Total Drek

Or, the thoughts of several frustrated intellectuals on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes their fancy. There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say we didn't warn you.

Friday, November 04, 2011

The Overton Window: Chapter 39

Welcome back one and all to our ongoing series on The Overton Window, the book that makes us regret the development of language. Last time Stuart and Danny visited a bathroom and talked about crazy shit. What happens this week? Noah and Molly arrive in Las Vegas and make plans. They don't actually do anything, mind you, they just plan. Feel the thrilling!

As I mentioned I am once again selecting a comment of the week, and this week that "honor" goes to Ken for hitting on a fresh source of fail:

"Page 245, Line 6-10:
"Mohamed Atta is dead." [Stuart said]

"Yeah? So is Osama bin Laden, but that doesn't stop him from putting out a tape every six months. And I'm not even saying it's a real live Islamo-fascist behind any of this, but making it look that way will make the story that much scarier when something happens.""

Of course, at the point of the writing, OBL wasn't dead.

This book has aged badly, and that's just in the time you've been torturing yourself writing about it.


On the one hand, you have to cut these "ripped from the headlines" books a little bit of slack- it's hard to write about current events without becoming dated pretty quickly. On the other hand, however, as we've repeatedly seen, the authors' version of "research" and indeed "facts" leaves much to be desired in the realms of competency and thoroughness. As such, it's hardly surprising that their work becomes dated so quickly when so much of it was at variance with reality right from the start. It's a bit like noting that there haven't been any new breakthroughs in homeopathy for decades- when the thing in question is utterly crazy to begin with, it's hard to advance without fundamentally altering it. Well noted, Ken, and keep it up, folks. We're rapidly closing in on the end of this shitbird.

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.). Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down, never gonna run around and desert you!


***********************************
Dramatis Personae: In an order determined by the judges of Dancing with the Stars.

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 unknown blisteringly obvious to everyone.

Noah Gardener: 28 years old. Sets the dating bar "medium-high". Works Vice president at a PR firm. Went to NYU. Is "witty". Frequently forgets where he's going and why. Not good at talking to women. Not really inclined to help out cab drivers. Low tolerance for alcohol. Lost his mother when he was young. Fond of chicken and waffles. Rich as shit. Views himself as a sexual panther. Likes bacon. Considers himself to be good at word games. Wants to bang his mom.

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 39: In which Noah rambles and then shows off what a loser he is. Again.

Recommended Mood Music:




Page 246, Line Carrot:

No quote, but when we rejoin our heroes protagonists they're just landing in Las Vegas. You might think we could be grateful that the authors didn't insist on narrating the entire flight ("Noah looked up as the flight attendant came by with the drink cart. He asked for a coke, but they had run out. He then asked for a diet coke, but all they had was sprite. Noah hated sprite") but, true to form, they go ahead and decide to narrate in flashback what happened during the flight. So, basically, both manage to cram in all the boring shite that they should have skipped while, simultaneously, ignoring the actual scene in which they've placed their characters. Helpful tip for aspiring authors: if you keep having to dump your characters into a flashback or something to tell the story you need to, maybe you're not setting up the right scenes to begin with.


Page 246, Line 4-7:
He rubbed his eyes and they felt as though he hadn't blinked his eyes in quite a while. The time had apparently flown by as he'd been occupied reading and rereading the many quoted passages that filled the pages of Molly's book.


Seriously? When last we heard about this stuff, it sounded like some very dry material. I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm really interested in history and government. Hell, I've read "The Federalist Papers" for no better reason than because I thought they would be interesting, so I'm not saying that the words of the founding fathers are intrinsically dull. No, what I'm saying is that the sort of person who genuinely enjoys that kind of thing is probably not the sort of person who reads Maxim at all, much less for the articles (Page 8, Line 13-14). Still, something about this passage reminds me of something.


Page 246, Line 8-14:
In the course of his supposedly top-shelf schooling he must have already been exposed to much of this, and if so, it shouldn't have seemed as new to him as it did. And in a strange, unsettling way- like reading a horoscope so accurate that its author must surely have been watching you for months through the living-room window- it seemed that each of these writings was addressed to the current time, and this very place, for the sole, specific benefit of Noah Gardner.


Yeah, okay, I suddenly know why this seems familiar and those of you who came along for my previous series on Left Behind are probably feeling some deja vu as well. See, what we're reading here is basically a classic conversion narrative. If we were to reread the above passages but replace a few phrases we'd pretty much be right back in the crappy, stupid world of Left Behind. Hell, let's try it:

He rubbed his eyes and they felt as though he hadn't blinked his eyes in quite a while. The time had apparently flown by as he'd been occupied reading and rereading the many highlighted verses that filled the pages of Irene's Molly's bible.

In the course of his supposedly top-shelf schooling he must have already been exposed to much of this, and if so, it shouldn't have seemed as new to him as it did. And in a strange, unsettling way- like reading a horoscope so accurate that its author must surely have been watching you for months through the living-room window- it seemed that each of these verses was addressed to the current time, and this very place, for the sole, specific benefit of Rayford Steele Noah Gardner.


See how well that works? Seriously, it's the same damned narrative ported from religion to government, which is more than a little frightening because if there's one thing that's guaranteed to wreck a democracy, it's the type of unshakeable, irrational certainty that is often characteristic of religious faith. Anyway, I'm pretty sure that Rayford has this exact experience with a bible in Left Behind, although at the moment I can't find it, not least because I gave my copy to Scripto.* I'm not sure what to say about the whole thing except that at least one of the authors- Glenn Beck himself- is a convert to Mormonism. Mormonism isn't the wacky evangelicalism of Left Behind, not by a long shot, but to an extent all we really need is the zealotry of a convert. And with that as a master frame for understanding the world, is it any wonder that the authors can't come up with any other way to depict a change in understanding than as a virtually supernatural experience with a book? It must be really hard to live your life with access to only one narrative, you know? Anyway, Noah starts thinking about work and current events, and then we get this.


Page 247, Line 7-13:
While the [economic] crisis had in truth, of course, been nothing less than a blatant, sweeping consolidation of wealth and power- perpetrated by some of Doyle & Merchant's most prestigious Wall Street clients- it wouldn't do to allow the press and the public to perceive it that way. So, the government's bailout of these billionaire speculators and their legion of cronies and accomplices was instead presented as a bold rescue, undertaken for the good of the American people themselves. (1)** (2)


Look, I hate to point this out, but why must these options be mutually-exclusive? I mean, dealing with the fiscal crisis is a bit like curing cancer: it's hard to kill the tumor without using weapons that can kill the surrounding tissue. Likewise, it's hard to save people's mortgages and retirement funds without bailing out the idiots that helped create the crisis. As soon as someone explains how to do one without doing the other, I'll listen, but this is just simplistic bullshit.


Page 247, Line 29-32:
The choice they had made was to reward the corruption, but all of them knew the better answer, or should have. It didn't take a thousand-page bill to get it across.

"Let justice be done, though the heavens fall." (3) [emphasis original]


Ah, yes, but what if punishing the greedy means also punishing the innocent? What then? Is it more just to punish those who don't deserve it so that the ones who do won't escape, or to spare the innocent at the cost of seeing the guilty go free? I know what the founding fathers thought- the "innocent until proven guilty" position in the law pretty much settles that- so what do the authors think? Somehow, I doubt we want to know. Anyway, the authors go on to observe that the quote is unattributed- hardly surprising since it's a translation of a Latin legal phrase that Noah should already know- and then mumble some things about Thomas Paine (4) before turning to John Adams' view of the will to dominate.***


Page 248, Line 17-25:
The desire of dominion, that great principle by which we have attempted to account for so much good and so much evil, is, when properly restrained, a very useful and noble movement in the human mind. But when such restraints are taken off, it becomes an encroaching, grasping, relentless, and ungovernable power. Numberless has been the system of inquiry contrived by the great for the gratification of this passion in themselves...

In short, governments have proven that they always go bad, because they're made up of imperfect people. [emphasis original]


Yeah, so, a couple of points. First off, my interpretation of the above isn't that Adams is saying "government sucks" so much as he's saying, "people will naturally be dicks, so they have to be restrained somehow". This would seem to go hand in glove with the whole "separation of powers" thing in the constitution and, as such, really says that government is a good way to prevent people from being dicks. And as it happens, the authors do go on to say that this is almost what Adams meant- they claim that he meant it their way but thought the separation of powers had fixed it- but only after Noah gives his whole, "government sucks" schtick. Second, my interpretation of the above doesn't matter because we can go find the entire paragraph that the authors are quoting, which goes something like this:

"SINCE the promulgation of christianity, the two greatest systems of tyranny, that have sprung from this original, are the cannon and the feudal law. The desire of dominion, that great principle by which we have attempted to account for so much good and so much evil, is, when properly restrained, a very useful and noble movement in the human mind. But when such restraints are taken off, it becomes an encroaching, grasping, relentless, and ungovernable power. Numberless has been the system of inquiry contrived by the great for the gratification of this passion in themselves: but in none of them were they ever more successful than in the invention and establishment of the cannon and the feudal law." [emphasis original]


Adams then goes on to make a plea for the importance of the separation of church and state. Somehow, you have to love Glenn Beck of all people quoting a passage arguing about the need to keep religion separate from government written by one of the founding fathers. Anyway, we have some more rambling about founding fathers, and then we break free from the flashback in time for the plane to land and Molly to wake up.


Page 249, Line 24-29:
"Hey, Molly?"

"Yes?"

He touched her hand. "I think I get it now," Noah said.

"You get what."

"I really didn't before, but I understand what you're doing now, you and your people."


Man. He wants into her pants so Freaking BAD. But how will Molly respond?


Page 250, Line 1:
"Oh." She nodded, and continued to check over her things.


Oh! Wicked burn!


Page 250, Line 2-5:
"I mean it."

"I know you do," she said, in the way you might address an overly needy child in recognition of some minor accomplishment. "Good. I'm glad."


Wow. "An overly needy child" is the best description of Noah Gardner that I've seen yet. We don't know what he looks like, but at least the authors were able to sum him up in a single pithy saying. And it only took them 250 pages to do it, too!


Page 250, Line 9-17:
Before long the plane had reached the gate, and the door nearest them was the first to be opened. She was walking ahead of him in the exit tunnel, as though with some purpose that she hadn't paused to share. He caught up to her as she stopped to scan an informational display with a backlit map of airport services.

"I say we grab a meal," Noah said, "Spend the night, and then try to figure something out tomorrow."

His suggestion was overlooked as if he hadn't spoken it at all.

"I need for you to help me rent a car," Molly said.


Aaaaand we're back to the bright, cheerful world of an earlier chapter, where Noah was Molly's bitch. Seriously, I don't know how awesome he imagines the sex with her is going to be, but it must be pretty awesome for any human being to put up with this socially dysfunctional robot. But, then again, Noah is still getting gold stars on his forehead for not making a lunch out of the paste jar, so I guess beggars can't be choosers.

In any case, that brings us to the end of the chapter. Come back next time when we rejoin Danny and Stuart who arrive at their destination and then talk about doing something exciting. So we have that to look forward to, I guess.

See you then!


* I'm actually really happy about that.

** I should note that the supplied link in the book redirects to a completely different place than this article, which I found by using the title of the article referenced in the book instead. Christ Jesus is the copy editing in this book shit.

*** Interestingly, despite the fact that- as I very shortly do- it's easy to find this quote via google books, the authors make no attempt to supply a link. Maybe I'm being overly suspicious, but that seems odd to me.

Labels:

2 Comments:

OpenID sassafrasjunction said...

We were mercifully spared the description of their adventure on the people mover, as well as the riveting depiction of waiting in line at the car rental counter.

Of course, little does Noah know that Molly is smuggle the Gray Ninja Cat of Death in her bag....

Tuesday, November 08, 2011 12:23:00 PM  
OpenID sassafrasjunction said...

*"smuggling" (not "smuggle")...

Tuesday, November 08, 2011 12:26:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Site Meter