Our Weekend Reading series (brought to you by our Patreon backers) continues with a curated selection of fascinating articles—and a few other things—from around the Internet. (And we’ll surely stop naming these silly things eventually.)
Since we talked about U2 with Rev. Derek White in this week’s episode (and you really should listen to that if you haven’t yet!), it’s convenient that U2 went on Jimmy Kimmel Live just recently and performed “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”. The writer for Relevant Magazine seems surprised to describe this rendition as “worshipful” and “new”, which really only suggests they haven’t listened to 1986’s Rattle and Hum album. But that’s secondary to a delightful performance featuring the Selah Gospel Choir.
It’s not strictly roleplaying-related, but this is an interesting indication of how well Roll20 is doing and how no segment of the larger gaming world is completely independent of the others. Roll20 is sponsoring Team 8, an esports team, and their Heroes of the Storm pro team will compete as “Roll20 Esports”. From Roll20’s blog post on the investment:
It’s a mildly unorthodox thing for a company like Roll20 to up and jump into esports, but there’s a lot about it that just made sense. We don’t do much advertising (‘cause you all do such a fantastic job of telling your friends about us!) and we feel like the friendly Heroes community might occasionally enjoy taking a break from winning and losing to make more friends on Roll20 in the same way we’ve enjoyed exorcising our competitive Diablo’s in “HotS.”
Finally, an article that’s both useful as gaming material and is a timely, real warning about modern cults and information. “The Knife of Aristotle Isn’t Just a Fake ‘Fake News’ Site—It’s A Cult“, by Brock Wilbur, investigates a cult that recruits by rebranding and diversifying so rapidly that it becomes difficult to track:
Rebranding NXIVM as a news outlet makes sense, but also seemed overly specific. But checking in with the cult’s dedicated watchdog shows that they have diversified into a number of specific audiences. The Source is designed to involve actors with this program, Exo/Eso is built around yoga, JNESS is a support group for women, and Society of Protectors is an analogous group of men defending the honor of men. God, they’re just terrible at names. It feels like they were always in a rush to get a new company out the door.
And that’s the cracked code. A cult knows that it can’t keep being a cult under the same name anymore, so it is quickly becoming too many different organizations to track, all built around getting people to spend a month in Albany. And maybe it doesn’t take a full-on detective to know that you shouldn’t keep considering any job where your boss can’t answer your questions about the job.
If you’ve been on the internet for the last week or two, you’ve probably seen some of the controversy over the upcoming Far Cry 5. John Walker, the resident Christian (or as he refers to himself, God botherer) over at Rock, Paper, Shotgun brings some sanity to the discussion.
Far Cry is, I think history has rather firmly established, not the place for Swiftian satirical interrogation of modern cultural mores. I would venture that Far Cry has proven itself disastrous at such attempts, and the idea that this fifth installment should suddenly be the game to strike a killing blow against freedom-loving patriotic Americans, or indeed be the mouthpiece that finally sees the alt-right’s rise collapse like a souffle on a landmine, is perhaps a touch optimistic. It’s much more likely going to be a goofy string of far-too-long cutscenes, each of which interrupts the opportunities to have lots of fun.
I’ll make you a deal: I’ll stop linking to Richard Beck in these posts just as soon as he stops being amazing. I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting on that day to come. The latest bit of interesting food-for-thought is a couple of posts from Experimental Theology where he references the work of another leading Christian thinker, N.T. Wright. See if this whets your appetite:
In yesterday’s post I pointed how N.T. Wright in his book The Day the Revolution Began makes the argument that the gospels do present us with an atonement theology.
Finally, in the “that’s just cool” category (specifically in the “technological marvels” subcategory) there’s this amazing floating solar panel array that just went into operation in China.
China has announced that the largest floating photovoltaic (PV) facility on earth has finally been completed and connected to the local power grid.
I was recently introduced to a piece of fiction titled Unsong by Scott Alexander. It’s about a world in which capitalism has gotten its hands on the mass production of Names of God, and a kabbalist who kind of stumbles his way into a bit of a revolution. I will warn you: later on in the book, the main character gets into some pretty serious stuff, and if reading about antisemitic political figures bothers you in a big way, you may not want to read the whole thing. And I haven’t actually finished reading it yet. It took me a little bit to get into Unsong, but this is the passage that really cemented my liking for this work:
HELLO PRESIDENT NIXON. THIS IS THE ARCHANGEL URIEL. I APOLOGIZE FOR RECENT DISRUPTIONS. THE MACHINERY OF THE UNIVERSE HAS BEEN SEVERELY DAMAGED. I AM WORKING TO CONTAIN THE EFFECTS, BUT AT THIS POINT MY POWER IS LIMITED BECAUSE I AM STILL MOSTLY METAPHORICAL. PLEASE INFORM EVERYONE THAT I REGRET THE INCONVENIENCE. AS COMPENSATION FOR YOUR TROUBLE, I HAVE GIVEN EVERY HUMAN THE ABILITY TO PLAY THE PIANO.
I like cheese. Not all cheese. But this cheese from Norway… I know I would hate it. I would not enjoy putting it into my mouth and consuming it. There is nothing that indicates that I would want to partake in any aspect of this cheese or its making. And yet… I want to try it. Just to say that I did. I think it would be an amazing life achievement.
In a small town on the Sognefjord, expert cheesemakers are continuing a tradition that’s believed to date back more than a thousand years. The village of Vik, population 3,100, is home to the world’s only dairy producing Gamalost – literally “old cheese.”
And finally, another board game that I want to add to my slowly growing collection. Ex Libris from Renegade Game Studios is about becoming the best, most accomplished librarian. I am very excited for this game to come out.
In Ex Libris, you are a collector of rare and valuable books in a thriving fantasy town. The Mayor has just announced a new seat in the Village Council, Grand Librarian. The prestigious and lucrative position will be awarded to the citizen with the most extraordinary library! Unfortunately, several of your book collector colleagues (more like acquaintances, really) are also candidates.