August 11, 2014

Congratulations to Rory McIlroy on his victory at the PGA Championship. The play throughout the day on Sunday was riveting, as the golfers who could stay and play in the kind of soggy conditions they faced at Valhalla in Louisville quickly separated themselves from the rest of the pack. It was great television drama, and fooey to those casual golf fans who wouldn’t have turned in because old beyond his years and broken-down Tiger Woods wasn’t in contention. I have only three words of advice to those fans:

Get the #$@!% over it.

What happened on Sunday heralded a new dawn and a new era in professional golf. Oh sure, Phil Mickelson and Henrik Stenson did their best to compete – heck, a couple of bounces or made putts either way, and we’d be talking a whole new bag. But they didn’t, and Rory and Rickie Fowler showed golf fans that the page has turned for a new generation of golfer.

If there was a pivotal moment in the tournament, it was Rory’s 3-wood shot on #10 – even he admitted he got lucky when he yanked it lower and more left than he wanted to, but good players get the good breaks, and that was the shot that made the tournament. And the fact he was able to convert the putt in a major tells you dude has got more than what it takes. You see, he understands the moment, and like what Roy McAvoy once said, either you define the moment or the moment defines you. It doesn’t mean, of course, that Phil or Tiger won’t win the occasional major and get the media all abuzz over whether Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors is secure, but it’s hard not to view this weekend’s PGA through the lens of Father Time and see who is on the ascent and who is on the descent.

Me? I think it’s fabulous. I’m sick of the dumb media’s focus on everything Tiger, and the sooner they get over their obsession the better it will be for everyone.

It’s going to be an absolute circus around Rory come next April at Augusta. It will be interesting to see how he handles it with all the media attention that goes with being the hottest golfer on the planet going forward. I have a sense that, a year from now, we’ll have a very good idea if Rory McIlroy can withstand all the pressure that’s about to come down on him. Until then, I hope he just enjoys being the winner of the PGA. He certainly earned it.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 00:32 | Comments (0)
August 10, 2014

Sure, my other post the other day highlighted Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound” years of dominance on the rock and roll scene, but he had an equally deft touch on music that today is just as, if not more, popular than his rock and roll hits from the early ’60s. Consider the following Phil Spector-produced songs from the ’70s. Consider:

* Mother, from Plastic Ono Band. In my view, one of the most raw and riveting performances ever caught on tape.

* Happy Xmas, War is Over, 45 RPM single

* My Sweet Lord, What Is Life, I Live For You, and Behind That Locked Door, from George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass”

* Imagine, from Imagine.

* Stand By Me, from John Lennon’s Rock ‘n’ Roll.

* (Do You Remember) Rock And Roll Radio and Rock ‘N’ Roll High School from End of the Century. Legend has it Spector spent days having Johnny Ramone perfect that awesome opening chord to “High School”. (I believe it – it’s the best opening chord to a song after George Harrison’s majestic opening chord on “A Hard Day’s Night”.)

In the ’70s Phil might have had his problems and bizarre excesses, but his trademark style was all over the above tunes and the albums he produced. He got slammed for his work on Let It Be, but I would argue his mix of both the album’s title song and The Long and Winding Road compared to the “dry” versions that George Martin produced (here and here) made them come alive for radio at the time. Phil’s deft touch at the mixing board created a depth of sound on the most basic of instruments (listen to clean sound of the piano and drums on “Mother”), and his trademark shimmering strings – made famous on legendary Christmas Album cuts like this and this – make tunes like Imagine and Jealous Guy the classics they are. There never was – and never will be – anyone who could record strings and make them shimmer like Phil Spector did.

Sure (if legend has it) he kept the Ramones locked up in his mansion at gun point until they got the sound of Baby I love You the way he wanted it, who am I to argue? Dude was nuts, but he was an artiste in every sense of the word. And as an artist he is, and always will be, one of my heroes. As a human being? Well, all I can say is no one is perfect and no one should go throwing stones at glass houses.

Course, I never killed anyone. But I’m not convinced he did, either.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:52 | Comments (0)
August 9, 2014

My drink for the summer:

Muddle two mint leaves with the following:
2 ounces Pusser’s rum
1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
1/2 ounce lime juice
2 ounces club soda

Top with ice in your favorite glass then garnish with a wedge of lime.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:33 | Comments (2)
August 8, 2014

Ed. note: This post is for audiophiles only. Turn your computer’s speakers LOUD. You’ll see what I mean…

Simply put, you’re listening to rock and roll history here, here, and here. Sure, this is straight out of dinosaur-ville, but I think it shows exactly what Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound” was all about – lots of players playing in very close proximity to one another, and the sound from each instrument bleeding into each other with a slight echo applied by the master oh-so-deftly as a coupe de grace to make it shimmer behind the whomever was designated as the primary vocalist, whether it be La La Brooks of the Crystals, Darlene love, or (in this case) Ronnie Spector.

You can hear it all here: “The Wrecking Crew”: Lyle Ritz and Carole Kaye on bass, Leon Russell (listen for his arpeggios), Don Randi and Al DeLory on piano, Tommy Tedesco and Glen Campbell on guitars, Sonny Bono (he’s on the cowbell) and Julius Wechter on percussion, Hal Blaine on drums, and Jay Migliori and Plas Johnson on saxophones – it’s a beautiful thing to hear, and amazing to think that when this particular recording was made the musicians had already spent over two hours working out the very same song to the point where Phil had worn them down to the point where they were just pretty much robots doing what they had worked out over the session.

Look, I’m not going to sugarcoat this: you gotta put your ears to work here. I beg you, listen for the saxophones! You won’t regret it…

And it’s not just the instrumentation, listen for the vocal track. It’s not just Ronnie Spector’s lead vocals that stand out, but you can hear both Darlene Love and a very young Cher’s voice prominent in the background vocals. Word has it that Cher’s voice was so powerful that Phil had her placed several feet away from the microphone she sang into. The performance is truly astounding.

I know what you’re thinking: given all the notoriety that Spector has attained over the years. Sure he was a bastard and perhaps a murderer, but I don’t care – he is, and always will, be a hero of mine, and next to Brian Wilson (at least in my view) the greatest rock music producer of all time. You simply can’t develop songs as complex as this, or this, or this (OK, the mixdown was a huge Phil over-reach), or this, or this, and of course this, and not see someone whose view of music transcended the casual listener.

Like a commenter of one of the YouTube videos wrote, “In addition to being a murderer, Phil Spector was a flat out genius.”

Can’t disagree with that.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 21:55 | Comments (2)
August 7, 2014

So there I am, outside on a 98-degree night and skimming an endless layer of small yellow leaves off the water of the pool (registering 92 degrees, BTW) courtesy of my neighbor’s tree on the other side of the wall – and all of a sudden I feel it. Very strange and unexpected.

The itch.

I mean, it’s only been a little over two weeks since Goodboys Invitational weekend (it already feels as if it were a month ago) and upon my return to Arizona I felt absolutely z-e-r-o inclination to pick up my clubs for a long, long time. Oh, I gave them a good wash to make them spankin’ clean for whenever the next time came they would be used, but the bag was cleaned out, all the pockets opened up, and the gloves laid out carefully so they wouldn’t dry out and crunch up during my self-imposed 3-4 months sabbatical until the next “itch” came.

Wrong.

Perhaps the itch originated when I saw the final handicaps coming out of Goodboys weekend, where I’m now tied with “Possum” Shepter at 26.1; it kinda got me fired up to think that, as bad as I played on Saturday and Sunday, my 94 on Friday helped even things out a tad and put me in a great position to “Pass the Possum” and position myself solidly in tenth place on the Goodboys handicap index. More likely, I think that I’ve come out of Goodboys weekend knowing I’m a helluva lot better golfer than I showed during that weekend and its time to let my numbers do the talking.

I’ve already decided my next outing will be back at Superstition Springs – for me it’s the traditional start and end of my golf season; the only question is when. I look in my golf bag and see one – one pathetic orange ball, so perhaps it’s time to go back to traditional white. But I’m not quite ready to just dive in; I’d like at least one range session at the Kokopelli G.C. range before I kick another golf season off.

But I sure feel the itch.

Oh, and there’s a beautiful half-moon above turning the swimming pool into all different colors of deep aqua. Hence, my choice for the tune of the day.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:30 | Comment (1)
August 6, 2014

If Tiger Woods does, as everyone now suspects, decide to play in the PGA Championship less than a week after huring his back again I think he’s making a huge mistake. The one thing all sports share in common is this: when you injure your back no amount of skill is going to overcome the negative messages your body is sending you. Sure, he’s got all winter to rest and recover before Augusta, but the damage he could do could threaten his career.

Pretty strange the whole Dustin Johnson thing. If it’s true he’s done drugs and had affairs with other PGA Tour players wives dude has got a serious problem.

The truth is out there – part 1.

Sometimes even liberals get it right – part 2.

Even after I don’t know how many years, this music video is still stunning.

I’ve said it again and will always believe it until the day he leaves office. The only reason why Barack Obama still has an approval rating of 40% is because he’s African-American. Once he’s out of office and folks remove the happy rose-colored clown glasses they’ve been wearing since the 2008 campaign and stop slapping themselves on the back for electing the first black president, they’ll see just how much of a disaster this clueless incompetent has been. Unfortunately, I fear we haven’t seen the worse of what this guy’s presidency has meant to this country.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:04 | Comments (0)
August 5, 2014

I’ve been hesitant to post in detail about all the crap going on along our southern border, but all I’ll say is this:

1) Every nation has a right to defend the integrity of its borders. Without that any nation will soon descend into chaos;

2) My greatest concern are the children who have been smuggled across by the coyotes. The humanitarian thing to do is reunite all children who cross over with their parents, wherever they may be. If the parents are already in the US illegally, reunite their family and offer them a court hearing and work visas. If they don’t show for their hearing you deport them to their country of origin. If the parents are not in the country, feed them and care for them, then send them back to their country of origin on a first-class flight.

3) I don’t care about the adults – deport them immediately.

4) A pox on Democrats who accuse those who believe in enforcing our borders and rule of law of lacking in compassion, racism, or worse; these people are beyond despicable. Not that it’s anything I haven’t come to expect from a political party that has nothing left to offer except division along class, race, and gender lines, and playing the race card whenever it suits their purpose. Democrats and liberals really don’t care about people, only about furthering their radical socialist and lawless agendas. Why else would they promote flooding the job market with millions of low-skilled, low pay laborers who will take jobs away from Americans, especially young people and African Americans?

I think the Eagles had it right. In my mind, this was by far their best album.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 00:04 | Comments (0)
August 1, 2014

Count The Great White Shank among those who think August is one of the, if not the, best months of the year. There’s something so precious about it, I have a hard time articulating what it is. From my youth in Tewksbury, Mass. August is about vacations, and hazy and muggy summer days just begging for September and the drop in humidity that would lead to doors and windows no longer sticking, and afternoon thunderstorms where we’d sit on our front porch watching them roll in, then dance in the street ponds created by late-afternoon downpours. Not to mention the fact that by August the ocean in New England – even up to the coast of southern Maine – actually becomes swimmable.

As I’ve grown older August has more of a soft, sweet, and sentimental meaning, like when summer becomes an adjective instead of a noun – “Did you not know? We’re summering in Newport for the next two weeks.” In my grand August fantasy I’m doing the Bellevue Avenue circuit, attending afternoon soirees, one twin on my left arm, the other on my right, hob-nobbing with the snooty boat owners and land owners, drinking glasses of pinot grigio and chardonnays on grand lawns set by the ocean. In reality, I’ve got it almost as good – the twins and I hanging out on the patio and our new boardwalk, watching the dust storms blow in and hope they don’t rip our queen palms to shreds.

It’s the New Englander in me that enjoys August so much because we learned it to be so precious: the days are already starting to get noticably shorter, the corn, tomatoes, and gladiolas are out in a stunning way, the opening of school just over the horizon. August was something to cherish, to try and hold on to as long as you could. Because after that you know what was coming – the annual ritual of starting to prepare for the long winter months ahead. Of course, here in Arizona there’s no such thing: the kids are already back to school next week, and there’s really no need to do anything except enjoy the nightly monsoon fireworks before it peters out ahead of September and those last brutally hot weeks before the heat god flips the switch the second week of October.

Welcome, August!

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 02:51 | Comments (0)
July 31, 2014

A desert wind has come up tonight and the air is filled with the sounds of wind chimes and branches of all kinds rusting their own unique sounds. It’s after eight and the temperature still says 102, and there’s a thunderstorm blowing up to our west. Beautiful. It’s a little more humid tonight than it was last night, and the weekend looks like we might get some more monsoon action. Here’s hoping for less dust and more rain.

Congratulations, Bill Clinton, on sparing Osama bin Laden’s life when you were President out of concern for civilian casualties. Three thousand Americans civilians couldn’t be reached for comment.

Some very cool pics at this link. And, is there anything rabbits can’t do? (Hat tip: National Review’s Corner blog)

I know what the Red Sox did today at the MLB trading deadline was harsh medicine for Red Sox fans everywhere, but you can bet this is just the first step towards putting together what ought to be a very interesting and competitive team come Opening Day 2015. I guarantee my mom and my Auntie Marg ar going to love watching Yoenis Cespedes, and the subtraction of John Lackey doen’t bother me one bit. Sure, he was instrumental to the team’s World Series efforts kast year, but I’m guessing he was moved in order to surround their new young starting pitchers with better influences.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 20:45 | Comment (1)
July 30, 2014

In the end, it was my swing coach Alex Black who, during my last lesson, in the midst of suggesting a couple of minor swing changes that totally screwed me up for a spell, got it right by pointing out a couple of flaws in my grip and my approach to playing golf that I totally forgot about during my Goodboys Invitational golf weekend. Had I recollected those suggestions on, say, the Friday of Goodboys weekend as opposed to the Tuesday after, I might have saved myself a boatload of strokes and no small amount of angst.

It’s the Tuesday after Goodboys and I’m on my way up to the beach to catch some rays and waves. I’m driving the very same route I took just four days prior when it was Friday and the upcoming weekend was filled with all the expectation, promise, and high hopes that comes with every Goodboys Invitational. And while dipping my toes in salt water is first and foremost in my mind, I’m still feeling the bitter sting of disappointment in the way I played throughout the weekend.

Some folks would be more than satisfied with posting a 94 at Sagmore-Hampton like I did with that 44/50 on Friday, but I know how much of an opportunity was missed to put up a really low number. Sure, my fellow Goodboys didn’t want to hear about it at the time, but how can anyone be satisfied with a 94 when you played the six par 3s at +12? In my mind, that’s pretty pathetic. I knew at the time that the 94 was only the result of the best possible course management I could ever conjure up and grinding it out big time. Even while enjoying that cold Sam Summer at Sagamore’s rustic clubhouse while watching the British Open on a big-screen TV, I knew I wouldn’t be able to repeat that performance on Saturday and Sunday if I didn’t play and strike the ball a whole lot better.

On Saturday at Wentworth By The Sea I made some really poor swings on the two par 3s (more triple bogeys) before making a series of really poor decisions on the par 4 forth (quad bogey) before rallying on the final four holes for a decent front-nine 55. Then, on the back nine, I got sloppy on some really easy opportunities before my game completely fell apart on the last four holes to post a 58 and a 113 total. And I’ll be the first to admit that I lost my focus and composure – something I hadn’t done in years.

On Sunday at Black Swan, I was actually pretty satisfied with a front nine of 53, considering it featured a triple bogey on a par 3 and a ten on a par 5 – both the results of going against the very plan I had set out at the start. Missing consecutive four-footers for par and bogey to finish off the front nine was disappointing, but I still felt like I had turned a corner after bogeying the par 4 tenth after a poor drive wide left. Unfortunately, I then made a series of poor swings (and equally poor decisions) on eleven and twelve (another par 3 triple bogey), then pulled my drive into the woods on thirteen. The rout was on to a ghastly 63 and a 116.

I know what you’re asking: how on God’s green earth, after all the time and preparation put in over months prior to Goodboys weekend does The Great White Shank let rounds get away from him like that? The only thing I can say is that, when you’re fighting your swing and grinding away and missing fairways it’s not hard to be a paying customer on the triple-bogey train. What bugged me most about the weekend was that, even when I was making good swings or putting up a good number on a hole, I just didn’t feel right about my swing to the point where I simply couldn’t trust it anymore.

When I reached the New Hampshire seacoast, the last thing on my mind was hitting golf balls, but something drew me back to Sagamore-Hampton. I didn’t head there with any intention of playing golf – I just wanted to hear the breeze through the trees and watch a couple of foursomes tee off, just as I had just a few days before. The Sam Summers served at the bar were just as cold, but I felt like an intruder, like someone who had returned from a war to see everything looking the same, but feeling different inside.

Still, while it was great to soak up the atmosphere for a time, the beach beckoned. It was only when I saw the very same driving range the Goodboys had gathered at on Friday that I immediately changed my mind about not touching a club again for at least three months. The afternoon was sunny and hot, but I grabbed my clubs out of the trunk, paid for a large bucket, and headed to the far end of the near-empty range.

It was just me, my clubs, and a bucket of balls. I dropped a ball, stretched a little, and grabbed my pitching wedge as I normally would do. And then I just stood there. It was so quiet, I felt that making any kind of movement would disrupt the sanctity of the moment, so I didn’t do anything. Minutes passed. If the guy behind the ball counter was looking at me, he would be thinking I was having some kind of health issue, but I just couldn’t bring myself to hit a ball.

Why then and there I’ll never know – maybe it was because the pressure was totally off me. No Goodboys Invitational, no competition, no preparation, no handicaps, no golf course, no other golfers. But that’s when Alex Black’s words from my last lesson popped into my head as clear as day, as if he were standing right next to me. We had been finishing up our lesson, and he was having me hit some pitching wedges to all kinds of different targets.

“Whoa. Not sure where that crept in, because you didn’t get that from me. Your grip is too strong and you’re choking the club. Not only is that going to promote the kind of ‘jumping at the ball’ you’re complaining about, but you’re losing yardage by not allowing yourself to snap through the ball.”

Wow, I thought. He might have been watching a video of my entire Goodboys weekend. Jumping at the ball. Fat hits. Lost distance with my irons. Not to mention a few shanks thrown in for good measure.

I weakened my grip just a tad, loosened my grip on the club a tad more, and took a swing. And suddenly, it was there – the swing I was supposed to have brought to Goodboys weekend but didn’t, the swing I knew I could trust, and actually be a little aggressive on when I had to. More importantly, there was the kind of ball contact I’d seldom experienced from the moment I stepped foot on New England soil just a week prior. Not every ball was hit perfect, of course, but I felt like I was once again one with my swing.

And then I remembered something else Alex told me after we had finished hitting balls. He had a couple of minutes before his next lesson, so Alex offered some additional advice for me to consider:

“Like most amateurs, you’re too distance-focused, allowing the distance to the center of the green to determine what club you grab, and you do it without thinking. But let me ask you: does the GPS in the cart know what skill level of golfer you are? Does that distance marker in the fairway know your abilities? Common wisdom says to focus solely on the shot you’re about to make, but I’m telling you, you should be thinking about your next shot, where you want to be hitting your next shot from. This does two things: one, it takes the concept of automatic club selection out of your head; secondly it forces you to think creatively and strategically on every shot, on every hole. There’s the solution to your “golf ADD”.

“Let’s say you’re in the middle of the fairway, 162 to the center of the green. Second shot on a par 4, third shot on a par 5. But there’s water to the right and not much of a bail-out area to the left protected by a large sand trap. Lots of players will automatically pull whatever club they think they can hit from that distance, but is that the smart play? Knowing what’s in front of you, do you really want to be putting on your next shot? Is that the high-percentage play? What’s your comfortable distance hitting to the center of a green? If, like most high-handicappers, it’s somewhere between 50-100 yards, you know your next shot is a pitch from that distance to the green, meaning you’re laying up. So rather than grab instinctively for that 5-iron or whatever, you pick out a spot in the fairway where you want to hit that 50-100 yard pitch, and that’s where you hit to.

“Then, on the next shot, you do the same thing. You’re now lying, say, 75 yards to the green. What’s your next shot? Where do you want to be putting from? What’s the shape of the green, the layout? You see, doing this forces you to think about playing the entire hole, until the ball is safely in the hole. You do that, and you’ll be surprised not just how much better you are playing, but that you are enjoying the experience more and gaining confidence as you solve little problems, one after another.”

The bucket was still half full when I downed my Gatorade, grabbed my clubs and headed back to the car. My Goodboys year was over. There was still plenty of time to catch some sea air and walk a beach without any thoughts whatsoever about golf, so that’s exactly what I did.

Johnny Miller would say that The Great White Shank choked, that he couldn’t handle the pressure of a Goodboys Invitational weekend. And he would be right. I didn’t play well, wasn’t able to troubleshoot my issues and resolve them on the range before each round, and, worst of all, allowed myself to get caught up in the misery that comes with not knowing where the ball is going to go on your next shot when you’re out of position forty yards off the fairway and in the kind of thick spinach you never see out here in Arizona.

In the end I have no excuses. As they say, it is what it is.

The weird thing is, as much of a step back this year was in terms of my Goodboys Invitational performance compared to last year, I feel far better about my swing and my game at this point than I did after last year’s Goodboys. There are those who will laugh when I say I know I have the ability to play bogey (or at least near-bogey) golf regularly, but I don’t care – that’s the way I honestly feel, and whenever I pick my clubs back up again in three months or so, that will be my goal. I know there’s work to be done both on the physical side (tweaking my swing plane) and mentally (actually, a lot of work learning to be more disciplined and improving even more my course management), but these are not huge changes.

If I learned anything this year, it’s that I can’t take anything for granted – I can’t just assume that when I’m about to play a round of golf that either my game will be there or it won’t, and if the latter I’ll just figure something out as I go along. I’m not good enough, and will never be good enough, to take that kind of approach. Instead, I’ve got to use my time at the range more wisely and hone a swing I can rely on and trust, and identify the clubs that will always get me out of a jam whenever adversity strikes.

If I can do that while further improving my ability to manage my way around a course and learn to play for the next shot there’s no reason why I can’t play bogey or near-bogey golf.

And come the next time I hit the driving range, the New Year’s Day of my new Goodboys year, that will be my goal.

Filed in: Golf Quest,Goodboys by The Great White Shank at 21:36 | Comments (4)

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