A Few Things

21 Aug, 2005 | HistoryWebTdp

I was reading the BBC's 10 Things We Didn't Know This Time Last Week entry in the magazine section when a couple of them caught my eye.

Skip past the bit about someone registering a patent for a colonic gas (fart) -powered toy missle launcher and assembly and the mention is using urine as a stain remover and there, at number five, is mention of the 1933 attempt by German inventor Gerhard Zucker to deliver mail to the island of Scarp, in the Outer Hebrides, by rocket. Zucker had tried this before and, by the sounds of it, was never very successful. He came to Britain to try and interest the government in funding him (after the Nazis showed an interest in using it to deliver more than just mail, he said). He joined the Luftwaffe during war (after being arrested as a possible spy on his return to Germany), was discharged due due to ill health and eventually ended up as an antiques dealer. He still dabbled in rocketry, but that stopped when amateur rocket attempts were banned in Germany in 1964 because one of Zucker's rockets killed some people (either one or three, depending on the source you read).

What I want to know is, why would anyone think that rockets would be a good way to deliver mail? Take the island of Scarp, it isn't very big, but rockets aren't exactly renowned for their accuracy, even now a top-of-the-line cruise missle is still only accurate to about five feet, so the chances of his rockets reaching and landing on Scarp without doing some damage were small. Now just imagine that between Dover and Calais where he suggested setting up a regular service. Rockets have speed on their side, it'd definitely be quicker, but just think of the people you could injure or kill and the property damage.

Next on the list was the last, number 10. There has been a lot of coverage in the media of how churches, religious leaders and everyone else are reacting to the filming of The Da Vinci Code. This entry mentions that Lincoln Cathedral, which has been in the news of late as a nun has been staging a protest about its use in the filming, has been accused of the sin of simony. Now, I had to look that up on Wikipedia, I'm half-familiar with the seven most popular sins (they were mentioned in a movie with Brad Pitt, that's bound to get them wider known, maybe educators should do that with more things), but I'd never heard of simony. I'm still a little vague, but basically it involves taking payment for spiritual goods/acts. This can range from "paying for offices or positions in the hierarchy of a church," to "the taking of a fee for confession, absolution, marriage or burial." Now, I had to laugh. The Catholic church still requests donations, calling it something different doesn't change what it is. And, lest we forget, Lincoln Cathedral, as with many of the 'houses of God' around the world, was built, directly or indirectly, with donations by people who were trying to buy their way into heaven. Charge it with simony and you have to accuse them all.

And as I'm mentioning Wikipedia, they're doing a funding drive at the moment as they need some cash to keep them going. They're a non-profit organisation who have "the goal of providing free knowledge to every person in the world." If, like me, you think that's a noble cause, nip over and donate a few quid, every little helps.