Total Drek

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Thursday, September 03, 2009

Left Behind: Chapter 3, Part 2

Welcome back, boys and girls, to the next exciting marginally tolerable installment of Left Behind. Last time, as you may recall, we reached the terminal, watched some news, and thrilled as Rayford waited in lines and made a phone call. What will happen this week? Hard to say, but you can rest assured that it will move at an excruciatingly slow pace.

As always, it's time to award the comment of the week prize for the last installment. This time around it goes to Scripto for his vivid observations on the quality of writing in Left Behind:

Wow. I write like I'm retarded but even I couldn't improve upon the disjointed incoherence of this sentence. Well, maybe I would use "...feet, stockingedly clad, to the ground... instead. But it isn't even clear if his torso is still attached to his face during all these acrobatics. Beautiful.

Congratulations, Scripto!

And with that, let's get this dog and pony show on the road. 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.


Dramatis Personae

The same as before because it's just so easy to cut and paste...

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. Reader of marriage books.

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

Hattie Durham: Flight attendant. Toucher. Hottie. Hysterical female type. Girl power devotee.

Chris Smith: Airline co-pilot. Worked with Rayford Steele.

Chloe Steele: Daughter of Rayford Steele. Student at Stanford.

Chaim Rosenzweig: Israeli chemist. Kinda freaky. Friend of Buck's.


Page 50- Line Scrumptious:

No quote because I want to clue you in to something that's been building for a while: now that Rayford knows his wife has been stolen away by Jesus, he's been dropping random negative remarks about Hattie. Things will start coming to a head soon and become ever more fucked up than they were before.

Page 51- Line 1-3:
That frustrated him [Rayford] about people her [Hattie's] age. They enjoyed a volleying conversation game. He liked to get to the point.

Sorry, grampa! All joking aside, the authors make it clear that they hate the young as the book continues so you may as well prepare yourselves.

Page 51- Line 5-9:

No quote, but they've arrived on the roof of the airport terminal and are approaching the waiting helicopter. The pilot doesn't want to take them both until Rayford acts the assertive male...

Page 51- Line 9-14:
Rayford grabbed her [Hattie's] elbow and pulled her aboard as he climbed in. "Only way she's not coming is if you can't handle the weight."

"What do you weigh, doll?" the pilot said.

"One-fifteen!" [Hattie replied]

"I can handle the weight," he told Rayford.

Hell, at one-fifteen I don't know why she doesn't wait for a strong wind to blow her home. Actually, let's break this down a little more rigorously: what does this weight tell us about Hattie? Well, if we use the equations for finding the Body Mass Index (BMI) we can estimate her height by assuming that she is within the "healthy" range defined by the World Health Organization. I mean, our good Christian authors wouldn't hold her to an unrealistic and unhealthy beauty standard, right? In any case, the W.H.O. defines a BMI range from 18.5 to 25 as "normal," with values outside as underweight to varying degrees or overweight to varying degrees. If we assume that Hattie has a normal BMI then her height has to range between about 4' 9" and 5' 6". Average female height for white Americans aged 20-39 is roughly 5' 5". If we use this height for Hattie, her BMI is about 19.13, or just inside the normal range. We're never told for sure how tall Hattie is, but in a later book Rayford observes that Hattie is, "Young, tall, curvy, blond, gorgeous," (The Rapture, pg. 27). Technically, one inch over the average could be described as "tall" but if we assume the authors meant more like 5'8" or 5'9" then Hattie is in the underweight BMI category. On another note: "doll"? Last episode we were stuck in the nineteenth century, now we're in a bad gangster movie from the roaring twenties. What. The. Fuck.

Page 51- Line 17-22
He [Rayford] buckled himself in and Hattie sat on his lap. He wrapped his arms around her waist and clasped his wrists together. He thought how ironic it was that he had been dreaming of this for weeks, and now there was no joy, no excitement in it, nothing sensual whatever. He was miserable. Glad to help her out, but miserable.

See, folks? If you even contemplate cheating on your wife, Jesus will immediately initiate the rapture to teach you a lesson. Or... you know... something. I'm not good at this moral lesson crap. It really just seems to me that Rayford is on his way to being a disagreeable, moralistic asshole and that having a girl sit on your lap in a crowded helicopter during a major crisis is unlikely to be arousing to anybody over eighteen.

Page 52- Line Oregano:

No transcription, but Rayford has a conversation with Hattie and some of the other helicopter passengers that makes it clear that Chris, his co-pilot, committed suicide in the airport terminal. My scrawled comment in the margin reads, "But why?" Fortunately, we get an answer on the very next page...

Page 52- Line 2-4:
"Don't know how reliable this is, but the rumor is he found out his boys had disappeared and his wife was killed in a wreck!" [commented the helicopter pilot]

Okay, so that is apparently why. I have to be honest, though: it seems like a bit of a rash decision given that nobody knows what's happened to the disappeared yet. Well, that and mistakes get made all the time. Still, it's not half as fucked up as what comes next:

Page 53- Line 5-6:
For the first time the enormity of the situation became personal for Rayford.

Dude, your wife is gone. Let me say that again: YOUR WIFE IS GONE! And what makes this personal is when something happens to your co-pilot who barely got any lines in his two chapters of life? Bad writing or a horribly insulting statement about how non-Christians feel about their spouses: you make the call!

Page 52- Line 19-21:
And why did he [Rayford] care about her [Hattie]? She was beautiful and sexy and smart, but only for her age.

"...but only for her age"? What the hell is that supposed to mean? Make yourself comfortable with the commentary about how young people suck, there's more on the way. Honestly, the way this book is written makes me think that the authors like to drink metamucil on their back porch while they yell at the squirrels.

Page 55- Line Electric Boogaloo:

Aaaaand we're back with Buck, who has managed to get access to those "hot" e-mails he downloaded on the plane. He has two e-mails from his boss, Steve Plank. The first one is a general message to the "Global Weekly" staff to not try to reach New York as things are too nuts. It also includes a line that's just too awesome to believe...

Page 55- Line 20-21:
Just a note: Begin thinking about the causes. Military? Cosmic? Scientific? Spiritual?

Gotta love the options. I have to be honest, I have absolutely no idea what a "cosmic" cause would be. If he means "space-based," well, that would seem to be covered under "scientific". Not to mention that I really doubt anyone would have to be told to start thinking about the causes. I mean, hell, if a bunch of people up and disappeared I'd just be thinking about lunch. Good thing we have Steve Plank around to keep us on our toes! In any case, following that scorcher of a message Buck opens a second message from Plank that is intended just for Buck. Sadly, it isn't a love note. It is a lengthy missive ordering Buck to return to New York by any means necessary. Then Plank launches into a lengthy passage that reminds me of many a conspiracy theory website.

Page 56- Line 10-17:
Sometimes I think because of the position I'm in, I'm the only one who knows these things; but three different department editors have turned in story ideas on various international groups meeting in New York this month. Political editor wants to cover a Jewish Nationalist conference in Manhattan that has something to do with a new world order government.

And here we go, conspiracy theory time. First up, nationalist Jews who want to build a world government. Now, obviously a world government is a bad thing because it would presumably keep us from killing each other and, you know, god would hate that. I have no idea why anyone would think that nationalists from any particular ethnicity would love a world government but, hey, whatever. It ain't my paranoid theology. I'm going to skip quoting the bit about the second Jewish group, but it's reputedly a bunch of Orthodox Jews who want to rebuild "the temple." Never mind that doing so would involve demolishing the Dome of the Rock which, I think, would start some serious shit in the middle east.

Page 57- Line 2-7:
The other religious conference in town is among leaders of all the major religions, from the standard ones to the New Agers, also talking about a one-world religious order. They ought to get together with the Jewish Nationalists, huh?

And, yes, you read that correctly: we're going to have a conference in New York that unifies all religions everywhere in the world. Because, you know, that's really the way it works. Honestly, this last bit just blows me away: I'm not even religious, and even I think this is absolutely absurd. Anyway, this is the outline of the authors "end of the world" bit where we all agree to live under one government, worship under one faith, use one money (sorry, omitted that part because the dialog is too insipid even for me), and sing showtunes around the campfire. And we put it all together basically instantly. How is this possible, you ask? Well, I'll tell you with foreshadowing...

Page 57- Line 18-20:
Everybody's pretty enamored with this Carpathia guy from Romania who so impressed your friend Rosenzweig.

Okay, ladies and gentlemen, you have just offically encountered your first reference to the Antichrist, Nicolae Carpathia. I'm not giving anything away by telling you that because the foreshadowing is so thick it was effectively piled on with a backhoe. It's hard to know what to say about Carpathia at this point, particularly since every scrap of potential the character had will be squandered by the end of the first book. So, the most interesting potential character becomes little more than a comic book villain twirling his mustache and cackling menacingly in a black hat. I'll leave all that for later. Right now, I will simply make an observation about Carpathia: according to the first prequel to the Left Behind books, Carpathia's fathers are two homosexual men who have their sperm fused together into a "hybrid sperm" so that they can impregnate one of their wives together. Let me say that again: in this work of conservative Christian fiction, the Antichrist is fathered by a gay couple. And the really amazing thing? That is quite possibly the MOST subtle message this book ever sends. Three guesses what that message is but- and this is a hint- I doubt it is, "Wow, we should really let gay people adopt"! Set your astonishment aside for a moment and attend as Steve Plank finishes up by speculating on what's going to happen next with the world's disappeared.

Page 58- Line 1-2:
If I had to guess, I'm anticipating some God-awful ransom demand.

Yeah. Exactly. Someone teleported a shitload of naked people from all over the planet because they want a ransom. That makes sense. Why not teleport, you know, the money itself and skip the middle step? Can't teleport anything but naked people for some crazy fucking reason? No problem! Start a goddamn personal transport company! I think I'd be willing to borrow a suit if I could get to Tokyo and back in a day. No, Steve Plank, there will be no ransom, and you're a friggin idiot besides.

And with that, dear readers, we conclude Chapter Three. Tune in next time for Chapter Four when the authors start to say really mean things.




Blogger Ken Houghton said...

"See, folks? If you even contemplate cheating on your wife, Jesus will immediately initiate the rapture to teach you a lesson."

If it were that easy to initiate The Rapture, my wife would be actively pointing out potential adulterees so that we could get rid of the Raptured and have national health care.

Thursday, September 03, 2009 10:45:00 AM  
Blogger scripto said...

Thank you. I aim to win your annotated edition. That is first prize, isn't it? (Second prize is two copies - badda boom)

"They enjoyed a volleying conversation game."
When I was a young man there was nothing I liked better than a brisk volleying conversation. Quite refreshing, I must say. As long as I showered afterwards.

"He thought how ironic it was that he had been dreaming of this for weeks, and now there was no joy, no excitement in it, nothing sensual whatever."
Out of Cialis and not a bathtub in sight.

"...and that having a girl sit on your lap in a crowded helicopter during a major crisis is unlikely to be arousing to anybody over eighteen."
Wrong. I think it has something to do with the rotors.

" First up, nationalist Jews who want to build a world government."
You mean like that Weiner guy?

Thursday, September 03, 2009 11:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to be honest Drek, I'm finding the Left Behind commentary even more inspired and amusing than the Conservepdia tirades.

I picked the book up long ago in an attempt to understand the phenomena and quickly put it down after comprehending how terrifyingly bad the prose was. By reading your commentary, I've learned about three times as much of the story as I've managed to get through on my own.

That's what I call a public service. Well done Drek.

Thursday, September 03, 2009 11:31:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, remind me again when this was published. For some reason I am thinking late '80's early '90's.

Assuming I'm right, why on Earth did they pick Romania? How can they possibly even imagine that someone from a (post-)Soviet republic would become leader of the Free from Christians World?

If you want him to be a (former) communist, at least pick a country where the guy could possibly accumulate some real power and/or attention. (Former) East Germany, Poland, and Russia itself would all have been more reasonable picks. Even Ukraine would make more sense than Romania.

Nothing against Romania. If I make it to Europe, it's on the list of countries I would like to visit.

But, if I'm Satan and I want to put a guy on Earth to take over the world, I'm not picking Romania as the place to send him is all I'm saying.


Friday, September 04, 2009 7:57:00 PM  

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