Calls Mount for Olympic Ceremony Boycott

Moves to punish China for its handling of Tibetan protests gain momentum:

“France’s outspoken foreign minister, former humanitarian campaigner Bernard Kouchner, said the idea ‘is interesting.’

Kouchner said he wants to discuss it with other foreign ministers from the 27-nation European Union next week. His comments opened a crack in what until now had been solid opposition to a full boycott, a stance that Kouchner said remains the official government position.” (AP )


The Magic Is Gone

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.R.I.P. Arthur C. Clarke, 90. The news has emerged in the last half-hour of Clarke’s death In Sri Lanka, his adopted home for many years. I predict that most of the obituaries will tag him primarily in two ways, as the ‘father of the communications satellite’ and the author of 2001. (CNN ) The latter should be much more closely associated with Kubrick, to my way of thinking. True visionary status, however, devolves on Clarke for work like Childhood’s End (always my favorite) and The Foundation trilogy […just destroyed my science fiction cred in a senior moment. Of course the Foundation books were by that other late classic writer, Asimov. — FmH] and the brilliant short story “The Nine Billion Names of God”.

“Well, they believe that when they have listed all His names — and they reckon that there are about nine billion of them — God’s purpose will have been achieved. The human race will have finished what it was created to do, and there won’t be any point in carrying on. Indeed, the very idea is something like blasphemy.”
“Then what do they expect us to do? Commit suicide?”
“There’s no need for that. When the list’s completed, God steps in and simply winds things up . . . bingo!”
“Oh, I get it. When we finish our job, it will be the end of the world.”
Chuck gave a nervous little laugh.
“That’s just what I said to Sam. And do you know what happened? He looked at me in a very queer way, like I’d been stupid in class, and said, ‘It’s nothing as trivial as that’.”

Which other of Clarke’s work do readers cherish?

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Neal Stephenson’s New Novel Remains Shrouded in Mystery

As an inveterate Stephenson fan, I had been waiting for any breaking news of his next project. I just learned about Anathem last week, and this is about all that is known so far:

“You can now pre-order Neal ‘Cryptonomicon‘ Stephenson’s new novel Anathem, due out in September, but as of yet the author has made very few comments about it. Nor has his publisher, William Morrow. All we know comes from the LiveJournal entry of a Google employee who asked the author about it last year when he read at the Google Kirkland campus. She writes, ‘It’s set on another planet and has aliens and so on. It’s really about Platonic mathematics, but he needed the aliens and space opera-ish elements to spice it up a little bit, just like the pirates kept people engaged in the Baroque books.’ Plus, we can guess that the title is a mashup of the words anathema and anthem, which is a darn cool coinage.” (Technophobiac)