Monthly Archives: June 2011

Soon: Chapter 16: Salty

Straight has taken a day off from Paul.  Surely this will be a true test of their relationship.  Remember, Paul was injured in March, and it’s now around the end of May.  So for about two months, Paul and Straight have been together every day, for hours a day.  This is literally the first day they haven’t seen each other since they met.  I don’t think I’ve ever had a boyfriend this clingy.

Straight has gone to a pretty interesting location: the salt mines of southeastern Michigan.  Check out this article from The Detroit News and its awesome pictures and you’ll see where he is.

The zealots have transformed the underground salt mines into their headquarters–not only a mission central and book depository, but also a sort of Underground Railroad station for believers on the run.

Simple but genius.

Or complicated but dumb, when you think about it.  Check this out:

“How many people live here?” [Straight asked]

“About a hundred and fifty permanent and fifty to a hundred passing through at any given time.” [his host, Simeon, said]

“It’s amazing you can feed and house so many.”

Straight’s host shrugged.  “We’ve got fourteen hundred acres down here, fifty miles of tunnels.  The water and ventilation systems are huge–had to be, to accomodate the mining machinery.  Even back then they could pump in a hundred thousand cubic feet of air a day.  These mines were worked successfully for almost two hundred years.”

That’s nice, Simeon, but you didn’t answer the question: HOW DO THEY EAT???

I really hope the zealots have a Costco membership, because it’s giving me a headache  just thinking about getting enough food and water and soap and toilet paper 1100 feet underground to sustain 200-250 people every single day.

Forget about shuttling the refugees up and down and in and out–the mere task of getting the most basic supplies to the “underground city” would draw huge amounts of attention to the site.  And what about the use of water and energy?  That won’t draw suspicion?  What do they do with their trash and human waste?  Can you imagine how much trash a community of two hundred produces in a mere week?  It’s not like they’re high up in the mountains and living off the land–they’re in an underground cave in Michigan!  They can’t exactly sustain themselves.

And just to make sure that things are as complicated as it’s possible for them to be, everyone uses Biblical code names for themselves.  (Except for Straight, who is called “The Professor,” and Paul, who will later be called “The Doctor.”)

To be clear, plenty of people already know each other.  Simeon’s real name is Clarence, and he grew up with Straight and they both became professors at the University of Chicago.  Quelle coincidence!  Now, strangely enough, only Stuart Straight goes by “The Professor,” even though they both are.  Kinda like how Paul is always “Dr. Stepola” to everyone he meets, but Straight is never “Dr. Rathe” or “Professor Rathe,” except underground, where “The Professor” is just a codename.

This emphasis on codenames reaches ridiculous heights when the following takes place:

A couple in their late fifties entered [the library], accompanied by a younger sturdy blonde man.  “I was boring the professor with tales of our city,” the host said.  “It’s been a while since he’s been here.  Stuart, you know Abraham and Sarah–” they embraced him–“and this is Isaac.”

“I’m not their son,” the younger man said, shaking Straight’s hand.

“I didn’t think so.”

[LITERALLY THE NEXT WORDS OUT OF SIMEON’S MOUTH]

“Let me introduce three more recent arrivals,” Simeon said.  “Silas, Barnabas, and Damaris, who may have some insight on your proposal.  Folks, meet the professor.”

Straight greeted the two men but paused when he got to the woman called Damaris.  “No names,” Straight said, “but I believe we recently met over lunch in Washington, D.C.”

“We did,” Angela said.

[emphasis mine]

So, Stuart and Clarence know each other.  And now Abraham and Sarah know Stuart.  And Angela and Stuart know each other, but they’re going to play a game that they don’t, so they can keep using stupid codenames???

Basically, you all freaking know each other.  SO USE YOUR OWN DAMN NAMES, WHY DON’T YOU???

To paraphrase Dave Barry, the underground zealots are about as clandestine as the NFL.

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Soon: Casting Call!

I’m not feeling working on the timeline or Chapter 16 tonight, though they are both partially done.  Instead, I feel like looking at pictures of hot actors.

So let’s cast Soon!

For Paul, I’m trying to think of guys who are really good at playing colossal tools.  I think I had a bit more of a sense of humor about it all back in Babylon Rising, since Michael Murphy is such an over-the-top Indiana Jones stereotype, but it’s less funny when the guy is an abusive jerk.  Also, all we know about Paul, physically, is that he’s tall.

Nic Cage, maybe?

(Picture by Warner Bros.)

Here he looks like he’s angrily contemplating Jae’s lack of talent with electronics.

Aaron Eckhart is good at playing sweeties, but I bet he could play a good persecutor, too.

(Photo from MovieWeb)

Paul after the TEXAS incident.  Except, you know, double that.

Now for Jae.  Like Paul, all we know is that she’s tall.  She’s also described as beautiful, though not nearly so often as Angela is.  I’ve been picturing her as a cool and sleek…

Anne Dudek? (Lura from Big Love!)

(Photo from The Fan Carpet)

Jae contemplates how awesome her life would be without Paul.

Or how about Christine Taylor?

(Photo from Flixster)

Guess where this is going, Paul.

And, of course, our ingenue, Angela Pass Barger.  Rose Byrne?

(Pic from TVGuide)

I so picture Angela as a brunette.  I don’t know why.

And Paul’s chess partner and invader-of-personal-space, Straight.

How about Lando himself, Billy Dee Williams?

(Photo from Hollywood.com)

“Persecute us, persecute Him, Paul.”

Villains!

Ranold is supposed to be a bad guy, but if Paul hates him, that’s enough for me to like him!

I’ve loved Dean Stockwell since I was a little kid watching Quantum Leap.

(Pic from the SciFi Channel)

Ranold is so much a better agent than Paul.

And how about my favorite character so far–poor, doomed SWAT dude Larry Coker from San Francisco.  We actually have some description for him!

He had short blonde hair and red cheeks, stood about six feet, and was thick and solid.

Coker’s got some meat on his bones.  I like that in a guy.

Okay, I know he’s got the wrong coloring, but if Jenkins doesn’t care about the descriptions of 90% of his characters, why should I?

Karl Urban’s got the right look, as far as I’m concerned.

Hubba.

(Pic from Stale Popcorn)

Those underground zealots are gonna get told

And how about the much-despised Bia Balaam?  We know she’s older and thin and silver-haired, and that she’s so smart and competent that Paul is instantly terrified of her.

I’m gonna go with Sigourney Weaver.  You know she can bring the scary-evil, and she could always dye her hair!

 (Pic from Wireimage)

She totally knows how much better she is than Paul.

Also, this movie rocks:

So, what do you guys think?  Any ideas, for these or any other characters?  Let’s get this baby cast!

 

Soon: Chapter 15: Christianese

In order to answer questions in comments, I will be grabbing Jenkins’ writing book this weekend to discover the DEFINITIVE ANSWER to the Left Behind vs. Soon timeline question.

Oh, and in answer to another question in comments that I kept forgetting to answer: Jae’s mother’s name is Margaret.

Sorry for delay.  *blushes*

In the meantime, now that Paul has accepted Jesus into his heart, he takes every word of the Bible literally.  Just like Rayford Steele and Michael Murphy and every other Good Christian should.

He muses for a mere moment about how everything in his life, “including his marriage,” will have to change.  But that is small cucumbers compared to trying out his newly-recognized fluency in Christian-talk.

Another hurdle to Paul’s intellect was the assertion that Jesus had lived a perfect life, without sin, so He could become God’s sacrificial lamb for all the sins of the world.  That made Christianity unique among religions, at least the ones Paul had studied.  What other religion based salvation on a gift, something someone else had done?  What other religion featured a hero who not only rose from the dead but also supposedly still lived?  Most religions seemed focused on man’s attempts to reach God, but Jesus was clearly God’s attempt to reach man.

(Emphasis mine)

Gee, I’ve never heard that one before…Google gives me 20 million results.  It’s one step removed from “Christianity is not religion…it’s the TRUTH!”

Like most of his “atheist” characters in Left Behind, Paul accepts the existence of God immediately and without question, but stumbles on the Jesus issue.  Note to anyone trying to convert atheists: generally, it is the question of an all-powerful superbeing creating the entire universe that we doubt.  We don’t secretly believe it but just “don’t want to” try to follow Jesus’ teachings.

Also: the sin thing.  Sin is something that is wrong because God says so.  I’m more concerned with what I and other humans think is right or wrong.  What God thinks is irrelevant until you go to the last paragraph and show me that God exists and then that I should care about his take on morality.

But Paul quickly gets past his musings on morality to get to the really important issue:

Then there was the promise that Jesus would come back to earth someday.  He had told His disciples that He was going to heaven to prepare a place for them and that He would return to receive them to Himself.  And He added, “If it were not so, I would have told you.”

Okaaaaay, but again, we’re really skating past a big hurdle for atheists: why should we take seriously what Jesus was promising?  Why is he an authority on anything?

Oh, and the above is just as it appears in the book.  So apparently, in Christianese, you capitalize “He,” but not “heaven” or “earth.”

Ah well, Paul is so very new at all this Christian stuff.  It’s miraculous enough that he has internalized the language of a culture in which he has never lived.

But that’s okay, because it’s time to confront Straight, and for Paul to get himself a mentor!

You see, Paul has used all of his investigative skills to figure out that there is a chance that Straight might be a secret believer.  Good thing Paul got that Ph.D., right?

Yeah, figuring ou Straight was a Christian took some powerful thinking, it did.  That forgetful fish in Finding Nemo could figure out Straight was a Christian.  Hell, rocks could figure out Straight was a Christian.

“You remember in the car, when you quoted me that passage about the two blind men?  ‘”According to your faith, let it be to you” And their eyes were opened.'”

Straight seemed to stiffen.  “Yeah?”

“I’ve been thinking about this, and I know I never told you that story.”

“Huh.”

“So how did you know it?”

Straight leaned back in his chair and put his hands behind his head.  “You think you’re the only person who reads?”

“The Bible is contraband, Straight.  Forbidden.  I have access to it because of my job.”

You know, there is a very simple response to this that Straight doesn’t use: Straight is 23 years older than Paul.  He was born in the late 1980’s–he grew up in a world in which Christianity was the dominant religion. 

ONCE AGAIN, and I hate having to harp on this (Oh, who am I kidding?  I love harping on this!), it is all but impossible to grow up in the United States without a working knowledge of Christianity, including Bible stories.  Which is a fact that Paul might possibly have been privy to in his religion Ph.D. classes!

Paul, you are such a dumbass.

But Straight knows how to get his own back:

“Are we friends, Paul?  You don’t seem to have any friends but me.”

OH.  Oh, Straight, you magnificent bastard, I cannot believe you even went there, man.  That was cold!  He’s crying, Straight.  You made him cry

Okay, I am making a spur-of-the-moment executive decision.  That one line has now earned this section an Actually Not That Bad.  How will Paul respond???

“We’re friends.”

…Paul said, blinking away tears.

And Straight confesses.

A shiver ran through Paul.  I knew it!

Dead people knew it, Paul.  Mycroft Holmes, you are not.

Remember a little while back, when I mentioned what I see as Paul’s biggest lie in this book?  Here it is.  Straight leads him into it:

“You know, Saul asked the Lord who He was.  Remember the answer?” [Straight asked]

“It works on me every day,” Paul said.  “He said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.’  For a long time, I resisted that.  I said that even if I was persecuting underground Christians, I wasn’t really persecuting Jesus.”

“But there’s a bond between us and Him, Paul.  Persecute us, persecute him.”

“That’s exactly what I came to.”

This is such a lie.  Paul never thought about whether he was persecuting Christians vs. persecuting Jesus, largely because he didn’t think he was persecuting anybody.  And even if he did think he was persecuting people, he never thought, “Hey, this would be different if I was persecuting Jesus, but I’m not, so it’s fine!”

Hell, I went back and double-checked.  In San Francisso, Paul thinks of all Bible teachings, including those about Jesus, as “poison. ”

Interestingly, he does think about the implications of attacking these believers vs attacking The Dork or his father.  That causes him a moment’s pause and would be a good point to bring up now.  But that is a far cry from thinking that he’s attacking Christians, but not Jesus himself.

Paul doesn’t think about Jesus-the-person in TEXAS, either.  In fact, he uses phrases from his father’s letter to trap St. Stephen.  And in the hospital, when Paul actually starts listening to the New Testament, he focuses on the mysterious “Biblical code” that he is sure exists, and on references to blindness, because he is incapable of thinking about anybody’s pain but his own.

But he never, not even once, compares treatment of believers with treatment of Jesus.

Way to go almost a whole week as a Christian before bearing false witness, Paul Apostle.

Soon: Chapter 15: Miracles and Changes

Ah, miracles.  We’ve had so many of them so far in Soon

The Reflecting Pool in Washington turned to blood.

An earthquake happened in California.

An oil well caught fire in TEXAS.

Trees died in Washington.

I mean, sure, these could all be explained by natural events or by human terrorism, but hey, they’re miracles, right? 

Maybe?

God sure is all America First, isn’t he?  Guess those poor, confused atheists in Canada and Spain and Egypt and China and Brazil just don’t deserve any easily-explained-by-real-things miracles.

Honestly, why doesn’t God do something really cool and unmistakably from him, since the world is populated largely by atheists, many of whom have had no exposure to any religion in their entire lives?

Why doesn’t he rearrange the stars to spell out (in every language spoken on Earth):

THIS IS THE GOD OF THE RELIGION FORMERLY KNOWN AS CHRISTIANITY.  I AM DAD OF JESUS.  ALL YOU ATHEISTS DOWN THERE?  HI.  QUIT WITH THOSE LAWS OUTLAWING RELIGION.  OR AT LEAST THE LAWS OUTLAWING REAL, TRUE CHRISTIANITY. 

THANKS IN ADVANCE!

TOODLES,

GOD

But oh, no, it makes a bunch more sense to make already-genetically-engineered trees wither and die.  Real clear of you, God.  Thanks for that.

But forget all that!  Because now, we have a totally genuine and indisputable miracle on our hands! 

Or at least, in Paul’s eyes.

Having once again shot down his wife’s every idea, Paul plays it his own way and waits for the next day to see his doctor.

I am no opthalmologist, so I want to be as clear here as possible and try to figure out what’s going on.  As a reminder, Dr. Bihari said from the beginning that there was a chance, albeit a very small one, that Paul could regain his sight.  From Chapter 10–

“There is considerable damage that may only be able to be rectified through transplant surgery.  But the body is an amazing self-healing machine.

My guess is that there is a better than 90 percent chance that you will require transplant surgery in order to have any return of vision.”

Now that he finds out what Paul can see (which is not all that much yet; just the first two lines of an eye chart), Bihari is “astounded“:

“I don’t understand it, but I wouldn’t want to mess with nature yet.  Let’s see how much better this gets [before we consider eye transplants].”

So, he’s surprised, as one would be when someone beats long odds, but I don’t see Bihari calling a press conference or even getting another expert in to see if s/he has ever seen anything like this.  Probably because Bihari was always of the opinion that Paul might actually regain his sight. 

What is it with these non-miracle miracles???

Change of subject: I am giving this chapter an Actually Not That Bad designation.  It’s the first one for this book (where are you when we need you, Dr. Isis Proserpina McDonald?), and it’s a bit of a pity-ANTB, but I do like that Jenkins actually acknowledges Jae’s conflicted feelings about Paul’s recovery:

Jae was confused.  She didn’t know how to feel.  She ought to be overjoyed, but she was furious with Paul about the letter.  Now she didn’t know how to confront him.  He’d be angry and claim the correspondence was innocent…How could Jae believe in him again?  She was sick of his deception…Forcing him out now would be unforgivable, the final blow in their marriage.  Jae wasn’t ready to take that step.  She needed time and space to think things over and–if nothing else–to prove to Paul she meant business.

Now there’s an obvious problem here: Paul has been serially cheating, lying, and emotionally abusive for years, but it’s Jae that will be striking the “final blow” be responding?

You know, if I were Jae (*shudders*), I would also be royally pissed that this is approximately the 4,732nd time Paul has jumped into a pile of shit and come out smelling like a rose.  A particularly egregious instance of this, too, as Paul compounded cruelty and stupidity: he was just about to shoot a guy, then followed Donny into territory Donny knew well, in order to “rescue” him, then took off his glasses when he had every reason to suspect a dangerous environment.  But trust Paul to get everything he wants, even when he’s caused every bit of his own misery.  Tool.

But it’s okay, because Jae is going to wait until the kids finish school (it’s now May), and pack them up and go to her parents!  All I can say, Jae, is ABOUT DAMN TIME!!!

But wait!  Surely now that Paul is a Real True Christian, Jae will see the remarkable changes in his heart!  He has faith in the one true God now, he’s following the teachings of Jesus!  Aren’t we always told that this makes people better than they were?  Naturally Paul will become a more attentive and less abusive husband and father! 

His routine stayed the same: listening to discs in the den all morning with the door closed, waiting for Straight; holing up with him all afternoon; and then going out to chess clubs several evenings a week.

Oh.