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Archive for the month “February, 2015”

Tactical Retreat: Cowardice

My friend and co-worker Brian M. Lambert has founded an online sketch comedy project called Tactical Retreat which you can find here on Facebook and here on Youtube.

As Tactical Retreat releases new videos, I will post them here.  So far, I have found them rather funny and clever and they seem to get better with each release.

This is their first release called “Cowardice”; enjoy!

Yes Concert Reviews: 11/21/08 – Front Row and on the Radio!

Here is another addition to my series of Yes music posts.  I started this series here and you can read the others here.

I saw the progressive rock band Yes play at the Borgata in Atlantic City, New Jersey on November 21, 2008 during the first part of their In The Present Tour.  You can read more about this show here.  Technically speaking this show was initially not considered a Yes show but a “Howe, Squire, White Show featuring Oliver Wakeman and Benoit David,” but at the end of the leg of the tour of which this show was a part the band faced reality and acknowledged that they were the new iteration of Yes.  Starting with this show, and concluding with the Yes show I saw in 2013, I attended each one with my friend and former neighbor Mike March.  He has incredible luck in getting good seats which will be described below.  I also have posted some photographs from the show below.  This show took place about six weeks after my first son was born and my wife reminds me that I should thank him for being born on October 12 and not only not interrupting our seeing the Phillies in the World Series but also not interfering with this show (my second son had similarly good timing which I will describe in a later post).

The line-up Yes fielded that show was:

The set Yes played was (the album from which the song comes in parenthesis):

Recollections:

This show was the first of four shows I saw this line-up perform over the course of its “In the Present Tour” which spanned the better part of three years (2008 – 2010).  I saw this line up also perform in 2011 for its final tour called the Rite of Spring Tour.

To date, I have seen this lineup perform more often than any other though, sadly, it was the weakest of the Yes lineups I have seen.  When I review the other shows of this lineup I will discuss different details regarding its origins, strengths, and weaknesses.  I reviewed the 2010 show of this line up here.  In September 2004 I saw the classic Yes line up perform for the last time (you can read about that here) and, after that tour, Yes went on hiatus.  In 2008 Yes reformed with Jon Anderson continuing as lead vocalist but without Rick Wakeman due a conflict with his prior commitments.  To replace Rick Wakeman, Yes hired on his son Oliver Wakeman to play keyboards, who is a very skilled keyboard player in his own right.  This quintet went ahead and scheduled the Close to the Edge and Back Tour.  Unfortunately, this tour was cancelled due to Jon Anderson suffering a severe asthma attack.  Controversially Yes went forward without Jon Anderson and hired Youtube Yes cover singer sensation Benoit David to replace him.

Due to Yes now touring without the man who is considered to be the band’s face, soul, primary composer and lyricist, and inspiration (Jon Anderson) and without their long time and most popular keyboardist (Rick Wakeman), they decided to tour the crap out of this new lineup.  Losing Jon Anderson was a huge blow to their image, identity, and to their fan base, and Yes felt they had to pull out the stops to reassure the fans that Yes is still, well, Yes.  So, they toured practically non-stop for over four years to get as much exposure as possible and to convince the fans that Yes is still the band it has always been.  In an attempt to up the ante on their trying to reassure the fans of their Yes-cred, they played some real deep cut rarities and toured with a stage set designed by Roger Dean to boot.

I have to say that I thought this show an amazing and truly excellent show.  The band played really well.  David’s voice was strong, clear, and did Anderson’s parts justice.  His stage presence was rather goofy, hokey, and some what amateur, but it did not affect the sound at all so I did not really care all that much.  O. Wakeman’s playing was really good.  He was able to replicate his father’s playing, Tony Kaye’s playing and Geoff Downes’s playing with aplomb.  My only complaint about his playing was that it was totally nondescript and he had absolutely no state presence at all.  He played his parts technically really well but offered no personal flair to any of the parts whatsoever.  His playing was practically by rote, which disappointed me because other players who join Yes tend to place their personal stamp onto the music even if it was initially played by others; ironically perhaps the best at that was Wakeman’s father.  At the time, I sort of assumed that this lack of a personal stamp was due to circumstance.  It seemed Yes was very focused and intent on ensuring the fans knew that this was Yes and the next stage of their career and not messing with keyboard sounds and arrangements may have helped fans embrace this new line up due to the familiar sound it could produce.  Regardless, for me, at this time, between the excellent playing and the Dean stage set, this iteration of Yes seemed to be the real deal and a worthy continuation of the band, even without Anderson and, to a lesser extent, R. Wakeman.

I also have to say that the set list was excellent and that was an amazing feature of the show for me.  The set included rarities from Drama (only ever played in 1980), “Astral Traveller,” a great song that had not been played since 1970, “Onward” which had only ever been played live three times (all at the Keys to Ascension shows), and they brought back their tradition of introducing “And You And I” with “Apocalypse” (ala Yessongs).

Unfortunately this show was performed in a casino, which, for me, is one of the worst venues for a concert.   It is the worst because (1) I have to drive at least 75 minutes to the show; (2) it takes place in a craphole city (Atlantic City); (3) a fair amount of the audience got tickets at the casino for something fun to do but were not really fans and, therefore, spent the show being drunk and talking instead of involved in the show; and worst of all, (4) the set list is shorter than usual due to casino rules.  Despite the excellent set list, it was shorted and did not include other songs on this leg of the tour, including “Parallels,” Long Distance Runaround,” The Fish,” “Soon,” “Aliens” (a song played live but never recorded by Yes but eventually included on the first Squackett album), and a Steve Howe solo spot.

The most memorable part of this show has got to be the seats!  As I said above, Mike has incredible luck with seats.  The local classic rock radio stations 102.9 WMGK was promoting the show and one of its disc jockeys, Ray Koob, was there broadcasting live.  Koob promoted something like a drawing for a “seat upgrade” and all one had to do was text WMGK to enter.  Mike and I entered and he looked at me with confidence and said “I am not going to sit in our seats because it’s a waste of time considering we’re getting a seat upgrade.”  I grinned but had no expectation to win.  Mike assured me we would win and was getting amped up for front row seats.  Miraculously I got a text from WMGK which bumped up our seats to the front row right in front of Squire!  It is the only time I have ever had front row seats for Yes.  I have to say that it is a really exciting place to be.  You truly get a view impossible anywhere else in the theater, though, admittedly, the sound is better in other places in a venue.  As I was right in front of Squire, needless to say his bass and voice dominated the sound for me.  When we got the ticket upgrades, Koob interviewed Mike and I on live radio and we went home with some promotional material.  My wife, who was spending the day with her sister, listened in from home.  We also had our pictures taken (posted below) with our winning tickets and the photographs were posted to the WMGK website.  It was a really exciting moment for me – and something of a whirlwind – to show up to a show expecting to sit in the fifteenth row and, within about 15 minutes, get bumped up to front row and interviewed on a live radio broadcast!  On Christmas 2008 Mike was nice enough to buy me a beer stein with our WMGK photograph on it!

Needless to say, my first Yes show in 4 years, a great show, a great performance, a good stage set, a great set list, front row tickets, a radio interview, and a 6 week old son made for an amazing night!

Previous Review:

I reviewed this show a few days after the show and posted it to the Usenet group alt.music.yes.  Back in the mid 1990s the old message board system of newsgroups on Usenet was in its heyday and, being a sucker for internet debates, I gravitated right toward it.  Nowadays Usenet has been taken over by Google Groups but, needless to say, social networking things like Facebook and Twitter and any number of other options have made Usenet all but obsolete save for some loyal diehard hardcore users. I found my old review preserved at the website Forgotten Yesterdays and can be found here.

My old review has a lot of details about the show I have forgotten.  Here is my old review (typos and all): Here are my thoughts about the AC show:

I posted elsewhere that the set was absurdly short due to the venue. I complained about it there and will not repeat it here. Suffice it to say that despite the short set, the evening was magical for me.

On a personal note, 102.9 WMGK was there broadcasting live. They did an “Owner of a Lonely Heart” game where you had to guess how many times various classic rock musicians have gotten divorced. My friend and I gave it a go and won a couple of radio station t-shirts. They also had a text message raffle for a first row seat. On a lark my friend and I both sent text messages. After a while it got close to show time and I wanted to take our seats, but he said “no way, we’re going to win those 1rst row seats”. Wouldn’t you know it, but 2 minutes later we won the tickets! So, we moved up a couple of dozen rows for out front row seats! directly in front of Chris Squire. So, needless to say it was awesome just on this note alone for me.

About the show:
BD: very good. Great stage presence. Moves around and interacts with the band and the audience very well and in a more “normal” sort of way as compared to JA. He also moves and dances a lot to the music (and according to its rhythm too!), so this is different from JA also. Obviously no spacey talk. Over all, a very good performance. Of course, we all missed JA but BD made us feel right at home.

SH: really hot. He’s a strange guy, people say he is slowing the band down in terms of tempo. However, his performance is hot and cold in terms of speed. A few moments he is playing either slower or less notes than the album or previous performances in years past (i.e.: TF). Other times (such as “Wurm”) he is blisteringly fast. So, I cannot tell if he thinks playing slower is more mature or refined or he can only sustain it occasionally. He got really angry at least twice during the show. While introducing AT he told some folks in the audience to “shut up” because he was talking. During the quiet part of “I Get Up, I Get Down” when CS is doing some noodling, he looked toward those same folks with a look that could kill and mouthed “shut up” and made a motion with his hand to tell them to keep it down. Overall, his performance was spot on and he was very animated at times.

AW; same as always: solid.

OW: I think he does not get the credit he deserves. He was mixed somewhat lower than RW. However, I have found with the exception of perhaps PM, every keyboardist is mixed lower than RW. There was at least one time when SH motioned to the sound guy to turn OW down – I cannot for the life of me remember what song that was. What he did play was spot on like the albums. I think his main “problem” if it is one, is that he has absolutely ZERO stage presence. He never looks at the audience and only acknowldged the band (CS specifically) one time that I can remember (during the “Roundabout” solo). When he has no keyboard part to play he often clasped his hands in front of himself looking at the floor. He also does not make his playing look challeging. He uses a smaller rig than RW, taking full advantage of new technology (unlike RW who seems to enjoy using 1,000,000 keyboards all of the time). He rarely played more than one at one time and does not sway/leap/run back and forth between them or, as RW did in 2002 – 2004, criss-cross his hands constantly. I guess it can be summed up by saying OW has no stage presence and no showmanship and I think a lot of people confuse that with inferior keyboard playing which is, I think, a mistake.

CS: what can I say about him? He was 5 feet from me so I saw everything and he took a lot of my attention. Really great playing and singing and he does not look like he is slowing down. I think he clearly looks like he is in charge of this group again. He is playing as good as he ever has played I think. My only suggestion is to stop wearing pants so tight. His package was way too prominent and his old man legs way too evident.

The set was as follows:
Firebird Suite
Siberian Khatru
I’ve Seen All Good People
Tempus Fugit
Onward
Astral Traveller
Close To The Edge
And You and I (starting with “Apocalypse”)
Machine Messiah
Starship Trooper
Encore:
Owner of a Lonely Heart
Roundabout

The details are largely the same as other shows, but here are some details I noticed that may not have been shared perviously. No major issues or flubs. Overall a very tight performance considering the complaints from recent shows.

SK: during the quiet parts at the begining CS had something caught in his bass and fiddled with it for several seconds.

TF: I was 4 feet from CS. I can tell you that he seemed very confident playing the challenging bass parts. However, he seemed to REALLY struggle singing at the same time. He got most of his lines however he would pull back from the microphone at times and sort of scat the melody. Some of the lyrics got garbled by him. It really could not be noticed unless you actually watched him fromt he distance from which I viewed him. Overall, however, great playing.

Onward: CS plucks the strings with 2 fingers during many moments in the song instead of playing as he typically does. SH sat on a stool the entire song.

CttE; they pulled out the dry ice mist during the quiet parts. They also did some spacey improv circa 1972 during those same moments. I do not think SH’s blue guitar on a stand does justice to the sitar sound. The sound round of pipe organ is supplimented by SH doubling the melody and CS and AW souping it up a bit as they have done on previous tours. The tempo was more or less album tempo with a ripping guitar solo at the beginning.

AYAI: great and tight overall performance but awkward guitar playing when not using a steel. SH did not use his acoustic 12 string but opted for that 6-string blue guitar. As a result, the song was different (i.e.: more electric) and a lot thinner due to the lack of 6 more strings. So, I think that took away from the music if being true to the fullness of the acoustic 12 string is important for the listener. Also, not sure if it was intentional, but the blue guitar was facing to the left side of SH and not directly in front of him. As a result, when he had to sing the “Coins and Crosses” part he had to stretch his arms to the side while his face was forward toward teh audience. Very uncomfortable looking. Was it like this at other shows? The two note keyboard chords during the keyboard solo were prerecorded.

MM: AMAZING!! SH’s slow building guitar growl was just great and CS was blistering. Great job. Not sure what the point is for BD to play the acoustic guitar as SH is not playing his own guitar during those moments but competant strumming nonetheless. They also used the dry ice during the slow ending. CS’ singing on this one was intermittent. He would come in and out of the same verse and I do not think he did the same on the album.

ST: in terms of performance, probably the best and tightest performance of the night. Again the blue guitar used for an the acoustic sound during “Disillusion”. The solos at the end are as good as they have been in recent years. A REALLY well done rendition. During the “Follow…” part of “Disillusion” it sounded like OW played some keyboard effects that sounded like harmonized voices to boost the vocal sound of that section.

OoaLH: pretty standard. AW introduced it. SH looks less angry than bored playing this now, and actually played it pretty well and put some effort into it (unlike previous tours, I thought). The electronic drums were prerecorded and there were no shreeks from JA. OW played the little trippy transition parts. BD came in with the chorus at the end a little too early and looked at CS and the both laugh it off. BD sort of laughingly shrugged and CS did the same.

Roundabout: AW introduced this one too and it was again, pretty standard. The whole song too, none of this shorted nonsense. Again the blue guitar substituted for the acoustic and SH plays the “acoustic” parts with his fingers, which I do not know if he generally does that.

There you have it from AC!

Photographs:

From the WMGK website:

PA170019 PA170023 PA170024

My own photos:

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Innovation

This article is part of my posts on the economic system of distributism.  This is from practicaldistributism.blogspot.com/ which you can find here:

“One claim critics of Distributism frequently make is that the elimination of large monopolies with their wealth will bring innovation and technological development to a virtual halt. They cannot seem to conceive of companies working together for the mutual benefit of everyone without having government issue patents to “protect” their inventions. While the current system of patents certainly works in stimulating innovation, it does so based on the idea of exclusive claims to rights to use the development, and the ability to extract money payments from anyone else who would make use of it. Theoretically, it also allows companies to prevent the use of innovations by not allowing anyone to use the patented technology.”

You can learn more about this issue here.

Accepting Voluntary Layoff Is Now Involuntary Termination

Decades of Pennsylvania law concerning eligibility for unemployment compensation after accepting an early retirement package has been overturned in the recent landmark Pennsylvania Supreme Court case of Diehl v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 57 A.3d 1209

In Diehl, the Plaintiff, a sixty-three (63) year old man with twenty-three (23) years’ seniority with his employer, was given a memorandum from his employer which included a list of twenty (20) employees who would be laid off pursuant to a reduction-in-force; but Plaintiff was not on the aforesaid list. The employer also offered employees over the age of sixty (60) an early retirement program, for which Plaintiff was eligible. Plaintiff accepted the early retirement program and effectively quit his position with employer as a result; he subsequently applied for unemployment compensation benefits.

Plaintiff was ruled to be ineligible for benefits at every level of the litigation of this matter, prior to the Supreme Court’s decision which is the subject of this article. The reasoning of the lower decision-makers’ was based on Plaintiff’s voluntarily accepting the early retirement program which effectively served as a voluntary termination of his employment without a necessitous and compelling reason to do so. Plaintiff was not on the above-mentioned list and he was not compelled to accept the early retirement package, and there was no threat of termination by his employer, if he didn’t accept it.

The Supreme Court’s legal analysis centered upon the Voluntary Layoff Option Provision portion of 43 P.S. Section 802(b) which states the following: “[p]rovided further, [t]hat no otherwise eligible claimant shall be denied benefits for any week in which his unemployment is due to exercising the option of accepting a layoff, from an available position pursuant to a labor-management contract agreement, or pursuant to an established employer plan, program or policy.”

As one would expect, the tribunals below the Supreme Court cited to multiple cases over the last three (3) decades which would lead to the necessary conclusion that Plaintiff is ineligible for benefits due to voluntarily terminating his employment without a necessitous and compelling reason. These cases tend to focus on a judicially created distinction between early retirement and a voluntary layoff, with only the former allowing eligibility for benefits. However, the Supreme Court pointed out that, despite the long history of reasonably consistent decisions, it was apparent that none of other courts and tribunals actually read the statute they were applying and upon which they ruled.

The Supreme Court began its analysis of the decisions below by identifying an underlying interpretive framework for unemployment compensation which requires viewing the unemployment compensation law as liberally as possible in order to provide the maximum benefits possible. Furthermore, the Supreme Court pointed out that when attempting to apply a statute, courts must abide by the letter of the law when the language of the statute is clear and free from ambiguity using the common and approved usage of the words. As a result, the Supreme Court concluded that benefits should only be denied if the statute has explicit language to that effect; indeed there is a presumption that an applicant for unemployment compensation is eligible for benefits and the burden to prove the contrary lies with the employer.

Using the guidelines described above, the Supreme Court indicated that the Plaintiff was denied benefits, and the many cases in support of his denial, was the result of chronic misinterpretation of the Voluntary Layoff Option Provision portion of 43 P.S. Section 802(b), apparently in an attempt to harmonize it with the law regarding ineligibility upon voluntary termination. Despite this, however, the Supreme Court ruled that the language quoted above, taken on its face, uses the term “layoff” without any other modifier, therefore the term layoff can refer to either temporary or permanent separations initiated by an employer. Indeed, the Supreme Court specifically indicated that the Voluntary Layoff Option Provision portion of 43 P.S. Section 802(b) specifically forbids the denial of unemployment compensation benefits due to accepting a voluntarily offered plan by an employer. The Supreme Court asserted that the language of the aforesaid statute is so unambiguous that the legislature’s intent to equate someone falling within the statute with an involuntarily unemployed claimant as opposed to someone who voluntarily terminated his own employment without a necessitous and compelling reason.

To put it simply, the Supreme Court found no language in the aforesaid statute to prevent interpreting it to allow claimants to be eligible for benefits upon accepting employer-initiated early retirement packages offered pursuant to a workforce reduction.

Originally published in The Legal Intelligencer Blog on January 27, 2014 and can be seen here.

The cold never bothered us anyway…

Here is the latest post by Angela and Daz Croucher to their blog A.D. Croucher! They are up-and-coming young adult authors. Check them out!

A.D. Croucher

Now that CORRUPTED has hit the virtual shelves, we’re getting ready to gear up for book three. It’s definitely a busy time here at Croucher Towers. We’re finishing up a rewrite of the movie script we wrote last year, which placed quite well in a few competitions. We got some great feedback and notes on it, which gave us some good stuff to think about and work on… so we dived right back in to really pull it apart and put it back together again. Although the central character through line is unchanged, each of the three acts has been heavily restructured, some substantial new scenes added, and we’ve cut out a LOT of what was there before. Editing is ruthlessness. You have be cold, like Elsa. (Or Captain Cold in The Flash). There’s no room for sentimentality or “but I love that scene”. The story becomes your master and you…

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Don’t be Afraid to Break Up Before Marriage!

I post this essay with much fear and trepidation because I do not necessarily view myself as a relationship expert or counselor, but I do feel that I have something to say on the issue of breaking up before stepping into marriage.

Just to note my background for the uninitiated, I have been a practicing family lawyer for over twelve years now and been in a relationship with the same woman for nearly as long (and married for nearly nine years), so needless to say, I have some experience being in a marriage relationship and seeing many many marriage relationships break up.  Of course, like anyone else, I also have had the opportunity to have friends and family in marriage relationships and, unfortunately seen some of those end in divorce as well.

Now there are countless reasons why a couple divorces.  Conventional wisdom says that the most common reasons surround children, money, and sex.  I would say that is largely true.  Of course, one could also add things like abuse, a large age gap, a large education gap, immaturity, and laziness to the list as well, among others for sure.

Although we could all come up with our own lists of reasons why couples divorce, I, in this post, would like to focus on those reasons that are clearly present before the marriage.  One of the things I have noticed in my own marriage and in the marriages of others is that, as much as we wish it were not the case, the person we date will probably be the same person we are married to, no matter how much we try to change him/her and, if the person does change, there is a good chance that that change carries with it some resentment along with it.

The person who, before marriage, does not want kids, or is a spendthrift/cheapskate, or is emotionally/physically abusive, or is condescending (intentionally or unintentionally due to things like a large age or education gap), or is immature, or comes from a difficult and/or intrusive family or any number of “negative” things will likely continue to be that way after one marries.  To think that putting a ring on someone’s finger will make it all better or different is nothing short of wishful thinking.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to be pessimistic or a romance killer; I am just being realistic.  Before someone decides to make the life changing decision of marriage, one should be as completely and unabashedly honest with him/herself as possible and, of course, with one’s potential spouse.  I think this is where the difficulty comes into play: people are afraid of this unfiltered honesty because it may point to the unpleasant reality that a couple should break up before marriage.  Obviously breaking up is potentially hugely traumatic.  The couple may truly feel love for one another and breaking up would bring true grief and sadness.  Someone may feel that s/he would never (or at least have a very hard time) finding a new potential spouse.  Someone may not want to experience being alone again.  Some may feel that a particular relationship may be the best/only/last opportunity to have a child.  Some may feel that less-than-satisfactory-relationship is better than none.  There are all sorts of reasons why someone may want to avoid breaking up.  In view of all of these things, though, are any of them worth the very real potentiality of divorce in the future?

Again, this is precisely where honesty comes into play.  The person should try to look at his or her relationship as objectively as possible, but doing so may reveal some unpleasant truths.  For example, let’s say one person wants a child and the other does not.  Can the person who wants a child really and truly accept the possibility of not ever having one and, more importantly, do so without resenting the other?  What about money?  Can someone truly live with someone who spends money faster than he makes it (or with someone who refuses to spend money to such a degree one lives as if impoverished)?  What about an age gap?  A 20 year age gap when one is 23 is one thing; when one is 43 it is quite another; is the potential spouse truly ready for that?  How about in-laws?  That nasty mother-in-law or condescending father-in-law may be tolerable while one is dating, but how about for the next thirty years as a part of one’s “new” family?  Anyone could suffer through a few years of any of these, but marriage is supposed to be life-long.

I think the big question is clear:  are you ready to live with any of the above (and more) and not getting what you want?  If someone thinks “I’ll talk him/her into it,” please understand that disappointment will likely follow: may be not today or tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life (to paraphrase Humphrey Bogart).  If you are not prepared to deal with any of these things not going your way, then the best option may be to break up now before you wind up married, as disentangling the lives, finances, children, friends, assets, emotions, resentments, relationships, and families is far more difficult and expensive than breaking up before marriage.  It just takes courage to look at reality in the face and acknowledge its truth and implications for your relationship.  If this is too difficult, ask a friend, family member, counselor, mentor, or clergyman to give you his/her opinion on your relationship and be prepared to accept that opinion and seriously consider it.

Believe me when I tell you that I have heard “we all saw it coming” said countless times in my divorce practice, and thought and heard it many times in my own life, when a married couple decides to call it quits.  If it is so obvious to everyone around you, then it ought to be discoverable to you if you only take a moment, step back, and look at yourself, your boy/girlfriend, and your relationship, honestly and objectively.  One way my wife and I tried to achieve this objectivity was by reading a book together called Preparing for Marriage.  This book was recommended by my then parish priest Fr. K. Brewster Hastings from my old church St. Anne’s in Abington, PA.  Fr. Hastings conducted our premarital counseling.  The book asks very insightful and extremely personal questions of the reader who is write the answers in the spaces left in the book; when finished the couple is to compare their answers, preferably together and with their premarital counselor.  Sometimes the answers are fantastically harmonized.  Sometimes they are rather different.  When different, it is important for the couple, preferably with a clergyman or marriage counselor, to delve into those differences and to investigate how important they are to the two people in the couple.  Many times the differences are easily overcome, however others – such as a disagreement over whether to have children – will probably never truly be overcome and that is where the hard decisions need to be made.  As stated above, the decision will be to determine what is more important: preserving the relationship and sacrificing having children (for example) without resentment, or sacrificing the relationship for the thing more greatly desired (having children).  It is a difficult decision and one not made lightly, but it must be made and must be made with eyes wide open, honestly, objectively, and, hopefully, maturely.

Do not be someone embroiled in a divorce over (an) issue(s) clearly in view, or potentially in view, before you got married.  Have the courage, maturity, respect, and forethought to discern and truly consider these issues before marriage and, potentially, break off the relationship long before years of marriage are wasted on ultimately the wrong person.

Concert Review: Asia 9/13/06

This post is part of my series of posts on progressive rock which you can see here.

On September 13, 2006 I saw the progressive rock supergroup Asia during their 2006 reunion tour at the Keswick Theater in Glenside, PA.

Asia, which formed and released their first album in around 1982, started its life as a progressive rock supergroup which combined members of great prog rock bands of the 1970s into a single band.  The band consisted of Steve Howe (guitarist of Yes), Geoff Downes (keyboardist of Yes and The Buggles), John Wetton (former bassist/vocalist of such bands as King Crimson, Family, Roxy Music, Uriah Heep, Renaissance, UK and Wishbone Ash), and drummer Carl Palmer (of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, and Atomic Rooster), along with Roger Dean as their cover and stage designer to boot.

It is worth noting that the band, in progressive rock circles, is controversial in that, despite the pedigree of all of its band members, the music the band created is not nearly as progressive as the bands of origin for its members.  Many prog rock fans felt let down by the more accessible music Asia released, however that did not stop the band from having great success.  For me, I think much one’s impressions of music (or movies or whatever) is dependent upon one’s expectations.  So, if one approaches Asia expecting a Yes/ELP/KC mash-up will be terribly disappointed.  I think if one approaches Asia on its own terms, it provides a much different impression.  I think Asia is really fantastic at what it does and I really enjoy that: they play really good stylized rock music that features good melodies and tight arrangements with good punchy solos that is influenced by prog rock.  Taking Asia on its own terms makes them much more satisfying.  I think Steve Howe said it best.  He was asked how a Yes guitarist could play Asia’s music and he replied (I am paraphrasing) that sometimes someone needs a 7 course meal (Yes) and sometimes someone needs a light lunch (Asia) and that both of those needs are legitimate and that music is no different.

Their first album was an enormous success.  It was the number one album in the United States for 1982, spent nine weeks at number one on the Billboard Charts, went quadruple platinum in the Untied States, sold about ten million copies worldwide, and spawned the number one hit single (for six weeks) “Heat of the Moment.”

Unfortunately for Asia, their second album, Alpha, though selling in the millions, did not do nearly as well as the first album which led to a even greater decline in sales for their third album, Astra.  There was also internal unrest within the band.  The Wetton/Downes writing team that proved so popular on the first album was pushed by the record company to lead the writing on Alpha which left Steve Howe feeling sidelined.  As a result, he left after the Alpha tour to form GTR with Genesis guitar player Steve Hackett.  John Wetton had his share of problems too.  He was suffering from alcoholism around this time and that, of course, negatively affected his ability to work with the rest of the band.  He stepped out for a time during the Alpha tour and was briefly replaced by ELP alumnus Greg Lake, whose time with the band is memorialized in the Asia in Asia video (along with some keyed down songs for Lake’s voice).  Wetton returned for Astra, but by then the band had former Krokus guitar player Mandy Meyer in for Howe.

By 1986 Wetton was gone and there was little interest in the band continuing.  Downes kept the flame alive with a half-new material-half-old material album Then & Now in 1991 but could not truly reunite the”classic” Asia, which led to an essentially new Asia led by Downes and bass-player-vocalist John Payne with a host of other musicians which only occasionally featured Howe and Palmer as guests here and there on record and/or live (notably Wetton stayed away until 2006 as described below).  The Payne-led Asia released several albums and toured extensively over the next 15 years or so but to considerably less success than the original supergroup.

By 2006 the Payne-led Asia was losing steam and there was a push to reunite the classic supergroup as its twenty-fifty anniversary approached.  So, in 2006, the original line-up reunited, which led to John Payne, through legal and practical means, creating an effective schism in the band, with his incarnation of the band essentially scrubbed from Asia history by retconning it to be that of another (new) entity called Asia Featuring John Payne.  The classic line-up was restored as if they had simply went on hiatus since 1986.  From 2006 onward they have released four albums (though their most recent album Gravitas lacks Steve Howe as he left again in 2014).

In celebration of their reunion, the classic line up of Asia went on tourin 2006 and I had the pleasure of seeing them and that is the inspiration of this post.  I took three photographs at the show which you can see below.  The set list was composed entirely of material from their first album and Alpha.  Their stage set was rather simple: just some lights and a large tarp bearing the band name behind them.   The band played loudly and powerfully and were able to play all of their old classics like they did in 1982.  They even played an acoustic version of”Don’t Cry,” which Wetton indicated was how he initially conceived the song.  One aspect of the show that I especially liked is that the band played one song from another band they each had been in before Asia.  So, they played “Roundabout” (a song from Yes, Howe’s previous band), “Fanfare for the Common Man” (an ELP song, Palmer’s previous band), “Video Killed the Radio Star (a Buggles song, Downes’ previous band), and “The Court of the Crimson King” (a song from Wetton’s previous band King Crimson).  Wetton’s choice was curious as that is a song from a time when he was not part of Crimson, but no one seemed to care.  The band pulled off these other songs with aplomb.  As these guys are getting a little older, some have noticed Palmer’s drumming to be less intense and the songs a little less aggressive, and that may be so, but I do not think it was very noticeable and certainly did not to detract from the show.  Indeed, contrariwise, it could be said that Wetton’s voice is stronger than ever.  All in all, it was a fun show with great music and great performances, and especially if one is an Asia fan.

Before I forget, let me add that the theater is a very nice, old, beautiful theater that sits about 1000 people and there is not a bad seat in the house for either visuals or sound.  It is a great place to see a show!

Finally, after the show was a reunion of sorts as my concert-mate (my father-in-law) bumped into some of his old band mates from his younger years and I bumped into my old co-workers from my years at Acme Markets.  So, a fun time was had by all.

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Bought With a Price: Every Man’s Duty to Protect Himself and his Family from a Pornographic Culture

As many of my readers know, one of the primary areas of my law practice is family law.  Unfortunately, family law deals with many very deep and profound problems in the family structure which result in custody disputes, abuse, divorce, and other related issues.  A common problem which often underlies these issues is the use of pornography.  Recently my friend and my former parish priest, Fr. K. Brewster Hastings from my old church St. Anne’s in Abington, PA, emailed me about a new publication issued by the Most Reverend Paul S. Loverde, Roman Catholic bishop of Arlington, Virginia called Bought With a Price: Every Man’s Duty to Protect Himself and his Family from a Pornographic Culture.

Pornography is an enormous blight in our society and plays a significant role in the diminishment of the American family and sexuality in general.  The problem of pornography has become so prominent that Bishop Loverde felt led to prepare a comprehensive published essay on the subject.  You can find the entire piece in .pdf format here.  You can read more about it here.

Instead of summarizing the piece, I will let its author do the talking for me.  Accordingly, here is a statement from the Bishop about his publication:

“Seven years into his addiction to online porn, John wrote to tell me of his struggles. His addiction began when he misspelled a word in an online search and was taken to a hardcore porn site. When I received his letter, he was nineteen. If anything, his exposure to pornography at the age of twelve was later than some: studies reveal our children’s first exposure is even younger.  With the release of Fifty Shades of Grey, I wonder what we are saying to John and his female peers. I wonder what our decision to objectify women in situations of sexual violence—and to support the industry which fuels it—says about us and about our society? Though by the entertainment industry’s standards this movie is not classified as pornographic, it normalizes the intertwining of sex and violence, that old pornographic standby.

I have not had the privilege of a sheltered life. As a young priest and campus minister in the ’70s, I saw the early fruit of the sexual revolution: broken relationships, devaluation of sexual union, and rising divorce rates. In the lives of those I served, I saw prolonged adolescence, rising numbers of fatherless children, more addictions, and isolation. I listened, counseled, and tried to listen some more. With the dawn of the Internet, we awoke almost overnight to new dangers. Men began to chase online fantasies through progressively more explicit images, ones in which men were violent and controlling of female subjects. Virtual fantasies now broke apart real marriages, careers, and families. Wives stumbled upon their husband’s online history. Young adults lost their jobs viewing porn online at work. Children imitated what they saw in adults and began “sexting” one another—the end result of which was suicide in several cases.

By the mid-2000s, I was fed up with the silence surrounding this issue. In 2006, I wrote Bought with a Price, a pastoral letter aimed at empowering men and women to protect themselves and their children from porn. Since publishing that letter, I have been welcomed into many lives. Victims and addicts often share their stories with me—through letters and conversations. So too, many have confided their stories of hard-won freedom in overcoming addiction. With each new victim’s face, name and story, I find the $97-billion-a-year global porn industry less anonymous. The Internet and cable TV providers—the “white collar pornographers” who guarantee 24/7 access to porn in our homes—strike me as more culpable. It troubles me that many adults will watch Fifty Shades of Grey. My greater concern, though, is for the children like John whose entire moral ecosystem will be marred by the cultural mainstreaming of porn. I suppose we have the option of shrugging our shoulders, ignoring it, or cracking a joke. But I challenge every adult to reflect on this cultural moment from the perspective of a father or mother of young children.

Anyone listening to Pope Francis has heard his call to resist unjust social conditions and go to the margins: to the poor, weak, and defenseless in our “throwaway culture” marked by a “globalization of indifference.”

At the margins, I see twelve-year-old John fighting an addiction he did not seek. I see our daughters and sisters and wives viewed as objects for pleasure, victimized, and even trafficked. And I see a predatory porn industry that is nothing short of euphoric over these developments.

“There’s a greater sense of optimism,” a leader in the porn industry was quoted as saying earlier this year. “I believe the companies that have stood the test of time . . . have figured out a way to stay viable. I would say it’s a new era for the industry.”

It is most certainly a new era. The time has come to join our children at the margins and to defund the industries that prey so viciously and unjustly upon them.

The choice before us is stark. It is anything but grey.”

I Now Pronounce You Never Married

Over the last few months, Montgomery County’s register of wills, D. Bruce Hanes, has made quite a name for himself in the local and national media by issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples because he personally believes that Pennsylvania’s definition of marriage as between one man and one woman, which is still the law in most of the United States, is “arbitrary and suspect.” Hanes’ actions do not take into account what these licenses will mean for any divorces that result from the same-sex marriage licenses he has issued.

Many will presume that these same-sex divorces will simply proceed like any other divorce would; however, there may be an alternate means to achieve the dissolution of these “marriages,” especially if you are, or represent, the person with the greatest amount of assets and/or income. First of all, as Pennsylvania law does not recognize same-sex marriage, courts have, thus far, been unwilling to grant same-sex divorces because to do so would be to tacitly recognize the underlying marriage. So, what does one do with this Montgomery County marriage license, especially if one, or both, of the parties in a same-sex marriage moves to a jurisdiction that does recognize their marriage?

No matter how one feels personally, emotionally, legally or any other way on the subject of same-sex marriage, the undeniable fact is that, as it stands now, Pennsylvania law defines marriage as “a civil contract by which one man and one woman take each other for husband and wife.” Therefore, by the clear operation of the plain and black-letter law, two people of the same sex may not enter a relationship defined as marriage under Pennsylvania law, regardless of what Hanes does or thinks. So, the obvious legal question is this: Can a court legally divorce what is not legally a marriage?

The matter of the same-sex marriages described above is not the first time the courts have had to entertain the basic question of whether a marriage was legal to start with, let alone subject to divorce. In 2007, the York County Court of Common Pleas heard the matter of Heyer v. Hollerbush, Pennsylvania No.: 2007-SU-2132-Y08 (September 7, 2007). In Heyer, the couple at issue (a man and a woman) was married with a Universal Life Church minister as the officiant. Under longstanding Pennsylvania law, only “the following are authorized to solemnize marriage between persons that produce a marriage license issued in this part: A minister, priest or rabbi of any regularly established church or congregation.” Armed with this statute, the plaintiff in Heyer, instead of filing for divorce, rather shrewdly and astutely, filed a motion for declaratory judgment instead, arguing that the couple had never actually been married because their Universal Life Church officiant had no authority to solemnize their marriage. The Heyer court agreed and ruled that since, in its estimation, a Universal Life Church minister does not fit the criterion laid out under 23 Pa.C.S.A. §1503(a)(6), the parties were never married. It is worth noting that in 2008, test cases with similar fact patterns as Heyer were filed in Philadelphia, Bucks and Montgomery counties and all resulted in rulings opposite to that of Heyer; however, as none of these matters reached the appellate level, there remains a split among the common pleas courts on this matter.

The impact of Heyer is enormous in the context of divorce, especially if one is, or represents, a defendant. The property held by one party, in the context of a divorce, is considered “marital” and therefore divisible if the parties were married. Furthermore, the dependent spouse may be entitled to spousal support, alimony pendente lite and/or alimony. If the parties were never married, property held in one name only is not divisible if the parties elect to dissolve their relationship and there is no right to any of the above-listed support. The “married” couple in Heyer turned out to be nothing more than a glorified dating, cohabitating or roommate relationship, with only basic contractual rights applying.

How is the Heyer case relevant to same-sex marriage and Hanes taking the law into his own hands? Similar to the parties in Heyer, the same-sex couples, despite the marriage licenses issued to them, are not actually married because of the basic application of Pennsylvania law. Therefore, if and when a party to a same-sex marriage wants to dissolve the relationship, one legal procedural route that is available is to file a motion for declaratory judgment instead of filing for divorce. As stated above, this avenue would be especially attractive to the party holding most of the assets and/or income. As there is already precedent for this tactic’s success, it would not be at all surprising to see it become more common as more same-sex couples are married contrary to the black letter of Pennsylvania law. Indeed, as Pennsylvania law does not recognize same-sex marriage, it does not, by definition, recognize same-sex divorce; therefore, a motion for declaratory judgment may be the only way to secure the striking and/or withdrawal of a same-sex marriage license.

In light of the above, there may be at least two ways to avoid a motion for declaratory judgment. First, if the Pennsylvania Legislature is able to change the historic definition of marriage, it could also, simultaneously, declare Montgomery County’s same-sex marriage licenses (and others like them) to be valid. Second, and more practically, same-sex couples who receive a marriage license such as those distributed by Hanes could simply enter into a nuptial agreement, laying out the terms and conditions of their relationship and their respective rights if their relationship dissolves; such an agreement is enforceable just as any other contract is enforceable. In the meantime, any same-sex couple that gets married using one of Hanes’ marriage licenses should do so with trepidation and with their eyes wide open to acknowledge that their marriage may be anything but a marriage if it does not work out in the future.

Originally published in The Legal Intelligencer Blog on August 26, 2013 and can be seen here and reprinted in the Pennsylvania Family Lawyer, Volume 35, Issue No.: 4, December 2013 edition.

Is Distributism Liberal or Conservative?

This article is part of my posts on the economic system of distributism.  This is from practicaldistributism.blogspot.com/ which you can find here:

“When hearing anyone discussing political or economic ideas, our society has been trained to look at them through one of two lenses: liberal or conservative. How you react to the ideas being expressed depends on the lens of your choice. Because of this, distributists need to be able to address the question that is foremost on people’s minds when they hear about us. Even if they don’t come out and ask the question, they want to know if distributism liberal or conservative?”

You can learn more about this issue here.

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