April 6, 2020

“The days drift by, they don’t have names…” — Jimmy Buffett, “I Have Found Me A Home”

It’s amazing how being suddenly unemployed – no schedule, no deadlines, no crises – slows down the passage of time and one’s perception of time. Without the daily regimen of scheduled calls, I’ll admit that last Friday I couldn’t remember if it were Thursday or Friday. Last week for me was, at least professionally, my transition week (my last actual day of employment being Wednesday); today I begin my first full week of “the next life”. With the severance package I’ve received there’s certainly no rush for me to jump in and start beating the bricks. Still, I’m a disciplined kind of a guy who needs to have some kind of schedule to keep himself sane, so I’ve kind of laid out a strategy for the month of April that will not just allow me the chance to decompress from the meat-grinder of the last few years, but still have some kind of a schedule or regimen to follow.

So at 7:30 AM every day I’ll be getting up to feed Peach the rabbit and get the coffee turned on, thus enabling Tracey to maintain her own workday schedule. If I feel like it, I’ll go back to bed for a couple of hours before getting up and having breakfast. If I don’t, I won’t.

Breakfast. A luxury I was never allowed to have during my previous life. After all, with calls starting at 7 AM most days and pretty much running through at the very least mid-morning, I never thought about breakfast. Not that I was ever much of a breakfast guy, but one of my goals during this new phase of my life is to try and eat healthier, so I’m going to start my day with a leisurely breakfast (probably on the back patio) to kind of let the day unwind before me. After breakfast I’ll take a brisk walk around the neighborhood – not only to allow me to clear my head and plan my day out, but also it’s a habit I can retain even when the heat arrives (the mornings still be tolerable, even on the hottest days).

After my walk, I figure I’ll pour myself another cup of Joe and work the unemployed angle. Starting this week I’ll be beefing up my LinkIn account profile, bringing all my prior employment history up to date, poking around at the job opportunities that come my way, and checking non-IT related opportunities for either part-time or full time work that I might wish to test out. I’ve already got a company called Poolwerx (for learning the pool maintenance business) and the UPS Store (I’ve always loved the UPS Store) on my list, along with Visiting Angels or something similar along the senior assistance line. As for the latter, I’ve been thinking of something like VA for a long time, the idea being that when my time of “taking” was over I should start doing a little of giving back. I’ve always enjoyed being around elderly folk, so that’s something I plan on looking into.

Once this stay-at-home business is over I plan on volunteering at Tranquility Trail Animal Sanctuary (a.k.a. The Bunny Basics) once a week. I’m thinking about hanging a shingle out for doing in-home rabbit care for folks who don’t want to board their rabbits while they go away. Obviously, no one’s going anywhere nowadays, but again, all these things that I’m doing now are all designed for planting seeds. I’ve also set up my own LLC consulting firm, TGWS Consulting, that I plan to hang out a shingle for in case I want to go the IT consulting route. I look at this time in my life as a time to explore new opportunities and not say yes or no to anything – after 17 1/2 years in my prior situation I think I deserve at least that.

This week I plan on returning my former work office back to a spare bedroom. Now that I won’t be spending much – if any – time in that room, it’s not fair to Peach to spend his days all alone, so we’ve moved him to his new digs in our home office. Not only will he benefit from a larger space, but he’ll have company both during the day and at night. As an added benefit, because the office is at the end of the hallway that connects the east and west sides of the house, he’ll now be able to witness the natural ebb and flow of people in the house, as opposed to only having company whenever I was working. So that will be a good change for him.

It’s hard to believe that it was only eleven days ago when I was let go. It seems like it has been a month already, the time has passed by so slowly. Like I say, if I didn’t have that severance package to keep me afloat through the end of August I’d be feeling about things a whole lot differently. While the meat-grinder was rough, it was my meat-grinder, and I miss the people who were part of of my professional family for so many years. It sucks, but I chosen to embrace the suck and create a new life for myself. I won’t deny there aren’t momentary pangs of unease, but there’s also a sense of excitement as well.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 02:31 | Comments (0)
April 2, 2020

So I’m officially free of the meat-grinder and I’m feeling pretty good about things. I was a little worried that converting my LinkedIn account from my employer address to my home address would be difficult, but was able to accomplish it with a minimum of back-and forth between the home office and my business office. Today I’ll be officially filing for unemployment and will start up TGWS Consulting, my own business I plan to use for who knows what – if I want to stay in the IT industry it will be a perfect vehicle for doing so; if I want to go in other directions it might be helpful as well. My current plans for April are to use the month for strengthening my LinkedIn network and planting as many seeds as possible.

I must be pretty damned tired without knowing it: after opening the door for the electrician to begin work swapping out our main box (there was something overheating behind the circuit box), I laid back down and slept to noon – something I would (or could) never have imagined doing in my former employment situation! I’m just going to let my body tell me what it wants to do over the next month.

A pet peeve: all these celebrities and folks using John Lennon’s “Imagine” as some kind of anthem of hope. Anthem of hope? You’ve got to be shitting me! Granted, the melody is lovely, and I always found the video of Lennon’s performance particularly poignant with its movement from darkness to light. Yeah, I get it. But the words themselves are, to be brutally frank, the equivalent of dishwater – socialist, idealistic drivel that not even the most ardent socialist would ever be willing to ascribe to. Don’t believe me?

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today… Aha-ah…

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace… You…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world… You…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

No heaven or hell? No religion? No possessions? Basically, what Lennon’s words are saying is there is nothing worth believing in. PERIOD. What kind of an existence would that be? I still remember hearing Lennon’s words when I first got the album back in 1971. And even then, at hearing Lennon’s plea to “imagine no possessions”, I remember myself saying, “you first, John”, knowing he had for himself quite the nice existence as a result of his Beatles existence.

…And that’s the same thing I say to all you liberals and progressives out there – most especially when it comes to climate change and all this “Green New Deal” bullshit. Me? I’ll believe climate change is real when I hear about all those Hollywood celebrities foregoing their carbon-burning private jets and limos. And I’ll believe your cries for open borders when you stop locking your doors at night and all those Hollywood celebrities forego their gated communities and walled-in mansions. It’s all so much bullshit.

…look, I’m no paragon of virtue by any means, but I’m no hypocrite. With The Great White Shank you see what you get.

Happened upon a video of Linda Ronstadt singing “It’s So Easy” back in her heyday and am reminded of just how great and versatile a singer she was. She literally could sing (and has) sung everything from country to pop to pop standards, to mariachi, to classical Cuban. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say she’s one of the greatest singers of our time. I don’t think she’s under-appreciated – lots of folks know how good she was – but I wonder if you’re sitting around a hotel room bed and, say, debating whether Steely Dan was a great band or not (they weren’t), if you were to ask those assembled to name the greatest pop singer of all time I wonder if anyone would mention Ronstadt’s name. I would say she would certainly consider merit.

…I still remember seeing her on the Boston Common back in the late 70s. She came out looking drop-dead cute (if there ever was a definition of cute in the Webster’s they would have had a picture of Ronstadt by it!) in a Girl Scout outfit and blowing away the crowd with that mother-f’in’ tight band of hers: Russ Kunkel on drums, Kenny Edwards on bass, Waddy Wachtel, Danny Kortchmar, and/or Andrew Gold on on guitar, Billy Payne on keyboards, and Peter Asher on vocals. These guys were not only the cream of L.A. musicians during the mid-to-late ’70s, but with Ronstadt hanging around the Troubador bar were ultimately for bringing the Eagles together.

…Ronstadt’s voice was a true instrument: she could sing it straight, falsetto, sweetly, and growl and purr almost effortlessly. What a treasure!

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:26 | Comments (0)
March 31, 2020

I just looked at the clock and, as far as Eastern Daylight Time is concerned (all that matters as far as my now-previous employer is concerned), for the first time in almost 17 1/2 years I find myself unemployed. A truly free agent in every sense of the word. The world being my oyster and all that happy horse shit. It feels truly weird.

I went to bed last night trying to think about who I was and what it was like back in December of 2003, walking into the Gateway Center building (at that time where my company’s Phoenix office was then located). I was forty-eight at the time, only feeling relieved that my brief and pitiful period of selling health insurance was finally over. I was back in Healthcare IT, where, the idea of becoming an Episcopal or Anglican priest recently and finally squashed like a bug, I knew I belonged.

Laying on the pillow, hands behind my head, I couldn’t recall who or what I was at that time. Isn’t that strange? All I knew then was that I had found a new gig: something I was truly qualified for. This was four years before working from home. Five years before the India team. Fourteen years before “The Client Who Shall Remain Nameless” and when the madness set in.

I never dreamed it would be 17 1/2 years later, and I’d be sixty-four – 64! – and that, mentally and physically fried to a crisp, the journey would come to an end.

Strange thing is, I found all the final activities associated with my final day of employment strangely dull and unemotional. Got up in the morning, found that the incompetent Human Resources representative (who has never been either human nor a resource in all my dealings with her) finally got my “outboarding” (where do folks come up with these terms, anyways?) e-mail with all my severance package info (which, if it is to be believed, something very respectable) as well as all the other crap you have to follow when leaving a primarily remote company (turn in you badge, your company credit card, your laptop, etc.). I found it interesting they were allowing me keep a very nice 22″ Lenovo monitor: the equipment guy told me they had run out of room for returned monitors. Go figure.

I backed up all the files I could onto an archaic external drive my company had provided me years ago.

I checked my Inbox, now down to seven e-mails (all from well-wishers in the company), got it down to zero.

I had a final call with my team, where I learned that, not only are a bunch of folks being placed on furlough (supposedly because of the Coronavirus), but that there are rumors of a sales force layoff in the next couple of weeks followed by another 10% reduction in force after that, and then after that yet another reduction in force planned for the beginning of May.

If all the above is true, it would appear that I’m getting out just in time.

(I really don’t want this post to be negative; all I’m going to say is that it infuriates me to no end that a once-prominent (and in my view, superior) healthcare IT company has been run into the fucking ground by a bunch of totally fucking incompetent and over-their-fucking-heads management team by a totally fucking incompetent, social justice warrior impersonating a CEO. I hate to offer the premise of a conspiracy theory here, but I find it hard to believe that someone could take over a company in 2012 – a company with clients from one end of the country to the other – a real player in the healthcare IT industry – with a stock price somewhere in the $15 range and gradually run it into the ground where, just seven years later, it has lost a large portion of its US client base, its stock is in the $7 range, and has been laying off people by the dozens over the past two years. Sure, you can call it capitalism – and it is – but you know damned well the CEO is going to leave with a damned fine compensation package when the company is sold, and to hell with everyone else. It just sucks, and my heart bleeds for everyone being forced to watch that string quartet play “Nearer My God To Three” as the stern rises ever so slowly as the bow begins to disappear under the waves. It just sickens me.)

It was shortly after 1 PM (4 PM EDT) that I sent my final e-mails out, set my Skype status to “Away”, put my Outlook out of office message on, and then quietly, without emotion or fanfare, powered off my laptop and unplugged the equipment on my office desk. My office mate Peach the rabbit must have sensed something was going on – he came over and started biting the wire fence that separates his part of the room from mine, insisting on some attention. I gave him a few pets, got up from my chair, and went out to make lunch. And that was that.

Ever since getting the news of my layoff on Thursday I’d been wondering what it would feel like to shut down the laptop, knowing it was all over. Would I feel sadness? Joy? Relief? As it was, I felt nothing. Not happy. Not sad. Not even sentimental. It was over – fourteen pretty enjoyable years, the last three years absolute, meat-grinder hell. I actually thought I’d already made it through the five stages of grief since the work dreams of Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night had stopped, but there was no emotion at all. To quote a great Meg Myers song, all I could feel was numb.

Eight hours later, I’m starting to feel the first tingles of what might be the first tiny tastes of true freedom. Freedom to explore new paths. Freedom from the 6:20 AM alarm and another day of bullshit and crisis management (Manage up! Manage down!) without any let-up from the git-go. I can already feel all the stress and anxiety starting to pour out of me: I used to welcome my 2 PM naps where I would immediately fall asleep; now I just look at the ceiling and think about what I want to do with the rest of the day.

There’s no question my age and the severance package I’m getting helps with the anxiety of having to find a new gig almost immediately – I doubt I’d be feeling the same were I ten, or even five, years younger – all I know right now is that I’m standing outside the arena and looking in and able to see just how emotionally damaged and spent I am. I know I need to take some time to heal, and it’s going to take time.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 21:03 | Comments (0)
March 28, 2020

One of the benefits of suddenly being unemployed is that you get more time to doing things that you have been paying scant attention to because of a lack of free time. This blog has really taken a hit over the past 2 1/2 years. I enjoy writing for my own pleasure – it keeps the left side (or is it the right side) of the brain functioning. I know this blog is just a minor outpost in the world of social media, but I’m going to see what I can do to open it up a little more now that I will have the time to do so.

One of the things the Trump presidency has revealed is the ugly current of hatred and misinformation / disinformation being used as a weapon on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. That’s not going to change, but the amount of people whom I follow on Twitter are simply amazed at the outpouring of hate they receive on a daily basis. Being that these Twitter accounts are conservative in nature, the outpouring of hate, of course, comes from the left. I have little doubt that the same thing is happening to those who tweet from the other side of the political equation, although I sincerely doubt there’s as much hate as there is facts and debate.

I’m thinking of using my Twitter account a little bit more now that my schedule has opened up, but I think primarily I’ll keep the blog because blogs are more prone to thinking as opposed to reacting. Everything happens so fast in social media these days that’s it’s really not interesting to me to be the first to respond to news or pile on the reactions to news when and as it happens. Anyways, I’m looking at the recent events in my life as an opportunity to explore new things while not closing the door to old ones. Tracey and I are fortunate that we’ve had good-paying jobs for a long time and have had good financial advice to help put our affairs in order. We’re not rich by any stretch of the matter, but we’re in a lot better shape than many folks. I’ve also got a bit of a severance package coming that will help ease the transition into whatever comes next.

Anyways, y’all will probably be seeing more frequent posting in the future as a way to entertain myself and fill the holes in what is now a pretty empty schedule as far a demands go.

Because I’m the kind of guy that needs goals and timelines, and because we’re reaching the end of Q1 2020, I figure I’m going to use the next three months (Q2) to decompress and start planting seeds and exploring what might be out there as far as future opportunities go. The easiest thing would be to start pounding the bricks (at least theoretically) looking to continue doing the very same thing I’ve been doing for so long. Perhaps were we entirely dependent on my income (or, more importantly, were I ten years younger) I don’t think I’d have a choice. But now that the shock of being sacked is over, I realize that: (1) I was only going to try and squeeze another 2 1/2 years out of my present situation to begin with, (2) have a nice little pension from a previous employer that, while not much, will still supplement any income I’ll be bringing in starting this October, and (3) that, no matter what I end up finding or doing I know I’ll never again make anything near the same amount of money I have been making, that kind of helps frame the parameters around my present situation.

It’s funny how this sudden change in my work situation creates little ripples of cause and effect. For example, there will no longer be a need for the room that has served as my office ever since I started working from home thirteen years ago. Which means Peach the rabbit would now be spending his days all by himself, isolated from the ebb and flow of the rest of the house – something clearly not acceptable. So this weekend we’ll be looking at reconfiguring our home office so that Peach can have company while I’m working on taxes (something I now have plenty of time to work on!) or just doing normal computer stuff. I have a feeling he’ll like that a whole lot better!

At any rate – most especially with the COVID-19 thing going on, nothing much is really going to change, at least in the short-term. When everything opens back up and folks start hiring and traveling again I’ll have a better idea as to what range of opportunities might actually be out there. For now I’ll just file for unemployment (joining the many thousands of others who have done the same), start working on taxes, do regular housecleaning (another area that has suffered for a long time!) and start working on next steps. The saying goes that when life gives you lemons you make lemonade. I’m not sure what I was doing the last 2 1/2 years, but it certainly wasn’t what I would call a quality kind of life. Now that I’ll have some time to decompress hopefully there will be room for living as opposed to simply existing.

Oh, and that “Client Who Shall Remain Nameless” that has been the bane of my existence for the last 2 1/2 years? O-M-G, are they mortified to learn that their lifeline to someone that actually cared about them and got results for them will no longer be around for their every want, need, and demands All I can say, welcome to the post-Great White Shank apocalypse, CWSRN – you have no clue how hard life is about to become for you!

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 11:48 | Comments (0)
March 26, 2020

I lost my job today.

It’s not that I didn’t see this coming, mind you – I thought I might be able to squeeze another year or two out of the wheezing dinosaur that is the company (as the good soldier I’ll let remain nameless) I’ve been a part of for the past 16 1/2 years.

16 1/2 years is a damned long time. I think about it – I was forty-eight years old when then-Eclipsys (courtesy of two really great guys, Dan Tankersley and Phil Santucci) pulled my sorry ass out of insurance company hell (I was never much of a sales guy, never was, never will be) and offered me a project manager job. At the time I was lost in every sense of the word: I was living in Arizona (courtesy of some bad, knee-jerk decision-making), my once-soaring and solid IT career in shambles, completely unmarketable.

But there Tracey and I were, having coffee on the back patio that Saturday morning in December 2003, when we hear a FedEx truck grumbling outside the front door leaving a package containing an offer to join Eclipsys as a project manager. Man, that was a great occasion – we even broke out a bottle of champagne to celebrate. I was free of the insurance world and back in familiar digs, career wise.

They say in life you have to make your own luck. A month after joining Eclipsys they didn’t know what to do with me. A software fiasco that had occurred right around the time I was hired had forced the company to retrench, software wise, and the projects I was originally hired for all fell by the wayside. I found myself as a new hire in a company with nothing to do. One day, happening by one of the manager’s offices, I heard a conversation where they were bemoaning the fact they had no one to organize a custom report writing team – something that appeared to be an obvious need at the time. I waited a couple of hours (discretion being the better part of valor) then stopped in to ask if he had anything interesting I could work on. The rest was history.

Seventeen years later, our little custom reports team at the time (two employees who dabbled in reports) has become a ten-person team spread across both North America and India. It wasn’t just me who accomplished this – all I did was follow the lead of others to make sure that the team we built was founded on uniformity, competence, and passion – something I will readily take credit for. Others may have made the business unit possible, I was the one that made it a team.

Back in 2007 when our India operation was launched, things were hard – a lot of hours were spent cultivating good work practices and separating the wheat from the chaff. And there were growing pains, for sure (I remember a late-night – and admittedly alcohol-fueled – bombardment of the India guys for not having the same passion for excellence that I did. Industry standards indicate a 30% turnover of India IT resources every year. The fact that our team has at least three great report writers who have been there more than a decade is an indication of the care and respect my old boss Bill (sacked last November) and I had in treating our team, be it North America-based or India-based, the same.

Those who frequent this blog frequently will know the last three years have not been easy ones. Beginning in 2017 with “The Client Who Shall Remain Nameless”, everything just took a turn for the worse. My team was asked to go far beyond the role we had originally been charged with, developing solutions that our development organization couldn’t produce. It was hard. At one point, between December of 2017 and May of 2018, it was fourteen-hour days and the most relentless of pressure I have ever experienced. I couldn’t sleep. My hair started falling out. My marriage suffered. And even to this day, there’s still an incredible amount of work that is never gonna get done correctly because it takes a leader with special skills to keep things all together to make it all work out for my company’s client base (“Nameless” and otherwise).

I’ll say it straight: my company is going under because its senior leadership thinks it is more important that it be a “good citizen of the community” than a profit-generating, publicly-traded corporation. We have a largely female senior leadership who thinks it is more important to empower women and “give back to the community” than it is to generate revenue. When our CEO took over ~ eight years ago, our stock was in the $15 range; today it’s somewhere around $6.50. And this is in healthcare, mind you – something that everyone in this country and the world needs! How on God’s green earth can a company that sells software applicable to the entire population of the country not make money with its products? It takes a unique combination of arrogance, incompetence, and willful blindness to run such a company into the ground. But that’s what these buffoons have done.

I’m just glad I’m at 64 1/2 years old, seeing far more sunsets than I ever will see, than were I, say, ten years younger. I’ll admit it: I’m a dinosaur. While I believe that for-profit companies need to make a profit, I’ve always treated my team members in the U.S. and India as family. I’ve never asked anyone to commit to anything to a degree I wouldn’t do myself. I’ve pushed people very hard at times when needed, but always knew when to take the pedal off the metal. I think I always had my hand on the pulse of a team with wide-ranging cultural differences and technical experience. The senior management of my company suck and are a bunch of incompetent boobs, but I always protected my team from the bullshit, enabling them to do the kind of work they do best.

And I guess that what makes me a dinosaur. And today the dinosaur got his walking papers.

I’m more fortunate than most that Tracey and I have done a pretty good job preparing for this day. Not as good as we could have, I suppose, but we’re in far better shape, I think, than others who also got the axe today. It’s too early to start thinking what I might do next, but one of my co-workers who chose to leave on his own while the getting was good compares us to some kind of Stockholm Syndrome refugee colony, where all the 11-hour weekdays (or more) and sneaking a couple of hours in on Saturday and Sunday for the better part of 2 1/2 years have made us believe that the pressure we’ve been under all this time is somehow acceptable and worthwhile.

I think the hardest thing I’m going to encounter is to unplug myself from all the madness – the 6:30 AM calls, the necessary 2 PM nap to clear my head, the scrambling to complete my workday by 6:30 PM in order to start dinner – the downtime is all going to seem so foreign to me. I don’t know what I want to do next at this point. I won’t miss the work, for sure, but I’ll certainly miss the friendships I’ve cultivated on my team both in the U.S. and in India. We worked hard together, succeeded together, and (especially with “The Client Who Shall Remain Nameless”) went down in flames together. We may not have always succeeded, but we never stopped caring for each other and working together a tight unit.

The dick-heads have won. The kind of incompetence my company allows their senior management to exhibit on a day-in, day-out basis is disheartening. They say the very definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Given our track record over the past years – catastrophic implementations, a vastly reduced client base, and a plummeting stock price – the fact that my company’s senior leadership remains in place is an indication of something perhaps far deeper and more sinister than I was willing to admit. A company’s senior leadership can be a bunch of assholes or they can be incompetent, but you can’t succeed at being both. Clueless and stupid is no way to run a company.

We’ll see where I go from here. Right now the need is to decompress and start taking care of myself health-wise. The last 2 1/2 years have been rough on both my physical and psychological well-being, so maybe a nice break to recharge the batteries and start exploring new and different opportunities will be a good thing.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 23:51 | Comments (2)
March 22, 2020

Been so busy these past couple of weeks I hadn’t had a chance to post this lovely pic of a fire I built under the last lovely full moon. I’m really impressed by the Apple IPhone upgrade with the camera enhancements. I can now take pictures I never would have been able to get previously. Lovely, isn’t it?

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:29 | Comments (0)
March 21, 2020

A tip of the hat to the late, great Roy Orbison for the title of this post.

Because, as Paul McCartney once sang, I’m really down.

Folks, I’ll admit, I’ve reached the breaking point in my anger and frustration at the hysteria that is going on out here because of yes, the CHINESE VIRUS. I’m tired of the empty shelves in the grocery stores. I’m tired of the hoarders – yesterday I saw some woman actually allowed to purchase two 24-can flats of green beans – acting out on the hysteria being pushed by the mainstream media at both the national and local levels. All it is doing is making people crazy and feeding the hysteria machine making everyone think we’re all about to die.

I was watching the CBS morning show yesterday morning while waiting for my car to have its oil changed, and these clowns were congratulating each other for being so brave for moving into a smaller studio to do their telecasts because of the Cornoavirus, as if they were saving humanity by reducing the amount of technical staff needed. I mean, are you kidding me? But that is what the sheep across this country of ours is watching and lapping up on a daily basis. It’s really sickening to watch.

I mean, where are our priorities here? Is it the infinitesimally small amount of people who are going to die – if not from the COVID-19 then some other form of flu this year – or the wreckage of the entire U.S. economy? Don’t get me wrong here: I’m not being callous about the loss of those who might or will die from this virus, but the sad fact is, life is cheap these days. Don’t believe me? The mainstream media and Democrats overwhelmingly support abortion right up until the moment of birth, don’t they? And you don’t hear nearly the same kind of hysteria when young black men are killing each other on the streets of Chicago or Baltimore every single weekend. I guarantee that when you look at the butcher’s bill at the end of 2020 you’ll see far more deaths from inner-city gun violence then you will from the COVID-19. So spare me your hysteria.

…the damage we are doing to our economy is ultimately going to far greater harm to a larger group of people than COVID-19 could ever dream of. And it’s time folks start pushing back against the hysteria.

I’ve had enough. I mean, you’ve now got the golf courses around here – you know, places, like, in the open air, saying that until this crisis breaks there will be no ball washers on the course. And no rakes by the sand bunkers. And no pairs in golf carts. Here’s an idea: if you’re afraid of contracting the COVID-19 virus by playing golf, then DON”T PLAY. Which is why I’m quarantining my golf game until these wackos get out of my way. I just don’t want to deal with the hysteria of it all.

I can’t help thinking that a primary driver behind all this, in some way, is the fear of lawsuits. Of course, even if you catch the virus you will never be able to prove where you contracted it from. But there is such a thing as a class-action suit, and you know that the pussies who run businesses both small and large have this in the back of their minds.

The people who are pissing me off the most are the mainstream press. They’re not just acting like assholes, but they are doing a grave disservice to this country out of their hatred for President Trump. I mean, you can’t win with these clowns. They call him a racist and a xenophobe when he suspends air travel from places like China and Europe, then criticize him for not acting fast enough. They’re all for Obama-sized big government, then they criticize him when the CDC and FDA regulations slow ability to act with urgency. The media had no issue pushing the “Chinese virus” back in January and February, now Trump is a racist for doing the same. The media has been doing their collective best to talk down Trump’s roaring economy ever since he took office, now they’re suddenly concerned when the market tanks. You simply cannot win with these people. They suck.

But the heck with President Trump and his team of experts, this is the kind of leader I want at the helm of the Ship of State during times like these. Which is just another reason why Democrats have to be feeling frustrated by how limited their responses during this crisis have been. After all, when you’ve spent the entire Trump administration focusing on issues important only to the talking heads on CNN and MSNBC, and their viewership in the elitist collectives on the east and west coasts (how’s that impeachment thing working out for y’all now?), it isn’t surprising you have precious little to offer in the way of substance when a real crisis erupts.

If there is a silver lining to this whole virus thing, it’s the destruction of all the boutique social issues the progressive elitists have been shoving down our collective throats for the past decade. Think about it: when the hype over COVID-19 is nothing less then global annihilation, there isn’t much air left in the room for issues like reusable grocery bags, the elimination of fossil fuels and plastic straws, and the number of gender pronouns we ought to be using. When times are good and there’s plenty of things for the progressive left to complain and be outraged about; when things and the times get serious their bluster seems a little silly and over the top, doesn’t it?

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 14:55 | Comments (0)
March 15, 2020

This whole Coronvirus thing has gotten completely out of hand. Primarily fueled by the cable news networks’ hatred for President Trump and their desire to see the the stock market tank and thousands upon thousands of people die or go out of work just so the President won’t be re-elected is something I still can’t believe is happening in this country. What are we, a bunch of friggin’ soft snowflake simp sheep? Where did all our collective level-headedness and common sense go? Sure, there are people who are going to get infected and die. But we’re all going to die some time, why sanitize it?

It’s in times like this, where everyone is totally freaking out, that I recommend listening to the music of Pink Floyd. Perhaps because of founder Syd Barrett’s descent into madness due to schizophrenia or some other form of mental illness exacerbated by his copious use of psychedelic drugs that sent him over the edge, the band has always portrayed, in one form or another, a general subject of paranoia, alienation, and/or madness in its music.

So allow me to offer up my own “Top 10” for y’all to listen to while you’re allowing yourself to be subjected to some 14- or 28-day self-quarantine because some clueless, elected dickhead of a politician thinks it’s in the best interest of his/her own political future to play the role of Braveheart:

12. “Wish You Were Here”, Wish You Were Here
10. “Wearing The Inside Out”, The Division Bell
9. “Absolutely Curtains”, Obscurred by Clouds
8. “Careful With That Axe, Eugene“, Ummagumma
7. “One Slip”, Momentary Lapse of Reason
6. “Comfortably Numb”, The Wall
5. “Us and Them”, The Dark Side of the Moon
4. “The Great Gig In the Sky”, The Dark Side of the Moon
3. “Free Four”, Meddle
2. “Brain Damage”/”Eclipse”, The Dark Side of the Moon
1. “Sheep”, Animals

Given the state of things (and reflecting on my most recent visit to a local Frys):

Harmlessly passing your time in the grassland away
Only dimly aware of a certain unease in the air
You better watch out
There may be dogs about
I’ve looked over Jordan and I have seen
Things are not what they seem

What do you get for pretending the danger’s not real
Meek and obedient you follow the leader
Down well trodden corridors into the valley of steel
What a surprise
A look of terminal shock in your eyes
Now things are really what they seem
No, this is no bad dream

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want
He makes me down to lie
Through pastures green he leadeth me the silent waters by
With bright knives he releaseth my soul
He maketh me to hang on hooks in high places
He converteth me to lamb cutlets
For lo, he hath great power and great hunger
When cometh the day we lowly ones
Through quiet reflection and great dedication
Master the art of karate
Lo, we shall rise up
And then we’ll make the bugger’s eyes water

Bleating and babbling we fell on his neck with a scream
Wave upon wave of demented avengers
March cheerfully out of obscurity into the dream

Have you heard the news?
The dogs are dead!
You better stay home
And do as you’re told
Get out of the road if you want to grow old

Because the lunatics (the “dogs” in Roger Waters’ lyrics) have now used the fear of this virus to taken control of our daily lives it will be the eclipse of the great American experiment. Where we – willingly! – give up every freedom the Founding Fathers sought to guarantee us because a bunch of ignorant, power-hungry bureaucrats deemed a virus as good an excuse as anything to conjure a way to take all of our rights away. And I’m blaming President Trump for playing the fool. Roger Waters’ lyrics to “Sheep”, are right: the dogs are now all around us. F**k them all.

From #2, “There is no dark side of the moon, really. Matter of fact, it’s all dark.”

As are we.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 23:49 | Comments (0)
March 10, 2020

One of the sometimes infuriating things about me and music is that when I get into something I really get into it, to the point where it almost invades my body and my psyche to the detriment of everything else. Like, I could have a song in my head when I go to sleep and have it start right up again the next morning when I wake up. And in the case of these three songs it’s really starting to piss me (and Tracey, who has to listen to me playing these songs over and over again) off. Presently, there are three songs in particular. I’m going to take them from last to first.

3. Bruce Springsteen, “Girls In Their Summer Clothes”. When I first heard this song three years ago the experience was almost unlike anything I’d ever heard before. I was never much of a Springsteen fan – still ain’t – but the grandiose, Spector-esque “Wall of Sound” arrangement, combined with a wistful melancholy lyric immediately found a place in my soul and psyche I still haven’t gotten rid of since. The lyrics are beyond poetic, speaking of a lost moment and innocence, desperation, something akin to Gatsby wishing to grasp that unobtainable essence present in that green light across the Sound:

Well the street lights shine
Down on Blessing Avenue
Lovers they walk by
Holdin’ hands two by two

A breeze crosses the porch
Bicycle spokes spin ’round
Jacket’s on, I’m out the door
Tonight I’m gonna burn this town down

And the girls in their summer clothes
In the cool of the evening light
The girls in their summer clothes
Pass me by

Kid’s rubber ball smacks
Off the gutter ‘neath the lamp light
Big bank clock chimes
Off go the sleepy front porch lights

Downtown the store’s alive
As the evening’s underway
Things been a little tight
But I know they’re gonna turn my way

And the girls in their summer clothes
In the cool of the evening light
The girls in their summer clothes
Pass me by

Frankie’s Diner’s
Over on the edge of town
Neon sign spinnin’ round
Like a cross over the lost and found

Fluorescent lights
Flicker above Bob’s Grill
Shaniqua brings a coffee and asks “fill?”
And says “penny for your thoughts now my poor Bill”

She went away
She cut me like a knife
Had a beautiful thing
Maybe you just saved my life

In just a glance
Down here on Magic Street
Love’s a fool’s dance
I ain’t got much sense but I still got my feet

And the girls in their summer clothes
In the cool of the evening light
The girls in their summer clothes
Pass me by

And the girls in their summer clothes
In the cool of the evening light
The girls in their summer clothes
Pass me by

Listen to the subtle modulations in the final verse and chorus, adding the necessary tension between the triumph of a survivor and the sense of loss as reality bites. It’s an incredible, never compromising, always rewarding listening experience. In my own mind I believe in this song Springsteen captured my own soul. In vulnerable moments late at night and thinking about my Massachusetts home it makes me want to cry.

2. Meg Myers, “Numb”. What is it about this damned song that makes it continually run through my head like a never-ending movie soundtrack? Is it the beat, that bass line, and that cool opening piano riff that grabs me from the start? Sure, that’s a part of it, but it’s the entire performance that I find entrancing. And what a story Myers has to tell:

When all is said and done
Tell me how to write this
Tell me how to fight this war
I’ll keep marching on
Like a broken robot
Money back guarantee

I’m in your custody
But I am not a criminal
I can be your next big thing
Look at what I’ve become
Silly little monster, should have just held my tongue

I hate the feeling like this
Weight up on my shoulders
Pushing the pressure down on me
You think you want the best for me
But nothing really matters
If you force it, it won’t come

I guess I’m feeling numb
I guess I’m feeling numb

Sometimes I wish I could fly
Through a secret trapped door
Into another life (life)
Bury my head in the sand
I don’t want to grow up
La la la la la la

I hate the feeling like this
Weight up on my shoulders
Pushing the pressure down on me
You think you want the best for me
But nothing really matters
If you force it, it won’t come

I guess I’m feeling numb
I guess I’m feeling numb

I’ll play the game
I’ll do everything you tell me
All the losers win in the end

I’ll play the game
I’ll do everything you tell me
All the losers win in the end

I hate the feeling like this
Weight up on my shoulders
Pushing the pressure down on me
You think you want the best for me
But nothing really matters
If you force it, it won’t come

I guess I’m feeling numb
I guess I’m feeling numb

Myers’ lyrics are the antithesis of Springsteen’s “Girls”. Here there is no sentimental melancholy, innocence or hope, just resignation. Run out your talent and passion out there day after day like a hamster on a never-ending wheel until you’re used and shriveled up, left for dead. “All the losers win in the end.” Because they do – at least in my company. And that’s a part of how I feel these days, which is why I’ve been so drawn to this song since the first time I heard it. You want cynicism and fatalism, that nothing you do in your life makes a dent in the big picture? That’s what Myers is saying here. And everything she sings about is spot on as far as my own professional life in corporate America is concerned. And it’s not just my professional life, it’s every aspect of it – everyone around me seems to demand a piece of me until there is nothing left for just me. It’s kind of a life song for me right now.

1. Kate Bush, “Wuthering Heights”. OK, I’ll admit it: from the very first moment I heard this song I felt like it somehow possessed me in a way like nothing I’d ever heard before. Since that time I find this damned song ever running through my thoughts and dreams; it’s almost the first thought in my head when I wake up to do bodily functions in the middle of the night, and if I’m not thinking or doing anything there it is, dead straight in my subconscious where I’ll start singing or humming it on cue. It’s bizarre, like something right out of The Dead Files.

Ironically enough, I’d been a fan of Kate Bush since “Running Up That Hill” (also covered nicely by none other than Meg Myers, BTW), which is why, I think, in some way Myers and Bush are conspiring to do a kind of tag team thing in my head. But back to “Wuthering”, because I’d never heard it before, the song utterly enchanting, the lyrics so damned Gothic. Tracey tells me the fraction of the movie Bush saw that supposedly inspired her (like, the last fifteen minutes) was all there really was worth singing about. But still it’s in my damned head!:

Out on the wiley, windy moors
We’d roll and fall in green
You had a temper like my jealousy
Too hot, too greedy
How could you leave me
When I needed to possess you?
I hated you. I loved you, too

Bad dreams in the night
They told me I was going to lose the fight
Leave behind my wuthering, wuthering
Wuthering Heights

Heathcliff, it’s me, I’m Cathy
I’ve come home. I’m so cold
Let me in-a-your window

Heathcliff, it’s me, I’m Cathy
I’ve come home. I’m so cold
Let me in-a-your window

Ooh, it gets dark! It gets lonely
On the other side from you
I pine a lot. I find the lot
Falls through without you
I’m coming back, love
Cruel Heathcliff, my one dream
My only master

Too long I roam in the night
I’m coming back to his side, to put it right
I’m coming home to wuthering, wuthering
Wuthering Heights

Heathcliff, it’s me, I’m Cathy
I’ve come home. I’m so cold
Let me in-a-your window

Heathcliff, it’s me, I’m Cathy
I’ve come home. I’m so cold
Let me in-a-your window

Ooh! Let me have it
Let me grab your soul away
Ooh! Let me have it
Let me grab your soul away
You know, it’s me – Cathy

Heathcliff, it’s me, I’m Cathy
I’ve come home. I’m so cold
Let me in-a-your window

Heathcliff, it’s me, I’m Cathy
I’ve come home. I’m so cold
Let me in-a-your window

Heathcliff, it’s me, I’m Cathy
I’ve come home. I’m so cold

What is it about “Wuthering Heights” that has infected me so? I don’t know. Certainly, it’s an unusual song, but I find Bush’s performances of it, most especially here and here beyond mesmerizing. I love the arrangement of piano, drums, bass, and strings with the Floyd-esque outro guitar solo. I’ve always found Bush intoxicating on several levels, it’s just that this song does crazy things to my head. Even now, just writing about it and linking to it makes me want to listen to this incredibly cool extended version featuring echo, drums and Kate’s totally otherworldly vocal calisthenics nonstop for the rest of the night. Her wail at 3:57 and the scatting afterwards is worth the price of admission in and of itself: it’s full of raw passion, evocative, wild emotion, and (actually) a little frightening. To think someone with that kind of vocal power to move the soul is unsettling. Just hearing it again I might never be able to sleep.

Three songs, entirely different in their various genres, but equally haunting to my psyche in very different ways. I guess each of them touches a part of my soul that is different from the others. You see, to me music is life: if all I had, laying in a hospital bed and withering away to nothing, were these three songs rolling through my head, I would thank God for the gift of music, a gift I will never, ever, be able to thank my parents enough for giving me. They gave me the ears to hear in a way that connects with my soul.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 22:37 | Comments (0)
March 7, 2020

Oh man, how long has it been? Lots of stuff going on. Been working far too much than a dude of my age should be, but there’s been a whole lot of upheaval at work where I’ll shortly have my third boss in less than five months, so what are you gonna do?

Me? I think this whole Coronavirus is a lot of bullshit. Now, were I, say, 87 years old and in a nursing home maybe I’d be concerned, but I’m 64 years old, for gawdsakes! I don’t buy the hysteria, and I think those who are paranoid about the virus are a bunch of fraidycats. Live your life. Pursue your dreams. Love the people you love. And don’t let the mainstream, Trump-hating media convince you to do otherwise. I’m dead serious about this. I mean, the number of people who die from the flu each year will far surpass those who die from this virus. In three months everyone is going to wonder what the hubbub was all about.

So let me get this straight: the party of women, minorities, and the disenfranchised have, after all this time, chosen as finalists two old white, rich geezers to be the leaders in their party’s race for the nomination for President in 2020. I mean, how pathetic is that? You can’t come up with anything better than a self-avowed Communist and a doddering old fool who can’t tell the difference between his wife and his sister at a victory party?

…don’t think if Biden is the nominee Trump will go after him mercilessly. Because he will, and it won’t be pretty – there’s way too much at stake.

Prediction time: doddering as he is, “Slo’ Joe Biden will be the party’s nominee going into the Democratic convention. But the Hillary Clinton forces will be hard at work, planting stories about his mental acuity and questioning hios abilities to handle the daily rigors of being President. Hillary finds a way to gallop to the rescue, an, with VP mate Stacy Abrams, runs against Donald Trump for the presidency.

…and will get crushed in a landslide, as would “Slo’ Joe” if he were to end up being the nominee after all.

…and if you have any doubts, watch the President’s performance during Thursday night’s town hall in Scranton, PA. If you’re a Democrat watching this, all thing being equal, of course (a gazillion things can happen between now and November) you have to know whomever goes up against Trump has zero chance of winning.

I mean, look at the job numbers from today. Do you Democrats really think the country is going to vote for a Democrat and risk losing all the gains of the past three-plus years?

Count me as someone with zero interest in the Red Sox this year.

Was just thinking the other day just how cool this song is. Truth is, I was only half-serious when yanking my fellow Goodboys’ collective chains last year when I said Steely Dan sucked as a band. Of course, they clearly don’t, but music is subjective, and I’ve never liked Steely Dan’s form of pretentious faux rock/jazz and its elitist, high-brow following. Give me a tune that reaches out and grabs me by the throat to get my attention any day, which is what a band like ABBA excelled at.

…and, if you want to look at the sheer numbers, ABBA was a helluva lot more successful a band in terms of sales, success, and airplay than Steely Dan could ever hope to have been. So, if you’re asking The Great White Shank to choose between Steely Dan and ABBA, I’ll take the Swedes any day. For example:

…you can play me any number of tracks from SD’s legendary “Aja” album (a damned good album, I’ll admit), but these ears will take to songs like this, this, or this any day.

Why? Because as a songwriter and someone who has written songs and played in more than his share of bands back in the day I was God-given a set of ears that looked out for “hooks” and “tags” that made pop and rock songs successful for what they did. There are probably no greater hooks in rock music than the Keith Richards-penned “Satisfaction”. As for tags, let me give you an idea of what I’m talking about. I’m looking for songs with a unique finish – the Beach Boys’ “California Girls” (after the “doo be doo”) are probably the finest ever recorded and “God Only Knows” gives you an idea as to two examples of great tags.

…it’s jot to say Steely Dan’s music isn’t any good, it’s just that they’re not anywhere close to a great band. Their music is for up tight tight-assed metrosexual hipster elitists, that’s all.

If you don’t think there are still heroes around these days, read this story, it’s amazing.

…speaking of The Beach Boys, we’re just about at another full moon, which always makes me think about this Dennis Wilson classic.

Good old fashioned classic rock never got more honest than this. Or this.

. Not Steely Dan, for sure.

Or this? I was at a restaurant at Boston Logan Airport and couldn’t believe they played this in its entirety. It was funny to watch the xpressions on the folks especially when the screaming started halfway through. It reminded me of that time my mom said that part of the song reminded her of giving birth.

If you wanted any further evidence that the mainstream media y’all are getting your information from are a bunch of morons I can’t find any better example than this. And these are the assholes lecturing us for the past three years about “Russia collusion”? As the saying goes, let the buyer beware.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:29 | Comments (0)

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