March 28, 2006


Caspar Weinberger, presidents' aide, dies (ELIZABETH WHITE, 3/28/06, Associated Press)

"He left the U.S. armed forces stronger, our country safer and the world more free," said Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

Determined to ensure U.S. strategic strength to counter the Soviet Union, Weinberger pushed Congress to fund such programs as the Strategic Defense Initiative, Midgetman and MX missiles, B-1B bombers and stealth aircraft.

Supporters contended the defense buildup helped cause the collapse of the Soviet Union.

"His legacy is a strong and free America, and for this and for a lifetime of selfless service, a grateful nation thanks him," former first lady Nancy Reagan said Tuesday.

Stanislaw Lem, Author of Science Fiction Classics, Is Dead at 84 (BEN SISARIO, 3/28/06, NY Times)
Stanislaw Lem, a Polish science-fiction writer who, in novels like "Solaris" and "His Master's Voice," contemplated man's place in the universe in sardonic and sometimes bleak terms, died yesterday in Krakow, Poland. He was 84.

The cause was heart failure, his secretary, Wojciech Zemek, told The Associated Press.

Mr. Lem was a giant of mid-20th-century science fiction, in a league with Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov and Philip K. Dick. And he addressed many of the themes they did: the meaning of human life among superintelligent machines, the frustrations of communicating with aliens, the likelihood that mankind could understand a universe in which it was but a speck. His books have been translated into at least 35 languages and have sold 27 million copies.

What drew the admiration of many of his fellow writers was the intensity with which he studied the limitations of humanity, in ways that could be both awed and pessimistic.

In "Solaris," a densely ruminative novel first published in 1961 — and made into films by Andrei Tarkovsky (1972) and Steven Soderbergh (2002) — contact is made with a dangerous and unknowable alien intelligence in the form of a plasma ocean surrounding a distant planet. As they attempt to understand the organism, astronauts aboard a space ship are plagued by hallucinations drawn from their own memories.


Posted by Orrin Judd at March 28, 2006 11:35 AM

Regarding Cap Weinberger's death, there is a lengthy AP story written by George Gedda which does not mention once either the Soviet Union or Russia and Weinberger's role in defeating them. Not once. It does devote several paragraphs to Iran-Contra.

Posted by: pchuck at March 28, 2006 1:19 PM

In 1979 at the Amsterdam hippie nightspot/theater/mall The Paradiso, a friend and I each had two pieces of Space Cake (hash brownies) and watched the '72 version of Solaris. It was in Russian with Dutch subtitles, but it was hysterically funny to us at the time. Listen to a language you don't speak under those circumstances, and you'll think you hear some English words scattered about. Plus, Dutch is somewhat English-like (e.g. "het" = "the"), adding to the linguistic confusion and accidental surrealism. The film itself had amusing shots of freeways and tall buildings with music that suggested this was The Future, but it just looked like any big American city. Finally, there was a young woman in the audience with an infectious laugh: she'd laugh at something, and it would set everybody else off. Of course, lots of Space Cake had been consumed, but I've never been in a theater filled with more laughter.

Ah, the good times of foolish youth. *Sniff.*

Posted by: Anon for now at March 28, 2006 2:27 PM

Mmmmm...Space Cake...

Posted by: Homer at March 28, 2006 2:53 PM

I've lost my Boswell, my Watson. How will citizens of the galaxy now learn of my daring, often misguided, exploits?

Cosmic Constructor Extraordinaire

Posted by: jd watson [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 28, 2006 5:03 PM