Wednesday, March 30, 2016


The Real Problem

"Yeah, I'm destroying your political party. What's your point?"
I often struggle to find words to adequately express how dispiriting this political season continues to be.

Completely aside from the train wreck that is the Democratic side of the presidential campaign, there isn't
a day that goes by without some new reason to despair for the future of conservative ideas in our politics.

When the history of this particular political moment is written, I think much attention will be paid to what conservative author Kevin D. Williamson calls "The Stupid Psychopath Problem." I have long since given up on trying to explain support for asshat Donald Trump as being grounded in anything other than sheer stupidity. That criticism of his supporters' intellects often comes from the political Left does not make it any less true.

If you support this man, you're an idiot, politically speaking. And I'm done trying to reason with you...

Mind your own business, please...

Spring Training Angst

One of the toughest things about baseball spring training is trying to maintain one's perspective, regardless of the results.

Yesterday, for instance, RHP Yordano Ventura, last season's Opening Day starter, pitched four innings in a 16-10 win over the San Francisco Giants. Ventura surrendered 10 runs on 11 hits, and his ERA in spring training ballooned to 9.69. With the regular season starting this Sunday against the Mets, it is NOT encouraging to see a key member of our pitching staff getting knocked around like this...

"I'm sure it doesn't help that you're a pessimist by nature, either."

No, no it doesn't...

Warning Signs

From the delightfully off-kilter webcomic xkcd, by Randall Munroe, which you should read every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, as I do.

Until Next Time...

On March 30, 1945 Eric Patrick Clapton was born in Ripley, Surrey, England. To say that he went on to become a significant figure in popular music would be a preposterous understatement. He has sold tens of millions of records, received 18 Grammy Awards, and was given the CBE by Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace in 2004.

Clapton is the only artist to have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame three times. He was inducted as a member of The Yardbirds, as a member of the supergroup Cream, and as a solo artist. He is consistently at or near the top of every list of great rock guitarists.

For my own part, Eric's playing made me want to play guitar myself, but also discouraged me from pursuing that interest too ardently. Clapton was one of those guitarists whose playing was so masterful you simply couldn't imagine yourself ever getting even close to that skill level.

Cream released Wheels of Fire in August 1968, just as my sophomore year in high school was getting under way. Double albums were somewhat unusual in those days, but that didn't prevent this one from reaching No. 1 almost immediately on the Billboard 200 Albums chart. It also became the first double album to be certified platinum by RIAA.

For kids like me who were just getting into British bands, and especially blues and blues-rock groups, Wheels of Fire was a watershed album.

The album's first disc was studio recordings, including some songs which cemented the band's reputation in blues-rock circles ("White Room," "Politician," "Born Under a Bad Sign," etc.).

The second disc contained live recordings made at San Francisco's famous Winterland Ballroom on March 7-10, 1968. One of these was the band's cover of the famous Robert Johnson song "Crossroads." Clapton's guitar work on the song was awe-inspiring. Even now, nearly 50 years after it was recorded, it remains one of my all-time favorites,
a song I dream of myself playing note-for-note.

Today's first send-off is that legendary Winterland live track, paired with images of
the group. (The fan who made the slideshow was quite a fan of the band's bass player,
Jack Bruce, and it shows.) Enjoy...

Clapton's career had its ups and downs, in no small part due to his struggles with substance abuse. He was never able to find complete artistic satisfaction within the structure of a band, either, and he never stayed in one for very long.

By the late 1970s Clapton was pursuing a career as a solo artist. In December of 1979,
he appeared at the legendary Budokan Theatre in Tokyo in support of his most recent solo album. His set list at Budokan was mostly covers of blues staples like "Worried Life Blues" and "Further On Up the Road." (Eric played the latter song with my hero Joe Bonamassa at Joe's famous 2009 concert at the Royal Albert Hall, a moment Joe called "the coolest thing I've ever done!")

Highlights from the concert were released in early April of 1980 as a double album with the title Just One Night. My own life was undergoing a bit of turmoil at the time, and so I immersed myself in the recording as a combination of wallowing and therapy.

Unusually for a live album, Just One Night reached No. 2 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart, and tracks from the album are still featured in several of my iTunes playlist.

By far my personal favorite of these is "Blues Power," a song Clapton co-wrote with Leon Russell. The song originally appeared on Clapton's first solo album back in 1970, but this version knocks that one out.

And, as usual with Clapton, his playing makes me want to pick up a guitar and want to give up playing one altogether.

Today's second send-off is the Just One Night version, in all its glory. Enjoy...

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