Review: Lunatic Soul, Walking on a Flashlight Beam


Review of Lunatic Soul, Walking on a Flashlight Beam (Kscope, 2014).

Birzer Rating: (6/10)

WOAFB-coverLet me begin by offering my Mariusz Dudas streetcred. I love Duda’s voice as well as his compositional skills. He possesses a profound sense of flow, allowing his music to move seamlessly from emotion to sentiment to feeling and back again. His voice is the kind that pulls one in, calling for full immersion. I’ve also always appreciated his lyricism, especially given that he’s not a native English speaker. He always seems to know the perfect lyric for the music and the perfect music for the lyric.

For a decade, I’ve been following his work. For a while, I thought I saw a continuity in all of his work: First Three Riverside Albums—Lunatic Soul—ADHD—Lunatic Soul.  Lunatic Soul, beautiful and gorgeous in its own way, seemed the perfect interlude to accompany the drama of Riverside. For better or worse…

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Flying Colors – “Second Nature” – Rock Brilliance



Flying Colors’ sophomore release, Second Nature, may very well be the best album of 2014. If it weren’t for Big Big Train’s English Electric, I would say this may be the best album of the past ten years. It is that good. Seeing the band live only confirmed this suspicion for me. Many times, so-called “supergroups” don’t turn out to be so super. While the idea of putting some of the best musicians in the world in the same band sounds like a recipe for success, the results are often the opposite. I find it easy to believe that egos could often get in the way of making fine music. Not so with Flying Colors. This band combines some of the greatest musicians in the world, and they fit together as band members perfectly. In fact, for several of them, this band may be some of their best work. With Second…

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Big Big Train Go Live


BBT live

You may have heard the news already. . . in fact, I’m guessing almost no one in the prog world has NOT heard the news. . . . but tickets for Big Big Train live, King’s Place, August 14-15, 2015, have gone on sale.  To purchase your tickets, go here:

As most of you probably know, started, in very large part, as an unofficial fan site for BBT, so we’re especially proud of the band and their desire to explore their music in a live setting.

[My own desire was for them to come to the U.S., but I’m happy to have them play live anywhere.  I worry a bit that I might have played a role in their deciding to play in the U.K. rather than the U.S.  Several years ago, I made Greg Spawton promise that if they played live in the U.S., they would…

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Rock is NOT Dead


Screen Shot 2014-09-16 at 7.28.05 PMI must admit, I’m so utterly frustrated by all of the “Rock is dead” doomsayers over the past week that I’d like to wretch (or, retch–you know, either way).  Really big time.

Here’s the latest complaint–from the London Telegraph of all things (isn’t this supposed to be one of the respectable papers, or am I confusing it with the Daily Mail?)–to follow laments from CLASSIC ROCK mag earlier this year, a member of KISS who seems to resent much of life, and every single human who has decided to hate U2:

[A quick side note.  You have Apple and you don’t like U2?  Easy–hit the image of the album and drag it to your trash.  Your Mac will then ask you if you would like to delete or hide.  Deleting it actually deletes it.  No offensive U2 ever need show up in your library again, and you will have accomplished this…

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New Book on Rush From Durrell Bowman

rush vault


From the co-editor of Rush and Philosophy is another Rush book, Experiencing Rush: A Listener’s Companion. It’s slated for release in mid-November and will retail for $38.12.

From the Amazon blurb:

In Experiencing Rush: A Listener’s Companion, music scholar Durrell Bowman guides readers through Rush’s long career, explaining through the artful combination of biography, history, and musical exegesis how to listen to this unique act. From Rush’s emergence as an early blues-rock power trio of guitar, bass, and drums into the godfathers of progressive hard rock, Bowman marks the band’s first breakthrough with its landmark, sci-fi/individualist album 2112. From there, readers explores Rush’s movement from “prog rock” extended compositions into shorter, potential-radio-play “post-prog” songs, leading to Rush’s most successful album Moving Pictures in 1981.In its later career, Rush adventurously mixedprogressive hard rock and music technology, generating a new power trio sound that featured further stylistic evolutions. As Bowman…

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Geometry and GeoGebra, Chapter 2

FracTad's Fractopia

Vertical angles

Continuing my incorporation of GeoGebra into my Geometry curriculum (read about my introduction of GeoGebra here), we will start slow and simple. We are learning the basics of proof, and GeoGebra is a great tool for sparking discussion of what we might want to prove.

Example: one of the first exercises every Geometry student does is to prove that vertical angles are congruent. Instead of having them look at static pictures of vertical angles, each of my students will construct two intersecting lines, measure the angles formed, and look for a relationship. They should quickly see that the vertical angles are congruent no matter how much they move the lines around. Hopefully, they will then wonder why is that always the case. And that’s where proof comes in: if they can write a proof using variables, then they have proven it for all cases, not just the one they’re…

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Recommended Reading: September 6-12

Pursuing Veritas

Rocky-Mountain-National-ParkIf you only read one article this week, read America Under Cultural Dhimmitude by Rod Dreher

There are lots of other article worth your read as well, broadly categorized below. Hopefully you find them stimulating for your thinking. And as always, if there’s something you think I should be reading, please let me know in the comments section below. JJP

Theology and Religion

The Achievement of Wolfhart Pannenberg by Michael Root (older, but appropriate this week in memorium of Pannenberg)

From Cain to ISIS by R. R. Reno

InterVarsity Christian Ministry In Trouble for Acting Christian by Andrew Walker

The Perspective of Beauty by Jeff Reid

Resurrecting the Dead in America by Mark Regnerus

Biblical Studies and the History of Christianity

Paul on Jesus’ Resurrection: A New Study by Larry Hurtado

New Testament Studies (Volume 60)

What is Marcionism? by Roger Olson

Early Christians Distinguished from Culture by Michael Kruger

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Terminal Degree – The Middle Of Nowhen


“What if…?” is a qTerminal Degreeuestion that is asked often in progressive rock and metal, sometimes to original and interesting results.  Terminal Degree asked “What if we made a metal album using violins instead of guitars?

Bet you didn’t see that coming.

What if Paganini played lead for a progressive-metal band? What if Heifetz played Carnegie Hall with metal drums and bass? What if we dual-tracked the violin and let it shred over pummeling bass and drums?

What if.

Wonder no more. “The Middle Of Nowhen” is an instrumental album of intense, heavy songs written and performed by a power trio of drums, bass, and violin.


Stanley Chepaitis – acoustic and 5-string electric violins
Nathan Santos – 6-string bass
Mike Barnett – drums

Where guitars usually rule, the violin seriously rocks. This album featured a virtuoso performance from Stanley Chepaitis and a granite-solid back-line of Nathan Santos’…

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Some Dystopian Reading–In the News

Art by one of my favorite artists, South African "Faroutsider."

Art by one of my favorite artists, South African “Faroutsider.”

Some really interesting articles have appeared over the past few weeks dealing with dystopian literature.

Wired has a bit of a spirited debate:


In favor:

While, the London Guardian is worried:

What I strongly disagree with is the notion that dystopian fiction is either right or left.  As a genre, it’s just interesting, and it can be as anti-corporate as it is anti-statist.  What’s left and what’s right?  

Placing it in a left-right category as the Guardian writes does not only diminishes the genre, it diminishes the intelligence of the genre’s audience.

Dystopian Rock: A Request for Ideas


Dear Citizens of the anarcho-Republic of Progarchy,

As some of you might know, in addition to editing this site, I also pretend to be a professor and author during the day.  I’m currently working on a book on the history of dystopias (and dystopic ideas) in fiction, film, and music.  I’m trying to compile a list of dystopian rock albums.  Here’s what I’ve come up with.  If, in the comments section, you’d like to make suggestions of things I’ve missed–PLEASE do so!  I would be exceedingly grateful!

Yours, Brad

"Abandoned" by Craig Farham. “Abandoned” by Craig Farham.

Rush, 2112

Rush, Clockwork Angels

The entire Ayreon series

Arjen Lucassen, Life in the New Real

The Tangent, Not as Good as the Book

Pink Floyd, Animals

Pink Floyd, The Wall

Gary Numan, “Down in the Park”

Radiohead, Kid A

Cosmograf, Capacitor

A few songs by Muse, Oingo Boingo, Coheed and Cambria

Flower Kings, Desolation Rose


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Definitions: Dystopia, etc.


Sewall/Birzer; August 2014


Utopia: from the Greek, meaning “perfect place” and “no where.” Plato used it as a joke.


Republic: from the Latin, “res publica,” meaning “good thing” or “common good.” Based, in large part, on experimentation and adaptation, natural law, inherent struggle and conflict. Also demands something coherent to hold disparate communities together—usually (ideally) virtue.


Cacotopia or cacao-topia: first used in the English language in 1715, meaning a nightmare society in which morals mean nothing and the average citizen worships Mammon and proclaims atheism, but is obsessed with theological discussion. The worse in society—the unethical and depraved—rule. As far as is known, no one employed the word again until 1817 and 1818, when the Utilitarian English philosopher Jeremy Bentham used it in his Plan of Parliamentary Reform.


Dystopia or dys-topia: first used in the English language by Bentham’s most famous follower, John Stuart Mill in 1868. In his own writings, Mill used dys-topia as a synonym for “cacao-topia.” When Glenn Negley and J. Max Patrick used the term dystopia in their anthology of over thirty utopian visions (Quest for Utopia, 1952), they incorrectly assumed they were coining the term for the first time in recorded history. Since 1952, in no small part due to Negley’s and Patrick’s usage of it, dystopia has become an accepted and common part of the English language.


Cacotopia vs. Dystopia. Recent scholars, such as Matthew Beaumont and Eric D. Smith, have attempted to distinguish cacotopia and dystopia. The former, they claim, deals far more with the moral decline of a society while the latter deals with the increased intrusion of government in the lives of ordinary citizens. I (Brad—your prof) am less than convinced by this hairsplitting, but the argument as presented is certainly a viable one and one with the potential to make a permanent mark on dystopian studies.


Ustopia. One of the foremost scholars and writers of dystopian fiction, Canadian Margaret Atwood, claims that the separation of utopia and dystopia, itself, is a false one. All Utopias must contain dystopian elements, and all dystopians must possess utopian ones. “But scratch the surface a little, and—or so I think—you see something more like a yin and yang pattern; within each utopia, a concealed dystopia; within each dystopia, a hidden utopia, if only in the form of the world as it existed before the bad guys took over” (Atwood, In Other Worlds, 85) Why is this the case? Because utopians must always stop human progress and ingenuity, thus creating a false stability based on the notion of one person, group, or generation. “There is always provision made for the renegades those who don’t or won’t follow the rules: prison, enslavement, exile, exclusion, or execution,” Atwood continues (In Other Worlds, 86)

A Beginner’s Guide to Dystopia



Mark Twain, Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889)

G.K. Chesterton, Napoleon of Notting Hill (1904)

Robert Hugh Benson, Lord of the World (1907)

Jack London, The Iron Heel (1908)

G.K. Chesterton, Man Who Was Thursday (1908)

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World (1931)

Sinclair Lewis, It Can’t Happen Here (1935)

Murray Constantine [Katherine Burdekin], Swastika Night (1937)

C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength (1945)

George Orwell, Animal Farm (1945)

George Orwell, 1984 (1949)

Ray Bradbury, Martian Chronicles (1950)

Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 (1953)

Arthur Bestor, Demolished Man (1953)

Walter Miller, A Canticle for Leibowitz (1960)

Kurt Vonnegut, Mother Night (1963)

Pierre Boulle, Planet of the Apes (1963)

Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968)

Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughter-House Five (1969)

Ira Levin, This Perfect Day (1970)

Stephen King, The Stand (1970)

  1. Neil Schulman, Alongside Night (1979)

Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale (1985)

P.D. James, Children of Men (1992)

Michael O’Brien, Father Elijah (1996)

Michael O’Brien, Eclipse of the Sun (1998)

Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake (2003)

Suzanne Collins, Hunger Games (2008)

Ernest Cline, Ready Player One (2011)


Graphic Novels

Frank Miller, The Dark Night Returns (1986)

Alan Moore and David Lloyd, V for Vendetta (1998)

Brian Vaughan, Y: The Last Man (2002)

Paul Pope, Batman: Year 100 (2006)

Brian Wood, DMZ (2006)



[Including movies made from the above forms of fiction]

The Island; Blade Runner; 12 Monkeys; Dark City; Logan’s Run; Idiocracy; Soylent Green; Gattaca; Batman Begins; Equilibrium; Brazil

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