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.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Rebels without Consequences

Hello and happy Saturday!

Thought I'd give you the heads up: the bulk of this week's snark and next week's, consists of Mark being interrogated. Okay, technically that's what supposed to be happening, y'know standard trope of hero vs. villain story--the villain has the hero captured and is trying to force him to give up information--but given Ellanjay's lack of imagination...I'm fairly certain there are episodes of Saved by the Bell where Mr. Belding came down harder on Zack Morris for his schemes, than this interrogator for a worldwide dictatorship does for Mark, a child soldier trying undermine said dictatorship.

One of these days, I'll stop relating to everything through pop culture, especially when said artifact of pop culture is remembered fondly more for reasons of nostalgia than, y'know, actually being any good. Like I tell people, a large part of growing up is realizing you had terrible taste in entertainment as a kid. Though Mr. Rogers and the DC Animated Universe did a damn good job standing the test of time.

But maybe I'm being too harsh on Ellanjay. Maybe Mark really is suffering...

Though Mark’s leg wasn’t hurting, his head and stomach ached from the guard’s treatment.

Uh, if the results of said treatment can be cleared up by chewing some Tums and taking some aspirin, THEN IT DOESN'T QUALIFY AS TORTURE!

We've speculated many times on Ellanjay's absolute failure of imagination. Given that their particular subculture eats up tales of Martyrdom and tales of redemption, as Fred point out, I don't necessarily think it's because the bubble forbids them from watching or reading anything that doesn't have a Jesus-fish on the label. Because some of those tales make the suffering quite plain; in fact, they lavish the majority of their attention on it, making it clear that while Johnny Christian suffered terribly at the Islamo-Commie-Fascists, he steadfastly refused to denounce Christ.

I think the problem is more to do with their approach. We can talk about the "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" approach, talk about how toxic it is, but most of the time, while the preachers are way off base, they are preaching out of a genuine desire to save people; they don't want people to burn in hell forever.

But like I keep saying, Ellanjay are Jonah: they're doing their version of The Requirement so God will let them off the hook and they can get front row seats, watch and laugh as everyone who mocked them, burns in horrible agony forever.

Fulcire shows Mark's file and begins a quick recap. I whimper when he mentions the "subversive" newspaper the YTF distributed, but other than that, there's nothing really to snark. I just laugh about how even Nicky's top security has heard of this newspaper produced by some kids in one school in some far-off suburb of Chicago. Even though, odds are the other kids just wadded up the paper and threw it away, or threw it on the floor and let the janitors deal with it.

But it does lead into the only tense moment of the interrogation scenes. As you probably guessed, it is briefly mentioned and passed over quickly because thinking about how much pain someone, heathen or not, might have felt in their last few moments, really kills the gloating.

Fulcire raised his eyebrows. “That got your attention, eh?” He pulled a picture of Natalie Bishop out of the pile and held it up. “This face ring a bell? Would you like to see what she looked like as she pleaded for her life? As she told us everything she knew about you?” He held up a gruesome photo of Natalie just after her execution.

“You’re a monster,” Mark mumbled.

“Excuse me? I didn’t hear that last comment.”

Mark clenched his teeth and tried to keep quiet, but his anger boiled over. “You will pay for the way you’ve treated followers of God.”

“You mean followers of the false god. And I think the one who is about to pay is you.”

Given that Nicky has done what God can't, give public demonstrations of supernatural powers that don't involve killing someone horribly, again, I should have called my tag "Villain always has a point," rather than "Strawman always has a point." But I'm one of those weirdos who believes that all those verses about how you should beware of false prophets more refers to people like David Koresh who clothe their naked villainy in bits from holy writ, rather than people who have superpowers thanks to an alliance they made with a guy from Romania who once rode a giant pig.

[TANGENT] Oddly enough, I find myself trying to invent some kind of head canon for the whole Epic!Pig!Ride. Because while I know pigs can get pretty big, I never heard of them getting big enough to ride nor with nostrils the size of your fist. Plus, again, pigs are generally built for eating, not riding. So I find myself wondering how much money did Nicky pour into some GMO-type engineering so they can spend years splicing DNA and breeding pigs in hopes of getting one with all the necessary traits? How did he justify the expense to whoever is in charge of Nicky's books? That leads to me thinking that maybe the GC government would have likely been brought down by a S&L-type scandal rather than anything the Tribbles or TurboJesus does. Can you picture it, some kind of congressional hearing where Nicky's forced to account for budgeting so much money on pig-breeding? I just know whatever stuff I brought up here is probably a lot more interesting than the actual story we got. [/TANGENT]

And of course, once again, Ellanjay demonstrate that they can't grasp the simple concept that "One man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist."

“She was a sweet girl. You had no right to—”

“That ‘sweet girl’ helped several prisoners escape, gave vital Global Community information to our enemies, and was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. But she became quite talkative near the end.”

Like I said, Villain continues to have a point, but I doubt Ellanjay get it. Because even the most poorly written dystopian literature acknowledges that from the villain's perspective, the heroes are dangerous terrorists, trying to undermine the government. While they wouldn't agree with the villain's repugnant policies, they would probably understand why he or she would see the heroes as a threat and treat them as such. And I would say that Natalie's crimes, leaking intelligence to the enemy and aiding and abetting the escape of prisoners, would be construed a violation of the law and a threat to the state as a whole.

But Ellanjay can't be bothered to admit that Fulcire would be right to see the Tribbles as a terrorist threat, because that would be delving into shades of grey, which is something they can't handle. The idea that someone isn't either completely evil or completely good, is anathema to them. Because then they would have to admit that most of the horrific crimes throughout history weren't committed by evil people for evil reasons, but by ordinary people who believed that the ends justified the means. That was what formed the thesis for Hannah Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem: we want to think of evil as this great, supernatural force, but really it is quite ordinary and boring. Or as Arendt puts it:

The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal. From the viewpoint of our legal institutions and of our moral standards of judgment, this normality was much more terrifying than all the atrocities put together, for it implied — as had been said at Nuremberg over and over again by the defendants and their counsels — that this new type of criminal, who is in actual fact hostis generis humani, commits his crimes under circumstances that make it well-nigh impossible for him to know or to feel that he is doing wrong.

Though I suppose this also related to the fact that they want to be the plucky young rebels yet at the same time, they've been raised in a culture where obedience is the most important virtue. Hence why they have to employ such weaselly logic when faced with a choice between A)Telling officers in service to an evil dictatorship what they want to know, thus leading to a whole mess of deaths, or B)lying in order to keep people safe. Again, they've never had a good retort when you bring up examples like Oskar Schindler who :gasp: lied in order to smuggle Jews to safety, and I have a feeling, they never will.

I'll admit that the more cynical part of me assumes that they're primary objection to Fulcire's actions is not that he's killing and torturing people, but that he's killing and torturing in the name of the wrong god. It's probably the same reason why they're oddly reluctant to admit their sudden love for Nicolae Ceaușescu. Because their primary objection isn't so much that Nicolae Ceaușescu was a ruthless dictator, who brutally crushed dissent and whose policies caused a massive amount of human suffering; it's that he was a communist dictator, a good lapdog to the Soviets, rather than being a good proper American toady. Persecution is only wrong when it's done in the name of the wrong ideology; if Nicky killed Natalie in defense of RTC-ianity, rather than his poorly defined beliefs, it would be okay.

:deep breath: Sorry for getting so damn verbose. I just thought of one thing and it led to many other things. As an apology and to serve as a nice breather from the diatribe, I shall provide a clip from the Marvel Cinematic Universe aka that movie-verse I am totally a massive fan of. Because Hulk smashing the shit out villains during their monologues is a trope that never gets old and anyone who claims otherwise, is definitely lying.

Fulcire gets frustrated and sends some guy to inject Mark with some drug. I have no idea what exactly said drug is or what it's supposed to do. I suppose it could be Sodium Pentothal, which makes people more suggestible and willing to talk (though not necessarily tell the truth), but the way the effects are described...yeah, again Mark's horrific torture doesn't sound that horrific. The GC roughed him up a bit, made him miss a few meals, asked him some questions, and injected him with some drug that...again, I'm not entirely sure what it is or is supposed to do. Do they want it to make him suffer horrible pain and start spilling the beans? Well, then they fail miserably because he just talks about feeling funny and light-headed. But if they're going for the make him more willing to drop his guard and start spilling, again, they fail because you never see them actually utilize or take advantage of Mark's drugged out state.

After this, we cut to Judd and Vicki. Judd thinks more about the poorly defined mission in Baghdad, the parameters of which I don't know anything about nor do I care since the Tribbles' just plan on standing around like slack-jawed yokels and not do anything, and we get an appearance from St. Rayford.

I have to admit while this series is bad, no doubt about it, I am honestly surprised by how few the appearances or mentions have been made about St. Rayford and Our Buck. I thought that they would be all over this series and the kids primary duties would be the same as the adult Tribbles: to serve as witnesses to Ray-Ray and Bucky, who spend their time serving as witnesses to human suffering and not doing a thing to alleviate it. Because St. Rayford and Our Buck are the suns around which the LB-verse revolves.

Admittedly there were elements of that, especially in the earlier books, but for the most part, again Ellanjay's Canon Sues have actually garnered very few mentions or onscreen appearances. Again, doesn't make the For Kids! series good, but it does make it more bearable, much in the way, if you had to choose, you'd rather get a kick in the gut rather than a kick in the teeth.

Rayford met Judd and Vicki at the tech center and moved to one of the high places where Tsion and his elders had their meetings. Rayford had aged a few years since Judd had first seen him, and though his hair was turning a little gray, he was still in good shape.

It's the central tenet of RTC-ianity: all good RTCs recognize the inherent greatness of Rayford and Buck regardless of if they ever actually do anything. Because in all honesty, why else would Judd go out of his way to mention that though Ray-Ray's hair has turned a little grey, he's still attractive? Though it does give me an excuse to dust off my "Ho Yay" tag, partly because I'm a drooling pervert who likes to read overtones into everything (I cut my storytelling teeth with fanfiction. What does that tell you?), but also because it never stops being hilarious, how writers of Christian Fiction produce some of the best unintentional Ho Yay around.

Though I thought based on a passage, Slacktivist snarked that Rayford had already turned grey.

Unfortunately, Raymie came along during a bleak period for Rayford. He was 30 and feeling older, and he didn't enjoy having a pregnant wife. Many people thought, because of his premature but not unattractive gray hair, that he was older, and so he endured the jokes about being an old father.

Again, you know Tim LaHaye made Jenkins put in that bit about "premature but not unattractive gray hair." Because Tim LaHaye would never allow any disdainful words to be said about the appearance of his Canon Sue even though he looks like... y'know he just keeps making the Canon Sue criticism harder to deny. Because Rayford is a grey-haired manly man of action, which is what Tim LaHaye wishes he could be, instead of being a still image from a plastic surgery blooper-reel with hair he dyed using printer ink cartridges. Okay, probably someone will consider those last remarks to be a little mean. I apologize and move on.

They talk about how brave and awesome Chloe was, but St. Rayford has some bad news:

“Which makes what I’m about to say even more difficult,” Rayford said. He took a breath. “We’re not going to be using you in the Baghdad operation.”

Judd gulped and looked away. “Can I ask why?”

“It was my decision. Chang and I have handpicked the team and feel we have the right amount of people. The GC has seen Vicki’s picture, and we can assume they’ve seen yours as well. We don’t need unnecessary risks.”

“But you’re going, aren’t you?” Judd said.

“That’s right.”

“And you were on Carpathia’s staff. That has to be a lot more dangerous than—”

Poor Judd, trying in vain to assert Main Character status. Granted he has Main Character status in this series, but again, in the great RTC hierarchy, everyone is secondary to Buck and Rayford.

Vicki, sensing that Judd is dangerously close to violating the sacred tenet of RTC-ianity (Thou shalt always acknowledge the inherent greatness of Rayford and Buck, regardless of what they do), places her hand on his arm. Like I said, because I like reading pervy details, I'm assuming this little gesture is her way of silently saying, "Look, if we fall out of favor with Rayford, he might have Token Jew annul our marriage or something and I don't want to go back to dating Rosie Palm and her five sisters."

But that gesture quickly brings Judd to heel and gets him to act appropriately respectful in the presence of Rayford.

Captain Steele looked at the ground.

“I’m sorry,” Judd said. “I don’t mean to question your authority. We’ll abide by whatever decision you make. And we’d be glad to help out here any way we can.”

“I like that attitude.”

Rayford exits and we get a pretty subversive scene for a book in a Christian Fiction series. Judd and Vicki :gasp: criticize the authority of an elder, talking about how Rayford still sees them as kids and keeps leaving them out of all the good action. In another shocking scene (again, for Christian Fiction), Judd talks about how he wants to witness the Battle of Armageddon, how he wants to see it firsthand and have Vicki see it with him.

“I want to be there, right in the middle of things and see it with my own eyes. I want to help fight the GC or at least support those who are trying to defend Jerusalem.”

“And what about me?”

“I want you right there beside me.” Judd took Vicki in his arms. “It’ll be the greatest moment in the history of the world, and you and I are going to see it.”

Again, given how RTCs get the vapors because Harry Potter and his friends :gasp: :choke: frequently defy and disobey authority figures while trying to save the world from Voldemort, I'm honestly shocked that this passage made it to print. I'm going to assume it was the ghostwriter's doing. Any time there's a well-written passage or one with a slightly subversive side to it, I assume that the ghostwriter slipped Ellanjay a Mickey and banged out said part while they were passed out. Since they believe that only hacks reread and edit what they've written, the ghostwriter would have no trouble getting away with it.

Judd and Vicki's section ends with this passage, which again, I totally read pervy overtones into:

“One problem. How are we going to get there?”

Judd pushed Vicki a few inches away and looked at her. “I’ll take care of that, but not a word about this to anybody. It’s going to be our secret.”

"Just like your fondness for films about gladiators which you only enjoy because it gives you a look at daily life in Ancient Rome?"


I know, I'm a pervert, but like I keep saying, Judd, like all male protagonists in Christian Fiction, shows considerably more chemistry with male characters than he ever did with his designated love interest.

We cut back to Mark and we get another Angelic visitation that accomplishes absolutely nothing. Yeah, I'm starting to think I need to make a tag to refer to these kinds of moments. Because with the exception of the mysterious disappearance at the end, the encouraging words could have easily been delivered by a prisoner in a neighboring cell without dragging the supernatural into it at all.

Angel helps Mark recite the 23rd Psalm then they talk.

Mark leaned back in his chair. “This stuff they gave me, will it make me talk?”

“You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. God will give you the strength to resist, no matter what they put into your veins. After all, as one of your hymn writers has said, ‘The body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still: His kingdom is forever.’ ”

Again, nice to know that according to Ellanjay, no one has ever confessed to crimes they didn't commit or started telling their captors whatever they wanted to hear in order to make them stop torturing them. Because torture is ineffective against RTCs; anyone who breaks down as a result of it, clearly wasn't an RTC, otherwise God would have given them the strength to resist. Yeah, I'm going to link to a particularly epic takedown of a really noxious glurge. Once you've clicked on the link, you'll know exactly why I linked to it.

Mark is like "Okay, so what should I do when they ask me questions?" Angel's response is "Be creative." Spoiler alert: Apparently Angel means, "Be all weaselly and evasive just like every other RTC character in this series."

Apparently Steve did a good job conducting The Prayer because Angel says that several souls were saved.

Mark then hears the sounds of footsteps.

“The ones who were appointed to believe have done so. You need not be concerned about the number. And now I will leave you.”

“Please don’t,” Mark said. “Can’t you stay and help me … do whatever I’m supposed to do?”

“If you truly need me, I’ll be here,” the angel said.

"But I won't actually do anything that would actually save you for reasons!"

I'd assume an editor cut that line out, but again, that would be a pretty big leap, assuming that an editor ever looked at this series.

Mark is dragged back in for interrogation. As you guessed, it is pure weaksauce with Mark being all weaselly and the GC alternating between getting all blustery and acting baffled. Because the idea of a criminal using weasel words to avoid confessing to anything is so unprecedented that they never would have encountered it before and figured out how to get him to stop being all weaselly. They certainly wouldn't do anything as gauche as torture Mark to get him to start talking.

Yeah, those of us who live in the real world and know about such unpleasant matters as the Abu Ghraib scandal and Gitmo are laughing and laughing bitterly at the idea that they would be unwilling to torture a suspected terrorist and trample over his rights. But then again, probably most of the people involved at Abu Ghraib and Gitmo identified as Christian, while Nicky's government is run by Satan...yeah, I'm going to stop now. I think I've been inflammatory enough.

“Have you ever participated in disloyal acts to the potentate?” Lockerbie said.

“No, not since I became a believer in him.”

“Have you ever stolen anything to aid in your rebel acts?”

“Well, there was that satellite truck. I’m real sorry about that. I was going to fill it up with gas and return it, but I couldn’t find you guys.”

Lockerbie and Fulcire were not laughing, but Mark was having a good time. He looked past the men and saw his friend standing in the corner, chuckling.

I suppose we are supposed to be dazzled by Mark's amazing wit and courage, but given that nothing happens to him...One of the more noxious Sue tropes is the scene where said Sue renders a character speechless through his or her dazzling wit. Even though Mark's repartee is about as witty as a third-grader saying, "I am rubber, you are glue. What you say, bounces off of me, and sticks to you."

I'll quote from the sadly short-lived television series Jeremiah. Because J. Michael Straczynski has more talent in his baby nail than Ellanjay do in their entire bodies. For the record, a large reason why it works is because the villains in this scene actually behave like villains and don't just whine ineffectually.

Interrogator: Would you like something to drink?

Markus: Yeah.

Interrogator: In return, will you give us the names of the other individuals involved in your attempt to overthrow the United States government?

Markus: There is no United States government. There hasn't been one in fifteen years.

Interrogator: This place is the government. The lawfully established seat of power...

Markus: This place is a bad memory. This place is a testament to everything that was wrong with the old world. A triumph of brute force over basic humanity.

Interrogator: Does it make it easier for you to think of us in that way?

Markus: Easier? No. More honest? Fuck, yeah.

It probably was too much to hope for anything close to that. Because RTCs are okay with people being slaughtered in such numbers that their blood rises to the height of a horse's bridle, but heaven forbid, anyone, heroes or villains, use harsh language!

Again, all the episodes of Jeremiah are available for free on Hulu. Go now!

Mark grandstands about how they can kill his body but not his soul. Fulcire responds by pounding the table and ordering Mark hauled off to solitary.

Now if this was written by people who live in the real world, there could be potential for trauma here. Because in the real world, there's been debate as to whether solitary violates the amendment forbidding cruel and unusual punishment; that's how rough it can be on prisoners. But y'know Ellanjay are the types who respond to complaints of Police brutality or prison abuse by saying, "Have you tried not breaking the law?" Because apparently if you ever did something stupid, you forfeited your right to be treated like a human being.

Mark was surprised he had gotten away without anyone trying to torture him. Would that come later? When he made it to his room, he collapsed on his cot and fell into a deep sleep. He dreamed of streets paved with gold.

When even the characters are commenting on the surprisingly good treatment they've received at the hands of an organization run by someone who is supposed to be worse than Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot, you know you've failed.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Don't Want Your Law and Order!

Hello and happy Sunday!

We begin by cutting to the boring couple of boringness aka Judd and Vicki. I know I could stand think of a better name for them, but they're just so damn boring it doesn't feel worth the effort. I will continue to assert that Judd and Vicki got married just so they could get laid and while they're being boring, I'll think about the adventures of the League of Awesome, all the exciting shit they're doing while the Tribbles just dick around. Because like I and many others have said, even if this whole convoluted prophecy has to go forward (even though the last few chapters of the Book of Jonah proves that God's capable of changing his mind), the Tribbles could still actually do stuff, like feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, clothe the naked, and all that. But okay, maybe they consider all those activities a bunch of Islamo-Commie-Fascism that has no place in Christianity. Fine. Then I will continue to keep wondering why the hell they don't just go to the nearest GC recruitment center and preach about TurboJesus until the guards empty several rounds into them. They have absolute confirmation this is all real; so why not just take advantage of said one-way ticket to Heaven and leave already if they're not going to, y'know, do stuff?

Anyway, Judd and Vicki are both going "Oh Noes!" about Mark. I'm wondering if now that they've finally gotten married if I should change my tags regarding them to "Judd and Vicki" rather than have separate ones for each character. Because you just know that they will be treated as a unit rather than two separate people from here on out.

Anyway, they talk about how they're still all broken up about Chloe's death. According to Vicki, a lady named Priscilla Sebastien has been looking about Kenny. In the interest of providing accurate snarkage, I actually checked the Left Behind wiki and said character actually exists. Given that I don't think she's ever been mentioned in the Kids' series up till this point, I have no idea why they thought we would care. I suppose it's one of those callbacks they do to reward the readers of the adult series and all I have to say is just stop doing it, Ellanjay. Unless you want to put forth some effort to make them fit cohesively with the kids series and make the target audience care, just stop.

We get a mention of Our Buck. Basically he's just thrown himself into work. It'd actually be nice if they provided a little more detail about this. Does he stumble around bleary-eyed with a perpetual five 'o' clock shadow because he just can't seem to remember to take care of it? Is his domicile full of dirty laundry/dishes because he's so busy grieving and throwing himself into work to find time and energy to clean? This would actually be good stuff to mention, stuff that would reveal insight into Cam-Cam's character. Because even though he has absolute confirmation that Chloe's in Heaven, he still lost his wife and that's still got to hurt.

Though maybe I'm wrong to assume that Our Buck's domicile would be a mess. I just made the kneejerk assumption that Ellanjay probably consider stuff like washing dishes and doing laundry to be women's work, labor unbefitting that of the GIRAT. Even though given that Our Buck was a virgin, who lived on his own until he was thirty, he'd probably :gasp: done his own laundry for a while, unless he'd just throw out his dirty clothes/dishes and get new ones or something.

We get the closest thing we have to a talk about sex as Judd and Vicki briefly discuss the possibility of having kids.

“He really likes you,” Judd said. “You’d make a good mom.”

Vicki grinned. “I don’t know. It seems like such a huge responsibility.” She paused. “But if that’s what God has for us, to be parents, I’m up for the challenge.”

Judd touched her shoulder. “I’ve been thinking about all that time before the Rapture. My parents wanted me to become a godly man—I didn’t even know what that meant, didn’t care. I think I want the chance to pass God’s love on to other people, kids. And maybe they’re not ours. Maybe they’re kids without parents like you’re talking about.”

I suppose I could make so many jokes, all of them dirty and incredibly inappropriate, but I think I'll pass. I'll just continue to shake my head sadly, because again, you know they got married just so they could get laid before God takes away sex forever. That combined with the fact that they've no doubt internalized the RTC's dim view of sex and all the baggage that comes with it...were it not for the fact that they are just so damn boring that I keep blinking in and out of consciousness just to escape them, I'd say I feel sorry for them. I often wonder about all these RTC kids who do as their parents/pastor ask them to, manage to save it for marriage, only to discover on their wedding night that their first time is rarely as magical as it's hyped up to be. I keep picturing them going, "The hell?! This is what everyone was making such a big deal over?!"

Vicki and Judd then talk about their RTC parents and how much said parents loved them and about how they were totally not worthy and all that.

Their section ends with this little passage:

Vicki groaned. “It makes me so sad to think what I was like before all this. It’s almost like I wasn’t alive—I was just a shell looking for something to numb myself even more, so I drank or smoked or did stuff to help me not feel anything.”

Judd nodded. “I guess if you don’t have God, you don’t want to feel anything because it’s so scary. You’re all alone.”

“Yeah, and that’s what makes being a believer so great. You can finally be alive. I think about the verse that says the evil one comes to steal and kill and destroy but Jesus came to give real life.”

“That’s what I want. Even though life can bring a lot of pain and can really be awful, I’ll take living it with God’s help rather than being a spiritual zombie.” of the problems of having this series be so damn long is that there's really no way to avoid repeating the same jokes over and over again. It's just not possible, dammit!

So I'll respond by making the obvious remarks that afterwards, two gin-scented tears rolled down their cheeks while they stare all wide-eyed and talk about how, "It's good that you did that, God, really good."

I know, I know, I'm being entirely too link-happy this week, but this chapter...there's really nothing new to say about any of it. So I amuse myself by imagining all the exciting adventures of the League of Awesome and thinking, y'know, about ACTUAL HEROIC CHARACTERS WHO ACTUALLY DO SHIT THAT WARRANTS THEM BEING CALLED HEROES!

Because I too, don't like bullies, regardless of where they come from. And in fact, I actually find the tribbles' constant toadying towards the Great Cosmic Bully in the Sky to be FAR MORE IRRITATING THAN ANYTHING NICKY OR GOD ACTUALLY DOES!

Or to put it another way: which is worse, the bully who uses his strength to hurt people and get what he wants or the toady who kisses up to the bully to avoid becoming one of the bully's victims and proceeds to point the bully towards other targets to save his or her own skin?

Yeah, I'll close out my snark of the opening section by posting Valerie's letter from V for Vendetta aka the only part of that comic that really got to me. I'll provide it both written form and video form for those who don't like reading. Again, however much the Wachowski Siblings may have muddled the message of V for Vendetta, they couldn't rob Valerie's letter of its emotional power.

Anyway, Mark is in jail and starts talking to the prisoners. Turns out one of them is a guy named LeRoy Banks, who killed Lionel's uncle. But given that was in the single digit books AND NOTHING RELATED TO IT, INCLUDING LIONEL'S UNCLE, HAS BEEN MENTIONED SINCE, you can't blame me for completely drawing a blank and screaming, "WHY SHOULD I CARE?!" AT THE TOP OF MY LUNGS.

Mark decides to ask around and see if there are any prisoners who don't have Nicky's Mark. Just get a look at the hard-hitting realism of this dialogue:

Mark stared down the row of darkened cells. He had no idea how long he had before the GC came back for him. “Excuse me,” he began nervously. “I don’t mean to wake you, but how many of you—?”

“Shut up!”

“We’re trying to sleep, stupid!” Others cursed him and threw things at the cell bars.

Mark took a breath and kept going. “Just give me a minute and answer this. How many of you in here don’t have the mark of Carpathia?”

“Shut your yap, jerk!”

For those of you who have forgotten, Mark has to make sure they don't have the Nicky-Mark, because in this universe, God isn't bigger than the Bogeyman and can be defeated by a tattoo with a microchip inside.

So Mark decides to rack up some converts on his fuselage and starts by talking about the Rapture. Here's a sampling. For bonus points, which are redeemable for nothing, try to guess what I was screaming about during this lecture before you get to the end of the quoted passage.

Mark studied the unmarked men. “The reason those people vanished is because God came back for his true children. They were immediately taken to heaven, which is where they are today. That means every one of us in here didn’t know God. Anybody who was left behind missed the truth.”

He took a step to his right. “You might have gone to church or grown up hearing stories from the Bible. I know a lot of people who lived good lives but were left behind. The truth is, everyone still on earth never asked God to forgive them, and they never turned away from the bad stuff they’d done.”


:deep breath: Now, that I've gotten that out of my system, I'll continue. But seriously, I just couldn't believe they let that pertinent detail slip their brains. But then again, funny thing about that whole weaselly Age of Accountability shtick that RTCs use to weasel out of the consequences and uncomfortable questions brought up by their actions: SAID AGE OF ACCOUNTABILITY SHTICK APPEARS NOWHERE IN THE BIBLE AND IF YOU HAVE TO RESORT TO THAT KIND OF TRICKERY, MAYBE YOU SHOULD ASK SOME LONG, HARD QUESTIONS ABOUT THE STUFF YOU BELIEVE IN!

Again, sorry about the repetitiveness of this snark: at the rate I'm going, my Capslock will go on strike or I'm going to lose the ability to express anything in a calm, clear-headed manner. I will say in my defense that I can't help being so damn repetitive, given how repetitive the book is, but that's not saying much, is it?

The next paragraph...I know I should object to lazy writing, which is what summarizing is, but I've come to welcome those moments; they're much easier to handle. Mark talks about how all the plagues were totally predicted in the Bible and that Jesus is the Messiah.

“That man’s name is Jesus,” Mark said. “He was God in the flesh, and he lived a perfect life and died in your place on the cross.”

“Why would God have to die to let us go to heaven?” a man said.

Mark paused, trying to think of a way to explain. “God is the great judge of every person, and because he’s holy, he can’t let anyone into heaven who’s not perfect. Is there any one of you who’s done everything right?”

“My wife always thought she was perfect,” a man said, and the others laughed.

“Everybody falls short of God’s standard,” Mark said. “We’re all guilty and deserve to be separated from him forever. But instead of punishing us, the judge himself became a prisoner, lived a perfect life, and then took our sentence.”

Yeah, I'm thinking of a Jack Chick tract, ably snarked by Enter the Jabberwock. Because like I said, much as RTCs try to distance themselves from Chick, especially his virulent anti-Catholic views (because the Catholics and the Christian Right now share an uneasy alliance), he seems to be a good barometer when it comes to the ideas being discussed among the RTCs. The only things the RTCs really object to, regarding Jack Chick, is his anti-Catholic views and the fact that he just flat-out says what they're thinking, rather than using the proper dog whistles.

[TANGENT] Y'know until the Internet came along, I had never heard of Jack Chick or his tracts. When I first stumbled onto his website at Snopes, I was like, how have I not heard of this overwhelming fount of insanity until now? The first tract I read was "Big Daddy." Anyway, that's my Chick story; I'm sure y'all have yours.[/TANGENT].

But RTCs, like Jack Chick, also don't understand the various principles behind justice. Because there is probably no one, not even Draco Hammurabi Javert, who would just slam down the gavel and pass sentence without even factoring in circumstances. Because sometimes people do bad things because they are caught in the vise of circumstances and can't see any other options, not because they steeple their fingers and are like, "Haw Haw! I shall do this because it is wrong and I am evil!" Yeah, stealing is wrong, but what if you're in a Jean Valjean-type situation have to steal a loaf of bread to save your starving family?

Plus, even Draco Hammurabi Javert recognize the basic principle that some crimes are worse than others and must be dealt with accordingly. So they wouldn't give the same punishment to a teenager who stole a five-dollar bracelet as they would to a guy who decapitated a bus full of schoolchildren.

But according to RTC-ianity, all crimes are the same, unless you say The Prayer. Therefore the kid, who daydreamed about the pretty girl who sat in front of him in Math Class, will suffer the same punishment as Adolf Hitler, who systematically murdered some 11 million plus people for having bad genes.

Unless of course, before blowing his brains out, Adolf Hitler said The Prayer. In which case, he's safe and gets to romp around Heaven for all eternity, while the kid who daydreamed about the girl in math class? Again, unless he said The Prayer, it doesn't matter what he does: he's going to suffer for all eternity even if he's so saintly even Jesus is awed by him.

If you're not a little ranty about that illogic, then congratulations: you are either a pod person or a robot or a possible pod-bot. I realize that in using Hitler in the above scenario, I did invoke Godwin's Law, but I am a firm believer in that there are times in which it's okay to bring up Hitler and Nazis. I felt my example was one of those times, but I apologize if it comes across as needlessly hyperbolic.

I could also point out another thing about Justice in that well, we may debate whether it's right or wrong to torture suspects at Gitmo (and frankly it depresses me that apparently saying, "I believe it's wrong to torture someone" is now a radical statement), but for all the harm we do, at least there is an endpoint to the victim's suffering: can't torture someone who's dead, after all. But since Ellanjay no doubt believe that Heaven and Hell last for eternity without the possibility of parole...yeah, I don't need to say anymore.

Anyway, there's more talk, but Mark gets dragged off before he could lead the inmates in The Prayer. As he's getting dragged off, he asks this guy named Steve to lead them in The Prayer. Because Mark, being a good RTC, knows that if The Prayer isn't spoken with the precise amount of sincerity demanded by God, then God will have no choice but to sentence them to hellfire for all eternity.

Since so little happened this week, I thought about throwing on another chapter, but I've read through next week's and it looks considerably more promising, snarkwise. So too-da-loo until then, guys.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

An Absolute Failure of Imagination

Hello and welcome, everybody! Again, my only excuse for a late Sunday post is general laziness. But I'm here now so let's do our part to tear this series a new one.

Like I said last week, this plot cul-de-sac with Mark can be summed up as "Ellanjay want to show how eeevil Nicky's regime is, but they can't let a Main Character suffer so..." Thought I should warn you: at numerous points, various Angelic beings show up and like I said, succeed in accomplishing fuck-all! And oh boy, do we see a lot of it this week with all these damn angels, instruments of a being who is supposedly all-powerful, all-present, and all-good, showing up to do little more than say "There, there," before leaving, INSTEAD OF DOING ANYTHING THAT WOULD ACTUALLY MATTER!!

Okay, I shouldn't be too shocked by this, but more and more, I think of the poor readers of this series. If Ellanjay mean for this series to serve to educate young RTCs, they fail miserably. The readers of this series like in an entirely different world, where faith and matters related to it, are often on uncertain ground. Whereas the characters receive absolute proof that this is all real, especially the brand of PMD beliefs endorsed by Tim LaHaye. So the reader would have the damnedest time trying to apply the lessons from these books to a world where issues frequently are in shades of grey and often it comes down, not to right or wrong, but to "Which is the least bad solution to a bad problem?"

I suppose it is possible, as the existence of the Christian Right and the current roster of GOP candidates proves, to keep the young'uns in a nice hermetically sealed bubble where they never have to encounter anything that might disprove or shake their beliefs in easy answers, but there's still a chance that at least a few are going to wriggle free and escape.

But again, I am making the assumption that Ellanjay wrote this series out of a genuine desire to see people get saved, but as Fred points out, this fictional world more serves as a nice bubble for them. In this bubble, RTCs are kings of the mountain, the ones who get to kick sand in the face of those logical others who spend time kicking sand in their faces in the real world. It's like trying to play superheroes with that one kid who just keeps getting new powers that just so happen to cancel out yours, until you want to say, "Screw it, I'm going to play with someone else."

Yeah, I know, given how far I've made it in this series, I shouldn't be too surprised by all this, but I spent the entire chapter just shaking my head at the absolute failure of imagination. Again, you have angels, supernatural beings who are basically instruments in the hands of an even more powerful being, and this is what you use them for! Even though, in a post I linked to last week, said Angel had no problem using supernatural powers to bust out another tribble and provide a spacious ride so he can make his escape.

To be fair, though, this seems to be a common imagination limit, especially when it comes to Hollywood writers. Somebody gets visited by a dead relative, as in someone who has been to that undiscovered country from whence no traveler returns and returned, only instead of pumping them for information , like asking, "So Big Bang or Steady State? Which religion got God right? Is Heaven and Hell real and do you really stay there for all eternity?" said living person is more concerned about banal everyday stuff the dead relative could help them with. Roger Ebert had an entry in his Bigger Little Movie Glossary that perfectly sums it up:

Angel Limited-Involvement Rule. Modern movie angels mostly seem to visit Earth in order to smoke cigarettes, eat pizza, and show what regular Joes they are. Although famine, war, disease, and higher prices torment the globe, they solve such problems as a guy who has stopped dating because he’s lost his faith in women.

R. E.

All right, I'll get to the damn book already. I swear I didn't intend to rant so long about this; it was just a case of "Once the spigot is turned..."

Mark is still all emo about how the Satanic NWO is being so mean to a child soldier for a terrorist organization determined to bring them down. Realizing that this is his fifteen minutes away from the Minor Character Cloud, Mark starts doing this long inner soliloquy about how much he loves Vicki, but she's into Judd. I'll admit it's perfectly adequate writing--even at the End of the World, unrequited love sucks--but it falls completely flat for the obvious reason of, maybe Mark had been shown as having feelings for Vicki before, but given that I can't remember when it was mentioned...yeah. I almost want to resurrect Anton Chekov so he can beat Ellanjay to death with his guns. Basic rule of storytelling: plot points must be set up in advance in Act One, if you expect the reader to care when they come to play in Act Three. They can't come way the hell out of nowhere in Act Three.

Mark tried to think of something to take his mind off the pain. His first thought was Vicki, and he smiled. She had looked so pretty on the video feed from Petra. Beautiful. He had known early that Vicki was attracted to Judd. Mark’s own feelings hadn’t stirred until much later. He loved the sound of her voice, the way she took chances to help people. There was something fearless about her, something pure and noble.

“You gotta forgive me, Vicki,” Mark whispered. He felt bad about yelling at her at the Dials’ hideout in Wisconsin. He had told her she had to leave or he would, but the truth was, deep down, Mark was simply confused about his feelings. Now he knew he felt jealous of Judd and had lashed out at her in anger.

Later, when he and Vicki had talked, he had almost told her how he felt. Almost let her know that he wanted to be more than friends. Mark took a deep breath and tried to hold back the tears. It was okay that she didn’t know, almost better.

Yeah, doesn't take much for me to start reading overtones into this, especially given Ellanjay's regressive views of women, where they're either a Madonna or a Whore, and once you've crossed that thin, fuzzily-drawn line, you're forever dirty and your only hope is that some gallant man will gallantly overlook said dirtiness.

Okay, maybe I'm reading entirely too much into this, but given how he keeps bringing up how pure and noble Vicki is, as opposed to anything like the way she touches her tongue to her teeth when she grins or how much she loves Bruce Lee movies or anything that would tell us something about her as a person, gotta conclude that Mark's ardor for her will greatly cool given that since Vicki has finally gotten married, chances are she and Judd have performed the dirty act of making love. Granted like all good RTCs, Vicki and Judd only do it for the purpose of procreation and they don't enjoy it one bit, but still.

It reminds me of something Fred said about Rayford. I'll provide a link to the full post, but I still feel that one passage warrants quoting. Not only does it describe Rayford, but I suspect it describes Mark's feelings for VIcki.

Irene was purest good, a saint, and therefore chaste and sexless. Or perhaps she was chaste and sexless, and therefore a saint and the purest good. Those other women — Hattie, the nameless Christmas-party slut, the prostitutes that flitted about the edges of his subconscious — they were all "tawdry" and "beneath him." Rayford is reminding me more and more of John Leguizamo's character from "Summer of Sam." Leguizamo played a sex-obsessed lothario who cheated on his wife because she didn't do That Thing That Your Wife Won't Do. Then, when his poor wife offers, he is disgusted by her.

For those of you wondering when I'm going to get to the part of the Angelic visitations and how little they matter, fear not, they show up on the next page.

Basically Angelic Being bamfs aboard the GC bus, says, "I'm a messenger," and gives Mark a neck massage which somehow makes all his aches and pains go away. And yes, I am fighting the urge to make so many dirty jokes about the Angel giving Mark a happy ending after his massage. They just keep making it so damn easy! But these hang-ups seem to keep coming up in RTC culture: they're torn between the physical desires hardwired into them by evolution and their hatred of those desires and the feelings they provoke. Because anything that makes you feel good might distract you from the fact that you are irredeemable scum in the eyes of God and that's bad! There's a reason that whenever a scandal seems to arise among the Religious Right, it always seems to involve sex.

So Mark's like, "Okay so what's the message? Did God send you to rescue me?" And because I peeked ahead, in my head, the Angel's response is to point and laugh until he dry heaves. Because, as you probably guessed it, the Angel's message is just Bible quotes, copied and pasted.

Angel quotes from Isaiah, chapter 43, and like a good RTC, only quotes the second verse because paying attention to the larger context is for liberal wusses. But then again, there's a reason they only quote a few verses here and there from the Prophets, given that both the Minor and Major Prophets spend a lot of time lambasting those who make their fortunes off of the misery of others and do nothing to alleviate the suffering of the poor.

Mark, wondering just what sending an angel to parrot back Bible verses is supposed to accomplish, is all "So you're not going to get me out of here?"

I will say that they do actually have said Angel respond in something besides Bible quotes, but as you guessed, it's pure weaksauce.

“The Father has not promised to snatch you away from trouble. But he has promised to be with you every step. You have served him well, Mark. You will serve him yet.”

Let me provide a helpful translation for you: "I feel really bad for you but I'm not going to do anything that would actually help you. In fact, God has decided that he's going to inflict even more suffering on you just to make some half-assed point."

Mark notices his leg is healed and is all "Did you do that?" I'm going to assume the little bit of half-assed effort they put into the Angel's words, thoroughly exhausted Ellanjay, because said Angel reverts to speaking solely in Bible quotes.

Angel quotes from Proverbs 13, specifically verse 17. I'll bet that Proverbs is probably more popular reading among RTCs what with it's straightforward "Do the right thing or get punted" verses. Plus, Proverbs 13 also has their favorite verse, "Spare the rod, spoil the child."

It's also much less confusing than Psalms with its metaphorical language that delving into the raw anguish and uncertainty that comes with living in this world or any of the Prophets what with their Islamo-Commie-Fascist BS about how those who trample on the poor will in turn be trampled. Again, you're forced to conclude that for all their chest-thumping and obsession about reading the Bible, RTCs fear what would happen if their children actually read the Bible and started asking questions like, "Okay, so what exactly were Jesus's last words on the cross? Because the four gospels all have him saying different things."

Mark is all "What do you mean I'll serve him? How am I supposed to serve him in jail?"

I'm like, "He'll serve you with fava beans and a nice Chianti."

But Angel quotes from Isaiah 40, specifically verse 28. And somehow that comforts Mark because he doesn't ask anymore pesky questions like, "What is going to happen? Will it hurt? Will my friends and family be able to cope if they lose me? Will any of us survive?" Because if you read the full chapter, instead of just the last part quoted, those were the kinds of questions that Isaiah and many of the other Israelites were struggling with. I often find myself wondering, given the RTCs' profound ignorance of scripture, if they even know about the Babylonian Captivity, how so much of the Old Testament, not just the prophetic works, was written in response to it. It was a major earth-shattering event in the history of the Jewish people, an event that would shape their history for centuries to come; as a result, many writers would devote a lot of time and ink trying to work out the meaning of said event.

Those are the questions the Prophets are obsessed with, not so much "Future events that will affect you in the future," but the very real suffering that their people are going through right now. To quote a passage from the oft-shared "Myths over Miami" article:

Virginia Hamilton, winner of a National Book Award and three Newberys (the Pulitzer Prize of children's literature), is the only children's author to win a MacArthur Foundation genius grant. Her best-selling books, The People Could Fly and Herstories, trace African-American folklore through the diaspora of slavery. "Folktales are the only work of beauty a displaced people can keep," she explains. "And their power can transcend class and race lines because they address visceral questions: Why side with good when evil is clearly winning? If I am killed, how can I make my life resonate beyond the grave?"

Those where the kind of questions the Prophets were trying to address, the ones Virginia Hamilton mentions. Whether you feel they pulled it off or not, at least know that the three Isaiahs were writing for their people, not citizens of a country that doesn't yet exist and will not exist for several centuries, across the ocean, on a continent that they haven't heard of, and would not have known existed at the moment of their deaths.

Angel tells Mark that his friends are safe, tells Mark we'll see each other again before the end, quotes Psalms 28:7, and leaves, but before taking off, the Angel removes Mark's handcuffs. The GC all freak out, but for some reason, Mark is comforted thanks to the Angelic visitor. Even though said Angel could have, oh I don't know, CAUSED THE DRIVERS/GUARDS TO HAVE HEART ATTACKS OR CAUSED THE BUS TO BREAK DOWN OR SOMETHING THAT WOULD HAVE ACTUALLY HELPED BEYOND SHOWING UP AND GOING, "THERE, THERE."

Next section, Lionel watches them deal with Mark through a private prison feed. And of course, he's shocked, shocked that the GC see Mark's involvement in a terrorist organization as a sign that he's deeply troubled.

“Why aren’t you going to execute him for not taking the mark?” the reporter said.

“Normally we would, but we believe this prisoner has valuable information. What we have here is a troubled young man who has been brainwashed to believe our lord Carpathia is evil. I’m not making excuses for his crimes, but if we can go inside his head and get information about other members of this dangerous group, we’ll be that much closer to the kind of world peace we’ve been striving for the last few years.”

Awfully nuanced and respectful words coming from a Satanic NWO. But then again, given that the Right tends to have the loudest voices crying for the "Shoot 'em all and let God sort it out" or if they're feeling generous, "Lock 'em up and throw away the key," maybe we shouldn't be too surprised that the limp-wristed, effete, possibly homosexual Satanic government would do something weak like talk to the kid, try to understand why he wound up in such bad circumstances and see if being put in a better environment would help, rather than just label him as damaged goods and bludgeon him with the law, making it so he'll be forever suffering for something he did as a stupid teenager. Because the Christian Right believes in Love and Mercy, so long as you never ever screw up. Though to be fair, if you're rich and white, they'll let you have youthful indiscretions well into your fifties, though they'll try you as an adult at twelve if you're poor and black.

Lionel rolls his eyes over the lying lies the lying liars are saying about Mark, even though like I said, they're being awful kind to someone who was basically a child soldier for a terrorist organization. Pretty much anyone, like me, who knows about the American Justice System and how it basically comes down like a ton of bricks on Juvenile offenders, regardless of circumstances, is laughing and laughing bitterly.

After that interlude, we cut back to Mark, who is experiencing torture at the hands of the GC. Once again, those of us, who know anything about what the US puts suspected terrorists through at Gitmo or the stuff any fascist regime does to its dissidents, are laughing and laughing bitterly.

Though GC officials tried everything to get Mark to give his name and information, he kept silent. He didn’t want to be traced to Nicolae High School and his friends in the Young Trib Force.

After they processed him, Mark spent hours waiting in an interrogation room. He finally got so tired that he put his head on the table and went to sleep.

When the narration says they've tried everything to get Mark to give them his name and information, well, my readers aren't the least bit surprised that my mind went to a Simpsons episode. If you're wondering, I am thinking in particular of the episode where Sideshow Bob forces them to go into Witness Protection and they hide out a Terror Lake. Don't know if I could ever list my favorite Simpsons episodes, but that one would be in the top five.

Anyway, the moment I'm thinking of, well sorry to say, but I couldn't find it on YouTube. Basically it's the part where the guy is trying to get Sideshow Bob to leave town. I pretty much think that the GC questioning of Mark went the exact same way.

GC Interrogator: C'mon tell us what we want to know.

Mark: No.

GC I: I'll be your friend.

Mark: No.

GC I: Oh, you're mean.

Because really can you think of anything more horrible than the fact that Mark became so tired that he had to lay down his head and sleep on a metal interrogation table. Other dictatorships and whatnot would simply beat him ever time he tried to rest or water-boarded him or blasted him with bright lights constantly or blasted him with loud music constantly or even forced him into stress positions, thus making it impossible for him to fall asleep. But the GC government, which is headed by Satan and is supposed to be so much worse than Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot combined, SHOW A SURPRISING AMOUNT OF GENTLENESS AND RESTRAINT! BECAUSE THAT'S AN EXAMPLE OF GOOD WRITING, TALKING ABOUT HOW EEEEVIL AND BEYOND THE PALE YOUR VILLAINS ARE WHILE AT THE SAME TIME, HAVING THEM SHOW MORE REGARD FOR THE SANCTITY OF HUMAN LIFE THAN ANY OF YOUR HEROES EVER DO! IT IS DEFINITELY NOT YET ANOTHER INSTANCE OF ELLANJAY USED AN INFORMED ATTRIBUTE AND HOPING TO MAKE UP FOR SHORT-COMINGS BY TELLING US THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT WE'RE SEEING IS HAPPENING!

:deep breath:

I know, I ragedump entirely too much. At the rate, I'm going, my Capslock is going to go on strike and I'll lose the ability to express any emotion besides brutal sarcasm. But this slapdash approach to the craft really pisses me off. Ellanjay are not only peddling bad theology but they're also fleecing the readers who deserve a good story given that they've paid for this overly long series.

Again, we can talk about C.S. Lewis and the failures of his Chronicles of Narnia series, especially when it comes to The Problem of Susan, but for all the series' flaws, the Chronicles are still worth reading. Lewis may have been peddling a Christian Allegory, but he also knew that it was his duty as a writer of children's fiction to produce fiction that children would enjoy reading. He put forth effort creating good characters and good world-building; he didn't just slap a Jesus fish on the spine, pepper a few prayers in the manuscript, and call it a day.

Plus, C.S. Lewis had some insight into human nature. Just try to picture Ellanjay writing anything close to Puddleglum's speech in The Silver Chair.

"One word, Ma'am," he said, coming back from the fire; limping, because of the pain. "One word. All you've been saying is quite right, I shouldn't wonder. I'm a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won't deny any of what you said. But there's one thing more to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things - trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that's a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We're just babies making up a game, if you're right. But four babies playing a game can make a playworld which licks your real world hollow. That's why I'm going to stand by the play-world. I'm on Aslan's side even if there isn't any Aslan to lead it. I'm going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn't any Narnia. So, thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we're leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that's a small loss if the world's as dull a place as you say."

Ellanjay basically are playing the part of the evil queen in The Silver Chair, creating a dark, ersatz version of God and Heaven and telling the people who read their books that this is the only version there is and you better believe in it, because somehow we'll send you somewhere worse, even though it'd be damned difficult to think of a worse place than Ellanjay's take on Heaven.

Anyway, the rest of the chapter is taken up with the GC trying to do a Good cop/bad cop routine. But since the GC are made of Fail that doesn't work. Instead, the chapter ends with them doing the most horrible thing possible! They give him an energy bar and shove him into a dank, smelly prison cell with several other criminals! Quelle horror! The GC's eeevil truly knows no bounds!

I know, I linked to this webpage twice back when Chloe was captured, but the damn link still remains pretty apt. If you gave anyone five minutes, they probably could have written a better torture scene. Heck, a toddler whose idea of torture is being in time-out for five minutes, would have come up with something more compelling and wrenching! Anyway, here's that link: Torture and the Virgin Army.

Again, don't agree with all the views of that website, but the webmaster/mistress who slapped it together, does demonstrate more insight into human behavior than Ellanjay ever will.

Anyway, that's it for this week. In an attempt to soften the blow, I'll provide a link to one of the best bits from that Simpsons episode: Sideshow Bob steps on many rakes. See you until next week.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Urge to Kill Rising...

Well, it's November 1st, everyone's recovered from their sugar-high and I'm running out excuses to delay tearing this series a new one. I'd ask what y'all did for Halloween. Me, I went to a symphony where they played a lot of movie music, while wearing my Captain America t-shirt. I know theoretically Anything Can Happen on Halloween but things tend to not happen when you're a broke, isolated headcase. And yes, I apologize for that transparent excuse to post a link. I'm sorry, but it's just so WTF, that I keep trying to find excuses to share with people. It is the very definition of a Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: has nothing to do with anything that comes before or after it, completely out of tone with the rest of the movie, and once it's happened, it's never mentioned again. But there is a reason it's the only part of that movie anyone remembers; because Tim Curry is just so awesome at chewing the scenery and being so WTF?! I know there are probably other actors who have done an awesome job playing Frank-n-Furter in Rocky Horror*, but I just can't picture anyone pulling it off with the gusto that Tim Curry does.

All right, I'll stop fangirling and get to being vicious now. But I still think my tangents are a lot more interesting than anything in the actual series and I stand by that opinion, dammit!

The chapter begins with Mark. In case some of you haven't figured out what ultimately happens to Mark, just remember that apparently torture is ineffective against brave RTCs, angelic all-powerful servants of the One True God can't actually do anything that would affect the outcome in any way, and, well, let's just say it's a common gambit in the Left Behind-verse: Ellanjay want to dispute my accusation that the End of the World as We Know It, doesn't seem anymore traumatic than stubbing your toe, but they can't actually have a Main Character (the characters who matter) actually suffer so...

Like I said in previous posts, were it not for the fact that Ellanjay were too chicken to have Zod or TurboJesus speak in anything but Bible Quotes, I suspect there would be a scene where one of them would break down, sobbing as they confessed that they wish they could be as tall or manly as St. Rayford or Our Buck. Maybe I'm exaggerating, but again, I have a feeling it's not by much. Because in the great hierarchy of the LB-verse, I suspect that Our Buck and St. Rayford out-rank even Zod and TurboJesus. They are the Alpha and the Omega, the ones for whom the universe exist to serve, the laws of reality warping and bending in order to fulfill their desires.

I suppose our hearts are supposed to bleed for poor Mark, but the tone of his opening section more comes across as whiny and petulant. Apparently Mark is shocked, shocked that a Worldwide Dictatorship run by Satan, doesn't care too much about the comfort of their enemies in transport.

MARK awoke in the back of the bus, handcuffed and aching. His right leg felt like it was hanging on by a thread. His belt was still buckled tightly around his knee. His eyes stung, and he realized blood had trickled down his forehead while he was unconscious. He leaned forward to the seat in front of him and rubbed his eyes for relief. know what would have improved this scene? IF ELLANJAY HAD DONE EVEN FIVE MINUTES OF RESEARCH ON THE NAZI REGIME OR REALLY ANY BRUTAL DICTATORSHIP! BECAUSE IF THEY HAD, THEY COULD MAYBE WRITE SOMETHING THAT'S A LITTLE MORE DRAMATICALLY COMPELLING!

Because if they had actually studied history, they'd know that humans can be nothing if not inventive when it comes to finding new and more ingenious ways of horribly torturing people. Heck, you don't even have to research dictatorships; probably the good ol' US of A is pretty damn brutal when it comes to the transport of prisoners to Gitmo. But let's not delve into that kettle of fish, right now. Let's just accept that Ellanjay simply Can't Do the Research because if they did, they might stumble onto concepts like Cognitive Dissonance and who knows what would happen...

Mark knew of others who had been captured. Chloe Williams had no doubt been questioned by the GC, and while news reports said she had given lots of information, no one believed it. He shuddered at the thought of facing the guillotine. If he was going to die as bravely as Chloe, he knew he would have to have God’s help.

I’m not going to die, Mark thought. My friends are going to find me and get me out of here. Period.



:pauses to take a deep breath:

I know, I know, I've used this clip before, but it just seems so apt. Besides I probably put more effort into finding said clip than they ever did into this series, so I feel somewhat justified: "Fuck you!" MAY YOUR STOMACHS BECOME BLOATED AND YOUR HEADS PLUCKED OF ALL BUT THREE HAIRS, ELLANJAY!

All right, all right, I'm done caps-locking for now. Hopefully I haven't violated some kind of Internet ordinance where they'll send me to a place where they'll make me read comments on online news articles until I start begging them to attach electrodes to my genitals instead.

They park the van and the GC soldiers come to take a look at Mark. If any of my readers suffer from heart conditions or PTSD, let me warn you to brace yourself for the horrific stuff they have in store for Mark.

The soldier sneered and keyed a microphone attached to his uniform. “He’s awake, sir.”

“Condition?” It sounded like Commander Fulcire.

“Looks a little dazed,” the soldier said. “Still breathing.”

“Give him some water. Nothing else.”

The soldier unscrewed the cap from a bottle of water and held it out. Mark opened his mouth, and the man poured a few drops in. Then he poured so fast that Mark choked, coughing and sputtering.

How horrible! The Satanic NWO is giving him water to drink! We all know that if the positions were reversed, Mark wouldn't dream of giving his enemies anything less than the finest non-alcoholic grape juice to drink or caviar to eat! Because RTCs, unlike the Satanic NWO, follow Jesus, who prayed for the people nailing him to the cross, and Paul who said:

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

In fact, Token Jew's theocracy/dictatorship is a microcosm of God's Kingdom and God's love, where everyone has freedom of speech and lives in peace, so long as everything you say, is perfectly in line with what Token Jew says.


I swear, I didn't plan on spending so much time on this first section, but buttons were pushed. But I must ask, if anybody has some kind of medical or psychological training, while I know your face won't free too much if you make that face too long, is it possible that if you spend too much time being sarcastic, will you eventually lose your ability to express any other emotion?

I suppose I should apologize for all the Simpsons clips, but the show premiered when I was five and I've been watching it since. Given the formative impact it had on me, I should be grateful I'm capable of stringing together any sentences without inserting a Simpsons reference. I highly suspect if my brain was dissected or something, you'd find a large section devoted to storing Simpsons quotes.

Anyway, the GC are all sneery and the section ends with Mark lying back and thinking of Jesus then we cut to Judd.

As you probably guessed, nothing really happens. But then again, nothing really ever does. I have never understood the character of Dr. Manhattan** more than I have at this moment. Because at this point, walking around naked and exiling myself to Mars is starting to sound better and better.

There really isn't much to talk about. Lionel Whalum has taken over the Magical Co-Op with no talk about how much reorganization that would involve. But then again, if I were to ask Ellanjay how exactly the Magical Co-Op is run and operated in the first place...well, I'd make another Underpants Gnome joke, but even the Underpants Gnomes have put more thought into their plans than Ellanjay have. In fact, I suspect if I were to ask them anything about how this all works, yeah, the inside of their brains would basically be a test pattern.

There is some brief mention of St. Rayford, but I don't think I'll put him in the tag, since he's only seen and not heard.

Rayford had agreed with a daring plan by Chang to bug an upcoming meeting in Baghdad, where Nicolae’s ten kings were supposed to appear. Judd had asked Chang if he and Vicki could be part of the tech crew, but Judd knew Rayford would have the final say. Judd didn’t know much about the plan, just that Chang hoped to use hidden cameras and microphones. There was even talk of Zeke making special disguises for everyone.

Yeah, this meeting thing has been mentioned before, but so far, they haven't answered the one question about it that's been driving me nuts: WHY IN ALL THE NAME OF WHAT'S HOLY DO THEY NEED TO EVEN BUG THE DAMN MEETING?! THEY KNOW EXACTLY WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN AND THEY'RE NOT GOING TO DO A DAMN THING TO STOP IT, SO WHY EVEN BOTHER?!

This is somewhat like Raiders of the Lost Ark where as many have pointed out, the plot still would have resolved itself even if Indy just stayed home and played canasta or something, but at least, Raiders had some damn awesome stunts that made it worth the viewer's time. Plus the people who got their faces melted off WERE FUCKING NAZIS WHO'D PROBABLY DONE SOMETHING TO DESERVE IT, UNLIKE MOST OF THE NAMELESS DAMNED IN THIS SERIES!

:deep breath:

I know, sorry for all the capslock abuse. Now, I know how Sideshow Bob felt when he was like, "Gene Shalit gave this a good review and I'm the one in prison?!" Because this shit gets published and I'm still getting form rejections for my stuff?!

Eventually I'll also cut back on all The Simpsons references; I just don't know when.

They check out the YTF website only to discover that the all-powerful Satanic NWO has changed the contents so the website now praises Nicky instead of condemning him as the anti-Christ! How entirely unexpected...

But they receive a phone call. The rest of the YTF is okay and Chang promises to jam satellites until they're at the new safe house.

There's a brief thing with Mark. It's just him crying and asking God for help. Where it not for the fact that my heart has been curdled and turned utterly black by the beyond subpar writing of this series, I might actually care. But I don't, so let's move on.

The chapter ends with them doing various hacky things and finding out the news about Mark. Again, I know next to nothing about computers or hacking but even I know hacking isn't synonymous with fucking magic!

They read an email from Fulcire.

This confirms phone conversation that there will be a press briefing this afternoon, Fulcire wrote. We’ll go over the raid in Minnesota and the capture of this new rebel. We do not have a name yet, but I assure you we will by the time of the briefing. Though he’s young, we think we’ve caught one of the big fish in this so-called Young Tribulation Force.

Anyone want to break it to Fulcire that he didn't actually catch a big fish, just a minor character who broke off from the cloud/collective and is now having his fifteen minutes onstage? Like I've said, there have been so many minor characters introduced, all of whom lost any distinguishing characteristics after saying The Prayer, that I'm forced to conclude that 90% of the time, said minor character is just part of a roiling collective, only breaking off occasionally to do stuff on their own before safely returning to the cloud once more.

The YTF are all "Oh noes!" and as you probably guessed, they're like, "We should pray for him," as opposed to doing anything that would actually help. Though doing stuff would be a violation of sacred Tribbles ethos and Mark has said The Prayer, so he'll get bamfed into Heaven anyway.

The chapter ends with this line:

Vicki, Judd, and Lionel spent a few minutes praying for Mark and asking God to protect him. “Let Mark know that you love him and that you’re there for him,” Vicki prayed.

"And whatever you do, don't actually do anything that would actually help Mark, even though you're supposed to be all-powerful, all-present, and all-knowing, and could easily rescue him in the time it takes me to wiggle my eyebrows."

At least that's what Vicki should have said.

*I don't know what everyone's Rocky Horror story is, but mine was, I was channel-surfing, stumbled onto VH1 airing it, was like, "What the hell is this?!" and my virginal mind was never the same again. I keep thinking that someday I'll attend a live show, but given that I live in a Podunk town in the Buckle of the Bible Belt, that's not going to happen for a while. Heck, I'd be willing to actually be in a performance, so long as I can play one of the tuxedo-wearing goons in the Time Warp number. Because you have to be really comfortable with your body to play any of the other parts in Rocky Horror and I'm not that comfortable with my body.

**I've mentioned in previous posts my undying hatred for that movie by Zack Snyder (that I won't name because I'm trying not to alienate my Internet buddies the way I've alienated everyone else in real life. It's the one about a guy with an S on his chest, suffice to say), but I have to admit that when it comes to Watchmen, I'm actually willing to cut Snyder a little slack. He was adapting a dense comic book story that was very much tied to the medium it originated in to the cinematic medium which has entirely different rules from the comics, knowing that said story has an insanely rabid fanbase that would leap down his throat if he made any changes to the material, even if it was to make the story flow better. So, I cut him some slack. Don't get me wrong, his adaptation is still a muddled mess that never lives up to the opening minutes set to "The times they are a changin'" but I let him slide because he had an impossible task and because like I've said, I don't really care about Watchmen. For me, Watchmen falls into a category I call "Good but gives me very little pleasure to read." I can see the greatness and recognize the skill and craft involved, but really it's not an enjoyable read.

But Superman...let's just say I care about Superman and before I go into another frothing rant, I'm just going to post a link , inject my self with tranquilizers, and bow out. I should probably warn you that clip still is pretty wrenching even if you don't know the full context of said clip. Heck, it gets me every damn time even though I know the DCAU inside and out. Seriously DC, why don't you have the guys involved with the DC Animated Universe write your movies? Do you guys hate money and all the stuff money can buy? Money can be exchanged for goods and services, y'know.

All right, I'm done. I've violated enough Internet ordinances for this week. See you until next time, readers.