The Overton Window: Chapter 37
As I mentioned I am once again selecting a comment of the week, and this week that "honor" goes to Ken for somehow imagining something even more frightening than Sassafrass' meat-stick reference:
I would suggest Drek is auditioning for the role of Glenn Beck's next co-author/ghost writer, but I fear his wife would have me killed. With good reason.
Oh, man. Ghost write "The Overton Window 2"? That is just a horrible, horrible idea. Although, I suppose I might be able to get away with ending the first chapter at "And then a meteor destroyed the world- THE END!" Honestly, given how much time and energy was put into this book, I doubt anyone would notice. Well done, Ken, and keep it up folks- we've got a ways to go yet.
And, with that, let's begin! As always, page/line numbers are in bold, quotes from the book are in block quotes, my commentary is in regular print, and you can navigate the whole series with the provided tag. My footnotes use the traditional star system (e.g. *, **, etc) while references included in the Afterword to the book are noted with numbered parenthetical tags (e.g. (1), (2), etc.). Fo' shizzle!
Dramatis Personae: In an order determined by my unruly undergraduates.
Eli Churchill: Former janitor at a volcano lair. Fan of remote telephone booths. Shot in the head by parties unknown.
Beverly Emerson: Mysterious correspondent of Eli Churchill's. Molly's Mom. Injected with weed killer by parties
Noah Gardener: 28 years old. Sets the dating bar "medium-high".
Molly "Hottie McPretty" Ross: Dresses like a hippie, but not really. Looks like a free spirit. Perfectly captures the essence of womanhood. Auburn hair. Green eyes. Pale skin. Has a tattoo on her chest. Wears a silver cross around her neck. Lost her father when she was young. Impressed by fancy cars. Cocktease. Possibly suffering from bipolar disorder. Looks just like Noah's mom. Also looks just like Natalie Portman.
Arthur Gardner Noah's father. Owner of Doyle & Merchant. Megalomaniac. Surprisingly vigorous for a 74 year old man.
Khaled: Lebanese cab driver. Sold out by Noah Gardener.
Hollis: Friend of Molly Ross. Very polite. From the country. May be a Yeti.
Danny Bailey: Some kind of YouTube celebrity. Former lover of Molly Ross. Kind of a dickhead. Loves conspiracy theories and incoherent speeches. Sodomized by inmates following the rally. Once dressed up as Colonel Sanders to infiltrate the United Nations. May be afraid of cats.
Charlie Nelan: Gardner family lawyer. Silver hair. Impeccably dressed. Looks awesome. Has some sort of weird relationship with GQ. May have the ability to sense when Noah's in trouble using some sort of clairvoyance. Possible kleptomaniac.
Stuart Kearns: FBI agent. Works on homeland security matters. Kinda old and wrinkly. Not particularly trusting. Lives in a double-wide trailer. Sixty-three years old.
Mr. Puddles: AKA Gray Death. AKA Ninja Cat. Stuart's cat. Large. Dangerous looking. Possibly plotting his demise.
Tiffany: A stripper at the Pussycat Ranch. Thinks Danny is awesome.
Ellen Davenport: Old friend of Noah's. Second-year neurology resident at Mt. Sinai. Doesn't appear to need sleep or have good taste in her associates.
Chapter 37: In which we reach a new level of stupid, even for this book.
Recommended Mood Music:
Page 235, Line Radiator:
No quote to start us off with, but we pick back up with Molly who repeatedly passes through the metal detector only to have it beep. She removes a metallic item, and then we start back from the top. If that sounds like a really boring way to start a chapter, it's because it is. My margin note observes that it's actually even more annoying to read a description of someone trying to get through airport security than it is to actually go through airport security yourself. Everything looks like it's going to be okay when suddenly the TSA agent notices that Molly has deposited her small silver cross in the dish of metallic items. Let's just ignore for the sake of argument the fact that her little silver cross probably wouldn't have a high enough ferrous content to set off a metal detector. I mean, I routinely go through airport metal detectors wearing a wedding ring and a college class ring without incident. The reason why this is an issue is because the TSA agent takes note of the cross and inquires about it, seeing as how Natalie Portman happens to be Jewish. Needless to say, Noah feels his mouth going dry and his bowels loosen.*
Page 236, Line 14-21:
Cops know liars like plumbers know leaks. They encounter them every day, all day; they know the little signs and symptoms, and they're trained to understand that where there's even a whiff of smoke, one should always assume there's a fire. As they challenge a person they study their reactions, pick apart little telltale movements, listen to the timbre of the voice, and more than anything else, they watch the eyes. Most suspects have already made a full confession by the time they begin their denial.
Oh, Jesus. These guys are way, way too fond of Lie to Me. Look, I have a great deal of respect for cops, but let's just get real here for a moment- not all cops, hell not even most cops, can possibly be the human lie detectors that this passage claims them to be. Oh, I'm sure a good many of them believe that they are, but believing you have a power is not the same thing as having a power. Just ask James Randi. I suppose if this attitude is typical of folks like Beck it explains why certain conservatives are so hostile to the judicial system- who needs "innocent until proven guilty" and legal checks and balances when cops are infallible adjudicators of truth and falsehood? And in any case, we're not dealing with a cop, we're dealing with a TSA agent, who is less respected, less well trained, and probably less well compensated than a cop. Anyway, back to the "narrative".
Page 236, Line 22-25:
This was one of the topics of light conversation in the wee hours of that first night when he and Molly had met. Noah had been so fascinated by the woman that he hadn't stopped to wonder why she seemed to know so much about the art of deception.
No. Just... no. Look, we've had an excessively thorough recounting of the night Noah and Molly met. They met in the mailroom (Chapter 2), he then saw her again at the Stars 'n Stripes Saloon (Chapter 8), where they certainly did not talk about lying. They were then hauled to prison (Chapter 13). Noah got them released, but did not see Molly before they were released, and they did NOT talk about this during their limo ride (Chapter 14). Nor did they talk about this after Molly came into Noah's room and before she, and he, passed out (Chapter 15). They at no time had the conversation claimed above, and we know because we saw the whole frickin night. As writing goes, this is supremely lazy, and even at this late date I am shocked by the authors' sheer, unrelenting incompetence. But, as long as we're making shit up, we may as well go all the way, right?
Page 236, Line 26-32:
Don't be afraid, she'd said; that's the key, no matter how bad it gets. If locked in a car that's speeding toward a gap in the bridge and it's clearly too late to stop, most people would still waste their last moral seconds stopping on the brakes. But what you really want to do is say a little prayer, and then floor it. If you're going down anyway, go all in, go down with courage- because, hey, there's always that one slim chance that you'll make it to the other side.
See, this is why they don't let Glenn Beck teach driver's ed anymore.
Page 237, Line 1-5:
From behind her Noah saw Molly's head tilt slightly, and this movement was accompanied by a subtle hip shift. There was a convex security mirror on a bracket above the metal detector, and in that reflection he saw a patient but serious expression on her face that meant, You didn't really just say what I think I heard, did you? [emphasis original]
I know, right? A guy whose job it is to check people for oddities notices someone who is supposed to be Jewish walking around with a cross on, and yet he thinks it's somehow appropriate to ask a polite question about it? What a dick! But seriously, how the hell are they going to get out of this one, I wonder? Okay, that's a lie, I barely give a shit, but here we go anyway.
Page 237, Line 17-23:
She turned to the officer, pulled back her hood and let it settle onto her shoulders, removed the baseball cap and let it fall to the floor at her feet, and then slow and sure, began to walk toward him.
"The Force is strong with this one," Molly said, as calm and smooth as a Jedi master. Her accent was gone, and her voice was just breathy enough to obscure any other identifying qualities of the real McCoy.
Ho-kay. Well, I guess that might work. I mean, Natalie Portman didn't play a force-sensitive character, and there's really no reason in the context of the situation to say something like that, and it's really Darth Vader's line anyhow, but sure, why not? Let's just go with it.
Page 237, Line 27-32:
She continued nearer, put a finger to the frames and lowered her sunglasses partway down her nose, tipping her chin so she could look at the officer directly, eye to eye, just over the top of the darkened lenses. As she stopped barely a foot away she subtly passed an open hand between their faces, and spoke again.
"These aren't the droids you're looking for," Molly said.
Right. And that's a Ben Kenobi line from Episode IV. One can only imagine how Molly thinks quoting lines to a Star Wars fan will help if she can't even quote lines from a movie Natalie Portman was in, much less one of Portman's own lines. So how does our Star Wars uber geek react, given that he has to know how badly she's fucking up?
Page 238, Line 3-8:
There was an eternal pause, and then before his eyes Noah saw this big, intimidating young man begin his grinning transformation from the TSA's most vigilant watchdog into Natalie's Portman's biggest fan.
"These aren't the droids we're looking for." The officer repeated her words, just as that spellbound storm trooper had said them at the Imperial checkpoint in Episode 4.
Yeah, that was about what we should have expected. Granted, we somehow went from the TSA guy being an uber geek (Page 233, Line 1-9) to him being super intimidating in a few pages, and none of this makes any damned sense but, hey, whatever. Molly signs TSA-geek's hand, they clear security, and they're off on their merry way.
Page 238, Line 27-30:
"How did I do?" Molly asked, obviously fully aware of exactly how she'd done.
"You quoted two different male characters from the wrong trilogy, but other than that, you nailed it."
Ah. Right. So her staggering idiocy was supposed to be humorous. Well, never mind then.
Page 239, Line 7-23:
"I need to ask you something," Noah said.
"Sure." It seemed she could see that he'd become more somber.
"When we were in Times Square, when we kissed that time..."
She took off the sunglasses and hooked them on her pocket, moved a little closer to him, brushed a windblown lock of hair from his eyes. "I remember."
"Is that when you pickpocketed my Blackberry?"
Molly smiled, and pulled him willingly into her embrace. It was no real surprise, but this kiss was every bit as stirring as that first one had been, and as he realized then for certain, as good as every single one would be thereafter.
She stood back a step, her face as innocent as a newborn lamb, and held up his wallet between them.
"I love you," Noah said.
Molly looked up at him with all the courageous resolve of the doomed Han Solo at the end of The Empire Strikes Back.
"I know," she replied. [emphasis original]
Okay, aside from the fact that they're crapping all over one of the great scenes in cinema here, trying to suck a modicum of TESB's awesomeness for their own use, what's the problem with this scene? I mean besides the fact that it makes Noah sound like a simpering moron, because at this point there's not a whole lot they could do to counteract that impression. Well, let me give you a hint: at this moment- I mean exactly as this scene is taking place- Molly's mom is dying slowly and extremely painfully from a poison that Molly and Noah both know was probably given to her on Arthur's orders. Now, keep that in mind and read the above passage again- either Molly is, once again, playing Noah for a fool, or she is absolutely fucking creepy.**
Page 239, Line 24-25:
By the time the jet reached its cruising altitude Molly had fallen sound asleep in his arms.
Oh, man, I'm going to be physically ill. How many creepy stalker-ish "fell asleep in his arms; later he would steal her hairbrush and keep it forever, petting it like a cat" scenes must we endure in this nightmare? Regardless, they have an entire row to themselves- because even when Noah Gardner flies coach he still has a shitload of space in his transportation- and Noah notices that the one object Molly retrieved from her luggage before boarding was her hand-bound journal.
Page 240, Line 1-3:
It would be nice to have something to read, he thought, and after a brief consideration he decided that she wouldn't be likely to object if he took a look through her little book as she slept.
He decided that she wouldn't... did that really just happen? Dude, it's her journal! In my experience, people do actually tend to object when random other people try to read their journals uninvited. Hell, my wife keeps a journal and while I've been married to her for years, have been in an exclusive romantic relationship for yet longer, and am the father of her only child, I have never read her journal. Oh, she's read bits of it to me, on occasion, but part of having real love for someone is respecting them, and respect means not invading their damned privacy. Noah is basically the creepy mo-fo in that Police song, but the authors want us to view all this as being perfectly normal and perfectly healthy. That says rather more about them than I'm comfortable knowing. Moving on, it turns out that the book contains- in addition to that pencil drawing of the cabin in the woods that we last met in Molly's safe house (Pages 167-169 or so)- a random assortment of the writings of Thomas Jefferson. That's not actually an exaggeration, the book literally says, "...Molly's [share of Jefferson's writings] was only a small, random part placed in her care," (Page 240, Line 16-17). Good to see that Molly's terrorist group has the organizational skills of a preschooler, I guess. Anyway, after reading Jefferson's second inaugural address (1), we're back to Noah's "thoughts".
Page 240-241, Line 240: 27-28, 241: 1-5:
What struck Noah as he read these words was a fundamental difference in tone from the political discourse of later times. Here was one of the founders of the nation, maybe the greatest thinker among them, and yet he spoke with a quality that was so rare today as to be almost extinct among modern public servants. It was a profound humility, as though nothing were more important to express than the honor he felt in beign chosen again as a guardian of the people's precious liberties.
Wait, are we talking about Jefferson here? Because leaving aside the fact that this is taken from a political speech- which never, ever contains hyperbole- Jefferson was a founding father. He's one of the guys who up and said, "You know what? Sure the British Empire is the most powerful political force on the planet, sure we have virtually no serious industry, a tiny population, and a weak and fragmented domestic political context. But hey, fuck it, let's become independent and found a new nation on a totally untried system of government." There are many ways to describe that sentiment, including radical, heroic, insane, and so forth, but humble is not among them. This was a man who had the arrogance to pit his own will, mind, and conscience against the might of an empire. Don't get me wrong, I can't help but like Jefferson a lot- even if only because his position on the separation of church and state was utterly unimpeachable- but the man had a definite ego. And then let's also remember that among the authors is, at least theoretically, Glenn Beck. Riiiiight.
Page 241, Line 12-14:
Of all the remote destinations Molly could have picked for her flight to safety- anywhere in the world, really- he wondered why she'd chosen Las Vegas.
Man, is Noah suddenly channeling Sharon Zukin here, or what?*** Moving on, does this mean that Molly and Noah might get nuked by Danny and Stu's moronic terrorist pals? Oh, let it be so!
But, so or not, that's the end of the chapter. Come back next time when- I swear I'm not joking here- Stuart and Danny visit a bathroom and have a heart-to-heart moment. And no, unfortunately, I don't mean that in a Laud Humphreys kind of way.
See you then!
* Okay, the authors don't specifically state that his bowels loosen, but I think it's there between the lines.
** Possibly both. Let's be serious, after all.
*** For the record, I rather enjoyed the ASAs in Las Vegas, though I concede I wouldn't ever return to Vegas unless I was attending a conference there. This is not because I'm too good for Vegas, it's because I don't drink or gamble and have little interest in the sex trade.
Labels: The Overton Window