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.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Consent: Yet Another Concept RTCs Don't Understand

Hello and Happy Easter weekend everybody! Don't know what all everyone has planned for this holiday--I know I have readers of all backgrounds--but as for me, I'm going to do my annual viewing of The Last Temptation of Christ because I just love that movie so much. So much that I'm starting to wonder if I should put on a suit and go door to door promoting it like some kind of film student version of a Jehovah's Witness. Again, all the people who were up in arms about that film clearly never saw it, because it is a well-crafted and deeply reverent film. It has great respect for Jesus Christ. But then again, usually the best films about faith and God are usually made by the eeeevil secular directors like Martin Scorsese. Funny how that usually works.

Anyway, before we begin, I thought I should clarify a few of my views regarding adoption. I haven't gotten any hate comments or emails, but I always feel a need to nip those in the bud, just in case.

I am not opposed to adoption. In many circumstances, adoption is the best choice for the child in question. Like I said, my issue with the arrangement regarding Cheryl's child is one of consent. Rather than talking with her and giving her the necessary information needed to make an informed decision, Vicki basically made all the decisions for Cheryl at a moment when Cheryl was pregnant and scared and not entirely sure what to do. Vicki just up and decided of all the adults they'd met in their travels that Tom and Josey Fogarty would be the perfect people to raise the baby and she basically made said arrangements while Cheryl was still pregnant and with very little input from Cheryl. I could also point out that the last time Vicki had thought about the Fogartys, this series was in the single digits, so you have to wonder why, of all the adult couples she'd met, Vicki decided they were the ones who should raise the baby.

But anyway, like I said, my issue with this whole thing is consent. If Cheryl had been the one to decide on adoption (without any added pressure/lectures from the RTCs), if Cheryl had had a choice in who she wanted to adopt her baby and chose the Fogartys, I'd totally be on the side of the Fogartys and the others. I would think that Cheryl was wrong to take back her child. But like I said, since she never was given much of a choice and you just know the Tribbles have no issue with emotional blackmail (or in other words, going for someone's emotional vulnerabilities, though you know the Tribbles would bring in God on air support to really drive the message home), like I said, I'm totally on her side. After all, even under the best of circumstances, adoption is a painful event, even if the birthmother weighed out all her options and decided this was the best choice. No matter what, pregnancy and childbirth is a rough thing to go through, physically and emotionally, and the way the Christian Right tries to pretend like it's not, act like the birthmother can just drop off the kid and pick up where she left off with her life, is pretty damn sick.

Especially when, as many will tell you, Christian-Run adoption agencies have a pretty skeevy history of preying on other people's desperation by masking what is essentially a child-selling operation as adoption.

Like I said before, I know given Ellanjay's politics and love of hierarchy, that Cheryl will probably be made to see that Vicki is a Main Character; therefore she should obey Vicki's orders without question. After which she'll give back her child and go back to being a good, silent obedient member of the collective.

Yeah, sorry about the lecture, but felt there was stuff that needed to be said. Now let's get to it.

Vicki suggests they call Wanda aka that lady who helped deliver Cheryl's baby, but apparently Wanda :gasp: :choke: doesn't have a phone so they can't. And I thought Wanda was a good RTC. So they send an urgent email instead.

While they're bouncing along the back roads, trying to find Cheryl, Vicki starts reflecting on her life. I'm going to guess all this was thrown in as yet another attempt at an Author's Savings Throw, but like all the others they've tried, it doesn't really work. They keep trying to convince us that the Tribbles are totally suffering and on the verge of PTSD, but stubbing your toe seems more painful than the apocalypse they've presented.

For those trying to make sense of the screwed-up time scale in this series, Vicki mentions that her 19th birthday came and went and since she was 14 at the beginning of the series, that means we're five years in. The end is in sight, people!

Vicki thinks about how before all this happened, her goals for when she became an adult were mostly about someday going to college so she can escape the trailer park and settle down with a nice guy in the suburbs. Of course, she knew this wasn't likely going to happen even before the Rapture (her parents didn't have the money to send her to school and she wasn't scholarship material).

If you guessed from here, Vicki decides to indulge in a little self-flagellation by laying into herself for being an ordinary teenage girl, again, congratulations on being familiar with Ellanjay tropes.

Vicki wasn’t proud of the way she had lived before the disappearances. She had made bad choices in friends and in the way she lived. She had put partying above everything, and she knew she had to tell Judd about some of those things. Maybe he had skeletons too.

Before the vanishings, Vicki hadn’t thought of her life in the long term. If something sounded fun, she did it. If she thought something would make her happy, she’d try it. If someone suggested a tattoo or a piercing, she only thought of what people would say the next day at school.

If anyone ever doubted that Ellanjay see all women as either Madonnas or Whores, this paragraph should be enough to sway them. Before anybody says anything, I'm fully aware of all the dangers of teenage girls running wild. As many will point out, they could get pregnant, they could get an STD, or they could OD or who-knows-what. To say nothing of the many dangers associated with getting homemade tattoos/piercings (because either Vicki had one of her friends do it to her with a sewing needle or went to an extremely sketchy shop that didn't ask for parental permission). But like I said, I'm all about consent and giving kids the tools needed to make the right choice. Scare tactics work in the short-term, but eventually they're going to meet someone who did X yet didn't die and they're going to start to wonder if anything their parents told them is true. You can only browbeat and keep kids in the dark for so long. Eventually something will slip past you.

Because believe it or not, RTCs, there is a middle way. You can educate your kids on how to make tough choices regarding issues like Sex and drugs without using scare tactics. In fact, study after study shows that scare tactics end up backfiring most of the time and make your kids more likely to go down on any hobo they meet, rather than less. Okay, I admit that the hobo example is a bit of an exaggeration, but that's how they think. Somehow they think if kids know about sex, they'll immediately start doing any person they can find.

:sighs: Yeah, I know y'all are going to hate me for foisting this upon you, but I can't help but think that just about any form of education is better than the kind given by Purity Balls and the like. I'm sure RTCs everywhere would be horrified by the prospect of their daughters reading Judy Blume's Forever... but I consider its attitude of "Sex is a big decision and you should really think about it and take precautions before doing it" a helluva lot healthier than anything in RTC lit.

Vicki goes on to think about God has changed her over the years, turning her from a wild party girl who did things like :gasp: kiss boys she wasn't married to, to a Sanctimonious little Church Lady-in-training*. She then thinks of a quote that inspires her. Surprisingly enough, it isn't a verse from the Bible, but that just makes it more difficult to figure out who originally said it and under what context, because I believe context matters. I tried Google, but that just got me one result: the book I'm currently reading. So I'm going to let my readers take a shot at this and see if they have better luck. Here's the quote:

“The world has not yet seen what God can do with one person who is totally committed to him.”

Anyway, Vicki finally stops alternating between patting herself on the back and self-flagellation and we finally get back to the business at hand. They're getting closer to Wanda's house but they still haven't heard from her. Ellanjay try to inject some suspense by having them notice a GC squad car following them, but it is quickly dissipated as the squad car passes them without even seeing them.

Mark is like "Why would Cheryl do this?" and Marshall says something along the lines of "She's having an emotional breakdown and not thinking clearly." Mark then asks whether that means Cheryl is no longer a Believer. I suppose I should be irritated by Mark's question, but I find Vicki's response to be far more rage-inducing.

Finally, Vicki broke the silence. “God hasn’t abandoned her. Cheryl’s turned her back on what she knows is true and good. I think she’ll come around—”

I suppose it's charitable that Vicki hasn't leapt to "Cheryl is a tool of Satan" but that "turned her back" line...yeah, I think a more accurate way of putting it would be that "Cheryl has arbitrarily decided that she's a Main Character capable of making her own decisions, rather than blindly swallowing the dogma we've carefully prepared for her."

Tom is all "What if they give my child the Mark?" and Vicki thinks about Chang Wong (who received it against his will) and prays that Zod will forgive a child for having one, before saying, "We'll find her." Yeah, I could point out that Cheryl hasn't expressed any signs of having forsaken RTCianity in favor of Nicky--she just wants her child back--but given their politics, Ellanjay probably feel that disobeying the dictates of a Main Character is equal to pledging allegiance to Satan.

After a lot of driving, Marshall and Tom get out and decide to search on foot. And the chapter ends with this:

A child cried out, and Vicki recognized Ryan. The officers had Cheryl against the front of the van, her hands cuffed behind her. A little farther up the street two officers laughed and pointed at something on the ground. Vicki crawled five feet to her left and gasped. Marshall and Tom lay facedown in the street, their hands behind them.

But for those of you wondering what horrific punishment awaits that terrible whore, Cheryl, I'm afraid you'll have to wait a few weeks. Sorry for all the lectures, but I felt stuff needed to be said. I promise to try to be funnier next time.

*Sometimes I find myself wondering if RTCs realize that the Church Lady from Saturday Night Live is supposed to be a joke, not a role model. Given that they seem to be incapable of noticing irony (just look at how Phyllis Schlafly has made a career out of saying women shouldn't have careers)or that outsiders might see a father going out on a date with his daughter, giving her a ring, and saying that any man who wants to marry her has to go through him first, to be incredibly creepy, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Girl Who Went Away

Okay, I admit, I'm not entirely looking forward to going another round with Ellanjay, but at the same time, I do want to kind of see this to the bitter end. I'm not sure what this says about me from a psychological standpoint, but hey.

So when we last left off, God Burninated UR peasants and Vicki found out that Cheryl has taken her baby, Ryan Victor, and disappeared.

Like I've said before, right now, I'm totally on Cheryl's side in this argument. Vicki basically made the whole arrangement to have the Fogartys adopt and raise her child, while Cheryl was pregnant, and all this was done with very little input from the baby's mother. So yeah, while I know eventually Cheryl (thanks to reading the wiki and knowledge of Ellanjay tropes) will eventually be shamed into accepting that the Main Character knows best and she should just give over her child without complaint, I'm again on Cheryl's side. Because as many Pro-Choicers will tell you, adoption isn't the magical cure-all the Anti-Choice crowd makes it out to be.

Seriously, why exactly does Ellanjay and others of their ilk find the idea of consent so hard to grasp? But you know, Ellanjay just long for the era depicted in The Girls Who Went Away where a pregnant teenager was sent away from her family to a church-run home where she'd spend months being shamed for the horrific crime of having sex and effectively be forced to by the crippling mores of society and her parents, give up her child, after which she'd be returned home and expected to spend the rest of her life pretending that those nine months didn't happen. Did I mention that during this era, birth control was all but impossible to get even for married couples (nevermind horny teenagers) and at the same time, most of these teenage parents were so ignorant of sex that it wasn't uncommon for them to go into the delivery room not knowing where the baby was going to come out? Also, while the teenage girl's life was effectively over as she knew it, the boy who impregnated her got away scot-free and faced no consequences whatsoever. [/long feminist rant]

Okay, for those of you who have issues with feminism, first of all, what are you doing in the Slacktiverse, and second of all, gotta warn you that I'm not afraid to dish out the feminist diatribes if needed. I will swear, however, that I'll try to keep them to a minimum because I want my snarks to be funny, not an endless series of harangues.

That aside, on with the story.

There really isn't much to snark in the first section. It's told from Vicki's perspective as she and the others are like, "Oh noes! Ryan Victor and to a lesser extent, Cheryl, is gone!"

For some reason, the next section cuts to Judd. Don't ask me why. Given that Vicki right now has the dramatically compelling story, while Judd's section consists of him dicking around and watching the news, I wonder that as well. Do they think their readers suffer from some form of severe memory loss and that they'll forget about Judd if they're not reminded of his existence? That would make some sense, given Judd's status as a mini-Rayford, but at the same time, I do wonder if sexism is involved as well. [feminist rant] After all, one of the things anyone who writes children and young adult lit finds out is that while girls can and will read books featuring protagonists of either gender, thanks to social conditioning, boys are conditioned to see books featuring female characters or written by female authors as girl books and won't read them. Even if said book clearly is about a male protagonist, frequently a female author has to choose a male or otherwise gender-neutral pen name if they want their books to sell well. That's why the Harry Potter series was published under the name J.K. Rowling as opposed to the author's actual name, which is Joanne. [/feminist rant]

Though in all honesty, it might not just be sexism. After all, Lionel has virtually disappeared as well. For all I know, he could have just landed on Mars since he hasn't been seen or mentioned in God-knows-how-many chapters.

Anyway, while I know Judd is nowhere near as loathsome a character as St. Rayford or Our Buck, nor does he come close to matching the apocalyptic-level awfulness of Paul Stepola (seriously, I admire your courage, RubyTea), I do feel a need to post a quote, just in case some of my readers question my hatred of Judd.

On a gentle slope nearby, a student lay in the shade holding a book, his head propped up on a backpack. He sat up when the water boiled. Suddenly, as trees caught fire and smoke rose, the boy grabbed his backpack and stood.
“Get out of there,” Judd whispered to himself.
The boy ran but made the mistake of rushing toward the sunlight. Like a vampire caught in daylight, the boy turned, shielded his face from the hot rays, and fell. First his backpack, then the boy’s clothes caught on fire. Finally, he became part of the burning landscape, with trees, bushes, and even the grass igniting.
Judd clicked to one of his favorite sites, which showed famous beaches. The only cameras operating were those where the sun hadn’t yet risen, but reports stated the blood was boiling in rivers around the globe. Everywhere the sun reached, people, animals, plant life, buildings, cars, bridges, and homes were affected. The world had become the wick of a candle that was quickly burning up, and Judd wondered how many could survive another year before the Glorious Appearing of Jesus Christ.

O the sufferings of Judd! Truly there can be no greater agony than the one suffered by someone who has to hear the agonized screams of the dying! I mean, at first it's a little amusing but after awhile, it gets terribly old. Is it so much to ask that they at least scream on key.

Anyway that little interruption out of the way, back to Vicki.

Vicki's and the others are getting stuff together, ready to go after Cheryl. Cheryl, in a rare show of intelligence, used Josey Fogarty's email account to send some emails claiming that Ryan Victor is sick and they're sending Cheryl with him to get help. Like I said, I know eventually Cheryl will be shamed for having the audacity to want to be a mother to her child, but right now, I'm totally on her side. I'd make up a "Team Cheryl" t-shirt but given the fate that probably awaits her, I'll probably eventually stop liking her. Besides, as always, Taylor and Hasina are way more awesome and I will insist to my dying day that they didn't die; they escaped into a better-written series.

Again, the book cuts back to Judd because Ellanjay were afraid that their male readers' penises might shrivel if they lingered to long on a female character. As though they read my thoughts and my criticism of how Lionel hasn't been mentioned, let alone appeared, for several chapters, they throw in a mention of him.

Sam goes to Judd and is like "So how's Lionel?" Judd says he's about as well as can be expected. If you're wondering though, given the briefness of this message, I'm starting to wonder if Lionel is basically Judd's Tyler Durden, though now that I think about it, Harvey might more accurately describe Lionel's character. Both he and his mother, Lucinda, serve a similar purpose: proving that their white protagonist is a Nice Guy who is totally enlightened and down with people, yo, because he has a Black friend.
I may be exaggerating for comedic effect, but something tells me I'm not too far off the mark.

Anyway, Judd and Sam talk about the latest Act of God. If you guessed they talk rather dispassionately about everyone being horribly horribly burned, congratulations on once again being familiar with Ellanjay tropes.

Judd, being the kind of guy he is, is more concerned about how this will effect his ability to get laid. And I have to fight the urge to repost a link to that website about "Nice Guys" because even though Judd is probably a textbook example of a "Nice Guy," I'm trying not to repeat myself too much.

Anyway, there is this weird little mention towards the end where Judd's like "Okay if everything's exploding because of the heat and whatnot, how are believers getting around?" Yeah, since I've beaten this joke thoroughly into the ground, I'm just going to say that there's a reason I will always picture Judd as Rhett Van Der Graaf from that one episode of King of the Hill.

According to Sam, somehow Zod knows which vehicles and whatnot belong to RTCs and which belong to Heathens. Don't believe me? Here's the quote from the eBook.

“I don’t know how God’s doing it, but it seems like the vehicles believers use are immune to the heat. Just like the clothes we wear and our shoes. The same with the hideouts of believers and the supplies.”

I suppose if I were to ask Ellanjay, point blank, how God can be certain of the religious status of the vehicle's owner, they'd respond with the whole "Because he's God. He's all-knowing and all-seeing" or something like that. But I admit, I was somewhat amused for a moment, wondering if you could escape having your car burninated simply by covering the back bumper with Jesus Fish or with those obnoxious bumper stickers that say "In Case of Rapture This Car will Be Unmanned." Personally, if I was God and somehow this whole Rapture thing had to go forward as planned, I would rapture everyone except anyone who has one of those bumper stickers on the back of their car, just to screw with them. Because if you're driving home and you see a car with one of those bumper stickers, you can safely assume you're sharing the road with an asshole until proven otherwise.

I also spent some time wondering if God figures out whether to burninate or not to burninate by looking at the registration in the glove box or not (because the driver could have helped themselves to their RTC neighbor's Porsche in the aftermath of the Rapture or any number of Acts of God) but I have a feeling that Ellanjay would just say, "Because God that's why!" if I was to bring this up.

Anyway, I thought of throwing in another chapter this week, thus breaking the "One Chapter Snark" trend I've got going, because there was so little happening in this week's selection, but I previewed my post and it looks hella long. So sorry, but you'll just have to make do. At least this horrible month is drawing to an end. Don't know why March decided to be the month in which everything happens this year. Maybe March was jealous of the years-long hatred I've honed for February and decided it wanted a piece of the action. Or maybe I should stop assuming that social constructs, which months are, have actual feelings/personalities. Anyway, have fun taking apart my snark, fellow readers and see you next week!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

God's Burninating UR Peasants!

Okay, first off, an announcement. Like I said last week, family issues have come up, so after this week, it'll probably be a couple weeks before I post another snark. I apologize but it's one of those things that just can't be helped. Wish I could give a definite time as to when I'll start posting again, but right now, I'm not sure. I just hope this snark will tide you over until then.

First off, for those of you somewhat curious as to, "Okay just what disasters are supposed to go down during the Tribulation," well here's an infographic of the entire timeline. Make of it what you will. Frankly it didn't help me much. Were it not for the fact that thanks in part to hucksters like Hagee, LaHaye, and Lindsay, millions of people actually believe this shit is going to go down exactly how the infographic lays it out, I'd assume whoever put this together was a schizophrenic patient with computer skills trying to make sense of a particularly bizarre dream. It does confirm that "the waters turning to blood" disaster does happen more than once, because apparently it takes several tries for the Almighty Creator of the Universe to pull this off.

Anyway, let's get on with it. Pick your poison of choice and eighties montage music of choice to get you pumped up and get to it.

As we've been hacking our way through this series, we've learned many surprising lessons. Such as apparently the Jewish people, far from being divided up into many different sects each with their own beliefs and interpretations regarding their scriptures, they're actually a collective similar to the Borg from Star Trek, except with beards. It's gotten to the point that whenever I read about a character identifying another character as being Jewish, I assume it's because the other character is wearing a Kippah, sporting sidelocks, eating a bagel, and shouting, "Oy vey!" at various intervals. Because that's what all Jews do, aside from spending all their time sitting around denying Jesus is the Messiah. Again, I don't know if Jewish Fiction is a thing the way Christian Fiction is (and we all know how universally awful most Christian fiction is), but I keep waiting for someone to publish Jewish fiction where all the Christian characters have names like Christian McLoveJesus and their lives revolve around doing non-Jewish practices like not circumcising their boys. I'm a firm believer in Turnabout is Fair Play.

Anyway, what we learn this week is that while it is wrong for Nicky to be all gleeful and happy when his enemies die horribly in nuclear fire, it's perfectly okay and just for Christians to celebrate when their enemies die horribly. I mean, love your enemies? What kind of Islamo-Commie-Fascist philosopher bullshit is that?

The chapter begins with, well, it's mostly just Chang talking to Judd over the phone. Chang is all excited about this disaster and because Ellanjay believe in padding almost as much as they believe in Telling, rather than Showing what's happening, basically Chang gives us a rundown on the SHIT WE ALREADY WITNESSED IN THE PREVIOUS CHAPTER!

Like I said before, high on my list of "Stuff that Makes Me Question the Existence of a Loving God" is the fact that both LaHaye and Jenkins are disgustingly rich despite showing absolutely no skill or any desire to improve said skill at all. I'm not sure where this goes on my list, but it's probably up there with the whole "Fred Phelps made it to his eighties, while Jim Henson, who by all accounts was a sweet man who loved entertaining people, died in his fifties."

Chang talks about watching Rasha (aka the redshirt who died in the previous snark) burn up along with anyone who tried to help her. He mentions that while she was a Carpathia follower, she had expressed interest in RTCism. But Chang is like, "Oh well she had the Mark so she was doomed anyway," and if you guessed he says this casually, as though he were talking about stubbing his toe, rather than a thinking, feeling human who's going to suffer for all eternity, give yourself a pat on the back and take several swigs of whatever booze you choose. I have a feeling you're going to need it this week.

Here's a sampling of the awfulness of this first section. You should know by now I'm a firm believer in "Misery Loves Company." Sometimes the only way you can endure pain is by spreading it around.

“It was awful,” Chang said. “A woman was walking her dog below us. She let go of the animal and tried to get inside a car, but she burned her hands on the door handles. The dog ran in a circle, trying to find some shade or relief from the heat, but it finally turned into a dog torch.”

Judd shuddered. “And the same thing happened to people?”

“They fell out of their cars. Tires exploded. I saw windshields melt. My boss ordered everyone into the basement.”

I have to admit that while many might see me getting upset over the dog as being really callous, especially since all these people are dying horribly and I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Ellanjay are probably the type who say that animals don't have souls (so therefore, they aren't burning for all eternity like their owners). But it is still damn upsetting. If I bend my mind and pretend I'm a sociopath (much like the writers of these books and the characters in these books), I can almost justify Zod burninating the peasants, but is there a reason Ellanjay felt a need to drag animals into this? As if it isn't bad enough they're all probably either dead or will soon be dead as a result of poisoned water, you have to burn them alive? Seriously, WTF, Ellanjay!?

I am, of course, thinking of the much better written "Children of the Goats" series by ako on Right Behind. I know, given how much time has passed, that chances are ako has died in some kind of freak accident so we'll likely never get any more new installments, but I felt I should throw in some kind of palate cleanser for my poor, suffering readers.

I suppose if I was in a mood to be charitable, I could try to interpret the callousness of the characters as being similar to Tim O'Brien's characters in The Things They Carried in which the soldiers try to cope with their pain and suffering by using callous language to refer to someone dying like saying "they were offed" or "zapped while zipping." But thing is, O'Brien had shown how the soldiers were suffering both physically and emotionally and that this callous attitude was all a front to keep from falling to pieces.

Judd and Chang talk some more about the disaster, but eventually Judd hangs up and goes to Token Jew's website. And if you guessed he was all callous about it, give yourself more points. Said points are redeemable for a No-Prize of your choice.

My dear friends in Christ, I want you to know that we have reached another terrible milestone. For those of you in the former USA and other places where the sun is yet to rise, the deadly fourth Bowl Judgment has struck, as prophesied in the Bible, and every time zone in the world will be affected.

Here in Petra, by ten in the morning, people out in the sun without the seal of God were burned alive. This may seem an unparalleled opportunity to plead once again for the souls of men and women, because millions will lose loved ones. But the Scriptures also indicate that this may come so late in the hearts of the undecided that they will have already been hardened.

Is it weird that the part of this that I'm most confused about is the time zone factor? Token Jew uses the Book of Revelation as his source for the whole "Burninating the Peasants" plague, but I find myself wondering whether the attributed author, John, knew that the world was round. I suppose it's possible given that the Ancient Greeks had managed to figure out the Earth was round and one of them, Eratosthenes, managed to calculate Earth's circumference. From what I read, Eratosthenes, was off a little in his calculations but still managed to come pretty damn close, which is an amazing feat given that he didn't have much tech with which to do his calculations.

This makes me think of Roger Ebert's delightfully scathing review of End of Days, aka that movie where Arnold faces off against Satan. I'll provide a quote for those too lazy to click on the link.

Movies like this are particularly vulnerable to logic, and "End of Days'' even has a little fun trying to sort out the reasoning behind the satanic timetable. When Jericho has the Millennium Eve timetable explained to him, including the requirement that the Prince of Darkness do his dirty deed precisely between 11 p.m. and midnight, he asks the very question I was asking myself: "Eastern Standard Time?'' The answer, Jericho is told, is that the exact timing was meticulously worked out centuries ago by the Gregorian monks, and indeed their work on this project included, as a bonus spinoff, the invention of the Gregorian calendar.

Let's see. Rome is seven hours ahead of New York. In other words, those clever monks said, "The baby will be conceived between 6 and 7 a.m. on Jan. 1, Rome time, but that will be between 11 p.m. and 12 a.m. in a city that does not yet exist, on a continent we have no knowledge of, assuming the world is round, and there are different times in different places as it revolves around the sun, which of course it would be a heresy to suggest.'' With headaches like this, no wonder they invented Gregorian chants to take the load off.

For a brief instant, Judd is somewhat horrified, but after reading the verse which is from Revelation 16, specifically verses eight through nine, he abandons that line of thought and goes back to thinking about how this will affect his ability to get laid before God takes away sex for everyone get back together with Vicki. He wonders if the Sun plague, which has been shown making cars explode, will affect RTC cars as well and the section ends with him deciding to call St. Rayford and see if he could help. Even though, I'm fairly certain planes aren't immune from exploding, but still.

After this, we cut back to Vicki and once again, Ellanjay try to pull off an Author's Saving Throw. Vicki is tired and frustrated because of the Cheryl issue, but there's also dissension in the ranks.

But Vicki had to admit that Cheryl wasn’t the only reason she was losing sleep. Members of the Young Tribulation Force had grown frustrated. Some wanted to take more chances to find people without the mark of Carpathia. Mark had talked about leaving the group and traveling, but Zeke had convinced him to stay.

Once again, kids are made out to be worse than Hitler for the crime of being kids. As many will tell you, people under high-stress situations like, say, the Apocalypse, don't always behave at their best. They often make stupid/rash decisions because they're tired and hungry and can't think straight, they fight and squabble for stupid reasons. After five years, Vicki should be used to this kind of shit by now, used to people being volatile and on edge.

Tanya's upset by all this fighting as well. Vicki tries to comfort her by talking about how God never said things would be easy for you, even after becoming a Believer. Tanya, in a rare human response, is like "If God loves us, why won't he solve our problems?" I was expecting Vicki to give some canned response to the issue, but for once, the writers let her actually respond in a human way.

Vicki couldn’t think of a Bible passage that addressed the subject, and she had to admit she felt the same way. She wanted God to fix things. The world’s troubles had united the kids for a time, but each day brought new struggles.

Something moved outside the cabin, and Vicki sat up. The moon shone through the curtains, casting an eerie glow. She strained to hear, but all was quiet.

If you guessed this moment doesn't last long, you guessed right. In the next paragraph, Vicki decides that if God brings Judd back to her, she could handle any problem.

After this, we cut back to Judd. The bulk of his section is taken up with his phone call to St. Rayford because that's what kids are into these days, Exciting!Phone!Action! I suppose I could make some tasteless joke about Ellanjay's hard-on for phones, but I won't. I just assume that portable phones or cell phones becoming ubiquitous was a high-water mark in their lives because no longer did they have to worry about the length of a phone cord while indulging their phone lust. They could hear that dial tone wherever they went. Yeah, I apologize for putting that visual in your heads, but if it's any consolation, it's in mine, and you know I believe in spreading pain around.

Anyway, Judd asks about how the Sun Plague will affect Believers. Rayford says that while the RTCs do feel a little warm, they aren't burning up in a ball of hellfire like those heathen unbelievers.

Judd gives Rayford his location and asks if said plague will affect planes. Rayford says he doesn't think the heat would affect the planes but cautions Judd saying don't get too excited about getting back to your designated love interest because the authors might still decide to pad things even more that they don't know how long this plague will last.

“I hope so. You have to understand we have no idea how long this will last. It could be a few hours, a few days, or weeks. Tsion cautioned that God has never been predictable with these plagues. We know the order they come in, and we used to think that when one ended the next one began. Now we know they can overlap. Tsion just doesn’t want to see us caught in the open when the thing ends.”

Uh, actually isn't the whole point of this series is that the End of the World is entirely predictable?! Don't you all have charts and graphs showing exactly when all these plagues will happen in the seven-year timeline? I thought the whole point of Ellanjay's thesis was that the truth was plain as the nose on your face and the only reason people don't immediately recognize their cobbled together interpretation of scripture, was because they hate God or something along those lines.

Also, the idea of overlap is a foreign one to them, the idea that one disaster could pave the way for another? Like with the Haiti Earthquake, the destroyed infrastructure inadvertently led to a Cholera outbreak and between those two factors (the destroyed infrastructure and the Cholera), a helluva a lot of people died. This is a foreign concept to them?!

I know I've made the joke before, but I'm starting to think that the Left Behind series was the favorite reading material of the Bush II administration. Certainly explain the clusterfuck that was their response to Hurricane Katrina. Bush II probably just assumed, "Oh it's just a hurricane. Surely those plucky people will be back to normal within days."

Ellanjay make an another attempt to convince us that "The world has really gone to Hell and people are totes suffering!" but like all their Saving Throws, it doesn't work because they just have the characters tell us instead of showing us the appalling misery. Words of advice to aspiring writers, if you want to show the progression of events from A to Q, you actually have to show us all the steps in between. Shouting "Q!" and hoping no one notices doesn't work!

Rayford gives an anecdote about the adventures of two evangelists in Germany. I'm going to assume this is yet another scrap thrown in for those who read the adult books, but since I don't really care, I'm going to fast-forward through it. The RTCs preached, they were ratted out, but Zod sent angels to save them.

Judd talks about how he's kind of given up on reaching the Undecided, but Rayford says this:

“This is the greatest rescue mission the earth has ever known. On the video reports about the wrath of the Lamb earthquake, people dug through collapsed buildings for days, even weeks, looking for just one survivor. In one hospital, they found a baby alive fifteen days after the earthquake. I like to think our mission is the same. We have to keep digging, keep praying, keep hoping that we’ll find someone who’s ready to hear the message.”

By people, I'm assuming Rayford is referring to those hardened reprobates aka the GC because I sure as hell haven't seen or heard of any of the Tribbles doing anything except reading their emails/talking on the phone. I could also point out that even if you hadn't rescued that baby, it would have been bamfed into Heaven and been spared more suffering on Earth, so why aren't you getting abortions and killing small children right and left? After all, if the kids get past the "You must be this short to be Raptured" line, they might :gasp: :choke: fall away and wind up damned for all eternity.

Reminds me of all the idiots who called Hurricane Katrina, God's punishment for aborting babies. My response is that God was so angry over people surgically aborting unborn life that he unleashed a disaster that probably killed many babies, unborn and otherwise, slowly from dehydration as they desperately awaited rescue. I know I've repeated variations on this point a lot, but shit needs to be repeated, lest we forget.

Rayford talks about how this could reach those on the fence about God and we get this head-bangingly infuriating conversation.

“People have lost faith in the GC and its leaders. If there’s anyone out there without Carpathia’s mark, and we can get to them, I have to believe they’ll choose the light instead of darkness. They’re going to be suffering as the sun rises every day.”

Judd paused. “But hasn’t Dr. Ben-Judah said God is actually showing mercy with these judgments?”

“I asked him about that, and he still thinks the fact that more plagues are coming means God still wants people to repent. Most won’t and will curse God, but Tsion supports our efforts to find the remaining undecided.”

“Then I want to be part of it. And I’ll bet there’s a bunch of people in Wisconsin who would too and some here in Ohio.”

Rayford is like "Have you forgotten the sacred ethos of Doing Nothing?" "Let's see what tomorrow brings." The section wraps up with him telling Judd that he could get him to Vicki in a few days. As always, assuming the writers don't decide they always wanted a solid gold Humvee and decide to pad out the series further.

The chapter ends with Vicki waking up to Josey Fogarty shrieking about how Ryan Victor is gone. Cheryl has taken him, stolen a van, and left. As said before, my sympathies in this conflict are entirely with Cheryl, but this snark is getting hella long and I'm getting a headache. So again, another one chapter snark. I'm not going to say that they're definitely going to be a thing here on out until we get to the part where TurboJesus slaughters everyone, but it's leaning towards that. It's just that my snarking skills have improved to the point where I can find so much material in one chapter.

Anyway, sorry for the upcoming delay. Hope this snark wasn't a complete waste of time and gives you stuff to chew over until I get back to this.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Nothing to Envy

Okay, first off, gotta make an announcement. For some reason this year, everything's decided to happen in March. Or in other words, I'm dealing with family-related issues. I'll try to post a new snark when I can, but if I fall behind, try to understand.

Almost as though they read my post last week, during which I spent most of my time trying to make sense of the screwed-up time scale in this series, Ellanjay attempt to clear up my confusion with the opening paragraph.

THE COLD season had ended, and spring had come for Judd and the others hidden in Ohio. Judd flipped through a computer calendar and noticed the anniversary of the disappearances was only a day away. Even though it had been five years since his family had vanished, Judd felt the same ache as the first moment he walked into his house and realized they were gone and never coming back.

It's your call on how well they did. I suppose I could look up the whole Pre-millennial Dispensationalist charts about when various plagues happen over the years and compare it to the progression of Cheryl's pregnancy, but honestly that sounds like too much work. Already devote enough neuron space to this series and its screwed-up mythos as is. If someone less lazy wants to take a stab at it, they're welcome to try. Though I must confess: I thought six years had passed by this point, not just five.

Judd decides to take out his notebook (which hasn't been mentioned until now) and look at the stuff he's praying for and see how God's answering his prayers. The first one on the list is Get to Wisconsin so Vicki and I can shag like mangy alley cats in heat before God takes away sex for everyone. Obviously that prayer hasn't come to pass, but it's the next one on the list that makes me go, "Huh?"

Shelly and Conrad. There had been some misunderstanding in Wisconsin, and the two had gone from being best friends to enemies. Judd continued to ask God to give them a spirit of peace in the midst of turmoil.

And here's where I must put in another record scratch sound effect. Because since when have Shelly and Conrad started fighting? According to the eBook, we're 65% of the way in and this is the first time those characters have been mentioned, even though as I recall, they're with Vicki and we've had several segments from her perspective. You'd think that if Shelly and Conrad were fighting that would affect the morale of whatever hideout Vicki's in and she would mention it. :headdesk: The last time I recall Shelly and Conrad being mentioned was in a whole other book when Vicki mentioned that they had developed feelings (of love, not hate) for each other. Since we hadn't actually seen those two interact with each other in any meaningful way, it came across every bit as inexplicable as their sudden hatred for each other does now.

Judd also continues to pray for Nicky's downfall, even though he knows Nicky is doomed. And as though anticipating my numerous complaints about how Nicky's regime doesn't sound quite that bad (especially when taken into account that God's the one inflicting most of the suffering in this series)Ellanjay put in this paragraph:

With hundreds of thousands dying because of the lack of drinkable water, that prayer was being answered every day. It seemed even those who followed Nicolae now realized they had been fooled by a cruel dictator who cared about no one but himself. As much as Carpathia, Leon Fortunato, and other GC authorities said it, the world wasn’t getting better. Machines, computers, and people were wearing down. Services such as trash pickup and street cleaning were cut off. Roads fell into disrepair, and cities filled with crime.

If you guessed, even before I posted this paragraph, that rather than show us the amount of suffering going on, show us all the people starving and dying while Nicky's living it up, congratulations on being familiar with Ellanjay's tropes. I don't know what Show did to them when they were kids but given a choice between Show and Tell, they choose Tell every time. They also always choose an approach that makes them sound remarkably callous; rather than dwell on the human suffering, they focus on issues related to inanimate machines.

Plus even so, it doesn't sound quite that bad. As many will point out, given that the Tribbles still have cell and Internet service, that means some of the infrastructure is still standing after several back to back Acts of God, despite all of Ellanjay's efforts to say, "No we really mean it! They really are suffering!"

Also, as many will point out, the hundred of thousands of dying (and of course, the way it's mentioned in passing cheeses me off) probably consist mostly of the weakest members of society or those on the lowest rungs of society. I imagine lots of children are dying (remember, abortions are wrong, but letting them die horribly from poisoned water is A-Okay). I imagine if I were to ask Ellanjay, they'd say the dying children won't be pitched into the fires of Hell, because of their whole shtick regarding the Age of Accountability which is that God will try you as an adult as soon as you start to get hair around your pubes. I can go into a long screaming rant about it, but I've done it before and I try not to repeat myself if I can.

Obviously, the poor are all going to die, given that they lack the means to stockpile massive amounts of canned food and bottled water needed to survive this disaster. Oh and say goodbye to all plant and animal life because, yeah, with all the water being undrinkable, they're toast. And the elderly are kind of in the same boat as kids except that they don't get a free pass, no matter how addled they may be as a result of Dementia or who knows what else.

I imagine the GC and the higher-ups in the party are doing fairly well, though, and if this issue were delved into, it would really drive home just how evil they are, feasting while the majority starves.

In fact, in order to better demonstrate how badly Ellanjay fail in this section, I'm going to post a link. For those too lazy to click, said link is an excerpt from Barbara Demick's book on North Korea, Nothing to Envy. It's on my list of nonfiction to recommend to everyone because not only do you get insight into a closed-off country and the suffering its citizens endure, the information provides good fodder for anybody who wants to write post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction, because North Korea is essentially living it. The country has basically been in a constant state of famine and teetering on the brink since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Here's a sampling of the kind of suffering they're going through:

It has been said that people reared in Communist countries cannot fend for themselves because they expect the government to take care of them. This was not true of many of the victims of the North Korean famine. People did not go passively to their deaths. When the public distribution system was cut off, they were forced to tap their deepest wells of creativity to feed themselves. They devised traps out of buckets and string to catch small animals in the field, draped nets over their balconies to snare sparrows. They stripped the sweet inner bark of pine trees to grind into a fine powder that could be used in place of flour. They pounded acorns into a gelatinous paste that could be moulded into cubes that practically melted in your mouth.

North Koreans learnt to swallow their pride and hold their noses. They picked kernels of undigested corn out of the excrement of farm animals. Shipyard workers developed a technique by which they scraped the bottoms of the cargo holds where food had been stored, then spread the ­foul-smelling gunk on the pavement to dry so that they could collect from it tiny grains of uncooked rice and other edibles. On the beaches, people dug out shellfish from the sand and filled buckets with seaweed. When the authorities in 1995 erected fences along the beach (ostensibly to keep out spies, but more likely to prevent people from catching fish the state companies wanted to control), people went out to the unguarded cliffs over the sea and with long rakes tied together hoisted up seaweed.

If this passage wasn't horrible enough, I'll add a few factoids to make it worse. By all accounts, while this famine was raging, Kim Jong-Il was a huge foodie with very expensive tastes, having stuff like caviar flown in from around the world, while his subjects starved.

That's another thing that Ellanjay skim over in their series: people do not go meekly to their demise. It's called the Will to Survive and pretty much every species on Earth has it in some form. No matter how bad things get, people will fight and do whatever they can to stay alive.

But anyway, I've talked enough about North Korea and how if Ellanjay had done an ounce of research, they could have written a good story. Let's move onto the next item on Judd's list, which is Chang.

Judd is naturally worried about Chang seeing as he's in New Babylon playing double agent. Once again, Ellanjay attempt an Author's Saving Throw and you guessed it, it rings false.

Chang reported that the place had become a ghost town. Citizens no longer came to admire the sparkling buildings because the world was a mess. Half the population alive at the time of the Rapture had now died. Carpathia often called for the execution of leaders around the world who he thought weren’t loyal enough, and Judd prayed that Chang would remain safe.

Sorry to keep going back to North Korea, but that country provides such a good example as to how Ellanjay fail at creating a believable dystopia. The mention of New Babylon as a ghost town made me think of Pyongyang. For those who don't know, Pyongyang is the official capitol of North Korea and exists primarily to be a playground for the elite of North Korea. It is basically a showcase city and if you ever go there, basically you'll be escorted by a pair of hand-picked toadies at all times and everyone you run into will tell you how great is to be North Korean. Pyongyang manages to look good on the outside, but once there, it usually doesn't take long before you start noticing the Stepford-like atmosphere of the place, how empty the streets are of both people and vehicles and all unfinished buildings in this so-called showcase city.

Again, like I've said so many times (and will definitely say again), Ellanjay miss an opportunity to really show how evil the GC are. They could show Nicky and his elite eating and living quite comfortably while the masses suffer and die not too far away. Of course, if they did that, then the readers might start asking unpleasant questions like, "Why aren't the Tribbles sharing their food and water with those less fortunate given that they have the means to?" and we can't have anything that would reflect badly on our brave RTC heroes.


Judd wept at scenes of unmarked people in a remote Philippine village being lured with the promise of water. Though the Global Community News Network didn’t show it, Judd knew the same thing that happened near Petra had probably happened to these unfortunate people.

Yes, those poor unfortunate people, WHO WOULD HAVE DIED ANYWAYS BECAUSE THE WATER'S FUCKING POISON NOW! But seriously, if only there was some help for them, maybe in the form of a group that has numerous resources and means of relaying food and supplies to those in need and isn't afraid to stand up to a corrupt government. But since that doesn't exist in this series, let's move on.

Judd also prays for Token Jew, who in the kind of compassionate response we've come to expect from our godly protagonists, mentions this in his latest email.

It is not as if the God of gods could not defeat any foe he chooses, Dr. Ben-Judah wrote, but the stench of the other side evangelizing for evil has offended him and kindled his wrath. Yet the wrath of God remains balanced by his great mercy and love. There has been not one report of death or injury to any of the 144,000 evangelists God has raised up to spread the truth about his Son.

"But there have been reports of plenty of horrific deaths among the poor, especially among children, because remember, Jesus loves the little children."

Can't help but think that Ellanjay got the wrong interpretation of that classic Bible verse "Suffer the Little Children."

Judd, recognizing the central tenet of RTCism (Everyone recognizes the inherent greatness of St. Rayford and Our Buck, regardless of if they actually do anything or even disappear for books at a time), prays for St. Rayford, Our Buck, Chloe, and her kid. He also, surprisingly enough, prays for Foreign McForeign (Jacques Madeleine, who he hung out with in France) and Westin Jakes. Given that neither character had appeared onscreen in forever, I'm surprised that Judd even remembers their existence, but you've seen by now how much Ellanjay love having characters be forgotten and disappear for chapters at a time, only to come back at some later date.

He also prays for Lionel, who has the nerve to still be suffering trauma from his missing arm. It's becoming very clear to me: I think we can officially name Lionel as the newly appointed Butt Monkey of the LB-verse, given that the previous title-holders (Ryan and Hattie) are both dead at this point.

Judd then lists a bunch of names of other Tribbles whom I don't care about, before finally he prays for Vicki. And tell me that his prayers for her aren't mostly centered around his desire to get laid. I know I keep joking about it, but they just make it so damn easy given that RTCs are so repressed that even Dr. Freud would be like, "Now that's messed up."

Finally, Judd prayed for Vicki. He asked God to draw her close and make her an even stronger believer than she already was. Judd thanked God for Vicki’s friendship, her support, and for the life she had brought to him, even separated by the miles.

Of course, since I'm a proud pervert, part of me wonders if this constant emphasis on Vicki isn't just a desperate attempt to convince us that our manly RTC hero is totally on the straight and narrow and definitely isn't gay, despite showing considerably more chemistry with male characters than he ever did with his designated love interest.

After all this praying, Judd opens an email from Sam telling him to watch the news. Judd turns on the news and watches a broadcast which tells us that Nicky has very evilly managed to turn the poisoned sea water back to normal, thus possibly saving the lives of the animals that live there. No doubt next on his list of evil deeds is he, using the resources and tech at his disposal, will find a way to remove the salt from the sea water (yeah, it's a bit of a reach but is that tech any more out there than some of the stuff in the LB-verse) and put in place the necessary network to ensure that everyone gets clean, drinkable water no matter where they live, thus SPARING THEM THE HORRIBLE PAINFUL DEATH THEIR LOVING GOD HAD INTENDED FOR THEM!

The broadcast ends with Nicky expressing the hope that fresh-water places, lakes and rivers and the like, will soon be restored, but weeks go by and apparently Zod has decided to let them remain poisoned and full of blood.

After all this, we finally cut to Vicki. Vicki, being all womanly and female, has spent most of her time wringing her hands and wishing for Judd and, to a lesser extent, Lionel to come. Apparently the United States has become the most unhealthiest place on Earth to live and I could go into a long rant about how poorer countries like Haiti and Bangladesh, whose citizens lack the means to stockpile supplies, are probably doing worse, but yeah, I'm getting a little repetitive on that point. Anyway, she wishes she and Judd had gone to France, but I fail to see how things would be so much better in France than everywhere else.

She also expresses a desire to go to Petra and that part makes sense. While as I've pointed out, Petra is currently a theocratic dictatorship under the rule of Token Jew, it's supposed to be a city of refuge. As shown before, the poisoned water plague hasn't touched them and quail and manna rain from the sky so nobody's starving. Granted because there hasn't been any mention of God bamfing down some citrus trees, they're probably all suffering massively from Scurvy and who knows what other vitamin deficiencies, but I suppose beggars can't be choosers.

Apparently in the LB-verse, where space is warped and time is bendable, baby Ryan Victor (I use first and middle to distinguish him from the late butt monkey of the same name) is now a toddler. I suppose it is possible there could have been a four month time jump from last week's chapter (where he was clearly mentioned as being 8 months old), but seriously, Ellanjay would it have been so much to ask that you do some research into child/infant development and keep a consistent time frame? Oh yeah, any effort is too much effort as far as Ellanjay are concerned.

Anyway, everybody's concerned because Cheryl aka Ryan Victor's mother, has been acting more and more unstable. One of the YTF, Mark, overheard Cheryl telling the baby that she was his real mother and that the Fogartys were only looking after him for a bit and that as soon as she found a place for both of them, she'd take him from them.

:grits teeth: Since I cheated and read ahead on the wiki, I knew this plotline was coming up and oh, boy. If you want me to sum it up, right now, I'm totally on Cheryl's side. Why? Because as I recall, Vicki basically arranged for the Fogartys to adopt Cheryl's baby during the pregnancy, WITH VERY LITTLE INPUT FROM CHERYL EVEN THOUGH SHE'S THE ONE WHO'S PREGNANT!

I suppose since Ellanjay's sympathies lie with the Christian Right (and we all know how they feel about abortion), they're doing this plotline as a means of educating young girls to put their babies up for adoption rather than abort them. As many in the pro-choice camp will point out, Adoption isn't the magical cure-all it's made out to be.

:massages temples: Never ceases to amaze me, how Ellanjay and others of their ilk find the idea of consent so hard to grasp.

Anyway, the Fogartys, alarmed by Cheryl's behavior, want to ban her from seeing her baby, because that's the truly compassionate thing to do, ban a mother from seeing her child. Vicki makes token protests to this idea, saying that banning her from seeing her child could make Cheryl even worse, but eventually concedes and goes along with it.

Surprise, surprise, this "banning Cheryl from seeing her child" plan doesn't work. In fact, Cheryl becomes even more belligerent, shrieking and crying, frequently showing up at the Fogartys demanding to see her child. The YTF decide the best course of action is to either move Cheryl or move the Fogartys.

Vicki decides to talk to Cheryl. She reminds Cheryl that she agreed to give her baby to the Fogartys. But Cheryl, continuing to earn my sympathies, is basically like "I've changed my mind and STFU and don't come back until you bring me my baby."

Next is a brief interlude with Sam. Nicky, in a true stroke of malice, decides to tap into the spring that provides clean water for Petra. Wanting his subjects not to die from drinking poisoned water?! Again, Nicky's evil knows no bounds!

If you guessed that Nicky's evil plan to provide fresh drinking water to those without fails due to a literal Deus ex Machina, congratulations for once again being familiar with Ellanjay tropes. I wish there were any perks that came with it, even a lousy t-shirt would be nice, but there aren't.

After this, we hear from Chang. Since this snark is getting hella long (and yes, it will be another one chapter snark this week), I'm going to fast-forward through it. Apparently another judgment, the fourth bowl judgment according to Chang, happens. I suppose if I really cared, I could track down one of those PMD charts laying out all the judgments and whatnot, but dammit! I have enough worthless information clogging up valuable neuron space! Like I will go to my grave incapable of doing Algebra (despite studying it in Middle School, High School, and two semesters of College), but I will be capable of humming the Dragon Dagger theme from Power Rangers. I don't need to add to it, especially since this judgment will probably, like all the previous ones, effect only NPCs and even then, will only be briefly touched upon.

Anyway, what happens is some kind of massive heat wave. Somehow that leads to the window at the building where Chang works, exploding and we get this.

It was too late for Rasha and Lars. The window in front of them gave way, sending shards of glass flying about the room. Both were struck by the broken glass and crumpled to the floor as others screamed. Hot, steamy air blew into the room. A woman tried to help her fallen friends, but her hair curled, then burst into flames from the heat.

I suppose I should applaud Ellanjay for bothering to give names to a few of the rank-and-file employees who were killed. That gives a little pathos to the scene, but given that this is the first time Rasha and Lars have been mentioned (unless this Lars is the same documentary film-maker/propagandist mentioned in another book)...yeah, it doesn't add much by way of pathos. Compare this to the scene in the Watchmen comic where, after having met several of the civilian characters and gotten to know them in previous issues, we watch them die horribly at the hands of the bad guy. Granted, when it comes to writing, comparing Alan Moore to Ellanjay is probably like comparing the collected works of Wordsworth to a dirty limerick some idiot scrawled on a bathroom stall, but still.


Anyway, the chapter ends with Chang calling Judd and telling him all about the latest disaster. If you guessed that Chang is oblivious to the suffering of others, give yourself a hand. He mostly spins this as, "While this will be a disaster for Unbelievers, it'll enable Believers to move more easily."

So it ends on a hopeful note with Judd excited by the prospect of finally getting laid finally getting back together with Vicki. That is, unless the writers need more of an excuse to pad out the series, in which case Judd will have to settle for becoming more acquainted with Rosie Palm and her five sisters. Even more so than he already is. :eyebrow waggle: