April 30, 2012

Blogging will be light the next few days as I’ll be heading home to Massachusetts for some quality time with my family, friends, and golf clubs. Looking forward to some fresh clean air and some down time away from work. If anything interesting (or non-interesting happens worth writing about you’ll be the first to know. :-)

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 18:27 | Comments (0)
April 29, 2012

Lots to talk about on the bunny speed dating front. First of all, after several attempts we had to end the effort to bond Marlie with Butterscotch, as there became little doubt that both rabbits just wouldn’t play nice together, ever – Marlie because as a female she thought Butterscotch (also a female) was somehow in her bunny mind and DNA (excuse me if I play bunny psychologist for a moment, I’m only speculating) encroaching on her ability to attract males for herself; Butterscotch because she feared Marlie’s assertiveness and aggression.

The funny thing is that, while Butterscotch is very skittish to begin with, she really is a sweet rabbit who just wants a friend. In Marlie’s case, she’s beyond sweet – in fact, she’s probably the most people-loving rabbit we’ve ever had – but when it comes to other rabbits she obviously has very strong opinions! We knew going in that bonding two females together was far more difficult than bonding a male with a female, but since Marlie supposedly had had another female as a mate we thought it was worth a try.

We’re now convinced we know why Marlie lost her previous mate: she probably killed her. :-)

So now – in fact, in the room right next to where I’m typing this – we now have none other than the Beastie Boys, Cookie and Sherman, lodged in the cage area next to Marlie. Butterscotch is back in her old cage area in the office where Cosmo and Peanut live, and judging from her body language and overall demanor, she’s damned glad to be there.

As for Marlie, I wish there was a bunny psychologist around to document her bunny body language difference now that she has boys next to her. When Butterscotch was there, Marlie was always hyper – eyes wide open, constantly digging at her flooring and creating tunnels out of the bed ruffle, always on edge. Now, she stretches out her whole body out against the fence where Cookie and Sherman are, eyes half closed, her whole demeanor designed to show the boys just how open she is to their attention and affections. For now, the Boys are smart: they’re more concerned with getting comfy in their own new surroundings, but already the cocoa puffs are starting to accumulate (on both sides of the fence), a telling sign that mutual interest is there. What happens when we put all three together will be interesting to see.

And there’s still hope for Butterscotch – today I held in my arms a young male rabbit rescued from the wild by the folks at Bunny Basics. He’s a cute little guy, a brown short-haired Rex who looks something like this that might make a wonderful compainion for Butterscotch once he’s neutered and integrated into a bunny community.

The next couple of weeks ought to be fascinating, stay tuned!

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:17 | Comments (3)
April 28, 2012

The culture we live in rarely celebrates endings – we’re all in denial about death and the end of things we have long held dear for so long. I get it, and I understand it. So when you see – say, for example – the goodbyes of icons like Ronald Reagan or Glen Campbell, both faced with the impending mortal dusk of Alzheimer’s, or the final loops of legends like Jack Nicklaus at the British Open, or Arnold Palmer or Gary Player at the Masters, these are moments to cherish as much as to mourn. After all, as the saying goes, time waits for no man.

I write this because it’s interesting to watch all the hype and hoopla surrounding the Beach Boys 50th anniversary celebration with founders Brian Wilson, Mike Love, and Alan Jardine (touring as a unit for the first time in more than two decades) accompanied by “lost Beach Boy” David Marks and long-time band member Bruce Johnston all involved with not just a huge, celebratory tour, but a new CD release (we used to call them albums) as well.

I’ve read a number of reviews about their new single “That’s Why God Made The Radio”, and I can’t help but wonder what planet these people are on. After all, do they not realize we’re watching the greatest American rock band ride off into the sunset with a final parting gift for those who have admired, adored, and loved for the better part of 50 – count ‘em, 50! – years to serve as a fitting coda to their celebratory career and impact on American pop culture?

Of course, I understand coming off the heels of their 2011 “SMiLE Sessions” release that everyone would like one last, great Brian Wilson statement that would reinforce the view that Brian Wilson is one of – if not the – greatest pop tunesmiths since George Gershwin, but you have to be realistic: the SMiLE sessions were from 45 years ago, now Brian is just weeks away from turning 70. Is it so bad that his years of great artistic statements are over? Is it too much to ask that one simply enjoy and appreciate their sprightly, sentimental, and catchy new single for what it is – a coda to a long and colorful musical career that changed the way the world saw America, California, and surf culture forever?

I will never be able to fully convey just how much of an impact the music of The Beach Boys and Brian Wilson have had on my life. From the moment my friend Bob Noftle introduced them to my brother Mark and I back in 1974, there has seldom been a day that one of their tunes hasn’t passed through my consciousness at one time or another. I can honestly say that the day Bob brought over The Beach Boys In Concert separated my former musical life and knowledge from the life I have lived since. Their music is forever entwined with the memories of loves long passed and the relationship between me and my brother, the band we started, and the different paths our lives and musical tastes ultimately took. The two dozen plus Beach Boys concerts I’ve attended over the years have served as signposts along the way of growing in adulthood and beyond; losing Dennis Wilson and Carl Wilson were, at least spiritually, as much of a loss as losing Mark, for each in their own way made their indelible mark on my heart and soul.

I don’t expect anything from this Beach Boys reunion except joy, sentimentality, and celebration. Brian, Mike, Alan, Bruce, and David (and, in spirit, Dennis and Carl) have been such a part of my life for so many years that it seems uncharitable to expect some great music statement from them. It’s enough to experience for one final time the joy of expectation – what will their new release sound like, will the songs will be good or not, will I be able to pick out all of their distinct voices in those incredible harmonies one final time. Because after that, it’s all over. Forever. The last wave.

Their music, of course, will live on forever, but it will never match the sheer experience and expectation that comes with a NEW BEACH BOYS RELEASE (I never thought I’d ever type those words). I can still remember Mark, me, Jerry “Keys” Palma, and Ken “The Cat” McDougal back in 1976 at a Top Priority rehearsal hearing the WRKO DJ say he had the new Beach Boys single “Rock And Roll Music”, then making us wait the better part of an hour before it was finally played. Or going to the record store at the Burlington Mall every week and checking out the Beach Boys bin for the new release I heard was coming soon. How times have changed!! For us at that time, so addicted to The Beach Boys were we that we ate and slept their music, the joyful anticipation of expecting new sounds from our musical heroes was something I’ll never forget.

Thirty-five years later, Mark, Dennis, and Carl are all gone but being able to experience a bit of that same joy one last time is something I never thought would be possible, so whatever they choose to release to the world as a final gift is worth the world to me. I just wish I wasn’t alone to experience it.

God bless you, Carl. And you, Dennis. Mark loved both of these songs…

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:06 | Comments (4)
April 27, 2012

Ed. Note: Golf Channel‘s Rich Lerner recently sat down with four-time Goodboys Invitational champion Steve “Killer” Kowalski. Enjoy this second in a series of interviews with the participants of the 2012 Goodboys Invitational.

lerner

First off, how do you prefer I address you? Killer or Steve?

killer

My friends all call me Killer. You can call me Steve.

lerner

So Killer, you’ve won four Goodboys Invitational championships, that’s ten less than Tiger Woods has won majors. Which of your titles was the most satisfying?

killer

Well, Rich, your first one is always the most special, but each one of them is special in their own way.

lerner

It’s been said amongst Goodboys Nation that you have one of – if not the, best swing of all the Goodboys. How would you compare your swing to Tiger’s?

killer

Well, Rich, I know there’s been a lot of talk about Tiger’s swing changes from working with Sean Foley, but, in comparing our swings, I have to go back to his work with Hank Haney. In it’s simplest form, Hank wanted Tiger’s shaft – the one on his golf club – to travel on the same plane, or parallel to that plane, established by the shaft at address. That swing was more rotational in nature than the swing Tiger learned with Butch Harmon, giving it the appearance of a flattish, laid off look at the top, although it was most certainly not laid off. Haney’s theory was that it is easier to make a consistent, solid strike and control the clubface if the club shaft is always on plane. It most certainly worked for Tiger, and that’s what I’ve tried to do throughout my Goodboys career.

lerner

OK, enough about Tiger, let’s talk about you. So, what do you think of Tiger’s recent swing changes and his performance at the 2012 Masters?

killer

Rich, stop busting my balls, will ya? I thought we were here to talk about the 2012 Goodboys Invitational.

lerner

OK, OK, you’re right. It’s just that at Golf Channel we’re fed a nonstop diet of Tiger, and it’s hard to break the habit. You’re a four-time Goodboys Invitational champion. You’re also recently married to a very talented young lady who’s an up-and-coming star in her own right. Which is better, being a Goodboys champion or being a happily-married husband living the good life in suburbia? I mean, how do you balance the demands of being a Goodboys “goodwill ambassador” who devotes countless hours supporting local charities with being a bread-winner and husband?

killer

You know, Rich, this game is all about honor, integrity, and tradition, and I’m just a former Goodboys champion trying to do the best I can to make the world a better place.

lerner

For the 2012 Goodboys Invitational you’re teamed with Kevin “Goose” Dwyer, long-time Goodboy also known as “best Goodboy never to have won a Goodboys championship”. What do you and Goose have to do in order to get him that cherished first Goodboys crown?

killer

Make more birdies.

lerner

…which is exactly what Tiger said he was going to need to do in order to win his next major.

killer

Rich…..

lerner

Er, my apologies. Thanks for your time, Killer, er, Steve – good luck at this year’s Goodboys Invitational. Back to you, Kelly…

tilghman

…that was embarassing. Thanks, Rich!

Filed in: Goodboys by The Great White Shank at 00:30 | Comment (1)
April 26, 2012

The Beach Boys have officially released their first single off their new album due June 5th. Checking out some of the entertainment and Beach Boys blogs there seems to be a mix of excitement and disappointment. I’m going for the former. Is it groundbreaking, riveting stuff? No, but the fact that these guys are all in their late sixties and early seventies, well it’s just nice to hear Brian Wilson music the way it was meant to be heard – with the Beach Boys. Good enough for me.

Speaking of the Boys, they kicked off their year-long 50th anniversary tour last night down the road in Tucson. By all accounts it seems to have been quite the joyous affar. As I expected, by the means of a video screen behind them they paid tribute to Brian’s brothers Carl and Dennis by having the live band accompany them on video singing “God Only Knows” and “Forever”, respectively. A nice touch. Can’t wait to see them in Vegas next month.

My brother Dave sent me this cool link of photos of New York City life going back one hundred years ago.

It’s stories like this and this that make me hope that the TSA is one of the first government agencies cut if we can get a Republican in the White House this coming November. I’ve met a couple of nice ones in my travels, but most of the time you see a bunch of people sitting around yakking and doing nothing…

This is a must read from National Review Online’s Victor Davis Hanson:

…If our students are burdened with oppressive loans, why do so many university rec centers look like five-star spas? Student cell phones and cars are indistinguishable from those of the faculty.

The underclass suffers more from obesity than malnutrition; our national epidemic is not unaffordable protein, but rather a surfeit of even cheaper sweets.

Flash mobbers target electronics stores for more junk, not bulk food warehouses in order to eat. America’s children do not suffer from lack of access to the Internet, but from wasting hours on video games and less-than-instructional websites. We have too many, not too few, television channels.

The problem is not that government workers are underpaid or scarce, but that so many of them seem to think mind readers, clowns, and prostitutes come with the job.

An average American with an average cell phone has more information at his fingertips than did a Goldman Sachs grandee 20 years ago. Over the last half-century, bizarre new words have entered the American vocabulary — triple-dipping, Botox, liposuction, jet set, COLA (cost of living adjustment), three-day weekend, Medi-something compounds (Medicare, Medicaid, Medi-Cal) — that do not reflect a deprived citizenry. In 1980, a knee or hip replacement was experimental surgery for the 1 percent; now it is a Medicare entitlement.

American poverty is not measured by absolute global standards of available food, shelter, and medical care, or by comparisons with prior generations, but by one American now having less stuff than another.

As America re-examines its military, entitlements, energy sources, and popular culture, it will learn that our “decline” is not due to material shortages, but rather arises from moral confusion over how to master, rather than being mastered by, the vast riches we have created. If decline is fighting just two wars at a time rather than three, budgeting as we did in 2008, tapping a bit more oil offshore, or having our colleges offer more grammar courses and fewer rock-climbing walls, then by all means, bring it on.

All we are is Rome two thousand years later.

OK, we’re $15 trillion in debt, we have entitlement programs careening down the road to bankruptcy, we have unemplyment and underemployment at levels not seen since the Great Depression, and Barack Obama wants to make global warming a major issue in 2012? Yeah, that’ll work.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:20 | Comments (0)
April 25, 2012

Last day hitting balls at the Superstition Springs G.C. driving range before shipping the graphite woods back to New England for their debut in cooler weather and thicker grass. How I’ll hit them is anyone’s guess: I think I’m close, but I’m definitely not there yet and not quite where I want to be. There’s still time, of course, but with Goodboys Invitational weekend now less than three months away the clock is ticking.

…which means, of course, less than three months until the British Open. I can’t wait.

I wanted to hit the range on a Tuesday afternoon just to see what the place was like on a broiling weekday afternoon. The same retired fellow was there that I’ve seen every time I’ve gone out there this year. Until today it was always on a Friday afternoon, but the fact he was there on a Tuesday leads me to believe he’s a regular range rover. Follows the same routine: lays a club down at his feet to make sure he’s squared up, hits ten balls, sits down for about ten minutes, then does the same thing all over and over again. I couldn’t hit balls as often as that.

Still, I’ve enjoyed going to the range this year and hitting balls under a bright blue sky with the warmth of the sun, the sound of balls being hit, and the casual golf talk of the other players creating a lovely pastiche for the senses. It’s taken me a long time to accept the fact that I’m always going to be scrambling whether or not I’m at the range or actually playing; now that I can I actually enjoy myself whether I’m hitting the ball good or not. Knowing what I need to work on helps a lot – golf is already enough of a humbling game without adding to the fact you don’t know what you’re doing wrong!

This post’s title comes from a song that popped into my head out of nowhere while I was hitting balls – actually, after a 7-iron hit absolutely on the screws. I always liked the tune – I remember it from my teens – and you don’t see lyrics like these any more:

I remember when the sunlight had a special kind of brightness
And laughter held a lover’s kind of lightness, yellow days, yellow days.
She would hold me and the smile would spread around us so completely
And the softness of a kiss would linger sweetly, yellow days, yellow days.
But then came thunder and I heard her say goodbye
Through tears of wonder, now I’m alone and my heart wants to know
Yellow days, where’d you go?
Life is empty and the sunlight seems so harsh instead of tender
And the laughter’s just an echo I’ll remember yellow days, yellow days.
Now I’m alone and my heart wants to know
Yellow days, where’d you go?
Life is empty and the sunlight seems so harsh instead of tender
And the laughter’s just an echo I’ll remember yellow days, yellow days

Percy Faith did the version I remember, and it’s been covered by a slew of artists, but I particularly enjoy this Frank Sinatra version backed with a swingin’ Duke Ellington arrangement. Taste, class, and appreciation!

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:46 | Comments (0)
April 24, 2012

Butch Harmon comments about Tiger Woods’ swing. Hell, I’ve been saying the same thing about fellow Goodboy Ron “Cubby” Myerow’s swing for years.

…heard Golf Channel just finished an interview with fellow Goodboy Steve “Killer” Kowalski. Heard it’s going to be posted here by end of week. Stay tuned…

If you really want to know what’s really going on inside the Obama administration, make The Ulsterman Report a favorite. Between his contacts with “White House Insider” and “Wall Street Insider” it’s a perspective you won’t find anywhere else on the web. I have people “in the know” telling me there’s a serious scandal about to enfold the Obama administration beyond anything you’ve seen yet.

Look, I’m no more of a fan of former senator and VP nominee John Edwards than anyone else is, but I agree with National Review Online’s Rich Lowry that what he did does not warrant prosecution. Is he scum? Did he misuse campaign funds? Yes. But is he a felon worthy of prison? No.

As if summer couldn’t get any better. Not only have the reformed Beach Boys delivered a sterling remake of their classic “Do It Again”, their first single from their 50th anniversary reunion album, “That’s Why God Made The Radio” sounds like a gem. Great tune, great vocals. I can’t wait to see them in Las Vegas, it promises to live up to all the hype.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:44 | Comment (1)
April 23, 2012

We hit 102 and 106 here in Gilbert on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. The pool temperature jumped eight degrees in just two days. No matter how you slice it, that’s hot weather. I just hope it’s not a harbinger of things to come this year.

Good thing the Red Sox and Yankees got rained out last night. That 15-9 loss on Saturday after the Sox were up 9-0 was as awful a display as anything I’ve seen from the Sox, even going back to last September’s historical swoon. As much as Bobby Valentine (Bobby V!) appears to be kind of a joke of a hire, at some point you have to start questioning Sox ownership and GM Ben Cherington. There’s something rotten inside that organization, and a good housecleaning come the All-Star break may be what is needed. I can’t imagine what the sports talk in Boston must be like!

I’ll admit I’m not much of a follower of the NBA, but I have to say that the whole culture of the game and how it is played these days is something that’s not very attractive to me. I’m going on skate on some thin ice here and risk being accused of a racism, but seeing a bunch of bulked-up millionaires (mostly African American, but there are white guys as well) with tattoos covering their bodies to me is gross to look at, and from a sporting spectacle not very interesting, either. I grew up watching and admiring Celtic teams featuring players from Bill Russell to John Havlicek to Satch Sanders and K.C and Sam Jones all the way to Robert Parrish, Cedric Maxwell, Kevin McHale, and Larry Bird, and it just doesn’t look like the same game.

Case in point, isn’t there some irony in someone who calls himself “Metta World Peace” (formerly Ron Artest) being ejected for a monster cheap shot elbow to the head of a fellow competitor? Here’s hoping that Mr. “World Peace” has a chance to spend some serious down time contemplating the concept of changing the world one act of kindness at a time.

Nothing like a good nor’easter to get the blood going. I wish I was hunkered down in some nice Colonial-style bed and breakfast in Newport, RI watching it all unfold. One like The Richards B & B sounds mighty inviting.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:02 | Comment (1)
April 21, 2012

The pool was officially opened yesterday at 4:45 PM. The air temperature was a balmy 97, the water temp a crisp but refreshing 76. Coming off of a hot driving range, the pool, a warm westerly breeze, some Sandals tunes on the patio speakers, and an ice-cold Sam Adams Boston Lager made it a lovely opening day. Tomorrow and Sunday we’ll hit 100 for the first time this year. It is officially summer here in the Valley of the Sun. Hard to believe it will stay this way for the next 5+ months.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:32 | Comments (0)
April 20, 2012

stfrancis

I’ve recently recommitted myself to daily Matins in my little prayer grove. I like it and look forward to doing it whenever I can find a 30-40 minute break in my morning work schedule (the benefits of working at home!). I find it quiets me and helps me focus on balancing my spiritual life with my secular life as the work day unfolds.

The view in the picture is from a small bench I’ve placed kitty-corner against the west side of the house and the north-facing side of the wall that separates our property from our neighbor’s. Our landscaper Carmelo maintains a lovely bougainvillea arch allowing for a nice view of St. Francis, and I’ve added a candle to give it a nice serene touch. Right now, last year’s blooms are all falling off (we never had a killing freeze this past winter), creating a lovely pink carpet on top of the stony ground. There are large palm trees in my neighbor’s yard on the other side of the wall, and the rustling sound they make when a breeze stirs, combined with the beauty of the setting and the purpose of the moment, one feels as if you’re worshipping God in the Garden of Eden.

Even though I’m now a Roman Catholic, I still use the Monastic Breviary from Holy Cross Monastery (an Episcopal monastery in West Park, New York I’ve retreated at many times in the past and hope to in the future) as the form of worship. I don’t consider that strange in the very least – while I could use a Catholic Missal, I suppose, I was, am, and always will be an Anglo-Catholic. I’m just more Catholic than Anglican, but that church and faith will always be a part of who I am and is never far away in either practice or theology.

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 00:21 | Comments (0)

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