RIP, Steve

Steve Gilliard, blogger, journalist and alla round smart voice on these here Internets, has died.

I never had a chance to meet him in person but his site was and is, a must read for inciteful commentary and clear thinking. It’s always sad to loose someone, and sadder still to loose someone who worked hard to try and make a difference.

One Less Dinosaur

I come not to praise Jerry Falwell, but to bury him, quickly, before he starts to stink up the place:

The Rev Jerry Falwell, whose evangelical convictions and organisational abilities, including as a founder in1979 of the Moral Majority movement, did much to place religious conservatives in a role of great influence in American politics, died on Tuesday in Lynchburg, Virginia, of apparent heart failure at the age of 73.He was a figure of immense controversy over the last 40 years, outspoken to the point that his apologies appeared almost as regularly as his thundering denunciations. To him the three great scourges afflicting his country were “atheism, secularism and humanism,” and nothing would deter him from defeating his evil trinity.

Most notoriously, he laid the blame for the terrorist attacks of September11 2001, at the feet of his domestic opponents. “I really believe,” he said at the time, “that the pagans, the abortionists and the lesbians …and all those who have tried to secularise America helped this happen.”His subsequent recantation attracted less attention.

Few people have been as outspoken in their intolerance and hatred– all in the name of religion– as Jerry Falwell. He never met a racist he didn’t like, a bigot he couldn’t find common ground with (so long as they were rich, white and as arrogant as he was– sorry Dr. Farrakhan) or a decent human being he couldn’t tar and feather as enemies incarnate to his withered and archaic ideals. With him gone, there is one less roadblock to making this a just and humanistic society.

I’d like to say that I’m not pleased by the news of this spiteful old coot’s passing but part of me is. I can admit that. I never wish anyone harm but neither do I shy away from the fact that some people far outlive the age into which they were born, lingering on well past their prime to embarrass their descendants with creaking paroxysms of outmoded bigotry. In Falwell’s case, they are sometimes born well past the age they would have been happier in. Alas, Jerry was just too medieval for these wild and woolly modern times. But now he’s gone home to the void and we can be just a little more at peace.

Some of old Jerry’s more memorable quotes from the Huffington Post.

Boing Boing has more.

So It Goes

Kurt Vonnegut, 1922-2007:

“He was the kind of writer who made people – young people, especially – want to write,” added Jonathan Safran Foer, the 30-year-old author of “Everything is Illuminated.” “He wrote the kinds of books you pass around.”

For countless teenagers, reading Vonnegut was as much an entry into adult life as your first beer. The world became funnier, more dangerous, more exciting. If you were looking to send up authority, question life’s meaning or face the worst and keep your sense of humor, Vonnegut was your teacher.

I know that there have been countless generations that grew up and led meaningful lives before Kurt Vonnegut’s writing was around but they all must have realized that there was some hole, some vital missing piece to the human experience that they could not fill. It took Kurt Vonnegut to fill that hole. Those of us who have grown up in a world with his books at hand are better people for it. He was a teacher and a hero, not because he did great things but because he taught us all that it was heroic enough simply to get up in the morning and keep on living, despite all the reasons in the world not to. His message was a simple one: be kind to one another as often as you can, not because you’ll be rewarded for it but because it makes the world a better place and a lot more interesting. He may be gone but his words remain, to fill the hole left behind.

You’re Asuming He Was Real To Begin With

Jean Baudrillard, 1930-2007:

PARIS: Jean Baudrillard, a French philosopher and social theorist known for his provocative commentaries on consumerism, excess and what he said was the disappearance of reality, died Tuesday, his publishing house said. He was 77.

[…] Baudrillard, a sociologist by training, is perhaps best known for his concepts of “hyperreality” and “simulation.”

[…] The Sept. 11 attacks, in contrast, were the hyper-real event par excellence — a fusion of history, symbolism and dark fantasy, “the mother of all events.”

His views on the attacks sparked controversy. While terrorists had committed the atrocity, he wrote, “It is we who have wanted it. . . . Terrorism is immoral, and it responds to a globalization that is itself immoral.”

Although many Americans were puzzled by his views, Baudrillard was a tireless enthusiast for the United States — though he once called it “the only remaining primitive society.”

“Santa Barbara is a paradise; Disneyland is a paradise; the U.S. is a paradise,” he wrote. “Paradise is just paradise. Mournful, monotonous, and superficial though it may be, it is paradise. There is no other.”

Remembering RAW

Reason Magazine has a nice obituary for Robert Anton Wilson:

Given his enormous influence on pop culture, from Lost to Laura Croft, you might have expected Wilson’s death to get more attention in the mainstream press. But while there were a few more notices in the newspapers — a detailed story in the London Telegraph, a short UPI dispatch that was basically cribbed from the Times — none I’ve seen has suggested that his work had an impact beyond the fans of the fringe, and only John Clute’s account in The Independent displayed any appreciation of Wilson’s oeuvre. Instead, the best tributes to the writer have appeared in the medium that most resembled the beautiful cacophony of his books: the Internet. On LiveJournals, e-mail lists, and blog comment threads, Wilson received the praise he was due.

He was honored on the bigger sites too. At The Huffington Post Paul Krassner, who started publishing Wilson’s articles in The Realist back in 1959, quoted one of my favorite things that Wilson wrote in the last year of his life: a haiku sent to his email list a day after he announced what looked like his pending death.

Well what do you know?
Another day has passed
and I’m still not not.

There were respectful memorials in places you’d expect, such as bOING bOING and 10 Zen Monkeys, and in places you wouldn’t expect, such as Wonkette. Even the conservative forum Free Republic got in on the act, with a thread that included the remarkable statement, “The modern right was greatly influenced by Wilson.” While you’re digesting that, I’ll note that elsewhere on the same site another reader greeted the news with the phrase “one less leftist nut.”

Link via Boing Boing.

Dr Gonzo Rides No More

I rolled out of bed at four AM this morning, kissed my wife goodbye and hopped a plane back to the Nation’s Capitol. 600 miles of screaming air and fog and rain to come back here and wrestle the swine, to sit in my office and read the news: Hunter S. Thompson is dead.

My world is unhinged, just a little more. And not just because of the teenaged, spanish speaking Civil War re-enactors sitting behind me on the plane, munching popcorn. Though, that is something that puts the fear into you. To stumble down the umbilical tunnel, into the belly of a 747 and see the Union Army come for this Southern boy at last… And gibbering in Spanish, no less.

A drowsy haze of careening followed. On my iPod, I listened to Jeff Tweedy sing about the ashes of American flags. It was the only thing that kept my wits intact. And now this.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is one of the most crystalline, brilliant pieces of prose ever written and I’ll bare-knuckle box anyone who says otherwise. Especially if they’re Republican and whine about it’s drug addled jangle or Mr. Thompson’s crazy eye, and how he and all us Gonzo dopeheads are somehow responsible for how we got here, to this crazy day, slipping down the slope towards Communism, Socialism, Gay marriages or whatever the hell it is we’re supposed to hate this week. You know what I hate? Fascists dressed like corporate executives, selling my American Dream, driving one of my heroes to blow his brains out at his kitchen table, one February morning.

God damn you George W. Bush, you’ve robbed us all again.

Update: Giblets spotted the Good Doctor just hours ago, while the King of Zembla points us to his last column.