TSoA: Chapter 3: Back with Shari

You guys may remember Shari Nelson: Michael Murphy’s research assistant who is used to receiving e-mails from her employer in the dead of night.

You may also remember that Shari grew up with an abusive alcoholic father and enabler mother, and that both parents died in a car crash (due to her father’s drunk driving), leaving Shari all alone.

So Shari already had parental issues and abandonment issues even before her lame-ass, stupid brother Chuck imposed on her hospitality after he got out of prison, and was later murdered.

All of this goes a long towards explaining why Shari hangs onto Michael Murphy like a limpet:

With Laura gone, Shari had taken up the post of chief worrier on his behalf…

Yeah, because that’s healthy.

Knowing this, Murphy lied about his caving/drowning/puppy-saving activities over the weekend.  Or rather, he didn’t LIE, because good Christians don’t lie.  Instead, he fudged the truth, which is TOTALLY NOT LIKE LYING IN ANY WAY.

…he told her he was going to look up an old acquaintance over the weekend.  Well, Methuselah was certainly old, and acquaintance covered a multitude of sins, so he hadn’t actually been lying.

Legalism, Murphy.  You haz it.

And all this because he is afraid of “get[ting] into trouble” with his 20-year-old research assistant.

That is so creepy and wrong.

And to top it all off, Murph manipulates her into taking on full responsibility for the two puppies.

“Meet Shem and Japheth.  Their owner wasn’t really looking after them properly, so I decided to bring them back to Preston with me.  I’m hoping we can find them a good, loving home.  And in the meantime…”

Shari finished his sentence for him.  “You want me to look after them.  Now listen, Professor, if you think I’m going to baby-sit these pups while you go off on some madcap adventure–”

Murphy held his hands up to interrupt her.  “No madcap adventures, Shari.  I promise.  There’s something I want you to take a look at.  I want your professional opinion.”

He grinned and she scowled back to show she didn’t buy the flattery.  Nevertheless, it was hard to resist.


Now this is asshattish in a number of different ways.  Let me count them:

1.  Creepy vibe between mid- to late-thirties professor and 20-year-old employee/student?  Check.

2.  False flattery to con said student into doing something she may not want/be able to do?  Check.

3.  An extra dose of condescension in the flattery, since Murphy has already come to his conclusion about the “something” on which he alleges he wants Shari’s “professional opinion”?  Check check.

Indeed, Murphy STRAIGHT-UP ADMITS that he lets Shari look at the piece of wood SOLELY  to distract her from asking him any more questions about his run-in with Methuselah.

Murphy already has his own professional opinion set.  Hence the names of the puppies: Shem and Japheth, two of Noah’s three sons.  (Ham, the third, probably didn’t achieve puppy-naming distinction due to the combination of 1) having a weird name and 2) having all his descendents become slaves because he once accidentally saw his father naked.)


Also: let’s remember that these puppies are German Shepherds.  They are going to grow up pretty quickly into very big, very athletic dogs.  And Shari is a single woman, living alone, working her way through college by being a Biblical archeologist’s research assistant/chief worrier/creepy substitute for his dead wife.

She has no family, no friends that we ever hear of, and only an erstwhile atheist boyfriend.

Let’s just say that I have doubts about her ability to care for two German Shepherds.

Perhaps not the best dog for Shari.

So, as Shari prepares for her new responsibilities (any bets on whether Murph will chip in for food and bedding and toys?), I encourage my noble readers to prepare for something else:

The reappearance of the formely-wonderful, but soon-to-be-stepfordized…Dr. Isis Proserpina McDonald.


Posted on May 24, 2012, in Babylon Rising, Books, The Secret on Ararat. Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. I encourage my noble readers to prepare for something else:

    The reappearance of the formely-wonderful, but soon-to-be-stepfordized…Dr. Isis Proserpina McDonald.

    This is going to hurt isn’t it?

  2. The sons of Ham were used to justify slavery. The claim was that African people were obviously descended from Ham and so it was only right that they be slaves.

    If anything, excluding Ham comes off as a bit racist, given the very long association between him and non-Caucasians, especially in the southern US.

    • It’s not about excluding him from the story. It’s about asking “How can RTCs claim that everything in the Bible is literally true, the word of god and the absolute arbiter on morality when it includes crap like this.” Your story actually provides some good ammo in the fight to show that this isn’t just an arbitrary theological dispute, but a horrible message that has (had) horrible consequences in the real world.

  3. And all this because he is afraid of “get[ting] into trouble” with his 20-year-old research assistant.

    He doesn’t seem to be trying too hard to avoid that scenario.

    This kind of dumping of unwanted tasks on grad students is, thankfully, one I’ve not really experienced but stories go around in academia about the prof who would get their students to do all the work, then swoop in and grab lead author on the resulting paper, “because”.

    Murphy sounds like that kind of professor. Don’t be That Professor, folks.

  4. I am puzzled over the whole dog thing. I mean, why are they in the story at all? And why German Shepherds?
    In any case, looking after puppies means more than just giving them food and a place to sleep. You have to exercise them and play with them; you also have to train them – train them to walk to the lead, to poop in the right places, to not bark all the time or jump up at people. This is especially so with big, active dogs like GSs; if they’re shut up all day with no stimulation and no exercise they’ll start destroying the furniture and annoying the neighbours with their endless howling and whining. Oh, and did I mention the vets’ bills?
    Yes, Murphy is being That Professor….

  5. He grinned and she scowled back to show she didn’t buy the flattery. Nevertheless, it was hard to resist.

    Double EWWW! This is the good holy RTC people. His wife’s body isn’t even cold, and he already has a different love interest lined up, but he can still just sweet talk to barely legal subordinates because he doesn’t want to have a difficult conversation.

    This is Rayford the second, the patron Saint of “I won’t, but I totally could”.

  6. And may I add that the whole meme of RTCs saying completely misleading things and then patting themselves on the back for not lying is seriously getting on my nerves. This is what they think god approves of? This is all he is to them? A rule lawyer who only cares about technicalities, who would damn you hell for saying a lie, not because misleading people is morally wrong but because he once said so? And he said so for no apparent reason seeing how he evidently doesn’t mind misleading people at all.

    My players in my D&D campaign occasionally argue that whatever they’re saying isn’t actually a lie to the NPC. I’m a pretty lax GM, but that’s one point where I put my foot down. It doesn’t matter if you want to hide saying a falsehood or want to hide the real meaning of your truth. Either way, roll a damn bluff check.

  7. Well, obviously, a truly manly man has women draped all over him, ‘cos he’s just that irresistible.

    No, he’s not afraid of getting into trouble with Shari, because Real True Christians don’t feel temptation (and if you feel temptation you aren’t saved enough, maybe you should hand over your savings to the church). He’s afraid of annoying DaddyGod, who might hit him at any time for any reason and is always right to do so.

    Looking on the bright side, if Shari ever wises up she can use the Alsatians when she’s trying to persuade Michael that she’s not his employee any more and so it’s no longer appropriate to be banging on her door in the middle of the night.

  8. Humorous bit is, Canaan apparently wasn’t Ham’s ONLY son. He had several other children, but only Canaan was cursed. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was retroactively added in to justify the new legend of the Israelites taking the land of Canaan by force (as contrasted to the actual peaceable mutual assimilation; maybe they thought they needed a militaristic origin myth in order to keep up with the Assyrians & Co.? See also why they bayed for a king to lead them, rather than a council of judges.).

  9. Or rather, he didn’t LIE, because good Christians don’t lie. Instead, he fudged the truth, which is TOTALLY NOT LIKE LYING IN ANY WAY.

    Ivan: And may I add that the whole meme of RTCs saying completely misleading things and then patting themselves on the back for not lying is seriously getting on my nerves.

    Yeah, I agree, this is completely creepy and annoying. Also, majorly a$$hattish, to boot.

    And you know what? It’s not even Biblical! True, there is that “be wise as serpents and harmless as doves” admonition that the “abide by the letter of the law, not the spirit” legalists like to quote to excuse themselves.

    But guess what Jesus said: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Therefore, God does mind if you use legalistic nitpicking to try to get away with breaking the spirit of the law.

    Oh, wait — Jesus was talking about sex there, not lying. Of course. How silly of me.

    <blockquote?Hence the names of the puppies: Shem and Japheth, two of Noah’s three sons.

    Ah. So I guess the two puppies that Professor A$$hat rescued from drowning in the deluge weren’t “one male and one female.” So, when choosing between Compromising the Accuracy of the Biblical Symbolism Of Clevar Traps, and Rescuing a Girl, I guess we know which one wins out. (Since such emphasis was placed on the fact that these are German Shepherd puppies, we can’t go diluting their macho awesomeness with female gonads, now can we?)


    Sorry, I seem to be extra snarky today….

  10. Grammar Police

    OK. So Shari is well and truly hip-deep in a dysfunctional relationship with a creepo “professor.” She’s at least a decade younger than he is, and already knows his favorite meal and worries after him and nags him to be more careful and adopts his cast-off puppies. Oh, and she’s already an RTC. In other words, she’s Chloe 2.0.

    So why couldn’t Shari have become Murph’s love interest, letting Isis stay awesome?!


    • Yeah. There’s even precedent for such romantic relationships, as skeevy as the power imbalance might be (though Murph could just ask her to report to a different supervisor and defend her thesis in front of a different committee to avoid conflict of interest), so it’s kind of disheartening to know Isis, who does NOT necessarily worship the ground Murph walks on, will become the wife-substitute.

  11. I forget — was there a reason that Isis’s middle name was the Roman “Proserpina,” and not the original Greek “Persephone”? I’ll have to go back to the original Babylon Rising desconstruction posts to check, but right now the only thing that comes to mind is that “Proserpina” sounds more like “serpent”….

    • There’s no real reason given, so I suspect it may have been 1) fear that readers would not know how to pronounce “Persephone” and/or 2) just thinking that “Proserpina” would sound more like a girl’s name to American ears.

  12. I have a friend who was victimized by a professor like this. She entered into an abusive sexual relationship with him because she is a major people-pleaser who wants — needs — approval from authority figures.

    Murphy wouldn’t manipulate Shari into sex with him, of course, because sex is such a big no-no for RTCs. It’s such a big no-no that in its shadow, they get away with all sorts of crap. Murphy will manipulate Shari, violate her boundaries, get her to do things for him that are not her job, but he’s avoiding sex, so that means he’s a good person who can pat himself on the back. The utterly simplistic checklist morality that allows Murphy to manipulate but claim he’s not lying will allow him to abuse but claim he’s not because there’s no sex involved. Ick.

  13. As a single graduate student I was, actually, planning to adopt a large dog, for company and security; however, unlike Shari, I was *planning* to adopt it, i.e., I knew what it would need to have a healthy, happy life and was making sure I had those things, or the means to acquire them, *before* getting the dog. Actually, thinking about it, Murphy’s attitude to dog ownership seems to have a lot in common with RTC attitudes to pregnancy; any “normal” woman should be overjoyed when she suddenly and unexpectedly acquires responsibility for a (pair of) needy young creature(s), and forget any sort of preparation, planning etc., that’s for liberals.

    (the plan to acquire a dog went by the wayside when I started dating someone who was very much not a dog person… we’re still together, and have two cats).

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