Total Drek

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

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Overton Window: Intermission

Folks, I'm just too stuffed with turkey and busy with insane Black Friday hunting to possibly get an episode up today. Come back next week when posts will resume.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I know it means I'm immature...

But this just makes me snicker like an idiot every time I look at it:



Oh, wikipedia! Every now and then you're actually funnier than Conservapedia. Although, let's face it, there's really no place quite like Conservapedia when you want weapons-grade stupid:*



Or, in plain text:

Whales in the desert? And at an elevation of 13,000 feet? (That's oxygen-mask altitude in the Air Force.) How did they get there? The Great Flood, that's how. But the Associated Press won't even talk about how high this latest find was. More MSM sophistry.


Good times, Conservapeons, good times!


* If you're curious, that story links to an opinion piece written by a Conservapeon named- I swear I'm not making this up- Terry Hurlbut. He has, apparently, never quite grasped the twin concepts of plate tectonics and deep geologic time.

Special thanks to The Oatmeal for bringing this up.

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Friday, November 18, 2011

The Overton Window: Chapter 41

Welcome back one and all to our ongoing series on The Overton Window, the book that does more to help the Democrats than any other. Last time Stuart and Danny arrived at the meet with the nefarious would-be terrorists. What happens this week? They try to complete their deal with said terrorists and things go... poorly.

As I mentioned I am once again selecting a comment of the week, and this week that "honor" goes to Ken for drawing a reasonable conclusion:

"Tapped him on the leg? Do strange men ever do that to each other?"

I think you might mean "straight" there. To which the realistic answer would be that I know no one, straight or gay, who does that.

They are strange men, and strange as men. It's called not being able to write a believable character, and the authors excel at it.


Yeah, you'd think that a demagogue would know something about how people behave. Sadly, however, to the extent that Glenn Beck is responsible for this work of "Faction" we have to assume that just isn't true. Well done, Ken! I'd also like to extend a special atta-boy to Jim for actually defending his heap of fail, even if it wasn't a particularly spirited defense. Thanks for trying!

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.). No whammy, no whammy, no whammy, STOP!


***********************************
Dramatis Personae: In an order determined by my three-legged dog.

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. Fast draw, terrible shot.

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 41: In which we witness the least interesting gun battle ever committed to the page.

Recommended Mood Music:




Page 254, Line 1-2:
Their model bomb wasn't that heavy, maybe eighty or one hundred pounds, but it was unwieldy to carry between them.


Wow, what is this opening sentence supposed to say to us? "Your current protagonists aren't quite the weaklings you might think- they're actually way, way weaker given that they can't manage forty pounds each"? Maybe "The narrator is kinda whiny when helping people move"? Or maybe just, "We're such crappy authors, when meeting terrorists the most exciting thing we can think of to open with is a description of the difficulty of moving awkwardly shaped packages"? Honestly, it's impossible for me to choose between these lovely alternatives. Although, I admit the last makes me wonder if one or more of the authors ever worked for UPS. In any case, there are four terrorists present- not the expected five- and one of them gestures towards where Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-moron are supposed to put the bomb. One of the four guys has a satchel that looks big enough to hold $20,000, while the other two have assault rifles.


Page 254, Line 10-16:
The weapons these guys were sporting appeared to be some knocked-together variant of an AR-15, but with a very short barrel, stock target sights, custom noise suppression, and a nonstandard magazine. Good luck trying to buy something like that off the shelf. Not the most versatile choice for all-purpose combat, obviously laughable for hunting or target practice, but flip it to full auto and it would do every bit as well as a sawed-off shotgun for antipersonnel work at close quarters.


For those who don't know much about guns, the AR-15 is a trade name for the civilian version of the U.S. military's M-16 assault rifle. Unlike the M-16, the AR-15 is typically built and sold as a semi-automatic weapon rather than an automatic weapon, although depending on when it was built many M-16's lack the full-auto setting the authors describe and are limited to three-round bursts at most. This was done in order to save ammunition since, generally speaking, an M-16 has shit accuracy on full-automatic, so that's mostly just a great way to waste ammo for little to no effect. The specific variant the authors describe probably looks a bit like this as it's a short, carbine model. The authors are correct that the shorter barrel will reduce accuracy at range, an effect that will likely be magnified by the noise suppression, but having said that an AR-15 has an effective range of several hundred meters to start with, so the limiting factor in a firefight is more likely to be the shooter than it is the weapon. Now, given that the AR-15 is typically semi-automatic but these weapons are being described as fully automatic, and given that Danny seems to know at least a bit about firearms, I suspect what the authors mean is that the weapons have been modified. It's often possible to convert a semi-automatic weapon into a fully automatic weapon with fairly small changes (e.g. I could convert one of my rifles from semi- to full automatic by modifying the firing pin) but such changes are almost always VERY illegal and often entail certain costs (e.g. if I did modify my rifle that way, once I pulled the trigger it would keep firing until it ran out of ammo). The weird thing is, most modifications that would make an AR-15 fully automatic shouldn't be obvious to casual inspection. Now, does any of this really matter for the plot? Not really, but since the authors have a hard-on for guns, I figured I might as well go along. Anyway, Stuart goes to get his money, is asked if he's going to count it, and says he's not going to. Two of the terrorists get the fake bomb and carry it to a truck, which they open up to load said fake. Danny, however, becomes suddenly interested in the truck's other contents.


Page 255, Line 26-31:
Down the center, on a welded-together, waist-high metal rack, was what appeared to be a long, silvery torpedo. Not really, though; the nose was too blunt and flat and its far end was tapered and ringed by large aerodynamic fins. It looked like something from a war museum, an overbuilt piece of heavy-duty air-dropped ordinance from a bygone era of the Cold War.


Okay, so the crazy guys already have some sort of bomb? Surely this is a large, conventional bomb that they were planning to use in the event that their nuke never appeared? Because, seriously, how many terrorist outfits manage to lay hands on not one, but two nuclear warheads? And, even in such an event, would be stupid enough to bring the first to a meet with the guys who allegedly want to sell them a second? In any case, both Danny and Stu notice that the truck also appears to contain an occupied body bag. One of the terrorists receives a cell phone call, and then all of a sudden things get... well, not interesting, but at least slightly closer.


Page 256, Line 10-18:
Kearns bent and put the satchel [of money] down between them, shivered a bit, breathed some warm air through his hands, and then put them into his jacket pockets. When he looked at Danny, just for a second or two, there was such a crystal-clear communication between them that he almost heard the words form in his head.

You were right. Now we're going to let these guys give us just one more bad sign, the tiniest sign, and then we put their lights out. No "Freeze, FBI!," no warning shots; we shoot to kill until they're all down, or we are. And you and I both know who gets it first. [emphasis original]


And all of a sudden it's like we're in a buddy cop movie. Okay, well, technically the authors have been going for this feeling for chapters and chapters now, it just hasn't ever really worked. It doesn't work here, either, but at least the attempted genre has kinda become obvious. Regardless, a few moments later the dude on the phone turns away from Stuart and Danny and then taps one of the guys with an AR-15 on the shoulder. And that, apparently, is the sign we've been waiting for, and as you might expect in a book like this, it triggers a lecture before it does an action sequence.


Page 256-257, Line 256: 30-31, 257: 1-4:
When you've practiced enough it gets to look like one fluid motion, but there are four distinct parts to a quick draw, at least to the one that Molly had taught him. In the beginning the count is slow and you stop between the steps so your teacher can make sure you've got them right. After a few months and several thousand repeats, though, it starts to go so fast that if you blink, you might miss it.


Heh. That's what she said. Joking aside, did you enjoy the brief, pointless flashback? No? Me neither. I am once more disturbed however that in all those practice sessions Danny still never managed to learn how to freaking hit the target.


Page 257, Line 5-11:
Danny's right hand swept back to clear his clothing and found the pistol grip just where he'd left it; he pulled the weapon free and brought it forward, the barrel coming parallel to the ground and his left hand joining the solid grasp; he extended toward center-mass of his target with the iron sight rising level to his eye; and at the end of the forward movement, as it all came together at his ideal firing position, without pause, he squeezed the trigger to its stop.


And shot Stuart? Because that would make as much sense as anything. Why they didn't start with this paragraph, instead of the preceding flashback, I'll never know, because this was much more interesting. Not saying much, I know, but still.


Page 257, Line 12-18:
The boom of their first two shots was almost simultaneous, though Kearns had a much easier draw from his pocket. They'd chosen the same primary target, the man to whom Randy had given his too-obvious go-ahead, the guy who would have cut them in half with a hail of bullets if they'd given him half a chance to shoot first. As Kearns took off to his left, still firing, their designated executioner was crumpling backward, likely dead on his feet, but surely out of commission. [emphasis original]


Right, and with this paragraph Danny and Stu are supposed to magically transform from an awkward old married couple into a couple of badasses. I guess you have to respect the authors for trying. I guess. The next paragraph describes Danny running in the opposite direction from Kearns, shooting wildly without hitting anything, and running out of bullets. All of this basically suggests that Danny is gunning- pardon the expression- for a Darwin award. Fortunately, Kearns steps out from cover and squeezes off four rounds, at the end of which three of the four terrorists are dead.


Page 258, Line 4-7:
The silence was broken by the sound of a diesel engine turning over and starting. Danny watched Kearns limping toward the back of the truck, then grabbing on and hoisting himself up into the open compartment.


Okay, so, the gunfight is over, all the opponents are either dead or fleeing, and Kearns is apparently wounded. Or just old, the narrative isn't clear on that point. Kearns, being a super-duper FBI agent has decided to pursue the last terrorist and his fake bomb by climbing into the back of a panel truck, which is rarely a good way to go about it. Still, Danny is left behind with a sat phone, a van, and nobody trying to kill him, so this is probably an ideal time to make a break for it.


Page 258, Line 8-12:
As the truck dropped into gear and started to roll Danny got to his feet and ran for it. The faster he ran the faster it went, and it had nearly accelerated to the point of no return when he caught up to the tailgate, stumbled forward to get a grasp on to Stuart Kearns' extended hand, and felt himself pulled up and in.


Right, or he'll chase after the truck and hurl himself aboard. This, of course, leaves us all wondering what possible rationale Danny could have for doing something so utterly, unbelievably stupid. And really the only possible answer is simply that Danny himself is utterly, unbelievably stupid.

But, stupid or not, that brings us to the end of Chapter 41. Come back next time when we check back in with Noah and his crazed abuser lovely girlfriend, Molly, as they head out of Las Vegas on their way... somewhere. It's sure to be, well, if not exciting, then at least in English.

Toodles!

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Friday, November 11, 2011

The Overton Window: Chapter 40

Welcome back one and all to our ongoing series on The Overton Window, the book that must eventually end, thereby becoming a cause for much rejoicing. Last time Noah and Molly arrived in Las Vegas and he returned to being her stooge. What happens this week? Danny and Stuart arrive at the terrorists and... well.. that's about it.

As I mentioned I am once again selecting a comment of the week, and this week that "honor" goes to Sassafras for looking on the bright side:

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

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


Leaving aside the question of how Molly would get Stu's cat into her bag (and I mean that- such a thing is really not beyond the idiocy of these authors) I'm forced to agree: at least we didn't have to suffer through meticulous depiction of yet more shite that nobody cares about. This is especially the case given that, based on his behavior thus far, we would have spent the entire time watching Noah try to hump her leg while on the people mover or at the rental counter. And what's funny in a National Lampoons film is just tedious in print. Well done, Sass, and keep it up folks! I need all the help I can get.

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.). Insert witty rejoinder here!


***********************************
Dramatis Personae: In an order determined by the fates.

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 40: In which nothing at all happens.

Recommended Mood Music:




Page 251, Line 1-2:
"This must be the place," Danny said. He folded the printout of directions and slipped them into a side pocket of the door.


Ooooh! Can't you just feel the excitement? I mean, these guys are about to meet with terrorists, and it sounds like they're just driving to Grandma Edith's so they can break the news about their new life partnership to her in-person. Regardless, the description (which I omit in order to preserve your sanity) makes it clear that they're in the middle of a whole shit-ton of nothing. Danny sees dirt, he sees sand, he sees more dirt- and that's just on the dashboard! Still, "shit-ton of nothing" is just what Danny thinks, but he's got Stu around to teach him otherwise.


Page 251, Line 8:
Kearns tapped him on the leg. "Over here."


Kearns did what now? Tapped him on the leg? Do strange men ever do that to each other? Because if I were an FBI agent in a car with a strange, potentially hostile guy that I'd coerced into helping me, I do not think I'd be pawing at his legs, you know? Regardless, Danny notices some kind of artificial structure about three hundred yards off thattaway and Stu takes the crappy old van off road to get to it. What they find is quite possibly the best described location in the entire freaking book.


Page 252, Line 3-12:
"Building" was an overstatement, actually; the simple ten-foot-high enclosure appeared to be made of nothing but cinder blocks and dark mortar. There was an open arched doorway but no roof overhead. About a stone's throw away from the main structure, in a perfectly spaced circle surrounding the building on all sides, were a number of bizarre freestanding walls and angled edifices jutting up out of the sand. Some looked like backstops from a playground handball court, one like the black alien monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey. The layout reminded him a little of Stonehenge, but only if Stonehenge had been built over one hurried weekend by an amateur bricklayer on acid. [emphasis original]


"My god! It's full of suck!" Bad 2001 jokes aside, we at least have a grip on the scene here, weird as it is. I'd say this shows a lot of creativity on the part of the authors but... well, if you looked at the satellite imagery I linked to several chapters ago (Page 195, Line 7-15- look at the discussion following), you realize this shit actually exists. So the most creative description in the entire book isn't so much "creative" as "a description of a real thing". Ah, well. Moving on, the boys talk about what this freaky shit is, failing to wonder along the way why the hell these guys want to meet in the local M.C. Escher Theme Park. Then Stu tells Danny that everything is going to be okay, only to trail off suddenly.


Page 252, Line 25-29:
He'd stopped talking because something had caught his attention out the front windshield. One of the men they were meeting had appeared by the corner of the main cinder-block building, and with a broad gesture he beckoned them to come on over. Another of the men was behind the first, standing there with an assault rifle slung over his shoulder.


Yeah. That just doesn't bode well, you know? When you arrive at an exchange of illicit materials in the middle of nowhere and the other side is openly brandishing assault weaponry, you had really better have a helicopter with a minigun en route or you're pretty much screwed. Anyway, Danny gets out of the van, puts Kearns' satellite phone in a pocket and then gets the pistol out of the glove box.


Page 253, Line 6-15:
The pistol went snugly into Danny's belt in the back, not in the middle but closer to the right side; the long jacket hid it completely. "I'm getting ready for this whole thing to go to hell in a handbasket. If everything's fine you can say I told you so. But in the meantime, if I can make a suggestion, why don't you take the .38 out of your ankle holster and put it where you can get it if you need it."

Thankfully the older man was listening, and even if he wasn't quite convinced that there was going to be trouble he was at least open-minded enough to move his small revolver to the right-hand pocket of his bomber jacket.


Right, so, just to recap: the radio host is currently schooling the experienced FBI agent on firearms. Sounds totally plausible to me, how 'bout y'all? And as a side note, I'm fairly comfortable around firearms and have a good friend who regularly, and legally, carries a concealed pistol. And yet still the notion of Danny packing heat just scares the shit out of me.


Page 253, Line 16-17:
"I thought you said you didn't know much about guns," Kearns said.

"That's not what I said. I said I wasn't an expert."


And he means, in anything.


Page 253, Line 18-27:
Expert wasn't a term to be bandied about among Danny's gun-savvy friends. An expert might be someone who could call their shot from ten yeards and then, from a cold start, draw their pistol from concealment and put a bullet right where they said it would go, all in seven-tenths of a second or less. Molly Ross was one of those, and a few years back over one hot and memorable Tennessee summer, she'd taught him everything he knew. He'd been getting even more death threats than usual that year, and she'd wanted him to be safe. So, while he wasn't an expert, his draw was pretty fast- it was the part about hitting what he shot at that still left a lot of be desired. [emphasis original]


Oh my. Just wow. That paragraph has it all! Heroic fetishization of firearms, mention of yet another thing that Molly can supposedly do, and even a joke about how bad a shot Danny is. And ironically, it's a pretty crappy firearms instructor who focuses on getting the gun out over hitting what you freaking aim at. Speaking personally, I don't want a guy to draw fast if he can't hit what he means to hit- that's just terrifying.

But, terrifying or not, that's actually the end of the chapter. I would continue into the next chapter, but I don't have a ton of time this week, and the next chapter is (comparatively) long. So, come back next time when we talk to the terrorists and the shit does, indeed, hit the fan. And as a special treat, a named character is going to get shot.

And no, it won't be Elmer!

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Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Are you freaking kidding me?

Is this truly the world that I live in?

Shopping online can be a real time-saver, and you can get some great deals. But skip lollipops that come with the virus that causes chickenpox.

This caution comes after a woman in Nashville, Tenn., advertised lollipops contaminated with the varicella virus on Facebook. The tainted pops were intended for parents who want to expose their children to the disease.

A Nashville TV station spotted the woman's posts, in which she also offered to ship spit and cotton swabs, all for a mere $50, payable through PayPal. The woman, Wendy Werkit, told WSMV reporter Kimberly Curth that she had shipped lollipops that had been sucked on by her children, "so that other peoples' kids can get chickenpox."


Between this and the bizarre news that people are only afraid that the HPV vaccine will turn women into raging sluts,* I'm basically in shock.



* For the record the HPV vaccine is not going to turn anyone into some kind of slut. It will, however, protect you and your loved ones from a virus that causes multiple types of cancer. You do the math.

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Friday, November 04, 2011

The Overton Window: Chapter 39

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

And, with that, let's begin! As always, page/line numbers are in bold, quotes from the book are in block quotes, my commentary is in regular print, and you can navigate the whole series with the provided tag. My footnotes use the traditional star system (e.g. *, **, etc) while references included in the Afterword to the book are noted with numbered parenthetical tags (e.g. (1), (2), etc.). Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down, never gonna run around and desert you!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommended Mood Music:




Page 246, Line Carrot:

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


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


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


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


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

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

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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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

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


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

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


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


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

"Yes?"

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

"You get what."

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


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


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


Oh! Wicked burn!


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

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


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


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

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

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

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


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

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

See you then!


* I'm actually really happy about that.

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

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

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