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Archive for the month “May, 2015”

Health or Jobs?

Ken Kastle is a parishioner with me at our church St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church in Abington, PA. He writes a blog called “Looking at Things Through My Eyes.” Mr. Kastle has had a long career in education and often views his politics as I do, so I often find his blog posts compelling. Below is one of the posts to his blog, enjoy!

Looking At Things Thru My Eyes

A recent news report about the reaction of some officials in Alabama to the EPA’s new standards for carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants [www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/29/alabama-coal-epa-god_n_5630945.html] states:

“Pushing back against new Environmental Protection Agency standards limiting carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants, Alabama officials gathered Monday to argue that the new federal policy flouted the Almighty’s will by regulating a God-given resource.

“’Who has the right to take what God’s given a state?’ Alabama Public Service Commission (PSC) member-elect Chip Beeker asked during a news conference held in the offices of the Alabama Coal Association on Monday, according to AL.com.

“By 2030, the Obama administration’s new rules would require Alabama to reduce carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants by 27 percent from 2012 levels.”

The use of a resource of the earth in coal-fired and polluting power plants is God’s will????

This is just more example of how Republicans at the…

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Chris Squire: a Few Words

Chris Squire.  Many younger people today may not know the name.  That is rather unfortunate.  For those a little older, Squire may just be known as the bass player of the progressive rock band Yes.  For still others, and me included, Squire is someone who took a musical instrument, namely the bass guitar, and turned into something new and is now, whether one knows it or not, will always be an influence on bass guitar playing forever.

Prior to founding Yes, Squire was also a member of the bands that preceded Yes, namely The Syn, which became Mabel Greer’s Toyshop, which eventually became Yes.  While fans have debates on what makes up the core of Yes, most especially some saying vocalist/songwriter/percussionist Jon Anderson‘s voice, vision, and song writing, there can be no doubt that Squire, his bass style, his song writing, his voice, and vision, is within that core.  Yes (the technical and arguable issues of ABWH aside) has never not had Chris Squire on record and on stage since its founding in 1968.  In a band with a notoriously rotating lineup, Squire is the only Yes man who can make that claim, and that is saying something.

As my readers and friends know, I am a huge Yes fan.  Some would say Yes fanatic.  Yes, as the cliche goes, has provided the soundtrack to my life.  When I was first offered a cassette tape of Yessongs back in 1991 my life changed.  I heard music that was the most amazing music I had ever heard to that time.  While I have explored music greatly since then and have seen hundreds of musicians and bands live and accumulated thousands of hours of music, Yes, for some reason, was always able to stay ahead of, and on top of, the pack for me.  While many bands may come close, for me, Yes, at their best, has always been able to remain unmatched.

Over the years I have ravenously consumed Yes.  I have, thus far, seen 20 concerts (and another coming up), gotten concert shirts from every show, gotten posters and brick-a-brac, met Yes artist Roger Dean many times, attended Yestival 1998 (see here and here) and Yesday in 2002 (see here), taken dozens of photographs, bought virtually everything they have produced (not to mention solo material and side projects!), and even have had the opportunity to shake some of their hands.  Suffice it to say, Yes is an intimate part of my life.  Indeed, it was important to me that my wife attend at least one Yesshow with me (she went to the May 10, 2004 show at the Spectrum in Philadelphia).

I say all of this as to explain my frame of reference when I heard last week that Chris Squire had been diagnosed with acute erythroid leukemia.  This is a tough disease to conquer for anyone as it is let alone a 67 year old man who has lived the rock star lifestyle.  Needless to say, it was a blow.

Now, as stated above, Yes has a history of rotating people in and out and this will be no exception.  Yes has tour dates for the last quarter of 2015 scheduled (I will be attending the 8/9 show) and former Yes member Billy Sherwood will be filling in for Squire on bass and voice for those dates.  What happens after that is anyone’s guess: the band may decide to finally pack it in; the band may continue with Sherwood; the band may go in an entirely different direction; or, Squire may triumphantly return.  Who knows?  Indeed, Squire and Rick Wakeman have both publicly mused that Yes is more than a band but is now an prog rock institution and will continue on perpetually like an orchestra or sports team where the actual members are changeable and subservient to the institution itself.

This is not the first time Yes has lost someone hugely important to the band.  Back in 2008 Yes co-founder Jon Anderson left the band due to chronic acute respiratory failure.  There is absolutely no doubt that Anderson and Yes are practically interchangeable in many ways and Anderson was a, if not the, driving force behind the band for nearly 40 years.  Yet, for as much of a blow that was, the band moved on anyway.  Perhaps this is because Anderson left twice before, however I think there is more to it than that, at least for me.

Despite having the reputation for having a rotating lineup, Yes’ personnel is actually a lot more stable than people like to admit.  Yes formed in 1968.  Squire has been in Yes ever since (until now).  Starting in 1970 the core of Squire, Anderson, and guitarist Steve Howe formed.  In 1972 that core expanded to include drummer Alan White.  From 1972 to 2015 there has never been a Yes (again leaving the technical and arguable issues of ABWH aside) without at least three of these men in the lineup and all four have been in Yes from 1972 – 1979, 1991 – 1992, 1996 – 2008.

In the context of Yes’ “core,” Squire’s departure is a huge step into the unknown for Yes.  I did not realize just how huge until this past Sunday when I just happened to be watching old footage of Yes’s television appearances in 1968 through 1970 (see here).  The Yes in those videos consisted of Anderson, Squire, Bill Bruford (drums), Peter Banks (guitar), and Tony Kaye (keyboards).  After watching this I realized that it is now possible, for the very first time in Yes history, to watch or listen to a Yes lineup (or indeed even ABWH) that contains no current Yes members.  This is perhaps why Squire’s loss has hit me so much harder than the loss of Anderson.  At least with the loss of Anderson the core still retained three of them (as it did without Anderson during the Drama era for example).  Now the core is reduced to two and, in a five man band, can two really be considered “a core,” especially since neither, either together or separate, can lay claim to every era of Yes?  For the very first time in Yes’ history, its lineup has lost all continuity with its origin.

The loss of Squire really placed the reality of Yes’ demise directly in front of me.  What was to become of Yes?  Could this really be the beginning of the end for Yes?  Obviously I hope Squire returns to the fold soon and Yes finds ways to continue the Yes tradition far into the future and indeed, sure, I can envision Yes lineups with their current singer, Jon Davison, Sherwood, and even Rick Wakeman’s son (and former Yes member himself), keyboardist Oliver Wakeman, leading a younger version of Yes into the future.  Despite all of that the loss of Squire looms large.  It is the end of an era.  It marks an enormous transition for such a great band.  If Yes continues, the loss of Squire, perhaps more than anyone else in the band, will create a line of demarcation like no one else has.  Not only because of the reasons set forth above but also because of what Squire, his unique bass sound, approach, and writing have brought not just to Yes but to music itself.  Although Squire has many imitators (Geddy Lee is probably the most famous example), no one can really duplicate him.  Squire is a bass player unto himself.  He is instantly recognizable in any context.  Squire shows the difference between being merely a musician or technician and an artist.  Many people may be able to play Squire’s bass lines, and mimic their sound, but it took Squire’s artistry and creativity to write them and create that sound and that will never be duplicated again.   His sound defined Yes’ sound for nearly five decades.  With Anderson’s departure one could take solace in that at least Squire’s sound was still there as the Anderson/Squire sound is at the heart of any Yes song, but with both gone, it is like the rug has been pulled out from the band.  This is huge.

All this makes me realize that the soundtrack to my life may soon fade into the distance.  It is sobering.  It is a very sad milestone in my life.  What has brought me so much enjoyment and joy for nearly 25 years may soon be coming to an end.  This is why the loss of Squire has been such a blow to me.

So, God bless Chris.  I hope he can fully recover and return to the great band that he helped build and ride into the sunset with it.  God bless Yes.  I hope that they can recover.  I hope that they can recover with Chris and, if not, that they can find a way forward that respects their great heritage and past, but can also move into the future and continue to make beautiful, impactful, influential, high quality, and, for me, life changing music.  Finally, God bless music as without it life would be much less joyful, beautiful, and meaningful.

See more about Yes here.

The Rise of the Man Child

Over the course of my career I have seen a rather strange trend among men which is conspicuously absent among women, and that is what I call the “man-child.”  I am not exactly sure what the sociological explanation is for the gender difference, and perhaps my sample size is too small (though I doubt it as my office has had hundreds of clients over my 12 plus year career), but it is definitely pretty much a male thing (in comparison with the dozens of man-children I have encountered, I have dealt with maybe only two women who I would describe as “woman-children”).

What is a man-child?  A man-child is a chronologically adult man who continues to act like, and get treated like, a child by the woman in his life, and he seems to accept (or desire) this willingly.  The woman in his life is sometimes his wife, or girlfriend, or even his mother (strangely, I have never seen a “man-child” with another man playing the role of the aforesaid women).  Now, don’t miss read me, this is not some sort of “male power” post or a post about appropriate gender roles and Christian male headship or something like that.  Not all.  This post is about grown men who are, basically, children and need the woman in their lives to mother them and control their lives.  I was inspired to write this post due to the realization that man-children seem to be multiplying at an alarming rate.

Let me give you some examples.  How about the grown man, and father of children, who needs help with a custody case regarding those children?  Seems typical enough at first blush until you find out that my main client contact about his custody case is his wife (who is not the mother of those children) who also pays for his case and is the person who contacted me to represent him.  By “main client” contact, I don’t mean because he works during the day and she is the stay-at-home mom and more available to talk to me.  No.  I mean main client contact in that she does all the talking, provides all the information to me, conducts the email correspondence with me, and makes the custodial decisions at home for a child that is not even hers.  When I call or email the father, his wife returns the call or email.  When I ask him to make decisions about his case, he has to “check in” with his wife.  When fees are due, he needs to use her check or credit card.

How about a case involving debt collection?  A grown adult man owes money to a credit card and got behind on payments.  It happens to the best of us sometimes for various reasons.  This man is sued and needs representation to help him against the credit card company.  Who calls me?  His wife.  Not because the man is tied up with other obligations but because he has ceded the responsibility for his life to her.  She is the one who was my main point of contact.  I tried to negotiate an agreement in the case and it was the wife who approved the language to it.  She stated that she does not let her husband make any decisions like that anymore and he seemed to simply accept it.

Another example is a case involving a man in his early 40s who may have fathered a child a few years ago.  The issues of custody, support, and paternity are all on the table.  Who retained me?  The man’s mother.  Who does all the talking?  The man’s mother.  Who makes the decisions?  The man’s mother.  You get the idea.

Another thing they all have in common is the the “follow up” call.  Many times, especially for that last one, I try and call the man on his telephone (who is the client after all)  but he never picks up, so I leave voice mail messages for him.  Who calls me back?  The mother/wife/girlfriend on her telephone.  Obviously he knows I called him and listened to the message I left but then, instead of calling me back to discuss the case, called the woman in his life, told her what I said, and had her call me back.  Perhaps my favorite is when I actually do have a conversation with the man – indeed sometimes an extended conversation – and after we conclude the call, the woman in his life calls me about an hour later to have the exact same conversation with me.  Why?  Because the man “can’t be trusted” to actually process what we discuss.  Or she wants to “check in” to make sure the man follows or at least considers my advice.  Or “he never listens” and needs her to ensure he does what he is supposed to do.  Or she needs to make sure she “hears it right” because you just never know how he will relay the information.

I wish I could say that the above examples are due to a healthy division of labor between husband and wife.  Or a dutiful mother helping her disabled son.   Or, perhaps to at least explain it, some sort of overpowering matriarchy or something.  Indeed, none of these examples are derived from manipulative men who control the women in their lives to do their “dirty work” for them.  These are all adult men who, basically, still need their mommies to control their lives or, as a substitute for dear old mom, they find women who, although technically “wives” and “girlfriends,” are basically mothering them.

I am not sure why this phenomenon is happening.  Maybe my practice just attracts men like this.  Somehow I doubt that is the case.  I decided to write on this because I feel that the sheer number of man-children I encounter cannot be a coincidence or bad luck.  I probably would not have written this post were it not for the fact that others in my office – some of whom are very different from me ideologically – have noticed the rise of the man-child as well.  I think the fact that women are rarely in a comparable position to be quite telling.  I also think the fact that the “actual adult” in the life of these man-children is nearly always a woman to be telling as well.  I think greater study needs to be done but I think much of this reflects some disturbing trends in our society, such as the decline in manhood, the decline of the nuclear family, the rise of sexual promiscuity, and the lengthening of male adolescence.  Maybe it is due to something much less dire.  I just do not know.  Over the ensuring weeks, months, and years I’ll see whether this trend continues.  Until then, all I can say is that I hope these men someday grow up, if only for the sake of their children (especially the boys who look up to them as fathers) who are still actually children.

Defendant Not at Fault in Default Judgment

If a default judgment is entered against a party and months, or perhaps years, go by before the judgment holder attempts to execute upon it, can the party subject to the judgment strike it after so much time had passed? The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, in the recent case of City of Philadelphia v. David J. Lane Advertising, 33 A.3d 674, indicates that a default judgment, even as long as ten (10) years later, can be stricken from the record under the right circumstances.

In the Lane matter, in approximately May 1999, a complaint was filed by the City against David J. Lane Advertising (“Lane”) for alleged unpaid taxes dating from 1988 and 1989. Lane was promptly served but failed to file an answer to the aforesaid complaint. Accordingly, about six (6) months later, in or about November 1999, the City secured a default judgment against Lane after having issued Lane a 10-Day Notice per Pa.R.C.P. No.: 237.1. Ten (10) years later, in approximately July 2009, the City attempted to execute the judgment from November 1999, after which Lane, through his attorney, filed a motion to strike the default judgment.

The Court observed that default judgments are generally not favored and that the Court’s analysis of a motion to strike a default judgment is limited to the facts in the record at the time the judgment is entered and that it will not review the case on its merits. The focus of the Court is on potential defects in the judgment that affect the validity of the judgment; with this in mind, the Court’s inquiry was directed to the content and form of the 10-Day Notice per Pa.R.C.P. No.: 237.1 described above. The Court ruled that failure to comply with Pa.R.C.P. No.: 237.1 could create a defective record which, if it rises to the level of a “fatal” defect, could result in the default judgment being stricken, no matter how old it is.

In the Lane matter, the form for the 10-Day Notice per Pa.R.C.P. No.: 237.1 used by the City was very similar to the suggested form as laid out in the Rules of Civil Procedure, but it was not precisely the same. The form used by the City stated, inter alia, “[y]ou are in default because you have failed to take action required of you in this case.” The form suggested by the Rules of Civil Procedure is as follows: “[Y]OU ARE IN DEFAULT BECAUSE YOU HAVE FAILED TO ENTER A WRITTEN APPEARANCE PERSONALLY OR BY ATTORNEY AND FILE IN WRITING WITH THE COURT YOUR DEFENSES OR OBJECTIONS TO THE CLAIMS SET FORTH AGAINST YOU.”

The Court noted that the language used by the City was the suggested language in the Rules of Civil Procedure prior to 1994; however, in 1994, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania changed the language, as described above, which is about five (5) years prior to the entrance of the default judgment. The Court further pointed out, after an analysis of the language itself and the explanatory comment for the new rule, that the precise purpose of the change in language from 1994 was to notify a defendant as to specifically what he failed to do and the specific reasons why the defendant is in default. To that end, the Court found that the form used by the City, though similar, lacked the new language in the 1994 updated rule which the Supreme Court purposefully added to ensure specificity in the notices issued.

Based on the above, the Court decided that it was not ruling as to whether Lane was deserving of having the judgment stricken, but whether he is entitled to it as a matter of law. The Court, citing prior decisions, noted both that default judgments are disfavored and that strict compliance with the Rules of Civil Procedure is required or else the default judgment is voided. As a result, the Court ruled that the language in the 10-Day Notice per Pa.R.C.P. No.: 237.1 used by the City is lacking so much critical language per the 1994 Rule revision, that it was fatally defective, and it ordered the ten (10) year old default judgment stricken, which served to reopen the underlying case.

The practical effect of the Lane decision is abundantly clear: when seeking a default judgment against an adverse party, follow the Rules of Civil Procedure precisely and simply use the language suggested in the Rules for the 10-Day Notice per Pa.R.C.P. No.: 237.1 exactly as written in the Rule.

Originally published on December 17, 2013 in Upon Further Review and can be viewed here.

WHY DO THEY RUN?

Ken Kastle is a parishioner with me at our church St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church in Abington, PA. He writes a blog called “Looking at Things Through My Eyes.” Mr. Kastle has had a long career in education and often views his politics as I do, so I often find his blog posts compelling. Below is one of the posts to his blog, enjoy!

Looking At Things Thru My Eyes

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has not made a formal announcement that he is Republican candidate for president in the 2016 election, but he sure is acting like one. As such, he has joined an unprecedented number of Republicans who are either announced candidates or are seriously thinking about it.

The current numbers break down as follows: formally announced (5), announcement pending (2), exploring (11), and have expressed an interest (5).

Much has been written over the decades regarding what drives a man or woman to seek the presidency of the United States. There seems to be at least one common thread among those who aspire, and that is an incredible over supply of ego that acts to exaggerate his/her qualifications for the job and override any and all reasons they are not qualified.

Christie is an excellent case study to demonstrate this point.

Christie is in the last half…

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Yes Concert Review: 7/20/12

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 Tower Theater in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania on July 20, 2012 during their Fly From Here Tour.  You can read more about this show here.  Procol Harum was the opening act.

The line-up Yes fielded at this show was:

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

Recollections:

This show was the second American leg of the Fly From Here Tour in support of their then most recent studio album Fly From Here.  The first American leg took place during the previous summer (2011) and a show from that tour was the show I saw previous to this one; I reviewed that show here.  As I said in my review of that last show, it was the worst Yes show I had ever seen.  I left that show thinking that Yes was likely going to slide into retirement as soon as the tour was over; it was that bad.  As I also noted in that aforesaid review, by the end of 2011, vocalist Benoit David‘s voice was unable to sustain the rigors of being Yes’ singer and was replaced by Jon Davison.

When David went down the band immediately went to seek out a new vocalist.  Chris Squire is friends with Taylor Hawkins of the Foo Fighters and, when discussing Yes’ need for a new singer, Hawkins mentioned his childhood friend, Davison.  Evidently, Davison heard more than once over his music career that his voice was an excellent fit for Yes, and Squire was willing to give him a chance to test out that theory.

I was unfamiliar with Davison’s work prior to his joining Yes.  Davison was formerly in the progressive rock outfit Glass Hammer, which I saw live at NEARFest in 2003, but that was before Davison joined in 2010.  Prior to this show, several reviews and youtube videos appeared which sang Davison’s praises, but, while promising, the proof, for me, is to see him live myself.  So, I went to this show mildly optimistic.  Needless to say, my reservations were unfounded.  Davison was amazing.  His voice is perfect for Yes.  Moreover, his voice clearly had the strength and training to be a worthy replacement for Jon Anderson.  Not only was Davison’s voice a perfect fit for Anderson’s vocal parts, Davison’s on stage demeanor and personality was eerily similar to Anderson’s.  Although not an Anderson clone, Davison clearly fit the singing and on stage vibes established by Anderson.  This is in marked contrast to David whose on stage demeanor was goofy and sort of amateur that never seemed to fit Yes.  In addition to great singing and a stage presence that fits Yes, Davison is an excellent guitar player and could handle his on stage percussion duties.  So, based on how great a fit Davison was, Yes clearly treated him more as an equal than as the junior member David clearly was during his tenure.  It was clear that Davison was a complete and accomplished musician as opposed to a voice to fill in for Anderson like David was.

The rest of the band really responded to the quality of singing and musicianship Davison brought to the band.  The songs were once again played at their appropriate speeds and Downes was now fully integrated into the band.  The set list was a good one too.  After five straight shows of extremely similar set lists, it was a breath of fresh air to hear songs like “America” (the first time since 2002), “Wonderous Stories” (first time since 2004), “Awaken” (first time since 2004), and, most excitingly for me, the entire “Fly From Here” suite.  “Awaken” was intriguing to hear as I was very interested to see how Downes handled a very classic Rick Wakeman piece.  I have reviewed Downes’ performance of “Awaken” before and will not repeated here (see here), so suffice it to say here that I was extremely pleasantly surprised.  Indeed, the same can be said of “America,” which was only played by Tony Kaye in 1970 and Rick Wakeman (who recorded the official studio version) after that.  Downes fit into that song seamlessly as well.  Also, as noted in my review of the show immediately prior to this (see here), Downes initially set up on the far right of the stage (from the audience’s point of view), which is where Wakeman always played, however, evidently due to communication issues with the rest of the band during performances, Downes, beginning with this show, was positioned to the left of White and behind Howe on the left side of the stage.

The highlight for me was the new 23 minute suite “Fly From Here” which featured Squire playing a bass with an extended neck on a stand in an upright position during suite’s third movement.  That bass also was the only obvious glitch in the show as it was not audible at times, which led to a visibly angry Squire motioning off stage to his bass tech.  I really enjoy the Fly From Here album, with the suite obviously as the focal point of the album.  The band showed themselves in top form and still clearly able to learn, play, and present new, complex music, even this late into their careers.  As if to solidify Davison’s position as lead vocalist, they played the vocal-centric piece “Leaves of Green” and Davison nailed it.

So, to sum up, this show was Yes rising like a phoenix out of the ashes of its worst shows it had ever performed and into what became a renaissance for Yes in terms of the quality of their performances this late into their career with a brand new, vibrant, exciting, and confident line up.  This show was the first of a series of excellent shows and revealed Yes as good as ever!

Finally, and very briefly, Procol Harum was enjoyable and played all their standards.  There was nothing notable about their show except to say that if one enjoys their music, the show was very satisfying.

Photographs:

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Movie Review: Avengers: Age of Ultron

I recently saw the movie Avengers: Age of Ultron and these are my thoughts about it (this review contains some spoilers).  It should be noted that I am a big fan of comic books, and Marvel Comics in particular, and have been so since I was at least five years old.  I am sure that fandom biases my review in some way.

By way of introduction for the uninitiated, Ultron is a movie based on Marvel comic books that falls at the end of Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  This movie is the eleventh in the film series, which also includes nearly two seasons of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (a television series), one season of Agent Carter (also a television series), Daredevil (a Netflix series), and five Marvel One-Shot films.  Needless to say, this film is deeply entrenched in a clearly established, long running, and sprawling interconnected media universe.  I point this out at the outset as I think a lot of the criticism this movie has received forgets this fact.

Now, like anything else, a review of a movie really depends on what one expects from it.  This movie is not deep, complex, or profound cinema.  It does not have remarkable acting.  This is a science-fiction action movie based on comics books and should be measured accordingly.

This movie is really good in that it does not fall victim to a lot movies of this type, which includes bad acting (saying it does not have bad acting is not the same thing as saying it has remarkable acting), an incomprehensible and/or non-existent plot (the plot is pleasingly straight forward), terrible dialogue (the dialogue is actually very good as it continues the fun, light hearted and quippy dialogue from the first Avengers movie), and scenes which engage in way too much expository.

If the viewer is a comic book fan and/or Marvel Cinematic Universe fan, this movie hits all the right spots.  This movie is nearly top to bottom action and almost all of it is really well done.  One of my friends said that after this movie one may feel like he needs a nap because there is just so much happening.

This film finds the team united and fighting missions together and opens with a great action sequence showing the team in action.  So, unlike the previous film which had to spend most of the film showing how the team gathered together, this film opens with them already being a well oiled machine.  As a result, one sees a lot of the action sequences and team work hoped for by the end of the previous film, as well as their team camaraderie.  Therefore, this film also dispenses with any explanations as to the team members’ powers, motives, and history, as all of those things have already been established in prior films.

As this film is part of a larger and ongoing series of movies, not only does it fail to explain a lot of the past (as noted above) it does not take a lot of time to flesh out various brief references to things as Marvel is confident those things will be fleshed out in future films or television shows.  So, for example, there are passing references to the Infinity Gems without explanation, but the viewer is presumed to know what they are (from prior movies and television shows) and to have confidence more information will come in future films and television shows.  Another example is the 5 minute (or so) scene featuring Ulysses Klaw.  You learn a little about him here but his scenes really do not add anything significant to the film.  For the uninitiated, his scenes seem superfluous in an already full movie, but for those “in the know” his scenes are an obvious set up for the upcoming Black Panther movie and possibly others (like Captain America: Civil War).  Also, when I first heard about the full cast in this movie which, in addition to the Avengers line up from the previous film and Ultron (the bad guy), also includes three new superheros (Quicksilver, Scarlett Witch, and the Vision), Helen Cho, the Falcon, War Machine, and Agent Hill (and others), I got concerned that this film would fall prey to what afflicted Spider-Man 3 and the later Batman films in Burton series, which was way too many characters crammed into a film.  Fortunately, despite the long list of characters, they do not weigh the film down as there is no imminent need to flesh them all out in this film in particular as Marvel is confident future films will do the job.  Merely adding in those puzzle pieces for the purposes of advancing the story of this particular film suffices for the moment.

After seeing this movie, the fact that this movie is part of a huge serialized movie franchise really hit home and why some of the criticism leveled at it is unfair.  The Marvel Cinematic Universe is, I think, a new way of movie/television entertainment that, as far as I know, has never been done before.  Some of the criticism I have seen complains that there is not enough character development for some characters (e.g.: Baron Strucker), not enough for others to do (e.g.: War Machine), random superfluous scenes (e.g.: the Klaw scenes), and too many characters (e.g.: introducing the Vision).  What I think these critics forget is that this movie is not a stand alone film; those “missing” features will be developed in future films or television shows.  It is not even a “middle film” in a trilogy.  It is just a cog (albeit a larger one) in a huge wheel of movies, television shows, and characters.  It does not need to meet all of the needs noted above because other films or television shows will do it or have done it already and to expect those things from this movie is to expect something it was never designed to deliver.  This new way of movie making really, I think, ought to be viewed as if it was a really large, well produced, and enormously budgeted television series.  One would not make the criticisms like the ones above for a middle-season episode of a television show.  So, I see no reason why they should be made for a serialized film of this nature.

Is this film perfect?  No.  I have to say that at some point “saving the world” becomes just another day at the office, and that, I think, really takes the wind out of the sales of this movie in terms of suspense or impact.  We all know the world is not going to end and all of the characters have future movies to appear in so nothing too terrible will happen.  Perhaps that is why the threats in the individual movies, though smaller in scale, are a little more compelling as they seem to have real consequences.  When everything is world ending it gets a little tiresome and trite.  It may be a minor thing, but I am disappointed Ultron does not look like his comic book counterpart.  I never envisioned him with lips and speaking like a human, much less having the smarmy, sarcastic, and snarky demeanor of James Spader, complete with a series of one-liners.  I would also like to point out that the trailers for this movie have features (and even scenes) which are not in this movie, which is annoying.  Also, Ultron’s army of robots was rather silly.  When you see their sheer numbers it may seem to be challenge for our intrepid heroes to defeat them all, but when you realize that they all crumple like soda cans, you realize that maybe Ultron should have spent a little more time on R & D before be created them.  Of course, where Ultron gets the time, energy, and resources needed to create himself, much less his huge army of robots, is never really explained, which is a little annoying to me.  Also, despite all the buildup about Strucker in the SHIELD television show (and the mid-credits scene in Captain America: The Winter Soldier), I was rather disappointed to see how little he was in the movie.  Finally, although I acknowledge the serialized nature of this movie franchise above, I was under the impression that the individual movies would all serve as plot and character development which would each culminate in an Avengers movie which would in turn break out into further development in individual films and return to culminate those developments again into the next Avengers movie and so on.  This movie did not do that.  This movie seems just “there” in that it does not seem to be the culmination of the Phase Two movies like the first Avengers movie was the culmination of the Phase One movies.  I guess this movie serves to introduce some important new characters and formally establish the mind gem and set up the events for future films, but any Marvel movie could do that.  I really had greater expectations for an Avengers movie than just serving to advance the story.  I expected it to be the next turning point in the story like the first one was.

All-in-all Marvel has another winner on its hands even though the events in the movie were not quite as pivotal as I was hoping them to be.  It is worth seeing if only for the sheer spectacle and, if one is a fan of these characters and/or the movie series, it is a lot of fun and really enjoyable.

SPREAD THE CULTURE

Check out Faye Cohen’s post to her blog Toughlawyerlady!

ToughLawyerLady

Philadelphia cultural and art institutions have relied for years on the generosity of only a few foundations and very wealthy individuals or families. There was a recent story in the local newspaper discussing how these donations have decreased and will continue to diminish. There are various reasons for this. For example, after a wealthy donor died, her surviving family members who no longer have geographical ties to this area, decided to direct their donations to other needs and concerns in the areas that they live

As a result of the dearth of funds from standard sources, these institutions are seeking new individuals, foundations and businesses to donate to them. So who are they seeking? They are looking to for similar donors as the ones who supported them previously. But, the contribution interests of people and foundations have changed. Many Internet millionaires and billionaires, for example, who are often younger than…

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9th Circuit Hears Oral Arguments In Conscience Challenge To Pharmacy Board Rules

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

“The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday heard oral arguments in Stormans, Inc. v. Weisman. (Audio of full oral arguments). In the case,  a Washington federal district court held unconstitutional the enforcement of rules of the Washington State Pharmacy Board that require pharmacies and pharmacists to dispense emergency contraception even when doing so violates a pharmacist’s religious beliefs. (See prior posting.) The Oregonian reports on yesterday’s oral arguments.”

You can learn more about this issue here.

The Higher Ed Scam

Ken Kastle is a parishioner with me at our church St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church in Abington, PA. He writes a blog called “Looking at Things Through My Eyes.” Mr. Kastle has had a long career in education and often views his politics as I do, so I often find his blog posts compelling. Below is one of the posts to his blog, enjoy!

Looking At Things Thru My Eyes

In an article published in Salon.com on June 8, 2014, (Colleges are full of it: Behind the three-decade scheme to raise tuition, bankrupt generations, and hypnotize the media) (http://www.salon.com/2014/06/08/colleges_are_full_of_it_behind_the_three_decade_scheme_to_raise_tuition_bankrupt_generations_and_hypnotize_the_media/?source=newsletter), Thomas Frank states that college/university tuition “…is up 1,200 percent in 30 years…and no one is helping.

He goes on to say:

“The price of a year at college has increased by more than 1,200 percent over the last 30 years, far outpacing any other price the government tracks: food, housing, cars, gasoline, TVs, you name it. Tuition has increased at a rate double that of medical care, usually considered the most expensive of human necessities. It has outstripped any reasonable expectation people might have had for investments over the period. And, as we all know, it has crushed a generation of college grads with debt. Today, thanks to those enormous tuition prices, young Americans routinely start…

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