Saturday, June 25, 2016

Snyder and company look at changing course in the wake of Batman vs Superman getting pilloried, a lengthy divergence on to the problem of Bucky in Civil War

“For me, it is a really personal movie,” Snyder told Uproxx of Batman v Superman and the negative reaction to it. “When [that movie] came out, it was like, ‘Wow, oof.’ It did catch me off guard.” Of the film’s sequel, he told Vulture, “I have had to, in my mind, make an adjustment. I do think that the tone of Justice League has changed because of what the fans have said.” The tone of Batman v. Superman wasn’t totally surprising considering Snyder’s oeuvre—his past films, including the comic-book adaptations 300 and Watchmen, were similarly grim. But Warner Bros. has too much riding on these movies to let one flop define the franchise; hence, the damage control.

“We learned that people don’t like seeing their heroes deconstructed,” the Justice League producer Deborah Snyder (Zack’s wife and producing partner) told reporters, claiming the sequel would be a “more inclusive” film than Batman v. Superman
Deconstructing the heroes is fine provided we get the sense that it's actually those characters being subjected to deconstruction. Somebody somewhere wrote at length about how incompetently Snyder's film invoked both canonical moments in DC comics and religious concepts from the Judeo-Christian tradition.  You can't exactly just magically transform two of the most iconic deaths in the DC continuity from the last thirty years into the meet-cute that successfully launches a Justice League franchise, not the way Snyder's film failed to do it. 
Still, in a half-hearted defense of BvS presented on its own poutier-than-Nolan terms, it's more psychologically plausible Batman would want to kill Superman just to be safe than that Steve Rogers would think that Bucky was worth sparking an intra-black ops government show down in Civil War, though, even if I had more fun watching the latter film.  The recent Captain America film managed to get its characters but it embodies a weirdly American ethos that if you didn't have a choice about what you did then you're automatically off the hook for what you did even if what you did was kill a ton of people.  When Bucky asks Cap if he's worth all the trouble in the film Civil War the script insists that he is.  Why?  Because Steve Rogers concludes that the murders Bucky committed when he was in the Winter Soldier program were murders he shouldn't be held responsible before because he didn't have free will?  Even Bucky considers that a problematic defense since, all told, Bucky still killed those people.

But, and here's the big but that's stuck with me since seeing the film, if Bucky considered himself morally culpable for murders he committed in the Winter Soldier program, couldn't he have turned himself in?  Black Panther apprehends him so in a way neither Tony Stark nor Steve Rogers did anything much at all except get into shoving matches while Black Panther captured Bucky and/or Bucky ... did Bucky turn himself in?  The post-credits sequence would seem to imply as much but it's not clear to me as I remember it a month-ish later.

In the original comics run Captain America turns himself in.  That's not what we get in the film version.  It's not that the plot points of Civil War make no sense within the terms of the actions of the plot.  The plot points as they happen are as reasonable as clockwork. The motivations of Rogers and Stark are crystal clear and internally consistent with their character arcs.  Stark has gone through multiple stories in which his hubris led to disaster that hurt himself and others, so he wants to be accountable. Steve Rogers volunteered to serve the cause of justice and fight bullies only to discover that the people he thought were the good guys could turn out to be bad guys.  Even guys whose motives he doesn't doubt have made decisions with consequences he found bad.  SHIELD turned out to be infiltrated by HYDRA and Stark's ill-advised Ultron project threatened the world.  So Rogers' motives make sense. 

It's that there's a disconnect between the plot points as clockwork and their reflection of the character motivations of Bucky.  Considering that the plot points revolve around decisions made about Bucky Barnes the character is too much a cipher to account for those decisions.  Sure, in some sense Steve Rogers would feel a sense of attachment to the one person in his generation he still knows.  What some would call generational narcissism is probably unavoidable.  It's a little hard to completely square with the idea that Steve Rogers, he of Greatest Generation thought life, could just presume the best about the mental state of someone who ended up being a Soviet puppet.  If any one between Rogers and Stark would be in a position to get that Barnes could be culpable for crimes as crimes while having not been able to control his own actions it would be the technocratic Stark.  That seems to be inherent in the tossed off joke Stark makes to Barnes about being the Manchurian candidate.  R
 I guess I'd put it this way.  The recent Captain America film has a Steve Rogers who's thinking through the ethics of how to deal with Bucky not as a soldier at all but as someone looking at it from a criminology standpoint.  In terms of war and espionage it wouldn't MATTER why Bucky Barnes became the Winter Soldier.  When a former asset becomes a liability you have to deal with the person in the terms of war.  Steve Rogers' firm belief that someone who murders but in a state of not being able to control his/her own actions would make 100% sense if this were Batman.  Batman's the kind of character who already refuses to kill (mostly), and is the kind of character who would consider issues of criminology and forensics.  But the rules of law enforcement are still not the rules of war, even if they overlap in creepy ways in modern societies.  So I guess a way to articulate a problem in how Cap deals with Bucky is that he seems to think about it like a cop rather than a soldier, and a cop bent on the most reformative/restorative form of discipline possible.  Considering the generation Steve  Rogers was born from ... it's a little tough to get why he lands that way sometimes.

at Slate Rebecca Onion asks "Where is the Uncle Tom's Cabin of gun control" fails to grasp why there probably can't be one, the nature of American dystopian literature

The biggest problem isn't in the realm of the problems Onion and others proposed in the article.  Guns are interesting but anything can be interesting.  The idea that somehow guns are "magic" forgets that lots of folk remedies that rely on the placebo effect are "magic" and people go get those whether or not they improve a person's health. 

American dystopian literature has primed us for generations to see just about any form of social engineering that steers us as individuals away from what our heart wants as tyranny by default.  This is prevalent enough from the left and the right that pretending that we could have an Uncle Tom's Cabin for gun control can only happen if you insist that it's possible to write a narrative in north American literature making a case for tighter regulation of something at the behest of the state.

Remember that internet meme that proposed that people wanting access to guns have the same restrictions to gun access that those who currently would seek an abortion would have?  How many people who pass around that meme want those restrictions on access to abortion to still be in place?  In social and philosophical terms access to pre-emptive use of lethal force can be the same coming from the left or right when individual liberty is an issue.  The population of the United States is too large for there to not be those who use civil liberties to harm others.  The radicalization of disaffected males who can't assimilate into mainstream society can't get solved by banning access to certain weapons, even if we could all agree that curtailing access would be a good idea.  If it turns out that people can abide by the rules right up to the points at which they kill, the problem may not merely be in what gets prohibited.

Abortion reveals a comparable cognitive dissonance in American society.  People had access to abortion before it was made legal.  People had access to alcohol when it was illegal.  But an analogy between access to arms and access to abortion seems most telling of our cognitive dissonance.  The term "reproductive rights" has become a popular circumlocution for the option of not bringing a pregnancy to term and some have argued that abortion is a social right.  But what is abortion if not the pre-emptive use of lethal force to ensure someone is never born?  Yet a rape culture is described as one in which men believe they have a right to sex and sex is the process of reproduction.  How is it that abortion is a reproductive right on the one hand and yet the concept of reproductive right is considered the reason for rape culture when the other half of the human species is discussed?  If rape culture is one in which men think they have a right to reproduce (i.e. to sex) what's the flip side with a right to not carry a pregnancy to term?  It could seem like a double standard based on the nature of the claims that have to be made about rights to sexual reproduction. 

But it's not a double standard if there's a unifying American ethos in which the right to use pre-emptive lethal force to defend your way of life is involved.  To the extent that those who choose to defend abortion by saying the fetus isn't even human to that extent we could propose that this could correspond to wartime propaganda in which enemy combatants aren't considered truly human and can therefore be killed not only with a sense of self-granted impunity but with moral license.  You're not killing someone so much as making the world a better place.  Whether it's an American soldier fighting abroad or an American citizen ending a pregnancy the act of valor, from within this unified ethos, could be the same.  What's being defended is the American way of life.

So it's interesting that a joke on the internet comparing access to guns to access to abortion has circulated but without seeming to think through the direct conflation of the use of pre-emptive lethal force as an embodiment of the practical American ethos for both the left and the right.  We reserve the right to kill in advance whomever might threaten our current way of life and if that right were to be taken from us or even subjected to some form of regulation by the state, well, that's tyranny.

The way to write an Uncle Tom's Cabin for gun control would depend less on making the case that individuals with guns kill too many people and more on selling us all on the idea Americans have a distorted understanding of what liberty means.  The trouble is that the American ethos about the legitimacy of using lethal force is such that to make such a case could boomerang back on other issues.  How would a progressive argue against access to guns while defending access to abortion as a social right when in both cases access to life-ending power is involved?  Well, the fetus is just a clump of cells. How would a conservative argue against abortion as dehumanizing babies make that case consistently when dehumanizing enemy combatants is a given?  Well, the enemy is against our way of life.  Both gambits commodify humans and dehumanize them.  A person could reach a conclusion that the American left and right are too morally bankrupt to have a basis from which to explore these issues.  When we have these two sides vigorously defending the right to have the option to kill it makes it seem profoundly unlikely there will ever be an Uncle Tom's Cabin for gun control.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

long excerpts from a Kyle Gann presentation on John Cage's 4'33"
The history and exact nature of 4'33" are shrouded in enigma, mystery, and ambiguity, which seems odd for so famous a piece from only sixty years ago; but it is worth emphasizing that 4'33" became famous rather slowly. Cage's 1961 book of essays Silence, which vastly expanded his reputation, mentions the piece only twice, and never by title, but as "my silent piece." Not until a decade or two later did it become the central icon of Cage's reputation.

We see the basis for the division into three movements here in the original program from the premiere at the Maverick Concert Hall just outside Woodstock, New York, on August 29, 1952.

The question becomes even murkier when we go back four years earlier to a lecture Cage gave at Vassar on February 28, 1948. On that date he announced some upcoming plans:

I have... several new desires (two may seem absurd, but I am serious about them): first, to compose a piece of uninterrupted silence and sell it to the Muzak Co. It will be 3 or 4 1/2 minutes long - these being the standard lengths of "canned" music, and its title will be "Silent Prayer." It will open with a single idea which I will attempt to make as seductive as the color and shape or fragrance of a flower. The ending will approach imperceptibly.[2]

Here, four and a half years before 4'33", we have the first announcement of a plan to write a piece consisting of silence. (The other "absurd" plan is to write a piece for twelve radios, which he did in 1951.) Note, moreover, that Silent Prayer is not really 4'33", and is confusingly described. "It will open," Cage says, "with a single idea which I will attempt to make as seductive as the color and shape or fragrance of a flower." How can a silent piece open with any idea at all? And again, "The ending will approach imperceptibly."

And note the intention to sell the Silent Prayer to the Muzak corporation. The Muzak company was founded in 1934, its name a combination of music and Kodak. The practice of piping Muzak into restaurants, office buildings, subways, and other public spaces grew phenomenally in the late 1930s and '40s, and many people, professional musicians in particular, were horrified by it. Studies found that Muzak in the workplace relieved worker fatigue and lowered absenteeism, but many people considered it not only a degrading misuse of music but an invasion of privacy. Lawsuits resulted, and in 1952 - the year of 4'33" - the case against the Muzak corporation went to the Supreme Court. Muzak won. Writing for the majority, Justice Harold Burton wrote that broadcasting music was "not inconsistent with public convenience, comfort and safety.'"[3] Justice Felix Frankfurter, however, hated Muzak so much that he felt it necessary to recuse himself, and Justice William O. Douglas, in his minority opinion, stated that, "The right to be let alone is indeed the beginning of all freedom."[4]

Cage's politics in the 1930s were highly anti-corporate, and he wrote that "there seemed to be nothing good about anything big in America." So Cage's original idea for 4'33" was to sell it to Muzak to create a respite from corporate-imposed forced listening. [emphasis added] Muzak at the time was played from 78 rpm vinyl records, which could hold about three minutes of music on a 10-inch disc, or four and a half minutes on a 12-inch disc, thus accounting for the lengths of time Cage predicted for his Silent Prayer. So think about this: in 1948 Cage speculated about writing a four-and-a-half-minute silent composition.

For folks with more ... traditionalist aesthetics, John Cage in general and 4'33" in particular can be a popular punching bag.  Francis Schaeffer zeroed in on Cage in one of his books about half a century ago.  Roger Scruton has regarded Cage as a charlatan, more or less.  I like some of the prepared piano music, actually.  Cage isn't going to become one of my lifelong favorites (Ellington and Haydn and Shostakovich and J. S. Bach have a few of those slots).  All the same, aesthetically conservative Christian types tend too quickly to misrepresent where Cage was coming from.  It's one thing to not really agree with Cage on matters of aesthetics, politics, religion or sexuality or any other topic, it's another to not even bother to consider the possible background that led to the publication of his most notorious piece.

Reading that Cage's piece was at least partly inspired by a loathing of Muzak and background music being unilaterally pumped out of speakers in public settings might show us that Cage might have a couple of points in common with some of his right-side critics ... unless folks who tilt right in aesthetics and politics WANT an endless rotation of Mariah Carey and Journey singles in the grocery store.

This is not, to be very polite about it, the kind of historical background about Cage's work you might come across in a Francis Schaeffer book.  Even though I was strongly influenced by Schaeffer's writings twenty years ago I think it's long overdue that evangelicals in general and Reformed Christians in particular formulate a way that Christians, let alone Christians interested in the arts, interact with arts history in a way that can, where necessary, set Schaeffer's polemics off to the side.  I've seen some ridiculous claims made by Christians over the last fifteen years, such as that the major/minor key system is "robustly Trinitarian".  Now whether or not I completely agree with Iannis Xenakis' complaint that the church modes were misunderstood as scalar patterns in diatonic terms rather than prevailing patterns within hexachordal ranges ... eh ... I'm rusty on Xenakis by a long, long shot.

The point is, basically, that too many people in the era of the internet want the shortcuts to their foregone conclusions.  We can do better than that, and in this case I think that what would be fair to John Cage's music, whether you happen to like it or hate it, is to move beyond some of the facile tales that have emerged around it.  With the 50th anniversary of Schaeffer's trilogy coming along fairly soon one of the things I've been trying to do is to sort of reassess the strong points and weak points of some of the things he wrote.  Some of the weaknesses are spectacular while some of the more salient points were awkwardly under-developed.

answers to questions you didn't ask? How come comments are so infrequent?

Well, it's really simple.  Comments tend to be where otherwise okay sites descend into their lowermost depths.  It's in what comments get allowed that a blog will descend to whatever the lowest common denominator is.  For a blog that has documented the history of Mars Hill off and on over the last ... decade ... this has meant that comments offered about specific people with specific claims that, were they to be made in public at all should be in a court and not on the internet, have sometimes been submitted.  And they've been deleted.

So don't be too shocked if your comments more often than not don't appear.  There's a lot of stuff that doesn't need to appear here so much as it needs to appear for the public record in the most verifiable ways possible.  As a number of people know by now I've stonewalled a few people over the years.  I've allowed some folks to make comments when I've felt it was appropriate and informative, even in cases where it could be very easily surmised I'm not on the same page as some of them.  But in case folks need reminding, there's no obligation as such to publish comments just because people leave them.  This has been the kind of blog where, yes, I admit I have even actively discouraged and disabled comments from showing up.  It doesn't aid the interest of trying to provide a journalistic/historical survey of the life and times of Mars Hill to let people just say here what they can say elsewhere.  Odds are pretty good you all know where those other internet venues are by now anyway.

There are types of discourse in the public sphere where allowing commentary free for alls damages that kind of discourse.  Documenting things as they happen isn't the same as giving people some space to vent about how they feel or to vent about what they specifically think and feel about specific people.

One of the things that has begun to be abundantly clear is how many people in Mars Hill leadership and at large have known perfectly well who writes at Wenatchee The Hatchet.  It's not exactly a mystery and as I've written in the past the degree to which the blog seems anonymous has been less for my benefit than for those people who were still within Mars Hill in the past who I felt should be spared the possibility of some kind of punitive responses from leadership.  Conversely, that people at the highest echelons of former Mars Hill leadership have known who Wenatchee The Hatchet is kind of raises again the question of how seriously we should take the statements of "we're not entirely sure who they are".  If leaders at Mars Hill knew who writes at Wenatchee The Hatchet why wouldn't they know the names of people who got fired from Mars Hill over the last seven years?  Or did they fire so many people they can't even keep track of them all?

So, comments ARE permitted but they automatically go into moderation and it'd be advisable to not assume the comment will show up.  There are other writing projects I've been tackling and other projects that aren't necessarily prose I like to tackle from time to time.  The idea by now was that there wasn't even going to be anything Mars Hill related to blog about any more except maybe a few posts here and there on the spin-off churches to find out how they're doing.  Well, Driscoll's continuing to seek the spotlight and recycle his old hits and this RICO thing sorta happened.  Whether anything comes of it remains to be seen.  Meanwhile, don't feel too heartbroken if you want to make comments here and find they don't show up. 

HT Jim West, a case that the church father Gregory of Nyssa was an early advocacy for what could be called Christian anarchism

This post is specifically for you, Jeff, if you haven't come across this little essay already.

Monday, June 20, 2016

a brief consideration in light of Sutton Turner's statement in response to the RICO filing
The sole purpose of filing the lawsuit was to disparage my character. [emphasis added] The Jacobsens, Kildeas, and Brian Fahling acted in bad faith and the case should be dismissed with prejudice as a result of this bad faith. In addition, attorney fees and sanctions in the amount of $4,240.00 should be assessed.

But if the sole purpose of filing the lawsuit was to disparage the character of one person why were there two listed defendants?  Why were there a variety of named non-party co-conspirators?  This particular assertion seems, to put it nicely, implausible on its face.  It's possible to have questions about the RICO suit at all kinds of levels while rejecting this particular assertion as absurd on its face.

Remember RICO Lawsuit Filed Against Former Leaders of Mars Hill Church; ECFA Named As Co-Conspirator?

When the word "defendant" appears in plural form then it seems pretty obvious that the sole purpose of filing the lawsuit can't have been to disparage the character of one person, or does it?

update/newsletter from Mark Driscoll Ministries ... a kind of reminder of warnings from Driscoll past, back in an earlier decade.

the stuff about the father wound influencing Christians to have a problematic view of God as Father because they have themselves had a fraught relationship with a father or an absentee father is ... well ... it's kind of pedestrian as it goes.  Over time Driscoll's picked up the capacity to say the same thing through ... the nice way of putting this would be levels of synthetic parallelism that reach redundancy levels quickly.  The less nice way of putting it is that his speech mannerisms have tilted away from Reformed pastor more in the domain of Mojo Jojo's triple-speak ... only without being funny.

The proposal around minute 5 Driscoll makes that idolizing spiritual fathers actually happens in evangelicalism ... okay, actually, can agree with that point.  That is, if anything, the problem with anyone who at this point could take Mark Driscoll seriously as a pastor.  I've been pretty clear that had Mark Driscoll sought to change paths from his earlier ways that removing himself from ministry for half a decade and submitting to being a nameless rank and file member of a church he wasn't a founder or co-founder of would be helpful for his spiritual health.  That's not what Mark Driscoll has opted to do.  In spite of Mark Driscoll having warned a decade ago that ... (dead link, though, alas)
Part 3 of 1st Corinthians
Pastor Mark Driscoll
1 Corinthians 1:10-17
January 22, 2006

Some of you have teams that you consider yourself to be on, theologically or philosophically insofar as how church should be done. And what happens is that certain Christians get elevated like rock stars, and it’s not good. It’s not good at all. I know one church the pastor’s name is the domain for the church website. That’s not good. Like if it was and that was our website, you’d go, “You know that’s a little much.” That’s a little much, because if he gets hit by a car do we gotta get a new name? That seems that the church should be more than a focus on one person. That’s why to be honest with this church I try not to show up and speak at every event.
It’s amazing how few Christians have a pastor and have a church that they actually are connected to, involved in, and growing in. There is a growing number of people who profess to be Christians and just claim to be on Team Jesus. “I don’t need a church. Just me and Jesus, we hang.” These are people who have no respect for spiritual authority. They don’t have any real heart to show up and contribute to and benefit their church. They just tend to be people who are very – quite frankly – arrogant and proud. They’re so close to Jesus and they’re so much like him that they don’t need anybody else

Driscoll has Mark Driscoll Ministries these days.  He bailed on a restorative disciplinary plan that, by his account, the board of Mars Hill set up for him.  In 2014 the explanation was heeding wise counsel and having concerns about family safety.  By 2015 the story had been supplemented with claims of divine permission to leave Mars Hill, basically. 

The long-term trouble with this is that if Mark Driscoll wants to keep on being a father figure it's going to be tough to live down the appearance that when it comes to submission to church discipline and roughly two decades worth of instruction in the public sphere about how Christians ought to lovingly and faithfully submit to spiritual discipline as church members that the pending launch of Mark Driscoll's next church project can seem, even predicated on the precedent of Driscoll's own teaching, on a distressing double standard. 

Also note how he talks about the Reformed movement, that he would share much in common with and have many friends in.  He's starting to let go of the Reformed label.  This is to be expected.  If anything he could have been more aggressive and assertive in abandoning any formal associations with Reformed Christianity.  Even though he might be right that some folks in the Reformed scene idolize their heroes this was a guy who in the midst of Dead Men sessions said there was the Calvinist way to interpret the Bible and then everyone else.  Driscoll himself has been more than just a little guilty of conflating his own interpretation of any given biblical text with what he takes to be the plain meaning of the text. 

At this point if anyone were to say on Mark Driscoll's behalf that discussing him is beating a dead horse the problem is simply this, Mark Driscoll insists on remaining a public figure in some kind of ministry who is continuing to wield mass media and social media tools to keep his brand going.  There are any number of guys who were in leadership at Mars Hill who, after Mars Hill collapsed, left formal ministry.  Others remained in vocational ministry but have become part of traditional denominations, whether evangelical denominations or even in some cases more mainline. 

When Driscoll promoted his "limited unlimited atonement" he announced he was what's sometimes called Amyraldian.  The short version is "not historically Reformed in terms of vocational ministerial views".  So Driscoll has, despite the benefit from the association with the label, never been demonstrably all that Reformed in the end.  So it's hardly a surprise that he's begun to speak more and more as though he weren't really part of that team because, finally, he's being a bit more forthright about his Reformed connections being Reformed connections more than what might called convictions.

So when Driscoll ambles through minute 6ish about how bad some of the venerated saints of evangelicalism were though still mightily used of God ... think of that as a halo effect.  Should it turn out, by a kind of implication, that Mark Driscoll had research help to assemble his books; should it have turned out he let Mars Hill church contract with Result Source to rig the New York Times bestseller list for a marriage book that lacked some citation credits the first time around; if it turned out that Mark Driscoll was maybe guilty of being arrogant and angry in ways he'd described as being demonic and satanic for others in the abstract circa 2008 ... but not ultimately disqualifying HIM from vocational ministry in 2014 ... it might be worth remembering that for Mark Driscoll to be vodcasting on how guys venerated as heroes to some evangelicals have feat of clay can come off like a double standard and special pleading at the same time.

About minute 8 Driscoll gets to how sometimes we can demonize fathers and father figures.  He keeps it abstract.  This doesn't sound like the way Driscoll was ten years ago or more.  Has Driscoll idolized or demonized any father figures?  There was once a time ... before this millennium started, where Driscoll might sometimes talk about how he had dropped the ball on these kinds of things. 

So by 8:40 he's talking about forgiveness and how forgiving your father releases the father wound and releases you ...  and there's a bit about how you can end up emulating the failures of your fathers by lashing out at them and ... 

Driscoll spent years describing himself as being a kind of father to Mars Hill.  Driscoll's abandonment of Mars Hill could be compared to a dad bailing on his kids.  It's possible for a person to get the sense that there's a subtext in all of this Father's Day stuff about father wounds and forgiving fathers physical and spiritual regardless of whether or not they've displayed any repentance.  By 10:13ish in this recent vodcast Driscoll's talking about how when we forgive those fathers physical and spiritual that releases us to have a relationship with God the Father. 

But, see, that's all on you. 

This is still the Driscoll who screamed "How dare you!?" a few years back?

Driscoll has to know by now that one of the key motivational approaches he's used to motivate guys, in particular, to become more responsible is to use a combination of rage and shame. Where he may have gotten the idea that screaming appeals to a sense of rage and shame would work in motivating guys to become more responsible would be a matter of some speculation.  Meanwhile, 2016 Mark Driscoll seems eager to share that if you forgive your fathers physical or spiritual then that releases you to be able to relate to God your Father. 

He gets to minute 12 and shares how for twenty years it's all about Jesus and he believes Jesus is the point of the whole Bible (although ... we'll get back to how much he thinks Jesus is really the point of Song of Songs).  But he says Jesus came to reveal the Father.  So, after decades of "It's all about Jesus" Driscoll remembers the first person of the Trinity.  Oh, and have you forgiven your earthly father?  Your heavenly Father?  If you haven't forgiven your earthly father that becomes a demonic root.  We'll perhaps get back to Driscoll's diabology later.  Learning to forgive fathers gives you the relationship with God the Father so that you men can be fathers. 

But ... back in 1998 there was this past Mark Driscoll who said, well ... :

By setting themselves up against their elders, postmoderns are ingeniously adding an anti-establishment spirit to their movement. "I really preach; it's not just three points to a better self-esteem," Driscoll says. "Megachurches have perfect services with perfect lighting. We're a friggin' mess." Driscoll delivers his sermons largely off-the- cuff, and refuses to follow a point-by-point outline like most pastors at megachurches do. "I'm very confrontational," he says, "not some pansy-ass therapist."

Has the new Mark Driscoll begun to sound, a little bit, like what the old Mark Driscoll would have called some pansy-ass therapist? 

As Driscoll's counsel recently filed a motion for the dismissal of the civil RICO suit Driscoll's Father's Day rumination, having spent so many years presenting himself as a spiritual father figure and a pastor of pastors ... might come across to some people who were once at Mars Hill as coming off a bit like ... "possibly" self-serving special pleading that employs a double standard.  It was screams of "How dare you!?" when Driscoll was publicly ripping on abusive men and guys who were lazy circa 2009.  By 2016, after a year or so of controversies that swirled around the credibility of his published books and the credibility and ethics of one of the ways one of those books was promoted, Driscoll has sought to cultivate a kinder and gentler image.  But if he were as committed to being a local church pastor at Mars Hill as he so often used to say he was ... what's he doing down in the Phoenix area?  What's he doing with a ministry that's named after himself?  Now if he can't for the life of him do any other work than recycle his old sermon talking points from a decade ago ... life happens.  It's just that about ten years ago he was still preaching to those of us who were at Mars Hill to be on guard against the kind of guy he seems to have become. 

And his fatherly counsel for father's day?  Forgive your father so you will be released to have a great relationship with God the Father.  Not that that isn't a valuable moral lesson to impart .... it's just that the insistence with which Mark Driscoll keeps hammering away at that point it comes across as something slightly less than traditional Christian ethical teaching about forgiving those who have sinned against us and have repented than a kind of sympathetic magic.  Did Christ teach that when your father sins against you that you should forgive your earthly father in order to have a fuller relationship with your heavenly Father?  Not saying it can't possibly be in there, just that for a guy who said he teaches the Bible there was a bit of a shortage on suitable prooftexts for that specific point.

And it's hard to shake the sense that the Mark Driscoll of 1998 would say this guy is some pansy-ass therapist. 


Driscoll seems so eager to insist upon "forgive your fathers" that he glides over cases where, say, a physically abusive father had died and never repented.  Not that Jim West would keep tabs on Driscoll but his pastorly assessment of the "forgive even if there's no repentance" has been to warn that forgiveness offered when there are no signs of repentance is giving permission, and it's a "forgiveness" you're offering to feel better about yourself rather than to bless someone else.

So ... Driscoll's recently plugged teaching about forgiveness can smell a bit like something that would be embraced by a spiritual father figure who abandoned the church he founded.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Throckmorton reports Driscoll counsel files motion for dismissal with prejudice in civil RICO suit

so there's that.
As well, one of the things that has been complex is the fact that a lot of the people that we are dealing with in this season remain anonymous. And so we don't know how to reconcile, or how to work things out with, with people because we're not entirely sure who they are, and so that has, that has made things a little more complex and difficult as well. [emphasis added]
Posted by on
During the past twelve months, an online petition calling for “greater financial transparency from the leadership of Mars Hill” was started and has since been signed by 507 people. While some of those who have signed the petition may have been donors to Mars Hill Global, the overwhelming majority (98%) of signers never gave to Mars Hill Global.

On April 4, 2014, parties whom were led by a former Mars Hill member sent a legal request for the preservation of documents to Mars Hill Church. This type of request normally proceeds a lawsuit, however a year has passed since Mars Hill received the legal notice. Then in August and again in December, these parties threatened legal action against many of the former MHC leadership, including myself. They charge that former leaders misappropriated funds with regards to Mars Hill Global. There are however a few facts to consider:
4. The leader of this potential legal action has not been a member of Mars Hill Church since 2007. He is a CEO of a non-profit that participates in Africa, and Mars Hill once supported this non-profit. There are now four remaining potential plaintiffs listed in the most recent threat of legal action sent in December 2014.

It's been hard to take at face value the 2014 claim from Mark Driscoll to the effect of "because we're not entirely sure who they are" when in 2015 Turner mentioned the details he mentioned.
Over two years ago, a group of former members of Mars Hill Church hired Plaintiff counsel, Mr. Fahling, to send a letter demanding that documents be preserved for purposes of a civil RICO lawsuit. (Turner Decl. at ¶6). Following that letter, the group of possible plaintiffs in the potential litigation changed, but the attorney pursuing the case remained the same, Brian Fahling. (Id.)  Mr. Fahling, on behalf of a group of plaintiffs, sent many demand letters to Mars Hill Church and to general counsel of Mars Hill Church requesting mediation and threatening lawsuits. (Id. at ¶7). These actions by the Plaintiffs cost the church a significant amount of money in legal fees. (Id.). These letters portrayed a desire for resolution and claimed that many other church members, beyond those named as plaintiffs, would step forward and join the lawsuit, if necessary. (Id. at ¶8).

This, again, would seem to raise a question about how accurate Mark Driscoll was being about how uncertain the Mars Hill leadership "we" was about who they were dealing with. 

In other coverage ...

It may not be entirely accurate to say the Mars Hill campuses closed.  They closed as Mars Hill campuses but about ten of them are relaunched/relaunching as independent churches.  The Mars Hill Foundation for Planting Churches is still listed as active according to the Washington State Secretary of State.
UBI Number 603349072
Category REG
Profit/Nonprofit Nonprofit
Active/Inactive Active
State Of Incorporation WA
WA Filing Date 10/30/2013
Expiration Date 10/31/2016
Inactive Date 
Duration Perpetual


1411 NW 50TH ST

1411 NW 50TH ST

That said, that mailing address for the officers could be out of date since it seems that the 50th street corporate HQ building for Mars Hill was a case of deed in lieu of foreclosure

For those who might even possibly care what B-50 Investors, LLC is
UBI Number 603448660
Category LLC
Active/Inactive Active
State Of Incorporation WA
WA Filing Date 11/03/2014
Expiration Date 11/30/2016
Inactive Date 
Duration Perpetual

10900 NE 4TH ST STE 1850

Governing Persons
10900 NE 4TH ST STE 1850
BELLEVUE , WA 98004 

 Then there's ... a potentially not necessarily related ...
B-50, LLC
UBI Number 603447982
Category LLC
Active/Inactive Inactive
State Of Incorporation WA
WA Filing Date 10/30/2014
Expiration Date 10/31/2015
Inactive Date 02/01/2016
Duration Perpetual
Which is to suggest that wherever ... MARS HILL FOUNDATION FOR PLANTING CHURCHES is now located, it probably can't be at the old corporate headquarters, can it?

But it's still listed as active so perhaps Driscoll or Bruskas can answer a question about the foundation? 

Meanwhile, the suit hasn't been something that seems worth reporting on unless things actually happen and since ... well, for want of a better way to put it things are happening, if only in the sense that stuff is being printed, that can be noted.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

"From the margins: women's writing and unpaid labor" ... some glum ruminations on art as leisure activity that keeps getting transmogrified by rhetoric into a priestly vocation ...
...Yet I heard from these women again and again that they assigned the greatest value possible to their writing precisely because they were aware no one else would do so, and because writing is real work. This valuation, unconsidered by the market, can instead be measured in terms of time, emotional energy, curiosity, focus, exchange of ideas: elements women know have essential currency in their lives. Even while raising a toddler, S. gets up to write in the mornings before her teaching job. That her writing is the labor of least immediate need – if she didn’t do it, her family wouldn’t go hungry or become homeless – doesn’t push it to the end of the to-do list. G. told me that she “tries not to compromise for anyone,” which means that writing trumps hanging with friends. K., who turned to freelance writing and editing after failing to find steady work in her new city, says that although she is apt to prioritize nonfiction assignments that pay, her fiction is what has “long-term value” for her: she hopes to get paid for it someday, but in the meantime she likes to remember that the value of writing is ultimately measured by the impact it has. “You don’t know where words will go,” she said, especially given the democratic access made possible by the Internet. [emphases added]

There's ... possibly some cognitive dissonance in deciding to value your writing because you perceive that no one else does but to keep writing all the same in the hope that it will have an impact.  There doesn't have to be, of course, but all art is a social activity to some degree or another.  You choose to value the art you make because you know that, right now, no one else does.  That might be why, as Matanya Ophee put it in something he wrote years ago, when you get down to it you have to concede that all publishing is ultimately some variation of vanity publishing.
In 1938, writing Three Guineas, Virginia Woolf bemoaned to her imaginary correspondent the fact that in order for women to receive an education that would allow them to earn a living, already a struggle, they had to subject themselves to the very values of competition and domination they hoped to escape by wriggling out from the financial grips of men. Women who have the education and privilege to earn their own money and spend it on time devoted to non-market creative production are in some ways acting out Woolf’s dream. Every time we sit down to write, often in the economic margins of our own lives, we choose ourselves and our work over activities whose value has been set by others. Simultaneously, we determine a value scale for our writing that’s different from the one set by a magazine’s pay rates, a tenure committee, or the book-buying public.

 This value scale is reflected in women’s goals for their writing. When I asked the women I spoke with about the endgame of their work, their responses were civic and existential, not just commercial: to create books people read and want to talk about, to exchange ideas, to make beautiful things. Not that we should knock commerce: for women especially, the passive income that can come from a successful book is yet another way of establishing the fiscal independence that can lead to cultural influence with fewer strings attached.

Woolf would enjoy this above all about the growing cadre of female “writers and _____.” We have found a way to continue our own education, and each other’s, by creating work that exists somewhat outside the economic influence of a society where we still only count sometimes. Our society sends women a gloppy salad of mixed messages: extolling mothers while denying them paid family leave, encouraging creativity only when it’s applied to saleable products, and keeping the cost of education high enough that students can barely afford to exchange ideas for fear of losing the job opportunity that pays their loans back. Amid all of that noise, we’ve still managed to create spaces – an hour here, an afternoon there – where only our work and its impact matter. [emphasis added] But nothing comes from nothing: the ability to do that is a natural extension of our ability to participate in the labor force at all. As Woolf put it, once a woman earns her own money, “she can declare her genuine likes and dislikes. In short, she need not acquiesce; she can criticize. At last she is in possession of an influence that is disinterested.” Criticizing and influencing now means something more than writing alone in a room: somewhere in that zone of fiscal and ideological independence, we have to take seriously our responsibility to value our work – and each other – loudly, especially when others won’t

This piece reminded me why Joan Didion considered feminism to be more or less a waste of time.  There were more important things and more interesting things to write about, for Didion, than some imaginary sisterhood.  One of the things I've read from Scott Timberg over the years is a polemic that has it that if we're not careful production in the arts will be a leisure activity.  Debra cash considered it a good line.

“If we’re not careful, culture work will become a luxury, like a vacation home,” Timberg writes. It’s a good line, and one that anyone who values a diverse cultural ecology would want to affirm. What he doesn’t want to admit is that, absent direct patronage, professional culture workers have often depended on outside sources of income. For some it was the second job (in the post-war period, that job was primarily teaching, a job indirectly subsidized by the government in the form of the G.I. Bill fostering a new population of students). For others, it was something unrelated (meet pediatrician William Carlos Williams). For many (more than we have usually acknowledged and certainly more than today’s BFA and MFA students are aware) it was a trust fund, family member, or a spouse of means. That cushion made it possible for a talented person work on a novel or a painting until the work could earn respect, if not a proportionate wage for the work the artist put into it. Maybe the market would respond, and maybe it wouldn’t, but at least the creative person had a chance to find out.

But I consider it stupid and dishonest.  "culture work" has always been the luxury of people in societies who didn't not have to worry about presently dying of starvation, malnutrition, pestilence, war, etc.  The arts have always been the product of leisure. 

I'm on the fence about "the culture of free".  Part of why I'm on the fence about it is that I'm not sure I think artists (read that as writers, musicians, poets, etc) should be able to make a living in the arts.  What if the arts scene that was celebrated in the last half century or so was a kind of cultural bubble, a side effect of the wartime and post-war production explosion?  What if, as some folks have proposed, the proliferation of certain types of avant garde activity in the Western arts was in some way bankrolled by the CIA?  Don't snicker too much, there's an actual book on this topic I'm planning to get to later this year. 

Ever since Miyazaki's The Wind Rises came out a few years ago I've been thinking about how film critics said it was a film about the nature of art ... but nobody seemed willing to take the simple step of proposing that what that film might say about art is that it is invariably the servant of an empire, no matter how idealized and idealistic it may be to those who work within whatever "art" may be.  Which would you choose, Caproni asks Jiro in one of Jiro's vision/dreams, a world with ... or without the pyramids?  The question is a haunting one because it is a question that, historically speaking, we've always had only one answer for, we live in a world with pyramids.

Long, long ago scribes were uncommon.  Scribes were part of an elite, part of a religious or political elite.  There were whole empires in which the capacity to read and write was guarded as a privilege not to be dispensed to the rank and file and the masses.  We live in an era in which writers seem to want that scribal/priestly caste's halo.  If we can't get that veneration from others ... we'll bestow it upon ourselves? 

When so many critiques of institutional and informal power consist of the proposal and observation that there's ultimately no such thing as "disinterested" speech ... it seems weird to propose that "now" women can arrive at what Woolf presented as an aspiration.  How sure should we be that we want to live out a highbrow perspective?  I mean, if you're into that, great.  I have some highbrow tastes myself.  It's just that ... it doesn't seem like criticizing and influencing have changed all that much.  No one "counts" all the time.  "Counting" is a sometime process even for the most powerful man in the world. 

Sometimes it's helpful to remember that if today writers keep saying stuff to the effect that the words they can write down can/could/would/should/will have the power to change reality as we know it and that seems a bit overhyped ... that's kind of one of the ineradicable undercurrents of humans writing.  The hope and ambition that the written word could change the world as we know it probably goes back as far as the world's first written word. 

some extra reading for the weekend, academic writings that discuss Sor's approach to sonata form (finally! there are treatises you can find on this stuff)

This one ...

A Performance Guide to the Multi-Movement Guitar Sonatas of Fernando Sor and Mauro Giuliani
Rattanai Bampenyou

This one discusses Sor and Giulani, their formal sonatas and performance notes about playing those sonatas.  While I would have suggested (as I have here at Wenatchee The Hatchet) including the etudes in E flat and C major as examples of sonata form in Sor's work, this treatise was a fine overview of the "official" deployment of sonata in Sor's work. 

Particularly interesting to me is reference to academic treatments of sonata and 18th century approaches to music by William E Caplin James Hepokoski and Warren Darcy that got mentioned in Bampenyou's treatment.  I've seen reference to Caplin's writing on sonata form over at Kyle Gann's blog and plan to check out Caplin's work.  The Hepokoski/Darcy work is referenced as presenting a range of potential sonata forms, and THAT sounds fascinating.  Charles Rosen wrote decades ago that there wasn't a fixed sonata form but it seems Hepokoski and Darcy got around to building a general taxonomy of types of sonata forms that has probably been overdue for a generation.

Bampenyou's treatment suggests that as 21st century musicology and musical analysis can manage to shake off the 19th century oversimplifications about sonata and fugue, and we work to get a sense that sonata and fugue were not so much fixed forms as flexible thought processes, it may be possible for guitarists to do more scholarly work in exploring the ways guitarist composers approached sonata form.  I've already blogged years ago that you can't take the strict "textbook" sonata concept promulgated in 19th century and earlier 20th century lesson plans and make sense of what Diabelli did in his Op. 29 sonatas where, for instance, he never brings back his first theme material in the recapitulation of his first movement for the F major sonata. Rather than seeing this as a "failure" to write a "good" sonata form, it's nice to see scholarship has come around to being able to recognize that this would fit within the range of compositional choices available to composers. 

So we could maybe even gamble on saying that when Chopin didn't bring back primary theme material in his B flat minor piano sonata it was less a deviation from the range of "norms" than it was a less "probable" choice within the range of what was expected of a "good" sonata form in 19th century terms.  But that may suggest, to me at least, that Chopin had a firm enough of a grasp of what his options were that he didn't feel obliged to follow what were arguably 19th century misconceptions about what sonata form "ought" to do.

Perhaps one of the reasons that the 19th century theorists misunderstood the sonata form or "first movement" form is that by the 19th century a number of interpretive/performance decisions had been made that led to a kind of conceptual compression.  In earlier sonatas you'd play the exposition twice and that repetition was structural and not simply ornamental.  The development and recapitulation might get repeated, too, but many of these repeats were not observed in a lot of performances (and recordings).  These repeats could be skipped because, basically, there's a conceptual compression that can take place.  Once we have the idea that we know what a sonata is supposed to sound like we don't "need" to repeat the exposition to know we've heard an exposition.  We don't "need" to observe the repeats even if they are clearly written into the score. 

Eventually compositional practice in continuing to work with sonata form could emulate the performance practice but it's possible that by the 19th century the practical compression of the formal elements of sonata movements led to a point where the nature of what was going on in terms of 18th century practices led to a misreading by 19th century theorists.  That over time many composers chose primary and secondary themes with contrasting qualities could lead 19th century theorists to conceive of sonata form as a clash between themes and their characters rather than a discourse built on contrasts in tonality--any long-term study of the music of Haydn would reveal that thematic contrast is not really a requirement in his sonata forms.  He wasn't the only composer who played with monothematicism as a guiding process in sonata forms but he's easily the most famous. 

Leonard B. Meyer wrote in the last century that in the drive to explore music as innovation scholars overlooked the component of choice, of what choices are made and within what contexts.  Meyer stated that the Romantic era theorists imagined sonata form as a "plan" rather than a "script".  I'd write more about that but I'd need to go dig up actual quotable references before I feel like doing that.  So, instead ... we'll get to the other academic paper ...

Fernando Sor's Evolution as a Performer and Composer as Reflected in the Revisions of the Grande Sonate, Op. 22
Lars Rosvoll

And, yeah, that's exactly as treatise-y as the title suggests.  :)  I read both these treatises a while back and really enjoyed them.  I've got books to keep on my readerly radar about sonata form that I'll at some point get to. 

Now if comparable academic treatments of sonata forms as explored by Diabelli, Carulli, Matiegka or ... maybe even Molitor got written that'd be a nice step forward for academic study of the guitar literature.  You could easily write a treatment of Matiegka's appropriation of Haydn's works in his output.  I've been thinking about writing such a thing for a while, actually, because I might have more Haydn music than any composer except perhaps Bach ... no ... actually that's probably not true.  I have a LOT of Haydn in my listening stock. 

So, anyway, there's some cool stuff to read on Sor's guitar sonatas if you're into that kind of thing, which I obviously am.

HT Jim West: The Role of Women in the Making of the Messianic Dynasty by Rachel Adelman
The Role of Women in the Making of the Messianic Dynasty

Some reading for your weekend, if you like.

Sandow at Arts Journal proposes that classical music doesn't do African American musical idioms but I've got my doubts about this--what if the problem is "classical" has rejected vernacular/pop idioms and the abjection of black American music was just part of that?
One reason Hamilton hit so hard, and seemed both so current and so right, was that its music was hiphop.
But classical music doesn’t do hiphop. Or any other African-American musical idiom. Oh, something might creep in, now and then, but it’s coming from outside.

I have my doubts about this. Serious doubts.  It's not as though ragtime, for instance, hasn't been in any way connected to the "classical" tradition, for instance.  Or does that not "count" because of the observable influence of European parlor music?  It's still a potentially live question whether or not classical music does vernacular American musical idioms as a whole.  Plus ...
and one of the misconceptions George Walker has lived with for half a century is the assumption that a black musician "must" play jazz. 
and here's a link to an interview with Ethan Iverson, through whose blogging I learned of George Walker's music.
Walker's piano sonatas are pretty cool, by the way. 
Walker's no more obliged to write music that people would say has to sound "black" than to write music that has to sound "white".  One of the misgivings I have had about the rhetoric of "cultural appropriation" as applied to musical idioms from people of color is that when there's a complaint about cultural appropriation this seems to forget that if we listen to how Ellington dodged the attempt to define his music as "jazz" we'll miss something--in his history of Western music Richard Taruskin said that there are two broad camps on the issue of ethnomusicology that could be described as essentialist and social constructivist.  There are those who would say race is a social construct and those who consider there to be something essential in a race that is reflected in the music. 

The terms themselves would probably convey their meanings easily enough.  The way they often get used ... it can sometimes seem as if one of the simplest problems with any "essentialist" reading is that it requires people to be put in a "bucket" based on race.  I've been reading Ted Gioia's book on the Delta blues and he wrote that while there was some possibility Charlie Patton had Native American in his lineage that didn't matter because in Patton's part of the South he was a black man.  And that can sum up the limitation of an essentialist approach to the arts and to even defining race.  If you come from a mixed race lineage do you have to "pick" which lineage is "really" yours?  Why?
But it seems to me that when I try to remember how Ellington appealed to the history of his race in describing the music he wrote it was as if he made an essentialist appeal for the motivation to write the music but didn't necessarily invoke essentialist terms for the music itself which, I would hope this is obvious by now, he hoped anyone and everyone could appreciate. It's impossible to overlook the "cultural appropriation" of a quote from Chopin's B flat minor piano sonata funeral march at the end of "Black and Tan Fantasy".  Was that an improper cultural appropriation on the part of one of Ellington's musicians?  No, it was a brilliant musical joke that's part of a jazz classic. 
As Rod Dreher was arguing in the last year cultural appropriation is pretty much the whole history of art.  I'd take an extra step and suggest that what J. S. Bach did when he assimilated aspects of the German, French, English and Italian styles and maybe some Polish folk tunes here and there he was undertaking a culturally appropriative project.  Cultural appropriation certainly happens in the contexts of empires but in that sense all art reflects the empire of its time and place and the "mainstream" is the assimilative project that results.  Blues and country are more the mainstream now than classical music and if classical music has had a public relations problem it is more likely that it has looked down on vernacular and popular styles as a whole in a way that wasn't even observably the case in prior centuries. 
Now classical music may have a long history of doing African-American musical idioms BADLY but that's not the same thing as saying it's never found a place for vernacular or folk music.  It may not have helped that essentialist narratives have too often guided how "we" have tried to talk about musical idioms and disciplines.  Back when I was in school some teachers had a supposition that blues and jazz had this form/function relationship in which the vernacular idioms wouldn't "fit" with sonata or fugue.  I've never agreed with that idea.  I think that blues and country could ... if not easily fit into the formal/developmental parameters of sonata or fugue, they could still fit.  The only reason you "can't" write a fugue based on blues riffs or country licks is not because it actually can't be done but because too many people have dumped blues and country into some category where it's not allowed to inform 18th century contrapuntal procedures and vice versa.  But I'll just assert here that there are moments in Haydn string quartets where I heard a laconic I IV V progression and melodic riff that could have fit into a Hank Williams Sr. song.  Somewhere in the mid-50 opus numbered quartets. 
If Sandow's take is classical music needs to take an anti-chauvinist stance with respect to any real or perceived divides between "art" music and "popular" music I'm totally on board with being an anti-chauvinist.  I've gone so far as to argue, as a Christian that there's a theological/doctrinal/ethical imperative to side with the anti-chauvinist position.  Non-Christians are, of course, free to have some other reason to object to the chauvinist stance in which "high" art gets to look down on "low" art, or the middle-brow.
But to say so sweepingly that classical music doesn't "do" African American music ... I think that's a harder generalization to either make or defend.  Alex Ross wrote something about Wagner and his music and our popular imagination a while back where he proposed that the racism we read on to the Wagner cult may tell us less about them in the past than about us now. 
If race is a social construct then there isn't a white or a black way to use an augmented sixth chord and the conceptual/lexical possibilities in styles can be approached as art that is informed by a history of a group without collapsing the music itself into that history.  I've got no beef with an essentialist narrative for why blacks, whites and other colors of people write the music they do or how they draw inspiration to write music that expresses where they've come from, but if as some argue, race is a social construct, then musicology could maybe run with that.  Our musical notation system has its limits, obviously, but that wouldn't mean that just because live performance involves microtonal variations that our notational system can't account for that American blues somehow doesn't follow "the rules" of Western music.  The history of musical theories in the West has, at least up until the innovations of the 20th century, tended to be more of a post hoc explanation of what people liked to keep listening to than a prescription.   As a post hoc exercise in figuring out why "we" keep coming back to Haydn string quartets or blues by John Lee Hooker we're no more obliged to act as if there are "rules" that dictate what they "should have done" than to explore what they actually did in the stuff we like. If that means at some point we have to shake off some more vestiges of German Idealism, so be it. 


Slate "The media keeps misfiring when it writes about guns"
It’s a little surprising that Mother Jones conflated the two in its Orlando coverage. The magazine tends to be scrupulously sober-minded about guns; its database of mass shootings is thorough and resists the urge to inflate fearmongering statistics. Less surprising, perhaps, are Rolling Stone’s errors. The magazine’s claim that it’s easier to get an assault rifle than an abortion is particularly egregious, since assault rifles are regulated by the National Firearms Act of 1934 and require a lengthy permit process that is handled by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. Do you want an M16, the military version of the AR-15? Expect a wait of seven to eleven months.
In the Washington Post this week, Eugene Robinson wrote, “When the framers wrote of  ‘arms,’ they were thinking about muskets and single-shot pistols. They could not have foreseen modern rifles or high-capacity magazines.” A few problems with this. First, gun enthusiasts will be only too happy to educate you on the existence of the Girandoni air rifle, which dates back to 1779, 12 years before the Second Amendment was ratified. It used compressed air, not gunpowder, and could hold 20 bullets at once. Lewis and Clark had one with them when Thomas Jefferson sent them out to explore the West. Second, we can argue all day about what the Framers—all now dead for 200 years or so—intended with the Second Amendment. But it seems disingenuous to argue that, in crafting a document that has largely served us well for more than 220 years, they couldn’t imagine improvements in gun technology.
If the media wants to work toward actual solutions for gun violence, to do right by the people who are senselessly murdered, they need more than righteous indignation. They need to be better informed and more willing to engage honestly with their opponents.
This week has been a week for the left and right to advocate for the kind of police state they think we ought to have.  I'm skeptical about a lot of ideas espoused by folks from the libertarian camp because I think that the baseline for human group behavior tends toward authoritarian/conformist/totalitarian rather than individual liberty.  Granted, libertarians seem to get that this can be the frequent baseline.  So to the extent that they argue for limits on government power I can appreciate that.  Neither the left nor the right have convinced me in the last thirty years that what they ultimately want ISN'T functionally totalitarian.  There seems to be a sentiment that says "it's not tyranny if my team came up with the idea" that becomes "tyranny!" when the other side implements the policy.

This feels like the most pernicious aspect of partisan loyalty in the two-party system of our era, that the kinds of people who vote red state or blue state across the board who envision that the ideal future would be one in which their party dominates every level of governance don't realize that in emotional, spiritual and intellectual terms what we used to call that in the previous century was a totalitarian mindset.  Aka one party.  The kinds of people who take to the internet to advocate for their ideological/political causes often as not (more often, it seems) want what looks suspiciously like a totalitarian regime in some form or another. 

The Slate piece that compared the eventual banning of these and those firearms to the eventual abolition of slavery came off like a smug argument in bad faith.  The propaganda of the left and right white establishments has camped out on slavery as a comparison point.  Perhaps as whites are demographically less the "mainstream" one of the necessary aims of propaganda for the probably still mainly white rich male power bases in the two party system is to successfully make the case that the OTHER party is more racist overall in its core convictions than the one who's making a pitch for your loyalty.  But it's not a contest, both lose.  But it's interesting to read the polemics all the same because whether it's Jacobin making a case that neo-cons were basically Jews who betrayed the interests of blacks because they feared that affirmative action and quotas in academia would harm their unusually large hold on formal power in American academics or conservatives reminding everyone of the racist element in eugenics as a progressive cause the end game seems awkwardly clear, don't vote for those racists, vote for us.  But if racism was so endemic as to be entrenched across the divides then pretending that "we" aren't all connected to it doesn't matter.  Even if we distinguish between racism as racist views married to institutional and informal power on the one hand and racist views in which a person can demonize another race that might have power the core problem doesn't go away.

What seems to keep coming up is that one the one hand we have partisans who complain about how violence has been directed to one group or another in a way that is unjust ... but then we still can't shake off the act of scapegoating.  That seems to be one of our core problems as humans.  Gays were shot and killed in the last week and ... if we ban something then at least they will be killed in less gruesomely efficient ways. 

But for Slate contributors to compare banning guns to ending slavery seems specious.  The nearest comparison point of banning access to THINGS, rather than ending institutional prohibitions that disenfranchised whole groups of people, would be the prohibition of alcohol or the war on drugs.  Some have gone so far as to say that if you end the war on drugs you'll end the formal excuses used by law enforcement to keep institutional racism alive. 

People scapegoat and when they scapegoat they will feel that whomever they're scapegoating maybe isn't even being scapegoated, it's just giving those bad people whatever payback is what they deserve for being evil.  That's just how people seem to be, especially when they say that the truth of their nature is otherwise. 

Over the last twenty some years of my rather humdrum life I have considered and rejected the axiom that man was born free but everywhere is in chains.  No, chains are what we want.  You will never convince the sheeple to wake up by telling them they're sheeple.  No, they'll hear you say that and if you tell them to stop drinking the Kool-aid they will drink another gallon just to spite you.  We are conformists as humans, we are drinkers of Kool-aid.  You're more likely to get people to second-guess themselves not by saying "don't drink the Kool-aid" but by saying something more like, "Look, I know we like to drink Kool-aid because that's something we observably do but ... why should we drink THIS Kool-aid? What is it about this one that makes its flavor so appealing?"  This approach doesn't tell them to stop drinking the kool-aid, you'll notice, it suggests that there might be a more appealing flavor to try.  The miserable, tragic paradox of those who would insist that people choose another way is they so frequently take up the incendiary rhetoric that would simultaneously insist that those they hope to convince have no other morally acceptable choice. There may in the end be no more tyrannically uncompromising rhetorical idiom in contemporary internet discourse than that which talks about human freedoms. 

Over at Triablogue, Steve raises the problem of how eternal subordination/eternal generation of the Son ends up being superfluous to the complementarian position if complementarianism isn't supportable at the level of biological/social reality

I'd like to comment on a subset of complementarians who ground their position in the eternal subordination of the Son, which, in turn, is grounded in eternal generation. For discussion purposes, let's stipulate eternal generation.

i) The direct way to underwrite complementarianism is to say that while men and women are alike in many ways, and can do the same things in areas where they are alike, men and women are naturally dissimilar in certain significant ways, and social structures ought to reflect and respect those differences. Men and women have certain physical and psychological differences which, at least in part, undergird complementarianism

Another way to potentially put this, perhaps, is to suggest that if complementarianism can't be established on the basis of some form of "natural law" or observation about nature then  ...
ii) The question, then, is whether these natural differences are sufficient or insufficient to justify complementarianism. If sufficient, then the eternal subordination of the Son is superfluous to complementarianism. The natural differences between men and women are adequate to warrant different treatment. Treat like things alike, and unlike things unalike. That's a stand-alone justification for the position. It requires nothing else.

iii) But suppose the natural differences are deemed to be insufficient. In that event, appeal to the eternal subordination of the Son functions as a makeweight. If, however, the natural differences are insufficient to justify complementarianism, then it's hard to see how invoking the eternal subordination of the Son will shore up that deficiency. [emphasis added] ...
I'm translating a bit here, so to speak, but the proposal is that if complementarianism can't be defended at the "lower level" of anthropology then trying to raise the bar or defend it at the higher level of intra-Trinitarian dynamics won't get the job done, either, especially since by definition we Christians have to grant that the being and nature of God is frequently incommensurate to what we can say about ourselves as humans.
Something else Steve has mentioned that's worth quoting is the observation that while a consensus report has had it that this has been an intra-Calvinist debate ... :
ii) Some commentators have framed the issue as an intra-Calvinist debate. But that's questionable. For instance, Bruce Ware is an Amyraldian Molinist who denies divine impassibility. Likewise, I don't know if all the various contributors to One God in Three Persons: Unity of Essence, Distinction of Persons, Implications for Life are Calvinists. By the same token, I don't know if Denny Burke is a Calvinist. 

iii) In addition, I suspect many or most contemporary NT scholars reject eternal generation (and eternal procession) because they reject the traditional interpretation of the standard prooftexts for eternal generation (and eternal procession). If so, Calvinism is not the differential factor. 
In other words, let's not be too quick to assume this has been an intra-Calvinist debate since Amyraldian Molinism isn't exactly traditionally Reformed.  Now it does seem like it might be slightly safer to say that there's been some differences between Baptists and Presybterians in some settings, perhaps, but this is still a sweeping generalization, too. 
The trouble is that sweeping generaliations are kind of what humans make on the internet. It's hard to shake it even if you're trying not to and many people aren't trying not to.

Friday, June 17, 2016

HT Jim West, a longform piece at Atlantic Monthy about the Jesus' wife fraudulent manuscript Prof. King got behind

for the TL:DR scene, if it seems too good to be true ... or, rather, we could say that the quest for novelty in America is so toxic now that American academics (for want of a better word) can embody it now as much as a tabloid.
To sum up: are simple statements of academics, dealers and collectors, eventually accompanied by unchecked and/or not publicly available documents, sufficient to prove provenance in scientific publications of recently emerged texts? Personally, I do not think so, especially after what we have been seeing in recent years and in the wider context of a market inundated by an increasing stream of objects coming from Egypt (You want number and graphs? Then read e.g. D.W. Gill, ‘Egyptian Antiquities on the Market’, in: The Management of Egypt’s Cultural Heritage, edited by F. A. Hassan, and al., vol. 2: 67-77. London 2015).

This story invites all of us – members of editorial boards in particular – to reflect very carefully on documenting provenance. Imagine a different, and more sinister scenario, one involving someone who smuggles a papyrus, or buys it illegally, and then offers it to an academic so desperate to publish to avoid checking provenance in depth: in this case, if the academic is based in the United Kingdom, he can risk to be charged with an offence under section 328 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 connected with money laundering, because his publication or opinion facilitates exchanges of criminal property. (You don’t believe me? Then read J. Ulph and al., The Illicit Trade in Art and Antiquities. International Recovery and Criminal and Civil Liability, Oxford 2012, esp. pp. 110-111).
Now, my fellow academics, ask yourself once again: would you publish a papyrus without solid, documented provenance for a flashy appearance on the media and one more article out?

Thursday, June 16, 2016

recent Atlantic feature about She-ra opens with one of the more readily disputable claims about animation in the US of the last forty years "The 1980s were a golden era for TV cartoons". I beg to differ

The 1980s were a golden era for TV cartoons. Animated shows including The Smurfs, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and The Real Ghostbusters featured vivid landscapes and a variety of strange heroes, from blue forest people to human-cat hybrids to sewer turtles. But they had one significant thing in common. As the writer Katha Pollitt noted in The New York Times in 1991, most cartoon series featured a legion of male characters but only a single female, a phenomenon that Pollitt called the “Smurfette Principle.” Because the animation industry and the children’s toy market were so closely linked at the time, the trope of a token girl amid a troupe of boys dominated not only television, but also the shelves of toy stores.
having actually been a kid from that time the era was not exactly a golden era for TV cartoons.  It was a golden era for fully integrated mass media marketing campaigns that had as their singular aim the promotion of toys, video games, and things like that ... but in terms of animation as an art form that aspired to more than making new ways to sell Diaclone toys that's another matter.
The article focuses on She-ra as a kind of proto-Powerpuff triumph.  The thing is, the case that cartoons were some kind of boy-centric thing comes off as slightly overstated.
it's been drubbed by film critics but the Jem and the Holograms live-action film suggests that for those who remember the cartoon from the 1980s it was not strictly some boys' club.  The existence of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is predicated on its 1980s-era forebear.  The Care Bears got TWO movies inside of the Reagan era and an animated show.  Rainbow Brite had an animated show.  Strawberry Shortcake had an animated world to explore.  The fact that middle-aged men with more money than aesthetic sense may keep giving Michael Bay an incentive to make Transformers movies isn't in itself a proof that the 1980s were a golden age for `toons.
This day I considered the shows from the 1980s I could remember readily.
There was a Care Bears show.  Lotso from Toy Story 3 was, a rumor has it, intended to be an evil Care Bear. 
How about Pole Position? Remember playing that video game?  Check out the cartoon series!  If your tastes veered more toward Pac Man or Donkey Kong (and associated games) there were cartoons for those, too.  If we wanted to float the idea that cartoons could incorporate primarily minority cast characters there's always Rubik the Amazing Cube but the show was, to put it nicely, nothing more than an advertisement for, you know.  Dan Riba would go on to work on far more memorable stuff later!
Actually ... as animated spin-offs from a live-action tie-in go ... Mister T had a catchy theme song and is a couple of steps up from Rubik (in my opinion, obviously).  Maybe people won't remember Cavadini's work in this cartoon but maybe they'll remember her (deservedly so!) for her work as Blossom.
Then there's Turbo Teen. There's the Gary Coleman Show.Thundarr the Barbarian was pretty solid for a Ruby Spears production.
And who could forget Alvin & the Chipmunks from the 1980s?  And that franchise spawned a few live-action features, as did, obviously, the Smurfs.  Now we could easily establish that in the 1980s some juggernaut franchises emerged that led to many live-action films being made in this century film critics wish they didn't have to review ... but to say of that age of Reagan that it was a golden era for TV cartoons ... that's not how I remember it and I was a kid in that era.  If you want to get the Gummi Bears adventures on disc I'm sure you can.  Surely, by now, you're sensing a theme with variations.
I mean, once you get past the obvious toy commercials like G. I. Joe, Transformers, He-Man ... when you factor in Thundercats and Silverhawks it's ... still hard to say confidently the 1980s was a golden era for TV cartoons.  There's those, and Ducktales and Tailspin were memorably solid shows.  Disney's TV line was far more steady in the 1980s than its feature film `toons.  The franchises that keep coming back with live-action films are the ones that had genuinely bankable toys.  I'm not reading anything in any trade magazines (even if I read those) about a Gummi Bears revival just yet.  The Jem movie may have been pilloried by film critics but somebody thought the premise could work.  And Jem could be said to have taken up an element from, say, Josie and the Pussycats. 
Whereas in the 1990s we can throw in The Simpsons, Batman: the animated series, Animaniacs, Tiny Toons, Tailspin, Gargoyles, Superman: the animated series.  Beavis & Butthead, Freakazoid, The Powerpuff Girls, Ren & Stimpy, Static Shock, and South Park.  We could even throw in Transformers: Beast Wars and that's not even remotely comprehensive for a list. 
If you want to make a case that there was a golden era for TV cartoons the 1990s seem like a stronger candidate.  While Maria Theresa Hart is welcome to think of the 1980s as a golden era for TV cartoons, for this kid who was around for that era there was a lot of cut-rate stuff.  And arguably things have gotten vastly better as people began to treat animation as an art form that had a purpose besides getting kids to persuade parents to shell out money for toys, video games, snack foods and so on.  It's just impossible for me to see the 1980s as a golden era for TV cartoons.  The golden era for animation for TV toons was the 1990s.  For that matter even feature animation in the 1980s was often not that good.  The Transformers movie from back then is barely ... you know ... I have to admit I could never finish watching it.  The Bayformer films hold up better.  Whereas I'd watch The Last Unicorn again.  And in the 1990s?  Well, some studio called Pixar made some film about toys and, in contrast to the 1980s precedent, got it to have some more artistic weight to it for ... some reason.  It's not that you can't make animation that ends up selling toys, it's that there's other stuff that has to happen, too.  Jem was not the token girl, for instance, she was the whole point of her show.