Friday, February 13, 2015

a few links for the weekend

If you aren't rich by 45, give up.

More from Slate this week that was more ... baffling, especially in juxtaposition.

Eric Posner asserted at surprising length that college students these days are basically children so we should treat them that way.

So some kids have enough sex at college that Amanda Hess had an article leading with "How Drunk is Too Drunk to Have Sex?" This is a bit baffling but not everyone went to college at a state school and some schools don't permit alcohol on campuses.

But how, exactly, college age students came to be viewed as still children in the last twenty years would require books.  I got the impression that by the time you graduated from high school you might not be able to go to college and you'd have to figure out how to live and work, or work and live. 

Conservative Christians have been bewailing the failure of millenials to pass the usual thresholds of adulthood for at least a decade or more.  And it seems that more of the millenials are apt to be living with the parents rather than moved-out because they haven't been marrying or investing in real estate.

But the nuclear family that social conservatives seem to pine for has not been the historic global norm any more than the completely egalitarian household unfettered by real differences in physiological, social, or emotional capacities seems like a plausible future.  It's been the dour assessment of Wenatchee The Hatchet that American social conservatives want to go back to a past that didn't really exist while American progressives want to go to a future that is impractical and unsustainable and in both cases Americans seem determined to fashion the family into its own ideological/political image. 

If the middle class has, as some have been saying for a while, disintegrating then the revival of extended family/inter-generational or intra-generational collectives would be a sensible decision made from economic necessity.

Apropos of nothing ...

Sarah Perry over at Ribbon Farm discusses what ritual is and isn't and has something interesting ...
Costly signaling is a framework within which the “irrational” sacrifices and acts of ritual can be made sense of. Costly signaling comes from evolutionary biology, and posits that a signal that is very costly to produce is especially likely to be honest. A peacock’s tail is the classic example: only a very healthy and fit bird could get away with growing such a ridiculously impractical tail. Similarly, sacrificing a great deal for one’s group is a costly signal of loyalty, and therefore more likely honest than mere “lip service.”

In my view, this “costly signaling” theory takes us only halfway to understanding ritual effectiveness. Richard Sosis and Eric Bressler’s study of the longevity of communes found that costly signals in the form of behavioral sacrifice (for example, food prohibitions and sexual restrictions) were correlated with the longevity of religious communes – but not secular communes. More demanding religious communes lasted much longer than less demanding communes. And, importantly, non-religious communes had poor survival no matter how much they demanded from their members. The other half of the secret to ritual is the mental states evoked by ritual. A ritual that does not produce the proper mental states will not be effective at facilitating cooperation:

skipping ahead, Perry writes:

And so, the second essence of my model of ritual is the evocation of specific mental states. If cooperation and the solution of coordination problems is the “fire” of ritual, then costly signaling is its fuel, and the ritual mental state is its oxygen. Here is my model of ritual:
  1. Traditional behaviors are performed, often including speech acts;
  2. Time and other things are sacrificed;
  3. Mental states are evoked and emotional display is constrained;
  4. Certain aspects (purpose, mechanism, history) are opaque or concealed; and
  5. A sacred or otherwise “higher” purpose is understood;
With the function of:
  1. Changing the social status of some member or members;
  2. Strengthening the group; and
  3. Solving coordination problems.

Okay, the reason this struck me as interesting and accurate is that if you look at that schematic and you were, say, at "Dead Men" circa 2001-2002 at Mars Hill ... that kind of summed up what was going on.  For a lengthy discourse on "Dead Men' as something referenced both in the 2006 Driscoll book and the 2011 fundraising film God's Work, Our Witness go over here:

It's not difficult to understand "Dead Men" as a deliberate initiation ritual for those men within the community of Mars Hill who were considered legitimate members of the brotherhood.  Given the functionality Perry outlines as the "goal" of ritual, "Dead Men" pretty well fit ritual.  It was eventually replaced by the mens' "advance", but by then we're talking run-of-the-mill retreats.  The ritual significance of having tied "Dead Men" to the actual dismantling of the old Midrash and replacing it with a strictly in-person aspiring members only was lost.  There's no unusual sacrifice involved in registering for a standardized Christian mens' retreat, all customary verbiage to the contrary withstanding.  But a word-of-mouth invitation only for aspiring male members of a nascent church?  That's got ritual all over it. 

in other news ...

the voice of the original Space Ghost, Gary Owens, has died.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Carol A. Newsom: Demons and Evil Angels in Early Judaism

Might have some comments about this interesting lecture on demons and evil angels in early Judaism ... later.

Well, a thumbnail sketch can't hurt, most intriguing is that in Jewish literature diabology was not a high priority but in Mesoptamian philosophy and religion demons were a hot topic.  Newsom covered a number of interesting non-Jewish theories about the nature and origin of demons.  One theory was that demons were the offspring of gods who had moral birth defects, were cast out from the divine realm, and preyed upon humans.  A second one, more associated with Lilith, an old Mesoptamian demon, is that demons were the souls of young women who died without having married or borne children and that they were motivated by malice and envy.  Though Jewish speculative literature eventually came up with other stories and uses for Lilith in the earlier literature Lilith was apparently more a nasty and, unusually, named demon that seems to be alluded to by Isaiah that was referenced in non-Jewish literature.

We're tagging this in the "spiritual warfare" category because if you'd like to cross reference the lecture linked to above with some other ... uh ... discourses on spiritual warfare, you'll have that option.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

and another short note on musical stuff, a question that has emerged so, uh, is Boije 349 all we've got for an edition of Matiegka's Grand Sonata 1?

The analysis of Grand Sonata 1 that has supposed to taken shape has hit one of those roadblocks that a mere blogger didn't foresee but should have, one of those pesky things called questions about engraved editions and all that.  When you hear every commercially available recording sound an A natural where no A natural was mentioned in the score ...

sigh ... this is the kind of thing that classical guitarists get into long fights about and for the piece in question it's arguable that whether or not the note being A natural or A sharp even matters would seem moot.  But we'll get to what I mean in a week or so, time permitting.  There's never been any kind of modernized edition of Matiegka's Grand Sonata 1, has there?  It's a charming and intriguing work and along the way to discussing what goes on in the piece some questions came up about, oh, A naturals and A sharps in the modulating transition.  It also seems from the left hand instructions in measure 1 that the descending glissandi stuff would have to be taken on strings 2 and 3 rather than strings 1 and 2 (though the passage sounds fine if taken on strings 1 and 2 anyway). 

There are at least ... three commercially available recordings of this work and Wenatchee the Hatchet means to get around to discussing them (got them all) but it dawned on me this weekend that in all three cases an A natural is taken in that modulating transition where the score seems to call for an A sharp.  Because in all adjacent measures the introduction of A natural within the same measure had a courtesy natural it might be that what has been played as A natural could have or should have been a A sharp ... but it may be easier to show rather than tell and it sure seems like Wenzeslaus Matiegka's been dead long (1773 to 1830) enough the work has gone into the public domain.

As I get more immersed in Matiegka's work I'm inclined to agree with David Leisner that Matiegka's work is substantial, even when compared to the usual suspects of substantial early Romantic classical guitar literature by Sor or Giuliani.  I've blogged about sonata form in the work of Sor, Giuliani and Diabelli in the past and plan to return to that.  Matiegka has surpassed them in musical interest for me and Matiegka's work shows a clarity and command of large-scale form and some contrapuntal invention that seems well worth discussing further.

But ... there's also some questions coming up for me about editions and whether there are any ... any manuscripts that could be consulted to discern questions about sharps and naturals and stuff.