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Not Prince Hamlet

"Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse."

Corporations as Uber-Citizens

Friday, January 22, 2010

posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 9:20 AM | link | 0 comments |

Windell Middlebrooks Update

Monday, January 11, 2010

Our guy has landed a recurring role on a major network sitcom. Check him out as Captain Duncook on the new incarnation of Scrubs on Hulu. Sterling College has never been more proud.

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 6:41 PM | link | 0 comments |

Tradition vs. . . . Tradition

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Mark Jordan has a helpful article over at Religious Dispatches about the "conservatives vs. liberals" or "tradition vs. innovation" narrative that drives most talk about church conflict, particularly conflict about sex-related issues. His core point is crucial. If heeded, it would change the way these debates happen. Here's the money quote:
What we are living through is not a fight between a pristine Christianity and the encroaching world, but a divide within Christianity over what exactly should count as tradition. It isn’t a fight between religious conservatives and activist revolutionaries. It is a deep disagreement inside Christianity over what conserving faithfulness means.
What conserving faithfulness means. What counts as tradition.

In common parlance, traditionalists advocate for a faithfulness that amounts to continuity and maintenance of "the way it's always been." Liberals conceive of a faithfulness that enacts values like justice and peace, drawn from a progressive activist culture.

Of course, "the way it's always been" is a matter of negotiation, as Jordan deftly explains. Furthermore, the values championed by liberals are religious in character and are pursued for faithfulness' sake.

The last time I took part in a church (Presbyterian) debate about the question of homosexuality, I noticed something new happening: most of the Bible quoting was being done by the progressives, those advocating a change in the "traditional" church understanding of sexuality. They were mining the tradition to suggest a faithful way forward. The conservatives, for their part, argued for church unity and the relevance of the church to contemporary culture, and in doing so relied heavily on sociological language.

The "religious" case was made by the liberals.

The pragmatic case was made by the conservatives.

Of course, the tradition won out, an occurrence that didn't need any debate to bring it about. I left feeling as discouraged as I've ever felt about the prospects for a meaningful discernment of the faithful thing to do. Jordan's insight makes me a little less discouraged, but only a little.

It's still an inter-religious fight over what constitutes faithfulness. And whereas progressives pay a thorough deference to the faithful intentions of their opponents, many conservatives are driven by the worst kinds of stereotypes about the intentions of liberals.

How would the character of the conversation change if traditionalists held a higher view of the faithfulness of progressives?

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 9:36 AM | link | 0 comments |

The Cream of the Crop on the Podsednik Signing

Friday, January 08, 2010

They hate it, they hate it, they hate it.

"Any hope I once had that Dayton Moore knew what he was doing is gone." (David Pinto, Baseball Musings)

"If Dayton Moore were a writer he'd be Murray Chass" (Jeff Parker, Royall Speaking)

"This is yet another day in the past year that I wonder why I am a Royals fan." (Josh Duggan, Bleacher Report)

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 1:14 PM | link | 0 comments |

Inside Dayton's Head

I like writing about the Kansas City Royals, especially their much maligned General Manager Dayton Moore. Even if you're not interested in baseball, there's something interesting happening in Kansas City.

For the last two seasons Moore has been denounced by baseball writers of a certain school for his roster moves: trading Leo Nunez for Mike Jacobs, trading Ramon Ramirez for Coco Crisp, trading Danny Cortes for Yuniesky Betencourt, signing Jason Kendall to a two-year contract, and on and on. And now those writers have another move to hate, the signing of veteran outfield Scott Podsednik.

The school these writers represent is the sabermetric school, which eschews the traditional measurements of a baseball players value (physical attributes like speed, arm strength, and power) in favor of a set of statistical measurements pioneered by Bill James. For these writers (many of whom work for the sabermetrics mother ship Baseball Prospectus), a player is worth what he has done, and what he has done can be accurately quantified by any number of staistical tools: does he get on base (On Base Percentage); does he hit for power (Slugging Percentage); does he give up many fly balls (Ground Ball/Fly Ball Ratio).

What drives sabermatricians batty about Dayton Moore's signings is that he shows a total disregard for their way of assessing a player's value. In fact, Moore has assembled the worst offensive roster in baseball as measured by the likes of Baseball Prospectus. Prior to 2009, this appeared to be paying off; the Royals increased their win total in three consecutive seasons. But the additions of Jacobs and Crisp in 2009 blew up in Moore's face, and the major league team took a major step backward.

Here's the dilemma, as I see it. Sabermetrics is quickly becoming the new conventional wisdom in baseball, and Dayton Moore continues to make moves with his major league roster that draw the condescension of sabermetric sages like Rob Neyer and Kevin Goldstein and Rany Jayzayerli, and even mainstream media columnist Joe Posnanski. So who's right?

Certainly the 2009 season put a huge feather in the collective Baseball Prospectus cap. But isn't a criteria for greatness independent thought? Would it not be disquieting for a major league executive to make personnel decisions to satisfy the theories of writers?

At the same time, is it not foolish to steadfastly persist in opinions that have been empirically demonstrated to be wrong?

It's the assessment of value that's a stake here. For the Dayton Moore's of the world, value is something you can see with your eyes and project into the future. Value is inferred, projected. It takes a certain kind of scout with an eye for the right attributes and "intangibles" (as an angry mob of sabermatricians shouts: "There are no intangibles!") to recognize value.

For sabermetricians, value is something you can mathematically measure by looking at past data sets. Value is measured. It can be analyzed by anyone with basic spreadsheet capabilities and rudimentary math.

I have strong sympathies with the latter view of value. At the same time, I'm rooting for Dayton Moore's moves to translate into success, if only to vindicate an open-ended, non-deterministic view of the world.

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 10:53 AM | link | 0 comments |

Removador Recordings and Solutions

Thursday, January 07, 2010

So, this guy called Yim Yames starts a record label to produce and promote undiscovered music. No news there.

Only "Yim Yames" is Jim James of My Morning Jacket, and the music is "Some of the coldest music you ain't never heard!"

This is Removador Recordings and Solutions, a roster of six acts that, with one exception, deliver on the label's promised obscurity. Well, one and a half. My Morning Jacket is, of course, on board, as is James himself, under the aforementioned Yim Yames moniker.

It's interesting stuff. For me, it's made all the more interesting by James' involvement in the Monsters of Folk collaboration last year, which was beautifully profiled by Under the Radar magazine.

Here's a guy who's an accomplished musician in his own right fighting the good fight for a collaborative ethos and promoting obscure talent, only because it's what he likes.

Cool. Cool.

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 9:24 PM | link | 0 comments |

Netflix: Me Likey

Our family has used Netflix for five years now, with one brief interruption. At our most avid, we maintained a queue of four DVD's, two for me and two for mon amor. For over a year, however, we've been on the one DVD at a time plan, a plan that, since we don't have a t.v. or DVD player and therefore watch everything on our laptop, makes a lot of sense.

What makes even more sense is the option to watch Netflix content online, which we do as often as we can find something that doesn't suck. Just the other night we watched Doubt. The week before that The Princess Bride. Somewhere in the middle I spent a rib-tickling 90 minutes with SNL: The Best of Jimmy Fallon.

But the vast majority of online viewing content on Netflix is not worth the time it takes to watch. Perhaps that's about to change. From CNN:
In a groundbreaking deal for online movie rentals, Netflix and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment announced Wednesday that they have expanded their licensing arrangement for streaming movies, and Netflix now has licensing rights to more of the studio's catalog content.
I've long maintained that I would gladly pay subscription fees for online television content. Netflix is a model that works but that has been hampered by little quality in the content until now. If Warner Bros. can demonstrate that opening its catalog to Netflix subscribers makes money, then who knows what studios might come running to the table?

Of course, the catch is that Netflix has agreed to not offer Warner Bros. new releases on DVD (or Blu-ray) until 28 days after they go on sale. But I rent fewer-and-fewer DVD's and I consume more and more content "in the cloud" online, so I could care less about that.

Kudos, I say, to Netflix.
posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 12:56 PM | link | 0 comments |

The Use of Doctrine

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

A colleague in ministry expressed doubts today about the doctrine of the Trinity. His squabble with it is the way it's used, which he's found to be inevitably heretical. It is very difficult to speak of God as three-in-one, to teach and preach intelligently as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit without lapsing into any number of "misstatements" of God's nature (insert obligatory nod to the provisional character of all of our God speech here; also insert here the qualification that the use of language is only one part of an equation that also includes its truthfulness or faithfulness).

Modalism is the heresy my colleague hears every time Trinity talk takes place. It is inevitable that people will talk about the different "jobs" assigned the unique members of the Godhead (the Spirit empowers; the Son saves; the Father creates; and so on), whereas one of the marks of Orthodox trinitarianism is the maxim that if one member of the Trinity does something, the other two, by participation, also do it.

For my colleague, this hangup is cause to rethink using Trinity language at all. He gets the doctrine. He can explain it to you all day long; he's just tired of having to. My on-the-fly reply was that just because something is difficult to explicate doesn't mean we should abandon it. Perhaps it means we should use it all the more.

I've thought about this throughout the afternoon and evening, now, and it's clear to me that I use lots of theological language not because it speaks to me personally, but because it's what I was taught. My teachers, though, were faithful men and women who had years behind their convictions and had been taught them by faithful teachers who had themselves been taught, and on and on down the line. I'm okay with that. I'm not sure if I should be, but I'm okay with affirming something I can't explain beyond, "That's the church's traditional teaching," or "That's our best understanding of it." I'm programmed to doubt that contemporary humanity could do it any better than the Patristics who hammered it all out so many centuries ago.

I'm not compelled to find different language because what we have is programmed for confusion. Is that a shirking of my ordination vow to "serve the people with . . .imagination . . . and . . . intelligence?"

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 8:41 PM | link | 0 comments |