Thursday, January 29, 2015

and "Seattle's Scarlet Letter Composting System"

... of course ...

more from the Atlantic: "Buying Music is So Over"

The top 1 percent of bands and solo artists now earn about 80 percent of all revenue from recorded music, as I wrote in "The Shazam Effect." But the market for streamed music is not so concentrated.  ...

Which might be interpreted as "no matter how much you love making music don't quit your day job".  It might also explain why folks like Tom Petty would be willing to go to court over what they perceive to be infringement on their ideas.  If someone has that big a ratio of the revenue coming in from recorded music then would shifts in that revenue feel more seismic that high up the pyramid?

since there's an episode 7 coming along ... we may revisit the foolishness of Campbell's monomyth

Not that Wenatchee The Hatchet is necessarily going to show how stupid the monomyth is right now, in much detail, but the short version is that of the hero's journey added up as a descriptive theme it should account for the wildly divergent strains of the Faust legend in European and American colonial folklore but it doesn't quite do that.

As if that weren't enough, we live in the 21st century after all and there's yet another problematic element of the Campbellian monomyth that could be summed up be a few things from the realm of, of course, gender studies.

The Heroine's Journey
Haley Thurston
In The Power of Myth, Joseph Campbell says that a hero is “someone who has found or achieved or done something beyond the normal range of achievement and experience. A hero properly is someone who has given his life to something bigger than himself or other than himself.” He goes on to distinguish between physical heroes, those who do deeds, and spiritual heroes, those who “[have] learned or found a mode of experiencing the supernormal range of human spiritual life, and then come back and communicated it.”

This is a grand and beautiful model. And especially when we just leave it at “someone who has achieved something beyond the normal range of achievement and experience,” it works very well for a hero of any gender. But when Campbell gets into the specifics of what counts or is celebrated as an unusual achievement, or how that achievement goes about getting done, I start thinking “well those are pretty unambiguously good achievements, but they’re also pretty male.”

and since it's an article in Ribbon Farm there's so much, much more. :)

50 years of Steve Reich's "It's Gonna Rain"

What do you know?  Fifty years?

Wenatchee The Hatchet has more than just a handful of recordings of music by Steve Reich.  Could hardly pass up linking to this little feature.

Atlantic Monthly: Batgirl's psychologist ...

After having spent so much time writing about the DCAU over at ... you may know where ... why wouldn't Wenatchee The Hatchet link to this?  :)

It's been a while since we revisited stuff from the DCAU.  Batman: The Agony of Loss and the Madness of Desire was a couple of years ago.  Finished in time for the 20th anniversary of the classic cartoon.  Work on the essays dealing with Justice League were largely sidetracked by other blogging projects.

With 2015 here, and the tenth anniversary of the Cadmus arc coming along, Wenatchee The Hatchet's going to try to get back to blogging some about cartoons.

Slate's Adam Ragusea compars Tom Petty to Mark Rothko ... which begs the question who is rock n roll's Frank Stella?

Come to think of it, Petty is more like a musical Mark Rothko, in that he usually paints with only a few big splotches of solid color. Just because he’s famous for doing it, does that really mean nobody else is allowed to?

The discussion is the plagiarism suit Petty has brought forth about a song.

So really, all we’re talking about is the motive itself, and that’s just “Mi Sol La Sol Mi,” for you solf├Ęge singers out there. A lot more songwriters are going to owe points to Tom Petty if he in fact “owns” that simple figure, much less the idea of transposing it around in sequence.

Yes, I’ve seen the incriminating mash-up that digitally alters the tempo and key of the two songs to make them match and then layers them on top of each other. But man, I could find you a lot of songs that would be similarly simpatico with a few tweaks.
This is rock ‘n’ roll we’re talking about. It’s not that there’s only one way to rock, as Sammy Hagar once asserted—but the ways are finite.

After a few centuries of restricting ourselves to twelve chromatic tones there were only so many variations that would be possible.  If Tom Petty's the Mark Rothko of rock and pop then it would be interesting to find out who rock's Frank Stella is.  Or Mondrian.

Wenatchee The Hatchet has read a few folks here and there who propose that there's a problem with intellectual property that stifles creativity.  That's probably not really the biggest problem in the long run.  All artistic activity is ultimately the result of leisure and if people can't afford the leisure to develop artistic pursuits then the crisis is not necessarily "just" about intellectual property and its application but about patronage.  No arts have thrived for long without some robust form of patronage.  As the Joker put it in The Dark Knight, when you're good at something, never do it for free but perhaps that's just the movies.  Perhaps in real life you'll actually spend money working in the arts buying musical gear or paintbrushes and making stuff and doing the arts at a financial and temporal loss for years. 

When music is a commodity first and a service second then, yeah, maybe being willing to fight about how the commodity is understood or deployed makes some sense.

If anything we live in an era in which it has become so much easier to see how many of the boundaries between this and that style of music is formal or conceptual in the beholder rather than the creator ... we may just be better situated to observe what was written in Ecclesiastes, there's nothing new under the sun.  Does this thing appear to be new?  It was from days long ago. 

on Schaeffers and shortcuts ... how Christians left and right can use proxy and celebrity as shortcuts

A few weeks back there was a lively discussion that emerged over at Mockingbird discussing the art of Thomas Kinkade and the use of observations by Francis Schaeffer to discuss themes in the arts.

Having grown up with some exposure to the work of Francis Schaeffer it was interesting to read Frank Schaeffer's Crazy for God years ago.  The son seems to have nothing much to work with except leveraging the celebrity of his father and has had less than grateful things to say about his old man. This is, in its way, fairly normal American.  But if Francis Schaeffer became a hero to the Religious Right Frank Schaeffer seems to have positioned himself as a sorta religious left.  "I'm not my dad" is about all he has to work with and yet as weaknesses for ideological grandstanding go the son, at length, doesn't seem much different from the father.

Sometimes it seems as though we turn into our parents not only in spite of our best efforts to not be like them but paradoxically through our most ardent efforts to not be like them. Back in the Crazy for God writings Frank seemed perfectly willing to admit he bullied his father into become more militantly opposed to abortion when Francis Schaeffer had taken a fairly standard Protestant line in the 1960s and earlier 1970s by regarding abortion as a "Catholic" issue.  But after a couple of election cycles Frank's version of events suggested his father, were he alive, would have approved of reactionary anti-American terrorism.  Well, if so, then wouldn't Frank have supported it back then, too? 

That Frank Schaeffer took the time to plug for one of his books the week of Nelson Mandela's funeral seemed mercenary and lazy in a way that even Mark Driscoll would have thought twice about. 

Wenatchee The Hatchet has been grateful for elements of Francis Schaeffer's legacy, particularly his willingness to engage the entire range of the arts.  That's ... probably about as far as it goes currently, because Schaeffer asserted a few things that Wenatchee doesn't entirely agree with.  Tonality in music is more optional than obligatory and atonality, pantonality and a other elements of music that erupted into the avant garde in the last century are not in any way indicative of some abandonment of a "Christian worldview" overall.  Schaeffer's Christian worldview/humanism dichotomy was often reductionist.  In concert music some of the most innovative contributors to the avant garde hailed from some religiously pretty conservative backgrounds.  Stravinsky eventually (after a long while) returned to the Orthodox fold.  Messiaen and Penderecki, Catholics. 

The simplest way to describe what I think has run amok with any Schaeffer, Francis or Frank, is that too many Christians use them as shortcuts, as go-to celebrities to prove their particular points, whether for conservative or progressive score-keeping purposes. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Fantastic Four trailer removes any doubt that at least some of the soundtrack for the forthcoming film had to have been composed by Phillip Glass.

of course there might also be this bit of verification by way of The Guardian ...

Glass has done film scores before so it's not a surprise he's doing soundtrack work but it IS a bit surprising he's doing soundtrack work connected to a superhero film.  As composers labeled minimalists go Wenatchee The Hatchet has always preferred Steve Reich and Terry Riley and John Adams to Phillip Glass.

Apropos of composers ... today was, uh, Mozart's birthday.  Not actually a huge fan of Mozart (prefer Haydn and late Beethoven, for the most part) but, hey, might as well give a nod to Mozart's birthday having mentioned Phillip Glass, eh?

Brad Sargent summarizes events between Tony Jones and Julie McMahon, some considerations of Rachel Held Evans reactions to Driscoll vs Jones

A few years back Rachel Held Evans posted "Mark Driscoll is a bully: Stand up to him" Compiling a linkathon of reasons to consider Driscoll a bully, Evans urged readers to take a stand against Driscoll. back in July 2011.  When Driscoll formulated a response, "The Issue Under a Lot of Issues", the net result was to promote the then forthcoming Pastor Mark TV and book Real Marriage.

A few years back Evans wrote about why Driscoll's popularity was not discouraging to her.
1. Those of us who advocate servant leadership instead of hierarchal leadership are less likely to produce “evangelical celebrities.” 

Two things to consider.  The first thing is that as Darryl Hart put it in a book a few years ago, evangelicalism has historically been more progressive than conservative in its political ambitions, if you look at its broader history in the United States.  The second thing is that celebrity can and clearly does exist regardless of political or ideological alignment.  If Francis Schaeffer has been a hero to the Christian Right, Frank Schaeffer has parlayed that into making himself a Christian Left voice, and the problem of the celebrity as shortcut for rigorous discussion and debate doesn't get avoided whichever way we turn, left or right in politics or theology. 

The last two years of controversy surrounding Mark Driscoll have suggested that the reason for Driscoll's decline was he could not ultimately weather the level of internal critique and scrutiny he was subjected to.  Driscoll was not "brought low" by progressives but by conservatives and evangelicals who probed him about finances, intellectual property and other issues.  Evans, meanwhile, seemed to mainly have use for Mark Driscoll as a foil to make reference to during her book promotional activity.

It seems necessary even as Mark Driscoll has not appeared in public this year to highlight a problem in Rachel Held Evans' approach.
... Driscoll has long been known for his authoritarian leadership over Mars Hill Church, and for his controversial teachings regarding gender and sexuality. He made national news in 2006 when he blamed Ted Haggard’s affair with a male escort on Haggard’s wife for “letting herself go” and has often repeated the teaching that women who fail to please their husbands sexually (by providing regular oral sex and maintaining their attractiveness) bear some responsibility for their husbands’ infidelity.

The problem is that Driscoll never said Gayle Haggard let herself go, and one of the most pervasive progressive canards that has long since been disproven is that Driscoll ever said any such thing.  While robots.txt still applies to Resurgence content the full text of the stuff Mark Driscoll actually did write about the Ted Haggard controversy is over here. Evans cited as evidence for her case an article from Salon from 2006.  The problem is that, as Wenatchee The Hatchet established in exhaustive detail, AlterNet/Salon had an exceptionally poor track record of getting things down accurately about Mars Hill and Driscoll in first-round publication.

It's to the credit of Salon and Tarico and company, though, that they went back and corrected their mistakes, misunderstandings and misrepresentations when they were brought to light.  Evans has, to date, not been observed to have done that. 

Evans lost no time to comment about Mark Driscoll when "Pussified Nation" was made available.

Evans did not provide anything by way of historical background, or social context, for what Driscoll was reacting to.  For that you might want to go here.  What seems striking about comparing Evans' reaction to Driscoll to Evans' reaction to a scandal related to Tony Jones is the default position: assume the best up front about Jones even though, as scandals go, the evidence regarding Jones up front seems more significantly damning with regard to Jones' character than the evidence available in the plagiarism scandal seemed to be when that scandal first broke.  If anything Evans was content to rail against Mark Driscoll for having opinions she didn't agree with.  The thing about the First Amendment is that it protects us from being arrested by government officers for saying things they don't approve.  It doesn't mean we can't lose the confidence of the public along the way. 

Now Wenatchee The Hatchet has written a few things critical of Driscoll's ideas in the past but when Tony Jones made the remarkably foolish decision to sound off on Driscoll (at all), it was hard not to see it as an idiotic and opportunistic gambit.

Jones' proposal that Driscoll was influenced by toxic theology hardly seems worth suggesting in light of Jones' divorce and how he seems to have handled himself along the way.  Driscoll may have many, many issues but Mark and Grace Driscoll are still married, and they both consider the care of their children.  As pastoral conduct goes it doesn't seem Jones is in a position to find a problem with Mark Driscoll about theology if he hasn't managed to stay married to his earlier wife.  This isn't a matter of progressive or conservative politics or even theology. It's possible to propose that the restriction for an elder or pastor is "one spouse" even if we would consider the Greek to be technically "neuter".  At least Driscoll's defenders could legitimately say in his defense that when he was sexually active with women he wasn't married to he wasn't even self-identifying as a Christian yet.  What would Jones' account be?

Here we are in 2015 and the star with more present clout and influence "looks" like Rachel Held Evans, more than Mark Driscoll, at least for now.  If there were even a hint that "maybe" Mark Driscoll did to Grace Driscoll what Tony Jones did to Julie McMahon what would Evans' reaction toward Mark Driscoll have been? 

Not that Wenatchee The Hatchet has taken the "lessons" suggested by Evans seriously with respect to Mars Hill, but one of the "lessons" we could learn from the rise and fall of Mars Hill would be that without an honest and serious internal critique the idol factory chugs along in business-as-usual.  If anything it seems to Wenatchee The Hatchet that Mark Driscoll and Rachel Held Evans have been two sides of the same coin.  We need fewer celebrity Christians from both the left and the right.  We need fewer people who reflexively defend their own team because they know where their own bread gets buttered.  If the things McMahon has shared about Jones are provably true then it seems impossible for any of Jones' defenders, least of all the likes of Evans, to defend Jones out of reflex. 

Now we could discuss why some people remain national treasures and heroes in spite of evidence of plagiarism.  After all, Martin Luther King Jr. day was not that long ago and he's been celebrated as a hero even though there's evidence he plagiarized.  But the odds that Tony Jones, whatever his flaws, is anything close to a Martin Luther King Jr. seem remote.  It's possible for our heroes to also be monsters and if the progressives don't recognize this about their heroes while insisting that it is a reason to dismiss the heroes of the Christian right as false teachers then it looks like when the shoe is on the other foot nobody on either side wants to admit that their heroes have feet made of clay. 


Well ... there it is.  Given that Jesus' teaching on divorce in the synoptics seems pretty cut and dried no matter how you choose to interpret it ...

the question someone like Evans needs to consider could be framed in the following way:  Mark and Grace Driscoll are still actually married.  What about Tony Jones?  Is he still married to the same person he was married to seven years ago?  If he's not and if he's married to someone else now then couldn't a person suggest that going by the teaching attributed to Jesus in the synoptics on divorce and remarriage that Jones is not in the best position to hold up as a healthy alternative to a Driscoll?

some brief thoughts on Samson from the book of Judges, a Sterling Archer in the Old Testament.

Samson would have to be the worst keeper of a naziritic code in the documents collected in the Bible.  After all, he's said to have killed a bunch of people with a donkey's jawbone.  He also consulted a prostitute and went to the trouble of seeking to marry a Phillistine.  Samson, at best, inadvertently begins to bring about deliverance of Israel from Phillistine rule.  Samson comes across as a self-serving, self-absorbed idiotic horndog whose lust and narcissism don't stop him from miraculously managing to save the day for corrupt and incompetent people whom he works with and for.

This may be an esoteric way of putting it for anyone who's not already into animated shows and films ... but Samson could be thought of as a kind of Sterling Archer in the book of Judges. Yeah, he's technically a protagonist in the narrative in which he appears ... but that doesn't mean he's not a complete idiot most of the time.

One of the things Wenatchee The Hatchet heard a Pentecostal youth pastor teach decades ago was that Samson offers a sober lesson, that it doesn't matter how gifted you are or how powerfully anointed you might think you or your hero is, that will never be a substitute for living a genuinely pious and ethical life.  At some point or another if you presume upon the power and aid of God you may find it leaves you in your moment of testing and you don't pass the test.  It doesn't mean God can't or won't save you, but it might mean that you get to feel the full force of the consequences for your own life of self-serving idiocy. 

Throughout the narrative of Judges Samson generally does what he does in spite of his motives. He comes across as a cheater in the riddle he poses at his own wedding, leaning heavily on an incident only he was present for, a set of actions that involved him scooping honey out of the carcass of a lion and feeding it not just to himself but to his parents, thus defiling them all and rendering them impure within the strictures of the naziritic observance.  Samson also uses a donkey's jawbone to kill a mess of people, yet another case in which Samson blithely ignored one of the few rules of purifying separation the nazirite was supposed to adhere to.  At the end of his life, when he killed more Phillistines in his death than while he lived, he asks to get vengeance against his enemies for his two eyes, not out of any loyalty or consideration for Israel as a whole. 

And yet Samson was mentioned as one of the heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11. It's as though Samson spent his whole life trying to live life just like any Phillistine, even going so far as to pursue Phillistine women.  If he's a saint it's because God would not let go him of him not because Samson demonstrated any will to be particularly obedient to God about fairly basic rules of conduct for a Jewish person in that time and place.

Lately, since Wenatchee The Hatchet finally got around to watching Archer, and Samson does come across as being somewhat like the randy and uncouth protagonist of that cartoon. 

What made Samson a hero?  Well, from an Israelite standpoint, God used Samson, generally in spite of Samson's own motives ,to exact punishment on the Phillistines, who were enemies of Israel for a while.  Samson did seem to have flashes of awareness that the power he had was given by God but by and large his acknowledgments of Yahweh appear in Judges 15:18 and 16:28-30.  The rest of the time it doesn't seem as though Samson had much thought for God even when the power of God worked through him to kill Phillistines.

What is striking about those upon whom the spirit of God works in the book of Judges is that they don't lose their individual agency.  If anything they not only don't lose their agency they seem to go on and say or do the things that are most characteristically flawed about them.  After Gideon is clothed in the spirit of the Lord what does he do?  He puts out that fleece, unsure that Yahweh is really with him after all.  Jephthah makes a weirdly calculated vow that IF God is with him and gives him a victory then he'd sacrifice ... whatever ... happens to come out to greet him.  As Barry Webb explained in his commentary on Judges, the vow was a hedging and calculated sort of vow and it also suggests that Jephthah didn't even have any clear sense that the spirit of God was upon him.  Webb lays out an exegetical case for why the burnt offering/holocaust interpretation has to be rendered literally.  Jephthah actually shifts the blame to his daughter for coming out to greet him and his daughter, revealing a level of integrity and selflessness Jephthah did not match, accepts the vow as binding.  Jephthah, depending on how we read the text, does not come across as someone who would ignore or nullify the vow.  Why Jephthah was considered a hero would have to be explained another time, largely in terms of his willingness as an ostracized bastard cast out of his family inheritance and clan to nevertheless be willing, even conditionally, to fight to rescue Israelites from a war.  That Jepthah was the first judge that was nominated by Israelites rather than directly appointed or called by the Lord would be another topic to discuss at another time.

All that to say, it's not a big surprise if you engage carefully with Judges to see that the men who are empowered by God to do great and remarkable things don't stop being precisely as bad as they were before God called them.  If anything they go on to get worse.  The slide toward apostasy in Israel began before Gideon was even dead, a foreboding development in the narrative of Judges. 

When Samson tells his father he wants to marry that Phillistine woman he says "Get her for me, for she's the right one in my eyes" the foreshadowing of the end of the book of Judges is clear.  Samson, as judge, articulates the "right in his own eyes" ethos that becomes the end of the book as a whole.  The leader, sort of, pioneers by example the moral decline of the people while also reflecting it. 

Long ago, back in the early Mars Hill days, on the older Midrash, there were some who theorized, no, asserted that Samson turned out to be as bad as he did because his parents dropped the ball.  Parenting fail, big time.  But the text of Judges never indicates this even once.  The Bible has at least a handful of stories of children who turn out to be remarkably different in character from their parents.  Samson seems heedless of the naziritic code and does not lose his strength after repeated in fractions against it.  He touches corpses, he kills willy-nilly, he visits a prostitute, pursues Phillistine women, and "may" have ignored the ban on grapes, too.  Cutting the hair was the last straw, the one last rule Samson hadn't broken along the way of being probably the worst nazirite in the Bible. 

Samson's life does not look like the life of someone transformed from a bad person into a righteous person.  No, he pretty much stays bad from start to finish.  And yet he's mentioned as one of the heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

on plucked strings 2: the physics of the sound of the banjo

A little older but still worth a reading. That drumhead foundation for the bridge makes all the difference, it turns out, for defining the sound of the instrument.

on plucked strings 1: Atlantic Monthly "the rise and fall (and rise) of the ukulele

Been sketching out ideas for a sonata for ukulele and guitar for months.  Reentrant tuning takes some getting used to but there's a pretty sweet split-third C chord latent within that tuning that is probably going to be the basis for some music, ideally.

another from the Atlantic ... inexplicably yet explicably about Taylor Swift's navel?

There are reasons the internet does not "need" to exist but there's a paragraph that sort of peeked out
from amidst the article.  There's a cultural history in some parts about some parts being ciphers for other parts.

All the jokey chatter around Swift's alleged non-human-ness is amusing enough, but it also inadvertently references decades of earlier American cultural history during which the female navel was seen as indescribably problematic, and a thing that should remain shrouded. In his book The Naked Ape, zoologist and ethologist Desmond Morris wrote that this immense discomfort stemmed from the fact that the female navel was essentially a "genital echo," a kind of symbolic "pseudo-vagina." The belly button served to draw the eye southward, like cleavage (or with men, like the "abdominal V").

"genital echo"?  ... okay ... so if a certain megachurch preacher had tried this more mediating approach ... would the "pseudo-vagina" have made more sense of Song of Songs 2 or ... of Proverbs 3?

for sake of review ...

Atlantic: "Genetic Testing and Tribal Identity" the ethics of scientific research on Native American artifacts and informed consent

Short version, scientists have ethical questions they have to face about what they are and aren't expected to share in advance before obtaining genetic samples to do research.  In one case genetic material was obtained for two goals, the first to assess diabetic frequency and the other to map travel and migration patterns--the former was rejected while the latter was accepted.  But there's been ... kind of a history of scientists just taking stuff without bothering to get consent, informed or otherwise, to do research. 

In an era in which information about genetics can be put to a wide range of uses the ethics of obtaining informed consent and actual permission before doing something have become more crucial in genetic research.  In at least one case, summarized in the article, it is absolutely not better to ask for forgiveness rather than permission if someone decides to file litigation, or is it?