Sunday, February 7, 2016

When we meet in the Afterlife, we can all laugh at Sectarian Strife. Meanwhile, back to the Wars. Because my God's better than yours.

Hello and welcome! Wish I could say I had a good excuse for being late, but in all honesty, just procrastination. Found myself doing a massive amount of cleaning on Saturday. Didn't intend to, but I started cleaning one area of my room and started thinking, "Maybe I should clean this area," and it just kept going from there. I cleaned my room without being prodded and even went out of my way to clean areas that I normally don't think too much about.

[Philosophical TANGENT about Getting Older]Is this one of the signs of that dreaded disease of Adultism? I'm not sure how to feel about that. I sum up before my childhood and adulthood with this sentence: I didn't feel like a kid then; I don't feel like an adult now. It's sadly accurate. Even though this year, I'll be older than Batman's canon age (and yes, the implications of that freak me out), I still think of adults as being people like my parents: people who have worked jobs that didn't pay minimum wage, people who have their own cars and houses, people who manage to more or less pay their bills on their own. Yeah, I still totally relate to the Cracked article 5 Reasons You Don't Miss Your Twenties When They're Over. Even though I'm out of my twenties, still relate to the whole "Grown-ups see you as a kid, so they don't take you too seriously, but you can't hang out with actual kids because your worldviews are miles apart and you come across as a creeper" thing. [/TANGENT]

Anyway, I'm here now. I'm still thinking about last week, where I proposed that Unnamed Jewish Female Soldier and Unnamed Injured Jewish Soldier be promoted to the League of Awesome. They are only onscreen for a bit and only get a few lines, but in their brief appearance, they totally pwn Judd and Vicki. Plus, the whole being will to stand and die for their beliefs is pretty damn awesome. So I feel they deserve membership, but part of the terms of their membership, is that they be given names. So below, I'll set up a long discussion about naming them. Again, I've set up brackets for those going "Get to the book, already!"

[TANGENT about names for Potential League of Awesome members]

I wanted to avoid falling into Ellanjay's trap where said Jewish characters might as well be named Jewy Jewberg, but at the same time, did want to make nods at their heritage and honor some of the badasses of the Old Testament. For Unnamed Injured Jewish Soldier (UIJS), I considered David, for the obvious David vs. Goliath references (in this case, the authors are Goliath), but thought that seemed a little obvious. Also, considered Jonathan, because in the very least, he and David had an epic bromance going.

But ultimately, I decided to call him Elijah. Because Elijah is awesome, so much so that you wish he had a book in his name. I'm thinking in particular of the infamous passage, 1 Kings 18:20-40, which has the showdown between him and the prophets of Baal. Always liked the snark in that passage, where as the prophets of Baal try and try to get Baal to do his thing, Elijah gets all snarky, being all, "Shout louder! Maybe he's away or on the toilet and can't hear you." As a fellow snarker, I appreciate good, well-crafted snark, so for that reason alone, I name UIJS, Elijah.

But I also nominated Elijah, because I really liked the chapter that came after 1 Kings 18. For those not in the know about the Old Testament, Elijah celebrated a great triumph in chapter 18, proving the might of the Hebrew god. Yet at the beginning of chapter 19, he's forced to flee for his life, because he just effed with Jezebel, and again, for those not in the know, you really shouldn't eff with Jezebel.

So in 1 Kings, Chapter 19, Elijah flees into the wilderness and is so exhausted and beaten down that he begs God to kill him. All this despair after the great triumphant tone of the previous chapter...the contrast speaks to me. Yet God doesn't lambaste Elijah, chew him out for being weary and depressed; God takes care of him, giving Elijah food and water so he might regain his strength, so he can do what needs to be done next.

There's a part, 1 Kings 19:11-13, that I always found hauntingly beautiful. As a writer, I know how to recognize good writing, though I have a harder time talking about it. It's easy to point at bad writing and say "X is bad and here's why," but it seems harder to say anything about good writing, except that it is good. Suppose that's the reason why movie critics are always so much more entertaining when they rip into a bad movie, than when they praise a good one. Totally with Dave Barry: One of life's little pleasures is watching a really good critic go to town on a really bad movie.

Anyway, here's the passage:

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

Like I said, I can't explain why exactly I just love this passage so much and maybe y'all don't see it the same way (because people often have different tastes), but it just speaks to me.

In fact, if any of you are taking care of a relative or a friend, who is suffering, either as a result of mental illness or grief, I tell people that doing some of the stuff in 1 Kings 19 really helps. Don't criticize, don't tell them to "Cheer up!", don't try to offer any explanations; just feed and take care of the suffering, be there when they feel like absolute shit. When they're ready to talk, just listen. As someone who has struggled with clinical Depression in the past, I speak from experience when I say, those little gestures go a long way.

As for Unnamed Jewish Female Soldier (UJFS), I freely admitted it only took me five seconds of thought with her. Decided to call her Yael, which is the Hebrew form of the name Jael. According to sites where they list the meanings of names, Jael is supposed to mean "Mountain Goat," but a more accurate definition would be "badass mothereffer." Don't believe me? Clearly you haven't read chapter four of Judges. Jael only appears in that chapter, but she is so awesome that you start to think that the reason she didn't make more appearances, was because she makes Misogynists feel all uncomfortable and such. So I'm calling her Yael, though if anybody objects, I'm proposing Deborah as a second option.

In fact, every time an RTC uses the quotes from Paul (quotes from letters that Paul probably didn't write), talking about how women shouldn't have authority over men or be allowed to speak in church, I think of Deborah and Jael. Often wonder what they'd say if I pointed out that Deborah clearly had no problem :gasp: speaking and criticizing men, giving advice on strategy to Barak, who was a general, and Jael exercised authority over men, by driving a tent spike through a guy's head.

tl;dr, decided to call UIJS and UJFS, Elijah and Yael. Haven't thought of surnames. If anyone wants to take up that challenge, feel free. Just, like I said, I have no problem with honoring their religious/ethnic background, but don't go out of your way to make their names SuperJewish, the way Ellanjay do. I did think about adding the other Unnamed NPCs, fighting to defend their sacred sites from Nicky and refusing to :gasp: abandon their faith, no matter how much Judd and Vicki (and the authors) want them to, but decided I'd just narrow it down to Elijah and Yael, because they were the only ones who actually had lines. [/Insanely Long TANGENT about Names]

Sorry about that. Now I'll finally get to the book. Again, I like to think my tangents are at least interesting and add to the discussion.

Anyway, this week, like next week's snark, is mostly action scenes, which like I said are hard to snark because they are really, really dull. Even watching paint drying would be better because you can maybe get high off of the fumes. But this...again, you can't actually care or get worked up about these action scenes, because even if you didn't peek at the wiki to discover which characters are alive when TurboJesus shows up, you know exactly how it all ends: TurboJesus falls, everyone who doesn't matter, dies. Bad things only happen to NPCs and Butt Monkeys, never to Our Heroes. Knowing all that just makes action scenes dull as hell, just page after page of action verbs for me to flip through. Again, sorry for the summarizing, but I can only do so much.

Anyway, Judd and Vicki make sure the new believers have every sacred tenet of RTCianity down (like "Thou Shalt Do Nothing To Stop Evil Forces from Destroying the World," "Thou Shalt Sit on Thine Asses and Wait for TurboJesus to Do Everything For Thee," "The only good deeds thou shalt do, is to convert others, so they may sit and wait," and "Thou Shalt Not Think of All Those Burning in Hell Because the Latest Act of God killed them.")and we get this explanation for why Nicky is using horse-drawn cavalry (even though again, use of horses in war, mostly went out with WWI). I'll post a quote, so we can enjoy the "WTF?!" together. Because I'm that kind of person.

“The rabbi said it is true,” a newcomer said. “Something from Zechariah about God striking horses and riders.”

“Where is the rabbi?” Judd said.

“I didn’t see him. I was just told about—”

“Where do you think he is?” Judd interrupted.

“Someone said he was near Herod’s Gate, but don’t go unless you want to hear more about Messiah.”

The "Something from Zechariah" that they're referencing is Zechariah 12:4, which goes like this:

On that day I will strike every horse with panic and its rider with madness,” declares the Lord. “I will keep a watchful eye over Judah, but I will blind all the horses of the nations.

Ellanjay probably like Zechariah much more than one of those filthy commies like Amos, what with his constant laying into people who live comfortable lives of luxury, while the majority suffer in appalling poverty. Zechariah is more esoteric in language and tone than Amos, which they like because they can stretch out all that metaphorical language and make it so Zechariah says what they want him to say, neither more nor less. Amos is much more problematic. By his own admission, Amos was a pruner of sycamore and fig trees before being called to prophesy on behalf of God. So Amos likely didn't have a huge amount of education, so his text is more plain-spoken, making it harder for Ellanjay to dive behind metaphors and weasel out of Amos's words, which can be summed up by the song "Downpressor Man." Decided not to provide a link. I like both Peter Tosh's rendition and Sinead O'Connor's so I'll let my readers google and choose.

Even still, while I don't claim to be an expert on Zechariah, chances are pretty good that he was obsessed with the Social Gospel. Because the Old Testament prophets in general were kind of obsessed with it, both Major and Minor. Pretty much each book says "Share the wealth and stop oppressing those less fortunate than you. Do what you're supposed to do: Love God, take care of widows and orphans, and don't be assholes towards each other."

So yeah, because Ellanjay believe in a literal reading of scripture, that's why there are horses there. Because this series, like I keep saying, gives me nothing else to think about, I'll now indulge in the kind of hair-splitting/nit-picking that I've become known for.

[Long TANGENT about Horses] Can't help but wonder what kind of horses Nicky is bringing to this fight. I'm sure if I were to say this, point-blank, to Ellanjay, they'd be like, "There are other kinds of horses?" and I'd roll my eyes. Probably the only ones they've heard of are ones used in Horse-racing, which tend to be Thoroughbreds. But Thoroughbreds are more designed for racing around a closed track, show jumping, dressage, or polo. So I wonder how well said horses would do in war.

Because, and this is a gripe I have towards anyone who writes fantasy or historical fiction, you can't treat horses like Lamborghinis, where you just shift into gear, go 70 miles, and reach your destination in a few hours. Horses are living creatures and as such, they have physical needs. Horses need to eat and sleep. They need water. While they can run pretty damn fast (25-30 miles at a gallop or 40-48 kilometers for those into the metric system), horses in general were designed for short bursts, sprints rather than marathons. So they can't maintain that speed for long, and if they're going over rough terrain, instead of, say a carefully prepared race-track, they can maintain that speed for even less. They are animals, so they will eventually get tired and if they aren't able to go on, they won't. They will rebel and refuse.

I don't claim to be an expert on horse breeds, but I imagine the horses Zechariah was writing about, were probably quite different from thoroughbreds. Like I said, thoroughbreds were bred to perform in tightly controlled arenas under strict conditions. Spoiler alert: warfare in general is seldom conducted in tightly controlled arenas under strict conditions. People, who are trying to kill each other, will use whatever advantage they can get.

So I imagine that the horses Zechariah was writing about were warhorses. Another horse fact: Brave Hero can't just borrow some poor farmer's horse and ride into battle, sword held high. Horses are very easily spooked and their natural instinct, when they are spooked, is to GTFO in the other direction. A horse doesn't have many natural defenses except for speed and they know it. So if you want to use a horse in war, they have to undergo years of training, so they will stand and fight, and not freak out at all the noise of battle.

Since Israel is a desert area, the horses would be the type bred and trained to survive long on very little water (though they will eventually need it) and to keep their footing on sand.

I know, I'm lecturing and harping about stuff that nobody but me cares about, but like I said, the series gives me nothing else. So I find myself thinking of other animals and wondering whether they would better suited to the Jerusalem battle.

Genghis Khan conquered Asia (with the exception of Japan) using some 700,000 men on horses. Supposedly said horses were mares, so not only did they provide a mount for a rider, the rider could drink the mare's milk to keep going. By all accounts, the Mongols' horses were very hardy creatures, able to survive on very little, which worked both on the Mongolian Steppes (which are generally rocky with feed often hard to come by) and when they went conquering, because the Mongols didn't have to carry much feed with them. Their horses could mostly take care of themselves.

But y'know Ellanjay would probably have everybody on stallions. For those not in the know about horses, most of the horses used either in day-to-day life or battle throughout history, were mares or geldings (aka neutered stallions). Stallions are big, ill-tempered, and hard to control. So like with most livestock, you kept one or two around for breeding purposes and neutered or killed the rest.

Camels would probably be much better suited for the Jerusalem fight, because they are desert animals; they'd be perfectly at home there. They don't need specialized feed, can go for ages without water, and handle the terrain fairly well. But camels are famously ill-tempered and hard to control. And while they may work for transport, I'm not certain how they would do in war. If a fellow geek knows anymore, feel free to educate in the comments.

While many, thanks in part to Hollywood westerns, envision the pioneers setting out in covered wagons pulled by horses, in reality, the pioneers utilized oxen and mules. We'll ignore oxen (just know that they're big, dumb, but strong, able to endure long travel on very little), because they're suited for pulling heavy loads over long distances, rather than war. But I do wonder about mules.

Horses require specialized feed, which is hard to find. You can't just point them at grass and say, "Durr...eat that," because odds are, they'll eat something that will make them sick. So you will have to provide feed for them. Plus, horses are about as domesticated as dogs. In their eyes, humans are master; therefore I obey humans. They will more or less obey whatever orders you give them; if you signal them to go forward, they will go forward, even if doing so, sends them over a cliff.

In those areas, mules have horses beat. Mules aren't as choosy in their diets and that idiom "stubborn as a mule?" It's completely true. If they're not sure of their footing, they won't move, no matter how much their rider yells and shakes the reins. They'll be like, "Nope, not going to do it. Sorry."
[/Insanely Long TANGENT]

I am so sorry for the previous. In addition to all the above about the limits of draft animals, I find myself wondering about the bean-counters in Nicky's organization. Ellanjay make it seem like Nicky conquered and ruled the world with just a handful of people, but basic knowledge dictates that there would have to be a massive bureaucracy to deal with all this. Someone who makes sure stuff that needs funding, gets funding in all that. I often amuse myself thinking about some poor nebbish CPA in Nicky's organization, going over all the spreadsheets and budgets and such, being like "Now why have we earmarked so much for pig-breeding? Shouldn't we invest more in bottled water. Given the disasters that keep happening, it'd probably be more responsible."

Because the pig ride alone...I find myself wondering how long had Nicky been planning it, how much money did he funnel into eeeevil GMO-type organizations, so they could breed and engineer a pig, able to be ridden (full grown pigs are pretty big, but they're bred for eating, not riding) with nostrils the size of your fist.

But I also wonder how much of Nicky remains. I know after he was killed, Satan completely took over his body, but do you ever wonder if some part of Nicky remains, futility trying to explain that said tactics hadn't worked since the Bronze Age and probably not even then?

All right, back to the books. A speech of Nicky's is blasted in over bullhorn. Why bullhorn? Because his military setting up speakers and blasting music at those trying to defend Jerusalem WOULD ACTUALLY MAKE SENSE! and as a villain in Christian Fiction, having his actions actually make sense is against the rules of the genre.

Said speech, just like the one the defenders in Petra watch later on, is all Nicky being peacey, McPeace-Peace, though it doesn't make any sense. Isn't Satan running things now, so wouldn't "Kill those mothereffers!" or some RTC equivalent (you can slaughter people by the millions in graphic detail, but heaven forbid anyone uses even mild profanity in Christian Fiction) make more sense?

It's something both me and Fred keep running into. If this was any other series, one would assume that Nicky preaching peace out of one side of his mouth, while doing stuff like nuking nine cities, would be proof that he's a hypocrite or maybe following in the mold of tinpot dictators everywhere by doing his own variation on, WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, and IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH, and all that. Get everybody fired up with dreams of a Utopian future, one that will only come if everyone bows their heads and works together, and if those people who stand in our way, stop standing in our way. And while we do not enjoy slaughtering all those people, they were standing in the way of a great and glorious future and refused to move. So we had no choice.

But Ellanjay aren't George Orwell and the tone/implication we keep running into in this series isn't "Nicky is a monster because he preaches peace while trying to kill everyone who looks at him funny" or "Nicky is a hypocrite"; series keeps making it clear that Nicky is a monster, BECAUSE HE PREACHES PEACE. They'd be okay with the slaughtering of innocent if he was doing it in the name of the right belief system (RTCianity, natch)but the fact he does it in the name of his incredibly poorly-defined belief system is what makes his slaughtering wrong.

In fact, Taylor "He's Alive and Awesome, Dammit!" Graham remains the only character to point out the gap between the GC's words and actions as he does in in this post:

"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."

In any series, the character who says stuff like that would be a heroic character. In this one...

That and they believe if you are in favor of peace, which most people, even military men are (again, probably General Patton and MLK, Jr. would say that peace is a good thing. They'd just differ when it comes to means of achieving it), YOU ARE ON THE SIDE OF SATAN! YOU WANT TO ALLEVIATE THE SUFFERINGS OF INNOCENT PEOPLE AND KEEP THEM FROM DYING NEEDLESSLY! OR IN OTHER WORDS, YOU WANT THE WORLD TO IMPROVE, RATHER THAN DEGRADE INTO CHAOS UNTIL TURBOJESUS COMES BACK! IN IMPROVING THE WORLD, YOU MAKE IT HARD FOR PEOPLE TO SET UP THE CONDITIONS FOR JESUS'S RETURN! THEREFORE, YOU ARE IN LEAGUE WITH SATAN!

:deep breath: Again, you often wonder if Ellanjay aren't terrified to find themselves in Amish country, positive that all those horse and buggies are secretly packing Uzis and RPGs. Those men with their beards and women with their prayer kapps, may look peaceful, but they are all secretly violent psychos, just waiting for an opening. Christian Pacifism is a central tenet of the Amish's faith, again, making the popularity of Amish lit among RTCs, (who are opposed to peace because peace makes it so Jesus won't come back), somewhat inexplicable.

Anyway, Nicky says his speech, the defenders are all "Nuts!" to Nicky's "Surrender and I won't harm you," and the section ends with Judd and Vicki watching Token Jew stand on a wall and convert some NPCs.

There are bits here and there with Lionel, but even less happens, so I'm going to just ignore them and stick with Judd and Vicki.

Well this happens:

A kerthunk sounded some distance away, and Judd instinctively ducked. A shell struck the building behind him, sending debris flying. He stayed on the ground, coughing and waving a hand. When the dust cleared, he saw a hole the size of a small car in the wall behind him.

The hole was right next to the stairwell.

“Vicki!” Judd screamed.

Because I'm that kind of person, I'll spoil it for you. Vicki isn't dead, just badly injured.

“Over here,” Vicki said, coughing. She lay on the floor with a stone on her leg. “I tried to move it.”

Judd’s heart beat furiously as he struggled to free Vicki. The stone wouldn’t budge. He snagged a gun propped against the wall and used it to pry the stone up a few inches, but Vicki’s leg was still pinned. He was afraid the stone would fall and injure her worse if he tipped it farther. His arms ached as he yelled for help.

A young rebel came toward them from the other side of the tunnel. He put his gun under the stone, and together he and Judd lifted it enough for Vicki to scoot out. The stone crashed to the floor with a tremendous thud! “Thank you,” Vicki said, holding her leg.

I could quibble, point out that a rock the size of a small car (even if it's not the same weight of a small car) would probably do a lot more damage to Vicki's leg, than what's seen later on. But I've quibbled so much lately.

If you're wondering, I highly suspect this was put in both for padding purposes (because Ellanjay are all about padding), but also as an excuse to allow Judd to be all manly and martyrrific as he runs around carrying Vicki trying to get help for her.

For all my readers wondering, if you're ever injured or in any kind of life-threatening danger, don't accept help from Judd. If you're in a plane crash and Judd comes by to help, douse yourself in gasoline (or whatever fuel is used in planes) and get it over with. Because not only could an amateur with the most basic knowledge of first aid poke holes in this, A GODDANGED FIVE-YEAR-OLD WHOSE WORST INJURY WAS A BOO-BOO ON THEIR KNEE WOULD BE ABLE TO POKE HOLES IN THIS.

I'm dead serious. Probably the only reason Vicki didn't die was because an NPC was onscreen and did some basic first-aid stuff to treat her. Another quote:

Kneeling, the young man took out a knife, slit Vicki’s pant leg at the bottom, and tore it until he reached her kneecap. Judd gasped at the gash in her leg.

The wound was to the bone, and blood gushed out. The young man unzipped a pocket on his jacket and pulled out some gauze and antiseptic. He poured it on the wound, and Vicki yelped in pain. When he had wrapped her leg, he said, “It doesn’t look like it’s broken, but someone should look at it soon.”

When you need an NPC to do the basic steps of "Examine, Clean, and Dress the Injury," you know Judd really is a dumbass.

Though I tried to resist doing more quibbling about the rock size, but in all likelihood, a rock that big, most definitely would have broken Vicki's leg. But if we were going for realism, what should have happened next is NPC gives Vicki something to bite down on and Judd holds her hand, as NPC cuts off her leg in order to free her.

I suppose I should say that Judd shouldn't run around being all martyrrific and carrying her. Unless you have the means to move and transport an injured person properly (as in keep the neck perfectly still and such), basic first aid is "Leave them where they are, unless doing so, puts them in immediate life-threatening danger." Like if a car is stalled on the tracks, driver's unconscious, and you hear a train coming, it's okay to move them. Injured driver would be in worse shape if they were hit by a speeding train, than any damage a rescuer might cause by moving them around.

But okay, this is taking place in the middle of a warzone, so I'll let Judd off the hook for moving Vicki around. And maybe there was time enough and they had the equipment to move the boulder so Vicki doesn't have to live out 127 Hours like Lionel did that one time. But I will say that as cool and heroic it looks, having Judd spend the ending of this chapter and the majority of the next, running around, while carrying Vicki, I will point out that Judd could probably easily find something to serve as a makeshift stretcher/wheelchair until he gets her to a hospital or maybe some other RTC could help him carry her. Because even if we assume Vicki is on the petite end of the spectrum and weighs a hundred pounds, tops, carrying an injured hundred pound human is the type of activity that will exhaust even an elite athlete pretty quickly. To make things more complicated, Judd isn't just standing there, holding Vicki; he's also running around through a freaking warzone while doing so.

But I think it's safe to assume that this little bit with Vicki being hurt was put in to pad the series out, give Judd a chance to be all manly and martyrrific (because really of the YTF, Vicki's done most of the heavy-lifting of racking up converts and getting everyone together, while Judd's been flying around Europe and the Middle East doing diddly), and maybe to dissuade snarky readers such as myself who keep pointing out that Judd has shown considerably more chemistry with the male characters than with his designated love interest. "Judd is being all manly and strong, and protecting his woman! Therefore, he can't be Gay!" they protest. Because everyone knows that Gay Men are all sissies and flaming queens and not, y'know, dudes who find love in their own locker room. Therefore, since [Insert Historical Figure Suspected to Be Gay Here] wasn't a flaming queen and did marry a woman and sire children with her, said historical person can't be gay. Because Gay Men are incapable of performing with a woman and apparently don't produce semen, so that proves said historical figure can't be Gay. That and the Gay didn't spring into being until Roe v. Wade, so the idea of a Gay Man existing before 1973 is unpossible!

For those of you wondering about the above paragraph, why I focused on Gay guys and didn't mention Lesbians, I did so because the Christian Right generally is far more obsessed with Gays than with Lesbians. They tend to subscribe to the mindset that women don't :gasp: seek and enjoy sex like men; they do it for their man because they love him and because they want to have babies. Since the only way of having babies is through the heinous act of sex, they suck it up and deal.

So that's about it for this week. Token Jew's dead, for those of you who really cared. Since most of us want to kick him in the ribs half-a-dozen times, I'll assume you don't. Again, sorry for the long-ass tangents that were a helluva lot more longer than actual book-related stuff, but again, I like to think they were at least interesting. Though one last ramble before I hit the road:

[Ramble] I still think the best thing Nicky could do with the idiots in Petra, is to just leave them alone. Surround the place and tell his guys "Shoot if anyone shoots at you or tries to leave, but otherwise leave them alone." Initially the Tribbles will be all "OMG! What do we do?" but as the initial shock wears off and the evil Satanic Army doesn't do their part to give them a common enemy by attacking, I think the Tribbles would fall into doctrinal disputes and take themselves out for Nicky. I base this on a quote from Mark Twain's "Letters from the Earth" one of many books that Ellanjay should read but won't.

“Man is the Reasoning Animal. Such is the claim. I think it is open to dispute. Indeed, my experiments have proven to me that he is the Unreasoning Animal... In truth, man is incurably foolish. Simple things which other animals easily learn, he is incapable of learning. Among my experiments was this. In an hour I taught a cat and a dog to be friends. I put them in a cage. In another hour I taught them to be friends with a rabbit. In the course of two days I was able to add a fox, a goose, a squirrel and some doves. Finally a monkey. They lived together in peace; even affectionately.

Next, in another cage I confined an Irish Catholic from Tipperary, and as soon as he seemed tame I added a Scotch Presbyterian from Aberdeen. Next a Turk from Constantinople; a Greek Christian from Crete; an Armenian; a Methodist from the wilds of Arkansas; a Buddhist from China; a Brahman from Benares. Finally, a Salvation Army Colonel from Wapping. Then I stayed away for two whole days. When I came back to note results, the cage of Higher Animals was all right, but in the other there was but a chaos of gory odds and ends of turbans and fezzes and plaids and bones and flesh--not a specimen left alive. These Reasoning Animals had disagreed on a theological detail and carried the matter to a Higher Court.”

Interesting quote, but I find myself thinking that Mark Twain probably would have gotten the same results if he had put in different Christians from different denominations. Because as Fred's post points out, the keys to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre are :gasp: in the hands of filthy Muslims, because the Muslim leaders, who controlled the site in the 12th century, got tired of all the various sects fighting each other for control of that church. So Saladin, the guy in charge, bestowed the keys into the hands of two Muslim families who have taken care of them since, passing them down generation to generation.

But that still didn't stop the various Christian sects from fighting with each other. So in an attempt to further curb the violence, a Sultan passed what is called the Status Quo rules, basically saying that each sect has their own place and the members of said sect can move the stuff in their area around, but not the stuff in the other sects' areas, and the areas held in common, if you want to make any repairs or do anything to those areas (even just fix a window that won't close right or something minor like that) you have to go to each sect and get unanimous approval. This makes upkeep of the Church a real pain in the ass, as you can imagine.

But even the Status Quo rules haven't solved the problem of sectarian strife. According to Wikipedia

On a hot summer day in 2002, a Coptic monk moved his chair from its agreed spot into the shade. This was interpreted as a hostile move by the Ethiopians, and eleven were hospitalized after the resulting fracas.

In another incident in 2004, during Orthodox celebrations of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, a door to the Franciscan chapel was left open. This was taken as a sign of disrespect by the Orthodox and a fistfight broke out. Some people were arrested, but no one was seriously injured.

On Palm Sunday, in April 2008, a brawl broke out when a Greek monk was ejected from the building by a rival faction. Police were called to the scene but were also attacked by the enraged brawlers. On Sunday, 9 November 2008, a clash erupted between Armenian and Greek monks during celebrations for the Feast of the Cross.

So I stand by my assertion that if the people of Petra weren't able to unite in their hatred of Nicky, they would quickly devolve into fights over dogma and the stones won't be the only thing that's red in Petra. [/Ramble]

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Every RTC Adores a Fascist

Hello and happy Saturday, everybody!

Well, Spiritplumber got into an interesting discussion going on military tactics and whatnot. I admit to having only an amateur knowledge of military strategy (though even with that, I can point out how Ellanjay fail), so I appreciate hearing from others who actually know more. In the interest of keeping the discussion going, I'll link to Spiritplumber's wiki. Though I admit that I am with Firedrake in that I'm like, "Why not tear-gas the mothereffers?" I suppose if I suggest any strategy, Ellanjay will say, "Because God!" because like I've said before, whenever I read these books and how neither good nor bad have any knowledge of strategy, yet Good always wins, I feel like I'm playing superheroes with that one kid who, no matter what, every time you get him is like, "Nuh-uh...My character's immune to that." This goes on a bit until you get bored as hell and are like, "Screw it, I'm playing with someone else."

Some advice for writers: making your heroes completely lacking in flaws and vulnerabilities does not make us like them more; it makes them boring as hell to read about!

[TANGENT Where I Rant about Superman] And before anyone chimes in with "But Superman..." I'll freely admit that writers have fallen into traps with his character. John Byrne, from what I hear, may be a horse's ass personality-wise, but I do feel that he did a damn good job rewriting Superman's character during the eighties. He toned down the powers--Superman is still nigh invulnerable and inhumanly strong, but not "juggling planets strong"--but probably the greatest strength of the John Byrne rewrite, was that he switched the whole man and the mask conundrum around. For years, Superman had been written like Batman, with writers treating Superman as the core personality (Click here for obligatory link to Superdickery) and Clark Kent as the Mask, but John Byrne changed that, making it so he's fundamentally Clark Kent, the aw-shucks all-American farmboy from Kansas, and Superman is just a mask he wears in battle.

Which I really like. I hear so many complaints about how Superman's boring either because he's so powerful (which I admit makes writing him tricky) or because he's good. As you can imagine, that last one irritates me. Not every hero has to be an asshole, dripping with angst, to be worth reading about! Heck, I thought that was one of the strengths of the second Captain America 2 movie*. The titular hero of that movie is basically a good guy with a strong moral code and while he does have some angst, it's not the core of his personality. Yeah, it sucks that most of the people who knew him in the forties, either have one foot in the grave or are actually in the grave. But the Captain just deals with it and keeps going. But what made the movie so compelling is that they basically took a good guy and dropped him into a morally sticky situation, where said good guy has to figure out, which of the moral rules he follows, apply in this situation, which rules can be bent, and which can be jettisoned, and if he does outright break said rules, is he crossing a line he can't come back from? And of course, it also has a classic "Who can I trust?" vibe going.

So do that with Superman! The DCAU (which is pure awesome) managed to do great things with his character by doing so, putting him in situations where he has to debate which lines he's willing to cross and how far is too far, and all that. Besides, whenever stories come out that have him being all angsty about how he's an alien and whatnot, I admit to being like, "Really?" Because he came to Earth as a baby! I am in full agreement with this panel from John Byrne's rewrite; while being an alien among humans would be a little rough, at the same time, Earth is the only home he's ever known. Superman gets his powers and DNA from his Kryptonian parents, but ultimately his personality and moral code (aka the stuff that makes him who he really is) come from a pair of Kansas farmers. Though I do admit that some of the best Superman stories and one of my favorite comic book two-parters, are less about Superman punching out evil and more about how he inspires others and the effect he has on Average Joe Blow Human.
[/TANGENT]

Goddangit! I did it again! But I put it inside tangent tags so anyone not interested, can just scroll past. Point is, you can tell stories with more straightforward heroic types and still make them interesting!

Though if I were in Nicky's thigh-high stiletto boots (a must for every supervillain!) I'd tell my armies, "Eh, just surround the place, shoot anyone who tries to get out or make trouble, but other than that, just let 'em rot." I understand why he'd want to come down on a terrorist organization advocating a violent overthrow of his government** but if the majority of them are contained within Petra, why not just keep them there? Given what I know about RTCs in the real world, I find myself wondering how long Petra would remain a peaceful haven, if they were no longer able to unite themselves in their hatred of Nicky. Think about it: at first they'd be all "OMG!" at the massive army surrounding them, but what if said army just sat there and didn't do much of anything?

Again, given the motives behind so many acts of violence between Christian sects can be summed up as "They believe slightly different things about our Magical Sky Daddy! Let's kill them!" and since, like I've said, Token Jew's government is about as free and democratic as North Korea's, my guess is after being shut up inside Petra for awhile, eventually they'll turn on each other. Get sick of eating Quail and Manna (and I'm really wondering how they're not suffering from nutritional deficiencies) and someone will disagree with someone on something, saying something crazy like, "I believe that it is wrong to baptize infants" or espouse some heresy like :gasp: Christian Pacifism or that church services should be held on the Sabbath, rather than Sunday. From there, tempers will boil over, sparks will fly, and the stones won't be the only thing that's red in Petra.

So again, my suggestion: surround the place and while the terrorists are all pinned in, Nicky can take advantage to get shit done, feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless, which we all know is something only the eeevil anti-Christ would do, unlike the actual Christ.

But an open assault by Nicky, would give them something to unite them and focus their hatred towards, similar to how RTCs and Catholics, since Roe v. Wade made them realize they have a common enemy, have formed an uneasy alliance. Both sides still mistrust and hate each other and periodically, slippage of lips reveal how they really feel towards each other, but right now, they need each other's numbers/organization in order to win. So they'll hold off on stomping out heresies until later.

[Tangent About Religious Freedom]Though they will inevitably try to stomp out heresies; history bears this out. While the history of America is nowhere near as lengthy as any of the countries of Europe (Old Joke: the difference between America and Britain is America thinks a hundred years is a long time, and Britain thinks a hundred miles is a long distance), but I think the First Amendment serves to protect us as well. If someone disagrees with the practices of their church, they're free to break off and start their own sect and don't have to fear the government taking up arms to quash their heresy. Worst thing that will happen is that if they're from a church, like the Catholics, that practices excommunication, they might get excommunicated. But that will be the extent of it. They will still be able to live freely and practice their believes freely, so long as they aren't damaging people or property in the process. That whole thing about Separation of Church and State works both ways. Just as the Church can't enshrine their beliefs in law, the State also can't step in and write the Church's doctrine. Many Orthodox Jewish sects believe that it is wrong to marry a Jew and a non-Jew. Under current law, they're free to refuse. Non-Jew and Jew can go seek out another church or synagogue or a justice of the peace if they want someone to marry them.

But even though the Right has long nursed a mistrust of the Catholic Church, I think they secretly envy them. They wish they had the power and might of the medieval church, wish there was a magisterium that explicitly stated "This is what you will believe and if you don't, we'll send our armies to brutally crush your heresy." So yeah, don't know if they would see how wonderful it is that the US has never enshrined any religion above all others. Remember, like I said, they follow the faith of Animal Farm: We are all equal, but some are more equal than others.
[/Tangent]

Sorry for all the damn tangents, but this week isn't too much more interesting than last week. Just action scenes that aren't at all compelling because bad things only happen to NPCs and Butt Monkeys in the LB-verse, so we know the heroes aren't in danger, even if you haven't peeked at the Wiki page for this series. Though there is some nice, patronizing goysplainning, but other than that, nothing really interesting. But like I said, in case some of y'all are offended, I've taken to bracketing tangents, so scroll past if you're not interested.

Anyway, Nicky is, of course, doing an open assault, thus allowing the writers to put in lots of chest-thumping and action verbs and, like, I said, is boring as shit to read about. So I admit, I'm mostly going to fast-forward through this. If any of y'all really want to read it for yourself, get your own copy of the series.

Though there is this weird mention in Lionel's part.

He found Zeke holding a strange-looking weapon and listening for radio contact from their leader.

“What’s with the horses?” Lionel said. “All those tanks and advanced weapons and they put cavalry in front?”

“Doesn’t make a lick of sense to me, but I’m glad they did it,” Zeke said. “We’re gonna try to spook some of the horses and riders with these babies—” he patted his weapon—“and see if we can’t stir things up.”

“What is that?”

“It’s called a DEW, short for directed energy weapon. Sends out a beam of energy that burns like fire.”

Lionel winced. “I’ve seen one, but not that big. Can it reach the troops from here?”

“You bet,” Zeke said. “We’ve also got fifty-calibers along the perimeter. Those will cause more damage, but they’re still nothing compared to what the GC has.”

Firedrake has stated that the existence of energy weapons is where his suspension of disbelief just collapses. My response to that has always been: "Really?! This series firmly believes that the Leader of the World will ride a giant pig at some point and it's laser weapons, you find too hard to believe?!" Of course, given that the response to all the children disappearing is a collective shrug, with life going on mostly as normal, rather than turning into something out of Children of Men, one could easily make a case in that Suspension of Disbelief has long been crumbled to dust and is broken down even at the subatomic level somehow.

But okay, so the Tribbles and Nicky both have laser cannons. Because any discussion we have will make more sense and be more interesting than anything in the books, I'm placing the call out to my readers with any knowledge of strategy: how would you incorporate those weapons into the fight, if you were playing as Nicky or as Our Heroes?

Though when even the book is admitting that Nicky using horse-drawn cavalry makes no sense (again, there's a reason, horse-drawn cavalries mostly went out with WWI), classic example of what Turkey City Lexicon calls a Signal from Fred. Though even if there's some law or something requiring Nicky to use a horse-drawn cavalry, he still could have stuck them in back, behind all the heavy tanks and bulldozers and other big-ass armored vehicles. But Good has to triumph in this series and since coming up with a way for them to triumph in a way that makes sense and isn't just "Rocks fall; everyone who doesn't matter dies!" would require Ellanjay to do research...yeah. Time spent doing research is time not spent admiring their hundred thousand dollar ornamental fish tanks or Jacuzzi tubs, which God totally wants them to have!

Though clicking through that link, gotta say I might be on to something with my assertion, as well as Fred's, that the Right's history of being virulently anti-Catholic is born out of jealousy. Again, they just wish they could hold inquisitions, give themselves high-falutin' titles like "Grand something of something," and wear the robes and mitres and other accoutrements of royalty like the Catholics (the traditional mitres and such were modeled after the attire of monarchs, meant to serve as a visual assertion of the church's power). But the problem is the Protestant tradition has long had a mistrust of an authority on high, vested with the power of kings, able to open and shut the Kingdom of God at their leisure. Again, Martin Luther was virulently anti-Semitic, but the guiding principle behind the reformation he led, was that Joe Blow could read and interpret the Bible for himself and didn't need a middle man to mediate between them and God.

So yeah, the Right is torn between their knee-jerk love of fascism (remember tyranny is only wrong if the wrong person with the wrong beliefs is exercising power over people) and the Protestant mistrust of religious authority. They try to reconcile this the way they do their other conflicting beliefs, by mashing them together, but that leads to a nasty, spoiled mess that even they have a difficult time stomaching.

Lionel's section ends with somebody talking about how a GC missile is headed straight for Rayford. I shake my head and am like, "Ellanjay don't even try to prove my assertions about their love of hierarchy wrong, like at all." Again, despite both the Protestant tradition and the American tradition of Democracy, they still find the idea of there not being a hierarchy that governs all things, to be suspect. I'd repeat the Animal Farm reference from earlier, but I think y'all are getting tired of it.

Anyway, Vicki and Judd are still in Jerusalem, being all heroic and shaking their heads at those silly Jews for being willing to die in defense of their sacred religious sites and their sacred beliefs. Because there is nothing heroic about that at all!

But I do admit that I did like this rare bit of genre savvy. The setup is Judd sees everybody rushing around, is like, "Where are you going?" The NPCs say that they're going to Herod's Gate, and we get this line from Vicki.

“Judd, those men don’t have the mark of the believer,” Vicki said. “If they’re gunned down, that’s the end for them.”

“I know,” Judd said, “but there’s no way they’ll stop to listen now.”

Hundreds of rebels moved toward Herod’s Gate. Judd was out of breath when Vicki caught his arm. “I have an idea,” she said, sprinting to the side as gunfire erupted.

No points for guessing what Vicki's astounding idea is.

Though again, Ellanjay have the characters tiptoe around the issue. Rather than just say some variation on "If they're gunned down, they'll burn in hell like the evil Christ-killers that they are" or say "They'll roast like the stupid pigs they are, for refusing to forsake the beliefs that have sustained them over several millennia of persecution," which is what they really think, they just wuss out and talk about how it's the End for Them.

Which is a common tactic among fascist dictatorships: rebels are disappeared, not tortured over a period of several days before finally dying. Prisoners are liquidated, rather than taken out back and shot en masse. Or they use the phrase "collateral damage" rather than something unpleasant like civilian casualties.

And yes, I find this wussiness far more aggravating and anger-provoking, than the naked racism and anti-Semitism of such far-right works of fiction as The Turner Diaries. If anyone is browsing at work, previous link just takes you to Wikipedia if you're wondering. But in short, I'd rather deal with naked, blatant hatred, rather than the the tyranny of the moral busybodies, who smile and tell you that the knife they're driving into your back, is for your own benefit.

Or in order to fulfill the obligatory eighties cheese requirement of my posts, I'll quote Jaga from ThunderCats: Better an honest enemy than a false friend.

I probably should stop taking so much moral advice from children's cartoons. Especially if said cartoon is from the eighties aka the era where children's cartoons were basically twenty-two minute toy commercials. But hey, take wisdom where you find it, I guess.

Anyway, Vicki's next section begins with this:

Vicki knelt by a wounded soldier who had been shot in the leg. Judd dropped his ammo and tied a tourniquet above the wound.

I know it's a little thing, but given how much is wrong in this series, you leap like a starving dog onto a bone when they do something right. In fact, I actually cheer whenever a work of fiction of any kind (book, movie, etc.) acknowledges that a gunshot wound is serious business, even if it's not to an obviously fatal place like the chest or head. Because I'm anal retentive and this series, like I said, gives me nothing else to think about, I do wonder where NPC's wound is. If it's in the thigh area, props for acknowledging that getting shot there is as bad as the chest, because ever hear of something called the femoral artery? It's in your thigh and spoiler alert, injuries to any artery tend to be serious as shit, because arteries have the full power of the heart behind them. Or in other words, hit an artery and you will bleed out pretty damn fast.

Though the lower leg probably has spots where its equally as serious to take a hit. Plus again, while Nameless Soldier's adrenaline would really be running high, at the same time, most soldiers, like most civilians, when they get shot, they're generally down for the count. It's probably a smart strategy on the body's part, even if the poor schmo doesn't appreciate it too much at the time; moving around too much would make blood flow faster, thus enabling him to bleed out faster, or further aggravate the injury, again leading to the same result.

I am assuming that Judd, still following the sacred Tribbles' Ethos of Doing Nothing, was just doing the usual shtick of carrying ammo to the guys, willing to fight and make a stand against tyranny. Again, in other series, we'd call people willing to fight and die in hopes of defeating a corrupt authority, heroes, but in this story...like I said, apparently, it is wrong to fight and die for your beliefs! Someone should have really tipped off all those Christian Martyrs that you don't really have to make a stand for your beliefs in hopes of inspiring others to do the same and overthrow a tyrannical government; instead, the truly Christian thing to do is live in comfort and enjoy the perks of being employed by said dictator, while occasionally thinking disdainful thoughts in his direction, until at some indeterminate point, Jesus comes back and kills everyone you hate for you.

As you probably guessed, while the soldier is racked with pain and Judd's trying to keep the dude from bleeding out, Vicki decides to chalk up another convert on her fuselage.

“Take my weapon,” the man groaned. “They need more fighters.”

“We want to help you,” Vicki said. “The Global Community is going to be defeated by God’s power—”

“Leave me alone!” the man screamed, using his gun to help him stand. “I have to get back to my brothers!”

Vicki and Judd tried to stop him, but the man limped off with the crowd. Her heart ached for him and the others fighting against the overwhelming army.

If you're wondering, after said NPC runs off, my head canon totally has Vicki and Judd shaking their heads, thinking about that poor foolish man, being more concerned about his fellow comrades-in-arms, rather than doing the honorable thing of saving his own ass and leaving his buddies to die. Because it's like Fred has said: Ellanjay are the anti-Huck. Their forebears of the past would have been horrified by Huck tearing up the letter and not ratting out Jim. I mean, sure ratting out Jim would doom him to a short life on earth, one full of misery, but that's nothing when compared to the state of Huck's eternal soul.

And probably, like in all things, if I were to point-blank bring this up, RTCs would get all pissy. Because they love to cast themselves on the Right side, once the battle's been safely decided and won for decades. If I pointed out how the Bible was used to justified slavery, they'd talk about how they'd be all noble and instinctively know that slavery was wrong and blah-blah-blah. Probably feel they deserve a trophy for their brave stance against human rights violations of the past, aka struggles they can conveniently do nothing about because they took place in the past. I mean, what are they supposed to do? Learn from the past and apply lessons from there to struggles that are currently raging? That would be a risk to possibly both physical safety and societal standing, if they actually spoke out against actual human rights abuses that are still going on.

Token Jew shows up, there's some blather, but it's boring as heck, so let's just move onto Judd's section.

Basically he and Vicki run into :gasp: a Jewish woman in her twenties, dressed in fatigues and black boots. I suppose I could quibble for a bit, wonder how Judd and Vicki knew that she was Jewish, just by looking at her. If it was a guy, I'd give them the benefit of the doubt and say that maybe the dude was wearing a kippah, but while some sects allow women to wear them, it is still a predominantly male fashion, for Jews to wear the kippah.

But we all know that only RTCs and Jewish people would at all object to a global dictatorship forbidding free practice of religion, so we should probably move on. I mean, humans displaying altruistic behavior and compassion towards others, caring about neighbors, even if they believe slightly different things then they do? That's unpossible. Next, you'll tell me that, during the Tahir Square uprising in Egypt of 2011, Christians turned out to protect Muslim believers, serving as human shields while the Muslims prayed and in turn, the Muslims turned out to protect the Christians, serving as human shields while the Christians conducted Mass.

Though given that the Christians in question were Coptic Christians, Ellanjay probably feel they don't fall into the category of RTCs. So again, I should stop talking and move on.

Though I'm sure they take Jewish Woman wearing fatigues and boots and fighting :gasp: like a man as further proof that she is a hardened reprobate.

Anyway, Vicki tries to rack up a convert, but Jewish Woman stubbornly insists on remaining Jewish.

“It’s no fairy tale,” Vicki said, “any more than the disappearances and the earthquake and everything else that’s happened during the past seven years. Jesus is coming back—at any moment—and you need to be ready.”

“I’m ready to die for my country. I want to rid the earth of Nicolae Carpathia, but I won’t turn my back on my religion. Get away from me.”

“Please, just listen to—”

“Go!”

Judd felt bad for Vicki and even worse for the woman who seemed closed to the truth.

I probably overuse the "Strawman Always Has A Point" tag. No, wait, I don't. Because like I said, in most fiction, most people would see the unnamed woman as heroic in her refusal to renounce her faith, no matter what happens to her, and her belief that her faith is worth dying for and even that there are things worth dying for, to be heroic as well. And most would consider a fight against a Global Dictator, to be a thing worth dying for. But since Ellanjay are the anti-Huck and know that saving your ass matters above all else...yeah...

For that reason, I've promoted both her and the unnamed injured Jewish soldier from earlier, into the League of Awesome. Yeah, I know, the passages quoted are the sum of their participation in the story, but given that they outclassed the heroes in every way in only a few lines, I'm willing to give it to them. So they're in the League of Awesome and are off with Hasina, Taylor, Dr. Rose, and Joel doing awesome stuff. But as part of their membership, I would like for them to be given names; it just feels appropriate. Bonus points if you manage to resist Ellanjays' failings and give them names that aren't basically Jewy Jewensteinberg or something.

But just so that Judd and Vicki and the readers don't get too bummed out, thinking about how those Christ-Killers will burn forever, Unnamed Jewish Guy shows up, along with a cloud of NPCs, so Judd and Vicki have another shot at goysplainning.

Another rebel nearby waved a hand, so Vicki and Judd walked over. “I heard what you said,” the young man said. “And I heard Dr. Ben-Judah last night. I almost prayed, but I was with my father and he cursed the man.”

“We can help you,” Judd said. “What do you need to know?”

The man looked around the darkened hallway. Several people listened. “I always thought the talk about Jesus was blasphemy. A story made up to make people hate Jews. Now I think I might have been wrong. I’ve been wondering if he could be the Messiah.”

If you're wondering, my response to the last bit by Unnamed Convert (sorry to spoil the twist for you), was to laugh heartily. That was followed up by my usual response which is to go, "Oh wait, they're serious."

Because they seriously believe that people, Jewish or Gentile, actually do talk like that. That Jewish Guy could have gone his entire life and never heard that, y'know, Christians feel that Jesus is the Messiah. Though that bit about "A story made up to make people hate Jews..." Nice job, barely camouflaging your anti-Semitism the way you basically IMPLIED THAT ALL THE COUNTLESS MILLENNIA OF PERSECUTIONS, POGROMS, AND TO TOP IT ALL OFF, THE HOLOCAUST, IS ALL THEIR FAULT FOR BEING ALL INSCRUTABLE AND JEWISH! THEY SHOULD HAVE REALIZED THE WISDOM OF THE SWORD AND IMMEDIATELY BOWED TO THE WISHES OF THEIR CHRISTIAN PERSECUTORS AND STOPPED BEING JEWISH!

:deep breath: Yeah, I know this late on, I should stop being so damn surprised by all this, but there are still moments where I'm like, "Seriously?! They have no idea how this idea might come off to people like, at all." But then again, that is assuming they're being honest in that they did write said series to rack up converts for Jesus, as opposed to providing a fictional world where RTCs are always right and "we'll be laughing our heads off while they burn in Hell, you'll see!"

Anyway, of course, Vicki and Judd can't resist so obvious an opening, so they get to it, explaining in narration about Old Testament prophecies that can, if you squint a little and change definitions somewhat, point to Jesus.***

And then they drag Paul into this.

“Paul was a famous Jewish person from the first century,” Judd said. “He studied under the best teachers and even persecuted followers of Jesus. Then something happened and this is what he wrote.”

Judd held out a small Bible for the man. He read aloud, “ ‘I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—Jews first and also Gentiles.’ ”

I, like a lot of liberal Christians, freely admit to having my issues with Paul. In some passages, Paul really seems to get it, the radical, life-changing message of Jesus, but in others, he remains stubbornly a man of his time. So I can understand why so many dislike him.

I do say, in his defense, that most of the really misogynistic passages that RTCs like to cite, probably weren't written by him. Also, little offhand messages, like infamous Junia passage or his bit in 1 Corinthians 1:11, where he talks about contentions in Chloe's household, prove that Paul, while he was still prejudiced against women, probably wasn't as misogynistic as RTCs in that he didn't see a female-headed household as being too worthy of note.

Also, since Paul's letters are the oldest parts of the New Testament, older than :gasp: even the Gospels, he provides fascinating insight into the practices of the early church. Note that in all his letters, whether written by the actual Paul or not, for all his strenuous striving to convince people that "Jesus is the Messiah," he never mentions a Virgin Birth, indicating that the Virgin Birth hadn't become a part of the Christian mythos yet. Also, his word choice seems to indicate that he feels that God raised Jesus from the grave and only when he did so, did Jesus become the divine messiah, unlike some of the Gospels which imply that Jesus was divine and holy at birth and raised himself from the grave.

But whether you agree with my above arguments or not, can we at least agree that Paul, having been raised Jewish and well-schooled in their scriptures, WAS A HELLUVA LOT LESS PATRONIZING TOWARDS JEWISH PEOPLE THAN ANY OF THE CHARACTERS IN THIS SERIES!

That and part of me wonders if citing Paul would have any cachet among the Jews they're trying to convert. Given that most Jewish sects probably don't consider the New Testament to be relevant to their faith, wouldn't it be equivalent to quoting from the Bhagavad Gita? But I suppose maybe they thought they should change it up, instead of having a character clumsily explain an Old Testament passage.

Judd flipped a few pages and read from Romans chapter 15. “ ‘Remember that Christ came as a servant to the Jews to show that God is true to the promises he made to their ancestors.’ Jesus came and fulfilled everything predicted about him—that he would suffer and die a cruel death, that he would save his people, that he would—”

“But what about the verses that say Messiah will be a king,” the young rebel said, “a ruler of the people who will establish righteousness?”

Vicki smiled. “Jesus is a descendant of King David. He is going to sit on David’s throne, just like the prophecies said. And he’s going to do it when he returns to conquer Satan and those who serve him.”


If you're wondering, of course, they won't try to explain that traditional Jewish teaching on the Messiah holds that said Messiah will do so on his first time at bat, not at some indeterminate return point that could be tomorrow or thousands of years in the future. Like it or not, but the fact that Jesus died an ignoble death on the cross, rather than reestablishing the Jewish monarchy or gathering up all those scattered, proves to many Jews that Jesus wasn't the Messiah. He may have been an awesome guy, but he wasn't the Messiah. Plus, Jewish teachings hold that if someone claims to be a holy man, yet his actions go against the sacred teachings of the Torah, then he's not a holy man. Whether you agree or not, you can point to many passages where Jesus flagrantly disobeys Mosaic law.

Just thought I'd pause for a moment and say that I do hope I'm doing okay, as a Gentile trying to talk about Jewish teachings. I like to think I haven't gotten stuff wrong or come across as patronizing, but if I have, I extend the invitation for aunursa or any Jewish commenters to lay into me. I read a lot, but there's a difference in reading a lot about Judaism and theology and actually growing up in the Jewish faith. So if I erred, I apologize.

Vicki then says this:

“There’s a verse in Corinthians that says we can’t find God through human wisdom,” Vicki said. “That God used the cross and the foolishness of preaching to draw people to himself. And that’s what we’re saying to you, as foolish as it might sound. Jesus died so your sins could be forgiven. He gave his life and paid the penalty so you could be a true child of God. And he offers you the chance to believe in him right now.”

In passages like this, they clumsily tiptoe around a point I keep bringing up: that their vision of Jesus seems to have very little to do with the guy depicted in gospels, who prayed for his enemies as they drove nails into him, or said stuff like, "He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword." Their TurboJesus is a lot closer to the Elder Gods than any of the four gospels, so I'll ask the questions I keep asking:

Do they ever come up with an explanation as to why he was all lowly servant on his first trip? Was this lowly servant thing a pose he took on in order to attract followers? Because people living under the oppressive rule of a massive uncaring empire, would totally flock to some guy, who says, "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's" rather than one of the firebrand zealots trying to get people to take up arms against the oppressor. In that case, maybe the reason he's dropping the lowly servant pose and saying, "Time to exterminate the brutes!" is because it's the End of the World and he no longer has to worry about attracting followers and can give into his nature desire to burn them all.

Yeah, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to point out if the above is true, it doesn't speak well of Jesus. Heck, another theory, that maybe Jesus suffered so much on the cross that he went out of his mind from the pain and will be in no mood to save anyone when he returns, actually speaks better to him. You tend to have more sympathy towards someone who has gone mad, than you do towards a charlatan. But like I keep saying, over and over again, while Ellanjay pay lip service to the whole "Last will be first, first will be last" message of Jesus, at the same time, they can't impossibly envision everyone being on equal footing with God and they're not the Biggest Cheeses above all. Dammit! They keep making me fight the temptation to quote that Animal Farm line! Though it really does sum up their beliefs. I'll just link to one of Jesus's parables and move on.

Anyway, Unnamed Jewish People are like, "Oy vey! So what do we have to do to make with the mass conversions already?" giving Vicki and Judd a chance to walk them through The Prayer. They say it and the chapter ends with them feeling all smug and proud because if they hadn't, they would have no choice but to cackle at those bagel-munchers as they get spikes shoved into them while burning in Hell.

*I love Captain America, easily my favorite of the Avengers, and Captain America 2 is my favorite of the solo Marvel films, but I admit that I did spend a lot of that movie being like, "Okay, just what are his powers?" I was under the impression that the whole Super Soldier Serum thing just meant Steve was at the peak of human everything (endurance, healing, etc.), thus making it so he never has to go to the gym, but so many times I was like, "Unless said serum also gave him a Wolverine-style healing factor, there's no way Steve would walk away from that." Great movie, but still...

**Again, the most tiresome thing of the Kim Davis or the nutbags in Oregon self-martyrdom scandals, is that said participants always are so shocked, shocked that the evil corrupt government that they are loudly protesting against, may actually go through with the martyrdom part! I mean, whoever heard of martyrs actually suffering for their faith. I mean, really?

***Yes, I know that most of the Gospels were written decades after Jesus had lived and died, so you could easily point out that maybe, in order to bolster Jesus's credentials, said writers dug into Jewish scriptures or heard it from a friend of a friend, sort of thing. It probably wouldn't help you in the debate.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Stop Acting Like the Outcome Is Actually In Doubt!

Well, I'm here and ready to snark. Really don't have much more to say then that.

For those of you wondering whether there will be any epic, profanity-laded ragedumps, I hate to break it to you, but it's probably not going to happen. Ellanjay's writing comes in two flavors: infuriatingly sociopathic levels of wrong or punishingly dull. This week, they're in punishingly dull mode, and I am in despair. Yeah, the first one is rough on the sanity but at least, there are so many colorful ways of screaming, "This is so very wrong," and I can probably find some good clips on YouTube to liven things up. But this week...

We all know Ellanjay hate suspense, because it ran over their dog when they were kids or something. I could make a crack that they hate suspense because their target audience is made up of elderly dowagers with bad hearts, so naturally they don't want to put undue stress on them, but even by that standard, it's still painfully, punishingly dull.

The big problem I keep running into is because Ellanjay hate suspense, they've already explained, over and over again, exactly what will happen in these books. We also know that unlike most writers, who lay out a plan, only to have things go slightly off-kilter when it comes time to implement said plan, forcing the heroes to have to think on their feet, Ellanjay's plan will go exactly the way they'd laid it out.

They probably consider J.R.R. Tolkien to be a lesser writer for having Frodo, in the big, climatic moment the series has been building to, with so much at stake, have Frodo succumb to the Ring's influence. A hero with weaknesses and moral failings? What is at all compelling about that? Of course, they'd probably consider Tolkien to be suspect in the first place, because he lived and died a devout Catholic and, despite the uneasy alliance they've forged, the Christian Right still has inherent mistrust of those papists.

But we know exactly what will happen, because both the readers and the book characters have had everything laid out for them. That's shitty writing, but fine. You want to know what really makes this week's snark irritating? Despite all this, the characters are still going all "Oh noes! What will happen?" and acting like they have no freaking clue, again, demonstrating the irritating blend of Too Dumb to Live and Genre Savvy, we've all come to expect from these characters.

:deep breath:

For those going "tl;dr" I am despairing because most of my critiques regarding this week's snark is just me screaming, "STOP ACTING ALL WORRIED! YOU KNOW EXACTLY WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN! STOP PRETENDING LIKE THIS IS THE KIND OF SERIES WHERE IT'S POSSIBLE FOR SOMETHING TO THROW EVERYTHING OFF KILTER!" and there is nothing really entertaining at all about that.

Judging by the tone of the opening lines of this chapter, I'm wondering this was originally supposed to be the beginning for another book. Y'see, Left Behind: the Kids was originally published as forty incredibly thin books, thus allowing Ellanjay to milk more money from this cash cow. For all the complaints their subculture would have about JK Rowling (you just know Ellanjay probably have friends who passed along this article, not realizing that The Onion is a satirical newspaper), if you were to decide to buy the Harry Potter series, even if you only bought paperback editions and stayed away from used, Amazon sets the price for each individual book in a seven book series at about six or seven dollars. Even an English major, who is shitty at math, can tell you'd pay a lot less for the entire Harry Potter series than you would for a forty book series, averaging about five dollars per book.

Plus, as a fan of Harry Potter, I can tell you that you'd get a lot more from reading Harry Potter than you would from Left Behind. JK Rowling actually cares about telling a damn good story and her series is just magical and wonderful from beginning to end. Even if I am still a bit disappointed that Harry and Luna didn't wind up together. I thought they were just cute in their interactions with each other.

Anyway, eventually, someone involved with Left Behind: the kids had a brainstorm and thought, "Y'know we could just shove four of these little books into one volume, so they don't have to track down each individual book." But even the shoved together series comes out to twelve books. Even if we assume average eBook price of about 9.99 per volume, again readers are still getting screwed. Heck, even if you purchase the individual eBooks, at 1.99 (which looks to be what Amazon is charging) for each of the forty books, yeah, readers are really getting hosed by Ellanjay.

Y'know, I didn't expect to be doing so much math this week. As an English Major, I can tell you the stereotype people have about English Majors, about how we're utterly horrible at math, is totally true. It's one of the few stereotypes that are. Me and most of the people I studied with, along with the professors I studied under, would probably break down in hysterical tears if you asked us to do any math beyond the basics, without the aid of a calculator.

Anyway, Vicki is all "Oh noes" about the approaching GC army, even while she's thinking about how TurboJesus will show up and kill everyone. I suppose I could spend hours on TV Tropes to pinpoint the exact term for this kind of shitty writing trope, but that website is enough of a time suck as is. There's a reason they have a page called TV Tropes Will Ruin Your Life. Especially when this can be easily summed up with They Just Didn't Care and we can move onto the next plot point. Because I think it's been made abundantly clear that Ellanjay don't care and I can safely say that I've put more thought into one blog post than they did into their entire series.

A few good, brave-hearted RTCs try to get these heathen, Christ-killing Jews to abandon their faith and accept TurboJesus. They respond by saying, "We don't want your blasphemy! Stay away from us!" I'm surprised Ellanjay were able to resist the temptation to have said unnamed character scream, "The truth...It burns usss!" like a stereotypical exorcism patient, or at least be more stereotypically Jewish in their writing of said dialogue. Like say, "Oy vey, again, with the Jesus-talk. Driving me meshuggah you are with all this talk about Jesus. You'd think that Schmo parted the Red Sea for Israel, the way you go on and on about him. You want to learn a new tune?" After which, they'd go around doing something Jewish, like circumcising baby boys or eating matzo or challah, while they control all the world's finances or something.

Yes, I am well aware that Jewish does not mean Yiddish, but again, I was trying to make a point about how they view Jewish people. I'd say I was exaggerating for comedic effect, but I really wonder if what I typed is an exaggeration, like at all. They probably do see the Jewish people like that.

Judd and Vicki talk about how Chang says that Jerusalem will fall. They heroically managed to resist talking about how those killed, trying to defend their sacred city, will burn in hell forever, and we don't even get a passage where they shake their heads about how those Jews insist on remaining all inscrutable and Jewish.

Vicki nodded and closed the curtain. “Chang said in his last e-mail that Tsion was coming here to help bring his fellow Jews into the kingdom before it was too late. Tsion believes the Unity Army will capture many rebels and conquer Jerusalem.”

“Are you scared?”

Vicki hugged Judd. “I keep remembering what you said about sticking together no matter what. And if we’re attacked by the GC, at least we’ll die together.”

“I’d rather be alive to see Jesus when he comes back, but you’re right. From here on out, we stick close.”

Because I'm a drooling pervert (cut my writing teeth on fanfiction, what does that tell you?) who loves to read innuendo into the most innocuous passages, especially in Christian Fiction because they are the best unintentional creators of Ho Yay around, let's just say I'm fighting the urge to tell Vicki that given that Judd has demonstrated more affection/tension when he interacted with male characters than he ever does when he interacts with her, to quote the Immortal Randy Hickey, I think you're trying to sell a cat to a man who fancies dogs.

I often wonder what my life was like before I became a drooling pervert, capable of reading innuendo into everything. Maybe I had more friends, willing to hang out and watch movies with me, but can I really say that life was more interesting? I'm just sayin'.

We then cut to Black Guy, I mean, Lionel. Because in addition to being a drooling pervert, I also am a firm believer "Misery loves company." So I'm going to post the opening paragraphs to his section, just so we can all headdesk together. Because if I have to go through life with a freakishly flattened forehead, so should the rest of you!

Lionel Washington sat on his bed in Petra, scanning the list of names in his prayer diary. Many of them were highlighted in yellow and had the word home written after their name. Ryan Daley. Pete Davidson. Mark Eisman. Chloe Williams. It won’t be long until I see all of these people, he thought.

He wasn’t as sure about his other friends on the list. Rayford Steele. Buck Williams. Tsion Ben-Judah. Lionel knew from Chang Wong that Buck and Tsion were in Jerusalem. And Rayford Steele had returned to Petra in a chopper and was probably spending time with his grandson, Kenny. But what would happen in the morning? Would Jesus come back before the GC attacked? Already the Unity Army had Petra surrounded.

Again, the only criticism I can give to this passage involves screaming over and over again, "STOP ACTING LIKE YOU'RE A CHARACTER IN A WELL-WRITTEN SERIES WHERE THERE MIGHT ACTUALLY BE SOME DOUBT! YOU KNOW WHAT WILL HAPPEN! EVERYTHING WILL GO THE EXACT WAY YOUR SUBCULTURE'S INCREDIBLY CONVOLUTED PROPHECY SAYS IT WILL!"

As if they feel I haven't headdesked enough, they feel a need to drive it home, by having Lionel think this in the next paragraph: What if Tsion is wrong about Petra? What if Jerusalem stands and Petra falls?


If you're wondering about that whumping sound, again, it's me, because there really is no other response to give except to headdesk or headwall, if you prefer, over and over again.

Though this does allow for me to spout philosophy about writing and the rules of good entertainment in general. If y'all object, want me to "STFU!" and get back to the book, I'll put it inside brackets, so those inclined can scroll past it.

[TANGENT] You hear a lot of idiots say about Romantic Comedies that they're stupid because, "Well, duh, it's obvious that Julia Roberts will wind up with Richard Gere." I admit that I am not a fan of that genre, but my complaints more run the course of "Female character winds up a weaker character at the end than she was at the beginning, because apparently a woman can't be all strong and independent and care about her career and :gasp: have a man in her life."

But that complaint aside, idiots, who complain about how you totes know that the two MCs will become a couple, are missing the point. Every genre has its conventions and the people who pay money to see Romantic Comedies, are well aware of the conventions of said genre. They know the two MCs will wind up together. The question that separates good Romantic Comedies from bad is, "Do you care that they wind up together?"

Plus, the idiots, who complain about the conventions of entertainment marketed towards ladies (I can do a whole long rant about that, but I'll spare you for now), overlook the fact that all genres, even the Big Boy action films marketed towards manly men, have conventions as well. It's a basic rule of plotting that a story has to have structure with each event unfolding logically from the one that proceeded it. Or in other words, the principle known as Chekov's Gun.

So people who go to James Bond movies, generally have a template about the movie they're about to watch. Bad Guy stirs up Trouble, James Bond is called to deal with it. James Bond gets some gadgets, sexes up a few ladies, has some epic car chases and fight scenes, but ultimately defeats the Bad Guy and all is well until the next movie that is. Again, the question with James Bond and other action movies isn't "Will the Hero win?" as it is "Will the audience care if the Hero wins?"

You can make a case that the movies in the MCU are equally predictable, but again, the people involve know the conventions and know their audience. They know that a billionaire battling evil in robotic armor that he built himself is inherently ridiculous, but it is also inherently awesome. Part of why people love superheroes, either in comic or cinematic form, is the ridiculous awesome spectacle of it all. We know that there are all kinds of physics issues related to Superman's ability to fly, but at the same time, we really do want to believe a man can fly.

Superhero movies are at their best when they manage to pull off the hat trick: they make little nods at the silliness, but for the most part, the concept is played straight, which makes sense. When Hero goes off to face Villain, there should be some tension, so no having both sides unleashing constant puns at each other.

But playing it straight doesn't mean "So Over the Top, Dark And Gritty that Your Movie Actually becomes Outright Unpleasant to Watch.

Your heroes also don't have to be complete goody-goods. Heck, one of the reasons everyone loves Han Solo* (including me) is that from the start, we are shown that he's much more morally grey than Luke, who falls more into the traditional hero mode. Han Solo is initially in it for the money. He probably knows about the Rebellion and the Empire, but he's more concerned about getting the Old Guy and the Kid to Alderaan and collecting enough to pay off the debts he's acquired.

Heck, I think that's why everyone ate up The Guardians of the Galaxy** with a silver spoon. For those who haven't seen that movie (and why haven't you seen it, you Un-American Islamo-Commie-Fascist Bastard?!) the titular characters are initially in it for selfish reasons. "Work together so we can collect the bounty on this weird-ass artifact, then we'll split the money and go our separate ways," is their initial plan, but when it becomes clearer that bigger shit is at work here and lives are at stake, they, like Han Solo, rise to occasion and become heroes. [/TANGENT]

All right, I'm done for now.

Lionel doesn't really do anything of note in his section. Just spends it navel-gazing and thinking about everyone he's met, as a service to educate the stupider readers in the audience. We do get this line, which you really wish Ellanjay took five minutes to think through the implications of:

Kids, Lionel thought. We haven’t been kids since this whole thing started. The disappearances had forced them to grow up fast.

Again, as me and pretty much everyone who comments on this blog will point out, childhood would pretty much cease to be a thing once the Rapture happened. In fact, as Fred has noted many, many times, pretty much none of the stuff on Tim LaHaye's prophecy list can happen, because people will be like, "Holy Fuck! All children under some arbitrarily determined cut-off age, are gone!" Or to put it in YouTube form, the world of Left Behind will resemble Children of Men a helluva lot more than it would "Buck buys a range rover." Seriously, the power of that scene in Children of Men, where two warring parties are motivated to declare a temporary ceasefire, in order to protect the first baby born in years...Alfonso Cuaron understood the power that the mere sight of a newborn would evoke in a world without children. Pity, that Ellanjay don't have a tenth of his story-telling abilities.

[Slight Tangent] I am morbidly curious about a movie adaptation proposed for the For!Kids version of Left Behind. Again, I doubt it will be good. Shitty source material usually leads to a shitty movie. In the cases where shitty source material led to an adaptation that's actually worth your time, it's because someone involved recognized that "Shitty source material is shitty," took what worked, jettisoned what didn't, and used it as a launching pad for their own story.

Like as Linkara points out in his retrospective on ROM Space Knight, part of what makes the series so remarkable is that the creators were given little to nothing to work with. Toy company wanted a comic series to promote a new toy, so they sought out Marvel. Marvel Comics basically gave the writers a toy and told them, "Tell a story about this toy." The writers were given almost no backstory or details to work with and the toy itself wasn't that impressive (its features are basically, it lights up and makes noise), yet with so little, they were able to create a damn good series out of something that got its start as a cheap tie-in product. So much so that you really wish that MARVEL COMICS WOULD GET THE RIGHTS BACK TO THE CHARACTER SO THE COMICS CAN BE REPRINTED AND READERS ARE NO LONGER FORCED TO SCROUNGE AROUND FOR USED COPIES!

But given that Tim LaHaye's grandson has been cast as Nicky (though you really wish you could get a total ham like Tim Curry or Nicholas Cage)***, I doubt the poor people involved with the production of that film will have much creative leeway. But given that book and film are different mediums, they will be forced to make creative changes (because even an epic like Lord of the Rings can only get away with being so long) in order to make the story flow better. Heck, I'm willing to give it points in that rather than spend entirely too much time dicking around producing a "subversive newspaper," the kids actually show some brain cells and GTFO to the countryside to start setting up a farm, so as to be ready when God kills off all plant and animal life. For that reason alone, I'm already willing to say that the movie will be better than the books. It will still be a terrible movie, but it won't be as terrible as the books. [/Slight Tangent]

Next section, surprisingly, is told from Conrad's perspective rather than Judd, Vicki, or Lionel's. Granted it is entirely tell, because Ellanjay use Tell when they should use Show and Show, when they should Tell, as anyone who has snarked any Ellanjay series will tell you.

Conrad Graham watched the sun move toward the horizon from a basement window of an abandoned house in Palos Hills, Illinois. He and the other members of the Wisconsin group had finally settled into several homes near Enoch Dumas, the shepherd of a growing group of Christ followers from many different backgrounds. Enoch spoke with a Spanish accent, which Conrad loved. One night a Latino woman who had lived in an abandoned laser-tag park told her story. The next night it was an African-American man who admitted to everything from grave robbing to murder. Kids from the street and drug addicts all had stories of how God had reached out to them.

Conrad had been able to stay with Enoch himself and considered it as big a privilege as being in Petra. They had the chance to bring people to God every day. Though many had cautioned them to be more careful, Enoch and his followers wouldn’t pass up a chance to help people receive Christ.

Again, you really wish that this part was being told by the people mentioned in the paragraphs, rather than an outsider like Conrad. Because from the sounds of it, they have experienced actual suffering, known real misery, which, no matter how many times Ellanjay say otherwise, Conrad hasn't. Since converting, Conrad has been safely cossetted and protected. He's observed the physical and psychological suffering, but only at arms' length. So he comes across as a one of those idiots who think that because they went on a tour of a slum, without talking to a single resident that they paid to gawk at like an animal in a zoo, they know all about poverty and its effects.

So yeah, Conrad's talking about how these stories affected him, is much less compelling and interesting than it would be to actually hear these people tell their stories firsthand. It's one of the reasons why, whether you agree with Johnny Cash's religious views or not, you can still enjoy his music. Johnny Cash may have never been a hardened convict, but he is a man who has known pain and suffering, so when he sings songs with Christian themes, you can believe that he knows what it's like to desperately crave love and redemption. Unlike too many artists who indulge in adolescent puerile romanticism about how life is painful because they're not happy, Johnny Cash knows his shit. And again, serves as a nice reminder that Christian Art Doesn't Always Suck, so forgive me for indulging in that little tangent.

I will say that I do raise an eyebrow at some of the details. Like rather than live in an abandoned laser-tag park (is Laser-Tag even still a thing?), why didn't Unnamed Latino Woman move into one of the many abandoned homes that would have, y'know, beds and kitchens, and be much more livable than a Laser-Tag Park?

Granted this is supposed to be near Chicago, which has been nuked twice by my reckoning, but we've already established that Ellanjay are all "Nukes? How do they work?" when it comes to that stuff. In fact, sometimes I dream of, out of morbid curiosity, asking Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye during one of those scenes where they chat with fans of their works, "How do nukes work and what are the aftereffects of nuclear warfare?" I know the answer would be disappointing and I'd headdesk in response, but I think I've developed Stockholm Syndrome thanks to this series. I'm like a male praying mantis: I can't be content unless they bite my head completely off.

As for the guy who confessed to grave-robbing, my head canon was it was done in the wake of the Rapture. With everything in disarray, he decided to help himself to the jewelry left behind in the coffins of the dead people who were bamfed into Heaven. The murder part can be explained as "It's the End of the World as We Know It and No One Feels fine!" Of course, in all likelihood, Unnamed Confessor is guilty of this stuff the way the guy mentioned in this post claims to have broken all ten commandments before the age of fifteen. Desperate times leading to desperate measures, causing otherwise good people to commit horrible acts, because they're stressed and can't see any other alternatives? That's Unpossible! Almost as unpossible as the majority of the perpetrators of horrific atrocities, for the most part, believing themselves to be good people with genuine love for friends and family and believe that the ends will ultimately justify the means.

As you guessed, not really much happens, because nothing ever happens in these books, but we do get this moment that I found humorous.

Enoch nodded. “I know what you mean. But I don’t think it’ll happen until morning.”

“Why is that? Doesn’t the Bible say no one knows when Christ will return?”

“True. But eight in the morning our time will be the seven-year anniversary of the signing of the treaty between Carpathia and Israel. To the minute.”

I'm forced to conclude, like Firedrake, that Nicky instituted One-World Time, along with One-World-Government and One-World-Religion. It's the only way, I'll stop laughing long enough to finish this snark. Because of course, the writers of the Bible knew about the modern AM/PM measuring of time, just like they knew about hours, though as any scholar would tell you, the hour is a relatively new measurement when it comes to time. Heck, most time-related measurements are new. We didn't really become obsessed with making sure X happened at precisely X hours and minutes, until the invention of the railroad forced us to basically map and measure all this out, because trains run on stuff called fuel; therefore, it's important that they not breakdown in the middle of nowhere, because they ran out of fuel, due to differences in time zones leading to miscalculations.

I know I've quoted this bit from Roger Ebert's delightfully scathing review of End of Days (aka the movie where Arnold fights Satan), but I'm going to do it again, because it just sums up the hilarity so much.

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.

The chapter ends with Judd. He can't sleep and talks with Lina. You'll be happy to know that Shivte and his sons have embraced RTC-ianity and abandoned the faith of their fathers. Woo...S-Wife isn't mentioned and since from what I can tell, she isn't ever given a name, I'm going to always call her S-Wife. Because Shivte's RTC Wife is too long to type and I'm lazy.

Jamal wants Judd to go with him to the Damascus Gate For Reasons! I wish I could say I knew or cared about what these reasons where, but hey. Judd wants to take Vicki with him, but Jamal's all "It's too dangerous!" But Judd is like "I can't leave her behind" and Lina and Vicki enter and are all "We're coming with you!"

And that's it for this week. Hope I managed to make some good snark out of the poor material I was given and I hope all the tangents weren't too long or too boring to handle. :) Take care until next week, folks, when we get more goysplainning and an Obligatory Conversion Scene. Because Ellanjay feel we will embrace Satanism if we aren't given an Obligatory Conversion Scene at various intervals, regardless of whether it has any relevance to the plot or if it slows down action that would actually be worth reading, instead of just having the characters tell us what happened.

*If you asked me, point-blank who were my first childhood crushes, I would have to say, "Either Tommy Oliver or Han Solo." And I've never gotten over either one because you very rarely get over childhood crushes. And yes, I am totally a supporter of "Han Shot First."It was just so perfect a scene. It clearly demonstrated that Han is much more morally gray than Luke in that he doesn't hesitate to shoot Greedo nor is he too shaken up by it afterwards, yet at the same time, it sows the seeds for Han's future heroic turn in that he's not completely ruthless in that he waits until Greedo makes his intentions known, before shooting him.

**I never foresaw that movie being as insanely successful as it was. I figured, "It's an August release about a team that few people, aside from rabid comic book fans, would have heard of. Best bet: it'll be a sleeper." Instead, it wound up being the highest-grossing movie of 2014, thus proving (just as the popularity of Justin Bieber and Dancing with the Stars) I shouldn't go into stock market analysis.

***Admittedly Nicholas Cage was boringly terrible as Rayford Steele, but admit it, if they had casted him as Nicky and Cage was in full-on gonzo bear suit-wearing punching-random-people-mode, you'd totally see that movie. Again, never try to cast Nicholas Cage as a voice of reason character: no one who named their kid, Kal-El, could ever be believable as a Voice of Reason. Oh and for those of you have only seen clips from his take on Wicker Man, let me assure you: they are just as hilarious in context as they are out of it.