Saturday, August 09, 2008


I wrote something for guitar I'm really happy with. Really happy with ... except for the part about playing it. Don't get me wrong, I will be happy as a clam to play this piece but guitarists will understand why should they ever hear it. This is a piece that is exceptionally tricky for me because it's a fugue. Like, probably about as busy as Brouwer's fuga #1 but a third longer and with more pervasive meter changes. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say it's a very nice piece of music. Even my brother, normally my most unsparing critic, likes it. When your older brother who doesn't necessarily like or understand the music you write says he likes it that's decent.

Thing is, it's going to be tough to play for me. I know at least on or two guitarists who could tackle it but they're professionals and probably too busy with their own careers to play the piece for me. :) So I figure I ought to tackle it myself.

I think I have overestimated the damage that happened to my hands when I got a repetitive stress injury ten years ago. It was considered tendonitis bad enough to be treated like it was carpal tunnel syndrome and ever since then I have had to be cautious about extended sessions of typing or repeating actions. Then again, given how weak my hands can feel playing barre chords I used to strum for minutes on end without tiring .. .maybe I haven't overestimated the damage that RSIs can have. A six minute song in F major on a classical guitar should NOT be tiresome to play! Same song on a high action steel-stringed Martin on the other hand ... .

Now I imagine you're possibly reading this blog and asking how it is that I write posts of this or that length. I type fast. Unlike some folks I have met I am willing to say that I think faster than I type so that when you see a long blog entry from me it means that I'm actually thinking this through. Some blog entries I have read over the years lead me to wonder if some people type far faster than they think, I mean actually think, not the curious flaspoints that register emotion that passes as a substitute for actual thought. But I digress ... .

Anyway, injuring your wrists and hands makes guitar-playing a more careful enterprise. So I have finished a couple of preludes and fugues for solo guitar this year and the plan is to rehearse them to the point where I could play them somewhere.

To be honest, I'm not that inspired to do it. I don't think there's much of an audience in Seattle waiting for preludes and fugues for solo guitar. On the one hand the concept of a prelude and fugue for guitar is pretty esoteric and it may not inspire listeners to sit around and, you know listen. On the other hand, guitarists are apt to look at a fugue for solo guitar, politely smile, and never think of the thing again. I have run a few pieces by guitarists in Seattle and one of them was pretty straightforward about not making any promises to play the piece. I know. I have talked with alumni from my alma mater who work as professional musicians who have made the rather grim yet matter-of-fact observation that guitarists in Seattle are flaky. I must count myself, probably, as one such flaky guitarist. Leaning more toward composer than guitarist because it is easier for me to conceptually work out that a fugue in C sharp minor can be composed for a single guitar than to, say, play the piece.

And I have had people tell me that my music can be technically demanding, possibly more demanding than the musical material warrants. This would give me pause were it not for the fact that many guitarists can play stuff that I struggle with, so it seems that at some level what a classical guitarist once wrote me in a bit of pique may be true. He told me that the dirty secret about most professional guitarists is that they're pussies who won't tackle the really difficult repertoire because it's easier to stick with the stuff that sells and he named names, which I won't do, not least because it wouldn't be polite and also because I haven't heard these guitarists.

See, I have come to classical music roundaboutly by way of Pinkfloyd, Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, and U2 and got into it regressively in terms of chronology. I worked back to Dylan's influences and then, to put it far too broadly, just fanned out in my examination of musica history and stopped somewhere around Mauchaut and tenative investigation of Greek modes (no, not the dorian mode you're probably thinking of, the few scholars who have tackled Greek modes think the ecclesiastical modes or "Gregorian" modes are probably backwards or upside down variations of the actual Greek modes, and the modes have changed or varied depending on millenia and location ... but I'm not going to get into that just now).

What I DIDN'T do along the way is really give much thought to classical guitar. Most of the famous works for the guitar that are popular now weren't even written for the guitar. Any given Albeniz work like "Asturias" is a piano work transcribed for guitar. Rodrigo never played two notes on the guitar with any success. While it is not unheard of to say Bach wrote the best music for the guitar he didn't (though he wrote a good chunk of the best music ever written in the history of the world, there, I've said it). He wrote for things that could be sort of kind of cousins to the guitar, or perhaps for an instrument was the guitar's fathers cousin's former roommate. Most of the works that are popular on the guitar I've heard played are really adaptations of works for violin or cello. The violin sonatas and paritatas are great because the violin is a treble clef instrument, and the guitar has the transposing treble clef where everything is played an octave lower.

Meh, too tired to care about wrapping this up in some literary way.

by their fruits?

I never had any interest in Osteen's preaching and teaching. I would hear some folks say he's not evangelical and that what he teaches is heretical. The little that I heard of Osteen didn't impress as being heretical in every respect, but heresy is never usually heretical in EVERY respect. It's heretical in one aspect. If you were to say that God the Son is both fully human and fully man but that God the Son's divine nature could not and did not feel any pain then that would rupture the unity of hypostatic union and you'd be a heretic, basically. To argue that God the Son did not feel pain on the Cross is the sort of thing that makes a mockery of Scripture and also reveals (potentially) a desire to have a variation of Docetism (there's another name for it but I'm not so theologically geeky today as to feel like using the term).

And sometimes heresy is revealed not so much through direct actions or statements as the implications and actions taken in light of that conviction. If you decide that you don't have to tell someone they've sinned against you and that they have to recognize their sin, well, that's hardly heresy, but it's disconcerting because you might have to, you know, obey Jesus' teaching and tell that person they've sinned against you.

But as the Osteen trial may suggest, the not telling people stuff may often consist of what we consider ourselves entitled to that we are not entitled to. As a single man I know that any number of single people feel entitled to be married at some level. Personally I figure any woman who would take me as husband material has a problem and perhaps it's best that I say this in a pseudonymous post so that any woman who might have entertained me as a remotely viable candidate for marriage will be less likely to read this part where I say that, regretfully, she must be ignorant as to my true character or a bit crazy.

As no doubt two-million other people on the blogosphere have blogged, here's the quote from Osteen that will be blogged around the world for possibly a generation.

"You feel that you're entitled to the favor of God ... to do things other people can't do," McKamie said."All of God's children are," Osteen said.

As Peter Gabriel's satirical character put it in the eponymously titled song,
"You're not one of us!"

Okay, for those who don't know how to read Webdings, it means:

"You're not one of us!"

If Osteen and his wife have that kind of attitude that says they don't have to clean up their own mess because the flight attendent is there that's unfortunate. Suing the Osteens for a tithe of their value is reprehensible. The allegation of assault withstanding it's just ridiculous and it speaks badly of our society as a whole that this is a suit that happened and made the news but it's trebly shameful because it involves a minister who some Christians have defended as being a real minister of the Gospel and a public trial gets under way and under oath Osteen says stuff to the effect that Christians are entitled to ignore or break any codes of conduct they want as a sign of God's favor. For me the unsettling thing is that this is not the best way for Osteen to be a witness to Christ. The Gospel doesn't seem like it's likely to get promoted any further by this. This is the part where the Osteens could consider Paul's admonition, "Why not rather be wronged?"

Now is Osteen really a heretic or preaching a false Gospel? I know people say that but what bothers me about this case is that Osteen DOESN'T HAVE TO BE A HERETIC OR A FALSE TEACHER TO DEFAME THE GOSPEL. Most people who defame the Gospel are not obviously heretics but are standing on their soap boxes for what they believe to be God's revealed truth. A person may start off on a path loving God with good influences but end in tragedy, idolatry, and self-regard.

Joash is the most sobering example I can think of. He began well,trained by the high priest of his day. He rebuked the priests as a group for failing to tend to the house of God (they were apparently either not collecting money or merely collecting it for their own ends and some scholars think embezzlement may have been afoot). Joash rebuked the priests and the high priest particularly repented and took action. The idols during this time were not taken down and some of the devoted things were stolen and made into idols. Things made for God for use in the temple were stolen and made idols. That could be a whole allegory, if you will, about what this may mean in every day Christian life where things created by men to serve God's people are appropriated and made idols. Almost any church could, by way of allegory, be this sort of thing stolen from the temple and taken by people to be an idol. Perhaps that's too Augustinian an approach! Never mind!

But after the high priest died the nobles of Judah bowed low to Joash and he listened to them. What did they want. Why, to worship idols of course! They wanted a bit more leniency on things and because the were such amazing boot-lickers in how they made their case Joash listened to them. The son of the high priest who trained Joash in the ways of the Lord objected. He declared to Joash and Judah that God had forsaken them because they had forsaken God. Joash had Zechariah the high priest murdered. Zechariah's murder is the end of the line in celebrity martyrdom from Jesus' lips in the New Testament. So while Joash started off well his end was shameful. He gave away things from the temple to pay tribute to an invading army and personally ordered the murder of the high priest. Finally Joash was assasinated by his own servants!

A note to pastors, it does not matter how well you start off, your ability to give way to idolatry because your underlings tell you what you want to hear can happen at any time, and is likely to happen when you have removed yourself from the influence of those who brought you up in the ways of the Lord. Consider the example of Joash. Who would be the high priest whose absence from your life would be a sign of danger that you are going off course? The key is not to make sure you don't lose that person but to acknowledge now that we serve God with accountability, not the accountability of people who are hundreds or thousands of miles away in spirit or in truth, but people who know us so well that they can rebuke us and we can rebuke them as needed based on shared lives together. The high priest and the king lived in Judah

The sense of entitlement starts out small. We break rules and procedures meant for everyone because we're the exceptions that can be made because whatever we're doing is important enough to breach the norm for. As long as we see the action as justified for whatever reason we think we're in the clear. We may have broken a command of God with regard to our brother or sister in Christ or an unbeliever along the way, but that's okay, because we did it for the right reason. The greatest treason in T. S. Eliot's lexicon may be to do the right thing for the wrong reason but most of us aren't at risk for that. Most of us do the wrong thing for the wrong reason and tell ourselves we did it for the right reason because we have self-justifying hearts.

That's what I find sad about the Osteen case, that that's what seems to be happening all around. As the apostle might have put it, to have these sorts of cases at all is a sign of defeat for you. Yes, it is, even if Osteen really "isn't" a believer or really is preaching heresy, because the name that is being defamed will still end up being Jesus'. That makes me sad. For the world at large we can't shake it off by claiming that he's not one of us, in the eyes of the world it is enough that he claims to be a minister of Jesus.

Friday, August 08, 2008

awesome, how not to preach parables

The Dark Knight

Well, for the five of you who read this and remember my little treatise on how Superman, Batman, and Spiderman are the three superheroes (Batman excepted) who show a vestigial link to Judeo-Christian ethics by honoring father and mother, refraining from killing when it is in their power, and all that ... you can more or less fairly ask why I haven't written a big treatise on The Dark Knight.

Bear with me, I'll get there. In fact I plan to see it at least one more time with an eye on how Nolan is continuing a streak of presenting us with protagonists who are capable of huge amounts of delusion. This capacity is a bit muted in Batman because, well, he's Batman, but there are things about the film that as a long-time Batman fan with strong ideas about the character sort of disappointed me, though only near the very end of the film.

But, see, I don't feel like getting into it yet since it's, what 3am? My niece wants to see this and now that I've seen it I can say "NOT UNTIL YOUR FOURTEEN!" At least.

But for now I'm just mentioning that I've seen it. The few friends of mine who haven't seen it aren't likely to read this and read the spoilers because this is my uber-geek outlet. Such as the eventual examination of child abuse as the big theme in Eureka Seven. Woo-hoo! Don't let the mecha or the emo romance fool you, folks. Eureka Seven is all about child abuse and how it manifests across generations and is rationalized. I suppose if I tried I could connect this to The Dark Knight but I won't bother.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008


I heard a certain preacher (won't say who) preach their first decent sermon in maybe a year ... maybe two. Pleasantly surprised, very pleasantly so. It's amazing how much a preacher's sermons pick up in quality if he or she, you know, actually speaks from the words of our Lord. Hope it happens more and more often.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

worst preacher ever championship at scotteriology

Somehow it seems like the list of candidates skews toward charismatic/TBN types. To be fair it seems that if we go this route an unfortunately skewed sample results. We need to consider that all kinds of mainlines get ignored.

Still ... I thought just the people I had heard of were bad.

I have to wonder about the term "preacher" here. Do retired priests like John Shelby Spong count? Maybe he was a great preacher but I found his influence on theology to be, well, awful.
Then again, Spong has more a reputation as an author than a preacher.

Tracking this could be interesting.

I'd have to say #8 is particularly insane. My dad was a member of the Quinalt tribe (though he may have pissed off everyone in the tribe by now for all I know) and I'd have to say there's no way evangelicals in America (if Robertson even technically counts as one is not something I'm sure about) are being treated worse than American Indians have been treated by evangelicals no less.

#7 Orlando is its own nation? Did Benny Hinn get included in that warning?

Like I was saying, keeping track of this could be interesting. I still think more mainliners could be included. Bad preachers and theologians aren't just in America, after all, even if our bad preachers are easier to find and insist on a public voice.

Tron 2? Seriously?

I knew Disney had changed after they dropped Eisner and acquired Pixar. And then Pixar proved me wrong by making movies that were both weirder and cooler than I expected them to make. Ratatouille was amazing and WALL-E is not as amazing as that but it's still pretty fun, far more fun than I imagined and almost avant garde in some ways. My brother called it Pixar's take on Angel's Egg (let the reader who is an anime nerd understand and the rest of the world wonder what on earth I'm blogging about).

But Tron and The Black Hole were precisely the kinds of movies Disney stopped making after Eisner took over. Now argue whether or not they SHOULD have been made, I suppose, but it seems as though Disney is shifting back toward a curious and possibly good direction.

Then again, I'm hearing rumors of a Pirates 4. Pirates 2 and 3 were terrible and 3 was exponentially bad for having Chow-Yun Fat play fourth fiddle to Bloom, Knightley, and Depp. Okay, Depp's good and Chow can support him ... but, dude, Orlando Bloom and Kiera Knightley!? What's with that. It didn't help that they had even less chemistry on screen than Brandon Routh and Kate Bosworth. So little chemistry that the little tyke who is born at the end of Pirates 3 is literally inconceivable based on the lack of chemistry the characters have had.

Oh well ... it's not like I'm planning to watch Pirates 4 when it comes out.