The Handmaid’s Tale

With all the hype around Atwood’s novel I decided to read it again. Now I “read” it for school back in over a decade ago, so it was a rushed job and I skipped around in the second half of the book reading the important chapters that we were discussing in class and whatnot. We analyzed that book up and down so my first go around wasn’t that enjoyable. So with the Trump Presidency, this has become one of the turn to dystopian books that has gotten a remarkable boost in readership. There is also the Hulu series which is going to have a second season. Now the book and television show are two completely different things, this is about the book.

The book which it all was inspired by is a decent read and if you haven’t had the chance to read it or were forced to read it in school perhaps now is the time to re-read it and give it a second look. The book is the recollections of a Handmaid- Offred living in a theocratic military dictatorship in the Republic of Gilead, although the book is set in and around Cambridge, Massachusetts. She is the Handmaid of The Commander, Fred and his wife Serena Joy. Offred is there to have children and that’s her role in the society. It is an interesting exploration of how people just go along like sheep, and not want to rock the boat. So when the Republic of Gilead was formed all women were fired from their jobs and all their assets were frozen and they were placed in one of four groups, Wives
(wore blue)/ and daughters (white), Marthas (green), Handmaids (red), and Econowives (all colors). Reading and writing for women was forbidden. These are extreme laws but it isn’t that far from some of the extreme laws that lawmakers already want. The book is a cautionary tale just like the film Idiocracy, so we need to care about women’s rights as well as work for the common good.


Book of Esther part 3: The finale

This is the last of the series on the Book of Esther, last week we looked at Haman’s plot. We get to the whole deal with Purim today.

The King Xerxes, couldn’t sleep so he gets out the book of memorable deeds and reads about Mordecai and how he informed the King about the two eunuchs that were plotting against him. The king asks what was bestowed on Mordecai for doing this and learns it was nothing. The king asks who is in court and lo and behold it’s Haman, the King asks Haman what the king should do for someone who delights him. Now, Haman think that this is about himself and that the King will be honoring him so he goes all out, he wants to be dresses in royal robes and ride on a royal horse through the town being honored by all. The king says wonderful and tells Haman to do this for Mordecai, the Jew by the gate. Haman returns home in mourning and with his head covered and told his wife and friends what had happened, they predict that it is only going to get worse for Haman. While this is happening the King’s Eunuchs come to bring Haman to Queen Esther’s banquet. At this second banquet the King ask Esther again what her petition is and Esther reveals that she is Jewish “I and my people are being sold to be destroyed”. The King wonders who would do such a thing and Esther points to Haman, this foe and enemy. This enrages the King and storms out furious about this, one of the eunuchs mentions that Haman is/was building a gallows for Mordecai by his house. So Haman was hanged on the gallows meant for Mordecai. The king gave Haman’s house to Esther and Mordecai became the new Prime Minister and lived in Haman’s house.

The initial step was taken but there was that Edict that went out saying to kill all the Jewish people, so Esther pleaded with the King to cancel the edict sent out by Haman ordering the destruction of the Jews. A new edict was printed and distributed across the nations saying that the previous one is wrong and allowed the Jews who were in every city to gather and defend their lives, to destroy, to slay, and to annihilate any armed force of any people or province that might attack them, with their children and women, and to plunder their goods,  upon one day throughout all the provinces of King Ahasu-e′rus, on the thirteenth day of Adar.  As time passes it gets it the thirteenth of Adar and the Jews gathered together and in Susa, the capital they slew 500 men and 10 of Haman’s sons were captured. Esther goes before the King and asks for another day since the Jews didn’t take any plunder. He agrees that those in Susa can do it another day and the Jews slew 300 more. Across the provinces of King Ahasuerus some 75,000 were slain. This is why the feast of Purim is celebrated.

This is a strange book in the Bible as it has a different feel from the rest of the books. I can sort of understand why the church reads only a brief section from Esther as it’s sort of like the Quentin Tarantino movie of the Bible. It is worth reading, seeing or hearing.


Book of Esther part 2: Haman’s plot against the Jews

Last week I went through the first bit of Esther, this week we look at the plots.

After all this had happened the King, perhaps Xerxes, promoted Haman to be like the Prime Minister in the country and all the king’s servants were told by the king to bow to Haman. Mordecai did not. The other servants told Haman and when he noticed the slight was filled with fury. Haman learned that Mordecai was a Jew and sought to destroy all the Jews. Haman cast Pur (lots) and through this decided that all Jews will be destroyed on the 13th of Adar. Haman put this before the king and sort of approved it. Haman will pay 10 thousand talents of silver for this to be done. So on the 13th day of Nisan, the first month of the Hebrew calendar and wrote the edict to go out across the kingdom. The next chapter is a copy of the edict, that all Jews, with their wives and children, will be destroyed by the sword of their enemies, without pity or mercy, on the 14th of Adar, the last month of the year. Mordecai and the Jewish people rent their clothes, put on ashes and sackcloth, and wailed. Esther eventually learned about the edict through a very clumsy game of telephone through one of the King’s eunuchs, Hathach. Esther decides that Mordecai and the Jewish people should fast on her behalf, and neither eating or drinking for three days. Esther and my maids will also fast, then she will go to the king, though it is against the law; and if I perish, I perish.

We are then treated to two prayers one from Mordecai and the other from Esther. In Mordecai’s prayer we learn that he didn’t bow because he didn’t want to set a Man above God.  He continues and asks the Lord to spare his people once again for their death was before their eyes. Esther also turned to the Lord, she took off her fancy garments and put on garments of distress and mourning, as well as covering herself with ashes and dung instead of perfume. In Esther’s prayer which is read the Thursday of the first week of Lent, we hear her asking for the Lord to put eloquent speech in her mouth, and turn the king’s heart to hate the man who is fighting against us, so that there may be an end of Haman and those who agree with him. “Save us from the hand of our enemies; turn our mourning into gladness and our sorrows into wholeness.” This is a powerful prayer and it is really a shame that we don’t hear from Esther on Sundays. On the third day the fast was over and Esther put on her royal robes and with two handmaidens entered the king wasn’t too happy about this to begin with and Esther fainted. The king dashed to Esther and told her that she would be die as it only applied to those people. As she tried to respond she collapsed and as she regained strength asked that the King and Haman join her for dinner. Now, Haman saw Mordecai by the King’s gate and Mordecai wasn’t cowering or kowtowing before Haman so he went home and was pissed. Haman gathered together his friend and wife and after talking about how wonderful he is but Haman wouldn’t be happy unless Mordecai bowed down before him. His wife and friends suggest why not hang Mordecai in the morning and then go to dinner with the king in the evening.

It is still sort of weird going between the extended verses and the regular ones as they are often time saying basically the same thing twice. This is an interesting story and it is a shame that we only hear like six verses from it on a Thursday in Lent.

A Day without a Woman

As with the Women’s March and the Day without Immigrants this is another protest of Donald Trump’s Presidency. It is also International Women’s Day, this year the theme is Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030, as they hope by 2030 that the wage gap with no longer exist. To participate in the strike you can do any or all of these three things, refrain from paid and unpaid work, not shopping in stores or online (except local, small and women-owned businesses), and/or by wearing red, which signifies “revolutionary love and sacrifice.” So far there are a handful of school districts that are closed because you know most teachers are predominately women. Let us hope that this strike can have a big impact like the strikes in the 70s in the US and Iceland. Time can only tell.

Book of Esther: part 1 (Prologue and Elevation of Esther)

The book of Esther, the extended edition, begins with an introduction of all the characters and place. In the second year of the reign of Artaxexes the great (perhaps Xerxes) on the first of Nisan, Mordecai (Esther’s cousin), of the tribe of Benjamin, had a dream of two great dragons poised to fight and at every roar the nations of the world all prepared for war against the righteous. This continues as Mordecai overhears some eunuchs plotting against the king and Mordecai tells the King, placing him in the court but Mordecai gained an enemy in Haman who sought to injure Mordecai and his people because of the eunuchs. This give us some more understanding as to who Mordecai and Haman are.

In the regular version we begin a year later at a week long banquet that Artaxerxes held for all his Princes and servants. Everyone was going crazy partying. Queen Vashti also gave a banquet for all the women. On the seventh day Artaxerxes asked his eunuchs to get Vashti to show her beauty, she refused. This incensed the King and he called his wise men to figure out what should be done. One of the princes Memucan suggested that “all women will give honor to their husbands, high and low.” They also remove Vashti as Queen and after some time passes Ataxerxes or his people decide that he needs a queen. So the order went out for maidens and many showed up including Hadassah (Esther) her parents had died and her cousin Mordecai adopted her as his daughter. The King found favor with Esther and she became the queen and a banquet was held. Then we get the story of Mordecai overhearing eunuchs plotting to kill the King and it he reports this to Esther who brings it to the King.

This is one of the weirder books in the Bible for several reasons there are many banquets and it deals with foreign royalty. We hear about the Pharaohs in Egypt and King David and so forth in Israel and Judah but here we are offered a Queen from Persia who happens to be a Jewish orphan. Talk about rags to riches. What makes it more confusing in the addition of the Greek text to the Hebrew text which so far tells us the same thing twice unless there was a lot of plotting going on in Persia. This is my first time reading through this book. This year the feast of Purim is celebrated this weekend (11/12).

Lenten Reflections: Book of Esther

The past couple of years I worked through Job and Amos. This Lent I’m going to look at the Book of Esther. Esther is one of the Five Scrolls or Megillah it is in the third section of the Hebrew Bible the Ketuvim or the Writings. In the Christian church it is one of the Historical books. This book is interesting as it deals with a woman Esther who becomes Queen of Persia and wife of Xerxes the great, perhaps. In Esther we hear about the events that are celebrated during the feast of Purim. This book is unique since it does not explicitly mention God.

There is an interesting thing about the book is that there are additional chapters of the book that are in the Greek Septuagint. In the Vulgate these are placed at the end of the book and depending on your translation these might be indicated by letters or as numbers. To make it more confusing some Bible translations put these within the text of the book so you get a like chapter A or 11 before the first chapter of Esther.

Women’s March

One of the images from this past Saturday’s Women’s March across the nation and around the world that caught my eye was a group of ladies dressed like suffragettes with a sign reading “Same Shit Different Century”, sure a lot has changed in the world but women’s rights are still dragging behind those of men in the United States. Who would have thought that a century after Alice Paul and the other participants of the Woman suffrage parade of 1913 in Washington DC, that we wouldn’t have really gotten that far from what they were fighting for sure Women can vote and even be elected to public office but they haven’t gotten much since. Women are still earning less than a man for the same amount of work and any semblance of the Equal Right Act still hasn’t been passed and approved by the states. However, this seems unlikely to be passed right now with the Republican held Congress, and perhaps the ERA needs to be revived to include all those LGBTQ as well. Let us all work towards bringing this to a reality as we need to become more active citizens by participating in local elections and learning what candidates stand for rather than how much noise they can make.

This march brought up the musical Ragtime set in the early part of the 20th century and tells the stories of three groups of people the Upper-class Whites in New Rochelle, the African Americans in Harlem, and the Eastern European Immigrants.  It is a period piece for today, as all these groups still exist today in different forms The musical touches on race, disparities of class, police violence, immigration, equality and justice for women and minorities.  If you have some time take a listen to the musical or I’m sure you can find some high school production on Youtube. The stand out songs are the from two different points in the show one at the end of Act One “Till We Reach That Day” and the other just before the end of Act Two “Make Them Hear You”. In the Act One Finale we have an unjust murder by the police, which still is relevant today. The song before the Act Two finale “Make Them Hear You” is an anthem for Justice through non-violence.  We hear that “Your sword can be a sermon, or the power of the pen. Teach every child to raise his voice and then, my brothers, then will justice be demanded by ten million righteous men make them hear you.” This is our vehicle for change in the world, and hopefully tomorrow there will be more of us working for the cause where someday gender and race won’t matter when it comes to politics and life in general.

News Roundup

Pat Summitt: This is huge news as the all time winningest college basketball coach has passed away, this is bound to be surpassed by Coach K or Geno in the future, but without Pat Summitt women’s athletics in college would really be nothing. Summitt changed the way that women’s basketball was played and is bound to be talked about for generations not only in Tennessee. Just look at her coaching tree and you can see her impact. On top of all of this she’s got Tyler, her son, as well. Summitt will be missed, however it would be nice if ESPN and other sports coverage did more to cover women’s sports sure we might see the Women’s NCAA Basketball Championship on ESPN, but it would be wonderful if they covered the WNBA or the NWSL like they did for the NBA and MLS.

Architectural:  This is cool as one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s final houses is being put on the market for the first time ever. It is pretty cool to look at the pictures and see how well kept the owner kept the house as it looks mostly original. I wonder if that’s a stipulation for living in a FLW house. If you have a spare million this house is for you.

News Roundup

Movies: This is surprising news with the film Wonder Woman  will be the first female led film with a 100 million dollar budget. Sure I know that there aren’t many female directors as I can name like three Sofia Coppola, Ava DuVernay from Selma and Kathryn Bigelow who won a
Best Director Oscar for The Hurt Locker. Now I actually had to look up those last two names to make sure I had their names correct. This is one of the big problems facing Hollywood as so many film have a clearly male voice and it would be nice if there were more of a voice for women coming from the director’s chair. Sure there have been a bunch of films recently released that feature mostly female stars but the films are directed by men like Paul Feig. This is a reason it is great to be seeing many female stars developing production firms where they can pick the films they want to make and hire whom they want to write and direct.

Beer: Here we have cool news as the Trappist Beer market is growing.  It nice to see Trappist turning back to this traditional method of making money. Especially since it seems like beer is having a moment right now.

News Roundup

New National Monument: This is pretty unique as President Obama has announced that women’s equality get a monument as well. Obama announced that the Sewall-Belmont house in DC will be designated  the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument. The building was the headquarters of the National Women’s Party which fought for women’s suffrage and tried mightily to pass the Equal Right Amendment, an amendment to the constitution that granted women equal rights, it was introduced in 1923 and sort of died in 79. However, the Virginia Senate continues to vote on it most recently in January, it seems like the time has come for the amendment to be added to the Constitution.

Comic book Movies: In news that really isn’t news it has been officially confirmed by Warner Brothers that Matt Damon is directing a stand alone Batman movie in the DC Movie Universe. In the Marvel Universe there is a new trailer it only a teaser for the latest film Doctor Strange.

Space: This is a cool story as it involves interstellar travel. Stephen Hawking along with Yuri Milner and the help of Mark Zuckerberg want to send a bunch of computer chip sized satellites with solar sails which would get a push by a giant laser and then use the sun as a means of propulsion. They would travel at about 20% the speed of light. Hawking believes that interstellar travel must be something that we can reach within a human lifetime. The nearest star system is 25 trillion miles or about 4 light years away and the farthest object (Voyager 1) sent from earth has only gone about 135 AU from the Earth.