7 Quick Takes (2/24/11)


Welcome, visitors from Jen’s blog!  If you’ve got a spare moment, I’d appreciate your advice about possible Lenten disciplines I should consider.  Last year was a big bust for me.



The Guardian had a very interesting series of essays on the impact of the King James translation of the Bible.  The first essay is by novelist Jeanette Winterson who wrote Oranges are Not the Only Fruit, a quasi-memoir I am very fond of.  She wrote:

Even now, the phrasing of the King James has a naturalness to it. Awkwardness disappears within a few chapters of vocal reading – providing that you will trust yourself and trust the text. I say that because children are not brought up to read out loud any more, at home or at school. This is a new problem in the history of language development. Until mass literacy, reading aloud was essential and a pleasure.

As every poet knows, words begin in the mouth before they hit the page, and it is our experience of learning language. The King James karaoke nights, common to households where long familiarity with the stories meant that everyone joined in the refrains, built a confidence with language that the educated classes prefer to imagine as their own. My dad left school at 12, and never learned to read properly. He had no trouble with his Bible, and when he didn’t understand a word or a construction, he asked Mrs Winterson or the minister. He was a man of few words himself, but he had dignity of speech, learned directly from the King James.

You can read her full essay and all the others at the Guardian website.  The last one is by Diarmaid MacCulloch who is the author of Christianity: The First 3000 Years which has been an invaluable resource to me.


Simcha Fisher (who blogs at I have to sit down) has gotten a gig blogging for the National Catholic Register, and her pieces are really excellent.  She writes in a very direct, simple, humble style, so her pieces may also be of interest to the atheists who follow this blog as an introduction to some strains of Catholic thought.  I quite liked her essay this week titled “Why I Love My Ugly Little Liturgy”  The essay is short, so instead of me trying to pick out an excerpt, just head over and give it a once over yourself.




Now, those last two links are pretty good, but my absolute favorite thing I read this week has to be this article from Salon about a Russian’s author’s retelling of The Lord of the Rings from the point of view of the ‘bad guys.’

In Yeskov’s retelling, the wizard Gandalf is a war-monger intent on crushing the scientific and technological initiative of Mordor and its southern allies because science “destroys the harmony of the world and dries up the souls of men!” He’s in cahoots with the elves, who aim to become “masters of the world,” and turn Middle-earth into a “bad copy” of their magical homeland across the sea. Barad-dur, also known as the Dark Tower and Sauron’s citadel, is, by contrast, described as “that amazing city of alchemists and poets, mechanics and astronomers, philosophers and physicians, the heart of the only civilization in Middle-earth to bet on rational knowledge and bravely pitch its barely adolescent technology against ancient magic.”

The protagonist of “The Last Ringbearer” is a field medic from Umbar (a southern land), who is ably assisted by an Orocuen — that is, orc — scout, who is not a demonic creature like the orcs in “The Lord of the Rings,” but an ordinary man. They’re given the task of destroying a mirror in the elf stronghold of Lorien before the elves can further use it to infect Middle-earth with their alien magic. Meanwhile, the remnants of Mordor’s civilization fight a rear-guard guerrilla campaign to sustain the “green shoots of reason and progress,” in opposition to the “static” and “tidy” pseudo-paradise of Middle-earth under the elven regime.

The story (translated into English) is available to download here.


This week, I wrote a column for The Huffington Post about Watson’s victory on Jeopardy and what it says about certain flaws in human thinking.  It’s some of my usual tranhumanism mixed up with my experience of Jeopardy from when I played in the college championship last year, so head over there to check it out.



Relevant to nothing.  I just really like this guy who makes scenes out of pulp book covers.



I love Dinosaur Comics always, and I was pretty amused by a recent strip skewering a common blogging trick (which I know I’m guilty of myself).

I thought it was pretty funny, but how about you?
Tell me in the comments.

[Seven Quick Takes is a blog carnival run by Jen of Conversion Diary]

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  • I thought the comic was funny, too, but having heard people all my life say things like, "She's so needy" or "I can't stand my own neediness" and now having read this comic I must finally ask -Why are we so ashamed of our own need?