L.B.: Hot property

L.B.: Hot property April 6, 2007

Left Behind, pp. 259-261

This section of the book reads like a flashback, as though it were set years ago. Apart from the absence of Rayford Steele's wife and son, nothing in this section seems like it could possibly have occurred after the Event. But it's not a flashback:

Rayford pulled into his driveway with a sack of groceries on the seat beside him. …

Nothing unusual about any of that. And that, of course, is the problem — there's nothing unusual about any of that.

Rayford buys gasoline and groceries and it's all perfectly routine. The supermarket and the gas station are fully stocked and supplied and everything seems normally priced. No gas lines, no run on canned goods and bottled water. Not even the kinds of temporary shortages you might expect when snow is forecast. One might think that hundreds of rail and plane crashes one week ago might still be affecting supply lines. That the sudden disappearance of tens of thousands of workers from every step along the way — from field to shelf, from refinery to pump — might cause at least a hiccup in prices. That every worker at every stage is suddenly and inexplicably dealing with the loss of their children might also have some affect on the economy and the availability of goods. But no. Rayford is able to purchase everything he wants, at normal prices, and without delay (his errands, we are told, took only half an hour).

The problem again is the End Times Checklist. In this case, the obvious and likely consequences of events don't happen now because they're supposed to happen later. Famine will come, riding a black horse, but not until the "seven seals" judgments begin. Then a "piece of bread will buy a bag of gold"* — but until then, apparently, supplies and prices must remain unchanged and unaffected by worldwide calamity.

… He had gotten a hold of Hattie Durham, who wanted to keep him on the phone talking until he begged off. She was delighted with the dinner invitation and said she could come three nights later, on Thursday.

Again, nothing unusual. Rayford and Hattie idly chat as though nothing at all was out of the ordinary, as though neither had any reason to suspect that they were in the second week of the Apocalypse. (And LaHaye & Jenkins again efficiently characterize Rayford as though neither suspected their hero was reflexively misogynist.)

Rayford arrives home to find the garage door open and notices that, "Something was different in the garage":

All three cars were in their places, but —

Rayford walked around the Jeep at the end. Raymie's stuff was missing! His bike. His four-wheeler. What was this?

He runs to the front of the house to find his front door kicked in:

Rayford rushed in, calling for Chloe.

He ran from room to room, praying nothing had happened to the only family member he had left. Everything of immediate material value seemed to be gone. Radios, televisions, VCRs, jewelry, CD players, video games, the silver, even the china.

It's a robbery. The police are called and Chloe is rounded up from the neighbor's house where she fled. All any of the neighbors saw was "some kind of carpet-service minivan here for about half an hour this afternoon." The burglary, the policeman says, was a "slick job."

"This kind of crime is up 200 percent here in the last week alone," the officer said. "The bad guys know we don't have the time or manpower to do a blessed thing about it."

Imagine you are a fence.

From the front of your little pawnshop in the seedier part of Evanston you run a perfectly respectable, legitimate business, fleecing the poor with payday loans and rent-to-own schemes and other perfectly respectable, perfectly legal forms of crime. But in your much larger back room you conduct your primary business, buying and selling stolen goods.

The Event changed everything. You're so flooded with goods from suppliers looting abandoned houses that you've had to start selling on consignment. Yesterday you acquired two x-ray machines and a 14-inch Celestron telescope that somebody picked up from the deserted campus of Wheaton College. Space has gotten so tight that instead of gutting one isolated empty house in Carol Stream, you've started using it for storage.

Business would be booming except that, after the Event, everyone's too traumatized to buy anything. People are stuffing their mattresses instead of spending. Only money coming in these days is for titles and tags — those missing people left behind some very nice cars, sometimes with the keys right there — and for credit cards gleaned from the wallets and purses left lying around like manna from heaven.

There's a knock at your back door and you step out into the alley to find Jimmy Bats** standing next to a carpet-cleaning van. Crazy tweaker is still robbing houses the old-fashioned way. Could be six empty houses on a block and Jimmy'll hit the one that's still got people living in it. He hasn't figured out yet that people who disappeared are less likely to come looking for their stuff when it disappears. Why steal when you can just take?

"Check this out," Jimmy says. "Like brand new." He shows you a bike and a four-wheeler — a little kids' bike and four-wheeler. You explain, with every ounce of patience you possess, that the market for children's toys has flattened out a bit since, you know, every freaking kid on the freaking planet freaking disappeared a week ago! Slick job, moron.

Regaining your composure, you calmly explain that it's not just you — that it will be many years before anyone, anywhere, is interested in buying a kids' bike, or video games, or the complete set of Veggie Tales DVDs on the passenger seat of Jimmy's van. You explain that jewelry stolen from someone's house isn't worth half of what you could offer for clean, untraceable jewelry plucked neatly from the rumpled clothing of the disappeared and that you've already got boxes and boxes filled with such merchandise, so even that isn't worth much.

But try as you might to explain, Jimmy just doesn't get it. And neither do LaHaye and Jenkins.

(OK, you can stop pretending you're a fence now.)

The police respond to this break-in at the Steele's as though this were just another routine break-in in just another routine week. "This kind of crime," they say, has dramatically increased, even though that makes little sense. And they seem perfectly free to investigate this kind of crime instead of attending to the millions of crime scenes that arrived the week before when all those adults and every child simultaneously went missing. Just the paperwork from all of those cases should be enough to keep every police officer in Illinois busy for the next six months.

"I imagine your insurance will take care of a lot of this," the police officer says, and Rayford agrees. Like the officer and the authors, he can't imagine that insurance companies would have any higher priority at this point than this particular claim.

For the record, here's how Chloe responded to all of this. She saw the broken front door and ran to the "Mr. Anderson's" three houses away but didn't call the police. Once she sees her father has returned, she calls him, crying, and then has Mr. Anderson walk her home, where she sits "rocking on the couch" while her father talks with the police officer. She is "still shaking" when the officer leaves, only stopping once she gets a hug from her father.

When we first met Chloe, she was a capable and independent young woman who managed, somehow, to get from Palo Alto, Calif., back home to Illinois faster than Buck Williams was able to get from Chicago to New York. That young woman is gone, replaced by L&J's ideal of the good, godly wife-in-waiting.

Suddenly Chloe laughed.

"Now this is funny? Rayford said.

"I just had a thought," she said, smiling through her tears. "What if the burglars watch that tape?"

– – – – – – – – – – – –

* That phrase actually comes from Larry Norman's Jesus-freak folk song, "I Wish We'd All Been Ready." Norman's lyrics, like H.A. Ironsides' prophecy charts, are generally treated as canonical by premillennial dispensationalists. His phrasing has come to replace the text it roughly approximates, from Revelation 6:6, in which the third horseman says, "A quart of wheat for a day's wages, and three quarts of barley for a day's wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!"

** Because Jimmy's a meth-head so he never sleeps. He's up all night. Like a bat. It's not 'cause of that thing he does with his eyes and it's not because of what he did to that guy behind Cramer's. He did that with a pool cue.

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  • Ken

    Jerry Jenkins was interviewed on “On the Media” this weekend. For further scariness, there was segment on Ron Luce, who’s trying to destroy the anti-Christian media. — KCinDC
    Internet Monk’s on top of it. Check his posting for today, and be sure to go down the links.

  • Ken

    I loved Larry Norman growing up, he was a musical genius way ahead of his time and he pioneered the Christian rock era. I saw him in concert in Manhattan twice in the mid-70s, and then again in Nebraska when I was in college. Unfortunately, he had health problems and fights with his label-mates and sort of disappeared.
    Then 10-12 years ago, he tried to make a comeback. I went to see a concert of his in a rural town in Pennsylvania, north of Philadelphia. He was completely deranged. He barely sang, and talked endlessly about how doctors failed him and conspiracies about the government mass murdering people. I listened with my wife for nearly three hours, but eventually walked out. It was so strange and pathetic. — PaulF
    Sounds like those “health problems and fights with his label mates” ended up wrecking his personality. I also heard that the medical bills from the former completely wiped him out financially. I can see the pattern in your description of his “completely deranged” comeback concert: consumed with bitterness, like Bill Cosby after his son’s murder and the women in my family when they hit their 60s.

  • Ken

    OK, once again they could learn something from their predecessors in this genre. One of he most arresting scenes in Carol Balizet’s The Seven Last Years was of one of the protagonists going to…yes…a near-empty grocery store, finding as much as she could, paying out the nose…and then being robbed of all her groceries on the way to the car.
    Oh, and this happened BEFORE the rapture in that book; to show how bad things had gotten in the Last Days. (One other sign if I remember was that pot was legal! Anyway.)
    AFTER the last days, she was pretty good at picturing orgies, demon possession, and the various plagues–at least good enough that I remember it well more than a decade later. It was kind of like Night of the Living Dead; one of the heroes was even a converted heroin addict black guy, who saw his God-lovin mama raptured before his eyes and immediately went clean and became one of God’s warriors.
    Now THAT’s a story.
    I remember reading Balizet back in the late Seventies. Good writer, especially when compared to what usually passes for writing in the Christian Apocalyptic genre. She got my respect from three points in her novel:
    1) SLY was the first Rapture novel to provide plausible cover for The Event — a simultaneous “Hammerfall”, i.e. a major asteroid impact; global catastrophe in its own right, with multi-millions dead in ways where the body would never be found or recognizable. Who’s going to notice a mass disappearance in the process?
    2) And the first plausible power base for The Antichrist — after the events in (1), he’s the guy left on top of the biggest remaining food stores for the resulting post-impact famine.
    3) When Antichrist crowns himself Pope (Antipope, actually, thanks to a much-reduced College of Cardinals), he takes the name Sixtus VI. Before you start throwing rocks, there actually WERE five Popes named Sixtus; the next Pope Sixtus WOULD be the Sixth. This shows at least a little research behind the groaner of an in-joke (contrast “Stone-a-Gal/Rock-a-Feller”).
    Unfortunately, Balizet later flaked out, quit writing fiction, and started a Holy Crusade for some sort of “God Saith” natural childbirth extremism that ended up racking up a body count. She should have stuck with writing fiction, at which she DID have some ability; I understand her next novel after SLY was a “spiritual warfare” novel that may have pre-figured Frank Peretti.

  • none

    I’m a mostly-lapsed Christian who is often disgusted by the public image of the church in the media. If you ask me “are you ashamed of Christ,” my answer is, “No, but some of the other Christians make me ashamed to be associated with them.” It’s hard for me sometimes to look at a creationist, an apocalypse-lover, a homophobe, or one of the other bigots who call themselves Christians and to try to love them. Sometimes, I feel that there must be a special place in Hell for those who teach hate in the name of Christ. Sometimes, I pray for forgiveness for being vengeful enough to hope that is the case.
    I have often felt, nowadays, that if the Antichrist does appear, he will appear in the form of an “Evangelical Christian” leader whose message of hate will be cloaked in the the name of Jesus. The God of many of these people is not the loving father of the tale of the Prodigal Son, who doesn’t ask for a confession or a magic prayer, or fearful obedience, but simply that we return to him as the flawed creatures we are: something that, in my opinion, is even harder to do.
    The God that LaHaye and Jenkins follow and that they write about in their books is far different. This is a God who loves chaos and destruction, who teaches hate and fear, a vengeful creature of violence and lies that coerces instead of woos and encourages paranoia instead of peace, disembowels his enemies instead of begging for their forgiveness. There’s another entity that has these traits, and it’s not God.
    There have been people encouraging you to write a book on this subject, and I want to add my voice to that number. In a world where a book like Dan Brown’s “Da Vinci Code” can spawn ten thousand other books debunking it, there is a desperate need for someone to do the same with the Left Behind books.
    Keep the faith.

  • Ken

    I have often felt, nowadays, that if the Antichrist does appear, he will appear in the form of an “Evangelical Christian” leader whose message of hate will be cloaked in the the name of Jesus.
    Remember the two original meanings of “Anti” — imitation and opposition.
    A couple years ago, I was given a book called “Anti Christ”, which traced the history of the idea of Antichrist, from St John’s Apocalypse to the present. At one point, there were two main archetypes of Old Six-Six-Six: “The Slick Deceiver” (a false Christ who imitates all the signs/wonders/credentials, “Anti-” as “in imitation of”) and “The Fanatic Persecutor” (who only seeks to destroy Christians, “Anti-” as “in opposition to”).
    (Some speculated “The Beast” and “The False Prophet” would actually be two Antichrists — one of each type — operating as a tag team, so those fleeing from the one ended up taking the Mark of the other.)
    At present, LaHaye/Jenkins/et al concentrate on The Fanatic Persecutor and ONLY The Fanatic Persecutor, completely ignoring The Slick Deceiver. What you, O Nameless One, have proposed *IS* the forgotten archetype, The Slick Deceiver.

  • Jeff Weskamp

    I’d be more inclined to believe that the AC will take the mantle of Slick Deceiver; it’s more in keeping with Satan’s MO.
    “The Prince of Darkness is a gentleman.”
    —Shakespeare, “King Lear”

  • hapax

    Haven’t you read up on Nicky’s parentage? More like a Gay Deceiver. ;->

  • hapax

    whoops, typepad ate the linkage! I was referring to Heinlein’s transdimensional ultracar, of course: http://www.gaydeceiver.com/what.html

  • Ken

    “The Prince of Darkness is a gentleman.”
    —Shakespeare, “King Lear”
    “For the Devil is a gentleman, and never keeps his word.”
    —G.K.Chesterton

  • X

    Great line from High Fidelity:
    “I’ve been thinking with my gut for years, and frankly I’m coming to the conclusion that my guts have shit for brains.”
    O’course, when he says ‘gut’ here, he really means impulsively giving in to temptation, which is not at all the same thing, but why ruin a brilliant line by thinking about it too much.
    Quick (potential) missperception to clear up: Social science papers often DO use numbers and empirical observation. Here’s a bite from my thesis:
    “There were significant main effects for the interviewee (White vs. Asian, F(1, 57) = 5.93, p < .05, partial ?² = .09) and for the prime (Black vs. White, F(1, 57) = 5.88, p < .05, partial ?² = .09), both of which were qualified by a significant interaction, F(1, 57) = 10.92, p < .01, partial ?² = .16. Participants in the control condition–those having rated only White faces on the initial task–rated Yi-Ling as more shy and academically oriented than Elaine, t(29) = -4.35, p < .01, while those in the experimental condition (who rated Black faces) did not, t(29) = .58, ns."
    The difference, I'll submit, is that in CS the whole problem is defined by numbers, whereas social sciences have to work hard to find a way to translate their theories into meaningful numbers and back again.

  • malpollyon

    “From the psychology POV, emotions and gut feelings actually seem to be really helpful for decisions that are highly complex and hard to sum up in a small number of optimizable variables. If you ask people which college they will go to, whether they will stay with their significant other, which jam is better, and then compare their answers to what they actually do, and what a panel of jam experts rates as best, people’s gut feeling performs better than having them make a list of pros and cons.”
    -X
    That just plain isn’t true. In fact the above is diametrically opposed to all of the research I’ve read on the subject. Lists of pros and cons on complex decisions are better than the global intuitive judgment of experts in every way we can measure. For example, take an expert’s diagnoses of cancer, verified by autopsy, and construct a simple computer program that decides based on pros and cons and it will reliably perform better than the expert. If anyone wants links to peer reviewed publications I’m happy to provide evidence for this, it is an almost universal finding that ‘gut feelings’ are astonishingly poor when tested.
    For example:
    http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/resolve?id=doi:10.1086/341846&erFrom=3773436575625378399Guest

  • Fenix

    I’m sorry Fred, I have to call you out on this one:
    “it will be many years before anyone, anywhere, is interested in buying…video games…”
    You tend to be a fairly well informed and level-headed person, but you clearly have no idea what the hell you’re talking about here. You don’t seem the type to buy into the nonsense the media has spewed about kids and violent video games, so I’ll just have to chalk this up to simple ignorance.
    Fact: the average age of gamers in the United States as of 2005 was THIRTY. Yes, thirty years old. Not twelve.
    Source: The Entertainment Software Association’s 2005 “Essential Facts on Video Games” http://www.theesa.com/files/2005EssentialFacts.pdf
    I apologize if this post is redundant as I havn’t had the chance to read all the comments.

  • AKMA

    Looks like arrived late at the party, but speaking as a resident of Evanston I just wanted to say that you failed to clarify that Jimmy the Bat comes from Rogers Park.

  • X

    malpollyon: “That just plain isn’t true. In fact the above is diametrically opposed to all of the research I’ve read on the subject. Lists of pros and cons on complex decisions are better than the global intuitive judgment of experts in every way we can measure. For example, take an expert’s diagnoses of cancer, [SNIP] I’m happy to provide evidence for this, it is an almost universal finding that ‘gut feelings’ are astonishingly poor when tested.”
    Malpollyon, we’re talking about different things here. The research that you are talking about pits human “expert” judgement vs. a omputer which weights up a bunch of statistical data. You’re exactly right that this literature (which came out of Paul Meehl’s work I believe) says that the computer wins pretty much every time.
    What I was talking about with Bugmaster wasn’t computer vs. human, it was one type of human decision making vs. another type of human decision making.
    What they both have in common though, BTW, is that they’re both about how humans are lousy at weighting more than a few individual pieces of information at once. We tend to fixate on and heavily overweight just a few bits of the info and not consider all of it together. In doing this our intuition can outpace our conscious minds under the right circumstances, and a computer can outpace both of them (if given enough good quantitative info to work on).

  • Rosina

    I had a friend who, when faced with a decision for which the pros and cons were apparently equally balanced, like whether to change jobs or have another piece of cake, would toss a coin. It didn’t matter which way up the coin fell, what mattered was whether his stomach fell at the thought of the decision that had been reached. He then followed his ‘gut reaction’, rather than the result of the toss.
    His marriage broke up, he was unhappy in his job but at least he enjoyed the cake.

  • malpollyon

    X, I am absolutely not talking about a computer making complicated statistical predictions. The computer outperforming the expert is making EXACTLY the type of calculation you were denigrating, making a weighted list of pros and cons that’s what a “linear model” is. There’s some really counterintuitive corollaries to that too. An UNWEIGHTED model will outperform the expert judgment, that is a list of pros and cons provided by the expert, with a +1 for each pro and a -1 for each con. I can’t imagine anything further from complex statistical weighting. The problem is exactly as you describe though, humans are poor at weighting a large number of factors, and disproportionately favour the wrong ones. The power of unweighted linear models does show that we don’t have to be though, making a list of pros and cons is a good decision making strategy.

  • X

    malpollyon
    You make an interesting case. You haven’t really contradicted my initial claim tho. You can tell your computer to do an unweighted model and it beats the human every time still doesn’t say that as a human I should go with my pro/con list rather than my gut.
    I mean, you could tell a human to try to simulate the computer’s decision making by drawing a pro/con list and picking based on whichever is longer… Though this might be problematic on some fronts (“pro’s: make money, will be able to get a nice car, con’s: Have to butcher best friend… that’s 2 to 1 ‘yes'”)… But actually it MIGHT work in that if you really want to do something deep down, you might try extra hard to think up pro’s, sort of like Rosina’s friend with the coin flip.
    The better way would be to make up as many criteria as you could and rate both options by them, and pick the one that wins more categories. That could work… though with Q’s like “which jam is better,”… you would have a hard time putting that into a spreadsheet (“tartness: a bit gooder than number 2…”).
    Still sounds like something that works best when you have a predefined set of criteria, numeric ratings for each, and a computer to cruch the average s… I guess you could do that math by hand so it’s not a “computer decision”, but that’s getting off on a technicality in the worst sense of the word.
    So I go back to my initial claim (acutally Tim Wilson’s) that gut often beats considered. In fact, I believe Malcolm Gladwell’s book “blink” goes on about this phenomenon at great and well-informed length.

  • malpollyon

    X – I think you must have missed my point, the list of pros and cons was PROVIDED BY THE HUMAN, this is not some arcane decision procedure only available to a mainframe, the only reason a computer was involved at all was because it makes testing the effects of changing the weightings trivial. Furthermore, while, as in your example, there are cases where a list of pros and cons produces the wrong answer, people are really bad at recognizing these in non-trivial situations. This is for the reason that we both agree on, people naturally base their decision heavily on a small group of factors they consider important to the exclusion of others. An honest attempt to make a list of pros and cons empirically beats gut feeling.

  • Ken

    I’d be more inclined to believe that the AC will take the mantle of Slick Deceiver; it’s more in keeping with Satan’s MO.
    A bud of mine theorized that the reason LaHaye & Jenkins concentrate only on the Fanatic Persecutor is that the Slick Deceiver hits a little too close to home. (i.e. Too much like a televangelist. Or like a certain two Big Name Christian authors.)

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  • X

    @malpollyon:
    It all depends. If you go to the Paul Meehl stuff where he compared human decision making on selecting med school applicants (e.g., interviews) vs. a computer crunching the numbers (GPA, human subjective rating of the strength of their letters of recommendation, etc), then the computer does better. The humans just can resist getting carried away by how great they seemed in the interview or whatever, and overweighting it. In theory you could have a person create all their ratings and add them up by hand, thus simulating a computer without actually using one, then yes, the person should do just as well as the computer. But that’s a pretty artificial cheat. That’s not what you’d call “normal human decision making behavior”… unless you are naturally the sort of person who makes pro-con lists.

  • Ken

    Fact: the average age of gamers in the United States as of 2005 was THIRTY. Yes, thirty years old. Not twelve.
    I’m in my early fifties, and to me “gamers” means pencil/paper/funny dice, i.e. “The world of 20-sided dice, miniature dragons, and 2 Ayem pizza runs”. Which also took heavy fire from the RTCs in its day.

  • Anonymous

    I could actually see a scenario in which a young boy’s stuff gets stolen . . . but not for money. Imagine a pair of parents, rendered childless by the Rapture, who are breaking into the Steele house to get at some of the food in the fridge before it goes bad (like it would be in millions of homes across America). One of the parents sees the little boy’s bike, and begins sobbing and clinging to it hysterically. He or she refuses to part with the bike even after they’ve gathered the stuff, so they simply take it with them.

    The rest of the theft is absurd. Even buying groceries is absurd, when you consider that there would be lots of homes left deserted by the Rapture with still-running refrigerators and pantries full of food.

  • Anonymous

    I could actually see a scenario in which a young boy’s stuff gets stolen . . . but not for money. Imagine a pair of parents, rendered childless by the Rapture, who are breaking into the Steele house to get at some of the food in the fridge before it goes bad (like it would be in millions of homes across America). One of the parents sees the little boy’s bike, and begins sobbing and clinging to it hysterically. He or she refuses to part with the bike even after they’ve gathered the stuff, so they simply take it with them.

    The rest of the theft is absurd. Even buying groceries is absurd, when you consider that there would be lots of homes left deserted by the Rapture with still-running refrigerators and pantries full of food.

  • Melissia Blackheart

    I can see the video games being stolen– hell, according to industry research, more women in their thirties play games than boys in their teens, so obviously it’s not just children playing them…

    … except that the author probably wasn’t thinking that way, was he?  Certainly he’d probably be completely and utterly baffled with the idea of a woman playing Call of Duty or some such.

  • Melissia Blackheart

    I can see the video games being stolen– hell, according to industry research, more women in their thirties play games than boys in their teens, so obviously it’s not just children playing them…

    … except that the author probably wasn’t thinking that way, was he?  Certainly he’d probably be completely and utterly baffled with the idea of a woman playing Call of Duty or some such.

  • Starla

    Btw, do they say something about what happens to children born after the Rapture?

  • guest

    There won’t be any born for another many months, as all the fetuses/embryos/zygotes/etc were raptured. That is, if they are able to be born at all post-Event.