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April 2012 Issue

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By Edward T. Swanson

Edward T. Swanson


Late in the evening of April 14, 1912, the Titanic struck an iceberg on its maiden voyage.   In slightly more than two hours, the “unsinkable” ship was at the bottom of the ocean.  As most of us know, barely more than 700 of the 2,224 persons on the Titanic survived the sinking.  This horrific tragedy continues to fascinate us, and its centennial anniversary is the cause for numerous books, memorabilia, and even the re-issuance of the namesake movie by James Cameron in 3-D.

For those interested in the Titanic, I still consider the best book on the subject to be Walter Lord’s A Night To Remember, first published in 1955.  Lord was born five years after the Titanic sank, and at the age of nine sailed from New York to Southampton on its sister ship, the Olympic.  Lord was obsessed by the story of the Titanic, and after more than 20 years of research, including interviews with 63 of the survivors, issued his definitive account of the sinking.   While later research as well as the discovery of the wreck of the Titanic in 1985 has provided more accuracy regarding how the ship sank, Lord’s account of the personal experience still seems unsurpassed.

Another book focusing on the personal accounts of those who survived the tragedy is Lost Voices From The Titanic: The Definitive Oral History, by Nick Barratt , which was published in 2010.  Dr. Robert Ballard, one of the discoverers of the wreck of the Titanic, proclaimed that, “if you want to know more about Titanic, this is the book to read.”

Two great sources of information relating to the sinking of the Titanic are the U.S. Senate inquiry and the British Court of Inquiry.  The official transcript of the 1912 Senate investigation is available both in print and in audio form as well as on the internet, and the British Court of Inquiry proceedings are available on the internet.  (See

For those who would like to listen to actual survivors, including Second Officer Charles Lightoller, describe what happened, I recommend The Titanic: Voices From The BBC Archives, a two-CD release earlier this year by AudioGo.  The CDs contain nearly 2 ½ hours of the actual recollections of survivors, crew members, and others from various BBC programs, going back as far as 1936.  I especially enjoyed hearing Mr. Lightoller’s recollections of the event.

While numerous movies have been made regarding the Titanic, two for me are memorable:  James Cameron’s Titanic, due to the amazing scenes of the sinking of the ship, and Roy Ward Baker’s 1958 black-and-white telling, A Night To Remember, based on the Walter Lord book and providing a more “documentary-style” retelling of the tragedy.

For a documentary on the Titanic, the two I most would recommend are Secrets of the Titanic by National Geographic and Ghosts of the Abyss by James Cameron.


When I first read Walter Lord’s A Night To Remember as a boy, I was particularly fascinated by his foreword, in which he described a novel published in 1898 by Morgan Robertson titled Futility, or Wreck of the Titan.  In the novel, the world’s largest ship, considered to be unsinkable, strikes an iceberg in the North Atlantic near Newfoundland, and more than half of her passengers drown.  The ship, the Titan, was 8000 ft. in length and had a displacement of 75,000 tons.  The actual Titanic, launched 14 years after the novel was published, was the world’s largest ship, with a length of 882 feet and a displacement of 63,000 tons.  The Titanic struck an iceberg near Newfoundland. 

The novel is not a total foretelling of the Titanic.  The hero survives the collision by jumping onto the iceberg, and later fights off a polar bear.  However, the similarities of the Titan to the Titanic are impressive.

Robertson reissued his novel after the Titanic tragedy. 


I recently chanced upon the very first Century City After Hours article, which was published in the May 1996 issue of the Century City Lawyer (that was the fifth year of the Century City Lawyer, which then was published every month).  I then described the article as “the first of what may (depending upon interest by readers as well as the ability of the author to come up with information) become a regular, or semi-regular series on music, books and possibly other after-hour activities.”  In that first article, I discussed a new “alternate history” novel by Richard Dreyfuss and Harry Turtledove, the recently released Beatles Anthology 2, and a late-1995 album released by Sparks.  It is very hard to believe that this column will be sixteen years old next month.  Where has the time flown?


Congratulations to David Feldman, author of the Imponderables books, who each knew all of the answers to the prior trivia contest featuring hits from 1987.  The correct answers are as follows:

  1. I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For was by U2
  2. Who’s That Girl was by Madonna (who recently released yet another album)
  3. Heaven Is A Place On Earth was by Belinda Carlisle
  4. I Want Your Sex was by George Michael
  5. Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now was by Starship (a descendant of Jefferson Airplane)
  6. Here I Go Again was by Whitesnake
  7. Notorious was by Duran Duran
  8. Walk Like An Egyptian was by the Bangles
  9. When Smokey Sings was by ABC (the group, not the network)
  10. Sign ‘O’ The Times was by Prince
  11. Mony Mony “Live” was by Billy Idol
  12. Everybody Have Fun Tonight was by Wang Chung

Bonus Song: (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life was by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes.


Well, I can’t go back 100 years to the sinking of the Titanic, so I will go half the distance, to 1962.  John F. Kennedy was President of the United States, the Beatles and the British Invasion had not yet reached the American shores, the U.S. embargo of Cuba began, John Glenn became the first American to orbit the world in Friendship 7, the Dodgers played their first game at Dodger Stadium, Charles de Gaulle agreed to Algerian independence, Marilyn Monroe died, the Cuban Missile Crisis occurred, James Meredith became the first black student at the University of Mississippi, and Johnny Carson became the permanent host of the Tonight Show.

Try to identify all or some of the artists whose 1962 hits are listed, or just email me to say hello.  The email address remains

  1. I Can’t Stop Loving You
  2. The Twist
  3. Can’t Help Falling In Love
  4. If I Had A Hammer
  5. Surfin’ Safari
  6. Twistin’ The Night Away
  7. Palisades Park
  8. Ramblin’ Rose
  9. Breaking Up Is Hard To Do
  10. The Loco-Motion
  11. The Wanderer
  12. Midnight In Moscow


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