Thursday, December 30, 2010

More’s Code

dit dah dah dah / dah dit dah

Oops, not Morse Code—More’s Code, that sainted friend of Henry VIII who wrote the “History of King Richard the Third” that ultimately accused Richard of murdering his nephews. But this so-called history is rife with errors and contradictions--points that are easily verified, that an educated man such as More would have known to be incorrect and points that state one position in the first sentence, only to be contradicted in the next. But it has been used as proof of Richard’s guilt among many traditionalists who hold the view that Richard III would have murdered his nephews.

Although true that Thomas More was beatified in 1886 and then canonized in 1935, does that mean he could not have written a piece that was meant to be satire? He began the “History” around 1512 and stopped before completing it by 1518. He did not have it published. His nephew, William Rastell was the first to publish it in 1557, well after More had been executed in 1535. The quoted text below is taken from this publication available on the Richard III Society, American Branch website.

The first glaring error is found in the opening line of the history: “[K]Yng Edwarde of that name the fowrth, after that hee hadde lyued fiftie and three yeares, seven monethes, and five dayes,..., dyed at Westmynster the nynth daye of Aprill,...” Edward IV was born on 28 April 1442, which means that he was about three weeks shy of his forty-first birthday, not fifty-three and change. While the common medieval citizen might not have known how old Edward IV was when he died, it was in the records and those people with whom More might have shared this text would almost certainly have known the age More gave was incorrect.

Although there are no extant contemporary reports that Richard III was physically deformed (Richard was in fact a soldier who fought in battles in full armor) More described him as: “...little of stature, ill fetured of limmes, croke backed, his left shoulder much higher then his right....” This is a very clever combination of using what is verifiable—contemporary chroniclers described Richard as slight of stature—with elements that are made up. Certainly, the physical deformities that More attributed would have been noted by contemporary chroniclers, especially in light of Richard’s military prowess.

Then, why should we believe that two men who More claimed Richard had ordered to murder the princes had been able to bury them undiscovered under a stone staircase in one night in a place bustling with people, and then to later remove them and rebury them in consecrated ground. That people believe the skeletons found in 1674 during the tower renovation are those of the princes based on More’s work stretches credulity to the breaking point. Because if More had been factual instead of just spinning a tale, the bones would not have been found there and both Henry VIII and his father Henry VII would have known where the princes remains were. If More had been correct, they were not under the White Tower stairs.

I think the opening salvo of giving an incorrect age at time of death for Edward IV leaps out as a warning to the readers that this work should not be taken seriously. Could it be that it was his code for j/k (just kidding)? Or as Morse would have telegraphed it: dit dah dah dah / dah dit dah.

Encyclopædia Britannica article on William Rastell.

More, Thomas. The History of King Richard III.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A plea to recycle electronic equipment responsibly

One of my favorite radio shows is “Fresh Air” hosted by Terry Gross. She broadcasts out of the public radio station, WHYY in Philadelphia. I listen to Fresh Air on my local public radio station, WNPR. On December 22, 2010, Gross interviewed Jim Puckett, executive director of the Basal Action Network about the issue of properly recycling electronic equipment such as cell phones, computers, TV’s, etc. I’ve always known that these devices contain toxic materials and have in the past, tried to properly recycle them. The cell phones are easy as they can be turned into centers where they are redistributed to people in need of a cell phone for emergency use. For the rest, I’ve brought them to a retailer where I pay $10/item so that these items are responsibly recycled. However, after listening to this broadcast about what happens to electronic waste, I’m not so sure that I’m accomplishing my goal.

Much of this waste is shipped to countries such as China and Nigeria where the waste is dumped and then the valuable material is scavenged from the waste using dirty and unsafe methods, such as burning the materials so that the salvageable metal is left. The toxins pollute the air and water. The people working in these places, often children, have to breathe the poisoned air.

I think it’s time we stopped sweeping the dirt under the rug and recycled responsibly.