All posts by M.J.

#290: James the Other Ward

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #290, on the subject of James the Other Ward.

I have several times asked myself why I listed James Ward for an article of his own, instead of grouping him with the batch of male vocalists in one article still to come.  Part of the answer, I think, is that my cousin the Reverend Peter Grosso would probably kill me if I overlooked or minimized this artist who is, I understand, a friend of his, but part of it is that his Mourning to Dancing album is among my favorites, so he has at least earned that much from me.  I also heard him live once, but that’s part of the story.

One of three known covers of Ward’s Mourning to Dancing LP

It is of course not uncommon for persons with the same surnames to be unrelated, and although James Ward has the same name as Matthew Ward of Second Chapter of Acts, same as the maiden names of Matthew’s two sisters Annie Herring and Nellie Greisen from that same band, it does not appear that they are related; at least, no one ever suggested this, and in the entertainment world you usually do hear about such connections.  The Ward family of Acts appears to have been west-coast based, while James was on the east coast.  I know this because Peter, my cousin, apparently knew him through a New York state area summer camp called Peniel.  Sometime, possibly when I was still in high school (graduated in ’73), certainly before I got to Gordon (started in ’75), he was waving an album in front of me and raving about it–as “raving” as my soft-spoken older Presbyterian cousin ever raved.  Somehow, I don’t think he played any of it for me, and I can’t tell you anything about the sound, but my recollection of the cover was that it was that of a low-budget self-produced release, and in perhaps my own youthful hubris I was not impressed.

When I was at Gordon College, Peter was at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary right up the road (the official connections between the two schools were finally and formally dissolved during my first year there), and when Ward played in our cafeteria (we had no auditorium, and the chapel wasn’t large enough to hold the entire student body) with his band Elán, Peter came.  After the concert, Peter wept.

I, a musician in my own mind, found the concert interesting and enjoyable.  Elán was an avant-garde jazz band that did a lot of atonal and non-metered instrumental music.  They were very good at it.  I don’t know that I would have bought an album had they offered one, but it was the sort of music a composer should hear at least once so he has some idea of what’s beyond the traditional boundaries of music.

Peter was a pastor, in training, and his memories of the performances of James Ward were that they ministered.  Elán did not minister; they performed, and they talked about how they achieved some of the effects, like a song that really was a musical version of an impressionist painting of a sunrise.  For Peter, every good thing about a James Ward concert was lost.

Perhaps half a decade later, when Mourning to Dancing was released, Ward commented in an interview that people “didn’t understand” Elán.  I thought at the time that he was wrong, at least that in relation to his earier fans–such as Peter–it wasn’t about whether or not they understood the music, but that they missed the ministry.  I once sat on the edge of a conversation between some listener who had opinions about the nature of music (possibly reflecting Francis Schaeffer’s work) and some Christian musician who had grown up in church (and it may actually have been Ward after that concert) in which the musician was attempting to elicit from the listener an explanation of what made particular kinds of music “Christian” or “not Christian”.  As a composer, I am inclined to agree with the musician:  if modernist tonalities communicate what I want to say, they are Christian to the degree that I am communicating a Christian messsage through them.  However, if I have placed this conversation correctly in my memory, both parties were missing that critical element:  it isn’t whether the music fits a particular style or mold, but whether it is communicating a worthwhile message.  Pendereki’s Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima is one of the most discordant atonal non-metered pieces ever written, but it communicates something significant.  There is no particular reason why avant-garde jazz could not be a medium for a Christian message.  The problem with Elán was that it wasn’t.

Peter and I never talked about Ward again.  He left Gordon-Conwell for a pastorate in Pennsylvania, and I became a Christian disk jockey in southern New Jersey.  Thereafter we were rarely at the same family gatherings, and the matter never arose.  However, I received Ward’s Mourning to Dancing album at the radio station, and the spare copy went into my collection and was much enjoyed here.  It is the kind of album that has no losers on it, and which is best heard straight through.  From the opening strains of Highway (reminiscent of the the Elán days until the verse shifts into light rock), the album gives insights into the life of an on-the-road Christian musician along with solid Christian songs such as Hold Up My Hands (no online video found), Who Can Separate Us (again, no video found), and then the mellow title song Mourning to Dancing.  The “B” side began with another glimpse into the life of the musician, Late At Night Again (again, no video), and the intriguing Holy Observer (need I say it?), then Gotta Get Home (“…to her own bedroom….”) (again), in which the life on the road includes that he traveled with his wife and young daughter.  The bouncing Precious Is Your Mercy follows, and I am really disappointed at just how many of these are not available online, but the final song, the wonderful So His Honor, was covered by the band Truth in this recording.

I find myself very confused as to why I recognize the cover of his next album Faith Takes a Vision, but none of the titles are familiar and the music is barely so, despite being very good.  Maybe it was just that I didn’t get a copy so it slipped into forgetfulness.  Listening to the vaguely familiar Not How, Maybe I’ll Trust You Now, Take Hold, Don’t Blame It On My God, and others, I can’t help feeling that I missed something good.

Those were the only albums I heard; I wish I had heard the one Peter had, which does not appear in online discographies, although I don’t know the title and barely remember the cover.

I feel I should mention that Ward’s talents lie in his musical compositions and lyrical content.  His piano work and arrangements are always solid.  His voice, though, is unique, and it would be easy to fault him there.  He does his own backup vocals quite well, but it would be difficult to imagine someone else blending with him.  He is in the category of singer-songwriters carried by the strength of their songs rather than their singing.  That’s not, from me, a criticism.  I just sometimes notice the flaws in his voice, as one does often with other popular singer-songwriters.  I like it overall; it’s expressive.  It certainly is not operatic, and probably wouldn’t win any television competitions.  Yet it makes for comfortable listening.

*****

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

#289: Stifling Lozman’s Protected Speech

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #289, on the subject of Stifling Lozman’s Protected Speech.

From one perspective, the most interesting thing about Fane Lozman’s recent victory at the United States Supreme Court is that it is the second time this ordinary citizen has taken a case to that court, and the second time he has won.  It really does happen in these United States, although in fairness he solicited aid from a law school and a group of pro bono attorneys.

The reason it is of interest to us is that this second win is an Amendment I Freedom of Expression case, a subject we follow with some interest.

The previous case is only of passing interest to us, more as background to the second.  Lozman built a floating house, which he had towed to various places until he docked it at a marina in Riviera Beach, in Palm Beach County, Florida.  The city wanted to exercise eminent domain over the marina to seize it, tear it down, and put it in the hands of a commercial developer.  Lozman objected, and brought a lawsuit against the city for improper procedure when they attempted to pass the measure a day before a Florida state law went into effect making such use of eminent domain illegal.  He won that suit.  However, while he was involved in this, the city declared that his house was a “vessel” under maritime law, and seized it.  Lozman fought this, stating that his house was not a “vessel” under the definitions provided in the law, and therefore not subject to seizure under that law.  In Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach, Florida, 568 U.S. 115 (2013), the Supreme Court agreed.  The house was not designed to be a mode of transportation, and for this and several lesser reasons the court concluded 7 to 2 (Sotameyer and Kennedy dissenting) that maritime jurisdiction was inappropriate, and the city owed Lozman a lot of money to replace his home.

In the midst of these battles, Lozman showed up at a City Council meeting, and during the public comments time stepped forward and began calmly talking about political corruption.  It is said that he spoke for about fifteen seconds when one of the Councilmen instructed the police officer who was present for the purpose of maintaining order to remove him from the room.  He was handcuffed and charged, but the charges were dropped.  However, he filed suit claiming that his Amendment I right to free speech was violated.

In Fane Lozman, Petitioner v. City of Riviera Beach Florida, 585 U.S. ___ (2018), the Supreme court in an 8 to 1 decision said that it was–but noted that there were special circumstances that made it so.

At the head of those special circumstances, Lozman had presented evidence to the effect that the City Council had previously adopted an official policy of intimidation against him and others who had spoken out against them, and asserted that his arrest was executing that policy.  The evidence included a transcript of a closed Council meeting in which Councilmember Elizabeth Wade suggested that the city use its resources to “intimidate” Lozman and others who had filed lawsuits against the city.  At a later point in the meeting, one of the other councilmembers asked whether there was “a consensus of what Ms. Wade is saying,” and this was affirmed by others present.  Lozman asserts that these remarks formed an official plan to intimidate him.

The lower courts held that because there was probable cause to arrest Lozman at the meeting (on the very minor charge that he did not stop speaking when asked to do so, and thus was considered disruptive to the meeting) he could not claim the arrest was retaliatory.  However, the Supreme Court decided that if a jury might believe that the closed door meeting comments created an official policy of retaliation, and if the arrest at the later meeting was an implementation of that policy, Lozman would prevail.

It does not mean that all cases in which people are arrested for trying to speak at public meetings and so disrupting the meeting involve violations of Amendment I free speech rights, but only those in which there is evidence that the arrest is part of a government policy of intimidation against the person arrested.

Justice Thomas dissents, stating that the rule propounded by the majority is too convoluted and might never apply in any case including the present one, and that the previous rule in essence said that if probable cause was present no case for retaliatory arrest could stand, even if it involved freedom of speech.

Justice Thomas is right:  it is a bad decision.  It allows governments to harrass citizens exercizing their freedom of speech at meetings as long as there isn’t a paper trail suggesting that they agreed to do this.  Lozman probably wins (and I think that when Justice Kennedy writes that a reasonable juror would have to be able to believe that the statements at the closed meeting created a policy and that the action at the open meeting implemented it he believes that they would) because the idea of intimidating him was discussed on the record at a meeting.  If the Committeemembers had discussed this at a coffeeshop or cocktail party and agreed informally to do this, he would have no case–but his rights would have been just as impinged.

.

Meanwhile, the dissent’s probable cause test is worse.  I once was discussing a law that deprived anyone who had been convicted of a felony of certain rights, and commented that felonies were generally rather serious crimes.  I was informed that legislatures had taken to defining more and more crimes of lesser and lesser severity as “felonies” in order to enforce stricter penalties against them.  In the present case, it seems initially Lozman did not believe there was probable cause for an arrest, and there was some doubt as to whether there was probable cause for the charges initially brought.  He was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest without violence–the former because he stepped up to the podium to raise issues at a public meeting, the latter because he refused to relinquish the podium when asked.  The District Court found that as a matter of law there was insufficient evidence to support probable cause for either of those charges.  However, the city dug up another statute prohibiting interruptions or disturbances in schools, churches, or other public assemblies–a charge never mentioned prior to the trial–and maintained that there was probable cause to arrest Lozman on that charge; Lozman conceded that there was probable cause for that.  That, though, shows that if the authorities want to arrest someone, they can probably find probable cause to do so if they look hard enough.

What was needed was a looser rule, one that permitted evidence of a pattern of intimidation to stand as proof of an intention of intimidation.  Lozman’s case adduced many incidents of arbitrary official actions taken against him; the stifling of his right to speak at the public meeting was the most egregious because it impinged his Amendment I freedom of speech.

The claim that Lozman’s speech was off-topic was insupportable.  In the first fifteen seconds he spoke of two government officials in other jurisdictions that were arrested for corruption.  That could be the preamble to any of a dozen on-topic speeches.  For the committee to have claimed he was speaking about something outside the parameters of the meeting is not defensible.

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Congratulations to Lozman for winning twice at the Supreme Court (and winning several lower court cases along the way).  However, this decision is going to have to be modified by future ones before it is at all useful in the defense of free speech.

#288: Prophets Daniel Amos

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #288, on the subject of Prophets Daniel Amos.

When I arrived at the radio station and first encountered the self-titled 1976 debut album from Daniel Amos, my reaction was, why have I never heard of these guys?

Not that they were the top of my list of favorites then.  They were the sort of southern country rock typified by The Eagles, and I have always joked that The Eagles were a country band (because they rank among my wife’s favorite rock bands, and she declares vehemently that she hates country music).

On review, I remember The Bible.  However, the song that sticks with me, the one that decades later I still sing sometimes when I’m driving in the car, is the nineteen-forties jazz-styled novelty Skeptic’s Song.

I never heard the follow-up Shotgun Angel, but they moved away from the southern fried rock sound with Horrendous Disk, an album I think I never heard because the program director decided it was too extreme for our format at the time.  I do remember seeing it, but that isn’t much help.

I’m not sure whether they were influenced by Mark Heard (we’ll get to him eventually) or whether they were reaching the same conclusions independently, but their next album was something called ¡Alarma!, volume one of three in The ¡Alarma! Chronicles.  The songs were Alternative Rock and New Wave, the target audience the secular listeners of Europe.  It was set up as something of a rock opera type album, and its liner notes went for enough pages almost to qualify as a novella, telling the first part of a story which had me lost and confused.  I more vaguely remember the second volume, Doppelganger, and am sure I was out of the station before Vox Humana was released.

I’m guessing that it must have worked somewhere, because they not only managed to release all three volumes (albeit on three different labels), they continued releasing albums in spits and spurts up through last year’s Ten Biggies From Beyond.  I was impressed by the quality and direction of their work, even though very little of it actually appealed to me.

*****

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.

#287: They Can’t Take Your Car

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #287, on the subject of They Can’t Take Your Car.

I think most of us became aware of the criminal civil forfeiture rules from the original Miami Vice television series.  The narcotics division seemed to have an unbelievable budget, covering expensive sports cars, helicopters, mansions, and so much more.  What we learned was that the State of Florida had a law that permitted the seizure from criminals of any property used to facilitate the commission of a crime, and so our star detectives were outfitted and equipped with everything that had belonged to the major drug dealers they had arrested.  The program worked so well, about half the states in the Union adopted a similar program, enabling them to fund ongoing law enforcement operations from seized cash and property taken from those successfully convicted.

The programs work so well, they are often used against minor offenders, that is, persons committing minor offenses, when there is valuable or useful property coveted by local law enforcement officers.  The United States Supreme Court has now dealt that practice a significant setback, although it has not entirely eliminated it.

The case is Tyson Timbs v. Indiana, 586 U.S. ____ (2019).

Having pled guilty to dealing in a controlled substance and conspiracy to commit theft, Timbs was sentenced to one year home detention and five years probation including a court-supervised addiction treatment program.  He was also ordered to pay fines and court costs totaling one thousand two hundred three dollars ($1203.00).  However, at the time of his arrest he was driving a Land Rover sport utility vehicle which he had purchased for forty-two thousand dollars ($42,000.00); it was established as a fact that the money for the SUV came from a life insurance policy payout upon the death of his father, and not from any criminal enterprise.  Asserting that the vehicle had been used to transport heroin, the state filed a claim for forfeiture in civil court.

The trial court denied the claim.  It observed that the maximum fine assessible against Timbs for the crimes for which he was convicted was ten thousand dollars ($10,000.00), and the value of the vehicle was over four times that amount not long before it was seized.  Citing the VIII Amendment prohibition against excessive fines (appropriately dubbed the Excessive Fines Clause), it maintained that such a forfeiture was a penalty disproportionate to the crime, and thus unconstitutional.

The Court of Appeals of Indiana agreed, but the Indiana Supreme Court reversed, stating that the Excessive Fines Clause did not apply to the states.

Justice Ginsberg wrote that the Indiana court was wrong.  The entire court agreed with that decision, although Justice Thomas wrote a concurring opinion reaching the same conclusion on a different basis and Justice Gorsuch wrote a concurring opinion noting that Thomas might be correct.

As originally passed, the Bill of Rights applied only to the Federal Government.  The passage of the XIV Amendment following the Civil War has been understood to cause nearly all the rights protected in it to apply equally against the States, with very few exceptions.  (The one exception noted by Ginsburg is the requirement that jury decisions must be unanimous, which apparently does not apply to the state courts.)  Ginsberg argues that the protection against unreasonable fines, like other VIII amendment protections such as excessive bail and cruel and unusual punishment, is “fundamental to our scheme of ordered liberty”, and thus applies as they do.

Justice Gorsuch agrees, with the quibble that it perhaps is not the Due Process clause of the XIV amendment but that amendment’s Privileges or Immunities clause that brings the VIII amendment to bear against the states, but agrees that this is not a significant matter in the present case.  That quibble is the basis of Justice Thomas’ concurrence.  He maintains that the concept of “due process” has been stretched beyond any reference to any process due to the citizen to cover exactly those privileges and immunities that were intended to have been covered by the other clause.

The bulk of both the majority opinion and Thomas’ concurrence consists of the history of the right against excessive fines, ranging from Magna Carta through the post Civil War passage of the XIV amendment, and is informative and interesting but not otherwise of consequence here.

The question, then, is what does the decision mean?

It does not mean that asset forfeiture has been swept away in all cases.  Rather, it means that the Indiana trial court was right:  the value of objects seized by law enforcement must be reasonable to the nature of the crime and the assets of the criminal.  Had Timbs transported the heroin in a three thousand dollar used car on which he was paying installments, we would not be having this discussion.  It remains to be seen whether Miami’s narcotics division will be able to argue that the nature of the crimes and the assets of the criminals in their war against drugs are high enough to justify seizing those assets for use in the fight, but they will have to be prepared to make that argument the next time they seize such assets.  The temptation for governments to fund their operations through fines rather than taxes has been dealt a setback, a limitation to which abused citizens can appeal in the future.  The protection of citizens against arbitrary seizure of property has been reinforced.

#286: Blind Seer Ken Medema

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #286, on the subject of Blind Seer Ken Medema.

I had heard of Ken Medema, and even heard one or two of his recordings.  He was the Christian version of the blind piano player singer-songwriter, and was a dynamic performer by all accounts.  It was said that when you spoke with him personally, his sense of space was so good that he appeared to be looking directly at your eyes.

When his best of collection, Ken Medema’s Finest…Lookin’ Back, reached us at the radio station around 1980, I recognized at least two of the songs.  One, which closes the collection, was the title song of his debut album, Sonshiny Day (yes, there is a pun in the spelling).  It was what we would have called Contemporary MOR–a technical term in the industry for “Middle of the Road”, the stuff of adult contemporary radio stations and inspirational radio in Christian circles.  It was strongly jazz influenced, but without being Jazz, and his piano playing was always as good as anyone.

The other familiar song is probably his signature piece, the one known by most people who have ever heard anything by him, although it is almost more a dramatic performance than a song.  I’ve seen someone do interpretive dance to Moses, and although I don’t think I could ever do the entire song, I find myself singing fragments of it from time to time.  It is one of those songs you really should hear at least once in your life.

We later received a quiet relaxing solo album, mostly just Ken, his voice and his piano, entitled Sunday Afternoon.  I found a discography for it on his own site, but nowhere else, and I find no videos of the songs I remember–particularly the title song which opens and closes the album (“I know the feeling will not last, ’cause Monday’s comin’ soon, and How can I hang on after Sunday’s gone, how can I hang on to Sunday afternoon?”), and the dynamic On Jordan’s Stormy Banks (“…I stand and cast a mournful eye to Canaan’s fair and distant land where I shall never die.”)  It is a wonderfully relaxing recording throughout.  It ranks among my favorite quiet albums.

Born December 7, 1943, he is reportedly still here and still performing.

*****

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.

#285: An Expression of Gratitude

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #285, on the subject of An Expression of Gratitude.

I need to thank a lot of people.

The complications include that I do not know who you all are, and I’m not sure of the propriety either of naming those whose names I have or contacting you personally.

Thus I am thanking you all, however many of you there are, through this web log post.

This arises from the fact that I recently had a myocardial infarction–a heart attack–which put me in the hospital.  I posted that in this Facebook post, and somewhere about twenty responses down I posted again with news of the Friday and Monday procedures, and my Tuesday discharge and such.

Many of you sent what I guess would be called “good wishes”, that is, comments, messages, whatever, hoping that I would get better.  Thank you.  I have done so to a significant degree, although I am still a bit weak and officially convalescing (and my wife has already scolded me for overworking once she knew how much I did yesterday, the day after my discharge, but someone had to get the boys to work and someone had to pick up my prescriptions, and more often than not I find that someone is me, particularly when she is working a string of night shifts, driving herself for the first time since her broken hip, and needing to sleep during the day).  So I am not fully recovered, but I am back at work.

Many of you prayed, and for this I am particularly grateful.  You have, of course, obligated me to let you know about the answers to your prayers so that many of you can give thanks to God for the grace extended through the prayers of many of you (cf. II Corinthians 1:11).  I have largely done that in the Facebook post.  I am not out of the woods entirely–I have a bag of new medications (and of all things the pharmacy couldn’t fill the “aspirin” prescription (chewable baby aspirin–how could they not have that?), so someone has to go back for it today), and I have two appointments for a cardiac stress test and a followup to decide what the test results mean.  Those are in the second week of March.

At least two of you made a point of spreading the word of my debilitation, and of encouraging people who at least know who I am to support me financially during this time.  That has resulted in a few gifts of significant amounts through my PayPal.me account–the first real activity there since it opened, and enough to pay for this bag of prescriptions and a bit more.  I have not seen any new Patreon patrons yet, but Patreon’s notification system is sometimes wonky so I’m going to include mention of that–because I am grateful to those of you who have made an effort to keep me going, and thankful to God that you are there, to those who contributed and to those who encouraged others to do so.

I’ll extend these thanks to those who have been meaning to send a bit of help my direction and simply haven’t yet done so; I know what that’s like, as there are often times when I have something I need to do soon that goes for days or weeks or even months before I manage it.  So thank you for the prayers and support you are going to send in the future.  You really do make a difference.

As the picture says, thank you.

#284: Versers React

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #284, on the subject of Versers React.

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 fourth mark Joseph “young” web log post covering this book, covering chapters 37 through 48.  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 37, Brown 166

This came together in my mind in several pieces.  I had created the notion that there were bandit raiders on the eastern border, and decided that the nation beyond the eastern wilderness supported them, hoping to wear down the Caliph’s defenses in preparation for conquest.  That would be the major event in the next book, and the new James Beam character would land on the other side of that war.  Kyler and I had also talked about having the efriit working with that country, and connecting Beam to the efriit before he arrived in this world.

In contemplating what would happen in this Brown chapter, I had begun with the idea that Derek would attend the briefing, but then I wanted something with a bit more tension, and I decided that the Caliph wasn’t going to tell Slade everything.  That meant I had to have something the Caliph wouldn’t tell, and I had to have some way for Slade’s people to learn it and know it had been known.  I recalled that Derek had clairaudience and could listen to a distant conversation, but then I remembered, too, that he had used the sensory presence ability to explore the human city in For Better or Verse, and that would give me more impact.

At some point I had also decided that the Caliph and his people would not expect any of Slade’s people to speak Arabic or Farsi, but that Derek had studied both as a spy in Spy Verses and had never used them.  I had decided he would overhear a conversation in one of those languages, and not reveal that he understood it, so I incorporated that here.  It also enabled me to limit what he understood.

The creature that is named that he does not understand is a dragon, but the point is that it is not as big as a dragon.  I have a number of elemental fire spirits listed somewhere, but it won’t be necessary to give them names at this point.

The burns are dreadful, and make for a compelling scene, and also perhaps explain why the Caliph wouldn’t mention them.


Chapter 38, Kondor 143

I had originally envisioned the briefing as being seen through Kondor’s eyes, but now I had a new wrinkle with Derek’s contribution, and brought Slade’s perspective into it.  They would be preparing for their mission in their next chapter.


Chapter 39, Beam 10

It had been two months since Kyler had written anything, and I was getting antsy.  I discussed it with him, and he said it wasn’t coalescing into chapters and he didn’t know when it would, so I should go ahead and write it.  I immediately produced this chapter.

Along the way we had discussed the plot ahead, and put together quite a bit of what he thought should happen, all of which I had puzzled into an outline.  Of this chapter, I had written “I see two threads here, one following the murder of the reeve, in which the king sends troops and the situation escalates as Beam and Dawn take out the troops, leading to an ongoing stalemate; the other in which Beam starts learning to be a blacksmith.”  I chose to follow the blacksmithing thread first, and was considering whether to stretch the response of the king another chapter.


Chapter 40, Hastings 147

I dreaded writing this chapter for a while, because I was moving into unfamiliar territory–not that I didn’t know how Lauren would react, but that I wasn’t certain how her female fans would feel about this.


Chapter 41, Slade 142

When I diverted from the last Kondor chapter to write the Hastings chapter, I made a note for myself that read “Next Slade chapter focus on his anticipation and excitement.”  As I came to the chapter, I realized I also had to move the story forward and get them on the edge of action.  That meant breezing through a lot of preparation, and not spending too much time on introspection.


Chapter 42, Brown 167

It took me several days and a consultation with Kyler to finish this chapter.  I early worked out that Derek had to see something, and that the best shot was that he would see charred patches from the fire beast; from there I needed him to talk with Kondor, and that reminded me that he had never contacted Kondor telepathically but had read his mind, so I could use that.  I was having trouble making it gel, though, until Kyler suggested that the burned patches were attacks on villages.  There wouldn’t be villages in the wilderness, I thought, but there would be herdsmen with goats, moving their camps around.  From there it was figuring out what kind of pattern Derek might see that would be informative to Joe, and that came together as I thought about it.


Chapter 43, Beam 11

The outline entry for this chapter originally read “At some point Beam has to become aware of Bron’s meager magical abilities.  We’ll need to give him a few useful skills.”  Since I had not launched the conflict with the king in Beam 10 I did so here.

I had some trouble thinking of what sort of spell Beam would see Bron using, and had given consideration to one that enabled him to put a sharper edge on an axe.  Kyler suggested that Bron would be blessing his hammer before use.  At first I thought this not a good choice, because he would have been doing it all along and Beam would have seen it quite early, but then I decided that just because Beam saw it didn’t mean he would have asked about it immediately.


Chapter 44, Hastings 148

I thought about this for a day or so.  I had intended it to focus on the question of putting Lauren in restraints, to set up the next scene, but it had to begin with the doctor asking about the attack.  It also seemed necessary to suggest Lauren was a bit rattled by the attack, despite her success at repelling it.  She should begin to see her vulnerability here.


Chapter 45, Kondor 144

The decision to break camp and follow Derek was abrupt, and cut the chapter short–so short, in fact, that I decided I needed more to happen, and brought in the second message from Derek.


Chapter 46, Slade 143

I pondered this chapter for a couple days.  Fairly early I decided that it should tell of the travel retrospectively, and that they should be camping about a mile from the wadi but still not know where the camp was.  Most of the strategic issues were developed as I ran the conversation, figuring out the issues as I went, and abruptly I hit upon a solution that Derek could suggest, but I didn’t want him to have it all together as quickly as I did or it would look too simple, so he’s thinking about it.

I also rather abruptly decided that Zeke should propose the watch arrangements, and constructed them on the fly.  However, I made a mistake in having him say everyone got six hours of sleep because he only got four, so I went back to fix it.


Chapter 47, Beam 12

The original outline for this chapter read “We have to move into the princess story, and it’s going to take a chapter to transition to the beginning of it.  Since Beam isn’t going to volunteer, the king is going to have to send a delegation seeking his help, probably offering pardon for all crimes.”  Unfortunately, I had not yet resolved the matter of the rebellion against the king, and I wasn’t sure how to handle it all.  I’m still not completely certain, but I think there won’t be a fight this time, because I need to get to the rescue of the princesses.


Chapter 48, Hastings 149

I came at this awkwardly, because the previous chapter meeting with the doctor was very good and I didn’t know what else I could do.  I invented the Philman Act to suggest that there were things Lauren didn’t know about this world.  I’ve a rough notion that it is a law giving rape victims some benefits or rights, but at present don’t need more information than that.


This has been the fourth 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.

#283: Keith Green Crashing

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #283, on the subject of Keith Green Crashing.

As we already covered (in web log post #281:  Keith Green Launching, linked below), Keith Green had two excellent and successful Christian albums without a weak song on them.  Now he produced So You Wanna Go Back to Egypt, of which the somewhat goofy title song was an instant hit.  There were several other excellent songs on this album as well, such as Pledge My Head to Heaven, Oh Lord, You’re Beautiful, and Grace By Which I Stand.  However, whether it was because they weren’t quite as good or because by the early eighties the Christian music field was starting to get more crowded, it was not the music on this album that made it significant.

When Keith delivered the masters to his company Sparrow Records, he told them he did not want them to sell it–he wanted it to be given away, to anyone who requested it, for whatever they chose to give, even if it was nothing at all.  He thought it more important to get the music into the ears of people than to worry about paying bills, and was confident that the contributions would cover all the costs of the record.

Sparrow didn’t see it quite the same way.  They were certain that donations would cover the costs of Keith’s record, but that’s not how the music industry worked, even in the Christian field.  The problem wasn’t whether those donations would cover the costs of distributing Keith’s record but whether there would be what we would call profits–a dirty word for some, but an essential facet of the way the system worked.  You see, when Keith made his first album, Sparrow Records took a chance, advancing a considerable sum of money to pay for professional level production of an album by an unknown artist which might be completely lost.  Sparrow was still in the business of finding and funding new artists, paid for from the profits from the established artists, and a new album from Keith Green was a guaranteed best seller which would provide a lot of money for that purpose.  Keith was taking that away from them, on the grounds that he thought he should be able to give away his record free if he paid them the cost of producing it.

A compromise was reached.  In the United States, Egypt was released by Pretty Good Records; Sparrow handed the standard distribution channels–record stores, radio promotion–and all overseas releases.  Keith and and his wife Melody set up an organization to mail copies to anyone who wrote to them requesting one, putting the donations toward costs and future recordings.  In a sense, he had cut himself off from helping any other Christian artists; in another sense, he had focused his ministry on reaching the listeners.

Two years later he released Songs for the Shepherd, which was a good but not remarkable recording, again through Pretty Good Records with Sparrow’s assistance.  Several other Keith Green albums would be released in the years to come, but this was the last one he would see.  That year, 1982, he had visitors at the ranch where they ran everything, and wanting to show them all they were doing he took them up in his private airplane.  The plane was already heavily loaded with records and literature that went to concerts with him, and the number of passengers exceeded recommendations, and it crashed killing all on board.  Melody was not on that plane.

Many in the Christian music world were upset; many said that apparently God had decided to take Keith home.  That was not the unanimous opinion.  At least one Evangelical author at the time wrote to say that Keith died because he broke God’s law–in this case, God’s Laws of Aerodynamics, trying to fly a plane that was overloaded.  If, he argued, you violate the laws of God, the end is death, and sometimes it comes swiftly, as it did here.  This is on some level a bit ironic, because Keith often veered toward legalism–his The Sheep and the Goats misses the point of that parable, and Glen Kaiser (of Resurrection Band) informs me that more than once others in ministry felt it necessary to admonish him on that point.

I cannot begin to guess who is right.  I know Keith has been missed since, and that he would have continued as a popular and successful artist, but it seems likely that, as with quite a few of those we have already covered and will cover yet who were huge then but are barely recognized now, he was probably past the zenith of his career and on the slow decline.  Those first two albums are still among the best Christian music has ever produced, and it is doubtful that even he could have surpassed them.

*****

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.

#282: The Fragility of Unborn Life Argument

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #282, on the subject of The Fragility of Unborn Life Argument.

Sometime during the explosion of legal news surrounding the Supreme Court session (much of which still awaits my attention) I somewhere encountered the notion that aborting the unborn is permissible because so many of them die anyway.  Unborn children have such a high mortality rate, why would killing one be a big deal?

Talk about kicking a man when he’s down, this seems so wrong on so many levels.

I certainly recognize the fragility of unborn life.  We went through enough miscarriages that pregnancies became an occasion more for dread than hope.  Yet the fact that someone might die, even has a good chance of dying, is not ordinarily a good argument for killing him.

Consider baby seals.  People get all upset about other people killing them, when it is obvious that baby seals are a primary food source for sharks.  Seriously, what is the life expectancy of a baby seal?  O.K., part of the objection is that the methods used by seal hunters are perceived as particularly cruel, so maybe that’s not the best example.  I don’t know that being clubbed to death is more painful than being torn apart by a shark, but I understand the objection.

However, children also have a high mortality rate.  We have lowered the rates of infant mortality significantly in western countries, but they are still high in third world countries.  Should we say that the killing of children in undeveloped nations is not a big deal because they were likely to die anyway?  Indeed, how likely to die would be enough to put someone in this category?  Obviously unborn children do not all die, and apart from abortion a great number of them survive to be born–more now than ever before, again because we have improved our ability to keep people alive.

After all, fragility is relative.  People die all the time.  Many die suddenly of heart attacks, anaphylactic shock, strokes, traumatic accidents, often with no warning.  If a person is having a heart attack and can’t get medical attention, there is a high probability that he will die.  Does that make it O.K. to kill him?  If a person is struggling to escape from a burning vehicle and not likely to succeed, can I shoot him?

Seriously, what chance of death meets the minimum requirement for killing someone?  Is it thirty percent?  Is it sixty percent?  I am sure that the mortality rate of unborn children does not reach eighty percent, but would that be high enough?

It is one hundred percent likely that you will die.  After all, everyone does, eventually.  It probably won’t happen for a while–many years, if you’re lucky, but is that a long time?  You are unlikely to live to one hundred years.  Does that mean that killing you is not a big deal, because you were going to die soon enough anyway?  If the world were run by artificially intelligent machines, we mere humans would be short-lived beings probably perceived as wastes of resources–we die, and everything we have learned is lost.  To them, we are not better than insects, brief lives of limited ability who are going to die.  They might as well kill us now, because we are likely to die fairly soon anyway.

Why should that argument apply to the unborn, and not to you?

My Judeo-Christian scriptures tell me to protect the weak.  I see none weaker than these.  If someone wants to kill the weak, I am obligated to defend them.  Yet apart from this, I see that it is in my own self-interest to do so.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Lutheran minister and writer arrested by Adolph Hitler in World War II, said (perhaps paraphrasing–I cannot find the original quote),

When they came for the Federalists, I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Federalist.  When they came for the Jews, I didn’t speak up because I was not a Jew.  When they came for the Catholics, I didn’t speak up because I was not a Catholic.  When they came for me, there was no one left to speak up.

You are also among the weak who are likely to die anyway, so why should society not be able to kill you?

Be careful of your judgements.

#281: Keith Green Launching

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #281, on the subject of Keith Green Launching.

We come to someone whose perhaps brief footprint in the Christian contemporary music world was huge, so big in fact that we’re going to cover him in two articles.  Keith Green might have been a footnote in the history of contemporary music, a one-hit wonder in the 60s who recorded a few singles for Decca and one for ERA, one of which charted at some point.  Then, as he was facing the frustration of already being a has-been in a field in which maybe he never was, the Christian musicians of the area met him and brought the young Jewish boy to faith in Christ.

He embraced his new faith strongly, and became something of a prophetic voice in contemporary Christian music, challenging believers to live the lives they claimed in words.  In 1977 he released his first album, several of the songs co-written with his wife Melody, For Him Who Has Ears to Hear, packed with powerful, challenging, and excellent songs, beginning with You Put This Love In My Heart, continuing with I Can’t Believe It, Because of You, and When I Hear the Praises Start, and as the first side ends with the playful He’ll Take Care of the Rest, things get even better.

Side two opened with Your Love Broke Through, the song he co-wrote with Phil Keaggy and Randy Stonehill, and then the genuinely fun song No One Believes In Me Anymore (Satan’s Lament), which is not a lament at all but the devil’s boast that he can work without being recognized.  This is followed by the heart-breaking Song to My Parents (I Only Want to See You There), then Trials Turned to Gold, and the album concludes with his rousing rendition of Annie Herring’s famed Easter Song (the only version of which I am aware that has the second verse lyrics he sings).

This was only the beginning, but every song on that first album was a classic–and he would follow it in the next year with No Compromise.  This opened with the soft rock Soften Your Heart, then the heart-rending Make My Life a Prayer to You, written by his wife Melody.  This is followed by the album’s fun song, Dear John Letter (To the Devil), then back to the heart-rending How Can They Live Without Jesus?.

The flip side opens with the tearful and demanding Asleep in the Light, which on the original segued electronically into My Eyes are Dry, which faded in over the fadeout of the other, and then faded out.  I am persuaded that it was a mistake in later releases to separate these two songs, as Keith clearly intended them to be heard together that way.  After this heavy opening, it lightens with the rocky You!, and then another heart-felt song, I Don’t Wanna Fall Away From You (interestingly covered by Petra on their Keith Green tribute album).  The bouncy Stained Glass gives a bit of relief before the intensely challenging To Obey Is Better Than Sacrifice.  He then does a cover of the Jamie Owens (Collins) The Victor, which was her break into the Christian music field as the song gained popularity and was also picked up by The Second Chapter of Acts, who along with Phil Keaggy were part of Keith’s recording, and wraps the album with Altar Call, a closing call to salvation.

There wasn’t a weak song on two albums, and Keith was one of the stars of Christian music, but things were about to change significantly.

*****

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