Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Legendary Don Lane

Don Lane, the lanky American who dominated Australian TV in the 1970s and 80s has died at the age of 75.

Don LaneAs host of the long-running Don Lane Show, Don brought a little bit of American-style variety to Australian television screens.

Lane also brought a fair share of controversy, getting arrested for marijuana possession in 1968 and getting kicked out of the 1982 Logie Awards for throwing a punch at Ernie Sigley.

But who can honestly say they’ve never wanted to do that?

And here’s that infamous footage of Lane cracking it with the AmazingTM James Randi when he dared to suggest that Doris Stokes and Uri Geller may not actually possess all those amazing paranormal powers they claim.

Despite (or maybe because of) all this Lane managed to win numerous Logies (including the 1977 Gold) back when the award actually meant something.

He was one of a kind, a genuine legend and has well and truly earned his place in Australian television history.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Rodger Doxsey R.I.P

Astronomer Rodger Doxsey, former head of mission operations at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, has died at the age of 62.

Rodger Doxsey

Doxsey was best known for his work on the Hubble Space Telescope, that amazing piece of technology which has given us extraordinary images like this:

Hubble 1Doxsey was instrumental in keeping the Hubble Space Telescope running from its very earliest days. His work has allowed us to take pictures of our universe with a resolution and depth never seen before.

Hubble 2

Doxsey was also a scientist in the classical mode. He combined a visionary sense of big-picture science with a minute knowledge of the mechanics that made it work.

Rest in peace, Rodger. Your legacy will live on.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Basava Premanand

I'm a little late reporting this one. Legendary Indian rationalist and skeptic Basava Premanand has passed away at the age of 78.

Basava PremanandUsing his skills as an amateur magician, Premanand made a career out of exposing the charlatans and "God men" who plagued the Indian culture.

In the face of death threats he showed their supposed miracles were simple sleight-of-hand tricks, and by founding the Indian CSICOP movement and publishing the Indian Sceptic magazine brought skepticism into a country that desperately needed it.

Such was Premanand's notoriety that he feared rumours of a deathbed conversion might abound after his death. As a result, he took steps to prevent such a thing by writing this statement:

I, B. Premanand s/o late Sri Basava Prabhu, 80 years of age resident Chettipalayam Road, Podanur, sound of mind though suffering from physical complications caused by metastases in many organs caused by carcinoma of the stomach herein solemnly wish to place on record the following:

1. I have been closely associated with the rationalist movement from 1975 onwards and have been a rationalist of full conviction since then and continue to be so.

2. It is common for the purveyors of superstitions and such anti rational forces to start spreading rumors about rationalists turning to god and other supernatural forces at the end of their lives and becoming devotees of gods and god men of various types.

3. It is also claimed that at times of crises that we staunch rationalists through the major part of our lives, turn to spiritualism and religion.

4. I wish to clarify that as on today the twentieth of September 2009 I remain a staunch rationalist and wish to place on record the following:

a. I continue to be a rationalist of full conviction.

b. I do not believe in any supernatural power. All the powers that we encounter are in the realm of nature and nothing exists beyond that.

c. I do not believe in the existence of the soul or rebirth.

d. I have not turned to any religion, god or any sort of spiritual pursuits.

e. When I pass away I shall be leaving only my body which is to be donated to a medical college and no spirit or soul to cause problems for the living.

I want to convey to all that the struggle against the exploitation by god men and so called supernatural forces is a long and hard one but the ultimate victory will be ours.

My very survival has been a challenge to astrologers and their so called “science” of astrology, as they had all predicted that I would die soon after birth and refused to cast a horoscope for me.

I wish to convey to my colleagues of the rationalist movement to continue the work that I have been doing with renewed vigor and that will be the best of tributes for me.

Abhirami Hospital
Podanur (B. Premanand)
Witnessed by: Dr. Maya Prabhu and Suneera

Basava Premanand, we salute you.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Stephen Gately

Irish pop singer Stephen Gately has died at the age of 33.

Stephen Gately

As well as being greatly respected as a performer, Gately was considered a hero of gay rights. Unlike many closeted colleagues, he managed to be both a boy band star and openly gay.

And in typical UK tabloid fashion, this has apparently earned Gately the right to have the sordid elements of his story splashed far and wide.

However, his sad passing appears to be a tragically simple case of a tragically avoidable death.