7 Quick Takes (8/24/12)

7 Quick Takes (8/24/12) August 24, 2012

— 1 —

No theme this week, just a number of excellent links I’ve not gotten around to posting when I was striving for coherency.  If you’ve ever gotten lost in early Church history or if you just love awesome things, you should read this story from Swarthmore about students who invented a sect to trick their history professor (and then he turned the tables!).   Here’s a teaser:

Our plot thickened: We introduced a Sherkite scholar—E.R. Englehardt, actually a classmate’s uncle in California. We found another student’s relative, who lived nearby and had a flair for dramatics, to be Englehardt. We enlisted him to give a lecture on campus after the winter break.

We sent an announcement to The Phoenix and posted flyers on bulletin boards advertising the lecture on Jan. 5 by a distinguished historian from McGill University in Canada (not easily verified, in those days before the Internet). Dr. Englehardt was the author of a forthcoming book, The Sherkites and Other Little Known Sects of the Reformation. We began to draft his speech—and plan his speedy exit at the end. When the next issue of The Phoenix appeared, we searched eagerly for our announcement. It wasn’t there.

Instead, we were shocked and horrified to read a long, angry letter to the editor from E.R. Englehardt. He insisted that he had no intention of coming to Swarthmore to give a lecture on Jan. 5 and was going to Afghanistan for several months! The letter went on to expose our movement as an “old and famous 18th-century hoax—long since exposed—that the Sherkites were … followers of a supposed 16th-century theologian named Friederich [sic] Sherk. There was … such an individual, as readers of my Einleitung zu der Geschichte den Vorreformations Theologie und Sektengrundlage (4 vols., Weimar, 1938) well know. . . . “Sherk” is a corruption of the old German “schurke,” a crafty or subtle person, and the name is particularly appropriate because it enshrines the personal traits which the Sherkites hold in the highest regard.”

Clearly, someone was trying to outhoax us.


— 2 —

Right now, I’m only keeping up with one tv show (until the new season of The Thick of It starts): SyFy’s Faceoff.  This is a Project Runway-style reality show for special effects make-up artists.  So, when they had an unconventional materials immunity challenge in the pilot episode, I got to hear the following, “I’m going for a reptilian look and I’m using lentils to bring out the texture.”

— 3 —

In the category of really creative problem solving: io9 explains how scientists tried to test claims of human parthenogenesis before the advent of DNA tests:

Spurway had one final test for the pair. She proposed grafting a piece of Monica’s skin onto Emmimarie, and grafting a piece of Emmimarie’s skin onto Monica. Her reasoning was that, if Monica possessed only Emmimarie’s genes, then Emmimarie’s immune system should accept Monica’s skin, much like a skin graft between identical twins. Emmimarie’s graft from Monica fell off after four weeks, and Monica’s graft from Emmimarie fell off after six weeks. An article in The Lancet about the case, written by one Dr. Stanley Balfour-Lynn, concluded that the pairs’ genes did not match perfectly since the skin grafts failed.

— 4 —

I’m in love with Written by a Kid, where actors dramatize the improvised, somewhat disjointed stories of children.

All the fun of Drunk History, but with much less vomiting!

— 5 —

I swear this next article is not drunk history.  Everything in the Cracked story about the worst ship ever in the Navy is true.

The way this particular drill worked was that the Iowa would release balloons that served as targets for anti-aircraft guns. Fair enough. Until some of the balloons drifted over to the Porter and someone (Captain Walter) thought it was time for redemption. So he ordered his crew to fire on any balloons missed by the Iowa’s gunners. That part went fine. Then, feeling cocky, he ordered a practice firing of their torpedoes. And the practice target would be the Iowa.

Oh, yes. You know what’s about to happen.

They announced “Fire one!” and the first fake torpedo was fake fired. “Fire two!” and the second fake torpedo was fake fired.

“Fire three!” and a swooshing sound was heard. The crew watched in horror as an actual torpedo left the tube and made a beeline for the Iowa and the president of the United States.

Remember that this was a secret mission — no one knew the president of the United States would be on the USS Iowa until he boarded it, and even then the whole deal was hush-hush. They were at war, after all. And all it would take to sabotage the trip would be one slip-up to the wrong person. Which was why the convoy was supposed to exercise radio silence.
Now, there are occasions when you have to break radio silence, like if for instance something even worse than being discovered by the enemy will happen if you don’t. You’d think that “just shot a torpedo at the president” would be one of those times when you have to break the rule for the greater good.

…Finally, someone decided to break radio silence and ordered Iowa to turn right fast. After haggling over who was calling, the Iowa quickly obliged. Obviously the president was panicking, knowing that death could be on its way … oh wait, no, Roosevelt asked to be rolled over to watch the torpedo action. His Secret Service agents then proceeded to pull their pistols to shoot the torpedo themselves if necessary. Luckily, the torpedo wound up missing the boat, thanks to the Iowa’s sharp turn.

As my housemate often says, “How is this not a movie yet?”

— 6 —

I ended up sharing the Tony performance from Caroline or Change with a friend, and I realized I’d not shared it here.  I didn’t love the musical, but this performance  of “Lot’s Wife” is wrenching.


I love the final plea at the end: “Don’t let my sorrow / make evil of me.”

— 7 —

I feel like I’ve run into quotes from Rowan William’s The Lion’s World all over the internet lately, and this excerpt on more than 95 theses was enough to finally tip me over into ordering it:

‘Is he – quite safe?’ asks Susan in Chapter 7 of The Lion. ‘Who said anything about safe? ’Course he isn’t safe,’ says Mr Beaver; ‘But he’s good.’ Aslan’s unsafeness is referred to repeatedly: ‘Is it not said in all the old stories that He is not a Tame Lion?’ (Last Battle Ch. 2). But what is perhaps most remarkable in the entire sequence – and in itself a compelling reason for never reading the books without including The Last Battle – is the way Lewis allows this very axiom almost to undermine faith and truth. To take a parallel from as different an author as you could imagine, Dostoevsky can write in his personal journals of how he has learned to sing his hosanna in the crucible of doubt – but he also, in The Brothers Karamazov uses precisely this phrase in the mouth of a diabolical visitant as a mocking summary of religious evasiveness and dishonesty. Similarly, when the malign Shift begins his campaign to take over Narnia, the fact that he orders things that are absolutely contrary to what might be expected of Aslan is initially met with confusion rather than rejection – because ‘he’s not a tame lion’. Is he bound by his own rules? There have been no signs in the stars to announce the coming again of Aslan; but ‘he is not the slave of the stars but their Maker’ (Last Battle Ch. 2). Appealing to the unpredictable wildness of Aslan has become an unanswerable tool of control….

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  • Oh wow, the Written By a Kid video was fantastic, thanks for linking it =)

    Have you heard Jonathan Coulton’s song Rock and Roll Boy? The basic concept seems similar.


  • Emily

    Interesting excerpt, let us know what you think of the book, please!

  • You should check out “Kid History,” a series of videos in which adults act out stories told aloud by kids – in real time. The one about Christmas (in which the kids have a Jewish friend who has never experienced Christmas before) is particularly funny.

  • Elliot and I once invented a treatise of St. Athanasius that we could cite to score points in an argument.

  • Brian Sullivan

    Faceoff was interesting in a train wreck sort of way. I wish they would have explained why Joe left. He was my pick for 1st to be voted of the island anyway–(to mix reality show metaphors). I think the women’s team should have won the challenge. Did you squee! when it was Star Wars?

    • leahlibresco

      Definitely the women should have won! I mostly ignore the early ‘drama’ bits, since I just want to see the making, but I did wish for both people on that team to be eliminated.

  • I’m in love with Written by a Kid, where actors dramatize the improvised, somewhat disjointed stories of children.

    That’s splendid. It’s, er – somewhat bleaker but if you haven’t seen it you should watch Blue Remembered Hills.

  • wloch3

    MoreThan95Theses writes, “Appealing to the unpredictable wildness of Aslan has become an unanswerable tool of control …” That is exactly so, but it is still only to ask, finally: Whom or what ought we trust? 

    Rowan Williams cuts to the chase further on in The Lion’s World (again as quoted by MoreThan95Theses): “Trust in Aslan may even open up the horrific possibilities of corruption and nightmare that The Last Battle describes, but there is no way for Aslan to come into this world without such risks. There are no other options for truthfulness to enter our consciousness or, more importantly, for sacrificial love to break our chains.”