Monthly Archives: January 2018
Thirty chapters in (out of sixty-eight), and seriously NOTHING has happened yet.
We are reminded of this twofold, as Murphy begins yet another class, and notices that Summer Van Doren has not shown up.
Get your head in the game, Murphy. You’ve got a class to teach. Anyway, how could you be thinking about her after you had that wonderful dream about Isis?
Yep, he’s done nothing. He hasn’t started tracking down the Biblical artifacts he keeps daydreaming about, and he hasn’t contacted the pseudo-girlfriend that he real dreams about.
(This is starting to become one of those stereotypical I-have-a-girlfriend-who-lives-in-Canada things. You can just picture Murphy chatting with colleagues: “I do TOO have a girlfriend. She just lives in another state and never visits and we don’t talk on the phone or write letters or email. But she’s real! I even held her hand once!”)
(More to the point, this is also reminiscent of Rayford Steele’s obsession with “a woman he had never touched“—for these RTC males, relationships are actually better…when they aren’t actually relationships.)
Also also, did Murphy seriously expect Summer to audit every single class he ever teaches, forever? I mean, dude, she has a job.
And, in further news of Occasional Characters, Murphy notices that Paul Wallach has shown up to class.
It had been quite some time since Paul had dropped out of his class.
Uh-huh. So why then does he get to just show back up whenever he wants? I mean, I get that this is the easiest and most pointless course on campus, but I doubt the registrar is similarly incompetent. Dean Archer Fallworth has shown us repeatedly that some people at Preston University do actually care about their jobs.
Interestingly, Murphy reaction to Paul’s presence is:
I guess he and Shari are really trying to put their relationship back together.
Wow, so even Murphy understands his own class is pointless. Because Paul couldn’t possibly be there to get his degree (which he should already have, but whatevs); he could only be in that classroom to win Shari back.
Murphy begins class by briefly reviewing the previous weeks: lectures on “the concept of God…[spawning] many cultures to create pagan gods and idols,” and “thinking about both good and evil angels.” And again, he seems to be openly admitting that nothing about this course has anything even remotely to do with archaeology.
Now we’re on to false teachers, which Murphy of course interprets to mean anybody who preaches or teaches anything that is not RTC-ity. He starts with a Letterman’s Top Ten list. Well, it’s a list of ten people. I don’t feel like tracking down all of them, but one I picked at random was Abu Isa, who never actually claimed to be Christ at all. So…whoopee?
Murphy blathers on for pages about these and a second list of ten “false Christs and teachers,” sprinkling in a sentence or two about some (but not all) of them, in such a way that absolutely none of it will stick in the minds of his students. Moving a bit further forward in history, Murphy mentions Ann Lee, whom I only mention because she was a Shaker leader, and I recently heard a radio preacher snarking about Shakers. I had not known this was a Thing in RTC-ity, but apparently so.
And this list is odd in another way: Maitreya is put in the same list with Marshall Applewhite. Seems to me that a guy who leads a mass suicide belongs in a different category than the potential future Buddha. (Interestingly, Murphy puts a year next to each name. Maitreya gets 1959. Why, I’m not sure, except that 1959 was the year the translation of a book containing the prophecy of Maitreya was released. Top notch researching there, Murph!
And this goes on for EIGHT PAGES. Eight pages of Phillips’ distillation of his glances at Wikipedia. And he tops it off with a full page of FALSE TEACHERS who made predictions surrounding the year 2000. And again, this list is just bizarre with regards (or lack thereof) to proportionality: the leader of a mass suicide is once again featured in the same list as someone who just made some bizarre claims. (Why do I get the feeling that in LaPhillips’ eyes, it is much worse for a woman to make bizarre claims than a man?)
Now, as we’ve discussed before, these students are friggin’ pros at this point in the fine art of Dealing with Michael Murphy. So it should come as no surprise when, instead of calling Murphy on the fact that plenty of RTCs have made claims that have not come true, a student asks the following:
“Dr. Murphy, hadn’t there been predictions about Jesus Christ…like where He was going to be born and how he would die, for hundreds of years before the event?”
Yeah, she knows what’s up.
Murphy is just waiting for such a question, because the claims of RTCs are totally different from all other spiritual claims.
Murph cites one Peter Stoner, a Christian mathematician who was in turn cited in Josh McDowell’s Evidence that Demands a Verdict. (In true incestuous RTC tradition, McDowell cites Stoner’s book, which was “carefully reviewed” by the American Scientific Affiliation…a group co-founded by Stoner.)
The “staggering odds” Murphy cites is that there is a “one in ten to the twenty-eighth power [chance of Jesus] fulfilling eight prophecies.”
Now, aside from snarking on the completely unquestioned prophecies that may or may not have been referring to Jesus, and may or may not have come true (though if you want to, try this or this), the bell is about to ring (because I guess this is middle school), and one of the most laugh- or cringe-inducing moments in the entire series happens:
“With odds like that, when Christ returns, I don’t think there will be any doubt about it. So think about the importance of following a true teacher as compared to a false teacher. It could affect the future of each and every one of you.”
The bell rang and the students treated Murphy to a standing ovation for a particularly inspired lecture. He blushed and gave a nod of gratitude.
I mean, wow. There are really too many comments for me to make.
First of all, again, the authors have not been to college. I have been in a LOT of college and graduate and professional classrooms, and the only time I have seen a professor applauded for a lecture is when it is either 1) a guest lecture or 2) the last day of classes. Standing ovation for a random weekday lecture with PowerPoint lists and a handout? Not so much.
Especially because (and I do so love to hammer away at this point), this lecture had ZERO to do with archaeology. ZERO. It was about false (non-RTC) teachers, most of them from the 20th century. Dean Fallworth, where are you when we need you?
So there is no way I can read this standing ovation as being the least bit sincere. It’s coming right on the tail of a brown-nosing question that was fishing for a self-serving response from an egomaniac. Student asks the brown-nosing question, Murphy pontificates on Biblical “statistics” for two full pages, gets a standing ovation. There is NO WAY that was not planned ahead of time. It’s a faux-spontaneous act to kiss up and raise grades and put the narcissist in a good mood. For a darker image, think of the opening scene of USS Callister (and yes, I’ll just reference the opening scene, because SPOILERS).
Sure, we have all the many, many times Rayford Steele has insisted on being called “Captain,” and DOCTOR Paul Stepola, the besets spy in the history of the world, but this standing ovation for a normal lecture may be the single best example of this world heaping unearned praise and adulation on its author avatar heroes.
Brilliant PowerPoints, Professor, just brilliant!
It is still hard to believe how slowly we’re working through these Back-in-the-Bible chapters. Chapter 20, the last one, covered the first part of 1 Samuel 4, and this chapter covers the second part of 1 Samuel 4, about the Philistines capturing the Ark, and two guys dying, and then some other guy goes back and finds out the one dead guy’s wife is in labor, and sensitively doesn’t wait until she’s done pushing the baby out to tell her that her husband’s dead. So she dies, but not before naming her son Ichabod, because she was a big fan of Sleepy Hollow.
Murphy has Isis over for a home-cooked meal of grilled steaks and
beers and Netflix and chill water and a “rented movie.” Over the course of a whole page, this “cutely” turns into a series of “passionate kisses,” Isis on top of Murphy!!!
Annnnd just as you’re thinking, “Wait a minute, Ruby, that doesn’t sound like your common or garden RTC novel. There’s passionate kissing and the woman is on top of the man and this is all happening in the evening at the man’s house when the woman lives a four-hour drive away so she’ll presumably have to spend the night—” welllll…
Yup, Murphy conked out on the couch and dreamed about Isis. Not California Swedish Blonde Volleyball Surfer Summer, but Isis. So, I mean, it’s kinda nice…then again, this is Isis’s first “appearance” in nine chapters, and it’s in a dream.
Anyway, Murphy is woken from his dream by a call from Levi Abrams. Levi has made two appearances in this book so far, but they were before my Glorious Life Event Hiatus, so here they are if you’d like to review.
Levi is actually returning Murphy’s call to his answering machine (man, the little things that date books, eh?), because as usual, Murphy only contacts his “friends” when he needs their help. He’s actually calling Levi in, not to thank him for the surveillance equipment that helped them kinda-sorta expose Sonstad, but to loop him in to Isis’s Ashdod issue.
It’s 10:30 at night, but Levi doesn’t want to talk about Ashdod now. Instead, he invites Murphy to the gym first thing the next morning for a workout and sparring. Now, not that there’s anything inherently romantic about going to the gym with a friend, but it just seems odd to juxtapose that invitation with Murphy’s realization that the homey and sexy scene with Isis just now wasn’t real.
And I’ll add something else too, especially in light of the last chapter, in which Murphy imagined heroically finding artifacts instead of, yanno, actually going out and finding artifacts. Murphy doesn’t do anything—he doesn’t archaeologize, he apparently doesn’t date, but he imagines doing these things. Now, even in the most cliched context I can think of, such imaginings would be not something dismissed as quickly as they are brought up, but springboards to actual action. The love dream especially—how many movies have we seen where dreaming/thinking ’bout love leads to a Grand Romantic Gesture, a Race for Your Love, or simply an Anguished Declaration of Love? This could be Murphy’s big moment, when he realizes that a blonde surfer can’t actually turn his head from the (new) love of his life.
He just goes to the gym with Levi.
“Levi, your reverse punches are like hammers. How do you develop them?”
Well geez, Murph, Levi thought you’d never ask. A page and a half was spent on Murphy’s sexy-domestic dream about Isis, and the EXACT SAME AMOUNT OF SPACE is used to describe in vivid detail how Levi suspends pieces of paper from the ceiling (his wife loves that, I’m sure), and punches the paper, trying to rip it in the middle with the punch. It’s just as riveting as you might imagine.
FINALLY, they actually get around to discussing Ashdod and Aaron’s Rod. And by “discuss,” I mean that Murphy just straight up asks that Levi “push through the paperwork for an archaeological dig.” As usual, our Brave Hero is incapable of doing the simplest of preparations for his own expedition without his Mossad contact. Levi even offers to send his friend from the Mossad, Moshe Pearlman, to go to Ashdod right away to “check it out.” Because I guess Moshe doesn’t have anything better to do with his time.
And then, secure in the knowledge that he has absolutely no work to do whatsoever, Murphy gets back to perfecting his reverse punches. Because that’s what’s important here.
Of all the Starbucks in all the world, you had to walk into mine…
So must Michael Murph think when Shane Barrington bumps into him at Starbucks. Yep, the media mogul who lives in Manhattan has come to a random Starbucks in college-town North Carolina.
And he’s caught Murphy at such a busy time in the adventurer’s life!
[Murphy] was sipping his Starbucks coffee and daydreaming about finding Aaron’s Rod and the Golden Jar of Manna. It would be an archaeological find that would stun the world and put Bible critics on the run.
Yep, I’m sure we all remember those thrilling scenes in Indiana Jones movies, when he would stand around coffee shops and daydream about finding artifacts. Those daydream moments are what made the audiences come back again and again.
I hate to harp on this (oh come on, I love to harp on this!), but this seems an almost self-aware admission by LaPhillips that NOTHING has happened in this book yet. He has gone nowhere except on a date with his girlfriend (who is not really his girlfriend, and who he puts right out of his mind when leggy blonde surfers enter the room), and to a couple of tent revival meetings. And as for what he’s done, it’s basically just preach at his archaeology students, using lectures that he admits are just mirrors of what his pastor is preaching about.
Is it possible to take a coffee break when you have nothing to take a break from?
Anyway, Barrington comes in and bumps into Murphy, and for a book that won’t name bands, it has no problem pumping the Starbucks name (which is ironic when you consider that a few years later, RTCs would have their first field day whinging and whining about Starbucks holiday cups).
“I guess we both like a good cup of coffee.” [said Shane]
*insert Starbucks joke here*
Shane is also being extraordinarily nice and polite here, considering that the last time he and Murphy spoke, Murphy was incredibly and unnecessarily rude, insulting everything Shane did and was involved in. (And bear in mind that no, Murphy still doesn’t know that Shane works for The Seven (TSAN!).)
And we remember this because Murphy reminds us—a half-page is spent recounting the encounter and the insults Murphy made, though he amusingly characterizes it as “[the encounter] turned less than cordial,” which is certainly one way to share some of the blame to Shane, when it was Murphy who went uncordial. But whatevs.
Shane is in town to close the deal on a local station he’s purchased, and asks Murphy, out of the blue, about his new show promoting Constantine De La Rosa. Murphy is surprised that Shane cares about his opinion, but I’m not: in the last chapter, we were reminded of De La Rosa, and now LaPhillips needs to reiterate that he’s the AntiChrist by creating a situation in which Murphy can spout off about him.
Murphy snidely remarks that De La Rosa’s goals: diversity, tolerance, environmentalism, and peace, are all “a little dangerous.” Bizarrely, Shane doesn’t laugh in his face at this and head off with his Starbucks to avoid further wasting of his time, but lets Murphy prattle on how De La Rosa just might be one of the False Prophets of the End Times (ha-HA, so we know our intrepid hero doesn’t have it quite right…yet), and Shane just stands there harping and thinking about how much he admires “Murphy’s ability to not mince works and to speak honestly.” Because that, dear readers, is what everyone will be thinking of you when you ramble about the End Times to them.
On a related note, this a very timely chapter. Because just last week, the Slacktivist covered the moment in Left Behind when Buck Williams miserably fails to witness to a woman sitting next to him on a plane, a woman who very clearly wanted to be witnessed to. And now Shane is asking questions of Murphy about De La Rosa. This would be a perfect opportunity to open up to Shane, tell him about the Good News. Pull out his Bible that he always has on him and show Shane chapter and verse about false prophets, instead of making crazy-sounding claims that environmentalism and peace are “dangerous.”
Instead, Murphy goes on a bizarre guilt-tripping tangent, to the effect of: if Shane doesn’t totally support and believe in De La Rosa, why is he giving him a show on his network? To which Shane gives the very sensible answer that De La Rosa is news, a famous religious figure just like Mother Teresa. And it just makes Murphy look naive, because even religious stations have disclaimers before some shows saying that the network execs might not agree with everything that you’re going to see. It’s a silly, time-wasting point to make.
(Oh, and Shane is also promoting De La Rosa because The Seven (TSAN!) told him to. But again, Shane has done an awesome job of keeping this all a secret from Murphy, who still has not idea who TS are, what they want, and that they have one of the most powerful media moguls on the planet working for them.)
But all this annoying, probing, do-you-support-him talk puts Shane right off, and the two men go their separate ways.
In the car, Murphy prays:
Lord, why did You bring him into my life today? Am I supposed to have some kind of influence in his life? He’s power hungry, arrogant, and difficult to like.
Help me to be tolerant.
And God smote Michael Murphy on the spot for using That Word. The End.
Actually, apparently unaware of irony, LaPhillips cuts to Shane’s reaction to the conversation. But Shane, though of course admitting that Murphy is Right (though only about there being something sketchy about De La Rosa) is mainly focused on his anger towards The Seven. And he reflects on how they ordered the murders of Stephanie and his son, the Ambiguously Gay Arthur.
Because events like those can be easy to forget.
So, you readers don’t have to spend any of your precious sympathy on Shane Barrington. He’s just filled with rage and vengeance, just like all evil atheists are. So it’s no reflection on Murphy’s skills that he couldn’t witness properly. Or at all.
Back to some pointless posturing by The Seven (They’ll Stop at Nothing!). This time, they’ve all jaunted over to Florence and are hanging out at the Accademia Gallery to see David. The book then engages in a rare instance of male fat-shaming, as Viorica and Jakoba giggle behind their hands because Sir William is a fatty-fat-fat who isn’t cut like David.
Then we readers are expected to have a good chuckle at Sir William ourselves, because Viorica and Jakoba both notice that Sir William has noticed the colorful scarves that Italin women like to wear.
Geddit? GET? IT? He’s like, totes gay. And FAT. And it’s funny!
Once they’re all together, The Seven (TSAN!) continue their discussion of Constantine De La Rosa. Hey, have you guys ever noticed that when The Seven (TSAN!) get together, they have, like, a five-minute discussion, then they globe-trot off to the next exotic locale to have another five-minute discussion? Just sayin’, they could’ve taken over the world six times by now, were they a bit more efficient.
Anyway, they are for sure setting De La Rosa up to be the New Nicolae, even referencing some “bona fide miracles” that I guess De La Rosa is planning to do sometime in the near future. Because he hasn’t done them yet.
They even reference The Mark, pointing out that it’s “a little early” to institute it, being as how, yanno, nothing’s happened yet. Also the Bible says it’s not time yet.
Then they turn to a topic almost as important as the leader who will take over the entire planet…Michael Murphy!
“He and a man named Bob Wagoner have begun to expose some false teachers in the United States.”
General Li is giving Murphy and Wagoner way too much credit here, since, as we know, they’ve only just tried to expose the one man in their own backyard, and that mostly by sending stuff to someone who does the actual exposing. They’re not exactly Harry Houdini and James Randi, is all I’m saying.
“But I don’t think it will garner much attention. … Murphy and his ally will be rejected as religious wacko extremists.”
Hmmm…what a “wonderful disclaimer” our heroes have. If their exposing doesn’t work, it’s not because they did a half-assed job of it, but because of the anti-religious-nutjob climate in the United States.
Sir William hilariously states that he is “a little tired of [Murphy’s] continual irritating interruptions. He is like a bulldog that won’t release its grip.” Oh yeah, Murphy just won’t let go of The Seven, will he? Always digging deeper, foiling their clever plots…
Murphy has done NOTHING to mess with The Seven. The Seven have barely been slowed down, and even then, it’s only by their own or Talon’s or another hired hand’s incompetence, or because they are focusing on Murphy instead of concentrating on world domination. Murphy has exactly zero idea of who these people are, where they’re from, what they want, and how they’re trying to get it. And I honestly think that at this point, Phillips himself has forgotten this, and thinks Murphy knows as much as we, the readers, do.
(Indeed, since this is all just another way to get to the events of Left Behind, there’s no way Murphy could stop or slow down The Seven, and LaPhillips knows this. This is all God-ordained stuff that’s leading to one inescapable ending. There’s no choice or free will in LaHaye’s little world, so it’s kinda silly to act like Michael Murphy even has a chance against these people, even if he was trying, which he’s not.)
Jakoba points out the obvious solution: kill Murphy. The silly little woman’s perfectly sensible plan is shot down, of course: Murphy is “most resourceful.” Yeah, so resourceful that he does the same thing almost all the time, following the same schedules and patterns as he always has (this is most of us, mind you, but most of us aren’t being surveilled by an international group with bottomless resources that is trying to take over the world).
I mean, one sniper could take down Murphy on his way to class any day. Heck, if you want to make it look like it’s not the Evil World-Taking-Over Organization, have the sniper kill others, so it looks like an act of terrorism instead of a murder. Or kill him in his (apparently) entirely unprotected house some night—make it look like a botched break-in. There’s about a million ways you could kill this perfectly ordinary man—he is not friggin’ Captain America, yanno.
Mendez points out that when Murphy’s wife died, “that slowed him down for a while.” (Well, like two weeks, but whatevs.) And they point out that they tried to kill Isis, but were unsuccessful. Now, Isis is obviously much smarter and has much better self-preservation instincts than Murphy, and works in a building with actual security, but I still don’t see why if they failed to kill her one time, that means they now can never try again.
So they determine to kill Shari instead. And if they fail to kill a 22-year-old girl with no family and no support system who lives alone and goes maybe four places in town, ever, then I give up.