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.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Left Behind: Chapter 2, Part 2

Welcome, girls and boys, to another thrilling installment of Left Behind, the book that will leave you feeling like God would be the least interesting houseguest ever.

Last time, as you may recall, we continued to get hot and bothered about the rapture, discovered that Rayford has quite the way with a radio, and that Buck is apparently so good with microelectronics that he can effectively do the impossible. What will happen this week? Who knows? More importantly, who cares?

As always, I'm picking someone from the last installment as my favorite comment. This "lucky" winner is Rybear, who remarked:

How come Rayford never entertains the idea that he is dead?

I mean, being stuck on a sausage-fest of a 747 and fighting over one woman for all eternity sounds like hell to me.

You say hell, I say the next "reality" dating show. In any case, a distinction without a difference. Congratulations, Rybear, and good luck to all of you! Keep those commenting fingers limber!

And now, on with the show. As always, page and line numbers are in bold, quotes from the book are in block quotes, and my commentary is in plain print. And you can navigate around the series using the handy tag.


Dramatis Personae

In the same order as the last two times, because I'm crushingly lazy...

Rayford Steele: Airline captain. Husband of Irene Steele. Possible former gay porn star. Ditherer.

Irene Steele: Wife of Rayford Steele. Born-again Christian. Not perfect, just forgiven.

Cameron "Buck" Williams: Reporter. Known for "bucking tradition and authority." Terrible Excellent writer. Spiritually attuned. Electronics wiz.

Hattie Durham: Flight attendant. Toucher. Hottie. Hysterical female type.


Page 32- Line Pick Whichever:

I'm not going to transcribe most of it because it's so long and insipid, but on this page Hattie discovers Buck attempting to rewire printed circuits with pliers and becomes properly upset about the whole thing. You know how airlines are, always getting sticky when random passengers decide to work on the plane's electronics in mid-air. Never mind that trying to modify printed circuits with pliers is a bit like trying to cut a diamond with a battering ram. Regardless, Buck knows exactly how to placate her...

Page 32- Line 10-12:
He [Buck] glanced at her name tag. "Listen, beautiful Hattie, are we or are we not looking at the end of the world as we know it?"

"Don't patronize me, sir. I can't let you sit here and vandalize airline proprty." [Hattie replied]

"I'm not vandalizing it. I'm adapting it in an emergency. With this I can hopefully make a connection where nothing else will work." [Buck argued]

Okay, first, note that while he denied vandalizing the phone, he didn't deny patronizing her. This is more or less how women are usually treated in this book. It should seem familiar since it's more or less how the authors treat the readers. So, hey, Hattie should just get out of the way and let Buck do the impossible. He is a man, after all. Second, I admit I'm very divided on Buck's claim that his approach might be the best way to get through. In radio it is true that you can often get a message through only if you don't use voice communication (e.g. morse code, packet radio). This is simply because voice sucks up a lot of bandwidth relative to the alternatives, so you can punch through a message in a more efficient format even when atmospheric conditions make voice impossible. This isn't the problem here, though. The problem is that too many people are trying to make calls at once and that is jamming the switches. Now, if Buck means that once he gets messages into the internet, they'll route around downed areas and be more likely to make it all the way to their destination, he's probably right. On the other hand, the authors seem to be implying that there's something about a modem that makes it more likely to get a phone line in the first place. This is not right. In any case, this conversation drags on for another page, during which Buck bribes Hattie with the promise of news about her family if he can get his connection working. Also, at the bottom of page 32 I scrawled the note, "Man, this dialogue is terrible." I have a gift for understatement.

Page 34- Line 2-8:
"Hattie, you're doing the right thing," he [Buck] said. "It's OK in a situation like this to think of yourself a little. That's what I'm doing."

"But everybody's in the same boat, sir. And I have responsibilities."

"You have to admit, when people disappear, some rules go out the window."

I'm not sure how to feel about this bit. On the one hand, Buck is technically correct- it is acceptable to think of yourself to a degree and, indeed, unexpected changes may require that we be flexible about customs and rules. On the other hand, Hattie is correct about the inherent unfairness of her allowing Buck to continue so that she, but not everyone else, can learn about her own family. And on the gripping hand, I'm all too aware that the authors are probably trying to send a message about how selfish non-Christians are with their situational ethics. Never mind that non-Christian does not equal amoral or unethical in any sense. I'm not going to get bogged down in a discussion about absolute morality, but I do wonder if the authors, when writing this book, were wearing clothing made from mixed fibers. I'm just sayin' is all.

Page 34- Line 13-16:
He [Rayford] complimented everyone on remaining calm and avoiding hysterics, although he had received reports of doctors on board who handed out Valium like candy.

Is it common for doctors to travel with large supplies of valium? Why? And, yeah, we're back with Rayford now. He muses, following the above, about how many of his passengers who hadn't had family disappear might still come home to discover loved ones who were killed in the ensuing chaos. Picture a giant ass SUV driven by a Quiverfull mother who was taken in the rapture. That now driverless SUV could do a lot of damage to that little Prius coming the other way, you know? Stupid liberals- trying to save the Earth! I also have a scrawled note in the margin reading, "Keep in mind that anyone who died as a result of the rapture is going straight to hell." Sounds perfectly merciful to me!

Page 35- Line 13-14:
It was not Rayford's practice to communicate with ground control until after he landed...

This sounds more frightening than it is as ground control usually isn't responsible for the runways, but only for the rest of the tarmac. So, in other words, you could get away with not talking to GC until air-traffic control lands your ass. That said, it still makes Rayford sound like an arrogant prick.

Page 36- 13-19:
With an acumen he didn't realize he possessed, Buck speed-tapped the keys that retrieved and filed all his messages, downloaded them, and backed him out of the linkup in seconds. Just when his machine might have interfered with flight communications, he was off-line and would have to wait to search his files for news from friends, coworkers, relatives, anyone.

What a man! He can hit that little "Send/Receive Mail" button in Outlook! I feel a swoon coming on. Yes, folks, that's right: the authors are treating retrieving e-mail like it's an exciting event. Shit, if they like that, I bet a spreadsheet is like porn to them. "Ooh, baby, yeah! Recalculate those totals! Nobody amortizes like you do!"

Page 37- Line 7-10:
"Sir, we lost every child and baby on this plane." [Hattie sobbed]

"How many were there?" [Buck asked]

"More than a dozen. But all of them! Not one was left."

Ahoy there, sentence fragments! Leaving that aside, this is the first part of the authors' attempt to deal with a nasty theological issue: what happens to children when the rapture hits? Well, as it turns out, they all get zapped away to heaven so that they can be with Jesus instead of suffering through the upcoming shit-storm. This raises the obvious question of how old you have to be before you're responsible for accepting Jesus into your blood pumping organ. Eh, that will be addressed later but, ironically, will introduce more difficult theological issues than the answer solves. Interestingly enough, it also raises the issue of human fertility. So during the rapture god zaps away all the infants and small kids because they're innocent and shouldn't have to suffer. Fair enough, but the thing is, wouldn't it also make sense to render humans infertile so that we wouldn't then just have more infants and small kids who would then suffer? Why, of course it would! Is that what god does? Oh, fuck no! As it turns out, people can and do have kids after the rapture. Have fun trying to make that make sense, I've given up.

Page 37- Line Orange:

We're at the end of the chapter and I'd like to take a moment to comment on something: why a plane? See, what I mean is, with all the chaos that is supposedly occurring around the world, why did the authors choose to open the book- and spend multiple chapters dwelling on- an environment that is so orderly and antiseptic that it effectively vacuums the excitement out of almost any scenario? I mean, we could have had the book open with a pedestrian who suddenly has to dodge now-driverless out-of-control cars. We could have opened in an emergency room, where doctors and/or nurses suddenly vanished in the middle of procedures and the survivors had to struggle to hang onto things. Hell, if the authors had really wanted to have a pilot as a main character, we could have had Rayford Steele, hotshot airline pilot, dodging runaway cars on the freeway while driving to work. But no. Instead, we get an absurdly dull setting and have to suffer through chapters of characters telling us about horrible chaos, but without any horrible chaos actually appearing on stage. It's a little like having your friend describe a disaster movie to you via instant messenger. As it turns out, I do know why the authors chose to do things this way. See, it's all because of a personal experience had by author Tim LaHaye:

As LaHaye tells the story, one day, about 1994, he was sitting on an airplane, watching a married pilot flirting with a flight attendant, and it hit him: What would befall the sinful pilot if the Rapture happened now? What if, as LaHaye believes the Bible foretells, God suddenly snatches up to heaven all of the believers in Jesus? And that is how Left Behind starts.

So, Left Behind starts on an airliner because LaHaye basically decided that the best way to start his epic was by fictionalizing an anecdote. And this is a problem, because while the anecdote might have been the inspiration for the book series it is, nevertheless, the sort of random musing that pops into your head when you're bored on a jetliner. That it was used at all suggests to me that the authors lack the discipline required to produce a convincing narrative. Well, that and the text of the rest of the book.

And that basically concludes this episode of Left Behind. Yes, I know it seemed short, but that takes us to the end of the chapter and, in any case, I'm trying to prepare for the resumption of the academic year. Give a guy a break.

Tune in next time when Rayford and the others go on an exciting journey to the airport terminal. Remember: The red zone is for loading and unloading only!



Blogger Mister Troll said...

The Health & Safety implications of the Rapture are staggering (as you pointed out). So why aren't companies required to sell products that are RaptureReady?

(I'd call these dead-man's switches, but that doesn't quite seem to be the right phrase...)

For example, a simple sensor in the driver's seat of an automobile would suffice. No driver, and the car automatically slows down. Obviously that wouldn't prevent ALL post-Rapture vehicular accidents, but it's a good start.

Airplanes are a wee bit trickier. Something similar, perhaps, which keeps the plane at level flight above some relevant altitude. Hook it into the collision warning system, and that should give people enough time to try to remember the relevant instructions in the pre-flight safety video.

It's a simple question of due diligence.

I would, of course, check the google to see if some entrepreneurial types already sell RaptureReady products of some kind... but I'm too afraid of what I might find out...

Friday, August 21, 2009 9:36:00 AM  
Blogger scripto said...

"Hattie, you're doing the right thing," he [Buck] said.
Only do it a little faster.

"It's OK in a situation like this to think of yourself a little."
Now move a little to your left. Yeah, that's right.

"That's what I'm doing."
I'm speed tappin'

"But everybody's in the same boat, sir.
It's a plane, Hattie - puh-lane. P-l-a-n-e. plane.

"Don't patronize me, sir."
It's patronize, Hattie. Pay-tronize.

Friday, August 21, 2009 1:48:00 PM  
Blogger Drek said...

I think I'd say the reason why products aren't "required" to be rapture-ready is because the whole notion is just so damned silly. There's also the issue that the rapture interpretation of the bible originates from the early nineteenth century, so most Christian denominations agree with me on that point.

That having been said, there have been persistent (incorrect) rumors that two Christians* cannot be pilot and co-pilot of the same plane. The idea, obviously, is that if both were raptured at once the plane would crash. Sure. And if both pilot and co-pilot were beamed aboard an alien ship at the same time the plane would also crash, so better make sure all flight crews wear aluminum foil hats.

More amusingly to me, some folks have been trying to turn a buck off of the rapture myth by offering post-rapture pet care. In other words, you pay me now, and I'll take care of your pet when Jesus claims you. So far, the business is all profit. And while I wouldn't call this a business, there is always rapture letters, an online service that will send a free e-mail to your loved ones when the rapture strikes. One would think we'd notice the sudden absence of an entire category of people but, hey, I guess an e-mail never hurts...

* Note here that I'm using "Christian" in the same way that some evangelicals use the term. That is to say, if you don't believe in exactly what we do, you're not Christian. Deciding who is or is not truly Christian is about as interesting to me, personally, as arguing about the size of the angel population presently enjoying a dance club on the head of a pin. In other words, if you don't like that definition, don't argue with me about it.

Friday, August 21, 2009 1:52:00 PM  
Blogger JLT said...

This raises the obvious question of how old you have to be before you're responsible for accepting Jesus into your blood pumping organ.

What happens to embryos and fetuses? Raptured or not?

Up until two weeks after implantation they don't even HAVE a blood pumping organ (not to mention a brain) Mini-Jesus could live in.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009 6:25:00 AM  
Blogger Drek said...


Fetuses definitely go in the rapture- the authors specifically comment on that. Embryos are not mentioned but the implication is pretty strong that these guys are in the "human at conception" camp.

For me, the issue is what would happen to these entities in heaven? I mean, they haven't had any life experiences yet. Do they get shaped into an adult form by god, in which case they have no free will, or do they just remain... you know... fetuses and embryos? Because eternity as a blastocyst seems a tad pointless.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009 10:50:00 AM  
Blogger JLT said...

Actually, I think eternity in heaven is pointless in any form. I mean, what do you do the whole time especially if most of the fun activities are probably forbidden (sex, drugs & rock'n'roll) or not possible (e.g. can you play computer games in heaven? I guess ego shooter are out of the question.)?

Sitting on a cloud twiddling thumbs for eternity sounds like hell to me.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009 4:15:00 AM  
Blogger Drek said...


Yeah, I've had that thought before as well. Theists have, from time to time, asked me what the point of life is if at the end we just disappear. The thing is, I don't really understand how living forever gives life meaning either. Don't get me wrong, I have no interest in dying just at the moment, but my existence isn't any more dignified simply because it is longer or shorter than someone else's.

And in truth, hanging around for all eternity raving about how awesome god is just doesn't sound like a good time. Guess that's why we have hell- to make even heaven sound like a good option.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009 8:57:00 AM  

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