Monday, December 21, 2015

Satan Totally Has A Point

Sorry, sorry to be late. I had a busy weekend. I saw the new Star Wars film and a performance of Handel's Messiah. All I'm going to say about the new Star Wars is "Seriously, go see this movie!" and as for The always it was damn good. It's kind of weird that it's become a Christmas tradition given that it was written for Easter and I know it's so popular, it's practically a cliché. But there's a reason some things become clichés: because they're damn good. Though the sopranos were kind of shaky, but the bass soloist they had for the "Trumpet shall resound" part, was pretty awesome. Always liked that part: it's like there's a duel going on between the soloist and the trumpet. If nothing else, it was a nice reminder that Christian Art didn't always suck.

So I'm here now. Sorry again for the lateness, but take some consolation in that maybe after all this exposure to good art and how I'm now facing some bad art...maybe it's like starving a junkyard dog, how after a while it attacks everything that moves. Maybe my snark this week will be extra vicious.

So let's get to it. Keep trying to figure out which pop culture reference I should use as a launch point? I couldn't decide so I'll post both. All right. It's Saturday night, I have no date, a two-liter bottle of Shasta and my all-Rush mix-tape... Let's rock. or for those soulless abominations who hate animated entertainment, I'll reference the classic Blues Brothers bit:

Elwood: It's 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark... and we're wearing sunglasses.

Jake: Hit it.

Again, choose your own pop culture launching point for this week.

Anyway, like I said last week, this chapter contains massive amounts of "Strawman Always Has A Point," though I suppose I should say, "Satan Always Has A Point." Yeah, Nicky's speech is pretty cartoonish, so much so that I totally picture him being voiced by Chris Latta. Ah, Chris Latta, he may be the one actor who could portray Nicky as his writers intended. Too bad he's dead.

But the actual content of said actually demonstrates some subversive elements, if you get past all the "Bwaah! Bwaah! I am evil!" villain talk. It's a more cartoonish version of Philip Pullman's thesis in His Dark Materials. In the last book in the series, the characters kill God, who is basically a spent, senile old man. I felt Pullman's books were entirely too heavy-handed, especially towards the end, but he makes some of the same points as Nicky. According to the characters of his books, God was the first thing created out of the Dust (an elemental force that binds everything in the Dark Materials-verse)and proceeded to tell everyone that He was God and Created Everything.

I'm probably reading entirely too much into this stuff, but every time I stumble onto anything in this series with any subversive element, I gnaw endlessly on it, like a starving dog with a bone. I'll assume the ghostwriter did most of the writing for this chapter. Though you know Tim LaHaye would get the vapors if he found out that someone compared his books to Philip Pullman's.

Anyway, maybe the ghostwriter thought we were all tired and shagged out after the exciting action of the previous chapter, because all that happens in this chapter is the YTF and Chang and probably some other tribbles I'm too lazy to care about, watch Nicky's speech and bravely make snide remarks from the safe confines of Petra.

Leon Fortunado introduces Nicky and if we're continuing the GC is Cobra thing I mentioned earlier, yes, I totally picture Leon as Destro. Except a guy as fabulous as Leon wouldn't be content with just wearing Destro's usual style: Leon would totally go for the gold-headed pimp Destro model.

:sighs: I know this kind of complaint is the proverbial "Going to a porno and spending all your time complaining about the characters' taste in wallpaper" kind of complaint, but is it weird that the biggest problem I have with Destro wearing a metal bucket on his head, is how exactly does it have little cut-outs for his eyebrows? How does that even work?

Okay, I'll stop being nostalgic for shitty eighties' cartoons and get back to tearing the For Kids! version of Left Behind a new one.

Anyway, the YTF are all chilled by Nicky's pledge to eliminate those who oppose peace within a year. Yeah...again, we run into that old meme with Ellanjay: "Peace is Evil, so everyone who wants it, is evil!" Even though I imagine if you were to ask the spirit of General Patton and the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr., they'd probably both agree that peace is, y'know, a good thing. They'd just have different ideas as to how to go about achieving it but they'd still agree that it's good.

But's like Fred's footnote for his post Pistol-Packing Pacifist says:

We looked at this anti-peacemaker attitude in an earlier post, where I wrote of people like LaHaye that: “They’ve gotten so caught up in guarding against wolves in sheep’s clothing that anything in sheep’s clothing is viewed as the enemy. So all sheep must be shot on sight.” That probably understates the problem. LaHaye doesn’t believe there’s really any such thing as sheep, just a wooly fifth column of wolves.

Okay, I suppose the bit about peace could have been chilling if we got the "Nicky plans to crush all who dissent against him" vibe, but given that's essentially TurboJesus's plan...yeah, I really don't need to go any further, do I? I'm just going to post a quote from Jeremiah and get back to work. Because it's a good quote and you'll probably get where I'm going with it.

Theo: I'd rather follow the man who has the power and doesn't use it, has the ideas, who thinks that they're better than he is than the man who likes power too much and will do anything to get it. The man who thinks that he is bigger than the ideas.

Seriously, go watch this series! I have half a mind to start kidnapping people, tying them up, and making them watch it from beginning to end.

Anyway, like I said last week, according to the error message, I've reached the Publishers' limit on copying and pasting, so I'm being forced to go to creative lengths in order to quote from this book. I'm fairly certain my usage of this book falls under the Fair Use part of copyright law, but I'm not entirely sure what to do about the error message. Somebody who's computer savvy want to help me out?

I will freely admit that I do encourage everyone to pirate the living hell out of this series. Most of the time, I am damn opposed to pirating books (because only the RIAA deserves to be scammed out of cash, because seriously, fuck the RIAA.), but in Ellanjay's case, I say go nuts. Anything to keep them from making more money off of this crap, because even the Fifty Shades of Grey or the Twilight series are better reads.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Carpathia said, “the time has come for me to take you into my confidence. We must all be on the same page in order to win the ultimate battle. Look into my eyes and listen, because what you hear today is truth and you will have no trouble believing every word of it. I am eternal. I am from everlasting to everlasting. I was there at the beginning, and I will remain through eternity future.”

Nicolae stood and began to slowly circle the table.

“It’s as if they’re in a trance,” Vicki said. “Like they’re scared to even look at him.”

“Here is the problem,” Carpathia continued. “The one who calls himself God is not God. I will concede that he preceded me. When I evolved out of the primordial ooze and water, he was already there. But plainly, he had come about in the same manner I did. Simply because he preceded me, he wanted me to think he created me and all the other beings like him in the vast heavens. I knew better. Many of us did.”

So in other words, Nicky is finally doing what we Slacktivites have been suggesting all along: marshalling up his citizens/subjects by saying, "God did all this; therefore he's evil and must be opposed!"

In fact, even with all the cartoonish villain blather, gotta admit that Nicky really has the RTCs' number, so much so that I wonder how the ghostwriter managed to slip this one by. I suppose said brave ghostwriter was helped by the fact that Ellanjay believe that only amateurs reread and edit their works, but still.

Carpathia talked as if he were explaining a math problem to a group of second graders. “He tried to tell us we were created as ministering servants. We had a job to do. He said he had created humans in his own image and that we were to serve them. Had I been there first, I could have told him that I had created him and that it was he who would serve me by ministering to my other creations.

“But he did not create anything! We, all of us—you, me, the other heavenly hosts, men and women—all came from that same primordial soup. But no! Not according to him! He was there with another evolved being like myself, and he claimed that one as his favored son. He was the special one, the chosen one, the only begotten one.

“I knew from the beginning it was a lie and that I—all of us—was being used. I was a bright and shining angel. I had ambition. I had ideas. But that was threatening to the older one. He called himself the creator God, the originator of life. He took the favored position. He demanded that the whole earth worship and obey him. I had the audacity to ask why. Why not me?”

Of course, Judd gives the witty rejoinder, "Because you're the father of all lies," but again, I continue to be on Team Nicky. Because where exactly would Nicky have gotten these ideas if GOD HIMSELF HADN'T PLANTED THEM IN HIS HEAD! GOD GAVE HIM THESE IDEAS AND TURNED HIM INTO SATAN AND WILL PUNISH HIM FOR BASICALLY BEING SATAN BECAUSE HE'S A CRUEL FUCK THAT WAY!

Or the way I see it, in this scenario, God was the negligent parent who spilled huge amounts of pills all over the damn floor, even though he lived in a house with small children. Then when said small child swallowed a handful and became very sick, GOD BASICALLY BEAT THE EVER-LOVING SHIT OUT OF THE KID FOR BEING STUPID ENOUGH TO SWALLOW SAID PILLS AND GET SICK!

Though wait, that isn't entirely accurate. As bad as most abusive parents are, at least, there are limits to what they can do to a kid. No matter what you feel about torture or abuse (I really hope my readers are opposed to it), there's a natural endpoint in that you can't hurt them anymore after they've died. BUT GIVEN THAT ELLANJAY BELIEVE IN HELL AND THAT IT'S FOREVER AS IN WITHOUT END!

Y'know what, before I go any further, I'm going to post some good writing as a palate cleanser. And yes, I am quoting from Sandman Vol. 4 again, because Neil Gaiman has more talent in an eyelash than Ellanjay do in their entire bodies. Note how Neil Gaiman handles stuff like the Fall, as Lucifer talks to Dream:

LUCIFER: I'm tired, Morpheus. So tired. You knew me, Dream. You knew me when I was an angel. What was I like?

MORPHEUS: You were very proud, Samael. But you were also very beautiful, and wise -- and passionate.

LUCIFER: Was I? Yes... yes, I was. I cared about so many things. I cared so deeply, back then, in the cold at the beginning of things. In the Silver City. I suppose that was why everything began to go wrong. You know... I still wonder how much of it was planned. How much of it He knew in advance.

I thought I was rebellng. I thought I was defying his rule. No... I was merely fulfilling another tiny segment of his great and powerful plan. If I had not rebelled, another would have, in my stead. Raguel, perhaps. Or Sandalphon.

We fell, my comrades in arms and I. We fell so far... so long... And after an eternity of falling, we came to rest in this place. And I knew then that there was no way that I would ever return to paradise.

Nicky starts talking about the whole rebellion he lead against God and about how a third of angels fought with him. Uh, yeah, someone want to tell Ellanjay that the whole shtick about Lucifer rebelling and being cast to Hell is basically Biblical fanfiction created by a guy taking a handful of verses and using them as jumping off point for his ideas? Though I can imagine why Ellanjay wouldn't want to reflect too long on that last part.

He rehashes Genesis talking about how he tempted Eve into eating the fruit and Cain into killing Abel. I admit that this part of the speech is mostly "Bwaah! Bwaah! I am evil!" blather, but again...Satan continues to have a point. It's nice that Ellanjay acknowledge that even the bad guys see themselves as the hero of their story, even if they horribly botch it because they're unwilling to take this line of thinking too far. But again, their subculture really doesn't have much respect for inquiry.

Then there's this bit:

Before you know it, I am proving beyond doubt that these creatures are not really products of the older angel’s creativity. Within a few generations I have them so confused, so selfish, so full of themselves that the old man no longer wants to claim they were made in his image.

“They get drunk; they fight; they blaspheme. They are stubborn; they are unfaithful. They kill each other. The only ones I cannot get through to are Noah and his kin. Of course, the great creator decides the rest of history depends on them and wipes out everyone else with a flood. I eventually got to Noah, but he had already started repopulating the earth.

I find the bit about Noah to be very interesting, especially where it mentions that eventually Satan got to Noah. It makes me wonder if someone clued in Ellanjay that their RTC forefathers used Genesis 9:20-27 as basically a Biblical cudgel to justify slavery. Later when they couldn't justify slavery with it, the bigots held onto it, using it in order to justify Jim Crow laws.

I suppose if I pointed this out to Ellanjay, they would be appalled, saying that they totally would have supported Martin Luther King, Jr. and how dare you say otherwise! Yeah I've got another webcomic for them.

Because we all know that they're going to do the same with Gay Rights as they did with the Civil Rights: deny, deny, deny until said views start costing them bodies in the pew (or in other words, money) after which they'll reverse themselves and pretend like they were totally on the right side of history all along. Sad part is because their subculture sucks at history, said strategy will work.

The next part I highly suspect was put in to bolster their "The Other Guys are the Real Anti-Semites, not us!" defense. Because Satan wants to exterminate the Jews, but Ellanjay just want them to surrender their cultural identities, give up everything that makes them a separate people, and convert or die and burn in Hell forever, which is totally different.

“Yes, I will admit it. The father and the son have been formidable foes over the generations. They have their favorites—the Jews, of all people. The Jews are the apples of the elder’s eye, but therein lies his weakness. He has such a soft spot for them that they will be his undoing.

“My forces and I almost had them wiped out not so many generations ago, but father and son intervened, gave them back their own land, and foiled us again. Fate has toyed with us many times, my friends, but in the end we shall prevail.

Nicky does the bit that aunursa had mentioned in a previous post where Nicky basically bwaahs! about how he's going to win by following God's plan to the letter even though said plan ends in his defeat. I fast-forward through it to quote this part.

“Let them turn the lights off in the great city that I loved so much! Ah, how beautiful it was when it was the center for commerce and government, and the great ships and planes brought in goods from all over the globe. So it is dark now. And so what if it is eventually destroyed? I will build it back up, because I am more powerful than father and son combined.

“Let them shake the earth until it is level and drop hundred-pound chunks of ice from the skies. I will win in the end because I have read their battle plan. The old man plans to send the son to set up the kingdom he predicted more than three hundred times in his book, and he even tells where he will land! Ladies and gentlemen, we have a surprise waiting for him!"

I'll admit it's still heavy on the cartoonish villain talk, enough that I continue to see Nicky as Cobra Commander, but in spite of this, bits of it are oddly inspiring.

Because the core is Nicky basically saying, "We're going to stand up, fight the Eldritch Horrors trying to wipe us out, and win!" and as Fred Clark points out, heroes are generally opposed to the destruction of the world. It's kind of part of the job description: heroes value life and will do whatever they can to save whoever they can. Villains believe that the ends justify the means.

Or in other words, think of Avengers 2: Age of Ultron where Ultron is all "Okay you can stop me from destroying the world or save a city full of millions of innocent civilians." And in true hero fashion, the collective response of The Avengers is "STFU! We're doing both!" and they proceed to do so. The Avengers could have easily decided, in realpolitik fashion, that the billions of lives that would be lost if Ultron won, far outweighed a city full of civilians, but they double-downed and bent over backwards to prove that Ultron was wrong about humans.

[TANGENT] I find myself wondering if Avengers 2 didn't exist as one giant Take That against that movie I hate so very much. Instead of a movie that's dour and dreary and steadfastly refuses to admit that there is anything awe-inspiring or cool about seeing a man fly, Avengers 2 gave us bright colors, a rousing score, and heroes who actually do care about life instead of just paying lip service to the whole "Heroes value human life" trope. [/TANGENT]

Or if you're tired of me fangirling the MCU, I'll use Fred Clark's words on the subject. Yeah, I already linked to said post, but I totally felt it deserved to be in the body of the snark.

One thing it might suggest is that Nicolae Carpathia doesn’t know that he’s the Antichrist. He doesn’t seem to realize that history is in its final throes, with the last curtain closing in less than six years from this point in the story.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to work with the rest of what we’ve been told or shown about Nicolae. I’ve wished it were true, because I think his character — and the entire story — would be a lot more interesting if he had no idea that he was the Antichrist, and no idea of all the “Bible prophecies” and End Times check list events he was required/predetermined to fulfill. But the authors have never given us any other motive or explanation for Nicolae’s behavior. His agenda — from the construction of New Babylon to the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem — is just too weird and arbitrary to be explained by anything other than his working from the same prophecy check list that’s pinned up on the wall of Bruce Barnes’ study.

So he’s gotta know he’s the Antichrist, and he surely knows the final countdown of the seven-year Tribulation is under way.

But maybe he really thinks he can win. Maybe he imagines that he’ll be able to change the predetermined outcome at Armageddon, preventing the End of the World and thereby continuing his reign as global dictator for the rest of his natural life. In that case, it might make sense for him to want children — to raise an heir who could inherit his throne. Maybe Nicolae really thinks he has a chance of keeping history and the world going longer than just the next five and a half years, long enough to see his child graduate from school, maybe get married some day and make him not just a father but a grandfather. …

But that scenario – the Antichrist-who-thinks-he-can-win-Armageddon possibility — raises another huge problem. It turns the whole story upside-down. It gives us a story in which powerful forces are at work trying to bring about the end of the world, while one man rises up to oppose them — fighting to save the world and to prevent the slaughter of billions of people. If that’s the story, then there’s no way that guy isn’t the hero of the story — even if that guy is also the Antichrist.

Fighting to save the world makes you the hero. That’s how that always works.

Anyway, because I am a massive MCU fangirl and I especially fangirl Captain America, I'm going to blather on some more about my love for said series and yes, I will provide a clip for your perusal.

Because I find myself thinking of the conversation between Erskine and Steve. Erskine basically says that he chose Steve because he felt that a weak man would know the value of strength and be less likely to abuse it. Fair enough, but I wonder if Erskine considered the possibility that a weak man who is given power, may very well decide to use it to abuse others. It seems a sadly oft-repeated theme in history: somebody on the bottom gets pushed around and picked on by those higher up, until somehow positions change and now the weak man is the one with the power. But the problem is that the weak man has internalized the "Might makes Right" attitude of those who used to bully him, so said weak man proceeds to become as bad as those who used to pick on him, using his power to push around those lower than him.

Of course, we all know Steve, by virtue of being awesome, didn't internalize the bully's mindset and become a bully himself, but still. Though I know Ellanjay are aware of the whole internalizing mindset. Because it just keeps showing up on the Right: "If we give the black folk/the gays/whatever group serves as their bogeyman, the rights due to them as Americans, they will immediately oppress and enslave us!" Granted, they use other words to express this idea, but the general meaning remains the same. They think Rights work like Pie in that in order to give someone a bigger slice, you must take away from someone else's slice. But Rights don't work like Pie. Giving more people more rights just leads to more rights for everyone. Rights multiply.

Anyway, there's some boring blather about weapons and then we get to the part where Lionel warns us to have strong stomachs.

If you're wondering which part of the Bible they're taking out of consequence, it's Revelation 16:13-14. For those of you too lazy to read the whole thing in the link, here's the verses in question:

Then I saw three impure spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet. They are demonic spirits that perform signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty.

So okay, we should expect to see demon-frog people. But, y'know, they're going to botch it. I remember one time when they had something in there about a river from a dragon's mouth being sent to kill God's people. I kind of knew they would interpret the part about the dragon as being about Nicky, rather than an actual mother-effing dragon, and they did, but I wondered how they would interpret the part about "the river from the dragon's mouth." I thought it would involve Nicky trying to kill everyone with his drool, which would be so stupid it crosses the line and becomes awesome, but instead, it involved an army of soldiers. Because Ellanjay support a straightforward interpretation of scripture.

Anyway the demon-frog people appear and Nicky says this:

“Please meet Ashtaroth, Baal, and Cankerworm. They are the most convincing and persuasive spirits it has ever been my pleasure to know. I am going to ask now that we, all of us, gather round them and lay hands on them, commissioning them for this momentous task.”

Not bad, but that seen could have been so much more metal than it was. You find yourself wishing that Iron Maiden or Black Sabbath was here: at least they'd give us an awesome album cover that would capture all the ridiculous awesomeness.

With the potentates and the others touching the three, Nicolae said, “And now go, you three, to the ends of the earth to gather them to the final conflict in Jerusalem, where we shall once and for all destroy the father and his so-called Messiah. Persuade everyone everywhere that the victory is ours, that we are right, and that together we can destroy the son before he takes over this world. Once he is gone, we will be the undisputed, unopposed leaders of the world.

“I confer upon you the power to perform signs and heal the sick and raise the dead, if need be, to convince the world that victory is ours. And now go in power."

If what I'd shown you thus far, hasn't turned you into a drooling Nicky fanboy or fangirl, the above should be enough. Because again, saving the world, along with healing the sick and resurrecting the dead, tends to be the kind of stuff that heroes do. So I want everyone to join me in saying, "Hail Satan!"

Anyway, that's it. This post was getting so damn long I was worried I'd have to halve it or something, but it's done. It'll have to tide you over for a bit; this weekend I'll be visiting relatives because of Christmas and whatnot, so I won't be able to dish out high-quality snark. You'll just have to hold on a bit longer.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Bad Cop's not out of Control and the Good Cop isn't Your Friend

Hello and happy Sunday!

Okay, should probably warn all my readers: I found myself, as I was writing this week's snark, delving it some pretty serious information. Don't know if I should provide trigger warnings or how to go about doing so, but felt I should give a heads up. If any of my readers have psychological issues, there's some stuff in here talking about abuse. If it's too much to handle, you may bow out with my blessing. As someone who struggles with mental illness, I understand how seemingly innocuous stuff can hit way too close to home emotionally. That said, on with the snark.

Last week, Mark became an ex-Believer. I'd assumed in true Ellanjay fashion that we'd get a one paragraph mention about how the tribbles are real sad about his death, then move onto the next plot point, but they actually do linger a little and allow the tribbles to mourn Mark's death. This makes me wonder if I should reevaluate Mark's standing in the RTC hierarchy. Because we all know in the great hierarchy that Rayford and Buck are above everyone including God (I seriously think the only reason there isn't a scene where TurboJesus or Zod sobs and talks about how they wish they could be as manly and awesome as Rayford or Buck, is because Ellanjay were too chicken to have them say anything but Bible quotes) and of course, men outrank women, and manly Americans outrank those foreign foreigners. Oh and those with a higher melanin count are automatically outranked by those with a lower count.

Obviously the YTF are somewhat lower on the hierarchy by virtue of age, even though they're no longer, y'know, kids. Judd is probably at the top of the YTF hierarchy even though I'm fairly certain Vicki's racked up more converts and done most of the heavy lifting involved in getting everybody together. But Vicki is a girl with girl parts, who only has the status she does because she's married to Judd.

I'll assume that Lionel, by virtue of being Black and because he disappears for chapters at a time and no one cares, is on the lower end of the hierarchy, enough that I wonder if he even still qualifies as a Main Character or if he's just a member of the Minor Character Cloud (MCC). Though the concept of the MCC actually would explain a lot about Lionel's existence. Gotta feel sorry for the inhabitants of the MCC: nothing for them to do except just float around and read Jack Chick tracts until the plot summons them to appear in solid form.

Sorry for all my rambling. Anyway, the point I'm trying to make is I'm wondering whether Mark managed to achieve Main Character status in death, or if he's just a higher-ranked member of the MCC.

All right, I'll get to the damn chapter.

Right at the starting gate, Ellanjay demonstrate their trademark preference for telling rather than showing the readers what's going on.

FOR THE next several days Judd moved around Petra in a fog. He kept replaying first meeting Mark and John at Nicolae High and all the things they had been through. Though Vicki talked openly about Mark’s death, Judd found it difficult. He knew that frustrated Vicki, but it was taking him longer to accept the truth. Mark was gone.

Again this is some interesting stuff that would actually reveal more about Judd's character IF THEY COULD BE ARSED TO ACTUALLY SHOW RATHER THAN TELL!

Of course, what's really irritating isn't so much Ellanjay's kneejerk insistence on always telling, but that when they do choose to show, it's unimportant stuff like travel logistics and phone calls. Someone want to tell them that not everyone is as turned on by dial tones and Travelocity itineraries as they are?

Though that bit about him replaying meeting Mark at Nicolae High...were it not for the fact I'm lazy as hell, I'd go back to the previous books and try to do a timeline, figuring out how much interaction Judd and Mark have had since Ellanjay finally, thankfully, dropped the high school stuff like a hot potato and moved on. Because why would the YTF spend so much time dicking around with high school hijinks like a "subversive" newspaper given that THEY KNEW THE WORLD WOULD END IN SIX YEARS AND THERE'S NO DAMN POINT IN GETTING AN EDUCATION SO YOU CAN GO TO A GOOD COLLEGE AND FROM THERE, GET A GOOD JOB!

But like I said, I'm lazy. If any insanely devoted fans want to take on this project, along with my suggested Butt Monkey Project, feel free, but I've got too much brain space devoted to this series as is.

Judd walks around being all mopey. He goes to the highest point of Petra from there, we segue into what takes up the bulk of this chapter: Token Jew preaching.

Supposedly thanks to Chang Wong's hacking skills (because Ellanjay, like the writers of CSI: Cyber, believe that hacking=fucking magic) this message is being broadcast all over the world.

As you probably guessed, it's a shitty-assed terrible sermon. Increasingly I wonder how well Tim LaHaye does as a preacher. Because you'd think a preacher, aka a guy who writes and delivers sermons every week, would be able to craft a semi-compelling sermon, but Token Jew's is freaking terrible! In fact, I actually liked the beginning where Judd just summarizes what Token Jew said rather than actually show us. Yeah, it's lazy writing but as much as I complain about how Ellanjay violate the "Show don't Tell" commandment of writing, you start to welcome the telling; it's easier to get through even if it is impossible to snark.

When Judd arrived at the massive gathering, Tsion was already well into his message. He explained that the truth of God’s Word was confirmed by the judgments and plagues. From the disappearances to the hail and fire, the burning mountain that fell into the sea, to the demonic locusts—all these and more were proof that God’s Word was true.

I suppose I could rant about all the disasters left out, like the massive worldwide earthquakes and the many, many times the water turned to blood and became undrinkable, killing all flora and fauna, as well as those too poor to stockpile bottled water, but I think it's more important to focus on the last line. Because y'see, it's not really so much whether God's Word is true that unbelievers in this universe are hung up on; it's more the nature of said God. Probably the destruction of Russia's nuclear payload over Israel (aka the event that took place before the Rapture that no one, RTC or otherwise, seemed to notice or care about) would probably be enough to make Richard Dawkins pause and do some soul-searching, but the rest...

Again, Ellanjay keep struggling, trying to meld two incompatible images of God, the pissed-off, mad as hell and not going to take it anymore! God as depicted in Jonathan Edwards "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" sermon, with the God more commonly depicted in both popular culture and scripture as being so unwilling to let any sinner perish, that He'll risk everything to find and bring back that one lost sheep.

But like I said, these ideas are incompatible. You can't proclaim that God loves his people when God is doing his damndest to exterminate every last one of them! To borrow from Linkara, IT JUST DOESN'T WORK THAT WAY! Like John, in his letter to the church of Laodicea, you wish they would pick a damn side and play! Because as horrible as the Jonathan Edwards "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" approach is, at least it's a helluva lot more coherent! Trying to bring together two incompatible ideas just muddles the story even more!

Of course, a large reason for the muddiness of said message is that Ellanjay probably believe more in the Jonathan Edwards approach than they do the "God so loved the world" approach, but they know popular culture as a whole leans more towards the "God so loved the world" approach that they feel they must pay lip service to the idea. So in other words, they're trying to have their cake and eat it too. Again for all the faults of Jonathan Edwards's sermon, at least he was honestly willing to take a stand and didn't try to weasel out of the implications of his words.

Damn...this rant wound up being wordier than I thought. For those going "tl;dr", it's not really so much the existence of God people in the LB-verse question; it's the nature of said God and whether this God is deserving of being worshipped. Yeah, fighting the urge to bring up the Abused Spouse or Child metaphor. I know I've made the point so many times, but it's just so damn apt that there's really nothing else I can use.

Anyway, we finally do get some of Token Jew's words, not just the summary:

“… Two more judgments await before the glorious appearing of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ,” Tsion was saying to the people and a nearby camera. “Hear me! The Euphrates River will become as dry land! Scoff today but be amazed when it happens, and remember it was foretold. The last judgment will be an earthquake that levels the entire globe. This judgment will bring hail so huge it will kill millions.

As I recall, haven't we already gone through not one, but TWO worldwide earthquakes? Also, yeah, I'm fairly certain we've also gone through freakish hail storms as well. So yeah, YOU FAIL FOREVER, TOKEN JEW!

“I am asked every day, how can people see all these things and still choose Antichrist over Christ? It is the puzzle of the ages. For many of you, it is already too late to change your mind. You may now see that you have chosen the wrong side in this war. But if you pledged your allegiance to the enemy of God by taking his mark of loyalty, it is too late for you.

Yeah, I too wonder why, when given a choice between an eldritch horror using his supernatural powers to kill everyone so he can burninate them forever and a guy who is trying his damndest to keep the infrastructure maintained, thus saving lives, as well as using his supernatural powers to save people, people for some reason side against the eldritch horror. It's a real mystery. :eyeroll:

Okay, I know supposedly that story your mom told you about how if you make that face for too long, it'll freeze, isn't true, but is it possible that if you roll your eyes too much, eventually they'll stay forever rolled into the back of your head, or if you continually express sarcasm, eventually that will be the only emotion you're capable of demonstrating? Inquiring minds need to know. I'm enough of an isolated weirdo as is! Don't need to add to my list of social difficulties.

Though to be fair to Lovecraft, I probably shouldn't keep referring to Zod as an eldritch horror. Lovecraft may have been super racist, so much so that you suspect the only reason he didn't join the KKK, was that it would require more interaction than an isolated weirdo such as himself would enjoy, but again, like Edwards, he was at least consistent. He didn't say that his mind-melting, world-destroying horrors did all this because they secretly loved humanity!

Oh and's like they've read my blog, because they do not try to dispute all my Abused Spouse or Child logic, like at all. Just look at this next line.

“If you have not taken the mark yet, it may still be too late, because you waited so long. You pushed the patience of God past the breaking point.

Some basic rules that Ellanjay apparently need explained to them: In a Good Cop/Bad Cop routine, the Bad Cop isn't really out of control and the Good Cop isn't really your friend.

Also, to continue the Abused Spouse metaphor, as many who deal with people trying to escape from an Abusive Spouse/lover will tell you, no matter how much the Abuser may say otherwise they're not out of control; they know exactly what they're doing. There are numerous anecdotes that testify to this, talking about how said Abuser will magically calm down as soon as the police show up; soon as the cops start sniffing around, they start talking about how it's all a misunderstanding and yeah, they'd gotten into an argument, but it's over now, knowing damn well that their victim (who will have the bedraggled look of someone who's just been through a war, while the Abuser looks calm and clean-cut) won't dare say a damn thing while their abuser is in the room with them.

I know the plural of anecdote isn't data, but sometimes anecdotes really illustrate the point more than emotionless statistics. Like how an abused wife eventually realized that her husband wasn't out of control after a conversation with a friend. Said abusive a-hole husband had a habit of getting enraged then smashing the shit out of stuff; as you probably guessed, afterwards, Abusive A-hole would calm down and apologize and replace what he'd broken.

Said friend asked, "Okay, when he gets pissed off, whose stuff does he break?" and in doing so, pointed out that Abusive A-hole wasn't out of control, because whenever he got into rages, he didn't smash stuff willy-nilly; it was always his wife's stuff that he destroyed, never any of his own stuff.

Whoa...I didn't mean to get so deep and dark this week. Sorry if this is triggering for anyone. If y'all need to bow out, I understand and apologize. In fact, in order to soften the emotional blow and because I'm all about fangirling the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), I'm going to provide a clip.

Because the MCU, unlike Ellanjay and that one movie that drives me into so many frothing rants I'm in danger of alienating everyone in my life, understand that the fundamental difference between the hero and the bad guy isn't that the Hero wins because his gun is bigger and better than the Bad Guy's, but because...well, I'm going to use a quote from Linkara's review of the Frank Miller excretion (I can't, in all honesty, call it a comic book) Holy Terror to drive the point home. I scoured YouTube in search of just this quote, but all I found was the whole review, so you'll just have to take the awesome in text form.

“You know, I sometimes get asked why Camelot of all films is my favorite movie. And the reason is because it actually changed my life or at least focused my beliefs into something that was a good solid foundation for personal philosophy. Those who have power should use it to do good. That violence is not strength. That compassion is not weakness. That revenge is utterly pointless.

Superheroes are basically the equivalent of modern day knight-errant. They go out and help people and fight injustices. But, a lot of the best superhero comics are the ones not actually about superheroes hitting super-villains or hitting each other or anything like that. It’s the ones that show that superheroes are about kindness and decency and something far more noble than the adolescent power fantasies that people often y’know critique them as.

I think I hate this comic more than any other I’ve ever reviewed because it is the complete antitheses of everything I believe in. Holy Terror says that you should be unkind. It says you shouldn’t trust people. It says compassion should be re-paid with violence. And that violence can only be answered with more violence. And that violence is strength. That hurting others is not only enjoyable. It’s desirable. But, it should be employed first when dealing with threats. It says that if you have power, you can lord that power over others and do harm to them. It says that revenge is a worthy cause. It treats women as either victims or enemies. It tells us we should fear the others. The foreigner, the dark skin, the religion that’s not your own. Y’know what the damnedest thing of all is?

I am honest to God afraid of Terrorism. Terrorism is real. There are people out there who want to kill me either because I’m from a different country or just because they're some angry misanthrope with a gun. That applies to both foreign and domestic terrorists.

Terrorism is about making someone so afraid that they’ll do what you tell them to. And the grand message of Frank Miller’s Holy Terror is: Be afraid. Be terrified. And let’s give into that fear and embrace every dark, sick and inhuman part of our souls as a result. And do everything to THEM what they would do to us. Frank, you must be so proud.”

Sorry for all the rants, back to the story. Token Jew continues preaching, basically the same "Better to be eaten first" altar call we've come to know and love from Ellanjay.

Token Jew quotes Revelation 2:10, again ignoring the larger context. Token Jew credits this verse as one of Jesus's, but if you clicked on the link and actually read it, it was actually John's words. And of course, when John wrote these words, he didn't write them for his intended audience--the church of Smyrna, which like many other Christian Churches, was facing persecution at the hands of the Roman Emperor, Nero--but for Christians thousands of years in the future on a continent that he didn't even know existed.

Token Jew goes on basically saying that shit's going to get worse. If you're wondering, this chapter is the one where he cites James 5:8 and again, the mere acknowledgement of the Book of James, makes my brain crash gears, because somehow they know about that verse but managed to read that verse without seeing the first five verses of that chapter?! Again, just so y'all can experience the brain-crashing for yourselves, I'm going to quote the first five verses of James, chapter five, because it perfectly illustrates that for all their idolatrous worship of the Bible, they don't want their flock to :gasp: :choke: actually read and take said verses seriously.

Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you.

Token Jew cites Second Peter, chapter three, verses ten through fourteen. As always, I provide a link to the full chapter because as an English major, I believe that context matters, dammit! But you can see why RTCs are more open to Second Peter than they are to James. Second Peter is less about "Faith without works is dead" and more about the "Sinful Sinners will get what they deserve," which they like more than all that talk about taking care of the poor and showing mercy and all that.

Though I'll assume that like all good RTCs, they stop at verse fourteen and read no further. Because verses fifteen and sixteen of that chapter...yeah, I'll just quote them for the benefit of my readers.

Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

Token Jew wraps up his sermon by saying, "Go to our illegal website for more information and to talk with counselors who will lead you to Christ." Kind of interesting that he doesn't just say, "Get a Bible and read it!" Because if this is supposed to be a clear, straightforward reading of scripture, you'd think said non-believer could figure it out on his own and wouldn't need someone to hold his or her hand through all this.

But I suppose there's the danger in that said non-believer might read about how the Church, as depicted in the book of Acts, held everything in common, or they'll read Jesus's sermon on the Mount, without realizing that all that stuff was, again, written for some version in the future, and you're not supposed to actually take it literally. The few verses about the gays and the fires of hell? Totally take literally, but everything else can be safely ignored.

Judd is all comforted by Token Jew's words and feels better about Mark, even though said sermon was incredibly generic and could have been applied to anyone. But to my surprise, that's not the end of the "Mourning Mark" bit. Next section has Judd sit down with Lionel (who has returned from the Phantom Zone or wherever the hell he goes when he's not onstage) and talks to him. I suppose I could wonder why he's talking to Lionel about this stuff and not the person he's married to, aka Vicki, but hey.

Lionel is all "You don't think this is your fault, do you?" Judd is like "I know I couldn't have done anything to save him, but I don't understand why he was so stupid."

Lionel is like, "He saved his friends. That's not stupid," again, illustrating the issue I keep complaining about over and over again in this series: if the Tribbles aren't going to do anything either to stop the anti-Christ or to minister to those suffering as a result of the latest Wrath of God incident, WHY THE HELL DO THEY EVEN BOTHER TO HANG AROUND?! JUST OFFER YOURSELVES UP TO THE GC AND ENJOY ROMPING AROUND IN HEAVEN WHILE EVERYONE ELSE SUFFERS ALREADY!

Then there's this little bit that makes me laugh derisively for several minutes. Okay, I tried to copy and paste it, but I keep getting an error message from the eBook saying I've reached the publisher's limit for copying and pasting. I'm going to grumble and curse about Fair Use and from there, just keep summarizing. It was a small part and it's really not that important, so it won't be too much trouble.

Judd talks about how Mark was always doing stuff without thinking about the consequences, like the time he considered running off and joining the militia, and Lionel says that Judd feels guilty because Mark reminds him so much of himself.

For those of you wondering, this is one of those moments where not only is it okay to point and laugh, but you'd be remiss in your duties if you didn't. Because we all know about all the brave blows Judd has inflicted against the Tyrannical Satanic Government that rules the earth. Such as...I know it's cliché, but really the only way to sum it up is with a tumbleweed gif.

Again, for all her faults and she has many, Vicki has racked up way more converts and done more heavy-lifting than Judd, but she can't possibly be the leader of the YTF because she's got boobs. Remember, in Ellanjayland, a good leader isn't recognized by how his or her decisions pan out or whether they're willing to make the tough choices needed to keep everyone alive; they're recognized by whether everyone kisses their ass, regardless of how well their decisions turn out. So even though Judd spent the majority of this series flying all over the world doing fuck-all, while Vicki tried to hold down the fort and keep everyone alive in the states, EVERYBODY SEES JUDD AS THE LEADER, REGARDLESS OF WHETHER THEY'VE HAD ANY INTERACTIONS WITH HIM WHATSOEVER!

Judd shakes his head, saying that he thought Mark would change and we see a brief flowering of rebellious thought from Judd. Cue the Dramatic Prairie Dog. Granted said rebellious thought will probably, like all other rebellious thoughts, be quickly squashed but it is damn nice to see!

Basically Judd :gasp: :choke: says what really makes him mad is that God allowed all this to happen in the first place. I, because I'm morbidly curious, find myself wondering what the good people of CAPalert would think of this. Because y'know Ellanjay won't allow this rebellious streak to go too far and Judd will clearly be shown to be in the wrong, but given that the nutbars at CAPalert criticized the original Star Wars movies because the Empire has bad attitudes (even though the Empire is clearly depicted as being, y'know, evil)...I've got to wonder whether they'd allow even this bit of rebelliousness from Judd. Because apparently if you have anything bad in your story, even if it is clearly depicted as being bad, you're a horrible person trying to corrupt the youth of today!

Lionel brings up his Uncle Andre for the first time since the single digit books (as far as he knows, his beloved uncle died unsaved and has been roasting on a spit for at least six years)and basically mutters some platitudes about how it's bad but he gets by, by believing that God is on his throne and is still in control of things. Yeah...of course, neither he nor Judd take said statement to its logical conclusion by pointing out, "Okay if he's in control of things, then he could, at any point, say, 'Y'know I think they've had enough' and change his mind, right? After all, the last two chapters of the Book of Jonah show He is capable of doing so."

Surprisingly enough, Judd isn't immediately impressed by Lionel's amazing logic. He goes on to talk about an uncle he had, who used to take him out on his boat, and died at an early age of cancer. Judd goes so far as to say, "I still don't see any sense in it, even though I believe God's there and really does care." I suppose that's the most rebellious Judd will be allowed to get in this series. Seeing this bit of rebellious thought struggling to live, it's akin to watching a flower eking out an existence in a crack in the sidewalk. You kind of admire the heroism, even though you know it won't last long. We certainly can't hope for anything close to Mister Smith's speech from the sadly short-lived show Jeremiah:

“I can’t do this anymore. You hear me? I can’t do it anymore! I didn’t ask to be the chosen. I don’t want to be the chosen, I’m tired of being the chosen. So choose somebody else for a change! You got nothing to say? I know you can hear me. Pick now to go quiet? Well damn you. Damn you for doing this to me. And damn me for not blowing my brains out. That’d really mess your plans up, wouldn’t it? I don’t want to know what I know! I shouldn’t have to know the things I know, not if I can’t do anything about it!”

Again, if you haven't seen this show, the whole thing's on Hulu. Go watch now and see just how it succeeds where Ellanjay fail!

Lionel tries to show Judd the YTF website, talking about all the work Mark put into it. But then Judd says something we're supposed to find shocking: he says that he and Vicki are planning on being in Jerusalem for the final battle.

Lionel is shocked and says, "You're crazy!" And maybe because I haven't sipped the RTC flavor-aid, but I can't see where Lionel is coming from here. As Judd talks about how he wants to make life miserable for the GC troops trying to destroy the city and be there to witness Jesus come back, Lionel is all "You'll get yourselves killed!"

And I'm like, uh, Lionel, if Judd and Vicki did die, they'd immediately get bamfed into Heaven, so no loss, no foul. Plus, according to your convoluted interpretation of scripture (which we all know is the only correct interpretation), doesn't TurboJesus win that fight? I thought the whole thing was he shows up, slaughters all his enemies, sends them to hell for all eternity, then his faithful followers get to enjoy a sexless heaven on earth where they get steaming piles of produce to eat until the end of time.

In short, why the hell are you so suddenly concerned for Judd and Vicki's welfare? If anything, you should be like, "Hey can I come with you?" But maybe it's a case of Lionel is aware of his low position on the hierarchy and knows that asking would be an egregious violation of protocol. Because the wisdom and rank of Main Characters must be respected, even when it makes no damn sense.

The chapter ends with Lionel talking about showing Judd a video clip that Chang had given him. Apparently it demonstrates just how incredibly eeeevil Nicky is, but you'll have to wait until next week to hear the actual content. Spoiler alert: said content contains massive amounts of "Satan Has a Point."

But I've talked enough for this week. It just keeps happening: I read through the chapter thinking, "Okay what can I really say about this?" then when I sit down to snark, it's like a spigot has been turned and stuff just comes pouring out. The sad part is, I've probably put more thought into one of these posts than Ellanjay did to their entire series.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

And They'll Know We Are Christians By Our Body Count

Happy Sunday everybody! Well this week, Mark finally dies. Seeing as we're only 54% of the way in (according to the eBook), that still leaves Ellanjay with plenty of room to pad out the series further. :whimpers: I tell people that high on my list of "Stuff that Makes Me Question the Existence of a Loving God" is that Jim Henson, who by all accounts was a caring man who loved to entertain people, dies in his fifties, whereas Fred Phelps, aka Ass Scunge on the face of humanity, aka the Man for Whom No Profane Words Are Sufficient died at a ripe old age in his eighties. But I think I might add "Ellanjay are disgustingly rich and manage to do very well as writers, despite deficiencies in every aspect of the craft" to the list.

Oh, and like I said in last week's comments, I've decided, when we get to the inevitable scene, to use the term Goysplainning. Seriously every time I read any of the stuff where Our RTC Heroes patronizingly explain about how the Jews are Cute but Wrong, I think of John Redcorn's quote on King of the Hill: "Five hundred years of oppression and somehow I find this the most irritating." Though the Jewish people have the Native Americans beat when it comes to persecution; I don't know the exact number, but as I recall, the Jewish people are more in the neighborhood of "Several Millennia of persecution" rather than just five hundred.

The first section is with Judd and his merry band of friends in Petra. Even though, Lionel is now in Petra as well, we get no mention of him in the opening section, even though they could have easily just said, "Lionel bowed his head in silent prayer" or something, making me wonder "Is Lionel basically Judd's Tyler Durden?" or "Is Judd basically Lionel's Tyler Durden?" I know all these questions can be answered with two words--Shitty writing--but like I said, I concoct wild theories because anything I come up with, no matter how implausible, it's still more interesting and makes more sense than anything that's actually in the book.

Vicki calls everybody together for a prayer circle, so the majority of the first section is them just heaping up endless words. I suppose I could be clever and provide a link to Matthew, chapter 6, specifically verse 7, but that's part of the Sermon on the Mount, which we all know doesn't apply to Christians until after some indeterminate point in the future when TurboJesus kills everyone. I mean, why would you think Jesus meant for us to actually follow the advice laid out in the Sermon on the Mount. Honestly...

As for the actual content of their prayers, well they do sufficient mentions of the Father and the Lord, so there's no chance that someone accidentally prayed to Ahura Mazda instead of God. Smart move, keeping Sam out of this scene; I suppose in all likelihood they've forgotten all about how an Angel was able to bust him out, but maybe they kept him out of this scene because they, like my readers, were probably getting tired of all my rants on the subject.

As you probably guessed, pretty much all the prayers tacitly side-step the whole, "Y'know you could just bust him out" issue. Like I said, I often wonder if there's a trope on TV Tropes that accurately describes these characters, how they manage to be both genre savvy and complete idiots at the same time. I'd scour the website and try to find it myself, but I've got stuff to snark.

I do wonder what having everyone (or at least Judd, Vicki, Eleazar, Chaim, and Chang) pray for him mean for his position on the great RTC hierarchy. Because as many have pointed out, the prayer sense only seems to work when it comes to people higher up on the RTC hierarchy; Loretta felt compelled to call everybody and have them pray for Buck but you never see any instances of Buck praying for those further down on the hierarchy. So I wonder if this scene is a sign that Mark has left the Minor Character Cloud and achieved Main Character status. Spoiler alert: It doesn't do him a lot of good. Then again, since everyone in the LB-verse, including Zod and TurboJesus, is lower on the hierarchy than Our Buck or St. Rayford, maybe I should reevaluate my data.

Okay, I'll get back to the damn book. Just know that all this spit-balling is a heckuva lot more interesting than anything actually written in the book.

We cut to Mark. Mark has a nasty bump on his head and is thinking about Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Yeah...if I really believed that the series would delve into the fear and pain he must be feeling, regarding his impending death, I would actually believe this. But I don't.

Angel Dude shows up again. Spoiler Alert: once again, he does nothing of any importance in this chapter. But we do finally get his name, which is Caleb. I suppose I could do some research and compare the biblical Caleb to the one depicted in this series, but I'm lazy. Plus, we don't know if said angel is supposed to be the biblical Caleb who helped out Moses (sort of like how the Gruesome Twosome were supposed to be the actual Moses and Elijah) or if Ellanjay just chose a Biblical name for him. Just know that I'm still going to refer to him as Angel Dude, because he does absolutely nothing notable or worthy of being given an actual name. Again, Alan Rickman has more charisma in his toenails than any of the characters, supernatural or otherwise, in this series.

Angel Dude talks about watching Christians get martyred. As you can probably guess, he's pretty nonchalant about it. I suppose it would be too much for him to talk about the pain and suffering the martyred experienced before they died, even if he contrasted it by saying, "Hey, they're now romping around in Heaven," afterwards. Again, just as their Protestant rejection of the Catholic confessional leaves them ill-equipped to talk about sin, it also leaves them ill-equipped to tell martyrdom stories. Say what you will about the Catholics but they knew how to tell some damn good martyrdom stories. They wouldn't have the exchange between Mark and Angel Dude, be this colorless.

“God’s people have always acted with great courage. Some weep at the end, others sing, and some quote Scripture. It is different every time, and yet there are remarkable similarities.”

“Like what?”

“The looks on their faces. The hope that shines through. Those who are doing the killing look like shells, but the ones being executed are truly alive. It happened that way recently with Chloe Williams. She was able to speak of the living Christ before her death.”

“You visited Chloe?”

Caleb put a hand over his chest. “Her heart was breaking over leaving her husband and son, but she expressed her desire to be with Jesus.”

I know, I know, I totally overuse this clip, but I just keep coming back to it. I mean, Mark is supposed to be talking to an Angel, as in a supernatural immortal messenger who exists to carry out God's will. You'd expect a being that's been around for countless millennia, who has seen kingdoms rise and fall, and countless people die under many different circumstances, would be able to convey some charisma/wisdom. But wet newspaper is more charismatic than this angel. Heck, a dirty limerick on a bathroom stall would at least have more insight into human nature and be more entertaining than this angel.

In fact, there's no real reason why God has to dispatch an angel to this character. Said angel doesn't do anything that advances the plot or provides insight into the character; with some rewriting, you could easily have had the words be delivered by another prisoner in a neighboring cell awaiting execution. In fact, I'm just going to go with the Tyler Durden theory regarding Angel Dude. As far as I'm concerned, Angel Dude doesn't actually exist. He's a hallucination brought on by fear. So his mind created this archetype of an angel in order to comfort him and keep him from going crazy in his final hours. All the so-called miraculous stuff that really doesn't amount to anything--like the angel unlocking his cuffs and healing his legs--again, can be explained by the hallucination theory.

Though I suppose the angel could have been sent by Zod to comfort Mark so he'll go meekly to the slaughter without asking too many questions (like why He can't be bothered to miraculously save me like He did so many other tribbles), sort of like how slaughterhouses have it set up so the cow gets electrical jolts to the brain, thus keeping it from freaking out and running away when it's slaughtered and processed. In fact, both theories may be true, given the nature of Ellanjay's God.

Mark is like, "So when I die, are you going to do the bright, shimmering thing like you did with Chloe?" And Angel Dude gives this response, which again only adds more to the Tyler Durden or Electric Shock theory. Because when a comedy made by secular Hollyweird manages to display more spiritual insight...all I'm going to say is that writers of Christian Fiction need to hang their heads in shame.

It's a good rule of thumb: any literature that goes out of its way to explicitly label itself as "Christian Fiction," sucks and sucks hard. Again, we can talk about all the problematic aspects of the Chronicles of Narnia, like The Problem of Susan or how the Calormenes are pretty much Arab stereotypes, but thing is, for all his faults, C.S. Lewis did actually try; he knew it was his duty, first and foremost as a writer of Children's fiction, to tell a story that children would enjoy reading. For all his faults, there's some damn good writing in the Chronicles. Heck, even in the last book, which is justifiably considered the worst book of the series, there was still some damn good poetic writing about the nature of God and Heaven.

Like I said, when you look at all the great Christian art of the past and compare it with the terrible Christian art of the present, sometimes you almost wish it was like the old days where the Church was the only source of employment for artists around and therefore, you couldn't just slap a Jesus-fish on a piece of crap and get by. Because competition strengthens the craft.

Dang, I got on a tear, didn't I? Sorry, just got fired up. As promised, here's Angel Dude's words of comfort to Mark:

Caleb smiled. “Each event is different. If there is need for me to be there and speak, I will.” He tilted his head slightly to the left and gazed at Mark. “Thus says the Son of the most high God: ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, yet shall he live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.’ Be comforted by these words.”

As you probably guessed, Angel Dude is quoting from the Bible, the book of John, 11:25, to be specific. Again, you really wonder if, for all their collective hard-on RTCs have regarding the Bible, whether any of them actually read it. Because if you read the larger context, that chapter of John has one of Jesus's greatest miracles: the resurrection of Lazarus. You'd think that Mark would be like, "So Jesus can resurrect a guy whose been dead for four days, but can't arrange for me to bust out of here?"

Again, I'm forced to conclude that for all their hullabaloo about scripture and how it is so important, that the entire edifice of RTC-ianity hinges on ignorance of the Bible. This would come as a shock to the founder of the Protestant faith, Martin Luther. Yeah, the dude was a raving anti-Semite, but the whole ideal of Protestantism rests on the idea that everyone is capable of studying and communicating with God by themselves and they don't need a Priest to serve as a go-between.

Yet Ellanjay seem to subscribe to the old tradition of "We can't possibly allow those plebians to read and interpret scripture for themselves, lest all Hell break loose." I mean if those peasants start believing that nonsense about selling all that you have and giving it to the poor...

Okay, if you're wondering what inspired this latest rant, I was thinking of something I read a chapter or two later, where Token Jew quotes James 5:8. That little act made my brains crash gears, because seriously have they read any other part of that chapter? I am, of course, referring to the first five verses, which would really hit uncomfortably close to home for a good and faithful RTC. Heck, I'm surprised they would cite anything from James, given that book's central thesis is basically the last verse of Chapter Two: Faith without Works is Dead.

[TANGENT] Y'know I think we might have the workings of a business venture. We could publish special edition Bibles that RTCs can give to their kids, with all the "wrong" passages carefully excised from the book. We could market it as "Make sure your kids stay on the straight and narrow path by getting rid of any of the parts that might get them believing in that Islamo-Commie-Fascist nonsense called the Social Gospel."

I don't think I could actually go through with this hare-brained scheme--heck, the mere act of proposing it, makes me feel like taking a thousand long showers to clean off the grime--but it's more doable than my original scheme of creating Bibles that look and feel like the actual thing (leather covers with gold lettering, the thin pages), but instead of having the Bible in them, it would contain the text of Atlas Shrugged. We could probably make a mint, catering to the RTCs' hard-on for Ayn Rand (because really who would relate to some nonsense about selling all you possess and giving it to the poor), but the trouble is I'm fairly certain Atlas Shrugged isn't in the public domain, so, maybe I should just go with another scheme I've been kicking around: distributing glurgy "Support Our Troops" posters, but with the prayer from Mark Twain's The War Prayer, specifically the part in red, on it. [/TANGENT]

All right, I'll stop talking about Get Rich Quick schemes that will never come to pass and get back to the book.

Angel Dude gives bland words of comfort and leaves. The GC show up and drag Mark and the others out of their cells. And we get some more information, which makes me ponder Mark's place on the RTC Chain of Being.

Mark expected the same kind of fanfare as Chloe, news trucks lined up, the works. But there weren’t even people manning the tables at this hour. A few guards huddled together, trying to keep warm.

I'm going to assume that Ellanjay through this in, in response to all my blather about whether or not, Mark has escaped the Minor Character Cloud to take his place with the Main Characters. I'm going to assume that the whole "no news crews" thing proves that Mark will die the way he lived: as a minor character, who gets fifteen minutes in the spotlight before being shuffled off-screen. But I have to raise an eyebrow over a dictatorship conducting open and televised executions of enemies of the state.

I suppose Ellanjay, if pressed, would make comparisons to Roman gladiator matches where Brave Christians were fed to lions, but from what I've read, the idea that Romans fed Christians to lions, is mostly a myth. It did happen, but not in the widespread numbers the myth seems to imply. Plus if it did happen, it was usually as one of the lunchtime events. Lunchtime events were scheduled during lunch and were usually poorly attended (because the audience was out grabbing a bit to eat), so the gladiators didn't go all out for said events.

But my point is that when it comes to dictatorships, secrecy is the general name of the game. People are made to disappear, rather than given a publicized execution that allows them to grandstand and become martyrs. Again, if they had done any research whatsoever, they could have painted a chilling picture of what it's like to be ruled by a dictatorship, but if they did the research, they might stumble onto uncomfortable topics like Cognitive Dissonance or find out that the majority of Nazis identified as Christians and chaos would ensue.

Steve shows up again and he and Mark exchange some words. Nothing really important. If you're wondering Commander Fulcire brought them out and later executes one (Steve, if you're wondering) in an attempt to shake Mark. As you can imagine it doesn't work.

Ellanjay try to have Mark be all martyriffic, by having him think about how he feels sorry for Commander Fulcire. But read this entire passage and tell me if Mark comes across as someone filled with sorrow.

Mark wanted to tell Commander Fulcire the truth a final time. He wanted to scream at him that Jesus was coming back and would conquer the armies of the Antichrist. Instead, Mark felt compassion for the man who had followed the devil.

“I feel sorry for you,” Mark whispered. Fulcire laughed. “You feel sorry for me?”

“One day every person on earth will admit that Jesus Christ is Lord. He is the true Potentate and the Creator of the universe.”

“So you don’t want to save your friends?”

“One day soon, New Babylon is going to be destroyed.”


“And the armies of your leader will go to battle against God’s people.”

“I hope to be there,” Fulcire said.

“You and those like you who wear the uniform of the Global Community will be struck down.”

“With all the weaponry and firepower at our disposal? Not likely.”

Mark looked at the guards with Fulcire. “Do anything you can to stay away from the last battle. Get sick. Run away. But don’t be near Israel in six months.”

Yeah, Mark doesn't sound like he's full of sorrow; he, like every other RTC, sounds like a moral prig, gloating about how all those who laughed at him, will be sorry when they're burning forever. Or I'll be laughing my head off while you burn in Hell.

Plus again, given that this exchange will go nowhere because in all likelihood Fulcire has the Nicky Mark, meaning he's screwed no matter what he does from here until the end of the series...there's no way this exchange could have had any emotional power at all. It certainly pales in comparison to the Biblical version of this scene.

While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.” Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him.

Jesus replied, “Do what you came for, friend.”

Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.

“Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”

In that hour Jesus said to the crowd, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.

For the record, this passage appears in Matthew 26:47-56, but variants on this story are found in all four of the gospels. Again, there is much debate over which of the gospels comes the closest to accurately telling the life of Jesus (about all anyone agrees on is that the gospels weren't meant to be treated as history books and it's a foolish thing to do so), but the fact that that story shows up in all of them, even though they all have Jesus saying different things at his moment of death, says something about the nature of Jesus and how he was perceived.

In the gospels, Jesus triumphs because love is greater than any arms his opponent can muster. In Ellanjay, TurboJesus wins, not because Satan is so hung up on the worship of force and "A Might Makes Right" ideology that he's willfully blind to any other options, but because he's got a bigger gun than Satan. Like Fred Clark says, "Satan tries to wipe out all the enemies and fails. Whereas Jesus succeeds in wiping out his enemies."

Again, it takes me back to the question of whether RTCs actually read the Bible or just worship it. Because again, read any of the gospels and you'd be hard-pressed to match their depiction of Jesus with Ellanjay's TurboJesus. I find myself wondering how they justify the massive gap. Do they think for some reason that Jesus went in preaching against violence and proclaiming God's love, solely as a means of gaining followers, but at the End of Days, he no longer has to worry about attracting followers so all bets are off? How exactly do they resolve the contradiction?

Though I suppose it could be possible that Jesus went out of his mind from the pain of being tortured and crucified and now is all, "No more Mister Nice Guy!" but I still think that would be too much of a leap for Ellanjay to make.

Again, just to further drive home how badly Ellanjay botch the message they're trying to convey, here's an article from Cracked: 5 Sworn Enemies Who Formed Inspiring Friendships.

Said article could better be summed up as "5 Stories about the Power of Forgiveness" and when a humor article on a website infamous for using, ahem, colorful metaphors as a means of getting a point across, shows way more insight into the nature of forgiveness and how violence and hatred scar both of the parties involved, than any Christian Fiction out there, you guys need to hang your heads in shame.

Probably should warn all my readers: make sure to have a box of Kleenex by your side if you do decide to click on that link. Because emotional sucker-punch is really the only way to describe it.

Anyway, Fulcire executes Steve and all the other prisoners right in front of Mark. The prisoners sing, "Nothing but the Blood" as the blade comes down. But Mark continues to be all brave and martyriffic and refuses to renounce the faith. The chapter ends with him being dragged to the guillotine and singing "Nothing But the Blood" as the blade comes down, finally bringing this pointless plot line to an end.

And that's it for this week. I'd thought this would be a two-chapter snark, but I had more to say about this chapter than I thought. Anyway take care of yourselves until next week.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

I Talk Too Damn Much

Happy Sunday! Hope everyone's surviving enjoying the Christmas gauntlet that seems to come earlier and earlier. I'll continue to do my part in the War on Christmas by saying this: Happy Holidays! Seriously, though I found this blog post on the origin of the War on Christmas meme to be fascinating. Yeah, I know, take information you receive from a blog post with a grain of salt, but it was interesting. Never knew said meme had its roots in the website. Spoiler alert: is racist and xenophobic as balls. Seems a reoccurring theme on the Right: scratch any of them and you find a white supremacist buried not too deep. Again, the only thing wrong with this cartoon, is that despite being over seven years old and Trent Lott being safely out of the corridors of power, it still remains sadly relevant.

All right, I'll stop being all political and whatnot. Especially since there's another, more succinct reasoning behind the War on Christmas meme that can be easily summed up with this quote by H.L. Mencken:

Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.

Because people enjoy the holidays, enjoy getting and giving presents, hanging out and feasting with relatives, but joy distracts them from the fact that in the eyes of the Christian Right, everyone is worthless scum who deserves to burn in Hell forever. So in conclusion, they started the meme to politicize a religious holiday and in doing so, suck out whatever joy can be found in it.

Okay, now I'm done.

As for what's going on in this week's chapter, it's pretty much more of the same with an Angel showing up and comforting Mark yet not doing anything that would actually help him. Like I said last week, I keep wondering if I should come up with a tag for this trope where again, Angelic beings, instruments of a deity that is omnibenevolent (at least Ellanjay think so. Most of us think he's closer to Cthulhu than anything in the Bible), omnipresent, and omniscient, show up and do absolutely nothing that would actually help. Even though, like I keep saying, in a previous incident, it apparently wasn't against the ethos for an Angel to bust out a Tribble and provide a spacious ride so said Tribble doesn't suffer the least bit discomfort at the End of the World.

I know, I know, y'all get tired of me harping on the same points over and over again. Well, if Ellanjay give me something new to talk about, I will, but still. It's a basic rule of writing: while we know that there's a writer involved and the text didn't just bamf onto the page, we shouldn't be able to see their hand in the story.

I would say this book is like one of those cheesy fifties B-movies where you can see the wires on the intergalactic spaceship, but that metaphor doesn't feel right. Even those cheesy fifties B-movies have a certain energy and heck, many times the crappy special effects are part of the charm. It's one of the reasons that I object whenever anyone refers to Uwe Boll or Michael Bay as the modern-day Ed Wood. Ed Wood, for all his many faults, was a man who genuinely loved making movies and tried to tell a good story on film. The only problem, as Tim Burton's biopic* shows, is that Ed Wood was very very bad at it. Plus, Ed Wood was making movies on a budget of like $50 along with whatever change he dug out of the couch cushions, so comparing him to guys with multimillion dollar budgets seems unfair.

In fact, Ellanjay have much more in common with Michael Bay** and Uwe Boll in that like them, Ellanjay don't care. It's not about craft or storytelling with any of them; they just want to create an hour-long ego-stroke and get a fat paycheck for doing so. And yes, I do feel sufficiently guilty for using the "Honey Badger Don't Care" meme in reference to Ellanjay. Because Honey Badgers are legitimately badass, whereas Ellanjay...I don't need to continue, do I?

Again, in this story, everyone is simultaneously genre-savvy and a complete moron. This whole chapter, it's like Mark knows he is only a minor character in this story and that his job is to die in a suitably dramatic fashion so as to liven up a dull story and allow his creators to point at him and say, "See? People really are suffering at the End of the World?"

All right, I'll stop talking so damn much.

The first section begins with Lionel. I keep wondering if I should have changing my tag regarding him to "Where's Lionel?" to refer to how he disappears for several chapters at a time and no one seems to care.

But again, I still regret that after Ryan "Butt Monkey" Daley died in the Wrath of the Lamb quake in the single-digit books, I didn't immediately decide to start a counter keeping track of how many mentions he gets. Because we all knew despite all the crocodile tears shed on his behalf, that his good friends, including Lionel whom Ryan referred to as "being like a brother," would barely think about or mention him ever again. I probably should have started doing said counter as a means of keeping track of this stuff, but I didn't think of it at the time and I sure as hell am not going to reread the series once I reached the end! I may be anal-retentive but I have my limits! If any of you really care to know the exact number that much, you guys take on the Butt Monkey Project!

Lionel, like all good characters in this series, is doing fuck-all, talking with Darrion (who also hasn't been mentioned in ages). Darrion and the other believers who were with Mark, are now at Lenore's and are all safe. Again, I've come to think of all the minor characters as being fragments of this massive cloud-like being. They all float together in the background as one collective being until the plot requires their services, after which they temporarily break from the cloud and do their part in the story, before either rejoining the cloud or being, like Mark will eventually be, shuffled off-stage all together. It's the only theory that makes sense.

Darrion talks about how some Tribbles (their names are mentioned but I'm not going to give them to you, because really does it matter and really do you care?) are planning a rescue. To which Lionel says:

“I wouldn’t recommend it,” Lionel said. “If the info we’re getting from Fulcire’s computer is right, Mark is deep in the jail there. It would take a magician to get in and out.”

"Or y'know, an Angel. I mean, we live in a series where supernatural occurrences are the norm. It probably wouldn't be outside an Angel's abilities to, y'know, make the guards go to sleep, black-out the cameras, and bust out Mark," My version of Darrion paused. "I'm in trouble aren't I?"

"Yes," said Lionel. "For the Authors' ways are not our ways and while we often don't understand them, we must never question them. Now go back to the Minor Character Cloud where you belong!"

"Okay..." My version of Darrion looked at her feet as she dissipated back into the cloud, mumbling that it'd be nice if there was something to read in the cloud besides Jack Chick tracts.

Seriously, that last bit I just typed where Darrion just dissipates and goes away? I am barely exaggerating like at all, when it comes to this chapter. Because after that line from Lionel in the text, there's a line in narration that says, "Darrion said she would talk with the others and said good-bye." And that's the last we hear from her for this chapter and I'll be honestly surprised if we see or hear from her again. Okay, to be fair, I did use the "Search inside this book" feature (one of the perks of the eBook version) and we do get mentions of her again, but it won't be for awhile and I think it's safe to say that she will neither do nor say anything important, just like every other character in this book.

Lionel goes for a walk to calm down and decides to talk to Mr. Stein and Sam. The extent of Mr. Stein's participation in all this mess, can be summed up in the following paragraphs:

Lionel had been glued to the computer for a long time, so he decided to take a walk. He found Sam Goldberg and Mr. Stein and explained the situation. The two were visibly upset and knelt where they were and prayed.

“Sovereign Lord, we ask you to send your ministering angels to encourage Mark right now,” Mr. Stein prayed. “Prepare him for whatever you have planned.”

"And when thou dost prepare Mark, make sure thou hast the right balance of seven herbs and spices otherwise he shall taste terrible and be poor eating for all," said my version of Mr. Stein.

Again, anyone who reads my blog knows I enjoy nothing more than exaggerating for comedic effect, but like I keep saying, over and over again, "Can you really say I'm exaggerating by much?"

But Sam has a more substantial contribution to make to this chapter. No he's not going to do something silly like answer the same questions I keep asking about WHY GOD WAS ABLE TO SEND AN ANGEL TO BUST HIM OUT BUT NOT MARK?! That would be a waste of time that would plug a massive plot hole and distract from all the exposition.

Sam takes Lionel to meet with Lev Taubman. For those who don't remember or don't care, Lev Taubman and his mother were Jewishy Jews who did the right and noble thing by giving up their identities and becoming good RTCs after Token Jew sicced God on Lev's father and the rest of his family and many others after they had the nerve to object to the theocratic dictatorship Token Jew had set up with himself as the head. Because it's only wrong to crush those who disagree with you if those who disagree with you are right. If they believe slightly different things from the One True Holy Writ as laid out by God's Own Prophet, Tim LaHaye, then it would be perfectly okay to run roughshod over their rights and even kill them if necessary.

For those of you wondering, here's how they sum up Lev's background:

After they had prayed, Sam took Lionel to meet his friend Lev Taubman and his mother. They had become believers shortly after family members had died in a rebellion.

Yeah, the way that unpleasant bit is so passively mentioned...I'm going to assume that Ellanjay are the types who refer to the horrific suffering African Slaves went through as Involuntary Immigration, which is akin to referring to Rape as Involuntary Sex in that it completely takes away from the horror of what the victims went through!

Seriously, click on the previous link that delves into what happened to the Taubmans and tell me the passivity of this passage doesn't cheese you off a little. It's the old strategy where people wuss out and tacitly go out of their way to avoid mentioning who is at fault, much in the way people say "Mistakes were made," in response to things like the Abu Ghraib scandal, never actually answer the important question of "Who made said mistakes?"

:deep breath:

I am so sorry. I really didn't plan on going on such a tear this week. If this one-chapter (and it will definitely be just one-chapter) snark winds up being longer than the Iliad, I apologize.

Anyway, Lev has been in touch with some people in Jerusalem, who want to take up arms and fight against Nicky and rescue Jerusalem. As you guessed, they aren't believers; if they were, they'd obviously know that their sacred duty is to see nothing, do nothing and know nothing.***

After hearing this, Lionel shakes his head at the foolishness of those Jews (because no other religion besides RTCianity and Judaism would object to Nicky destroying a city considered sacred by several major religions, just as the participants of several religious traditions don't object to being forced to abandon their cherished beliefs and worship Nicky.)

“That’ll be like a peewee football team trying to win against an NFL team,” Lionel said.

“What?” Sam said.

“They’re going to lose the battle, and they’ll probably all be killed.”

“I know that,” Sam said. “But Lev and I think we might be able to reach some of them for God. We want to go to Jerusalem before the big battle and tell them the truth.”

Uh, guys, I feel that your metaphor of the peewee team going up against an NFL team is inaccurate in that Spoiler Alert: TurboJesus slaughters all his enemies and sentences them to burn in hellfire for all eternity! But it's probably one of those things that has to happen in order to pad out the series or move things along even though it doesn't make any sense, just like everything else in this series. Plus, from the looks of things, it gives Ellanjay another excuse to do some RTCsplainning (though maybe I should refer to it as Jewsplainning) where they patronizingly explain to some foolish Jews about how they've been cute but wrong for countless millennia, misinterpreting their own scriptures and burning in Hell as a result of said misinterpretation.

Anyway, the rest of the chapter is taken up with Mark. There is a brief interruption where he calls Lionel, who has a Sad about Mark being imprisoned for his beliefs, but it goes nowhere and reveals nothing new, so I'm leaving it out, out of courtesy to my faithful readers.

Mark's section begins this way:

Mark sat alone in the darkness and waited. He could have played the interrogation a little better and made them think he was giving them solid information, but he was tired of playing.


Y'know Mark, you are a soldier. Granted, you're a child soldier, which is in itself a repugnant concept, but let's ignore that and continue along that line of thought. Basic knowledge, regarding captured soldiers, is that legally, all they have to tell their captors is their name, rank, and serial number. It's a cliché we've seen in like every war movie. But from there said captive doesn't have to tell his captors a damn thing. In fact, said captive can just sit there and lie his ass off and in fact, most soldiers are trained and encouraged to do that if they are captured.

But again, it's that conflict RTCs have. Their culture stresses obedience above all other virtues, yet at the same time, they want to be the brave plucky young rebels making a blow against tyranny. That's why they have such a collective hard-on for Dietrich Bonhoeffer (even though his views were a lot more nuanced than RTCs would believe). Everyone wants to be the brave martyrs, who died for their beliefs and shook the foundations of a major empire; no one likes to admit that as a citizen of the US, we're probably closer to Rome than we are to the Christians John of Patmos was writing to in the Book of the Revelation.

But doing so would force them to delve into Moral Relativism, which would force them to admit that there are shades of grey in life, times in which it comes down to the least-bad solution to a bad problem or the lesser of two evils, rather than "X is always wrong or right because" kind of thinking that they prefer. Plus, y'know if their children read a series where said plucky rebels made the choices of Oskar Schindler, deciding that lying is a lesser evil than being an accessory to much worse crimes, yeah, their kids might start making connections and chaos would ensue.

But yeah, this bizarre identity crisis, just like the racism bit, just seems to keep coming up among the Right, where they simultaneously aspire to be Rome, crushing those who dissent against them, yet also want to be the brave saints rebelling against Rome.

Mark hears singing and said Angel shows up. Turns out said Angel, again rather than doing something useful to help, taught Mark's cellmates how to sing the hymn "Nothing but the Blood."

This leads into a conversation between Mark and the Angel about the nature of being an angel vs. being a human. But unfortunately since this wasn't written by John Milton or Neil Gaiman or ANYBODY WHO ACTUALLY GAVE A DAMN! it sucks and it sucks hard. I'll post it for your perusal.

“We lift our voices in praise every day, but I must say, the words of the hymn writers are unique.”

“What do you mean?” Mark said.

“Humans write about redemption, salvation, the power in the blood of Jesus. We angels know nothing about such things, other than what we observe. We cannot be ‘saved,’ as you would call it. We had one chance to follow or rebel and that was it.”

“You mean when Satan was cast out of heaven?” Mark said.

“Correct. One third of the host of heaven followed Lucifer, and the others remained faithful to the Almighty. But all humans have fallen. All of them have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”

“I guess I’ve never really thought about it that way. So why did we get a second chance and you didn’t?”

Again, this passage and the one that follows where Angel talks about witnessing the life and death of Jesus, are incredibly frustrating because you see the seed of an interesting idea struggling to get out but you know it'll be choked away by the thorns and weeds of Ellanjay's worldview. Because their worldview doesn't allow for doubts and questions, which must be uprooted quickly lest they spread and endanger their eternal soul.

I am thinking of in Neil Gaiman's The Sandman aka the series that introduced me to and cemented my love for Neil Gaiman. Specifically, I'm thinking of Vol. 4, Season of Mists, where Lucifer decides to give up Hell and from there, hijinks ensue. Really that whole comic is worth quoting and I command all my readers to go out and get it, but I'm just going to post a few quotes from it.

Lucifer's conversation with Dream contains several worthy quotations:

Why do they blame me for all their little failings? They use my name as if I spent my entire days sitting on their shoulders, forcing them to commits acts they would otherwise find repulsive. "The devil made me do it." I have never made one of them do anything. Never. They live their own tiny lives. I do not live their lives for them.
And then they die, and they come here (having transgressed against what they believed to be right), and expect us to fulfill their desire for pain and retribution. I don't make them come here. They talk of me going like a fishwife come market day, never stopping to ask themselves why. I need no souls. And how can anyone own a soul? No. They belong to themselves.... They just hate to have to face up to it.

But I was thinking more about another thing he said to Dream, which brings up powerful questions regarding the nature of Angels****:

Was I? Yes... yes, I was. I cared about so many things. I cared so deeply, back then, in the cold at the beginning of things. In the Silver City. I suppose that was why everything began to go wrong. You know... I still wonder how much of it was planned. How much of it He knew in advance.

I thought I was rebellng. I thought I was defying his rule. No... I was merely fulfilling another tiny segment of his great and powerful plan. If I had not rebelled, another would have, in my stead. Raguel, perhaps. Or Sandalphon.

We fell, my comrades in arms and I. We fell so far... so long... And after an eternity of falling, we came to rest in this place. And I knew then that there was no way that I would ever return to paradise.

There's a note of poignancy in that Lucifer realizes that though he thought he did what no Angel could do and rebelled, turns out he didn't. But y'know the RTCs would never delve into the ramifications and what they mean, but they'd probably never allow their kids to read Sandman, Vol. 4 in the first place. Otherwise, they would encounter quotes like these from the chapter with Charles Rowland:

“Go back? I don’t know. I think hell’s something you carry around with you. Not somewhere you go. They’re doing the same things they always did. They’re doing it to themselves. That’s hell.”

“I think maybe Hell is a place. But you don't have to stay anywhere forever.”

Even Dogma, a comedy made by evil secular Hollyweird, managed to delve into some of these issues in its scenes with Metatron. Heck, there's so much more poignancy in this brief dialogue where Metatron talks about Jesus than there is in the page-long version in the book.

Bethany: I don't want this, it's too big.

Metatron: That's what Jesus said. Yes, I had to tell him. And you can imagine how that hurt the Father - not to be able to tell the Son Himself because one word from His lips would destroy the boy's frail human form? So I was forced to deliver the news to a scared child who wanted nothing more than to play with other children. I had to tell this little boy that He was God's only Son, and that it meant a life of persecution and eventual crucifixion at the hands of the very people He came to enlighten and redeem. He begged me to take it back, as if I could. He begged me to make it all not true. And I'll let you in on something, Bethany, this is something I've never told anyone before... If I had the power, I would have.

But to be fair, it is hard to match Alan Rickman in terms of charisma.

:sighs: Y'know RTCs could really stand to watch all these movies that they get so up in arms about. Because The Last Temptation of Jesus Christ is a deeply reverent film with great respect for Jesus and Dogma, while poking fun at religion, it does demonstrate great respect for Jesus. Dogma, like The Life of Brian before it, spends more time making fun of Christianity and Christians, than it does Jesus Christ.

After this, Mark hears the sounds of footsteps and is all, "Is this it?" My head canon has the angel point and laugh until he (because of course, angels are male, just like God) dry-heaves, but he just mumbles about how Mark has one more test and bamfs away.

The Deputy Commander shows up and takes Mark outside, trying to intimidate him by showing him all the guillotines.

The deputy commander excused the guard and turned to Mark. “This is where it happens. Unless you cooperate, tomorrow you’ll be out here.”

“This is where I’ll wind up no matter what I say and you know it.”

“Not necessarily. You give us information on pilots, supply routes, locations of hiding places, information like that, and we’ll make things easier.” Lockerbie had a kind face, not unlike Mark’s cousin John. In fact, the two looked remarkably alike. “We have information that your group has been in contact with the mole inside the palace in New Babylon. Do you know anything about that?”

Okay, it's nice to see Ellanjay demonstrate some intelligence by having the Deputy play Good Cop instead of Baffled Cop, but of course, it fails, because the GC never follow through with any of its threats. No one even so much as backhands Mark. Part of the whole point of the Good Cop strategy is there has to be a Bad Cop; otherwise the whole thing doesn't make sense.

“Look, I can help in a lot of ways, but if the palace has a mole, I’d suggest you get an exterminator or a trap. I don’t know much about catching small animals.”

“Not that kind of mole. You know what I’m talking about.”

“You get nothing from me,” Mark said.

Rather than send Mark back to his cell and send someone in to be Bad Cop, instead the deputy undoes Mark's handcuffs and again continues to be all sympathetic, trying to reach Mark. I suppose Ellanjay instead for us to be on Mark's side in all this, but like I keep saying, it's the villains who are making all the good points.

Lockerbie dug into his pocket and frowned. “They would have my head if they knew I was doing this, but I had a younger brother. He was killed in the outbreak of poison gas. You remind me of him.” He handed Mark a cell phone. “I’m going to let you stay out here for a while. You won’t be able to run. There’s razor wire all around, and the guards are armed. But think about your life and what it’s worth. Call someone you know, someone who cares for you. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

If you're wondering, the Poison Gas thing refers to the multiple attacks of the Lion-headed snake-tailed flying people-killers which happened several books ago. For reasons that were never explained, the unbelievers couldn't see the people-killers; only the believers could. Even though both sets were able to see the demon locusts that happened not too long ago in the series' continuity.

I suppose again we're supposed to assume that said deputy doesn't really have a younger brother and was making it up to get Mark to talk, but given what a moral prig Mark is, I'm inclined to believe the deputy. Though I suppose I should be saddened by the fact that I'm awed that Mark just rolls his eyes after hearing Lockerbie's story and doesn't tell him that his brother's in hell burning for all eternity.

In a rare show of intelligence, Mark realizes that Lockerbie expects him to use said phone to call his friends and lead the GC right to them. Instead, Mark calls a GC news station and :gasp: lies to the news anchor, saying that he's seen the light and once to make a public confession. No points for guessing what winds up happening. Just know that apparently it was okay for Mark to lie in this situation, but lying to save the lives of others is still sick and wrong.

Anyway, that's it. Sorry for the super-long post and sorry for all the damn postscripts. Again, stuff needed to be said. If it's any consolation, Mark finally dies next week and this plot cul-de-sac comes to an end.

*If you haven't seen this biopic, go and do so. Yeah, Tim Burton directs and Johnny Depp stars in it, but it's before they got stuck in that creative rut that they have yet to come out of, so it's awesome.

**Is it wrong that I enjoy being all hipster-ish by going up to Transformers fans and going, "I hated Michael Bay before it was cool to hate him." I've hated him since he made a film about that day which will live infamy and managed to make James Cameron look like the master of subtlety even though Cal was so cartoonishly evil, he might as well have been vomiting pea soup.

***The fact that the bumbling German guards were played by Jewish actors who had fled the Holocaust and lost relatives due to the Holocaust, is what elevates "Hogan's Heroes" from stupid sitcom to awesomely subversive. Because sometimes the best approach to dealing with assholes like Nazis and those who share their repugnant beliefs, isn't to get all preachy and in their face, but to make them into a goddanged joke.

****I am aware that Jewish tradition holds that Angels are messengers created to do God's will and therefore can't rebel, but just go with me on this one.