Monthly Archives: April 2014

Silenced: Chapter 28: Compelled

Hey guys, sorry for the delay in posting lately.  Life has been crazy busy, but is slowly returning to normal.

And it’s time to get Styr Magnor—I hope everyone is ready for this nail-biting mission of stinky clothes!

The worst part [of the mission] was…Paul was in league with the sworn enemy of his soul.

That’s the worst part of the mission–the people he’s working with.  Not the fact that he is going up against a mass murdering madman and might never see his kids (Paul pauses, trying to remember their names).  Nope, it’s the other members of the team, who are also putting their lives on the line.  And Ball Dangler is presumably included, since he has made it his mission in life to see Magnor hang (wow, what a horrible guy that Dangler fellow is!).

Nope, the sworn enemy of Paul’s soul isn’t the terrorist responsible for the deaths of hundreds of civilians and the destruction of irreplaceable monuments.  Nope, the sworn enemy of his soul are the atheists who want to capture said terrorist.

Paul is our hero.  So easy to forget.

…ridding the world of Magnor was the right thing to do.

Gee, Paul, thanks for the concession.

As he’s pondering on working for these horrible atheists who want to capture a mass murderer (I mean, the mass murderer in this book who isn’t named God), Paul gets a skull call from Lothair (ChappellShow’s second-in-command):

“…I believe [God] gave me something for you.  I don’t get it, don’t know why, but Chapp agreed it was worth sharing with you if you had time to hear it.”

“How long is it?”

“Just two verses.”

“Go ahead.”

I actually don’t blame Paul for being impatient right now.  He is kinda on the NPO’s dime and on his way to the sting and all.

The verses are 1 Kings 18:36-37.  Weirdly, when Lothair “reads” them, he leaves out the first few words about evening sacrifices.  Maybe Jenkins didn’t want his readers to think about the pretty big sacrifice that is about to happen.  Or maybe he doesn’t want us to remember how common blood sacrifices used to be for the followers of the One True God.

These verses actually seem fairly dull to me, but Paul is all but brought to his knees by how “powerful” they are, and asks Lothair and everyone to pray for Jae.

***

Paul needn’t worry, because back in the hotel room…

…Jae found herself prostrate on the couch, compelled to pray for Paul.

It is so strange that again and again in these books (not to mention the Left Behind series), people are “compelled” to pray so often.  I thought the loving God didn’t want us to be robots, forced and programmed to do his bidding.  But this isn’t Jae’s free will talking—she even feels “conflicted” over whether to pray at all.

But prayer God wants, and prayer he will get.  Even if he has to compel it.

And she’s “prostrate on the couch,” too.  That’s like SUPER prayer.  (Again, a not-uncommon occurrence in the Left Behind series—the Trib Forcers mush their faces into the carpet while praying.

(Insert dirty joke here.)

“God, protect him.  Be with him.  Bring him back to me.”  Tears welled and sobs racked her throat.  Jae couldn’t stem the tide.  “God, please!” she wailed.  “Please!”

“Please, God, bring back my emotionally abusive husband!  He carried the luggage one time last month!  How could I ever get along without him???”

You know it’s Real True Praying when you cry.  And when God compels you to do it.

***

Honestly, the sting itself is pretty boring, too, but here are the highlights:

The place was already wall-to-wall people, mostly drunk men and a few women who had seen better days.

That’s always nice.  Good to see Paul’s Christian love and charity progressing apace.

…Paul forced himself not to cough, despite the thick blue cloud that permeated every inch of breathable air.  Pipes, cigarettes, and cigars contributed…

Color me surprised that polluting smoking products still exist in Atheistopia, where every vehicle is environmentally friendly and cancer has been all but eradicated.  Shouldn’t there be some healthy and sweet-smelling alternative?

And where’s my synthehol?

Styr Magnor/Steffan Wren finally arrives, and because we must know immediately, he’s five feet, ten inches tall, 225 pounds.

I’ve noticed that Jenkins generally has very tall and lean heroes, while villains are usually shorter and more solid.  Doesn’t help Jenkins’ cause that I tend to like guys with some meat on their bones.

Case in point.

Paul nearly panicked…

Wow, you can really tell this guy used to be Special Forces.

But he manages to pull himself together, and when Magnor sits down at the designated table, Paul knocks over a glass, and one of the actual trained SWAT members throws a flashbang…

YOU FOOL!!!

…and Paul rams the guy head-on, for reasons best known to himself, since the SWAT dudes and dudettes have the place totally surrounded and covered.

Then they shoot Magnor dead.  A lot.

The end.

***

Back in the hotel room, Jae has fallen asleep after her exhausting compelled prayer session.  She awakens to the news report of the death of Magnor, and of course knows it was Paul.  Interesting note: since Magnor claimed credit for the “your firstborn sons will all die” threat, and neither Paul nor anyone else in the underground has corrected anyone, Ball Dangler now claims that the threat is no more, because THAT MAKES SENSE.

God is awful.  So is Paul.  So is the rest of the Christian Underground.

***

Paul, if course, decides that he needs to speak to Jae face-to-face, and ignores her message (on “his answering device“) in favor of being congratulated first by Ball Dangler (who invites him back to Bern) and then by Ranold (who seems to now be convinced that Paul is a good ole trustworthy atheist after all).

“Hug and kiss the kids for me, will you, Dad?” [said Paul]

“Oh, sure.”  [said Ranold]

I love how Jenkins tries to make Paul look like the Concerned Caregiver here, and Ranold like the Cold Jerk, when it’s Ranold and his family who have volunteered to spend time with these kids over the past days, and Paul who has spent the last eight years barely interacting with these children.

***

Meanwhile, Jae is getting pissed.  Neither Paul nor straight are answering their skull phones.

They are out of their heads, HAR.

Next time, Paul and Jae have an actual conversation!

Perhaps the most supernatural event to occur in this book.

 

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Quick Critique: The Passion of the Christ

Watched The Passion of the Christ for the first time tonight.  I’ve always felt I should see it, as a good little atheist, but I didn’t want to pay for it and never got around to ordering it from the library.

Ten years out, there’s not much (if anything) I can say about the hugely controversial movie that hasn’t already been said:

Yes, it is bloody.  Really extraordinarily so.  Like, the bloodiest movie you can think of, the one you would never show a kid?  (Robocop, of course, comes trippingly to mind.  And now I really want to watch Robocop.)  Yeah, Passion is way bloodier.

So, as if we didn’t know, Mel Gibson wants to make sure we get it: being beaten and scourged and crucified would suck.  A lot.

It’s really gross.  And I have a pretty strong stomach, so that’s saying a lot.

Gibson also proves himself a fan of slo-mo.  As in, the guard will sloooowly rear back, and sloooowly whack Jesus with a stick, and the blood droplets will sloooowly fly away from Jesus’ back.  It’s all filmed very lovingly.

Meanwhile, the Evil Jews sloooowly watch the whole thing, while Androgynous Satan sloooowly wanders around amongst the Jews.  Just so we get how evil they all are.

So yes, the movie is just as anti-Semitic as you’ve heard.

It’s also quite homophobic.  I’ve mentioned in the past that the Left Behind series surprised me by being even more anti-Catholic than anti-atheist.  And Passion surprised me in a similar way—I mean, I had heard about the anti-Semitism and expected it.  I hadn’t heard about homophobia, but…well, if you are inclined to watch this movie, pay attention to the Herod scene (it’s hard not to do so).  You’ll see what I mean.

I suppose one cannot expect much surprise from such a well-known story, but I just could not connect with the characters (the one exception being Judas, for the few minutes he was onscreen).  The reaction I had was visceral, not emotional.  As in, yes, it is awful that this guy is going through all that pain.  But it would be awful for anyone.  I felt just as bad for the two thieves (we didn’t see them actually being staked, but they were).  I winced several times—the weird whip-with-barbs thing would catch on Jesus’ back, I would wince.  They staked his hand, I winced.  But (I don’t know how else to put this, though I know I’ll sound like a jerk), I didn’t care.  That is, I didn’t care about the character Jesus, being unjustly tormented.  I cared because holy crap, ouch, I can hardly believe that anyone could do this to another person.

It takes forever for Jesus to get out of the city.  Which I guess it would, but this is the part where I really started to get bored.  Jesus walks…and walks…and people are generally jerks…and some dickweed kicks Jesus, and Jesus sloooowly goes ass over teakettle.  Why this in slow motion, Mel Gibson?  Like it wasn’t enough that the poor dude’s back was ripped to shreds, now some dickweed makes him trip?

Anyway, as we all know, some random from the crowd is dragooned to help carry the cross.  Initially reluctant (who wouldn’t be?), he ends up doing it in pretty good humor, all things considered.

I kid, but the guy has one of the few emotionally-resonant lines in the whole movie.  As they get out of the city gates, he helps Jesus up (again) and says, “we’re almost there.”  It’s pretty sweet, actually.  Like, I’m not sure this can be seen as good news (c wut I did thar), but at least he’s trying to be comforting.  He’s a nice guy.

The actual staking to the cross was a bit anti-climatic after the beating Jesus got, although, as I mentioned above, the first stake through the hand was a wince-inducer.

Oh, and one other bit stood out—although most of the gore effects were good to excellent, the spear-in-Jesus’-side one was laughably bad.  As in, I actually laughed.

I also laughed out loud when God’s tear caused an earthquake.

As if there was doubt, I am totally going to Hell.

A few other observations:

We only really see three of the disciples: Judas, Peter, and James.  I liked the actor who played Peter.  He portrayed Peter much as I’ve always seen him—as a big, whiny, self-important baby.

Judas was pretty cool, too.  I wish the whole movie was about him.  I also thought he was kinda cute.

Speaking of which, James is an absolute hottie.  Unfortunately, he seems, at most, mildly put out by the whole situation.

Mary Magdalene was gorgeous.  I can see why Jesus was into her.

The one vaguely interesting bit was the aside about the origin of the Shroud of Turin (fake though it is).

Anyway, just a quick pre-Easter mini-critique, as I just saw this on TV, and thus have no means to watch it slowly and multiple times, the way I usually do.  Have you guys seen Passion?  What did you think?

Silenced: Chapter 27: Less Than Masculine

A thought has occurred to me as I near the ending of the book, guys.  I’ll get to it in a few minutes, and it will become clearer as The Big Event draws nigh.

In the meantime, Jae arrives in Paris and spends an entire page putzing around the hotel room.  Paul, who is “busy” with the SWAT dudes and dudettes getting ready to nab Styr Magnor, has left Jae instructions to watch the TV news.  The bores the crap out of poor Jae, so she decides to nose around in Paul’s computer instead.

She shouldn’t be snooping, Jae decided, but on the other hand she was here on the NPO’s nickel, and that was what they expected of her.  That was, plainly, rationalization…

A distant memory made her wonder if Paul had ever changed his password.  He had once used her first name, followed by the last digit in the year of each of their births—his, hers, Brie’s, and Connor’s.  She tapped it in.  Bingo.

Paul is the most incompetent super-spy in the history of incompetence.  I mean, seriously?  He keeps his password the same for this many years, and it’s something that anyone, let alone his wife, could crack in three minutes?

So of course, Jae happens upon Paul’s drafts of the Christian manifesto.

She could come to no other conclusion than he had flipped.

OH, YOU THINK???

Jae moved in and out of the various rooms in Paul’s suite, banging the walls, pulling her hair, grunting in frustration.  Why couldn’t he be here?  Why did he have to be gone?  Why could she not know where he was?

God, women are so whiny all the time.  Good thing Jae has a Christian husband’s strong hand to guide her.

Of one thing she was certain, there would be no more cat-and-mouse games between them.  As soon as he walked through that door, she would put it to him.  She wanted to know.  He had to tell her.

I find it hilarious that Paul continually congratulates himself, and Jae is continually grateful, for Paul’s changed-man-edness, yet this is the first time Jae determines that they should have an actual direct conversation.

***

Speaking of manliness and womanliness, Paul is planning things out with the “major general of the International Government of Peace, in charge of special weapons and tactics.”  He’s an Indian man named Garuda “Gary” Vibishana, and has the following strange take on the site of the meet-up with Styr Magnor:

“…I cannot be [inside the pub] unless there are customarily people of color in that establishment.  I’m guessing there are not, and thus I would stand out.”

“I’m afraid that would be an understatement,” Paul said.  “A blue-collar pub would likely be a holdout against political correctness and diversity.”

Bwah?

Okay, first of all, is Paul saying that political correctness and diversity are good things?  Because he might have to turn in his RTC card now.

And isn’t it just like those silly blue collar workers, eh?  So unenlightened.  It’s not that I’m surprised that Paul is this classist, given his covetousness and near-worship of the rich, but this is pretty blatant.

(The above link reminds me that I like to picture Berlitz Decenti being played by Martin Freeman.

And finally, why wouldn’t this working-class pub in London have patrons who are people of color?  Especially Indians, who are the largest group of people of color in the city.  Remember, Atheistopia is a liberal paradise, with stupendous medical advances and an end to homelessness.  The world is united—one government, one currency.  And Paul and Gary still think it impossible that a dark-skinned man would patronize a pub?

Sigh.  Whatever.

Oh, and not only are blue-collar workers insular and bigoted—they also smell bad!

Because Paul’s stinky clothes make a comeback:

Paul dug through he stuff and pulled out the bag containing what he called his drinking outfit.

“Perfect,” Vibishana said.  “It even smells.”

“That’s from wearing it during half a dozen workouts and never washing it.”

That is so gross.  How has Jae ever shared a bed with this man?

Also, these two men think that an Indian would be less accepted at a pub than a white man who smells like a hockey bag?

But race relations and foul clothing aren’t the only things Gary Vibishana discusses:

“My best camouflage is a slight limp,” the Indian said, “making me look less than masculine.  Harmless.”

Wow.  Dude.

Because disabilities make you look, what, womany?

Okay, fine, I’ll play along.  But first, check this out:

(Approximately 298,000 times manlier than Vibishana and Paul combined.)

(See all those people frozen in place, Vibishana/Paul/Jenkins?
That man in the wheelchair did that.)

But who cares about stereotyping the disabled when there’s more clothes drama???  The SWAT team assembles and is comprised of both Manly Men and members of the weaker, womany-er, child-bearing-er sex.

…the personnel—men and women—immediately stripped to their underwear where they sat and changed into their getups.

So Atheistopia is basically Battlestar Galactica.

Frakking brilliant.

Paul was intrigued by where they found to hide their firepower.

Oh, was he?  I’ll just bet he was, eh?  Hint, hint, nudge, nudge, say no more.

So, they’ll all hang at the pub (I guess Vibishana is the only person of color on the team of thirty) and Paul will knock over a glass when he sees Magnor sit down.  I don’t care.

***

Back in the hotel room, Jae muses:

Was this how God revealed Himself to her?  By discovering that her husband was a secret believer?  And what did that prove?  Because Paul had turned, did that make it true?  Did that make God real?

Oh, I’m sure it does, Jae.  After all, it’s important for you to submit to the headship of your husband, so whatever he believes must be true.

And this brings up my thought from the top of this post:

As far as Paul knows, Jae is still an atheist, albeit one who is listening to the New Testament.  And the clock is ticking on God’s judgment on the firstborns of nonbelievers.  So why isn’t Paul terrified for the fate of his son, Connor?  (Indeed, he hasn’t spared a thought for the boy in…well, longer than I can remember.)  Connor, after all, is 50% the child of a nonbeliever.  Shouldn’t Paul be just a tad concerned at this point?

He’s not, and I have my suspicions why, but I’m looking forward to seeing your reactions as the judgment goes down, and some males (but not others) go down with it.

 

Silenced: Chapter 26: Theme Music

Ranold drops Jae at the airport (two hours from D.C. to Paris, we’re informed by the ever-helpful Jenkins), and gives her a bug to plant on Paul. (Since the bug Bia planted was such crap.)

“And what about my allegiance to Paul?”

Ranold sighed. “If he proves worthy of it, then it’s not misplaced, is it? If you find he’a not worthy of it, I’m trusting you to act the way you would with any other traitor to the cause of liberty and freedom.”

Cue the theme music. [thinks Jae]

YOU DO NOT TALK THAT WAY ABOUT RANOLD!

Oh, and Jae? I have a great theme song for you and Paul.

Meanwhile, Paul calls Ball Dangler’s private skull phone. Inexplicably, the chief of staff answers this, because Dangler’s too busy with the media. I don’t get how any of this is even possible, but the important part is that Paul gets to berate the hapless chief, because “I need to talk to [Dangler] right this second.”

***

On the short flight (damn, you could make a day trip to Europe!), Jae prays. We all knew this was coming, but that makes it no less tragic.

God, she said [to herself], if there is a God, would You reveal Yourself to me somehow?

Jae didn’t know what else to say. In her listening one night, a verse had flown by that struck her as odd. Well, they all struck her as odd. It was something about never being able to please God without faith. And that anyone who wanted to come to Him had to believe there was a God. She would have to find it and listen again, because she was certain there was some kind of promise about how God would reward those who sincerely looked for Him.

Jae had added the condition “if there is a God,” and she wondered if that proved she didn’t have faith, that she didn’t really believe there was a God, that she was, in essence, hedging her bets. But what about that promise?

It is indeed a conundrum, Jae. Almost as though the God of the Bible is a big jerk with a narcissistic need to have everyone think exactly as he wants them to.

But it couldn’t be that, right?

***

Paul gets on the line (or skull, whatever) with Ball Dangler, and they have the following exchange:

“First, sir, I know that you understand many of the intricacies of international intelligence and espionage, but I would like the liberty of walking you through a few reminders. May I?”

“Please.”

Oh, yes, DOCTOR Stepola, please do condescend to me. It’s not like I have anything more important to do with my time on one of the most momentous days of my career.

Not to spoil the fun, but Paul doesn’t reveal any great “intricacies” of espionage and intelligence. He just reveals that Styr Magnor is Steffan Wren of Angry Storm. And then he asks to be put in contact with “your top military strikeforce leader” so they can take him down. Dangler agrees, because he’s just that kind of dude, and he’s been blinded by Paul’s “brilliance.”

“…we will remove the threat that looms at midnight tomorrow.” [says Dangler, who still thinks Magnor is just going to start murdering young men]

Well, I wouldn’t go that far. [Paul thinks, like the snide jerk he is]

Haha, still sucks to be you, Dangler! Your son’s gonna die, and my bully’s gonna be the biggest on the playground. Sure, I could reveal I’m a Christian and take credit for my own manifesto and try to mitigate the damage my God’s gonna do just me for, but where would be the fun in that?

***

The rest of the chapter is really boring, as Paul makes contact with the main SWAT dude and they plan to secretly meet Magnor at the pub. With stealth and stuff. It should be interesting. It’s not.

Sorry for the delays in posting lately, guys. Got some stuff going on, so we’ll be taking a few baby steps towards the horror of the end. But it’s coming. God’s big bullying climax is coming.