September 30, 2010

mesquite Lemme tell you, it was freakin’ hot today. Like ten degrees hotter than normal, as this month has been to date. You can tell people out here are sick of this – the thinking being, enough is enough!. Arizona winter can’t come soon enough.

But at least we are living these hot days in a far more efficiently cooled house thanks to the good folks at Arizona Refrigeration Service, who came in the other day and worked their asses off on a blazing hot day where the attic got up to 115. They took the old Carrier unit out, and rewired and reconfigured a more efficient Rheems system (very highly rated in Consumer Reports) that should last long after I’m in the grave. It cost us $7K, but with the estimates of a 20-30 percent decrease in our overall monthly utilities costs, we’re hoping the unit goes a long way to paying for itself over the years.

But the days are surely getting shorter, and the sky at dusk sure looks like fall. Hope you like the pic of our newly-trimmed mesquite tree, I think it came out nice. The arborist who came out told us we were one storm away from having the tree come down on our house because of the thickness and weight of all the branches. It took him the better part of two hours, but we now have a mesquite tree that will grow into itself and in a way that allows the wind to move through it. I think it looks nice.

Pool temp: 82 degrees

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:45 | Comments (2)
September 29, 2010

It doesn’t feel like much like fall out here today, but that doesn’t mean this time of year doesn’t warrant a verse or two:

Breath, flame, wave, bone

Long light has lingered here, Earth still is warm,
Deepening shadows lost by the dawn.
Long darkness rising here, though heat lingers on,
Twist of the Equinox – Mabon has come.

Dead leaves fall silently, drift on the air,
Trees standing, slumbering – dry, cracked and bare.
Time passes quietly, echoing past:
Earth calls the winter in. Mabon at last!

Shadows through the mist I see:
Time passing silently.
Starlight, as the Spiral bends.
Moonlight, as the daylight ends.”

– Leanne Daharja Veitch, Mabon: Song of the Autumn Equinox

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:26 | Comment (1)
September 28, 2010

A few thoughts as Major League Baseball’s regular season heads into its final week:

Sunday night’s heartbreaking and infuriating loss to the Yankees was a microcosm of the entire 2010 Red Sox season. Bad enough they wasted an unusually excellent (and efficient!) outing from Daisuke Matsuzaka, but from the beginning of the season, for reasons I can’t fathom, the Sox have been terrible at defending the bunt, and last night was no exception. Of course, another meltdown by closer Jonathan Papelbon and some typically questionable use of the bullpen by Terry Francona (Hideki Okajima, who’s been awful pretty much the entire year pitching the 10th?) didn’t help, but why this team seems inept whenever the opposing team bunts (they lead the majors in combined pitcher and catcher errors) is beyond me.

Watching rookie first baseman Lars Anderson being showcased makes you wonder how on earth he was ever rated as a can’t miss prospect in the Red Sox minor league system. He’s awful, and looks completely overmatched at the big-league level.

I’m looking forward to watching Ken Burns’ sequel to his marvelous series “Baseball”, called “Baseball: The Tenth Inning”. I’ll only say this: if he was was truly savvy, he’d simulcast it on both PBS and the MLB Network. PBS is so outdated as an organ for vehicles like Burns’. I’m sure he’s doing it out of allegiance to Public Television, but that’s so yesterday.

Sure, the Red Sox are going home and the evil bastards otherwise known as the New York Yankees are heading to the playoffs, but we’ll always have 2004. Me? I got chills just watching the trailer. Has it already been six years?

The Cubs’ Tyler Colvin was lucky. Here’s hoping that Major League Baseball will give up the use of maple bats and return to the use of ash wood before someone – a player or a fan gets killed. Every game you see these maple bats splintering into jagged projectiles and flying everywhere; it’s only time before someone gets killed.

Pool temp: 81 degrees

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 00:31 | Comments (6)
September 27, 2010

I love the lyrical poetry of this incredible tune by Bob Marley. I discovered it last weekend and it immediately goes on my “Tropical Breezes” MP3 collection.

Old pirates, yes, they rob I
Sold I to the merchant ships
Minutes after they took I
From the bottomless pit
But my hand was made strong
By the hand of the almighty
We forward in this generation
Triumphantly
Won’t you help to sing
These songs of freedom?
‘Cause all I ever have
Redemption songs
Redemption songs

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery
None but ourselves can free our minds
Have no fear for atomic energy
‘Cause none of them can stop the time
How long shall they kill our prophets
While we stand aside and look? Ooh
Some say it’s just a part of it
We’ve got to fullfil the book
Won’t you help to sing
These songs of freedom?
‘Cause all I ever have
Redemption songs
Redemption songs

From what I read, Bob knew he was dying of cancer when this song was composed. Perhaps that explains the weary and mournful tone of this song. Thanks, Bob. Sorry it took so long.

Check out this alternate version by Johnny Cash and Joe Strummer (of “The Clash” fame). Bob’s version was better – even with his band – but it’s nevertheless still riveting.

Pool temp: 82 degrees

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:39 | Comments (2)
September 26, 2010

John Kerry says the only reason Democrats are in trouble in November is because the voters are stupid. BTW, did you know he served in Vietnam?

Democrat congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, in a close battle for her seat against Republican challenger Vietnamese-American Van Tran, accuses “the Vietnamese” of trying to take her seat.

Attorney General Eric Holder’s Department of Justice revealed to show that race trumps equal justice and equal rights for all.

37 days to go. Time for real change.

Pool temp: 82 degrees

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 00:58 | Comments (6)
September 25, 2010

toppriority

(Top Priority in 2008: Mark Richard, Doug Richard, Jerry “Keys” Palma, Ken “The Cat” McDougal)

[Ed. Note: The following press release from Kittyhawk Productions national headquarters was found in my Inbox this morning:]

—-

NEWS RELEASE: TOP PRIORITY MUSIC VIDEO RELEASES TO MARK BAND’S 35TH ANNIVERSARY

MONTAUK, NY – September 20, 2010 – Kittyhawk Productions (NYSE KHPR) announced today that three classic recordings by the long-forgotten and unheralded band Top Priority“You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet”, “Rhythmic Blues”, and “Tiny Bubbles (Long Version)” will be released as YouTube music videos sometime over the coming weeks. The release of these three classic recordings, spanning the years 1975 and 1977, will replace the previously-planned release of a larger group of recordings called “Top Priority: Anthology: 1974-1976″.

Kittyhawk Productions’ CEO Victor N. Cugini included this brief Q&A in announcing the planned release of the music videos:

Q: Why these particular recordings? What happened to the planned compilation CD?

A: The fact is, while the music planned for the compilation CD is absolutely top notch and deserves to be heard – I’m talkin’ Stones quality here, babe – the fact is, the quality of the recordings just didn’t meet the high standards of the ‘Boys. You have to remember, all the recordings in existence come from two beaten-up cassette tapes that had been lost to the band for some 30 years and were only recently recovered at a yard sale in Grand Forks, North Dakota. You work with what you can, dig me, babe?

Q: Tell us about “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet”

A: This is the ‘Boys version of the Bachman-Turner Overdrive hit from the fall 1974. This recording is (from what we can tell) from early 1975, and features the original Top Priority lineup (Mark, Doug, “The Cat”, and guitarist “The Bouch”), with The Cat on lead vocal and a special guest appearance by Ken Sandler (later of BeatleTracks band fame) on lead guitar. The song became a staple of their live act going forward, but it never sounded as good as this version with Sandler on lead. It’s magical, babe.

Q: Tell us about “Rhythmic Blues”

A: A truly unique recording featuring Mark, Doug, The Cat, and “Keys”. It’s just a shame the original tape was so degraded that the quality suffers, but I think it’s important to get it out there. The tune itself was composed by legendary bluesman E.P. Hemingway (“You May Be A Hen But I Ain’t Chicken”), and he gave it to Keys after an afternoon of drinking malt liquor on the back porch of E.P’s shack down in the Mississippi Delta.

Here’s the story behind the story: By early 1977 Top Priority had decided to stop touring – the non-stop travel, the limos, the girls, and the crowds had taken their toll on everyone’s nervous systems. After the band “encouraged” guitarist “The Bouch” to take a leave of absence in order to pursue his dream of learning Mongolian folk music under the great Tibetan mystic Aka Ooh Phang, they dropped the Top Priority name in favor of “Scat Jacobs and the Manhattans Featuring Sonny Williams”, the better to explore their more sensitive and artistic side. Shortly thereafter, Keys returned from Mississippi with this tune, and the rest is history.

Q: Tell us about “Tiny Bubbles (Long Version)”

A: This recording comes from the very last recording session held in the old Richard house cellar in Tewksbury during the summer of 1977. This recording features Mark, Doug, and Keys: The Cat had recently left the band to join the Air Force, and Mark was only weeks away from joining the Army. “Tiny Bubbles (Long Version”) came in a burst of inspiration after the boys had traveled to Hampton Beach earlier that summer and saw a combo of elderly gentlemen playing under the music shell there and attempting to sound hip by playing popular tunes like “The Hustle” and “Play That Funky Music” to a swing beat. Well, the ‘Boys thought this was so outrageous and absurd that they felt the need to record their own form of tribute – hence, “Tiny Bubbles (Long Version)”. And no, there was never a short version…

Q: Where did the idea of a music video come from?

A: We were approached by Bryce Harlow IV of Great White Shank Productions, who had heard from Doug and Keys that the “Anthology” compilation was increasingly looking like a no-go. He called to tell me he had some bandwidth to put two or three of the band’s songs up on YouTube for posterity’s sake, and to choose the ones I liked best. And that’s what I did.

[Ed. note: watch these spaces in the coming weeks for "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet", "Rhythimic Blues", and "Tiny Bubbles (Long Version)" bringing Top Priority back together again, live on YouTube!]

Pool temp: 82 degrees

Filed in: Top Priority - News! by The Great White Shank at 00:11 | Comments (8)
September 24, 2010

Never let it be said that The Great White Shank isn’t capable of picking up a catchy tune, even under the most ordinary of circumstances. The other night I was watching Bill O’Reilly, and in his “Pinheads and Patriots” segment he had a blurb about how some parents were trying to get an appearance by pop star Katy Perry on Sesame Street removed because of the revealing dress she was wearing during it. I was only half paying attention (I was preparing dinner at the time) but the song being played behind the video really caught my ears.

Now I’d heard of Katy Perry, but had never heard any of her songs. A quick Internet search found not only that Perry’s appearance was indeed being pulled after complaints by parents, but that the song featured in that appearance, “Hot N Cold”, was a big hit for her two years ago. Who knew?

Anyway, I fell in love with the song right from the start – it’s a catchy tune with an awesome driving chorus and nice transitions to and from the pulsing techno-beat of the verses. Way better than freakin’ Lady Gaga.

Here’s the original video for the song with its original lyrics…

…and, just to show you can’t keep a catchy tune down, here’s the Sesame Street video. The song’s lyrics have been altered to convey the message of “opposites” with Elmo. But it still works in a ying/yang sort of way – they’re a liitle more metaphysical, as am I.

I’m too old for Sesame Street, but I sure wish they had chicks that looked like that on Rex Trailer’s “Boomtown” and Captain Kangaroo!

One final note about those parent protests: maybe it’s just me, but I find nothing remotely offensive about it. Is she showing cleavage? You bet, but she’s adorable and fun to watch (especially her facial expressions and body movements as she chases Elmo around), and, let’s face it, kids these days will see all that and more on any day at the lake or the beach, or while at the mall with their parents. Moreover, there’s no violence; I guarantee even kids who watch Sesame Street are already seeing plenty of that.

So listen up, you prudes out there: let’s knock off the sanctimonious censorship thing and take a deep breath. Katy Perry showing cleavage on Sesame Street is not the end of American culture as we know it (that happened a long time ago). You were given ample notice as to when her apperance was to take place. You don’t want your child to watch? Fine, give him or her a book to read that day. But leave everyone else to make their own decision themselves.

Pool temp: 83 degrees

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:10 | Comments (8)
September 23, 2010

I’m not much for anecdotal evidence about certain kinds of things, so I’ll just recount three stories from this past week, then you can be the judge.

It was time for our annual A/C unit check so the guy comes out and determines our unit needs a new fan motor and a new compressor for a unit that isn’t made anymore. He tells us rather than spend an estimated $3K on replacement parts that it might be time to replace the entire 16-year old unit. Estimated cost: between $6K-7K. Ouch. He makes his proposal, we seek a second and third opinion.

Two days later, a guy comes with a couple of proposals for us to look at. As more of a joke and to make light conversation than anything else, I ask him whether we can write off any of the cost on our taxes next year by buying a certified energy-efficient unit. I couched it in terms of something like, “…if Washington’s going to waste money like they do, they ought to waste some of it on me, right?”

The guy just shook his head and smiled, then proceeded to run through a whole host of ways his business is being hammered by the government at both the federal and state level – everything from measures that encourage people to stay in their homes even though they can’t afford them (or, surprise surprise, the A/C repairs they need). He mentioned the increase in costs his company is facing because of increased environmental regulations and healthcare costs due to ObamaCare, etc. etc.. Not to mention the tax hikes they’ll face January 1 if the Bush tax credits are allowed to expire. Finally, he said, “listen, I’m no liberal by any stretch of the matter, I’ve voted for lots of Democrats in the past. But with this guy in office (his emphasis) I’ll be damned if I’m voting for any Democrat this November.”

Our palm tree guy comes out for the bi-annual treatments our queen palms get. He’s a funny guy and I enjoy hearing his stories while he goes about his business, pumping treatment into the ground and trimming the branches and cones. This time, without any prodding from me (hey, I just offered him a cold soda, he doesn’t know my politics from Adam), he gets on the subject of unemployment benefits and how it’s impacting his business.

The problem, he says, is that the more Congress extends unemployment benefits, the less inclined people are to go out and try to either find work or start a business themselves. Because of his client base, he sees the same people and he knows those who are still receiving unemployment benefits two, even three, years after they lost their jobs. He wipes his brow and takes a long swig of Sprite Zero. “I’ve even asked a couple of them if they’d like to work for me because I’ve had a couple of deadbeats I was getting ready to fire, right? And y’know what they tell me? They’d rather take the unemployment than work out in the hot sun doing legit work. Can you believe it? And then, at the same time, they say that because they’re on unemployment they can’t afford to have me take care of their trees. I see it all over. It’s laziness and greed, you know? All supported by the feds. I voted for Obama in 2008 because I thought he’d change the way Washington works. Total fraud.”

I mentioned to him that I can’t wait to vote in November to throw all the Democrats out. He replies, “I’ll be the one standing in line in front of you, believe me.”

The palm guy notes that our other trees (the ever-expanding mesquite and our lemon and lime trees) really need some quality maintenance. He knows an arborist who’s done quality work for his clients and has him give me a call. Two days later, the guy comes with his 14-year old son (learning the old man’s trade), and Nino, his “cutting expert”. Nino’s been with him fifteen years and they’re artists in perpetual motion, scoping out what needs to be cut (not trimmed) and where, the son dutifully gathering up all the branches and cutting them into smaller take-away sizes.

“I had nine working for me full-time before the recession, had to let all but us go. Right now it’s really bad out there, my costs in everything are going through the roof. And now the food – have you noticed the prices at the supermarkets going up? And they’re really shrewd – things like 20 lbs of dog food now being sold in 16 lb bags for the same price? My margins are so low I got to keep track of this kind of thing, you know?”

I mention to him that its just inflation starting to kick in because of the federal spending and the rising debt. Boy, that was a mistake.

“Let me tell you what a lot of people are now doing. Keep it from the feds, everything is going underground. People are avoiding taxes by keeping as much under the table as they can. They see their taxes going up on everything and are doing whatever they can not to feed the government trough, right? Listen, I do a lot of bartering for services and things, you know? There’s a lot of that going on out there, and you know why? People know they can’t trust anyone in Washington to do anything right. They’ve stopped listening to the same damned people who pay their damned salaries. They’re only interested in feathering their nests and staying in power, which is why they’re now going to run heath care. What a joke. You can’t make this stuff up. Me, I take pride in my work, I’m the best around that I know. But how will I ever be able to pass my business on to my son? What’s the long-term benefit to him? My wife spends all her time in paperwork so I can my time outside in the sun and heat cutting trees. It’s not right. This country is in rough shape, and something big needs to happen – and soon.”

I tell him there’s always November.

“We’ll need two more Novembers after that, just to make sure all the trash gets taken out.”

Three people, three stories. And these are just working stiffs: I didn’t get them out of some conservative Republican business circle, they’re just guys providing a service we requested. What it tells me, though, is that the mainstream media and the Democrats are making a big mistake calling people like these “angry white men”, or “racists”, or “teabaggers”, or “Nazis”, or worse.

And by no means are they alone. There’s an anger and dissatisfaction out there that’s genuine, and, as I’ve mentioned before borne out of fear. Y’all may agree or disagree with, or dislike, the way I might occasionally rail against liberals, Democrats, and Washington in this space from time to time, but I’m not some guy coming out of left field raving and drooling about nonsense.

And come November you can bet all our voices will be heard. Loudly. The future of this country depends on it.

Pool temp: 84 degrees

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 00:59 | Comments (4)
September 22, 2010

They say in New England that if you don’t like the weather wait a minute, but that’s hardly the case out here in Arizona. Yet, every once in a while Mother Nature will toss a curve ball that even the most experienced weather folk out here can’t handle. Consider earlier this week: after our weekend of record high temperatures, the coast looked clear all the way to December. The monsoon season was over, before us just an endless stream of sunny and hot days leading towards the start of “Arizona winter” in a few weeks.

Then all of a sudden, things change.

I first noticed it this morning, lying in bed listening to the classical music station I refuse to pledge a nickel to. What was that? It was the sound of the wind chimes out back – very strange, any kind of wind in the morning. So I get up and walk out back, and what do I see? Raindrops falling through a gloriously shimmering morning sun cloud. I mean, it was gorgeous to behold. Not a lot of rain, mind you, just a few drips here and there.

And that’s when I noticed the humidity. ‘Where the heck is this coming from?’, I asked myself. When I didn’t respond to my own question (very unusual, for sure), I went to the computer and brought up trusty old Accuweather.com, and sure enough, we’ve got special weather statements all over the place. I mean, who knew?

Turns out there are three systems influencing our weather that no one picked up on earlier in the week: moisture left over from the remnants of Hurricane Karl from a week ago pushing northward, combining with disintegrating Tropical Storm Georgette in the Gulf of California, both to be pushed northward by a Pacific system moving inward to the north of us. It’s like a early winter system, but with monsoon characteristics. We had a baby thunderstorm tonight; they’re predicting nearly an inch of rain between now and end of day Wednesday. I sure hope they’re right.

Here in the Valley of the Sun we don’t care why it’s happening, we’re just glad that it is happening – after all, with this winter promising to be a La Nina (meaning drier and warmer conditions than usual) rainfall will be hard to come by.

Speaking of weather, yesterday was the anniverary of the Great Hurricane of 1938. Be sure to check the movie embedded within this link – you may need to download QuickTime for Windows, but it’s worth it. My mom remembers it as a girl, and the book “A Wind To Shake The World” tells an unbelievably horrific account of the storm.

But nothing like that here, although, like the Joe Cocker tune goes, I can stand a little rain.

Pool temp: 84 degrees

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:39 | Comments (3)
September 21, 2010

A nice column on Pope Benedict XVI’s recent visit to England.

Have a gander at what the coming civil war in America will look like. Somehow, I get the feeling that the idea that private taxpayers have to pony up to rescue the public service unions and states who no longer can afford to fund them will not be taken too kindly.

First it was Sarah Palin. Then Nikki Haley. Then Michele Bachmann. Now, Christine O’Donnell. Is it just me, or does it seem like if you’re a conservative, attractive Republican candidate it’s open season on everything you’ve ever done in your personal life. It’s just another example of the outright hypocrisy of those, you know, tolerant and accepting liberals in the mainstream dino-media.

Why so I get the sense this is not a great idea. Me, I’ve always been an unadulterated fan of pasteurization.

They told me if I voted for John McCain in the 2008 election there would be an increase of the heathcare uninsured throughout the land. They were right!

You know who I miss? Warren Zevon. His albums “Warren Zevon” and “Excitable Boy” were classic examples of that L.A. / California laid-back rock of the mid-to-late ’70s.

Look, I know I get accused of being mean and angry when it comes to liberals and Democrats, but when the Senate Majority Leader refers to one of his fellow female senators as “hot” during a campaign appearance, and the Vice President thinks he’s second in line of succession for the presidency, well, it’s hard not to take a potshot or two. You can’t make this kind of stuff up.

The best review of any book I’ve ever read includes this money quote:

It is impossible to read Dirty, Sexy Politics and come away with the impression that you have read anything other than the completely unedited ramblings of an idiot. This being a professional website for which I have a great deal of respect, I searched for a more eloquent or gentle way to accurately phrase the previous sentence – but could not find one.

Read the whole thing. God, I’d give anything to be able to write like that.

Pool temp: 84 degrees

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:40 | Comments (2)

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