Wednesday 19 October, 2022

On history repeating itself…

Yesterday’s rant about historical cycles set some Classics scholars thinking about the year 69AD (or, as we PC folks are supposed to say, 69CE) when the Romans had no fewer than four emperors in a single year.

This picture (from Wikipedia) illustrates that crazed succession with coins (clockwise from top left) Galba, Otho, Vitellius and Vespasian.

This set me thinking about the Tory party which — although it could not manage it in a single year — is embarked on a similar process.

The only difference is that we do not yet know who fits into the bottom left-hand slot.

Also, there was a nice letter from Anthony Black in the FT quoting what the historian Tacitus observed about Galba, the first of the Roman quartet. Omnium consensu capax imperii nisi imperasset, quoth he. “Everyone agreed he was capable of ruling until he ruled.” Mr Black thinks that this applies to Liz Truss, which is surely a mistake. I can’t think of anyone who thought she was up to the job even before she landed it.

(Image copyright Richard Mortel on a Creative Commons licence)

Another Classics scholar, upon learning of my interest in the Roman succession, added the useful information that Galba was bald, which meant that when Otho, having decapitated him, was unable to brandish the head in public by holding it by his victim’s hair, and so displayed it by holding it up by the nose.

The Tory party is famously ruthless when disposing of leaders who look like losers, but somehow this would be seen as too extreme for present circumstances.

Quote of the Day

”I don’t object to foreigners speaking a foreign language; I just wish they’d all speak the same foreign language.”

  • Billy Wilder

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

J.S. Bach | Suite for Solo Cello No. 3 in C Major, BWV 1009: III. Courante | John Williams


Long Read of the Day

William Shatner on going into space (for real)

From his memoir in Variety

During our preparation, we had gone up eleven flights of the gantry to see what it would be like when the rocket was there. We were then escorted to a thick cement room with oxygen tanks. “What’s this room for?” I asked casually.

“Oh, you guys will rush in here if the rocket explodes,” a Blue Origin fellow responded just as casually.

Uh-huh. A safe room. Eleven stories up. In case the rocket explodes.

Well, at least they’ve thought of it.

When the day finally arrived, I couldn’t get the Hindenburg out of my head. Not enough to cancel, of course—I hold myself to be a professional, and I was booked. The show had to go on.

We got ourselves situated inside the pod…

Read on to read when he discovered.

My commonplace booklet

My story yesterday about how the code for PGP escaped CoCOM export restrictions reminded my friend Quentin of the T-shirts that were produced with the Perl code for the RSA algorithm on them, which meant that they were also classed as munitions? Then activists realised that it might not count unless it was in machine-readable form, so they printed the same bit of perl as a barcode on the shirt :-)

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