Go for the moon

Culture | Adventurers may cruise in space, a barbarian takes his seat, and George C. Scott remembered

Issue: "Gunpoint evangelist," Oct. 9, 1999

Out of this world
Robert Bigelow may be the craziest thing to hit Las Vegas since Howard Hughes locked himself away in a hotel room and wouldn't come out. Now Mr. Bigelow wants to offer a honeymoon package that's out of this world. The Nevadan owner of the hotel chain Budget Suites is launching Bigelow Aerospace, a new company that wants to build a "cruise ship" that will fly guests to the moon and back. Such things have fascinated Mr. Bigelow for years and led him to pour chunks of his fortune into UFO research, but this time the travel industry is taking him seriously. An even bigger Vegas megapower, Hilton Hotels, is investigating building a resort in space. NASA reported in a 1997 study that space tourism could be worth billions if the technological kinks were worked out. "I don't think anybody believes it's going to happen tomorrow, but there are new space technologies coming on line," said NASA spokesman Brian Welch. "There are new spacecraft being built that could lead to widespread traffic back and forth into space." Such a resort can't be built for at least a generation. But imagine seeing an Earthrise out your hotel room window, collecting a few moon rocks, or doing a moon walk. How much would you pay for a vacation like that? For Bigelow and Hilton, a little speculative investment could pay off. They could shoot a pleasure palace into space, far away from gaming commissions, alcohol control boards, undocumented worker laws, and angry neighbors. Right now, the wildest ride available is for $12,000 from the Russian air force. A quick ride (at more than twice the speed of sound) aboard a MiG-25 fighter takes passengers 15 miles above Earth. How amusing that part of the old Soviet bear is now an expensive thrill ride. The marvelous (and atrocious) age of biotechnology
Peter Singer may become a household name soon. His first day in his new job as bioethics professor at Princeton drew 250 protesters rallying against him. Princeton University trustee Steve Forbes said he won't donate any more money until the animal-rights guru is gone. Why the hubbub? Mr. Singer pushes the secularized moral envelope far enough to make many uncomfortable. His book, Animal Liberation, is pushed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, yet he writes that parents have the right to kill severely disabled newborns. If you thought animal rights was just misguided do-gooderism, think again. "Surely there will be some nonhuman animals whose lives, by any standards, are more valuable than the lives of some humans," he said in that book. Mr. Singer washes away any line between animal and human. A handicapped baby may feel less pain than an animal, so why not kill him? If your kid has spina bifida, Down syndrome, or even hemophilia, why not be done with him ? "Killing a defective infant is not morally equivalent to killing a person," he has written. "Sometimes it is not wrong at all." Peter Singer is dead serious-and now has a prestigious soapbox. The Princeton appointment gives him a pulpit to preach his message to America. And if you don't believe in God, have fun challenging his arguments. After all, if God isn't around to separate humans from the rest of the Darwinistic heap, why not assign the same rules to dogs, pigs, and sick babies? The time to simply sit back and mock this guy is over. Never underestimate the gullibility of American collegians and their faculty. Mr. Singer may sound like a nut now, but Afrocentrism and goddess worship were once considered marginal, too. He must be taken seriously, especially since we are entering a time when biotechnology will allow people to perform both marvels and atrocities. Be afraid. General George C. Scott
George C. Scott was a Hollywood legend and had the scars to prove it. In a half-century-long career, he racked up five marriages, some famous barroom brawls, and some serious drinking. He even dissed the Academy Awards. Scott never stopped, even hopping out of his sickbed in 1996 to perform Inherit the Wind on Broadway. He worked his way from stock theater companies to high-octane performances in movies like Anatomy of a Murder, The Hustler, and even a TV movie of A Christmas Carol. These roles-even the failed sitcom Mr. President-gave him a chance to show the vulnerability behind stern personalities. "I would rather go out there and scream to the housetops than play it cool," he said in 1971. His personality reflected his screen presence and brought great conflict in his personal life, including divorces, estranged children, and clashes will colleagues. His role in Patton will always identify Scott, who passed away at age 71 of a ruptured aortic aneurysm. "He is what people who believe in military values can see as the true military hero-the red-blooded American who loves to fight and whose crude talk is straight talk," critic Pauline Kael wrote of him. "He is also what people who despise militarism can see as the worst kind of red-blooded American mystical maniac." Curiously, Scott said he did movies for the money, but his heart was in theater. "I have to work in the theater to stay sane," he said once. "You can attack the stage fresh every night."

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