Friday, June 24, 2016

Across the Pond

Thank Cormac mac Airt It's Friday!

"Fetch me a stout, and be quick about it!"


Speaking of the United Kingdom, voters there held a referendum yesterday, and voted 51.9 percent to 48.1 percent to withdraw from membership in the European Union.

For the most part, American conservatives like me favored this outcome, as the sclerotic bureaucracy of the European Union is a hindrance to prosperity and a travesty of democratic governance.

British conservatives felt much the same way. Although there will certainly be some bumpy times ahead, as a general rule I favor free peoples remaining free, and the courageous citizens who voted to free themselves from Brussels yesterday did themselves and citizens of other European nations an invaluable service.


Cruise Update

Today my best friend Skip and his wife Elaine arrived in beautiful Cork, Ireland...

...and took a speedboat excursion to scenic Kinsale...

"A speedboat? I'm guessing they got pretty wet, then?"

Yes, but Skip said it was an exciting trip and well worth getting a bit wet...

Happy Birthday!

Ambrose Bierce, by J.H.E. Partington
On June 24, 1842 Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce was born in a log cabin in  Meigs County, Ohio. He went on to enjoy a successful career as a journalist and writer of fiction (Bierce himself might say that those two things are the same).

His short story "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" is a staple in American Literature curricula, and has been adapted numerous times for radio, TV, and films.

For a curmudgeon like me, Bierce is practically a patron saint. The Devil's Dictionary is a masterpiece of sarcastic wit, and one of my all-time favorite books.

On June 24, 1916 John Anthony Ciardi was born in Boston. He went on to become one of America's greatest poets and teachers.

Part of my fondness for Ciardi stems from the fact that he taught briefly at the same college campus where I got my education (decades after he had left, but still...).

I consider his translation of Dante's Divine Comedy to be the truest to Dante's own style (and intentions). I always chose that translation for teaching the work to my own students.

One Day You'll Understand, Kid

From the droll comic strip Zits, by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman, which you should read every day, as I do.

Until Next Time...

On June 24, 1944 Geoffrey Arnold Beck was born in Wallington, England. He became interested in electric guitar at a young age, after hearing Les Paul's hit recording of
"How High the Moon" on the radio. Before long he was trying to build his own guitars, and by his early teens he went by Jeff Beck and had begun playing in working bands, mostly groups that featured blues-rock music.

In 1965 he was recruited to replace Eric Clapton in the popular band The Yardbirds. Although that gig barely lasted a year and a half, Beck's contributions were significant enough to warrant his inclusion when the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992.

By 1967 he had formed The Jeff Beck Group, which included future Rock and Roll Hall of Fame members Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood.

As sometimes happens, the band broke apart due to clashing egos. The band was scheduled to perform at the Woodstock Festival, but Beck dissolved the group just prior to the gig.

Fortunately, there are some recordings to preserve the band's brilliance. Truth, released in 1968, remains a touchstone for blues-rock fans like me.

That album peaked at No. 15 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart, one of Jeff's most successful recordings. It also launched a solo recording career that would eventually garner nine Grammy Awards (Jeff even played "How High the Moon" at the 2010 Grammy Awards ceremony) and induction as a solo artist in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009. Among its treasures is "Blues Deluxe," which was a live concert staple of my hero Joe Bonamassa for many years (you can listen to one of Joe's renditions here).

Still active in his early 70s, Jeff is one of the most talented and influential electric guitarists of all time, regardless of musical genre.

Today's send-off is a music video Jeff made with his old bandmate Rod Stewart in 1985. It is a cover version of a 1965 hit by The Impressions, the Grammy Hall of Fame inductee "People Get Ready." The recording was included on Jeff's Grammy-winning album Flash, and features some beautiful playing. Enjoy...

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