Friday, March 25, 2011

Joe Bonamassa

Eric Clapton, Jimmie Page, BB King, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Joe Walsh, Jerry Garcia, Vernon Reid--when you think of the best rock guitarists, these are a few names that come to mind. But they are all getting older, and their replacements are few and far between, the most popular of which being John Mayer.

Well, there's another name that belongs in the discussion, and that is Joe Bonamassa. If you read his bio on Wikipedia, you'll learn that he was born in 1977 and raised in Utica, New York, to parents that owned and ran a guitar shop, and that by age 7, he was playing Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix tunes note for note. Today, at the ripe old age of 33, he is one of the best performers I have ever heard.

My friend Nick and I had the pleasure of watching and hearing him play last night in Worcester, MA, and after two and a half hours of uninterrupted brilliance, we both left the theater overwhelmed by this unquestionable virtuoso. In my time, I've attended some outstanding concerts featuring guitarists including Joe Walsh with the James Gang (before he joined the Eagles), Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir with the Grateful Dead, Ron Wood with the Rolling Stones, BB King at the Paradise Club, John Mayal and Mick Ronson in their primes, and Steve Van Zandt with Nils Lofgren in the E Street Band. But last night's show may have been the best, most complete guitar performance I have ever witnessed.

Surrounded by a keyboardist, bassist, and drummer, Bonamassa displayed every type of artistry on the electric guitar, with incredibly original riffs while also occasionally duplicating some of Jimmie Page's most famous ones. At one point, he broke into a 20-minute solo on the acoustic guitar that was as good as any I'd ever heard. He also sang quite capably on most of his songs, but that's not why 2400 people showed up to the concert. It was to hear real music, played purely and elegantly, reminding us that rock and roll is first and foremost a guitar-based genre.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Obama's Mistakes

While I continue to support many of Barack Obama’s initiatives, there are two areas in which I have had serious misgivings: war and nuclear power. Both of those areas have come to the fore in the past week.


In terms of Obama’s war policies, I believe he has lingered in Iraq too long, and I disagree with his stepping up the war in Afghanistan, but these are policies I have been willing to accept. However, our recent incursion into Libya under the guise of a UN protectionist mission is dangerous and misguided.

In general, there are three circumstances in which we should go to war:
  1. If we and/or our avowed allies are directly attacked.
  2. If a genocide is taking place that we can stop.
  3. If there is a proven and unquestionable buildup of nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction.
To my current knowledge, none of those is the case in Libya. Of course, some civilians have been fired upon, but the evidence of that is no more excessive than what is going on in Yemen or Bahrain. Should we attack those countries as well?

What is going on in Libya is a civil war, with rebels trying to overthrow the leader. The same activity is underway, with varying degrees of success, in countless nations around the world. The reason we have chosen to support the rebels in Libya instead of those in other countries is that while we were blocking investment in that country, allies like Britain and France were fostering such activity, and now they want us to protect those investments. Let us not forget that historically, both of these allies have often been on the wrong side of conflicts.

Let’s also not forget that it wasn’t so long ago that we supported rebel insurgents in Afghanistan in their war to oust the Soviet Union. Those rebels were the Taliban, and we all know how that turned out. In fact, historically, whenever we’ve tried to take down a foreign leader, the result has often been a worse leader or a long war that killed our soldiers and hurt our nation. As evidence, I suggest examining Cuba, Vietnam, Iraq, and the aforementioned Afghanistan.

The correct course of US action is to do nothing, unless one of the above circumstances takes place. While it may be risky to avoid conflict in some cases, we don’t have the right to attack countries around the globe, without suitable provocation, simply to enforce our will.

Nuclear Power

For years, the energy companies and many in the government have touted “safe nuclear power,” and our president has bought into that concept. But as has been proven many times although never so graphically as this week in Japan, THERE IS NO SAFE NUCLEAR POWER. To support this viewpoint, I point to two factors:
  • No one has developed an effective approach for dealing with the radioactive waste these plants produce. In this country, we have loaded it into containers designed to last 100 years and buried it underground in places like South Carolina and Nevada. The problem is that this waste remains radioactive for upwards of 10,000 years. So, we are forfeiting the Earth’s future so we can have electricity today.
  • No matter how safely we build these reactors, they can still melt down, and one such accident can be so catastrophic that it endangers the entire world.
It’s just common sense, folks. It’s as obvious as the sun in the sky. If we invest into solar power the kinds of funds we spent to fight in Iraq or to bail out the nation’s banks, we can have an endless supply of power. Nuclear power advocates claim that dependence on solar power is decades away, and they are right as long as we continue to invest so little in it.

The corporate incentive is not there…no one can own the sun. But if Obama and the Congress made a funding decision to develop solar power and stop wasting our time and money on unsafe approaches like nuclear and fossil fuels, I have no doubt we could solve the world’s energy needs in a relatively short period of time.