Thursday, January 29, 2015

and "Seattle's Scarlet Letter Composting System"

... of course ...
http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2015/01/Seattle-Residents-Will-Be-Publically-Shamed-Fined-for-Not-Sorting-Compost/384896/

more from the Atlantic: "Buying Music is So Over"

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/01/buying-music-is-so-over/384790/

...
The top 1 percent of bands and solo artists now earn about 80 percent of all revenue from recorded music, as I wrote in "The Shazam Effect." But the market for streamed music is not so concentrated.  ...

Which might be interpreted as "no matter how much you love making music don't quit your day job".  It might also explain why folks like Tom Petty would be willing to go to court over what they perceive to be infringement on their ideas.  If someone has that big a ratio of the revenue coming in from recorded music then would shifts in that revenue feel more seismic that high up the pyramid?

since there's an episode 7 coming along ... we may revisit the foolishness of Campbell's monomyth

Not that Wenatchee The Hatchet is necessarily going to show how stupid the monomyth is right now, in much detail, but the short version is that of the hero's journey added up as a descriptive theme it should account for the wildly divergent strains of the Faust legend in European and American colonial folklore but it doesn't quite do that.

As if that weren't enough, we live in the 21st century after all and there's yet another problematic element of the Campbellian monomyth that could be summed up be a few things from the realm of, of course, gender studies. 

http://www.ribbonfarm.com/2015/01/28/the-heroines-journey/#more-4874

The Heroine's Journey
Haley Thurston
...
In The Power of Myth, Joseph Campbell says that a hero is “someone who has found or achieved or done something beyond the normal range of achievement and experience. A hero properly is someone who has given his life to something bigger than himself or other than himself.” He goes on to distinguish between physical heroes, those who do deeds, and spiritual heroes, those who “[have] learned or found a mode of experiencing the supernormal range of human spiritual life, and then come back and communicated it.”


This is a grand and beautiful model. And especially when we just leave it at “someone who has achieved something beyond the normal range of achievement and experience,” it works very well for a hero of any gender. But when Campbell gets into the specifics of what counts or is celebrated as an unusual achievement, or how that achievement goes about getting done, I start thinking “well those are pretty unambiguously good achievements, but they’re also pretty male.”
.
..

and since it's an article in Ribbon Farm there's so much, much more. :)

50 years of Steve Reich's "It's Gonna Rain"

What do you know?  Fifty years?
http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2015/01/27/381575433/fifty-years-of-steve-reichs-its-gonna-rain

Wenatchee The Hatchet has more than just a handful of recordings of music by Steve Reich.  Could hardly pass up linking to this little feature.

Atlantic Monthly: Batgirl's psychologist ...

After having spent so much time writing about the DCAU over at ... you may know where ... why wouldn't Wenatchee The Hatchet link to this?  :)

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/01/batgirls-psychologist/384661/
http://www.underthemaskonline.com/the-arkham-sessions/

It's been a while since we revisited stuff from the DCAU.  Batman: The Agony of Loss and the Madness of Desire was a couple of years ago.  Finished in time for the 20th anniversary of the classic cartoon.  Work on the essays dealing with Justice League were largely sidetracked by other blogging projects.

With 2015 here, and the tenth anniversary of the Cadmus arc coming along, Wenatchee The Hatchet's going to try to get back to blogging some about cartoons.

Slate's Adam Ragusea compars Tom Petty to Mark Rothko ... which begs the question who is rock n roll's Frank Stella?

http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2015/01/27/tom_petty_s_copyright_settlement_why_sam_smith_didn_t_really_plagiarize.html

Come to think of it, Petty is more like a musical Mark Rothko, in that he usually paints with only a few big splotches of solid color. Just because he’s famous for doing it, does that really mean nobody else is allowed to?

The discussion is the plagiarism suit Petty has brought forth about a song.

...
So really, all we’re talking about is the motive itself, and that’s just “Mi Sol La Sol Mi,” for you solf├Ęge singers out there. A lot more songwriters are going to owe points to Tom Petty if he in fact “owns” that simple figure, much less the idea of transposing it around in sequence.

Yes, I’ve seen the incriminating mash-up that digitally alters the tempo and key of the two songs to make them match and then layers them on top of each other. But man, I could find you a lot of songs that would be similarly simpatico with a few tweaks.
 
This is rock ‘n’ roll we’re talking about. It’s not that there’s only one way to rock, as Sammy Hagar once asserted—but the ways are finite.

After a few centuries of restricting ourselves to twelve chromatic tones there were only so many variations that would be possible.  If Tom Petty's the Mark Rothko of rock and pop then it would be interesting to find out who rock's Frank Stella is.  Or Mondrian.

Wenatchee The Hatchet has read a few folks here and there who propose that there's a problem with intellectual property that stifles creativity.  That's probably not really the biggest problem in the long run.  All artistic activity is ultimately the result of leisure and if people can't afford the leisure to develop artistic pursuits then the crisis is not necessarily "just" about intellectual property and its application but about patronage.  No arts have thrived for long without some robust form of patronage.  As the Joker put it in The Dark Knight, when you're good at something, never do it for free but perhaps that's just the movies.  Perhaps in real life you'll actually spend money working in the arts buying musical gear or paintbrushes and making stuff and doing the arts at a financial and temporal loss for years. 

When music is a commodity first and a service second then, yeah, maybe being willing to fight about how the commodity is understood or deployed makes some sense.

If anything we live in an era in which it has become so much easier to see how many of the boundaries between this and that style of music is formal or conceptual in the beholder rather than the creator ... we may just be better situated to observe what was written in Ecclesiastes, there's nothing new under the sun.  Does this thing appear to be new?  It was from days long ago. 

on Schaeffers and shortcuts ... how Christians left and right can use proxy and celebrity as shortcuts

A few weeks back there was a lively discussion that emerged over at Mockingbird discussing the art of Thomas Kinkade and the use of observations by Francis Schaeffer to discuss themes in the arts. 

http://www.mbird.com/2015/01/francis-schaeffer-on-the-problem-with-thomas-kinkades-optimistic-art/

Having grown up with some exposure to the work of Francis Schaeffer it was interesting to read Frank Schaeffer's Crazy for God years ago.  The son seems to have nothing much to work with except leveraging the celebrity of his father and has had less than grateful things to say about his old man. This is, in its way, fairly normal American.  But if Francis Schaeffer became a hero to the Religious Right Frank Schaeffer seems to have positioned himself as a sorta religious left.  "I'm not my dad" is about all he has to work with and yet as weaknesses for ideological grandstanding go the son, at length, doesn't seem much different from the father.

Sometimes it seems as though we turn into our parents not only in spite of our best efforts to not be like them but paradoxically through our most ardent efforts to not be like them. Back in the Crazy for God writings Frank seemed perfectly willing to admit he bullied his father into become more militantly opposed to abortion when Francis Schaeffer had taken a fairly standard Protestant line in the 1960s and earlier 1970s by regarding abortion as a "Catholic" issue.  But after a couple of election cycles Frank's version of events suggested his father, were he alive, would have approved of reactionary anti-American terrorism.  Well, if so, then wouldn't Frank have supported it back then, too? 

That Frank Schaeffer took the time to plug for one of his books the week of Nelson Mandela's funeral seemed mercenary and lazy in a way that even Mark Driscoll would have thought twice about. 

Wenatchee The Hatchet has been grateful for elements of Francis Schaeffer's legacy, particularly his willingness to engage the entire range of the arts.  That's ... probably about as far as it goes currently, because Schaeffer asserted a few things that Wenatchee doesn't entirely agree with.  Tonality in music is more optional than obligatory and atonality, pantonality and a other elements of music that erupted into the avant garde in the last century are not in any way indicative of some abandonment of a "Christian worldview" overall.  Schaeffer's Christian worldview/humanism dichotomy was often reductionist.  In concert music some of the most innovative contributors to the avant garde hailed from some religiously pretty conservative backgrounds.  Stravinsky eventually (after a long while) returned to the Orthodox fold.  Messiaen and Penderecki, Catholics. 

The simplest way to describe what I think has run amok with any Schaeffer, Francis or Frank, is that too many Christians use them as shortcuts, as go-to celebrities to prove their particular points, whether for conservative or progressive score-keeping purposes. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Fantastic Four trailer removes any doubt that at least some of the soundtrack for the forthcoming film had to have been composed by Phillip Glass.

of course there might also be this bit of verification by way of The Guardian ...
http://www.theguardian.com/music/2015/jan/27/philip-glass-to-score-forthcoming-fantastic-four-film

Glass has done film scores before so it's not a surprise he's doing soundtrack work but it IS a bit surprising he's doing soundtrack work connected to a superhero film.  As composers labeled minimalists go Wenatchee The Hatchet has always preferred Steve Reich and Terry Riley and John Adams to Phillip Glass.

Apropos of composers ... today was, uh, Mozart's birthday.  Not actually a huge fan of Mozart (prefer Haydn and late Beethoven, for the most part) but, hey, might as well give a nod to Mozart's birthday having mentioned Phillip Glass, eh?

Brad Sargent summarizes events between Tony Jones and Julie McMahon, some considerations of Rachel Held Evans reactions to Driscoll vs Jones

https://diagnosingemergent.wordpress.com/04-personal-issues-between-tony-jones-and-julie-mcmahon/

A few years back Rachel Held Evans posted "Mark Driscoll is a bully: Stand up to him" Compiling a linkathon of reasons to consider Driscoll a bully, Evans urged readers to take a stand against Driscoll. back in July 2011.  When Driscoll formulated a response, "The Issue Under a Lot of Issues", the net result was to promote the then forthcoming Pastor Mark TV and book Real Marriage.

A few years back Evans wrote about why Driscoll's popularity was not discouraging to her.
http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/mark-driscoll-popularity
1. Those of us who advocate servant leadership instead of hierarchal leadership are less likely to produce “evangelical celebrities.” 

Two things to consider.  The first thing is that as Darryl Hart put it in a book a few years ago, evangelicalism has historically been more progressive than conservative in its political ambitions if you look at its broader history in the United States.  The second thing is that celebrity can and clearly does exist regardless of political or ideological alignment.  If Francis Schaeffer has been a hero to the Christian Right Frank Schaeffer has parlayed that into making himself a Christian Left voice and the problem of the celebrity as shortcut for rigorous discussion and debate doesn't get avoided whichever way we turn, left or right in politics or theology. 

The last two years of controversy surrounding Mark Driscoll have suggested that the reason for Driscoll's decline was he could not ultimately weather the level of internal critique and scrutiny he was subjected to.  Driscoll was not "brought low" by progressives but by conservatives and evangelicals who probed him about finances, intellectual property and other issues.  Evans, meanwhile, seemed to mainly have use for Mark Driscoll as a foil to make reference to during her book promotional activity.

It seems necessary even as Mark Driscoll has not appeared in public this year to highlight a problem in Rachel Held Evans' approach.
http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/driscoll-troubled-mind-william-Wallace
... Driscoll has long been known for his authoritarian leadership over Mars Hill Church, and for his controversial teachings regarding gender and sexuality. He made national news in 2006 when he blamed Ted Haggard’s affair with a male escort on Haggard’s wife for “letting herself go” and has often repeated the teaching that women who fail to please their husbands sexually (by providing regular oral sex and maintaining their attractiveness) bear some responsibility for their husbands’ infidelity.

The problem is that Driscoll never said Gayle Haggard let herself go and one of the most pervasive progressive canards that has long since been disproven is that Driscoll ever said any such thing.  While robots.txt still applies to Resurgence content the full text of the stuff Mark Driscoll actually did write about the Ted Haggard controversy is over here. Evans cited as evidence for her case an article from Salon from 2006.  The problem is that as Wenatchee The Hatchet established in exhaustive detail, AlterNet/Salon had an exceptionally poor track record of getting things down accurately about Mars Hill and Driscoll in first-round publication.

http://wenatcheethehatchet.blogspot.com/2014/04/valerie-tarico-publishes-article-on.html

It's to the credit of Salon and Tarico and company that they went back and corrected their mistakes, misunderstandings and misrepresentations when they were brought to light.  Evans has, to date, not been observed to have done that. 

Evans lost no time to comment about Mark Driscoll when "Pussified Nation" was made available.
http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/driscoll-troubled-mind-william-Wallace

Evans did not provide anything by way of historical background or social context for what Driscoll was reacting to.  For that you might want to go here.  What seems striking about comparing Evans' reaction to Driscoll to Evans' reaction to a scandal related to Tony Jones is the default position, assume the best up front about Jones even though as scandals go, the evidence regarding Jones up front seems more significantly damning with regard to Jones' character than the evidence available in the plagiarism scandal seemed to be when that scandal first broke.  If anything Evans was content to rail against Mark Driscoll for having opinions she didn't agree with.  The thing about the First Amendment is that it protects us from being arrested by government officers for saying things they don't approve but it doesn't mean we can't lose the confidence of the public along the way. 

Now Wenatchee The Hatchet has written a few things critical of Driscoll's ideas in the past but when Tony Jones made the remarkably foolish decision to sound off on Driscoll (at all), it was hard not to see it as an idiotic and opportunistic gambit.

http://wenatcheethehatchet.blogspot.com/2014/09/more-thoughts-on-what-some-call.html

Jones' proposal that Driscoll was influenced by toxic theology hardly seems worth suggesting in light of Jones' divorce and how he seems to have handled himself along the way.  Driscoll may have many, many issues but Mark and Grace Driscoll are still married and they both consider the care of their children.  As pastoral conduct goes it doesn't seem Jones is in a position to find a problem with Mark Driscoll about theology if he hasn't managed to stay married to his earlier wife.  This isn't a matter of progressive or conservative politics or even theology, it's possible to propose that the restriction for an elder or pastor is "one spouse" even if we would consider the Greek to be technically "neuter".  At least Driscoll's defenders could legitimately say in his defense that when he was sexually active with women he wasn't married to he wasn't even self-identifying as a Christian yet.  What would Jones' account be?

Here we are in 2015 and the star with more present clout and influence "looks" like Rachel Held Evans more than Mark Driscoll, at least for now.  If there were even a hint that "maybe" Mark Driscoll did to Grace Driscoll what Tony Jones did to Julie McMahon what would Evans' reaction toward Mark Driscoll have been? 

Not that Wenatchee The Hatchet has taken the "lessons" suggested by Evans seriously with respect to Mars Hill, but one of the "lessons" we could learn from the rise and fall of Mars Hill would be that without an honest and serious internal critique the idol factory chugs along in business-as-usual.  If anything it seems to Wenatchee The Hatchet that Mark Driscoll and Rachel Held Evans have been two sides of the same coin.  We need fewer celebrity Christians from both the left and the right.  We need fewer people who reflexively defend their own team because they know where their own bread gets buttered.  If the things McMahon has shared about Jones are provably true then it seems impossible for any of Jones' defenders, least of all the likes of Evans, to defend Jones out of reflex. 

Now we could discuss why some people remain national treasures and heroes in spite of evidence of plagiarism.  After all, Martin Luther King Jr. day was not that long ago and he's been celebrated as a hero even though there's evidence he plagiarized.  But the odds that Tony Jones, whatever his flaws, is anything close to a Martin Luther King Jr. seem remote.  It's possible for our heroes to also be monsters and if the progressives don't recognize this about their heroes while insisting that it is a reason to dismiss the heroes of the Christian right as false teachers then it looks like when the shoe is on the other foot nobody on either side wants to admit that their heroes have feet made of clay. 

POSTSCRIPT
http://tonyj.net/blog/2015/01/27/statement-tony-jones-regarding-allegations-abuse/

Well ... there it is.  Given that Jesus' teaching on divorce in the synoptics seems pretty cut and dried no matter how you choose to interpret it ...

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+19
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark%2010:1-12
http://biblehub.com/luke/16-18.htm

the question someone like Evans needs to consider could be framed in the following way:  Mark and Grace Driscoll are still actually married.  What about Tony Jones?  Is he still married to the same person he was married to seven years ago?  If he's not and if he's married to someone else now then couldn't a person suggest that going by the teaching attributed to Jesus in the synoptics on divorce and remarriage that Jones is not in the best position to hold up as a healthy alternative to a Driscoll?





some brief thoughts on Samson from the book of Judges, a Sterling Archer in the Old Testament.

Samson would have to be the worst keeper of a naziritic code in the documents collected in the Bible.  After all, he's said to have killed a bunch of people with a donkey's jawbone.  He also consulted a prostitute and went to the trouble of seeking to marry a Phillistine.  Samson, at best, inadvertently begins to bring about deliverance of Israel from Phillistine rule.  Samson comes across as a self-serving, self-absorbed idiotic horndog whose lust and narcissism don't stop him from miraculously managing to save the day for corrupt and incompetent people whom he works with and for.

This may be an esoteric way of putting it for anyone who's not already into animated shows and films ... but Samson could be thought of as a kind of Sterling Archer in the book of Judges. Yeah, he's technically a protagonist in the narrative in which he appears ... but that doesn't mean he's not a complete idiot most of the time.

One of the things Wenatchee The Hatchet heard a Pentecostal youth pastor teach decades ago was that Samson offers a sober lesson, that it doesn't matter how gifted you are or how powerfully anointed you might think you or your hero is, that will never be a substitute for living a genuinely pious and ethical life.  At some point or another if you presume upon the power and aid of God you may find it leaves you in your moment of testing and you don't pass the test.  It doesn't mean God can't or won't save you, but it might mean that you get to feel the full force of the consequences for your own life of self-serving idiocy. 

Throughout the narrative of Judges Samson generally does what he does in spite of his motives. He comes across as a cheater in the riddle he poses at his own wedding, leaning heavily on an incident only he was present for, a set of actions that involved him scooping honey out of the carcass of a lion and feeding it not just to himself but to his parents, thus defiling them all and rendering them impure within the strictures of the naziritic observance.  Samson also uses a donkey's jawbone to kill a mess of people, yet another case in which Samson blithely ignored one of the few rules of purifying separation the nazirite was supposed to adhere to.  At the end of his life, when he killed more Phillistines in his death than while he lived, he asks to get vengeance against his enemies for his two eyes, not out of any loyalty or consideration for Israel as a whole. 

And yet Samson was mentioned as one of the heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11. It's as though Samson spent his whole life trying to live life just like any Phillistine, even going so far as to pursue Phillistine women.  If he's a saint it's because God would not let go him of him not because Samson demonstrated any will to be particularly obedient to God about fairly basic rules of conduct for a Jewish person in that time and place.

Lately, since Wenatchee The Hatchet finally got around to watching Archer, and Samson does come across as being somewhat like the randy and uncouth protagonist of that cartoon. 

What made Samson a hero?  Well, from an Israelite standpoint, God used Samson, generally in spite of Samson's own motives ,to exact punishment on the Phillistines, who were enemies of Israel for a while.  Samson did seem to have flashes of awareness that the power he had was given by God but by and large his acknowledgments of Yahweh appear in Judges 15:18 and 16:28-30.  The rest of the time it doesn't seem as though Samson had much thought for God even when the power of God worked through him to kill Phillistines.

What is striking about those upon whom the spirit of God works in the book of Judges is that they don't lose their individual agency.  If anything they not only don't lose their agency they seem to go on and say or do the things that are most characteristically flawed about them.  After Gideon is clothed in the spirit of the Lord what does he do?  He puts out that fleece, unsure that Yahweh is really with him after all.  Jephthah makes a weirdly calculated vow that IF God is with him and gives him a victory then he'd sacrifice ... whatever ... happens to come out to greet him.  As Barry Webb explained in his commentary on Judges, the vow was a hedging and calculated sort of vow and it also suggests that Jephthah didn't even have any clear sense that the spirit of God was upon him.  Webb lays out an exegetical case for why the burnt offering/holocaust interpretation has to be rendered literally.  Jephthah actually shifts the blame to his daughter for coming out to greet him and his daughter, revealing a level of integrity and selflessness Jephthah did not match, accepts the vow as binding.  Jephthah, depending on how we read the text, does not come across as someone who would ignore or nullify the vow.  Why Jephthah was considered a hero would have to be explained another time, largely in terms of his willingness as an ostracized bastard cast out of his family inheritance and clan to nevertheless be willing, even conditionally, to fight to rescue Israelites from a war.  That Jepthah was the first judge that was nominated by Israelites rather than directly appointed or called by the Lord would be another topic to discuss at another time.

All that to say, it's not a big surprise if you engage carefully with Judges to see that the men who are empowered by God to do great and remarkable things don't stop being precisely as bad as they were before God called them.  If anything they go on to get worse.  The slide toward apostasy in Israel began before Gideon was even dead, a foreboding development in the narrative of Judges. 

When Samson tells his father he wants to marry that Phillistine woman he says "Get her for me, for she's the right one in my eyes" the foreshadowing of the end of the book of Judges is clear.  Samson, as judge, articulates the "right in his own eyes" ethos that becomes the end of the book as a whole.  The leader, sort of, pioneers by example the moral decline of the people while also reflecting it. 

Long ago, back in the early Mars Hill days, on the older Midrash, there were some who theorized, no, asserted that Samson turned out to be as bad as he did because his parents dropped the ball.  Parenting fail, big time.  But the text of Judges never indicates this even once.  The Bible has at least a handful of stories of children who turn out to be remarkably different in character from their parents.  Samson seems heedless of the naziritic code and does not lose his strength after repeated in fractions against it.  He touches corpses, he kills willy-nilly, he visits a prostitute, pursues Phillistine women, and "may" have ignored the ban on grapes, too.  Cutting the hair was the last straw, the one last rule Samson hadn't broken along the way of being probably the worst nazirite in the Bible. 

Samson's life does not look like the life of someone transformed from a bad person into a righteous person.  No, he pretty much stays bad from start to finish.  And yet he's mentioned as one of the heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11. 




Monday, January 26, 2015

on plucked strings 2: the physics of the sound of the banjo

https://medium.com/the-physics-arxiv-blog/the-secret-of-the-banjos-sound-revealed-d45f811ddf3d

A little older but still worth a reading. That drumhead foundation for the bridge makes all the difference, it turns out, for defining the sound of the instrument.

on plucked strings 1: Atlantic Monthly "the rise and fall (and rise) of the ukulele

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2015/01/though-it-be-little-the-rise-of-the-ukulele/384453/

Been sketching out ideas for a sonata for ukulele and guitar for months.  Reentrant tuning takes some getting used to but there's a pretty sweet split-third C chord latent within that tuning that is probably going to be the basis for some music, ideally.

another from the Atlantic ... inexplicably yet explicably about Taylor Swift's navel?

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2015/01/taylor-swift-and-the-fraught-history-of-navel-gazing/384811/

There are reasons the internet does not "need" to exist but there's a paragraph that sort of peeked out
from amidst the article.  There's a cultural history in some parts about some parts being ciphers for other parts.

All the jokey chatter around Swift's alleged non-human-ness is amusing enough, but it also inadvertently references decades of earlier American cultural history during which the female navel was seen as indescribably problematic, and a thing that should remain shrouded. In his book The Naked Ape, zoologist and ethologist Desmond Morris wrote that this immense discomfort stemmed from the fact that the female navel was essentially a "genital echo," a kind of symbolic "pseudo-vagina." The belly button served to draw the eye southward, like cleavage (or with men, like the "abdominal V").

"genital echo"?  ... okay ... so if a certain megachurch preacher had tried this more mediating approach ... would the "pseudo-vagina" have made more sense of Song of Songs 2 or ... of Proverbs 3?

for sake of review ...
http://wenatcheethehatchet.blogspot.com/2014/08/real-marriage-in-january-2012-and_30.html

Atlantic: "Genetic Testing and Tribal Identity" the ethics of scientific research on Native American artifacts and informed consent

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/01/the-cultural-limitations-of-genetic-testing/384740/

Short version, scientists have ethical questions they have to face about what they are and aren't expected to share in advance before obtaining genetic samples to do research.  In one case genetic material was obtained for two goals, the first to assess diabetic frequency and the other to map travel and migration patterns--the former was rejected while the latter was accepted.  But there's been ... kind of a history of scientists just taking stuff without bothering to get consent, informed or otherwise, to do research. 

In an era in which information about genetics can be put to a wide range of uses the ethics of obtaining informed consent and actual permission before doing something have become more crucial in genetic research.  In at least one case, summarized in the article, it is absolutely not better to ask for forgiveness rather than permission if someone decides to file litigation, or is it?

Saturday, January 24, 2015

from The Guardian: "I dreamed a DreamWorks: how to reverse the failing studio's fortunes" i.e. don't try for Shrek 5

http://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/jan/23/dreamworks-failing-turbo-penguins-of-Madagascar

In the grand tally of films by DreamWorks the only two that Wenatchee thought were solid were Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon (haven't seen the sequels for either).  Much that could be said about DreamWorks face has already been said. 

edit:  let's see if this variation works
http://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/jan/23/dreamworks-failing-turbo-penguins-of-madagascar

arguments for a lost middlebrow? Comparing ArtsJournal writers Scott Timberg and Terry Teachout on the loss of a cultural middle


http://artsfuse.org/120923/fuse-interview-scott-timberg-looks-at-the-culture-crash-square-in-the-eye/
AF: The meaning of middlebrow is a bit slippery in the book — it includes indie rock. Unlike Dwight Macdonald, I want middlebrow art to exist — but do I have to like it?

Timberg: Middlebrow has always been a complicated/ ambiguous concept – or set of concepts – and I may have done it no favors here.

When I lament the loss of middlebrow, I’m not saying I want nothing but overplayed warhorses at symphony orchestras, nothing but Matisse shows at the museum, etc. What I miss is the notion that art is somehow clarifying or restorative, and that a broad public education and media push is worth investing in. Middlebrow means Leonard Bernstein on TV, Thelonious Monk on the cover of Time, Anne Sexton learning how to write a sonnet on public television, Lionel Trilling and Auden leading a book club for non-scholarly readers, public school art classes, etc. It says there’s something valuable about culture that goes beyond money (what the neoliberal or capitalist values) or shock value (what much of the cultural left values.)

Middlebrow, whatever its fault and blind spots and earnest pieties, values literature and the arts as aspects of human achievement.

Don’t think indie rock is really middlebrow in any way, but I included it in that section about “Restoring the Middle” because it (like indie film) is built on mid-size budgets and a middle-class audience. If you say you like, say, the films of Spike Jonze and bands like Pavement or TV on the Radio, your taste may have a bit of the avant-garde in it (or what we called in the ‘90s “cutting edge”) but economically, they are in the middle. (That is, they are neither blockbusters nor micro-finances shoestring operations, both extremes which have grown in the 21st century.)
And, no, you don’t have to like it. (I often don’t.) It’s about an ecosystem, not any of the individual flora and fauna within it. When it dies, everything around it starts to wither.
  

I.e. the middlebrow may still suck and all but we need it for a healthy cultural biosphere.  It seems a bit strange but perhaps lamenting the loss of the middlebrow culture is as much a lament for the decline of a middleclass as it actually is.  Another bit from the site.
 
... lot of what my book describes involves unintended consequences, and I think this is what happened here. This is a place where I never intended to end up; I was once a Wesleyan English major besotted with postmodern literature, experimental music and French theory, so I had to go against a lot of my instincts to see that it was the middle, not the edges, that needed restoring.
 
But in a nutshell, the people responsible for passing down the value of art – humanities professors and culture critics, for example, and media-savvy artists like Warhol – lost their nerve, or their faith. The priesthood stopped telling the flock that art was sacred or transcendent or a path to wisdom, and began calling it sexist, built on hegemony, a formation of cultural capital, an endlessly deferred signifier, etc. Some of this was true, at least in part. I don’t want to sound like Bill Bennett or Lynne Cheney and reject it all. But there was a price to be paid in the longterm for this.
 
And this overlapped with a movement going back to 19th century Paris – romantic bohemianism – which separated art from the marketplace and divorced the bohemian from the bourgeoisie. A lot of great art and poetry comes from that period. But all this stuff has consequences.
 
One writer who brought me around to seeing all this, by the way, was David Foster Wallace
  
Even a cursory observation of some boy band that was at one point known as The Beatles might have made a case for the middle.  Maybe "Revolution Number Nine" was just a knock-off of stuff that had been done earlier by Stockhausen but the point should not be lost that mainstreaming musical ideas explored by Stockhausen is not something every pop band has ever done.  So, yeah, maybe we do need the middle. 
 
One of the difficulties of consigning the Western canon of the arts to some dustbin of imperialist/colonial oppression is that you can end up throwing out the good as well as the bad.
 
Let's take a recent piece in The Atlantic.  Michael Godsey penned a little something wondering whether education in the US provides wisdom, the sort of wisdom that has in the past been transmitted through things like the Bible or Shakespeare or various authors:
 
...
But as a man who used to be a high school student interested in pursuing wisdom, I’m almost startled to find myself up late at night, literally studying these anchor standards instead of Hamlet itself. I’m making plans to teach the students how to "evaluate the sufficiency of the evidence" instead of asking them, "Who here sympathizes with Hamlet, or Ophelia, or any character, and how so?"
  
...
I get it: My job is to teach communication, not values, and maybe that’s reasonable. After all, I’m not sure I would want my daughter gaining her wisdom from a randomly selected high-school teacher just because he passed a few writing and literature courses at a state university (which is what I did). My job description has evolved, and I’m fine with that. [WtH are you sure?] But where are the students getting their wisdom?

...
Secular wisdom in the public schools seems like it should inherently spring from the literature that’s shaped American culture. And while the students focus on how Whitman’s "purpose shapes the content and style of his text," they’re obviously exposed to the words that describe his leaves of grass. And that’s good. But there is a noticeable deprioritization of literature, and a crumbling consensus regarding the nation’s idea of classic literature. The Common Core requires only Shakespeare, which is puzzling if only for its singularity. (A respected colleague recently called this stipulation "offensive," immediately rejecting "the audacity of elevating any of [Shakespeare’s] plays over anything ever written by anybody else.")

It seems particularly noteworthy that in a review of Timberg's Culture Crash, someone made the following acerbic observation.
http://artsfuse.org/120537/fuse-book-review-culture-crash-the-people-who-followed-their-bliss-off-a-cliff/

Why hasn’t the fate of creative professionals gotten the attention Timberg thinks we deserve? He thinks it’s a residue of either the romantic expectation that artists are misunderstood geniuses who do their best work from garrets or pervasive anti-intellectualism, “part of a larger revolt against experts and expertise.” He even brings in reference to the Puritans. But much more likely, it’s the fact that the remaining media organizations and the digital platforms that are the distribution channels for cultural work are the ones whose bread is being buttered. The people at the tops of those distribution channels are doing great.

“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.

That’s one of the reasons that pop culture exhortations to follow one’s bliss are so maddening. They imply a kind of privilege at the very heart of the class structures Americans are eager to say don’t exist. The fraying of the middle class is not just something that has happened to creatives. It’s just that Timberg never thought that what had happened to unionized manufacturing workers could happen to the educated type of knowledge workers who worked at the LA Times
 
It's ironic when American culture sorts feel obliged to mention Puritans in the 21st century because whatever flaws the Puritans had those people wrote a lot.  Ever try to read The Christian in Complete Armor by William Gurnall? The arts have always been the work of those with the leisure to work on them.  If there's a crisis in the creative class perhaps we could just throw in a cranky observation from someone like Paul Hindemith about how the problem with American musical education was that all it was good for was teaching people to be music teachers who would teach music teachers.  The idea that music could be taught so that amateurs could make and enjoy music ... maybe that wasn't so on the table.  As music became more and more about what was committed to recordings the idea that music could be something people played together on a weekend rather than hitting the theater to see a movie (indie or otherwise) may have played a century-long role here. 

Debra Cash is right to point out that without a clear grasp of the patronage systems that have been in place a lament about the loss of a creative class can be missing a few important points.  To the degree to which composers and musicians are expected to directly monetize what they do and struggle to find ways to do that in the face of corporate patronage there can be an invitation to "follow your dream" that doesn't account for economic realities. 

At the risk of pointing something else out, we live in an era in which the economics of paths can make it seem as though an aspiring artist can choose one of a number of paths that in the past were not mutually exclusive but that "might" be now.  Bach could afford to have almost two dozen kids.  He was part of a lineage of musicians.  In the United States at this point it seems you could choose to build a family or build an artistic career of some kind but you're not necessarily going to do both unless you've landed a lot of money.  If the ideal of some kind of bohemian cultural innovator in the past was a life of sex, drugs and rock and roll it seems that nowadays you should avoid the drugs and you get to pick either sex or the rock and roll but you'll end up talking with a collections agency if you try to get both at the same time. Maybe in this era of America you've gotta pick the art or the sex whether or not its rock and roll. 

The idea that the arts could be pursued after you've done everything else you "have" to do to get by in life never even seems to be on the table.  It's as though there's this all-or-nothing thing about the arts.  You've either got to be a writer or a musician vocationally or you're not in the arts at all.  That doesn't seem to account for history, as Cash has noted in her review of Timberg's book. There were the trust funds and all that but there were also the teaching jobs.  To bring up Charles Ives, what he did was work in the insurance business.  Bach had a wide variety of duties that did not just include the required cantatas for the liturgical year. 

The political battles over the import of what classic literature, American or otherwise, seems to have been fought and won already.  It's not a huge surprise that a loss of a middle class might eventually include a lament for a loss of a middlebrow could span the political spectrum.  Timberg's been featured at ArtFuse and links to stuff at Salon.  Terry Teachout's writing is more likely to appear in, say, Commentary.  But it's interesting to compare Timberg's concern about a loss of a middlebrow to Teachout's comments.

 
All these things were manifestations of what I refer to in the introduction to A Terry Teachout Reader as the culture of “middlebrow aspiration”:
Just as city dwellers can’t understand what it meant for the residents of a rural town to wake up one day and find themselves within driving distance of a Wal-Mart, so are they incapable of properly appreciating the true significance of middlebrow culture. For all its flaws, it nurtured at least two generations’ worth of Americans who, like me, went on to become full-fledged highbrows–but highbrows who, while accepting the existence of a hierarchy of values in art, never lost sight of the value of popular culture.
Though middlebrow cultural aspiration was already on its last legs when I came along, small towns tend to be a bit behind the curve. Not only did I get a stiff dose of it, but it took: I studied music, tried out for plays, read books by the carload, and spent virtually every nickel of my modest allowance on records of every imaginable kind. What’s more, my parents, puzzled though they were by my burgeoning strangeness, backed me to the hilt. They took me to the public library as often as I cared to go, and later on they bought me an encyclopedia, a violin, a piano, a guitar, and an electric bass, spending money they couldn’t easily spare in order to give me opportunities they’d never had to explore a world of whose existence they were largely unaware.
 
Put this way it could almost seem as though the value of middle brow culture would be its capacity to understand and appreciate the value of both the "high" and the "low" without denigrating one or the other on the basis of some ideology of class warfare either in economics or the arts. 

It's not a particularly original observation that during the Cold War in the West classical music seemed straitjacketed by dodecaphonic academics while in the Soviet bloc Socialist Realism imposed a different kind of draconian set of rules on musicians.  Both were different modes of cultural repression.  If in the Soviet bloc music was considered bad if it took more than one listening to understand it in an era in which Elliott Carter was praised (not that he hasn't composed some music WtH sorta likes) the very idea of tonality was abjured.  Both enterprises could be seen as, well, a kind of ideological warfare in which whatever could have been the "middle", let alone whatever was on the "other" side was villainized.

The mediator between the head and the hands must be the heart?  Well, anyway ... .

"people will look back on the current era of new music and characterize it in terms not far removed from tourism", by "new music" let's say new concert/classical music

wrote ... :
 
I sometimes wonder if, several decades from now, people will look back on the current era of new music and characterize it in terms not far removed from tourism. Because if there’s one thing common to the various kinds of music going under the new music banner right now (and a lot of music beyond that), it’s the pursuit and/or assertion of an aura of authenticity. Traditions, styles, vernaculars—so many new pieces I hear these days pledge allegiance to some form of authenticity, some repertoire, some community. A lot of times, such pieces are the result of a deep engagement with the cited style on the part of composer and performer; a lot of times, it’s simply an expression of momentary curiosity. But much of the listener’s intended satisfaction is to come from the feeling that the experience has been both unfamiliar and authentic. In other words: the ideal tourist experience. Which means that the real version and the airport version might, in fact, be equally effective.
...
Early American hymnody and shape-note singing might be two of the most quintessentially American musics there are, in that they live at a nexus of American anxiety—the disconnect between the way the country ought to be and the way that it actually is. Both were aspirational forms, specifically designed to be specifically American, and both were, in turn, often rejected as being too provincial and unpolished. You only really get a sense of this stew of influence and counter-influence in the context of its relatives: the more buttoned-down, reactionary New England hymnody of the later 18th century, African-American gospel, Gilded Age grandeur, maybe even modern Christian rock-pop, a continuous negotiation between exaltation and populism.
 
There might be something to this.  In popular music there seems to be a broad leveling of the aesthetic parameters.  There's a propensity for pop songs to start sounding the same across formal distinctions of style and genre.  If you use Marshall amps and old Gibsons you might be rock and if you use a Telecaster you "might" have country but the I, IV and V and vi may pretty much be the same.
 
In more "classical" parts, especially in what is sometimes known as new music, the dynamic can be a bit different.  Heard a piece a couple of weeks ago in which music had been composed around field recordings of frogs in Bali.  For those not familiar with the field recording approach to the more avant garde classical stuff ... well .... Wenatchee's not going to pretend to be intimately acquainted with that field of music.  There's some fun and interesting stuff in it but perhaps it is most emblematic or symptomatic of a kind of compositional tourism. 
 
Concert programs can tend to just get that way.  Mostly Mozart. Guitarists tend to inevitably get to music from Spain or central and south America.  Matanya Ophee used to talk about how he'd hear Polish guitarists playing Catalan folk songs but never recalled hearing Catalan guitarists playing Polish folk songs. 
 
One of the advantages of living in a place liked the United States a decade or so into the age of the internet is that we have access to unprecedented amounts of music with an unprecedented variety of styles.  A potential pitfall to this may be that what we do with that amounts to the above mentioned musical tourism.  If someone were sufficiently lefty or progressive in thoughts the idea of musical tourism as a compositional approach could be construed as symbolic of the imperialistic/colonial imagination in which Americans perpetuate a hegemony of cultural assimilation in which everything in some form eventually becomes "American".  :)  A kind of cultural Trapper Keeper 2000 ...
 
Since, as proposed above, attempts at genuinely American musical forms could be viewed as too provincial or ineffective it may be a fate of American music to always be an assimilative process. 
 
Two articles in the Atlantic spring to mind.  There's a more recent one discussing a book about the American songbook.
 
And a thematically related one about the end of jazz.
 
... The great overlap between the Songbook and the jazz catalogue largely explains a fact that troubles Gioia—that his book can enshrine “few recent compositions”—and raises doubts about his assertion, supported by passion rather than by argument, that “the jazz idiom [is] a vibrant, present-day endeavor.”
 
The Songbook and jazz evolved symbiotically. As the critic Gene Lees showed in an important essay in The Oxford Companion to Jazz (2000), the creators of both were musically sophisticated men and women who inevitably and profoundly responded to each other’s work. (Lees’s scholarship made clear the deep musical education of the jazz pioneers, and in the process put to rest the “subtly racist” idea that “jazz was created intuitively by a gifted but ignorant people in some sort of cultural vacuum.”) The result: the Songbook formed the lingua franca of jazz; its material provided the basis on which to assess a performer’s improvisations; and jazz musicians constructed their own compositions on the chord structures of its entries.
 
If the traditions of Tin Pan Alley songwriting, ragtime, and early blues all interacted to synergistically define the jazz age then the decline of the other two would make a decline in a third more or less natural.  If blues and the Tin Pan Alley era songbook have been on a decline or declined then jazz, which owed so much to both, would not be as prominent in the cultural landscape.  In order to appreciate the possibilities of musical reinterpretation and reinvention in one tradition you have to understand its engagement with the other traditions. 
 
By way of a possible contrast, the relevancy of Johnny Cash or Ray Charles may be in some way reduceable to the fact that they may have started in this or that genre but they retained to their dying years a capacity to interpret across formal styles.  The musicians we seem to lionize seem to be either those who are unparalleled specialists in a particular style of music or those whose ability to make music with an encyclopedic grasp of the variety and unity in a multiplicity of idioms.  The coherence of popular musical styles overall can be overlooked, especially by those who just don't like popular musical styles. 
 
If there's any point that can be overlooked in the dominance of popular music it would be the song.  People don't listen to instrumental music by choice in an American popular landscape.  IF we live in an era in which you get put on hold waiting to talk to a customer service representative or a government employee and you hear classical music or you hear Kind of Blue by Miles Davis then classics, whether jazz or concert music, become the sound of people not giving a damn if they respond to your enquiry in the timeliest manner, or that's how you might be tempted to feel about it. 
 
In a polemic over at Jacobin (surprise, right?) John Halle wrote:
 
The rock and popular music canon is almost exclusively defined by vocal music, that is, songs, many of them admittedly great songs. While we might call sonatas by Beethoven, Mozart, Schumann character pieces, Bartok Mikrokosmos and other staples of the introductory repertoire, “songs” that’s just a metaphor. These are works of “pure” music which cohere, not by a text with its own self-contained expressive content and narrative logic, but by a logic entirely based on the abstract relationships inherent in the pitches and rhythms. They are composed within abstract forms, large-scale plans dictating their unfolding in time of which at least an intuitive awareness is required for them to be fully appreciated by audiences
 
In a rare moment of invoking a line from Billy Joel, the musician went through a phase of complaining about "the tyranny of the lyric" and talking about composing instrumental music.  That's an evocative line, that tyranny of the lyric.  Does it suggest, maybe, that people don't want to listen to music that doesn't put the human voice front and center?  Does it suggest that there's a prison inherent in having lyrics because lyrics have to be about something long enough for people to keep listening?  Think of an old line from a Talking Heads album asserting that lyrics are simply a trick to get people to listen to music longer ... .
 
It's possible to lament that pop songs have existed in the straitjacket of the 3 1/2 minute envelope but let's not forget why that was, the limits of recording technology and production.  If Armstrong, Ellington and early jazz musicians mastered saying as much as possible in such a short musical moment the process and goal were pragmatic rather than ideological.  Sure, we can talk about how technology is never neutral but suggesting that Ellington or Armstrong were somehow complicit in some dumbing down of culture in how and why they wrote music that fit the strictures available seems a bit far-fetched. 
 
Now perhaps its possible that the symphony was the great big pot roast and the pop songs are chicken wings but the Romantic era saw an explosion of song, didn't it?  Maybe the shortening of scale has partly been offset by a broadening of horizons in some way.  Listen to the complete recordings of Robert Johnson without an appreciation for detail and you're going to feel as though thirty blues numbers by Robert Johnson sound as much the same as thirty string quartets by Haydn but both are great in their respective ways. 
 
Indulging in some fanciful thought for a weekend, the complaint about the potato chip seems easy to understand but perhaps the advantage the potato chip has is that the potato chip can vary in flavor in a way that a single cooked potato cannot.  We shouldn't forget the penchant for exoticism in concert music has been as much a feature as a bug in the classical tradition as the popular style.  While there are potential flaws with the sampler plate form of cultural tourism via music these days there were drawbacks to monolithic iterations of advocacy for a single culture.  I.e. Wenatchee The Hatchet loathes the music and ideas of Wagner.  If that's the pot roast then by all means let's stick with chicken wings. 
 
Not particularly a fan of "authenticity" as such.  The authentic now seems one of the more easily faked things.  Sincerity may be the new insincerity.  Bear in mind Wenatchee The Hatchet spent a decade inside the culture of Mars Hill so perhaps skepticism about "real" or "authentic" may be an overcompensating impulse. 
 
As for musical styles and the United States, might be impossible to improve upon Virgil Thomson's axiom that being an American composer is simple, first be an American and then just write whatever music you want.  Whether or not that ends up being a kind of composerly tourism or not ... may ultimately not matter.  But it's interesting to think about sometimes.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

a general observation, let's put the "no true scotsman" defense away, especially if it's for "our" team

Whether we're looking at the life and times of a Mark Driscoll or a John Yoder or another hero for this or that team we're past the point where any of us can plausibly say there aren't some very ugly and putrid skeletons in the closets of our respective teams.  Now is not an era (if there ever even was one) to lean heavily on a "no true Scotsman" defense of "our team". 

In general it seems that it doesn't matter what the team is.  It could be Mark Driscoll or it could be Tony Jones or it could be John Yoder or Richard Dawkins or someone else.  Someone says or does something incendiary and a defense can be made on the idea that whatever bad might be historically associated with X is because X wasn't really that way but was Y.  Reality can be otherwise.  Just as it would be impossible to understand the Crusades without reference to religion it would be impossible to understand the Crusades with reference only to religion.  Wars don't get fought over religious ideals alone but over competitions for scarce resources.  Eliminate all the religions in the world and our supply of clean water does not thereby grow, does it?  Eliminating religion will not increase the labor market or put more food on the tables of people any more than making everyone adhere to this or that religious view will.  While a Hitchens, perhaps, could try to make a case that atheisms become malignant when they are treated like religions (i.e. Stalinist purges) that is itself ultimately a variation of "no true Scotsman". 

It's too easy to remind everyone else of the informal fallacy.  Knowing what it is doesn't make us immune from leaning on it to rationalize our own team allegiances. 

So there's some rumblings to the effect that a certain emergent leader handled a divorce badly.  Mistakes were made that someone was grieved by and apologized for?  Doesn't ... that ... sound kind of familiar?  Back in 2013 when the plagiarism controversy erupted there were those advising against taking those who were leveling accusations in public against the successful minister seriously.  There may still be people who think that Driscoll was somehow cyber-lynched rather than in some sense hoist with his own petard.  If quoting Driscoll accurately, in context, and with meticulous citation was all it took for Wenatchee The Hatchet to get identified as a watchblog or Driscoll critic then the bar was set remarkably low.  Wenatchee The Hatchet is a moderately conservative Reformed type and never really stopped being what would colloquially be identified as evangelical.  It could have been easy to decide to do what too often happens at evangelical blogs and fret about the threats from outside.  That didn't seem wise.  What seemed more necessary was to document the problems within the team. 

Would someone propose that it's bad form and bad theology to air the dirty laundry of the spiritual community?  Ever read the Book of Judges, ever, even once in your life?  Ever read even one of the prophetic books in the Bible?  It's strange to think how blind an eye some people turn to internal critique when the critique may be directed at someone they really dig because internal critique is how the majority of the biblical books, especially in the Old Testament, ever got written to begin with. 

At the risk of revisiting in quotes some things shared earlier (on September 25, 2014):
http://wenatcheethehatchet.blogspot.com/2014/09/rachel-held-evans-suggests-six-ways.html
1. We must educate ourselves on how publishing and media industries work because the last year's worth of Driscoll scandals shine a light on how those industries may have made him a star to begin with.

2.  An unstinting internal critique of the actions and ethics of people on "our" team is vital and must be sustained and maintained even if it is awkward and painful. 
3. Identity politics as usual is not only not a way forward, it was one of the key reasons none of the last year's controversies did not come to light earlier.  This needs to change.

4. The last year's worth of controversy are simultaneously a commendation and condemnation of the state of "Christian" journalism and associated punditry, but the alternative is not necessarily blogging or "just" blogging, but a reappraisal of our ethics and interests in the public sphere
5.  Christians should not operate under the illusion that "our" heroes are not also capable of being monsters.
6.  We should attempt to understand the scandals associated with Mark Driscoll as indicative of the crimes and passions we excuse or berate in our various heroes as a mirror to critique our own loyalties and ethics.

It's one thing for an Evans to write that we must protect people over reputations but it remains to be seen whether when the shoe's on the other foot that's what happens. Looks like we'll get to find out how this plays out.

Meanwhile, Wenatchee The Hatchet's thinking about revisiting some string quartets by Rochberg.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

wayback machine archive of Jamie Munson resignation is back up, raw text reproduced for consideration



https://web.archive.org/web/20130925181152/http://marshill.com/2011/09/06/important-letters-from-pastors/
By: Mars Hill Blog
Posted: Sep 06, 2011
Important Letters from Pastors Jamie Munson and Mark Driscoll
Dear Mars Hill Church,

With much gratitude, much love, and many bittersweet tears, I am resigning from my staff role as Executive Pastor of Mars Hill Church, effective September 30. Jesus has called me into a new vocational season, and I informed Pastor Mark and Pastor Dave of my decision late last week. As I take some time to reflect on my twelve years on staff, I want to thank you for the privilege it has been to serve you, and praise God for the grace he has shown me.

I love Jesus.
I first showed up at Mars Hill in September 1997 as a 19-year-old who didn’t know Jesus. Total pagan. I had just moved from Missoula, Montana, for a change of scenery. I didn’t come to Seattle to find Jesus, but Jesus sure found me. Pastor Mark was preaching through Romans at the time, and I saw my sin and experienced the grace of Jesus. What’s cool is just a few weeks ago I got invited back to Missoula to preach to nearly 4,000 people and share the grace I have experienced.
I love my family.

At the age of 21 I met my wife in the pews of Mars Hill. We became friends, eventually dated, and were married a few months later. Crystal is amazing, a true gift from God, and in the following five years we were graced with four beautiful children. Mars Hill is the only church we’ve know together as a family and we intend to keep it that way as long as possible.
I love Pastor Mark.

One man more than any other has had a profound impact on my life, and that man is Pastor Mark. It was under his preaching and leadership that I met Jesus, was baptized, and was later called into full-time ministry. His friendship, his counsel, his patience, his leadership, his love for the church, his love for my family, and his love for Jesus are brilliant. I am eternally grateful for the impact he has had on my life and I look forward to continuing to build our friendship.
I love the staff and elders.

Over more than a decade on staff at Mars Hill I have had the opportunity to work with some of the best men and women anywhere. They love Jesus, they love the church, and they are some of the finest leaders around. Thank you all for your continued sacrifices and faithfulness.
I love the people of this church.

Mars Hill is made up of thousands of people whom Jesus has brought together as part of his church. The passion for Jesus and his mission is incredible, and I’m absolutely honored to be counted as one of your pastors and fellow servants of Jesus. Thank you for making my work a joy.
I love Mars Hill.

Mars Hill Church is the thing that ties all of these stories and relationships together. I’ve enjoyed a front row seat for every moment as we’ve grown from 100 to 10,000 people. I know I’m biased, but I believe this is the best church anyone could be a part of. I still plan and hope to be a part of the church for a long, long time. My family and I will continue to worship at Mars Hill, and I’ll still be a pastor, serving on the Board of Directors in an unpaid role. Between now and the end of the year, I will be taking a bit of a sabbatical to rest, regroup, and capture more of what Jesus has done; I hope to make some progress on a leadership book I’ve intended to write for some time. My time on staff at Mars Hill Church has come to an end, but the Munson family is not going anywhere, and we’re so excited to see what Jesus does in the next fifteen years. If it’s anything like the last fifteen, we’re all in for a great ride and grace beyond our expectations. I love you, Mars Hill. It’s all about Jesus,
Pastor Jamie Munson

P.S. Keep in touch on Facebook and Twitter. Read Pastor Mark's letter and vision statement after the jump. 

Dear Mars Hill Church,
I am writing this letter to provide my perspective on Pastor Jamie’s transition as well as directives for how to respond and proceed. In seasons like this we need the elders, staff, and church to trust the senior leadership of Mars Hill. To help nourish that trust, Pastor Jamie and I are posting our letters together to demonstrate our unity and friendship while keeping no secrets and simply telling the truth. At his recent annual review, Pastor Jamie was given high performance marks and asked to return in his current role of Executive Pastor at Mars Hill Church. After a season of prayerful consideration, he informed his review team that he felt God was calling him to pursue a new ministry and business venture. He was again invited to continue in his current role on staff at Mars Hill Church, or move into another role in the organization. With great affection for the church, he has since come to the conclusion that the time has come for his transition off of paid staff. I want to make it emphatically clear: there is no disqualifying sin or error of any kind in Pastor Jamie’s life. This is in no way connected to anything negative. He is, by God’s grace, "above reproach," as he always has been. I also want to stress that there is no relational friction between Pastor Jamie and myself. In the days leading up to his decision, my children were at his house playing and vice versa, as has been the case for years. Our wives, Crystal and Grace, were in contact as friends as they always are. Jamie remains one of my nearest and dearest friends, a brother in every sense of the word, and personally I assure you we had no conflict and are as close as we’ve ever been. For example, on our recent family vacation I missed him and simply called him so I could check in on my friend. I deeply enjoy Jamie and intend to remain close friends with him and his family, as do Grace and our children. Nothing has changed personally in our relationship. Jamie is the same godly, humble, helpful, enjoyable man of God he’s always been. In this, we’ve both shed a few tears and are committed to our ongoing friendship. Here is what I am asking from you. Please pray for the Munson family. Please pursue the Munson family. Bomb them with love and affection. Make sure that Crystal and the wonderful Munson kids feel the embrace of Jesus through the affection of Mars Hill. If you are their friends, keep being their friends. I have known Crystal since she was in college before she and Jamie met. She is wonderful. We adore and enjoy her. She is as committed to our church and the mission of Jesus as anyone at Mars Hill. Let’s ensure that in this season of transition her friendships and community remain stable, steady, and supportive. Correct any gossip or rumor you hear that is negative and untrue. Celebrate the fact that Pastor Jamie is Mars Hill 1.0. He is exactly why Mars Hill exists. A lost young person meets Jesus and grows to be a godly leader, spouse, and parent who loves and leads well by the grace of God with humility and passion. He has given us every day of his life since he was 19 years of age. Mars Hill does not exist as a church of more than maybe a few hundred without God’s grace through Pastor Jamie. If a book were written about what God is doing among us, at least one whole chapter would be devoted to telling the story of God’s grace in Pastor Jamie’s life. This is a wonderful opportunity to honor and celebrate the grace of God through the Holy Spirit in the life of Pastor Jamie and his family. As part of the honoring of Pastor Jamie, people in and out of Mars Hill who want to thank the Munson family and give them gifts and such can do so by sending them digitally to andrew [at] marshill [dot] com or physically to:

Mars Hill Church Attn: Andrew Myers 1411 NW 50th Street Seattle, WA 98107

This way everyone who so desires can say thank you in their own way. Note: The remainder of this blog post contains more specific leadership directives regarding our future for those in and out of Mars Hill who are interested. 

Leadership Vision for Mars Hill
My proposal to the Board of Directors (BOD) is that Pastor Jamie Munson remain an elder at Mars Hill Church Ballard. Following a sabbatical through the end of the year to enjoy his family, rest up, and finish writing a book, he will rejoin us as an unpaid board member at the highest legal level of Mars Hill Church. In God’s providence, the same day that Pastor Jamie made this decision, one of our unpaid BOD members had to resign due to escalating demands at his place of employment. So, while this man will remain an elder at his local Mars Hill Church, it opened a seat on the BOD for an unpaid elder, which Pastor Jamie fills perfectly. We need many more unpaid elders and Pastor Jamie helps us to raise the profile of that service. The plan is simply that Pastor Jamie will remain an elder at Mars Hill indefinitely. He has clearly communicated his desire to stay at Mars Hill and serve as an elder and we welcome this. So, Pastor Jamie is still Pastor Jamie. Also, the door to employment is always open to Pastor Jamie. It has been clearly communicated to him by myself personally and by his performance review team collectively that should he ever change his mind, we would welcome him back on staff at Mars Hill Church. Our bylaws require that our Executive Elder (EE) team have at least three members. Pastor Dave Bruskas and I remain on the EE. Thankfully, Pastor Dave and his family recently moved to Seattle after leading Mars Hill Albuquerque. His leadership, wisdom, and experience come at just the right time and we praise God he is on the team. In God’s providence, the sermon he preached at Mars Hill Ballard will air this Sunday at all our other churches, helping you to get to know him better. To fill Pastor Jamie’s vacancy on the EE, I am recommending that the BOD vote for Pastor Scott Thomas to join the EE for at least the foreseeable future. Pastor Scott has served faithfully for many years as an elder at Mars Hill, is among our most trained and seasoned leaders, is already a BOD member, and has served previously for many years as an EE member while also leading Acts 29. Pastor Dave and I both believe Pastor Scott is the best choice for this role in this season. Pastor Scott has been very clear in his love and commitment to Mars Hill and has said he will gladly serve wherever he is needed, which we deeply appreciate. Administratively, Pastor Jamie was our senior "king" and his departure requires very competent leadership to cover his many responsibilities. Thankfully, Pastor Jamie was a great leader and humble man. He surrounded himself with great people. This allows us to not have the kind of crisis that could otherwise ensue. Pastor Dave and I agree that Sutton Turner should function as our highest-ranking "king." Sutton is new to staff, but not to ministry. He is a former executive pastor of a large church. Educationally, he is a graduate of Texas A&M, the SMU Cox School of Business, and Harvard Business School. Professionally, he has recently served as the CEO of a company that has nearly 1,600 employees. Prior to that he served as the CEO of another company that under his leadership grew from 0 to 500 employees in the first year. He and his family moved to Seattle sensing a call to serve at Mars Hill, and we believe he is a gift from God to us for our future. He is currently well into the eldership process so be in prayer for that as well as his many duties at the church. This winter I will be cancelling the normal Christmas series. Instead, I will be spending some weeks on vision. Who is Mars Hill, how do we operate, where are we going? This is clear in my vision for the church and I want to share it with you. I want to increase our passion, hope, giving, and clarity across Mars Hill. I want to preach on the road from various Mars Hill churches, showing the vision, introducing the converts, and letting our people see the evidences of God’s grace in order to fire them up for 2012. In January we start the Real Marriage campaign and launch the book Grace and I have written by the same name for Thomas Nelson. We also have completed, thanks to Pastor Brad House, a small group curriculum that includes study guides and DVDs from Grace and me to help people—both single and married—grow relationally. We are inviting other churches to join us on this big campaign, and in the grace of God I believe 2012 will be the biggest year we’ve ever had. While we celebrate the past and honor the present, we also need to prepare for the future by God’s grace. We’ve been here before, many times before, in fact. As our church grows, we encounter obstacles and hit ceilings of complexity and need to adjust as necessary to get through the next size barrier. This was true at 200, 800, 2,000, and 6,000, just like the experts predicted. At 10,000 we are there again. I’ve been working on the beginnings of a comprehensive plan, as I can see into the future to 25,000 people a week, Lord willing. A finished version of that document will be released once it is revised with input and change from various leaders in the church, as well as wise counsel from leaders of churches larger than ours who have become friends. In the meantime, the data below provides some understanding of where we are and where we are going. There are three major variables essential to understanding a church: theology, philosophy of ministry, and size. Church size affects nearly every aspect of a church; bigger churches are not simply larger versions of smaller churches, but rather very different organizations. There are very few truly large churches in America, contrary to some perceptions. Estimates for the total number of churches in America range from 300,000 to 400,000. Of those, the following are the number of very large churches: •10,000 – 15,000 people = 26 churches
•16,000 – 20,000 people = 5 churches
•20,000 – 25,000 people = 3 churches
•25,000 – 40,000 people = 0 churches
•40,000+ people = 1 church
 Total churches of 10,000 or more people = 35 A few observations help to articulate this further: 1.Fully 32 of the 35 churches listed as the largest in America are multi-site like Mars Hill.
2.The largest churches tend to be concentrated in Southern California, Texas, the Southeast, and around Lake Michigan, including Chicago.

For Mars Hill, regularly rolling through the 10,000 barrier would put us on the road to 15,000, which is the next barrier; after that it is 20,000 and then 25,000, if by God’s grace we get there. You can be in prayer for the Executive Elders and Sutton as we finalize plans for the next season of Mars Hill, which we will share with you when they are ready. We are now 13 Mars Hill churches meeting in four states and, like parents with a big family, we want to ensure everyone is taken care of and grows up to be healthy and strong. We are not driven by numbers, but we are driven to see the number of people meeting Jesus and walking with Jesus on mission in community go up because people need Jesus and Jesus loves them. For some, this raises questions regarding me. Am I going anywhere? No. My plan has not changed at all. I intend, by God’s grace, to be a pastor at our church for my lifetime. I am now 40 years old and you can write my name in for the next 25 years. At that time, we will see how the church and I are doing and what comes next. In the meantime, God has given us a wave of grace that we want to ride as long as we can. After some time off this summer, I am refreshed. My vision for Mars Hill is sharper and clearer than at any time in the history of the church. My passion for people, both our people and lost people to meet Jesus, is at an all-time high. The book Real Marriage took the friendship between Grace and me to an all-time high. I adore my gal! Our kids are healthy, happy, and holy, praise God! Internally, we have the best team to work with that we’ve ever had. The unity across the church is a miracle of the Holy Spirit. Externally, my friendships with godly leaders outside our church are a life-changing gift. We are well loved, encouraged, supported, and held accountable. My life is a miracle and I’m deeply thankful and really excited for what’s next. I’m back in the pulpit this Sunday at Ballard, summer is finished, school is back in session, fall is just around the corner, and it’s time to lace up our shoes, step into the blocks, and, as Paul says, run our race. Lastly, it’s still all about Jesus. In fifteen years at Mars Hill the big things never change. Jesus is Lord, the Holy Spirit is at work among us, the Bible is true, the world is hurting, the harvest is ripe, Satan is fighting, but the church is prevailing. A nobody trying to tell everybody about Somebody,
Pastor Mark Driscoll

it looks like with the dissolution of Mars Hill in process robots.txt is no longer in effect, sort of

which means a whole lot of old links that were dead in 2014 and accessible only by way of the WayBack Machine may now actually work.

http://web.archive.org/web/20080716081500/http://ballard.marshillchurch.org/pastors-staff/

Or not ... it depends.

What probably won't work ... are any things previously captured by The WayBack Machine for resurgence links such as stuff done by Catanzaro.

What does work is ...
https://web.archive.org/web/20130925181152/http://marshill.com/2011/09/06/important-letters-from-pastors/

the letters regarding Jamie Munson's resignation.

http://web.archive.org/web/20130520092350/https://theresurgence.com/2009/02/26/eastern-healing-alternative-medicine-and-christian-faith-part-1

What DOES work but not the video ... is

https://web.archive.org/web/20120528185351/http://marshill.com/2012/05/26/update-on-mars-hill-orange-countys-building
By: Mars Hill Church
on May 26, 2012


Our Orange County church is looking to move to a new location . . . yesterday. If not, they might be homeless like Jesus was. Here’s the latest update from Lead Pastor Nick Bogardus:

The Observatory

We will be meeting at The Observatory as usual at 9:00 and 11:15 am. We will continue to meet there until 1) we find a new home or 2) the city comes to shut us down.
We’re continuing in our series on the seven churches of Revelation, which has been awesome. I’m thankful we have a preaching pastor who preaches and applies the Bible and the gospel so boldly. There isn’t a Sunday that we don’t hear all about Jesus and the gospel. What a gift!

Building Update from This Week

The good news was that the church we were in negotiations with decided to come back to the table. The bad news is that they came back with some very unreasonable stipulations—for example, we would have to limit our church to 250 people per service and they would only give us 100 parking spots. Essentially they’d want us to turn people away; which goes against our mission to make as many disciples of Jesus and plant as many churches as possible in Orange County. I responded with our terms and we’re now waiting to hear back from them after they take it to their board. Honestly, I don’t see it working, but we should continue to pray.
Two other options came up at the end of this week that we will pursue first thing next week. We will keep you up to date as this all develops.

Adversity in Mission

Though we might be getting adversity from both the city and other churches—which was the pattern in Acts—we believe God has given our church a unique and particular mission. He will be faithful to sustain. We are called to be faithful in the mission.

Why There Is Always Hope

I have tremendous hope for what God will do in this situation, which is odd considering my often sinful need for control and fear of failure.
The reason I have tremendous hope is because of the reality of how God works.
He does his best work when there are no other options. He enables 90-year-old barren women to have babies. He redeems Israel from slavery in Egypt and, as they’re on the run with the most powerful army in the world chasing them and the sea in front of them, he delivers them by parting the sea. Out of the gruesome cross, he brings resurrection and life. It is how he works.
As a church, we are going to move forward in faith. We’re not going to grumble like the Israelites in the desert and quickly forget all he has done and is doing. We’re going to be dependant on him and continue moving towards where he is calling us.

Here Is How

1. Prayer & Fasting

Every Wednesday as a church we will pray and fast together once a week for lunch. We may not be all together at one time but we will know that, as we do it, we will be joining with each other in praying: thanking Jesus for what he has and is doing in our church, asking for a building we can call a home, and remembering his promises.

2. Giving

Whenever God opens a door, we will need to raise money as a church to simply move. Our current location, the Observatory, has a lot of equipment that we use but don’t own. Instead of waiting to give toward that, we are going to start giving toward it now, as church. The team has already set up a special fund for us called “Orange County – Replant.” You can give online, by check, or on Sundays. When God does open the door, we will be ready to move forward.

3. Serving & Leading

Similarly, moving will require growing our service teams and leadership. We want to start training you now so that when God opens the door we have enough people to lead and serve so that we can do church well.
If you live in Orange County and would like to get connected to a service team or Community Group, let us know here. If you are on either but aren’t leading, tell your leader that you want to be trained to lead.
I’m thankful to be here with you all and am tremendously hopeful for what God will do in and through us as a church,
I look forward to worshipping Jesus with you all on Sunday,
Pastor Nick

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Noah Berlatsky on Wonder Woman and loving the comic behind the icon

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2015/01/wonder-woman-learning-to-love-the-comic-behind-the-icon/384160/

Berlatsky writes simply and persuasively about his affection for the early run of Wonder Woman comics by Marston and Peter.  Even as a lifelong Batman fan the earliest run of Wonder Woman comics holds up better than the earliest run on Batman.

But Berlatsky's advocacy in a way illustrates a point I've made elsewhere, that the challenge of Wonder Woman being an appealing character and particularly for the relevance of her earliest comics run to contemporary Americans lays in her having to mean too many things to too few people.  Wonder Woman and Superman were ideal superheroes for a Cold War era but the kind of casual confidence they reflect in the rightness of the American cause, American destiny and the use of American power (regardless of whether manifest by a superman or a wonder of a woman) could be construed as a vision of the world's most altruistic bully (per Steven Grant) or the most enlightened of all possible nanny states.

In a post-Cold War setting Batman may have more popular traction because his pop culture mythology assumes there's something rotten in the city of Gotham.  In an era in which people talk about the one percent a character like Batman can stick around and retain relevance because American pop mythology can posit that, well, if there's going to be a one percent anyway we'd like that one percent to be Batman rather than, say, Lex Luthor.

There's still some more writing about Wonder Woman to be done as things go.  Berlatsky's written a few pieces on the hero over the years and while he doesn't always seem sure whether he thinks there should be a Wonder Woman movie or if he'd watch it if one got made he's nearly always interesting to read when writing about her. 

root and branch from the emergent movement, are we sure the "left" and "right" have ended up all that different

http://nakedpastor.com/2014/09/tony-jones-on-mark-driscoll-what-came-first-the-thug-or-the-theology/

Now Wenatchee The Hatchet has discussed problematic punditry on the Mark Driscoll situation from Tony Jones and Peter Rollins in the past.

more thoughts on what some call watchblogging, the problem of punditry from the nosebleed section about Mark Driscoll, if you're too far away from the history you may not know what it is

The idea that Driscoll's problems came about not because of any character issues but due to "toxic theology" was a useless idea.  Driscoll self-identified more as a cessationist prior to about 2002 and then began to shift from cessationist to charismatic over time.  He became less of a Macarthur fan over time, too. 

Attempting to locate the problems of Mark Driscoll in his theological views would be to miss how many times he's changed them.  He went from denouncing T. D. Jakes as a word-faith wingnut in 2007 to shaking hands with him as though he were a conventional Trinitarian a few years later.  And this could get to another matter, if Mark Driscoll were to try to reinvent himself he'd have to slough off the last vestiges of any pretense at being Reformed and maybe switch to a charismatic or even prosperity approach. 

After all, he's made nice comments about Osteen in the past.
http://www.christianpost.com/news/mark-driscoll-on-joel-osteen-there-are-worse-things-than-being-happy-and-encouraging-89426/

Sort of a contrast to what Driscoll said about Osteen back in 2007 during the Phillipians series The Rebel's Guide to Joy ... if you can even find that sermon these days.  Driscoll's changed views on a few people and things over the years but if Driscoll were to more fully transition into a more charismatic or even quasi-prosperity side he'd have to deal with the reality that T.D. Jakes played a mentoring role to Paula White and that Paula White has partnered with MacDonald/Driscoll's Churches Helping Churches.

https://www.paulawhite.org/churches-helping-churches
http://www.harvestbiblechapel.org/ministry.aspx?site_id=10780&ministry_id=352425

Enough of Driscoll's buddies have had no problem working with Paula White, how far away could a Mark Driscoll epiphany that it's okay for women to preach from the pulpit be?  It might be a surprise but it's not impossible to imagine.  If anything a Driscollian heel turn on his old stance on women in ministry might be just the thing to reinvigorate his public role.  It wouldn't matter if he really, personally BELIEVED that women could or should be pastors, he's just got to say he's repented of being closed hand on that particular issue and too tribalistic.  Given how much weight people any distance to the "left" of Driscoll have put on his views on women it wouldn't be too big a shock if just from a PR standpoint it wouldn't be a good move for Driscoll to publicly endorse women in ministry.  It would defang one of the most persistent issues that has plagued him from progressives for his entire ministry career and doing this about face would let him mention a public repentance that would also let him defuse further public criticism of him for all time on his views on women.  After all ... if he's willing to endorse women behind the pulpit ... .

And the thing is if Mark Driscoll (perhaps against all expected evidence) relaunched himself as an egalitarian and even an Arminian in his soteriology would this change the record of his handling of intellectual property or the financial situation at what has formerly been Mars Hill?  Nope, not really. 
But because so many of Driscoll's critics have made the foundation of their critique his theology if he does come back and in any way changes his theology then his critics will have lost what they thought was their silver bullet.  But ...

https://futuristguy.wordpress.com/2015/01/08/capstone-2-7-mark-driscolls-culture-of-contempt/

some have observed there were concerns about Driscoll's character back when he didn't embrace so fully the kinds of theological positions he's since come to be known for.

Now ... let's suppose that Driscoll's character and a particular doctrinal stance may be combustible ... Driscoll started with connections to the emergent church scene and, to put it mildly, some of the complaints and concerns that have emerged in the last year with respect to Jones and other people associated with the emergent scene open up the possibility that it doesn't exactly matter if we're talking a "left" or a "right" for this scene.  It's possible that the guys who have been part and parcel of the emergent scene, regardless of where they've landed since its inception, may not be the most encouraging places to land. 

It's hard to imagine that there's ultimately any variation in formally Christian theology, combined with Mark Driscoll's character, that would have significantly altered the path he chose.  While formal ecclesiological strictures surely would have slowed him down they would be no insurance against his determination, depending on how determined he is.  Driscoll used to say most problems in churches were due to poor ecclesiology, itself a misnomer since the issue would be the poor character of those who are in the church.  We're all sinners, after all.