All posts by tdaxp

The Gospel of Mark

The Gospel of Mark is so fast it leaves you dizzy.

It begins quoting three seperate Bible verses, introduces the King of Israel, the sacrement of baptism, and the prophet John.

john-the-baptist-jesus

In four verses:

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,

“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;

the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Mark 1:1-4

It ends just as abruptly

So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it

Mark 16:19-20

And in between… in between is not the careful point-by-point capstone to the Hebrew Bible that Matthew wrote. The message is shorter, more concise:

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
Mark 8:34

These are not idle words:

Now it was the third hour, and they crucified Him. And the inscription of His accusation was written above:

THE KING OF THE JEWS.

With Him they also crucified two robbers, one on His right and the other on His left. So the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And He was numbered with the transgressors.”
Mark 15:25-27

In this short Gospel Mark, we have all the elements that Matthew would expound on.

John_of_the_Cross_crucifixion_sketch

But instead of an argument that the Hebrew Bible is incomplete without the Gospel, we have this

Then they compelled a certain man, Simon a Cyrenian, the father of Alexander and Rufus, as he was coming out of the country and passing by, to bear His cross.
Mark 15:21

There are conversions in the Old Testament (Ruth, Naaman), and believers with foreign names (Esther, Mordecai).

We are told to carry the cross. And the man who did so lives in Africa, with sons named after Roman politicians and Greek kings.

Simon-Cyrene

The message of Matthew is that Jesus, Son of David, is the King, the Law-Giver, the LORD of Israel.

The message of Mark is that Jesus is for everyone.

Impressions of “Laudato Si” by Pope Francis

The Gospel of Matthew begins with that most Jewish of literary creations, the genealogy.

And it ends with news that we are never alone

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:16-20

mountains near galilee

And He is with us. We meet him in the Eucharist. We meet Him at the Tabernacle. We meet Him where believers gathers.

And He is with us. He is with the poor. And He is with us when we eat and drink, because He eats and He drinks

His appearance was not that of an ascetic set apart from the world, nor of an enemy to the pleasant things of life. Of himself he said: “The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard!’” (Mt 11:19). He was far removed from philosophies which despised the body, matter and the things of the world. (L.S. 98)

wedding at cana

He is with us as man and woman, because he created us as man and woman

Also, valuing one’s own body in its femininity or masculinity is necessary if I am going to be able to recognize myself in an encounter with someone who is different. In this way we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the Creator, and find mutual enrichment. It is not a healthy attitude which would seek “to cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it (L.S. 155 )

And He is with us when we see the stars and the sea monsters, because He created the stars and the sea monsters are His pets.

The Psalms frequently exhort us to praise God the Creator, “who spread out the earth on the waters, for his steadfast love endures for ever” (Ps 136:6). They also invite other creatures to join us in this praise: “Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars! Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens! Let them praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded and they were created” (Ps 148:3-5). We do not only exist by God’s mighty power; we also live with him and beside him. This is why we adore him. (L.S. 72)

killer whale in alaska

But this is what the poor see when they look up at the stars

beijing-mask-aunties

This is what the poor see when they go to the waters to see His sea monsters

WaterPollution_4Web

The newest architecture in my city, the beautiful offices and apartment buildings of South Lake Union

1200px-South_Lake_Union_cityscape

But that is not what Francis is writing about:

It becomes difficult to pause and recover depth in life. If architecture reflects the spirit of an age, our megastructures and drab apartment blocks express the spirit of globalized technology, where a constant flood of new products coexists with a tedious monotony. (L.S. 113)

But that is the architecture of the age in Beijing, in Shanghai, in Bangkok, in Mumbai, in the great megacities of the world.

Beijing_smog_comparison_August_2005

Throughout the encyclical the Holy Father references Francis of Assisi, who cared for the poor and the environment

I do not want to write this Encyclical without turning to that attractive and compelling figure, whose name I took as my guide and inspiration when I was elected Bishop of Rome. I believe that Saint Francis is the example par excellence of care for the vulnerable and of an integral ecology lived out joyfully and authentically. He is the patron saint of all who study and work in the area of ecology, and he is also much loved by non-Christians. He was particularly concerned for God’s creation and for the poor and outcast. He loved, and was deeply loved for his joy, his generous self-giving, his openheartedness. He was a mystic and a pilgrim who lived in simplicity and in wonderful harmony with God, with others, with nature and with himself. He shows us just how inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace. ( L.S. 10 )

St_Francis_394233c

The poor most impacted by the environment are not the poor of the West, with blue skies and green hills and stars at night, but those of the rapidly developing world. Many countries have leaped at the opportunity for wealth. But (like during the early industrial revolution in our countries) this is done at the cost of polluting the public goods, the skies and the waters.

Nowadays, for example, we are conscious of the disproportionate and unruly growth of many cities, which have become unhealthy to live in, not only because of pollution caused by toxic emissions but also as a result of urban chaos, poor transportation, and visual pollution and noise. Many cities are huge, inefficient structures, excessively wasteful of energy and water. Neighbourhoods, even those recently built, are congested, chaotic and lacking in sufficient green space. We were not meant to be inundated by cement, asphalt, glass and metal, and deprived of physical contact with nature. (L.S. 44)

The factories, owned by run by the corrupt, pollute the cities and hide the sky

Some forms of pollution are part of people’s daily experience. Exposure to atmospheric pollutants produces a broad spectrum of health hazards, especially for the poor, and causes millions of premature deaths. People take sick, for example, from breathing high levels of smoke from fuels used in cooking or heating. There is also pollution that affects everyone, caused by transport, industrial fumes, substances which contribute to the acidification of soil and water, fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides, herbicides and agrotoxins in general. Technology, which, linked to business interests, is presented as the only way of solving these problems, in fact proves incapable of seeing the mysterious network of relations between things and so sometimes solves one problem only to create others. ( L.S. 20 )

Within the developing countries, the government has the primary responsibility of making the right choices. And many of these decisions are choices — simply bad choices — by local governments to prioritize officials and real estate developers over citizens.

Officials in developing countries have an obligation to help the poor, and often helping the poor means letting them see the blue sky, breathe the clean air, and swim in the clean water.

But we in the rich world can help too. When men like Elon Musk work on solar power and batteries, they are doing God’s work

For poor countries, the priorities must be to eliminate extreme poverty and to promote the social development of their people. At the same time, they need to acknowledge the scandalous level of consumption in some privileged sectors of their population and to combat corruption more effectively. They are likewise bound to develop less polluting forms of energy production, but to do so they require the help of countries which have experienced great growth at the cost of the ongoing pollution of the planet. Taking advantage of abundant solar energy will require the establishment of mechanisms and subsidies which allow developing countries access to technology transfer, technical assistance and financial resources, but in a way which respects their concrete situations, since “the compatibility of [infrastructures] with the context for which they have been designed is not always adequately assessed”. The costs of this would be low, compared to the risks of climate change. In any event, these are primarily ethical decisions, rooted in solidarity between all peoples. (L.S. 172)

solarpower-africa-eight19-thatchedroof3

The reason is that true economic growth is based an improvement in the quality of life, not a mere increase in quantity of specific things. We are not truly richer because we have more buggie whips. We are richer because we do not need buggy whips at all. We will not be richer if we sell more cars: we will be richer when self-driving cars are so common that it is inefficient to purchase one. We will be not be richer when dig up more coal: we will be richer when electricity is too cheap to meter.

This has made it easy to accept the idea of infinite or unlimited growth, which proves so attractive to economists, financiers and experts in technology. It is based on the lie that there is an infinite supply of the earth’s goods, and this leads to the planet being squeezed dry beyond every limit. It is the false notion that “an infinite quantity of energy and resources are available, that it is possible to renew them quickly, and that the negative effects of the exploitation of the natural order can be easily absorbed”. (L.S. 106)

But it’s important to remember that improvement in quality is not in everyone’s interests. In advanced industries the means of production are often given away. The most successful phone operating systmes in the world are built on top of operating systems that everyone can use for free: iOS (built on top of BSD Unix) and Android (built on top of Linux).

But less advanced countries are not there yet. In places like China,
One way to influence these developing countries are treaties. No one seriously believes the rich countries do not care about their own environment. But how can they help the poor? When was the last time you heard the human dignity of living under a blue sky mentioned by an American official in China?

Enforceable international agreements are urgently needed, since local authorities are not always capable of effective intervention. Relations between states must be respectful of each other’s sovereignty, but must also lay down mutually agreed means of averting regional disasters which would eventually affect everyone. Global regulatory norms are needed to impose obligations and prevent unacceptable actions, for example, when powerful companies dump contaminated waste or offshore polluting industries in other countries. (L.S. 173)

chinese-wind-turbine

The Helsinki Accords were a useful tool for reminding the world the Soviet Union did not properly respect human rights. How can we similarly remind the world that when China, that when India, that when Brazil speak in front of the world, they do so on the backs of their poor?

The west has helped bring so much good to the world with the wonders of technology that Francis praises.  Can a Pope once again help improve the lives of much of the world?

18 Nov 1990, Vatican City, Rome, Italy --- Soviet Premier Gorbachev visits the Pope at the Vatican. He is in Rome to talk with government officials and to receive his Fiuggi prize. --- Image by © Reuters/CORBIS
18 Nov 1990, Vatican City, Rome, Italy — Soviet Premier Gorbachev visits the Pope at the Vatican. He is in Rome to talk with government officials and to receive his Fiuggi prize. — Image by © Reuters/CORBIS

America, and the western developed countries have beautiful environment that beautify the world of everyone, rich and poor alike. We do this thru our economy thru our laws, thru our civic society and our volunteers

Not everyone is called to engage directly in political life. Society is also enriched by a countless array of organizations which work to promote the common good and to defend the environment, whether natural or urban. Some, for example, show concern for a public place (a building, a fountain, an abandoned monument, a landscape, a square), and strive to protect, restore, improve or beautify it as something belonging to everyone. Around these community actions, relationships develop or are recovered and a new social fabric emerges. ( L.S. 232 )

But not only volunteers in parks serve God by helping the poor enjoy a beautiful home.

Our scientists and engineers, who make wonderful inventions, do too.

Our businessmen, male and female, who create newer and happier industries, do too.

And our negotiators and diplomats have a role too.

When I travel in those new megacities I wonder, how can anyone live like this?

Thank God we have a Father who sees this problem too.

Francis ends with a prayer. Let me conclude this post by praying aloud the last few lines

O Lord, seize us with your power and light,
help us to protect all life,
to prepare for a better future,
for the coming of your Kingdom
of justice, peace, love and beauty.
Praise be to you!

Amen.

The Structural Origins of Gamergate

“The AAAs *are* supporting Gamergate, at least tacitly. They don’t want the journos to gain any more influence (or to stop losing influence), and they loathe this pseudo-academic “critique” stuff just as much as your average gamer. The thought of having to kiss the ass of some PhD in order to gain an Indie or Social Justice imprimatur is insulting to them. They’ve got money to make. So by remaining silent on Gamergate and having IGN do the pageantry of adopting an ethics policy (no skin off their nose), the AAAs signaled that they were not in alignment with the journos. And they aren’t. They are happy to see Gamergate take these people on–and that enrages the journos all the more. This wasn’t a planned strategy on behalf of the AAAs, but it was an easy call to make once Gamergate was in play.”
David Auerbach, Sour Gripes: E3, the AAAs, and the Journos

Last year the most inexplicable event in the history of American publishing happened. Multiple game-enthusiast publications, in a coordinated campaign, published nearly identical editorials, with headlines like “Gamers are dead,” “Gamers don’t have to be your audience,” “Gamers are over, etc.”

gamasutra_gamers_are_over

Replace gamers with “golf-enthusiasts,” or “yacht owners,” or “biblical archaeology nuts,” or “railroad modelers,” or any other hobby you can think of. Never before, in American publication history, had publications that catered to hobbyists condemned their own hobby.

This was the origin of gamergate. There were events before (a sex-for-publicity microscandal in the hobby before hand, some tweets by actor Adam Baldwin afterwards), but those fit neatly into the daily churn of pop culture.

Hobbyist publications condemning their own hobby doesn’t “just happpen.” Something like gamergate requires professional media manipulators, and a failed revolt within a sector of the industry.

This is how it happened:

The games industry historically has five fundamental groups operating with in

  • Multimedia creators, such as AAA development studios (Electronic Arts ,etc) and indie studios of one or a few employees
  • Text and graphics creators, such as AAA magazines and indie hobbyist publications
  • Media consumers, who are gamers and game enthusiasts
  • Outrage entrepreneurs, attempting to extort various members of the three above groups for their own purposes
  • Gamers, who are customers that buy games

In the 1990s the barriers to capital for the multimedia and graphics creators were relatively high. It was (and is) expensive to run a AAA games studio. Running a magazine involved highering a lot of people, negotiating wiht book stores for shelf placement, and a large budget for printing and postage. Development tools were relatively unfriendly, and it was difficult to collaborate with others who were not in your same town. “Indie” games largely consistent of wargames, RPGs, and direct translations of these genres.

The only outrage entrepreneurs at this time were cultural conservatives such as Jack Thompson. They were alienated from all aspects of the industry, and so had to attack it (unsuccessfully) from the outside.

Gaming Industry Then and Now Slide1

Then, the internet happened.

The internet had a lot of consequences, all relating to lowering capital requirements as a barrier to entry:

  • News become “free” leading to the closure or consolidation of the old-line AAA publishers
  • Cheap “indie” or “clickbait” publications arose with no physical presense
  • Platforms with consumer-side economics of scale (like Twitch and Youtube) arose that lets gamers and game-enthusiasts self-publish to a broad audience, with no staff

But publishing a AAA game didn’t become cheaper. Instead (as gaming became increasingly hit driven, and the internet allowed the creation of marketing echo chambers) it became more expensive. Instead of both AAA game publishers and AAA news publishers both having ‘monopolies’ and some degree of equivalence, the remaining news publishers had a stark choice to make:

1. the transition to a “USA Today” of soft news managed by AAA game studios (the model adopted by the most popular online publisher, IGN, and the sole survivor of the print era, PC Gamer)
2. reducing expenses and dependency on AAA publishers for access by allowing writers more freedom; non-financial contributions in allowing writers to use their positions to push pet political interests, as long as the headlines geneated clicks (the model adopted by Gawker, Vox, and other “indie” or “clickbait” sites)

A second-order effect of the ultra-low cost model adopted by Gawker and Vox is that it enabled outrage entrepreneurs for the first time to target writers within the industry. In short order a new generation of such entrepreneurs. Its perhaps not a coincidence that the most successful such entrepreneur is rightist-become–leftist Jonathan McIntosh: as the audience for gaming outrage changed, so the political stances of the entrepreneurs changed.

Yet these “indie” or “clickbait” outlets faced the even lower-fost competition of self-publishing gamers on Youtube and Twitch. And there was a real culture clash. The sort of person who happily plays videogames and talks about videogames in a second or third tier city in England or Wisconsin is not the sort of person who moves to Brookyln or San Francisco to work for Vox and Gawker. Their sense of mission is different (evangelize how fun games are, v. share social commentary learned in university), their sense of persecution is different (memories of being bullied or mocked for a hobby, v. academic concerns learned in university), their sense of villains are diffrent (those who would prevent them from enjoying their hobby, v. rich businesses and capitalists).

This was gamergate: a “goat rodeo” built on an ill-defined culture clash but containing many petty grievances and placing indie developers at the center, with their presses and audiences eager to hear them praise or condemn any given side. The chaos of the situation lead to the bitterness, a civil war within the community.

Gaming Industry Then and Now Slide2

In internet debates, the larger community centered around AAA publishers is sometimes called “gamers,” and the rival community of outrage entrepreneurs and clickbait journalists “SJWs” or “Social Justice Warriors,” but these are ideological terms that hide the materialist structure of the unfolding drama. AAA publishers like money, and so have friendly relationships with light media which celebrates their industry; with self-publishers who act as category captains for their products, and of course with their final customers, gamers. Outside, and looking in, are the outrage entrepreurs, now joined by clickbait journalists who due to economic reasons have become their audience and mouthpiece.

The Gospel of Matthew

The Gospel of Matthew

The End

It begins with an ending.

The genealogies and lists in Genesis are used like credits in modern movies — they tell the audience a story is over. They are a way of indicating a transition from one era to another, from one hero to another. But while Genesis is divided into numerous stories, the Hebrew Bible as a whole is divided into three: the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings. To begin with a genealogy — a list — implies a whole new section of the Hebrew Bible.

The genealogy is in three pieces too. Some number of generations before the Kingdom. The same number during the Kingdom. The same number after the Kingdom. And there are Kings in the list — the Anointed One himself David, his beloved son Solomon, our friend Ruth, and even two whores — one of whom wasnt even Jewish.

rahab_the_harlot

The Gospel of Matthew is a sort of anti-horror, where one out of place piece is turned until an entirely different world is revealed. But this is that first piece, out of place. The Torah has a nice smooth beginning (“In the Beginning…”). The Prophets begin smoothly (“After the death of Moses…”). The Writings announce themselves confidently (“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked…”). But this new thing, the Gospel of Matthew, begins with an ending.

Somethings up.

The Annunciation

Immediately following the genealogy is another piece familiar from the Hebrew Bible, the Annunciation.

abraham sarah and isaac

In the very first annunciation, in the Torah, God appears as a man (the LORD), and promises a son, and an everlasting covenant

Whehn Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless…

God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said to himself, “Can a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Can Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” And Abraham said to God, “O that Ishmael might live in your sight!” God said, “No, but your wife Sarah shall bear you a son, and you shall name him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him.
Genesis 17:1,15-19

The offspring of that covenant, oddly, will be marched up a hill and bound in his 30s.

Elisha_and_Shunamite_1335-176

The only Annunciation during the Kingdom is an odd one, with Elisha promising a son, but a son somehow lost to history. We do not know more about him, other than Elisha’s role in providing for him, and later bringing him back to the dead

He said, “What then may be done for her?” Gehazi answered, “Well, she has no son, and her husband is old.” He said, “Call her.” When he had called her, she stood at the door. He said, “At this season, in due time, you shall embrace a son.” She replied, “No, my lord, O man of God; do not deceive your servant.”

The woman conceived and bore a son at that season, in due time, as Elisha had declared to her.
2 Kings :15-17

God as a man. An everlasting covenant. Rising from the dead. The meek.

Something’s up.

The King from Bethlehem

The Gospel of Matthew began with an ending, obvious in the Hebrew Bible but oddly placed. It then continued into an Annunciation, the first since the Kingdom. But what comes next is harder to say. Whatever it is, its unsettling.
Dura_Synagogue_WC3_David_anointed_by_Samuel

Michah, from the Prophets, is quoted, implying this will be about the return of the House of David.

But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah,
who are one of the little clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to rule in Israel,
whose origin is from of old,
from ancient days.
Michah 5:2

But theres a section after where Deuteronomy. For a reader entering Matthew from the Hebrew Bible the implication is that Jesus’s kingship is created by the LORD and should not be tested — but the rhetorical tact is unnerving

Do not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah. You must diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and his decrees, and his statutes that he has commanded you.
Deuteronomy 6:16-17

The Legislation

While God turns men into kings, they rule but do not legislate. The only legislation comes from Moses.

David-and-Nathan

Indeed, a sign that David himself was no longer fit for kingship (though he continued to enjoy the throne, until he became tortured by it) was Davids incompetent arbitration of the case-of-the-stolen-lamb. In willful taking of property the victim is made whole, under Moses’s Law, by actual damages plus treble punitive damages. Davids statement that the thief “deserves to die” is a dangerous innovation, taking to himself the right to make moral decisions when Moses’s Law is clear.

Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man. He said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die; he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.”
2 Samuel 12:5

By contrast, wise Solomon carefully used the Law, even while dealing with political enemies. Generalissimo Joab, who had killed rival Generals, killed Davids son Absalom, imprisoned King David, and attempted to put an impostor on the throne, fled to the holy altar seeking sanctuary. But Solomon remembered Moses’s Law that such protection does not apply to those who killed one they betrayed

King-Solomon

If it was not premeditated, but came about by an act of God, then I will appoint for you a place to which the killer may flee. But if someone willfully attacks and kills another by treachery, you shall take the killer from my altar for execution.
Exodus 21:13-14

So Solomon could use the Law to dispose of Joab, even though Joab had fled to the place of sanctuary.

When it was told King Solomon, “Joab has fled to the tent of the Lord and now is beside the altar,” Solomon sent Benaiah son of Jehoiada, saying, “Go, strike him down.” So Benaiah came to the tent of the Lord and said to him, “The king commands, ‘Come out.'” But he said, “No, I will die here.” Then Benaiah brought the king word again, saying, “Thus said Joab, and thus he answered me.” The king replied to him, “Do as he has said, strike him down and bury him; and thus take away from me and from my father’s house the guilt for the blood that Joab shed without cause.”
1 Kings 2:29-31

Solomon’s wisdom was not in creating new laws, but in correctly interpreting Moses’s Law.

But suddenly Jesus is issuing legislation. But he does it challenging the same chapter that Solomon quoted. While the verse and chapter division was made only in the middle ages, its only a few sentences later in Moses’s Law that

If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.
Exodus 21:23-25

But Jesus says:

You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also;
Matthew 5:38-39

Experts in the Law would be nonplussed at a surface tension in wording (after all, the first law in Exodus and the Second Law often have a tension), but this Jesus, this third law?

This is not just a new King. This is a new Constitution.

Matthew began with an ending. But it seems the old relationship of the King and the Law is itself ending. Where does this stop?

The Prophecy

At this point Matthew is completely disorienting.

elijah-widow-and-son

Elisha brought the dead back to life

When Elisha came into the house, he saw the child lying dead on his bed. So he went in and closed the door on the two of them, and prayed to the Lord. Then he got up on the bed and lay upon the child, putting his mouth upon his mouth, his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands; and while he lay bent over him, the flesh of the child became warm. He got down, walked once to and fro in the room, then got up again and bent over him; the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes. Elisha summoned Gehazi and said, “Call the Shunammite woman.” So he called her. When she came to him, he said, “Take your son.” She came and fell at his feet, bowing to the ground; then she took her son and left.
2 Kings 4:32-37

and now Jesus does to:

While he was saying these things to them, suddenly a leader of the synagogue came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died; but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” And Jesus got up and followed him, with his disciples. Then suddenly a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak, for she said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well.” Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well. When Jesus came to the leader’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, he said, “Go away; for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl got up. And the report of this spread throughout that district.
Matthew 9:19-26

So perhaps the Kingdom and the legislation stuff should be seen as a form of prophecy? I mean, isn’t Saul, too, among the prophets? But… its really odd that passage of Elisha bringing back the dead to life is in the same chapter as the Annunciation.

Or does this mean that the King, the Legislation, and the Prophecy are being combined?

Is this a normal passage or a revolutionary one?

What remains in this gospel?

A King Greater than Moses

Step by step, the message of the Gospel of Matthew is unveiled.

prophet-moses-with-aaron-or

Moses’s epithet is “The Man”

Now the man Moses was very humble, more so than anyone else on the face of the earth.
Numbers 12:3

Jesus is the Son of Man, Son of David, Son of God

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Matthew 16:13-16

Moses heals the skin-blanched, on the request of his priest, after seven days

Then Aaron said to Moses, “Oh, my lord, do not punish us for a sin that we have so foolishly committed.  Do not let her be like one stillborn, whose flesh is half consumed when it comes out of its mother’s womb.” And Moses cried to the Lord, “O God, please heal her.”
Numbers 12:11-13

Jesus heals the skin-blanched, on the request of his priest, but without delays

When Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever; 15 he touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she got up and began to serve him.
Matthew 8:14-15

Moses feeds the many

When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?”[a] For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat. 16 This is what the Lord has commanded: Gather as much of it as each of you needs, an omer to a person
Exodus 16:15-16

Jesus feeds the many

Jesus asked them, “How many loaves have you?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.” 35 Then ordering the crowd to sit down on the ground, 36 he took the seven loaves and the fish; and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 37 And all of them ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full.
Matthew 15:34-37

Moses is the intercessor

Therefore he said he would destroy them—
had not Moses, his chosen one,
stood in the breach before him,
to turn away his wrath from destroying them.
Psalms 106:23

Jesus establishes an intercessors:

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
Matthew 16:18-19

Moses goes up the mountain

Then the Lord said to Moses, “I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, in order that the people may hear when I speak with you and so trust you ever after…

When the Lord descended upon Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain, the Lord summoned Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up
Exodus 19:9,20

Then Time Collapses In On Itself

elijah-was-taken-up-into-heaven-in-a-chariot-of-fire-and-horses-of-fire

For Elijah went up in a whirlwind

When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.” He responded, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.” As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven.
2 Kings 2:9-11

And Moses is the greatest of the prophets

Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face. He was unequaled for all the signs and wonders that the Lord sent him to perform in the land of Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his servants and his entire land, and for all the mighty deeds and all the terrifying displays of power that Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.
Deteronomy 34:10-12

But then this:

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!
Matthew 17:1-5

and this, radiation burns from the presense of the LORD

Moses came down from Mount Sinai. As he came down from the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant in his hand, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, the skin of his face was shining, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them; and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses spoke with them. Afterward all the Israelites came near, and he gave them in commandment all that the Lord had spoken with him on Mount Sinai. When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face; but whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he would take the veil off, until he came out; and when he came out, and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, the Israelites would see the face of Moses, that the skin of his face was shining; and Moses would put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with him.

The Transfiguration is so breathtaking that there is no longer any ambiguity that Jesus is greater than Moses. The simultaneous presense of Jesus, Moses, and Elijah ia break in time itself. The implication of the “other” side of Mt. Sinai, the destination of the fierey chariot, reorients the reader. Thus far everything was disorienting, but now we know the destination. The Gospel of Matthew is the story of God on Earth.

Jesus is clear: the Son of Man, his title for Himself, is an apocalyptic figure:

Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven’ with power and great glory. 31 And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
Matthew 24:30

The similarity to the Book of Daniel is unavoidable.

“I was watching in the night visions,
And behold, One like the Son of Man,
Coming with the clouds of heaven!
He came to the Ancient of Days,
And they brought Him near before Him.
Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom,
That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
Which shall not pass away,
And His kingdom the one
Which shall not be destroyed.
Daniel 7:13-14

Blake_ancient_of_days

And now everything is unveiled. The greatest of the prophets, the greatest of kings, is the Son of Man, the LORD himself.

The Laws themselves are how we worship the LORD, for this is the greatest of the Laws:

When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
Matthew 22:34-40

And in obeying these laws, we directly serve the LORD

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left.  Then the king will say to those at his right hand, Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.
Matthew 25:31-40

The Son of David, In a Tree, Under Stones

When the Son of David went up on a tree:

Absalom happened to meet the servants of David. Absalom was riding on his mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a great oak. His head caught fast in the oak, and he was left hanging between heaven and earth, while the mule that was under him went on.
2 Samuel 18:9

When the Son of David was buried under stones

They took Absalom, threw him into a great pit in the forest, and raised over him a very great heap of stones. Meanwhile all the Israelites fled to their homes.
2 Samuel 18:17

The King of the Jews offered his own life for his beloved son

The king was deeply moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept; and as he went, he said, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!”
2 Samuel 18:33

This all happens again. But this time it is the King on the tree. This time it is King buried under storms. The Son of Man died

In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him”
Matthew 27:42

And instead of lamentations, after three days the death is followed by the happiest sentences ever recorded

Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.
Matthew 28:9-10

The God Who Will Never Leave

moses-cloud-over-tabernacle

The Book of Exodus ends with Moses with glory of God being with the people of Israel.

Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.  Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled upon it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Whenever the cloud was taken up from the tabernacle, the Israelites would set out on each stage of their journey; but if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out until the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, before the eyes of all the house of Israel at each stage of their journey.
Exodus 40:34-38

The Gospel of Matthew Ends the Same Way

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:16-20

There are other things in the Gospel of Matthew too. Jesus teaches in parables, which are much like the narrative writings. There are other miracles, including his own resurrection. There is a clear establishment of a line of Priests with Peter, with echoes to both Aaron and the Temple. But this, to me, seems like the core of the gospel.

The Gospels begin a new section of the Bible, equivalent to the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings
Jesus creates a Law on par with the First Law in Exodus and the Second Law in Deuteronomy
Jesus is Son of God, Son of David, Son of Man
Jesus is the LORD God
When we serve this new law, by serving the least among us, we serve the God LORD Jesus God, Son of David, Son of God, Son of Man.

“The Book of Psalms,” translated by Robert Alter.

I have now read all of Robert Alter’s translations of the Old Testament.  The last book of his translations I was yet to read is “The Book of Psalms.”

book of psalms by robert alter

The Music of the Psalms

But it makes me very sad I will never hear the psalms. Because they are songs, and we have lost the sheet music.

Even basic questions, such as which words are intended to be song and which are directions, are lost to us.

Consider Psalm 118:1-4

Acclaim the LORD, for He is good forever in His kindness
Let Israel now say: forever is His kindness
Let the House of Aaron now say: forever is His kindness
Let those who fear the LORD now say: forever is His kindness

Israel presumably (possibly?) refers to natural born Jews, “the House of Aaron” to the Priests, and “those who fear the LORD” to gentile converts, so is this call-and-response? Is “let… now say” a stage direction that was silent? We don’t know.

We have some idea of the instruments used, but a naive read would be wrong. For instance, it seems sensible to think that lyres would be used along with some Psalms. But couches and axes are presumably not (Psalms 149:5-7)

Let the faithful delight in glory
sing gladly on their couches
Exultations of God in their throat
and a double-edged sword in their hand

We are left with imagination, separated by millennia from the First Temple, Exile, and Second Temple periods in which these psalms were composed.

king david plays the zither

Psalms and Hip Hop

In the ambiguous instrumentation and focus on the word, Psalms appear to be the ur-genre of hip hop music, which wiki defines as “music genre consisting of a stylized rhythmic music that commonly accompanies rapping, a rhythmic and rhyming speech that is chanted.” The basic components of a psalm are (a) description of one’s mistakes in the past, (b) enthusiastic descriptions of one’s dedication to the Lord, (c) enthusiastic defense of one’s homeland, (d) and praise to God. “Deliverance,” by Bubba Sparx, has all these elements

Can you recall a time people loved you unconditionally?
Toast in the New South: “This one is for history!”
Then I slipped fell and caused the number’s injury
Called the same people and it’s, “Yo, you just missed them, B.”

That hip hop piece has the the same format (a recollection of the indomitable past, a lamentation of the intolerable present) as Psalms 44:8-11

For You rescued us from our foes,
and our enemies You put to shame.
God we praise all day long,
and Your name we acclaim for all time, selah
Yet You neglected and disgraced us
and did not sally forth in our ranks
You turned us back from the foe,
and our enemies took their plunder

psalms88-lament

Sometimes even the analogies are the same, such as the traveling road in Bubba Sparx’s “Comin’ Round

To see you coming ’round the bend
I just can’t think of anything
That could make me smile like you can
When you’re coming ’round the bend

I’ve been in love a time or two before
And all of that experience allows me to be sure
That you’re the one
Sure as darkness brings the rising sun

And traveling on the road in Psalm 123:1-3

A song of ascents.
To You I left up my eyes
O dweller in the heavens.
Look, like the eyes of slaves to their masters,
like the eyes of a slavegirl to her mistress,
so are our eyes to the LORD our God
until He grants us grace

The Translator

Robert Alter, the translator, brings to this translation is the same many strengths and the same few weaknesses as in other translations. His notes contain withering scorn for the idea that Psalms are simply translations of Canaanite songs (one might as well say Paradise Loss is a “translation” of the Odyssey!), or over literal interpretations (such as the claim that any Psalm with a prison reference was meant exclusively for prisoners.).

7c-king-david-illuminated-manuscript-beauneveu-detail

But Alter is allergic to christological (what in The Five Books of Moses he referred to as pre-monotheistic) interpretations, which sometime mean that important cultural context is lost. Parts of the Hebrew Bible as quite “new” — the Book of Daniel is probably as close to the Nativity in time as is the Book of Revelations — and certainly both friends and enemies of the early Christians considered them to be a collection of “The House of Israel” and “Those who fear the LORD.” So what to make of Psalms like Psalms 69:18-19

And hide not Your face from Your servant
for I am in straits. Hurry, answer me.
Come near me, redeem me.
Because of my enemies, ransom me.

Or Psalms 130:

I hoped for the LORD, my being hoped, and for His word I waited
My being for the Master — more than the dawn-watchers watch for the dawn
Wait, or Israel, for the LORD,
and with the LORD is steadfast kindness,
and great redemption is with Him,
and He will redeem Israel
from all its wrongs.

Might Dr. Alter chose this moment to describe the forming of Hebrew messianic traditions or… no, no he won’t.

Final Thoughts

Unlike most of the Old Testament there is no plot, no heroes, no villains, no prose. Psalms is a collection of poems and songs. It feels like it serves as a bridge between the Temple from the latter parts of Kings to the wisdom literature in Job and Ecclesiastes. The Book of Job ends with God declaring the sea monsters, ancient foes of the Canaanite deities, to be His pet.

And that, at its heart, was Job’s mistake. Job was good as sarcastically quoting Psalms and Proverbs. But the monsters of the world are God’s pet too. They praise him too. The sun and the moon, the snow and the smoke, the sea monsters and the mountians all things praise the LORD

Hallellujah.
Praise the LORD from the heavens
praise Him on the heights
Praise Him, all His messengers
praise Him, all His armies.
Praise Him, sun and moon,
praise Him, all you stars of light.

Praise the LORD from the earth,
sea monsters and all you deeps.
Fire and hail, snow and smoke,
stormwind that performs His commands
Palms 148:1-3,7-8

killer whale in alaska

I read The Book of Psalms in the kindle edition.

Review of “The Art of Biblical Narrative,” by Robert Alter

I finished The Art of Biblical Narrative by Robert Alter.

samuel-annoints-saul-king

Genre Conventions

Alter argues understanding of the Hebrew Bible is impossible without understanding the literary conventions that its human authors and audience were used to. Alter gives a funny analogy, of a future world in which only ten surviving Westerns remained. Nine featured a gunslinger who could also draw before this enemy. A tenth featured a gunslinger with a broken right arm, who uses a rifle with his left. In that future world, “scholars” of Westerns would conclude, either

1. in the Old West, a hereditary caste of gunslingers (With a genetic predisposition for quick drawing) were given political office, or
2. Westerns are actually garbled retellings of an ancient Aztek legend of creature that shot fire from its arms

and that all scholars would agree the tenth Western (the sheriff with the lame right arm) came from a different tradition and was inadvertently included as a “Western”

king_saul_lego

Of course, all those interpretations would be nonsense. A fast-draw gunslinger is a genre convention of a Western. It provides important information about the identity of the hero the audience is supposed to follow. It demonstrates the protective masculinity of the hero. And in the tenth story the genre convention is there by its absence: the hero overcomes adversity to protect the town in spite of his lameness.

Types of Conventions

Alter breaks down Biblical conventions into a few categorizes, including

1. lead words — repeated words of word-routes that provide information about a character at a particular time, like heavy use of “stone” after Jacob flees Esau
2. first words – the first direct quote of a character provides special insight into their concerns or personality
3. themes — a pattern repeated situations with one or more characters, like the firstborn’s loss of inheritance in Genesis
4. type scenes — specific complicated scenes that repeat with different characters, like the meeting of future spouses (the “betrothal type-scene”) or the promise of a son by God

Type scenes are the most interesting, because by seeing small (or large!) variations we get more insight into characters. Abraham’s betrothal type-scene with Sarah is diplomatic, long-winded, formal, and intentional, befitting his character. In Isaac’s type-scene with Rebecca, Isaac is passive while Rebecca is running the throw, like in their marriage. And in Saul’s type-scene with the young women — the scene is broken off, while Saul runs after Samuel… a tragic comment on a tragic king.

saul_david

The tragedy of Saul is compounded by his first words — searching for his flock, he is overcome with concern for his family, and asks his servant if they should simply go back. A good, but weak, man, Saul will be overcome and is completely unfit for kingship.

A Minor Complaint

Alter elsewhere stated that the Book of Samuel (1 Samuel 1 thru 1 Kings 1) is the best story in the Hebrew Bible. Having read his translations, I agree. But in Samuel he sees two contradictions/inexplicable duplications that to me are not only consistent, but are vital to understanding Saul.

death_of_king_saul

In chronological order, these are

A1. As a test of his future Kingship, Samuel observes that Saul strips off his clothes and writes on the ground. Thus the old saying, “Is Saul, too, among the prophets?”
B1. Saul meets David for the first time, as a lute player who soothes Saul’s madness
B2. Saul asks who David is, after David slays Goliath
A2. As the war between Saul and David rages, Saul goes to Samuel. But during the meeting he stripes off his clothes and writhes on the ground. Thus the old saying, “Is Saul, too, among the prophets?”

  1. Samuel uses the “test of prophecy” to confirm Saul is a fit king.
  2. The reader sees the first hint of madness, that Saul is emotionally unstable
  3. The reader sees an even greater sign of madness, that Saul’s memory is impacted
  4. The reader realizes the “test of prophecy” was misinterpreted: Saul was mad from the beginning and Samuel is a terrible judge of kingship

Alter repeatedly uses analogy to film or Western literature, but completely misses the near perfect analogy to Roman Polanski’s Repulsion. Repulsion is shocking because the main character (a sympathetic young women) is mad for the entire duration of the whole time. But (unlike The Sixth Sense) this does not depend on a character forgetting the past and (unlike Turn of the Screw) the narrator is reliable. The “first hints” of madness are not this or that quirk at the middle of the film: the first hints of madness are the very activities that seemed to confirm the main character was worth rooting for.

The same seems to be true of Saul.

The Narrator

Alter concludes the book not with a dry summary, but an arresting observation: the Narrator of the Hebrew Bible is omniscient (and even knows God’s internal dialog with Himself!) but repeatedly excludes critical information from us. Why don’t we have access to David’s thoughts until the death of his son? Why don’t we know if David promised the kingship to Solomon (all we know is that Bathsheba and Nathan told him he had)? Why don’t we know if David massacred Israelite villages for the Moab king?

 

Ishbosheth_is_slain

Because if we did — suggests Alter — we would know which characters are good and which are evil, like God. We would be able to see with the heart. We would know the truth.

Instead, we see with our eyes. Like young Saul we are forced with multiple conflicting priorities — the flock we are responsible for, our loved ones at home, the young women at the well, the prophet somewhere in the distance — and we must choose where to walk, knowing that God has a plan He has not shared with us.
I read Robert Alter’s The Art of Biblical Narrative in the Kindle edition.

The Book of Kings

ancient_isreal

The Old Testament is, among other things, a collection of the greatest ancient literature that survives.

  • The Book of Genesis is the story a family across four generations — Abraham thru Joseph – and what it means to be be a continuous family as the old die and babies are born.
  • The Books of Exodus and Numbers is “Breaking Bad,” with Moses (Walter White) going from a wimp, to a leader, to a monster, to a redeemed but dying man.
  • The Book of Joshua is a war story, that could be passed off as “The Rise of ISIS” with only minor changes to terms and descriptions.
  • The Book of Judges is a collections of westerns, of minister-sheriffs who ride in to save the day, but are continually needed because of the lack of a government, army, courts, or stability.
  • The Book of Samuel is a cross between the Godfather, House of Cards, and Game of Thrones, a brilliant example of psychological realism, in which everything goes wrong, but for all the right reasons

But The Book of Kings…. Kings is Battlestar Galactica.

battlestar-galactica-w

Battlestar Galactica, an example of post-9/11 film making, was a show of a disaster followed by a rebirth — followed by the tireless destruction of war. BSG didn’t have a naive anti-war message — at least at first, when the sides are clear, there is a clear “right” side — but in BSG, reality got a veto on the kind of war that was fought. Throughout the series things got worse.
And even the enemies become warn down, and betray each other, and by the end you’re no longer sure who you are supporting, or if your heroes were heroic at all.

elisha_and_the_bear_md

The Book of Kings begins with the death of David, the rally of Solomon, and then several centuries of a nation being worn down to almost nothing.

And like BSG, the ending of the Book of Kings is odd, ambiguous. The House of David is in captivity, in exile, but exalted above other captive monarchs. The branch of Jesse lives. Perhaps, one day, a King will return…

I read The Book of Kings in Robert Alter’s translation of The Former Prophets.

This is the Best Games Media Ever. But the Worst Games Journalism

This is the Best Games Media Ever. But the Worst Games Journalism

I must be doing something right, because I now know two Zens! ZenPundit is a terrific historian and author. ZenOfDesign, a game designer, is also the most polished of the voices defending GawkerMedia and Vox in the gamergate scandal.

ZenOfDesign has a terrific post, This is the worst games media ever (Except for all the ones before) that covers much of the territory I’ve been blogging about, including

    1. The collapse of paperbound games journalism
    2. The rise of social media (with its consumer-side economies of scale)
    3. The financial pressures that the new old media of online games journalism faces

We use different terms for these trends, but I think we see the objective sitaution very similarly.

Where we differ is in understanding the difference between entertainment, commentary, and journalism.

ZenOfDesign’s otherwise terrific post is an anarchy of conceptual confusion.

        1. ZenOfDesign and I agree that sites like Gawker and Vox at least aspire to be journalists.
        2. ZenOfDesign confuses commentary with journalism. For instance he explicitly compares Gawker with Daily Kos, apparently without realizing that Daily Kos is a site dedicated to commentary and political agitation.
        3. ZenOfDesign confuses entertainment with journalism. For instance, he appears to be honestly disturbed that celebrity “streamers” engage in product placement (he’s not alone in this — a famous celebrity streamer well known for his gentle personality was also very worried).

Very few care about celebrity product placement for the same reason very few care about Daily Kos’ liberal bias: neither celebrities nor political agitators are journalists.

Many times I’ve mentioned that the #gamergate scandal was fueled by a naive population that believed game journalists were had the prestige or access of, say, Washington Post reporters. ZenOfDesign is striking for me in that he is a supporter of Vox and Gawker, but equally naive. His passion against celebrity product placement is heartfelt, and his demand to know how product placement is made is earnest.

Look, if I were a #gamergater and cared about actual journalistic integrity in games as much as they purport to, I’d at least demand some answers. I’d be aiming the angry mob at demanding confirmation of these requirements. I’d be trying to find out what OTHER games this particular marketing company shilled for and looking at those. I’d be taking a hard look at early YouTube videos and seeing who made videos that matched these requirements, and try to figure out which YouTube video personalities are basically purely on the take. I’d be pushing personalities to establish disclosure rules for financial rewards and editorial content restrictions such as this.

To anyone who understands that entertainment is not journalism, however, it’s also bizarre

Indie Authors, Gamers, and Monopoly Censorship

Book publishing and game news journalism are both being disrupted by “user generated” platforms that have consumer-side economies of scale.

For book publishing, two of these platforms are Kobo and Amazon Kindle. The users/producers of these services are called “indie authors.”

For game news publishing, two of these platforms are Twitter and Reddit. The users/producers of these services are called “gamers.”

While these services are united in their hostility to other types of publishing, each still faces competition from other “user generated” platforms with consumer-side economies of scale.

For instance, in book publishig, Kobo’s President Michael Tamblyn is warning “indie authors” that Amazon Kindle’s interest is not theirs, and Amazon Kindle could use market power to take away their profits and silence them.

Meanwhile, in game news publishing, this form of censorship has been observed. Early on in the #gamergate scandal, reddit began censoring discussion of collusion between Vox Media, Gawker Media, and game developers. This lead to the discussion to shift to twitter, a rival platform.

The power that monopolies have to extract all profits and control the agenda is called wholesale transfer pricing power.

If Amazon achieves a monopoly in “indie author” book publishing, they would have wholesale transfer pricing power, be able to strip all economic profits from indie authors, and censor indie authors at will.

If Reddit would achieve a monopoly in “gamer” news publishing, they would have wholesale transfer pricing power, be able to strip all economic profits from indie authors, and censor gamers will.

The only difference is that this shift from command-and-control to user-generated publishing is more advanced in game news than it is in books.

The today of gamers is the tomorrow of indie authors.

That’s why the gamergate scandal is the biggest news in publishing.

Types of Publishing Platforms

There are three (maybe four) kinds of publishing platforms

Consumer-side economies of scale are currently disrupting the publishing industry. That is why the rise of consumer-side economies-of-scale platforms is currently the biggest news in publishing. The increasing power of platforms such as Twitch (widely used by gamers) is removing the prestige associated with journalism. Likewise, the loss of audience from “traditional media” (employee-produced, with no consumer-side economies of scale) means that traditional media needs to further cut wages, and cut quality.

There are three (and maybe four) important kinds of publishing platforms

  • Consumer-produced, consumer-side no economies of scale
    Most published content is produced by users of the service. Each additional consumer/producer does not increase the utility of the service for other users (in ways not related to producer economies of scale)
    Examples: WordPress
  • Consumer-produced, consumer-side economies-of-scale
    Most published content is produced by users of the service. Each additional consumer/producer increases the utility of the service for other users (in ways not related to producer economies of scale)
    Examples: infiniteChan, Facebook, Reddit, Tumblr, Twitch, YouTube
  • Employee-produced, no consumer-side economies of scale
    Most published content is produced by paid employees or contractors. Each additional consumer/producer does not increase the utility of the service for other users (in ways not related to producer economies of scale)
    Example: The Washington Post
  • Employee-produced, consumer-side economies of scale
    Most published content is produced by paid employees or contractors. Each additional consumer/producer does not increase the utility of the service for other users (in ways not related to producer economies of scale)
    Example: This may not exist in a pure form. But a pretty close example is Amazon Kindle, where the bulk of the material is created by paid authors, while reviews and annotations are shared between consumers.

Interestingly, Amazon.com is involved in three of these platforms. Amazon owns Twitch, Kindle, and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post.

Just as interesting is the predictable way besieged “traditional media” (employee produced, and without economies of scale) attacks “new” media with consumer-side economies-of-scale. For example, the Washington Post employs Caitlin Dewey, whose only responsibility appears to be targetting media that has consumer-side economies-of-scale. Recent targets include

If you didn’t know the kinds of publishing platforms, you might think the Washington Post was just publishing objectively interesting news, or that Amazon was just a book seller.