Total Drek

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Thursday, October 08, 2009

Left Behind: Chapter 6, Part 1

Well, here we are again for another "exciting" episode of our regular series on Left Behind, the book that makes you regret your own literacy. Last time, as you may recall, we finished chapter five and discovered that Buck seems to know a lot of people who got raptured. What's in store for us this week? Hard to say, but it probably involves guilt.

As always, we have a comment of the week. This time it goes to Warbler who came out of left field with this brilliant analogy:

If this is evangelical porn, it's the worst porn of all time.

Here's the analog to regular porn: The "pizza delivery guy" (Dick Dickerson) is driving back to Dominos from the house of "woman home alone" (Penny Hooker) and realizes he forgot to collect the 14 bucks. He wonders if it would have been wrong if he'd asked for it. He changes the radio to a classic rock channel: WROQ - Springfield's Best Rock. The news was on. There had been an accident on the interstate. Near 3rd and Jackson, by the Hardees. He would have to drive home taking the cross town tunnel and catch Hwy 4 by Brandt Park, where they had just repaved the tennis courts. He phones his boss, Weed Potter, but nobody answers. "Hm. That's funny" Dick thinks to himself. "Probably out 'toking grass.' I guess I'll pay for the pizza. Maybe I'll masturbate when I get home. I hope I don't have an STD!"...


Bravo, Warbler! Indeed, as I read your script I found myself eerily reminded of Left Behind, with the possible exception that in your script there was at least the outside chance of something interesting happening. Maybe. And an honorable mention to scripto's contribution, which was in the same vein as Warbler's if not quite so elaborate.

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.


Dramatis Personae

In an order dictated by the bible code. Go ahead, just try to prove that it isn't!

Rayford Steele: Airline captain. Husband of Irene Steele. Possible former gay porn star. Ditherer. No longer attracted to Hattie. Bad father. Cries a lot.

Irene Steele: Wife of Rayford Steele. Born-again Christian. Not perfect, just forgiven. Reader of marriage books. Cleans obsessively. Likes egg in her coffee. Bakes really silly cookies. Likes butter churns.

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

Hattie Durham: Flight attendant. Toucher. Hottie. Hysterical female type. Girl power devotee. Unhealthily thin. Twenty-seven years old. Blonde.

Chris Smith: Airline co-pilot. Worked with Rayford Steele. Father of two. Husband. Killed himself.

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

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

Steve Plank: Buck's boss at Global Weekly. Not the sharpest tool in the shed.

Nicolae Carpathia: Businessman. Romanian Senator. Romanian President. Antichrist. Favors arms reductions.

Raymie Steele: Son of Rayford Steele. Taken in the rapture.

Dirk Burton: English guy Buck knows. Graduated from Princeton. Kinda gullible.

Joshua Todd-Cothran: English finance guy.

Jonathon Stonagal: American ultra-rich dude. Involved in international monetary cabal.

Marge Potter: Steve Planck's secretary. Matronly.

Lucinda Washington: Fiftyish black woman. Raptured.


Chapter 6: In which Saint Irene gets more saintly, we get a LOT of preaching from Ray, Buck gets a hotel, and I want to kill myself.

Page 97- Line 1-3:
It had been ages since Rayford Steele had been drunk. Irene had never been much of a drinker, and she had become a teetotaler during the last few years.

Ooooohhhhhh! So Irene was a Muslim! Why didn't I figure this out before? On an unrelated note: I also don't drink. Can I haz rapture, too?

Page 97- Line 3-6:
She [Irene] insisted he [Rayford] hide any hard stuff if he had to have it in the house at all. She didn't want Raymie even knowing his daddy still drank.

Excellent! A strong family built on lies and deceit. Good to see some people still honor the old traditions! Anyway, Rayford countered Irene with the obvious argument that she wanted him to be dishonest. She asserts that it's just being prudent and he asks how that matches up with her insistence that they all be totally truthful.

Page 97- Line 12-15:
"Telling the whole truth doesn't always mean telling everything you know. You tell your crew you're taking a bathroom break, but you don't go into detail about what you're doing in there, do you?" [Irene asked]

Well, sure, but what does he have to hide? He's not like Buck who goes into the bathroom to "check his inventory." Leaving aside the fact that nobody has any interest in whether or not Rayford dropped the deuce on his last flight, this is basically a textbook justification for what we like to call "lying by omission." And you know what? Tarting it up with weak justifications doesn't make it any more palatable. Now that I think about it, this may also explain some of the crap we see on Conservapedia. Apparently it's not lying if you focus on one tiny detail that seemingly supports you and ignore the gigantic ocean of material that contradicts you. Not that anyone would ever do this aside from Schlafly, mind you.

Page 98- Line 3:
He [Rayford] had found her point hard to argue...

Yes, well, that's because Rayford is stupid.

Page 98- Line 19-27:
He [Rayford] was already getting a buzz when he replaced the bottle, then thought better of it. He slipped it into the garbage under the sink. Would this be a nice memorial to Irene, giving up even the occasional hard drink? There would be no benefit to Raymie now, but he didn't feel right about drinking alone anyway. Did he have the capacity to become a closet drunk? Who doesn't he wondered. Regardless, he wasn't going to cash in his maturity because of what had happened. [emphasis original]

Wow. You know, I don't drink, have never really been a drinker, and generally find drinking to be silly, but even I don't think it's "cashing in your maturity" to maybe get good and blasted if your wife and son essentially die on the same day. Fuck, honestly, I might be a little worried if you didn't. And as a side note to my wife: honey, if I die unexpectedly, please don't let my memorial be a half-consumed bottle of liquor in a trash can. Make a donation to the Red Cross or something, okay? Anyway, to keep his mind off of not drinking Rayford starts wondering about when Pan Continental, his airline, may need him back again.

Page 99- Line 6-7:
If he [Rayford] knew anything about the airlines, it would all be about dollars.

Wait, I thought Republicans liked big business? Where's the love, man? In any case, he soon turns to thinking about his wife and child again, setting the stage for what is about to become an epic grief bender.

Page 99- Line 25-28:
Irene and Ray would not be coming back, and he didn't know if he [Rayford] would ever see them again, because he didn't know if there were second chances on this heaven thing.

My comment in the margins reads, "Ugh." I can't put it any more eloquently than that. Eventually he remembers the one child he has left, Chloe, and tries to get in touch with her.

Page 100- Line 6-8:
He [Rayford] dialed Stanford, the main administration number, and didn't even get a busy signal or a recorded message. He dialed Chloe's room.

One question: Why in the world would you ever try it in that order? I mean, when I want to call my wife at work, I totally call the number for the main switchboard and if they're too busy to answer, then I call her office directly. What the fuck? Following his abject failure to use a phone properly, Rayford starts putting Irene's things away. He then finds the rest of the batch of lame cookies she baked and changes the answering machine message. Sadly, he changes it not to mention that he's now single and on the market, but rather to tell strangers to fuck off and Chloe to do "whatever she has to" to get home. Ahoy there potential prostitution! Anyway this muddles on for some time, prompting me to scrawl in the margins, "Oh god! Come on! Do something! This is the most boring book ever." And then we have this:

Page 101- Line 10-11:
This was going to be hard, so hard.

To which my comment responds, "Much like finishing this crappy book." And yet, the horror has only just begun. I mean, hell, the page numbers only just hit triple-digits!

Page 102- Line 1-6:
And then it hit him. He [Rayford] sat up, staring out the window in the darkness. He owed it to Chloe not to fail her. He loved her and she was all he had left. He had to find out how they had missed everything Irene had been trying to tell them, why it had been so hard to accept and believe.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and speculate that it was so hard to accept and believe because it sounds utterly f-ing crazy! Dude walks on water, changes water into wine, and casts demons out of a person and into pigs? Yeah, sure, totally normal, totally healthy. I can't imagine why anyone would have a hard time buying into that one.

Page 102- 9-11:
The Christians, the real believers, get taken away, and the rest are left to grieve and mourn and realize their error?

So... what? Jews and Muslims aren't "real believers"? Because I'm pretty sure the 9/11 terrorists believed a whole bloody lot. Regardless, he keeps contemplating what may or may not happen now that god is ready to lay the smackdown upon us.

Page 102- Line 17-18:
Irene had always talked of a loving God, but even God's love and mercy had to have limits.

Why? No, really, why? God is always said to be infinitely loving, infinitely knowing, infinitely powerful, and basically just infinite in every way. So, seriously, why should god's love or mercy be anything other than... you know... infinite? Is this the stone so heavy even god can't lift it? His own inability to forgive? His own inability to love? So, what? God is like the protagonist in Emo poetry? Yikes.

Page 102- Line 22-27:
But if there were options, if there was still a way to find the truth and believe or accept or whatever it was Irene said one was supposed to do, Rayford was going to find it. Would it mean admitting that he didn't know everything? That he had relied on himself and that now he felt stupid and weak and worthless?

My comment in the margins at this point reads, "I know I don't know everything, but religion just wraps up our ignorance in pretty paper and labels it 'god'." I stand by that, and find it bitterly amusing that evangelicals accuse atheists of being know-it-alls. We don't know everything, and frankly I think we're pretty up-front about that. We aren't the ones who believe one single book contains all the knowledge and wisdom anyone could ever need. We aren't the ones who claim universal truth. We just demand evidence. If that makes us arrogant, then call me arrogant. I will wear the term with pride. Regardless, Rayford spends some time thinking about how he's been laid low and then starts musing about his children.

Page 103- Line 10-18:
It was simply Raymie's age and innocence that had allowed his mother's influence to affect him so. It was his spirit. He didn't have the killer instinct, the "me first" attitude Rayford thought he would need to succeed in the real world. He wasn't effeminate, but Rayford had worried that he might be a mama's boy- too compassionate, too sensitive, too caring. He was always looking out for someone else when Rayford thought he should be looking out for number one.

So what's the message of this passage? The raptured were nicer people? The young are easier to indoctrinate? Rayford didn't father a homosexual, no matter how many people tell you otherwise? It kinda looks like all three, really. I leave it to you to work through the implications about how selfish the authors believe non-Christians are.

Page 103- Line 20-23:
And how he [Rayford] wished there had been some of that in Chloe. She was competitive, a driver, someone who had to be convinced and persuaded.

Indeed, let's devalue thinking and asking for evidence as early and often as possible. Rah, rah, gullibility! It just always seems to come back to this, doesn't it? Thinking = bad, blind faith in this one specific god = good.

Page 104- Line 2-7:
He'd [Rayford] always been one who went for a goal and accepted the consequences. Only these consequences were eternal. He hoped against all hope that there was another chance at truth and knowledge out there somewhere. The only problem was that the ones who knew were gone.

Oh, where to begin? First off: we are apparently entirely at peace with the monstrous mismatch between finite sin (i.e. denying god for one puny lifetime) and infinite punishment. Second: Truth and knowledge are far too rare and precious to be found contained within any single book like the bible. Hell, I'd argue they're too rare and precious to be contained fully in any set of books, since some truths have to be discovered through living, not reading. Finally: oh, yes, indeed, wherever shall we turn without evangelicals to guide us? I dunno, but I think the idea we might finally get decent nationalized healthcare is a good start. Whatever. The narrative returns at this point to Buck, who is in a motel near the Waukegan Airport trying to get in touch with Ken Ritz, a charter pilot Buck hopes can get him [Buck] to New York. In any case, Ken hasn't returned Buck's call yet, so Buck listens again to a message from Dirk Burton that explains why Buck was going to London in the first place. Turns out, Dirk alluded to the imminent rise of Nicolae Carpathia to the presidency of his country and, indeed, suggests that Carpathia may be on his way to even greater things. Indeed, we already know that he is, seeing as how he's the antichrist and all. Kinda ruins the suspense, eh?

And with that, dear readers, we finish part one of Chapter Six. Come back next week when we tackle part two where Buck calls his dad and basically nothing interesting happens. No, seriously, expect a short episode- absolutely Dirk dick takes place in the last half of this chapter.

So, hell, more of the same I guess.



Blogger Ken Houghton said...

"Come back next week when we tackle part two where Buck calls his dad and basically nothing interesting happens."

Do we have to? Now that The Manly Rayford Steele (Perry Rhodan's got nothing on him, eh?) has been completed emasculated, all we have left to "look forward to" is a transformation that would make Robert Waller blush with shame.

And that the man is already ballless enough to make his daughter have to all the work to get across the whole bloody country just to salve his guilty conscience (at a time when any sane person knows there are transportation difficulties)—is this how he is supposed to prove himself before G-d? "Yo, YHWH, I sat around doing jack while my daughter hitched rides with long-haul truckers. In the words of Samantha Fox, 'Take me! Take me now!'"

I want DNA testing of his two kids. I'm more likely right now to believe Immaculate Conception than that he was able to produce anything.

Thursday, October 08, 2009 10:54:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I have to suspect that Irene quit drinking after drunkenly marrying Cpt. Steele.

Thursday, October 08, 2009 12:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I have to suspect that Irene quit drinking after drunkenly marrying Cpt. Steele."

Funny. My immediate reaction is that I would have started drinking more after marrying Mr. Steele. In fact, just reading about Drek reading about Mr. Steele makes me want to start drinking right now.

P. S. In tangential news, Stephen Colbert let the cat out of the bag about the Conservapeons last night. We're expecting Schafly to let loose a barrage of lawsuits any moment now.


Thursday, October 08, 2009 1:47:00 PM  
Blogger scripto said...

So we have to wait until next week to find out if anyone manages to complete a phone call? I'm getting too depressed to even try to make the funny. Here goes:
"She [Irene] insisted he [Rayford] hide any hard stuff if he had to have it in the house at all."

I'm guessing it's been quite a while since Irene had any of the hard stuff hidden in her house.

No? How about:
"Thinking = bad, blind faith in this one specific god = good."

Well, duh.

On a lighter note I made my wife promise to erect one of those white memorial crosses along the highway if I die unexpectedly. Even if it isn't in an auto wreck. I also want a full size In Loving Memory sticker with all my relevant data plastered on the back windscreen of her car. Look for me in a junkyard near you.

Thursday, October 08, 2009 3:56:00 PM  
Blogger Drek said...

I'm getting too depressed to even try to make the funny.

Dude, I hear you. If this book was going any slower, it'd be going backwards. Just be glad you're getting it in this rather diluted form.

Thursday, October 08, 2009 5:57:00 PM  
Blogger JLT said...

Funny. My immediate reaction is that I would have started drinking more after marrying Mr. Steele.

I think, that being married to Mrs. Steele would be a very good reason to start drinking.

* She listened to Christian radio the whole day (that alone is a sufficient reason to drink IMO).
* she decorated the house with frills, needle point, and country stuff.
* she treated Ray as if he were a hardcore alcoholic for having an "occasional hard drink" (he hadn't been drunk for years).
* she tries to revive her marriage by sending her husband cookies with hearts on it.
* she constantly preaches to her family about her new-found belief.

If Rayford weren't such an asshole wouldn't you feel really sorry for him?

Sunday, October 11, 2009 8:31:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ordinarily I'd agree with you except that my occasional foray into less metropolitan areas thanks to my husband (love you honey) have shown me that points 1, 2 and 5 are not uncommon in households of a certain socio-economic type.

And regarding point 4, I wouldn't mind cookies, even with hearts on them, although I wouldn't advocate it as the next great marriage-saving device.


Monday, October 12, 2009 1:40:00 PM  

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