Music and Money

At a certain point, it only bores and annoys people if you repeat the same things over and over (unless you’re a “pundit,” in which case people eagerly expect you to repeat yourself ad infinitum) — so I’ve resisted the temptation to hammer away at the recording-packaging-and-distribution industry’s ludicrously wrong-headed approach to the digital music transition.

This morning, though, I stumbled over to the P2Pnet blog’s application of economic analysis to the digital distribution of music files. Essentially, the author argues that an honor-system of payments would probably generate ample remuneration to encourage artists and recording. I’m not entirely convinced, but in a comment, the redoubtable Julian Bond suggests what seems to me the overwhelmingly superior suggestion: “Adopt the AllofMp3 model, pack it with every audio track ever recorded and then sell the tracks at the equivalent of 10c each for 192K VBR. In other words, get rid of the bits that annoy about iTMS et al (DRM, limited catalogue, low quality) and then see what price the market will bear and how much price elasticity there is.”

Case in point: the other day, Nate asked me about Ben Harper. I commended his work highly, and wanted to point out a couple of particular tracks. Now, because of DRM nuisances and high cost, I’m not about to download those tracks from iTunes Music Store — but if I could just pull them down from a legit online source for about a quarter per track, I would without a moment’s hesitation just buy the tracks for him and send them along. I wouldn’t be tempted to send him tracks that I’ve already bought. The “right thing” of buying each file is so easy, at that price point, that the benefit of clean files, full metadata, legitimate file ownership, etc., make buying a preferable alternative to unauthorized downloading.

I’m just saying. And I’m still trying to turn up copies of Tom Robinson’s “1967,” and of Jools Holland and the Millionaires’ first album, from whatever source.

No Snowman Just Falcons

For the second year, a family of peregrine falcons has nested at the top of one of the brick columns of the Evanston Public Library. The library staff has set up a FalconCam that uploads a picture of the nest every two minutes during daylight library hours. We’ve become falcon junkies; Margaret and I trade messages several times a day, noting exciting developments, checking for the adult birds’ presence, observing the personalities of the fledglings. . . .

A Bit of Toronto

My sweetheart gave me a Father’s Day gift of the Toronto Subway typeface that we had admired so much, and I — in delighted gratitude, and as a reminder of the glorious time we had in Accordion City, the home of the Flackster PR excellence — redesigned my banner.

I had meant to complete my “why I am not a liberal (theologian)” entry and perhaps even comment on the goings-on in Nottingham (ably cartooned by Dave Walker), but life intervened.

“Desecration” Again

Today, the House passed the following proposed amendment to the Constitution: “The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States.” Now, the word “desecration” has no force unless something is “sacred” beforehand, and since so many elected officials make public protestations of their ardent Christian faith, we can safely assume that they led the resistance to defining any symbol of national identity as “sacred” — can’t we?

I may be extra sensitive about the issue, since I’m going to give a presentation on the first three commandments in a few weeks — but if those commandments mean anything, don’t they absolutely and unequivocally forbid their adherents from elevating anything or anyone other than God to the status of “sacred”?

James and Jacob

Old co-conspirator Dwight Peterson pursued the “James”/“Jacob” question more diligently than I, with some intriguing results. First, the translation “James” seems to have prevailed from the time of Tyndale and Wycliffe. Second, even the languages that don’t supply a starkly different form for the New Testament author tend to differentiate the Old Testament patriarch in some way: German “Jakob” OT, “Jakobus” NT; the Vulgate, “Iacob” OT, “Iacobus” NT. Likewise, he notes that the French Bible Jerusalem in his collection identifies the OT figure as “Jacob,” while the NT figure is “Jacques.” And of course, the New Testament and the Septuagint apply the name Ιακωβ (undeclined) to the patriarch (and to Jesus’ grandfather), but Ιακωβος (the declinable form) to all the companions of Jesus who go by this name.

Quite intriguing. It clearly makes no vast difference in most ways — an apostle by any other name would remain in the New Testament canon, even if the letter may be pseudepigraphical — but it suggests a lot about the role that presuppositions play in biblical interpretation. Even scholars who wear their non-theological identity proudly collaborate with the linguistic proclivity to mark a sharp rupture between the “Christian” James and the “Jewish” Jacob.

Today’s Episode

Feeling The Effects

Last night, Pippa shifted into concentrated-idea mode, and presented Margaret and me with the cartoon above. She wanted us to guess the caption; I don’t recall whether Margaret had a guess, but mine was way off the mark. In case your eyesight is as frail as mine, the correct caption is “I see the gas prices have affected you, too.”

Back to James

I have two — well, make that four or five — big assignments looming, one of which returns me to the Epistle of James to spruce up and flesh out the commentary on which I’ve been working. Last summer, I mentioned the oddity that English translations render the putative author’s name “James” rather than the more apposite “Jacob”; Now that I’m at home with my commentaries, I observe that few scholars do more than note that “James” stands in for the Greek form (actually, one of two attested Greek forms) — much less reflect on the appropriateness of rendering that name as “James.” The problem wouldn’t arise, of course, in a German context where both the apostle and the patriarch are identified as “Jakobus.” Is the solution to the mystery as simple as the power of custom (in English) reinforced by conformity to German-language standards?

Words’ Roots

Tom is right — the Etymonline site provides a fantastic resource. I especially appreciate the caveat on the main page: “Etymologies are not definitions; they’re explanations of what our words meant and how they sounded 600 or 2,000 years ago.” For some reason, theological (and perhaps especially homiletical) discourses show a lamentable proclivity toward the etymological fallacy. . . .

Where’s Tom?

Once upon a time, when our family lived in New Haven (and listened regularly to the radio news on WCBS), my two-year-old son Nate, infant Si, and beloved spouse Margaret collaborated to obtain a Father’s Day cake for me. Not just any cake, mind you, but an official Tom Carvel ice cream cake, of the sort that Carvel sold as “a whale of a cake — for a whale of a Dad.” (The Carvel’s site reveals that this design bears the name, “Fudgie the Whale.” Whatever.)

This afternoon, Pippa proudly brought up from the basement a cake she had frosted for me, to bring back fond memories of that long, long-ago Father’s Day before she was even a glimmer in anyone’s eye:

Whale of a Cake

Thanks Pippa, Si,and Nate, and thanks to Margaret, who (as the greatest Mom ever) always shows me how to be a better Dad. . . .

Later: One of the benefits of the Net comes when helpful readers join in to correct mistaken claims. For instance, no sooner had Margaret read this post than she assured me that I was off by a year, that the cake in question had been given me when Nate was 1, and we were preparing to move from our home in the basement of the Berkeley Center at Yale Divinity School to our housing in downtown New Haven. She messaged me, “You had just finished your M.Div., after a very difficult semester in which you had had mono. Then, at the end of the semester, in the post-school let-down period, in addition to recovering from mono, you developed terrific back problems. You were stuck on the bed, where I set Nate with you, briefly, to go out and purchase a cake. I was in a state! Getting out of the parking lot of the Carvel store with the cake, I backed up into somebody’s new truck. I made no mark on the truck, but the guy was massively upset and angry, since it was brand new.”

Ancient Whale

Pippa, however, recalled the photos of the event and (though she was not even there! and notice what a great job she did in reproducing the original cake!) showed that Nate himself was only a few months old on the Father’s Day in question — thus, my first as a father. So the cake in question was not a Fudgie, and was given when Nate wasn’t even one year old. It was still a whale of a cake, from Carvel Ice Cream, and I’m still thankful that Margaret went to such lengths to obtain it for me.

Ten Hostile Leopards

Ignatius Under Arrest

Ignatius of Antioch led the Christians of one of the largest cities in the Empire. We first meet him, though, after he’s already been arrested. An impressive guard seems to have escorted him to Rome; he refers to himself as “being bound amidst ten leopards, even a company of soldiers, who only wax worse when they are kindly treated.” On his way, he wrote a number of letters that have survived the centuries — to the Ephesians, the Magnesians, the Trallians, the Romans, the Philadelphians, the Smyrnaeans, and one to Bishop Polycarp of Smyrna. Tradition (and decent probability) indicate that he was executed in Rome, apparently being fed to lions.

(The execution scene is yet to come, and I’ll probably work up a frame or two of doctrinal illustrations.)


Yesterday Pippa and I assembled the elements for an Ignatius of Antioch sequence in the Lego-Church-history endeavor. We’ll shoot a frame or two today, if the lighting favors us. We’re stuck, for now, on the “lion” part — the piece to which madame l. pointed in a comment looks like a Duplo, the double- or triple-size Lego gateway toy for toddlers. While it would certainly be able to devour Ignatius, we would have to wonder why it didn’t go ahead and eat the whole Coliseum. I ordered a Lego “tiger,” which I expect I can touch up in Photoshop, but it won’t arrive for a week or so. Pippa remembers a wooden lion somewhere in the basement, and we may resort to that.

But we’re set to go with Ignatius’s trip to Rome under guard, and Ignatius as letter-writer. I expect to illustrate a couple of points of doctrine on which Ignatius touches, too. Maybe today, maybe tomorrow.