Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Sea Monsters! U-boats! Donald Trump!

The number one story on BBC news is that a wrecked u-boat has been found off Stranraer, and it might have been sunk by a sea monster. The sub's commander, Captain Kerch, talked of a beast with 'large eyes, set in a horny sort of skull… with teeth that could be seen glistening in the moonlight.'

The BBC quotes a historian who says that obviously it wasn't that, but who is game enough to say it would be nice if Nessie were helping. Then, because it's the BBC, it gives equal weight to Gary Campbell, who curates Nessie's 'Official Sightings Register' (whatever that means). He says,
It is entirely feasible that some large sea creature disabled the submarine. 
The World War One report from the captain of the British ship HMS Hilary a year earlier makes it clear that sea farers at that time were well aware of large sea 'monsters' that could be harmful to their ships. 
The area of sea where the attack took place has a history of sea monster sightings - they have ranged from the north coast of Wales to Liverpool bay. What the German captain said could well be true.
I guess we will never know, except for that five minutes of research found me the much more plausible and better sourced story that the sub surfaced, was fired on and immediately dived, but forgot to close the hatch (maybe because of some extra cabling ordered by Captain Kerch). The U-boat had to surface and was easily destroyed, whereupon it had to scuttle.

Because everything on earth now relates to Trump, I read this as first a story of first false press equivalency and second the story of a man who screwed up royally bloviating that an invented monster did it (and of his being believed by conspiracy theorists).

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

i'm still standing

I find myself with half an hour and about a dozen open links that have been open for a month. I wonder what they are?

Oh, this guy. I mean band. I've periodically enjoyed the lunatic Quantum Jump Lone Ranger song, which doesn't seem like it's hugging the racing line, PC-wise (Mitchell and Webb, Edinburgh, 2000 or 2001). I enjoyed reading about Rupert Hine, who went on to become a sort of super producer. He looks massively like he should have been bowling fast for England in teams which lost to the West Indies in two days.

Maximum Fun: I suppose I bookmarked this to remind me of my own brilliant observation that 95% of the podcast phenomenon is Americans realising-without-realising how much better the world is if you've got Radio 4 in it.

Maybe I've done James Hilton before. He wrote Lost Horizon and Goodbye, Mr Chips. You might think the second is famouser, but only if you don't know anything about the former. Leaving aside the fact that it was one of the first small-format paperbacks and sold about a billion copies, the main thing was that it introduced the term Shangri-La - in the book it's a mythical, impossible to find Tibetan monastery of eternal life. FDR was a huge fan and he called the new Presidential retreat Shangri-La. Later it got renamed Camp David.

Also, when America long-range bombed Japan in quick revenge for Pearl Harbour, and he was asked, 'How could the bombers reach that far? Where did they take off?' he replied, 'Shangri-La'. The US Navy soon named an aircraft carrier Shangri-La in tribute.

'Robert, who is your favourite living artist?'
'Do you mean visual artist?'
'Well, I am not the world's greatest art expert. But if I had to give a name, it would be Nina Katchadourian.'

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

fat kitten

Hoaxes are usually fun; forgery and con-artists can be fun but can be awful; fraud is bad. I have been doing a lot of reading in these fields and these are my preliminary conclusions. Also, one book described a table in Goering's office whose massive legs were carved into the shape of penises.

But hoaxes: I'm pretty sure it was on Slate's Politics Gabfest that someone described the Great Moon Hoax of 1835. The New York Sun published a string of articles featuring new discoveries made by UK astronomer Sir John Herschel (pretty convincing authority). The reason no one had made them before was that no one else had such a fantastic telescope, which was of 'vast dimensions' and used 'an entirely new principle'.

Among the things Herschel found were brown bison-like quadrupeds, blue goats, advanced beavers who walked on two legs and had discovered fire, man-bats who appeared to be having rational conversations and a temple built of sapphire. In case you doubted this, some Wesleyan ministers were prepared to vouch for it.

It created a huge buzz. It was debunked reasonably fast, but by no means immediately. Contemporary accounts agree that most people fell for it at first. Edgar Allan Poe wrote, 'Not one person in ten discredited it'.

Anyway, this is just a sketch. The whole article is great.

In other news, stop reading this right now if you haven't seen Endeavour 3.3, which is called PREY. I will do a spoiler after a gap for a kitten.

Endeavour is hilarious. The stories are completely insane, which I am not criticising, because the characters are really fun, and this is the best series so far, I think, because the insane stories do at least sort of follow, which they didn't always previously. Anyway, PREY was the most insane so far.  Among the many questions that arise: Why did Morse never mention to Lewis in latter years his adventures with a tiger in a maze? Also, as an old Africa hand, I have to agree that a shot into the belly from behind is the perfect way to stop a big cat instantly. They never move again.