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Is God? “Jesus BY A Preponderance of the Evidence” IV

September 4, 2017 Leave a comment

Is God what? You might be asking. Well me too, but that’s not our author’s point. The entire point is to shorten the question down to two words so that it seems so simple, but then to spend thirty pages trying to explain those two words in such a way that “is god?” seems like a deep and thoughtful question. “Is god?” makes about as much sense as asking “are peaches?” but because we’re dealing with the g-word people just assume there’s more to the story.

Which is something religion gets away with all of the time. Just put the phrase, “well from a theological perspective” in front of any stupid question and people will consider it to be meaningful. A person can justify just about any ridiculous behavior by claiming that the behavior is “part of their religion” and all of the sudden it’s treated with at least the appearance of respect…unless you’re a scientologist, everyone’s pretty on board with ridiculing them. Don’t want to speak to your wife for a week? Just say it’s part of the religion. Now, it’s somehow less bad.

What I realized during this month’s preparation work is that this is going to be awhile. The book itself is around 150 pages. I’m skipping the anecdotes, so I’ve got about 130 pages to read. We’ve already arrived at page 23, meaning we’re 1/6th of the way through on post 4. The problem though is that today’s post covers ONE page. That’s not a good sign, but there’s so much here that I can’t just move on.

The chapter begins discussing how “Is God?” is the most important question in our lives. I wonder if the author was tired of writing “does god exist?” and just shortened it out, because that’s the meaning of his two word question. Let’s ignore a continuing diatribe on how dumb this is, and get to the meaning of the assertion. Is it the most important question? There are two answers to my question. The first is “yes” if the answer to the question is “yes.” If we can prove god is real, then that necessitates that it becomes the most important question. This would then be followed by other questions such as “Is god Christian?” “Is god Muslim?” Hindu? etc. Then we would have to parse out the sects, schisms, and heresies; i.e. the history of the world up until recently. If the answer is “not yes” because nothing has been proven, we can just move on with our lives and get to more important things. Of course, for some people, who believe the answer is “yes” it’s important despite that it’s not an objectively proven thing.

Of course, there are three answers to the question he actually intends on asking which he addresses, “Agnosticism is as much an answer as atheism or a profound faith in a Creator Law-Giver God.”

I love the bias of that statement. You’re either in the “don’t-know camp” the “don’t believe camp” or the “totally awesome deep admission of the one true divine power for whom you have a deep and meaningful relationship with camp.” At this point, we get that the author believes in, not only god, but Christian God and Christian Jesus, yet the point of this book is to show the objective evidence for such a belief. As I said earlier, we’re 1/6th of the way through and we’ve only gotten a list of what constitutes that proof and not the proof itself. So we’re still waiting on the proof. To be fair, he’s right: those are the only possible answers to the question. Win for him I guess.

According to him the answer to the question is important because “Where we believe that rights and obligations are defined by man, or are ‘naturally endowed by our creator,’ critically affects the workings of any civilization.” My general problem with this kind of assertion is that it’s often a false dichotomy. On the one hand, yes a society will be influenced by its morals. That much is certainly true. On the other hand, if those rights are naturally endowed then we ought not need a religious authority figure to explain them to us. Since, as he’s claiming, they are natural they would not need to be taught. Yet, we do need to be taught them, so they cannot be naturally endowed.

This reminds me of Adam Smith, who wrote “Wealth of Nations” as an ethics book wherein the basic thesis is that everyone acting in their own self-interest will naturally produce the best kind of society. I’m being way too short with it, but his point is that we will make laws and morals that protect ourselves but will be generalizable to the rest of society treating everyone the same. We don’t need a creator to instill morals and rules, we all want laws protecting us against murder because we don’t want to be murdered. The real problem for our author is that when religious laws invoking creator gods are established we often have more killing in the name of society than we do otherwise. Saudi Arabia is one of the most religious countries on Earth, and they have the death penalty for a great many things in the name of “the Creator.” We also have lists of laws in the religious texts that have nothing to do with morality but somehow the deity thinks that they are super-important. Prohibitions on tattoos, what to eat, wear, who we can speak to, etc. About five of the ten commandments, these are not laws about morality but religious tribalism laws. Thanks, I’ll pass.

Finally, he ends with claiming that our answer to the above question is given in a cultural context which then becomes the cultural idiom. Yes, agree completely…maybe not with the idiom part. One of my favorite podcasts is “God Awful Movies” where the three hosts watch and then ridicule what are known as “Christian Movies” (and some other religious movies). A recurring problem with these movies is when they tip their hand too much and reveal the sham of their belief. When the anti-Christ character in the Apocalypse movie turns out to want world peace and to feed the hungry, that’s tipping the hand, because he’s the villain the good guys are going to stop. Here our author has tipped it as well. He’s admitted that there is no proof and that his belief is cultural. I’ve said it before: the only thing stopping an evangelical pastor Kentucky from being an Imam in Riyadh is the geography of their birth. They both want the same thing, almost eerily so, but they dislike each other because they don’t worship the same book. Born in the US means you are statistically a Christian, whether you keep that or not is one thing, but that’s the cultural importance.

Hopefully we’ll start getting to some evidence soon. It would be helpful that he actually not pretend to have written a book about evidence and actually had done it.

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Jesus By a Preponderance of the Evidence I

July 3, 2017 Leave a comment

This post is the first in a monthly series wherein I’ll go through the claims made by Robert Palaszewski in his book “Jesus By a Preponderance of the Evidence.” The subtitle of the book is “The Objective, Rational, Historical and Scientific Evidence for the Truth of Christianity.” The book is supposed to be an argument that not only was Jesus a historical figure, but also that the religion of Christianity is true. This implies that we’re going to prove the Jesus as Son of God idea as well.

I’ve read the first chapter and the first thing I need to lay out is that I’m skipping the “Journeys” sections. The reason is that they anecdotal, and I suspect made up, stories about people coming to Jesus. They are not proof of anything, if true, they only serve to prove one person’s journey, so there’s little to look at or do with. Personal accounts are not objective, they go against the grain of what the book describes itself as, and I’m not sure what they are doing here.

There is nothing but DNA. We are but a cosmic accident, products of nothing but chance. Therefore, we owe no allegiance outside of ourselves. God is chance. he is accident. He is the great Nothing. God is dead. The very notion of God is dead. We are free to remake ourselves in any image we want. We are free. We are masters of our own souls…”

This, the author claims is the mission statement of the current age [It’s also, itself italicized, but I’ll italicize any block quotes from the book]. And, oh boy, is there a lot to unpack in there. It’s claimed that this kind of statement (there’s more to it as well) is what the high priests of our time, the scientists, tell us. It however is not. I could probably write for the next month on just these three paragraphs but I’ll just have to pick one part. The notion of an “accident” is a popular one among the apologists. It offends the personal identification that we are somehow special amongst all of the other creatures in the Cosmos, but there’s little evidence that this is so–other than wanting it to be the case. It’s pure anthropomorphic justification for our place in the universe and is reminiscent of the more modern cosmological arguments that talk about universal constants and the odds against life that drive whatever authority this argument mysteriously still possesses. The real problem is, that “accident” is a matter of perspective; if you are a believer you can still buy the physics explanation for why we are here. Just ask the Catholic Church, they endorse it but then say that God is the Prime Mover in all of it.

The “God is Dead” thing drives me nuts. Yes, it comes from Nietzsche. Yes, he had syphilis and eventually went crazy (the book it comes from, Thus Spoke Zarathustra is from his middle period when he was about stage 2 of Syphilis). What needs to be kept in mind, is when and who says it. Nietzsche, puts the line into a fool character walking a tight rope. And cherry picking the quote is just stupid, the full line is “God is dead, and these are his tombs.” It’s a comment about how people mourn their religion inside dark places instead of celebrating it like the ancient Greeks/Romans did. Also, for an Atheist, god isn’t dead–he was never alive to begin with.

From that long screed we move on to Pontius Pilate. For some reason I’ve been seeing this a lot lately from the apologist crowd. In John 18:38 Pontius, while interrogating Jesus, asked “What is truth?” and this is somehow meant to be the rallying cry of those denying Jesus. However, and I can’t believe the biblical “scholars” ignore this, is the context of the quote. Never mind that it would be odd for an Atheist to be deriving authority from a line in the bible, but John 18:37 has Jesus telling Pilate that he is speaking the truth and his followers are those of the truth. When Pilate asks, “What is truth?” he’s not using it in the general sense, but referring to the thing that Jesus just said sense. Even if, and I would dispute this, Pilate were using it in a general sense the context of the conversation still revolves around him interrogating someone suspected of a crime. Pilate, and by extension non-Christians (as Pilate was likely not an atheist), are not advocating for epistemic relativism.

Yet that’s the tone filling out the rest of this section, what follows is a long screed about what people like me believe. I always find these entertaining, because apologists could just, I don’t know, ask. The takeaway here is that atheists are cultural and moral relativists. What’s good, is what I determine as good and I have no right to inflict that kind of judgment on anyone else because morality doesn’t derive from a divine source.

This leads into a discussion of all the ways that society is crumbling around us because we no longer Jesus hard enough. Violence and sex in pop-culture, violence in the streets, sexual liberation, etc. The usual accusations thrown at the next generation by the previous despite the facts that the world has actually been getting better. We even go so far as to cite a study which, in his words, “The Journal of the American Psychological Association can argue that pedophilia is not so bad.”

I found this rather shocking so I found the footnote (I hate endnotes) and checked the study. It says no such thing. What the study actually determined was that the stereotype of the damaged victim of sexual abuse was just that, a stereotype. While there was long term damage the general assumption that the victims were “lost causes” was not borne out by the evidence. What seems to have a moderating effect on the outcomes of the victims is the level of support that the victim receives afterward. There is nothing in this paper that claims pedophilia “is not so bad.” Maybe the author should have read the paper instead of repeating what someone told him about the study as it really affirms the need for victim support post abuse.

This however would go against his desire to make sure that everyone reading is offended. I am, but that’s because he didn’t read the study or if he did, he didn’t understand it–whether purposefully or accidentally.

Then we have a long argument against moral relativism. A section I agree with, if not for the shoddy examples and poor construction of the argument. One of his arguments that we atheists apparently make, is that “there is nothing to sin against” so therefore everything is permitted. Yes and no, there is no sin, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t immoral actions. Shooting children in a daycare is wrong and immoral, but not a “sin.” His tactic here is to parse out the words in an extremely pedantic manner. For him all immoral actions are “sins” so if you don’t believe in “sin” you can’t judge something to be immoral. That, however is not a working tautology because I don’t use the one word. In general I’m against moral relativism, and to be fair he gives an interesting analogy with various religions, they can’t all be right.

Religion is a zero sum game. Of the many competing religions only one, if you believe in them, could be considered true. Allah and Jesus both can’t hold their self-proclaimed monopoly on the truth, at least one of them have to be wrong. It’s a good point, but he can’t dwell on it because it leads down a road of doubt. What if his interpretation of Jesus is wrong? Or what if Jesus is the wrong religion? Since he’s offered no evidence of anything yet, making this claim is spurious at this point. No worries, because he jingles the keys of cultural relativism once again and the lack of an authority by which we derive our morality. We’re 16 pages in, and there’s yet to be one objective rational or historical piece of evidence offered. Perhaps the rest of chapter one will begin presenting it.

Vote (New Moon Chapter 24)–for real this time

April 6, 2012 Leave a comment

I hope everyone enjoyed the April Fool’s Joke the other day, part of the reason I wrote that is because this chapter is bad. Not just bad in general, but bad for this book. It’s full of concepts that are so bad they are embarrassing to read. I should say that the writing is coherent. It’s just that it doesn’t make sense, any of it.

Bella wants to put the issue of her turning into a vampire to a vote. So after somehow getting to the ground she hops on Edward’s back and he begins running. This is problem number one and I’m not even at the bottom of the first page of the chapter: “Even after all this time, it felt very routine. Easy. Evidently this was something you never forgot, like riding a bicycle.

This requires us to forget that the two times she did ride his back she felt nauseous and dizzy afterward. It was never easy for her. There is another problem as well, where did Edward go and who is this whipped tool carrying her? Pre-breakup Edward was a sociopathic control freak, post-breakup Edward is one of those doormat types apparently. If he’s so against her becoming a vampire then why is he aiding her? Why not just, I don’t know, do nothing and tell the rest of the Cullens no to entertain this absurdity?

Two problems one page: let’s not keep track because it gets worse.

Does this mean you’ve decided you’re awake?” At this point they’re beating a dead horse that’s long decayed into oil. It wasn’t funny or clever the second time they did this, nor was it handled well the first time in Italy. It’s also getting fairly annoying, everyone knows that she’s awake, the reader, Edward, even Bella. If they were playing this off as a joke it would be one thing (dumb but at least understandable), but they’re not. It’s dead serious…and that’s dumb but also insulting.

We are let in on a couple of secrets. First off, that Edward still loves her…which we already knew from last chapter. Also that he never really intended to leave her entirely. All the stuff they had: the cds, the pictures, the notes, etc. that Edward took when they broke up? It was under her floor boards the whole time. Bella guesses that she knew this the whole time, although that doesn’t fit at all with the story. Unless she mulled over that possibility in the four months of blank pages we were treated to in the beginning of the book. What’s worse is that there’s a better story here as well, what if, they didn’t get back together and fifty years down the line Bella was an old spinster or something and in the process of remodeling the house she discovers the hidden stash? That causes Alice to come back for a legitimate reason this time, and then the Cullens have to deal with a sixty year old Bella who is infuriated at their abandoning her to the cold ravages of time. That seems like a better book right there.

Anyway, as they are running along the road Bella lets the voice thing slip. Apparently she never told Alice about it, and Alice never saw it because we are retroactively making Bella immune to the vampiric powers. She goes through the possibilities that the voices present: 1: she’s crazy 2: wish fulfillment 3: Edward still loved her and they have some psychic bond.

The first two can’t work within the confines of the story. This is because of what I said awhile back regarding those voices: they gave her new information regarding the werewolves. The third can’t work because her mind is shielded from Edward. The only logical explanation for the voices is that we are supposed to forget the werewolf incident and just remember that it happened with a rose colored glasses. This way it looks romantic, but a person with any kind of decent memory can’t swallow this. Screw this I’m reading the Hunger Games, it can’t be this bad. Can’t it?

Finally at the Cullens house they have the discussion about whether or not Bella needs to get vampired. The family is presented with two options: one is to turn her the other is a bit more complicated and stupid so of course it comes from Edward. Apparently Edward was thinking ahead the whole time he was in Italy that’s why he refused to shake Aro’s hand. His plan is that when the Volturri send Demetri to find Bella, Alice will know and they will just hide Bella! It’s so simple, it’s plain stupid.

Edward thinks that he can fight off Demetri, which we know he can’t from everything they’ve said about the Volturri. The shining light of this chapter comes from Alice after Emmett and Edward fist bump (seriously) over this plan, “Idiots.”

I’m sure in their history no one has ever thought of hiding from them. It’s like trying to return a cell phone you clumsily (re: drunkenly) dropped in the toilet, “I just stopped working I don’t know what happened.” That’s why they have that sticker, and I’m sure that a society of three thousand years old have dealt with someone in their history who just decided to not do what they say. Then again, if the Cullens are the smart vampires…maybe they haven’t.

So it’s voting time, in which a bunch of strangers get to decide Bella’s fate. Sure, why not, Bella basically ditched her dad on her birthday to be with these people so why not let them make the decision for her. Everyone but Rosalie and Edward vote yes. Rosalie’s reason doesn’t make sense but it’s telling of how real vampires work. She didn’t have a choice in the matter. Bella is asking so it doesn’t make sense that Rosalie’s reasoning is based around her own experience being supernaturally violated.

Carlisle votes yes but for the reason that if Edward wants to be with her it’s the only proper course of reasoning. I wish someone would bring up the fact that curing the blood lust is going to be an issue, but no one does because this book isn’t that thought out.

After everyone but two people vote yes, the duty falls to Alice to turn her. Shouldn’t Edward be the one to do it? Alice balks at her new responsibility and it turns into the familiar innuendo between them: “Alice…Where do you want to do this?”

Alice responds, “I don’t think I’m ready for that. I’ll need to prepare…”

Ok, that aside Alice isn’t ready? Ready for what? “I know, but…Seriously, Bella! I don’t have any idea how to not kill you.”

Not kill her? What the hell are you talking about? All James had to do in the last book was bite Bella on the finger. Alice herself explained in the last book that taking in the saliva was all it took. Isn’t that why Bella and Edward haven’t made out yet? What exactly is the process that she is avoiding? We are really supposed to forget everything we’ve been told up until now.

They then settle on turning Bella after she moves out of Charlie’s house. Someone finally remembered that he existed. First though, Edward decides to propose to Bella. Seriously this happens, but they’re going to wait two years for this to happen.

There’s an abrupt argument with Charlie back at his house where Bella explains that her and Edward are going to be together and that if he doesn’t like it she will leave. What a nice girl we have here. I seriously can’t explain how much I loathe this character right now. Charlie ought to explain things to her and she ought to listen, but somehow being a brat who basically thinks everyone owes her something is supposed to be laudable. What does anyone see in her?

Redemption (The New Moon Walkthrough Ch. 24)

April 1, 2012 Leave a comment

Late again, as usual. What’s not so usual is the why this time. I know I’ve blamed being late on everything from losing the book, to school work, to some kind of vacation, but this time is truly different. This time someone sacrificed a goat to the Muses because in once chapter everything kind of worked itself out. The first thing we have to do is pay attention to the date and time. Because it’s not day still.

Edward has done his not so creepy at all, stare at Bella while she sleeps and then they had a fight. A real fight, wherein Bella leaves the room saying that she is going to put it to a vote whether or not she gets turned into a vampire. Who is going to vote? Apparently the Cullens. That’s where the previous chapter ended.

Here’s where it gets weird: as absurd as that situation is, it somehow transitions into this chapter that actually is some decent writing. And no, it’s not decent writing for this book, it’s decent writing for any book. It’s almost like the person who discovered Meyer was only given this chapter and then green lit the whole series…actually that would make a lot of sense. It would explain a hell of a lot that has been wrong with the previous story thus far. I’m sure she (I’m not looking her name up) just said to herself, “I’m sure if this is an example of the writing I don’t even need to do my job, Ka Ching, im gonna be Oprah rich.”

Bella sneaks out of the window of the house, apparently not giving much forethought to how she’s going to actually get to the Cullens’ place, and not really being clear on where they are staying (unless they’ve decided to kick out the meth addicts that for sure moved into their mansion). Edward follows her, and what’s weird is that we’re actually presented with Edward as not being described as being some sort of god-like epitome of beauty. He’s just a guy, as far as the description is concerned.

He grabs her by the wrist, “Bella wait, I don’t want you to do this.”

He goes on for a long monologue here, strangely enough–it’s good, but too long to quote. The whole thing is almost like our author became self aware of the numerous problems in the story and the relationship. Edward explains that Bella needs to wait (I admit that I did roll my eyes at the obvious sexual metaphor being presented) because she doesn’t really understand what she wants. His explanation is exactly what I had been saying almost point for point: that Bella doesn’t really grasp the blood lust, that the Cullens are unique and that those monsters she saw in Italy are the norm, that she’ll miss dreaming and sleep. Finally and most surprisingly he even brings up the notion of death, and, “Think about it Bella, everything you know will all pass away. The forest may win or the forest may fail but if you get attached to any of it your life will be full of sadness. Think about what those Italian vampires have seen, the rise and fall of Rome, the rise and fall of the Vikings, the Arab conquests, WWI, WWII. Their lives are full of death, they will live until the age of Chthulu’s return, their lives are full of death, as is mine. For selfish reasons, I can’t doom you to this.

The last sentence is a little clunky but if I understand it right, he’s saying that he can’t turn her simply because he’ll miss her. Huh!? That’s actually…sweet. It’s true as well, she doesn’t get it–but I didn’t think he did either. All of the talk used to center on souls and other metaphysically un-proven principles. Alright, I know what you are thinking, and it probably centers around some broken clock analogy. But then it gets weirder: “You’re right.”

Bella, gets it? Miss too cool for school, gets it. You may be thinking, well she’s just listening to Edward like a good little subservient, but that’s not it, and this time it’s worth quoting in full, “You’re absolutely right,’ I paused and looked at him for once seeing not some marble statue but a person. Someone that I cared about…or did I? Before him, my life was bleak I hadn’t any real friends or much of a social life. But ever since I got here it was almost like I was seeking the same thing. Maybe it was the familiarity with being an outsider that led me to seek something that I thought was too good for me. But now I didn’t need that. Perhaps it was the near death experience that pierced the veil of ignorance that I had been living underneath, but now I didn’t think I needed him, I was sure that I didn’t even want him anymore. He had broken up with me to protect me!? It didn’t make sense anymore, nothing about him made sense. I didn’t love him, that’s the true verdict–it was just infatuation.
-“I’m going back. Don’t follow me, I’ll call you tomorrow.”

Did she just dump him? I mean, I get why, it makes sense almost too much sense for this character. I can’t wait for the next chapter.

hee hee hee

Exodus (The New Moon Walkthrough Ch. 22)

March 7, 2012 Leave a comment

We’re back…unfortunately.

Recapping from last week’s summary: Bella, Alice, and Edward are walking out of the castle de vampire in the town of Volterra. Well not really, they’re walking out of the inner sanctum and back in to the real world where the building they were in transforms from the gray rock of a dungeon and into an ornate Renaissance mansion (or bank, or church, it’s never really explained what kind of building this is supposed to be). No matter what it is they have to wait in the lobby until the sun goes down. The receptionist is there which elicits some awkwardness for some reason. It’s kind of strange to me that there isn’t a special room that they can wait in, but given the fact that reflected light seems to have no effect on the sparkling I guess it really doesn’t matter. I don’t know, but after a few hours it just seems like they would have been better off in the dungeon, for reasons that will be clear in a few pages.

How is Bella? We’ll she’s hysterical. Although it’s unclear why she is so. One might say that she’s freaking out for having escaped so close her own death, but…that doesn’t work given her history in this novel and the last. Sure she was freaked out when she thought the wolves were going to eat her in the woods, but one good night sleep (that she had no trouble getting) and it was all in the past. She also approached the existence of werewolves with the stoic demeanor of the average person finding a five dollar bill in a jacket. Now, she’s hysterical? Bella, please. Nope, the only reason she’s like this is so that Edward can hold and comfort her. Is there a term for a condition wherein a person gets weaker around another?

How bad is she? Well she keeps hearing a rumbling noise that she can’t pinpoint, “The ripping sound was the sobs coming from my chest.”

Unless a small insect-like creature is going to burst through her rib cage I don’t see how this is realistic. I have a three year old daughter and even at her utmost hysterics (because we won’t play Mario Kart) she has never made a “ripping sound” when sobbing. I get that Myer wants us to believe how dangerous the situation was, but I just can’t buy it. It’s utterly inconsistent with her character thus far, but more importantly it’s utterly inconsistent with the very idea of the character even though that idea is never communicated through the writing. I mean, it is but it isn’t. We now how Bella perceives herself, but that perception is not reflective of the reality of her.

After being calmed down with some chaste kisses on the forehead Bella notices the human receptionist. The existence of the woman confuses her because apparently humans hanging around with vampires is wrong despite the fact that she is literally doing the same thing right now in the lobby. Bella wants to know if the receptionist is aware of what was going on downstairs, Edward answers that she does, but she’s hoping that after a couple of years of working for them she will be turned. Pretty obvious if you ask me. Bella doesn’t think so:

How can she want that?’ I whispered more to myself than really looking for an answer.”

Really Bella!? Because every time the subject comes up you are practically on your knees asking for it. What should be holding her back? She knows their entire world, which, comparatively is more than you know. All Bella knows is the vampire life a bunch of vegan hipsters live in Washington. This receptionist though knows the entire hierarchy, all of the laws, who is in charge, and more importantly how they eat. Bella is rattled about the dining, but she forgets what Gianna, the receptionist, knows; the one’s downstairs eating up a group of sex crazed tourists: they’re the normal vampires.

Alice said it herself last book, the vampires are over evolved predators. They have specific bodily functions designed to capture and kill their prey–the attractiveness, the teeth, the speed, the strength, etc. If we buy into the myriad extra powers they have they are purposely designed to capture and kill humans. The Cullens are just the vegans of the vampire world–strange, annoying, pretentious, smug–the reason human beings have canine teeth is to rip meat. Now if the vegan wants to deny their nature and not eat meat, that’s their choice–but they have to recognize that it isn’t the normal choice. Just like a vampire who won’t eat humans.

Bella still being worried about the future looks to Alice for guidance, Alice replies that she will see Jasper in 24 hours. Bella is relieved, “Lucky Alice, she could trust her future.”

Actually no she can’t considering that she’s been wrong on important occasions. More importantly is that this is one of those lines that sounds clever when first read but upon repeated readings gets worse and worse, like “it is what it is.” Yeah that sounded good when I first heard it back in 1995 in “Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead” but now when someone says it to me it takes all the self restraint in the world for me not scream back, “OF COURSE IT IS! WHAT ELSE THE FUCK COULD IT BE!?*”

Gianna tells them that sun has set and they can leave now. For this Alice shoots her a dark look (get it?), but I don’t understand why. It would be like yelling at the jail guard who is checking you out of prison having your death sentence commuted. Sure you may not like the person but what happened to civility?

Then there is the escape from Volterra. I say escape, as the chapter is titled “Flight,” but it’s misnamed. Getting to Volterra was a matter of urgency, getting from…is not. For instance, Alice steals a car. Why? Can’t she just rent one? Or can they take a bus, or anything other than drawing attention to themselves. Why didn’t the Volturri give them a vehicle? They travel from Volterra to Florence, and then hop a plane from Florence to Rome, and then from Rome back to the states.

There’s an extra step in there: why didn’t they just fly out from Florence to the US? Sure, neither airport in Firenze is an international but since they flew in from the US and landed in Florence we’ve already decided that geography isn’t that important. How did they get tickets? They were in such a hurry that they had to steal the car, but they couldn’t have stolen a plane. My favorite part is that in order to make the international flight, they have to go through customs, but they arrive at the airport in a stolen car? I hope, just hope, they paid in cash as well.

The transition from Italy to the US, is over. The Cullen family is waiting for them at the airport and Rosalie has to apologize to Bella. Why? Who cares. She’s not an important character thus far, and the only reason we have for not liking her is that again, we’ve been told to not like her because she doesn’t like Bella. I’m over it.

There’s a weird conversation between Edward and Esme, in which Edward refers to her as “mom.” I bring it up because I wonder if we are supposed to forget that Esme really isn’t Edward’s mom, but rather the girl Carlisle tried to set Edward up with but it didn’t work out so Carlisle got her as a consolation prize. It was a nice touch in the last book that made Esme not Edward’s actual mother, but we must have consistency. They are just pretending to be a standard family but they aren’t that really.

Edward brings Bella home to Charlie, where he is not greeted with handcuffs or a hail of gunfire. Remember as far as Charlie knows his daughter just up and disappeared. She never called, she didn’t leave a note. She asked Jake to do so but he took off before Alice and Bella did, so that didn’t work out. Charlie is entirely justified in being angry, the only fault he has is that he’s not angry enough. he should be tossing Edward on the ground restraining himself only with thoughts of his pledge to uphold the law. Still, if my daughter was kidnapped and dragged to Italy (this would be a legitimate thought in his head) to meet her exboyfriend and a week later they returned with her unconscious, he’d find out what the barrel of my Glock tasted like. The better move would have been to have Carlisle drop her off and explain things, not the incendiary move they decide upon. These vampires never really think things through.

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*Although being a Philosophy Grad Student, phrases like that actually come up in class (Metaphysics mostly) that don’t mean the same platitude. Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish.

About those last five pages…(New Moon Ch. 21.2)

February 28, 2012 Leave a comment

Two weeks ago (I’ve been bad at this) I concluded by complaining that as chapter 21 ended, we still had five more pages to go. Then I misplaced my book, I don’t know where it went but I assume that it has something to do with my daughter (you think I do this for myself?), she tends to hide things on me. Three year olds are like that. This week I knew that i needed to write something, anything really that was new in order to hang on to the relatively few readers that I have. Every week I re-read the previous post in order to get my bearing and re-establish the horrible memories that my academic brain had blocked out the week before.

Then I read this line from last post, “ they walk by Heidi and some other people that are going to stand trial. It’s a useless detail, utterly useless because we don’t need to know who they are, nor get hinted at as to their fate. I’m willing to bet that we don’t even need to know who Heidi is either.

Re-reading that line, and then checking the blog of the other person that also subjects themselves to this horrible horrible adventure i realized something: this is a lot more insidious than it sounds. Bella makes a point about Heidi being dressed revealingly, and that she’s leading a crowd of people, a crowd so large that Bella had to press against the wall to let them pass.* They aren’t in chains, they aren’t in shackles, in fact they are being led by her so as far as we know they are coming of their own volition. By the time Bella and company get down the hall the screaming starts.

Ok, so I understood that my comment last week that they were going to be tried for some crime against vampiredom, but given the time that it took for them to get into the room and the time the screaming started (almost zero) I have to amend that statement. They aren’t vampires, they are food. Bella doesn’t register any kind of moral objection? Fine. I’ll accept that because she was just almost killed and I hear that it can be pretty traumatic itself.

What I want to be concerned with is what those people thought they were going to do? I won’t get into my fellow blogger’s complaint that those people are going to go missing. That’s probably why they were lured in during a tourist event. No one in that small town is going to miss tourists, if in fact anyone noticed that they were gone. They were being lured by a scantily clad extremely beautiful woman (it’s not that specific but given the gushing descriptions that Meyer has attributed to all  the vampires in this novel I think it is safe to assume) through a sewer and then a large stone hallway I think they thought they were headed to an orgy.

How else could she do it? If a beautiful woman tells you to she wants to invite you to a party you might go. When she gets another person, you might be done, by the fifth person if you aren’t getting skittish it means you are either oblivious or into it. What else could she have promised them? Why else would she need the tantalizing gear? Remember, these are the good guys, the bad guy is still in the woods of North Eastern Washington State.

I just needed to be clear. If I do the next book, I’m counting the accidental porn.

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*I apologize for the lack of quotations but, again, I can’t find the book.

Pornography (New Moon Ch. 21)

February 16, 2012 Leave a comment

Brendan Gill, a writer for the New Yorker once defined pornography as being a film in which you notice that the characters spend more time going through doors, getting in and out of cars, in other words–transitioning from one location to another then doing anything else.* While this sort of definition leaves out the more visceral substance of pornography it makes sense. The characters, aren’t really characters at all, they are place holders for the action. There is no real plot development, no character growth, nothing that we could say that we learned–perhaps other than the bill for the cable guy is apparently open to interpretation. By Gill’s definition we might actually be able to say that Twilight is pornography.

No it’s not porn porn, but it’s a type of porn. It’s certainly fantasy fulfillment for a certain segment of the population. I would be open to debate on this topic because like the characters in actual porn, there is no development. The plot is merely a vehicle for certain situations to develop, and if I read this book to myself while someone plays bass in the background the similarities really work in my favor. We have had one character, pining for another, throw herself into the arms of a third, all the while ignoring any facet of common sense, and who (as Gill points out) constantly changes scenery. In fact the first four pages of this chapter detail a walk through two hallways, a couple of doors; to which even Bella remarks as to the endlessness of it. Which is pretty bad considering that Bella is the stand in for the author. When even the creator is sick of something in their world one has to wonder why it’s there in the first place.**

The stone antechamber was not large. It opened quickly into a brighter, cavernous room…”

I haven’t pointed a good thing in a while, but I will say this: Meyer has used the term “ante” in “antechamber” more correct than a lot of bloggers I have read. “Ante” means “before” or “pre” not “against.”

Once everyone has been collected, there is going to be a meeting of sorts. The vampire herald, Jane, enters in the room and is greeted by the chief (we assume, at this point we haven’t learned who he is), “He drifted forward, and the movement flowed with such surreal grace that I gawked…”

And I was just done complimenting her too, “surreal” is a synonym for bizarre. It doesn’t mean unbelievable, or incredible, it means strange to the point of absurdity, irrational–not anything like the way it’s being used here.

The chief, Aro (seriously), is happy not only to see Jane ok, but also to see Bella, Edward, and Alice all alive and ok. He’s happy, a little too happy but I guess this is an attempt to portray him as being eccentric. He congratulates himself on not killing Edward yesterday, chides Edward for wanting such, and expresses marvel at Alice’s talent.

It seems that Aro’s mutant power…I mean vampire power, is that he can hear thoughts as well. Only as long as he is touching the person in question. This limitation is buttressed by the fact that while Edward can only receive current thoughts, Aro downloads the entire brain. After a bit Aro’s brothers come in, Caius and Marcus and instead of thinking that everything is wonderful they are bored. This is nice.

What often gets missed in tales of the deathless,*** is the immense amount of time they actually have. They don’t just view the future as being a long time that they are going to live, they view their life as going through the rest of time…i.e. all of it. The alternate ending to the movie “Death Becomes Her,” handled it well as the two women who had gained eternal life began to become bored. There was nothing they could do, furthermore they were already shallow superficial women to begin with, so if these vampires are really older than the Roman civilization I somehow doubt they give one fuck about whether or not a human and childish vampire were alive. This bores me and i only have sixty or seventy more years ahead of me.

Aro’s mutant, er vampire power does save us from having to read a recap though, “But he (Marcus) just touched Aro’s palm briefly and then dropped his hand to his side. Aro raised one black brow.”

Aro has the story, somehow. Shouldn’t he have touched Bella, Alice, and Edward to get the rest of the story on this one? What the hell does his brother know? That answer is as ridiculous as the situation itself. Marcus, the one that touched, Aro can telepathically determine relationships. That’s it, he’s surprised that it’s so intense between Edward and Bella but that’s all of the information the can possibly give to Aro.

They segue into a discussion about Bella, of course. Bella is immune to Edward’s telepathy so Aro wants to know if she’s immune to him. Fair enough, it turns out that she is. Then it’s Jane’s turn. Jane has a power that we don’t know about, but apparently it’s enough to turn Edward feral. Angry he is, much clouded are his thoughts as he launches himself at Jane–but is cut down on the floor sniveling. Jane’s power stopped him but it cannot affect Bella. The conclusion is that Bella is immune to vampire powers.

Except that she’s not. Alice can see her future, not just the general future but specific things. She saw Bella jump (or, sigh, fall) further is that Marcus can perceive her emotions as well. This conclusion means that either Aro is an idiot or the plot is literally forgetting what just happened. Either is possible.

It seems that one of Aro’s brothers is actually the reasonable one though, Caius reminds Aro that their law still claims them. We don’t know if he means all three or just Bella and Edward but the law is the law. What’s at stake is that Bella is a human, she’s seen too much, and she’s not food. It’s a security issue. Edward gots to get got as well because he won’t leave Bella to die nor will he turn her. Aro asks him if he will eventually turn her and Edward locks up.

Bella pleads but since Edward knows best he won’t answer. How to resolve this: cleverly I might add. Alice, who has previously expressed impatience at her brother’s decision to not be locked down for eternity settles it. She walks over and places her hand in Aro’s sharing with him the future she has seen. Aro is delighted, “To see the things you’ve seen-especially the ones that haven’t happened yet!’ he shook his head in wonder.
—But that will,’ she (
Alice) reminded him, voice calm.
Yes, yes, it’s quite determined. Certainly there’s no problem.”

Very well done. It really works because given Aro’s disposition we really can’t know what she let him see. I’ve the feeling that he would be as delighted no matter what.

Too bad we have five more pages of crap before the chapter ends. They don’t merely leave, they walk by Heidi and some other people that are going to stand trial. It’s a useless detail, utterly useless because we don’t need to know who they are, nor get hinted at as to their fate. I’m willing to bet that we don’t even need to know who Heidi is either. Yet they finally leave the underworld. Hopefully for less door opening and closing.
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*In the interest of academic honesty, I have no idea where he said it. I know the quote from Roger Ebert’s review of the first Underworld movie. 

**Right god?

***Because immortal doesn’t mean the same thing. Vampires were still born after all.