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.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Overton Window: Chapter 7

Welcome back one and all to our ongoing series on The Overton Window, the book that makes us long for a police state, if only to render the book more plausible. Last time we saw Noah Gardner take a cab, be gently interrogated, and then abandon Khaled, the most interesting character introduced so far. What happens this week? Noah wanders around in the rain and "thinks". So, basically, nothing.

As I mentioned I am once again selecting a comment of the week, and this week, amidst fierce competition, that "honor" goes to Aussiesmurf for paying attention:

I haven't, god forbid, read the book, but did I miss a passage where Noah asked for his FREAKING WALLET back??

I mean, we had the whole emasculating 'empty your pockets in front of the dreamboat soldier boy' scene and them once Noah rediscovers his testosterone, he stalks of without any money or identification!

"That'll show them...They'll spend HOURS rummaging through all those cards for strip clubs, trying in vain to logically deduce the one I'll be at tonight. But really the only moral standards I'll be breaching tonight are those of good grammar!"

This is actually a really good spot, and a great vision of what might have resulted, but unfortunately Noah did, in fact, get his possessions back. I didn't mention it because I can't transcribe the entire f-ing book but, in a section I didn't quote directly, he did receive his plastic baggie of stuff back. That said, I had to actually check the book to be certain and he never examined the contents to make sure everything was returned so, hey, I like to imagine there's a drab civil servant currently buying all sorts of porn and whatnot using Noah's charge cards. It'd be the perfect crime, when you think about it, because the charges would probably just resemble his usual Friday night entertainment. In any case, congratulations, Aussiesmurf, and keep at it folks: we've got a loooong way to go still.

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.). Execute!

Dramatis Personae: In descending order of the absurdity of their names.

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. Went to NYU. Is "witty". Frequently forgets where he's going and why. Not really inclined to help out cab drivers.

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.

Arthur Gardner Noah's father. Owner of Doyle & Merchant. Megalomaniac. Surprisingly vigorous for a 74 year old man.

Khaled: Lebanese cab driver. Sold out by Noah Gardener.


Chapter 7: In which Noah walks down the street, gets wet, and... well, that's it, actually.

Recommended Mood Music:

Page 46, Line 1-3:
A lot of empty cabs had passed by on his walk downtown but Noah hadn't been able to bring himself to raise a hand and flag another one down.

I strongly suspect that Noah's lethargy stems from the authors' need for an excuse to fill a few pages with pointless exposition. Also, they may be trying to punish Noah for abandoning Khaled, but given how Noah whines, the only people they're punishing are us.

Page 46, Line 5-7:
In any case, in keeping with the evening's unbroken run of bad decisions, walking was what he'd decided to do.

See, this is why he's a V.P. at a major P.R. firm: when he realizes he's made a bad decision, he instantly takes action by continuing to helplessly make yet more bad decisions until stopped by some unspecified outside power. Actually, come to think of it, I think I've worked for this guy, or at least one of his real world counterparts.

Page 46, Line 10-13:
It's not that New Yorkers set out to be rude as they walk along; they simply want to get where they're going. With seventy thousand people coming at you per square mile, the only way to keep a schedule is to avoid connecting with random strangers.

Which is actually not a half-bad summary of Bruce Mayhew and Roger Levinger's 1976 "Size and the Density of Human Aggregates" (American Journal of Sociology, 82(1): 86-110). It's a pretty good article that uses formal theory to show that as population size goes up, the amount of attention devoted to any one interaction must decline. Not sure why we're suddenly talking sociology, though.

Page 46, Line 14:
But try as you might, you can't always avoid making contact.

Oh. Right. Because we're feeling guilty about Khaled. Okay, then. Noah keeps thinking about Khaled and, indeed, starts feeling pretty bad about the fact that he threw the poor guy to the wolves. Or, at least, didn't intervene when the wolves started dragging him off into the woods.

Page 47, Line 4-7:
Noah took a deep breath and shook it off as he pressed on. First of all, buddy, I'm not your friend. Second, it wasn't my responsibility. And third, there is no third required. You can't take them all under your wing. Once you start trying to rescue everybody, where would it ever stop?

I dunno... voting Democrat? Anyway, Noah decides to try to shake off his guilty feeling by allowing his mind to drift back to one of his favorite subjects- his father.

Page 47, Line 14-19:
Noah's father had built an empire in the PR industry based almost solely on his reputation as an unrepentant firebrand, a ruthless hired gun for any cause with the cash to buy his time. He went wherever there was a fortune to be made, and those opportunities were everywhere, in good times or bad, provided a person could maintain a certain moral flexibility when scrolling through the client list.

"Have powerpoint, will travel"? And as long as we're on the subject, I'm not sure "firebrand" really makes a lot of sense here. He doesn't start trouble so much as profit from it but, hey, what do I know?

Page 47, Line 22-24:
A huckster of the highest order, he could make a do-or-die conflict out of thin air and then cash in selling weapons of mass deception to either side, or, more likely, to both.

Right. Arthur Gardner=bad dude. We get it.

Page 47, Line 30-32:
...these were world-spanning issues he [Arthur Gardner] exploited, whether real or manufactured, from global cooling in the 1970s to global warming today.

You've gotta love how the authors slipped that in there, attacking the science without ever actually leveling a criticism. What's even more interesting, however, is what we don't see. Specifically, we don't see any of the authors' little annotations to external sources. If global warming is really so fake, or, indeed, if global cooling is really what they imply, where the hell are the sources? The short answer is that they are omitted because providing specific references here would make the argument too easy to disprove. It would bring the discussion into the realm of facts rather than hyperbole and that just won't do. Anyway, regardless of the reality of climactic change, we've been wandering through the rain with Noah for a while now- where the hell are we?

Page 48, Line 10-14:
In his distraction Noah had drifted close to the curb on the sidewalk, an error no seasoned pedestrian should ever commit when it's been raining. Right on cue a city bus roared by, shooshed through a sinkhole the size of Lake Placid, and a rooster tail of oily gutter water splashed up and soaked him to the waist. [emphasis original]

Ah, right, still wandering, only now the "brilliant boy," Noah Gardner, is even more of a sad-sack loser than before. And that's despite his killer eHarmony profile, too (Page 7, Line 11-12). Anyway, he realizes he's now completely wet, thinks about his dad a bit more, and then finally his thoughts turn to his destination. Indeed, if it were me wandering through the rain, I think that my destination would be the main thing on my mind but then, I'm not Noah Gardner.*

Page 49, Line 4-10:
According to the flier the location of tonight's all-American shindig was the Stars 'n Stripes Saloon, a charming, rustic little dive down here in Tribeca. Noah had been there a few times before on downtown pub crawls with clients. The Stars 'n Stripes was known as something of a guilty pleasure, a little patch of down-home heartland kitsch complete with friendly, gorgeous waitresses, loud Southern rock on the jukebox, and cheap domestic beer on tap.

This establishment appears to be entirely fictional, and I think you can imagine why: it's a little hard to imagine getting your drink on in a place that's energetically blasting patriotism up your ass. Then again, who doesn't love Southern rock?

Page 49, Line 11-14:
In the last remaining block Noah had been holding out hope that the rally, or whatever it turned out to be, would be sparsely attended and quiet enough to allow him to corner this Ross woman for a quality conversation.

Based on his earlier thoughts, I'm guessing that "quality conversation" is Noah's personal euphemism for "sexual assault in a bathroom stall." I doubt the authors are heading that direction, though.

Page 49, Line 14-17:
After all, how many right-wing nutcases could possibly live in this enlightened city, and how many among them would knuckle-drag themselves out of their subbasement bunkers for a club meeting on a chilly, rainy Friday night?

Okay, first off, this bit is weird because Noah is claiming that this is sure to be a right-wing gathering, but Molly was previously described as being kind of hippie-ish. So... hippies are Republicans, then? More importantly, though, this passage actually serves several purposes; namely, it makes Noah the avatar for snooty urban intellectuals, who the authors seem to hate, while simultaneously encouring the book's intended audience by implying that there are lots of like-minded people living in those same urban areas. And if the implication to that effect wasn't strong enough, the authors just go right ahead and make it explicit.

Page 49, Line 18-19:
The depressing answer to that question, he saw, as he rounded the final turn, was absolutely all of them. [emphasis original]

Lovely. So who are these wacky conservative firebrands? Well, if you want to know you'll have to come back next week, because this is the end of the chapter. And it's a chapter that earned the closing margin scrawl, "Actually, this 'chapter' wasn't all that vomitous," which is high praise for this book. Indeed, the chapter was pointless, but at least the writing was marginally tolerable.

So, come on back next time when Noah enters the Stars 'n Stripes Saloon and rubs elbows with the authors' people. It'll be an experience, I promise.

* For which I am absurdly grateful.



Blogger Mister Troll said...

"Seasoned pedestrian"? I like that phrase. I am appropriating it.

Friday, March 25, 2011 2:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is just so much wrong, it's hard to sift through all the inanity.
1) A "charming, rustic" Southern rock bar in Tribeca? My glorious white ass. Have these authors ever been to New York?!
2) Noah is a "seasoned pedestrian" what with his Arthur-esque millions from the old man (ironically named Arthur... or not? Perhaps the authors are nodding to the classic 80's film starring Dudley Moore? One can only dream.)? Highly bloody unlikely. It's like the authors were worried he didn't seem stupid enough so made him incapable of walking and THINKING at the same time.
3) "Huckster of the highest order" -- who fucking talks like this, much less thinks about their dad in these terms?! It makes Arthur Gardener sound like a squint-eyed king of the carnies.

Saturday, March 26, 2011 6:42:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I firstly second the love of the phrase 'seasoned pedestrian', like there are grizzled veterans among the 'pedestrian' set who receive the awe and admiration of their peers :-

"Wow - did you see the way he navigated that pot-hole?? Amazing!"

Secondly, I don't know if it exactly builds up the popularity of the mindset to say that all the 'right-wing nutcases' in NYC can fit into a single bar. Given say 10 million people in the Manhattan area, you can probably get enough flaming goat sex devotees to fill a single bar...

Monday, March 28, 2011 10:33:00 PM  

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