Soon: Chapters 28-29: Pennies and Celluloid

Straight has given Paul his first contact in the L.A. underground–a guy nicknamed “Specs,” because he is one of the few people who has not had his bad vision completely corrected by laser eye surgery.

WHAT IS THIS, # 3,697 ON THE LIST OF AWESOME THINGS ABOUT ATHEISTOPIA THEY HAVE ALMOST COMPLETELY CURED IMPERFECT VISION IT JUST NEVER ENDS

Straight also tells Paul more fun tidbits about the L.A. Christians:

They use pennies for their little identification symbols (just like that one group used ailanthus leaves and that one other group used medallions with books on them).  Straight explains the symbol’s Deep Significance:

“Lincoln was known as Honest Abe, of course, a virtue we want to be known by.”

Yeah-huh.  Hey, Straight, maybe you should have thought of that before you lied to Paul for months about what you believed.  And maybe Paul should be thinking about it to, what with his not telling Angela for months about his marriage, and not telling Jae for months about his new religion.

“And the [“In God We Trust”] line on there is one thing that took the penny out of circulation.”

Wow.  I’m…kinda shocked.  Jenkins has hit on something that atheists might actually do if we could–get rid of the stupid “In God We Trust” line on the money that we use just like everyone else.  Though I doubt we would have to take anything out of circulation–couldn’t we just take the line off the penny mold for future pennies?

“But because of the color, the penny also represents gold.”

Wait, copper-colored = gold?  WHY???

“The line the penny relates to is, ‘I advise you to buy gold from me–gold that has been purified by fire.'”

Um…’kay?  HOARD GOLD!!!!

“So Los Angeles is Laodicea.  But I’m still not sure why.” [said Paul]

“Laodicea had to bring in its water by aqueduct, for one thing, as L.A. does.  And remember what else that passage tells you to buy: ‘ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see.’  Laodicea was a big maker of eye salve for the ancient world.” [said Straight]

“L.A.’s movies could be considered eye products today.” [said Paul]

Well, I guess.  But they certainly aren’t the first things that pop to my mind as “eye products,” especially since movies are now completely interactive. 

“You got it–not to mention what they used to call ‘eye candy’–the beautiful people.” [said Straight]

“Incredible.” [said Paul]

Not really. Bit of a stretch, to be honest.

And before Paul goes to find Specs, he meets for a few minutes with the L.A. NPO chief, “a sixtyish no-nonsense woman named Harriet Johns.” 

Hey!  HARRIET!  Like Hattie Durham! 

Harriet is pissed because Bia Balaam is being a jerk to her, just as you would expect a very tall, silver-haired woman with a full-time job to be.  Harriet also mentions the fact that they actually have infiltrators already in the L.A. underground, which makes Harriet awesomely good at her job, and which will, of course, have Grave Consequences later.

Next up: Specs, and one of the funniest lines in the book!

 

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Posted on January 18, 2012, in Books, Soon. Bookmark the permalink. 27 Comments.

  1. I totally vote that IN GOD WE TRUST be taken off US currency and E PLURIBUS UNUM put back on.

    Also? Even more super duper laser eye surgery? Nice. Why is Jenkins so good at extending lines of technological development and SO FUCKING CRAPPY with writing actual people in his novels?

  2. Apart from the fact that a lot of these penny-allegories are lame, there’s another problem: Why do you need it to be an allegory Straight? It’s an identification tool. A much better one than those smelly leafs BTW. More subtle, easier to carry, don’t wither and die and if a non-Christian has one and asks you about it, you can always claim it was stuck in the back of your wallet and forgot it was there. Why would you want there to be a link between your secret organization and the look of the identification item. Granted, in this case the link is so far-fetched that for once I won’t call the Atheistapo stupid for not picking it up, but still. I guess this is once again Jenkins’ compulsive need to look smart. If he thinks of an allegory, he can’t leave well enough alone but has to explain his readers in detail what a clever little allegory it is. If it is blatantly obvious, that sounds patronizing. If it is obtuse like here, it makes him look kinda pitfull really.

    Also, she has infiltrators, plural in an underground that according to Ruby and my guess contains one guy? Did they infiltrate a decoy, or is this a flock of wolves thing, where almost the entire movement consists of infiltrators? Typical really. The one time the Atheistapo has a decent idea they go overboard.

    So, does Paul meet Bia here, or was Bia with Harriet first and she’s still upset about it when Paul drops by? Fair enough Karma wise, Paul got away with so much jerky behavior, it’s fine if someone takes her bad day out on him.

    • “It’s an identification tool. A much better one than those smelly leafs BTW. More subtle, easier to carry, don’t wither and die and if a non-Christian has one and asks you about it, you can always claim it was stuck in the back of your wallet and forgot it was there.”

      Good point. And much better than St. Stephen’s stupid medallion. The guy couldn’t explain what his necklace meant when directly questioned about it–not the best accessory if your aim is to avoid detection.

      “Also, she has infiltrators, plural in an underground that according to Ruby and my guess contains one guy?”

      Oops, wasn’t specific enough — it is only one guy (Specs) doing the entertainment vandalism. There are more people in the underground, but Specs is on his own (literally and figuratively) on the HO LYWOOD sign and Ten Commandments board.

    • It’s possible that you might just get away with “accidentally” showing a coin to somebody, as an identifier. It’s not something that’s blatantly on show, like a medallion, or a smelly leaf.
      However, in this society a much better way of identifying yourself as a member of a secret Christian organisation would be to drop some context-appropriate Biblical quote into a conversation. Since the Bible has been banned for decades, who’s going to recognise the source except a fellow Christian? If you had the bad luck to try it with somebody like Paul, who isn’t a Christian but who has studied the Bible (supposedly), you could probably get away with the excuse that it was a favourite saying of your grandmother, or something.

      • Actually, a coin would be a great something that you could “accidentally” show– because if you did have an old coin, it would be perfectly normal to show it to a friend in a “hey, look what I found at the back of the drawer!” sort of way. If the person’s Christian or a sympathiser, they can easily let you know by commenting on the motto, picture of Lincoln, etc., and if they’re not, well, all you did was show them a neat old coin.

  3. As somebody who has such bad eyesight that I’ll never be given a driving license, may I be allowed this one little cheer for Atheistopia?
    YAYYYYY FOR ATHEISTOPIA!!!!!!

    Thank you.

  4. Funny how the people who say “HOARD GOLD” are usually also the ones who say “and I’ll sell you some at a special price”.

    Hang on, if the penny has been taken out of circulation, surely possession of one is a suspicious circumstance in itself? Isn’t the point of a recognition symbol that it’s something that you could do innocently, like the classic white carnation in the buttonhole, so that if you get picked up you can claim to know nothing about the group?

    A friend who was involved in communism as a student in the UK in the 1940s reported that it was easy to spot the infiltrators from the intelligence services: they were the ones who had any money (and they were usually about half of the members of any given group). If they hadn’t infiltrated, student communism would have dried up for lack of funds and people.

    • Well, like I said, depending on how long the penny has been out of circulation, this might work. You could pretend it was stuck in your wallet and you found it today. The link to Christianity is so vague a bunch of born atheists probably wouldn’t get it (like they wouldn’t get the Ten Commandment reference the zealots put so much effort into either, but hey) and there is at least a better excuse for it than those stupid leafs in New York. And you wouldn’t want to use any identification symbol people might likely show you by accident, so I can get behind the penny.

      Another point, this book doesn’t follow a three act structure does it? It sounds more like the novelization of a TV series. Paul runs from place to place, with not much connecting the things he does in each. I guess there is something happening in each place that might generously be described as character development. (Seathing hatred for Christians in SF, being blinded in Texas, sealing his new allegiance in New York, admitting to Angela in LA), and there are tiny snippits of world building done (we learn a new pseudo-horrible fact about Atheistopia at every location, though little of it makes sense or beats the throwing-guy-too-stupid-into-a-vat-of-napalm we started out with), but it still doesn’t feel as properly connected as a James Bond globetrotting does. There’s no overall goal yet, just Paul hopping around on jobs and killing/helping Christians at each stop, depending on how far into the story they are. At least Left Behind had a clear end goal, even though it was hamstrung by none of the protagonist being able or willing to do anything to change it or speed it up.

      • Word. I’m astonished whenever I look at the top of the page and see we’re in Chapter 29, because shouldn’t a plot have manifested by now? Shouldn’t the stakes be rising, shouldn’t disparate themes be coming together, shouldn’t events be building toward some sort of crisis or climax which is then resolved?

        Where, for example, is the secret Atheistapo plan to annihilate the Christian rebels once and for all (perhaps with orbital lasers), the deployment of which will force Paul to cast his loyalties irrevocably with one side or the other?

        It’s unintentionally symbolic that Jenkins namedrops Casablanca — a story of a guy who “sticks his neck out for nobody” rediscovering his idealism, which ought to be Paul’s story too — only to have Paul be more interested in the passive piano-playing Sam.

        • I’m astonished whenever I look at the top of the page and see we’re in Chapter 29, because shouldn’t a plot have manifested by now?

          And there are only 36 chapters in the book. 😀

          • Isn’t the canonical L&J-plot “everyone stands around doing nothing, God kills them, the end”? I’d say we’re on course for that…

    • Hang on, if the penny has been taken out of circulation, surely possession of one is a suspicious circumstance in itself? Isn’t the point of a recognition symbol that it’s something that you could do innocently, like the classic white carnation in the buttonhole, so that if you get picked up you can claim to know nothing about the group?

      Depends on how serious the round-up was. If they were simply taken out of circulation – there’s so many out there, there would still be tons of them. And certain people would carry around a lucky penny, or one their grandparent gave them, or one printed with the year of their birth… Enough people would have them that there wouldn’t be any suspicion just because you carry it. Now, a person might wonder why you hauled it out and showed it to them.

      If they were collected up, then it’s likely they would be associated with some kind of resistance to the government (more likely of the “who are you to tell me what to do” variety than a religious resistance). But even then, I’d think 20 or 30 years later, people would still come across old piggy banks, or those memory vaults that get buried. And someone young enough not to have been personally impacted by the collection of pennies might think it would be cool to carry around an antique form of money.

    • “Hang on, if the penny has been taken out of circulation, surely possession of one is a suspicious circumstance in itself?”

      I’ve got an old shilling piece that my mother saved when the currency went decimal; it seems to me it would be a pretty normal thing to do to save old currency when goes out of circulation, just as a souvenir. Likewise, I’d expect, based on what happened during decimalisation, that, if the penny was taken out of circulation, there would be a transition period when it was phased out (perhaps when no new pennies are minted, but companies will still take them, later shifting to a period where only banks will take them to exchange them for other coins), so owning an old coin shouldn’t really be suspicious in and of itself.

      • Also, the pilot episode of Sliders had the gang of Mallory et al transiting into a Soviet-occupied USA. The rebels against the Soviet-run puppet state use old US one-dollar bills as identifying markers, and the authorities know this, but do little to stop it aside from busting people when caught doing it.

        (It becomes a plot point in the novelization when the occupation authorities don’t realize the significance of the fact that Arturo “passed” a 1995-dated dollar bill.)

      • inquisitiveraven

        Actually, in 1980 when my family spent a year in England, the 5p coins were the exact dimensions and weight of a pre-decimalisation shilling, and still circulating shillings could be used as 5p coins. At 20 shillings to a pound, I suppose it made some kind of sense.

        • They were, that’s why I mentioned a phase-out. Actually it’s more complicated than that: initially, when we decimalised, the “new pence” that replaced the coinage were in the same dimensions and weight as the old ones and, yes, old predecimal coins could still be used as the equivalent decimal currency. After about twenty years of this, though, they stopped accepting predecimal coins (though you could take them to the bank and exchange them– actually you still can, my SO found a ten-pound-note from the 1980s while clearing house and was able to exchange it for a new tenner), and started phasing out the “new pence” in favour of the currency we have at the moment. Every so often, too, they’ll change the design of the currency and repeat the cycle for various reasons (e.g. a few years back they introduced a two-pound coin which looks suspiciously Euro-like).

  5. What I really want to know is, does Harriet have “sensible shoes?”

  6. And remember what else that passage tells you to buy: ‘ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see.’ Laodicea was a big maker of eye salve for the ancient world.” [said Straight]

    “L.A.’s movies could be considered eye products today.” [said Paul]

    I know anytime I have a case of mild conjunctivitis, I just pop in my copy of The Hottie & the Nottie and it clears it right up. “Take two Leprechaun sequels and call me in the morning” is commonly heard in ophthalmologists’ offices across the nation.

    Bit of a stretch? Jenkins has tortured this analogy so hard, it just confessed to the Lindbergh baby kidnapping.

    Re: Specs. In a future where corrective eye surgery is cheap and universal, I would presume that if glasses still exist, their purpose is to enhance eyesight still further — infrared vision and so forth. What I’m saying is, when we meet Specs, he’d better have super powers.

    • Specs probably just wears glasses as a retro chic thing. If Atheistopia had superpower glasses on the market, they’d surely supply them to Paul. Otherwise, he might *gasp* not have all the coolest toys.

  7. inquisitiveraven

    A couple of things about the pennies: 1) There’s been talk about eliminating them for years, not because of the “In God We Trust,” but because they’re worth so little these days and seem to exist mostly to complicate making change. 2) The USA has been replaced by the USSA; surely the new country would want to issue a new currency, right? World building fail there, Jenkins.

    • inquisitiveraven

      Oh right, I forgot the seigniorage issue. Pennies are expensive to make relative to their value. The government doesn’t like taking a loss on producing physical currency, but that has happened with pennies in the past. That’s why the things are made of copper coated zinc these days instead of being struck from pure copper.

  8. “I know anytime I have a case of mild conjunctivitis, I just pop in my copy of The Hottie & the Nottie and it clears it right up.”

    I didn’t know you were supposed to induce vomiting for conjunctivitis.

  9. Headless Unicorn Guy

    WHAT IS THIS, # 3,697 ON THE LIST OF AWESOME THINGS ABOUT ATHEISTOPIA THEY HAVE ALMOST COMPLETELY CURED IMPERFECT VISION IT JUST NEVER ENDS

    Like I’ve said many times, the Greatest Christian Author of All Time is kind of out to sea on the concept of “Dystopia”.

  10. Atheistopia rocks when it comes to eye care! Pop in a movie to cure conjunctivitis and laser eye surgery has apparently become so refined that anyone can have it! And the results are perfect! (No, really, that’s something to be excited about. If your eyesight is bad over a certain level, you don’t qualify for LASIK. I just barely qualified and my right eye still isn’t 20/20. A coworker friend of mine had LASIK when she never should have been approved, and now she’s facing a corneal transplant sometime in the next 10 years because of the poor results.)

    Pennies, leaves, and medallions . . . dare I ask what’s next? Perhaps bedroom slippers but only those that are clog-like, because Jesus washed the disciples’ feet before the Last Supper and these kinds of slippers are easy to kick off to have your feet washed? (Well, it makes about as much sense as anything else Jenkins has written.)

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