Babylon Rising, Chapter 20

Okay, this chapter just plain pisses me off.

I’ve been okay so far.  Oh, Murph, you lovable funster with your arrogance and your meanness to your students and your entitlement to everything you want.  It’s all so cute.

But now Murph is back in class, explaining to his students how he came into possession of the Brazen Serpent, and how he studies it.

And what.  A.  Friggin’.  Asshat.

Thing That Pissed Me Off #1 (in future, TTPMO): The lecture topic.

We are a couple weeks into the semester, tops.  And this is the lecture in this introductory course on biblical archeology: the professor’s little field trip.  This is the kind of professor Murphy is: the kind that can’t let one lesson go by without referencing his pet research topic.  And after missing at least one (and probably more) classes, Murphy sees no need to catch the students up on the basics of archeology that they should be studying.  Nope, just jumps right into the Saga of Michael Murphy.  I swear, this class is the easiest “Easy A” at Preston University.   Just go to class, ooh and ahh at Murphy’s slides, and write a paper confirming the Bible as fact and referencing Murphy’s own work. 

TTPMO #2: Murphy’s attitude.

This should be old hat by now, but Murphy manages to pack an amazing amount of condescension into one short lesson.  For example:

All of these gentlemen [Biblical kings] ruled way before they could be on the cover of People, so I don’t have big, glossy color photos to help you remember them.

It would be a lot easier if these artifacts already came with the background audiotape you get at the museum for the walking tour, but I haven’t found one yet that does.

*Showing a slide with Chaldean writing*  Don’t worry.  Those of you who think you’re hungover, that’s not English up there.

Again, this didn’t come with an instructional video…

TTPMO #3: There are no Hollywood shortcuts

Let’s recap here.  Murphy got the clue to the location of the Brazen Serpent via a rock thrown through his window by a mysterious collector.  Murph had to battle a lion (not a shortcut, but pretty darned Hollywood), and then got the shortcut of a brilliant colleague to figure out that which he could not figure out himself.  Then, he was flown around the world free of charge, stayed in the home of a sheikh, and found the priceless artifact when his wife fell through two holes.

And yet Murphy has the nerve, the absolute unmitigated nerve to say:

There are no Hollywood shortcuts in this business.

No Hollywood shortcuts?  No Hollywood shortcuts???  C’mere, Murph.  No, closer.  *slap*

Which sorta leads to my next TTPMO…

TTPMO #4: No credit for the ladies

Hmmm, who was it who figured out the writing on the scroll from Methuselah, which led Murphy to the right corner of the globe to find the Serpent?  Oh, yeah, it was Dr. Isis McDonald.  And who was it whose knowledge of ancient landscapes and architecture ensured that she fell through just the right hole to find just the right underground chamber?  Oh yeah, Laura Murphy.  And who got spooked by something snakelike and fell through another hole so they could find the exact room with the Serpent?  That was Laura again.

Guess how many mentions Isis and Laura get during Murph’s lecture on how “boring old archeologists like me discover new truths”?  Zero.  In fact, check out Murphy’s references to the research that led to the finding of the Serpent:

…so how did I know that this lovely artist’s rendering is of King Nebuchadnezzar?  By knowing the period of the writing…

Again, that was Isis.

…when I pieced together enough of the rest of the scroll, I started to realize this was no Babylonian grocery list.


…let me skip all the way ahead, past what I learned by reading the scroll…

Isis, and, to a lesser extent, Laura.

And then, to close class:

…if I have any luck reading what’s written on the bottom of this tail here…


Spoiler alert: Murph will be no better at deciphering the tail of the serpent than he was at deciphering the scroll.  Too bad the brilliant philologist who can decipher such things is given no mention in Murphy’s lecture, or even any thanks in Murphy’s own mind.



Posted on April 11, 2010, in Babylon Rising, Books. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Heh, hands up, anyone here who *hasn’t* had a group leader/boss/acquaintance/whatever like Murph here? “Now that I’ve finished our project…”, “Here’s that report I wrote for you…”, etc.

    Anyone here not really, really want to defenestrate them?

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