Wednesday, February 25, 2015

analog vs digital, mechanical vs physical: juxtaposing Brian Eno's concerns about digital recording with John Philip Sousa's concerns about mechanical music, with a few detours

language warning (for the readers who may want/need that). Brian Eno seems to be ambivalent about digital because while digital allows for perfection that may kind of be the problem.  Now it's not that composite performances and composite takes didn't exist in the analog era.  There was plenty of studio stuntwork on albums by the Beatles or Jimi Hendrix that could scarcely be replicated live with the timbres that were used. 

Think of it more like this, a skill set in analog may be getting lost that has had its unique contribution to artistry. Cyd Charisse remarked in a 50th anniversary edition of Singin' in the Rain that nearly all the people who had the skills and aesthetic perspectives to make the kinds of Broadway musicals that became classics are retired or dead.

“So the question that everybody’s asking is, is it getting any better as a result of all this? But it’s such a hard temptation to resist. You’re recording a song and find a note that is really quite out of tune. In the past, you’d have said, it’s a great performance, so we’ll just live with it. What you do now is retune that note. So you’re always asking yourself, have we lost something of the tension of the performance, of the feeling of humanity and vulnerability and organic truth or whatever, by making these corrections? It does make you question the role of new technology in the studio. And, of course, there are all sorts of reactions against it. You have Jack White with his studio in Nashville, which is all analogue, he doesn’t have any digital equipment in there. And I’ve worked with bands who’ve said, we’re going back to tape. They’ve got in all the stuff, 24-track recorders, all the gear – but within half a day they’re saying, fuck, we can’t edit this stuff. They’re just not used to working that way.

Eno went on to say:
“There’s a very interesting exercise, I don’t know if you’ve ever tried it, not to use cmd-Z when you’re writing something. I write quite a lot on a Mac and like everybody I go back and change things. If you say to yourself, today I’m going to write exactly as if I was sitting in front of a piece of paper and writing – Jesus, it’s a whole different mind-set. Because you have to start thinking before you start writing. It’s really hard to go back to that. I’m not saying there is any advantage in going back to it, it’s just interesting to try it, to remind yourself of how completely you are now part of this new technology of writing.”

Actually, depending on the style of music there can be some significant advantages to writing with paper and pencil or pen.  But the advantages may accrue to someone who's writing, say, a fugue exposition with a subject and two countersubject who's trying to get at fully invertible counterpoint.  There's a physical process of committing lines to paper where you think about the spatial reasoning of the lines in a way that's not the same if you were doing all the work at a computer.  You could get at the same basic result, obviously, if your aim is counterpoint but if you're sitting on transit for an hour you won't necessarily have access to a computer, will you?  Or maybe you don't NEED the computer with you compared to being able to shove the paper and pencils in a backpack after you've done the work you want done.

Sometimes having that paper in front of you lets you see that if you want that second countersubject to make sense it has to fit in the space between the subject and the first countersubject.  Putting that to paper and then seeing what space you have lets you think through what you could sing in between those two lines. 

Which isn't to say that someone writing pop songs is going to benefit from writing things out with pencil and paper in the same way.

But if there's a series of rules and guidelines about how to compose counterpoint that restricts individual lines the beauty of polyphonic musical art is that it doesn't much matter which voices are performing that music.  I mean, yeah, it matters whether the people handling your music are the Tallis scholars or a local church choir that can't even read music if you've composed something like one of William Byrd's masses, but the point is that assuming a base line of musical literacy, the polyphony will take care of itself. 

But how differently we'd all think of "Eleanor Rigby" if it hadn't been accompanied by string quartet.
In short, the pop record has turned its fans into cognoscenti of precise timbres. One reads constantly how proud they are of being able to recognize a tune or album from the first split second of a single note. There are possibly classical music mavens so familiar with recordings of the Brahms symphonies that they can recognize which orchestra is playing from the first note; but what does that have to do with Brahms's intentions? Most instruments are neutral, and can be easily dissociated from the music they are associated with. We can hear a piano without being disappointed that it isn't Chopin or Horowitz or Bud Powell, we hear an oboe without thinking of Mozart or Strauss, even an accordion without necessarily thinking of polkas. But trap sets and electric guitars, at this stage of the game, are not neutral, and cannot be bent to any compositional use the composer imagines. They make musicians want and expect to hear a certain kind of energy and virtuosity, and no music that fails in that comparison will be well received.
The evolution of pop music in the last century has been toward being anchored to a very specific set of timbres.  I remember once seeing someone joke in an online forum that I couldn't very well play a Fender Telecaster if I wasn't going to play country songs on it.  Fine, Hank Williams Sr. wrote some pretty sweet songs but ... it's interesting that more than a century ago there was an American composer who worried about the future of music in which reliance on mechanical production became normative.

Thus, John Philip Sousa's concern in 1906 that if machines became the usual way of experiencing music ...
            Under such conditions the tide of amateurism cannot but recede, until there will be left only the mechanical device and the professional executant.  Singing will no longer be a fine accomplishment; vocal exercises, so important a factor in the curriculum of physical culture, will be out of vogue!
            Then what of the national throat?  Will it not weaken?  What of the national chest?  Will it not shrink?
            When a mother can turn on the phonograph with the same ease that she applies to the electric light, will she croon her baby to slumber with sweet lullabys, or will the infant be put to sleep by machinery?
            Children are naturally imitative, and if, in their infancy, they hear only phonographs, will they not sing, if they sing at all, in imitation and finally become simply human phonographs -- without soul or expression?  Congregational singing will suffer also, which, though crude at times, at least improves the respiration of many a weary sinner and softens the voices of those who live amid tumult and noise.
            The host of mechanical reproducing machines, in their mad desire to supply music for all occasions, are offering to supplant the illustrator in the class room, the dance orchestra, the home and public singers and players, and so on.  Evidently they believe no field too large for their incursions, no claim too extravagant.  But the further they can justify those claims, the more noxious the whole system becomes.
            Just so far as a spirit of emulation once inspired proud parent or aspiring daughter to send for the music teacher when the neighbor child across the way began to take lessons, the emulation is turning to the purchase of a rival piano player in each house, and the hope of developing the local musical personality is eliminated.

This lament seems to have overdone a few things, even Sousa was willing to admit he was an alarmist. 

Or ... was it alarmist?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Medical University of Vienna, Austria, scientists found that the more popular a musical style grew, the more generic it became—partly due to the glut of artists that flock to a burgeoning sound and the drop-off in innovation that tends to accompany demand.
... And not only are we hearing the same hits with greater frequency, but the hits themselves sound increasingly alike. As labels have gotten more adept at recognizing what’s selling, they’ve been quicker than ever to invest in copycats. People I spoke with in the music industry told me they worried that the reliance on data was leading to a “clustering” of styles and genres, promoting a dispiriting sameness in pop music.

Might there be a "solution" to this,  if it's even a problem?  One possibility is changing how we listen.  Or at least, in a corrective to audiophiles, producer Alan Parsons has said that all the great gear won't help you if you're not also aware of room acoustics.  It's not just as simple as what you're listening to but how you're listening to it.

Of course we could then cue up laments about the decline of music education, like just about anything Scott Timberg has at his blog Culture Crash.  Music education may be considered an answer but it would depend on who you asked and when.  In his books in the mid-20th century the German émigré composer Paul Hindemith sniped that American musical education was actually part of the problem in American culture; all the American music teacher was basically doing was producing another generation of music teachers and American teachers of music tended to fill kids with delusions of the possibility that if they all worked hard they might be another Heifetz or van Cliburn.  What was needed instead of this sort of mentality would be the promotion of amateur music-making. 

So in a way Timberg's lament at the loss of the "creative class" might be missing earlier observations that all artistic activity could in some sense or another but the work of a leisure class, a leisurely activity.  Sousa's warning that the age of musical machines would create a rigid delineation of the caste of consumers and the caste of professional executants might have been kind of correct, after all.

Kind of ...

Justin Dean on dealing with the press, revisiting the first high profile incident Justin Dean fielded on behalf of Mars Hill a few years later

On February 23, 2015 Justin Dean published a post.

Among the list of things "to do" Dean mentioned correcting misinformation.  Back when the disciplinary situation of Andrew Lamb made headlines Justin Dean was willing to talk with Ruth Graham for an article she wrote that was published at Slate.  Let's go back and look at what Dean had to say at the time:
Before now, Mars Hill’s only response has been posting an excerpt on church discipline from Driscoll’s 2009 book Vintage Church on its website and an opaque tweet from Driscoll. But Justin Dean, the church’s PR and marketing manager, agreed to answer my questions by email to tell the church’s side of the story.

One key element that was not clear in Andrew’s original account, Dean told me, was that the letter was intended to be read aloud, not posted online, and only to a “handful” of people. Instead, the group leader received unclear instructions and posted the letter online, a move Dean insists was not meant to hurt Andrew.

Furthermore, says Dean, only the approximately 15 members of Andrew’s small group, who met regularly and knew one another well, had access to the letter on the City. (Though Andrew was blocked from accessing the City, he says the letter was available to a slightly wider circle, including his fellow security volunteers.) “His case was not shared with the full church and had, until he posted it publicly online, only been known by a handful of people who were involved in his life and cared deeply about him,” Dean said. (Confusing social-media privacy settings strike again!) He added that Driscoll was not involved in the case at all. Mars Hill currently has 5,417 members and just nine ongoing church discipline cases.

So, basically, it looks as though Justin Dean's explanation of what happened with Andrew's situation was that there was "unclear communication" and a letter was posted online, it seems, to The City.  Who gave the unclear instructions was never explained but what seems clear from the explanation of "unclear communication" would be that Andrew's case became know via The City due to the imcompetence of the Mars Hill communications and leadership systems.

Thanks to the absence of robots.txt from The WayBack Machine let's go back and revisit what else was said:

That being said, we do wish to clarify one detail. In one of the cases, regrettably, a letter that was meant to be privately read aloud to a small group of about 15 people in close community and friendship with Andrew was instead posted to that group’s private online community page. There was never a letter sent to the church as a whole. The tragedy of this whole situation is that what was once a private and discreet matter is now on a grand stage, and those who were misinformed as to the actions of the church in this matter are now complicit in doing the very thing for which they have wrongly criticized us.

So the correction clarified that a letter was posted to a community page.  So if it seems speculative on the part of Wenatchee The Hatchet to suggest that Justin Dean's first major move fielding a PR situation on behalf of Mars Hill was to concede incompetence there are two testimonies, the statement made to Slate, and the published statement from Feb 13, 2012.

For those who don't remember the rest of what was said ... this snippet is worth revisiting:
In both cases that have been brought to light, things did not go as they should have, and well before they were ever written about in a public setting by bloggers and journalists, Mars Hill leadership stepped in to investigate. As a result of those investigations, it was determined that the leaders involved had a pattern of overstepping their authority. As such, they were released and are no longer on paid staff or in formal leadership in any capacity at Mars Hill Church. Again, these actions were taken months ago, prior to any public exposure.

The trouble with this statement was that there was no way to tell who the leaders were who had a pattern of overstepping their authoritah, on the one hand, and on the other hand anyone who was familiar with the bylaws of Mars Hill post-2007 would have been able to see that there was, functionally, no upward limit on what pastors could decided to do in member discipline scenarios. 

Furthermore, as Wenatchee The Hatchet established in exhaustive detail, it was possible to establish a reasonable conjecture that Andrew was connected to the Noriegas based entirely on social media content; Driscoll sermons; Mars Hill website content; and the skeleton of the narrative published by Matthew Paul Turner.  Wenatchee The Hatchet had worked out a good number of the parties involved through publicly accessible media content back in February 2012 but because Lamb had not gone on record, Wenatchee The Hatchet waited until later to publish and discuss what was out in the open for anyone to go consult.

Had MH PR not mentioned any staff being let go it wouldn't have crossed the mind of Wenatchee that maybe the reason James Noriega had unceremoniously vanished from the elder rosters at Mars Hill could have been because he was one of the people let go.  But Mars Hill has neither confirmed nor denied any statements pertinent to Noriega. 

As The Stranger would later describe in 2013, Justin Dean's explanation that Mars Hill was partnering (or going to partner) with Lifelong AIDs Alliance was, as The Stranger put it, a bit of a PR meltdown.
It's also worth revisiting the fact that Mars Hill sermons were on a week delay, which meant that when outside press discussing Driscoll saying something on date X based on a media file made available at a website that the odds were decent the sermon in question was at least a week old.

And Justin Dean's wading into the fracas about the International Paper Building ... well ...
The Church had accused Sound Transit of taking the property by eminent domain, which Sound Transit denies. The Church has since backed down on that claim. Now the church leaders are questioning International Paper's acceptance of Sound Transit's offer.

 "We bid $250,000 over Sound Transit's bid," Dean said.

 In an email, a spokesman for International Paper in Memphis said that's not the case.
 "We accepted the highest and best overall offer which was from Sound Transit," wrote International Paper spokesman Kyle Morgolis. "Given our confidentiality agreement, we are unable to disclose the terms of the transaction".

 Sound Transit bristles at the idea it finalized the purchase agreement by undercutting and pushing Mars Hill out of any negotiation. "The idea that we intervened in the purchase of the property by them late in the game, that wasn't true," Patrick said. "We didn't hear from them until a week after we entered a binding agreement to purchase that property". [emphasis added]

So what if Mars Hill bid a quarter mil over the Sound Transit bid?  The Sound Transit deal turned out to have been finalized before Mars Hill had managed to express interest. 

A person could be forgiven for getting the idea that as PR went Justin Dean actually did more harm than good during his stint at Mars Hill.

If Dean hadn't made a point of talking about correcting misinformation Wenatchee wouldn't have felt any obligation to point out that during the heat of controversy amidst MH stuff circa 2012-2014 it sometimes looked like misinformation was more likely to come from Mars Hill about Mars Hill than from outside coverage.  Has Mars Hill EVER clarified which leaders were let go for overstepping spiritual authority, or even explained what that would mean? 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

a sprawling but intriguing overview of the history of the banjo (lots of videos featured, including a chamber work including banjo by George Crumb!)

piggy-backing a bit an old post by Kyle Gann, if we're living in the guitar age it may be because the guitar spans so many popular styles in addition to "traditional" forms in concert music.  There's no reason either the guitar or the banjo need be straitjacketed into any expected style. 

Mark Sylvester's music is worth checking out, and he's written chamber music featuring the banjo as a concert instrument.

Speaking as a guitarist one of the great obstacles in the way the guitar can be approached is basically conceptual.  This can seem particularly prevalent in a field of guitar activity where it shouldn't seem to be, classical guitar.  The idea that somehow sonata form is not amenable to the six string guitar seems ridiculous if you've familiarized yourself with the works of Sor, Giuliani, Diabelli, Matiegka and Carulli.  Now whether you enjoy their handling of sonata form as much as that of Haydn, Mozart or Beethoven can be a whole separate discussion, but sonata form isn't "that" hard to engage on six strings.  I'm sure it's possible (and may well have already been done) that someone has composed a sonata allegro form for solo banjo.  If there hasn't been there should be.  :) 

two links on education "The Downfall of for profit colleges" at the Atlantic, and at Slate, "if you didn't get your phd at an elite university, good luck ever getting tenure", more or less

looks like the Powerpuff Girls will return ...

Monday, February 23, 2015

on shunnings and social status, a proposal--shunning as proportional to levels of formal and informal prestige the shunned person had before transgression

When Wenatchee The Hatchet stopped being a formal member of Mars Hill possibly nobody really noticed at first.  Rather than resign membership, I just let the membership expire in the great cancellation of 2007-2008.  Those renewed membership or actively resigned membership were making some kind of statement.  But to make such a statement they might have had to renew membership just enough to resign.

Wenatchee The Hatchet never once experience anything like a shunning.  Yet story after story emerged of shunning or ostracism.  So what was going on?

Well, permit a theory here.  Shunnings tended to happen when people with formal clout transgressed some code of conduct.  Petry got fired from being a pastor and a shunning edict came along.  Others resigned and found themselves shunned.  While it might be said here and there the shunnings were in reaction to decisions or statements, it may be the shunning was based on something else, on status.  If someone with a high level of formal and informal prestige in a culture is counted a transgressor or traitor, then he or she may be like some electromagnet where a switch gets flipped and the polarity is reversed.  Shunning would have to be commensurate to the level of prestige the person enjoyed before being subject to shunning.  The higher your profile and the greater your formal clout in an organization, the greater your abjection would have to be.

This could account for why people who experienced some particularly stressful isolation when they left Mars Hill have, at least at times, been people with a lot of prestige within the Mars Hill culture.  They had a high height from which to fall.  If someone had a good deal of clout but it was all informal clout, no formal employment contract or formally recognized leadership role, then the worst that could happen would be the person might not be recruited to volunteer this or that.  Their informal reputation would not particularly suffer or, even if it did, their loss would not be as large as the loss of someone who had a lot of formal prestige.

So with that in mind ...
Little matter that I had just been approved to be an elder. Little matter that James Harleman had offered me a paid position as an elder at Wedgwood starting in 2008 if I would accept the position. Little matter that hundreds of members were supporting our orphans in Africa, and many could witness the ministry first hand.

It would seem like at least a possibility here that the transgression could be described as someone whose actions overstepped the socially recognized level of prestige.  I.e. in the wake of a political scandal Rob might have been construed as pulling a rank he didn't formally have.  He may have had a very high informal level of prestige but he was not at that point formally an elder, so if he said what he thought about an elder termination process as a deacon then at a formal and an informal level he could have been seen as having overstepped his legitimately bounds. 

Conversely, without any formal diaconate or elder associated tasks, a person could object to a termination process and be ignored.  This would not be the same for people who had formal recognition.  It would not go over well if a community group leader expressed reservations about the firings of Petry and Meyer.  A person who said that kind of thing might be asked to step aside from leading a community group.  A deacon who said those kinds of things might have gotten dismissed, which is not to say for sure that happened.  The proposal here is that the higher the level of informal and formal prestige, the greater the offense would be for having views not accepted by the leadership culture.

In such a cultural idiom there would be a good deal more advantage to only ever having had informal clout rather than formal clout.  If you ran afoul of a leader there would be nothing much they could do to make life difficult for you. Perhaps membership could be revoked but then what was lost?  Access to The City?  Was ... that really all that big a loss? 

Discouraging financial investment in a project, though, was possible, but this might reinforce the proposal here, that the damage was possible because of the prestige Rob Smith had at a formal and informal level.  Had he substantially diversified the donor base for Agathos prior to 2007 the political brushfires of Mars Hill would not necessarily have caused the kind of damage to Agathos' donor base that has since been described. 

That Smith had a lot of clout at a formal and informal level could be attested by none other than Driscoll himself, it seems, since Smith has been able to reproduce a sermon from the 2007 Ruth series in which Driscoll spoke positively of Smith and the work he did through Agathos.  That Petry was considered wrong to have consulted Smith may well be yet another indication that the perceived transgression was that Petry shared confidential materials with someone not worthy of the material.  It could be construed as another case of a guy being thought of as having asked form or been given access to, that for which his formal and informal prestige was not considered good enough.

Now there's no doubt people will wish to discuss spiritual abuse for a while to come.  But Wenatchee The Hatchet suggests that discussing spiritual abuse in strictly spiritual terms may well prove to be a waste of time.  It's not that this shouldn't be done, it's that we may benefit from shifting the discourse away from theological discussions to sociological discussions and psychological discussions.  It's possible to frame spiritual abuse for a secular reader as a type of emotional manipulation and abuse.  What happens is a spiritual narrative that is ostensibly shared by two or more parties is invoked or even manipulated by one party as a way to exert control over or exact obligation from another party.  The invocation is a demand of loyalty predicated on the threat that an infraction will be interpreted and also (perhaps this part most crucially) broadcast as an indication of betrayal. 

This doesn't even have to be a religious matter, it could simply be a relational double bind where you put someone in a no win scenario. If they disagree with you or do not perform as expected you exact a punishment that shames them or accuses them, but if they conform with what you may require and it still doesn't go well for them then, well, it was their fault anyway.  What may make this thing abusive is that the person who maintains control of the narrative ensures that he or she has no possibility of moral culpability for the implementation of a decision or the decision itself.

In such a setting the paradox is that the less prestige you have invested in or gained from the social system, the less emotional trouble you'll have when or if you part ways with the culture and the narrative and expectations of the culture.  .If you had a lot of clout in the culture but it was all informal your reputation would not really suffer much if you ended up disagreeing with the leadership culture.  If, however, you dissented from the leadership on some crucial point and you had a lot of formal clout then the yellow sun would become a corresponding amount of Kryptonite. You could find that the level of formal and informal prestige you used to have would become the commensurate, corresponding level to which you were rejected.

On the other hand, if your informal reputation was already bad you could never attain much formal clout and your reputation might never particularly improve, even if you were someone about whom leaders said "don't ostracize this person".  Not everyone in the history of Mars Hill who felt shunned was necessarily shunned by elder edict; not everyone who felt shunned in the history of Mars Hill may have even been shunned at all, some personalities were combative enough that they may have alienated a lot of people on their way out without anyone needing to suggest a shunning.  Mileage must surely have varied. But when the politics got heavy, it seems that there was a benefit to having a relatively high but purely informal level of prestige within the culture of Mars Hill.  Formal prestige could end up being a severe disadvantage as the political battles within the leadership culture began to emerge.  It could have been even worse if there was any attempt to leverage either formal or formal prestige to offer any counter to the prevailing winds of an era.

It seems one of the hallmarks of the culture that developed in Mars Hill was that when a disagreement arose leaders (whether formal or informal) would invoke status or rank (whether formal or informal) as a trump card to exact compliance.  This would be the simplest and most pervasive pattern that could be construed as spiritually abusive within the history of Mars Hill.  One of the most flamboyant deployments of this use of status indication was the polarity reversal inherent in a shunning.  The higher the formal or informal prestige the more abjectly that person had to be cast out.

In a cultural setting like that the people who may have been the best off were the "consumers".  The more "plugged in" you were to the leadership culture, the far worse off you were if by some chance, one day, you ran afoul of the leadership culture you built your reputation within.

some more thoughts on what some call watchblogging, freedom of the press does not mean freedom from litigation (i.e. why you need to know what defamation is)

First, a link, HT to Phoenix Preacher:

Michael had a podcast late last year where he said 2014 was the year of the blogger.  He mentioned the work of, among others, Wenatchee The Hatchet.  The comments are appreciated.  Something Michael said in that late 2014 podcast was that it was important to articulate and appreciate HOW blogging about Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill was done, that it was actual journalistic work with carefully sourced and cited primary source documents. 

As watchblogging about churches and pastors as figures interacting with the public continues litigation must be taken as a given.  It's only a matter of when and not if a lawsuit will materialize.  It's a matter of when and not if defamation suits will emerge.  Christians who would undertake watchblogging on an occasional or vocational basis need to understand clearly what the freedom of the press does and does not entail.  You cannot expect to be protected from a defamation suit just because you're saying what you are certain is the truth about someone you think is a public figure.  As court discussions are revealing, what one person may construe as a public figure another judge may construe as not necessarily a public figure.  Watchbloggers need to have some understanding of theories of the press, defamation case precedents, and count the cost of what they can provably and journalistically discuss for the sake of public discourse. This has been more than just some pet project of Wenatchee The Hatchet over the last six years. 

Back in the old college days, Wenatchee The Hatchet took some courses in journalism.  One of the topics for discussion was what freedom of the press does and does not entail.  The First Amendment is colloquially known as ensuring freedom of the press and free speech but the reality is not all speech is protected.  There are whole swaths of unprotected speech. 

There's a way that xkcd put it  ... (go read it for yourself, it's short and sweet).

The freedom of the press means the government (in theory, at least) can't arrest you for what you say.  It doesn't mean everyone else can't decide what you have to say isn't worth listening to.

More importantly, it doesn't mean someone can't decide they have a basis from which to sue you for defamation of character.  The First Amendment doesn't protect across the board in matters of defamation.  You can't just say what you will about anyone.  This is a detail that isn't very subtle and that watchbloggers have probably not adequately realized.  You get to say crazy or outrageous things about civil servants who are public figures.  The first amendment protects the liberty of people to say stuff about government officials as a way to encourage and preserve political discourse.  But not everyone is that kind of public figure.  Certainly your local or even regional megachurch pastor is not going to fit that category of public figure. 

So for private citizens, freedom of the press is no sure defense against a defamation suit.  You can't even necessarily rely on truth as the ultimate defense if the person we're discussing ISN'T a public figure.  If what you publish could be construed as permanently or significantly damaging the reputation of a person then even if what you published were factually true and the person is not a public figure (i.e. government employee for sake of this post) you can still be liable for, well, libel.  If you assert that someone did X and someone is a private citizen what you asserted could be libel.  Libel can, at least if memory serves, be the combination of disclosing a statement that harms the reputation of the person.  For public figures malicious intent would have to be established, but for private citizens not even this is necessarily the case depending on the state and the exigencies of the case.  If you were to say that a government official was guilty of embezzlement you'd have a free speech defense you wouldn't have if you said your neighbor was embezzling even if both might be true because the purpose of protecting speech is for the public good. 

For some reason Wenatchee The Hatchet has tended to be identified as a watchblog dealing with Mars Hill.  That has never been the case in intent or the sum of published work, but that's been how people have talked or written about the blog.  What needs to be stressed is that Wenatchee The Hatchet worked for years to stick with things that are public record and verifiable.  When Driscoll and Mars Hill sounded off on how some people made use of their intellectual property without giving proper credit, it was on the basis of that that Wenatchee The Hatchet broached the possibility that Driscoll himself had not adequately given credit to those whose writings and ideas influenced his approach to ministry (specifically, Dan Allender).  That the post-plagiarism controversy editions of Real Marriage gave Allender some credit can be cross referenced back to first-print editions of Real Marriage where you can see that was not what originally happened. It's not just that what was established was factually accurate, it was, how do we put this, redundantly verifiable, too.  It was a matter for public consideration.

What Wenatchee has not done is endorse or discuss allegations of what former MH leadership has allegedly said or done with respect to individuals, specifically certain long-since deleted allegations about individuals that could not be proven.  Defamation isn't protected speech and if a blogger makes a point of publicly expressing the sentiment that so-and-so's public career or ministry should die and makes claims about egregious moral offenses then, well, it's not hard to see how that could be construed as defamation.  The things alleged may even be true but the harsh reality is that if we're not talking about a public figure the truth defense alone won't cut it.  It's possible to be liable for defamation even if a person had made true statements that permanently damage a person's reputation. 

It can seem as though this or that story might be worth running if you're doing some kind of watchblog but you have to ask yourself if publishing that material would be worth going to court over and if you'd be willing to stake your reputation in a court setting on the veracity of what you publish.  It can seem as though too few watchbloggers have approached the discipline in this way.  While it is valuable that courts have upheld that bloggers have some first amendment protections there are journalistic responsibilities that must be upheld.  You have to acquaint yourself to the basics of what speech ISN'T protected and have some awareness that things you publish can damage people's lives.  You may at some point have to weigh the benefits of sharing information against the cost that may accrue to a person if information is made known.  There are stories and incidents and allegations Wenatchee The Hatchet doesn't plan to disclose because private citizens (even if they "seem" public) are (and should be) afforded protections and considerations that public figures don't have. 

And if you've read this blog for years you've probably already seen that this is a place where things are carefully and meticulously documented.  When things have been inaccurate (it happens, mere mortals, after all), corrections get made in a postscript or in comments at the relevant post.  As often or more, stuff has just not been discussed or in some cases comments have been deleted because some people who would sound off in blogs about this or that person either don't know or don't care to know what defamation is.  Christians toss around the word "slander" when they should probably use "gossip", and yet Christians have no problem slandering or libeling each other while thinking they are speaking up for the truth. 

So let's take a case like Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill. When Mars Hill lamented that people infringed upon their intellectual property it was on that basis that it was possible and legitimate to discuss whether or not Driscoll's books had adequately cited and credited the work of other authors.  Since Driscoll and Mars Hill had deigned to make a public statement about intellectual property infringements there was a warrant, based on their public engagement of that topic, to ask whether or not they met the standards they asked others to comply with. 

Since the Bible is a document anyone can discuss with respect to historicity and interpretation whatever Mark Driscoll presented for public consideration and consumption was fair game.  It wasn't unfair to raise questions about the basic competency Mark Driscoll displays in biblical languages when he interpreted Song of Songs.  That Mark Driscoll in some way encouraged his daughter Ashley to be a blogger and have a public voice was a matter for discussion, too.  That Mark Driscoll leaned heavily on an anecdotal conversation with his daughter for a defense of a tendentious reading of Esther was also a matter for public consideration.  But beyond that, there was (and is) no compelling reason to discuss what relationship Mark Driscoll may or may not have with any of his children, by and large. 

Back in school I remember hearing the advice that you should avoid relying on anonymous sources.  You can't be certain they aren't lying to you.  You can't be certain they aren't blowing the whistle on an organization that may have even terminated them with cause.  Conversely, you may have to ask yourself whether what you might report is worth damaging someone's reputation or career over.  It also matters a great deal what sort of figure we're dealing with.  Is it a private citizen or a public figure?  What level of public figure?  A failure to engage with the significance of these definitions makes the difference between being able to speak or write things that are controversial but within the realm of legally acceptable speech on the one hand, and being the subject of a judicially accepted defamation suit on the other. 

Watchblogging has its perils and though there are encouraging indications that watchblogs can be taken seriously we should not lose sight of the grim reality that if we're going to do this kind of thing there are ethical and journalistic considerations at play.  We need to know what speech is and isn't protected.  We can't hide behind "free speech" as a defense in every case.  The First Amendment protects you from being arrested but not from becoming subject to a defamation suit. 

I've deleted a handful of comments made at this blog over the years that were libelous.  Some people with old scores to settle with other people insisted on making allegations that, if they had any merit, merited a legal filing rather than some comment on a blog.  The court of public opinion is not the same as legal standing.  The court of public opinion and popular sentiment is not the same as what can be shown to have actually been said and done.  For years people insisted Mark Driscoll claimed Gayle Haggard let herself go and that's why Ted Haggard strayed with drugs and a male escort.  It didn't matter how many times Wenatchee proved that's not what Mark Driscoll ever said, the court of popular sentiment had made up its mind.  That feedback loop reinforced loyalties. There may yet be people who sincerely believe Mark Driscoll was somehow "taken out" by the "media", as if the majority of media outlets had any idea who Mark Driscoll is or why he might matter. 

This blog is not a watchblog and even if it somehow is taken to be a watchblog let's clear the air, it's not a vocational watchblog but an occasional watchblog.  When the mainstream and independent press failed to keep up with what was going on in the history of Mars Hill Wenatchee The Hatchet kept tabs on Mars Hill and the teaching of Mark Driscoll.  When the press started to catch up WtH stayed on task.  Now that the corporation is moving toward formal expiration and dissolution there's lots of other things Wenatchee The Hatchet is looking forward to discussing INSTEAD of Mars Hill.

But there are things that still need to be said.  With respect to anyone who would consider being a watchblogger, let alone a vocational watchblogger, you can't afford to be ignorant of defamation.  You can't afford to lean on the idea that free speech means you somehow shouldn't or can't or won't get sued for defamation.  At the risk of overstating things a bit, if you're not willing to stand by what you publish at a blog in a court you may want to avoid saying what you think would be great or clever or powerful to say.  If Brian Williams can't afford to just say anything without losing time from his job how much less do you think you'll get away with saying something you think is clever or true that may be construed as the basis for a defamation suit? 

Stuff to consider. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

a few links here and there

Sometimes anecdotal accounts aren't enough.  Perhaps it should be said that some people just had to know what the deal is about ... "Why men always think women are flirting with them".

Over at Slate Ruth Graham has a piece about how it kinda looks like the people most against vaccination seem to be the moms but that it's a bit awkward within the sisterhood to point out that it's often the moms rather than the dads who don't want vaccinations for their kids.  If enough people opt out under the surmise that everyone else will get the kids vaccinated to the degree where herd immunity kicks in it ain't necessarily so.

In a thematically related boundary between the is and the ought ...

We want to believe that she really is like that, all around—talented, beautiful, classy, successful, in love—because if Beyoncé can have it all in the way she has opted to have it all, perhaps there is a sliver of hope for the rest of us.

We do?  Beyoncé can certainly have her career, and Kanye can certainly keep wishing she'd get recognized for what she's done in ways that may not happen, but the question of why a Beyoncé hasn't gotten the recognition Kanye says she deserves while other corporate amalgamations such as, say, The Beatles, do ... that might be a blog post for someone else to write.  Wenatchee tends to think of the Beatles primarily as a boy band that transcended the limitations and horizons of their initial idiom. 

an older piece, on the ascent of Harley Quinn

If Wonder Woman has often been the symbol of feminine perfection Harley Quinn is ... well ... kind of at the other end of the spectrum, which makes it surreal to consider the possibility that by now, here in the 21st century Harley is more iconic than Wonder Woman. 

and it's official Quest Church has purchased the building formerly known as Mars Hill Ballard (Warren Throckmorton reports)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


... on some stuff that's happening off-line.  There may yet be some on-line results but not any time very soon.

However, two thirds of the first movement of Matiegka's Grand Sonata 1 have been nailed down with some notes I definitely want to discuss.  Still trippy to notice that every commercial recording takes the second half of a certain measure playing A natural when that isn't in the score.  There's a solid reason for the alteration in a later part of the modulating transition but we're getting ahead of things.  In sonata forms there can be modulating transitions and, well, uh, non-modulating transitions.  To put this in guitaristic terms there are transitions from theme to theme that change keys and there are what we guitarists could lazily describe as "transposable transitions".  You can see an example of this in the recapitulation of the F major sonata by Diabelli. You don't get theme 1 back. Nope.  You get themes 2 and 3 transposed down into F major from the C major they originally appeared in for the exposition.  Another example of an essentially transposable transition would be ... well, we've already mentioned the Matiegka sonata.  As writing teachers like to say, show don't tell, and we'll be able to show you and tell you some time within the next .... few weeks.

It's not like there aren't writings out there about the evolution of sonata form in solo guitar literature in the early 19th century, obviously ... but this is still going to be fun.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

R L Stollar--"The Evidence Against Tony Jones"--Jones may have been even less fit to sound off on Driscoll than previously thought

Wenatchee The Hatchet was not particularly familiar with Tony Jones or Peter Rollins until, well, until the two of them made what seems to have been the remarkably idiotic decision to sound off on Mark Driscoll.

Jones sounded off on Driscoll over here:

Rollins sounded off on Driscoll over here:

David Hayward over at Naked Pastor had a response to Jones' assertions over here:

Hayward stated that attempting to locate the problems in Mark Driscoll with theology would miss pathology.  Since Mark Driscoll's theological views have ... shifted a bit here and there, attempting to locate the problems Driscoll may have (or have had) in theology is a problematic enterprise. 

And even if none of that were the case for the likes of Tony Jones or Peter Rollins to have sounded off on Mark Driscoll at all, let alone at the time that they did, was kind of useless:

And over time it may turn out that someone like Tony Jones talking about Mark Driscoll not being a bad guy but having embraced toxic theology might all be moot.  It may turn out that Jones defending Driscoll at a personal level but saying the guy embraced a toxic theology would be missing a fairly rudimentary point that both conservatives and progressives could probably normally agree upon, that the life you live, how you treat people, and the kind of doctrine you espouse might be both less formally connected in real life than might be imagined and that if we're going to heed biblical texts there's the matter of the lived life.  I.e. progressives and conservatives could agree about the having one spouse part. 

While there are going to be those who will stand by Tony Jones much like those who will opt to stand by Mark Driscoll it's beginning to seem more and more that, at best, Tony Jones having any public punditry about Mark Driscoll could be the pot calling the kettle black.

At worst, Jones may have stooped to ways of handling conflict that are egregious enough to make Mark Driscoll look sorta fallible but not beyond redemption.  Then again, didn't all these guys hail at one point from the Emergent scene?  It can seem as though the Emergent crew is basically toxic whether its one-time associates veered "left" or "right". 

You'd think that after things blew up with Driscoll and Jones alike that we'd be able to set aside this idea that theology and ethics are necessarily connected.  I mean, sure, they "should" be but let's not forget John Howard Yoder.  The old idea that "ideas have consequences" seems less and less plausible after a few decades.  We want to believe there's substance to the idea that what you believe and say about the cosmos should be reflected in your life ... but ... it doesn't always seem to be the case.  And here we have a chance to not resort to "no true Scotsman". 

But that is very probably how things are going to play out.  After all ... it's not like Wenatchee The Hatchet didn't have half a decade to see how people kept coming to the defense of Mars Hill in general and of Mark Driscoll in particular.  What may be pertinent to the Tony Jones situation is akin to what seems to be the case about Mark Driscoll, there are some people who are devoted to a vindication of the hero because they are vindicating their emotional, spiritual and economic investment of themselves into that hero as a brand.  Wenatchee used to call Mars Hill home and over time it became clearer and clearer that a commitment to following the teaching of Jesus was at no point dependent on being associated with Mars Hill.  A comparable process may be advisable for Tony Jones. 

For a bit more background on all of this stuff ...

Mere Orthodoxy, MLA on the problem of counterculturalism in evangelicalism

Noting the obvious but necessary thing, that evangelicals with conservative values have seen the United States in particular and Western civilization in general in a hellbound spiral of decline, Matthew Lee Anderson has written a bit about the problem of embracing the narrative trope, the metaphorical alignment of "counterculture".

Anderson linked to a piece written by Laura Turner, who wrote that the problem she sees with a countercultural trope is that the first ethos is "against" rather than "for".

Invoking the creation of a counterculture was basically the tagline of Mark Driscoll's 2001 era Proverbs sermon series.  In a setting like Seattle what Mark Driscoll presented as "countercultural" looked pretty much like a Normal Rockwell painting (not that Rockwell wasn't an incredible artist, nind you).  To put it more bluntly, Mark Driscoll's idea of "countercultural" looked like a fairly standard issue whitebread middle American nuclear family suburban dream.  That's not even necessarily a set of bad things, either, but Anderson gets somewhat laconically toward the problem with that kind of thing, that there's always this possibility that today's counterculture becomes tomorrow's establishment. 

The rise and decline of Mars Hill in the last twenty years might be a case study for that.  While the church was on the rise and before Mark Driscoll had inked any book deals the public approach to intellectual property was, well, it was kind of a maybe outdated approach to things.  Everything was being given away for free and musicians were encouraged to use open copyright.  By 2004 the trajectory regarding intellectual property had changed.  To put it rather bluntly, Mark Driscoll literally had a book to sell by then.  Driscoll's reputation continued to rise in part due to how much material was being made available for free but it wasn't all going to be equally free for long. 

Driscoll used to write about how the decline of Christendom was actually pretty good because this meant a commensurate decline in religious nominalism and civic religion of the sort where people who thought they were Christians were really just Americans.  Driscoll was even weighing in against Hutcherson, the pastor at Antioch Bible Church that sent out Driscoll to start a church, and was writing to fellow MH members in 2005 that Hutch and Dobson had devolved into useless moralism and that gay marriage being nationally backed at all legal levels was simply a foregone conclusion.  Then by 2013 with A Call to Resurgence it's like some different Driscoll emerged. Or not, the proposal here is that it might  be possible to chart the shifts and turns and pivots of Mark Driscoll as a public figure with a few observations about whose money and intellectual property the budding and growing Mars Hill might benefit from.

Anderson's skepticism about the love ethic is warranted.  It's pretty easy to declare so-and-so failes "the love test" without really defining what that may mean.  Since we just passed through another Valentine's day and odes to true love, it's time for Wenatchee The Hatchet to revisit a lately stated idea--conservative evangelicals have lamented a crisis in masculinity but if we just switch over to secular progressive or even secular centrist writing the dilemma these days with respect to men is that the eligible men are fewer in number.  What seems to make the contemporary era different from past eras with respect to the status game of mating and breeding is that the modern West does not seem able or willing to grant that this whole realm of life is an inherently unequal playing field.  That the term "reproductive rights" even exists in modern English usage anywhere at all suggests that we've overlooked that sexual reproduction is a negotiated privilege whether inside or outside formalized state-and/or-church-approved marriage.

The crisis of males in the modern West may not be that there's a whole ton of guys with a "sexual market value" that has not risen to the level of marriage material, it may be that American Christianity is so assimilated into American cultural values about sexuality that the idea that there's an army of not-fit-for-marriage men and women is viewed as a crisis that needs to be solved.  Yet in Paul's epistles he went so far as to say that if you never get married that's an acceptable option and that if you do get married that's okay, too. 

Perhaps it didn't just so happen that the text for preaching from today at church was in Leviticus.  Leviticus is a fun read, actually.  As OT books go the slog would be the census results in the start of Numbers, not Leviticus.  But personal experience varies ... anyway ...

Leviticus 18:1-5 (NIV)
The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘I am the Lord your God. You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices. You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees. I am the Lord your God. Keep my decrees and laws, for the person who obeys them will live by them. I am the Lord.

The trouble with espousing a counterculture as a way to do things is that it's finally a rhetorical stance rather than a positive articulation of what you're for.  Let's face it, if a guy like Mark Driscoll could invoke the term "counterculture" for what he envisioned people doing with their lives the term has probably been divested of any of the range of meaning those who first coined the term probably imagined for it.

Let's throw out the idea that a problem with countercultural narratives and invocations is that to say you're not Egyptian doesn't mean you're not turning Canaanite and, sure enough, that was the problem with Israel after it left Egypt and arrived in the promised land.  That's one of the larger theme in the book of Judges, how the Israelites assimilated the customs, beliefs and practices of the groups in the land they settled into.  Barry Webb has a fine commentary on the book of Judges you can read if that interests you. 

Decades ago Francis Schaeffer wrote about America having become a post-Christian culture.  Setting aside for the moment some debates about what that even meant and how true it could actually be, the emergence of the Religious Right could be construed as a failure to learn the lessons of the Old Religious Left with respect to implementing Social Gospels.  There's a Social Gospel for the left and right respectively and it's ever so possible that that Social Gospel was ultimately and finally American rather than Christian. 

Throckmorton reports what WtH has heard, that there's been a buyer interested in the MH Ballard complex, Quest Church

Actually living in Seattle WtH had heard a week or so ago that there was a buyer interested in purchasing the Mars Hill Ballard complex.  The post is as follows:

Although details are few, an announcement in church this morning indicated that Quest Church, pastored by Eugene Cho, will occupy the old Mars Hill Ballard building.

An unidentified staffer indicated that a press release would come out later this week with more details. It is not clear at this time whether Quest Church will purchase the building or enter into some other kind of relationship with what is left of Mars Hill.

Mars Hill Church ceased holding services on the last Sunday of December 2014. The church continues to function as a legal entity to dispose of property and other assets. Church sources have gone silent about the pace of dissolution. The potential lawsuit is still potential.

Mars Hill Ballard  became Cross and Crown Church in 2015. For now, Cross and Crown still meets at 1401 NW Leary Way in Seattle. I wonder where they will go next.

When the press release emerges that will be interesting to see.  As noted before, Wenatchee heard that this lately announced development was in the works.  Before today there was nothing close to a formal verification of the report so it didn't merit a post before.  Now it does, and it will certainly merit a post when the formal press release appears.

Whether the purchase of the Ballard campus will include the purchase of the corporate HQ real estate has not yet been cleared up.

sort of update
UPDATE 02-15- 07.43PM

from one mapleleaf1234

Mars Hill has been unable to sell the U-District Church due to zoning regulations. (It can be used as a church and nothing else). Mars Hill has gifted that church building to Cross and Crown, who will be moving there. Not sure if Quest is buying or leasing the Ballard building.

Which wouldn't be a surprising seeing as how not thoroughly investigating zoning restrictions on real estate was how the MH elders bought the boondoggle that the MH corporate HQ estate turned out to be.  Whether Quest is buying that 51st street property hasn't been addressed yet but the zoning restrictions have "probably" not going away. 

Meanwhile, it seems plausible that the U-District real estate hasn't managed to sell or can't sell and could get gifted to Cross and Crown.  It's not "that" far from MH Ballard as it was. 

One of the last things to get fielded about the MH U-District real estate would have been ... from September 7, 2014

Revisiting the promotion of 2013's A Call to Resurgence in light of a recent campus closure announcement.

Friday, February 13, 2015

a few links for the weekend

If you aren't rich by 45, give up.

More from Slate this week that was more ... baffling, especially in juxtaposition.

Eric Posner asserted at surprising length that college students these days are basically children so we should treat them that way.

So some kids have enough sex at college that Amanda Hess had an article leading with "How Drunk is Too Drunk to Have Sex?" This is a bit baffling but not everyone went to college at a state school and some schools don't permit alcohol on campuses.

But how, exactly, college age students came to be viewed as still children in the last twenty years would require books.  I got the impression that by the time you graduated from high school you might not be able to go to college and you'd have to figure out how to live and work, or work and live. 

Conservative Christians have been bewailing the failure of millenials to pass the usual thresholds of adulthood for at least a decade or more.  And it seems that more of the millenials are apt to be living with the parents rather than moved-out because they haven't been marrying or investing in real estate.

But the nuclear family that social conservatives seem to pine for has not been the historic global norm any more than the completely egalitarian household unfettered by real differences in physiological, social, or emotional capacities seems like a plausible future.  It's been the dour assessment of Wenatchee The Hatchet that American social conservatives want to go back to a past that didn't really exist while American progressives want to go to a future that is impractical and unsustainable and in both cases Americans seem determined to fashion the family into its own ideological/political image. 

If the middle class has, as some have been saying for a while, disintegrating then the revival of extended family/inter-generational or intra-generational collectives would be a sensible decision made from economic necessity.

Apropos of nothing ...

Sarah Perry over at Ribbon Farm discusses what ritual is and isn't and has something interesting ...
Costly signaling is a framework within which the “irrational” sacrifices and acts of ritual can be made sense of. Costly signaling comes from evolutionary biology, and posits that a signal that is very costly to produce is especially likely to be honest. A peacock’s tail is the classic example: only a very healthy and fit bird could get away with growing such a ridiculously impractical tail. Similarly, sacrificing a great deal for one’s group is a costly signal of loyalty, and therefore more likely honest than mere “lip service.”

In my view, this “costly signaling” theory takes us only halfway to understanding ritual effectiveness. Richard Sosis and Eric Bressler’s study of the longevity of communes found that costly signals in the form of behavioral sacrifice (for example, food prohibitions and sexual restrictions) were correlated with the longevity of religious communes – but not secular communes. More demanding religious communes lasted much longer than less demanding communes. And, importantly, non-religious communes had poor survival no matter how much they demanded from their members. The other half of the secret to ritual is the mental states evoked by ritual. A ritual that does not produce the proper mental states will not be effective at facilitating cooperation:

skipping ahead, Perry writes:

And so, the second essence of my model of ritual is the evocation of specific mental states. If cooperation and the solution of coordination problems is the “fire” of ritual, then costly signaling is its fuel, and the ritual mental state is its oxygen. Here is my model of ritual:
  1. Traditional behaviors are performed, often including speech acts;
  2. Time and other things are sacrificed;
  3. Mental states are evoked and emotional display is constrained;
  4. Certain aspects (purpose, mechanism, history) are opaque or concealed; and
  5. A sacred or otherwise “higher” purpose is understood;
With the function of:
  1. Changing the social status of some member or members;
  2. Strengthening the group; and
  3. Solving coordination problems.

Okay, the reason this struck me as interesting and accurate is that if you look at that schematic and you were, say, at "Dead Men" circa 2001-2002 at Mars Hill ... that kind of summed up what was going on.  For a lengthy discourse on "Dead Men' as something referenced both in the 2006 Driscoll book and the 2011 fundraising film God's Work, Our Witness go over here:

It's not difficult to understand "Dead Men" as a deliberate initiation ritual for those men within the community of Mars Hill who were considered legitimate members of the brotherhood.  Given the functionality Perry outlines as the "goal" of ritual, "Dead Men" pretty well fit ritual.  It was eventually replaced by the mens' "advance", but by then we're talking run-of-the-mill retreats.  The ritual significance of having tied "Dead Men" to the actual dismantling of the old Midrash and replacing it with a strictly in-person aspiring members only was lost.  There's no unusual sacrifice involved in registering for a standardized Christian mens' retreat, all customary verbiage to the contrary withstanding.  But a word-of-mouth invitation only for aspiring male members of a nascent church?  That's got ritual all over it. 

in other news ...

the voice of the original Space Ghost, Gary Owens, has died.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Carol A. Newsom: Demons and Evil Angels in Early Judaism

Might have some comments about this interesting lecture on demons and evil angels in early Judaism ... later.

Well, a thumbnail sketch can't hurt, most intriguing is that in Jewish literature diabology was not a high priority but in Mesoptamian philosophy and religion demons were a hot topic.  Newsom covered a number of interesting non-Jewish theories about the nature and origin of demons.  One theory was that demons were the offspring of gods who had moral birth defects, were cast out from the divine realm, and preyed upon humans.  A second one, more associated with Lilith, an old Mesoptamian demon, is that demons were the souls of young women who died without having married or borne children and that they were motivated by malice and envy.  Though Jewish speculative literature eventually came up with other stories and uses for Lilith in the earlier literature Lilith was apparently more a nasty and, unusually, named demon that seems to be alluded to by Isaiah that was referenced in non-Jewish literature.

We're tagging this in the "spiritual warfare" category because if you'd like to cross reference the lecture linked to above with some other ... uh ... discourses on spiritual warfare, you'll have that option.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

and another short note on musical stuff, a question that has emerged so, uh, is Boije 349 all we've got for an edition of Matiegka's Grand Sonata 1?

The analysis of Grand Sonata 1 that has supposed to taken shape has hit one of those roadblocks that a mere blogger didn't foresee but should have, one of those pesky things called questions about engraved editions and all that.  When you hear every commercially available recording sound an A natural where no A natural was mentioned in the score ...

sigh ... this is the kind of thing that classical guitarists get into long fights about and for the piece in question it's arguable that whether or not the note being A natural or A sharp even matters would seem moot.  But we'll get to what I mean in a week or so, time permitting.  There's never been any kind of modernized edition of Matiegka's Grand Sonata 1, has there?  It's a charming and intriguing work and along the way to discussing what goes on in the piece some questions came up about, oh, A naturals and A sharps in the modulating transition.  It also seems from the left hand instructions in measure 1 that the descending glissandi stuff would have to be taken on strings 2 and 3 rather than strings 1 and 2 (though the passage sounds fine if taken on strings 1 and 2 anyway). 

There are at least ... three commercially available recordings of this work and Wenatchee the Hatchet means to get around to discussing them (got them all) but it dawned on me this weekend that in all three cases an A natural is taken in that modulating transition where the score seems to call for an A sharp.  Because in all adjacent measures the introduction of A natural within the same measure had a courtesy natural it might be that what has been played as A natural could have or should have been a A sharp ... but it may be easier to show rather than tell and it sure seems like Wenzeslaus Matiegka's been dead long (1773 to 1830) enough the work has gone into the public domain.

As I get more immersed in Matiegka's work I'm inclined to agree with David Leisner that Matiegka's work is substantial, even when compared to the usual suspects of substantial early Romantic classical guitar literature by Sor or Giuliani.  I've blogged about sonata form in the work of Sor, Giuliani and Diabelli in the past and plan to return to that.  Matiegka has surpassed them in musical interest for me and Matiegka's work shows a clarity and command of large-scale form and some contrapuntal invention that seems well worth discussing further.

But ... there's also some questions coming up for me about editions and whether there are any ... any manuscripts that could be consulted to discern questions about sharps and naturals and stuff. 

Saturday, February 07, 2015

and a short note on musical stuff

there's some musical stuff incubating but it may not emerge in a blog-able form.  There's some discussion of sonata form in early 19th century guitar literature incubating, of course, but that stuff will take some time.  Also, this year there's been some actual practice of music happening ... there might even be some composing again. 

"war on men" ... maybe some men have resisted finding out what their "sexual market value" actually is and it's substantially lower than they hoped?

In a breath-takingly long feature years ago, Katie Bolick at Atlantic Monthly wrote "All The Single Ladies".

For thousands of years, marriage had been a primarily economic and political contract between two people, negotiated and policed by their families, church, and community. It took more than one person to make a farm or business thrive, and so a potential mate’s skills, resources, thrift, and industriousness were valued as highly as personality and attractiveness. This held true for all classes. In the American colonies, wealthy merchants entrusted business matters to their landlocked wives while off at sea, just as sailors, vulnerable to the unpredictability of seasonal employment, relied on their wives’ steady income as domestics in elite households. Two-income families were the norm.

Not until the 18th century did labor begin to be divided along a sharp line: wage-earning for the men and unpaid maintenance of household and children for the women. Coontz notes that as recently as the late 17th century, women’s contributions to the family economy were openly recognized, and advice books urged husbands and wives to share domestic tasks. But as labor became separated, so did our spheres of experience—the marketplace versus the home—one founded on reason and action, the other on compassion and comfort. Not until the post-war gains of the 1950s, however, were a majority of American families able to actually afford living off a single breadwinner.

Not that this was exactly a huge epiphany but the nuclear family of the sort some social conservatives would like to see resurgent was a historical freak of statistical trends. 

Bolick's article emerged in the wake of Hanna Rosin's "The End of Men" and while Bolick noted that women had more options about managing fertility and family life it seemed that these newly available options were available chiefly to women above a certain threshold of economic stability.  Put simply, while a lot of new options are available for some women those options would be available by way of economic and social privilege. 

As noted elsewhere in the Atlantic, "marrying down" is less common and less acceptable as a goal.

While historically men have "married down" when the tables are turned there are some statistical reasons why a woman marrying down is probably a dangerous idea, literally dangerous.  The people most likely to be physically abusive partners are males who have "married up" to a woman who has higher economic, educational and social status and who has a more conventionally traditional view on masculinity.  When conflicts emerge a woman with a higher status than her partner may find the male tries to "even the field" by resorting to physical force.  So the reasons for a woman to "marry down" are few and there may be significant risk in at least some cases.  But since the "mancession" the "available pool" from men without higher education gets smaller, or so the articles linked above suggest.  Throw in spiraling educational expenses and debt and college education seems like a set of diminishing returns out of proportion to the debt being incurred.  But, and here may be where the socio-economic double bind may kick in, where's the job market for "unskilled labor" again? 

Having more people in the United States get more education won't do any good if there isn't a job market to absorb them.  During the three years I was unemployed it turned out that a majority of the options for continuing education hinged on having brought a child into the world.  Marriage, family, even divorce, or military service.  If you had none of the above theoretically you "could" go back to school but in reality financial help didn't exist and if you'd already managed to land an undergraduate degree grad school was basically a waste of time in advance. 

As Bolick proceeded:
Some even believe that the pair bond, far from strengthening communities (which is both the prevailing view of social science and a central tenet of social conservatism), weakens them, the idea being that a married couple becomes too consumed with its own tiny nation of two to pay much heed to anyone else. In 2006, the sociologists Naomi Gerstel and Natalia Sarkisian published a paper concluding that unlike singles, married couples spend less time keeping in touch with and visiting their friends and extended family, and are less likely to provide them with emotional and practical support. They call these “greedy marriages.” I can see how couples today might be driven to form such isolated nations—it’s not easy in this age of dual-career families and hyper-parenting to keep the wheels turning, never mind having to maintain outside relationships as well. And yet we continue to rank this arrangement above all else!

Well, this might presuppose the nuclear family, which not every social conservative would necessarily affirm as the ideal or the historic norm.  If ours is an age in which the pair-bonded marriage that sees itself as a cohesive entirety rather than part of a broader social system then, okay, it may be that our conception of romance is virulent enough to be a problem.  When Mark Driscoll used to admonish singles to not be selfish it was hard to shake the sense that the way dating and mating work in American culture is that people go on a series of entertaining consumeristic ventures; once people have spent enough time together figuring out they like to play together they take a stab at actually working together and that's what gets called marriage. 

When Bolick got to this paragraph:
Now that women are financially independent, and marriage is an option rather than a necessity, we are free to pursue what the British sociologist Anthony Giddens termed the “pure relationship,” in which intimacy is sought in and of itself and not solely for reproduction. (If I may quote the eminently quotable Gloria Steinem again: “I can’t mate in captivity.”) Certainly, in a world where women can create their own social standing, concepts like “marrying up” and “marrying down” evaporate—to the point where the importance of conventional criteria such as age and height, Coontz says, has fallen to an all-time low (no pun intended) in the United States.

It was hard to avoid a gut reaction, that if that's the aim of and basis for pair-bonding then in some sense the game has been called, and the aim of pairing in contemporary American culture is as the ultimate self-actualizing consumer/luxury experience regardless of socio-economic status.

The suggestion that autonomy and intimacy are mutually conflicting goals, however, seems like a good way to put things.

People both want to be needed and resent being needed. 

Well, as debates and discussions about status and privilege go, that's been rambling along.

While useful when used properly, the privilege framework, as overused now in public discourse, is an obstacle to dialogue and understanding more often than it is an asset. What people mean when invoking "privilege" varies dramatically, adding imprecision to exchanges that unfold with buzzwords rather than plain language and specific claims. And like "structural oppression," which also shape-shifts enough in its actual usage to permit all manner of rhetorical imprecision and mischief, the privilege framework makes many conversations much less accessible to the majority of people who aren't acculturated into academic social-justice jargon.

Even when these rhetorical obstacles are overcome, there is no faster way to short-circuit cooperation than treating overall degree-of-privilege and degree-of-victimization as vital questions to adjudicate before identifying or addressing specific problems.

The idea that there will ever be "progress" in how the sexes relate can seem optimistic.  Not that men and women should not work to get along and build a shared life together, it's more that, well, having been a single guy for life and not anticipating that changing it can be strange to read those with sex lives speaking about rights because it seems that unless you're a rapist all sexual intercourse is a negotiated privilege and that privilege has been conferred on the basis of a status assessment.

The mating/dating game patterns associated with time in schools seems to have gone a long way to define how we see our role in society.  And yet the teenager we take for granted is, as a socio-economic trend, not even a century old yet.  Yet, cue Ribbon Farm:

There are many “mirrors”—novel sources of accurate information about the self—in our twenty-first century world. School is one such mirror; grades and test scores measure one’s intelligence and capacity for self-inhibition, but just as importantly, peers determine one’s “erotic ranking” in the social hierarchy, as the sociologist Randall Collins terms it. Of the school sexual scene “mirror,” he says:
…although the proportion of the population whose sex lives are highly active is small, this prestige hierarchy nevertheless has an effect on persons ranked throughout. Particularly among young persons living in public sexual negotiation scenes, there is a high level of attention paid to erotic stratification criteria, and acute awareness of who occupies what rank in the community’s ratings….

The popular crowd is the sexual elite. Being in the center of attention gives greater solidarity, closer identification with the symbols of the group, and greater self-confidence. Conversely, those on the outskirts of the group, or who are excluded from it, manifest just the opposite qualities. Being part of the sociable/erotic elite produces an attitude of arrogance; the elite know who they are, and the enclosed, high-information structure of the scene makes visible the ranking of those lower down as well.
(Interaction Ritual Chains, p. 253; citations omitted; emphasis mine.)
There are many more “mirrors” available to us today; photography in all its forms is a mirror, and internet social networks are mirrors. Our modern selves are very exposed to third-person, deflating information about the idealized self. At the same time, say Rochat, “Rich contemporary cultures promote individual development, the individual expression and management of self-presentation. They foster self-idealization.”

The reason inequality will never be eliminated is because it's always going to exist.  Easy though it may be to look at the past as somehow failing to recognize inequality, what if the metaphysical/social crisis in American culture is that we would prefer to not talk about inequality and would prefer to only acknowledge status differences as though they were to be ignored?  Years ago I had a conversation with a guy who declared he thought of it as sinful to think of any woman as out of his league.  Well, you say that, but ...

There are some guys who seem to think there's a war on men.  Highly unlikely, that.  What is more likely is that there are some of the guys who decided that nobody should be deemed "out of my league" have, at length, discovered what their real "sexual market value" is and it's not nearly as high as what they thought it was. 

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Slate: Wikipedia problems of its own making

Could say a few things but probably won't ... still ... it has to be said that there were a couple of years in online discussions where Wenatchee The Hatchet would try to clarify a few points only to be told by someone that because the Wikipedia entry on Mars Hill or Mark Driscoll said X that X was how things happened.  Never mind that Wenatchee The Hatchet spent a decade at Mars Hill; met all the co-founding elders; was recruited into a number of ministries; and spent about half a decade meticulously documenting things ... somebody who read a Wikipedia entry that discussed Driscoll had the facts. 

It was weird and often very annoying but, fortunately, it could be the use of Wikipedia as a resource to discuss all that could be on the wane. Better to consult a litany of work at World by Warren Cole Smith; coverage by The Stranger; Becky Garrison's work; Warren Throckmorton's blog; some more recent stuff by Brad Sargent; Molly Worthen has had a couple of decent articles; Joyful Exiles has a helpful timeline; Repentant Pastors and We Love Mars Hill have some primary participant accounts ... and if you don't mind trawling through a sea of sourced statements with often rambling commentary and observation over the last half decade, well, you could also read Wenatchee The Hatchet.  But if all you want is the Wikipedia level summation of who said or did what ... well ... that might be the problem to begin with.  At this point the viability of Wikipedia on a subject as controversial and storied as a Mark Driscoll should be moot, as in not taken seriously to begin with. 

But if you wanted to amuse yourself reading about the character Starscream ... that's fine.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

HT Phoenix Preacher: Roger Olson "The Problem with Men ... " and a problem with a generic discussion of the male desire for respect

... I am no expert on gender matters, but I’ve read a lot of the literature that exists and I’m not convinced by most of it. Oh, of course, there’s some truth in most of it, but I don’t think the experts have, by-and-large, hit on the right causes or solutions. But I admit that my own thoughts about this are based largely on my own observations of boys and men over six to seven decades of life. I consider myself a fairly keen observer of people’s behavior and not particularly bad when it comes to deducing their causes and concluding about some workable solutions.

I suspect, in fact I believe, that human males crave respect. For most males, boys and men, respect is somewhere near the top of their hierarchy of needs. I would go so far as to say that, if they were to be completely honest, when asked which they would prefer if they had to choose one over the other most males would take respect over love. And, perhaps unfortunately, part of that craving for respect is desiring to be respected for their maleness.

Well, respectfully, Wenatchee The Hatchet disputes this particular point.  People in general like to be respected but that's not exactly the nature of the concern I'm about to put forth.

It's not enough for males to get respect, the respect has to be something the recipient can reasonably perceive has been earned.  There may be guys who want respect "just" because they're males but a lot of guys, if they want respect, they want that respect to reflect on their character and productivity.

Roy Baumeister, in his book Is There Anything Good About Men?, put it this way--male social structures tend to make it so that any one male is ultimately superfluous to the life of the organization or movement.  A corporation will tend to survive (if it's going to, anyway) whether or not any one person is part of the corporation.  Baumeister also noted that pretty much the world over the rite of passage from boyhood to manhood has tended to be when a male produces more than he consumes.  Whenever and however he crosses that threshold the boy becomes a man.  So, perhaps unsurprisingly, rites of passage could tend to involve activities in which productive activity play some role.  Hunting for food, cultivating a crop, mastering a trade, whatever it may be, the boy becomes a man when he is able to not just consume but produce more than he consumes, and in more traditional/parochial societies that could be construed as enough "more" to feed a wife and children.

Baumeister went a bit further, though, in proposing that the essential trait of masculinity is that males are disposable and that it is this disposability of the male that makes their contributions to culture paramount.  Males have historically embraced the high risk/high payoff activities that advance civilizations, while the energy and activity of motherhood was so intensive cultures generally refused to put women at the kinds of risks that men were not only put to, but often actively sought out.

That might be like saying that guys want respect but they want it by virtue of having proven they're useful and needed.  While social systems in which everyone is considered essential and has a role to play apply across the board, if Baumeister's right, his proposal would be that guys tend to create teams in which you first have to prove you're worthy of being on the team and then once you've done that then you get respect.  Olson's proposals seem rather generic and unhelpful because while it may be the average male craves respect the average male might also not like respect that he feels has simply been given to him because it's what everybody else is getting.  Maybe guys compete because they want a pecking order and want a basis from which to understand social rankings.  It doesn't matter how progressive or egalitarian humans may try to be, it seems we fall back on hierarchies of status and pecking orders. 

There's been a lot of Christians talking about a crisis in masculinity but what, exactly, is this crisis?  That guys aren't rising to the challenge of adulthood in contemporary society?  Let's reframe the nature of the question, what is it that's worth rising to these days?  Family?  Career?  Education?  These are all positive things but perhaps the cart has been put before the horse because in many societies a lot of these things were decided for you rather than by you. 

Take songs from the 18th century like a jovial number by Haydn, it's a song about this guy who creeps up to visit a beautiful girl cloistered in a nunnery and for the labor of climbing the walls to visit her he asks to be rewarded by her with a kiss.  Haydn himself was nearly turned into a castrato, if memory serves, and he was never able to marry the woman he was crushing on because of class barriers.  What may be different in our age is that there's an elephant in the room, and it may be the real nature of the "crisis" Christians talk about when they talk about a crisis in masculinity.

In social science terms the phrase would be "sexual market value", how viable on the market for mating a person is or isn't.  It may be the crisis in masculinity is not that a whole bunch of guys aren't getting married and getting jobs and starting families already, the crisis may be that in a post-modern information age it's easier than ever for males to realize how disposable they actually are.  When this crosses their mind they may just "opt out" of what has traditionally been called functional adulthood and not because none of them ever want that but because the risk to reward equation may seem stacked against them.  It may just be that for American Christians there's no practical teaching of any value for how to live a Christian life when a person's "sexual market value" is zero other than "well ... get married already."  It can seem as though functional adulthood is so thoroughly defined by sexual activity (since, well, we're all mammals here, right?) that the idea that one size does not fit all has been lost.

A lot has been said about Mark Driscoll over the years but there were some things he understood and even did right, at least early on.  Driscoll used to say that guys need something to do to motivate them.  You can't just confer "respect" on guys and have them buy it.  They have to get the sense that the respect they get is respect they've earned.  If you get guys together and tell them there's something you want done, something that can't be done without them, and then give them the agency to go do that thing then you've gotten the young guys.  The way Driscoll did it was pretty simple, really, he promised a legacy.  Had the legacy that Mark Driscoll invited young guys to participate in and contribute to remained a shared legacy rather than what increasingly seemed to be the personal legacy of Mark Driscoll there might still be a Mars Hill today.  Be that as it may, it's worth suggesting in light of Roger Olson's recent post that while his diagnosis and proposed solution seems nebulous and even lacking, it's kind of a reminder that at one point Driscoll had this nailed down.  He did know how to appeal to and motivate young guys who had previously no investment in "growing up". 

But if we're going to get guys inspired by giving them something to do what would that be?  That is probably the insoluable conundrum within American culture.  Unlike earlier times and places we don't really have a set of options that people could take up when they were deemed not-marriage material.  In the past someone who was at the end of the line for inheritance had to make their own way and if they couldn't they might end up in an army or in a monastery. We don't exactly have those equivalents in the same way.  Rather than even discuss that plenty of people are not marriage/family-building material Christians in particular seem to want all able-bodied or even semi-bodied males to "man up".  One of the numerous shortfalls in Real Marriage was Driscoll opining that some guys didn't trust God enough to provide for children and thus sinfully resisted their wives wanting to have babies.

But if Driscoll has retained any fondness for Bonhoeffer he might have recalled that Bonhoeffer wrote that while abortion was always wrong it might still be more moral to refrain from bringing children into the world you couldn't properly support than to just have them anyway.  Driscoll simultaneously set the bar too high by defining functional adulthood in terms of nuclear family building and yet also too low in the sense that he went so far as to propose that the reason God gave men a huge sex drive was so that that sex drive could spur a boy to become a man and take a wife.  As has been discussed at some length here before, same sex attraction obliterates the viability of Driscoll's own taxonomy of manhood on its own terms, given Driscoll's stance on gays.

So ... even with that in mind, it seems that Mark Driscoll's success was in inspiring young guys in the sorts of ways that those who talk about a crisis in masculinity have kept coming back to. 

At the moment with Driscoll in some kind of stasis sounding off on the crisis of contemporary males is going to be asking a question that probably isn't that contemporary.  The book of Proverbs was advising against joining gangs of worthless young rascals millennia ago.  And it seems that the real crisis American Christians may be facing is that as the nuclear family becomes less and less economically viable tethering all the "practical teaching" to that ideal may reveal the limitations of the "Law" of family as economic realities shift.  For American conservative Protestants it may just be that marriage is the new circumcision and not surprisingly, focusing on the necessity of marriage in other ways may be a progressive Christian concern, too. 

It kind of seems that whether it's a Christian left or right the idea that there's no place for eunuchs, and if we go by Jesus' words on the subject two of three categories of eunuchs didn't pick that status.  And let's not kid ourselves too much, in most times and places the mating game has been a status game.  What if in the age to come the absence of marriage or being given in marriage might have something to do with that, something to do with status indicators in ancient societies that we find hard to appreciate because we've got a romantic sentimental notion that "there's someone for everyone" when in possibly any and every earlier epoch of humanity people may have known better than that?