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...


aunursa said...

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...

Lionel's mother, Lucinda Washington, was introduced early in Book #1, before Jerry Jenkins decided that EVERY SINGLE ETHNIC CHARACTER must have an ethnically ethnic name.

* * * * *

For most of the series Chaim Rosenzweig is described as a secular Jew who didn't spend much time studying the Bible. All of a sudden he has inherited Tsion's vast knowledge of the Jewish Bible, as well as the New Testament, including the Evangelical Christian interpretations of both. It's almost as if Tsion's mind has been transferred into Chaim.

Mouse said...

Well, we all know that Jews share a hive mind, akin to the Borg from Star Trek, except with more beards and more instances of shouting "Oy Vey!" Like "Oy Vey! Resistance is futile. You want to stop making with the meshuggah Jesus talk already!"

Can you honestly say I'm being too over-the-top in my exaggeration?

Firedrake said...

But… but… men and women can't be friends! That's one of the messages these books have drummed into us from day one! Either you're on the road to marriage or you're on the road to Sin!

"I'm constantly haunted by the memory of my brother Tyler."
"Taylor. And all those oddly nonspecific good times we had together."

Mouse, do you recall any instance in these books of a character praying for someone who's further down the authority ladder than they are?

To be reluctantly fair, lots of RTCs do read their bibles in great detail; it's just that they've been told how to "literally" interpret each verse, and they're all about taking things out of context (this is one of the things that sword drills will teach you). And it would seem even clumsier than usual to say "he cited Matthew 24:29-41".

The freezing would take a while – intuition says days to weeks.

Yeah, with the level of technical competence we've seen here, Nicky's answer would be to blow up the TV relay satellites.

aunursa, we've seen before that RTCianity works a lot like a mind-overwriting virus. (There's even precedent. I've seen thorough personality reversals in people who've had children, and they don't even seem to be aware that anything's changed.)

Mouse said...

Firedrake, I freely admit that I do not possess aunursa's encyclopedic knowledge of this series, but off the top of my head, I can't think of a single instance of someone higher up on the hierarchy, praying for someone further down. It's one of the things I keep running into how all characters in this series seem to instinctively recognize the existence of the hierarchy without it being told to them, and know their place and accept it without complaint.

Rayford and Buck outrank everybody, including God and TurboJesus, and as for everybody else...If a character's white, they outrank any character with a brown hue to their skin. If they are male, they outrank female (Chloe probably is only higher up on the chain because of her relations to Rayford and Buck who, like I said, outrank everybody in this universe). Americans outrank foreigners of any background and of course, with a few exceptions thrown in so Ellanjay may desperately assert that they are totally not anti-Semitic, RTC outranks a converted Jew. Jewish characters, in this series, are generally screwed. Hold onto the faith of your fathers and you're damned. Accept the patronizing logic of RTCs (that you're cute but wrong) and convert, and unless you're Token Jew or Chaim, you'll still occupy a fairly low rank on the hierarchy.

Anonymous said...

"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."

I noticed that too when I read the first "Left Behind" book, and it jumped out at me, as did the fact that "he" and "him" weren't capitalised when they were referring to Jesus or God. Right there and then I smelt two very big rats.

I seem to remember "God" not being capitalised, too, but my copy has long since been lost, so I can't verify this.

Mouse said...

Given that I tracked down the verses via copy and paste and running through Google, I do wonder if proves my assertion that when RTCs say "Read the Bible," they don't really mean it. Because how many of the teenaged readers of this series would be willing to put in that much work on what's supposed to be leisure activity? I freely admit that I'm outside their target audience, so I probably can't be used as an example and all this. Plus, I freely admit to being all obsessive and weird.

spiritplumber said...

I'm trying to think what to add here... I can't really fit Taylor into what's going on currently, mind if I write a little flashback instead?

Mouse said...

Go right ahead! You are entitled to write your fanfiction and come up with your own head canon all you like. That's the beauty of both fanfiction and discontinuity. If something in canon doesn't work, discard what doesn't and use what does. Though in Ellanjay's case...I'm reminded of a Simpsons quote where Moe Syzlak goes in for plastic surgery and the surgeon's like "Some just need a little remodeling; this is a total tear-down." That's really how it is with Ellanjay in that nothing works in these stories, so you're pretty much left with no choice but to tear the whole thing down, not just to the foundation, but the ground underneath as well, and start over.

Anonymous said...

"Then Chaim does an altar car." that an altar that looks like a car? Or a car that looks like an altar?

spiritplumber said... It's an altar car.

Firedrake said...

As distinct from the parachute-droppable Russian Orthodox field chapel: