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, May 27, 2011

The Overton Window: Chapter 15

Welcome back one and all to our ongoing series on The Overton Window, the book that puts the "pain" in "campaign". Last time Noah drove around in a limo for a while and then agreed to let Molly crash at his place. What happens this week? Bloody. Freaking. Nothing.

As I mentioned I am once again selecting a comment of the week, and this week that "honor" goes to whatisthewhat for reading between the lines:

"Hundreds of first dates", never a second.

Indeed, would anyone out there go on a second date with Noah? Hell, I'm betting most of you wouldn't go on a first date. And perhaps that's the key to his present ennui? It isn't that he's been exhausted by all his successful, albeit meaningless, sexual conquests but, instead, has exhausted the dating pool in New York City and has to expand to out-of-state visitors. Classy! Well done, Jenn, and keep at it everyone! The hit parade just keeps on rumbling down the track of despair.

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.). Booyah!

Dramatis Personae: In an order that wasn't so much chosen as imposed by outside forces.

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

Beverly Emerson: Mysterious correspondent of Eli Churchill's.

Noah Gardener: 28 years old. Sets the dating bar "medium-high". Works Vice president at a PR firm. Went to NYU. Not good at talking to women. Not really inclined to help out cab drivers. Low tolerance for alcohol. Lost his mother when he was young. Fond of chicken and waffles. Rich as shit.

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. Lost her father when she was young. Impressed by fancy cars.

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.

Hollis: Friend of Molly Ross. Very polite. From the country. May be a Yeti.

Danny Bailey: Some kind of YouTube celebrity. Former lover of Molly Ross. Kind of a dickhead. Loves conspiracy theories and incoherent speeches.

Charlie Nelan: Gardner family lawyer. Silver hair. Impeccably dressed. Looks awesome. Has some sort of weird relationship with GQ. May have the ability to sense when Noah's in trouble using some sort of clairvoyance. Possible kleptomaniac.


Chapter 15: In which we go inside Noah's apartment, are reminded that he's rich and she's pretty, and then Noah doesn't get laid but does creep us all out.

Recommended Mood Music:

Page 110, Line Pontoon:

No quote, but the chapter opens with Molly and Noah getting out of the car. So, you know, we definitely didn't skip ahead or anything.

Page 110, Line 5-13:
"Is that where you live?" she asked, pointing.

"No, not there. See those flags? That's the French embassy." He took her hand and walked her to the intersection. "And down the street there, that's the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which we can walk through sometime if you ever want to get totally blown away. And that's Central Park over there, which you've already seen." He turned her around and pointed up the tower of dark masonry and glass that had been behind her. "And way up there on the twenty-third floor, that's where I live."

Jesus Titty-fucking Christ. We get it, okay? He's rich. He's rich as hell. We KNOW! Look, it's right up there in the dramatis personae; it says "Rich as shit". Can we please get on with the book now?

Page 110, Line 14-17:
They walked inside and made their way across the ornate lobby to the elevator bank. As the double doors were closing a hand reached in to stop them. They opened to reveal a lanky, fiftyish man in a blue jogging suit.

Wait for it...

Page 110-111, Line 110: 18, 111: 1-5
He [the mysterious intruder] thumbed his numbered floor button and those blue eyes gave Molly a leisurely, detailed once-over, which she seemed just barely able to coolly ignore. When the elevator stopped and opened at his floor, the guy glanced at Noah with a subtle nod before he departed, a man-to-man stamp of approval indicating their shared good taste in fine feminine company.

I just... words fail me. It's like the authors stood good writing against a wall, gave it a last cigarette, and executed it by firing squad. What does that bit about "...which she seemed just barely able to coolly ignore" mean, anyway? If she seemed like she was having a hard time containing herself, then how the hell is she coolly ignoring anything? Can someone even do both of those things at the same time? Leaving this atrocity against comprehension aside, it comes out that the mysterious stranger was none other than Eliot Spitzer (1).* What does that have to do with the "plot"? Absolutely f-ing nothing! So why is the scene included? Folks, I haven't the faintest idea. But, it does provide the opportunity for Noah to share some words of "wisdom":

Page 111, Line 13-14:
"With great power comes great friskiness. They've all got a lust for something." [Noah said]

Like Noah, for example: he apparently has a lust for the medium-high bar. And waffles. Anyway, Noah makes sure to mention that his apartment is worth $5 million ("Did we tell you that Noah is really, really rich? Well he IS!"), and that his father is the owner. And I'm forced to wonder: is that better or worse than living in your parents' basement? And then, after some more discussion of the Spitzer scandal, we're finally finished with the elevator scene.

Page 112, Line 3-5:
The instant he'd keyed them inside, Molly took off to explore, marveling at the panoramic floor-to-ceiling view, running from room to room like a toy-starved moppet cut loose in FAO Schwarz.

What the... are we in Pretty Woman now? Also, was this moppet able to cipher out how many rooms were in this apartment? I mean, seriously, where the hell are the authors getting their language from? Anyway, you can be certain that Molly has kept her mind on what's really important in this scene.

Page 112, Line 9-10:
"And it [the apartment] cost how much again?" [Moppet Molly asked]

"Five million, plus about sixty thousand a year for maintenance." [Noah replied]

Please, for the love of all that's good and decent, we get it! He's really rich. Fine, whatever, he's like freaking Midas. Now can we please actually have some plot? Obviously not. Noah excuses himself to take a shower, tells Molly where she can find her own shower and some clothing for sleeping, and they separate.

Page 112, Line 22-25:
Squeaky-clean at last and dressed for bed, blinds pulled closed, Noah chose a novel from the night table and reclined against a stack of pillows to try to read himself to sleep, within a pale circle of light from his bedside lamp.

And oddly I find myself wondering if the novel Noah is reading is better than the one I'm reading, because this one truly sucks. On another note: Noah hasn't slept in at least 24 hours, was clubbed unconscious by the police (for which he has never received medical treatment) and spent the night in jail. Would he really need to "read himself to sleep"? Sitting would probably do the trick. Regardless, he's in chapter two of his book when Molly knocks, pokes her head in, and mentions that she just made a phone call.

Page 113, Line 2-9:
"I [Molly] was calling about Danny. Remember him? Danny Bailey, from the bar?"

"Yeah. I wish I didn't, but yeah."

"Nobody remembers seeing him after the raid, and he wasn't with the rest of us at the police station. I called around to see if anyone had heard from him."

"And they hadn't, I gather."

She shook her head.

Wow! That would be mysterious if we had any reason to give a shit. Anyway, she asks if she can come in, he agrees, and then he notices that she's wearing his old lacrosse shirt.

Page 113, Line 18-21:
"You played lacrosse in school?" [Molly asked] The faded jersey was much too big, of course, and she'd gathered the slack and tied it up, leaving a spell-binding glimpse of taut, smooth waist above the northern border of a lucky pair of his own navy boxers.

"Wow! You were in the navy?" Sorry, couldn't resist. Feel free to take a moment if that bit left you feeling a tad queasy- it's a normal reaction. Despite the fact that this seems like the opener to a porno, it's important to realize that the shorts are the only thing that's going to get lucky in this entire damned chapter.

Page 113, Line 25-27:
When she reached the edge of the bed she crawled up onto the far end of the tall king-size mattress, walked its length on her knees, and then flopped down next to him with an easy sigh, sharing his pillows.

I suppose I should be grateful that we didn't just have to suffer through a discussion of how expensive the damned mattress was. And yeah, this is seeming less and less like a chaste evening.

Page 113, Line 28-29:
"What are you reading?" [Molly asked]

He showed her the title briefly, and then put the book back down.

Okay, that sentence annoyed me the first time I read the book, and it's annoying me again now. The reason for that is quite simple: if the authors had given us a book title, or a description, it would have been a beautiful opportunity to add some depth to Noah's character. I mean, if he were reading Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, it would have clued us into something very different about Noah than if he were reading The Happy Return, or Native Tongue. But, in keeping with their established traditions, the authors never fail to tell rather than show, even when showing would be so absurdly easy that failing to do it seems to actually require effort. I truly hate this freaking book. Oblivious to my hatred, Noah asks Molly what she thinks she's doing and she says she wants to sleep in the bed with him. No sex, mind you, just sleep rubbed up against him. I don't think that sort of thing is necessarily unhealthy- cuddling being nice and all- but it is a little weird following a first date that prominently featured the intervention of riot police. Fortunately, Noah has every bit of class we've come to expect.

Page 114, Line 12-14:
"Suit yourself, lady. I'm telling you right now, you made the rules, but you're playing with fire here. I've got some rules, too, and rule number one is, don't tease the panther."

Ah. Right. Because if she gets you too revved up you can't be held accountable for your actions, is that it? You know what? Yes, you can be held accountable because possessing an erect penis does not give you license to assault someone else. Also, is that what he calls his penis? "The panther"? Because, really, that just doesn't seem right to me. Anyway, sexual assault does not occur, but something arguably scarier does.

Page 114, Line 26-27:
He was more than satisfied to simply listen to her quiet, steady breathing and watch her settle into a peaceful, deepening slumber.

"In the morning he would steal her hairbrush. In the weeks to come he would pet it like a cat, remembering her scent always." Yeah. That's not creepy at all. But, creepy or not, that's the end not only of Chapter 15, but of Part One of the book. Seriously, the next page says Part TWO in big block letters. I'd say this is a good chance to stop and take stock, but absolutely nothing has happened, and definitely no thrilling, so I think we needn't bother.

Anyway, come back next time when we start Part TWO, which coincidentally begins a second, almost totally unrelated novel about a totally different character. Yay?

See you then.

* Yeah, I know that link doesn't go anywhere, but that's the link given in the book. Searching for the article title, "Empire of the Son. How Dad's Real Estate Fortune Pays Spitzer Benefits" doesn't turn anything up so, there you go.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Apropos of goddamn everything.

Yeah. If you don't know what this is about, you just haven't been paying attention.

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Monday, May 23, 2011


You know, we humans spend a lot of time contemplating the end of all things. So much so that we can make entire video collages out of various imaginings:

Eclectic Method - The Apocamix from Eclectic Method on Vimeo.

I sometimes wonder if, just maybe, it's because we're afraid. Not afraid of the end, but afraid of continuing. An end by its very nature brings finality, but until the game ends there remains the possibility of failure, of heartbreak, and of pain. Maybe the end of the world has such a siren song because we are lazy. Maybe, maybe not, but as far as I'm concerned...

Game on!

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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Seattle apocalypse?

Yeah, not so much. Turns out, we're all still here.


I suddenly find myself wondering, though: what's the plural of "apocalypse"? I mean, can you pluralize something that's only supposed to happen once?

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Tokyo Apocalypse?

So, it's now 6:00 PM on May 21st in Tokyo aaaaaaand... yeah, we're all still here. Nobody has disappeared in a flash of light or what-not. No rapture, no apocalypse, no nothing.


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Friday, May 20, 2011

When prophecy fails.

Some of you may have noticed that a Reverend Camping has declared that tomorrow, May 21, 2011, is the end of the world. No, seriously. He has. This is news of obvious interest to everyone.

Now, I'm writing this on May 20th at about about 9:05 AM where I live. This is because of when the apocalypse is predicted to occur:

On May 21, "starting in the Pacific Rim at around the 6 p.m. local time hour, in each time zone, there will be a great earthquake, such as has never been in the history of the Earth," he says. The true Christian believers — he hopes he's one of them — will be "raptured": They'll fly upward to heaven. And for the rest?

"It's just the horror of horror stories," he says, "and on top of all that, there's no more salvation at that point. And then the Bible says it will be 153 days later that the entire universe and planet Earth will be destroyed forever."

So what does that mean? Who the hell knows- it's English, but not good English. I'm going to interpret that as meaning "At 6:00 PM in Tokyo, Japan". Why Tokyo? Well, it's that "Pacific Rim" bit, but for shits and giggles we'll also pay attention to Seattle, Washington. Now, if the rapture occurs at 6:00 PM on May 21st Tokyo-time, that means it'll happen at about 5:00 AM on May 21st, U.S. Eastern Standard Time. And, if the crazy people meant Seattle when they said "Pacific Rim" it'll happen on May 21st at about 9:00 PM Eastern Standard Time.

So get your marshmallows and hot chocolate, because folks- we've either got a front row seat to the end of the world, or a great view of Festinger's wet dream. Either way, it's gonna be fun.

And don't worry, our regular series on The Overton Window will be back before you know it. You know, assuming the world doesn't end tomorrow.

Considering I've already started working on the next episode, you can probably guess what I think is gonna happen. See y'all next week!

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Just FYI...

So, just to warn everyone, tomorrow we will not be seeing another installment in my popular barely tolerated, award-winning surprisingly highly ranked on google series on The Overton Window. This is for two reasons. First, there's something I really have to discuss tomorrow that's much more... what's the word? Ah! Topical. Yes, there's something more topical that really needs to be talked about tomorrow.

And second, my dissertation defense looms and, frankly, I haven't had time to write the episode in question. Go figure. For those who are curious, please enjoy this dramatic preenactment of my defense:

I just wish I understood the university rule requiring Ph.D. candidates to wear red and black face paint when they go before the committee. Ah, well.

So, yeah, we should get back to our usual stuff next week or the week following. Thanks for your patience!

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Friday, May 13, 2011

The Overton Window: Chapter 14

Welcome back one and all to our ongoing series on The Overton Window, the book that makes me vaguely nauseous. Last time Noah went to jail and then tried to get everyone out again with the help of his lawyer. What happens this week? Noah gets out of jail and then... well... goes for a ride with Molly and her Mom. Rawwrrr!

As I mentioned I am once again selecting a comment of the week, and this week that "honor" goes to Sassafras for going all soylent green on us:

What's up with all the "seasoned?" First Noah was a "seasoned pedestrian" (SCOFF) and now we have "seasoned veterans of the penal system" which is as redundant a description as it is just plain fucking lazy.

Microsoft Word has an easy-to-use thesaurus feature, kids. That's all I'm saying.

Or!! Perhaps the authors are referring to actual seasonings? Perhaps this is chapter where it's revealed that only folks who've rolled in butter, sage and basil are able to see the Political Light of Truth (whatever the fuckall that may be -- I'm not convinced that the authors understand the message any more than, well, Noah).

Indeed, now I'm imagining Noah rubbing himself in various aromatic substances in order to keep up with Hollis and his eau de possum. Perhaps in this alternate "factional" world, political wisdom is correlated with taste, thereby making the colonel- with his eleven herbs and spices- the only man who can defeat Arthur Gardner. Well done, Sass, and keep at it folks! The best worst is yet to come.

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.). Kick ass!

Dramatis Personae: In an order chosen by a random number generator.

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. Went to NYU. Not good at talking to women. Is "witty". Frequently forgets where he's going and why. Not really inclined to help out cab drivers. Low tolerance for alcohol.

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.

Hollis: Friend of Molly Ross. Very polite. From the country. May be a Yeti.

Danny Bailey: Some kind of YouTube celebrity. Former lover of Molly Ross. Kind of a dickhead. Loves conspiracy theories and incoherent speeches.

Charlie Nelan: Gardner family lawyer. Silver hair. Impeccably dressed. Looks awesome. Has some sort of weird relationship with GQ. May have the ability to sense when Noah's in trouble using some sort of clairvoyance. Possible kleptomaniac.


Chapter 14: In which Noah meets the parent, impresses Molly, drives around, and ends up with a chaste evening.

Recommended Mood Music:

Page 96, Line 1-4:
He'd kept calm as he walked down the last long hallway toward the exit of the First Precinct, but as Noah finally stepped out onto the sidewalk his heart began to work so hard he could nearly see it pounding beneath his borrowed shirt.

I'm not a doctor, but if a brisk walk gets your heart pounding like that, you might want to be seen by a physician.

Page 96, Line 5-6:
Injustice exists, Charlie had said, and for that fact his young client was now profoundly thankful. [emphasis original]

So, just for the record, he's grateful for injustice. I can only assume that's because otherwise his scrapbook would be pretty dull (Pages 34-35, Lines 34: 24-32, 35: 1-4). Actually, all kidding aside he does let us in on a reason why he's grateful, but it's stupid.

Page 96, Line 6-8:
If it had been an abuse of power that had put him in jail for most of the night, then it was surely a second abuse that had coerced the authorities to let him go.

So, he's thankful that injustice exists, because that injustice favors him. Well, at least that shows more honesty than we usually get from the rich and powerful. That said, it seems like the simpler approach would be to just wish injustice didn't exist in the first place, thereby negating the need for one abuse of power to counteract another. But I'm not a "brilliant boy" like Noah Gardner,* so clearly I don't understand.

Page 96, Line 8-10:
But, however it was won, it was still freedom, and maybe for the first time he fully understood the meaning of that word.

Oh, barf. Noah was in custody for probably ten hours, almost all of that with the supervision of his lawyer, and here he is talking like he's Nelson Mandela. I'm pretty sure that most Americans** don't have any real grasp of what true abuses of power are like. If you want to know, try asking the Chinese or the North Koreans. Anyway, Noah ponders how Charlie managed to convince some of the cops- who were apparently unwilling participants in the whole thing- to come forward about the setup.

Page 96, Line 14-18:
Just as a minor rebellion was threatening to break out between the actual uniformed police officers and the contract security forces who'd been working the scene, a phone call had come in from some high echelon, and right away everything was abruptly and quietly settled.

I can only assume that this phone call is what Noah meant by the second abuse of power, because otherwise it sounds like a straightforward game of, "You did something illegal and I can prove it, so why don't you drop the charges and save us all a lot of trouble?" And yes, that's a shitty name for a game. This is also a nice way for the authors to paint the police as scary authority figures without quite following through on it. See, it wasn't the nice, heroic police who did something bad, it was the "contract security forces" and the cops were coerced grudgingly into helping. When your target audience loves authority figures like cops, but hates the government, these are the kinds of contortions your narrative is going to have to go through.

Page 97, Line 1-4:
He took in a deep breath of the cold, sobering night air, right through a thin dagger of pain that jabbed hard between his ribs. It hurt, but not as though anything was permanently damaged in there; bent for sure, but not broken.

Again, I'm not a doctor, but based on my first aid and wilderness medicine training*** I have to observe that ribs don't really do that. They can flex, sure, but if they bend at a dramatic enough angle to be detectable to a layperson and don't... you know... spring back when pressure is removed? Yeah. See a doctor. That's what we call a fracture. Well, either a fracture or bad writing, take your pick.

Page 97, Line 5-6:
All the others had begun filtering out behind him, checking their watches, counting and pocketing their returned personal effects...

Right, see, the cops confiscated personal effects. So why again was Noah in lockup with his class ring (Page 88, Line 7-8) still on his finger?

Page 97, Line 18-22:
Something lightly brushed his arm and the contact shook him out of his reflections. As he turned to see who'd touched him he found himself needing to look up to make eye contact.

"Just wanted to say my thank-you," Hollis said. If he'd still had his hat he would have been clutching it shyly in his hands.

Oh, my. I think someone has a little crush!

Page 97, Line 25-29:
"I'll make a deal with you," Noah said. "Tell me what time it is and we'll call it even."

The big man looked up and seemed to take a bearing on a number of celestial bodies before ciphering a moment. "I'd say she's nigh only half past four in the morning, give or take some."

If you didn't facepalm at that, you're a better person than I am. Okay, where to start? First off, they're in Manhattan, which traditionally has a lot of light pollution. So I'm not sure what celestial bodies Hollis is looking for, because only the brightest are going to be visible at all, and a substantial fraction of the sky will probably be blocked off by various structures. Second, the only way he'd be able to do that kind of trick is if he spends a lot of time out of doors at night and, given that he sounds like a farmer, that's unlikely. I suppose he might hunt at night, although that would be a smidge unwise. Firearms and poor sight lines don't mix well. Third, even if he can do this at home, unless "home" has the same damned latitude as New York, he probably ain't gonna be able to do it here. If home has a different latitude, the sky will look very, very different and telling time by stellar positions will be exceptionally difficult. Fourth, why the hell does he speak as though he's from the damned 19th century? And lastly, while "ciphering" can be used to mean "computing," it's an uncommon and archaic meaning of the term. Couldn't the authors have just said "figuring" instead? Or are they trying to impress us with their vocabulary all of a sudden? Anyway, Hollis says goodbye, and lumbers off to... who knows? Seek edible nuts and berries in central park before returning to his native habitat? Noah sees his car appear around a corner- described as a Mercedes- and raises a hand to flag it down.

Page 98, Line 5-7:
Noah took a step toward the car, but stopped when he heard familiar voices behind him. He turned to see Molly and her mother saying goodbye to the last of their departing compatriots.

So, the last time we saw Molly Noah's head was in her lap. And the last time we saw Molly's mom, Noah was trying to bang her in an alley. So how interesting is this encounter going to be? Judging from the rest of the book, not very. Molly's mom introduces herself as Beverly Emerson- no idea why the different last name from her daughter- and then she thanks Noah for getting them out of lockup. Molly also thanks Noah, albeit less effusively.

Page 98, Line 20-22:
There was something hard to place in the way she [Molly] looked at him; it wasn't quite an apology in her eyes, but something like it.

Pity? Contempt? Disdain? Because I feel all three whenever I think about Noah. At this point the car pulls up- a car that the authors make sure to identify specifically as a silver S600 Pullman- and he offers the ladies a ride. Thatta boy, tiger! You'll ride the mother/daughter tricycle yet!

Page 99, Line 1:
"Oh, that would be fantastic," Beverly said.


Page 99, Line 2-6:
Molly took the seat across from him, with her mother beside. The interior of this particular car was designed as a four-person conference room and workspace. Even so, its amenities were every bit as over-the-top as any limo devoted to simple luxury. Every point of contact was hand-worked leather and rare polished wood.

Right, it's an expensive car. Thanks for the update. Can we get back to the story now? Yeah, evidently not.

Page 99, Line 6-13:
Each of the four seats, arranged two-facing-two, was bordered by glowing flat panels ready to provide access to a dizzying array of information or entertainment. Touchscreens were embedded seamlessly in the armrests and consoles, posied to order up any conceivable human need. The entire vehicle was a rolling monument to the comforts of First World business royalty; for the cost of the custom work alone within these few cubic feet, you could easily buy a nice house almost anywhere in the world.

And I'm forced to ask at this point, now that we've had such a thorough description of the car: what the hell does Noah look like? I mean, we've had a much, much more thorough description of this damned car- which will never appear in another scene, thus making this description basically pointless- than we have of our main character. This could be for any of a number of reasons, but aside from plain old bad writing, my guess is it's because the authors would really like to ride around in this car, whereas nobody in their right mind would want to ride around in Noah. Anyway, after noting that he doesn't always ride around in such luxury, and mentioning that his father only rides in armored Maybach 62s ("Did we mention that Noah is RICH?!"), Noah gets each of them a hot towel from a dispenser and they all... you know... rub them on their faces. I'll admit that of the handful of times I've tried something like that, the only time it's ever been enjoyable was on the last leg of a loooong trip overseas. Otherwise, I really just feel like I'm rubbing my face with a used washcloth. Anyway, Noah gets both ladies a soft drink (Seriously, that's what it says- page 100, line 5-6) and they all drink quietly for a moment.

Page 100, Line 10-12:
"Molly tells me that you're a creative writer."

Noah had been in the midst of a sip, and nearly spit out his ginger ale.

Okay, so now we're in a romantic comedy and the hero is meeting the female lead's quirky parents. It isn't that this book crosses genre boundaries so much as that it doesn't have any idea what story it's trying to tell. Anyway, Noah talks about work for a while- including how he's trying to cover up for a Senator in the west who has an ethics issue and a marital infidelity issue at the same time (1). And oddly, all I can think about is it's weird for PR guys to know all the facts since there's no PR Hack/Client privilege. There's attorney-client privilege, sure, but that doesn't apply here. So, really, wouldn't the guy just ask for an image makeover without going into the nitty-gritty of why? Regardless, he finishes this riveting description and then things get silly.

Page 101, Line 3-10:
Noah had been through this introductory conversation many times and so he knew what the next question would be. He'd answered it often enough, at scores of cocktail parties and on hundreds of first dates, and his answer had become so smooth and automatic that he no longer had to worry much about it. Trouble was, though the words were basically the same, Beverly Emerson asked the question in a manner that no one else ever had.

"But doesn't it bother you sometimes, Noah?"

Oooooh. Right. Only TEA partiers are moral enough to really question the art of public relations. Riiiiight. Surely he has a quick rejoinder for this common question, right?

Page 101, Line 17-18:
"Whenever I make the mistake of stopping to actually think about it? Yes, it really does bother me."

Right, OR he'll just validate the premise of his questioner and admit that his whole career is an amoral sham. Yep, he's a brilliant boy, all right. Anyway, at this point they arrive at Beverly's hotel, she gets out, and Molly is left alone with Noah.

Page 101, Line 31-32:
"You've been awfully quiet," Noah said.

"I guess I have."

Mostly at the moment she's wondering why the hell she didn't get out of the car when her mom did. That and whether there's rohypnol in her soft drink. He puts on some music, which isn't described, and then we get this.

Page 102, Line 5-9:
"It was my twenty-eighth birthday today," Noah said. "Yesterday, I mean."

"Happy birthday."

"Thanks. When I blew out the candle on my cupcake, I made a wish that we'd spend some time together tonight."

Oh... god. Just, oh my god! I'm going to be sick. I can't believe I'm reading this shit. Why doesn't he just snort loudly and stammer, "You're so pretty! Can you be my girlfriend?" On an unrelated note: "blew out the candle on my cupcake" would make an awesome euphemism.

Page 102, Line 14-19:
"Noah?" [Molly asked]


"I want to apologize."

"For what?" [Noah answered]

"I think I misjudged you."

"I don't know if you did or not."

I do, and she didn't. Trust me. Shortly afterwards Molly, realizing that she hasn't given her stalker enough opportunities to drug her, mentions that she's hungry.

Page 102, Line 26-31:
"Say no more." Noah touched the intercom. "Eddie, could you take us up to Amy Ruth's, on One-hundred-and-sixteenth? And call ahead, would you? I don't think they're open yet. Tell Robert we need some orange juice and two Al Sharptons (2) at the curb." Through the glass divider, he saw the driver nod his head and engage the Bluetooth phone system.

"What's an Al Sharpton?" Molly asked.

"Fried chicken and waffles. You're a southern girl, right?"

Now, before anyone jumps all over the authors here, Amy Ruth's actually exists and they do, in fact, serve a plate of chicken and waffles called the Al Sharpton. And as a southerner, I do like chicken and waffles from time to time.**** I just feel like this bit is more than slightly out of place in this particular book.

Page 103, Line 4-9:
On the way to the restaurant he learned a little more about her life. Her family had moved around a great deal when she was young, following her father's job as a journeyman engineer for Pratt & Whitney. They'd ended up living near Arnold Air Base outside Manchester, Tennessee. When her dad was killed in an accident and the testing facility there, that's where they stayed.

Remember, aspiring authors: TELL don't SHOW! Why would you ever want a character to reveal their story gradually, or convincingly when you can just vomit it onto the page in the form of narration?

Page 103, Line 9-11:
Her mother then reclaimed her maiden name and started the patriot group they were both still a part of, the Founders' Keepers, a few years later.

You know how it is, you lose a spouse, you start a paranoid ultra-nationalistic organization... perfectly normal, perfectly healthy. Noah asks how old she was when her father died, she answers nine, and he offers than his mother died when he was ten. So, for those of you who have been aching to meet Noah's mom: sorry, no dice.

Page 103, Line 16-18:
"You know what? New topic. Ask me anything." [Noah said]

"Okay. Who's the most fascinating person you've ever met?"

He didn't hesitate. "President Clinton. Hands down."

Okay, I admit it wacky authors, you kinda surprised me there.

Page 103, Line 21-24:
"And you brought up the subject of lying earlier- this man [Clinton] could keep twenty elaborate, interlocking whoppers in his head at a time, improvising on the fly, and have you believing every word while you're holding a stack of hard evidence to the contrary."

And if Clinton could do all that as President, imagine what he could do with a cable television program and a chalk board! Ah, well, never mind then, authors, I am no longer surprised. At this point, Noah goes on to explain how Clinton has a way with the ladies and... um... goes to a bad place.

Page 104, Line 3-5:
"Clinton could read you a fairy tale and you'd be down to your panties by the time Rapunzel let down her golden hair."

On the one hand, this is not what you'd call classy. I mean, really, in my admittedly limited experience one of the best ways to make sure you don't get into a girl's panties is to talk about said panties on the first date. Hell, I don't think I even mentioned my wife's undergarments until at least the third date. On the other hand, does Noah speak from personal experience? Bad touch, indeed.

Page 104, Line 7-9:
"That said, he's also one of the most ruthless sons of bitches who ever walked the earth, and we won't see another like him for generations."

Right, so he's like Dick Cheney, then? Anyway, Noah asks about Molly's most fascinating person and she answers her mother. Then things get a little weird. Well, weird-er anyway.

Page 104, Line 15-18:
"Speaking of fascinating parents, your father would be a gripping subject." [Molly said]

"That he would."


So, don't you think it's weird that we're talking about Noah's dad at this point? Or is Molly the one looking for the parent/child threesome rather than Noah? Regardless, Noah tells about how his father was a Rhodes scholar, studied anthropology at Oxford and then ended up in cahoots with Edward Bernays (3). Then we get into a general discussion of public relations (4)***** .

Page 105, Line 13-14:
"Public relations is the scientific engineering of consent." [Noah lectured]

Don't be too impressed at that way of phrasing it- it's cribbed from Bernays. That said, it is actually a fairly good way to put it. Nevertheless, Molly doesn't understand, thereby opening the way for more exposition.

Page 105, Line 16-22:
"Take a manufactured takeover, like Guatemala (5). We engineered the overthrow of a democratically elected president, and this guy was popular, he was going to take their land back from United Fruit and return it to the people. So he had to be demonized before he could be taken down. If you just march in one night, the people might rise up and resist, and you don't want that. They have to be pacified, so their minds are the first thing you have to change."

Uh-oh. I think I see where this is going.

Page 105, Line 23-26:
"Use our own country as an example. Eighty millions citizens own guns in America, you'd never win if they all started pushing back (6). You can't take away the freedom of an aware, informed populace; they have to give it up themselves."

Okay, so, point number one is that apparently persuasion is the same thing as a diabolical plot to strip a person of their freedom. No wonder the right is so disinterested in actual discussion about problems. Point two is that, as it happens, I am a gun owner. Indeed, I own more than one. And you know what else? I support a pretty substantial number of gun laws. How do you explain that, freaky authors? Regardless, Noah talks a bit more about Bernays and his ilk (7) (8), eventually reaching what I think is supposed to be the explanation of what Noah's father is actually plotting.

Page 106, Line 11-16:
"His [Bernays] vision for this country, for the world, really, was a huge, benevolent nanny state, a plutocracy, where the people would be spoon-fed in every aspect of their simple, dreary lives. He'd show them how to vote, what to eat, what to love and hate, what to think, and when to think it. And, God help us all, my father took those lessons to heart and built on them. He does what he does better than anybody else ever has."

So, apparently a state that takes an interest in the welfare of its people- by, say, regulating environmental contamination- is a plutocratic hell. Good to know.

Page 106, Line 18-20:
She [Molly] looked like a kid who'd just been told what happens to all the unwanted puppies at the pound.

Well, she is trapped in a car with Noah Gardner, after all. In any case, they decide to change the subject, and the car pulls up to Amy Ruth's where a man appears with sacks of food.

Page 106, Line 28-30:
"Good morning, Robert. Sorry if we got you out of bed." [Noah said]

"No trouble, no trouble at all, I will happily itemize my inconvenience on your tab."

"Ha, ha. Just give us the f-ing food, serf!" Anyway, there's a description of some eating and then- and I know this will excite some of you who have been wondering- Molly asks Noah about his mother.

Page 107, Line 8-14:
"My dad met my mother in 1978, and I'll tell you, I doubt if two people have ever been more different. Oh, this is interesting, my mom is actually in that documentary about Woodstock."

"Which part?"

He waved a hand in front of his eyes. "I don't know exactly, I can't really watch it. She's kind of making out with some hairy guy, and I'm not sure, I think she flashes the cameraman at one point-"

Okay, so, as it turns out, Noah's mom was awesome. This whole bit makes it sound like Noah is a real prude, though. Anyway, it turns out that Arthur met her while vacationing, whirlwind romance, blah, blah, blah. Apparently she stayed in upstate New York with Noah and Arthur visited when he could, so Noah didn't really know his father until his mom died of lung cancer. And, as it happens, that turns Molly on.

Page 108, Line 4-11:
"Hey." She tapped him on the knee, and he looked up. "Would you mind if I sat over there with you?"

"No, I don't mind."

The seats were meant for one occupant only but she moved across, put their plates aside, and situated herself easily, sidesaddle across his lap, one arm around his back, a hand resting on his chest, her head against his shoulder.

"I think I'm going to like you," Molly said.

Sadly, at this point, Molly doesn't continue by exclaiming, "Oh! I think I just found the middle-high bar!"

Page 108, Line 17-21:
"I think I like you, too," he said. "But I'm warning you right now, if I let down all my defenses, and then you hurt me? Well, you saw what I did to those thugs tonight."

"Oh, no. You'll hit me in the knee with your face?"

"Just as hard as I can."

Okay, so that was actually pretty funny, but just because it points out what a loser Noah is. And also, frankly, the idea of Molly kneeing him in the face just makes me smile. Anyway, they take a scenic ride through central park and then she drops the bomb.

Page 109, Line 2-6:
She stretched dreamily, arched against him as she did so, and sighed and looked up into his eyes. "Would you take me home now?"

"Sure. Where did you say you lived, down by Tompkins Square Park?"

"No. I mean to your home."

"Oh." He blinked. "Okay."

Noah, you dog!

Page 109, Line 9:
"And I'm not talking about anything sexual." [Molly added]

Ah, well, never mind. They decide to have a nice, quiet sleepover- and yes the term "sleepover" is used in the text- and the chapter ends.

Now, at this point, I have two comments scrawled at the bottom of the page. One essentially asks, "Why does she like him? His 'game' is weak as hell". And this is accurate- when it comes to seduction, Noah has all the skill of Homer Simpson, but without the runaway masculinity. I encourage you to be asking yourself this question, "why does she like him," over the next few chapters because there is, in fact, a reason. The other comment reads, "We're at page 109- when does the thrilling start?" And that's a good question, because so far this book has been dull as shit. Sadly, however, the thrilling does not begin in the next chapter. What does happen? Well, I don't want to ruin the surprise, but Noah totally sleeps with Molly.

See you then!

* And I couldn't be happier about that.

** Well, white, heterosexual Americans at any rate.

*** One of the few things I had a knack for in the Boy Scouts. Back in the day I could have built you a dialysis machine out of twigs and rocks.

**** Actually, I've been known to go way out of my way at conferences to visit a local Waffle House. You really should try the chicken and eggs.

***** Yes, I know that's a dead link. Yes, that is the link specified in the book. No, searching for the article title "The Man Who Sold the War" does not turn anything up. Make of that what you will.


Total Drek is experiencing technical difficulties...

Because Blogger has apparently been having some sort or freaky nervous breakdown. A new Overton Window is on the way, folks, so just hang in there.

To entertain you in the interim, please enjoy this fine nature documentary:

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Like a boss.

You know, sometimes you really have to love the Smithsonian:

Just awesome.

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Friday, May 06, 2011

The Overton Window: Chapter 13

Welcome back one and all to our ongoing series on The Overton Window, the book that makes Ann Coulter seem almost sane. Last time Noah gave an impromptu speech, almost hooked up with Molly's mom, and was clubbed by a cop. What happens this week? Noah goes to jail and then, you know, tries to get out. Don't get too excited, though- Law & Order this is not. Hell, this shit aspires to even the stature of Perry Mason.

As I mentioned I am once again selecting a comment of the week, and this week that "honor" goes to Jay for noticing the serious amidst the stupid:

Noah's "revelations" are meant to be somehow shocking, but they're really just simple math. In a nation of 300 million, things are either going to be run by (a) nobody at all or (b) a very small subset of the population. If you like option (a), a weekend in Mogadishu should change your mind.

As an Ivy-leaguer myself, though, I sort of see the point of their anticollegiate schtick. The bankers and executives that do so much damage have prestigious diplomas as a class marker (the education part mostly didn't take). If they replaced "Ivy League" with "business school" in their rants, I'd be half tempted to cheer with them.

Jay is, of course, correct: the reality of our society is that it is run by a small set of very powerful people. That said, the implication Noah presents that those powerful people are a coalition of sinister societies is pretty much bunk. The version Jay presents, in contrast, makes quite a bit more sense. But this is the "power" of the authors' world: it fuses reasonable points to utter nonsense so tightly that some legitimacy is bound to rub off. Well, either that or herpes. Congratulations, Jay, and keep at it everyone: your time will come.

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.). Let's roll!

Dramatis Personae: In an order chosen by my mom.

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. Went to NYU. Not good at talking to women. Is "witty". Frequently forgets where he's going and why. Not really inclined to help out cab drivers. Low tolerance for alcohol.

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.

Hollis: Friend of Molly Ross. Very polite. From the country. May be a Yeti.

Danny Bailey: Some kind of YouTube celebrity. Former lover of Molly Ross. Kind of a dickhead. Loves conspiracy theories and incoherent speeches.


Chapter 13: In which Noah goes to jail, only to be threatened with going to jail, gets saved by his lawyer, and grows a spine.

Recommended Mood Music:

Page 86, Line 1:
He opened his eyes, and found her looking down at him.

"Her" who? The cougar?* Because that would be f-ing awesome.

Page 86, Line 2-5:
It was the wide variety of aches and pains that told him for certain she wasn't a figment of his imagination. His head was resting in her lap, and Molly held him steady as the crowded police van bumped and jostled along the patchy downtown streets.

Okay, so, it wasn't the cougar, but rein in your disappointment for a moment and let's ponder something. When last we saw Molly, she was storming off in a huff because Noah had given her his opinion, which as it happens she had asked him for.** Suddenly, though, in this chapter she feels warmly enough towards the gigantic moron that she's willing to cradle his head in her lap. So, how did this come about? You might answer at first blush that she saw him heroically attempt to stop a riot cop from beating a guy down before- somewhat less heroically- getting beaten down himself. The problem with that theory is that by the time Noah was getting his hero on, Molly was pretty much already eating linoleum (Page 84, Line 9-14). Your next answer might be that Molly realized she was being a freaky bitch and was planning to apologize after his little speech- possibly by inviting him to a threesome with her mom***- but based on Molly's behavior here and elsewhere in the book, I doubt it.**** Next, it could be that Molly is a tad psycho- sort of like Glenn Close in fatal attraction. This is supported by other events in the book, but I'm pretty sure it's not what we're meant to conclude, so scratch that. This leaves two options: either (a) Molly is Up To Something or (b) this is just another example of bad writing. I don't want to spoil your surprise, though, so rather than give you the final answer, I'll just rest with, "Christ does this scene not make any damn sense at all."

Page 86, Line 6:
Police van? [emphasis original]

Oh, right, Noah's in a police van. And he's surprised even though he was the one who, in his own thoughts, made the identification a line or two ago. Or can he actually hear the narrator? Eh, whatever. Noah says "hey" to Molly and looks around, noticing that the van is chock full of people from the bar.

Page 86, Line 15-17
Noah looked up at her again. "What happened-"

She hushed him with a fingertip to his lips, and he saw that her wrists were bound with nylon ties.

Oh...oh god. Is this... is this supposed to be romantic? Seriously? Yikes. Anyway, the van arrives at its destination and its human cargo is unloaded.

Page 87, Line 2-3:
Somehow the news crews had arrived and set up for on-scene reports even before the paddy wagons rolled in.

Wow. It's like they have some futuristic technology like a "police scanner". Seriously, this book is shit. Anyway, they're unloaded searched, booked, and so forth.

Page 87, Line 13-17:
Most of the guys nearby him seemed to be from the group at the tavern. Some others around the cell, clearly seasoned veterans of the penal system, appeared to have been brought in for day-to-day offenses ranging from vagrancy to prostitution to drunk-and-disorderliness.

So, here's a question for everyone playing along at home: by "prostitution" do the authors mean "soliciting" or do they mean... you know... prostitution?

Page 87, Line 27-31:
After a time he saw something that he couldn't begin to understand; he must have been mistaken. The man from the back on the tavern, the one with the gun, was being escorted from an adjacent cell. He wasn't in handcuffs or restraints of any kind. He was just walking along with the officers toward the exit.

I know Noah has recently suffered a head trauma, but surely even he remembers the grotesquely unsubtle hints the authors were dropping about plants from the last three chapters? I guess not. Regardless, the cops call his name, he raises his hand, and they spend some time trying to figure out if he is, indeed, Noah Gardner.

Page 88, Line 7-8:
It was his gold class ring from Riverdale Country School that seemed to cement the positive ID.

Never having been arrested I don't know the answer to this but it seems to me that a distinctive gold ring is the sort of thing the cops would take and put into storage before putting you into general holding. Or am I missing something here? Regardless, the cops take him out of the cell and bring him to an interview room. In doing so, they neither handcuff him nor restrain him in any fashion, which really makes one wonder what the hell was so weird about the other guy being extracted from his cell without restraints? But, anyway, back to the interview room.

Page 89, Line 9-12:
"Now." The cop looked up at him for the first time. "Before I ask you if you're willing to talk to me, I want you to understand something else. This isn't a parking ticket we're talking about here. Somebody's going to jail tonight."

Technically, "somebody" is already in jail, he's just not in prison yet. The cop goes on to describe the more elaborate booking process, involving mugshots and so forth- which would have already occurred one would think- and then it's suggested that none of these folks will be arraigned until Monday because it's a Friday night.

Page 89, Line 21-25:
"If you're not granted bail- and by the nature of these offenses in the prevailing climate, and with Homeland Security getting involved, I seriously doubt you will be- then you'll all get on another bus, and that one'll have shackles on the seats and bars on the windows, because it'll be headed to Rikers Island."

Now, I'm aware that the authors intend for us to react to this scene with indignation, thinking "What offenses? Noah didn't do anything!" thereby manufacturing real indignation at the government over an offense that it hasn't committed. Unless, that is, the NYPD is in the practice of arresting fictional characters. That said, given that this is "faction" I prefer to believe that what's actually going on is that in this parallel world there actually is a "felony stupid"***** and the cops got wind of Mrs. Ross and Danny's speeches. But what are Noah's actual crimes?

Page 89, Line 26-28:
"What you're going to be charged with"- he paused to flip a set of reading glasses down onto his nose- "is inciting a riot, resisting arrest, and aggravated assault on a police officer."

Well, the former is definitely not true, the latter is debatable, but that middle one is pretty much dead on. Anyway, the cop goes on to argue that someone is going to go down for assault with a deadly weapon, states that if someone doesn't come forward to single out who that was they're all going to jail, and then tells Noah that he seems like a nice guy and he should cooperate. So it's good cop/bad cop, but all with one cop. It's basically like a really, really awful Law and Order script. And then he places a voice recorder on the desk and turns it on, thereby setting the stage for a dramatic reveal.

Page 90, Line 27-30:
Before Noah could respond there were three quick raps on the door frame and the Gardner family attorney, Charlie Nelan, walked in without waiting to be asked. He picked up the recorder from the desk, flicked it off, and slipped it into his pocket.

Did I say "dramatic reveal"? I meant "arrival of Noah's kleptomaniac lawyer". My mistake. On another note: I know Noah is supposed to be all powerful and shit, but as far as I can tell- and I have the freaking narrative right in front of me- Noah never actually called his lawyer. So... what? Is Noah lojacked with an alarm set to go off whenever he turns up in prison? Was the lawyer watching the local news on a Friday night and just happened to see him? Did the cops go out of the way to help Noah lawyer up without even being asked to first? Just... what? And then we get a description.

Page 91, Line 5-8:
Charlie Nelan was one of those old-school, silver-haired uberprofessionals who swore by the power of image. No matter where you happened to see him, he always looked as though he'd just stepped out of the "Awesome Lawyers" issue of Gentleman's Quarterly. [emphasis original]

Okay, first off, what is it with this book and men's magazines? Is this characterization, or do the authors just have really detestable taste in reading material? Somewhat more seriously, though, the real failure of this bit is that, rather than establishing a character for poor Charlie, the authors decide to just invoke a cliche instead. They may as well have written, "Charlie Nelan was basically Jack McCoy, but with a different name so as to not infringe on copyright". Anyway, it comes out that the detective is named Halliday- I wouldn't worry much about that as it never matters even a little at any point- and that Charlie wants Noah released, the charges dropped, and the arrest report destroyed. The phone then rings, the cop does a double take looking at the caller ID (Yes, that's what it says in the text) and the lawyer drags Noah next door so the cop can talk on the phone in private. And, coincidentally, my margin note reads, "I feel like I'm in that scene in Left Behind where the dude from Scotland Yard gets intimidated by Todd Cothran." If you haven't read Left Behind you won't know what I mean, so just picture reading about a mime that can't quite figure out how to escape from an invisible box, and you'll pretty much grasp the essential lack of dramatic tension involved.

Page 91, Line 30-32:
"How did you even know I was here?" Noah asked.

The look that came back said that young Mr. Gardner was worrying about something far beneath his concern, given the circumstances.

Okay, so, on the positive side, Noah has noticed that this is an odd turn of events as well. On the negative side, we're being told that even the authors have no idea how to explain it. I'm so glad we had this little chat.

Page 92, Line 1-4:
Charlie was already punching more numbers on his cell, and as he put the phone to his ear he motioned to the water bottle, as though adequate hydration was the only substantive thing Noah could bring to the party at this stage.

From having read about Noah Gardner for more than twelve chapters now, I feel quite secure in saying that Charlie is imposing some pretty high expectations here. True to form, Noah does not drink any water, and does space out staring out the window. He's such a brilliant boy.

Page 92, Line 9-20:
Out in the common area, a dozen or so men were gathered together having coffee and a collegial chat with some uniformed police. He [Noah] stood and stepped closer to the glass, trying hard to believe his eyes.

In this surreal gathering was every heckler, every troublemaker who had made himself apparent during the speeches at the bar. Every one of them was dressed similarly, the differences being confined to the inflammatory slogans on their clothing and their selection of cracker-chic accessories. When scattered among a larger group they'd been harder to spot as co-conspirators, but all together like this, with their guard down, their costumes were obvious and their mannerisms out of character. It looked like the after-party of a Larry the Cable Guy stunt-double audition at Central Casting.

I'm sure that was inserted just in case anyone missed the repeated hints over the last few chapters. Remember, all offensive and irritating jerks at TEA party rallies are totally plants. Hell, apparently they're planted police officers. Way to foster paranoia, authors!

Page 92, Line 21-24:
One of them matched a picture in Noah's memory to the very last detail. He was sure this time: the man was wearing a loud flannel shirt, a hunter's vest, a do-rag torn from the corner of a Confederate battle flag, and a shoulder holster.

This description would probably have more impact if we'd ever seen this guy described before, but I think we're supposed to conclude that this was the shooter at the club. On a related note: since when is NYC a place where you can openly carry a pistol? Anyway, Charlie gets off of the phone and proceeds to tell Noah that he's a friggin idiot****** and that he (Charlie) has called in enough favors to get Noah off the hook. At the same time, however, he emphasizes that this is as far as it goes- he has no more pull to use, so if Noah gets into any further trouble, he's on his own. Noah responds by leveling wild accusations.

Page 93, Line 20-26:
"This whole thing was a setup." [Noah exclaimed]

"I don't care."

"Those guys, right out there-" Noah pointed through the glass, and Charlie looked briefly in that direction- "they were at this meeting tonight, where all this happened, and they were there specifically to start something. When they got tired of waiting for the people to get violent they did it themselves."

Right, again: TEA partiers are never violent, are never threatening, and any time anything happens that seems to suggest otherwise, they were totally framed. Everybody's got that down by now, right? Charlie repeats that he doesn't care and asserts that even if the story is true, it isn't Noah's problem. Noah reacts by continuing down conspiracy theory lane, with a slight detour into back-fitting way.

Page 94, Line 11-13:
"And the press- all those reporters were already here outside the station; how would they have known-"

Okay, let me say this again- slowly- because apparently Noah just isn't getting it: it's called a "police scanner". It's a device that allows people to listen in on police radio communications- they're great for reporters since they provide warning about what the police are doing, where, and why, so that if you want to you can totally get to a crime scene or the station for a perp walk in time to get juicy footage. Can we please just friggin move on now? Anyway, Charlie again tries to talk Noah into just leaving but, well, see for yourself.

Page 94, Line 22-31:
"I'm not leaving." [Noah said, sticking out his bottom lip and crossing his arms]

"I'm sorry... what?"

"Not without everybody else who was brought in with me."

Charlie didn't respond right away.

"You're sure about what you saw," he said at last.


"Because if I open this can of worms again and I come up empty-handed? There's a good chance we're going to blow this deal I just made."

"Charlie, I'm sure."

Oh, wow, so suddenly he's all idealistic? Or is this, in reality, just a really expensive way to try to impress Molly and thereby gain access to her panties? Only time will tell.

Page 95-95, Line 94:32, 95: 1-5:
"Okay," the lawyer said quietly. "Let me look into it and I'll see what I can do. But I'll tell you right now, whatever I find out, this is going to take a lot more chips than I've got in my pocket. That means I'll have to call your dad."

That wasn't welcome news, but Noah took a deep breath and nodded his permission.

And I suddenly feel like Noah's sixteen and wrecked the family station wagon on prom night. But, regardless of how I feel, that brings us to the end of another wretched chapter. Not a moment too soon, either.

Well, come back next time when Noah reconnects with Molly and Molly's mom, gets them both into a limo, and then... well... you'll have to read the episode if you want to see if he closes the deal. But let's face it: the man can't even drink water successfully. What are the odds?

See you then!

* I'm referring to Molly's mom of course. Who else?

** This is, as a side note, a pet peeve of mine. Specifically, if you don't really want to know what someone thinks, don't ask them to tell you.

*** Totally not going to let that joke go; no matter how dead the horse is, I will continue beating the shit out of it.

**** Besides, let's face it, on the rare occasions when people do apologize spontaneously for acting like idiots, does it ever occur this quickly the offense in question?

***** In the David Alexander sense of the term. Look up the story of the same name in the summer 1997 issue of Analog Science Fiction and Fact.

****** Well, not explicitly, but the spirit is there.


Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Deep Thoughts with Drek the Uninteresting

A lot of people have phobias. I don't normally think of myself as phobic, but some things scare me. Mermaids, for example, are really creepy. It's not that they're half-fish, half-woman. That's weird but it's not too weird. I mean, I used to date. But where are their genitals and rectum? They're just smooth down there. Doesn't anybody think that's weird? That their only major orifice is a mouth? I wonder if maybe it isn't a mouth. Maybe it's really a cloaca but, like sea anemones, they eat through it too. I don't care how nicely the crab sings, if that thing is what I think it is, I most certainly am not going to kiss the girl.

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Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Now this I would watch.

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Monday, May 02, 2011

Always nice to start the week with some good news...

It was unreasonably satisfying to wake up and hear the news:

Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the most devastating attack on American soil in modern times and the most hunted man in the world, was killed in a firefight with United States forces in Pakistan, President Obama announced on Sunday night.

In a dramatic late-night appearance in the East Room of the White House, Mr. Obama declared that “justice has been done” as he disclosed that American military and C.I.A. operatives had finally cornered Bin Laden, the Al Qaeda leader who had eluded them for nearly a decade, in the early hours of Monday local time. American officials said Bin Laden resisted and was shot in the head. He was later buried at sea.

The news touched off an extraordinary outpouring of emotion as crowds gathered outside the White House, in Times Square and at the Ground Zero site, waving American flags, cheering, shouting, laughing and chanting, “U.S.A., U.S.A.!” In New York City, crowds sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Throughout downtown Washington, drivers honked horns deep into the night.

“For over two decades, Bin Laden has been Al Qaeda’s leader and symbol,” the president said in a statement televised around the world. “The death of Bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat Al Qaeda. But his death does not mark the end of our effort. There’s no doubt that Al Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us. We must and we will remain vigilant at home and abroad.”

I just wish "we" hadn't been so damn determined to take any opportunity to invade Iraq. Then maybe we wouldn't seen this headline six or seven years ago. Still, better late than never.

And if any of you are wondering how the kids over at Conservapedia are taking this, the answer is, "with difficulty":

Or, to quote directly:

Bin Laden dead. He has been killed, a United States official said Sunday night. The US knew where he was for months, but sent ground troops in to recover the body rather than use a Predator drone. Ayman al-Zawahri, the brains of al Qaeda and bin Laden's chief deputy, remains at large. Bin Laden's death is nearly 10 years after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Bin Laden was killed in a mansion outside a highland town 150 km. north of Islamabad, capital of Pakistan, a U.S. source said on Sunday. [emphasis original]

Well, I suppose you really would have to say that President Obama is a "United States official" but it does seem a little bit churlish not to name him. Ah, well. What would we do without the Conservapeons?*

I'd like to offer congratulations to all of the U.S. personnel, as well as our allies, who helped make this possible. Now, I only hope we can find a constructive way forward.

* Probably sleep easier at night in the knowledge that such a creeping horror wasn't at large in the world, but I digress.

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