7 things @ 11 o’clock (7.2)

1. This is what a hockey stick graph sounds like when played on the cello.

2. Pam’s House Blend is closing shop. Thank you, Pam Spaulding. Bravo for nine years of smart, funny, honest, courageous truth-telling. And I’m looking forward to whatever it is you do next.

3. Eric Metaxas is a silly, silly man. As Michael Sean Winters says, the right-wing activist and professional moralist is: “Two parts politician, three parts marketing guru and one part evangelical Christian. A toxic mix.” Metaxas is a wanna-be intellectual using a flawed biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer as the pretext for playing dress-up in the German theologian’s heroic courage. Just as Bonhoeffer stoof up against the Nazis, Metaxas says he is standing up against Teh Gay — and so, in his mind, we must defer to him as Bonhoeffer’s heir and equivalent.

Well, this would-be heir to Bonhoeffer is also a Breitbart-fan, and based on the false claims he has “learned” from that epistemic circle-jerk, Metaxas recently broke ties with the Evangelical Immigration Roundtable because he thinks it’s a front-group funded by George Soros’ global conspiracy.

Or, in other words, the Man Who Would Be Bonhoeffer wants to restrict immigration because he fears a shadowy international conspiracy of Jewish bankers. Will any of that make the gatekeepers at Christianity Today less likely to continue fawning over Metaxas as a Serious Man of Seriousness? It won’t, but it should.

4.America’s Worst Charities” is a terrific piece of reporting by the Tampa Bay Times. Read the list, avoid being taken in by these scam-tastic frauds. But note that these groups are just exactly that — frauds and scams. That may not be the same as the worst charities.

The Times’ main metric here is “cash paid to solicitors in the past decade” — comparing how much money these groups are taking in from donors to the tiny percentage they’re actually giving out as charitable aid. That’s one form of bad charity. Another form efficiently puts most of the donations it receives to work on its mission, but that mission does harm instead of benefiting the common good. Think of the anti-safety, anti-worker, anti-environment and anti-government “Club for Growth.” They’d score pretty well according to the Times’ criteria, but they’re still flat-out evil. Club for Growth isn’t the same kind of scam. It’s just evil, selfish rich people banding together to protect the interests of evil, selfish rich people no matter how much damage they do to everyone else.

5. It’s your June edition of the Biblical Studies Blog Carnival. And Jim West seems to have noticed that the last few editions of the carnival have been mostly male, so here’s his all-women supplemental/alternative BSBC.

6. Fuller Seminary’s Burner blog looks at the prospects for more “faith-based” and “family friendly” entertainment (noting that these are, in fact, separate categories). It’s an interesting discussion that includes some candid honesty — such as that evangelicals can’t lament foul-mouthed entertainments like Seth MacFarlane’s Ted because we went to see it along with everybody else.

But the post comes to a depressing conclusion: When Hollywood produces “content that is family-friendly or faith-based, you’re going to pay money to see it. Then buy it from the home entertainment division. Then buy the books and toys along with it.” Even if you “have little interest” and even if it’s not “compelling” storytelling.

That’s bad advice and also, I think, bad theology. Settling for dull, safe, tepid storytelling is a kind of sin. If the only good thing that can be said about a piece of art is that it is unobjectionable, then it’s still not worth anyone’s time or money to produce or to endure. If you don’t like the stories Hollywood is telling, tell better stories. Subsidizing bad art doesn’t glorify God, and patronizing bad art only makes us all less capable of producing better work.

7. and here’s some e.e. cummings. because i like e.e. cummings.

dive for dreams
or a slogan may topple you
(trees are their roots
and wind is wind)
trust your heart
if the seas catch fire
(and live by love
though the stars walk backward)

  • Baby_Raptor

    Sorta off topic: So ya’ll remember a couple posts in this series back, the fundie courtship questionnaire?

    Well, the boyfriend and I have been working through it. His mother heard me telling him about it on Skype, asked what we were talking about, and then made him promise we’d “look it over and see if we learned anything from it.”

    The first thing we learned was that it’s ~423 questions because it badly needs an editor. Multiple questions are asked 3 and 4 times. “Do you want kids?” was asked, asked a second time with a pre-assumed answer of yes, and then asked a third time with “within 2 years of marriage” tacked on as an afterthought.

    We also learned that what people wear at public pools is an “issue of morality.”

    In the actual usefulness department, we’ve learned that we have some conflicting ideas on children, so there’s that.

    We’re only 200someodd questions in thus far. I’ll report back again if anyone else is interested.

  • konrad_arflane

    Something isn’t right in that first link. According to the article, “for every 0.5 degrees warmer a year was, the note would rise half a step in pitch”, and according to the video, “Scientists predict our planet will warm by at least another 1.8 degrees
    Celsius by the end of the century. This additional
    warming would produce a series of notes beyond the range of human
    hearing.”

    But even if the first quote is in Fahrenheit, the predicted change is still less than 3½ degrees, corresponding to 7 half-steps aka a (musical) fifth. And the piece doesn’t go anywhere *near* within a fifth of the edge of hearing – which varies from individual to individual by a lot more than a fifth anyway.

    If I were a climate change denialist, I would *pounce* on this as demonstrating the appeals to emotion and lack of scientific chops of the climate change movement. But as I’m not, I’ll just wonder if the article correctly describes the methodology of the piece.

  • themunck

    Interested, so do feel free to report ^^. And yeah, I only skimmed the first 100 or so, and even then I think I saw a duplicate or two.

  • Carstonio

    The Hollywood-rejecting evangelicals aren’t interested in telling better stories, since they’re really rejecting the concept of artistic expression. For them, a book or a movie is not about its creator’s personal vision, what the creator is trying to say. Instead, these folks see the work as propaganda, a vehicle for proselytizing. Because that’s how they see the world, with audiences as potential converts.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I assume it’s (the hockey stick graph as a musical tune) meant to be an analogy. There are limits to how far one should take them.

  • LMM22

    Settling for dull, safe, tepid storytelling is a kind of sin. If the only good thing that can be said about a piece of art is that it is unobjectionable, then it’s still not worth anyone’s time or money to produce or to endure.,,, Subsidizing bad art doesn’t glorify God, and patronizing bad art only makes us all less capable of producing better work.

    This. And it’s not just about “family friendly” entertainment, either — it’s about feeling the need to watch a mediocre film just because it’s your particular variant of sf-f or because it features female characters (!) or some such.

    “Voting with your checkbook” sounds great, but it’s ultimately disempowering for everyone involved.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Settling for dull, safe, tepid storytelling is a kind of sin.

    Someone should tell L&J that. Mining the Bible to put words in Jesus et al’s mouths to avoid needing to creatively develop their own way of speaking to 20th and 21st century people is the laziest dodge ever in fiction writing.

  • http://kingdomofsharks.wordpress.com/ D Johnston

    In that Burner post, they basically admit to all of that. But what I never get is why these people complaining about Hollywood never reach the logical conclusion – make your own films. Yeah, we were having a big ol’ laugh last week at EchoLight and their comically earnest films, but at least those people are doing something. We’re experiencing a sort of second Renaissance of independent cinema – if you hate mainstream entertainment and you have the resources to do it, there’s no real excuse to not make your own movies or shows.

    Of course, EchoLight showcased the problems with this approach, and it’s an issue with secular as well as religious independent films: You can’t just try to emulate Hollywood. If you go the indie route, you have to play to indie strengths – acting, writing, direction.

  • http://kingdomofsharks.wordpress.com/ D Johnston

    There may be more questions than it appears as well – some of them are split into multiple parts.

  • Flying Squid with Goggles

    He converted the average global temperature for each year to a note,
    with a higher pitch indicating hotter weather. When he plays the data,
    the notes go up and down a bit, as you’d expect from normal variation —
    but the pitch of the song unmistakably gets higher and higher on
    average.

    Note that each note represents a year’s average, not the multi-year rolling average. So if the rolling average increases by 1.8˚C, then individual years will sometimes increase more than that, while other years will be less.

    I don’t know if it works out musically, but the year-to-year variation in temperature is rather large, and so may produce individual years with a much higher pitch than the rolling average’s pitch.

  • konrad_arflane

    Fair point, but I doubt it’d make a difference. The interval from the highest note of the piece to beyond the range of the highest-pitched musical instruments is at least a couple of octaves (12 degrees on whatever scales is used), and most people can hear quite a bit higher than that.

  • konrad_arflane

    I agree. Which is why it annoys me – as a musician who takes science seriously – when people take their musical analogies of science too far, as appears to have been done in this case.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    Wow, that list of worst charities. It’s eerie to realize that I’ve seen almost all of those around — door to door donation beggars, TV advertising, mail advertising…

    Makes me glad the only groups to which I regularly donate are for scholarships, grants, and Child’s Play Charity (which makes a point to state that they spend the entirety of every dollar on either buying things for kids or shipping what they’ve bought to kids). When the X-Box 1 developers announced their plans for massive DRM, I was actually concerned that CPC wouldn’t be able to continue buying them for hospitals. >.<

  • Carstonio

    why these people complaining about Hollywood never reach the logical conclusion – make your own films.

    Because their goal is not a separate genre devoted to promoting their values. They want Hollywood to promote only their values and no one else’s. It’s about cultural hegemony. Somewhat the same reason they want same-sex marriage banned, instead of admitting that such marriages aren’t being forced on anyone.

  • The_L1985

    My best guess is that this is a case of a logarithmic scale being confused for a linear one–like the idiots who insist that because the sound of normal conversation is around 60dB, and the sound of an airplane engine is around 120dB, that the airplane is only twice as loud as the people talking.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    GODDAMN IT FRED!!!!!! WHY LINK TO IACOBUS OCCIDENTALIS, FLAGELLUM DEI!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!?

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Note: Iacobus Occidentalis, Flagellum Dei, considers atheists to be “people of color”.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    And he blocked me for supporting separation of Church and State.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I can’t see the comment you’re responding to so I’m not sure of the context of your comment, but I will complain about Hollywood all I fucking please, thank you very much, and I will not make my own films because I do not have the skill set or equipment to make films nor the money to acquire same nor the budget for sets and props and actors. And I do not want to ban same-sex marriage; in fact one of my complaints about Hollywood is the lack of queer representation.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Also, he’s a staunch opponent of same-sex marriage.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    And he’s a huge hypocrite.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    And he’s staunchly anti-science.

  • Ursula L

    If you don’t like the stories Hollywood is telling, tell better stories.

    The problem with this is that storytelling is an art, and not everyone has the talent to produce better stories, even if they are not happy with the stories that are available. Saying “Tell better stories” is like telling someone who is paraplegic, but enjoys watching field-and-track competitions, that if they aren’t happy with the quality of the competitions they are seeing, they should start running themselves.

    The ability to tell good stories is not a measure of the right to want better stories.

    It also leaves ambiguous the definition of “better.” From the perspective of those who are looking for stories that fit the neoconservative idea of “faith-based” and “family-friendly,” the stories that are dull but fit their politics are “better” by the political measure they are using – a political measure, not an entertainment measure.

    And, the reasoning goes, if Hollywood and the people telling stories that are high-quality by a story-measure for profit see that stories that fit their political measure do well financially, then the people with story-telling skills will look to explore and tell those types of stories, using their skills, for profit, to tell the right political message.

    And this is not bad reasoning. How many times have we heard “women will watch stories with a male lead, but men don’t like stories with a woman lead” as an excuse made by people producing movies for avoiding stories with women in the lead (and best-paying) parts, while saving the money and attention for male actors? If you want the for-profit storytelling industry to tell the stories you want, then you need to prove that the stories you want will make them money.

    This also doesn’t exclude the measure of enjoyment. I find that stories with a genuinely strong woman protagonist are far to few. So a weaker story that meets my desire for seeing strong women is more enjoyable than a story of the exact same quality with a male protagonist. Because I’m invited to identify with a strong woman, which is a pleasure that is too rare.

    There is genuine pleasure in enjoying stories that affirm your worldview. It can make up for other weaknesses, just as any strength in one aspect of storytelling can make up for weaknesses in other aspects of storytelling. No storyteller is perfect. So a story that is “good” for any individual reader is one where the strengths they most enjoy significantly outweigh any weaknesses.

  • Carstonio

    D Johnston was partly echoing Fred’s point about evangelicals complaining about the lack of faith-based or “family friendly” films. Most of here recognize that the last phrase is really code for homophobia and anti-feminism.

    We’re not talking about individuals who rightly criticize stereotypical portrayals of women and minorities in films. Such critics are exactly right that these images perpetuate attitudes that in turn perpetuate artificial disadvantages in society.

    A big difference is that this group seeks to reduce privilege and increase inclusiveness among films, while the evangelicals we’re discussing seek to perpetuate privilege and increase exclusiveness. I know of no feminist film critic who wants Hollywood to feature only female protagonists, or a gay critic who thinks children shouldn’t be exposed to straight love on screen.

  • hidden_urchin

    If you don’t like the stories Hollywood is telling, tell better stories.

    Working on it. Give me a few years. Breaking in isn’t exactly a piece of cake.

    ETA: Whiskey tango foxtrot, Disqus?

  • Ursula L

    Another thing to consider is that the media you are criticizing are a genuine expression of the idea “If you don’t like the stories Hollywood is telling, tell better stories.”

    There are people who are genuinely unhappy with Hollywood stories. So they are trying to tell better stories. Stories that address the problems that they see in the stories that Hollywood is telling. But that does not make them geniuses at the task of creating Hollywood-Level blockbusters. And they probably know they don’t have that level of skill at writing, producing, acting and funding a movie.

    So they add the plea – if you like this type of story, support us, and support this type of story, so that maybe some professional with more talent than we have will be interested in writing this type of story, because they know it makes a profit.

  • JustoneK

    “If you don’t like the stories Hollywood is telling, outspend them.”

  • konrad_arflane

    Um. Aren’t you usually some sort of libertarian?

    If yes, where do you get the idea that you get to tell someone off for a link they’ve posted on their own blog?

  • JRoth95

    I kept waiting to read about your girls playing sevens.

  • http://kingdomofsharks.wordpress.com/ D Johnston

    I can’t see the comment you’re responding to so I’m not sure of the context of your comment, but I will complain about Hollywood all I fucking please, thank you very much

    Thanks for that. I do so appreciate being called an asshole by people who haven’t read what I had to say. Makes me feel very welcome.

  • EllieMurasaki

    You wanna point to the exact place where I called you an asshole?

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Aren’t you usually some sort of libertarian?

    -Yes.

    If yes, where do you get the idea that you get to tell someone off for a link they’ve posted on their own blog?

    -My head? What kind of question is this? As though libertarians can’t make reccomendations not to do something. Bizarre.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Also, who’s downvoting my comments? Show yourself, coward!

  • Carstonio

    Heh. I thought Fred was suggesting that evangelicals band together to start their own independent film industry, the equivalent of the Christian Contemporary music industry.

  • Flying Squid with Goggles

    I am a 100% musical ignoramus, so if we limit it to the cello, which is what he used, how high do the notes have to get?

    12˚C seems a bit excessive, the likelihood of a +12˚C year given a +1.8˚C rolling average increase is pretty small, given the historical record so far.

  • konrad_arflane

    Now you mention it, it may well be true that the high outliers, if the piece is written “in Fahrenheit”, would be beyond the range of a cello (although considering the possibility of harmonics, I wouldn’t quite count on it). The point is that there’s a long way from the upper limit of the cello to the upper limit of human hearing, so confusing the two is kind of a big mistake.

  • konrad_arflane

    All-caps and elevenses isn’t the “tone of voice” usually associated with suggestions, you know.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Put the caffeine down.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    My problem with Child’s Play is that the Penny Arcade guys are assholes of the first order — assholes enough that I no longer trust them with a charity they started.

  • konrad_arflane

    I’m obviously not going to tell you where to donate your money, but it’s worth noting that AFAIK, the “Penny Arcade guys” who are, as you say, publicly assholes, probably don’t do any of the actual work running the charity these days (if they ever did).

  • themunck

    Doesn’t help that logarithmic basic units are really nonintuitive. If you don’t know that dB=10*log(watt/initial watt), then you have no reason to assume that dB aren’t linear. :/

  • Mark Z.

    Click through to the Ensia article and it says “Each ascending halftone is equal to roughly 0.03°C of planetary warming.” Sounds like Grist translated that to Fahrenheit and missed by a factor of 10.

    1.8°C / 0.03°C/half-step = 60 half-steps = 5 octaves. That would put it out of the range of human hearing. And they say the warming since 1880 has been about 0.8°C = 26 half-steps = a little over 2 octaves. Judging by his hand position that’s about right.

    Moral: If you’re popularizing any kind of scientific knowledge, you must understand numbers and units of measure.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    What are “elevenses”?

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    I had no idea the two were connected. The reason I follow Child’s Play is because they’re local to me. ^^;

    (I was just writing about how I use the wrong words with similar beginnings? I just wrote “collated” instead of “connected.” Good thing I re-read before I posted.)

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Very well. Jim West is anti-science, an opponent of college accreditation, a staunch opponent of same-sex marriage and on-demand abortion, an opponent of separation of Church and State, and a huge hypocrite (he’s an opponent of separation of Church and State while being a Biblical Minimalist). This isn’t a guy Fred wants to be supporting in any way, even by implication.

  • Jenny Islander

    There is a class of much smaller evil charity that people need to be aware of: horse “rescues” that are run by kill buyers or their business partners.

    Here’s how it works: A person who is known to buy horses at auctions in order to ship them off for slaughter picks up a horse for, say, $50. (Note: This is not an uncommon price for a family horse that is “sold to a better home” via an auction.) The kill buyer takes the horse to the “rescue,” where it usually receives the bare minimum of care required to keep it on its feet. The “rescue” then posts an ad pleading for $500 in order to “save” the horse from the “feed lot” where it is being “fattened up” in order to be shipped off for slaughter by the evil kill buyer. The “rescue” implies, or outright asserts, that the kill buyer paid $500 or close to it in the first place, and that the kill buyer is only holding the horse because the “rescue” staff begged and pleaded, but unless the money can be found to repay the kill buyer for his or her trouble, the truck is coming!!!!!!!!!!!

    Then some unsuspecting kind person pays $500 for a $50 horse that is going to need at least $500 worth of immediate veterinary care. Anything good said about the horse by the “rescue” is probably a flat-out lie, so whatever the new owner bought it for, the horse most likely won’t ever be able to do it. Meanwhile, the kill buyer pockets his or her cut of the price (of course, this is 100 percent if the kill buyer also owns the “rescue”) and goes off to buy another 5 or 10 horses for $50 each in order to immediately ship them off for slaughter.

    TL;DR: If your local horse rescue keeps begging people for money to rescue horses that are bound for slaughter, Google the names of everyone involved. You may get some eye-opening results!

  • hidden_urchin

    I bet that’s going to become an even bigger problem now that horse-slaughter has been approved for the US.

  • MarkTemporis

    Didn’t you used to be kind of a fan of Gary North, who more or less believes most of the same things? I’ll note that of late you’ve been a more or less consistent atheist, which seems to conflict with a lot of your earlier posts.

  • Lorehead

    That’s an ugly but necessary cello performance. Here’s a beautiful one.

  • MarkTemporis

    I would put it in more universal terms: if you are a follower of a religion, and use your art to express your faith, it should be incumbent upon you to make that art the best art you can possibly make to glorify your god — anything less than your best would show a distinct lack of respect, would it not?


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