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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Left Behind: Chapter 19, Part 1

Welcome back one and all to our regular feature on Left Behind, the book that makes me want to drink. A lot. Last time Hattie met Carpathia and Buck learned some more "details" about an evil conspiracy. What happens this week? Eh. Rayford decides he has to dial up the crazy a few notches and Buck runs around like a doof.

As always we have a comment of the week. This week that "honor" goes to scripto for his vision of a brutal world where reporters determine precedence via single combat:

"Maybe I'm ignorant, but is it common for reporters to settle questions of precedence via wrestling matches?"

Yep. It's how Katie Couric beat out Diane Sawyer for the Palin interview. Awesome. It was on Pay per View.

Honestly, though, that would surprise me. I mean, Couric has youth, but Sawyer has experience. And, in all likelihood, a shiv. A special honorary mention also goes to Mister Troll for summing up in his parenthetical aside my feelings to a tee. Well done, folks, and keep at it! We have a good 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.


Dramatis Personae

In an order determined by a complex algorithm ("eenie-meanie-minie-moe")...

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

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. Human alarm clock. Expert in Romanian politics. Fast runner.

Hattie Durham: Flight attendant. Toucher. Hottie. Hysterical female type. Girl power devotee. Unhealthily thin. Twenty-seven years old. Blonde. Claims no moral or religious code.

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

Chloe Steele: Daughter of Rayford Steele. Student at Stanford. Religiously unaffiliated. Kinda stupid.

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. Press secretary for Nicolae Carpathia.

Nicolae Carpathia: Businessman. Romanian Senator. Romanian President. Secretary-General of the United Nations. Antichrist. Favors arms reductions. An inch or two over six feet tall. Broad shouldered. Thick chested. Trim. Athletic. Tanned. Blonde. Blue eyes. Thick eyebrows. Roman nose and jaw. Carries self with a sense of humility and purpose. Wears understated jewelry. Excellent memory.

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

Dirk Burton: English guy Buck knows. Graduated from Princeton. Kinda gullible. Killed himself Murdered. Left handed.

Joshua Todd-Cothran: English finance guy. May have the nickname "duck lips."

Jonathon Stonagal: American ultra-rich dude. Involved in international monetary cabal. Has ties to duck lips.

Marge Potter: Steve Planck's secretary. Matronly.

Lucinda Washington: Fiftyish black woman. Raptured.

Ken Ritz: Pilot. Profiteering on the rapture. Actually quite polite. Fired for being too careful. Believes in aliens.

Juan Ortiz: Global Weekly international events editor.

Jimmy Borland: Global Weekly religion editor.

Barbara Donahue: Global Weekly financial editor.

Nigel Leonard: Employee of the London exchange.

Alan Tompkins: Investigator at Scotland Yard. Friend of Buck. Kind of a chickenshit. Blown up by an evil conspiracy car bomb.

Bruce Barnes: Visitation Pastor at New Hope Village Church. Likes to be mysterious.

Vernon Billings: Pastor at New Hope Village Church. Likes video tape. Raptured.

Mwangati Ngumo: Secretary-General of the United Nations. President of Botswana. Botswanan national.

Eric Miller: Reporter. Rival of Buck's. Able to climb stairs really fast, but not as fast a runner as Buck. Kind of a douche. Died Murdered by falling being pushed off of the Staten Island ferry. A strong swimmer.

Gerald Fitzhugh: President of the United States. Talks like a moron.

Stanton Bailey: Publisher of the Global Weekly.

Carolyn Miller: Wife of Eric Miller.

Alex Phonecompany: Friend of Buck's. Works at the phone company.


Chapter 19: In which Rayford decides to stop playing Mister-nice-whacko, we learn more about the antichrist's plan, and Buck muses about something or other.

Page 343- Line 1-3:
Rayford watched Chloe as she wandered around the Pan-Con Club, then stared out the window. He felt like a wimp.

Well, it's hard to argue with a feeling that accurate, Rayford. My advice is not to try- just go with it. In any case, he feels like a wimp because he's been telling himself not to be pushy about the whole god thing, and apparently he's deciding that's a problem.

Page 343- Line 8-14:
What was the matter with him? Nothing was as it was before or would be ever again. If Bruce Barnes was right, the disappearance of God's people was only the beginning of the most cataclysmic period in the history of the world. And here I am, Rayford thought, worried about not offending people. I'm liable to "not offend" my own daughter straight into hell. [emphasis original]

And finally, we get some honesty. If Rayford truly believes in this wackiness then, yes, he can actually be too gentle and respectful of other people's views. It's stupid and hateful, I'll grant, but nonetheless honest.

Page 343-344- Line 343: 15-16; 344: 1-2:
Rayford also felt bad about his approach to Hattie. He had dealt with his own wrong in having pursued her, and he regretted having led her on. But he could no longer treat her with kid gloves, either.

Excuse me? Kid gloves? Is that what you call it when you try to deceive her into letting you preach at her (page 281- line 1-8)? Or perhaps when you snidely suggest that she's a dumb amoral twit during a conversation about her sister (page 266-270)? Please, Rayford, enlighten me here.

Page 344- Line 5-8:
Whoever came forward with proclamations of peace and unity had to be suspect. There would be no peace. There would be no unity. This was the beginning of the end, and all would be chaos from now on.

If you can read that without feeling a chill, you frighten me. This is like a passage out of a Jihadist training manual. I wonder if the authors have ever stopped to consider the possibility that they're wrong on this point. Or, to put it bluntly, the chaos that accompanies any attempt to achieve peace on Earth might be a self-fulfilling prophecy stemming from this foolishness. What do you do with a religion of love that pretty much guarantees the continuation of global bloodshed?

Page 344- Line 13-15:
There was no time for polite conversation, for gentle persuasion. Rayford had to direct people to the Bible, to the prophetic portions.

Well, onward Christian soldiers, I guess. Anyway, Rayford calls Bruce to tell him what he's been thinking and Bruce encourages him, reinforcing the notion that it is now their job to get in people's faces. Which, of course, makes me wonder with no small amount of horror just what the hell the authors think evangelicals have been doing up to this point? Because I gotta tell you, gentle and polite is not-generally speaking- how I would describe their efforts at conversion. Bruce then tells Rayford to shut the hell up and go look at the T.V.

Page 346- Line 5-14:
Now, on CNN, Rayford watched as crowds surged into the area in front of the Wailing Wall to listen to the witnesses. People knelt, weeping, some with their faces on the ground. These were people who had felt the preachers were desecrating the holy place. Now it appeared they were believing what the witnesses said. Or was it merely fear?

Rayford knew better. He knew that the first of the 144,000 Jewish evangelists were being converted to Christ before his eyes.

On the plus side, at least this time they weren't referred to as "zealots," which is kinda a first for Left Behind's fictional CNN. And I'm not really sure what it is that Rayford "knows better". I think these folks are sure as hell scared out of their minds. I mean, this entire book pretty much boils down to, "Believe or god is gonna kick your ass for all eternity." One does not inspire love by terrorizing people until they like you and that goes equal for god, humans, and shitty Lifetime movies.

Page 346- Line 14-22:
Without taking his gaze from the screen, he prayed silently, God, fill me with courage, with power, with whatever I need to be a witness. I don't want to be afraid anymore. I don't want to wait any longer. I don't want to worry about offending. Give me a persuasiveness rooted in the truth of your Word. I know it is your Spirit that draws people, but use me. I want to reach Chloe. I want to reach Hattie. Please, Lord. Help me. [emphasis original]

Woo-hoo! Magic spell number two! Plus four to strike or... something. Note as well the whole "I know it is your spirit that draws people" thing. This is a sort of bipolar aspect to the authors' view of religion that I find hard to reconcile: on the one hand, human beings are converted by being shown the way by god but, on the other hand, if we don't see the light we're punished for all eternity. So it's "heads god wins, tails you lose". I suppose there's no reason why an all powerful deity couldn't do it that way, but I think it'd be difficult to label said deity as just or good in the process. As I've said before, free will and choice should be everything in this religion but, surprisingly, they hardly matter at all. That's an issue for another day, however, because the narrative leaps back to Buck who is swinging past the Global Weekly offices to get a new equipment bag. Said bag contains his cellphone, laptop, and a tape recorder. Hattie agrees to wait downstairs for him, albeit briefly, since Buck apparently wants to meet Rayford and Chloe for no immediately obvious reason. Narrative convenience, I guess. Sadly, however, Stanton Bailey pulls Buck and Steve into his office for a meeting. It seems he's annoyed about something or other and wants answers.

Page 348- 24-30:
"My [Steve's] first assignment tomorrow morning is to deny Carpathia's interest in the job [i.e. Secretary-General of the U.N.]. He's going to say he has too many revolutionary ideas and that he would insist on almost unanimous approval on the parts of the current members. They would have to agree to his ideas for reorganization, a change of emphasis, and a few other things."

Okay, standard if wacky political maneuvering. Not a big deal. Still, Steve refuses to admit what those ideas are and Bailey yells at him, commenting that he still has contacts and knows some things are going on. For example, he knows that the V.P of Romania has been told to be prepared to keep running the day-to-day stuff for longer, implying that Carpathia will be gone for a while.

Page 349- Line 25-29:
"Then, people I [Bailey] know in Africa tell me Ngumo has some inside track on the Israeli formula but that he's quietly not happy about the deal requiring him to step down from the U.N. He's going to do it, but there's going to be trouble if everything doesn't go as promised."

Oh, what a schemer. I just love how the authors are telling us, at length, shit we already know. Finally, though, the authors via Bailey let us in on the story Eric Miller was working on. Which resolves a tension that I wasn't feeling at all, since I frankly couldn't even remember who the hell Miller was.

Page 350- Line 9-13:
"Miller was doing a story on the meaning behind the disappearances, which I [Bailey] know you [Buck] were planning for an issue or two from now. How that ties in with Carpathia, and why it might paint him in a dark light, I don't know. Do you?"

Oh, snap! Eric Miller was gonna out the antichrist! Well, can't have that I guess. Anyway, Buck doesn't know anything about that and interjects that he is going to take Steve's old job. Bailey then grills Steve for more news about what Carpathia wants. It turns out he wants some new security council picks, although we knew that, but then some real wackiness sets in.

Page 351- Line 24-30:
"He [Carpathia] wants Ngumo personally to insist on him as his replacement, a large majority vote of the representatives, and two other things that, frankly, I don't think he'll get. Militarily, he wants a commitment to disarmament from member nations, the destruction of ninety percent of their weapons, and the donation of the other ten percent to the U.N." [Steve said]

So that's crazy. The U.N. isn't set up to handle that kind of authority and he's demanding something that would take decades of careful arms reduction pacts to achieve. Doesn't anyone remember how hard that shit was to do during the Cold War? Yeah- now multiply that by a thousand and you start to get an idea. So what's the other thing Carpathia wants that he probably won't get? Well, if you want an answer you'll have to come back next time because this brings us to the end of today's episode.

So come back next time when Carpathia's madness comes more into focus, Buck chats a little more with Bailey, and then Buck descends into the same sort of detestable self-loathing and doubt that has been Rayford's signature for quite a while now. So, hey, it'll be fun.




Blogger scripto said...

"He felt like a wimp"
He's a gimp, a pimp and a wimp. I'm beginning to dislike this guy.

"Rayford also felt bad about his approach to Hattie. He had dealt with his own wrong in having pursued her, and he regretted having led her on. But he could no longer treat her with kid gloves, either."
That's a little spiritually rapey. What next, duct tape?

"I don't want to worry about offending. Give me a persuasiveness rooted in the truth of your Word. I know it is your Spirit that draws people, but use me."
No time for deodorant - I gots to witness!

Thursday, April 22, 2010 11:55:00 AM  
Blogger Mister Troll said...

Honorable mention for last week? Now you're just handing out pity prizes!

Friday, April 23, 2010 3:32:00 AM  
Blogger Ken Houghton said...

"We have a good few chapters to go."

That's the worst news I've seen this month--including a death in the family and the project that was supposed to employ me into 2012 suddenly being de-budgeted.

Friday, April 23, 2010 2:31:00 PM  
Blogger Ken Houghton said...

"Wears understated jewelry."

Anything beyond a watch, a tie clip, cufflinks, and a wedding ring (the latter two only if appropriate) would not be described as "understated" by competent writers.

Unless they're talking about a Starter Stud, these guys learned everything they know about men's accessories from watching Marjoe.

"Rayford watched Chloe as she wandered around the Pan-Con Club, then stared out the window. He felt like a wimp."

Why? Because he still wants to **** her, but won't even ask her out? Gads, the subtext here is making me think the real reason he's so, uh, passive is that he wants his daughter a lot more than he wants Hattie.

Do they look like sisters in the movie??

Word verification: arsier, which I guess is what Hattie is to Chloe.

Friday, April 23, 2010 2:40:00 PM  
Blogger Ken Houghton said...

"There was no time for polite conversation, for gentle persuasion."

"And your friends with their fancy persuasion/Don't admit that it's part of a scheme/But I can't help but have my suspicions/Cause I ain't quite as dumb as I seem"

The late Paul Carrack may have been able to say that honestly, but Rayford (Not a P0rn Star cause he can't keep it up even with Viagra) Steele certainly doesn't have that excuse.

Friday, April 23, 2010 2:45:00 PM  
Blogger scripto said...

One week I lost out to a spambot. That left a mark.

Friday, April 23, 2010 6:20:00 PM  

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