The RMS Titanic has been in the news again this week, this time linked to the QAnon conspiracy theory (which you should generally ignore).
The Titanic sank in April 1912 upon hitting an iceberg during its maiden voyage across the North Atlantic. 1500 of her 2200 passengers and crew were lost; a sense of safety created by the compartment design of the hull contributed to the fateful decision to carry lifeboats for only a fraction of those on board.
There was considerable interest in those passengers who had premonitions of the danger. You can read some of the 1912 reports about those people here.
A fictional account of the sinking of a passenger liner that eerily prefigured the fate of the Titanic was written in 1898. The Wreck of the Titan, or Futility was similar enough to the 1912 disaster that many commentators credited its author, Morgan Robertson, with clairvoyance. Robertson himself said the similarities were explained by his extensive knowledge of shipbuilding and maritime trends.
A US jury has convicted former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on eight counts of tax and bank fraud. Manafort faces a possible retrial of the ten charges on which the jury could not reach a verdict and a further trial on separate charges of money laundering, failing to register as a foreign agent, making false statements to federal agents and conspiring to defraud the Treasury Department.
In addition, Michael Cohen, Trump's longtime personal attorney, has pleaded guilty to eight violations of tax, banking and campaign finance laws.
As Alexandra Petri tried to explain yesterday, it's an unusual situation, but not everything that's important about it is in the public domain.
Are these convictions of the sort that Trump can't pardon?
The discussion is around whether the granting of a pardon can constitute obstruction of justice, whether a pardon prevents the recipient from invoking the privilege against self-incrimination and whether a Presidential pardon can protect the recipient from prosecution at the state level.
Above: the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
During the last meeting of his cabinet on 14 April 1865 – the day of his assassination at the hands of John Wilkes Booth – President Abraham Lincoln spoke of a recurring dream that had preceded nearly every great and important event of the US Civil War.
The conversation turning upon the subject of sleep, Mr. Lincoln remarked that a peculiar dream of the previous night was one that had occurred several times in his life, – a vague sense of floating – floating away on some vast and indistinct expanse, toward an unknown shore. The dream itself was not so strange as the coincidence that each of its previous recurrences had been followed by some important event or disaster, which he mentioned.
The usual comments were made by his auditors. One thought it was merely a matter of coincidences. Another laughingly remarked, “at any rate it cannot presage a victory nor a defeat at this time, for the war is over”.
I suggested, “perhaps at each of these periods there were possibilities of great change or disaster, and the vague feeling of uncertainty may have led to the dim vision in sleep”.
“Perhaps,” said Mr. Lincoln, thoughtfully, "perhaps that is the explanation”.
Marcus Licinius Crassus was one of the richest men in history. A member of the First Triumvirate, Crassus is known for the brutal means by which he put down the rebellion led by Spartacus – re-introducing the decimation and crucifying 6,000 prisoners along the Appian Way. Crassus is also remembered for employing a team of fire-fighters and negotiating the terms on which it would provide assistance while the owners’ buildings were on fire.
In 55 B.C., Crassus made preparations to leave Rome at the head of an army comprised of more than seven legions to begin an invasion of Parthia (modern day Turkey, Iraq and Iran). The Parthians had a peace agreement with the Romans, and the effort was widely considered an unjustifiable instrument of Crassus’ greed and lust for glory.
Following the ritual taking of the auspices, a tribune, Gaius Ateius Capito, made a report of dirae – the sighting of omens of the most disastrous kind – as Crassus swore his oaths of service on Capitoline Hill. A variety of ancient sources, such as Plutarch, Cicero and Cassius Dio, record the devout Romans’ rising concern at the ominous signs that accompanied the campaign.
Crassus nevertheless proceeded to Syria, and, following a season of minor successes, crossed the Euphrates in 53 B.C.. Crassus made a series of truly awful decisions – including refusing the help of a large force suited to engaging the Parthian cavalry – and the battle that followed at Carrhae was one of the greatest calamities in the history of the Empire: 20,000 legionaries were killed, a further 10,000 were sold into slavery; Crassus’ son died in an ill-advised cavalry charge, Crassus himself was killed during abortive peace negotiations.
Divination and witchcraft are more dangerous and more common than you think they are. Don’t get involved in the occult.
But surely the more direct moral of that story is: don’t get involved in greed, narcissism, and megalomania. The occult is irrelevant, and was treated as such by that ruler, however Crass he was.
Roman generals were not permitted to begin a military campaign without a taking of the auspices and a receipt of positive signs.
Crassus doesn’t seem to have been unduly burdened by piety – he had ransacked the Jewish temple in Jerusalem the year before the disaster at Carrhae. You can get a sense of the old accounts from Cassius Dio, you can also have a look at The Departure of Crassus for Parthia on Jstor.
don’t get involved in greed, narcissism, and megalomania
There’s a lot of truth in that, I think.
Bear this in mind the next time you see an apparently inexplicable outburst or politically important faux pas.
How seriously should you take this? Well, Elon Musk is one of the most important figures in technology today. He almost single-handedly revived the electric car and runs a company that launches rockets for NASA at a fraction of the old market price.
The problem is real.
for anyone who missed 2018 I assume.
To be honest I’ve been wondering about the message you’re trying to convey with that John Malkovich clip since you sent it to me here some weeks back as part of that series of gaslighty "There’s a subtext to Mark’s comments that you may not be aware of." insinuations that I was promoting terrorism or something as part of your rigorous defence of the human rights of ex-leaders of the National Party.
While I don't mean to be unpleasant, I don’t want to continue our conversation about Hone Harawira and Don Brash.
I’m sure no one wants that – as I said, I’m wondering what the intended meaning of the video is given you previously directed it at me – specifically – without comment when you came at me in that thread – and then reposted it today.
Odious ex-Nat wages vendetta against Nats. Not a bad career move but job currently taken.
The Eagles’ song Witchy Woman was inspired by the life of Zelda Fitzgerald, wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald. It’s also about the ubiquity of witchcraft in the culture of the 1970’s. As Don Henley told Rolling Stone:
Another inspiration for the song was the roommate of a girl I was seeing in the early 1970s. All things occult were popular in those days. Ouija boards, séances, palm reading, etc. A lot of the girls were into what was called “white witchcraft,” that is, they were practitioners of folk magic for benevolent purposes, as distinguished from malevolent witchcraft or black magic. I think some of them practiced a little of both. I thought it was charming and seductive, but I never took any of it seriously.
The BBC says that Hotel California is played on American radio once every 11 minutes. Glenn Frey said that the song is based in part on the 1965 novel The Magus, Don Henley said it’s about American decadence. You can listen to the song for yourself and reach your own conclusions.
The Eagles’ Their Greatest Hits 1971 – 1975 became the best selling album of all time again this year, overtaking Michael Jackson’s Thriller:
Tragically, the disclaimer intro to Thriller was almost entirely overtaken by events. In 2003 Vanity Fair reported that Jackson had, among other things, taken actual blood baths and paid $150,000 to a voodoo chief in Mali to have 42 cows ritually sacrificed in order to put a curse on David Geffen, Steven Spielberg, and 23 others (see paras 2-4).
Whether or not you think it’s a real phenomenon, people have been using witchcraft for a long time and there are things that pertain to it they are not going to tell you. Read between the lines: don’t get involved in the occult.
I give the occult the same sort of regard as I give religion.
In other developments, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has resigned at Trump’s request. Sessions incurred Trump’s displeasure by recusing himself from Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Magic is literally “coming out of his ears”
I suspect that last word was an automagically corrected typo.
Eighth generation soldier Tommy Clack served as a US Army captain during the Vietnam War. On 29 May 1969, Captain Clack was hit by an explosive shell in combat near Củ Chi, Saigon and was severely injured.
Clack’s near death experience has a number of familiar elements: a feeling of calm and tranquility, viewing his body from above, a bright light and tunnel, meeting soldiers who had lost their lives; Clack witnessed his body being transported from the battlefield and the medical procedures that saved his life.
When he regained consciousness ten days later, Clack was able to tell doctors and soldiers which of his comrades had not survived the battle.
You’ve probably seen variations of the dying brain hypothesis – such as that recently offered by Dr Sam Parnia in the Herald – which proposes that your brain processes more about your surroundings when you’re clinically dead than when you’re asleep or unconscious.
It’s an interesting theory – but it’s not easy to account for the unusual details present in so many NDEs of this type.
On a lighter note, SNL pokes the beeswax out of Theresa May and David Cameron.
To note the midpoint of the Trump presidency The Atlantic has prepared a list of fifty previously unthinkable stories about his time in office.
Editor in chief Jeffrey Goldberg writes:
This week marks the midway point of Trump’s term. Like many Americans, we sometimes find the velocity of chaos unmanageable. We find it hard to believe, for example, that we are engaged in a serious debate about whether the president of the United States is a Russian-intelligence asset. So we decided to pause for a moment and analyze 50 of the most improbable, norm-bending, and destructive incidents of this presidency to date.
Our 2016 editorial was a repudiation of Donald Trump’s character as much as it was an endorsement of Hillary Clinton for president. It was not meant to be partisan. The Atlantic’s founders promised their readers that we would be “of no party or clique.” This remains a core governing principle of the magazine today. What follows is a catalog of incidents, ranked—highly subjectively!—according to both their outlandishness and their importance. In most any previous presidency, Democratic or Republican, each moment on this list would have been unthinkable.
Strange times for honest folks.
And yet still I am not prepared for the idea that a billionaire president honored a sports team in the White House by serving them a McDonald's meal.
U.S. Route 61 runs from Wyoming, Minnesota to New Orleans, Louisiana. It's infamous in American music as part of the story of the crossroads, the tale of the devil's bargain sometimes struck where Highway 61 meets Route 49. In the first volume of his memoirs, Bob Dylan wrote:
Highway 61, the main thoroughfare of the country blues, begins about where I began. I always felt like I'd started on it, always had been on it and could go anywhere, even down in to the deep Delta country. It was the same road, full of the same contradictions, the same one-horse towns, the same spiritual ancestors ... It was my place in the universe, always felt like it was in my blood.
The long history of the devil's bargain is often told through the lives of bluesmen Tommy and Robert Johnson, violinists Guiseppe Tartini and Niccolò Paganini, Johann Faust and the stories of the Arabian and Egyptian texts introduced into Europe in the years following the fall of the Roman Empire. It's most famously set out in the Bible passages concerning the Temptation of Christ in the Book of Matthew:
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’
In Martin Scorsese's biographical documentary No Direction Home, Dylan describes the "big deal" he made on Highway 61 (2m35s); Tony Glover describes the transformation in ability and style that followed it (1m53s):
In 2004, Dylan gave an interview to Ed Bradley of 60 Minutes in which he elaborated on the bargain he struck and the kind of assistance that's fueled his extraordinary success: a "kind of penetrating magic" that helped to write his songs:
Dylan described the process by which he wrote Like A Rolling Stone as a kind of possession:
“It's like a ghost is writing a song like that. It gives you the song and it goes away, it goes away. You don't know what it means. Except the ghost picked me to write the song".
The thing you might not already know is that Dylan is describing a real experience. It's not metaphor or a kind of artistic license - it's that only so much can be said without straining credulity. The idea behind this kind of inspiration is as old as the the Muses of the ancient Greeks and the design and construction of the Ark of the Covenant.
And so it came to pass that in August 1963 a man with a bargain with the devil sang in support of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom - opening for the Reverend Martin Luther King's 'I Have A Dream' address, one of the finest moments in all of American history. There were many who might have been expected to have supported Dr. King that weren't present, but, as Dylan noted that day, those divisions had deep roots and had been carefully contrived.
Bob Dylan, now a Nobel laureate, is 77 years old. Don't get involved in the occult - not because it doesn't work, but because it does.