Friday, May 22, 2015

a musician needs to stay close to the instrument, on Mark Driscoll having a crowd to work in lieu of actually being a local church pastor

Among musicians it is a commonplace that the time you spend away from the instrument will not take away from your understanding or mastery of music, but it will take away your body's ability to easily execute what you were once able to do.  Your body has to be trained and kept in discipline or you lose an important part of your art.  You need to stay close to your instrument. You need to be able to play at regular intervals to assess where your skill is at, what your limitations are, what you've mastered, and what has become second-nature.
Which gets us to Mark Driscoll.  Some have said the recent return to the stage is an attempt to control the narrative.  There's that possibility, too, of course, but a master violinist needs a fiddle to play.  Let's propose that Mark is going back to basics. He spiraled down hard in the wake of two year's worth of controversy surrounding his books, that a book was bought a place on a bestseller list and that his books were riddled with what have been euphemistically referred to as "citation errors".  Driscoll by now has to understand that the written word might as well be a toxin to him, at least for now.  
But he needs a camera and a microphone to get back on his feet.  He needs a crowd to work and as we're seeing there are crowds willing to let him work them over to make sure his playing hands still got it.  Mark Driscoll got a degree in speech communications and his wife trained in public relations.  Selling pep talks and branding isn't exactly in blood for this couple but it's what they've trained for, both of them, even if it doesn't always seem that way.  That, however, is a chamber in the heart of the sell, acquiring the ability to come off like you're not actually out there to just sell something.  As Alastair Roberts invoked Mad Men to describe the Ad Man's Gospel, the pertinent quote could be "You are the product, you, feeling something." 
It's less important to whatever crowd Driscoll speaks in front of that there are four distinct narratives for how and why he resigned from leading Mars Hill.  For the crowd that listens to him there's a ready-made proposal that, well, there are the three synoptics and John, right (and unbelievers question those, too)?  So the changes in Driscoll's story in the last year won't matter to whatever crowd he's talking in front of.  They don't care.  They don't need to.  They're not there in that audience for a footnoted history of Mars Hill Church and Driscoll's public ministry. 
The more Driscoll gets in front of a camera and takes a microphone the more he provides evidence that when given the choice to just be a local church pastor or to be a celebrity he not only chose celebrity when he resigned in October 2014, he's now added to that decision a retroactive clarification that that choice was vetted by a divine memo.  Had Driscoll truly been told God said it was okay for him to quit he could have led with that in his October 2014 resignation letter. 
The violinist can't be away from the violin too long without losing the touch.  From the sound of things, Driscoll's still got the ability to work a crowd and over time he's revealing that he's going to stick with what he knows. There's a good possibility that by the time the Driscolls talk with Brian Houston they'll have both refined the current narrative and that we're going to have a chance to hear the beta-versions of it throughout this year.  Driscoll's got an incentive to regain control of the message but in order to do this he needs to return to his medium.

Monday, May 18, 2015

don't have TOO much faith in Marvel ... "The On Screen Limits of Marvel's comic-book storytelling"
Midway through Avengers: Age of Ultron, after a debilitating battle, Marvel's titular heroic team takes shelter at a quiet farm to recover and take stock of themselves. Joss Whedon's film, the eleventh in the increasingly overwhelming "Marvel Cinematic Universe," is a bombastic experience that lays several action sequences end-to-end, with only brief pauses for humor or character development. The most significant is the farm interlude: It’s a crucial moment, because it lets the team reflect on their failings and ponder their relevance to the world, which is the film’s core theme. But it’s not the Marvel Universe’s core theme, which is why, according to Whedon, the studio “pointed a gun” at the sequence during post-production
Studio interference is hardly a novel concept in Hollywood, and Whedon is hardly the first director to complain about the intersection of business and art in moviemaking. But Marvel’s approach to storytelling increasingly comes into conflict with the idea of a film being able to stand on its own, even as part of a series. Amid complaints of too many sequels, Marvel has largely dodged criticism because of the generally consistent output of its products, but while Age of Ultron has gotten decent critical notices, its seams are far easier to see. Nowhere is Marvel’s interference more obvious than a scene following the trip to the farm, where Thor the Avenger zips off to take a bath
it's been reported Marvel pointed a gun at the farm sequence (where character development moments actually happen) and told Whedon the cave-bath scene telegraphing Thanos and Infinity Wars had to stay or the whole farm sequence would get cut. 
So Thanos decided to finally get off his but and get his own soda out of the icebox.  This is not reason to look forward to more films, is it?  If someone were to say DC can't catch up with Marvel I'd say don't bother, the completely integrated cinematic universe is a bad idea.  Even with the Nolan Batman films, let's note that the weak link in the trilogy (generally considered The Dark Knight Rises) is the one film in the trilogy that depends on you having seen the previous installments, something that is actually not necessary for Batman Begins and even The Dark Knight.  Better to have films that are devoted to getting us to care about a few characters than films that are also required to deal with twenty future potential franchise films.  I really enjoyed the first Avengers film.  This second one felt too freighted by Marvel's expectation that we're all on the hook for five more movies.  No, we're not. 

HT Terry Teachout: an axiom on writers and artists, the ones who talk about it generally fail at doing it

“It is a rule, almost without exception, that writers and painters, who are always talking about being artists, break down at just that level.”
Anthony Powell, A Writer’s Notebook

Yes, it does seem to be common that writers who talk about being writers generally aren't writing.  The writers who talk about structural problems they're trying to solve and whether their solutions are congruent with the characters they have?  Those are actual writers. 

And the axiom about how writing about music is like dancing about architecture?  Polemical fluff.

HT Jim West, an observation about prophets.

Prophets never resign or retire, they just die.

Seems generally applicable.  Anybody wanna try to come up with a counterexample of a self-described prophet who resigned?

How about Mark Driscoll?