Monthly Archives: March 2011

Soon: Chapter 8: TEXAS!!!

When we last left Paul Apostle, he was recovered from his encounter with the innocent Christian group/”bomb factory”/miracle from God, and preparing for his next assignment in the Zealot Underground task force.  This week on Soon, Paul is being sent to Gulfland (formerly “Texas and five nearby states” (that apparently don’t matter nearly as much as Texas)) to investigate an allegedly-miraculous pillar of fire in an oil field.

The chapter kicks off with more obsessing about the height of male characters:

Paul had always been privately amused by the Gulfland NPO bureau chief.  Most of the chiefs Paul had met were fairly buttoned-down bureaucratic types.  Lester “Tick” Harrelson was about five-foot-six and 140 pounds.  He had a shock of dry hair through which he was constantly–and ineffectively–running a hand.  His tie was loose, and he had trouble keeping his shirt tucked in.  But he was a pro, and his people worshipped him.

Okay, I get the point Jenkins is trying to make–that Tick’s sloppy appearance is unusual for a chief.  But that odd non-sequitor about height and weight makes it sound like Paul is amused by a shorter guy being in charge, not by a mussed-up guy being in charge.  Sticking that little sentence right there makes it sound like Paul is thinking, “HAW HAW HAW!  The guy is under six feet tall!  And he’s in charge!  It’s funny!”

Also escorting Paul around Gulfland is Donny Johnson (Don Johnson?  Really?), president of Sardis Oil.

Sardis, eh?

To the angel of the church in Sardis write:

These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.  I know your deeds: you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.  Wake up!  Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God.  Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it and repent.  But of you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.

Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes.  They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy.  He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white.  I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels.  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

-Revelation 3:1-6

Given what is to come in the next two chapters, this is actually a pretty cool passage.  But apropos though it is, it raises the question: why would an oil company founder in Atheistopia name his oil company “Sardis.”  There are towns called Sardis in several U.S. states, but the reasoning behind the name of the oil company is never explained.

But hey, it’s symbolic, right?  No need for a real explanation!

Oddly, though Paul speculates on Tick’s height and weight (as he did with Coker), he doesn’t with Donny, except to note that he is a “big man.”

Donny and Tick take Paul out to the pillar of fire in a stretch limo, because they’re evil and decadent atheists.  It is also worth noting that Paul was dumb enough to wear a wool suit to Houston in March, because apparently Atheistopia doesn’t have wunderground.com.  (I just checked.  It’s going to be in the 70’s all week there.  Took me all of ten seconds.  Paul is such an idiot.)

A few interesting things in the men’s conversation:

“A miracle, they say–which is what they’re callin’ my well fire now and gettin’ folks all worked up.” [Donny said]

“Who’s calling it a miracle?” [Paul asked]

“That’s for you to tell us, mister.  Not even forty-eight hours and it’s already out over the Internet.”

I admit I laughed.  Donny thinks 48 hours is a short amount of time for something to appear online?  Hell, I’d be surprised if it took 48 seconds to get skull phone pictures of a giant pillar of fire onto Atheistopian YouTube. 

[Donny continues]  “And when you find ’em’–” he clenched huge fists–“I’m fixin’ to beat their brains out.”

“Figuratively, of course,” Tick said.  “Religious activity alone is punishable by law.  Sabotage–”

“By law?”  Johnson said.  “We have our own ideas about law in Texas.”

Wait a sec?  Texas?

They’re in Gulfland.  Texas, as such, hasn’t existed for 36 years.  Now, if this comment was explored, it might be an interesting glimpse into the USSA, and pockets of people who resisted the new labels and tried to preserve their old culture, even the old names.  But the way it’s inserted, it just seems to be playing to the idea of the stereotypical Texan, while forgetting that they’re not actually in Texas anymore.

As they drive to the pillar of fire, Jenkins bores me once again by talking about how Houston is the third most populated city behind L.A. and New York, and I roll my eyes because I just don’t give a damn about these stupid population factoids because they have no bearing on the story and WHY DOES JENKINS KEEP BRINGING THEM UP???

Then they blather on about different kinds of wells and how geomagnetics helps them find oil without the help of a lot of roughnecks, like in the olden days, and I still don’t care.

Then Donny veers off into Racismville:

“Sometimes the fire is set.  Like now.”

“You seem sure.”  [Paul said]

“The Mexicans were behind it.”

“Let’s say it was a foreign faction,” Paul said.  “How would they do it?”

“Not just foreign–Mexican,” Johnson said.  “They work up here, learn our technology enough to sabotage it, thinkin’ that’ll help their sorry little oil business.  Or maybe the A-rabs put ’em up to it.  Those boys would just love to see us go back to the Middle East for oil.”

So, not only is Donny violent (and, as we all know, violence is only okay if God is using it, or people are using it on God’s behalf), but he’s a bigoted jerk, too.  And there’s nothing wrong with making a bad guy into a bigot.  But it might be more interesting if bigotries had changed a bit after 36 years and an outlawing of all religion and a near total revamp of the world map.

I’m also kinda surprised that Jenkins is making this Atheistopian bad guy a bigot, instead of a spouter of anti-RTC concepts like tolerance and acceptance.  You would think that the evil one-world gubmint would be all about brotherhood and harmony with international neighbors.

The guys arrive at the well fire, which turns out to be highly toxic.  It’s a white-hot column about 18 inches across and hundreds of feet high, and it’s spewing smoke and fumes into the atmosphere.  Of the three men, Tick is the only one to express concern about the human and environmental damage the fire could cause.  I find myself liking Tick for this, and then I remember that concern for the natural world is generally considered a negative in RTC-think.  After all, Jesus is coming soon to destroy everything anyway.

Now, maybe I’m off-base when I giggle at this, but Donny talks about the added security around the other oil wells since the pillar of fire.  This security includes “electrified razor wire.”

I don’t care if people do do it in real life, electrifying your freaking razor wire still strikes me as overkill.

But then, I’m not a Gulflandian TEXAN oil tycoon.

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Second Glance: Part 3

Wow, work and family really got in the way of my Second-Glance-critiquing duties these past two weeks.  I feel guilty, leaving the fate of Scotty an open question.

HAVE YOU BEEN ON THE EDGE OF YOUR SEAT???

Fear not, all shall soon be revealed.

Dan and his buddies ditch and head to the malt shop.  (Or the local Friendly’s.  Whichever.)  There, Mr. Millner is one of the waiters.  Bitter and angry (I mean, a bit more so than when he was a teacher), he cites the kids “messing with my car” and being “all alike” as his reasons for leaving.  Arriving home, Dan discovers a shiny new car, that he bought with money he won gambling on football games.  His parents are divorced, his mom is dating, and Jenny was never born.  Nonplussed at this, Dan heads to Randy’s party with Tamara.  There, Melanie arrives to announce that she is pregnant and Dan is the father.  Tamara dumps his ass, Dan forces Melanie to admit she’s lying, but then Bull shows up in a jealous rage.  He chases Dan to the church, where Dan is magically made a believer again.  Angel Muriel explains the lessons Dan needed to learn, and Dan happily returns to his old life, asking Vickie out, and ending the movie with a hearty, “Jesus, man!”

Millner:  But, then, you’re all the same, aren’tcha?  A bunch of spoiled kids whose only understanding of life comes from watching music videos!  Hey! [to a waitress] Wait on these no-goods for me, will ya?

Ruby:  Yanno, I can’t work up a lot of sorry for the guy.  He was a jerk and appeared to hate all kids everywhere.

Angus:  And he busted Dan for cheating.  Falsely.

Dan’s mom delightedly heads off on her date with Wes.

Ruby:  She looks so happy!  Clearly getting divorced was the best thing that happened to her.  Are we really supposed to be upset about this?

Angus:  She’s cheerful and full of life and dating a nice guy.  What’s the problem?

Dan and Muriel have the following jaw-dropping dialogue, and I feel I must emphasize here that I have not altered the dialogue in any way.

Dan:  Hey, what’s up with my mom?  And where’s my dad and Jenny?

Muriel:  Your folks have been divorced for several years.  You see, it was your prayers that held your folks together when they were going through the tough times.  Since you weren’t there to pray for them, they split up.  As for Jenny, she was never born.

Angus:  Oh, that’s a great lesson for the kids out there: if your parents get divorced, it is ALL YOUR FAULT for not praying hard enough.

Ruby:  I can’t believe they want kids to see this movie.  Remember, kiddies, YOU are responsible for holding your parents’ marriage toghether.

Angus:  Do we even need to reiterate that Dan’s parents looked pissy and bitter when they were Christians, and now Dan’s mom is radiantly happy and dating a nice guy?

Dan:  Look, I’m not believing any of this stuff.

Angus:  *facepalming*  Okay, how much more evidence does this idiot need?

Muriel:  You had a big influence with Mr. Millner, too.  He really liked you.  Many days, you were his only bright spot.  Then he got frustrated with the other sudents and left.  Too bad, because he was one of the best teahcers.

Ruby:  *snorts*  Millner was one of the best teachers?  He seemed like a bitter asshole to me.  Nice comment on the other kids at school.  Like Vickie, who was always studying hard, and Tamara, who was doing everything she could to improve her grades, and really wanted to succeed.

At this point, Dan prepares for the party.  It is worth noting that he tumbled out of bed this morning in his orange t-shirt, and ran right out the door to school.  Now, his routine of party-readiness consists of: a) brushing his teeth, b) applying mousse, c) applying aftershave, and d) changing clothes. 

Ruby: *snickering*  So, no shower, then?  Not all day?  And no shave—just apply the aftershave?  Nice comment on high-school-boy hygiene, there.  I guess I should give the movie points for realism, anyway.

Angus:  HEY!  Okay…that’s maybe just a tad realistic.

At the party, kids hang out and talk.  Seriously, that’s it.  And this sequence…oh, I wish I could do video capture, but Angus needs to show me how.  A guy kneels in front of the fridge, grabs a few cans (I guess they’re supposed to be beer, but they sure look like pop to me), then triumphantly grabs out a whole ham.  The look of joy and wonder on the boy’s face at the sight of this ham made Angus and me rewind this scene four times to watch and guffaw.

Ruby:  I FOUND THE HAM!

Angus:  Beer and ham, that’s all the atheists need.

Ruby:  So true.

Angus:  This is the tamest, nicest high school drinking party ever.  The music is mild and low-key, everyone is standing around and chatting.

Ruby:  I always thought we might be missing something by not going to the popular kids’ parties in high school.  Turns out that my 11th birthday sleepover with the watching of Father Goose and making of our own pizzas was wilder the whole time.

Doug and Randy try to talk Dan down from the whole Tamara-and-Melanie situation.

Angus:  Wait a second–what the fuck is up with that wall???

(As with The Pretender, I’ll cut on here to insert my choices for Best Actors.  For most of these kids (and I do love that these movies so often feature actual teenagers in the roles of teenagers, and not people pushing 30!), this was their only movie, but there are a few standouts.  One is Doug, who is one of the few characters to react to everything going on around him, not just people speaking directly to him.  His cautious-yet-curious expression as Melanie and Tamara fight over Dan is especially good.

Another is the girl who plays Scotty’s sister’s friend.  That’s right, people, it’s time to find out…THE FATE OF SCOTTY!!!)

Dan sees Scotty’s sister and asks her to apologize to Scotty on his behalf for “missing their meeting.”  She runs off in tears.  Her friend confronts Dan:

Friend: You’re real scum.

Dan:  Why?  What’d I do?

Friend:  That was Scott’s sister.

Dan:  I know.  I was supposed to meet Scotty after school today.

Friend:  Are you on drugs?  This is a pretty low joke.

Dan:  What’s going on here?

Friend:  You know where Scotty is, you jerk.

Dan:  What’s the idea of calling me a jerk?  Listen, what’s going on?  Where is he?

Friend:  In his grave.  You know he committed suicide three months ago.  Why are you doing this?

(By the way, kudos to everyone who responded with their ideas about Scotty’s fate.  Many were far more interesting than the real one!)

(And, as I said above, kudos to the young actress playing the friend–a nice portrayal of calm, righteous anger.)

Angus:  *scoffs*  Oh, yeah, all atheists are depressed, right?

Ruby:  Witness to your friends or they’ll commit suicide, pray for your parents or they’ll divorce–being a Christian is exhausting.

Bull arrives to kick Dan’s ass.

Bull:  You guys go that way!  I’ll meet you out front!

Angus:  Damn!  Tactics from Bull!

Ruby:  He’s not nearly as dumb as advertised.

Angus:  Bull, though equally angry, is much smarter in this alternate reality.  Clearly, Dan was keeping him stupid!

A sorta-thrilling chase ensues, and Dan runs to the church for sanctuary.

And there, on the steps of the church, just as Dan is about to smell what the Bull is cookin’, everything changes back, and Dan is a believer again.

(You might expect, as I did, Dan begging God to make things right again, to parallel with George Bailey’s “I want to live again.  Please, God, let me live again.”  But if it happened, we couldn’t hear it, because the actor was talking very fast and slurring his words.  Natural when panicked, but makes it difficult to make out any prayers.)

Muriel shows up one last time to explain everything to Dan.  Again.

Muriel:  Still wish you were a nonbeliever?

Angus:  You jerk.

Ruby:  This angel is going to kill everyone while they sleep, mark my words.

Muriel:  Yes, Daniel.  Everything is now back to the way it was.

Ruby:  Be comforted, Daniel.  Your parents are still stuck in their loveless marriage, and your awful sister is still around.

Muriel:  I know you have an attraction for Tamara, Daniel.  But the Lord holds relationships most sacred. … The truth is, you’d like to spend some time with Tamara because you desire some physical pleasure from her.

Ruby:  And, as we all know, physical pleasure is just plain wrong.

Dan:  Man, it’s like you’re seeing right through me.

Ruby and Angus:  *both burst out laughing*

Ruby:  Yeah, a teenager interested in sex!  Who woulda thought, huh?

Muriel:  Let me ask you: the girl you’d like to marry?  How many other men would you like her to be intimate with before you marry her?

Dan:  Well, no one.

Muriel:  Then go and do likewise.  Wouldn’t it be great, Daniel, to spend your life with a person who was untouched by anyone else?

Dan:  Yeah, that’d be great.

Angus:  Huh?  How do you know it would be great to have an untouched woman, Dan?  You don’t know anything about it, either way.

Ruby:  Oh, please.  We all know that women who have sex before marriage are filthy lady whores!

Angus:  I just…I don’t see why it matters so much.

Ruby:  Yeah, I think that’s why we’re not conservative Christians…

Angus:  It’s all pretty unfair to Dan, too.  He seemed genuinely interested in Tamara as a person, not just doing things to get into her pants.

(As we talk, Muriel blathers on about “reaching people for the Lord…”)

Muriel:  People like Bull need you.  He’s never heard the good news about salvation.

Angus: *snorts*  Sure he hasn’t.

Ruby:  Pro tip, Muriel: it is all but impossible to grow up in this country without hearing about salvation…many, many times.

Muriel:  And I already told you how your prayers kept your parents together.

Angus:  Oh, yeah, we almost forgot about that horrific message of guilt for children…

Muriel:  And Scotty Parks?  If it wasn’t for you, I think you know where he’d be right now.

Ruby:  Yeah, and that horrific message, too.

Muriel:  The lake of fire is real, and many people you know are heading there.

Ruby:  I have more comfort for you, Daniel: When they die, Bull and Melanie and almost everyone else you know will be tortured forever for not believing.

(Finally, Muriel magics away Dan’s suspension from school, because “Mr. Millner figured out what happened.”  Okay, first of all, how, and second of all, this line is inserted so quickly that Angus and I both missed it on first viewing.)

The next morning, Jenny, the little sadist, once again blasts Dan’s alarm clock in his ears.  But Dan is so happy to see her that he kisses her, prompting a tweenish “Ewwwwwww!” from little Jenny.

Angus:  *laughs*  He’s finally found a way to keep that little monster at bay!

Ruby:  He should kiss her every morning until he leaves for college.  She won’t come within fifty feet of him for the next two years.  Victory!

Then Dan heads for school, where he gets all fired up for the Lord and the movie they’re showing, basically muscles Doug into coming to see the flick, then asks out Vickie.  (Well, he invited her to come hear all the stuff the Lord has been telling him.  Hot.

And there’s Scotty!  Not dead!  And the movie ends…

This one little line has spawned a bit of a cult following, and variations on the theme…

Coming soon…on to more Soon!

 

Second Glance, Part 2

The next morning, Dan wakes up to a room that has quite a few changes.  Well, it has no Bible study guide on the nightstand, and there’s a sorta-anime poster on the wall.  He finds the kitchen filthy, with a note from his mom thanking Dan for the use of his car, and presenting him with biscuits that she made (which are hard as rocks).  As Dan is cleaning up, an angel named Muriel shows up and explains that Dan got his prayer answered, and his life is now as though he’d never been a believer.  The anti-Christians, now Dan’s best friends, show up to give him a ride to school.  There, he finds the following changes in his life:

1.  Tamara is now his girlfriend

2.  He and Vickie are no longer friends

3.  Bull has been suspended for beating Ricky up for looking at Melanie (a fight that left Ricky hospitalized)

4.  There is no Fellowship of Christian Athletes at the school

5.  There is an empty space (and a significant musical sting) where Scotty (Jesus, man!) used to sit

6.  Melanie wants Dan for her very own

7.  Mr. Millner is no longer teaching

8.  Dan apparently cheats on tests, cuts class, smokes weed, and picks up random girls “at the lake” every night

Ruby:  I do like that expression.

Angus:  Nice new poster, Danny.  WHERE IS MY BIBLE STUDY GUIDE???

Ruby:  I see he still has the same ugly wallpaper and bedding set, though.

Angus:  Because, as we all know, atheists are pigs and only know how to order take-out.

Ruby:  Pizza, Cheerios, and pop: The Atheist Diet.

Angus:  And really, the mess is not so bad.  It’ll take about five minutes to clean up.

Ruby:  Yeah, but this is a slap to Dan’s mom, not Dan.  She was waiting on everybody hand and foot when they were Christians, but now that they’re atheists, she’s shirking her wifely duties.

Angus:  So Dan’s personal wish not to be a believer made them all atheists?

Ruby:  Guess so.

Muriel: Your prayer’s been answered, Daniel.  Today, you’re a man of the world.

Dan: Who are you?

Muriel:  My name is Muriel.  I’ve been sent to tell you that your life is now as if you’ve never been saved.  As if you’ve never received the Lord into your life.

Dan:  Look, what’s going on here?  Did Ricky put you up to this?

Muriel:  You were afraid your friends were having all the fun.  Now’s the chance to see what you’ve been missing.

Ruby:  Okay, this guy’s freaking me out with his smug, smarmy smile. 

Angus:  I’m not freaked out…

Ruby:  HE LOOKS LIKE A SERIAL KILLER WITH THAT SMILE!

(Dan goes to school and finds himself the boyfriend of Tamara.  I’ve talked in the past about how Christian Youth Films never show kisses.  Usually, they just cut away right before lips touch, as in The Pretender, but here, they get arty.)

Pre-kiss…

Kiss…

(It’s happening behind that locker and that guy.)

(Dan finds out about Bull and Ricky and the lack of a FCA, then Muriel pops in to bother him again…)

Muriel:  You didn’t try to calm Bull down in class yesterday when he was jealous, because you’re not sensitive to those things anymore.

Angus:  Yeah, ’cause no atheist could ever tell a guy not to beat up people who talk to the guy’s girlfriend.  ‘Cause we atheists don’t understand friendship and love, right?  Asshat.

Ruby:  And suddenly it’s Dan’s fault that Bull is a thug?

Dan:  Look, Muriel, level with me: what’s really going on here?

Angus:  Dan is awfully dense, isn’t he?  This has already been explained to him twice.

Ruby:  And Dan already believes in angels and answered prayers.  Why is he still so surprised?

Muriel:  The Heavenly Father answered your prayer last night.

Angus:  Because what with wars and diseases, he didn’t have anything better to do.

Ruby:  Scary smirking angel is still scary.

*musical sting*

Angus: DUN-DUN-DUNNNNN

(Well, Angus and I both pumped our fists and did the “Jesus, man!” thing here, but I’m going to pose a question for the commenters…

Where do you think Scotty is?

I shall reveal all in our final installment of Second Glance!)

Second Glance, Part 1

A couple of weeks ago, my brother Angus came for a visit.  Angus is a heathen like me, and keeps up (sporadically) with the blog.  A former Media Arts major, Angus is much more excited about the prospect of Christian movie reviews than Christian book reviews.  (Though his WTF look when I described Soon to him was pretty awesome.)

So, we watched two Christian youth movies during his stay.  Today’s feature is Second Glance, one of the movies that I put up for the vote (which basically ended up a draw) lo these many weeks ago.  The other, coming soon, is Teenage Conflict, a special request from Angus because it deals with a 1960’s smack-down battle between faith and science.

Anyway, I thought I’d try a slightly different format this time.  Since Angus and I sat and snarked at the movie, I’m going to lay out the whole plot at the beginning, then move to screenshots illustrating key (and/or hilarious) points, with our comments.  I’ll also break the movie into two parts.  We’ll see how this works.

The first “modern” Christian youth film I reviewed here was The Pretender, one of the first films from the Christiano brothers.  In the intervening five years between The Pretender and Second Glance, they came out with such classics as Pamela’s Prayer (I cannot wait to do this one, but I need to track down a DVD first) and The Appointment (which I haven’t seen, but is apparently about an atheist newspaper writer who gets a death message from God).  Second Glance came out in 1992, and is basically a Christian youth version of the great classic film, It’s a Wonderful Life.

Synopsis, Part 1:

High school student Dan lives with his parents and unbelievably annoying little sister in Generic Suburbia.  Dan’s problems are many: he is teased by the anti-Christians at school, he just can’t seem to drum up enough interest in Fellowship of Christian Athletes, he drives a crappy car, and most importantly, he has a crush on Tamara, the girlfriend of Doug, the head anti-Christian.  All in all, Dan chalks up his woes to the fact that people only see him as “a nice guy.”

And, Dan is a nice guy.  Over the course of the school day, we see him encourage Tamara to have confidence in her schoolwork (Dan helped her study for a big test), and talk down Bull, a classmate who becomes violently jealous whenever any guy even looks at his girlfriend, Melanie.

Dan spends the rest of the school day pining after Tamara, ignoring the innocent attentions of his “just a good friend,” Vickie, who shares his faith, and blowing off Scotty, a recently-converted classmate.

Things come to a head with Tamara when Dan’s buddy convinces him to kinda-sorta ask her out.  Dan botches his Charisma roll and Tamara lets him down about as easily as can be done, though she bugs him by referencing his niceness.

Then, the day takes a turn for the even shittier.  During the Big Test, the anti-Christians pass a note, which falls on the floor.  Dan now botches his Intelligence roll and, for reasons best known to himself, picks up the note.  The teacher accuses him of cheating and Dan is suspended.  That night, as his father rakes him over the coals, Dan laments his sad state—not the suspension, but that fact that he doesn’t “live on the edge” and thus is missing out on all the fun of high school.  Dad’s response: “You’re missing out on all the sin.”  Dan tosses his Bible down on the bed, and wishes he was never a believer…

 
 

 

Jenny exalts as she turns Dan's alarm up to 11.

 

And poor Dan's day gets off to a great start

Ruby:  Nice kid.  Really nice.  I would’ve kicked your ass if you ever did that to me.

Angus:  Deservedly so, I’d say. 

(As you can tell, Angus and I share a dislike of practical jokes.)

Ruby: “Family breakfast,” my ass. 

Angus:  Hey, Dad, you wanna tear your eyes away from the paper for a minute?  Your daughter was being a jerk.

Ruby:  Well, you can’t blame him, what with gripping front page headlines like “Jail Floor Plan Okayed.”

Ruby:  They’re sitting on metal folding chairs at breakfast!

Angus:  That is weird.  They have a nice house, the kids have their own rooms, but they can’t buy decent chairs to sit in??

As Dan arrives at school, the Christian Persecution begins...

 

Doug:  Hey, Burgess, gonna let me cheat off you in that English test today?

Dan:  Wasn’t planning on it, Doug.

Ruby: Heh, that’s actually a decent comeback.

Angus:  Kinda funny.  Not bad at all.

Tamara

Angus:  I know they’re setting Tamara up to be the slut and all, but she is so nice.  Look at her, going out of her way to thank Dan again for helping her.

Dan's teacher, Mr. Millner, weighs in on the Tamara issue

Mr. Millner:  It is my lady.  Oh, it is my love.  Oh, that she knew she were.

Dan:  Hey, Mr. Millner.

Mr. Millner:  Take my counsel, comrade: Be careful with young love.

Dan:  Yeah, but Tamara’s special, Mr. Millner.

Mr. Millner:  I guess we’ll see.

Angus:  What the…?  What is with this teacher advising Dan on his love life out of nowhere?

Ruby:  Yeah, and with the huge slam on Tamara for no reason, too.

Angus: Oh look, look, LOOK, there’s the girl he’s really supposed to end up with.  A nice Christian girl.

Ruby: Sorry, honey, your hair’s not big enough.

Angus:  Any film about teenage love has to have the sweet girl the guy doesn’t notice until the end.

Ruby:  Geez, how many times was Bull held back?  He looks about 35 years old.

Angus:  Really, Dan’s advice to Bull is pretty good: you gotta trust your girlfriend, or else it’s not true love and it won’t last.  As usual, the inexperienced nerds have the best insights.

Dan: Now look, we gotta get some guys to come to this thing, ’cause it’s really gonna make them think about eternity.

Ruby: *laughs*

Angus: What?

Ruby: That’s another Christiano Brothers film, The Appointment.  They’re pumping their own movie!

Angus:  Um, wow.  That’s taking product placement to a new level.

Okay, at this point , we are introduced to new convert Scotty.  In some Christian films, there are certain spectacular lines.  Lines that stay with you.  In The Pretender, that line was unquestionably: “When you come to Jesus, come all the way.”  In Second Glance, it is a line that is not only marvelous, but has spawned a minor YouTube cult following.  The line:

Jesus, man.”

But I’ll let Scotty introduce himself:

But right now, Dan isn’t interested in Jesus, man.  He’s interested in Tamara…

Dan prepares to ask out Tamara

Ricky: Go on, get it over with.

Dan:  Okay.  I’m going.

Ricky:   Besides, if she turns you down, your troubles are over.

Both Ruby and Angus:  *burst out laughing*

Ruby:  Okay, that’s a good line.

Angus: And oh so true.

Dan:  Hey Tamara.

Tamara:  *sighs*  I’m really nervous.

Dan:  Oh, don’t worry about the test.  You’re gonna ace it.

Tamara:  I just hope I pass.

Dan:  Um, Tamara, Iwas wondering…if you’re not gonna be busy tomorrow night…

Tamara:  Well, yeah, I’m going to Randy’s party.  Aren’t you going?

Dan:  Um, nah, I don’t think so.

Tamara:  You’re gonna miss a great time.

Dan:  Well, what about this weekend?

Tamara: Dan, are you trying to ask me out?

Dan: No!  No…

Angus: YES, YES YOU ARE.  This is Dan’s problem—it’s not that he’s a Christian, it’s that he’s a wuss.  Oh, and by the way, Dan, you already knew she was going to the party tomorrow, because you were there before  when she said she was.  Idiot.

Dan:  …I just thought we could get a bite to eat, maybe talk a little bit.

Tamara:  Listen, Dan–we’re good friends, right? 

Dan:  Yeah.

Tamara:  Well, I wouldn’t want anything to ruin our friendship.  I mean, you’re a real nice guy.  Some girl’s gonna be really lucky to get you.

Dan:  I understand.

Tamara:  See you in class.

Ruby:  She is so frickin’ nice.

Angus:  Yeah, you really can’t ask to be let down any easier that that.  Especially in high school.

There’s not too much to be said for the sequence in which Dan picks up the note and gets busted for cheating, except that Angus and I both about jumped out of our seats, shrieking things like: “You idiot!”  “Noooo, don’t pick that up!”  “How naive can one person possibly be???”  “YOU ARE AN IDIOT!!” etc.

Later that night…

Father:  How could you get suspended?

Dan:  It’s a bum rap, I told you.

Father:  You should never have picked up that paper.

Angus:  YES, exactly!

Ruby:  You speak truth, wise one.

Dan:  How was I supposed to know what it was?

Father: Son, you need to be more careful.

Ruby and Angus:  YES, preach it!  You tell him, Dad!  etc…

Dan:  I’m sorry; I wasn’t thinking.

Father:  Well, think next time!

Ruby: Dan’s father kicks ass!

Dan: *whines about being a nice guy and not going to the party* 

Father: A lot of kids won’t be there.

Dan: Yeah, a bunch of nerds.

Ruby:  Oh, you jerk.

Angus:  Hey, Dan, we may have been high school nerds, but you know what we weren’t–stupid enough to pick up notes off the floor during a big test!

Dan whines some more, Dan’s father leaves him alone, and Dan sulks…

Dan: I wish I was never a believer.

Angus: So, don’t be one!

Ruby: Easy answer.

Angus: He should just try being an atheist for a while, see if he likes it!  He’s apparently all for it…

And, in Part 2, Dan gets his wish…

Soon: Chapter 7: End of Act I?

Worried about Trina’s feminine intuition and gossip, Paul’s thoughts turn to a more-untouched woman: Angela Pass.  Sure, it may seem a bit strange that his thoughts should flit from Trina to the envelope to The Dork’s daughter, but I have a feeling that anything, from flirtatious lab managers to vintage letters to afternoon or evening thundershowers, makes Paul think of women not his wife.

So, Paul sends Angela a note and a piece of the letter.  Turns out that Angela works for the Library of Congress (quelle concidence!) and thus would naturally have handwriting and ink analysis experts at her immediate disposal.  Like Jae and Trina and every other woman with whom he comes in contact, Paul lies to Angela.  He spins a fanciful tale of his father’s platoon and a history project, just to make sure he plays on her grief as much as he possibly can.  (Okay, Jenkins doesn’t say that’s what Paul is doing, but…he clearly is.)

And, Paul thought with a smile, asking Angela for help could fan a spark between them.

Stay classy, Paul.  Nothing sparks the ladies’ interest like lying to them and manipulating them.

And just to make sure he is classy with all the lovely ladies in his life, Paul takes Trina to the thank-you lunch.  I figured Paul to be the kind of cheap jerk who would take her to Taco Bell and not pay for the drinks because “drinks aren’t lunch,” but it turns out to be…

…a languorous, wine-soaked afternoon…

Wow, he just always has to get them drunk first, doesn’t he?  What’s the matter, Paul, afraid the ladies won’t be able to stand you otherwise?  Well, you’re probably right.

…culminating in a kiss that left Paul relieved he’d had the sense not to place himself any further in her debt.

Damn.  Was the kiss that bad, Paul?  Pro tip: chicks often kiss better when they’re sober.

I feel like this is the end of Act I.  Because the next step is for Bob to send Paul off on his next “investigate the miracle” mission: a pillar of fire in an oil field in Gulfland.

And if you think this miracle might have Consequences for Paul Apostle, go to the head of the class. 

Anyway, this weeked, for the intermission between Acts I and II, I’m going to finally grab some screenshots and get around to our next Christian Movie…

Soon: Chapter 7: Trina Tells All

Paul heads back to work after two weeks of sick leave.  People have pointed out that two weeks seems a tad excessive for mere cuts and bruises, and I can confirm that from personal experience.  A few years ago, I broke my arm and wrist and hand in several places, necessitating surgery.  Multiple broken bones led to barely three weeks off.  Paul’s cuts and scrapes get him only a week less.

What a wuss.

Anyway, after his debriefing, Paul finds Trina waiting for him at his office.  Tart that she is, she is…

…perched on Felicia’s desk, legs crossed and a high heeled pump dangling from one toe.

The usual “flirtatious banter” ensues:

 “Hey, good lookin’,” she said.  “I was just writing you a note.  You look like you tangled with a cactus.”

“Last week I looked like I tangled with a grizzly.”

“Well, I’m sure you could lick a bear any day.”

You want him to lick a bear??? 

Why Trina, you dirty chick!

But Trina has more on her filthy, womany mind than mere bear-licking.  She also has the results of the tests she ran on the envelope Paul gave her.  The one his daddy’s “come to Jesus” letter was in.

Turns out the paper is of super-high quality, so we know that Paul Senior didn’t skimp when it came to his paint-by-numbers proselytizing.  Also, it’s hard to find such paper in Atheistopia, because…

 Today what little paper we use is made of reconstituted fibers from the plastics that used to be considered indestructible.

Holy.  Crap.  They make paper out of previously-unrecyclable plastic?

IS THERE ANYTHING THIS AWESOME WORLD DOES THAT IS NOT AWESOME???

Now, I know that to many RTCs, planning for the future, trying to preserve natural resources, “going green” are evil and/or pointless, what with TurboJesus coming soon to destroy save us all.  Heck, I’m probably just revealing my own heathenish depravity by being delighted at the thought of solar cars and cured cancer and plastic paper.  But I don’t care—I just can’t get over how much Atheistopia rocks!

I mean, damn, other than the murders, outlawing religion seems to be the best decision humanity ever made!

Paul speculates on Trina’s findings:

But of what she said was true, the letter could be real, a prospect that horrified Paul.

Yeah, we know it horrifies him.  Thanks for telling us for the seventeenth time in 60 pages, Jenkins.

But he had to know for sure–now more than ever, after his own near death.  The ink was key, Trina said, and handwriting analysis would add certainty.

Um, wouldn’t the person best equipped to do handwriting analysis…be Paul himself?  He has sole access to his mother’s house.  Surely in her piles and piles of old paperwork, there must be something with his father’s signature.

But Trina’s intuition and curiosity could be a problem.  The last thing Paul wanted was speculation about the letter all over the office.

Yeah, because you know how all chicks just love to gossip!  It’s what the ladies do to keep their little minds occupied, you know. 

I find it fascinating that Trina has used her intelligence and education and training to analyze the envelope, but to Paul, it’s just women’s intuition.

Scumbag.

Actually, there is always the possibility that Paul just doesn’t want to pay Trina for her work with more lunches.  Especially when she won’t even sleep with him, the little tease.

Soon: Chapter 6: Lies, Damn Lies

“Caroline is incapable of wilfully deceiving anyone; and all I can hope in this case is that she has deceived herself.”

-Jane Bennet, Pride and Prejudice

Paul,  the only survivor of God’s Wrath by Earthquake, is bloody but unbowed.

The Christians are calling the Frisco quake a miracle.  And, on one hand, you can hardly blame them, what with God enacting his rumbly vengeance at the exact moment that the evil atheists stormed the innocent Christian prayer meeting.

On the other hand…it may be a bit crass to keep score, but God did kill about 16 Christians and 12 atheists.  (And I’m not even counting the four shot by Paul.)  So it kinda seems like the atheists came out ahead on this one.

Then again, I hear that God works in mysterious ways.

Paul still doesn’t have Jesus on his heart, despite being witness to this Miracle Directly from God.  He’s just pissed that Coker and the others were killed.  This being the second time in the entire book that Paul has spared a thought for any human being besides himself.  Still, the empathy is somewhat lessened in my eyes by Paul’s whining over his injuries, which are nothing more than cuts and bruises from tumbling down the hill.  Also:

His eardrums had ruptured, but with modern technology that required only a simple repair, done in the emergency room.  He would need to be shielded from noise for about a week.  That was a relief, because he was too banged up to endure more questions.

Oh Atheistopia!  You’re my hero!

So his debriefing doesn’t happen until two weeks after the event.  Um, again, I am no cop or soldier, but that just doesn’t seem right. 

Anyway, Paul has to “remind himself” that he’s lucky, even though he is the only survivor of an event that killed 30-odd people, while he received only minor, superficial damage from which he will completely recover.

Nice guy.

So, Paul stays home for two weeks with the despised Jae.  She’s understandably dismayed that he was hurt on the job, but Daddy Ranold convinces her that this whole job-change thing is good for Paul–that it Makes Him a Man.  So Jae practices for her upcoming role as a good RTC wife by bottling up her true feelings and not saying a word.

In all fairness about the timing of the debriefing, it’s not like Paul has anything important to tell Bob anyway.  After all, Paul never even got to the porch of the house and saw nothing that went down after Coker and the SWAT guys and gals went in.  Then Paul actually admits that he doesn’t know who started the shooting.  (There’s no way he could have known for certain–I’m just surprised that he admits it.)

Then Bob starts going on about how the NPO “had our suspicions” that the Christians were armed and that the old lady’s house was a secret bomb factory.  This just sounds like more of the same lying, much as Bob lied to Paul about The Dork Too Stupid–we readers, after all, know that the innocent Christians were not armed, and that the “bomb” was a miracle from God, so there could not possibly have been any evidence that there was a bomb factory.  So once again, we have to ask ourselves: why is Bob lying to Paul?  I mean, I get that this is supposed to be a thriller, full of thrills and doubts about who’s on whose side, but the lies Bob tells Paul are so blatantly obvious, so open to dispelling from a cursory glance at any official reports (to which Paul would have complete access) that the quote from Jane seems apropos.  Is this a case of Bob stringing Paul along (for whatever reason), or is Bob actually that uninformed?

Damn, but this debriefing is pointless and boring.  We know nothing that we didn’t know already.