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.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

This actually made me giggle a little bit.

If you thought getting an abortion in this country is a pain in the ass, guess what's almost happened to men who want prescriptions for erectile dysfunction medication:

To protest a bill that would require women to undergo an ultrasound before having an abortion, Virginia State Sen. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax) on Monday attached an amendment that would require men to have a rectal exam and a cardiac stress test before obtaining a prescription for erectile dysfunction medication.

"We need some gender equity here," she told HuffPost. "The Virginia senate is about to pass a bill that will require a woman to have totally unnecessary medical procedure at their cost and inconvenience. If we're going to do that to women, why not do that to men?"


There are all kinds of arguments to be made here but, hey, if we can do all kinds of unnecessary crazy shit to women when they need help to end a pregnancy, why not do all kinds of unnecessary crazy shit to men who need help to start one? Sounds fair to me.

It'll be a few decades (I hope!) before I might be in the market for wang medication, but let me go on record as saying that I would be more than happy to get a rectal exam and cardiac stress test first if it means that JezLil will have the right to choose when she's all grown up.

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Friday, January 27, 2012

The Overton Window: Afterword

Welcome back one and all to our ongoing series on The Overton Window, the book that killed the dinosaurs. Last time Noah woke up in a sanitarium, indicated once more that he's an incompetent fuckup, and learned that Molly may somehow still be alive. What happens this week? Almost nothing, because all we have left is the authors' afterword. Blessed be!

As I mentioned I am once again selecting a comment of the week, and this week that "honor" goes to Jay for telling the hilarious truth:

Actually, the lettering on the bracelet was probably dulled when the EMP inductively heated it to several hundred degrees. If Molly was wearing it, she probably lost the hand.

But now they have Noah as an inside man. Now, he's not good at sneaking. When he needed to minimize his profile, he had Molly impersonate a movie star. When he knows they'll kill him if he isn't loyal, he can't play loyal. My guess is his email password is Tr@itor. The worst thing they could do is try to use him as a spy. The best thing they could do is nothing; Arthur's getting old, and there's no way Noah will be able to fill his shoes.


You just have to love that penultimate fail: in order for "good" to triumph, they should actually do nothing since that will allow "evil" to put his incompetent, half-witted, sex-starved son in charge, who will promptly crash the evil conspiracy into a mountain. Is there anything less satisfying than a hero who can only be counted on to fail? Probably not. Well done, Jay, and everyone give it your best shot for next week- it's your last chance!

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 angry 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. Some kind of moronic double-agent.

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. Almost certainly dead from a nuclear blast.

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. Died pointlessly in a nuclear detonation.

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. Died pointlessly in a nuclear detonation.

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

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

Afterword: In which the authors try to make it all make sense.

Recommended Mood Music:




Page 293, Line 1:
"Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it." -Andre Gide [emphasis original]


For those who are wondering, that's the quote the authors selected to start the afterword. It sounds neat and profound, but frankly it's dumb. Whether someone claims to know the truth or whether they claim to be seeking it has nothing to do with the reliability of their views. Instead, what you should pay attention to is evidence, actual information that supports or falsifies a given assertion. Because, as it turns out, humans can be very good at talking themselves into various notions, so if you rely on certainty as a measure of accuracy you will surely be disappointed. But, hey, I'm just a sociologist, what do I know?


Page 293, Line 2-9:
There's a very good reason we called this book The Overton Window, and it's not just because it's one of the techniques that Arthur Gardner uses to push his objectives. We chose this title because it's also a technique that, to one extent or another, we just used on you. (The key difference is, I'm openly telling you that's what I'm doing; I don't have a hidden agenda here.) In the course of reading and thinking about this story, it's simply my hope that you've spent a little bit of time entertaining ideas that you might not have considered before. [emphasis original]


I see what you did there, authors. You're like a regular Morpheus with the red pill and I'm all like "Woah!" and you're all like, "Nobody can by told what The Overton Window is. You have to see it for yourself." Riiiiight. OR this was just a piece of trashy fiction that panders to the lowest common denominator on the right. I'll leave it as an exercise to the reader to consider which is more likely, with the caveat that we'll be discussing exactly that next week. Still, I guess it's nice to find out what the authors were hypothetically trying to do. As for that "I don't have a hidden agenda" bit... well, to paraphrase the authors' own quote, "Believe those who admit to their agendas. Doubt those who claim to have none".


Page 293, Line 10-14:
Remember, the Overton Window concept is that only the few scenarios that currently sit inside an established window of acceptable debate will be taken seriously by the public. To move the Window toward their ultimate goal, those pushing an agenda have to introduce radical ideas that fall outside of the current comfort zone.


Wow. This explains people like Michelle Bachman so incredibly well. Thank you, wacky authors! Seriously, though, I love how the authors are trying to cap off this book with an extra dose of incipient paranoia. Be afraid of people proposing new and unusual ideas- because they're trying to TAKE OVER THE FUCKING COUNTRY!!!!


Page 294, Line 5-6:
Applying this concept to our story, it should be obvious that we set out to create a plot based in reality...


You're joking, right? Because I read a lot of sci-fi and, I gotta tell you, this shit strains credulity more than the average David Weber novel. And I have fucking READ his Empire from the Ashes bit, okay?* In that one he decided that the entire freaking MOON was, in fact, an ancient alien** battleship, and it's STILL more plausible. I mean, yeah, your book had recognizable place names and depicted creatures that had human names, but none of them behaved in a remotely human manner and, for all the description we got, they might have had a radially-symmetric body plan. Just sayin' is all.


Page 294, Line 6-7:
...and then we pushed it to an absolute extreme.


Extremely stupid, yes. Otherwise, no, this was not an "absolute extreme". On the extremity scale, this "revolution" was a poorly planned absurdist disaster. Seriously. Did the evil characters conquer the U.S. with a secret army? No. Was there some kind of nanotech plague that re-wrote everyone's minds? No. Were there sharks with frickin lasers on their heads? No. Instead, of these "absolute extremes" we got an ambitious PR man and his moron son. That is so far from the "absolute extreme" that I can't even begin to describe it. Nevertheless, the authors go off explaining how fighter pilots use simulators to prepare for the worst possible situations and then return to discussing their book.


Page 294, Line 19-23:
This book is your simulator. It's unlikely that we'll face anything close to the challenges that Noah and Molly are up against. But, after experiencing their scenario in its fictional setting, maybe it will become a little easier to have deeper conversations about the important forces that are actually at work in the real world.


Right, OR we'll run the risk of being diverted from those discussions by poorly thought-out nonsensical horse shit that someone put into a book marketed as "ripped from the headlines" but in reality "ripped from the slush pile". I can just imagine the sorts of discussions this book provokes, and somehow I doubt they really involve serious discussions of the actual best way to deal with poverty and economic prosperity within the same context.


Page 294, Line 24-25:
As I told you at the outset, while I certainly used a lot of dramatic license, this story is loaded with truth.


Well, it's loaded with something at any rate. It doesn't smell like truth to me, though. That said, I find this last authorial statement amusing in light of the beginning quote for this section.


Page 294, Line 25-28:
But facts can easily be manipulated, and that's why we are including this section. I want you to decide for yourself exactly what is fact, what is based on fact, what is common belief possibly based on a distorted fact, and what is complete fiction. [emphasis original]


God, I just love that. The authors are actually making the claim that their pastiche of reality, horse shit, and damned lies is something other than laziness or ideological blinders and is, instead, their effort to provoke deeper thought. Seriously, folks, who uses this method? When we teach our classes, do we deliberately intermingle things we know to be wrong with stuff we know to be right to provoke deeper thought? Hell no- because that doesn't work. I almost wish I could get away with this idiocy when I write papers. Can you imagine what the reviewers would say if they discovered a statement in the discussion section to the effect of, "Some of what I've written I know to be crap- but I want you to have the exercise of finding out what"? Yikes.


Page 294, Line 29:
Don't stop at my sources; find your own.


Yeah, you'd better, because his are weird as hell.


Page 294, Line 29-31:
That way, you can determine where your own Overton Window should be located as we continue to debate what kind of America we want to live in.


Well, I'm certainly not going to castigate education and reasoned debate. Too bad neither one plays a role in this book but, hey, whatever. Anyway, we get another few lines encouraging readers to pour over the text to find other hidden gems (hell NO!) and then we start the endnotes section, which has a little bit of exposition slipped in at random that I'm not going to worry about because I integrated the endnotes into the text this entire freaking time. And with that, ladies and gentlemen, we are officially done with this book.

So, what have we learned? Well, if you want to talk about that you'll have to come back next week when I try to wrap things up with a few "insights". Or, failing that, just swear at this disaster a whole lot. Either way, though, it'll be fun.

See you then!


* Actually, in all fairness, I do like a lot of what he writes, melodramatic crap that it is. I do wish he'd finally fucking kill off Honor "Uber-Menschen" Harrington already, though.

** Well, sort of. It was actually built by humans from the original human homeworld of, if I recall corectly, "Birhat". That part is totally loony since the DNA evidence is pretty conclusive that we're linked in a consistent web of evolutionary relationships to every living thing on the planet, but whatever.

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Barkside...

I am definitely enough of a geek to find this absolutely hysterical:

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Hey, anti-choice folks! Check this out!

According to a recent study in The Lancet, if you really hate abortion, you should actually favor pro-choice policies. Seriously:

Findings
The global abortion rate was stable between 2003 and 2008, with rates of 29 and 28 abortions per 1000 women aged 15—44 years, respectively, following a period of decline from 35 abortions per 1000 women in 1995. The average annual percent change in the rate was nearly 2·4% between 1995 and 2003 and 0·3% between 2003 and 2008. Worldwide, 49% of abortions were unsafe in 2008, compared to 44% in 1995. About one in five pregnancies ended in abortion in 2008. The abortion rate was lower in subregions where more women live under liberal abortion laws [p less than 0.05].

Interpretation
The substantial decline in the abortion rate observed earlier has stalled, and the proportion of all abortions that are unsafe has increased. Restrictive abortion laws are not associated with lower abortion rates. Measures to reduce the incidence of unintended pregnancy and unsafe abortion, including investments in family planning services and safe abortion care, are crucial steps toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals. [underlining added, all other emphasis original]


So now the question is, what do you prefer: the high you get off of righteous indignation, or an actual reduction in the abortion rate?

I won't hold my breath.

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Friday, January 20, 2012

The Overton Window: Epilogue

Welcome back one and all to our ongoing series on The Overton Window, the book that makes doves cry. Last time Noah had the shit shocked out of him by vaguely-described torturers and his dad. What happens this week? We discover how it all comes out, and when I say "comes out" I mean it as in, "like poop from a butt".

As I mentioned I am once again selecting a comment of the week, and this week that "honor" goes to Ken for an appropriate, if very disturbing, reference to Atlas Shrugged:

"But, sucky or not, that's actually the end of the last chapter."

Maybe there is a G-d...

"So does this mean we're done? Fuck no! Because now we have a frigging Epilogue to deal with, followed by an afterword."

Then again...

In the Epilogue, Noah, Molly, and their three children (Eli, Beverly, and Khaled) are standing at a train station, when Noah looks up and feels (for the first time since Khaled was conceived) his dick getting hard. He grabs Molly, points down the platform, and says, "That's her! It's the legendary Dagny Taggart!!"

At which point Molly pushes him onto the tracks just as the train comes in.

Soundtrack: The final verse of Steve Goodman's "You Never Even Called Me By My Name."


I actually think that might have been a better epilogue than what we get. Scratch that, I know it would have been. Alas, that's not what actually happens, but it's good to dream. Nicely done, Ken, and keep it up, folks! Time is running out.

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.). Waffle frolic!


***********************************
Dramatis Personae: In an order determined by my fevered imagination.

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. Some kind of moronic double-agent.

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. Almost certainly dead from a nuclear blast.

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. Died pointlessly in a nuclear detonation.

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. Died pointlessly in a nuclear detonation.

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.

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

Epilogue: In which a much more interesting book almost begins, but doesn't.

Recommended Mood Music:




Page 285, Line 1-7:
A month to the day had passed since Noah had arrived in his new quarters.

The days in this place had started to meld into one another, so he'd resorted to noting each sunrise with a mark on one of the painted bricks in the wall near his bed. While actual calendars were available for residents of his moderate status, these private etchings seemd to be a more fitting method to keep a tally of his time inside.


Oh, just... man. How do we even untangle that? He's in some sort of confinement, but the authors are still obsessed with noting how Noah has more status than everyone around him. Before it was fancy apartments and cars, now it's calendars. And about those calendars- he can get one to keep track of days, but instead he chooses to act like an inmate in some sort of prison movie. So, basically, the characterization is telling us that Noah is the biggest, most immature poser imaginable. Lovely.


Page 285, Line 11-13:
Noah was familiar with the atmosphere of a dormitory, though he'd never actually had to live in one while in college. That was the style of accommodations this place most resembled.


Right, yes, we get it- Noah is from a rich family. So rich he never lived in a dorm. Whatever. Can we all just get past this, already? Alternatively, based on the business with the calendar, guys like Noah must be why schools have to do so much refurbishing from year to year- spoiled morons always etching calendars into their walls like they're in The Shawshank Redemption or something. Anyway, he blathers on for a while about how his facility has a sort of floor warden who is a guard without being called such and how he's been stuck out in this Montana facility while he's rehabilitated to help with his father's wacko cause. And as with everything else in his life, he sucks at that, too.


Page 286, Line 22-25:
Noah's original accomodations had actually been much nicer; a private suite on one of the upper floors- but his unsatisfactory performance in his first real work assignment had resulted in his lodgings being downgraded a notch.


Well, at least he's rising to the level of his incompetence, as it were. Apparently his job was to write an in-depth news piece detailing the evil conspiracy to nuke Las Vegas from the perspective of an "unwilling insider."


Page 286-287, Line 286: 31, 287: 1-5:
His first draft was rejected immediately; there'd been a consistent undertone in the text that seemed to paint the ringleaders, the Founders' Keepers, in a subtly but unacceptably positive light. His second try wasn't an improvement, it was even worse. The strange thing was, if only out of self-preservation, Noah had been trying hard to write what they wanted, but the stubborn truths just kept elbowing their way in.


Right, so, he's an advertising executive whose job it is to lie for a living who is, apparently, a bad liar. It is really a good thing for Noah that he's the boss' son, eh? Don't even get me started on that "stubborn truths" bit. It's true that Molly's group didn't plan the nuking. But, that said, they're still an extremist group that used manipulation, assault, and drugging to get what they wanted. They are, in fact, crazy. Even if you agree with their motives, they're still crazy.


Page 287, Line 6-11:
After an informal inquiry, this first glitch was chalked up to the lingering effects of the Stockholm syndrome, that passing mental condition through which hostages sometimes develop an odd sympathy for the cause of their captors. For the time being it was determined that, until he was better, Noah would be given less-demanding duties and an additional editor to watch over his work.


Look I, of all people, am forced to agree that giving Noah less-demanding duties is always a good idea. No matter how undemanding his duties, he's probably still in over his head. That said, given the course of events in this book, I think it's pretty likely that if they just got this moron laid- preferably by someone who resembles his mother- he'd be back to normal in a jiffy. Just sayin' is all. Anyway, he remembers how he was given the job of coming up with a name for the treasury bureau that would administer the next wave of bailouts for private industry. Needless to say, he fucks that up, too.


Page 287, Line 21-25:
This was the work of only a few seconds; Noah called it the Federal Resource Allocation & Underwriting Division. Nearly a truckload of boxes of letterhead and business cards had been printed before someone in production noticed a problem: The five-letter acronym for this new government bureau would be FRAUD. [emphasis original]


Ha! That wacky Noah Gardner, always screwing things up. Amazingly, his captors still don't believe that this was intentional- or maybe not so amazingly given the unbroken string of dumb that characterizes Noah's decisions- but they do decide to move him to less palatial quarters. So how does Noah explain these repeated lapses?


Page 287, Line 29-31:
Once you know the truth, Molly had said, then you've got to live it. What she'd apparently neglected to add was that you'll also tend to randomly tell it, whether it gets you into trouble or not. [emphasis original]


Right. So, in addition to stupid, Noah is also ridiculously undisciplined. Glad we straightened all that out. Whatever. Noah rolls around on his cot for a while, goes to the bathroom, and then goes back to sleep. Wait, sorry, I should mention that the authors specifically state that Noah left the bathroom "cleaner than he found it". So, apparently he took a dump and then stopped to tidy things up a bit. I don't know why this bit of information was at all relevant to us but, hey, there you go. It's a shared bathroom, so maybe the authors want us to know that Noah's companions in the dorm of dumb are messy? I have no idea why we would care, but, maybe. And then we get something that, frankly, is just horrific.


Page 289, Line 8-17:
There was no hard transition between consciousness and the beginning of his now-familiar dream.

Noah opened his eyes and looked around. He was in the small, warm family room of a rustic little cabin. Surrounding him were simple furnishings, hand-made quilts, and corner shelves of keepsakes and photographs. Unlike the mass-produced, impersonal flash of the world he'd left behind, the things here had been built and woven and carved and finished but skilled, loving hands, things made or given by friends and family, made to mean something, to be passed on, and to last through generations.


Okay, so he's dreaming about an episode of Grizzly Adams. Goodie?


Page 289, Line 18-24:
Snow fluttered down outside the wide windows, big flakes sticking and blowing past the frosted panes, an idyllic woodland scene framed in pleated curtains and knotty pine. He was sitting in front of a stone hearth. A pair of boots were drying there, with a space for another, smaller pair beside. A fire was burning low, a black dutch oven suspended above the coals, the smell of some wonderful meal cooking inside. Two plates and silver settings were arranged on a nearby dining table.


We all know where we are now, and how we're supposed to feel about it. It's amazingly, agonizingly hokey, but we get it. That said, I personally think that the whole scene is much funnier if we assume that the little and big pairs of boots belong to Noah and Hollis, respectively. Hey, I didn't create that subtext, people, it's right there in the book!


Page 289, Line 25-31:
A simple evening lay ahead. Though it might seem nearly identical to a hundred other nights he'd spent with her, he also knew it would be unlike any other, before or after. It always was; being with Molly, talking with her, listening to her, enjoying the quiet with her, feeling her close to him, thinking of the future with her. Every night was like a perfect first date, and every morning like the first exciting day of a whole new life together.


I'd make some comment about feeling this way about my wife, but it wouldn't really be accurate. We have a lot of wonderful, amazing times together, but we also get sick, and tired, and moody, and frustrated, and angry, and fight, and all the other things that real human beings feel and do. But loving someone and committing to them means that you forge a life together both when things are easy and every night is like a first date, but also when things are very hard. It's the hardship and pain that makes the joy so beautiful and I do not think we could be us without it. But, hey, whatever- Noah wants easy and fluffy. Anyway, Noah wakes suddenly to find a dude looking in through the window in his door. As it turns out, it's a guy named Nathan delivering dinner- which coincidentally means Noah was sleeping in the middle of the afternoon- who asks to come in. Once inside he fondles the television a bit and then turns the radio on, bumping the volume up enough to drown out noise from inside the room.


Page 291, Line 4-6:
"What is this-?" Noah began, and before he could finish that question he found himself pushed hard against the wall with a forearm pressed against his neck and the other man's face close to his.


You know, I really hadn't expected this book to contain any prison rape when I started. I wouldn't say I was sorry about that, but if it has to be here, it couldn't happen to a more deserving guy. Sadly, though, that's not what's about to happen.


Page 291, Line 7-14:
"You want to know what this is?" Nathan hissed. "It's a wake-up call. You're in a valuable position, my friend, and we need for you to snap out of it and start doing the work we need done." He adjusted his grip on Noah's collar, and continued. "Now, listen closely. Tomorrow, at your job, you sign into your computer right before you leave for the day, but you don't sign out. Here's a key." Noah felt something shoved roughly into his pocket. "You're going to leave it under the mouse pad on the desk two places down from yours, to your left. Got all that?"


Oh, man, seriously? After all that shit that Molly did to him, her "organization" thinks it can call on his loyalty?


Page 291, Line 15:
Noah nodded, as best he could.


Apparently, yes, it can. Whelp, there you have it! Anyway, Nathan leaves, telling Noah that he'll enjoy his desert, and Noah hastily cuts into the desert to look for a file or something. And indeed he finds something.


Page 292, Line 1-4:
It was Molly's silver bracelet.

He held it close to his eyes; maybe the words engraved there were a little more worn than they'd been before, but he would have remembered them even if they'd been gone completely.


That sounds cute until you realize that the words are more worn because whoever recovered this bracelet basically had to sand Molly's melted flash off of it. You know, since she was blown the fuck up by a nuclear weapon.


Page 292, Line 5-7:
She was alive. Whatever other message he'd been hoping for, whatever guidance he'd been seeking, this was better. Not just a plan, because a plan can be defeated. This was a foundation.


No, it's a bracelet. I thought we went over this already? And Molly is most certainly not alive. Or she shouldn't be but, alas, he then finds a note written in Molly's own handwriting.


Page 292, Line 12-13:
"We've everywhere. Stay with us; I'll see you soon. The fight starts tomorrow."


Honestly the only reason this line doesn't make me sick is because it also happens to be the last line of the damned narrative. Yes, folks, that's right: we have reached The End! And that end is basically foreshadowing for another book that might actually be somewhat entertaining. But, you know, probably not.

So where to from here? Well, next week we'll cover the authors' afterword, which leads into the endnotes that I've been adding in this whole time. After that, the following week we'll take stock of what we've learned and then the week after that will be an index for the series. And on that last day, we'll learn who won the "Best Comment" contest for this book and they can pick their fabulous prize, including but not limited to the option of receiving my very own annotated copy of The Overton Window in the mail! Yay!

So come back for another few weeks and help me put this fucker to bed.

See ya!

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Oh, man. Dembski is gonna love this one...

Exciting news about evolution: turns out, some things are easier to evolve than you might think!

When we think of life on Earth, most of us think of multicellular organisms, like large mammals or massive trees. But we're only aware of three groups of complex, multicellular organisms, which suggested it might be a major hurdle. Now, a new study describes how researchers evolved a multicellular form of yeast (the same species that contributes to bread and beer), and were able to see specialized cell behaviors and reproduction in as little as 60 days.


You'll have to read the article for the description of the method, which is quite clever, but the outcome is amazing:

But the clusters didn't simply keep growing indefinitely. Instead, the yeast quickly evolved a form of reproduction by splitting off what the authors call "propagules," or smaller clusters that break off and go on to develop on their own.

With more generations, this form of reproduction began to include specialized cell behavior. A small percentage of cells in the cluster would start committing suicide through a process called apoptosis. This death would allow the propagule to split off cleanly at the site of the dead cell, improving the efficiency of reproduction. Normally, there's no evolutionary advantage to a cell ending up dead but, since the cells in the propagule are genetically identical, this behavior can be selected for.


Just amazing stuff.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

I think you're missing the point, guys...

So, over the weekend I happened to take a look at the usual cesspool of villainy and discovered something that honestly made me laugh out loud a little. And, as usual, I just have to share:



Or, in plain text:

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day. A day to celebrate the peaceful life of a man committed to Jesus. Also, it's a day for liberals to play the race card.


Okay, now, I'll readily concede that Martin Luther King Jr.'s name gets pressed into service for a lot of political causes, many of which I rather doubt he would have approved of. Glenn Beck, for example, about whom we have recently been learning far too much, held a rally at the same location and on the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. So, for better or for ill, Reverend King has become the sort of national symbol that can be invoked in numerous contexts regardless of who the man was or what he thought. That being said, when we think of Martin Luther King Jr. what is it we think of? Do we think of his work as a Reverend in his church or do we think of the civil rights movement? My guess, is we think of the civil rights movement. We think of his work to liberate an oppressed racial group and while he was non-violent, I don't think that anyone with that level of commitment and determination is exactly peaceful. Simply put, thinking about race is unavoidable on MLK day and, arguably, it part of the point of the day.

But, hey, Conservapedia is the "trustworthy" encyclopedia, so whatever.

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Friday, January 13, 2012

The Overton Window: Chapter 47

Welcome back one and all to our ongoing series on The Overton Window, the book that is finally, finally drawing to a close. Last time Noah sat through one of his father's bizarre, internally contradictory monologues. What happens this week? Noah gets lit up like the fourth of July by a dude with a car battery and jumper cables. While his dad watches, no less. Classy.

As I mentioned I am once again selecting a comment of the week, and this week that "honor" goes to Jay for noting why Arthur Gardner fails super-villainy 101:

Arthur seems really short on vision.

The great thing about nukes, from a conspirator's perspective, is that they don't leave much physical evidence. When you see a twenty-mile-wide radioactive glass crater, there's no point in breaking out the fingerprint kit and the Luminol.

So, if it didn't destroy anything much, *say that it did*. Pretend that it destroyed the fileservers that control, say, Social Security checks, or DoD payroll, or the water supply for LA, or all of that and some other stuff. Give the system three months of chaos.

Arthur should be able to get plenty of impact out of this.


But then, this is really the story of the entire book: the villains just aren't that smart or villainous, the heroes just aren't that smart or virtuous, and the story just isn't that smart of entertaining. It's like the barely-competent are struggling to conquer the land of bland mediocrity, and that just doesn't make a good foundation for any kind of story telling. But, alas, that's what we have, so we just have to make the most of it, which in this case probably means "kindling". Well done, Jay, and keep at it folks: the pain is nearly at an end.

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.). Bzzzzzt!.


***********************************
Dramatis Personae: In an order determined by the authors, frankly.

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. Almost certainly dead from a nuclear blast.

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

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. Died pointlessly in a nuclear detonation.

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. Died pointlessly in a nuclear detonation.

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 47: In which Noah becomes a double agent or... something.

Recommended Mood Music:




Page 280, Line Plumb:

No quote, but when we pick back up the technicians are preparing Noah to have the shit shocked out of him. This mostly involves strapping him down so that he doesn't thrash and putting a rubber hose between his teeth. This is, of course, completely inadequate as electroconvulsive therapy can cause such powerful muscular contractions that you break your own bones, even when strapped down. For just this reason the use of such therapy is almost always accompanied by powerful muscle relaxants. So, basically, these dudes have no idea what they're doing and, as a result, may cause grievous injury or death to Noah. Just another example of how Noah's dad apparently doesn't know how to hire competent underlings.


Page 280, Line 6-11:
Even in a clinical setting, electroconvulsive therapy was far more an art than a science; the results were never fully known until the procedure was finished. The goals were different here, but their main purpose was plain: to destroy any remaining will to resist or evade, so the truth would be the only thing he'd be capable of speaking.


Yeah, but torture doesn't actually do that. It loosens the tongue, yes, but does not in and of itself guarantee that the truth is what comes out. No matter how many times you claim to the contrary- no matter how often the authors assert that torture=truth serum- it does not magically become true. I should point out, however, that (a) the only modern use of electroconvulsive therapy (i.e. ECT) is for relieving severe, intractable depression and (b) it's notorious for causing (sometimes severe) memory loss. So, really, if you want to interrogate a guy, it's about the last method you should adopt. This is particularly true if you're attaching the electrodes, as was described last time (Page 279, Line 3-6), to either temple so that the current runs laterally from one hemisphere to the other. To minimize memory loss, you need to run the current through only a single hemisphere at a time, usually from anterior to posterior. So, again, what the hell?


Page 280, Line 12-13:
For a long while his father sat silently next to the metal table as the technicians administered the voltage with a jeweler's precision.


Yeah. So, ECT? Not really a subtle methodology. That sentence makes about as much sense as "...applied the sledgehammer with a ballerina's grace". It makes a certain kind of sense, but only in a blindingly incongruous way.


Page 280, Line 16-17:
His [Noah's] mind, once his greatest, if least used, asset, was no longer under his control.


I can agree with the "least used" part, but "greatest"? Really? If that's his greatest asset.. yeah. Buddy, it's a good thing you're rich, because without pretty or smart, rich is really your only advantage. I don't even know what to do with that "no longer under his control" bit, given that throughout this book he's been thinking with his groin rather than his brain. Seems to me the brain has been under the control of a foreign power pretty much the entire time we've known him.


Page 281, Line 3-8:
All his defenses had left him hours before. In this state if he'd had any information to reveal he would have gladly offered it, but they were now probing for something much deeper than mere intelligence. Each time he thought there was nothing left, they found another fragile layer of his soul to peel away. In the end, when all he could see was darkness, whatever was left of him finally gave in and tried to surrender.


So, basically, they're shredding his episodic memory- which is probably not the most useful interrogation technique of all time but, hey, whatever. If nothing else, it's utterly revolting to watch the authors try to make torture appear grim (which it is) while simultaneously defending it as effective (which it is not). In any case, Arthur starts talking again and asserts that the results of this entire process have been "inconclusive", which is apparently a word he hates.


Page 281, Line 16-20:
"While you've given us nothing that implicates you in the treachery of the preceding days, you've also said nothing to exonerate yourself to my side of the conflict. A true believer or a traitor to the cause, either one of those I could at least respect. But you're weak, aren't you? And fatally so."


Okay, first off, yes, Noah is immensely weak when it comes to humans with bouncy protrusions on their chests. More importantly, however... is it just me or is Arthur basically asking Noah to prove a negative? While under torture, no less? Crap. And you thought your philosophy tests were tough. Anyway, Arthur has the guys start shocking the shit out of Noah some more.


Page 281, Line 29-32:
"Noah, I last told you this when you were only a boy, so I doubt you'll remember." His father had taken his position at the side of the table. "It's a rhyme I made up for you, in answer to some childish question you'd posed. I think it fitting in our present situation."


Seriously? He's watching his only child being tortured and he's going to quote poetry? What. The. Fuck?


Page 282, Line 3-9:
"'There are men who are weak and few who are strong / There are men who are right and more who are wrong / But of all the men huddled in all the world's hives / There's but one thing that's true: It's the fit who'll survive.' "

"Noah, the meek will not inherit the earth. A faint heart is as great a weakness as a feeble mind. It pains me to say it, but I'm afraid we've reached a parting of the ways."


Just, wow. The authors just can't resist trying to take a last shot at evolution, can they? Never mind that altruism has apparently evolved.


Page 282, Line 19-25:
The idea of dying wasn't nearly as frightening as he would have thought it would be. But somewhere he also knew that this wasn't how it was supposed to end. Molly had taught him the importance of living to fight another day. She hadn't been captured, she hadn't been killed. A spirit like that doesn't die so easily. He had no facts whatsoever to assure him of this, but he knew it. Maybe it was a bit of that faith that she'd spoken of.


No, it's stupidity and ignorance, because as we we all know Molly is currently a crispy critter. I don't care how much spirit she has- spirit don't stop nuclear blast damage. Anyway, Arthur backs away and tells the techs to kill Noah and then craft a story that reflects well on his family. Right, Arthur Gardner is going to trust his family name to the creativity of the mook running the jumper cables. That's totally freaking plausible. Regardless, Noah has a brainstorm and starts quoting that Kipling poem at Arthur- you know, the one from a bunch of chapters ago (Pages 132-133, Lines 132: 24-30, 133: 1-11)? This has an... interesting effect.


Page 283, Line 19-27:
Arthur Gardner's usually dispassionate face, so long accustomed to the denial of emotion, could not contain his surprise. He resumed his seat next to the table and motioned the others from the room.

The old man leaned close and squeezed his son's hand. Noah smiled as best he could and let his father believe what he surely thought he was seeing. "I knew it was in there somewhere," Arthur Gardner said. "We had to strip all of the other nonsense away, but there it is, from the root of your being; the essence of what I've taught you. I knew you couldn't forget, though I must admit that you had me concerned."


Um... huh? I mean, what?


Page 284, Line 1-2:
"The answer is a new vision, my [Arthur's] vision, and together we can make it a reality." [emphasis original]


Um... sure, but just what exactly is your vision, crazy old dude? I mean, we know it has something to do with a plutocracy but, beyond that, what the hell exactly is it that you want to happen? You've had more dialogue than almost anyone in this idiotic book, and yet we still don't know what's going on!


Page 284, Line 3-5:
Noah realized something else then, another thing that Molly had taught him: When you lie for a living, you sometimes can't see the truth even when it's staring you right in the face.


Doubtless the authors mean for us to interpret this in light of Noah's conversion to Molly's wack-tacular political philosophy. He lies for a living and could never see the truth until she showed it to him. Honestly, however, I think this makes more sense in light of Noah's persistent delusion that Molly is attracted to him, even loves him, despite her consistently horrid treatment of him. Seriously, folks, sometimes the truth goddamn hurts. Though probably not as bad as having jumper cables attached to your genitals.


Page 284, Line 7-9:
It was a matter of pride with Arthur Gardner that his heir should be involved in the transformation that was coming. His son, then, would do his best to prove the adage that pride comes before the fall.


Oh, bloody wonderful. Noah's going to turn himself into some sort of moronic double-agent for the TEA party? Are we seriously going to have to put up with this dipshit in a sequel? Please, unnamed technician: throw that sucker all the way up to "char-broil" and give him the juice before it's too late.


Page 284, Line 13-17:
Noah felt himself fading, and he spoke again, but scarcely at a whisper. These words were meant for different ears, and wherever Molly was, he knew for certain she would hear them.

"We have it in our power," Noah said, "to begin the world over again."


Oh, god, just barf! The delusional halfwit is ending with some idiotic defiant line? Just when you think this book can't suck any more, somehow it does.

But, sucky or not, that's actually the end of the last chapter. So does this mean we're done? Fuck no! Because now we have a frigging Epilogue to deal with, followed by an afterword. But then, THEN, ladies and gentlemen, this shitstorm will finally end.

So come back next time when we get to discover what happens to Noah after his electrifying time with his dad. Don't get too excited, though: it's about as exciting as you'd expect.

See you then.

Labels:

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Well, when you put it that way...


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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

That can't possibly be the best you're got to work with, can it?

So, I was over at the usual wretched hive of scum and villainy and happened to notice them crowing about something. And I mean, a lot:



Or, in plain human text- and bear with me, there are a lot of distinct headlines in that box:

The NFL Wildcard game won by Tim Tebow's Denver Broncos drew 42 million television viewers, the highest-rated Wild Card playoff game in 24 years. "According to Bloomberg, the brief overtime drew a 31.6 television rating." (continue reading below ...)

Pro-Christian Tim Tebow -- who would often play with the Bible verse "3:16" painted under his eyes -- completed 10 of 21 pass attempts in his stunning victory yesterday, meaning he passed for 31.6 yards per completion.

Evidence for God? During his college years at the University of Florida, Tim Tebow wore sun shadings with the number 3:16 on them, in reference to John 3:16. What are the odds of Tebow throwing 316 yards in his team's victory over the Steelers? 10,000 to 1? A million to one? Did God Himself make it happen?

ProFootballTalk declared: "If someone was writing this stuff into a Tim Tebow movie, they would have been fired by now because it all sounds too unbelievable." "Jesus observed, 'If you can believe; anything is possible to the believer.'" (Mark 9:23).

Are liberals worried that conservative Tim Tebow's stunning success for the Denver Broncos will make it more difficult for Obama to win the swing state of Colorado? Already CNN is omitting news of Tebow's success on its website's front page.

In one of the biggest upsets in playoff history, 9-point underdog Denver Broncos defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers in overtime. [12] Tim Tebow -- a runner-up for Conservative of the Year 2011 -- was the difference with his 80-yard pass for the winning touchdown. [emphasis original. Yes, seriously.]


Now, I don't actually care about football. I don't honestly care for any organized team sports, with the exception of baseball. I love baseball, but only when I can be in the stands. On TV, watching sports is right up there with watching dancing with the stars.* As such, I don't really know about, or care about, Tim Tebow. If I were going to care about a football player, it would probably have been Pat Tillman, who may have been an atheist** (however much some people want to deny that possibility) but was definitely an unusual and interesting young man who died too soon while trying to do something selfless. All that said, here's the thing: Tim Tebow is proof of god? Really? I mean, really? Is that the best you've got at this point? Screw the argument from design- I mean, it does suck after all- forget about the ontological arguments, which are pointless and stupid, no, we have something better: we have Tim Tebow throwing 316 yards worth of passes in a game! WOW! Why, if only I'd know about this sooner, there's no way I would have become an atheist!***

I just don't know what to say about how the Conservapeons advance their positions sometimes.



Just sayin' is all.


* And, as my wife can tell you, I am NOT a dancing with the stars fan.

** I don't actually know if he was, but honestly I don't think it matters. Atheist, agnostic, Christian, Buddhist, whatever- he was an interesting guy who was poorly used by his country.

*** Not actually true. In point of fact, absurdist arguments like this actually helped convert me to atheism faster.

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Friday, January 06, 2012

The Overton Window: Chapter 46

Welcome back one and all to our ongoing series on The Overton Window, the book that is only slightly more tightly-plotted than some of my daughter's board books. Last time Noah was tortured by some mysterious and nameless people for mysterious and nameless reasons. Oh, and the authors tried to justify the use of torture. What happens this week? Another crazy monologue from Noah's dad. You know, in case you weren't tired of them already.

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

"If Molly was going down, she would go down swinging and silent. Knowing that gave Noah the first bit of hope that he'd had in a long time."

"Swinging and silent" is how everyone likes their blowjobs, amirite?!


Maybe not everyone, but definitely Noah, it would seem. Then again, since he's been trying to get in Molly's panties since damned near the first chapter, perhaps at this point even the worst quality fellatio sounds pretty awesome. Well done, Sass, and keep it up everyone! Just a few chapters to go.

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


***********************************
Dramatis Personae: In an order determined by my annoying cats.

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. Almost certainly dead from a nuclear blast.

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. Died pointlessly in a nuclear detonation.

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. Died pointlessly in a nuclear detonation.

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 46: In which Arthur has a dramatic monologue and then reveals he's into incest bondage.

Recommended Mood Music:




Page 274, Line 1-6:
Noah had been savaged for many hours, of course, brought to the brink mentally and physically in his interrogation. No one would blame him if he didn't immediately recognize his visitor- the man was so rarely seen outside of his natural, elegant habitat. Yet, despite all of these mitigating factors, Noah knew instantly whom he was staring at because it was his own flesh and blood: the legendary Arthur Gardner.


Christ was that boring. I mean, by this point we've well and truly established that Arthur is the big bad for this story, so is anyone even slightly surprised to see him turn up here? I thought not. And isn't just a tad creepy that Noah's recognition of his own father sounds more like an MC introducing him for a roast than a tortured man catching sight of his own dad? Maybe not, given that it's hard to tell if the narration has any relationship to Noah's internal experience, but I'm really wondering if the authors have some serious daddy issues by this point. In any case, Arthur walks in, sits down on a stool, gives Noah some time to contemplate how this is to provide a psychological advantage over the tortured fuckwit still strapped to a table (i.e. Noah) and then begins speaking.


Page 275, Line 1-16:
"This woman you became involved with," Arthur Gardner began, "do you have any idea what she has cost us?"

"I don't know," Noah said. His voice was hoarse from lack of moisture , and from the suffering they'd already put him through. "Billions?"

The old man's fist came down on [Note: the text does not have a "the" here] edge of the table, hard enough to break a bone.

"She cost us impact!" he shouted, "It was to be a clean and spectacular event, a thing to be leveraged into a leap forward toward our new beginning. Instead it's become a complete debacle. We were left with an almost unnoticed explosion out in the empty desert that barely rattled a teacup in the nearest town. There aren't even any pictures- we've had to resort to artists conceptions and special effects. We'll be up all night trying to make a credible story of it all, to salvage the greatest effect we can. After all the years of preparation it was rushed forward, against my advice, due to the actions of this meaningless resistance. Which my son was somehow a part of." [emphasis original]


Okay, leaving aside that if my son had been tortured for a few hours, my first instinct would not be to make him listen to a dumb speech, it's quite obvious that Arthur has no idea what he's talking about. I mean, just think back over the "story" for a minute. Since the raid on the Stars 'n Stripes Saloon there has been no two-way contact between Danny and Molly. Anything she learned in her raid on Noah's workplace, she was unable to pass to Danny. What Danny learned, he really didn't pass to Molly. Yeah, he e-mailed her something vague about Las Vegas and "exigent", but she admitted to Noah that she had no idea what was going on. Moreover, Danny himself only found anything out, and was only involved at all, because Arthur's evil conspiracy pulled him into it. So, Molly hasn't cost Arthur anything. Indeed, she hasn't done anything except abuse Noah. And this is yet another major problem with this book- several of the main characters (i.e. Molly and Noah) don't actually have any role at all in determining the outcome of the plot. They're basically just along for the ride while Stuart and Danny bumble their way along to a plot resolution. And while Stuart and Danny do have some significant impact on how events unfold, it's too little, too late with them managing to lose control of their own nuke, get shot, and then killing themselves in a pointless gesture. In the entire goddamned book the only character who really does anything is Khaled, who eventually switched sides and teamed up with Jack Ryan to stop a group of renegade CIA agents from detonating a nuclear warhead in Tehran to provoke war between Iran and Pakistan to the advantage of an evil Neo-Nazi cabal in Saudi Arabia that wants a free hand to attack Israel on behalf of the Free Masons, who as we all know are just pawns of the Chinese Triad-based branch of the Illuminati. And all that took place in the Tom Clancy novel next door that Khaled was on his way to when Noah Gardner randomly jumped into his cab. Regardless, Noah observes that he didn't set out to be a total fuckup, Arthur acknowledges that this is true, rambles a bit, and then sets out to contradict himself.


Page 276, Line 6-14:
"Thankfully, there's already talk of suspending the presidential election. Though either candidate would have been equally useful in the aftermath, it will be a powerful bit of symbolism nevertheless. Many sweeping pieces of helpful legislation will be rushed through in the coming days with little or no debate, and those will be used to clamp down further on what remains of this Ross woman's pitiful movement. And naturally, a wholesale roundup is under way to ferret out all those connected with these backward revolutionaries, with full support of the media and the cowering public." [Arthur rasped]


"Now witness the firepower of this fully armed and operational battle station!" Okay, kidding aside, and with apologies to Palpatine who is a waaaay better villain than Arthur, this all contradicts what Arthur just got done saying. First he's all like, "Waah! Waah! Molly screwed up our whole plan! Nothing is going to happen!" and then he's all like, "But, fortunately, even so we're going to ram through tons of new legislation, round up lots of people, and suspend the presidential elections. Not postpone, mind you- SUSPEND! Muahahahahahaha!!!!" What the hell? The authors, and their character, are directly contradicting themselves within a page! It doesn't get much dumber than that. Anyway, Arthur makes a crack about Saul Alinsky being right about "the ends justify the means," which would be a lot more threatening if this weren't a variously debated point of philosophy stretching back to freaking Ovid (Exitus acta probat), and then takes a random swipe at evolution by repeating his whole social Darwinism schtick. He babbles on about how freedom is the exception, rather than the rule (1),* and then we run into a complete misunderstanding of history.


Page 277, Line 11-14:
"The United States should never have survived as long as it has, but all good things must come to an end. The system is broken beyond repair. It costs a billion dollars to run for president these days; Abraham Lincoln would never have lasted past the Iowa caucuses."


The what, now? The Iowa freaking caucuses? Good Lord, I think this man, the authors, or both, are actually stoopid. See, back when Abraham Lincoln was elected we didn't have the primary system as we know it now. We had parties, those parties had conventions, those conventions produced candidates, and those candidates ran in a race. Since the "reforms" that gave us primaries, we all get to directly pick our candidate, but that means that candidates essentially have to run multiple races to get one office. Of course it costs more! Not to mention the fact that there are more people now, so even if we assume that campaign technology hasn't improved in efficiency, it's going to cost more to get the same coverage. This entire crack about Lincoln is so dumb it's almost physically painful. But then, that's pretty much the case for the entire book. But, anyway, we're swinging in towards the big finish.


Page 277, Line 21-31:
"Whatever chance we have to take control of this world is in controlling who pulls the strings. Presidents, senators, governors- all of these come and go, but I and my peers have been here all along, raising them up and tearing them down. The real enduring powers in this world are older than any modern government, and it's past time that we put an end to these empty dreams of liberty. Now, we openly take the reins. Now, we'll give the people the government they've shown themselves to deserve. No one knows the people better than I do, and I know what they need. We'll give them a purpose: a simple, regimented, peaceful life with all the reasonable comforts, in service of something greater than any single, selfish nation."


Right, so, suddenly Arthur is sounding like Gargamel if Gargamel were obsessed with political systems rather than the Smurfs. It's hard to know what to say when a character jumps the shark to such a profound extent, especially when it's in comparison to their earlier still melodramatic performance. Yikes. And what's with that line about "controlling who pulls the strings"? If you control them, aren't you the one pulling the strings? Or do I somehow misunderstand the whole "pulling the strings" idiom? Anyway, Arthur talks about how he loved Noah's mom, and then decides to get all threatening and scary.


Page 278, Line 13-17:
"And as she lay dying, your mother told me that I should expect to see wonderful things from you, Noah. I've held on to that hope. But as I stood out there just now, watching outside this room for the preceding hour, I had to wonder if this was to be the end of my ambitions for you."


Right, so Noah's dad was watching him get tortured for an hour. Classy guy, eh? This makes me wonder about how last chapter the torturers cleaned him up before Arthur came in. At the time, it seemed like a move to hide what they were up to from their visitor. Alternatively, it could be seen as an effort to keep Noah from realizing that his dad was watching the whole time. And now it just seems like another example of awful writing. Woo-hoo?


Page 278, Line 19-27:
"Believe it or not, my boy, I won't live forever. There's much to do before I die; the outcome of my life's work is still very much in doubt, and I need help to see it through. I need your help."

"My wish has been that you would someday stand beside me as we bring forth this new world together. You have great gifts, Noah, but those gifts have been kept dormant by a trick of heredity. I know you've felt this conflict, and it must have been quite painful at times. You have your father's mind, but your mother's heart. Neither will permit the other to come to the fore." [emphasis original]


Man, I have seen this bit before and it was better the first time. Waaaaay better. So, unless Arthur is gonna chop Noah's hand off and offer to rule the galaxy together as father and son, this is just not going anywhere entertaining.


Page 278, Line 28:
"But it seems you may have been exposed to a disease...


Damnit, Molly!


Page 278, Line 28-31:
...in your thinking over the last few days. I'm familiar with this infection, and once it takes hold in a person I'm afraid it's shown itself to be quite incurable. It will be with you until you die, in other words."


Yeah. Needless to say, he's referring to Molly's way of thinking about the world, which I have to concede is a little diseased.


Page 279, Line 3-6:
The technicians had already begun their preparations. Now some brought heavy copper cables and electrodes and fastened these to various points on Noah's body with wraps of white tape. A cold dab of conductive gel was applied to his temple on one side, and then on the other.


Yeah, so this isn't looking like much fun. I have no idea what the intent is, unless Arthur just wants to torture the hell out of Noah. As for the temple electrodes... well, the thing is, if you pass a current across both hemispheres like that it dramatically increases the amount of memory loss you sustain from electroshock. So, basically, it looks like these guys just don't give a shit how much of Noah's "gifts" they fry away.


Page 279, Line 7-16:
"I'm here to save you, Noah," his father said, "one way or the other, and to preserve my legacy. One of two young men will leave this room with me. The first was taken hostage by this Ross woman and her terrorist militia, but he managed to escape and then bravely risked his life by standing in the road to prevent a group of policemen and federal agents from being killed in that terrible explosion in the desert. This man is a hero, and will carry on my work and be my eyes and ears in the field as our plans proceed."

"The other man played a part in a similar story, with one sad exception: This other man is dead."


Whelp, it was nice knowing you, Noah! Ah, that's a lie. It has at no point been even vaguely tolerable knowing this douchecanoe. Go ahead, Arthur! Shock him like it's going out of style!


Page 279, Line 18-19:
"And now," he said, "let's find out together, once and for all, if Noah Gardner is really his father's son."


This... really makes no sense at all. I mean, I can totally understand wanting to shock Noah. And it's not like we've ever had a main character do something useful in this book. But exactly how is shocking the crap out of Noah going to tell Arthur anything? In the world of faction is electroshock some sort of weird lie-detector, or what? I mean, seriously, what?

Alas, lie detector or not, that's the end of the chapter. Come back next time when we get to witness Noah being shocked and the authors make a desperate attempt at... I dunno, cleverness? Closure? A colon-derived plot twist? It's really hard to tell. But, regardless, it's gonna happen, so come on back.

Really! I'll get lonely otherwise.


* I'd just like to observe with no small amount of pleasure that the above is the last of the stupid fucking citations in this book. I am so excited by that, I can't even begin to explain. Needless to say, this also means we're very, VERY close to the end of the book, which makes my wife happier than I can easily describe.

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Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Please stand by...

I'm not dead. In fact, there'll be an Overton Window episode on Friday. I'm just dealing with... seasonal concerns.



Back soon!

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