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, July 29, 2011

The Overton Window: Chapter 25 & 26

Welcome back one and all to our ongoing series on The Overton Window, the book that does to your brain what a colonoscopy does to the other end, except without the helpful diagnostic results. Last time Danny and Stuart arrived at a party. What happens this week? A whole mess of tell-not-show and then some more driving. Yay?

As I mentioned I am once again selecting a comment of the week, and this week that "honor" goes to Sassafras for, frankly, giving me happy dreams:

"They'd been rolling down a desolate, moonless stretch of Interstate 80 for a number of miles. The road was so dark that the world out front seemed to end at the reach of the headlights, and there was nothing to see at all out the window behind."

Ooh! Ooh! I know how this ends -- with Danny digging his own grave in a cornfield, right?

PLEASE SAY THAT I AM RIGHT.

Oh. No. Wait. That scene is from a good movie with a solid script whereas I'm starting to think this book would do nicely to line bird-cages of damned vultures in hell. Nevermind.

Srsly. These characters are too dumb to live, too bizarre to die. I can only hope that Mr. Puddles is busily plotting his litter-box-inspired demise of them all back at the bunker -- er, double-wide.


Imagining Danny digging his own grave is, indeed, a glorious thing. At least until you realize that he's the kind of jackass who could complain about how long it was taking and how bad his blisters were going to be while doing it. At that point, you sort of just want to cap him and let the buzzards sort him out. Well done, Sass, and keep at it, folks- this posts ain't gonna get any better without you.

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.). Pshaw!


***********************************
Dramatis Personae: In an order determined by a drinking game.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Mr. Puddles: AKA Gray Death. AKA Ninja Cat. Stuart's cat. Large. Dangerous looking. Possibly plotting his demise.

***********************************

Chapter 25: In which we hear about a tense meeting third-hand.

Recommended Mood Music:




Page 180, Line 1:
The gathering got down to business.


The what now? The gathering did what? Got down to business? Is that even something that a "gathering" can do? Christ, I think that may be the worst opening sentence in the book thus far. And, let's face it, that's really saying something. Anyway, Danny matches up the members of the militia posse against a printed list and realizes that the missing man alluded to last chapter is someone known as "Elmer":



No doubt he's missing 'cause it's wabbit season.


Page 180, Line 12-15:
At his [Danny's] request they'd each given a bit of background on themselves, sticking to first names only. The one interesting thing about this part was the seamless transition each managed to place between the sane and the insane things they'd said.


I feel the same way about conservative talk radio most of the time. Also when I listen to John Boehner (which I insist on pronouncing "Boner"), although never with Michelle Bachman. She'd have to say something sane before any sane to insane transition could occur.


Page 180-181, Line 180: 15-17, 181: 1-2:
I'm Ron, I grew up near Laughlin and worked out here in the mines since I was a teenager. Married at one time, two beautiful kids, and I've been wise to those Zionist bankers and the good-for-nothing queen of England since I saw what they did to us on 9/11. [emphasis original]


I'm just annoyed they cut off the quote before we got to: "I've been an alcoholic for twenty years, but I've been clean by the Grace of God for the past six days." Or am I just thinking about binge drinking because I'm reading this book? More seriously, I'm a little disappointed that the authors didn't put any more energy into crafting a decent conspiracy theory, particularly given that Beck basically does that for a living. Back in the "story" it turns out that Danny is a pretty "good" thespian. Sort of.


Page 181, Line 8-18:
One of them asked about the bruises and other battle damage on Danny's face, and that gave him an opening to explain his own recent part in all this. He'd been picked up by the cops after a patriot meeting in New York City, he told them, and then they'd beaten him within an inch of his life while he was in custody. Everyone has their breaking point, and this had been his. He knew that there wasn't going to be any peaceful end to this conflict; the enemy had made that clear. Sp he'd called his old friend Stuart Kearns to come and bail him out so he could be a part of this plan. He was here now to help with whatever he could, and then to get the story out to true believers around the world when all of this was over.


Wow, where do we even start? I think the first thing I'd like to note is that Danny was described back a ways (Page 121, Line 17-20) as walking bow-legged as a result of his abuse in prison. This does not fit my definition of "within an inch of his life". A beating that bad is not one that leaves you still able to get up and move about under your own power the next day. No, a beating that bad leaves you in f-ing traction. The second thing I'd like to note is that he just told the would-be terrorists that his response to being arrested and beaten was to call a dude he knew to possess a nuclear weapon. This dude, in turn, was about to contact a would-be terrorist cell. So, in short, there's now a phone call, not to mention the bail itself, linking Danny to the dude with the nuke and those two morons then proceeded to go to a meet with terrorists. One is forced to wonder whether he claims that, when leaving the police station, he screamed out "Hey! I'm going to go help some terrorists now! So you better not follow me!" Needless to say, if these guys were actual terrorists, at this point they'd calmly pull out a couple of hand guns and kill these two dumbasses. Sadly, however, that is not what happens. Instead, Kearns gives a tour of the nuke itself, in the process revealing to us that he brought the weapon to the first meet. So, really and truly, our nascent terrorists have no reason at all not to kill these idiots and take the damn thing. Ah, whatever. The weapon is described as being connected to a GPS such that once you arm it, you just drive to the programmed coordinates and the weapon detonates. Slick, I'll admit, though this section has the decidedly creepy flavor of a terrorist how-to manual.


Page 182, Line 9-13:
The GPS soon found its satellites and its wide-screen display split into halves, one showing their current position and the other showing the ground-zero objective they'd all decided on: the home-state office of the current U.S. Senate majority leader, the Lloyd D. George Federal Courthouse, 333 Las Vegas Boulevard, Las Vegas, Nevada.


For anyone wondering, yes, this is in fact the address for one of Harry Reid's offices and Senator Reid is the current majority leader in the Senate. Classy, authors. Real classy. I'm forced to wonder why there's no footnote to that effect. I'm also forced to wonder why the crap the chapter ends right there but, hey, what do I know? In any case, it's time for...


Chapter 26: In which Stu and Danny drive away and nothing happens.

Recommended Mood Music:




Page 183, Line 1-2:
On the face of it the meeting had been civil, even friendly, but it had ended with an uneasy good-bye, and the tension was still lingering.


Leaving aside that this sounds more like how you'd describe a breakup between two people who don't really love each other anymore, but still own a condo together, I'm forced to wonder: how should a meeting to perpetrate nuclear terrorism have ended? A hug, perhaps? Danny asks Stu what went wrong back there, Stu answers "A lot of things" and then we're off into narration again. Honestly, the narrator to this wreck is one chatty sumbitch.


Page 183, Line 9-18:
The plan, plainly agreed upon, had been to leave the dummy bomb with their five co-conspirators in exchange for twenty thousand dollars the men had agreed to pay to cover Kearns's expenses. Tomorrow the men would make the eight-hour drive to Las Vegas and pull up to the target address. Instead of achieving martyrdom they'd be met by a SWAT team and a dragnet of federal agents who'd be waiting there to arrest them. None of these guys seemed the type to allow themselves to be taken alive, so FEMA would be running a local terror drill at the same time. With the area evacuated for blocks around there'd be less chance of any innocent bystanders being caught in the anticipated cross fire.


Wow. Thanks for explaining "the plan" only now that the plan isn't being followed any longer. Also, wow, is that ever some shitty writing. But ultimately, my biggest question is, "plainly agreed upon" by whom? I mean, did the would-be terrorists agree to the whole plan? Did Danny agree? Seriously, what's going on? Regardless, Danny thinks that they might finish the night in a shallow ditch, but Stuart has a plan. No mention is made of whether or not this new plan is also plainly agreed upon.


Page 184, Line 13-17:
"Can you handle a gun?" Kearns asked.

"I'm no expert, but yeah."

"If things go bad, there's a pistol in the glove box. The safety's off but there's a long twelve-pound pull on that first round. After the first shot the trigger's really light.


And that plan would be giving Danny a gun. Christ, they're all going to die. Hopefully, Danny first. And let's all keep in mind that Danny is only here because he's being essentially blackmailed by Stu, who has himself admitted that nobody knows that he's even an agent or what he's doing. So, that being the case, how is this a good idea? Whatever. Danny and Stu discuss the fact that the guys they met didn't seem like intellectual giants* and Stu asks Danny to guess who's the real brains of the terror cell.


Page 185, Line 5-11:
"Let me guess," Danny sighed. "The one who wasn't there tonight."

"Exactly. I'm not saying those boys we just met are harmless, but they're followers, and this guy Elmer is their leader. If they were lying about his whereabouts then he was probably back there somewhere checking us out, maybe through the scope of a deer rifle. And if he's really up in Arizona like they said then I've gotta wonder what he's doing there."


Right. So, the mastermind for this whole terrorist operation? Freaking Elmer.



All he needs is a white cat to stroke before he says, "No, Mister Bailey, I expect you to DIE!" Hot tip to any aspiring authors out there: "Elmer" is not a proper name for the villain. Not ever. Regardless, they keep driving, nothing untoward happens, Stuart turns on an oldies station** and begins singing along in an "off-key falsetto" (Page 185, Line 25-26). Then Danny asks Stuart why a man of his age isn't retired already.


Page 186, Line 4-10:
Kearns glanced over at him, turned down the radio, and then returned his attention to his driving. "You mean, why is a sixty-three-year-old man still doing street duty, instead of running a field office or enjoying his government pension."

"I was just wondering."

"It's a long story."

"Well," Danny said, "it's a long drive."


It is not, however, a long chapter because that was actually the last line of same. Seriously, we're at the end of the chapter. And if you're thinking, "Goddamn, seriously? The whole chapter was a recitation of things that might happen, or would have happened, but didn't!" then you're absolutely right. An utter waste of page space.

But, waste or not, that's it for this week. Come back next time when Stuart reveals his tortured past while, simultaneously, showing off what an absolute failure of an agent he really is. So, hey, at least there's something to look forward to.


* Yeah. As if anyone in this book seems to have sufficient brain-power to walk and chew gum at the same time.

** I really have to call bullshit there. I've been way out in buttfuck nowhere in the desert and you know what there is on the radio? German inspired mariachi music and religious broadcasting and that is f-ing all.

Labels:

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Overton Window: Chapter 24

Welcome back one and all to our ongoing series on The Overton Window, the book that actually makes Glenn Beck's television show seem entertaining by comparison. Last time Danny and Stuart engaged in some "witty" conversation and we had a flashback. What happens this week? Well, basically we drive somewhere. Yeah... pretty awesome, no?

As I mentioned I am once again selecting a comment of the week, and this week that "honor" goes to Sassafras for finally introducing an interesting character into this book:

Day 467 of my captivity, Comrades.

Today was a close call. My top secret diary, cleverly written on the neglected local newspaper, was nearly snatched by a foolish enemy. Fortunately, I was able to use my mind-melting powers and impressive hissing to frighten him away. Also, I have managed to record the requested conversations, Code Named "Bullshittery Log" and keep them safely hidden in my box of excrements.

Do not fear, Comrades. These fools have no idea how to use geiger counters, and I anticipate no trouble in subduing the fat idiot in glasses, Code Name, "Beck Stand-in."

However, my fur continues to take on damage from living in this armpit of the US and my only entertainment comes from completing the crossword in my mother Russian tongue to the befuddlement of Agent K, aka "Retarded Sparrow."

-Gray Death
(aka "Ninja Cat,"
aka "Mr. Puddles.")


My god, I would actually read that book with something approaching pleasure! And oddly I find it easy to believe that Stuart's cat is a more effective secret agent than he is. Hell, I rather suspect a postbox is a more effective secret agent than Stuart. Well done, Sassafras! I'd also like to thank my mystery commenter last week, who managed to make the comment counter increment to "4" yet somehow never had the satisfaction of seeing their comment appear. Commenting with that much stealth is no small accomplishment!

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.). Ole!


***********************************
Dramatis Personae: In an order determined by one of those drinking bird toys.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

***********************************

Chapter 24: In which Kearns and Bailey have a romantic moment, Bailey assures us that he does not condone terrorism, and we meet nameless dudes only to discover that one nameless dude is missing.

Recommended Mood Music:

>


Page 177, Line 1-4:
They'd been rolling down a desolate, moonless stretch of Interstate 80 for a number of miles. The road was so dark that the world out front seemed to end at the reach of the headlights, and there was nothing to see at all out the window behind.


Right. So, apparently, their secret meeting is taking place in the middle of the night. I'm not sure if that's supposed to be dramatic, or what, but generally speaking if you don't want to look suspicious, you should do shit in the daytime. Then again, maybe Stu and Danny are just taking a romantic drive?


Page 177, Line 5-12:
"Hey, Stuart?"

"Yeah."

"I wouldn't be doing this if I agreed with these hoodlums, even one percent. I'm not a terrorist, and I'm not a turncoat."

"I didn't think you were," Kearns said, his eyes on the road.

"Like I said before, these aren't my people, and what they want to do isn't the way to change things, and I've never said it was."

"I believe you."


I don't. Oh, I believe that Bailey never really meant for someone to go out and nuke an American city BUT when you incite violence (Page 83, Line 7-14) and violence then erupts you don't get to turn around and say, "Gee whiz! I never meant for that to happen!" Hyperbole is one thing, I engage in hyperbole all the time, but I've never provided a list of people whom I would like to beat to death with a shovel. Unlike, I might add, certain other people. So, yeah, I appreciate what Bailey is trying to do here, but he can't retcon things so that he's anything other than an irresponsible weasel. Anyway, Bailey decides to change the subject by asking about an unusual looking phone that Kearns has.


Page 178, Line 3-4:
"Satellite phone," Kearns said. "Works anywhere. Cell phone coverage in a place like this is pretty spotty."


In my copy of the book, my margin note here reads, "Hey! Everyone! Kearns has a sat phone. Plot point!" but in retrospect, that's a really optimistic comment. I mean, I'm almost two hundred pages into this nightmare and yet somehow I still seem to be clinging to the notion that details like this might at some point become relevant. Yet, they never do. So no, as it happens, this sat phone will never really mean anything to us at all. I have no idea why it's here, except maybe to point out what a badass old man secret agent Stuart Kearns is. At this point, perhaps tiring of the inane conversation, Stuart starts encouraging Danny to stick his head out the window. Yes, seriously. Danny asks why, though he doesn't really argue.


Page 178, Line 17-27:
"Well, there's only about three things to see out here in the middle of nowhere," Kearns said, "but this is one of them."

"Oh. My. God."

The air was perfectly clear, it seemed, from the barren ground all the way out to the edge of space. From horizon to horizon there was no man-made light to obscure the view up above. Thousands of stars, maybe tens of thousands of them, were shining up there like backlit jewels in a dark velvet dome. Sprays of tiny pinpoints in subtle colors, blazing white suns in orderly constellations arrayed across the heavens, ageless by the measure of a human lifetime, all light-years away but seeming to be almost near enough to reach out and touch.


As a space nut, I'll be the first one to note that the night sky out away from light pollution is hella cool. It's really something else to be able to look up and actually see the colors of the stars. That said, this lovely scene has absolutely nothing the hell to do with anything. Except, perhaps, with Danny and Stuart's budding relationship. I'm also weirdly reminded of that bit in Full Metal Jacket where R. Lee Ermey explains that only two things come from Texas:



I wonder what the other two things worth seeing are?


Page 179, Line 4-7:
"You know? I saw on your business card, but now I understand why they call you a special agent."

"Well, son, whether you want me to or not, I'm going to take that as a compliment."


Ah, bromance at its finest. On an unrelated note: he's under such deep cover that only one guy in the FBI even knows he's on the payroll (Page 174, Line 16-24), and yet he has business cards? What. The. Fuck? Regardless, after a bit more driving they pull off onto a dirt road and then onto a gravel driveway.


Page 179, Line 17-26:
The garage door was up, and from their parking spot Danny could clearly see the men seated around a couple of card tables, surrounded by stacks of stored junk, auto parts, and red tool cases. They'd all turned when the headlights swung across the wide-open doorway and upon recognizing the vehicle they motioned for their guests to come on in.

Kearns stayed in the van as Danny got out and walked up the paved incline toward the house, his hands clearly open at his sides in an effort to let everyone know he wasn't armed. Evidently these guys had no such concern. They met him halfway up the sidewalk to the garage and greeted him like he was a long-lost friend.


I'm guessing they won't be so excited once they realize what an ass Danny is. On another note: this is the exciting chapter about driving around at night and walking up a driveway. As thrillers go, this sucks. Still, the authors do try to wrest a tiny sliver of drama out of this.


Page 179, Line 27-28:
There was only one thing amiss. He and Kearns had come expecting to see all five men at this meeting, and one of them wasn't there.


Dun-DUNH-DUNNNNHHHH!!!! Ooooh, that's ominous- what could it mean? Who knows? Moreover, who cares, because we as the readers have no clue why the number of psycho terrorists is even slightly relevant. Way to set up the scene, authors!

But, exciting or not, that's the end of the chapter. All three pages of it. Now, I could go ahead and include the next chapter in this episode- a chapter which is also three pages long- but for a variety of important reasons* I've decided not to. If nothing else, this helps to really convey how goddawful stupid this book is. So, hey, come back next time when we have a really uninteresting visit with some terrorists and then- I f-ing kid you not- have another scene with Danny and Stuart driving around in a bloody van.

See you then.


* Mostly laziness, as it happens.

Labels:

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Per aspera ad astra

Welcome home, Atlantis. You did good:



When I was a kid I remember hearing the sonic booms when the shuttle would land at the Cape. Yes, booms plural- there were always two closely spaced shockwaves formed at the nose and the tail of the shuttle. I'm going to miss that sound.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Hell yes!

So this is freaking awesome:

The Institute of Medicine report is out earlier than expected, after an embargo was broken. Among other things, it recommends that the federal government consider putting "the full range of Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods" on the list of services for women that would be covered by insurers without a copay.


That's right, folks! Control of her own reproductive destiny could well be effectively guaranteed to a woman! And I'm sure groups that oppose abortion will be just ecstatic about that, right? Right?

Well, no, probably not, but I'm excited!

Labels: , , ,

Monday, July 18, 2011

Oh, man, really?

You just have to love* any woman who can run for president in a way that actually makes Sarah Palin look better:



I've never been to a "Choot Spa" before, but I guess it sounds nice.

Less humorously, I have reason to think that Bachman is utterly and completely nuts. Be warned.


* Understanding that here, "love" means "be indescribably terrified by".

Labels: , ,

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Overton Window: Chapters 22 & 23

Welcome back one and all to our ongoing series on The Overton Window, the book that is almost as much fun as the flu, but lasts twice as long. Last time Molly took Noah back to her lair and drugged the crap out of him. What happens this week? We check back in with Stuart and Danny who do absolutely freaking nothing.

As I mentioned I am once again selecting a comment of the week, and this week that "honor" goes to Ken for giving some perspective:

""Come on up," she said. "See how the other half lives.""

I lived in NYC for fifteen years, the last ten in a very nice 2BR (NYC definition; 1BR anywhere else in the US)—on 163rd Street, during the height of the "crack epidemic."

If Molly's flat is "how the other half lives"—working for a large organization that keeps similar "cubicles" as living spaces for the their oft-traveled, well-compensated employees—then I and 99.44% of my neighbors who had guns pulled on them and cars busted and torn apart searching for coke and who had to call to be walked home the nights they worked late at Columbia Presbyterian don't exist at all.

Which is a nice summary of Glenn Beck's world view.


Indeed, it's hard to imagine how the authors- who seem much more familiar with and envious of crazy expensive cars and so forth- could ever relate to the "common man". And then you realize that they don't have to, so long as the "common man" relates to the authors. Who said reciprocity was essential? Thanks for the insight, Ken, and keep at it folks- we're gonna keep on, keeping on.

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.). Well, shiver me timbers!


***********************************
Dramatis Personae: In an order determined by the contents of a fortune cookie.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Stuart Kearns: FBI agent. Works on homeland security matters. Kinda old and wrinkly.

***********************************

Chapter 22: In which Kearns and Bailey have a conversation that's supposed to be dramatic. Or ominous. Or... something?

Recommended Mood Music:




Page 171, Line 1-4:
Agent Kearns had retired to the kitchenette of his double-wide mobile home to make breakfast. This left Danny Bailey sitting by himself in the parlor in his borrowed pajamas with a wicked sleep hangover, an ugly off-white cat, and a full-scale model of a small atomic bomb.


Wow. I've never been one for one-night stands, but that sounds like the most awkward "morning after" ever. "Walk of shame" isn't even going to begin to cover this one. More like, "Slouch of abject humiliation". That said, those two sentences were actually a fairly decent intro by the standards of this book.


Page 171, Line 6-7:
It would have been nice to see some headlines but the paper was a little too close to the cat to be safely retrieved.


Is this a ninja cat? Is it frothing at the mouth? Is Danny Bailey just afraid of cats? Are the authors afraid of cats? What the hell is the deal with the cat? Seriously- most interesting detail in the book so far. Anyway, Kearns asks Bailey if he's ever been to Winnemucca, Nevada before, Bailey gives a flippant answer in the negative.


Page 171, Line 14-16:
"If you [Bailey] think this burg is dead, wait until you see where we're going to meet these guys tonight. This whole part of Nevada was voted the official armpit of America by the Washington Post a couple of years ago." [emphasis original]


Actually, the authors declined to include one of their absurd endnotes here but because I love you I managed to track down that, yes, the Washington Post did, in fact, declare a part of Nevada to be the Armpit of America. Specifically, a town named Battle Mountain. Battle Mountain is about 53 miles from Winnemucca if you're curious.


Page 172, Line 1-11:
"I [Bailey] don't want to come off like a puss, but is this bomb-looking thing, like, radioactive?"

"Nah, not too much." Kearns returned with their coffee and sat in a nearby chair. "The core's inert; it's just a big ball of lead. There's some depleted uranium under the lining, so it'll set off a Geiger counter in case anybody checks. Here, look." He flipped a switch on a boxy yellow gadget on the table and brought its wand closer to an open access panel at the fore end of the model. The meter on the instrument twitched and a rapid clicking from its speaker ramped up to a loud, raspy buzz as the tip of the wand touched an inner metal housing. "Sure sounds hot enough though, doesn't it?"


It really seems to me that they could have found something slightly less freaky than depleted uranium to use in the casing but, hey, what do I know? Quite a lot, actually, because I've long had an interest in nuclear and thermonuclear weaponry. Hell, I did a science fair project on the bastards back in the day including a detailed model of a gun-style uranium fission weapon. What Kearns is describing sounds similar to a W54 type weapon, which I mention only because such a device- while small enough to be considered man-portable- nevertheless weighs about 50 pounds. Presumably, any effort to make a fake bomb would have to duplicate this weight, so this thing they're playing with is not gonna be too easy to move for an old FBI agent and a weenie YouTube celebrity. Just sayin' is all. Anyway, Bailey asks why the guys they're meeting would believe Kearns has an actual nuke and Kearns asks if Bailey remembers the "Barksdale thing" (1), which is a real "thing," but in this "factional" world, of the six nuclear warheads that were mistakenly loaded on a plane, only five were ever recovered. Oops?


Page 172, Line 24-28:
"Now we both know that something like that can't just happen, not as an accident anyway. It's like the Secret Service accidentally putting the president into the wrong car and then nobody missing him until noon the next day. It's impossible; there are way too many safeguards in place. Unless, of course, it was an inside job." [Kearns continued]


Yikes. Okay, first of all, the preceding passage shows such a profound ignorance of the cold war that I hardly know where to begin. It ignores how Petrov saved the world, how Able Archer nearly killed it, and in both cases it was a series of mistakes and miscalculations that nearly led to disaster. Second, once again I'm forced to wonder what the deal is with the authors: the government is so inept and stupid that it can't be trusted to do anything, but suddenly when it comes to internal security or military operations it's omniscient and omnipotent. What the hell? Anyway, Kearns explains that his cover story is that he got disgruntled at the FBI and then things get weird.


Page 173, Line 2-6:
"My [Kearns'] cover story was that, to get this bomb, I made friends with the right two people on those munitions crews through my website, one at Minot Air Force Base and one at the destination. They fudged the orders and arranged that flight, then helped me get the guts of one of those warheads onto a truck and on its way out of Barksdale half a day before anybody even knew it was missing."


Wow, that would have been an awesome conversation: "Weeeeellllll, I wouldn't normally do this, but, you've been so much fun to have at poker night... okay, I'll help you steal a nuclear warhead." Seriously, there would have to be some kind of massive payoff involved and, at the end of the day, if a weapon were missing do we really think the government wouldn't go apeshit about it? Regardless, Danny asks some questions, Kearns gets annoyed, then he serves them toast, eggs, and canned ham, all of which apparently taste like ass.


Page 174, Line 16-24:
"I only asked what I asked before," Danny said, "because I would have thought you guys had all kinds of labs and engineers back at headquarters that would have built a model like this for an undercover operation. You know, so someone like you wouldn't have to bother with any of it yourself."

"Yeah, they do, but these last few years I've gotten accustomed to working alone. The less contact you make when you're undercover, the safer it is. Hell, I've been out in the cold so long on this one, as far as I know only one guy inside even knows I'm still on the payroll."


No. Nuh-uh. No, this just doesn't make sense. See, just a few chapters ago Stuart Kearns marched into a New York police station, flashed a shit-ton of paperwork from Homeland Security (Page 117, Line 1-7), and basically confiscated a prisoner. That means that someone had to notify him of said prisoner and give him a chartered jet to get to New York, not to mention to get himself and said prisoner back to Nevada (Page 123, Line 15-17), and hand off a giant-ass file on Danny Bailey (seen on Page 119, Line 21 through Page 120, Line 19 or so). And now, all of a sudden, we're getting this "I'm in such deep cover only one guy knows I'm still a fed" bullshit? Puh-leeze. That's just really sloppy, half-assed writing and it's just absolutely shameful. But, of course, Danny misses all of this, because he's a frickin idiot.


Page 174, Line 25:
"Wow, you must really trust that guy."


Indeed. Kearns responds by waving a gun around (yes, seriously) and replies that he trusts everybody. Aaaaand, believe it or not, that's the end of the chapter. But don't be too depressed, because if there's anything that's even more of a disappointment than Chapter 22, it's Chapter 23!


Chapter 23: In which we hear vaguely about a phone call in a flashback.

Recommended Mood Music:




Page 175, Line 1-2:
Sunday afternoon was spent with each of them going over the other's public background.


Is that a euphemism for something? I wish- what the authors mean is that Danny and Stuart spent the day learning about each others' cover stories so that they could answer any questions the crazy militia threw at them. Ah, well. And then we return to the exciting story of telephony that we remember so well from Left Behind.


Page 175, Line 6-10:
Kearns had used a hacker gizmo called an orange box (1) to fake the caller ID display the recipients would see. It would appear to them as though the call had come directly from Danny Bailey's private number; his actual cell phone was apparently still stuck in the bowels of some evidence warehouse back in New York.


Wow! That would be perfect if only we had any reason to believe that the crazy militia cell has Danny Bailey's private cell phone number! More seriously, though, if you follow the annotated link the authors provide above and read even a short way through the document, you run into something interesting. Specifically:

"(3) So does this mean I can totally hide my real Caller ID info and the person on the other end only sees the fake one?

No. The Orange Box talks directly to the Caller ID box on the other end. It can only do this when the telephone company has an open connection between you and the other line, and this connection only exists after the call has been answered. Your real Caller ID information (or PRIVATE if you dialed with *67) would appear on the Caller ID box on the other end before they answer, and the fake info would appear after you send it, which can only be after they answer."

So, as it turns out, this little plot device is bullshit. Awesome job, dumbasses: rather than invent a piece of fictional technology for your factional world, you rely on a factitious piece of technology whose functions, as you state them, are fictitious. Or is that the essence of faction? Man, I just don't know anymore.


Page 175, Line 11-17:
The man who'd answered had been suitably impressed to be talking to one of his longtime media heroes in the war against tyranny. The time and address of the meeting were confirmed and Stuart Kearns was heartily endorsed as a verified patriot who could absolutely deliver the goods. Before sign-off, the man on the other end had handed the phone around so everyone could have a moment to speak with their celebrity caller.


Yeah. I have a hard time seeing Bailey as a hero of the local Lion's Club, much less an active terrorist cell. I'm also not sure that the whole setup makes any sense at all. I mean, if I were planning to start some sort of Atheist militia,* I'm not sure getting a call from Richard Dawkins to vouch for some guy who wanted to sell me a nuclear warhead would exactly reassure me, you know? Anyway, the flashback continues, but Bailey finds himself bothered because a number of the things that the militia members claim he (Bailey) said don't sound like things he remembers saying.


Page 176, Line 17-22:
But even if not in precisely those words, those sentiments did sound awfully familiar. Maybe he had said those things, and it was only the current context that put them into such a stark new light. After all, things can sound different when echoed back by men who've decided to deliver their message with a fifteen-kiloton city killer instead of with a bullhorn.


Which is, after all, why many of us are bothered by Beck's lunatic demagoguery in the first place. But, leaving that aside, let's get on with the chapter.

Actually, we've gotten on with the chapter, because that's the end of Chapter 23. Yes, seriously- it was about half of page 175 and half of page 176 giving us a total of- let's do the math- one goddamn page. Truly, these authors were just phoning it in. And as long as we're on the subject of phoning it in, let's take stock: we've wrapped up chapter 23 and page 176. This book has forty-seven chapters plus an epilogue, which means that next week will take us to the halfway point in terms of chapters. In terms of pages, since this sucker ends on page 292, we're already past the halfway point. And in combination, those two facts tell you that from here on out average chapter length actually declines. Yeah, as if that were possible. But, on the bright side, at least we're most of the way done with this shitbird.

Anyway, come back next time when things "heat up" between Danny and Stuart and we almost meet some militia members.

Toodles!


* I can't even write that without snickering a little.

Labels:

Monday, July 11, 2011

Conservapedia makes the news again!

And, as usual, it's pretty negative:

Imagine your kid came home from high school one day and recited the day’s lessons:

-Modern kangaroos are descended from two ancestors on Noah’s Ark.
-Dinosaurs may still live among us.
-Islam is one of the world’s most violent religions.
-Evolution is racist.
-Many liberals don’t think lying is wrong, and even delight in it.
-Public schools make homosexuals.
-Atheists tend to be fat, and obesity impairs brain function. (This point is accompanied by photos of overweight atheists.)

Many parents would march into the principal’s office or storm the next meeting of the school board, demanding an explanation for a misguided curriculum that defies science and, well, common sense.

But this is regular reading material for a few hundred home-schooled students in New Jersey. In this state, there are no laws shielding thousands of these students from lesson plans that recognized educational experts would consider nonsense.

...

But like his website, Schlafly’s teaching methods are far from mainstream. He believes in giving boys and girls separate tests, to prevent competition between the sexes and promote chivalry.

"Boys generally will not ask out a girl who does better than a boy on a test," he says. "I explain this to parents. We may think that’s wrong, but human nature is what it is. It’s not going to change, no matter how much we try to tell the boy it has nothing to do with the social relationship. Girls should be aware of that."

Yes, his girls’ tests sometimes had fewer questions, he said. But he was not trying to be discriminatory. He says he’s not sure why some girls took offense, and it may be the result of an inferiority complex caused by liberal culture — though on his own website he writes, "Think girls can excel in math as well as boys can? Liberals teach they can, which is teaching a falsehood."


And yes, for those of you who didn't know, in addition to being the czar of Conservapedia our old buddy Andrew Schlafly also "teaches" high schoolers. Just give it a moment and the nausea that idea provokes will fade to manageable levels. Anyway, it's worth reading the rest of the article, if only to get a sense of the full magnitude of Schlafly's fail, but I'd avoid the comments if I were you- they will damage your faith in humanity.

So how is Conservapedia itself reacting to this expose? Eh- about how you'd expect:



Or, to quote:

The liberal Newark Star-Ledger released its article on Conservapedia and it can be found HERE.
As the article about Conservapedia rises to become the 6th-most-commented-on article on the nj.com website,
"njaymom" responds to the liberal claptrap with deserving sarcasm:

"Yes, yes! In the interest of truth and education, the state should determine what are 'bogus teachings' and bogus religions (if any should be permitted at all) ...." [emphasis original]


Or, to paraphrase, "Neener-neener-neener!" Well, I guess that explains why Schlafly doesn't teach rhetoric anyway.*


* Not, I should note, that his teaching otherwise demonstrates any mastery of the subject matter.

Labels: , ,

Friday, July 08, 2011

The Overton Window: Chapter 21

Welcome back one and all to our ongoing series on The Overton Window, the book that proves that being an author is not the same thing as being a writer. Last time Noah and Molly discussed Noah's possible future as her sugar daddy. What happens this week? Molly takes Noah back to her lair and the authors spew yet more exposition all over us.

As I mentioned I am once again selecting a comment of the week, and this week that "honor" goes to Jonas for setting the bar high:

I'm sincerely sorry to say that I really think this book would be better if it were a porn-y mockery of itself called "The Loverton Window" that focused exclusively on Molly's bizarre interest in Noah and his incredibly feeble attempts to get into her bra.

(I'd say pants, but let's be somewhat realistic about his chances.)


Indeed, were Noah to get into Molly's shirt I'd be impressed, but into her bra? That would take a level of performance far beyond anything we've seen from Noah Gardner thus far. But, hey, you may as well dream big, right? Thanks, Jonas, and keep it up, folks. We're a long, looooong way from home.

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.). Flee for your lives!


***********************************
Dramatis Personae: In an order determined by numerology.

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 mother.

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.

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.

Arthur Gardner Noah's father. Owner of Doyle & Merchant. Megalomaniac. Surprisingly vigorous for a 74 year old man. Really good at power point.

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.

Stuart Kearns: FBI agent. Works on homeland security matters. Kinda old and wrinkly.

***********************************

Chapter 21: In which we go to Molly's insurgent headquarters, watch the authors rip off Ray Bradbury, forget critical parts of the constitution, and Noah learns why someone as pretty as him shouldn't accept drinks from strangers.

Recommended Mood Music:




Page 155, Line 1-3:
When the cab pulled to a stop Molly opened the door and turned back to him as he paid the fare.

"Come on up," she said. "See how the other half lives."


Oh, good. She brought him home. Yay? And for those who are keeping track, their destination was specified in the last chapter but the book doesn't explicitly state that the destination given was for her place. It might well have been a random destination Noah pulled out of his ass- where he goes to hire those middle-high bar women, perhaps? Regardless, Molly escorts him through a rusty, quasi-functional front gate.


Page 155, Line 7-9:
A dismal courtyard lay beyond the gate, and at the entrance a triple-bolted fire door opened to a sad little front hall lit by a single hanging lightbulb.


Oh, man! A single hanging lightbulb! I f-ing love that cliche! Can we have an overweight super in a wife-beater, too? Anyway, our protaganist and his girl head on into the building, rapidly discovering its horrendous state of repair. And then Noah makes an observation that is, in a word, odd.


Page 156, Line 1-3:
None of the repair work seemed up to code, but little of the older, existing carpentry did, either.


Ah, well, that's the thing about building codes, Noah: anything built pre-code is exempt. So are we supposed to be surprised that an old building in an old city has old features that don't meet current building codes? And does this mean the authors approve of building codes? What socialists! Real free market types would support the right of private industry to build whatever the hell crappy structures they want. And if they collapse, then maimed survivors can sue as a paltry way of obtaining justice for their slaughtered spouses and children only to find themselves tied up in court by the builders' attorneys until they go bankrupt and sink into destitution and misery. Just like the founders intended.


Page 156, Line 9-11:
When they arrived at the third floor Molly had her keys ready, and she set about unlocking several dead bolts on the unnumbered apartment door.


Okay, so "home" is an unnumbered apartment in an abandoned building sealed by multiple dead bolts? Soooo... she lives in a kill room then? Good to know. Noah, for his part, doesn't seem to realize that this chapter might well end with him at the bottom of a pit being told, "It rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again." Anyway, after telling him she hasn't lived there long, they step through the door and into a completely different book.


Page 156, Line 18-25:
Great effort had obviously been taken to transform this space into a sort of self-contained hideaway, far removed from the city outside. What had probably once been a huge, cold industrial floor had been renovated and brought alive with simple ingenuity and hard work. The result was one large area divided with movable partitions to form an impressively cool, livable loft. From where he was he could see a spacious multipurpose room off the entryway, a kitchen and laundry to the side, and what seemed to be a series of guest rooms toward the back.


Yeah- simple ingenuity, hard work, and a shitload of money because movable partitions, laundry and cooking equipment, electrical and plumbing work, and so forth ain't cheap. Even if you do it yourself it ain't cheap. And don't even get me started on the bribes to utility workers, local cops, etc, since I really doubt that they're occupying this space legally. Noah asks how many people live here, which makes sense since it's awfully ginormous for one single gal, and then we get this.


Page 156, Line 28-31:
"I don't know, eight or ten, so don't be surprised if you see someone. They come and go; none of us lives here permanently. We have places like this all around the country so we can have somewhere safe to stay when we have to travel." [Molly answered]


What is she? Freaking Al-Qaeda? This is what we call a "safe house" and it isn't the sort of thing maintained by a typical political group. No, this is the sort of thing maintained by paramilitary units or terrorist organizations. Keep this in mind when you ponder that this book is supposedly encouraging people to behave in a non-extreme way. Regardless, Molly escorts Noah into her "room" and offers him some sweet tea. He accepts her offer and she leaves him to go prepare said beverage. Noah takes the opportunity to look around her stuff.*


Page 157, Line 6-14:
He walked about midway into the front room and found a slightly elevated platform enclosed in Japanese screens of thin dark wood and rice paper panels. There were a lot of bookshelves, a dresser, a rolltop desk, and a vanity. But the space was dominated by a large rope hammock, its webbing covered by a nest of comfy blankets and pillows, suspended waist-high between the red shutoff wheels of two heavy metal pipes that extended up from the floor through the ceiling. This room within a room was lit softly by small lamps and pastel paper lanterns. The total effect of the enclosure was that of a mellow, relaxing Zen paradise.


Given the authors' previously noted tendency to describe objects- including fancy cars and apartments- with far more care than their characters, I'm tempted to label all this as a conscious effort to contrast Molly's character to Noah's. Noah lives in expensive opulence but spares little or no attention on his surroundings, not even realizing that the movers had left a penmanship assignment of his from his boyhood on a desk in his apartment (roughly Pages 130-133). Molly, on the other hand, invests care and thought in preparing her space, in so doing producing a much homier place to live. Yeah, I'm tempted to suggest that, except that Molly commented on just the last page that she doesn't live here permanently and it's basically a safe house for the use of her organization. As such, unless we're prepared to assume that she travels around the country with all of this crap, we have no choice but to conclude that this room was more than likely decorated this way when she arrived. Oh, the fact that she chose it might mean something, but that's only if we assume that she had any choice at all. So, in the end, we can't really conclude anything from this scene except that, once again, the authors are perfectly happy to abandon an aspect of the narration when it grows inconvenient.


Page 157, Line 15-18:
A glance through the nearest bookcase revealed a strange assortment of reading material. Some old and modern classics were segregated on a shelf by themselves, but the collection consisted mostly of works that leaned towards the eccentric, maybe even the forbidden.


"The forbidden"? What are we, a library in Alabama? Look, I've actually read a large portion of The Turner Diaries. If that doesn't suggest to you just how free the press is in the U.S., ain't nothin gonna get the job done. I'm not going to list all the titles Noah finds, but I will mention that it includes Orson Scott Card's infamous Empire, a novel that's also about an attempt to overthrow the U.S. government. The main difference is that, unlike the authors, Card can actually write. I can tell that the authors are trying to be inclusive of books from the left and the right here but, once we've crossed the line into including fiction, I really wonder where the hell Margaret Atwood's classic The Handmaid's Tale has gotten to. I mean, as long as we're talking about fictional depictions of the overthrow of the U.S., why not include a really, really good one? Just sayin' is all. Anyway, Noah keeps looking and then runs across... this.


Page 157-158, 157: 23-31, 158: 1-3:
Below was an entire section devoted to a series of books from a specialty publisher, all by a single author named Ragnar Benson. Noah touched the weathered spines and read the titles of these, one by one:

The Modern Survival Retreat
Guerrilla Gunsmithing
Homemade Grenade Launchers: Constructing the Ultimate Hobby Weapon
Ragnar's Homemade Detonators
Survivalist's Medicine Chest
Live Off the Land in the City and Country


And a last worn hardcover, titled simply Mantrapping. [emphasis original]


Yeah. Remember, everybody: the authors are definitely not encouraging the use of violence here. Remember that brief line in the bar when Molly's mom said that violence was bad? That totally outweighs this whole scene. And the ones that follow. Totally. Moving on, it turns out that Ragnar and his book-of-the-month-club is, in fact, real, which doesn't do a lot for my peace of mind (1) (2). Noah doesn't seem to care, though I have to concede he isn't given much time to ponder the implications.


Page 158, Line 4-9:
"Those are some pretty good books she's got there, huh?"

It was only the tranquil atmosphere and a slight familiarity to the odd voice from close behind that kept him from jumping right out of his skin. He turned and there was Molly's large friend from the bar, nearly at eye level because of the elevated platform on which Noah was standing.


Oh. Great. This guy again.


Page 158, Line 10-15:
"Hollis," Noah said, stepping down to the main floor, "how is it that I never hear you coming?"

The big man gave him a warm guy-hug with an extra pat on the shoulder at the end. "I guess I tend to move about kinda quiet."

"I might need to hang a bell around your neck for my nerves."

"Come on," Hollis said. "Let me show you around some."


Well, that was cute I guess. Horribly written, yes, but kinda cute. Oh, I know it wasn't supposed to look flirtatious- that stupid line about the "guy-hug" was totally code for "these dudes are definitely not gay"- but it nevertheless succeeded, and I for one found it heartwarming. Anyway, Hollis shows Noah around and, predictably, ends up taking Noah back to his room.** Said room contains a bed, yes, but also a shit-ton of tools and such. And again, like Molly's room, one is forced to wonder if he lugs this crap around or if it was here when he arrived, but I digress. The consistency ship has long since put to sea, leaving us alone and forlorn on the beach.


Page 158, Line 22-28:
"What is all this stuff?" Noah asked. One table was covered with parts and test equipment for working on small electronics, another was a mass of disassembled communications equipment, and a third was devoted to cleaning supplies and the neatly disassembled pieces of a scary-looking black rifle and a handgun. More weapons were visible in an open gun safe to the side, but his focus had settled on the nearest of the workbenches. "Are you making bullets there?"


Right, so, Molly has the library of a terrorist and her buddy Hollis has a damn arsenal, as well as what could very well be partially-built explosive devices. And we're in what amounts to a secret lair. How does all this not scare the shit out of Noah? I mean, I have friends who own a truly stupid number of firearms*** as well as friends who reload their own rounds. I do not, however, have friends that do all of those things while giving every indication of preparing to fight the f-ing police. Anyway, Hollis admits that, yes, he's making ammunition, and then Noah invites more exposition.


Page 159, Line 7-26:
"Why on earth would you want to make your own ammunition?"

Hollis sat, put on his spectacles, picked up the components of an unfinished cartridge, started working with the pieces, and then spoke. "Noah, do you like cookies?"

"Why yes, Hollis. We were talking about firearms, but yes, I do like cookies."

"And which do you like better?" He'd placed the open powder-filled casing in the lower part of his hand-operated machine, fitted a bullet on top, tweaked an adjustment ring with the deft touch of a safecracker, and then rotated a long feed lever until the two parts mated together into a single, snug assembly. "Do you prefer those dry, dusty little nuggets you get in a box from one of them drive-through restaurants?" He removed the finished cartridge from the mechanism and held it up so Noah could admire its perfection. "Or would you rather have a nice, warm cookie fresh out of the oven, that your sweetheart cooked just for you?"

"I see what you mean, I guess."

"Oh hell, anything'll do for target shooting, I suppose, but if I know what I'm hunting I can make up something that's just exactly right, and she'll fly straighter and hit harder than anything I could buy in a box from a store."


Now, Noah admits on the very next line that he isn't what you'd call a "gun guy". I'll make a similar admission here, although I'll also observe that I enjoy target shooting and own several firearms. I also have a very close friend who has served a term in the U.S. Marine Corps and is a federally-licensed firearms dealer. So, I asked him about this passage. His response basically boiled down to this: hand-loaded rounds can achieve levels of quality comparable to those from a factory, and it is possible to adjust the load in a round slightly in order to compensate for certain unique quirks of the specific weapon you're using. That said, the tolerances of the weapon as a whole are tight enough that, by and large, you cannot alter the propellant load of the round sufficient to modify its ballistic characteristics enough to change its stopping power without, in all likelihood, screwing up the gun you're firing it from. Or, more bluntly, if you tweak the bullet enough to make it hit harder, the gun you fire it from is probably going to explode in your face when you fire it. The adjustments you can make in the hand-load are not so much to improve its damage but to make an already-accurate round even more accurate for matches. And on an unrelated note: yes, that passage above describing a long feed lever mating parts together is, hands down, the most erotic bit in this entire book. Anyway, Noah asks how many rounds Hollis can produce in an hour, Hollis says between 75 and 200- a number my friend says isn't unreasonable- and then Molly returns with Noah's tea. She borrows Noah and escorts him elsewhere on his tour of her lair.


Page 160, Line 20-23:
There were other voices nearby, and Molly led him down the line of doorways and partitioned spaces toward the sound. At the end of this hall they came to a large room with a diverse group of men and women sitting around a long conference table.


Did you get that? A diverse group of men and women? See, if you keep just asserting the movement is diverse in narration, you can totally get away with never bothering to include any people of color whatsoever. Well, aside from Khaled I guess, but by this point Khaled is probably trying to choke Jack Ryan with his own necktie, so he doesn't count.


Page 160, Line 28-30:
"Everybody," Molly said, "This is Noah Gardner. And Noah, these are some of the regional leaders of the Founders' Keepers. You said you were good with names, so let's put you to the test."


Right, so, Molly has taken the evil genius' son to the lair of her insurgent group, and is about to introduce him to the regional leaders of said group. What could go wrong? As it turns out, very little, because not only is Noah a moron, but the leaders are all using pseudonyms taken from founding fathers. As the scene unfolds it turns out that they're all studying these little books. It ain't a bible study, however, as it rapidly becomes clear that each book contains things written or said by one or more founding fathers. Molly also has a book.


Page 162, Line 5-7:
"I'm [Molly] not like they are, though. They've each memorized a whole person, and I've just got little pieces of a lot of them. Mostly Thomas Paine, though."


Uh-oh. I do not like the look of where this is headed. Noah asks what this is all about, and the answer is everything I feared.


Page 162, Line 12-18:
"It's one of the things the Founders' Keepers do," Molly said. "We remember."

"You remember speeches and letters and things?"

"We remember how the country was founded. You never know, we might have to do it again someday."

"So you keep it in your heads? Why, in case all the history books got burned?"


If you find yourself wondering where you've seen this before, wonder no more: the authors are basically shamelessly ripping off sci-fi legend Ray Bradbury. And boy is this girl ever going to be pissed! There's a spot of quoting various major figures in U.S. political philosophy and then the narrative stumbles along (3) (4). In any case, our journey through the looking glass is just getting weirder and weirder.


Page 162, Line 19-26:
"It's already happening, Noah, if you haven't noticed. Not burning, but changing. Ask an elementary school kid what they know about George Washington and it's more likely you'll hear the lies about him, like the cherry-tree story or that he had wooden dentures (5), then about anything that really made him the father of our country. Ask a kid in high school about Ronald Reagan and they'll probably tell you that he was a B-list-actor-turned-politician, or that he was the guy who happened to be in office when Gorbachev ended the Cold War."


It goes on but, for those keeping score at home: yes, knowledge of George Washington was just placed on an equal footing with knowledge of Ronald Reagan. This whole passage- which I will spare you from- is like a political science class crossed with a bible study, only somehow infinitely dumber. And the irony of the whole thing is that I'm fairly sure the actual founding fathers would have regarded this type of devotion as repugnant. The founding fathers were, among other things, radicals. They broke with long standing tradition and tried to forge a new and untried path. So, to be blunt, I think this obsession with doing just what they wanted centuries after they died would be the exact antithesis of what they were about. But, hey, I'm just an over-educated asshole, what do I know? Regardless, Molly quotes some Paine- in the process making it even more obvious how terrible the writing in this book is- and then they wander back to her room to hang out and drink sweet tea. Yes, really.


Page 163, Line 18-22:
"That looked like a small arsenal Hollis had back there," Noah said. "Are all those guns legal?"

"Two of them are registered. The rest are just passing through. He's on his way to a gun show upstate."

"So the answer's no, they're not legal."


Well, they're in New York City so, no, probably not. So, again to sum up: secret lair, crazy people obsessively studying doctrines, bomb making materials, insurgent handbooks, illegal firearms... totally normal, totally healthy. Anyway, Molly bitches about how hard it is to register guns, Noah comments that's just par for the course in New York (6) (7) (8) [As a side note: Yeah, I know that link is broken. It's what the book says. The authors also refer us to page 49 of this book, but damn if I'm gonna buy a copy], and then we're off.


Page 164, Line 1-11:
"Wait, didn't you say you were pre-law in college? I would have thought they'd have spent a few minutes on the Second Amendment."

"Yeah, they did," Noah said. "The experts differ quite a bit on its interpretation."

She spoke the words thoughtfully. "'The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed'- that seems pretty clear to me."

"You left out the part that causes all the arguments."

"The word militia meant something different back then, Noah. Ben Franklin started the first one here. The militia was every citizen who was ready and able to protect their community, whatever the threat. It was as natural as having a lock on your front door." [emphasis original]


Okay, so, here we go. The thing is, Noah is right**** that Molly initially left off the bit that causes arguments. The problem is, her comments on the meaning of the term militia still side-step a critical issue. Her description of what "militia" meant sounds more akin to what we'd refer to as an armed mob. But is that what the founders intended? Well, if we actually check the text of the second amendment we see it reads, "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." So, the relevant detail is not just the reference to a militia, but the specific provision that it is a well regulated militia that is at issue. And the founders didn't intend that the "well regulated" provision would be easy to satisfy, as Alexander Hamilton- my favorite founding father as it happens- made clear in the Federalist 29. Does this mean that the government can regulate firearms any way it wants? No, not really but the issue is nowhere near as clear-cut as the authors imply here. And I support the second amendment (as well as some gun control), it's just that we should at least be clear about the causes of the argument. The authors do, of course, provide a couple of their endnotes for this "the militia was every citizen" thing, but none are available online. Or so the authors imply but both of them are, in fact, online. One of them- the Federalist #46- is available from a random website. Read it yourself but, in my view, it doesn't support the "armed mob" perspective that Molly is pushing. The other, Elliott's volume of debates, is available from Google books. Do a search in that one for the term "militia" and see what you think from the context but, again, it does not look to me like an armed mob was at all what the founders had in mind. Anyway, Molly rambles on and Noah participates as only he can.


Page 164, Line 18-19:
"Speaking of the way you read it [the second amendment]," he said, "why don't you tell me about your bookshelf there."


"Please, I would like more thinly-veiled exposition!" She complies and we get a brief discussion of the collected works of Ragnar, with a particular focus on the advisability of building a grenade launcher, "...in your rumpus room" (Page 164, Line 30). Molly reveals that the original Ragnar is Hollis' uncle and that Hollis has now taken over the family business as it were. Then we get to a detail that's actually relevant to the plot.


Page 165, Line 16-18:
"Now finish your tea or I'll think you don't like it."

He did, in one long drink, and Molly patted a place beside her on the hammock with one hand.


What follows from this point is, believe it or not, not the simple narration, "Noah rose and gingerly joined her on the hammock". Instead, he refuses citing his current unfamiliarity with hammocks, she insists, and then we're treated to a half-page description of the process of entering a hammock. I just do not understand the priorities that these authors have, you know? Anyway, he notices she's wearing a silver bracelet and asks about it. She shows him that the outside has an inscription from Thomas Paine reading, "We have it in our power to begin the world over again" (9). Then it gets better.


Page 166, Line 26-29:
"There's more," she said. With her other hand the carefully twisted the bracelet so the inner face of it turned out, and there was another inscription on that side.

Faith Hope Charity [emphasis original]


Right. Did she get this bracelet at TEA Party Hallmark, or what? Fortunately, Noah knows just how to respond when admiring the jewelry of the girl whose panties he wishes to obtain a tourist visa for.


Page 166, Line 30:
"That's... nice." [Noah answered]


Yeah. Noah Gardner. Such a brilliant boy.


Page 167, Line 1-3:
"I guess I don't really understand," Noah said. "I mean, I understand those words, but that's not really a battle plan, is it? Do you know what you're up against?"


Honestly, I think Noah's selling Molly and the gang short here. I mean, they have a secret lair, ample bomb making parts, a small arsenal, the ability to make ammunition, manuals for all kinds of insurgent whatthefuckery... clearly their "battle plan" involves little, if any, charity, though I'll make no claims about faith and hope. Regardless, we move into the oral exam portion of the evening.


Page 167, Line 6-15:
"Okay," Molly said. "Pop quiz: Who fired the first shot in the American Revolution?"

"That's a trick question. Nobody knows who fired the first shot."

"Is that your final answer?"

"Yep."

She worked herself up onto an elbow so she could look at him. "It wasn't fired from a gun. The first shot was a sermon, delivered by Jonathan Mayhew, years before Lexington and Concord. It wasn't a politician who first said 'no taxation without representation.' It was a preacher (10)."

"Ah. So that's the faith part."


You've gotta love the way she trapped Noah there with her inane answer. It's like claiming that the first shot of World War II was Hitler being kicked out of art school. And, hell, we all know the kinda wacky shit preachers say- who knew anyone would take him seriously?


Page 167, Line 16-21
"It's more than that. Our rights come from a higher power, Noah. Men can't grant them, and men can't take them away. That's the difference, I think, between what happened in the French Revolution and what we achieved in ours. We believed we had the will of God behind us, and they believed in the words of Godwin. One endures, and the other fell to human weakness." [Molly continued]


Leaving aside for a moment the sheer number of atheists, humanists and deists among the founding fathers,***** that explanation for the difference in outcomes between the American and French revolutions is so ridiculous it's almost physically painful. On the one hand, we have an independence movement in which a distant set of colonies attempted to secede from their mother country while keeping their basic governmental and class structures intact. In the other case we have the downtrodden in an extremely stratified society with a tremendous amount of inequality rising up and overthrowing the existing government, and then having to reconstruct a functioning government and civic life while simultaneously defending themselves against a myriad of external threats. So, yeah, clearly the only difference there that could produce contrasting outcomes is freaking faith. Sure. Pull the other one now- it has bells on it. Anyway, Molly rambles on about Ben Franklin saying it was our duty to serve our fellow man and Noah notices a sketch of a log cabin in the woods. He asks about it and Molly explains that it's a depiction of what she really wants in life.****** I'm not going to reproduce the dialogue because it's terrible and dull as all hell, but my margin note sums it up: "And this is supposed to convince us that she's a reluctant bipolar terrorist?" Regardless, it's time to head for the big finish.


Page 169, Line 10-12:
"There's a cancer in our country, Noah. We've both seen the X-rays now. If we don't stop it, it'll spread wherever we try to hide. And I want you to know something, I need for you to know something." [emphasis original]


She calls it "cancer" I call it "the compromise inherent in a democracy". You MAKE the call!


Page 169, Line 14-17:
"There's nothing I wouldn't give up to defend my country. No matter how hard it might be, there's nothing that's in my power that I wouldn't do."

"I understand," Noah said. "I admire that a lot."


No, you moron. That's not admirable, that's freaking terrifying. There are, in fact, things that no person should be willing to do for their country. Murder children, for example. Is Molly saying she's willing to murder children? Well, there's nothing she wouldn't do, so I guess so. Nobody should ever admire that level of fanaticism. And Noah is about to get an object lesson in why.


Page 169, Line 26-29:
Then he noticed a subtle blur that had crept into his vision. A little shimmer had formed around sources of light, and though he blinked it away the strange haze returned after a moment more, this time accompanied by an odd discomfort, like a passing wave of vertigo.


Uh-oh. Did Molly spike Noah's sweet tea with rohypnol? I mean, I'd have prefered she spike it with cyanide, but hey, we'll take what we can get. Regardless of pharmacology, Noah rapidly starts losing his cool, his coordination, and eventually his consciousness.


Page 170, Line 19-23:
As the cloudy room began to swim and face he saw that three strangers were standing nearby, young men dressed in business suits and ties.

"It's time to go, Molly," one of them said, the voice far away and unreal.

"Just give us a minure. Wait for me downstairs."


Okay. Does she work for the mob? Then again, she maybe poisoned Noah, so do we really care who she works for?


Page 170, Line 24-26:
And they were gone, and another, taller figure appeared.

"You'll stay with him, Hollis, won't you?"

"I'll stay just as long as I can."


Yeah, I'll just bet, Yetikins. I bet you're where Molly got the rohypnol from in the first place.


Page 170, Line 27-31:
He [Noah] felt her arms around him tight, her tears on his cheek, her lips near his ear as the blackness finally, fully descended. Almost gone, but the three simple words she'd whispered to him then would stay clear in his mind even after everything else had faded away into the dark.

"I'm so sorry."


Oh, no! Whatever will become of Noah? More to the point, who cares? Us, I suppose, but only in the sense that if Noah dies we're going to be stuck with just Stuart and Danny, and that can't possibly be a good thing. Regardless, we've reached the end of our chapter, so tune in next time when we check in with the gruesome twosome and discover whether Danny is any good at anything.

I don't want to spoil it for you, but he and Noah have a lot in common.


* Just to be clear, I don't find that weird at all. It's what you do on a first date when your host bustles off for some reason. You look at the bookshelves, glance at the CDs or movies, and generally get a sense of what they might be like underneath the good impression they're trying to project.

** I'm actually a little shocked that this isn't described as Hollis taking Noah for a guy-visit to his place.

*** Sorry, man, you know I'm right. I'll admit, though, that your SL-8 is crazy fun to shoot. You should totally keep that one.

**** I mean, shit, a stopped clock is right twice a day.

***** If for not other reason than because modern social conservatives deny that there were any atheists, humanists or deists among the founding fathers in the first place. Chris Rodda has a lot to say on that point, however.

****** i.e. to be an extra on Little House on the Prairie. I'm guessing she'd appear as, "boring girl who dies of typhus" in the credits.

Labels:

Just a quick mention...

If you're not sitting there with the live video feed of Atlantis' impending launch open at the same time, there is something wrong with you. Today* for the last time a United States space shuttle will launch. Today we get to watch men and women soar into the sky on a pillar of fire like the gods themselves. This isn't the end of humanity's voyage into space- we still have the Russian launch vehicles, the Chinese, and even Burt Rutan's projects- but I admit I'm sad to see the shuttle retire without a successor U.S. vehicle to replace it.

Make us all proud, Atlantis. This is one for this history books.



UPDATE: Atlantis finishes with a just beautiful launch:



I'm glad the great lady will have such a lovely end to a distinguished career.


* Unless they have to scrub the launch due to weather, but here's hoping they don't.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Airing the laundry...

I have, from time to time, castigated those of a more religious persuasion for being sexist, homophobic, and generally prejudicial. I think more often than not my criticism on these occasions has been warranted. That said, it gives me great sorrow to note that atheists, agnostics, free-thinkers and skeptics are not without their own flaws,* and Rebecca Watson has recently done an excellent job of throwing some light on them:

When I started this site, I didn’t call myself a feminist. I had a hazy idea that feminism was a good thing, but it was something that other people worried about, not me. I was living in a time and culture that had transcended the need for feminism, because in my world we were all rational atheists who had thrown off our religious indoctrination so that I could freely make rape jokes without fear of hurting someone who had been raped.

And then I would make a comment about how there could really be more women in the community, and the responses from my fellow skeptics and atheists ranged from “No, they’re not logical like us,” to “Yes, so we can fuck them!” That seemed weird.

So I started speaking more about women. About how they’re not idiots. About how they can think logically but maybe there are other social pressures keeping them away from our message, like how we tell women they should be quiet and polite and not question what is told to them. I spoke about how people need role models, and there were so few women on stage at these events.

And I got messages from women who told me about how they had trouble attending pub gatherings and other events because they felt uncomfortable in a room full of men. They told me about how they were hit on constantly and it drove them away. I didn’t fully get it at the time, because I didn’t mind getting hit on. But I acknowledged their right to feel that way and I started suggesting to the men that maybe they relax a little and not try to get in the pants of every woman who walks through the door. Maybe they could wait for her to make the first move, just in case.

And then, for the past few years as the audience for Skepchick and SGU grew, I’ve had more and more messages from men who tell me what they’d like to do to me, sexually. More and more men touching me without permission at conferences. More and more threats of rape from those who don’t agree with me, even from those who consider themselves skeptics and atheists. More and more people telling me to shut up and go back to talking about Bigfoot and other topics that really matter.


She goes on for a while and you should read the whole thing but the long and the short of it is that those of us in the non-religious community have some work to do if we're going to really live the values that we espouse. I have a lot of confidence that we'll manage it in time- we do, after all, agree that tolerance for all sexes and sexualities is a good thing, an advantage many other communities simply don't share- but our performance needs some work. And the first step in that is acknowledging the problem. We white males are privileged, and we don't always get it, but that doesn't excuse anything.


* For one thing, we're just waaaay too sexy.

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, July 01, 2011

The Overton Window: Chapter 20

Welcome back one and all to our ongoing series on The Overton Window, the book that is so bad, my wife wishes that she hadn't even read it by proxy. Last time Noah and Molly infiltrated his place of employment and discovered an elaborate power point presentation for national domination. What happens this week? Absolutely freaking nothing. And that's not an exaggeration, that pretty much covers it.

As I mentioned I am once again selecting a comment of the week, and this week that "honor" goes to Ken for filling in the backstory:

1913 is code. Founding of the Federal Reserve Bank, so that (1) J. P.Morgan didn't have to bail out the entire country by himself again or (2) things wouldn't get so bad we would have to depend on J. P. Morgan bailing out the country again. It "takes away freedom" and is always mentioned by some idiot econ major (but I repeat myself) as the Real Cause of Anything That Ever Goes Wrong.

Why does everyone blame "weather derivatives" on Enron? We were trying to get them going in the early 1990s, long before Andy Fastow owned 1/3 of the State of Colorado. And while they're moderately useful for farmers (as a proxy for crop yield expectations) they're a major aid to insurance companies with exposure in areas of severe weather (think hurricanes or tsunamis*). Even with ReInsurance having grown so much, an insurance company that has to pay out what the buyers think it's policies covered for a Katrina is not in a great competitive situation. And it would have produced a much better result for the victims than the "well, the water only did a little damage, it was the winds that caused most of the destruction" defense that was used successfully by some of those insurers.

Don't get me started on cap-and-trade, save to say that if the cap in question were to be directed at several Supreme Court justices, air would be better.

*Flash flooding and the like are possible areas, but the hedging cost is probably a rounding error.


You know, I have a lot of background knowledge of random conspiracy theories and pseudoscience but, as I've admitted before, I just can't know about all of them. So bless you, Ken, for stepping into the gap with your knowledge of federal reserve related wing-nuttery. It helps, it really does. Besides, any time I can learn something as a result- however indirect- of reading The Overton Window, I really have to be grateful. Thanks, and keep at it, folks. We have a LOT of chapters yet to go.

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.). It was a one-eyed one-horned flying purple will-to-live eater!


***********************************
Dramatis Personae: In an order determined by two monkeys playing Russian roulette with a machine gun.

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 mother.

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.

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.

Arthur Gardner Noah's father. Owner of Doyle & Merchant. Megalomaniac. Surprisingly vigorous for a 74 year old man. Really good at power point.

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.

Stuart Kearns: FBI agent. Works on homeland security matters. Kinda old and wrinkly.

***********************************

Chapter 20: In which Noah and Molly talk very briefly.

Recommended Mood Music:




Page 152, Line 1-2:
Outside the skies were still threatening, and to accompany the frigid light rain a wicked crosstown breeze had begun to blow.


Wow! Before penning this sentence one or more of the authors must have read a chapter titled "Using the environment to set the tone" in their barely-used copy of "Novel Writing for Dummies". I'm actually pleased to see some minimally competent writing. Finally. And what does it mean to say that the skies are threatening if it is, in fact, already raining? What are they threatening, fire and brimstone? Eh, whatever. In a way I guess I'm glad to see the authors making an effort to describe something, but I'd be even happier if they made the effort to provide even the slimmest of descriptions of what Noah looks like. Anyway, Noah and Molly hail a cab and pile in.


Page 152, Line 8-11:
"Ninth Street and Avenue B, by Tompkins Square Park," Noah said. "And do us a favor," he added, passing through enough of a tip to make his point. "We're not in a rush, so just take it really, really easy, understand?"


Oh, good! A break from all the action to take care of a little exposition. Just what we need! And for anyone who is curious, they're headed right about... here. I guess they have a dog they need to exercise? Leaving that aside, they pull away and drive around very slowly, Molly stares silently out the window, and Noah tells her that there's no reason to believe that the plan outlined in his father's loony power point will happen any time soon.


Page 153, Line 6-13:
She shook her head. "It's happening now."

"How do you know that?"

"Because I can see it. The economy is crashing, Noah. There's no net underneath it this time. That's why they're rushing through all this stimulus nonsense, both parties. All the cockroaches are coming out of the woodwork to grab what they still can. It's a heist in broad daylight, and they don't even care who sees it anymore. That's how I know."


Yeah. What do you even do with that? There's room for debate on policy and there are definitely questions about how wise portions of the stimulus were. We should also, however, have a keen awareness that if you let too many banks fail and too many people lose their jobs at once, a bad recession can become a depression. Given that, what would even high minded public servants do? Tell major institutions to suck it, or try desperately to salvage the situation?


Page 153, Line 14-21:
"They've doubled the national debt since 2000 (1)*, and now with these bailouts, all those trillions of dollars more- that's our future they just stole, right in front of our eyes. They didn't even pretend to use that money to pay for anything real, most of it went offshore (2) (3). They didn't help any real people; they just paid themselves and covered their gambling debts on Wall Street." She looked at him. "You asked how I know it's happening now? Because the last official act of any government is to loot their own treasury."


Okay, Noah, here's what you're going to do: you're going to turn to Molly, put a hand on each of her shoulders, and ask her very calmly, "Molly, who the f-ing crap are 'they'?" Now focus, focus! You can do this!


Page 153, Line 22-23:
He couldn't think of a thing to counter that, at least nothing that either one of them would believe.


Damnit, damnit, goddamnit! Sigh. Noah, he's such a brilliant boy, eh? But, brilliant or not, he decides to follow up with an indecent proposal.


Page 153, Line 26-30:
"And look, I'm [Noah] not talking about any commitment you have to make, or a relationship, or whatever, I know we just met so let's take all that out of the picture and not worry about it right now. I'm just telling you that I'll help you, you and your mom, no strings attached."


"Yeah, I mean, when the economy crashes you and your mom can come live in my apartment, cook me bacon, do my laundry and, you know, when the time is right, cuddle the hell out of me. And, you know, maybe I can touch one of your boobs sometime? Please?" Honestly, I don't know what's worse: the offer that pretty much inevitably leads somewhere sleazy, or my bedrock certainty that Noah still couldn't close the deal. Regardless, Molly refuses, but Noah tells her to think about it since this "thing" won't hit everyone the same, and he reckons people like him will get off easy.


Page 154, Line 7-9:
"You're wrong- you won't be okay. No one will. If they accomplish half of what we saw on those screens then money won't protect you. Nothing will."


All I have to say is: that was apparently one f-ing ominous power point they watched in there. Just... damn.


Page 154, Line 10-15:
She turned her attention back to the window and the dark, blustery night beyond the glass.

After a time her clasp on his hand tightened for a few seconds, but it didn't really feel like affection. It was more like the grip a person might take on the arm of the dentist's chair, or the gesture of unspoken things an old love might extend at the end of a long good-bye.


Aaaaand what the hell was that? It was like how you say goodbye to an old love or it was like how you grip a chair while some dude scrapes your teeth with a metal spike? Are those grips even remotely similar to each other? As analogies go, it's better than the weird incest analogy from a few chapters ago (Page 56, Line 5-8), but it still registers as some major whatthefuckery.

But, weird or not, it's also the last lines of the chapter. And yes, that means that the "chapter" began on page 152 and ended on page 154. Hell, it began at the middle of page 152 and ended at the middle of page 154, so it was basically two pages long. And why the hell was it even included? So we could see them react? Did we need to see them react in a damn cab? This is the worst book ever. And with that endorsement, come back next time when finally- finally- Noah gets a small bit of what's coming to him.

It'll be fun!


* I feel compelled to point out that the article the authors reference has a big picture of Obama and the headline that the debt is up $2 trillion on Obama's watch. But, and here's the thing, Obama hasn't been President since 2000. Gosh, who was president from 2000 to 2008 or so? Granted, in this book the authors aren't shy about making a show of blaming both parties, but they're less genuine than we might like.

Labels:

Site Meter