7 Quick Takes (2/8/13)

— 1 —

Sorry posting has been so scant here!  I have something delightful happening in my non-blogging life, which I can discuss on Monday.  There will probably be a bit of a slow period during the logistical madness, but that’s when I plan to start posting the delightful guest posts for the Math and Theology bookclub that some of you have been contributing.

To make it up to you, this is awesome:


— 2 —

Now, from here to the end, it’s all Richard III links, but don’t worry there’s no filler.  There is just a lot of delightful reporting!  Start off with the in-depth BBC coverage, which includes great photos of his scoliosis-stricken spine.


— 3 —

I later actually learned history, but I primarily know about Richard III through Richard III, which has one of my favorite seduction scenes in any play:

— 4 —

The Shakespeare is very well known, but I wasn’t aware of this Chesterton piece on Richard III til everyone started pulling Richard III trivia down from the shelves:

If we desire at all to catch the strange colours of the sunset of the Middle Ages, to see what had changed yet not wholly killed chivalry there is no better study than the riddle of Richard III. Of course, scarcely a line of him was like the caricature with which his much meaner successor placarded the world when he was dead. He was not even a hunchback; he had one shoulder slightly higher than the other, probably the effect of his furious swordsmanship on a naturally slender and sensitive frame. Yet his soul, if not his body, haunts us somehow as the crooked shadow of a straight knight of better days. He was not an ogre shedding rivers of blood; some of the men he executed deserved it as much as any men of that wicked time; and even the tale of his murdered nephews is not certain, as it is told by those who also tell us he was born with tusks and was originally covered with hair.

Yet a crimson cloud cannot be dispelled from his memory and, so tainted is the very air of that time with carnage, that we cannot say he was incapable even of the things of which he may have been innocent. Whether or no he was a good man, he was apparently a good king and even a popular one; yet we think of him vaguely, and not, I fancy, untruly, as on sufferance.

— 5 —

There’s a controversy brewing about whether Richard III will be buried in a Catholic or Anglican ceremony (should be Catholic, duh), but it was via First Things that I found this bizarre logistical measure in the meantime:

A Catholic priest is keeping watch over Richard’s remains (as is an Anglican, I believe)

Funerals are not like baptisms! They seldom happen stealthily!


— 6 —

Via fellow Patheos blogger Joseph Susanka, a video of Sir Ian McKellen discussing the opening of Richard III



— 7 —

My brother is a theatre major, and I had the privilege of seeing a really excellent production of Richard III that he was in.  The part of Richard was played by two people simultaneously — a boy and a girl.  I was surprised/concerned when my brother told me, but it worked beautifully.  For one thing, whenever Richard breaks off for an aside on his plan, the other Richard was still harrying his latest victim, instead of giving him/her a moment’s piece.  When the Richard’s divided some of the dialogue during a manipulation scene, the audience had a tremendous, visceral sense of how constantly wrong-footed everyone else at court was.  It was terrifying and delightful.



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  • Thank you for linking to the ACS page, Leah!

    • leahlibresco

      My pleasure!

  • Well then congrats on whatever is going on.

  • Darren

    $5 you’re getting married… 😉

    • leahlibresco

      Ha! No. Haven’t had any second dates in a year, alas.

      • Darren

        Damn! Now I’m out a fitsky!

        What?! And you being _almost_ the perfect woman…

        • Erick

          Perhaps Leah has been rejecting so many unworthy…

          • Darren

            That’s why her next post should be “Why Leah Libresco is so Great”, then we can all sing her praises and profess our undying love without feeling awkward…


          • leahlibresco

            The only two classes of comments that get deleted round here are spam and florid compliments.

          • Darren

            First I’m an Evil Sophist; now I’m florid?


          • Ha! The second category is progress. Come step a little further down this slippery sl… ah never mind, I said nothing.

        • grok87

          Darren wrote: “Damn! Now I’m out a fitsky!”

          suggestion, perhaps the five dollars might be donated to one of Leah’s favorite charities:
          “Against Malaria Foundation”

          • Darren


            An excellent suggestion, thank you!

      • deiseach

        And worst of all, St. Valentine’s Day is after the start of Lent this year, so if someone does treat you to roses and chocolates, you can’t even eat the chocolates 🙂

        Well, you could stick them in a cupboard and keep them until Easter, I guess. Or eat them on Sundays, on the very sophistical grounds that Sundays are technically not part of Lent since they are not counted as making up the forty days.

        Or you could eat carob instead, which is penitential in itself 😉

  • Darren



    Much as I love all-things historical, I am so very, very pleased to live in an age (and country (and class)) with a bit more in the way of medical and dental care…

  • Mike

    Snow day!

    • Darren

      You up in the frozen North?

      • Mike


      • Mike

        PS about 40 cm so far and still snowing.

        • Darren

          Whereabouts? I lived in Arlington, MA for two years…

          BTW, I hope you saw the post where I apologized for getting my undies in a bunch. If not, or if it was not clear that was what I intended, then let me say again that I am profoundly sorry to have misjudged you and I sincerely hope _my_ mistake will not dampen your enthusiasm.

          Assuming the worst of people is a very bad habit of mine and I am really hoping that lesson will go ahead and sink in, already. :}

          • Mike

            Yes I read that post. Thanks, and no worries, that is what it’s all about – expanding horizons etc. etc. I haven’t had much to say the last 2 days as I’ve been battling a nasty cold and spent today digging out of the snow, downloading movies and hanging out with the family. But I hope to mix it up with you soon – so watch out! 🙂

            PS I am not posting that fast am I? Why do I always seem to get that annoying you’re posting too fast slow down message!!! arg!!!

          • I don’t know either of you, or what you were arguing about, but this exchange makes me really happy.

          • Darren


            This is just Mike’s and my bromance reaching the slap-slap-kiss phase. 😉

            So far as the actual argument? Mostly me being a reactionary jerkwad and Mike gleefully goading me into being yet more of a reactionary jerkwad… he’s a stinker!

            Homebirth, eh? My wife tried, very hard, to have one on our third… came within a month, then threw a blood clot and got risked out… irony being that her actual hospital birth was completely complication-free and the nurse (who was training to be a midwife on the side) delivered our William with the OB still in transit. 🙂

          • Mike

            Thanks, toos :). No one will get that reference “toos” but anyway…yes well it seems to have reached that phase but I don’t think we’re there yet. Or what I really mean to say is please don’t hate me when we disagree voriforusly (spelled way wrong but my wife and I are on our 3 bottle of wine, BTW sauvignon blanc is the only way to go)….ok yes, i think that’s it.

            Ok, see you guys soon. Work might be super busy next couple of days so not sure when i’ll be able to provoke you folks…but keep up the good work(s). Ok, bye.

  • Sara

    Sir Ian McKellen is my hero. He should do audio recordings of encyclicals.

    • leahlibresco

      OMG YES

      • deiseach

        By the same token, I have to share this with all of you 🙂

        I’m getting the “Read the Catechism in a Year” emails, and today they had a quote from Saint Thérèse of Lisieux (they didn’t say it was her, but I recognised the style, and you will too). Translated from the French (of course) but the typography is all original:

        “If the Church was a body composed of different members, it couldn’t lack the noblest of all; it must have a Heart, and a Heart BURNING WITH LOVE. And I realized that this love alone was the true motive force which enabled the other members of the Church to act; if it ceased to function, the Apostles would forget to preach the gospel, the Martyrs would refuse to shed their blood. LOVE, IN FACT, IS THE VOCATION WHICH INCLUDES ALL OTHERS; IT’S A UNIVERSE OF ITS OWN, COMPRISING ALL TIME AND SPACE — IT’S ETERNAL! ”

        Which makes me think that if the Little Flower were alive today, she’d take to blogging like a duck to water – typing in capslock? A natural! She would have loved the opportunity to dive into the New Evangelisation with social media 🙂

        Also, the upside of Lent coming early this year is that next Tuesday is Shrove Tuesday! Pancakes! Yummy, yummy, yummy pancales! Over here, we don’t make pancakes in the American style, they’re more like what you would call crêpes, and we don’t have them as a regular thing (not unless people were being all fancy and cosmopolitan back in the Celtic Tiger days).

        In bygone days the idea was to use up all your eggs and dairy before the fasting and abstinence of Ash Wednesday and the fasting during Lent, but in these relaxed days, it’s just a treat for Pancake Tuesday.

        So be ready to get out the frying pan on Tuesday, Leah!

        • grok87


          • deiseach

            Pancakes are easy, as they’re basically flour, eggs and milk. The important thing is to (1) mix well so the batter is a runny consistency and then (2) leave it rest for at least 30 minutes (up to an hour if you can; the batter will thicken as it rests) and (3) have the frying pan really hot.

            Some say you should use cooking oil like olive or sunflower oil since you need the pan hot, but I say “No! Is tradition!” to use butter. Whatever turns out best for you. I don’t know what American measure is, so Irish/U.K. measure follows:

            125g / 4oz Plain Flour
            Pinch of Salt
            1 Egg
            300ml / 1/2 pint Milk

            1 . Sieve flour and salt into a bowl.
            2. Make a well in the centre of the flour, break in the egg and add about a third of the milk. Beat well, gradually pouring in the rest of the milk and drawing in the flour to make a smooth batter.
            3. Pour batter into a jug and allow to stand for about 30 minutes.
            4.Heat well a frying pan or pancake pan. Add knob butter (or a little oil) for frying. When the pan is hot, give the batter a stir before pouring a thin layer onto the pan.
            5. Fry until golden brown (around a minute). Turn and fry the other side until brown also (30 seconds – takes less time to do second side).

            First couple always come out too thick or too thin or burned until you get the pan going well and get your eye in. You will have to make the supreme sacrifice and eat these imperfect pancakes yourself until you get the good ones done for the rest of the family 😉

            Serve with a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkle of caster sugar, or fruit (fresh or cooked), whipped cream, maple syrup, chocolate spread, ice cream – whatever you fancy!

          • jenesaispas

            Have you not had pancakes before?

    • Kristen inDallas


    • Sir Ian McKellen is my hero. He should do audio recordings of encyclicals.

      LOL! I would listen to every one of them. I’d especially like to hear him read Pope Leo’s, on why Catholics can’t be Freemasons. He has a voice suited for thunderously declaiming against secret societies.

  • grok87

    i gave up sweets for lent last year, but am thinking about giving up meat for lent this year…

    • deiseach

      I think a lot of people over on this side of the Atlantic are thinking the same thing, grok, after the horse burgers scandal.


      • grok87


        • deiseach

          There has also been a minor (related or not?) scandal involving meat pies and pasty products used in British prisons which were supposed to be halal beef but were found to contain traces of pork DNA. Since these products were for Muslims, who are forbidden to eat pork, this is very serious.

          So be careful the next time you go to the supermarket – what’s in the freezer section might be the loser of the 3.30 at Aintree!


          • grok87

            Thanks for the pancake recipe Deiseach!

          • jenesaispas

            Now I’m hearing even Waitrose has been affected!

  • grok87

    Providentially we have another “bad” king to consider in today’s Gospel: King Herod (Antipas)

    King Herod heard about Jesus, for his fame had become widespread, and people were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead; That is why mighty powers are at work in him.” Others were saying, “He is Elijah”; still others, “He is a prophet like any of the prophets.” But when Herod learned of it, he said, “It is John whom I beheaded. He has been raised up.” Herod was the one who had John arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, whom he had married. John had said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” Herodias harbored a grudge against him and wanted to kill him but was unable to do so.
    Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man, and kept him in custody. When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed, yet he liked to listen to him. Herodias had an opportunity one day when Herod, on his birthday, gave a banquet for his courtiers, his military officers, and the leading men of Galilee….”

    ok, you know how it ends…

    The parallels between King Richard III and King Herod Antipas are interesting. Both lived at pivot periods in history- the middle ages is thought to have ended with Richard’s death, and Herod bridged the old and new testaments. Both had murder on their conscience, but perhaps were not directly responsible. In Richard’s case it may have been done by his knights/nobles to curry favor ala Henry II/Becket (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Princes_in_the_Tower). Richard was responsible for many good things: “he introduced the bail system which we follow today, he standardised weights and measures across the kingdom, he abolished benevolences, abolished the purchasing of high office, and established English as the language of law so that the common people would understand what was being said. ”

    Herod has his good side: he can see the holiness in John and likes to listen to him (note: this is not the same Herod from the massacre of the innocents, they had a lot of Herods back then!) So where does that leave us? Perhaps with the thought that there is good in all of us but that passivity can be dangerous-we need to actively resist evil. Richard was charged with being the protector of the young princes- he failed to be active enough in this charge perhaps. Herod did not want to kill John but gets drawn into it- he goes with the flow…

  • Bob

    I don’t think Richard should be re-buried at all. I think his bones should be put on display in a museum. It’s not like he cares what happens to his bones now and neither does anyone else who loved him- they’re all long dead. Bones on display would be valuable for teaching people about history and forensics and so on. I also resent the idea that just because he was a king he should be treated with extra respect. I don’t think the remains of commoners are routinely re-buried.

    It seems very likely that he killed his nephews or had them killed. People don’t just disappear, especially from a guarded building in the middle of a city. If they died of illness, you’d expect them to have had a public funeral. If they fled into exile, I’d expect someone to mention it. They found some bodies that were the right age ranges in the tower but even if dna evidence showed them to be the missing princes, you could never prove 100% they died under Richard’s orders. Even so, I can’t think of a compelling counter-explanation.

    I always felt sorry for the character Richard in the play.

    • grok87

      Bob said, “I don’t think Richard should be re-buried at all. I think his bones should be put on display in a museum. It’s not like he cares what happens to his bones now and neither does anyone else who loved him- they’re all long dead.”

      Burying the dead is a duty for Jews/Christians, c.f. Tobit 1″
      “17 I would give my bread to the hungry and clothing to the naked. If I saw one of my people who had died and been thrown behind the wall of Nineveh, I used to bury him.Sennacherib returned from Judea, having fled during the days of the judgment enacted against him by the King of Heaven because of the blasphemies he had uttered; whomever he killed I buried. For in his rage he killed many Israelites, but I used to take their bodies away by stealth and bury them. So when Sennacherib looked for them, he could not find them. But a certain Ninevite went and informed the king about me, that I was burying them, and I went into hiding. When I realized that the king knew about me and that I was being hunted to be put to death, I became afraid and took flight. All my property was confiscated; I was left with nothing. All that I had was taken to the king’s palace, except for my wife Anna and my son Tobiah.*

      If Richard III’s bones were not buried but placed in a museum, it would be incumbent on us (Christians) to break in and bury them, even if would be “breaking the law.” Luckily I don’t think there is much chance of that…

      • ACN


        I take it that since you’re not writing to us from jail, you have no compunctions about displaying bodies that predate judaism and christianity? What if a jew or a christian donates their body to science with the intent that it be displayed? May we avoid your incumbent duty in such cases?

        • Darren

          See, I was thinking more along the lines of Jeremy Bentham’s mummified remains on display at University College of London…


        • Seamus

          In this country, we have the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, providing that when human remains are found, they must be returned to the appropriate tribe so they can be buried rather than gawked at as a scientific or historical curiosity. We ought to similar law (here and in the UK), providing that when old human remains are found that can be identified as belonging to a particular Christian or Jewish religious community, those remains should be handed over to the appropriate community for burial according to that community’s rites.

          • ACN

            But aren’t the circumstances surrounding Native American graves quite a bit different?
            You can hardly look at a piece of legislation like NAGPRA divorced from its historical context of the white government stealing land (and contents therein) from the native peoples by force and coercion. There is no analogous persecuted ethnic minority in the case of the Richard III’s bones. There is an analogous situation with the British museum and Maori remains from New Zealand. In fact, I believe the Bri

            Originally, my thoughts on the matter were that his corpse should be re-interred at Westminster Abbey, seeing as how he was a King of England. But I changed my mind after reading a piece in NYMag:


            Which makes a thoughtful case for having him displayed in a museum.

  • grok87

    You raise some interesting questions. I don’t have answers fully thought out.
    As far as other non Judeo-Christian religions, Zoroastrians do not bury their dead
    whereas native Americans apparently feel as strongly about burying their dead as Judeo-Christians do:

  • Since Monday’s post isn’t up yet, I’m throwing my predictive hat in the ring:

    Book deal.

    You can call it “Unequallyer Yoked: Why Neo-Platonic Virtue Ethics necessarily lead to Catholicism”

    Or, you know…. something else.

    • But that wouldn’t mean a short interval of real-time logistics. My imaginary money is on a new job, perhaps in a new city.

      • Care to share any stock picks?

      • leahlibresco

        Well done.

  • deiseach

    Don’t know if ye have seen the news yet, but the pope has announced his resignation. This means a conclave to elect a successor will have to be held sometime this year.

    Anyone got any favourites, predictions, preferences as to who will/might/should be elected? I’m still in shock, so don’t expect any coherent commentary from me. I’m feeling like Lloyd Bridges’ character in Airplane!

    Leah, you got on board the barque of Peter just at the right time to have a personal interest in the outcome! 🙂

    • Darren


      And I got to quote that frequently when I quit smoking… I amused myself.

      On the topic of Papal succession: EuroTrip the part about the Pope

      (warning: farcical, mild profanity, comic defilement of holy antiquities, no actual blasphemy)

    • Darren

      I would assume this will be an interesting succession; perhaps the RCC setting a new tone, or affirming the status quo, on shifting attitudes within the church as well as demographic shifts and what not…

    • It’s about time for a Pope from Africa, don’t you think? That is where the church is growing the fastest 🙂

  • Mike

    Ok, I am back, temporarily, even though I said I’d be away a bit. And I have something totally off topic to share with you but I just can’t help myself.

    BUT before I share it, PLEASE I am serious I do not want to re-hash this debate in its entirety again. Just take it for what it’s worth; I found this to be quite interesting and strange actually.

    Ok so here it is: Apparently in England gay marriage is still not equal or the same as hetero marriage. Apparently the gov. took out 2 parts that currently apply to hetero marriage (well right now to just marriage as the law hasn’t passed final approval yet.); the gov. took out 1. consumation (could someone with superb research skills look into this one.) and 2. adultery as a valid reason for divorce. I am not sure how their laws work but I just never thought they had any consumation requirement or adultery mentioned in any law; but I guess I was wrong. Anyway just thought how strange that after all of that there are still 2 seperate yet “equal”? (well you be the judge) laws/interpretations on marriage in England. Anyway if you’re curious see this clip.

    Here’s a clip of 2 guys one of whom points this out: http://www.channel4.com/news/same-sex-marriage-vote-reaction-from-soho

    I apologize in advance Leah if this causes an avalanche of comments that veer way off this narrow point.

    PS I am surprised B. was able to stay on as long and do as much as he has.

    • My guess is that those two laws are effectively dead letters.

  • grok87

    Thanks for the NY Mag piece. It was interesting and entertaining but to my mind not particularly convincing. It seemed to place a lot of emphasis on what they do over in the UK. I say “who cares!”

    1) Didn’t we fight several wars to rid ourselves from the dominance of our former British overlords?
    2) Britain is a post-christian nation
    It’s not surprising they don’t believe in burying their dead. To quote Basil Fawlty: “I mean, have you seen the people in room six? They’ve never even sat on chairs before.”
    3) Asking a bunch of museum curators if its ok to display dead people makes about as much sense as asking Oil companies whether we should sign the Kyoto treaty on global warming.


    • ACN

      Heh heh, well I certainly can’t argue with point 1m, but I think it’s at least modestly relevant what the British think since Richard III was their king, discovered by their archaeologists on their public land :).

      With regards to point 2, isn’t it a little over-the-top to say that the British “don’t believe in burying their dead”. That’s demonstrably false. Plenty of people get buried. Others choose different methods of body disposal. There really isn’t one “proper” way to dispose of bodies.

      I think point 3 is a little different than you let on though. British museum curators have put together a comprehensive and thoughtful set of guidelines as to when/whether human remains should be displayed:


      And I really think that there is a strong case to be made for the public benefit to displaying Richard’s corpse with regards to the historical significance of the forensic and genetic work that led to the corpse’s identification. At any rate, the analogy with oil companies is loose. The curators are basically salaried employees aren’t they? They don’t really have a financial stake in over-the-top museum exhibits in the way that petrol companies clearly have a financial stake in continuing to emit greenhouse gases.

      • And I really think that there is a strong case to be made for the public benefit to displaying Richard’s corpse with regards to the historical significance of the forensic and genetic work that led to the corpse’s identification.

        If there is, I haven’t heard it yet. Unless one has superhuman eyeballs that can analyse DNA simply by looking at a body, I don’t see how looking at Richard’s corpse would tell one anything at all about the forensics and genetics that went into identifying it. Better to just put a little petri dish or test tube full of cells on display and bury the poor man someplace quiet, where he can get some rest after listening to all those Ford Fiestas and Vauxhalls driving over his head for the last 20 years…

        • Bob

          It wouldn’t just been the skeleton on display, they’d have those little signs on the outside of the glass case explaining what to look for. And it wasn’t just DNA that identified him, there are the marks on his skull which are consistent with the accounts of how he was supposed to have died, the s-curve in his spine which was consistent with rumours about him having a ‘hunchback’, the postion he was buried in in the church which was consistent with him having been an important man, his diet as analysed through his teeth and bones, which was very rich for a person of that period.

          Certainly the battle injuries and the curve of his spine would be easily visible to a layperson on the skeleton as long as you were told where to look. The genetic evidence was the final piece but there’s many lines of evidence that point to this being Richard III and some of them are easy to see. I think many teenagers would get a little more excited about history if they could see the actual sword marks that killed a king.

          And the ones put in afterwards…there are things called ‘humiliation marks’ which were probably done to his corpse after he died. One of them, visible on the hipbone, suggests he was stabbed in the bum. That could raise interesting questions about why he was treated like that, what was the political situation at the time, etc. Seems like the teaching oppurtunities would be huge.

          • Bob

            Since I know there’s very little chance of him being put in a museum, I was wondering, would it be permissable for him to be ‘buried’ in a glass coffin, above ground, so that people could still see the bones? Or is a layer of dirt theologically necessary?

    • Bob

      People in Britain do believe in having ceremonies for the dead. Burial, in many cases, but also cremation. It’s not only Christians who believe in that. Putting the dead in a grave that relatives can visit or burning the body and then scattering the ashes somewhere significant is comforting for the relatives and friends of the people who died, as well as being good hygiene. It helps with the grieving process to have a special ceremony to ‘say goodbye’ to the deceased and share memories of them. There’s a reason the British Humanist Society offers funeral services. Mourning someone you love is a natural human reaction. In fact, it’s more natural for nonbelievers, because we know that we’ll never see the deceased again.

      Besides, there are many non-Christian religious people in the UK who have their own religious rites. It’s kind of insulting to them to imply that their religions don’t care for the dead. Hindus were recently given the right to hold open-air cremations, for example.

      The difference with Richard the third is that he was in fact already buried, many years ago. His family and friends and loyal supporters had their chance to say goodbye to him. If you believe in that stuff about souls, his soul has presumably long since moved on. His skeletal remains have a great deal of historical value and would be a great draw for any museum who had them. That wouldn’t be an endorsement to start digging up bodies left and right. He has already be disturbed. I don’t see who benefits from reburying him. I can however see the benefit in terms of educational value in putting him on display.

  • ACN

    ” after listening to all those Ford Fiestas and Vauxhalls driving over his head for the last 20 years…”

    It’s enough to make the dead walk… 🙂

  • jenesaispas

    Thanks for making something I was sick of hearing about interesting.

  • Aaron

    I love the seduction scene from Richard III, the opening of that end soliloquy “Was ever woman in such humor woo’d” is so much fun to do.

    • leahlibresco