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:


Firedrake said...

To be fair to the Titanic, the engineering was as sound as any other ship of her day. It was pressing on through iceberg-filled water that did for her, and it was generally believed that icebergs posed no particular danger to modern ships.

The bad physics, it burns! You know what light does once it's been absorbed (by your eyeball or anything else)? It turns to heat. Seven times as much light means seven times as much heat, even if you concentrate all that light into the visible spectrum (and if you do everyone will go blind from the excessive brightness anyway). If that didn't work, the "simple contraption" would just make things very bright rather than very hot. Damn ignorant peasants.

To be fair, it's also always about sex because they got to write their own rules about what it's acceptable to do with money.

“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?” — is the sort of thing people say when they're looking over their shoulders at the security cameras.

Those unfertilised eggs are of course haploid and non-viable. Perhaps the other half is filled in by magic, I mean divine, DNA. And what about all those millions of sperm, eh? If an egg is sacred…

To say nothing of the life experiences that change a blob of cells into a person.

You know what piles of produce are good for? Producing fermentables. And there's clearly plenty of solar heat available for boiling the wort. Just saying.

spiritplumber said...

Surprisingly, clandestine distillation is in fact a plot point later.

spiritplumber said...

About veggie variety, you may enjoy this.

Harrier said...

The passage with Cameron and Chloe is rather Augustinian in its treatment - sexual desire, even for the one person you are allowed to admit desire for in RTC circles, is still slightly distasteful, something you want a "medicine" to cure you of. Also, while last time EllenJay contradicted common Christian thought because of slavish adherence to their tortured prophecy interpretation, this time they've missed an opportunity to show (or at least tell) about the strange and wonderful Millenial Kingdom because of their slavish adherence to conservative Christian thinking.

My question is - why do Chloe and Cameron and the rest of the glorified people live in one man one woman with child family units? If dirty dirty sex isn't a temptation anymore, why not have three women and five dudes who happen to have similar interests living together, or four male best friends, or a co-operative of a dozen women? I think the authors are literally so stuck in the paterfamilias model that they cannot imagine another way of living, even in a setting where reproduction and the passing on of property to family don't exist and there's no slavery (except to TurboJesus), so the conditions that produced the paterfamilias are inapplicable.

Firedrake said...

Harrier, I think that's consistent with their psychology elsewhere: sex so easily leads to sin that it's best just to think of it as an unfortunate necessity. (Which is why there are all those dead hookers buried in my backyard, your honour. Boys will be boys.)

But this is also something that Mouse, Fred, and others have pointed out: these books are written for a contemporary audience, by people to whom alternative worldviews are anathema (look at how down they get on non-Christian™-brand fiction even when it doesn't have magic and demons in it). This is about the closest they get to actual fantasy, and even though these are the people who came up with the idea of dispensations, they still don't dare suggest that the Basic Family Unit might ever be changed. As the great Dave Langford once said of another book, it's curiously unfantastic fantasy.

Rhoadan said...

More research fail on Ellanjay's part. Solar cookers are a thing IRL. AFAIK, they invariably involve reflectors, not magnifiers.

Blank Ron said...

I Have A Theory:
Mutt & Jeff have never had a vegetable that didn't come in a bag with a large green man pictured on it. Because those are the only vegetables that you'd even WANT to bury in butter (mostly to kill the freezer-burn taste.)
Cauliflower? Cheese sauce.
Broccoli? Grated parmesan, or perhaps a nice herb dip.
Spinach? My oldest daughter does this AMAZING baby spinach caesar salad from scratch. (Oops, no anchovies in the MK. Damn.)
Olives? Eat 'em as they are.
Peppers and most beans, part of some other dish. (I'm guessing L+J believe they are somewhat above the 'four bean salad' social class.)
YMMV, of course.

The MK doesn't just show a lack of imagination, it's an insult to gourmands everywhere.