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Archive for the month “October, 2015”

Suit Charges Mall With Rejecting Christian Bookstore

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

“In Missoula, Montana this week business owner Michael Burks filed suit against a local mall because it refused to allow him to open a Christian bookstore in retail space he was leasing. The complaint (full text) in Missoula Maulers, Inc. v. Southgate Mall Associates, (MT Dist. Ct., filed 5/11/2015), alleges that Burks became concerned about the profitability of a retail hockey store he was operating in the mall, and proposed replacing it with another of his businesses, a Christian bookstore. The mall refused.  The complaint alleges that the refusal was based on the store’s status as a Christian bookstore, or “for some other malicious reason.”  Helena Independent Record reports on the lawsuit. ”

You can learn more about this issue here.

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Winning the Comcast/NBCUniversal TV Prime Time Award

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

A.D. Croucher

Writing can be a lonely process, even when you’re writing as a team.

For the majority of the time, you write with absolutely no knowledge at all of whether people will ever respond to your writing. You’re writing in the dark. That’s the job; we signed up for it, it’s part of the crazy wonderful life of being a writer. That said, it’s always nice when, every now and then, someone shines a light on the writing that you’re doing. We look up, blinking, slightly taken aback that someone likes what we’re doing. It’s a funny life — you have to believe in what you’re doing 100% with ironclad certitude — you couldn’t possibly make it through the rejections and knockbacks if you didn’t — and yet when someone actually says, this is good, there’s always that feeling of surprise. Like… really? Us?

Awards

So, when our TV pilot script USE…

View original post 141 more words

NEARFest 2009: Photos and Memories

This post is in my series regarding the North East Art Rock Festival (NEARFest), more about which you can find here.  You can find all of my posts regarding NEARFest here and I started the series here.  You can also learn more about this particular Festival here and here.  The information below are just some highlights I remember and photographs I took from the Festival.

The lineup for NEARFest 2009 was (including Friday night):

Here is the 2009 logo, as designed by Mark Wilkinson:

https://i1.wp.com/nearfest.com/images/logo_nf2009.png

 

This was the eleventh NEARFest and my tenth consecutive Festival.  This Festival was the eighth Festival, and sixth consecutive Festival, to take place at at the Zoellner Arts Center on the campus of Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and it remained there until the last Festival.

The lineup for this Festival was top notch.  First, it marked the return of PFA who originally payed at NEARFest 2005 (see here) and their performance was on par with their performance in 2005.  Gong was the band I was looking forward to as they are a classic space rock band and they did not disappoint.  Gong is legendary and, but for NEARFest, I probably would never have had the chance to see them live.  They seem to be ageless (their lead singer was in his 70s) and their music sounded just as good as it does on the records.  Fantastic performance.  Steve Hillage, of course, is also associated with Gong.  His music and performance was similar but, of course, needless to say, my excitement for him was not the same as that for Gong.

The other band I was truly looking forward to seeing is Van der Graaf Generator (VDGG).  VDGG is fronted by Peter Hammill who played at the last NEARFest (see here).  VDGG is a classic prog rock band who is simply legendary among prog rock fans and, like Gong, I may have never seen them live but for NEARFest.  Their performance was expertly played and suitably dark.  Unfortunately, their band was just a trio with Hammill, a drummer, and an organist.  Considering their best material featured woodwinds and a guitar with a bigger lineup, the set played by VDGG lacked the dynamic range and the sonic diversity their music is supposed to have.  So, I thought their set was a little disappointing because they really could not pull off their own music due to insufficient personnel, though, in saying that, I do not at all regret seeing them as, even with those limitations, they are still a classic band I wanted to see.

Cabezas de Cera is an experimental band, some call them RIO, who, despite my typical bristling on listening to RIO over a long period of time (because it is so dissonant and amelodic), actually appealed to me as they were very musical and exciting.  I actually bought one of their albums.  They’re very creative but also tasteful in an RIO tradition, and that is extremely rare.  Quantum Fantasy was excellent but not particularly original.  They played in the style of space rock which NEARFest has already seen with Hidria Spacefolk (see here) and, more importantly, the masters of the sub-genre, namely Ozric Tentacles (see here).  Perhaps my favorite band of the weekend was DFA.  DFA played NEARFest 2000 (see here), which was my first NEARFest (see here).  DFA’s music is generally instrumental.  It is very complex and influenced by jazz, but also very melodic, tasteful, disciplined, and mature without sounding too busy or like constant noodling.  DFA is a fantastic band and and highly recommended.

Finally, I once again got to meet Marillion cover artist Mark Wilkinson who was, as always, very gentlemanly (he was also at NEARFest 2008, see here).  Wilkinson designed the NEARFest 2009 logo.  Roger Dean, who appeared at, and designed the logo for, NEARFests 2001 – 2008, did not appear at this Festival.  So, NEARFest 2009 is the first Festival that did not feature a Dean logo since NEARFest 2000, which had a logo designed by Van Der Graaf Generator and Genesis artist Paul Whitehead.

Photographs:

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Justice Department Wins Its Suit Against Florida To Require a Kosher Meal Program In Prisons

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

“The U.S. Department of Justice has won it long-running lawsuit against the state of Florida over its prisons’ kosher meal policy.  In United States v. Secretary, Florida Department of Corrections, (SD FL, April 30, 2015), a Florida federal district court held that the blanket denial of kosher meals violates RLUIPA, and issued a permanent injunction requiring the state to provide kosher meals to those prisoners with a sincere religious belief requiring kosher meals.  The state initially suspended its kosher meal program for budgetary reasons, but reinstituted a program in 2013.  However the state rejects the claim that it is by law required to provide kosher meals. In granting the injunction, the court said in part:

Because neither side disputes that a blanket denial of kosher meals imposes a substantial burden on prisoners’ religious exercise for those prisoners that have a sincere religious belief requiring them to eat kosher, the burden is on Defendants to demonstrate that denying such prisoners kosher meals (a) is in furtherance of a compelling state interest and (b) is the least restrictive means of achieving that interest. Throughout this litigation, Defendants have asserted that they have a compelling state interest in cost containment and that not providing a kosher diet is the least restrictive means of achieving cost containment.  Defendants have not met their burden….

As the United States contends, it is hard to understand how Defendants can have a compelling state interest in not spending money that they are already voluntarily spending on the exact thing they claim to have an interest in not providing.

The court also enjoined two other aspects of the religious diet program: the zero tolerance policy on infractions and the rule requiring removal from the program of an inmate who has missed 10% of his meals. However the court refused to enjoin the potential use as one part of its testing of an inmate’s religious sincerity a question asking the inmate to identify the religious rules that require him to eat a religious diet. The Justice Department issued a press release announcing the decision. Orlando Sentinel yesterday reported on the decision.”

You can learn more about this issue here.

 

FADE TO BLACK

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

ToughLawyerLady

Every day I receive telephone calls from people who have urgent problems and are facing deadlines requiring that something must be done under the law to preserve their rights, and that deadline is often that very day or that week. When I give them the information they need, and urge them to consult or retain a lawyer, they just seem to sputter out. This leads me to believe that many people put their heads in the sand, do not want to face their problems head on, and hope that the things they have to deal with, or are happening to them, will just disappear.

However, if someone is involved in the legal process, that process forges on, and there are stringent deadlines when things have to be done under the law, whether people want to face them or not.

For example, if you are one of those unfortunate people whose…

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Atheist Group Sues Pennsylvania Transit System Over Refusal To Accept Ad

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

“The ACLU of Pennsylvania announced that it has filed suit on behalf of an atheist group against the County of Lacawana Transit System (COLTS) over its advertising policy. The complaint (full text) in Northeastern Pennsylvania Free Thought Society v. County of Lacawana Transit System, (MD PA, filed 4/28/2015) contends that COLTS rejected an ad submitted for the outside of its buses reading: “Atheists. NEPAfreethought.org.” COLTS advertising policy originally barred ads that are derogatory to any religion, or are objectionable, controversial or generally be offensive to COLTS’ ridership.  The policy was subsequently amended to bar ads that promote the existence or non-existence of a supreme deity; promote or criticize a religion or lack of religious belief; that quote or cite scriptures; or that are otherwise religious. COLTS policy was to maintain its advertising space as a nonpublic forum and not to allow its transit vehicles to become a platform for debate, or discussion of public issues or issues that are political or religious in nature.

The suit contends that COLTS has violated plaintiff’s free expression rights by favoring commercial speech over speech on matters of public concern; and by in fact having a policy that accepted all ads until the Freethought Society attempted to advertise.  The complaint claims that COLTS policy is viewpoint based and unreasonable. ”

You can learn more about this issue here.

Abington Templeton Foundation Committee

I have been asked to join the Abington Templeton Foundation Committee.  Evidently a couple of local clergy put my name into the mix and the person heading the Committee selected me to join.  I am very honored and humbled by their selection of me.  The Templeton Foundation Committee is tasked with creating a manual for use in orthodox Christian evangelism, teaching, and apologetics.  The Committee consists of a handful of local clergy and other Christians who are hopefully equipped to accomplish the Committee’s goals.  We are using 1 Peter 3:15 as our inspiration: “Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence.

Our goal is to address the reasons for lack of faith in our culture by tackling head on religion’s interaction with science, faith, and politics.  We hope to clarify just what the word “God” means and why God, faith, religion, and Christianity is important in someone’s life.  Perhaps most importantly, the manual will – God willing – help people interact with non-believers in a more loving way to communicate the faith in a loving and gentle way.

As you can see, our goals are ambitious and will entail a lot of work and dedication from all involved in the committee.  We need prayer.  Please pray that our efforts will be fruitful and will have a positive impact on those involved in the creation of the manual and those who receive it in some way.  Please pray the Holy Spirit works through the Committee so that we can produce a manual, and present it in a way, that advances the Gospel.

I will post updates periodically as the Committee works through its tasks.

Costume design and set design: not just the icing on your short film cake

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

A.D. Croucher

Wardrobe and set design may seem like frivolous aspects of filmmaking, as if they’re the frosting on top of a cake — nice when they’re there, but not necessary to satisfy your hunger. Wrong! Trying to capture an audience without a setting is like serving a cake without having mixed the ingredients together first. And without icing. And who wants that?! Wardrobe and set design are what give the ‘cake’ its shape, and are often what holds everything together.

Mmm... cake Mmmm… cake

Visual clues give the audience a deeper understanding of a character or situation; they appeal to our visual intelligence. It’s a way of communicating a ton of information without saying a word. Visual clues give the audience the time: are we in the future, the present, the past, an alternate reality timeline? They can also convey the financial and social standing of your characters, their points of view, as…

View original post 873 more words

Anderson-Ponty Band, Better Late Than Never, a Review

In September 2014 progressive rock band Yes‘ co-founder and vocalist/harpist/guitarist Jon Anderson teamed up with virtuoso progressive rock (and classic fusion bands and Zappa alumnus) violinist Jean-Luc Ponty to form the supergroup Anderson-Ponty Band (APB) to play a live concert to be recorded for an album (CD/DVD) which was released in September 2015.  The set list they played consisted of mainly reworked Yes, Anderson, and Ponty pieces with a couple new tracks thrown in for good measure.  Apparently (see here) the actual set list was a little longer and included a few more pieces left off the album.  The live concert from September 2014, upon being recorded, was then modified and edited and overdubbed in the studio.

CD Track List:

1. “Intro”
2. “One in the Rhythm of Hope”  (a reworked Ponty piece)
3. “A for Aria”  (a new piece)
4. Owner of a Lonely Heart”  (a reworked Yes song)
5. “Listening with Me”  (a reworked Ponty piece called “Stay With Me”)
6. Time and a Word”  (a reworked Yes song)
7. “Infinite Mirage”  (a reworked Ponty piece)
8. “Soul Eternal”  (a reworked Anderson piece)
9. Wonderous Stories”  (a reworked Yes song)
10. And You and I”  (a reworked Yes song)
11. “Renaissance of the Sun”  (a reworked Ponty piece)
12. Roundabout”  (a reworked Yes song)
13. “I See you Messenger”  (a new piece)
14. “New New World”  (a reworked Anderson piece)

DVD Track List:

1. “One in the Rhythm of Hope”
2. “A for Aria”
3. “Owner of a Lonely Heart”
4. “Listening with Me”
5. “Time and a Word”
6. “Infinite Mirage”
7. “Soul Eternal”
9. “Renaissance of the Sun”
10. “Roundabout”

Personnel:

  • Jon Anderson – lead vocals, harp, guitars
  • Jean-Luc Ponty – violin
  • Jamie Glaser – guitars (Jamie Dunlap was part of the original line-up of APB and thus performed live on 20 September 2014 at the Wheeler Opera House, Aspen, Colorado, United States but by January 2015, he had left the band and had been replaced by Ponty’s guitarist Jamie Glaser who, as a result, overdubbed Dunlap’s parts on the present live album)
  • Wally Minko – keyboards
  • Baron Browne – bass
  • Rayford Griffin – drums & percussion

Review:

So, like most reviews, what one thinks of an album depends on what one expects from it.  If one expects a prog-rock tour de force, then one will be sorely disappointed.  Despite the pedigree of Anderson and Ponty and, indeed, the fusion background of the rest of the band, ABP does not live up to its potential.  Instead, the music is very light (even when it is heavy like during “Owner of a Lonely Heart), often twee, and and is more a fusion of new age and rock, with jazz sounding bass, than a fusion of jazz and Anderson.  Of course the underlying Yes, Anderson, and Ponty music is amazing and the stuff of prog rock legend, but I will try and keep this review just about the interpretation that APB has given them.

Anderson, I think, does most of the heavy lifting in the creation of this album as he wrote most of the music and pushed the kickstarter campaign (see below for more on that).  Excluding “Intro” (which is something of an overture written by Minko), 7 of the 13 remaining songs are from Anderson’s prior work and at least one of the new songs “I See You Messenger” is derived from Anderson’s stock of unreleased material.  Ponty’s solo compositions are instrumental and Anderson’s contribution to them are largely adding lyrics and melodies with which to sing those lyrics over Ponty’s music.  So, Anderson has a writing credit for every track on the album save “Intro.”  Aside from singing, he also strummed a guitar, plucked a harp, and a played very small stringed instrument which seems to be turned to a specific chord for him to strum (I do not know the name of this instrument).  Ponty is an excellent, virtuoso, and experimental violinist, and his playing throughout the album is technically top notch though not particularly inspired.  He more-or-less noodles over the Yes/Anderson material – though on occasion he plays something interesting – and, probably obviously, seems much more at home with his own material.

Of course, the music – especially the Yes material – is rearranged to fit a vaguely new-age-jazz sound which is often stripped down in its complexity compared to the originals, but and some of the interpretations are interesting.   In saying that, I really did not need yet another version of “Roundabout” and “Owner of a Lonely Heart.”  It is worth noting that “Time and a Word” is a reggae interpretation with some Beatles references thrown in here and there.  Although this version is fun, it is hardly original to APB as Anderson has been doing since at least 2008.  Various quotes from songs like “I’ve Seen All Good People” or “And You And I” or even “Don’t Kill the Whale” (in “I See You Messenger”) are sprinkled throughout.  As an aside, I really like the “Don’t Kill the Whale” quote and I think that song is catchy and the quote makes it doubly so.

As a huge Yes fan, I was most interested in Anderson.  It is very nostalgic for me to hear a new recording from this legendary singer who has made so much music that has such an impact on my life, especially since he nearly died not long ago (see here).  His range is still there.  His spirit is still there.  His emotion is still there.  Despite that, his strength is not nearly what it used to be.  The power of his voice is greatly diminished.  Though still ethereal, his voice is more “breathy” (for want of a better term) and less strident now.  I have to say that, despite this, Anderson, as always, seemed to be very aware that his voice is very unique and tries to use it uniquely if only for it’s sound and he does that here as well (e.g.: the vocal sounds on “One in the Rhythm of Hope”).  Lyrically, he is not really offering anything new.  There are various Yes song references (e.g.: lyrics like “Second Attention” or “That that is”) here and there and the remaining new lyrics fit Anderson’s long standing custom of writing about the sun, light, innocence, Earth, love, moon, and other sorts of “mystical” things.

As a brief editorial, considering Anderson’s diminished voice, stale lyrical ideas, and rather pedestrian musical ideas on this album, I do not think he would be an improvement over Jon Davison (Yes’ current singer) in Yes as Davison’s voice is stronger and his writing is much more creative and interesting right now.  Of course, none of that speaks to the nostalgia and love of/for having Anderson back in Yes and I, for one, would not oppose his return in the least, nor does it in any way diminish Anderson’s influence, creativity, and impact on Yes and prog rock in general.

This collaboration started its life as Kickstarter campaign (see here) and took over a year to prepare, perform, record, produce, and release.  The extended time it took to go from inauguration to release is the inspiration for the title “Better Late Than Never.”  I have to say, as far as expectations are concerned, for an album that took over a year to put together, I was truly hoping for more than just some fairly twee rearrangements of old songs and a couple of light weight new ones.  I was hoping some true creativity would work its way into the music.

All in all this album is really only for Anderson and Ponty fans who enjoy nostalgia and enjoy the idea of these two luminaries working together and enjoying the music of other.  So, as fans of both Anderson and Ponty, I really enjoyed the music and hearing the collaborate, but I was disappointed that they did not really do anything special or creative or really stretch themselves at all.

Photographs:

 

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A Problem With Over-Centralizing Production

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

“We distributists advocate the decentralization of production whenever practical. We are challenged by claims that centralization is more efficient in terms of cost. “What’s wrong with Big Business” is a question we need to answer. The founders of Distributism focused on the idea that, when the overwhelming majority of citizens work for a wage at jobs controlled by relatively few wealthy individuals, their situation is a form of slavery. It may not be as bad as the slavery of the 19th century but, in many ways, the house slaves of that era didn’t have it as bad as the slaves of the field.

Another issue with centralizing production is the wide-spread effects when a large producer has some problems. Effects which may be obvious include the economic dependence the local region has on the continued survival of that producer. Effects which are not so obvious, but which are more wide-spread, are when there is a problem in production that harms the consumer. Recent years have seen huge recalls of automobiles from several companies for various problems with the vehicles. Although Toyota was essentially exonerated over the acceleration problems reported with their cars, other recalls have shown true problems that caused injuries to large numbers of people using products from cars to baby swings. Distributists acknowledge that there is no way to guarantee the complete elimination of these problems, but we also contend that a larger number of smaller producers would at least lessen the impact of these problems when they occur.”

You can learn more about this issue here.

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