Saturday, October 06, 2018

links for the weekend: Amazon pay raise with a trade-off; Russian troll-bots; and report of Chinese seed level hack of hardware

Amazon's going to bump everyone who works for them up to $15 an hour?  There's a trade-off ... via bonuses and stock awards ... Inc. is eliminating monthly bonuses and stock awards for warehouse workers and other hourly employees after the company pledged this week to raise pay to at least $15 an hour.
Warehouse workers for the e-commerce giant in the U.S. were eligible in the past for monthly bonuses that could total hundreds of dollars per month as well as stock awards, said two people familiar with Amazon’s pay policies. The company informed those employees Wednesday that it’s eliminating both of those compensation categories to help pay for the raises, the people said.  ...
To read journalism on bots these days is to get the impression we're at war with Russia, not the kind where Congress officially declares war and we go start bombing places like Odessa or Vladivostock or cities ... but journalists talk about how there's a war against our democracy via the manipulation of systems we've developed for commerce.

I actually really liked Rogue One, myself, and I admit I ended up seeing it just because somebody told me Donnie Yen was in it. The Last Jedi was a trainwreck for scripting reasons, not because there was anything wrong with Kelly Marie Tran's performance as Rose or Rey as the latest unstoppable heroic figure.  Daisy Ridley did just fine with an English language dub of Only Yesterday, one of the more obscure Studio Ghibli releases. Rian Johnson is aware there are fans of the franchise who can't stand The Last Jedi and have articulated why in ways that he can understand.  That's good to know! 

Troll-bot activity is part of the internet.  The axiom that you should basically not read comments at Youtube seems to remain "relatively" relevant.  Besides the fact that so often comments seem virulent and idiotic you may, it turns out, not even be dealing with an actual human so much as with some kind of bot. 

Over at The New Statesmen there's a review of a book that proposes that big tech at the GAFA level (let the reader understand) has undermined traditional democratic processes.

Last month, Apple unveiled the latest version of its watch, featuring new health-monitoring features such as alerts for unusually low or high heart rates, and a way to sense when the wearer has fallen over and, if so, call the emergency services. In itself, that sounds pretty cool, and might even help save lives. But it’s also another nail in the coffin of social solidarity.

Why? Because shortly after the Apple announcement, one of America’s biggest insurance companies, John Hancock, announced it would stop selling traditional life insurance, and would now offer only “interactive” policies that required customers to wear a health-monitoring device – such as an Apple Watch or Fitbit. But such personalised insurance plans undermine the social spreading of risk that makes insurance a public good. Knowing every little dirty secret about our lifestyles, such an insurer will be heavily incentivised to make the riskier customers pay more in premiums than the healthy-livers. Eventually, the fortunate will subsidise the less fortunate to a far smaller degree than they do on traditional insurance models. For those who get sick, this will literally add insult to injury. 
If, practically speaking, you can’t opt out of a health care platform, or switch from the education platform your local school uses, then unaccountable corporate monopolies have usurped the functions of government. Moore calls this “platform democracy”. You might equally suggest it as a new meaning for “technocracy”, which up till now has meant rule by experts. Soon, technocracy might mean rule by people who don’t understand anything, but think that data alone constitutes expertise; people who glory in the “engineering ethos” of rapid prototyping and deployment; or, as Facebook’s old motto had it, “move fast and break things”. This is fine when you are building a trivial app; it’s not so fine if the things you are breaking are people and social institutions.

He begins by bringing the reader up to speed, in lucid detail, on Steve Bannon and the Breitbart website, as well as the story of Cambridge Analytica. He explains what we know about Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election, while making the important point that such operations are not at all new. During the Cold War, the USSR and its puppet regimes ran energetic fake-news operations against the West. The only difference now is that modern technology makes disinformation operations much more effective, as falsehoods can go viral around the globe in a matter of minutes. Putin now has his own social-media sock-puppet farm, hidden in plain sight under the bland name of the “Internet Research Agency”. (It does about as much research as Jacob Rees-Mogg’s “European Research Group” for hard Brexiteers.)

This leads directly into Moore’s larger argument, which is that for reasons of profit the tech platforms actively turned themselves into machines perfectly suited to the dissemination of anarcho-nationalist hatred and untruth. Until recently, Moore notes, Facebook rarely thought about politics, and if it did “it tended to assume the platform was by its nature democratising”. But ahead of its 2012 stock-market floating, it went “all out to create an intelligent, scalable, global, targeted advertising machine” that gave advertisers granular access to users. And so it created the most efficient delivery system for targeted political propaganda the world had ever seen.

It wasn’t just the bad guys who noticed this. In 2012, Barack Obama’s blog director Sam Graham-Felsen enthused: “If you can figure out how to leverage the power of friendship, that opens up incredible possibilities.” The possibilities that Facebook has since opened up would have seemed incredible six years ago. A member of the Trump campaign team openly described one aspect of their Facebook campaign as “voter suppression operations” aimed at Democrats, using something called “dark posts”. These allowed operators to conduct sophisticated testing comparing the effects of different kinds of adverts, creating, as Moore puts it, “a remarkably sophisticated behavioural response propaganda system”

Technocracy doesn't always have to be by way of direct rule.  Let's put this another way, if in the past technocracy might have meant that the technocrats had meetings in which things got decided perhaps there's a new layer of distancing that's possible, by way of app development or protocol implementation.  Formulas, protocols and data-mining can be used. 

The idea that Obama wasn't part of "the bad guys" ... not so sure about that.  If the difference now is not that the USSR no longer exists but that Russia can spread fake news faster by dint of the exponentially greater power to have things go "viral" then the difference wouldn't be the evil Russians but that "we" created a network of communications systems and marketing platforms that exponentially boosted the power "they" have in making the same old fake news.  Is that something to put on the Russians or a potential indictment of our own power to multiply by orders of magnitude our own stupid?  It's starting to seem more and more like the latter, not that you should care what a blogger writing on the weekend thinks ... .

The review closes with an observation that Estonia has an information silo approach to citizen data that currently precludes the kind of consolidations that have become normative in the West.  I've got too much reading on my plate as it is but that's an interesting case study for a counter to what the norm seems to have been in the United States.  Thus another part of links for the weekend.

In the midst of writing about Russia it could seem as though the subject of China gets skipped altogether.  Whether or not Russia successfully hacked the 2016 election there are other things to be concerned about.  Was the giant break of data from the OPM Russian caused?  Don't honestly recall that it was.  More in the news in the last week is Chinese hacking.

The ramifications of the attack continue to play out. The Trump administration has made computer and networking hardware, including motherboards, a focus of its latest round of trade sanctions against China, and White House officials have made it clear they think companies will begin shifting their supply chains to other countries as a result. Such a shift might assuage officials who have been warning for years about the security of the supply chain—even though they’ve never disclosed a major reason for their concerns.
One Friday in late September 2015, President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping appeared together at the White House for an hourlong press conference headlined by a landmark deal on cybersecurity. After months of negotiations, the U.S. had extracted from China a grand promise: It would no longer support the theft by hackers of U.S. intellectual property to benefit Chinese companies. Left out of those pronouncements, according to a person familiar with discussions among senior officials across the U.S. government, was the White House’s deep concern that China was willing to offer this concession because it was already developing far more advanced and surreptitious forms of hacking founded on its near monopoly of the technology supply chain.

In the weeks after the agreement was announced, the U.S. government quietly raised the alarm with several dozen tech executives and investors at a small, invite-only meeting in McLean, Va., organized by the Pentagon. According to someone who was present, Defense Department officials briefed the technologists on a recent attack and asked them to think about creating commercial products that could detect hardware implants. Attendees weren’t told the name of the hardware maker involved, but it was clear to at least some in the room that it was Supermicro, the person says.

The problem under discussion wasn’t just technological. It spoke to decisions made decades ago to send advanced production work to Southeast Asia. In the intervening years, low-cost Chinese manufacturing had come to underpin the business models of many of America’s largest technology companies. Early on, Apple, for instance, made many of its most sophisticated electronics domestically. Then in 1992, it closed a state-of-the-art plant for motherboard and computer assembly in Fremont, Calif., and sent much of that work overseas.

Over the decades, the security of the supply chain became an article of faith despite repeated warnings by Western officials. A belief formed that China was unlikely to jeopardize its position as workshop to the world by letting its spies meddle in its factories. That left the decision about where to build commercial systems resting largely on where capacity was greatest and cheapest. “You end up with a classic Satan’s bargain,” one former U.S. official says. “You can have less supply than you want and guarantee it’s secure, or you can have the supply you need, but there will be risk. Every organization has accepted the second proposition.”

So in the decades in which the United States outsourced manufacturing to Asia we ended up discovering that by doing so companies that sought to increase profits and cut down manufacturing costs managed to do that at the price of foreign governments and military branches figuring out that they could build the power to hack and spy on us into the manufacturing processes we outsourced?  It vaguely reminds me that I was blogging now and then about how the odds of formal war were remote when so many other options of doing battle at the level of our commerce and data infrastructure were available.   If the axiom in military history is that too many nation-states make the mistake of fighting the last war they fought then it might seem as though the problem we're running into is that wars are no longer being fought at the level of soldiers in trenches when they can be fought at the level of weaponizing our consumption habits against us. 

On a relatively lighter note, apparently small university level presses are having a moment.

Rebecca Traister's got a book out called Good and Mad and it's a reminder that selling books invoking that now's the time to get mad isn't "just" a thing for people on the religious right

Rebecca Traister has a book out, Good and Mad, and a few authors have noted that it doesn't seem clear why Traister's idea of righteous female fury will 1) accomplish things at a political level and 2) why female fury is necessarily more righteous than male fury these days.

As Laura Kipnis has put it:
... “Women’s anger spurs creativity and drives innovation in politics and social change, and it always has,” she writes. Stop crying when you’re angry (tears can be tactical, but they also telegraph feminine weakness), and stop trying to make your bitchy self palatable—as Traister confesses to sometimes doing, about which she can be quite droll. (“So I was funny! And playful, cheeky, ironic, knowing!”) The small problem: “Many of us who may have covered our fury in humor have occasionally found ourselves exploding.”

Kipnis went on to note that Traister wrote that white women have powerful roles in ... banks?

White women dominate banks and businesses and all have law degrees? This is where anger and accuracy part company. I wanted Traister to step in to say that identities are more complicated than this. For one thing, class distinctions exist (a subject she barely mentions), and blurring whiteness with the 1 percent substitutes venting for thinking. Reducing the world to oppressors versus oppressed—whether that means men versus women, or white women versus minority women—may play well on social-justice Twitter, but in book form, isn’t it an offline version of those useless angry gifs?
Traister’s main question is, in the words of one activist: “Are white women going to use their power to defend their own interests” or to address the injustices faced by other women? The answer is obvious. Some will ally themselves with larger struggles, and others won’t. But even in commenting on those trying to do the former, Traister rides the white-cluelessness trope a little hard:
Another author muses on how the anger of women seems to get treated as more righteous when it literally has a maternal element.

But ... not everyone that could be identified as liberal or left finds Traister to be the person to take seriously about ... much of anything.

John Halle has singled out Traister for criticism as someone who spent years stumping for the Clintons and yet saw first-hand how bad the Harvey Weinsteins of the Clinton orbit could be toward women and about women.

Rebecca Traister-among my least favorite bourgeois , faux feminists-concludes her recent column by arguing that the ultimate solution to men such as Harvey Weinstein abusing their power in the workplace is “not just them going to rehab.” Rather it’s to “Put women in power.” This quickly, and predictably, morphs into an apologia for what consumed most of Traister’s energies over the past year, namely, her strident advocacy for the Clinton candidacy-as if there is any positive connection.
That said, there is a connection: a negative one. Weinstein was a long time friend and supporter of the Clintons, and given Hillary’s own history of apologizing for her husband’s record of sexual misconduct, it is a safe bet that her administration would have done little to aid Weinstein’s accusers, or those confronting other powerful men, provided, of course, that the latter had been dues paying members of the club, which many were .
With that in mind, it’s worth returning to Traister’s question: what would have done the most to counteract the workplace climate of impunity which made predatory males such as Weinstein inevitable. The answer is, of course, well known albeit one which Traister and others of her neoliberal orientation can never suggest, namely, empowerment of workers through collective bargaining, or, in a word, unions.

When so many of those men who were highlighted in the #MeToo moment began to turn out to be Clinton supporters would it do to suggest that the patriarchy was best understood as GOP good old boys?  Maybe not so much.  Considering that the #MeToo moment has included questions about the conduct of Native American author Sherman Alexie, too, it seems particularly dubious to think that the exploitation of celebrity to use people has to be thought of as a uniquely GOP vice.  For that matter, the Avital Ronell situation makes it seem as though the liberal arts and academics may be worse than other corporate or scientific spheres on the issue of harassment, something else Halle has blogged about.

Over at The Baffler, Jessa Crispin has written about being unconvinced that the likes of Rebecca Traister should be taken to speak for women as a subset of humanity.  Crispin wrote about two different books invoking the time for female anger, of which Traister's is one and had a few points of dissent:

Both books, of course, also tell me why should be angry. Both books say I should be angry that men on the street tell me to smile. (No man on the street in the history of my life has told me to smile.) Both books say I should be angry because women are socialized not to express anger, so they feel like they should be pretty and nice instead. (No one has ever considered me to be pretty or nice.) Both books assume that I should be furious at the unfair treatment Hillary Clinton received at the hands of the media during the 2016 presidential election.
Neither book considers the possibility, even for the length of a sentence fragment, that one thing making some women angry might have been the insistence by a certain segment of elite women leaders that Hillary Clinton was the feminist choice despite her having made the lives of an entirely other segment of women unlivable through her support of military intervention, the gutting of social welfare programs, and the financial ruin of our nation by the wealthy. We should only care that some commentators were mean about her pantsuits, and her laugh, and her hair.
Neither book tells us what to do with our anger, other than use it to drive our ambitions in corporate culture or get more exercise. Nor does either Good and Mad or Rage Becomes Her come to terms with the often selfish and self-righteous nature of anger. Both books focus on protests, on #MeToo accusations, and on the Women’s March, but neither takes seriously the criticisms that these displays of women’s rage have attracted. They ignore formidable figures like Judith Levine, who has argued against retribution and warned against the #MeToo movement turning into a moral panic, or JoAnn Wypijewski, who has criticized the idea of claiming collective victimhood, or Yasmin Nair, who has shown how complicated narratives are simplified into stories of abuse or harassment in order to further the cause. Traister and Chemaly also largely gloss over the many activists who have admonished the #MeToo movement for focusing on powerful industries like Hollywood and the federal government while neglecting the challenges faced by working class women. To them, it’s mere sexism to question these movements, and they overlook real feminist critics concerned with the aims of these efforts to complain yet again how unfair male television commentators are.
And of course neither book manages to explain how women’s anger is different than men’s. When a woman is angry in these books, it is because of injustice, not because of immigrants. An angry woman is working toward progress—she is not a white supremacist, or a mother trying to suppress trans rights for the sake of “the children,” or an online troll sending death threats. Readers of Traister and Chemaly would never guess that a majority of white women voted for Donald Trump in 2016. When a woman is angry in these tracts, she is Elizabeth Warren, not Marine Le Pen. [emphasis added]
Similarly, both books focus on the injustices done to women, not on the injustices committed by women, often in the name of anger—such as the disproportionate punishments handed out to men accused but not proven of harassment or abuse under #MeToo, or the calls for harsher prison sentences for men who commit acts of violence against women despite the widespread abuses of the prison industrial complex, or the use of pro-woman rhetoric in support of our endless war in the Middle East. But a woman who is angry about what has been done to her in her workplace or by her government and chooses to join a protest against Trump, or circulate an anonymous accusation against her coworker, is not fundamentally different from someone who is angry about their financial situation and joins the Tea Party, or shouts to Build That Wall. The most salient difference is the ideological template that interprets and channels that anger. If we assume that all women are angry in a justified, left-leaning sort of way, we don’t have to discuss how their anger is interpreted or channeled, and we can assume all women are on the side of the light.
Who in the world is only waking up to their anger now? Despite years of watching people murdered by the police on our Facebook feeds, despite decades of attacks on our right to choose and pursue private health care decisions, despite the fact that there is an entire generation alive today who has never known our country not to be at war. The answer, apparently, is that it’s the good girls. It’s the good girls who only started caring about mass deportations when Trump was doing it and not when Obama did exactly the same thing. It’s the good girls who prioritized their own ambitions and comforts over any sense of fairness or justice. It’s the good girls who saw a marketing opportunity to capitalize on in this moment in which other women who played by the rules and expected to be rewarded for their behavior suddenly realized the world isn’t fair after all. And it’s the same good girls who only recognize that injustice when it heightens their inability to continue using the system that allows the few to exploit the many.
Crispin only just barely stops short of proposing that Traister's appeal to a time for female anger is an appeal from a culturally alpha female to other aspiring culture-making females to get good and made as an intra-cultural-elite appeal.  I'm not personally persuaded that defenses of abortion cohere all that well with objections to military adventurism, so attacks on the pursuit of private health care decisions, if that decision is a euphemism for abortion, does not actually seem ultimately separable from a military adventurist state that kills in the name of human rights and human liberty. But I can appreciate a direction that seems inherent in Crispin's critique, that there's a point at which we can ask what the difference is between the anger that a Rebecca Traister invokes and the anger of all those incels who some writers believe are going to be the ruin of the contemporary West.  That Traister and other women authors have a cottage industry appealing to their fan bases that now is the time to get good and mad ... Crispin's polemics remind me that the cottage industry of targeted appeals to anger sure seems to span the spectrum.  
Take this old promotional video for Mark Driscoll's 2013 book A Call to Resurgence.
It's just "possible" that cynically selling rage to your audience that's willing to order books is not "just" the domain of figures that are ostensibly on the Religious Right.  

over at Van, George Grella writes on the decades-long slide into irrelevance of John Adams

... dams, at his best, was the great American composer of the second half of the 20th century. He could, like Stravinsky, satisfy the professional with his craft, while honestly appealing to a larger public. There are two key elements that make his body of work from “Shaker Loops” to “Hallelujah Junction” so important

The first is the librettist Alice Goodman. That “Doctor Atomic,” Adams’s opera to a Peter Sellars libretto, is so bad—static, wearying assertions of stressful determination around the one good passage of music, the aria “Batter my heart”—sets into relief not only how great his first two operas are, but also how Goodman’s librettos provide so much of their real humanity and drama. Those qualities, and the essential sing-ability of the words, come straight from Goodman (what makes “Batter my heart” one of the great contemporary opera arias is the poetry of John Donne).

The other fundamental quality of Adams’ best work is its essential meaninglessness. When he made music with no more content than his own dream images, the music was often great; as he increasingly uses music as a vehicle to tell everyone what he thinks about things, the music suffers.  [emphasis added] My now dutiful exposure to his new work brings me back again and again to “Grand Pianola Music.” Across the past two seasons in New York, I’ve witnessed two performances—one by Juilliard’s new music ensemble AXIOM, the other by the International Contemporary Ensemble at this summer’s Mostly Mozart Festival—that have convinced me this is his finest work. It’s nothing but form, timbre, structures, harmonies, and gestures that create drama and fulfillment in sound. It’s as if all Adams wanted to do was make something beautiful. That would be enough. 

The "essential meaninglessness" claim is interesting.  What made Adams' best work his best work was that it didn't mean something?  What seems to come across is that Adams was at his best when he wasn't freighting his music with so many "authors' message" tropes that the extra-musical or non-musical associations suffocated the musical materials in some way.  having been on an Adorno binge in the last few years the trouble artists can run into is that when they try to make their art explicitly political they are doomed to create propagandistic hackwork; yet when they have their art vanish into some kind of art for art's sake formalism they doom themselves to tacitly embracing and celebrating some kind of status quo, celebrating the power of "the spell" that art has to affirm whether or not what is affirmed is what could be considered a just society.   

I've made my modestly cheerful anti-Romanticist tendencies relatively clear at this blog, I hope, but I do sometimes get this idea that there may be an inversely proportional relationship between how seriously artists say we should take the arts and how seriously we should then take those arts.  If someone says this or that artistic implement kills fascists their art may be worth basically nothing.  If you want to kill fascists there are soldiers for that, right?  As has been said in television that you don't win the Emmy by going for the Emmy, perhaps the music of John Adams that "changed things" did so as an accident of the creative impulse more than by Adams setting out to "change things".  Can the arts "change things" by accidents of providence or does it all have to be ... knowingly engineered?  

This isn't to say I don't enjoy works by Adams.  Shaker Loops is fun.  It just may be that the music that sets out to be fun and experiment with things and aims to, oh, maybe please an audience, might end up changing things more than stuff that is taken up to "speak truth to power" or "change things".  You can aim to do that stuff, to, it's just there's no certainty of success at that level.  A comedian could declare that Clinton was going to be president and then ... well ... 

I'm middle-aged as numbers go and it seems to me that Adorno was spectacularly wrong about popular culture and popular music at several levels.  I'm not saying he was wrong to be worried about the narcotic effects of mass culture in mass market systems.  I don't say that either he or Dwight Macdonald were necessarily wrong to worry about that.  But I say Adorno was wrong to assume that there could be no successful fusions between high and low arts.  I think such a fusion can happen and should be pursued by artists of all sorts.  I don't see it as a foregone conclusion that ostensibly "low" art forms like cartoons can't e well made, beautiful, and even intellectually stimulating.  In that sense I'm a thorough-going poptimist in the realm of cinema.  I find it easier to take seriously many a cartoon and a genre film than I am able to take seriously the kinds of middle and highbrow films that are more formally recognized as "art".  I'll take the Lee/Ditko run of Spider-man over James Joyce, though if you like James Joyce that's okay.  

I don't think we as humans can escape the impulse to create canons of art and artists we revere.  i don't think we need to stop doing that.  What I do think we need to have more of is a poly-canonic approach to creativity.  We should be able to go out and make music that reveres Stevie Wonder as much as Haydn, for instance.  We should be able to compose in a way that shows as much fealty to the genius of Scott Joplin as to Bach.  These musicians displayed genius at different levels of formal expertise, sure, but the beauty of their work is beauty I admire.  I don't mind saying so.  I am less interested, by far, in academic turf wars about which canon we should have or the proposal that we move beyond canons than in artists and musicians creating music that demonstrates a comparable respect and historical understanding of Robert Johnson and Bach and William Byrd across the board. 

A theory instructor once said in a class that the norm is for music theory to lag a generation or two behind musical practice and that this changed every now and then as it did when twelve-tone methods were formulated.  Theory could precede practice from time to time, as Bukofzer summarized as being what happened in earlier Baroque theorizing, but in a lot of ways music theory was summarizing at a practical level what was already being done.

We're living in what I like to think of as a new kind of Baroque era.  We have a panoply of styles and forms, none of which necessarily dominate music pedagogy or musical practice; each of these forms and styles has their respective social place and value within a community; and there's cause to admire those musicians and writers who are able to disply a mastery of and appreciation for as diverse a range of styles as possible that respects the unique beauties and challenges of the respective styles. 

It's axiomatic that the last generations' revolutionary can turn into this generation's reactionary.  That's soaxiomatic as to be boring.  We've lived in an era in which what I think of as the ars perfecta of the musical art of the "long 19th century" has played out and been displaced by a range of styles, many of them popular and not very strictly tethered to the ideals of, well, German Idealism.  The aim of authenticity that can be associated with German Idealism can still play itself out in rockist manifestos and pleas for "authenticity".  

Raymond Knapp has written a bit briefly on how the ethos of authenticity has tended to play out in rock criticism along lines of purity to do with race and class and ideals of sexuality--the irony being that many of the fans of rock and pop music who "think" they have set themselves against the classical traditions as defined via German Idealism don't realize how much they're being German Idealist in their checklists of authenticity.  Knapp's counter-proposal in Making Light, his recent monograph on the music of Haydn, was to propose that in American music there have been a variety of musical traditions ranging from minstrelsy to operetta to the Broadway musical that all traffic in camp, that the most vibrant American musical traditions tend to cluster around idioms that puncture the aspirational aims of German Idealism.

Which becomes supremely ironic in biographical work on Scott Joplin because he seems to have embraced an aspirational art-as-edifying ideal for his ragtime works ... but I'll have to get to that later.  

But that's all veered well off course from the starting point of John Adams' music being described as being more effective when it was not being written so explicitly to "mean something".  I have, I think, managed to keep the conceptual thread going by suggesting that American music can paradoxically mean more when its creators don't set out to freight the music with so much meaning than when they set out to be taken seriously.   

formal modes of synecdoche, formal compression and convention in the arts with an eventual reference to another remake of A Star is Born

I don't watch as many movies as I used to and some of it has to do with not having the most eagle-eyed vision; some of it has to do with focusing a lot more in the last few years on musicology in reading and writing; some of it has to do with composing a lot more music; and some of it has to do with a realization that many a movie that is released isn't a movie I feel any need to see.

How many times could A Star is Born get made?  Endlessly.  There's no potential end for Star Wars films or Star Trek films or takes on Arthurian lore or nostalgic fictionalizations of the JFK era or the press in the Nixon era.  The gap between films like The Post or Spotlight and Captain America or Wonder Woman isn't in the mythology of the super-heroic person as the level of brow that is being catered to. It's easier to dismiss the endless iterations and cycles of the lowbrow because it's lowbrow but that A Star is Born has been remade yet again is a reminder that there's a middlebrow variant for this cycle just as there's a highbrow variant, too, which is more often known as criticism and scholarship and historiography. 

But what seems to happen in each generation of the cycle in this art or that is that as the baseline of knowledge in the realm of production and analysis increases there's room for a greater deal of compression.  Let me give an example from 18th century musical literature in Western Europe.  One of the things that began to change from the 1750s through to 1800 is that sonata forms changed.  A lot of the structural, internal repeats in the forms began to be dropped.  An exposition used to be played twice before proceeding to a development and a recapitulation which, in turn, was also played twice before the work was completed.  As time went on the forms and processes came to be so taken for granted that people stopped repeating the development and recapitulation.  Composers stopped composing developments and recapitulations as parts of the sonata form to be repeated.  In time even the exposition stopped being given the formerly customary repeat and was played through once before the development emerged. 

A corresponding shift was that expositions and recapitulations could get more expansive.  Another change that was made possible by these omitted structural repetitions was intensifying the relationships between thematic groups at a gestural level.  It would make sense if syntactic repetition was purged out of large-scale forms that organicism in gestural developmental plans could emerge as a countervailing tendency that ensured an audience capacity to cognitively process all of the non-repeating structural and gestural changes that would go on in the music. 

There's a kind of compression of information that removes what would be considered redundant "information" in sonata forms as we go from the 18th into the 19th century that can correspond to the art of film--that compression makes sense when you understand the parameters of what modes of narrative and signifying compression are customary in a genre and what parameters and modes of compression are not normative. 

As an aside, film critics by and large do not seem to know or want to know what those conventions can be in lowbrow/pulp genres--yet a mastery of synecdoche in lowbrow that seems picayune to middlebrow or highbrow critics may be less a function of the ostensibly petty or worthless nature of such conventions than an indication that some critics, scholars and fans have simply devoted their cognitive abilities to mastering other codes.  What George Steiner proposed was replacing literacy in the Western cultural idiom was a new type of literacy, a sweeping new form of audio-musical literacy that was likely to be here to stay for a while.  That's something he  mentioned in the lectures that became the book In Bluebird's Castle

We've come to live in a cultural milieu in the arts in which an entire previously existing work could be invoked and evoked by merely introducing four to seven notes from an already recognizable work.  By the 20th century this could take place by way of a Charles Ives quotation from Beethoven's Fifth.  That such a high level of synecdochical invocation and correspondence can happen in a sonata like Charles Ive's Second Piano Sonata gives us an idea how much an art and its associated knowledge base in relationship to interpretation and reception history can change, how advance the learning curve can become. 

Which gets us to an observation Livingstone has made about the latest remake of A Star is Born.  We're talking about a remake of a story that has been done enough times that a certain amount of presumed background knowledge can lead film makers to take it that an audience can compress so much of what might be regarded as redundant the third or fourth time around in a cinematic adaptation of a story that an audience can be taken to be open to a form of compression that a film critic might find compresses too much of the sort of information that in earlier iterations made the story what it was.


can only describe the experience of watching A Star is Born as like watching the trailer for A Star is Born, except that it takes longer. Almost all the elements represented by montage in the trailer are also represented by montage in the movie, instead of the full scenes that one might expect. Ally’s ascent to stardom is played out in blink-and-you’ll-miss-it hyperspeed. As in the trailer, there is absolutely no transition between Ally singing in the parking lot and her performing on stage with Jackson. Did they practice off-screen, at some unseen appointment? Or are they musically psychic, improvising the now-famous “sha-sha-sha-shallow” harmony?

Characters are left to move the plot along through rich koans of plot exposition. When Cooper goes to see his childhood friend Noodles (for that is his name, played by Dave Chappelle), he conveniently reminisces that they have known each other since a specific date in time. Without that line, we’d have absolutely no idea who Noodles was. He’s a cutout. Ally and Jackson’s characters suffer something of the same fate. One is a gin bottle wearing a hat and a guitar; the other a bewigged girl who is insecure about her nose but really good at writing songs.

The whole thing rests on the performances, and, thankfully, Cooper and Gaga are both outstanding. Despite the fact that his music is objectively bad, Jackson Maine comes off as a black hole of emotional need, the kind of damaged and charismatic man who can pull love out of your chest.

But Gaga is the real surprise here. She seems unable to move her eyebrows, left to emote solely with her eyelids and the few remaining wrinkles on the sides of her nose. But her voice is in there, and she uses it to bring Ally to life. Before her character becomes extremely famous, Gaga does Ally with humor, vulnerability, and humanity—three qualities noticeably missing from Gaga’s own career. As a friend noted to me, that contrast is the making of the movie. If Lady Gaga had played Lady Gaga, it never would have worked.


Thus all that I have written about the evolution of compression and form in sonata forms in the 18th through 19th centuries in music as a long prelude to a short observation about the latest remake of A Star is Born. If someone who had no familiarity at all with sonata forms were subjected to a Mahler symphony that person would be thrown into an hour-long experience with no road map for how to make sense of all the sound or given any real incentive to care.  Now if you like Mahler, great, but I bring up Mahler as a case of how you can't get what Mahler was doing if you don't have about two centuries of Viennese symphonic musical legacy in which to get a sense of what Mahler was doing.  I will gladly take any Haydn symphony any day over just about any Mahler symphony, thank you very much, but I don't want to say to those who revere Mahler that he was a bad composer or anything, just that he's a composer I respect more than I'll enjoy.

But I don't tend to go to see as many films lately because it's frankly easier to read about movies now than it is to go out and see them, even if there's a theater I could go to that's not so far away.  You can only do so much and in a lot of ways I've begun to get a feeling that we have a glut in the arts.  I have read a lot of articles and editorials about how the arts are in peril and while there are sound reasons for believing that's true with respect to some institutions there's another level at which I've begun to wonder if there is a glut of content and if there is, at some level, a kind of bubble of production.  The monetized arts may be in a shakier place than they were a century ago and yet if we factor in all the musical activity and creativity of those who are making music as individuals and as people who aren't doing it for money it may turn out there's more vibrant musical activity now than ever ... it's just that it's not being done in ways that 1) can be monetized or 2) can be easily discussed in diagram form by journalists.

With respect to the art of cinema it could be that the golden age of television that some journalists have talked about has had a trade-off--it's possible television has been evolving and advancing and that there's been some kind of corresponding brain drain from feature film?  Just throwing that out there as something to mull over.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Gerry Breshears on the Mars Hill implosion--talks about the need for challenging leaders without explaining whether or not he did that himself ten years ago when he was co-authoring books with Driscoll

Someone sent this along, a podcast interview with Gerry Breshears for a podcast from April 30, 2018, who talks about the Mars Hill experience at about 30 minutes in.

It dates back to April 30, 2018.  Took a while to get around to this one.

interview Breshears did with Daniel Kunkel and Scott Bolin



Boy, big issue there. One of the things I think is super important is that, when you have power, it has to be done in close relationship with people. And as churches grow really quickly, as Mars Hill did, in the 2011-2013 year era, what ended up happening was that they (this is my judgment and it may not be right), as the churches grew quickly they didn't have pastors lead the churches. So they end up going with they centralized the preaching and some of those end of things to provide high quality teaching and other kinds of resources, and they went with more administrators for the campuses. And because the centralization of key things because of the very fast-growing church I think that left things vulnerable to needs not being met and people being hurt. 

That's not unique to Mars Hill, by a long ways. Any church that grows quickly has a similar kind of thing. You've got to remain pastoral with people in the process. And I know Mark had that as an agenda. He was working hard, because we were working with him to try to get that pastoral training, but it was just going too quick to do it. 


So that's one thing I learned.

Another ... just an observation I look at there, is that when you're doing pastoral work it's really, really important to, I'm not going in the right direction let me think just a second, one of the things that was impacted at Mars Hill which is very where I'm at is leadership is always a team thing and when leadership comes into too small a group or a single person there are real dangers there. Now, again, I know Mark knew this because we were, we're friends, but he was so much the center of what was happening with his unique giftings and leadership abilities, 

And the TEAM thing, I think, is essential.  So where I look at things (and this is me talking) Ephesians 4:11 gives us five types of leaders, I think.  So apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, shepherd and teacher and I think every leadership board of a church or a Christian organization should have those different types of leaders represented.


So you get a guy like Mark and he is an incredible apostolic leader, uniquely gifted. He's got a huge evangelistic heart but what he needs around him is somebody who's a pastor, who really cares about the hurts of people; and around that he needs someone who is an administrator who thinks in processes and they drive each other absolutely crazy.  And so Mark tried to make that happen but it just wasn't as effective because the church was growing so quickly. But I think that's a thing, the TEAM approach to leadership with conflicting personality types actually makes it work better. 

But you have to go through the constructive criticizm, the hopefully creative conflicts at the front end not at the back end. So that would be a big lesson in leadership is always a team thing and let APEST model we call it this day--it might be better to call it the PASTE model, reordering the letters, it really holds things together well--I think that's a good thing.  


Speaking of Driscoll directly, I'm watching what's happening at Trinity Church down in Scottsdale, totally different church than Mars Hill. Mars Hill began as a group of angry young men on a mission and that's what they drew, angry young men. I know all these guys. I was the one who was around from the very beginning, very closely involved and that was kinda who drew in. They were on a mission, they were angry about stuff and that breeds things. 


Mark tried to change the leadership structure when he went on his father-leaves-a-legacy toward the end but it didn't, the church didn't get changed, I think. And what I'm seeing now with what Mark is doing at Trinity is he's looked at this as a family.  He still does great hour-long sermons but, just to indicate how different things are, at the end of each of his sermons Grace comes up on stage and says whatever she wants to the church and she says a mother and the last thing that happens in the church service is she prays a prayer of blessing over the entire congregation, as a mother. That's not angry men on a mission, that's a family that's bringing deep change in people's lives. 


I think Mark's learned a lot, as painful as it was, from the Mars Hill falling apart and now he's on a path, and I'll be real curious to see what it's going to look like two or three years from now. I think Mark's learned a lot.  I know he did and we've talked. 

We'll get to this material in a bit but let's establish for the record that Breshears has let it be known he updated some books he co-authored with Driscoll a while back.

February 19, 2017
For some reason I have been thinking of changes in the decade from age 60 to 70. A year ago I was deeply engaged in writing Death by Love. I really hate writing but God called me to do it. The task ended up being four books, all of which are now out of print ended as part of the collapse of Mars Hill Church. But Mark and I have redone Doctrine and it’s coming out as a daily devotional from his web site and Facebook page, getting tens of thousands of reads. It seems likely it will be published as a 365 day devotional book – but more writing work required for that – and I still hate writing!


If the first print runs of Driscoll-Breshears books sold out perhaps someone can confirm that.  Why books that seemed to be at least moderately popular went out of print can, perhaps, be explained by folks with industry knowledge about how these things work.  But it seems the gist of Breshears' comments in February 2017 about what was going on in 2016 seems to have been that he was revising books he co-authored with Mark Driscoll.   There's some connection between the Driscoll/Breshears books going out of print associated with the collapse of Mars Hill Church but exactly what the connection could have been is unclear.

The thing about Death By Love that we've discussed before is that by Mark Driscoll's account in 2006 at The Resurgence he was almost done writing the book and there's nary a mention of Breshears at all.

...We are still giving 10 percent of our money to help lead the Acts 29 Church Planting Network. I'm still writing a lot, including a book titled Death by Love on the subject of the cross that is nearing completion. [fourteenth paragraph]
To be sure, Driscoll did mention co-authoring Death by Love with Breshears in his extensive multi-hour teaching marathon on spiritual warfare, it's just there wasn't mention of Breshears as a co-author two years earlier.  By Mark Driscoll's account in September 2006 Death by Love was nearing completion. We also have a direct statement from Breshears about how he hates writing.  While I'm not interested in debating the claim that God told Breshears to write the books it would be worthwhile to revisit that the Driscoll/Breshears books read more like Driscoll than Breshears, at least to me.

Breshears was also not the one Janet Mefferd confronted on air in an interview about whether or not she believed he had plagiarized the works of others. 

Nevertheless, Death by Love was part of a set of controversies connected to citation errors in Mark Driscoll books on the one hand and historical inaccuracies on the other.

Compared to the problems found in the first print edition of Real Marriage, Death by Love turned out to be relatively smaller-scale as charted things went.  

But ... since the books that Breshears and Driscoll co-authored seemed to have been given copyrights to Driscoll and Breshears rather than to Mars Hill Church it's actually not at all clear why the books should have gone out of print or stopped being printed simply because Mars Hill Church was dissolved as a legal entity.  Isn't it a commonplace for literary estates to continue on, for instance?

Now, let's get back to the comparison and contrast Breshears made about Mars Hill being founded by angry young men whereas The Trinity Church is more founded by a family.  There's some trouble with that, which is simply that by 2011 with God's Work, Our Witness, it would be easy to get the impression from that fundraising film/documentary that the story of Mars Hill was the story of the Driscoll family, seeing as Mark and Grace Driscoll made appearances and one Joe and one Debbie appeared, too, to share about Mark Driscoll's high school accomplishments.

For that matter, Driscoll described the joys of family doing ministry together in Mars Hill all the way back in 2001.
Part 12 of The Gospel of John
Pastor Mark Driscoll | John 6:1-14 | January 21, 2001
And I remember – I’ll tell you one story that kind of just sort of summarizes how I view this. My daughter was upstairs. She was about two-years-old taking her nap, and she was laying in her bed sleeping away – the bed that her grandmother had given her. She came downstairs and I was meeting with a guy who was sitting on my couch really struggling with a sin. He had been a child molester and was wondering whether or not he could become a Christian and whether God could forgive him of what he had done.And if you know me, I have very little compassion on men, especially men who take advantage of women and children. So this was really hard for me, especially being a first time father with a little daughter that I adored. And I was like, “You know, scripture says though that Christ has died for all our sins and there’s nothing that is beyond God’s grace in Christ. There’s nothing that God can’t forgive you of.”

And he’s crying. He says, “Do you really think that that’s possible? Do you really think that I could be forgiven for this?”

And it was interesting because my daughter came downstairs from her nap, and he was sitting on the couch that was given to us, and she looked at him and she saw him crying and she said, “Daddy, why is he crying?”

I said, “Well because he sinned. He did a bad thing and he feels bad about that.”

And she says, “Well we should pray for him.” So she climbs up on his lap and prays for him. She had no idea why he was crying, but I thought, “Man, if this is not the whole world coming together right here.” I mean it’s fishes and loaves. Somebody helped us get this house. Somebody gave us that couch. My daughter comes downstairs, sits on his lap, and then all of a sudden God’s grace gets multiplied right in the life of someone who’s very guilty of their sin, but now God has given them grace through a little girl and she didn’t even know she was doing it. She just thought she was praying for someone in need. [emphases added]

We have seen this over and over and over. It’s just amazing. ...
2001-04-07 Women's Meeting Part 3
answering a question

Best case scenario, I think, in ministry, is husband and wife working together. Beautiful. Like Priscilla and Aquilla, that's ideal to me because it's not good for the man to be alone, that includes ministry. So the wife is very helpful when she's a good fit. All our elders have wives that I admire and that I hope you would admire because they're admirable women. [emphasis added] And that's what it talks about in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, that the elders should be a certain way and so should their wives, because those women will know everything that is going on in the church; they will have more responsibility and have a higher profile. 

That's why, you know, how many of your are in a home group with one of the elders? Some of you are. You should be. The way we set those up is that the elders are opening up their homes and teaching with their wives so that you can get to know them in a natural context.  That's the way it's generally working. And the reason is that because we feel that the husbands and the wives working together serve for the best model of how the church should work. It should NOT be 'the wife stays home with the children and the husband goes out and does ministry', it's that the WHOLE family does ministry TOGETHER. [emphases added] Our children are a part of our ministry. It's great. I love it. I love it when people come over and my daughter opens the door and welcomes them, sits them down--if you've been at my house you know how this works, she's little Miss Hospitality.

Now her big thing before our Tuesday night study [is], she likes to open it in prayer, and then she likes to take the children upstairs and be the little hostess, which is great.  We have seen, I have seen, my daughter minister to people. I saw her, on one occasion, share the Gospel with a convicted pedophile, which was beautiful.  She was about, I think, right around about three years of age. About two and a half, three years of age. We were talking and he wanted to know as to whether or not God could forgive him for his sin. She came downstairs from her nap, saw him crying on the couch, and sat on his lap and asked me why he was said and I told her that he'd committed a sin against God and so she prayed for him. 

And so I view my daughter as having a spiritual gift, or two or three, and I see her knowing Christ, that means I see evidence of the spirit of God in her. That means she is a member of this church and she is a part of this church and that every part, as Paul says, is necessary and vital. So to kick her out, or to kick the women out, or to kick the children out, and relegate them to some secondary position, it harms the church and it harms them.  

Best case scenario--husband, wife, kids--doing the Gospel together as a family with Dad functioning as the pastor of that congregation. That's best case scenario.  [emphasis added]

If that doesn't happen because the man abdicates his responsibility or he sins, we'll put scenarios in to help work around that. 
You'll get bored in your life if all you have is just you and your husband. When you're serving Christ and doing things NOW your life is going somewhere. You're doing something and it's fun. Most of my wife and my conversations are about OTHER people that are coming to Christ. People who are getting married. People who are having children. People who are learning Scripture. People who are getting their life together by God's grace. It's great because we don't get bored. There's always something to do. There's always something that God is up to. 

By the 2006 book Confessions of a Reformission Rev a somewhat different account was shared.

Confessions of a Reformission Rev
Mark Driscoll, Zondervan 2006
ISBN-13: 978-0-310-27016-4

page 101-102
During this season my wife, Grace, also started to experience a lot of serious medical problems. her job was very stressful, and between her long hours at the office and long hours at the church, her body started breaking down. I felt tremendousy convicted that I had sinned against my wife and had violated the spirit of 1 Timothy 5:8, which says that if a man does not provide for his family he has denied his faith and has acted in a manner worse than an unbeliever. I repented to Grace for my sin of not making enough money and having her shoulder any of the financial burden for our family.  We did not yet have elders installed in the church but did have an advisory council in place, and I asked them for a small monthly stipend to help us make ends meet, and I supplemented our income with outside support and an occasional speaking engagement.

Shortly thereafter, Grace gave birth to our first child, my sweetie-pie Ashley. Up to this point Grace had continuously poured endless hours into the church. She taught a women's Bible study, mentored many young women, oversaw hospitality on Sundays, coordinated meals for new moms recovering from birth, and organized all of the bridal and baby showers. Grace's dad had planted a church before she was born and has remained there for more than forty years. Her heart for ministry and willingness to serve was amazing. But as our church grew, I felt I was losing my wife because we were both putting so many hours into the church that we were not connecting as a couple like we should have. I found myself getting bitter against her because she would spend her time caring for our child and caring for our church but was somewhat negligent of me. 

I explained to Grace that her primary ministry was to me, our child, and the management of our home and that I needed her to pull back from the church work to focus on what mattered most.  She resisted a bit at first, but no one took care of me but her.  And the best thing she could do for the church was to make sure that we had a good marriage and godly children as an example for other people in the church to follow.  [emphases added] It was the first time that I remember actually admitting my need for help to anyone.  It was tough. But I feared that if we did not put our marriage and children above the demands of the church, we would end up with the lukewarm, distant marriage that so many pastors have because they treat their churches as mistresses that they are more passionate about than their brides.

Although I was frustrated with both my wife and church, I had to own the fact that they were both under my leadership and that I had obviously done a poor job of organizing things to function effectively.  [emphasis added] And since we did not yet have elders formally in place there was no one to stop me from implementing dumb ideas like the 9:00p.m. church service.  So I decided to come to firmer convictions on church government and structure so that I could establish the founding framework for what our church leadership would look like. 

page 120
A friend in the church kindly allowed me to move into a large home he owned on a lease-to-own deal because I was too broke to qualify for anything but an outhouse. The seventy-year-old house had over three thousand square feet, seven bedrooms on three floors, and needed a ton of work because it had been neglected for many years as a rental home for college students. Grace and I and our daughter Ashley, three male renters who helped cover the mortgage, my study, and the church office all moved into the home. This put me on the job, literally, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, as the boundary between home and church was erased.

We ran the church out of my house for nearly two years, including leadership meetings and Bible studies for various groups on almost every night of the week. It was not uncommon to have over seventy people a week in our home. Grace got sucked right back into the church mess. She was a great host to our guests. But I started growing bitter toward her because I was again feeling neglected. [emphasis added]

Page 128
I was burned-out, underpaid, in debt, sexually frustrated due to an unspectacular sex life, under frequent demonic attack, and so stressed that my blood pressure hovered somewhere between heart-attack victim and mulch in the ground [emphasis added], and now found myself alone with an attractive woman in a foreign country. In retrospect, I think the decision I made in that moment was perhaps the most significant ministry decision I have ever made. ...

By 2008 Mark Driscoll had the following to say about his thoughts on those women in the history of Mars Hill who sought out friendship with his wife.  This excerpt is extensive and quoted at such length because it helps to demonstrate how much Mark Driscoll's stated views on his wife in ministry shifted as Mars Hill got bigger, or at least that's one possible explanation:
Spiritual Warfare part 2, The Devil
February 5, 2008
about 50 minutes in to the 1 hour mark. 

How about this one? Idle gossip and busybodying. 1 Timothy 5:11-15. This one is amazing. Ladies this one is especially for you. Some of you say, "Oh, it's not me." Yeah, it is. 1 Timothy 5:11-15, but refuse to enroll younger widows for when their passions draw them away from Christ they desire to marry and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith.  Besides that they learn to be idlers 

Women learn how to make a lot of free time. Going about from house to house. Well now it would be from email to email and from phone call to phone call. Technology makes idle busybodying far more effective than ever. 

And not only idlers but also gossips. They like to talk about people. How are you doing? What are you doing? And this isn't sisterly accountability, this is "I need to know what everybody's doing because I like to know what everybody's doing and then I can tell other people what other people are doing and then I can say, `Hey, you need to pray for so-and-so.' and I can make it sound spiritual so that when I'm gossiping and busy-bodying I'm doing so in a way that seems really Jesus-like." And busybodies, they need to know what everybody's doing. They need to know what everybody's doing, saying what they should not. So I would have younger widows marry, bear children and manage their household, right? Stay busy, and give the adversary (that's Satan) no occasion for slander. For some have already strayed after Satan. Hmm.

A woman who's a gossip and a busybody; a woman who has to put her nose in everybody's business and knows what everybody's going on; know what they're doing, she's working with Satan. Now I know most women would say, "No, no, no. I'm not Satanic, I'm concerned. I'm not Satanic, I'm an intercessor. I'm a prayer warrior. I'm not Satanic, I'm an accountability partner.  I'm not Satanic, I'm a concerned friend."  Okay, you're a Satanic intercessory prayer warrior accountability partner concerned friend but just start the whole list with "Satanic" so that we don't misunderstand your job description.  

Now there's a difference between someone inviting you into their life and saying, "I want to be friends, I want to have an accountable  relationship." and you pushing yourself into everyone's life, okay?  I'll tell you, in the history of Mars Hill, I mean, I have had to put up a firewall, a moat, guard dogs, and a high wall with barbed wire on top, and snipers behind it, around my wife. There are certain women who, they just need to know what Grace is doing and they are determined, they say things like, uh, "Hey, we need to have dinner with your family." [slight chuckle] No you don't. [emphasis added]

"Hey, we need to have coffee." No you don't.  "Hey, phone number." What? Nope. "Email." Nope.  Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. 
"Oh, come on." Nope.
"But I thought you were our pastor."
I am and my first lesson is to tell you you're Satanic. 

"Oh, come on, in our last church the pastor's wife [sob] she was my best friend and I got to talk to her all the time." 
Well, she was Satanic, too.  Give me her number, I'll call her and tell her. We'll help her out.
You ladies KNOW these women. Right? How many of you ladies know these women? They will try first with the hyper-spiritual, "Oh, praise the Lord! I'd love to pray for you. Let's get together. Let's do Christian community. Let's go to heart." If you decline, then they emotionally manipulate, [inhales, sobbing voice], "I thought we were friends, I thought you loved me. I don't have anybody to talk to." It's all manipulation. It's FEMALE manipulation.  Some of you ladies, right now? You think, "I can't believe he said that." It's all true. It's Satanic, Satanic. 

Paul says, "Don't be a busybody, stay busy." Right? Your husband, your kids, your family, your home, Jesus Christ. You got things to do. 

Busybodies stay busy inserting themselves into everyone else's life. In some churches there are certain women, if you call them, they'll know everything that's going on because, somehow, they know everything. There's a difference between being a woman who is invited into someone's life for friendship, prayer and accountability, and a woman who emotionally manipulates and is pushy and is sometimes hyperspiritual and demanding and forces herself in because she's a drama queen and has to be at the center of all the drama. That is a Satanic woman. 

You need to believe that and the worst thing you can do is accomodate it. Okay, we'll have you over for dinner once. And then, the next month, it's "Okay, buddy, we haven't been together in a month. We need to get together again. I'm sure a lot has happened in your life and I don't know what it is and I need to know because I need to know everything. I have a God complex of omniscience. I want to know everything about everybody." And what you find with these people, Paul says, they tend to be gossips, meaning you don't just talk to them, then they talk to other people.  "Well, did you know their marriage is struggling? Did you know that she's depressed?  Did you know that  she's post-partum?  Do you know that, sexually, her husband's impotent?" These are conversations I've heard in this building. Really?

Sometimes womens' ministry is the cesspool that this kind of activity flourishes in. Some have asked, "Why don't you have womens' ministry?" The answer is we do, but it's, you have to be very careful, it's like juggling knives. You put the wrong women in charge of womens' ministry, the drama queen, the gossip mama, all of a sudden all the women come together, tell her everything, she becomes the pseudo-elder  quasi-matriarch; she's got the dirt on everybody and sometimes the women all get together to rip on their husbands in the name of prayer requests. Happens all the time. Happens all the time.  [emphasis added] We have worked very hard so that the women who teach here are like Wendy Alsup who I really love and appreciate and respect. She's not like that. It is not that no woman should lead, that no woman should teach, that no woman should in a position of authority over other women  under the authority of their husband, Jesus and the elders it's just that the wrong women tend to want it. The wrong women tend to want it and they tend to want it for the wrong reasons. [emphasis added] And sometimes it's the humble woman, who isn't fighting to be the center of drama, control and power; who doesn't have to be up front; she's usually the one who is most capable and qualified.   

And for you single men as well I would say be very, very careful because if you're on staff at Mars Hill  (everything I say sounds terrible, this will just be added to the pile) there are certain women who will tell you, "I want to marry a pastor." Really? You should want to marry a Christian who loves Jesus, loves you, loves your kids should God give them to you. I've lectured enough Bible colleges and seminaries, the young women who come up and say, "I want to marry a pastor"  my immediate default question is, "Are you a gossip? Are you a busybody? Are you a drama queen?" "No. No, I feel called to serve the Lord."  Well, you can serve the Lord without being called to be a pastor's wife in fact, take it from me, it's easier to be a woman and serve the Lord than being married to a pastor.   

You single  guys, you gotta be careful, man. There are some women, they want to marry a pastor so they can be the center of power, authority; they can be the first lady;  everybody knows them, everybody wants to be their friend, everybody wants to tell them everything; and they can be the center of all the drama. Run for your life. Run for your life. Run for your life. It's Satanic. 
See?  I need you women to really search your own heart. Are you Satanic? Is this still part of your flesh, this sick desire in you to know everybody's business? I'm not saying you don't have friends but how much are you on the internet? How much time do you spend emailing? How much time do you spend crying and freaking out and knowing everybody's business and on the phone and having to meet with people because, "Did you know so-and-so did such-and-such and so-and-so is feeling this way and did you?" Are you the center of LOTS of activity? Why? It's Satanic. It's Satanic. I think I've made my point

There's a potentially ironic juxtaposition between Mark Driscoll's comments about womens' ministry being "like juggling knives"; and particularly his remarks on women as gossips and womens' ministry as the cesspool of a church ministry within the 2008 spiritual warfare teaching marathon, inasmuch as the man who said "I see things" shared stories of stuff he claimed to have seen as if they were on a television screen or like reading people's mail that if conveyed by other people turned out to be gossip--the irony is in what seems to have been a double-standardized measure of what gossip and speculation could be defined as.  

So despite Breshears talking about having been around Mars Hill founders from the earlier days it would actually seem as though Mark Driscoll indicated he thought it was ideal for the whole family to participate in church ministry circa 2000-2001 but by 2008 he was saying very different things.  

Later in 2008 Driscoll shared the following in a sermon from The Peasant Princess series.
part 2 of The Peasant Princess
Pastor Mark Driscoll | Song of Songs 1:8 - 2:7 | September 28, 2008


... and this is an ENORMOUS part of my relationship with Grace.  I mean I still remember when I first started seeing her she, uh, she went off to college, I was still in high school and they ran out of housing so they put her in a guys' dorm. And I was like, "What!?" so I got in the car and I drove to the university and I knocked on all the doors of all the guys on her floor. "Hi. My name is Mark. I love this woman. If anyone touches her, talks to her, thinks about talking about touching her I will beat them. Literally I threatened twenty guys. Just knocked on every door. No way she's gonna get messed with. No way.

[to go by the audience laughter Mark Driscoll threatening twenty guys with assault was both chivalrous and funny, disappointing, to put it nicely]

Later on when she transferred to another university, WSU, she's five hours away. And she moved out there and her phone wasn't hooked up yet and we didn't have cell phones. And I told her, "When you get there, go to a pay phone. Call me. Let me know you got there safe."  Well she ... didn't call so I got in the car and I drove there. Five hours.  The day I had to work. And I knocked on the door. She answered it and I said, "Whu, you didn't call." She said, "I forgot." I said, "Are you okay?" She said, "I'm okay." So, okay, good, I got in the car and I drove home. Just checking. Six hundred miles.  Who cares? It's Grace. 

[this has been commented on by others and so it's merely worth noting that a cumulative ten hour road trip because Grace didn't call him sounds weird]

... even emotionally, people send her nasty emails, text messages, talk trash about me, leave the church and want to take parting shots at her. She has nothing to do with any of it. So I even put a white/black list on her email and some people so some people can email her and the rest come to me. Delete. Delete. Delete. Delete. Delete. Delete. Delete. So that she doesn't have to feel bad because people are taking shots at her. That's my girl. No shots. That's the rule. 

So overall it seems as though there was a shift from "ministry as a family" as an expressed ethos and praxis on the part of Mark Driscoll to something else ... .

Now even if we were to set all that aside let's note that in quoting so much material from 2008 I'm quoting Mark Driscoll from the period in which Breshears had begun to be a co-author with Mark Driscoll.  Breshears didn't really say much to address things like the following:

 Mark Driscoll TRAINING PASTORS at an Acts 29 session in Raleigh NC, September 20, 2007:

“…not contentious. You ever meet a guy, it doesn’t matter what the issue is, he’s always gonna play the other side. Those guys are the worst elders in the history of the world. And it doesn’t matter what you’re talk, 

I had a guy like that; I recently put him in the wood chipper in my church. Seriously. I could say hey, we’re all going to get suckers. He’s be like, what flavor? Whatever flavor you want. Is it sugar free? If you would like. Well, I didn’t say I wanted a sucker. You, you know, you need to die. You know.[emphasis added]  He just was the guy, he just, he had to nitpick at everything; he had to resist everything, he to look at the other side, if everyone was for something he felt obligated to be the e-brake pulling everything. And you’d ask him why, he’d be like, well, I just wanted to make sure we’ve looked at everything and everybody is considering all the angles. Its like, dude, you’re playing the devils advocate, which is not good. I don’t want anybody for the devil on my team. You know? But there’s some guys like that. It just, they’re contentious, it doesn’t, they’re always fighting, always arguing. 

There’s, I’ve had guys in eldership, where, in the meeting, everything’s going fine, and they’ll say, I got something, I got something I need to say. And everybody’s head does this; everybody looks like they just got kicked in the sack. You know, I mean literally, they just the air comes out of their body, they just fold in half, because you know, here he goes again, here he freaking goes again. You know. That guy on an elder board, robs the board of any joy at all, and you already got enough criticism and people and work, when you get together with your elders, you don’t all men to be yes men, but at the same time, somebody who’s just contentious, and a neatnick and e-brake puller, I mean those guys, I mean all of a sudden you despise your elder’s meetings, and I’ll tell you what, when you despise your elders, at that point you have no safe place in the world from which to do ministry. Elders meetings stink, people are shooting me, everything’s hard, and I go to meet with the guys, and there’s always one guy there who just, he’s just like a fart in an elevator, and its just, you know, I’m just counting the minutes till I can get away from this guy. You can pray for me, you may say, it seems like he’s dealing with this right now, yes, I am. I’m thinking of certain people. If it weren’t for Jesus I would be violent.” [emphases added]

You probably won't be able to even find the Acts 29 audio these days and even a few years ago the audio was redacted to the point where the materials quoted above were not necessarily even in the audio you could download.  It had become apparent by 2012 and through a stretch of 2013 that Mars Hill leadership was redacting and purging material.  They were not necessarily redacting and purging material faster than, say, Wenatchee The Hatchet could transcribe and publicly discuss material, but purging was starting to seem commonplace in the Mars Hill media library.  So maybe this material is stuff Breshears actually wouldn't have known about. 

On September 30, 2007 Mark Driscoll preached his last sermon in a series going through the book of Nehemiah.
You either enjoy confrontation or you enjoy sin. You get to pick one or the other. If people sin and there's not confrontation then you better enjoy sin because that's what's going to happen. 

"Then I confronted them and I cursed them"

He's just cussing guys out. 

"and beat some of them." I'll read that again, "and beat SOME of them."

Now he's an older guy and he's beating up members of his church. What do we do with that? I'll tell you what I'd LIKE to do with that. I'd like to follow in his example. There's a few guys here that, if I wasn't gonna end up on CNN, that I would go Old Testament on `em even in leadership of this church.
Here’s what I’ve learned. You cast vision for your mission; and if people don’t sign up, you move on.  You move on. There are people that are gonna to die in the wilderness and there are people that are gonna take the hill. That’s just how it is. 

Too many guys waste too much time trying to move stiff-necked, stubborn, obstinate people. (pause) I am all about blessed subtraction. There is a pile of dead bodies behind the Mars Hill bus (laughs) and by God’s grace it’ll be a mountain by the time we’re done.

You either get on the bus or you get run over by the bus. Those are the options; but the bus ain’t gonna stop.  [emphasis added] And I’m just a—I’m just a guy who is like, “Look, we love ya, but, this is what we’re doing.” 

There’s a few kinda people. There’s people who get in the way of the bus. They gotta get run over. There are people who wanna take turns driving the bus. They gotta get thrown off (laughs). ‘Cuz they wanna go somewhere else. There are people who will be on the bus, leaders and helpers and servants, they’re awesome.

There’s also just, sometimes, nice people who sit on the bus and shut up. (pause) They’re not helping or hurting. Just let ‘em ride along. Y’know what I’m saying?  But, don’t look at the nice people that are just gonna sit on the bus and shut their mouth and think, “I need you to lead the mission.”

They’re never going to.  At the very most you’ll give ’em a job to do and they’ll serve somewhere and help out in a minimal way. If someone can sit in a place that hasn’t been on mission for a really long time they are by definition not a leader.  And, so they’re never going to lead.

You need to gather a whole new court. I’ll tell you guys what, too. You don’t do this just for your church planting or replanting. I’m doin’ it right now. I’m doin’ it right now. We just took certain guys and rearranged the seats on the bus.

Yesterday we fired two elders for the first time in the history of Mars Hill last night. They’re off the bus, under the bus. They were off mission so now they’re unemployed. I mean (pause) you—this will be the defining issue as to whether or not you succeed or fail. I've read enough of the New Testament to know that occasionally Paul put someone in the woodchipper, y'know? [emphasis added]

A lot does come down to Mark Driscoll's chuckling observation about what he called a pile of dead bodies behind the Mars Hill bus that, by God's grace, would be a mountain by the time Mark Driscoll and whoever else was on mission with him would be done.

Which is why it's significant that there is no Mars hill now.  It is also significant, however, that for all of Breshears' talk about how this time it's different because this time it's founded by or as a family, well, that's easy to say but for those who were part of Mars Hill in its actual foundational years could Breshears seriously claim they didn't see themselves as having a kind of spiritual family? 

If Breshears was around Mars Hill during the period in which Mark Driscoll talked about putting guys through the woodchipper, or letting people sign a contract with Result Source to promote Real Marriage, how certain can Breshears be that "this time" things really are different because the whole family is involved?  A lot of the extended Driscoll family was involved in Mars Hill, wasn't it?  What's different?  Moving from a formally blue state like Washington (but only western Washington if we're going to break it down by electors and so forth) to a redder state like Arizona?  Why should that be?  Twenty years ago it was almost as if Mark Driscoll thrived on adversarial coverage like an article in Mother Jones.

It's not necessarily clear that just because Breshears says things are different now that they actually are different.  Driscoll wrote back in 2010 about reasons why he wasn't going anywhere (i.e., wasn't going to leave Seattle)

  1. Mars Hill is very healthy place for us to flourish, and we love our church. Furthermore, that my parents, Grace’s parents, one of my brothers and his family, along with two of my sisters and their families all attend Mars Hill is a unique gift. Our family is surrounded by the loving support of our church family as well as our extended relatives who are also part of our church family.
  2. I will be back because we believe God is doing something unique that we delight in being a part of. Much grace and provision has been poured out on us. I do not believe that God blesses a man, but rather God blesses his Word, his people, and his Church. I simply do not believe I could repeat what we are enjoying at Mars Hill by doing ministry anywhere else. I say this not to boast of the ministry we enjoy, but to boast in all the grace that God has given us and to recognize that it is indeed gracious.
  3. The multi-campus strategy we are using is sustainable and healthy. Being able to distribute as campuses of various sizes and personalities is a bit like the joy of being a father watching children with various resemblances but distinct personalities grow up. Having such a large team of elders, deacons, and members deployed across the campuses is a great relief to me as I see us taking better care of more people than we have ever been able to.
  4. My heart is here. While I enjoy the opportunities for ministry that God grants outside of Mars Hill, were I allowed to only do one thing, I would easily and gladly choose to be an elder at Mars Hill, preaching God’s Word and shepherding God’s people. I have zero interest in doing anything other than being a pastor and have zero interest in being a pastor anywhere else. I am very content with where I am and what I am doing, and am very passionate about continuing to press forward together for more people worshiping Jesus more deeply.
What happened?  What transpired between 2010 and 2014 that Driscoll pulled up stakes and left the Washington area?  Merely saying some jokey quip about being like crash test dummies in a car without air bags wraps Mark Driscoll in family, but the conflicts that surrounded Mark Driscoll probably had more to do with things Mark Driscoll said and did.  If anything the new church raises a question as to why, given how publicly Driscoll said he worried about his family, he let them, in his semi-jocular accounts in the last few years, charge full speed into founding the new church .. . not that they're necessarily listed as legal officers of said church.  Breshears is certianly able to believe this time is going to be different but in saying so he hasn't really addressed what Driscoll learned or, more pressingly, why he may have needed to learn whatever it was we're not clearly told he learned.

So ... here we are in 2018 and he's in Arizona.  Breshears has talked as if this time will be different but if he was around for the era of Mars Hill and its implosion how certain can he be that "this time" will end differently?