December 21, 2007

Got this e-mail from my folks the other day and got a good chuckle over this. I hope it helps bring a few laughs to your holiday season.

——————————————————–

CHRISTMAS CAKE RECIPE

You’ll need the following:

1 cup of water
1 cup of sugar
4 large brown eggs
2 cups of dried fruit
1 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of brown sugar
Lemon juice
Nuts
1 bottle of whisky

1) Sample the whisky to check for quality. Take a large bowl. Check the whisky again. To be sure it’s the highest quality, pour one level cup and drink. Repeat.

2) Turn on the electric mixer, beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl. Add one teaspoon of sugar and beat again. Make sure the whisky is still OK.

3) Cry another tup. Tune up the mixer. Beat two leggs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit. Mix on the turner. If the fired druit gets stuck in the beaterers, pry it goose with a drewscriver.

4) Sample the whisky to check for tonsisticity. Next, sift two cups of salt. Or something – who cares?

5) Check the whisky. Now sift the lemon juice and strain your nuts. Add one table. Spoon the sugar or something. Whatever you can find. Grease the oven. Turn the cake tin to 350 degrees. Don’t forget to beat off the turner.

6) Throw the bowl out of the window. Check the whisky again and go to bed.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:53 | Comments Off on Holly Jolly Christmas
December 20, 2007

Let the word go forth from this time and place: the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, is a fool.

Not to mention a smarmy, clueless, cold-hearted elitist who really ought to know better.

This so-called “leader of the flock” of Anglicans worldwide, who sits in his ivory tower contemplating his navel while his Communion implodes and lurches ever closer to schism (if not disintegration) with each passing day, could have used a recent BBC radio interview to discuss intelligently the challenges facing the Anglican church worldwide, or used that venue to offer a hopeful, uplifting message about what it means to be an Anglican or what it means for humankind that God took it upon Himself to be made flesh and dwell among us – ya know, the Christmas story, right? But no, what does he do? He uses the occasion to trash the Christmas story and mock the historic Christmas traditions of the Church for everyone to see:

The Archbishop of Canterbury said yesterday that the Christmas story of the Three Wise Men was nothing but a ‘legend’.

Dr Rowan Williams has claimed there was little evidence that the Magi even existed and there was certainly nothing to prove there were three of them or that they were kings.

Dr Williams argued that the traditional Christmas story was nothing but a ‘legend’

He said the only reference to the wise men from the East was in Matthew’s gospel and the details were very vague.

Dr Williams said: “Matthew’s gospel says they are astrologers, wise men, priests from somewhere outside the Roman Empire, that’s all we’re really told. It works quite well as legend.”

The Archbishop went on to dispel other details of the Christmas story, adding that there were probably no asses or oxen in the stable.

The Archbishop also discounted the whole idea of Jesus being born on December 25th, and snow on the ground, and all that kind of stuff. All of which may be true and readily apparent to those of us who have studied the Gospels and the history and traditions by which Christianity found its practicing form way back when. But you don’t start loosly tossing around words like “legend” when you’re talking about the Gospels and cherished stories that are part of the faith traditions of the Christian religion – especially if you’re the freakin’ leader of a worldwide Church, for God’s sake. I mean, doesn’t this doofball have any sense of warmth, or joy, or sense of purpose and position? Does EVERYTHING that spews from his mouth have to be so cold and scholarly to make sure everyone knows how sophisticated and academic he is? I mean, if you want to compare the (for lack of a better term) “truths” about Christianity’s foundations with the traditions of the season, you can find a way to do so without being so cold and careless about it.

One can only wonder if left to his designs whether he would go on to question the Virgin Birth and the Baby Jesus. I have my own suspicions.

At a time when the historical traditions and teachings of Christianity are under fire from so many quarters in the Anglican Communion – particularly over the issue of homosexuality – to the point where the very continued existence of a unified, worldwide Communion seems less and less likely with each passing day, the last thing the Anglican Communion needs is to have its recognized leader give the enemies of the Christian faith (and there are many) even more ammunition. Dr. Williams continues to reveal himself as nothing more than a pompous blowhard with no positive message of hope for humankind or even his Church.

Don’t believe me? Contrast the message his interview puts across with, for example, Pope Benedict XVI’s recent Christmas message – tell me, which person would YOU rather have leading your faith?

Dr. Williams may very well be totally qualified as a distinguished scholar and academic for the position he holds, but he is an embarrassment to the Anglican Communion and as a worldwide leader of the Christian faith – just one more reason why Anglo-Catholics like myself wonder whether being an Anglican (or, in my case, an Episcopalian) means anything or is even worth it anymore.

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 01:59 | Comment (1)
December 19, 2007

holly So close to Christmas, and yet the burdens of work make it seem so far away. Today I found a lovely poem by one John Betjeman here. It sure helped get me “in the spirit” a bit in its conjuring up of visions of merry old England in all its Dickensian Yuletide splendor. I hope you enjoy it:

The bells of waiting Advent ring,
The Tortoise stove is lit again
And lamp-oil light across the night
Has caught the streaks of winter rain.
In many a stained-glass window sheen
From Crimson Lake to Hooker’s Green.

The holly in the windy hedge
And round the Manor House the yew
Will soon be stripped to deck the ledge,
The altar, font and arch and pew,
So that villagers can say
‘The Church looks nice’ on Christmas Day.

Provincial public houses blaze
And Corporation tramcars clang,
On lighted tenements I gaze
Where paper decorations hang,
And bunting in the red Town Hall
Says ‘Merry Christmas to you all’

And London shops on Christmas Eve
Are strung with silver bells and flowers
As hurrying clerks the City leave
To pigeon-haunted classic towers,
And marbled clouds go scudding by
The many-steepled London sky.

And girls in slacks remember Dad,
And oafish louts remember Mum,
And sleepless children’s hearts are glad,
And Christmas morning bells say ‘Come!’
Even to shining ones who dwell
Safe in the Dorchester Hotel.

And is it true? and is it true?
The most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window’s hue,
A Baby in an ox’s stall?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me?

And is it true? For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant.

No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare –
That God was Man in Palestine
And lives to-day in Bread and Wine.

Lots of other lovely Christmas poems can be found at this site as well. Cheers!

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:27 | Comments Off on A Christmas Poem
December 18, 2007

The Anchoress has this lovely round-up of various monastic communities that are growing as a result of their ability to attract new members from young men and women. One of the communities she references mentions the addition of one young man in particular with a link to his blog, which he is now putting aside to pursue his vocation. As a farewell post, he leaves his readers with this lovely blessing:

May God bless you and protect you from all evil. May our Blessed Mother watch over you and lead you always nearer to her son, Jesus Christ. Led by the Holy Spirit, may you always seek Christ with sincerity of heart. Place all your confidence in His love for you and always trust in His infinite mercy.

Indeed. Is it OK to say I am jealous? Oh yeah, envy is a sin. Still, I wish would keep his blog, if only to include outsiders in his own journey with Christ. I have no doubt it would be interesting reading.

I invite you to check out all these links – they’re definitely worth a read, especially during this Advent season.

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 12:47 | Comments (3)
December 17, 2007

mary After spending the last two Saturdays attending St. Anne Catholic Community, I can honestly say I’ve finally found a place where I can truly worship God with a sense of awe and purity I have not been able to experience for a long, long time. Being a Catholic church, it has a large number of people attending a large building for Mass, and, initially, I’ll admit to being intimidated by it all. But slowly, I’ve come to appreciate the “largeness” of the assembly, for it affords me the opportunity to simply “be present” and enjoy the anonymity of being just one Episcopalian in a sea of Roman Catholics, if you know what I mean.

Primarily, it means not having all the baggage and history of my various Episcopal church experiences encroaching on my thoughts and soul during the service and thus polluting the experience. I can, for once, attend church for the enjoyment of it and simply worship God as one of His wounded, hungry, and thirsty children, rather than as a communicant of a particular denomination in the midst of all sorts of chaos. The stability of it all is refreshing, and the difference feels striking.

While it is difficult, I suppose, to not be able to totally immerse one’s self and participate in the Mass by receiving the Lord’s Body and Blood at this point in my own spiritual journey, it seems far more important right now to have a place where my restless and battered soul can find a calm and soothing place for simply experiencing and feeling God’s love and healing grace and presence.

But that’s not the whole story. Being particularly attuned to liturgical practice and interested in the way various religious worship traditions are arranged, there are also a number of things that make attending St. Anne particularly enjoyable. For example:

* I like having the opportunity to bless one’s self with holy water upon entering the church. This creates a “separation” of one’s sinful self from the outside world and helps prepare you mentally for the holy ritual and tradition that will shortly take place.

* I like the tradition of having people greeting one another before Mass begins. It reinforces the feeling of community and creates a sense of intimacy in the midst of a large gathering.

* I like the amount of touching that takes place during Mass. You have everyone greeting one another before the service begins, the congregation holds hands during the Lord’s Prayer, then the greeting during the Peace prior to the Eucharist.

* I like the various invocations of the Saints throughout worship. One small example: yesterday a Cub Scout received some religious medal for his work in attaining his Cub Scout badge, and the congregation was reminded that St. George is the patron saint of Scouting (who knew?) by the prayer made to him during the rewarding of the medal to the young man. The saints have always been important to me theologically, and this feeds that part of me.

* I like the soft scent of incense pumped through the Church’s ventilator system at various points during the Mass. For one thing, it’s more practical (the church being far too large to accommodate a procession through the entire congregation), but it feeds one of the senses and gives the proceedings a more intimate and monastic feel.

* I like how well the music is done. Some of it can occasionally be a little too modern for my taste, but one cannot argue the fact that music performed and sung exceedingly well glorifies God, no matter what form it takes.

* I like having the opportunity to bless one’s self again with holy water upon leaving the church. This seems to me an especially important ministry of the RC church, for it enables someone who cannot receive the Eucharist as a Roman Catholic to still feel and experience a blessing prior to one re-entering the outside world.

* I like the fact that the weekly bulletin is handed out as people leave the church, not as they arrive. Not only does this provide people something to read when they return home (therefore taking something from the Mass home with them), but it also sets the appropriate tone prior to worship: people can mediate or just relax, allowing the soft Gregorian chant being played to wash over them. The emphasis, then, is totally on preparing the individual for worship. As it should be.

I’ve always felt that in attending church, the focus should always be on worshipping God, and worshipping God alone. It should NOT be a social gathering, it should NOT be a stage for the priest or pastor to impose their own views and need for command and control on the congregation, and, more than anything else, it should be done well. Does this mean this Ango-Catholic is ready to “cross the Tiber”? Not just yet. But I will say this – the St. Anne Catholic Community appears to do well on all counts, and why (at least for now) I consider it my “home away from home” parish.

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 01:28 | Comments Off on The Tiber Waters Calm
December 16, 2007

Er, need a helping hand?

croc

…this is one of Reuters International’s pictures of the year. In this case, it’s a crocodile at a zoo in the southern Taiwan city of Kaohsiung holding the forearm of a zoo veterinarian in between its teeth. Back on April 11, the croc bit off the arm of the zoo veterinarian treating it, an official at the zoo reported. An amazing picture.

Yikes. I think I’ll stick to rabbits.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:26 | Comments Off on Picture For Your Day
December 15, 2007

psca Note: Given that it’s the season, I thought I’d link to this post from last year.

“A Christmas Gift To You” (a.k.a. “Phil Spector’s Christmas Album”) is a gem, and must-have for all classic rock audiophiles during the Christmas season. How good is it, you ask? Well, I’m in full agreement with The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson when he calls this album is “one of the top 5 rock albums ever made”. A stupid Christmas album one of the top 5 in rock history, you say? Well, it’s not just me and Brian, but check out this review by Herb Bowie at Reason to Rock:

Album Title: A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector – Rating: 5 Stars (Essential)

This is one of my favorite rock albums of all time. It benefits from a number of factors. First, the enforced discipline of only listening to it for a month or two out of the year keeps it fresh. Second, it is seemingly the only time that Spector got to produce a single album featuring all of the artists currently in his stable. Third, the use of traditional Christmas tunes frees Spector and the listener from the somewhat repetitive themes that ran through his original compositions (complete and selfless female adoration, young lovers wanting to get married, etc.). Fourth, the use of familiar Christmas songs allows Spector and his artists to focus on the rock arrangements and the recordings, which were really their strong suits anyway.

The result is a wonderful album. You can hear echoes of it in other rock Christmas recordings down through the years, such as Bruce Springsteen’s cover of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” which makes use of Spector’s arrangement. Every track features loving details, such as the big smooch at the beginning of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” and Darlene Love’s spoken additions to “White Christmas,” adding the perspective of someone in Los Angeles wishing to be in snowy country.

The overall effect is much more relaxed than much of the producer’s other work. Most of Spector’s other recordings were aimed squarely at the top 40, and the need to let out all the stops on every recording — to hit one out of the park every time up at bat — resulted in a body of work that feels a bit strained and repetitive. Also, most of Spector’s other recordings were geared specifically for the adolescent market, and many of the resulting lyrics haven’t aged well.

In contrast, this album feels like an attempt to reach a wider audience. On it Spector and company seem to be consciously demonstrating their powers, transforming the familiar tunes of an older America into something radically different, incorporating the values of a new musical aesthetic. The results are timeless works of art that maintain their charm and energy from year to year, even as other lesser works appear briefly and then fade from memory.

How could that be, you say? Well, first of all, keep in mind that this album is the epitomy of what Spector and his so-called “Wall of Sound” was all about – lots of percussion, LOTS of echo, fabulous arrangements, and top-notch performances by The Crystals and The Ronettes, above all else.

Me, I would recommend giving the album a serious listen at least twice – once as a Christmas album that reflects all the joy and wonder of the season, then, forgetting about the songs in a seasonal mode, just listen to the SONGS and the PRODUCTION behind them. And don’t forget to TURN IT UP for an incredible aural experience.

BTW, you can hear samples of what I’m talking about here.

Merry listening!

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:18 | Comments Off on Christmas In Mono (Redux)
December 14, 2007

Less than three weeks to go before the Iowa caucuses and the final debates are out of the way. So what’s going to happen? Can Mike Huckabee continue to ride the wave, or did he peak too soon? Will Fred Thompson’s fine performance at Wednesday’s debate and his upcoming two-week long bus trip across Iowa be enough to gain him footage to finish in the top 3?

On the Democrat side, can Barack Obama’s ascendency continue? Will Hillary Clinton’s campaign continue to struggle with its message and its uncanny ability to tork people off? Can John Edwards make hay by slipping quietly past as the two candidates above him in the polls jab at one another?

One thing is clear – the presidential election of 2008 is gonna be unlike any other in recent memory. With no incumbent or sitting VP in the race, it truly is wide open. Oh sure, there are polls left and right saying this and that, but the fact is, there’s still a long way to go in the primary process and anything – and I mean ANYTHING – can happen between now and March, when most of the primaries will be over with.

A few thoughts as we go forward:

1) Do not underestimate the “anti-everything having to do with Washington” crowd that exists on both sides of the political spectrum. Heck, Ron Paul’s ability to raise money (if not poll percentages) is just one example of the dissatisfaction that’s out there right now. Americans despise Congress and are tired of the shoddy and cheap partisan bickering that goes on day after day. Whoever can identify themselves as the freshest, most “outsider” candidate will have the best chance of capturing their respective party’s nomination.

Oh sure, Obama’s a sitting senator (as is Hillary!), but what Barack has going for him – believe it or not – is the LACK Of a record. Compared to Hillary, who, for better or for worse, HAS a record she can run on (whether that’s a good or bad thing is still to be decided), Obama is a fresh face who can no longer be underestimated by the Clintonistas anymore.

2) Governors typically stand a better chance of being elected than senators when it comes to the Presidency. The reason being, not only are they by definition “outsiders”, but they have a record they can run on. One of the reasons you don’t see a lot of senators being elected president is because they oftentimes don’t have much of a record to run on. After all, it’s hard to get excited about people who’s only claim to fame is “sponsoring legislation”.

But this year may be different. With Washington and the country so polarized politically after what seems a lifetime (remember, 8 years of W following 8 years of Bill), a senator (past or present) who can demonstrate an ability to bring people together and reach across the aisle to target hard issues head on might just capture the electorate’s attention. Here again is where someone like a Fred Thompson or Barack Obama might have an edge – both can make the argument that they have qualities most other candidates on either side don’t – which is, a burning desire to confront difficult issues offset by a self-deprecating personality.

3. There are still too many candidates running on both sides. It should be obvious to Duncan Hunter, Tom Tancredo, Bill Richardson, Chris Dodd, Dennis Kucinich, and Joe Biden that they stand NO CHANCE to get their party’s nomination, and all they’re doing right now is taking up space. It’ll be interesting to see where all their votes go as they gradually drop out of their respective races.

One thing is for sure, it’s gonna be an interesting next month or so. Because on both sides, it is still anyone’s race.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 01:12 | Comments (7)
December 13, 2007

Rather than have everyone waste their time watching today’s Democratic debate in Iowa, why don’t I just toss these Hillary Clinton quotes from the past at you. After all, unlike in the GOP race – where there truly are significant differences between several of the candidates – on the Democrtaic side, it’s just one big echo chamber. Here are a few of my favorite Hillary quotes:

1. “We’re going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good.”

2. “We must stop thinking of the individual and start thinking about what is best for society.”

3. “It’s time for a new beginning, for an end to government of the few, by the few, for the few, and to replace it with shared responsibility for shared prosperity.”

4. “We can’t just let business as usual go on, and that means something has to be taken away from some people.”

5. “We have to build a political consensus and that requires people to give up a little bit of their own turf in order to create this common ground.”

6. “I certainly think the free market has failed.”

7. “I think it’s time to send a clear message to what has become the most profitable sector [oil] in the entire economy, that they are being watched.”

8. “What I want to do is take those profits and apply them to alternative energy.”

Like the MasterCard commercial says, Priceless.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 13:12 | Comments Off on Hillary Again
December 12, 2007

Lets face it – the race for the Democratic nominee for President can’t hold a candle to the GOP when it comes to intrigue. Oh, I suppose all the stories about Hillary’s floundering campaign make for good reading, but frankly, I’ll believe it when I see it. Oprah campaigning for Barack Obama? Interesting, I guess, if you follow Oprah and her kind of schtick. Don’t get me wrong – no one can disagree that Oprah is a cultural icon here in the USA and that Barack gaining her endorsement is quite a quill in his quiver – especially when it comes to trying to nudge African-American off of their cock-eyed infatuation for the Clintons. But in the end, does anyone REALLY believe the powers-that-be in the Democratic Party will give up their two most popular and powerful political and fundraising icons – THE BILL AND HILL SHOW – for some whippersnapping upstart like Barack Obama? I don’t. And, in time, neither will most Democrats.

Let’s face it – Hillary Clinton has been nuzzled, primmed, and coddled for this day in the sun. This election is her baby to win or to lose; it’s her destiny, her right, her privilege, and, most importantly, her REWARD for not being shown live on TV throwing her husband’s clothes out of a second-story window at the White House the day it was revealed her philanderin’ husband did, in fact, have an affair with a White House intern. She sucked it up, triangulated blame for Bill’s behavior on that dreaded “right-wing” conspiracy, and stood by her man when most people in her position would have ripped the guy a new groin and formally announced she had changed the locks on the Oval Office and the nuclear codes and given them both to Al Gore, since he’s “someone you can at least trust”. Nope, they say payback is a bitch, and….well I won’t go there. Suffice to say, everything happening now is just window dressing to ensure it all plays well in – sorry, Barack – Peoria.

Forget about what happens in Iowa. Barck Obama might win there, but that’s just so he can make a good showing for his inevitable place as Hillary’s running mate. Mark my words, what some are reading as weakness is, in fact, strength: the Democrats know Americans don’t want some so-called “inevitable candidate” who is in first place from the beginning to the end of the electoral process – heck, that’s more than two years time! No, Americans like a good show, a good race they can discuss, debate, and be interested in. And that’s what Barack is giving right now. His role is to wipe that “inevitability” shine away from Hillary so she can run as the “comeback kid”, the political fighter who is able to persevere so she can fight for the American people. Of course it’s all bullshit. But like the saying goes, you can’t bullshit a bullshitter, and that’s what the Clintons are. And, by the way, they’re VERY good at what they do. Very good.

So forget about John Edwards and his “two Americas”, us against them nonsense. And forget about Bill Richardson, and Chiris Dodd, and Joe Biden – these guys are all bit players in a pre-fab, pre-conceived, long-planned, and, yes, inevitable, coronation for Hillary Clinton.

I’m not normally much for conspiracy theories, but when it comes to the Democrats, their allies in the mainstream dino-media, and CNN, there is no room for anyone else on the Party’s 2008 presidential ballot – it’s Hillary!, and everyone involved is simply playing their own little role to make sure the Clintons get back to the White House. They all know the rewards for putting up and shutting up will be significant. And when that happens, heaven help us all.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 01:00 | Comments Off on The Race Is On – Democrats

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