Mrs Morrison's Hotel

The 100% personal official blog for Patricia Kennealy Morrison, author, Celtic priestess, retired rock critic, wife of Jim

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Location: New York, New York, United States

I was, wait, sorry, that's "David Copperfield". Anyway, I was born in Brooklyn, grew up on Long Island, went to school in upstate NY and came straight back to Manhattan to live. Never lived anywhere else. Never wanted to. Got a job as a rock journalist, in the course of which I met and married a rock star (yeah, yeah, conflict of interest, who cares). Became a priestess in a Celtic Pagan tradition, and (based on sheer longevity) one of the most senior Witches around. Began writing my Keltiad series. Wrote a memoir of my time with my beloved consort (Strange Days: My Life With and Without Jim Morrison). See Favorite Books below for a big announcement...The Rennie Stride Mysteries. "There is no trick or cunning, no art or recipe, by which you can have in your writing that which you do not possess in yourself." ---Walt Whitman (Also @ and

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The China Syndrome

Once again from Mark Morford, who is a god. Not because I'm lazy (though I am) but because once again he's said it far better than I ever could...

Note to China: Please Implode
Could the Olympics rain down shame on Chinese oppression and Tibet abuses? Let's hope
By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist

Friday, March 21, 2008

I hope it all comes crashing down on their heads.

Is that wrong? Is it ill-minded and somehow unfair to wish that the Chinese government's notorious record of human rights abuses and absolutely horrid treatment of Tibet be exposed to the world — and the Chinese people themselves — to the point where it is shamed and humiliated and perhaps even forced by unprecedented international scrutiny to upheave its oppressive ways and improve conditions and even (heaven forfend) honor religious and political freedom within its borders? No, I do not think it is.

Let me admit outright: I am no expert on Chinese-Tibetan relations. I do not know the full histories, the deeper conflicts, the enormous prejudices, the religious oppression that goes back decades and generations.

But I do know something of Tibet, of the Dalai Lama, of his unadorned messages of peace and love. And I know something of Tibetan Buddhism, of China's abduction of the true Panchen Lama, of the brutal oppression and the massacres and the cultural genocide, the forced relocation of Han Chinese into Tibetan holy land, of the Tibetan's peaceful rallies and chanting and nonviolence, all contrasted with images of jackbooted Chinese riot police stomping on the heads of protesters marching in the street.

And I know whom I tend to believe when I read "unconfirmed" reports of soldiers firing on Tibetan protesters, of dead bodies in the streets of Lhasa, of tanks rolling through crowds and hundreds of students arrested, Tibetan monasteries being locked down and Tibet again under martial law, all media cut off, all access denied, as sour and rather vile hardline Communist leader Zhang Qingli steps up to a microphone and calls the Dalai Lama — perhaps the gentlest, kindest human soul on the face of the planet — a "wolf in monk's robes, a devil with a human face but the heart of a beast." Yes, I think I know where the truth lies.

It doesn't take much. Truly, you don't need to see many photos of, say, a black-clad Chinese riot cop raising a huge, four-foot stick over his head with both hands and running straight at a praying, barefoot, red-robed Tibetan monk — a monk who is facing the other way and who is merely walking humbly on a protest march — ready to whale that stick down on the monk's humble head, it does not take many photos like that to wish a deep and profound ill upon the government that promotes such aggression.

You don't even need to be reminded of Tiananmen Square, or of all the ongoing crackdowns on students and dissidents and journalists, the torture and torment of humble Falun Gong practitioners or even the harsh control of Chinese Christians to know that the few images and stories of brutality and oppression that do trickle out are just the tip of a very ugly, bloody iceberg.

So then, this is the profound wish, the hope for this upcoming Olympic Games, held in a country run by an oppressive dictatorship, a country brutally divided between new wealth and extreme poverty, eager to be taken seriously as a new global superpower and also a country never before so open to cameras and reporters from around the globe: May your human rights atrocities be exposed. May your violence against peace-loving Tibetans be shamed. May we honor and respect China's culture and history even as your government's nauseating attacks on peace and intellectual freedom are revealed like the appalling cancer they so very much are.

Is that fair to hope? Sure as hell seems like it.

But here's the catch: It ain't gonna come from the United States. Hell, NBC's Olympic coverage is traditionally so slick and safe and cheesy and jingoistic it borders on nauseating, not to mention how NBC is wholly owned by General Electric and all coverage will be sponsored by companies like Coca-Cola and McDonald's and Johnson & Johnson, companies that largely adore China's cheap labor and most of whom would happily turn a blind eye to a pile of dead Tibetans if it meant a foothold in the exploding Chinese economy.

Put another way: The odds of Bob Costas cutting away from hyping our cute perky Coke-drinking gymnastics team to show a shocking image of a dead monk lying in the street of Lhasa? About one in a billion.

What's more, America's not exactly a saint when it comes to human rights ourselves. Our own president endorses torture. We still have the death penalty. We have had atrocious foreign prisons and sinister Homeland Security and illegal wiretapping and the Patriot Act and a vice president who would gladly shoot a war protester in the face just to buy a gallon of milk.

And it's also worth mentioning that China (along with Japan) owns a simply staggering portion of America's reeling debt, Chinese banks having basically floated the United States over $1 trillion to keep President Bush's nightmare economy afloat. Oh yes, Dubya will be there at the games, cheering and waving a little flag and holding hands with Premier Wen Jiabao and mispronouncing everyone's name. Wonder twin powers, activate!

But the "good" news is, China's leaders already seem to be getting a bit desperate, having been caught off guard by the widespread uprisings and protests happening now across the world. The premier has already accused the Dalai Lama of trying to sour the Olympics by inciting violence, which is a bit like Dick Cheney accusing a butterfly of murder.

But these comments also reveal a curious and telling thing about China's leaders, normally so controlled, so removed from the intense gaze of international media: They don't realize how utterly absurd and offensive they sound to the world audience. Nor do they seem to know the true power of the Internet, of the vagaries of global coverage, of what Olympic-sized media attention could reveal in the coming months. They never had to care. Until now.

Indeed, it will likely very much be up to the foreign press and foreign leaders, or perhaps even the athletes and visiting celebrities themselves, to speak out, to crack the armor further, really get the media's attention. Already some foreign leaders are considering a "mini boycott" of the opening ceremonies, which would be a huge insult to China. It's a start.

Could it all unravel for China's dictatorship? Maybe. The vast majority of Olympics coverage will be hugely positive, upbeat, every outlet in a swoon for the "New China," all glittery and whimsical and shiny and culturally rich, as this extraordinary new superpower puts on its best, most modern face for the world.

But somehow, among all the thousands of reporters and news agencies and bloggers covering the games, a handful might have the nerve to sneak outside the carefully guarded press boxes and Olympic stadiums and find a way to report on the real atrocities, the real abuses, and beam them to the astonished world like never before. Can we hope for that? Let the games begin.

And I will be boycotting watching the opening ceremonies and all the rest, and sending sharp emails to NBC. Maybe if more of us did this, they might actually acknowledge it. (Dream on, Trish-Trish...)

Friday, March 21, 2008

Toom Tabard

King John Balliol of Scotland, ruler of that land in the 13th century, was known snickeringly to his people as "Toom Tabard", meaning "empty coat." By which they meant he was no more than an empty piece of fabric puffed up by wind to look like an actual person.

Kind of like the way I think of Barack Obama. In spite of The Speech, I still haven’t drunk the Kool-Aid, and someone is going to have to pry my jaws open and force it down my throat if they want me to.

Seems as if, this week, everything I wanted to say has already been said, and far more brilliantly, by other people.

Ordinarily I cannot STAND Charles Krauthammer, but on this one occasion I have to say I agree whole-heartedly.

The Speech: A Brilliant Fraud

By Charles Krauthammer
Friday, March 21, 2008

The beauty of a speech is that you don’t just give the answers, you provide your own questions. "Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes." So said Barack Obama, in his Philadelphia speech about his pastor, friend, mentor and spiritual adviser of 20 years, Jeremiah Wright.

An interesting, if belated, admission. But the more important question is: which"controversial" remarks?

Wright’s assertion from the pulpit that the U.S. government invented HIV "as a means of genocide against people of color"? Wright’s claim that America was morally responsible for Sept. 11 -- "chickens coming home to roost" -- because of, among other crimes, Hiroshima and Nagasaki? (Obama says he missed church that day. Had he never heard about it?) What about the charge that the U.S. government (of Franklin Roosevelt, mind you) knew about Pearl Harbor, but lied about it? Or that the government gives drugs to black people, presumably to enslave and imprison them?

Obama condemns such statements as wrong and divisive, then frames the next question: "There will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church?"

But that is not the question. The question is why didn’t he leave that church? Why didn’t he leave -- why doesn’t he leave even today -- a pastor who thundered not once but three times from the pulpit (on a DVD the church proudly sells) "God damn America"? Obama’s 5,000-word speech, fawned over as a great meditation on race, is little more than an elegantly crafted, brilliantly sophistic justification of that scandalous dereliction.

His defense rests on two central propositions: (a) moral equivalence and (b) white guilt.

(a) Moral equivalence. Sure, says Obama, there’s Wright, but at the other "end of the spectrum" there’s Geraldine Ferraro, opponents of affirmative action and his own white grandmother, "who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe." But did she shout them in a crowded theater to incite, enrage and poison others?

"I can no more disown [Wright] than I can my white grandmother." What exactly was Grandma’s offense? Jesse Jackson himself once admitted to the fear he feels from the footsteps of black men on the street. And Harry Truman was known to use epithets for blacks and Jews in private, yet is revered for desegregating the armed forces and recognizing the first Jewish state since Jesus’s time. He never spread racial hatred. Nor did Grandma.

Yet Obama compares her to Wright. Does he not see the moral difference between the occasional private expression of the prejudices of one’s time and the use of a public stage to spread racial lies and race hatred?

(b) White guilt. Obama’s purpose in the speech was to put Wright’s outrages in context. By context, Obama means history. And by history, he means the history of white racism. Obama says, "We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country," and then he proceeds to do precisely that. What lies at the end of his recital of the long train of white racial assaults from slavery to employment discrimination? Jeremiah Wright, of course.

This contextual analysis of Wright’s venom, this extenuation of black hate speech as a product of white racism, is not new. It’s the Jesse Jackson politics of racial grievance, expressed in Ivy League diction and Harvard Law nuance. That’s why the speech made so many liberal commentators swoon: It bathed them in racial guilt while flattering their intellectual pretensions. An unbeatable combination.

But Obama was supposed to be new. He flatters himself as a man of the future transcending the anger of the past as represented by his beloved pastor. Obama then waxes rhapsodic about the hope brought by the new consciousness of the young people in his campaign. Then answer this, Senator: If Wright is a man of the past, why would you expose your children to his vitriolic divisiveness? This is a man who curses America and who proclaimed moral satisfaction in the deaths of 3,000 innocents at a time when their bodies were still being sought at Ground Zero. It is not just the older congregants who stand and cheer and roar in wild approval of Wright’s rants, but young people as well. Why did you give $22,500 just two years ago to a church run by a man of the past who infects the younger generation with precisely the racial attitudes and animus you say you have come unto us to transcend?

As I said, I cannot ABIDE Krauthammer. But on this matter, we are as one.

I have been deeply suspicious and cynical of Barack Obama from the first. I think he is a big giant windbag of overblown and imperfect rhetoric, with deep pockets for promises and no plans to make them come true. Mind you, I’m not all that nuts about Hillary either, but at least she’s got some depth to her and real experience and real ideas.

As for Geraldine Ferraro and her remark about how if Obama were white he wouldn’t be anywhere NEAR where he is, I think she is dead on the money.

Get real, people! Name me, if you can, a WHITE senator with Barama’s paltry track record and pathetically few years of service put in, and then tell me why that guy isn’t in the presidential race and Barack is. The ONLY difference is that Barack is black and the other guy isn’t. His color HAS MADE the difference. And how the hell does that make Ferraro or anyone else racist to say so?

I find it disingenuous in the extreme that people are denying this left, right and center and calling for Ferraro to recant. Don’t do it, Geraldine! You’re absolutely right. I’m getting so tired of people of any color trying to have it both ways from Sunday on this point, and Obama is by far the worst offender.

What I want to know is, how could he sit there for TWENTY YEARS at the feet of this Ayatollah, listening to the raving racist rants, and NOT have absorbed some of it? And why does he now defend him and, worse still, drag his poor old white granny into it?

You know, my grandma said bad things about black people from time to time, yet she lived and worked among them. She used racist epithets about her own people too. Didn’t make her terrible, just a product of her time (she died ten years ago, at age 102).

But Wright’s offenses are different, and the fact that Obama feels the need to explain and weasel them away seem to me proof that the poison fell not on stony ground, but on ground that now denies it was ever receptive. If the guy was "family", and an influence...well, there it is.

I wonder what the Reverend (and revered) Dr. King would say.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Nobody Says It Better...

I was going to blog about this myself, but Mark Morford, who is a god, has trumped me and everybody...

Thou shalt not kid thyself

The Vatican unveils fresh new sins, as the world just rolls its eyes. Is your name on the list?

By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

This just in: If you're an obscenely wealthy drug-dealing pedophile stem-cell researcher who drives a Hummer and doesn't recycle, you are totally going to hell. Oh please, like you didn't already know.

Hey, the Catholic Church wouldn't lie, mister. The Big Book o' Deadly Sins apparently has a whole new addendum and it looks like it ain't just gluttony and lust and murder and hot porn and witchcraft and coveting thy neighbor's way cool Flickr photo stream anymore. That stuff is for wimps. Serfs. Lutherans.

The Vatican is trying to get serious. Modern. Hip, even. Indeed, Sins 2.0 now includes taking "mind-altering" drugs and polluting the planet and creating poverty and hoarding excessive wealth and messing around with genetics and did you not see the grim expression on the face of that Vatican official when he announced the new aberrations? Totally serious. Deadly. I mean, the scales were flaking right off his face. And if you look closely, you can see God right there, standing just behind the podium like a hulking Dick Cheney figure, nodding gloomily in agreement. Mmm, the Vatican. It's like Disneyland for arthritic masochists.

Hey, don't get mad at me. These are just the rules. I don't make them up, I just report the facts. Like this one: Do you have a healthy Adderall/Zoloft/Budweiser addiction that you couple with a severe case of keepin' your uppity and sexually dangerous wife in her gul-dang place? God loves you. And your fellow Republicans. Do you enjoy a joint with your wine and a few hits of Ecstasy at Burning Man and maybe some special mushrooms at SXSW as you play with a Pyrex dildo with your joyful girlfriend just after yoga but before meditating? Say hello to Satan for me, pervert.

Perhaps you are amused by it all. Or maybe frightened. Or a bit of both. Perhaps you also note that what's remarkable about Sinapalooza '08 is not that the Catholic Church has now finally managed to recognize that drugs and pollution even exist. It's not even remarkable that a priest actually had the gall to say to the world that pedophilia is also horrible and wrong and God does not approve, and no one actually walked up and slapped him across the face, hard.

No, what's perhaps most amusing is that in this modern age, someone still feigns to have the authority to invent new sins in the first place, to perpetuate the inanity of the very concept, to torque and mold and reshape divine will as he sees fit, just sort of making it up as he goes along, expecting everyone to basically kneel and cower and kiss the ring. Is that not fabulous, in a hey-look-we're-back-in-1328 sort of way?

And yes, I also enjoyed the new sin of excessive wealth, given how the Vatican is one of the most — if not the most — gluttonously wealthy organizations on the planet, oozing with real estate and massive stock portfolios, dripping with cash, billions of dollars in hoarded treasure and unknown gems, icons, art, the solid gold vaginas of 1,000 pagan goddesses locked up in its vaults. The hypocrisy is positively comical. Epic. Makes Eliot Spitzer's trifle look like Mary Ann smoking a roach in rural Idaho.

To be fair, the church does use some of that massive wealth, once estimated at about $15 billion but likely far, far higher, to fund its various charities and clinics and community centers. But it also uses it to buy more land, to pay out hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements in hundreds of pedophilia cases worldwide, to wield frightening political power, buy favor with the Italian mafia, and to refuse services it deems "sinful," such as providing honest health information and condoms in AIDS-ridden Africa.

Despite all of that, I don't particularly hate the Catholic Church, per se. It just happens to be the finest extant example of a largely hypocritical misogynistic authoritarian patriarchy that still wields far too much power. When it comes to insulting religious silliness, it is, of course, far from alone.

It's also fun to consider, in an inverse sort of way, the great Joseph Smith, founder and creator and master editor of his entire religion, who, much like the Catholic Church, actually adjusted and erased and rewrote entire hunks of Mormonism's bylaws on the fly, just so he could, say, marry multiple women or perhaps prevent one of them from claiming certain property ownership and perhaps so he could slouch on the couch and not do the damn dishes and watch back-to-back episodes of "Weeds" on DVD without the incessant nagging from the wives.

Is that not fantastic? Is that not every male's dream? I do believe we should all try this.

"Honey, it says right here in the Good Book that thou shalt not take my Mercedes and go for a joy ride to Vegas with your girlfriends for the spa weekend and leave me with the kids." "What? Where the hell does it say that?" "Why, right here!" "You just wrote that with an orange Sharpie, just now!" "So? It's my religion! And by the way, thou shalt now go make me a tuna sandwich. Naked."

You have to ask: Do religious convulsions such as these make any difference? Mormonism's silliness aside, is there really anyone left who takes Vatican decrees at all seriously, someone who might've been hell-bent on becoming, say, a rich child-molesting cokehead with a giant carbon footprint who suddenly saw the new sins and was like, "Oh crap! Guess I'll become a social worker after all."

It's like that old joke: You're driving along just happy as can be and you glance over and there's Exhausted Urban Mom piloting the Caravan to the Gymboree, and just when you're about to ram her off the road and hopefully down that steep embankment to her fiery death as you laugh maniacally, you see it: "Baby on Board." Damn! Thwarted again.

Speaking of babies, here's a terrific new statistic: 25-40 percent of American teenage girls have a sexually transmitted disease. Isn't that wonderful? Abstinence education has been a blessing and a joy.

What does that have to do with Vatican impudence? Easy. This same Catholic Church has been lying to young women for upwards of 2,000 years, telling them to loathe and mistrust their bodies and fear sex and restrain their natural urges and not to touch any naughty body parts until they marry a pasty middle manager who looks disturbingly like their father, and only he can touch their naughty bits and make them feel lousy about their bodies because he has no clue what he's doing. Praise!

And hence, awash in misinformation and lies and the ignorance of their elders, teens follow their natural urges anyway and have uninformed, unprotected, deeply lousy sex, getting STDs and learning all sorts of damaging habits that require years and decades and far too much wine and therapy to correct.

Note to the Vatican: You want true sin? Here you go: Lying to women is a sin. Pathological hypocrisy is a sin. Half a billion dollars in pedophilia lawsuit payouts is a sin. Homophobia is a sin. Hiding those golden vaginas is a sin. And creating new sins in a strange attempt to stay relevant as your church withers and struggles and falters in the new and spiritually hungry but religiously mistrustful world, that's surely a sin.

No, wait. Check that. That's not a sin at all. It's actually just a sad, inexcusable joke.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Ad Astra...

Go well, Arthur! I know you didn't believe in any afterlife, so I'll just say thanks for all the words...

March 19, 2008

Arthur C. Clarke, Premier Science Fiction Writer, Dies at 90


Arthur C. Clarke, a writer whose seamless blend of scientific expertise and poetic imagination helped usher in the space age, died early Wednesday in Colombo, Sri Lanka, where he had lived since 1956. He was 90.

Rohan de Silva, an aide, confirmed the death and said Mr. Clarke had been experiencing breathing problems, The Associated Press reported. He had suffered from post-polio syndrome for the last two decades.

The author of almost 100 books, Mr. Clarke was an ardent promoter of the idea that humanity’s destiny lay beyond the confines of Earth. It was a vision served most vividly by “2001: A Space Odyssey,” the classic 1968 science-fiction film he created with the director Stanley Kubrick and the novel of the same title that he wrote as part of the project.

His work was also prophetic: his detailed forecast of telecommunications satellites in 1945 came more than a decade before the first orbital rocket flight.

Other early advocates of a space program argued that it would pay for itself by jump-starting new technology. Mr. Clarke set his sights higher. Borrowing a phrase from William James, he suggested that exploring the solar system could serve as the “moral equivalent of war,” giving an outlet to energies that might otherwise lead to nuclear holocaust.

Mr. Clarke’s influence on public attitudes toward space was acknowledged by American astronauts and Russian cosmonauts, by scientists like the astronomer Carl Sagan and by movie and television producers. Gene Roddenberry credited Mr. Clarke’s writings with giving him courage to pursue his “Star Trek” project in the face of indifference, even ridicule, from television executives.

In his later years, after settling in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Mr. Clarke continued to bask in worldwide acclaim as both a scientific sage and the pre-eminent science fiction writer of the 20th century. In 1998, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.

Mr. Clarke played down his success in foretelling a globe-spanning network of communications satellites. “No one can predict the future,” he always maintained. But as a science fiction writer he couldn’t resist drawing up timelines for what he called “possible futures.” Far from displaying uncanny prescience, these conjectures mainly demonstrated his lifelong, and often disappointed, optimism about the peaceful uses of technology — from his calculation in 1945 that atomic-fueled rockets could be no more than 20 years away to his conviction in 1999 that “clean, safe power” from “cold fusion” would be commercially available in the first years of the new millennium.

Popularizer of Science

Mr. Clarke was well aware of the importance of his role as science spokesman to the general population: “Most technological achievements were preceded by people writing and imagining them,” he noted. “I’m sure we would not have had men on the Moon,” he added, if it had not been for H. G. Wells and Jules Verne. “I’m rather proud of the fact that I know several astronauts who became astronauts through reading my books.”

Arthur Charles Clarke was born on Dec. 16, 1917, in the seaside town of Minehead, Somerset, England. His father was a farmer; his mother a post office telegrapher. The eldest of four children, he was educated as a scholarship student at a secondary school in the nearby town of Taunton. He remembered a number of incidents in early childhood that awakened his scientific imagination: exploratory rambles along the Somerset shoreline, with its “wonderland of rock pools”; a card from a pack of cigarettes that his father showed him, with a picture of a dinosaur; the gift of a Meccano set, a British construction toy similar to American Erector Sets.

He also spent time, he said, “mapping the moon” through a telescope he constructed himself out of “a cardboard tube and a couple of lenses.” But the formative event of his childhood was his discovery, at age 13 — the year his father died — of a copy of Astounding Stories of Super-Science, then the leading American science fiction magazine. He found its mix of boyish adventure and far-out (sometimes bogus) science intoxicating.

While still in school, he joined the newly formed British Interplanetary Society, a small band of sci-fi enthusiasts who held the controversial view that space travel was not only possible but could be achieved in the not-so-distant future. In 1937, a year after he moved to London to take a civil service job, he began writing his first science fiction novel, a story of the far, far future that was later published as “Against the Fall of Night” (1953).

Mr. Clarke spent World War II as an officer in the Royal Air Force. In 1943 he was assigned to work with a team of American scientist-engineers who had developed the first radar-controlled system for landing airplanes in bad weather. That experience led to Mr. Clarke’s only non-science fiction novel, “Glide Path” (1963). More important, it led in 1945 to a technical paper, published in the British journal Wireless World, establishing the feasibility of artificial satellites as relay stations for Earth-based communications.

The meat of the paper was a series of diagrams and equations showing that “space stations” parked in a circular orbit roughly 22,240 miles above the equator would exactly match the Earth’s rotation period of 24 hours. In such an orbit, a satellite would remain above the same spot on the ground, providing a “stationary” target for transmitted signals, which could then be retransmitted to wide swaths of territory below. This so-called geostationary orbit has been officially designated the Clarke Orbit by the International Astronomical Union.

Decades later, Mr. Clarke called his Wireless World paper “the most important thing I ever wrote.” In a wry piece entitled, “A Short Pre-History of Comsats, Or: How I Lost a Billion Dollars in My Spare Time,” he claimed that a lawyer had dissuaded him from applying for a patent. The lawyer, he said, thought the notion of relaying signals from space was too far-fetched to be taken seriously.

But Mr. Clarke also acknowledged that nothing in his paper — from the notion of artificial satellites to the mathematics of the geostationary orbit — was new. His chief contribution was to clarify and publicize an idea whose time had almost come: it was a feat of consciousness-raising of the kind he would continue to excel at throughout his career.

A Fiction Career Is Born

The year 1945 also saw the start of Mr. Clarke’s career as a fiction writer. He sold a short story called “Rescue Party” to the same magazine — now re-titled Astounding Science Fiction — that had captured his imagination 15 years earlier.

For the next two years Mr. Clarke attended King’s College, London, on the British equivalent of a G.I. Bill scholarship, graduating in 1948 with first-class honors in physics and mathematics. But he continued to write and sell stories, and after a stint as assistant editor at the scientific journal Physics Abstracts, he decided he could support himself as a free-lance writer. Success came quickly. His primer on space flight, “The Exploration of Space,” became an American Book-of-the-Month Club selection.

Over the next two decades he wrote a series of nonfiction bestsellers as well as his best-known novels, including “Childhood’s End” (1953) and “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968). For a scientifically trained writer whose optimism about technology seemed boundless, Mr. Clarke delighted in confronting his characters with obstacles they could not overcome without help from forces beyond their comprehension.

In “Childhood’s End,” a race of aliens who happen to look like devils imposes peace on an Earth torn by Cold War tensions. But the aliens’ real mission is to prepare humanity for the next stage of evolution. In an ending that is both heartbreakingly poignant and literally earth-shattering, Mr. Clarke suggests that mankind can escape its suicidal tendencies only by ceasing to be human.

“There was nothing left of Earth,” he wrote. “It had nourished them, through the fierce moments of their inconceivable metamorphosis, as the food stored in a grain of wheat feeds the infant plant while it climbs towards the Sun.”

The Cold War also forms the backdrop for “2001.” Its genesis was a short story called “The Sentinel,” first published in a science fiction magazine in 1951. It tells of an alien artifact found on the Moon, a little crystalline pyramid that explorers from Earth destroy while trying to open. One explorer realizes that the artifact was a kind of fail-safe beacon; in silencing it, human beings have signaled their existence to its far-off creators.

Enter Stanley Kubrick

In the spring of 1964, Stanley Kubrick, fresh from his triumph with “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb,” met Mr. Clarke in New York, and the two agreed to make the “proverbial really good science fiction movie” based on “The Sentinel.” This led to a four-year collaboration; Mr. Clarke wrote the novel and Mr. Kubrick produced and directed the film; they are jointly credited with the screenplay.

Many reviewers were puzzled by the film, especially the final scene in which an astronaut who has been transformed by aliens returns to orbit the Earth as a “Star-Child.” In the book he demonstrates his new-found powers by detonating from space the entire arsenal of Soviet and United States nuclear weapons. Like much of the plot, this denouement is not clear in the film, from which Mr. Kubrick cut most of the expository material.

As a fiction writer, Mr. Clarke was often criticized for failing to create fully realized characters. HAL, the mutinous computer in “2001,” is probably his most “human” creation: a self-satisfied know-it-all with a touching but misguided faith in his own infallibility.

If Mr. Clarke’s heroes are less than memorable, it’s also true that there are no out-and-out villains in his work; his characters are generally too busy struggling to make sense of an implacable universe to engage in petty schemes of dominance or revenge.

Mr. Clarke’s own relationship with machines was somewhat ambivalent. Although he held a driver’s license as a young man, he never drove a car. Yet he stayed in touch with the rest of the world from his home in Sri Lanka through an ever-expanding collection of up-to-date computers and communications accessories. And until his health declined, he was an expert scuba diver in the waters around Sri Lanka.

He first became interested in diving in the early 1950s, when he realized that he could find underwater, he said, something very close to the weightlessness of outer space. He settled permanently in Colombo, the capital of what was then Ceylon, in 1956. With a partner, he established a guided diving service for tourists and wrote vividly about his diving experiences in a number of books, beginning with “The Coast of Coral” (1956).

Of his scores of books, some like “Childhood’s End,” have been in print continuously. His works have been translated into some 40 languages, and worldwide sales have been estimated at more than $25 million.

In 1962 he suffered a severe attack of polio. His apparently complete recovery was marked by a return to top form at his favorite sport, table tennis. But in 1984 he developed post-polio syndrome, a progressive condition characterized by muscle weakness and extreme fatigue. He spent the last years of his life in a wheelchair.

Clarke’s Three Laws

Among his legacies are Clarke’s Three Laws, provocative observations on science, science fiction and society that were published in his “Profiles of the Future” (1962):

¶“When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.”

¶“The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.”

¶“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Along with Verne and Wells, Mr. Clarke said his greatest influences as a writer were Lord Dunsany, a British fantasist noted for his lyrical, if sometimes overblown, prose; Olaf Stapledon, a British philosopher who wrote vast speculative narratives that projected human evolution to the farthest reaches of space and time; and Herman Melville’s “Moby-Dick.”

While sharing his passions for space and the sea with a worldwide readership, Mr. Clarke kept his emotional life private. He was briefly married in 1953 to an American diving enthusiast named Marilyn Mayfield; they separated after a few months and were divorced in 1964, having had no children.

One of his closest relationships was with Leslie Ekanayake, a fellow diver in Sri Lanka, who died in a motorcycle accident in 1977. Mr. Clarke shared his home in Colombo with his friend’s brother, Hector, his partner in the diving business; Hector’s wife, Valerie; and their three daughters.

Mr. Clarke reveled in his fame. One whole room in his house — which he referred to as the Ego Chamber — was filled with photos and other memorabilia of his career, including pictures of him with Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, and Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon.

Mr. Clarke’s reputation as a prophet of the space age rests on more than a few accurate predictions. His visions helped bring about the future he longed to see. His contributions to the space program were lauded by Charles Kohlhase, who planned NASA’s Cassini mission to Saturn and who said of Mr. Clarke, “When you dream what is possible, and add a knowledge of physics, you make it happen.”

At the time of his death he was working on another novel, “The Last Theorem,” Agence France-Presse reported. “ The Last Theorem’ has taken a lot longer than I expected,” the agency quoted him as saying. “That could well be my last novel, but then I’ve said that before.”

Monday, March 17, 2008

A Black Day for the Irish

I refer, of course, to "Saint" "Patrick" ’s (he was neither Irish, a saint or named Patrick...) Day.

In case some of you are wondering why I didn’t allow your good wishes for the day to appear in Comments, it’s because I consider the slave Sucellos, malignant cultural assassin and papal cat’s-paw, to be the worst thing that ever happened to Ireland in all the millennia of its existence.

Slave boy sneaks in, starts preaching against Paganism, which everyone was happily practicing, realizes he’d better follow the pope’s instructions, which were to suborn, substitute and subvert. "Yes," he told everyone, "you’ll still worship your gods and goddesses, only we’ll have different names for them. Same holydays, except now the Church will run them. As for your quaint little folk practices, sure, why not, if they make you happy, they don’t mean a darn thing."

Pity of it is, it worked, the Irish being an easy-going race. And so the shackles of Rome were locked upon us, and remain to this day.

As for the "celebrations", parades and suchlike: it gives me no joy to see the green-painted faces, wigs, shamrock stickers, etc. It makes our proud and noble race look like the grinning, shuckin’, jivin’ Stepin Fetchits of Europe.

And if I hear "Danny Boy" one more time I’m going to blast the singer off the face of the earth. It was written by a maudlin, untalented ENGLISHMAN who had never been to Ireland in his life, and I hope he fries in hell for it.

So instead I celebrate Pan-Celtic Day. I listen to real Celtic music, perform real rituals, hiss and spit and claw at the fat smug prelates like Egan of NYC and the beery politicos and old harps prancing up Fifth Avenue, and in general grieve for the trivialization of our true and ancient ways.

Who’s with me? I know the Hamill boys (Denis and Pete), my long-ago childhood neighbors in Brooklyn, are...and they may even be more pissed off than I am. On second thought, nah..

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Village Idiot Speaks. Again.

I can hardly believe even Chimpy McFlightsuit is capable of this piece of verbal diarrhea...

Bush "Envious" Of Soldiers Serving "Romantic" Mission In Afghanistan

Huffington Post | March 13, 2008 06:11 PM

President Bush let his inner adventurer out while discussing the state of the war in Afghanistan with military and civilian personnel. While those in Afghanistan detailed the logistical and diplomatic problems via teleconference, the President took a much more whimsical approach to their mission. Via Reuters:

"I must say, I'm a little envious," Bush said. "If I were slightly younger and not employed here, I think it would be a fantastic experience to be on the front lines of helping this young democracy succeed."

"It must be exciting for you ... in some ways romantic, in some ways, you know, confronting danger. You're really making history, and thanks," Bush said.

Is there no END to the stupidities of this ignorant pig? I say if he thinks it's so romantic, then he SHOULD go. And he should take his useless trampy drunk slut daughters with him. Maybe they can be the "Kristens" of Afghanistan...

I have to go throw up now. Too bad I can't heave all over him...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Ho No! The Governor and the Hooker

I refer, of course, to the Governor of the great state of New York, my state, Mr. Eliot Spitzer.

Mr. Spitzer, in his gunslinging lawyer days, was known as the Sheriff of Wall Street, for his clean 'em up toss 'em out ways with corrupt types. In 2006, we voted him in as our governor. Because he seemed like a rootin' tootin' straight-shooter, and we liked him, and we thought that if anyone could clean up the Augean stables that is Albany politics he would be the one.

Alas for our naive hopes. No sooner had he taken office than he fell afoul of a state trooper scandal, and then there were some dust-ups with the vile Joe Bruno, who REALLY runs New York State, and that fiasco about driving licenses for illegal aliens, and it all seemed politics as usual, and we were sad.

So now we find out he's been employing the services of a pricey call girl ring, and even arranging for his favorite ho to come down from NYC to DC to, well, service him. And we're surprised, not because he's a lying cheating politician, because we expect that, but because he'd been such a Boy Scout.

And it turns out he's just another sanctimonious prig, cheating on his wife, his children and his constituency. Why the HELL can't they keep it in their pants? Are they really that stoooopid to think they won't get caught, that arrogant to think they're above the law?

Yeesh. Here's Nora Ephron in The Huffington Post:

Meanwhile, Spitzer, who a year ago had a shot at national office, is today a laughingstock because of his reckless involvement in ... what? Let's just say this right out: in nothing. He arranged for a date with a hooker and she crossed a state line. This violates something called the Mann Act, which was passed in 1910, before women could vote. It's the legal equivalent of an old chestnut, it seems barely constitutional, and no one with half a brain could possibly think of it as anything worth prosecuting anyone for. Although Eliot Spitzer might. This is the problem these guys get into: they're so morally rigid and puritanical in real life (and on some level, so responsible for this priggish world we now live in) that when they get caught committing victimless crimes, everyone thinks they should be punished for sheer hypocrisy.

But they shouldn't really. It's one of the things you have to admire about Senator Larry Craig: he's still there. And who can say he's doing a better or worse job than he was before? And compared to whom in the United States Senate?

Which I kind of tend to agree with. But Craig is one of a hundred, most of whom are probably as guilty as he is. The Governor of a state stands alone, and for Spitzer to think he can now govern effectively with this on everybody's mind every time they look at him...well, I hope he can. But he wasn't the most effective governor, NOTHING like what we'd hoped we were getting with him. And the Lieutenant-Governor, David Paterson, is very well liked: he'd be the first black governor NYState ever had, and he's legally blind, which he handles with grace and humor...the son of our respected legislator Basil Paterson. So that wouldn't be terrible.

Though Eliot is a Democratic superdelegate, which touches on the presidential campaign, and I bet Hillary's reeeeeally pissed off, since he's a big supporter of her bid.

Frankly, though I hate what he's done to his family, I hope he DOES hang on like grim death to his governorship, and not cave in like gay Governor McGreevey of NJ. I'd like for once to see someone cock a snook at everybody baying for his head on a platter and say, "Know what? SCREW YOU! I'm not going ANYwhere! Okay, I messed up, but it's my business and my family's, and none of yours. If you don't like it, TOO DAMN BAD!"

Just pull a Henry VIII on all the whited sepulchers who think they're holier than thou, me and Eliot Spitzer together. Yes, I'd quite like that.