NRA: Narrative technology

Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist, pp. 35-48

The Tribulation Force, like every band of heroes, needs a tech whiz.

That stock character is familiar because he or she brings a vital skill set — vital both for the team and for the writer. Somebody needs to be able to provide the know-how that can carry the team past any technological obstacle or carry the writer past any awkward gap in the plot. Every team needs someone who can step up and reverse the tachyon pulse, hack into the database, or MacGyver together the tracking device that leads the hero to the villain’s lair.

“What do they have,” Buck Williams asked, “built-in satellite dishes?”

That’s true even here in the alternate universe of technology of the Left Behind series. Despite these books’ “not-so-distant future” setting, the authors struggle to incorporate even the technology that already existed at a popular consumer level when these books were written (this one in 1997). That’s partly because Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins seem a bit technologically backwards, but it’s also because their story and their setting derives so much from the mythology created by Hal Lindsey and other popular “Bible prophecy” writers of the 1970s and 1980s. Thus, for example, the Web doesn’t matter much in this world because, even by 1997, it didn’t matter much to LaHaye and Jenkins, and also because they were cribbing so much from The Late Great Planet Earth, which was written before the Web existed.

There’s also the problem of these authors’ general habit of mind when it comes to thinking about the future. Science fiction writers can project or imagine technological and cultural developments to envision future worlds. But if you asked Tim LaHaye about the world of the future, all he could tell you is there won’t be one.

We thus encounter weirdly anachronistic and ineffective passages of tech-ish stuff that all tends to involve 1980s-style technology like printers and phone systems. Even more glaring are the constant reminders of the absence of 1990s technology in these books — whether that’s Global Weekly’s print-only publishing platforms or the way Bruce’s “struggles” with the temptation of pornography involved print-edition magazines on physical newsstands.

Here in the third book, Jenkins makes a bid for a technological upgrade. It arrives in the person of Donny Moore. We first meet him, of course, on the telephone:

“Donny,” Buck said. “I need your advice, and I need it right away.”

“Mr. Williams, sir,” came Donny’s characteristic staccato delivery, “advice is my middle name. And as you know, I work at home, so I can come to you or you can come to me and we can talk whenever you want.”

I tried, and mostly failed, to read that with a “staccato delivery.” And then I began to fear that this was intended as some kind of awkward ethnic cue about the character. And that, in turn, led me to fear that the disparity between “Donny” and “Mr. Williams, sir” might be another, even more awkward such cue. Let’s hope not.

Maybe Donny just calls Buck “Mr. Williams, sir” because he’s really young. Or maybe everyone at New Hope calls Buck “Mr. Williams,” just as they all seem required to address Rayford as “Captain Steele.”

Donny, it turns out, is the church’s tech guy. In this series, of course, that doesn’t primarily mean computers, but telephones. How else would we expect Jerry Jenkins to establish Donny’s tech-whiz credentials?

“I’ll be right over, Mr. Williams, but could you tell me something first? Did Loretta have the phones off the hook there for a while?”

“Yes, I believe she did. She didn’t have answers for people who were calling about Pastor Bruce. With nothing to tell people, she just turned off the phones.”

“That’s a relief,” Donny said. “I just got her set up with a new system a few weeks ago, so I hope nothing was wrong.”

This is made more explicit several pages later:

Donny Moore proved more of a talker than Buck appreciated, but he decided feigning interest was a small price for the man’s expertise. “So, you’re a phone systems guy, but you sell computers –”

“On the side, right, yes sir. Just about double my income that way. Got a trunk full of catalogs, you know.”

“I’d like to see those,” Buck said.

Donny grinned. “I thought you might.”

I should be used to this by now, but it’s still always startling to see our heroes act like such pricks without the authors even realizing they’re being pricks. Here we’re told that Buck is a patronizing jerk, “feigning interest” in this guy just so he can use him for what he needs, but this is presented as though it’s something admirable — evidence that Buck is a take-charge, no-nonsense guy.

I’m thus sort of pleased to imagine that what we’re seeing here is also a glimpse of how Jenkins himself purchased his own computer back in 1997 — from a catalog pulled out of the trunk of some fast-talking guy’s car. I’d like to think the guy milked him for every penny.

Donny seems more hustler than hacker here, displaying more sales-savvy than tech-savvy.

“Excuse me a moment, Donny,” Buck said. “Did you hear that printer quit?”

“I sure did. It just stopped now. It’s either out of paper, out of ink, or done with whatever it was doing. I sold that machine to Bruce, you know. Top of the line. Prints regular paper, continuous feed — whatever you need.”

And yes, that did just happen. In the middle of the scene in which Jenkins is trying to introduce his idea of high-tech wizardry, he pauses to tell us that our heroes have succeeded in printing out the contents of Bruce’s hard drive because they think that reproducing a 5,000-page hard copy is the best, fastest and easiest way to disseminate that information as widely as possible. In 1997.

“When’s Bruce gonna be back here?” Buck heard Donny ask from the other room.

Buck tells him the sad news, and Donny is heartbroken.

It’s hard not to read the page that follows, in which Buck tries to comfort him, without suspecting that Buck is merely feigning compassion. That suspicion is deepened when Buck seems to pivot into exploiting Donny’s grief in order to haggle down the “price for the man’s expertise”:

“Donny,” Buck said gravely, “you have an opportunity here to do something for God, and it’s the greatest memorial tribute you could ever give to Bruce Barnes. … Whatever profit you build in or don’t build in is up to you. I’m just telling you that I need five of the absolute best, top-of-the-line computers …”

And here again we see that Donny is not the tech whiz the Tribulation Force needs. He’s just a salesman. It’s as though instead of going to Q for his equipment, James Bond went to some guy who knows Q and says he can maybe buy some stuff from him at a competitive price.

In any case, Donny Moore shouldn’t be in this story at all. The technological acumen — or tech-purchasing acumen — he brings should have been supplied by someone else, by someone already part of the team.

This role should have gone to Chloe.

Mrs. Williams needs to bring something to the table other than her service as designated damsel in distress. And she was a Stanford student, after all, so it wouldn’t have been a stretch to have written in some old school connections who could have hooked Buck up with all the high-powered clandestine computers he wants.

Chloe really ought to have evolved into a super-hacker by now. The Tribulation Force desperately needs a good hacker, and Chloe needs some way to contribute, and her back-story ought to more than qualify her for the role.

But that didn’t happen. The possibility probably did not even occur to the authors. First because Chloe is a woman. And second because the authors don’t seem to know anything at all about computers or the Internet. Yes, this book was written in 1997, but I think LaHaye and Jenkins missed War Games (1983) and Max Headroom (1985) and Sneakers (1992) and Hackers and The Net (both 1995). So even though the young female super-hacker was already a cliché, I doubt L&J had any clue that such a character was possible.

Buck goes on to list what he needs in his five computers:

“… small and compact as they can be, but with as much power and memory and speed and communications abilities as you can wire into them. … I want a computer with virtually no limitations. I want to be able to take it anywhere, keep it reasonably concealed, store everything I want on it, and most of all, be able to connect with anyone anywhere without the transmission being traced.”

“Well, sir, I can put together something for you like those computers that scientists use in the jungle or in the desert when there’s no place to plug in or hook up to.”

“Yeah,” Buck said. “Some of our reporters use those in remote areas. What do they have, built-in satellite dishes?”

Donny explains that the technical term is “something like that.” And then he delights Buck with the prospect of another feature he can provide with these computers:

“Video conferencing.”

“You mean I can see the person I’m talking to while I’m talking to him?”

“Yes, if he has the same technology on his machine.”

And that right there is the pay-off — the reason for this whole interlude with Donny Moore. It’s not that Buck Williams really needs computers, but that Jerry Jenkins really wants his characters to have video-phones.

It will be several chapters before Buck actually receives his new computers, but even then it seems that these devices are much more for Jenkins’ use than for his. They serve the narrative convenience of the writer more than any needs of his characters or his plot.

That’s even clearer in the opening pages of the next chapter, in which we return to Rayford Steele. He’s touring the shiny new “Condor 216” with its designer, his former boss, Earl Halliday.

“I put something in here just for you,” Earl tells him:

“Just look at this,” Earl said. He pointed to the button that allowed the captain to speak to the passengers.

“Captain’s intercom,” Rayford said. “So what?”

“Reach under the seat with your left hand and run your fingers along the side edge of the bottom of your chair,” Earl said.

“I feel a button.”

That button, as Earl then demonstrates, is for a super-secret eavesdropping device he super-secretly installed throughout the plane. Every speaker on the plane, he says, “is also a transmitter. … I wired it in such a way that it’s undetectable.”

So with the press of a secret button, Rayford will now be able to eavesdrop on every word Nicolae Carpathia says on the airplane. More importantly, Jerry Jenkins will now be able to narrate every word Carpathia says on the plane, even when Rayford is not in the room.

This was Earl’s job in this book, just as it was Donny’s job to supply Buck and his friends with video-phones. They existed, as characters, simply to supply the pretext for a couple of narrative conveniences.

Having finished those appointed tasks, they will both, in short order, be killed off. Jenkins, apparently, was only feigning interest in Earl and Donny because that was the price he had to pay for their expertise.

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  • aunursa

    According to the Left Behind Wiki site, Donny Moore is Caucasian.  And that makes sense, ’cause Jenkins identifies the race/ethnicity of every non-Caucasian non-American character upon the character’s first appearance … or shortly thereafter.

  • Jen K

    Jenkins identifies the race/ethnicity of every non-Caucasian
    non-American character upon the character’s first appearance … or
    shortly thereafter.

    Of course he does! That’s how you know how cosmopolitan he is!

  • ohiolibrarian

     Isn’t this pretty much what Woody Allen did in What’s Up, Tiger Lily?. Well, they were not all double entendres.

  • Jenny Islander

    Yeah, what happened to Former Conservative?  I stopped by and the “Blog Deleted” screen was up.  Okay, glitches happen all the time–but it’s been a few days and it’s still up.  You OK out there, FC?

  • Beroli

    He’s chosen to retire from blogging, but is apparently fine.

  • arcseconds

  • Tybult

    How did I guess that the comments were going to run to five pages about obsolete printers and shitty operating systems?
    Here’s my feeling:
    Not every book has to be a Tom Clancy doorstop techno thriller, with every gadget researched down to the wires.
    It depends on what the story is about – if it’s about the Apocalypse, make sure you get Israel right (which they didn’t). Don’t obsess over the technology (which they do).
    If I were writing this story and the state of technology was a concern, but I didn’t want to waste time inventing new coding languages, I’d say this:
    The Rapture caused a period of intense chaos. The power grid went down, satellites drifted out of orbit, networks fell apart,
    Carpathia’s regime restored order, and along with it, a new communications system. But Carpathia being a dictator, he doesn’t really want cutting edge communications in the hands of the proles, so he keeps things at a 1980s level (or whatever is easiest to maintain).
    Bam. Done. Now I can move on to the important stuff in the story.
    And I’m seeing a lot of Ferris Bueller hate around here, to which I say: 
    Ferris Bueller is an awesome movie about an awesome kid having an awesome adventure. That is all.

    (ETA to add manual paragraph breaks, because Disqus is a rampant asshole who insists upon rendering everything I type into unreadable mush.)

  • GeniusLemur

    ” Ferris Bueller is an awesome movie about an awesome kid having an awesome adventure.”

    Also, Buck Williams is the Greatest Investigative Report in the World, and Rayford Steele is a virtuous, admirable man.

  • Tybult

    Oh that’s fine! That’s just fine!
    I will just place “Ferris Bueller” right next to David Lynch’s “Dune” on my “Unappreciated Classics” shelf, and the rest of you Philistines can keep your Philistine eyes off of it!

  • Dave

     I kind of liked Lynch’s “Dune”.
    Actually, I kind of liked it twice… I saw it before I read the books, and then afterwards. Those are two very different movies.

  • Tybult

    I threw that in there because I was getting some shit from friends for liking it.

    I realized a few years back that “Dune” was to my family what the Christmas story is* to Christian families. I was watching it with my parents by early grade school, before I really understood how fucking weird of a movie it is.

    *”And lo! On the Fifth Day, Paul Atreides drank the Water of Life, and so the Kwisatz Haderach was born unto us! All praise Shai Hulud!”

  • PepperjackCandy

     At first I thought you meant A Christmas Story and I nearly got started on an “OMG.  90-some minutes of family dysfunction disguised as humor” rant.

    Then I realized that you meant “Behold! I bring you good tidings of great joy,” etc., and I heaved a sigh of relief.

  • Lori

    A Christmas Story makes you rant because of the family dysfunction? Is your family markedly less dysfunctional than Ralphie”s? I ask because mine isn’t and humor is pretty much the way I deal with it. 

  • Invisible Neutrino

    I like that movie. :) The way Narrator!Ralph explains stuff about what Kid!Ralph was doing was a really nice device. :)

  • PepperjackCandy

    My family of origin probably had a higher-than-average level of dysfunction.  I am trying to make less dysfunctional choices with my own family.

    And as much as I love my own family of origin, watching a different family’s dysfunction and acting like it’s a happy situation (which everyone I know who likes that movie seems to think it is) is torture to me.

  • Lori

    Oh. My family’s level of dysfunction is about the same as Ralphie’s (although it takes different forms), so it strikes me as about average and yeah,  basically happy*. My parents really don’t get it, but my sister & I both laugh every time.

    Perspective really is everything. I can see how if one grew up with a yeller or an actual abuser some things with the dad might not seem so amusing.

  • Tricksterson

    That family wasn’t dysfunctional, merely quirky.  The father wasn’t an alchoholic, the mother didn’t brutalize her children and there wasn’t a manipulative  crypto-Nazi grandmother in residence.

  • Tybult

    Well, Dune’s got some pretty severe family dysfunction too, but no one to my knowledge has ever accused it of being a comedy.

  • YetAnotherKevin

     I know what you mean… sort of.  I’ve seen the the movie multiple times, and enjoyed the humor / nostalgia angle every time.  Except for once.  I don’t know what it was, but that one time I found the movie bleak and depressing.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    *small voice*

    As a teenager at the time Ferris Bueller came out, his sister was kindasortahot and my eyes perhaps lingered a bit on the screen.


    In the end, FB wasn’t that memorable, and admittedly in retrospect he was being kind of a bit of a smart aleck. That voice disguiser was genius, though. :P

    And yes, I’m back from Chicago.

  • ohiolibrarian

    Ferris is like Coyote … like a jester … someone who messes with the established order, and does it joyfully. That’s the point.

    Let’s see, his sister and the principal made excessive efforts to catch him breaking “the rules”. As with any good trickster, their efforts led to their own discomforture.

    “the  rulerules rules

  • SisterCoyote

     I dunno. Coyote gets slammed as often as he gets away, and he’s usually scraping through by the skin of his teeth either way.

    Ferris lacked the ‘fighting the odds’ vibe that I always get from Coyote stories. Coyote walks the line between skulking and swaggering; Ferris only swaggers. It’s… grating.

  • ohiolibrarian

    I saw him as more playful than swaggering. If there was a vibe, I thought it was “a little chaos is good for the soul.”

  • Tonio

    That fits how I saw the character. I read recently that the real-life inspiration for Ferris is now a Republican. I got the sense that he views this as simply an extension of shaking up things, as if the establishment was Democratic. The same mentality as the old Sacred Cow Burgers site.

  • ohiolibrarian

    Hmmm… I thought it was a reaction to the staid rightwing turn of the Reagan era.

  • Tonio

    You mean the Ferris character was a reaction? From my reading of the article, the writer understandably thought it was ironic that the character’s inspiration belonged to the GOP, as if Ferris had aged into Rooney. So why would the inspiration treat liberalism as Rooneyesque? My theory is that this is a variety of anti-intellectualism and political incorrectness. He could be the type who wrongly assumes he’s being scolded for eating meat or not recycling.

  • Brad Ellison

    Coyote’s cunning because if he isn’t, he doesn’t eat, and will likely be eaten.  Same with Anansi, and Br’er Rabbit.  Ferris Bueller’s the beloved son of rich folk, blowing off his education to have a day on the town.  Coyote’s a trickster, but he usually plays with his own hide on the line, while Bueller lets all consequences fall on those around him.

  • Beleester

    The infuriating thing is that there’s nothing but plot device here. It would be easy to make this a worldbuilding moment:

    “Carpathia’s goons can trace any radio transmission, so it’s bounced through multiple relays to keep them from finding you.”

    Or you could generate additional problems with it:

    “The transmitter is limited to five-second bursts to avoid detection. You’ll be on your own most of the time.”

    Or characterize Donny:

    “Moving a million dollars of illegal communication equipment right into Carpathia’s main news bureau? I’d better get hazard pay for this.”

    Really, even a layer of technobabble would have helped. Buck’s specs boil down to “communications issues are solved by magic,” which is perfectly okay if Jenkins doesn’t want to bother with it, but he shouldn’t just come out and say it. Hide it under some descriptions and technobabble.

  • student

    I’ve lived in the Silicon Valley my entire life, and while the libertarianism exists, I’ve personally picked up a far stronger “social responsibility” than “Randian hero” vibe. Not that I have statistics or anything, so this is perhaps not a particularly helpful comment, but so it goes.

  • FearlessSon

    I was born in Redmond, WA, about two blocks from what is now the Microsoft campus, and grew up in Seattle, WA.  Most of my employment has been contracts with various tech companies around the region.  Yeah, we have our share of Randians around here, but I also see a lot of “noblesse oblige” among tech executives, and to a lesser extent among well-compensated industry employees.  Microsoft even has an annual charity drive it does internally where different groups within the company compete to see who can donate the most.  They usually host charity fairs to facilitate this.  The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is one of the big icons of this.  

  • Lori


    I’ve lived in the Silicon Valley my entire life, and while the
    libertarianism exists, I’ve personally picked up a far stronger “social
    responsibility” than “Randian hero” vibe.  

    IME it really depends on who you hang out with. When I lived in the Bay Area my friends and friends of friends were very much on the social responsibility side. My coworkers at Giant Software Company were more of a mixed bag and many of the folks on the tech side of the business leaned heavily toward the Ranian side of things.

  • flat

    Two things about Bueller:

    first if he want to enjoy a day off he could just have done that during the weekend, but that, means he had to wait a few days and if there is one thing he doesn’t have it is impulse control.

    second He lies about everything against anyone if I had him during my school days I would have avoided him like the plague.

    Thrust me his behaviour is cool at tv, but in real life people who first found him cool would if they had any backbone (which Cameron didn’t) start avoiding him.

  • fraser

     He also has really bad taste in girlfriends. Mia Sara is amazingly colorless (though she did make a good crazy in Birds of Prey).

  • Nicolae Carpathia

    Is it just me, or am I actually in this book less than I’m in some of the ones that don’t have my name on the cover?

    Yes, this book was written in 1997, but I think LaHaye and Jenkins missed War Games (1983) and Max Headroom (1985) and Sneakers (1992) and Hackers and The Net (both 1995).

    …and The Dungeonmaster (1984) [some NSFW language in that review].

    And come to think of it, Tron (1982).

  • PJ Evans

    Real Genius also comes to mind.

  • Lori

    I love that movie, quite probably more than it warrants.

  • Jon Maki

    That’s actually on my “Why Don’t I Own This?” movie list that I occasionally mentally compile when I’m reminded of some movie that I love but don’t own.  I then completely forget about the list and never actually take any steps to remove the movie in question from the list…

    When I lived in Tucson and worked a mid-day shift, I had the full HBO/Cinemax package, and there was a period during which Real Genius was playing on at least one of the channels every day, and every day I would watch as much of it as I had time for before work. 

    Every.  Single.  Day.

    So yeah, I probably love the movie more than it warrants as well…

  • Lori

    I would have watched it every day too. It’s on my list of movies I will watch every time I catch them on TV. Doesn’t matter when I saw them last. Doesn’t matter what point the movie is at when I drop in. I see it and I’m in until the end or until some outside circumstance forces me to turn it off.

    It’s been several years since I last saw Real Genius because I don’t own it either (and I also have no idea why not), but I can still quote more of it than I should be able to. I have no idea why movie quotes and song lyrics stick in my brain like glue, but actually useful information just falls right out.

  • Jon Maki

    I’m the same way with some movies.  I actually get annoyed at myself when I sit and watch a movie that’s half over when it’s on TV when it’s a movie I own.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    I have that movie on DVD. I liked it. :)

  • Kadh2000

    Staccato speech is where every syllable is pronounced separately. It’s a speech pattern often associated with Multiple Sclerosis.
    Donny “Dungeon Master” Moore always struck me as a twenty-something who had been a geek all his life, played dungeons and Dragons with his friends.  He’s got big glasses, high-waters, and a plaid shirt with a pocket protector.  He’s a little on the fat side, and his hair and face are somewhat oily-greasy from the pizza and chips diet he’s on.  He lived in his mother’s basement (she must have been a saint) until she was raptured. He has never really noticed the rapture, except that there’s less nagging. So yeah, he knows more about computers than the next guy. He calls Buck “Mr. Williams, sir” because that’s how he was taught to speak to older men by his mother.  

  • Kadh2000

    Oh.  He thinks he sounds like Captain Kirk.  Only he’s so exciteable that he talks much faster.  I should have said “enunciated” above instead of “pronounced”.  I like the description above where someone put a period after each syllable.  No long gaps between syllables: “Hi. Mis. ter. Shat. ner.”  instead of “Hi.  Mis.  ter.  Shat.  ner.”  (hopefully the extra spaces show between the syllables of the second example.

  • FearlessSon

    I have something I wanted to mention that is incidental, but not irrelevant to this blog’s interests or the LB series of posts.  

    Anyone here ever played Dear Esther?  It is a beautiful short little, well, not so much a “game” as a piece of walk-through fiction.  It is haunting, contemplative, and more than a little surreal, and the fine details of the environment and story the player is given change ever so slightly between playthroughs.  Something more of an experiment in interactive fiction, rather than a game.  

    Its developer, thechineseroom, is currently developing two titles.  One is a sequel to Frictional Games’ Amnesia: The Dark Descent and the other is something call Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture.  Kotaku has an article on it here.  It takes place in a small hamlet in rural England, a close-knit community that generally keep to themselves and go about their lives.  A single playthrough gives the player exactly one hour to play, before they are caught up in the Rapture, and given the freedom to do whatever interactions they want to with the world before that happens and they are whisked away forever.  

    Sounds like the thing a lot of people here might find interesting.  

  • mistformsquirrel

    Fascinating. *Spock Eyebrows*


    In seriousness this does interest me… Dear Esther does too actually, I just haven’t been able to break away from World of Tanks enough to play some of my other indie titles, let alone buy more ><;

  • Riastlin Lovecraft

    What if I spend the hour desecrating the church and doing other things to get myself damned?

  • FearlessSon

    What if I spend the hour desecrating the church and doing other things to get myself damned?

    Then try it and find out.  That is kind of the point of the game.  You are not restricted in what you choose to do, and there is no “wrong” way to play it.  Maybe something different will happen when you hour is up?  What will change?  How will the other people there react?  You will not know until you try, and you are free to try whatever you wish.  

    thechineseroom are kind of like surrealist artists of indie games, and they love to construct experimental interactive experiences.  

  • Bificommander

    Wait, wasn’t Earl all gung-ho about the Anti Christ untill he realized he’d know that Rayford would send him in to die? And now we learn that he designed the plane (which he didn’t even expect to fly himself) such that the pilot could listen in to all critical and politically sensitive conversations on the plane? Well, at least we know why he was so certain Nicky was trying to snuff him, and more to the point that Nicky was right about that. Or perhaps this really was installed ‘just for you’, since Earl is Rayford’s friend and he knows how the man can’t get his fully loaded 747 up unless he has some kind of power advantage, and the ability to indiscriminately spy on any of his passengers is sure to get Steele all Steely.

    Side note, did anyone else see the ‘End of Nations’ add in the top right corner on the site? Finally, we get an appropriate add here, as I’d noticed before that the game EoN has a backstory that’s just like Nicolae’s rise of the One World Government in Left Behind, except more detailed and realistic. And if you don’t know what’s funny about that statement, check this trailer which I believe explains  the entire story of EoN:

  • mistformsquirrel

    Huh, I wonder why I haven’t seen that ad here… I was in the EoN beta!  (Turns out not my cup of tea – I wanted to do an all-helicopter air support wing for teams, and it turns out that doesn’t work so hot.)

  • Bificommander

    Oh. That’s a shame. I haven’t played it, but it sounded fun to focus on air units too. Oh well, I’ll be free to play, I can just give it a shot to see how I like it.

  • mistformsquirrel

     Well to be fair, we’re talking closed beta,  by the time it releases it may very well be that my original idea actually works out well and yeah, I recommend just trying it, seeing if you like it or not.  I don’t think it’ll be for me, but I’m a bit more of a grognard than most when it comes to strategy games, so the more typical RTS’ usually don’t do it for me. <– very picky at times.

  • Ruby_Tea

    Dr. Insano’s review of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was the very first thing I ever watched at The Spoony Experiment.

  • Jessica_R

    And the thing is, you don’t have to accurately predict the future to have an effective work of dystopic fiction. I caught A Clockwork Orange at the AFI Silver yesterday and it’s one of those very good films I’m kinda cool with never watching again. 

    It’s look is pure rotted early seventies. We don’t have Milk Plus bars or listen to mini cassettes. And yet there is a bleak, disturbing “the more things change…” vibe to it. We do have a disconnect between young and the old. We do have a culture that offers distracting pleasure and violence in place of fulfillment. And we do favor inhumane, ultimately failing, solutions to crime rather than addressing the base inequalities that breed it. 

    In other words the movie and the novel turn on a keen understanding of human nature. Something that is obviously lacking here. It’s like if Burgess thought Alex was a hero almost. 

  • Tonio

    I’ve never read the novel but movie critic Pauline Kael did, and in her judgment the victimized hero treatment of Alex was the work of Kubrick, not Burgess. 

  • Jessica_R

    I wouldn’t say Kubrick treats him as victimized hero. Victimized yes, but Kubrick is too bleak to have heroes. Film Alex is just another cog in a grimy, hopeless system. 

    This doesn’t excuse his actions at all, but part of the film’s queasy power is in, if not making you have empathy for him, at least not bearing to watch anymore “retribution” being done to him. The film is its own Luovico Technique. 

  • YetAnotherKevin

    “Donny,” Buck said gravely, “you have an opportunity here to do
    something for God, and it’s the greatest memorial tribute you could ever
    give to Bruce Barnes. … Whatever profit you build in or don’t build in
    is up to you. I’m just telling you that I need five of the absolute
    best, top-of-the-line computers …”

    Ow!  My soul!

  • Jamoche

    At one point I knew one Apple ][ floppy worth of Russian – which is a surprisingly large amount.

  • BaseDeltaZero

    I may be misremembering, but the laptop was already more powerful than the Shuttle’s computers. That’s what a few generations of Moore’s law will do.

    Yeah, but the laptop doesn’t have to be able to operate under conditions of ‘regular 5G accelerations, cosmic rays, and, of course, needing to work with no interruptions no matter what’ – plus, all they actually need to do is calculations, you don’t need advanced graphics capabilities or the like.  The Space Shuttle’s computers were built for durability, not performance.

  • PJ Evans

    The Space Shuttle’s computers were built for durability, not performance.

    And they’re 1970s technology, unless upgrades happened. Solid-state, yeah, but from the era of $100 four-function calculators.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    With all the talk about Ferris Bueller, I’m surprised nobody’s mentioned’s insane fan theory that makes the movie even better.

  • Inquisitive Raven

    With all the talk about computers and what was available when the book was written, does anybody besides me remember Bucky boy hacking the Airphone so he could get his email in the first book?

    I have a Twitter account for one reason and one reason only, being able to to get the latest information on the local public transit system. They put only major stuff on the website, so if the route I’m on is detoured due to a car accident or something like that, the only way to find out is via the Twitter feed.