The Freedom of Music: Andrew Lipke: Siddhartha

November 15th, 2015


One likes to believe in the freedom of music.
Rush - Spirit of Radio.

Playing for a tribute band is not necessarily the most creatively fulfilling activity for a musician. Andrew Lipke is keyboardist/guitarist/multi instrumentalist for the best Led Zeppelin tribute band on the circuit, Get the Led Out. The band travels the US in a proper rock star tour bus, travelling with a crew, a full lighting rig and enough guitars to open a guitar store. Up to five nights a week, they give two hour shows with note perfect renditions of Led Zeppelin classics and deep cuts. sidebar-6

But there’s to more Lipke than keyboard player extraordinaire playing other peoples songs, and he spends his time at home at home in Pennsylvania producing, playing with the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia and Pittsburg Symphony or singing God Bless America at the Phillies game. Last year, Lipke released the first of a series of albums based on the novel Siddhartha by Herman Hesse. Hesse’s novel had an immediate impact on Lipke and he says he “always knew it would be the inspiration for something I would create.”

Lipke may be a Zeppelin devotee playing in a Zeppelin band, but Siddhartha owes very little to Led Zeppelin, even if opening track, The One does start off with a drone that Jimmy Page would approve of. 

I love the second and third tracks, Erased, which has a New Radicals pop groove to it, and Head Down Vagabonds, which defies comparisons, save a hint of Christmas Vacation in the melody. 

Then there’s I’m Gone which is on the first round ballot of this years Grammy Awards in the “best arrangement, instruments and vocals” category. Even if Lipke doesn’t make the final ballot, that’s quite a nice recognition, and well deserved: the arrangement on  I’m Gone is beautifully orchestrated and ends with a harpsichord plus choral voices outro. 

Get the Led Out are coming to Mississauga on Dec 9, their first ever show outside the US. It is a must see band, and know when you see them your not just hearing the best music, played by high caliber musicians, but in at least one case, a Grammy caliber musician.

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Van Halen Rising: How a Southern California Backyard Party Band Saved Heavy Metal: Greg Renoff

September 30th, 2015

June 1978. At my high school there’s a guy, that guy, with a van that has a bar and a bed in it. We’re hanging out by the smoking area, playing frisbee, drinking beer with fake “Poopsi” labels on them and he’s got the stereo cranked. “What, who, is this?” I ask.

van_halen_rising_3601“A new band called Van Halen,” he tells me.

As song rolls into song, including a wild version of The Kinks You Really Got Me, it’s obvious this is some band. How did these guys come up with this? Where did they even come from? I wondered. It was obvious to us, even as it wasn’t to the people who ran the music industry, this was paradigm shifting (although, being stoned high school kids, we would have phrased it not as “paradigm shifting,” but as “cool, man.”).

Van Halen Rising: How a Southern California Backyard Party Band Saved Heavy Metal by Greg Renoff answers the question “how did these guys come up with this?” or perhaps more to the point, “where did they come from?” The answer is, as the book title suggests, Southern California’s backyard party scene.

Walking the reader through the cultural and musical history of the Van Halen brothers and David Lee Roth, the book charts their concerts and performances going back to the original high school band. It charts Roth’s attempts to get into the Van Halen brothers band (Eddie was the original singer) and how Roth’s background at a predominantly black high school influenced him to have a completely different take on rock/pop music.

You learn about the hundreds, thousands of shows the band did. How they rehearsed for hours 6-days a week and Eddie would practice far more than that. And you learn even at that how hard it was for them to get a record contract. You learn about their sudden ascension to the top of the rock ladder as their debut album sells a million copies in it’s first year.

Van Halen Rising is exactly what it promises, the story of an up and coming rock band. It takes you through the teenage rock scene in the LA suburbs of the 1970’s, and up to Van Halen’s first album, first tours, and then it is done, leaving the rest of the story for others to pick up. And it doesn’t disappoint in the process.

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Ringo: With a Little Help: Michael Seth Starr

September 25th, 2015

We all have our favourite Beatle. Personally, I’m a George guy, being a guitar player and as I love his playing and songwriting. But Ringo Starr comes in a close second. His good natured humour and tendency towards simple pop in his songs has it’s appeal.

513tnkxuonl_sy344_bo1204203200_Ringo: With a Little Help by Michael Seth Starr is a fairly comprehensive look at the worlds most famous drummer. Covering his early years, his time before the Beatles with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, the Beatle years and beyond, With a Little Help covers all the points of Ringo’s career.

It is also, to a degree, a defense of Ringo Starr the drummer. Often maligned (”He’s not even the best drummer in the Beatles,” John Lennon once said of Starr), With a Little Help is definitive on the point, Ringo Starr was the best drummer in Liverpool in 1962 when he joined The Beatles, and his drumming, while sometimes in-elegant, was crucial to their sound. He has a unique style due to being a left handed drummer using his set right handed, he is clumsy on fills (for much the same reason), but he is a solid to very good drummer.

With A Little Help is not all a defense of Starr, however. His very limited vocal range is an important part of the narrative and Ringo has success as a singer when he has material within his “six-note range.” As well, Ringo’s alcohol problems are well documented, as his much of his negative behaviour during his long bout of alcohol abuse. His later career work ethic is questioned and the breakdown of his first marriage to Maureen is well documented, including his affairs during the legendary “LA lost weekend” period of the early 70’s.

On the bizarre side, the author cites diary entries of teenage Ringo fanatic Marilyn Crescenzo some seventeen times, following her feelings over events in The Beatles lives in 1964-65 time frame:

This morning ten o’clock, I heard a report from the Beatles hotel and Ringo and George were talking—I said to my mother “why didn’t you let me go down there—Everybody is there.” I then walked into the bathroom and couldn’t hold back -I just cryed! [sic] I couldn’t help it!

Intended to provide color I gather, these diary entries really just fill some page space.

Ringo: With a Little Help is a good read, and an interesting look at one of our times more interesting, if reasonably unimportant, people.

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The Pimply Minions Rebellion…

September 14th, 2015

…and the burning of the non-taxable book.

imagesI’ve been pondering designs for a few weeks now for a little free library. The idea is simple, you build a little book house and post it at the front of your house. Neighbours and neighbourly-types can put in an old book, others can borrow the book. It’s a lending library with 20 or so books.

There’s a couple in my neighbourhood, and I was planning to get in on the action, share some community spirit and a few books I have lying around. Problem is, those pimply minions of bureaucracy have come up with an all new “vile, Jacobian, jumped up Jack-in-Office piece of impertinence:” a permit for your library

As The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf explains, local governments in Los Angeles, Shreveport, LA and Leawood, KS have all tried to levy fines and other sanctions against people who put up these tiny birdhouse-like lending libraries.

I’m no longer planning on putting one up, I’m getting it up as fast as I can.

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Brian Gardiner Jacobian Piece of Impertinence, pimply minions of bureaucracy

RIP Gary Richrath

September 14th, 2015

690fbcb294ffb5909ebc8e3a72a8d341Everyone who thinks REO Speedwagon are a cheesy 80’s band have never heard their love album, You Get What You Play For. A great straight up rock band.

I’ve always love Gary Richrath as a guitar player. So sorry to hear he passed away this weekend at the young age of 65. May he rest in peace.

I remember watching this one live.

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Saturday Fluffernutter: The Skinny Pig Edition

September 6th, 2015

All the fluffy news about those nutty celebrities


Perhaps they got Kermit all wrong. Perhaps he’s supposed to be Kermit the dog, as in “you sly old…” The “it’s not easy being green,” singer (as real media would describe him) has dumped his longtime gilt-friend Miss Piggy for a new, slimmer pig.knife-and-fluff

And because we live in an insane world, people are upset about this. “How can he do this to Miss Piggy,” say some, while other, truly deluded, people, are up in arms because Denise, the new pig, is too skinny. As if the puppet has body image issues.

That’s right, I said it.  Puppet! The frog, the pig, the other pig, the dog who plays piano, all puppets. Sheesh, get over yourselves.

Although personally, if I was the frog, I’d hit on that blonde bass player.


Some James Bond controversy this week. Anthony Horowitz who wrote the latest Bond book, Trigger Mortis, has stepped in the PC muck. Then he made a mess of things.

First the PC muck. There is noise of late that the next movie Bond should be black. The name Idris Elba seems to come up a lot. He’s “a terrific actor,” says Horowitz. “But I can think of other black actors who would do it better. For me, Idris Elba is a bit too rough to play the part… a bit too street.”  Oh-oh. You can’t say that. It has racial overtones, or is code-speak for something or other.

As far as I’m concerned, so far so good. An opinion stated, leave it at that an do forth. But no, Horowitz had to go and make me not want to buy his stupid rip-off book (seriously, invent your own character, plots &tc.), and apologized via twitter. Oh look, James Bond is being written by a weak-kneed beta-male who grovels for the PC morons. That ought to make for the next Daniel Craig movie.


Meanwhile, current Bond Daniel Craig got our hopes up this week and hinted Spectre, due in theatres in November, might be his last Bond movie. In short, he suggested it’s time to get on with his life- as compared to stagnating by spending three-months every two-years being paid millions to make a movie.

As for who should play the next Bond, who cares. A tuxedo clad Miss Piggy would be a better, tougher Bond than Craig. Black, Pakistani, street, who cares. Just not another metrosexual Bond who wears a seat-belt to press events.


Tough week for Avril Lavigne. Started off last Sunday when her ex-husband, Sum 41’s Deryck Whibley, got re-married. Whibley, who a year ago was in a coma with multiple organ failure due to his drinking, has sobered up and pledged his troth to Ariana Cooper.

The bride, you’ll be breathless in your desire to know, wore a beaded, strapless white gown.

While I’m sure Lavigne is happy for Whibley, his wedding was followed by the news that Lavigne and Nickelback’s Chad Kroeger have split. The pair married in 2013, after a short courtship that apparently didn’t involve hearing each others music.

For the record, Lavigne was married to Whibley for longer than Kroeger.


When I said earlier we live in an insane world, I was dead serious. People have gone stupid, and too many papers will dutifully report the crazy like it’d normal. I submit for your perusal: Taylor Swift is in the soup for “whitewashing” her latest video. As in music video, you now, those three minute song advertisements that gave the phrase “video vamps” to the world.

Apparently  the video is based in Africa, and there are not enough black people in it. The Director, Joseph Kahn, has defended the video noting it was produced by a black woman and edited by a black man. He also said, “…it would have been historically inaccurate to load the crew with more black actors as the video would be accused of re-writing history.”  Because as you know, history books can re-write history, but heaven forbid a pop-video do so.

Dear Joseph Kahn. Shut up! and stop treating these loony’s like they’re not completely nuts, lest we get the impression you are too. And that goes double for you, Anthony Horowitz and Kermit the Frog.

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The Smug, Sneering Condescension You Hear…

September 4th, 2015

are the “journalists” whose salary you are forced to pay.

group1000_645_399_55Something by the way of a juxtaposition:
From Lifesite News

As thousands of “outraged parents” gathered today in front of 103 of the 107 MPP constituency offices across Ontario

Heard on CBC Radio 2 on Wednesday (sorry, no link. I heard this myself and wrote it down verbatim):

Some parents protested outside the offices of Provincial politicians today. They’re upset about the new sex-ed curriculum.(emphasis mine)

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Mark Steyn: “A Disgrace to the Profession”

September 1st, 2015

One can’t help but wonder if Mrs. Mark Steyn lets her husband win the odd fight, lest a 900-page rebuttal in 3 parts be published, highlighting the ways in which she argued illogically over the course of their marriage. Likely not, but then who’d of thought suing the guy for libel would get you one of those.

dttpfrontmedbCertainly not Michael Mann.

When Mann sued Steyn, I was one of those who thought he picked a dangerous sparring partner, and having read Lights Out, his response to an action against him in Canada, I knew Steyn wouldn’t just roll over and accept what Mann was giving. He would, at the least, make it uncomfortable for Mann. After all, he took on Ryerson Journalism Professor John Miller in Lights Out, and has not been afraid to absolutely skewer the occasional correspondent to his own website, Even positive reviews that dare get the name of the next Bond movie wrong get their error highlighted. So it was a good guess that Mann v. Steyn would have its entertaining moments.

With A Disgrace to the Profession: The Worlds Scientists in Their Own Words - on Michael E. Mann, His Hockey Stick, and Their Damage to Science: Volume One, he doesn’t so much a make it uncomfortable for Mann as eviscerate his. The book is 300-pages of climate scientists, physicists and others with Ph.D. after their name, speaking ill of Mann and his work. With Steyn’s witty apercus throughout, A Disgrace to the Profession reads quite comfortably, not bogging down in technical details as a book devoted to science such as this is always at risk of doing.

A Disgrace to the Profession is a comprehensive take down. Mann may have thought he could sue Steyn into silence and he was wrong. But if he thought his reputation had been given a hit by Steyn, and he could regain it through the courts, he was as wrong as he’s ever been (and as Steyn makes pretty clear in A Disgrace to the Profession, that’s saying something). Win, lose or tie in the DC courts, it seems unlikely Mann’s reputation will survive his ill-advised fight with Mark Steyn.

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Journalists, Your Intellectual Superiors…

August 31st, 2015

Canadian journalist Kate Heartfield from The Ottawa Citizen in August 2010, as quoted in an email, on Hillary Clinton’s illegal, unsecured email server (search either Canada, or Kate Heartfelt - it’ll be the first email, headed  ”Article I mentioned from Canada”):

The U.S. Department of State has made it very clear: The security of information on BlackBerrys is not just about economics.

It’s also, in the words of spokesman P. J. Crowley, “about what we think is an important element of democracy, human rights and freedom of information … You should be opening up societies to these new technologies that have the opportunity to empower people …”

Canada’s government has made, at least in public, no such link between BlackBerrys and democratization…

But there is no Hillary Clinton pushing the government to do better

The gist of the story is, those secretive, mean old Conservatives need to get on the e-communication bandwagon, like Hillary.

If only Stephen Harper had set up an email server in my spare bathroom like I recommended.

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King George VI Visiting Ottawa

July 18th, 2015

When my friend Ron was going through his late mother’s photo albums, he turned up this gem. His mother was a 13-year old girl living in Ottawa in 1939. When King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (The Queen Mother) dedicated the National War Memorial on May 21st, 1939, they would be within’ a few blocks of his mother’s home. It is at the dedication we think this picture was taken (the clothes are the same from the pictures of the dedication and the Queen is carrying the same book).


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The Return of Bloom County

July 13th, 2015

Here is is, after 25-years


Berkeley Breathed has decided to do new Bloom County’s. The news leaked last night, and from what I can make out, it will be digital only, and may only be available on his Facebook page, although I’m guessing it will eventually appear elsewhere. But for now, if your on Facebook, follow Breathed and get your daily Bloom County in your Facebook feed.

Bring on that Opus merchandise.

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Saturday Fluffernutter: The Kanye Who Edition

July 4th, 2015

All the fluffy news about those nutty celebrities

fluffincolor“Man it’s cold down here,” Satan said to his minion in charge of the furnaces. “What’s going on?”fluffposter01sample

“That Fluffernutter guy agrees with something David Crosby said,” said the minion. “We’re beginning to freeze over.”

“Noooo! More Brimstone!! More Brimstone!!!”

And what did David Crosby say

Kanye West can’t write, sing or play. So I have trouble with him as anything but a poser. Produce? That means he sits in a chair while the engineer does the work. He’s a poser!

fluffincolorKanye meanwhile, headlined Glastonbury where he butchered - as in hog tied, slit the throat of and left to drain blood on the floor in agony - Queens Bohemian Rhapsody.

Earlier, modesty getting the better of him, Kanye declared himself the “greatest living rock star on the planet,” proving quite conclusively he doesn’t have a better side.

Later, Pete Townsend of The Who, closing out Glastonbury, told the audience, “we’re going to send you home now with a rebellious “Oh yea? Who’s the biggest fucking rock star in the world?”

fluffincolorAs for The Who, Townsend told the crowd from the stage:

I think I will stop after this year. We’re lucky we’re not in some old people’s home… even this particular gang can grow old, not necessarily gracefully but can grow old ungracefully — or whatever it is we’re doing.

Last month Daltrey scolded a fan at a concert for smoking a joint, so “we’re too old for this,” is hardly surprising. And by “this,” I mean anything whatsoever.

fluffincolorI’ve said before that entertainment reporters are the laziest people on earth. “Oh my, typing out Brad and Angelina is too much effort, lets make it Brangelina,” they will bore entire dinner parties saying. “Why type 15 letters when 10 will do?” Talk about a group that needs to get on a by-the-word pay scale.

The most annoying of these shortcuts, by far, is Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner being called Bennifer. It’s not just lazy, but it’s also not original, being the lame nickname given to Affleck and Jennifer Lopez. Seriously, you can’t even come up with something new and original to save yourself keying in those five whole letters?

So you can imagine how exciting I found the headline this week, “Bennifer no more!” Unfortunately, this wasn’t a directive from entertainment editors, or a promise from the reporters to get on their lazy ass and type out whole names. Rather, it was the unfortunate news that after ten-years of marriage and three children, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner have split up. In a released statement, the couple said they were divorcing, but will “go forward with love and friendship for one another and a commitment to co-parenting our children…”

Hollywood divorces are rarely surprising, in that it’s the almost default expectation in Hollywood. But Affleck and Garner are two very public figures who have managed to maintain a relationship and marriage largely outside of the public eye. So while the divorce announcement is not surprising, it is sad and a bit disappointing.

fluffincolorChris Squire (1948-2015)

After a period of unwellness - stomach ailments, weight loss, extreme fatigue - Yes bassist Chris Squire was diagnosed with acute erythroid leukemia in March. Last Saturday, Just a few months later, Squire passed away at 67.

Squire was the only member of Yes to perform on every tour and every album, from it’s founding in 1968 until this year. His bass playing was distinctive and often brilliant. Rather than play the bottom end of chords, giving tone to the bass drum, as so many other bass players do, Squire played counter-melodic lines, more in a baroque style than standard rock. His Rickenbacker basses had a big sound which was a significant contributor to Yes’s signature sound. He will go down as one of the very best bassist in history, and by one of the best, I do mean top three.

He performed on 21 Yes albums, plus two solo works. In August, Yes will perform for the first time ever without Chris Squire at bass. Personally, I loved Yes and Squire was a big reason why. Whenever you listened to Yes, you often came away with the bass line running through your head, something you can’t say about many other bands.

Rest in Peace Chris Squire, a brilliant bassist and by all accounts, a very decent man.

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Saturday Fluffernutter: The Stick it to the Rich Edition

June 27th, 2015

All the fluffy news about those nutty celebrities

fluffincolorOh this is exciting. Hot off the news that Guy Ritchie is busy casting for a King Arthur movie comes word some movie execs are trying to put together a spy movie featuring all five former James Bonds.fluff_2_2008

Sean Connery (aka Sir), George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Bronson - ages ranging from 62-year old Bronson to 82-year old Moore - have apparently been approached about appearing in the The Expendables style spy movie.

Word is Moore is game, but Connery is not interested. “I don’t think he (Connery) wants to be associated with Bond anymore,” Moore told Britain’s Sun newspaper.

fluffincolorWe have a new child star with trouble. Jake Lloyd, who played young Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (otherwise known as Star Wars IV) found himself in legal trouble this week.

Driving through Charleston South Carolina like he was Podracing on Tatooine, an officer noted he seemed to be driving erratically. Seeing the police lights behind him, Lloyd made like he was in the Boonta Eve Classic and took off. Pursuit ensued, ending only when Lloyd lost control of his podracer, er car, and crashed through a fence and into several trees.

Needless to say, Lloyd didn’t get off with a warning and was arrested on charges of reckless driving, failure to stop, resisting arrest and driving without a licence. As of this writing, he remained in custody.

fluffincolorTweets from Yoko (A new Fluffernutter Feature): “Imagine letting a goldfish swim across the sky. Let it swim from the West to the East. Drink a liter of water.”

fluffincolor“I’m not funny, can’t sing, not much of an actor and I look like I probably smell pretty bad,” Russell Brand might well have said to the left-wing anti-democracy protestors in London Saturday. “But I still feel pretty much responsible for the voting patterns of 64-million people”

The crowd responds with a roar and a chant of “stick it to the rich,” until someone notices the obvious. “Hey,” he yells, pointing at Brand, “he’s rich.”

“I’ve got a stick,” yells another,

“So do I,” yells another. And so did they all. So it came to pass the Russell Brand ran form the stage, angrily pursued by the only group on earth truly stupid enough to care who Russell Brand is or what he says.

note: the above is, as Hollywood says, “based on an historical event.” If you want to see the most heartwarming video you will ever see, the YouTube video of Brand being chased away by his people, the anti-austerity protestors in London last week will restore your faith in humanity.

fluffincolorRapper Puff Daddy, P. Diddy, Diddy, El Puffaroo has been arrested for a kettle-ball assault in Los Angeles.

Polkaroo, whose real name is Sean Combs (we think) was arrested at UCLA’s training complex for suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, the deadly weapon being the kettle-ball. P. Diddly-Doo’s son, Justin Combs is a defensive back for UCLA’s football team, who have been working out at the facility.

No word on the identity of the victim, or motive for the assault, however the betting board here at Fluffernutter World Headquarters is that someone mistook Combs for H.R. Puffinstuff.

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Bill Wyman: Back to Basics

June 22nd, 2015

Bill Wyman’s new album, Back to Basics, starts promising enough, a nice groove song called What & How & If & When & Why. It sounds solid, and so promising.back-to-basics Then at the twenty-four second mark, Alfie Doolitle with laryngitis starts speaking into the big recording machine, and you wonder what’s happening. What’s happening is Bill Wyman is singing - if by singing you mean whispering hoarsely in a cockney accent.

And that’s about it for Back to Basics. It’s chock full of decent songs, most notably, but not exclusively, Seventeen and I Got Time. Yet Wyman hasn’t the voice to carry a song all the way through, never mind an entire album. It’s a pity, because there’s something here, and it could be good: but it’s not.

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Betting the Hedges on the Clinical Insanity of Biological Reality

June 18th, 2015

As Newspapers cut back, editors are one of the easy places to cut, A good editor doesn’t just correct spelling and grammar, but they cut extraneous words. If it’s repetitive or unnecessary, out it goes. Case in point, The National Post article, Rachel Dolezal’s Fall From Grace, by Robyn Ur­back,

Her self-identification as black, thus, has basically no foundation in her biological reality.

climatechangeSee, a good editor would have trimmed this to the more accurate: “Her self-identification as black, thus, has no foundation in reality.”

Of course what Urback is doing is, to use Mark Steyn’s phrase, “a palpable bet-hedging.” The Steyn phrase is from a piece today called Tweet of Clay, and the bit about bet-hedging is not the highlight. This line is:

More and more levers of civilization appear to be in the hands of the clinically insane.

It’s a line I use nowadays when people start talking politics. Right. left, conservative, liberal, Party A, Party B, it’s irrelevant. I let people bitch from whatever side they argue from, and eventually I say, “It’s because they’re all nuts. Every one of them is actually, literally crazy.” It never fails, whatever they are complaining about, can be explained easily by “they’re all, literally, crazy.”

The reason it works is because, I’m becoming more and more convinced, it’s 100% true. Never mind Mark Steyn’s little “bet-hedging,” he almost right: More and more levers of civilization are in the hands of the clinically insane.

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