The Late Michael Crichton’s Next, Though Politically Charged, Is Not His Best

I think that Michael Crichton is a spectacular writer. Not only are his stories compelling, his plots engaging and his writing enjoyable, but his ability to incite something entirely different in his reader is remarkable. Why? Because he often writes about topics that are (or should be) important issues of public discourse.

Crichton does not merely pick some outrageous sci-fi notion and run with it to the ends of the earth. He writes science fiction that is well-researched and of practical public interest. He then crafts a story that pushes the boundaries of “what if” while demonstrating the numerous issues that surround the topic at hand, whether nanotechnology, biological experimentation or global warming – one of the largest thorns in his side.

He was an outspoken public critic of complacency and constantly sought to shake up the status-quo. When unethical or damaging tactics were allowed to plague an institute of government, a scientific research facility, or the media, he seized upon them and exposed them in the best way he knew how – creative science fiction grounded in reality.

Next was Crichton’s jab at genetic technology and gene experimentation. This well-researched book ended with a series of recommendations for how American politics, government and people should proceed in regards to these issues. The book itself was fascinating for the issues it exposed but for some reason this time I just couldn’t grab hold of the slightly over the top sci-fi elements.

I certainly feel more educated about genetic research and the state of affairs of politics and science than I did before – thanks to his grounding these books in facts – but the sci-fi elements themselves were just not for me this time. I won’t stop reading Crichton’s books, though, but sadly we won’t be seeing any more of them (that aren’t published posthumously).

Here’s to you, Mr. Crichton. Thanks!

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An Evil Stan is Engineered in South Park Episode 105, “An Elephant Makes Love to a Pig”

Oh, early season one of South Park: how folksy and classic.

In this episode all the boys must complete science fair projects and Kyle and Dr. Mephisto’s son get into a cloning war, with the latter insisting that he can clone an entire human being and Kyle believing that he can breed an elephant and a pot-bellied pig to make small pot-bellied elephants.

When the boys go to Dr. Mephisto, the local genetic engineer, to ask how they might do what they intend to, they are introduced to a variety of four-assed animals genetically engineered by the doctor. Secretly, he stabs Stan and takes a sample of his blood, which happens to be the blood used for the human clone. In the meantime, Chef advises the boys to have the elephant make love to the pig and Elton John comes in for a magical and sexy duet that, post drunk, gets every enjoying some coitus.

The Stan-clone grows huge and monstrous and eventually escapes from the genetic engineer only to terrify and destroy the town of South Park. And guess who’s getting blamed!? That’s right, Stan.

Fortunately for him and the trouble he’s going to get in, Shelley, who had been mean to Stan throughout the whole episode, claims that Stan had been with her the whole time and therefore not wreaking havoc about town. What a good sister.

Stan tells Shelley:

“Shelley, you saved my life. And yet, you’ve done so much more than that. Today you’ve taught me the meaning of family. Sure, families don’t always get along, but when the forces of evil descend upon us, we conquer them by sticking together.”

Curiously, this episode touches close to home right now because I’m in the middle of one of Michael Crichton’s books about genetic engineering called Next. It’s not as good as State of Fear or some of his classics but I’m entertained. I only got it because it was a few dollars for the hardback at Borders a few months back. And then we learned this week that Crichton died. He was a great author and a great addition to public debate about important issues. Thanks for everything, Michael.

Do you like this episode? What’s your favorite part?

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South Park and Global Warming: tonight’s episode, “Terrance and Phillip Behind the Blow” (505)

Tonight’s episode (9:30 on Comedy Central before a Chris Rock special) is one of my favorite non-religious episodes (aside from the exclamation of “Jesus tap-dancing Christ!”). This episode, though it focuses heavily on Terrance and Phillip and their tragic and complicated relationship, is also about a phenomenon quite close to my own heart: global warming….and what a bunch of nonsense it is.

That’s right. I said it. There is no global warming. Sure, excessive carbon is not good for our environment, ozone layer or collective health – I certainly won’t deny that – but the notion that the world’s temperature is increasing in an unnatural way is absurd. In fact, not only have global temperatures been decreasing for a few years now, not only should the earth have warmed up substantially after the mini-ice-age of the 14th-20th centuries, and not only am I always a little cold and appreciative of an extra degree or so, but some NASA scientists have attributed the global rises that were being detected to the sun’s own increase in temperatures (did humans cause that?). Basically, there is no concrete evidence that it is actually humans and their activities that are contributing to the temperature of the earth.

All that said, I am not anti-environment. I recycle. I don’t litter. I drive 55 mph because it’s the optimum speed to conserve gas. I just think that before we go believing every little word that scare-mongers scream at us we should probably ask to see some actual scientific evidence and not just believe it because they say it’s scientific. Let’s question these things a little more thoroughly.

And that brings us to South Park. South Park questions the nonsense spewed at us left and right about global warming and saving the environment. God bless it.

In “Terrance and Phillip Behind the Blow” it’s Earth Day and the crazy Earth Day leaders are psychopaths, blaming everything on the Republicans and murdering people for the sake of their cause. As Stan says, “Environmental activists don’t use logic or reason.” This episode, along with “Manbearpig” in which Al Gore is a raving lunatic trying to prove the existence and danger of a make-believe creature that’s half man, half bear, and half pig (and which we see in Imaginationland), as well as others that refuse to tolerate the nonsense of bullshit environmentalist’ claims, is awesome for its willingness to stand up to the monolith that is the environmental movement. Few people will publicly stand up to the ridicule that is associated with not believing in what everyone tells them is true (like standing up to bunk religious claims when everyone around you is a believer), but Trey Parker, Matt Stone and Michael Crichton are among them.

So when you watch South Park tonight, remember that it’s about more than Terrance and Phillip’s problems with blow.

Do you believe in global warming? What’s your reason why? Do you think I’m a raving lunatic? What do you think about this episode of South Park? Where else does South Park knock global warming?

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