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And then again

In which there are updates on a couple of items


Well, hello there. Happy new year and all that.

I’ve broken the silence because, in the post below this one, you might notice that I said the one-off Dirk Gently adaptation broadcast on BBC4 last Christmas “very much had the smell of a pilot about it”. Funnily enough, the BBC agreed with me, so much so that it will be getting a short series in 2012. Whether the series will also be filmed in Easton, Montpelier and St Werburghs remains to be seen. Nostradamus himself would be jealous of my keen-eyed prediction skills.

In other futurology updates: a year ago, I predicted that the new government would last about fifteen months, collapsing over electoral reform. I now have three months left on that one, and the electoral reform has gone the way I always thought it would.* We will see. Nostradamus may not be quite so impressed. In slightly better news, though, we do now have the tea towel that we wanted this time last year. The downside to this: I now have to catch up on all the washing-up that’s been waiting since then.

* Despite being a Yes voter myself. No, not that Yes.

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Wrong

In which FP is right at something, but not in a helpful way


Well, part of last Wednesday’s post quickly came true: my “almost certainly wrong” prediction of the future did, indeed, turn out to be wrong. I was sorely tempted to claim I’d been right all along, or that I’ve got enough right that I can be considered reasonably infallible; but, nah, I got it wrong. As I did say I would. Hence, I was right. Hurrah! I should go into business as a futurologist; I’m good at it. And I’ve known people make bigger futurology U-turns.

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Strange Times

In which research fails


Sometimes, there are little things that bug me. Like: remembering the vague outline of the plot of a book I read 20 years ago, but not being able to remember enough to track it down. Or remembering something I saw on TV,* or read in a library book at some point in the distant past.

It’s something like that that’s bugging me at the moment. Regular readers might know that I occasionally enjoy talking about prophets and predictors of the future, noting people who make predictions that fail to come true, or try to rewrite their predictions retrospectively to match the actual events. Ages ago, probably approaching the 20-years scale, I read that a sometime-famous clairvoyant had predicted that a nuclear war was going to start, and that it would involve a nuclear attack on Hull. Which may one day happen, I suppose.** Unfortunately, this was a prophecy with a very specific date, and that date was in 1981.

The only hint I have to go on is that I’m fairly sure this was in a book I got from my local library of 20 years ago, and it might have been by Jenny Randles. As Jenny Randles has written several shelves’ worth of paranormal books, that’s not much help. It may well have a book about the vast number of prophecies indicating that Something Horrible Would Happen To Civilisation As We Know It around the start of this century; clearly all very very accurate ones. There’s not much to go on, though, and searching for information on prophecies about Hull hasn’t dragged anything up either. So, in trying to track this one down, I’m puzzled.

* Like an old movie where a pit pony refuses to be evacuated from a coal mine and gets blown up in an accident as a result. That movie gave me nightmares for weeks.

** Feel free to insert the compulsary joke along the lines of “at least [insert street/district here] might be improved a bit”

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Misogynistic Stereotype Killers

In which Mario Reading is quiet, so we criticise Horne & Corden instead


Quick update on yesterday’s post: as those of you with your own blogs will know, if you link from one blog to another, your blog will send a thing called a “pingback” or a “trackback” to the other one, and the owner of the other blog can choose to display it as a comment.

Yesterday I linked to the blog of Nostradamus-interpreter Mario Reading, when writing about his prediction that George W Bush would be assassinated in 2006, and his later claim that this prediction was right all along. Mario* saw the pingback, followed it back here, and (presumably) read my post about him. Unfortunately, he decided not to display the pingback on his blog, and so far hasn’t responded to what I pointed out: that his claim of correctness fundamentally contradicts the prediction he’s claiming is correct. I’m disappointed. Mario, if you’re reading,** if you want to respond to what I’ve said, then whatever you want to say, I promise I’ll publish it here. I won’t just delete it, like some people would. That’s a fair offer.

Moving on, comedy of a more intentional kind.*** We couldn’t avoid noticing posters around the place for the new British comedy film**** Lesbian Vampire Killers, starring Mathew Horne and James Corden; and, thinking: oh my holy pantheon. Someone would really produce a film with a premise like that? I mean, I’m not surprised someone – probably a 14-year-old boy – would write a film with a title like that, but, produce it? Agree to appear in it?

Well, fortunately, you don’t have to listen to me ramble on about how awful, ugly, and misogynistic we thought it sounded when we haven’t even seen it,***** because the excellent not-quite-worksafe blogger Bitchy Jones has written a similarly-kneejerk castigation of its low concepts. You only need to look at the URL of that to realise that she’s not-quite-worksafe; and she has done a far better critique of it than I’d manage. There are comments, too, from people who have actually seen it. If you also thought: “what, that’s a real film?” go and read.

Talking of Horne and Corden, I feel like I can’t get away from the buggers at the moment, because every time I switch the telly to the BBC, there’s a trail for their new sketch show; well, unless it’s BBC4. Being a sketch-show trail, it shows sketches. Sketches without jokes in. Their writing strategy seems to go something like this:

1: comedy set-up, relying on recognisable situation (eg. the movie “Ghost”
2: err …
3: … that’s it

No joke. No punchline. What’s the point of that, then? Is this some new zen-comedy, are there catchphrases that I haven’t noticed yet, were the trailers wrecked in the editing, or is it just lazy writing? Answers on a postcard, I guess. The trailers certainly don’t inspire me to watch it.

* or, whoever moderates his blog for him, if he doesn’t do it himself

** fighting my pun-instinct is really really hard here, you know

*** The blog title is about this bit, by the way, and completely unrelated to Mr. R.

**** words which, already, are not a promising start

***** See, at least Mario Reading gets criticised on the grounds that I’ve read his books and his blog and can spot the flaws in them, and not just on me thinking it sounds like it might be wrong.

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The Future Of Things

In which we return to Mario Reading and his inability to admit to his mistakes


Flicking through my viewing figures and my search keywords, I spotted one that caught my eye:

Is it true that nostradamus predicts that George W Bush is going to get assassinated?

Well, no. No, I have to say, it isn’t. It has been claimed that he did, though, by a writer called Mario Reading. As I do try hard to maintain this blog’s position as the top source for Mario Reading information on the internet, I thought I’d better mention it. Mr Reading’s prediction is based on this quatrain by Nostradamus:

The successor will avenge his handsome brother
He will take over the realm under cover of vengeance
The obstacle slain, his dead blood seethes
Britain and France will hold together for a long time

This is Reading’s own translation. He interpreted it as: a powerful world leader, whose main international ally is the British government, undergoes an assassination attempt; and this will lead to Britain aligning itself more with the EU. Oh, and, all this will take place in ’06.* He stepped carefully around the issue of naming the leader in print:

One of many possible targets, of course, might be US President George W Bush

but this is after mentioning that “under cover” in the quatrain, souz umbre in the original, probably means something like “under a bush”. Not to mention, Reading was rather less guarded when, as part of the pre-publication publicity, he went on the telly and said specifically that it was George W Bush that he meant.

Needless to say, none of this has come true, as you might have noticed, and the time for Reading’s prophecy to apply is well past. Nevertheless, he’s since declared that his prophecy did indeed come true! He wrote on his blog that:

I’m very sad to say that the predicted assassination did indeed take place, with the murder, on the 27th December 2007, of Benazir Bhutto. … The prophecy was further vindicated by the fact that both of Benazir Bhutto’s brothers had also died under unnatural circumstances, and that their brother-in-law, Benazir Bhutto’s husband, was elected President of Pakistan. … I rest my case.

Hang on a minute there, Mario! Yes, I know, “handsome brother” might be a mistranslation of “brother-in-law” – but in your prophecy there, it’s the brother who’s been attacked. Benazir Bhutto may well have been assassinated, but she definitely was no man’s brother. Having said, back in 2005, that you thought George W Bush was going to get attacked, it’s a bit misleading of you to go back and say “aah, someone else was assassinated, see, I was right all along”. Particularly as that someone else doesn’t at all fit the prediction you wrote.

I’ve been meaning, for a while, to write a full and proper critique of Reading’s book; something which is only going to get easier over the years as fewer of his prophecies come true. I’ve had more important things to write about,** but I’m getting round to it. Once I have, I’m tempted to go on to Peter Le Mesurier, who, in the mid-90s, predicted, using Nostradamus and astrology,** that an Islamic army would have invaded Europe from North Africa by now.*** He’s still writing books, and his website is actually pretty useful, despite not acknowledging his past predictive failure. But, on the other hand, there is a whole world of future-predictors to debunk out there. All I can ever do is scratch the surface.

* Reading has his own dating scheme which links the year to the number of the prophecy; according to that, the prophecy applies to a year ending in 06, although he goes on to link it, because of his interpretation, to the vaguer period “2006-2008″.

** which does make sense in a way, as Nostradamus was basically an astrologer himself. Le Mesurier sets the dates of his predictions by looking at repeating astrological cycles.

*** This is why, as I wrote a while back, the work of people like Reading and Le Mesurier really needs a Ron Howard voiceover, to say things like “It hasn’t”.

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All Quiet On The Reading Front

In which we ask Mario Reading why he refuses to admit he was wrong


If you’ve been reading regularly, you might remember my post from last week about noted Nostradamus-interpreter Mario Reading, in which I idly wondered aloud if he plans to correct some of the predictions he published a few years ago which have, amazingly, failed to come true. I wrote him an open letter, asking if he’ll be issuing errata for his book Nostradamus: The Complete Prophecies For The Future, in which Mr Reading – sorry, Nostradamus’s – predictions have turned out to be rather wrong.

Having had no response, though, I thought I’d drop him a line, to make sure he’d seen what I wrote. After all: if someone was writing about me, I’d want to know. He’d written a blog post about searching the web to see what people were writing about him; so this is what I wrote:

Funnily enough, I posted something on my own blog about one of your books the other day. I’d been planning to write to you directly, but given the lack of direct contact details on your website – entirely understandable, I’ve had email addresses become completely unusable due to junk mail – I decided to write it as an open letter to you instead. I wonder if you’ve come across it yet.

Which was all quite respectable and polite, I thought. He doesn’t get many comments, so I thought he’d appreciate one.**

It was held for moderation, which is normal. However: it never appeared. He’s had another comment since, which has passed moderation;*** mine has disappeared. I can only assume that Mario Reading doesn’t want his blog readers to see my post, for some reason. And that he doesn’t particularly feel like answering my letter to him.

Now, Mario Reading’s blog and mine are both driven by the same software, WordPress. And I know, from using it, that when you log in to a WordPress blog’s admin pages, you get taken to a page called the Dashboard. Which, among other things, gives you a little list of other blogs that have recently linked to your own site.*

I’m in the habit of checking my site logs regularly; so, when someone clicks on a link that takes them to me, I notice it. So I know that: someone who has access to Mario Reading’s blog admin pages saw that link on his Dashboard page, on the 17th. So presumably, he’s aware of what I wrote, but can’t be bothered to answer me.

Mr Reading, if you’re reading, which I assume you will do eventually: I’d appreciate an answer to my questions. Do you intend to keep Nostradamus: The Complete Prophecies For The Future on sale even though many of the things predicted in it haven’t happened? Do you intend to issue errata for it? You could do that on your blog easily enough, after all.

Meanwhile: if I’m going to be so critical, I may as well have more to go on than a vague memory of Reading being interviewed on the telly a few years ago. So his book’s on order from the local library; so we can see exactly what Mario Reading – sorry, Nostradamus – predicted would happen in the world over the past couple of years, and whether he was right about it.

* It pulls the data from Google Blog Search, although older versions of WordPress used Technorati.

** Because he uses WordPress, you can tell how many comments he’s had submitted; it gives every comment a number, and the number gets put in the URL. My comment on his website was number 3.

*** The first one to appear on his blog, in fact! And the fourth to be submitted – the first after mine.

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I can see the future…

In which we confront Mario Reading, an author who got things wrong


No news on the Bristol guided busway (“Bus Rapid Transit”) scheme today, you’ll be relieved to hear.

Today, though, I thought it would be time to revisit something I wrote, back in the mists of time,* when this blog was (relatively) newly-minted. I spotted, on the telly, a chap called Mario Reading, who had just published a book claiming that according to Nostradamus, George W Bush would suffer an assassination attempt before the end of his presidency.

Lots of people have, of course, interpreted what Nostradamus wrote in different ways; and they have, consistently, been entirely and completely wrong when they produce predictions for events which haven’t happened yet. The recent US Election reminded me of Mr Reading: it reminded me that there’s not very long left for his prediction – sorry, Nostradamus’s prediction to come true – in any case, according to the table of contents of his book, it was due to have happened already by now.

I have a vague recollection at the time of Reading stating, on the telly, that he hoped that his book would be a warning to the US Secret Service, and that they would be able to use his book to foil any such assassination attempt. So maybe he’ll just say “ahh, well, clearly he would have been assassinated if it wasn’t for me.” Which begs an interesting question: what, then, for Nostradamus’s role in it all? If you publish a book that says “Nostradamus predicted that X will happen, but if you read this book you can stop it!” then does that mean Nostradamus was right or wrong? I dreamt the other night that I was going to bake myself a cheesecake for tea. I told my girlfriend – so she made us pasta instead. Clearly, this means I can see the future!

Reading’s book – Nostradamus: The Complete Prophecies For The Future – is still available on Amazon. Indeed, at a discount, which seems reasonable enough considering that now a good three years of the book’s future is our past; so we can easily judge for ourselves how accurate Mr Reading’s – sorry, Nostradamus’s future-prophesying skill is. He also has another book: Nostradamus: The Good News – all the cheerful bits. Its first prediction of the future isn’t due to occur (or not) until 2021, sadly. It turns out, too, that Reading has recently started writing a blog. He’s got a thriller coming out next year, and a third Nostradamus book.** Unfortunately, his blog doesn’t seem to have private contact details on it, which is a shame, because I wanted to get in touch with him. Ah, well. I’ll have to put an open letter here instead:

Dear Mr Reading,
I notice your book Nostradamus: The Complete Prophecies For The Future is still on sale, and apparently selling well according to your website. However, I note that it’s now 3 years since it was written; and that many of the events which it predicted to occur between its publication date and the present day have not, in fact, happened as you – sorry, Nostradamus predicted. Do you intend to keep the book on sale even though it contains information you now know to be wrong? Will your forthcoming Nostradamus book contain revised versions of these prophecies, and will you acknowledge the mistakes, or be issuing errata for, The Complete Prophecies For The Future?
Yours,
FP

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go into a trance to try to predict whether or not I’ll get a reply.

* insert wavy dissolve effect here

** I am trying very hard to resist the temptation to make any sort of joke about fiction and non-fiction.

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Predicting the future

In which we worry about the weather


It’s a hard thing to do.

The other week, as there’s a long weekend coming up, I booked a camping holiday, in Wales. Only a day or two later, the news outlets started running stories about how awful the Easter weekend weather was going to be; wind, rain, sleet and snow. Oh dear.

There’s still snow on the forecast for Northumbria; but the forecast for the Welsh weather, though, has got noticeably better over the past few days. It’s gone from sleet, to showers, to sunny periods. And I’ve noticed this happening before. There seems to be a tendency now for the forecasts to be more extreme further off, before calming down as the date approaches.

Which is statistically what you’d expect, of course. Extreme weather is, by definition, unlikely, and shorter-range forecasts are always more accurate, so any extreme weather in a long-range forecast is likely to mellow as the forecast gets closer. That doesn’t stop the news jumping on any forecasts of horrible blizzards, though. I’m still worried that the snow forecast for the north Pennines is going to creep southwards over the weekend.

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Futurology

In which we note Mario Reading’s prediction has still not come true


Author Mario Reading has been in my mind recently, because people have been searching for information about him. In case you’ve forgotten – it is, after all, exactly a year since I first wrote about him – he’s the chap who predicted that some time this year or the next, someone will try to assassinate George W Bush.

He says he isn’t predicting that, of course. He says the prophet Nostradamus predicted it, a few hundred years back, and Reading is merely spreading the word. Even though noone would probably have come to this conclusion without hearing of Reading’s work, that’s irrelevant: he says Nostradamus said it, and it’s nothing to do with him. It’s still another couple of years before we can point and laugh at Mario Reading, and say he got it all wrong; but I’m going to try not to forget him.

Now, at first I thought: “how hard can it be?” Surely anyone can just get hold of some Nostradamus, and slap some current references over the top? But, then, secondly: surely the original text has nothing to do with it? Surely I could write something that looked like Nostradamus,* add “interpretations”, and – if my theory that the original text has little to do with what most Nostradamus-fans come out with is right – my interpretations would be just as valid predictions of the future as anything else. So, I think I might just try that. Coming soon: FP’s “Nostradamus, honest”.

* or, at least, Nostradamus-in-translation. I don’t speak either medieval French, or Provencal.

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Owning up

In which, unlike Mario Reading, we own up to a wrong prediction


Owning up to your mistakes is almost always the best thing to do. In an hour or so, it looks like I’m going to be proved wrong about something.

Specifically, something I wrote almost a year ago,* when I said: “at the earliest, [Tony Blair is] going to resign in the first quarter of 2009″. It looks, now, that I’m going to be nearly two years out, and that he’s going to give up power before getting within a year of Thatcher’s longevity record. On the other hand, I’m not the only person who was wrong. According to the article that prompted the earlier post, this time last year most Labour MPs weren’t expecting him to go until 2008. I still don’t believe he would give up power willingly until 2009, if he thought he could get away with it. I think that saying “yes, I’m going to resign, but not yet” is a bloody stupid way to run any sort of organisation, to be frank. Moreover, I’m wondering just how many journalists who have previously said “Blair will resign in 2008″, or similar things, will admit that they were wrong about it.

There’ll be plenty more chances for my predictions to come true in the future, of course. In January this year I said that George W Bush will still be alive in 2009, despite the “Nostradamus-inspired” prediction of author Mario Reading. I’m betting that my own prediction there is rather more secure than Reading’s – or than my earlier prediction about Blair. We’ll just have to wait and see.

* fifty-one weeks ago yesterday, in fact.

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