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The last week and a half has certainly been eventful with the slow recovery from the storm.

I stayed up on election night to watch the results on my laptop. My parents were going to sleep in my living room (there were staying with me since their house had no power and it was really cold) – my Dad, who is a Republican, did want to stay up later but my Mom wouldn’t let him. So I took my laptop to the bedroom. I was going to wait until 11 to wait for California polls to close but I wasn’t really expecting to get the results that night. I was checking various news websites and Comedy Central was awesomely transmitting Jon Stewart’s election night special live online, so that was playing in the background too. And then I saw that Ohio went for Obama and then NBC called it. It took a bit to sink in. Mostly it was the sense of relief. I did go to the living room and told my dad, I couldn’t wait.

My parents went back home last Friday, when it got warmer since they needed to be there for any electricity updates – like the ridiculous rule of shelling out your own money ($150) for the inspector to certify that nothing got damaged before electricity could be turned out. The water didn’t get into their house – it stopped inches from it, but that didn’t matter. But they did finally, finally got their power back two days ago, on Tuesday afternoon, after two weeks with no power. Back to civilization for them.

Last Saturday I went to volunteer at the community center at Brighton Beach, because I couldn’t just sit home and I figured I would help get some water and food to Coney Island buildings. There were National Guide troops, military vehicles and American Red Cross and hot food trucks all over Brighton and Coney Island. Coney Island does look better. Most buildings had power restored, just no heat.

Gas lines are getting much better, thankfully. I’ve never seen people filling up gas cans and giant bottles like last Friday in NJ. A little surreal.

Classes are getting back on track and I’m also tutoring so that is keeping me busy. Sometimes I do wonder how some students actually made it into college. Here is an email I got from a student today: “Hi prof. I was stumbling upon how to start off my paper. Like what should my thesis be?” headdesk.

In TV watching news: this season is probably the least TV I’m actually watching. I watch “Glee”, “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Grimm,” “Modern Family” and “A New Normal.” That’s it. This is very unusual for me. I am rewatching “Dollhouse” right now, which is very enjoyable. “Glee” is being hard on my heard right now – too much heartbreak on it. At least Chryed storyline on “Eastenders” got the happy ending today. I’m so relieved the characters are done on the show.

And a fun link: Fifty Shades of Chicken read by Patrick Stewart. Made me laugh a lot.
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I gave the first part of the midterm today (it is a two day midterm – a rough draft day and a final draft day) and it seemed to go ok. I’m still surprised by the number of times the students ask me stupid questions to which I gave the answer to a week ago when I specifically told them all they needed to know about the midterm. But they still need to ask if they get the rough draft day. It is like if I don’t repeat it three times, it would not go into their heads. I managed to grade some papers while I proctored.

The afternoon wasn’t as productive, mostly because I was tired.

I ordered “Dollhouse Season 2” today since a friend of mine gave me a Barnes and Noble gift card for my birthday a while ago. Now I will have all of “Dollhouse” and all of it is a gift that I don’t have to feel guilty for spending the money for. I might do a rewatch after the semester ends.

“An Evening at Joe’s” ed by Gillian Horvath, a collection of “Highlander” short stories came today. My library cancelled my hold since they couldn’t find an actual copy, and I just ordered a used one for one cent. (well, four dollars with shipping) It looks like brand new copy. I started “Postcards from Alexa” already, since this is why I wanted to read this book in the first place. I also want to see what backstory Jim Byrnes wrote for Joe. I do like when actors actually write about their characters.

Another fun development today for my fannish heart: a bunch of new stories are up from VAMB 2010 drabble exchange and this makes my J/C heart happy.

Caprica S1E11 )

I tried watching the episode of “House” that was taped for me, but I am not in a TV mood, and this is weird for me. I fast forwarded through the medical case to House –Wilson-Cuddy scenes. I’ll watch the actual episode later. Now, sleep. Lots of grading to do tomorrow – my folder review is on Friday so I need to finish grading all of them.

17 Nisan/1 April, 2010

Thursday, April 1st, 2010 11:00 pm
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Happy April Fool’s Day!

Mama actually managed to pull a joke on Papa this morning by pretending he had an important phone call from work that he missed.

Best internet April Fool Jokes .

Hee. This is a really awesome muppets skit .

World sucks .

Bones S5E15 )

OK, all of Angel, Buffy, Firefly and Dollhouse is now on Netflix InstantPlay. This is evil, because I recently wanted to see some scenes from Angel, Season 4 and now I will have the chance, which will probably result in some binging.
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Now that I’ve started a new book with its unique voice and style, I find that I miss being in the world of “American Gods.” Just the style of prose and the feeling that it evoked. My favorite parts of the book were the asides of people coming to America in different time periods and bringing their gods with them. Maybe because I came to America too and could relate to making this country my own (which is something Gaiman wanted to do as well), I can understand making a new world from something. But I do miss being in that literary world and I do miss spending time with Shadow. And now I really want to read more of Norse mythology, especially about Baldur. I ordered a copy of a promising Norse mythology book that I found on Amazon from New York Public Library – I love the access to many books that can be delivered from other million braches of the library to my own.

Why do schoolboards listen to parents who want to censor books for ridiculous reasons or censor books in general? Here is one school district banning a new revised version of “Diary of Anne Frank” that has some passages her father originally omitted. She was a fifteen year old girl writing of things fifteen years olds think about. Do the parents think their thirteen to fifteen year olds are magically innocent? The school district will use the earlier edition and leave a new edition in the library, at least.

I really like the response to the article that actually quotes some things the parent did not want their child reading, because any reference to female sexual organs is apparently too disturbing for junior high school level adolescent students. And the passage itself is not offensive at all. I also appreciate a readers comment that rightly point out that violence and persecution of the Holocaust should be more disturbing then the description of body parts.

Dollhouse S2E13 )

Bear came to pick me up tonight. I’m spending the weekend at his house, but I did want to leave only after “Dollhouse” aired.
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Not much to say today. Did some cross stitch; only one cross stitch color left and then it is on to backstitch.

I rewatched the first two episodes of “Dollhouse” from season one and I discovered that the first season works with all the second season revelations and first episodes actually stand up well. The second season and knowing more mythology help earlier stories too. But then I always liked this show even as I recognize the increase in quality in later episodes.
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Ok, the geekiest link ever. One day I would probably like to print it too or make it a poster. (Blushing furiously at geekiness)

BBC news is awesome beyond compare, certainly much better than any American news organization (Just like BBC news on Satellite radio is awesome too and actually goes in depth with their stories). They just cover stories so well and in depth that you feel actually there; they don’t treat the viewers like idiots. Watched all the Haiti coverage on it. It is all pretty devastating. At least it is warm there, since people have nowhere to live right now. I just can’t imagine that kind of devastation happening.

Dollhouse S2E12 )
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Dollhouse S2E11 )
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My grandmother’s surgery went well –she had a valve replaced and a bypass too. Papa was pretty much pacing until the doctor called after 3.

Today is Mama’s 53rd birthday. I got her a CD of classical music arranged in special de-stressing way (I found it in SoHo) and a CD of Shostakovich’s Jazz suites. She always criticizes all the presents, no matter what we give her, so we just ignore that part. Papa gave her a biography of a famous Russian actress and they bought a new wedding band earlier this week that is all shiny. In the evening we had a small festive dinner with shrimp, Russian salad etc with a really good cake. Unlike last year, where we spent her birthday in Manhattan, this time we just stayed home.

The doctor I went to Monday called me this morning, turns out it wasn’t an infection after all; I guess antibiotics are for fun of it. I still need to finish them, though. If some of my symptoms won’t subside I might need a referral to a specialist next week. We’ll see how it goes.

Ciaran Hinds is playing Aberforth in the “Deathly Hollows.” I find that really exciting. He is always interesting – from when he was Caesar in “Rome” to “Persuasion” to “Mayor of Casterbridge” to “Jane Eyre.” Too bad he doesn’t have any scenes with Alan Rickman, that would have been fun.

I am almost done with “Into the Forest” book, I’ve been dragging my heels on it lately – it sort of lost me half way through. I need an interesting book to read, something to be excited about but with Christmas and New Year coming up I know I’ll get some books as presents. Papa always has an interesting pick for New Year’s present. I think when next year starts I’ll start on “Paradise Lost” again, as per 5770 plan.

I bought another song on iTunes today, "No I Don't Remember" by Anna Ternheim. It was on the last "Dollhouse" episode. Just as I bought a song from "Dollhouse" last week. I end up really liking the music montages lately.
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There is anticipation of a major snowstorm and it is disturbing all the weekend plans. My cousins and I were supposed to take my grandmother Roza out for her birthday but because of snow this weekend is out. I hope we can reschedule it.

First of the month: a link for global giving again. For $12, two girls in Cambodia can get bicycle repair kits and go to school more easily.

Dollhouse S2 E9-10 )
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It’s the first night of Hanukkah! Happy Hanukkah!

Hanukkah is a really minor holiday that just celebrates a historical event of Jews winning over oppressing Greeks (well, Hellenists) and getting the Temple purified again and it was really a delayed harvest festival that was postponed because of rebellion, but because it is usually in December and close to Christmas it has gained a disproportionate significance. It is pretty, though, with eight days of candle lighting and there is oily food and presents sometimes.

My first awareness of Hanukkah was when I might have been around 11 or 12. My babushka Tanya went to a celebration (she believed that every religion, whether Christian or Jewish, celebrated the same one god, so she mixed all kinds of religious celebrations) and she brought back an envelope with a sealed lucky coin in it for me. It said “Chanukkah” in Russian on the envelope. I learned more about it in America. When I was fifteen I asked my parents for a Star of David necklace for the holiday and they got me my necklace that I always wear. I was not expecting it to be fancy or pretty. But it is beautiful and such a part of me now. In college, I got the candles and a basic menorah at Chabad table in Student Union and started lighting them. I even had to get special permission from RA because we were not allowed to burn candles in the dorm. I had to watch them all the time. I love to turn off all other lights and just watch them. In grad school I got the electric one because of grad dorm regulations but I much prefer regular candles. And now I can read the blessings in actual Hebrew. Goal for next year is to understand what I’m reading.
My favorite part of the holiday is that it is an excuse to make potato pancakes and eat a bunch of nice oily pancakes with sour cream (and eat them with my hands too like we always did when I was a child). Draniki (a belorussian word for potato pancakes) are probably my favorite food of all time, if done right. American flour is not the same but it is still delicious. I even like helping to make them by peeling all potatoes and grating them; my arm feels so tired after all the grating but it is so worth it. Mama made the actual pancakes since she is an expert. She doesn’t use measurements or recipe; she just mixes flour and potatoes with egg on sight.

ITunes has a free Christmas album that is actually pretty good for its variety. It even includes Stephen Colbert’s “Another Christmas Song.” I did feel a bit guilty about listening to some songs about Jesus but I just pass it off as cultural and anthropological experience. Besides I did listened to “Chanukah song” a bunch of times. Neil Diamond did a cover of Adam Sandler’s song actually, although he change some words to point out that Jesus was jewish too and set his song to cartoon music video .

To compensate for all Christmas songs I also bought Barenaked Ladies’ “Hanukah O Hanukah” and Alisa Fineman’s version of “Ocho Kandelikas” on iTunes. I never heard the latter song before or at least I don’t remember that I did. It is in Ladino (Spanish/Hebrew mix – like Yiddish for Ashkenazi Jews, Ladino is for Sephardic ones). The melody is very catching. The song is quiet recent but fun. I also discovered that Papa actually has a Hanukkah songs CD. So I am just getting in holiday spirit.

Dollhouse S2E7-8 )
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My cold actually made me feel low on energy today mostly because of palpitations. I stayed on my couch most of the day, but I did squeezed in 30 minutes of Wii exercise. I like the one where I have to flap my arms and fly like a bird on the screen. And step aerobics too.

Dollhouse S2 E5-6 )
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“Dollhouse” got officially canceled today and, even if that was expected, I still had a gut sadness reaction at reading the news. I guess I was more invested in the show than I realized. I just hope that they will actually air all the remaining episodes and that Joss never works with network again.

I read more “Half the Sky” in the morning. It continues to be amazing and I’m in awe of all the girls and women to persevere notwithstanding all the trauma they go though.

SYTYCD results show. Pauline and Peter went home. No more tappers. They did deserve to go home, they did get the quickstep dance of death. Nigel did a serious dressing down of one young dancer, Nathan, that was harsh but refreshingly so. They had a professional dance company, Alvin Ailey American Dance Company, perform a three personal piece. Damn, their bodies were toned and the dance was just amazing. They could move!

I looked over the fifth reading for my class and took notes myself and prepared a reading guide for the students. We are reading Katha Pollitt’s “Marooned on Gilligan’s Island: Are Women Morally Superior to Men?” She is against “difference feminism” – people who present men and women as essentially different in ethics and worldview. Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus types. She objects to signing a peace petition of women against peace because they used the language of motherhood. She doesn’t think that peacefulness, compassion, consensus are strictly female qualities as opposed to rational and independent male qualities. She believes it is economics, wealth and power that are responsible for gender differences. It is a fairly complex articles and Pollitt quotes many authors and this will be really, really difficult for my kids. But it is college and I need to prepare them for expos. So they get special homework where they will basically take notes on every author Pollitt mentions and also define some cultural terms like Margaret Thatcher, Rousseau, Desdemona and greek play writers. I’m operating on the assumption that they don’t know these references.

Got Buffy comic book #30 today. I will be glad to have the whole run be over (there will be 40) so I can read it all at once.
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Dollhouse S2E4 )

Numbers WTF moment of the day: today I finished the last six chapters of Numbers. Numbers 31 was probably the most disturbing passage I’ve read so far. Definitely elicited a WTF reaction. So God tells Moses to take vengeance on Midianites and then he can die. How sweet, a departing present! Nice of Israelite army to kill all Midian men. Well, they did capture the women, the children and the animals and burned all towns and camps. However, Moses was angry at the army for allowing women to live. He told them to kill all the boys and non-virgin women and only to live virgin girls alive. He is blaming the women for corrupting Israelite men previously. There is so much wrong with this Biblical passage. Later there is a recap of the stages of the journey from Egypt. It is a very long list. I do like that God commanded Moses to keep a record. Six towns also serve as refuge to accidental killers where they can hide until their trial or live in general. God is then very specific in his description of what makes a murderer versus accidental killer. It is all about a weapon of choice and intent. That is it for Numbers. The Israelites are at the borders of Canaan, ready to get the land that God promised them from the inhabitants there and already preparing how to partition it. One more book of Torah to go! I’m skipping tomorrow because I’m going to an opera and will probably start the last book on Monday.

I just realized something as I was reading the Bible; I’m more comfortable reading the bible in English (New International Version) from the computer screen than when I read the actual book in Russian. Partly it is a convenience of reading it and writing about it at the same time. Partly it is because some Russian Bible words are Old Russian and harder to understand. But I thought back to my student who finds it easier to read articles online than on the printed page and I realized with a slight shock that I’m more comfortable with reading online than I thought I was.
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This morning I got up early because my parents and I were heading to Brooklyn. Mama needed to get a flu shot for work and since I already was at the doctor’s office, I got a regular flu shot too. I’ve never got a flu shot before; I guess I wanted to see how I would react to this one because I want to get a swine flu shot as soon as they become available for a larger population – which might be a while. I don’t want the virus to mutate or something next year without some kind of antibodies. The injection did hurt a bit, but overall I’m already forgetting I got one.

We went to visit my grandparents next and then went to Brighton with my grandmother. While she and Mama shopped for shoes (medicare gives free shoes to seniors once in a while and they get to abuse the system and get shoes for relatives), Papa and I went to buy a phone card, take his photo for future passport and get a delicious cabbage roll at a Russian food store. Anything to avoid shoe shopping. I get bored shopping for clothes and shoes, give me a book store or a music store any day. I also went to fix my Star of David pendant; since it is almost fourteen years old and it got worn out on top and needed to be fixed. The guy got it done in an hour, which made me happy. I get to wear it again and not worry about it getting lost! And it was pretty cheap to fix.

Once back home, it was a Saturday for chores. I had to go to the bank then a public library and comic book store and then to a regular Russian store for bread. I was tired by the time I got home at two (we left home at 8:20am). On the plus side, I picked up Patrick Swayze autobiography in the library that I had on hold, and I picked up a “Buffy” and “Angel” comic books. And we got fresh black bread which is the most delicious food in the world. I took my first steps because Mama held a piece of bread across the room.

I finally started watching “Watchmen: Director’s Cut” which was on my desk for more than a month. When Bear and I saw “Watchmen” in the movie theatre we both thought it was a perfect adaptation of the comic book, and the Director’s Cut is even more true. It adds all the little extra details from the comic book and improves the narrative flow. I don’t think I can watch this movie all at once (just like I couldn’t read the graphic novel in one sitting, just too much information) but the details are wonderful. The Director’s Cut really adds to the story and makes it deeper. And just like I did with the theatrical version, I love the music choices. (Well, mostly. I suspect I will still laugh at the Hallelujah scene, since it was so over the top and a bit silly.)

A very well written essay about the themes of “Dollhouse” and why it is a great intellectual TV (spoilers only for the first season):
I don’t know if I believe in the soul, especially a soul separate from the body. I believe that memories make people (which really how I see what the Dollhouse does, construct memories) and our consciousness is fused with the body (at least until such a time people can map and transfer memories). People who lose their memories in their old age always raised the question about identity to me, are they still the same people if only a body remains with no ability to make memories or remember their lives?

HBO comedy specials are fun.

Leviticus WTF moment of the day: So the whole point of an animal offering is to let the animal be your substitute and offer atonement for you and your unintentional sins. I’m sure an animal would not agree with this substitution. Only male animals are led to the slaughter as a burnt offering. The description of how the birds get disemboweled to be burnt is too cringe worthy. Therefore I will quote it, “ 14 'If the offering to the LORD is a burnt offering of birds, he is to offer a dove or a young pigeon. 15 The priest shall bring it to the altar, wring off the head and burn it on the altar; its blood shall be drained out on the side of the altar. 16 He is to remove the crop with its contents [b] and throw it to the east side of the altar, where the ashes are. 17 He shall tear it open by the wings, not severing it completely, and then the priest shall burn it on the wood that is on the fire on the altar. It is a burnt offering, an offering made by fire, an aroma pleasing to the LORD.” (Leviticus 1) I do like that before one offers up an animal one must lay a hand on its head, and pretty much look the animal in the eye when one kills it. God also loves fatty food apparently since in the peace offering the emphasis is on burning of all the fat of the animals because God likes that. It would certainly smell nice. Any animal blood and animal fat is forbidden to eat – kosher food is healthy. Fat and blood belongs to God. Ah, Leviticus with all the laws, I suspect I will have fun with you once we get beyond priestly laws.
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Obama won a Nobel Peace Prize this morning. It is a little unexpected but I’m more concerned with how Fox news will spin it.

The most eye raising thing I’ve read today: Marge Simpson posing for playboy
because cartoon characters are super sexy and need a centerfold, I guess.

Of all the chores that have to be done, the worst is washing the floors. Especially because Mama wants it done a certain way. I prefer washing dishes and cooking and even washing the bathroom to washing the floors.

I think I came up with my midterm question. It will be about the limits of technology like a past midterm but instead of asking who should define that limit I’ll let them try to figure out where the limit is. They talked in class about this; let’s see if they can get their thoughts together.

Dollhouse S2E3 )

Exodus WTF moment of the day: The last five chapters of Exodus were the most boring reading I ever had to read. Mainly because I already had to read it earlier, when God was giving Moses instructions on how to build the tabernacle. Four chapters are just about people building the tabernacle in excruciating detail and then a list of all the parts again. And the last chapter is about God telling Moses to put the tabernacle up, listing all its parts, and then Moses putting it up, part by part in detail. If I had to write these five chapters it would go like this: “And then craftsmen built everything pertaining to the tabernacle according to God’s earlier instructions. Here is a list of everything. God told Moses to assemble it and Moses did. God guided people. The End.” That’s not even a paragraph! I guess people cared because it was the house of worship but these chapters are the reason while the Bible always bored me before and why the children’s version always skips this. Well, the good thing is the Exodus is done! Three more books of the Torah to go. I was thinking of taking a little break before I tackle Leviticus but I should just work through it before I lose my nerve to continue.
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Today one of my neighbor’s kids, a seven year old girl, stopped by. Mama sometimes babysits her and takes her to swimming practice. The girl wanted to say hi to me and asked me to help her with her homework a little. It was fun to help and it got me out of my house and out of my funk a bit. Somehow hanging out with kids makes me feel like a kid and hers is a fun age. Reminds me of the kids I watched in the summer camps too. I actually felt quite suited for that job, I’m glad that was my first real job. I always wanted to be a teacher, even when I was a kid. I guess I have more patience than I think I have. Just random musings of the day.

Dollhouse S2E2 )

Exodus WTF moment of the day: I started Exodus last night. This is probably the book of the Bible that I’m most familiar with because of how popular the story is with all movies like “Ten Commandments” and “Prince of Egypt” and recounting the story at Passover Seder every year. But it is interesting to actually read the details. It is astonishing how in one chapter, chapter 2, we go from Moses’ birth to his exile. It is a really short chapter that is cramped with information. The fact that Moses just killed the Egyptian guy who was beating up a Hebrew man is usually glossed over. It is not like Moses lost his temper or was doing it in self defense. The chapter specifically mentions that he looked both ways to make sure no one was around before he killed the guy. He, of course, also runs away after Pharaoh finds out about this and wants to rightfully punish him. Moses also came off as really whinny when God was asking him to return to Egypt and lead the people out for three days to the desert to pray to God. (It wasn’t even specifically about leaving Egypt completely). Moses didn’t like to speak in public and wanted God to least pick a different person to be a spokesman. So God just said, “Fine, your brother Aaron can do it.” So it was actually his brother who was doing all the talking in Egypt, Moses just gets most of the publicity because he has the signs and can turn a staff into a snake. And the fact that Moses even has a brother is a bit shady; obviously the pharaoh just stopped killing male children or something shortly after Moses was born. Maybe the Pharaoh stopped worrying about Israel’s population growing. Tonight’s reading – the plagues.
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Dollhouse S2E1 )

I love the opening sequence music in “Battlestar Gallactica,” it is haunting and very appropriate to end of the world feeling. I’m tempted to buy a CD.

I went over Chapter 2 of the Hebrew book today (I’m using “The First Hebrew Primer: Third Edition”) : the second half of the alphabet and the rest of the vowels. I think I’m getting better at not getting confused by similar looking letters. The chapter had more English words written in Hebrew letters and that helped. I pulled vocab cards from the future chapter to get a heads up but I still have one more chapter on vowels and pronunciation exceptions. I don’t want to do too much at one time, my brain needs to process and distinguish my “r” and “d”s.

I’m having a bit of fanfic withdrawal. But I’m staying firm on my goal. I’ll just have to settle for a book version that’s coming out this month.

I need to write more (when I say ‘write’ I mean my dissertation work); this week grading consumed too much of my time. Goals for next week: start the conference paper and work on the corresponding chapter.

Bear’s parents are getting a new dog soon, maybe. Well, at least if it is another beagle it won’t take me as long to adjust to it. Hopefully the dog and I can come to an understanding where he stays away from me and doesn’t touch me and not take it personally and I can be in the same room with him.

Genesis WTF moment of the day: Judah son of Jacob had three sons in this story: Er, Onan and Shelah. He married off the oldest, Er to a woman named Tamar. Now God was pissed at Er and killed him. So Judah married Tamar to his second son Onan. The idea was for Onan to get Tamar pregnant and then the resulting child would have counted as Er’s child. Onan didn’t like that idea too much; well he liked marrying Tamar and sleeping with her plenty, he just did not want his sperm to conceive his brother’s child. And while sleeping with Tamar he made sure she wouldn’t conceive. God didn’t like that too and killed Onan. (this is the part of story that makes the Catholic Church pronounce that “spilling seed on the ground” is evil. Context, church, context. What you mean, church, is not what the story is about. If my students were explaining quotes and interpreting that way, I would fail them) But this is not the most WTF moment of this story. After Onan dies, his younger brother Shelah is still a kid. Judah sends Tamar back to her family to wait for Shelah to grow up. Years pass, the boy grows up but Judah doesn’t honor his promise. Tamar decides to take matters into her own hands. After Judah’s wife dies and he travels somewhere, Tamar puts on a veil and changes her clothes and sits in Judah’s path. He takes her for a hooker and asks to sleep with her. To be fair he didn’t recognize his daughter in law and he did ask. They arrange for a payment of a goat, and in the meantime Judah turned over a seal and other things as collateral. Tamar then gets pregnant. Three month later, Judah gets a report that she is pregnant and orders her to be burned, thinking she is sleeping around. He is shamed after she shows him the collateral and acknowledges that she is more right than he since he did promise her his third son. Tamar gives birth to twins.


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