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Friday, December 16, 2011

The Overton Window: Chapter 44

Welcome back one and all to our ongoing series on The Overton Window, the book that I simply don't know how to explain to my daughter. Last time Danny and Stu lost the will to live and allowed themselves to be reduced to incandescent vapor. What happens this week? We return to Noah and Molly who have- hands down- the most bizarre exchange in the book.

As I mentioned I am once again selecting a comment of the week, and this week that "honor" goes to Ken for at least providing supporting evidence:

By the way, it's not just that they stay on the truck for three miles--it's that they set the thing for three miles, specifically, and then stay there.

Yes, the chance grows greater that your terrorist will stop the farther (away) you let him get. But three miles was arbitrary in the first place.

Maybe it's the length of time Stuart thinks it would take Danny to give him a blow job. (Textual evidence: Kearns offers Danny "a cigarette.") But at any rate--even if you know the road, and the GPS coordinates three miles therefrom--it's silly to set it for any distance if you're not going to jump, and not to set it for a longer distance if you are.

Only authors who believe Glenn Beck's--er, Danny's--"I'm getting too old for this Shitty Organization" speech is more important than successfully stopping a terrorist organization would select this trick of the tail.

Indeed, leaving matters of potential fellatio aside (although it would explain the leg tapping from a few chapters back...) this is an excellent point. Why not just blow the damn thing up right away? Why take the chance? For a shitty speech? Well, apparently, yes. Because this book is just basically a random collection of vaguely unfortunate events that provide the connective tissue between shitty speeches. Yay? Well done, Ken, and keep at it folks. The dumb ain't over yet.

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.). Some assembly may be required.

Dramatis Personae: In an order determined by my buddy from high school.

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. Molly's Mom. Injected with weed killer by parties unknown blisteringly obvious to everyone.

Noah Gardener: 28 years old. Sets the dating bar "medium-high". Works Vice president at a PR firm. Went to NYU. Is "witty". Frequently forgets where he's going and why. 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. Views himself as a sexual panther. Likes bacon. Considers himself to be good at word games. Wants to bang his mom.

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. Cocktease. Possibly suffering from bipolar disorder. Looks just like Noah's mom. Also looks just like Natalie Portman.

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. Sodomized by inmates following the rally. Once dressed up as Colonel Sanders to infiltrate the United Nations. May be afraid of cats. Fast draw, terrible shot. Died pointlessly in a nuclear detonation.

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.

Stuart Kearns: FBI agent. Works on homeland security matters. Kinda old and wrinkly. Not particularly trusting. Lives in a double-wide trailer. Sixty-three years old. Died pointlessly in a nuclear detonation.

Mr. Puddles: AKA Gray Death. AKA Ninja Cat. Stuart's cat. Large. Dangerous looking. Possibly plotting his demise.

Tiffany: A stripper at the Pussycat Ranch. Thinks Danny is awesome.

Ellen Davenport: Old friend of Noah's. Second-year neurology resident at Mt. Sinai. Doesn't appear to need sleep or have good taste in her associates.


Chapter 44: In which Molly and Noah have a totally incoherent exchange.

Recommended Mood Music:

Page 267, Line 1-2:
"We got you?" Molly shouted. "We got you? Are you really self-centered enough to believe that any of this is about you?" [emphasis original]

Okay, okay, woah there, super-bitch! I don't like Noah any more than you do- indeed, I rather suspect that I like him less than you do- but that seems like an unreasonable reaction. You have been leading the guy on for personal gain for basically the entire book- that makes his anger justified, you know? Yes, your goal isn't to harm him specifically but, nevertheless, he has a legitimate grievance here. And oddly, Noah seems to realize that, too.

Page 267, Line 4-5:
"You people could have killed me, for God's sake, so maybe you can forgive me for taking this personally."

Indeed, in a startling break from the usual, Noah actually has a good point here. He has every reason to be angry with Molly and I've been wondering for some time why he isn't more angry. And no, "Molly's tits" and "Molly's mom" are not acceptable answers. Nor is "Molly's mom's tits". I mean, seriously, people!

Page 267, Line 6-8:
"Hollis stayed with you every minute until they came for you; he made sure you were okay. I'm so sorry you've got a headache now, but nobody tried to kill you."

This line is interesting, and revolting, in my opinion. First off, Noah never said that Molly tried to kill him, he said that Molly took action that placed his life in danger. That's a different thing- more akin to accidentally killing a woman whom you secretly dosed with rohypnol so you could rape her. Actually, it's almost exactly akin to that given that Molly did, in fact, secretly sedate Noah. In either case, the perpetrator wouldn't have meant to kill the person, but would nonetheless have been responsible if they did. Second, Molly's defense that Hollis was there the whole time makes no sense unless Hollis is- at a minimum- a freaking EMT with the proper equipment. I've got pretty good first aid skills and, I gotta be honest, if someone stopped breathing because they were heavily drugged or otherwise had a life threatening reaction (e.g. tachycardia, hypotension, etc...) I'd have a very hard time dealing with it. Most low tech first-aid is based on the assumption that the body is working with you in some way to stay alive, an assumption largely negated by the use of drugs, which trick the body into doing shit it otherwise wouldn't. And since the average person doesn't have anything to counteract said drugs with, it's a bad situation. So, unless we're willing to accept that in addition to being able to determine the time from the stars (Page 97, Line 25-29) and lecture people on ammunition making (Pages 158-160 or so) Hollis is also a medical professional (who just happens to prefer overalls), Molly's defense is utterly absurd. Third, there's the issue that Molly is allegedly fighting for individual freedom but in this scene is basically saying, "Hey, sure we violated your right to make your own decisions by drugging the crap out of you, but since we didn't really mean to kill you, and took half-assed measures to make sure you didn't accidentally die, you can't get angry". Does this reflect how the authors feel about civil liberties? Seriously?! And then, last but not least, Molly is basically talking down to Noah like he's a child- which he does deserve- but for objecting to being placed in danger against his will for her selfish interests- which is a valid objection. And we as the readers are clearly supposed to side with Molly. Good lord, these people are seriously deranged. Honestly, the only consistent way to account for Molly's actions is to conclude that she's either (a) bipolar, (b) a psychopathic secret agent or (c) some combination thereof. And yet... that doesn't seem to be what the authors intend. Noah continues to bitch at her for the way she's treating him, she claims that she's done it all because she's trying to stop the conspiracy- whatever the hell it is since they don't actually know at this point- and she says that she had to try even if she knows her effort is doomed to failure.

Page 268, Line 5-8:
"You don't have to try. I [Noah] told you, we can both ride this thing out. I can't believe I'm hearing myself say this, but I still want to help you, Molly. That cabin in the woods that you talked about, wherever you want to go until this blows over, I can still make that happen." [emphasis original]

Never in the history of human events has one man wanted tail so much from a woman of so few virtues. I mean, good freaking lord! By this point she's repeatedly deceived him, drugged him unconscious, left him in the care of a yeti/rapist, deceived him again, and basically coerced him into protecting her against his own interests. And yet he's still desperate to become her sugar daddy. What does he think her vagina is made out of- heroin?

Page 268, Line 9-13:
"How dare you dangle that in front of me again! What do you think, that I don't want it? That I don't want you? Don't you think I'm scared, and I dream some nights about getting away and never having another worry about the people like your father and what they're trying to turn this world into?" [emphasis original]

Actually, Molly, yes, none of us really see any reason to think you "want" Noah. To this point you've done nothing but deceive and exploit him and, when he finally calls you on it, you basically told him to stop being such a whiny bitch. There is NOTHING in your behavior that is in any way consistent with you wanting anything to do with Noah. But, alas, we're in a novel that is not populated with humans but instead with some sort of perverse simulacra thereof, and so nothing really works as it ought to. That includes this scene, which at its best resembles nothing so much as an incoherent fight between a couple. And that's awkward and unpleasant to witness under any circumstances, even in print in a shitty novel. Anyway, Molly reminds Noah of how he claimed to get what she and her ilk are up to, he reiterates that he does, and then we're off again.

Page 268, Line 20-27:
"No, you don't, Noah. You have no idea. You think knowing the truth is enough? A lot of people know the truth, and nothing changes. So today, after twenty-eight years of drifting through life and taking everything from this country and never giving anything back, today you tell me you've finally seen the light and that's supposed to mean something to me?"

"Doesn't it?"

"Once you know the truth," Molly said, "then you've got to live it. That's all I'm trying to do."

And frankly her truth scares the shit out of me. Any time truth justifies what amounts to a quasi-terrorist insurrection I think we should be a little concerned. I'm also not sure what to make of the whole "taking everything from this country" bit. What the hell does that even mean in this context? Sadly, we never get to find out because at that moment Molly, and Noah, notice that there are a shit-ton of cops coming up behind them. Noah has this stupid moment of truth and decides to become a man of action. Okay, no, that's not quite it: he's so determined to get into Molly's panties that he decides to put his money where his mouth is and demonstrate how determined he is to save the country by jumping out of a moving car. Nope, not kidding.

Page 269, Line 16-23:
"Slow dow," Noah said. "I'm getting out."


"Don't stop, just let me out." He cracked the door and the wind whipped inside, and she let her foot off the gas and braked until the car had slowed to the point where he might just survive if he stepped out onto the road whizzing by under them. There was no way to be sure if she understood what he was doing; no time to explain. Maybe he'd never know, but like she said, none of this was really about Noah Gardner.

Just... wow. What a putz.

Page 269, Line 24-32:
He took a last look at Molly. There were tears in her eyes but she kept them firmly fixed on the way ahead.

"Good-bye," Noah said.

She answered, but so quietly and privately that the words clearly weren't intended to reach him. If they were never to see each other again, it seemed, this was just something that she must have wanted read into the record. Wishful thinking, maybe, but he felt he knew in his heart exactly what she's said.

I love you, too. [emphasis original]

Delusion, thy name is Noah Gardner. Indeed, this is just another of the many examples where I'm forced to conclude that this entire romance is pure invention on the part of Noah. Hell, Molly hasn't even been nice to him, really, at any point, so I think we should just assume that, in fact, he's a delusional moron and move on. Anyway, Noah stands in the middle of the road right before a bridge over a shallow wash, the cops are forced to stop so as to avoid hitting him. Cops hop out and come running towards him to, we can only hope, club him unconscious and then drama happens.

Page 270, Line 20-25:
And then they disappeared, as did the rest of the world, in a silent split-second flash of bright white light from behind him. It was so bright that it crossed the senses. He could feel it on his back, he could hear the light and smell it. When his vision returned Noah saw the officers standing in the road where they'd been, some covering their eyes, but most looking past him, blank-faced, their hands hanging down at their sides.

Right, so, obviously a nuclear detonation. Keep that description in mind- it'll be important later.

Page 270, Line 26-31:
He turned to look back over his shoulder, in the direction Molly had gone, and miles away he saw the rising mushroom cloud, a massive, roiling ball of fire ascending slowly into the evening sky. The expanding circle of a shock wave was tearing across the open desert toward them, toward everything in all directions, and a few seconds later it arrived with a crack of thunder and the sudden gust of a hot summer wind.

Okay, so, here's the thing: Noah got out of the car, let Molly keep driving, and then a nuke went off. Problem is, Molly was heading towards the blast. So what's happened to her? You might think we can't know but, thanks to the wonderfully detailed description above, we know a few things. First, Noah felt the thermal pulse from the blast on his back. This means that he had a direct line of sight to the explosion. Given the curvature of the earth and average male height this implies that he's about four kilometers from ground zero (that's about 2.5 miles, which is consistent with the authors' description that the mushroom cloud was "miles away"). Now, keep in mind that he could be closer- it's just that he can't really be any farther way than that. What else can we tell? Well, the sound of the detonation is described as arriving with the shockwave, which tells us that the shockwave traveled at mach 1. That translates to about 340 meters per second, and thus the shockwave would need about 12 seconds to reach Noah. That sounds consistent with his description of having felt the explosion, turned around, observed the mushroom cloud, then observed the shockwave, and only then being engulfed, so we'll stick with the 4 kilometer figure. It's hard to tell how big the detonation was- last chapter I argued it shouldn't be more than 1 kiloton- but the flash of the detonation is described as being "split second". The fireball from a 1 kiloton blast would only last two-tenths of a second, which is awfully short (I'm relying on the nuke effects calculator from last time here). On the other hand a 30 kiloton blast would produce a fireball which would survive for about nine-tenths of a second. It's a little hard to guess what the authors meant by "split second" but let's assume they meant something akin to its literal meaning and the blast was 9 kilotons, giving a fireball duration of 0.5 seconds. At that size, everything within 1.7 kilometers would essentially be destroyed by the thermal pulse (i.e. lethal third-degree burns), within 1.5 kilometers would be destroyed by the compression wave, everything within 900 meters would be killed by the overpressure, and anyone within 1.3 kilometers has just received a lethal dose of radiation. With me so far? Good.

So where was Molly in relation to the blast? Well, we don't know her speed, but Noah described it as fast and scary. For the sake of argument, we'll go with 70 miles per hour which is about 113 kilometers per hour, or 1.88 kilometers a minute. Based on the description as well as speed limits out west, I actually think this is somewhat conservative, but whatever. Noah had Molly drop him off because they were being pursued by cops who were apparently gaining on them. We'll give the cops a speed of ninety miles per hour or 145 kilometers per hour, which works out to 2.42 kilometers per minute. Noah and Molly could not have seen the cops before they were above the horizon, which means within about 4 kilometers. If we assume the cops were 3 kilometers back when Molly dropped Noah off, it would take them about 1.24 minutes for them to reach Noah, assuming that they could stop instantaneously. In that time, assuming that Molly could instantaneously return to 113 kph (yes, I know she can't, but the cops can't stop instantly either, and the assumptions partially cancel each other out. Besides, I'm waaaay too lazy to worry about acceleration curves, particularly given that we have no idea what anyone is driving or how slow Molly was really going when Noah jumped out.) in 1.24 minutes she could cover 2.33 kilometers. And keep in mind that after the cops arrived they stopped, tried to get around Noah, and then dismounted and approached him. We'll allocate another 30 seconds for that which allows Molly to travel an additional 0.94 kilometers for a total of 3.27 kilometers. Given that Noah is 4 kilometers from ground zero, that puts Molly at 4-3.27=0.73 kilometers from the point of detonation. As a result, with a nine kiloton weapon, Molly has received a fatal dose of radiation and received third degree burns over any exposed skin. She's also within the area of widespread destruction from the compression wave, which probably totaled her car, and she's most likely blind- if only temporarily- from the flash. So much for Molly. But, hey, what if it was only a 1 kiloton weapon like I thought? Well, in that case she just misses the worst of the thermal pulse, which gives third degree burns out to only 687 meters, but is within the zone of widespread destruction from the compression wave (739 meters) and has received a lethal dose of ionizing radiation (840 meters). So, again, Molly is most likely dead and/or blind. And even if she missed the area of third degree burns, that doesn't mean she doesn't have massive second degree burns on every inch of exposed skin. She is not having a good day.

Now, aside from the fact that this all works out to be the most bizarre SAT question ever, I bring this up because in virtually any situation we can imagine, Molly is currently dead or VERY badly injured as she was less than 1 kilometer from a nuclear detonation of at least 1 kiloton. And to think Mister Troll was worried. So does this mean she's really dead?

Well, if you want to know you'll have to come back again, because this brings us to the end of the chapter. Come back next time when Noah gets his just desserts. It'll be fun!



Blogger Ken Houghton said...

Multiple officers in hot pursuit. Yet they all "hop out and come running towards him."

All right, he's clearly from the car they were pursuing--but they weren't pursuing the car, they were following the call.

Given that they saw the idiot jump/tumble/whatever from a moving car and he's now standing in front of a Very Convenient Bridge, they might stop. But all of them getting out of their car?

There's an effing nuclear explosion scheduled for Real Soon Now and they're all stopping for Noah?? Talk about the needs of the one being greater than the needs of the many...

"When his vision returned Noah saw the officers standing in the road where they'd been, some covering their eyes, but most looking past him, blank-faced, their hands hanging down at their sides."

Their guns have been magically vaporized. But at least they haven't been teleported ("standing in the road where they'd been" has so many problems when you consider they were running toward him that I am forced to find a bright spot).

It must be a weak bomb, since no one at this distance has been knocked over, or even off-balance a bit.

"And then they disappeared, as did the rest of the world, in a silent split-second flash of bright white light from behind him. It was so bright that it crossed the senses. He could feel it on his back, he could hear the light and smell it."

Again, words fail (me, I mean; the authors failed words). The feeling should be heat, and the smell should be his burning flesh as his clothes catch fire. But we are left with everyone Standing In Place—even those not standing before—so the only reasonable conclusion is that the rohypnol/psilocibin cocktail is still affecting him and the end of the book is going to be that the second half was all Noah's Nightmare.

It will be like Bobby Ewing dying again, even down to the spinoff series that only makes sense if his death were real. Or as if Glenn Beck's career plateaued when he moved to Louisville instead of his becoming a best-selling illiterate author.

In reality, the past 25 years don't exist. In our world, The Overton Window does.

Friday, December 16, 2011 10:20:00 AM  
Anonymous Jay said...

Let's follow Molly's logic here. If you knew the Nazis were killing large numbers of people, then you would be morally obligated to do something about it. Similarly, if you know the US government is killing people indiscriminately, Molly declares that you're morally obligated to stop it.

Now the logistics are unfortunate, because the US government is killing people in the middle east. Since neither political party seems likely to end this, there's nothing to do but go to the middle east and try to put a stop to it.

So, by Molly's logic, it's morally imperative to go to the middle east and oppose the American occupation. Apparently Molly is, and has always been, an al-Qaeda operative.

Or you can take the view that the constitution is the founding document of a republic, and that it's simply not possible to "live it" without granting a certain deference to the will of your fellow Americans, however stupid and bloodthirsty they may be at any given moment.

Friday, December 16, 2011 12:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

...or perhaps Molly simply borrowed Indiana Jones' magic atomic fridge? Stowed it... in the trunk, maybe?

It would make as much sense as anything else in this horror-show of terrible prose.

Also: How dare you dangle that in front of me again! What do you think, that I don't want it?

I cannot be the only one who pictured Noah Gardner dangling his sad little member out of his pants, perhaps waving it at her enticingly, creepster smile on his face, in order to make his, er, point.

Saturday, December 17, 2011 12:00:00 PM  

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