Thursday, February 23, 2017

Judgments Good and Otherwise

AYFKM, Wisconsin?

Dangerous contraband

Whenever I find myself having to explain to someone what I mean when I say that government at all levels has become too big and too intrusive in our lives, progressives always accuse me of being opposed to public schools or fire departments or even roads, which is ridiculous.

I sometimes amuse myself by asking such people to defend government meddling like banning soft drinks above a certain size, mandating how much water your toilet can use per flush, and deciding what kinds of light bulbs you can legally have in your home. Their responses eventually reduce to some form of the claim that government is doing this "for our own good," which is precisely my point. The notion that government should have the power to regulate our lives in this way infantilizes us all, and I will resist that mindset until my dying breath.

Another prime example of the meddling state popped up on my radar today, when I saw a news story about how the state of Wisconsin has chosen to ban the sale of Kerrygold butter in their fair state.

Was this due to an outbreak of deaths related to the product? No, of course not. (It is legally sold in the other 49 states, including my own.) The ban is simply an effort by Wisconsin dairy interests to restrict outside competition (Kerrygold products are made
in Ireland). That's it. As usual, "public health" is just the pretext for the regulation.

I admire the plucky cheeseheads who drive across state lines to purchase delicious Kerrygold butter products. I wonder how long it will be before Wisconsin authorities
set up checkpoints at every border?

No, I don't...when I was growing up in Kansas City, the cops used to stake out liquor stores on the Kansas side of State Line road, follow cars with Missouri plates back across the border, and bust them for breaking state liquor laws...

Feast Day

The Martyrdom of St. Polycarp, by Circignani
Today we celebrate the feast day of St. Polycarp, an associate of
St. John the Apostle who served as a bishop of Smyrna and was
an important Church leader in the first half of the 2nd century.

Polycarp's eloquent Letter to the Philippians is one of the most important documents of that period, and is a principle reason Polycarp is considered one of the three Apostolic Fathers.

The precise date of Polycarp's martyrdom is disputed, but the story of his being speared to death when attempts to burn him at the stake failed is not, and has been the subject of numerous artworks.

Family Dinner

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

Until Next Time...

On February 23, 1944 John Dawson Winter III was born in Beaumont, Texas. Encouraged by his parents to pursue his interest in music, Johnny Winter was playing guitar professionally by the time he was fifteen, and went on to become a legendary figure in blues and blues-rock music.

Johnny was also a legendarily profligate user of drugs and alcohol, and that combined with his albinism (a condition he shared with his younger brother Edgar) produced constant rumors about his being dead. In those days, there was precious little journalism devoted to the music business, so music fans were never entirely sure what to believe when Johnny would periodically drop out of sight.

He even joked about his lifestyle, naming his fifth studio album Still Alive and Well.
That record included songs like "Cheap Tequila" and "Too Much Seconal." Fans of his guitar-playing fully expected him to join the litany of rock and rollers whose lives were ended prematurely thanks to drugs and alcohol, but Johnny continued to record and perform right up until his death in 2014 at age 70. The album he released that year,  
Step Back, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Top Blues Albums chart and cracked the Top 20 of the Billboard 200. It also received a Grammy Award for Best Blues Album
in 2015, and featured a guest appearance by my hero Joe Bonamassa.

Johnny's fiery playing and awesome tone, especially on his trademark Gibson Firebird guitar, made him one of the most influential players of his generation. He is a member of the Blues Hall of Fame and is a fixture on Rolling Stone magazine's periodic lists of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.

My first exposure to Johnny's incendiary playing was when one
of my high school friends played me his copy of Johnny's 1968 debut, The Progressive Blues Experiment. I had never heard anything like it, was hooked immediately. I have remained a fan ever since.

Johnny's unique Second Winter album (a double-LP with the fourth side blank) is one of the great blues recordings of all time, and features two of his concert staples, Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode" and Bob Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited."

Johnny enjoyed a career renaissance when he began working with Alligator Records both as a producer of other artists (he earned three Grammy Awards producing Muddy Waters albums) as well as well as his own recordings. His first album for the label, 1984's Guitar Slinger, was also nominated for a Grammy Award.

Today's send-off is my favorite track on that album, from Johnny's YouTube channel.  Enjoy...

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