File 115: Three Exceptional Years
Our Third Exceptional Year
- Sentient World Simulation: Did you know that if you have ever had an online presence, there's a series of servers in Indiana where a digital version of you exists?
- The Voynich Manuscript: In The Madman's Library by Edward Brooke-Hitching, he describes the Voynich manuscript as "the most famous cryptic manuscript of the medieval period" that has been "the obsessive focus of study around the world and as of yet, none of the professional and amateur cryptographers - including American and British codebreakers of both World War I and World War II - has been able to crack it."
Man, people REALLY think they've got this thing decoded. Just a few months after we talked about the Voynich Manuscript, though, came a story that really seems to be more than just a little bit plausible.
"Dr Lisa Fagin Davis is a palaeographer, codicologist, fragmentologist and bibliographer with a particular interest in pre-seventeenth-century manuscript fragments and collections in North America. Having taught Latin Palaeography at Yale, Dr Davis now teaches Manuscript Studies at the Simmons University School of Library and Information Science and, as of 2023, she is the regular Latin Palaeography instructor at The Rare Book School, University of Virginia."
Palaeography: the study and academic discipline of the analysis of historical writing systems, the historicity of manuscripts and texts, subsuming deciphering and dating of historical manuscripts, including the analysis of historic handwriting, signification and printed media.
Codicology: study of codices or manuscript books. It is often referred to as "the archaeology of the book," a term coined by François Masai. It concerns itself with the materials, tools and techniques used to make codices, along with their features.
Fragmentology:is the study of surviving fragments of manuscripts (mainly manuscripts from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance in the case of European manuscript cultures).
Bibliographer: a person who describes and lists books and other publications, with particular attention to such characteristics as authorship, publication date, edition, typography, etc
So with that out of the way, clearly Dr. Davis knows what she's talking about when it comes to rare books and manuscripts, and the decoding of them. The Voynich Manuscript is a particularly hefty challenge, but…
"Davis's recent work includes a breakthrough finding: conformation that the Voynich manuscript is the work of multiple scribes. By applying the principles of Latin Palaeography to the Voynichese writing system, Davis has identified five separate hands at work in the manuscript, revealing the work to be a much more collaborative production than previously assumed."
"Linguists such as Australian-born Yale Professor Claire Bowern are now building on her findings to analyse the language of the different scribal parts, to test the hypothesis that the respective scribes were writing in different languages or dialects; or even the idea that one scribe was writing a real language, and one or more other scribes were not."
The interview with Dr. Davis on Library Planet is fascinating, and she points to internet archives like Voynich Ninja (https://www.voynich.ninja/index.php), where amateur and professional decoders and manuscript sleuths have been working steadily on the Voynich.
Davis also notes: "...the Voynich used to be thought of only as a joke and as the domain of conspiracy theorists and crackpots. That impression still holds somewhat, of course, but as more peer-reviewed work continues to be published the topic is becoming more "acceptable" in mainstream academia. The recent online Voynich conference that was sponsored by the University of Malta with proceedings published online and open-access definitely helped give Voynich research a patina of respectability!"
She also points to the possibilities of AI assisting in decoding the Voynich Manuscript, but still believes it will be a person, not a computer, that eventually solves it.
- Alchemy: Alchemy is an ancient practice one with obscure tangled roots that may go back a couple millennia BC. Much of alchemy's history is shrouded in mystery and cyphers, and is a practice that has repeatedly been banned throughout history and has faced many hurdles, yet still managed to find its way even to today.
Fulminating Gold: thought to be the first high explosive that is made with gold, chloride, hydroxide salts, ammonia gas and ammonium salts. Thought to be discovered in 1585. This product is highly volatile, and like every alchemical creation the properties of it were surrounded in rumor, superstition and folklore, all enhanced by the mysterious purple smoke generated upon explosion.
One myth said that the explosion was directed inward, so an implosion, in 1809 chemist Jons Jakob Berzelius wanted to test this theory and dropped a beaker container a sample by accident resulting in glass shards in his eye and permanent purple-colored scars on his hand
Over the centuries tests have been done but no one could figure out the source of the purple smoke on detonation, until now. Simon Hall's team at the University of Bristol went to work to definitively answer this
There has long been a theory that the explosion creates gold nanoparticles and how those interacted with the light is what caused the color, but no one has been able to prove this, until Hall's team
They discovered that yup, there are gold particles and that the particles' presence also explains why Berzelius's scars were purple and how it could be used to give objects a purple patina
But there's still one mystery, who discovered it? There's a lot of dispute on who wrote it and when, much like anything alchemy the penchant to use pseudonyms and fudge dates makes it very hard to determine its origins
- The Snapewives: While known as the Snapewives, they referred to themselves as Snapeists. Snapeism was a small religious movement that formed in the early 2000s in the online space of livejournal. Its members were devoted to the omnipresent Severus Snape from the Harry Potter universe, and their practices included channeling and even spiritual marriage to the broody potion's professor
- God is an Asshole: Nathan tells us how if you look at the bible objectively, god reads like a petulant child that seems to get off on torturing the children they allegedly love so much
- Charles Silverstein: Charles Silverstein did a lot to help the gay rights movement, including getting homosexuality to be viewed as a way of being and not a mental illness
- Sounds of Alaska: Did you know that the northern lights make sound and that there is a mysterious horn that seems to sound randomly in Anchorage, Alaska and no one knows where it comes from?
- The Great Maple Syrup Heist: You know what's more expensive than a barrel of crude oil? A barrel of maple syrup. So much so that between 2011 and 2012, nearly 3,000 tonnes of it out of the Canadian Reserve, valued at $18.7 million CAD
Nothing new on this front but there is an interesting series called Dirty Money (Netflix) that apparently did a good overview of the whole thing. I'm planning on at least watching that episode.
- Where We Bury Our Dead: Cemeteries are fascinating. I think a lot of people would agree with that statement. Certainly some may get the creeps when walking the silent paths through rows of headstones and monuments, knowing there are hundreds of deceased below their feet. But cemeteries are perfect encapsulations of our history, and they're important markers that tend to get overlooked.
- Cassowaries: One of the largest birds in the world and known for their vicious reputation, cassowaries are birds that not many know a whole lot about it (other than the fact that they most definitely want to kill you). Except that they don't, and they're actually pretty cool
Since early this year the Charles Darwin University has been running a study on the Cassowary's role in seed dispersal. They created an ingestible tracking device that the cassowaries could eat and would allow researchers to track where they went and where they deposited the tracker.
They would then collect the tracker as well as a sample of the droppings to determine the variety and kinds of seeds. As expected cassowaries that lived in pristine rainforests fed only on native fruits, while those whose territories contained more urbanized areas had more exotic seeds, while still having a high count of native seeds.
It's encouraging that cassowaries with access to humans, their vegetation and potentially even food still sought out native fruits. But there is also a concern, if droppings containing exotic seeds are left in the rainforest it could be disastrous for the forest,
"When a new (exotic) plant finds its way into a forest, it often has a knock-on effect throughout the entire ecosystem. Exotic species can damage land and water resources, carry diseases and compete with native plants for resources.
"To help promote the persistence and ecological function of remnant rainforest patches we suggest an effort be made to limit cassowary access to exotic fruiting plants and supplement urban gardens with native fruiting plants, such as the cassowary plum."
Meanwhile this summer a team of 40 citizen researchers made it their goal to take a census of the southern cassowary population north Townsville AU in the Paluma Range National Park, an area consisting of 22,050 hectares
Initially they scoured this land on foot over a period of three days and not one cassowary was seen, but evidence of their presence was seen. Motion sensor cameras were set up throughout the park, between this and other physical evidence it is estimated that 16 birds live in the area.
This was the first initiative it's kind driven by locals and hopefully the start of more to come.
"Citizen science is so important because it brings a sense of ownership for people," "These are our birds in our backyard. We care about them and want them to thrive and prosper in the long term."
- Bette-Jean Masters: On Sunday July 3rd 1960, Edna Bette-Jean Masters, a 21 month old disappeared without a trace from the small logging community of Red Lake, British Columbia, Canada. It has been over 60 years, and yet we're still no closer to figuring out what happened
- Feral Cattle: While listening to the book Islands of Abandonment by Cal Flyn, Nathan was reminded of the crazy world of wild Cattle. Cal takes a trip to the island of Swona in northern Scotland and encounters the local herd which she gives us insights about in her book, but did you know that there are multiple herds of wild cattle all over the world? Nathan takes us to a few of these places.
- Failed Products: NewProductWorks is a collection of thousands of consumer products from around the world (over 140,000 by an account from 2017). But it's not all brand empowerment and new design ideas. The warehouse also serves as a cautionary tale, that even brands can fail, and fail big time. Anyone remember Crystal Pepsi? How about toaster eggs?
Isla de las Munecas: South of Mexico City is a small manmade island that now belongs to the hundreds of dolls that call it home
The Michael Jackson Allegations: In August 1993, Michael Jackson would first be accused of child abuse and since then there have been three other allegations. Despite the fact that Jackson was never convicted of these crimes the public narrative had deemed him guilty and has continued to do so the last thirty years. But turns out there's a lot more to this than the salacious headlines
On Nov 7 it was reported that Jackson's residence, Neverland Ranch has begun to show signs of renovations and the additions of new rides and attractions, it's unclear at this time what the current owner plans to do.
A business mogul, Ron Burkle purchased the property in 2020, with his initial intentions seeming to be to raze the property for the land, but it seems these plans have changed.
It is known that there is a Leaving Neverland 2 is in the works, and they have got the rights to film the case when it eventually goes to trial
There has been an update on one of the many cases being filed against the Jackson estate by alleged Leaving Neverland victims, Wade Robson/James Safechuck. The most recent case was originally thrown out by the courts but this summer it was determined that it would be going to court
Production has been slow with all the strikes in Hollywood, as of September this year, he's hoping for a 2024 release
Taj Jackson, nephew of Michael, has always been a very vocal advocate for his uncle's innocence and has a docuseries called "Re-Righting History" in the works that he hopes will show people who Michael really was. It will address the allegations and many other aspects of Michael's life. Many of the family will be directly involved, including Michael's son Prince
- The time has finally come to wrap up My Immortal for good. In celebration of our 100th episode and the final chapters of my immortal, your hosts gothed out and recorded this reading with video!
- Clementine Barnabet: In November 1911, 19 year old Clementine Barnabet is arrested for the murder of a family of 6, her insistence on her innocence falling on deaf ears. Five months later in a startling turn of events, Clementine suddenly claims responsibility for 17 murders, including ones that occurred while she was imprisoned. And the reason? Blood sacrifices in hopes of gaining immortality. Well, that's what the news would have you think
- Yacht Killing Orcas: Since 2020 the Strait of Gibraltar has been experiencing some bizarre events: Orcas attacking boats
- Kanamara Matsuri: Japan is known for its respectful and buttoned up culture, so it may come as a surprise that in one city, there is a yearly festival held, dedicated to the penis.
- Cunning Folk: Before there were witches there were cunning folk, healers and wise people who in some cases practiced magic and in others didn't, in some cases were used to defend against black magic and in others considered just as bad as witches
- The Bielefeld Conspiracy: In 1994 a post would appear on a German Usenet site claiming the German city of Bielefeld didn't actually exist, that the whole thing was a conspiracy. So does Bielefeld exist?
- Aokigahara Forest: Also known as the Sea of Trees is an infamous forest in Japan, not just for its stunning beauty and miles of impenetrable vegetation, but for the alarming rates of suicide that happen there every year
- History of Nails: Humans have been decorating their fingernails far as back as we can remember, but while today this is considered a frivolous, feminine form of expression, its histories have roots in war and symbolism of leadership
- Jack Parsons: Jack Parsons is a nebulous person, known both for his great scientific ventures and for his occult pursuits and friendships with LRH and Aleister Crowley
- There's so many things that give us ideas for topics and so many of these ideas just aren't enough to do a full topic on so this gives you a little bit of insight into our minds and what some of those things are!
- We dive into the Jehovah's Witness classic: Questions Young People Ask: Answers that Work. This is real literature produced by the church packed with answers to all the most pressing questions of JW youth, how do you resist peer pressure? What if you have shitty parents? What should you do if you feel like you might be gay? I am sure you can imagine where this is going
- When it comes to the Jen Saga, Aeris is a nebulous figure. Aeris knew Jack before most did and was one of the first people to be suspicious of Jen's motives and pushed back, calling her out. In the summer of 2002 Aeris and Jen would fall out spectacularly, this occurred while Icarus was staying with Jen and Jack, and he would be witness to Jen's very public hate campaign against Aeris.
- JW Halloween propaganda
No new Halloween stuff for this year. It seems they do this in cycles. 10 years or so apart, or when they see an uptick in popularity, just to drive home the "Halloween isn't a Christian good boys and girls good time"
- History of scary stories
- The Science of Being Scared
zUpdates on Topics of Years Past
- The Secret room behind mount rushmore: Not so updatey update on Mnt rushmore, construction a few years back making the park more accessible. Maybe, more secret goodies? Probs not.
- Was Shakespeare A Woman?: Way back when we started this thing, I had been intrigued by an offhand comment made on a podcast about a theory floating around that Shakespeare had actually been a woman. The main theory lighting a fire in the news was from author and researcher Elizabeth Winkler, who wrote an incredibly controversial article in the Atlantic touting this theory. "In it she examined the case for seeing the hand of Emilia Bassano Lanier, a poet of Italian heritage born in the 16th century, in the plays attributed to the actor from Stratford-upon-Avon."
- Now, Winkler has written a BOOK about this, and it just came out this year. Shakespeare Was A Woman and Other Heresies: How Doubting the Bard Became the Biggest Taboo in Literature published in May 2023, and has many impressive blurbs from impressive names about the depth of Winkler's research and theories. But does the book stand up?
- "Her book makes three compelling arguments: tying the authorship question to the rise and fall of imperial Britain and its need for national mythmaking; exploring how Shakespeare was turned into a secular god, with theatre filling the vacuum left by the decline of the church; and challenging the basic human need to cling to belief when doubt might be the proper response."
- So, from my understanding (and note I have not yet read the book, though I definitely will), Winkler is less focused on the gasp-shock-awe of pointing a finger at our precious William Shakespeare and calling him a her, as she is examining the cultural, political, and religious pressures on society that may have caused a woman to take on a man's name, or for a real Shakespeare to use a woman's work (not surprising).
- "The extreme reactions made Winkler realise that she had touched a nerve that merited further examination in a book. "'That was the story. Why are they so emotional? Why are they so furious? Why is a question about the authorship of 400-year-old plays getting people so riled up? I dug into the history and you start to see how it's connected to British identity and imperialism and religious and social changes over the centuries,' she says.
- 'I wrote the book just because I thought it was interesting. Some people maybe have the impression I'm out to convince everyone, that I'm on some sort of crusade. I don't really care. Believe whatever you want to believe.
- 'I don't care what people believe about Shakespeare. That's not the point. The psychology of belief is a big part of the book, but what interested me was that it is about these bigger issues of authority and belief and certainty and the problem of history, how we interpret and construct the past. That's what excites me about it. The authorship question actually stands for something much larger.
- 'At the same time, it's hilariously petty because it's about people's egos and vanity and concern for protecting their reputations and these petty squabbles that scholars are getting into. It does take on these grand-scale questions and then it's also this very human comedy of errors. Part of what's so funny is the goofy mistakes that scholars make in their attempt to defend their beliefs. Some of the responses to the book have just exemplified that phenomenon all over again.'"
- "The book notes a 2011 poll commissioned by the thinktank Demos that found Shakespeare is the cultural symbol of which Britons are most proud ahead of the monarchy, the armed forces, the Beatles and the union jack. While some of these symbols divide the political left and right, the Bard unites everyone from Boris Johnson to Sir Ian McKellen.
- Winkler adds: 'Even though Shakespeare was tied to the rise of empire, as empire has declined, I wonder if it's made the country cling ever more fiercely to Shakespeare because it's all they have, in a way.'"
- I cannot wait to read the book and see if Winkler's research and suppositions hold up to this theory, or if it'll be like gettings struck by lightning.
- The Tunguska Event: This year marked the 115th year since the Tunguska event
- Teal Swan: Oh boy, y'all. I haven't watched much television of late (which is saying something, since I rarely watch anything anymore), but apparently there is a documentary from earlier this year on Teal Swan from Freeform.
"Shot over several years, the four-part Freeform docuseries The Deep End, which premiered in May and is streaming on Hulu, examined both sides of the coin: the devoted community Teal has built around her, buoyed by people who have nothing but faith in her abilities and how she wields them—and also the various criticisms and the results of a private investigator's quest to find out if Teal is doing more harm than good."
The entire article about the documentary, which I really need and want to watch, is fascinating and disturbing. We tackled this woman years ago, and in that short amount of time since ep 12, Teal's fame has grown, as has the spotlight on her. And I want to remind folks that not all spotlights are good.
"Backstage at one of Teal's workshops in Chicago, when asked about the concern that she was glorifying suicide, she told BBC News, 'That's pretty funny. It's really funny to me.' She said she found the idea that she was a proponent of suicide "ridiculous" and that would be obvious to anyone who watched her videos.
At the same time, Teal continued, 'This is the worst part of my career. You start a Facebook group hoping that it's going to be a place for all these individuals to come to...We think about this all the time. You've got people who are vulnerable. What are you supposed to do when you can't catch all of it?'"
- The Great Emu War: John Cleese's Great Emu War was set to begin production in 2021 but really little has been reported about the film since its initial announcement. But not even a couple weeks ago, an Australian comedy troupe began to tour their film at Monster Fest in Melbourne. It looks absolutely ridiculous
- Hyenas: While I don't have an update specifically about hyenas, but a couple weeks ago it was reported that scientists have found a new way to find wooly rhino DNA and that is fossilized hyena dung
- Counterfeit Wine and Rudy Kurniawan: Our famous wine forger is back at it.
- Yep, Rudy Kurniawan, now released from his 10 year prison sentence and living with his family after being deported from the US, actually has people paying him to make them fake wine.
- I cannot make this shit up.
- "Wine fraud expert Maureen Downey has uncovered photos and tasting notes from a dinner held in Singapore in July at the exclusive Pines Club. Kurniawan was tasked with creating fake versions of 1990 DRC Romanée-Conti and 1990 Petrus, which seven guests tasted against the originals. Most of the tasters preferred the fakes."
- Because everyone loves a con artist (see Anna Delvey).
- "The notes written by a guest are fawning: "So here we are again – the same setting, a smaller party of seven, to experience again the magic of Rudy's vinous knowledge, imagination and craft." And in conclusion: 'Mr Rudy Kurniawan is a vinous genius.'"
- 'He talks to his big collector friends and they pull some of the biggest wines that they have out of their cellars. That guy gives Rudy the list. Rudy makes his version of the wines. They have a meal and they taste them side-by-side, blind. The man that writes the tasting notes is very good. The overall impression is that people prefer Rudy's wines, because they're fresher. That really speaks to the audience.'"
- "...what Kurniawan is doing at these dinners is not illegal, at least not in any way I'm aware of. You or I could blend some Cabernet and Merlot together and say: 'This is my attempt to duplicate Lafite-Rothschild. Let's taste them against each other.'"
- "But fraud is the family business; it's a strong statement, but the facts support it. If Kurniawan is making fake wines for friends, could they find their way to the market? What's happening to the real empty bottles brought to these wine dinners? Kurniawan always collected such empties in his Los Angeles heyday because it's easier to refill a real bottle than to create a new one."
- Fugu the Deadliest Sushi: This spring an elderly couple in Malaysia died from consuming fugu that they had ordered from an online retailer. In Malaysia the sale of poisonous or harmful food like pufferfish, so people seeking fugu in Malaysia have to look to alternative routes to purchase, like sketchy online sales
- Guys, if you really want to try to fugu, go to Japan, go to a licensed chef, don't order it online or try to prepare it yourself. There's a reason it requires a license to prepare and serve
- The Montauk Project: According to the Montauk folk, every 20 years things get really weird, they use examples from the alleged events of the Montauk project. This year between aug 10-14 was supposed to be another of these peak weird times, but looking at the big headlines from that month, there is nothing to announce here
- Paul Bragg: Patricia Bragg, whose lineage to the Bragg family was rather odd (having married Paul Bragg's son but then maybe was later adopted by Paul?), passed away in August of this year. There's no real news outside of that, but just wanted to point out that in 2019, the Bragg company "was purchased by a consortium of investors, including family friend Katy Perry."
- Nibiru Conspiracy: Conspiracist Mike Buckner is at it again, most recently in August of this year. We didn't get to talk about Buckner in the first ep, but he's been a big voice in the land of Nibiru conspiracies of late.
I mean, sure.
"So much for the scientific explanation for why we weren't all annihilated, now for the answer from Mike Buckner himself. Let's face it, it's difficult to follow up a "we are all going to die, I am headed for the caves" tweet, but Buckner gave it a good shot, explaining to his followers that the "physics worked" but he had gotten the shape of the Earth wrong."
The Georgia Guidestones: "Early on the morning of July 6, 2022, security footage captured an individual quickly approaching the controversial landmark with an object and sprinting away to a silver sedan. A few moments later, additional cameras picked up the explosion, which confirmed that the object placed by the individual was indeed a bomb. Later that day, the remaining pieces were demolished and hauled away due to safety concerns."
And over one year later, we still don't know who did it or why. The why part is probably easy to take a stab at - there were an awful lot of people who thought the Georgia Guidestones were demonic/Satanic in some way. And given this is the US we're talking about, some yahoo with too many explosives and not enough logical sense figured they'd blow it sky-high. Especially when you have Georgia Republican gubernatorial candidates also calling the Guidestones "satanic".
There had been speculation that a time capsule had been buried under the Guidestones, but according to local authorities, no such thing was found. The mystery of the Guidestones, and whoever the hell blew them up, remains unsolved.