#306: Versers Refocused

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #306, on the subject of Versers Refocused.

With permission of Valdron Inc I have previously completed publishing my first four novels, Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel, Old Verses New, For Better or Verse, and Spy Verses,  in serialized form on the web (those links will take you to the table of contents for each book).  Along with each book there was also a series of web log posts looking at the writing process, the decisions and choices that delivered the final product; those posts are indexed with the chapters in the tables of contents pages.  Now as I have posted the fifth, Garden of Versers,  I am again offering a set of “behind the writings” insights.  This “behind the writings” look may contain spoilers because it sometimes talks about my expectations for the futures of the characters and stories–although it sometimes raises ideas that were never pursued, as being written partially concurrently with the story it sometimes discusses where I thought it was headed.  You might want to read the referenced chapters before reading this look at them.  Links below (the section headings) will take you to the specific individual chapters being discussed, and there are (or will soon be) links on those pages to bring you back hopefully to the same point here.

There is also a section of the site, Multiverser Novel Support Pages, in which I have begun to place materials related to the novels beginning with character papers for the major characters, giving them at different stages as they move through the books.

This is the eighth mark Joseph “young” web log post covering this book, covering chapters 85 through 96.  Previous web log posts covering this book include:

History of the series, including the reason it started, the origins of character names and details, and many of the ideas, are in those earlier posts, and won’t be repeated here.

Chapter 85, Hastings 159

I was pushing to get through the recounting of the previous novels, and finally concluded it.

I had realized several chapters before that Lauren didn’t know the names of any of the people who took care of her, and that this was one of her problems, of forgetting that the people around her were real people and she should care about them.  She hadn’t figured out yet why she was there, partly because she had been focused on getting out of there.


Chapter 86, Brown 174

At this point my challenge was to put the clues in place without giving away the mystery.  I’m not sure how successful I was; at this point it looks obvious to me, but then, I already know the solution.


Chapter 87, Beam 23

I was well behind my outline when I reached this chapter, but it managed to go smoothly and cover more than I expected.  I had already written most of the next two chapters, to give Kyler ideas, but the day I wrote this I had been feeling ill and lost a few hours, and it was late by the time I got this far, so I postponed the others to get more sleep.


Chapter 88, Hastings 160

The problem here is that her life is filled with inconsequential characters, but she can’t treat them like inconsequential people.  That means I can’t just write them off with “he tells you his name”, because names matter.  One of these people might become important; the problem is that she can’t know which one at this point, so they all have to be given equal importance in the text, and I have to burn through and remember a lot of names.


Chapter 89, Kondor 150

I was thinking that I hadn’t made my mystery tough enough, so I was trying to stretch the solution over several chapters.  I’m not at all certain how to resolve the matter—whether there will be a rescue or whether the kidnapper will surrender.  For the moment, though, the plot is still being examined.


Chapter 90, Beam 24

I had been imagining this chapter from the moment Kyler had explained the dysfunctional ring, and had written a substantial part of it in notes as “this is where I think we’re headed here”.  In the previous Beam chapter I had hinted but not actually stated that he put the dragon control ring on the finger on which he had worn his wedding band some years before, because I needed a reason why someone would remove it, and the new wedding ring was the obvious one.

As I recall, Sophia was something of a composite created by our collaboration.  She had to be a redhead because that’s Beam’s weakness (mentioned previously), and she had to be a witch because we needed to give him a support team that had power before the end of the book and he already had a powerful psionicist and a demonstrably weak wizard, plus a superb fighter.  She also had to have a strong personality, the kind who was going to fight with Beam but still love him.


Chapter 91, Hastings 161

I was looking for direction for Lauren, and what occurred to her is what occurred to me.  I’m not yet sure how it’s going to work, but I’m going to lay some groundwork here.

Kyler and I had a discussion about whether Lauren’s identification of Jesus should be capitalized “the Son of God” or left in lower case, “the son of God”.  The argument was that in this instance it was not a title or name but a descriptor, and so did not get capitalized.


Chapter 92, Slade 150

I kept swithering about the raid, on the one hand thinking that this could be resolved without violence, on the other hand thinking that it was going to end badly for someone.  At this point I decided on the raid, partly because I needed some good story and more action, partly because it was the best resolution I could find for the events to this point.  I also decided who was going to die in that raid, and some of the aftermath.

One of the challenges of this chapter was putting the right words in the right mouths.  I had to assume that Vashti was back with the entourage and therefore couldn’t say anything here; that means that the pieces of information about family and culture had to come from people who knew them, pieced together by the legal and logical knowledge of the others.  More than once I started to write something and decided that someone else had to say it.

I had been thinking for quite a while that Derek has to ask Shella to tell Vashti what it would mean for her to marry him and become a verser, but I didn’t want to get into those details too deeply.  I knew that it would be simple to have the actual conversation between the girls offstage, since neither of them are viewpoint characters.  Putting the initial conversation between Derek and Shella offstage as well meant that I could return with Vashti talking about what impacted her from that discussion, without dealing with what she might or might not know otherwise.


Chapter 93, Beam 25

I wrote most of this chapter months before, as the transition from the wedding to the new world, but I had to add material describing what was known of the new world.  I had wanted it to be a place with enough technology that Beam could recharge the Pyronics 2000 and obtain some other high-tech weaponry, with a high psi bias so Bob would be back in form, and a flatlined mag bias so my new witch would be mostly useless.  I tossed around a number of ideas, including the Titanic and another space ship of some sort, but settled on an automated mecha war zone.  The bunker was a good starting place.


Chapter 94, Hastings 162

I had been worrying about how to get Lauren out of this world, but I almost abruptly figured out how to do it.  I started working toward that here, as she shares the gospel with her caregivers.


Chapter 95, Brown 175

The difficulty here was that I wanted to go directly to the interview with Bilhah, but I couldn’t get past the conversation about becoming a verser between Derek and Vashti.

I realized while I was in the middle of this that somewhere I had a resource for titles in different cultures; I just didn’t know whether Caliph was on it.  It was, but the feminine forms weren’t, so I looked them up.


Chapter 96, Beam 26

There were several things I wanted to accomplish in this world, mostly in terms of supplying Beam with needed equipment, also in creating the foundation of a relationship between him and Sophia.  I wasn’t sure how I was going to do it all, but I decided to start with food.


This has been the eighth behind the writings look at Garden of Versers.  If there is interest and continued support from readers we will endeavor to continue publishing the novel and these behind the writings posts for it.

#305: The Cross Case: Supreme Court Sours on Lemon

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #305, on the subject of The Cross Case:  Supreme Court Sours on Lemon.

I have been watching for this case since it hit the circuit court, and so was pleased to see that the Supreme Court had decided it.  It seems on one hand to be a simple question:  is a century-old war memorial in the shape of a forty-foot cross originally built by private citizens but for half a century maintained on public land at public expense a violation of the “establishment” clause, that is, a constitutionally impermissible promotion of a particular religion by the government?  That’s the question; yes or no?

So imagine my surprise to discover that although Justice Alito managed to write a seven-to-two majority opinion that said no (that is, the cross can stay), there were five concurring opinions (a concurring opinion is one that agrees with the conclusion but not with all the reasoning) plus a dissent.  So how is there so much confusion over so simple a question?

At the time of this writing, I was unable to find the official Supreme Court PDF online; however, Justia has it in an easy-to-access form.  The Court combined two cases into one, so the title reads

THE AMERICAN LEGION, et al., PETITIONERS

v.

AMERICAN HUMANIST ASSOCIATION, et al.; and

MARYLAND-NATIONAL CAPITAL PARK AND PLANNING COMMISSION, PETITIONER

v.

AMERICAN HUMANIST ASSOCIATION, et al.

A lot of the trouble revolves around what’s been called the Lemon Test, named for Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602 (1971), in which the court articulated a three-part test for whether something violated the establishment clause.  The short version is:

  1. Does the action/activity have a secular purpose?
  2. Is the principle or primary effect one that neither advances nor inhibits religion?
  3. Does it avoid fostering an excessive government entanglement with religion?

By these three questions all such cases were supposed to be answered.

Let’s get some backstory.

Just after World War I, a citizens group in Bladensburg, Maryland wanted to honor the forty-nine men from their community who died in that conflict.  Quite a few of the fallen in that war were never returned, and more were never identified.  The monument would serve as a surrogate grave for them, for their families to visit, and as a recognition of the service of so many others.  They hired an architect/sculptor, who designed a large Latin Cross, modeled on the crosses that had been used as temporary grave markers for the over one hundred thousand Americans buried in European graveyards.  (The Star of David was also used for such markers, but only about five percent of American casualties were Jewish, so crosses dominated the photos that came home and were emblazoned in the minds of the mourners.)  The citizens group raised money through donations, but ran out before completing the work, so the American Legion took over, adding their emblem to the cross, finishing the work, and maintaining it at their own expense into the early 1960s.  At that time, actions were taken to transfer the ownership of the property to the Maryland Parks Department, in part because the road around the monument had become a major traffic problem, in part because the American Legion was no longer able to afford it, and in part because the State wanted to expand the surrounding area into a memorial park with monuments for all the other wars.  Since then the monument has been maintained by state funds.  However, a few years back the American Humanist Association filed suit claiming that the cross was offensive and an impermissible endorsement of the Christian religion.  They wanted it removed, or demolished, or at the very least stripped of the crosspiece so it would be an obelisk instead of a cross.

The Federal District Court applied the Lemon test and sided with the park service, stating that the primary purpose of the cross was to honor the dead of World War I, and there was no evidence that any religious purpose was intended in its design or its present maintenance; any impartial observer who knew the history of the monument would conclude that it was not about promoting Christian faith, but about honoring the war casualties.  A three-judge panel of the Circuit Court, however, disagreed in a split decision, again applying the Lemon test but asserting that the cross was so tied to Christian belief that anyone seeing it would think it was an emblem promoting that religion.  The full court declined to review the case en banc (that is, all the judges), and the Supreme Court granted certiorari (or cert., agreeing to hear it).

Justice Alito wrote that there were many problems with applying Lemon, and that since the the test has a lot to do with motivations and intentions it is particularly difficult to apply the case to situations with deep historic roots.  It can’t be said that those who originally erected the monument had a religious purpose in view.  He cites other situations in which crosses are used as an emblem that do not have a religious purpose, notably among them the International Red Cross, whose red cross on a white field was designed to call to mind the white cross on a red field that was the flag of the neutral country Switzerland, and so marking the deliverers of medical care as neutral.  So, too, the crosses that dotted graveyards throughout Europe had become an image of the fallen in that war, popularized alongside the poppy even more by the poem In Flander’s Field.  Shortly after the war the same emblem became the basis for the national congressional medals known as the Distinguished Cross and the Navy Cross.  There was no reason to suppose that the original designers of the cross intended it to have any greater religious significance than that which is attached to any grave marker.  Indeed, one of the members of the committee which began the work and approved the design was Jewish.  Further, there is no evidence of bias or prejudice, sectarian or otherwise.  At the dedication ceremony, a Catholic Priest opened with an invocation, a politician gave the keynote address, and a Baptist minister gave the closing benediction.  Although racial tensions were high in the country and the Ku Klux Klan held a rally within ten miles of the site within a month of the dedication, black and white soldiers were listed together on the plaque.  To claim that the original intention was religious is to read our own ideas into their situation; we cannot do that.  Further, he argued, the fact that the monument has been there for almost a century means it has taken many other significances, historical and cultural.  We might think there is a religious significance to it as well, but it is a relatively small part of a memorial that has been part of the community for so long.  Besides, to destroy or deface it would appear to be an act against religion, not an act furthering religious neutrality.

The opinion did not overturn Lemon; it simply said that in dealing with matters steeped in history, it was generally impossible to know the motivations of those who made the original decisions, and so Lemon was rendered useless in such cases.

Justice Gorsuch in the main agreed, but went further.  Lemon, he said, was useless as a test.  Case law demonstrates that a court using the test can reach any conclusion it wants.  More pointedly, the notion of the response of a reasonable observer (whether a reasonable observer would think that the purpose was primarily religious) has created an “offended observer” status, that someone can file suit against an action on the grounds that it offends him.  This, Gorsuch argues, is not real injury and the Constitution gives no basis for anyone to sue without real injury.  Overturning Lemon and getting rid of its test would resolve much of the confusion in the courts and mean in the future cases like this, in which someone claims to be offended by the sight of a supposedly religious object, would be dismissed perfunctorily.

Justice Thomas agreed with that, but went further.  The Establishment Clause, he observed, begins “Congress shall make no law”.  He explains what kinds of laws had existed that were eliminated, but asserts that the protection has nothing to do with actions that are not based on laws made by Congress.  He suggests that one might apply the I Amendment to the States by virtue of the XIV Amendment, but even so the original purpose of the Establishment Clause was to forbid legislative actions compelling citizens to support a specific church or denomination.  Local creches, non-sectarian thanksgiving services, opening invocations and closing benedictions, and memorials to the dead are not covered by this, as they are not compulsory and in the main are not legislative acts.  Lemon, he asserts, should be overturned because it goes far beyond what is Constitutional.

Justice Kagan also wrote a concurring opinion, agreeing with nearly all of Justice Alito’s opinion but for two sections.  The important disagreement is that she asserts that Lemon, with its focus on purposes and effects, is still very valuable even though it does not resolve every Establishment Clause problem, and she would retain it.  Her lesser disagreement is that Justice Alito suggested that history would play an important part in Establishment Clause analysis, which she does not reject entirely but does not wish to see embraced as a principle of law.  She agrees, though, that it might be important to consider whether long-standing monuments, symbols, and practices reflect respect for different views and tolerance, with an honest effort to achieve non-discrimination and inclusivity, and a recognition of the important role that religion plays in many American lives.

Justice Kagan also agrees with the concurrence written by Justice Breyer, who has long said that no one test works for all Establishment Clause cases, but that in each case the court has to consider the purposes of the clause, “assuring religious liberty and tolerance for all, avoiding religiously based social conflict, and maintaining that separation of church and state that allows each to flourish in its “separate spher[e]”.  He says that the majority opinion is correct that there is no significant religious importance to the Bladensburg Cross, and that its removal or destruction would signal a hostility toward religion against the Establishment Clause traditions.  However, he objects to any sort of “history and tradition test” that might permit religiously-biased memorials on public lands in the future.

That, apparently, is a suggestion in Justice Kavanaugh’s concurrence.  He fully joins the majority opinion, but emphasizes the importance of reviewing history and tradition in such cases.  He suggests that the Lemon test has proven useless and is never really used by the Supreme Court.  He also expresses sympathy for those, particularly Jews, who feel alienated by the cross, which he says must be recognized as a religious emblem.  The fact that it is a religious emblem does not mean the government cannot maintain it–but the government does not have to do so, and other branches of the government could take action to remove the cross or transfer its ownership and care to a non-governmental entity.  The objectors do have recourse to the political process if they wish to pursue this; what they don’t have is a court decision declaring that the cross cannot be maintained by the State.

Which leaves Justice Ginsberg’s dissent, joined by Justice Sotomayor.

Ginsberg maintains that the Latin Cross, defined as one in which the lower upright is longer than the other three branches, has always been recognized as a Christian symbol, and has never had a secular meaning or application.  (This in contrast to the Greek Cross, in which the four branches are equal.)  The Bladensburg “Peace Cross” is thus offensive to anyone of any other religion or of no religion.  Marshaling evidence that even in the aftermath of World War I the cross was identified by the government as a sectarian symbol to be put on the graves of all Christians and of any persons not known not to be Christian (in case they were), with Stars of David placed on all graves of soldiers known to be Jewish.  (Those who were known not to be either could, at the family’s request, have a plain stone, be transported home, or be interred in a private cemetery overseas with a headstone of their choice.)  There has never been a case in which a Latin Cross was identified as a non-sectarian emblem of death, and historically it has been regarded as conveying the message that Christians are saved and all others are damned–an offensive message to all those others.

While Ginsberg’s claim is well-supported, it is not clear that the modern cultural view of crosses as memorials perceives them as specifically Christian.  It comes to me that many graves of pets are marked with crosses, but no Christian denomination of which I am aware supports the theological belief that animals can be Christian, The Vicar of Dibbley notwithstanding.  (The eternal destiny of animals is not something the Bible tells us, which makes sense, as C. S. Lewis would have said, because it’s not actually something we need to know.)  Crosses are also frequently used in decorative graveyards such as in Halloween displays.  To many, the cross says “grave marker” much more than it says “Christian”.

I can’t say that everyone perceives such memorials as non-sectarian, but I do think that over time they have become more so.  It appears that the Court, in the main, agrees with that:  memorials using crosses in their imagery have become non-sectarian by their use over time, and the Bladensburg Cross far more represents the fallen of World War I and, since its rededication in 1985, all the American casualties of all our wars.  Lemon has not been overturned, but it has been significantly limited in its application in the future.

The Peace Cross stands.

#304: Accidental Amy Grant

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #304, on the subject of Accidental Amy Grant.

It comes across as the musician’s dream story.  A sixteen-year-old girl bought some studio time to make a recording for her mother, and a major record producer heard the tracks and contracted her to a major record label deal.  That, in a nutshell, is the story of Amy Grant.

The story is more complicated than that.  Due to his recent success as a producer of Christian albums, Chris Christian had been given a contract to produce five albums a year, and needed artists quickly.  Although he and Brown Bannister did hear Amy’s work in the studio, she also was a member of the church he attended, so he knew who she was.  Although she was indeed sixteen when she was discovered, she was eighteen before her first album was released.  Still, it was a remarkable beginning for a remarkable career–and it really did begin with a recording she made for her mother’s birthday.

The dream got better–but it wasn’t all good.

Her first album, released in 1977, was already on the shelves at the radio station when I got there, and every song on it was popular, but particularly memorable were Mountain Top, What A Difference You’ve Made, and the one that still got airplay after she had released several other albums, also covered by The Imperials, Old Man’s Rubble–as demonstrated by this live version done some years later.

Her second album, in 1979, was known for two things, the very popular title song Father’s Eyes, and the controversy about the third button.  That’s right, Christians were all up in arms because the now twenty-something college student and successful Christian singer had her blouse open to the third button in the cover photo on the back of the album jacket.  It was an excellent album (and really, I saw the photo before I knew there was a controversy, and it never occurred to me that there was anything wrong with it, being fresh out of college myself), with other great songs including Never Give You Up.

That title song was written by Gary Chapman, whom she married in 1982–the first of her two failed marriages, the second to country singer Vince Gill in 2000.  [Errata:  I had been told that Amy’s second marriage had also failed; that apparently was false gossip, as she is still married to Vince Gill.]  It was not all roses.  She has one child, daughter Sarah Chapman.

In 1980 she released Never Alone, a considerably less memorable entry but sporting titles like Look What Has Happened To Me and Don’t Give Up On Me.

It was also during these college years that Amy looked at the work she’d done and realized she had produced three albums that she wouldn’t own if they weren’t by someone she knew personally.  She talked to people, and sent word to Eddie DeGarmo and Dana Key that she wanted to collaborate with them on something.  They reportedly responded, “That Amy Grant?”  However, the outcome was the recording of Nobody Loves Me Like You on the Degarmo & Key LP This Ain’t Hollywood.

In 1981 she released two live albums, In Concert and In Concert Volume Two.  The songs were almost all remakes of familiar Amy Grant songs, but the second disc opened with I’m Gonna Fly, a bit more upbeat than most of her familiar hits.

Age to Age was released in 1982, and she continued to progress with the country-rock I Have Decided and the upbeat Sing Your Praise to the Lord (with the baroque intro), but perhaps the most significant song on the record was El Shaddai, about half of which is in Hebrew, which got heavy airplay and introduced songwriter and artist Michael Card, whose own recording of the song was released on his debut album at about the same time.

It is not at all surprising that Christian artists often release Christmas albums, and that Christian radio stations play them, but that most of them have very little to commend them–just retreads of familiar Christmas songs, often with secular holiday songs mixed in.  In 1983 Amy released her first such album–and it was a wonderful work of art, to this day my personal favorite Christmas album.  She sent us a “picture disk”–a vinyl record with the cover image embedded in the vinyl, in a jacket with a clear plastic front so that the picture showed through.  That wasn’t a lot of use at the station, so I still have it here at home.

The opener, Tennessee Christmas, is one of those songs which poses an enigma to Christian radio stations.  It is all about spending Christmas at home instead of somewhere else, but doesn’t mention Jesus or even God at all–just the love of family at home.  Yet it was co-written by Amy and then-husband Gary Chapman, and no one can say it doesn’t reflect Christian values.  Still, it ultimately is a holiday song, later to be covered by the band Alabama, and a pleasant start to the disc.

From there it moves into Hark the Herald Angels Sing, followed by the instrumental Preiset Dem Konig! (Praise the King!), which virtually segues into the rocky sequence of Emmanuel/Little Town/Christmas Hymn, the middle of those a completely new and upbeat version of O Little Town of Bethlehem for which my only complaint is that I would have liked for her to have included the entire third verse.

She follows this with the upbeat Love Has Come.  I am then disappointed by her inclusion of two secular holiday songs–Sleigh Ride and The Christmas Song.  Don’t misunderstand.  They are credibly done, but there is nothing particularly different or interesting about them, and they are on the list of songs that to me disrupt the spirit of the holiday.  She makes up for it, though, with another excellent creative original, Heirlooms, and then finishes the album with a medley of A Mighty Fortress and Angels We Have Heard On High.  The timing error on Fortress irks me, because my mind is trying to sing along and it omits the notes for a few words, but Angels is a fit and perhaps glorious ending for the work.

I’m pretty sure that her next album, Straight Ahead, passed through my fingers just before I left the station; I vaguely remember Thy Word, but nothing else about it is familiar other than the cover and the title.

Not long after that, Amy hit controversy again as it was announced she would be crossing over into the secular market.  I don’t know how successful that was, but a lot of her fans were upset about it.  On the other hand, the single that was released to the secular stations reportedly was about love and fidelity, and those were certainly Christian values.

Amy continued to release albums on Christian labels for decades after that.  She became the first Christian artist to win a Platinum record, and went on to win several more, making her the best selling Christian music artist to date.  The little girl who recorded a tape for her mother’s birthday has in some senses been the most successful Christian musician.

I heard her talking on the radio not too long ago.  She lives with her mother now, who is suffering from the mental afflictions of old age.  One day as Amy was headed toward the door with guitar case in hand, her mother said, “Where are you going?”

“I have a concert, Mom.”

“Oh, do you sing?”

“Yes, Mom, I sing.”

“Well, have fun.”

How sad is that?

*****

The series to this point has included:

  1. #232:  Larry Norman, Visitor;
  2. #234:  Flip Sides of Ralph Carmichael;
  3. #236:  Reign of the Imperials;
  4. #238:  Love Song by Love Song.
  5. #240:  Should Have Been a Friend of Paul Clark.
  6. #242:  Disciple Andraé Crouch.
  7. #244: Missed The Archers.
  8. #246: The Secular Radio Hits.
  9. #248:  The Hawkins Family.
  10. #250:  Original Worship Leader Ted Sandquist.
  11. #252:  Petra Means Rock.
  12. #254:  Miscellaneous Early Christian Bands.
  13. #256:  Harry Thomas’ Creations Come Alive.
  14. #258:  British Invaders Malcolm and Alwyn.
  15. #260:  Lamb and Jews for Jesus.
  16. #262: First Lady Honeytree of Jesus Music.
  17. #264:  How About Danny Taylor.
  18. #266:  Minstrel Barry McGuire.
  19. #268:  Voice of the Second Chapter of Acts.
  20. #272:  To the Bride Live.
  21. #276:  Best Guitarist Phil Keaggy.
  22. #281:  Keith Green Launching.
  23. #283:  Keith Green Crashing.
  24. #286:  Blind Seer Ken Medema.
  25. #288:  Prophets Daniel Amos.
  26. #290:  James the Other Ward.
  27. #292:  Rising Resurrection Band.
  28. #294:  Servant’s Waters.
  29. #296:  Found Free Lost.
  30. #299:  Praise for Dallas Holm.
  31. #302:  Might Be Truth and the Cleverly-named Re’Generation.

#303: A Nightmare Game World

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #303, on the subject of A Nightmare Game World.

I had a dream, a very strange dream, in which I was apparently trapped in a very strange world.  I think that if I ran this world in a game, people would be frightened, and so I’m calling it a nightmare–although oddly even when I was running for my life I wasn’t scared, just intrigued with the problems of trying to understand the world.  I’m going to blame Michael Garcia for some of this, because he just asked my opinion on a batch of documents that formed part of a world for his AD&D™ game set in a labyrinth with dimensional instabilities, but in fairness other than that there must have been dimensional instabilities in it, nothing in the dream came from him.  Yet I can see Eric Ashley running something like this as a Multiverser™ world, so I wanted to share it for the benefit of those referees looking for something really out there.

The basic setting is a modern warehouse-style department store, a sort of cross between BJ’s or Home Depot with the high racks of goods and Wal-mart with the many departments and clothing racks and linoleum floors and good lighting.  There seemed to have been a lot of people in the building, but it was not crowded, and often I was alone or with a few others.  I tacitly understood somehow that there was no exit, but that nobody actually lived here, as if they had all come to shop but then were trapped inside.  That in itself did not cause anyone to panic; it might be that they were not yet aware of the situation, as most were still shopping.

The first real oddity that caught my attention was in one corner of the store, where an aisle running from the front toward the back was lined with boxes that might have been games or kitchenware or something, there was a girl, probably young twenties, trying to set up something like a telescope–a big one, not Mount Palomar, but a couple body lengths with perhaps a four-foot diameter tube on a large base.  This apparently belonged to her father, who had set it up right here not long before, but had vanished, and for reasons not at all clear to me the device had been disassembled but was now being reassembled.  I came to understand through conversation that the telescope also had laser targeting devices which somehow managed to latch on to portals to other dimensions, maybe created wormholes or something, and the girl was certain that if she could get it working she could bring her father back.  O.K., shades of Howard the Duck.

Meanwhile, I concluded that there were dimensional rifts of some sort somewhere in the building.  My first clue to this was that a tyrannosaur came down the front aisle toward us, and we all had to run for our lives, abandoning the work on the telescope.  It’s kind of funny that whenever there is a breach to the Mesozoic era, it’s always a tyrannosaur that comes through, never small harmless herbivores, but then, they wouldn’t be so exciting.  I remember diving under a shelf unit to escape, and sometime in this I spotted what I took to be a shambling mound.  When I awoke I realized it looked nothing like a shambling mound, but rather appeared to be made of a mass of tangled bright green plastic ribbon about seven feet tall–but a shambling mound, I realized, made sense, since it’s entirely vegetative and so would be of no interest to the carnivorous tyrannosaur.

I can think of a lot of questions and directions for the player characters in such a world.  Can the professor actually be rescued using the telescope-like device?  If he is, does he know how to fix the dimensional instability so that the portals to other worlds can be closed and the doors to the natural world opened?  Is all of this a result of a botch with this device, and if there’s another botch, what’s likely to happen?  Is the equipment to fix the instability available in the store?  On a similar topic, does the store sell weapons, such as hunting rifles, and if so can they be accessed and made operational, and would they be effective against the invading creatures?  Can the panicking shoppers be organized into some kind of useful group, or are they just going to wind up bait for the monsters?

The biggest problem I see, from a Multiverser play perspective, is if the player character manages somehow to stabilize the building and open the doors so the people can egress to their homes, what does the referee do with the world beyond?  I find modern settings to be some of the most difficult to make interesting, myself, but then I know people who can do wild and crazy things with simple ideas.  I’d love to hear whether anyone does anything with this one.

#302: Might Be Truth and the Cleverly-Named Re’Generation

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #302, on the subject of Might Be Truth and the Cleverly-named Re’Generation.

When I was in college I heard a rumor about a band–I’m not sure you could characterize it quite that way, though.  I heard that there were these guys, one of whom traveled around the country listening to high school musicians and collecting a group of the best, the other then taking them, managing them as a band, taking them on tour, and finally producing an album.  Then after a year on the road they disbanded, presumably continued their educations, and the new crop of high school graduates took the stage.

I think that band was called Truth.

I have a couple reasons for thinking this.  In about 1974 I was given a pirated copy of several albums and a few extra songs which included an album by a band called Truth.  (Others were the debut albums from Love Song and Malcolm and Alwyn, and a live cut from Larry Norman.  I’m pretty sure that part of the point Jeff had in giving me the tape was to demonstrate that a brass section did not make a band better–I liked brass in my work.)  I remember very little of that album, but it was probably We Want to Love, We Want to Shine, because I specifically remember their versions of He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother and One Solitary Life (neither of which I can find online as videos).  Then I remember encountering a band called Truth at the radio station, a sort of MOR (that stands for Middle Of the Road, and is a technical term in the music industry) Contemporary vocal group with a bit of brass, but with entirely different vocalists from the album I knew.

I also heard a story, that every year Truth was a new band, until one year when they came to the end of the tour and made the record they looked at each other and said, why would we want to do something else?  So the band Truth stabilized into that group.  (I have no idea what happened to those poor high school graduates who had anticipated being part of a touring Christian band, but I got the story so poly-handed that it could be completely wrong.)

What I don’t remember, really, is any single song or album that they recorded during my time at the station other than that logo in the picture of that album cover.  I can tell you, though, that they did well-produced covers of popular Christian hits, toning down some of the rockier ones and spicing up some of the calmer ones to get a sound that could be played by most radio stations.  Unfortunately, it was apparently an easily forgotten sound.

I’m pairing them in this article with a band called Re’Generation, because what I remember about them is that they were very similar in sound to Truth.  The only other thing I remember about them is that Found Free teased about their sound in their song Individually Wrapped (“Should we change our style and sing just like Regen–?/Oh, one of us hot-dogs would surely wreck the blend.”).  Seriously, even looking over their online discography, I see no familiar album covers and no familiar titles beyond that they are mostly covers of songs known from elsewhere.  They produced twenty-some albums over a decade, and were as I recall good at what they did, but nothing from them is remembered as remarkable.

*****

The series to this point has included:

  1. #232:  Larry Norman, Visitor;
  2. #234:  Flip Sides of Ralph Carmichael;
  3. #236:  Reign of the Imperials;
  4. #238:  Love Song by Love Song.
  5. #240:  Should Have Been a Friend of Paul Clark.
  6. #242:  Disciple Andraé Crouch.
  7. #244: Missed The Archers.
  8. #246: The Secular Radio Hits.
  9. #248:  The Hawkins Family.
  10. #250:  Original Worship Leader Ted Sandquist.
  11. #252:  Petra Means Rock.
  12. #254:  Miscellaneous Early Christian Bands.
  13. #256:  Harry Thomas’ Creations Come Alive.
  14. #258:  British Invaders Malcolm and Alwyn.
  15. #260:  Lamb and Jews for Jesus.
  16. #262: First Lady Honeytree of Jesus Music.
  17. #264:  How About Danny Taylor.
  18. #266:  Minstrel Barry McGuire.
  19. #268:  Voice of the Second Chapter of Acts.
  20. #272:  To the Bride Live.
  21. #276:  Best Guitarist Phil Keaggy.
  22. #281:  Keith Green Launching.
  23. #283:  Keith Green Crashing.
  24. #286:  Blind Seer Ken Medema.
  25. #288:  Prophets Daniel Amos.
  26. #290:  James the Other Ward.
  27. #292:  Rising Resurrection Band.
  28. #294:  Servant’s Waters.
  29. #296:  Found Free Lost.
  30. #299:  Praise for Dallas Holm.

#301: The Song “Holocaust”

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #301, on the subject of The Song “Holocaust”.

On my recent trip to Nashville for The Objective Session it was recommended to me that I start my own publishing company, and so publish my own songs.

That would be excellent advice for anyone with a knack for business.  I have more than once proven than I have no such ability, and so I will add that to the list of good advice I hopefully wisely did not take.

However, I am going to publish my songs, so consider me self-published.

The plan is this:  I have mostly poor recordings of perhaps sixty of the hundreds of songs I have composed over the decades.  In anticipation of the aforementioned Objective Session I selected thirty-some of these for consideration in inclusion in a package of materials to be submitted to Nashville professionals, and ultimately gave them copies of the top three.  I am now going to give those songs to you, my readers/fans, beginning with those same three, continuing through the list of thirty-some others, and adding a few that I have since been told ought to have been included.

There are other songs that ought to have been recorded which never were, or which were long ago on tapes no longer in existence.  If there is enough support through the Patreon and PayPal me links (at the top of the page) I’ll obtain new recording software and work on laying tracks for some of them.  (The old software, Record Producer Plus, was actually rather good, but Turtle Beach decided not to support it when I attempted to reinstall it after a computer crash, so I recommend avoiding anything from them because they are unreliable in terms of future support for older products.)

In compiling this list, I went through all my recordings and eliminated a few for specific reasons–a couple of them because they are part of a nearly finished opera from which very few songs have been recorded (I will remedy that if I get the software), a few because the recordings I have of them are more severely flawed than I can reasonably permit myself to release publicly (although with the caveat that some of the recordings I am releasing are seriously flawed).  I used a pocket digital recorder to record, live with an acoustic guitar, a few more songs I thought should be included which I could manage that way.  I then made two copies of the list of songs I had compiled, one listing them in what it my opinion were best to worst songs, music and lyrics, the other listing them in what in my opinion were best to worst recordings, performance and technical.  I averaged these and also asked a bunch of people (family, mostly) to comment on the list, and one, my son Tristan, responded, selecting eighteen of the songs which he thought definitely should be included, divided into the four best, the next four, the next four, the next two, and the final four.  I averaged his opinion in with mine, and that gave me the list I am using.

The first song on his list was the first song on my list of best songs, although it was only fifth on the list of quality of recordings.  It is entitled

Holocaust.

I suppose it makes sense that the song both I and my third son list as the best would already have appeared on the web.  My wife included part of the lyrics on a site (a long time ago, one of the GeoCities web sites), and I put the lyrics up in a section of this site dedicated to the songs of a defunct late 90s band called Cardiac Output (who never actually did the song, although TerraNova did back in the mid 80s), and also gave a rather detailed recollection of the process of composing it in connection with the history of the band Collision.

It may be the most powerful and is probably the most poetic of my songs (which I must again mention is co-written with my wife Janet Young and our friend Robert Leo Weston) despite its frequent disregard of rhyme and meter.  Its double meaning metaphor carries through the sung portion of the song and is cemented with the spoken poem at the end.  It was written as a duet, and in the places where both voices are singing each is regarded its own melody, neither a harmony of the other.

This recording was made using Record Producer Plus with a Soundblaster sound card; the instruments are all programmed midis, and I sang both voices.  Here are the words:

Reality has come over me as I slip away from myself.
The people I know can’t tell the truth,
And I don’t think I even care.
I can see the face of a thousand people passing by on a train.
The silence of a world as they pass on by still resounds in my brain.

Shed a tear (shed a tear) for all the earth (for all the earth),
For she has closed her eyes to all the pain!
What will you do when it comes to you?
Will you run or will you hide?
I can hear the screaming–

Lambs to the slaughter, they open not their mouth.
A sacrifice displeasing to their God
(The innocent must die).
Smoke is rising from eternal fire.
The one we would expect
Would be there to protect
Now breaks his vow and deals the fatal blow.

Shed a tear (shed a tear) for all the earth (for all the earth),
For she has closed her eyes to all the pain!
What will you do when it comes to you?
Will you run or will you hide?
I can hear the screaming–

I was dumb when they took my neighbor
(I hear those footsteps getting closer),
Held my tongue when they took my friend
(Oh, my heart, no need to be afraid).
I was still when they took my brother
(They’ll never take me).
Who will speak up for me?

The sacred dream is ended in the silent scream!
The breath of life is stifled by the surgeon’s knife!

A holocaust inevitably comes
To those who place themselves too high,
To those who teach themselves the lie
That life and death is in their hand–

Mere men!  Too small to understand
The truth, the value of one soul.
And so their wisdom takes its toll
In infants shattered on the rock–

Such pain!  And yet it does not shock
Our hardened hearts, our souls of ash–
We throw their bodies in the trash
And tell ourselves, it’s for the best.

And that is how we treat the rest–
The useless crippled, and the old.
With every death our heart grows cold
‘Til someone puts us in our tomb.

The gift of God comes in a maiden’s womb.

I can only hope you benefit from the song in some way.  I will continue with additional songs in the future.