NRA: Can Nicolae handle this job?

Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist, pp. 122-125

I’m losing faith in the Antichrist.

This chart, from the authoritative “Bible prophecy” site tribulationinstitute.com, should be required reading for any would-be Antichrist. Nicolae Carpathia should have this thing memorized.

On paper, Nicolae Carpathia seems qualified, with all the unholy charisma he needs for the job. And here in the third book of the series, he’s finally allayed my earlier fears that he might not be evil enough. The pointless, arbitrary mass-murder of the last couple of chapters has settled that question. The slaughter of millions certainly qualifies as evil.

But the pointless and arbitrary aspect still worries me.

I’ve tried to give Nicolae the benefit of the doubt. He’s stuck with a prophecy check list that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, so it would be unfair to blame him for pursuing the various quirky and irrational goals required by this assigned agenda. To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, you have to Antichrist with the evil schemes you’ve been assigned by prophecy, not with the evil schemes you wish had been prophesied.

The problem, though, is that even given all that, I’m still not confident that Nicolae Carpathia is up to the job. In the remainder of this chapter, we’ll eavesdrop along with Rayford Steele as Nicolae outlines his plans for the seals and trumpets to come and, frankly, I think what we hear is an Antichrist who’s in over his head.

Before Nicolae and his “seven loyal ambassadors” settle in to discuss their future plans, he first has to deal with another situation — one he ought to have foreseen:

The Middle Eastern ambassador was speaking. “Dr. Rosenzweig sends his most heartfelt and loyal greetings to you, Potentate. There is an urgent personal matter he wants me to share with you.”

“Is it confidential?” Carpathia said.

“I don’t believe so, sir. It concerns Rabbi Tsion Ben-Judah.”

“The scholar who has been creating such a furor with his controversial message?”

Jerry Jenkins loves to have this kind of overlap between the Rayford sections and the Buck sections of his story. Since Buck Williams is currently flying to Israel to meet with Ben-Judah, he has the Antichrist council discussing Ben-Judah here as Rayford listens in.

That means this little boilerplate description wasn’t needed here to re-introduce readers to Ben-Judah, but that’s not really the purpose of that little bit there about “the scholar who has been creating such a furor with his controversial message.” Jenkins isn’t describing Ben-Judah there, he’s flattering his audience. He’s not reminding them of who the rabbi is, but of who they get to pretend to be in the fantasy world of this series.

The dangerous and “controversial” message of Ben-Judah, after all, is just mundane Christianity. But in the world of this novel, that’s an exotic and bewildering message, and anyone who believes in it is a heroic rebel and a danger to the powers that be.*

The problem here is that Ben-Judah’s Christian message also seems to be exotic and bewildering to Nicolae himself. That’s troubling. You’re never going to be a very good Antichrist if you haven’t bothered to learn anything about the Christ to which you’re the Anti-.

Know your enemy is good advice. Nicolae Carpathia ought to have the Gospels committed to memory. And he ought to be more intimately and instinctively familiar with those “Bible prophecy” charts than even Bruce Barnes ever was. But as we’ll see here, Nicolae seems lazily ignorant of all of that.

That ignorance raises questions about Nicolae’s strategy — shouldn’t he have a plan to counter the divine plan? And it raises questions about his motive — shouldn’t opposition to the divine plan be what drives him?

“One and the same,” the Middle Eastern ambassador said. “Apparently his wife and two stepchildren have been murdered by zealots, and Dr. Ben-Judah himself is in hiding somewhere.”

Tsion Ben-Judah is Exhibit A in the authors’ defense against the charge that these books are in any way anti-Semitic. One of the main heroes of the series is a Jewish rabbi! And that’s true. Tsion Ben-Judah is Jewish and he is always portrayed in a positive light.

But Tsion Ben-Judah is also a Jewish convert to Christianity whose wife and children were murdered by angry child-killing Jews. And I’m not sure that makes him as much of a shield against the charge of anti-Semitism as the authors seem to think.

“So what does Rosenzweig want from me?”

“He wants you to intercede on Ben-Judah’s behalf.”

“With whom?

“I suppose with the zealots,” the ambassador said, bursting into laughter.

Rayford recognized Carpathia’s laughter as well, and soon the others joined in.

“OK, gentlemen, calm down,” Carpathia said. “Perhaps what I should do is accede to Dr. Rosenzweig’s request and speak directly with the head of the zealot faction. I would give him my full blessing and support and perhaps even supply some technology that would help him find his prey and eliminate him with dispatch.”

We’re not told exactly who this “head of the zealot faction” is, but it seems he’d make a more enthusiastic and capable Antichrist than Nicolae Carpathia does.

Who, exactly, are these “zealots”? Well, they’re Jews. Not real Jews, but the vile caricature of Jewish people derived from centuries of lethal slander. What we have here in this “zealot faction” is Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins’ rendition of the same blood-libel that Christians have used to persecute Jews for centuries. These zealots are Christian-hating Jews, Christ-killing Jews and child-murdering Jews.

LaHaye and Jenkins don’t completely reject this vicious, racist stereotype, they merely qualify it a bit. It’s only a “faction,” they say. Only some Jews are Christ-killing, child-murdering monsters. Most Jews aren’t like that, the authors say. Or, rather, they say that most Jews aren’t quite so “zealous” about it.

And thus, they say, we are not permitted to regard these books as anti-Semitic. If they were anti-Semites, the authors protest, then they would say all Jews were zealously like this, rather than generously insisting that it’s only a fraction and a faction.

This ancient caricature, this hateful projection from Christian bigotry, appears here, as ever, as the enemy of Christ. This shadowy “head of the zealot faction,” in other words, is explicitly an Antichrist figure, a person who is anti-Christ.

This is part of the long, ugly pedigree of the singular, capital-A “Antichrist” figure and it lives on in the fever-dreams of “The Antichrist” in the premillennial dispensationalism of Tim LaHaye. The unmistakably Roman Beast of John’s Apocalypse has, time and again throughout history, been reimagined as a Christ-killing, child-sacrificing, Jewish “zealot.” So it’s not surprising that when this disturbing caricature makes an appearance here in this book in the person of the “head of the zealot faction,” he seems more enthusiastic and more focused on the agenda of “The Antichrist” than Nicolae does himself.

Nicolae himself seems content to take a pass on pursuing Tsion Ben-Judah directly, advising his lieutenant to give Rosenzweig the run-around. “Stall him for a while,” he says, hoping that the “zealots” will take care of things on his behalf. “Tell him that I have chosen to remain neutral on the subject.”

But Carpathia was not neutral. He had just begun to warm to the subject. Rayford heard the squeak of the leather seat and imagined Carpathia leaning forward to speak earnestly to his cadre of international henchmen. “But let me tell you this, gentlemen. A person such as Dr. Ben-Judah is much more dangerous to our cause than an old fool like Rosenzweig. Rosenzweig is a brilliant scientist, but he is not wise in the ways of the world. Ben-Judah is more than a brilliant scholar. He has the ability to sway people, which would not be a bad thing if he served our cause. But he wants to fill his countrymen’s minds with this blather about the Messiah having already returned. How anyone can still insist on taking the Bible literally and interpreting its prophecies in that light is beyond me.”

And that, right there, is why I don’t think Nicolae Carpathia is up to the job of Antichrist.

PMD “Bible prophecy” isn’t really about “taking the Bible literally,” of course, but still, “interpreting its prophecies” is exactly what any semi-competent Antichrist should be doing. Nicolae’s office should look exactly like Ben-Judah’s study, or Bruce Barnes’ old office at New Hope. It should be filled with all of the exact same check lists and charts spelling out exactly what is to happen and when during his reign here in the Great Tribulation.

Nicolae is in a chess match against an all-powerful God. That seems hopeless. And it would surely be hopeless, except for his secret weapon — a detailed, step-by-step account of every move his opponent is going to take. Studying those moves and preparing for what’s to come should be any Antichrist’s No. 1 priority, yet Nicolae seems not to take any of this “Bible prophecy” seriously or to consider it worthy of his attention.

If Nicolae had done his homework, he wouldn’t be surprised or confused by the enthusiastic converts Ben-Judah is winning over:

How anyone can still insist on taking the Bible literally and interpreting its prophecies in that light is beyond me, but tens of thousands of converts and devotees have sprung up in Israel and around the world due to his preaching at Teddy Kollek Stadium and in other huge venues. People will believe anything. And when they do, they are dangerous.

“Believe anything,” just so long as you are passionately sincere and sincerely passionate.

If Nicolae had done the assigned reading, studying his Scofield, Lindsey and LaHaye, then he would recognize Ben-Judah’s “converts and devotees” as the PMD version of the “144,000 sealed” from the book of Revelation — the army of singing, virgin martyrs that “Bible prophecy scholars” say will rise up during the Tribulation. And if Nicolae had studied this ahead of time, he might have put together a plan to deal with them.

But it seems, instead, that the rise of these 144,000 martyrs will be a surprise to him, a surprise for which he is completely unprepared.

I’m starting to lose faith in this Antichrist.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

* This fantasy aspect is rather depressing, if you think about it. Christian readers are being offered a fantasy in which their faith is something vibrant and exciting, and those readers lapped it up — buying millions of copies of these books because they found it so appealing to escape into such a fantasy world. That tells us less about these books than it does about the sorry state of the hum-drum, mundane faith from which so many millions of Christians seem so eager to find an escape.

This same fantasy fuels more than book sales for American Christians. Much of the “culture wars” are a desperate attempt by complacent, comfortable American Christians to recast themselves somehow as people who might yet “create such a furor with their controversial message.” Dimly recognizing that the pampered privilege they enjoy isn’t anything like that, some Christians creatively seek new ways to pretend that it is. “Merry Christmas!” they declare, aggressively, to the Walmart greeter who wished them a happy holiday. Hah! There’s a controversial message that will create quite a furor!

 

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  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    The thing that really should have stopped L&J is that they’re making a rather baldly offensive claim: They’re claiming that Jewish people in general will lose their shit and go wild with axes and chainsaws if a Jewish person proclaims belief in Christianity instead.

    Considering that a far more likely response would be to, depending on religious and cultural custom, do anything from rolling eyes to a formalized mourning ritual, it’s obvious L&J haven’t done their research except to use Jewish people as props in their PMD “futuristic tale”.

     

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Jenkins and LaHaye are incompetent and surrounded by other incompetents. Of course they can’t write a competent Antichrist. Their world is one in which rich straight white males are elevated above everyone else merely for existing. It’s one price of an unjust society: people in charge who don’t deserve to be, because they get so many points for merely existing.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/WingedWyrm Charles Scott

    For all the talk of how Nicolae should know the prophecies so he can know, in advance, the moves of his opponent.  I think that he should know, in advance, the moves of himself.

    The best way to oppose God would be to find that first move, the one where he goes out, after the Rapture, to start to swaying people, and generally fitting the script for every sudden convert to Christianity, and not do that.

    This is something I’ve said before in comment to one of the “satannazi” articles.  But, wouldn’t Satan and Son(TM) defeat God handily by, instead, staying home and making some lovely floral print cozies?

    If they simply must do something, they can go around, helping peope who were injured in rapture-caused accidents.  Heck, they could get an early start by having everybody who would be in some kind of important position (surgeons in surgery, airline pilots, anybody who would be driving) to stay home.  Just before the Rapture happens, some news reporter comes on the screen to say “A sudden, severe flu has swept through the nation, perhaps the world, leaving all Real True Christians bedridden.  We know they’re the Real True Christians because they’ve all checked off the appropriate political positions.  We’re talking to one right now and… No, that is not a trick!  He just dissappeared!  His clothes are still here, but he’s dissappeared!”  Boom!  The Antichrist and the Devil now have defeated God by showing themselves to be of superior compassion.  How evil!

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    The best way to oppose God would be to find that first move, the one where he goes out, after the Rapture, to start to swaying people, and generally fitting the script for every sudden convert to Christianity, and not do that.

    That’s logical for a self centered Satan who is content with his lot in life, but if Satan wants to actually strike at God then one has to consider that God is content to sit out of range in Heaven and pummel the Earth with artillery fire.  The only way to get God within striking distance is to play along until the last battle (and then break out the rail cannons or something.)

    So if Satan isn’t content with his lot in life, or Satan has any compassion for the kidnapped children of Earth, Satan is sort of forced to go through the motions just to get God to come in close enough to do anything with God.

    And that assumes you’re with L&J on God doing all the stuff because God wants to, not because God is less than all powerful (see, for example, the theory put forward by one of my characters here (skip to the section called “Theology”)) which might indicate that God is weaker at the moment.

    This is something I’ve said before in comment to one of the “satannazi” articles.  But, wouldn’t Satan and Son(TM) defeat God handily by, instead, staying home and making some lovely floral print cozies?

    That’s more or less the premise behind the lack of apocalypse in the story I have yet to write called, “The Devil’s Coat,” the apocalypse can’t happen until Hell’s side does some basic prep work.  And they can’t decide, “No, we’re not going to do it,” but they can keep on putting it off.

    If they simply must do something, they can go around, helping people who were injured in rapture-caused accidents.

    And that’s the Nick Andes way.  And why, hopefully, Nick Andes makes for a more compelling Antichrist than Nicolae Carpathia.

  • http://www.facebook.com/WingedWyrm Charles Scott

    It’s arguable that the devil would, if he truly wishes to defeat God, would have to do anything at all.  After all, all these PMD prophecies rely upon Satan to act according to script.

    All Lucifer would really have to do is not provide God with the necessary parts of the script.

    That may not require Lucifer to be content with his situation.  It just requires Lucifer to know that the thing he could do that would ensure his own defeat would be to do exactly what God wants him to do.

    That said, I do like your story a lot better.  It points out a lot of serious problems.  But, the other problem is just that, by these PMD prophecies, God can’t win unless Lucifer plays his part just right.

    Given that the apocalypse, according to the bible, was supposed to happen within the lifetimes of those that witnessed the Sermon on the Mount, that could be a good story of how the devil defeated God, by not going to the fight in the first place.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Gregory-Peterson/1608524690 Gregory Peterson

    L &J are apparently comfortable with white people exterminating non Europeans who may have dared to have a different prophecy than L & J about the end of the world.   http://www.leftbehind.com/archiveViewer.asp?ArchiveID=104

    Of course, the Mayan still exist… right where they were when the Spanish invaded.

    I thought the Left Behind series was racist from the first book myself. The glorious, supernatural born again Jesus race, the race of all things lightness, God’s privileged nobility, is snatched to that very exclusive Pearly Gated community of many mansions. (I believe that one of Billy Graham’s children has said that its on a cube shaped world.) 

    After God’s noble race leaves for their heavenly palaces, the inferior, unregenerate race must undergo the proper punishment for not obeying their glorious, supernatural born-again Jesus race superiors… blood soaked horror upon escalating blood soaked horror. After that…eternal Hell.

    From a local megachurch pastor’s book, in which the privileged prince of God’s nobility that is Pastor Smothermon, sneers at the character of the “common man.” http://www.tonycooke.org/free_resources/articles_others/at-your-core.html

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Gregory-Peterson/1608524690 Gregory Peterson

     I can’t find where I got the Graham child and the cubed shaped heaven, so maybe my memory didn’t serve. But, I found another, really nifty and talented cubed shaped heaven.

    TIME TRAVELERS OF THE BIBLE: HOW HEBREW PROPHETS SHATTERED THE BARRIERS OF TIME-SPACE
    Gary Stearman | Defender, 2011

    “When the Tribulation comes, God’s chosen will be taken to Heaven (which
    is actually a cube-shaped “mobile city” from a parallel universe,
    “capable of navigating time-space in the dimensions between heaven and
    earth”). ”

    http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2012/fall/world-nuts-daily

  • Ken

     I believe that one of Billy Graham’s children has said that its on a cube shaped world.

    ME AM HAPPY NUMBER ONE BIZARRO HEAVEN IN TO BE!

  • http://dumas1.livejournal.com/ Winter

     .(I believe that one of Billy Graham’s children has said that its on a cube shaped world.)

    This reminds me of one of the more colorful websites I came across long ago.

    http://www.timecube.com

    There are four simultaneous 24-hour days on the cube-shaped earth, something something. At one time there was some racist ranting about red, white, black, and yellow, but I don’t feel like digging for it.

    It may be better to read the TVTropes page, which has a far less painful layout.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ann-Unemori/100001112760232 Ann Unemori

    I’ve been to the Time Cube site, and the racism is about the only part I could barely understand. Talk about missing all the dots on your dice…

  • Tricksterson

    “I believe that one of Billy Grahan’s children has said that it’s on a cube shaped world”

    So Heaven is Bizzaro World?  Explains so much.

  • Carstonio

    Even Damien in the third Omen film was presented as knowledgable about prophecy. He just had the hubris to believe that he could change fate. Maybe his problem was that the Book of Hebron doesn’t exist in the Apocrypha.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    According to the Google Books, the first time Supreme Commander Leon actually has his title used is on page 143 of Soul Harvest. And Rayford is such a total dick to him in that scene, too.

    “Then I won’t bore you with the details, Captain Steele. Let me just say that regardless of the differences you and I have had, because of my experience I am eager to reconcile. When a man is literally brought back from death, his perspectives change. You will feel a new sense of respect from me, whether you deserve it or not. And it will be genuine.”

    “I can’t wait. Now what was it about Rosen—?”

    “Now, Captain Steele! That was sarcastic, and I was being sincere. And there you go again. It’s Dr. Rosenzweig to you. The man is one of the leading botanists in history.”

    “OK, fine, Leon. I mean, Dr. Fortunato.”

    “I am not a doctor! You should refer to me as Commander Fortunato.”

    “I’m not sure I’m going to be able to do that,” Rayford said with a sigh. “When did you get that title?”

    “Truth be known, my title has recently changed to Supreme Commander. It was bestowed upon me by His Excellency.”

    What an annoying passive-aggressive jackass.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    And just in case anyone wants to see that I haven’t altered the text, here’s the actual screenshots.

  • flat

    Good advice for mr Clark’s future novel when he has to write a double agent.

  • Damanoid

    While your gesture is journalistically admirable, I have to question whether anyone reading these reviews is likely to imagine that you have misrepresented the text to make the Left Behind series seem worse than it really is. 

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Some people like to paraphrase, or to jokingly insert extra text (as Fred sometimes does). It’s funny, but has the unintentional effect of making one wonder if L&J really are that horrible as writers all by themselves (as if they needed help!) :P

  • aunursa

    Some people like to paraphrase, or to jokingly insert extra text

    Hey!  I resent resemble that remark.

  • http://profiles.google.com/vlowe7294 Vaughn Lowe

    Cube shaped Heaven?  That puts “Glorious Appearing” in a whole new light…

    “I am Yeshua of Borg.  Your life as you know it, is over.  From this time forward, you will service… us.”

  • hidden_urchin

    Considering how life in the Millenium is described, that observation isn’t too far off.

  • Tricksterson

    What with the “saved” spending eternity with Jesus in their heads that doesn’t sound too far off.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    “I am Yeshua of Borg.  Your life as you know it, is over.  From this time forward, you will service… us.”

    Captain, I believe I speak for everyone here when I say… to hell with the prophecy.”

  • PatBannon

    I saw a sign on a Baptist church recently that said “JESUS IS COMING – RESISTANCE IS FUTILE.” No joke.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Incidentally, Fred once linked to this bigass chart of how the End Times is supposed to go.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    A propos of not a whole lot… Leum said this way back:

    When I was last in DC I felt extremely unwelcome. Not by the people, but by the architecture. Every building seems to say, “Be grateful for the honor of my presence, insignificant earthworm.” Not just the Capitol and the White House, but the office buildings, the embassies, the store fronts, and the parks are all designed to impress, intimidate, and inspire awe. Maybe I’m just more susceptible to atmosphere, but I think I’d find living there spiritually draining.

    I have a similar story, but they’re far less sweeping: two things stand out that stick in my craw about my short visit to D.C. for a conference, however…

    1. The taxi drivers in DC have all these little charges for every-wee-thing besides just driving the vehicle from A to B. Putting baggage in the trunk? An extra $2. This other thing? $1 – etc, etc, etc. If they could charge for breathing, they would.

    2. It’s against the law in Canada to charge extra for postage stamps above the face value of the stamp. I was extremely irked when the shop down in the hotel clipped me an extra dollar over top of the face value of the stamps I bought for some post-cards. I found out later that the USA does not ban the practice of overcharging for stamps.

    This kind of grab-at-your-wallet mentality that seems to take hold in parts of the USA really bugs me.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    Washington DC was designed, I am told, to be intimidating.  It wasn’t intended to be a place for tourists at the time, it was intended for foreign dignitaries who would be coming from countries both much older and more powerful.  So, basically, it was a bluff intended to make us seem more strong than we really were.

    I think since then it’s remained the dominant architectural style in the city even though it’s no longer the case that we need to bluff about our strength and it’s no longer the case that respected European scientists are publishing book after book saying that the Americas are degenerate continents that cause all life on them, human and animal alike, to be smaller weaker and generally more useless.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    You know, speaking of intimidating cities, I wonder if a canon-verse reason we almost never see New Babylon in any real sense is because Nicolae purposely aimed for this.

  • Lori

    I don’t think DC was designed to be intimidating so much as impressive, which isn’t quite the same thing. L’Enfant drew his inspiration from places like Paris, Amsterdam & Milan because he was very aware the he was designing the seat of government for a country with ambitions.  The idea was to make us look like we knew what we were doing. There was obviously an undertone of “We aren’t bumpkin colonials, so don’t get any ideas”, but I think L’Enfant mostly wanted to create a place that he would find beautiful.

    What we ended up with was a place that is in many ways beautiful, but also confusing as all get out. The thing I heard more than once when I lived there was that DC is what you get when you value symbolism over usability. The fact that when you’re looking for an address the directional info is critically important* is just one of the things that weird about DC.

    *Two places many miles apart can have the exact same address, and in at least some cases the same cross street, distinguished from each other only by NE/NW or SE/SW.

  • P J Evans

    Two places many miles apart can have the exact same address, and in at
    least some cases the same cross street, distinguished from each other
    only by NE/NW or SE/SW.

    I understand Seattle is like that, too.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    I understand Seattle is like that, too.

    Yeah, it is.  Seattle is not completely illogical with its street layout, but it can be confusing at times.  Different neighborhoods had their own street layouts, typically with streets parallel to the shore.  But the problem is, the shore curves around Elliot Bay.  This meant that these neighborhoods expanded and merged together in funny ways, especially with the central inland area being more aligned with the north/south grid.  So you end up with a few different road systems clashing into one another.  

    More than that, the area is really hilly.  Rather than regrade the area, these hills have been allowed to dictate street layout.  Some slopes are too steep in easy areas for roads to go up, other roads might wind through the valleys between hills.  My own home confuses mapping software in part because it is just on the boarder between Seattle and Renton, and the address has a NW in it.  

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    I don’t think DC was designed to be intimidating so much as impressive, which isn’t quite the same thing.

    I think that a better term might be “gravitas”.  A capital city needs a certain gravitas to impress upon those who visit its seriousness.  Sometimes, that means deliberately exaggerating to put on an air of that gravitas.  

    For example, in Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood, there are a lot of old bank buildings that date back to the early days of the city.  They all have lots of rough-hewn stone blocks for their outer walls, very old-looking buildings.  But they are just that, old looking.  They were only built about a hundred years ago when Seattle was a dirty, smelling logging port with a huge gender imbalance, and bricks would have been cheaper, easier, and just as good from a pragmatic standpoint.  But the banks realized that they needed to look like they had some pedigree to their name to be taken seriously as an institution, and thus they put up the extra money to use deliberately crude-but-robust construction   It attracted more business that way.  

  • P J Evans

    Early-20th-century gravitas – this started out as a bank, went through being  a safe-deposit place and a bicycle store, and is now a newspaper office. The old Carnegie library, a few blocks away, is equally impressive.

  • Amaryllis

    this started out as a bank, went through being  a safe-deposit place and a bicycle store, and is now a newspaper office.

    Or, “Maybe You Can’t Take It With You, But Look What Happens When You Leave It Behind.”

    As American towns and cities I wander through,
    One landmark is constant everywhere I roam.
    The house that the Banker built in nineteen-two
    Dim neon tells me is now a funeral home.

    – Ogden Nash

    He’s right, I’ve seen plenty of those kinds of funeral homes!

    I remember the Washington, DC, discussion from the old Slacktivist, too. I repeat, I never felt particularly intimidated, just appreciative of what my taxes are buying.

    Of course, some of those buildings I wouldn’t want to enter, and some they wouldn’t let me in if I did. As someone said in quite another context, “Just because your taxes helped pay for an F-22 fighter plane, doesn’t mean you’re entitled to fly it.”

    But as long as they go on letting me in to the museums and art galleries and historical sites, I’m happy. (I’d be happier if they got rid of some the excessive, post-9/11 security barriers, but that’s another rant.)

    I don’t find the downtown street scheme all that confusing, either. But God preserve me from trying to get downtown using the interstates.  That’s what Metro is for.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ann-Unemori/100001112760232 Ann Unemori

    Nice that Ogden Nash is still relevant.

  • DorothyD

    I don’t find the downtown street scheme all that confusing, either. But God preserve me from trying to get downtown using the interstates.  That’s what Metro is for.

    The one year my husband and I lived in DC proper, we had to commute from NW to Anacostia, which meant getting on Rock Creek Parkway and then negotiating the tangle of roads along the river. We joked that the Parkway* was like riding in a log flume – you just get yourself in there and go with the flow. And we got through the “tangle” solely by knowing which lane to be in and when. The first few times were scary, but eventually we got the hang of it. And the daffodils are lovely.  

    But yeah, take the metro and avoid the freeways if you can. Never forget the first time I saw someone reading the newspaper while driving on the Beltway. 

    *which is one-way into the city in the morning, then switches to one-way outbound sometime during the day, accomplished by traffic cops manually moving wooden barriers and signs at the entry and exit ramps. At least, that’s how it was done 20 some years ago…

  • Lori

     

    We joked that the Parkway* was like riding in a log flume – you just get yourself in there and go with the flow. 

    I can think of at least 5 freeways in LA that are exactly like that during rush hour. Most people aren’t in a constant state of terror while driving on them, but I think that’s more because they’re inured than because the situation isn’t scary. Every now and then I’ll go somewhere with my parents and they’ll comment on how bad the traffic is on the freeway and I have to stop myself from LOLing. I once tried to explain that their idea of bad traffic is more or less what LA freeways were like at night, well after the commute was over. They couldn’t really wrap their heads around that.

    I’ve driven quite a few places that were similar. That’s one of the reasons that traffic in many other countries freaks me out so badly. I know how scary US traffic can be and we’re comparatively rule-following in our driving. Some places are “creative” in ways that make me wonder how anyone survives the morning commute. 

     

    *which is one-way into the city in the morning, then switches to one-way
    outbound sometime during the day, accomplished by traffic cops manually
    moving wooden barriers and signs at the entry and exit ramps. At least,
    that’s how it was done 20 some years ago…  

    The situation is still pretty much the same. I think most of the signage is automated now, but the directional change is still the same.

  • aunursa

    There are some things about Southern California freeways that I envy and wish we had in Northern California:

    Limited-access carpool lanes: I feel safer in HOV lanes in Southern California, where there are two sets of double yellow lines and limited access points.  In the Bay Area, anyone can enter or exit the carpool lane at any time.  This is a recipe for disaster at any time — and particularly when HOV traffic is moving at a faster speed than the regular lanes.

    Carpool-to-carpool connectors: I have to merge through four lanes of stopped traffic to the exit ramp, then through anther four lanes to go from an HOV lane to an HOV lane on a connecting freeway.  In Southern California, most freeway connections have HOV ramp connections that are much easier.

    Freeway approach signs: A sign warns you whether you need to be in the left or right lane to access I-405 North (for example).  Without a GPS, the the Bay Area you have to guess which side the ramp is on.

  • Lori

     

    Freeway approach signs: A sign warns you whether you need to be
    in the left or right lane to access I-405 North (for example).  Without a
    GPS, the the Bay Area you have to guess which side the ramp is on.  

    I’m pretty sure you actually don’t, it’s just that no one tells people how to tell where the ramp will be. The position of the exit sign tells you. I’m not sure that I can explain this well without pictures, but if the sign for the upcoming exit is on the right side of the sign structure the ramp is on the right. If it’s on the left side, the ramp is on the left. The freeway approach signs are simply reiterating information that the main sign is already giving you. I didn’t get this for a long time and can’t remember who told me. I just know it wasn’t something I learned in driver’s ed and I have no idea why not.

  • http://jamoche.dreamwidth.org/ Jamoche

    The position of the exit sign tells you.

    Not as clearly as British road signs; the arrow points in the direction the exit will take:

    Exit left: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_Z3dtj1Y69IA/TPFNPkwbzBI/AAAAAAAAAk8/zC-eqGI5P_0/s1600/England+2010+1237.jpg

    Exit right. http://www.arkafrica.com/sites/default/files/ark-thika-road-signage-old-signs_0.jpg

    That would clear up so much on American roads.

  • Lori

    We do have signs that look almost exactly like those. They’re apparently not as uniformly found as I thought they were, but plenty of places do have them.

  • P J Evans

    “the arrow points in the direction the exit will take”

    Roundabouts make it so much more fun. Especially when there’s an exit that isn’t marked on the sign.

  • aunursa

    I’m not referring to freeway exit ramps, I’m referring to the lack of a sign on a surface street telling you which side of the road the freeway entrance ramp is one.

  • Lori

    Don’t most of those have arrows or a marked lane? They do around here and I would have sworn it was the same when I was in Bay Area.

  • aunursa

    Most signs just indicate the freeway is approaching.  It isn’t until you’re right upon the freeway, when it may be too late to change lanes, that signs indicate which lane for each direction.  In Southern California I’ve seen many signs a few blocks away telling motorists which lane to be in.

  • P J Evans

    I can think of at least 5 freeways in LA that are exactly like that during rush hour.

    That covers most of them, actually.

  • http://jamoche.dreamwidth.org/ Jamoche

    We joked that the Parkway* was like riding in a log flume

    My pre-GPS approach to leaving San Francisco was similar: keep going until you hit a freeway or the ocean. If freeway, use that to go home to the south bay; if ocean, turn and try again.

    Also if you find yourself on Market and the place you want to go is on your left, give up in despair immediately; it’ll save time.

    Lubbock Texas is laid out on a grid; one direction has numbered streets, the other has named ones in alphabetical order. They do have a major advantage in that there wasn’t much geography to work around.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Surrey, BC is some bureaucrat’s dream because every street is numbered and every avenue is numbered and the system is eminently logical: Avenues increase from the US border to the Fraser River, and increase going east from Delta.

    As long as one knows the basics of this numbering system it’s hard to get lost there.

    Which is good because the city seems at times to be one giant strip mall.

  • http://www.oliviareviews.com/ PepperjackCandy

    My pre-GPS approach to leaving San Francisco was similar: keep going until you hit a freeway or the ocean. If freeway, use that to go home to the south bay; if ocean, turn and try again.

    This reminds me of the first time I had to drive home from downtown Chicago.  We lived in the south suburbs just one town over from the Indiana state line at the time.   My dad said, “Just keep going south and east.  Eventually you’ll either get home or reach Indiana, and you already know how to get home from Indiana.”

    I got home just fine without a side trip to Indiana, for what it’s worth.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     The thing about the layout of most major US cities is that it’s not that they weren’t built to an underlying sensible plan. It’s that they were built to several entirely sensible underlying plans, which now all exist in superposition.

    I lived ten years in Baltimore, where the very core of downtown is an incredibly regular grid of evenly spaced streets that all make perfect sense… And then after about 12 blocks, you hit the fall line and everything goes to hell because it was in no way shape or form worth the effort for a late eighteenth century city to maintain a regular rectilinear layout when the bedrock is suddenly ten feet higher than it used to be.

    Of course, now I live in a planned community where, due I assume to transdimensional zoning laws, the shortest path between any two points can be achieved by, whenever you reach an intersection, turning either way, it does not make a difference which.

  • P J Evans

     It isn’t the only place in West Texas that uses that scheme. You have to play attention to which side of the center alphabetical street you’re on – they go both ways from there.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Huh, I never considered using Google street view to just show people what I was talking about.  

    Here is the building I was referring to.

  • P J Evans

     Nice!
    It is impressive.
    I’ve seen similar, but not quite like that. Try this one. (Started out as a post office in 1896, lost the cap on the clock tower in 1906, became a public library in the mid-30s, and an art museum in the 1970s. It’s never been privately owned. What doesn’t really show is that the bases of the window arches are non-matching.)

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    That is pretty nice.  I really like the circular tower layout right next to the one with right angles.  

    You will also notice that a lot of buildings in the Pioneer Square area are all brick.  These are built after that stone building, almost all at the same time, after a huge fire burned through the then-wooden downtown area.  After that, the locals sprung for brick to be proof against it. They are some of the oldest buildings in Seattle, but given Seattle was only settled in the late 1800s, they are not all that old.  Incidentally, most of what you see in that area is actually the second floor, not the first, even if it is at ground level.  Downtown Seattle used to be flooded whenever there was a particularly high tide, until a massive regrading project raised the ground level there by about one floor.  Some of the original first floors are used as basements, the others are abandoned, leading to a warren of dilapidated tunnels weaving underneath Seattle.  Some of the sidewalks in the area even have crude glass sections designed to let light down there while the regrading was going on.  

    If you ever visit, they have an underground tour of the place.  Stuff like the Space Needle and monorail are neat but mostly just kitschy tourist traps.  The underground tour though I highly recommend, especially if you get the late one which covers Seattle’s old vice industry and comes with a free cocktail at the end of it.

  • spinetingler

    “Downtown Seattle used to be flooded whenever there was a particularly
    high tide, until a massive regrading project raised the ground level
    there by about one floor.  Some of the original first floors are used as
    basements, the others are abandoned, leading to a warren
    of dilapidated tunnels weaving underneath Seattle.  Some of the
    sidewalks in the area even have crude glass sections designed to let
    light down there while the regrading was going on. ”

    Knoxville TN has a similar deserted undeground/lost first floor on Gay Street. The street was raised to be able to bridge over the railroad yard that meanders through the downtown.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    These are built after that stone building, almost all at the same time, after a huge fire burned through the then-wooden downtown area.  After that, the locals sprung for brick to be proof against it.

    Portland (Maine, the one the Oregon one is named after) burned down enough that it very much became a city of brick.  Also, there’s probably a reason the city’s symbol is the phoenix.

    My sister got married in a church that had a plaque on the wall describing the various times it had been destroyed and rebuilt (that one fell over, was struck by lightning, lit on fire, and then sank) and noting that the central chandler has as a piece of ornamentation one of the cannonballs used to knock it down one of those times.

  • Andrea

    The guy who was L’Enfant’s assistant during the designing of DC is the same guy who designed downtown Indianapolis. You can tell, but it’s nowhere near as egregious or confusing. Lots of state-name streets, but the diagonal streets in the highly-planned part of the city are limited to just four, at 45 degree angles. So unlike DC, you can’t get quite so badly lost at a six-way intersection.

    As a relative newcomer to the city, however, I find it annoying that the 0,0 point on the grid is not Monument Circle. I guess that would just be too intuitive.

  • Derp

    “Wait a minute. All Jesus has to do when he shows up is say I AM THAT I AM, and he wins. Poof.”

    “Why, Nicky, that’s why I managed to prolong this charade for two thousand years.”

    “What do you mean, Master?”

    “I told you, enough of that Master stuff. We’re partners, right? Anyway, Jesus has to appear and pronounce five syllables. That takes around two point six seconds…. and yes, English is good enough for Jesus Christ. It’d have taken one point four in Aramaic.”

    “So you’ve prolonged the existence of free will by a second? I mean… thank you, but…”

    “Think about it. What could be done with 2.6 seconds in the Bronze Age? Maybe strike a killing blow on a man, or fire an arrow. What can be done four thousand years later? We know where Jesus will appear with a precision of a few hundred meters. We have a few years to get ready for it. And, thanks to your efforts so far, we have control of the world’s nuclear arsenal.  God may have tricked the Russians into losing half of it, but…”

    “… I think I get it.”

    “See, I had to wait until some things were invented…. like H-bombs, or fast computers to react to the signal quickly enough, or automated surveillance systems with the right accuracy. He can’t say the magic words if nobody can hear them over the blast waves. You’re much better than I am at setting up telecom infrastructure. Can you do it?”

    Satan was already gone, without much in the way of special effects, when Nicolae started sketching up a plan. He had a starting point and a destination; plotting a route was easy. “Leon, call Ames. We’re reopening NASA.”

  • MaryKaye

    Seattle is indeed like that, but the relatively gridlike parts are quite easy to navigate once you get the hang of the system.  Around hills and water…it gets tricky.

    The worst thing I know of is a case where a very narrow street goes upwards across the face of a large hillside.  The namers saw fit to give it, and the narrow street going along the bottom of the same hill, the *same number and directional*–on the theory that they were two lanes of the same street, I guess.  (They may both be one-way streets.)

     I don’t remember what number, but let’s say 58th SW.  So 1101 58th Ave SW should be at the corner of 11th and 58th, and 1102 should be across the street from it.  But no! 1101 is at the bottom of the hill (corner of 11th and 58th) and 1102 is at the top of the hill (also corner of 11th and 58th).  I talked to the person who lived at one of those about it; it was a royal pain, he said, every time you had a guest or a new mail carrier.

    The advantage of the system is that, given only a numerical address, you can guess quite well where the place will be–barring hills and water.  For example, the made-up address 1634 NE 72nd St would be on 16th Ave NE and NE 72nd St (not NE 16th St and 72nd Ave NE; avenues go N/S and streets go E/W).  It is therefore due north of where I am now, about 9 blocks (half a mile).  If the directional were NW instead it would be in Ballard.

    (I just googled it.  That address is in a reservoir.  Hills and water….)

    This contrasts with where I lived in Anchorage, Alaska, a city which definitely “just grew”–I was in the 25th house on Campbell Place, and good luck finding that if you don’t know where it is!

  • Lori

    There’s a method to DC’s street madness too. There’s a basic grid, overlaid with avenues that are mostly (more or less) diagonals. This divides the city into quadrants and the street names combined with the directional quadrant designation actually gives you a lot of information.

    The numbered and lettered streets (the basic grid) tell more or less how far something is from the Mall. Letters go up as you move away from it, north or south. Numbers go up as you move away east or west. The fact that some streets intersect in more than one quandrant is ridiculous. The fact that there are at least a couple the interest in all four quadrants enters into the realm of the absurd. The fact that there’s no J Street* is confusing. In spite of all that, in practice it’s really the state-named Avenues that make things tricky. They’re alphabetical, but there are exceptions and other weirdness.

    And of course once you get outside the original boundaries the system sort of breaks down. Sometimes that’s because the area wasn’t planned and other times because it was planned with the specific intent to follow a different plan than the original because screw you and the horse you rode in on.

    This explains it pretty well:

    http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/3151/washingtons-systemic-streets/

    IME most people find it really confusing at first. Once you kind of
    internalize the system you can navigate reasonably easily, but getting
    to that point is a total PITA. There were times the first few months I lived there when if I hadn’t been an impoverished grad student I would have just taken cabs everywhere in order to avoid having to think about it.

    *There’s no J Street because the original planners feared it would be confused with I. The fact that they chose to worry about that potential confusion without seeming to notice all the other confusing stuff in their layout is simultaneously hilarious and infuriating.

  • aunursa

    Why do they automatically assume the “zealots” have a leader. Did they even describe how the murders happened?

    News reports said black-hooded thugs pulled up to Ben-Judah’s home in the middle of a sunny afternoon when the teenagers had just returned from Hebrew school.* Two armed guards were shot to death, and Mrs. Ben-Judah and her son and daughter were dragged out into the street, decapitated, and left in pools of their own blood.

    From the next chapter of Nicolae

    * The readers don’t learn the nationality of Ben Judah’s wife.  But let’s assume that her children and she have been living with her Hebrew-speaking husband in Israel only during the six years of their marriage.  Why would the teenagers would still attending Hebrew school?

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     Okay, so back in the days of Star Trek The Next Generation, when a writer wanted some bullshit technical explanation for something, they wouldn’t actually write it. THey’d just write “[TECH]“, and it would fall to Michael Okuda, the technical consultant, to fill that in with something generally consistent with the science of star trek.

    When Tim LaHaye writes his books, he’s got something similar going. He just writes “Mrs [JEW] and [JEW] were killed  by militant [JEW] while they were out [JEW],” and then Jerry Jenkins has to get out his Big Book O’Jewish Stereotypes to fill in the blanks.

    (But seriously, it smacks of nothing less than “Okay Tim, what were the daughters doing before they got killed?” “I dunno Jerry, some Jew thing. What do Jew kids do?”  We’re lucky they weren’t on their way home from drinking the blood of christian babies and meddling in international fiance [and yes, I know that Nicolae already took over all of international finance two books ago. Like that would stop them])

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I heard the [TECH] thing was an urban legend because the screenwriter’s guild would have thrown a shitfit over it or somesuch.

    EDIT: That said, the fact that L&J seem to have treated their books as a kind of fill in the blanks mad libs does not speak well of them when it comes to (mis)representing non-Christians.

  • Lorehead

    No, it’s true.  Here’s video of Ronald Moore confirming it.

    I don’t know the method they used to clear it with the union, but it must’ve been okay.  (Is the assumption that Michael Okuda was not cleared with the WGA even accurate?  I know he joined its picket in 2007.)

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Huh. I did not know that.

  • Mrs Grimble

     

    Why would the teenagers still be attending Hebrew school?

    Because of course, every single  educational establishment in JewlandIsrael is a “Hebrew School”!

  • http://jamoche.dreamwidth.org/ Jamoche

    Why would the teenagers still be attending Hebrew school?

    Because L&J got all their ideas of Jewish culture from the songs of Fiddler on the Roof.

  • Catherine

    Sorry, but as a non-native, what struck me about Washington was how shabby and run-down everything looked.  Admittedly. it was better round the major monuments but I drove past a load of embassies and the buildings looked like they’d been made of cardboard, the pavements were buckled and heaved and as for the potholes………

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    I’ve been to Washington twice, the first time it was undergoing renovations.  I remember looking at a satellite photo of Washington (probably on google earth or something) and telling my mother, “This had to be taken around when we were there,” and pointing to the renovations that had been ongoing while we were there.

    The National Zoo was a mess.  I think the bat exhibit had been shut down because of a (non-flying) rodent invasion.  Or something like that.

    The second time I went to Washington DC I met Fred.  Any city you meet Fred Clark in is an impressive city.

  • DorothyD

    There’s nothing like being stuck in a gnarly traffic jam to cause people to go evil.

    Heh. Try stuck in a gnarly traffic jam trying to get to a daycare center that charges penalties for being late. Can’t blame ’em, they need to get home, too. But still. (That was long ago, when we were in DC.)

    The “log flume” effect I’m thinking was more the feeling of all the lanes moving at one speed, a good 5-10 mph over the posted limit. That particular stretch of road, everyone seems to have figured out that works better than all the jostling and lane changing. 

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Something like that happened when I was in Phoenix. I was on one of the city loop highways and the nominal speed limit was 55 MPH. It wasn’t until I got to 75 MPH that I was actually with the flow of the traffic! :O

    But once at that speed I kind of noticed the same cars all around me till I took the exit I needed to take.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    Once upon a time I mentioned to someone how scary it can be to have someone pull out in front of you to do a U turn when you’re going at 65mph and stopping probably won’t work very quickly if something should go wrong for U-turner.  (It was an emergency vehicle as I recall, hence it doing a U-turn in a place where otherwise it would be illegal so many times over.)

    The response was an astonished, “Why would you be going 65 there?”  With the unstated idea of, “Pretty damn slow, isn’t it?”  65 is the speed limit.

    The reason being that gas mileage drops off over a certain amount, 55 I believe, and catastrophically after a bit more, and while my mother might be convinced not to speed in order to save on gas, she’s not going to go under the speed limit.  That would be unthinkable.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    The reason being that gas mileage drops off over a certain amount, 55 I
    believe, and catastrophically after a bit more, and while my mother
    might be convinced not to speed in order to save on gas, she’s not going
    to go under the speed limit.  That would be unthinkable.

    Testify to that.

    I had occasion to drive to Portland, Oregon a few times back when gas was a lot cheaper than it is now. I used to conventionally drive around 120 km/h (~75 MPH) and the gas gauge would generally hit Empty just about near the Washington/Oregon border and I’d fill up the tank there to save 10c on gasoline since Oregon had full-serve only gas stations.

    However one time I didn’t really feel like being in such a hurry and kept my speed down to 110 klicks or so.

    Imagine my surprise when I hit Portland with a quarter tank of gas left over.

  • fuchsialucia

    It may be too late at this point to mention that the phrase “mundane Christianity” is still rattling my brain. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/steph.cherrywell Steph Cherrywell

    Coming at this way late (catching up on the archives!), but if anyone is still reading this, I’m very curious about these “children” of Ben-Judah’s. I assume they were Astroboy-like robots built to replace his original children. Because otherwise we’d have to assume Jenkins forgot all about The Event, and come on, that would just be silly.


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