Thursday, August 17, 2017

a guest piece at Mere Orthodoxy regarding social conservatives vs tribal nationalism name-drops Edmund Burke but I wonder whether some of Burke's ideas have been summarily dropped by neo-cons long ago (as in never held to to begin with)
Specifically, social conservatism was the political theory of Edmund Burke, Alexis de Tocqueville, and Russell Kirk: the belief that tradition, family, mores, and religion are essential for justice, liberty, and flourishing. Law should protect and favor them. And government governs best when it governs closest to the people. William F. Buckley, a Roman Catholic, introduced the Burkean approach to the emerging conservative movement starting in the 1950s.

Now I admit, I really like a couple of things Edmund Burke wrote.  He's not always the easiest to read but you don't exactly expect a treatise on the distinction between the beautiful and sublime to be page-turning material, do you? 

But I was reading his address to Parliament on the topic of American taxation over the last year and one of the things that jumped out at me is a passage that doesn't get mention in, say, a Wikipedia entry on the address.  It's this part:


But I hear it rung continually in my ears, now and formerly,--"The preamble! what will become of the preamble, if you repeal this tax?"--I am sorry to be compelled so often to expose the calamities and disgraces of Parliament. The preamble of this law, standing as it now stands, has the lie direct given to it by the provisionary part of the act: if that can be called provisionary which makes no provision. I should be afraid to express myself in this manner, especially in the face of such a
formidable array of ability as is now drawn up before me, composed of the ancient household troops of that side of the House and the new recruits from this, if the matter were not clear and indisputable.
Nothing but truth could give me this firmness; but plain truth and clear evidence can be beat down by no ability. The clerk will be so good as to turn to the act, and to read this favorite preamble.
"Whereas it is expedient that a revenue should be raised in your Majesty's dominions in America, for making a more certain and adequate provision for defraying the charge of the administration of
justice and support of civil government
in such provinces where it shall be found necessary, and towards further defraying the expenses of defending, protecting, and securing the said dominions." [emphases original]

You have heard this pompous performance. Now where is the revenue which is to do all these mighty things? Five sixths repealed—abandoned—sunk—gone—lost for ever. Does the poor solitary tea duty support the purposes of this preamble? Is not the supply there stated as effectually abandoned as if the tea duty had perished in the general wreck? Here, Mr. Speaker, is a precious mockery—a preamble without an act—taxes granted in order to be repealed—and the reasons of the grant still carefully kept up! This is raising a revenue in America! This is preserving dignity in England! If you repeal this tax in compliance with the motion, I readily admit that you lose this fair preamble. Estimate your loss in it. The object of the act is gone already; and all you suffer is the purging the Statute-book of the opprobrium of an empty, absurd, and false recital.

There are a couple of passages that are considered wiki-worthy adjacent others that didn't get quoted, but those are the passages most salient to Burke's practical arguments.  Let's see ... :

Whether you were right or wrong in establishing the colonies on the principles of commercial monopoly, rather than on that of revenue, is at this day a problem of mere speculation. You cannot have both by the same authority. To join together the restraints of an universal internal and external monopoly with an universal internal and external taxation is an unnatural union,--perfect,  uncompensated slavery.  [the usual pull-quote stuff] You have long since decided for yourself and them; and you and they have prospered exceedingly under that decision.
Let's zero in on the following passage:

This nation, Sir, never thought of departing from that choice until the period immediately on the close of the last war. Then a scheme of government, new in many things, seemed to have been adopted. I saw, or thought I saw, several symptoms of a great change, whilst I sat in your gallery, a good while before I had the honor of a seat in this House. At that period the necessity was established of keeping up no less than twenty new regiments, with twenty colonels capable of seats in this House. This scheme was adopted with very general applause from all sides, at the very time that, by your conquests in America, your danger from foreign attempts in that part of the world was much lessened, or indeed rather quite over. When this huge increase of military establishment was resolved on, a revenue was to be found to support so great a burden. Country gentlemen, the great patrons of economy, and the great resisters of a standing armed force, would not have entered with much alacrity into the vote for so large and so expensive an army, if they had been very sure that they were to continue to pay for it. But hopes of another kind were held out to them; and in particular, I well remember that Mr. Townshend, in a brilliant harangue on this subject, did dazzle them by playing before their eyes the image of a revenue to be raised in America. [emphases added]

Here began to dawn the first glimmerings of this new colony system.  ...

The Empire had a new bad-ass array of regiments with officers capable of seats in Parliament.  Everyone was stoked about this new development and Burke's wry observation was to say that everyone was all applause so long as they would not be taxed for the upkeep of this notably expanded military presence that would maintain imperial activity abroad. 

The too long/didn't read conclusion Burke reached was to point out that the taxation that was installed and repealed for the purpose of providing the administration of justice and civil government in the American colonies was a sham. The real reason for the taxation was to maintain the standing military presence the English empire believed was necessary to maintain power in the new world.  You can't promise them by dint of an appeal to the need to tax them that they will have the rights and liberties of citizenship if the real reason you're taxing them is because you're treating them like a simple revenue stream.  If you try to do both of these things at once you'll get a rebellion on your hands.

It probably doesn't need to be said that Burke was right about that.  People don't mind paying taxes quite so much if in exchange they see some kind of benefit for it.  People mind being taxed if they feel like they won't benefit from it (or someone they know).  The emphasized passages are what I've been thinking about--Burke was pretty direct in pointing out that the men with wealth and property who would otherwise refuse to fund an army were stoked about this new army.  Why?  They didn't have to pay for it, it was going to be paid for by taxation on the American colonists.  Let's tax them for the upkeep of our army! 

Now I know that progressives tend to think of Burke as some stinky old dude who was opposed to democracy because he didn't like where he thought the French revolution was going to be going.  But if this is the same Edmund Burke who was sympathetic to American revolution against the royal tax policies; who urged tolerance for Catholics and Jews; and who advised that people in India defy the East India Company are we ... sure that Burke was the kind of conservative that contemporary American social conservatives present him as having been?  I was talking to one of my friends from the Mars Hill days who's always been a self-identified progressive (though a moderate one) for as long as I've known him and I told him that it seems as though if you sit down and read Edmund Burke without the dogmatic lenses of the contemporary left and right that progressives might find some of Burke's criticisms of imperial practice weirdly salient to our own time.  Raising revenue to maintain an army for national defense that is needed is one thing, exacting revenue from colonies to pay for your armies so you can keep having your colonial empire is another matter.  Now, sure, there's no reason progressives won't think lowly of Burke because of how long he's been invoked by the right but what if, to the extent that Burke can be thought of as having ideas worth studying, we need to temporarily shake off the canards of the left and right or the red and blue about Burke to reconsider what he actually had to say?

It's hard to imagine someone taking the ideas of Burke's condemnation of the policies of taxation on the American colonies as something that automatically defends the kind of military adventurism we've had over the last twenty to thirty years (or, really, everything going back to Kennedy and Johnson for that matter). 

Why couldn't people on the left invoke Edmund Burke to propose that if Americans are going to be taxed it should be for an infrastructure that will be beneficial to them rather than, say, for the defraying of a globe-spanning military empire?  The problem of trying to balance guns and butter isn't going to go away and at some point social conservatives might have to consider the possibility that the hawkish stance we've had over the last half century is going to ultimately be inimical to social conservatism if by that we mean actual stability of families and domestic life.  I don't consider myself particularly progressive overall but I'm curious, and because I'm curious I've been reading Burke in the last couple of years.  So I'm not always sure that what Edmund Burke said he meant about a few topics is necessarily the same as what mainstream right-leaning press says he meant.  Or as Jonathan Haidt has been putting it, there's a difference between respecting the intellectual heritage of conservatives and taking the Republican party seriously as a manifestation of those ideals and traditions.  So let's get back to the Mere O piece.

Burkean conservatism worried that family breakdown, secularization, cultural atrophy, administrative centralization, and the loss of citizen-shaping education would lead to damaged souls, damaged communities, and a damaged nation. As I’ve argued elsewhere, these ideas can be tested with the tools of historical investigation and social science. To the extent that they have been, socially conservative ideas have usually been vindicated (with nuance, qualification, and exceptions). On the whole, it is better for families to stay together, for schools to teach with rigor and have high academic and ethical standards, for a robust civil society to exist, and for religion to inform the conscience of a nation. And it is better for public policy to foster and encourage such things.

By 2016 it had become evident that Burkean conservatism—its intellectual coherence, philosophical depth and rigor, and consonance with Biblical political theology—was the working ideology of a tiny circle of intellectuals, not the voice of a broad movement. Evangelicals as a group either did not understand or did not care about the deeper ideas supposedly beneath their own movement. There is still widespread opposition to abortion and (decreasingly) gay marriage, but little evidence that such opposition is rooted in the ideas that were supposed to have animated social conservatism.

As quoted above, Burkean conservatism also proposed that taxing colonists under the pretense of providing civil government to them when the real reason for the taxation was to maintain a standing military force was going to end badly, probably with some kind of rebellion.  If some of the contributors past and present wonder how and why evangelicals who "should" be more sympathetic to red state values on both family and foreign policy seem more open to progressive fiscal policies I'm going to be just impudent enough to suggest that if they were really reading Edmund Burke and thinking about possible applications of his response to his times this might be a little less mysterious. 

Okay, as someone who's been going through Burke's thoughts on the French revolution it's certainly true Burke was against the abolition of all the institutions, customs and traditions that provided the social cohesion of a society.  This didn't mean that he didn't think that the way the British empire handled American taxation or its treatment of Catholics and Jews was exemplary.  As someone who still thinks of himself as an evangelical Protestant in the Reformed stream it seems ... nearly impossible to believe that what's colloquially known as the Religious Right embodies ideals of religious toleration after the manner of what Edmund Burke was advocating for in his own era.  In a way it's a little mysterious, reading Burke, how it is that conservatives in the United States manage to see him as their intellectual forebear on the one hand, and how progressives can somehow see Burke as an enemy of democratic processes or progressive ideals.  Was making a case for religious tolerance for Catholics and Jews in the 18th century an anti-progressive cause?

See, refract Edmund Burke through the American Puritan Roger Williams and it's hard to arrive at a conclusion that the power of the state should be used to give people much trouble. 

Now I agree that Americans wrongly equate loyalty to the United States with loyalty to the church. The problem is that there's a blue state as well as a red state version of this and in both cases the red and blue partisans who have decided they want Jesus on their side have reverse-engineered a Jesus who will get their platform across. 

So as I was talking with one of my progressive friends from the Mars Hill days I suggested that if actual Burkean style conservatives and progressives could manage to work together to scale back military adventurism that might be something.  The reason it seems so unlikely to happen is that we've got a left and right with people so devoted to totalitarian scorched earth methods the possibility of forging what would obviously be ad hoc and short term alliances toward common policy goals may never get to happen. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Fredrik Deboer on recalibrating social media use, but first, some stuff from jazz blogger Ethan Iverson and revisiting a Pierre Bourdieu quote for some table setting

Now I've regularly enjoyed and benefited from reading Ethan Iverson's blog over the years.  His plug for Louise Talma's piano sonatas was persuasive enough I gave them a listen.  His interview with Terry Teachout about Teachout's Duke biography was fascinating. I particularly liked his interview with George Walker and advocacy for Walker's piano sonatas, and I now own recordings and scores for all five of those.  Iverson has had some misfires, the most notorious of which, on the blogosphere, had to do with a certain interview that people either already know about or don't need to know about.

Yet there are times I find Iverson frustrating.  It's not a pedantic streak.  I expect people interested in teaching to have a finely honed pedantic streak, in fact anyone who does any kind of teaching probably should have some of that in them. No, it's more in passing bromides about how people should go to the opera at least once a year or about how terrible it would be if culture turned into Star Wars movies and video games.  I mean, Episode VIII wasn't quite as lame as South Park signaled they thought it was.  It had its flaws but those were more clearly elucidated by Film Crit Hulk. 

But the way I hear it and see it Star Wars is just carrying the torch lit by Wagner's operas.

And then Iverson's got stuff like this ... :

Smart people knew all along that Trump’s supporters were motivated by racism or racism as a business. Historically, the broke and ignorant will take any excuse to blame “the other” for their predicament. Historically, the enfranchised stoke xenophobic fears in order to keep their own hoard growing.
The broke and ignorant possessing extra amounts of outward aggression became empowered after Trump became president.
Smart people were sure Trump had no chance of winning the nomination, let alone the electoral vote.  yet here we are.  Somehow the priesthood of entertainers didn't call this outcome. 
Having said that, when I've tried to think of ways to articulate what seems to be the difference between a liberal and a leftist to conservative friends and relatives it seems Iverson's done me a kind of favor.  The glibness with which Iverson assumes that smart people know that the poor people take refuge in racism in voting for Trump.  Iverson, at least, got in the cross hairs of self-identified leftist composer John Halle as in the orbit of what he called "jazzbros", which is a whole other topic. But where Iverson's recent tossed off lines seem pertinent is in light of something Halle quoted from Pierre Bourdieu on "racism of the intellect":
(Translation of Bourdieu’s 1983 Racisme de l’intelligence republished here.)
It is necessary to understand that there is no such thing as racism. Rather there are racisms-as many racisms as there are groups which need to justify their status, which is the usual function of racism. It seems to me therefore very important to apply the same analysis to forms of racism which are undoubtedly the most subtle, the most elusive and therefore the most rarely denounced, possible because usually those making the denunciations are themselves inclined to this form of racism. I’m referring to the racism of the intellect.
Racism of the intellect among the dominant classes is distinguished in several ways from that which one typically designates as racism, namely, the petit bourgeois form which is the target of most critiques, most notably beginning with that of Sartre.
This form of racism is characteristic of a dominant class whose maintenance depends to some extent on the transmission of inherited cultural capital understood as inherent and therefore natural and innate. Racism of intelligence is that through which elites aim to produce a “theodicy (rationalization) of their own privilege”, as Weber characterizes it, which is to say a justification of the social order which they dominate. It is this which makes elites convinced of their own inherent superiority.
All forms of racism are based on essentialism and racism of the intellect is the rationalization of the social order characteristic of the elite class whose power resides in the possession of credentials which, as do scholarly credentials, are supposed to confer the possession of specialized knowledge. These have taken the place of aristocratic titles of previous epochs in many societies-and confer access to positions of economic power-in the same way that the latter did.

So if Bourdieu was on to something about what he called the racism of the intellect and Iverson wrote so readily about the kind of racism that Bourdieu said is a favorite whipping target of the petit bourgeois then was what Iverson wrote a candidate for an overt and casual display of "racism of the intellect?"  Iverson might propose "no" because he doesn't consider himself to be really an academic in the official scholarly sense but who would insist that the racism of the intellect Bourdieu described is necessarily that of scholars?  Scholars of autism surely don't look down on those in the autism spectrum simply by dint of being scholars.  Or to put it another way, contemptuous elitism looking down on the unwashed masses can happen from within the middle class as well as the upper crust.

Now if there is something to this argument then perhaps the kind of assertions we would expect to see among those who harbor what Bourdieu described as a racism of the intellect would be to condemn those they regard as ignorant as being anti-intellectual.  Of course ... it's possible that this mutual animosity could be described as not necessarily being just about race but about, yes, you guessed it by now, class.  In a Venn diagram class and race can overlap but aren't necessarily always overlapping.  Which might get to the next detour before we're getting to Deboer's blogging, the recently reported concern some folks have about suburban grade inflation making inequality bigger and badder than it would have been in contexts where grade inflation wasn't the thing it's been over the last twenty or thirty years.

Here’s the latest, more profound way in which wealthier students have an advantage over lower-income ones: Those enrolled in private and suburban public high schools are being awarded higher grades—critical in the competition for college admission—than their urban public school counterparts with no less talent or potential, new research shows.
It’s not that those students have been getting smarter. Even as their grades were rising, their scores on the SAT college-entrance exam went down, not up. It’s that grade inflation is accelerating in the schools attended by higher-income Americans, who are also much more likely than their lower-income peers to be white, the research, by the College Board, found. This widens their lead in life over students in urban public schools, who are generally racial and ethnic minorities and from families that are far less well-off.  [emphasis added]
The grade-point average of students at private high schools who took the SAT climbed between 1998 and 2016 from 3.25 to 3.51, or almost 8 percent, the College Board found in research to be published early next year.
In suburban public high schools it went from 3.25 to 3.36.
In city public schools, it hardly budged, moving from 3.26 to 3.28.
“If there were a uniform upward drift, then we would have one problem,” said Michael Hurwitz, the senior director at the College Board, who led the research. “But this drift causes another problem: The variation does seem aligned with wealth in a very troubling way.”
These findings are troubling, but not surprising, said Richard Weissbourd, the director of the Human Development and Psychology program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. “To be attractive to parents,” private schools in particular, Weissbourd said, “need to be able to tout how many of their students went to selective colleges. So they’re incentivized to give better grades.”
The same concern about college admission drives parents of students in suburban schools to pressure principals and teachers, he said. “It becomes very high maintenance for schools to deal with aggressive parents. So that can also push grades up.”
Then the cycle repeats. [emphasis added]
“This is one of those things that works like a contagion,” Weissbourd said. “If you’re an independent school or a suburban school and you’re giving Bs and the school in the next community is giving A-minuses, you start to feel like those kids are going to get a leg up. So you start giving out A-minuses.”
 Of course we've linked to this Fredrik Deboer post "The Academic “Success Sequence” – Get Lucky at Birth, Mostly" before.  I've sarcastically but also seriously proposed that one of the problems with liberal arts studies and vocational entertainers in the current socio-economic climate in the United States and the United Kingdom is that they don't recognize they are part of a priestly ruling caste because they embrace an ideology of liberalism or progressivism but, more crucially, the art-religion they espouse in some sense exempts them from being a ruling caste because of inherent definitions.  So a Jennifer Lawrence can make more money per film than a million men or women might make in ten years but she is concerned that she's being underpaid compared to male co-stars.  It's not that there isn't an inequity in that so much as that the inequity in the amount of money entertainers get paid compared to the people who may clean their houses might be a sticking point to the point that people might have decided to note keep voting for the Democratic candidates the mainstream entertainment and DNC people told them to keep voting for. 
So in a way we're finally ready to pivot over to the recent Fredrick Deboer blog post.
What were other people thinking about, at least as far as could be gleaned by what they shared online? What appeared to be a big deal to them and what didn’t? I had lost my sense of social proportion. I couldn’t tell if the things my friends were obsessing about were things that the rest of the world was obsessing about. Talking to IRL friends that don’t post much or at all online helped give me a sense that I was missing something. But I didn’t know what.
No, I had to use the tools available to me to dramatically change the opinions and ideas and attitudes that were coming flowing into my mental life. And it had become clear that, though I have an RSS feed and I peruse certain websites and publications regularly, though I still read lots of books and physical journals and magazines, the opinions I was receiving were coming overwhelmingly through social media. People shared things and commented on what they shared on Facebook and Twitter, they made clear what ideas were permissible and what weren’t on Facebook and Twitter, they defined the shared mental world on Facebook and Twitter. They created a language that, if you weren’t paying attention, looked like the lingua franca. I’m sure there are people out there who can take all of this in with the proper perspective and not allow it to subtly shape your perception of social attitudes writ large. But I can’t.
 That these linguistic/conceptual bubbles exist on the left, right and center and whatever bubble you may be able to identify seems reliably given.
So I set about disconnecting, temporarily, from certain people, groups, publications, and conversations. I found voices that popped up in my feeds a lot and muted them. I unfollowed groups and pages. I looked out for certain markers of status and social belonging and used them as guides for what to avoid. I was less interested in avoiding certain subjects than I was in avoiding certain perspectives, the social frames that we all use to understand the world. The news cycle was what it was; I could not avoid Trump, as wonderful as that sounds. But I could avoid a certain way of looking at Trump, and at the broader world. In particular I wanted to look past what we once called ideology: I wanted to see the ways in which my internet-mediated intellectual life was dominated by assumptions that did not recognize themselves as assumptions, to understand how the perspective that did not understand itself to be a perspective had distorted my vision of the world. I wanted to better see the water in which my school of fish swims.
It’s all particularly disturbing because a lot of what you see and don’t online is the product of algorithms that are blunt instruments at best.
So I set about disconnecting, temporarily, from certain people, groups, publications, and conversations. I found voices that popped up in my feeds a lot and muted them. I unfollowed groups and pages. I looked out for certain markers of status and social belonging and used them as guides for what to avoid. I was less interested in avoiding certain subjects than I was in avoiding certain perspectives, the social frames that we all use to understand the world. The news cycle was what it was; I could not avoid Trump, as wonderful as that sounds. But I could avoid a certain way of looking at Trump, and at the broader world. In particular I wanted to look past what we once called ideology: I wanted to see the ways in which my internet-mediated intellectual life was dominated by assumptions that did not recognize themselves as assumptions, to understand how the perspective that did not understand itself to be a perspective had distorted my vision of the world. I wanted to better see the water in which my school of fish swims. [emphasis added]
I was prepared for this to result in a markedly different online experience for me, and for it to somewhat change my perception of what “everyone” thinks, of what people are reading, watching, and listening to, etc. But even so, I’ve been floored by how dramatically different the online world looks with a little manipulation of the feeds. A few subjects dropped out entirely; the Twin Peaks reboot went from being everywhere to being nowhere, for example. But what really changed was the affect through which the world was presenting itself to me.
I never managed to get on the Twin Peaks train.  This year the big revival of a classic television show that had me excited wasn't Twin Peaks, it was Samurai Jack. While I could write about how much fun season 5 was I'll spare you that if you haven't seen it yourself.  Instead we'll get back to the post.
You would not be surprised by what my lenses appear to have been (and still largely to be): very college educated, very left-leaning, very New York, very media-savvy, very middlebrow, and for lack of a better word, very “cool.” That is, the perspective that I had tried to wean myself off of was made up of people whose online self-presentation is ostentatiously ironic, in-joke heavy, filled with cultural references that are designed to hit just the right level of obscurity, and generally oriented towards impressing people through being performatively not impressed by anything. It was made up of people who are passionately invested in not appearing to be passionately invested in anything. It’s a sensibility that you can trace back to Gawker and Spy magazine and much, much further back than that, if you care to.
Perhaps most dramatic was the changes to what – and who – was perceived as a Big Deal. By cutting out a hundred voices or fewer, things and people that everybody talks about became things and people that nobody talks about. The internet is a technology for creating small ponds for us to all be big fish in. [emphasis added] But you change your perspective just slightly, move over just an inch, and suddenly you get a sense of just how few people know about you or could possibly care. It’s oddly comforting, to be reminded that even if you enjoy a little internet notoriety, the average person on the street could not care less who you are or what you do. I recommend it.
Everyone knows, these days, that we’re living in digitally-enabled bubbles. The trouble is that our instincts are naturally to believe that everyone else is in a bubble, or at least that their bubbles are smaller and with thicker walls. But people like me – college educated, living in an urban enclave, at least socially liberal, tuned in to arts and culture news and criticism, possessed of the vocabulary of media and the academy, “savvy” – you face unique temptations in this regard. No, I don’t think that this kind of bubble is the same as someone who only gets their news from InfoWars and Breitbart. But the fact that so many people like me write the professional internet, the fact that the creators of the idioms and attitudes of our newsmedia and cultural industry almost universally come from a very thin slice of the American populace, is genuinely dangerous. [emphasis added]
I suppose I could queu up a quote from Jacques Ellul about how journalists and entertainers are inherently part of that new post-industrial aristocrat caste known as propagandists ...
Translated from the French by Konrad Kellen & Jean Lerner
Vintage Books Edition, February 1973
Copyright (c) 195 by Alfred A Knopf Inc.
ISBN 0-394-71874-7

from footnote on page 252... The propagandist is a technician and a member of an aristocracy of technicians that establishes itself above the institutions of a democracy and acts outside its norms. Besides, the employment of propaganda leads the propagandist to cynicism, disbelief in values, non-submission to the law of numbers, doubts on the value of opinions, and contempt for the propagandee and the elected representative; he knows how public opinion is fashioned. The propagandist cannot subject himself to popular judgment and democracy. Finally, the propagandist is privy to all State secrets and acts at the same time to shape opinions: he really has a position of fundamental direction. The combinations of these three elements make the propagandist an aristocrat. It cannot be otherwise. Every democracy that launches propaganda creates in and by such propaganda its own enemy, an aristocracy that may destroy it.
When it's put like that perhaps the creepiest thing about the current executive is that he's emerged from within the propagandist caste and so other members of the propagandist castes recognize one of their own? 

Saturday, August 12, 2017

John Halle writes a defense of Kenny G against the respectability politics of "real" jazz

A few weeks ago, an off duty flight attendant discovered that her neighbor on a Tampa to Los Angeles flight was a musical celebrity. Having recently lost her daughter to brain cancer, she suggested an impromptu performance to raise money to for cancer research. The request was immediately agreed to, resulting in the artist strolling down the aisles with his instrument, passing the hat for donations which quickly exceeded the $1,000 goal.

All that would seem innocuous enough. But as might be expected within some corners of the internet, what was an anodyne act of charity became the grounds for opening the floodgates of abuse.
Why this was the case will make sense when name of the musician is revealed, a figure so universally reviled that to utter a word in his defense is to invite social ostracism, namely “the weasel-toned saxophonist,” as he was referred to by the New York Times, Kenny Gorelick, or Kenny G, as he is known to his fans. So toxic are the sounds he emits that an encounter with them constitutes “torture”-the aural equivalent of the United Airlines assault of one of its passengers, which had occurred only a few days before.

At least, such was the perception of the cross section of the left/liberal consensus which appears on my twitterfeed.

As was often the case within this sector, the apparent fact of the matter was something other than what was imagined. According to reports, many passengers on the flight found it the exact opposite having reveled in “the show of a lifetime.”

But these expressions of enthusiasm were easily written off. They were, after all, deriving from a “large crowd” whose “basest impulses” manifest “callous disregard for the larger issues . . .marking a new low point in modern culture – something that we all should be totally embarrassed about – and afraid of.” All this “we ignore. . . at our own peril.”

This bit of cultural news or trivia passed me by ass I'm not a Kenny G fan and have never much liked his music.  But if he put on an impromptu charitable performance to raise money for cancer research, that's great.   It's certainly possible to not be on the same page as Halle about his "Jazz After Politics" piece or even the various heated reactions written to that piece (although, in a way, that could have invited an opportunity to revisit Adorno's "On Jazz" polemics as having possibly been vindicated, even though I think there are reasons to reject that assessment (interesting to me now is how Halle's piece predated the no-jazz-at-Yale incident that would happen the following year, and get a response by Ethan Iverson, one of a number of people Halle seemed to bracket into the "jazzbro" category).  Still, this recent defense of Kenny G was interesting reading because what Halle decided to take direct aim at was the respectability politics of despising Kenny G's music.

One might dare to suggest Kenny G's music is so widely despised among respectable circles that nobody would even think to suggest, as has been done with so much more popular and respected entertainment acts, that Kenny G was guilty of cultural appropriation--who, after all, would dare to suggest that whatever Kenny G culturally appropriated was worth appropriating if they could figure out what it was!?  ;) 

Halle wrote:
Metheny and those who cite him have evidently failed to learn the underlying lesson from the collapse of these defenses of the traditional canon. For it will be apparent that their criticisms amounts to little more than retrofitting the discredited assumptions of the old musicology to defend a post modern “high/low” distinction. The only difference is that pure jazz now occupies the summit (1) with the debased form represented by Kenny G and others viewed as fundamentally unserious and beneath discussion. The grounds on which this is claimed to be so is just as was the case in the benighted past: some analytic characteristic is shown to be present or absent in the objective structure of the music and taken to be a proxy for aesthetic merit, artistic seriousness of purpose or the lack of it based on the assumption the there is a necessary connection. But that matters are not so simple, while taken for granted within what was formerly known as “classical” music, has evidently yet to register with those who concerned with policing the boundaries of jazz.

For example, for them, G making use of a “limited vocabulary” constitutes a de facto criticism. It is, however, obvious that this is not the case and that Metheny himself doesn’t believe that it is: for if any composer can be described a making use of a “limited harmonic and melodic vocabulary” it is Steve Reich, whose Electric Counterpoint Metheny himself commissioned and presumably admires. What is the difference between the “minimalism” of Kenny G and that of Reich? Showing that there is one is not so trivial. But even if we could determine what it is, it would not answer the question why “we” (those claiming to have acculturated and informed musical tastes) tend to value the music of Reich above Gorelick.

Or, moving closer to Kenny G’s soul/pop/jazz idiom, if a “limited” harmonic and melodic vocabulary is a fatal flaw, what to make of the blues? Yes, one finds objectively less chromaticism in B.B. King, Muddy Waters or Albert Collins than in Wagner or William Byrd. But only a pedant or a chauvinist would suggest that this, or any “limitation” unearthed via a music theoretical analysis should take precedence over the visceral experience evoked by the blues.

At this point I'd interject that what we can find in music is that simplicity in one area can be offset by complexity in some other area.  Anyone who has tried to play music in open D and open G tunings on a guitar will understand how drastically your range of easily-played notes becomes.  That helps me appreciate why blues recordings can blur together.  A lot of songs in A and D and E and G where open strings abound.  It used to bug me sometimes but I can respect it as a convention and the guitar lets you play the same note in six different places if you've mastered the geography of the fretboard.

Ah, back to my actual point, a harmonically and melodically "simple" musician like John Lee Hooker can abound in subtleties in rhythm.  There's all kinds of beautiful things you can do in compound meters that John Lee Hooker did throughout his career even when it could seem to an inattentive listener he was just endlessly vamping on a seventh chord in an open G tuning, or open D. If you can't hear oblique motion you might slip into thinking this performance, for instance, is just constant vamping on a single chord.

Not too surprisingly, Halle builds up to this point, which is not so much a defense of Kenny G's music itself (of which he, too, has never been a fan).


At this point some readers are probably wondering why I devoted 1300 words to meta-theoretical questions provoked by the music of Kenny G-probably 1300 words more than any previous discussion of the subject.

I should make clear that, appearances aside, it is not my intention to defend Kenny G or his music for which I have as little intellectual and temperamental affinity as those attacking it. But while the music doesn’t require a defense, those being belittled for their musical preferences and, by implication, their lack of intelligence and sophistication do. And it is one which they deserve to have since, as was demonstrated above, the attacks on them are fundamentally fraudulent in that the supposed authority on which they are based collapses when subjected to scrutiny. [emphasis added]

With that in mind, we can return to the comparison alluded to above: what accounts for near identical rhetoric deployed in jazz purist attacks on Kenny G and those emanating from the political establishment against Trump.

Which, as so often happens lately when I read about these kinds of things, reminds me of what Richard Taruskin described as the gap between the academic canon of music and the repertoire canon of music; between that music which is regarded as respectable to discuss and teach in colleges and which people pay to hear with their own money in concerts and through recordings. 

Getting back to Iverson ...

Robert Blocker put his foot in it properly last week. Outraged tweets on my timeline were soon followed by several valuable longer objections.

Alex Ross.

Michael Lewanski.

Matthew Guerrieri. (If you look at just one of these links, make sure it’s this one, a brilliant set of unlikely connections concluding with a luminous call to arms. Soho is always a good read.)

It’s so nice when a member of the opposition makes a public mistake, it gives us a chance to pile on and declare what we are striving for on our side.


I'm sure for most people the talk of not teaching jazz at Yale came and went without so much as a thought but amongst blogging musicians it was a big thing, even a scandal.  Iverson didn't unpack so much as suppose a definition of "opposition" to jazz being taught at a place like Yale as part of the Western canon.  There's something of a self-imposed double bind in Iverson's approach which seems not atypical of self-identified liberal white musicians who like jazz.  Let's see if we can come up with a demonstration:

All the jazz greats existed outside the system. Indeed, most of them ignored the limitations of their racist society to create not just music but whole ways of living that forced fellow Americans to give respect. This kind of cunning, streetwise, and unstated elegance is a key to the music. I’ve never met an important jazz musician who wasn’t some kind of gangster. (The last sentence could be said of most significant artists in any field, but it might particularly apply to jazz.)

Outside what system?  The music business?  The American market?  Or does the system refer more strictly to American academics.  Because if the jazz greats existed outside the system ...

Thelonious Monk's The Complete Riverside Sessions had to come from somewhere.
How about Ellington's RCA/Victor centennial edition?  How much did this great musical legacy really exist "outside the system"? 

Some kind of gangster?  Like racketeering or violent crime?  Really?  If Iverson was so sure that important jazz musicians were always some kind of gangster then jazz fans like him and others shouldn't have found Terry Teachout's biography on Ellington so upsetting.  Is it so difficult to grasp that Ellington's band could be both a haven and a prison for the openly gay and black Billy Strayhorn, whose nickname for his boss was "Monster"?  Or was it awkward to read that a lot of what Ellington pursued could be described as a politics of respectability?  Gaining respect, earning respect and using that respect as a platform from which to press for better treatment was considered a legitimate path to take by more than just a few blacks in the United States, wasn't it?  Or could a mythology of the American outlaw risk distorting the history of jazz a teensy bit? 

Iverson gets to another composer in the aforementioned blog post.

I’ve gotten quite interested in Harold Shapero, a major composer who just might have been the greatest American Neo-Classicist. When he died only recently, I had barely even heard his name, partly because he hadn’t composed much since about 1960.

There were apparently two reasons Shapero stopped composing, both connected to college. He became a teacher himself: He stopped being a gangster. He fell in, raised a family and had hobbies. (All this is very bad for artistic production.)

Somehow ... it's a little tough to buy the idea that Harold Shapero was a gangster. There's a phrase that sometimes pop up in discussions about politics about the state having what's sometimes called a monopoly on legitimate violent.  If the difference between a gangster and a cop can be elucidated in the bluntest colloquial terms, the difference is the monopoly of legitimate violence.  The cop has it by dint of being part of the state machinery and the gangster doesn't.  There in is the blood-letting rub, we know many, many times the monopoly the state has on legitimate violence gets used toward ends we could agree are not legitimate on the one hand, on the other hand a lot of violence perpetrated without the rubber stamp of the state is not necessarily legitimate just because a gangster does it. 

 Iverson's got a bit more awe of serialism as a style than I have been, but he highlights something Halle addressed in another context, the dominance of serialism and atonality in American academic composition and theory textbooks:

The other reason was peer pressure to deal with the twelve-tone system. “Academic” is right! A whole crew of postwar intellectuals seized power in the universities and declared that rigorous atonality was the perpetual future.

When Blocker says, “new music,” I suspect that this kind of  unpopular “academic” genre is what he’s talking about. Of course, “new music” could mean just about anything these days, and I certainly don’t know what exactly they are up to at the Yale composition department. But surely a gold standard for the phrase “new music” is Milton Babbitt, and it is impossible to divorce Babbitt’s (terrific) music his academic positions at Columbia and Princeton.

Having never heard of Shapero, that I can recall, prior to reading Iverson's mention of him, I'd hesitate to agree with "major".  I've found that on the whole I've got better things to do with my time than listen to Babbitt, even if I can get there being a certain cheeky humor to something like "All Set".  I have a few recordings by Penderecki, Lutoslawski, Xenakis, Ligeti, Kurtag and a few others so it's not like I have no appreciation for avant garde concert music but Babbitt ... eh, has moments but I'm still just not sold on the idea that Milton Babbitt or Elliot Carter comprise more than a long-term dead-end without a foundational apparatus (there's a pun for you, cue up Benjamin Britten's concern that a lot of "foundation music" was written to please well-heeled patrons without seeking a wider audience) to keep it alive.  Aka a proverbial hothouse growth. 

There was a period of time in which serialism and atonality was held to be the legitimate way "forward" for the art of music.  Atonality as symbolic of the exhaustion of the language of Western European expressionism and Romanticism distilled in Schoenberg was something Adorno famously got behind.  If there was a Hegelian end of history that could be translated into a self-aware end of art then maybe atonality represented art able to reflect on the ends of German Romanticism.  I ... actually kinda do like the Schoenberg violin concerto ... but Schoenberg paid tribute to the music of Gershwin and said there was still music to be written in the key of C major.  Adorno was less reconciled to this possibility. 

But Iverson's defense of jazz comes with a certain kind of trade-off.  He wants jazz taken seriously as an art as high as Bach or Stravinsky but he doesn't really want the art culture of a century from now to be comic books, video games or Star Wars movies.  Halle's larger polemic regarding jazz and politics is that once jazz ended up on the right side of respectability politics its advocates started to look down on pop and mass culture in much the same way that defenders of the literature musical tradition of Western Europe looked down on jazz as a base dilution of anything good about the art music tradition.  If Adorno looked down on jazz compared to Beethoven and Schoenberg then Ethan Iverson can look down on Star Wars and Batman movies compared to Milton Babbitt and Bud Powell.  Okay.

I just refuse to concede that we can't study Stevie Wonder's harmonic vocabulary in a way that insists that it has to somehow be different than a similar study of the harmonic vocabulary of Scriabin or Stravinsky.  I get that Ben Johnston and others who have followed in the wake of Harry Partch have liked to say equal temperament is an acoustic lie.  I can even get why they say that.  But for all of us who aren't in a collegiate system with access to programmers and resources to map out microtonal possibilities we use fixed pitched instruments like guitars.  Johnston, at least, has declined to insist on his approach being "the" way, it's just one of many possible ways to take from the older musical traditions and use them to create something new.  His argument that serialism and associated techniques are refined forms of organic thematicism and that these can still work in tonality but are not sufficient devices to work past the cognitive constraints of the human brain (i.e. serialist music makes sense to the producer but not the untrained would-be consumer), is more cogent than anything I've seen from the Future Symphony Institute side of things against either Schoenberg or Adorno. 

It's been noted by a few music historians that the revolution that took place in the early Baroque by way of the Florentine Camerata was a revolution undertaken by educated amateurs.  It's possible that if we live in an era of mercantile powerhouses in the United States that elements of the Baroque era won't literally repeat themselves ... but history could rhyme. 

It can seem as though, per Halle's polemic, that the battle for the respectability of jazz in academic contexts may be moot if it's turned out to be a music enjoyed by a ruling elite.  A lot of people I've met in my life say they just don't like jazz.  I like jazz but I have wondered whether it's procedures have become so entrenched and sclerotic that the relationship between the popular and the idioms of jazz have fractured past the point where they will be recovered without a titanic amount of effort. 

A particularly vicious irony could be if a musician like Kenny G has retained the ability to play impromptu concerts because, whatever his failures to comply with the criteria of high art sanctity, he has worked in a pop idiom close enough to what people enjoy to retain a connection to an audience.  Kenny G is probably not going to end up being discussed in academic musicology, ever, but that might be the thing about being popular, he won't need that.  Respectability politics, whether the aspirational kind through which some black artists sought to gain and retain respect to make a social point about the injustice of racism or the other kind of respectability politics that seeks to fence out the "wrong" kind of popular music from being taken seriously as art, is obviously never necessarily the same thing as being popular. 

Friday, August 11, 2017

links for the weekend--Fredrik Deboer on public writing; Franklin Foer on the change at The New Republic; men as minorities in higher education enrollment; and on how badass warriors would l quilt in their downtime.

Not that it's customary to link to a discussion of a syllabus but somebody posted stuff about public writing and De Tocqueville's writing on the United States with some commentary that caught my eye.
Public writing is a field concerned both with writing objects designed for public consumption and with the theoretical and practical structures within public writing. It foregrounds the role writing plays in various types of political power structures, with an emphasis on its generative potential within a deliberative democracy. Public writing is ideally designed to produce effects within the world. Those effects may be as passive as mutual understanding or as active as generating concrete expression within the political process. In every case, public writing looks out from the individual or small group concerns of the creator of the writing onto a larger public to which it is addressed.
Of course that could be said of not only a treatise by Alexis de Tocqueville but also, obviously, a blog.  The influence of public writing is never assured and if there's a temptation I've noticed in blogging and bloggers that I have tried to have some vigilance against, it's falling prey to the idea that if you blog about something it should have some measurable effect.  If you treat blogging as any form of journalistic or historical supplement you can't afford to have that mentality.  The thing about clickbait or about the variations on clickbait that are around the internet is that that's a measurement of something but not necessarily the substance of what is being written or what is read or how whatever is read gets read. 
Which, for the weekend, works as a conceptual transition to this, Franklin Foer's account of departing from The New Republic.
The TL:DR summation is that in the quest for clickbait virality and viability in the digital era, the collapse of the management side and the journalistic side of traditional publication led to the decline of a magazine, in Foer's understanding of things.  But since you who have read this blog know we can't help quoting stuff:
Over the past generation, journalism has been slowly swallowed. The ascendant media companies of our era don’t think of themselves as heirs to a great ink-stained tradition. Some like to compare themselves to technology firms. This redefinition isn’t just a bit of fashionable branding. As Silicon Valley has infiltrated the profession, journalism has come to unhealthily depend on the big tech companies, which now supply journalism with an enormous percentage of its audience—and, therefore, a big chunk of its revenue.
Dependence generates desperation—a mad, shameless chase to gain clicks through Facebook, a relentless effort to game Google’s algorithms. It leads media outlets to sign terrible deals that look like self-preserving necessities: granting Facebook the right to sell their advertising, or giving Google permission to publish articles directly on its fast-loading server. In the end, such arrangements simply allow Facebook and Google to hold these companies ever tighter.

What makes these deals so terrible is the capriciousness of the tech companies. Quickly moving in a radically different direction may be great for their bottom line, but it is detrimental to the media companies that rely on the platforms. Facebook will decide that its users prefer video to words, or ideologically pleasing propaganda to more-objective accounts of events—and so it will de-emphasize the written word or hard news in its users’ feeds. When it makes shifts like this, or when Google tweaks its algorithm, the web traffic flowing to a given media outlet may plummet, with rippling revenue ramifications. The problem isn’t just financial vulnerability, however. It’s also the way tech companies dictate the patterns of work; the way their influence can affect the ethos of an entire profession, lowering standards of quality and eroding ethical protections.
Also this:
At the beginning of this century, journalism was in extremis. Recessions, coupled with readers’ changing habits, prodded media companies to gamble on a digital future unencumbered by the clunky apparatus of publishing on paper. Over a decade, the number of newspaper employees dropped by 38 percent. As journalism shriveled, its prestige plummeted. One report ranked newspaper reporter as the worst job in America. The profession found itself forced to reconsider its very reasons for existing. All the old nostrums about independence suddenly seemed like unaffordable luxuries.
Growing traffic required a new mentality. Unlike television, print journalism had previously shunned the strategic pursuit of audience as a dirty, somewhat corrupting enterprise. The New Republic held an extreme version of this belief. An invention of Progressive-era intellectuals, the magazine had, over the decades, became something close to a cult, catering to a loyal group that wanted to read insider writing about politics and highbrow meditations on culture. For stretches of its long history, however, this readership couldn’t fill the University of Mississippi’s football stadium.
The culminating zinger about Trump mastering the methods and memes of digital era journalism seems too easy.  If Trump could be considered the culmination of all those trends those trends were helped along by Jon Stewarts and Rachel Maddows and Rush Limbaughs and Ann Coulters across the political spectrum.  In the last twenty years here in Puget Sound I've come to the conviction that the differences between a Mark Driscoll and a Dan Savage are the formalities of teams. Sure, these two formally stand on opposites sides of a variety of issues but the self-aggrandizing confrontational style was easily observable in both men during their respective stints as public figures here in Puget Sound.  The punchline and the meme seem more important across the board than conversation across any proverbial aisle. 
Now perhaps Mark would find this recent piece at The Atlantic of interest:
A few years ago I saw some headlines to the effect that more women were getting more advanced degrees than men.  While on the one hand this could be construed as women getting a chance to use those advanced degrees to get into the job market I'm not sure if that gain is separable from the problem of student debt or from glass ceilings or even from the lately discussed pattern (in another Atlantic article) of how women in corporate settings can come to dread working for other women. 
Though advocates complain that few in higher education are doing enough to keep those men who do get there from leaving, there’s consensus that men’s reluctance to enroll in the first place isn’t necessarily the colleges’ fault. The problem has its origins as early as primary school, only to be fueled later on by economic forces that discourage men from believing a degree is worth the time and money.

“It’s funny that it’s the colleges that are finally seeing this issue and trying to resolve it,” said Patrick Maloney, the president of the Nativity School, a Jesuit Catholic middle school in the central Massachusetts city of Worcester that tries to aim low-income boys toward college. That’s because, by the time students reach college age, Maloney said, “It’s way too late. You’ve already lost them. Maybe [admissions officers] should be going into middle schools and start talking to fifth-graders about the benefits of college education.”

Or even earlier than that. The “anti-school, anti-education sentiment” in boys has roots in kindergarten, when they’re slower to learn to read than girls, said Jim Shelley, the manager of the Men’s Resource Center at Lakeland Community College in Ohio. Girls at the primary and secondary level worldwide far outperform boys in reading, according to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development.

That disparity continues until, “by eighth or ninth grade, boys have lost interest,” Shelley said.
Many boys beyond that point perceive little benefit to college, especially considering its cost, said Jerlando Jackson, the director and chief research scientist at Wisconsin’s Equity and Inclusion Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, who has written about this. To them, he said, it means a lot of sacrifice for a vague payoff far in the future.
The question of whether or not college really is worth the trouble seems legitimate.  Somebody got a degree in journalism twenty years ago and realized it wasn't worth a whole ton on the job market even back then.  The article goes on ... :
Men may also feel they have more alternatives to college than girls do. “For a lot of my [male] high school friends, it was just too much time,” said Smith, the orientation leader at Carlow. “They were ready to get out. As opposed to a four-year college, they could go to an 18-month [vocational-education] program and make just as much money.”

That was the choice of at least one high-school classmate of Vinny Bucci, the male Carlow student Smith pointed out across the student center.

“I had a friend who, instead of going to college, went into trade work, and he said he’d have a job before I did,” said Bucci, who just earned a biology degree and is headed on to graduate school to become a mental-health counselor. “And he does. But when he’s 45, he’ll be miserable.”
He’s also likely to be poorer. People with bachelor’s degrees earn 56 percent more, on average, than people with only high-school educations, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
Would that includee people who got degrees in journalism, too?  :)  Anecdotes aren't evidence, so the saying goes, but I know a couple of guys who never got formal education beyond high school as such but they became electricians and they and their wives and children are doing okay, if with rough patches here and there.  Which is to say what standard of living is being tacitly or explicitly invoked for "he'll be miserable?"  People age out of manual labor, true, but technology can render jobs obsolete. 
Now it may be as some say "you can't teach hustle" but you can't just invent a good old boy network out of whole cloth, either. 
I went to college and I'm even glad and grateful I went to college but I've advised my younger friends against going unless the work they want to get can not be obtained without that academic credential.
Much as I love the arts I hesitate (to put it mildly) recommending people go to college.  It's clearly not because I don't love academic writing and theoretical stuff.  I wrote thousands of words about early 19th century guitar sonatas informed by Hepokoski & Darcy's Elements of Sonata Theory to demonstrate that their Type 2 is readily demonstrated in works by Matiegka, Diabelli and Sor.  But I never got pasting having a B.A. and I didn't even technically major in music. 
I guess what I'll say for now is that there's a difference between college as a rite of participation in the middle or upper class (something Alastair Roberts has touched upon), and the sort of scholarly intellectual curiosity and love of learning and argument and discovery that no amount of formal credential in academia can really impart to you if you don't already come to school with it.  It may be that a lot of guys believe college isn't for practical men and it isn't practical for some men and women.  I wouldn't want to say that my friends and relatives who never went to college made a mistake.  In fact ... it's not hard to think of a number of friends and relatives who didn't go to college who easily make more money than somebody I know does!  I wonder if an ideological commitment to the inherent superiority of college education on the job market is just that, an ideological commitment.   I now view arts education with skepticism not so much because I don't love the arts but because the idea of going into a mountain of debt to learn how to participate in the arts seems unfortunate to me.  I'd rather, to invoke Paul Hindemith and John Philip Sousa, that we had a culture of avid and active amateurs than the kingdom of professional entertainers we've developed over the last century. 

HT to ArtsJournal ... let's just close with this, for the kinds of manly men who at one point went to some megachurch ...

What might a manly man of war do during down time?

Quilts made by men at war to go on display

Three years ago, St. Paul’s Cathedral in London restored and displayed a hand-made altar frontal that had been by intricately embroidered by 133 convalescing soldiers during World War I. Sewing was considered a highly effective form of occupational therapy for soldiers because it could be accomplished while seated, improved manual dexterity and mental focus. The notion of occupational therapy was birthed in the crucible of World War I which left so many men physically and psychologically disabled, but it was a new name for an old practice.

Soldiers and sailors have been stitching masterpieces of the sewing crafts for hundreds of years. It was a longstanding tradition that during lulls in fighting, while prisoners of war or over extended hospital visits, they would hand-stitch quilts, wool work seascapes and embroider their own uniforms. Sailors maintained ships’ sails as part of their duties and therefore had basic sewing skills. Soldiers didn’t have the same job requirement, so if they knew how to sew it was either fortuitous or professional; i.e., they had been tailors in civilian life and were often employed as regimental tailors in the military.

The quilts displayed in the post are impressive.  Back in the day a guy would need to know how to sew and that kind of skill set would be necessary in sailing (mending the sails and clothes), and the post expands on how quilting was something soldiers would do during lulls in fighting.  It's a way to focus the mind, maintain manual dexterity, and find a creative outlet in the midst of wartime. 

Soldiers ... a decade ago there was some video somebody had ... and Michael Spenser had some thoughts about it back from April 2007:


What’s bothers me in that presentation?

It feels like discipleship is almost completely (and increasingly) identified with a particular style of maleness, and that is a problem. [emphasis original]

I have to admit that when I heard Driscoll say that young men want to know how to have sex with their wives once a day, I was stunned. I know Driscoll walks the edge, but this was the kind of juvenile distortion I don’t expect to hear. I’ve had plenty of young males ask me about sex in marriage, and I’m not bashful or less than straighforward, but this isn’t a good answer, and it’s presenting the wrong description of a Christ follower.

Clearly, someone needs to stop and say “Wait a minute. What are we saying about the Christian life? That it promotes healthy, happy sex? Amen! But that it defines that terms in the mindset of a twenty-something male who thinks daily sex is a “need” that he deserves to have met by his “Biblically submissive” wife? Time out!!”

Yes. Time out. Time out to think about the fact that when you ask me what it means to follow Jesus, my first couple of answers will be insightful. And if I start talking about the culture war, global warming or having daily sex with my wife, I’m not thinking of discipleship, I’m thinking agenda. If you think good evangelicals are immune from this, go splash some cold water in your face. You’re wrong.

Listen, a lot of young preachers I enjoy talk a lot about sex and gender issues. Good for them. When I preach on sex and gender my students listen, ask questions and want more. I have a grasp on how this works. But I cannot present the Christian life primarily as a way to great maleness. Given too large a place, that’s close to just another prosperity gospel.

If you follow Jesus, you may have lots of sex or no sex. You may give up sex because you have to care for a sick or ailing spouse. You have to put your sexual agenda at the bottom of a list of things like crying babies, the stress of daily life, emotional realities and physical facts. If a man tells me his wife provides him daily sex, I’m happy for him. He’s way above average. But I have some questions about periods. Crying babies. Housework. Illness. Non-sexual affection. And I have some questions about demands being made for the sake of some idea of sanctified maleness.

If a guy shows up to talk to me about his marriage and says his wife is depriving him of daily sex, I’m going to bluntly tell him he needs to rethink what marriage means in more realistic terms.

It is probably a safe guess that by the time iMonk died he was not reading Real Marriage. That Mark Driscoll would share with the world for public record that he concluded the remedy for his moodiness was more sex ... well, we've got what iMonk said for the record about the kind of guy who would think sex on a daily basis is a "need" needed.

Driscoll, not entirely coincidentally, has a variant on Real Marriage called Real SexReal Celibacy is probably not going to be penned by Mark Driscoll, ever.  Thanks to some history we can learn that one of the things that good soldiers, real soldiers, would do to pass the time was quilting. 

Seriously, check out the quilts in the link, they look beautiful.  There is an artistic point that comes to mind here.  What I've been considering in the last five to six years is that artists and entertainers are in some strange sense the priests of our culture, not the pastors.  And if art an entertainment and athletics takes the role formerly played by religion then in America there's a pernicious form of clericalism commensurate to that change.  Sure, I know there are plenty of people who say that lack of education is why people voted for Trump but that seems like a canard.  If it's a glib explanation as to why stupid, uneducated people voted for someone you didn't want in the Oval Office then that's a glib explanation.  I love reading scholarly books about theology as well as the arts but this gets back to the distinction I was trying to make earlier about curiosity as distinct from credentialing processes.

And, yes, I'm a Protestant, I wonder if in our American cultural and educational milieu we've created the thing Sousa feared would happen, a caste of producers and consumers in the arts when what he believed was vital was an amateur scene, a kind of "priesthood of all believers" reworked as "everyone can participate in artistic life."  Soldiers quilting on the battlefield is a vivid reminder that these men were not "just" soldiers out there.  Obvious enough, but the kind of thing that can be missed in the faux-manliness of a Driscoll.  Real soldiers could and did quilt, bro.  Of course advocates of fine arts wouldn't consider quilting high art.  But if you're freezing on a winter's night will high art keep you warm?  That's kind of where I'm going with thoughts about a clericalism of the arts.   Bach fugues are beautiful and so are quilts. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

newer additions to local ministry leaders and staff at The Trinity Church, including Grace Driscoll--a review of statements by Mark Driscoll about his wife's history in ministry at Mars Hill with some observations about women's ministry sometimes being like "juggling knives".

Back on March 19, 2016 there were two people listed as local ministry leaders and staff for The Trinity Church in Arizona: Andy Girton and Brandon Andersen.  Girton is now pastor of creative, communications and construction. Andersen is ministries pastor.

By November 2016 one more person was added, Dustin Blatnik (worship pastor now).

Today there are other additions, Carrigan Wright (ministry assistant), Darien Bennett as a volunteer associate pastor, and Grace Driscoll, having a position Trinity Women and leads the Flourish Women's Ministry.

There's been a couple of updates, such as change in listed mailing address.
The street address for The Trinity Church, for corporate purposes, was changed to
2338 W Royal Palm Rd, Ste J
Phoenix, Arizona 85021
So also for the mailing address

Which looks to be the address of the registered agent, CAPITOL CORPORATE SERVICES INC

Recently the church filed an update with Arizona indicating recently added articles.

In light of Grace Driscoll showing up on the local ministry leaders and staff page, maybe we can revisit things Mark Driscoll had to say about his wife being involved and active in ministry from the old Mars Hill days.

For instance, here was something he shared in 2001:
2001-04-07 Women's Meeting Part 3
answering a question

41:39Best case scenario, I think, in ministry, is husband and wife working together. Beautiful. Like Priscilla and Aquilla, that's ideal to me because it's not good for the man to be alone, that includes ministry. [emphasis added]  So the wife is very helpful when she's a good fit. All our elders have wives that I admire and that I hope you would admire because they're admirable women. [emphasis added] And that's what it talks about in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, that the elders should be a certain way and so should their wives, because those women will know everything that is going on in the church; they will have more responsibility and have a higher profile.
That's why, you know, how many of your are in a home group with one of the elders? Some of you are. You should be. The way we set those up is that the elders are opening up their homes and teaching with their wives so that you can get to know them in a natural context.  That's the way it's generally working. And the reason is that because we feel that the husbands and the wives working together serve for the best model of how the church should work. It should NOT be 'the wife stays home with the children and the husband goes out and does ministry', it's that the WHOLE family does ministry TOGETHER. [emphases added] Our children are a part of our ministry. It's great. I love it. I love it when people come over and my daughter opens the door and welcomes them, sits them down--if you've been at my house you know how this works, she's little Miss Hospitality.
43:04Now her big thing before our Tuesday night study [is], she likes to open it in prayer, and then she likes to take the children upstairs and be the little hostess, which is great.  We have seen, I have seen, my daughter minister to people. I saw her, on one occasion, share the Gospel with a convicted pedophile, which was beautiful.  She was about, I think, right around about three years of age. About two and a half, three years of age. We were talking and he wanted to know as to whether or not God could forgive him for his sin. She came downstairs from her nap, saw him crying on the couch, and sat on his lap and asked me why he was said and I told her that he'd committed a sin against God and so she prayed for him.

And so I view my daughter as having a spiritual gift, or two or three, and I see her knowing Christ, that means I see evidence of the spirit of God in her. That means she is a member of this church and she is a part of this church and that every part, as Paul says, is necessary and vital. So to kick her out, or to kick the women out, or to kick the children out, and relegate them to some secondary position, it harms the church and it harms them.  [emphasis added]

Best case scenario--husband, wife, kids--doing the Gospel together as a family with Dad functioning as the pastor of that congregation. That's best case scenario. 

If that doesn't happen because the man abdicates his responsibility or he sins, we'll put scenarios in to help work around that.
44:45You'll get bored in your life if all you have is just you and your husband. When you're serving Christ and doing things NOW your life is going somewhere. You're doing something and it's fun. Most of my wife and my conversations are about OTHER people that are coming to Christ. People who are getting married. People who are having children. People who are learning Scripture. People who are getting their life together by God's grace. It's great because we don't get bored. There's always something to do. There's always something that God is up to.

So that was what he described as the best scenario, the entire family participating in ministry.  Thing is, when Mark Driscoll looked back on the earlier period in his 2006 book the account was slightly different: 

Confessions of a Reformission Rev
Mark Driscoll, Zondervan 2006
ISBN-13: 978-0-310-27016-4

page 98
The church still was not paying me, so I was living off of outside support from another church. I was not making enough money to pull my wife out of work and start our family. So I started traveling a lot to speak at various conferences, hoping to help serve other Christian leaders and supplement my income.

page 101-102
During this season my wife, Grace, also started to experience a lot of serious medical problems. her job was very stressful, and between her long hours at the office and long hours at the church, her body started breaking down. I felt tremendously convicted that I had sinned against my wife and had violated the spirit of 1 Timothy 5:8, which says that if a man does not provide for his family he has denied his faith and has acted in a manner worse than an unbeliever. I repented to Grace for my sin of not making enough money and having her shoulder any of the financial burden for our family.  We did not yet have elders installed in the church but did have an advisory council in place, and I asked them for a small monthly stipend to help us make ends meet, and I supplemented our income with outside support and an occasional speaking engagement.

Shortly thereafter, Grace gave birth to our first child, my sweetie-pie Ashley. Up to this point Grace had continuously poured endless hours into the church. She taught a women's Bible study, mentored many young women, oversaw hospitality on Sundays, coordinated meals for new moms recovering from birth, and organized all of the bridal and baby showers. Grace's dad had planted a church before she was born and has remained there for more than forty years. Her heart for ministry and willingness to serve was amazing. But as our church grew, I felt I was losing my wife because we were both putting so many hours into the church that we were not connecting as a couple like we should have. I found myself getting bitter against her because she would spend her time caring for our child and caring for our church but was somewhat negligent of me. [emphasis added]

I explained to Grace that her primary ministry was to me, our child, and the management of our home and that I needed her to pull back from the church work to focus on what mattered most.  She resisted a bit at first, but no one took care of me but her.  And the best thing she could do for the church was to make sure that we had a good marriage and godly children as an example for other people in the church to follow.  It was the first time that I remember actually admitting my need for help to anyone.  It was tough. But I feared that if we did not put our marriage and children above the demands of the church, we would end up with the lukewarm, distant marriage that so many pastors have because they treat their churches as mistresses that they are more passionate about than their brides.  [emphasis added]

Although I was frustrated with both my wife and church, I had to own the fact that they were both under my leadership and that I had obviously done a poor job of organizing things to function effectively.  And since we did not yet have elders formally in place there was no one to stop me from implementing dumb ideas like the 9:00p.m. church service.  So I decided to come to firmer convictions on church government and structure so that I could establish the founding framework for what our church leadership would look like.

The timeline is a bit vague, yet it seems as though by Mark Driscoll's account there may have been one or two seasons in which he came to resent his wife for being involved in ministry at Mars Hill in ways where he felt he was being neglected.  Precisely HOW he felt neglected was not exactly specified.

This next period, if it was a distinct period and not a continuation of an earlier season, would have been when the church operated for a time out of the Driscoll home, if memory serves, roughly the 2000-2002 period:


page 120
A friend in the church kindly allowed me to move into a large home he owned on a lease-to-own deal because I was too broke to qualify for anything but an outhouse. The seventy-year-old house had over three thousand square feet, seven bedrooms on three floors, and needed a ton of work because it had been neglected for many years as a rental home for college students. Grace and I and our daughter Ashley, three male renters who helped cover the mortgage, my study, and the church office all moved into the home. This put me on the job, literally, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, as the boundary between home and church was erased.

We ran the church out of my house for nearly two years, including leadership meetings and Bible studies for various groups on almost every night of the week. It was not uncommon to have over seventy people a week in our home. Grace got sucked right back into the church mess. She was a great host to our guests. But I started growing bitter toward her because I was again feeling neglected. [emphasis added] I began working seven days a week, trying to save the church from imminent death. I had decided to go for broke and accepted that I would either save the church and provide for my family or probably die of a heart attack. I lived on caffeine and adrenaline for the better part of two years, ate terribly ,and put on nearly forty pounds. 

Then in 2012 Mark and Grace Driscoll published their book Real Marriage and it turned out that, perhaps, a new light was shed on the events previously described in the quotes above.  If in 2001 Driscoll described the cumulative Driscoll family ministry in positive terms, the 2006 account revealed in Confessions that at times he resented what he felt was his wife's neglect of him by dint of throwing herself into ministry activity.  Real Marriage added more retroactive caveats, indicating that Mark and Grace Driscoll had a marriage that was functional but not much fun:

REAL MARRIAGE: The Truth About Sex, Friendship & Life Together
Mark and Grace Driscoll
Copyright (c) 2012 by On Mission, LLC
isbn 978-1-4041-8352-0
isbn 978-1-4002-0383-3

pages 9-10
Before long I was bitter agaisnt God and Grace. It seemed to me as if they had conspired to trap me. I had always been the "good guy" who turned down women for sex. In my twisted logic, since I had only slept with a couple of women I was in relationships with, I had been holy enough, and God owed me. I felt God had conned me by telling me to marry Grace, and allowed Grace to rule over me since she was controlling our sex life.  [emphasis added]

from pages 14-15
In the second year of the church we had a lot of single people getting married, and so I decided to preach through the Song of Songs on the joys of marital intimacy and sex. The church grew quickly, lots of people got married, many women became pregnant, and my counseling load exploded. [emphasis added] I started spending dozens of hours every week dealing with every kind of sexual issue imaginable. It seemed as if every other young woman in our church had been sexually assaulted in some fashion, every guy was ensnared by porn, and every married and premarital couple had a long list of tricky sex questions. Day after day, for what became years, I spent hours meeting with people untangling the sexual knots in their lives, reading every book and section of the Bible I could find that related to their needs.

Although I loved our people and my wife, this only added to my bitterness.  I had a church filled with single young women who were asking me how they could stop being sexually ravenous and wait for a Christian husband; then I'd go home to a wife whom I was not sexually enjoying. [emphasis added] One particularly low moment occurred when a newly saved married couple came in to meet with me. I prayed, and then asked how I could serve them. She took charge of the meeting, explained how she really liked her body and sex, and proceeded to take out a list of questions she had about what was acceptable as a Christian for her to do with her husband. It was a very long and very detailed list. As I answered each question, she would ask related follow-up questions with more specific details. Her husband said very little, but sat next to her, looking awkward and smiling at most of the answers I gave.  After they left the counseling appointment to get to work on the list of acceptable activities, I remember sitting with my head in my hands, just moaning and asking God, "Do you really expect me to do this as a new Christian, without a mentor or pastor, in the midst of my marriage, and hold on for the next fifty years?" Peter walking on water seemed an easier task

This was, to put it simply, a pretty big contrast to what Driscoll was saying in ministry contexts about the nature of his marriage a decade earlier.  If the account in 2006 of how he at times resented Grace Driscoll throwing herself into ministry seemed to let slip that Mark Driscoll resented his wife throwing herself into ministry to his perceived neglect, Real Marriage presented a tale of a marriage that was functional in some sense but fraught with bitterness.  As to women's ministry in general by 2008, a few months after controversial firings at Mars Hill, Mark Driscoll was willing and able to hold forth at length about what he regarded as the problems generally inherent in women's ministries:
Spiritual Warfare part 2, The Devil
February 5, 2008
about 50 minutes in to the 1 hour mark.

How about this one? Idle gossip and busybodying. 1 Timothy 5:11-15. This one is amazing. Ladies this one is especially for you. Some of you say, "Oh, it's not me." Yeah, it is. 1 Timothy 5:11-15, but refuse to enroll younger widows for when their passions draw them away from Christ they desire to marry and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith.  Besides that they learn to be idlers

Women learn how to make a lot of free time. Going about from house to house. Well now it would be from email to email and from phone call to phone call. Technology makes idle busybodying far more effective than ever.

And not only idlers but also gossips. They like to talk about people. How are you doing? What are you doing? And this isn't sisterly accountability, this is "I need to know what everybody's doing because I like to know what everybody's doing and then I can tell other people what other people are doing and then I can say, `Hey, you need to pray for so-and-so.' and I can make it sound spiritual so that when I'm gossiping and busy-bodying I'm doing so in a way that seems really Jesus-like." And busybodies, they need to know what everybody's doing. They need to know what everybody's doing, saying what they should not. So I would have younger widows marry, bear children and manage their household, right? Stay busy, and give the adversary (that's Satan) no occasion for slander. For some have already strayed after Satan. Hmm.

A woman who's a gossip and a busybody; a woman who has to put her nose in everybody's business and knows what everybody's going on; know what they're doing, she's working with Satan. Now I know most women would say, "No, no, no. I'm not Satanic, I'm concerned. I'm not Satanic, I'm an intercessor. I'm a prayer warrior. I'm not Satanic, I'm an accountability partner.  I'm not Satanic, I'm a concerned friend."  Okay, you're a Satanic intercessory prayer warrior accountability partner concerned friend but just start the whole list with "Satanic" so that we don't misunderstand your job description. 

Now there's a difference between someone inviting you into their life and saying, "I want to be friends, I want to have an accountable  relationship." and you pushing yourself into everyone's life, okay?  I'll tell you, in the history of Mars Hill, I mean, I have had to put up a firewall, a moat, guard dogs, and a high wall with barbed wire on top, and snipers behind it, around my wife. There are certain women who, they just need to know what Grace is doing and they are determined, they say things like, uh, "Hey, we need to have dinner with your family." [slight chuckle] No you don't. [emphasis added]

"Hey, we need to have coffee." No you don't.  "Hey, phone number." What? Nope. "Email." Nope.  Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope.
"Oh, come on." Nope.
"But I thought you were our pastor."
I am and my first lesson is to tell you you're Satanic.

"Oh, come on, in our last church the pastor's wife [sob] she was my best friend and I got to talk to her all the time."
Well, she was Satanic, too.  Give me her number, I'll call her and tell her. We'll help her out.
You ladies KNOW these women. Right? How many of you ladies know these women? They will try first with the hyper-spiritual, "Oh, praise the Lord! I'd love to pray for you. Let's get together. Let's do Christian community. Let's go to heart." If you decline, then they emotionally manipulate, [inhales, sobbing voice], "I thought we were friends, I thought you loved me. I don't have anybody to talk to." It's all manipulation. It's FEMALE manipulation.  Some of you ladies, right now? You think, "I can't believe he said that." It's all true. It's Satanic, Satanic.

Paul says, "Don't be a busybody, stay busy." Right? Your husband, your kids, your family, your home, Jesus Christ. You got things to do.

Busybodies stay busy inserting themselves into everyone else's life. In some churches there are certain women, if you call them, they'll know everything that's going on because, somehow, they know everything. There's a difference between being a woman who is invited into someone's life for friendship, prayer and accountability, and a woman who emotionally manipulates and is pushy and is sometimes hyperspiritual and demanding and forces herself in because she's a drama queen and has to be at the center of all the drama. That is a Satanic woman.

You need to believe that and the worst thing you can do is accomodate it. Okay, we'll have you over for dinner once. And then, the next month, it's "Okay, buddy, we haven't been together in a month. We need to get together again. I'm sure a lot has happened in your life and I don't know what it is and I need to know because I need to know everything. I have a God complex of omniscience. I want to know everything about everybody." And what you find with these people, Paul says, they tend to be gossips, meaning you don't just talk to them, then they talk to other people.  "Well, did you know their marriage is struggling? Did you know that she's depressed?  Did you know that  she's post-partum?  Do you know that, sexually, her husband's impotent?" These are conversations I've heard in this building. Really?

Sometimes womens' ministry is the cesspool that this kind of activity flourishes in. Some have asked, "Why don't you have womens' ministry?" The answer is we do, but it's, you have to be very careful, it's like juggling knives. You put the wrong women in charge of womens' ministry, the drama queen, the gossip mama, all of a sudden all the women come together, tell her everything, she becomes the pseudo-elder  quasi-matriarch; she's got the dirt on everybody and sometimes the women all get together to rip on their husbands in the name of prayer requests. Happens all the time. Happens all the time.  [emphasis added] We have worked very hard so that the women who teach here are like Wendy Alsup who I really love and appreciate and respect. She's not like that. It is not that no woman should lead, that no woman should teach, that no woman should in a position of authority over other women  under the authority of their husband, Jesus and the elders it's just that the wrong women tend to want it. The wrong women tend to want it and they tend to want it for the wrong reasons. [emphasis added] And sometimes it's the humble woman, who isn't fighting to be the center of drama, control and power; who doesn't have to be up front; she's usually the one who is most capable and qualified.  

And for you single men as well I would say be very, very careful because if you're on staff at Mars Hill  (everything I say sounds terrible, this will just be added to the pile) there are certain women who will tell you, "I want to marry a pastor." Really? You should want to marry a Christian who loves Jesus, loves you, loves your kids should God give them to you. I've lectured enough Bible colleges and seminaries, the young women who come up and say, "I want to marry a pastor"  my immediate default question is, "Are you a gossip? Are you a busybody? Are you a drama queen?" "No. No, I feel called to serve the Lord."  Well, you can serve the Lord without being called to be a pastor's wife in fact, take it from me, it's easier to be a woman and serve the Lord than being married to a pastor.  

You single  guys, you gotta be careful, man. There are some women, they want to marry a pastor so they can be the center of power, authority; they can be the first lady;  everybody knows them, everybody wants to be their friend, everybody wants to tell them everything; and they can be the center of all the drama. Run for your life. Run for your life. Run for your life. It's Satanic.
See?  I need you women to really search your own heart. Are you Satanic? Is this still part of your flesh, this sick desire in you to know everybody's business? I'm not saying you don't have friends but how much are you on the internet? How much time do you spend emailing? How much time do you spend crying nad freaking out and knowing everybody's business and on the phone and having to meet with people because, "Did you know so-and-so did such-and-such and so-and-so is feeling this way and did you?" Are you the center of LOTS of activity? Why? It's Satanic. It's Satanic. I think I've made my point

For a time, then, Mark Driscoll seemed to regard women's ministry as a very dangerous and possibly dubious part of church life.  He has also been demonstrated as having said for the record in his books there were seasons during which he resented his wife's participation in ministry (of whatever sort) because he felt he was being neglected. 

Would Mark Driscoll still describe having a women's ministry as being like juggling knives?