Sunday, May 24, 2015

Blast their Hopes and Blight their Lives!

Like I mentioned last week, what we have to look forward to this week, is basically like I said a spin-the-wheels action scene put in, probably to both pad out the series so the writers can become even more disgustingly rich, and to again, convince us that the heroes really are being heroic and martyrrific and suffering at the End of the World. Of course, it would work a lot better if the heroes actually did anything besides talk and if they actually showed any ounce of horror or compassion at the scene before them, but yeah...As said before, by both Fred and I, Ellanjay are basically Jonah in that they preach the gospel, not because they genuinely want people to become Christians and turn from their wicked ways and whatnot, but because they want to get to witness the brutes get exterminated firsthand. As horrible as this outlook is, it does work out well for them, allowing them to indulge their natural sloth (the sin, not the tree-dwelling creature) while making huge amounts of money, which appeals to their greed. Plus, if they put forth the effort, showed just how horrible the Apocalypse would be, and had every character suffering massively from PTSD, the readers may start asking all the wrong questions, which would lead to problems.

Anyway, if I'm fast-forwarding or summarizing a lot, it's because all they do is talk. :whimpers: Basically Westin is their pilot and is flying them to San Diego. And I still don't know why Judd and Vicki are going to San Diego or what they're going to do in San Diego or what they hope to accomplish there. That's some fantastic writing there.

I reread the last page of the previous chapter, hoping for some clues, but I am still confused. Apparently there's this group that has holed up in a library and requested help from the Tribbles, but the adult Tribbles don't know where they are. There's some mention about how Judd had stayed with them in the past, but in all honesty, the only thought in my head regarding all this is, "Huh?" That and "I should care, why?!" Once again, I'm wondering if the version I got is missing pages or something.

Anyway, like I said, all they do is talk, Westin saying he's sorry to hear about Lionel's arm and all that. The only real notable part is when Westin starts talking about Z-Van. As many will recall, I have certain affection for Z-Van, given that he's one of the few who calls the Tribbles on their bullshit, which is always a good thing in my book. Plus, given the way they talk about him...never fails to amuse me, how no matter how much they try to convince us that they're totally down with people and have their fingers on the pulse of today's youth, they always remain several decades behind. They probably still preach about how eeeevil Alice Cooper is, despite the fact that Alice Cooper is a golf-playing, Republican-voting, born-again Christian. Like I said, there's a reason I picture Z-Van as looking like Madonna Dahmer.

Anyway, the extent of the conversation is that Z-Van was doing a concert when God decided to kill everybody with the sun. And if you guessed that Westin talks dispassionately reports on what happens like he just witnessed someone stub their toe, rather than a MASSIVE CROWD OF PEOPLE BURN ALIVE! Again, congratulations on being familiar with Ellanjay. And because I believe in spreading pain around, I'm going to post a snippet of the conversation:

“One of those miracle workers came onstage and tried to calm the crowd. He was wearing a long, black robe and had a lapel microphone on. The speakers started crackling and popping like something was wrong with the lines, but when I looked closer, it was the miracle guy with flames licking at his outfit. He ran screaming to the back with the rest of the band members.”

“You think Z-Van survived?” Judd said.

“The GC hasn’t said he’s dead, but they also didn’t report anything about the concert. There must have been thousands on the ground, their bodies just piles of ashes. The stage, lights, all their instruments—everything went up in smoke.”

As they flew, Westin told them the other things he had experienced while flying for the Co-op. Judd was amazed at all God had accomplished through this man he and Lionel had reached out to.

It's times like this, I think of the Book of Job. The belief of many scholars now is that Job wasn't an actual person, but that the whole book is an allegorical tale, an ancient writer's attempt to try to solve the problem has vexed and probably will continue to vex religion throughout history: the problem known as Theodicy. You can argue about whether the writer succeeded in his goals, but whether he did or not, at least he shows more compassion to the very real suffering Job is going through.

Whereas, yeah, Ellanjay would be perfectly cast as any of Job's three friends: Bildad, Eliphaz, or Zophar. Remember they believe that the book should be entitled "When Bad Things Happen to Bad People Who Deserve It." You also wonder just how well Tim LaHaye does as a preacher, given that a large part of the job involves comforting people going through bad times. Especially since he probably disagrees with that irritating verse about how it rains on the just and unjust alike.

For them, God is their personal holy concierge/strongman and if anything bad happens to you for any reason, they'd probably expect you to look inward and see if it's the result of some sin you haven't properly confessed or atoned for.

Anyway, as a palate cleanser, here's a link to ako's Children of the Goats. Still saddens me that the story will never be continued or finished, but what can you do? Unless you know ako's address and where I can get Chloroform on the cheap. ;)

Anyway they talk some more and Westin hands Judd the note sent by the San Diego group. I'd talk about the note, but the contents do nothing to alleviate my confusion. The group says something about how Judd helped them in the past and told them to contact them if they were in any danger. While I suppose if I were to reread the series, I could figure out when exactly Judd was in San Diego and who the hell he helped, but I'm lazy and I already have entirely too much brain space devoted to this series. Besides, all the endless travelogues have proved over and over again that no matter where you take Judd, even if it's to some of the most holy sites in Christendom, he will pass by them without seeing or feeling anything worth noting. It doesn't matter if he's finds himself in a 7-11 or the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

:sighs: I know people (myself included) label Ellanjay as hacks, but I'm starting to feel that's unfair to hacks. While hacks may only possess rudimentary knowledge of the craft, that's still more than Ellanjay. More and more, I keep wishing Dan Brown was writing this series. Yeah, it would still suck and have all the problems inherent in Dan Brown's writings, but at least there would be a sense of fun to the whole affair. Plus, even he'd know there are times when the he flings the characters from one exotic locale to another, that he needs to pause and let the readers see what the characters are seeing.

Judd's section ends and we hear from Judd-with-Boobs aka Vicki. Vicki, being the compassionate RTC she is, looks out the window at the ruined landscape at all the burned-up buildings/vehicles. In addition to all this, apparently thanks to the Wrath of the Lamb quake (aka that disaster that happened in one of the earlier books, but I'm too lazy to look up exactly when), has caused massive flooding and destroyed many coastal cities.

I could point out how Vicki is, like a true RTC, focusing solely on the destruction of property, but that's not entirely accurate. At the end of the paragraph, it says she feels really bad for the Followers of Carpathia. Not bad enough to do anything besides wring her hands and think nice thoughts and certainly not bad enough not to think of how this sun plague makes it so much easier for RTCs to travel, but it's something. I'd make a remark about Vicki being a sociopathic asshole, but like I've said in other peoples' snarks, the word "asshole" feels piddling and inadequate when it comes to characters like these. An asshole is someone who keys your car because he/she can't stand you driving a nicer car than him/her. A character from this series, they're the type who would drop a nuke on your car, if they saw you driving a nicer car than them. After which, they'd smile and laugh as everyone is either vaporized or dies slowly from radiation poisoning.

On a semi-related note, here's a link There really aren't enough trigger warnings in the world for that horrifying clip. But the real horrifying part is that for all their chest-pounding and bluster about how we should nuke Iran/anyone who looks at us funny, they would be horribly offended if you actually showed the consequences of their actions. I mean, all those kids getting vaporized and dying with their guts hanging out? It really hurts their delicate sensibilities.

I'm starting to think in addition to a previous idea I had, about how we should publish leather-bound editions of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, we should also make syrupy inspirational posters, only rather than putting the "Footprints" poem, we put in a selection from Mark Twain's The War Prayer.

This get-rich-quick scheme might actually be more practical than my previous selection, because unlike Atlas Shrugged, The War Prayer is probably in the public domain, so I wouldn't have to worry about Copyright Infringement.

I know, I'm being too damn wordy/ranty about a chapter in which nothing happens, but it's my blog, so I'll rant if I want to! Besides, I feel another quote is needed.

“Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth into battle — be Thou near them! With them — in spirit — we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended in the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames in summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it —

For our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimmage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet!

We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.

As they land and get out of the plane, Vicki notices an eerie silence, the only sound being the cackles of flames (and probably the shrieks of the dying, but Ellanjay forget that detail). It's only a cursory mention and yes, I do wish they'd go into this further, but it's one of the few details that actually works in this chapter. Because one of the things people who have toured Ghost Towns talk about is the unnerving silences of those places, the kind of silence you can only get when there are no people or working machines around for miles.

They find a bus for handicapped/disabled children that hasn't been burned up and decide to use it to get to the library. I've wondered in previous posts how Zod knows which vehicles/buildings belong to RTCs and therefore, he shouldn't burninate them. I wondered if you could escape the burninating by plastering your bumper with Jesus fish or if God checks the registration in the glove box, before sending down hellfire, but at the same time, how does he know that the owner didn't just help himself to an RTC's Porsche following the Rapture or the umpteenth Wrath-of-God plague? As stupid as it sounds, at least, regarding the people, I somewhat understand, what with this whole Zodmark, Nicky-Mark business but still.

I could also point out that said bus probably belongs to one of those eeevil secular public schools, further making me question why it didn't burn up.

Anyway, they finally get to the library and meet up with people. If you thought that would clear things up, think again. Ellanjay stubbornly refuse to give the names of the people seeking the Tribbles' help.

The Nameless San Diego Believers (I really need to come up with a shorter name for them.) talk about how GC officers and ordinary citizens have taken refuge on some of the lower levels. And if you guessed that the Believers have stubbornly refused to go and witness to the citizens in hopes of possibly saving their souls, again, congratulations. Because like I said, there's really no reason for them to hesitate. Death is win-win all around for RTCs in this series. They know heaven is real and that if they die, they will get to spend the Apocalypse bathing in the light of the undying lands, while everyone else suffers. Plus in dying as martyrs at the hands of the GC, they get perks that other believers don't.

In addition to wondering why they don't just preach in front of the GC every chance they can, I sometimes wonder why RTCs don't just say The Prayer, ask God for forgiveness, then shoot themselves, so as to get this all over with. After all, if pressed, most RTCs will admit that they believe that no sign, not even suicide, separates a person from God, so long as they confess it before God and ask for forgiveness.

So they load up the bus with all the RTCs, but just as they're getting the last one on board, one of them, given the sole descriptor of a woman in her forties, refuses to get on board, saying that her son Howard isn't there. Apparently Howard was some guy who Judd argued with the last time they met, but like I said, I'm too lazy to go to the trouble of digging through all the past books to figure out when. If anyone else wants to, be my guest, but I've devoted too much neuron space to this series as is.

Judd, in a rare show of compassion, promises the woman that he and Vicki will go looking for her son, telling Westin to take off if they haven't returned in an hour. One of the Nameless gives Judd the keys to his Volkswagen Beetle. So for all you naysayers like me, who keep ranting about how all the suffering is off-stage and that the Apocalypse seems no more worse than stubbing your toe, fear not. Judd and Vicki are suffering, what with being forced to drive around in an old hippie car. Again there can be no greater suffering as the opening paragraph of the next chapter shows:

THE CAR sputtered and coughed when Judd turned the key. The Volkswagen wasn’t just old—it was ancient, with rust spots on the body, balding tires, and an inch of dust. Vicki coughed as she jumped in the passenger seat. Judd tried to start the engine again, but it wheezed and shook.

If you're wondering, I'm not breaking my one-chapter-snark trend this week; I just put in that paragraph because I felt you should know just how awful Judd and Vicki have it, being forced to ride around a burning hellscape in an old, broken-down car favored by dirty hippies, as opposed to Buck's Top of the Line gas-guzzling penis-extender Range Rover.

And that's it. Again, I really thought this would be the week I'd break the one-chapter-snark thing I've had going, but I had more to say than I thought. Again, I wonder if this is a case of the books just keep getting worse and worse or if this is a case that my snark skills have improved to the point where I can make good hay out of just one chapter. It may be one of those questions we'll never know the answer to.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Problem of Nicky or Welcome to the Linksapalooza Extravaganza!

Hi everybody! Well I'm pleased to note that, I won't have a need to use the word "asshole" until it loses all meaning again. Bad news, yeah, it's kind of dull. But you think this week's boring, guess what we have to look forward to next week. If you guessed a spinning-the-wheels-type action scene put in as a futile effort to convince us that the heroes are actually being heroic and not just cooling their heels until TurboJesus takes out all those sinful sinners for them, again, congratulations on being familiar with Ellanjay tropes. Like I said, I really wish there were some perks that came with this. A blue ribbon or even a lousy t-shirt would be nice.

This week's selection begins with a Lionel perspective. And I've got to give Lionel a few words of advice, before plunging into the snark. And my advice is: enjoy being onscreen while it lasts, because next week, whatever wormhole is after you, will suck you up again and you'll go back into some weird netherworld without anyone seeming to know or care that you've been missing for God-only-knows how many chapters. It goes without saying, but your friends suck. If I was still doing polls, I'd ask whether you'd taken up the mantle of Butt Monkey in the kids version of Left Behind (seeing as the previous titleholder is dead), or whether Ryan's Butt Monkey status transcends the grave and the laws of time and space as well. Ships may sink, cities may fall, but Ryan will always be the Butt Monkey of the LB-verse. If he had lived long enough to grow up, he'd be Ted from Scrubs.

Lionel spends his section talking with Zeke. Once again, Ellanjay try to convince us that character development is actually taking place, by having a character talk about it, rather than putting in the effort to show it. I'd say they're going from A to Q without showing us any of the steps in between, that they're just shouting "Q!" and hoping we don't notice, but even just shouting "Q!" would still involve more effort than what we actually get.

Zeke volunteered to stay at the computer with Lionel, and they had a good talk. “Must be kind of hard for you with all the excitement over Judd and Vicki.”

“I expected it,” Lionel said. “I don’t know which was harder, running from the GC these last few years or keeping up with Judd’s love life.”

Yeah, Judd's love life has really been exciting, the kind of excitement only found in a James Bond movie. I mean just look at the nonstop action/sex he's had...Okay, I think I've been sarcastic enough. Probably could have made my point in a more concise matter if I just posted a link to this gif.

Judd wrote the book on love. They called it All Quiet on the Western Front.

Okay, sorry for that joke. As an act of penance, I'll follow it with a Statler and Waldorf clip because that's what you should do when you make such an obvious, corny joke.

But seriously, outside his Obligatory Love Interest, the only girl that seems to have caused a stirring in Judd's Ken Doll undercarriage is Nada and as I recall, Judd did the "I'm dumping you for Godly reasons" shtick with her. After which, Nada died, leaving him free to pursue Vicki.

I suppose I should stop posting links to Metatron from "Dogma," because I really need to stop running a joke into the ground, but again, even Alan Rickman as a sexless angel is still had more charisma/animal magnetism than Judd. A chair has more charisma/animal magnetism that Judd!

Lionel then goes through the Obligatory Litany of Deaths where he lists everyone he knows who has died aka Ellanjay's futile attempt to convince us that the characters really are suffering. If you guessed when reciting the litany, he leaves off Ryan, again, congratulations on being familiar with Ellanjay tropes. Were it not for the fact that Ryan, after being saved, promptly forgot about his unsaved parents (we weren't given much insight into them, but chances are they were decent people, as opposed to Adolf Q. Stalin-Pot), I'd feel sorry for him.

Lionel does admit that he still doesn't understand why he lost his arm, but takes comfort in the fact that God is still working. And we get this paragraph:

Lionel nodded. “I guess that’s one thing that changed while I was away. Before the Rapture, I thought about God in terms of him being way out there and us down here trying to do stuff for him. When I became a true believer, I realized he wanted to be with us, helping us. But I still thought living for God meant doing stuff for him, trying to convince people he’s there and he loves them. All the pressure was on me to perform, you know? If somebody didn’t become a believer, I felt responsible, like it was my fault.”

Fred Clark already touched on this in the post where Rayford mansplains about Abortion, but if anyone still had any doubt that RTCs view spreading the Gospel as less of "beggar telling another beggar where they found bread" and more like the Spanish Requirement of 1513, that paragraph should have put all doubts to rest. Because their mindset is very similar to that of the Spanish Conquistadores: it doesn't matter how half-hearted or half-assed your preaching is or even if the people you're preaching it to understood what the hell you were talking about (it never seemed to occur to the Spanish Conquistadores that the inhabitants of a continent thousands of miles from theirs, might not understand Spanish), so long as you've done the bare minimum, you're off the hook and therefore, you can't be held responsible if those heathens die horribly and burn in hell for all eternity.

Lionel further proves my conclusions correct by saying that "I know I need to reach out as much as I can, but the past few years have taught me this is God’s battle. He’s the one drawing people to himself and fighting the enemy. If I talk with someone and they don’t become a believer, I feel sad, but I don’t feel guilty. God really is in control.”

Yeah, the Christian Right loves to talk about how they're totally the heirs to Bonhoeffer, but you just know that if they were dropped in a Polish village just down the road from Auschwitz, at some time between the years May 1940-January 1945, their response would probably be to distribute the World War II equivalent of this Jack Chick tract. Or they'd work towards rallying the Polish people to vote Republican in hopes that a Republican President will someday down the line appoint judges who will someday overturn all those nasty Nuremburg Laws.

We do get a semi-decent passage where Lionel talks about how he sometimes forgets that his left arm is gone and will reach for stuff with it and sometimes experiences phantom limb pain. But like everything else, that is quickly brushed aside. Besides, Zeke has a present for him.

Zeke walked to a storage closet and pulled out a box. He laid it at Lionel’s feet.

Lionel gasped when he opened the lid. Inside was a plastic replica of the lower portion of his arm. “How did you—”

“As soon as I heard what happened, I went looking on the Internet and through our sources at the Co-op for what they call prosthetic devices. Then I realized I had most of the materials right here, so I went to work. The hard part was making a mold for the plastic. I must have tried a dozen times before it came out right. Go ahead— try it out.”

I suppose I could ask where exactly did Zeke magic up the materials needed to make a mold. I'm guessing as for the plastic, he probably could have just helped himself to some abandoned whatchamacallits, but my main quibble is that something someone jury-rigged together out of melted Tupperware or whatever, probably wouldn't be very helpful as a prosthetic. About all something like that would accomplish is, that maybe this way Lionel wouldn't have to fold or cut up his left shirt sleeve. The idea of him holding anything with, just no.

But I shouldn't be too surprised. Given that Ellanjay failed to see the rise of cell phones or Internet porn becoming ubiquitous, I'll guess that it's too much to expect them to have heard of prosthetics created by 3D printers.

Lionel's section ends and he disappears off the face of the Earth, possibly becoming one of the 4400 for all I know. The next is a Vicki section but absolutely nothing happens, so let's deal with Judd.

If you guessed all that happens is Exciting!Phone Call!Action between Judd and Chang, congratulations. You should know by now that Ellanjay will take any opportunity they can to either indulge in their phone lust or tell rather than show.

Chang says that for some reason everyone's obsessed with hiding underground and escaping the sun plague, rather than just burning up like God wants them to. Okay, I admit, I am exaggerating for comedic effect, but really, it never fails how Ellanjay and their surrogate characters, are shocked that people freak out and panic whenever a horrible disaster happens rather than bending the knee and accepting Cthulhu, I mean Jesus, into their hearts.

Yeah, I'm not sure which aspect of Ellanjay's theology is worse: that they believe that Zod does all this horrible shit because he loves us and look at what you made him do! or that they genuinely believe that those brutes should kiss Zod's feet and be grateful for inflicting never-ending torment on them.

Yeah, I'd intended to just provide a necessary link, but I think a quote is needed. YMMV, though.

It was very simple, and at the end of that moving appeal to every altruistic sentiment it blazed at you, luminous and terrifying, like a flash of lightning in a serene sky: ‘Exterminate all the brutes!’

Nicky, continuing to show more initiative and compassion than our plucky heroes, continues to keep the government running, which says a lot about the quality of his infrastructure. The fact that in the face of all this shit Nicky and his crew haven't just thrown up their hands and headed for the hills, says a lot about the kind of people they are. They're certainly demonstrating more compassion than Our Heroes, in that they continue to work and do what little they can to help their citizens.

It's basically a more extreme version of the problem of Galbatorix from Christopher Paolini's Inheritance Cycle. For those too lazy to enjoy some world-class snark that helped me hone my snarking skills, Galbatorix is the Big Bad in a crappily written YA fantasy series. As you guessed, the big problem with Galbatorix, aside from the fact that he's barely in the series despite being the main villain, is that while the characters constantly talk about how evil he is, nothing Galbatorix does can be really described as evil, unless you count raising taxes and mobilizing his forces to fight a terrorist group that poses a threat to his rule to be evil. Heck, characters in the series openly criticize him and aren't immediately dragged off in the middle of the night by the secret police or skewered, which you'd think a horrible dictator would be more likely to do.

But as bad as Paolini's series is (and it only gets more incoherent later on when he attempts several Author's Savings Throws in an attempt to quell all the jokes about his series being Star Wars in Lord of the Rings clothing), I will give him credit in that Paolini probably knows he's writing fiction and doesn't believe that his crappily written fiction will actually happen at some point in the future.

Basically, Nicky and his crew are continuing to work and in order to do so, they've painted some of the windows on the lower floors of their building black. I suppose I should quibble, ask how black paint would stop Zod from killing people with the sun or even how they even managed to successfully paint it black, but given how rarely anyone shows any intelligence, I'll allow it. I'll just tell myself that they painted them at night, when the sun was gone. BTW, is there ever an explanation given as to why the GC don't just start raiding RTC compounds once the sun's gone down? Like I said, they've got a starving, desperate populace to feed, so it wouldn't be evil of them to decide to see if they can get supplies/help from those places magically spared from the sun plague.

But y'know there's a reason Jesus said "Do not store up treasures, where Welfare Queens and the 43% will steal what is rightfully yours. Instead, place your treasures in a nice tax shelter in the Cayman Islands, so you may hold onto what is rightfully yours.

Chang talks about how Nicky went outside to sun-bathe and I suppose we're supposed to find his anecdote about how Nicky wasn't harmed by all this and afterwards said "The sun, moon, and stars bow to me," to be scary, but I believe I speak for everyone when I say, "Go, Go Nicky Mountain Range, You Mighty Morphin Nicky Mountain Range!"

Okay, I realize not everyone's into that awesome bit of nineties cheese created for the sole purpose of selling toys to sugar-high eight-year-olds, so I'll provide another clip as a service to my devoted readers: "Go Nicky Go! Nicky B Badd!"

Yeah, I know he'll eventually get punted, but I have to take Nicky's side, simply because he's so much less repugnant than our so-called heroes.

Y'know when I set out to do this week's snark, I swear I had no intention of posting so many links. It's one of those things that happens. I like to believe that it lessens the pain somewhat, but I'm not sure how well that works.

The phone conversation wraps up and Vicki and Judd talk to each other some more. I'd snark the conversation, but in all likelihood, while I know they're trying to assert that Vicki and Judd totally belong together (probably because they're both equally boring), I think a conversation between a pair of eunuchs or aged schoolmarms would generate more heat/sexual tension. It's mostly a circle-jerk anyway.

Anyway, the chapter ends with Judd finding out that he's going on another long trip overseas for no adequately explored reason, because that's how Ellanjay roll. You never know what hijinks those Wild and Crazy Kids will get into next.

As you guessed, Judd agrees to go on this trip, provided that he's allowed to take Vicki with him. I suppose it's a sweet gesture, but I find myself wondering if there isn't someone else he could take with him. Y'know someone whom he has spent several books in the same time zone with. You know that Token Minority he's spent a lot more time with than he has Vicki. I believe this goes without saying, but Lionel, your friends suck. Were it not for the fact that you were such an asshole to Ryan in the early books, I'd feel sorry for you. Instead I'll close out this post and this linksapalooza with yet another link that I feel adequately reflects the problem of Lionel. I admit that theme is nowhere near as awesome as the Rockapella version, but I think we can all agree that Lionel is not worthy of the Rockapella version.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Judd is a Ghoul

Yeah, I know, two posts in the same week. Just consider it a nice treat on my part. Or you can consider it as proof of my belief in "Misery Loves Company." Make of it what you will.

As though aware of their status as NPCs (whereas Judd is a Main Character), everyone throws a big huge party to welcome him and to a lesser extent, Lionel, back.

It's really a dull scene. Before Judd and Vicki go off alone to talk, there is a weird moment where Zeke does some Alpha-Male posturing about how as Vicki's substitute dad, he has to make sure Judd's intentions are noble. I could make the obvious statement by pointing out that Vicki is a nineteen (according to previous chapters which said five years had passed) and is by anyone's definition, a legal adult capable of screening guys on her own, but given Ellanjay's dim view of women and the fact they probably have the same mentality as the people who host/attend Purity Balls... I don't really need to say anymore, do I?

I know, I should probably stop posting that clip about Purity Balls, but I just can't help it. It never stops amusing me how everyone involved, fails to see just how freaking creepy they are. Especially the father who says to his daughter, "Anybody who wants to date you has to go through me first."

Judd convinces Zeke that his intentions are honorable and he and Vicki go off together, which is kind of racy when you think about it. Given that RTCs somehow believe that two people of the opposite sex can't be alone or even :gasp: hold hands or kiss without immediately jumping each other's bones...I'm surprised that there aren't a few scandalized RTCs decrying Ellanjay for trying to corrupt our youth by having this long passage where two single nubile adults of the opposite sex (Vicki is nineteen and Judd is twenty-one) :gasp: :choke: hang out together and talk to each other without a chaperone present.

I'd suggest that maybe they're not worried because Judd is as anatomically impaired as a Ken doll but that just feels like an insult to Metatron somehow. Even he demonstrates more of a sexual drive than Judd ever does.

Anyway, so Vicki and Judd go off together and Ellanjay try their hand at doing some description of the scenery. As always, they fail to realize that the whole world should look like Hiroshima, circa August 6, 1945, but it's so rare that they put forth any effort at all that I actually welcome descriptive passages, however badly they may suck.

When they had seen all the cabins, Vicki led Judd through the woods a short distance to a knoll overlooking the camp and the surrounding countryside. It seemed like years since Judd had been outside in daylight and he loved it, even if the devastating fires still raged. Smoke hovered over the valley, and in the distance Judd saw houses and farms ablaze.

The fire hadn’t touched the woods surrounding the camp, and Judd was amazed. Like the other plagues, this could only be explained by the awesome power of God.

I can go on about the characters' sociopathy but I've done it so many times. Plus, I want to save my angry ranting for a later part of this chapter.

Most of my quibbles involve, "Okay, so how is it that the GC aren't immediately storming their camp come nightfall? Obviously if they still have Internet (and they do, because heaven forbid the characters suffer), then they still have satellites and you'd think that if the whole world looks like Hiroshima, after the bomb went off, except the damage conveniently stops at this one spot that's still all green and vibrant like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting or something (even though all the poisoned water should have killed off all plants and animals), you'd think the GC would want to check it out. Not necessarily because they'll immediately make the connection that the camp is full of RTCs, but because THEY HAVE A DESPERATE, STARVING POPULACE THAT THEY HAVE TO FEED AND SHELTER, SO OBVIOUSLY THEY'D PROBABLY WANT TO SEEK SHELTER AT THE ONE PLACE THAT HAS BEEN SPARED BY THE HORRIFIC DISASTER! THAT'S WHAT PEOPLE DO IN A CRISIS! HELP EACH OTHER OUT DESPITE DIFFERING VIEWPOINTS!

:deep breath: I know, I shouldn't be shocked by all this. I'm starting to think we have the makings of a business venture that were it not for copyright issues, could make us a lot of money. My venture is this: we make a bunch of leather-bound Bibles, complete with gold writing on the cover and pages, but instead of putting the scriptures in between, we put in the text of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. Because even though Ayn Rand was :gasp: an Atheist who supported abortion, you know the Christian Right probably relates to John Galt much more than to some weird hippie who said a bunch of Islamo-Commie-Fascist BS about how we should love our enemies(rather than sic drones and cruise missiles on them) and that we should care for the poor and needy, rather than let them die in a gutter like God intended. What Christian could get behind that kind of nonsense...

On a lighter note, this is how I always see things ending, every time some idiot talks about "Going Galt."

Whew...I really hadn't intended to spend so much time on that one just kind of happened.

After Judd does his obligatory self-flagellation scene where he talks about how ashamed he was about how he treated Vicki in the past, Vicki, for some reason, asks to know more about Nada. I admit to being a little puzzled myself. After Nada was Stuffed Into the Fridge, I didn't think we'd ever hear from her again.

So Judd talks about her death and reads a letter Nada had written to him. And even though Judd had apparently been carrying this letter with him for several books, there has been no mention of it until now. Because that's the kind of writers Ellanjay are.

I would snark the letter, but there's really not much to snark. Apparently even Nada recognizes that she's basically the disposable obstacle, a minor bump in the road en route to Judd and Vicki getting married. Naturally, as par for the course in these stories, she gives Judd permission to go after Vicki.

Judd then asks Vicki about Chad Harris, who basically served the same purpose in the story as Nada. Or in other words, a speed-bump that temporarily slows the Judd and Vicki narrative arc in order to possibly build suspense, but more likely allow Ellanjay to pad things out even more.

After this talk, Vicki and Judd return to the main cabin to watch the news. This, of course, allows for more padding and exposition as they find out that Commander Kruno Fulcire isn't going to just meekly roll over and show his belly, but actively seek out and arrest those responsible for the horrific disaster. Quelle horror! This is so evil and so very different from human nature! After all, following the terrorists proving the superiority and might of their god on 9/11, we Americans did the sensible thing and converted to Islam in droves. Now you can't walk down the street without wearing a burqa or seeing someone being stoned for adultery.

Of course, this announcement causes the Tribbles to make a bunch of "Yeah rights" with a few eyerolls as well.

Anyway, the chapter ends with Judd walking Vicki back to her cabin at night. And here's where we come to that part that made me see red and wish I knew more variations on the F-Bomb. I admit, the passage in question seems innocuous at first, but it doesn't take long to see why it makes me see red, once I point out a few pertinent facts.

Judd pulled out a small package and Vicki gasped. “I ran short on wrapping paper,” Judd said.

Vicki unwrapped the newspaper and opened the box slowly. Shelly peeked out the cabin door, then closed it. Vicki heard snickers from inside, and Judd blushed.

“When we moved from Indiana to Ohio, we met a doctor who treated Lionel’s arm. His wife had disappeared in the Rapture, and he’d kept this ever since he found it on her pillow.”

Inside the box was a beautiful gold chain with a heartshaped pendant. A diamond sparkled in the middle. Judd turned the heart around and pointed at elegant writing on the back that said Ich Liebe Dich.

“What’s that mean?”

“The doctor said it’s German for ‘I love you.’ He had studied in Germany and brought that back as an engagement gift for his wife. When I told him our story, he wanted me to give it to you.” Judd took the necklace from the box and fastened it around Vicki’s neck.

If you're wondering why this passage makes me see red, it's because if you actually paid attention to what came before, than the doctor Judd mentions, can only refer to Dr. Rose. AKA THAT GUY WHO WENT OUT OF HIS WAY TO HELP BOTH JUDD AND LIONEL DESPITE HAVING THE MARK, WHICH ACCORDING TO THEIR OWN THEOLOGY, MEANS THAT HE'S DAMNED FOR ALL ETERNITY!

As if that isn't horrifying enough, if you clicked on the link I posted, Dr. Rose ends up committing suicide and since he never mentioned or showed said necklace to Judd or offered to let him have it, that means Judd's response, upon hearing the gunshots, WAS TO START PAWING THROUGH THE GOOD DOCTOR'S JEWELRY AND POSSESSIONS LIKE THE FUCKING GHOUL THAT HE IS, IN HOPES OF FINDING SOMETHING THAT WILL GET HIM IN VICKI'S PANTS! I HATE YOU, JUDD! I HATE YOU SO MUCH!

:deep breath:

I suppose in the greater scheme of things, this bit of sociopathic behavior is kind of mild, compared with some of the other things these characters have done, but I still it's definitely worth more than it's share of "Good Lords." It's crap like this that makes me continue to believe in Discontinuity. Because the fact that a basically good person, who went out of his way to help out Judd and Lionel even though it could have ended very badly for him if he had been caught, is damned for all eternity, while Judd, who has never done anything for anyone without any ulterior motive (yes, being nice to people in hopes of racking up another convert and getting brownie points from God, does count as having an ulterior motive) gets to shrug his shoulders and help himself to the guy's cherished possessions...that's why I insist that Dr. Rose isn't dead. He fired a gun into the ceiling or the floor or something and he's run off to meet up with Taylor and Hasina, who also aren't dead. Together, with help from Joel (aka the guy who took the Mark in order to keep himself and his brother from starving to death), they'll gather up all the help they can find to mount a massive war against heaven.

And when they meet up with Judd and the other tribbles, I picture it playing out similar to the rich man and Lazarus story. Or if you want something with cruder language and a more upbeat, catchy tune...

That's what I'll believe until I die! [/yet another rant about Discontinuity]

Okay, now that I'm done with that rant, thought I'd bring up another question for discussion. In the past, I use to do polls, but I've since stopped because of a combination of laziness and the fact that no one but me seemed to be into them. But periodically when I read about the characters' sociopathic behavior, I find myself wondering whether this is worse than the Cavalcade of Assholery as depicted in the single digit books, where Judd, Lionel, and Vicki basically behave like complete assholes towards a twelve-year-old boy, whose parents are roasting on a spit in Hell for all eternity, because the almighty creator of the universe can't apply the brakes. There's always that question as to whether any of the actions the characters have done, has topped the Cavalcade, or if the Cavalcade set the gold standard for assholish behavior and will never be topped no matter how many books pass in this series.

BTW, when discussing assholish behavior, I deliberately leave out the Actions of Zod mostly because if I was to include him in the "Who is the Biggest Asshole in the LB-verse?" discussions, there wouldn't be any contest, because he trumps everybody. Even when Rayford patronizingly mansplains to Hattie about the wrongness of Abortion, he's still being less of an asshole than Zod.

So that's this week's post. Hope I've provided good fodder for discussions. I did read a chapter ahead and will report that maybe I won't have to ragedump or use the word "asshole" until it loses all meaning next week. But you never know. Until then, take care of yourself and each other.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Judd and Vicki. Together at Last. Woo...

Sorry, sorry guys about the late posting. A whole lot of stuff was going on last weekend. Would have posted yesterday, but lot of stuff going on that day as well. Since Slacktivist has kind slacked off on NRA snark, I guess it'll be okay if for this week, I post on Tuesday. Though I can't fault poor Fred too much for slacking in his snark: if I had to deal with Rayford patronizingly lecturing Hattie about abortion, I'd look for any excuse to get out of it as well. Say what you will about the For Kids! version and how many times I've rage-dumped over it, but if given the choice between the adult version and the kids (and the choice had better be between total annihilation of the Earth or read one of those series), I'd pick the kids series an infinite number of times before I'd ever choose the adults. It's basically a choice between, do you want to be kicked in the gut or do you want to be shanked in the gut then violated repeatedly, sort of choice.

Okay, now that the Cheryl subplot has been wrapped up with the kind of unsatisfying resolution we've come to expect from Ellanjay, let's see what we've got to deal with this week.

Okay, read ahead and from what I can tell, it's more dull and unmemorable than really bad. Maybe I'll finally be able to cut back on all the F-bombs. That's probably a good thing. I'm not opposed to profanity, but I do try to cut back, because if you use a word too much, it loses all power. What if the worst case scenario comes about, complete with the Four Horsemen coming right down the block? You don't want to have used up all the good words that adequately describe the situation you're in.*

As though anticipating all the times I've mentioned how Lionel has virtually disappeared from this series, the first section is told from his perspective. There's really not much to snark, just Lionel finally meeting up with Vicki's group (after being delayed by the writers' avarice bad traveling conditions brought about by the apocalypse) and wondering about how everyone's going to react to his missing arm.

Since, like I said, this first section gives me very little to snark about, I'm going to open the floor to widespread speculation. We all know that Lionel disappears for chapters at a time with very little mention as to what the hell he's doing. The question I'm going to ask is Why? And don't say "Bad Writing!" I want some creativity here. Is Lionel jaunting off into another, better-written dimension? Maybe he's one of the rulers of Narnia or a digi-destined, to name a few possibilities. I've also suggested that maybe Lionel is Judd's Tyler Durden or Harvey, but I want to hear some of your ideas. I love crazy fan theories. Anything to liven up this series.

Okay, Vicki and Janie have been cleaning out Cheryl's cabin and for all of those who complained about how very little compassion Our RTC Heroes were showing to a troubled girl who needed help (like me, for example), well I will give them some credit in that they do, however tentatively, mention that our heroes may have been :gasp: taken the wrong approach in dealing with Cheryl. It's not much, but you should know by now that I grasp at whatever crumbs of human decency I can find in these books.

Vicki and Janie had worked on Cheryl’s old cabin since Vicki had returned from her trip. Food wrappers littered 382 the floor. Clothes were thrown about, and Cheryl’s cot hadn’t been made for weeks. Though Marshall had assigned cabins and put at least two people in each (he said the partner system was best), Cheryl had stayed alone, which was fine with everyone else. But Cheryl’s solitary life had come with a price. Vicki wondered what might have happened if the girl had roomed with someone who could have helped her think through the situation with Ryan and the Fogartys.

Like I said, it's only tentative in its critique of Vicki's patronizing, at best, cruel and insensitive, at worst, attitude towards Cheryl, but I take what I can get. I will point out, though, that no one in this series has pointed out that something must have gone wrong in the arrangement between Cheryl and the Fogartys if Cheryl felt she couldn't just talk to them about wanting more involvement in her son's life. But I have a feeling that will never be brought up, now that Cheryl's safely on the bus.

Anyway, Vicki hears the commotion and hopes that Judd and to a lesser extent, Lionel, have finally arrived. Okay, they do make a point of saying that when Vicki sees Lionel, she immediately runs up and hugs him, but I still think she was probably more concerned about Judd. Because you know, in spite of the writers' assertions otherwise, that Vicki is primarily concerned about getting laid before God takes away sex for everyone. I suppose she could have just done the horizontal tango with one of the guys she's actually spent meaningful time with (like I said, it's only recently that Vicki and Judd were even on the same continent), but that's probably not going to happen. Even though, she could have just asked God for forgiveness after having premarital sex and by RTC logic, she'd be free and clear.

Yeah, there are so many problems with the abstinence-only approach to sex education (chief among them, that it doesn't work), but I can't help but think of all those RTC kids who manage to save it for marriage, only to be disappointed as hell on their wedding night, because your first time is rarely as magical as it's hyped up to be. I picture them going, "The hell?! This is what my pastor/parents made such a big deal about?"

Lionel takes her to Judd and the next section is told from Judd's perspective.

The first one to reach Judd after he stepped out of the car was Mark. There were no words, just hugs and slaps on the back. Judd and Mark had disagreed about a lot of things through the years, beginning with Mark’s involvement with the militia movement, but now all that seemed forgotten. They had both seen enough death and had been chased by the Global Community enough to know that any squabbles in the past were easily put aside.

At first my response to this paragraph was essentially: The hell?! Because as I recall, it had been several books since Judd and Mark exchanged a syllable with one another, but then I recalled in the books that correspond to book 2 of the adult series, there had been a bit of a fight because Mark wanted to join a militia and :gasp: do stuff to fight Nicky (violating the sacred ethos of doing nothing held by Tribbles everywhere) and Judd, being a good Tribble, was opposed to it. As you can guess, Mark wasn't as fortunate as Taylor and Hasina and did eventually come to accept that Judd, by virtue of being a Main Character, was right. But given that I'm fairly certain the series was still in the single-digits, you can't blame me for having almost forgotten about it entirely. Especially since it was never mentioned after it was resolved until now.

I'd browse TV Tropes in search of their term for this kind of writing, where rather than showing us the steps between A and Q, the writers' just shout "Q!" and hope we don't notice that they left out everything in between, but TV Tropes is enough of a time suck as is and I need to get back to the review. There is a reason that TV Tropes has a page entitled "TV Tropes Will Ruin Your Life."

There's some chitchat and stalling, before the writers finally get Vicki and Judd together. Trust me, when I say that the following paragraph is way more accurate and entertaining if you read it with the idea that Judd's just desperate to get laid. Yeah, I overuse that joke, but they make it so damn easy!

Judd had never felt so focused. He knew everyone was watching, wondering what he would do, but he concentrated on the girl at the end of the path.
Vicki had changed since Judd had been gone, like the others, like he had. Her red hair was shorter, and Judd liked how it accented her face. She looked older, more mature.

"And by mature, I mean mature enough that sleeping with her won't count as Statutory." Judd then waggles his eyebrows and sprays on more Axe Body Spray aka the body spray choice of dudebros and insecure douchebags everywhere.

We also get further examples of Ellanjay's steadfast opposition to one of writing's sacred commandments "Show Don't Tell" as they tell us about how Judd has totally changed guys! They even mention Bruce "Dead and Useless" Barnes, though as I recall, nobody has given more than a passing thought, since they stuck him in the ground some time back in the single-digit books. We also get a mention of Ryan Daley aka that guy who will probably somehow remain a Butt Monkey even in death.

Anyway, if it sounds like I'm fast-forwarding through all this, like I said, I am. All that happens as the chapter draws to a close, is Vicki and Judd are happy to see each other again and Ellanjay continue to assert that Judd has totally changed, in the desperate hope of convincing the readers. Anything to get out of doing the actual work of showing how Judd's changed.

And that's all I'm going to give you for Tuesday. I know, kind of a skimpy snark, but I read ahead and the next chapter had a lot of material and there will definitely be a ragedump, so I hope you don't hold the skimpiness of this week's snark against me.

*Always found those who complain about bad language to be just a wee bit disingenuous. The whole thing involving the PG-13 rating where you only get one use of the F-bomb (and said use must not refer to the sexual act) is a prime example of the silliness involving profanity. Because apparently hearing the F-bomb more than once in a feature-length movie will irrevocably scar you for life.

I especially get mad when people complain about profanity usage in movies like Saving Private Ryan. When shit is blowing up all around you and your best friend is lying on the beach with his guts hanging out, I think you've earned the right to use whatever words you want! Unless they believe that everyone, whether they're a Victorian Lord or a street kid from Brooklyn, should use the same language no matter what the situation. Or in other words, the people in Saving Private Ryan should have turned to each other and said, "I say, old chap, this really steams my beans" as their friends blow up around them, lest they offend the RTCs in the audience. [/soapbox rant]

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Cheryl Loves Big Brother

I had certain expectations regarding the Cheryl subplot. As you all know, I was totally on Team Cheryl in that while I felt her actions were drastic, I did feel she had a legitimate beef. Ryan Victor is her child and she has a right to have access to him. Plus, like I said, Vicki pretty much made all the arrangements with very little input from her.

But anyway, when I heard about this subplot, I thought it would go one of two ways. Either Ellanjay would resolve it by having Cheryl die from some random Act of God, thus wrapping everything up neatly and rendering all the proceeding drama pointless. Obviously if they went that route, you just know that the Tribbles would just be like "eh" and the plot would continue on and Cheryl would never be mentioned again.

I thought the most likely resolution to the Cheryl subplot would be that there would be a nice, long chapter where Vicki or somebody patronizingly explains what a fool Cheryl is for thinking she has a right to her child, bringing God in on air support to go for her emotional wounds to drive the point home. And I'd dig around trying to come up with the right term to use to describe said explanation. I know people have coined the term "whitesplanning" where white people patronizing tell people of color that racism totally doesn't exist because no one they know of has been to a cross-burning. But I don't think I can use that in Cheryl's case because in the LB-verse, all ethnic characters are obviously ethnic. I should be grateful they didn't try to give Lionel a name off of this list.

I suppose "mansplanning" aka where men patronizingly explain to women that sexism doesn't exist, because every now and then, there's a form of entertainment with a female character front and center, might work. Unless Vicki's doing the bulk of the explaining, in which case, back to the drawing board.

In fact, the only appropriate term for all this might be "RTC-splanning" but maybe y'all can come up with a better term.

Anyway, like I said, whatever route they chose to resolve the Cheryl subplot, I thought they'd at least try. Yeah, the inevitable RTC lecture-fest would probably make me ragedump over how patronizing it is, but still, that would be better than what they give us, which is nothing. The entire conflict was settled off-screen and they only devote the opening paragraph to it. I was seriously wondering if the eBook was missing a few pages because this is crap.

VICKI was encouraged by the change in Cheryl. Something had happened to the girl as she listened to Mark talk with Clemson. But in a heated meeting with Tom and Marshall, the group agreed Cheryl shouldn’t return with them.

Like I said, I find this more rage-inducing than a whole chapter of RTC-splanning. At least with RTC-splanning, as infuriating as that would be, I would respect them for trying to defend their position, trying to polish a turd. This is the kind of slapdash effort that qualifies as Sloth, as in the deadly sin, not the animal. This is the kind of incompetence that Thomas Aquinas would declare a sin. Granted, if I made this point to any of the writers in the LB-verse, they'd probably look at me blankly. Given that since they tend to be virulently anti-Catholic*, they probably wouldn't appreciate me bringing up Thomas Aquinas.

I know, you guys are tired of me making the same point over and over again, but I believe in driving a point home, dammit! Plus, this level of sloth bothers me, both as an artist and as a Christian. Whatever complaints you may have about Catholicism, at least they created some damn good art! They didn't just slap a Jesus fish on it and send it out!

Now that I'm done with that rant, let's speculate on just what caused the change in Cheryl. Maybe she's been taken over by an RTC Yeerk. There's the obvious Borg reference. Me, I'll go with the Obvious Stepford Wives reference. Yeah, I know it's obvious, but you just know that the RTCs missed the memo on how that movie is supposed to be a horror movie.

We do see some inkling of Cheryl trying to assert herself, in this conversation she has with Vicki as they prepare to leave. I'm going to post the entire thing, because I believe in spreading pain around.

“I don’t think going back with us is a good idea,” Vicki said. “We’ll head to Wanda’s and see if you can stay there.”
“What if I don’t want to stay with her?” st
Vicki put an arm around Cheryl. “This isn’t easy for any of us. Make the most of this time away, and down the road—”
“What happens if I can’t get back down the road? Wanda could turn out to be—”
Tom passed, holding Ryan with one hand and holding the phone to his ear with the other. Ryan smiled and waved at Cheryl. She turned to Vicki. “I’ll do anything to see my little boy again.”
“Then use this time. Let God work on you.”

I did use the "Search this Book" feature to find out if Cheryl makes any further appearances in this book or if she's gotten rid of the way they got rid of Dr. Rose**. Good news is she does make further appearances. Bad news, well I think this quote sums it up best:

He gazed up at the enormous face. Forty years it had taken him to learn what kind of smile was hidden beneath the dark moustache. O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.

Seriously all you need to do is change out a few pronouns and whatnot in that paragraph and you have Cheryl's experience in a nutshell...yeah, in an attempt to soften the blow, I'm going to post how it should have gone aka that only part of V for Vendetta that I really liked. I'll even post a YouTube link for those too lazy to read. However the Wachowski Siblings may have muddled the message of V for Vendetta***, even they couldn't rob that speech of its emotional power.

After all this, they watch some news where they smirk at Leon Fortunado's speech. As you guessed, his speech gives me an opportunity to dust off my "Strawman Always Has a Point" tag.

Leon Fortunato spoke against Dr. Tsion Ben-Judah’s claims that the Bible predicted the plague. “The enemies of world peace will twist these ancient words to fit their own agenda,” he said. “His Excellency assures me that this change in weather is only temporary. And we reject reports that there is some god punishing innocent people for simply living their lives. That is not the kind of god I want to serve. I wish to serve the loving, generous god we have come to know, Nicolae Carpathia.”

Like I've said many times, Leon's really got the RTCs' number here. Because that is exactly what they believe: that if you haven't said The Prayer, you leave God with no choice but to burn the living shit out of you forever and ever. Yeah, Stepford Wives wasn't the only movie, they took the wrong moral from.

After all this, we cut to Judd. Judd listens to a message from St. Rayford, then calls and talks to Vicki, and then he and Lionel finally leave. With any luck, maybe Ellanjay will finally stop coming up with excuses to keep Judd from his Designated Love Interest, but I wouldn't be the farm on it.

Have to admit, though, the conversation where Lionel and Judd talk about stuff they miss, isn't that shabby. Yeah, it's workmanlike in its execution, but given how rarely the characters reflect on their lives before God decided to Exterminate the Brutes! It's actually kind of refreshing.

“What do you miss most about the way things used to be?” Lionel said as they neared a city.
“I miss my parents and my little brother and sister,” Judd said. “I think a lot about what they’d be doing if they were here. Marc and Marci would be in high school. But I also miss little things like going to Wrigley Field for a Cubs game or grabbing a burger at a local restaurant. I had dreamed of owning my own car and being my own boss. Going to movies—”
“Yeah, movies,” Lionel said as they passed a destroyed theater complex. “The last time I went to a theater was with my sister.”

Now I admit it would be nice if Lionel or Judd talked about the kind of movies they used to see. Like were Judd and Lionel into comedies or action-adventure films or what? It would add a certain poignancy if it turns out that Lionel saved the worn ticket stub from that movie he saw with his sister, but like I said, I've come to accept that these moments of introspection/good writing last about as long as a drop of rain in the desert, so I'll take what I can get.

Then Lionel asks Judd how he's going to court Vicki. Because that's the kind of language teenagers would use. Teenagers from the 19th century maybe. But in fairness, courting is the kind of archaic, sexist practice that RTCs eat up with a spoon. [tangent] Yeah, I long for the day one of the Duggar kids escapes the Compound and writes one hell of a tell-all memoir as well. [/tangent]

Judd does talk about how they've been apart for so long. And by apart, I mean it wasn't until recent books that they were even on the same continent together. And how the last time they were together, he and Vicki fought with each other. But Lionel reassures him that God has totally changed him and will continue to change him and that being with Vicki will change Judd even more. I, of course, am like "How has he changed?" because I can't point to any changes in Judd's thinking whatsoever. It's like how in the third Star Wars prequel, we're supposed to be shocked by how much Anakin has changed when he's behaving like the same whiny, child-murdering asshole he was in the previous film. Here's a hint, aspiring writers: SAYING A CHARACTER HAS CHANGED IS NOT FUCKING GOOD ENOUGH! YOU HAVE TO SHOW HOW THEY'VE CHANGED BY THEIR THOUGHTS AND ACTIONS!

Anyway, we cut back to Vicki and get this passage.

Vicki’s heart nearly broke when she watched Cheryl say good-bye to Ryan. Tom let her hold the boy before they left, and Cheryl sang a song she had made up for him. Through her tears she choked out the words and kissed him on the cheek. “I’m really sorry,” she said as she handed Ryan to Tom. “Will you tell Mrs. Fogarty that—”
“You should tell her yourself,” Tom said. “Write her or call her.”
“I will. And I want you to know I’m going to get better. I’ve never been through anything like this before.”

Don't worry, Cheryl. After your stay in Room 101, you'll be right as rain.

I know, you're getting tired of all the 1984 references, but they're just so damn apt. You can't expect me to avoid such an obvious analogy; I'm not made of stone, people!

Anyway, Clemson actually shows some compassion to Cheryl, saying that he wouldn't have become an RTC had she not done what she did. Vicki and the others leave and Vicki's section ends with her thinking about how she used to go out with guys because they were hot, but now she wants to go with someone who shares her faith. Or in other words, Vicki's desperate to get laid before God takes away sex for everyone. I know I keep making that joke, but like I said, it's just so obvious that I can't help myself.

The chapter for this week ends with Judd and Lionel doing Exciting!Driving!Action. And that's all I really have to say. Fear not, though. Maybe Ellanjay finally got that solid gold humvee they always wanted, because I read ahead and Judd and Vicki actually meet up in the next chapter.

*It never fails to amuse me, this newfound alliance between RTCs and Catholics. For centuries, both sides hated and mistrusted each other, but since Roe v. Wade came along, they've forged an uneasy alliance based on their mutual hatred of women/fetishization of fetuses. Trouble is, every now and then, their lips slip and their true beliefs come shining through.

**As a big believer in Discontinuity, I insist that Dr. Rose isn't dead. He faked it, firing the gun into the ceiling or something because he knew that Judd-turd wouldn't leave him alone until he thought he was safely dead. In my head canon, Dr. Rose has run off and joined up with Joel, Taylor, and Hasina. Together they'll mount one helluva War against Heaven.

***I have to admit that the movie adaptation of V for Vendetta didn't bother me much. Mostly because for me, Alan Moore's oeuvre, in general, falls into the category of "Good but gives me very little pleasure to read." As a writer and lover of comics, I can appreciate the skill and craft needed to construct the stories, but like I said, his works give me very little pleasure from a reader's perspective.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Forest for the Trees

Okay, did some digging on YouTube looking for the perfect clip, but I'm afraid you'll have to settle for the almost perfect clip instead. Basically I've come to envision the Tribbles, both young and old, as basically being the Buddy Bears, except with less fur. The line in the song about how "if you ever disagree, it means you must be wrong," is particularly apt. But in the Buddy Bears defense, at least they have a catchy tune that makes you smile, which is more than I can say for the Tribbles. Plus, the Buddy Bears actually do help Garfield out in that clip, cleaning up his house for him. Can you imagine the Tribbles ever doing anything for anyone, especially if said character isn't an RTC? Didn't think so.

This week's selection begins with Judd's perspective. Why? I don't know, especially since nothing really happens. Maybe Ellanjay thought that if we didn't receive some reminder that Judd exists, we'd forget. Lionel does have a few lines, but I'm still wondering if Lionel isn't actually Judd's Tyler Durden or Harvey like I mentioned a few weeks ago.

Anyway, all that really happens is he and Lionel drive around, looking at all the flaming wreckage and thinking of all the sinners being burned up. Because, lest we never forget, Judd and Lionel are horrible people.

Judd saw a fire department’s door open, and an engine rushed out. Firefighters in full gear bounced inside as the truck rolled onto the street. But as soon as the engine hit the street, GC flags on the truck burst into flames. Firefighters flailed their arms and struggled against their seat belts. The red truck slowed, its massive tires melting and spreading onto the pavement. First the driver, then the rest abandoned ship, running toward the firehouse. Before they reached the driveway, they burst into flames. One firefighter ran to the back, managed to turn the water on, and pointed the hose toward his coworkers. Boiling water scalded his friends. They screamed and fell before catching on fire.

I'm really starting to think I shouldn't have started an "Our Sociopathic Heroes" tag. I'm afraid I'd overuse it, thus rendering it meaningless. Because need I remind you, those firefighters Judd saw die horribly with scarcely a comment, THEY WERE OUT DOING THE FUCKING JOBS! THEY WERE HELPING PEOPLE AKA THAT ACTIVITY THAT THE TRIBBLES ONLY TALK ABOUT DOING BUT NEVER ACTUALLY DO!

Judd's selection ends and the rest of the chapter is told from Mark's perspective.

Remember last week how I said there was an Obligatory Conversion Scene coming up? Well, we're here. I'll spoil it for you: Clemson comes to love Big Brother.

Anyway, Mark, seeing an opportunity to chalk another one up on his fuselage, starts asking Clemson about his family. Me, I find myself wondering if the paragraph at the beginning of the chapter isn't Ellanjay's attempt to answer the question I keep repeatedly asking: If God just wants people to believe and follow him, why doesn't he do something less fatal and less cruel like say, rearrange the stars to spell out "Jesus is Lord and Tim LaHaye was right about everything?" As you can guess, the answer Ellanjay provide is weaksauce.

Mark had learned a long time ago that a person didn’t become a believer in God simply because of information, so he had to resist the urge to spell everything out for Clemson. Instead, he asked Clemson about his family, where he had grown up, and his church background.

My objection is mostly that the conversion scene mostly follows the standard one seen in any RTC fiction, ignoring, of course, the fact that the characters of the LB-verse don't live in our world in which much of religious belief has to be taken on faith. The characters In the LB-verse have seen miracles and the kind of Acts of God that would make Richard Dawkins pause. It's more the nature of God that they'd question. Because with the exception of God swatting aside nukes aimed at Israel, pretty much all the miracles/Acts of God are so horrific as to make one of Lovecraft's Elder Gods blanch.

So Clemson tells us a little about his life. Basically he's one of those heretics who has no axe to grind against God or the Church, but just doesn't see a reason why believing in God and following the Golden Rule isn't good enough. No doubt, he's one of those types who actually reads through the second chapter of James rather than ignoring it like all good RTCs.

In an attempt to find something positive to say, Mark does briefly do something smart. Rather than leap to "Jesus love you, which is why he's tried repeatedly to kill you horribly so you can spend eternity in hellfire," Mark starts talking about how all this shit that's happened was predicted in the Bible and starts laying it out. Me, I wonder why they don't just point to the voluminous amount of RTC-published books written before all this happened that say the same thing. Because anyone can use the Bible as some sort of Ouija board, twist scripture to make it say whatever you want, but I imagine pointing out how Hal Lindsay or whoever predicted exactly what would happen decades before the Rapture might have more impact.

You kind of wonder about the LB-verse. While the basis is that pretty much everything that Hal Lindsay, Tim LaHaye, John Hagee, and numerous others have said is true, at the same time, people stumble around acting like all this is some bizarre novelty. Even though it's not like numerous films don't already exist that explore the whole idea of the the anti-Christ.

In short, I'm wondering if the LB-verse doesn't operate like The Walking Dead, where it's established that none of numerous zombie movies/lit exist in that world, which explains why all the characters act like this zombie stuff is new to them and everyone has to learn how to defeat them as opposed to just going, "Y'know this is exactly like that George Romero movie," and working from there.

Yeah, sorry about the long tangent, back to the story.

So Mark starts asking about the prayers Clemson has made and whether they've been answered. Mark then says this:

Mark drew closer and got down on one knee. “Clemson, it’s not enough just to believe that God exists. The Bible says that the demons believe that. Even Carpathia believes in God.”

That line set off all sorts of notes of recognition. I had to hit Google to be sure, but I did find confirmation of my theory: that what Mark just said is a riff on a verse from the Book of James. In fact, it's James 2:19 to be specific. I'm going to guess that that's the only verse from the second chapter of James that RTCs pay attention to. Because if you took some time and actually read the rest of that chapter, yeah, many RTC kids will start asking their parents uncomfortable questions, given that the main thesis of that chapter is "Faith without Works is Dead."

They probably ignore the beginning of the fifth chapter of James for probably the same reason: that if you really take those words to heart like you're supposed to, you'll find yourself asking a lot of uncomfortable questions that might lead to heretical ideas taking root.

Yeah, I know, you probably want me to stop going on and on about James, but I always liked that book the best out of all the New Testament books and I thought the way they use James, clearly points out the fallacy of their approach to scripture in which they grasp at a few twigs while paying little if any attention to the rest of the tree the twigs came from.

On an unrelated note, here's some music to liven up this dull lecture.

Clemson says that he thinks God has better things to do than worry about him and his troubles. I could point out that technically God is the cause of all Clemson's troubles, but I've made that point so many times. Besides, I'll admit it is a little refreshing to see someone who doesn't treat God as his personal concierge/strongman. Spoiler alert: it won't last.

Clemson talks about how he often wonders if God really cares, which gives Mark a chance to say this:

“I think the reason that all this bad stuff has happened is that God cares more than any of us can imagine. He wants people to come to know him, to ask forgiveness for their sins, even though he knows that most people will spit in his face.”

Or in other words, your only hope is to be eaten first.

I know I keep using Cthulhu comparisons but they're just so damn apt that I can't think of anything else.

Clemson's like "If you're so religious, why are you still here?" and Mark says that he believes he and the others were left behind to reach the lost and bring them to Christ. I'm reminded of an editorial that Kirk Cameron wrote way, way back in 2005, ably snarked here where Cam-Cam calls for what sounds like Christian Bodhisattvas. When even Cam-Cam pales at your notion of God, you know you've created a cruel god.

For those of you wondering if this chapter is going to be one giant sausage fest, Vicki, Cheryl, and Marshall comes in just as Mark is doing the obligatory "I thought I was a good person, but I wasn't" self-flagellating and gnashing of teeth. Basically Vicki talks about how she thought her parents were a bunch of religious nutcases, but they were right and she was wrong. Though, given what I recall from early snarks about Vicki's parents, I can't blame her for not respecting them. If I had them as parents, I wouldn't respect them either.

I'm going to guess the fact that they mentioned Cheryl has many of you wondering, as I did, if they're going to mention any of the issues going on with her life and provide a satisfactory resolution to them. Oh you silly naïve fools, thinking that Ellanjay would have enough dedication to the craft to wrap up a major plotline in a satisfactory way. Don't feel too bad; I felt the same way.

Anyway, here's the extent of Cheryl's participation in the chapter. Read ahead a little to next week's selection. If you guessed that Cheryl tacitly gives up her right to be with her child because the Main Character wanted her too, and that there's little if any explanation provided as to why she suddenly changed her mind, again, congratulations on being familiar with Ellanjay tropes. Sad part is despite being an English major, I can tell you more about Ellanjay tropes than Shakespearean ones. My professors would be proud.

Anyway, here's what Cheryl says:

No one spoke for a long time. Finally, Cheryl folded her arms and her chin quivered. “Just because we believe in God doesn’t mean we’ll always make the right decisions.” She looked at Vicki and frowned. “I made a big mistake. I can see that now. And there’s nothing I can do to make up for it. But I know God is in the business of forgiving people.”

I really don't need to point out all the wrong here. I picture Cheryl giving this speech wide-eyed, an enormous strained smile on her face, because she knows if she doesn't do exactly as her captors tell her, she won't ever see her son again. Yeah, someone needs to tell Ellanjay that The Stepford Wives is supposed to be a horror movie.

After Cheryl says her line and disappears back into the collective, Mark basically asks Clemson what it will take to get him to take home a brand spankin' new Jesus today. Strangely enough, instead of getting to the Obligatory Conversion Scene, Clemson holds off. Mark does a variation on the Hypothetical Bus, saying that he could die tomorrow given how shitty things have gotten. Me, I'd have whole new respect for Mark if instead he'd just thrown up his hands and said "Look we're characters in some shitty writer's shitty masturbation fantasies. No matter which way you choose, this story will end badly for you. So why don't you choose the least shitty of the two shitty options and save us a few more pages of crappily written dialogue!" But yeah, that's not going to happen.

At that moment, Ryan Victor comes in humming a crude version of "Jesus Loves Me." And I have to call bullshit here. Isn't Ryan Victor one year old? I can except that he's walking and talking, but humming a tune?! I'm calling BS. While I know there's a wide range in that area of development and I freely admit to not being an expert on child development, I'm still calling it. No child is that freaking precocious!

This of course, affords Mark the opportunity to dust off Jesus's "Let the little children come to me" bit. Clemson is like "What does that mean?" and Mark points out that Ryan Victor can't do much for himself because he's a baby, so he trusts in everyone around him. The clear moral is that God wants Clemson to trust in God the way Ryan Victor trusts in everyone else.

But clearly the Kool-Aid is starting to take affect as Clemson admits that the real reason he didn't go to church was because he did bad things that the church members knew about. Those of you waiting to hear just what bad things Clemson has done, keep waiting. It's never mentioned. And given Ellanjay's definition of bad things, which can range anywhere from "not saying The Prayer with the precise level of sincerity" or "taking the Mark to keep you and your brother from starving to death" to nuking London...I think I've made my point.

Mark, seeing an opening, does the whole "We're all sinful sinners and that's why Jesus died on the cross, because we were full of sin and evil" bit. He quotes from Romans 5, later citing Romans 10:13 aka that verse that says "Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."

Many have pointed out how RTCs seem so much fonder of quoting from Paul rather than the four Gospels. I've got to admit, I enjoy picking on Paul as much as any other liberal Christian does, but I still think Paul would be horrified by Ellanjay's interpretation of Jesus. Paul saw Jesus as someone who would ultimately break down barriers between God and man, not some sort of Jinn who will torture you for all eternity, unless you say the Magic Words. I admit, Paul remains a frustrating figure for me in that while you see passages where he is able to transcend the mores and values of his time and really touch on the love of God, these great passages are mixed in with other passages where he stubbornly remains a man of his time. I will say in his defense that most of the really misogynistic passages that RTCs like to cite were probably not written by him and that Paul would be shocked that people were placing his letters in the same category as other sacred writ like the Torah.

Okay done talking about Paul for now. Back to story.

To wrap this all up, Clemson finally bends the knee and says The Prayer.

And that's it for this week. I've read ahead for next week and those of you wondering "WTF is going on with Cheryl?" Like I said, it's pure weaksauce in that no explanation is provided; Cheryl has just meekly accepted that she's not a Main Character and was foolish to think otherwise. No doubt now that she's somehow seen the error of her ways, she'll disappear into the collective despite the fact that, y'know, Cheryl does have legitimate concerns that warrant being addressed and dealt with, not just shuffled off-screen. I was seriously wondering if somehow the eBook had a few pages missing between this week and last week and next week's selection, because that is crap writing. Basic rule of writing: if you want to show a character changing, going from A to Q so to speak, you have to show the parts in between. Shouting "Q!" and hoping no one notices you left out the stuff in between doesn't work. You end up coming across as an eight-grader who didn't do his homework assignment and is desperately trying to wing it.

Ah, but I've talked too much about what we have to look forward to next week. Better wrap it up before this snark turns into War and Peace or something. Take care of yourselves and each other until then.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Our Sociopathic Heroes, Ladies and Gentlemen!

So when we last left Vicki and her assorted bunch of Tribbles (I seriously have no idea which of the named characters are with her and which are elsewhere. There could be nine or nine hundred with her for all I know. That's how indistinguishable they are.), they were pursuing Cheryl, aka that Whore who has the nerve to regard herself as a Main Character, capable of making her own decisions. Yeah, should probably think of a shorter insult for her. Ah well.

So basically the beginning of this week's selection is an action sequence, which as said before, would be suspenseful if a) I believed the character was in actual life-threatening danger (remember bad things only happen to the nameless damned who deserve it and to Butt Monkeys) and if b) I gave a shit. Since neither of these things apply, yeah, it's mostly just pages of action verbs to skim.

Vicki decides to go for the old decoy bit. She tells Mark to go help Tom and the others, while she tries to draw the GC's attention away from them. She drives and shots are fired, but I said, I don't really care.

Then there's another sequence as Mark rushes in and rescues Ryan Victor.

Mark is running while carrying Ryan Victor, who is remarkably verbal for a child who I think is a year old. Granted I know there's a wide range in infant development and Ryan Victor isn't outside the realm of possibility, but I've got to raise an eyebrow. Besides, I love any excuse to pick on Ellanjay for their stubborn refusal to do any research.

Basically Mark runs for awhile until he notices a slightly-open manhole cover. A guy with a scraggly beard appears and is like "Come with me if you want to live," and Mark does because you should always listen to guys who look like Charles Manson, especially during the End of the World. I'm going to cling to the hope that Sewer Dude is a C.H.U.D. Yeah, I know it'll turn out that Sewer Dude is an RTC and we'll have yet another Conversion story where he lays out how he came to love Big Brother :whimpers: but let me have this.

Anyway, the GC finally forces Vicki to pull over and get out of the car. The GC's all "We got you now!" But Vicki continues to be all smug, knowing that the sun will soon come up and burninate all the heathens. She starts proclaiming about how this is the fourth bowl judgment from God and how they'll pay. Granted I freely admit I'm exaggerating for comedic effect but seriously, this is the kind of speech you hear from a two-bit villain in a crappy fantasy movie. For the sake of amusement, I'm going to picture Vicki being played by Jeremy Irons. Gotta do something to stay awake.

Anyway, the younger officer forces Vicki into the car and that's the end of that chapter.

And apparently I'm going to break the one-chapter-snark trend I had going for awhile. Because seriously nothing happened.

The next chapter begins with Mark following Charles-Manson-clone. Okay to be fair, they do finally reveal who the hell Sewer Dude is. I'd assumed he was yet another RTC and that was why he was helping them out (because the only good people are RTCs) but it turns out while the guy, whose name is Clemson Stoddard (have fun playing "Guess the Ethnicity/Background" with that one), doesn't have Nicky's Mark, he also doesn't have the Zod-Mark. Quelle horror!

Joking aside, this Clemson guy actually sounds a lot more interesting than our RTC protagonists. I know eventually he will say The Prayer and become an indistinguishable part of the RTC collective, but for now, I like him. Funny thing how new characters in this series inevitably stop being interesting the longer they're on stage. To say nothing of what happens when they accept the Zod-mark.

Anyway, Clemson went underground after the start of the big war, he says. I suppose I could devote energy to tracking down when exactly that was (because there have been how many nukings/acts of war in this series), but I'm entirely too lazy.

In spite of everything, Clemson has made a pretty comfortable shelter for himself. Here's his explanation.

“There used to be an oil-change place behind the garage. They leveled it after the disappearances, but since I owned the land, I just sealed it up without anybody knowing. Lamps are kerosene. I tapped onto an electric line for my computer and the freezer. Got enough food down here to feed you and your friends for quite a while.”

Okay, while in all honesty, I admit this sounds kind of cool, sort of like something out of the documentary Dark Days, and I do applaud Clemson for showing more initiative than the Tribbles (I can believe his underground hideout more than Bruce's), but I've got more than just a few quibbles here.

Being something of a Doomsday Preppers buff (please stop judging me), while I know the idea of tapping into the electric line is possible, basically it only works when there are electric lines to tap into. Shouldn't the infrastructure be gone thanks to the nukes? I keep waiting to hear about the solar panel array or wind turbines he's put in place to power his tech, but I have a feeling I'll be waiting in vain.

Also, while it's great he has electricity, I have to wonder how he is getting Internet? While Wi-Fi comes built into most computers, you still have to, again, have the infrastructure in place so you can use your Wi-Fi. As anyone interested in the off-the-grid lifestyle will tell you, while you can rig up your house to get water and electricity so you're not dependent on the grid, you're pretty much stuck when it comes to Internet. You pretty much have to be somewhat on the grid in order to get Internet, and you have to accept the fact that if whatever apocalyptic scenario you've predicted happens, kiss your Internet goodbye.

And of course, you do wonder where Clemson is getting his kerosene and food from. I suppose he could have rigged up a hydroponics or aquaponics somehow down in the sewers, but given Ellanjay's stubborn refusal to do any research, I'm going to guess that we'll never here any pertinent details about issues like how the heck the character is getting food/water or electricity or even what he's doing with his waste.

As deluded as some of the people on Doomsday Preppers are, they've given more thought to practical concerns than anybody in the LB-verse. Maybe I shouldn't obsess too much over these details, but like I said, since they've given me nothing else to occupy my mind, I have no choice but to nit-pick. Plus, all this off-the-grid survival information might possibly come in handy for their readers. Since y'know Ellanjay believe all this stuff will actually happen.

Okay, enough nit-picking, back to the story.

Mark, no doubt seeing a chance to make a sale, is like "So why don't you have Carpathia's mark?"

If you guessed, Clemson's response is pure weaksauce (because Ellanjay can't imagine anyone having a good reason to disagree with them), you're right. Here it is:

Clemson scowled. “He’s creepy, don’t you think? All that coming back from the dead business. Killin’ people for not puttin’ one of his tattoos on. I’m gonna ride this one out—that’s what I’m going to do.”

Uh, most people wouldn't call Nicky coming back from the dead in full view of a whole crowd of witnesses to be creepy. Wouldn't most consider that proof of his divinity while scientist-types would scramble to try to figure out how that's possible?

But I suppose Ellanjay couldn't have Clemson give reasons that would actually make sense. Like point out how Nicky's words and actions don't line up. But then again, the only character who did that was Taylor Graham. For those of you who've forgotten, here's what he said:

"I know you all want to tell people about Jesus and do good stuff so God will like you and all that. I've told you before, if that rings your bell, go ahead. But I've seen what the GC does to good people. They're destroying everything I know and love. They talk peace, but they're armed to the teeth. They talk freedom, but they send people to prison. Oh, sorry. They call them reeducation camps."

Like I said, it's for that reason that I continue to insist that Taylor and Hasina aka the Power Couple of Awesomeness aren't really dead. They just knew that Judd-turd wouldn't leave them alone unless he thought they were, so they faked their deaths and escaped to a more awesome series. I will preach their awesomeness and believe in the power of Discontinuity until I die, dammit!

Mark, again spotting a potential sale, asks him about Token Jew. Clemson, though clearly believes in that Faith by Works heresy, is like, "Yeah, I've read some of his stuff. Not really into religion though. Just try to live a good life and help people."

The section ends there, but again, anyone who knows Ellanjay tropes knows how this will play out. The most likely scenario is that Clemson will drink the Kool-Aid and join the collective, but Ellanjay could possibly go with option B where Clemson dies Unsaved and Mark never gives a passing thought to what happened to them. It's hard to predict what will happen next in this series :eyeroll:

Anyway, we briefly cut back to Vicki and I'm deliberately fast-forwarding through her part. It's not because nothing happens, it's more the nature of what happens. Basically, Vicki watches everything, including the GC officers, burn up with the same dispassionate response the Right gives whenever an unarmed black kid is shot.

Her section is thankfully over pretty fast and ends with her praying.

Vicki fell to her knees in horror. She covered her face as the smoke and smell of the fire reached her. “God, help me get back to Ryan and Cheryl and the others and let them be all right.”

Again, if you weren't already convinced that these characters are pretty much sociopaths, I'm not sure whether to admire or be frightened by your naivete. Because as many will point out, Vicki only thinks about the characters who have names, the characters she knows WILL BE BAMFED INTO HEAVEN IF ANYTHING BAD HAPPENS TO THEM SO WHY THE FUCK IS SHE NOT PRAYING FOR THE UNCONVERTED?!

Anyway, we cut back to Mark. Mark asks Clemson to look after Ryan Victor, while he goes and helps his friend. I have to say, for someone who is supposed to be Unsaved and therefore, hardened evil, Clemson is being damned nice in taking in Mark and agreeing to look after the baby for him. Why it's almost as though Ellanjay's belief in Total Depravity makes no sense at all. Ellanjay's beliefs being riddled with inconsistencies? That's unpossible!

Anyway, another passage of Vicki watching everything burn and not giving a rat's ass. Back to Mark.

Mark joins up with Vicki, Marshall, Tom, and Cheryl, and they watch dispassionately (I need to get a thesaurus because I am so overusing that word) as the officers are burned up and reduced to ashes in the hands of our loving Father in Heaven. :goes outside to scream a little:

Okay, in their defense, Mark and the others do try to save the officers by urging them to take shelter with them, but y'know it's more because all that agonized screaming hurts their ears and while it's amusing the first few times you watch an Unsaved get reduced to ashes, it just gets tedious after awhile.

Vicki's like "Where's Ryan Victor?" and Mark offers to take her to him. While they walk, Vicki briefly reflects, thinking about how this is like the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and how God saved them from the fiery furnace. Thing is, maybe I read the story wrong, but as I recall weren't the people throwing them into the furnace in the first place depicted as bad guys? Plus this little circle-jerk feels wrong because as stated before, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were willing to stand for God and face the consequences, while the Tribbles bow to Nicky and tell themselves that they secretly bow to God.

Anyway, Mark leads them to Clemson's place and they all climb in, but the chapter's not done yet. We haven't cut down that whore Cheryl for getting too big for her britches, what with demanding access to her child and acting like a Main Character!

Vicki's like "Why did you take Ryan Victor?" And Cheryl says this:

Cheryl sat in the dirt and buried her head in her hands. “I was so jealous of what Josey had with Ryan. I had done all the work and had gone through all the pain, and she was getting the reward. That little boy was part of me. I felt him growing inside me. Being that close to him was just torture.”

I've already ranted about how I'm totally on Cheryl's side in this debate, because like I said, Adoption isn't a magical cure-all. Many times it's the least-bad solution to a bad problem in that while it helps some, it doesn't completely solve the problem forever the way Ellanjay believe. But I have to admit to having some questions regarding the arrangement. I recall after birth, Wanda talking about how since formula is all but impossible to find, the baby will need its mother's milk. So I'm going to guess that Cheryl was breast-feeding Ryan Victor for some time, basically serving as wet nurse to her own infant. I'm not sure when she stopped (I'll go out on a limb and say that Ellanjay either don't know or care about the World Health Organization's recommendations on the subject), but for awhile, Cheryl was intimately involved in the care and upbringing over her child.

But at some point, things must have changed, in order to leave Cheryl so distraught. Maybe the Fogartys forced her to wean him at some point or maybe they wanted to enjoy their child without uncomfortable reminders that said child came with a history and strings attached. Again, like I said, even in situations where everything involving the adoption situation is done fairly (the birthmother is willingly giving up her child and has a say in how much future contact she has with the kid), the adoptive parents still have to accept that the kid does have another mother/father out there somewhere and that said family might someday want to make contact. So yeah, while I don't think what Cheryl did is a hundred percent on the up and up, obviously something must have gone wrong if she didn't feel she could simply sit down with the Fogartys and talk to them about how she wants more involvement in her son's life.

One of these days, I swear I'll stop doing so many lectures on how Adoption doesn't solve everything...I just don't know when.

Vicki, being the compassionate RTC, is like "We should have never let you get that close to him. If we could do it over again, we'd have sent you to another location."

Cheryl's like "I only want to be with Ryan." To which, Vicki just rolls her eyes and thinks about how Cheryl just keeps making excuses and won't apologize. Yeah, that sound you hear is me grinding my teeth. I know I should stop being shocked the sociopathy of the characters, but I just can't help it.

Vicki questions Cheryl further about her plans and Cheryl explains how she pulled off her scheme. Then there's this conversation and just tell me it isn't dripping with patronizing and sociopathic bullshit?

“Cheryl, you made a promise to Josey and Tom. You know you can’t give Ryan the kind of home—”
“I’m his mother! There’s only a little more than a year before Jesus comes back, and I can do as much for him as anybody.”
“I think you’ve ruined that now. How can we trust you when you kidnap—”
“My own son?”
“When you get so moody and won’t talk and then endanger all of us by kidnapping a member of the group?”

Like I said, I've done so many rants about how Vicki pretty much made all the arrangements with very little input from Cheryl, but I find myself wondering why didn't the Fogartys just adopt both Cheryl and Ryan Victor. As I recall, Cheryl is a teenage mother going through an incredibly rough time (which makes her so much more sympathetic than that preachy Elsie-Dinsmore wannabe aka Vicki) and despite what Ellanjay believe about how you should be tried as an adult as soon as you start getting hair around your pubes, countless studies attest to the fact that there are marked differences between a teenage brain and an adult brain. In addition to this, you'd think that a scared, pregnant teenager could probably use the stability that would come with having parents to look after her and mentor her. Plus, again there's the whole breast-feeding issue as well.

But yeah, if you guessed Vicki still shows little if any compassion/respect for what Cheryl's gone through, give yourself a No-Prize. The chapter ends with her silently praying this prayer:

Vicki watched Cheryl stare at the fires raging on the hillside. She didn’t know what to say and silently prayed, “God, please show Cheryl where’s she’s been wrong. Help her to see the truth about what she’s done and admit her mistakes. And give us wisdom with what to do with her. Amen.”

In an attempt to pry a truffle out of a pig's snout so to speak, I will commend Vicki in that at least she silently prayed this prayer instead of doing it out loud and using it to passive-aggressively needle Cheryl for her silly insistence on wanting to be a part of her son's life. Again, lesson learned from this series: the only kind of aggression acceptable for silly weak women to express, is of the passive variety.

And that's this week's snark. Wound up being longer than I thought. I don't have a set rule on length (it mostly depends on how much stuff there is to talk about in this week's selection), but I hope it wasn't too long and I hope I didn't come across as too dull and repetitive. I'd say next week will be better but I peeked ahead and we're looking at the obligatory Conversion scene. :whimpers: No point for guessing who the convert is.