Sunday, March 27, 2016

Character Doesn't Count

Hello and happy Easter everybody! A lot was going on, so I didn't get around to my tradition of watching The Last Temptation of Jesus Christ. Try to do that on or before Easter. Oh well, maybe I will eventually.

Anyway, some time after doing last week's post, I realized there was something I forgot to mention. I thought about editing the post and adding it in, but decided, y'know what, it should totally be part of the new post. Anyway, for those of you wondering, what I wanted to mention is that last week, we wrapped up chapters 40 and 41. This week we'll take on 42 and probably 43 because well, how do I put it, less than nothing happens in this series! I say that a lot, I know, and I really need to think of new ways of saying it, to liven things up a little.

But back to the point I was going to make. For those of you wondering just how many chapters there are left, in all, this book contains 48. For some reason, Ellanjay felt this book needed forty freaking eight chapters and they couldn't have just wrapped it up by now, even though nothing happens except TurboJesus speaks Bible verses and slaughters people, while his followers talk about how amazing he is! Really, Ellanjay, I know you wrote this series as revenge porn, no matter how much you may insist otherwise, but how many chapters do you need for your characters to dance around the end zone going, "We're number one!"

I know, I know, it's their love of padding and money showing again, but I still felt it worth ranting about. Though if you're wondering about the weakness of this week's snark, that's because there really isn't much for me to do. I feel like I'm boxing the air in that no matter how impressive my moves may be, it doesn't make any noticeable difference at all and after a while I'm like, "Isn't there something more productive I could do with my time? I could talk to my houseplants right now, tell them how pretty they are, and how much I appreciate them?"

We all know that Ellanjay were too chickenshit to have TurboJesus speak in anything but Bible quotes. IT's probably for the best, because if they weren't, you just know there would have been a scene where TurboJesus or God talked about how they wished they could be as manly as St. Rayford or Our Buck and afterwards, started sobbing. Don't tell me it wouldn't have happened; we all know how much every character in this universe obsequiously worships Buck and Rayford.

I thought about running all of TurboJesus's quotes through Google so I could find the original context and talk about how Ellanjay screw it up, but while I'll do that for some, I'm too lazy to do it for every line he says. Suffice to say that there's a reason, given the subculture they were raised in, that Creationists/Creation Scientists/Intelligent Design Proponents/Whatever the Hell They're Calling Themselves Now since Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District Torpedoed the Intelligent Design Trojan Horse, are so notorious for quote-mining. Given how they use the Bible where they take a handful of verses and pay no attention to the larger passages surrounding said verses or the historical context of what was going on whenever the particular writer wrote said passages, anyone who debates RTCs or fundamentalist Christians shouldn't be surprised that they quote-mine Charles Darwin or Margaret Sanger or whoever the hell they want. Approach scholarship with the slothful attitude of using it as an excuse to gather slings and arrows to use against the people I hate, rather than as a means of learning more about the world, and of course, they'll be lazy and quote-mine.

Okay, so y'all are probably going "I already know all this, Mouse. STFU, and get to the point already!" And I suppose I really should, but what really gets me in all these passages isn't so much the quote-mining and cherry-picking from the Bible, but really just how incredibly boring and bland TurboJesus comes across as. Yeah, I know my blog readers hold a wide variety of views about who Jesus was, but whether you believe he was the Son of God or not, you find yourself shaking your head at all these pages, being like, "Surely a man who inspired so many to abandon their families and give their lives while serving as his followers, was a helluva lot more charismatic than this?"

I had talked about something similar earlier, talked about how Ellanjay can't be arsed to put forth any effort in fleshing out the setting so characters respond and act the same no matter where they are, be it the Garden of Gethsemane or a gas station washroom, but I think I can make a similar complaint here with TurboJesus. Whatever you believe, even if you feel that Tim LaHaye was right about everything (in that case, what are you doing on my blog?), you would still think that the arrival of TurboJesus would be a momentous occasion, one that would stir the deepest emotions in everyone, with every knee bowing and tongue confessing that Jesus is Lord. Because we are talking about a powerful cosmic being even older than the universe, with greater power and wisdom than any earthly creature could ever aspire to, who has seen and heard everything that goes on. Surely you'd feel a sense of awe and majesty being in the presence of something like that?

But there is no sense of any majesty with TurboJesus. I'm told that Paradiso is considered the weakest part of Dante's Divine Comedy. I haven't read it, though I can kind of understand why it would fail in what it's trying to accomplish. It is so much easier to write about bad stuff and point out the many ways bad stuff is bad, but when it comes to good things, especially concepts as elevated as Heaven or Joy or Absolute Bliss, what can you say about them except, "They're good?" But even Dante probably did a better job in Paradiso than Ellanjay.

But for all their claims of how they worship TurboJesus, they really aren't that interested in exploring who He is or what it would mean to be in His Presence, so it's not too surprising. Jesus, for them, serves as their cosmic Enola Gay, something brought in as a means of further humiliating and torturing their enemy, after all else has failed.

Though the Enola Gay comparison may be inaccurate. Not going to get into a debate about whether Truman was right to drop the bombs on Japan. It's an interesting discussion, but at the same time, I'm not sure what purpose it really serves, because whether you feel it was right or wrong, it cannot be undone. No matter how good your arguments are, they will not resurrect the thousands of innocent civilians killed. Talk about the horrific effects of the bombs, how they caused massive amounts of suffering to people whose only crime was being citizens of the wrong country or just being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the implications of the new era of warfare it brought about, but debates about the morality of Truman's actions don't really seem to accomplish much, just leaves everyone going in circles, making the same points over and over again.

My point is, whatever your views regarding Truman's actions, comparing TurboJesus to Little Boy or Fat Man feels inaccurate in that however much their victims might have suffered, once they died, that was it. That's something I keep coming back to. People on Team Hell tend to be enthusiastic believers in that whatever happens to you after you die, it goes on for all eternity, as in without end. But think about it. Again, however horrific the abuses at Abu Ghraib (and I'm not even going to provide a link), there was a natural endpoint to them; can't torture and humiliate someone who is already dead. But whatever you feel about Abu Ghraib and Gitmo (for the record, it never stops depressing me that saying, "Torture is wrong," is now a radical statement), can you think of anyone who deserves to be tortured forever and ever until the end of time, with no possibility of parole or escape via death? Yeah, I know someone's going to bring up Adolf Hitler and for the record, I'll make the radical statement of saying that Adolf Hitler was a sick fuck, who deserves hatred and condemnation, but again, I feel a need to remind you that even though you may have no objections to him being tortured, when we talk about Hell, we're talking about forever. However sick a fuck he may be, again, you'd have to be an even sicker one to feel that Hitler should be flambéed and fileted for all eternity.

I know, I know, y'all want me to stop with the philosophical discourses and talk about the book, but I do these discourses, because like I said, there really isn't nothing to talk about. I can sum up the action in a sentence: TurboJesus quotes Bible verses; people die horribly. So I'm going to do a Greatest Hits-style snark, rather than an exhaustively researched one. Because it just isn't worth the exhaustive approach.

About all I can say about the first part, which is told from Vicki's perspective, is that thanks to the little bit at the end, I'm now wondering whether all my Borg jokes in reference to the RTCs are accurate.

Vicki had read that Jesus appeared with a sword from his mouth and assumed this sword would be the Word of God. Was Jesus killing his enemies at Petra? What was going on there?

Because I thought the way the RTC Hive-mind worked was the instant you said The Prayer (with the precise amount of sincerity demanded, natch) you ceased to be a separate individual and became part of a collective, possessing said knowledge of the collective. So Vicki should have instantly known that whole thing about how when the Bible says Jesus kills people with the sword from his mouth, for once they don't mean that literally. But she didn't, leaving me wondering the extent of the RTC Hive-mind. Though maybe it's negated by her second X chromosome, which makes Vicki all female and therefore, liable to error.

Next part is told from Lionel's perspective as he watches TurboJesus quote Bible verses and kill everyone. Just know that throughout all these passages, I'm totally picturing someone, probably sounding like the Old Jewish Man from The Simpsons, going "Yes, yes, we all know you're the great whatever. Must you make such a fuss about it?" But I will quote a larger part from Lionel's section because it needs quoting:

Lionel scanned the battlefield and was amazed at the amount of blood. Some soldiers saw their fallen comrades and were so upset they turned their guns on themselves. Others dug into the blood-soaked sand, trying to find a place to hide from the white light of God.

The army—at least those still alive—ran away from Jesus. But where were they going? Where could anyone go from the gaze of almighty God?

Lionel remembered comforting words from the Psalms: “I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence!” Now that verse took on new meaning. Where could any enemy go to get away from God’s judgment?

As the rest of the living fled, Lionel scanned the perimeter of Petra. For miles he saw dead and dying soldiers, holes in the sand where trucks and tanks lay buried, dead horses, and a few skeleton-like people walking in a daze. Above this awful scene circled a huge flock of birds. They flew to the bodies and began eating.


That verse Lionel is remembering is from Psalm 139, verse seven to be specific. And we should really thank Ellanjay for explaining all this to us. For centuries, both Christian and Jewish believers saw Psalm 139 as a source of comfort, a reminder that "Hey, no matter how bad things get, God will comfort and save us," but apparently those scholars had been interpreting that psalm wrong for countless centuries/millennia on end. Just as the message of Dives and Lazarus is actually "You'll be able to watch your enemies suffer in agony for all eternity!" and not "Don't be an Asshole who ignores the appalling suffering of others," turns out when Mahalia Jackson and Lauryn Hill and Tanya Blount sang "His Eye is on the Sparrow," they meant it less about how Jesus suffers and weeps with you and more along the lines of "He doesn't miss, so for the love of God, better get on his good side or else!"

:long passage of me screaming incoherently:

Sorry about that, but had to do a little primal therapy to get it all out of my system. I suppose I should see someone for this problem, I've been having lately where I can't communicate in anything but brutal sarcasm, but can't be bothered. It wouldn't be such a problem, but I keep getting dragged out of the house to associate with other people and they seem to find the constant brutal sarcasm off-putting. But that problem may resolve itself.

Anyway, hope I did a good enough job illustrating the sheer amount of wrong in Ellanjay's interpretation. It's so wrong that it crosses over into the realm of Fractal Wrongness, because while I sit here, repeatedly screaming, "How did you get that from that?!" over and over again, I know there are one of two explanations: either Ellanjay are unbelievably disingenuous to the point where you're like, "How did they let you graduate from the Fifth Grade despite being that dumb?" or they've settled on a mindset and have generally decided to close their eyes, stick their fingers in their ears, and go, "La-La-La! Can't hear you!" when presented with any differing ideas.

RTCS being close-minded?! That's unpossible! Though it is a reoccurring theme among fascist dictatorships and wrongdoers of any stripe, where they accuse their enemies of crimes they themselves are committing and given the Christian Right's inherent love for Authoritarianism/Fascism/Totalitarianism...I know people will say I'm taking this line of thinking too far, but prove me wrong! Prove that the Christian Right doesn't secretly long for a brutal theocracy where their doctrine is law and they have the might needed to crush those who oppose them! Because like I keep saying, given their knee-jerk opposition to birth control or such democratic niceties as the Right to a Fair Trial or that basic human rights, such as not being tortured even if your torturer sincerely believes you know something, isn't a basic right, in all likelihood, probably the only objection they have to the Romanian Dictator, Nicolae Ceaușescu , is that he ran roughshod over the rights and lives of others in the name of Communism, rather than Christianity.

Find the whole thing with Nicolae Ceaușescu interesting. Because we all know that in all likelihood, Nicky got his first name and his birth place from Ceaușescu. I know Ellanjay try to do a Roman-Romania kind of parallel, but try though they may, there's really nothing in the Bible that says that the anti-Christ will come from a small Eastern European nation bordering Bulgaria and the Ukraine, so chances are, when crafting their anti-Christ, Ellanjay thought of Nicolae Ceaușescu. Because about the only thing the PMDs can agree on is that the anti-Christ will most definitely not be from America. America is the land of all that is pure and good. The anti-Christ is neither pure nor good. Therefore, the Anti-Christ is not American.

My point is that while RTCs will never admit it, for all their chest-beating about democracy, their vision of a perfect government is probably closer to Romania under the rule of Nicolae Ceaușescu, than, y'know, America. I could also point out that during the 50s, aka that mythical time the RTCs long to return to, the US was under the government of Dwight Eisenhower. During this time, when we built much of our infrastructure and developed the tech that beat the Commies to the moon, the tax rate was at 90% and most jobs were union ones, meaning that everyone, blue collar or not, could live a fairly comfortable Middle Class existence. And yes, during this era, we also had the very real threat of nuclear Armageddon dangling over everyone's heads like the proverbial sword of Damocles and it wasn't paradise to those who weren't White, Christian, and Male, but Eisenhower also did stuff the modern GOP* would consider unthinkable like dispatch the National Guard to force Southern schools to integrate and let Black kids attend. For all his faults, Eisenhower is the last GOP president who didn't leave his country in worse shape than it was when he took office, which really says something.

I suppose I should apologize for all the long rants that are only tangentially related to the discussion at hand, but I find them interesting at least. Plus, there's the part of me that's like, "This blog's my soapbox and I'll use it however I want, dammit!"

Next we cut to Conrad and this may come as a real shocker to you, but all that happens is TurboJesus kills people and quotes more Bible verses. In true fashion, he only quotes a bunch of the "I am this, which means everyone who doesn't believe, will burninate forever!" verses. Heck, even after I ran them through Google, I still couldn't find some of the original, actual verses, making me wonder if some of the words they're putting in Jesus's mouth, were actually in the Bible or if it's just a bunch of Biblical-sounding gibberish.

Because it's not the fact that they just have TurboJesus string together Bible verses, making him sound less divine and more like an imperfect AI with nothing but the Bible as reading material, that gets to me, so much as the verses they have him use. You could have him say something similar to what he says in Amos 5-6, where God constantly is like "Eff those who profit off of the misery of others and follow the word of the law, but not the spirit of it." Though if Amos is a little too radical, you could have used Micah 6:8, which many feel neatly sums up the dictates and law of religion:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

But okay, maybe Ellanjay want to stick solely with the New Testament and stay away from the Old. But there are still so many other verses you could put in Jesus's mouth that go beyond "I am tough" and actually reflect on the character of Jesus and God. I suppose it would be too much to hope for, to have TurboJesus spout the first six verses of James 5, but you could still use many other verses out of the New Testament if you wanted to illustrate the character of TurboJesus. Heck, with some paraphrasing, Matthew 23 would work well.

But again, Ellanjay have no interest in talking about the nature of good and evil. They have no interest in showing us the fundamental character of Jesus and by extension, God, because it's not about character with them, no matter how much they may claim otherwise.

Both Liberal and Conservative Christians, regardless of where they part ways on certain beliefs, have traditionally held that the Apocalypse or the End of Days or whatever you want to call it, is one in which everyone is called to task and those who have wronged others, will be made to pay for their crimes. Liberals and Conservatives may differ on what constitutes a crime against God and man, but they generally do agree that doing bad things is bad and you will eventually pay for the bad things you've done. Again, both sides argue and split a lot of theological hairs over what is and isn't a bad thing, but both sides generally agree on, "Don't do bad things."

But as Ellanjay make it very clear where they have their TurboJesus killing a lot of people while spouting Bible verses, they feel that TurboJesus is worthy of worship, not because of anything he'd actually said or done, but because he's the biggest, mightiest guy around with the biggest, mightiest stick in his hands! The only difference between him and Nicky is that TurboJesus successfully slaughters all who stand against him, whereas Nicky fails. As far as Ellanjay is concerned, "I am Tough!" is reason enough to follow TurboJesus and you should not need any other discernible reason! Why should you when everyone knows Might Makes Right!

And yes, it did take some will-power to type "stick" instead of "dick" in that one sentence. Though you do know Ellanjay's only objection, if I hadn't, would be the usage of the word "dick." It's just so unseemly.

Though anyway, more Bible verses, yadda yadda, everyone can know run super-fast for no real reason.

Sam had wandered ahead and now ran back. “Come on. Run with us.”

“What do you mean?” Lionel said, but Sam pulled at his arm, making Lionel go faster. Lionel glanced up at Jesus who looked back and smiled, seeming to urge him on.

Lionel broke into a jog, and soon he was sprinting along with Sam, jumping over GC bodies and weapons, his feet barely touching the ground. He was moving faster than a human was supposed to run.

Lionel had done a research project in middle school about how fast humans could run. He had come up with a maximum speed of 27 miles per hour for sprinters, and an average speed of between 15 to 20 mph for those running distances of any kind.

But there was no way he was going 15 miles per hour now. Or even 30. Objects on the ground were a blur! And it wasn’t only healthy young people going fast—it was all ages. Youngsters just out of diapers ran next to Lionel. And Mr. Stein was not far away, grinning and laughing. God was providing the speed. All Lionel had to do was work his legs.

Don't ask me what the hell Ellanjay use as the Biblical justification for all this! I don't know. Just that once again, I am looking longingly at Superhero comics. Because this announcement may come as a real shocker to my blog readers, but I love the hell out of Superheroes in comic, film, and animated series. I generally roll my eyes whenever anyone talks about making them more realistic, because I feel like they're missing the whole point. No matter how grimdark! you make everything, Superheroes** are not, nor will they ever be, realistic. There's just no way you can make it realistic without losing much of the fun/appeal. Again, I'm totally with Linkara in that Superheroes are the modern-day version of the Knight-errant. Basically the general template for all those Knight-Errant stories is Knight-Errant is traveling the land, when he runs into someone with a problem who seeks his help. The Knight-Errant solves said problem and everything works out for the best. The stories were never supposed to be realistic, but serve as a nice bit of fantasy, a way of expressing how we feel those with powers or abilities above others, should behave towards those who don't have said powers or abilities. Because you could easily point out that the romanticism surrounding knights of yore was only romantic to those not living in the same time period as said knights. During the heyday of knights, there were very few checks on their powers, so medieval knights were a lot closer to the sadist who'd beat you up in gym class and take your money, than they were to the romantic hero we picture them as.

The same is true about superheroes in that if we lived in a world where they existed, it would more closely resemble Watchmen than the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And again, I don't object to dark and gritty superheroes; what I more object to, is the notion that making your story dark and gritty, automatically makes it deep and therefore, good. Because you can heap all the gruesome violence, all the sex and gore you want onto a stupid story, and it will still be an incredibly stupid story. It will just be a lot more unpleasant and harder to enjoy than the unrealistic WTFery of the Silver Age. And if given a choice between the two, I'd choose the Silver Age over the grimdark! At least then you get the enjoyment of being like, "Okay, just what the hell kind of drugs were people using back then?!" and again, the people knew they were writing fantasy and therefore, reality didn't need to enter into it. They knew their purpose, first and foremost, was to tell a story that people would enjoy reading, not make "deep" statements about what it would be like to live in a world with super-powered individuals.

My belabored point is that at least, a writer of Superhero Comics would be able to depict the wonder of being able to move faster than any human ever could. Plus, unlike Ellanjay, that know on some level they're writing a fantasy and that none of the stuff they're actually writing will ever actually happen.

Anyway, the chapter ends with this bit that makes me throw up my arms and be like, "Oh come on!"

Thirty minutes later, Lionel and his friends neared the town of Bozrah. The rest of the million inside Petra had arrived as well, drawn to the scene by Jesus himself.

Unity Army troops stood before them, looking haggard and tired. Huge sweat stains fouled their uniforms while the people from Petra looked like they had just returned from lunch at an air-conditioned restaurant.

“What happens now?” Lionel said.

Mr. Stein motioned to the depleted army. “I think they’re foolish enough to attack.”


Yeah, I know my objections could be easily summed up with one word "Padding!" but really how many different ways can they write about TurboJesus doing everything short of tea-bagging his defeated foes, before it gets boring? And for the record, I am disappointed that someone told the Tea Party Movement the alternate meaning of tea-bagging. Because when they first started out, they proudly proclaimed themselves the Tea-Baggers and talked about how they were Tea-bagging for America. You can't deny that they were still rancid bigots, but at least the unintentional double entendres did make hearing about their antics a little more entertaining. Who told them and took away a source of harmless merriment from everyone?

Anyway, thought I'd do two chapters again, but I got all ranty, so it's just one this week. I know I was preachy, but hopefully at least managed not to be dull.

*Every time a member of the GOP or a rightwing pundit expresses distaste about Donald Trump's antics, I whisper an old Shakespeare quote: Methinks the Lady doth protest too much. Because the Southern Strategy has been the cornerstone of the Republican platform since LBJ; it's their traditional margin of victory vote, so of course, they're going to cater to racist idiots. So anybody who claims to be shocked, shocked that a large portion of GOP voters are racist, is either unbelievably disingenuous or dumb. They're only real objection to Donald Trump is that he just flat-out says what they believe, rather than using coded dog whistles like a proper Republican.

**I have yet to see Batman v. Superman and I probably won't, because if what I've seen and heard from the trailers/reviews, it looks like it was directed by our version of Zack Snyder, rather than his Mirror!verse counterpart, who isn't allergic to tripods and knows that you can craft a compelling superhero film without making the hero a dripping pile of angst and having the film be so dour and unpleasant you can't enjoy the primary act of looking at said film. Family keeps trying to talk me into seeing it, but since Snyder's last superhero outing still provokes so passionate a response from me, I'm like, "Y'know eventually you're going to wind up the subject of an FBI investigation if you keep doing all these frothing rants about wanting to beat Zack Snyder to death with a tripod," I'm like, "Nope. Not going to do it," not only for my sake, but for the sake of everyone around me. Because I'm not in the position where I can afford to alienate everyone in my life and be the isolated hermit I know I am, deep down.

Monday, March 21, 2016

It's small and it's fragile and it's the only thing in the world worth having

Sorry to be so late, guys. Had to take care of a family-related issue that wasn't wrapped until Sunday evening. So that's why I'm doing the post today. If any of y'all are too busy hanging out at Fred's blog, enjoying LB Mondays, I totally understand. Just drop in whenever you can. Besides, I could stand to stop being a dork who obsessively reads over the comments on my blog in the first place.

That out of the way, well those of you nostalgic for the days where my posts covered more than one chapter, you might get your wish. Because I know you guys are damn tired of me saying this all the time, but Nothing Happens! I'm not sure which Ellanjay trope is worse, the fact they stubbornly hate suspense and refuse to allow it in their stories or the fact that after they've laid out in exhausting detail everything that's going to happen and made it clear that there will be no deviations from the plan, because like I said, they hate suspense, they still pretend like this is all in doubt. I know I probably don't have to explain how stupid this is from a story-telling perspective, but since I like the sound of my own voice/writing, I'm going to anyway.

Like I said before, people who say things about James Bond movies or Superhero movies along the lines of, "Well, duh, the good guy's going to win," completely miss the point. The fans of those films know this. We know that in a James Bond movie, there will be a colorful bad guy threatening the world, 007 will be dispatched to deal with him, he'll get a tricked-out car, which he'll use in an epic car chase, he'll get ingenious little gadgets which he'll use to defeat the colorful bad guy. On the way, he'll sex up a few ladies and it'll all end happily. We know that's the general template for every Bond film. And we know that The Avengers, both in their solo pictures and their team-ups, will successfully kick bad guy ass and we'll get a suitably epic showdown.

The key to a good Superhero/Action flick is, "Do we care?" From what I heard, the reason DC Comics is embracing the grimdark! in their movies and stubbornly refuses to allow any levity, any moments of "Yeah, this is ridiculous, but admit it: It's freaking awesome!" into their films is because they feel that their Green Lantern movie underperformed because they :gasp: allowed humor and levity in it. Even though, in all likelihood the reason Green Lantern underperformed was because the hero spent most of the movie as a smirking douche and only later started to think "Hey, there is bigger stuff at stake here than just me," and because, like the Amazing Spider-Man films, they assumed that the battle was already won; they didn't have to create a well-crafted story and develop the hero beyond the basic template or explain anything because they were going to get plenty of sequels to do so. Basic rule of writing: All writers have the big moments, the big scenes they want to write, but if you don't put in the same amount of effort to develop and flesh out the little moments, your readers aren't going to stick around to see your big moments. The same is true of movies: no matter how epic the sequels you've planned may be, they aren't going to stick around for your sequels if the current movie doesn't grab their attention.

But anyway, the thing is that you can have unrealism out the yin-yang in Superhero/Action movies. Heck, The Avengers has a guy who flies by spinning his hammer around really fast and most of us just take it in stride. But you do have to do a few things with action/superhero films.

First of all, you do have to develop the characters enough that we can believe that, "Okay, this is a guy who genuinely wants to save the world and help people and not just because if the world's destroyed, it would really interfere with his plans to score with that one chick." Because the superhero gig is a rough one, requiring the hero take a lot of physical/psychological abuse and make sacrifices on a damn near daily basis. So yeah, we need to believe this character is willing to do that and is able to withstand the costs of doing so.

Of course, the hero doesn't have to be a bland do-gooder. I know you're tired of me gushing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but you have to shake your head and admire just what they did with Tony Stark. Because he could have very easily turned out like the titular hero of the Green Lantern movie, where you spent most of your time being like, "Of the some 7 billion humans on Earth alone, this is who you thought was most worthy of almost unlimited power?" Because Ryan Reynolds's Hal Jordan, in addition to being a douche, he was also boring and bland, with almost no charm at all. You go to superhero movies to see larger-than-life characters, not the same boring ordinary a-holes you encounter on a daily basis, only with superpowers.

Tony Stark is an arrogant ass, someone you'd find infuriating to have a long-term relationship with, but the way he's written and acted by Robert Downey, Jr., he's at least charming/charismatic enough that you understand why people would want to be around this guy. For all his faults, you do believe that Tony Stark genuinely wants to make the world a better place; he may screw up at it, but you do believe that he does have a genuine desire to do the right thing. Plus, he does have some talent to back up his ego and the fact he keeps people like Pepper and Rhodey on payroll does speak well of him. For all his ego, Tony Stark is aware that he is not perfect and he needs to surround himself with people unafraid to call him out when he's being an idiot. So I can still enjoy watching him. Heck, I enjoy Tony Stark even more, ever since one of Linkara's many awesome videos reveals that the whole idea behind the creation of Iron Man was that Marvel Comics wanted to create a character their readers wouldn't like, then make their readers like him.

Okay, so my long, rambling point is that while most superhero/action films will lay things out on the table going into the epic showdown, make sure you know what's at stake, like what happens if the bad guy wins, but they don't list all that will happen in exhaustive detail, all the punches that will be thrown and just which moves the good guy will use to lay them flat. If they do lay things out, when it comes time to implement the plan, something will happen to throw everything off.

A good example of that, again from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is Ant-Man where the hero is basically commissioned to perform a heist and as such, the mentor is like "Okay, these are the systems put in place to stop you and here's how to bypass them" and lays out the plan so the viewer goes in with some idea of what to expect/what the hero's up against. But when the big heist goes down, the director has things go wrong, forcing the hero to have to think on his feet, escape the bad guy's trap, and save the world. Ant-Man isn't my favorite of the MCU solo pics (Captain America 2: the Winter Soldier is), but it satisfyingly plotted and they utilize the titular hero's powers for some interesting fight scenes, so I still enjoyed it. Even, if I was like, when I heard it was proposed, "Seriously, Ant-Man?! Nobody likes Ant-Man! Not even Ant-Man likes Ant-Man!"

The point is, there's a difference between the principle known as Chekov's Gun and Ellanjay's approach. Chekov's Gun is where the hero talks about his years as a pearl-diver in Act One, how he developed the ability to dive to great depths with little if any equipment, then later uses this skill in the climax to save the day. This is the equivalent of a James Bond movie where rather than the viewer going in with "Bad Guy will be here and do X; Hero has to fight his way past Bad Guys' mooks and defeat Bad Guy before a specific time," Ellanjay prefer a Bond movie where they just flat-out say in detail how James Bond will defeat Goldfinger and once the big scene arrives, they do not deviate from the carefully laid-out plan at all, yet they still expect us to be in suspense about it. Though wait, that may not be entirely accurate. While James Bond is really more of a male power fantasy than a character, I'm fairly certain he does actually have to do stuff to be the hero, not take a job working for the bad guy and occasionally thinking disdainful thoughts in the bad guy's direction until TurboJesus kills the bad guy for him.

Anyway, sorry for all the rambling, but again, a whole lot of nothing. Just both sides, Judd and Vicki, Lionel and WhoTheHellReallyCares aka some member of the MCC, going all "Ooh" and "Aah" at gigantic laser cross, marveling at how all their injuries have been healed, and about how none of the Bad Guy's tech can hurt them, and I'm screaming at the top of my lungs, "SHUT THE FUCK UP! STOP PRETENDING LIKE SHIT IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING, LIKE THE CHARACTERS WILL RECEIVE SO MUCH AS A BRUISE, LET ALONE BE IN ACTUAL DANGER!"

I suppose y'all are cheesed that I haven't quoted anything, but like I said, there isn't anything to quote. A good example of this section's badness can be summed up by this closing bit at the end:

“Stop, rebels!” someone yelled behind them.

Judd turned, catching a glimpse of a Unity Army patrol. They rode in an uncovered vehicle, and a soldier aimed a gun at them.

Judd shielded Vicki, and Ehud put up his hands. “You guys run,” Judd whispered.

The vehicle drove closer. “Don’t you remember our promise?” Vicki said. “We stick together.”

“I’m with you two,” Ehud said.

A soldier threw a cigarette on the ground and cursed. “Let’s kill them now and get it over with.”

“You know our orders,” another said.

“Yes, but who’s going to know?” the first said. “Just three more heads to chop off later.”

A tall man bounded from the vehicle and motioned to the others. “Load them up.”

“Where are you taking us?” Judd said as he jumped into the back of the vehicle.

“To the Temple Mount,” a soldier said. “You can watch the rest of the rebels die.”

As the vehicle pulled out, Judd looked at the pulsing cross in the sky. “Come, Lord Jesus,” he whispered.

I know I am in serious danger of being arrested for overuse of the F-bomb, but really I can't say anything except, "SHUT THE FUCK UP ALL OF YOU!" When it comes to this passage. Stop acting like you're really in danger, that you're totally great martyrs! Martyrs actually suffer; you guys were captured just a few chapters ago and didn't go through shit! You're not the heirs to Bonhoeffer! You and Bonhoeffer are so far apart that not only are you unworthy to lace his shoes, you're not even worthy of cleaning the skidmarks off of his underwear! YOU SUCK!

I suppose I could quibble more about the Bad Guys' actions, because "What exactly are your orders?" Given that TurboJesus comes back in literally the next chapter, why doesn't Nicky just say, "If you see any RTCs, just kill the motherfuckers and get back to work!" It is the bottom of the ninth here; he has no reason to hold back and make a show at being all Peacey McPeace-Peace, while conducting his show trials! JUST KILL THE BASTARDS!

So like I said, next chapter, TurboJesus finally gets off his ass and shows up. But there's some talk first. I suppose I should apologize for all the profanity I'm using, but apparently there's no such thing as "Justifiable Homicide in Defense of Good Art," so I gotta do something. Besides, science backs my love of profanity, which is kind of nice. Good that for once science supports a bad habit for a change.

Judd and Vicki's section at the beginning is short. Basically it turns out that the Bad Guys really are taking them to Temple Mount like they said and there's this.

Before Judd could answer, a woman behind them spoke. “That’s where they torture us, trying to get information about rebels inside the Temple.”

The woman, who did not have the mark of the believer, told them about the battles she’d been in and how valiantly the rebels had fought, even against overwhelming odds.

Vicki looked at Judd, and he winked at her. They were thinking the same thing. God had brought them here to reach out to people before the return of Christ.

I know I've screamed this before, but Nicky? YOUR COCKAMAMIE PLAN MAKES NO CONCIEVABLE SENSE! I thought Nicky's shtick was that he knew exactly what was going to happen and follow said plan to the letter even though the plan ends with TurboJesus punting him into hellfire for all eternity. Fine. I have a lot of quibbles with that plan and I've screamed about them before, so I won't do it again. But if that's your plan, again, WHY THE HELL ARE YOU TAKING PRISONERS AND TORTURING THEM EVEN THOUGH YOU HAVE MINUTES LEFT ON THE CLOCK?!

Next section is Lionel watching as Chaim talks. Chaim is basically being Token Jew, because once someone surrenders their individuality to the Collective and becomes an RTC, they lose any distinguishable personality traits and you can switch them in and out without noticing a difference.

Anyway, here's Chaim's talk where he basically says, "We take the Bible literally but not literally."

“Now many have asked what is to happen when Antichrist comes against God’s chosen people and the Son intervenes. The Bible says he will slay our enemy with a weapon that comes from his mouth. Revelation 1:16 calls it ‘a sharp two-edged sword.’ Revelation 2:16 quotes him saying that he ‘will come to you suddenly and fight against them with the sword of my mouth.’ Revelation 19:15 says that ‘from his mouth came a sharp sword, and with it he struck down the nations.’ And Revelation 19:21 says the army ‘was killed by the sharp sword that came out of the mouth of the one riding the white horse.’

“Now let me clarify. I do not believe the Son of God is going to sit on his horse in the clouds with a gigantic sword hanging from his mouth. He is not going to shake his head and slay the millions of Armageddon troops with it. This is clearly a symbolic reference, and if you are a student of the Bible, you know what is meant by a sharp, double-edged sword.

“Hebrews 4:12 says the Word of God ‘is full of living power. It is sharper than the sharpest knife, cutting deep into our innermost thoughts and desires. It exposes us for what we really are.’ “The weapon our Lord and Messiah will use to win the battle and slay the enemy? The Word of God itself! And while the reference to it as a sword may be symbolic, I hold that the description of the result of it is literal. The Word of God is sharp and powerful enough to slay the enemy, literally tearing them asunder.”

Because I am anal retentive, I will provide links so y'all can read the full passages Chaim is quote-mining. I'm just one of those weirdos who believes that context matters.

Revelation 1 and Relevation 2 consists of John writing letters to the seven churches. And though the seven churches are seven places that actually existed at the time John was writing his letters and he probably would have intended for those places to take his advice to heart, Ellanjay feel that the literal interpretation is that he's talking about the seven ages of the church over an indeterminate period, but definitely referring to citizens of a North American landmass that he probably didn't know existed yet.

Revelation 19 is basically Bad Guys get what's coming to them, coming on the tail of Revelation 18. But we all know Ellanjay don't see all the exhortations in Revelation 18, where John says repeatedly to come out of Babylon, so much as referring to walking away from a brutal empire that crushes and enslaves the majority of its subjects, so they may toil for a privileged elite? What are you, some kind of Commie?

But anyway, Revelation 19 talks about the defeat of the Beast and the False Prophet. For the record, this is how John describes the Beast in the opening of Revelation 13:

The dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on its horns, and on each head a blasphemous name.The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority. One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was filled with wonder and followed the beast. People worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, “Who is like the beast? Who can wage war against it?”

Reading this, tell me what part of this sounds like a polyglot Romanian politician who comes to power by being all Peacey McPeace-Peace rather than the "We must defend ourselves from those savages!" like too many other historical dictators? Also, how many of my readers are, like me, going "Why the hell are we not seeing that?!" Because my major objection to Ellanjay's literalism is not just that they are selective in their use of it, but how boring they are in their use of it! Because which sounds cooler, a Romanian Polyglot or some kind of leopard-bear-lion seven-headed, ten-horned monstrosity? Yeah, it would be stupid if Nicky looked like that, but it would be so damn stupid and metal that it would become actually kind of awesome! I could see why the world would worship that Beast, but not why it would worship Nicky!

I'm thinking of Linkara's reviews of Ultimatum. Ultimatum is the embodiment of everything people hate about Big Event comics (pointless deaths put in for shock value, none of anything that happens actually means anything no matter how much the characters chest thump about it, and just being relentlessly grimdark and edgy!), but in one issue, Thor and Captain America go to Valhalla to retrieve the soul of another character, Valkyrie, and run into Hel and have to battle her army of fallen warriors, and the whole moment is so damn cool, so damn awesome, and metal that it actually gets you enjoying the story for a bit. Unfortunately it's the Only Moment of Awesome in that story and like many others, it quickly goes back to sucking, but still.

Seriously, I'll tell Ellanjay something similar to what I keep trying to tell DC Comics: embrace the over-the-top ridiculously awesome spectacle of it all! No matter what you do, there's no way you can make any of this shit actually realistic so go for broke! Give us all the visceral visual thrills and just have fun! Have Nicky be the bizarre beast mentioned! Have TurboJesus kill everybody with a big-ass sword swinging from his mouth!

Oh and in the interest of being thorough, I also looked up Hebrews 4. Not going to talk as much about it, because it lacks the awesomely trippy visuals of Revelation, but anyone want to tell them that Hebrews is one of the books that though it is labeled as one of Paul's letters, in all likelihood, he didn't write it? It was a fairly common thing in the ancient world to put someone else's name to your works in hopes of getting other people to read it.

Anyway, they sing "A Mighty Fortress is Our God," then Nicky pulls up in a Humvee.

A Humvee pulled up a steep slope, and someone got out. A light flashed on the man who drew his sword and raised it above his head.

“That’s gotta be Carpathia,” Sam said.

Singing stopped and everyone looked down on the showy sight. The remnant reacted strongly when Nicolae said, “If there really is a God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and if he truly has a Son worthy of facing me in combat, I shall destroy him too!”

People gasped.

Nicolae challenged God, daring him to come against his army. It was insane, and yet Carpathia continued. “Be prepared to advance upon Petra on my command. Leave no man, woman, or child alive. The victory is mine, says your living lord and risen king!”

Have to say that I'm shocked that Ellanjay are having the eeevil Prince of Darkness getting around in a manly gas-guzzling Humvee, instead of a smaller, more efficient and, no doubt, more effete and European vehicle.

That and when they get to the part where everyone gasps, yeah, if you can picture that scene without a lot of monocles popping, you're a liar. But can you really blame them? I mean Satan, aka the guy traditionally depicted as the ultimate evil to God's ultimate good in their literature, is proclaiming that he hates God and will beat him in battle!

That and Nicky truly is a monster! He strives to brutally crush all dissent against him and slaughter all his enemies until the blood reaches the bridle on his horses! Which we all know is completely different from Jesus's plan which is...Oh yeah, HIS PLAN IS THE EXACT SAME AS SATAN'S ONLY WITH DIFFERENT PEOPLE BEING BRUTALLY SLAUGHTERED FOR BELIEVING SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT THINGS FROM YOU!

Like I've said before, the only objection RTCs have to grotesque human rights abuses/war crimes is if they're being done for the wrong reasons. So Putin running roughshod over dissenters and committing God-only-knows-what crimes against his citizens and other neighboring nations is okay, because he's doing it in the name of unfettered Free Market Capitalism, not Communism like the Soviet Union Dictators. ISIS brutally murdering people who don't subscribe to their particular beliefs about Islam is wrong, because they're killing in the name of Allah, rather than Jesus.

Though given that the Saudi monarchy is every bit as repressive and Islamic as ISIS, it may be more about "whether they inherently recognize that Murika! is Right and Just and therefore we should give them everything they want!" rather than beliefs in particular. The Saudi Monarchy gets a pass, because they do a good thorough job of kissing the American government's asses, as does Putin, but ISIS doesn't kiss up to America; hence why we are appalled by their atrocities/human rights abuses, but not Saudi Arabia's or Putin's.

Anyway, stuff starts firing and finally TurboJesus shows up:

As heaven opened, a white horse appeared. On it sat Jesus, the Messiah, Creator of the universe, Son of God.

Vicki’s eyes were riveted on her Savior—right in front of her, his eyes flashing, his head held high. He wore a white robe that stretched to his feet. On the robe were the words: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. Around his chest was a golden band. In his right hand were seven stars, and his face shone like the sun. People—a crowd so big it was impossible to count—followed him on white horses.

An angel stepped forward, held out its arms, and beckoned to the birds saying, “Come! Gather together for the great banquet God has prepared. Come and eat the flesh of kings, captains, and strong warriors; of horses and their riders; and of all humanity, both free and slave, small and great.” Then Jesus spoke with a voice that shook the earth.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega—the beginning and the end.”

I've said it many times, but aunursa or somebody who knows this series inside and out, do they ever explain why Jesus is now "Exterminate all the Brutes!" instead of saying things like "Forgive me father, for they know not what they do," as his enemies hammer nails into him?

Some of this incoherence can be traced back to the source. The followers of Jesus were Jewish and believed that he was the Messiah proclaimed by their scriptures. But anyone with a laymen's knowledge of the Talmud could point out that Jesus didn't fulfill a lot of the stuff prophesized about the Messiah. As a gentile, I freely admit that my knowledge of Judaism is lacking, so I won't try to list every messianic prophecy, but the basic template is that the Messiah would defeat the enemies of the one True God, rescue his people, restore the line of David, convert everyone to Judaism, and bring forth a new era of never-ending peace and prosperity.

How many of that stuff did Jesus actually do? And when I'm talking about Jesus, I'm strictly limiting what is actually in the New Testament writings, not the weird mythos that has emerged over the subsequent 2000 years. The obvious answer is little to none. Whatever you believe about Jesus, like him or hate him or are indifferent, he died a horrible, painful death of a common criminal, and no matter how much you may twist Old Testament scriptures that wasn't something that was prophesized about the Messiah.

So pretty much all of New Testament scriptures and subsequent apologetics consist of Christians trying desperately to make sense of all this, answer the question of "If he was the prophesized Messiah, why didn't he do the stuff he was supposed to do?" It's one of the earliest attempts at an Author's Saving Throw in literature.

The answer they came up with was that he would come again to do that stuff later, much like what the Arthurian legends say that King Arthur will return to save his people. You can quibble with it--aunursa has basically said that according to Jewish scriptures, there aren't any do-overs--but that's what the Christian mythos basically says.

So we'll go with the return for now, mostly because my larger question is that do Ellanjay ever explain why Jesus preached about forgiveness and loving thy neighbor on his first trip out, but intends to slaughter his enemies the second time around? My best theories are that either he went out of his mind from the pain he suffered on the cross and when he returns, he won't be in the mood to save anyone, or he used this whole preaching continually of God's love and reaching the least and the lost strategy on his first trip, as a means of recruiting followers. Because people struggling under the rule of a brutal empire would really be more interested in that kind of talk, rather than all this stuff about Render Unto Caesar that which is Caesar's. You have more sympathy if it's the first one, because people tend to have more compassion for a broken man than a charlatan, but like I said, I want Ellanjay's explanation if anyone can find it.

Anyway, the chapter ends with TurboJesus walking around saying a lot of "I am the Blank of the Blank who blanks the blanks" statements, while proving his love by slaughtering the shit out of them so he can torture them forever. A sampling:

Lionel wanted to reach out and thank the Lord for restoring his arm, for hearing his prayers, for saving him from his sins, for his love and justice—for everything!

When Jesus spoke his first words, Lionel glanced at the Unity Army as thousands of soldiers fell like a sea of dominoes. At first, it looked like their bodies sank into the sand, but as Lionel looked closer he noticed bodies ripping open and blood pouring out.

“I am the living one who died. Look, I am alive forever and ever!” Jesus said. “And I hold the keys of death and the grave.”

Dammit! I've made so many 1984 jokes already, but there's really no escaping them. Lionel's tears are definitely gin-scented as bravely watches TurboJesus Do it to Julia!

Again, I will provide links to how it should happen, how one should respond to overwhelming tyranny. I've got it in text form and in video form for those who don't feel like reading. Again, while I'm not a fan of Alan Moore and do feel that the Wachowskis muddled the message of V for Vendetta, even I can't deny that Valerie's Letter, in both the comic and film version, still has its emotional power. Because you must never lose that inch or sell it or give it away or let someone take it from you, no matter who they claim to be. There's stuff worth dying for!

Anyway, there really isn't much more to say. Just like I said, Jesus feeling the need to proclaim that "I am this" a lot. I scoured YouTube, obsessively looking for that one Simpsons' clip I was thinking of. It was from season thirteen, the episode called "Homer the Moe." It's the part where it turns out that the Chinese have been spying on The Simpsons, watching Bart obsessively dig a hole. I remain so disheartened that I couldn't find this one clip with this dialogue between the Chinese spies:

Spy: Those inscrutable Americans. What are they up to now?

Humungous: I will stop them. I am strong. I am the great Humungous.

General: We all know you're the great Humungous.

Humungous: Well, I'm just saying.

General: Oh, you're always just saying.

I'm just saying with Jesus making all these "I am" statements, I was so waiting for someone to go "We all know you're the Son of Man, the Son of God, the Amen— the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation," and yes, my head canon for this anonymous person has him sounding like the Jewish Old Man from The Simpsons. I make no apologies, because like I said, given that I've been watching the show since it premiered when I was five, it's safe to say that I am more Simpsons quotes than man now, twisted and evil. Sorry about that last part: also watched the original Star Wars trilogy so many times that saying I enjoyed Star Wars as a kid, is somewhat like saying "I enjoyed breathing as a kid." For the record, I did see and enjoy Episode VII, but I firmly believe that there were never any prequels; don't try to convince me otherwise, because Discontinuity is a beautiful thing, dammit!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Caught in a Bad Romance

For the record, I did start on this on Saturday, but had a lot to do. Saw a documentary about songbirds and went to the symphony, so didn't get to finish the post yesterday. But I'm here now, so let's get down to this.

Those of you know I have a very passionate hatred for a particular movie, so much so that if that procedure in Eternal Sunshine for the Spotless Mind existed, I might actually put myself through it, just so I can forget that particular movie. Maybe some day when I achieve my career goal of being an eccentric, independently wealthy recluse (right now, I've only managed two out of three, no points for guessing which), I can just be myself and not worry about alienating everyone with my constant frothing "I WILL HAVE YOUR HEAD ON A PLATTER OF GOLD, ZACK SYNDER!" rants, but until then, I can't afford to alienate too many people.

Thing is, I don't rant about every bad movie I see the way I do with that one. I freely admit that I've gone to movies I don't particularly care for, because a) somebody else was paying, and b) most movies, no matter how bad, you can at least derive some aesthetic enjoyment from them. World is so much prettier and makes a lot more sense on the silver screen than it does in real life*. Plus, most of the time when a movie is bad, it's just kind of boring in its badness, not outright unpleasant.

Snyder's not only was outright unpleasant (when you can't even enjoy the act of watching a movie, you know it's failed), it also effed with a character I cared deeply about. I gave him a pass for Watchmen because I didn't particularly care for the comic book series (it falls under "Good and I see the skill and craft involved, but the reader in me derives very little pleasure from reading it"), but I cared about Superman! That is why Snyder's movie crossed the line to, "All right, now it's personal!" and you damn well better believe I'm not going to see Batman v. Superman unless someone dredges up proof that it was directed by Zack Snyder's mirror!verse counterpart, who doesn't have a severe tripod allergy and knows that a character doesn't have to be a dripping ball of angst to be compelling!

Seriously, DC comics, get the guys involved with the DCAU to write your movies! They pulled it off, managing to create compelling stories/characters, delve into dark themes without making it so dark and gritty that it becomes unpleasant to actually watch (seriously, the Cadmus arc on Justice League Unlimited is just a masterpiece), and at the same time, they knew we love these characters because of the ridiculous awesome spectacle of it all! We want to believe a man can fly! Do you guys just hate money and all the things that money can buy?! I'm just saying compare this clip from the DCAU Superman series with any minute from that one movie I hate and see just how badly Snyder failed! Because the DCAU clip, even if you don't know the whole context, it is still damn affecting and even if, like me, you've seen it many times and you know what's coming, it still manages to be an emotional sucker punch every single time.

The rambling point I'm trying to make is that while I've gotten very passionate many times on this blog, while ranting about bad art, most of the time, I'm more "meh," after sitting through bad entertainment. Heck, sometimes I actually enjoy it. One of the few fond memories I have of high school involves a meteorology/astronomy class where we watched Twister and the whole class just had a ball, making MST3K remarks throughout. Some advice to Hollywood: Okies know how twisters work. Maybe you can fool people on the coasts, but not Okies. You don't live in the middle of Tornado Alley without learning a few things about tornadoes. That and since the teacher of the class actually was a storm chaser in his spare time, he joined in and pointed out the many errors the characters made.

But the Left Behind series, even the for kids! version, is so outright unpleasant that I cannot enjoy it. That and as Fred Clark has pointed out in many posts, a large contingent of people actually believes the toxic ideas that govern this series and wants all of the horrible stuff to actually happen. So like it or not, it impacts the culture in a way Twister's stupidity does not. Though I will say that at least the kids version doesn't have Rayford mansplaining on the wrongness of abortion. It's not much of a plus, but it is a plus.

Anyway, what we continue to get this week and what will probably get next week and until the end of the series, is one of the Right's favorite tropes, where they claim the mantle of the plucky persecuted underdog, even though they're effectively winning. It's the attitude born of the two conflicting desires the Right has, where they both want to be the plucky young Christian rebels fighting against the Evil Empire, who somehow manage to win, despite having the odds stacked against them. Yet since they subscribe to the ideology of "Might makes Right" victory for them looks much the same as it does for the evil empire, where all their enemies are either dead or so crushed and beaten down that they no longer have the will to raise their heads, never mind rebel.

Plus again, like I've said before, they also secretly aspire to be the Evil Empire, have the power and might to crush those who stand against them. It's a rancid, incoherent, toxic mix, which leads to what we keep getting where the characters are simultaneously going "We'll be laughing our heads off while you're burning in hell!" and "I hope Jesus wins, not the bad guys" without somehow noticing the contradiction.

Those of you who don't believe me when I talk about the toxic contradiction that governs the RTC subculture, a few things. First of all, hello and welcome to my blog. Second of all, what's the rent like on that rock you've clearly been dwelling under for quite some time?

I'm just saying, read the opening to this week's chapter and tell me Lionel is secretly getting his rocks off at the thought of all those heathens dying horribly.

LIONEL sat with Sam on Petra’s perimeter and watched God’s light show. Lightning flashed through the deepening clouds, thick streaks of gold firing overhead. He remembered watching a tornado years before the Tribulation began, but that didn’t compare with this.

Lightning increased, with hundreds and thousands of bolts crashing to the desert floor every second. It was like the end to a terrific fireworks display, only this one was a million times brighter and stronger. Thunder shook the ground, and Lionel tried to cover his ears.

Another thing that gets me about this series is the fundamental dishonesty of it. Again, this is revenge porn for RTCs, where they get to fantasize about all those uppity people they hate, getting tortured and humiliated. No matter how much Ellanjay talk about how they wrote this series to reach lost souls for Christ, it's BS.

But the thing is, they can't just be honest about it, own up to the whole revenge porn idea, and go with it, resorting in a nasty distasteful mess that somehow feels even more repugnant that another piece of writing (can't in all honesty, call it literature) that exists as a form of torture porn for the Far Right. I am speaking, of course, of The Turner Diaries.

Don't get me wrong: I hate that book. There is nothing redeemable about it and it deserves to be called trash and hate lit and every insult you can think of. But at the same time, it is at least honest. It is not trying to claim that the characters do all this stuff to their enemies, because they secretly love the Blacks and Jews. It does not try to claim noble messages while marketing itself to the most repugnant a-holes on the political spectrum. It is honestly willing to make a stand for what it believes in, however horrible, and doesn't try to weasel out of the full implications of its beliefs. So in a way, it's slightly less repugnant than any book in the LB-verse.

Because while I know I should stop taking advice on life from cheesy eighties cartoons, there is something to be said for the "Better an honest enemy than a false friend" argument.

For the record, the link about the Turner Diaries takes you to Wikipedia for those wondering. I suppose I should have put in trigger warnings, but I wasn't sure how necessary they were. I apologize if anyone was shaken or upset by the link.

Anyway, Lionel and Sam watch Nicky getting on a big horse (almost said "mounting" but there are enough dirty-minded perverts reading and writing this blog). Nicky is all "Bwaah! We's gonna kill 'dem RTCS."

Lionel and Sam, of course, roll their eyes, because they know God's on their Side. I, being a dirty-minded perv, know that they're also probably getting off at the thought of all those heathens dying horribly.

I know y'all are getting tired of me making "Tribbles masturbating to the thought of appalling death and suffering" jokes, but it keeps coming up throughout all my readings, how much they earnestly long for and look forward to God killing all the people they can't stand. It makes sense that RTCs would so link sexual pleasure and violence, given that they can't seem to envision sex as an activity participants would actually enjoy and do as an expression of love.

And when I say violence, I'm not referring to the BDSM variety. I freely admit that I am not into the BDSM thing, but whatever your views on it, they would still see sex as an expression of love. They may express that love in unconventional ways but from what I've heard, the BDSM crowd believes in consent and generally does a good job of policing themselves. If someone in the scene is accused of or linked to something criminal, others in the scene make sure that word gets out and the accused becomes persona non grata and generally isn't welcomed anymore. There are probably still cases of abuse in that subculture, but that's probably true of any subculture, and the BDSM one is probably healthier than the RTC one in that they acknowledge the possibility of abuse and when abuse occurs, they address it rather than sweep it under the rug and pretend it doesn't exist.

So as you can probably guess, when I'm talking about violence, I am of course, referring to cold, calculated cruelty done for no real reason (as in nobody's life was in danger or something) except that the other person wanted to and was capable of doing it, the kind where one party puts someone through physical and/or psychological hell because they can.

Since sex is so intertwined with violence and hierarchy (nothing can be done between equal participants in the RTC subculture. There will always be someone higher up, interacting with someone beneath them), like I said, it's not too surprising that whenever a scandal dethrones a celeb on the Christian Right, it's almost always about sex. RTCs will forgive a lot of things, but nothing involving sex. It doesn't matter whether the offense is a "participants have consensual intercourse despite not being married or :gasp: of the opposite sex" or if it's closer to "preying on someone who liked and trusted you" scandal; they see all crimes related to sex as equivalent in seriousness. Even though most people recognize, as does our justice system, that intent and scale does matter when it comes to crime. Again, even Draco or Hammurabi or some law and order zealot would acknowledge that there's a difference between stealing a loaf of bread to feed your starving family and breaking into someone's house, stealing their valuables, and brutally beating the homeowner and leaving him for dead when he tries to stop you.

I repeat myself a lot, but it's just an idea I can't get away from: the way they can't envision sex without it being about power. It keeps coming up in this series, especially in the next section with Shelly and Conrad.

Shelly and Conrad are pretty much doing what everyone else is doing: sitting and watching the pretty fireworks produced by God converting the heathens to nuclear vapor.

Conrad turned toward the end of the Old Testament to Zephaniah and read some verses to Shelly. “ ‘That terrible day of the Lord is near. Swiftly it comes—a day when strong men will cry bitterly.

“ ‘It is a day when the Lord’s anger will be poured out. It is a day of terrible distress and anguish, a day of ruin and desolation, a day of darkness and gloom, of clouds, blackness, trumpet calls, and battle cries. Down go the walled cities and strongest battlements!

“ ‘Because you have sinned against the Lord, I will make you as helpless as a blind man searching for a path. Your blood will be poured out into the dust, and your bodies will lie there rotting on the ground.’ ”

He closed the Bible, and Shelly scooted closer. Houses crackled and burned not far away. The acrid, smoky smell of the meteors filled the air.

As always, Ellanjay conveniently avoid citing chapter and verses, forcing me to resort to Google to figure out what part of Zephaniah they're quoting. It's from Zephaniah, chapter one, verses 14-18, if you're wondering. Again, given that I doubt their target audience of kids and teenagers would be willing to put forth the effort to pin down exactly what verses were being quoted, the fact that they always leave off specifics casts a whole lot of doubt on their assertion that they want people to read their bibles and take the verses to heart.

Anyway, doing a quick skim of the Book of Zephaniah (it is only three chapters so don't have go through much to get the general gist), you can see why Ellanjay would choose that prophet to quote instead of one that people might have heard of like any of the major prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, if you're wondering).

While the verses they quote, do have more nuance when looked at in context (given all the mentions of stuff like Baal and Molech, aka stuff that would have very specific meanings during the time it was written, it's doubtful that whoever wrote it, meant for it to be about citizens of the middle part of the North American landmass, thousands of years into the future), Zephaniah's words are easier to twist and torture because he was more the kind of prophet they liked, the kind who was all "The people I dislike will all die horribly" rather than all those others who, like I said last week, while they did say all that stuff about God's wrath, the lion's share of their writings were devoted to Why God was Punishing His People, rather than the myriad ways He was going to punish them.

Also when they brought up the Why, it wasn't because the Israelites hadn't gone to church regularly and said The Prayer with the precise amount of sincerity and hated the Gays and Abortion with proper fervor; it was for what they had actually done or rather, what they failed to do. Turns out when God says to take care of the poor and needy, he actually means for you to do it, and from the looks of it, his definition of taking care of them, involves something more than just giving them a Jack Chick tract and sending them on their way. Sometimes I long to point them towards verses like Ezekiel 16:49-50 which proves that God's grievances with the town of Sodom went beyond, "They enjoyed intercourse that didn't allow for the possibility of reproduction." That and since I've read the passages of the Bible that talk about what happened to Lot after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah...a few questions: one, "how drunk do you have to be to sleep with your daughters twice?" and "If Lot was the most righteous man in Sodom, then what the hell was everybody else like?" I'll just post a Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal comic and move on.

He closed the Bible, and Shelly scooted closer. Houses crackled and burned not far away. The acrid, smoky smell of the meteors filled the air.

“What do you think all that means?” Shelly said.

“I guess it means your life is worthless if you fight against God,” Conrad said. “He’s going to win every time.” Suddenly the lightning and thunder stopped. The sky was pitch-black, and Conrad wondered how long God would wait. Soon Jesus would return—but would he be seen just in Jerusalem or everywhere?

Conrad put an arm around Shelly. “Enoch says he’s going to find a way to get to Israel as soon as possible. He’s even going to try and raise money for his people to go there.”

“I’d do anything to see Jesus start setting up his kingdom,” Shelly said. “Let’s go together.”

Conrad smiled, pulling her close. “We could stay with Judd and Vicki.”

I know I keep harping on the same point, but all this stuff in this passage about Conrad pulling Shelly any other passage, I'd interpret it as "Ah, young love," and not read too much into it. In fact, I might consider it a nice stroke of realism, because even at the End of the World, horny teenagers will be horny. People are naturally wired for altruism and will fall in love and try to help each other out, no matter how bad things get.

But since Ellanjay can't envision sex or anything related to it, as something done as an act of love, all this reads as pretty creepy. Especially since, like I said, I've actually read and retained memories of what's happened in previous books.

I've ranted endlessly about the Shelly-Conrad subplot and will probably rant about it a great deal more; you're just going to have to deal. Because for the most part, everything about it, as in the STUFF THE READERS NEED TO SEE AND WITNESS IN THE TEXT, was conducted off page. There was a one-line mention that Shelly and Conrad have fallen in love. Then you see and hear nothing about it for many books until there's a one-line mention about how they were in love, but now they're having problems.

The only time these problems or the nature of their relationship is at all fleshed out, is in this snark where Shelly talks to Vicki about the problems she's been having. Given that basically the problems can be summed up as "Conrad was being a creeper and not respecting Shelly's wishes," yeah, you understand why I am taking a very dim view of the quoted passage.

I suppose it's entirely possible that maybe Conrad has learned about consent and self-control (while off-screen, natch), but the more likely view is Shelly realized that Conrad is a manly man and as such, he is automatically higher up on the hierarchy than her; therefore, he is entitled to take and will take, whatever he wants from her, and that things will go better if she just silently acquiesces rather than make a fuss about it. I mean, what do you expect a manly man to do? Exhibit an ounce of self-control and respect someone's wishes, even if said someone is lower than them on the hierarchy? Besides, what did Shelly expect since she was likely advertising how blatantly female she is, given that her oversized, shapeless blouses probably didn't conceal the existence of her dirty pillows and in spite of her ankle-length skirts, Conrad may have caught occasional glimpses of her ankles?

Again, maybe y'all are thinking that I'm reading way too much into all this, reading creepiness where there is none, but I really don't have a lot of choice but to do so. Since they stubbornly refuse to Show, do something silly like write a scene where Conrad :gasp: apologizes to Shelly for being a creeper and ignoring her clear "I don't want this" signals, I really have no choice but to assume the worst.

:sighs: Funny how RTCs accuse feminists of having negative views of men. Given that feminists actually see men as intelligent beings, capable of self-control, rather than walking dicks driven only by lust, I have to wonder whose views are actually far more regressive and insulting.

There's a brief interlude with Vicki. She limps along, searching for first aid supplies for her and Judd. It actually would be dramatically compelling if they bothered to flesh it out, because being hurt, scared, and in pain is generally no fun, whether it's the End of the World or not.

I know I rant entirely too much about the whole "Show, Don't Tell" rule of writing. As a writer, I can tell you that outside the three commandments of writing (which can be summed up as Read, Write, and Rewrite), the rules of writing are, to paraphrase Captain Barbossa, aka the only character in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise who remained a badass and wasn't irritating as hell by the end, they're more like guidelines, really.

Because outside the three commandments, every time someone says "Never do this in a story," someone can pull a book off a shelf and point to an example where a writer broke that rule and the story still worked. Like most say "Never start your story with your protagonist as a baby, because it's hard to root for a hero, who hasn't developed decent bladder control, let alone demonstrated personality traits the reader can relate to," yet the Harry Potter franchise begins with the titular character as an infant and it's still a damn good read.

So slavishly following any rules, outside the big three, is probably an incredibly stupid idea. In fact, sometimes the writer should just cut to the damn chase already! There are times when you should tell, rather than show. I mean, someone could write a passage where they showed everything, something along the lines of, "Jack fastened his seatbelt. He turned the key in the ignition. He stepped on the brake and shifted in reverse. He looked in his rearview and side mirrors. Then he turned around to check his blind spots. Then he stepped off the brake and started backing out, turning the wheel left because he needed to go right. But he was backing out slightly too fast, so Jack stepped on the brake to slow himself. Then he stepped off the brake and continued with his original route," but it wouldn't take long for the reader to want to reach through the screen/book, grab the writer, scream "Get to the point, already!", and slam the writer's head against a table. So in that scenario, telling would work. Just type something along the lines of "Jack drove off to go confront the evil Doctor Nefaro/his cheating girlfriend/talking pie," and get to back to the story.

So my real quibble with Ellanjay is more that when it comes to travel logistics, they are quite happy to show every detail regardless of how boring or relevant. Because they apparently believe that if they don't list every step Buck takes from Point A to Point B, the readers will be scratching their heads and going, " did Buck get to Point B?" They certainly can't do something expedient like have Buck think or say "I'm going to Point B," and when they drop back in with him later, have him be at Point B. The readers would just be at an absolute loss if they didn't know all the blocks in between or all the vehicles Buck rode in to get there, even if none of the stuff from Point A to Point B will be seen or referenced or have anything to do with anything.

But when it comes to stuff that the reader would actually need to know and would actually be interesting to witness, like a character's thoughts or feelings, Ellanjay's love of laziness wins out over their love of padding, and they just have a one-line "They had a fight but it's over now." Most writers would think it's important to mention what said characters got into a fight about and how it was resolved, but Ellanjay are far above such lesser men.

Anyway, there isn't much more I can ramble endlessly about in the Vicki section. Just that I was a little amused by a one line reference to her being in Little League. Truly Vicki's parents were hardened reprobates before their conversion, not because they drank, smoked, caroused, were stereotypical trailer-trash rednecks, or accused their daughter of lying and punished her when she said that her uncle sexually abused her, but because they :gasp: let her play a sport as a kid. And it wasn't an appropriately girly sport, but a manly one like baseball. The horrors!

But I will quibble about the closing line of Vicki's section:

She smiled, thinking they had done just that—they’d used all their energy to help people. Whatever happened next would happen without their help.

If we're talking about recent events that happened a few pages ago, then that bit about how they used all their energy to help people, is only accurate if Vicki defines people as "Me, myself, I, and Judd," because really that's all she and Judd have been doing, running around, ignoring everyone's suffering but their own. You could make a case that in a combat situation, after days of being scared, hungry, exhausted, and in pain, the characters' perspectives would shrink to a narrow view, making them barely able to think of anything outside their own suffering.

Like the beginning of Children of Men** where Clive Owen's character is so worn down, so broken by witnessing endless horrors on a daily basis that he's shut down emotionally. It's a classic case of "Hero's been treading the same path for ages and doesn't see a reason to change until a catalyst disrupts said path." In this case, the catalyst is his ex-wife showing up. When she takes him to see the first pregnant woman in decades, a teenager named Kee, his mindset that since there's not going to be a future, is irrevocably shaken. This revelation forces Owen's character to rise to the occasion and become a true hero, by doing everything he can to protect this teenager and her unborn baby.

But the problem we keep running into is that we are given no indication of any trauma. Basic common sense says that even if you've said The Prayer and reserved your seat in Heaven, even if you are a moral prig who can't be arsed to care about the sufferings of people outside you and your circle of friends, it would still be rough psychologically, to be constantly dealing with Acts of God, to always be hungry and tired and cold. But I've was more traumatized after working Black Friday*** than any of these characters have been after anything!

So yeah, calling BS on Vicki's claim that they've been using all their energy to help people. I suppose it could be possible that Vicki isn't referring to just recent events but is looking over the seven-year period as a whole, know what, I'm still calling BS.

I'm going to rush through the rest of the chapter, because I talk too damn much as is, and because nothing really happens. Well, okay, something does happen, but, y'know how Fred said that Ellanjay apply the rule of preaching "Tell them what you're going to tell them. Tell them. Then tell them what you've told them," to writing fiction even though fiction and sermons are different forms of writing and as such, have different rules/requirements? It's like that. Character A witnesses something, oohs and ahs over it, then because Ellanjay believe that their readers are even stupider than Forrest Gump, they feel they have to do a scene with all the characters mentioned recently, oohing and ahhing about it. Because we can't have Lionel see the miraculous occurrence (in this case, a giant laser cross appearing in the sky) be amazed by what he sees, and just assume from there that Conrad, Shelly, Judd, and Vicki also see and are amazed by the miraculous occurrence? How would the readers know unless we were as subtle as a two-by-four to the head about it?

I should be grateful that Ellanjay restrained themselves and resisted the urge to add scenes with each individual member of the MCC witnessing it. I'm just saying, we know how much they love padding and how they look for any excuse to indulge in it.

Okay, in fairness, the telling of the same event from different perspectives, is a time-honored trope in literature/storytelling. But the key word here is different. Most writers have the common courtesy to put forth the effort to make each perspective distinctive and unique, reflective of the character telling the story. Ellanjay on the other hand, are far above hacks like them and just find and replace proper nouns, rather than do something silly like that.

The chapter ends with Vicki and Judd being like "Hey, God healed our injuries!" Lionel goes through the same, magically regrowing his left arm.

And that's it for this week. Next week, and I know this comes as a real shocker to you all, more nothing happens! But the week after that, TurboJesus finally gets off his ass and comes back. Reading his dialogue, let's just say I'll be scouring YouTube looking for the one Simpsons clip that I keep thinking of, because I thought you knew by now that I am an obsessive weirdo. Oh and about the asterisked stuff, it's fleshed out below, but I apologize, given that they may be even longer and rambling than the actual snark. But I was courteous and set them aside, so that those of you who want to just read the main body of material and not deal too much with rambling lectures, can safely ignore them and go on with your lives.

*I tell people that the only form of fiction that comes close to reflecting reality is the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books. Ever read those books? Then you know they are terribly written books. Important plot points come way the hell out of nowhere, there's no rhyme or reason to anything that happens, and, of course, no matter what you choose, you're always screwed in the end. Which like I said, is actually a fairly accurate representation of this reality.

I believe in the existence of multiple realities and have come to believe that of all the ones that exist, this one is the worst, because it manages to be both boring and nonsensical at the same time, and I'm not even entirely sure how that's possible. Just that fiction, even ones set in a zany, wild topsy-turvy universe, has rules/conventions it has to follow and can't just violate them willy-nilly, because then the reader/viewer will go "Oh come on!" then go find something better to read/watch. But until somebody gets off their tails and invents a device enabling us to travel to alternate realities, we're stuck. This reality can be as bad/nonsensical as it wants to be because it doesn't have any competition.

**That movie...again, it seems that if you want a good, compelling film that delves into religious themes, you turn to Eeeevil Secular Hollyweird rather than any Christian ™ directors. Because while secular directors may be people of faith and that may show up in their films, they are also people who believe that the primary task of a creative person is to tell a good story, so that your listener/reader/viewer doesn't feel that their time was wasted. You can have messages in your films, but they are in service to the story you're telling, not the other way around. When it's the other way around, it's called propaganda and there's a reason people take a dim view of it.

You just shake your head at the RTC subculture. They got all up in arms about Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ, but anyone who has actually seen it, will tell you that it is actually a very reverent film with great respect for Jesus and what he represented. Scorsese is described in his article on Wikipedia as being a lapsed Catholic and a regular practitioner of transcendental meditation, so the RTCs probably wouldn't consider him one of them. Yet his depiction of Jesus as a passionate, sweating, striving being who :gasp: hurt and got hungry and horny and longed for a normal life like everyone else, is probably a lot closer to the one depicted in the four gospels than any of the RTC produced productions, which dress their actors in bedsheets and make some effort to recreate the look of the era, but don't really delve into the mindset of people eking out an existence under the thumb of a brutal regime. Their Jesus always seems as lively as cold gravy, just mouthing platitudes, and never really showing any sign of being human or divine. I know my readers have differing views as to who or what Jesus was, but surely we can agree that he must have been somewhat charismatic to inspire people to give up their families and livelihoods to follow him.

But back to Children of Men, like I said, keep coming back to the spiritual themes. No matter how many times, I watch or link to this scene, it never loses its emotional resonance, seeing everybody just in a state of absolute awe over the sight of the first newborn baby in over a decade, how it inspires two hardened enemies to have a temporary cease-fire so that mother and baby can get out safely.

Wikipedia doesn't tell me the director's (Alfonso Cuaron, if you're wondering) religious views, but whatever they were, the man knew what he was doing. Though you can read religious themes into so many scenes in Children of Men. Like how Kee reveals her pregnancy to the main character in a stable and the MC's response is to exclaim, "Jesus Christ!" Okay, I admit I'm reaching there, but while nativity scenes and the birth stories in the two gospels (only Matthew and Luke actually have birth stories about Jesus. Mark and John leave them out of their tellings) have cleaned up the stories, still can't escape the basic facts of the situation.

If Mary and Joseph did journey to Bethlehem, they would have been refugees, much like the characters in the film, traveling and struggling to stay alive in a land that doesn't really care much about what happens to them. The trip to Bethlehem from Nazareth is, according to Google results, about 70-80 miles or 120 km in the metric system. So yeah, imagine traveling that distance without such modern niceties as cars, well-paved/maintained roads, and hotels/motels to rest for the night or gas stations to stop to get a bite to eat, use the bathroom, and rest for a bit. Oh and while Mary is usually depicted as riding in a donkey, in all likelihood, given that she and Joseph were both people of limited means, Mary would have been walking, the same as Joseph. So yeah, in addition to everything else, Mary's going through all this while being nine months pregnant. And she winds up giving birth in a stable. Spoiler alert: even under the best of circumstances where the kid's head is in the correct position and there are no complications, childbirth is still incredibly messy, with a whole lot of bodily fluids involved. Another spoiler is that since stables were places were animals lived and living often involves eating, sleeping, peeing, pooping, and sex, yeah, it's not likely to have been the most sanitary of conditions.

tl;dr, while Mary and Joseph probably weren't dealing with shit blowing up around them as they're traveling, the conditions of Jesus's birth were a lot closer to those of Children of Men (Kee winds up giving birth in a shelled-out warzone)rather than all those nativity scenes which depict everybody clean and arrayed in holy light. Maybe nativity scenes do serve a purpose, but the danger is that we let the image hijack our brains and tell the stories for us, rather than focus on the very real facts of the situation.

***Having worked retail on Black Friday, I can safely say this webcomic isn't exaggerating, like, at all. Seriously, humans suck! Maybe in the other realities they're somewhat more tolerable--if they're assholes, at least they're written in a way where they're still interesting and make sense in spite of being assholes--but not here!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

The Gospel According to Ellanjay: Do it to Julia!

Okay, I'm here. Would have done it yesterday, but combination of procrastination and Internet was acting up, because I live in a Podunk town with like one thing for the entire community, so if there are more than a certain number of devices/people being used, things start acting up. The U.S. could embrace the policies of Europe and Southeast Asia, who all manage to enjoy faster, cheaper, more reliable Internet than the good ol' US of A, but this is America, dammit! Creaky inefficient expensive corporate monopolies that make us pay more for an inferior product is the American Way, dammit!

Of course, you could also make the same argument as to why the US hasn't implemented Universal Healthcare despite it being successfully used by Canada and pretty much all of Europe. You'd think that pointing out that countries that have Universal Healthcare pay less per citizen and in doing so, enjoy better overall health for everyone, but I highly suspect that not even cold arithmetic will sway people. Even though Universal Healthcare will save money and benefit everyone, since the poor are part of that everyone, people have decided that no price is too high, if it enables us to screw over the less fortunate.

All right, I'm done being all irritating and political for now. It's just that for a country that constantly prides itself on progress and innovation, the U.S. sure sucks at it. But it probably illustrates a rule I have about life and the world in general: if you have to loudly proclaim a virtue, like how tolerant you are of all those queers or that you are a Nice Guy, chances are pretty good that you suck at that virtue.

Sorry for all the talking but...there's just so much nothing this week. This whole thing feels like a Superbowl where one team has utterly slaughtered the other team, like 100-1, yet the victorious team keeps acting like there's still a game is going on, even though the other team has been hauled off the field in stretchers. No wait, that metaphor doesn't feel accurate: I freely admit that I hate most sports and I do suck at sports. I consider football* to be among the stupidest of sports, but I'm fairly certain that in order to win a football game, the players do actually have to get off the bench and make plays, not just sip Gatorade and occasionally think disdainful thoughts in the other team's direction, until God shows up and wins it for them.

Anyway, we're still with Vicki and Judd. Judging by the opening of the chapter, it's clear that whoever was writing it...I'll assume that they didn't have scary mind-reading powers and anticipate my blog/criticisms of this series for the same reason I assume that all the rumors about the movie Battlefield Earth secretly containing subliminal pro-Scientology messages to be a lie: if they were capable of that level of strategizing/genius, they would have produced a much better product.

VICKI huddled close to Judd in the back of the truck as they entered a gate at the Old City. Bodies lay strewn about the road, and the truck shimmied as it rolled over dead rebels. The rebels’ clothes lay torn and in some cases ripped apart, which made Vicki wonder if the GC hadn’t gone through their clothing for valuables. She closed her eyes at the horrific scene.

I'm just sayin' you can practically see the writer's internal struggle here: "Okay, I do have to somewhat show how horrible the End of the World would be, to lend credence to Tim LaHaye's claim that he created this series in hopes of reaching people and convincing them to accept Jesus so they won't be left behind. But if I actually show in explicit detail just how horrible it would be, described people dying with their guts hanging out and all the blood and the smell of burning flesh, I will offend the delicate sensibilities of the RTC subculture that actually buys these books. Said subculture is generally okay with humans undergoing horrific suffering, so long as it happens to people they don't care about and they don't have to see the consequences of their actions. But show them the consequences of it, show a mother clutching her dead baby and wailing, and you are worse than Hitler! Plus, we all know that no matter how much Tim LaHaye claims he wrote this to get people saved, this series exist as Revenge Porn for RTCs, where they can see all those sluts or those people who laughed at them, get humiliated and tortured! Only without actual porn, because you can murder scores and scores of people, many of them children, but heaven forbid any of their characters show their dirty pillows or have consensual intercourse. That's just a bridge too far!"

Yeah, I often wonder if there isn't a massive heroin epidemic among ghostwriters for Tim LaHaye. Can't fault the poor guys; I'd develop a drug habit too, if called upon to try to deal with all the massive cognitive dissonance.

In the past, I've mention that the book logo claims that series was written by LaHaye and Jenkins, but on the title page, another guy, Chris Fabry, is credited beneath said logo. Fabry has a lot of Christian Fiction titles to his name, so I wonder if how much he really had to do with the writing of this series or if there isn't a team of poor anonymous ghostwriters working beneath him. Maybe Fabry had enough clout that he could at least be listed on the title page, but as for the other ghostwriters...not so much.

Just that suffice to say, while Tim LaHaye had little to do with the nuts and bolts writing of the adult books (except provide his name on the cover and the checklist), I suspect he had even less to do with this series, like a percentage of a percent involvement. Jenkins probably couldn't be bothered to do much writing for this series (though RubyTea's snark of the Paul Stepola books proves that apparently Tim LaHaye was a moderating influence on Jenkins), so of the three credited, Fabry probably did the lion's share of the work.

Just know that given the slapdash effort that is the hallmark of Christian Fiction, combined with the fact that they probably think "Durr...Kids are Stupid. So writing a good children's series isn't hard. Just need to make hero a kid and put in a moral for the kid to learn**," nobody involved with this series gave a shit.

All right, back to story.

Judd is all, "Vicki, you can't do this!" But Vicki is like, "Don't worry, I won't give them anything." Those of you waiting with bated breath for a scene where an RTC employs some weaselly logic so they can save themselves and their friends from the evil dictatorship without stooping to such evils as :gasp: lying, hate to break it to you, but that's not what ends up happening. Besides, y'all should be ashamed of yourselves, talking delight in watching Logic be so brutally tortured. What did Logic ever do to you?

The truck grinds to a halt. Fulcire orders Vicki and Judd out. Because he read the script written for him by Ellanjay, Zod realizes it's his turn to enter and we finally get that whole thing people have been talking about, where everything goes dark and the moon disappears.

Vicki starts preaching, talking about how all this stuff was predicted, and they're getting what's coming to them and neener-neener-neener. The book does actually print some of the verses (though not the titles of the books or the chapter and verse numbers or anything that would make their target audience able to read and look up the verses in their Bible at home). Thought about snarking it bit by bit, but I've already talked about said passages and how Ellanjay get them wrong before.

So instead, I'll just spend endlessly amounts of time, rambling about a paragraph that was three sentences long, because that's what my readers have become accustomed to and I hate to disappoint.

Scores of verses from the Old and New Testaments flooded Vicki’s mind. All spoke of the wrath of God poured out on the earth. She wanted to spill the verses out one after another.

I'm going to assume that Vicki, like all good RTCs, only reads the part about all the horrific tortures and punishments poured out on the Earth and doesn't read any of the verses where the prophet or whoever says, "This is why you will be punished." I'm aware that my blog readers tend to have a wide variety of religious views. Some are liberal Christians, some are proud atheists, and some are Jewish, and some don't fall into any of the previously mentioned categories. But whatever you believe about the Bible, whether you feel that it's the one-hundred percent word of God himself or just humans trying to make sense of a painful and confusing world, we can agree that if you were to actually read the passages containing verses about the wrath of God, the bulk of said passages basically say, "You haven't done what is right and what is right isn't attending church regularly and hating the people you're supposed to hate; what is right is taking care of the widows and orphans, caring for the least among you. Instead you lived quite comfortably, while they suffered in appalling poverty and in many cases, you did what you could to make their suffering worse, so they couldn't find any relief. That's why I'm smiting you." And from there, the writer goes into the punishments awaiting them.

So it's closer to the scene in Batman: Year One where the title character bursts in on a gathering of Gotham's elite and basically says, "I'm coming for you," rather than, "Nuh-uh, Simon didn't say. Now you're going to burn in Hell!" the way RTCs see it.

I know, I'm talking entirely too much, but that's the theme that keeps coming up in the New Testament and among the prophets, both Major and Minor, whose works make up the bulk of the Old Testament. The only way Ellanjay and those of their ilk could miss said passages is if they did what they often accused their critics of doing: stuck their fingers in their ears and went "La-la-la, can't hear you," whenever someone quoted Amos 5:12-27 or the many other passages similar to Amos. Again, can't say it's merely ignorance that afflicts them. If it was just ignorance, then all you had to do, was pull a Bible off the shelf and turn to the passage in question to show them that it is much more nuanced than they thought. But this level of ignorance requires an act of will on their part, to keep your eyes and ears closed and not let reality interfere with your cherished beliefs. But to be fair, Reality does have a well-known liberal bias.

As you can probably guessed, Fulcire isn't swayed by Vicki suddenly quoting a whole bunch of verses willy-nilly from various books of the Bible, written at very different times in history over periods of several millennia, without any context:

“Yes, Jesus will show up by and by, pie in the sky, and then we’ll all die,” Fulcire mocked. “But you won’t be around to see him, will you, Judah-ite?” He pulled a pistol from a holster around his waist and aimed it at Judd’s head. “Now point the way to one of the tunnels, or I’ll send your precious husband to be with Jesus where he can ride all the white horsies.”

Vicki looked at Judd, his face lit by the truck’s lights. It struck her as strange that it would end this way. They had survived seven years of disasters, only to be killed a few hours—maybe a few minutes—before the return of Christ.

“I love you,” Judd whispered. There didn’t seem to be a hint of fear in his voice. “I’ll always love you.”

“Your choice,” Fulcire said, cocking the pistol.

Can you even call it spoiling if I said that this cliff-hanger is a cocktease and Judd doesn't wind up with a massive hole in his head? In all honesty, I'm wondering if I can just call it prophecy and maybe add the title of prophet to my resume and go into business. I probably have a better track record than most people who label themselves as "prophets." I mean, Tim LaHaye, Hal Lindsay, and John Hagee have been predicting the Rapture for how many years now?

Oh and somebody must have pointed them towards the infamous Joe Hill song that uses the "pie in the sky" metaphor. And of course, Ellanjay took this information in and put it in the mouth of their villain, without any idea about what it meant. For those too lazy to browse the Wikipedia link, said song is a succinct putdown of how religion is used as a cudgel, used to get people to stop complaining about appalling misery and suffering, and just suck it up and keep quiet about it in order to receive a distant award in the afterlife. Oh and when I say it's used as a cudgel, that can be both a literal and metaphorical sense, because if you still insisted on agitating for fair wages, insist that maybe Rockefeller or Vanderbilt or J.P. Morgan or whatever tycoon shouldn't live in unimaginable luxury, while I often can't feed my kids, despite working like a dog six days a week, they will happily send the military to kill you for the crime of demanding basic fair treatment/dignity. Ever hear of the Ludlow Massacre and the many other such occurrences?

After that cliffhanger, the section cuts to Conrad. I'm wondering if he's managed to escape the MCC and achieve Main Character status because lately, he's had more screen time than Lionel, who is supposed to be a Main Character. I wonder if it's because Conrad is White (if he was meant to be ethnic, Ellanjay would have been about as subtle as a freight train about it, making sure to give him a name so insultingly ethnic that I'd feel just a little racist if I typed up suggestions for names they would have given Conrad if he was Black) whereas Lionel is Black.

I know, I know, shouldn't toot my own horn, but in a comment on a previous post, I theorized how the hierarchy that governs the LB-verse works, so I'm going to copy and paste it for your perusal:

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.

I feel fairly confident that I described the hierarchy accurately, but if I didn't, feel free to tell me. Because learning is good!

But anyway, not really much I can say about this passage. Shit starts happening, everybody freaks out, until an RTC character (Enoch, in this case) is all "The prophecies predicted all this," and then they smugly watch and fantasize about all those horrible people dying horribly, and I'm a little thankful that given how squeamish Ellanjay are about sex, we don't have read about the characters masturbating at the thought of all those people dying in agonizing pain, only to wake up in Hell where they will suffer even more agonizing pain for all eternity.

Yeah, I know, I should stop with those kinds of visuals, but given the RTC subculture's hang-ups about sex, how whenever a scandal happens, it's always about sex, I just can't resist. Constantly label natural physical urges as evil and berate people for having them or enjoying them and of course, horrible shit is going to happen.

[TANGENT] So when the Duggar Family Scandal became public, I honestly wasn't surprised. I kind of figured at some point, a scandal would befall that family and it would be about sex. The only surprising part for me was that it involved Josh Duggar. I kind of figured it would involve Jim Bob, the proud patriach. Figured with Michelle hitting menopause and him being a famous patriarch in a subculture where men are praised for the number of children they sire, we'd wind up with a Papa Pilgrim scandal on our hands. No points for guessing that Jim Bob would play the part of Papa Pilgrim in this scenario.

I also worried for Michelle's mental state as she hit menopause. She's part of a subculture where her value is tied up in the number of kids she produces, so what's it going to be like when she can no longer produce kids? Granted, she can rest on her laurels for a while, but y'know eventually some maternal specimen will break her record, and Michelle Duggar will no longer be the shining star of the Quiverfull/Gothardite/whatever the hell they call themselves subculture.

But y'know how it is. No matter how much they smile and talk about how happy they are, it can't mask the fear in their eyes. Eventually one of the J-slaves will escape the compound and write one helluva tell-all memoir airing their dirty laundry for all the world to see. They have gotten lucky so far, but eventually their luck is going to run out, because trying to keep a lid on all 19 kids...yeah, you'd definitely have an easier time keeping lightening in a bottle. [/TANGENT]

Like I said, not a lot to talk about in this section, but I will quote a few lines that made me compose screaming rants inside my head for several minutes.

Tom and Josey Fogarty darted across the street, heading for safety with their little boy, Ryan.

If you read this series the way the RTCs read the Bible, by picking it up and turning willy-nilly to whatever passage you want, without any regard to the larger context or what happens before or after, this line seems pretty innocuous: some parents running around trying to protect their son.

But since I actually did read what came before all I'm saying, I'm fighting the urge to keep all my ragedumps in text form rather than screaming them out loud. Because I'm not at the point in life where I can afford to alienate everyone in my day to day life yet. I'm angry because once again, THOSE WORTHLESS FUCKERS FORGOT ABOUT CHERYL AKA BABY RYAN'S BIOLOGICAL MOTHER! AKA THE WOMEN WHO GESTATED HIM AND WAS FORCED TO GIVE HIM UP BECAUSE EVERYONE AROUND HER FELT THAT SHE WOULD BE A BAD MOTHER AND DECIDED WHO WOULD ADOPT HER BABY, WITHOUT ANY INPUT FROM HER! AND WHEN CHERYL HAD THE NERVE TO DECIDE THAT MAYBE, JUST MAYBE AS RYAN'S MOTHER, SHE SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO BE A BIGGER PART OF HIS LIFE AND IN A MOMENT OF DESPERATION, SHE TOOK HER KID AND RAN OFF! ONLY TO BE FORCED TO (probably in an off-screen patronizing lecture where they went for her raw emotional wounds and brought Zod in on air support to drive the point home) MEEKLY GIVE BACK HER CHILD AND ACCEPT THAT SHE WAS SILLY AND FOOLISH FOR THINKING THAT AS HIS MOTHER, MAYBE SHE HAD SOME RIGHTS TO HER CHILD!

:deep breath: I'm sorry, but the Cheryl subplot just never stops pissing me off. I should probably clarify that I am not opposed to adoption. I know that sometimes it's the best option available. What I am opposed to his the way people romanticize it, the way RTCs act like it's a cure-all for all unwanted pregnancies.

Because even under the best of circumstances, even when the woman made the choice to relinquish her kid of her own free will and no one tricked her or used God to shame her into it (because as many of the links in my Cheryl posts will tell, Christian-run adoption agencies generally have a bad record of preying on poor and desperate people), the idea that RTCs have, that a woman can go through nine months of pregnancy culminating in a God-only-knows how long labor, pop out the kid, and skip merrily out the door and spend the rest of her life believing that this period of her life didn't happen, isn't true. There's the obvious problem that even under the best of circumstances, pregnancy takes a physical toll on a woman (yeah, it's a natural process but so is death and we don't pretend that it doesn't matter), and even again, if she chose to give up her child willingly and wasn't shamed or tricked into doing so, it's not a matter of picking up where she left off. The woman in question will have to forever accept this part of her life happened, accept that even if she does settle down and start a family of her own, she has a kid out there that may come looking for her. No matter what paperwork she signed, it doesn't change the fact that she had a child. When she signed the documents, that kid may have legally become the other couple's child, but it will still always be hers from a biological standpoint and the adoptive parents will have to accept that.

Anyway, Cheryl gets such a raw deal from the characters of this series that I am contemplating making her part of the League of Awesome. Once she joins the League, I see her basically being Sarah Connor. After experiencing horrific trauma, at the hands of her loving RTC friends, she trains and takes a level in badass, in order to get her child back and protect him from evil forces trying to destroy him. Eventually she'll show on the Tribbles' doorsteps and be like "You took my son. I want him back," and cut a swathe of destruction through any RTCs dumb enough to stand in her way.

But to back up my assertion that no one bothers to remember Cheryl's existence, I used the "Search Inside this Book" feature. Apparently she's mentioned once, at the very end, when the RTCs are romping around in paradise, now that God's killed everybody they hate. So I don know what this means for her potential league membership. Maybe if I think long enough, I can explain this away through the power of Discontinuity. Because it is a beautiful thing.

Oh and for the record, as far as I'm concerned, there were only two Terminator movies. Because James Cameron realized that the first two movies did such a good job telling a compelling story that there was no need to run the franchise into the ground by creating sequels that completely undermine the original good films in the series. So in other words, Sarah Connor remains a badass played by Linda Hamilton.

Goddangit! I rambled on so long that y'all are contemplating showing up on my porch step with a brick. Okay one last line from the section, then I swear I'll move on.

“I believe we’re protected!” Enoch yelled behind them. “None of the judgments from heaven harmed God’s people! We bear his mark, his seal! He will protect us!”


But I imagine if I were to show them this clip from Barefoot Gen, make them sit through it from beginning to end, then afterwards asked, "Okay so what did all the Children of the Goats do to deserve to something that's basically Hiroshima X 10 in your books?" I can't imagine an answer they would give that wouldn't be either weaselly or sociopathic as hell. In fact, they'd probably be offended that I should them that clip in the first place. Yeah, the US dropped bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing many people whose only crime was being in the wrong country at the wrong time in a very horrible manner, but did you have to show them all the blood and guts and suffering? It's just so unseemly and it offends their delicate sensibilities so very much.

I suppose I should have done trigger warnings or something regarding that link to Barefoot Gen, but I've linked to it in the past and I don't really think all the trigger warnings in the world would do much to soften the Holy Shit?! High-Octane Nightmare Fuel! nature of that clip. Besides in all honesty, I think more people should see it. Keep thinking maybe I should stop fighting my nature tendencies towards supervillainy, kidnap every idiot who rants about how we should bomb 'em all and let God sort 'em out, tie them down, force their eyes open, and make them watch that clip like something about A Clockwork Orange. Because it would be nice if people would remember that more than just that one guy you hate lives in whatever Country they're clamoring to convert to nuclear vapor. Given that research dating back to 2010 says that there are some 1.6 Billion Muslims worldwide, comprising about 23% of the total population of the human race as a whole, maybe you should consider that before you start saying things like "Now the only question is how many more dead bodies will have to pile up at home and abroad before we crush the vicious seed of Ishmael in Jesus name?"

And if you're wondering, I found that previous link much more disturbing than the clip from Barefoot Gen, especially since he and his supporters can't see why slaughtering some 1.6 Billion people for the crime of believing something different from you, qualifies as genocide. But it's probably one of those things, where it's only genocide if it's the wrong people being killed for the wrong reasons. So ISIS killing people in the name of Allah is wrong, but if some a-hole took that editorialist at his word and slaughtered Muslims in the name of Christianity, it would be okay.

:deep breath: Damn, I keep going into such damn dark territory this week. Sorry guys. I'll post a Simpsons clip to soften the emotional blow.

After Conrad's bit, we get a brief part with Lionel. He just watches meteors rain down and smash up the GC tech and, befitting his lower rank on the hierarchy, worries about Judd and Vicki. His section is shorter than Conrad's again making me wonder whether Conrad has ascended to a higher rank in the LB-verse.

The chapter ends with Judd and Vicki. Again meteors are hitting and Fulcire and his group of soldiers are all going "Holy shit!" while Judd and Vicki smile smugly. Judd and Vicki hide under the truck and talk about how this was all predicted. Vicki claims that it was predicted in Isaiah, but not only does she not give chapter and verse numbers so anyone reading the book can verify, she doesn't mention a single word of the verse that's supposed to predict all this. Just basically says, "Isaiah predicted it," and moves on. So if any of my readers doubted my assertion that for all their blather about how everyone should read their Bible and it's so important to read the Bible, RTCs don't really mean it, this should prove it once and for all.

Anyway, Judd and Vicki escape in the darkness and aren't particularly bothered by Fulcire and his goons dying horribly and that's it for this week. Sorry about the thread title. I know it's a blatant steal from Fred, but I couldn't think of anything this week and it seemed to work.

*I honestly wonder if at some point, given what has been revealed about the sport of Football (turns out taking repeated blows to the head is actually a bad thing), if Football will lose the command it has on American culture. Because it wasn't always the most important sport ever! For a while, Boxing was the sport that everyone followed and talked about in America. So I can see something similar happening with Football, where it doesn't cease to exist, but given the misgivings people now have about the sport, it no longer commands the attention it used to.

**As someone who writes and reads Young Adult Literature, I am very familiar with this attitude. Seems like every week there's an article published about what's wrong with Young Adult lit written by someone who hasn't read any Young Adult titles published in the past ten years, and the extent of their research involved making a cursory glance at the Young Adult section at Barnes & Noble. From there, they make sweeping generalizations about the trends of Young Adult lit. Because a Very Serious Person such as themselves feels no need to bother themselves with something silly like talking to the people currently reading and writing Young Adult literature; what could they possibly know about the subject? It's something they just can't be bothered with, just like they apparently can't grasp such esoteric concepts as inflation, change, and the inexorable passage of time, making it so that the current crop of young peoples' experiences aren't one hundred percent identical to yours. Because we all know that this current crop young people are the worst, so unlike how you were when you were a kid. When you were a kid, you ate vegetables like Lay's Potato Chips, always obeyed authority figures and never did anything that upsetted them in the slightest. You never imbibed a drop of alcohol before you were of legal age, were always home before curfew, and buried yourself in unreadable tomes like Moby Dick. Kids these days, what with their crazy insistence on not obsequiously worshipping authority figures and wanting to read books about characters whose thoughts and experiences they can relate to, rather than unreadable classics dating back to the 19th century at the latest.