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, September 30, 2011

The Overton Window: Chapter 35

Welcome back one and all to our ongoing series on The Overton Window, the book that makes us all glad the TEA Party isn't in charge. Yet. Last time Noah went to visit Molly's mom on her death bed and hung out with an old friend who will never, ever reappear. What happens this week? Noah goes to see Molly and... well... that basically covers it.

As I mentioned I am once again selecting a comment of the week, and this week that "honor" goes to Jay for making the essential point, although I will note that I now love Ken again:

re:*** I'm suddenly struck by the notion that there might be a porno version called "Left in the Behind".

There's a really chilling scene when you see all the emptied ... socks?

BTW, what are we supposed to make of a secret conspiracy based on public relations? You can't secretly conspire in the public view. Either you're broadcasting your message, or you aren't.


Leaving the socks alone- and frankly, who wouldn't under the circumstances- I think Jay has really hit on the core issue. This is a secret conspiracy that relies for its effectiveness on not really being secret. Or, arguably, even a conspiracy. Seriously, the evil conspirators in this book are at least as dumb as the heroes, and that leaves us without anyone to cheer for. No, all we have are people to cheer against, which basically means I'm hoping that this book ends in a gamma ray burst. Thanks, Jay, and keep at it, folks! The conclusion simply cannot come soon enough.

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.). Kerfluffle!


***********************************
Dramatis Personae: In an order determined by drunken undergraduate econ majors.

Eli Churchill: Former janitor at a volcano lair. Fan of remote telephone booths. Shot in the head by parties unknown.

Beverly Emerson: Mysterious correspondent of Eli Churchill's. Molly's Mom. Injected with weed killer by parties unknown blisteringly obvious to everyone.

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

Molly "Hottie McPretty" Ross: Dresses like a hippie, but not really. Looks like a free spirit. Perfectly captures the essence of womanhood. Auburn hair. Green eyes. Pale skin. Has a tattoo on her chest. Wears a silver cross around her neck. Lost her father when she was young. Impressed by fancy cars. Cocktease. Possibly suffering from bipolar disorder. Looks just like Noah's mom.

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

Khaled: Lebanese cab driver. Sold out by Noah Gardener.

Hollis: Friend of Molly Ross. Very polite. From the country. May be a Yeti.

Danny Bailey: Some kind of YouTube celebrity. Former lover of Molly Ross. Kind of a dickhead. Loves conspiracy theories and incoherent speeches. Sodomized by inmates following the rally. Once dressed up as Colonel Sanders to infiltrate the United Nations. May be afraid of cats.

Charlie Nelan: Gardner family lawyer. Silver hair. Impeccably dressed. Looks awesome. Has some sort of weird relationship with GQ. May have the ability to sense when Noah's in trouble using some sort of clairvoyance. Possible kleptomaniac.

Stuart Kearns: FBI agent. Works on homeland security matters. Kinda old and wrinkly. Not particularly trusting. Lives in a double-wide trailer. Sixty-three years old.

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

Tiffany: A stripper at the Pussycat Ranch. Thinks Danny is awesome.

Ellen Davenport: Old friend of Noah's. Second-year neurology resident at Mt. Sinai. Doesn't appear to need sleep or have good taste in her associates.

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

Chapter 35: In which Noah finds Molly and the marionette strings become even more obvious.

Recommended Mood Music:




Page 225, Line 1-3:
The street address that had been scrawled on the hospital's notepaper didn't lead him to another of the so-called safe houses that Molly had described.


For which Noah should be grateful, since if it did he'd likely be on a collision course with a bunch or armed whackos. That said, I can't decide whether I'm happy that the authors didn't make Molly give the nurse the address to a safe-house, thereby making it an unsafe-house, or annoyed that when Molly is genuinely in need of a safe-house, she isn't actually in one. I mean, Jesus, when nobody is looking for you, you hang out in a safe-house, but when powerful people are looking for you to do you harm, you don't go to a safe-house? What?


Page 225, Line 3-6:
When Noah looked up as the cab pulled to a stop he found he was outside what looked like a quaint family-style eatery, the Buccaneer Diner on Astoria Boulevard in Queens, about a mile from La Guardia Airport.


In case you're wondering, yes, this place does exist. I'll be the first one to admit, having glanced at the menu, that this looks like the kind of place my wife would despair of keeping me away from.* That said, I have no idea why the authors felt compelled to be this specific because it just doesn't matter at all for the narrative ever. Seriously, the scene could have taken place in a McDonalds, or a Chuckie Cheeze or even a WalMart Radio Grill for all the location ends up impacting the book. Best guess? It's more product placement. Regardless, Noah wanders in and notices the lunch crowd was winding down before spotting Molly.


Page 225, Line 13:
When Molly looked over and saw him walking up the aisle she stood...


Okay, this is gonna be good. The last time Molly saw Noah she had just drugged him unconscious and was about to go break into his office. Is she going to run for it? Is she going to pull a gun and try to shoot it out? Man, this is exciting!


Page 225, Line 14-15:
...and was suddenly overcome by a flood of tears she must have been barely holding at bay. She ran to him and threw herself into his arms.


What. The. Fuck? What is even happening in this scene? Does she know what book she's in? Doesn't she suspect that Noah might be ever so slightly pissed at her right now? Why am I reading this shit?


Page 225, Line 16-17:
In the cab on the way he'd given a great deal of thought to what he might say to her if he actually found her waiting at the end of the ride.


Okay, great, we have a chance to salvage the situation. Maybe, just once, Noah can respond to a situation like a real boy instead of the authors' wooden puppet!


Page 226, Line 3-9:
Not only did you break my heart, but you and your friends could have killed me with an overdose, all in the name of a hopeless cause.

I care about you, I was starting to believe in you, and now I don't know if a single thing between us was real.


And of course, there was this one:

I think my father must have ordered your mother to be murdered, just as easily as he'd ordered breakfast that morning. [emphasis original]


Right. So it's the OR where he responds like a wooden puppet getting jerked around by a bunch of authors who are either too incompetent to write a decent character, or too goddamn lazy to bother to try. Seriously, what actual human being- barring some sort of serious mental issues- would possibly react this way? He isn't a man, he's a hackneyed disaster.


Page 226, Line 10-12:
There was too much, so Noah said nothing. Neither forgiving nor forgetting, he put it all aside for the time being and just held her for a while.


What the hell does that mean? Does that mean he's going to exact his hellish revenge later? As it turns out, what it mostly means is that the authors are beginning to find Noah's quite reasonable anger at what was done to him tiresome and have decided to just get rid of it in the fastest, easiest way possible. Alternatively, the Buccaneer Diner is some sort of magic "all is forgiven" vortex, but not being a New York resident, I can't speak to that. Anyway, Molly asks about her mom and Noah gives her a brief account. Molly then explains that she had been traveling with others who had gone on ahead to La Guardia to test the security.


Page 226, Line 25-27:
They weren't just searched and harassed, as had often been the case in recent years; this time they were arrested and detained. [emphasis added]


Okay, first of all, I have to call bullshit. So far the only people we've seen in Molly's little terror cell have been white folks with more or less normal religious views. That is really, really, really not the type of people who are routinely harassed by TSA. Seriously. I'm friends with actual brown people, including actual Arab brown people, and as such, when I compare their stories of TSA to my own I reach the inescapable conclusion that Molly's folk are not the type of people who are subject to routine harassment. However the fuck much Glenn Beck might like us to believe that white Christians are somehow an oppressed group in the U.S. it just IS NOT TRUE. Are we all clear on that? Good. Second, the thing that really bothers me in this passage is that Molly is sitting here alone yet, somehow, she knows her friends were detained. How? Did they call her-from detention- to let her know? Somehow I doubt it and, if they did, why the hell aren't the cops swarming her under even now? Did she have an associate watching to see what would happen? That would have made the most sense, save for the fact that Molly is sitting here alone. Is she clairvoyant? Must be, because there's no other freaking way she could have known that. God does this book suck. Anyway, moving along, Noah suggests that Molly drive to wherever the fuck she's going, but she says that she can't take that long, so she had to fly. Somehow.


Page 227, Line 3-8:
Noah was listening, and he was also studying her face as she spoke. The passing resemblance to that picture of his mother was almost gone now that she'd ceased to maintain it. That likeness had been subliminal at best, just enough to hook into his subconscious. But now, as they say under the bright fluorescent lights of a Queens diner, he realized that there was absolutely no denying who Molly did look like. [emphasis original]


If you're not breaking out in a cold sweat at this point, you either don't know what a colossal fuckup Noah is, or still think the authors put any effort into this book at all.


Page 227, Line 9:
And that gave him an absolutely brilliant idea.


I really, really doubt that. Noah and brilliant ideas are like the square root of negative one- possible in theory, and even useful for abstract reasoning, but imaginary none the less. But, imaginary or not, that's the end of the chapter.

Now, I could go on to the next chapter now, but I won't. Partly, this is because I'm lazy. Partly it's because the next two chapters are pretty long and scrunching the next one together with this one wouldn't work out well. But mostly it's because Noah's idea is so brain-searingly, gut wrenchingly moronic that we just have to be able to dedicate a whole episode to it. Really. So, come back next time when we discover what Noah's brilliant plan is, and marvel at the fact that he didn't need someone smarter to come up with it for him. Like, I don't know, a fifth grader who still eats paste.

See you then!


* Unless, that is, there were a Waffle House nearby. I freaking love Waffle House.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A quick aside for the monks...

To respond briefly to your questions and remarks:

(1) There are, in fact, forty-seven chapters plus an epilogue and afterword in that darn book. This means we have a ways to go yet, although you are far from alone in your amazement. My wife has already warned me that after this I am not to do another of these shit-birds for a long time. You're welcome to try to reason with her, but I rather doubt your chances.

(2) The signet ring is working out wonderfully, but I keep accidentally beaning undergrads with the scepter. Then again, maybe it's more of an "on purpose" kind of thing.

(3) I take that as a compliment since monomania at least implies that my mind is otherwise sound. That's quite an improvement, when you think about it!

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Good news, bad news...

So, on the one hand, I think this is a really good idea:

It could be the best thing to happen to men’s sex lives since the Pill — and most people have never even heard of it.

A potentially revolutionary method of male birth control — a single injection that’s 100 percent effective in preventing pregnancy for a decade, and is accompanied by nary a side effect — is already in clinical trials in India and could be available here in just a few years.

A single advocate won’t give up until RISUG, the clunky acronym for “reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance,” is a Food and Drug Administration-approved option for couples looking to knock boots without getting knocked up.

Elaine Lissner’s interest in male contraceptives was piqued in the late 1980s when, as an undergraduate at Stanford, she was told during an academic lecture that she and her female peers “would never see a male contraceptive akin to the birth control pill in our lifetime.”

At the same time, Lissner was seeing female friends struggle with the uncomfortable side effects of contraceptives, and had her own pregnancy scare at 19.

“I realized there must be a better answer, but it wasn’t being pursued,” Lissner, who lives in San Francisco, told The Daily. “Ideally, I want to see a contraceptive supermarket for men the way there is for women.”


On the other hand, there is a tiny catch still to be worked out:

Some American experts, though, are concerned that RISUG might not be reversible: Guha has informally reversed the injection in a handful of men and hundreds of animals, but hasn’t published a formal study on the process.

“Certainly it’s a promising project, but there’s a lot we don’t know,” Colvard said. “Without safe reversal, men are just as well off getting a vasectomy.”

That’s exactly where Lissner plans to start: Animal trials are expected to start this year, and the first clinical trial of Vasalgel will kick off in 2012, with male participants open to permanent infertility on the off chance that the injection can’t be reversed.


Yeah, I mean, permanent sterility certainly counts as "birth control", but isn't really what we're going for. Still, if the kinks can be worked out, I would love for there to be more options that men can use* to prevent pregnancy, thereby taking the onus off** of our partners.*** And if nothing else, the more we can control our fertility, the fewer women there will be who have to deal with something like this.



* Other than condoms, I mean, which both men and women frequently dislike for a whole variety of reasons. That said, I don't think the heroic rubber is going anywhere soon given that unlike many other methods of contraception, it can also block the transmission of STIs.

** Of course, I suspect a woman would really have to trust her partner in order to assume that he's really using an injectable form of birth control that she can't verify. Unfortunately, what starts as a medical problem eventually turns into a social problem.

*** My wife and I in particular are looking forward to the day when we've had all the kids we intend to and I can get a vasectomy, thereby eliminating the need for all those peculiar birth control contraptions.

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Friday, September 23, 2011

The Overton Window: Chapters 33 & 34

Welcome back one and all to our ongoing series on The Overton Window, the book that puts the "ass" in "disaster". Last time Noah visited the cheerful chaps in the mailroom and... yeah, that's about all. What happens this week? Noah drives around a bit and then visits Molly's mom in the hospital. And you thought your dates were awkward!

As I mentioned I am once again selecting a comment of the week, and this week that "honor" goes to Sassafras for not making me feel bad about myself the way that Ken's comment did:

"It is the book that never ends,
Yes it goes on and on, my friends!
Some people started reading it,
Not knowing what shit it was,
And they'll continue reading it forever,
JUST BECAUSE... [repeat mindlessly while completing final chapters]"

It's horrifying when a Lambchop song is more fun than a book.


Yeah, honestly, I've read cereal boxes that are more fun than this book. Hell, I think it's entirely possible that Left Behind was more fun than this book. Still, however, it does eventually end, and we're coming up on the end a lot faster than you might think. Like each individual chapter in this nightmare, eventually it just kinda seems like the authors get tired and then... stop. Blessedly. Thanks for the comments, folks, and keep it up! We're definitely getting there.

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.). Bazoombas!


***********************************
Dramatis Personae: In an order determined by a first order Markov process.

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. Wants to bang his mom.

Molly "Hottie McPretty" Ross: Dresses like a hippie, but not really. Looks like a free spirit. Perfectly captures the essence of womanhood. Auburn hair. Green eyes. Pale skin. Has a tattoo on her chest. Wears a silver cross around her neck. Lost her father when she was young. Impressed by fancy cars. Cocktease. Possibly suffering from bipolar disorder. Looks just like Noah's mom.

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

Khaled: Lebanese cab driver. Sold out by Noah Gardener.

Hollis: Friend of Molly Ross. Very polite. From the country. May be a Yeti.

Danny Bailey: Some kind of YouTube celebrity. Former lover of Molly Ross. Kind of a dickhead. Loves conspiracy theories and incoherent speeches. Sodomized by inmates following the rally. Once dressed up as Colonel Sanders to infiltrate the United Nations. May be afraid of cats.

Charlie Nelan: Gardner family lawyer. Silver hair. Impeccably dressed. Looks awesome. Has some sort of weird relationship with GQ. May have the ability to sense when Noah's in trouble using some sort of clairvoyance. Possible kleptomaniac.

Stuart Kearns: FBI agent. Works on homeland security matters. Kinda old and wrinkly. Not particularly trusting. Lives in a double-wide trailer. Sixty-three years old.

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

Tiffany: A stripper at the Pussycat Ranch. Thinks Danny is awesome.

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

Chapter 33: In which a new character appears and we stray into romantic comedy territory.

Recommended Mood Music:




Page 218, Line 1-4:
In the cab on the way uptown Noah had made two phone calls, one to the hospital's automated system to find the patient's floor and room, and the other to an old and trusted acquaintence who was now on her way to meet up with him at Lenox Hill.


There's so much wrong with this opener. The main problem is that rather than give this narration in present tense, which would at least lend the sentence a bit of urgency, it renders it in past tense. *yawn* The second problem, however, is the weirdly removed reference to "the patient" rather than, you know, "Barbara Emerson" or even, "Molly's mom". Either of those would have made this feel more natural and made Noah seem (slightly) less like some sort of demented robot. But, alas, it doesn't and he is.


Page 218, Line 5-11:
Over a long-ago summer Ellen Davenport, of the East Hampton Davenports, had become his first real friend who was a girl. It was a new thing for him, because though they'd hit it off immediately, they both seemed to realize that dating each other was the last thing they should ever do. They'd actually tried it once just to be sure, and the discomfort of that terrible evening was matched only by its comic potential when the story was retold by the two of them in later years.


That would actually be cute if the writing weren't so goddamn dull. But, hey, regardless: hello there, new and pointless character! Welcome to the pointless party! Also, for the record, I have no idea, and couldn't care less, who the East Hampton Davenports are.


Page 218, Line 12-15:
Now Ellen was a second-year neurology resident at Mount Sinai Hospital across town. His call had caught her at the end of a twenty-six-hour shift, but, true to form, she'd told him that she'd be right over without even asking why.


Okay, so the random extra is supposed to be a really close friend of Noah's. Fair enough. I gotta say though, while I have some friends who are so close that if they asked for my help after I'd just worked a 26-hour shift I'd totally do it, I'd still ask why before heading over. This wouldn't so much be to judge whether or not I should come, as to mentally prepare myself for whatever it is that is so damned urgent. I mean, are we burying a body? Should I bring my shovel? Are we going to be producing a body? Should I bring a ski mask and firearm? I like to be prepared. Anyway, Noah gets to the hospital and notices three things. One is an overflow crowd from the hospital floor's small chapel. I've never seen a hospital with a chapel on every floor- or even more than one chapel- but whatever. It's freaking overflowing. Second, he sees a smaller crowd waiting outside one room. And third, he sees Ellen. We don't get to see Ellen, as she isn't really described, but Noah sees her, which I guess will just have to be enough. Actually, now that I think about it, maybe the fact that hardly anyone is described in this book is meant to suggest that hardly anyone is actually real? Maybe it's sort of a Sixth Sense thing and all the action is taking place in Molly's (i.e. the only well-described character's) head? TWIST!


Page 219, Line 11-13:
"I need for you [Ellen] to do me a favor," Noah said. There was a slight tremor in his hands as he retrieved the medicine from his pocket, shook out a pill into his palm, and swallowed it dry.


Now, read that passage again but in the voice of Raoul Duke and I promise you it'll seem much, much more interesting.


Page 219, Line 14-17:
Ellen took the vial from him, rattled it, and held it close to her eyes. She looked at him again with a little more concern than before. "If you're going to ask me to score you some methadone, I left my prescription pad in my other pants."


So, is that what he's taking, then? And what is she, the pharmacy whisperer? I fully believe that she might be able to tell what the drugs are from examining the pills, but from rattling an opaque, unmarked plastic container (Page 197, Line 15-16)? I'm thinking, no. Anyway, as it turns out, no, Noah is not trying to score some drugs.


Page 219, Line 18-20:
"That woman in the room down the hall there," he said. "I need for you to help me- I don't know, line up a specialist, make sure everything's being done. I just want her to be taken care of."


And my question at this point is, "why"? I mean, Noah was just rescued from aforementioned woman's daughter, who drugged the crap out of him and left him to be repeatedly violated by Hollis* over a 40 hour period, only to be discovered in a pool of his own filth.** Noah is not surprisingly on a quest to revenge himself upon that daughter. So why the hell are his undies suddenly in a bunch over Barbara? Does he want to use her as freaking bait, or something?


Page 219, Line 23-30:
Whatever Noah had been about to confess, he was interrupted by the approach of a stranger. It was an older woman, frail and thin as dry reeds, and from the corner of his eye he'd seen her come from the direction of that room ear the end of the hall. The woman nodded her respect to Ellen, turned to him, and then spoke with a gentle gravity in her voice that said more than the words themselves would convey.

"She's awake now. Somebody told her you were here, and she says she wants to talk to you."


What. The. Fuck? He's been here barely long enough for a handful of lines of dialogue with Ellen and yet, someone in the room with Barbara has already learned of Noah's arrival and mentioned it to her? What in hell is going on in this chapter?

Well, as it happens, what's going on is it's ending, which brings us to...


Chapter 34: In which Noah has a really tortured chat with Molly's mom, and Ellen serves her purpose.

Recommended Mood Music:




Page 220, Line 1-2:
He stood just inside the open doorway, watching the remaining visitors say their good-byes before they quietly walked past him, one by one.


Apparently Noah is f-ing important to these people. I guess we should all be glad he's important to someone, but that still leaves us with an incredibly bizarre scene.


Page 220, Line 12-16:
There were bruises on her face and arms, dark, uneven spots within yellowing patches, and a bandage on her neck with a soak of crusted brown near its center. She was withered, already a shadow of the person he'd last seen on Friday night. The only thing that remained undimmed was that unforgettable spark in her light green eyes.


Just... yeah. I don't know what to say here. Apparently Barbara caught the beating that Danny claimed he'd had (Page 181, Line 8-18) when he was talking to the would-be terrorists. Isn't she lucky? Regardless, Noah comes over and holds her hand.


Page 221, Line 5-10:
"I [Barbara] don't expect you to understand why Molly did what I asked her to do." The grip on his hand tightened, as though all the strength she had was centering there. "You should blame me, and not her. But I hold the privilege of a dying woman now, and I want you to put everything aside except what I'm about to say."


Presumably included in that everything that Noah is putting aside is his disgust at the hackneyed writing. Still, you'd think Noah would be a little pissed at the revelation that Barbara is the mastermind behind his recent mind-fuck. One can only imagine the hot-blooded answer Noah has ready for Barbara.


Page 221, Line 11:
"Okay."


Yep. That was it exactly.


Page 221, Line 12-13:
"My daughter is in danger. I need for you to promise me you'll see her to safety."


And that was not at all what anyone expected her to say. Just to be clear, she's asking the man her daughter recently seduced, drugged, and basically stole from to make sure that said daughter escapes from any and all consequences that might stem from seducing, drugging, and stealing from Noah Gardner. How the hell does that seem like a good idea?


Page 221, Line 14-18:
There were so many conflicting things hammering at his mind, but despite all that mental noise and everything that had happened, for once in his life he could see it all arranged in its true order of significance, and so he knew for certain there was only one thing to be said.

"I will"


Exactly! How else will you trick her into telling you where Molly is so you can take your reve- hmmm? You're actually going to do the whole protecting Molly thing, then? Really? What is it with this girl? Does she have cake-flavored nipples, or something?


Page 221, Line 25-28:
"I sent Molly away, but she isn't safe yet," she said. "She's waiting now, near the airport. Look in the top drawer of the nightstand. She called and told one of the nurses where she'd be and they wrote it down for me."


She called and told- are you fucking kidding me? She's on the run from some ultra-powerful cabal of government bureaucrats and corporate leaders who are planning an imminent takeover of the U.S., she's in possession of sensitive information from same, and she leaves her location with her mother's nurse? Did these people learn their operational security from Facebook?


Page 221, Line 31-32:
"Do you know what we're fighting against, son?"

"Yeah, I think so. Some pretty evil people."


You mean like your dad?


Page 222, Line 2:
"Ephesians 6:12- look it up when you get a chance."


Oh, lovely. More bible passages. That really takes me back to Left Behind*** you know? For those who are curious, that passage reads: "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." So... she's claiming that Noah's dad is in league with the devil, then? I am so bored with this shit. Really.


Page 222, Line 4-7:
"There's more to you, Noah. More than you might be ready to believe. I knew of your mother many years ago, and the good she wanted to do. That's what Molly saw in you: she told me. Not your father, but what your mother's given you. And I see it, too."


Oh, just gag me. She knew "of" Noah's mom? What the hell does that mean? Maybe she saw Noah's mom's performance in that movie he mentioned (Page 107, Line 8-14)? This bit is so over-the-top the author's can't even see the top anymore- that's how far over the top they are. Anyway, Barbara reminds Noah that his name derives from a biblical figure.


Page 222, Line 16-17:
"He wasn't chosen because he was the best man who ever lived," she said softly. "He was chosen because he was the best man available."


Okay, one, way to build the guy up: "You're not Mr. Right, but you are Mr. Right-Now." Two, can we all just remember how things worked out with the original Noah? Genocide of mankind, mass extinction, and all he managed to get to show for it was a promise from god to never try to kill us all off with water ever again. Hell, sounds like our Noah is the spitting image.


Page 222, Line 18-20:
Out in the hallway he hadn't made it five steps before Ellen Davenport caught up to him. She took him firmly by the sleeve, pulled him behind her into a nearby storeroom, and closed the door.


I'm sure Noah's flattered, Ellen, but is this really the right time to exercise the "with benefits" clause? Or do hospitals just turn you on? Sadly, no, Ellen just wants to talk. She asks Noah how he knows Barbara, he says she's the mother of a friend of his, and then Ellen tells him Barbara is going to die. Which would probably be shocking if Barbara hadn't just told us that a page ago. Noah asks how, Ellen answers "poison," and Noah- briefly forgetting that he's hardly an expert in this sort of thing- asks what kind of poison.


Page 223, Line 13-24:
"Paraquat," (1) she said. She seemed to watch his eyes for signs of recognition but there were none. "Do you see now, the point they were trying to make? The animals who got to this woman? Paraquat is a pesticide. A weed killer."

"A pesticide." He'd heard what she'd said but he repeated it aloud, just to make sure he understood.

"It starts an irreversible fibrosis in the lungs- a scarring that progresses until you finally can't breathe anymore. If that doesn't kill you first, all the other organ systems begin to shut down, and then it's over. There's nothing we can do about it; we can't even give her oxygen. That just makes it worse. She might have another day, or another week, but it's obvious they wanted her to suffer."


Well, hey, who can blame them? She was awfully annoying. More seriously, I think the authors are trying to imply that Arthur's goons made a statement as they killed Barbara but, really, one would think that just killing her would be statement enough. Then again, Barbara believes Arthur either is, or is in league with, the devil, so there's more than enough crazy to go around. Anyway, Ellen advises Noah to go easy on the pills that his father gave him, even going so far as to recommend he come down off of Molly's happy drugs cold turkey and then Noah says goodbye. Don't worry, though, because Ellen gets the last word.


Page 224, Line 6-9:
"I don't know how you're involved in all this," Ellen said, "but you'd better know something, Noah. There are a million kinds of murder, but anyone who would do to a person what they did to her? It only means there's nothing at all they wouldn't do." [emphasis original]


That's probably true but, the thing is, does it really matter? I mean, to some extent murder is murder, and if someone kills me in the process of a convenience store robbery I'm just as dead as if they kill me in some "artistic" way that makes a statement. So, yeah, once we know that murder is involved, we've largely maxed out the "these people are serious" message.

But, maxed or not, that's the end of the chapter. Come back next time when Noah finally reunites with Molly and we get to find out what he does when he meets the woman who tricked and drugged him. It'll be "exciting".

Toodles!


* I'm assuming that's what happened, based on Noah and Hollis' obvious "chemistry".

** Not really, but only because the writing is terrible.

*** I'm suddenly struck by the notion that there might be a porno version called "Left in the Behind".

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Monday, September 19, 2011

Maybe I wasn't wasting my childhood after all!

So this article in Nature Structural and Molecular Biology is completely freaking rad. Why is it rad? Because a group of scientists came up with a way to turn gamers loose on a scientific problem that had stymied researchers for a decade. How long did it take the gamers to crack it? About three weeks.

Foldit is a multiplayer online game that enlists players worldwide to solve difficult protein-structure prediction problems. Foldit players leverage human three-dimensional problem-solving skills to interact with protein structures using direct manipulation tools and algorithms from the Rosetta structure prediction methodology1. Players collaborate with teammates while competing with other players to obtain the highest-scoring (lowest-energy) models. In proof-of-concept tests, Foldit players—most of whom have little or no background in biochemistry—were able to solve protein structure refinement problems in which backbone rearrangement was necessary to correctly bury hydrophobic residues2. Here we report Foldit player successes in real-world modeling problems with more complex deviations from native structures, leading to the solution of a long-standing protein crystal structure problem.

...

To determine whether human intuition could succeed where automated methods had failed, we challenged Foldit players to build accurate models of M-PMV PR starting from the NMR coordinates (which had failed in MR tests; see Supplementary Discussion and Supplementary Fig. 3). When the 3-week competition concluded, we screened the top-scoring Foldit models using Phaser11 to determine whether any were of sufficient quality for MR. Remarkably, despite the complete failure of all previous approaches, several solutions by the Foldit Contenders Group produced phase estimates that were good enough to allow a rapid solution of the crystal structure.


Years ago I suggested that the simulations of reality in video games were becoming good enough to serve as effective teaching tools. I did not, however, envision a time when they would be able to actually help advance human knowledge.

Game on!

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Friday, September 16, 2011

The Overton Window: Chapter 32

Welcome back one and all to our ongoing series on The Overton Window, the book that aspires almost to the stature of my daughter's incoherent vocalizations. Last time Noah had a lovely chat with his weirdo eugenicist father. What happens this week? We start part THREE and Noah goes to the bathroom. Yay?

As I mentioned I am once again selecting a comment of the week, and this week that "honor" goes to Jay for noting the hidden irony:

I love how this bit shows the beginning and the end of Gardner's new aristocracy all at once. The beginning, because Gardner is trying to seize power by virtue of his intellingence, drive, and ruthlessness (or so we're told). The end, because 74-year-old Gardner is trying to groom his incompetent, pampered son for leadership.


Yeah, it's a worthwhile point that before you launch a revolution that basically predicates the right to rule on biological heritage that you should secure an heir who isn't some kind of sub-human idiot. Although, frankly, a sub-human idiot would still be better than Noah Gardner. I'd also like to offer a special nod to Jonas for at least saying so. I forgive you, man, but my wife may be a different story. Nice work, everyone, and keep at it- we're in the home stretch now!

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.). Snicker-doodle!


***********************************
Dramatis Personae: In an order determined by a random seed.

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. Wants to bang his mom.

Molly "Hottie McPretty" Ross: Dresses like a hippie, but not really. Looks like a free spirit. Perfectly captures the essence of womanhood. Auburn hair. Green eyes. Pale skin. Has a tattoo on her chest. Wears a silver cross around her neck. Lost her father when she was young. Impressed by fancy cars. Cocktease. Possibly suffering from bipolar disorder. Looks just like Noah's mom.

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

Khaled: Lebanese cab driver. Sold out by Noah Gardener.

Hollis: Friend of Molly Ross. Very polite. From the country. May be a Yeti.

Danny Bailey: Some kind of YouTube celebrity. Former lover of Molly Ross. Kind of a dickhead. Loves conspiracy theories and incoherent speeches. Sodomized by inmates following the rally. Once dressed up as Colonel Sanders to infiltrate the United Nations. May be afraid of cats.

Charlie Nelan: Gardner family lawyer. Silver hair. Impeccably dressed. Looks awesome. Has some sort of weird relationship with GQ. May have the ability to sense when Noah's in trouble using some sort of clairvoyance. Possible kleptomaniac.

Stuart Kearns: FBI agent. Works on homeland security matters. Kinda old and wrinkly. Not particularly trusting. Lives in a double-wide trailer. Sixty-three years old.

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

Tiffany: A stripper at the Pussycat Ranch. Thinks Danny is awesome.

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

Part THREE: In which we stumble to the moronic conclusion of a stupid book.

Recommended Mood Music:




Page Unmarked-but-would-be-213, Line 1-7:

"The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country."

-Edward Bernays, Author of Propaganda [emphasis original]


So, this is the quotation that really provides the page announcing Part THREE with its only raison d'etre. Unlike the last time the authors were foolish enough to offer a lengthy quote, there aren't gigantic bloody bits torn out of this one. On the other hand, if you continue with the quoted bit (which comes from the opening pages of the first damned chapter of the book) you may come to think that the meaning is a shade different. Specifically:

We are governed, our minds molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society.

Our invisible governors are, in many cases, unaware of the identity of their fellow members in the inner cabinet.

They govern us by their qualities of natural leadership, their ability to supply needed ideas and by their key position in the social structure. Whatever attitude one chooses toward this condition, it remains a fact that in almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons- a trifling fraction of our hundred and twenty million- who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind, who harness old social forces and contrive new ways to bind and guide the world.


Bernays goes on at some length- it is a book after all- but the essential point of all this is that when you have a really big society with a big population, you pretty much have to accept some centralization. And Bernays is explicitly not saying, "Hey! There's a secret cabal running the world!" No, what he's saying is, "Hey! Rich people, and people who understand politics, set the agenda for the rest of us!" And that's not sinister, that's just realistic. But, alas, the authors would have us be chilled by a simple notion that nobody would really disagree with. And with that, we get on to...


Chapter 32: In which Noah takes time out to groom, vows revenge, and then visits the mailroom.

Recommended Mood Music:




Page 215, Line 1-6:
Noah had excused himself suddenly and then stumbled his way into the elegant stall in the corner of his father's private restroom. You know you're sick when you're still vomiting ten minutes after the last thing was expelled from your stomach. He was still hugging the porcelain bowl, drained and wretched, feeling like he'd just capped off a marathon with four hundred sit-ups.


Okay, first off, he was still hugging the porcelain bowl, feeling awful, when what? Maybe I'm just a traditionalist, but that particular sentence construction is usually followed by an explanation of what happened when the character was still doing something previously described. Did the authors just get bored in the middle of the sentence and decide to drop a period, or what? Second, purely out of curiosity, why does Arthur's no doubt private bathroom have a stall, elegant or otherwise? I mean, a "stall" is normally included in a bathroom so that someone else can come in and wash their hands, use a urinal, or whatever, while you take a dump in relative privacy. But if the whole bathroom is private, why is there a stall? And finally, no doubt the vomiting has to do with all the drugs he's packed with- both the relics of whatever Molly et al. juiced him with as well as whatever Dr. Feelgood gave him before the meeting- but the vomiting "after the last thing was expelled from your stomach" has a peculiar meaning here because Noah was drugged unconscious for several days. That means he didn't eat or drink anything for something like 48 hours. He should be crazy thirsty, really hungry, and very weak. He is none of these things, except maybe the weak part, and that's more Noah than anything else. Moreover, given this situation, the fact that he's vomiting should be a major concern for any doctor or father- they need to get fluids into Noah's sorry ass, not let him hurl them out with gut-wrenching force. But, alas, the authors don't want to deal with this issue, and so they don't. They do, however, describe how he washed his face and then put his shirt BACK on, which implies that his sudden lunge to the toilet wasn't so sudden he couldn't remove his shirt first.


Page 215, Line 14-15:
His skin was as pale as a Newark Bay oyster, but while he was certainly beat he wasn't quite out of commission yet.


As pale as a Newark Bay oyster, eh? Is that... you know... pale? I ask only because I don't usually ask oysters I plan on eating* where they're from, much less note how pale they are. This reminds me of how sci-fi authors occasionally give analogies like, "He was as angry as an Altairian Sand-wolf with a bad case of creepers." I mean, you kind of know what it means from context, but as an analogy it's an utter failure. Anyway, he thinks about how the doctor says that his symptoms will persist for a few days, pops some pills, tries to digest what his father just told him, and then he turns to other matters.


Page 216, Line 2-3:
...there was also a score he needed to settle before a certain young woman's trail became too cold to follow.


Oh, man. Seriously? Noah Gardner is going to try to get even with Molly? Buddy, she's part of some kind of crazy terrorist cell- that's trouble that you, of all people, are not equipped to deal with.


Page 216, Line 4-5:
As Noah hurried down the stairwell toward the mailroom he lost his shaky footing and nearly tumbled down the last half flight.


Okay, so, Arthur is just done, then? Because this chapter opened with Noah suddenly bolting for Arthur's bathroom and now we're going down the stairs so... what? He just crossed Arthur's office and left? Huh? Arthur just let him go then? I mean, we get a description of Noah putting his shirt back on but we can't get a mention of how Arthur reacted to Noah's sudden nausea/will to revenge? Regardless, it goes without saying that Noah does, in fact, reach the mailroom.


Page 216, Line 13-18:
"Frank!" Noah called.

The department manager popped his head out from behind the sorting shelves. "Yes, sir."

"Have you heard from Molly today?"

"No, sir. She was on the schedule but she ain't been in. I called her agency about an hour ago and they haven't got back to me yet."


I would have expected "Frank" to be a bit more confused about why a V.P. is suddenly in his mailroom asking about a random temp. Admittedly, Frank does show a tiny morsel of curiosity about this in a couple of lines when Noah asks for her emergency contact numbers, but that's to be expected. Somehow I doubt that this is the first time that Noah has come looking for information on attractive female temps, you know?


Page 216, Line 24-31:
"You're talking about that temp girl, Molly?" Another of the mailroom staff had apparently overheard the conversation, and he came nearer. "Someone called here for her over the weekend. I picked up the voice mail when I opened up this morning."

"Do you have that message?" Noah asked. "It's important."

"I deleted it, and I didn't write anything down, since it was a personal thing. The fellow who called must have just tried all the numbers he had for her. He said her mama was in the hospital."


What a shockingly convenient, albeit dumb, development! Thank you random extra! More seriously, though, go back over what you just read: the dude listened to the voicemail closely enough to know that someone he works with- even if only on a temporary basis- has a mother in the hospital and may not know, and his response is to delete the message and not write anything down. What the fuck is wrong with these people?


Page 217, Line 1-6:
As it gripped him there he remembered what Warren Landers had said, up in his father's office. It had passed in one ear and straight out his other, because, as usual, he was immersed in his own significance, as though the only bad things that existed were the ones that had happened to him.

We'll make them sorry. That's how Mr. Landers had put it. [emphasis original]


First of all: as it gripped him where? Moving along, on the one hand it is nice to see Noah realize that he's a self-absorbed dickhead. On the other hand, in this instance- having just been rescued from kidnappers who kept him under sedation for several days- I think a bit of self-absorption is only to be expected. That said, the odd thing is that even in Noah's unbidden recollections he's a moron. See, what he's keying on is Landers future-tense statement that Noah's kidnappers would pay. What he should have keyed on was his father's statement (Page 203, Line 29-30) that there had already been (past-tense) repercussions. In other words, whatever happened to Molly's mom had already happened by the time Noah was having his little chat with daddy. Ah, well. Whatever. Noah asks which hospital, the nameless extra tells him, and we hit the end of the chapter.

So, come back next time when Noah drives around and then has a warm visit with Molly's mom. Inexplicably warm, in fact, given that he apparently wants revenge on her daughter but, hey, who am I to judge?

See you then!


* As a general rule, I don't actually eat oysters in the first place, but my point stands.

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Apparently my reputation precedes me...

A loyal reader recently made me aware of this, which is just too funny not to share:

Via a comment in Seanan McGuire’s LJ, I see that romance author Susan Andersen has discovered a typo in the digital version of one of her books:

"He stiffened for a moment but then she felt his muscles loosen as he shitted on the ground."

Shifted — he SHIFTED! God, I am so appalled, not to mention horrified that anyone would think that’s what I wrote.


When Chris read this to me, I had to wonder:

Me: Do you think she’s horrified that people would think she wrote that her character took a dump, or that they’d think she wrote shitted instead of shat?

Chris: She’s a romance novelist. They generally don’t work blue.

We were both reminded of a (possibly apocryphal) story from decades back (which I think I first encountered on GEnie’s SFRT), in which a romance author not only named her hunky male sex object Drek, but opened her book with “Drek was hard and brown from long hours in the sun.”


Thanks- I work out.

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Monday, September 12, 2011

Personally, I like the first one...

What would it be like if an advertising agency made a pitch to ban religion? Two took a crack at it, and the outcome is pretty interesting:

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Friday, September 09, 2011

The Overton Window: Chapter 31

Welcome back one and all to our ongoing series on The Overton Window, the book that puts the liter in literary. Last time Noah learned that Molly has been playing him for a fool and we learned that he has a total hard-on for his mom. Yuck. What happens this week? Not a whole, lot, really- just an incoherent talk with Noah's dad.

As I mentioned I am once again selecting a comment of the week, and this week that "honor" goes to Jay for putting the pieces together:

My guess is that they continually track Noah, on court order, to make sure he stays at least 500 feet from schools and playgrounds. I hear he sets the "dating bar" medium-high (about the height of a 12-year-old).


My god. It all makes so much horrible, horrible sense now! I need to bleach my brain. Thanks for the awful revelations, Jay, and keep at it folks. Because, you know, somebody has to keep this shit entertaining.

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.). Va-va-voom!


***********************************
Dramatis Personae: In an order determined by polling the audience.

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. Sixty-three years old.

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

Tiffany: A stripper at the Pussycat Ranch. Thinks Danny is awesome.

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

Chapter 31: In which Arthur Gardner tries to have a super-villain moment and, in the end, turns into a discarded cast member from "Left Behind".

Recommended Mood Music:




Page 205, Line 1-2:
Arthur Gardner's office suite was rumored to be the quietest place on the island of Manhattan.


My margin note here reads, "Whoopdee-fucking-doo". This is fine, as far as it goes, but upon further reflection I'm suddenly forced to wonder: in this factional world, is the amount of noise in an office seriously such an interesting fact that there are actual rumors about it? What's it like at parties, I wonder? "Well, I know all of you are talking about Spitzer and his prostitute, but I heard that Arthur Gardner has- oh, I can hardly believe I'm going to say it- a really quiet office!" Dinner party of the damned. And you thought the book was boring. Anyway, Noah keeps musing about how damn quiet it is and then we get this.


Page 205, Line 11-14:
All that echo-dampened stillness made any interior sound seem exaggerated and unnaturally distinct- the scritch of the flint in his father's lighter, the hiss of the glowing tobacco in the bowl of his pipe, the steady metal workings of his ancient mantel clock on the corner shelf. [emphasis original]


What's weird about this to me is that it contradicts the preceding description. See, this office is supposed to be super quiet and have sound dampening ju-ju out the ying-yang. Yet, somehow, it doesn't come across as the excruciatingly disorienting sound-swallowing hole that it should be, but instead just seems to be a normal room that happens to be fairly quiet. I can only assume that the authors wanted to justify the characterization involved in the above passage, but wouldn't it have worked better if they had just used Noah's preternatural awareness of small sounds to say something about his emotional state, rather than about the room's architectural qualities? It's not even that it's bad writing, it's that they actually seem to avoid doing the interesting thing. It's like it's purposefully dull, and that's quite an accomplishment. In any case, Noah thinks about how his father loves to be alone- hence the preference for silence- and then tries to apologize to dear old daddy.


Page 206, Line 9-17:
"No need to, I said." His father set his pipe in its rest and leaned back in his chair. "It was more an insult than an injury, the idea that they managed to use you in an attempt to damage our company and our clients. We've known of these people, of course, and we'd thought we were adequately prepared, but they surprised all of us, didn't they? And I must say"- now there was a strange little smile on his face- "this avenue they chose, the seductive infiltration by this girl, it shows a great deal more ingenuity than I would have expected, given the source. It was inspired really. Ruthless though it was."


Yeah, well, nobody expects the TEA party inquisition:



"NOBODY expects the TEA Party Inquisition! Our chief weapon is surprise...surprise and crazy...crazy and surprise.... Our two weapons are crazy and surprise...and ruthless avoidance of reality.... Our *three* weapons are crazy, surprise, and ruthless avoidance of reality...and an almost fanatical devotion to ignorance.... Our *four*...no... *Amongst* our weapons.... Amongst our weaponry...are such elements as crazy, surprise.... I'll come in again."

All kidding aside, however, did you catch that bit about how the whole thing was more insult than injury? So, for the record, Arthur is saying that crazy people who kidnap his son, drug him into incoherence for a weekend, steal confidential files, and escape free have basically not done anything. Maybe he has a more realistic view of Noah's worth than I've been giving him credit for? And as a final note- if Noah has suddenly realized that Molly looks just like his mom, what must Arthur be thinking? I mean, Noah's mom was Arthur's wife once upon a time.


Page 206, Line 24-27:
In a quick look back over the years Noah was certain he could have counted the number of actual, heart-to-heart conversations with his father on the digits of a single hand. Now it looked like another one was coming and, frankly, he wasn't in the mood.


Really? After such a trauma he doesn't want support from his usually distant father? Color me shocked. Still, I don't know what he's bitching about- I mean, seriously, who here isn't dreading the idea of more Arthur Gardner dialog?


Page 207, Line 1-5:
"Something is going to happen tomorrow morning, Noah. Something that will be the beginning of quite a change in the way things are. This weekend's developments, this theft and the accompanying threat of exposure, have served only to further convince the parties involved that now is the time for this- this course correction."


Ah. Right. So tomorrow, something will happen to someone because some other someone is concerned about something being revealed to some third someone? Makes perfect sense. Clear as freaking mud. Noah, being a semi-moron, asks what's going to happen and Arthur responds by asking whether Noah understands the difference between the world as Molly sees it and the world as it really is. Noah, honestly enough, admits he doesn't know.


Page 207, Line 13-21:
"If they spoke to you [Noah] at all then I'm sure you received the full picture from their warped point of view. Their proud ethos is generally the first thing to pop out of their mouths, or some variation on the theme." The following words were delivered in a deep tone of mocking reverence. "'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal- that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights- life, liberty,' and so on. That is the rallying cry of the modern day American armchair patriot, and it's a stirring turn of phrase, I must admit."


Yikes. So, Arthur Gardner is the patriot from Bizarro-world, then? Of course he is. We couldn't have a subtle villain with complex motivations, could we? *sigh*


Page 207, Line 22-26:
"But I came to understand at an early age that Thomas Jefferson himself couldn't really have believed what he'd written in his Declaration. No slave owner could. Nor could any man with his intelligence, and his great knowledge of history, believe himself to be the equal in any way to the ignorant masses of his time.


Yeah, see, this is a complex issue. On the one hand, by the standards of his day Jefferson was a fiery populist. And, among other things, he really, really did not think religion belonged anywhere near government. On the other hand, the vote in Jefferson's day was limited to landowning white males. So, Arthur is right, but if we go by what the founders intended then most of us shouldn't have the franchise anyway. Now, as it happens, I think Jefferson would have been generally favorable towards broadening the franchise, but that isn't the damned point. What is the point? Honestly, I don't know, except that neither the heroes nor the villains in the book seem to have a rudimentary knowledge of the constitution or the historical context of the founding of the U.S. I suppose I should also point out that the line Arthur is quoting comes from the Declaration of Independence, which is a neat bit of writing but has absolutely no legal standing in the U.S. as it constitutes nothing more or less than a communique with a foreign head of state. Anyway, Arthur rambles on a bit longer about how Jefferson didn't really believe our rights came from god (hard to say, but Jefferson was- at best- a deist), tosses off a quote or two (1), and then we slam head-first into a sort of non-sequitur.


Page 208, Line 22-26:
"Let me ask you, Noah. Put their complete incompetence in self-government aside for the moment. Do you believe that people, human beings, are basically good? That- as your loyal friend Molly would no doubt preach to us- all they must do is awaken and embrace liberty and the highest potentials of mankind will be realized?"


Now, the weird thing here is that I really don't think the founding fathers believed humans were "basically good". I think they viewed humans as basically selfish and prone to power trips. This is why our constitution divides powers in such a way as to make governance a clumsy, difficult process. As such, I fail to see why Arthur needs to set up such a strawman. Aside from the fact that he's dumb, anyway. On another level, though, I wonder how the authors mean for the audience to take this. On the one hand they're clearly supposed to sympathize with Molly et al. in hypothetically thinking people are basically good. On the other hand, we've already encountered the assertion that the U.S. is basically founded on Christianity (e.g. Page 167, Line 16-21) and Christianity is notorious for that whole "original sin" thing that explains why we're all by default worthy of eternal punishment. So, really, the very crowd that the authors are writing for should object most strenuously to the "basically good" characterization. So which is it, authors? Are we founded on Christianity or on the notion that people are basically good and decent? Because it can't be both! Regardless, Noah answers he thinks people are essentially good and by way of counter-argument Arthur gives him a newspaper.


Page 209, Line 15-23:
The headline of the story was TURKISH GIRL, 16, BURIED ALIVE FOR TALKING TO BOYS. (2)

The text below went on to explain that a young girl had been the victim of an honor killing, not an uncommon thing in many cultures, allegedly at the hands of her own father and grandfather. They'd buried her alive under a chicken pen in the backyard behind the house. And this was no crime of passion; it takes a long, thoughtful time to do such a thing. In fact, a family council meeting had determined what her punishment should be for the crime of hanging out with her friends. [emphasis original]


For those of you keeping score at home this marks the second time that brown people have appeared in this book. The first, of course, was good old Khaled, who is no doubt infiltrating the CIA as we speak. And no, I don't count all the throw away references to, "diverse groups of people" that we get whenever the authors sort of want to fight stereotyping but can't be bothered to really try. In any case, Noah says there are always extremists, to which his father basically says, "Yeah, maybe so, but most humans will do horrible shit like this if given the proper motivation." And the hell of it is, Arthur is totally right about this one. It isn't that people are inherently good or evil, but we are smart, aggressive and ruthless as hell. That's why the rule the planet, but it's also why we're our own worst enemy. Just one of those things. Sadly, however, Arthur has to fuck up his record of being right by suddenly deciding to be wrong.


Page 210, Line 1-3:
"The fact that one in a million of us may have evolved beyond those lower instincts is of no great comfort to me."


Yeah... evolution doesn't really work that way. First off, individuals don't evolve. The species as a whole evolves, but not individuals. Second, evolution is not an upward journey. By this I mean that the one and only criterion by which evolution judges a species is survival. From that standpoint, humans are abject failures since we are both less numerous, and have been around for less time, than cockroaches. Don't get me wrong, I think we're awesome, but to equate biological evolution with some sort of hypothetical ideal ethical state is sheer idiocy. Anyway, Arthur rambles on for a while about how the world's population is rising but most people are not geniuses and that, therefore, mankind is doomed. First off, I've read this story before, and it was done better the first time. Second, so far as we can tell this is just not true. And third, even if it were true, it completely ignores the effect of increasing per capita productivity. But, hey, who needs facts in faction? Not these authors! The endnotes of the book also go on about how this bit is modeled on "...many of the real life arguments in favor of eugenics..." and even quotes a few people. Trouble is, the people that are quoted are George Bernard Shaw, whose view of eugenics was offbeat to say the least, Theodore Roosevelt, who was pretty wacky in numerous respects, and Margaret Sanger, who supported eugenics, but opposed anyone who would make reproductive choices for prospective parents. In other words, her "eugenics" were not that different from modern notions of reproductive freedom. And in any case, all three of those folks are really figures from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Nice job, authors. But we may as well leave them alone because Arthur is swinging into his big finish.


Page 211, Line 17-19:
"The American experiment has failed, and now it's time for the next one to begin. One world, one government- not of the people this time, but of the right people: the competent, the wise, and the strong. [emphasis original]


Oh, man! It's like we're back in Left Behind with our good buddy Jonathan Stonagal again. Only Arthur is vastly less competent, which when you think about it, is saying something. Noah asks if Arthur means what he thinks he means, and Artie goes for the punchline.


Page 212, Line 5-6:
"The experiment that begins tomorrow will not fail."


Wow, he sounds like he really wants tenure! But, tenure or not, that brings us to the end of the chapter. It also, amazingly enough, brings us to the end of Part TWO, which means that next time we get to start Part THREE. Try to control your excitement.

But, excited or not, that's the way it is. Come back next time when Noah goes to the bathroom (yes, really) and then sets out on a path of revenge or... something. I'm sure he'll figure it out.

Toodles.

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Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Just when you thought we'd hit rock bottom...

Our "friends" at Conservapedia have managed to scrounge up some dynamite and have begun to blast their way deeper. No doubt you will remember how the Conservapeons concluded that the bible had been corrupted by a series of liberal translations and, as a result, had to be returned to its true conservative roots. Thus was born the Conservative Bible Project, about which we have talked before, that is distinguished among all existing bible "translations" for its preference for the term "bimbo" rather than "damsel". Now, the Conservative Bible has essentially been completed* so a lot of the Conservapeons are somewhat at loose ends. What's a lunatic to do? Well, as it happens, the lunatics have managed to find an answer:



Or, in plain text:

The Conservative Dictionary Project continues to grow - your insights are welcome! [emphasis original]


Yes, that's right: the folks over at Conservapedia have decided to rewrite the dictionary. Not satisfied with mauling one of the central cultural artifacts of western civilization, they've decided to have a go at thoroughly destroying an entire language as well. Okay, "thoroughly" is a bit of an exaggeration. Given their previous degree of success it'd be more accurate to say "haphazardly" but it's the thought that counts, right?

If you follow their elegant and finely-crafted link, you'll find a fairly skimpy page describing the project:



Which replaces an explanation of why they need to rework the entire dictionary with a set of links to other articles, which allegedly make the case. These articles are, on the whole, freaking stupid but basically boil down to the contention that liberals have systematically altered the meaning of words and so conservatives now need to heroically recover the truth. That's not a joke, that's what they argue. See, for example, this. So, how is this new effort going? Well, if you take a quick look at the entry for A you'll see the answer is, "hilariously":



Or, to quote the first few entries:

Abstinence
True conservative meaning - Choosing to remain true to one's values and refraining from sexual behaviour until marriage
False liberal redefinition- Denying one's true impulses

acid rain
True conservative meaning - Possibly true idea that pollution returns to earth in the harmful rain.
False liberal redefinition- An excuse to stifle industry with government regulation.

Ad Hominem
True conservative meaning - A debate tactic where the opponent is attacked instead of their ideas, frequently used by foolish liberals.
False liberal redefinition - Accurately pointing out that someone is not qualified or informed enough to give a relevant opinion, sometimes used by conservatives and objected to by liberals.

Affirmative Action
Date: 20th century
True conservative meaning - Reverse discrimination.
False liberal redefinition - A way of helping people of color. [emphasis, weird formatting, etc. original]


Personally, though, my favorite thus far has got to be their entry for atheism:



Or, in text:

atheism
True conservative meaning - Denial of God's existence, a discredited and failing liberal worldview known to cause mass murder, immorality, uncharitableness, obesity and other negative consequences.
False liberal redefinition - a religion based on the belief in science rather than in a supreme being [emphasis, lack of punctuation, etc, original]


It's hard to know where to even start with that. Should I complain about the apparent evil they've built right into the definition, or should I quibble with the whole "religion based on the belief in science" thing? Because atheism is to religion as bald is to hair color, you know? But, then again, why bother arguing definitions of atheism with a bunch of guys who think that this is a valid critique of evolution?** So, I think the only responsible option is to point and laugh, which is what I'm doing.

Still, I think the best laughter is yet to come for the simple reason that the Conservative Bible Project had to use, you know, English words. And I'm forced to wonder whether, once this new conservative version of the dictionary is complete, they will have inadvertently changed the meaning of their own translation of the bible to be somewhat different than what they intended. Frankly, I look forward to the edit wars and hysteria that will result.

Good times. Definitely, good times.


* In other words, the new testament has been butchered enough for their liking and the old testament is just too long, hard, and boring for them to bother with.

** In contrast, it IS a valid critique of animated GIFs.

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Friday, September 02, 2011

The Overton Window: Chapter 30

Welcome back one and all to our ongoing series on The Overton Window, the book that sucks so hard it might as well be the Great Attractor. Last time Danny and Stu prepared to go meet the crazy would-be terrorists again. What happens this week? Noah gets in to see his father and things get mighty weird.

As I mentioned I am once again selecting a comment of the week, and this week that "honor" goes to Sassafras for follow-through:

"Another day in captivity, comrades, and the Zombie Serum has finally started to show visible effects, even apparent to my idiot captors. Soon, though, I will be fully processed into experimental Zombie Stage 1 and begin Project Apocalypse.

Update: the incompetent plan of my foolish trailer-dwellers seems to be the plot from a Stephen King novel, The Stand, where a main character detonates an A-bomb in the middle of downtown Vegas. Do Americans ever TRY to be evil masterminds any more?!

It's just fucking lazy.

Soon, comrades. Soon.

Gray Death
AKA Ninja Cat
AKA Mr. Puddles"


And really all you can say to that is come combination of, "That makes as much sense as anything" and "I'd rather be reading that book". I mean, seriously: ninja, megalomaniacal zombie cats? It doesn't get much more awesome than that. Smoothly done, Sass, and keep at it folks. We'll get through this thing eventually. I mean, shit, today we're doing Chapter 30 and there are only 43 chapters total, so we're nearly there!

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.). Oma ist nicht da!


***********************************
Dramatis Personae: In an order determined by quantum entanglement.

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. Sixty-three years old.

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

Tiffany: A stripper at the Pussycat Ranch. Thinks Danny is awesome.

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

Chapter 30: In which Arthur Gardner and company explain shit that I figured out chapters and chapters ago.

Recommended Mood Music:




Page 197, Line 1-3:
After they'd delivered him to 500 Fifth Avenue Noah's escorts waited outside his suite as he took a quick shower and then changed into the neatly folded set of fresh clothes his secretary had arranged for him.


So, yeah, Noah apparently lives here. I guess we're- once again- supposed to be impressed at how rich he is. Personally, though, I'm more interested in this mystery secretary. Is she really a secretary, or more of a personal assistant? Is she really a personal assistant, or is she more of a hooker? Does she meet the "medium-high bar"? Seriously, I'm curious. Alas, we are not to learn anything as Noah is quickly hustled off to see daddy.


Page 197, Line 6-8:
Arthur Gardner was there behind his desk, looking thoughtful and sober as a judge, long fingers knit together, slightly reclined and contemplating in his favorite leather chair.


Presumably what he's contemplating is what on Earth made him think dragging Noah to his office, rather than to a hospital or clinic, after Noah's multi-day captivity was a good idea. Leaving that aside, this whole scene would be made better by sharks with frickin lasers on their heads, were it not for the fact that Noah is Arthur's son. Arthur seems like a dickhead, but he also seems to be unreasonably fond of Noah as well as cursed with an irrationally high opinion of Noah's competence (Page 19, Line 15-18). As a result, I doubt anyone really suspects Arthur is going to do anything even slightly harmful to Noah, therefore sapping this scene of whatever dramatic tension or dread the authors might have been going for. But, hey, whatever.


Page 197, Line 9:
Charlie Nelan was standing by the window.


Right, Charlie the kleptomaniac lawyer. Always a good sign. It gets worse, though.


Page 197, Line 15-16:
The doctor had given Noah an unlabeled prescription bottle that contained a number of small white pills.


Is that... is that even legal? I mean, can a doctor legally give you medication in what amounts to a brown paper wrapper? Is this pornographic medication or something? Is Noah in the placebo group? The text says it's a lower dose version of whatever the doctor shot him up with a few chapters ago, but that doesn't mean anything! Anyway, Noah sits down across from Arthur.


Page 198, Line 5-7:
The boss of the firm's security service, an ex-mercenary hard guy named Warren Landers, consulted for a few moments with his four employees who'd brought Noah in.


Oh, wow, is that just a really crappy sentence. Just... bravo, authors! Every time I think you've hit your limit for awful writing, somehow you surpass yourselves.


Page 198, Line 9-12:
Landers was the bully in the schoolyard who'd grown up and found himself an executive job where he could dress up and get paid for doing what he still loved to do.


Okay, this is a problem. I say it's a problem because this Landers fellow does not sound like a good pick for a security chief. See, first off, war and fighting are not about indiscriminate bloodshed and violence- they're about controlled, directed violence meant to accomplish specific aims. So, if you're a smart corporate czar or politician you shouldn't fill your officer ranks with men who like fighting because they enjoy inflicting pain. That's a sure recipe for sloppy, ineffective work and the kind of expensive excesses that corporations supposedly hate. Second, there's a world of difference between beating someone else up and arranging things so that none of your own side are beaten up. This gets even worse if you also want to make sure they're not robbed or hacked- in other words, handling security is a totally different skill set from cracking skulls in a schoolyard or in a Cambodian jungle. Security demands attention to detail, patience, and a degree of controlled paranoia, not a fondness for hurting people. Now, there's no particular reason why the authors have to make Landers good at his job but they want us to view Arthur as threatening, intelligent, and a deep manipulator. And it's hard to sustain that view when he has such transparently awful taste in subordinates.


Page 198, Line 23-27:
"How did you find me?" [Noah asked]

"The same way I found you last Friday night, at the police station," Charlie said. "We found your cell phone. They'd taken out the battery, but someone put it back in and turned the phone on about an hour ago."


Well, that makes sense, I guess. Hollis must have been done with him by then, right? More seriously, this does explain how Charlie found Noah at the police station, but only sort of. Given how quickly Charlie appeared, one is forced to assume that they have some sort of software monitoring Noah's phone just in case it happens to appear at the GPS coordinates for a police station. This invites all sorts of questions about the kinds of recreational activities Noah typically enjoys. I'm also forced to wonder about the response to Noah's "disappearance". I mean, he left the office on a Friday and when he didn't show up on Monday morning they were already prepared to send a bunch of mercenaries to get him? Doesn't that seem, I dunno, a bit odd? Is he really so reliable a worker that his being late on a Monday morning is justification for paramilitary action? And how do we resolve that reliability with the apparent need to monitor him at all times for contact with the police? Seriously, this explanation leaves us with more questions than answers and yet, still, Noah manages to focus on something that just isn't important.


Page 198, Line 28-29:
Noah thought about that for a moment. "I'm sorry, I don't understand- you tracked my cell phone? How did you do that?"


How did you...? *sigh* Boy, you'd better sit down for what I'm about to tell you.


Page 198, Line 30-32:
Landers finessed right past that question. "The first piece," he said, "was that we figured out who leaked that government document to the press last week."


Oh, man, please let it be Noah. We could use a good execution about now. Moving on, that wasn't really "finessing" past the question as just ignoring it outright. Second, that might explain why they were so eager to send a SWAT team to retrieve Noah, but it doesn't really explain Charlie's sudden appearance at the police station. If they knew by then, surely Charlie wouldn't have turned Noah loose and if they didn't, why monitor Noah so closely?


Page 199, Line 2-3:
"It was scanned and sent out from right here. About two hours after it came into the mailroom." [Landers continued]


Hmmmm... the mailroom, eh? Who does that remind us of? Anyone? Anyone at all? Noah says he doesn't believe it, so Landers gives him a manila folder.


Page 199, Line 7-9:
The tab on the folder wasn't labeled and the paper inside was still warm from the copier. The top document was the cover page of a dossier, and the bold heading was just a name: Molly Ross.


Not, "Ross, Molly" which would have made more sense, but "Molly Ross". I don't even know what to make of the detailed description of the office supplies. That's a fetish I'm just not in to. The dossier goes on to show a suspicious trail of computer activity wherein Molly e-mailed the memo to her cronies from inside the company firewall. One wonders why a temp in the freaking mailroom had access to the internet or e-mail at all, but I guess we're not supposed to worry about little things like that.


Page 199, Line 23:
"Keep going," Landers said. "It gets better."


Heh. That's what she said.


Page 199, Line 24-30:
The next page was a photo of her in some academic environment, and it took Noah a few seconds to recognize all the things that were different. She wore glasses, thin half-rim frames and subtly tinted lenses. Her hair was longer and lighter, almost blond. But the changes went beyond her appearance. There was a sophistication about her in this photo, a style and a seriousness that he'd either overlooked or that she'd somehow hidden in their short time together.


So... what? Did they compile this dossier by hacking her old modeling agency, or what? Moving on, I'd just like to note that this makes it twice that the authors have described Molly versus zero times for Noah. Hell, they've described her thrice if you count the minor changes to her appearance that they mentioned when he arrived at the- I can't believe I'm going to type it- Stars 'n Stripes Saloon (Page 51, Line 28 to Page 52, Line 8 or so). And if you're wondering what the relevance of this photo is to anything... yeah, me too. I think one or more of the authors just has a thing for sexy librarians.


Page 200, Line 3-8:
The next picture seemed more recent. Molly was alone, wearing aviator sunglasses, a backward baseball cap, cut-off Daisy Dukes, and a camouflage tank top. In her hands was what looked like a military-grade automatic rifle with a drum magazine, held as if it were the most natural accessory a pretty young woman could be sporting on a bright summer day at the gunnery range.


Well, frankly, yes, a gun is a useful item when hanging around at a gunnery range. Why, I can't think of the last time I spent any time at a gunnery range when I didn't have a gun with me! More seriously, this is the third (fourth?) time now that the authors have described Molly. Seriously, I'm sensing a theme! I'm not sure what to make of the comment about "cut-off Daisy Dukes". I mean, Daisy Dukes are pretty short to start with, so there isn't a whole hell of a lot left to "cut-off". On the whole, this description really ends up reminding me of one thing:



Scary!*


Page 200, Line 8-9:
For whatever reason he was reminded of that famous shot of Lee Harvey Oswald in his backyard...


Right, because the authors have just described the porno version. Nonetheless, I find it somewhat disquieting that what Molly reminds Noah of is this:



Kinda makes you wonder about the "medium-high bar," eh? Regardless, Landers goes on to explain that the way he figures it, Molly was an agent working for some wacky quasi-terrorist group all along. This speaks well of Landers, really, since by this point we've learned that Molly is, in fact, working for some wacky quasi-terrorist group.


Page 200, Line 23-31:
"Just say what you're trying to say," Noah said. "Do you really think I set out to help these people? I met her on Friday, totally at random, and then I brought her here on Saturday night, and that was a terrible mistake and I know it and I deserve whatever happens to me for that. But don't stand there and insinuate that I was in on this whole thing."

Landers took another folder from the desk, and at a nod from the old man he handed it to Noah. "What I'm saying is, there was nothing random about how you met her, and this all started a long time before Friday."


Wow, first off, Noah must be really, really bad at poker. Second, goddamn is this boy an idiot. I mean, just really, really stupid. Anyway, Noah opens the folder and sees a picture of Molly's company ID, only this time enlarged. I won't run through the repeat of the description we got in the first chapter, but Noah does add something.


Page 201, Line 6-7:
But he'd missed something important the first time he'd seen this picture: she also looked awfully clever.


What is it with the authors and this obsession with Molly's appearance? I mean, isn't her behavior adequate proof at this point that she's clever? Well, okay, more clever than Noah, anyway?


Page 201, Line 8-17:
In the right-hand pocket was a sheaf of printouts, and these pages weren't about Molly, but form their markings they belonged to her. It was everything anyone could ever want to know about Noah Gardner, much of it unwittingly supplied by the subject himself. His Facebook profile, his Twitter history, his full set of responses from a variety of questionnaires at his online dating sites, the rambling, soul-searching posts from his personal blog, even his browser history from a number of recent consecutive weeks- much of this was openly available, but some of it would have required some minor identity theft of targeted hacking skills to obtain.


Wow. One can only imagine how Noah reacted to the sudden realization that all the people in this room have seen his browser history. I'm also forced to wonder how Noah "Brilliant Boy" Gardner, youngest VP ever, has time to do all this shit. And then something happens. He finds a picture, but not just any picture- the sort of picture that nightmares are made of. Initially, he thinks it's a picture of Molly but, as it turns out, not so much.


Page 201-202, Line 201: 31-32, 202: 1-6:
It was a photo of Noah's mother that he'd posted on his blog a while back on some anniversary of hers. It might have been her birthday, or the date she'd died, or just one of the many late nights when he was missing her more than usual. She'd been in her mid-twenties in the picture, about Molly's age, a carefree young rebel with a smile that would almost break your heart. She was dressed in faded jeans, sandals, and a powder-blue knit sweater, and she wore a little flower in her dark, curly hair.


Okay, so, just to recap: Noah has suddenly realized that the girl he's wanted to screw into the pavement since the very first moment he saw her, the woman who makes his loins red hot, looks just like his own mother. Wow. Just FUCKING wow. What the hell am I supposed to do with that shit? I am very, very creeped out. And you know what? I think a change is in order:

Recommended Mood Music:



Surely everyone in this scene is as freaked out as I am.


Page 202, Line 7-10:
"You didn't stand a chance, Noah," Charlie said. "She came here specifically to get close to you and then make the most of it. This Ross girl was so far into your head you never would have seen her coming. Nobody would have."


Right, or everyone will think it's perfectly normal to want to roger your own mother. I hate this book so frigging much right now.


Page 202, Line 13-15:
So he [Noah] told them [about what happened with Molly]. In hindsight it was all painfully clear, but Mr. Landers occasionally chimed in to underscore the more subtle features of the betrayal in case anyone might have missed them.


In hindsight it was painfully clear? Dude, in f-ing foresight it was clear. You are a damned moron, Noah.


Page 202, Line 16-18:
He'd first met Molly in the break room- this was obviously meant to seem like an accidental encounter but it was nothing of the kind; he visited the snack machine like clockwork practically every day at that time.


Right, so, once again: super rich V.P. of an advertising company who routinely visits a damned vending machine during the work day? Seriously? He rides around in a limo with integrated computers and yet he just can't do without a stale tootsie roll?


Page 202, Line 19-21:
Her look was subtly put together to hook him in the defenseless depths of his unconscious mind. Then she'd acted completely uninterested, which served only to put him instantly under her spell. [emphasis added]


Are you goddamn kidding me? Jesus. It's like we're f-ing reading Twilight here and Noah is playing Bella. Anyway, blah, blah, blah- he took Molly home, she snuck out the next morning to make a copy of his keys, she got him to show her how to bypass the security at work. Shit we already know, more or less. It does mention that Molly told Noah's doorman when she left that she was going to bring some "friends" back with her, which makes one wonder (a) whether Noah routinely has orgies and (b) what the doorman thought when Molly came back with groceries instead?


Page 203, Line 1-6:
At her apartment she'd evidently given him some kind of short-acting drug to knock him out, and then they'd applied a fentanyl patch in hopes of keeping him unconscious for the duration of the weekend. The doctor had made it clear that this was quite a dangerous thing to do to a person, and it showed a callous disregard for Noah's safety.


So we were nearly rid of Noah? Wow, I suddenly feel so warm towards Molly right now. If you're curious, you can read about fentanyl but I can't imagine what good it would do. Some of the side effects might be funny, but that's about all. Anyway, they tell Noah that Molly and her pals managed to get some of the files but that the security system detected something fishy and locked the data down before they got very much, although nobody knows exactly what they did get. Noah finally asks what daddy is going to do.


Page 203, Line 29-31:
"We won't involve the authorities." It was the first time the old man had spoken in a while. "But there have already been ... repercussions ... for the people who've done this. And there are many more to come."


Yeah, again with the Dr. Evil bit. Whatever. He's not fibbing though, there have been repercussions, although they won't become clear for a few chapters yet, and sadly they involve neither sharks nor lasers. Anyway, Arthur tells everyone to leave except Noah, Charlie briefly argues, then leaves. Time for the beating, I guess?

Alas, however, this is the end of the chapter, so you don't get to see any of the old ultra-violence this week. And at this point I'm really forced to agree with my margin note, which reads, "This book would be a lot more 'thrilling' if all the interesting action didn't happen offstage." True enough, but what could really salvage this book at this point? What indeed?

Come back next week when we return to Noah and Arthur, who goes right ahead and launches into yet another pointless, maniacal speech. Yay?


* Yes, I know that picture is a fake. Give me some credit, eh?

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