Sunday, June 28, 2015

Judd and Vicki Are Filled with Christ's Love!

Okay, it's Sunday, I've got a cold drink, and I'm ready to snark. Let's get to this.

Like I said last week, we're on the last chapter of Book 11. Next week, we start the very last one, Book 12. :high-pitched squeal: The end is in sight, people!

So last week, Judd finally proposed to Vicki, in a fashion, I found to be incredibly, incredibly creepy rather than romantic. But I realize I'm not a good judge of what's creepy and what's romantic. I'm probably the least romantic person ever, given that I'd rather watch the Avengers 2: Age of Ultron with awesome good guys beating the crap out of bad guys, than suffer through another edition of White People About to Kiss aka a Nicholas Sparks adaptation. Like I said last week, I find most grand romantic gestures, in fiction and in life, to be creepy as hell, especially Judd's, what with him convincing Vicki that she's about to die in order to spice up his proposal. Were it not for the fact that TurboJesus will show up in about a year and will take away romance, as well as sex, for everyone, I'd give them eighteen months at the most.

Lionel has escaped the clutches of whatever Black Hole he was sucked into, because after being gone for so many chapters, he shows up again, congratulating Judd on finally popping the question to Vicki. I suppose I could make a tasteless joke about that's not all Judd's going to get to pop, but yeah, it feels kind of wrong. Plus I've made so many jokes about how the RTCs' regressive notions regarding the filthy act of sex, ends up leading to more problems down the road, than if they just treated sex like it was: a natural act carried about by people who love each other. But if they just talked about sex honestly and openly, then they'd have to learn about stuff like consent, which would require admitting :gasp: :choke: that those on top of the hierarchy aren't always right in everything they do, a notion that's just too big for them to comprehend.

Of course, Vicki, being the good Lady Against Women that she is, doesn't share my views regarding grand romantic gestures.

After Vicki recovered from the shock of the creative way Judd had asked her to marry him, she socked him in the shoulder for scaring her with the GC trick. “You just about gave me a heart attack! I thought we were both dead.”

Judd smiled. “I thought it would be memorable. Who wants to tell everybody a boring engagement story?”

I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised that Vicki didn't immediately curb-stomp the shit out of Judd for putting her through emotional hell, but y'all know I see Judd and Vicki's relationship forming not so much because they really love each other and can't imagine not being with one another, but because like I said before, they're desperate to get laid and are only getting married, because they're too chicken to commit the sin of premarital sex. Even though, they could have premarital sex and just ask for forgiveness afterwards and be free and clear, right? Because most RTCs, if pressed, will admit that no sin permanently separates you from God, so long as you confess it and ask for forgiveness.

But like I said, I am like the least romantic person ever, so I'm not a good judge of this sort of thing. Every time I see a big lavish wedding or a grand romantic gesture, I'm silently thinking, "This will end quickly." Call it an unfair generalization, if you must, but most of the time, I turn out to be correct. Grand romantic gestures are great and cinematic, but a relationship cannot be sustained on them alone. Eventually, you and whoever you love, are going to have to be able to forge a relationship during all the quiet and boring parts.

I will admit that given that Judd and Vicki have a year, tops, before TurboJesus shows up, that they're probably not going to have to deal with the emotional fallout of a relationship ending, but still.

Marshall has misgivings, saying that while he's not completely cool with the idea of Judd and Vicki getting married, at the same time, they have shown good judgment throughout the dating process. Or in other words, nothing helps prevent the heinous act of premarital sex like having them spend the majority of their time in different hemispheres. Yeah, I need to shut up about it, just like I need to stop making digs at RTCs' repression, but it's just too damn easy! Let me have this!

“What do you mean?” Judd said.

“Let’s just say people have been watching you two to see if you’d become clingy with each other. You know, to see if you’d be so ‘in love’ that you wouldn’t be able to concentrate on anything else. But we’ve been pleased with how you’ve handled this.”

In my defense, read the above quote and tell me that Marshall isn't basically commending Judd and Vicki for not jumping each others bones as soon as they could. Granted, his comment is pretty damn coded (because RTCs would be up in arms if any of the characters, even the bad guys, committed actual sin), but I stand by that interpretation. I know the RTC culture has a hard-on for Victorian-style courtship, but somehow I wonder if that's even accurate. I may not claim to be an expert on the Victorian era, but I doubt that even they were as repressed as the RTCs of today are. Newsflash: Homosexuality, premarital sex, as well as abortions, didn't magically come into being with the Roe v. Wade ruling. They've been around probably since we crawled out of the primordial ooze and started dwelling on land. The difference is that now we actually talk about it, instead of tacitly pretending like it doesn't exist.

Marshall advises Judd and Vicki to go through marriage counseling before going through all this and offers to set them up. I have mixed feelings about how much good that will do, though. If they were seeing someone who actually knew something about psychology, maybe it would work, but The Internet abounds with countless testimonials as to how the RTC version of counseling, doesn't work. The states that actually educate teenagers on sex and birth control, rather than just screech about how they shouldn't do it because it's evil and against God (aka abstinence-only education in a nutshell), have lower abortion and teen pregnancy rates than their abstinence-only counterparts.

Yeah, I know, I should stop it with all the harping on sex, but I still see it as a larger symptom of the problems in the RTC culture. They would like to believe that refusing to acknowledge a problem makes it go away, but it doesn't work that way. To quote the Immortal Johnny Cash*: what's done in the dark, we'll eventually be brought to the light.

Plus, I continue to wonder just what do Vicki and Judd know about each other. Can either of them name the other's favorite book or movie? Does Judd know Vicki's dreams about the future? Okay, that last question is a bad example, given that like all good RTCs, once Vicki kneeled before Zod, she became a good, faithful member of the collective and her dreams involve seeing all the heathens die and burn in hell forever, but still. If you were to ask me what those two have in common, what kind of bond they share (besides, y'know, TurboJesus), I'd be forced to say that they're carbon-based lifeforms and neither can survive without oxygen. But the RTCs probably feel that the fact that one has a penis and the other has a vagina, is reason enough for them to get married. To heck with that weird stuff regarding mutual respect and an emotional bond.

I swear, eventually I will stop repeating myself over and over again. I apologize, but like I said, they make it too damn easy. If it bugs you, just turn these posts into a drinking game**: every time I repeat myself, take a swig of your poison of choice.

Judd asks if they could have Token Jew perform the ceremony and Marshall is like, "email him and ask yourself." So Judd writes an email as does Vicki and they send it off to their fellow RTCs, who respond with a flurry of "I'm so happy for you" emails that are really too boring to be worth snarking. Chloe and St. Rayford are among those who respond, though I was wondering if Chloe hadn't gotten beheaded by now. Oh well, if she hasn't, she probably will be soon. Besides, I really shouldn't devote too much thought to this series and its characters, given that Ellanjay clearly don't.

[slight tangent] I know Chloe's duty as a Tribble is to run the Magical Co-op. I often wonder if she got assigned this task, because the authors, for some reason, think that keeping up a massive trading network so RTCs can get necessary supplies (food, medicine, etc.) during the Apocalypse, is light work, well within the reach of a weak, womanly female like Chloe. If so, someone really should break it to them that Chloe's work is pretty much the lifeblood of the organization, way more important Our Buck's publishing of slightly disdainful (but not to disdainful) articles on the Internet. People kind of need food and water to live, to say nothing of the other supplies that running a Resistance network demands. [/slight tangent]

Token Jew writes back, telling Judd and Vicki to seek the Lord in prayer when deciding where to live. But Westin offers to fly them to Petra. They immediately accept his offer, which may be the smartest decision they've made in this chapter. Though when your options are basically to squat in a hole-in-the-ground and survive on canned food and bottled water, while living in fear of GC raids, or go to Petra, where Zod will smack GC planes out of the sky and you get all the fresh food and water you want, you'd probably choose Petra. But given that previous snarks have proven that the city of refugee where they are protected from those who want to stamp out free speech and the right to exercise your religion, is about as free and democratic as the Democratic Peoples' Republic of North Korea***. Because Nicky is evil; therefore a worldwide dictatorship under his rule, is wrong. But Token Jew is good; therefore, he is well within his rights to sic his God on anyone who doesn't agree with him.

Sometimes I wonder if the only objection RTCs have to the government of North Korea or really any dictatorship, is that they run roughshod over the rights of people they like, or in other words, Christians and Capitalists. So long as you thoroughly kiss American ass and persecute the right people, the RTCs probably don't care about your atrocious human rights record.

So Vicki and Judd decide to go to Petra and to my surprise, they actually decide to take Lionel with them. I thought for certain, after saying his one line, Lionel would disappear into the abyss, never to be seen again. So I suppose Lionel ranks a little above some of the other tribbles, because while they bring him with them to Petra, they don't bother to invite any of their other friends in the States to the city of refuge. I wonder if that means Lionel is still the series' Butt Monkey, though at the same time, I continue to wonder if even in death, Ryan is and will always bear the title of Butt Monkey, rendering this debate pointless.

But for some reason (probably padding), Westin only has room for Judd on his plane, so rather than have a few more days to get to know each other while living in the city of refuge, Judd decides to go ahead to Petra, to set things up for Vicki and Lionel.

Judd and Westin talk a little about Armageddon on the flight, and you just know they long for the day in which they finally get to "Exterminate all the Brutes!" like I said before. They want to see the day when the blood of their enemies reaches the bridles of the horses, no matter how much they try to weasel out of saying it directly. Because like Slacktivist said, Ellanjay are basically Jonah in that they preach the gospel not because they genuinely want to save people from Hell, but because they want to see the nasty, sinful sinners get what's coming to them.

Though in a rare show of...okay I don't know what to call this. Competence seems too much, but adequacy might work. Anyway, Ellanjay reject their inclination towards padding and don't come up with stupid obstacles in order to keep Judd from getting to Petra for a dozen more chapters. Hey, life has taught me to be thankful for small favors.

Judd arrives in Petra and begins setting up.

Meanwhile, Vicki watches the news and thinks about how she's worried about Judd. Why, I don't know. They never say, because that would actually develop her character.

According to the news, the water has changed back from blood into water, which means the third bowl judgment or whatever, is over. I suppose I could look up that infographic someone linked me to in an earlier post, so I'd know just what the hell was going to happen next, but like I said, I'm lazy. Plus, that infographic...were it not for the fact that it was articulating what millions of people actually believe will happen, I'd assume it was created by a schizophrenia patient with a fixation on the Bible and some computer skills, after having a particularly incoherent dream. Though that seems unfair somehow: even someone in the grips of a psychotic break could probably come up with a more coherent story/timeline for all this.

After watching the news, Vicki listens to a recording sent by Chang, which has Nicky ranting and raving about the Jews with that Suhail Akbar guy whom I don't care about. As you probably guessed, I only made it through this boring and totally unsnarkable scene by envisioning Nicky and Suhail, as Cobra Commander and Destro, respectfully.

You should be used to this by now, my weakness for eighties cartoons created for the sole purpose selling toys to sugar-high eight-year-olds. But I really do long for the sheer WTFery and the massive plot holes of eighties G.I. Joe. At least it was entertainingly bad, plus Chris Latta's high-pitched raspy voice...like I said before, even when Cobra Commander's plans made no sense whatsoever (which was often), at least you could be entertained by all of it.

I suppose Nicky raving about the Jews is supposed to be proof that he is the real anti-Semites, unlike RTCs like Ellanjay, who just want the Jews to abandon the culture and faith that has sustained through countless millennia of persecution and become good RTCs.

Anyway, next we cut to Judd, who meets a German actor named Rainer Kurtzmann. While we are spared his "How I came to love TurboJesus" spiel (though odds are we'll get it laid out for us later), I think we can safely assume that Rainer is basically Rainier Wolfcastle from The Simpsons. Because Ellanjay could take the time out to create characters with unique identities beyond their saved/unsaved or ethnic/nationalistic background, but that would just require more effort than they're willing to give.

Like I said, why be like the Shakers and insist upon creating a quality product that can be used and enjoyed by everyone, when you can, with much less effort, just slap a Jesus fish on a piece of crap. Not only does slapping a Jesus fish involve less work, but you also can make more money much faster, because your niche group is so desperate for reading material (and they can only read within a specific niche) that they'll accept whatever you put out. Besides, Quality would make them think, which is scary!

Rainer is shuffled off-screen for no real reason and Judd continues to walk around, not doing anything of note at all. We do get this bit, which seriously makes me go, "Seriously?"

The conversation was so interesting that Judd and Westin stayed past their deadline to get back to Petra before dark, so the group made room for them. As the sun went down, Judd watched the group go through their complex routine of securing the hideout. A few days after the sun plague began, the group had burned the top of their house to make it look like the others surrounding it.

Judd found it difficult to sleep in the enclosed hideaway. It was so different than the camp in Wisconsin, where they felt safe at all hours. A team kept watch over video screens throughout the night, looking for any irregular GC movement.

Okay, I will say, in the first paragraph's defense, that they aren't at Petra. Why they're not there? I don't know. I'll just assume "Padding!" and move on.

But the second one...Judd is shocked that a resistance group that is firmly in Nicky's crosshairs has to do stuff like go into lockdown and keep up monitor duty even at night? What the hell has he and the American Tribbles been doing? This is basic stuff that any group in hiding has to deal with! Seriously, meth is not a breakfast food, Ellanjay!

Judd starts to go out in the morning, only to be stopped by a female member of the group who says that it's not safe to go out until the sun is fully up.

The chapter ends with Judd getting a phone call from Chang, aka one of several other characters he's had more meaningful interaction with than he has with Vicki. Chang reports that the sun plague is over, which means that the RTCs can no longer dick around, watching with amusement as all those heathens burn alive. Granted it also means that their delicate ears are no longer strained by all that off-key screaming, but still.

Judd is heartbroken, because he's a million miles away from her in hostile territory, but like I've said, I've passed the point of giving a shit about his and Vicki's love life.

The chapter ends with this exchange between Chang and Judd. I wish I could say I understood or even cared about what was going on. Because I, like the honey badger, don't care.

“Where are you?” Chang said.

“You’re not going to believe it,” Judd said.

And that's it for book 11. We've made it through 11 out of 12 volumes. While I know there will probably be plenty of ragedumping and f-bombs to come, I feel I need to bask in this accomplishment for awhile. Y'all enjoy yourselves until next week.

*That was put in there not only because it's Johnny Cash and he's awesome, but as a reminder that Christian art doesn't always suck.

**I should probably not encourage drinking games, but sometimes...you gotta do what you gotta do in order to survive. Just don't drink and drive or do anything that you'd hate to have to explain to a loved one or the cops once you've sobered up. No matter how satisfying it'd be to tap out lengthy Morse Code messages on Ellanjay's skull using a tire iron, it just isn't worth it. Apparently, you can't commit justifiable homicide in defense of good art.

***North Korea is the leading exemplar of a rule I have: never trust any country that has to advertise how good it is in its name. America may be a democracy and we're all arrogant and proud of ourselves, but at least we don't go around calling ourselves the Free Democratic States of America. We just say, "We're the United States of America," and let that speak for itself. I cite as further examples of said rule: The Peoples' Republic of China and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Whenever you have to advertise how free and democratic your country is by using its name, you need to take a long, hard look at yourself.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Create Your Own Head Canon*

All right, everybody! I'm back from vacation and yesterday, I enjoyed some good storytelling in the form of the latest Pixar film, Inside Out. Seriously, people see that movie. So now, time to tear some bad storytelling a new one.

Well I've read ahead and those of you expecting my usual amount of ragedumps complete with numerous deployments of the F-bomb, hate to break it to you, but it's mostly action scenes, aka the material I always struggle to snark because since no one ever faces any actual physical or psychological damage, it all comes across as a long series of dialogue and action verbs. In order to keep this interesting, keep myself from lapsing into a boredom-induced coma, I'm going to picture the opening scene (where Howard, Vicki, and Judd run from the GC) as being scored to the Benny Hill theme. Yes, I know I've made that joke before, but the Benny Hill theme adds humor to any scene it's scored to, so let me have this!

Anyway, like I said, the opening is an action scene with Howard, Vicki, and Judd running from the GC. I'd make a Keystone Cops reference, but that feels like an insult to the Keystone Cops. Probably even they were more competent than the GC!

They do try to make it suspenseful with the GC goon firing actual bullets at them. This surprises me, because I thought that Ellanjay had established that the GC, being too femmey to use actual guns like Real Men! used laser weapons to take out their quarry. But Ellanjay seem to hate consistency almost as much as they hate showing, so I shouldn't be too surprised.

Like I said, given that nothing happens, I have no choice but to gnaw at a few nits like a starving dog on a bone. We do get this mention, which I found odd:

Judd had played enough football to know how to make himself look menacing to quarterbacks on the other side of the line. He gritted his teeth and lowered his shoulder. The older man dropped the pole, turned, and ran toward the terminal entrance, just as Judd heard a loud thump at the door behind him.

I have to say, maybe it's been mentioned before, but this is the first time they ever mentioned that Judd played football. Honestly, it's not too much of a stretch for me to picture Judd as a jock. And given what we know about football and their ugly history of covering up information regarding the effects of repeated concussions on the brain...yeah, I'm going to stop now, not only because obvious joke is obvious, but I'm worried that I'm straying into uncomfortable territory here. I'll just say that football, along with a lot of other sports, is incredibly stupid when you think about it and post a cartoon here.

Judd and Vicki and Howard go through a car chase, after which Judd calls Westin and they have a conversation about travel logistics that's so boring, it is actually painful to read. I got through it by flipping through the pages as quickly as I could, much in the way, the only way to read the infamous fanfiction "Celebrian" is to start scrolling as fast as possible and keep scrolling until you reach the end. Some friendly words of advice: if you must Google "Celebrian," make sure you do it around someone you're not ashamed to cry in front of.

Either way, the only interesting part is the end, where we have this conversation. I wish I could say I understood why the hell St. Rayford would be at all upset about anything, but I'm too lazy and bored to care. If you want to know more, get a copy of the book and look it up for yourself.

“I have to know, is this going to affect the way the Trib Force looks at me?”

Westin paused. “I told the Trib Force this was my idea.”

“But that’s not true—”

“Right. So kick me out of the choir. Steele chewed me out, said I was playing hot dog with people’s lives, and I apologized.”

“But this wasn’t your fault. I was the one—”

“Judd, I took the blame. Maybe I shouldn’t have, but I did. You’re square with them, okay? See you at noon.”

Like I said, why Rayford would get his undies in a bunch over anything that's happened, I don't know and I don't care. It's probably related to the Scream-style Morality that governs this series where the actions of the heroes are always right, regardless of the outcome, because they are the heroes. Conversely, the villains' actions are always wrong, regardless of the outcome, because they are villains. Yeah, while I don't know how exactly Ellanjay go about creating their characters (probably involves putting every stereotype they can think of onto paper, interspaced with masturbation breaks), but it's amazing how all the background characters know they are background characters, second fiddles to the great and powerful Main Characters for whom the Earth revolves. Apparently whenever they come into being, they are given a copy of the script and know that while at some point, they'll have a brief moment in the spotlight where they say a few lines or play a few bars, after that, they fade back into the collective.

After the chase scene, we cut to Vicki's perspective. What do we get to calm our nerves after such high octane excitement? Exposition. So much Exposition. :whimpers: Y'know after seeing Inside Out** and its amazing storytelling, I thought plunging into back into the LB-verse would have an effect akin to starving a junkyard dog, how when you turn it loose, it just attacks anything that moves. But what gets me is that while this series is bad, well, it's not even uniquely bad in a way that's memorable or fun to talk about. If the fanfic, "Celebrian," is akin to eating a hot fudge sundae where everything is replaced with shit, this week's selection is like eating rice cakes in that even cardboard has more of a taste than that.

Yeah, I know, I'm really going to pay for all these complaints about how boringly bad this series is, if not, next week, then at some point in the future (because I'm seriously tempting the fates and those mothers are real bitches), but still...

Vicki is disturbed by news from Oregon. I have no problem believing that of the estimated 168746851 places she's visited in the series, that at some point, she stopped in Oregon, but given that we know nothing about said believers, not even their names, and this is the first time they've been mentioned in, like, forever, I'm going to scream at the top of my lungs the same thing I keep screaming at the top of my lungs regarding this series: WHY SHOULD I CARE?!

The Tribulation Force continued moving people and supplies around the country and the world, though the Global Community had tried to adapt. News from Oregon disturbed Vicki and the others when they found out about a new GC plan that affected believers.

“The GC moved into the lava tubes in Oregon,” Mark said a few days after Judd and Vicki returned.

“Lava tubes?” Charlie said.

“They’re natural rock formations made by volcanoes,” Mark said. “Miles of tunnels believers have been using since we were forced to go underground. Once the plague of heat hit, GC survivors decided to move into them at night because the temperature is so cool during the day. They surprised some believers, and a bunch of them were executed.”

I suppose this also could be a callback to the adult books. Ellanjay are fond of doing that, throwing in little callbacks to the adult books. I guess they consider it a treat for those who suffered through those books. If they didn't, maybe they're hoping this will convince the kiddos to pick up the adult books. But like I said before, if you have to read a bunch of supplementary material in order to understand what the hell is going on in your book series/TV series/movie, THEN YOU HAVE FAILED IN YOUR STORYTELLING! A READER SHOULD BE ABLE TO ENJOY THE SHOW AND UNDERSTAND WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON, EVEN IF THEY DON'T HAVE ENCYCLOPEDIC KNOWLEDGE OF THE CHARACTERS!

I basically tell the same thing, regarding some of the stuff related to General Grievous in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. I'm not going to doubt the fans' assertions that most of this stuff is explained in the Clone Wars shorts that came out before the movie. I admit that I haven't seen said shorts, but I'm not going to cast doubt on their assertions that they are better than the prequels (because it seems everyone is better at telling stories in the Star Wars-verse than George Lucas), I will continue to say that the fact General Grievous's scenes don't make any sense if the movie-goer hasn't seen those shorts, proves that George Lucas failed at that aspect of storytelling. I could go into a long rant of the other things that sucked about the prequels, but really that dead horse has been thoroughly flogged. Plus, this blog is a deconstruction of Left Behind: the Kids, not an endless rant about how much the Star Wars prequels sucked. Though they did suck and we must never forget it.

Anyway, my personal head canon, regarding the Oregon believers, is that when the GC stumbled onto them while taking shelter, the GC, noticing that the RTCs were well-supplied and their lands were protected from the heat, asked the RTCs for help, because they have a desperate, starving population to take care of. And because the RTCs follow the gospel of "I got mine. Get yours, Jack!" they attacked the GC, forcing the GC to defend themselves. Yeah, I know, Ellanjay would be appalled at my interpretation, but I'm appalled at their interpretation of Jesus, so we're even.

Vicki's like "Why couldn't anyone have helped them?" Mark says that the believers were too cut off for other groups to reach them, which is actually a sensible answer. With all the constant back-to-back Acts of God, communication systems as well as roadways, are probably shot to hell. Though in my personal head canon, Mark says, "Why are you sad? They got bamfed into Heaven at the minute of death. They get to spend eternity bathing in the light of Heaven, while we have to struggle to survive on canned food and bottled water. In addition, by dying as martyrs, they get even more points with God. In fact, why are we sitting here and talking about stuff when we could be seeking martyrdom as well. Let's go stand in front of the nearest GC building and preach the Gospel to every officer we see."

Because seriously, do Ellanjay ever give a reason like at all, as to why the Tribbles don't actively seek martyrdom, even though they know what all will happen and they have received what no one in the real world does: actual confirmation that God exists and that all this stuff is true. Except for the Social Gospel, but that's a whole 'nother kettle of fish we'll deal with later.

At the end of the section, we find out that apparently the Tribbles have decided to split Vicki and Judd up. The text claims it's because Vicki has become a main contact for younger believers, whereas they need Judd's manly strength to unload supplies at other locations. But we all know it's because Ellanjay can't enjoy their solid-gold Humvees or diamond-studded swimming pools if they can't have an island in the Caribbean to go with it.

I know, I make that joke, complete with Weird Al song, a lot, but dammit! They make it so easy! Even shooting fish in a barrel would present more of a challenge!

Next section is from Judd's perspective. Judd agonizes over whether he should ask Vicki to marry him. He loves her, but worries that if he asks her and she says no, that'll screw up their friendship. I'd say that being on different continents for much of the series, would probably have more of an effect on their relationship, than her turning down his marriage proposal. But then again I'm one of those weirdoes who cares about character development and believes that when two characters wind up together, there should be a reason, aside from the fact that they have different genitalia, so clearly I'm the wrong audience for Christian Fiction in the first place.

In a post from way, way back, I once said, back when the series was either in single-digits or the teens, that if I was writing this series, I'd have Judd and Vicki :gasp: :choke: commit the heinous sin of premarital sex in the wake of the emotional aftermath of the Rapture. After which, because they were both raised by card-carrying Assholes for Christ, they'd feel tremendous guilt and have a quickie marriage. Only to discover after said quickie marriage that there's a reasons decisions made in the heat of the moment, seldom work out well for anyone involved. After that, they'd part company. Whether they'd have any animosity towards each other afterwards or if they'll just mope, realize they work better as friends, and move on, I haven't decided.

But then again, in Christian Fiction, if you have any characters, even the bad guys, commit any sin, then you are a moral degenerate, setting a bad example for today's youth everywhere. Because people never sinned in the form of premarital sex or worse offenses, before people started writing and talking about said sins. Fun fact: rape and abortion both came into being following the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973. And now that I've provided a lesson in history as seen by the RTCs, let's get back to the story.

Anyway, Judd reads and rewrites the love paragraph from I Corinthians, Chapter 13. And it really does drive me nuts, seeing such a wonderful passage used in this series. Like I said before, I, like a lot of people, have my issues with Paul. Paul is a frustrating character in that while there are passages, like I Corinthians 13, where he manages to transcend the mores and limitations of his time and really touch on the love of God, in other passages, he stubbornly remains very much a man of his time.

I will say, in his defense, that most of the really misogynistic passages that RTCs like to cite, were probably not written by Paul. Also, as a former Jew, Paul would probably be shocked that the Christian faith places his letters on equal footing with the Torah. As far as he knew, Paul was just writing letters to various churches, giving them advice so that they may grow in faith; he probably had no idea that people would still be reading and talking about his letters to this day. I, myself, am a writer and I journal as well. While I know that at some point, someone, preferably after my death, will read my journals, if you took me a thousand years into the future, and a massive religion centered around my journals had arisen, complete with people debating the authenticity and context of said journals...what we'd have is a head-exploding scene to rival the one in Scanners.

So yeah, I'll cut Paul some slack. While we can debate over what he said about Jesus and what meanings Paul's writings have in our day to day life, I'd worship Paul's version of Jesus an infinite number of times before I bowed to TurboJesus. Whether you like him or not,Paul saw Jesus as a figure who'd bridge the gap between God and man, unlike Ellanjay, who treat see him as their personal concierge/strongman. Plus, Paul did legitimately suffer for his faith and by suffer, I don't mean had to endure a cashier wishing him "Happy Holidays" suffering.

I suppose I could post Judd's rewriting of the Love passage and point out how Judd consistently fails on all accounts, but what do you take me for? Someone who isn't lazy?

Judd then thinks about how Vicki fits that passage:

She was never jealous of anyone who succeeded, was never proud or boastful about her accomplishments, and seemed to always put others ahead of herself. Even when Judd was asked to go on trips for the Trib Force, she seemed genuinely excited for his opportunities.

I could go digging through old posts and come up with plenty of times where Vicki behaves like a Good Christian Bitch, but given that Ellanjay see nothing wrong with being a Good Christian Bitch, I probably wasted my time posting that clip.

I could also point out that Ellanjay's ideal woman could be described as the Angel in the House (and you know they'd get the vapors if they opened and read the contents of that link), or for those less academically inclined, a doormat. Probably the only reason they allow women in the congregation and subject themselves to the dirty act of sex, is because they know if they didn't, there would be a precipitous drop in the number of people warming the pews on Sunday.

I would make a joke about the Shakers, but I have a certain affection for them. Yeah, most people probably disagree with their views regarding sex and marriage, but they believed in the value of the craft. They believed that if you were a chair-maker, you glorified God by making a high-quality chair and charging a fair price for it. So you knew if you purchased anything made by the Shakers, you were buying a quality product, not a shoddy piece of crap that someone slapped a Jesus fish on and will fall apart the first time you use it.

Plus, once you know the backstory of the founder of the Shaker faith, Mother Ann, about how she was basically forced into a marriage that lasted only four years, during which she bore four children, all of whom died in infancy, you can kind of understand why she had a dim view of sexuality.

The last section of the chapter is told from Vicki's perspective. She and Judd are unloading stuff together. According to an email Vicki read from Wanda, Cheryl has made good progress. They don't exactly say what this good progress is, but we all know that their idea of good progress involves Cheryl closing her mouth and ceasing with her silly insistence on being involved in her son's life.

I know I've already done so many rants regarding the Cheryl Arc, but it never ceases to amaze me how RTCs continue to be baffled by the idea of consent. If you ever desire some depressing reading that touches both on how consent is a foreign concept to them and that Adoption doesn't really solve everything the way they think it does, pick up a copy of either The Child Catchers or The Girls Who Went Away. Just lock up booze and weapons afterwards, because while I managed to make it nearly to the end of The Girls,The Child Catchers was so damn depressing/enraging, I had to stop halfway. Kept having to fight the urge to scream, "WHAT PART OF MOTHEREFFING CONSENT IS SO HARD TO UNDERSTAND?!" I'm already socially awkward and unpopular enough without having to add that to my list of problems.

They talk a little about Ryan Victor. We do finally get a reason for how scarily precocious he is. No, it's not The Village of the Damned explanation. That would actually be interesting; the possibility of Ryan Victor using his scary mind powers would really liven this shit up.

But it turns out that Ryan Victor suffers from the more prosaic condition known as Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome because Vicki talks about how Ryan Victor has been such a source of joy the past two years, even though the last time he was mentioned, they were celebrating his first birthday!

Look, I know I should cut Ellanjay some slack on this issue. As a writer, I know babies and small children are inherently difficult to write; you run the danger of having them disappear for pages at a time (with no concern from anyone) only to reappear much more older and precocious, or you wind up producing a nauseatingly cute cliché that makes your audience what to become an advocate in favor of Child Abuse. Babies and small children are hard to write, because most character development comes from characters interacting with other characters, and babies and small children can't really interact on a meaningful level with anyone. Basically, they're a lump of clay or marble, or in other words, a work in progress. When their personalities are a little more developed, you can have more meaningful interaction/fun with them, but until then, they're really more of a possibility or a plot device than a character.

So I tend to be understanding and forgiving when writers screw up with babies and small children. Unless they make a really egregious screw-up (like having a newborn speaking), or unless they're Ellanjay, whose problems can be summed up as They Just Didn't Care. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that they just didn't care. Given how bad most Christian Fiction is, that seems to be the general stance of most writers in that particular niche. They know the readers of that genre will read whatever crap you put out, because they are desperate for entertainment and forbidden from reading anything else, so they don't have to even try to produce a quality product.

Anyway, while doing all this, an officer comes after them, forcing a chase scene, wherein our brave heroes are pulled over. As you guessed, the ending...yeah...I think I should just quote from the book, rather than summarize it for you. Besides, you know I believe in Misery loves Company.

Vicki opened the door and climbed out. She looked for a place to run, but the officer motioned her to the rear of the Humvee. The air felt warm, so the plague was still in effect.

“You, redhead, walk slowly toward me with your hands up,” the officer said.

Vicki did as she was told.

“What do you want with us?” Judd said.

“Shut up and come with me, punk.”

“No!” Vicki said.

“Hands on the back of the car!” the officer warned.

Vicki turned. She couldn’t believe they had been caught. They had gone through so much, too much to have it end like this.

“You,” the officer said to Judd, “on your knees.”

Judd knelt behind the car, and Vicki glanced at the officer, who slowly walked toward them. The man stopped near Judd, holstered his gun, and pulled something out of his pocket. “I believe this is yours, young man. And I think you know what to do with it.”

Vicki turned, her brow furrowed. The officer had given Judd a tiny box, and Judd smiled. The officer took off his sunglasses and pushed his hat up, showing the mark of the true believer.

“Zeke?” Vicki said.

“Pay attention to what’s happening, redhead,” Zeke said.

Vicki glanced at Judd, who was still on one knee. “Vicki, I have known you almost six years, and though we’ve had some difficult days, the last few weeks have been the happiest of my life.”

Vicki covered her mouth with a hand as Judd opened the box, revealing a sparkling ring.

“I’ve come to love you, Vicki, and I want to share the rest of my days with you, before our Lord returns.” He pulled the ring from the box and held it out. His voice broke when he said, “Will you marry me?”

Tears stung Vicki’s eyes as she slipped the ring on her finger. Vicki fell into Judd’s arms and they kissed. Her voice trembled as she whispered, “Yes.”

Okay, another lesson learned from this series: Creating an elaborate ruse to convince your love interest that she is in life-threatening danger, in order to spice up your marriage proposal and ensure that she won't say No, isn't emotional manipulation/blackmail.

I admit that I am biased in that I've always found proposals where a girl can't veto the request without humiliating the guy in front of all his family and friends or without looking like a massive bitch, to be the opposite of romantic. Can't he just take her some place private and romantic and pop the question there? After which, if they need a cheering crowd in response, they can reenact it elsewhere. I'd probably be the worst girlfriend or wife ever, because every time I see a grand romantic gesture, either in movies or real life, I can't stop thinking about how creepy said gesture is. It's also the reason why I can't watch most romantic comedies. That and the fact that the female characters in said movies, are so lame, no matter how many times the scriptwriters assert how "strong" and "independent" they are.

Anyway, that's it for this week. Sorry for all the times I repeated myself and sorry for all the links. I like to think the links liven up my dull rants, but I understand if you feel different.

Before you go, I will make one announcement. I hope it fulfills you with the same amount of joy as it does me. The announcement is this: we have one chapter left in this book. After next week, we can finally move onto Book Twelve, aka the last volume in this insanely overly long series. Really the only justifiable response to that announcement is this. Yeah, I know the Hallelujah Chorus is so popular, it's practically become a cliché, but it is pretty awesome in spite of it. Proof that Christian Art didn't always suck harder than a room full of Kirbies armed with Electrolux cleaners.

I did consider posting a link to the last movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, because if you were to really twist my arm and force me to choose between Handel's Messiah and Beethoven's Ninth, I would grudgingly admit that I like Beethoven's Ninth more, even though I really love both works and not just the parts everyone's heard of; I wholeheartedly love them both.

But I'll save that for the very last snark on this series, as a palate cleanser for the brave souls who have suffered through so much bad writing with me. Plus, there is the danger that the famous chorus everyone recognizes from Beethoven's Ninth, might have a completely different meaning than what everyone thinks. That famous chorus, which is done in German, might be Beethoven singing about how much he loves screwing prostitutes of all shapes, sizes, and ages, for all I know.

Whereas Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus" is in English, so I have some idea as to what they're singing about. Even though it amuses me that The Messiah has become a Christmas staple, when it doesn't take much for someone to tell that it was originally intended to be an Easter piece.

Sort of like the time I played "Meditation" from Thais by Jules Massenet on the violin for a church congregation, only to discover afterwards that the meditation was some guy trying to convince a girl to stop being a prostitute and become a nun. Yeah...luckily for me, most people have an appalling lack of knowledge when it comes to art, so I was safe.

Wow...my little announcement wound up being longer than I thought. Until next week, everyone.

*If you're wondering about the post title, it's both because a) I couldn't think of a decent title and b)I believe in encouraging my readers' creativity. No matter what head canon you come up with, it'll probably be more interesting if not better written, than anything produced by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins.

**Seriously, go see Inside Out.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

If Anything Bad Happens to You, It's Your Fault!

One of the things you learn, regarding bad art, is that it's much like a Greek Tragedy: no matter what you do, you cannot escape your inevitable fate. You can try and try, but it's still going to happen no matter what.

Y'see, when they rescued Howard, I was actually filled with a little hope when it turned out that he had the Zod-mark, so we didn't have to go through the inevitable scene where Judd and Vicki try to rack up another one for Zod. Even though, Howard clearly hadn't internalized the respect all RTCs have of hierarchy, at least, we didn't have to go through another conversion scene.

But I should have known better. Even though Ellanjay spared us a conversion scene, of course, they wouldn't dream of sparing us from the inevitable "How I came to love Big Brother" scene. Because remember, Ellanjay love money almost as much as they love the Gospel According to Supply-Side Jesus so of course, they look for any excuse to pad this series out.

So yeah, let's get to this and get it over with. I will apologize, but you've probably already guessed that Howard's actual backstory is a lot less interesting than the ones I made up for him last week.

But enough delays, let's put on your montage music of choice and get to this.

The first paragraph features some action that even the Amish would consider incredibly mild, but the RTCs would probably pop their monocles at the raciness of it all. Y'see Judd and Vicki, aka a pair of unmarried adults of the opposite sex, actually huddle together as the sun goes down in order to keep warm, because it gets cold after sunset. We can only hope that Vicki at least had the common courtesy to wear gloves so the sight and feel of her bare hands wouldn't fill Judd with carnal thoughts. Though maybe the fact there's another person with them (Howard), would be enough to appease the RTCs. With Howard there, they don't have to worry about Judd or Vicki committing the heinous crime of pre-marital sex or Onan's sin. Because RTCs know that two adults who aren't related through either blood or marriage, can't be in the same room/general area without immediately jumping each other's bones.

I know, I probably shouldn't make so much hay out of the opening paragraph, but I love any excuse to make fun of how repulsed RTCs are by the horrific act of consensual sex between two people who love each other.

Apparently after sunset, they start hearing noises aside from the cackle of flames and the agonized screams of the dying as they are burned alive, after which they are sent to a place where they're burned For Ev Ver.

At night, however, the city seemed to come alive. Dogs barked, motorcycles whined, and people shouted in the distance. But the worst sound was the cries of people who had lost family and friends. The high-pitched wails of men and women in pain echoed through the smoldering ruins.

And if you guessed Our Sociopathic Heroes respond in an appropriately sociopathic fashion to all these people wailing about their dead relatives, again, congratulations on being familiar with Ellanjay tropes. Too bad you can't even get a latte or really any reward for your hard-earned knowledge.

“I feel so bad for them,” Vicki whispered. “If they’d chosen God instead of Carpathia, they wouldn’t be hurting.”

YEAH VICKI, IT'S ALL THEIR FAULT FOR NOT IMMEDIATELY EMBRACING THE GREAT ASSHOLE IN THE SKY! RATHER THAN SIDE WITH THE GUY WHO IS DOING HIS BEST TO TRY TO SAVE PEOPLE FROM REPEATED HORRIFIC DISASTERS, THEY SHOULD HAVE SIDED WITH THE ASSHOLE CAUSING ALL THE HORRIFIC DISASTERS!

...

Okay, now that I've gotten that out of my system, I should probably admit that I really shouldn't be shocked by all this, given how far I've made it into this series. But I believe certain points need to be driven home, over and over again. Just remember that the only objection Ellanjay would have to that sleazy New-Age woo called The Secret is not the sleazy or the woo part, but the New-Age part. If Rhonda Byrne had merely substituted "Jesus" instead of talking about the laws of the universe, they'd totally be all over it.

All you have to know about Ellanjay's repugnant philosophy is that anything bad that happens to you, especially if you're female, it's all your fault. You should have been more humble and submissive, you shouldn't have let your smile drop for a second and gotten sad or mad about even the slightest offense. Not to mention, blatantly advertising how female you are, what with wearing those ankle-length skirts, and in doing so, tempt a man to sin.

Okay, I probably shouldn't linger so long on their obsession with the sins of women and the filthy sex they represent. They probably have an equally repugnant attitude when it comes to male sinners as well. After all, we all remember Pat Robertson's compassionate response to the earthquake that hit Haiti.

More and more, I start to think I probably shouldn't have created the "Our Sociopathic Heroes" tag. Because there seems to be no way I can avoid overusing that tag until it loses all meaning.

But anyway, Judd is all "So tell us your story?" to Howard. Howard, who probably hasn't read the script/outline given to him by Ellanjay, is all "You don't want to hear it." And Judd responds by saying "Look, you're a background character in the hands of shitty writers who decided it wasn't enough to have a solid-gold Humvee, if they couldn't have a diamond-studded swimming pool to go with it. Just keep your head down and accept your fate, so we can move onto the next plot point already!" But I freely admit that I may have substituted some of my own dialogue there.

Anyway, turns out that Howard and his mom clearly weren't good RTCs, because after Howard's father walked out on him when Howard was four or five, they were always poor. Howard's mom had to work two jobs in order to take care of her kid, which forced her to neglect her duties as a mother and leave Howard alone for all hours of the night. Remember, women, if you accept food stamps or other assistance in order to keep you and your kid from starving to death, you're lazy and entitled and therefore, a bad mother. If you accept whatever work you can get and work your tail off in order to keep food on the table and a roof over your head, you're a selfish woman for neglecting your primary duties in life, which is your family.

I know I'm belaboring the point, but I have a feeling that if you were to ask Ellanjay some pointed questions and if you somehow managed to cut through all the weaselly BS they're fond of using in order to soften their horrible rhetoric, they'd probably say something similar. I can't help but think that if I asked why Howard's dad walked out on them, assuming they even thought to fill in that important aspect of a character's background (even if Howard's dad never actually appears onscreen, by merely existing, he has an affect on the thoughts and feelings of Howard and his mom), they would probably blame Howard's mom for not being a good enough wife or something like that.

Of course, I realize that I'm making a pretty big assumption in assuming that Ellanjay would bother to go beyond step one and fill in that aspect of Howard's background. Given what we know about their love of avarice and sloth...yeah, I don't think I need to say any more.

Anyway, because Howard's mom was busy neglecting her motherly duties working, Howard spent most of the time hanging out with the wrong crowd, a bunch of skate punks who, in addition to skateboarding, also went to parties, got drunk, and smoked cigarettes!

As you probably guessed, there was the Token RTC that Howard and his friends should have listened to before it was too late! This one was named Kirk. In a rare show of basic workmanship, they do actually assign Kirk some traits beyond being the RTC friend whom they should have listened to before it was too late!

“He could do stuff on a skateboard you wouldn’t believe. No helmet. No fear. He was skinny, like me, with a pointy nose. He kind of looked like a bird, come to think of it. His hair was always sticking up in the back, and his body was always moving. You know, even if he was standing still he was moving, cracking his knuckles, crossing his legs, snapping his neck. You just couldn’t stop the guy.”

I know I shouldn't heap too much praise on this, but given how rare it is that Ellanjay bother to give any physical description of the characters (because the only thing that matters is their Saved or Unsaved status), I feel a need to point this out. Especially since in this descriptive passage, they actually succeed in not only describing the character's physical attributes, but providing us with some idea of his personality. Again, it's basic level writing, but given how rarely that shows up...

Anyway, one day Kirk got this scooter and wanted to show it off. After which he was struck by a car and killed.

Howard and his friends go to Kirk's funeral. And if you guessed, the funeral, rather than trying to provide comfort to friends and family going through a rough time, turns into an altar call, again, congratulations, you could have spent your time on so much worthier causes.

Anyway, like I said, the youth minister, who is described as having a high-pitched voice, forcing me to picture him as sounding like Frankie Valli because it amuses me to do so, gives the standard altar call speech. If you talk to many Atheists or Agnostics or just anyone who didn't subscribe to the deceased's specific brand of religion in general, most will talk about how they really hate it when someone hijacks the memory of a loved one and uses it as an excuse to rack up converts for Jesus.

I imagine though, if you were to call out a minister on taking advantage of someone's grief to try to get them to take home a brand new spanking Jesus today! They would cite or give an example akin to that of Ezekiel 33's Watchman. We've talked many times about how despite Ellanjay claiming that they totally read the Bible literally unlike all those dirty liberal socialists and their insistence on the Social Gospel, Ellanjay don't. Again, like I said, Christianity is akin to spell-casting for them, where all you have to do to get the results you want, is say The Prayer with the precise amount of sincerity demanded. After which, you just sit around and wait for your reward in Heaven. All that stuff about how you should take care of the poor and what not, the prophets were actually referring to some not too distant point in the future when TurboJesus returns and slaughters his enemies. Or in other words, you don't actually have to visit those in prison or clothe the naked or feed the hungry.

But if you subscribe to the kind of sociopathic, unyielding Cthulhu-esque God as preached by Ellanjay, can you imagine how anxiety-provoking Ezekiel's passage about the Watchman can be? What if a good RTC kid takes it to heart and tries to convert his Jewish best friend only for said friend to refuse to take the bait? What is he supposed to take from that passage? That not only is his Jewish best friend going to suffer and burn for all eternity, but because he wasn't sufficiently sincere or pious enough, God's going come for him as well?

Fred already touched on this in one of his posts, even citing the infamous "Letter from Hell" glurge that RTCs like to circulate, but I believe I speak for everyone when I say that is pretty fucking sick to place that amount of responsibility on anyone's shoulders, especially a kid's.

Especially since it's very unlikely that the RTC kid could possibly ever reach all 7 billion+ humans on this planet and will have to face the fact that many of these people, regardless of whatever virtues they may possess, they're going to wind up in Hell for the terrible crime of being too poor to facilitate the distribution of tracts or access the information needed to get saved online.

So yeah, we shouldn't be too shocked whenever an RTC kid or someone raised in the fundie culture, winds up a basket case. With those kinds of messages, we should be shocked if they don't wind up a basket case.

I've probably asked this several times already, but I keep wondering how Ellanjay would respond if I brought up the people of North Sentinel Island. I imagine they'd employ their usual weaselly tactics to avoid giving a straight answer, but if I managed to cut through their BS and get them to actually admit something, what would they say if I asked, "So are the people of North Sentinel Island going to burn in Hell for the crime of having spent their entire history cut off and isolated from outsiders?"

Anyway, after the Rapture, Howard realized just how wrong he'd been and admits that he's screwed up even now. Judd's like "If we all had to live perfectly after God forgave us, we'd be screwed," which leads to kind of a weird passage.

Y'see I was under the impression that Howard was already an RTC and therefore, we'd be spared the part where he is made to KNEEL BEFORE ZOD! but then we get this:

“God wants to change you from the inside out,” Vicki said, “but you have to let him.”
“I want that… .”

“Then tell him,” Vicki said. “Pray right now and tell God you’re giving him the rest of your life to use however he wants. Thank him for saving you and making you a believer, and ask him to help you grow. He’ll do it. He really will.”

Howard bowed his head, and Judd saw his lips moving.

Like I said, I was puzzled by this passage, because it seems to be the type of thing seen in so many scenes where a character finally comes to love Big Brother and like I said, Howard did have the Zod-mark as mentioned in the previous chapter, but then I remembered that old RTC belief where if an RTC falls away from the faith or does anything wrong, it's a sign they were never really an RTC. Also affectionately referred to as the "No True Scotsman" fallacy.

Anyway, after all these long periods of characters talking, Ellanjay once again, try to stir up suspense. Turns out since the sun has gone down, the GC is on the move again and Judd and Vicki and Howard must flee! Because if they are captured by the GC, they will be executed for refusing to accept the Nicky Mark, after which they'll suffer the horrific fate that awaits all RTCs: dying and spending eternity bathing in the golden bliss of heaven. But then again, I'll just make the obvious joke that Judd and Vicki don't want to die and miss out on sex forever, because Ellanjay believe that there will be no sex in heaven, so no doubt, their self-inserts would believe the same.

Again whenever I hear about the RTCs creepy obsession with purity and virginity, aside from the obvious "What is an RTC kid supposed to think if they're raped, after hearing so many lessons on the importance of saving it for marriage?" question, I find myself wondering about all those RTC kids who do everything their parents and pastors tell them and make it to their wedding day having done nothing more racy than hold hands or give side-hugs. Because as many will tell you, your first time is rarely as magical as it's hyped up to be, so I imagine there are quite a few disappointed RTCs on their wedding night. Can picture them going, "The Hell?! This is what my parents/pastor made such a big deal about?!"

So Judd and Vicki and Howard are scrambling around, trying to avoid being captured, but I'm bored to death and you're all probably bored to death from all the lectures I've given, so I'll just say that the chapter ends with Judd's cell phone ringing, thus providing the GC a potential clue as to their location.

As you probably guessed, this will be another one-chapter-snark, but I will briefly mention that at the beginning, Judd turns off his phone and advises Howard and Vicki to do the same. Yeah, anyone want to tell Ellanjay that even if your characters turn off their phones, even if they steadfastly refuse to call anyone, law enforcement could probably still track them down, using the pings given off by nearby cell-towers? Because cell phones don't function on air and light like plants; they require a well-maintained infrastructure that law enforcement could probably easily take advantage of, if they have a reason to be looking for you. And we all know what a bang-up job the Tribbles do of staying below the radar and keeping their heads down so as to not attract attention.

Though given how badly they suck at being a rebel or a terrorist threat, I can't help but wonder if Nicky is just punking with them. Doing enough so they can indulge their martyrdom fantasies and have a big circle-jerk about how they're totally sticking it to the man! While Nicky can take advantage and get shit done while they're distracted. That's my head canon and I stand by it!

One last thing before I wrap this up: I will be on vacation next week, so I'm afraid if you want to continue the exciting adventures of the Heroes Who Don't Do Anything Remotely Heroic, you'll have to wait. Take care of yourselves until then.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Madness Takes Its Toll!

So like I said last week, Vicki and Judd are experiencing the worst suffering ever to befall mankind: having to drive around a burning hellscape in the type of vehicle favored by dirty hippies. Yeah, there's a reason I have no problem picturing both Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins driving around in a vehicle with Truck Nuts. They both seem the type to embrace a hyper-masculinity in order to compensate for feelings of inadequacy. Among other things...:waggles eyebrows: Yeah, I know, I'm a horrible person for making you picture the sex lives of Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. If it's any consolation to my poor readers, I only did it because the visuals were in my head and you should know by now that I believe in spreading pain around.

So while Vicki and Judd are chugging their way through the burning hellscape, Vicki asks Judd if he's doing all this for her. Judd admits that he's partially doing it for her, but mostly for Howard and his mom. Yeah, because we all now what a great and powerful bond Judd has with Howard, so great that :record scratch:

Okay, I'm going to level with you. I said last week that I wasn't going to bother looking up Howard or trying to figure out at what point in the series DID HE AND JUDD EVEN EXCHANGE FIVE WORDS OF CONVERSATION WITH ONE ANOTHER, because I have too much worthless knowledge taking up valuable space in my brain. It's like I tell people: even though I studied Algebra in Middle School, High School, and two semesters in College, I would probably break out in a cold sweat if you asked me to solve a quadratic equation. However, if you asked me to hum the Dragon Dagger tune from Power Rangers, I'd be so on top of it. In light of my propensity to stockpile useless knowledge (and become desperate to regain it, should I forget it) and general laziness, I decided not to bother too much when it came to Howard.

But it just kept nagging at me, the question of "Did Howard ever appear in the series like Ellanjay say he did?" or "Did they just now insert him in order to pad out the series, but decided to claim he had totally appeared before but he hadn't and..." :steps outside to engage in a little scream therapy: I swear, it's stuff like this...I know Ellanjay are lazy, so lazy that calling them hacks is an insult to hacks everywhere, but still...I feel like I'm suffering from the more extreme version of laziness-induced madness as depicted in A, My Name is Alex.

In order to lessen the pain, let's make up a backstory for Howard. The beauty of this is since you know nothing about Howard and I know nothing about Howard (despite having read the damned series), we can assign whatever traits we want to him. You can give him the same haircut as the character of the same name on The Big Bang Theory. My theory is that he met Judd outside of a gay leather bar after he (Howard) was kicked out of his Hare Krishna sect for being too much of a fruitcake. Just know that if you decide to join me in the "Construct a Backstory for Howard" game, anything you come up with is true, no matter how much it contradicts anything anyone else comes up with. Therefore, Howard was also assassinated in a groghouse brawl during the 18th century while also simultaneously defeating Napoleon at Waterloo. :pauses to laugh evilly:

Okay, sorry for all that. As you probably guessed, I'm mostly indulging in this kind of incoherent ranting, because not a lot really happens in this chapter. Of course, there are attempts to build suspense, but even if I hadn't peaked ahead at the wiki and found out that three-fourths of the YTF survive, I probably still wouldn't feel anything for any of these characters. The only members of the YTF who have suffered consequences are Ryan (who is dead and no one really seems to care no matter how many times they occasionally mention his name) and Lionel (who lost an arm). Even Lionel's circumstances are debatable, given that when TurboJesus returns, this time packing heat, Lionel's arm magically regrows. So yeah, Lionel just has to put up with his handicap for a year or so. No lasting psychological scars or screaming PTSD in these books.

Anyway, Vicki and Judd go somewhere. I confess, I don't really care because Ellanjay clearly don't. Once again, showing their steadfast commitment to Death Before Showing The Reader What Actually Happened, they have Vicki narrate some more about how Judd has totally changed.

Vicki already noticed a change in the way Judd handled things. In the old days, he would have simply rushed inside without talking with anyone. He might have dismissed the idea of coming back altogether. But something had changed, and it made Vicki want to follow him inside.

Yeah, maybe it's the Howard-induced madness, but how exactly is what Judd is doing now different from what he'd done in the past? Spoiler alert: Basically Judd breaks one of the tinted windows in the building and goes inside and starts asking around about Howard. And, as you probably guessed, since Ellanjay know nothing about strategy, Judd does all this without doing the basic work that even a kindergartener would know to do: like trying to asses how many people are in the building and what kind of weapons or tech they have or even FINDING SOME COVER SO HE'LL BE PROTECTED WHILE HE BURSTS IN ON A BUNCH OF SCARED PEOPLE WHO ARE ARMED TO THE TEETH!

:deep breath: Okay, I know it is probably too much to ask Ellanjay to do any research on asymmetric or guerilla warfare. They probably subscribe to the same Rambo belief as many do on the Right that we totally could have won The Vietnam War were it not for those shiftless hippies! But what I'm talking about, I don't even think it falls under the category of asymmetric warfare; it's more like basic common sense: you should assess the situation before charging in, unless you like having multiple bullet wounds.

Oh and BTW, I'm not kidding about the whole "armed to the teeth" thing. As Vicki and Judd break in, it is established that the people inside are armed. Though they never actually use those weapons, even though they're freaking terrified and OUTSIDERS ARE BURSTING IN WITHOUT BOTHERING WITH SO MUCH AS A HELLO!

The people inside are established as wearing GC uniforms and are justifiably freaked out by Judd and Vicki walking around unharmed by the killer sunlight. Somehow even though one side has greater numbers and weapons (no points for guessing which side), it's that side that is all trembling and freaked out, begging them not to hurt them. Judd even manages to get them to hand over their guns, something which makes me headdesk. Yeah, I'm going to assume this is some kind of An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge scenario in that Judd and Vicki were shot full of lead as they entered and that all the derring-do afterwards, are fantasies they're having as their blood pours out on the floor around them. Though I suppose, I could stretch and somehow make the case that they actually died in disasters related to the Rapture and everything is a fantasy as they slowly die a distinctly unheroic death, but that may be going too far. Just know that no matter how much Ellanjay assert that Judd has totally changed!, I will continue to believe that if the Rapture hadn't happened, Judd probably would have gotten over his adolescence rebellion and wound up exactly like his parents anyway.

Anyway, they find Howard, who does have the Zod-Mark, so at least we're spared one repeat of the Overly Long Conversion Scene. At some point, gunfire breaks out, even though I thought Judd and Vicki took the GC's guns, but they all make it back to the Hippiemobile, but not before a display of the Sociopathic Behavior that has become the trademark in this series.

The car’s tires spun on the lawn when Judd pulled away. Vicki looked back to make sure no one was following them and noticed more smoke. Judd slowed long enough to see the roof of the library begin to curl. Windows on the upper floor of the building shattered, and smoke billowed. Vicki put her window down a little, then rolled it up when she heard people inside screaming.

BECAUSE IT'S ALL ABOUT YOU, VICKI! YOUR POOR DELICATE LITTLE EARS STRAINED BY ALL THAT OFF-KEY SCREAMING!

Yeah, it's like I said before, the Christian Right can assert all they like how they're totally heirs to the legacy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, but I have a feeling that if they were somehow dropped at a village a few miles down from Auschwitz in the years between 1940-1945, the extent of their activism would involve praying that all those Jews somehow became good RTCs before being gassed, while complaining about the odor produced by the crematoriums.

I know, someone's going to call on my for invoking Godwin's Law, but I feel it's justified, given the Right's propensity for invoking Godwin's Law regarding any attempt to curtail their ability to get away with being hateful bigots without facing any consequences (legal or financial) for it.

My main objection, regarding Hitler analogies, is that, y'know, there are other hateful dictators just in the 20th century alone that you can invoke. Why limit yourself to Hitler analogies? Just for once I want someone to invoke Pol Pot. I would suggest Augusto Pinochet or Idi Amin as well, but given the US's role in backing them in the first place, you can understand why those analogies will probably never catch on.

Anyway, so Judd and Vicki and Howard are speeding away, trying to catch up with Westin. Vicki asks Howard why he separated himself from the rest of the group and Howard gives this weaksauce explanation:

“Our leader told us to stay together, but I got fed up with all the rules. I went into one of those study rooms, and when I woke up the GC had moved in. I tried to slip out last night, but I got scared.”

Of course, Ellanjay never bothers to explain just which of the rules Howard objected to, because that would actually provide insight into his character. Plus, if they gave Howard a legitimate complaint, they would be force to admit that :gasp: :choke: sometimes those at the top of their hierarchy make mistakes and they can't have that! So in order to liven up this story and keep this "Construct a Backstory for Howard" game going, I'm going to just assume that Howard's diamond-studded codpiece was making the other members of the group feel inadequate in comparison. And by codpiece, I mean this Codpiece.

I suppose I should apologize for foisting that link on you, but I don't think I will.

Judd, being a good RTC who knows that if you ever disagree with the RTC hierarchy, it means that you are wrong, says, "You should have listened to your leader."

Judd picks up his cell phone to call Westin, but the call doesn't go through. Howard then says something that makes me want to do The Invasion of the Body-Snatchers Scream. He says that a lot of the cell phone towers are down, making it difficult for calls to go through. But that can't be right! Ellanjay have demonstrated that cell phones require no infrastructure to maintain and will never go down no matter how many Acts of God occur back to back. So why aren't they working now?!

My guess is either somebody clued Ellanjay in that cell phones, y'know, need towers and an infrastructure to maintain their service, but given how thoroughly they've surrounded themselves with Yes Men, inside a nice criticism-proof bubble, I'll think it's unlikely that someone would venture to tell them that. So I'll once again open the floor to outlandish theories. Mine is either Howard has a jammer on him or that since I see him as basically Florida Man on steroids, I'm going to assume that Howard is Inevitable. He is the Heat Death and the Entropy of the Universe, He is the End to All Things.

Yeah, I know I've beat this joke into the ground, but consider it a combination of trying to keep the madness somewhat at bay and create a more interesting story.

The sun is fading and since, the GC can only move at night, Judd and Vicki and Howard are forced to take shelter in a parking garage, feasting on some sandwiches and candy bars that somehow weren't burned up or melted by all the heat.

The chapter ends with Howard bowing his head and doing the obligatory "O God, thank you for sending these Main Characters to save my life. Please forgive me for being so hard-headed as to think of myself as a person with thoughts and agency like everyone else. And please let Vicki and Judd make it back to their friends safely, seeing that as Main Characters, their lives matter above all others in this universe."

I admit that I am exaggerating Howard's prayer for comedic effect, but really it's not by much. I often wonder if when Ellanjay will a new character into being, they give said character, a name, a half-filled outline, and of course, they make sure that every character knows that their duty is to serve as a backdrop for the exciting adventures of St. Rayford and Our Buck. And that they can never hope to have any adventures or goals apart from the Main Cast. Because having a desire to do anything beyond rack up converts and sit and wait for TurboJesus to come in on air support, is sick and wrong.

And that's it for this week. I read ahead and they do have a chapter where Howard finally tells us about himself, allowing Ellanjay to do the obligatory "How I came to Love Big Brother" speech. As you guessed, their backstory for Howard is considerably less interesting than any of the ones I've come up with, so I'm going to stick with my version. Because I am totally in favor of Discontinuity, especially when the Canon is so awful, like it is in this series.

And now I'm going to close us out with some tangentially related music.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Blast their Hopes and Blight their Lives!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Problem of Nicky or Welcome to the Linksapalooza Extravaganza!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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