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Archive for the month “August, 2015”

Suit Charges Religious Discrimination In Cancellation of Hasidic Jews’ Voter Registration

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

“A class action lawsuit was filed yesterday in a New York federal district court by a group of Hasidic Jews against the Sullivan County Board of Elections that oversees voting in the small Village of Bloomingburg, New York.  According to Newsweek, in January the Board of Elections sent notices to 184 of the Village’s 285 registered voters to show cause why the Board should not cancel their voter registrations. More than 160 of the voters receiving the notices are Hasidim.  Last month the Board announced that it would move ahead to cancel registrations of 156 of these voters– comprising virtually every Hasidic Jewish resident of the Village.  The suit alleges that the voters were singled out only because of their religion.  A lawsuit filed last year charges the Village more generally with acting together with a neighboring town to keep more Hasidic Jews from moving into the area. (See prior posting.)

Failed Messiah blog says that the Village has good cause to cancel the voter registrations:

The suit is backed by Shalom Lamm, the Modern Orthodox developer [of a Bloomingburg housing project] who … deceived (and, some say, bribed) his way past naive locals to get the original go-aheads for the project, which was always meant to be a 396-unit high density Satmar hasidic village but camouflaged as a low density 125-home golf course vacation and retirement community….

The hasidim who were disqualified from voting almost all claimed one of Lamm’s private homes in the village as their residence, with more than a dozen adults showing the same single family home as their “official” residence. The property, however, showed no sign of regular habitation….”

You can learn more about this issue here.

Court Says Religiously-Affiliated Hospital’s Plan Is Exempt From ERISA

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

“Another federal district court has weighed in on whether retirement plans created and maintained by religiously-affiliated hospitals qualify for the “Church Plan” exemption from ERISA.  At issue is statutory language that is ambiguous as to whether a plan must have been created by a church itself in order to qualify for the exemption.  In Lann v. Trinity Health Corp., (D MD, Feb. 24, 2015), a Maryland federal district court resolved the issue in a brief written order referring to reasons the judge stated orally on the record in the case.  The court held that the plan qualifies for the exemption. BNA’s Daily Report for Executives [subscription required] says that with this decision, district courts are split 3-3 on the issue. Several of the cases are on appeal. ”

You can learn more about this issue here.

Yesshow Review (with pictures): 8/9/15 Atlantic City

This post is the part of my Yes concert series of 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 August 9, 2015 during their North American Summer Tour.  The opening band was Toto.  You can read more about this show here.

The line-up Yes fielded that show was:

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

I have taken a few days to think before I sat down to write this review because I have a lot of mixed feelings about this show.  I am not sure if I have resolved those feelings completely, but I think I have crystallized them enough to write something sensible here.

  • A Word on Yes 2015

By way of background, Yes co-founder Chris Squire, who has played on every album and every tour and every concert in Yes history (the only Yes man who can claim to have accomplished this feat, the technical and arguable issues of ABWH aside), passed away rather suddenly on June 27, 2015 (I wrote more about this here).  Now, as any Yes fan knows, Yes’ membership and lineups are notoriously unstable.  Except for bass (Chris Squire’s slot in Yes), every member and instrument has changed hands (and often changing back) many times over its forty-seven year history (and many more than once), and that even includes bass if one counts ABWH as Yes.  So, the loss of Squire, in theory, ought not be more significant than the loss of anyone else, especially co-founder and vocalist Jon Anderson, as Yes has shown itself to be more than the sum of its parts and an entity that exists regardless of and despite its membership as the Yes sound nearly always seems to continue regardless of who is in it; however, despite all that, the loss of Squire seems to be the biggest loss Yes has ever experienced and, in my mind, has plunged the band, or at least my view of the band, into an existential crisis.

It should be noted that, 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, founded by the duo of Squire and Anderson.  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.  With Squire’s passing, Yes’s “core,” for the first time since 1970, has been reduced to just two and neither can claim membership in the original quintet, which consisted of Anderson, Squire, Bill Bruford (drums), Peter Banks (guitar), and Tony Kaye (keyboards). 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.  Looking at the current lineup, they have no members from the original lineup, one member from the Bruford years, two members from the classic lineup, and one member from the 1980’s version.  As a result, I think, for the first time since its founding, a line up of Yes is now together which should be experiencing an existential crisis.

Is the current Yes really Yes or a very qualified and authentic tribute to Yes?  Well, I think the answer to that question really depends on how the current Yes moves forward.  Who are in Yes?  Well, Squire has been replaced by Billy Sherwood as bass player and backup vocalist.  As Yes fans will know, Sherwood is not just some bass player off the street that did well in an audition.  Sherwood has a long pedigree with Yes.  He became friends with Squire back in about 1988 and, from that time on, became something of Squire’s protege.  He started his formal association with Yes as a session player and song writer who wrote and performed a song that appeared on the Yes album Union in 1991. In the early 1990s, Sherwood joined Squire’s side band The Chris Squire Experiment.  In 1994 Sherwood toured with Yes as an on stage backup musician on their Talk Tour.  After that he helped engineer and mix Yes’ Keys to Ascension and Keys to Ascension 2 albums.  All of this culminated with Sherwood joining Yes as a full member, not as a bass player (because Squire was in the band) but as a second guitarist and second keyboardist, and making Yes’ Open Your Eyes and The Ladder albums and touring in support of them.  Sherwood departed Yes in 2000 but then, after that, joined forces with Squire in a band called Conspiracy.  Eventually, Sherwood again returned to Yes for more engineering and mixing work in 2014 for Yes’ Heaven & Earth album.  Sherwood has been a huge Squire fan since his childhood, which made him pick up bass playing and singing to start with, and his 25+ years as Squire’s protege makes Sherwood the natural successor to Squire if there ever was one, not to mention the fact that he is a world class bass player and singer in his own right who can more than play in Squire’s style.  Geoff Downes also has significant Yes pedigree, being the keyboard player during the Drama era, the Fly From Here era, and now the current era which includes Heaven & Earth (of course, he also has had a long history with Steve Howe in Asia).  Finally, Jon Davison, who joined for the Heaven & Earth era also has two Yes live albums under his belt (see here and here).  Davison is an amazing vocalist that is a worthy successor to Anderson as he can sing all of Yes material very well, is a multi-instrumentalist, and prolific song writer.

So, the current Yes has a strong line up and good connections with Yes past and has a lot of potential.  I think if the current Yes wants to have credibility as an authentic and vibrant iteration of Yes into the future, as opposed to merely a band doing great homage to great music, Yes needs to make new music with the new line up and focus their live shows on material which features Downes and/or Sherwood and/or Davison.  I think live sets heavily featuring other eras of Yes is just too disconnected from current Yes to sound truly authentic.  I think rather the current line up should sprinkle their sets with the old classics while focusing on material more relevant to its actual members, as opposed to material that too few – or indeed any – current member was involved in when it was written and recorded.

Unfortunately, promoters want Yes to keep playing full album tours (like here and here) which feature too few current members, but, on the bright side, Yes intend to include the entire Drama album in their set for their 2016 touring (which includes three current members) and Sherwood and Davison are very keen on making, and focusing upon, new music (especially Sherwood) and, word has it, Downes and Davison have an epic length piece prepared for recording (reportedly called “Pyramids”) and there are a lot of songs from the Heaven & Earth sessions that still remain to be recorded and released.  So, Yes is truly at a crossroads between falling back into becoming a nostalgia act and slowly closing out their career or retaining their vitality and continuing to make new music and establish their sound and identity for the future.  I hope Yes is able to thread the needle by playing a whole classic album live which is balanced out by new material.

I really like everyone in this iteration of the band and I really think they can come together to form a fantastic version of Yes, create their own (and credible) live versions of Yes classics, as well as make new music that will stand up proudly in the Yes catalog.  I think, with the addition of Sherwood, they have a great core of composers and between him, Davison, and Downes, can embark Yes on a new and modern era.  I just hope they take the opportunity to do it!

  • Thoughts on the Show

This show was in a casino and was effectively a “double bill” (with Toto), which is to say that Toto was not an “opener” but had equal stage time (a similar double bill with Yes and Styx can be read about here).  My complaints about seeing a Yes show at a casino have been expressed many times before and can be seen here.  As a result, Yes had to keep their set short and sweet and concise, which, unfortunately, does not bring the best out of Yes or do their music justice.  I brought a couple of friends to this show (their first Yes show) who have observed my Yes fandom for the better part of twenty years (one of which lived with me in college and heard it first hand every day for a couple of years) and, I have to say, was hoping for a set that explored Yes’ more complex, dynamic, longer, and diverse back catalog more than it did for their first time seeing them.   I hope they give Yes a chance to expand a little more at another concert.  At this show the set focused on shorter and simpler songs to accommodate the length of the show and the sort of show it was (a double bill “summer rock” type show) which, I do not think, really represents Yes’ music as well as it could.  The pieces were all played at a decent tempo similar to their tempos as originally recorded in the studio.  The live arrangements of the songs was pretty loyal to the studio as, I imagine, they are still trying to find their feet from the loss of Squire as opposed to experiment with live arrangements, so this show did not feature very much divergence from the studio recordings or flashy performances aside from the solos.  As one may expect, Squire’s dynamic and larger-than-life stage presence was sorely missed.  This is not to say that I did not think Sherwood did a good job, quite the contrary; I think it is possible to say both that Sherwood did a great job and that I miss Squire at the same time.  Indeed, I hope, as Sherwood continues to evolve into his role as Yes bass player, the void left by Squire can be filled a little better and I hope it is filled by Sherwood.

I thought Yes’ performance was precisely average for them.  Now, I will give them the benefit of the doubt.  They were playing only their third show of the tour and only the third in their history without Chis Squire and it was clear, to me, that his memory weighed heavily on them, especially Sherwood, as they were trying to find their feet in developing a new sound, style, and performance without him.  As a result, their sound was almost reticent at times (though that may over state the case a bit).  I trust that as this quintet continues to gel that they will break out and truly rock.  Indeed, Alan White has stated in interviews that he had to try and educate Sherwood of all the unspoken things he and Squire have done together in the rhythm section for the last forty-three years.  I thought their individual performances were very good.  I have to say that Howe’s playing was not quite as aggressive and flashy as it usually is, but I think that is because he spent so much time during the show conducting the band, which is a role he never really played before, or at least not to this degree.  On many occasions through the show, Howe could be seen facing the band and, often using his hand, counting off cues and drum breaks.  I imagine this can be chalked up to Yes still finding its feet without their founding bass man.  Sherwood’s performances did Squire proud, though I found his playing and stage presence to be somewhat reserved, likely due to the emotions he feels filling in for his friend.  On Facebook Sherwood has stated that he still feels the weight of Squire on his mind and with each passing show it gets a little lighter, so I expect his performances to become more dynamic as the tour continues.  Downes’ playing was solid as usual but, considering the set list, there were few true keyboard workouts for him to play.  Downes’ style is markedly different from Rick Wakeman‘s style, which is not to say Downes is not as good necessarily, just different.  Downes tends toward a “less-is-more” approach whereas Wakeman’s reputation (which is well deserved at that I would say) is to try and cram as many notes as fast as possible into each measure.  Now some (including me) think Wakeman’s approach is exciting and impressive and flashy, but I try not to allow that impression to be mistaken for “better.”  The problem for me is that Wakeman’s sound is so ingrained in Yes’ sound that Downes’ more reserved approach is very noticeable to my ears.  Davison continues to get stronger and stronger.  His stage presence has really improved and he truly owns his role as Yes’ lead singer by respecting the long shadow cast by Anderson but by also being himself on stage.  His musicianship, aside from singing, has really come to the fore in his excellent guitar playing and percussion playing.  Finally, Alan White’s performance has been the same for the last five or six years, which is to say a more modest approach to the drums which, I think, is a concession to his age (the pony tail and hat is a new and fun addition to his on stage look).

The mix was average at best, which is disappointing because I got seats directly in the middle of the theater to ensure I heard the best sound.  For about the first half of the show Sherwood (both bass and vocals) and Downes were mixed very low while Davison’s singing, Howe’s guitar, and White’s snare drum mixed really high (consistently with Toto’s sound).  Howe’s singing was almost impossible to hear throughout the show.  When Sherwood’s bass became more audible the show, for me, markedly improved.  Behind the band was a large stage-length screen which had images projected onto it throughout the show.

As an aside, some guy two seats down from me was recording the show as I saw his microphone between the sets.

  • The Songs

In terms of the songs, the show began with a memorial to Chris Squire.  The memorial featured Squire’s vintage Rickenbacker 4001D bass guitar under a spotlight in Squire’s spot on stage while slides depicting Squire through the years were presented on the screens behind the band and Squire’s song “Onward” was played (the band did not play the song, it was the album recording).  This memorial led into a truncated recording of Yes’ typical walk-on music (the Firebird) which led directly into “Don’t Kill the Whale,” a rarely played song which has never been played as an opener before.  I assume “Don’t Kill the Whale” was selected because it is a Squire song with a “fishy” theme as an homage to Squire’s nickname “Fish” (Sherwood goofed the introduction by coming in on the wrong beat).  Yes then launched into quality versions of “Tempus Fugit,” “America,” and “Going for the One,” all of which seem to fit the “summer rock” vibe.  Between “Don’t Kill the Whale” and “Tempus Fugit” Davison (on electric bongos) and White on cymbals played a brief percussion duet while Howe switched guitars.  Each track got a little more lively than the previous as the show progressed.  Davison led the audience in thanking Squire and remembering him before “America.”  Howe did the introduction for “Going for the One.”  This led into the big surprise of the night: “Time and a Word.”  Howe used hand gestures to keep time during the song.  The song was the big surprise because (1) no one in the band originally played it and (2) aside from when the song was first introduced in 1970, the three Keys to Ascension shows in 1996, and very brief excerpts in 1989 (here) and 1999 (here), Yes only played this song in 1978 – 1979.  The version of the song in 2015 had the sound of the original (minus the orchestra of course), was electric, like in 1978/79, but more-or-less had the arrangement from the Keys to Ascension era.  Naturally, as an electric song, the keyboard solo was played on a synthesizer (as opposed to Wakeman’s piano on Keys to Ascension) and in decidedly Downes’ style as opposed to Wakeman’s very busy style.  I have to say that these first five songs were very unexpected, and pleasant, surprises, as none are frequently played.  Aside from the rare “Time and a Word,” “Don’t Kill the Whale” is nearly as rare (played only in 1978/79, 2002, and only occasionally in 2004), and “America” is pretty rare as well (after 1972 it was not played until the three Keys to Ascension shows, 1997, 2002, and 2012).  Since 1977 “Going for the One” was not played until the three Keys to Ascension shows and then played in 2004 and 2013.  Of course, “Tempus Fugit” has been played a lot since 2008 but it was never played between 1981 and 2007.  So, the first half of the show felt new and different and interesting in the songs selected.

The remainder of the show was more “classics” oriented.  “Clap” was cool in that Howe appended the introduction to “Astral Traveller” to the beginning of “Clap”, which got the crowd excited.  On “Owner of a Lonely Heart,” Howe finally turned up the distortion and played with a strong muscular sound for once and that makes all the difference for that song.  He even added some good effects to the solo-break to sound more like Trevor Rabin’s solo (good on for Steve Howe for being a team player!).  “I’ve Seen All Good People” is the same as always, and I have to note that Sherwood retained Squire’s “oh oh oooh!” toward the end of “Your Move” which Squire added live and does not appear in the studio.  Also, they goofed on the intro to “Your Move.”  Howe introduced the song and then broke into singing its first verse, which is a cappella, entirely by himself (as opposed to in three part harmonies with Davison and Sherwood), which prompted him to say something like “I’ll be singing this song by myself apparently!”  It was a funny moment!  “Siberian Khatru” is one of my favorite Yes songs and I was happy to hear them play it live.  I love how smooth it is despite all of the twists and turns it takes.  Notably, aside from a couple of more-or-less isolated exceptions, this is the first time this song was not played as the concert opener.  “Roundabout” was not the encore but was played as the last song of the main set.  I suspect if this was a set of typical length it would been first encore with “Starship Trooper” as second encore.  Speaking of the encore, “Starship Trooper” concluded with its traditional “Wurm.”   Sherwood played a very modest bass solo recalling what Squire would have done, but kept it very simple.  Downes whipped out a keytar for a little flare at the end of his solo in “Wurm.”  My complaint for this song is that Downes’ seemed to strip down some of the Hammond sections in “Life Seeker” and simply did not play for a few measures.  At the end of the “Wurm” Davison added some vocalizations that recalled what Anderson did years before as captured on Yessongs.

  • A Brief Word on Toto

My fandom of Toto has always been a part of my fandom of Arena Rock in general.  I enjoy it and listen to it but will never be a fan of it like I am of prog rock.  So, I appreciate Toto in that vein and this concert reinforced my perspective on them.  Toto’s concert, and entire presentation, naturally bears a lot of similarity to Styx when they opened for Yes in 2011.  So, very loud, a lot of bombast, excitement, and stage presence revving of the crowd was the order of the day.  They played really well and I enjoyed them.  Toto suffered from the same bad mix as Yes for much of its set where only the singing, guitar, and snare drum could be heard most of the show.  The keyboards did not become more prominent until about half way through.  The bass guitarist could have not been on stage at all as he was so inaudible as to make him pointless, and the same goes for the percussionist as well but for the couple of times he was featured.  Before this show I did not realize just how big Toto’s stage membership is, which includes a guitarist, bass guitarist, percussionist, drummer, two keyboardists, a lead singer, and two backup singers.  Each keyboardist played with one hand a lot of the night, so I am not sure why two were necessary when one could have played both parts using both of his hands.  I got the feeling keyboardist Steve Porcaro is in the band, despite having very limited involvement in the music, mainly to ensure a Porcaro is in the band after the death of both of his brothers, both of whom were in Toto.  As a side note, Steve Porcaro’s stage moves are really awkward and resemble the dance moves of Elaine Benes.  Toto began the show with a variety of sound effects from the classic Wizard of Oz film, for obvious reasons, and played a good mix of their hits and new material from the latest album.  Although I enjoy their music I was happy that they played my favorite song of theirs: “Hydra.”  During the course of their show Toto made a few references to Yes, and Squire in particular due to his recent death, and described Yes as their musical heroes.  Indeed, Toto dedicated their new song “Great Expectations” to Squire.  The audience was really into Toto and, in fact, some guys near the stage tried to body surf and someone else ran up and down the aisle waving his hands.


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Court Dismisses Religious and Speech Objections To Requirement That Witness Stand To Be Sworn In

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

“In Pellegrino v. Meredith, (ED CA, Feb. 23, 2015), a California federal magistrate judge dismissed, with leave to amend, a suit for damages against a traffic court judge and the county by Anthony Pellegrino who, as defendant in a traffic case, was told that he must stand while being sworn in as a witness.  Pelligrino refused, telling the court: “I only rise before my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”  At that point the bailiff escorted Pellegrino outside the courtroom for an hour. When Pellegrino returned he was escorted to the bench area and sworn in before he had a chance to sit down.

The court rejected Pellegrino’s free exercise claim, saying that at most he suffered an “insubstantial inconvenience” for refusing to stand.  The court also rejected Pellegrino’s claim that his refusal to stand was protected expressive conduct.

The opinion recounts numerous incidents in which Pellegrino harassed government officials, raising frivolous arguments, asking government officials to show him their oath of office, refusing to pay filing fees, and the like.  In dismissing Pellegrino’s claims, the court said:

Given the context of the situation, it is clear from this Court’s reading of the complaint that Defendant Meredith viewed Plaintiff’s refusal to stand while taking the oath as another incident in a long line of immature, disrespectful and frivolous protests by Plaintiff throughout his court proceedings.”

You can learn more about this issue here.



Gifts, Loans, and Child Support

Child support is typically based on the respective incomes of the parents of the children for whom support is sought; but what counts as income? Some people are fortunate enough to be the beneficiary of sizable gifts or loans from family and friends which help pay one’s bills and financial obligations. Should such loans and gifts be considered in developing a child support order? The recent case of Suzanne D. v. Stephen V., 65 A.3d 965 (Pa.Super.2013) attempts to answer this question.

In Suzanne D. Father was ordered to pay child support to Mother pursuant to a guidelines calculation based on their respective incomes. In addition, the Court assessed Father the entire cost of extracurricular activities and medical expenses for certain years and deviated from the guidelines upward to account for Father’s significant gifts from his own father (“Grandfather”). Father received regular monthly funds from Grandfather that were approximately equal to Father’s actual earned income. The parties disputed whether the funds received from Grandfather were gifts or loans and whether they should be considered in developing a child support obligation.

Father argued that the funds received from Grandfather were loans. Specifically, Father argued that Grandfather provided him a series of loans which he is obliged to repay, and, if he does not, the loaned money could be deducted from his inheritance from Grandfather. Father even produced a demand note to prove the existence of the loan.

Mother, by contrast, contended the sums given to Father were gifts, not loans. She argued that the demand note produced by Father does not necessarily even require the sums to be paid back to Grandfather. Further, Mother argued that the sums given to Father, being nearly equal to his earned salary, were exorbitant and, on their face, should warrant a deviation.

The Court, when reviewing the evidence presented, did not find Father’s assertion that the funds given were loans to be credible. The Court noted that Grandfather had a long history of giving money to Father, both regularly and on Father’s demand, and it was only after the parties’ marriage separated that Grandfather’s gifting generosity suddenly turned to lending, and Grandfather was Father’s employer, which, on its face, shed a suspicious light on the status of the monies given to Father. The Court did not find the demand note persuasive enough to cast the given funds as loans that required repayment. Further, perhaps justifying the Court’s determination of Father’s lack of credibility, Grandfather’s testimony about the demand note during a hearing conflicted with his deposition testimony on the subject and he demonstrated that he was unfamiliar with the demand note and its terms. Similarly, Father was unfamiliar with his own monthly expenses, likely due to them having been paid by Grandfather for so long. Based on the above, the Court ruled that the funds given to Father by Grandfather were gifts.

After the Court ruled the funds referred to above were gifts, the Court next had to determine whether these gifts ought to have any effect on the child support order. Father argued that since 23 Pa.C.S.A Section 4302, which determines what income is for the purposes of child support, does not include gifts, so the funds he received from Grandfather ought not be included as income for the purposes of child support.

The Court acknowledged that the funds could not be categorized as income based on the plain language of the statute cited above, but the gifts could be considered in order to warrant a deviation from the basic child support guidelines. The Court ruled that since the gifts from Grandfather were frequent, could be given on demand, had been given for many years, and nearly doubled Father’s income, it clearly warranted a deviation from the child support guidelines, especially as it put Mother at an extreme disadvantage as her base salary was only about twenty (20) percent of the joint parental income not including the gifts made by Grandfather.

Finally, extra-curricular activities and medical expenses are generally divided between the parents proportionate to their incomes; however, in this case, Grandfather, for a number of years, paid for all of the extra-curricular activities and medical expenses himself without contribution from either Father or Mother. As Father did not incur any of the expenses for extra-curricular activities and medical expenses for those years, the Court, therefore, ruled that Mother was not obliged to reimburse Father for her proportionate share of those expenses for that time.

The Court of Suzanne D. makes it abundantly clear, while gifts cannot be included as income for the purposes of a child support guidelines calculation, if large enough, they can warrant a deviation from those same guidelines.

Originally published in Upon Further Review on April 16, 2014 and can be found here.

Yes Concert Statistic Posts Updated!

Last night I attended the Yes concert at the Borgata, Atlantic City as part of their North American Summer Tour.  I will post a review shortly (hopefully by the end of the week).

In the meantime, I have updated the following posts based on last night’s show:


Making Sure Children Actually Hear the Gospel and Not Just a Bunch of Bible Stories

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

We must not only teach children the stories of Scripture. We must teach them the Story of Scripture.

Children have a faith that is ready to go. Let’s not waste that opportunity by delivering a humanistic Gospel.

We talk a lot about contextualization Gospel communication. How do we share the eternal truth of God in specific locations for specific people who have a specific shared experience?

The Gospel does not change. So the message should remain the same, even as the methods are adjusted for effectiveness.

But how well do we proclaim the Gospel to children? I’m not asking how well we teach children Bible stories, or how well we have taught the moral truths of Scripture.

Are we contextualizing our Gospel communication for children as well as we are for the hipsters in Brooklyn or the tribes in Tanzania? ”

You can learn more about this issue here.

Yes, Like It Is: At The Mesa Arts Center DVD/CD Set: a Review

This post is the part of my Yes concert series of posts.  I started this series here and you can read the others here.

Yes has just released its latest live album called Like It Is: At The Mesa Arts Center documenting a concert played by the band at the Mesa Arts Center in Mesa, Arizona, on August 12, 2014.  This concert was in the context of the Heaven & Earth Tour.  The album consists of two CDs and one DVD.

The line-up Yes fielded that show was:

The track list is as follows (the album from which the songs come in parenthesis):

CD 1: (Close To The Edge)

  • Close to the Edge
  • And You And I
  • Siberian Khatru

CD 2: (Fragile)

  • Roundabout
  • Cans and Brahms
  • We Have Heaven
  • South Side of the Sky
  • Five Percent for Nothing
  • Long Distance Runaround
  • The Fish
  • Mood for a Day
  • Heart Of The Sunrise

DVD: All tracks

As I said above, this album documents a show from the Heaven & Earth Tour where Yes played tw0 albums in toto live, as well as some a few other songs to round out the set from Heaven and Earth and The Yes Album.  This album contains the entire Close to the Edge album and entire Fragile album (the actual show featured the Close to the Edge songs in reverse order).  This album lacks any sort of introduction music that the band had live at the show.

This album serves as a companion to the live album Yes released immediately prior to this one entitled Like It Is: At The Bristol Hippodrome which you can read more about here.  Over the past two tours Yes has taken to playing complete albums. Yes’ Three Album Tour featured the entire The Yes Album, Going for the One, and Close to the Edge albums played in their entirety.  The Heaven & Earth Tour featured the Close to the Edge and Fragile albums in their entirety.  Between this live album and Like It Is: At The Bristol Hippodrome Yes has released the live presentations of all four albums.

I reviewed a show from the tour this album documents which you can see here.

It is also worth noting, sadly, that this album is the last one recorded with Chris Squire in the band.  Chris Squire passed away in June 2015 right before this album was released.  You can read more about Chris’ passing here.

It is tough to review the music as this is a live album and the music really is derived from much older and established studio albums, so any review of the music could become really a review of those albums.  Needless to say, Close to the Edge and Fragile are Yes and progressive rock stalwart albums that stand on their own as classic albums which have stood the test of time.  The Heaven & Earth Tour presented these two complete albums played very closely to how they actually sounded on their original recordings.  So, the songs on that tour – and consequently this album – were not stretched out, the solos were not expanded, and there was virtually no improvisation.  So, in order to avoid reviewing the underlying studio albums, I will focus on the sound of the music more than anything else.

The sound quality of the album is excellent.  The sound is crisp and there is great separation between the instruments and between the vocals.  I am sure some audiophiles could find things to nitpick, but I have no complaints.

Ultimately, I think whether one enjoys this album depends on whether one likes this particular iteration of Yes and can accept the necessary effect age has had on these musicians who are in their sixth decade of performing.

Now, I am long term Yes fan so I have to admit that I wish Jon Anderson (original and long time vocalist) and Rick Wakeman (classic keyboardist) where back in the band and performing live.  That being said, Davison is an amazing replacement for Anderson and Downes is a quality prog rock keyboard player.  Of course, Downes’ style is markedly different from Wakeman’s at times, and I can’t say I do not miss Wakeman’s playing from time to time, but Downes’ style makes for an interesting change.  Wakeman’s playing is flashy, consistently fast, and with a lot of notes whereas Downes’ playing tends toward a lot of chording and being more understated (more cynical people would say “more tasteful” as compared to Wakeman’s choices).  In my opinion, this is a legitimate, excellent, and worthy iteration of Yes.

Does this album reflect any change in their live sound due to age?  Only a little.  I have to say that Alan White’s playing seems to have been deteriorating (at least in a live setting) since at least 2008 as he has gotten older.  He looks like a tired guy on stage once a show is over.  Don’t get me wrong, he still is a solid drummer who keeps time and provides some good coloring, but his live playing has gotten a lot less complex.  He is no longer the so-called “original thunder machine.”  In saying that, though, he does have some pretty good fills, as he does on “Heart of the Sunrise.”  Also, Chris Squire’s voice at this point in his career was not what it used to be.  I am not saying his singing is not good on this album; quite the contrary, his vocals on this album are very strong and mixed fairly high.  The effect of his age is the fact that his vocal parts have been lowered a bit; he no longer was singing in the stratosphere at this point, which provides the songs a slightly different sound than Yes fans may be used to hearing.  Some people have claimed that Yes plays the songs too slowly.  They did seem to reduce the tempo a little on a handful of songs between 2008 and 2012 (which I think was a concession to help ailing vocalist Benoit David), but with Davison’s joining the band they seem to have sped the songs back up to their appropriate tempos again.  Despite that, some still think they are playing too slowly, but I do not think that is a fair criticism at this point.  Their live tempos now reflect the tempos found on the studio albums, as opposed to their old practice of playing live a break-neck speeds.  The fact is, gone are the days when Yes ramped up the tempos on stage as they used to do in ages past (see Yessongs as an example), but the fact that modern live tempos are slower than their live tempos from the 1970s does not mean that modern live tempos are slow compared to the studio recordings.  The other thing to note is that the band’s live tone and presentation on this album is consistent with what they have been largely doing since 1991’s Union tour (with exception of the 1994 Talk tour), which is to have a cleaner and warmer sound as opposed to the dirtier and aggressive live sound they had in the 1970s and 1980s.

I think the music as played on this tour sounds very much like the original studio versions of the songs, so there are not really very many new interpretations to report for the purposes of this review.  I think Howe’s playing on this album is typical of his current cleaner style rather than the more aggressive style he employed back in in the 1970s.  Regardless of what he thinks, I think his use of a guitar synthesizer does an injustice to the coral electric sitar and twelve string acoustic guitar it allegedly duplicates.  It just does not sound right to me.  On “Siberian Khatru” it sounded like Downes got sloppy on the harpsichord solo in trying to play it as fast as Wakeman did/can. I am not sure Downes can generate the finger speed!  “And You And I” sounds as classic as ever (despite the guitar synthesizer) though, as is typical of these “whole album” presentations found on this album and the prior one, Downes does not extend the keyboard solo like Wakeman would.  “Close to the Edge” sounds a little thin, I think, as Howe’s guitar lacks the distortion he used to use and he uses that guitar synthesizer (though his sound on this track has been the same since at least 1998) which I do not think is nearly as good as the original instruments it supposedly duplicates.  The organ solo in “Roundabout” has been reworked as a Downes solo as opposed to him trying to replicate Wakeman so whether one appreciates the solo depends on whether one enjoys Downes’ playing or thinks Wakeman’s solo is “classic.”  Fragile‘s “solo tracks” “Cans and Brahms,” “We Have Heaven,” and “the Fish” we all played exactly as on the album, which is to say that they all used previously recorded tracks over which the soloist played live in order to recreate the studio recording as much as possible (these tracks are impossible to play live without backing tracks as the were recorded in the studio using multiple layers of overlaid recordings to allow for more sounds than just the five guys in the band can produce).  On a personal note, I love having an official live version of “Five Percent for Nothing” as that track is so short, so goofy, and so obscure that I would never have thought they’d ever play it live let alone release an official live version of it.  In saying that, I have to say  that having musicians play another musician’s solo track (e.g.: current drummer Alan White playing former Yes drummer Bill Bruford‘s solo track “Five Percent for Nothing”) is a little weird and does take the listener “out” of the listening experience if one is aware of it.  For that reason I found Fragile to be a really weird choice as an album to play precisely because it has so many solo tracks featuring long departed Yes members (3 of the 5 members of Yes on Fragile are not in the 2014 lineup); if the listener rankles at this, I understand the feeling.  My approach simply has been to accept the tracks as a new presentation in 2014 and to appreciate the new approach this particular lineup of Yes gives them.  To that end, it appears to my ears that the 2014 lineup recorded itself in the studio to present the studio tracks that need backing tracks instead of relying on using the preexisting recordings on Fragile.  So, that gives these live presentation of the solo tracks a little more legitimacy.  They are not relying on the old recordings.  Since 2002, “Southside of the Sky” has become a classic live track and as much as I absolutely love the Howe/Wakeman guitar/keyboard duel at the end of live version of the song (as memorialized here), Downes does not recreate Wakeman’s sound or his style here.  The guitar/keyboard duel is played in Downes’ own style and, I have to say, I think he did a great job and his soloing is really well done.  Unfortunately, as mentioned above, as is typical of these full album tours (and therefore this album), the solos were all of a rather modest length (for Yes), so it was not stretched out like on prior tours.  Finally, I really love the version of “Heart of the Sunrise” on this album.  It is really well done and has a nice dirty sound absent from some recent prior tours.

  • The Video (the DVD)

The video is of all of the songs and is an adequate document of the show.  The footage is reasonable and fun to watch, though I was a little disappointed in it because virtually none of the video images behind the band are visible, which is a shame since they had a good slide show on this tour.  Luckily, for me, the “Southside of the Sky” images and lighting is somewhat visible in the video as I think they did a really good job with it.  Unlike the video for the previous Like It Is video, this does not seem to favor any particular musician over the others.  It seems to be a much better video presentation which more often than not focuses on the musician one wants to see at a given point in the music.  I will say that I think the audio of the DVD is not nearly as good as that of the CDs.  It is quieter and far less dynamic to my ears.

  • Conclusion

As a live album, the album has a quality sound and is enjoyable to hear.  As a Yes live album, it is a very accurate document of where Yes was in 2014 and what they sound like.  If someone is a fan of and/or enjoys the Yes of 2014, then this album is worth picking up and adding to one’s collection.  This album may help people on the fence about the Yes of 2014 to become fans as it shows truly good performances of classic Yes songs and reveals that this line up can hold its own with Yes’ classic line ups in the past.  Otherwise, if someone just cannot accept a singer other than Jon Anderson and/or cannot accept a keyboardist from the Buggles and/or Asia in Yes, then this album is not for you.

  • Packaging

The album is packaged as a digipak and the artwork is pictured below.  As one can see, the album artwork is standard Roger Dean work and also includes some quality photographs of the band.

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Abby Johnson testifies before Texas Senate on Planned Parenthood’s profiting from sale of fetal remains

The videos of Planned Parenthood officials discussing dismembering human beings and harvesting (and possibly selling) their organs have been assailed as unfairly edited and, therefore, misrepresentative of what goes on there. Perhaps a far better representation of what is going on in Planned Parenthood was presented by Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood abortion clinic director, when she testified before the Texas State Senate. Her testimony is not getting nearly the attention it deserves so I am posting it here. Thanks so much to Ryan Phunter who posted it on his blog, “Orthodox in the District,” which made it easily available to me to reblog here. After reading this testimony I cannot imagine how anyone can defend Planned Parenthood anymore. I hate to say that I am not surprised by any of these developments as they are all logical conclusions from the dehumanization that pervades our culture and as especially expressed in Planned Parenthood, an organization founded by a eugenicist, racist, and Nazi sympathizer (see here and here and here and here and here). Now, more than ever, the scourge of abortion needs to be stopped. God have mercy on us all.

Orthodox in the District

Warning: The following testimony deals with the graphic issue of abortions, the dismemberment of fetal tissue after abortions, and the harvesting and disposal of fetal remains. Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood abortion clinic director, testified before the Texas State Senate.

If you are reading this and have had an abortion, I am not judging you at all. I love you and pray for you, as does the whole Orthodox Church every day. My fervent hope is that you will not despair of your decision, but will unite yourself all the more deeply to the Church who loves you. If you are not an Orthodox Christian, Google “Orthodox Christian parish” and find the one closest to you. Stop by for a service sometime and revel in the peace. You are always welcome in the Lord’s temple. The Lord still loves you and always will, and He wants to offer…

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Dying to Get Divorced

Divorce is always a trying time for those going through it, but, in some cases, that time can be exacerbated by the death of one of the parties in the process of divorce. When someone dies in the midst of divorce, the property owned by that person slips into a sort of limbo between being subject to the divorce litigation and also to the law surrounding estates, inheritances and probate.


Luckily, the Pennsylvania legislature in recent years has clarified precisely how divorce law interacts with estate law in order to prevent the collision, and eventual gridlock, from two competing areas of the law potentially applicable to the same property.


23 Pa.C.S.A. Section 3323(d.1) has established that if a divorce litigation is pending and grounds are established before a party to a divorce dies, then the equitable distribution process under divorce law will apply to the property to which the decedent may be entitled and the divorce litigation will proceed as if the decedent were still alive, with his estate, of course, taking his place as a party in the litigation. Divorce grounds are established, for example, if both parties to the divorce execute Affidavits of Consent (pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S.A. Section 3301(c)), or an uncontested Affidavit Under Section 3301(d) is filed, and the court enters an order approving divorce grounds. Without the establishment of divorce grounds, the divorce matter would terminate upon the death of one of the parties and the otherwise marital property becomes subject to standard applicable estate law.


Although 23 Pa.C.S.A. Section 3323(d.1) was helpful in reducing potential conflicts of law when a divorce litigant died, it did not resolve the potential for the surviving spouse to attempt to elect against the decedent spouse’s estate and/or collect the potential inheritance from his estate regardless of the divorce. The Pennsylvania legislature closed this loophole via 20 Pa.C.S.A. Section 2106(a)(2), in order to coordinate with 23 Pa.C.S.A. Section 3323(d.1), which makes it clear that once divorce grounds are established, and a party to that divorce dies, a surviving spouse may not employ estate law at all to secure the decedent spouse’s property; the property is exclusively subject to equitable distribution per the divorce and is not subject to inheritance law, nor can a surviving spouse attempt to elect against the decedent spouse’s estate. In fact, 20 Pa.C.S.A. Section 2106(a)(2), by its language, serves to render any provision in the decedent spouse’s will granting the surviving spouse’s property revoked and/or invalid unless the decedent spouse’s will specifically indicates that the inheritance survives divorce. Further, 20 Pa.C.S.A. Section 2106(a)(2) also serves to eliminate a surviving spouse’s entitlement to any life insurance policies, pensions, annuities, and/or similar benefits unless specifically permitted via the divorce matter.


In terms of the applicability of the above statutes, nothing in them suggests that they would be applied retroactively to parties who separated and/or filed for divorce prior to their enactment. It would seem, based on 1 Pa.C.S.A. Section 1926 and cases like Budnick v. Budnick, 419 Pa.Super. 172 (1992), that the applicability of the statutes described above is not retroactive, but exclusively prospective.


Finally, the fact that the statutes described herein allow for a divorce to be litigated after the death of one of the parties leads one to the obvious question of whether someone could be divorced after his own death. This question was at issue within the case of Taper v. Taper, 939 A.2d 969. Taper involved the application of 23 Pa.C.S.A. Section 3323(d.1) after a party to a divorce died after the approval of divorce grounds. The Court ruled that despite the fact that the decedent spouse’s property is subject to equitable division under the divorce action, and a court is then empowered to distribute a decedent spouse’s marital property as if he were alive and litigating the divorce, a court is simply not empowered to enter a decree in divorce posthumously. Although this seems counterintuitive, the Court noted that while it has statutory authority to divide property posthumously through divorce procedures, the legislature gave no such companion authority to enter a divorce decree posthumously.


Litigating a divorce can be tricky enough when the litigants are alive and the death of a party can certainly complicate matters even further. Hopefully the cases and statutes described above can help make the process a little easier and more predictable.

Originally published in The Legal Intelligencer Blog on March 26, 2014 and can be found here and was reprinted by the Pennsylvania Family Lawyer, Volume 36, Issue No.: 2, June 2014 edition.

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