Monday, June 21, 2021

Ethan Hein on John Lee Hooker's "Boogie Chillen", some observations about harmonic rhythm and all the songs that came after the original that missed that part of its rhythm

Ethan Hein has gotten around to blogging about one of my favorite songs from one of my favorite blues musicians, John Lee Hooker's "Boogie Chillen".  His analysis is well worth reading. Go give that a read before you read what I'm about to add about how many subsequent tributes to this classic blues song miss a crucial concept called harmonic rhythm.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

CT's Mike Cosper at Mere Fidelity on the forthcoming podcast series The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill

I'm not much of a podcast listener myself but I am curious about how the series will develop.  It will be interesting to learn who has decided to go on record and who hasn't.  My training was in print media and so I tend to stick to print media even if what I do is technically blogging. Thus this blog.  Others are more comfortable speaking.  

Something that will be worth getting into is the earlier years of Mars Hill particularly formative connections to Leadership Network and the transition from patronage via Antioch Bible Church to David Nicholas Spanish River Church.  My hope is that can come up in the series.

The title of the series, Cosper has pointed out, is the rise and fall of Mars Hill Church, since Driscoll is still an active and current public figure. The first episode appears June 22.  

As work on the history of Mars Hill has gone so far there hasn't really been a history of the movement yet.  Jessica Johnson's Biblical Porn is a very specific anthropological survey of one element of the church and it's well worth reading and I've reviewed it.  Ironically I had two preludes and a review of Justin Dean's PR Matters.  Dean's book was not exactly a history of Mars Hill but since Mars Hill was functionally the one church he had served at in a PR capacity  to any lengthy degree his book was by default something of a history of Mars Hill as recounted by the former public relations/media chief.  I have recommended people avoid Dale E Soden's book on religious activists in the Pacific Northwest if they wanted anything like a scholarly reference to Mars Hill.  Although I have amassed books worth of material on Mars Hill over the years I have not been sure I really want to write a history of Mars Hill.

Brad Vermurlen's new Reformed Resurgence is hardly cheap and it isn't a history of Mars Hill as much as a sociological overview of New Calvinism but at this point the Jessica Johnson book and the Vermurlen book are the closest things available to books that deal with Mars Hill that I would say are worth reading.  There might be other books out there but I haven't gotten to those yet.

Non-podcaster though I am I am looking forward to hearing this series.  Developing histories of Mars Hill while primary source participants are still alive seems like a significant project.  Not everyone who played crucial roles in the starting and early support of Mars Hill is still alive, most significantly Ken Hutcherson and David Nicholas, but here's hoping Cosper and CT are able to chronicle the earlier phases of Mars Hill from the 1990s in ways that ground the development of Mars Hill in a way that is not just the Mark Driscoll show, which is what a lot of coverage and blogging has tended to do.  

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Rex McGee Creation for Solo Banjo #15 in D flat minor, excerpt from an interview McGee gave

I blogged about Rex McGee a bit last week.  Here's another entry from his set of pieces for banjo in all the major and minor keys.  

Here's part of an older interview he did. 

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Ethan Hein on whether Lorde "ripped off" George Michael and on the inescapability of musical tropes--we can't escape musical tropes [and if we take our cues from the galant era philosophy and practice of music rather than Romanticism we won't have to]

The logic of intellectual property is an awkward fit for the reality of creating the grooves in pop songs. Those grooves come from the vernacular traditions of the African diaspora, which are based on signifying on tropes. The idea of a work of music as an autonomous entity coming from the mind of a single individual is specific to modern Western Europe. The Romantic idea of the lone genius governs our copyright regime, but it’s ideological, not an objective description of how music gets made.

It makes me sad that people are getting sued over vague similarities in grooves, because there are just not that many different grooves or chord progressions that sound good, and all the good ones have been used over and over again. I want creators to be able to protect their livelihoods, but a hyper-litigious environment only benefits the people with the resources to hire lawyers. The law only protects everyone equally in the most abstract and idealistic sense. If you actually want to sue someone, or defend yourself from a lawsuit, it is going to cost you (unless you can find a lawyer who will work on contingency, which… good luck.)

This is a point that I think can be raised from another tradition by way of galant styles in the eighteenth century and what Robert Gjerdingen has called "schemata", which he elaborated on from the concept as developed by Leonard Meyer.  The short version is that in the galant style tropes were recognized and what you did with them as a composer revealed your artistry or lack thereof.  Which tropes did you use and what did you use them for?  That's Gjerdingen's summary position in Music in the Galant Style.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Stephen Goss: South China Sea Peace, recorded by Xuefei Yang
This is off one of Yang's earliest albums, Si Ji, that I picked up years ago. The entire album was devoted to classical guitar music by Chinese composers or composers exploring cultural themes from Chinese regions.  This lovely stand-alone piece calls for a second nut, if memory serves, to be put on the fingerboard to create the timbrel effects you'll hear throughout the piece.  Sadly the score for this has never been published to my knowledge but the music is worth hearing.

Freddie deBoer sounds off on what he regards as a reflexive panic of elite liberals about Trump, mentions "Republicans have always been dangerous monsters". Well, here on the West coast we don't remember Mark Hatfield as being a dangerous monster, okay


The essential point I want to make here is this: elite liberals, as a class used to comfortable and orderly lives, were massively freaked out by the election of Donald Trump, and what they have demanded in turn is not a new and better political movement but for everyone else to be freaked out too. The cries of “this is not normal!” were always quite vulgar as well as wrong - reactionary demagogues have always been a major force in American politics, thank you - and revealed a caste of people for whom political discourse had become indistinguishable from group therapy. And if you declined to participate in the yelling, even if you openly rejected Trump and his party, you were held up as a agent of Trumpism. Feel the way that we feel or you will be exiled.

Conversations about how left critics of Democrats underestimate the danger Trump represents are never really about what we might ordinarily recognize as substantive political disagreements. They are about the fact that many of those left critics refused to devolve into the primal-scream-therapy histrionics that liberal Dems themselves did. Elite liberals are not used to their worlds being shaken by political events, even after Democratic losses, and are deeply habituated to a certain sort of propriety and order in how politics operate. Republicans have always been dangerous monsters, but Trump failed to couch his bigotry in the genteel terms expected in our discourse, and this offended the Ivy League sensibilities of media and political elites. When some people within their orbit were found not to share their same fundamentally psychodramatic relationship to current events, those elites got nasty.

If deBoer wants to stake out a more consistent critique of what he regards as the entitled panic of elite liberals on the east coast he might want to talk back the idea that "Republicans have always been dangerous monsters".  Maybe for as long as deBoer has been alive but I remember growing up hearing about how the Republican Senator Mark Hatfield in Oregon voted against escalation in Vietnam; was against the death penalty as well as abortion; and favored diversifying Oregon's regional economy beyond just chopping down all our trees.  Tom McColl was another Republican who I would not have placed in the "dangerous monster" category.  

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

Rex McGee Creation for Solo Banjo #4 C minor

A little piece in C minor for solo banjo.  It has a fun quasi-Baroque vibe to it.  

It's part of a larger cycle of 24 Creations for Solo Banjo someone ran by me recently.

I've only had time to listen to about four of the 24 but the ones I've heard so far are fun. I'm gambling on sharing the entire cycle for folks who may be curious. 

Monday, June 07, 2021

Ethan Iverson on jazz, classical music, and Mary Lou Williams' History of Jazz Tree and some thoughts about why I find Nikolai Kapustin's preludes and fugues more compelling than his piano sonatas

I've written about Nikolai Kapustin's music in the past and maybe one day I'll even blog about his preludes and fugues, which I have really enjoyed over the years.  But right now I want to talk about how I have found that I enjoy his piano sonatas okay while I'm listening to them and then can't remember most of them after the fact. 

One of the reasons I suspect Kapustin's piano sonatas go in one ear and out the other for me is a problem of thematic differentiation.  Kapustin would have hated having his sonatas compared to the piano sonatas of Medtner but I think the comparison is apt, at least in the sense that both composers seemed to write one gigantic sonata in an installment plan, as Kyle Gann sort of put it about Medtner years ago

But I think there might be another way to describe the difference between Kapustin's piano sonatas and his preludes and fugues. A fugue is an elaborative process for a riff, or, if you will, the fugue subject often has a groove it can be used to explore and Kapustin's fugues work better than his piano sonatas do for me because the fugal composition process is so inherently open-ended and groove-driven (if you're any good at it) that it is in some ways more compatible with jazz than too many of the post-A. B. Marx approaches to sonata forms in the West.  After all, Russian theorists don't necessarily seem to think about sonata forms the way Germans do.

But let me finally get to Ethan Iverson's old blog post because I found it helpful.

Alan Jacobs on an article at Current Affairs on how Dungeons & Dragons was thought of as a competing mythoi rather than some proposed mythoi vs a logoi in Christian fundamentalist doctrine

Alan Jacobs, like many of us, remember the quackery of Hal Lindsey's The Late, Great Planet Earth and brings it to bear on a recent Current Affairs article:

About that Current Affairs essay … I think it’s pretty much wholly wrong. It’s true that fundamentalist Christianity is insistently literal about anything in the Bible that looks like historical narrative (seven literal days of creation, yes the sun did too stand still in the sky, etc.), but even more dominant than Pentateuchal literalism in the fundamentalist mindest is a fascination with prophecy, and especially with the Book of Revelation (plus parts of Daniel and Ezekiel) as a blueprint for the End Times — but the blueprint is legible only if its symbolism is properly deciphered. And especially in the 70s and 80s, such deciphering involved the most mythologically baroque interpretations imaginable.

 Precisely nobody thought that guys actually named Gog and Magog were going to show up when the parousia was near. When you claim, as Hal Lindsey did, that the the book of Daniel prophesied the European Common Market, your hermeneutical vice is not excessive literalism.  

The problem with things like D&D was not that they were mythoi as opposed to logoi, but rather that they were alternative mythoi — they were scary because they were potentially appealing in the same way that prophecy culture was supposed to be, by involving me as a kind of participant observer in a big coherent story. 

This would take a long time to explain, but I think the mythos/logos contrast is far less useful for describing the pathologies of fundamentalist exegesis in particular and fundamentalist culture more broadly than Kermode’s distinction in The Sense of an Ending between fictions and myths. Not that I would expect fundamentalists (or any other interpreters of Scripture) to see their exegeses as fictive! — but Kermode is brilliant, I think, on the ways that properly provisional narratives or explanations harden, calcify, into fixed myths.
At the risk of merely touching upon Gadamer's comment about how all play is ultimately self-presentation, it might be the dread about D&D was that it was (or is) perceived as a mythos through which the play as self-presentation defines identity in ways that are considered incompatible with Christian life and practice.  I met a few guys (almost invariably guys) who played D&D at Mars Hill and they embraced what most would regard as nothing short of fundamentalist religious beliefs but had no problems at all with role-playing games.  It may be the cultural tides have shifted to such a point that people who act as though fundamentalists in the United States in 2021 are exactly the same as they were in the Reagan years missed a boat.  

In this case I would say Jacobs seems more on point than Aisling McCrae, although the McCrae piece was nevertheless still an interesting read. 

Martha Nussbaum on the Romantic legacies of the myth of authenticity and the myth of the artist as transgressive of societal norms; Justin E. H. Smith has a fairly predictable defense of "real literature" by way of invoking Zhdanovian socialist realism

Abusers are often shielded not only by this “myth of authenticity,” but by another myth, which pervades all the performing arts, and indeed all the other arts as well. This is an age-old myth, at least as old as Romanticism. The myth is that the constraint of usual social norms and rules is bad for artists. They have to be permitted to be transgressive, to break the rules, or else their creativity will be stifled. Genius is beyond good and evil. This myth is basically false: there are many artists who are perfectly capable of maintaining a boundary between their inner freedom in the realm of creation and the way they live outside it.

However, the myth is so pervasive that for many it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. An artist who sincerely believes that breaking society’s rules is necessary for success, by long habit actually becomes unable to create without transgressing. It’s revealing that the myth is overwhelmingly about male creativity, used by males for males. And it’s revealing, too, that the myth mainly concerns sexual rules. I can’t think of an artist I’ve known who believed that being creative licensed him to commit theft or burglary. It’s just a handy way, for a small number of talented men, to arrive at a conclusion so often coveted by male pride: I am above sexual laws, and other people aren’t fully real.


There’s another factor: if the arts we love are to thrive, they need star power. Star power generates both ticket sales and donations. Even if we dislike star power and star influence, but just want the art we love to persist and do well, we can ill afford to get rid of the star, however badly behaved. And some people may not care so much about the health of the art, but more about making money on their investments. Hence the fact that some stars whose gifts make money for others are held to account only when they are too old and ill to make money for others any longer.
One of the things that I have noticed in the last decade or so is the extent to which bad behavior in artists is defended on something along the following lines--if we expected our artists to be perfectly morally people there wouldn't be any art left.  But to formulate this axiom in terms of Christian theological terms (as I have seen done) needs to be avoided or, if done at all, put in very careful terms.  The humans are sinners and that very often we sin in ways we don't realize or anticipate is one kind of thing to say.  It's possible to hurt people without realizing you're hurting them. It's another thing to pardon in advance or to pardon retroactively the sins of people because their work has in some way been canonized.  That kind of theology of "grace" can be nothing more than a post hoc pardon granted for the sake of continued consumption, a case that "grace" is provided so that I can keep watching, say, Woody Allen movies because his films are "art" and "art" has a sacramental role in sanctification (i.e. I am a better person in some nebulous way for watching "art" movies).  

Well, okay, I admit that I do actually read Puritans and there are cases to be made that if a person abuses people that "can" be considered a reason to either revoke their "artist" card or, to put it another way, the arts are not sanctifying sacraments to begin with.  What doesn't tend to happen is to define what qualifies as "art" so as to define why the "artist" is able to get away with doing Y or Z but everyone else who isn't an "artist" can't be pardoned in a similar way.  Take Richard Brody, who dubbed Woody Allen an "artist" and Louis C. K. as "not an artist". Apparently the artist  can do or say creepy things so long as the artist has some moment of self-doubt and questioning that finds its way into the finished products that are christened art.  The critic has the power to declare whether or not this has happened and as Richard Brody has declared in the past, the critic has the power to declare that a film is about B no matter how much the filmmaker says the film is about A.  Critics are capable of conferring on whatever they regard as "art" meanings that have nothing much to do with the artworks upon which they confer the status of art.  

The bread is just bread until it is consecrated by the priest, you might be able to say. If the priest does not consecrate the bread it will have no sacramental function, which seems to be the difference between Richard Brody consecrating the bread of Woody Allen's films and not consecrating the bread of Louis CK.  But reasons, of course, are given for the consecration, whether what is consecrated as "art" is a Woody Allen film or songs recorded by Michael Jackson. 

The conundrum doesn't go away if something is designated as "not art" by critics B or E because history is full of self-designated artists whose work aggravated critics.  But let's not pretend that merely self-designating the status of "artist" is more than that.  Any bro can self-identify as an artist and then proceed to act as though the license of being an artist is part of the life of being an artist.

If all that is necessary is to claim to be an artist and then transgressiveness is permitted would people go back to 2012 and conclude that, say, Terry Richardson could be called an artist and therefore what he reportedly did was not so bad as to preclude his being considered an artist?  But was he an artist?  The allegations about his conduct came during a time in my life when I knew someone who worked from time to time as a model and she shared that photographers like Richardson were known in the industry and that women who wanted to avoid certain types of situations had best categorically refuse to work with certain photographers.  To put the matter delicately, if you were a woman working in modeling and you didn't want X to happen you made a point of never working with photographers Y or Z.  To put the matter discreetly, Terry Richardson didn't get a reputation in the fashion industry for taking the kinds of photographs that would be considered "art".  If you've never heard of him you are probably better off.  

I can make my point in a still different way.  The kind of "grace" that some people want for the artist who takes advantage of people, even particularly women, is not necessarily extended to athletics. There are things people are still willing to overlook or pardon in an "artist" like Woody Allen or Philip Roth or Richard Wagner or the proverbial Lord Byron that they aren't willing to pardon in a Larry Nassar or a Sandunsky or maybe a Lance Armstrong.  Nussbaum's book, of course, zeroes in on precisely how athletics is precisely another arena of activity where men are allowed to get away with a great deal but within the realm of defenses of "art" it is not that common to see those who would defend the license exercised by athletes or the coaches or trainers of athletes as being as defensible as the license exercised by artists.  If that's the case, why is that the case?

With Richard Brody's defense of his watching Woody Allen's films and refusing to grant that there is any "art" to Louis CK, he is arguably taking the stance of favoring survivorship bias.  It's easy to defend the already canonized on the grounds that the canonized art and the canonized artist was artful enough to retain canonicity.  In pop music John Lennon may have been a domestic abuser but his being a domestic abuser won't disqualify him from "Give Peace a Chance" at a larger cultural level.  To put the matter bluntly, Lennon may have been a hypocrite about giving peace a chance in the domestic sphere but he wasn't a hypocrite about giving peace a chance within the realm in which he made his plea.  Bill Cosby's hectoring moralizing ran aground so brutally on what turned out to be his personally exploitive relations to women he revealed a double standard that many feel vitiates his claims to being an artist.  

Mere hypocrisy, failing to live up to your ethical ideals, seems to be something we can pardon in artists because we can pardon that in people.  Double standards are different. When Jesus condemned the Pharisees and legal experts for judging people by standards they would not help people live up to it was arguably the double-standardized method of moral judgment Jesus was condemning.  If they were merely blind they would not be guilty but because they claimed to see their guilt remained.  In the epistle of James there's a warning "not many of you should aspire to be teachers" because teachers will be judged by a sterner standard.  If art religion remains with us it may not be a bad thing to decide that the priests of art religion really ought to be judged by higher standards than those who are not so consecrated. Arguing that celebrity or the conferred status of "artist" does not bring with it the kinds of things that are repeatedly reported as being done by artists doesn't have to be construed as an argument against "grace", if "grace" is a theological shibboleth that is defined in such a way that "I" get to keep consuming the "art" I want to consume.  

But it's just as easy to reframe all of this in non-religious terms or, taking a page from Wagner, to recognize that there is a concept of "sacred" that doesn't require religious belief.  What is sacred enough to people that they will still venerate the music of Michael Jackson even if all the things alleged about him were proven true?  Racial conciliation is one significant possibility.  I'm alive because of an interracial marriage so I don't have a problem proposing that Michael Jackson's music is still worth studying and that his vision of racial conciliation is worth considering despite what he may have done in other realms of life.  I still vastly prefer Stevie Wonder but at the moment I trust it's clear that my point is that there "are" cases to be made that values found in or imputed to artists and entertainers and their works make them worth visiting and revisiting even if they had more than mere feet of clay and had some well-known vices.  

The problem seems to be that a good deal of the "theology" of art religion expounds a doctrine of "grace" that is more focused on the liberty of the consumer to keep consuming than the responsibilities of art-religion clergy (however they attain that status) to, if you will, live in a manner worthy of their "calling".  

Another problem is that, well, it's one thing to say that writers are engineers of the human soul as a stand-in for what artists are expected to do and another thing to consider that the idea that artists (writers, but artists of all sorts) have such a role can just as easily be something besides Romantic Western liberalism.  It can also come about through Zhdanov style socialist realism, as Justin E. H. Smith lately expounded upon at moderate length:

In a speech to the First All-Union Congress of Soviet Writers in Moscow in 1934, Central Committee secretary Andreï Zhdanov reminded those assembled of Comrade Stalin’s recent declaration that, in the Soviet Union, writers are now “the engineers of the human soul”.


What obligations does this appellation entail? Most importantly, Zhdanov says, reality must be depicted “neither ‘scholastically’ nor lifelessly, nor simply as ‘objective reality’, but rather as reality in its revolutionary development. The truthfulness and historical exactitude of the artistic image must be linked with the task of ideological transformation, of the education of the working people in the spirit of socialism. This method in fiction and literary criticism is what we call the method of socialist realism.”

It's absolutely no surprise he tipped his hat to the proverbial devil and made a case for why artists can be bad people who make compelling art.  An American expat to Paris might almost be expected to default to such a position. Someone who approvingly cites Adorno against pop culture might also default, as Adorno did, to the assumption that anything from the Soviet bloc by way of the arts was precluded from even being art but that's not actually where Smith lands.

Smith may have a stronger case that philosophy is not art and significant philosophers could be literal Nazis and still remain important to study:
I understand that Roth’s posthumous legacy has met with some bumps recently, and it is hard not to suppose that the biographer who was responsible for seeing to it is now being punished in a sort of twofer deal: for his own real crimes, and for his deceased subject’s crimes of imagination. I don’t have much to add to the Roth/Bailey “discourse”. I don’t really know why people read literary biographies, let alone treat their authors as persons of public interest. For years I have struggled to come up with something interesting to say about the question of “moral luck” — interesting, that is, beyond the sort of hack position-taking that one is required to engage in for, say, a “Guest Essay” in the Times. I will say that I do not support anything so simplistic as “distinguishing between the artist and the work”, since it is fairly plain to me that often the moral rottenness of the artist is constitutive of the work. This extends even to philosophy, where any honest person will concede that Martin Heidegger was not “a great philosopher” who was “also a Nazi”, and that the whole challenge of dealing with Heidegger and his legacy is to figure out how Western philosophy developed in such a way that when Nazism emerged it made sense for at least one of its greatest expositors to offer his services as a handmaiden to this ideology. It is precisely for this reason that reading and understanding Heidegger is so urgent. There is nothing “honorific” about doing this; philosophy is not a fan club, and if you are treating it as one, this is because you do not really understand what philosophy is.
I have already confessed in this space to a certain sympathy for the devil in my musical taste, and it should not be surprising to learn that this sympathy extends into literature as well. I have been through hell, aesthetically speaking. I was “brought up” on tales of lowlife criminality from Jean Genet and William S. Burroughs (another red flag, apparently), and all sorts of “hardcore shit” I won’t even bother to describe. I think I turned out alright, as did the great majority of those in my cohort of bourgeois decadent romantics.

These days I am more sensitive, and a convert to the Good. But I can’t help but think that this conversion is also a continuation, just as J.-K. Huysmans’ arch-Catholic En route completes the trilogy that begins with the satanic Là-bas, and that the journey through that valley has been a key element of my own moral education. Nor does it seem to me that the two are so easy to separate out from one another, no matter what Zhdanovism —which is also a Manicheanism— would have us believe. There is nothing more transgressive than St. Julien’s massacre of the animals, not to mention his subsequent massacre of his parents. In the end what elevates him to the status of a saint is not his anchorite retreat from the world in repentance for his sins, but rather his hallucinatory erotic tryst with a dying scabrous leper. This is something Flaubert is in part spinning out of his imagination, but if Lolita is spun out from the stories of “detectives, pimps, and prostitutes” that Zhdanov sees as populating bourgeois imperialist arts and culture, Flaubert is rather drawing on the source material of the medieval “legends of the saints” genre, notably the Genoese archbishop Jacques de Voragine’s thirteenth-century Légende dorée. Christian tradition, and the literatures it has produced, has generally been sensitive, in a way that Zhdanovism cannot be, to the fact that we human beings, qua human beings, have always been doing hardcore shit, and it is a purpose of art to lay this bare, and compel us to meditate on it 

Hand waving concerns about the scruples of "artists" or lack thereof as some neo-Zhdanov activity can be easy for academics in Paris to do.

I am currently translating one of the legends of the Sakha oral epic tradition known as Olonkho (I’ve written extensively about my work on this project here). A common narrative sequence in this tradition features an ogre, far more beastly than Humbert Humbert, spying on girls in the forest. The girls pee in turn, and the ogre observes to see which of them produces the urine with the most bubbles in it. This is taken to be a sign of fertility. When he determines which of the girls it is, he kidnaps her, and takes her off as his “wife”.

In the prenuptial ritual traditions of several Eurasian cultures, extending broadly from the western coast of the Black Sea all the way to the north of Lake Baikal and the Lena River basin, there is a moment where the groom’s family and friends simulate a kidnapping of the bride. The simulated quality of the ritual is generally obvious in more bourgeois and urban settings; as one moves out into the countryside, it becomes more difficult to say whether one is witnessing a sublimation, or indeed the real thing. The Olonkho motif with the ogre and the maiden is itself a more distant sublimation — correctly discerning the true monstrous nature of the men who perpetuate this tradition. It’s an evil tradition. Engineers of the human soul would wish to deal with this evil by suppression; literature, real literature, deals with it through the power of imaginative sublimation. It is dark and wrong, to speak with Moshfegh, and we understand ourselves through it. ...

We have, today, a Zhdanovshchina suited to the particularities of our times, one that promotes not so much an “engineering of souls” as a “human-resources management of souls”. The abrupt ascendancy of HR as the central organizing power of society extends far beyond literature, of course. It has certainly overtaken philosophy, the academic discipline I know best. In the middle ages philosophy was said to be the “handmaiden” [ancillaris] of theology; in the modern period it became the handmaiden of science. Today philosophy is in many respects an ancillary of human resources (as here, for example).

In literature as in philosophy, we may at least comfort ourselves with the enduring existence of the treasures of the past, to which at least for the moment our information technologies continue to provide us access. 

Then again, another variation on the Zhanovschina could be guys in Paris pontificating about how nobody over the age of forty should even know who Spider-man is.  Yes, well, since I had fun watching Alfred Molina play Otto Octavius I won't mind that he's reportedly coming back for the next Spider-man movie and I really hope Kathryn Hahn reprises her funny take on Doc Ock in the next Into the Spider-verse film.  The paradox of Zhdanov style socialist realism as a mentality is that it can manifest as readily as a fixation in those who oppose it as those who advocate it.  If we treat it as another variation in a post-Tolstoy conception that artists, if we are too admire them, should in some sense have earned that admiration, this is not that unusual or shocking.  If Nabakov can draw upon pulp what's the case that pulp is off-limits?  Smith doesn't take that view about Paula Abdul in contrast to opera, so why take that kind of stance in cinema and literature?  What's the case for studying Nabakov rather than Hammett? 

For those who don't invoke Zhdanov and socialist realism the trendier invocation is the Puritans.  Or Tolstoy comes up, or maybe even Charles Ives with his sentiment that if you are not first a good spouse and/or parent then the idea of being a good artist will be hard to sustain. So, sure, I prefer, where practical, that artists, writers and musicians aspire to be humane and generous.  I remember hearing a tale from my brother about a comic book discussion forum, no less, where when news about Bill Cosby's crimes began to spring up one person declared that he really, really wanted for Mr. Rogers to have actually been the guy he seemed to be on his show.  Mr. Rogers is the kind of person "we" make fun of at a cultural level for being pretty square and squeaky clean.  Fred Rogers would never be anyone's idea of a Byronic hero because he simply wasn't, and thank God for that (I suppose it doesn't contradict our understanding of him as a public figure to recall he was an ordained minister).

But a point raised by the woke and the social justice scene that still doesn't go away is who has defined and who gets to define what "real literature" is and what literature you have to read to get through undergraduate and graduate studies.  It may be that progressive American academics are in a figurative pissing context about what should be canonical and what shouldn't be for what reasons. That the debates can happen. Smith waxed philosophical, fairly literally, but the core question went by with a hand-wave about "real literature" and sublimation and an incessant thread of comparing anyone who might wonder why this or that literary figure has been canonized is on the side of Zhdanov, the formal advocate of socialist realism.

Which  brings me around to the late Nikolai Kapustin and the question of why it was that someone who was born and raised in a Soviet bloc nation that was stuck having to deal with Zhdanov style socialist realism ended up being more successful at synthesizing jazz and classical traditions in his 24 Preludes and Fugues than a bunch of Western European composers.

In almost any field anyone can make a case that bad people can have great accomplishments and we should have "grace" for them.  I'm a Presbyterian so I'm not going to argue against "grace", but I'm going to ask whether the "grace" people want to talk about is common grace or prevenient grace or sanctifying grace because a lot of art-religion seems to propose that the worsts people can make the most beautiful things and that beauty is what redeems us when we consume it.  There is, so to speak, no arguing against the intensity of the experience and palpable results. If the writer is an asshole but attains "art" by changing people's lives do we argue against that?  

Well ... I will admit to a concern. I heard similar arguments on behalf of, oh, Mark Driscoll here in Seattle, over the span of twenty years.  Maybe people will even concede Mark Driscoll is "an asshole" (I know someone who said this, literally) but he's changing lives.  At one point I still thought Mars Hill was capable of making positive contributions to the Seattle scene.  I changed my mind but it was not because I suddenly became progressive or particularly liberal.  I have remained what is probably best described as a kind of Mark Hatfield type Republican (f that exists any longer).  I concluded that the convictions I had not only didn't require me to give Mark Driscoll a pass for doing what he did but that it was also better to go find somewhere else to call church home. 

I admit to being skeptical about the idea, whether on the topic of art-religion or religion-religion, that if someone just gets results that people feel/think are "sublime" that all the other stuff can be forgiven.  There's room to propose that the Harvey Weinstein allegations have re-introduced the possibility of a Donatist controversy in the realm of Western art-religion.  Of course for the non-religious I want to find a way to reformulate this idea in more secularly comprehensible terms, and terms that don't presuppose being immersed in Christian doctrinal debate--well, one incredibly blunt way to reformulate the observation is to ask why Hollywood waited until Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump to have its moment of reckoning with the legacies of Weinstein and Bill Clinton.  If Justin E. H. Smith wanted to make an argument that had more sting he could have asked why that was but he didn't.  The argument that the earnestness of the censorious from the left and the right can often turn out to be in bad faith might be something of an argument ... if Smith had made it.

If the best Smith can do is to argue that social justice types and the woke are like Zhdanov in what they want and how they want to go about it that's a long and only occasionally artful ad hominem.  I'm not even exactly particularly progressive myself and I admit to not being trained in philosophy but I don't see that Smith has successfully pivoted from why philosophers can be jerks but we should study them to why writers can be jerks but we should study them.  It's possible to take that as axiomatic and still regard Smith's variation as having an element of bad faith.  

Saturday, June 05, 2021

Warren Throckmorton reports that Real Faith has acquired studio space in Maricopa County for 750k if we want to attempt to understand the Mark Driscoll present and future we should look at his real estate acquisition past in the MHC era

For those who haven't read the post already there's a screen capture with the following statemeht:

Ted Gioia asks "why are investment funds obsessed with old songs?"

Of note:

More to the point: there’s one hot area in music that gets savvy financial investors excited, and only one—old songs. And the older the better. Here are some of the largest recent deals in the music industry:

  • Bob Dylan sells his entire song catalog to Universal Music for an estimated $400 million

  • Paul Simon sells his publishing rights to Sony for $250 million

  • The Beach Boys sell controlling interest in their publishing, recordings and brand licenses to Iconic Artists Group for an undisclosed amount

  • Neil Young sells 50% of his publishing rights to the Hipgnosis investment fund for an estimated $150 million

  • Stevie Nicks sells 80% of her songwriting catalog to Primary Wave for an estimated $100 million)

  • David Crosby sells his song catalog to Iconic Artists Group for an undisclosed amount

Gioia leans toward the idea that these old people have sold out but 

The sad truth is that songs lose most of their market value long before the copyright expires. Almost no song is worth much after eighty years. Do you doubt me? Consider some of the hottest music acts in the US in the early 1940s—Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, the Andrews Sisters, Jimmy Dorsey, Artie Shaw, etc. How much licensing income do you think their songs bring in nowadays?

Sarah Einselen at The Roys Report--Mike Brisk (who manages Robert Morris' office at Gateway) stated Morris doesn't provide oversight for Driscoll's church and hasn't for some time

Robert Morris also was the first to give Driscoll a platform after Driscoll resigned in 2014 from Mars Hill Church in Seattle for a pattern of “arrogance” and abusive leadership. Just days after Driscoll’s resignation, Morris welcomed Driscoll to speak at a Gateway Church conference, urging attendees not to believe everything they read on the internet.


Morris stated at the time that Driscoll was “going through a difficulty that most of you have probably read about.” Morris then claimed that not everything on the internet is true and added, “There are some pastors, myself included, and some others that you would know, that were speaking into his life — and he’s listening.”

Jimmy Evans is named as a director of Trinity Church on the church’s articles of incorporation. Also named as a director is Randal Taylor, who’s a chief strategist at a leading Christian marketing firm, Dunham and Company.


As recently as this past February, Morris, Evans, and Taylor were named on the website as providing “wise counsel,” but now their names have been removed.

However, Mike Brisky, who manages Morris’s office at Gateway Church in Dallas, Texas, told The Roys Report that Morris doesn’t provide oversight for Driscoll’s church, and hasn’t for some time.

“For over a year, Pastor Robert has not had any official position of oversight with Trinity Church but is available if counsel is sought by the church leaders,” Briskey said.

Brisky couldn’t say when Morris’s official position of oversight ended and didn’t answer how Morris planned to address the concerns raised in Freese’s open letter.

Brisky also didn’t specify whether Morris’s availability for counsel extended to all church leadership, including volunteers like Freese. (Freese said in his open letter he had felt led to fulfill the director of security role as a full-time volunteer.)

Perhaps a way to reformulate the question in light of what role the Board of Overseers had at Mars Hill Church in 2013-2014 (part of the Mars Hill Board of Advisors and Accountability) seemed to be as documented here and more generally here, it's never been clear that any formal oversight board actually did oversight of Mark Driscoll.  Let's not forget the MHC BOAA's initial response to news that Result Source was used to secure a #1 spot on the New York Times bestseller list for Real Marriage.

BabyMetal--Gimme Chocolate

I have, at times, written about animation here and elsewhere.  I heard of this band thanks to their musical contribution to the animated show Unikitty!

Yes, I watch Unikitty.  

Anyway, BabyMetal did the intro song and, well, sometimes I listen to BabyMetal.

But's kinda like Unikitty.  I can't do more than one or two episodes at a time because it's kind of like mainlining sugar. Alison Brie doesn't voice Unikitty in the show, by the way, Tara Strong does, and Strong voices Princess Unikitty like she's Bubbles from the Powerpuff Girls in second grade after power-bombing eight liters of Mountain Dew.  

I don't think that's a bad thing, I own every episode of the original Powerpuff Girls series, btw and have written about it before.  In the era of binge-watching some stuff is fun but you shouldn't binge it.  You don't need a quart of gellato when half a cup will do. Some intense flavors are best enjoyed in measured doses when you're in the mood for them. 

Yep, this weekend I went from German music in the 1920s and 1930s through to Spanish post-Impressionist guitar sonata and ended up with BabyMetal.  A classicist can be a classicist in aesthetic stuff without having to have Romantic baggage about the idea that the shifts I just did are indicative of "cultural relativism". 

Antonio Jose: Sonata para guitar (1933) video w score

When I started this blog one of my goals was to blog about classical guitar literature that wasn't from the Spanish and Latin American traditions.  Within the realm of classical guitar Spanish and Latin music has the hegemonic influence in the West so I favored Austrian, Italian, Russian, Japanese, Czech, Polish and music from the Balkans.

I'm also anti-Romantic in my disposition as I object to Romantic art-religion ideologies.  All that said, Antonio Jose's 1930s guitar sonata is too gorgeous to not share.

Paul Hindemith: Sonata for flute and piano (w score)

Yes, yes, here in the twenty-first century he's not even remotely "in" but I still enjoy a lot of music by Paul Hindemith.  

Friday, June 04, 2021

revisiting Mark Driscoll's resignation from the presidency of Acts 29 and withdrawal from the Gospel Coalition

Even though it has only been a few years since Mark Driscoll resigned from Mars Hill there can be some confusion and misremembering as to whether Acts 29 removed Mark Driscoll and when and whether or not The Gospel Coalition removed Mark Driscoll.  Acts 29 didn't remove Driscoll and Mars Hill until 2014.  Previously, in 2012, Mark Driscoll himself announced he was withdrawing from presidency of Acts 29 and withdrawing completely from The Gospel Coalition.  It may be useful to keep in mind that the first quarter of 2012 saw Mark Driscoll shaking hands with T. D. Jakes as a trinitarian; the Andrew Lamb disciplinary situation became news; Real Marriage became a NYT bestseller; and there were plans to keep expanding Mars Hill.

Tuesday, June 01, 2021

Dear Driscoll site has gone up, from what has been reported a bunch of things that happened in the Mars Hill years are unsurprisingly still happening at The Trinity Church

Just when the blog had finally settled into having virtually no readers except folks interested in other topics, there's been an eruption of online activity and coverage related to Mark Driscoll and The Trinity Church.

The above site is new and features a lot of material from the former volunteer director of security for The Trinity Church, Chad Freese.

There's a lot of material and it's material that, for longtime readers at least, can be cross-referenced to the mountain range of stuff discussed here at Wenatchee The Hatchet about the former Mars Hill church.

There are some passages that jump out ... 

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Mark Driscoll's spectrums of trust past and present (2011 and 2021), and the barnyard animals of ministry from Confessions of a Reformission Rev, 2006

Julie Roys has lately reported that there is a “spectrum of trust” code at The Trinity Church (as attested by former volunteer security director of the church Chad Freese):

On April 7, Freese said Mark Driscoll pulled the entire staff into a “training session.” Driscoll then reportedly drew his “spectrum of trust” on a dry-erase board, rating people’s loyalty from 0 to 10 to determine their access to Driscoll’s family.


Freese said Anderson then said that Freese’s security team was at a “level nine.” But because Freese and his wife had appeared in a picture posted on social media with former worship pastor, Dustin Blatnik, who reportedly had been fired by Trinity, Freese and his wife were a “level 8.”


Freese said that was the “tipping point,” and he officially resigned the following week.


Freese said what bothered him even more than the loyalty scale, though, was the slandering of the Manueles by Driscoll and other pastors.


Warren Throckmorton has also noted the spectrum of trust.

As extensive as Roys’ report is, there are more stories to tell. She mentions shunning, but there are more stories of families being shunned because they are not sufficiently loyal to Mark Driscoll. Roys introduces us to the very culty phrase “spectrum of trust.” The higher you are on the spectrum of trust, the more the Driscolls trust you and the more access to them you have. Sadly, if you not high on that spectrum, you may drag your family members down a notch or two. Ranking people in terms of their loyalty to the dear leader is a characteristic of a mind control group. An extension of that is shunning family members over loyalty to the dear leader.

That is certainly possible but rather than confirm or contest the statement about The Trinity Church being a mind control group I want, instead, to highlight that for those of us who were at Mars Hill or even those of us who left Mars Hill but kept tabs on Mark Driscoll’s prolific blogging at The Gospel Coalition and the Acts 29 blogs that the idea of a “spectrum of trust” isn’t the least bit new.

I read Driscoll’s numbered ranking 0-10 concept for enemies and friends back in 2011. Of course, the relevant posts were purged from both the Gospel Coalition website and the Acts 29 website so the material is only accessible via archive access or, barring that, material that was preserved at Wenatchee The Hatchet.  Because the blog posts were not necessarily preserved even by The Wayback Machine we’ll have to make do with what I preserved back in June of 2011 for the actual numbered ranking system itself.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Warren Throckmorton has started a postcards from Phoenix series about The Trinity Church, the first from former security director/volunteer Chad Freese on whether a PI was consulted and addressing at whose initiative the consultation was made, reviewing Driscoll's history of firing elders at MHC in `07 where everything seemed mediated by proxies

I would have leaned toward postcards from Scottsdale since that's the location but for the time being "postcards from Phoenix" is the theme.

One of the recent questions that emerged was who allegedly arranged for a private investigator to tail someone who was formerly affiliated with the church.  

The first one is complex in that it was triggered by a report from an anonymous witness to a recent spirited conversation between Grace Driscoll and another woman after women’s Bible study group. The argument was centered around a woman leaving the church amidst the current upheaval and controversies at The Trinity Church.

As a part of the argument, Grace Driscoll reportedly alleged that former director of security Chad Freese hired the private investigator who surveilled the Manuele family (see here and here for details). The implication was that the church shouldn’t be held responsible for this since Freese did it. This caught my attention for a couple of reasons. One, it demonstrates that recent news reporting is being followed widely in the church. Two, I wondered if there was any truth to the allegation that Chad Freese both instigated the hiring of the PI and then later complained about it.

One of the things that springs to mind about this report is that while it is a report that might need future corroboration or disconfirmation as may happen, there is something that should be kept in mind from Mars Hill history.  The report above states that there was a spirited conversation between Grace Driscoll and another woman after a study group in which Driscoll reportedly alleged that the former director of security at The Trinity Church Chad Freese hired the private investigator who surveilled a family.  

Freddie deBoer has a criticism of the left for how people can default all forms of racism to being the responsibility of whites when Japanese imperialism and African American anti-Asian racial violence need to be kept in mind

Several times in my life I have gotten into a fight with other members of the anti-imperialist left over a question that I would not ordinarily consider a question: was Japan an imperial power?


I felt (and feel) that there was not much to debate. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries Japan engaged in what would be seen, in any European context, as straightforwardly imperialist behavior. They developed a militaristic and nationalistic ruling philosophy at home and used this as justification for an aggressive and expansionistic foreign policy, conquering and annexing vast swaths of territory, plundering these places for resources and treasure, and setting up puppet governments or out-and-out imposing foreign rule. Nobody, including the people I debated this question with, disputes these basic historical facts. One would think that would be sufficient to settle the question.


Ah, but the Japanese are not white. And for many people I have known in the anti-imperialist left, all historical crimes, especially imperialism, are assumed to be the product of white people and their actions, however many mental hoops you have to jump through to get to that point. You may rush to say that this is an exaggeration, but no. I know people who will unapologetically tell you that there is no such thing as a historical crime conducted by people of color that they are themselves ultimately morally responsible for. I wish I could do a better job of summarizing how this plays out with the example of Japan for you, but I’ve always found the basic claim so ad hoc and bizarre that I genuinely don’t think I can do it justice. The arguments as I understand them include the idea that British and other European actions in China provoked Chinese behavior that in turn provoked Japan’s behavior which we called imperialism, that Japan’s expansionism can be excused because they suffered from land and resource constraints other expansionistic powers did not, that Japan would never have thought to engage in these behaviors if they hadn’t seen the European example first…. One way or another, all roads lead to a world where white people were responsible for Japanese rulers ordering invasion after invasion, slaughtering local populations, and raping local women, where the Japanese committed war crimes and yet were blameless. Blameless - and thus powerless.


This is, on the face of it, anti-white ideology - all of the bad stuff in the world happens as a direct result of white actions, white power. Yet I have always felt that there’s something else going on in these debates. I suspect that placing all of the blame for historical crimes on white people is strangely comforting for white leftists: it advances a vision of the world where only white people matter. It says that the sun rises and sets with white people. It suggests that white people wrote history. It assures white people that, no matter what else is true, they are the masters of the world. That all of this is framed in terms of judgment against the abstraction “white people” is incidental. I think if you could strip people down to their most naked self-interest and ask them, “would you be willing to take all the blame, if it meant you got all the power?,” most would say yes. And of course in this narrative people of color are sad little extras, unable even to commit injustice, manipulated across the chessboard by the omnipotent white masters whose interests they can’t even begin to oppose. All of this to score meaningless political points in debates about inequality and injustice.     ...

 Thematically connected to John McWhorter's recent writings, I am not sure McWhorter and deBoer are reading each other's work.  That in left and progressive discourse the default assumption seems to be that systemic racism certainly exists and particularly that it defaults to whiteness is something that isn't hard to look up, else deBoer wouldn't have written the above.  I am, however, reminded of an awkward moment from my younger days at my paternal grandma's place on a reservation, hearing Dad inveigh against migrant Mexican agricultural workers as job-stealing rapists.  My grandmother sternly rebuked him and said she was disappointed he would talk about migrant workers in those terms.  I was in a sleeping bag trying to get to sleep without any success so I heard the conversation and, well, it has obviously stuck with me decades later. Hearing my American Indian dad rant about Mexican migrant workers as job-stealing rapists opened my ears to how Native Americans could harbor racist animus against Mexican or Mexican American people.  

deBoer's piece is lengthy and he goes on to highlight that the left has been unwilling to consider the possibility (or extent) to which anti-Asian racist violence in recent times may have been promulgated in African American communities.  


Consider this “study” out of the University of Michigan. The authors launched it with great fanfare, particularly claiming that this report debunks the idea that Black men have committed many of the anti-Asian crimes that have been so much in the news lately. How did they arrive at this conclusion? By defining what counts as a hate incident in utterly absurd ways. The report aggregates statements the researchers consider racist with actual violent incidents, leading to (for example) a gross equivalence between the vicious beating of an elderly Asian man with a cruise line refusing to serve those with passports from China and Macau. Of the 184 listed incidents, 55 are just Trump saying his usual looney anti-China shit! This is not what anyone means when they talk about the rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans. Why would they undertake this absurd project? Well, this dishonest aggregation allows them to release headline numbers that show that Black men are responsible for a low percentage of the incidents. They presumably felt the need to do this because, if you have kept up with this news, it certainly seems that a disproportionate number of these incidents (the actual violent attacks) have been committed by Black men. Now they have a mendacious pseudo-study that liberals will be citing until the end of time.


That many of these attacks seem to be committed by Black assailants should be addressed with considerable sensitivity, especially because “seem” is a key word there. An actual, rigorous study that was not a piece of agitprop masquerading as social science would be very useful in this regard. Certainly there is the potential for the fickle ways of local media to influence how we perceive these trends. If it is the case that Black men are disproportionately committing these crimes, that too requires sensitivity and sobriety to discuss. The influence of socioeconomic conditions and other exogenous factors are relevant and important when considering such things. But the current progressive position, which is that we simply must not arrive at the empirical conclusion that Black men are disproportionately responsible for the anti-Asian attacks, is not just a refusal to countenance what might be an uncomfortable reality. It’s an insult to the vast majority of Black Americans who have never assaulted anyone at all. To absolve the Black men who may have committed some of these attacks is to deny the agency and moral behavior of those who have not.
Perhaps another way to articulate this objection is that even if there are plenty of jingoistic nativists (who are probably almost never Native American nativists) who insist that `Murica is being harmed by foreign threats (and I'll really have to expand upon how this paranoia about immigrants and people of color sometimes worked itself out in end times novels with a lot of help from Crawford Gribben) this doesn't mean that "only" whites are participating in anti-Asian and anti-Asian American violence.  If the old land bridge thesis for how Native Americans ended up in the North American continent is true then all of us who have Native American lineage may have gotten here from Asia to begin with.  So that's something to consider, maybe.  But I hope the tangential point is clear, if we live on this continent, even if we're of Native ancestry, people got here from somewhere and one of those somewheres was Asia.  Asian imperial activity should get our attention even if the United States still has an illusion of unipolar hyper-power.  When the Atlanticist pax American more indisputably crumbles American progressive academics may have to deal with a new geopolitical reality that moots the rhetoric and arguments deBoer has been complaining about. The jingoists have been complaining as though that moment has either already arrived or has to be stopped.

John McWhorter has announced his forthcoming book Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America

John McWhorter will have a book coming out later this year called Woke Racism.  It will summarize or expand upon his arguments that third-wave antiracism is, in his estimation, a pernicious civic religion.

I first discovered his work through his understandably glowing review of Edward A Berlin's second edition biography of Scott Joplin, which found a spot in Ragtime and Sonata Forms last year.  I respectfully differed with McWhorter on how incompatible ragtime is a style with large-scale form and extended musical argument.  I was considering grad school in music before money constraints mooted that path so I am confident that on music I can disagree with McWhorter and know exactly what I'm writing about.  I admit to being a bit less sure on other topics, and because my lineage is half Native American and half white I realize as I get older that Native American perspectives can be substantially different from African American perspectives on the legacy of racism.  Knowing that the American Indian Probate Reform Act of 2004, signed into law by W, only became effective in 2007 means I know that American Indians were not given the legally recognized option to have a probate process until literally this century.  

But whether I land everywhere he does McWhorter has proven reliably interesting to read.  I will probably pick up his book when it comes along.  I have his book on hip hop somewhere around and was thinking of reading that alongside Holy Hip Hop in the City of AngelsIf you want to read it on Kindle it's free at the moment, literally.

Other recent posts by McWhorter are on the Leysenkoism of "the elect" (i.e. antiracists)


The mendacity, the numbness to truth, is especially appalling coming along with the denial of science in their positions on climate change and so much else. The Republicans embrace The Big Lie, and to many it’s symptomatic of their being America’s main civic problem.

However, future historians will not see it that way. We live in an era of flabbergasting, shameless lie-mongering on both sides of the political aisle. On the left, this is especially clear in how baldly antiscientific the Elect left is, which is part of why their penchant for labelling their opponents “racists” is so dire – they make the rest of us pretend not to value science along with them.

It isn’t always clear how antithetical to scientific reasoning this fashionable “antiracist” thinking is. Its adherents express themselves with a handy kit of 20 or so fancy words, often with very particular meanings (equity, social justice), often have PhDs, and are culturally associated with enclaves of the educated such as universities, college towns, and cafes.

However, in the grand scheme of things, The Elect reason like Trofim Lysenko and for analogous reasons. Lysenko perverted the scientific endeavor under Stalin, dismissing the tenets of Darwinism and Mendelian genetics because they allowed too much of a role to individual actors, contrary to the focus of Communist ideology on history being shaped by grand, impersonal currents. Scientific research of a great many kinds was shattered in the Soviet Union for decades, and crop yields went down because of Lysenko’s insistence on crackpot notions of agricultural science.

* * *

Take the idea that microaggressions are a grinding problem for black Americans, exerting significant psychological damage upon us, and motivating claims that black students ought be exempt from certain scholastic demands as well as that entire programs and schools should be transformed into Antiracism Academies. A prime motivation of this, reported endlessly, is to relieve black people of the eternal harm that microaggressions condition. 

He has also written a piece arguing that the term "systemic racism" should be dispensed with.

Our racial “reckoning” could use a reckoning about the term systemic racism. It is often used with an implication, a resonance, a tacit assumption, that to question is unthinkable. Uttered by a certain kind of person, often with a hint of emphasis or an eyeroll, we are to assume that the argumentation behind it has been long accomplished; the heavy lifting was taken care of long ago and we can now just decide what we’re going to do about this “racism” so clearly in our faces.


The problem is that this heavy lifting has not occurred. This usage of systemic racism is more rhetorical bludgeon than a simple term of reference. For all of the pungent redolence of the word racism in general when uttered by a certain kind of person, complete with the inherent threat to whites that they are racists to have anything to say but Amen, we must learn to listen past this theatrical aspect of the word and think for ourselves.


When we do, we see that all discrepancies between white and black are not due to “racism” of any kind, and that in many cases it is therefore senseless, and likely anti-black, to seek to undo the discrepancy – i.e. force “equity” – by tearing down the tasks, rules, or expectations involved in whatever the inequality manifests itself in. We must get past the idea that where black Americans are concerned, sociology is applesauce-easy. Black history is as complex as any history, and not just in the complexities of racism. Black history has been just plain complex.


And as you might guess, I dwell here on but one example. I could go on – and have, and will.
at book-length come October 2021.