September 22, 2009

I’m sure you’ve noticed the lack of posting over the past week. I know I have! While work has always made regular blogging a challenge it’s something I’ve usually been able to work around. Over the past week, however, Tracey and I are faced with the challenge of a family member (her sister-in-law) who is both physically and psychologically debilitated and now requires our attention while she comes live with us for the foreseeable future.

… That’s assuming, of course, I can get her on a bus to here – something I haven’t yet been able to do in the last 24 hours. But that’s a whole ‘nuther story…

One of these days I’d love to recount the madness and mayhem of the past two weeks that has brought us to this point in time. Someday I will.

Given the challenges that lie ahead, however, it looks as if I’m going to have to pick up more of the load around the house. With my time already being pressed, I just don’t see a whole lot of time in the next few weeks to do this blog justice, so I’m thinking a one-month sabbatical is in order. Who knows? Maybe I’ll be blogging just to keep my sanity – we’ll see. That was what our upcoming New Orleans vacation was supposed to do, but that’s gone by the board as well.

So I’ll be taking a break from regular blogging. Please keep checking in from time to time – if I can, I’ll keep you posted on the comings and goings here in the Valley of the Sun. And please keep this house in your thoughts and prayers.

I gotta feeling we’re gonna need them.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 20:53 | Comment (1)
September 16, 2009

1. Coming to a government-run healthcare nation near you.

2. R.I.P. Dinger the ball-hawking mascot.

3. Unfortunately, nothing about how the squirrel fared. (Hat tip: Instapundit)

4. R.I.P. Henry Gibson and Mary Travers.

5. How honest accountability killed the mainstream media.

6. Think this museum will have a Colonel Sanders wing? No pun intended…

7. When Democrats are in power, twenty things you’ll never hear about in the mainstream press. (Hat tip: Instapundit)

8. Too close for comfort to suit my tastes…

9. When all else fails, play the race card. [Ed. note: Jimmy Carter has my vote for the most reprehensible cretin ever elected President.]

10. And if that doesn’t work, play it again, louder.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 19:03 | Comments (0)
September 14, 2009

september1Being back home here in New England makes me feel a little sentimental for the simple joy of feeling the seasons change. Whether it be a short walk out in the pleasant clean air of the day, or standing by the cool woods at night and feeling and hearing the cricket symphonies all around you, there’s a magical feeling to September you simply can’t experience in the seemingly-unending heat of the Southwest desert.

Tonight I found a nice poem that puts some of these feelings into words. I hope you like it:

How lovely the world is
In September

Warm air
Leaves just turning gold

Summer still lingering
Autumn coming nearer

It is a time of bittersweet endings
And bittersweet beginnings

It seems that every September
The world takes a deep breath

Shakes off the August heat
Prepares for a long winter

Knowing no one will feel this way again
Until next
September.
— “September” by Nina Dringo

Hat tip: PoemHunter.com

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 21:52 | Comments (0)
September 13, 2009

Safely here in Massachusetts, and blissfully there is no heat, just a beautiful kind of not-summer-but-not-yet-fall September pleasantness that defies description. It’s gonna be a crazy week work-wise, so let’s kick if off with a little golf humor. Got this in an e-mail sent by my folks, enjoy!

—-

Stevie Wonder and Tiger Woods are in a bar. Tiger turns to Stevie and says, ‘How’s the singing career going?’

Stevie replies, ‘Not too bad. How’s the golf?’

Woods replies, ‘Not too bad, I’ve had some problems with my knee.

Stevie says, ‘I always find that when my swing goes wrong, I need to stop playing for a while and not think about it. Then, the next time I play, it seems to be all right.’

Tiger says, ‘You play GOLF?’

Stevie says, ‘Yes, I’ve been playing for years’.

Tiger says, ‘But — you’re blind! How can you play golf if you can’t see?’

Stevie replies, ‘Well, I get my caddy to stand in the middle of the fairway and call to me. I listen for the sound of his voice and play the ball towards him. Then, when I get to where the ball lands, the caddy moves to the green or farther down the fairway and again I play the ball towards his voice.’

‘But, how do you putt?’ asks Tiger

‘Well’, says Stevie, ‘I get my caddy to lean down in front of the hole and call to me with his head on the ground and I just play the ball towards his voice.’

Tiger asks, ‘What’s your handicap?’

Stevie says, ‘Well, actually — I’m a scratch golfer.’

Woods, incredulous, says to Stevie, ‘We’ve got to play a round sometime.’

Stevie replies, ‘Well, people don’t take me seriously, so I only play for money, and never play for less than $10,000 a hole. That a problem?’

Woods thinks about it and says, ‘ I can afford that, OK, I’m game for that. $10,000 a hole is fine with me. When would you like to play?’

Stevie says, ‘Pick a night.’

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 20:51 | Comments (0)
September 11, 2009

9-11

Today, bloggers from across the political spectrum are participating in Project 2996, each writing about one of the victims of that day’s awful events. I wish I had the time to participate in this endeavor, but instead will light three candles – one for the victims of each plane involved – and pray for their souls and for each, the peace of Christ eternally.

The President is absolutely right, every year on this day we are all New Yorkers.

Never forget.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 07:44 | Comments (0)
September 10, 2009

This entry was originally posted back in September of 2007. But now, thanks to YouTube, you can click on the songs below to hear the magic. The Ronettes will always be one of my absolute favorite pop listening experiences, and I totally dig the picture of the girls – very retro ’60s chic, no? Enjoy! — The Great White Shank

—————————-

ronettes Lately I’ve found myself rediscovering – for only about the gazillionth time – just how much I love the sound of The Ronettes. Of all the girl-groups who came and went in a flash across the AM dial back in the early-to-mid-’60s, none matched the tough, mature, raw sexuality of The Ronettes. Led by Veronica (Ronnie) Bennett (center, aged 19), her sister Estelle (right, 20), and their cousin Nedra Talley (left, 18), The Ronettes were a product of the Washington Heights section of New York, cutting some initial mediocre records and working as dancers behind higher-profile performers and DJs in local clubs until they were discovered at the then-famous Peppermint Lounge in 1963 by legendary rock producer and impressario Phil Spector.

Unlike the innocent, “goody-goody” personas commonly associated with the girl-groups of their era, The Ronettes wore tight skirts and shiny dresses slit up the side, heavy mascara, and their hair piled way high, and oozed a mature, sexual sound. Whereas groups like The Chiffons (“He’s So Fine”), The Shangri-Las (“Leader of the Pack”), The Crystals (“Da Doo Ron Ron”, “Then He Kissed Me”), etc. were the girls next door in soft dresses and blue jeans, it didn’t take much to imagine the exotic, all-grown-up Ronettes in high heels and lingerie. Much of this can be attributed to two critical elements: the incredible voice of Ronnie Spector, and the powerful arrangements afforded their songs by Phil Spector.

As Richard Williams has written in the Phil Spector biography “Out Of His Head”, “When the Ronettes made their first [Phil Spector] single, it was immediately obvious they were to the bright, chirpy little Crystals what Elvis was to Pat Boone. They looked dangerous, a threat to any average male’s self-esteem, but despite the challenge in their eyes they performed love songs in which they pleaded to the boys. This marvellously piquant contrast between promise and performance was made possible because of the emotions roiling within Ronnie Bennett’s hugely quavering, massively sexy voice, a pure pop instrument the like of which no one had heard before.” (And I might add, since.)

To understand the power, style and sexuality the made The Ronettes so different and unique during their brief heyday, one need only listen to five particular records:

1. “Be My Baby”. Their first single recorded and produced by Phil Spector, “Be My Baby” defines and exemplifies what one can accomplish with a 2 1/2 minute pop record if you have the goods, the whole package. Jay Warner, writing on behalf of The Ronettes on the Vocal Group Hall of Fame website, describes the allure and the power of this record:

Their first single on Spector and Lester Sill’s new Philles label in July 1963 is a classic, the Ellie Greenwich/Jeff Barry/Phil Spector-penned collage of castanets, maracas, strings and Hal Blaine drumwork titled “Be My Baby.” Ronnie’s distinctive, seductive vocal delivery, along with her now-legendary “who-oh-oh-oh,” drove teen boys wild, while Spector’s production drove the single to chart success. The July review in Billboard stated, “This is the best record The Ronettes ever made, and more than that, it’s one of the strongest records of the week. It was made by Phil Spector, and he has transformed the gals into a sock singing group who handle this dramatic piece of material with flair. Backing has a stunning, rolling rock sound that’s bound to make the disc score with the kids.”

Boy did it ever, and not just with ‘the kids’, either. Brian Wilson, leader and producer of The Beach Boys, has called it “the most perfect pop record of all time”; legend has it he would listen to the record for days on end throughout his own creative heyday and beyond, to the point of driving his family crazy. What gets me about this production is Spector’s in! your! face! guitar-piano rhythm section and the strings during the song’s instrumental break. Simply stunning.

2. “Baby, I Love You”. The second Ronettes’ single, released just four months after “Be My Baby”. What I find most intriguing about this song, besides its unearthly piano intro (played, BTW, by rock legend and session player Leon Russell), is the just-this-side-of-chaos percussion that absolutely drenches every freakin’ second of the recording and provides the powerful backup to Ronnie’s pleading vocal. Some, like Warner, believe this a more sophisticated and powerful performance than “Be My Baby”, and I’m inclined to agree. Notice how the song’s title advances The Ronettes’ persona and how one can picture teenage boys imagining Ronnie (or their own love interest) singing this song to them. That, my friends, is what classic rock n’ roll was all about. One of my absolute all-time faves. Rumor has it The Great White Shank once played it non-stop for four hours straight over a bottle of Bolla Chianti. Best played earth-shattering loud.

3. “(The Best Part Of) Breakin’ Up”. The third Ronettes’ single, released the same freakin’ month as “Baby, I Love You” (can you imagine any contemporary pop act conceiving of such a thing?). Boasting a heavy, insistent percussion and intricate backing vocals that “ooh” in and out with Ronnie’s heartfelt sexy lead (“C’mon baby…”), this, in my view, is the best they ever did and one of my all-time favorite pop tunes. Listen for the wicked cool harmonica beneath the horns during the transitions between verses and chorus, not to mention one of the best false endings ever done.

A quick note: Part of understanding what made The Ronettes’ songs work so well for them is the lyrics penned for Ronnie that advance their “tough girl, bad girl” persona. Consider the lyrics to “(The Best Part)…”, written by guys (Phil Spector, Pete Anders, and Vini Poncia), for guys. Care to guess who’s in charge of this relationship? (my boldings):

Baby, when we break up from a quarrel or a fight
I can’t wait to have you back and hold you oh so tight

Tell me why, I wanna know
Tell me why, is it so
That the best part of breaking up is when you’re making up
Best part of breaking up is when you’re making up
But after breaking up, be sure you’re making up with me

Every time you leave I get those teardrops in my eyes
They always seem to go away when you apologize

Tell me why, I wanna know
Tell me why, is it so
That the best part of breaking up is when you’re making up
Best part of breaking up is when you’re making up
But after breaking up, be sure you’re making up with me

Come on baby, come on baby
Don’t say maybe
Well it makes no difference who is wrong
Just as long as I’ll be with you

Baby I’ll be lonely ’til you’re back where you should be
‘Cause baby, I belong to you and you belong to me

Tell me why, I wanna know
Tell me why, is it so
That the best part of breaking up is when you’re making up
Best part of breaking up is when you’re making up
But after breaking up, be sure you’re making up with me

Come on baby, come on baby
Don’t say maybe

Sophisticated? Of course not. But notice how these are not your typical girl-group lyrics, where the singer is telling her friends about the boy she loves and/or can’t have. These lyrics are personal, insistent, pleading, and sung by girl directly to boy, in a way every adolescent could identify with, understand, and dream about.

4. “Do I Love You”. Considering the intricate, horn-and-rhythm power intro, this song (not to mention Ronnie’s lead vocal) is more mellow and understated than the previous three singles. Nevertheless, I find the overall sound mesmerizing and the vocals (lead and backing) incredibly sexy and romantic. Listen for the alto and tenor saxes underscoring the rhythm throughout – they employ some pretty inventive charts without distracting the vocals. A nice contrast from the “big sound” of their previous hits.

5. “Walking In The Rain”. Unlike the previous four songs, the primary attraction of this tune lies less in the performance then its message. Richard Williams: “Walking In The Rain” has the advantage of such a lovely lyrical idea [ed. note: by the legendary team of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil] …the girl says she’ll know Mr. Right when he comes along because he’ll enjoy the same things she does, like “walking in the rain”. A simple, lovely thought couched in a tune and arrangement which are genuinely delicate, despite the weight of [Spector's production]. While there’s nothing particularly unique or inventive here production-wise (other than, perhaps, the use of a little more echo), it’s a fine performance nonethess. (Note: the song is perhaps better known from its remake by Jay and The Americans, whose interpretation turned it into one of their biggest hits.)

Unfortunately for The Ronettes, the material following these songs didn’t quite keep up, and by 1966 pop music was moving in a new, more revolutionary, direction. Following the commercial failure of his majestic “River Deep, Mountain High” single (by Ike & Tina Turner and deemed “too black” for white radio, “too white” for black radio), Spector became increasingly dispirited and disinterested in the careers of those he had helped build. While The Ronettes continued to make some fine recordings like “I Can Hear Music” (the latter turned into a mini-classic two years later by Carl Wilson’s production for The Beach Boys), their salad days had come and gone. Nevertheless, one need only hear one of their major hits between other songs of the period to understand just how unique and powerful their sound truly was, and why they’re considered one of the all-time great girl-groups in pop music history.

For those wanting to discover for themselves the greatness of the Ronettes, might I suggest “The Best of The Ronettes”. Or, if you want to hear their work in the context of a greater Phil Spector listening experience, I’d highly recommend checking out his “Back To Mono” anthology.

…Oh, did I mention their devilish version of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” on Phil Spector’s Christmas album, “A Christmas Gift To You”? More on that in a future post. Given the time of season, very soon!

———————

Few groups before or since had as distinctive a sound as The Ronettes. Enjoy!

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 11:10 | Comments (2)
September 9, 2009

Crazy week so far.

Looks like we’ve reached the end of the monsson season here in the Valley of the Sun. As good as last year’s was, this one was a bust. Sigh. Maybe by going to Massachusetts next week I can find me some rain. It better, otherwise I won’t see rain now until at least December, maybe January.

Can a carrier pigeon transmit data faster than an internet service provider? Check this out.

“Yeah, it was rude, but somebody needed to say it.” I agree.

This should have gotten a lot more attention than it has gotten. I can only image the outrage and cries of “racism!!” if President Bush chose the same course of action.

This may be true, but as for me I’d rather just mosey my way over to a Steak N’ Shake.

Here’s a great Beach Boys video from 1972. It’s from my favorite BB era – they were so hairy and hippy and cool-looking. I especially like the ocean with all the whitecaps. Very wintery looking!

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 21:54 | Comments (0)
September 8, 2009

No editorial comments here today, I’ll just let the peeps speak for themselves.

Headline: In Adviser’s Resignation, Vetting Bites Obama Again

Money Quote: “There was a day, not too long ago, when the [New York] Times and other influential news organizations could kill a story — could deny the bad guys a win — simply by ignoring it. Sometimes they still try. But it just won’t work anymore.” — Byron York, Washington Examiner

Headline: Senate must raise debt ceiling above $12 Trillion

Money Quote: “Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren,” Obama said in a 2006 floor speech that preceded a Senate vote to extend the debt limit. “America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership.” — Senator Barack Obama, 2006

Headline: Fines proposed for going without health insurance

Money Quote: “Punishing families who can’t afford health care to begin with just doesn’t make sense.” – U.S. Senator Barack Obama, 2008

Headline: “Obama Floats Soda Tax”

Money Quote: “Look, people’s attitude is that they don’t necessarily want Big Brother telling them what to eat or drink, and I understand that. It is true, though, that if you wanted to make a big impact on people’s health in this country, reducing things like soda consumption would be helpful.” – President Barack Obama

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 21:38 | Comments (2)
September 7, 2009

Hope everyone had a great long weekend out there. Out at the New England beaches, Labor Day is supposed to mean the unofficial end of summer tourist season, but I always loved September for drives to the beach – it was always less crowded, the ocean water was actually warmer, there was less traffic, and everything was on sale. Overall, it was just a better and more relaxing experience.

Here in the Valley of the Sun, September means nothing – it’s just another month of heat. That’s not to say, however, that the early signs of a change in the season aren’t there: while visiting a local nursery on Saturday they were busy rounding up flats of all the overgrown summer plants and clearing out space for the “not” stock.

(Ed. note: You have to remember, out here there are really only two seasons – “hot” and “not”. They call it winter, but having lived in winter it’s really not, it’s just not hot.)

Just weeks from now you’ll see all the typical flowers and plantings you’d see displayed in New England nurseries at the start of spring: geraniums, petunias, impatiens, marigolds, etc. It always feels kinda weird to be planting spring flowers in my fall planters!

The bunny cam is close but it’s not there yet. Slaved the better part of this afternoon trying to get the web stream off of the Life Cam working, but haven’t been able to make it happen. Don’t know what’s going on – it has to do with the Windows Media Encoder settings I’m using. But at least the web page is there, to view it you’ll click on the Bunny Cam! link under the Blogroll. I’m hoping to have it active by end of week – I know Ginger, Geronimo, and Half-Pint can’t wait to be movie stars!

I feeling pretty pessimistic about the Red Sox right now – they are painful to watch. Sure, they can hit average and mediocre pitching, but if a team throws any kind of decent pitching at them they turn into lifeless statues. Why Terry Francona doesn’t see that Jason Varitek is done is beyond me, he has without a doubt the slowest bat in the major leagues. It’s painful to see his name in the lineup. They’ll probably win the wild card, but I’m afraid it could get ugly when the playoffs start.

Wondering why this isn’t getting more media attention, especially since we’re only days from another 9/11 anniversary. Oh, that’s right, we’re not fighting a War on Terror anymore.

Just thinking: isn’t it amazing how a simple change in the political affiliation of a president can make all those angry, Bush=Hitler anti-war protests disappear into thin air. Heck, if I didn’t know better, you’d think we had withdrawn all our troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, given the distinct lack of “grim” war stories and death tallies shouted by the mainstream media now that Obama is in office. Pretty interesting, huh?

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 21:55 | Comments (3)
September 4, 2009

What a work week! I am totally fried and looking forward to a long weekend. There were some things I had planned for work, but the chaos of the last two days fried me to a crisp. So while I’m enjoying the weekend – as I hope y’all will be doing – here’s what I’ll be thinking about:

* You know the years are taking their toll when the supermarket cashier looks at you and asks if yould like to fill their senior discount form. I told her I’m not that old yet, she replies, “you will be”. Pretty funny.

* Six years in Arizona, and my fourth pool light just blew out tonight. They go for $325 a whack, so there’s gonna be no rush on replacing this one any time soon.

* The Sago Palm I have in a pot on my patio can’t take the hot Arizona sun. Any ideas out there for a potted palm canopy? Tracey says to use the red, white, and black World Wildlife Fund umbrella we have up in our closet. I think it would be a stupid – not to mention flimsy – solution, but you don’t need an umbrella very much out here.

* I think she’s great, but pardon me if I skip this particular CD release.

* The Golf Channel can hype the Fed Ex Cup playoffs all they want, but it doesn’t gather my interest at all. And I’m not alone in that regard.

* Tiger should keep his thoughts about the work habits of other golfers to himself. It’s not becoming to either him or the professional sport of golf.

* Continuing on the subject of golf, this is a pretty bizarre story.

* After the horrible August the White House and the Democrats have had, I’m more than ever convinced that Glenn Beck and Michelle Malkin are the two most influential personalities on the political landscape right now.

* This is pretty reprehensible, even by the AP’s standards.

* OK, enough reality. Let’s surf into the weekend with this great video clip. And these guys can really play as well!

See y’all on the flipside. Keep it safe and sane out there!

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 21:01 | Comments (4)

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