April 21, 2007

…and the Yanks go down. Of course, I’m talking about Alex “E-Rod” Rodriguez, who comes into Boston and a 3-game series with the Sox carrying the most smokin’ bat in all of baseball. Of course, world championships are not won in April, but October, and anyone can hit a two-run homer when your team is already up by four or five runs. So let’s see how the whining pussy-boy does when all the chips are on the table.

Thankfully, the Sox pulled out the first of a three-game series in dramatic fashion! Onward Varitek and Crisp! Send that overmatched rookie Pedroia back to Pawtucket! And who needs a Papelbon as a closer when we’ve got Okajima!

But seriously, folks, it was a joy to sit in a crowded restaurant tonight and watch the Sox stage an incredible comeback against the Yankees and Mariano “Fruit Bat” Rivera. We couldn’t help but stare at all the people in the bar looking as if they had sucked on lemons – there were that many obvious Yankee fans surrounding us. Yuck! And I hate the Yankees – almost as much as Alec Baldwin hates Kim Basinger.

(BTW, is that guy a loser or what?)

But too bad, the good guys took the first one tonight and Red Sox Nation goes to bed exhilarated at yet another amazing comeback against the Evil Empire. Couldn’t have happened to a better team…

Now if someone could get a hold of Mr. Baldwin and give him a good whuppin’!

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 01:06 | Comments Off on Mr. April Comes To Town…
April 20, 2007

Our house remains kind of a sad place tonight. Losing anyone or anything that has been such an intimate part of one’s life for more than eight years is not a presence easily replaced, nor should it be. The interesting and fascinating thing about death – of any kind – is its absolute finality. They say nothing in this life is absolute except death and taxes, but I have little doubt that, were I to still be alive on this ball of rock hurtling silently through space a year from now, I’ll have paid just as much – if not more – taxes than I did this year (which, BTW, was substantial). Death, on the other hand, brings with it an incredible kind of finality: there is nothing like it in the wide range of human emotion and experience.

Even for those of us who believe that this life of ours is not all there is – that there indeed is a heaven and a life beyond this where, somewhere down the line, we are reunited with those whom we have loved the most in the eternal light of God’s eternity – the death of someone dear still leaves an incredible vacuum. It’s really a ‘then’ vs. ‘now’ situation, in a very sudden way: there was the life you shared with that entity then, but now they’re gone and it’s a whole new deal entirely. There’s no half-means about it – death is that absolute. I can’t imagine what the families of those who were murdered at Virginia Tech the other day must be going through – after all, if someone you love has had a lengthy illness or is quite aged, you have time to prepare, time to arrange one’s mind in preparation for their departure from this life. But to have someone or something dear taken away from you suddenly – that’s the deepest cut of all.

To be sure, I’m not equating the loss of a rabbit with the loss of a son, daughter, husband, wife, or lover, per se, but if you love someone (or even some animal) passionately, it doesn’t matter whether that love is viewed as crazy or irrational or not – the loss is felt just as keenly. Tracey loved her rabbit in a way different from the way she has loved, or loves, her other animals; as weird as it sounds, between her and Marble, there was a connection beyond understanding, and who am I to judge whether it was right or wrong? Either way, the loss stings. And so it goes for each of us who loses someone dear suddenly.

I’m thinking that it is only the very prospect of death – of us, and/or of those we love – that keeps us (or, at least, the majority of us) honest and grounded in both our behavior and our outlook on life. Mortality, then, is a powerful force amongst the living. After all, if there was no such thing as a finite existence, would we cherish the moments we have with those we love the most? Would we tell those whom we love – whether it be in the same room, or hundreds or thousands of miles apart – how much we loved them if there were no uncertainty as to whether we’d ever see them or talk with them again? I think not.

Having experienced, in a variety of ways, both life and death, it is my view that the beginning of life (of any kind) and the end of it (in any way) is as holy an experience as anything we will encounter in our lives. To see the joy of a mother being handed her child for the first time, or seeing a cage once used by a single rabbit suddenly filled with a brood of hairless, sightless babies, is an amazing thing to behold – as is the tears and devastation on the face of someone you love upon hearing the news that someone or something they loved has departed this life. Either way, as Frank Sinatra once sang, that’s life. And I mean it – that is life, the world we have been privileged to be a part of and witness, for better or for worse.

And, painful or not, I wouldn’t trade it for anything in this world.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:41 | Comments Off on Death and Life
April 19, 2007

marblerabbit Yesterday, Tracey and I bid a fond and sad farewell to Marble, our 8+ year old rabbit who died of stomach cancer. It was something that came on quite quickly (his symptoms only manifested themselves a week ago), and it wasn’t until last Thursday that we realized something serious might be wrong. Fortunately, outside of several days without being able to relax or sleep, he didn’t suffer much, and he passed away quietly in an incubator in our vet’s office before we had the chance to do the awful, but right, thing and have him put down.

Marble was our first rabbit. I still remember that March day in 1999 when, after playing some baseball with my friend Jerome and chatting with him outside our Louisville apartment, Tracey and her friend Jana came back from the pet store where they had gone to buy cat food. Before we even saw them, I could hear Jana saying, “Don’t blame me – I told her not to do it!” Seems that, while walking by the open pen where Petsmart kept all their rabbits (conveniently placed near the front of the store, BTW), Tracey had stopped to look in and extended her hand to pet the baby rabbits. When she did, all of them scattered, except one, who came over to her and hopped right into her hand. Needless to say, it was love at first sight! When Tracey asked the cashier what kind of sex and type of rabbit it was, she was told it was a dwarf female. Well, after a few days, it became apparent Marble was neither female nor a dwarf, as he kept getting bigger, and bigger, until reaching a whopping 16 lbs. in his prime.

When we brought our first female rabbit (Pepper) home, we were aware of the need to keep Marble and her apart, as Marble hadn’t been neutered yet. And we thought we had, but evidently not enough to prevent a brood of seven baby rabbits from appearing in December of that same year. It was from this brood that Marble Jr. (one of our three remaining rabbits) came. The others – Marshmallow, Half n’ Half, and Li’l Pepper (driven to Emporia, Kansas in a 22-hr. marathon round trip from Louisville), Mocha and Bandit (given to a local petstore), and Marble Jr. Jr. (adopted by our priest’s wife) – were left to carry Marble’s seed to whatever destinies awaited them, good or bad.

Marble was the only rabbit who proved worthy of our trust to always have the run of the house. As most rabbits do, he went through his chewing phase, and dangling phone cords soon became a favorite target of his. But whereas the females we have had have never gotten over their propensity to chew everything in sight (Marble Jr. in particular, has left a particularly wide swath of destruction in her path through three residences in her life), Marble happily carved out his own space in an area near his open cage: seems an open bag of timothy hay, his water and food dishes, a towel to rest on, and a litter pan to flop into and relax in was pretty much all he needed to achieve bunny nirvana. And, once he told us where he wanted his litter boxes to be, he used them pretty religiously to the very end.

Wherever Tracey was, you could usually find Marble somewhere nearby. All he ever wanted was to be petted, hugged, and fed. The world – well, at least his own little corner of it – was his oyster. In addition to his usual rabbit food, he loved the tiny amounts of pasta and pizza crust we would give him. When he wanted something from the refrigerator, all he had to do was come thundering down the hall (he had a very heavy foot) and poke his head around the corner, knowing a handful of parsley or a leaf of lettuce would soon be there to devour. Most of all, he loved Tracey, and would follow her around the house in the morning begging for attention before she left for work. They were soulmates, and, as hard as it was for me to say goodbye to him last night, I know it was far harder on Tracey. He was a larger-than-life presence wherever we lived, and the house, even with three other rabbits remaining, seems cavernous and empty in his absence.

Having pets is a two-edged sword. You love ’em to death, and hate it when they have to depart. Some people find this hard to do and therefore avoid having them, but to us, even with the pain and sadness we feel today, we wouldn’t trade our time with Marble (or with Pepper, our three cats Rascal, Sparkle, and Bandit, or our two parakeets Ferd and Bird, all departed and still missed, for that matter) for anything in the world. Tracey always believed that in Marble’s eyes you could see all the trust and love that God has for each of us, and she may be right. I always said that, in the grand scheme of all things rabbit, Marble caught the gold ring and knew it. He lived his bunny life to the fullest, wanted for nothing, and gave as much love, affection, and joy as he got. May we all be so lucky.

Rest in peace, Marble rabbit, you were a part of our lives that we will never forget and always miss.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:00 | Comments (5)
April 18, 2007

What is it about our modern society that can’t stand to dwell on anything negative for more than a news cycle? What are we so afraid of? An example: when the Red Sox won the 2004 World Series, the city of Boston, and all of Red Sox Nation indeed, sipped a long, slow, draft of exultation, drinking in the accomplishment (both figuratively and otherwise) for days, even weeks, on end after Keith Foulke tossed that ground ball to first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz. There were parades, celebrations, parties, and all sorts of fun and frolic throughout that fall and winter. It seemed the celebration would never end.

Fast forward to yesterday’s massacre at Virginia Tech. The bodies of the students who were killed had barely had time to cool before university president Charles Steger released a statement saying, “”We’re making plans for a convocation tomorrow at noon in Cassell Coliseum for the university to come together to begin the healing process from this terrible tragedy.”

This is wrong, wrong, wrong.

Far be it from me to bring politics into such a horrific turn of events, one that Americans should not simply sweep under the rug to begin the healing process and moving on. But there is blood in the hallways and classrooms of Virginia Tech’s Norris Hall and West Ambler Johnston dormitory – the blood of young men and women who did nothing to deserve such a horrible fate other than simply live their lives as college students and be in the wrong place at the wrong time. And their blood, and their lives, deserve more than a good washing down of the walls and floors and some dopey convocation where college administrators, counselors and psychologists eulogize those who died and pat the survivors on the shoulder in empathy, saying it’s all going to be OK.

Because it’s not. Not the students. Not the university. Not this country.

First of all, the university has blood on their hands. When parents send their young sons and daughters off to college, there should be some satisfaction that the school has in place procedures and personnel to do whatever they can to ensure the safety of their student population. Now, if Billy dies after drinking two fifths of vodka in some frat house hazing stunt, or if Suzie gets pregnant after getting drunk and passing out while on spring break, that’s a whole ‘nuther thing entirely. But when you’re on college grounds on a lazy Monday morning and there’s shooting and killing taking place in a 2-hour timeframe in two separate locations resulting in the deaths of almost three dozen students, something is amiss, and it isn’t just with the bastard that did the shooting.

So, President Steger, excuse me if I see your jumping into this “healing process” as just a little bit premature and not more than a little bit self-serving.

Dennis Prager, a syndicated radio talk-show host has published a column on Townhall.com entitled “You’re Dead; I’m Healing”, and his column is absolutely spot on. This particular excerpt really cuts to the chase:

It is foolish because one does not speak about healing the same day (or week or perhaps even month) that one is traumatized — especially by evil. One must be allowed time for anger and grief. To speak of healing and “closure” before one goes through those other emotions is to speak not of healing but of suppression.

Not to allow people time to experience their natural, and noble, instincts to feel rage and grief actually deprives them of the ability to heal in the long run. After all, if there is no rage and grief, what is there to heal from?

Personally, I don’t want to heal now. I want to feel rage at the monster who slaughtered all those young innocent people at Virginia Tech. And I want to grieve over those innocents’ deaths.

This whole notion of instant healing (like its twin, instant forgiveness) is also morally wrong.

First, it is narcissistic. It focuses on me and my pain, not on the murderer and the murdered.

Second, it is almost obscene to talk of our healing when the bodies of the murdered are still lying in their blood on the very spot they were slaughtered. Our entire focus of attention must be on them and on the unspeakable suffering of their loved ones, not on the pain of the student body and the Virginia Tech “community.”

This notion of instant healing and preoccupation with the feelings of the peripherally involved, as opposed to the feelings of the directly hurt and anger over the evil committed, are functions of the psychotherapeutic culture in which we live.

What seems to be missing in all of the news coverage is the sheer magnitude of evil involved in the atrocity that was committed. This is no mere unfortunate interruption of a university’s collegiate life – this was, and remains, a large-scale interruption of the lives of nearly three dozen young men and women – men and woman about to be buried in the ground and cremated into ashes placed into plastic bags long before their time. And that’s only (if “only” is the proper word here) those who were killed – there are men and women gravely and slightly wounded, and hundreds of students whose lives will be affected psychologically over this. This was no tragedy, it was a massacre, and to call it otherwise, to try and pass it off as something to get over, get by, or get beyond through a return to “business as usual” is ludicrous.

What should the university do? What should we as a nation do? First of all, start by calling a spade a spade and identifying what went wrong. Close the university for at least a semester, if not the rest of the school year. Allow the students to get away, return to the security of their homes and loved ones and work on the grieving process in their own individual ways. The university itself has a lot of soul-searching and self-examination to do as far as making it safe for when the students return. As a nation, we need to look inward, at ourselves, and try and make some sense as to not just why things like this happen, but why we’re in such denial that we feel we need to get on with our lives so quickly. There should be days of mourning, churches should have services, funerals should be televised, the students who died have their stories told, and families should have time together to share their feelings about this experience with their children. It is a time for our nation to come together against the forces of evil that want us to become even more immune and anesthetized to the evil that lurks around us.

And there’s something else weird at work here. I’ll leave it to Mr. Prager for the last word that sums up just about everything I’m feeling today:

Why is the Virginia Tech murderer always referred to as the “gunman” and not the “murderer”? Had he stabbed a dozen students to death, would he be the “knifeman”?

And why is it always referred to as a “tragedy”? Virginia Tech wasn’t hit by a cyclone. That would be a tragedy. This was evil. Call it that.

The only way something good comes out of this is if what happened at Virginia Tech causes this nation to take a cold, hard look at what we’ve become as a society and a culture, and ask why those so close to the blood, the death, and the wounded should be so quick to have us start dialoging our way through the grieving process when there are far more important questions to discuss first.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 01:14 | Comments Off on Not Moving On Yet
April 17, 2007

From dictionary.com, a definition of evil:

1. morally wrong or bad; immoral; wicked: evil deeds; an evil life.
2. harmful; injurious: evil laws.
3. characterized or accompanied by misfortune or suffering; unfortunate; disastrous: to be fallen on evil days.
4. due to actual or imputed bad conduct or character: an evil reputation.
5. marked by anger, irritability, irascibility, etc.: He is known for his evil disposition.
–noun 6. that which is evil; evil quality, intention, or conduct: to choose the lesser of two evils.
7. the force in nature that governs and gives rise to wickedness and sin.
8. the wicked or immoral part of someone or something: The evil in his nature has destroyed the good.
9. harm; mischief; misfortune: to wish one evil.
10. anything causing injury or harm: Tobacco is considered by some to be an evil.
11. a harmful aspect, effect, or consequence: the evils of alcohol.
12. a disease, as king’s evil.
13. in an evil manner; badly; ill: It went evil with him.
14. the evil one, the devil; Satan.

There are no other words to describe what happened today at Virginia Tech. Sure, the media in the days to come will examine in great detail what happened, why it happened, and what the university could have done better to limit the carnage that took place today, in some sad and pathetic attempt to rationalize and make sense of what happened. And to some, that may be relevant, but not to me. For make no mistake about it, just as what happened on 9/11, in Beslan, in Littleton, CO, and in Paradise, PA, what transpired today in Blacksburg, VA is evil in our presence. And just as sometimes acts of pure goodness – such as forgiving someone who has done you an incredible wrong or injustice – cannot be understood in their entirety, neither can acts of pure, unadulterated evil.

And it should be recognized and called as such.

What happened today, when you come right down to it, has nothing to do with the politics of gun control, or someone who was misundertood, or angry, or disengaged from society in any number of dysfunctional ways. It is evil, a sad but essential part of the human condition; as disheartening, sad, irrational, and grevious in its scope as any other number of tragedies are, both great and small, highly publicized or ignored. There is no region, country, city, or town immune from it, and any one us could be next. It is only the sheer numbers of people we share our lives with on a regular basis that either reduces or increases our odds of being victimized in a similar fashion. In life, there is no safe place. There is only our relationships with our Creator and each other – those whom we love and those who love us in return – that truly matter, for it is there where the sole reason for our existence, and the only incentive for plodding forward in a world where so many things happen that cannot be understood no matter how you look it it, lies.

We live in a world in desperate need of prayer, and tonight prayers go out, and candles are lit, not only for the victims of today’s massacre and their families who grieve their loss – for they most surely ought to be in everyone’s thoughts and prayers – but for a world in which events like this seem to have lost their inherent ability to shock in the evil it both symbolizes and represents.

Make no mistake about it – there is such a thing as good and evil. And today provides us an all too real and all too horrific portrayal of the evil that indeed walks amongst us. The world will watch then go about its business. And Satan laughs and God weeps.

Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord; and by thy great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night; for the love of thy only Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. – The Collect for Aid Against all Perils, Book of Common Prayer, p. 70

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 01:33 | Comments (4)
April 16, 2007

Boston’s North End is one of my all-time favorite places to visit: the sights, the sounds, the aroma of Italian food and pastries filling the air, the closeness of the waterfront, and just the feeling of history and community that pervades every square foot of the place. You don’t have to be Italian to enjoy it, and increasingly, the North End isn’t just for Italians anymore, as it’s becoming quite the trendy place for single professionals to live.

For years the North End lived in the shadows of Boston’s Central Artery – the highway that served to cut the neighborhood off from the rest of the city. But thanks to the taxpayers of the U.S.A., who footed the whopping 14.6 billion (yes, Gertrude, that’s “b” as in billion) pricetag for what became known as the “Big Dig”, the North End has been reunited with its host city, and there are big plans in store to publicize the end of the Big Dig’s construction:

Long an attraction for tourists who came for an Italian meal and to see historical sites like the church where lanterns set Paul Revere on his midnight ride, the North End is being touted by promoters who want to forge a new image of a retail paradise where high-end shopping goes hand-in-hand with old world charm.

Promoters plan next month to blanket area hotels, restaurants, and tourist sites with 25,000 brochures and maps of the neighborhood’s attractions. Television spots are to be filmed over the next several weeks featuring neighborhood fire fighters, police officers, cooks, and residents who say, “This is my North End.” The slogan is meant to depict the neighborhood as a place where everyone can find something they like.

I think it’s a fantastic idea, and one that should pay great dividends. Of course, there’s always the danger that, the more people who hear about the North End and want to come in for a visit, the more likely they’ll discover my own personal favorite Italian restaurant, Pagliuca’s, on Parmenter Street (shhh! don’t tell anyone!). The veal there is fantastic, their marinara is to die for, and, with a glass or two of the house chianti and an antipasto, and baby, you be living! Oh, and did I mention the bread? Oh, the bread! Which reminds me, why is it so difficult to get decent Italian bread out here in Phoenix? But I digress…

Of course, not everyone is pleased about this newfangled publicity campaign. After all, nothing stays the same, and for this historic part of Boston, as Bob Dylan once sang, the times, they are a’ changin’:

…Still, some longtime residents fear that the transition will further dilute the neighborhood culture.

“The old charm is gone,” Sal Fiamma, 72 , said as he took a break from the Rome-Manchester soccer game and stood outside Caffe dello Sport, wearing a brown tie, vest, and driving cap. “The butcher shops are going, one by one . . . and whiskey is not sold like it used to be. White wine has taken over, and all those stupid drinks like fruit martinis.”

Stupid drinks like fruit martinis…I gotta admit, Mr. Fiamma has a point there.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:30 | Comments (4)
April 15, 2007

“When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’ But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’ Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.”
John 20:19-31

Growing up, and even after my conversion experience back in 1994, I loved the resurrection stories of the weeks that followed Easter Sunday. Not only was the message and the imagery so powerful, but the sheer mystery of it all – so unreal, so fantastic to picture in one’s imagination – left a mark that has never left me. This particular reading, from the Gospel of John, I have always found particularly powerful – not only for its mystery and imagery, but for the underlying message of love and hope it contains.

Consider the scene John paints: it is two days after Jesus’ crucifixion, and his disciples are gathered together in a house. The room is candlelit, the tight surroundings made all the more claustrophobic by the events of the past two days – events they themselves chose to witness from afar. The conversation is animated and passionate, the emotions amplified by the puzzling events reported to them from that morning with the discovery of the Empty Tomb. It’s easy for us – two thousand years hence and knowing how the story ‘ends’, so to speak – to imprint upon that gathering our own suppositions and critiques, but consider the facts: the leader of this group has recently been crucified, and it’s no stretch to think his disciples feel as if they themselves remain in danger, since those familar with Jesus’ movement would also be well aware of the identities of his followers. And it’s not just Jesus they have lost – their fellow disciple Judas has not only been revealed as a betrayer, but is also dead, by his own hands. Taken together, this group that had put all their hopes, dreams, and passions behind a charismatic leader is now, in every way, a ship without a rudder – or, more accurately, a ship without even a body of water to sail on.

And then Jesus appears before them, bearing the scars and wounds of his torture and death. To those seeing this, it must be all at once an amazing, marvelous (and somewhat gruesome) sight to behold, for his very wounds are evidence of an experience none of his disciples had the courage to witness. After all, at the first sign of trouble, upon Jesus’ arrest, they all pretty much fled and hid, fearing for their own safety. One could, I suppose, hardly blame Jesus if the first words he expressed to them were not, “Peace be with you”, but, “Where the hell were you guys – the first sign of trial and tribulation, and you scatter like rabbits?”

But he did not – not to them, not to us. For the words Jesus utters, “Peace be with you”, are words not just for his disciples, but for all of us who have ever rejected, forgotten, or abandoned the Lord at the first sign of trouble and travail in each of our own lives. And when we ourselves isolate ourselves from humanity, or turn inward, or away, from God, there is Jesus – ready, willing, and able to appear before each of us, offering the same message of reassurance, peace, and hope. To his disciples (especially Thomas), who probably carried more emotional baggage than the cargo hold of a full-loaded Boeing 757, Jesus’ message was not some guarantee that everything was going to be flowers and candy from here on out – far from it, as each of the disciples would take their own turn when it came to persecution, suffering, and even death in the years to come – but a message of reassurance and peace of spirit. The same way He comes to each of us who are willing to open our hearts and minds and take His message to heart. Whatever is past, is past. Peace be with you.

For each of us, our own personal Easter resurrection awaits – not only in the life to come, but in the precious days, weeks, months, and years each of us has left in this life. But such a resurrection is only possible if we are are humble and willing of heart to allow the Risen Lord into our own houses, into our own hearts. He cares not the past rejections, disobediences, and failures; He only wants us to believe in Him and experience for ourselves the joy, peace and grace that a life in Christ has to offer. We need not see and feel his wounds to do so – we have plenty of our own to deal with, thank you. But we can have faith and believe, and through that belief, as the Gospel passage above states, have newness of life in His name.

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 01:32 | Comment (1)
April 14, 2007

b2 A couple of weeks ago, I picked five great Beatles’ 45s; here are five more to round out a Top Ten lsit of the Fab Four’s best 45 RPM singles:

1) Hello Goodbye/I Am The Walrus (1967)

Has there ever been a more eclectic coupling of tunes on a tiny platter of plastic? Paul’s harmless and innocuous “Hello Goodbye” is the kind of pop confection ‘dude could write in his sleep – and in this case, he probably did. I never much liked the hokey violin that sounds like one of Aunt Edna’s fifth-grade music students doing scales, but after the final verse, there’s a cool sustained organ that appears out of the background (you can hear it at the fade just before the son’s “Maori Dance” tag). And how ’bout those drums on the tag – worthy of the best of Adam Ant twenty years hence.

The only thing I’ll say about “I Am The Walrus” is that it’s one of my favorite Beatles cuts simply because it’s so weird. A quick story: back in the early ’70s, our hi-fi (that’s right, the kind in one of those standing cabinets!) needed fixing, and the repair guy comes over. To test whether his fix worked, he turns on the stereo and lays the needle down on the record that just so happened to be on the turntable. It was the “Magical Mystery Tour” album, and it just so happens he lays the needle down towards the ending of “I Am The Walrus” with all of its chaos and wacky, distorted noise. He tells me there’s still something wrong with the stereo, and that he’ll have to replace the needle because the sound was so awful!

2) If I Fell/And I love Her (1964)

A marvelous snippet of Beatlemania, acoustic style. Two love songs from the Fab Four’s smash “A Hard Day’s Night” motion picture and LP, two timeless and lovely melodies that serve as a precursor of even better things to come…

3) Get Back/Don’t Let Me Down (1969)

“Get Back” is another of those Beatles cuts producer George Martin would fondly call a “potboiler”. I’ve always thought the sonic quality of the record seemed a little too clean and clinical to me, but Lennon plays some marvelous answering lead guitar throughout, and the late Billy Preston‘s tasteful fills and funky solo on electric piano give it a unique sound. Lennon’s passionate “Don’t Let Me Down” not only provides a glimpse into his relationship with Yoko Ono, but also shows just how far apart he and his former songwriting partner have drifted. Features more fine Preston electric piano fills, but the instrumental star of this cut is McCartney’s big and fat melodious bass lines, running up and down behind the keyboards and guitars.

4) The Ballad of John and Yoko/Old Brown Shoe (1969)

“The Ballad of John and Yoko”, Lennon’s travelogue of his and Yoko’s exploits in their attempt to get married, actually features only John (guitar, piano, and percussion) and Paul (drums and bass) – Lennon was so keen to get it out, and George and Ringo weren’t around, so there you have it. Known primarily for it being banned in the U.S. for Lennon using “Christ” in the lyrics (as in, “Christ, you know it ain’t easy…), it’s still a solid, good-natured rocker. Harrison’s “Old Brown Shoe” is a fine “B” side – one of the Beatles’ most unsung, in my view – featuring a rollicking tack piano rhythm and more virtuoso bass playing from McCartney.

5) I Feel Fine/She’s A Woman (1964)

One of the more obscure Beatles 45s, perhaps, but one of my favorites. “I Feel Fine”, with its opening feedback guitar, features Lennon and Harrison milking a fine riff for all its worth, and some exotic Ringo rhythm on the verses. This is the one song, I feel, most hurt by the all-too clean process of digital remastering, as it sounds completely different on CD than it does on the “Beatles ’65” album upon which it was released in the U.S. McCartney’s “She’s A Woman” features a driving rhythm, some awkward rhymes in the lyrics department, but nevertheless is solid, reflecting the early stages of a move away from the innocent themes associated with Beatlemania to the more mature sounds that would arrive with “Help!” and “Rubber Soul”.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:10 | Comments Off on 5 More Great Beatles 45s
April 13, 2007

* This post from Ed Morrissey at Captain Quarters ought to give everyone pause. Whether it’s through legal means or the voting booth, if this country doesn’t wake up soon and see the so-called “progressives” on the Left as the anti-Christian bigots they are, we’re gonna be in a whole heaping amount of trouble.

* And it should come as no surprise that the so-called “progressive” Left is not just anti-Christian, but anti-Semitic as well. (And that goes for you too, Jimmy Carter.)

* What the heck is wrong with Coco Crisp? Not only does he seem lost at the plate (his bat speed looks slower than a Tim Wakefield knuckler), but he appears to have lost whatever emotional spark he had for playing the game. If he’s still in this funk a month from now, the Sox might do well to cut their losses and see what they can get for him, even if it’s for just a bag of balls.

* The homicide bomber who “got past” Iraqi security to blow himself up in the Iraq Parliament cafeteria should be a warning to to all supporters of the President’s “surge” strategy. Increasingly, it is difficult to distinguish between the good guys and the bad guys, and attacks like this will only make things worse.

* Speaking of Iraq and the concerns over who is really winning there, you can’t beat the reporting of the fantastic and courageous Michael Yon, whose latest dispatch tells of the challenges faced by British troops holed down in Basra. Gritty, first-hand reporting. (Hat tip: Hugh Hewitt)

* When will the mainstream dino-media finally see the so-called “Twin Reverends” Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson for the charlatans and insufferable blowhards they are. Any African-American who truly believes these clowns represent anyone else’s interests except their own ought to get their head examined.

* At least I have no concerns when it comes to global warming. One question for those so-called “climate experts” who base their dire predictions on computer models: if the computer models used by meteorologists today can’t even accurately predict the weather three days hence, what makes you think they’re any more reliable for forecasts forty or fifty years down the line. Riddle me that!

Filed in: Golf & Sports,Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 01:27 | Comments Off on A Plethora of Concerns
April 12, 2007

Yesterday, I posted on the Don Imus controversy and his crude comments about the Rutgers women’s basketball team – comments that, BTW, ended up getting him fired from his MSNBC gig today. Next to controversies involving race and racial stereotypes, most people, I suppose, would probably agree that comments that either poke fun at or criticize someone’s sexual orientation are next on the lightning rod scale. (Something Ann Coulter discovered several weeks ago.)

You’ve got to hand it to all the gay and lesbian activist groups out there: with the help of the sexual revolution, Hollywood, and their liberal consorts in the mainstream dino-media, they’ve been able to successfully steer the national conversation about homosexuality away from morality and individual behavior to tolerance and victimization, to the effect that anything anyone says about homosexuality as practiced behavior in any kind of negative fashion immediately gets you tarred as a homophobe.

The same is true in the Episcopal Church and other mainline Protestant churches, where activist groups have been able to steer any kind of conversation about homosexuality and homosexual behavior away from morality and the teachings of Holy Scripture and towards the need for tolerance and “full inclusion” (their words) in the Church. What does this mean? It means that baptism – a sacrament open to all desiring a discipleship with Jesus Christ with no restriction when it comes to sexual orientation – is no longer good enough. Instead, gays and lesbians (and that means all gays and lesbians, regardless of their personal behaviors and lifestyle choices) must be give full access to all the sacraments of the Church – including ordination and marriage – regardless of the fact that these sacraments in partcular have always taken into account certain aspects of a person’s character and their individual lifestyle choices.

How successful have gay and lesbian activist groups like Integrity been in shifting the dialogue in the Episcopal Church? So successful that the head of the Anglican Communion, the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams, says that the churches of the Anglican Communion must be “safe places” for gay and lesbian people – as if in some unheard of way (at least to my ears) these churches have been places of danger, peril, or persection for gays and lesbians. In fact, Dr. Williams’ comments are both laughable and absurd on their face, as no group in today’s Western Anglican Churches have been kow-towed to so much as gays and lesbians. In fact, the sad truth is, as David Virtue so eloquently points out, it’s not gays and lesbians that need safe places in today’s Episcopal Church, it’s the poor saps who still believe in such archaic notions as the teachings of Holy Scripture, personal morality, and the holiness of the Church’s sacraments:

In 300 years of American Episcopal Church history, there has never been a single sign outside an Episcopal Church in the U.S. reading; “Gays not Welcome…go join the Metropolitan Community Church.” You never will see one. When an Episcopal Church announces it is an “inclusive” or “rainbow church,” what it is actually saying is that this parish will tolerate non-celibate homosexual relationships which is contrary to Holy Scripture, The Prayer Book, tradition and history. If a parish does not wave the flag of inclusivity, it is automatically assumed to be filled with bigots, hate-mongers, homophobes and fundamentalists. This is an outrageous lie.

Just look at what is happening in the Diocese of Colorado. A highly successful evangelical rector, with seventeen years of experience, at a church of 2,500 who has preached a clear unequivocal gospel all those years, was given an eviction notice by his bishop on grounds so thin you could skip communion wafers across a baptismal font. The Bishop, Robert O’Neill, has no more ability to build a church of that size with his “gospel” of inclusion than [controversial liberal theologian John Shelby] Spong could build a diocese. In point of fact, [Spong’s former] Diocese of Newark is falling apart so fast, and parish-giving declining so rapidly, it cannot pay its assessment to the national church!

Now, Virtue has heard his share of “homphobe” accusations in the past, and while even he would likely admit his verbiage often borders on the controversial and flammable, he remains both defiant and committed, knowing there’s more than a grain of truth in what he says.

The Ace over at Polipundit blog also isn’t afraid of the slings and arrows, and has posted a well-written and thoughtful post on homosexuality from a conservative’s perspective. While I can’t say I agree with everything he has written 100% (though it’s pretty close), I think anytime you can take the emotion out of it, avoid personal attacks, and look at such a politically divisive issue from a variety of perspectives as The Ace does, it’s worthy of consideration and debate. Regardless of what side of the fence you might be on (pun intended), it’s well worth checking out.

Filed in: Politics & World Events,Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 01:39 | Comments Off on Conservatives, Orthodoxy, and Homosexuality


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