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Hey, y’all, Happy April Fools Day and Happy Zombie Jesus Day!
The next chapter of The Edge of Darkness is coming very soon, but in the meantime, and in honor of the day, enjoy my quick critique of The Passion of the Christ.
So okay, I know I’m going through this book at the speed of mud, but in all fairness, the book is going even slower than that. Plus, these from-the-Bible chapters are the slowest and most pointless yet.
Picking up where we left off, in the book of Samuel, this chapter covers only I Samuel 4-11. Some guys go on a fetch quest to get the Ark and two priests to the battlefield. This fetch quest turns out to have a complete no-prize, since the Israelites lose anyway, and the two priests are killed. But I guess this is because the Israelites aren’t faithful enough, not because the Ark is, yanno, just a box that doesn’t magically grant armies the ability to automatically win all battles.
But don’t worry, college drama is coming right up—the reuniting of Shari and her horrible (atheist, but I repeat myself) ex-boyfriend, Paul!
The Teenage Wedding goes off without a hitch (har), with Lucas convincing Erin to attend the ceremony with him instead of presiding over the last-minute details of the buffet.
We actually get a preacher talking here, as Reverend West (he of the “Grandpa Asshat made his peace with God, so his manipulation of you all was for the best”) draws parallels between a wedding and Christmas, because both are about promises or somesuch.
“With God as the center of your marriage, you will be able to get through the ups and downs that every couple faces as they journey together.”
Shh. Don’t tell the teens that atheists have a lower divorce rate than born-again Christians.
Marriage is on Lucas’s mind in more ways than one, and he invites Erin over to watch Max open a Christmas Eve present.
[Max] raced over to Erin, grabbed her hand and tugged her toward the Christmas tree, his patience finally at an end. Lucas knew the feeling!
Max chooses to open the biggest of his gifts, which seems kinda like jumping the gun. I never got to open the Big Gift on Christmas Eve. It was a small gift, if not a stocking stuffer. Anyway, it’s cowboy boots, because Max has become obsessed with cowboys.
Lucas opens a gift that Arabella gave to Max to give to him, which is a brand new and newly-framed photo of the three of them snapped at the wedding reception that very day. Which is quite sweet.
And Erin’s present is from Lucas, and it’s the box that his mother (re)gave him. And inside that box is a little box that has an engagement ring.
Which part of me thinks is sweet (he’s making her a part of his family by giving her the heirloom), but at the same time feels just slightly off because of his fraught history with his own family.
Anyway, Max reacts in a pretty cute four-year-old way to seeing the littler box. He’s all, DAMN ERIN YOU GOT TWOOOOOO PRESENTS!!!
Lucas says that the whole Asshat will thing happened because God wanted them to be together, which Erin agrees with, and of course she says yes.
One year later, and GEE I WONDER IF ERIN IS PREGNANT???
Yeah, she totally is.
We catch up again with all the other characters, and again I feel kinda sorry for the author, who has to wind up everyone’s stories, not just her own characters’. In fact, I feel like this story has really suffered because of the need to give time to at least ten other characters she didn’t even create.
Okay, odd thing, though. The little girl, Macy, whose mom died? She’s barely name-checked in the epilogue, with only a mention that she helped decorate a cake. I suppose we’re to assume that she’s living happily ever after with her adoptive parents, but the “Questions for Discussion” at the end of the book describe her as someone who “[brought] the Clayton family together,” so I expected more. Especially since Christmas must be a hard time for this kid, seeing as how her mother died at Christmastime only a year ago.
Oh well, let’s talk weddings!
Lucas and Erin got married in April, the second couple to get hitched after the Teenage Wedding. Everyone else is hitched, too, except for Lucas’s sister, Mei, and her fiance, who are bizarrely waiting until Valentine’s Day to get married. Which means they have been engaged for well over a year, since their romance took place at Thanksgiving time. Why didn’t they get married on Valentine’s Day last year? I don’t get it.
Of course, despite the inheritances having been handed out and freedom restored, everyone has opted to stay in Clayton indefinitely, except for the Teenage Couple, who are living and attending college in Denver. Which makes them the sole escapees, so…go Teens!
And Erin reveals to Lucas that she is pregnant, and the end.
Happy Wintermas and Merry New Year, all!
Coming soon: a poll for which movie I shall critique next. Possible options:
I’ll be honest: the VeggieTales have always kinda freaked me out.
Too on the nose right now?
This has got to be the weirdest party ever. First Erin shows up and spirits away a little girl with a dying mother, so she can show the kid a horse that will still be there at a non-party time, and now Lucas and Max are whisked away from their own party by a call from Lucas’s mom, who mysteriously is not at the party, but wants to see them ASAP.
What is so important that it can’t wait?
Well, a pine box, for one. It’s a handcrafted family heirloom that is already Lucas’s, since his grandfather gave it to him many Christmases ago. But his mother wants to give it back to him (he left it behind when he skipped town) RIGHT FRIGGIN’ NOW, party be damned.
No, there is absolutely no better, non-party time when this could have taken place. Shut up.
Lucas’s mother (Lisette, if you care), even says that since the box is passed from Clayton to Clayton, Lucas could give it to Max someday. Which is actually really sweet and “the first time he’d seen any indication that his mother was willing to accept Max into the Clayton family.”
Our first vaguely Christian idea occurs in who knows how long, as Lucas sits there and reflects that, much like his overbearing asshole father…
…he was just as guilty of “going his own way.” And he’d refused to forgive his father for his harsh demands.
Dude, you were a teenager. It’s okay. Seriously.
Refused to forgive himself for not making things right before his father died.
Your father died in an accident and was an asshole and never gave you the chance to make things right. Jesus, this Christian guilt stuff just kills me, the way it makes people so sad about things that are in no way at all their fault!
Look, I get that Lucas might feel irrational guilt about not making things right before his father’s (completely unexpected) death. But it’s been well over seven years and you are an adult now, Lucas, and you can look back and see that your father was an asshole and it is totally okay not to forgive him.
Yeah, yeah, I’ve been over this before, but here we go again: I think forgiveness of this sort is highly overrated. I don’t mean the little forgivenesses that people do because they love others and have ongoing relationships and you learn to let the little things go because we all make mistakes. I mean this RTC idea of forgiveness where you are obligated to forgive a dead asshole for being a total asshole to you when he was alive. He’s dead, he won’t know. If it makes you feel better, then go for it, but you do not need to forgive dead assholes!
(Not that I speak from experience or anything. Heh.)
Sigh. Anyway, no time for more emotional RTC breakthroughs, because Tweed has arrived with a tale of a horse trailer that went into a ditch and the horse needs to get out.
GORAMMIT, NOBODY IN THIS TOWN HAS ANY RESPECT FOR A PARTY!!!
So Lisette actually volunteers to take Max back to Lucas’s new house and watch him until Lucas gets back. Which is too, too solid for this world, man.
Lucas actually gives her a hug, so we do have some emotional breakthrough here.
Cut to a few hours later, and Lisette makes a frantic call to Erin, because Max won’t stop crying and Lucas won’t answer his phone. Erin is understandably surprised that Lisette would call her and not, say, May or Arabella, but then again, she is right next door. So she heads over like a trooper.
Turns out Max is not having a night terror like before, but is instead convinced that Lucas is never coming back, just like his own daddy, because Lucas did not say the word “goodbye” when he left, just like his daddy had not said “goodbye.”
To give Lucas credit, he had no idea that this was a “thing” with Max, and did say goodbye to him, just without using the word “goodbye.” He said, “I’ll be home as soon as I can, buddy.”
Erin is, of course, reassuring and sweet and appropriate, telling Max how much his dad loved him, so much so that he asked Lucas to take care of him “forever.”
Once she is assured that Max is okay, Lisette asks to go home, because she has a migraine coming on, and Erin can take care of Max. Which seems like a heckuva an imposition, but whatevs.
When Lucas gets home, he finds Max asleep in Erin’s arms. After putting Max in his bed, Erin explains what happens, and Lucas once again runs down his abilities as a father.
This is what unleashes the floodgates for Erin, and unloads seven years worth of anger onto Lucas. Not that he doesn’t deserve it—it’s about time it was impressed upon him how hurtful he’s been.
Now, Lucas does immediately feel guilty about the fire, which he still assumes is because of him. But Erin is pissed because Lucas once again wants to “protect” her, just like he “protected” her in high school, which she sees as a rejection of her, so his Bad Boy reputation wouldn’t be hurt by his dating a sensible, responsible girl.
Lucas throws her rejection of him back at her by pointing out that he proposed. And Erin (again, understandably) takes issue with that, as well, since he didn’t technically ask, but rather “implied” it. And after a long and pointless flashback, Erin says what she’s really been thinking all these years, that because of “something wrong” with her that made it “easy” for him to never look back, never write or call.
Again, really hard to argue with this.
And to give Lucas credit, he barely tries. And he does realize how much of a stupid kid he was, and how much he hurt her. He declares himself guilty of “being an eighteen-year-old guy who wanted to keep the woman he loved all to himself.”
Probably true, too.
Gorrammit. (Adds Actually Not That Bad to tags.)
And they kiss.
“So why is it the action sequences slow this movie down?”
-Tom Servo, MST3K, Episode 516 – Alien from L.A.
Even Phillips, it seems can only take so much banal observations on international air travel (“Sitting up isn’t the most restful sleep position,” Murphy agreed.), so as soon as we touch down in Baghdad, we head off for an action scene.
Just to reassure you of Michael Murphy’s care and protective instincts towards the woman he loves: he is warned by their military escort immediately upon landing that leaving the Green Zone means they are no longer under U.S. military protection, and could be “extremely dangerous.” They’re also told that Jassim Amram isn’t allowed inside the Green Zone due to the fact that “security has tightened down” (what, and the word of Michael Murphy buys him nothing?). So they meet him just outside the checkpoint, and he takes them out to dinner. Despite Murphy’s lip service to “Isis with her red hair,” Jassim assures them they’ll be “very safe.”
SO THEY GO
Great job, Murph.
The men turn out, unsurprisingly, to be a set of insensitive brutes at dinner. Isis has covered up, but still feels uncomfortable the whole time, with men staring at her and women talking about her. And just as Jassim is matter-of-factly informing them that they should get back to the Green Zone, what with the “hair trigger on anyone who approaches the zone after ten p.m.,” Isis sees a guy with a Talon Tattoo in the restaurant. She tells Murphy, who seems to not care at all, since they just leave the restaurant as they had planned, companionably chatting about the Writing on the Wall.
And then a care drives slowly by and they are shot at. As you might expect. They all hit the deck and nobody is hit, so they run to the safest place they can see: a dark alley.
Nope, not making that up. Hey guys, this way, where we can be cornered!
But luck is on their side, as they see an opening into a courtyard in the alley. (???) They dodge and duck and dip and dive and dodge through streets until they dash into a restaurant, where “pairs of dark eyes followed them, focused on the three white faces.”
A random Moar Arab leads them out the back into yet another alley, where they decide to SPLIT THE PARTY and let Jassim go back for the car. Me, I’d head back on foot. And what’s with taking the party so far from the Green Zone, anyway?
After Jassim leaves, four Moar Arabs, all armed, come upon our heroes and start speaking Arabic. Of course, Isis can translate, and all they’re doing is debating on whether to kill them right now, or take them back to “their leader.”
In their first smart move, Murphy and Bingster take the opportunity of the Evil Debate to rush their would-be assailants. Of course, despite one of the Arabs being armed with a automatic weapon, the two brave American men make quick work of the silly Moar Arabs, and Murphy then threatens one of the Arabs still left standing, as Isis translates who-are-you-working-for questions, to which you’d think the answers would be obvious when the Arabs sport Talon Tattoos.
Finally the Arab spoke. “The man with the razor finger wants you dead,” Isis translated.
Well then, for the thousandth time, why doesn’t Talon just shoot him or falcon him to death some morning on Murphy’s apparently completely unsecured campus, or some night at Murphy’s apparently completely unsecured home??? GEEZ
“He says he people the works for need you eliminated.”
“What do you mean, the people he works for?” Murphy asked, pressing his knee into the Arab’s belly.
Again Isis translated what was said. “The Seven.”
“The who? Who are the Seven?” Murphy asked.
Of course, the Arab won’t (or can’t) say who exactly they are, which should come as a surprise to nobody, so Murphy just THROWS A REVERSE PUNCH.
So finally it all sorta comes together, even though it should have come together for Murphy like, last book.
And then Jassim shows up with the car. Because I guess you can’t trust the one non-white member of the party to fight the Evil Moar Arabs.
So Shari shows Michael some mail that he got: a mysterious box with a letter with some poetry in it!
We’re starting over!!!
THE ENTIRE BOOK IS STARTING OVER!!!
We have already done this bit! Meth already sent Murphy a poem, and Murphy already endangered himself to get the pointless clue. It was about the writing on the wall or some shit!
Can you just imagine Meth over these past few weeks? He went to all the trouble of meeting that kid in Colorado, giving him cigarettes and a complicated message in prison, then getting Murphy to him via a stupid poem, then suspending an envelope over a canyon for Murphy to shimmy to, and what thanks does he get? Murphy dashing about to Orlando to chat with old men, and then to New York to have decidedly non-sexy dates and punch Arabs, and then to punch more terrorists on bridges!
I’d be feeling pretty neglected right now, too, if I were Methuselah.
So Meth has gone to all the trouble of sending Murphy yet another bad poem and some river rocks in a box, and because I love you guys so much, I will now reproduce the poem in its glorious entirety:
A golden opportunity awaits
Those who appreciate Cabarrus Debates
And search for the Hessian who deserted his session…
And later planted a seed which led to the weed of greed.
Yup, clear as mud.
Murphy immediately zeroes in on Cabarrus, because as a man who lives and works in South Carolina, he has an encyclopedic (or rather, Wikipedic) knowledge of all the counties in North Carolina. Thus he knows that the county was named after Stephen Cabarrus.
Geez, you didn’t know that? Stephen Cabarrus was only Speaker of the House of Representatives of North Carolina from 1789-1793 and again from 1800-1805.
“That must be what the word ‘debates’ refers to.”
Continuing to put it all together, Murphy decides that Meth must mean a Hessian soldier named John Reed from Cabarrus County, whose son found a giant gold nugget in Little Meadow Creek, leading to North Carolina being the first “gold rush” state in the U.S.
That’s all terribly interesting and all, but bear in mind that Murphy knows all these details right off the top of his head (or out of his ass, either way).
Shari is as skeptical of this as I am:
“Where do you come up with all of this trivia?”
Murphy snidely responds:
“It’s called reading, Shari.”
Well, fine, asshat.
But I don’t buy that for a second. Sure, people cultivate odd and unique areas of knowledge. Those of us who love various obscure areas can all identify. But I don’t buy that Murphy just so happens to be an expert in every random area that Meth thinks up for his schemes (like spelunking and the history of Colorado prisons). Nor do I think that Meth would have any way of knowing about Murphy’s various weird-ass areas of interest. Cabarrus County certainly has nothing to do with biblical archaeology, after all.
Next up, Murphy heads back to a cave. At a defunct gold mine in North Carolina. Because that has everything to do with the Writing on the Wall.
Oh, Bob Phillips, why do you play me this way? Here I was all set to see each chapter in Europa matched in the same chapter in Ararat, as proof of the paint-by-number nature of these books, and now you go and switch things up on me!
See, Chapter 10 in Ararat is another ark lecture, and Chapter 11 catches us up with Talon. It’s the reverse in Europa.
And Europa’s Chapter 10 is utterly useless, as Talon makes his way back to the Seven (they’ll stop at nothing!). There’s a bit of the typical Big Bad “we don’t tolerate failures!” posturing, but they actually kinda do tolerate failures, as they keep Talon on the job.
And what is this job, exactly? Well, it’s to eliminate Murphy. (They refer to Talon’s failure to kill Murphy in the avalanche a “mistake.”)
But why the hell is Murphy so impossible to kill? They could literally just shoot him any day of the week, coming out of his house.
But this isn’t even the hot issue, as far as the Seven are concerned. Instead, they now want Talon’s top priority to be the murder of the senile old man from the newspaper article, who talked about the End Times. Because that’s the best possible use of the world’s greatest assassin.
Meanwhile, the World’s Greatest Impossible to Kill Professor is keeping himself safe from master assassins by giving another open lecture (Stephanie is in attendance again, though without her cameraman this time) at his small-town college. Surely Talon could never invade such a stronghold as this!
Murphy actually has some facts to relay about ancient Babylon this time, about how awesome their math and stuff was. He also snidely mentions their divination practices, “superstition” which is totally different from using ancient religious texts to figure out when the world will end.
But Murphy can’t even let it go at that. He talks about God’s warnings, like when he warned Noah about the flood and “warned” Belshazzar about a judgment of God by making his grandfather go insane (???).
“Isn’t it strange that we do the same thing today? God gives us warnings. He pleads with us and confronts us. You may ask, ‘How does He do this?’ He does this through the still small voice of our conscience. Our conscience tells us what is right and what is wrong.”
Wow. Yanno, take out the God-does-our-conscience part, and this is basically atheist morality. We all have a conscience (well, okay, most humans do) and it tells us what is right and wrong. The only difference is that I don’t think, as Murphy does, that God uses our brains as a sort of antenna. Murphy is skirting dangerously close to the idea that atheists can be moral persons—careful there, bud!
Is this man at all capable of giving a lecture on archaeology without it turning into a sermon? Because it hasn’t happened once yet!
Before we jump into the
horror relief that is The Europa Conspiracy, we have our third and final installment of Inquisitive Raven’s expert additional critique of the firefighting in Fireproof. (I forgot to post it sooner because between a Wintermas cold and Kirk’s obsession with hot chocolate, I guess I banished him from my thoughts!)
So without further ado, I’ll hand it over to Inquisitive Raven!
Now for the third and final installment of my Fireproof critique. Today we’re going to cover the fire call, and let me tell you that it is a textbook example of how not to run a fire scene. Now while our hostess’ criticisms of the protagonist’s actions are spot on for his actions inside the building, in the context of the entire incident, he comes off much worse. How can this be? Well, before I get into that, let me introduce you to the Incident Command System.
In short, the ICS is a system for determining who’s in charge of what in an emergency response, especially one involving multiple agencies. Using the fire call in the movie as an example, the responding agencies would be the fire department (two companies), EMS, and one hopes, the police department. Now each of the fire companies is presumably headed up by a captain, and in the absence of a battalion chief, one of them would be the Incident Commander. Protocol dictates that the one who arrives on scene first is in charge until someone with higher seniority, e.g. the battalion chief, arrives or the IC explicitly transfers command to someone else. Caleb is the captain of his company. I’m sure most of you can see where this is going.
I’ll follow up on that later, but for now, let’s start the play-by-play. The filmmakers don’t set this call up the way they did the vehicle rescue. Instead, they go directly from horsing around in the bunkroom to reacting to the dispatch:
“Engine 2, Engine 1, Aerial(?)1, Battalion 1, Respond to [incident location], structure fire, residence. Time out XXXX.”
Note that I’m not sure if the dispatcher is saying “Area One” or “Aerial One,” but in context, I think “Aerial One” makes more sense. It could easily refer to the ladder, and calling the ladder “Aerial One” makes more sense than calling it “Battalion One,” especially since the ladders are listed as “[x] feet aerial” on Albany’s Apparatus Page. Now, if the dispatch is being sensible instead of internally consistent, then “Battalion One” might actually be referring to the battalion chief this time. With two companies being dispatched, they’ll need a unified command and that’s the battalion chief’s job.
Our hostess makes a point of mentioning how all the firefighters in the company are men, but in fairness to the filmmakers, I feel I should point out that firefighting is still a male dominated occupation. Case in point, a complete roster of full time firefighters in my sister’s town is available on the department website, and out of forty-five firefighters, at most three are women. I say “at most,” because one of them has a given name that could go either way. That means that out of four shifts, at least one has no female personnel on it. Similarly, when I joined Manoa, there was exactly one woman with firefighter qualifications, and that was the case when I checked Manoa’s website to research these articles. By the time I left, a few more women had qualified as firefighters,but the male firefighters and EMS only women still outnumbered them.
At any rate, the apparatus rolls, and when our hero (I think I’ll call him Dolt) notifies dispatch that they’re responding, dispatch tells him “Please be aware we have received numerous calls regarding this structure fire.” Yep, another useless transmission from the dispatcher. A better message would have been something along the lines of “Please be aware that we have received several reports of flames visible,” which at least gives some idea of the seriousness of the situation. A report of smoke visible would also provide some information, although, unlike flames, it’s no guarantee that there’s actually a fire (If people want to find out how I know that, ask in the comments).
When they get to the scene, Dolt calls the dispatcher to notify them that he’s arrived and takes command as first on scene. This is important. Again, I note a distinct absence of cops. They should be doing crowd control.
While talking to the residents and their next door neighbors, they find out that the residents’ daughter is still inside. Dad freaks out and attempts to run back inside only to be stopped by Lt. Christian. This only works because distraught dad runs right past the guy; otherwise, I have no doubt he’d be able to outrun the fittest person in firefighter turnout and wearing an air pack. Having put one on, I can assure you that they are not lightweight objects. A couple of cops would be better suited to the job.
Now we get to the part that our hostess covered in detail. She writes:
For all his talk (even in the truck on the way to this very fire) about sticking with your partner, Caleb…crawls into the house on his own, looking for the kid. Everyone else sticks at the front of the house and are separated from Caleb when some of the roof caves.
So, Caleb is trapped in a back bedroom with the kid, but without his partner. Because he left his partner.
Oh, and for reasons best known to himself, Caleb deliberately set down his walkie-talkie before heading into the house. So he has no way of letting anyone know exactly where her is.
Now I wanna know why he goes in to rescue the girl. Doylisticly, it’s to show him being a hero, but IRL terms, he’s just abandoned his post. Keep in mind that unless he hands the job off to someone else, he’s the Incident Commander. As such, his job is directing the other firefighters, not going into burning buildings to rescue little girls. Lt. Christian is busy restraining Worried Dad and the rookie is operating the pumper, but there’s two more firefighters in his company and however many from the second company that he can send in. That’s their job. His job is to give the orders because someone needs to be in charge of the scene. I would add that as people are scrambling to prep for entering the building, no one seems to be. That also makes his leaving his walkie-talkie behind even more reprehensible. Later on we see a different officer giving orders. Since he has a red helmet, I’m assuming that he’s the captain of the second company, but whether he’s the second captain or the battalion chief, he’s doing the job Dolt was supposed to be doing, but isn’t and didn’t formally hand off. At least there was no sign of him doing so onscreen. Note: Rank and file firefighters wear yellow helmets; the known officers wear red helmets. Based on my experience, I’d expect the battalion chief to wear a white helmet, but I don’t know for sure that zie does, and we never see any helmet colors except red and yellow.
Okay, rant over. Does everyone understand why I consider this guy’s antics much worse than our hostess did, when her opinion was quite bad enough?
Now, I am about as far from being an expert on firefighting as it is possible to be, but is it really advisable for Caleb to take off his oxygen mask and his firefighting jacket, and put them on the unconscious kid? Doesn’t Caleb need them more at this moment? I mean, I keep thinking about being on an airplane—secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others. Because if Caleb is injured or collapses from smoke inhalation, they’re both screwed. Isn’t it better, instead of wasting time fumbling with the gear, to get them both out as quickly as possible so the kid can get medical attention?
There’s not much I can actually add to that, but we’ll see what I can do. One correction first, those tanks contain compressed air which is only about 20% oxygen. That’s because you don’t want pure oxygen anywhere near open flames.
As for taking off the mask and the turnout putting it on the kid… Remember Rule One, “Don’t add to the number of people needing to be rescued”? Yeah, this is a violation. You look to your own safety first, because if something happens to you, it’s not just that you’re both screwed. It’s that now people need to expend effort on your behalf that could’ve been used to help the original victim. Like I said in my previous post, the entire first day of EMT class was spent on this.
Also, the reason I have experience wearing an air pack is that one of the firefighter drills I participated in was the proper use of same. The training officer rather pointedly told us not give the mask to any anyone we found inside a burning building. So, yeah, Dolt shouldn’t have done that.
In conclusion, that fire scene is a fine example of how not to handle incident command and how not to rescue an entrapped fire victim. It would have been entirely appropriate for Dolt to called in front of a review board regarding his conduct at that fire.