On Becoming A Man Chapter 1

Because we are doing On Becoming a Woman, I thought it would be fun to simultaneously do On Becoming a Man as well, so that we can compare and contrast the advice given to the sexes.

Warning: this book will not actually turn you into a man if you do not have a penis.  I know, because that’s what I told everyone when they asked why I was reading it, and boy did I get an earful!

This chapter is basically the same as OBAW, but with different wording and a few changes.

Like the previous book, this one starts out with Shryock jabbering on about how awesome teenagerhood is.

By the flip of a switch, as it were, you can choose to be a businessman, or a craftsman, or a member of one of the professions.  You can choose to spend your life accumulating a fortune, or you can choose to spend it in the service of humanity.

This is the major difference in this chapter from On Becoming A Woman (OBAW): the women are told they all dream of being housewives and mothers. There isn’t one shred of text saying that women could have careers too, or even jobs before marriage.

Thus far you have been following the pattern mapped out for children. Thus pattern is almost the same for one child as for another.

Eh, not really. Different things are expected of different children across different times and cultures.

Your life is  custom built, and you can have it the way you want it.

Because you’re becoming a man, and men can pretty much have things the way they want them.

Shryock tells us how the tools we have used in childhood to get along with others and learn things will help us in adulthood.

Just now your horizons are broad, and the sky is your limit. but a few years from now your opportunities will be restricted, depending upon how you have chosen during your teens.

That’s not a scary paragraph to read! Shryock says that if you become a tradesman and then later decide to go into something requiring higher education, it will be very difficult to transition. He says that the reverse is true, but from what I’m reading, college educated individuals have no problems deciding they want to become tradesmen.

It seems that life is built backwards. You have to make the major choices of life before you have had experience enough to form good judgement.

This chapter is pretty much the same advice we relieved in OBAW, just worded differently. Shryock goes on to tell us that we don’t need to choose a career right away, but that we can put this off till our early 20s. Well, kind of, not really. Of course, I’m in my late 20s, there’s probably no hope for me. Don’t think this all doesn’t scare me.

In OBAW, Shryock compares the teen years to a new dress. Here, he compares them to a car.

Because reducing humans to objects is cool, kids!

In any case, a car, if taken care of, will last for years and “give good service.” If the car is not well taken care of and if one drives recklessly, the car is more likely to break down a lot and you’ll need a new one sooner rather than later.

As a teenager you are in your “breaking in” period. As far as mental alertness and physical energies are concerned, you are superior to those who are older.

I’m not sure what he means by mental alertness. If he means “you have a built in bullshit detector that hasn’t yet been socially conditioned to ignore certain types of bullshit,” then yes, teenagers are way more mentally alert than most adults I know. Does he mean that teenagers have a greater capacity to learn than most adults? Because I could agree with him there, younger brains are way more absorbent. But teenagers often make really stupid decisions. This is all very normal, but I wouldn’t say it gives them an advantage over adults.

As for physical energies (again, something missing in OBAW), yes, I agree. A teenager is way more physically superior to me because oh my god I just about DIED walking around in this heat today and there’s these young punks just running around in 31C heat. Where do they get all this energy from anyway, jeez!

The author goes on from this to warn us that, if we develop bad habits in our teens, our characters will be “permanently blemished.”

Blemishes that are permitted to develop during the teens are prone to persist throughout life.

Yes, my blemishes as a teen are still with me today. I questioned my religion, I frequently stole things, and I rarely paid attention in class. So, Shryock is 1/3rd right, I guess.

Shryock goes on to say that children often argue about whether it’s better to be a boy or a girl, with boys usually being glad they are boys and girls being glad they are girls.

Is, is that how the argument usually turns out? It was not like this for me at all. I knew that it was better to be a boy. I envied the abilities of boys to run around shirtless, to never grow breasts or bleed, and to pee standing up. I also envied them their….boyness. Less was expected of them, and they had way more freedom.

I am still jealous and wish I was a man, with manly parts and a manly life…in fact, if I had been born a man, I likely would have been able to remain Adventist.

Shryock tells us that there’s very little difference between young boys and girls, except anatomically and that they usually keep  segregated and play different games, though sometimes they will crossover.

A teenage boy and girl are going to be way more different than a 9 year old boy and girl. Anatomically speaking this is true, but I think the way children were socialized in the 60s made this statement patently false. Heck, the way children are socialized today makes this statement very false.

Shryock isn’t just talking about anatomy. Teenage boys think very differently from teenage girls, and he doesn’t think socialization has anything to do with it.

In a boy’s early teens, he may not want to be seen socializing with girls. This will change by his late teens, as he becomes very interested in girls.

This curiosity is perfectly natural and proper. Curiosity about this and many other things is one of the advantages of the teenage period.

Shryock then talks about handling your curiosity wisely, whatever the fuck that means.

One of the principle purposes of this book is to help you satisfy your curiosity about the changes that have occurred in your own body since you were a child. Mention will also be made of the similar changes that have occurred in girls.

Whoa, slow down there Shryock. You’re telling boys about the female development, but you mention nothing to the girls about male development?

Sexist prick.

It has been many years now since I passed through the teenage period of my own life. But I still have vivid memories of the thoughts I used to think at the time.

I’ll bet you do.

Shryock also mentions his relationship with his son and daughter, who he says “have already passed through their early teens.” In OBAW, his children have just left their teens behind. So, he wrote this book first, then.

His other credentials include seeking advice from friends, and also people who render service to the youth, whatever the fuck that means.

I trust you will find the book both interesting arid profitable(sic).

So far, Shryock, I already have.

 

 

 

 

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McGee and Me Episode 9: Twas The Fight Before Christmas

This is the last episode of season 1, the only real season the show had before they brought it back for a reboot. Because it was the last season, it is a Christmas special. This was probably timed to come out Christmas the year it was released.

This episode is…over the top, unrealistic, and cheesy as fuck.

But it’s still a Christmas show, so I’m probably still going to cry at some point. Yes, I’m a sucker for cheesy Christmas shows. Except that one movie that I can’t remember the name of.

As the opening credits roll, we see McGee sledding down a hill very fast being chased by the robot whatshisname draws. The robot is labeled “ski patrol,” and I guess he’s trying to give McGee a speeding ticket? For sledding too fast?

Anyway, he knocks an old lady off the chairlift, who falls and lands on top of “fat guy with a cigar.” That was very rude of McGee to knock her off like that. Asswhipe.

There’s a lot more people he runs into and it all ends when they crash into a big snowball at the bottom of a cliff. An alligator comes by in a Santa sled and says, “eh, whatever.”

Nick’s voice over tells us that the best time of the year is Christmas. After all, when else can you get presents, peace on earth, and excused from class for play rehearsals?

Ah, play rehearsals. These usually started in September or October, ish. Great way to get out of actual class time. Even when I wasn’t the one involved in the rehearsal, I used to lie there on one of the pews in the sanctuary and imagine the roof was a whole nother world with people living up there walking around upside down.* Or I would sneak off and explore the church’s nooks and crannies.

As the camera pans over children getting into their costumes, Nick tells us that participation in the play is “what you might call required.”

Renee: Look at the waistline on this thing. I mean, I’ve heard of baggy clothes, but I look like a big overgrown raisin.

 

Yes. I can really see the resemblance.

 

Girls. Only care about their looks, amiright? Seriously, this is the show’s attempt at comedy.

A little girl in a white tutu passes by, and I wonder what a ballerina is doing in a Christmas pageant. Derek calls her “Flake!” And it takes me a good 3 minutes to realize that she is a snow flake.

In a Christmas pageant?

 

That tutu is soooo against the dress code. That skirt doesn’t go to the tips of her fingers.

Nick, Louis, and Derek are to be the three wise men.

Derek, btw, is the only person not enjoying this. Their teacher, Miss Harlan, comes by.

Miss Harlan: Well, don’t we look….. uh….. precious.

There’s some “comedy” where a “donkey” (two students in a costume) crash into one of the backdrops, ripping it in two.

McGee says that if these people don’t get their act together, he and Mona will have to carry the show themselves.

Hey, it’s tough finding sheep this time of year.

Another teacher is trying to teach Phillip (who has lost his glasses, his high water pants, and every single shred of dorkiness he ever had, btw) to say “Ho ho ho.” She gets more of a  “Ho Ho HACHEW!”

This kid shouldn’t be in the play, he should be home in BED! Not infecting the other students!

Actually this is the most realistic part of the story. I remember being made to be in the Christmas program even when I was running a fever one year, even though I was not allowed to go to the Christmas party at school due to my illness.

Louis asks Derek why he’s not wearing his wise man hat thing.

Derek: You two morons actually think I’m gonna do this junk? You two guys are going to be the only ones out there once the curtain goes up.

Miss Harlan: The script calls for three wisemen, and three wisemen we will have. Unless you want to be the first person in the history of Eastfield to fail my class three times.

Seriously? Derek’s probably embarrassed enough at having to repeat a grade. Now he has to have his teacher mock him for it in front of his peers.

Worst. Teacher. Ever.

Also, what the fuck? She is going to hold him back a whole year just because he didn’t want to be in some stupid play? Give him an F in Drama class or something and move the hell on with your life, lady.

Derek: hey, that’s like blackmail

Miss Harlan: That’s right. Merry Christmas.

Wow, what a bitch.

This is bitchy, but it’s not blackmail. Telling a student that if he doesn’t put in the work he will fail a class (a class, mind you, not the entire fucking grade) isn’t blackmail, it’s called teaching.

Nick’s voiceover: It’s true that Derek had never been known as “the happy hood”

The happy what?!

Nick’s Voiceover: but this time, he seemed worse than ever. Like he really hated all this. I mean, how could a guy hate Christmas?

Not everyone is required to love Christmas, Nicholas. And not everyone needs to have a reason they hate it.  Derek may have some good reasons for hating Christmas, but even if he does not, that does not mean he is obligated to see it as “the most wonderful time of the year.”

Our next scene is Louis and Nick ooing and ahhing and smiling over a small wooden music box Nick wants to get his mother, As soon as he gets the rest of his allowance. Ok, fine, but no 12 year old boys are going to stand there smiling over a music box like that.

As they are standing there smiling over the music box like weirdos, a group of loud men laugh, talk loudly, and one of them obviously slips something into his coat. Because big bad tough guys love to steal music boxes!

The shop owner yells at them for a while, then gives up. Like, doesn’t even bother to call the police or anything, just yells at them. They aren’t even wearing masks, you could have these guys arrested and charged within 24 hours. Especially because one of them, not the one who stole anything, is Derek.

You even have Nicholas and Louis right there to identify him.

Nope. If yelling doesn’t work, nothing will, so the storekeeper gives up.

He deserves to be robbed.

Nick’s voiceover: I guess I always thought Derek would end up in real trouble one day. In fact, I kinda counted on it. But now, I couldn’t believe it was really happening.

Holy shit, Nicholas. Derek didn’t even steal anything, he was just with the person who did it and he knows it. Which, yes, does make him an accomplice, but still, an accomplice to theft, while serious, isn’t exactly what I would consider “real trouble.” This is the sort of trouble a lot of teenage boys get into, and something he could move past fairly easily. It’s not like Derek’s murdering or raping anyone.

Meanwhile, back at the Martin family home, grandma and Jamie are with us again, with no explanation as to why they were gone in the first place. Sara tries to eat some popcorn, but her mom tells her to save some for the tree.

Has no one remembered the Martin family has a dog? Let me tell you how well decorating a tree with popcorn works when you have a dog, ok? Spoiler alert, it doesn’t end well.

McGee pokes into an empty light socket on a string of Christmas lights with a cartoon screwdriver, muttering some nonsense words. He electrocutes himself. I’m sad it didn’t kill him.

“So,” Nicholas asks. “How’s that ‘scatterfratz?'”

McGee gets up, smoking. “Go peddle your eggnog.”

What the fuck does that even mean? This is what you get when you can’t have your characters swear in a movie. You can’t even let them veggie swear. McGee can’t even say “darn you to heck.”

Nobody seems to notice Nicholas talking to his imaginary friend, possibly because everyone is distracted by his dad lighting up too many Christmas lights and blowing a fuse. Good thing they already had some candles lit! In fact, they like the candles so much, they decide not to run the lights back on right away.

Nicholas sits staring into the fire, looking sad. Unlike reality, his mom actually notices and asks what’s wrong. She says Christmas is for everybody, even thieves. It’s kind of odd for her to mention thieves specifically when Nicholas hasn’t told her what’s going on, but nevermind. She reminds Nicholas of the thief on the cross, who God definitely forgave.

There’s a clunky bit where Jamie can’t find the 3rd wise man doll for the miniature nativity set. She pouts and worries about the 3rd wiseman being lost.

We get it, movie. Derek is a lost wise man. No need to bash us over the head with it.

Back at school, Miss Harlan tells Phillip, playing Santa Clause, to use lots of enthusiasm. So he proceeds to half shout, in monotone, about how glad he is that everyone could make it to the Christmas play.

This is the most realistic part of the whole episode: most children in play monologue their lines. Not me, though. I never monotoned. In fact, I was quite overdramatic. Crushed my little soul when I realized I was a terrible actor.

In any case, Phillip’s sled is being pulled by a student cleverly disguised as a reindeer. The camera focuses in on a shiny gold object. In case we didn’t see it, the editors give it an obviously fake sparkle.

Derek has put a tack right where the reindeer will step on it! What an evil meanie!

Unfortunately, this is the only thing he does to make this dress rehearsal hilarious. I was kind of looking forward to having Derek sabotage the show in every way possible. I was hoping the writers were going with that angle, but alas.

Oh wow. I missed it on my first watch through. During his monologue, Phillip rolls his eyes. Even HE thinks this is stupid.

In any case, Miss Harlan announces a 10 minute break, during which Nick overhears this:

Principle: Now there’s no cause for alarm, we don’t know for certain, I just thought you oughta know.

Miss Harlan: You’re telling me we don’t have a third wise man.

Principle: Now I don’t know that for sure. I just think you need to know that Derek is having some very serious problems at home right now.

Miss Harlan: I’m sorry to hear that. Is there anything we can do?

Principle: Well, we could get together and–

What kind of problems at home would cause Derek to have a legitimate excuse for missing a school function like this? Is his great aunt Irma (no there is no great aunt Irma I made her up) really sick? In that case, why wouldn’t he just say that? But if Mr. Principle knows about Derek’s dad beating him up (Oh come on, we all knew that reveal was coming), then why doesn’t he inform social services? They did exist back in the 80s.

Also, it’s not a big deal to have to find a new wise man. It’s not like the wise men have any speaking lines in this play. How hard can it possibly be to find someone willing to stand there for a few minutes in a doofy costume while the narrator reads the Bible story?

In any case, Nicholas is curious as to what sort of problems Derek is having at home, so he decides to investigate.

Nicholas: Me, what could I tell him?

McGee(dressed as an angel, complete with wings that really work): It’s Christmas, you’ll think of something.

Right. Because Christmas is magic. Shouldn’t the line actually be, “God will tell you what to say?” I would still think it was cliche writing, but at least that would be Biblical.

Nicholas, wise man costume in hand, walks down the hall to Derek’s apartment. Nick’s voiceover tells us that Derek is about to find out “what Christmas is all about.”

Because Derek’s never heard that before. There’s plenty of people over the age of 10 who have never heard the Biblical Christmas story before! Sure, in a parallel universe, maybe.

As we approach Derek’s apartment, we hear loud voices and a sound that is supposed to imitate flesh striking flesh, but just sounds to me like a fake ass big bang.

Derek slams the door to his apartment. He looks like he has  a bit of a black eye, and he is wiping away tears.

I fully expect him to go full on hulk rage on Nicholas and chase him 4 blocks down the street.  I probably would, if someone saw me like that.

It turns out that “problems at home” mean “Derek is being physically abused, and the real moral of the story is that someone should fucking call child services.” This being Focus on the Family, of course, that’s never gonna happen.

Derek: What are you doing here? I said what are you doing here Squid?

Squid? Really? This, kids, is what we get when we are not allowed to use actual insults in a movie.

The scene is really really awkward. If this were a normal movie, an awkward scene like this would be cut down to about 45 seconds. This is not a normal movie.

Nicholas(stammering): I… uh..We all missed you today at rehearsal

Nicholas, stop. Stop right there. No one likes a liar, and Derek knows you are lying. No one missed him, and he knows it.

Nicholas keeps talking.

and I just thought I’d stop by on my way home….ok maybe that’s not the real reason, but….well yeah, it’s part of the…

We hear a car honking and someone’s angry voice calling out.

Nicholas keeps stammering his way through an explanation, and I wonder why Derek doesn’t just put everyone out of their misery and punch him.

Derek(angrily): Why’d you really come here?

Nicholas: It’s Christmas

I wouldn’t care about you otherwise!

Derek: What?!

See, even Derek agrees with me that this is the most ridiculous explanation I have ever heard.

The car is still honking. A car honked in real life as I wrote that. That was creepy.

Nicholas: Christmas is supposed to be a time to care about other people, and…. that’s the whole reason for Christmas in the first place, right?

Oh god. please end this. Please end this awkward, godawful scene!

Because, because God loved us, and uh

This is about the look I have on my face whenever somebody starts spouting god crap at me.

The scene drags on for an agonizing 2 more minutes before a man comes in and says, “let’s go, Cryder, we ain’t got all night.”

It’s one of Derek’s friends, the Merry Prankster Thieves. The first man proceeds to behave like a cartoonish villain, harassing Derek about hanging out with Nick (which they weren’t.)

Ray picks the costume out of Nick’s arms.

Ray: Nice Dress

Derek: Ray

Ray(getting into Nicholas’ face and staring him in the eye): I don’t know who your friend is, but you better tell him if I ever see his sweet little face again, I’m gonna have to kick it all the way to the other side of town.

Ray turns to Derek and yells, “You got that?”

Derek: yeah, I got it Come on, my dad might come out.”

Ray(to Nicholas): Chow. Chicken.

 

This scene shows us Derek is being physically abused by his father, and is joining…what, a gang? For the family relationships that he is clearly missing from his real father.

The moral of the story here is that Derek needs Jesus. Not that, yanno, Nick should really tell someone. Like an adult, who should then call child protective services.

This show came out in the 1980s/1999s. Things had drastically improved since the 1960s. People cared about child abuse by this time. Except people like those who worked at Focus on the Family, who believe that a parent’s right to treat a child like crap trumps the child’s right not to be treated like crap. And they still believe that today.

In any case, this is a very cliche background. It’s over the top, cartoonish, and beats us over the head with the message about the root of Derek’s behavior problems.

I want you all to imagine that Derek, instead of Nicholas, is the show’s protagonist. It’s established that Derek likes to draw. What if, instead of McGee coming alive for Nicholas, he comes alive for Derek? This not only gives Derek some much needed companionship, it could make McGee relevant to the plot.

“So, Derek,” McGee said, panting and out of breath.
“I ran up to the apartment to check, and your dad’s been drinking again. You might want to wait a while before going up there.”

I would still find McGee the most annoying character on the show, but I would be able to set that aside if he was Derek’s only real friend.

Nicholas has friends. He has parents who love him. He has family. Nicholas isn’t the one who needs McGee. Derek is. And yet Derek feels no need of an imaginary friend, like Nicholas does. Kind of makes one wonder.

Derek tries to say something to Nicholas, then leaves after Ray.

The Christmas program is starting, and Nicholas talks about remembering his lines. Why, is he the narrator or something? We’re never shown anyone but Phillip having lines.

Nicholas’ dad slips backstage to give him some money. After the play, he’ll take the family out for ice cream, so Nicholas can slip off and buy the music box. His mom will be totally oblivious to the fact that Nicholas is missing while they get their ice cream and will never know the difference.

Are they trying to portray Nicholas’ mom as an inattentive woman who doesn’t care? I would absolutely notice if my only son wasn’t there to eat ice cream. That said, this is Christmas, so she probably fills in the blanks herself.

As the cast is about to take their place on stage and Phillip monologues the introduction–

Actually, I want to point something out in Phillip’s introduction. He says something like, “we are so glad that you and the Mrs could come and see the Eastfield production…”

You and the Mrs.? Ouch. What if you are “the Mrs?” God, its like they don’t view women as people, just wives. Accessories who belong to their husbands.

In any case, as the cast walks up to take their places on stage, Derek shows up. Miss Harlan is thrilled, and tells Derek she is glad that he could make it.

Derek: Yeah, well, somebody said you were *unintelligble* quizzes this semester, so…

I think he said “giving fewer quizzes?” I can’t actually tell what Derek is saying. The subtitles on Youtube videos are a joke, and I doubt FoTF provided closed captioning anyway.

Miss Harlan (smiling): That’s blackmail!

You people keep using that word. I do not think you know what it means.

We get shots of the audience fading in and out, presumably signifying the passage of time. Jamie tells us, “Nick’s next” because we were too stupid to figure it out for ourselves.

They had to give the kid some lines, I guess.

In any case, as someone narrates the Bible story, we get shots of Nicholas, Louis, and Derek standing in the nativity interbcut with shots of the audience. We get some closeups of Derek’s face. He looks like he’s about to cry, and we’re probably supposed to think he’s being affected by the message being “preached” (people who do these plays really think they are preaching, in a way). But given the scene we saw earlier it’s more likely his dad hit him again.

We get some reaction shots of the children in the audience, who look like they are falling asleep.

After the play, Nicholas is in the store buying the music box. We cut to a shot of Ray, who has Derek by the lapels. Derek tells Ray he wants out, and Ray pushes him around a bit but doesn’t seriously hurt him. This isn’t realistic at all. If you’re going to include one of your characters joining a gang, for the love of God, at least make it seem like Ray’s threats are real. Have the violence happen off camera and use makeup to make it look like Derek has a black eye and swollen lip.

“If I ever see you or that dumb punk again, you’re history man. Ok? You got me man?” *pushes Derek against a fence*

Yeah… Ray is very threatening. He gets into his car and drives away.

We cut to a shot of Nicholas leaving the music box store, which is surrounded by carolers. They start singing The Carol of the Bells, which I have to admit is one of my favorites. We see Nicholas walking home with the Carol of the bells playing in the background.

And we are not the only one’s watching. Ray and his friend, Gang Member #2,  see Nicholas walking by.

Ray: Drive ahead to the alley and wait

The car comes to a stop a street or so ahead, and we hear a car door slam as Ray gets out.

The Carol of the Bells takes on a more ominous tone as Nicholas is walking down the street, switching from acapella by the carolers to actual music on tape, complete with violins. The musical montage in this episode is actually well done. I am heavily biased towards Christmas music, but I think, as well, that this is the only decent source music to work with. The other musical montages we’ve seen have been songs written by 80s Christian Pop artists. Carol of the Bells is a classic. And too, this is the only music set to footage that couldn’t just be cut from the film. In the first episode ever, the music is played to Nicholas walking home from the theatre. You could’ve cut those shots and it wouldn’t affect the episode in any way whatsoever. Credit where credit is due, the music is well done, and the scene is plot relevent.

As the music plays, getting faster and faster and the voices getting lower pitched, we see Ray take his place inside an alley, which Nicholas is about to pass. Some shots of Ray’s clenched fist, shots of Nicholas, and then Ray reaches out, grabs Nicholas, and shoves him against some trash bags. The music box drops to the ground, somehow managing not to break. I mean, that’s a fragile looking music box, it should have broke in half. It should not still be tinkling. The real music has faded, and the music box is now playing The Carol of the Bells. It’s kinda creepy, which is probably what they were going for, so, yay for that.

This scene is, for its budget and scope, pretty well done. I got the sense that Nicholas was in real danger, the music was actually right for once, and I sort of felt afraid for Nicholas.

The music box continues to tinkle as Ray’s friend approaches–and Derek knocks him down. The real music playing Carol of the Bells comes back, with the tune tweaked a little bit to seem more ominous and be better background music for a fight.

I’m not explaining this well at all, but then, I’m not a musician.

Derek fights Ray for Nicholas, and I’m a little confused. There are 2 bad guys here, Ray and Whatshisname. This is stupid of Derek. He should go call someone in to help him rather than get beat up himself.

Somebody offscreen says something about calling the cops, and the two bad guys flee. Derek hands Nicholas the music box, which by all rights should at least be a little bit broken.

Nicholas: Are you ok?

Derek: yeah

Nicholas: Why did you… I mean… I don’t understand?

Because Derek is a decent person. Sure he’ll steal a few music boxes with the guys, he may steal the little kids’ milk money, he may even punch someone a few times.  But he doesn’t want anyone actually getting seriously hurt. And those men would have seriously hurt Nicholas. Let’s not pretend they would have beaten him up a little and sent him on his merry way.

If this were a better movie, Nicholas would be about to learn that people aren’t black and white. (Unless we’re ticking off boxes on government forms.)

Derek: I don’t really know either. Maybe I’m just starting to see things… different. I gotta go.

Nicholas: Derek, thanks.

Derek: Merry Christmas.

This is Focus On the Family. I should not have been expecting this to be better… but I was expecting this to be better. When Nicholas asks Derek why he helped him, Derek could’ve just shrugged, said, “Merry Christmas,” and then left. We still would’ve gotten the character growth and change, but we wouldn’t be hit over the head with it, nor would we have to sit through this awkward scene.

There’s a shot of the Martin’s house. Someone throws fake snow over the camera as Nicholas’s voiceover talks to us. We get a shot of him and his family is sitting around the tree exchanging presents.

Nicholas: That Christmas, Derek Cryder changed. And somehow, that made Christmas seem more real than ever. It’s like, no matter who you are, or what you have to offer, god sent his son, so that all of us could know his love, and that’s what Christmas is all about.

Nicholas gives his mom the music box, and she looks like she’s about to cry, probably because it’s broken from the time he dropped it after being grabbed by Ray. She opens her arms and Nicholas gives her a big hug.

The movie could have done way better without the voiceover at the end. First off, no one needs to be told what Christmas is all about from your perspective yet again. Second, don’t tell us Derek changed. Leave exactly what happened to him up in the air, make us wonder. Get us curious for season 2. I do not know yet if the writers knew there wouldn’t be a season 2 and that that is why they tacked on this ending, or if they just didn’t care.

The episode closes (or tries to) on a shot of Nicholas’ family smiling by their Christmas tree with their presents.

McGee: And god bless us every one. *blows out candle*

Well, it almost had a halfway decent ending, anyway.

This… was bad, but it wasn’t as bad as usual. As far as McGee and Me episodes go, this one was honestly the best. It had an actual story line, one of the characters got some character development and even without being told Derek changed we saw some growth. And, the best part, McGee was hardly even in it.

In any case, that’s it for this season. We’re done. Happy Christmas in July, everyone.

 

 

*I was a really strange child

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Becoming A Woman Chapter 1

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(Caution: This book is NOT for transgender women. It will not tell you how to actually become a physical woman. Such a book would, I have no doubt, be useful, but alas, it is not this one.)

The book that won the vote for next Snarktastic SDA book is On Becoming A Woman, by Harold Shryock, which I  keep reading as “shy cock.”It was originally published in 1968 by the Review and Herald. In 2013 Pacific Press formatted it for the kindle. For this reason, I do not think I am snarking on some outdated book that nobody takes seriously anymore. This book was clearly meant to be read by modern teenagers. It is therefore my duty to pick apart the errors and point and laugh at the outrageous claims.

Harold Shryock died fairly recently, in 2004. Here is his obituary:

Harold Shryock, M.D., 97, died March 3, 2004, at Loma Linda, California. He was a respected medical educator, college administrator, author, counselor, public speaker, and family patriarch.

Born Edwin Harold on April 14, 1906, in Seattle, Washington, Shryock grew up at Loma Linda, where his father, Alfred, became the sixth physician at the newly established College of Medical Evangelists (CME, now Loma Linda University). Harold married Daisy Bagwell in 1929, graduated from Pacific Union College, and completed his medical training at CME in 1933. He was asked to teach at CME three years later and did so for more than 40 years. He served as dean of the Loma Linda University School of Medicine from 1951-54 and chaired the Department of Anatomy from 1957-69.*

 

Author of more than 600 magazine articles and 13 books, Shryock may be best remembered among Adventists for two volumes: On Becoming a Man and On Becoming a Woman.

 

Right. So, with that background knowledge in mind, on to chapter 1!

 

 

Chapter 1

The Teen-Age Girl

 

The teens are the most colorful years of life. No other period surpasses the teens for the sheer joy of living.

Oh boy. He’s one of those adults.

Shryock goes on to talk about how, when you’re a child, you’re still learning about the world around you and don’t really have a whole lot of choice in your activities. He refers to being a teenager as a “thrilling adventure,” and I wonder what drugs he’s been smoking.

Now that you have reached this happy period of life you have the advantage of having already learned…how to get along reasonably well with people.

Well… some teenagers have learned this, I’m sure…

Shryock talks about how a woman will obtain physical developments, an awakening of the mental powers, and a maturing of one’s personality.

It is up to you to choose the way you will use these newly acquired assets, and thus determine what kind of person you will be for the remainder of your life.

As he refers to “physical developments” as an “Asset,” I’m going to assume that this is giving me permission to use my physical assets as I see fit. Quick, must find out how to use female assets.

In your 20s and 30s you will experience the realities of becoming bride, housewife, and mother.

This was clearly written in the 1960s. My mother has had those experience. I’m 3 years away from 30, and I have yet to experience either one of those things. Thank whatever diety does or doesn’t exist that being a single female has become less frowned upon, or I’d have been divorced like 4 times by now and probably killed myself after husband #3.

Shryock tells us that we’ll be so busy as adults that we won’t have time to realize that our cherished daydreams have come true.

My cherished daydreams involve being the first human on Mars, financial stability, and getting a dog. Neither one of those things has happened yet, Shryock. When are my cherished daydreams coming true?

In middle life you will be very busy and will find yourself even more the victim of circumstances.

Well, yes… and no. Yes in some ways I am a victim of circumstances I can’t control, and I have no way of knowing right now if there’s any way out. However, as an adult, I have way more options for trying to find the way out than I would have as a teenager.

…but living will take on a somber hue in contrast to the brilliance of adolescent years.

I wonder how many people killed themselves after reading that? No seriously, when I read shit like this I cried, because being a teenager was so horrible, and I was scared it would never get better. When adults would say something to confirm this, I would feel suicidal.

If any teenagers are reading this blog, please know that you can disregard such statements. Life is so much better after High School, I promise. I’m glad I stuck it out to live this long.

Shryock compares being a teenager to wearing a new dress. At first we are careful not to ruin said dress, then afterwards we stop taking such special care and just run about in it doing whatever.

Our lives are new, and we need to take care of our mental and physical assets. If we do, they’ll last us a long time. If not, they could cause handicap that could stick with you for the rest of your life.

Fear mongering much? I made some idiotic mistakes as a teenager, but fortunately, they don’t really affect my life right now.

Shryock talks about how being a teenager is difficult because you have to make major life choices before you’ve really had a chance to live. Fortunately, we are not alone in this endeavor, because we have parents and friends.

During your teens you are mentally alert and able to think clearly.

I was?

I’m not saying teenagers are bad thinkers. That’s not necessarily the case. However, they are inexperienced thinkers, and often don’t necessarily think long term. That’s ok, that’s normal. Normal as it is, I’m not sure I’d call it clear thinking.

We may not know our future exactly, but we still must make major decisions. Shryock talks about how we need to make good decisions so that we can become persons of integrity throughout the rest of our lives.

No, he doesn’t say “persons,” I added that.

It is largely during these teen years that you will become stabilized in your religious beliefs and will develop a philosophy of life.

There was nothing that was related to religion that was stable in my teen years. My religious beliefs were shaken when I entered academy at age 14, and continued to remain unstable till I was 25. Most teenagers I know, in fact, are questioning their religious beliefs. Do these beliefs stabilize by age 20? I don’t know. Maybe?

Shryock also tells us that during our teen years are when we develop habits that will help us to keep attractive homes and make us look nice. Um, I never got that memo either, actually.

He also tells us that the teen years are a framework into which our later lives must fit, and that the character and personality we are developing now is going to determine what kind of husband (of course the word is husband, none of you are lesbians, you silly geese) you will marry, along with whether or not you are going to be a selfish person or a person who does good things for others. Wow, all of that is determined by how I acted as a teenager? Good grief, how am I not a mass murderer?

Children are surprisingly alike. There is not much real difference even between boys and girls. Yes, there are minor anatomical differences; but as far as external appearances go, the obvious difference is that boys have short haircuts and wear trousers, whereas girls have long hair and wear dresses.

This is suprisingly liberal for the late 1960s, especially for an Adventist 1960s book. I half expected him to babble on and on about how different boys and girls are. I still have issues with the passage, of course, but credit where credit is due; Shryock does say, in the following paragraph, that sometimes boys will play “girl” games and girls will play “boy” games. I wasn’t expecting that kind of liberal (for the times and culture) thinking, so, cookie points? I guess?

In any case, most girls, during the tween years, lose contact with the boys they played with as children. I only agree with this because my family moved a lot. Otherwise, I was always way more comfortable playing with boys, and would not likely have lost track of them the way Shryock is saying we do.

But now, now that we are on the verge of womanhood, we are about to have a different attitude toward boys. We are about to start noticing the opposite sex.

You have put away childish things and have become concerned with feminine interests. You have even begun to think and dream about love and about the time when you will have a home of your own.

I only did this because religious books told me I should. I never really wanted to. Not all females are into “feminine interests.” I also never daydreamed about romantic love.

But now you have become curious, both as to the meaning of the changes in your own body and as to the changes that make men out of boys. This curiosity is perfectly natural.

Color me kind of shocked. Wasn’t expecting that one. Well, you know what they say about stopped clocks, I suppose…

It is the purpose of this book to help you satisfy this curiosity by providing wholesome answers to your questions.

I’m actually mildly curious now to know what these “wholesome answers” are. But then, the pressing questions I had as a developing teenager were very much off the beaten path of what is considered normal, and I doubt very much that Shryock plans to address them. Will this book tell me how normal tween/teen girls thought as they, um, developed?

Curiosity, when under proper control, is an asset. When not properly controlled it can lead to unwholesome experimentation and inquiry.

He doesn’t come out and say it, but I’m sure he means masturbation.

I also don’t like this. Controlled curiosity? I don’t even know what that could possibly mean, except to repress a desire for knowledge. Maybe Shryock means only get your knowledge from selected sources like parents or trusted Christian adults?

It’s kind of a red flag, to me. Discouraging people from following up on each and every question they have and things they wonder about is a terrible thing to do to a child. As is telling them they must filter all their answers through the filter of Adventist Christianity. It’s heartbreaking, how they brainwash the children.

There was a time a generation or 2 ago when a false sense of modesty kept young people ignorant…questions were often met with evasions or with prudish misinformation that drove young people to find the truth elsewhere, often from unwholesome sources.

Let me translate this for you: the adults wouldn’t tell them, so they asked their non Adventist friends, who told them all about inserting tab A into slot B. These worldly friends also probably taught the good little SDA children how to masturbate, the dirty heathens!

All that aside, I’m actually kind of surprised the author is aware of this at all. Credit where credit is due, this is spot on.

Now, I’m sure all of you are wondering something: how is Harold Shryock qualified to talk to us womenfolk? After all, he is the possessor of an almighty penis, what can he possibly know what it’s like to have a vagina?

Well, first off, he’s got a daughter who has just gotten out of her teens. I’m too lazy to look up exactly how old his daughter would’ve been at the time of this writing but if she just got done being a teenager I’m going to guess 20-23.

Shryock believes that this friendship with his daughter has given him special insight onto how girls this age think. Because one teenage girls speaks for all teenage girls, of course! We’re all alike, after all.

Shryock has also asked his friends who work with teenagers how they think, and they’ve given him some advice on what subjects to include. He phrases it that way, too. He doesn’t say, “I went to a child psychologist,” or “I talked to a social worker” or even a pediatrician.

Speaking of pediatricians, I’m actually surprised Shryock doesn’t bring up his medical credentials. I’d still prefer a female author, but if it was a doctor telling me about how my reproductive organs worked, I’d still take him seriously, because I assume they learn about all this in medical school. In my eyes, at least, this does give him a shred more credibility than, say, the local youth pastor.

I have attempted to prepare the book in such a way that it will be both informative and interesting. I believe you will enjoy it.

Well, thank you, Mr. Shryock, I do believe I will enjoy it. I always enjoy a good snark read.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*http://archives.adventistreview.org/2004-1516/news.html

 

Project Sunlight, Last Chapter (11)

Chapter 11

Hi everyone, are you all ready for more of our exciting, tension filled, apocalypse? Me either, but let’s get this done anyway.

The summer has passed in a flurry of activity for the little community in the Adirondacks

Yes, this chapter starts with yet another time skip. The end times events are taking a very long time to unfold.

We begin this chapter with more drama, at least, the author is trying to create some drama, by having Jean show up to try and take her children away. Spoiler alert, she doesn’t succeed.

Why no one thinks to go to the government to get their kids back from the evil Sabbath keeping rebels, I don’t know.

In any case, Jean tells Meg that she accepted the children’s decision to stay when she left, but now she has come to insist they go with her. She has brought no backup whatsoever and it’s one against 12, not counting the children themselves.

Jean says that she is more inclined to believe that these calamities and disasters are the result of people turning away from traditional beliefs than that they are divinely predicted events. The two are not mutually exclusive, but Jean doesn’t seem to know that.

Meg tells Jean she will find the children “thinner, but tanned and fit.” I wonder what she means by thinner? If the children are too thin, they need to leave the Cult of the Holy Mountain and go with Jean, where she can get them to a doctor who can help them.

Jim has sent, with Jean, a letter and a birthday present for Carol. He may not be man enough to go to court, but damn if he’ll miss giving Carol a birthday present.

Joe, to his credit, worries a bit about Jim getting in trouble for helping them. He is glad to see Jean, and puts his hands on her shoulders. Which could be seen as very threatening, actually.

Jean: I came only to bring the children back. It’s no longer safe for them to be here with you. Sooner or later someone is going to discover this place and that you’re here because of your religious convictions.

Any competent dictatorship would have already found these things out, particularly since the Sunday worship thing has been going on at least a year. Wait, I just accused the US government of being competent. Forget everything I previously said about their ridiculously stupid hiding place.

Joe, the world is falling apart and you’re losing touch with reality. The water supply in America is contaminated (Revelation 16:3,4) Europe is staggering with famine under an intense heat that literally scorches men (Revelation 16:8) And the population in other areas is afflicted with sores that are beyond medical help. (Rev 16:2). If we don’t turn back to God, this planet will be wiped out! Are you hearing me Joe?!

Let’s talk about the science of this for a second. I don’t know much about the subject, admittedly, but Europe is suffering from famine because of an intense heat that “literally scorches men?” How hot would that have to be? And wouldn’t the oceans start boiling before that could happen? And what does “literally scorches” mean? Does this mean they get really bad sunburn? Or does their blood start boiling the minute they step outside? Is it hot enough to melt DNA? (185F, in case anyone cares.) Explain this to me, dammit!

Also, do you think, over in Europe, that “all these bad things are happening because we took God out of schools/money/our sex lives” would really be the response to these disasters? I see this attitude from Americans a lot, and I know the persecution is supposed to start here and spread, but I mean, you’d think that in order for the “we need God” attitude to spread, turning back to God would have to have worked for the Americans. “Oh look, the Americans instituted a Sunday law and they stopped having earthquakes, they have potable water, and are otherwise living normal lives. Why don’t we try that?”

As it is now, they would look at America and think, “well, that’s clearly not working. Let’s not bother, then.”

I don’t know if Ms. Strong knows this, and there was very little excuse for her not knowing this, even then, but Europeans think differently than we do. They think dollar coins are a good idea, don’t like guns, and they’re not as conservatively religious as we are.

But don’t worry everyone, the author won’t take cultural context into account or anything. That would be, gasp LIBERAL!

There’s some back and forth about whether or not the Sunday law is a good idea, with Joe saying it’s a terrible idea to kill those who think differently and has he ever read the Old Testament?

Jean: But the persecution today is only to bring people back to a proper regard for God.

Um, what? Who thinks like this? does anybody you know think like this? I should go find all the Christians in my life right now and see how they feel about this.

There’s more arguing about whether the persecution is good or bad, and I just want Jesus to come and end this book already.

Jason: I think it is usually safer to be among the persecuted than the persecutors.

Jason was 12 years old 2 years ago, so let’s assume he’s about 14-15 right now. He’s old enough to make his own decisions on religion, probably, but not old enough to fully grok the consequences of death and torture. And he’s still young enough that the court would force him to go live with his mom if it was determined that his father was an unstable criminal unable to earn a living. Which he is.

Jean: You won’t think so, Jason, if they find you up here.

Jean has a point. But of course she’ll be shut down because she’s a heathen and a woman, so, what does she know?

Jason: Not safer physically, perhaps, but spiritually. And this is a right cause, Mother.

He blathers on about Bible verses and God being the creator and blah de blah de blah de blah.

Jean(smiling ironically): Hear ye, hear ye! My son, the preacher…

Jean, this is not helping your cause.

Jason: (After a lot of blather wherein he quotes Bible verses that theoretically support his point): The saints are described as those who keep the commandments of God. You can’t keep the commandments, mom, if you reject the 4th one.

On what grounds can men take our lives if they have no scripture to condemn us with?

Our laws are not based on scripture.  There’s no scripture saying it’s a crime to kill your stubborn child, despite the fact that if you do, you’re going to jail. This statement, therefore, is just stupid.

Jean: The whole Christian community can’t be wrong, Jason

Who thinks like this? Does anybody think like this? Does anyone actually believe in moral majority?

Jean tells them she’s had enough, and that the kids need to get in the car.

Jason: I have never disobeyed you, mother, but I wish to stay here with dad.

This is a lie. All children have disobeyed their parents at least once. It is a normal part of childhood development.

Jean: You will have to trust me, Jason. I insist you go back with me.

You know, there’s no real reason his father shouldn’t let Jason go back down the mountain. I mean, he’s just as saved there as he is here, isn’t he?

Also, how, legally, would children work in a world with mandatory Sunday worship? Who decides, for example, the age at which children are said to be responsible for their own attendance? A person like Carol, who is roughly 10, would be too young to go to church by herself if her parents don’t take her. A 14-15 year old could potentially drive him or herself, depending on the driving laws in his or her state and whether or not he or she has access to a car. If the cutoff point is age 18, what about those 18 year olds who, in this wretched economy, can’t get a job, don’t have access to a car, and have parents who won’t drive them? Do they get slaughtered for, basically, the crime of not being able to find a ride to church? Has the public transit system improved so much that this is not an issue? If  there’s no potable water and the economy is in the toilet, how would there be money to get gas to get to and from a church? Does everyone have to bike? What about disabled people?

I forsee either an exponential growth of churches springing up all over urban and rural areas alike, or mass confusion.

Seriously, I have never read an end times novel where the author has sat down and thought this all out. And that’s disturbing.

As far as ages go, how does God work this out? What about children who are too young to decide for themselves they won’t go to church on Sunday? We’re told we must disobey our parents and not work on Saturday when the Sunday laws come, but we can’t really prevent our parents from making us go to church. We know, because many of us have tried it.

You know what, I’m tired of trying to do more thinking than the author did and we still have quite a lot to get to, so, let’s move on.

Joe: I believe the children are old enough to make their own decision, Jean. They know more about their Bibles than most adults.

I’m not going to argue with that, but knowing your Bible and actually knowing the consequences of torture and death are two different things. Legally, we should not be allowing 14-15 year olds to make these kinds of decisions.

Jean says that she is frightened for them, and how could Joe do this to her? Because Joe is an unstable death cultist, that’s why.

Joe: There is no safe place on the face of the Earth, Jean. As yet we have suffered none of the disasters falling upon the planet…. If the children wish to go with you, I will not stand in their way, but if not, I beg you to let them remain here. And it is the fondest wish of my heart that you would stay yourself (his voice breaks.)

Hang on, I thought that probation had closed and it was already too late? I mean, I guess it was clearly not too late for Jean to lose her salvation, but it is too late to gain it back. We have been outright told this. What does it matter if Jean stays or goes? Joe is going to lose her anyway, and it may as well happen now so he doesn’t have to watch Jesus kill her when he finally gets around to showing up.

Jean: I’m sorry I came. (She, too, is close to tears.) You have turned the children away from me. If it weren’t for the trouble I’d bring upon them, I’d report you all to the police. Bill would have done it long ago if it were not for his love for Carol. He hates everything you stand for, and so do I.

I’m not sure what she means here. If she reported them to the police, is she worried her children could get wounded in the crossfire? Does she think the police will just kill all the children too?

I think the children with criminal parents would be removed from their parents care, rather than outright killed. Social services should be swamped trying to find homes for them all. Children do not have the same rights and abilities as adults, and I’m surprised no one is bringing this up. Are the children being punished for the sins of their parents? Would people today really stand for that sort of thing?

Jean is right about another thing. Joe has, like so many Adventist parents, brainwashed their offspring to the point where they do not respect their non SDA parent as they should. He has turned the children away from their own parent. I wish Jesus would kill Joe when he returns. Unfortunately we’re supposed to see Joe as righteous.

Jean goes back down the mountain without further argument, and nothing really comes of her visit. It was, therefore, pointless to include.

Carol shares portions of Jim’s letter with the group that night.

I saw Sybil on the street the other day. She told me Bill went to a popular faith healer here in the city and appears to have been cured of his heart problems, which had really been giving him trouble lately. There is a great deal of healing going on, all kinds of miracles and supernatural events.

Why show when you could just tell, right? Showing us these things would make for a terrible story after all.

In any case, I thought Bill didn’t have any heart problems? All the tests showed up clear. Has he been ignoring the doctor’s advice not to do any work? Or are all the difficulties of life on earth stressing him out too much?

Llook guys, the antichrist finally makes an appearance!

Lately there has been much excitement over various appearances of a being quite different from any normally seen on Earth. He…purports to be Christ (revelation 13:12-15; Mark 13:6; Matthew 24:23,24).

Because if the author doesn’t insert Bible verses awkwardly into the text, you would accuse her of not knowing what she was talking about!

It’s been said he has called down fire from heaven in imitation, I suppose, of whomever it was who accomplished that feat in the Bible. Please share all this with your mom and Michael. They will probably have some rational explanation for it.

Sybil was a serious Bible student at one point. She would know that it was Elijah (Elisha?) Who called down fire from Heaven, among other people. She would also know that this is what the false Christ will do.

Joe gives us all a mini Bible study on the subject of False Christs, and how every eye shall see Jesus, and that this totally isn’t referring to watching him on TV because….?

I actually remember talking about this in Bible class, how Christ would accomplish this. Of course ideas like TV and holograms weren’t considered (because Jesus wouldn’t have foreseen THAT).  “Every eye shall see him” meant, of course, every naked eye shall see him. Speculations ranged from having the earth spin really really fast to us all being gathered in the same place to somehow making the earth flat. It was all very scientific.

Anne (don’t ask me who Anne is, I don’t know and I don’t care) Says all of this is simple enough a Kindergartner could understand, which makes me feel intelligent because I studied this shit as diligently as I could for about a decade before I gave up understanding it.

A few pages later, Joe tells us that “bottomless pit” in the context of Revelation 20 “is nothing more than the earth stripped of all life.”

So, Adventists, how’s that literal interpretation of the Bible working out for ya?

“Every eye shall see him” can’t possibly be referring to TV (No divine being could have predicted this, even though it would be a plausible fulfillment of the prophecy) but “Bottomless pit” doesn’t actually mean bottomless pit?

I’m confused.

More Bible study, more Bible study, Michael says the second coming will be “an awesome day” and I’m thinking “awful” is the word because mass genocide, oh and look, here’s Jared to tell us just how dire things are getting.

How clearly my new friends have charted the course ahead of them. It is sad that all the world has not yet searched the Book as they have. Only a moment of time remains, and well it is, for the fear and suffering on Planet Earth have risen to heartbreaking proportions.

And it took at least 3 years for this to happen. (Things were starting to happen at the beginning of the 2 year time skip, if you’ll remember.)

In the next section, something finally happens! The author finally creates a few tiny moments of tension… but not that many, lest we actually start finding the novel interesting.

So, it’s winter now, and the police finally show up. Took them long enough, jeez. There are 10 of them. Police officers, I mean. But only 2 Adventist men are left because… ?

Wait, how many men (and grown ups, which the author doesn’t care about) were there at the beginning? I need to go back and check my list.

Here’s a writing tip: don’t put more people into your novel than you can develop character for in a reasonable amount of time. 13 people for a >200 page novel is too many. Trim this number down.

Police officer: How long have you people been living here?

Joe: This is our second winter

So, about a year, then? Why doesn’t he just say that? It would give us some frame of reference for where we are time wise.

I get why the author wouldn’t want to name specific dates or years, but that’s no excuse for keeping the timeline this vague. Make another footnote if you feel that’s necessary. Or chop off the time skips.

Police officer: Why are you here?

Joe: We prefer this simple life to the dangers and health hazards of the city

Joe: We are hiding here from the evil government who is going to kill us for worshiping on Sunday.

Fixed that for you, Joe!

Police Officer: (irritation growing in his voice and showing on his face): how did you acquire this property?

I’m going to pretend he is just asking Michael this to see if his answer matches up with the government’s property records. Even I could look all this up if I felt like it. It’s not that hard.

Police Officer 2: What religion do you belong to?

Joe: We are followers of Jesus Christ and trust in his blood for our salvation.

All these evasive non answers are, understandably, irritating the officer.

Police officer 2: Never mind that. What day do you worship on?

Joe: We’re atheists

Just kidding. There will be no atheist holdouts. All the atheists are too scared of being killed to resist the evil Sunday Government. Because that’s totally the way it worked in Nazi Germany!

Joe(hesitating only a moment): The seventh day Sabbath

He’s going to hell for that hesitation. Just kidding, of course not.

Police Officer(smiling strangely): Is there a child here named Carol?

Smiling strangely? What does that mean? When an adult man smiles strangely while asking about the presence of a child, all my red flags go up. Was that intentional? Did this book just get very very dark? Nah, probably just bad writing.

Police Officer: She is under our protection at the request of our informant. The rest of you will be shot at six in the morning when the law goes into effect.

What about the other children. They just get shot?

Joe: What Law?

Are you stupid? The law you’ve been reading about in the paper, the law that your Bible supposedly predicted…. you know what law dammit.

Officer Police Officer finds it hard to believe that these goons don’t know about The Law, so we get told about The Law, the law that makes the crime of not going to church on Sunday punishable by death.

Joe argues with Officer Police Officer, who tells him that the SDAs have invited disaster on the world by refusing to worship on Sunday, and it’s very repetitive and this book has told us this before and I’ve talked about it before and let’s move on.

Joe: Are these your personal convictions or those of the state?

Police Officers don’t make the laws, Joe, they just enforce them. If the victim is white. Or the perpetrator is black. Or there’s a full moon on a Thursday in October.

Police Officer: I didn’t come here to be interrogated, I will ask the questions….sit down in a circle about the fireplace and say what you will to each other and your God, if you have one. you have only a few hours left.

Seriously, the nearest neighbor is 20 miles away. Why don’t the police just take Carol out of the house, start driving, and then shoot the rest of them now, right now? You are giving them precious time in which to come up with an escape plan. Also, I may or may not really want to see Joe take a bullet to the head. No one would know you hadn’t waited, and if the world is in such a state, I doubt anybody would care.

Carol asks the Police Officer if it was her father who told the police on them.

Police Officer: Young lady, I said I will ask the questions. but (chuckling) I guess it doesn’t make much difference one way or the other at this point. No, it was not your father. It was a man named Bill Norris.

Why would the officer not think it was a big deal to tell Carol this? It doesn’t, because in ten minutes Jesus is going to come, but he doesn’t know that. From his perspective, he is taking Carol back to the city to live with her father. Carol will now be unable to trust Bill. Their relationship will deteriorate. Thanks, Officer Police Officer!

If the author wanted to merely communicate that to us, she could have had the police remove Carol from the house before he told the rest of them, who were just going to die anyway.

Everyone starts singing. Carol asks if they will really shoot people. Meg tells her they will, and to tell Sybil she loves her.

Carol: I would rather just stay here. I’m not afraid to die.

That’s because you’re ten. And brainwashed.

Meg tells her she doesn’t have a choice, reminds here that Jesus will always be with her, and tells her she’s a good little soldier of the cross, and then they join the others in singing.

(Over the singing comes another sound, loud, unnatural and frightening. Beneath the old house the ground heaves and shudders. both singers and police race from the building in terror. Outside they find the skies overcast with an eerie blackness, while earth-shattering thunder rolls over the earth. Vivid gashes of lightning splinter the darkness.)

Jason: Dad, the mountains are moving–they really are. Everything is moving. We will never survive.

Joe(Tears streaming down his face): Son, this is not a time to fear. It is a time to rejoice.

Jason: You mean this is it? Jesus is coming?

No, it’s just another major earthquake. Your idiot father knew this was coming, and he moved you into the mountains anyway.

Everyone kneels. There is a rainbow (Jesus loves Gay people! Proof!) there’s hailstones, a hurricane, the police are huddling in terror among boulders along the shore. Shore, what shore? They’re in the mountains, what do you mean there’s a shore?

You know what, never mind. We’re almost done with this book, and so am I.

Carol: the Lake has disappeared, Mother, and some of the mountains have collapsed. The earth looks like the landscape of the moon. It’s a bottomless pit alright.

Lake? There was a lake? I thought they had a spring.

I thought they were just jabbering on a few pages ago about how everyone will be looking up when Jesus comes, not down at the earth? And that this was why TV couldn’t be the way “every eye will see him?”

Set that aside. This book is narrated by Jared. Why, oh why isn’t he narrating now? Carol should not be telling us this. Having her narrate out loud the things that are happening is clunky and awkward. It’s not how real people talk, and it’s not how books are written.

This next passage is also clunkily narrated by Carol. It would have been better if Jared had written it out, play style, like the portion above with the earthquake.

That being said, I still might have shed a tear or two. Because if you squint enough, this passage works.

Carol: Mom, oh mom, an angel is bringing Jen. She sees us. She’s letting go of the angel’s hand. She’s coming. Oh mom, open up your arms.

(Laughing and crying, Sunlight holds the form of her elder child tightly.)….

There’s more praising God, I don’t care.

A tall gentle angel takes his place beside Sunlight. “I want to give you a very special welcome to your new life,” he says. “My name is Jared.”

And I’ve been stalking you on and off for roughly 4 years. No, he doesn’t say that. In fact, this is where the book ends, precisely because the explanation sounds creepy.

Just kidding, it’s actually a decent place to end. It’s probably a good idea not to let endings drag too much.

We are finally done with this book, guys! We made it! Get yourselves a celebratory drink, and go read something decent. You’ve earned it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Richest Caveman Chapter 18

Chapter 18

The Rock that Would Not Roll

In which Doug returns to his cave.

Doug takes his family on a vacation to Southern California, and Micah asks to visit his dad’s cave. None of the other kids wanted to go, and the 5 year old was much too young. Micah is only 2 years older than that, but he’s deemed old enough. Okay, whatever.

Sweet little Micah. This chapter is heartbreaking, because I know this child’s life is going to be very short. I’m not entirely sure what he died of. Some say it was a tractor incident, others say it was a construction incident, others say he committed suicide.

Regardless, it is tragic for one to die so young.

Doug tells us that it has been 8 years since he’s hiked this trail, and things have changed. Even the spring has changed its course. Doug wonders if his cave will even still be there.

As we rounded the rdige and beheld the 3rd valley directly before us, I stopped a moment to breathe and take in the scene.

“Watcha lookin’ at, Dad?” Micah asked.

“My rock,”I whispered.

At that point we were surrounded by rocks, and my statement might have sounded strange to a person who could not see what we saw. But one rock in that valley stood out…I had lived in the shadow of that giant boulder for a year and a half…..sometimes there were earthquakes in these mountains, and rocks and dirt would come tumbling down the valley walls from all directions, but I was never afraid under the protection of “my rock.”

Doug points out more landmarks to Micah, who listens wide eyed.

In a few moments we climbed into the two rocks and over a log…very little had changed. The smoke blackened ceiling, my rock log chair and my fireplace were all still the same. Some of the sand in the bedroom cave and main floor had washed away, but it still felt like home.

They make a fire and cook dinner. Micah asks what happened to the bible his dad found up here.

Not long after I started reading it I accidentally dropped it in the creek,” I said. “After that it swelled up, and it wasn’t very easy to read, so my friend Glen gave me a new one. I’m not sure what ever became of the first one.”

That Bible was that special to him, and he didn’t at least keep it out of sentimental value?

In any case, Doug and Micah sleep in the cave. Doug drops in a few paragraphs about Jesus being like a rock before they fall off to sleep.

Micah had a hard time waking up the next morning. His eyes were half opened, and it was comical, watching him look around, trying to remember where he was and how he got there. His hair looked like it had been combed all night with an eggbeater!

Doug tells Micah they have to get an early start to go back to town to meet the rest of the family.

“But dad, we just got here.”

“I know, son, but our vacation time is about over. Let’s be glad we had a chance to visit this place.”

You couldn’t have gone up there earlier so you could stay there longer?

Before they leave, however, Doug leaves a bible in the cave, because he has never heard that you should leave nothing but footprints behind when you camp.

Micah asks if Doug will ever move back up here again, and Doug says that no, God doesn’t call us to run away from the world, but to go out into it and preach.

Some credit must be given to Doug for not telling little Micah that of course he will have to return to the cave soon. The end times are coming, after all. 10 points to Slytherin!*

I was so thankful for all my children, and I felt particularly close to Micah this morning as we hiked along together…. Micah has taught me one of the greatest lessons I’ve ever learned.

Ouch, right in the feels!

Doug starts reminiscing. Apparently 5 years earlier, MIcah was very sick.

Karyn and I found him in his crib moaning and staring blankly at the ceiling. We knew something was seriously wrong so….we raced to the nearest hospital, 40 miles away….after a basic examination, an intern…told us he feared Micah had spinal meningitis. He said the only way to know for sure was to do a “spinal tap.” That involved inserting a 3 inch needle between the vertebrae in Micah’s spine. The spine, of course, is filled with nerves.

Micah knew about 3 words at this time, enough to comunicate that he didn’t understand.

Two of the nurses held my baby boy on his side, bent so his back was arched. This evidently caused Micah a great deal of pain, because he started groaning. The saddest part was that the intern confessed to having little experience doing spinal taps. So I watched with a breaking heart as 3 or 4 times the young doctor pushed the needle into my little boy’s back. Only a parent can understand the heartache of watching a child suffer.

I disagree with Doug’s last sentence, but let’s set this aside. First off, was there a reason that this particular intern had to be the one to do the spinal tap? Also, why was Micah not sedated for this? One can only hope he was given some kind of pain medication, at least.

Micah looked up and cried out over and over, “Daddy, daddy, daddy.”

This tore me apart.

Yeah, I sympathize. I’m torn apart just reading this, especially because I know that, a good 20 or so years after this incident, Micah actually dies.

One of my greatest fears was that Micah would die thinking I didn’t love him.

I…had a lot to say about this when I thought Micah had committed suicide, but it looks like it was just a construction accident. Still tragic, but at least the probability he felt unloved is low.

In any case, Micah did have spinal meningitis, but “with the grace of God and 10 days in the hospital,” his life was saved. Well, at least Doug gives the doctors some credit. 5 points to Slytherin.

Doug blathers about how God loves Doug just like Doug loves Micah, and it hurts God to see Doug in pain.

This is why Doug feels called to preach the gospel, to tell the world that God loves them.

It is my prayer that those who read the testimony in this book will learn from my experience that happiness does not come from the abundance of things…. but the joy of serving God and ministering to my fellow man is genuine, and it leaves no hangover.

I know, because I tried it all!

Except for, you know, therapy.

This is the second (and last, since that’s the end of the book) time Doug says that ministry leaves no hangover. It’s almost like he knows religion and drugs are basically the same thing, they serve the same purpose.

This book was not as badly written as some books I’ve read. It’s still a terrible book, for Adventist literature this is, like, Prize winning good.

In any case, it is clear that Doug wants to tell a good story, rather than necessarily teach anyone. I can’t tell you how many times I or my friends wished that we had stories like Doug Batchelors. Some of us now do have wild, interesting stories. Some of us left for good, some of us regret having them.

Am I blaming Batchelor for this? No, my mistakes and choices in life were mine and mine alone. In fact, by the time I left Adventism I had largely forgotten the details of this book.

However, Doug’s story does whet the appetite for other stories like this, and leads some children to dream of a life like his. Which, according to him, is kind of the opposite effect he’d hope he’d have.

If I prayed, which I do not, it would be my prayer that these posts have made you laugh, cry, or helped you learn a bit about writing. I know *I* learned something about writing as I read this book and wrote these posts. Mostly I learned what not to do.

Go ye therefore and do likewise.

 

 

*I know, I know, I don’t want to be in the same house as Doug either. But he is cunning and ambitious, and has a certain disregard for the rules, so, he’d definitely be sorted that way.

 

 

 

 

 

The Richest Caveman Chapter 17

Chapter 17

Going Home

Doug opens the chapter by telling us that they are all going to Covelo so he can take care of some business. He doesn’t tell us what the business is, exactly, and it’s probably irrelevant to the story.

Everyone is very excited to go back, especially to see Pastor Joe and Mrs. Phillips, who are apparently like grandparents to the young Batchelors.

Apparently, the Phillipses helped out the Batchelors when Doug couldn’t get a loan. See, he had no credit. Please do not ask how he was supposed to get credit without getting a loan first, because that’s a tough question to answer in 2016, and was probably much harder in 1970 something. In any case, when Pastor Joe heard, he sent Doug a check for $300, which was worth more than that would be today. Doug paid Joe back as soon as possible, of course.

Pastor Joe never retired. He kept doing ministry until the day he died. Which, by the way, happens by the end of this chapter. Doug and Karyn go on another few trips down memory lane, recalling that the Phillipses lived simply in order to give 50% of their income to various ministries.

Remember the time we saw a car coming the wrong way on the freeway, and it turned out to be the Phillipses?

“Do I! That was scary,” Karyn laughed. “It seems funny now, but they could have been killed.”

Killed someone else.

Fixed that for you! In any case, this story is not funny, it’s horrifying. Pastor Joe’s mind was clearly slipping, which is a very sad thing.

In any case, they spend some time with the Phillipses, because the next thing they know, pastor Phillips has died.

Afterwards, Doug gets a call to go work in Covelo.

Karyn kicked me. “Say yes!” She whispered.”

Doug tells the Northern California Conference he’ll pray about it.

Karyn said, “I’ll pack while you pray.”

Good for her!

When I finally got there, I discovered how much I didn’t know about pastoring. I didn’t even know how to conduct a board meeting. I made motions and then seconded them myself! But the people bore with me patiently…the congregation grew and prospered. We bought the property next door and built an addition on the church.

I…don’t know enough about church board meetings to comment.

On top of all this, Doug holds evangelistic meetings. These end up taking so much of his time he steps down as pastor, because it’s all too much.

Doug tells a few stories about converts, then talks about going to Easter sunrise services. On the way home, Doug passed the Pentecostal Faith Tabernacle. Doug said he felt a strong urge to stop and go in, because he felt he was supposed to preach there that day.

Using his brain, he thinks that that’s nonsense and drives on by. He drives by several times arguing with himself before going home to eat breakfast. He then decides he’s being like Jonah, and goes back. On the way out of the house Karyn asks where he is going.

“To church,” I said.

“Oh?” That was all she said. She wasn’t surprised, because I often acted strangely.

I’m not sure what Doug means here, this is potentially a red flag.

Doug goes to the church and slips into the back pew. Doug explains that prayer in a Pentecostal church isn’t like an Adventist church. These people believe in speaking in tongues.

The lady beside me sounded like she was talking about Japanese motorcycles.

This sounds very realistic to me. One of my friends used to attend the Assembly of God church, and she demonstrated for me what speaking in tongues sounded like. What she did was speak really fast “I should have bought a hondai but instead I bought a honda.” Over and over. She said she debated with herself whether or not she should fake that she was speaking in tongues herself, but couldn’t quite bring herself to do it.

In any case, Doug prays quietly to himself.

Then a whole sermon came to me, just as if it were being handed out, about Mary Magdalene representing the church.

Interesting. Doug’s subconscious is composing a sermon for him.

After the prayer, the pastor notices Doug, announcing that their “Adventist brother” is here, and does he have a few words he’d like to say?

I stood up. “You know how it is, Pastor,” I said. “We preachers can’t just say a few words.” I smiled and started to sit, but before I could, he came right back.

“Then why don’t you come on up and preach?”

It sounds to me like the pastor is making a joke, but Doug takes it seriously. He comes to the podium with his Bible and actually preaches the sermon that he just came up with during the prayer.

As the last of the people were leaving, Pastor Hull turned to me with tears streaming down his cheeks. “Pastor Doug,” he said with a chocked voice. “God sent you here this morning.”

I wondered how he knew.

“I’ve been sick,” he went on. “I didn’t know what I was going to do, so I’ve been praying about it. I asked my wife to preach but she was scared to death. So you see, Brother Doug, God sent you in answer to my prayer.

Doug blathers on about how God has his people in other churches too, and I think he’s about to talk about being accepting of other religions, but I was too optimistic because Doug says they will all be united as one body who keeps the commandments of Christ, in the end. And by that he means the Seventh Day Adventist church.

This, apparently, is how he met a Spanish lady named Marta, who comes to church even though she doesn’t understand any English, because it is clearly God’s house. Doug invites her to the SDA church, because he has members there who speak Spanish. Marta comes and gets converted.

And then Mrs. Phillips dies. Doug conducts her funeral service and speaks to her son, who is apparently a “hard drinking, rough talking macho man.”

Doug talks about how the Phillipses were saints, and he hopes to be a saint too, and that God will finish what he’s started in his life.

Thus ends yet another chapter with a very strange story that I sort of doubt happened exactly as Batchelor is claiming. I get that truth is often stranger than fiction, but I can still only suspend my disbelief for so long, and this book really does strain credibility.

This chapter and the last really didn’t need to be included, and could have been left out. Nothing of great significance really happened. I get the feeling they were mainly included just so the book could reach a certain length.

This was our penultimate chapter. Next time, we come full circle as we swing around back to the cave Doug used to live in.

Join me tomorrow (or whenever I get unlazy enough to post) for the final chapter: The Return Of Caveman!

 

 

 

 

 

Project Sunlight Chapter 10

It’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for, everybody! The apocalypse is finally happening! Woooooooo!!!!!!

Here’s the drinking game so far:

  1. The word “bitter” is used
  • Every time I bang my head against the book in frustration
  • Jenny and Carol behave in a way that is not age appropriate (99% of all SDA authors can not write believable children.)
  • The Book goes on and on for pages about Bible Study
  • Sybil acts like a Bible Worker/Sabbath School teacher
  • Sybil does something creepy
  •  One of the characters indicates that they are “crazy” for reading the bible/praying/going to church/whatever normal thing lots of mainstream Christians do
  • Bill acts like an emotionally abusive husband
  • Sybil acts afraid of her husband
  • The author decides to insert stuff into the book that never actually happened but should have. (We have always been at war with Eastasia)
  • Worst. Apocalypse. EVER. So just… be drunk this whole chapter, ok?

 

Two years have passed

What? Seriously? You’re going to wait two fucking years to start your apocalypse because…..?

Whatever. We’re two chapters from the end and I’m done trying to figure out the ridiculous random and arbitrary time skips.

Mankind now has no second chance. Long the Rebel has assured men that they need not fear, that even if they missed the rapture (another theory he prepared to lull them to sleep) there’d be another chance later on.

Umm except not everyone who believes in the rapture believes that those left behind will have a second chance. And either way, no rapture believer I’ve met actually thinks this way. They are all desperately trying to be good enough to get raptured.  Nobody wants to be left behind to face the time of trouble.

Sadness fills heaven, for there are those we loved who simply could not tear themselves away from their activities long enough to hear the pleading voice of Earth Friend.

Well, maybe if he’d actually started speaking audibly so people could hear him…nah.

Jared blathers on for a bit about the lying Rebel and Jesus coming soon. Except that

There is nothing on earth at the moment to indicate that any joyful event lies upon the horizon.

So, Jesus isn’t coming soon, then. He’s coming…whenever he gets around to it. Which is pretty much what’s been going on on Earth for last 6K years.

My eyes are riveted upon the little group in the mountains of New York State, and I am concerned for their safety.

Why? According to you, everyone’s already been sealed for eternity. If they die now, what does it matter, since they’re going to get resurrected “soon” anyway?

They are only a few among countless thousands who have pledged their allegiance to the Word of God. May it all be over soon.

Yes. May it all be over soon, before anybody else dies. I mean, die heathens, die, get here soon Jesus so I can get on with the eternal worshiping.

Jared then gives us a list of people at the house in the Adirondacks:

  1. Meg
  2. Michael
  3. Carol
  4. Joe
  5. Jean
  6. Tammie (Joe’s daughter)
  7. Jason (Joe’s son)
  8. Roy
  9. Ellen
  10. Dale
  11. Anne
  12. Mr. Laird
  13. Kelly

That’s like, 13 people. How big is this house, again?  Jesus better come soon, or all these people are going to kill each other.

Dale has just returned from town with

  1. Several newspapers
  2. rubber rings for canning
  3. a few gallons of gas for the generator
  4. some staples

I’m guessing here that Jared doesn’t mean actual staples, but it is kind of clunky that, in a list of specific things, he’d add “oh and some staples.” I now have an amusing thought that he really did bring a bunch of staples, and that Michael and Meg are groaning because what are we going to do with those?

Dale:….had a strange conversation with the storekeeper today. He asked me if we were one of those crazy communes he’d read about. Said he thought they died out in the 70s. When I said we weren’t, then he asked me why we were up here anyway. I told him we thought cities were no longer safe or healthful and that we hoped to survive simply off the land. Guess that satisfied him that we were harmless, if a bit crazy.

This conversation made sense at first, but then I read it again, because it seemed off. Then I realized that this conversation does not make sense. At all. The angels have just started pouring out bowls on the earth. There have already been terrible calamities, the economy is unstable, and now worse things are happening. There’s been looting and rioting, panic in the streets, etc. All that was 2 years ago, and there’s no reason to think it’s gotten any better. In fact, all good SDAs know it only gets worse over time.

So, why the hell is the storekeeper even asking them these questions? If there’s been a metric fuckton of calamity and crime lately, everyone and their dog should be heading for the hills, not just Bible believers.

The conversation with the storekeeper only makes sense here in the context of a pre-apocalyptic world.

It is my headcanon, therefore, that Sunlight & Co are one of those ridiculous doomsday cult communes, and everyone who’s “persecuting” them is only trying to save them from themselves. The newspapers they’re getting these headlines from? Signs of the Times, of course. Or some other Adventist newspaper. I dunno, use your imagination. It’s more than the author of this book did.

Then Dale reads the headlines of the newspaper:

Sunday Observance Enforced. Violators will be Prosecuted persecuted.

It’s October, so the adults have a fire going. This is a summer home, so it wasn’t ever really meant to insulate. Everyone’s cold. I don’t care.

Joe: Here’s an article about a new health problem in the South Pacific. It seems the population of entire cities are afflicted with excruciatingly painful sores that antibiotics won’t touch.

First off, here’s a writing tip. If you want to write about an apocalypse, and you’re not going to touch your precious main characters, at least have people around them who can be affected. Show us what is happening, do not tell us about it by having your character read a newspaper. That’s boring.

Second, not all diseases are cured by antibiotics! The author should know this. And what kind of disease causes sores, anyway? I know there have to be sores because Bible, but…Oh I know! It’s Measles! Measles made a comeback because idiots quit vaccinating their children, only instead of regular measles that could be prevented with vaccines and treated somehow, it’s now Super Measles, a strain of the disease that evolved resistance to…  I dunno, do I look like I work for the CDC?

Joe: It’s my guess that the first of the 7 plagues is being pored out. Those sores, coupled with the decree that those refusing to worship on Sunday will be prosecuted, are warning flags to the Bible student.

What does “prosecuted” mean in this context? The death decree hasn’t gone out yet, because that doesn’t happen till the end of the next chapter. What exactly is the penalty for not going to church on Sunday? And how are you all able to escape it? You live in a house owned by Michael. The towns people all seem to know about you. I have serious doubts the Church Police wouldn’t have found out about you all by now.

How would enforced Sunday attendance work, anyway? How exactly would they know you weren’t in church? They could take attendance at the churches, but how do they know which church you go to? Is it divided up like school districts? Do you have to fill out extra paperwork if you want to go to a church outside your district? Is there someone sitting there poring over records looking for absentees and hunting them down?

Don’t make me do your job for you, dammit! These questions need answers!

In the paragraph about Sunday enforcement and plagues, the author includes a footnote. Actually, we’ll be generous and say that this is the editor’s doing. I’m in a good mood today.

It is the author’s intention here, and in later chapters, only to give a general idea of how the plagues, outlined in Revelation 16, may take place. It would not seem that these plagues could be universal, lest the early ones eliminate the earth’s population before the later ones should fall. let the reader be alerted that the author has taken the liberty, for the sake of the story, of naming definite geographical locations and time concepts relating to the plagues for which there is no Biblical basis. God Himself will determine where and when the plagues will fall, and over how long a period.

Ms. Strong (Or Mr. Editor) is not the first person to notice that, were all the Bible plagues to fall at once, too many people would die before the latter ones could have a chance of falling. We’ll go along with this explanation, then, as plausible.

No shit the author has “taken liberties for the sake of the story.” That’s just what authors do. Readers know this. But even if we somehow missed the memo, you literally gave us a memo in the first page of this book.

In any case, Meg gets worried and asks if the plagues are going to affect them. Because  Screw all those other people,  I want to know if this is going to affect me.

Joe reads Psalm 91, which I recall being forced to memorize in 8th grade and barely remember it. Kelly agrees with my teacher that reciting it every day at the beginning and end of each day is a fantastic idea. Also, somehow this proves that the plagues won’t fall upon good Bible worshiping Adventists.

Joe: Now, Meg, as to the mark of the beast, the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation are complex, and I do not pretend to understand them in their fine details

I never understood them, either. I finally concluded that it’s because your interpretation is wrong.

Joe:…It seems that just before Christ returns, some power, labeled here as the “image of the beast” arises to carry out the same cruel purposes as the beast had in earlier times. It is the followers of this beast and its image upon which the plagues will fall.

That’s…. not an answer. Jean agrees with me, saying it’s not specific enough.

Joe: I believe any power that would deny man his freedom to worship God as he sees fit. To be even more specific, those powers today that are forcing men to worship upon a day which God has never set aside as Holy. Daniel describes a power which shall think to change times and laws (Daniel 7:25). Which is exactly what happened when the true Sabbath was subtly eased offstage centuries ago, and we will see an attempt to do the same again in our time. this power attempting to wrench from God his authority has been active in every age, under different guises, and all spring from Lucifer’s hatred for Christ.

Jean argues that people should have the right to disagree, and Joe agrees, because forcing people to worship a certain way is a bad idea and makes Jesus cry.

This, by the way, is the same Jesus that sends people who disagree with him to hell.

These are the same Adventists who believe that you will go to hell if you disagree with them. These are the exact same Adventists who do attempt to force people within their circles to worship the same as they do. I will give them credit for staying out of the government, but when I was on Planet Adventist, I was totally forced to do things their way.

There’s more talk about the beast, which is mostly just reading Bible verses, and the dragon, and the Remnant…zzzzzzz. Oh, sorry, right. I’m awake now. Um, where was I?

Jean: Sometimes I think we have made the Sabbath our whole religion

Wow, great insight! Seriously, tell me she’s wrong.

Ellen disagrees, and then blathers on about how the Sabbath is important right now because it was lost, and now it’s found, and it is a test of their obedience.

I’m gonna quote Diamanda Hagan here, because this blew my mind when she said it:

Any God who would expect his followers to tell the truth and die rather than lie and live is an asshole.

When I heard her say that, I played it over and over again and then cried, because I realized that it was true.

Jean doesn’t reply to Ellen, and stalks off. We’re supposed to think that this is because Jean couldn’t say anything because Ellen was right, but I think Jean realized she was dealing with crazy. Sometimes, when you are dealing with crazy, you have to stop talking and walk away.

There’s more Bible verses, then everyone mercifully goes to bed.

In the following months they go to the store less often, preferring to keep to themselves as much as possible.

Increasing isolation. never a good sign.

Note also the time jump. In the following months. So basically, whole months are passing where there is nothing going on.

This, folks, appears to be the real reason this time will be called the Time of Trouble. It will be a long, boring game of waiting for Jesus.

The occasional paper they squire confirms Joe’s predictions. The ocean becomes afflicted with a mysterious “algae” that leaves the waves clotted with stagnant red mass resembling blood. The marine life dies and washes, stinking and rotten, onto the shores.

Interesting. Instead of going with a literal interpretation of the passage, the author goes with this.

A quick google search shows that this situation is possible.

Harmful algal blooms, or HABs, occur when colonies of algae—simple plants that live in the sea and freshwater—grow out of control while producing toxic or harmful effects on people, fish, shellfish, marine mammals, and birds. The human illnesses caused by HABs, though rare, can be debilitating or even fatal.

http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/redtide.html

Story wise, then, it almost makes way more sense to have the plague of disease come from the plague of the Red Tide (another term for HAB).

But fuck the story, we’ve got bowls to pour out and persecution to get to. Safely offscreen, though. We wouldn’t want to actually show any of that happening to our beloved main characters!

It is late March and everyone is gathered around a fire when they hear the sound of a snowmobile.

Kelly: What is a snowmobile doing out here at this hour?

Clearing off the roads, maybe? Snowmobiles come and go at all hours of the night, lady, jeez.

Tension fills the room, each member of the group well aware that beyond their quiet retreat there have been difficulties for followers of God.

Nope. I haven’t seen anything about any difficulties for followers of God, so I’m calling bullshit. Yawn. Is the apocalypse over yet? Are they actually going to start getting prosecuted?

Surprise, it’s Meg’s Ex husband Jim!  Meg tells him Carol will be excited to find when she wakes up in the morning.

Jim: I won’t be here in the morning, Meg. I have come to take Carol back with me. You must all listen to me carefully and take me seriously. I came here at night, for it is not healthy to mingle with, or aid, those observing the 7th day Sabbath. It is not safe for Carol to be here, Meg. Marie and I will keep her until this all blows over, as it surely will.

I like Jim, here. He’s talking sense… or is he? He’s right, it’s not safe for Carol to be here, and her worthless mother needs to let her go. The government knows where they are, and they could raid at any minute. I like to think they would take all the children and not kill them, but if there is a battle, the children could get hurt in the crossfire.

However, it’s apparently not safe in the cities, what with all the rampant crime and calamities.

So, where exactly is he going to take her? Would she really be safer with him?

This scene makes way more sense if you picture these people as doomsday cultists living in their little commune up in the mountains while back down on the rest of the planet, life continues as normal.

Jim tells the rest of the group to lay low if they’re going to insist on keeping the Sabbath, and that those in the cities can’t buy anything, which makes ordinary living impossible.

They are constantly on television and in the papers as they go on trial for their beliefs.

Question. Why are we hearing about this from Jim? If the author can’t bring herself to let any of her beloved characters go to prison, then for the love of all things holy, at least have the characters themselves watch it on TV! I would still criticize that, but it’s better than having someone tell us about it like this.

Jim is still monologing.

To make matters worse, as you know, some mysterious problem has afflicted the water supply of the entire Eastern half the country. At first it was just the ocean, but now there’s no pure water to be had, and we’re dependent on what’s shipped to us. You can’t believe the mayhem it has caused. By the way, what have you been doing? melting snow?

There is no potable water anywhere. Ok, so, how is normal life even possible right now? There should be mass hysteria and planet wide panic.

Joe: We weren’t aware of the problem. Our drinking water’s fine. Comes from a deep well.

(Ignore the fact that Joe lied. They are very well aware of the issue from reading the newspaper.)

There is no water anywhere. Except here. Jim has a moral obligation to tell someone, on the downlow, so that they can get water to the poor dehydrated cities at once.

Scientists everywhere would want to study this water, see why it’s not reacting like the rest of their supply. Maybe it holds the secret to purifying the rest of the world’s water.

Jim: You can’t give the well credit. Wells haven’t been any cleaner than streams. Everything is choked with that miserable, revolting-red mass. (Revelation 16:4)

Ok, but, this well is just fine. Why are you insisting that this must be some divine miracle, instead of scratching your head and going, “huh, wonder exactly what’s different about this well. I should go inform a scientist and someone who can help distribute the potable water.”

Nope. Nobody ever thinks of doing this, because Goddidit.

This attitude is the enemy of scientific discovery.

Joe asks about Jim’s religious beliefs, and Jim tells Joe he can’t argue with the theology, which is a lie, because the theology is just whacked. Lots of people disagree with it. Adventists don’t believe this, though. Adventists believe that no one argues with their actual theology, because it’s flawless.

Jim: but I have no intention of putting my neck on the chopping block just because of that.

Good for you

My conclusion is that things are going to get worse before they get better

This makes sense from an SDA perspective, but why would a secular person think this way? Joe should be saying this, not Jim.

Joe tells Jim things are never going to get better, and Jim tells Meg to wake Carol up and get her dressed, preferably in warm clothing. Jim has at least brought the group “staples.”

Image result for staples

What the fuck are they doing up there with all those staples? It’s like, the cult of the Staple or something.

Sunlight:…. but about Carol… I really don’t want her to go. She understands the issues involved and is content here in spite of the hardships.

No, she doesn’t. Carol is…what, ten? A ten year old just is not old enough to understand the ramifications of persecution and death.

Jim: will you let her make that decision, Meg?

No, no no no no no NO. You don’t let your ten year old decide to put herself in danger. That’s bad parenting. And too, Jim should be well aware by now that Carol is too brainwashed to ever leave of her own accord.

Jim asks Carol to go with him. She refuses.

Carol:…. Uncle Bill himself said there would be violence in the cities sooner or later

How do you know? Bill hasn’t been with you guys or spoken to you for months.

There is no potable water in the cities. Hasn’t been for months. What do you mean “violence is going to erupt sooner or later?” If there were truly no potable water, nobody would be able to live a normal life.

Jim should be taking Carol and Marie to another area of the mountains where they won’t be harmed once the government finally decides to get around to persecuting people.

In any case, Meg asks about Bill and Sybil, and Jim remembers he has a letter from Sybil to give to her.

Meg tries to reassure Jim that Carol is perfectly safe and content here.

Jim: She’s not even getting an education. It’s unnatural living like this.

Carol: No daddy, Ellen is a teacher, and she has school for Jason and Tammie and me every day. Pastor Joe and Michael teach us all kinds of interesting things, too, and we’ve learned so much about nature out here that I can tell you every kind of bird in these woods. I’ve learned more this winter than in 2 years of school. I listen while Michael teaches Jason algebra, and already I can do it, and I’m only in the 4th grade.

Plug for homeschooling, everyone!

Ok, so, Ellen is a teacher. That’s nice, what kind of teacher? does she have an actual degree in elementary education, or is she just a lady in the role of teacher here at Doomsday Cult Mountain Academy?

And a 4th grader doing algebra is not that impressive. Depending on what is meant here by “algebra,” I’ve known 2nd graders who can do it.

In any case, Jim is right about the lack of formal education. Knowing all the birds in the mountain isn’t necessarily going to help her pass a real science class in a real school, which she will need in order to get into a real college so she can graduate with a degree and get a job that will allow her to not starve.

All this, of course, is assuming that there is not an apocalypse going on. Could schools possibly be functioning anyway if things are so bad in the cities? There is no water, there are “crime and calamities”… are these kids just having classes while tornadoes rage in the background drinking poisonous water?

Jim is a tiny bit relieved, and decides he’s not going to drag Carol away against her will. I still think this is a stupid idea because clearly, life is functioning just as it should be outside the compound, and bad things are going to happen if he doesn’t get Carol out soon.

Realizing that he is outnumbered and that the men here could easily overpower him (not really, this is just my head canon excuse for not arguing further.), he leaves, but gives them “the supplies.”

Before he leaves, however, we have our first defector:

Jean: I would like to ride back to the city with you. I’ve just packed my things.

Smart woman. Get away from the compound while you still can.

Joe: Jean, you can’t mean this. Let’s go and talk it over privately before you make your decision.

How does this not sound like a controlling asshole? How does this not sound creepy? And how have you been living with her for months without seeing this coming?

But Jean has already made up her mind. She blathers for a bit about Joe probably being right (because no one in this book thinks Adventist theology is wrong! That just doesn’t happen in real life!)

When we sold the house, I set aside some money for my personal use, fearing where your search would lead us. It’s in a Rochester bank and will meet my needs until I can get a job. Tell the children that when I get settled and establish a home, I will come for them. Probably in May…

If the apocalypse is raging, why are the banks still open? Set that aside. This is a smart woman. Good job Jean, for following your instincts and trusting your gut.

Readers, If you have sneaking suspicions about where your husband’s religious philosophy is leading him, setting aside money secretly is a good idea. Because, even if SDA theology is right, bad things can and do happen because of it.

Hang on… I thought the economy was wrecked and peoples’ money was pretty much worthless? Why… how… what… I…. nevermind. I think I should have given up expecting consistency by now.

I’d say that Jean needs to take the children with her now, but she and Jim are hopelessly outnumbered.

I’m actually disappointed that there will be no major custody battle. Jim and Jean could just go to the police and say “there’s a group of Sabbath keepers holding our children hostage, and we want them back. We’re worried the kids will be hurt, please help them. Oh and these Sabbath Keepers are unarmed.”

The next thing we know, a law passes saying that Sabbath keepers may no longer have their children, and a mass of social workers come to take them away.

Alas, nothing that interesting is going to happen. This apocalypse is very boring.

Jim and Jean leave. There’s some blather about how discouraged they all feel, and then everyone except Michael and Meg run along to bed.

Meg asks Michael how Jean could just walk away like that, without a word of warning.

I don’t believe there wasn’t any warning. Surely Jean said something? If not, then she probably was afraid of what her husband would do if she found out she was planning to leave. Because that is the most dangerous time for a woman.

Then Meg reads Sybil’s letter. This is awful. This is the part I remember most from this book.

Dear Meg,

The world has turned upside down. The money Bill so carefully hoarded is of little value now in our deteriorating economy.

Is water the currency now? Note also the wording. Bill wasn’t saving his money, he was hoarding it. Which he couldn’t have been doing if he constantly allowed his wife to sit around finding new ways to spend it.

Sybil talks about how, because of Bill, she didn’t feel like she could accept Michael’s discoveries about the Sabbath.

I did not want anything in my life that would be offensive to Bill. But my heart knew Michael was speaking the truth.

Right. All of us deniers know in our hearts that the Sabbath is truth, we just deny it because we don’t want to risk offending our controlling abusive husbands.

Sybil goes on about how she fears it is too late for her, and that if Carol comes back with Jim, they will help look after her.

I go now and then to Jen’s grave. It comforts me somehow.

The grave of a ten year old child is somehow comforting as the apocalypse rages around you? I’m going to pretend I didn’t just read that.

That sentence is stuck in there randomly and makes no sense, in or out of context.

Sybil goes on for a bit about how much Bill hates Sabbath keepers and wants to kill them, and how the death penalty will be enacted soon.

Meg cries on Michael’s chest for a while, and neither one of them can figure out if it’s too late for Sybil or not.

Fortunately, the novel narrowly avoids creating tension (is Sybil still able to be saved? Is it too late for her or will she at last find Jesus?) by having Jared tell us the answer. Phew, that was a close one. I don’t like it when there’s tension and suspense in my novels.

Sybil’s letter tore my heart, for when the Prince left the temple and ceased his intercessory work, it was indeed too late. Not just for Sybil, but for millions of others.

Creepy passage. I can see why some of you had nightmares.

Jared spouts Bible verses for a bit about why, then goes on to say that there is much more suffering to come, more trials and tribulations.

One wonders why God would have the apocalypse drag on like this. I mean, it’s just going on and on and on and I think they’ve been hiding in those mountains for about a year now.

For being really boring,  this chapter has a lot of stuff packed into it. There’s diseases, people coming for their children, and a bunch of other stuff that really should have been sprinkled throughout as backstory. Or things could have been more developed. An entire chapter, for example, could have been done about “the sores antibiotics can’t touch.”

I would have enjoyed this book so much if the author had left aside all other aspects of the story and just wrote about the consequences of certain things. How does Super Measles impact the environment? The economy? Scientific medicine? That would’ve been interesting and wouldn’t require a plot.

Also, note how Jared seems to have abandoned his experiment. He doesn’t ever talk about his findings from observing Meg, he is just… observing her. He never seems to really learn anything.  Jared could have been completely taken out of the story and nothing would be missing.