Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Not much of a Man, by the Light of Day, but By Night I'm One Hell of a Lover

Hey guys. Sorry for the lateness of this post, but stuff was going on and everything kept stacking on top of each other. But I'm here now and let's see what I can do with the next chapter of Kingdom Come. I don't know what you've heard, but it seems we're in the middle of a major holiday and often in said holiday, there's a lot going on as people go to visit relatives and such. Plus, the general stress that may make someone less likely to be up to talking about what a Nice Guy™ Kenny-boy is. So there probably won't be a post this weekend and since the weekend after, I'll be visiting relatives, there won't be a post that weekend either. Might try to get something out next week, but I make no guarantees.

As you can tell by the Rocky Horror reference in the post title, I will eventually degenerate into making juvenile "That's what she said" kind of innuendos. Sorry about it. It's out of my hands and in Ellanjay's, unfortunately. :laugh: Though before we get to that bit of fun, we have to go through some other stuff first. And yes, you may interpret my previous line in whatever manner you deem fit, interpret it all night long!

Let's just start by stating the obvious: Kenny is such a Nice Guy™. I really mean it, what with using emotional manipulation, pretending to care about Kat's feelings in hopes of getting close to her, tearing down any guy she has the nerve to like more than him, making her emotionally dependent on him, in hopes of having sex with her. Few guys can claim to be as Nice™ as Kenny Bruce Williams.

On an entirely unrelated note, if I keep communicating solely in brutal sarcasm, will I eventually lose the ability to communicate in any other way? Oh and if I keep rolling my eyes, will they eventually get stuck in that position? Because I wouldn't mind too much, but I keep getting dragged out of the house to associate with other people and they might find it off-putting. Though maybe this is one of those problems that will soon resolve itself. I can only hope.

I FOUND Qasim hilarious,” Ekaterina reported, plopping herself on Kenny’s couch and declining his offer of grapes. “I’m stuffed. He took me to the Valley Bistro, where you had your meeting.”

“Our meeting?”

“Your Millennium Force meeting. Anyway, it was great. Did you just love it? I did. And Qasim was chivalrous, full of stories, talked a mile a minute— in fact, I feel like I’ve just now caught that from him. Have I? Am I just talking incessantly? Stop me if I am. I don’t mean to be. He wants to see me again. I probably will let him, but I didn’t promise.”

Kenny’s mind was whirling. He liked the quiet and shy Kat better, and he hated that she seemed so intrigued by Qasim. But her knowing about the Millennium Force troubled him most.

Again, if you thought I was kidding or exaggerating about all this "Kenny is a Nice Guy™" remarks, I hope this passage was enough to sway you otherwise. I know it's very unlikely that an editor looked at this book, never mind gave it the Red Pen treatment, but sometimes you wonder if there was some material cut, if some brave soul was able to stand up and say, "Y'know Kenny is coming across as kind of insensitive here, you might want to soften it a little?"

Because it barely takes any reading between the lines to discern what Kenny "Nice Guy™" Williams is thinking.

He's clearly thinking "How dare she go out with a guy who asked her out and enjoy his company, even though he isn't me. Because even though I've never actually flat-out asked her out, apparently she's supposed to see through my mind games and realize I want to go out with her. I mean, I've been all nice to her, pretending to be interested in her as a person, rather than a girl with girl parts, so clearly she should reward me by giving me sex."

Again, can anyone honestly say that my exaggeration is really much of an exaggeration at all?

Pro Tip: Nice Guys™ who use the fa├žade of friendship in order to get close to a girl in order to score, aren't really Nice Guys™. They're manipulative leeches and after being around a few, you honestly prefer the "jerks" because at least they are honest. If you're going to be anything, good or bad, at least be honest about what you do and what you are. Because as awful as Neo-Nazis are, you almost appreciate that they are open and honest about the reprehensible things they believe, rather than using the traditional dogwhistles about "welfare queens" and "thugs." Though I will admit, were it not for the fact that the guy is actually going to serve in the highest office in the land, watching all the logical gymnastics as Trump supporters try to explain how his belief that certain religious/ethnic groups are less than human and therefore, don't deserve to have the same rights as everyone else, how that isn't racist, would actually be kind of impressive. You find yourself wondering if there isn't any turd out there that someone isn't willing to try to polish.

Yeah, I'll give you some words from Revelation 3, more specifically verses 14-16:

‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: 15 “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.

Because here's a basic rule, Nice Guys™: people have lives, have thoughts and feelings, apart from you. They do not exist solely for your purpose. So therefore, they :gasp: not have the same feelings as you do and :gasp: :pearlclutch: have every right to say, "No," if they're not interested. Like I keep saying to people in various places online, only an asshole would object to being friendzoned, as in having a friend, aka someone who likes and cares about you and enjoys hanging out with you, but doesn't necessarily want to have sex with you. And of course, stop acting like you deserve a goddanged medal for managing to occasionally display basic human decency.

Okay, that rant went on longer than I thought. Though I am trying to figure out why Kenny so objects to her knowing about the Millies. I didn't really think it was that much of a secret, but that's to be expected, given that Ellanjay have repeatedly proven they have no idea how a resistance group is supposed to work.

Kat is all, “He doesn’t even know we know each other!” And I'm whimpering like Wesley after he was put through the Life suctioner. Because given that everything seems to take place within a few square miles, how exactly does Qasim not know that Kenny and Kat know each other? That and I thought Qasim worked out at the daycare, helping with recreation, and since Kenny and Kat also work at the incredibly poorly-run daycare...:whimpers: Though maybe it's one of the characteristics of someone in the LB-verse: they are incapable of noticing anyone that doesn't have anything they want. So using that logic, you can understand how Kenny, Kat, and Qasim can work together, while somehow being unaware of each others' existence.

Kat also talks about how she wants to join the Millies and be a TOL infiltrator. Kenny is all shocked and appalled by this:

Kenny strode to the window and pulled the drapes apart, letting in the bright moonlight. “I think you’re most valuable and productive right where you are. I mean, I’d rather you were working directly with me, but don’t you feel as if you’re where God wants you?”

Given that Bahira, aka a weak girl with girl parts, is involved with the TOL infiltration, it's abundantly clear that Kenny is objecting not out of fear for Kat's safety, like a decent person would, but because her working with the TOL would pull her away from him and Kenny can't abide anything that pulls Kat away from him. She might :gasp: develop an interest in something besides him.

Oh and sign that Kenny is a true RTC: he brings in God on air support to back him up and give Kat a nice dose of religious guilt to go with all the other guilt she's received at his hands. Like that friend of Anne Lamott said, “You can safely assume you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”

Yeah, in my headcanon, after all this, Kat proceeds to curbstomp (or dick-stomp) Kenny then give him the finger and walk off to go hang with Qasim, maybe try some positions she saw in the Karma Sutra or something.

But unfortunately, I'm not writing the LB-verse, so the hate-cringefest only continues.

Kat is all, "Hey I was just thinking about it. I haven't decided on anything yet," she and Kenny talk about saving kids from the TOL, and we get this delightful little bit from Kenny:

Kenny sighed. This was Qasim’s fault. He had put everything on the table, proving again that he was a loose cannon, impossible to trust, the quintessentially wrong person for the job. Kenny sat again, picking a handful of grapes from the bunch and swirling them in his palm. “I need to tell you about Qasim, but I don’t want you to take it the wrong way.”

Yes, how dare Qasim be all nice and try to curry to other peoples' feelings, so they'll stop with the emotional cruelty.

Though at the same time, this attitude is somewhat realistic: everyone, including Bullies, hate Toadies. Hence why I keep saying to Qasim, just give those mothereffers the finger and tell them where they can stick their Millie Membership. Because again, telling bullying victims to reshape themselves, so that the Bully will show the most basic of human decency and leave them alone, is really fucking sick. And it's really taken me a lot of willpower to resist using the F-bomb until now.

Because how dare Qasim try to help out the Millies by recruiting someone who might be interested in joining? But then again, Kenny is probably only objecting because Qasim made the offer, thus failing to respect his Authoritah! It's the old Alpha Male mindset that governs the LB-verse.

Hence why I feel the need to steer Ellanjay and other horrible people, towards this article from Reader's Digest: How to be an Alpha Male.

Because despite the stereotypes people have of the Alpha Male wolf, as the posturing, strutting bully, real studies of, y'know, actual wolves out in the wild, have shown that actual Alpha Males, well, I'll just quote from the article because they say it better than me:

“The main characteristic of an alpha male wolf,” the veteran wolf researcher Rick McIntyre told me as we were watching gray wolves, “is a quiet confidence, quiet self-assurance. You know what you need to do; you know what’s best for your pack. You lead by example. You’re very comfortable with that. You have a calming effect.”

The point is, alpha males are not aggressive. They don’t need to be. “Think of an emotionally secure man or a great champion. Whatever he needed to prove is already proven,” he said.

That's the basic gist of the article. The Alpha Male may fiercely defend his pack from outside threats and may play a key role in bringing down game, but when it comes to his own pack, he leads by example and sometimes, he'll let the rest of the pack feast before him, because part of being a good leader isn't making sure everyone kowtows to you: it's taking care of the people around you. The Alpha Male feels no need to constantly assert that he is strong and powerful; he knows he is and goes from there. Though studies of wolf packs have indicated that it might be the matriarch who has the real power in the pack, making decisions regarding where to travel and when to hunt.

I could go on happily talking about wolves, but probably ought to get back to the book. I haven't even made it through the first section, that's how wordy and ranty I'm being. So once more unto the breach, as Shakespeare would say.

Kenny-boy displays the smallest sliver of decency by admitting to Kat that all his "brotherly" warnings about Qasim, may in fact be born out of jealousy and he wanted her "attention," which I take to mean, "He wants to get laid and since he's devoted all this time to her and she's a girl with girl parts, he's like 'Let's do it already.'" Because no one in the LB-verse can just have premarital sex and pray for forgiveness afterwards.

But then again, like I've said before, whenever a scandal dethrones someone on the Christian Right, it's always about sex. The Christian Right is willing to forgive a lot, but not if sex is involved. Even if one of their own was a modern-day Jack the Ripper, they would probably be willing to let that slide, so long as he wasn't :gasp: having sex with the prostitutes he brutally murdered.

There's a bit with Kenny and some grapes that I guess is supposed to be cute, but given all the creepiness that came before, it has no hope of changing the dim view I have of Kenny.

Once they were both seated again and Kenny felt the color receding from his face, Ekaterina reached for his hand. He wiped it on his pants to be sure it wasn’t sticky with grape juice and extended it. No one but his parents had ever held his hand.

“Now, you’re going to tell me about Qasim. And then I’m going to tell you how innocently I view him regardless. And then we’re going to tell each other why we’re so interested in each other’s attention.”

Minor quibble first: it took me a while to figure out who was saying the last line. You don't have to provide a tag to every line of dialogue (pro tip: generally "said" works just fine most of the time.), but every now and then, even if said conversation is just between two people, provide us with some kind of tag. Doesn't have to necessarily be "Kenny said" or anything like that. It could be an action like "Kenny masturbated furvitely (but not fervently because that would be sick and wrong)" or something like that.

It's especially needed with the last bit of dialogue, because given that the previous paragraph and the chapter in general, has been told from Kenny's POV, I thought that maybe the dialogue was Kenny's. But then I remembered Ellanjay's rampant sexism combined with their tin ear for dialogue, I'm wondering if the last line was meant to be Kat's. I'm still suffering hemorrhages trying to work out who's speaking there.

Though yeah, Kenny I really believe that your hands would be sticky from grape juice and not...OW! Okay, I'll try to cut back on the creepy sex stuff. I can't stop entirely, because Ellanjay won't let me, but I'll try, just so I won't be irritating as hell.

For those of you wondering, the conversation about Qasim occurs later in the chapter and it really is as tooth-grindingly awful as you think it's going to be, maybe even more. So though I know nobody about me cares about my League of Awesome head-canon, I'm just going to call it and say that Qasim is in. Maybe later I'll change my mind, but right now, I really feel for the guy. Everyone just keeps treating him like shit for no real reason. He's been nothing but a basic decent person and they just dump on him for it.

Conversation between Rayford and Chloe about how Noah is coming to give a talk. Nothing really happens. What does it say about me that I almost look forward to the stuff with Rayford because right now, I find it less creepy and awful than the stuff with Kenny-boy and Creepy Raymie. Speaking of, now we cut to the part where Kat and Kenny talk shit about Qasim.

Kenny searched himself for any ill motive in telling Ekaterina his misgivings about Qasim. She fell silent and seemed to cloud over as he spoke.

Yeah, I bet you really spent a ton of time in thought about this. Kenny, you know how people use the expression, "Lying makes the Baby Jesus cry?" This is the type of lying that makes the Baby Jesus go for his shotgun.

Kat asks how Kenny feels about Qasim's spiritual state. And here's Kenny's response:

“I don’t know what to think. Raymie is dubious because Qasim’s conversion story is so cut-and-dried. And he doesn’t seem to have been successful in ministering to kids at COT— actually leading them to Jesus, I mean— despite all the years he’s worked there.”

Ah, that old trend in the RTC subculture where you can't have your conversion story be, "Well, I was raised in a specific church/faith and never really knew anything else and due in large part to societal/family-related pressure, I walked up to the altar and accepted Jesus into my heart because that's what was expected of me and from there, my religious life has mostly been a series of crests and troughs where there are times in which I am really devoted to my faith and times in which I'm distracted by other concerns."

No, to have a proper RTC conversion story, it must go something along the lines of, "I expressed an interest and dabbled in faiths outside the Judeo-Christian tradition, displayed a basic level of rebellion by going to parties or worse, looking at pictures of girls without their clothes on and drinking alcohol." Though bonus points if you really rev it up, talk about how you used to chop up prostitutes and feed them to dogs, all in worship of the great lord, Satan, and hope that even though you are basically flat-out confessing to murder, a crime that has no statute of limitations, no one notices how the police don't bother taking a look at you.

And apparently Qasim slips away when there's real work to be done, outside of playing with the kids. This slur against him feels really rich, given the continual laziness displayed by the authors. It always seems to be Projection on the Right. Maybe it's comforting for them, assuming that everyone is just as awful as they are, but it sucks for everyone else. And again, if I was Qasim, I'd look for any opportunity to get away from them for a few hours, until I can find a way to make a more permanent escape.

We cut back to Rayford briefly. Apparently Zod feels the Egyptians have done the requisite amount of "We deserve this and we're sorry for making you so angry in the first place," prayers and have brought back the water. Woo-hoo. :sarcastic clapping:

And now we cut back to Kenny and Kat. In an addition to try to pry a truffle from a pig's snout, I will say that this next section is less dumping on a guy who has done nothing to warrant it and more the kind of stuff that makes a drooling pervert like me go nuts. I know, I swore I would cut back, but again, I'm not made of stone!

“All right,” Ekaterina said slowly, “I have lost my enthusiasm for the unique personality of Qasim Marid. I suppose I know what to say when he asks to take me out again. But whatever will I do with my spare time now?”

“I have some ideas,” Kenny said, smiling.

"I don't know," Kat said. "I'm getting really tired of doing it doggie-style. Can we try wheelbarrow style, just to liven things up a bit?"

OW! Well if any of my readers object to the cheap and obvious joke, just take comfort I have yet another thing in Internet search history that I hope to never be called upon to explain. I keep praying desperately that the "I'm a writer. I swear to God, I'm not a terrorist or a pervert or both," defense still counts as a valid one, given how paranoid everyone is and how draconian our justice system has become. Because I have yet to meet a writer worth his/her salt, who didn't have a search history that would not only cause a blue-haired schoolmarm to swoon, it would put her in a permanent swoon-induced coma.

I am really sorry for the juvenile jokes that will make up the ending of this snark, but it is really damn difficult to avoid making The Todd-style comments to this dialogue between Kat and Kenny. Again, writers of Christian Fiction™ could really stand to shell out a few bucks to have a drooling pervert, such as myself, go over their manuscript for anything that could make for all kinds of unintentional humor, just as if I'm going to keep using the trademark symbol, I could stand to learn how to do it with my keyboard so I don't have just keep copying and pasting it over and over.

Kenny took her elbow as they walked. “I was struck from the first by your obvious passion for the Lord,” he said.

“Me too,” she said. “I mean about you.”

Yeah, that's what you were really struck by. You certainly didn't notice her Huge Tracts of Land or how limber she is.

“It’s something I have to work on,” he said. “How bad is that? I’m living in the millennial kingdom with Jesus right here on the throne and ever-present, and still I struggle with the flesh.”

“We’re not in heaven yet. The glorified-mind-and-body people seem to have no distractions to their devotion.”

"Since we're not Glorified, how about we go to your apartment where we can spend a good evening, struggling with each other's flesh."

“Ignore you? If you were infatuated, I don’t know what to call what I was. What I am. I just know I want to spend a lot more time with you, Kat. I want to really get to know you.”

“Well,” she said, gazing at him, “it seems we have plenty of time for that. For one thing, I am going to be putting in for a transfer to a more direct-ministry-oriented department. I mean, I like rec and I’ve had my ministry opportunities. But I’d feel more comfortable now in an area that doesn’t have Qasim in it.”

“It’s unlikely my parents would put you in my area. My mother was on to us from the first day.”

“Oh, how embarrassing! It showed?”

“According to her.”

"Maybe my wardrobe shouldn't be just skintight jeans and leather."

OW! I'm sorry, but I am really having a difficult time restraining my perverted self. Because even in context, it's hard to interpret "Oh, how embarrassing! It showed?" without going to all kinds of...well let's just say it involves Kenny's area and stop there.

Though Kat's next line makes me feel a eensy-weensy bit guilty for all the innuendo.

“Mothers know these things. But I want to learn from you how to make reaching these kids an everyday thing.”

Since in this case, she's talking about kids, it would be kind of wrong for me to infer anything about that. But for the few of you who haven't tired of me making dirty jokes and cackling about afterwards, I'll give you the last few lines of this chapter.

“Well,” Kenny said, “if our relationship is going to be educational, we ought to start on the way to work tomorrow, wouldn’t you say?”

“Just tell me when to be ready, Professor Williams.”

Yeah, the question isn't whether or not my face is red and I'm making Beavis and Butthead-style laughter; the question is, "Will I ever stop?" This may make the upcoming family get-together awkward especially since, well, my cousins have had a few kids. The eldest is about eight, the youngest is three. Any advice? Because little pitchers have big ears and I heard cold showers don't actually work and...fine, I'll mace myself on my way out.

Merry Christmas everybody and just in case I don't post next week, Happy New Year! Hope everyone gets what they want and stays out of trouble. Me, I may find myself on some kind of watchlist.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

I've Seen the Movie and It's Surprisingly Decent

Hey guys!

I have finally seen Vanished: Left Behind--The Next Generation. I had planned on putting a short little review at the beginning, then leaping back into Kingdom Come, but I wound up having more to say. So this week, we're going to take a break from talking about what a Nice Guy™ Kenny-boy is and talk about the movie. Spoilers ahead for anyone who cares about this sort of thing.

First of all, a thank you to Firedrake for making it so I could watch Vanished: Left Behind-the Next Generation. I don't know how you gained access to it, but I'm not judging in the slightest. I'll assume you know a guy who knows a guy and leave it at that.

But now, I find myself at a loss. Y'see I had planned on reviewing said movie at some point on this blog, planned on being all snarky and tearing it a new one like I normally do, but the movie...It was actually kind of decent.

Oh, will you people put down your torches and pitchforks and listen for a bit! Why do you even have those? Maglites are way more practical and given that few, if any of us, work with hay, I can't figure out why you would need a pitchfork in the first place!

Don't get me wrong: I still think the Left Behind series is a repugnant series guided by a repugnant philosophy and written by repugnant people. But I had repeatedly said that no matter what, however bad the movie may be, it will still be better than the books. And it was. Sometimes even if you don't agree with the philosophy of a film, you can still get drawn into the power and resonance of the story. I cite as example, the eighties Red Dawn. Yeah, it's cheesy and the people involved were paranoid and legally insane by any definition of the word, but at the same time, there is some emotional power to be drawn from it. You really do believe the teens are cold, hungry, and afraid, even if you can point out about a million flaws in their military strategy and in the communists. The people involved were insane, but at the same time, they did really believe in their story, put forth all their effort into creating a compelling film. Which makes it so much better than the remake with Chris Hemsworth, which was a soulless "Let's cash in on Eighties nostalgia" project from beginning to end. Plus, in the original, the Soviet Union invading had a degree of plausibility. It wasn't a lot, but it was a degree, unlike the remake which has freakin' North Korea as the bad guys. Maybe if Chris Hemsworth had been shirtless from beginning to end, I would view the remake a lot more positively, but since he wasn't...

Anyway, I had planned on making some crack about how Vanished had some actual money behind it, which enabled them to actually produce a better, more aesthetically pleasing film than the Kirk Cameron Left Behind, but then I looked it up. Vanished was made on an estimated budget of $2 million dollars, while Kirk Cameron's was made on a budget of $4 million, which boggles my mind, because Vanished actually looks much more polished and sleeker than Left Behind. It is still low-budget, but it doesn't scream it the way Left Behind does. Of course, now I wonder how much of Left Behind's $4 millions went towards paying Kirk Cameron's salary.

And of course, another reason Vanished is actually kind of decent: the main cast actually has some acting chops, unlike Left Behind, where only Brad Johnson and Clarence Gilyard were putting forth any effort. Yeah, it was basic acting 101, but in trying as best as they can to flesh out the limited characters they were given, it makes Rayford's scenes and Bruce's scenes easier to watch. Because Kirk Cameron couldn't act like he was falling off a cliff if you physically shoved him off of one. He would just smug his way down until he hit the ground, leaving a smug-shaped impression in the earth.

But again, the cast is surprisingly decent. Mason Dye and Dylan Sprayberry had worked together on Teen Wolf, so they play nicely off one another. The actress who plays the protagonist, Amber Frank, her most notable role was on a Nickelodeon teen sitcom, but she handle herself quite well. And I was kind of impressed with the actress, Keely Wilson, playing her younger sister. Because few things are worse than bad child stars and Christian films usually have the worst, but Keely Wilson actually did a decent job, didn't fall into the "mugging for the camera" trap that befalls so many child actors, like the kid who played Raymie Steele in the version with Kirk Cameron.

No matter what happens, the main cast keep their reactions grounded in reality and well, their reactions feel genuine. They actually react like kids would in the situation and don't just do things so the plot will move along. Plus again, the characters did show more sense than anyone in the Adult books or the For Kids! books. When the shit has hit the fan in that spectacular a fashion, GTFO. Get the hell out of Dodge and try to track down someone who might be able to help you.

Of course, a large reason the movie works is because for the most part, it strays away from the rigid template of the books. It focuses its attentions primarily on the Rapture and the effect it would have. The books were in such a hurry to lay out the rise of Nicolae, that they fast-forwarded through the whole, y'know, Every Child on Earth is Missing! bit. The movie does make some nods towards the books. On their way out of the city, they stop by a church run by Bruce Barnes, who gives them a USB key with Vernon Billings's "In Case of Rapture video," and clips from said video are shown, and Nicolae Carpathia makes his appearance in the last few minutes, but for the most part, it does its own thing, focuses on the protagonist and how she and her friends are confused and scared.

I'm not saying the movie doesn't have its faults. Obviously to really capture what would happen in the wake of the Rapture, it should be a lot closer in tone to Children of Men, which constantly drives home the misery and suffering inherent in a world that has no hope. I also would have liked some more development with the Doomsday Prepper-guy. The actor playing him, Tom Everett Scott, did a good job playing him, managing to convey some twitchy, off-kilter aspects even before he was revealed to be crazy, but I still think there should have been more build-up, before the guy revealed himself to be all Ax Crazy. Felt like more could have been done with it, with Gaby and her friends noticing the strained "Everything's Okay" atmosphere and how people keep "running off" and maybe those guys with guns aren't there to just protect them from outside marauders. I was also a bit confused by the whole "He was keeping Gaby's father hostage" twist. Where exactly was Doomsday Prepper keeping him, before Gaby spied on his guys? It looked to be an adjourning property, but we never really saw Doomsday Prepper doing anything over there. It seemed like his security was doing most of the villainy, while he was unaware, so I was a bit confused by the revelation.

Though as something of a Doomsday Preppers buff, I was kind of impressed with his set-up. Too many of the people on NatGeo's show, you're like, "Boys and their toys." Because yeah, you've got plenty of canned goods and bullets, but all that doesn't mean much of anything, if you don't have a resupply plan and you can only get so far with the "Shoot up your neighbors and take their stuff" resupply plan. If any of the whole Doomsday, End-of-Civilization scenarios come to pass, the people who will survive, are the ones with skills, the ones who know how to garden and build things with a minimal need for power-tools or other stuff tied to the grid. And of course, what would happen, is people banding together in collective tribes. Occasionally, said tribes might for some kind of loose Iroquois Confederation, where they let each other do their own thing, live how they see fit, unless it intrudes upon the lives of others, but still work together against shared enemies.

So that in mind, I was a little impressed with the guy's setup. He does have guns, but they aren't just Assault Weapons that serve no real purpose except to take as many human lives as possible; they are more the kind of weapons to be used to hunt wild game, aka the kind you that would be most useful at the End of the World. Because in addition to serving no real purpose except to kill as many people within a short interval as possible, assault weapons are also fussy weapons with quite a few specialized moving parts that make it more prone to jamming and harder to find replacements for.

Also the dude had a hydroponic set-up, which was kind of nice. Though while hydroponics is cool, me, I always thought that aquaponics is an even cooler idea, though I suppose only a geek like me would care about that sort of thing, and it was probably too much to expect the movie to go into details on permaculture. Though again, even though the guy turned out to be crazy as heck, characters still demonstrated a lot more sense than anyone in the books. In a crisis situation, you'd understand why the characters would flock desperately to this guy; when everything's gone to hell, yeah, it'd probably make sense to hook up with a Doomsday Prepper. And of course, they are kids; however much teenagers may consider themselves adults, when a crisis happens, they become kids again, desperately hoping that someone older and wiser knows what's going on and will set everything right again.

Heck, even the "Accept Jesus" parts feel a lot less obnoxious. In the books, it's totally spell-casting where it doesn't matter if you believe in God; what matters is if you say The Prayer with the precise amount of sincerity demanded. And again, another one of its strengths is that the characters don't immediately leap to "God did it!" but consider some scenarios like bioterrorism or alien abductions, both of which would be pretty out there, but when every kid on Earth below a certain age is gone, yeah, you're going to start considering those kinds of scenarios. So the fact they didn't act like they had read the book jacket and knew exactly what was going on, also gave the film some strength.

Though again, given the strengths of the main story, you actually do find yourself going, "Dang it!" when they pause to put something in from the actual books. Though I will say even though we got only one scene with Bruce Barnes, I did like him so much more than his book counterpart. The people involved were smart enough to realize that in the wake of such a catastrophe, people aren't going to wait until Sunday rolls around to start flocking into church. Major event happens and everyone seeks comfort. Though we don't hear Bruce's tale of woe or see much of him at all, what little we do see, already makes him a more appealing character than his book counterpart. In the wake of the Rapture, he's gotten out food, bottled water, and other supplies, and gotten the people gathered to get to work distributing it. He's also got a basket full of USB keys to hand out to people explaining what had happened. Which again, proves he has more compassion and better leadership skills than his book counterpart.

If you're wondering about how Randy LaHaye, Tim's grandson, did as Nicolae Carpathia, well, he doesn't appear or do anything until the last few minutes, when he gives a speech seen via electronic billboard, so I can't really make any judgments on how he did. But he does do a decent job with what he's given, though a large reason is that the writers knew that having Nicolae recite a bunch of facts isn't stirring oratory. It is standard politician "We will rebuild" speech, but it's more believable that the characters would follow that. And according to IMDB, Randy LaHaye has acted before, mostly in bit parts, so he may not have solely gotten the part based on nepotism.

Reading the trivia section on Vanished, Randy LaHaye does seem to genuinely believe the message of his film and actually cared about creating a decent product. No matter how much Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins may claim otherwise, we all know that the Left Behind books and by extension, the movies were created to serve as revenge porn for RTCs, rather than as tools for evangelizing. The trivia lends credence to the idea that this project was a labor of love for him and again, while you may not support the dumb-assed convoluted PMD beliefs, again, there's something to be said for the people involved putting forth actual effort and passion into their work.

Though one of the trivia bits has this:

His grandfather, Tim LaHaye was able to see a screening of Vanished before his death where he responded positively: "One of the proudest moments of my life was when my grandfather saw the movie and told me afterwards, "Finally, there's a movie about Left Behind that captured what made the books so successful."" Randy also revealed that the working titles of the next two movies were "Rise of the Deceiver" and "The Rebellion Awakens". He stated that the first sequel was planned to begin filming in 2017.

It's touching, but I am wondering if Tim LaHaye had gone a little senile towards the end. Because a large reason why Vanished works is because, like I said, they follow the books very loosely. And I have to say, the trivia does provide a handy out as to why Nicolae doesn't have a Romanian accent.

When asked why his portrayal of Nicolae doesn't have a Romanian accent, Randy explained that they have given the Antichrist the supernatural ability to cause those who listen to hear him in their own native language. This is the reason why Nicolae sounds American to the American characters in the film. This power is not directly brought up in Vanished, but will be an element explored in future sequels.

It's an out, but it's one that actually make sense. Because sometimes laziness, if done properly, pays off. The whole concept behind X-Men came about out of sheer laziness. Stan Lee was tired of inventing reasons for why his characters have powers, so he just threw up his arms and said, "They're mutants, that's why!" Again, lazy, but it had unexpected metaphorical payoffs and basically gave the writers the ability to create infinite numbers of characters without having to explain their backstories too much, because it was interwoven into the universe.

And I must admit, however shallow it may be, Randy LaHaye is actually quite easy on the eyes. Not Chris Hemsworth-level, but still.

Regarding those sequels mentioned, if they ever came to pass, unlike the sequels John Travolta promised to Battlefield Earth, I might actually be willing to watch them. Though I'm not sure how long they can keep up the "It's a surprisingly decent, resonating film despite being adapted from terrible books" bit up. Future sequels may force them to follow the events of the books more carefully and like I said, one of the strengths of the movie was that it barely touched on book stuff: just had the rapture happened and went from there.

I do hope they don't draw out the love triangle between Gaby and the two dudes, Josh and Flynn. It is a trope I'm getting tired of in YA fiction: the love triangle. I won't bring up the Twilight series, because that series was just a mess, but I thought it somewhat worked in The Hunger Games trilogy. I saw the triangle between Katniss, Peeta, and Gale, more because however much Katniss may like Peeta, she didn't like the idea of being forced to marry him, having the choice forever taken from her, in order to keep her family alive. So she rebels, drawing closer to Gale, as means of asserting her will. The series had its flaws, especially in the last book, but for the most part, The Hunger Games series is a decent read.

But it's a danger with love triangles: draw them out too long and the heroine (it's usually a heroine at the center of these) comes across as a flaky mean-spirited idiot who enjoys toying with the feelings of others, and the guys come across as complete dopes for continuing to crush on her. Vanished mostly kept the Love Triangle thing on the wayside, realized that Gaby has more important stuff to worry about than her sex life.

Anyway, tl;dr, while Vanished is hardly Casablanca level in greatness, it is a decent film that does manage to have some kind of emotional resonance. Don't know if I would pay theatre-level prices for it, but if you want to rent it on Amazon, it might be worth your time.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Nice Guys™ Should Finish Last

All right, I'm here.

This may come as a shock to the people who read my blog, but I have a passionate, obsessive enthusiasm for movies and TV shows. I know, it's really hard to believe.

Anyway, I see something I really enjoy, well, I'm one of those insane types who has to fight the urge to dress up and go door to door being all, "Have you heard of Heavenly Creatures? It was Kate Winslet's first film role and it convinced the studios that maybe Peter Jackson could do a damn good job directing the Lord of the Rings trilogy." Though for the record, most of the time when I want to evangelize, it's when said product is good, but few outside a small following, have heard of it. So you'll be happy to know I don't do that for the Marvel Cinematic Universe; it's clearly doing fine and doesn't need my evangelizing. The DCAU on the other hand...yeah, it is kind of sad how unless I'm in the presence of animation buffs, I can't talk about how Kevin Conroy is the best Batman and Heath Ledger may be a great Joker, but Mark Hamill blows him out of the water every time.

But anyway, my faithful blog readers have noticed how I have made repeated references to the Swing Kids rebellion of Nazi Germany. Well, I finally got around to seeing the movie about it called Swing Kids. It came out in 1993 and received generally negative reviews, but I thought it was pretty danged cool. It starts out as being almost like Footloose, what with those crazy kids and their love of dancing and that crazy new music, going up against the crusty old adults who just don't understand, but given that in this story, the crusty adults are freaking Nazis, things escalate fairly quickly from there.

As Wikipedia and I keep telling you, the Swing Kids experienced actual suffering for liking that crazy music; many wound up in concentration camps or were forcibly drafted into the military. I suppose what the Swing Kids experienced in no way compares to the sufferings of other rebellious movements like the Free France or the White Rose and it certainly doesn't come close to what the Jews experienced at the hands of the Nazis, but again, there are times in which you've got to cross your arms and say, "No." Regardless of how much societal pressure, it is always better to die on your feet, rather than live on your knees. And of course, when the Nazis are doing everything they can to stamp out degenerate art and music, it becomes even more important to hold onto said music.

Though again, like I keep saying, while we can point to plenty of examples of tyrannical governments based on a religious ideology, I can't really think of any based on hedonism. Can't think of any government that took over, then was immediately like, "You will have and enjoy sexual intercourse for purposes other than reproduction!" or "You will burn your collection of Pat Boone CDs and Christian Rock CDs, or be sent to a concentration camp!" As said before, hedonists don't really mind if you're not into the same things they are. Hedonists would be like, "Yeah, you can spend your days singing praises to Jesus, but I'm going out to have some real fun." They don't like the same things as fundamentalists or RTCs, but they don't try to outlaw, ban, or do anything to keep said fundamentalists from enjoying what they like.

The same cannot be said about fundamentalists or RTCs, who, like I've said before and will say again, for them, it's not enough to practice their faith in whatever manner they see fit and shut up about it. Their poisonous egos cause them to feel that they can't be properly holy, wear their ankle-length skirts and enjoy whatever entertainment their pastor deems worthy, so long as there are other people in the world flashing their sinful ankles and enjoying music that :gasp: actually acknowledges the reality of human emotions and isn't just, "Na-Na, Jesus is great."

Of course, there is hazards to a life of excessive pleasure, but there are hazards to any form of excess, including being so obsessed with being holy and following the rules that you lose sight of what said rules were meant to do in the first place and instead, spend your days scowling about all those heathens, how they're having fun now, but they'll eventually pay for it. I'm fairly certain Jesus spent a lot of time talking about the dangers of that form of excess; the gospels have him constantly laying into the Pharisees about the sin I've pointed out. I'm with Fred, who in one of my favorite LB posts said: "Sin boldly. Better to be a crack addict chasing a counterfeit of the pearl of great price than to be chasing nothing at all."

It's like me and my affection for Coulda Been Contenders. Even though they may have fallen short and failed to accomplish what they set out to do, I have more respect and affection for them, because they did actually try. They may have failed, but there's some nobility in how they tried.

Sorry, sorry. I swear I didn't plan to talk so damn much, but really there isn't a lot this week. There's usually not a lot every week, but this week...however much I criticize A Separate Peace for trying to stretch out a short story's worth of material into a novel, at least there I could entertain myself by shouting at the protagonists, "Will you two just fuck already?!"

The chapter begins with a few paragraphs with Yasmine and Abdullah talking to each other about Abdullah's plans to try to infiltrate the TOL. It gets revisited later on in the chapter when he visits Zeke and Zeke basically says, "I can't make you look like you're under one hundred." Yeah, it is really that dull. I could talk about how the TOL, with the exception of that one rapist dude, isn't really interfering at all with the day-to-day lives of RTCs and really, the RTCs are acting more tyrannical, trying to do everything they can to keep them from living their lives as they see fit, arresting them for have nightclubs where they dance and enjoy alcohol. I know I've already ranted about this, but I haven't really heard anything about the TOL sending spies to bring down the RTC movement from within.

Next part is a discussion between Kenny-boy and Kat. This thread in the chapter is admittedly more interesting, because I can dust off all my rants and links about Nice Guys™. Because Kenny is such a Nice Guy™. Just look at this conversation between him and Kat after she tells him that she's going on a date with Qasim.

“See you? As in go out with you?”

She nodded. “And I agreed.”

“What? Tell me you didn’t!”

“Kenny! What’s the matter? I didn’t want to be rude. He just wants to take me to dinner Friday night. What can be the harm? You know him better than I. Is there some reason I should not accept an invitation from a brother?”

A brother? Kenny wasn’t so sure. Raymie was suspicious of Qasim, and his personality grated on Kenny. But that wasn’t enough to make him bad-mouth the guy to Ekaterina. Kenny knew full well why he had a problem with Qasim’s interest in Kat. He had merely beaten Kenny to the punch.

“Well?” she said. “No warnings? No dire stories?”

Kenny shook his head. He wanted to blurt out that he cared for her and would rather date her himself, but it was too late. He had missed his window of opportunity. He would look jealous and desperate. Would he have to compete with Qasim to see her at all now?

Yeah, Kenny may not be using the exact same lingo as Nice Guys™, but he definitely shares the same mindset and aggrieved tone of one. Because apparently Kat is supposed to instinctively recognize that he wants to get in her pants without him saying so, and give him what he wants, because he's spent all this time pretending to listen to her and care about her thoughts and feelings. Because everyone knows that women are machines and if you put enough niceness coins in them, sex is supposed to come out.

Kenny is shocked, shocked that for all the time he devoted to emotional manipulation, Kat has the nerve to go out with someone who actually asked her out and displayed open, honest interest in her. All right, I'll post one last webcomic link and move on. No points for guessing which character Kenny is in the comic.

Chloe and Cam-Cam are about to sit down to a dinner of fresh fruit. Once again, I roll my eyes, because good lord, they didn't even try to make the all vegetarian diet sound attractive, at all. Even though, I'm fairly certain that while meat is off the table, there are still such things as spices around. Heck, even the Raw Foodists can slap together some appetizing-sounding recipes. I have no intention of starting an all Raw Food diet, but still, I think I've made my point and again, Ellanjay keep undermining their own case.

Because I'm going to provide you with side-by-side lists in order to compare the RTCs and TOL.

The RTCs' Activities in Heaven

Eating steaming piles of fresh produce

Spending their days working a slightly different version of the 9-5 rat race of our world.

No sex whatsoever.

As for leisure activities, they consist of singing hymns (and you know they're the banal praise choruses of modern Christian music, rather than Handel or Bach or anybody good) and dourly looking down on anyone different from them. That and of course, smiling with glee when Zod chooses to Exterminate All the Brutes.

TOL's Activities in Heaven

Rocking out to music with an actual beat

Enjoying alcohol and other intoxicating substances without any of the hazards of our world.

Going to nightclubs to dance to said music and partake of said intoxicants

Having all kinds of sex because they do not have to worry about STDs in Heaven

Leisure activities include generally enjoying Heaven, leaving the RTCs alone, and :gasp: saying things like a tyrannical deity who tortures people horribly for believing slightly different things and a Christian Taliban-like organization, may actually be horrible.

So yeah, it's not too surprising whose side is making a better case.

Anyway, Yerik, that priest guy from before, shows up to talk to Cam-Cam and Chloe. And he says that Noah has expressed his willingness to talk to the kids at their poorly-run daycare. I think it's safe to assume that the Noah in question is the flood guy, not the one mentioned in Numbers 27. Like I keep saying, it pays to know some of the more obscure parts of the Bible. .

Yerik tells Cam-Cam and Chloe, Noah's stipulations for this appearance:

“Just so you’re aware, he’ll be here alone. He will require nothing. No food, no drink, no introduction. And while there may be no way to preclude this, neither is he comfortable with praise. No doubt the children will want to cheer him, but there’s no need to encourage it. And as for drawing a large crowd, allow me to ask you, sir: have you already thought of whom you might inform as soon as I leave?”

:grins wickedly: If Noah isn't comfortable with praise, would he be comfortable with bringing up Genesis, chapter nine, verses twenty to the end? I could also bring up how that passage was used to justify Slavery and Jim Crow, even though isn't it really more Noah's fault for getting drunk and passing out naked? But because one of his kids saw his daddy's pecker, that means millions of people who never met or knew him, have to suffer horribly for his offense. Because that was how they justified it: Black people were the descendants of Ham, so they must forever serve White People.

Yeah, like I keep saying, I would get kicked out of that daycare so fast. Again, it pays to know some of the more obscure passages of the Bible.

Next section is about Rayford and his merry band doing stuff in Egypt. I'm going to post the entire passage, because I believe in spreading the pain around.

News of the new name of Egypt spread quickly through that nation, and as Rayford, Irene, Chaim, Tsion, Mac, Bruce, and his wife visited the various cities, the people would cry out, “Long live Osaze, ‘loved by God,’ and long live our King, the Lord Christ!”

But after one of the team preached and young people under one hundred streamed forward to commit their lives to Christ, someone was always bound to demand to know when God would lift His curse.

“That is up to you!” Bruce or Tsion would boom. “We believe the Lord is waiting to bless repentant hearts and minds and spirits.”

“But we have seen our sin and confessed!” the people would yell. “And ours was a sin of omission! We allowed others to sway us, but we did not choose to oppose the Lord!”

Rayford’s team never left an area without constructing, developing, advising, counseling, and even initiating technological advances. But even Rayford himself wondered how long it would be before God lifted His hand of discipline from the land.

Oy...I'm actually grateful that they told this in mostly summary. Yeah, it's lazy as heck, but just think of how much worse this passage would have been like, if they had put in more. Because you can just hear Rayford, in a whiny, aggrieved tone, being like, "Ugh...what is with these people, what with their constant demands for water? They just won't shut up about it. It's like they think it's one of the basic necessities of life that people won't survive long without. Why can't they spend a few more hours praising Jesus, instead of such frivolities as doing whatever you can to collect and treat whatever water there is to be found, running their urine through various filters to purify it, and dying horribly? And would it hurt for them to bathe or take a shower? They smell terrible. These people are so damn insensitive to the suffering of others."

Like I keep saying, I freely admit to exaggerating for comedic effect, but can you really say I'm too over-the-top here?

Though I will say again: why haven't the Egyptians just gotten the hell out? Because the borders of country are determined politics or natural features; it's not like those lines on maps represent alligator-filled moats. It would majorly suck, being a refugee, but when your options are A) stay where you are and die a horrible death or B) Undertake a dangerous journey and possibly survive, can you blame most people for choosing Option B?

Given that the Christian faith centers around a child raised by a couple of Palestinian Jews who traveled ninety miles from their homeland at the behest of their government, with one of them nine months pregnant while on this journey (artwork depicts Mary as riding a donkey, but in all likelihood, she would have walked like Joseph)*, and later, had to flee again to Egypt to escape a genocide, you'd think Ellanjay would be a bit more sensitive to the plight of refugees.

Anyway, there really isn't much more to this chapter. Creepy Raymie tells Kenny about how Noah is going to visit, Zeke tells Abdullah that he can't make him look younger, Cam-Cam and Chloe talk about nothing, and Kenny continues to give off Nice Guy™ vibes. Yeah, I think the most irritating aspect of that phenomenon is the aggrieved tone and the sense of entitlement. Apparently they feel they deserve a god-danged medal for doing the bare minimum needed to qualify as a decent human being.

For the record, I read the next chapter and yeah, no matter how they try to polish that turd, make Kenny's interactions with Kat seem all cute and emblematic of young love, it never stops being creepy or reeking of the Nice Guy™ phenomenon. Seriously, Qasim, just give these guys the middle finger and take off. Stop trying to kowtow to a bunch of bullies and make them like you. I've said it before and I'll keep saying it: the message that bullied kids should just completely reshape themselves, so as to get bullies to leave them alone and stop the emotional cruelty, is really sick. There is never a reason to bully someone, even if you wouldn't be surprised if that kid didn't have 666 tattooed on their scalp. You don't like someone, just leave them the hell alone, go out and live your life.

*And again, the journey...even if one of them wasn't pregnant, it would still be rough. Very few of the roads would be paved, forcing them to travel over some very rough terrain, and it wasn't like today where there's a gas station at every exit, so travelers would have to figure out how they are going to eat and sleep on this journey.