, in my mind, the greatest clutch hitter in Red Sox history.

11. Bench. Eric Hinske can play first, third, and outfield. Wily Mo Pena will be getting his swings backing backing up Coco if he gets injured again, Cora backs up second and short. You need to have a solid bench if you want to be the Firebrand of the A.L., and I think the Sox are pretty solid here.

12. Manager. Terry Francona has done a fine of making sure the Red Sox keep Surviving Grady. BTW, we may see Mr. Little’s Dodgers in the World Series this year. Now wouldn’t an October matchup between Terry’s and Grady’s nine be interesting?

Bottom line: if the Sox stay healthy, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be a solid pick to win the A.L. pennant and get to the World Series, but it’s a long way to October. This team appears built for the long haul and ought to make it interesting.

Let the games begin!

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 09:19 | Comments Off on Around the Horn

Earlier tonight, for no reason whatsoever, I was looking at some of the posts I had put up in this space last year at this time, and was amazed to see how absolutely lost, and how imprisoned spiritually, I felt back then.

Forward then, two hours. Tracey and I were watching on DVD The Beatles Anthology (of all things!), and I was struck by an overwhelming sense, so powerful and (how can I describe it?) so personal – how important it is that devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, is a course I should be pursuing in my life, to what extent I know not. What was it that triggered such an incredible response? Believe it or not, it was hearing these lyrics to John Lennon’s song, “Real Love” (my boldings):

All my little plans and schemes
Lost like some forgotten dream
Seems like all I really was doing
Was waiting for you

Just like little girls and boys
Playing with their little toys
Seems like all they really were doing
Was waiting for you

Don’t need to be alone
No need to be alone

It’s real love
It’s real, yes it’s real love
It’s real

From this moment on I know
Exactly where my life will go

Seems that all I really was doing
Was waiting for love

Don’t need to be afraid
No need to be afraid

It’s real love
It’s real, yes it’s real love
It’s real

Thought I’d been in love before,
But in my heart I wanted more

Seems like all I really was doing
Was waiting for you

Don’t need to be alone
No need to be alone

It’s real love
Yes it’s real, yes it’s real love
It’s real, yes it’s real love…

Listening to the lyrics and music wash over me, I realized that “real” and “love” are not words to be taken lightly. Is my alter-ego “The Great White Shank”, and my roles as husband, lover, Goodboy, and project manager nothing but a cheap facade? Is the life I find myself living so different from some existence I should be, but haven’t the guts to pursue? Or is it just over-reaction. Who knows? Whichever it might be, after my experience of two weeks ago, I sure feel as if I’ve appeared out of some crazy fog bank to find myself thousands of miles (literally and figuratively) from somewhere I was. Like Lennon’s lyrics say, maybe I don’t need to be afraid of having some time alone to understand everything that’s happened to me recently. I’m clearly wrestling with impulses far and beyond anything I could have imagined when I wrote that post a year ago February.

At any rate, it is real love, and it is a joy to feel free.

Hope I didn’t wig everyone out, but it is what it is. I promise – a post on boat drinks or the Red Sox tomorrow! 🙂

Filed in: Religion & Culture by at 01:56 | Comments Off on Real Love
March 30, 2007

Still thinking about presidential candidate John Edwards’ comments in that recent interview that “Jesus would be appalled at how the United States has ignored the plight of the suffering”.

I’ve heard some point to the story of Jesus telling the rich man to give away everything he had and come follow him (Matthew 19:21-23) as an example of the Jesus’ disdain for wealth and greed in general. Well, it was not – rather, it was an indictment on the rich man’s allegiance to the master he viewed as more important to serve. Being “rich” (whatever that term means) is not, by its very nature, either sinful or a bad thing: I’ve always believed God has given some people the gift of being able to make money hand over fist. (Looking at my credit card bills tonight, that wouldn’t be a bad gift to have!) Rather, it’s what you do with your so-called “riches” (i.e., the gifts God has given you, in whatever manner, shape, or form that takes) that counts, and something we will all be judged on and held accountable for somewhere down the line.

And so, just days away from the start of Holy Week, a few questions for us all to ponder: What are the gifts God has given you? To what purpose are they being used? Who is the master you yourself swear allegiance to?

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 01:35 | Comments Off on Contemplating Wealth
March 29, 2007

(Part 1 of an occasional 3 – or is it 4? – part series)

Last month, a group of Anglican Communion leaders gathered in Tanzania to discuss issues that various churches within the Communion found themselves at odds over in an attempt to avoid schism. On one side you had the churches of the Global South – Africa, Asia, and South America, churches virtually exploding in growth and teaching an orthodox, or traditional (no, I’m not going to call it “conservative”), form of Christianity. On the other side, you had the churches of the “West” – The Episcopal Church (TEC), the Anglican Church of Canada, and the Church of England (the founding church of the Communion), churches wracked by discord (primarily over the issue of homosexuality), hemmorrhaging membership, and – perhaps more importantly – losing power and influence within the Communion.

The primary reason for this gathering was to discuss TEC and various actions it had taken which the Global South churches saw as contrary to the traditional teachings of the Church, particularly in the area of homosexuality. Specifically, the leaders of these churches took issue with: a) TEC’s consecration of a non-celibate gay man, the Rt. Reverend Gene Robinson, as Bishop of New Hampshire back in 2003, b) certain dioceses quietly sanctioning its clergy performing same-sex unions, and c) overt, hostile actions taken by TEC bishops against clergy and church congregations who disagreed both philosophically and theologically with the these actions and, as a result, sought alternative Episcopal (bishop) oversight, or to leave TEC altogether and affiliate themselves with churches of the Global South.

As a result of the meeting in Tanzania, TEC was given what amounted to an ultimatum: either conform with the rest of the Communion and the historic teachings and traditions of the Church, and allow alternative Episcopal oversight for U.S. dioceses who have refused to recognize the leadership of newly-elected Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, or face a reduced status within the Communion, or perhaps even expulsion. TEC was given until September 30 to provide the Anglican leaders with a response.

It didn’t take that long.

Last week, following a meeting of TEC’s House of Bishops at Camp Allen, Texas, TEC bishops released a three-pronged statement that rejected the Anglican primates’ ultimatum in its entirety. As the AP’s Rachel Zoll writes:

Episcopal bishops risked losing their place in the global Anglican family Wednesday by affirming their support for gays and rejecting a key demand that they give up some authority to theological conservatives outside the U.S. church.

In strong and direct language, the Episcopal House of Bishops said it views the Gospel as teaching that “all God’s children, including gay and lesbian persons, are full and equal participants” in the church. The bishops also said they would not agree to an Anglican plan for leaders outside the U.S. denomination to oversee the small number of conservative American dioceses that disagree.

“We cannot accept what would be injurious to the church and could well lead to its permanent division,” the bishops said in a resolution from a private meeting in Texas.

“If that means that others reject us and communion with us, as some have already done, we must with great regret and sorrow accept their decision.”

While this news may come as a surprise to many, it certainly doesn’t to me, as it is something I have been predicting would happen for a long time. Call it, “irreconcilable differences”, if you will. The fact is, whether you place yourself on the side of the Global South leaders or with the TEC bishops, what you have here are two sides that have finally come to the realization that there is no real way to reconcile the significant philosophical, theological, and pastoral differences that exist between them. While it is true these differences seem to have coalesced around the issue of homosexuality more than anything else, at the core is the tension that has always seemed to exist historically and fundamentally between the supposed “three legs” of traditional Anglicanism – Holy Scripture, Church tradition, and free will.

(Note 1: By “supposed”, I’m referring to that popular concept of Anglicanism’s “three legged stool”, commonly associated with the 16th century English theologian Richard Hooker, who, it is said, used the three-legged stool to illustrate the equal balance of Holy Scripture, tradition, and free will in the Anglican ethos. Many theologians and scholars, however, including Chuck Bradshaw, have argued convincingly that this nothing but a false [and, I wonder, hopeful?] supposition, that Hooker always believed in the primacy of Holy Scripture over everything else.)

(Note 2: More recently – and I would argue, predictably – this “three-legged stool” concept has grown to add a fourth leg, that of “experience”. This “leg”, a by-product of the Enlightenment and post-modernism, argues something to the effect that human experience, and an increase in human understanding, trumps long-held concepts and beliefs [some would call them “foolish myths”] left over from the days when the Christian Church reigned supreme. This “we know better, because we know better” train of thought is, in my view, nothing but human arrogance [and ignorance?] run amok, and, I would argue, does as much a disservice to modern society as the excesses committed by the medieval Church did back in pre-Enlightenment days.)

So, basically, what you have here is one side that holds fast and dear to the historic teachings and traditions of the Church, grounded in Holy Scripture; another believing that, to truly live out Jesus’ teachings as laid out in the Gospels, the modern Church must cast aside such outdated teachings and doctrines, and work towards a world that is truly one, united not necessarily under the Cross of Jesus Christ, but under a much holier umbrella of tolerance, acceptance, and diversity. That, my friends, is the crux of the biscuit, and the dilemma facing the Anglican Communion as it slides unalterably towards schism.

Next: What people on both sides of the equation are saying, and how they are putting those actions into words.

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 01:51 | Comments Off on A Defiant Response
March 28, 2007

lhp “Greetings, Goodboys Nation weblog fanatics, ‘She’s A Little Half Pint’ at the keyboard, but you can call me ‘Half Pint’, for short. I just heard my owner in the office next door moan, ‘I wish there was somebody else in this house who could feed the blog tonight, because I’m swamped with work!’ Well, I guess this’ll teach him not to let me roam around the rabbit room unattended any more! There’s a lot going on in the world outside my rabbit condo today, so let’s hop to it (as they say)…

* I know my owner will be saying a few prayers tonight for White House spokesman Tony Snow, whose cancer has returned; this just days after Elizabeth Edwards announced her cancer had returned as well. Strange that two people in the political spotlight, on different sides of the political aisle, both reveal their cancers have returned in the same week. One would think that would give pause to all those involved in the political nastiness going on in Washington, wouldn’t you? But you know it won’t.

* Headline: U.S. Tests 15-Ton Bunker Buster. Now why on earth would the U.S. be testing such a weapon, my owner is probably wondering. Heh. Can you say, “Iranian nuclear facilities”?

* Along those same lines, I wonder if Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is too busy trying to bully British Prime Minister Tony Blair into a military confrontation over those captured British sailors to pay attention to what the U.S. is doing. He’s no dumb bunny, is he? Here’s hoping this thing can be resolved peacefully.

* Good to hear the National Football League has decided to make video replay permanent. Now if only the fatheads at Major League Baseball would drag their sport into the 21st century and allow the same to help its umpiring crews out on controversial decisions. It wouldn’t be difficult – allow each manager one opportunity per game to challenge an umpiring decision (excluding balls and strikes, of course), and charge them one trip to the mound that inning in return. It would work.

* Speaking of MLB, one wonders if John Kerry and Arlen Specter can convince MLB’s powers-that-be to delay, at least for a year, their plan to make their “Extra Innings” package only available to DirecTV customers. I know my owner would like that – his 18-month subscription to Dish Network runs out in September, and then he could switch to DirecTV without any penalty!

* With Easter less than two weeks away, this is an issue near and dear to my heart. No one should ever give their children a pet bunny rabbit for Easter unless they’re serious about making a commitment to making that pet a part of their family. Too many people aren’t aware that, while we bunnies can be cute and cuddly, we can also (and I think I can speak from personal experience here ) be a lot of work to take care of and require special care for. So, if there’s even a 1% doubt that you won’t be thrilled with your new pet rabbit, do yourself – and us – a favor: get a chocolate one instead!

Uh oh – I just heard my owner say, ‘Thanks God, what a day!’, so it sounds like he’ll be coming shortly to put me back in my condo. Wait till he sees who did his blogging for him today! Hope you enjoyed my post, but don’t think I’m gonna make this a regular event – the claws on my paws keep getting caught in the keyboard keys! Bye everyone!”

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:41 | Comment (1)
March 27, 2007

Boston Globe sports columnist Dan Shaughnessy used to be an interesting and eloquent observer of the Boston sports scene. Combining wit with a healthy dose of cynicism, there were never any sacred cows in his mind – especially when someone – even if it were a star ballplayer and/or fan favorite was dogging it or not playing up to his potential. That’s not to say he was never above getting personal – a favorite target of his was Carl “dinosaurs never existed” Everett and Jose Offerman, but more often than not, it was usually playing up to their boorish behavior in the clubhouse and/or their less-than stellar play on the field.

In recent years, however (and especially since the sale of the Boston Red Sox to a group headed by John Henry, Tom Werner, and Larry Lucchino) he has increasingly targeted with his poison pen the ownership of the team (who, in his view, can do nothing right, never mind the fact they brought a world championship to Beantown in 2004) and certain star ballplayers on the team – most especially, Manny Ramirez and Curt Schilling. One can argue that Ramirez’s antics on and off the field ever since he came to Boston in 2001 are fair game, given that the team has suffered offensively whenever he has dogged it or taken advantage of the team’s good will. But Schilling, on the other hand, is another matter entirely. Since his arrival in 2004, Schilling has done nothing to deserve the petty crticism that Shaughnessy seems to take pleasure in whenver he writes about Schilling, and the personal dislike for one another the two display seems to have nothing to do with Schilling’s on-the-field performance.

At the present time, both Shaughnessy and Schilling seem to be going at it pretty good, and why the latter has been made such a target by the former, one can only guess. First of all, Schilling is a player who, like him or loathe him, is not afraid to express his opinion on any subject, to anyone. He’s made no bones about his distaste for a lot of the media and is not afraid to call them out when he wconsiders something they’ve written intrusive, unfair, and unduly inflammatory, which is his right. He’s also conservative politically and a devout Christian, and I have no doubt that somewhere along the line this has a lot to do with Shaugnessy’s vitriol.

While the two have been sniping at each other continually for a while now, today Shaughnessy went over the line, using a completely private venture Schilling has recently been engaged in as the subject of his attack. Several weeks ago, Schilling began blogging at his 38 Pitches website – a website not affiliated in any way with the Boston Red Sox, and it is Schilling’s apparent use of his own blog to observe and comment on his world that seems to have gotten Shaughnessy’s panties in an uproar. From his column today, Shaughnessy makes clear his view on Schilling using his own blog for providing a glimpse into his personal life (something Shaughnessy holds up for ridicule), and bloggers in general, the former of which he has no cause to do, as it;s Schillings own ventuire and something he does on his own free time, and the llater which shows his true elitist colors – as if the Boston Globe has revered corner on journalism.

It’s time for Shaughnessy to return to covering sports – not what a player does in his/her own spare time. I mean, what’s next? Criticizing where someone takes his laundry? Where they dine out at night? Who they are seen with in a club or restaurant?

Some people think that just because athletes make the kind of money they do, that gives journalists and the public the right to 24×7 coverage of everything they do. I disagree with that premise. Curt Shchilling is an employee of a privately-run enterprise known as the Boston Red Sox. Therefore, the Red Sox and their employees can right be criticised when their performance on the field is open to question, but what goes on – and what they – in their prinvate lives should be left off the pages of a newspaper. If Dan Shaughnessy jas a problem with something Schilling said outisede of his job as pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, he should take it to Schilling privately, not use his column amnd his position as observer of for petty and personal attacks.

This is something I’ve never quite understood about newspapers, whose basic responsibility is to report and inform. Increasingly, the Globe – like most dying dinosaurs in the mainstream media – has eschewed reporting raw news and has let the line between news and opinion blur. It does so in its politics – where, like Shaughnessy, its staff is loaded with limousine liberals; it has increasingly done so with sports.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 01:01 | Comments Off on A Pressing Concern
March 26, 2007

911 Watched Inside 9/11 on the Discovery Channel tonight, and my heart and spirit feel both very heavy and very down. All I can think is how sad it all was, and how petty in retrospect all the subsequent finger-pointing and blame-assessing seems to be. Personally, I think all the innocent victims of that day – whether it be the crew and passengers on those fateful flights, or those who worked in the Twin Towers or at the Pentagon – deserve much better than that.

More than anything else, after watching the special, all I could think about was how human the behavior was on that day – whether it be the transmissions between the firefighters rushing into the World Trade Center, or the 911 responders telling those hunkered down in the towers to stay put, or that poor sap who couldn’t make a decision whether or not Air Force fighters should be scrambled because everyone in authority “had left the room”. Anyone with any kind of perspective would realize that we as a nation got caught with our shorts down; you can blame President Bush, or the FAA, or the CIA, or the NSA, and that’s fine, but looking back, how in the world could anyone have predicted something like that happening, in that sort of way?

(And, BTW, to those who continue to promote absurd conspiracy theories, that 9/11 was somehow an “inside job” perpetrated by the government – all I can say is, shame on you. I’d like to say I hope you all rot in hell, but as a Christian…)

The sad truth is, the only way those who died on that fateful day can truly be honored is for we as a nation to do all we can to make sure something like that never happens again. While I have no doubt that, were I or others to find ourselves in a similar situation ever again (i.e., on a flight destined to create carnage of some sort) few would hesitate to take corrective and aggressive action – you can see that in the actions of the passengers on the “flying imams” flight from Minneapolis to Phoenix, I am equally distressed that relations between Democrats and Republicans in Congress have become so poisonous and politically polarized that little can be expected from our elected officials in Washington.

Tonight I will light a candle and say a prayer for all those innocents who lost their lives on September 11 and their families who still mourn and grieve their passing; may we as a nation never have to go through something akin to that fateful day ever again.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:36 | Comments (2)
March 25, 2007

beatles To me, The Beatles were, and will always be, rock music’s greatest group. While I hold The Beach Boys and Phil Spector also at the top of my own rock pantheon, whenever I hear a Beatles’ tune on the radio, it stands out between whatever the preceding and succeeding tunes happened to be. The amazing thing about the Fab Four’s music (beyond the fact that it changed the course of popular music and continues to influence hundreds, if not thousands of artists to this day) was just how prolific they were as musicians (their actual recorded output barely spans seven years), and how consistent the quality of the work was they produced.

Tracey and I have been working our way through the various episodes of their Anthology DVD series, and I was telling her that one of the best examples of the sheer quality of their work, is not the albums they released – spectacular as they were – but in the 45 RPM singles they would often release to accompany those albums. Spector might have owned that medium as his vision of how a record should sound, but it was The Beatles who turned it into a showcase for not just their talents, but the Lennon and McCartney (and, further on, George Harrison) personalities and ideologies as well.

Excluding both the way Capitol Records would haphazardly and recklessly distribute their product in the U.S. and Allen Klein‘s desire to milk the golden cow for everything it was worth (knowing the group was on the verge of disbanding) after becoming their business manager, The Beatles resisted the temptation to put LP tracks on 45s, but instead (at least by and large), chose and released their singles with great care, to compliment the albums they would release at or around the same time. Here, then, are my choices for the top 5 Beatles 45 RPM releases:

1) Hey Jude/Revolution (1968)
I’ve often said that when I heard “Hey Jude” for the first time, I sensed my musical world turn from black-and-white to technicolor; the record made that great an impact on me. I can still remember barely being able to sleep the night before a bunch of us who were in DeMolay at the time were to be taken into Boston to go record shopping. Since I was only 13, I can remember my Mom giving me a few dollars of spending money, and bringing this record home as a trophy. The folks tolerated “Hey Jude” enough; the dirty, gritty, hard-rocking “Revolution” was a whole ‘nuther thing altogether. My vote for absolute best rock 45 RPM record ever released by anyone, ever.

2) Strawberry Fields Forever/Penny Lane (1967)
Lennon and McCartney taking their own fond childhood memories and turning them into a wonderful, double-sided piece of psychedelia. This single, released to buy some time between the Revolver and “Sgt. Pepper” albums, introduced to the world a more mature, all grown up Beatles. Lennon’s contribution is one of the finest melodies he ever came up with; McCartney’s features a rollicking bass line and a (in his own words) “clean sound” inspired by the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds album, released just a few months prior.

3) Come Together/Something (1969)
When Allen Klein came aboard to manage (actually, salvage) the Beatles’ financial situation, they were in dire need of cash as a result of the cash sieve that had been Apple, the company they had founded two years before. Seeking to make as much money as he could in a short period of time (he also had to have been aware that the group was near the end of it’s run), this double “A”-sided single coincided with the release of Abbey Road in September of 1969. “Come Together” features some fine, gritty Lennon guitar and some unusually-low McCartney harmonies. “Something” is a wonderfully-crafted love song considered George Harrison’s finest composition. Listen for some truly virtuoso McCartney bass runs working behind the rhythm.

4) Paperback Writer/Rain (1966)
Released along with their Revolver” album, I was introduced to these songs as a result of the “Hey Jude” album, a collection of Beatles singles released in LP format in 1970 to once again keep the dollar bills flowing into the Beatles’ coffers. It was these two songs (along with “You Never Give Me your Money” from “Abbey Road”) that led me to take up playing bass in my first rock band. McCartney’s “Paperback Writer” is a perfect example of what Beatles’ producer George Martin used to call a “potboiler”, but the real star of this single is Lennon’s “Rain” – an early piece of psychedelia featuring some truly inventive interplay between McCartney’s bass and Ringo’s drums throughout. The murky sounding guitar background was created by originally recording the song in a faster tempo, then slowing the tape down for the recording of the bass, drums, and vocals.

5) Day Tripper/We Can Work It Out (1965)
Released along with the fine Rubber Soul album in December of 1965, a perfect example of the creative duality unique to the Lennon and McCartney partnership. “Day Tripper” is a simple rocking piece that knows how to milk a fine guitar riff for everything it’s worth. “We Can Work It Out” offers a unique window into Lennon’s and McCartney’s personas: McCartney’s sunny optimism, seeking to talk and work things out, offset (even contradicted) by Lennon’s edgy, impatient pessimism. Put ’em alongside each other in the 45 RPM format, you have a perfect example of mid-’60s pop.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:28 | Comments Off on Five Great Beatles 45s
March 24, 2007

wall It’s here. Yep, the weekend you dread as soon as you rip the old calendar down from the wall on January 1 and put the new one up. The weekend you think about with each trip from the mailbox, financial statements, 1040s, IRAs, 401Ks, W2s, radar, sonor, electric toothbrushes… (sorry, got lost in a “Jaws” thing for a second there…) etc. etc. in hand. The weekend you start budgeting for… oh, just about the week after you send in the previous year’s return.

That’s right folks, it’s tax time.

In this household – and thousands of others, I’m guessing – tax weekend is a nose-to-the-grindstone, hunker down, all business weekend. There’s no time for frivolities like boat drinks or exotica music; no time for fun and amusement, just a weekend for emptying out tax document drawers, loading the TurboTax, filing, sorting, calculating, and documenting. There’s nothing magical or mystical about it – it’s the closest thing to root canal you can get without ever going to the dentist.

So excuse me if blogging could be a little light this weekend, for when it comes to tax weekend, thoughts of anything remotely associated with creativity go flying out the window.

There’s no time for that, you see – it’s tax time!

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:57 | Comments Off on It’s Tax Time!
March 23, 2007

A heavy thunderstorn earlier today has turned into a steady soaker of a rain that will do the pruned vegetaion around here a world of good. Just being able to enjoy the wet drippiness outside with the windows open allows the head to clear and the soul to breathe. A perfect night to touch on a few subjects briefly from the world of politics and culture.

* Thoughts and prayers go out to Elizabeth Edwards, her husband John, and their family. Mrs. Edwards’ cancer has returned after less than three years, and, while everyone is keeping up a brave face, the sad fact is that her long-term prognosis is not good. I give John Edwards a lot of credit – it takes a lot of guts to stand up in front of the press and speak confidently and bravely about pressing on with his presidential campaign given the situation. One can only hope for miracles and all the best for both of them.

* Headline: North Korea nuclear talks break down. I equate this so-called “news” to Nebraska senator Chuck Hagel’s news conference the other day, announcing he hadn’t made up his mind yet whether or not to seek the presidency. You call this news? The only way things ever change in North Korea is when wacko dictator Kim Jong-Il dies, and while I hate to wish anything bad to happen to anyone, that day can’t come soon enough as far as I’m concerned.

* The hub-bub over President Bush firing those eight U.S. attorneys is yet another indicator of just how much of a disaster the President’s second term in office has been. The easiest thing in the world would have been for Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez to make the announcement, then provide a list of those fired and the President’s reasoning behind their terminations. Of course, the Prez doesn’t have to justify his actions – after all, U.S. attorneys serve at his pleasure, but it would have avoided all this politics-as-usual crap. It would have been that simple, but nothing this White House has done in the past four years has ever seemed to make a whole lot of sense. Charles Krauthammer is right – the A.G. has got to go.

* Of course, the longer the Democrats pursue this attorney-firing witchhunt – as if there was really something to it – the more people will come to realize they’re only doing it to mask the utter confusion currently going on in the House of Representatives under the shaky “control” (if you want to call it that) of House Speaker “San Fran Nan” Pelosi. Oh man, what a trainwreck! Pelosi’s leadership makes former Republican House Speaker Denny Hastert look more like Tip O’Neill every day.

* News item: Madonna would back Gore over Clinton in 2008. I’m sorry, I didn’t know the so-called “Material Girl” was still in show business. Isn’t she like 50 now? I’m telling ya, some people just don’t know how to say goodbye gracefully.

* France opens its UFO files to the public, and (gasp!) of the 1,600 cases registered in the past 53 years “nearly 25 percent” are classified as events that can’t be explained. Nearly 25 percent, huh? I’m no math major, but if someone told me I was sick and had a “nearly 25 percent” chance of surviving, I’d be getting ready to punch my ticket for an appearance on The Funeral Channel.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 01:39 | Comments (2)


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