Al Stewart, being pop music’s foremost scholar of historical obscurities, was bound to latch on to the cult of Nostradamus eventually, and he did. I’m sure that Al is too smart and well informed to truly take this shit seriously, but you can’t blame him for being fascinated. Nostradamus, in case you’re not into the batshit occult, was a French apothecary and plague doctor who in his own lifetime was well known for his bestselling cookbooks, but has since found fame as a prophet and seer. His prophecies remain irresistible to fans of quasi-mystical hoo-hah because they’re just vague enough to be applied to any notable world event, from whatever people originally read into them in 1550’s, to popular 20th century topics like Hitler’s reign of terror and the Kennedy assassination, straight down to a new generation of terrible things like 9/11 and the rise of ISIS. Of course, Nostradamus – along with the Loch Ness monster and the Illuminati – bears absolutely no credible relation to popularly agreed-upon historical reality. If you also enjoy conspiracy theories about the moon landing, the works of Erich von Daniken, Infowars, and not vaccinating your children; you’re probably the kind of person who says “Nostradamus predicted this” every time something shitty happens in the world. But those things remain seductive because they appeal to our ‘wishful paranoia’ – the need to believe that the atrocities that surround us are the result of some unseen mystical order rather than just random worst case circumstances with nothing behind them at all. People insist that 9/11 was an inside job because it’s somehow less scary to believe the government is sinister enough to do such a thing, rather than that it’s simply too incompetent to have prevented it. Withholding vaccinations from your children gives you a sense of control, even if they end up dying of measles, while nothing makes you feel more powerless than the possibility that autism is just another naturally occurring neurological variation with no known set of triggers. And so on and so forth. Nostradamus predicted this and that because this and that happened because of reasons, reasons beyond our comprehension but reasons that exist, and that’s a comforting thought for some of us.