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, October 28, 2011

The Overton Window: Chapter 38

Welcome back one and all to our ongoing series on The Overton Window, the book that just won't end no matter how much we wish it would. Last time Noah and Molly managed to penetrate the tight security at La Guardia and boarded a flight for Las Vegas. What happens this week? Well... we go to a convenience store. And that's basically the most exciting thing that happens.

As I mentioned I am once again selecting a comment of the week, and this week that "honor" goes to Jay for offering some useful advice:

If you need to keep a low profile, and your first thought is "pretend to be a movie star", it's time to just give up. Trickery is not for you.


This is an excellent point, but I can't help but feel that there's an equivalent bit of advice in here that the authors should have been offered sooner. Something along the lines of, "If it takes three of you to ghost write a book that still sucks hard, just give up. Writing is not for you." Well done, Jay, and keep at it folks- we've got around 10 chapters left, so the "exciting" conclusion is right around the bend.

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.). Rock, paper, scissors, lizard, spock!


***********************************
Dramatis Personae: In an order determined by one or more of the voices in my head.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 38: In which our "heroes" take a piss and we hear about the festering dumpster that is the authors' equivalent of logical reasoning.

Recommended Mood Music:




Page 242, Line 1-3:
Danny Bailey and Agent Kearns had been on the road in their bomb-laden van for nearly five hours straight, and they were past due for a fuel stop and a stretch.


Okay, first of all, it's a "fake-bomb-laden van". Or so the characters think. Second, this is just a horrendous way to start a chapter since none of that statement makes me at all eager to continue reading. And, third, aforementioned opening line really drives home everything that's wrong with this book. Two guys are driving to a meeting with terrorists carrying a fake nuclear weapon, and somehow the most exciting thing the authors can find to tell us about is their pitstop.


Page 242, Line 4-5:
After taking his turn in the gas station's cramped restroom Danny picked up a diet soda and a candy bar and brought them to the counter.


Wow! Feel the excitement! Anyway, take a moment to calm your pounding heart, so that you won't stroke out when you read that, as he waits for the clerk to check him out, Danny notices some headlines on a paper. Oooooh!


Page 242, Line 7-10:
Two headlines stood out, and he read them over again.

Nationwide Terror Alert Status Elevated Once More
DHS Chief: Intel Confirms 'Credible Threat' for Western U.S.
[emphasis original]


Wait! Danny and Stuart are in the Western U.S.!! What does that mean? Why, absolutely freaking NOTHING because the western U.S. is really, REALLY big. On the other hand, the above passage might mean that Danny has trouble reading.


Page 242, Line 11-14:
He looked up into the corner and saw a dusty security camera looking back down at him. Even out here, he thought, on the outskirts of civilization, some backward distant cousin of Big Brother is still watching.


I can't tell if that bit means that Danny is a moron or the authors are morons.* In the first place, Nevada is hardly the outskirts of civilization. Seriously, people, if you have cell service and electricity, you're not on the outskirts. In the second place, do the authors know what "Big Brother" refers to? Because I don't think that Orwell would have viewed a private business using video surveillance to deter robbery to be equivalent to a massive government effort to watch everyone all the time. And aren't these authors in favor of private industry? Seriously, who or what is actually considered to be on the side of righteousness in this book? Anyway, he buys the paper and they get back on the road.


Page 243, Line 8-12:
As the trip progressed southward the Nevada roads had gradually become more and more rustic and empty of traffic. From the first wide interstate, to four-lane turnpikes, down to the aging two-lane desert highway they'd now been on for a good while- in a sense it felt as though they were traveling further back in time with every passing mile


They are also, I should note, traveling further away from substantial quantities of federal transportation funds.** I leave it to you to consider what it means that such a relationship is so tightly linked with the "back in time" commentary of the authors. I sometimes wonder whether folks who claim the government never does anything right are even vaguely aware of all the many things the government does right each and every day- so right that we notice only the failure to achieve customary high levels of performance. And yes, I'm looking at you, U.S. Postal Service. You guys are awesome. Seriously. Anyway, Danny is reading the newspaper as they drive- his lips only moving when he gets to the really hard words like "the"- when he asks Stuart if he can "run something up the flagpole". No, that's not a sexual metaphor. I wish it had been. Stuart says yes, Danny mentions the news of the elevated terror alert, and Stuart asks Danny what he's getting at.


Page 243, Line 27-28:
"Put on your tinfoil hat for a minute and I'll tell you."

"Okay, okay, go."


Sadly, by "go" he doesn't mean "go fuck yourself" or "go jump out of my car". No, he means, "please, spin your crazy half-assed story for the readers". Because if there's anything this book needs it's more exposition. Well done, authors, well done!


Page 243-244, Line 243: 29-30, 244: 1-6:
"You remember the 7/7 bombings in 2005?"

"Of course."

"Do you know that a security company, with a former Scotland Yard guy in charge, was running a terrorism drill in London that very morning? And this drill involving a thousand people was planned out months in advance to simulate the same kind of bombing incidents, on the same targets, on the same day, and at the same times?"


Um... what? And by that I mean, "Even if true, what the hell does that have to do with anything?" I mean, no offense, but the idea of the U.K. running a drill wherein a hypothetical terrorist group bombs mass transit doesn't sound prescient so much as it does the sort of thing that a country that experienced extensive domestic terrorism should probably do on a regular basis. Ah, well, anyway...


Page 244, Line 7-10:
"No, I didn't know that."

"And then it really happened. While they were running the drill, the exact, actual thing they were practicing for actually fricking happened. What are the odds of that being a coincidence?" (1)*** (2) (3)


You mean, what are the odds of a government happening to practice to deal with the sort of attack that its enemies are trying to carry out against it? I wouldn't call that a coincidence at all. If we assume that this was the only terror drill ever, well, yes, that would be weird. But this is just one more drill among many falling on many different days. But, alas, like most creationists, our authors- who may or may not be creationists- seem to have a rather poor grasp of probability theory. Not to mention the definition of the term "coincidence".


Page 244, Line 13-19:
"Well, then," Danny went on, undaunted, "do you know that the guy your old friends in the U.S. government believe was the actual mastermind of those bombings- his name is Haroon Rashid Aswat- was also some sort of protected double agent who was on the payroll of some obscure faction of MI6? The CIA knew all about him but they weren't allowed to touch him; he even lived over here for a few years. Hell, he tried to organize an al-Qaeda training camp in Oregon-" (4)


...what? I mean, just, what? Did I wander into some other narrative by accident? Are we about to have a discussion about the free-masons or something?


Page 244, Line 21-32:
"One more thing. The guy that we haven't seen yet, his name is Elmer, right?"

"Right."

"The guy in charge on September eleventh was Mohamed Atta. He had a lot of aliases, and that's the one he started using after 2000 when he got into the United States. He was born Mohamed Elamir awad al-Sayed Atta Karadogan. But the name on his work visa, the one he showed when he enrolled in flight school in Florida, was Mohamed Mohamed el-Amir." (5)****

"And el-Amir sounds like Elmer," Kearns said. "Do you take a nap during the day? Because you must stay up all night thinking about this crap." [emphasis original]


Horrific come-back aside, Kearns is reacting to this in an entirely appropriate manner. Is Danny saying that Elmer is secretly an undead Mohamed Atta? I mean, seriously, I am absolutely lost by this point and, let's face it, given my penchant for digging up wacky things on the internet it takes a LOT of crazy to lose me. On the other hand, a movie that featured an undead Mohammed Atta getting chain sawed by Bruce Campbell would make a lot of money. Sam Raimi, call me.


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

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


....huh? I am just utterly and totally baffled at this point. What the hell is Danny saying? Is Danny saying anything? Is he actually wearing a tinfoil hat right now? Do the authors own an extensive collection of metallic headgear? What?


Page 245, Line 22-25:
As the ride went on in silence Danny looked across occasionally at the older man, hoping that he'd at least planted a seed of warning. In that small way it seemed he'd been successful. You can't see another man's thoughts, but you can sure see him thinking.


My guess is that right now Stuart is thinking, "How do I get this crazy bastard out of my van?" Other than that I honestly can't see a single coherent point in the entire chapter. But, coherent or not, that does bring us to the end of the chapter.

Come back next time when we rejoin Noah and Molly who heroically land in Las Vegas, claim their luggage, and visit the rental car counter. And no, that's not a joke, that's Chapter 39.

See you then!


* Answer: Both!

** I'm well aware that turnpikes in the U.S. were originally privately-built toll roads. The extent to which that is true now is variable by state and by road but, in almost all cases, are heavily government owned, financed, and/or operated.

*** I know, it's a dead link. But that's what the book says and searching for the article title gets me nowhere.

**** Weirdly, this one is referenced without a link in the book. I dunno why, but the link above takes you to the right place.

Labels:

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Okay, that's just funny.

You know, every now and then, I really wonder if Creation Ministries International didn't accidentally hire a troll:



Or, in plain human language:

In studying the nature of cults or being involved in counter-cult ministry, Christians begin to notice a consistency in poor theology, translations and interpretations. It should come as no surprise, then, that most of the leading Christian cults today are unanimous on one point; their rejection of straightforward biblical creation. While there is more to Christian orthodoxy than acceptance of a literal six-day, six-thousand-year interpretation of Genesis 1–2, its rejection means that the entire theological foundations of any group are unorthodox. Thus, it is probably no coincidence that virtually all of the main contenders for cult status—Unitarian Universalism, Christian Science, the Emergent Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormonism), Christadelphians and Jehovah’s Witnesses—deny biblical creation. [emphasis added]


Yes, that's right: CMI is writing an article about various "cults", including Unitarian Universalism as well as Mormonism and Jehovah's Witnesses. Seriously:



The conclusion is, of course, priceless:

Rejecting a straightforward interpretation of the book of Genesis to accommodate modern ideologies (Colossians 2:8) such as evolution, old-age creationism, progressive creationism, and theistic evolution, causes the entire theological foundations of Christianity to crumble. Thus it is not surprising that we find a near-universal association (as both cause and effect, to varying degrees) of such a departure from biblical authority within cults whose beliefs are far removed from biblical Christianity.

It’s no surprise that those who reject the authority and infallibility of the Bible and its clear gospel outline also feel free to reject the clear ‘big picture’ of Genesis history in order to be more acceptable to worldly notions, since Genesis and the gospel are so clearly tied together.

Today, some mainstream Christian denominations are following a similar path, favoring evolution over biblical creation. Let us pray that they learn from Christian cults and truly believe the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16), starting with the book of Genesis.


There's just something about one crazy fringe religious group pointing at another group and saying, "Nuh-uh! You're not a REAL religion" that just makes me laugh. Because you know what the difference is between a cult and a religion?

Tax-exempt status.

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Friday, October 21, 2011

The Overton Window: Chapter 37

Welcome back one and all to our ongoing series on The Overton Window, the book that shames a nation. Last time Noah unveiled his lunatic plan and made us realize he is far, far dumber than we had ever realized. What happens this week? Yeah, I can't even begin to describe the utter cluster-fuck that is this chapter.

As I mentioned I am once again selecting a comment of the week, and this week that "honor" goes to Ken for somehow imagining something even more frightening than Sassafrass' meat-stick reference:

I would suggest Drek is auditioning for the role of Glenn Beck's next co-author/ghost writer, but I fear his wife would have me killed. With good reason.


Oh, man. Ghost write "The Overton Window 2"? That is just a horrible, horrible idea. Although, I suppose I might be able to get away with ending the first chapter at "And then a meteor destroyed the world- THE END!" Honestly, given how much time and energy was put into this book, I doubt anyone would notice. Well done, Ken, and keep it up folks- we've got a ways to go yet.

And, with that, let's begin! As always, page/line numbers are in bold, quotes from the book are in block quotes, my commentary is in regular print, and you can navigate the whole series with the provided tag. My footnotes use the traditional star system (e.g. *, **, etc) while references included in the Afterword to the book are noted with numbered parenthetical tags (e.g. (1), (2), etc.). Fo' shizzle!


***********************************
Dramatis Personae: In an order determined by my unruly undergraduates.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 37: In which we reach a new level of stupid, even for this book.

Recommended Mood Music:




Page 235, Line Radiator:

No quote to start us off with, but we pick back up with Molly who repeatedly passes through the metal detector only to have it beep. She removes a metallic item, and then we start back from the top. If that sounds like a really boring way to start a chapter, it's because it is. My margin note observes that it's actually even more annoying to read a description of someone trying to get through airport security than it is to actually go through airport security yourself. Everything looks like it's going to be okay when suddenly the TSA agent notices that Molly has deposited her small silver cross in the dish of metallic items. Let's just ignore for the sake of argument the fact that her little silver cross probably wouldn't have a high enough ferrous content to set off a metal detector. I mean, I routinely go through airport metal detectors wearing a wedding ring and a college class ring without incident. The reason why this is an issue is because the TSA agent takes note of the cross and inquires about it, seeing as how Natalie Portman happens to be Jewish. Needless to say, Noah feels his mouth going dry and his bowels loosen.*


Page 236, Line 14-21:
Cops know liars like plumbers know leaks. They encounter them every day, all day; they know the little signs and symptoms, and they're trained to understand that where there's even a whiff of smoke, one should always assume there's a fire. As they challenge a person they study their reactions, pick apart little telltale movements, listen to the timbre of the voice, and more than anything else, they watch the eyes. Most suspects have already made a full confession by the time they begin their denial.


Oh, Jesus. These guys are way, way too fond of Lie to Me. Look, I have a great deal of respect for cops, but let's just get real here for a moment- not all cops, hell not even most cops, can possibly be the human lie detectors that this passage claims them to be. Oh, I'm sure a good many of them believe that they are, but believing you have a power is not the same thing as having a power. Just ask James Randi. I suppose if this attitude is typical of folks like Beck it explains why certain conservatives are so hostile to the judicial system- who needs "innocent until proven guilty" and legal checks and balances when cops are infallible adjudicators of truth and falsehood? And in any case, we're not dealing with a cop, we're dealing with a TSA agent, who is less respected, less well trained, and probably less well compensated than a cop. Anyway, back to the "narrative".


Page 236, Line 22-25:
This was one of the topics of light conversation in the wee hours of that first night when he and Molly had met. Noah had been so fascinated by the woman that he hadn't stopped to wonder why she seemed to know so much about the art of deception.


No. Just... no. Look, we've had an excessively thorough recounting of the night Noah and Molly met. They met in the mailroom (Chapter 2), he then saw her again at the Stars 'n Stripes Saloon (Chapter 8), where they certainly did not talk about lying. They were then hauled to prison (Chapter 13). Noah got them released, but did not see Molly before they were released, and they did NOT talk about this during their limo ride (Chapter 14). Nor did they talk about this after Molly came into Noah's room and before she, and he, passed out (Chapter 15). They at no time had the conversation claimed above, and we know because we saw the whole frickin night. As writing goes, this is supremely lazy, and even at this late date I am shocked by the authors' sheer, unrelenting incompetence. But, as long as we're making shit up, we may as well go all the way, right?


Page 236, Line 26-32:
Don't be afraid, she'd said; that's the key, no matter how bad it gets. If locked in a car that's speeding toward a gap in the bridge and it's clearly too late to stop, most people would still waste their last moral seconds stopping on the brakes. But what you really want to do is say a little prayer, and then floor it. If you're going down anyway, go all in, go down with courage- because, hey, there's always that one slim chance that you'll make it to the other side.


See, this is why they don't let Glenn Beck teach driver's ed anymore.


Page 237, Line 1-5:
From behind her Noah saw Molly's head tilt slightly, and this movement was accompanied by a subtle hip shift. There was a convex security mirror on a bracket above the metal detector, and in that reflection he saw a patient but serious expression on her face that meant, You didn't really just say what I think I heard, did you? [emphasis original]


I know, right? A guy whose job it is to check people for oddities notices someone who is supposed to be Jewish walking around with a cross on, and yet he thinks it's somehow appropriate to ask a polite question about it? What a dick! But seriously, how the hell are they going to get out of this one, I wonder? Okay, that's a lie, I barely give a shit, but here we go anyway.


Page 237, Line 17-23:
She turned to the officer, pulled back her hood and let it settle onto her shoulders, removed the baseball cap and let it fall to the floor at her feet, and then slow and sure, began to walk toward him.

"The Force is strong with this one," Molly said, as calm and smooth as a Jedi master. Her accent was gone, and her voice was just breathy enough to obscure any other identifying qualities of the real McCoy.


Ho-kay. Well, I guess that might work. I mean, Natalie Portman didn't play a force-sensitive character, and there's really no reason in the context of the situation to say something like that, and it's really Darth Vader's line anyhow, but sure, why not? Let's just go with it.


Page 237, Line 27-32:
She continued nearer, put a finger to the frames and lowered her sunglasses partway down her nose, tipping her chin so she could look at the officer directly, eye to eye, just over the top of the darkened lenses. As she stopped barely a foot away she subtly passed an open hand between their faces, and spoke again.

"These aren't the droids you're looking for," Molly said.


Right. And that's a Ben Kenobi line from Episode IV. One can only imagine how Molly thinks quoting lines to a Star Wars fan will help if she can't even quote lines from a movie Natalie Portman was in, much less one of Portman's own lines. So how does our Star Wars uber geek react, given that he has to know how badly she's fucking up?


Page 238, Line 3-8:
There was an eternal pause, and then before his eyes Noah saw this big, intimidating young man begin his grinning transformation from the TSA's most vigilant watchdog into Natalie's Portman's biggest fan.

"These aren't the droids we're looking for." The officer repeated her words, just as that spellbound storm trooper had said them at the Imperial checkpoint in Episode 4.


Yeah, that was about what we should have expected. Granted, we somehow went from the TSA guy being an uber geek (Page 233, Line 1-9) to him being super intimidating in a few pages, and none of this makes any damned sense but, hey, whatever. Molly signs TSA-geek's hand, they clear security, and they're off on their merry way.


Page 238, Line 27-30:
"How did I do?" Molly asked, obviously fully aware of exactly how she'd done.

"You quoted two different male characters from the wrong trilogy, but other than that, you nailed it."


Ah. Right. So her staggering idiocy was supposed to be humorous. Well, never mind then.


Page 239, Line 7-23:
"I need to ask you something," Noah said.

"Sure." It seemed she could see that he'd become more somber.

"When we were in Times Square, when we kissed that time..."

She took off the sunglasses and hooked them on her pocket, moved a little closer to him, brushed a windblown lock of hair from his eyes. "I remember."

"Is that when you pickpocketed my Blackberry?"

Molly smiled, and pulled him willingly into her embrace. It was no real surprise, but this kiss was every bit as stirring as that first one had been, and as he realized then for certain, as good as every single one would be thereafter.

She stood back a step, her face as innocent as a newborn lamb, and held up his wallet between them.

"I love you," Noah said.

Molly looked up at him with all the courageous resolve of the doomed Han Solo at the end of The Empire Strikes Back.

"I know," she replied. [emphasis original]


Okay, aside from the fact that they're crapping all over one of the great scenes in cinema here, trying to suck a modicum of TESB's awesomeness for their own use, what's the problem with this scene? I mean besides the fact that it makes Noah sound like a simpering moron, because at this point there's not a whole lot they could do to counteract that impression. Well, let me give you a hint: at this moment- I mean exactly as this scene is taking place- Molly's mom is dying slowly and extremely painfully from a poison that Molly and Noah both know was probably given to her on Arthur's orders. Now, keep that in mind and read the above passage again- either Molly is, once again, playing Noah for a fool, or she is absolutely fucking creepy.**


Page 239, Line 24-25:
By the time the jet reached its cruising altitude Molly had fallen sound asleep in his arms.


Oh, man, I'm going to be physically ill. How many creepy stalker-ish "fell asleep in his arms; later he would steal her hairbrush and keep it forever, petting it like a cat" scenes must we endure in this nightmare? Regardless, they have an entire row to themselves- because even when Noah Gardner flies coach he still has a shitload of space in his transportation- and Noah notices that the one object Molly retrieved from her luggage before boarding was her hand-bound journal.


Page 240, Line 1-3:
It would be nice to have something to read, he thought, and after a brief consideration he decided that she wouldn't be likely to object if he took a look through her little book as she slept.


He decided that she wouldn't... did that really just happen? Dude, it's her journal! In my experience, people do actually tend to object when random other people try to read their journals uninvited. Hell, my wife keeps a journal and while I've been married to her for years, have been in an exclusive romantic relationship for yet longer, and am the father of her only child, I have never read her journal. Oh, she's read bits of it to me, on occasion, but part of having real love for someone is respecting them, and respect means not invading their damned privacy. Noah is basically the creepy mo-fo in that Police song, but the authors want us to view all this as being perfectly normal and perfectly healthy. That says rather more about them than I'm comfortable knowing. Moving on, it turns out that the book contains- in addition to that pencil drawing of the cabin in the woods that we last met in Molly's safe house (Pages 167-169 or so)- a random assortment of the writings of Thomas Jefferson. That's not actually an exaggeration, the book literally says, "...Molly's [share of Jefferson's writings] was only a small, random part placed in her care," (Page 240, Line 16-17). Good to see that Molly's terrorist group has the organizational skills of a preschooler, I guess. Anyway, after reading Jefferson's second inaugural address (1), we're back to Noah's "thoughts".


Page 240-241, Line 240: 27-28, 241: 1-5:
What struck Noah as he read these words was a fundamental difference in tone from the political discourse of later times. Here was one of the founders of the nation, maybe the greatest thinker among them, and yet he spoke with a quality that was so rare today as to be almost extinct among modern public servants. It was a profound humility, as though nothing were more important to express than the honor he felt in beign chosen again as a guardian of the people's precious liberties.


Wait, are we talking about Jefferson here? Because leaving aside the fact that this is taken from a political speech- which never, ever contains hyperbole- Jefferson was a founding father. He's one of the guys who up and said, "You know what? Sure the British Empire is the most powerful political force on the planet, sure we have virtually no serious industry, a tiny population, and a weak and fragmented domestic political context. But hey, fuck it, let's become independent and found a new nation on a totally untried system of government." There are many ways to describe that sentiment, including radical, heroic, insane, and so forth, but humble is not among them. This was a man who had the arrogance to pit his own will, mind, and conscience against the might of an empire. Don't get me wrong, I can't help but like Jefferson a lot- even if only because his position on the separation of church and state was utterly unimpeachable- but the man had a definite ego. And then let's also remember that among the authors is, at least theoretically, Glenn Beck. Riiiiight.


Page 241, Line 12-14:
Of all the remote destinations Molly could have picked for her flight to safety- anywhere in the world, really- he wondered why she'd chosen Las Vegas.


Man, is Noah suddenly channeling Sharon Zukin here, or what?*** Moving on, does this mean that Molly and Noah might get nuked by Danny and Stu's moronic terrorist pals? Oh, let it be so!

But, so or not, that's the end of the chapter. Come back next time when- I swear I'm not joking here- Stuart and Danny visit a bathroom and have a heart-to-heart moment. And no, unfortunately, I don't mean that in a Laud Humphreys kind of way.

See you then!


* Okay, the authors don't specifically state that his bowels loosen, but I think it's there between the lines.

** Possibly both. Let's be serious, after all.

*** For the record, I rather enjoyed the ASAs in Las Vegas, though I concede I wouldn't ever return to Vegas unless I was attending a conference there. This is not because I'm too good for Vegas, it's because I don't drink or gamble and have little interest in the sex trade.

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Friday, October 14, 2011

The Overton Window: Chapter 36

Welcome back one and all to our ongoing series on The Overton Window, the book that reduces literary critics to incoherent tears. Last time we had an intermission because, frankly, I'm bloody exhausted. The time before that, however, Noah was reunited with Molly and they both forgot the crazy shit she did to him. What happens this week? Well, we get to hear about Noah's genius plan for getting Molly through airport security. And I gotta tell you, this one is a doozy, even for Noah.

As I mentioned I am once again selecting a comment of the week, and this week that "honor" goes to Jay for pointing out just how stupid this romantic comedy tragedy really is:

The authors seem to think the previous events were a romance. They met, they flirted, there was heavy-handed but oddly unspecific political conversation in a bar, she took him home to the safehouse to meet the other members of her cell, she drugged him, then they were in love.

I don't care how big her tits are, love does not work that way. People who try to make love work that way go to jail. Deservedly.


And that is the central problem with the Noah/Molly "romance": it's so badly written we can't believe it, but even if the writing were better the plotting is such that it's basically a date-rape gone horribly wrong. And no, a date-rape can't go right to begin with, so we're really talking some serious whatthefuckery here. Anyway, great job Jay, and keep at it folks. Because we've got more muck to rake.

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.). Bawitdaba!


***********************************
Dramatis Personae: In an order determined by the contents of my daughter's diaper.

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 36: In which Noah and Molly adopt a plan so cliched it's right at home in this "novel".

Recommended Mood Music:




Page 228, Line Bitter Root:

No quotation, because I just cannot bring myself to transcribe any more of this crap than I have to, but Noah is described as returning to the booth after having called someone on a pay phone. Why he did not use his goddamn cellphone I do not care to speculate upon.* Certainly it wasn't so he could avoid having his call traced given that we've already been informed that his dad is tracking it regardless. Likewise, Molly and her Merry Band of Mental Defectives didn't steal it, so there's no reason not to think it's riding in his pocket even now. So, really, his leaving his dad to go straight to Molly's mom in the hospital and then straight to some random freaking diner would probably be an enormous tipoff. Or it should be to any organization that shoots random tertiary characters in phonebooths in the goddamn desert, anyway (Page 3, Line 24-27). But I digress. Noah starts pawing through Molly's bag and she demands to know his brilliant plan.


Page 229, Line 3-5:
"Have you ever wondered how celebrities and public figures avoid all the hassle the rest of us have to go through when they feel the need to suck it up and fly commercial?" (1)


As it happens, no, I haven't. That said, I'm a little floored by the implication that by definition all "celebrities and public figures" have an option other than to fly commercial. Not all celebrities are super rich and you can bet your ass not all "public figures" are either. I mean, shit, Bill Nye is a public figure and a celebrity- you reckon he has a private jet?


Page 229, Line 6-11:
I've never thought about it."

"They make a call like I just made. All the major airlines have a VIP liaison in the big cities, and there's a service company we've used from the office, KTL, that's going to grease the way even more. They'll meet us at the curb and walk us right to the plane-"

"Hold it, hold it," Molly said. "We aren't celebrities, Noah."


No, they're not. They're not even decent characters in a crappy novel. Christ, if they were any more two-dimensional they'd be goddamn transparent! Man, this just has "horrible idea" written all over it, and that's before you realize that it's a Noah Gardner idea.


Page 229, Line 12-13:
"No, you're right. But I'm a rich kid from a powerful family, and it's reasonable enough that they'd believe I could be dating a celebrity."


Wait... is that the "medium-high bar"? I am so f-ing confused right now, and this idea just keeps getting worse.


Page 229, Line 14-15:
"What are you talking about?"

He smiled. "I'm now dating Natalie Portman."




Jesus titty-fucking Christ! Did I really just read that? This is his plan? Seriously? They are going to end up being anally probed in a TSA security room before being arrested. Or they would if this book had even a passing relationship with reality. Also: are the authors suggesting that Natalie Portman is only at the "medium-high bar"?



I mean, she's no Mrs. Drek, but I think she can certainly do better than Noah Gardner.


Page 229, Line 19-21:
"It's perfect," Noah said. "She's an A-lister but she's done mostly art-house films, so the average Joe probably couldn't pick her out of a lineup. She's about your size-"


Well, that's sorta true. If we examine her filmography she's only done little films like The Professional, Heat, Zoolander, V for Vendetta, and The Other Boleyn Girl. Yeah, nobody will know her. Except, you know, for the fact that she was in FUCKING STAR WARS! And I mean, she was in all three prequels! Still, Noah goes on to insist that Molly does, in fact look like Natalie Portman. And Molly looks like Noah's mom. That being the case, Noah's mom must have looked like this:



Which means that in his youth, Noah's dad must have looked like this:



And that means their courtship must have been like this:



But eventually Arthur got older and looked like this:



And this, of course, means that the undescribed Noah Gardner must look like this:



And Molly, really, should look more like this:**



Which makes Noah and Molly's romance more like this:***



Thus making the whole thing creepy and wrong on a whole new level. Does everyone have all that? Good, because we're moving the fuck on. Anyway, Molly ducks out to the bathroom to try to get her Portman on- all to Noah's specifications I might add.


Page 230, Line 2-5:
She was in her Vanderbilt sweatshirt, her hair was up in a casual bun at the nape of her neck, and she'd done just enough to her lips and brows and lashes to suggest a layman's conception of a movie star who was wearing no makeup at all.


Right, whatever the hell that means. Moving on, I fail to see how the Vanderbilt sweatshirt is going to help here, given that neither Noah nor Portman actually went to Vanderbilt. Noah went to, if I recall correctly, NYU and Portman went to Harvard, so anyone who knows Noah, and knows a tiny amount about Portman, is going to be slightly thrown. And as we're about to see, Noah should really realize that.


Page 230, Line 14-21:
"Perfect," he said. "Absolutely perfect. Oh, wait." He took her makeup kit and searched through its contents until he found a small dark pencil with a dull tip. "Lean your face over here." Molly did, and he carefully and gently went to work. "Natalie has got two little tiny beauty marks, one here... and one... over here." He leaned back, squinted, and studied his masterpiece. "That's it. We can put a bit of powder on those on the way and they'll be fine. Come on now, the car's already outside."


I honestly don't know what's funnier here- that Noah comes off like a closet queen with his apparent skill with makeup,**** or that he is apparently so obsessed with Natalie Portman that he's memorized the number and locations of her "beauty marks". Rolled together, this is just getting creepy as hell. Anyway, there's some random exposition about how KTL is charging them a bit less than $2,000 for this service, which Noah puts on his expense account thereby guaranteeing his father won't have to work hard to figure out who helped Molly escape, Noah gives her some coaching about how to get her attitude right and that her ID documents have somehow been lost, and we're off to the airport with Kyle from KTL. The narrator muses about how Disney World has a whole hidden sub-level that visitors never get to see***** and then the authors decide to make an analogy:


Page 231, Line 27-29:
Likewise, a major airport has its own sublevel of secrets, and our man Kyle held all the skeleton keys to this particular enchanted kingdom.


Leaving aside the fact that the narrator's use of the phrase "our man Kyle" is weird as hell, I've worked in an airport- for a long time as it happens- and basically anyone who does the same has the keys the narrator refers to. Seriously, it's not that big a deal. After a whole bunch of bullshit exposition we end up in a private security screening area. All seems to be going well until Noah suddenly notices something alarming and basically makes Molly fake like she needs to make a phone call. On a pay phone, mind you. Their fake Natalie Portman needs to make a last-minute phone call on a pay phone. How the hell does that even make sense?


Page 233, Line 1-9:
Molly picked up the receiver, put it to her ear, punched a few buttons, and pulled him [Noah] a little closer. "Now tell me what's going on."

"Check out the guy in the TSA outfit."

She did. "So?"

"Are you kidding me? That's a Star Wars geek if I ever saw one."

Maybe it was the Luke Skywalker blow-cut, his mismatched socks below the nerdish cut of his high-riding uniform trousers, or the soul patch and horn-rimmed glasses, but everything about this man was screaming king of the fanboys, and that was really bad news. [emphasis original]


Are you. FREAKING. kidding me? Have these authors ever actually met a sci-fi fan? I mean, yeah, they're all ugly, humorless, flabby man-children without the patience to put together a decent outfit and who will never get close to an actual woman, but... oh wait! Shit! That's entirely wrong! Never mind. On a related note: doesn't this all seem a little weird coming from Noah, who is apparently enough of a fanboy that he knows where Natalie Portman's moles beauty marks are?


Page 233, Line 10-12:
"I don't understand-"

Noah lowered his voice even more. "Natalie Portman is in all three of the Star Wars prequels." [emphasis original]


And this is a revelation because... why? Has Molly been too busy training in Tora Bora to have seen "Attack of the Clones" or something?


Page 233, Line 13-16:
"You're remembering this now?"

"I guess I hated those movies so much I'd blocked them out of my mind. But I'd bet my last dollar that dweeb knows Portman's face like the back of his hand. You don't understand these guys; he's probably got a candlelit altar in front of her picture down in his mother's basement." [emphasis original]


Well, it takes one to know one, eh, Gardner? Seriously, though, these people are too stupid to live. Anyway, Molly asks what they should do, Noah says they should wave off, and Molly says that's stupid and they should go through with it. They do, Noah goes through the metal detector and pat down and is reluctantly cleared by the aforementioned dweeb, who apparently takes his job very seriously and realizes full well that this entire scenario is utterly and totally f-ed up.


Page 234, Line 19-21:
He'd [Noah] just begun to let himself believe they were soon to be home free when the piercing tweet of the metal detector sounded off behind him.


Oh NOES! Did Molly forget to declare the assault rifle she carries in her bra or something? Are they busted? Is the book ending? What the hell is going on? Who knows? Moreover, who cares? But, whether you can answer any of those questions or not, you're just going to have to wait, because we're at the end of the chapter.

Come back next time when we get to read about Noah and Molly finally clearing security. And, if you can believe it, it's actually even dumber than the shit we saw this week. Seriously, it's so dumb it boggles the mind. You're gonna love it.

See ya' then.


* That's a lie. I speculate- nay KNOW- that it's because he's stupid.

** I have really got to talk my wife into dressing up like that for Halloween. Or, you know, Friday.

*** I'd make a joke about Han and Chewie being Danny and Hollis, respectively, but to be perfectly honest I have far too much respect for Captain Solo and Chewbacca to actually make that comparison. C-3PO, on the other hand, is a shoe-in for Stuart Kearns.

**** Seriously. I'm married, and share a small bathroom with my lovely wife, and yet if I were in Noah's shoes I would have had to say something like, "Shit, she has a couple of small moles- do you have some sort of makeup we could use to fake them?"

***** Totally true. It allows the characters to move from area to area without having to cross publicly- that's why you don't see folks from Frontierland in Futureland.

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Portacular!

So, for anyone who hasn't played the excellent Portal or its recent successor Portal 2, this short film nicely captures the emotional vibe of the experience, with the exception that in the game, you're the only living organic being* around:



And as a side note: I think the ending of Portal 2 may have been the most emotionally meaningful experience that I've ever had in a video game. And, let's face it, I like me some gaming, so that's saying something.


* As distinguished from living inorganic beings. Just because artificial intelligences aren't made of meat, doesn't mean they aren't alive. Or, as it may be, still alive.**

** Yeah, that's an in-joke. What do you want from me?

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Friday, October 07, 2011

The Overton Window: Intermission

Hey folks. Normally today we'd have an episode of our ongoing series on The Overton Window, a book so bad that it defies logic. Unfortunately, however, between necessary childcare duties, and the fact that my new department has lots of work for me to do, I just didn't have the time to get the episode finished. Take heart, however, because next week we'll have a pretty long episode and this week... well... I found you the short version of the whole book:



Don't thank me,* I did it all for you. See you next week.


* No, really, don't. Actually listening to that much Glenn Beck might lower your IQ but a dozen points and I don't want that responsibility.

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Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Even after all these years, they can still baffle me.

So over on the usual wretched hive of scum and villainy I ran across a headline that just makes me scratch my head and say, "huh?":



Or, in plain human language:

Public school update: "17-year-old student dies after stabbing during high school lunch break." And liberal gun control would not have prevented it. How about teaching conservative values for once? [emphasis original]


The story they refer to is quite sad and seems to boil down to, "Female student got in an argument with an older male who was apparently not a student, was then punched, knocked down and repeatedly stabbed." That is an awful, awful thing and as a father, my heart goes out to the girl's family.

Here's the thing though: what the fuck does this have to do with gun control? Are they saying that if it weren't for gun control the girl might have had a gun that she could have used to shoot her attacker? So, are we in favor of allowing teenagers in high school to attend class with firearms? Because, I've been to high school, and that doesn't sound like a great idea. Are they saying that if other students had guns they could have shot the assailant? Because the assailant was actually stopped when he was tackled by the school's police officer, and if a trained cop didn't feel comfortable drawing his weapon and taking a shot, I suspect a bunch of excitable teenagers with guns would have just increased the body count. Are they saying that because of gun control, the man just attacked her with a knife and killed her anyway, therefore gun control is pointless? How does that even make sense? Should we make it legal to buy your very own cruise missile just because people can kill each other with their bare hands?

I mean, seriously, what the hell are their snide remarks supposed to mean other than simply, "Liberals suck and everything in the world that goes wrong is their fault, somehow"?* Somehow, even after all these years, I can't quite come to grips with just how idiotic the Conservapeons are.


* Yeah, I know, their remarks mean nothing other than that. I'm aware.

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