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Archive for the ‘obituary’ Category

Stephen Hawking and the Stars

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Today, we lament the passing of celebrated physicist and best-selling author Dr. Stephen W. Hawking.  Dr. Michio Kaku, a professor of theoretical physics at the City University of New York, had this to say about Mr. Hawking’s life: 

“Not since Albert Einstein has a scientist so captured the public imagination and endeared himself to tens of millions of people around the world.”

And as his New York Time’s obituary observed, “what is equally amazing is that he had a career at all,” having been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease as a grad student in 1963 and then given only a few years to live.

In fact, he lived on this planet 55 more, and transcended the physical limitations of the disease with a brilliant and active mind and, later, through the use of modern computer speech technologies that allowed him to continue to communicate with the world.

The Times’ obituary highlighted Hawking’s breakthrough work:

He went on to become his generation’s leader in exploring gravity and the properties of black holes, the bottomless gravitational pits so deep and dense that not even light can escape them.

That work led to a turning point in modern physics, playing itself out in the closing months of 1973 on the walls of his brain when Dr. Hawking set out to apply quantum theory, the weird laws that govern subatomic reality, to black holes. In a long and daunting calculation, Dr. Hawking discovered to his befuddlement that black holes — those mythological avatars of cosmic doom — were not really black at all. In fact, he found, they would eventually fizzle, leaking radiation and particles, and finally explode and disappear over the eons.

The next year, he would connect gravity and quantum mechanics in an article in Nature entitled “Black Hole Explosions?”

The image of Hawking that will always stay with me was his gleeful ride aboard a Boeing 727 in April 2007, a literal attempt to defy gravity and physically transcend for a few fleeting moments the confines of his wheelchair.

When he spoke of the experience, Dr. Hawking responded: “I want to show that people need not be limited by physical handicaps as long as they are not disabled in spirit.”

It’s safe to say his spirit remained intact throughout his remarkable life, one that served as an inspiration to so many around the globe.

RIP, Dr. Hawking — we’ll see you in the stars.

Written by turbotodd

March 14, 2018 at 9:37 am

Posted in 2018, obituary

True West — Sam Shepard, RIP

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Just out of the blue hearing the news that renowned actor, playwright, and author Sam Shepard is dead from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) at the age of 73…well, that was a sucker punch I didn’t see coming.

For those of us who were avid thespians or who studied or were fans of playwriting, that’s up there with saying one of our generations’ Shakespeare’s has exited the typewriter.

For those who reveled in Shephard’s onscreen performances, from his magical turn as the Farmer in “Days of Heaven,” to his boundless Chuck Yeager in “The Right Stuff,” to his most recent appearance as the family patriarch, Robert Rayburn, on Netflix’s “Bloodline” — never mind all the various and sundry other character parts where his quiet hugeness absolutely filled up the screen — well hell, I don’t even know where to begin.

Shephard’s work painted on a vast, scrambled, and messy canvas of Americana — and not just the good parts, either. Shephard’s work, while celebrating the epic grandeur of the American West, also dug into the seamy underbelly of the American family, the complexity and psychology and contradictions beneath were far from “Leave it to Beaver”-like.

In fact, in his plays especially, it was typically quite the opposite. The so-called great American family was often one convoluted fireball of dysfunction, often held together only by thin seams of necessity and desperation.

And yet, with his words and his performances, he tried to explain it as best he could when we often didn’t even know what to think about it all ourselves.

It’s an open question as to who might continue to take on such giant questions, particularly in the tumultuous times in which we now find ourselves.

From “True West”: This isn’t champagne anymore. We went through the champagne a long time ago. This is serious stuff. The days of champagne are long gone.

Goodbye and Godspeed, Sam Shepard.

There may not be any champagne left, but you still sure left one hell of an impression.

Written by turbotodd

July 31, 2017 at 1:44 pm

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