Piracy, Coups, Shamans, Roulette, Mozart


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The Hijack Of The Brillante Virtuoso

Kit Chellel & Matthew Campbell | Bloomberg Businessweek | 27th July 2017

Breathtaking account of ingenious maritime insurance fraud, the staged hijacking and scuppering of an oil tanker in the Gulf of Aden off Somalia. “The events of July 6, 2011, set in motion a tangle of lawsuits and criminal investigations that are still nowhere near conclusion. The Brillante Virtuoso reveals the shipping industry’s capacity for lawlessness, financial complexity, and violence. Everyone at sea that night survived. But the danger was just getting started” (6,200 words)

How To Organise A Military Coup

Danny Orbach | War On The Rocks | 27th July 2017

A successful coup d’état is going to be in part a confidence trick. You prevail mainly by persuading others that you will prevail. “Ideology doesn’t matter. Actors don’t join the side they necessarily agree with, but the side they think most other actors are likely to support. Therefore, highly unpopular rebels may succeed, while popular rebels may fail”. When you take control of the TV station, as you must, don’t tell people to join the struggle — tell them you have already won (2,900 words)

Animal Spirits

Alec Ash | 1843 | 27th July 2017

Report from Mongolia on a revival of shamanism, as a by-product of the past decade’s mining boom. “This expanded the market for shamans, who intercede with the spirits on the behalf of miners, in a form of spiritual insurance against the damage that mines inflict on the natural world”. According to the Corporate Union of Shamans, which “regulates shamans and certifies their credentials”, there were ten shamans in Mongolia in 1990; now there are more than 20,000 (2,250 words)

Claude Shannon, Las Vegas Cheat

Jimmy Soni & Rob Goodman | Nautilus | 27th July 2017

The father of information theory was also an obsessive tinkerer and gadget-builder. Shannon’s creations included a machine that made sarcastic remarks, a Roman-numeral calculator, and a mechanical coin tosser which could produce a head or tail on demand. When the young physicist Ed Thorp walked into his office proposing a miniaturised computer which would predict the spin of a roulette wheel, Shannon was hooked. Eight months later, they were ready for Las Vegas (1,400 words)

Advice On Playing Mozart

Alfred Brendel | New York Review Of Books | 27th June 1985

“What is it that marks Mozart’s music? An attempt to draw a dividing line between Haydn and Mozart could perhaps help to answer the question. Mozart sometimes comes astonishingly close to Haydn, and Haydn to Mozart, but they were fundamentally different in nature. I see in Haydn and Mozart the antithesis between instrumental and vocal, motif and melody, daring and balance. From tranquillity, Haydn plunges deep into agitation, while Mozart does the reverse, aiming at tranquillity from nervousness” (2,700 words)

Video of the day: Pursuit

What to expect:

Collage of time-lapse footage from great storms across ten American states in the spring of 2017 (7’36”)

Thought for the day

Real art makes us nervous
Susan Sontag

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