Monday, January 31, 2011

Obama Nominates Openly Gay Man To Be Federal Judge

J. Paul Oetken, 44
As MadProfessah noted last year, President Barack Obama has nominated an openly gay man, J. Paul Oetken, to be a U.S. district court judge for the Southern District of New York, one of the most prestigious and well-known courts in the country, since it covers Manhattan. Interestingly, Oetken, if confirmed by the United States Senate would not only become the second openly LGBT judge in the country, he would become the second out LGBT judge in the Southern District of New York! Deborah Batts, a Black lesbian, has been serving there as a federal judge since nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1994.

Oetken's official biography, as distributed by the White House:
J. Paul Oetken: Nominee for the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
J. Paul Oetken is Senior Vice President and Associate General Counsel of Cablevision Systems Corporation in Bethpage, New York, a position he has held since 2004.  Prior to joining Cablevision, Oetken worked at Debevoise & Plimpton, where he was counsel from 2003 to 2004 and an associate from 2001 to 2003.  Oetken joined the White House Counsel’s Office as Associate Counsel to the President in 1999 and worked there until 2001.  From 1997 to 1999, Oetken was an attorney-advisor with the U.S. Department of Justice in the Office of Legal Counsel.  Prior to that, he worked as an associate at Jenner & Block for approximately two years.  From 1993 to 1994, Oetken served as a law clerk for the Honorable Harry A. Blackmun of the U.S. Supreme Court; from 1992 to 1993, he served as a law clerk for the Honorable Louis F. Oberdorfer of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia; and from 1991 to 1992, he served as a law clerk for the Honorable Judge Richard D. Cudahy of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.  Oetken received his J.D. in 1991 from Yale Law School, and his B.A. with highest distinction in 1988 from the University of Iowa.
R. Vaughn Walker, the openly gay federal judge who struck down Proposition 8 as unconstituional, has retired as of December 31, 2010.

Hat/tip to Chris Geidner of Poliglot!

Federal Judge Strikes Down Entire Health Care Law

Gee,  I wonder if the Republicans will be complaining about this form of judicial activism?

From The New York Times:
A second federal judge ruled on Monday that it was unconstitutional for Congress to enact a health care law that requires Americans to obtain commercial insurance, evening the score at two-to-two in the lower courts as conflicting opinions begin their path to the Supreme Court.
Like a Virginia judge in December, Judge Roger Vinson of Federal District Court in Pensacola, Fla., said he would allow the law to remain in effect while the Obama administration appeals his ruling, a process that could take two years. But unlike his Virginia counterpart, Judge Vinson ruled that the entire health care act should fall if the appellate courts join him in invalidating the insurance requirement.
“The act, like a defectively designed watch, needs to be redesigned and reconstructed by the watchmaker,” Judge Vinson wrote.
In a 78-page opinion, Judge Vinson held that the insurance requirement exceeds the regulatory powers granted to Congress under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. Judge Vinson wrote that the provision could not be rescued by an associated clause in Article I that gives Congress broad authority to make laws “necessary and proper” to carrying out its designated responsibilities.
“If Congress can penalize a passive individual for failing to engage in commerce, the enumeration of powers in the Constitution would have been in vain,” Judge Vinson wrote.
Insanely, the entire law can be struck down because Democratic staffers forgot to include a severability clause in the legislation in the last minute scramble to pass the legislation in Spring 2010. Those staffers should be fired! Oh wait, the voters already did that in November 2010!

It is unlikely that Judge Vinson's law will survive appellate review. Even if the individual mandate is ruled unconstitutional, there are many other ways to fund the other changes that the health care law mandates.

American Chess Player Wins Tourney Ahead of World's Best

GM Hikaru Nakamura, 23, is the world's #10 chess player
American grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura has won the prestigious super Grand Master tournament held in Wijk ann Zee, the Netherlands, ahead of the top 4 ranked players in the world:  Magnus Carlsen, Viswanathan Anand, Levon Aronian and Vladimir Kramnik . Carlsen is the world's top-ranked player and Anand and Kramnik have both won the world chess championship.

Former world champion Garry Kasparov called it "maybe the best performance by an American in  100 years." The New York Times Gambit blogger disputed this remark, but did call it "one of the best results by an American in decades."

Nakamura won the Tata Steel Chess with 6 wins, 6 draws and 1 loss (to Carlsen), or 9 points, half a point ahead of Anand, with World #3 Aronian and World #4 back at 8 points.

Congrats to Hikaru!

Hat/tip to Susan Polgar.

Eye Candy: Christopher Villa (#3)

Christopher Villa has been featured Eye Candy on this blog twice before, on October 18, 2010 and August 16, 2010. On week after Deric Mickens became the first model ever to have appeared three times on's Eye Candy, Villa repeats his feat and one-ups Mickens by appearing the most times in the shortest duration (5 months).

Sunday, January 30, 2011

OSCARS 2011: Listen To The Best Score Nominees

The five nominees for Best Original Score this year are:
How To Train Your Dragon - John Powell
Inception - Hans Zimmer
The King's Speech - Alexandre Desplat
127 Hours - A.R. Rahman
The Social Network - Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
To me, the winner should be Hans Zimmer...I could listen to the score all day. Zimmer and Rahman have won before, for The Lion King and Slumdog Millionaire, respectively. This is Zimmer's 9th nomination and Rahman's 2nd. Desplat has been nominated four times (The Queen, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, The King's Speech) and never won. This is John Powell's first nomination.
Trent Reznor is more well-known for his work with Nine Inch Nails. It is his first nomination as well. Reznor & Ross won the Golden Globe for Best Score, but if you actually sit down and listen to the score it is almost assaultive. I would be fine with Desplat winning, I think his work is the second best in the category.

AUS OPEN 2011: Djokovic Routs Murray for 2nd Major Title

As predicted, Novak Djokovic won his 2nd Australian Open title by defeating Andy Murray 6-4 6-2 6-3. The 23-year-old Serbian won his second major title, becoming only the fourth active player to have reached that milestone. For only the second time since Djokovic won the 2008 Australian Open, someone else besides Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal has won a major title (Juan Martin del Potro won the 2009 US Open). Djokovic has been stuck in the World #3 position behind the Swiss and Spanish greats, but he took advantage of  Nadal's shock defeat in the quarterfinals at the hands of David Ferrer as well as a stunningly dominant performance in the semifinals to defeat Roger Federer to reach the final.

In the final match it was pretty even after Murray escaped his first service game, saving a break point. Djokovic used his improved serve to hold his service games through the 9th game of the first set. The two played a number of long probing points and suddenly a pair of errors led an opportunistic Djokovic to start aiming for the sidelines and baselines. Suddenly Murray faced a second breakpoint which was a set point and the set was over, 6-4.

Murray reacted in the second set very badly and lost the first 5 games. Djokovic basically won 7 consecutive games from 4-all in the first set through an elevation of his level of play and a steep decline in his opponent's. Murray did well to only lose the second set 6-2.

In the third set Djokovic won an early break to go up 3-1 but Murray finally showed some fight to break back to reach parity but after another easy hold by the Serb, the Brit lost his serve and Djokovic was able to win the set 6-3 (and thus the match) on a listless forehand error by Murray on the first championship point.

The Proof Obama Supported Marriage Equality (In 1996)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

AUS OPEN 2011: Clijsters Wins 4th Major Title



As I predicted, Kim Clijsters of Belgium defeated Li Na of China in the 2011 Australian Open women's final in Melbourne 3-6 6-3 6-3 to win her first Australian Open title and fourth major title overall. Clijsters even her career record in finals to 4-all, and improved her post-retirement record to 3-0 in finals. By winning 4 majors, she moved ahead of Lindsay Davenport, Jennifer Capriati and Maria Sharapova. Li Na made history as the first person from Asia, and particular China, to reach a Grand Slam final.

The match ended up being much more competitive than most observers predicted, with Li dropping the first 8 consecutive points but breaking back repeatedly and going for her shots with comparable power to Clijsters. Clijsters repeatedly was unable to consolidate breaks of Li's serve. The Chinese player was able to take the first set by winning the last three games convincingly. Unfortunately, she lost her serve immediately at the start of the second set (in fact she lost her first service game in every set she played in the final) but then was able to break back again to even the score. This began a rash of service breaks which by the conclusion of the 9 game second set ended up being a majority of the service games (5). The third set began with a strong hold by Clijsters at love, followed by another break of Li's serve. The Chinese player was able to break back again but was unable to hold her service game again and fell back 1-3 in the deciding set. At this point Li started to look tired and made a series of forehand errors to allow Clijsters to go up 4-1 via another hold of serve by the Belgian. Li falls down 15-30 in her service game but through an important line call challenge is able to get to 30-30 and eventually hold to deny Clisters a second "insurance" break. Clijsters holds serve again easily to go up 5-2 and all signs seem to indicate the match will soon be over. However, Li holds serve concincingly at 15, forcing Clijsters to serve for the championship, which she does with three first serves and three return of service return winners, followed by a Li error giving Clijsters her first Australian Open title.

AUS OPEN 2011: Men's Final Preview

Here is my prediction for the 2011 Australian Open men's final. I previously predicted the men's semifinals (2 of 2 correctly) and the men's quarterfinals (3 of 4 correctly). I also have made a prediction for the women's final. 

Andy Murray GBR (5) vs. Novak Djokovic SRB (3). This is not the final everyone expected (or wanted) to see this year. However, everyone has been predicting for years that eventually these two would be competing for major titles. Djokovic and Murray were born one week apart in May 1987 and the two were on the junior circuit contemporaneously, with Murray arguably having the more successful career (winning the 2004 US Open junior title) then. However, Djokovic has had the more successful career on the adult tour so far, winning the 2008 Australian Open and losing two US Open finals (2007 to Roger Federer, 2010 to Rafael Nadal). Murray has only been to two major finals, losing to Federer both times (2008 US Open and 2010 Australian Open). The two have the same number of Masters Series titles (six), with Djokovic's including the end-of-season Masters Cup title in 2008. Djokovic has 18 ATP Tour titles overall to Murray's 16. They have played each other 7 times, with Djokovic leading 4-3 in the career head-to-head. The two times they played in finals, Murray has won, but the last time they played each other was in March 2009. They have split 3-3 the 6 hard court matches they have competed.

Okay, so that is how the two have played against each other in the past, but the question everyone wants answered is how will they play against each other in their next match, the 2011 Australian Open men's final? Well, right now Djokovic's results in the tournament to date indicate he has been playing better tennis. His stunning straight-sets dismissal of defending champion Roger Federer in the semifinals demonstrated his ability to take his tennis to stratospheric levels. Similarly, Murray's two 4-set wins in the quarterfinal (over Aleksandr Dolgopolov) and semifinal (over David Ferrer) are indications of the opposite. There's no question that Djokovic will pose much more probing questions to Murray than any of his previous opponents, and the Scot has already illustrated that his games sometimes gets wobbly in those situations (although ultimately he did prevail).

I am not one of the naysayers that says that Murray will never win a major title, (he has too many outstanding aspects of his game not breakthrough sometime) however I am fairly confident  he will not win this one.

PREDICTION: Djokovic (in 4 sets).

Friday, January 28, 2011

Color-Coded Threat Level Chart To Be Eliminated


The Obama Administration has announced that it will be eliminating the Bush-era, color-coded terror threat level chart.

From The Washington Post (Obama administration to replace color-coded terror alerts with new warning system):
The Obama administration announced Thursday that it will scrap the color-coded terror threat alert system that was put in place after Sept. 11, 2001, and that became a symbol of the nation's anxiety after the attacks.
In its place, the White House plans to introduce a new two-tiered warning system aimed at providing more specific information about emerging threats and appropriate ways to respond.
The change was announced by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in a speech at George Washington University. It marks the demise of one of the signature post-Sept. 11 initiatives of the George W. Bush administration.
"This means that the days are numbered for the automated recordings at airports, and announcements about a color code level that were, too often, accompanied by little practical information," Napolitano said, according to the text of her prepared remarks.

Hat/tip to Joe.My.God.

AUS OPEN 2011: Women's Final Preview

Here are my predictions for the 2011 Australian Open women's final. I previously made predictions for the women's semifinals (2 of 2) and women's quarterfinals (3 of 4).

Li Na CHN (9) vs. Kim Clijsters BEL (3). This is a historic match: the first time a player from Asia has competed for a major title. There are potentially 1.3 billion people in China who will be personally invested in the result of this match and learn the name of their compatriot: Li Na. In some sense this can be considered performance pressure that no other player has ever experienced. However, Li is used to being a trailblazer so perhaps she will not be overly affected. Clijsters is in her 8th career major final (losing the first four and winning the last three!) and her second consecutive major final following her 2010 US Open title. The two have played 6 times, with Clijsters winning 4 times, including twice in grand slams. However, Li Na won the last match they played, the final of the Sydney International, exactly two weeks to the day the 2011 Australian Open women's final will be completed. Li Na made history there by becoming the first Chinese player to win a top Tier title on the women's tour; she beat Clijsters 7-6(3) 6-3 despite the fact that the Belgian was up 5-0 in the first set.

I find it hard to believe that Clijsters will blow a lead of 5-0 in the final (and hard to believe that Li Na will give up such a huge lead also). The two play similar styles but the 3-time US Champion does everything better than the 1st-time finalist. They both have huge forehands, dangerous backhands and are excellent movers. Additionally, Clijsters is quite good at the net (although Li is not afraid of approaching the net she is not as effective when she gets there) and has a serve that should win her some free points. 

The only hope for Li is if Clijsters goes through one of her patches of bad play, or for some reason gets nervous as she nears winning her first major title outside of New York.

PREDICTION: Clijsters.

OSCARS 2011: 91% Accurate in Nominations Predictions!

I did pretty well in my predictions of the Oscar nominations, out of 45 possible correct nominations in the Top 8 categories, I predicted 4 of the 8 categories completely correctly (Picture, Actor, Supporting Actress and Adapted Screenplay) and I had only one wrong in the four others, or 41/45 or 91.1% accuracy.I'm especially prod of getting all 10 Best Picture nominees correct.

Best Picture(10 out of 10)
Best Director (4 out of 5)
Best Actress (4 out of 5)
  • Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right
  • Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole
  • Jennifer Lawrence, Winter's Bone
  • Natalie Portman, Black Swan
  • Hilary Swank, Conviction Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine
Best Actor (5 out of 5)
Best Supporting Actress (5 out of 5)
Best Supporting Actor (4 out of 5)
Best Original Screenplay (4 out of 5)
Best Adapted Screenplay (5 out of 5)

Celebrity Friday: Sabrina McKenna, openly lesbian Hawaii Sup Ct nominee

Sabrina McKenna, 53, is the first openly gay person
nominated to the Hawaii Supreme Court
Great news out of Hawaii! Democratic Governor Neil Abercrombie has nominated Sabrina Shizue McKenna, an openly lesbian Sate Trial Court judge, to that state's 5-member highest court.

The Star Adviser reports:

In making his first judicial nomination, Gov. Neil Abercrombie called the appointment "the most important decision" in his career.
"This appointment sets the course for the state and its legal direction for the next several years," he said. "I'm completely confident that Judge McKenna's appointment will be something I'm proud of for the rest of my life."
McKenna would be the first openly gay member of the Hawaii Supreme Court.
McKenna's sexual orientation was not brought up during the ceremonies, but she said that all judges bring to the bench their own personal experiences.
"I would like to believe that because of my background and my life experiences, I bring sensitivity to those who may not have been born into a life of privilege, a sensitivity to those whose life circumstances make it difficult for them to conform with all of society's expectations," she said.
"I try to bring compassion to the court."
She later said she was not only referring to her sexual orientation, but her gender and her upbringing in Japan by her mother after her father died when she was 9.
McKenna said the significance of being the first openly gay member on the court would be that it could give "hope to people who feel that they cannot succeed" because of a variety of reasons, including being gay.

California currently has an imminent vacancy on its 7-member state Supreme Court. Colorado and Oregon are the only other states with openly gay Justices currently. Congratulations to Hawaii!

Hat/tip to Joe.My.God

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Hillary Clinton Issues Statement on Murder of Uganda LGBT Activist

David Kato, a well-known Ugandan gay activist, was found murdered in his home
United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has issued a statement about the murder of Ugandan gay activist David Kato and called the President of Uganda Yoweri Museveni
We are profoundly saddened by the loss of Ugandan human rights defender David Kato, who was brutally murdered in his home near Kampala yesterday. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends, and colleagues. We urge Ugandan authorities to quickly and thoroughly investigate and prosecute those responsible for this heinous act. 
David Kato tirelessly devoted himself to improving the lives of others. As an advocate for the group Sexual Minorities Uganda, he worked to defend the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals. His efforts resulted in groundbreaking recognition for Uganda's LGBT community, including the Uganda Human Rights Commission's October 2010 statement on the unconstitutionality of Uganda's draft "anti-homosexuality bill" and the Ugandan High Court's January 3 ruling safeguarding all Ugandans' right to privacy and the preservation of human dignity. His tragic death underscores how critical it is that both the government and the people of Uganda, along with the international community, speak out against the discrimination, harassment, and intimidation of Uganda's LGBT community, and work together to ensure that all individuals are accorded the same rights and dignity to which each and every person is entitled.
Everywhere I travel on behalf of our country, I make it a point to meet with young people and activists -- people like David -- who are trying to build a better, stronger future for their societies. I let them know that America stands with them, and that their ideas and commitment are indispensible to achieving the progress we all seek.
This crime is a reminder of the heroic generosity of the people who advocate for and defend human rights on behalf of the rest of us -- and the sacrifices they make. And as we reflect on his life, it is also an occasion to reaffirm that human rights apply to everyone, no exceptions, and that the human rights of LGBT individuals cannot be separated from the human rights of all persons. 
Our ambassadors and diplomats around the world will continue to advance a comprehensive human rights policy, and to stand with those who, with their courage, make the world a more just place where every person can live up to his or her God-given potential. We honor David’s legacy by continuing the important work to which he devoted his life.

The New York Times has more coverage of David Kato's death. Their article has a lot of information on his significance as an LGBT rights activist in Africa:
In October, a Ugandan newspaper called Rolling Stone (with a circulation of roughly 2,000 and no connection to the American music magazine) published a story that included photos and whereabouts of gay people, including several well-known activists like Mr. Kato.
The paper said gay people were raiding schools and recruiting children, a belief that is quite widespread in Uganda and has helped drive the homophobia.
Mr. Kato and a few other gay activists sued the paper and won. This month, Uganda’s High Court ordered Rolling Stone to pay hundreds of dollars in damages and to cease publishing the names of people it said were gay.
But the danger remained.
“I had to move houses,” said Stosh Mugisha, a woman who is going through a transition to become a man. “People tried to stone me. It’s so scary. And it’s getting worse.”
On Thursday, Giles Muhame, Rolling Stone’s managing editor, said he did not think Mr. Kato’s killing had anything to do with what his paper had published.
“There is no need for anxiety or for hype,” he said. “We should not overblow the death of one.”
That one man was considered a founding father of Uganda’s nascent gay rights movement. In an interview in 2009, Mr. Kato shared his life story, how he was raised in a conservative family where “we grew up brainwashed that it was wrong to be in love with a man.”
He was a high school teacher who had graduated from some of Uganda’s best schools and he moved to South Africa in the mid 1990s, where he came out. A few years ago, he organized what he claimed was Uganda’s first gay rights news conference in Kampala, Uganda’s capital, and said he was punched in the face and cracked in the nose by policemen soon afterwards.
Friends said that Mr. Kato had recently put an alarm system in his house and was killed by an acquaintance, someone who had been inside several times before and was seen by neighbors on Wednesday. Mr. Kato’s neighborhood on the outskirts of Kampala is known as a rough one, where several people have recently been beaten to death with iron bars.

POLL: Most New Yorkers Support Marriage Equality

A new Quinnipiac poll has confirmed that marriage equality has majority support among almost all segments of the New York population.
Would you support or oppose a law that would allow same-sex couples to get married?

Tot    Rep    Dem    Ind    Men    Wom    HsHolds
Support   56%    41%    69%    55%    54%    58%    59%
Oppose    37     52     25     39     40     34     36
DK/NA     7      7      6      7      6      8      5
Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, supports a bill to extend civil marriage rights to all same-sex couples, but Republicans now control the State Senate and even when it was under narrow Democratic control a marriage equality bill failed 38-24 in December 2009.

Freedom To Marry's Evan Wolfson issued a statement on the new poll results:
"Today’s poll is yet another confirmation that a strong majority of New Yorkers believe that loving and committed same-sex couples should share in the freedom to marry.  New Yorkers, like all Americans, are looking at their gay neighbors, co-workers, and family members and realizing that they deserve the same fairness, the same treatment, and the same respect under the law as everyone else.  The Assembly has passed a freedom to marry bill three times. Governor Cuomo has urged and promised action to end this exclusion.  It is indeed time to act.  Both chambers should swiftly sent a marriage bill to the governor’s desk so that New York can move forward, as New Yorkers want and deserve.”
In 2011, the states most likely to enact marriage equality are Rhode Island, Maryland and New York.

AUS OPEN 2011: Djokovic Handily Beats Federer 76(3) 75 64

Is the Federer-Nadal over? For only the second time in three years, neither Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will be playing for a major title. Repeating his performance in 2008, Novak Djokovic defeated Roger Federer, this time 7-6(3) 7-5 6-4, in the semi-finals of the Australian Open. Nadal and Federer have won the last 21 of 23 major titles. 

In two history-making consecutive days, Nadal was dismissed in straight sets by the excellent play of David Ferrer in the last quarterfinal match of the 2011 Australian Open, followed by Djokovic essentially outplaying Federer in straight sets in the first semifinal.

For the first time since this point in time in 2003, Roger Federer is not the current holder of a major title.


Dan Simmons is the author of the four classic novels HyperionThe Fall of HyperionEndymionThe Rise of Endymion which together are sometimes referred to as the Hyperion Cantos. Simmons himself explains why it took four boks to essentially contain two stories when he said "this so-called epic actually consists of two long and mutually dependent tales, the two Hyperion stories combined and the two Endymion stories combined, broken into four books because of the realities of publishing." 

All of the books were nominated for various big-name speculative fiction awards, with most of the books winning at least one.

Below I will review each of the four works which make up Dan Simmons' Hyperion Cantos.

The first book of the series won the Hugo and Locus awards for the year it came out, despite being just the first half of a gigantic novel. Hyperion sets the tone for the entire series by introducing all the main characters through various background stories each given in its own chapter. They are, in order, The Priest (Lenar Hoyt), The Soldier (Fedmahn Kasad), The Poet (Martin Silenus), The Scholar (Sol Weintraub), The Detective (Brawne Lamia) and The Consul. They are known as Pilgrims, because they have traveled to Hyperion in order to encounter the only known supernatural being in this technologically advanced universe, The Shrike.

Dan Simmons uses these stories to paint a picture of a vibrant, intriguing universe. The Hegemony of Man is the name of a 200-plus confederation of worlds that have been colonized by humanity, connected by farcasters, portals which allow instantaneous travel between planets, facilitated by the TechnoCore, an artificial intelligence. Through a similar technology, called the fatline, there is also instantaneous communication between planets. Even in this gigantic collection of planets, Hyperion, is (in)famous because it is the location of The Time Tombs and the Shrike. The Time Tombs are bizarre artefacts that appear to be moving backwards in time. The Shrike is a terrifying creature that can appear anywhere at any time to inflict an excruciating death; he is known as the Lord of Pain.

Hyperion is an astonishing accomplishment. He has created fascinating, well-rounded characters and dropped them into a rich, realistic universe set in the far future. Additionally, he uses the formal structure of the book to  show off his ability to write in different styles and genres.The stories of the seven travelers include a love story, a horror story, a noir detective thriller and a fantastical tale of a father's love for his daughter. This is just one measure of complexity of this fine novel.

Title: Hyperion
Author: Dan Simmons
Length: 481 pages.
Publisher: Spectra.
Date: February 1, 1990.



The Fall of Hyperion
The second book of the series is The Fall of Hyperion, which begins immediately after the first book Hyperion concludes. In my opinion, this book is even better than the first book, which is an instant classic. Instead of repeating the stylized format of Hyperion, the sequel uses a more familiar direct structure to present a tale of interstellar war intertwined with the stories of what happens to the seven pilgrims introduced in the first book.

The book introduces, and is centered around, the character of Meina Gladstone, the Abraham Lincoln-like leader of global humanity, who in the 29th century number 130 billion on over 200 planets. Gladstone is like Lincoln, Golda Meir and Winston Churchill all rolled up in one. As CEO of the Senate, Goldstone is the leader of the Hegemony of Man, who are being attacked by a huge force of ships which are presumed to come from a faction of humanity which has embraced biological manipulation known as the Ousters. Gladstone is a very compelling character, and we get to see what it would be like to be the leader of a great civilization under the extreme duress of war.

However,  The Fall of Hyperion contains a lot more tricks up its sleeve. We get more information on the cruciform that was introduced during Father Lenar Hoyt's story in the original Hyperion. It appears to be a device which is indestructible, and when attached to a human being, makes that person immortal, because as long as there is some biological matter attached to the cruciform, it can regenerate the original host in approximately 3 days. The implications on religion, especially Catholicism are profound, and The Fall of Hyperion delves into those, while still unfolding the fates of the original Pilgrims (at least those who survived the first book). Not all the Pilgrims survive the second book, and the sacrifices and choices that Meina Gladstone has to make in order to "save" humanity will take your breath away.

Title: The Fall of Hyperion
Author: Dan Simmons
Length: 528 pages.
Publisher: Spectra.
Date: November 1, 1995.




Endymion begins with one of the great lines in science fiction: "You are reading this for the wrong reason." These words are written by Raul Endymion, in the 31st century, nearly 300 years after the events depicted in Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion. Raul was born on Hyperion, and is a 27-year-old outdoorsman who finds himself sentenced to death after killing an odious businessman. After being rescued from this fate, Raul is sent on an impossible quest by the last surviving Pilgrim from the first book.

Endymion is a road trip movie writ large, combined with a chase thriller and a religious fable. We discover that after the resolution  of the war in The Fall of Hyperion the Church has become the most powerful political force in the human Universe, as they use the cruciform as a bribe to gain complete fealty to The Pope and the Church Hierarchy by the vast majority of humanity. However, the Church is being challenged by She Who Teaches, also known as Aenea. Raul's impossible quest involved rescuing Aenea from the Time Tombs and The Shrike and keeping her safe from the Church forces who wish to do her harm. Aenea is the 13-year-old daughter of  one of the original Pilgrims, who have (mostly) been dead for multiple centuries at this point.

The Church forces are led by Father Captain de Soya, who is a pretty interesting character. Through his eyes, we get to see the inner workings of the Church, from the point of view of a true believer who is willing to die (and be resurrected) repeatedly in order to fulfill the mission his superiors have assigned him.

Another interesting aspect of Endymion is the re-appearance of The Shrike, and the new ambiguity we are presented about its motives and actions. We begin to see it as more than just a killing machine, since it seems to have some kind of odd attraction (and protective attitude) to(wards) Aenea. Aenea is another example of one of those all-knowing children we have seen before (Alia in Frank Herbert's Dune, anyone?) whose messianic destiny has been pre-ordained (somehow she will become The One Who Teaches).

The story is primarily told from the perspective of Raul, and although Aenea seems to know what will happen in the future, the future can be changed by current events, and so she often acts in ways that frustrate Raul (and by extension the reader). That being said, Endymion is an excellent follow-on to the first two books in the series, and nicely sets up the action for the series' conclusion in The Rise of Endymion.

Title: Endymion
Author: Dan Simmons
Length: 576 pages.
Publisher: Spectra.
Date: November 1, 1996.



The Rise of Endymion
The Rise of Endymion is the final book in Simmons' classic Hyperion Cantos. Although this entry is the weakest book of the four, it is still a compelling read and really just suffers in direct comparison to the other superlative works in the collection.

The Rise of Endymion is the most philosophical (and somewhat didactic) of the books. It focuses more o the story of Aenea and the conflict between her as the new messiah and the intransigent Catholic Church which has been headed by Pope Urban (formerly Father Lenar Hoyt) for multiple centuries. It's not to say that the other books lack Deep Thoughts, but it is in The Rise of Endymion that Simmons really makes his ideology clear. He is clearly opposed to organized religion but also promotes some form of Zen-Buddhism.

The strengths of The Rise of Endymion greatly outweigh the weaknesses I have mentioned here. These strengths include the description of the space battles, the characterization of Raul and the heart-rending ending. Some people have a real problem with the character of Aenea. I question their obsession with her because I re-read the Hyperion Cantos in 2010 after leaving the books on the shelf for at least a decade (although I did acknowledge they were some of my all-time favorite SF reads) and the main things that had stayed with me was The Shrike, the cruciform and the perfidious depiction of the Church--I had completely forgotten about the characters of Raul and Aenea.

One review I found while researching my reviews said about Aenea:
Aenea has become the most annoying character in the series. She denies being a messiah, but she speaks in koans. She can glimpse the future, but refuses to tell anyone anything about it. She doesn't say anything about why. She is ultimately secretive and holds back a lot of what she knows. There are parts of the book where characters ask her questions where her answers could save them, make their lives easier, etc., and she point-blank refuses to reveal anything, or begs to put off answering until "the right time." All this clichéd and cryptic messianic behavior is just far too ridiculous for me. Frank Herbert was far superior at handling characters who could see the future. Dan Simmons' "the One Who Teaches" is sadly reduced to a mystic know-it-all.
This is a pretty harsh assessment in an overall mixed review ("a work that will engross and absorb at times, and at others irritate and frustrate"). I am more positively inclined towards the book, and the series overall. Many people think the first book is the best, I actually think the second is slightly better, but I would recommend that any science fiction fan who is interested in reading the best the genre has to offer to take the time to complete the entire Hyperion Cantos.

Author: Dan Simmons
Length: 720 pages.
Publisher: Spectra.
Date: July 1, 1998.




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