Monthly Archives: April 2010

Babylon Rising, Chapters 27, 28, and 29

I am combining these chapters because not all that much happens.  In Chapter 27, Talon calls Shane Barrington to get him a “news tip” to give to Stephanie Kovacs—a tip to go to a secret apartment that Farley, the window washer they are framing as the perpetrator of the U.N. vandalism, kept in Queens.

In Chapter 28, Stephanie acts on the tip and gets a live exclusive inside the apartment, which has been artfully arranged to look like the hideout of a (sorry, Murph!) religious fanatic.

A fun note:

Shane refers to The Seven as “a strange lot,” and to Talon as “their creepy thug.”  Those seem very mild terms to use on the people who plotted and carried out the murder of your only child.

Stephanie breaks into the apartment and has a few minutes in there with her camera crew until the FBI arrives and shuts her down.  She names the place “the Farley-the Fanatic house,” and finds “Bibles that appear to be marked up with key passages about Christ and the resurrection.  Floor plans of the United Nations also marked up for what I fear could be a terrorist attack.”

She gets around the whole breaking and entering thing by claiming that she was monitoring the house from her news van when she saw smoke and had to investigate.  And the FBI finds itself utterly powerless to cause any kind of negative ramifications for Stephanie at all.  Which all fits in nicely with Murph’s assertion that the evil librul media is running things.

Then, in Chapter 29, The Seven send Talon to Preston, NC, to “monitor” Michael Murphy.  And they explain why they can’t just kill the guy—they want him to find the Brazen Serpent first. 

Also, it gives The Seven a chance to sing Murphy’s praises, along with everyone else:

Murphy cannot be bought.  He’s got morals, principles, things you (Talon) wouldn’t understand.  And he tried to be a very good Christian, something you certainly wouldn’t understand.  And yet, surprisingly, he is also a risk-taker, much like yourself, a man of action, sometimes foolish action. 

He’s smart, he’s capable, and most of all he is the only person in the world who has such a unique combination of knowledge, courage, and drive to recognize the value of these pieces we want and to go find them.

Hmm, where have we heard this before?

Murphy is a scholar in both archeology and Biblical prophecy, but unlike other scholars, he is also a complete adventurer and risk-taker when he is on the trail of ancient artifacts that can help to further authenticate the truth of the Bible.  Murphy is a man of action and a man of faith, a true hero for our times…

Tim LaHaye, A Message

Which made me think of several Mary Sue Litmus Test Questions: Does the villain have an obsession with your character?    Are other characters unduly impressed with your character’s skills/virtues?

So, I ran Murph through the test.  (And I was being generous—that is, I didn’t check any questions requiring getting into the mind of the author (Does your character look how you wish you look, etc.)

He scored a 57.  Anything above 50 means Kill It Dead. 

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Babylon Rising, Chapter 26

Because when the United Nations is under attack, who do you call? 

North Carolina Biblical Archeology Man!!!

So what it all comes down to, is that Tim LaHaye Michael Murphy is so intelligent and amazing, his research so groundbreaking, that his opinions are sought by anyone investigating anything even remotely related to the Bible.

Hank Baines, FBI agent from the Charlotte field office, has been dispensed to Murphy’s office to watch him as a conference call is placed to “head of the New York [FBI] office,” Burton Welsh.

Phone calls!  Hot conference call action!

(They keep calling it a “conference call,” but it’s just Murphy and Welsh, with the U.N. security chief standing next to Welsh, so WTF?  It’s just speaker phone.)

Murphy endears himself to Baines right away:

“Do you shoot me on the spot if I answer a question wrong?”

Wow, good job there, Murph, dealing with the FBI.  Because such remarks don’t make you sound defensive or paranoid at all.

But his paranoia is justified, of course, because we are talking about some good old-fashioned Christian persecution, here!

Murph’s question goes unanswered:

“What do I have to do with any of this?”

You know, that’s a damned good question.

Turns out, the answer is, Murphy is a Christian, and thus doomed to be persecuted by the Powers That Be.  Or, in this case, one FBI guy asking him some questions over the phone.

Murphy explains John 3:16, and the following fascinating conversation occurs:

“So, you think this is the work of some religious fanatic,” Nugent interjected.

“Whoa, gentlemen!  Religious fanatic?  You mean because it refers to a Bible quotation?  Look, fanatic would seem to be a fair conclusion, because somebody obviously went to a whole lot of trouble to paint it all the way up there on the U.N.  But there’re many millions of people, myself included, who think about that quotation every day of their lives and would take offense at being described as religious fanatics.” (emphasis Murphy’s)

So, Murphy, your answer is yes, then?

Because, Murph, hon, Nugent wasn’t talking about you or any other “millions of people.”  He was talking about the person or persons who did “the work.” 

Welsh points out that there are, in fact, “fringe Christian groups” out there, and that some of them have a beef with the U.N.  Of course, that sets Murphy off again:

“So, now I get it.  You called me because I must be the only Bible expert who popped up on your computers as a known evangelical Christian.”

Seriously, LaHaye Murph?  Seriously?  You think you’re the only “Bible expert” around who’s an evangelical? 

“Religious fanatic is your definition for evangelical Christian, is that it?”

Um, no, that’s not it.  Again, they were talking solely about the person or persons who plastered a Bible verse onto the Secretariat Building with “glow-in-the-light” paint. 

Not everything is about you, LaHaye Murph.

“And I don’t consider myself fringe, crackpot, reactionary, nuts, or any other code words you want to tar me with because of my faith.”

Good, since they weren’t actually talking about you.

Asshat.

Then Laura wanders in (Wow…what are you big, strong fellows talking about in here with your Manly Man Talk?)

And Murph just keeps on going…

“Welsh, my wife’s joined me.  She shares my faith as well.  You’d better call in backup for Agent Baines here—the religious fanatics now outnumber him.”

“…unless you want Agent Baines here to arrest me and my wife, and then round up our entire church, I’m going to go.”

And thus the “conference call” ends.  And they have accomplished: Nothing.

What has Murphy gained from it?  Confirmation that “a lot of people [look] at all of us believers as some vast conspiracy opposed to individual thinkers.”

Do we have a word for a conspiracy theory about a conspiracy theory???

Murphy pauses to think about John 3:16.  He thinks about how it “crept into the mainstream” by a guy holding up signs at sporting events.

First of all, I think John 3:16 was pretty well known before that.  And TimNGreg fail to give us the rest of the story about the John 3:16 guy, Rollen Stewart, specifically about how he is now serving a life sentence on three kidnapping charges, and rejected a plea deal of 12 years so he could proselytize in open court.

More on Stewart here and here.

Sometime later, the Scripture survived the silliness of a pro wrestler’s using a variation as part of his act.

Presumably, Tim and Greg are referring to Austin 3:16.  Which, okay, nice topical reference, but wrestling uses everything as part of some act or another.  Name anything sacred and some wrestler has mocked it in an act. 

Murphy sensed that the media was poised to use the same Scripture, the most beautiful and poignant of all Scriptures, which had brought hope to countless millions down through the ages, as part of a smear campaign, a conditioning process against evangelical Christians.

Um, are evangelicals really the only Christians who find hope and meaning in John 3:16?

Oh, and Murph, the eeevil librul media wouldn’t be able to start their little smear campaign if some doofus hadn’t plastered the verse on the side of the Secretariat Building.

Sigh.  Except, of course, in that the authors have indeed shown that this is a smear campaign.  Because evangelicals would never really do anything wrong.  And America is persecuting Christians.  Can’t you see how much they’re persecuted?  In evangelical fiction?

Laura’s contribution: “John Three: Sixteen is a pretty good message to get out there.”

Yeah, Laura.  Even when it’s painted on the side of the United Nations.  Even when it’s proclaimed by some bewigged jerk who kidnapped people.

Dumb chick.

Babylon Rising, Chapter 25

Were you wondering what Talon was doing in his guise of window washer at the U.N.?

WERE YOU ON THE EDGE OF YOUR SEAT???

Well, the wait is over:

…painted on half the windows from floor five up to floor twelve of the United Nations Secretariat Building, in a bright red that took on an otherworldy glow in the night lighting, all the world was now reading:

 

J  3  16

 

Here’s a picture of the Secretariat Building at night, to help you get a mental picture:

 

 

Okay, I’m torn.  On one hand, it’s not a horrible plan, and rather well-calculated to achieve the desired result (easy to pin it on evangelicals).  On the other hand…HOW IN THE HELL DID NO ONE NOTICE THIS UNTIL SIX P.M.???

 

We are told this is special paint that “goes on clear and takes on color only when really bright light zaps it, some kind of glow-in-the-light chemical.”

 

Um, okay, but then why does it not show up in sunlight?  And why didn’t anyone working in the building notice paint, even “goes on clear” paint, when it’s being applied in a very specific pattern by a window washer on seven different floors?

 

Still, not a bad scheme.  Man, so torn.

 

Anyway, the FBI and New York police and U.N. security are all trying to figure it out, and of course it takes them about five seconds to crack open a Bible to John 3:16 and then, as you would expect, they call Michael Murphy.

 

Because the very first person you’re going to want to call regarding vandalism at the United Nations is an archeology professor in North Carolina.

Babylon Rising, Chapter 24

Time for a peek at the not-quite-a-date of Murphy’s research assistant/groupie Shari, and Murph’s new skeptical student, Paul, whiner of the daddy issues.

This is a pretty awkward situation.  Paul is smitten with Shari: as she tries to teach him to make pasta in her little kitchen, the steam made her look flushed, as if she’d been running and hadn’t had time to change.  To him the sheen of perspiration somehow made her look even more beautiful.

Shari, however, looks upon this dinner alone in her apartment as little more than the first step in the saving of Paul’s immortal soul. 

In all fairness to Shari, however, I’m not sure why Paul thinks it’s so sexy to whine…and whine…and whine about his Poor Little Rich Boy problems:

…I find it hard to concentrate on things that don’t interest me…

I’m not sure which [my dad] was a bigger failure at, business or being there for me.

But just as their whiny meal is concluding, Shari’s brother bursts into the apartment!  Chuck Nelson is fresh out of prison for burglary.  And although he has never allowed his sister to visit him in prison, her home is the first place he goes after his release.  (This actually seems like a realistic touch.)  Disappointed that Shari keeps no liquor in her home, he simply changes his clothes (presumably not actually in front of Shari and Paul) and leaves.

Shari explains her family situation to Paul: parents killed in a car crash, her brother “went bad fast”:

“Chuck fell in with the worst elements from the surrounding area, committing crimes from stealing to drug dealing, and eventually got caught.”

Okay, who talks like that?  Especially about her own brother?

After this incredibly stilted explanation, Shari ends the evening with Paul not, of course, with a kiss, but with…an invitation to church!

“And you should get right in the spirit by coming early and helping out in the basement, sorting clothes for the church clothing drive.”

Paul whistles cheerfully all the way home.  Me, I wouldn’t be so happy if my crush had decided our date was nothing more than a conversion set-up.  But that’s just me.

Babylon Rising, Chapter 23

Murphy’s ego as a proud male and a proud professional archeologist was taking quite a pummeling.

Okay, what is it with the emphasis on Murphy’s “male pride”?  Because every time it’s brought up, the context is that a woman knows something that Murphy does not know.  Do Tim and Greg have any idea how lame and misogynistic and insecure this makes Murph look?

Murph is pissed, you see, because he can’t decipher the writing on the Bronze Serpent’s tail.  He and Shari are holed up in the lab together, and it is Shari who suggests that once again, Murph needs to give Isis McDonald a call.

GO TEAM ISIS!

Because Murph gets told by Isis from the moment Murph calls her.  Isis offers to send her assistant, Fiona, down to North Carolina to retrieve the Serpent’s tail in the Parchment of Freedom Foundation’s private jet, thank you very much.  Murph, asshat that he is, is reluctant to hand the tail over to some chick.  To which Isis replies:

“Murphy, you’re there in what I’m sure is a quaint, perfect-little-tiny-town school, and I’m sitting here in the world’s largest privately funded historical research center with state-of-the-art systems and security.  Who are you kidding?”

Yeah, Isis rocks, and even makes Murphy say the magic words: “Point taken.”

But then, then, just as we are thinking that the chapter will end on a note of Isis awesomeness, Tim and Greg have to go and spoil the whole thing by giving us a little peek into the Murphys’…ewww…sex life.

Murph has stolen back the cross-made-of-roots that he had given to Laura, shined it up and strung it onto a necklace.  Which is sweet and all, but holy crap:

“I’ve strung it on my very best leather moccasin lace.  No expense has been spared to keep you in jewelry befitting your status, m’lady.”  He bowed before her.

Laura bent down and hugged him hard.  “Arise, you noble lad.  Your queen has greater things in store for you.  Come, take me home, let me show you why it is good to be the king.”

Oh.  Gross.

Babylon Rising, Chapter 22

Talon has appropriated his murder victim’s identity as a window-washer, and is busy doing something (ominously left vague) to the windows of the Secretariat Building.

I wish I had more to tell you here, but for the second time, Lahaye and Dinallo seem to be going for a DaVinci Code-esque Short-Chapter-Equals-SUSPENSEFUL technique.

Ah well.  It’s the U.N., so they deserve what they get, right?  Right??

Babylon Rising, Chapter 21

After watching Murphy muck around in Lucky Archeology and then take all the credit for everyone else’s work, it is an odd sort of relief to get back to the exploits of Shane Barrington. 

It is an even odder surprise that Dinallo seems to be trying to dig a little deeper into Shane’s character.  Sure, he’s still a ruthless tycoon, no friends and no family and quite happy that way, thank you very much.  And we’re not exactly in danger of a Scrooge-y type change of heart—Shane actually doesn’t have a secret heart of gold.  And yet, and yet…as Shane muses on the murder of his Impliedly Gay Son:

Odd, he thought, how after cutting his son out of his life completely for so many years, now, in death, Arthur kept coming to mind.

That is Actually Not That Bad.

Shane has set up a meeting with Stephanie Kovax, “ace TV investigative journalist” on Shane’s network.  Despite his musings about his dead gay son, Shane is not so depressed that he doesn’t get a kick over messing with Stephanie’s head:

He checked his Rolex.  The meeting had been scheduled for seven o’clock.  Late enough to have forced her to cancel any plans she might have had for the evening.  And he had made her wait a further ten minutes.  Long enough for confidence to drain away and be replaced by fear.  Cheap tricks, perhaps, and hardly necessary anymore.  But the exercise of power, however petty, was what gave him pleasure, and if he could not indulge himself in that, life would surely be very dull indeed.

Again, this ain’t half bad. 

And, of course, the cheap tricks have worked.  Stephanie is freaked out that Shane will fire her.  Mostly because Shane has the reputation of making good on the phrase, “And you’ll never work in this industry again!” 

But Shane quits the game when the meeting starts.  He vaguely praises Stephanie’s news judgment, her tenaciousness, her fearlessness, before getting right to what every Persecuted American Christian knows goes on in these secret early-evening meetings of the eeevil librul media. 

Shane, you see, wants Stephanie to do “a ruthless exposé, no holds barred—on a certain group of people who pose a major threat to this country.”

And that group is…wait for it…Evangelical Christians.

Mwoo-ha-ha-HA!

Babylon Rising, Chapter 20

Okay, this chapter just plain pisses me off.

I’ve been okay so far.  Oh, Murph, you lovable funster with your arrogance and your meanness to your students and your entitlement to everything you want.  It’s all so cute.

But now Murph is back in class, explaining to his students how he came into possession of the Brazen Serpent, and how he studies it.

And what.  A.  Friggin’.  Asshat.

Thing That Pissed Me Off #1 (in future, TTPMO): The lecture topic.

We are a couple weeks into the semester, tops.  And this is the lecture in this introductory course on biblical archeology: the professor’s little field trip.  This is the kind of professor Murphy is: the kind that can’t let one lesson go by without referencing his pet research topic.  And after missing at least one (and probably more) classes, Murphy sees no need to catch the students up on the basics of archeology that they should be studying.  Nope, just jumps right into the Saga of Michael Murphy.  I swear, this class is the easiest “Easy A” at Preston University.   Just go to class, ooh and ahh at Murphy’s slides, and write a paper confirming the Bible as fact and referencing Murphy’s own work. 

TTPMO #2: Murphy’s attitude.

This should be old hat by now, but Murphy manages to pack an amazing amount of condescension into one short lesson.  For example:

All of these gentlemen [Biblical kings] ruled way before they could be on the cover of People, so I don’t have big, glossy color photos to help you remember them.

It would be a lot easier if these artifacts already came with the background audiotape you get at the museum for the walking tour, but I haven’t found one yet that does.

*Showing a slide with Chaldean writing*  Don’t worry.  Those of you who think you’re hungover, that’s not English up there.

Again, this didn’t come with an instructional video…

TTPMO #3: There are no Hollywood shortcuts

Let’s recap here.  Murphy got the clue to the location of the Brazen Serpent via a rock thrown through his window by a mysterious collector.  Murph had to battle a lion (not a shortcut, but pretty darned Hollywood), and then got the shortcut of a brilliant colleague to figure out that which he could not figure out himself.  Then, he was flown around the world free of charge, stayed in the home of a sheikh, and found the priceless artifact when his wife fell through two holes.

And yet Murphy has the nerve, the absolute unmitigated nerve to say:

There are no Hollywood shortcuts in this business.

No Hollywood shortcuts?  No Hollywood shortcuts???  C’mere, Murph.  No, closer.  *slap*

Which sorta leads to my next TTPMO…

TTPMO #4: No credit for the ladies

Hmmm, who was it who figured out the writing on the scroll from Methuselah, which led Murphy to the right corner of the globe to find the Serpent?  Oh, yeah, it was Dr. Isis McDonald.  And who was it whose knowledge of ancient landscapes and architecture ensured that she fell through just the right hole to find just the right underground chamber?  Oh yeah, Laura Murphy.  And who got spooked by something snakelike and fell through another hole so they could find the exact room with the Serpent?  That was Laura again.

Guess how many mentions Isis and Laura get during Murph’s lecture on how “boring old archeologists like me discover new truths”?  Zero.  In fact, check out Murphy’s references to the research that led to the finding of the Serpent:

…so how did I know that this lovely artist’s rendering is of King Nebuchadnezzar?  By knowing the period of the writing…

Again, that was Isis.

…when I pieced together enough of the rest of the scroll, I started to realize this was no Babylonian grocery list.

Isis.

…let me skip all the way ahead, past what I learned by reading the scroll…

Isis, and, to a lesser extent, Laura.

And then, to close class:

…if I have any luck reading what’s written on the bottom of this tail here…

 

Spoiler alert: Murph will be no better at deciphering the tail of the serpent than he was at deciphering the scroll.  Too bad the brilliant philologist who can decipher such things is given no mention in Murphy’s lecture, or even any thanks in Murphy’s own mind.

Asshat.

Babylon Rising, Chapter 19

At the suggestion of redcrow, I have done some preliminary casting for Babylon Rising: The Movie.  Thus: Chapter 19!

(The bolded are actual lines from the book.)

Starring :

William Petersen as Michael Murphy

Faith Hill as Laura Murphy

and

 

Terrorist Puppet as Saif 

AS THE MURPHYS RUN FROM THE HOLE BACK TO THE CAR…

  I can’t believe Saif didn’t help us, just because we were being shot at with an AK-47!  Of all the nerve!

  *unconscious*

  *gasp*  Mr. Saif, are you okay?  Your head is bleeding!  Are you dead?

  *coming to*  Mrs. Murphy!  Praise Allah you are safe!  A robber attacked me.  I am sorry he took your treasure.

  What do you mean, suspicious Arab man?  We weren’t robbed.  We were just shot at.  Now, drive us to the airport.  After all, that’s much more important than getting you treament for your head wound.

  Okay.

LATER, ON THE PLANE…

  What a day, Murph!

  Yeah.  We found a priceless biblical artifact in ten minutes, and got shot at, and then that jerk Saif tried to trick us into thinking he had been hurt by the same guy.

  What do you mean?

  I’m no doctor, but have you ever seen a more perfect head wound?  Nice amount of blood to get our attention, but nowhere deep enough to cause any head damage.

  Well, I haven’t seen enough head wounds to make a comparative study like that.  Besides, didn’t you just say you’re not a doctor?  So how do you know how deep a head wound has to be to cause “head damage”?

  Put a cork in it, sweetheart.

  Okay.

  Besides, the authors already vindicated me, remember?  That scene earlier showed that Saif was in on the whole plot.  So now I have to be able to figure that out, because I can’t be wrong or clueless about anything at all.

  Wow, Murph, you’re so smart.  Now that it’s all over, I can just savor the bragging rights I’ll have next week in the faculty lounge.

Babylon Rising, Chapter 18

So, Murph and Laura have the tail of the Bronze Serpent.

We are blessed today.

Yeah, you guys really are blessed.  Surely, only a just and merciful god would take time out of his busy schedule to make sure that you two university employees could leave your students barely a week into the fall semester, travel halfway around the world for free, and instantly find a biblical artifact by accidentally falling into a hole.

Speaking of which, there is that little matter of being trapped in a buried chamber two levels below the surface…

Surely Murphy will have to utilize his survival skills to get them out of this one.  Perhaps Laura’s knowledge of ancient architecture will help them to map out the rooms and determine how best to get through thousands of years of sand and dust and brick.  The air quality may be an issue: I wonder if they’ll have enough oxygen to…

There were two passageways leading back in the opposite direction from where the cave entrance started.  Murphy chose the one that was least sandy.  After several hundred yards, the sand was turning into dirt…  Murphy was able to hoist himself up on a combination of rock and roots and poke his head aboveground.  “Honey, I think we can squeeze through here.”

Oh.

Never mind.

Oops, wait.  Laura’s foot got stuck in some roots.  (I suppose it could have been worse; she could have broken a heel.)  Apparently, girls are incapable of freeing one foot from a tangle of roots, so Murph has to help.  Which is a good thing, as he notices “a small shoot growing out of it in the shape of an almost perfect cross.”  This he gives to Laura. 

And if this was a movie, it would be worthy of a Significant Close-Up.  YES THIS WILL BE IMPORTANT LATER O I C WUT U DID THERE.

However, easy though it was to find a priceless biblical artifact in ten minutes, it won’t be so easy to get back to the car.  Someone starts shooting at Murph and Laura before they have even climbed out of the little tunnel-hole thing.

But Murphy has a plan!  A plan that is impossible for me to understand, because I have no sense of what the gunman can see or how big the hole the Murphys are hiding in is!

Whoever was firing was able to shoot down the hole but would not be able to establish much range unless he stuck his gun inside it.  Which was what Murphy was counting on.

There was quiet for a moment as the gunman was reaching that conclusion on his own once he no longer saw the Murphys running underneath the ground hole.

Wait, what?  The gunman can’t shoot them unless he sticks his gun in the hole, but he can see them running around in there?

So the gunman sticks his gun into the hole.  Murph grabs the gun and yanks.  And while I try not to think about how dirty this all sounds, the gunman falls through the hole…and keeps falling.

The bullets had torn up the ground to such an extent that they loosened centuries of sand, dirt, and stone that had provided only a relatively shallow covering—for a deep pit of sand way underneath the ground.

 

 

Tons of sand that had not been touched by humans for centuries, if ever, rushed to cover his body within seconds of landing. … In fifteen more seconds, there was only a mound of sand where the head had been in the sunken chamber.

Wait, WHAT?

This tree with tangled roots has been growing over a pit of Lightning Sand?  Which is also under the tunnel that leads into the Room of the Amphoras of the Bronze Serpent?

The hell?

Okay, I’m starting to care even less than I thought I did before, which was very little.  Or something.

Oh, and the shooter was their driver.  If that makes any difference.  (Spoiler: It won’t.)