Sunday, August 28, 2016

Looked from pig to man and from man to pig, but already it was impossible to say which was which.

All right, let's do this thing.

If someone were to put a gun to my head and was like, "All right, which trope in story-telling pisses you off the most?", more and more, I'd say, with little hesitation, "The Informed Attribute." Because if someone has to inform me, at every opportunity they can, that Character X is a genius, even despite however many times Character X makes mistakes that a reasonably bright fifth-grader wouldn't, then they've failed. Saying something is X many times, does not make it so! Or to lace it with the gratuitous pop culture references, telling me that nu!Trek Kirk is the greatest leader ever, won't cancel out the many times all his decisions end badly and he's just a smirking douche towards everyone around him!

I'm bringing this up because they keep saying things like the opening line to this week's chapter:

CAMERON WILLIAMS was convinced that in a thousand years he would never get used to the bizarre supernaturalism of everyday living now.

Like I keep screaming at both Ellanjay and the GOP, saying something is so, does not, in fact, make it so!

Cam-Cam and Chloe are meeting up with Abdullah and his wife and kids. Abdullah is a character from the adult books, whereas I snarked and finished the kids version, so hardcore fans, forgive me if I get stuff wrong. But then again, given that all characters in Left Behind, exist to reflect the eternal glory that is Bucky-Boy and Ray-Ray and have no other traits aside from showing how good Bucky-boy and Ray-Ray are, I probably won't make too many egregious errors.

The former Jordanian fighter pilot and eventual convert— after he lost Yasmine and their children to the Rapture— quickly told Cameron of the glorious reunion with his family. “And, as you know, marriage is not the same as it was before all this. Which, in our case, is fortunate.”


Maybe the backstory is that Abdullah was unfaithful or treated his wife horribly, because as one of the scary Ay-Rab Moooslims (and you just know that Ellanjay are one of those idiots that use "Arab" and "Muslim" interchangeably, not realizing that one is a racial term and the other is a religious one), there's no way he could have been a good husband and father, but my kneejerk response is, again, "Poor Yasmine and Poor Beverly LaHaye and Poor [Insert Jerry Jenkins Wife's Name because I'm too lazy to look it up]." Like I keep saying, given who she's married to, you can't really blame Beverly LaHaye for taking advantage of whatever opportunities she could, to escape from Tim. Blame her for a lot of other things, but a thousand mile move is a little understandable in her case.

And we get some descriptors of Abdullah's kids:

Bahira was a beautiful, tan-faced girl who took after her mother; Zaki was darker, like Abdullah, and seemed shy, if not aloof. They were fourteen and thirteen in real years, but their new bodies reminded Chloe of how her little brother, Raymie— twelve at the time of the Rapture— looked now, as though he were in his midtwenties.

Wait I thought the magical age in the MK was 32 and everyone would look like they were 32 for all eternity. Unless they, like Ray-Ray, both managed to miss the Rapture and survive the entire tribulation. People like Ray-Ray will continue to age at the same rate for 1000 years until TurboJesus drags Satan out of Hell, where he's been proclaiming "Jesus is Lord" for the past 1000 years, just so he can put Satan back in there and let him proclaim some more.

So in Ray-Ray's case, I'm going to be like, "Ever read any myths from Ancient Greece? Good. Then this will all be new to you.

Ray-Ray aside, there are some real interesting implications to get into with this "Everybody's Forever Young" bit. Raymie was twelve when the Rapture happened, but in the afterlife, he gets aged up so he's perpetually thirty-two. Or in other words, he becomes an adult without any of the crucial formative years and experiences in between.

But it becomes even creepier when you think of the unborn. In one of the prequels, a woman meets up with a daughter who she had aborted. Said daughter is aged up to thirty-two and has totally forgiven her mother. So we all know that Ellanjay consider each and every unborn child, be it fetus or embryo, to be a person, equivalent in value to a living, thirty-one year-old me.

But like I said, given their kneejerk opposition to any form of birth control, combined with the fact that as many as three-fourths of all fertilized eggs will fail to implant on the uterine wall...yeah, there's really no way this can't be any more disturbingly Orwellian or like something out of a Brave New World, with God basically creating personalities from scratch for people who never actually experienced anything, never breathed the open air or felt the sun on their skin.

Plus, given that in the prequel, the lady's aborted baby bears no grudge against its mama and has been enjoying romping in the eternal, golden bliss of Heaven, whereas if her mother hadn't gotten an abortion, aborted baby might have grown up and fallen away from the church after she's too old to squeak by the "You Must Be This Tall To Burn Forever" line and wound up in Hell. So how exactly is abortion a bad thing? Aborted baby is spared a life of pain and suffering and goes straight to Heaven, and its Mama doesn't have to deal with pregnancy, which takes a toll under even the best of circumstances, to say nothing of the assorted irritations that come with having a kid. So it all works out well for everyone, making me reiterate my question: How is abortion a bad thing?

Plus, since Ellanjay believe that no sin, however great, can permanently separate someone from God, so long as they seek forgiveness for it, couldn't someone who got an abortion, just ask for forgiveness afterwards and be totally free and clear? The unborn's eternal soul is saved and so is the mother's. A win-win all around.

All right, I'll stop talking about abortion and move on.

TurboJesus continues to walk around, talking about how great everything is, spitting out random biblical quotations like a poorly programmed AI. I keep saying we should be grateful that Ellanjay were too wussy to have TurboJesus and Zod speak in anything but quotes from the Bible, because otherwise there would have been a scene where TurboJesus or Zod started sobbing, because they wish they could be as manly as Ray-Ray and Cam-Cam. But I'm wondering if that scene would be more or less entertaining than what we're actually getting. Just know that I totally picture Jerry Jenkins sitting around going "Buck Williams...he's the man, whose name you'd love to touch," just like Homer Simpson when he changed his name to Max Power.

And like spiritplumber said last week, those of you who have always dreamed of going to the Dead Sea, well you can kiss that goodbye, because now it's all freshwater and Woo-Hoo.

“The water that flows toward the eastern region goes down into the valley,” Jesus said, “and when it reaches the sea, its waters are healed. Every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live. There will be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters go there; for they will be healed, and everything will live wherever the river goes. But its swamps and marshes will not be healed; they will still be given over to salt. Along the bank of the river, on this side and that, will grow all kinds of trees used for food; their leaves will not wither, and they will bear fruit every month, because their water flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for medicine.”

After much googling, I discovered that TurboJesus is quoting from Ezekiel 47. Given all the trippy imagery and performance art in the Book of Ezekiel, it continually disappoints me that Ellanjay stick to the last eight chapters, aka the most boring parts of Ezekiel. I've more or less accepted that they aren't going to touch Amos, because he's so plain-spoken you really can't twist his words to mean anything other than what he says they mean, but I thought they'd be totally on board with the bizarre imagery of Ezekiel. I thought they liked the books of the Bible where they can twist the imagery to mean whatever the heck they want it to mean.

I'll let the geography buffs take a crack at pointing out all the flaws. Because I believe in knowing your limits and I know mine and wouldn't be able to do a good teardown.

Anyway, some more world-building before we cut to Token Jew.

The idea of so much water in this desert fascinated Cameron. He had spent a lot of time in this region during the Tribulation and had often wondered what it would look like if there had been enough irrigation.

Jesus said, “I will give the rain for seeds sown and bread of the increase of the earth. It will be fat and plentiful. Cattle will feed in large pastures. There will be on every high mountain and on every high hill rivers and streams of waters. Waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert. The parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water.”

Oh, Ellanjay, how you show your ignorance with every line you write. Because the reason Israel doesn't look like Iowa isn't just because of not enough irrigation. Certain plants require a specific kind of soil in order to grow and most food crops demand so much by way of nutrition that trying to grow them out in the freaking desert...let's just say you'd start to think that Sisyphus got off easy. He just has to push a boulder up a hill.

Because in all this talk about farming and whatnot, y'know Ellanjay is envisioning something similar to the system we've got now, massive industrial agriculture, where rather than take in account the environment you're in (no matter how much we try to pretend otherwise, Arizona and Massachusetts are two different environments with different needs) and plan accordingly, you just plant the same five crops and slather everything with petroleum-based pesticides and fertilizers, without any consideration as to the needs of the soil or environment you're in.

Well, okay, I suppose since this is the MK, which is supposed to be Heaven, no matter how unappealing it sounds, Ellanjay would say that they no longer need to worry about pests or disease destroying the crops or leeching the nutrition from the soil. Fair enough. But what gets me is how damn boring and unappealing everything must look.

Since the closest Ellanjay have every been to a farm is when they are speeding down a highway, I'm assuming the farms in the MK would look much like the ones along the highway, where like I said, it's just the same variety of wheat or corn as far as the eye can see. You know if I were to say anything about permaculture or any other more sustainable and aesthetically-appealing means of farming, they'd look at me all blankly.

But I keep thinking, "Y'know this is supposed to be paradise and they're supposed to be here forever, so wouldn't the MK dwellers, given that they don't have to worry as much about food, want to really go all out on aesthetics?" I wouldn't object too much to farming and taking care of animals in paradise, but there is something to be said for aesthetics. Wouldn't you want to go all out, take advantage of unlimited resources to create something truly spectacular in its beauty? Create the greatest, lushest, most verdant, a veritable forest of a garden and do what you can to breed and produce even more beautiful plants. Because if I'm going to be stuck in a place for a while, I'd like for there to be something pretty to look at, like a big, shady tree or something. I know humans don't need beauty to live, the way they do food, shelter, and water, but there is something to be said for it. It is a psychological comfort and don't underestimate the appeal of psychological comforts.

One final quibble before I shut up and move onto Token Jew's part: I thought that Chaim's magical all-purpose fertilizer made Israel the leading producer of food in the world, made every square inch overflow with crops, so what's all Cam-Cam's talk about Israel being a desert? Well, okay, given the numerous Acts of God back to back, I imagine that the landscape would take one helluva of a it and basically be Hiroshima, circa August of 1945, but still.

Anyway, now to Token Jew:

Tsion Ben-Judah felt particularly privileged as one of the chosen people and a tribulation martyr. Of most interest to him on this day at the cusp of the Millennium was to try to understand how the Old Testament law would mesh with the work of Christ on the cross. How thrilling to learn that the glory of the Lord would fill the temple and that the Mosaic laws would be observed— even the sacrifices. Every year they would observe both Passover (the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread) and the Feast of Tabernacles. No lamb would be slain at Passover, thus making plain and memorializing annually that Jesus had been the perfect and once-for-all sacrifice for the sins of the world. And for these observances, even the Gentile nations would be required to have representatives sojourn to the temple.

Oh boy, so much to work with. But the biggest thing that keeps making be go all "WTF?!" is all the stuff about Old Testament Law. When has Token Jew been shown practicing Old Testament law? I thought that immediately upon converting, he would realize, "Okay, so all the stuff about bacon and shellfish has been overturned 'Because Jesus That's Why!' but that one verse about homosexuality is sacred and must stand for all time."

Yeah, there's a whole lot of stuff we could take on with this Old Testament law bit, but I'm thinking mostly on the stuff related to food, about keeping Kosher and all that. Even though Ellanjay probably wouldn't object to stoning your teenage son for disobedience. I'm just wondering if this is supposed to be another detail of the MK: everybody keeps Kosher, even if they didn't while on Earth.

Though that might answer the conundrum I had regarding pigs. I'd been wondering what their place was in the millennial kingdom, because unlike cows and chickens, pigs are bred strictly for their meat, but if everybody's a vegetarian, nobody gets any bacon. Though that's true if everybody's Kosher, now. I just wonder how many of Ellanjay's supporters would collectively lose their shit if they're told "Congratulations, you don't get bacon cheeseburgers or Easter hams in Heaven."

And I know I'm anal-retentive as hell, but I keep thinking about this stuff because Ellanjay give me nothing else to think about. I also find myself wondering about what happens with male livestock in the MK. Because basic knowledge regarding livestock is that you keep only a few males around to impregnate the ladies. The rest are gelded (or castrated to be blunt) and sold for meat. Bulls are famously ill-tempered, but anyone whose raised chickens will tell you that if you have more than one rooster hanging around the hen house, said roosters will indulge in an activity that's currently illegal in all 50 states of the US, with little if any prompting from the humans.

So I'm wondering what is happening to all the male animals in the MK? Because the humans aren't eating meat anymore, but neither are the predatorial animals, so if the herbivores are still humping and reproducing at the same rate, with all their young surviving to produce even more young, yeah, I'm wondering how long until the MK smells worse than the Augean Stables.

Okay, I suppose the animals, like the humans, no longer need to have sex and poop. Fine. But I'll still question why the hell, they are even around in paradise, because it's probably safe to say that the tribbles don't decide, "Y'know, I always wanted to learn everything I could about grizzly bears and now I can, since they no longer attack people." I know I should stop with all the gratuitous Simpsons references, even though I am more Simpsons references than man, but if animals in the MK were like the ones in The Simpsons' Garden of Eden, it would make so much more sense.

Though I'm going to assume that Ellanjay never define who or what these nations are. Yeah in the next paragraph, they talk about the twelve tribes of Israel, but they are aware that ten of said tribes disappeared during the Babylonian Captivity, probably marrying into other populations and ceasing to carry on the Israelite identity. It was kind of standard protocol back then. If the other guys conquered you, their god or gods were clearly mightier, so you better abandon your faith/identity and get on the winning side, if you want your life to be somewhat comfortable.

Though the next paragraph which begins with "Tsion was dizzied"? You have no idea how long I spent, shaking my head at that line. Maybe it's because I'm an anal retentive English Major, but I was like, "Seriously, you couldn't have thought of another way of conveying this?" Ah heck, I'll give up and let Inigo Montoya speak for me.

Then we cut back to Cam-Cam to hear TurboJesus talk about the new government.

Jesus said, “The Lord is King over all the peoples of the earth. The Lord is one, and His name one.”

And yet it soon became clear that Jesus, while the ultimate sovereign, would not be ruling alone. He began calling out from the multitudes counselors from each tribe who would adjudicate all matters among the citizens. These would serve as judges who would report to the ultimate judge of each tribe, one of the twelve apostles. Cameron thrilled to see these heroes of his faith take their places with Jesus in the temple.

Then the Lord explained that the judges would report to the king of Israel— in this case, Jesus’ prince, David himself.

So even though TurboJesus and Zod are supposed to be all-powerful and all-knowing, apparently they need to delegate. Though in all this talk about Judges, I'm the one who is going, "Even Deborah?" I often wonder how RTCs handle her, because Deborah clearly had no problem holding authority over a man and chewing out Baruch when he screwed up. I'm assuming they skim over Deborah, especially the part of the story with Jael. Who knows what lessons the young ladies might take from the story of Jael? Even though, "Sometimes you must drive a tent spike through an asshole's head," is probably a lesson that all children would benefit from hearing.

And of course, this government is imposed from above, with none of the populace being allowed to vote or have any say on who will represent them as judges. But Ellanjay would probably be appalled if we used words like "Junta" or "Dictatorship" or "Autocracy" to describe this government. Because again, they have nothing wrong with tyranny, so long as it's being done by the right people for the right reasons.

Though of course, Ellanjay would envision the glorious kingdom of heaven as having all the hierarchies (and by extension, the inequalities, because anytime there's a hierarchy, inequality goes hand in hand). Yeah, I know it's the same in the Bible in that none of the prophets can imagine a world where there isn't a king who rules above all, but I'm willing to cut the prophets some slack; they were living in the Bronze Age and they at least produced some beautiful writing. Because there's no reason why there has to be a stratified hierarchy except that Ellanjay are unimaginative. Why not have everyone broken down into small tribes, with each living and conducting their own affairs as they see fit, though occasionally working together in Iroquois Confederation-style alliances?

That's something I find myself thinking about in these books. Ellanjay probably are the type who believe that life, back in the era of the hunter-gatherers, was brutish and short, but archeological evidence doesn't hold that to be true. In all likelihood, humans enjoyed a longer, healthier, overall happier lives, before the advent of agriculture. Most of the stuff we complain about in civilization, the constant warfare, hard labor, and massive divisions between the upper and bottom rungs of society, didn't really emerge until the advent of agriculture. As soon as you start dividing up the land, saying things like, "This belongs to us and no one else!" you find yourselves in a helluva lot more fights than in the days of hunting and gathering, where if you crossed a group of jerks, you either drove them off or they drove you off and hey it wasn't too big a deal; there were plenty other places to hunt that animal or eat that fruit.

I know, everyone's getting tired of the philosophical lectures, but give me a little credit. Earlier in the snark, when Cam-Cam was narrating about how he always wondered what the deserts would look like if properly irrigated, I found myself fighting the urge to do a lecture about the !Kung. For those too lazy to click on the link, the !Kung are a group of hunter-gatherers who live in the Kalahari desert on the continent of Africa. The Kalahari is considered to be one of the most harsh, inhospitable environments on Earth. Yet studies have shown that far from living lives of constant struggle, pain, and misery, the !Kung actually spend fewer hours working than your so-called civilized men. Supposedly when droughts struck ranchers living near the area, many of the ranchers would choose to defect and join them, because they were attracted to the lives of leisure led by the !Kung.

Okay some of you are going, "But I don't particularly want to live in a desert." And hey, I respect that. I'm bringing up all this stuff to again, illustrate how disturbingly unimaginative Ellanjay are, that they can't envision any society where everyone's roughly equal and no rules are imposed without the agreement of everyone, and citizens are free to devote their time and labor to whatever activities they wish, so long as it doesn't harm the tribe. There will probably be mentions later on of taxes and prices, because the idea of trading and bartering without having to spend time collecting pretty paper or metal to get stuff? That's unpossible!

Though the simplest explanation is probably the old adage from Animal Farm: we are all equal, but some are more equal than others. No matter how much Ellanjay talk about how we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, Ellanjay can't envision a world where they aren't the biggest cheeses around.

We cut to Token Jew. All he does in this section is watch David wail out the 51st Psalm. Naturally the way Ellanjay stave it, with David wailing and acting so pathetic that you want to slap him so he'd shut up, robs the 51st Psalm of much of its emotional power.

A common mistake that many make, is that they treat all parts of the Bible the same, reading the histories and genealogies and poetry all the same, with no acknowledgement of any differences. Even though with modern literature, there's the understand that a novel and a poem are two different forms with different rules, and of course, there are differences between genres. A Young Adult Science Fiction Novel has different rules and conventions from a tender, coming-of-age literary novel meant for grownups.

Psalms were basically hymns or prayers, so while there may be an element of truth in them, they aren't literally true the way a history book is. Myself, I envision the 51st psalm as something composed out of fear and desperation, the kind of prayer made in the dead of night or the heat of a crisis. It'd be the kind of cry where the only ones who would hear it, outside of David and God, would be maybe a few servants in the background. The point is that a psalm like that would be very different in style and tone and treated very differently, than one of the other psalms that were clearly composed as hymns of praise, meant to be performed before an audience in religious ceremonies.

Of course, the order of the Psalms does come across as kind of arbitrary and weird at times. Everyone knows the 23rd Psalm, but ever read the one before it? Because there's some serious mood whiplash going on there. In Psalm 22, the psalmist is all "Why has God forsaken me?" which is very different from the 23rd which is all "The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want."

But like I said, in staging the scene the way they did, Ellanjay rob David's words of their power and make him sound whiny. I'm going to assume that they won't even get into any of the stories involving David's family. The whole thing with Absalom and all...David's family sounds like a Bronze Age version of something you'd see on the Jerry Springer show.

TurboJesus is all "Hey, we're cool, bruh." We then cut to Ray-Ray as TurboJesus explains how things will go down in the MK. Because it was vitally important to switch to Ray-Ray's POV; we couldn't have possibly told the next scene from Cam-Cam or Token Jew's perspective. The characters are so distinct in their personalities that this closing bit could only have been told through Ray-Ray's eyes.

TurboJesus just quotes more and more Bible verses. Because Ellanjay haven't heard of one of the principle rules of any entertainment: Don't remind the readers of better entertainment they could be enjoying. Because this is some good stuff, but it was better when it was Isaiah saying it, inside the original context he intended.

But Ray-Ray is confused and seeks out Token Jew for comfort.

Just what did it mean, Rayford wondered, that “the child shall die one hundred years old, but the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed”? Back on the causeway with Tsion, he sought the older man’s opinion.

“No one born during the time of the kingdom will die before age one hundred,” Tsion said. “And when one dies, he will be considered young, for everyone else will live for the entire Millennium. And you know, Rayford, the only ones who will die will be Gentiles who do not trust Christ for their salvation.”

I know, I know, it's really unseemly to toot one's own horn, but Ellanjay have just confirmed that no one can die in the MK until their 100th birthday, thus making all my advice in this post, totally valid. So let me reiterate to all the COT: go ahead and sin your hearts out. Have sex as act of mutual love and pleasure, rather than just for reproductive purposes alone. Get drunk or try out whatever mind-altering substances you want.

Heck, with no death around, if you've always wanted to try Banzai Skydiving or BASE Jumping or some kind of extreme sport, but you've held back out of fear of, y'know, dying, now that's no longer a problem. So my advice to the COT: do whatever you want. Just make sure to say The Prayer before you go to bed on the night before your birthday. Though I'm not sure if this whole "Die on Your 100th Birthday" thing also takes into account time zones, so be careful.

Though I'm going to guess this whole "No Death" rule won't be touched on at all. Even though you can't tell me that there won't be a few people who'd take advantage of the opportunity to live out their Deadpool or Wolverine fantasies.

Ray-Ray asks the obvious question: Why would one of the COT not believe/trust in Christ? And we get an answer, which to no one's surprise, is pure weaksauce, that I'm posting because it really needs to be seen to be believed.

“Amazing. But then, even among us Gentiles, how could a child born into this new world ever choose not to trust Christ?”

“It’s a mystery,” Tsion said. “Imagine— children of the Tribulation, when they reach an age of understanding and, thus, accountability, become the only unregenerate persons alive. And each one born here— without birth pangs, according to the prophecies— still must come to a place of repentance and a decision to become a follower of Christ.”

“Then that person would be raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, would live in the physical presence of Christ, and would be influenced not only by his immediate family but also by every other person with whom he comes into contact.”

Tsion nodded. “And yet the Scriptures are clear that at the end of all this, Satan is loosed again for a little while to tempt the nations, and the army he amasses is as numerous as the sand on the seashores. So not only will there be those who choose their own ways, there will be countless numbers of them.”

“Hard to imagine.”

“Especially now, when everyone you see is either a believer or too young to be accountable.”

:headdesk: Like I said, they don't even try to come up with an explanation. There really isn't anything you can do with this kind of laziness except stare in appalled horror, because They Just Didn't Care.

Again, if the rebellion that comes up later on was like ako's "Children of the Goats," it would work. But it's not, because Ellanjay Just Did Not Care!

We end with this charming bit.

On the one hand, Rayford was grateful that such a return to the hatred and rebellion of his former life would not occur for a thousand years. On the other, he shuddered to realize that very soon, this idyllic kingdom would begin to become populated by those who— against all odds and all reason— would eventually spawn the fire of war that the evil one would fuel.

Uh, Satan only gets out of Hell, because God lets him out. After he lets Satan out, God proceeds to punt him back in again. So yeah, FAIL!

And that's it for this week. I'll try to cut down on the philosophical discourses, but I like to think that while I'm being preachy, I'm not dull. And of course, if you think I'm full of it, feel free to let loose in the comments.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

This New House Don't Know Its Children

Hey everybody!

Anyway, some writing advice for Ellanjay, but really it can apply to anyone who reads my blog: unless you are really, really talented, enough that you spend your days fondling your many Bookers or Pulitzer Prizes*, know when to fade to black or white, in this case. We all know that Ellanjay are...well, I'd call them hacks, but that feels like an insult to hacks like Dan Brown. Dan Brown, for all his faults, at least delivers on what he promises; he promises a decent pot-boiler with which to pass the time and that's what you get. But Ellanjay can't deliver on anything they promise.

I'm thinking of a part from the first book of the adult series. Bruce "Useless" Barnes said there would be a meeting for all the disenchanted and the skeptics to air their views. So both Fred and I, naïve fools that we were, looked forward to seeing the writers try to polish their turd-ish beliefs. Only for the meeting to take place entirely off-page, without us getting any opportunity to hear about what was said. Even though that kind of scene, it's the kind of low-hanging fruit that RTC fiction loves to handle. They can set up their strawmen, representing the people they don't like, and knock 'em down, easy as that. It's a nice bit of revenge porn for RTCs.

But Ellanjay are too lazy to even bother to emulate Jack Chick. And at least, Jack Chick has that kind of gonzo insanity you can't help but enjoy and I can't help but be like, "How come I didn't know about Jack Chick until the Internet came along?! This is vital information people need to know, dammit!"**

Anyway my incredibly rambling point is that Ellanjay, despite being the laziest mothereffers ever, decide to take on a task that has stymied even great writers: describing transcendent, earth-shattering joy beyond anything humans have ever experienced. Naturally, they fail miserably, because like I said, it would be a hard thing for even great writers to do. Pain is fairly easy to conceive and write about. Maybe George RR Martin hasn't ever actually had his hand looped off like Jaime Lannister, but he's probably experienced some other stuff that really sucked and using those experiences, combined with a little research, he can write about what it's like for Jaime. For the record, these two cartoons? Totally my headcanon as to why Martin is taking so damn long with the new books. To be fair, if my fanbase was as large and insane as his, I'd be unable to resist punking with them a little.

And of course, there are many different kinds of pain that can be described in so many ways: shooting pain, stabbing pain, aching pain, exhaustion, anguish, etc. But good stuff like happiness and joy...there really isn't much you can say about them, except that they're good. And maybe that's all fine and good for the fictional character, because they're having fun and being happy, but it's not so much for the reader who's bored out of their gourd. Because there's only so much fun you can have from watching someone else have fun and hearing them talk about how much fun they're having. It's even worse with these books, because Ellanjay steadfastly refuse to let the readers see anything. It's like seeing someone's vacations slides with some jerk standing in front of the projector so you can't even see the stuff the guy's going on and on about.

Anyway they're sitting around, eating their Steaming Piles of Fresh Produce (no, I will never let that go. Deal with it.). As always, Ellanjay do the classic Informed Attribute bit where they hope that if they merely say something enough times, it will magically make what they're saying true.

She was able to describe the very portals of the house of God, a great, cathedral-like expanse where the redeemed of the ages were arrayed in purest white, comprising all those born again between Pentecost and the Rapture, marshaling expectantly in a staging area.

“You’d have to have been there yourself to see the limits of this seemingly endless throng. The thrill, the anticipation, were palpable as this bride of Christ readied herself to be presented to the Bridegroom.

As always, criticisms go from minor to major.

First of all, "marshaling expectantly?!" What the heck does that even mean? Marshaling has military connotations, though it could also mean gathering people together. Expectantly is an adverb akin to expectant, like they are waiting. But even though, I know what these words mean, by putting them together, somehow Ellanjay have transcended language and created corporate buzzwords that sound important but really mean nothing.

And of course, rather than just say "Cathedral" they have to put "like" on the end. I wonder if it's a sign of Ellanjay's anti-Catholicism, which they, like a lot of people on the Right, try to camouflage now that Roe v. Wade has forced them into an uneasy alliance. Both sides still hate each other, but they know they need the other sides' numbers to win. So they bite their tongues and pretend like they don't.

But given what I've seen of Protestant Megachurches vs. Catholic terms of architecture, gotta give it to the Catholics. They knew that if you are going to call a place the house of God, not only should it be big and have plenty of seats, you should be able to tell, just by looking on the outside that this building is a sacred place. Whether you believe or not, those old medieval cathedrals are instantly recognizable as churches, whereas many Megachurches could pass as shopping malls, were it not for the cross outside.

Like I keep saying, most of the good Christian art was produced back when the Church was the only game in town for artists. And while I'm glad to have democracy and not live in a theocracy, when you compare Christian Art of Today to, say, the Sistine Chapel, the contrast is so wrong that all you can do is give anguished howls in protest.

Have to admit, the biggest amusement I got from this section where Irene keeps talking about the Wedding of the Bride and the Bridegroom is, of course, related to Ho Yay. I'm sure Ellanjay would be shocked and appalled, but I find myself wondering if they aren't unintentionally advocating for Gay Marriage. Because TurboJesus is supposed to be the Bridegroom in this scenario, while the Church is the bride that TurboJesus is marrying. But given that a good percentage of that crowd is made up of dudes, does that mean TurboJesus is indulging in Gay Marriage? If it's okay for TurboJesus to marry himself off to nearly every Christian Dude on the planet, why is it bad for a guy to marry a guy he's in love with?

Yeah, I know, the answer would be "Because Jesus!" It's the same justification they give for, "Okay, so God with his myriad of natural disasters has probably murdered countless unborn children in many horrible ways. But it's good, because the babies go straight to Heaven in spite of their suffering. Yet for some reason, it's wrong for a doctor to surgically abort a first-trimester embryo even though the baby will be spared pain and suffering on earth and go straight to Heaven?"

Though yeah, I'd heard the Jesus as the Bridegroom and the Church as the bride-metaphor used, through much torture of logic, to justify not allowing women to be ordained. Even though again, with their hatred of the gays, wouldn't it make more sense to only allow women to be ordained, so that Jesus isn't forced to be gay married to a dude? But in a fight between Misogyny and Homophobia, Misogyny wins out every time. Though it can be argued in large part that Homophobia simply is Misogyny with another mask. To the extent that Homophobes acknowledge the existence of Lesbians (they break blood vessels over Gay dudes but not as many over women who like women), they hate them because they are women who act too much like men. And a large reason they hate Gay dudes is because they're guys who act like women.

Yeah, I keep trying to explain to idiots on the Internet that the Patriarchy hurts men too, because like it does with women, it creates a narrow definition that says "This is what normal is and anything outside this norm, is sick and wrong." Though girls are given a little more flexibility within the patriarchy. A girl who likes traditionally male-oriented pursuits like sports or playing in the mud, is called a Tomboy. So long as some invisible fuzzy line between Acceptable and Too Far isn't crossed, it's considered cute. What do you call a boy who enjoys traditionally female-oriented pursuits like dolls or dresses? There's no male equivalent of a Tomboy; boys who like girl stuff, are called Sissies or even worse names that I'm not going to type up. Again, subtle proof that society still sees being female as undesirable and worthy of shame. Being a girl with some boyish traits is okay, but a boy with some feminine traits is an affront to all that is good and decent.

I know, too much time ranting, but this is my soapbox and I'm going to use it. Gotta problem? Get your own!

Okay, we're still technically in the 75 day run-up to the MK. Since I've already ranted about how the 75 run-up doesn't make any damn sense (like everything else in this series), I won't do it again.

Token Jew says to, and I'm using the book's words, expect something dramatic thirty days into the run-up. Irene is like "More dramatic than what we witnessed so far?" which is kind of what I was thinking, except I would have been like, "More dramatic than God swatting nukes out of the sky or bamfing people out of their clothes, or a worldwide quake, or locusts with people faces, or the lion-headed flying people-killers?!" and gone on and on like that for a while. Because, and I know this may come as a real shocker to my readers, when the dramatic stuff happens later on in this chapter, it's way more boring than any of the stuff I had mentioned in my list.

Token Jew says that he had expected to see the temple where Nicky did the abomination of the desolation or as I prefer to call it, the Epic!Pig!Ride followed by the Epic!Pig!Sacrifice, destroyed. He cites Daniel 12:11 as his justification. For those of you who clicked on the link and are like "Okay, what does that have to do with 30 days into a 75 day run-up?" you're not alone. I'm wondering the same thing. I'm honestly starting to think that Ellanjay just threw darts at random parts of the Bible, because my brain keeps crashing gears trying to work all this out. Once again, my mind went to Simpsons clips because that's how I roll. No points for guessing that in this scenario, Ellanjay are Homer.

Surprise, surprise, the temple is destroyed. Rayford then decides to visit Cam-Cam and Chloe and we get more proof that Ellanjay haven't been around actual children in their life.

By the time Rayford first visited what Cameron and Chloe had come to call COT, their temporary home was crawling with children— more than two hundred. And how they loved Cameron and Chloe!

“Some reward, eh, Dad?” Chloe said. “We were without Kenny for a little while, and now we have more loving children than we can handle. We need a structure for them.”

Speaking as someone who has been around children, if there really were over two hundred kids, all under the age of seven, hanging around, Cam-Cam and Chloe's house would no longer be standing. Since this is supposed to be paradise, I'm not going raise the obvious "200 kids!? Where the hell is everyone sleeping? What's the bathroom situation like?" objections, I'll just craft alternate scenarios where the kids are the ones from Village of the Damned and are using their scary mind-powers to subjugate the adults. I'm just saying: Children may be the future, but that doesn't mean they aren't weird as hell!

Ray-Ray spends the next forty-five days navel-gazing, wondering what the new temple will be like. Though given that the Temple was seen as God's home on Earth and they are literally seeing and talking to God and Jesus on a daily basis, why the hell would they need to build a temple?

Ray-Ray is confused about the whole sacrifices thing and how governing is supposed to work. Luckily Token Jew and Chaim, whom I'm wondering if I need to dub him Token Jew, Jr., since he exists to echo the words of Token Jew, are here to explain everything.

At another banquet of fresh fruit and steaming, buttery vegetables, he discussed this with Chaim and Tsion and Irene and several others. “Will Jesus explain it all?” Rayford said.

Chaim and Tsion nodded. “Think of Jesus Himself as the government, Rayford,” Tsion said. “He will put in place princes and governors under His authority, but obviously, everything and everybody will report to Him. Any munitions left over from anywhere on the earth will be dismantled and eliminated. The temple will be full of priests, and the nations will be called to worship and sacrifice there.”

Will give credit where credit is due: steaming, buttery vegetables sounds marginally better than Steaming Pile of Fresh Vegetables. Still think it would probably get boring as hell, eating vegetables sautéed in butter all the time and wish Ellanjay could be bothered to look up vegetarian recipes, but I'll take what progress I can get.

As for the second part where Token Jew is explaining stuff...yeah, there's really no way Ellanjay could have written that passage where it doesn't sound like God is running a theocratic dictatorship. But again, it is a reoccurring theme on the Right: they aren't opposed to oppression and persecution, so long as it is done by the right people for the right reasons and it only hurts people who "deserve it." Hence why even though the Right spent all their time railing against the Soviet Union, they have an odd love for Vladimir Putin. But that's because Putin oppresses people and runs roughshod over their rights in the name of unfettered Free Market Capitalism, unlike the Communist Dictators who did it in the name of Communism. Since Putin does it for the right cause, his actions are okay, but the Communists did it for the wrong reasons, which makes their actions wrong. Because remember the key difference between God and Satan in this book is that Satan tries to conquer the Earth and destroy all his enemies, but fails. TurboJesus, on the other hand, does the same thing, but succeeds.

Then they get called by TurboJesus. As they walk, they start noticing an odd smell and...well, I'm just going to have to share it with you.

“What is that glorious smell?” Rayford said.

Chaim pointed to the mountains and hills in the distance. “It smells like what it looks like,” he said.

“Do we have time for a detour?” Rayford said.

They left the route to the causeway, and many followed them to the foothills, where the streams had become pure white milk. Having only half finished his meal, Rayford knelt and cupped both hands in the white cascade, the icy flow hitting his taste buds like nectar.

Basically the hills are flowing with milk. I suppose I could spend so many paragraphs, trying make sense of it and figure out how this would affect plant and animal life, but I don't think I will.

[Current Politics Tangent]Instead, I'll wonder something else: Are we sure that Token Jew and Chaim are, in fact, two separate people? I have a similar question regarding Donald Trump and Boris Johnson. Given that Boris looks just like Donald, only with his hair reversed, I question the notion that they are two separate people. Has anyone ever seen Donald Trump and Boris Johnson in the same place at the same time? When they did, did you check and make sure that one of them wasn't wearing an absurdly realistic rubber mask or was an incredibly advanced android? Because looking at those two, my guess is that Donald Trump wanted to bring down two countries from within and created Boris Johnson as an alternative persona with which to do so. Or you can argue that Donald Trump is Boris Johnson's alternate persona that he created for the same reason.

Though a more important question is "Why the hideous hair?" They both have enough money to get a decent haircut, instead of sporting that thing on their heads, so why don't they? Is a good haircut an affront to the White Race or something?

For the record with Trump's hair, in the great Toupee vs. Hideous Combover debate, I'm totally on Team Hideous Combover. I refuse to believe that any toupee, even the ones so cheap and obvious they might as well have a chin strap attached to them, could be that hideous. Combover is the most logical explanation as far as I'm concerned. [/CPT]

They walk down a bit and Ray-Ray is like, "But I also smell wine." And sure enough Wine is flowing from the mountains.

Again Chaim pointed, this time past the new foothills and to the rocky elevations that surrounded the city. There, gushing down the mountainsides were deep purple channels, collecting in great, beautiful pools below.

“Do you believe this, Chaim?” Rayford said.

The older man stood staring, then quietly quoted: “ ’ And it will come to pass in that day that the mountains shall drip with new wine, the hills shall flow with milk, and all the brooks of Judah shall be flooded with water.’  ”

Given that Ellanjay's target audience is made up of people who sincerely believe that Jesus turned water into non-alcoholic grape juice at the Wedding at Cana, I'm wondering if this provoked a lot of outrage among them, a bunch of bluehairs being like, "You have good Christian characters imbibing and enjoying alcohol?! Such filth! Won't Somebody Please Think of the Children!"

The verse that Chaim is quoting is Joel 3:18. I have provided a link to the whole chapter because, like I've said before, as an English Major, I believe that context matters. Get an entirely different impression if you :gasp: actually read the verses listed before and after the 18th one.

Heck for those of you who haven't read any of the prophets because you're too intimidated to give it a shot, Joel might be a good starting place. I like Amos better myself, but Joel has his charms. The Book of Joel is only three chapters, so it's nowhere near as massive as Isaiah or any of the major prophets. I've read all the prophets books and frankly, I feel like everyone should read them. Best parts of the Bible and they inform so much of both the Jewish and the Christian Faith. Jews and Christians may interpret Isaiah differently, but we at least agree that Handel knew what he was doing when he used Isaiah's words as the libretto to The Messiah.

[Tangent Where I Shameless Self-Promote] Regarding Joel, I kind of use the closing verses of his second chapter as a source of inspiration for my currently unpublished Young Adult series. My series is Post-Apocalyptic, a genre I just have a weakness for, no matter how many bad versions proliferate. It provides some of the best places for writers to debate Morality, ask questions like "What does it mean to do the Right thing, when Society isn't around to affirm and reward my decision and heck, I may even get punished for it?" "Why should I do Good when all around me evil is winning?" Also known as the type of questions that religion has been trying to answer for ages. And of course, there are added wrinkles in that people don't behave rationally when they're hungry, sick, or scared, or all of the above.

And yeah, because my story is Post-Apocalyptic, it is pretty dark and grim, but at the same time, I like to think it is, like so many in the genre, oddly optimistic. Post-Apocalyptic fiction, despite its grim nature, holds a mostly optimistic view of human nature. The apocalypse will suck, people will die, and there will be those who become vicious gang-leaders, but there will be many more people, who will display the basic good traits that define humanity and oppose the gang-leaders. And push comes to shove, ultimately the good people will win. Yeah, I know there's Post-Apocalyptic stuff that isn't so optimistic, but overall, the genre is more optimistic than pessimistic.

Stephen King talked a little about this phenomenon in his book, On Writing, how he felt the future depicted in The Stand was strangely optimistic in spite of its horrors.

All this sounds terrible, is terrible, but to me the vision was also strangely optimistic. No more energy crisis, for one thing, no more famine, no more massacres in Uganda, no more acid rain or hole in the ozone layer. Finito as well to saber-rattling nuclear superpowers, and certainly no more overpopulation. Instead, there was a chance for humanity’s remaining shred to start over again in a God-centered world to which miracles, magic, and prophecy had returned.

I like to think I achieve something similar with my series, where there's suffering and death, no doubt about it, but at the same time, there's a very real hope that the survivors, while they won't completely rebuild within a generation, they can at least make a start for a better world. [/Self-Promotion Tangent]

TurboJesus calls everybody and is like, "Hey, check out my new digs, yo!" And yes, I did make his dialogue be the whitest white boy dialogue possible, because I'm bored and wanted to amuse myself. Because really all TurboJesus does, is lead everybody around being like, "Okay, so this is all the altars and where you offer up your offerings, bro!"

Okay, I think I'll stop with the White Boy TurboJesus before every minority in the world tries to kill me. I was a bit disappointed to Google and discover that apparently nobody has created some kind of translator where you type something and it immediately translates it into "White Boy Trying to Be Black" speak or something.

I'm assuming all this stuff about how long the Temple needs to be and the and what offerings are appropriate are from...well, I was going to say Deuteronomy because that book is frankly obsessed with measurements. And before my Jewish readers complain, I am well aware that Deuteronomy and Leviticus are very important to the Jewish faith, but to a gentile far removed from BCE-Era Israel, it's kind of dull and incomprehensible.

[Semi-Related Tangent]
Though part of me, whenever I hear about bakers refusing to make wedding cakes for Gay Marriages, wish that there would be cases where a couple comes in to order a cake and the Baker asks the man, "Have you ever touched your wife during her period of menstrual uncleanness?" And of course, the couple would both be shocked and be like, "What?! What the Hell does that have to do with us ordering a cake?" after which, the baker can be like "Sorry, but I am a big believer in Leviticus 15:24-25 which forbids a husband to touch his wife while she's menstruating and states that he will be considered unclean if he does. So if I bake a cake for you, I would clearly be lending support to your sinful lifestyle. Sorry." Because if you're going to use Leviticus to justify being an a-hole, you should commit and use all of Leviticus, not just the verse against TEH GAYS! [/SRT]

Though I will say, in fairness, that while Old Testament laws seem excessively cruel to modern day citizens, they would have been considered progressive for their time. Because these were nomadic desert tribes we're talking about. They didn't have the means like we do, to shut criminals behind bars for a few years in hopes of reforming them; every day was a struggle to survive. Hence why death or mutilation is the penalty for most criminal offenses. But Old Testament Law is more fair than Hammurabi's Code, because the Law prescribed the same punishment for everyone, regardless of class. If a Poor Dude knocked out a Rich Guy's Tooth, he had to get his tooth knocked out, but the same was true if a Rich Guy knocked out a Poor Dude's tooth, unlike Hammurabi's code where often a Rich person could get off the hook by paying a fine, but a poor guy who committed the same offense was tortured or killed.

But the verses in question are from the last eight chapters of Ezekiel, aka the stuff that's punishingly dull after all the trippy visuals and performance art.

Though I do wonder if most of the MK citizens are mostly baffled by TurboJesus's speeches. Because he keeps mentioning stuff like Levites and sons of Zadok, aka references that had very specific meanings to the ancient Israelites, but have mostly fallen into the dustbin of history in the modern day. Yeah, it's the problem we've run into before in the sections where TurboJesus is talking about bringing justice to Bozrah, which was, at one point, an actual city in the ancient world, but in the modern world, modern historians have no idea where it actually was. Like I said, it would make as much sense if they had TurboJesus walk around, babbling about bringing justice to Tenochtitlan.

Of course, Ray-Ray is still thinking (he doesn't bother to say it out loud), "Okay, so why all this talk about sacrifices? I thought the whole point of Jesus dying on the cross, was that we no longer had to perform sacrifices to earn God's favor."

Luckily for Ray-Ray, TurboJesus has an explanation at the end of the chapter that explains everything and by explains everything, I really mean, "Is a bunch of Bible-sounding gibberish that sounds like it was crafted to make things as clear as mud."

The Lord said, “The sacrifices My Father required long ago were but a shadow of these good things to come. These same sacrifices, which My chosen ones are to offer continually year by year, cannot make those who approach perfect. But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year, just as the celebration of My supper is in remembrance of the price paid of My body and of My blood. The blood of bulls and goats could never take away sins. You have been sanctified through the offering of My body once for all. And every priest daily offering repeatedly the same sacrifices can never take away sins. But after I offered one sacrifice for sins forever, I sat down at the right hand of My Father, waiting till My enemies were made My footstool. For by one offering I perfected forever those who are sanctified. My chosen ones must continue to present memorial sacrifices to Me in remembrance of My sacrifice and because they rejected Me for so long.”

I'm trying to be charitable, but I really can't help but assume that when TurboJesus says "my Chosen ones," he's really saying, "those Jewishy Jews." Because Ellanjay's most deepest desire is for the Jews to either abandon their faith and heritage and convert to Christianity, thus ceasing to exist, or they can stubbornly refuse and get pitched into hellfire for all eternity. Yet for some reason, people call Ellanjay anti-Semitic.

Or in other words, I have no great difficulty believing that Ellanjay's version of Jesus would let everyone but the Jews off the hook with the sacrifices. Have no problem believing that Ellanjay would feel that the Jews deserve to have the lesson rubbed in and would feel the sacrifices bit would work. Again, I suppose we should be grateful that the Jews in Left Behind weren't even more stereotypically Jewish. Ellanjay could have had them begin all sentences with "Oy Vey!" or all questions with "You Want?" Like have a character be like, "You want to torture us some more? Oy vey, again with all the torturing."

But then again, ever since Arynne made this comment on one of my posts...Well maybe I should post the comment first, then my ramblings.

From what I can tell, LaJenkins get around the mixed message in the "sheep and goats" judgment by making "my sisters and brothers" specifically refer to the Jewish people. Hence why all the scenes of our protagonists rescuing Jewish prisoners from the Global Community--that fulfills their obligation, so they're golden and don't have to do anything else.

Ever since that comment, I find myself wondering if LB characters do a dick check before rescuing anyone. Be like, "Yep, this one was circumcised. Therefore, we have to rescue and proselytize him." Yeah, I know for a while circumcision was performed on all babies, regardless of the parents' religious beliefs, and people have had circumcisions for health reasons. I focused on the circumcision part because it amuses me (because I'm a drooling pervert), the idea that the Tribbles spend a lot of time looking at other guys' dicks, but also because they keep saying "Character X is Jewish," and I'm like, "How can you tell?" It's not like all Jews walk around with a Scarlet "J" painted on their foreheads. Though wait, given the way Ellanjay write Jewish characters, I just assume that said character is sporting sidelocks, eating a bagel (smeared with lox), wearing a kippah, and shouting, "Oy vey!" at various intervals.

Though I'm going to stick with my circumcision theory, because again, I'm a pervert, and because it amuses me, picturing conversations like this going down, off-page:

Heathen in Peril: Save Me!

Tribble: Do you still have your foreskin?

HiP: Why the hell does that matter?

Just remember, despite having more chemistry with each other than they ever do with their Designated Love Interests, Ray-Ray and Cam-Cam are most definitely not Gay. Even if they are oddly obsessed with looking at other dudes' dicks, they are not at all Gay. And they enjoy films with gladiators because it gives them a look at life in Ancient Rome.

And that's it. Yeah, I know, I talked way too much. But hey, like I said, this is my soapbox and I damn well am going to use it.

*With the exception of awards for Children and Young Adult fiction, I've learned that with adult fiction, "award-winning" is code for "never-ending, depressive slog of navel-gazing that goes nowhere, but sounds smart and pretty, so we gave it an award. Because sounding deep means something is deep."

**I still find Jack Chick to be a valuable source of information as to the ideas being discussed on the Christian Right. The Christian Right may try to distance themselves from him, because Chick is virulently anti-Catholic and, like I said, the Right has formed an uneasy alliance with the Catholics and they don't particularly like throwbacks like Chick reminding everyone of what they actually believe. Because the Christian Right clothes their bigotry and uses the proper dogwhistles, but Jack Chick doesn't understand the need for diplomacy and numbers, and just flat-out says what he believes, in his deluded mind, to be true.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Rot in a Year. Rot and Stink

Well, hello everybody. Finally got around to writing this week's snark. Now that we've made it through the Mothereffin' Front Matter, we can finally get down to the story, such as it is.

I have to admit, I spent the first section, which features Ray-Ray, making the kind of niggling, minor nitpicks that you all have come to expect from me. That and gratuitous pop culture references and endless gushing about how much I love the MCU.

It's the kind of criticism that's basically the "Paint Job on the Titanic" kind of criticism, where I'm like "Okay, Black Bears are known for being great tree climbers and Leopards probably are as well and Grizzlies can knock down tress like you wouldn't believe. But I thought the rule regarding members of the feline family was that 'Cats who roar, don't purr, and cats who purr, don't roar' so would the leopard really be purring in this scene?"

Yeah, I know. So much wrong and I'm focusing on that. But like I've said before, if they had put forth any effort to tell a decent story, give me something to think about, then I wouldn't obsess over such minor details.

There's nothing really to talk about, except we've gotten to the part everyone in the Slacktiverse has been anticipating: the steaming pile of produce scene.

Rayford deduced that the sun was brighter without being hotter, because Tsion Ben-Judah taught that its light was somehow enhanced by the ever-present glory of Jesus. A simple contraption out in the open allowed Rayford to concentrate the light through a magnifier and heat vegetables he and Irene and Raymie had gathered for a special feast. Irene had made butter from milk she had collected from a cow, so when everyone had assembled, they were met with steaming piles of fresh produce, drenched in butter.

Oh, Lord, where to begin? Well, first of all, apparently I've been calling it by the wrong name. It's actually the "Steaming Piles of Fresh Produce" scene rather than the "Steaming Piles of Produce" scene. Yeah...the addition of the word "fresh" does not, in any way, improve any of the connotations.

And yeah, you can clearly tell that Ellanjay have never prepared a meal in their lives. Because they don't give too many descriptors of this contraption, but I find myself thinking, "Wouldn't concentrating the sunlight through a magnifying glass to heat the vegetables, work about as well for the vegetables as it does for ants on the sidewalk?"

It just amazes me, how very little effort Ellanjay put into anything. They can't even be bothered to name what kind of vegetables they're eating. Are they having bell peppers or spinach or what? Ellanjay don't know and they can't be arsed to care.

And of course, you could have said something like "they feasted on vegetables Irene had sautéed in butter" or something like that, anything that would sound more appetizing than "Steaming Piles of Fresh Produce," but no! Heaven forbid, you ask your wife how she would cook vegetables or spend five minutes on Google! My reaction to this scene is pretty much Apu's reaction to Skinner.

Though to be fair, Beverly LaHaye did get a job, forcing her to live a thousand miles away from her husband, so she can devote her time to telling people that women shouldn't have jobs and be devoted to their husbands, so talking to the wife would be a bit more complicated for Tim LaHaye than Jerry Jenkins. But y'know telephones and email existed back then. Don't deny it! We all know the amount of time you spend fervently masturbating to the sound of a dial tone.

Yeah, I know there are probably all kinds of implications about the Sun being brighter without being hotter that I'm not delving into, but I'm an English Major and science has never been my strong suit. It involves math and math in general, is something I've very bad at. So I'll move on and let one of my readers deal with it.

Then we cut to Bucky-Boy.

Like everyone else, Cameron Williams was fascinated with all that had gone on and what was yet to come. Of course, as a late martyr, he had spent very little time in heaven— just long enough to reunite with his wife, Chloe, and look forward to seeing their son back on earth at the Glorious Appearing. Now he anticipated the special dinner where his mother-in-law was to tell yet another story of Jesus.

Given that they're all in Heaven and they're all believers, why for the love of Whatever would they spend all their time talking about TurboJesus? It'd be like spending forever talking about the sky being blue.

Because I am a pervert and, like I said, I pretty much assume Bucky married Chloe, so it would be easier for him and Ray-Ray to sneak around, I'm assuming he pretends to be interested in whatever Irene is talking about, while slipping messages to Ray-Ray, so they can rendezvous later.

Since I've already made Bucky and Chloe's relationship, creepy and sad, via the power of head canon, now let's see what I can do with Ray-Ray and Irene. I did feel a little sad for Chloe, because until she bowed her head and got the Frontal God-botomy, she was the most sympathetic character around, but Irene...Got to agree with Slacktivist's assessment that everything said about her, confirms our suspicions that we would rather slam our heads in a car door than be stuck in conversation with her.

I'll just go for the low-hanging fruit and assume that Ray-Ray married Irene pretty much because he was supposed to. He got told over and over again that heterosexuality is pretty much the only way to go, so he married Irene because it was what was expected of him. Plus, there may have been elements of the pre-sexual revolution thinking where marriage was seen as something that was supposed to cure someone of their homosexuality.

Irene, of course, knows damn well her husband's preferences, but she wanted to get married and have children, but didn't want to deal with a husband demanding sex from her all the time. So Ray-Ray's preferences actually work out for her; gets all the perks and status of being a married woman and of course, she has her children, but none of the drawbacks of a healthy conjugal life. All she has to do is "Lie Back and think of England" ever so often.

Or you can assume that maybe Irene thought she could cure Ray-Ray or maybe it was one of those circumstances where they had to get married and miraculously enough, seven months later, Irene gave birth to Chloe, who was remarkably big and heavy for a premature infant. Irene did think she'd cured Ray-Ray for a bit, but it isn't long before she knows, deep down, she hasn't, and seeks comfort in religion and...

Okay, I'm getting entirely too dark here. Y'know what, I think I'll pause and scour my flesh with lots of soap and steel wool before continuing.

Anyway, spending time talking about creepy and unwholesome head canons regarding this series, distracts us from an important issue that warrants being addressed.

No one called Cameron Buck now, because, he said, “there’s nothing to buck here.”

So I guess from here on out, we are to refer to him as Cam-Cam. I did the best I could, scoured Fred's blog, but I couldn't find the LB post I was looking for entitled "That Hideous Nickname" where he and his commenters had a discussion about how Cam-Cam got that nickname. I'm really disappointed I couldn't find it, because it was hilarious and any of the explanations created by the Slacktiverse are way more plausible than what's actually in the book.

Based on the paragraphs I'm about to quote, I'm going to go with the commenter who said. "Buck. They call you that because you think eight seconds is a long time and you don't mind landing in cow pies." That's my explanation for how he got the nickname Buck and I stand by it!

And anyway, here comes another scene that has become infamous in the Slacktiverse for how tone-deaf it is.

And strange about Cameron and Chloe’s relationship was that they still loved each other, but not romantically. Their entire hearts’ desires were on the person of Jesus and worshiping Him for eternity. In the Millennium, they would live and labor together with Kenny and raise him, but as there would be no marrying or giving in marriage, their relationship would be wholly platonic.

“It’s bizarre,” Chloe told Cameron. “I still love and admire and respect you and want to be near you, but it’s as if I’ve been prescribed some medicine that has cured me of any other distracting feelings.”

“And somehow that doesn’t insult me,” Cameron said. “Does my feeling the same offend you?”

She shook her head. Her mind, like his, must have been on Jesus and whatever He had for them for the rest of time and eternity.


I know I rag on Beverly LaHaye for making a career out of saying that women shouldn't have careers, but passages like these...I don't blame her for looking for any excuse to get as far away from Tim LaHaye as possible.

There is so much Creepiness and Wrong here that anything I say, will feel inadequate. I will, once again, defer to Mark Twain and his Letters from the Earth, more specifically, number two. I am fighting the urge to just copy and paste the entire text, because I realize not everybody has a perpetual "Letters from the Earth" induced boner. So I'll just give a sample.

All people, sane or insane, like to have variety in their life. Monotony quickly wearies them.

Every man, according to the mental equipment that has fallen to his share, exercises his intellect constantly, ceaselessly, and this exercise makes up a vast and valued and essential part of his life. The lowest intellect, like the highest, possesses a skill of some kind and takes a keen pleasure in testing it, proving it, perfecting it. The urchin who is his comrade's superior in games is as diligent and as enthusiastic in his practice as are the sculptor, the painter, the pianist, the mathematician and the rest. Not one of them could be happy if his talent were put under an interdict.

Now then, you have the facts. You know what the human race enjoys, and what it doesn't enjoy. It has invented a heaven out of its own head, all by itself: guess what it is like! In fifteen hundred eternities you couldn't do it. The ablest mind known to you or me in fifty million aeons couldn't do it. Very well, I will tell you about it.

1. First of all, I recall to your attention the extraordinary fact with which I began. To wit, that the human being, like the immortals, naturally places sexual intercourse far and away above all other joys -- yet he has left it out of his heaven! The very thought of it excites him; opportunity sets him wild; in this state he will risk life, reputation, everything -- even his queer heaven itself -- to make good that opportunity and ride it to the overwhelming climax. From youth to middle age all men and all women prize copulation above all other pleasures combined, yet it is actually as I have said: it is not in their heaven; prayer takes its place.

They prize it thus highly; yet, like all their so-called "boons," it is a poor thing. At its very best and longest the act is brief beyond imagination -- the imagination of an immortal, I mean. In the matter of repetition the man is limited -- oh, quite beyond immortal conception. We who continue the act and its supremest ecstasies unbroken and without withdrawal for centuries, will never be able to understand or adequately pity the awful poverty of these people in that rich gift which, possessed as we possess it, makes all other possessions trivial and not worth the trouble of invoicing.

2. In man's heaven everybody sings! The man who did not sing on earth sings there; the man who could not sing on earth is able to do it there. The universal singing is not casual, not occasional, not relieved by intervals of quiet; it goes on, all day long, and every day, during a stretch of twelve hours. And everybody stays; whereas in the earth the place would be empty in two hours. The singing is of hymns alone. Nay, it is of one hymn alone. The words are always the same, in number they are only about a dozen, there is no rhyme, there is no poetry: "Hosannah, hosannah, hosannah, Lord God of Sabaoth, 'rah! 'rah! 'rah! siss! -- boom! ... a-a-ah!"

3. Meantime, every person is playing on a harp -- those millions and millions! -- whereas not more than twenty in the thousand of them could play an instrument in the earth, or ever wanted to.

Consider the deafening hurricane of sound -- millions and millions of voices screaming at once and millions and millions of harps gritting their teeth at the same time! I ask you: is it hideous, is it odious, is it horrible?

After the paragraph which made us feel so much sympathy for the wives of Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins and made us finally understand why that whenever a scandal dethrones a member of the Christian Right, it's always about sex, we get to this paragraph.

“Do you realize, Chlo’, that we still have to raise Kenny in the nurture and admonition of the Lord and see to it that he decides for Christ?”

Only true believers and innocents had survived the Tribulation and the sheep-and-goats judgment to make it into the kingdom. “How many children of the Tribulation must there be,” Chloe said, “who still have to choose Christ over living for themselves?”

“Children of the Tribulation,” Cameron said. “I like that.”

Have to admit, tearing this passage to shreds will be easier, since there's nowhere near as much creepy sex stuff. I'll start with the nitpicky paint job criticisms, before going for something more difficult.

First of all, "raise Kenny in the nuture and admonition of the Lord?" What does that even mean? Who the hell talks like that?

Second, given the Christian Right's sudden opposition to any forth of birth control even if all it does, is prevent the production of eggs and won't do much if pregnancy is underway, combined with the knowledge that as many as three-fourths of all fertilized eggs fail to implant on the Uterine Wall and are flushed out with the Menstrual Cycle and those of Ellanjay's politics consider each and everyone of those eggs to be a person, there are probably a helluva lot of Children of the Tribulation (henceforth called COT) in the MK, far outnumbering the adults.

I am honestly waiting for the day in which the Anti-Choice crowd takes to the streets carrying, "Menstruation is Murder!" signs. Because they used to be all "Life begins at Conception," but in opposing any form of birth control outside of hoping and praying, they clearly believe that life begins even before conception (aka when the fertilized egg implants on the uterine wall). So by their logic, every month I have my period, I am committing murder. Because that egg could have become the next president or something, but my heartless body flushed it out. And since I've been menstruating since I was thirteen on a fairly regular cycle and assuming a minimum of one egg per cycle (or one for every month of the year), by the time I was eighteen, I was already a serial killer on so great a level that I make the Son of Sam look like a piker in comparison. My mom went through menopause in her fifties, so I'll probably do the same, but by then, my body count will be so high that I will have surpassed Serial Killer-level violence and achieved Genghis Khan-level violence, all without putting forth any effort on my part. I wonder if I can put this on my resume. Always looking to spice it up. It'll go well with my mention of how I was Time Magazine's Person of the Year for 2006.

And of course, the biggest problem with all this is, well the problem that has dogged at me since I heard the general premise of this book and will keep dogging at me while I snark it. It's similar to the problem that vexed the other books in the series, where even though the characters receive incontrovertible proof of the divine on a damn near daily basis, they act like they live in our world, where life is often painful and uncertain and people live their whole lives without seeing something as big and hard to refute as God swatting aside nukes.

The COT have seen Zod and TurboJesus personally punt all their enemies into Hellfire for all eternity. They will continue to see and talk to both Zod and TurboJesus on a daily basis. Yet when the whole The Other Light (henceforth called TOL) rebellion emerges, their arguments sound suspiciously like the ones heard in our world, where all this is uncertain and people live and die without seeing solid proof one way or the other.

Slacktivist, my light and inspiration and the guy I write so many dirty fiction about in my head*, talked about his phenomenon in an early LB post. The whole thing's worth reading, but one part warrants being quoted.

At the end of Euripides’ play Orestes, all hell is about to break loose, the armies of Sparta and Argos are about to wreak horrible destruction and death. Then presto — the god Apollo arrives, orders everyone to make nice, sends Menelaus home and fixes up everything before carrying (“rapturing,” if you will) Helen off to Olympus.

Imagine an epilogue to this scene in which the soldiers explain that, despite everything they have just seen, they still don’t believe in Apollo. They have just witnessed the blatant, irrefutable appearance and activity of the god himself, forever altering their lives and the history of their nations, but they prefer not to think about it too much.

It's basically the same thing at work in Kingdom Come where again, constant irrefutable proof of God's existence, yet everyone just shrugs and acts like everything still up for debate.

It'd be the equivalent of, if after the Chitauri Invasion of New York in The Avengers, all the New Yorkers were like, "Yeah, I don't believe in the existence of aliens or costumed superbeings." And yes, I made the gratuitous reference just so I can post that clip of Hulk smashing the crap out of Loki during his villainous monologue. Because Hulk smashing the crap out villains during their monologue, is something that never gets old.**

Or if after the events of the first Transformers movie, the government managed to secretly cover up the exist of thirty-story tall robots, even though they destroyed downtown Chicago and given that everyone and their grandma has a cell phone capable of taking photos and videos, odds are pretty good that one of the city's estimated 2.7 million citizens probably filmed or photographed something...oh wait, that's actually canon. Well, it's still incredibly stupid, but at least, Michael Bay, however little he gives a shit about his works, doesn't believe that the stuff he's producing will actually happen at some point.

Now if this whole TOL rebellion was something along the lines of ako's awesome fixfics, then it would make sense. Because like I keep saying, it's not so much the existence of God that the characters in this series would object to; it's the nature of said God that they would object to. A Children-of-the-Goats-style rebellion would actually make sense and if they went with that option, it would force the writers to take a long, hard look at their beliefs and try to construct a solid defense that acknowledges nuance and the pain and suffering involved in life. Spoiler Alert: they don't take that approach.

Whoa...I really did talk too damn much. Ah well, hope I wasn't at least dull.

Anyway, I'll start to wrap this up. First, there's this head-scratcher of a paragraph:

In a flash it came to Cameron to call this group COT (Children of the Tribulation), and as negative as the name sounded, it didn’t grate on him. It was merely fact. Here were representative children born after the Rapture who had survived to enter the kingdom. As the thousand years progressed, of course, kids would be born who could still be called children of the Tribulation, because someone in their ancestry had to have lived through it.

I'm like, "Seriously?" because didn't just a few pages ago, Ellanjay said that there won't be any sex in the MK. So where are all these new children going to come from? Or do Ellanjay believe that while those who have said the prayer and are above the "You Must Be This Tall to Burn for All Eternity," won't be able to get laid, those under the line, can still enjoy sex and all the debauchery they want and be safe, so long as they say The Prayer before their 100th birthday. Though once The Prayer is said, the COT will be totally off the hook for anything they've done.

:grins wickedly: Yeah, I know if I were to make that argument before Ellanjay, they'd recite the Hypothetical Bus meme, aka the story they use to dissuade against the "So I can do whatever I want and be off the hook so long as I make sure to make a deathbed conversion?" meme. Ignoring, of course, the fact that there isn't a Hypothetical Bus in the MK, so the COT would be well advised to just sin their hearts out. Have sex as an expression of love between two people, rather than grit your teeth and do it solely for the purpose of reproduction. Imbibe and enjoy alcohol or whatever mind-altering substances are out there. Do an activity or perfect a craft for the sheer joy it gives you, rather than constantly praise God or grow crops. Eat, drink, and be merry, because you won't die until you turn one hundred and given that the chapter says the majority of the children are under the age of seven, you guys have plenty of years to sow and enjoy your wild oats.

The chapter ends with Cam-Cam gathering all the kids around and starts talking about how his life got flipped-turned upside down. And since these are some bizarre breed of alien children, minus the platinum blonde wigs and scary mind powers I'm assuming, they just sit while Cam-Cam talks with no fidgeting whatsoever.

And that's it. I know, not much there, but really since from what I heard from aunursa, this is an entire novel, as in a story that goes for over two hundred pages, without any conflict whatsoever, I'm doing what I can with what I've got. Besides, I try to be all respectful and keep my ramblings at an endurable length to make for easier consumption.

*Just kidding. But given that I've finally managed to resolve the Three Chris Debate (of the three actors in the MCU named Chris--Evans, Hemsworth, and Pratt--who is the hottest?) in a manner I find satisfying, I need to find something to devote my time and energy to. If someone is interested, I'll mention my solution in the comments, but regardless of what your opinion on the subject is, just know that in the extremely unlikely chance I find myself in the same room as any of them, I will totally be Troy Barnes when he met LeVar Burton. Though I can't pick on Troy too much; I'd totally be the same way if I met LeVar Burton.

**Though given that in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there's incontrovertible proof of the existence of the Norse Pantheon, you'd imagine the Judeo-Christian tradition would really take a hit and there'd be a whole lot of soul-searching. It's even worse in the Comics where not only is the Norse Pantheon real, but so is the Greek and Egyptian one as well. But I'm a big believer in the Rule of Cool, so I'm generally willing to let them slide on it. Even if I do wonder how much of the Norse Mythos is canon in the Marvel Universe, because I am both a pervert and mythology buff. :grins wickedly:

Saturday, August 6, 2016

The Mothereffin' Front Matter II

All right, I'm here, let's do this thing. I'll try to finish off the mothereffin' front matter, but I make no guarantees. Well okay, I will make one guarantee: I will be as nitpicky and anal retentive as Hell, but y'all are used to that by now. If you're not, hello and welcome to the blog.

If it seems this week that I'm being unbelievably anal retentive, well, that's because a large part of this front matter is Ellanjay listing world-building details, y'know, all the changes now that TurboJesus has returned, packing heat. We all know that Ellanjay suck at pretty much everything, so I thought I'd really go through the front matter, the world-building list, with a fine-toothed comb, so we can point out all the flaws and later, when we get to the actual story, we can point out the many ways Ellanjay can't keep their own world-building straight.

Now that I've said that, let's do this thing.

The first bit of front matter is a page talking about the whole 75 day interval. Since I already ranted about it in my last snark of the For Kids! version of this series, not going to spend too much time on it. Though of course, when reading Daniel 12, Ellanjay would obsess over the numbers listed towards the end and ignore the larger context of said verses. From what I can tell, Ellanjay are totally the type of people who, after hearing the fable about the ant and the grasshopper, will go hunting for talking insects. After many fruitless years of hunting for said insects, then they'll sit around and try to guess why the insects hadn't shown up, what conditions must be in place for the talking insects to show up, and from there, when they'll show up, all the while ignoring the clear and obvious moral of the fable.

But to be fair, I do often wonder how much of Christian Theology wasn't created as a means of weaseling out of, well, doing what Jesus would do. Because we keep going on and on about the Sermon on the Mount, how it's just so incomprehensible and hard to understand, but if you actually read it, it's not that incomprehensible. Jesus is being quite clear on what he expects from his followers, what he wants them to do. The Sermon on the Mount may be difficult to practice, but it's not hard to understand, no matter how much we insist on pretending otherwise.

Okay, now for the world-building list. Everyone get your pump-up music and poison of choice ready. Those of you who don't have a pump-up music of choice, first of all, what's wrong with you and second of all, you can use one of mine. Well, okay, I freely admitted it's a case of "I've got two songs I want to make gratuitous links to and I can't decide which, so I'm going to use both." First one is an awesome theme song for a series cancelled way-too-soon (why the heck they felt they had to retool the theme song is season two, I don't know. It was awesome the way it was!), but maybe you're more into rock, than a superhero cartoon, so here's some Tenacious D for you.

All right, first up on the world-building list is, well, get used to increased rates of skin cancer and cataracts, among many other health problems.

As in the days before the Rapture and the Tribulation, the sun will rise in the east and set in the west. But what a sun! It will be so bright that people will have to wear sunglasses any time they are outside, twenty-four hours a day. The Scriptures foretell this in Isaiah 30: 26: “Moreover the light of the moon will be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun will be sevenfold.” It should not be beyond speculation that these orbs will be supercharged by the Shekinah glory of Christ.

With the moon as bright as the sun is now, people will have to get used to sleeping while it is light outside.

Well, okay, I suppose if I were to bring up the whole skin cancer issue, Ellanjay would say that there's no danger from excessive UVA radiation Because Jesus! so I probably shouldn't linger on with that one, especially since I'm more concerned with the second bit, where the moon is now as bright as the sun.

Well first of all, if the moon's now as bright as the sun, congratulations! Your paradise-dwellers can no longer see the stars at night, an activity that's been a source of comfort and wonder to humanity since we emerged the primordial ooze, because nighttime in the Millennial Kingdom (henceforth referred to as MK) is now worst than Downtown LA.

But I'm also thinking of one of Cracked's articles where they talk about some of the WTF problems with space travel that we'll have to deal with if we ever try to colonize Mars or something. The item in particular is the one about sleep. See with humans, our circadian rhythm is wired for Earth time. It turns out just being in space and dealing with watching the sun rise 10 to 15 times a day, wrecks all kinds of havoc with said rhythm, forcing astronauts to gobble Ambien, so they can sleep. And to counteract all the Ambien, they take Uppers, thus making me wonder if NASA isn't actually run by Homer Simpson.

Anyway, my point is that one of the hazards we're going to have to address in long-term space travel is, like I said, our brains are wired to Earth's cycle, so what the heck are we going to do, if we settle a planet where the days are longer than the years like Venus? People who dwell in the arctic circle already have to deal with this, dealing with months where the sun never goes down or never comes up, and scientific studies will attest that it does affect the natural human rhythms.

But yeah, I know if I were to ask Ellanjay how the heck people in MK sleep or anything, they'd just say, "Because Jesus!" and say something about how the people of the MK no longer need to sleep again, Because Jesus!

And of course, the "Because Jesus!" thing just further illustrates the chief problem with the world-building of this series: not just how unimaginative it is, but how damn boring it is. Basic rule of fantasy or sci-fi or any story with superpowers: you have to have rules and limits and you sure as hell have to stick to them. Because if the hero doesn't have to sweat for it a little, then congratulations, you've surgically removed any potential conflict and made your story as boring as hell.

You can quibble about Superman's many many powers, talk about how they make no sense, you can argue over whether his weaknesses make any sense (Kryptonite, Red Sunlight, Magic) either, but generally so long as they're consistent in what the hero can and can't do, I'm willing to play along.

Heck, as much as I love, love the hell out of Captain America in the MCU*, there were still moments where I'm like, "Seriously?! What the Hell?!" I keep trying to figure out what the heck the Captain's superpowers are supposed to be, because I thought the whole Super Soldier Serum thing just puts him in peak human fitness in every category, but so many times I was like, "The only way the Captain walks away from that is if he has a Wolverine-style healing factor." As awesome as the character is, I wish Marvel would pin down the nature of his abilities a little more. Again, argue about the realism of Superman, but there is some consistency to the "Nigh-Invulnerable Alien Super-Being" concept. You can argue about how much consistency, but at least, you know, "Okay that looked painful, but Superman will shrug it off and will generally be okay fuck, is that shiny green rock what I think it is?" Knowing the boundaries makes it easier to know the stakes and adds to the suspense.

Again, it's one of the basic rules of plotting: while you don't tell the ready everything that's going to happen, they do need to know the rules of said fictional universe and of course, the stakes. I admit that I talk mostly about superhero stories because, and I know this will come as a real shock to my readers, I'm a huge fangirl who loves the hell out of them, but that rule of plotting applies to any story. All fictional universes have rules that they must follow and when the reader gets to the big climax, even if the climax is working up the nerve to ask that girl out or tell off someone who needs to be told off rather than stop Evil Bob from using his doomsday device to destroy the world, the reader should have some idea of why this is important to the protagonist and what will happen if said protagonist fails.

For those of you going "tl;dr" it can all be summed up by this quote by H.G. Wells: “If anything is possible, then nothing is interesting.”

Next on the list, well, if any of my readers are supreme nerds (and I'm certain a few of you are) who spend their time debating whether mathematics or music is the universal language, according to Ellanjay, in the MK, Hebrew is. Ellanjay use Zephaniah 3:9 to support this theory. In true Ellanjay fashion, you know they make sure to ignore the eight verses that come before that one, because yeah, that would make them uncomfortable and the last thing Jesus or any prophet would want to do, is make wealthy, well-fed religious people feel uncomfortable.

There's some stuff in there related to the Trinity, but I'm not even going to try to take that on. Better theologians than me have tried and failed to explain the Trinity. I'm honestly wondering if it isn't meant to be something akin to a Zen koan designed to clear the mind of conscious thought. So trying to research and explain it, would be missing the point entirely. But then again, the Unitarians might be onto something. They take the Gordian knot method of problem-solving when it comes to the Trinity and I'm totally in favor of that method of problem-solving. You could solve so many of life's problems by slashing them with a sword, but people, for some reason, go around calling said strategy such unpleasant names like Murder and Vandalism.

And now for the physical features of the MK. I look forward to my more science-minded readers stepping in and tearing Ellanjay a new one.

Between the Tribulation and the Millennium, it appears He will be content to take His time. Jesus will have as His canvas an entire globe that has been shaken flat— except Israel. Around the world, debris from the planetary earthquake will lie hundreds, sometimes thousands, of feet deep. Rock, foliage, buildings, and water will create a residue that coats the earth, leaving everything at sea level. That means, naturally, that in some places the altitude of the sea will have increased with the leveling of mountains. In others, the sea will disappear under new landmasses.

The only place elevated will be the Holy City itself, where the Mount of Olives will have been rent in two and Jerusalem raised hundreds of feet. How appropriate that the new, holy capital of the world should stand high above all other cities and nations, more than a thousand feet high and gleaming, pristine, and ready to be redesigned and decorated for and by the Lord Jesus Himself. Every day the landscape will change as full-grown greenery appears.

We'll probably run into many instances where Ellanjay screw up on this part, but my issues with all this are more akin to the Tiger Problem, as illustrated by Calvin and Hobbes. Later on in the world-building, they talk about all the farming we're going to do, but really, Heaven pretty much sounds like a gated community.

Plus, the obvious problem is what if you're not that into farming? Maybe you're an Inuit, who has known nothing but life in the arctic circle. While I wouldn't last very long under those circumstances, the Inuit managed to sustain themselves and be happy for centuries with their way of life, at least, until the Europeans showed up and started insisting, "No, no, there's only one right way to live and it's our way." That mindset is ultimately going to doom us, the way we insist on a one-size-fits-all model, despite the fact that said model does not, in fact, fit anyone and even those who come closer than others to fitting it, are profoundly damaged by trying to squeeze themselves into such narrow boxes. As many environmentalists will point out, said model also only works so long as the oil keeps flowing. If the worst of all the peak oil predictions come true, let's just say places like Phoenix, Arizona or Las Vegas, Nevada, will be forced to come to the painful realization that they are, in fact, located in a desert, and you can't sustain a massive population and provide all the comforts modern citizens have become accustomed to (heat/air conditioning, fresh fruit and veggies year round, etc.) without a massive system of infrastructure that would quickly break down if something were to affect the supply and distribution of oil. It's like the BBC docudrama Threads says, "In an urban society, everything connects. Each person's needs are fed by the skills of many others. Our lives are woven together in a fabric. But the connections that make society strong also make it vulnerable." Or in short, basically, all you'd have to do is throw one little wrench into the system and it would break down fairly quickly.

Oh, okay, sorry about getting all preachy, there. But the point is, while Ellanjay would be quite comfortable in a gated community-type Heaven, the same isn't true of everyone. Because part of growing up (and from what I can tell, not many people have reached this part), is accepting that people aren't one hundred percent identical, have had different experiences from yours, and from there, have different likes and dislikes. Someone who has known nothing but life in the Amazon Rainforest, for example, would be baffled if you were to throw them into the gated community Heaven. Because while life in the Amazon is rough and hard, it's what they know. However strange and difficult the life of an uncontacted Indian in the Amazon may be to us, they've managed to make it work for them and are overall content with their life and the stresses they endure. So if you have an uncontacted Indian and Jerry Jenkins switch places...okay, we can debate over who would adjust faster to their new living circumstances, but the point is that the two would have very different ideas as to what constitutes a good life and neither would be too comfortable living the other guy's idea of a good life.

Okay, for all you going "tl;dr" let's just sum it up with this quote by Charles Addams and move on: “Normal is an illusion. What is normal for the spider is chaos for the fly.”

As though anticipating my criticisms, in the next bit, Ellanjay try to take on the "Wouldn't Heaven be boring?" conundrum.

Do you ever wonder whether this thousand years that precedes the new heaven and the new earth might be boring? Yes, Jesus will be there, He whom we all have longed to see and worship in person ever since we became believers. But with only the like-minded there— at least initially— what will everyone do? Sit around and worship?

Perhaps. But imagine euphoria that shows no sign of abating. We’ll feel full of the glory and presence of God through Jesus. In our current lives, we are aware of our sin and lowliness. But in the presence of Jesus, the contrast between us and our Savior will be even starker.

There are moments in which you must bow your head and admit defeat, let far more skilled snarkers than you handle this. Under these circumstances, I'm going to defer to Mark Twain and his "Letters from The Earth." To be more specific, read number two, though they are all worth reading. Because if there's some kind of Snarker's Pantheon where only the truly great can ascend and become one of its gods, Mark Twain would totally be in it.

The next paragraph where it basically says, "God will fill our days with joy and wonder and we'll spend our time worshipping him," makes me, of course, think of a bit in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Because really that just sounds boring for everyone involved, not just the humans, but God as well. Because creators of any stripe, are driven to create for a reason. Yeah, a large reason is often "Because I've got to pay the rent," but given how very difficult it is to pay the bills by being an artist, they wouldn't keep plugging away, were it not for some masochistic desire that just eats at them and won't let them go.

And of course, the chance any storyteller of any stripe takes, is that once you've created your work and put it out there for the public to see, there's really no way of controlling how they're going to react to your work and what they're going to do with it afterwards. There's a reason the TV Tropes page called Misaimed Fandom exists.

Either way, my incredibly belabored point is that God, like any other creator, had a reason for creating. Whatever someone's motives for creating, most would insist that the interaction between creator and creation is akin to a dance. Anyone whose ever created any kind of story, regardless of where they fall in the great Plotter vs. Pantser debate**, will admit that one of the great moments in the craft comes when you put your character in a situation and they respond in a way you hadn't quite intended for them to, thus opening up new storylines/possibilities. So the idea that God would create us for the sole purpose of having us stand around and loudly praise him for all eternity, makes him sound less like the loving all-powerful creator-god and more like whatever nutbar is currently running North Korea.

Oh in the MK, Jerusalem will also expand, even though in the LB-verse, Israel has already swallowed up much of Jordan and Syria, and no one seems that bothered by it. Those of you who know anything about the quagmire in the Middle East, are laughing and laughing bitterly.

In the MK, TurboJesus will rule with a rod of iron, but in no way will the MK be a dictatorship, even though it sounds like a more expanded version of the dictatorship set up at Petra, where God's representative feels okay with siccing his strongman in the sky on anyone who disagrees with him.

And here's Ellanjay, talking about the eating situation in the MK:

During the seventy-five-day interval between the Glorious Appearing and the actual start of the millennial kingdom, every day, everywhere we look will bear the divine handiwork of Christ. Everything will be perfect, from the plants and shrubs and trees to the grasses and fields and orchards. The earth will teem with produce and animals of all kinds.

Strangely, all of us will lose any desire to eat meat. Animals will no longer be our meat. Our sustenance will come from the bounty of the trees and bushes and vines and from what we ourselves harvest from the earth.

Again, even if we ignore all the obvious "But what if you're a scholar or you don't particularly like farming" that I brought up earlier, there's still plenty to tackle.

On the no eating meat part, well that leads to me wondering what exactly the animals will do in the MK. Later on, we get the infamous "steaming pile of produce" scene so the MK dwellers aren't going to be strict vegans (consuming milk or butter is kind of a no-no), but what about pigs and such.

Because I don't object too much to the farming part of the MK. I think so many of our issues with food stem from the fact that most people, with only a few exceptions, are very removed from the production of food. Most (and I am including myself in in this) have little to any idea what's required to produce the plants and animals we eat every day. It would probably do everybody some good to start a garden of some kind, even if it's just growing a few herbs in pots or something.

My objections stem mostly from, well, y'know that Ellanjay have no idea either and they will massively botch their explanations as to how all this works. I'm having flashbacks to a passage from Barbara Kingsolver's book "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" where she talks about how while she agrees with the vegans and vegetarians in some ways (she shares their opposition to factory farms), she has to part ways with them on other stuff. The book is damn good and I could quote huge chunks of it, but I'm going to try to restrain myself and use only a little.

Recently while I was cooking eggs, my kids sat at the kitchen table entertaining me with readings from a magazine profile of a famous, rather young vegan movie star. Her dream was to create a safe-haven ranch where the cows and chickens could live free, happy lives and die natural deaths. “Wait till those cows start bawling to be milked,” I warned. Having nursed and weaned my own young, I can tell you there is no pain to compare with an overfilled udder. We wondered what the starlet might do for those bursting Jerseys, not to mention the eggs the chickens would keep dropping everywhere. What a life’s work for that poor gal: traipsing about the farm in her strappy heels, weaving among the cow flops, bending gracefully to pick up eggs and stick them in an incubator where they would maddeningly hatch, and grow up bent on laying more eggs. It’s dirty work, trying to save an endless chain of uneaten lives. Realistically, my kids observed, she’d hire somebody.

Forgive us. We know she meant well, and as fantasies of the super-rich go, it’s more inspired than most. It’s just the high-mindedness that rankles; when moral superiority combines with billowing ignorance, they fill up a hot-air balloon that’s awfully hard not to poke. The farm-liberation fantasy simply reflects a modern cultural confusion about farm animals. They’re human property, not just legally but biologically. Over the millennia of our clever history, we created from wild progenitors whole new classes of beasts whose sole purpose was to feed us. If turned loose in the wild, they would haplessly starve, succumb to predation, and destroy the habitats and lives of most or all natural things. If housed at the public expense they would pose a more immense civic burden than our public schools and prisons combined. No thoughtful person really wants those things to happen. But living at a remove from the actual workings of a farm, most humans no longer learn appropriate modes of thinking about animal harvest. Knowing that our family raises meat animals, many friends have told us—not judgmentally, just confessionally—“I don’t think I could kill an animal myself.” I find myself explaining: It’s not what you think. It’s nothing like putting down your dog.

Most nonfarmers are intimate with animal life in only three categories: people; pets (i.e., junior people); and wildlife (as seen on nature shows, presumed beautiful and rare). Purposely beheading any of the above is unthinkable, for obvious reasons. No other categories present themselves at close range for consideration. So I understand why it’s hard to think about harvest, a categorical act that includes cutting the heads off living lettuces, extended to crops that blink their beady eyes. On our farm we don’t especially enjoy processing our animals, but we do value it, as an important ritual for ourselves and any friends adventurous enough to come and help, because of what we learn from it. We reconnect with the purpose for which these animals were bred. We dispense with all delusions about who put the live in livestock, and who must take it away.

Sorry if it sounds like I'm picking on Vegans or Vegetarians; I didn't mean to. What I was more trying to do, was pick on Ellanjay's naïveté, how they believe that we'll all just switch to farming and becoming Vegetarians Because Jesus! without putting any thought into how this will all work. Heck, the infamous "steaming pile of produce" bit is just emblematic of how they haven't given any thought. While the Internet wasn't ubiquitous when the first LB book came out in 1994, by the time Kingdom Come was released, it damn near was. They could have just Googled "vegetarian recipes" and pulled up many examples of delicious, meat-free dishes or anything that would sound more appetizing than "steaming pile of produce." Given that they can't even be bothered to do a damn Google search, that shows how impressively lazy Ellanjay are.

Plus, as Kingsolver also points out, any form of agriculture involves the taking of life. Even if you're a purist and are one hundred percent organic, so you don't use pesticides, when the earth is plowed and torn up for planting, the process kills many insects and worms and other life forms. Maybe said lifeforms aren't as cute as bunny rabbits, but you are still taking lives when you plow a field. Though I suppose you could be like Bronson Alcott and start a commune called Fruitlands, where you are so passionately devoted to the cause of animal rights that you won't even plow your fields in fear of hurting the poor worms and insects. Spoiler Alert: Fruitlands didn't last long. My point is, you live and survive off of the lives of others, no matter how much you may want to pretend otherwise.

Ellanjay closes with this bit:

You may be a stellar student or an athlete or even a bit of a techie, but you will not have to be good with your hands. You may not be a gardener let alone a farmer, and perhaps you always pay to have carpentry, wiring, or plumbing done around the house. But in that day God will plant within you the desire— and the acumen— to do all those things yourself. On the first day of the Millennium, you will exercise new muscles, new ideas. You will plant vast acres, tend massive orchards, and build houses. All the knowledge, and the desire, will be poured into you.

You will meet for worship and praise with friends and loved ones, joined by new acquaintances of all colors and nationalities. Some will be compelled to tend animals, and not just tame ones. You will need fear no creature anymore, as “the wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, the calf and the young lion and the fatling together” (Isaiah 11: 6).

To give some credit where credit is due, some of it doesn't exactly sound that bad. It does come close to what I theorized about Heaven, in my last snark of the For Kids! version. Trying to write about transcendent bliss is something that has tripped up even good writers, so I freely apologize if I'm not up to snuff, but my theory was that Heaven was more or less what someone knew and loved in life. So for an African Elephant, Heaven is the African Savanna because that's what they knew and loved on their life on Earth. If you were to put them in a gated community or some other environment, like the Amazon, they would be utterly baffled because they were built and conditioned for the Savanna.

So the idea of Heaven as a placed where the barriers that keep you from accomplishing what you love, are removed, isn't too bad an idea. Though I kind of go further with the idea than Ellanjay. I see Heaven more as, if you're a scholar, who loves nothing more than hanging around libraries, Heaven will be a massive library with every text you could ever want to read. Since the curse of Babel will be gone, you could even read the stuff written in dead languages like Sumerian or languages archeologists haven't managed to translate. Though I also see Heaven's library as being akin to Dream's library in Neil Gaiman's Sandman series, so in addition to every text every published, Heaven has all those novels and works that never existed outside of dreams. So if learning is what you loved best, get ready to enjoy all the learning. And yes, you pervs, that means if you love having sex, Heaven will look like that, but can we move on now?

But I have to part ways with Ellanjay. Not only because not everybody enjoys farming or building stuff, but the fact he said that God will plant the desires/skills in you to do those things...Again, have no problem with the idea of Heaven being a place where you can practice your craft without any of the limitations of Earth. So if you like building stuff, in Heaven you get an infinite number of resources and can just go to town building whatever you want, like Zoo Tycoon or one of those games where you're put in charge of a simulated business that you can shape however you like.

Where I part ways is that it sounds like Ellanjay is insisting that God will completely rewrite your personality and make it so you will build and plant things, no matter what. Yeah, I'm going to point y'all towards 1 Corinthians 12. Whatever quibbles you may have with Paul, and I understand why you do, he was right on the money. Just as you can't have a body that's entirely eyes, you can't have a community that's all farmers, herdsman, and builders. At least you can't, if you don't want God to be all disturbingly Orwellian and have him rewrite his followers' personalities, so they will tend the earth, regardless of if they enjoy it or not, or be anything other than just paper dolls for God to drag around wherever he likes, like a four-year-old with his action figures.

Though all that stuff about tending animals...what exactly would those who prefer to be tending animals, be doing? Okay, I suppose they aren't completely Vegan, so animals that produce milk will still need to be milked, and probably still need to gather eggs. I'm assuming they don't have any issues with their characters sheering sheep for their wool, but what about pigs? Pigs were pretty much created solely for meat. But if nobody eats meat, neither the humans nor the animals, what reason would you have to tend or do anything with pigs and other animals of their ilk?

Now if this MK worked more like the Garden of Eden on The Simpsons, where you can just help yourself to whatever meat you like with no harm to the animal, tending animals would make a little more sense.

I suppose I could put in some dig that given Ellanjay's politics, do you really think that their version of Heaven would have them hanging out with people of all races and nationalities. I'm just saying, it seems a reoccurring theme on the Right: scratch any of them and you find a bigot longing for the days when certain folk weren't allowed on the golf courses, buried not to deep. So forgive me, but I couldn't resist the dig.

Okay, I'm pleased to announce we've made it through the Mothereffin' Front Matter. Next week, we'll get to the actual story with Bucky-boy and Ray-Ray, such as it is. Sorry for all the preaching/philosophizing. To borrow from Dr. Seuss, I wasn't afraid to be preachy, but I was afraid of being dull. Hopefully I managed to pull that off. In the mean time, feel free to add your own thoughts about the stuff I've brought up here, tell me if I'm right on the money or full of shit or whatever.

*Yes, I have seen Captain America 3: Civil War. You have no idea how unbelievably deliriously happy I was that all my "Please don't let this suck" prayers/song-and-dances paid off. I was so scared they would repeat all the mistakes of the comic book version, but they didn't. The writers paid attention and learned from the mistakes of those who came before. Say what you will about whether Team Iron Man or Team Cap was right, the conflict that unfolded felt like an organic extension of their personalities. You could understand why Steve and Tony would make the choices that they did. And Iron Man didn't turn into Nazi-Tron like he did in the comics, though for the love of God! Someone get Tony Stark some therapy before the next movie! And by therapy, I mean with an actual licensed, ethical therapist, not the Marvel equivalent of Dr. Hugo Strange. Heck, if the MCU wants confirm any part of The Incredible Hulk as being canon, we could hook him up with Doc Sampson. From what I heard, he's probably the one psychologist in any comic book universe who isn't evil or incompetent as heck.

**In the great debate, if I must label myself, I'm totally a pantser, though really writing involves elements of both. Mine approach is more "I make this shit up as I go along then edit the sucker until it makes coherent sense" though if we must be more poetic about it, "I leap off a cliff and build my wings on the way down." I have an idea of where I want to begin and a vague notion as to my end point, but the stuff in between is much more nebulous, coming closer to the Underpants Gnomes' Plan for riches, rather than anything too detailed.