Saturday, March 16, 2013

music posts coming soon (again)

Wenatchee The Hatchet accumulated a few recordings over the last few months, some of which will get little write-ups here at the blog.  The temptation to write at great rambling depth about some of the recordings is great and it shall be better to be brief and informative in most cases.  We haven't seen some serious discussion of music here at the blog in a while and that should change. 

For that matter ... now that I'm thinking of it, those Justice League essays sure won't write themselves, either.  There's a few things in the off-line world that have taken precedence over writing quite so much these days.  Still, we can see what can be done.  There's some fun music recorded and released by esteemed acquaintences at home and abroad to be written about!  Keep your eyes peeled for reviews of the following to show up here before too long:

Airoso, Field & Franz duo (guitar and viola)
Autoportrait, the first solo guitar recording by Atanas Ourkouzounov!
Ferdinand Rebay: Sonatas for flute and guitar, Maria Jose Belotto and Gonzalo Noque
Twenty-four Preludes, music of Bryan Johanson, Michael Partington
An Intimate Evening with the Bish/Thompson duo, Anthony Thompson and Greg Bish
(this is an album of music for trumpet and classical guitar and so far as I know the only one of its kind!)

So those are the ones where I want to do at least brief write-ups.  I'll need to go dig up a discography for Ourkouzounov's recordings because I have nearly all of them and he's one of my favorite living composers.  Plus he's coming to Seattle in a couple of months. 

There are other recordings I'd like to write about but I realize that brevity and timeliness may be best by now.  Still, having blogged a post saying exactly which albums I plan to review gives me something concrete to aim for. 

Mars Hill Church (Seattle), trademarks, logos and names--a domain to keep tabs on

For folks who didn't read this,

This summarized the Mars Hill official public clarification that they had not sued any churches and would not sue any churches.  They also stated that they had not and would not ask any churches to remove Mars Hill from their name. 

So ... here's a domain to keep tabs on, for a church that has nothing to do with Mars Hill Church in Seattle.

Although, having said that, it'd be a shame if it turned out that at some point Mars Hill Seattle people got in touch with this church at any point and actually did ask them to change their name, give up their domain name or anything like that, because that would be sketchy in light of the bold and unequivocal public statements MH PR made in 2011 in the wake of the trademark and logo controversy. If that "did" ever happen in some fashion with this or any other church with Mars Hill in the name since the 2011 kerfuffle, then it'd mean that some folks at Mars Hill couldn't even keep track of their own public statements on name and logo issues. 

because I actually like the book of Leviticus, couldn't resist linking to Alastair Roberts on it

Worth reading, as is the book of Leviticus.  It's those chapters and chapters of genealogies in Numbers that I usually skip. 

What does repentance look like? A rabbi's perspective

What part of me is still a mean girl? I carry this question with me every day. I am a rabbi, so I consider what is, for me, one of Judaism’s most poignant teachings—repentance is never complete until, given the chance to sin again in the same way, we refuse.
Thoughts? As in thoughts about this definition of repentance, not about the woman as rabbi part.  Not interested in complementarians and egalitarians hashing things out over that stuff here.  This is a short summation of what a definition of repentance is. 

Matt Redmond on the new Pope, Luther, and our need to take aim at ourselves

... The reason I was ill at ease about evangelicals making light of the papal process and then using Luther to defend it was this. Luther was taking aim at his own tradition. Not the tradition of his neighbor alone. Luther was not trying to start a new religion or denomination or sect. He was trying to reform the church already there. Luther was Roman Catholic, if you will. not Lutheran.

And of course they wanted to kill him. So his criticism and strong language should be seen in that light.

Here is what I think, you wanna be like Luther? Set your aim on all the silliness with evangelicalism. The legalism. The celebrity. The concerts disguised as worship. The worship disguised as concerts. The marketing ad nauseum. The legalism. The calls for radical living from pastors with iPads and iPhones who live in the suburbs with 3 bedrooms and 2 baths. Set your aim on the cover-up of sexual abuse. The legalism. Set your aim on a theology that questions everything and stands for nothing. The pastor as CEO. The pastor as rock star. The legalism.

Making fun of the conclave given the task of selecting the Pope is easy while living in the evangelical enclave. You lose nothing and get some laughs. Luther took on the church from within. And not for a laugh but because he genuinely sought God and cared for people.

There's more that could be said, of course, but the closing thought I'll add is to note that if we do what Matt suggests we should remember that none of the prophets whose books ended up in the Bible succeeded.  In an evangelical eagerness to show how Jesus fulfilled the Law and the Prophets we have to remember that it wasn't just the Law that failed to bring about the loving obedience of the people.  If the OT is any indication the more prophetic you are the more spectacularly you'll fail to have a ministry that catalyzes the repentance of God's people.  What was Isaiah told WOULDN'T happen when people heard the words he was supposed to say ... ?

Friday, March 15, 2013

Transitions at Mars Hill Downtown Seattle and Bellevue, aka departure of Tim Gaydos

Sometimes stuff just turns up here at Wenatchee The Hatchet. 

Ballard | New Discussion Topic

Pastor Alex Early
From Pastor Alex Early:
Mars Hill Ballard,
There’s a lot going on here at Ballard and across all of our churches. I really believe the best is yet to come!
I want to let you know about some changes that occurred recently at Mars Hill Downtown Seattle that affect our church family, particularly the Ballard family as we are so close to Downtown and have many friends who attend there as well. As you will read below from the Executive Elders, Tim Gaydos, Lead Pastor of Mars Hill Downtown Seattle feels that he and his wife Brittany are being called into a new season of ministry away from Mars Hill. We love Tim and we are excited for his future, but this transition has come as a surprise to the elders.
In order to care for the church continue God’s mission, the Executive Elders have put together a interim plan as they look for a replacement Lead Pastor. Below is a message that was posted to the Downtown Seattle church, and I wanted to share it with you so that you are up to speed as well. Please be praying for our brothers and sisters at Mars Hill Downtown Seattle, as well as for our Executive Elders.
Pastor Alex
Dear Mars Hill Downtown Seattle,
If you were able to join us for the Member’s Meeting tonight, thank you for giving us your time on such short notice. We wanted to share the following statements from Tim Gaydos, the Downtown Seattle Elders, and the Executive Elders for those of you who were unable to make it.
From Tim Gaydos:

For the past seven years it has been a great joy and privilege to be a part of what God is doing at Mars Hill Church. These last few weeks Brittany and I have spent a great deal of time praying and discerning God’s call upon our lives for the future and what would be the best use of my gifts and skills. It is bitter sweet as we announce that we believe God is moving us on to something new. Therefore, I have decided to resign my position as Lead Pastor of Mars Hill Downtown Seattle.

We believe God has made it clear to us that we have a new season of life and ministry ahead of us. This was a very hard decision for Brittany and I, as we do love the people of Mars Hill so dearly. Although we are very confident that you will continue to be cared for by the leadership at Mars Hill.

We are praying about the next steps for us, and as we step out in faith we are asking God to walk with us through this next season. I know that God has great things in store for you in the future, and I know we will always treasure the years we had together. We are very grateful for the relationships and friendships that God has provided for us over the years. I know it may be hard for some to understand our decision, and maybe some of you have had those moments in your life where something seemed so illogical, but you know it’s something you have to do. We will miss you all very much.

– Tim Gaydos

From Pastor Jamie Munson, on behalf of the Downtown Seattle Elders:

As elders of the Downtown Seattle church, many of us who have known Tim and Brittany for many years, we are saddened to hear about Tim’s decision to step down as Lead Pastor. We are so grateful for what God has done at Downtown, and for the amazing ways he’s worked through his people and through Tim Gaydos. This church has grown from just a few hundred, to more than 1500 under Tim’s leadership. It continues to grow and we look forward to the day when we will soon fill every seat in this beautiful building.

One thing that we want to make clear is that Tim Has not committed any sin, or done anything that would disqualify him as an elder. Tim has been a great leader, and a great friend. He will be missed, and we will have a hard time filling his shoes, but we are very confident that God will continue to bless this church.

– Pastor Jamie Munson and the Downtown Seattle elders

From the Executive Elders:

Mars Hill, we are also very sad to see our good friend Tim move on from Mars Hill. It is not our desire for Tim to leave, as we love the Gaydos family very much, and we believe Tim is well suited for this job. We would prefer that Tim remain as the Lead Pastor of Mars Hill Downtown Seattle indefinitely, especially in light of the recent relocation to the heart of downtown, the growing influence of the church, and our big Easter celebration broadcasting live from the Downtown church in just a few weeks.

However, Tim believes it is time for him to move onto something else. While Tim offered to stay on staff until a replacement is found, the executive elders met with Tim and made the decision that it would be in the best interest of the church for his resignation to take effect immediately, and the Downtown Seattle elders concurred with the decision. We love him and his family and we don’t want them to suffer through this transition, so we have offered him 3 months of severance, and will continue to pay for his medical benefits through the birth of their new baby.

The news of Tim Gaydos leaving Mars Hill was unexpected and unforeseen, so we’ve put together an interim plan to care for you as we seek a new leader. As a church family, this is a very important time for us to care for each other and not be divisive, as we seek a leader who can lovingly and firmly lead this church towards embracing the mission and vision of Mars Hill, and what God has in store for one of our largest churches. As we consider the best candidate to lead the Downtown Seattle church, Pastor AJ Hamilton has accepted the responsibility to step in as the interim Lead Pastor of Downtown Seattle. Pastor AJ is a trustworthy and hardworking pastor that recently relocated to Bellevue from Mars Hill Albuquerque to lead our Community Groups ministry across all 14 churches. Pastor AJ was lead pastor of Mars Hill Albuquerque, so you are in very good hands.
To provide support for Pastor AJ, Pastor Jason Skelton from our Bellevue church has joined the leadership team at Downtown Seattle as Executive Pastor. Our Bellevue church has been blessed with very gifted leaders and is one of our strongest and most stable churches. Lead Pastor Thomas Hurst will remain at Bellevue and has a wonderful team of elders to support our mission on the Eastside. We believe these changes will provide you with a very strong leadership team to help care for the church during this transition. It is our desire to find a permanent Lead Pastor as soon as we can.

Mars Hill, we love you very much and we encourage you to stand strong during this season. This is a great time to step up to leadership, take on a serving role, or become a member of the church. We need faithful servants and humble leaders to carry the mission forward. Please pray and consider where God may have you serve. To come and serve Downtown, Pastor Mark will also begin preaching live from Downtown Seattle more often, as well as preaching live from Bellevue. We hope that these leadership changes are encouraging to you, as we have been very blessed with gifted leaders who love this church very much.

Lastly, we know that transitions like this can be unsettling, particularly within a church that loves it’s elders as much as the people of Mars Hill do. Please join us in praying for our church to stay strong and continue to grow through this season. We believe a revival is coming to Seattle, and there’s nothing the enemy wants more than for our church to turn on itself or flee when there’s any sign of difficult times. We look forward to the amazing things God has in store for our church, particularly Mars Hill Downtown Seattle, and we’d like to encourage each of you as we grow in the grace and knowledge of our lord and savior, Jesus Christ.
For God’s glory,
Pastor Dave Bruskas, Pastor Sutton Turner, and Pastor Mark Driscoll

View this topic on The City »

For The Stranger's coverage, go here.

Allegedly Will Little has resigned, according to comments identifying a "Will" but unable to identify a last name.  Will Little would fit the recent roster, if the report is true that a "Will" is leaving.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

and Tim Gaydos, former lead pastor of Mars Hill Downtown, is gone

He had a relatively long run as campus pastors go but Tim Gaydos appears to be out of Mars Hill Downtown.

For a very brief bit of background
p 107/145

10.31.07 Member Communication - Oct 29 meeting
Pastor Jamie Munson

... On October 29, the elders approved and commissioned five new pastors of Mars Hill, with three more men awaitin gapproval and commissioning in the next few weeks.  As of Monday, Tim Beltz, Tim Gaydos, jon Krombein, Matt Johnson and Tyler Powell are official elders/pastors of Mars Hill Church. 

And here's a brief bit about his educational background.

Lead Pastor - Mars Hill Church Downtown Seattle
Mars Hill Church
Nonprofit; 51-200 employees; Religious Institutions industry
October 2007 – Present (5 years 6 months)

Tim Gaydos' Education

The Master's College and Seminary
Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), History
1994 – 2001

Now Gaydos' educational background is interesting because ...
... In 1985, John [MacArthur] became president of The Master's College (formerly Los Angeles Baptist College), an accredited, four-year liberal arts Christian college in Santa Clarita, California. In 1986, John founded The Master's Seminary, a graduate school dedicated to training men for full-time pastoral roles and missionary work.

During the years when John MacArthur ratcheted up his public fulminations about Mark Driscoll Mars Hill Church could point out that one of the men serving in a pastoral office inside the church had been educated at none other than The Master's College and Seminary.  How bad could the place be, one could propose, if a graduate from the college MacArthur had helmed was on board?

Whether or not Gaydos was canned or voluntarily resigned is not likely to be readily known.  There were mass layoffs in 2012 and Gaydos didn't seem to be among them.  He was around long enough to help the transition from the old Tabella to the new location.  So Mars Hill Downtown has a couple of things of note going on this last week, Munson's got his book on authority out and Gaydos is no longer lead pastor at Mars Hill Downtown.

Tomorrow will be a year after this incident, where David Drury was disinvited from participating in a screening of Holly Rollers at the Mars Hill Downtown campus.

So time will tell where Gaydos moves on to from here.  Regular readers will know that we got an update on Bill Clem's whereabouts in the last few weeks. 


For folks who want to keep tabs on who's where, this may still be good for a while.

HT Matthew Johnson at the BHT, "It's like reports don't even try to be objective"

I did, as an Eastern Orthodox layman, wonder a bit about this historical summary:
The accession of a new Pope is always cause for wonderment — if only because the papacy of the Roman Catholic Church has managed to survive more trials than almost any other kingdom in history. No other institution can claim to have withstood Attila the Hun, the ambitions of the Habsburgs, the Ottoman Turks, Napoleon Bonaparte and Adolf Hitler, in addition to Stalin and his successors. Every new Pope faces fresh crisis and challenges. And in the 21st century, he does so at the head of a spiritual empire that touches more than 1.2 billion souls and whose influence crosses borders and contends with other great powers.
No other institution, other than the papacy, has survived Attila, the Ottomans, Hitler, Stalin, etc.? Speaking only as a member of an Antiochian Orthodox parish, I am sure that our patriarch in Damascus (a deadly serious place right now, once again) would consider that editorial statement questionable, at best.

I have relatives who are Antiochian Orthodox and so, even as a Protestant, I can agree that claiming the papacy alone has withstood all the above is questionable, at best.

As Matthew's observation goes, it's also like bloggers don't even try to be objective, either.  :)  I don't happen to think that objectivity is something that can even really be attained or, to put it another way, the most we can mean by objectivity is that our quest to discover the facts in a situation overtakes our desire to come to a snap judgment based on the information we've found.  Objectivity is no more than our best attempt to overcome the mental shortcuts our cognitive biases and heuristics within our brains usually lead us to.  If even scientistis can be overcome by these despite employing the scientific method then it should be a warning to all of us that no one is immune, particularly people who think they actually are.

"Doing Less Well", expectations for women in evangelicalism, and my breezy consideration of the Prov 31 woman being isolated from Prov 31 as a whole

... I attended a small Christian college with a fairly rigid social structure. All the cool kids volunteered in off-campus ministry, sung in an on-campus performing choir, participated in intramural sports, and performed in various plays on campus. I tried to keep up with these star students who seemed admired by both teachers and other students. My second semester, I nearly had a nervous breakdown. I was in debate (actually won the intramural debate championship that semester because, well, I like to argue) and participated in a play that presented the gospel in sign language. I was keeping my grades up and participating in off-campus ministry too. I was sleep deprived and stressed trying to juggle all the things I thought I needed to juggle. And I just broke. It was horrible (and embarrassing). But it was the best thing that could have happened to me – breaking down and learning a hard but necessary lesson before I had a family depending on me keeping it together.
Since what is called "biblical womanhood" has been a point for discussion and debate for years now it's interesting that Wendy describes a struggle to be all things to all people as something she had to get over.  I don't know if Christian women deal with this all the time but it can seem as though the ideal to shoot for is to be lovely to all possible people at all possible points. 

Guys seem to get a different set of cultural instructions in explicit and implicit terms.  Roy Baumeister has written that men are considered men when they produce more than they consume.  He has also written that respect in male social systems tends to be a zero-sum game.  You have to prove you deserve to be in the club before you get in the club and then once in the club you have to establish that you're indispensible in order to keep your place in it. 

If women are admonished to be as lovely as possible to all possible people men are admonished to "know your role" and to be useful.  Even if you're useful in some capacity that is ultimately expendable (like the common foot soldier) you still need to be a specialist to have long-term viability in a social or economic system.  Guys tend to be urged to specialize in something. 

I'm not any different in this, I've got a local specialization.  As a guitarist once told me over dinner, I'm the guitarist where you can come up with some crazy, obscure combination of instruments that involve classical guitar and the odds are pretty good I know at least one piece composed for that combination.  That's one of my hobbies.  I've had the pleasure of reading two dissertations on bassoon and guitar literature because this one of those things I do.  I'm not an official scholar at any academic place but my love of chamber music is such that if you want to know what music has been written for bassoon and guitar I at least know of a handful of pieces. 

One of the things about the proverbial Proverbs 31 woman is she's presented as, in some sense, all things to all.  That there's a literary frame in which this woman is presented as a wife suitable for a king seems to get cast off quickly by a lot of commentaries and teaching I've heard.  There's more emphasis on women needing to shoot for this ideal without much corresponding consideration of whose wife she's described as being good for.  Let's remember Lemuel was getting advice from his mother.  Even if we propose the entire segment is an idealized fiction it's still a mother giving advice to her son.  One of her bits of advice is that it's not for kings to chase after women. 

The famous poem in Proverbs 31 may be taken as a caveat that if a king is going to get married that there are concerns about what kind of woman to marry and what the wife of a king should look like.  Or at least that's been my lasting impression about the gap between what evangelicals see in the Proverbs 31 woman as an isolated text and what I see in that text as part of the larger literary unit that Proverbs 31 is.  I have met guys who were looking for the Proverbs 31 woman and I have wondered if they considered whether they were Proverbs 31 men enough for that woman to accept their marriage proposal.  Not that I'm ever going to say who those guys are in some blog post, that would be uncalled for.  I do think that many a guy has to delude himself into thinking he's a better catch than he is in order to have any shot at being married at all, though.  That may explain why guys feel men and women can't be friends, because somewhere in the back of their minds the men think something might happen even when there's no chance of it.  :)

Just throwing that out for some consideration, in case anyone might be interested.

Practical theology for women: Secular perspective that reinforces biblical truth of walking in the light

Ten years ago, my young husband's heart valve broke around the time we moved to Seattle. We were in the fortunate situation of having access to a very good heart surgeon at a very good hospital. After the surgery, the surgeon came out to talk with us and was upfront about a mistake he had made. While trying to repair the flap of the heart valve, he lost a piece of tiny equipment he was using to secure the flap. He was never able to find the missing piece in the heart and ended up having to completely replace the heart valve with an artificial heart valve instead of the more desired outcome of repairing my husband's own heart valve. He explained the problem clearly along with the potential concerns. We were just glad at that point that my husband was stable. However, about an hour after the doctor left us, my husband crashed and had to be raced back into surgery. I recount some of this in the opening of Practical Theology for Women. It's likely that the lost piece of equipment caused a heart attack, but even after the 2nd surgery, the doctor was still unable to find it. My husband was in critical condition for a bit, but he eventually recovered.

In all of that, it never occurred to me to even consider malpractice. When the surgeon made a mistake while trying to do the best for my husband, he was open and honest with me about it. We remained on the same team, even during his mistake. Years later, while reading Malcolm Gladwell's
Blink, I understood a bit of the psychology of what happened in that moment. In Blink, Gladwell discusses malpractice rates and the momentary decisions doctors make that tend to lower their rates of malpractice. The basic thing Gladwell notes that predicts malpractice rates is the length of time doctors spend explaining situations to their patients, even negative situations of the doctor's own causing. The longer doctors spend with patients and more open they are about potential and actual problems, the lower the malpractice rates against them. That was exactly my experience. Our doctor was open and honest about potential problems as well as his own actual mistake, and that up front transparency on his part reinforced that we were on the same team with the same goals. I would go back to that doctor in a heartbeat (no pun intended) if we were in a similar situation. ...

There's quite a bit more in the above article that I won't quote much.  That's the big open for your consideration.  Wendy discusses that transparency about flaws and mistakes goes a long way to establishing trust. As some people have put it about political history and conspiracy it isn't always the crime itself that brings down an administration but the cover-up. 

Alastair Roberts: If the theologian of the 16th century was a laywer, the theologian of the 21st century is an ad man

... If the theologian of the 16th century was a lawyer, the theologian of the 21st century is an ad man.
For this is what Rob Bell is. If we are to understand Bell, it is imperative that we recognize the sort of movement in Christian discourse that he exemplifies.

The ad man doesn’t persuade his customer by making a carefully reasoned and developed argument, but by subtly deflecting objections, evoking feelings and impressions, and directing those feelings and harnessing those impressions in a way that serves his interests. Where the lawyer argues, the ad man massages.


As Don says, ‘You are the product. You, feeling something.’

The ad man knows this secret, and so do many contemporary evangelicals. Much of the time Bell isn’t trying to communicate a particular abstract theology to people. Rather, he elicits desirable emotive states from his audience and connects those with a heavily chamfered theology while tying undesirable emotive states to opposing viewpoints. All of this can be done without actually presenting a carefully reasoned and developed argument for one’s own position, or engaging closely with opposing viewpoints.

The evangelical teacher who takes this approach becomes the product or maybe this doesn't go far enough, such an evangelical teacher makes you the product by seeming authentic enough that you relate to the teacher. 

As he's done before, Alastair quotes from this succint observation about different styles of reading.

Then there’s this other type of person. As nearly as I can tell, they seem to create collages in their mind as they read. Turns of phrase here and individual metaphors there get thrown into different places in the collage until they have what appears to them to be a fairly complete picture, then they react to the picture in more of a qualitative way (this reaction is usually emotional since they don’t really do “critiquing logic” or “refuting ideas”). This sort of person really doesn’t do very well at all with complex writing, especially writing that goes in directions they’re not used to. In my experience, explaining what I wrote to a person like this is a lost cause. I inevitably find myself repeating ideas over and over, quoting my own text, and dissecting my own grammar to prove to this sort of person that I said what I actually said. If your audience is this sort of person, you need to be extremely careful in how you choose your individual words and phrases, or you will set off a negative emotional reaction that makes further communication impossible.

For those of us who actually keep track of what a person says or argues at point A all the way to point Z this other type of reader can be difficult to account for.  The internet seems to have spawned, in the last two decades, some kind of reader who responds to their emotional reaction to the gestalt they constructed from what they felt when they read something rather than what was actually written.  This sort of reader will seize upon a single word and his/her emotional reaction to that one word, regardless of authorial intent, and build an entire response to that and apparently just that.  Writers can be sloppy and need rewriting but even accounting for that there's no stopping a reader of the sort Fearsome described from misreading what was written. 

Alastair observes how Rob Bell's approach is that of the ad man and the way he described Bell's approach as a speaker and a theologian I found myself thinking, "This whole approach seems kinda familiar."  It's fascinating to consider that whether the evangelical left or right both guys credited with founding two very different kinds of Mars Hills could end employing more or less the same set of rhetorical tricks to win big audiences. 

Alastair Roberts refers to Rob Bell's Oldsmobile, I'll refer back to Mark Driscoll building a case that Esther was not a very godly woman in a sermon that hinged on, among other things, appealing to the moral intuition of Mark Driscoll's teenaged daughter Ashley.  There were a few sloppy references to OT literature that don't add up but the zinger for personal impact was Driscoll mentioning his conversation with his daughter.  The point was about the emotional sell rather than the substance in both cases, far as I can tell.  Object to Bell's whole approach and you're in favor of the Oldsmobile.  Object to Driscoll case that Esther was somehow not that godly a woman, and that he's not only poisoned the well by saying that your view of Esther as a godly woman makes Esther as a book "worthless", but has also thrown in an anecdote about his sweet daughter Ashley to boot then you're objecting to the competence and sentiments of a teenage girl.  Well, okay, since we know that the opinions of teen-aged daughters of celebrity pastors always and automatically come armed with a mastery of biblical languages and ancient Persian and Jewish social conventions ... .

Or we could point out that both Bell and Driscoll are selling junk but saying that ad men are just selling something has the protection of those who have already bought the sell, which is the ad man feeling something.  The same thing works in reverse these days, when once someone has decided they see through the ad man's persona and techniques nothing is acceptable, because the halo effect and the sunk cost emotional investment work in both directions, both for and against. 

Mockingbird on loving Jennifer Lawrence and hating Anne Hathaway--what's the underlying law of feminine appeal here?

DZ has been noting for weeks that there are people digging Jennifer Lawrence and hating Anne Hathaway.  I'm okay with both actresses myself.  Lawrence had a pretty thankless role as a young Mystique in X-Men: First Class but anyone who saw that film would have realized it was hardly her fault there was little for her to do. When I saw the film with my brother a few years ago he said she wasn't that memorable or good.  I opted to be more generous, I said that if someone gave her a real character and an actual story she could do some good work.  Well, take that brother, apparently she's been given some better material! 

As for Hathaway, I frequent comic book discussion forums enough to remember the Hatha-hate revolving in part around Hathaway not being "sexy" enough to play Selina Kyle. Those were moments when I remembered a long-ago quote from comics author and artist Andi Watson in which he said that comics would look different if more comics artists had ever touched a real, living woman even once in their lives.  But I'm in danger of digressing again, I spotted over on Slate that an author quoted Howard Stern on Hathaway with the sentiment, "She tries too hard."

Whether we're talking about the tomboy or the glamorous princess apparently the big put-down is if the effort shows.  Now this may be a useless, sweeping generalization but men seem eager to show off how much they work at something. Even when a guy makes light of how effortlessly he did or said something the underlying point, for many a guy, is you know the guy is saying that he has paid his dues and he has earned the respect you should be giving him now.  Men are supposed to be able to conspicuously earn whatever they get.  Women, it seems, are expected to be so naturally and effortlessly lovely and charming that letting slip the amount of ambition and effort going into being whatever kind of woman you are is a betrayal of some underlying law of idealized femininity, "Thou shalt not be seen as working at being a woman."  If this were really some hegemonic patriarchal impulse, though, there shouldn't be any women in any context hating on Hathaway, should there? 

That in as enlightened an age was we're supposedly in that there's any "Hatha-hate" at all suggests that we'll never be that enlightened.  There's going to be some visceral lizard-brain reaction if, as DZ and others have put it, someone is considered not-pretty-enough or too-pretty.  The women who are considered too-pretty under normal circumstances will get a pass if enough people have decided "Well, she's not conspicuously working at it, so she must be okay."  These kinds of status assessment games don't stop getting played just because we tell ourselves we're above them. 

The things we sing about and the things we don't

If someone were to corner me about why I love classical music (not that anyone has or likely will) I'd say I love the musical invention involved in the tradition.  There's folk music I like but I've always been willing to admit that folk music is often not quite as interesting to me.  Even when I was a kid I remember Handel's famous chorus more than the folk songs I heard.  I loathed "Old Dan Tucker" as a kid because the melody was grating and the lyrics didn't make any sense.  I also intensely disliked "Turn, Turn Turn" because even as a ten or eleven-year old boy I had read just enough of Ecclesiastes to object that "a time for war" really was in that text.  Yeah, maybe I always had a pedantic and earnest side to me. :)

I do enjoy some popular music.  I like a bit of jazz, rock, pop, country if it's written by people born before 1960 (ergo Hank Williams Sr, Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard are all fun and I ignore Garth Brooks and beyond).  I like blues in measured doses and particularly like pre-World War 2 blues more than post-war blues in my listening habits.  But most of what I listen to is, no surprise, classical music. I've listened to way more of Beethoven's piano sonatas in the last few months than I've listened to Portishead or even Stevie Wonder (and I love Stevie Wonder's music and have since I was in my early teens). 

But Beethoven sonatas, you know that gets to the other thing, I love instrumental music and I have met people for whom music that doesn't include the human voice is just not interesting for them.  I find it fascinating and for me it's partly because instrumental music is capable of doing more than just expressing feelings, which all kinds of music can do most of the time.  Vocal music can express feelings and talk about ideas but instrumental music works at another level, where there are feelings but the musical ideas as ideas are what your mind has to engage.

Now if I were to describe a typical sonata allegro form in a Beethoven sonata (with the repeats observed) I could point out that the exposition, development and recapitulation resemble a Tin Pan Alley song.  You have an exposition that repeats and in this exposition you have your first group in one key and your second group in another key mediated by a transition.  Verse, chorus.  This repeats, so you get verse, chorus, verse chorus.  The development section is where the ideas of the exposition are subjected to fragmentation, extension, expansion and, in a word, development.  Take me to the bridge.  The recapitulation is where your thematic groups are brought back and all the groups are in the same key (normally).  Thus the final verse and chorus in your Tin Pan Alley song format.

Classical snobs may not admit the resemblance but Beethoven and Haydn piano sonatas, properly observed for their structural repeats, are writ large anticipations of a fairly straightforward structural approach in American popular music.  But I'm derailing my own topic as I often do.

Back to songs, the actual sung sorts of songs. 

People sing about the things about which they are very engaged.  Songs are exaggerations, distillations of feelings and that means that for any topic to make its way into song it must be a topic with which a person obsesses long enough to turn into song.  A lot of songs in the last sixty years are not about "Yeah, the harvest is here and we didn't die of a famine during the last winter!  Go, go sweet potatoe!"  You don't hear songs like that.  Anyone remember that category of song from folk tradition called the work song?  How many o fthose do you hear in your cubicle?  Right, that's kinda my point.  In the last half century songs about the day job tend to come in a few generic categories: 1) working for the Man 2) the daily grind of being a rock star and 3) satires of people who have jobs we disdain.  Maybe there's a fourth category praising working class heroes or something like that but that category is more political than a discussion of the actual nature of the day job.

There's always sex, drugs and rock `n roll but after thirty years of hearing that it sounds pretty self-reflexive.  Part of why I enjoy classical music in general and instrumental music in particular is that I am simply not going to hear phrases like "ooh baby", ever, in a Beethoven piano sonata.  Better yet, I won't hear in a string quartet a line like "She's just sixteen years old, `leave her alone', they say."  If you want to know one of the lines from a pop song that has never failed to fill me with loathing and revulsion over the last twenty years, well, there you go.  The line stirs me up with feelings of wanting to do violence to some stupid punk who wants to hit on my younger sister.  If you don't know what song that quoted line is from be thankful.

I haven't listened to radio in twenty years so maybe these days rock and roll and pop is all about bad daddies and lazy mommies and "I Wouldn't Want to Be Like You" (one of the few songs by Alan Parsons I can remember some two decades later for its acrid but compelling brevity).  But if the Beatles and Bob Dylan are still touchstones of songwriting the falling-in-love and the fell-out-of-love song will still more or less dominate.  For many, many people that's something they relate to because, as a famous song discussing love at first sight has it, "I'm certain that it happens all the time."  Well, not for me, and so many songs about true love and its inevitable end are difficult to find relatable because, while those may be subjects I'll care about ardently enough to write songs about down the road it's been a while since I was at that spot and I don't even know if I'll be at that spot. 

If you've ever sat through a mandatory pep assembly for a high school sports team then perhaps you know the awkward feeling of hearing hundreds or thousands of people around you singing their hearts out over some cause that is completely inexplicable to you.  In that sense I think I can imagine how atheists must feel visiting church services because my inability to grasp why anyone would sing cheers or chants about athletic events has persisted for decades.  I don't get cheering for or singing about athletic achievement.  Then again, I've never been an athlete and probably never will be.  I'm a musician, sometimes, and a composer. 

So it might be a surprise to share that I loathe songs about the power of music.  I don't think the art of music should be employed in some narcissistic self-congratulatory ode to itself.  As beautiful as music is surely it can beautiful enough that nobody has to write songs extolling the power of music to bring us together.  If I hear a solid love song (and Stevie Wonder has written many) I can appreciate the music and the music can help me appreciate what it can feel like to be in love or feel betrayed by someone you gave your heart to.  But even as a composer and a musician I detest songs praising the power of song.

That was supposed to be more clearly thought out than I'm sure it was.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Jamie Munson has a book out about ... Authority

There was some mention of plans for a book mentioned when Munson resigned from being Lead Pastor.  This appears to be the book. 

Slate features an article about that Facebook math problem and changing conventions in mathematics

I learned the old approach to order of operations and wasn't aware how it was possible for conventions about order of operations and interpretations of symbols could have changed in mathematics in the last thirty years.  After all, math is math and not amenable to any changes, right?  Well, as the article explains, the math part isn't but our slippery use of symbolic language has. 

This is why we need pedants on the subject of language and usage, isn't it?  Somebody has to care about exactly how words get put together and that's why all writers need editors who edit.  :) 

Elephant's Debt Update: Harvest Bible Church and a possible lack of disclosure to a Romanian church about its pastor's income

For those who are aware who James MacDonald is he's sounded off in hyperbolic terms about how congregational church polity is of the devil.  Now I'm not a Baptist and I'm not in a church with congregational polity but I have no problem with congregational polity.  :)  It's going to sound trite in the extreme but some of my favorite bloggers have been Baptists.  Longtime readers probably already know which Baptists, for that matter, have been my favorite bloggers to read. 

Without further ado:

... On the 11th of February, 2013, The Elephant’s Debt was contacted by an individual with strong ties to Harvest. According to this source, a member of Harvest Metanoia (Romania) had recently translated The Elephant’s Debt from English into Romanian; and was passing the site around within the local congregation. According to other sources that are active in the congregation, Metanoia’s Senior Pastor, Christian Barbosu, attempted to calm the growing storm by preaching a sermon on the topic of MacDonald’s character. According to these sources, the congregation was reportedly distressed over MacDonald’s admission of gambling and his excessive salary.

Compounding the problem was the fact that Metanoia had only two years prior discovered that their senior pastor, Christian Barbosu, was being compensated from the United States. What made this particularly troubling to the conservative, Eastern European congregation was that they had been sacrificially giving so that their pastor might have an average salary according to Romanian standards of living. They knew nothing of Barbosu’s support coming from the United States; and were greatly troubled by their pastor’s failure to inform them of this practice.

Transparency in finances is important in any organizationand if a group of people sacrifically give to a project or a person's salary only to discover at length there was a lack of full disclosure about something that betrays trust.  There are going to be things that are on a need-to-know basis, I suppose, but if true this situation is one where that wasn't one of those times.  Getting compensation from the US while Romanian Christians give money they don't always have to spare is bad.  After a few years in some places Wenatchee finds it nearly impossible not to be skeptical about anyone who urges that people "give sacrificially".

But that aside having been written and set aside, there's an update at The Elephant's Debt in case you're curious.