Palm Sunday

Jesus Entry Into Jerusalem by Pietro Lorenzetti(1320).  Fresco in the Basilica of San Francesco d'Assisi, Italy Public Domain
Jesus Entry Into Jerusalem by Pietro Lorenzetti(1320).
Fresco in the Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi, Italy
Public Domain

Today is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week on the Christian Calendar. This feast takes place the Sunday before Easter and commemorates Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.

Saturday Retro:U.F.O.(1970)

If Star Trek was the idea of noble adventurers exploring outer space, the show UFO was exactly the opposite. It was about Earth being attacked by an unknown (and never seen in their true form)alien race. At first it is believed they are taking humans for organ harvesting but later episodes suggest a much darker theme: to use the humanoid form to cause all kinds of mischief. These were not kind and cuddly aliens. They were undeniably hostile and it was up to a special unit (funded by world governments but kept secret) called SHADO, which stands for Supreme Headquarters Alien Defense Organization.

The show was dark in theme along with many of its stories. SHADO was led by Colonel Straker (Ed Bishop) and others who made up the special unit. Set in the 1980’s, it displayed futuristic tech in cars, hairstyles, and clothing. Shado had a moonbase, underwater submersibles, and all kinds of other nifty gadgets. They also had SID (Space Intruder Detector) that detected incoming alien spacecraft.

Since most of the world was in the dark about the invasion, SHADO was located underneath a movie studio so that no one would notice people dressed in odd outfits or coming and going at all hours of the day. The show was created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson and ran for 26 episodes in 1970 (in the US for two years). It was their first foray into live action. They would make a second live actions series, Space:1999 two years after U.F.O.’s run.

Further Info: UFO (TV Series):Wikipedia

Thursday Titanic News

Titanic Belfast (side view) Image:Prioryman (Wikipedia)
Titanic Belfast (side view)
Image:Prioryman (Wikipedia)

1. Last Letter Ever Written On Titanic Arrives In Belfast To Go On Display As Part Of Five Year Loan(25 Mar 2015,Belfast Live)
The historic artefact, written by a mother and daughter who survived the ship’s sinking but was never sent, is being loaned to the attraction for five years. It will go on display in Titanic Belfast after Easter. The official handover will take place on Wednesday morning. The letter was written by Essex-born Esther Hart and her seven-year-old daughter Eva just eight hours before the ship hit an iceberg and sank in April 1912.

Photo:Public Domain
Photo:Public Domain

2. Titanic Never Leaves The Minds Of International Ice Patrol Crew(23 Mar 2015,
McGrath, a commander in the U.S. Coast Guard, heads the International Ice Patrol and it’s their job to make sure the tragedy isn’t repeated. And since 1913, when the patrol started, no ship heeding its warnings has struck an iceberg.”That is why we do what we do, to keep that from happening again,” she said. Given current weather patterns, this year may be a busy one for her crew.

3. Call To Honour Hatfield Man Who Died In Titanic Sinking(23 Mar 2015,Welwyn Hatfield Times)
Now, namesake Dennis Gunn, who lives in North London, has called on authorities to honour the “poor lad” with a plaque at a suitable place in the town. He said: “I wonder if the citizens of Hatfield know about him even, or if anybody is interested in him. “I’d certainly start the ball rolling myself, financially.“

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Spring Equinox

Solstices and Equinoxes Image: NASAThe Spring or March Equinox is today at 6:45 PM EDT/22:45 UTC. This equinox marks the moment where the Sun crosses the equator and usually occurs between March 19-21 every year. Both the March and September equinoxes are when the Sun shines directly on the equator making night and day nearly equal.

The March equinox is the transition from winter to spring in the Northern Hemisphire but the reverse in the Southern Hemisphere (summer into fall).  Various cultures celebrate March equinox as a time of rebirth. Many spring festivals are timed to coincide with the equinox and some religious events (Passover and Easter) use specific calculations based on the equinox to help determine the exact day of the event.

Though the equinox marks the changing of the seasons, it is quite common for winter effects to continue in many places far until May or even June.

Titanic II Update: Nothing Going On At Shipyard

[Update: Some people are encountering a problem reading The Australian article. Apparently in some cases it is requiring you to subscribe first to be able to view. You can read an alternative article here at]

Photo:Ian L(
Photo:Ian L(

The Australian is reporting that nothing is going on at the CSC Jinling shipyard in Nanjing, China to indicate any construction is taking place. According to the newspaper:

Dozens of workers at the shipyard said they had been informed of the Titanic II plans, but the project was yet to be given the formal go-ahead. “That ship was just a proposal. It’s never been carried out and the project has never launched,” one worker, Mr Wang, said.

Last year Blue Star Line signed a memorandum of understanding with AVIC Kaixin Beijing Ship Industry to help raise awareness of the project and secure investors. No report if that has come to anything tangible. Palmer has his own troubles with China. He is currently locked in a dispute with a Chinese company over royalties and said some unkind words about the Chinese government that made it worse.

People around the shipyard are disappointed. A large project like that means lots of workers  which help local businesses get a piece of the action.

 “They said the Titanic project would bring in big investment and the shipyard would have to employ more people but people have stopped talking about it and there is even suggestions the ship yard is going to move.”

As Captain Kirk would say about now, “Scotty, beam me up.”


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Titanic Tidbits

RMS Titanic departing Southampton on April 10, 1912.
RMS Titanic departing Southampton on April 10, 1912.

1.  A lump of coal and a rusticle that were salvaged from Titanic in the 1990’s are going up for auction. The coal was brought up in 1994 (the Titanic Research & Recovery Expedition) and the rusticle from the ship’s hull from the 1998 French expedition to the site. The go under the hammer today at JP Humbert Auctioneers (UK).
Source: Chunk Of Titanic Goes Under The Hammer(10 Mar 2015,Advertiser & Review)

2.The UK Guardian’s Chase Condrone gave Titanic Museum at Pigeon Forge, Tennessee a good review. She notes the museum crafts reality and theatre into one with people dressed up in period costumes, the original items on display, the ability to feel the coldness of that night. It also makes her in one case feel a bit creepy:

I walk up to a narrow trough of water, and a sign tells me to plunge my hand into it. The water is 28 degrees: the temperature of the Atlantic that night. In his 1915 poem The Convergence of the Twain, Thomas Hardy saw the Titanic and the iceberg as “twin halves of one august event”. My iceberg is just a picture, but this room is nonetheless creepy, and as I trail my hand in the trough of icy water, I feel certain that I could never know the experience of the Titanic.

Source: For $27 You Can Experience The Sinking Of The Titanic – In Landlocked Tennessee (12 Mar 2015,The Guardian)

3. reports that a proposed project called Titanic Honor & Glory will be the most ambitious recreation of the disaster to date. While it will be a game, the developer has hired a team of contributors to make it historically accurate (except of course the fictional aspects of the story). There will be interaction with real-life Titanic passengers and crew. Sounds pretty ambitious and hopefully will come to pass.
Source: Ambitious Titanic Game Lets You Explore The Sinking Ship In Real-Time (,24 Feb 2015

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St. Patrick’s Day 2015

It is hard to believe but celebration of the patron saint of Ireland is more boisterous far outside its green shores. While nominally a feast day on the liturgical calendar of the Roman Catholic Church, it has become a major day for people to get together and party. Being Irish is not required but does lend authenticity to saying you are actually a descendent of the Emerald Isle rather than just adopting it for a day.

Of course many Irish left that fair isle long ago. Jobs were few and many people starved. And freedom to starve is not much freedom which is why many Irishmen had to serve in the military of their oppressor. Some came to America as my great-great (and more but you get the point)did to start a new life. He was recruited in Ireland to join the Union Army during the American Civil War. He served two tours, was a musician, and his papers showed he was a tall man. And he started a new life here in America leaving Ireland behind for good. He never went back. My grandfather was often asked because of his Irish last name whether he was Irish.”No, American,” he would say. It was something his grandfather said and was passed down. He never thought himself Irish or Irish American, just American.

St. Patrick’s Day was not treated as a day to get drunk or eat too much food (it is the Lenten season after all). Instead it was simply quiet reflection, a prayer of thanks, and a delicious meal with family. And family is what is it all about. Not about green milkshakes or wearing green, drinking vast amounts of beer. Like Christmas which has its secular and spiritual markers, so it is with St.Patrick. The faithful honor St. Patrick while others have a party. To each his own.

One of the sad remnants though of the migration out of Ireland is that today Ireland, outside of the major and smaller communities, is very empty. You cannot shake the feeling when you see that emptiness how bad it must have been for whole communities to evaporate leaving perhaps just the oldest behind who for one reason or another choose to stay. Today in the United States you can see this process underway in the many dwindling rural communities in the Midwest or in old cities that were once giants in the land slowly shrinking as people leave for other opportunities.

Here is an old tune from the Emerald Isle, known as The Minstrel Boy. The full lyrics can be found here.The tune was quite popular (and still is) and the opening is often heard more than the full song:

The minstrel boy to the war is gone,
In the ranks of death you’ll find him;
His father’s sword he has girded on,
And his wild harp slung behind him;
“Land of Song!” said the warrior bard,
“Though all the world betrays thee,
One sword, at least, thy rights shall guard,
One faithful harp shall praise thee!”

The first is a wonderful rendition using Irish traditional musical instruments. And the second is from a more modern source (and set in the future) from Star Trek:The Next Generation episode The Wounded where the song has an important role. Chief O’Brien uses the tune to remind his old captain of his duty and what he has done.

Titanic News for 16 Mar 2015

1. A new exhibition center is being planned for Belfast Titanic reports News Letter. Plans are to be submitted soon for a 6,000 square meter temporary building across from Titanic Studios. This facility will stage public exhibitions and trade shows. It is scheduled to open in 2015. A more permanent facility is being planned long term to host such events.
Source: Titanic Plans For Exhibition Centre(News Letter,16 Mar 2015)

2. The Titanic International Film Festival in Budapest is scheduled from 11-18 April 2015 according to the Budapest Business Journal. The program has not been announced as of yet but that is coming soon. Films will be shown on six screens at five different venues. Information can be found
Source: Titanic Festival To Bring Exciting Films To Budapest(Budapest Business Journal, 16 Mar 2015)

3. The U.K. Mirror recently showed rare photos of Titanic’s gym. “The equipment, which was state of the art for the time, included an electric camel, an electric horse, cycling machines, a rowing machine, weights and punchbags.”Sadly physical instructor Thomas McCauley would perish when Titanic went down.
Source: Forgotten Pictures Of Titanic Ship’s Gym Show How People Worked Out In 1900s (,15 Mar 2015)

4.Elsie Bowerman of England survived Titanic and went on to do many things with her life. She served in woman’s hospital unit in Romania during World War I before having to retreat to St. Petersburg in March 1917. She saw the early days of the Russian revolution. After the war she studied law and became a barrister in 1924 and practiced until 1938. During World War II she was with the Woman’ s Voluntary Services and then with the Overseas Unit of the BBC. She helped work on the U.N. Commission for the Status of Women. She spent the remainder of her life at country house near Hailsham and passed away in October 1973 at age 83.
Source: Fascinating Life Story Of Titanic Survivor(Eastbourne Herald, 15 Mar 2015)

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Beware The Ides of March!

The Death of Julius Caesar,Vincenzo Camuccini (1771–1844). Public Domain
The Death of Julius Caesar,Vincenzo Camuccini (1771–1844).
Public Domain

Today is 15 March and on the old Roman calendar was a day of religious observance to the Roman god Jupiter and other lesser deities. But it is most famous as the date in 44 BC when Julius Caesar was assassinated at a meeting of the Roman Senate. 60 conspirators were involved but the leaders were Brutus and Cassius. Caesar was forewarned of his death by a seer according to Plutarch. And in his famous work Julius Caesar, Shakespeare has the soothsayer say “beware the ides of March” which Caesar ignores and if course he ends up stabbed to death uttering the famous line before death:

Et tu Brute!

 The assassination was a turning point for Rome. It brought about a civil war and ended the Roman Republic. Octavian (later Augustus) would become emperor and the Roman Empire would come to dominate the entire Mediterranean Sea, North Africa, and parts of Europe and Britain. In Julius Caesar Mark Antony gives perhaps the most remembered funeral oration ever done. Most people recall the famous opening line:

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears! I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him. The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones; so let it be with Caesar.

 The oration is masterful in that it cleverly turns the people against Brutus and Cassius by showing they were ambitious and not Caesar. By the end the plebeians call them traitors and murderers.

In real life, it was much the same. Antony played them by seemingly supporting amnesty but turning people against them both. Brutus was forced to leave and ended up on Crete, Cassius went east to gather support amongst the governors and to amass an army. Antony and Octavian would clash militarily causing divisions in Rome. This allowed the forces of Brutus and Cassius to march on Rome. However Octavian made peace with Antony upon this news so both forces joined to stop Brutus and Cassius. They met at Philippi on 3 Oct 42 BC. The first battle resulted in Brutus defeating Octavian but Antony defeating Cassius. Not knowing that Brutus had defeated Octavian, Cassius took his own life. At the second battle of Philippi on 23 October, Brutus was defeated and forced to flee into the hills where he committed suicide. Antony treated his body with great respect by having it wrapped his most expensive purple mantle. His body was cremated and remains sent to his mother.

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