Category ►►► Obits
February 8, 2010
Some of Us Do Not Believe...
...in the commandment of "de mortuis nil nisi bonum."
But we do still believe in keeping our mouths shut until we have something to say worth hearing.
We take note of the breaking story, but we'll discuss it at a later date.
August 27, 2009
Lessons from Kennedy's Life
What are the lessons to be learned from the life of Senator Edward (Teddy) Kennedy?
How about: Keep a set of life jackets in your car? Don’t go fishing off the side of bridge late at night from a moving car when you’re drunk?
Honestly, the rapturous tributes to this guy sicken me almost as much as the over-the-top hagiographies that appeared a few weeks ago on the death of Michael Jackson.
The guy was an especially effective politician. But he was a serial abuser of women who mades Bill Clinton’s escapades look almost amateurish by comparison, although both pale in comparison to the legendary exploits of Teddy’s older brother, John. But, of course, when it comes to great liberal liberators of the masses, we are not supposed to inquire too loudly about their private lives, which frequently take place in swampy currents of vice and corruption.
Maybe they ought to award a posthumous Medal of Honor to Mary Jo Kopechne, who, if she had survived that night just over 40 years ago in Chappaquiddick, would be 62 years old.
Because it was her death, more than anything, that kept Camelot from being rebooted in 1972. If young Teddy, who was always a complete slave to his vices, hadn’t driven off the bridge, drowning the girl and then tried to hide it for several hours, I don’t think there’s any doubt that he would have creamed Richard Nixon. The Kennedy name was absolute gold. Nixon was justly paranoid about running against Teddy (or anybody, for that matter, as is demonstrated by the stupid Watergate burglary).
Just imagine how different the nation would be if a second President Kennedy had been able to push forward a liberal agenda in the 1970s. We might be looking at a Health Care Crisis of a different sort, one brought about by too much government meddling and which might be on the verge of collapse for the reason that Canada’s seems to be. [I rise to note that we're already looking at a health care crisis brought about by "too much government meddling!" --DaH]
Well, no television for me for the next week. I will undoubtedly find myself living a much richer life because of it.
October 27, 2008
In Memoriam: Dean Barnett (1967-2008)
Alas, Dean Barnett died today from complications due to his cystic fibrosis.
Objectively, I didn't really know him that well; I carried on a few e-mail conversations with him about various matters, both when he was at Soxblog and at his later gigs at Hugh Hewitt's blog and Weekly Standard. But for some reason, subjectively, I always thought of him as a friend. I was very much engaged in his final struggle, and his death has affected me much more than the deaths of occasional relatives to whom I was, in theory, closer.
I'm not unique; I think that was just Dean's way. I strongly suspect he made nearly everyone feel like his friend, even those who only "knew" him from his stints guest hosting for Hugh Hewitt's radio show.
I will certainly miss him; but again, I know I'm not alone.
Requiescat in pace, Dean.
January 11, 2007
RIP R.A.W.: Robert Anton Wilson 1932-2007
I just got word that Robert Anton Wilson has left his body to head... who knows where? (Maybe like his close friend Timothy Leary, he's merely on the outside looking in.)
This is personally very sad for me. I was always a huge fan; and when I lived in Santa Cruz, I attended three or four of his multi-day workshops on -- well, on the world in the RAW. (I also took a couple of workshops from Timothy Leary, who at the time was very closely involved with Wilson on a number of software projects. I share Leary's birthday.)
Wilson coined the phrase "politically non-Euclidean," which I have used ever since; his politics was an eclectic mix of Left and Right, independent, and Karmic... he inevitably took the most optimistic and exciting way of looking at a problem, no matter what the provenance.
While I was at UC Santa Cruz (1980 to 1985), my friend Ron Record and I formed the Student SMI²LE Society, or S³, which was a student organization organized to promote the Timothy Leary/Robert Anton Wilson program of "Space Migration, Intelligence Increase, and Life Extension" (and, to be bluntly honest, to get school money to throw cocktail parties for authors and others we liked).
As part of that club, we brought Wilson to lecture several times at UCSC (we also brought the Tim Leary/G. Gordon Liddy debate series to campus), and we co-sponsored at least two of Wilson's workshops.
My fine, feathered friend Brad Linaweaver was closer to the man personally, though not as conversant with his fiction and alleged nonfiction... though Brad was personally closer to Bob Shea than Bob Wilson.
I believe both Bobs were associate editors at Playboy -- editors of the letters page, as I recall -- when they got the idea for the Illuminatus! trilogy; all those letters quoted in the beginning of the book about weird happenings are actually real... real in the sense that they were actual letters published in Playboy; not necessarily real in the sense that what they described actually happened. (In fact, I know at least two were written by Wilson and Shea themselves, and probably many more.)
While the Illuminatus! trilogy (the exclamation mark is part of the title, I think) was the best known of Wilson's work, and certainly his best-selling fiction, I thought his Schrödinger's Cat series was more mature and interesting. But to my taste, his literary works hit their zenith in Masks of the Illuminati, a detective novel in which Albert Einstein teams up with James Joyce to solve a bizarre series of crimes.
Wilson also wrote a lot of utterly fascinating and absorbing "nonfiction" (I use qualifiers because I'm still rather skeptical about some of it). His first was a book for Playboy Press, Playboy's Book of Forbidden Words (1972, but I've never even seen a copy of it). His next three were also for Playboy Press: the Sex Magicians (1973, ditto), Sex and Drugs (1973, re-released in 1987), and the Book of the Breast (1974, revised and re-released in 1989 as Ishtar Rising).
But his first post-Illuminatus! nonfiction work was probably his most widely read nonfiction: Cosmic Trigger, now called Cosmic Trigger I (1977). He introduced Leary's 8-circuit map of human consciousness, discussed all the themes that would permeate his later work (space colonization, intelligence increase, life extension, psychedelic drugs, James Joyce, and skepticism raised to such a high peak that he was even skeptical of skepticism itself).
And Wilson also discussed the most horrible thing that ever happened in his life: when his youngest daughter, 15 year old (Patricia) Luna Wilson, was beaten to death in a robbery at the store where she worked. Wilson and his wife Arlen had Luna's brain cryonically preserved. (They have two other children, Graham, and Luna's older sister, Karuna.)
Of his nonfiction, the book I found most fascinating was the New Inquisition, 1986 (probably And/Or Press, but I'm not sure).
Wilson considered himself a Joyce scholar; having never been able to get through either Ulysses or Finnegans Wake myself, I cannot possibly comment. But he also considered himself a great student of physics and mathematics, and there I have to say he really didn't understand all that much about either.
He was a great student of the works of British poet, magician, metaphysician, occultist, loony, and mountain climber Aleister Crowley, and it was through Wilson that I became interested in Crowley myself, reading a dozen or so of his books, plus four biographies of the man. Crowley was once called "the wickedest man in Christendom," and was villified not just while he lived but even decades and decades after his death. I'm grateful to Wilson for giving us a portrait of the man that is simultaneously sympathetic -- and skeptical.
But none of that matters; until the last decade of his life, Wilson was the most optimistic, exuberant, and neophillic person I've ever met, with the except of his mentor, Timothy Leary himself.
He had detereorated markedly the last time I saw him: he was in a wheelchair and looked much older than his 73 years. At one point, he dropped a lit cigarette in his lap and could not even fish it out himself (he had an attendant). Decades of booze and tobacco were probably what did him in.
But he left a wonderful legacy of literary achievement, even if he was never really recognized by the science-fiction community. I'll miss him; but I've been missing him for five or six years now, and at least now he can get on with the next stage of existence, whatever that may be.
It is altogether fitting that Robert Anton Wilson died on the 101st birthday of Albert Hoffmann, the Swiss scientist who invented Lysergic acid diethylamide-25... more commonly known as LSD.
September 11, 2006
Today, September 11th, 2006, marks the fifth anniversary of one of the darkest days in American history, the September 11th attacks. We extend our continued support and condolences to the spouses, children, other relatives, and friends of the 2,997 Americans and many, many foreign guests who were murdered by al-Qaeda on that day, including those missing and presumed dead.
In Memory of...
- 2,626 slain and missing (believed dead) at the World Trade Centers in New York City;
- 125 slain at the Pentagon, Arlington County, VA;
- 206 slain on American Airlines flights 11 and 77 and United Airlines flight 175;
- And especially the 40 heroes on United Airlines flight 93, whose brave assault on the murderers undoubtedly prevented the deaths of many others at (likely) the Capitol and the destruction of one of America's greatest treasures and symbols of freedom, the United States Capitol Dome.
This accounting does not include the 19 mass murderers, may their names be blotted out. God may forget them, but God willing, the rest of us never will.
September 3, 2006
One of My Favorite People Has Just Died
Word just hit the airwaves that Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter, has just died (around 11:00 am Australian Eastern Standard Time, 6:00 pm Pacific Daylight Time). He was killed by a venomous stingray barb to his chest, suffered while on a dive in the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Queensland.
Steve and reptilian friend (l); Steve and Terri
The stingray venom is bad but not usually fatal -- unless it's to the chest. Alas, that is exactly what happened. It's sadly ironic that on one episode of his show, the Crocodile Hunter, he noted that in his entire career handling dangerous and venomous reptiles and other creatures, he had "never once been envenomated."
His career began when he was a child; his father, Bob Irwin, ran the Queensland Reptile and Fauna Park. Steve's first real job was removing crocs and other dangerous reptiles from populated areas and bringing them to his father's zoo. When he was an adult, he continued to perform the same function... but he would release them to the wild instead.
He met his future wife Terri when she visited the zoo -- now renamed the Australia Zoo -- in 1992. They married and began producing the show Crocodile Hunter together. They had two children, a daughter, Bindi Sue, and a son, Bob Clarence.
He was only 44 when he died... a year younger than I. I never met the man; but his shows were so personal, I felt as if I knew him. I always hoped that one day, when I finally got to Australia, I could interview him.
Although he never wanted to talk about politics, in fact Steve Irwin was a politically active conservative. He was a very strong supporter of Prime Minister John Howard and his oddly named but conservative Liberal Party of Australia. Irwin always referred to himself as a "conservationist," never an "environmentalist."
I feel very sad for Terri, Bob, Bindi Sue, and the staff of the Australia Zoo -- who were more like family than employees, we found out on a companion TV show called the Crocodile Hunter Diaries, a reality show which showed the day-to-day operation of the zoo. But Steve Irwin died doing what he loved best: filming a wildlife documentary in his beloved Queensland, Australia.
Requiescat In Pace, Steve Irwin, the real Crocodile Hunter.
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