Saturday, February 18, 2012

and thus ... XKCD links and a certain on-line game

I'm not going to tell you what my high score on the Trogdor game is.

Comprehensive guilt by tangential association

If there is anything the recent dust-ups surrounding a certain megachurch/denomination have shown me as I survey the internet it's that partisans are partisans.  More to my point, the partisans for and against Mars Hill seem animated by a praxis of comprehensive guilt by tangential association.  I've seen enough of this from the pro and con teams that I'm confident in saying it's the weakness and moral failure both sides have in common.  Throwing around Proverbs 18:17 as a prooftext just further proves the point. The proverb isn't being used as a caution that we may not be getting the whole story and should consider things further, it's being used to prove that whoever is using that proverb as a prooftext is trying to use the Bible to make you agree with them.

Makes me wanna play the Trogdor video game ... .

Practical Theology for Women: Things that Undermine Complementarianism

Problem number 1 is calling this debate a gospel issue. Now it’s true that the interplay between husbands and wives in the home is a TESTIMONY of the gospel as it reflects the nature of Christ’s profound love for the church. But being a testimony of the gospel is not the same as being the gospel.

Yep.  And this got me thinking about Schlatter's remark that the gap between faith and obedience happens when the message of God is replaced with a doctrine about God.  And what doctrine about God do some complementarians like to introduce to establish the need for an obedience and as a "gospel issue"?  Oh, that's right, the eternal subordination of the son.  A doctrine about God isn't the same as the message of God.

Friday, February 17, 2012

finished a composing commission

Over the last couple of weeks I completed a composing commission and wrote a piece called "Sunday Morning", a suite for treble viol and guitar.  There may be a few revisions needed for the viol's part but the suite has been finished and I am happy with it and, more importantly, the guitarist who comissioned the work is happy with it.  It will be wonderful if the musician who plays the treble viol likes the piece, naturally and I am hoping for the best there.

I am also relieved that I have been paid for the commission and this lets me keep a roof over my head for another month!  If January 2012 was marked by the publication of my Guitar Sonata in F minor by Periferia Sheet Music then February 2012 has been marked by a composing commission that I have completed.  I hope more commissions come my way in the future! 

Back in 2010, as long-time readers may recall, I completed a commission that called for an hour's worth of Christmas music arranged for oboe, cello and guitar.  That arranging commission was an important project for me, my first paying commission to create music.  This recent suite for treble viol and guitar has been my first composing commission and it, too, has been exciting.  I plan to continue working on chamber music that matches the classical guitar with strings, woodwinds, brass, and anything else I can think of.  I've even dabbled with writing a divertimento for clarinet, guitar, and celesta. 

So besides the happy occasion of another part of "The Wounds of Discovery" getting published on Mockingbird as part of my series Batman: The Agony of Loss and the Madness of Desire I can also happily report that I have completed a composing commission this month. This is not exactly financially lucrative work but it is very satisfying work for me. Who knows?  Perhaps it may become more financially lucrative at some point down the road.  In any event I keep looking for a normal day job and if I manage to keep a roof over my head by writing about cartoons and creating chamber music for classical guitar that's pretty cool.

Batman: The Agony of Loss and the Madness of Desire part 4c has just gone up

Part 4c in "The Wounds of Discovery" has just gone up and in it I focus on the Riddler. 

PsyBlog: The Dark Side of Creativity

PsyBlog discusses how creative people tend to be, you know, more creative.  The down side is they tend to be better liars, more arrogant, less interested in empathizing with people, and are more likely to cheat and justify cheating. 

The New Yorker: The Brainstorming Myth

A longish piece on how brainstorm inhibits rather than promotes creativity in comparison to the work of individuals. 

There have been times when I have attempted to brainstorm on projects and discovered brainstorming doesn't work.  Brainstorming seems to need to include people who are all already present.  I have tried brainstorming by email and it pretty much doesn't work.  You're better off in the pursuit of what is called "free writing". Over the last year I've tried brainstorming on my essays for the DCAU and almost nothing has come of it.  By contrast, if I just run ideas by DZ about what I'm thinking of doing I will, when he has time, get very positive feedback. 

What the New Yorker article explains at some length I can summarize in a rather short sequence of sentences.  DZ and I can bounce ideas off of each other because we've established a collaborative relationship, the kind editors and writers have.  The relationship is by its nature primed toward productivity but also, and more importantly, constructive criticism.  Writers talking with writers bring a different set of dynamics that do not necessarily (ever) lead to a similar kind of creative synergy. If writer A comes up with an idea then writer B, guided as he or she will be by his/her own interests and interpretive lenses, will tend to default to what he/she sees through those lenses rather than open up the alternatives.  An editor, by training and habit, is more likely to consider these things.

So over the last year I have found myself hitting brick wall after brick wall in writing about the DCAU and the solution for dealing with these brick walls was not brainstorming but simply plowing through the difficulties.  I didn't need a bunch of new ideas or many outside ideas, I needed to strip away things that were too simple and too obvious. 

Let's take Superman as Christ-type.  Too simple and too obvious to make sense of the majority of actual stories about Superman that work.  It doesn't adequately explain why Superman and Luthor are such compelling foils for each other.  Reframe the combat in terms of Superman as the ideal America and Luthor as the real, corrupt America and everything falls into place.  As I put it at some length in my Mockingbird series, Superman can be more than an American icon but he can't be less than an American icon.  A lot of bad writers, editors, and fanboys want to skip to Superman as Jesus without considering whether or not this is a sustainable case beyond cosmetic narrative similarities.

Let's take Batman.  It could be said that Batman is the peak of human mental and physical potential.  That's true.  But as I've been discussing at great length what motivates Batman is not his strength or intellect but his unshakable experience with grief, loss, and powerlessness.  Artificial contrasts  between Superman and Batman might posit that Superman is the Christ-type and Batman is the pull-yourself-up-by-your-batboots kind of hero.  Of course that fails to account for the entire Bat-mythos.  Bruce gets trained by dozens of people, relies on many people for help and wisdom, and makes a point of cooperating with Commissioner Gordon.  What at first glance could appear to be a contrast has turned out, over the last eight decades, to not be so big a contrast after all. 

In criticism you can begin with the obvious but to accomplish criticism that is more helpful you have to go beyond the obvious.  For instance, let's take a certain big and well-known church that some people say has cult-like tendencies in leadership and discipline.  There are a lot of people who will say this is founded on a personality cult connected to the leader.  Well, does that really explain how a disciplinary process can become controversial?  Not really because arguably the entire Christian faith can be explained as emerging from a cult of personality that surrounded Jesus and His teaching. 

However, if one were to propose that a truncated theology of sin in which sin is seen as springing from pride and not from fear or lack of impulse control; if one were to propose that a reductionist view of sin as things people knowingly do has the potential to distort and influence disciplinary and counseling activity in a community then there's at least the start of an explanation.  After all, a personality cult will tend to reflect strengths or weaknesses of the personality, couldn't it? It becomes important to not merely note that personality cult dynamics can happen but to give some attention to practical views in action.

A reductionist view of sin, motives for sin, and consequences of sin could lead an authority to conflate non-disclosure with deceit, for instance.  Running with such a premise without examining it will lead to some disastrous approaches to disciplinary protocol and precedent--it will literally not matter what kind of procedures or checks and balances are in place if everyone works from a hamartiology that assumes all sin is knowing defiance of divinely sanctioned authority motivated by pride.

An equally importnat observation from the research that has proven brainstorming is not effective in gaining its intended goal is to note that group think dominates.  Brainstorming and group discussion narrows rather than expands creative thought.  The groups tend to come up with fewer and less workable or compelling ideas because the group dynamic kicks in.  People tend to reinforce the same handful of ideas whether or not those ideas even make sense.  Questioning those ideas gets considered to be acting up.  Now I know some people who think that's how it must work in certain church settings but it's also how it works in certain blog settings, ironically enough.  Not really ironically enough, if we think about it, but there are paradoxes afoot. 

So if you are in a moment where you're trying to figure something out and are thinking of brainstorming ideas with people you probably don't need to.  If you know someone you trust and respect and want to talk with that one person about ways to think outside your box, however, that's good.  Proverbs says that in many counselors there is victory but notice the proverb doesn't say you call up a committee meeting!  One of Peter's few great pre-resurrection moments was not necessarily when he was part of the team but when Jesus asked him personally, "Who do you say that I am?"

Theology for Women: Using the words Gospel, grace and Jesus in context does not make you a gospel-centered Christian

Pretty much as usual Wendy reflects on things I find well worth thinking about. It is possible to use the buzzwords of Christianity while failing to grasp what they mean at a practical level.  Thus a Christian can intellectually grasp the doctrines of grace (jargon, right there). A Christian can use words like "Gospel", "grace" and Jesus in all sorts of settings without actually displaying much spiritual fruit.

It can be very easy to grasp doctrines without managing to grasp how they can inform and enrich one's Christian life. Neither the Calvinist nor the Arminian has any advantage in being gracious toward other people in the real world.  A person can be a monergist and from that adherence to monergism be arrogant because he is so "grateful" for the "grace" given to him that the unregenerate person or that apostate synergist has. 

The synergist may believe the monergist is utterly wrong and take pride in participating in the soteriological process without realizing, as Orthocuban put it so succinctly, that properly understand even an orthodox/Orthodox synergist would remark that the part "we" bring to synergistic salvation is so small compared to the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts it is as though we contributed nothing.  Paradoxically the monergist and synergist are capable of exactly the same egotism regarding their salvation but each deludes himself or herself into believing this egotism isn't within them because they don't affirm the doctrine of the other, that arrogant person who happens to subscribe to a soteriology that isn't the right one.

As a friend of mine once put it, the Calvinist legalist thinks that because he wants your behavior to change to prove you already are saved that he's not as bad as the Arminian, whom he assumes believes you must change your behavior so that you may be saved. One of the mundane tragedies of Christian life is that, as any encounter Jesus had with almost any Pharisee will demonstrate, having the right doctrines and behavioral guides does not ensure a healthy faith or life in itself.

When advantages founder due to stupid leadership

My friend J. S. Bangs blogged a bit about what Orwell got wrong in some of his writings and that inspired a brief conversation about whether or not the Soviets actually had an initial advantage in military tech. Josh S. pointed out that the Soviets ultimately did not have a lead in military tech or the space race.  I piggy-backed on that observation to point out that the reason the Soviets took an early lead included not only their utterly cavalier and contemptible use of human resources but also the simple reality that when you have massive deposits of platinum and titanium in the regions you control (which the Soviet Union had) you have more raw materials from which to build aircraft and space-travelling machines.

Yet in the long run the obvious advantage in natural resources through a geological advantage of metal deposits and a geographical advantage of controlling cultures and peoples with a long history of working with such metals stops being an advantage if you treat those people as expendable.  How many sets of skilled laborers were obliterated by Stalinist purges? 

So, anyway, a link and some thoughts about how a nation that had advantages in natural resources didn't manage to benefit from it so much because of stupid and tyrannical leadership.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Mars Hill on church discipline--my concerns about competence and precedent remain unchanged

Over at get ...

There's been some discussion of the Slate coverage of the Mars Hill disciplinary situations. I must confess that when I realized I was getting linked to by Slate I was nervous and disappointed.  Sure, it's "big time" to get linked to by Slate but once I actually read the coverage I realized that Slate linked to me in a way that indicates nobody read what I actually wrote. 

I didn't accuse Mark Driscoll of employing cultic leadership disciplinary tendencies.  My numerous actual criticisms of Driscoll are all over this blog.  In the blog entry Slate linked to I explained at some length that I had doubts about the competence and good will of counseling pastors at the time I didn't renew my membership at Mars Hill.  I also shared my concerns from that time that if a more careful approach to discipline and a more balanced hamartiology were not embraced in approaching discipline weren't taken up that some kind of disaster was on the horizon. Furthermore I explained both positive as well as negative experiences interacting with Mars Hill pastors in dealing with some long-standing relational conflicts. This is, to put it mildly, not a purely academic distinction!

Now that Mars Hill has taken some time to add more comments and clarifications in response to coverage here:

I figure I should take some time to further comment on what I've written as distinct from what a bunch of bloggers and linkers have claimed I have written. But first a few thoughts on things shared in the Mars Hill posting.

With over 550 Community Groups and growing, much responsibility is placed on our lay leaders and local pastors to faithfully administer discipline. By and large, the process adheres to biblical standards, is healthy and loving, and results in restoration. It is also rare. Out of 5,417 members, we currently have nine church discipline cases in process, which represents 0.17% of our members.

When I left I shared my conviction, which has not wavered, that in such a setting community group leaders must have training comparable to that of pastors or they will not be qualified to exercise all their responsibilities. I became concerned over time that community group leaders in such a setting were simply not competent to do the things necessary to be what they were, functionally little pastors. I was aware when I left that there were Mars Hill pastors who agreed with this assessment of the situation. I note, again, that Andrew's story has not actually been proven false in its essentials. People have been asked to accept that Andrew has misled or ommitted in his account. That may be but I'm no more obliged to avoid the thought that Mars Hill may be doing the same thing.

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.

My concern, as I've expressed it over the years, is that Mars Hill has a habit of pursuing meteoric growth at a rate that is faster than the competency of its infrastructure can handle organizational communication. Since that has been one of my core criticisms I haven't wrongly made such a criticism in light of Andrew's case.  That Mars Hill has to publicly field this issue just proves my criticism has had some warrant.  I have also taken pains to express reservations about the competency of counseling pastors at Mars Hill; the consistency and clarity of disciplinary precedent and procedure; and even this clarification from Mars Hill proves that my concerns have been legitimate ones.  Unlike bloggers and members of the press I privately expressed these concerns four years ago as I opted to not renew my membership. 

My goal then, and now, is to provide constructive criticism that may, if possible, help the church engage the issues of organizational communication and disciplinary procedure and precedent in a more competent way.  I even shared a long account of how some MH pastors made a personal situation much worse and how another MH pastor made the situation much better.  That Slate linked to that account with a couple of words indicating that I was accusing Driscoll of having cult-like leadership tendencies only demonstrated to me that people at Slate didn't bother to read what I wrote when they linked to it.  That is, to put it mildly, disappointing. 

Since I expressed uncertainty whether Andrew's account was whole or accurate I don't feel any conviction that how I have blogged about the situation has been irresponsible. 

[Updated 2/16] 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 because we take the care of our people seriously. As a result of this investigation, we are taking steps to streamline our church discipline process to ensure that it is applied in a biblically consistent manner across all of our churches. In addition, in two separate instances, we have removed the staff members involved and they are no longer on paid staff or in formal leadership in any capacity at Mars Hill Church. Again, we began taking these actions months ago, prior to any public exposure.

As a large church that is growing fast, we place much faith in our local and lay leaders. They initiate, oversee, and complete the church discipline process. In almost all cases they serve admirably and do a great job of serving the church and our members. Our central leadership, which includes Pastor Mark Driscoll, is not involved in the discipline process, as it is handled at a local level. We’re reviewing our current church discipline cases to make sure all our local leaders are operating within the spirit of love intended to be present in our existing policies. [bold is emphasis mine in both cases]

This, again, proves that when I shared my concerns about the competence of people handling church discipline four years ago that this was a legitimate concern.  I have been pointing out in a couple of settings that there has been no reason at all to suppose Driscoll himself was directly involved in disciplinary cases.  He's busy promoting his book and doing things like reacting to Justin Brierley or trying to get us to think T. D. Jakes has convincingly repudiated modalism, prosperity teaching concepts, or Word-faith stuff.  He's been functionally a kind of pope for a few years who is not directly involved in a lot of the actual running of every aspect of the campuses.

A number of people have refused to accept this and while I am sure they will continue to disbelieve my claim that Driscoll is not involved in local church discipline this clarifying statement from Mars Hill confirms what I've been trying to point out for about a month and a half.  But for anyone who just looks at all the available information about how Mars Hill gets run only a person biased by a direct, personal encounter with an angry Mark Driscoll can actually claim that a case like Andrew's would have been personally attended to by Driscoll. 

For Driscoll to personally take an interest in slamming a specific person in a church disciplinary setting means that person has to be a hugely high profile person able, at some level, to precipitate a potential church split at least as Mark would perceive that person. It wouldn't be necessary for that person to actually cause a church split, just to be perceived as someone having that level of influence in the organization. Andrew couldn't possibly have been such a person and he certainly won't be one now that he's not a member. So all that is to say I'm not even remotely surprised to read that Driscoll isn't involved in campus disciplinary cases as a rule.  Duh. I've been saying this for a while now and some folks don't want to believe me.

Of course that staff were removed from their positions because they screwed up the disciplinary process simply confirms the concerns I raised years ago that not every case of church discipline or counseling seemed to get approached by those who had either competence or good will in the situations into which they became involved. 

As I've been spelling out here in this post and this blog generally, these revelations simply prove the points I made privately years ago I've got no regrets sharing publicly that the situations at hand that Mars Hill has attempted to clarify just prove that my actual concerns (not the concerns Slate thought I had) have been confirmed as legitimate.

Now if staff were removed for their role in, say, Andrew's disciplinary case, wouldn't now be a good tmie to revisit the question (or visit it for the first time) of whether or not the involvement of such staff tainted the disciplinary process where Andrew was concerned?  Since I already blogged my belief that it would be better for a couple of guys to eat crow (or, as MH clarifies things, lose their jobs) for a misapplication or miscarriage of church discipline an implication of such a correction would involve reassessing whether justice or injustice was carried out in the cases where staff or leaders had a propensity to misuse or abuse authority. 

As a large church that is growing very fast Mars Hill should trust lay leaders ... but if the goals and responsibilities for what community group leaders are supposed to do remains consistent then the lay leaders are not being asked to be truly lay leaders but unpaid deacons and pastors.  With this in mind it may be many community group leaders who might otherwise have been given simple tasks have been asked to take on pastoral responsibilities for which they are not yet qualified. It may be that in most cases things are fine but how can anyone be sure this is because the community group leaders are qualified for the sorts of pastoral roles they are effectively asked to fulfill on a weekly basis?  It could be that things are fine because sheer dumb luck, to use a very non-theological term, has favored Mars Hill throughout this time.

As I explained at length about my own story some Mars Hill pastors made my situation vastly worse and another pastor made it vastly better. I am disappointed that people who have linked to my blog entries about Mars Hill seem to have not been careful readers; seem to have read just one blog entry as though that were somehow my comprehensive statement on the subject of Mars Hill; and seem to have read my writing as though it were some simple advocacy for former Mars Hill members or a campaign against Mars Hill church as a whole. 

I've made no secret that I believe Driscoll is irresponsible in his use of Old Testament texts and that he continues to have a weakness for using ad hominem and reductio ad absurdum ploys on anyone he disagrees with while refusing to accept that he can be subject himself to these irresponsible rhetorical devices in public discourse.  He has a history of dishing out what he refuses to take.  This does at some point have to stop.  Nevertheless, as I have blogged at some length here I do not take as given that any old person who used to be at Mars Hill and is no longer is actually a good person or is being honest. 

When I stopped renewing my membership I was not under church discipline, I left on very good terms, I love my friends and family who are at the church, and I have been eager to offer what I believe is constructive criticism where I feel it's needed.  I also spent about a decade connected to the church and know things about the church culture that not all bloggers pro and con know about Mars Hill.  I disagree with Driscoll on stuff but I refuse to entertain the paranoid conspiracy theory that anything that goes wrong at Mars Hill must have Driscoll's fingerprints on it. 

The reason I share my personal history as someone who left on good terms and not under church discipline is to explain a larger point, when I do care enough to write about the church I used to call home I'm not doing it as a person who would be considered to have left Mars Hill under discipline or as someone who tried to be divisive on the way out.  The very serious concerns I had I shared privately. I left with many concerns but I also went to a church that fits where my personal convictions had been moving for years.  So my Mars Hill friends who know me best will know that the process of discovering my convictions were more Presbyterian than the kind held by Mars Hill took a while.  I didn't want to keep being in a church that constantly has to reinvent the wheel every few years and has no organized set of precedents or procedures for situations that come up.

Let me put it this way, if the story of Mars Hill were compared to some point in the Exodus narrative this is the part where no competent local judges have been appointed, no organized case law has been established, and things are getting messy.  I don't need to presume malice on the part of people who, I sincerely believe, just have no idea what they're doing.  Their committment to church growth and denominational expansion has come at the severe price of not having a competent set of procedures and precedents for church discipline.  I don't say that intending it to be derogatory, it's just an observation I've made having been a part of or having observed the life of this church since 1999.  When Mark Driscoll used to joke "We don't know what we're doing" I never laughed because I was awkwardly aware of how true that was.  If the clarifying remarks about the disciplinary situation of Andrew tells me anything it's that they still haven't quite figured out what they're doing yet. 

Since I was never sure Andrew's story was the whole, true story (though even now Mars Hill has said nothing that demonstrates that the majority of Andrew's claims are actually false) I don't think I have anything to retract in what I've said.  I do, however, think that I have grounds to say that a number of blogs that have linked to me seem to have completely misunderstood what I've actually been saying.  When people link to what I've said in a way that suggests none of them actually read what I wrote I figure I should post my own clarifying statement.  Now there are people who read what I wrote and have demonstrated they know what I actually said.  My blogging cohorts at Phoenix Preacher, for instance, actually read what I actually wrote!  Other folks, up to and including Slate, not so much.

Now Proverbs says that the first person to speak seems right until the cross-examination.  This proverb is not really saying that the person who does the cross examination is right, which is how many people prooftexting from a proverb would have us believe, it means that more Christians ought to go watch the Kurosawa masterpiece Rashamon. Just because Mars Hill and Andrew are both certain they are telling us the truth doesn't mean either of them are.  We're not in a position to know that for sure out here on the internet.  I don't have to doubt the sincerity of either side to wonder if I should really take the statements of both sides at face value.  In fact it could be that almost nothing about the two accounts actually contradict each other.  It doesn't matter who quotes Proverbs 18 about the first side seeming right, the heart is deceitful above all things can be a warning that everyone could be wrong about a few things in the midst of being certain.  Being wrong feels pretty much the same as feeling right. 

Since the recent clarifications from Mars Hill happen to fit concerns I raised privately four years ago I'm willing to revisit those concerns.  It's as close as Mars Hill is likely to come to conceding that some of the actual criticisms of Martian disciplinary procedure and precedent (as distinct from allegations of abuse or cultic tendencies) have had some merit. Mars Hill, don't be so eager to pursue growth you grow the church in a few months past the point where your revised disciplinary procedures stop being effective again.  What just got published indicates that even if Andrew were needing the disciplinary shunning approach that got issued, Mars Hill has kinda sorta maybe conceded that staff or leaders at Mars Hill involved in implementing some kind of discipline (in some vague way) either lacked clear instruction, organizational competence, or impartiality needed to implement church discipline in a way that didn't go haywire.

A church can only go so long with the philosophy of "love means never having to say you're sorry". This is still a situation where it's not really possible to say that either Andrew or Mars Hill are really "in the right" about anything. I don't have to assume either side is lying to have doubts about whether or not the stories aren't being filtered.  I saw in my own case how a number of pastors assumed the worst about me and others without bothering to explain things.  But there was a pastor who assumed the best about me and the other people I was in conflict with and things got worked out very well.  For the pro and con sides of Mars Hill it would seem that posting at the speed of the internet before researching things and thinking things through makes both sides look bad.  Yes, both sides.  I submit that a careful reading of the relevant materials to this much-blogged-about situation doesn't present anyone in a particularly flattering light.  As I've said before and will probably say again, this is disappointing but not surprising.

David Fitch on what Neo-Anabaptists and Neo-Reformed can learn from each other

David Fitch discusses what the New Anabaptists and the Neo-Reformed can learn from each other.  Sounds fine to me.  It's funny that a certain preacher identified as a new Calvinist or neo-Reformed is in most crucial senses anabaptist but pretends to himself he's Reformed.

City of God: Protestant Art & Literature

A short entry in which Andrew over at City of God blog shares proposals by Peter Escalante about how Catholics do not, in fact, make better art than Protestants.  If anything Protestantism served a necessary  iconoclastic role (literally and figuratively) that revolutionized Western arts to the point where even "secular" art must be considered as a thing that was possible because Protestantism altered the rules of the game of art in the West. 

Whether or not you agree it's an interesting and fun line of thought to consider. The polemic boils down the sauce too much as during the Reformation there were the beginnings of secularist critiques of Rome and religion generally that began to take some shape.  Polemics tend to boil down the sauce too much in many cases but if the reductionist approach leads to some actual discussion that's not "always" bad.  It's just necessary to jump from the salvo to a serious consideration of details and case studies.

I have been suggesting at this blog that more good art comes from higher liturgical settings simply because the churches that have that approach have historically had a bigger incentive to fund more art.  Most of it won't be that great but the ratio of stuff that is great will increase just because more money is getting thrown at the arts.  But at another level when there is a liturgical warrant for incorporating more art into church settings there's more reason to encourage the arts. 

This has nothing to do with Catholicism or Protestantism as such.  After all, nearly every musicologist and music historian who deals with Western music as a whole would say the pinnacle of Western music is not Palestrina but Bach, or Beethoven maybe. Tradition and history by themselves don't have to inspire great art, they can become the straitjackets in which art does not develop.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Link: HT Fearsome Tycoon: When STDs are untreatable

Of course Christians traditionally prescribe a set of risk-reducing behaviors that would substantially curtail the likelihood of getting an untreatable sexually transmitted disease.  It's not a 100% failsafe in every case but it's reliable enough that it works.  It is, however, considered "impossible" by lots of people.  Of course it's not really "impossible" it's simply so undesirable it's off the table of any consideration for a lot of people. Well, life, health, sickness and death are all matters of opportunity costs. 

I linked to my essay about Mr. Freeze earlier so why not have a blog post about untreatable veneral diseases?  Happy Valentine's Day, by the way.

my little Valentine's day post, a repost

Today's that day again.  What better way to consider Valentine's Day than to repost a link to my essay "Heart of Ice, Heart of Wrath" about Mr. Freeze in Batman: the animated series

Monday, February 13, 2012

Link: The Swede plays the first movement of my sonata for oboe and guitar
This link is to the first movement of my sonata for oboe and guitar that the Swede posted a few years ago.  As yet the entire sonata has not been premiered so it would be pretty cool to have the entire 18-minute, four-movement sonata for oboe and guitar get a premiere. I look forward to that possibility. While I'm preparing to record and film my Guitar Sonata in F minor I can at least point you, if you're curious, to a filmed performance of at least part of one of my compositions.

And here's the link to the Swede's page.  He's got a project he's working toward of recording all the songs of John Duarte that could use some support.  I'm, alas, not even remotely in the situation to fund such a project but I want to mention it as a long-term goal the Swede has for those who would be willing to finance recording Duarte's songs.

postscript 2020
link has actually been inactive and  video no longer available

Guitar Sonata in F minor

Time for another semi-scheduled self-promotional post. As of January 2012 my Guitar Sonata in F minor has been published by Periferia Sheet Music.  If you've been dying to play a roughly six minute long sonata allegro form in F minor this is the piece for you!

I wrote this sonata back in the year 2000 during a period where I was "between jobs" as the euphemism goes.  I don't know about the rest of the world but the dot com bubble had burst early in Seattle and people were just starting to get the idea that maybe there'd been a dot com bubble in some places. 

I had recently immersed myself in the late works of Beethoven and Shostakovich.  It seemed like a fun challenge to compose a sonata form in F minor because it struck me as something that Beethoven would have done if he had been a guitarist.  We guitarists know all too well there's never really been a Beethoven of the guitar but if there were a Beethoven for the guitar he or she wouldn't have let a key like F minor be an obstacle.  The very difficulty of the key would be a catalyst for inspiration.  That's how I like to think of things, anyway; that's how I did think of things when I wrote the sonata years ago.  I am planning to work out audio and video recordings of the sonata this year so if you can't just look at notes on the page and know what they sound like, fear not, I plan to have realizations of the score later this year.

So that's the general backstory of my writing a six minute long sonata allegro form in F minor for solo guitar.  it was very fun to write and it is fun to play when you have the chops to keep it in the zone of the ideal tempo.  160 is the ideal.  Anywhere between 152 and 168 bpm is still okay.  There's a tempo that seems awesome and practical when you're 27 that you realize, at 37, could stand to be toned down a bit.