What You Will

Another Burma Shave billboard on the information superhighway. Random thoughts about arts, faith, culture, music, language, literature, and the shortcomings of the Hegelian dialectic. (OK, just kidding about that last bit.)

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Location: Edmonds, Washington, United States

I wonder what goes in this space?


Off the Mark

I don't make a regular habit on this blog of calling out people I disagree with. And when I do call them out, sometimes I choose not to use their names, for discretion's sake. But not this time.

One of the most obnoxious bloggers I've ever had the misfortune to come across, Jim Pruitt, has recently exceeded his own high water mark for crassness and stupidity.

Jim was once a big Pat Terry fan (this Pat Terry, not this one), and finds it hard to comprehend Pat's transition from laid-back Jesus-freak folkie to socially conscious garage rocker to country hit writer. Jim just can't get his head around the idea that Pat's journey in faith and his life as a musician have led him in turn to each of these places. Nor, apparently, does Jim completely believe Pat's own assertion that he, Pat, has always written and continues to write from the perspective of a Christian, even if the lyrics to his later songs come in lower on the Jesus-per-minute scale.

Jim can't accept the change in Pat's music as a natural consequence of Pat becoming older and wiser, both as a person and as a Christian, so he looks for something or someone else to blame it on. And evidently he's found a scapegoat: Mark Heard!

Jim apparently has read a lot of Mark's writing on the Web (without bothering to thank me for helping make it available — I have hosted MarkHeard.net for years) and even listened to some of Mark's music, and...


And completely missed the point.

Here's just some of what Jim has to say about Mark:
"...a cynic..."

"He saw himself as an artist/musician/writer first and a Christian second. He worshiped his craft and it was only when he was writing that he felt connected to God."

"He treated with contempt any direct communication of the Gospel."

"He held onto a vain intellectual elitism which treated with contempt simple faith or simple answers whether they were true or not."

"...a depressed, despairing, shadow of a man who was thoroughly in love with his pain and doubt."

"Mark held his identity as an artist, musician, and a skeptic higher than his identity as a child of God."

"...most Christians could detect right away that there was something out of whack in his faith."
Awfully strong words to use about a dead man you never met. You have to read Mark through a pretty strong fundie-filter to come away with twisted characterizations like those. I'm pretty sure my readers (both of them) are familiar with Mark and his music to some extent. So, does Jim's description sound like Mark to you?

Didn't think so.

I'm in touch with Mark's wife, Janet, now and then. I could ask her about this crap, but I know what she'd say.

I must admit I'm impressed by the quantity of "research" Jim has done on Mark, even if the quality of said research leaves me scratching my head. But remember, Jim embarked on this project with an ax to grind. His research was performed for the purpose of depicting Mark as some kind of bad influence on Pat Terry ... as if Pat's own thoughts and experiences weren't valid in and of themselves ... as if Pat were some kind of Mark Heard clone. There's an old issue of Campus Life from the early '80s that contains a passionate letter to the editor from Mark, responding to a record review that had dismissed Pat as a Mark Heard clone:

Pat and I are both, in our own ways, weary of seeing the Christian music subculture foist an anaesthetic atmosphere over life in the real world, and what it is like to be a real living, breathing Christian human being in the culture in which we find ourselves suspended. Is that sufficient basis for dubbing Pat a clone?

There are a handful of artists who don’t care about the expectations of the Christian market and who pursue their responsibilities as artists and as Christians with vigor and determination despite the fact that they will never be as popular as the sterility which besieges us. It’s the thinkers who have something to say, and Pat Terry is a thinker and a unique, valid artist. Please let him speak for himself.

Jim likes to pass himself off as quite the expert on "music ministry,"* and even wrote a book called The Contemporary Christian Musician's Survival Manual. Jim himself didn't survive very long as a contemporary Christian musician because he couldn't get his band to operate according to the rules in his book. It's kind of ironic that a guy who is no longer doing music as a "ministry" thinks it's his place to criticize other people who aren't doing music as a "ministry." But there you go. Backbiting, malicious gossip, and bearing false witness all appear on the Bible's laundry lists of sin, but apparently even that won't slow Jim down.

You could let Jim know what you think ... not that it will do any good. (I've tried.)

*Of the 183 times the words minister and ministry appear in the King James Bible, not one of them has anything to do with music.


Who wears the pants?

We've all observed the 20-year fashion trend of young men wearing their trousers with the waistband well below the waist — around the thighs or even the knees. We're told this practice is observed in imitation of rap and hip-hop artists, and I hear it can be further traced to prison inmates, who aren't allowed to wear belts and therefore must walk around the prison yard with their pants falling down.

I wonder if I could bring a halt to this trend by announcing my discovery that it has a much older antecedent, about as far removed from rap and hip-hop as possible: Check out the costume in this 1950s clip of comedian and old-time banjo picker David "Stringbean" Akeman, a longtime fixture on the Grand Ole Opry and a denizen of "Hee Haw" until his death in 1973. Would it give today's young men pause to know that their look is as much hayseed as it is hip-hop?

Apart from the pants, Stringbean has something else in common with some rap artists: he died in a hail of bullets, gunned down at his Tennessee cabin, along with his wife, by two men who were after the $20,000 in cash Stringbean had stashed behind a brick in the chimney. Obviously, nothing good comes of wearing your pants this way, no matter what style of music you play.