Modern Hebrew Sketch Comedy

The post I had written for today has been relegated to the back burner to reduce for a while: the broth is still too thin.

So in it’s place, I invite you to see what you are able to make of some Modern Hebrew sketch comedy. You’ll probably get the gist of it without any Hebrew whatsoever. For my part, I was able to get the gist and most of the detail (thanks largely to the Hebrew subtitles: dude’s talking fast). A little work with a dictionary did the rest…you might also consider Google Translate if you are able to type Hebrew characters.

Have fun, it’s a nice bit.

[Modern Hebrew Sketch Comedy was written by G. Brooke Lester for and was originally posted on 2011/02/23. Except as noted, it is © 2011 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

The Endless Summer of Endless Teaching…

…ends very soon. In mere days, in fact. Thanks for your patience, and don’t delete that RSS feed just yet.

In the meantime, enjoy [FOOTNOTE] the biblical exegesis of Wanda Jackson (“Hard Headed Woman”).

BACK TO POST“enjoy” here ≈ being acutely reminded of how frequently the only “empowerment” available has amounted to “internalizing as self-loathing the sweeping prejudices of the patriarchy, but being really saucy and spunky about it.” h/t to Judy in comments.

[The Endless Summer of Endless Teaching… was written by G. Brooke Lester for and was originally posted on 2010/07/19. Except as noted, it is © 2010 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

“Reunited, Hey, Hey”

Like many of you, I am informed by email that AAR will again in the future be holding its annual meetings in the same time and place that SBL holds its annual meetings.

Reached for comment, AAR would not say on the record that it has decided that SBL does not smell like cheese, eat paste, and sweat when it holds AAR’s hand crossing the street. (SBL, reached for comment, looked at its shoes and mumbled aggressively about “the kewl kids.”) Person-on-the-street interviews suggest that a reduced percentage of corduroy jackets with patched sleeves in SBL, and an increase in annual papers with “gender” in the title, may be among the relevant factors in this reunion.

In related news: AAR and SBL seen sitting at the same lunch table. Occasional brushing-together of feet probably not “footsie,” but promisingly, does not result in a masking tape dividing line on the floor.

[“Reunited, Hey, Hey” was written by G. Brooke Lester for and was originally posted on 2010/06/28. Except as noted, it is © 2010 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

Finally: Proof of God’s Existence

A student informs me on Facebook that National Geographic Channel is offering its annual Easter season woo-fest, as indicated in this almost unendurable article in the Telegraph (“New series…new explanation…Egypt…Exodus blah blah volcanic ash yada yada algae etc”).

No, I am not saying that proof of God’s existence is found in the tendentious quote-mining of scientists by entertainers to sell a reductionist, sensationalist narrative product to gullible yokels rendered nearly helpless by years of substandard science education and the polarizing media invention of false equivalencies.

I am saying that it is found in this: when I wrote the web URL of the Telegraph article into a Facebook comment addressed to a colleague, the “captcha”[footnote] presented to me was this:

by weasels

Top that, Anselm and Aquinas, if you can.

BACK TO POST A “captcha” is when you have to read and copy some scribbly text in order to prove to a web site that you are not a spam robot. You sometimes have to do that when you write a comment on web sites, especially if your comment includes a web link.

[Finally: Proof of God’s Existence was written by G. Brooke Lester for and was originally posted on 2010/03/29. Except as noted, it is © 2010 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

This Week in COS: It Wasn’t My Fault!

You’ll recall that Charles Halton has invited folks to read the Context of Scripture in a year. Joseph at כל־האדם is also reading along.

For pure joy of reading, I’ve got to go back to last Sunday’s text: “The Case Against Ura-Tarh̬unta and His Father Ukkura” (3.33). The context is the reign of the Hittite king H̬attušili III (mid-late 13th century BCE), and the text involves declarations of innocence, made under oath. The defendants are accused of embezzling items entrusted to them by the queen for distribution, gifting, or trade.

The two principal excuses seem to be, “But I only stole the old ones,” and “It died: not my fault!”

In the “But I only stole the old ones” department, the following is typical:

And whenever they bring here new bits and snaffles, I have been accepting the new ones for the service of the crown, but of the old ones I have been taking for myself as many as I liked. (§5).

Translation: Yes, I pilfered an Epson printer, but they had already been replaced by the new all-in-one scanning jobs! I’m not sure, but the oath the defendants are made to take in §25 seem to reflect a ruling on this saying, more or less, Don’t do it again.

My favorite excuse, though, is the “It died: not my fault” defense. Some examples:

I also took for myself two mules, which died while in my possession.…

I had hitched up three mules belonging to the palace, and they died.…

I took for myself three cows…and drove them to my house, where they died.…

Of the asses which I had charge of, I took for myself nothing. Five asses died, and I replaced them from my house. (Ensuing lines: well, I haven’t yet, but I will.)…

The mules that they mention died.

Anyone ever see Miller’s Crossing? Remember when Tom keeps betting on horses that lose or get injured?

Lazarre’s Man: Hey, horses got knees?
Tom: I don’t know… fetlocks
Lazarre’s Man: Well if I was a horse, I’d be down on my fetlocks praying you don’t bet on me.

If I was a Hittite mule, horse, or cow, I’d be down on my fetlocks praying that Ura-Tarh̬unta and his father Ukkura are not given charge of me.

[This Week in COS: It Wasn’t My Fault! was written by G. Brooke Lester for and was originally posted on 2010/02/12. Except as noted, it is © 2010 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

“A Diploma-less Monkey”?

Really, it makes me wonder why I took up evil, er, I mean Bible, in the first place. I guess academic PTSD never really goes away.

(And yes, I really enjoy watching Phineas and Ferb. My wife calls it “This generation’s Rocky and Bullwinkle.” As Disney programs go, it’s not about dating, kissing, and the objectification of girls. Oh, and no Selena Gomez.)

Why Do You Think We Offer Them Insurance?

You don’t need me to tell you that being a student is a chancy business. As Ph.D. comics notes, there are the perils of summer.

Then, there are the special hazards of fall. Like, your Hebrew teacher singing.


Stay safe out there, everyone.

All the Great Old Testament Stories in Ten Minutes?

How much would you love to see it done, as a video response to All the Great Operas in Ten Minutes?

I really love Kim Thompson’s video: it’s casual, it moves rapidly, it sparks a desire to see the full-length operas, and it challenges the misconception that opera is dull. I love the chiming bell after each segment when the selling points for a given opera are shown: prostitution! brawls! stabbing of animals!

If it were me, I would choose well-known Hebrew Bible narratives, but take the opportunity to show that they are not what you think. For example, that in the “walls of Jericho” story, the Canaanites do not have a misplaced faith in their mighty wall: they all know that they’re dead meat, having utter faith in the ability of the God of Israel to bulldoze their city. Or how patient, silent Job spends hundreds of words describing God as an amoral monster. Or how Eve never tricks Adam into eating anything.

Can you imagine getting Job down to one minute or less? And imagine the paper cutouts!

Another approach would be to narrow the scope in some way: All the Great Women of the Hebrew Bible in Ten Minutes, perhaps. Or, the Deuteronomistic History in Ten Minutes.

I can easily imagine a homework or extra credit assignment here. What would you do—or ask your students to do—with All the Great Old Testament Stories in Ten Minutes?

“Hebrew is a Hard Language” (YouTube)

Watching the whole video (it’s only 77 seconds), and reading the comments, will help to clarify what’s happening:

What makes it funny? What parts of the dialogue can you figure out?

Teaching Biblical Studies Like Steve Jobs

This weekend I read Carmine Gallo’s piece called, “Deliver a Presentation like Steve Jobs” (h/t to Akma). On the basis of the presentations by Jobs that he has reviewed, Gallo offers ten examples of the kinds of practices that make Jobs’ presentations so compelling.

We bibliobloggers usually wait until Thanksgiving weekend to gripe talk about whatmakesunsuccessfulpresentations. But “presenting” is just a more palatable word for “lecturing,” and summer is a fine time to reflect on the teaching practices that we’ll be taking up in the fall.

Here, I copy the names of the practices Gallo lists (the bold-face phrases), but I describe them in terms of my experience with lecturing on topics in Hebrew Bible.

  1. Set the Theme: Often, but not always, at the start. Don’t make the mistake of keeping it under wraps until it’s unveiled at the end: whatever ties the presentation together, whatever big idea I mean my students to go away with, I want to bring it in clearly and early, and reinforce it often.
  2. Demonstrate Enthusiasm: Risk informality and the possibility of being ridiculed behind your back. It’s cool (and as infectious as hell) to be in love with an idea, or a text, or a discovery. For example, I love how features of El and Baal in Ugaritic religious texts help illuminate religio-political conflicts throughout the monarchical period in Israel and Judah. If you think what you’re saying is exciting, go ahead and bubble over a bit. No, a bit more: burn some calories. There, that’s it.
  3. Provide an Outline: I give a written outline with lectures, though I am inclined to make it briefer and more spare this year than I have in the past. In any case, students have told me how much they depend on my giving clear indicators during the lecture about where we are in our itinerary.
  4. Make Numbers Meaningful: To illustrate: does it matter whether Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech in the 1950s or the 1850s? Or the 1650s? Does a social context of fire-hoses, Jim Crow, and “strange fruit” matter or no (over against Shadrach Minkins and the Kansas-Nebraska Act, or “perpetual servitude” and partvs seqvitvr ventram)? Insofar as you think it matters for Dr. King, then how might the differences between the 8th, 6th, and 5th centuries matter as social contexts for particular words of the book of Isaiah, and how can those differences be made meaningful?
  5. Try for an Unforgettable Moment: This may, but needn’t, correspond to the climax of the presentation. In your search for unforgettable moments, pay attention to student feedback. I remember learning that students were impersonating (behind my back, of course) my imitation of Israelite refugees fleeing southward in 722 B.C.E., frantically waving their copies of E, Hosea, the Elijah and Elisha narratives, and Exodus and Moses traditions. If they were impersonating it, then they were “getting it”: this may be a point in the presentation that I could sharpen into a planned unforgettable moment. Think big: could a colleague or student come in as a “special guest”? (Wellhausen? The Priestly writer?)
  6. Create Visual Slides: Text shouldn’t dominate: I use just enough text to show where I am in my outline, or to tick off Big Ideas. Often images alone are the way to go. Even with images, don’t feel tied to a literal or prosaic correspondence between the image and what you’re saying: abstract images or landscapes working in the background can create the desired atmosphere just fine. The idea is to create an imaginative space within which to arrange the spoken words.
  7. Give ’em a Show: Entertainment has a structure, a flow: setting the scene; problem or conflict; rising tension; climax and resolution; denouement. A presentation may comprise one long arc, or a series of related arcs, but remember your hearers are sitting in chairs: for heaven’s sake, try to take them at least on an intellectual and emotional journey or journeys. (For example, a journey from the conventional wisdom of Proverbs or creation psalms, to the way Qohelet uses such conventional proverbs as a foil for his dissenting wisdom, to the guns-a’blazing blaspheming wisdom of Job 9 and 19, to a denouement reflecting on the pastoral goods of affirming the “blasphemous” anger that good people have against God in times of tragedy.)
  8. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff: For Gallo, the “small stuff” means technical glitches, and every teacher has her share of those. But there are other kinds of glitches: the student question that comes from far out in left field or that tries to hijack the thread; the total misunderstanding arising from a piece of wording that you had never realized was confusing; the quiz that runs late and that sets you fifteen minutes behind on the Most Important Lecture Evah. Students have been learning for centuries under the most preposterous of conditions, and ours will too.
  9. Sell the Benefit: What are they going to be able to do that they couldn’t before? Will Brueggemann’s approach to “orientation and disorientation” in the Psalms allow them to integrate the imprecatory psalms into their pastoral ministry so that they quit telling people in pain to stop being angry? Will a frank recognition that Gen 1 and 2 order the creation of humans and beasts differently allow them to see that all texts (including the primeval story) invite certain kinds questions about God and the world while rebuffing others? Will quizzes and outlines on Bible content allow them not to look like total yutzes when their parishioners say, “I heard something weird about that one biblical story, where is that again?”
  10. Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse: Surely we’ve all noticed that we are better the second time we lecture on a topic, and even better the third time. So, for a new presentation, why punish the first hearers with an unrehearsed draft?

A couple of bonus links: Dr. Crazy’s reflections on writing an article are written with an eye on conference papers; probably too focused on lit review for most teaching lectures, though. Also, here are Ten PowerPoint (or Keynote) Tips for Preparing a Successful Presentation.

What tips would you offer for creating presentations or lectures worthy of a Steve Jobs?