Total Drek

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Friday, February 18, 2011

The Overton Window: Chapter 3, Part 1

Welcome back one and all to our ongoing series on The Overton Window, the book that tells us the protaganist is witty while it shows us drooling and eating paste. Last time Noah tried to pick up Molly Ross, only to be shut down at every possible turn. What happens this week? Well, we get to learn about the villain's evil plan. Sort of.

As I mentioned I am once again selecting a comment of the week, and this week that "honor" goes to scripto for what I think is an essential truth:

"Page 11, Line 13-15: These liberated chestnut curls framed a handsome face made twice as radiant by the mysteries surely waiting just behind those light green eyes."

Congratulations - you have found something even more inane than anything written in Left Behind.

Yeah, this touches on something that's been dawning on me with a rising sense of horror. As it turns out, Left Behind was, by far, a more logical and rationally worked out system of belief than anything we'll find in The Overton Window This is not, of course, to suggest that Left Behind scores above zero on any conceivable scale of rational, logical thought, but only to acknowledge that whatever its faults, that book at least had an elaborately worked out set of ideas behind it. The Overton Window, in contrast, has little to back it besides Beck's bluster, and frankly that doesn't really work on the page. So, well done scripto for noticing that particular issue, and keep at it everyone else! We've got a lot of episodes, and comments of the week, 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.). Rock thee on.

Dramatis Personae: In order of their IQ scores.

Eli Churchill: Former janitor at a volcano lair. Fan of remote telephone booths. Shot in the head by parties unknown.

Beverly ???: Mysterious correspondent of Eli Churchill's.

Noah Gardener: 28 years old. Sets the dating bar "medium-high". Works Vice president at a PR firm. Not good at talking to women. 28 years old. Went to NYU. Is "witty".

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. Works in the mailroom.


Chapter 3: In which we hear about an evil conspiracy and see a power point presentation by Steve Jobs' evil twin.

Recommended Mood Music:

Page 15, Line Horsenuggets:

I'm not going to provide a quotation, partly because the first few pages of this chapter make it appear that the authors like to apply punctuation with a shotgun and I don't want to wear out my shift key. That said, the chapter starts with a verbatim reproduction of a Department of Homeland Security document titled, "'Constitutionalists,' Extremism, the Militia Movement, and the Growing Threat of Domestic Terrorism." The memo in the book is not real, but it is apparently modeled on a real document (1). That real document, however, doesn't originate with the federal government, but rather with the Missouri state government, and discusses violent militia groups pretty much exclusively. In contrast, the authors' fictionalized version directs law enforcement attention to, among others, "home-schoolers," "Tea Parties," "Earth First," "Earth Liberation Front," "military reenactors," "Third-party political campaigns," and "'free speech' umbrella." So, in other words, basically everyone. Never mind wondering how home-schoolers, civil war reenactors and the ELF are in any way alike. And, again, the original Missouri government document named none of those groups... whatever they may be. I'm not really sure who the "free speech umbrella" is and I really doubt that anyone is worried about the U.S. being overthrown by a bunch of guys who think it's fun to pretend to be participating in Pickett's charge. Also mentioned in this document is REX-84, a U.S. military plan for basically imposing martial law on the U.S. in time of national emergency (2).* Critically, this would involve suspending the constitution, which is obviously why the authors have a bug up their ass about it. I won't say I love the notion of suspending the constitution but, that said, it's been done before and arguably with good reason. During the Civil War, for example, Lincoln suspended habeus corpus, which is pretty scary when you think about it, but understandable in light of what was going on. Would I support something similar today? Probably not, but the mere existence of a plan like this doesn't necessarily mean anything. Anyway, there's about two pages of this crap and then we get into an actual scene.

Page 17, Line 26:
"I think I've read quite enough."

I couldn't agree more, although in my case I'm talking about the novel as a whole. Regardless, our mystery speaker is identified as, "Arthur Isaiah Gardner," and so, based on the preceding chapter, I'd guess we just met Noah's dad. Regardless, Arthur shoves shoves the binder containing the offending memo away, thus triggering one of the few snatches of decent writing in the book.

Page 18, Line 3-8:
Noah had grown up with a healthy dread of this gesture but, in more recent years, he'd come to appreciate its versatiliy. As an all-purpose expression of deep fatherly disappointment it worked just as well for a prep-school report card as it did for a disastrously leaked presidential briefing document set to splash on the front page of Sunday's Washington Post. [emphasis original]

Okay, so, in all honesty, that was pretty well written. It provides both characterization and lets us in on what the hell is going on. That said, it also continues the elevation of the scary document from "state level discussion of violent militias" to "DHS-authored memo to the president on damned near everyone". From here we continue with a little description that reminds us that Arthur Gardner owns the company, and informs us that he avoids being seen by his employees as much as possible. He even uses a private elevator to get to and from his office, making me wonder if he also collects his finger and toe nail clippings in jars. Then someone decides to interrupt the authors' loving description with a question.

Page 18, Line 15-17:
"Actually, Mr. Gardner, I think the team would be well served by reviewing-"

"Who spoke?" [Arthur Gardner asked]

Uh oh! I sense someone is about to be dropped into a tank full of sharks with frickin lasers on their heads. In truth, Arthur makes the hapless government official who spoke stand up, and then proceeds to explain a few things.

Page 19, Line 7-14:
"To put your busy mind at east," the old man said, "let me assure you that the trifling problem you brought us today is already put safely to bed. The story in the Post has been spiked, an eager team of computer sleuths is tracking down the source of your leak, and the memorandum itself is now being thoroughly and plausibly denied by its authors and blamed on an overzealous local bureaucracy somewhere in the barren Midwest. Who will be the culprit again, Noah?"

"Illinois National Guard," Noah said. [emphasis original]

Ah, right, so the original memo by the Missouri government was in fact really a federal memo that was just plausibly denied as being from Missouri. Of course, obviously, I don't know why I didn't see that before. It's really good to see the authors confusing "thriller" with "unverifiable paranoia mongering". Also: why is a PR firm handling computer security for the U.S. government? I mean, doesn't that seem a little weird to anyone?

Page 19, Line 15-18:
"There. Crisis averted. All neatly handled before ten A.M. this morning by my son. Noah is a brilliant boy, if I do say so myself, though I'm sure he would agree that he hasn't inherited his father's taste for blood. Even so, he's more than a match for such a minor predicament."

Noah is a "brilliant boy"? Um... right. Sure. Whatever you say. That's not exactly the adjective that first springs to mind when I think of him, but whatever. And who would really indulge in such a digression during a meeting? I mean, seriously, how is Arthur with Noah's mom? "All this food was prepared before 6:00 PM by my wife. Judy is a lovely cook, if I do say so myself, though I'm sure she would agree that she doesn't share my love for fine dining. Even so, she has more than adequate tits." Returning to the scene, however, the unnamed and unfortunate speaker has not yet realized he's addressing a super villain and decides to tempt fate again.

Page 19, Line 22-26:
"With all due respect, Mr. Gardner, that may very well be, but-"


With surprising vigor for a man of seventy-four, Arthur Gardner suddenly swept the heavy binder from the table and sent it crashing into the wall. The government man stopped talking, his eyes a little wider... [emphasis original]

Seriously? Did we seriously just have that scene? It's like something out of "The Do's and Don't's of Supervillainy," and yelling "Enough" before pitching a tantrum is definitely in the "don't" category.

Page 19-20, Line 19: 30-31, 20: 1-3:
"A columnist in the Wall Street Journal once wrote,"-Noah's father straightened his cuffs from the preceding exertion as he spoke-"that I had more money than God. I can't attest to that. I don't believe in God, and like a growing number of the world's other major economies, I no longer believe in the dollar, either."

Great, the dude is an atheist. Awesome. That's all I needed- a little more subtle religious bigotry in one of the books I read.** On a slightly lighter note, is anyone else amused that he seems to be referring to himself as one of the world's "major economies"? At least we know where Noah gets his delusional nature from. In any case, Arthur verbally intimidates the speaker- a Mr. Purcell from the Department of Homeland Security- all the while alluding to some sort of market he helped build. Then, he settles in for his maniacal speech.

Page 21, Line 2-3:
It [Arthur Gardner's gesture] was the sort of unspoken cue that a dog trainer might give to a spirited bitch on her first session off the choke chain.

Just... wow. Who talks like that? I mean, I don't even know what to do with that description. Moving on, Gardner mentions that the market he helped build was for water, and then he goes into full-on Bond villain mode.

Page 21, Line 18-22:
Projection screens began to hum down from the ceiling, gradually covering the paneled walls of the wide, round room. As the screens clicked to their stops in unison the lights dimmed to half brightness. All that remained was a circle of soft illumination that dutifully followed Arthur Gardner as he made his way back to his place.

No doubt this is where Dr. Evil Arthur Gardner is going to talk about his "laser" nefarious scheme. Honestly, I was being generous earlier when I referred to Arthur as a Bond villain. Anyway, he explains that the market he helped create was, even more specifically, for bottled water (3). He then goes on to relate a story in which he was in Sri Lanka when a tsunami hit. He received early warning, apparently because seismologists routinely keep the owners of PR firms appraised about tsunamis, and calmly had breakfast before boarding a chartered helicopter with his staff. As he was preparing to leave, however, he noticed all the happy people along the coast.

Page 22, Line 30-32:
"I [Arthur] couldn't look away; it was fascinating to me- the people down there either didn't know or didn't understand that something unthinkable was on its way to destroy them.

Yeah, I'm going with the former, jackass. This isn't the end of the story, however...

Page 23, Line 6-17:
"I was later told that there had been some form of warning system in place but it had failed, or that those in charge of the public safety had become so complacent that the red phones and radio alerts went unheard and unanswered (4). But I'll tell you what I believe."

"I believe those people stayed because they thought the fragile things they'd built would last forever. They looked at the breakwater walls and they trusted them. Nothing could breach those walls, because nothing ever had before. But when the seas came in it wasn't in the form of a wave at all, it was an uprising of Nature herself, steady and swelling and ruthless and patient, completely oblivious to the frail constructions of mankind. And it was all swept away. My holiday was cut short, and two hundred and fifty thousand people in the region lost their lives."

Leaving aside that Arthur is obviously a tremendous asshole, that writing isn't too bad. In fact, it's really like this chapter was written by a completely different person than the previous two. And, given how many authors this thing has, there's every possibility that's exactly what happened. And then Arthur finally gets to his point- the financial meltdown and subsequent bailout.

Page 23, Line 24-32:
"As I reviewed your [the government's] situation this morning it occurred to me: you're just like those people down on the beach in Kalutara, aren't you? You're watching a world-changing disaster on the rise, and yet for some odd reason you seem to be fretting about how the American people would feel if they were to read of your perfectly justified panic in their morning newspaper. That isn't your problem at all, of course. It's not what they might think of you that should be keeping you up at night; it's what they might very well do to you and your superiors, in the aftermath of the global catastrophe that's just around the corner." [emphasis original]

Oh noes! It's like a Tea Party rally crossed with an Art Bell broadcast! What ever will Arthur suggest to deal with this calamity?

Well, if you want to know, you'll have to come back next week, because this is pretty much the longest single chapter in this entire wretched book. But, if you have the stomach, tune in next time and revel in Arthur's exciting multi-media extravaganza.

I know I can't wait.

* There are two more mentions of articles in the Miami Herald by Alfonso Chardy- one named "Reagan Advisers Ran 'Secret' Government" and "North Helped Revise Wartime Plans," but I can't find either online.

** In fairness, though, the religious bigotry in Left Behind wasn't even slightly subtle.



Anonymous Jay said...

This almost reads as if it were written by a leftist. The villain is a rich white man, and the threat is that the national security state is out of control. Somehow I doubt that sharing and disarmament are going to be Beck's recommended solutions, though.

P.S. It seems really odd that a rich man of 74 seems to view immanent collapse as an opportunity rather than a threat.

Friday, February 18, 2011 9:57:00 AM  
Blogger Ken Houghton said...

So if I'm gathering correctly, his son had Eli "not Winston or Smith" Churchill killed and arranged for the Washington Post to be discredited without ever having to mention that they still publish George Will and Richard "I know funny" Cohen.

So Arthur "Last book before the Minor Prophets take over and people stop reading" can move mountains, have people killed, intimidate DHS personnel, and invest in Euros, but he couldn't keep the Post from publishing something of dubious authentication and marginal news value that he didn't like?

They don't make Secret Masters of the Universe the way they used to.

Friday, February 18, 2011 11:31:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am starting to think that Noah is like the Lawnmower Man or Charlie in "Flowers for Algernon," after the smart pills wear off.

I can totally see his evil dad giving his drooling, paste-eating kid over to science and then being oblivious when the experiment to make him smarter doesn't fully take.

Saturday, February 19, 2011 8:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also, "spirited bitch" was probably the name of Molly Ross's high school girl band.

Saturday, February 19, 2011 8:58:00 AM  

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