Saturday, February 27, 2016

Both Dangerously Genre Savvy and Too Dumb to Live

All right, let's put on some awesome badass fighting music and do this thing. Those of you who object to "Battle Without Honor or Humanity" feel free to put on your own fighting spirit music. Though really who would object to that music?

The first section is a brief opening with Lionel that touches upon something that keeps coming up in this series. Even though the characters, unlike the readers, have seen nothing but incontrovertible proof as to the existence of God, they still act like this is our world where a person can go their entire life without seeing any proof one-tenth as awesome or irrefutable as God swatting nukes out of the sky, like Buck witnessed before the Rapture. I'm fairly certain something that big and showy would provoke soul-searching from everyone, even Richard Dawkins.

But as Fred has pointed out, no one, outside of Lucinda Washington, seems to have seen anything noteworthy about it. Heck, not even Irene Steele, aka a whole-hearted Rapture nut, seemed to think anything was unusual; didn't even bring it up in her arguments with Rayford though you imagine she would have gotten a lot further with, "Uh, did you see that broadcast on CNN about Israel was saved from Nuclear Armageddon when something, probably God, swatted aside all of Russia's Nukes*?" than she would have with, "Can you imagine, Rafe? Jesus coming back to get us before we die?"

Of course, it's even more irritating now that we're seven years in and the characters have been through a new freakish supernatural occurrence every week, yet they're still scratching their heads going, "Durr...I wonder what it means?" It's like I keep pointing out: it's not so much the existence of God that denizens of the LB-verse would question; it's the nature of said God, whether He is worthy of being worshipped, and how do you hold onto sanity and stay alive, given that said god is an eldritch horror who kicks over the board, makes the laws of nature its bitch, every time it damn well feels like it?

I know, I know, too much philosophical discourse, not enough chatter about the book. But tell me if you can read this opening section and not headdesk just a little:

LIONEL watched in awe as the sun dipped toward the horizon. He had never seen such a sight. Throughout the day, the sky had been clear. Now, fluffy marshmallow-like clouds seemed to appear, one after another, moving quickly above him.

After the incident in the desert, Sam and Lionel asked Zeke for a break and Zeke agreed. Sam and Lionel moved back into camp and ate their evening meal. When Mr. Stein joined them, Sam explained all that had happened.

Mr. Stein saw the fear in Sam’s eyes. “The Lord has protected us these past few years,” he said, smiling. “Why would you think it would be different now?”

“We’ve never gone up against that before,” Sam said, pointing to the vast army.

“But look at that,” Mr. Stein said, gesturing to the sky. The clouds had formed a canopy above them, and the reflection of the orange sun took their breath away. “Your outlook needs an up-look. Any God who could create that masterpiece should be trusted with your life, don’t you think?”

Again, I'm headdesking because this is the same basic argument RTCs use in the real world. If they manage to resist the temptation of the circular argument they normally use ("How do you know God exists?" "Because the Bible tells me so." "How do you know the Bible is accurate?" "Because it's the word of God."), RTCs will point to things like the beauty of sunsets as proof of the existence of God. We could easily point out all the flaws in said argument, like how beauty is subjective (What one person finds beautiful, another finds insipid) and that science buffs can easily talk about how these specific atmospheric conditions/gases produce the colors associated with sunsets, but the point I keep making is that the LB-verse isn't our world where God is a matter of faith and there isn't really something solid you can point to and say, "There's God."

The LB-verse is one where freakish supernatural occurrences happen so often, they're barely news. All the scientific laws woven into the fabric of our universe, are thrown and tossed aside whenever the writers God wants them to. And yet Mr. Stein is going, "Durr...Sunsets are pretty." instead of saying, "Uh, yeah, remember when God made everyone but us RTCs blind or how many times he made the water undrinkable or even when he bamfed your parents and all the children without hair down there, into heaven at the beginning of all this seven years ago?"

I suppose you could make an argument that Ellanjay are making a half-assed effort in an attempt to reflect reality, so these books can be used as evangelical tools, but again, YOU FAIL, ELLANJAY! I know they probably all think that everyone, save for a small sliver of humanity, are a bunch of Godless heathens who go around going "La-La-La Can't hear you!" and ignore Obvious proof as to the existence of God, in the form of the beauty of sunsets, but we are not completely lacking in natural curiosity. Humans observe, study, and figure shit out. It's how we clawed our way to the top of the food chain. Any of this freaky stuff happened, scientists would be working over time, studying the heck out of the bloody water to discern its properties, trying to breed the demon locusts and see what new hybrids can be produced, or they'd be like "Okay, can we figure out what causes Nicky's natural bioluminescence and harness it to deal with the darkness plague?"

That was one of the things that was actually pretty damn cool about World War Z, the book, of course, not the movie with Brad Pitt. At first when the Z-plague hit, we blundered around and screwed up because this was all new to us, but eventually, the humans started paying attention, noticing what did work and what didn't work against the zombies, and took things from there. Like they noticed that Zombies basically shut down during winter, so communities would schedule major reconstruction projects during that time, because then they can pull people away from patrols/watch and throw themselves into their work without worry.

Because, like I said before, that's what humans do. We observe, we learn, we figure shit out, and we adapt.

I know, I went on too long, but it just keeps happening during both this week's chapter and from the looks of it, next week's as well, with all the characters wondering "Is TurboJesus really going to show up at the predicted time even though every other predicted event has happened just as Tim LaHaye's sockpuppet character has predicted?"

Anyway, next selection is told from Vicki's perspective and because I'm a drooling pervert with a generally dim view of Judd and Vicki's relationship, I spent most of the section mentally making juvenile "That's what she said!" cracks in my head. Like I said, nothing will convince me that they married out of love. They can protest all they like, but as far as I can tell, Vicki wanted to get laid before TurboJesus took away sex, but she lacked the nerve to just :gasp: have consensual intercourse with another character outside of marriage and just pray for forgiveness afterwards. As for Judd...y'know what I'm going to be lazy and let a Simpsons clip speak for me. Those of you morbidly curious enough can debate which male character Judd would have as his screensaver.

I'll post the opening sentences so everyone gets to indulge their drooling pervert self and try to think of a nice way of telling Vicki, "I think you're trying to sell a cat to a man who fancies dogs."

Vicki held Judd until the fatigue stiffened her whole body. She lay down beside him, an arm draped over him. The rising and falling of his chest let her know he was still alive.

The sun’s orange glow reflected in the clouds above, clouds she hadn’t seen earlier. She wished Judd would wake up so they could share this.

I know, I know I read way too much into these things but like I said, I'm a drooling pervert and I'm bored. Let me have this, dammit!

As usually, whoever's writing this is desperately trying to spin their wheels, convince us that Judd and Vicki are in actual peril and stuff is actually going to happen!

She tried to shut out the conversation of the GC soldiers around them. Many mocked the prisoners, saying they were Jesus freaks or Ben-Judah freaks or cursing them. “I don’t know why they had us take prisoners in the first place,” one said. “We should have killed them all where they stood.”

I don't know why you take prisoners in the first place, Anonymous GC Soldier who may be the only mook in this series with any sense. I know supposedly that only Nicky and Leon Fortunado know that they are aligned with Satan and all that, but given how far we're into this series and Nicky knows all the prophetic stuff, why does he still make a half-assed attempt at all this "Peacey McPeace" routine? Why not just shoot your enemies, bury them in mass graves, and turn them into unpersons and pretend like they never existed in the first place, like Joseph Stalin?

I could assume that maybe Ellanjay did some research and they're trying to show parallels by having Nicky conduct show trials like Communist Russia/China, but even so, I object. Stalin and Mao didn't have conclusive proof that the world was going to end in seven years, so why not just give them a bullet between the eyes, bury them in mass graves, and move on, rather than wasting time and resources Nicky doesn't have with imprisonment and show trials and televised executions that give the criminal a chance to grandstand and become martyrs before having their heads chopped off?

Anyway, Commander Fulcire tries to drag Judd off, saying they need to burn the dead for health reasons. Vicki's all "Oh noes!" but Judd stirs, proving himself conveniently not dead. Obligatory Monty Python clip.

Rather than just hit him with the butt of his rifle, which is what I'd do, Fulcire walks over, taunts Judd for a bit, and talks about how Vicki looks familiar to him. Since like I've said before, my brain is largely made up of Simpsons quotes, I'm thinking of this exchange between Smithers and Burns:

Mr. Burns: Simpson, eh? New man?
Smithers: He thwarted your campaign for governor, you ran over his son, he saved the plant from meltdown, his wife painted you in the nude...
Mr. Burns: Doesn't ring a bell.

Vicki and Judd talk about how TurboJesus will show up soon and I wonder if an editor intervened at some point, saving me from passages where they salivate from desire at the thought of all those godless heathens who will soon die horribly and suffer for all eternity, and Vicki and Judd are so turned on at the thought that they give each other handjobs to tide them over until then.

I say handjobs because both Vicki and Judd are hurt, so they might not be up to making the beast with two backs. Just know that when TurboJesus does show up, he'll heal all their injuries and they'll be so turned on, that they'll be doing the kinds of acts that even just mentioning the name of, incurs a massive fine from the FCC.

[Incredibly Disturbing TANGENT] I have a similar theory regarding Rick Sanctorum. No man can be that straight-laced, that obsessed with sex (gay and otherwise), and not turn out to have something deeply, deeply effed up with him. Eventually Sanctorum will get ensnared in a sex scandal (because when it comes to the Christian Right, it's always sex that takes 'em down), but given how tightly wound/straight-laced he is, it won't be the traditional "shtupping the sexy intern" or "soliciting sex in an airport men's room" kind of scandals that bring down most politicians. You just know with Sanctorum it will be something so effed up and disturbing that merely to gaze upon'll find yourself envying the Nazis in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Though I am a little surprise that in the GOP campaign freakshow, Sanctorum didn't throw his hat into the ring. Thought he was going to be the new Harold Stassen, keep throwing his hat into the ring of every presidential race until claimed by the icy hand of death. Or did he look at the overwhelming amount of crazy and decide that, "Y'know there are more dignified/respectable jobs available than running for president. Heard people are always needing grave-robbers and/or people willing to snatch candy from babies." If he did, it's a rare show of intelligence from a member of the GOP. But Sanctorum is still undeniably creepy as hell and I stand by my "He's going to get ensnared by a sex scandal" theory. [/TANGENT]

We cut back to Conrad, who is listening to Enoch talk some more. aunursa said that the reason Lionel has a fairly normal name, despite being :gasp: ethnic, is that he and his mother were created before Jenkins got the idea that all ethnic characters should have an obvious ethnic name that basically labels them as Ethnic McEthnic. So now I'm wondering if I'm obsessive enough (and you know I am), if I figure out at what precise moment did that meme enter Jerry Jenkins's head and I somehow rewrite the laws of time and space and invent time travel, could I go back in time and punch out Jenkins or whoever gave him that idea?

[Time Travel TANGENT]
I know if I have the capacity for Time Travel, I should use it to make more meaningful changes, do the whole "Kill Hitler" bit, but my consumption of popular fiction has taught me that nothing but bad, comes from trying to make meaningful changes. So instead, I've decided if I ever get the ability to time travel, I'll just use it to punk with historical figures I hate. Leap out of a portal, punch out Nathaniel Hawthorne and be like, "That's for The Scarlet Letter, you asshole!" and disappear while he stands there with a "WTF?!" look on his face.

Besides, trying to kill Hitler is so played out. There have been so many stories written about it. Why not go back further and try to save the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and see if you can prevent WWI entirely? Because most historians agree that WWII wouldn't have happened if WWI didn't set the stage, and you can make a convincing case that all the horrible shit of the 20th century can be traced directly or indirectly back to WWI. Plus, the assassination of the Archduke reads like a rejected Keystone Kops script and would almost be hilarious, were it not for the horrific events that spawned from it. A whole lot of people died because someone couldn't be arsed to give the chauffeur the changed directions. [/TANGENT]

But I probably shouldn't. Jenkins's tin ear for names serves as a nice source of innocent merriment that I probably shouldn't deprive myself of it. Besides mess around too much with the past and monkeys rule the future!

I know, should apologize for all the damn tangents/barely related pop culture references, but gotta do something to keep myself awake. If y'all object, you can start your own blog and do this however you want.

Anyway, we cut to Conrad's perspective. Enoch is explaining in narration form about all the stuff that's going to happen. I know I should object to that kind of laziness, but I actually prefer it when they just say narrate about whatever horrible stuff is going to happen and just get to it, already. Now character stuff like the annoying Shelly/Conrad subplot, should be fleshed out because again, it develops characters and if you want a conflict to have meaning, you shouldn't have the bulk of it take place off-screen.

Enoch explained that twenty-one judgments had come from heaven in three sets of seven. These showed God’s mercy on one hand, calling people to repentance, but also God’s anger at evil. According to the Bible, the judgments were poured out by angels from bowls or vials.

Enoch went through each of the seven bowls, judgments that came in the form of sores on people’s bodies, the sea turning to blood, rivers and springs turning to blood, the sun becoming hot enough to burn people alive, New Babylon’s darkness, and the drying up of the Euphrates River.

I know there are many charts helpfully explaining all the horrible stuff that's supposed to happen--I've linked to them in the past--but so far, none of them has ever helped me understand the freaky events that are supposed to happen, nor will they ever help me. In fact, were it not for the fact that millions of people actually believe in the whole PMD BS as laid out by Tim LaHaye and Hal Lindsay, I'd assume whoever put these charts together, was a schizophrenia patient with some skills in graphic design. Though that feels unfair to people with schizophrenia: even someone in the grips of full-blown psychosis could craft a more compelling, coherent worldview than anything the PMDs come up with. Seriously why do they even bother with these charts or Bibles at all? Just distribute a bullet-point list with stuff like "YEAR ONE: Rapture, X Number of Months later, this freaky event," and so on and so forth for the rest of the timeline. Simple and it's easy to put together and understand.

Then Enoch helpfully says this:

“The seventh bowl judgment, the one we still await, will be poured out upon the air so that lightning and thunder and other celestial calamities announce the greatest earthquake in history. It will be so great it will cause Jerusalem to break into three pieces in preparation for changes during Christ’s millennial kingdom. It will also be accompanied by a great outpouring of hundred-pound hailstones.

“And what will the general response be from the very ones God is trying to reach and persuade? Revelation 16:21 tells us that ‘they cursed God because of the hailstorm, which was a very terrible plague.’ ”

Most would consider being bombarded with 100 pound hailstones to be a terrible plague. Again, probably while they wouldn't do the same damage as 100 pound asteroids/meteorites, because they're made of ice and not rock, still think it would really, really be bad for the Earth to be bombarded with 100 pound hail.

Again, not going to do the math, because as an English major, I break down in hysterical tears when called upon to do anything beyond the basics without the assistance of a calculator, but the largest hail on record is about eight inches in diameter, 18.5 in circumference, and 1.9375 pounds in weight. I'll let my more astute readers do the math to figure out the specs on 100 pound hailstones, but I'm fairly certain that given that hail tends to fall from the sky, which most would agree is pretty high up, probably if anyone in South Dakota (where the record-breaking hailstones fell) was dumb enough to be outside during it and not hunkered down inside, if they got hit by a nearly 2 lb. hailstone, they'd be dead. So yeah, somebody gets hit by 100 lb. hail will be blood splatter on the pavement and wake up in Hell, before they ever got a chance to say, "Huh?"

But we've established many times that Ellanjay's depiction of God is an unshaven man in a wife-beater and bathrobe, shouting at his cowering spouse and/or children, "Now look what you made me do!" so again, isn't too surprising that they'd be shocked, shocked, that people would immediately fall down and worship a guy who bludgeoned the planet with 100 lb. hail and in addition to reducing innocent people to splatter, may have induced conditions akin to nuclear winter.

Enoch talks about how after all that, TurboJesus shows up, and Conrad acknowledges his place in the hierarchy by praying for Judd and Vicki in Jerusalem.

We cut back to Judd and Vicki. Again, the GC are being awfully respectful of their human rights for a global satanic dictatorship. Again, they're just holding them prisoner and though Judd complains about having a headache and later Vicki talks about blood leaking from her bandaged leg, I'm rolling my eyes because again, sounds like an unpleasant Boy Scout camping trip, not a gulag.

They talk and talk and it's all very boring, until Vicki says this, after which it I headdesk for a few minutes: “What if Tsion was wrong? Even Jesus said no one knows the hour when he’s going to return.”

Because I thought the whole appeal of the PMD mythos was that it claimed to know exactly when TurboJesus would return, unlike all those effete, swishy liberals who quote those verses and say heretical ideas like, "Y'know when Jesus and everybody else in the Bible, both in the Old Testament and the New, talked about caring for the poor? Maybe we should actually take it literally and actually do it, actually feed and clothe them rather than just hand out Jack Chick tracts." "Dem heretics with their insistence upon reading what's there, without using the magical decoder ring our pastor gave us, and insisting that Jesus and everybody else meant for us to do this stuff now, rather than at some indeterminate point several millennia from when the book was actually written. Bah, I say!"

I think it's the fact that Donald Trump has a decent shot at both the nomination and possibly the White House that has left me unable to express any emotion but bitter sarcasm. I wouldn't mind too much, because I am naturally an isolated weirdo, but people keep dragging me out of the house and I'm afraid other people may find said bitter sarcasm to be somewhat off-putting. But this may be one of those problems that will resolve itself; after a while, people are going to stop wanting to hang out with me and I can be my isolated, headcase self.

But it's just something that keeps irritating me, how the characters in this series are both simultaneously Genre Savvy and Too Dumb to Live. Given that everything else that was predicted to happen, has happened right on schedule, there's no reason for Vicki to suddenly have doubts.

Things liven up briefly when it turns out the Fulcire knows who Vicki is.

The commander returned with a smile, holding the device. He turned it around, and Judd tried not to react. Vicki’s picture, along with her personal information, flashed on the screen. She was one of the most wanted young people in the world.

“So, Vicki B—” Fulcire grinned—“we finally meet. Who would have thought I’d have to come all the way to Israel to find you? What a lucky break.”

I suppose I could go digging through God-only-knows how many posts and figure out when this happened in the timeline and see if Vicki and Fulcire crossed paths at other points between then and now, but I'm just too damn lazy. I will just say that I will never stop wondering why Judd is recognized as the leader of the YTF, given that of the four MCs of this series, Vicki has racked up the most converts and done most of the heavy lifting in getting everybody together, while Judd flies around from Jerusalem to New Babylon to who knows how many other countries without seeing or doing anything of note. But Judd is the possessor of the almighty white penis, which I assume Ellanjay consider explanation enough.

Fulcire loses points in that he doesn't immediately shoot Vicki after recognizing her. Instead he blusters for a bit. Though will give Fulcire some points in that he immediately starts threatening and roughing up Judd. Yeah, again it's basic, by-the-book villainy, but given how much the villains suck, you applaud whenever they demonstrate some sense. It's a time old tradition: people may be willing to stand strong and die for their beliefs, but if you go after their spouse or a kid or someone close to them, they cave pretty fast. People are willing to die for their beliefs, but basic humanity says that they'll blanch at making someone else pay the price for it. Hence why said tactic has been utilized by nearly every asshole dictator throughout history.

Anyway, Judd is all manly and "Don't tell them" but Vicki, probably because she's weak and female, is like "Stop! I'll tell you everything." I'm going to assume that y'all are smart enough to know that nothing is going to come of this, just like nothing came of all the previous times she was captured. I would be impressed if Vicki lied, because basic knowledge of war will tell you that false or bad information is often worse than no information at all, but given all the issues the RTC subculture has with lying (even though captured soldiers only legally have to give their name, rank, and serial number. Afterwards, they don't have to say anything and they can even lie and the US Military often encourages them to do so for reasons I've already stated), they'll employ some weaselly tactic so Vicki won't do something so gauche as lie to protect herself, Judd, and her friends. Again, RTCs believe in Absolute Morality, but said morality can only work in a stable, democratic society with plentiful food and resources. Anything tips that balance, and Absolute Morality falls apart pretty fast. But admitting to being wrong is worse than actually being wrong, so they can't admit that Moral Relativism, aka choosing between a lesser of two evils or just admitting that circumstances forced your hand, is right. Hence why they will never have a good response when you point out examples like Oskar Schindler who :gasp: lied to the Nazis in order to smuggle Jews to safety.

Anyway, chapter ends with Lionel. Rayford shows up, hurt and injured on an ATV, and I'm quoting this paragraph because it never stops amusing me, how everyone instinctively recognizes that Rayford holds the highest rank of all in the Great Chain of Being.

He hurried outside to see tens of thousands gathering their evening meal applaud people riding on ATVs. Rayford Steele was being carried by someone from the Tribulation Force. Lionel had heard earlier that Rayford had been injured or possibly killed in an accident. People waved and screamed encouragement as the former pilot for Nicolae Carpathia passed.

I have to wonder how whoever wrote this, resisted the temptation to have the Tribbles wave palm branches and proclaim hosannas, as Rayford comes by. Just that I do debate whether Jerry Jenkins having his Mary Sue (Buck)get martyred and get an awesome upgraded body for all eternity, whereas Rayford grows more decrepit as the millennial kingdom wears on, to be his form of revenge. As Fred points out, we do get more digs/insight into Rayford's character (aka Tim LaHaye's self-insert) than we ever do with Buck.

Speaking of Buck, the chapter closes with this exchange:

“Is it Buck?” Chaim said, his voice shaky.

“Yeah. Mac found his body in Jerusalem. He was torn up pretty bad.”

“I cannot believe Buck and Tsion are both dead,” Chaim said.

Lionel staggered away from the door. Both dead? He sprinted down the hillside to find Sam, praying for Judd and Vicki as he ran.

And now I'm wondering whether someone cut a scene where a character wiped a tear from his eye and said, "Truly that man was the Greatest Investigative Reporter of All Time." Try and tell me I'm exaggerating how much the characters of the LB-verse obsequiously worship Buck and Rayford, I dare you.

And that's it for this week. See you next time.

*I tried to track down the post where a wonderfully geeky Slacktivite actually did the math, taking into account the vastness of Russia's nuclear arsenal and from there, how much per square inch they used on a country the size of New Jersey, but I couldn't. Though given that in the LB-verse, Israel has swallowed up Jordan and Syria with nary a complaint from the citizens of either country, I'm not sure how big Israel is in the LB-verse, but it's not the size of New Jersey.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Big Nothing

Hey and happy Saturday,everybody! Don't know if anybody has anything planned. Me, I don't really have much going on except tearing Ellanjay a new one. So let's get to it.

This week's chapter begins not with Judd or Vicki or Lionel, but with Conrad, aka one of the members of the Minor Character Cloud (MCC) that you probably know little to nothing about and probably care little to nothing about. About all I can tell you about him, besides him being a dude and one of the YTF, is that he was Taylor "Awesome and Alive, dammit!" Graham's brother and they occasionally mention a subplot regarding him and Shelly, but since all the important parts of said subplot occur off screen and we know next to nothing about either Conrad or Shelly, you can't really expect said subplot to have any impact.

In fact, a previous chapter had basically said, "All the problems Conrad and Shelly were having, have totally been resolved," without, like I said, ACTUALLY SHOWING ANY OF IT AT ALL! HENCE WHY I LEFT IT OUT BECAUSE HOW COULD ELLANJAY OR WHOEVER THE HELL WROTE THIS, EXPECT US TO ACTUALLY CARE ABOUT ANY OF IT, IF THEY CAN'T BE ARSED TO SHOW US ANY OF THE EMOTIONAL FALLOUT!

:deep breath: I know I shouldn't be too surprised by this, given how far in we are, but that is still just an impressive amount of laziness and not even the good kind of laziness, like the kind that led to the creation of X-Men.

Basically the central gimmick of X-Men, about them being mutants and all, came about because Stan Lee didn't feel like trying to come up with a gimmick to explain their powers, so he just threw up his hands and said, "They're mutants." But that stroke of laziness wound up being a stroke of genius, because writers could introduce infinite numbers of characters without having to create a backstory explaining their powers, because the backstory was woven into the setting. Even though X-Men didn't really catch on until Chris Claremont basically wrote the X-Men stories that people remember and adapt into movies and yes, the fact that the X-Men are persecuted for having special powers, even though they live in the same universe as the Fantastic Four (who are celebrities for having special powers), is pretty damn inconsistent, but while laziness may have been the launching point for X-Men, they were only lazy on the Mutant part. They still tried to tell a damn good story. Though to be honest, I've only read a few X-Men titles. Love the cartoons and movie adaptations but the sheer amount of titles and the fact that there are so many continuities and Uncanny X-Men is different from Astonishing just overwhelms and intimidates the hell out of me.

Anyway, here's the paragraph. Maybe I should have mentioned it back when we were actually snarking that chapter (It was 32, if you're wondering. We're on 36 now), but it was probably either a case of "Snark was already too damn long" and again, did any of you really care about the Shelly-Conrad subplot? Were you all just biting your nails raw wondering if they'd kiss and make up? I'm sharing now because I thought you knew by now that I'm a believer in Misery Loves Company:

The past few nights had been cold, so Conrad had given his best blanket to Shelly, who lived about three blocks away. It was shortly after Mark’s death that Shelly and Conrad had renewed their friendship. Something Mark had said to Shelly caused her to give Conrad another chance after a bad disagreement in Wisconsin. They weren’t going to get married anytime soon, but the fact that they could be friends gave Conrad hope.

I keep using the word "impressive" to describe this kind of laziness, but I'm starting to think that maybe I shouldn't. In fact, you kind of wonder why they even bothered with this subplot in the first place. I suppose the obvious answer is "Padding!" but wouldn't it pad out the series more if they actually developed it and explored the emotional fallout? So I'm wondering if the incoherence of this whole thing isn't a case of their love of money padding and their love of laziness coming into conflict.

It's 6 a.m. and Conrad is all up, walking around and contemplating his navel. We get a mention of that Enoch Dumas guy we met in a previous chapter. Enoch Dumas is Black and between him and Dr. Shadrach Meshach Lockridge of the the previous chapter, I'm wondering how Lionel Washington managed to luck out and wind up with a normal name, despite being Black. I mean, we've seen that Ellanjay believe that all ethnic (defined as someone who isn't White, American, and RTC) characters have obviously ethnic names...

Anyway, Conrad thinks about his brother (aka the guy I've created an elaborate head canon around) for the first time in...okay, if I wasn't lazy, I'd backtrack and try to figure out at what point did Taylor supposedly die in this seven-year timeline, but I think I've devoted too much neuron space to this series as is.

[slight tangent] I keep trying to come up with an adequate metaphor to describe what snarking this series is like. I'd say it's like punching out a baby, but at the same time, baby might be able to put up more of a fight, especially if baby has started cutting teeth, because despite being called milk teeth or baby teeth, they are surprisingly sharp. Plus even if baby was still toothless, it would still have better work ethic than Ellanjay and not just lie there and let you pound on it. Maybe I should just stick with the good ol' Pigeon Chess metaphor. A bit cliché, but I always did have a weakness for the classics. [/Tangent]

Anyway in these two paragraphs where Conrad briefly thinks about his brother, it's like they realize on some level that Taylor is just so much more awesome than any of the Tribbles. Hence why they shoved him off screen in hopes that the readers will forget he existed. Plus, longer he was on stage, actually doing exciting stuff, while the Tribbles twiddled their thumbs...I don't need to say anymore, now do I? Just know that according to my head canon, Taylor isn't dead. He faked it because the Tribbles were an albatross about his neck and he knew they wouldn't leave him alone until they thought he was safely damned. So there!

As Conrad stepped into the morning chill and darkness, he thought about his brother, Taylor. Taylor had hated everything Carpathia stood for and lost his life trying to work against the GC. However, Taylor had been killed without ever trusting God.

That fact had haunted Conrad the past few years. No matter how many people he helped understand the truth or how many people he prayed with, there was always a shadow of regret. He would never meet Taylor again, never hear his laugh or relive old times.

Yeah, you can tell it really haunted Conrad given how this is the first time in GOD-ONLY-KNOWS HOW MANY BOOKS that this has been brought up. That and of course he would mention something generic like "relive old times" rather than mention any specific details that might give insight into Taylor and Conrad's relationship.

I keep trying to work out the age gap between the two (because that affects relationships between siblings). Right now, my head canon is that Taylor was in his twenties, maybe thirty at the oldest, when he showed up in the series, whereas Conrad was in his teens. So in all likelihood, they weren't partners-in-crime, due to the age gap, but I still see Taylor as being the cool older sibling. He'd be the sibling who, if he was stuck babysitting, would let you stay up late, would let you watch shows that Mommy and Daddy wouldn't and take you to all those movies Mommy and Daddy said you couldn't go. He'd give you advice on life and love, teach you some awesome moves, like say a kneecap kick, to deal with that asshole bully that's been bothering you.

[TANGENT About Taylor Graham Head Canon]If you're wondering, my personal head canon regarding Taylor was that he was in the air force or had some form of military training before the Rapture. As a soldier, he saw the chaos of the Rapture firsthand. He had to provide protection and move supplies in and out to people in desperate need. Initially, he welcomed the peace and unity Nicky seemed to represent. But when it became clear that Nicky's means of achieving peace, like so many other dictators, involves killing anyone who stood against him, he rebelled. Taylor enlisted because he believed in the ideals of democracy and human rights. As a result, he considers Nicky a monster and believes that it is the duty of everyone to oppose him. And Taylor believes more in the Free France kind of opposition, taking up arms and doing what you can to slow Nicky down, rather than the tribbles' kind, which is "to occasionally think disdainful thoughts in Nicky's direction."

Or in other words, I see Taylor nodding in agreement to this speech given by Captain America in the comic book version of Civil War. Now since y'all know what an unabashed fangirl I am of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I'm going to beseech the movie gods regarding the upcoming Captain America 3. Please don't let it suck. Please have it turn out that they saw what sucked about the comic book version and the movie writers won't muck it up as badly as the comic book writers did. Because the speech I linked to, from what I heard, it was probably the only awesome part of that arc. Hence why I'm doing my beseeching. Because the original idea they had, where there would be a balanced, nuanced debate between both Pro and Anti-Registration Act sides, was a good one (even bleeding heart Liberals such as myself can admit to that) but then they decided to turn Tony Stark into Nazi-tron and the whole thing dissolved into a godawful mess that was promptly retconned out of existence. Except for the stuff involving Spider-Man. So I'll say one last prayer that the movie version doesn't suck and continue. [/TANGENT]

But seriously try to tell me that whoever wrote those paragraphs doesn't realize that Taylor outshines the heroes in every way. He's basically Vadinho in Puma Man. For those who haven't seen that episode of MST3K, short version is even though Vadinho is cast as the title character's sidekick, he outshines the title character in every way, so much so that eventually Crow said, "Our hero is this guy. It's time we've accepted that." And you agree with Crow. Start thinking that the movie would be infinitely better if it had just been about Vadinho. Called it Aztec Man and have him punching out Donald Pleasance like one of those karate B-movie pictures.

I suppose I can make my usual dig about how Conrad doesn't bother to carry this line of thought any further, consider that his beloved older brother is having demons kancho him with a red-hot poker right about now, but that kind of sociopathy is sadly commonplace in the LB-verse.

We get some acknowledgement that Ellanjay are aware of the existence of time zones and that there are different times in different places around the world, when a character wonders what time it is in Israel where Judd and Vicki are right now. It's two or three if you're wondering. Though again, in true Ellanjay fashion, the section ends with Conrad's prayer sense tingling as he leads the rest of the MCC in praying for Judd and Vicki. The whole prayer sense and how it plays into the whole hierarchy Ellanjay love, never stops amusing me. But like I've said before, while Ellanjay pay lip service to the "Last will be first and the first will be last, they can't imagine a world without hierarchies, where they aren't the big cheeses that everyone fawns over. It's the old Animal Farm thing with them: we are all equal but some are more equal than others.

Next section, we cut to Vicki, who is in the back of a GC transport truck with Judd. Judd, in true manly martyrrific fashion, utterly passed out after carrying Vicki to the truck, thus giving Vicki an opportunity to look at him and sigh about how manly he is, risking it all to protect a weak, womanly female such as herself. I am exaggerating, but ask yourself: is it really by much? I'm fighting the urge to make a snarky remark about how Vicki would have died if an NPC hadn't done basic first aid.

Anyway, the writer tries and tries for a few paragraphs, tries to get us to believe that Vicki and Judd are totally in actual danger, but we all know it's BS so let's move on.

We're back with Conrad and we get to what will make up the bulk of this chapter: watching a televised sermon. :whimpers: If you're wondering, with Token Jew deceased, Chaim is stepping to tell everybody why they are cute but wrong.

I will say that while Ellanjay have Chaim quote a lot of Bible verses, for the most part they leave out chapter and verse numbers, as well as the names of the books. The only time they mention specifics is in narration where they have a character say something along the lines of "Chaim cited Matthew 24." It's almost as though they realize if they actually mention the chapter and verse numbers and one of their RTC readers, who actually believes their BS about how you should read and study The Bible, might :gasp: actually read the Bible and have some uncomfortable questions about why we take verse X literally but everything else is metaphorical. So they leave it out. Can't have the readers stumbling onto Bible passages without the proper decoder ring preacher to provide guidance. They might see the larger context of a verse and be like, "Why don't we sell our possessions and give them to the poor, like Jesus said we should?" And from there, chaos would ensue.

Narration says that Chaim read Matthew 24, but the book has Chaim actually saying, in dialogue form, this:

“This is the last day of the Tribulation that was prophesied thousands of years ago! Today is the seventh anniversary of the unholy and quickly broken covenant between Antichrist and Israel. What is next? The sun, wherever it is in the sky where you are, will cease to shine. If the moon is out where you are, it will go dark as well because it is merely a reflection of the sun. Do not fear. Do not be afraid. Do not panic. Take comfort in the truth of the Word of God and put your faith in Christ, the Messiah.”

For those of you who weren't too lazy to click on the link I provided to Matthew 24, I think he is referencing verses 29-41, aka the only verses RTCs such as Ellanjay care about, because they can more easily torture said verses and imply that they refer to modern Christians thousands of years from now, on a continent the writer of Matthew hadn't heard of. Unlike the rest of that chapter, which is clearly about the destruction of the temple, aka a momentous event in both Christian and Jewish history, aka an event that much of the New Testament is devoted to sorting out the ramifications of.

Though if we're going to be all literal, when the sun goes dark, will it just be nighttime or will it be like what would actually happen if sunlight ceased to reach the Earth with everything freezing and life ceasing to exist?

Narration says that Chaim read from Zechariah, but can't figure out which one. Though of course, it would be Zechariah, because like I said before, it's easier for them to twist and torture a trippy prophet like him, rather than a plain-spoken type like Amos.

The next part of Chaim's speech is this.

Then the man leaned forward, looked into the camera, and spoke. “One of our first-century Jews, Peter, said, ‘Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ I cannot choose more appropriate words than his when I speak to fellow Jews, saying, ‘People of Israel, listen! God publicly endorsed Jesus of Nazareth by doing wonderful miracles, wonders, and signs through him, as you well know. But you followed God’s prearranged plan. With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed him to the cross and murdered him. However, God released him from the horrors of death and raised him back to life again, for death could not keep him in its grip.

Part of me takes a perverse sort of pride, imagining the feats in illogic Ellanjay have to perform in order to convince themselves that they are totally not anti-Semitic and how dare you say otherwise?! I mean, their most fervent desire is for the Jews to abandon their faith and stop being Jewish, thus ceasing to exist. How can anyone see that as anti-Semitic?

It took some trickery to find out which verse Chaim was citing. I found it by googling the first part about how 'Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.' Surprising enough, googling that verse produces more references to Romans 10:13, which was written by Paul, not Peter. Was ready to go all "Gotcha!" on Ellanjay, but it turns out that Peter does say that in Acts 2, verse 21 to be more specific.

If you weren't too lazy to click on the link, as you probably guessed, Acts 2 is much more nuanced than Chaim's out of context quoting would have you believe. But I'm surprised that Ellanjay acknowledge the existence of the Book of Acts for much of the same reason I was surprised they cited anything from the Book of James. Just imagine what would happen if their RTC readers read the last few verses of Acts 2:

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

But since they've cited something from James 5 without acknowledging the first six verses of that chapter, they probably don't have too much trouble, ignoring the Book of Acts with the early church holding everything in common like a bunch of commies.

Chaim cites more from Peter's speech in Acts 2, including the part where Peter cites scriptures written by David. Basically Chaim believes, like Peter, that the Messiah that David was speaking of, was Jesus.

Then Chaim does an altar car. The narration mentions that he cited Isaiah 53, because we all know that everything in the Bible was written for a select audience thousands of years ago, even though at the time that chapter was written (by one of the three Isaiahs), Israel was returning from exile. For many years they had clung to tales about the glories of Israel, about how beautiful the kingdom was, and all of their problems will be solved once they return to their beloved homeland. Cyrus eventually allowed the Jews to return home, but when they did, they discovered their kingdom was an overgrown heap of rubble. Returning home wouldn't solve their problems and in fact, they were realizing that now they had a whole new set of problems to deal with. So Isaiah tried to reassure them by basically saying, "Yes, we will suffer and it will be rough, but God will be with us and support us through it and eventually we will be on top." Or in other words, Isaiah was probably delivering a message more along the lines of "the last will be first and the first will be last" rather than "at some point, God-only-knows how many millennia, the Jewish people will either abandon their heritage or die horribly as TurboJesus slaughters everyone."

Again, it doesn't say exactly what Chaim says about Isaiah 53, but no points for guessing which interpretation he probably gave when preaching. Anyway, eventually Chaim's broadcast is cut short* and the chapter ends with Conrad wondering how many of those inscrutable Jews Jesus will have to kill. Okay, it technically says "Conrad wondered how many watching had responded to the man’s appeal." but I felt I should cut through all the sugar-coating and say what Ellanjay (and by extension, their mouthpieces) are actually thinking.

I thought about throwing on another chapter because less than nothing happened, somehow, but eh, I'm tired and don't feel like it. You guys will just have to hold until next week, when even more nothing happens. Because once the Epic Pig Ride! happened, it was all downhill from there.

*If you're wondering how Chaim got on the air, they explain it the same way they explain everything else: with Hacking! Because Ellanjay have no idea what Hacking is, just that it sounds all mysterious and scary, therefore it must be magic! Even though in the real world, hacking is more "Asshole makes it so your website takes you to pictures of dicks" rather than being able to take control of state-owned and operated airwaves and somehow the state, even though you're using their satellites, which they control, to get into their network, they somehow can't find you and send the police to your doorstep. Though in fairness, I've heard through the grapevine, that it is embarrassingly easy for some punk with too much time on their hands, a six-pack of Red Bull, and nothing to do Saturday night, to hack government websites. Apparently hacking the Pentagon is insanely easy, rather than the difficult/impossible feat popular culture makes it out to be. I haven't actually done it, because I'm just happy, hanging out on YouTube and messageboards, but like I said, given that even I can tell when someone knows nothing about hacking...

But I'm still going to call BS on hacking television broadcasts. Especially since y'know Ellanjay haven't considered the fact that since Nicky currently controls the satellites which provide Internet access...

Sunday, February 14, 2016


Okay, I'm here and ready to snark. Tried to get going yesterday but all this stuff kept happening. That combined with my love of procrastination means we wind up with a Sunday post.

Again, not going to lie to y'all: this week's chapter, like the previous week, and the one before it, and probably all subsequent chapters, is dull as hell. It's the text equivalent of a boxing match between Mike Tyson and Stephen Hawking, in that no matter how much Ellanjay chest-beat about "Will the Tribbles stay strong and stay alive during all this?" we all know who's going to come out on top here. Though wait, my comparison may be unfair to Stephen Hawking. Stephen Hawking could probably put up more of a decent, exciting fight, especially if his wheelchair really is as tricked-out as The Simpsons would have us believe.

As a result of the sheer boredom, I do go on tangents and again, as a courtesy to readers who are totes not interested, I put them inside brackets so y'all can skip past them and get to the book stuff.

[TANGENT Where I ramble embarrassingly about myself]
Yeah, I know, pop culture reference that is only tangentially related to what's actually going on. But that's how I roll. When facing bad art, I, like Homer Simpson, drift off and start making up my own story. Hence, my whole head canon about the League of Awesome. I can't say exactly where this impulse comes from, where it all began. Maybe it's just inherent in English Majors, being all obsessive and weird about Entertainment (we do tend to enjoy storytelling).

I do have to credit my brother and fanfiction for helping me to cut my storytelling teeth. I don't know how other kids rolled, but I was never content to just watch an episode of a Saturday Morning Cartoon or whatever and just sit and wait for next week's episode; immediately after the credits, I start talking about what had happened and from there, start crafting a plotline about where I thought it was going to go from there. I told them to my brother, because he was the only one who would really listen, who seemed interested in my theorizing. I just remember how exciting it was when we got the Internet (can't remember exactly what year my family got the Internet. I think it was 1995 or 1996, but others disagree. If you're wondering, I was born in 1985), but it blew my mind, when I did a search and discovered that other people were doing this too and that this had phenomenon had a name: fanfiction.

From there, I wrote my share of fanfics and hung out and criticized other people's fanfictions. Eventually, I lost interest, but I have fond memories of that time. Like I said, I cut my storytelling teeth on fanfiction and learned valuable lessons about good writing that could be used in both fanfiction and original works. If I ever get published, I wouldn't mind it if somebody wrote fanfiction on my stuff. I wouldn't read it, because as anyone will point out, the Internet is often a dark and scary place, but I'd totally be okay with it, because it'd be like coming full circle.

Anyway, my point is, this kind of thing, taking bits and pieces from canon and just going nuts with them, comes naturally to me. I often do it with bad fiction, because I've said many times, I sure as hell believe in discontinuity, but I also do it with good stuff. After seeing Star Wars: the Force Awakens, I almost immediately started constructing a backstory for Snoke. I know odds are pretty good my theory will be Jossed almost as soon as JJ Abrams releases the next one, but I enjoy it. I just can't passively sit and wait for the next film; I just can't resist trying to make up my own story to tide me over until then. [/TANGENT]

One last thing before I get to the book: Y'all know I do read the comments, obsessing over them like the weird obsessive geek* you know I am, and though I already responded to one of Firedrake's comments on last week's post, I feel a need to put it in the main post.

[Comment TANGENT]

Basically, last week, we discovered that the reason Nicky is using horses, despite the fact that there's a reason the modern military hasn't utilized horse-drawn cavalries since WWI, was because of one verse that said something about God striking down horses and riders, which clearly meant that the bad guy had to have horses and riders, even though this is supposed to be at some indeterminate point in the future. But we've established that Ellanjay suck at everything, including trying to map out future trends.

Firedrake was stymied by this, saying, and I quote:

Um, the logic she is broken. If LBGod is striking horses with panic and riders with madness, this is surely a reason to not have horses and riders in your army, rather than going out of your way to find some?

And I shake my head, because we've been through this kind of silly literalism before. Anyone remember the plot tumor where Judd hung out with some German guys in New Babylon for awhile? If you don't, can't blame you. There have been so many danged plot tumors, I'm not surprised if y'all couldn't keep track of all of them.

Basically the Germans were there, because of their interpretation of verse four, in Revelation 18 or to use the words of a website I've quoted before:

In the latest book, there is one laughable situation where some German Christians supposedly read a verse in the Revelation about God's people being told to come out of Babylon, because the city was going to be destroyed "in one hour", and so they travelled to the Antichrist headquarters in Baghdad just to save God the embarrassment of not having anyone inside to "come out" when the time came. Seriously! This is exactly how contrived the so-called fulfillments of various prophecies are, as far as Jenkins and LaHaye are concerned. Find a verse, weave it into a good car or plane chase, and then pretend that it is what the Bible was talking about all along.

So we shouldn't be too surprised that they read the 12th chapter of Zechariah and only notice the fourth verse. Because again, they only noticed that one verse of Revelation, chapter 18. Those of you who weren't lazy and actually read through that chapter of Revelation, would have noticed that there are a lot more verses than just one, and reading it, you get the idea that John was saying something entirely different when he tells people to "Come out of Babylon."

Because it's not like there was a massive empire around that was persecuting the followers of Christ, an empire that swallowed up and controlled most of the world, and had an economic system where a privileged elite lived in the lap of luxury, while the majority, the people who toiled and slaved on behalf of the elite, lived in appalling poverty? It's not like the part, where John talks about all the stuff that will be destroyed when God wipes out Babylon (verses 11-17 of chapter 18), were luxury items, stuff that the rich enjoyed and flaunted, and cost more than their servants could make in a year. I don't know where you could have possibly gotten the idea that a follower of Christ would find the idea of the rich living in the lap of luxury, while sanctimoniously looking down at the impoverished and steadfastly refusing to do a thing to help them, to be a crime against God. Nor would Jesus himself, dream of ever saying anything that might make someone who is rich and powerful feel uncomfortable. [/TANGENT]

All right, I'm done now. I'll get to the damn book.

The chapter begins with Lionel and there are brief moments with him here and there, just like the previous chapter, but given that even less happens in his sections than in Judd and Vicki's (and I'm really starting to think I should change my tags regarding them to "JuddandVicki" because they kind of became a single organism immediately after Judd put a ring on it), I'm mostly going to ignore it. Got a problem with it? Get your own copy and read for yourself.

Judd's section begins with an attempt at establishing the physical and emotional setting. Like all attempts, it fails.

Judd had gotten turned around by the advancing Unity Army and ended up on a street he didn’t recognize. All this time in Jerusalem, planning and memorizing its layout, and now he was lost. The Old City was only a third of a mile square. This shouldn’t have happened. And Vicki was losing lots of blood. She hadn’t complained about her injury, but he could tell she was in pain.

Okay, because I've never been very good at describing places, I can't tell, based on what little I'm given, where in Jerusalem Judd is right now. I could rant about how Ellanjay are also bad at this, in that no matter what, every place is the same, be it a gas station bathroom or the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (aka a sacred religious site bitterly fought over by many Christian sects).

But really I don't need for Ellanjay to start talking about physical scenery, like what the buildings looked like and such. Given what's going on, I'm more concerned about emotional scenery right now. I mean, this is prime dramatic material. Vicki is badly hurt. Though neither she nor Judd are kids anymore (seven-year passage of time), this is something that would freak most people out, whether they're 23 or 103, their loved one being hurt and in pain and they can't help them because they're in a war zone.

So if they talked about it, mentioned the stuff exploding around them, mention the smell of cordite or of burning flesh or whatever, talk about how Vicki keeps moaning and Judd's heart leaps in his chest every time something blows up and he wonders if this is really the I said, that would be some fantastic writing that would give actual insight into Judd's character. I've posted this clip from Children of Men before, but they need not necessarily go that dark. Heck, a damn kid's show about teenagers with attitude punching out rubber-suited monsters while wearing bright spandex, still managed to do a fairly moving scene with ordinary people being forced to stand up and be brave in the face of horrific destruction. Yeah, it's a bit cliché, the whole "I am Spartacus" bit shown in said clip, but there's a reason people use these sort of conventions: when they are done well, they do work. I imagine even if my readers aren't that into Power Rangers** and know next to nothing about the "Countdown to Destruction" two-parter, the clip still had some emotional resonance, even if you don't really know all the characters/context.

But I concluded many books ago that in a choice between "Show and Tell" Ellanjay will always choose "tell" both because it's easier and lazier (Can't pump out a manuscript in 21 days if you do something silly like edit and obsess over the craft), but also because if they really delved into the physical and psychological suffering that would come from being alive during the Apocalypse, their readers might pause and be like, "Holy Hell! This is kind of a horrible belief system, believing that unless you say the precise words with the exact amount of Sincerity demanded, you will be put through all of that and worse if you die." Who knows what hijinks may ensue from there?

After a line of dialogue from Vicki, we get to this paragraph, which, let's just say I pity the poor ghostwriter or whoever had to write it. Because whoever did, had to write a paragraph where Judd thinks about how much he loves Vicki and how it's different from feelings he'd had for other girls (before becoming an RTC, natch), yet at the same time, they had to do it without mentioning that Judd, Saved or pre-saved, might have :gasp: or had carnal feelings towards a member of the opposite sex!

Given that even villainous characters, where the text go out of their way to talk about how evil they are every time they're onstage, can't actually do anything that the cloistered RTC culture might find objectionable (Villains can murder redshirts by the score, but heaven forbid, a villain does something truly evil like use four-letter words, even the mild "hell" or "damn", or implies that he has carnal feelings towards another character and enjoys the act of sex, or imbibes a drop of alcohol), there's no way they would allow even pre-Saved Judd to admit to having feelings of lust towards the opposite sex.

So whoever wrote this was in one helluva bind and most of us would have been hard-pressed to come up with something in that kind of situation. But they really could have tried to come up with something better than this:

Judd couldn’t help thinking how beautiful Vicki was. Before the disappearances he had been attracted to girls who wore all the right clothes. Vicki had told him the only pair of designer jeans she ever owned had been bought at the thrift store near her trailer. Vicki’s inner beauty shone through now, and he couldn’t imagine anyone more attractive.

I suppose I could make one of my many "Judd is Gay" cracks and I have no problem doing so, but I think the problems of the quoted passage go beyond "Judd is a deeply closeted young man, who has had more chemistry with some of the male characters he has shared screen time with, than his designated female love interest." Because I'm like, "Really, Judd?" that's what you noticed about girls before the Rapture, their clothes?" I know someone's going to call me on unfair stereotyping, but I feel a need to remind you that Judd was sixteen at the beginning of the series, and I have a really hard time believing that a completely straight, totally heterosexual hot-blooded sixteen-year-old boy would look at a girl and just see her designer duds, rather than her huge tracts of land or her dirty pillows or something.

Though if we are going to pile onto the whole "Judd is Deeply Closeted" theory, I could point out that stereotype regarding gay men, how they're supposed to be obsessed with designers. But I know, not all Gay dudes are flaming queens (though some are, so much that you're shocked that everyone was shocked to discover that Freddie "Couldn't be Anymore Flaming If I Was Actually On Fire" Mercury was Gay), but I think the creepiness of this scene goes beyond Judd being Gay and ashamed to admit it. Am I supposed to believe that before all this happened, whenever Judd saw a girl walking around, he just say upright piles of clothes moving under their own power, and neither he nor anyone close to him, thought this was the least bit odd/disturbing?

You kind of wonder why Rebelution bothered to conduct their unbelievably creepy/sexist modesty survey. Since even a hot-blooded Unsaved Teenager like Judd was able to look at a girl before his conversion, without thinking about how underneath their clothes, girls aren't wearing clothes, and from there, imagine how good they'd look without their clothes on, apparently this passage in Ellanjay's book proves that modesty isn't something girls need to worry about. A surprisingly feminist message from the trogdolytes who wrote this series! Granted they didn't go so far as to say, "Y'know maybe a girl should be treated with respect, whether she's wearing a burqa or is three-fourths naked," but I take what few victories I can.

Though that part where Vicki talked about how the only pair of designer jeans she ever owned, came from a thrift store near her trailer, that also would have been interesting if they fleshed it out. Like when Vicki and Judd first met, did Vicki feel some resentment? Because Judd was established as coming from a more privileged background, so maybe Vicki would have rolled her eyes and assume he's just another spoiled rich kid, who will grab her ass and later make fun of her when laughing about it with his rich kid friends. Because there's stuff Poor Teens go through, due to poverty, that rich kids don't. Adolescence can basically be summed up as "descent into physical and emotional hell" but it's arguably worse for a poor kid. I mean we all know that kids are compassionate and sensitive to the feelings of others and would never dream of making fun of someone for wearing hand-me-downs or coming to school all smelly, because their alcoholic parents drank the money that was supposed to pay the water bill. As someone who wasn't poor, but was bullied relentlessly from age 11 to 18, that sound you hear is me laughing bitterly.

Egads, I've written this much on the first page alone. Am I going to have to divide this chapter over more than one post? We'll see.

Anyway, not much happens after that. Judd is all manly and carries Vicki (I'm sure the Pieta pose is all nice and martyrrific, but my readers can probably think of easier ways of carrying an injured person than that.) thinks about stuff and that's it.

Lionel's interlude is just a paragraph, so there is really nothing I can talk about. Except we get an example, once again, of Ellanjay's tin ear when it comes to naming foreign or ethnic characters. Maybe it's the Stockholm Syndrome talking but I've come to love these little parts, just love cataloguing all the bad names, while pointing and laughing.

I do a similar thing with celebrity baby names. Every time a celeb has a kid and gives it some weird-ass name, I enjoy a few minutes of endless merriment. Though I don't worry too much about the celebrity kid; North West may face all kinds of issues as a result of being raised by Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, but in all likelihood, as a rich celebrity kid, she'll go to school with other celebrity kids, all of whom will have weird-ass names, so of all the issues North West will face, bullying about her name won't be one of them. Though seriously, North West?! That's the kind of name that's cute for five seconds, but then your poor kid is stuck with it until they turn eighteen, after which, they'll sign legal paperwork and you'll never hear from them again.

Anyway, the name in question is :drumroll: Dr. Shadrach Meshach Lockridge, who is described as a famous black preacher, whose preaching style reminds Lionel of the preachers he'd see when visiting relatives down south. There are just so many clichés/stereotypes to unpack here, but someone else will have to do it, because I'm too busy laughing until I cry tears of joy. Firedrake, I'm sorry for all those times I made fun of you for being able to accept a global dictator riding a giant pig, but not the existence of laser weapons. I'm sorry; I was ignorant and didn't understand. Now, I do. Because even the Epic!Pig!Ride is more believable than someone named Dr. Shadrach Meshach Lockridge. I'm just a little disappointed that Ellanjay didn't manage to fit in the name of the third guy from the fiery furnace story. If you're going to commit, go whole hog on it! Call him Dr. Shadrach Meshach Abednego Lockridge, dammit! And yes, that pun was intended.

Anyway, Lionel's prayer sense starts tingling and he starts praying for Judd and Vicki. I could talk again about the hierarchy in this story, how those lower on the Great Chain of Being often report feeling compelled to pray for those higher up, yet we never see any instances of those higher up feeling compelled to do the same for those further down. But I've talked about it before, so let's get back to business.

So we cut to Judd and Vicki. Not much for me to really snark. Judd's just being all martyrrific, running around trying to take care of Vicki and joining her in praying for God to "Exterminate all the brutes!"

The next part is a longer part with Lionel. Lionel is all walking around and on the front lines, even though you'd think given that he's missing an arm, they'd have him working behind the scenes, keeping the fighters supplied and whatnot. I'd actually understand if Ellanjay had wussed out and just had him deliver ammunition to the defenders, like they did with Judd and Vicki.

He quickly returned to his assigned position and looked for Zeke. Sam told him Zeke was meeting with a Trib Force member. In the past half hour, the ragtag Petra army had fired their DEWs and some bigger guns at Carpathia’s vast army.

“Bet those guys are hot in those black uniforms,” Lionel said.

“I wonder if those tanks are air-conditioned,” Sam said, smiling.

Thought I'd put in this paragraph because even the guys who write the history textbooks that kids are forced to slog through in school, are in awe of Ellanjay's ability to take something inherently exciting (like a battle) and strip away anything remotely exciting or interesting from it, reducing a battle to "they fired their guns at the other guy's armies."

[TANGENT Where I Rant about M. Night Shyamalan]I used to think that M. Night Shyamalan was the Anti-Talent, in that not only is he not talented, but he sucks the talent out of anything and anyone near him, because even when he was basically hand-delivered material that would make a great movie, based off of a television show which had a large, passionate fanbase, great, well-written characters, and fight scenes that would look awesome on the big screen, Shyamalan still managed to screw it up so badly they you're like, seriously, this guy directed The Sixth Sense?! How is that even possible? Just like you still wonder how each of his subsequent films, no matter how bad, still manages to be worse than the one that proceeded it, yet he still manages to find work in Hollywood. It's enough to make you wonder if not only does Shyamalan know where bodies are buried, but if he also has pictures of every studio exec in Hollywood performing an unnatural act of romance with an attractive livestock that they are most definitely not married to, while snorting cocaine off of Jimmy Stewart's skull. There's just no other logical explanation, unless we explore the possibility that after The Sixth Sense, he was replaced by a mirror!verse version of himself, or if, like Frank Miller (at some point in his career), was replaced by a Skrull shapeshifter as forerunner to an invasion.

And maybe since I've never been part of a mass infiltration/invasion, I shouldn't tell the Skrull how to do their job, but I do wonder how replacing Frank Miller or M. Night serves your strategic purposes. I'm just sayin'.

But much as it pains me to admit it, if I was in a Pick Your Poison scenario where it was either Shyamalan (all his post Sixth Sense films, with the exception of Unbreakable. Haven't seen it, but its passionate defenders may convince me to give it a chance) or Ellanjay, I'd go with Shyamalan. As awful as his films may be, most of the time, you can at least enjoy looking at them (they're stupid but pretty) and they often wind up being the best unintentional comedies around, even though Ed Wood still has Shyamalan beat on that front. [/TANGENT]

Though really, you have the bad guys in black uniforms in the desert? I know Nicky has to have horses, because the Bible says so, but is there a verse against his soldiers wearing Earth tones? Yeah, I'm picturing a discussion between GC grunts going down similar to this comedy sketch: Are We the Bad Guys?

[Project Idea TANGENT]
In fact, if any of the readers of my blog or Slacktivist have too much time on your hands and access to equipment needed to make YouTube videos, I've got a suggestion for you: an Office-style sitcom set in the LB-verse with the rank-and-file GC employees trying to do their jobs and keep things going at the End of the World, but also have material in there about office romances and politics. Because like I said, while Ellanjay depict Nicky as running the world with the aid of like five people, ten at the most, anyone with brain cells knows that the operation of that massive an organization would require a massive bureaucracy of rank-and-files, ordinary white-collar types to push around paper and make phone calls in order to get stuff done. Someone has to manage the books, make sure Nicky can get his massive pig and all the machines needed to give everyone the Mark. Not to mention the special scanners that stores would have to have in order to buy and sell things.

Though there would be some differences in tone between episodes with some being about "Will Isabella Barcelona find the perfect Secret Satan gift for her hardass supervisor, Aristotle Athens?" while others it will be more "Holy shit! There are locusts with people faces out there!" But seriously some fabulously talented person out there: make this idea a reality, please! [/TANGENT]

In true Ellanjay fashion, Lionel and Sam aren't actually shooting and firing guns; instead they're sent to retrieve weapons, IDs, and uniforms, and I'm like "Hold on a minute!" I thought this was a siege/stand-off with the RTCs holed up in the stone fortress of Petra, while Nicky's army surrounds them and tries to take said fortress? How is this part, with Lionel and Sam picking stuff off of GC soldiers, supposed to work? It is explicitly established that they are robbing dead GC soldiers, but how exactly did Lionel and Sam get to the soldiers? Either they, in violation of basic military strategy, decided the best thing to do, while under siege, is to leave their massive military fortress and go outside the fortified walls to get to the dead GC, rather than staying behind the walls and using them as cover, while you open fire on them, or some NPC Petran decided to leave the protection of the fortress, so he could bring dead bodies for Lionel and Sam to pick stuff off of. AND NICKY'S MASSIVE STANDING ARMY DIDN'T JUST IMMEDIATELY SHOOT THE IDIOTS STUPID ENOUGH TO LEAVE A FORTRESS DURING A SIEGE OR ARREST THEM?!

Again, when someone whose knowledge of military strategy is mostly from what she's read, here and there, can poke so many holes in your story, YOU FAILED!

Though okay, maybe the siege of Petra is a traditional Hollywood-style siege like Helm's Deep in the Two Towers, and all along, Nicky's Army have been scrambling up and down the wall using ladders and there are trebuchets and catapults and such. I could quibble with that, point out that in real life, sieges were usually "Surround the place and starve the bastards out" rather than "Use all our cool siege tech to bust down walls and have our armored soldiers scramble up ladders while archers shoot arrows at them or defenders pour boiling oil or throw boulders at them, in an awesome scene that would translate well on the big screen," but I'd be willing to go along with a Hollywood-Siege, because it would be a lot more exciting and the heroes would actually be doing stuff as they try to keep the enemies forces from taking Petra. And I know, the idea of Nicky using trebuchets and catapults, instead, technology developed in the twentieth century, would be pretty stupid, but given that he's already using horses for no damn reason, might as well commit and throw in medieval-tech as well! It'd be stupid, but said medieval tech is cool-looking so I'd let it slide, because it's very rare anything cool or exciting every happens in these books.

But we are given no indication in the text that it's a Hollywood-style siege, with good guys trying to in vain to slow the bad guys, who are busted through the outer walls and are scrambling and trying to take the inner ones. As far as I can recall, it's mostly been a siege where "Good Guys fire laser weapons at bad guys (if you're wondering, every time lasers come up in this story, yes, I am thinking of Dr. Evil. I thought you knew by now I was that kind of person)" and "Bad Guys have blast the Good Guys with Nicky giving a speech where he's all 'Peacey McPeacey, Why Can't We Be Friends?' even though it makes no damn sense anymore." When did the actual fighting start? Because things had actual felt kind of casual with Lionel just hanging around listening to that preacher (who you just know will insist on being referred to as Dr. Shadrach Meshach Lockridge rather than just being called Dr. Lockridge, just like Homer Simpson insists that his monogram contain every letter of his name.). You'd think if there was an actual battle raging beyond the walls that Lionel would be a little tense and on edge OR GIVE SOME OTHER INDICATION THAT A MAJOR BATTLE BETWEEN THE FORCES OF GOOD OR EVIL WAS OCCURRING ON HIS DOORSTEP!

In my defense, it was likely when I was in a boredom-induced coma, but still, basic rule of writing fight scenes: make sure the readers know who are the good guys and who are the bad guys, where they are on the field when shit gets real, in the very least, who is attacking and who is defending, and what's at stake if the Bad Guys win.

Anyway, there's a bit with Lionel and a GC soldier. I imagine Ellanjay is going for the same kind of effect akin to The Battle of the Bulge where Brig. Gen. Anthony McAuliffe, acting commander of the 101st is told to surrender by the Nazis, and McAuliffe gives the famous one-word reply: Nuts!

[TANGENT about language] Which you have to admit, language-wise, it's a remarkable show of restraint for a military man dealing with mothereffin' Nazis. Can't help but wonder if the newspapers or whatever, when they reported on this, cleaned up the language a little. Because military men are not a bunch of bluenoses; they swear, a lot. And frankly, I find all those who complain about the characters in movies like Saving Private Ryan using foul language to be incredibly stupid. Shit is blowing up all around them! people are dying with their guts hanging out! I think the people in that situation have earned the right to use whatever language they want!

Unless RTCs feel that everyone, no matter how scared or hurt or desperate they are, even if the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are riding right down their street, they should always sound like a Victorian Lord, regardless of background. Turn to their buddies and be all "I say, Old Sport, this really steams my beans," rather than using the F-bomb or any of its assorted cousins. I'm just sayin': I can think of a lot of reasons why I wouldn't make my kids sit through Saving Private Ryan and language is the least of my concerns. [/TANGENT]

Of course, no matter how much Ellanjay try to play this up, Lionel's blather doesn't sound anywhere near as badass as McAuliffe's one-word reply. But that's because unlike Lionel, who is all smug and sanctimonious, only briefly being bummed out over losing his arm, whereas McAuliffe was trying hold off Mothereffin' Nazis despite being outnumbered 5 to 1 and his forces were woefully undersupplied. I don't even need to tell you that in a badass contest between him and Lionel...okay to be honest, there's no way we could actually call it a contest. Contest implies that both participants have a chance at winning.

Anyway, GC soldier taunts Lionel and shoots him. There's a cliffhanger as we cut back to Judd and Vicki, but eh, I'll just spoil it for you and get Lionel's part over with, by posting the ending to the chapter. I bet you'll be really surprised.

Lionel heard the gunshot as he closed his eyes and flinched. He expected to be lying on the ground with a bullet hole in his chest, but the shot whizzed past him— or through him. He turned to see a penny-sized hole in the sand directly behind him, then glanced back at the shooter.

If that bullet landed there, how did it miss me? Lionel thought.

“Lionel, Sam, get outta there,” someone said behind them. It was Zeke, standing on the crest of a dune.

The soldier fired again while Lionel and Sam turned and walked away.

“Their weapons won’t do a thing here,” Zeke said. “Just wastin’ their ammo.”

“We’ll roll over you and smash you into this desert,” the officer yelled.

“Yeah, I’m sure that’s what you think,” Zeke said, helping Lionel and Sam back to the line. “Your guy’s a loser. Ours is the true Lord.”

Lionel was shaking when he made it back to the line. He found a small hole in the front of his shirt and one the same size in the back.

Like I said before, Ellanjay really are like that annoying kid you played Superheroes with, where no matter what you did, their Hero would suddenly evolve a protection against it, until you're like, "Screw it, I'm playing with someone else." Because the essence of good drama is conflict. It may not necessary have to be "Will Hero save the World?" it could easily be "Will Girl Work up the Courage to Ask Cute Guy out?" but the point is, there are stakes. While we generally know that Hero will win, at the same time, most writers take time to make you care about the Hero and make sure you know the stakes, and make it so that achieving Victory, either costs the Hero something or just requires Hero to dig deep and discover a reservoir of courage or something.

This series is just "God Falls, everyone bad dies!" The heroes don't have to suffer or do anything; whether Rayford accepts a job as Nicky's pilot or spends the End of Days, munching chips in his Lazy Boy, doesn't matter because nothing the characters do, matters! You find yourself rooting for Nicky because the Hero (Zod) is so much more monstrous, but also because Nicky actually has an ounce of initiative. He does stuff like maintain the infrastructure thus preventing more people from dying and burning in Hell like God intended. It's like I and Fred have both said: Nicky is trying to save the world from cosmic forces trying to destroy it and fighting to save the world from destruction generally makes you the hero, no matter how much Ellanjay say otherwise.

At least even though shit would have still worked out in Raiders of the Lost Ark, even if Indy stayed home and graded papers, at least that movie gave us awesome stunts that made it worth a viewer's time. Plus, again, the people who got their faces melted off and died horribly at the hands of a powerful, angry deity WERE MOTHEREFFIN' NAZIS WHO HAD ACTUALLY DONE SOMETHING TO DESERVE IT, SOMETHING BESIDES "NOT PRAYING THE PRAYER WITH THE PRECISE AMOUNT OF SINCERITY DEMANDED!"

Anyway, if you're wondering what happened in Judd and Vicki's little interlude, they got captured by GC forces. And I am so sure that this time, unlike every other time in the past, something will actually happen to the heroes when they're in the bad guys' custody.

Well that's it. I know lots of Simpsons quotes, but I've been watching that show since it premiered when I was five; it's safe to say I'm more Simpsons quotes than man, now. I did find myself referencing the Third Reich more than I intended to in one post. Maybe I should broaden things out a little. As I keep trying to tell idiots on the Internet, y'know Hitler wasn't the only genocidal asshole of history. Heck, even if we limit ourselves to just the 20th century, that still leaves us with plenty of assholes we could compare people to. Just for once, I want someone to compare someone or something they don't like, to Pol Pot! We need to break away from Nazi analogies and Stalin analogies; they're just kind of played out. I'd suggest Idi Amin analogies and Augusto Pinochet ones, but given the USA's history of propping up both regimes, you kind of understand why people stay away from those guys. Don't want to use an argument that your opponent could easily turn against you.

*People use nerd and geek interchangeably, but I define them this way: nerds know useful information. They're the Steve Jobs and Bill Gates of the world; they have great social difficulties, but they'll utilize their useful, albeit specialized knowledge to make themselves filthy, stinkin' rich.

Whereas geeks possess the same social difficulties as nerds, but our command is limited to useless information. 90% of my computer problem solving is "turn it on and off," and 10% is "Panic when that doesn't work!" But I'll go to my grave, being able to hum the Dragon Dagger Theme from Power Rangers and rant about how Kat isn't the embodiment of Satan for breaking up the Tommy/Kim ship.

**Y'all know I love Linkara and I love his "History of Power Rangers" videos as well, especially for the behind the scenes info (how the comedic Super Sentai Go-Onger team was adapted into one of the darkest Power Rangers installations RPM was one of the funniest things ever). Power Rangers in Space is really interesting, because after Turbo, the show was basically on life support. It was generally understood that after In Space, this was it for the show. So the writers involved went all out, culminating in the best ending two-parter episode ever "Countdown to Destruction" where they resolved the conflict and all the dangling plot threads in an awesome epic fashion. In doing so, they managed to bring viewers back to the show in droves and save the series from cancellation.

If you are wondering, the only Neo-Saban series I've seen is Power Rangers Samurai, which just reeks of too many dropped plotlines. I'm just sayin' they were clearly moving towards a redemption arc for Dekker and Dayuu, even though their Sentai counterparts were much darker, but then they just said, "Eh," and dropped the whole thing. Haven't really enjoyed any of the subsequent series because it reeks too much of them trying to bank on nostalgia, rather than do anything new. So since I believe in discontinuity, I mentally rewrite Samurai in my head and have chosen to ignore the Neo-Saban era. It all ended with RPM, dammit!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

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

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

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

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

[TANGENT about names for Potential League of Awesome members]

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway, here's the passage:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Where is the rabbi?” Judd said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I know you all want to tell people about Jesus and do good stuff so God will like you and all that. I've told you before, if that rings your bell, go ahead. But I've seen what the GC does to good people. They're destroying everything I know and love. They talk peace, but they're armed to the teeth. They talk freedom, but they send people to prison. Oh, sorry. They call them reeducation camps."

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

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

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

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

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

Well this happens:

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

The hole was right next to the stairwell.

“Vicki!” Judd screamed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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