May 31, 2008

…so says Mel Brooks after the passing of comedian Harvey Korman, who died yesterday at the age of 81. Remembered most fondly for his work alongside sidekick Tim Conway on the Carol Burnett show and in Mel Brooks’ film “Blazing Saddles”, my favorite role of his was in another of Brooks’ films – the hilarious Alfred Hitchcock-spoof “High Anxiety”, still my favorite Mel Brooks film of all time.

Which reminds me of that classic scene in “High Anxiety” where Brooks does a bit as a schlocky lounge singer, singing the tune “High Anxiety”. The lyrics are a howl:

High Anxiety – whenever you’re near,
High Anxiety – it’s you that I fear.
My heart’s afraid to fly, it’s crashed before.
But then you take my hand, and my heart starts to soar
Once more. . . Key change!

High Anxiety – it’s always the same.
Oooh… ‘Xiety- it’s you that I blame.
It’s very clear to me, I’ve got to give in!
High Anxiety – you win!

I sure would have loved to had sung that song in one of our Masonic Lodge variety shows!

But I digress.

Rest in peace, Harvey Korman – you made this world a happier place, and Brooks is right – the world will be a more serious place without you.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:36 | Comment (1)
May 30, 2008

dave “Welcome to the Dave Ramsey Show, where debt is dumb, cash is king, and the paid-off home mortgage has replaced the BMW as the status symbol of choice.”

So begins every Dave Ramsey Show on the Fox Business Network. And I am so totally into Dave right now, it ain’t funny. Not only because his message (all debt – especially credit cards, student loans, and auto loans – is bad and must be paid off as quickly as possible and avoided at all cost after that) is so appealing to someone who has lived under a mountain of debt all his adult life, but because in this day and age it is such an important message more people need to take to heart.

I’m of the belief that the American economy and our American way is life is in the first stages of a major correction unlike anything since The Great Depression – a correction that is going to change the way we live forever. Sure, most people are focusing right now on the cost of gasoline and the decline in the housing market, but there are more significant changes taking place at the same time, such as:

1. The graying of the baby boomers, many of whom haven’t a clue as to how they’ll be able to afford retirement;

2. Our increasing average life spans, meaning you can have baby boomers spending 20-30 years – or more – in their retirements;

3. The offshoring of American jobs overseas – I can tell you a few stories about that!

4. An American economy increasingly dependent upon services and Americans having plenty of spending money to go around;

5. Governments at the state and national level placing increasing burdens on Americans in the form of taxes, fees, and unnecessary regulations, all of which serve to take more money out of peoples wallets and away from a services-based economy already starting to see reduced spending by American consumers;

6. The fracturing of the family unit and the decline of our moral framework and those institutions that once protected that framework.

Look, it doesn’t take an economist to figure out that there a lot of people who are, whether by choice or not, living from paycheck to paycheck under the assumption that paycheck will always be there. And it doesn’t take a genius to figure out, therefore, that the American economy is basically a house of cards not exactly built on the surest of foundations. In my mind, it’s not a question of if that house of cards is going to collapse but when.

So, for me, what Ramsey is saying makes a whole lot of sense, and it’s something we should have been doing a long time ago. But just as there’s no crying in baseball, there’s no use being a member of the woulda/coulda/shoulda club – all we can do is go after our debt with (as Ramsey is wont to say) gazelle-like intensity. Plan for tomorrow by budgeting for today, that’s our new strategy. And if all goes according to plan, we could be credit card debt-free by the end of October, and then it’s on to our other debt – a 403-B loan and our home mortgage.

Dave Ramsey – a modern-day prophet with a message more Americans need to hear for their own well-being and peace of mind. I’m with you Dave. All. The. Way.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:27 | Comments (0)
May 29, 2008

What does one write when you have nothing of importance to say? Sure, I could write about Hillary Clinton and the fact that more than a few people have finally woken up to the realization that there is nothing genuine or even human about her, that everything the Clintons think, do, and say, in the end, is all about them and their own political ambitions. I could write about the Red Sox, but frankly I’m tired of watching them sleepwalk through this current road trip. And don’t get me started on Tim Wakefield – sure he pitched a decent game tonight, but the games he pitches are such droll affairs I often find myself turning the channel seeking something more intellectually challenging or entertaining.

Ahhh, what to do? The underlying problem is that work right now is taking up so much of my weekdays and weeknights that it is difficult to find time to work, relax, hang with the rabbits, and still find time to blog in ways that both entertains and interests.

But that’s the challenge.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:06 | Comments (2)
May 28, 2008

One of the more inane things I’ve done from a horticultural perspective here in Arizona was to plan a variety of cactus in pots best reserved for flowering plants. The patio never gets enough sun, the soil dries out very quickly and in the hot summer, you have to water the soil so the cactuses don’t burn, but then watering the soil makes them grow faster, then you have to worry about replanting them at some point. It was kinda stupid on my part – something I realized about 15 minutes after I finsihed potting them.

Never mind the fact that planting cactus is not the most relaxing or pain-free thing you’ll ever do in your life, but I digress.

At any rate, I had this little MacDougal Nipple Cactus that I planted in one of the pots. And it obviously needed more sun than it was getting, but I was a little late to the game in noticing it so that, by the time I dug it out of the pot and planted it out front, its leaves (yes, it’s a variety of cactus that has both leaves and spikes) had all but disappeared. Nevertheless, I planted it, gave it a good soaking, and hoped for the best.

That was in mid-April.

A week later, all of its leaves had fallen off and it sat there all kinda naked and sad, its white stem and white needles looking parched amidst the brown rocks and soil around it. I watered it a couple more times, but nothing seemed to be happening and I gave it up as yet another lesson to be learned about landscaping and cactus planting.

Early last week, during a stretch of 105+ degree days, Tracey gave it a good soaking, and then we got an unusual soaking rain last Friday. Just this past Saturday, I took a look and the cactus had still shown no change, so I made a mental note that one of these days I’d dig it up and toss it out.

Imagine my surprise, then, to look at the cactus today and find it covered from head to toe with beautiful little green leaves! Not just one or two or a branch full of leaves, but the cactus was covered with them – fresh green buds happily illumined by the late afternoon sun. Sometime between Saturday and today, the plant had obviously decided it was time to giddyup and giddyup it did. Now I can’t wait to see how this plant grows and thrives in a location it obiously loves.

Just a lovely little miracle of God’s marvelous creation to celebrate, I guess!

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:26 | Comments (0)
May 26, 2008

OK, OK I know – it’s been a while. What can I say? The problem is that any time I take off from work creates more work for me, if you know what I mean. And I’m just now getting my head above the inbox. I’d love to post my experience with AirTran and the U.S air travel experience this past week, but it wearies me so all I can say is, you don’t get two free round-trip tickets and people groveling at your feet for no reason. Maybe some time I’ll tell you my experience – maybe when it’s not still so fresh in my mind.

I hope everyone had a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend. Summer is here!

Check this CD out.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 21:21 | Comments (0)
May 17, 2008

The only disadvantage I have seen in replacing my DISH Network satellite setup with DirecTV is in the music channels. Working from home, I prefer music to the TV as background noise, and our second, non-HD TV in the gues bedroom is pretty much only used for playing music on the DirecTV channels.

Side note: It’s not just me who prefers music to the TV, our rabbit Cosmo does as well – in fact, when given the run of the house during the day, if there’s no music playing he will gravitate to the front dining room; if there is music on, you’ll find him in the guest bedroom. Kinda funny, I think.

But I digress.

Unlike most people, I’m supposing, I find the Sirius music channels offered on DirecTV to be somewhat lacking compared to what was offered on DISH Network. On DISH, I especially enjoyed the “Tropical Breezes” channel (which mixed Caribbean steel music with Jimmy Buffett songs), the Hawaiian music channel, and the New Orleans channel, which mixed traditional blues with some ragtime and stride piano. All were great.

The one channel I have found myself enjoying on DirecTV, however, is called Escape. The best way to describe what the Escape channel plays is “muzak” – you now, the old fashioned kind music you used to find in the early FM radio days before the rather (to my ears, anyways) dull and formula-heavy stations offering “New Age” and “Smooth Jazz” (listen to any Kenny G song and you’ll know what I mean) became the new background music of the 21st century.

Second side note: actually, there’s no such thing as true background music anymore. Go into any supermarket and you’re likely to find anything from Alanis Morisette to Led Zeppelin to Bobby Darin or Bob Dylan playing – something I find incredibly annoying, as if there’s a song you absolutely hate there’s no escaping if you have a shopping cart full of groceries and you’re third in line at the checkout counter.

But I digress.

The kind of music featured on Escape is the old-style kind of muzak one used to find in elevators and supermarkets played by “beautiful music” FM stations (in Boston it was the old WJIB) – you know, orchestra and soft-vocal arrangements of songs anywhere from the ’40s to the early ’70s. On these kind of stations you’d find string-heavy arrangements of anything from movie music to popular music to instrumental hits, and, unlike most teens at the time, it was my chosen station to set my clock radio to.

And I found the music great – Bert Kaempfert’s “Wonderland By Night”, Pete Fountain’s “Stranger On The Shore”, “Flamingo” played by anyone; that kind of stuff. Oh sure, you’d get the occasional annoying Anne Murray song, but you’d also get Tony Bennett, Nat King Cole, the Ray Conniff Singers, Mitch Miller, or Frank Sinatra tossed in among string arrangements of every Beatles tune imaginable. Hokey, I suppose, but I really liked it.

And that’s what the DirecTV Escape music channel is all about. A little heavier on the soft hits of the 1970s than the old WJIB might have been, but the same kind of stuff. Relaxing, nothing to make you think much (which is good because it allows me to focus on work), but good background noise. And Cosmo likes it a lot.

Oh there are quibbles – after all, how can you play the original version of, say, John Denver’s “Calypso” and play an instrumental version of Olivia Newton-John’s marvelous “I Honestly Love You” (a GREAT tune and one of her very best, BTW)? But I do get to hear the occasional Heb Alpert tune (which is always great) and some fine standards thrown in.

Call The Great White Shank’s taste in this kind of music sappy if you will, but it recalls the music of my youth and happy times – family cookouts in the back yard, Saturdays when my parents would clean the house, and times far less stressful, hectic, edgy, and complicated than they are now.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 03:50 | Comments (0)
May 13, 2008

In the bedroom that serves as my office there are two bookcases that sit on either side of my prayer table: the one on the left for Tracey and her Star Trek memorabilia collection, the one on the right for all my books.

One look at my bookcase reveals the eclectic nature, I suppose, of both my interests and the life-path I have trod. The two bottom shelves are reserved for very large and bulky books, like a couple of Bibles given me over the years, a coffee table book on Mississippi River plantations, The Beatles Anthology, and a number of books on popular music. The second to the botton serves as a transition to the shelves above it – a few more books on popular music separated from several books on theology by a basket containing various supplies for burning incense.

On the three shelves above that one contain a cornucopia of books on faith and religion, and it’s amazing to me how a at the various titles brings back memories of my spiritual journey. There’s Henri Nouwen’s The Genesee Diary, Kathleen Norris’ The Cloister Walk, and Thomas Merton’s The Seven Story Mountain – the first books I bought after my religious awakening back in 1994 when I first heard God’s call to the priesthood. And, practically every book Nouwen and Merton ever wrote in paperback. There are also lots of books on Anglicanism and Anglican church history – a biography of Thomas Cranmer, several books on the Oxford Movement, a 3-volume set of Richard Hooker’s Laws of Ecclesiastical Authority (neither of which has ever been opened), and everal books by Anglican theologian N.T. Wright; these books reflecting those formative years spent learning about the Church and faith as I discerned my priestly calling through Don and Eunice Schatz at Life/Work Direction and the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts’ ordination process.

And there are the books associated with the four years we spent in Kentucky. Scattered among these particular shelves are the few remaining books associated with my two semesters spent at Louisville Presbyterian Seminary – while only eight years ago, it seems like two or three lifetimes ago to me! (All the others – 50 or so, easily worth hundreds of dollars – I donated to a certain student in financial need just before we left Louisville for Massachusetts.) Strange to think that for six months I actually played full-time seminary student. While these books don’t do much for me anymore (I can’t imagine a late-night relaxing session in a cozy nook drinking deeply of Barth’s Church Dogmatics!) they do represent an unforgettable and incredibly exciting period in my life.

Finally, there is the top row, reserved for the “good stuff” – my Harper Collins and Harper NRSV Study Bibles, the Bible I received on my on my confirmation back in 1967, several Episcopal Church prayer books, the box of “flash cards” recalling my semester of Ancient Greek, my purple and green prayer table linens, and the New Testament on tape (narrated by Gregory Peck, no less!). Looking at that particular box, I still remember all those daily 1-hour commutes from Louisville to Frankfort and back when we first moved to Kentucky, and those 45-minute drives between Louisville and Elizabethtown, where I went to church. Mr. Peck was a welcome companion during those long drives, and every now and then, when I hear a certain passage read from a lectern (like Jesus’ parables, for instance) I still hear them in Peck’s voice.

For more than six years these books, once enthustically devoured, poured over, their pages annotated, highlighted, and/or and dog-eared as deemed essential to my spiritial formation, sat unused and neglected (at various times boxed and in storage) as the light of my faith and my calling (not to mention me) flamed out following my unpleasant dealings with the Episcopal Church back in 2001. Arriving here in Arizona back in the fall of 2003, the books were unboxed and arranged in the bookcase, but for all the attention both it (and the prayer table) received in our first years here they might just as well have been back in storage in Massachusetts.

In the past year, however, the rekindling of my faith and interest in theology and Catholicism has brought me back in contact with these once-neglected but never forgotten friends, and revisiting them – whether for a full re-read or just a few page browse – I find it both comforting and reassuring that God has brought us back together again.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:36 | Comments (0)
May 11, 2008

yawn

Because sometime life (and blogging) demands it…

———————–

Happy Mother’s Day to the best mom in the whole world. I love you, Mom!

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:04 | Comments (0)
May 10, 2008

Monday night I shut the computer down.

Tuesday morning the power button on the computer is blinking yellow. No power. Tried switching the cords, switching the outlet, unplugging and replugging the power supply. And still the damned blinking light on the power switch.

They call it the “amber alert”.

Several calls to Dell support and a visit from the local computer quack have confirmed the need for a new power supply and motherboard. Fortunately, the disk drive appears to be OK. Damned good thing, too – we’ve never backed up any of our data in our lives.

The effects of this event upon our household are truly devastating, for the world’s most powerful solitaire machine has been reduced to a state of deadness akin to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential aspirations and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’ brain cells. Tracey can’t play her 40 Thieves game, there’s no e-mail, and no access to the CD burner (meaning Tightwad’s Flower Power collection I was hoping to bring back with me to Massachusetts next week is on hold). Sorry about that, Tightwad…

Good thing I have this doohickey called a laptop in my home office, as otherwise we’d be cut off from the outside world – no computer, no Goodboys Nation weblog posting, no food, no water, no FOX Business Channel. Um… well, maybe I’m overstating things a little bit there.

Seriously, however, I’m beginning to question the quality of our Dell XPS 400 – in less than 1 1/2 years we’ve had to replace a fan and now the power supply and motherboard.

Maybe it’s time to start backing our data up after all?

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:24 | Comments (2)
May 9, 2008

Episcopal Church Bishop John Shelby Spong is damned lucky he lives in an enlightened 20th/21st century. Were he writing the kinds of books he has written four or five centuries ago he would have been burned at the stake or met some equally unsavory end like other heretics of his kind did. (Not I would ever have sanctioned such treatment for those like him, but you get the point.)

In my bookcase for several years I have kept two of his books – “Born Of A Woman”, and “Resurrection – Myth Or Reality”. (Not that I ever subscribed to any of his writings, but when you’re immersed in the priesthood process in a very liberal Protestant denomination you have to cover all your bases – no matter how unsavory they might appear to be.) In both books you’ll find the same old tired claptrap all too common in today’s post-modern (actually, anti-religion, anti-Christian) marketplace of ideas, dragged out once again for its intended “enlightened” audience. Read any of Spong’s garbage and you’ll see the same common thread found in virtually every anti-Christian screed of its kind: all the Gospel stories are myths promulgated by Jesus’ disciples to forward their own agenda, or, Jesus’ disciples were caught up in the whirlwind of his ministry, or they were delusional or uninformed saps, or these are simply stories passed down from an ancient, oh-so-unenlightened and – oh yes – male-dominated time in human history.

Unfortunately, Spong is not the exception in today’s Episcopal Church but the rule. From its petty, angry, and delusional Presiding Bishop on down, ECUSA’s power structure is polluted with apostate heretical believers who worship not at the altar of Jesus Christ, defending and promoting the Church’s traditional and orthodox teachings, but at the altar of post-modern socialist liberalism all in the name of tolerance, acceptance, and diversity.

The unfortunate truth of the matter is that a heretic like John Spong is only able to sell the number of books he can because of his position as a bishop in the Episcopal Church, something he NEVER fails to emphasize on the jackets of his books – as if that’s supposed to mean something these days, right? How shocking!! Listen, if Spong were a ditch digger or an accountant his books would gather dust on the shelves. (Which, BTW, makes him not only a heretic but a hypocrite as well.) Never mind the fact that he ran the diocese under his care (Newark) into the ground; never mind that he should have been ex-communicated from the Church years ago for taking a very handsome salary for a position whose teachings he couldn’t ascribe to; never mind that he will get his own just reward when his time on earth is through.

But I digress…

Last week, I was looking at my bookcase and reorganizing it a bit when I saw these two books and thought to myself why on earth they were still there. After all, there is absolutely nothing in them I would ever, ever subscribe to in belief or practice – after all, one must look to one’s own soul. But what to do with them? I don’t believe in throwing out books or even burning them – I mean, there’s something about a book, especially a hardcover, that deserves a certain amount of respect, right? And it was then that the idea popped into my head.

So how do we deal with heretics in the Richard household? Well, since I’m a guy who resists the idea of promoting physical harm in any way – even for heretics like John Shelby Spong – I sought a more subtle, yet meaningful solution to my problem. And that’s why I chose a course of action any humble defender of the faith could do with a clear conscience: I donated those two books to creatures who would “digest” Spong’s message and give it all the respect his warped teachings deserve…

I donated them to Marble Junior and Cosmo.

Believe me, their appetite for the good bishop’s writings knows no bounds!

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 01:32 | Comments (0)

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