Saturday, December 18, 2010

Michael Crichton Appearance on Larry King Live

This week Larry King retired after hosting his CNN show Larry King Live for 25 years.

Michael Crichton appeared on the program on September 22, 1995. Here’s one of the many highlights from the transcript (sorry, no link, obtained from Lexis Nexis):

LARRY KING: Do you have a personal favorite?


LARRY KING: All your works, everything you've done.


LARRY KING: Let's say a culture came and said 'Show us something of yours.'

MICHAEL CRICHTON: I think I would show them a book called Travels that was sort of autobiographical.

LARRY KING: The least known of your books, maybe?


Crichton was asked a similar question by Charlie Rose:

ROSE: Of all the things you have done, what has brought you the most psychic income, satisfaction?

CRICHTON: Whatever is really difficult.

ROSE: The more difficult, the more pleasure?

CRICHTON: Yes, more -- it was very difficult for me to do a book 20 years ago called "Travels" that was -- because it was about myself and I don’t like to talk about myself.

ROSE: I liked it actually.

CRICHTON: Thank you. And I am trying to do another one.

Travels is by far my favorite of Michael Crichton’s works. As I wrote in an earlier post, Crichton himself, during an online discussion, told me he was working on a sequel. Let’s hope we’ll see that published someday.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Do You Have a Question About Michael Crichton?

I invite you to submit questions about Michael Crichton and his work—with three important caveats:

1. I will not answer or even attempt to answer questions about Crichton’s personal and private life. My blog is not a gossip site.

2. I will not do anyone’s homework for them. So I will not answer questions about Crichton’s novels that could be easily answered by reading the book. Check my blog post Michael Crichton on Yahoo Answers to see what I mean.

3. I will not answer questions that are purely subjective and a matter of interpretation. For example, is Michael Crichton a better writer than (fill in the blank).

Let me make clear that I cannot guarantee when I will be to able answer a question, so people facing deadlines for their homework should not rely on me to get back to them in time. It takes time to search my archives and library databases.

Post your questions below or email me: musingsonmichaelcrichton at gmail dot com

Questions that I think will be interesting to other readers will be answered on this blog. I’ll contact you to see if you want to be publicly credited.

Here’s your chance to let me know what you would like to see on this blog.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Michael Crichton Christmas 2010

(Sung to the tune of “The 12 Days of Christmas”)
By Marla Warren

On the first day of Christmas Michael Crichton gave to me
A T-Rex who tried to eat me

On the second day of Christmas Michael Crichton gave to me
Two Lost Worlds
And a T-Rex who tried to eat me

On the third day of Christmas Michael Crichton gave to me
Three Rising Suns
Two Lost Worlds
And a T-Rex who tried to eat me

On the fourth day of Christmas Michael Crichton gave to me
Four Timelines
Three Rising Suns
Two Lost Worlds
And a T-Rex who tried to eat me

On the fifth day of Christmas Michael Crichton gave to me
Five Pirate Latitudes
Four Timelines
Three Rising Suns
Two Lost Worlds
And a T-Rex who tried to eat me

On the sixth day of Christmas Michael Crichton gave to me
Six Prey a-fleeing
Five Pirate Latitudes
Four Timelines
Three Rising Suns
Two Lost Worlds
And a T-Rex who tried to eat me

On the seventh day of Christmas Michael Crichton gave to me
Seven States a-Fearing
Six Prey a-fleeing
Five Pirate Latitudes
Four Timelines
Three Rising Suns
Two Lost Worlds
And a T-Rex who tried to eat me

On the eighth day of Christmas Michael Crichton gave to me
Eight Airframes crashing
Seven States a-Fearing
Six Prey a-fleeing
Five Pirate Latitudes
Four Timelines
Three Rising Suns
Two Lost Worlds
And a T-Rex who tried to eat me

On the ninth day of Christmas Michael Crichton gave to me
Nine E.R.s in peril
Eight Airframes crashing
Seven States a-Fearing
Six Prey a-fleeing
Five Pirate Latitudes
Four Timelines
Three Rising Suns
Two Lost Worlds
And a T-Rex who tried to eat me

On the tenth day of Christmas Michael Crichton gave to me
Ten Great Trains Robbing
Nine E.R.s in peril
Eight Airframes crashing
Seven States a-Fearing
Six Prey a-fleeing
Five Pirate Latitudes
Four Timelines
Three Rising Suns
Two Lost Worlds
And a T-Rex who tried to eat me

On the eleventh day of Christmas Michael Crichton gave to me
Eleven Congos drumming
Ten Great Trains Robbing
Nine E.R.s in peril
Eight Airframes crashing
Seven States a-Fearing
Six Prey a-fleeing
Five Pirate Latitudes
Four Timelines
Three Rising Suns
Two Lost Worlds
And a T-Rex who tried to eat me

On the Next day of Christmas Michael Crichton gave to me
Twelve Spheres a-humming
Eleven Congos drumming
Ten Great Trains Robbing
Nine E.R.s in peril
Eight Airframes crashing
Seven States a-Fearing
Six Prey a-fleeing
Five Pirate Latitudes
Four Timelines
Three Rising Suns
Two Lost Worlds
And a T-Rex who tried to eat me

I wrote the original version of this on December 22, 2007. I intended it to be a fun treat for the holidays. With Michael Crichton's untimely death, it's poignant to think about what he gave us.

Last year I updated “A Michael Crichton Christmas" to include Pirate Latitudes. My good friend Erik and his friend Angel, with some help from their families, created a video based on it.

It’s amazing and I can’t believe they put all that work into it! Merry Christmas to all!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Reading Andromeda Strain Again

Recently I finished reading The Great Influenza by John M. Barry. This well-researched book, which tells the story of the 1918 pandemic, was fascinating. I highly recommend it.

Barry devoted a large portion of the book to the efforts of the scientists who researched the disease, trying to develop a vaccine or cure. Their efforts reminded me of the scientists in Michael Crichton’s novel The Andromeda Strain.

I have a special fondness for this book, because it was how I discovered Michael Crichton.

When I was nine years old, my father decided the family was going to see the 1971 film of The Andromeda Strain. (Dad would just come home and tell us we were going to see a particular film. I hadn’t heard of Star Wars before Dad told us we were going to see it.)

From my father I inherited a love of both science and science fiction. When I saw The Andromeda Strain, I was enthralled. I pestered my dad with questions all during the movie and for the next several weeks.

Two years later, I read my father’s copy of the novel. And I’ve been hooked on Crichton’s work every since.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Michael Crichton – Favorite Holiday Recipes

Here in the U.S. we will be celebrating Thanksgiving on Thursday, November 25. Among the many things to be thankful for is Michael Crichton’s life and work. Though it is sad that he is no longer with us, his books, films, essays, and various other projects will continue to entertain people and challenge their thinking.

British-born chef Antony Ballard served as Michael Crichton’s personal chef for five years. From the article An Extra Classy Thanksgiving:

"He's very laid back," Ballard said of Crichton. "He's not a socialite. He just wanted a restaurant-quality lifestyle without ever having to step foot out of his house.

"It's interesting to see how very successful people deal with life," he added, "how they treat people, in particular."

Ballard misses the quiet conversations he used to have with the author, but he chose not to go along when the Crichtons moved to the West Coast.

In the 2003 article Star-Power Holiday Meal, Ballard shared the recipes for some of Michael Crichton’s favorite dishes.

Chestnut and Bacon Thyme Stuffing was “a standard on the Michael Crichton Thanksgiving table” according to Ballard. “Michael and his wife would have his brother’s family over plus some friends, about 12 people in all. They love it.”

And in the 2006 article Elite Holiday Cuisine (pp. 80-82), Ballard wrote:

What would a typical holiday feast consist of at the Crichton home?...The standard on the Crichton’s holiday table is roasted Mahogany Duck. I feel that duck is a good change from turkey. After Thanksgiving you really don’t want to serve turkey again. The Crichtons love the duck.
Ballard also included recipes for Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese G√Ęteau, and a special dessert:

No proper holiday fare is complete unless concluded with English Sherry Trifle.
Michael Crichton loves this dessert. After days on end of writing feverishly for each book, this was his singular treat.

Happy Thanksgiving and Bon Appetit everyone! (I’ve got to try that trifle recipe!)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sean Connery on Michael Crichton

When Sean Connery was awarded the Cecil B. DeMille award at the 1996 Golden Globes, Michael Crichton was one of the presenters. He was the one who handed Connery the award.

Connery then mentioned Crichton in his acceptance speech:
(audio track is a bit garbled in places)

It’s a special honor receiving this award from Michael. You know, multi-talented is a much-abused term in our profession. But Michael is the only man I know who can write bestsellers with one hand and take out your appendix with the other hand.
At the press conference afterwards, Connery said of the occasion:

I get the chance to get in the same room as lots of friends. I’m always trying to catch up to Michael, who I adore.

Later in the video clip, Connery says of Michael Crichton:

He’s got a very big influence on my life….I’m interested more in writers and directors than I am in actors as a rule. I really have a terrific measure of affection for Michael here because I wasn’t joking out there when I say he can write bestsellers and take out your appendix. Because he reminds me so much of Umberto Eco in that he’s got all the elements that I adore. Terrific mind, good writer.
Crichton shares some thoughts about Connery during the press conference:

He’s had an enormous effect on my life. He’s one of the few people that I can remember things that he said in passing while we were walking down the street 25 years ago.
I haven’t been able to find a clip or a news story of what Crichton said about Connery before presenting the award. I remember seeing it on TV when it happened. If anyone knows, please let me know.

In the chapter “Ireland” in his autobiography Travels, Crichton writes about directing Connery in the film version of his novel The Great Train Robbery. Crichton recalls:

He’s one of the most remarkable people I have ever met, lighthearted and serious at the same moment. I have learned a great deal from being around him. He is at ease with himself, and is direct and frank. (p. 183, hardcover edition)
(Thank you, Ingrid for discovering the YouTube clip from the Golden Globes!)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

On A Personal Note

From my post on Thursday:

I had intended to post my own tribute to Michael Crichton today. But I discovered that remembering his death has disquieted me to the point where I am unable to focus enough to finish writing the tribute he deserves. Perhaps posting all these tributes from others has gotten to me. So I’ll post my tribute either Friday or Saturday.
Unfortunately I haven’t been able to finish my tribute. In addition to the grief over Michael Crichton’s death, I’ve been dealing with another as well.

A very close friend of mine died of cancer two months ago today. She was 48 years old. I had known her for nineteen years and she was the closest thing I had to a sister.

When I try to work on my tribute to Michael Crichton, I end up thinking about my friend as well. The sadness multiplies and overwhelms me.

Too many good people have been lost to cancer. How many more?

I will finish and post my own tribute when I am able. In the mean time, I’ll post other things of interest about Michael Crichton.

Sorry for the delay, and thank you for your patience.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Taking a Brief Break

I wanted to let you know that I’m taking a brief break after posting so consistently recently. I should be posting something new either tomorrow or Monday.

Until then, enjoy this essay:

Vanishing Intellectual Diversity
By Michael Crichton, International Leadership Forum, Wednesday, March 15th, 2006

I’ll discuss it later. See you soon!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Remembering and Celebrating Michael Crichton

I had intended to post my own tribute to Michael Crichton today. But I discovered that remembering his death has disquieted me to the point where I am unable to focus enough to finish writing the tribute he deserves. Perhaps posting all these tributes from others has gotten to me. So I’ll post my tribute either Friday or Saturday.

Today I decided to celebrate Michael Crichton’s life in a special way. In an interview with Amazon, Crichton was asked:

Q: You are stranded on a desert island with only one book, one CD, and one DVD--what are they?

Crichton’s answers:

Book - Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu (Witter Bynner version)

CD - Symphony #2 in D Major by Johannes Brahms (Georg Solti)

DVD - Ikiru by Akira Kurosawa

So today I read Tao Te Ching while listening to Symphony #2 in D Major. And tomorrow I’ll watch Ikiru.

Related posts:
One Year Ago

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Michael Crichton Tributes - Erik Stengler

Today’s tribute is from Erik Stengler, who created the website Erik’s Michael Crichton Collection in May 2008.

When he learned of Crichton’s death, Stengler wrote:

I am shocked and stunned too, and was also utterly unprepared for this news. Now that our enthusiasm for his work and life was gaining momentum, it is all cut short by this terrible loss.

I must say I couldn't keep back tears, and I will try to turn my webpage into a deserved memorial site devoted to this great author, but most of all, great person.

There is so much to read about the news of Michael Crichton's death, so much to say and so much left unsaid. I am at loss to decide what to say, where to begin, I just can't start. And it's because it is still difficult for me to believe that it has happened.

I first read a book of his in 1994; it was A Case of Need. Since then I just became more and more fond of all his works and started to look out for anything that he has produced, and enjoyed it all.

For me he has been the voice of who speaks out for the human dimension in the world of science and technology, a voice that is much needed, because it is unfortunately not so common. His concern for the human being and love for life will never be forgotten.

To all those close to him, I want to send my most profound condolences and my prayers but also a word of encouragement in these difficult moments: never forget that you have been blessed with the gift of having been near him, of having shared unique moments of his life, of having known and loved such a great person. Many of us have been wishing for just a few moments of the honour of being near Michael Crichton. You have the treasure of having been dear to him. Do regard this as a privilege that life has granted you and count on all of us, his fans, readers and viewers for never allowing his memory to fade off the least.

May he rest in peace.

On his website, Erik Stengler has posted this:

Michael Crichton's death left many of us with a great void, one that never will be filled again. We were unprepared for his departure, because all his works were so full of life. He not only brought dinosaurs back to life, but was profoundly concerned with our life, human life. Many reviews have pointed out the great variety of topics and stories of his works. However, there is a common thread to all of them, if one looks closely: a deep and well-founded worry about the shrinking space left for humaneness in a society that becomes more and more dependent on technology. Michael Crichton was eager to call our attention towards the need of bringing the human being back to the center of our civilization. Be it in the form of robots on the rampage, medical abuses or an exaggerated paranoia about global warming, his warnings against forgetting that people should never be second to any other priority, let alone left out of the picture altogether, will never lose relevance. On the contrary, his reminder will unfortunately be ever more necessary as we go along the path of filling our lives with technology. Let this website be one of the many signposts that keep alive his directions for building a more humane world.

Erik Stengler is the Head of Education and Public Outreach at Museo de la Ciencia y el Cosmos (Museum of Science and the Cosmos) on the island Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain. He is also a freelance screenwriter for planetarium shows.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Michael Crichton Tributes - Online Friends

Featured today are tributes from two people who never met Michael Crichton, but corresponded with him online.

The first is Rob Griffiths from Macworld. Crichton was a devoted Mac user. In a November 2000 Los Angeles Times interview, Crichton said:

I started out with Macs back in the 1980s and since then I've never met anyone who could persuade me to switch or any particular piece of software that would obligate me to purchase a PC.

In his tribute Remembering Michael Crichton Griffiths recounts how he was asking for donations to support a website he had developed to provide hints for Mac users. One day he received this email from Crichton:

Your site is great. Tell me where to send a check.

Crichton eventually sent Griffiths a check, a signed copy of Timeline, and a card with handwritten message. Griffiths concludes his tribute:

Michael, thank you for the wonderful entertainment you provided over the years—and for the individual support you provided to some guy running an OS X Web site as a hobby back in 2001. The world has lost a great talent, and you will be sorely missed.

The other person who connected with Michael Crichton online, Russell Thorstenberg, shared his story in the comments section of a Los Angeles Times article:

I corresponded with Michael Crichton by e-mail for over a decade. Several years ago he did the unthinkable -- he helped my daughter, Annette, write her summer book report on "The Andromeda Strain." I was so stunned by his note to her I could only reply, "Your kindness is inspirational." This past May he gave me hiking suggestions for my trip to Hawaii. I say these things to shed light on the true gentleman who was more than a writer, filmmaker, or essayist. He was an inspiration, a role model, and a towering intellect who will not be duplicated.

In November 2005, I participated in an online discussion with Michael Crichton hosted by Barnes & Noble. He was very gracious, and, of course, utterly fascinating. I will always cherish that experience.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Tribute to Michael Crichton - Judith Orloff

Psychiatrist and author Judith Orloff posted her tribute Remembering my friend Michael Crichton on her blog. Some highlights:

Michael and I were good friends at the time when I first started exploring intuition and spirituality in the early 1980s during my psychiatric residency at UCLA.

Michael had a wonderful dog he'd take with him. One day his car got stolen and the dog was in it and he was so upset. Thank goodness both were found!

Michael had a big heart, a wide open imagination and was a great buddy for me.

Orloff mentioned Michael Crichton in her book Second Sight:

He reminded me of a huge, magnificent bird, with outstretched wings flying high above the earth. Cynical and smart, he wouldn’t be easily won over by spiritual mumbo-jumbo. (p. 90)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Michael Crichton – ER Staff Say "Good-bye"

Michael Crichton created the incredibly successful TV series ER. He also served as executive producer.

When Michael Crichton died, there was a brief tribute to him that aired at the beginning of ER on Nov. 13, 2008. It featured Eriq La Salle, who played “Peter Benton”.

After a 15-season run, the show’s final episode aired on April 2, 2009. In the documentary ER Retrospective which preceded it, actor Noah Wyle, who played “John Carter” said:

I would love to have him there when we have our finale party, be able to shake his hand and thank him for the life I lead.

But you know, I always felt he was watching, I was always aiming to please.

Michael Crichton, in response to the question “Have you ever made a character in one of your novels represent yourself?”, said:

They all represent me, in a way. And they all don't represent me, in a way. But I was aware of the Noah Wyle character in ER, and the Anthony Edwards character in ER, being close to me because they were close to my life experiences.

Anthony Edwards, who played “Mark Greene” on the show said:

Michael Crichton was the original creator of E.R. He really based E.R. on his life as a young medical doctor. Michael was always really proud of the fact he had created something and passed it on. He was the starter of it all. He will be greatly missed.

In the Associated Press story about Crichton’s death, John Wells, also an executive producer of ER, shared his thoughts:

…an extraordinary man. Brilliant, funny, erudite, gracious, exceptionally inquisitive and always thoughtful.

No lunch with Michael lasted less than three hours and no subject was too prosaic or obscure to attract his interest. Sexual politics, medical and scientific ethics, anthropology, archaeology, economics, astronomy, astrology, quantum physics, and molecular biology were all regular topics of conversation.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Michael Crichton – Tributes from Other Writers

When Michael Crichton died, science fiction legend Ray Bradbury said:

He was a nice man, and he died too young — too young.

Journalist James Fallows, in his tribute A Thought for Michael Crichton said:

…I was honored to have met him 20 years age, when I was living in Japan, and to have been a friend since then. He seemed unassuming, funny, charming in every way -- the unusual famous person who was genuinely considerate of one's spouse and kids. Very earnest about his political causes, including a very prescient argument fifteen years ago about the impending decline of the "Mediasaurus," now known as MSM. And, there is no way around it, incredibly talented.

Michael Crichton wrote a review in 1994 for Washington Monthly of James Fallows’ book Looking At The Sun: The Rise Of The New East Asian Economic And Political System

In the 2008 Year-End Special issue of Entertainment Weekly (sorry, no link), Stephen King wrote of Michael Crichton:

As a pop novelist, he was divine. A Crichton book was a headlong experience driven by a man who was both a natural storyteller and fiendishly clever when it came to verisimilitude; he made you believe that cloning dinosaurs wasn’t just over the horizon but possible tomorrow. Maybe today.

And in an article detailing his 2009 wish list, King said:

I wish for the last Michael Crichton novel to be published, and for it to be the best Crichton. One 2008 Web post (on Yahoo! Answers) suggested that the last one was in the Jurassic Park mode. It might not be true, but if it is, how cool would that be?

We got Pirate Latitudes in 2009, and we still have Crichton’s last novel to look forward to in 2011? 2012?

I’ll let you know when I hear anything.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Harvard Remembers Michael Crichton

Michael Crichton graduated from Harvard College in 1964 with a degree in anthropology. In the student newspaper The Crimson’s obituary, Crichton’s freshman roommate shared some memories:

“Michael always liked to stand with his heels on the fireplace so that he could get up a couple more inches above everybody else,” said Joseph W. Esherick ’64, Crichton’s freshman year roommate.

Though the pair differed in academic interests—Crichton studied physical anthropology and Esherick studied Chinese studies—Esherick said he “always thought we were put together as freshmen by height.” The three residents of Weld 17 were all over 6’4”, with Crichton standing the tallest….

Esherick, who is now a professor of Chinese studies at the University of California, San Diego, said Crichton was an “incredibly smart guy” who did not have the patience for “scholarly type of smarts.”

In 1969 Michael Crichton graduated from Harvard Medical School. In the Spring 2009 issue of the Harvard Medical Alumni Bulletin, a fellow medical student, William Ira Bennett, reflected on Crichton’s many talents:

Briefly Michael’s “patient,” I could easily imagine him as an academic physician, the sort exemplified by the chiefs of service in Harvard hospitals. His manner was self-contained but not aloof. Rather, his style was affably imperturbable.

While in medical school, Crichton was already writing paperback thrillers under the name “John Lange” and Bennett was not surprised that he ended up a writer rather than a physician. When Crichton published the medical thriller A Case of Need, he chose a different pseudonym— “Jeffery Hudson”— the name of a dwarf in the court of Charles I. Bennett recalls:

Michael often made small jokes about his height. I wasn’t surprised that he would know about seventeenth-century royalty; I always took for granted how much he knew. It would have been overwhelming to ask him where he had gleaned the tidbits that were regular and entertaining parts of his conversations. Although he had a gift for fiction, his delight often seemed to be in small facts, which peppered his writing much as they did his talk.

Change of Plans

In my post on October 23, I wrote:

To honor him, I am going to share some of the best tributes to Michael Crichton, complied from various sources. I will be running the tributes every day starting today, October 23, and ending on November 4, 2010, the second anniversary of Crichton’s death.

Now I’ve decided to extend that. There’s so much to cover, and I don’t want the individual posts to be too long. In addition, some people need more time to get back to me.

When I think about it, there’s no reason to end the tributes on November 4. Michael Crichton has passed away, but his legacy, influence, and impact are still very much alive. And I really want to honor him the best I can. So whenever tributes come in or I discover them, I’ll feature them on this blog. I think it would be nice to have the many of best tributes gathered in one place.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Michael Crichton Tributes – Ronald Bailey

Reason magazine’s science Ronald Bailey did not agree with what he saw as Michael Crichton’s anti-technology alarmism. But Bailey’s tribute shows his respect for Crichton’s intellect and an appreciation of Crichton’s significance.

Michael Crichton, R.I.P.

Over the years Crichton and I had a number of friendly interactions as our paths crossed at various conferences. In Next, Crichton even kindly mentioned my book Liberation Biology (2005), praising it as "the clearest and most complete response to religious objections to biotechnology." Nevertheless, I have long been annoyed by the Luddite and Frankensteinian themes of his novels. I was particularly exasperated by Jurassic Park's misguided portrayal of biotechnology as being inherently dangerous.

Eventually, over drinks at a conference at Cold Spring Harbor a couple years ago, I got to tell him how I thought he could have gotten the same narrative bang for his buck if he had instead celebrated the achievement of bringing dinosaurs back to life. In my alternative plot, a kindly old paleontologist, using the miracle of biotechnology, conjures dinosaurs back into existence to delight the world's children. Things go wrong only when a cadre of evil anti-biotechnologists led by Jeremy Rifkin break into the peaceful island zoo to kill the dinosaurs. This revised scenario would provide Crichton with all of the gunfire, gore, chase scenes, and satisfying explosions without the Luddite baggage of the original.

Crichton, slightly miffed at my presumption, asked why I preferred my alternative plot. I answered that I worried that his novels were helping to promote a technophobic attitude among the public that could unnecessarily slow the development of new technologies. He responded that I must be kidding. He doubted that anyone paid any attention to his novels other than to be momentarily entertained by them. I still think he was wrong. After all, two centuries later we're still reading Mary Shelley's thinly plotted potboiler and worrying about mad scientists.

Crichton fans (of which I am definitely one) can look forward to one more novel from HarperCollins. It will close out his published oeuvre but certainly not his presence, either in the world of letters or in public policy debates.

Ronald Bailey reviewed three of Crichton’s novels:


State of Fear


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Michael Crichton Tributes – Time Magazine

Time magazine featured Michael Crichton on its cover for the September 25, 1995 issue. Lev Grossman wrote a fitting tribute to Crichton, published November 5, 2008.

Michael Crichton: A Master Storyteller of Technology's Promise and Peril

Crichton was never a literary stylist, but his skills as a storyteller were enormous. His plots have a crystalline perfection that has been much-copied, by The Da Vinci Code's Dan Brown among many others, and his sense of pacing and his ability to weave diverse plot strands into an elegant braided whole are virtually unmatched. His oeuvre is among the most-filmed of any author in history….

Crichton is best known, of course, for Jurassic Park, his novel about a scientist who clones dinosaurs from their fossilized DNA, with disastrous results. It may be the most effective showcase for Crichton's gifts as a novelist, but even setting that aside, its predictive power remains astonishing to this day. Just this week, Japanese scientists announced that they had successfully cloned mice from tissue that was frozen for 16 years. Can the resurrection of the woolly mammoth be far off? Crichton probably wouldn't have approved, but it's a shame nonetheless that he didn't live to see it.

Other Time stories on Michael Crichton:

Meet Mister Wizard - September 25, 1995

Pop Fiction’s Prime Provocateur – January 10, 1994

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Michael Crichton Tributes – Newspapers – Part 3

We continue our series of tributes to Michael Crichton with two more highlights from newspapers.

Michael Crichton: Science Inspired His Fiction
By Bob Minzesheimer, USA TODAY, November 6, 2008

At his best, he was a master at blending fact and fantasy. He was as much a researcher as a novelist who popularized technical topics and put the science back into science fiction.

"I don't want to just make it up," he told USA TODAY in an interview in 1996. "I'd rather have something with the awkward contours of real events."

Michael Crichton's Legacy
By S. T. Karnick, Weekly Standard, November 7, 2008

Bestselling author and TV producer Michael Crichton, who died of cancer Tuesday at the age of 66, had an ambivalent view of science but an unfailingly benevolent attitude toward humanity. His writings are particularly important for having brought an intelligent, nuanced view on science to a popular culture much more inclined toward ignorance and political shibboleths in its treatment of scientific issues….

Love for knowledge--philosophy in its basic sense--was clearly what drove him and is most evident in his writings. And that has been all too rare an attitude in contemporary American popular culture. There was never anything cynical about Crichton's works. His acknowledgment of the ills people can bring through science and technological advances need not suggest that science or technological change is intrinsically bad. In fact, his attitude looks rather like a scientist's puzzled acknowledgment of original sin.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Michael Crichton Tributes – Newspapers – Part 2

We continue our series of tributes to Michael Crichton with more highlights from newspapers.

The Seer of Science
By Jim Slotek, Toronto Sun, November 6, 2008

As Tom Clancy is to war, Michael Crichton was to science -- almost transcendant in his knowledge of the state-of-the-art, and his ability to transform it into reader-friendly potboiler thrillers.

Case in point: In 1986, an eccentric scientist/surfer named Kary Mullis perfected an idea he'd come up with (reputedly while on LSD) -- polymerase chain reaction (PCR), a method of replicating tiny amounts of DNA into large amounts.

From DNA fingerprinting to cloning, PCR has changed the world. But Crichton was onto PCR as material for a horror story immediately.

His novel Jurassic Park -- in which PCR is used to extract dinosaur DNA from mosquitos fossilized in amber -- was released in 1990. Mullis was awarded a Nobel Prize for his discovery in 1993, just as Steven Spielberg's movie version of Jurassic Park was breaking box-office records.

If Crichton had been any more on top of Mullis' discovery, he'd have received the Nobel himself.

Mourning a Techno-Prophet
by Kelly McParland, National Post, November 7, 2008

President Kennedy once addressed a White House reception for Nobel laureates with the quip, "Gentlemen, this may be the widest gathering of talent that the White House has ever seen -- with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined here alone." By a similar token, Michael Crichton's unexpected death from cancer on Tuesday takes away a man of so many distinctions that it would almost take a plane crash to match the loss…

It is often forgotten that Crichton did believe in global warming on empirical grounds; it was our confidence that we understand its causes, and the right course of corrective action, that stirred him to fury….

Would that he had lived longer so that he could go on demanding intellectual honesty -- a virtue that can never have enough defenders.

The Crichton factor
By Paul Whitelaw, The Scotsman, November 7, 2008
(obtained through Lexis Nexis, no link)

Crichton had pioneered the use of CGI in Westworld in 1973, in Brynner's robotic point-of-view shots. His pivotal role in the development of the CGI art cannot be underestimated.

Another area in which he was a pioneer was in raising our awareness of medical and scientific issues - drawing on his background in the field, Doctor Crichton arguably did more to raise our awareness of issues including cloning and global warming than any other populist fiction writer of the 20th century….

Although his work often proved controversial, particularly among the scientific community and environmental activists, he never tired of his quest to make complex scientific arguments understandable by the masses.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Tributes to Michael Crichton – Newspapers – Part 1

We continue our series of tributes to Michael Crichton with a few highlights from the newspapers.

The Man Who Turned the T-rex into a Superstar
By Julia Keller, Chicago Tribune, November 6, 2008

Crichton, though, was much more than a science fiction writer. He never met a fact he didn't want to question, never found a topic he wasn't willing to take on, never came across a windmill at which he didn't want to tilt. He relished holding a contrarian opinion on topical issues such as global warming…

At his best, Crichton was part of the great tradition of American storytellers, those who gauge their success not by yachts or by dollars, but by a simple measure: Did you keep turning the pages? Did you keep watching?

With Crichton's work, there is a simple answer: You did.

An Appraisal - Michael Crichton: A Tireless Craftsman
By Charles McGrath, New York Times, November 5, 2008

Michael Crichton, who died on Tuesday at the age of 66, was like a character in a Michael Crichton novel. He was unusually tall (6 feet 7 inches), strikingly handsome and encyclopedically well informed about everything from dinosaurs to medieval banquet halls to nanotechnology. As a writer he was a kind of cyborg, tirelessly turning out novels that were intricately engineered entertainment systems. No one — except possibly Mr. Crichton himself — ever confused them with great literature, but very few readers who started a Crichton novel ever put it down…

But a deeper source of their appeal was the author’s extravagant care in working out the clockwork mechanics of his experiments — the DNA replication in “Jurassic Park,” the time travel in “Timeline,” the submarine technology in “Sphere.” The novels have embedded in them little lectures or mini-seminars on, say, the Bernoulli principle, voice-recognition software or medieval jousting etiquette. Several also came with extensive scientific bibliographies, as if the author, having learned all this fascinating stuff, couldn’t help sharing it with his reader.

Why Readers Loved Michael Crichton and Critics Didn't
By Alan Cooperman, Washington Post, November 6, 2008

Michael Crichton once compared writing a novel to being deep in the bowels of a ship. "All you can see are the pipes and the grease and the fittings of the boiler room, and you have to assume the ship's exterior," he said, adding that the role of an editor is to stand on the dock and say, "Hi, I'm looking at your ship, and it's missing a bow, the front mast is crooked, and it looks to me as if your propellers are going to have to be fixed."

Despite that admission, Crichton, a physician turned author who died of cancer this week at age 66, was a master of narrative structure. Fans loved the way he mixed fact (especially science) into his fiction.

Related Posts:
Tributes to Michael Crichton - Charlie Rose

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Tributes to Michael Crichton - Charlie Rose

Today would have been Michael Crichton’s 68th birthday. To honor him, I am going to share some of the best tributes to Michael Crichton, complied from various sources. I will be running the tributes every day starting today, October 23, and ending on November 4, 2010, the second anniversary of Crichton’s death.

After Michael Crichton died on November 4, 2008, I felt that because of the timing of his passing, Crichton’s death did not receive the attention it deserved, being greatly overshadowed by the presidential election. That’s why I was very pleased that Charlie Rose did a brief tribute to Michael Crichton on his show on November 5, 2008, followed by a longer appreciation on Wednesday, November 12, 2008.

So we begin with Charlie Rose’s tribute (taken from the show transcript):

Michael Crichton died of cancer last week. He was only 66. And we
did not have time to pay proper appreciation at the time that he died. And
so we do now. Michael was the author of more than a dozen blockbusters,
including the Jurassic Park trilogy, "Twister" and "Congo" and others. His
books sold more than 150 million copies. Many were adapted into film.

He also created the hit television series, "ER," and at one time had
the number one book, the number one movie and the number one television
series. Stephen Spielberg, the great director, said Crichton was the
greatest at blending science with big theatrical concepts, which is what
gave credibility to dinosaurs again walking the Earth…

… A personal note about Michael Crichton, he was one of my most favorite guests. He could talk about anything, architecture, and art, and
science, and medicine, and movies, and books, and writing. He knew so many
interesting people. And he can tell you about them in so many interesting
ways. He was, in fact, one of the most interesting conversationalists I
knew. And he will be deeply missed by his family, his readers, his
viewers, and people who knew of his remarkable gifts.

Charlie Rose did six interviews with Michael Crichton and I find them to be the most in-depth and revealing interviews Crichton ever did.

February 19, 2007
An hour of conversation with Michael Crichton, one of the best-selling authors in American publishing. Crichton discusses his new book, "Next", about DNA, biotechnology and the ownership of disease. Crichton likens the human to a cloud interacting with the environment. He also talks about global warming, where he take a number of controversial positions, including the stance that carbon dioxide is not the primary driver of increasing world temperatures.

November 26, 2002
An interview with novelist Michael Crichton about his life, technology, and his latest book, "Prey", a thriller involving an attack of microscopic machines.

November 16, 1999
A dialogue with best-selling author Michael Crichton about his love of storytelling, huge success with the "Jurassic Park" series, and work on the television show "E.R." He also introduces his book "Timeline", in which characters employ quantum teleportation to journey to the time of the Hundred Years' War.

December 26, 1996
An interview with author and screenwriter Michael Crichton about his book about an airline accident, "Airframe". He also talks about the role of the media during wartime and during accidents such as the one portrayed in his book.

September 22, 1995
Acclaimed novelist Michael Crichton talks about "The Lost World", his sequel to the bestselling "Jurassic Park". He also discusses his background as a novelist and physician, his television show "E.R.", and his plans for future projects.

January 14, 1994
In an hour long interview, Charlie Rose and Michael Crichton discuss Michael's novel "Disclosure".

Related Posts:
On the Day Michael Crichton Was Born

Friday, October 15, 2010

Not “Mike” — “Michael”

I remember something interesting from the message board on Crichton’s official website in March 2005. (No longer, so no link) When a new member kept referring to Michael Crichton as “Mike”, the administrator posted this:

…he really doesn't like the "Mike" thing. His name is Michael. Just a little FYI. [As his publicist, I get people calling me everyday saying, ‘Ya, this is Mike's good friend, so-and-so.’ That's a HUGE red-flag that they've never met him. It's usually pretty funny when I say, "Actually, I don't think you are." Then the sputtering starts. It just makes me laugh.

When I participated in a November 2005 online discussion with Crichton through Barnes & Noble, the moderator started the discussion out by calling him “Michael”, therefore setting the tone.

I tended to address him as “Dr. Crichton” because I prefer to be more formal with people I don’t know personally. And as a sign of respect. But I addressed him as “Michael” during the discussion.

Crichton did go by “Mike” when he was younger. According to the book First Words, Crichton was known as “Big Mike” in high school.

And Crichton’s sophomore high school yearbook—the 1958 Harbor Hill Light—lists him as "Mike Crichton". He was a sophomore class officer and in the Rocket Club at Roslyn High School.

Crichton played basketball at Harvard and three articles in the student newspaper Crimson refer to him as “Mike Crichton”. (The articles also wrongly put his height at 6’8”—one inch short.)

December 15, 1960

March 8, 1961

March 21, 1962

In the 1964 Harvard College yearbook (Crichton’s senior year) he is listed in the index as “Crichton, John M.” His full name was John Michael Crichton but as his father was named John, I’ve seen no evidence that he was ever called John.

Before The Andromeda Strain was published in 1969, when he wasn’t writing under pseudonyms, Crichton wrote under the name “J. Michael Crichton.” One article, a 1968 review of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, was reprinted in the book The Critical Response to Kurt Vonnegut.

Many people, when they get older, decide to drop nicknames. But family has its privileges. Crichton’s brother Douglas called him “Mike”. From a New York Post article after Michael Crichton’s death:

Douglas Crichton recalled watching the sci-fi classic "Forbidden Planet" with his 6-foot-9 big brother, who used that inspiration to build a robot at their childhood home in Roslyn, LI.

"Mike was remarkable from the day he hit the ground," Doug Crichton said.

In his autobiography Travels, Michael Crichton recounted a conversation with his brother in which Douglas called him “Mike”. (p. 175, hardcover edition)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Pirate Latitudes Now in Paperback

On the home page of Michael Crichton’s official website is this announcement:

Michael Crichton’s Pirate Latitudes
Paperback Now Available and Online

Very exciting news. The paperback edition was released in US bookstores September 28.

But what’s very interesting is that the paperback edition of Pirate Latitudes was, according to Amazon, available on April 1 for the UK, France, and Germany. It was also available in Canada as of April 30. I do know the paperbacks did in fact come out then, because I started seeing secondhand ones for sale on Ebay early in May.

As I mentioned in my post on October 20, 2009, the hardcover edition of Pirate Latitudes was released in Europe on November 16 – eight days before the US release on November 24.

The paperback release is not as big of a deal (as I’m assuming the die-hard fans have already read the book by now), but the question remains:

When it comes to Pirate Latitudes, why are US book buyers being treated like bastard stepchildren?

Let’s just hope Europe doesn’t get to see the Pirate Latitudes film first.

Links and more info on Michael Crichton at:
Kahlessa's Corner

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Michael Crichton on the Future – Video

Here’s an interesting find on YouTube - a March 1999 interview:

Michael Crichton on the Future [10:47]

Crichton answers the following questions:

“In terms of your medium, what will the future be like?”

“Well, how do you feel about that? Just a sign of the times, or…”

“What about the shift in power from the Media elite to a wider power base?”

“As a parent, what are your hopes for your child and for children generally in the coming years?”

“Have a bit of fun, and make some prediction about the next 100 years…”

There's also a short outtake clip.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Complexity, Financial Markets, and Suspicious Graphs

As I mentioned in a previous post, I recently watched a DVD of Michael Crichton’s 2005 speech to the Independent Institute.

I’ve viewed the speech before several times, but this time something caught my eye. Crichton’s speech was accompanied by slides. About 43 minutes into the speech, Crichton said:

Here’s a financial market, and we all know that if you were to make one single change, say, increase the price of crude oil or charge a White House aide with a felony, you could not be sure how the financial system would react. Nobody knows in advance. People make their businesses out of trying to figure it out, but nobody knows except for inside traders. And that’s the same for financial systems all around the world.

The slide shown during this was a photograph Chicago Board of Trade by Andreas Gursky. This was one of the artworks owned by Crichton that was auctioned off at Christie’s in May 2010.

A short time later I was reading the book No One Would Listen: A True Financial Thriller by Harry Markopolos. It was Markopolos who discovered that Bernie Madoff was a fraud, and he warned the SEC several times, to great futility.

Markopolos was asked by his firm to replicate Madoff’s results, and in doing so, he realized the implausibility of those results:

At the bottom of the page, a chart of Madoff’s return stream rose steadily at a 45-degree angle, which simply doesn’t exist in finance…. Volatility is a natural part of the market. It moves up and down—and does it every day. Any graphic representation of the market has to reflect that. Yet Madoff’s 45-degree rise represented a market without that volatility. It wasn’t possible. (pp. 30, 35-36)

This made me recall not only Crichton’s speech, but also another infamous graph—the “hockey stick” graph. As Crichton explained in his speech “Science Policy in the 21st Century”:

In 1998, an American climate researcher named Michael Mann, along with his co-workers, published an estimation of global temperatures from 1000 to 1980….Mann's results appeared to show a spike in recent temperatures that was unprecedented in the last one thousand years. As a result, his report achieved immediate and world-wide fame. It also formed the centerpiece of the U.N.'s Third Assessment Report, in 2001, of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change….The next chapter in the story began when two Canadian researchers, McIntyre and McKitrick, obtained Mann's data and repeated his study. They found numerous grave and astonishing errors in Mann's work, which they detailed in 2003.

Steve McIntyre, like Harry Markopolos, was skeptical when viewed the graph in question. From a 2010 interview:

In financial circles, we talk about a hockey stick curve when some investor presents you with a nice, steep curve in the hope of palming something off on you.

Just as Madoff’s return graph didn’t reflect reality, neither did Mann’s hockey stick.

Some useful links:

Climate Audit - Steve McIntyre’s blog

McIntyre and McKitrick Slide Show on the Hockey Stick

2004 Technology Review article on McIntyre and McKitrick

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

3 Crichton Novels Make Top 100 Thrillers List

NPR has published a list of the Top 100 Killer Thrillers as chosen by the public from a list of 182 finalists.

Three of Michael Crichton’s novels made the list—with two of them making the Top 20:

14. Jurassic Park

17. The Andromeda Strain

68. Timeline

I wish I had known about this sooner. We might have been able to get one or two of Crichton’s novels in the Top Ten.

And I would have included Prey on the list.

Links and more info on Michael Crichton at:
Kahlessa's Corner

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Michael Crichton - Independent Institute Speech DVD

Last night I watched a DVD of a speech Michael Crichton gave on November 15, 2005 for the Independent Institute at the Hotel Nikko in San Francisco. You can see Crichton’s speech on his website, but the DVD has much more.

The video on Crichton’s website runs 52:07, while the DVD runs 117 minutes and includes the entire event. In addition to Crichton’s speech, there are also short talks by:

Bruce Ames - Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of California, Berkeley

Sallie Louise Baliunas - a research astrophysicist and former Deputy Director and Director of Science Programs at Mount Wilson Observatory. The recipient of the Newton-Lacy-Pierce Prize and the Bok Prize, she received her Ph.D. in astrophysics from Harvard University

William M. Gray - Professor of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University, head of the Tropical Meteorology Project at CSU, and a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society

George H. Taylor - the State Climatologist for Oregon and Professor of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State University

The DVD States of Fear: Science or Politics? can be purchased for $16.95 from the Independent Institute. It also contains a question and answer section with more remarks from Crichton.

The transcript for the event can be read online, but I highly recommend purchasing the DVD, as the transcript does not show slides and visuals from the other speakers’ talks.

Links and more info on Michael Crichton at:
Kahlessa's Corner

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Michael Crichton Artwork – Quoted by Joseph Kosuth

Out of the 98 works of art owned by Michael Crichton that were auctioned off at Christie’s this year, there is one that intrigues me.

Quoted by Joseph Kosuth

First of all, the realized price for the work--$813--was something I could have afforded in theory (if not justified in actuality). It would be wonderful to own a work of art that had belonged to Michael Crichton. Perhaps the opportunity will arise again.

The artist, Joseph Kosuth, wrote an essay titled “Artist as Anthropologist”. Michael Crichton received his bachelor’s degree at Harvard in anthropology. He was a visiting lecturer in Anthropology at Cambridge University in1965, before going on to Harvard Medical School.

The art work, a screenprint on transparent wove paper, contains no images, only the following text:

‘Is that a quotation?’ I asked.
‘Of course. Quotations are all we have now. Language is a system of quotations.’
Jorge Luis Borges
The Book of Sand

The recent auction of Crichton’s art collection inspired me to reread both the 1977 and 1994 editions of Crichton’s book on Jasper Johns. In one passage, Crichton quoted Borges:

These questions stand alongside another debate among artists themselves about what is important in a created work. Borges wrote: “The composition of vast books is a laborious and impoverishing extravagance. To go on for five hundred pages developing an idea whose perfect oral expression is possible in a few minutes! A better course of procedure is to pretend that these books already exist, and then to offer a resume, a commentary.” (p. 47, 1977 edition)

The phrase “an idea whose perfect oral expression is possible in a few minutes” reminded me of Crichton’s habit of using quotations at the beginning of his books (and sometimes the sections of books). The proper term for these opening quotations is epigraphs.

Crichton used epigraphs in 27 out of the 31 books he published, starting with Odds On (1966), which he published under the name of John Lange. Two other John Lange novels-- Scratch One (1967) and The Venom Business (1969) lack epigraphs, as does the nonfiction book Electronic Life (1983). The posthumously published novel Pirate Latitudes (2009) does not have an epigraph, or a bibliography, both of which Crichton might have added if he had been able to finish the book himself. From the interview “Michael Crichton: a Career in Three Acts” by David Kipen, Firsts magazine, July/August 1997:

Firsts: Where do you get your epigraphs?

Michael Crichton: I think it originally comes out of an interest in doing nonfiction. There’s more of that tendency to put epigraphs in front of chapters in nonfiction. I was trying to make it, especially in something like The Andromeda Strain, like nonfiction.
(p. 52)

Here is a complete list of the epigraphs in Crichton’s books. It’s interesting to note that several of the epigraphs for Crichton’s novels are quotes from fictional characters.

The Andromeda Strain (1969)
“The survival value of human intelligence has never been satisfactorily demonstrated.”
–Jeremy Stone

“Increasing vision is increasingly expensive.”
–R. A. Janek

Five Patients (1970)
“Doctors and nurses are the only people who possibly can alter the conditions of patient care.”
–Paul B. Beeson, M.D.

“Health, as a vast societal enterprise, is too important to be solely the concern of the providers of services.”
–William L. Kissick, M.D.

The Terminal Man (1972)
“I have come to the conclusion that my subjective account of my own motivation is largely mythical on almost all occasions.”
–J.B.S. Haldane

“The wilderness masters the colonist.”
–Frederick Jackson Turner

The Great Train Robbery (1975)
“Satan is glad—when I am bad,
And hopes that I—with him shall lie
In fire and chains—and dreadful pains”
–Victorian child’s poem

“I wanted the money.”
–Edward Pierce, 1856

Eaters of the Dead (1976)
“Praise not the day until evening has come; a woman until she is burnt; a sword until it is tried; a maiden until she is married; ice until it has been crossed; beer until it has been drunk.”
–Viking proverb

“Evil is of old date.”
–Arab proverb

Jasper Johns (1977 and 1994 editions)
“We see, not a change of aspect, but a change of interpretation.”
–Ludwig Wittgenstein

“I am just trying to find a way to make pictures.”
–Jasper Johns

Congo (1980)
“The more experience and insight I obtain into human nature, the more convinced do I become that the greater portion of a man is purely animal.”
–Henry Morton Stanley, 1887

“The large male [gorilla] held my attention….He gave an impression of dignity and restrained power, of absolute certainty in his majestic appearance. I felt a desire to communicate with him….Never before had I had this feeling on meeting an animal. As we watched each other across the valley, I wondered if he recognized the kinship that bound us.”
–George B. Schaller, 1964

Electronic Life (1983)
No epigraphs

Sphere (1987)
“When a scientist views things, he’s not considering the incredible at all.”
–Louis I. Kahn

“You can’t fool nature.”
–Richard Feynman

Travels (1988)
“In self-analysis the danger of incompleteness is particularly great. One is too soon satisfied with a part explanation.”
–Sigmund Freud

“Existence is beyond the power of words to define.”

“What you see is what you see.”
–Frank Stella

Jurassic Park (1990)
“Reptiles are abhorrent because of their cold body, pale color, cartilaginous skeleton, filthy skin, fierce aspect, calculating eye, offensive smell, harsh voice, squalid habitation, and terrible venom; wherefore their Creator has not exerted his powers to make many of them.”
–Linnaeus, 1797

“You cannot recall a new form of life.”
–Erwin Chargaff, 1972

Rising Sun (1992)
“We are entering a world where the old rules no longer apply.”
–Phillip Sanders

“Business is war.”
–Japanese motto

Disclosure (1994)
“It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer: (1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin or (2) to limit, segregate, or classify his employees or applicants for employment in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”
–Title VII, Civil Rights Act of 1964

“Power is neither male nor female.”
–Katherine Graham

The Lost World (1995)
“What really interests me is whether God had any choice in the creation of the world.”
–Albert Einstein

“Deep in the chaotic regime, slight changes in structure almost always cause vast changes in behavior. Complex controllable behavior seems precluded.”
–Stuart Kauffman

“Sequelae are inherently unpredictable.”
–Ian Malcolm

Airframe (1996)
“The damn things weigh half a million pounds, fly a third of the way around the world, and they carry passengers in greater comfort and safety than any vehicle in the history of mankind. Now, are you fellas really going to stand there and tell us you know how to do the job better? Are you going to pretend you know anything about it at all? ‘Cause it looks to me like you boys are just stirring folks up for your own reasons.”
–Aviation legend Charley Norton, 78, speaking to reporters in 1970 after an airplane crash*

“The irony of the Information Age is that it has given new respectability to uninformed opinion.”
–Veteran reporter John Lawton, 68, speaking to the American Association of Broadcast Journalists in 1995

Timeline (1999)
“All the great empires of the future will be empires of the mind.”
—Winston Churchill, 1953

“If you don’t know history, you don’t know anything.”
–Edward Johnston, 1990

“I’m not interested in the future. I’m interested in the future of the future.”
–Robert Doniger, 1996

Prey (2002)
“Within fifty to a hundred years, a new class of organisms is likely to emerge. These organisms will be artificial in the sense that they will originally be designed by humans. However, they will reproduce, and will ‘evolve’ into something other than their original form; they will be ‘alive’ under any reasonable definition of the word. These organisms will evolve in a fundamentally different manner….The pace…will be extremely rapid….The impact on humanity and the biosphere could be enormous, larger than the industrial revolution, nuclear weapons, or environmental pollution. We must take steps now to shape the emergence of artificial organisms….”
–Doyne Farmer and Alletta Belin, 1992

“There are many people, including myself, who are quite queasy about the consequences of this technology for the future.”
–K. Eric Drexler, 1992

State of Fear (2004)
“There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.”
–Mark Twain

“Within any important issue, there are always aspects no one wishes to discuss.”
–George Orwell

Next (2006)
“The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless.”
--Steven Weinberg

“The word ‘cause’ is an altar to an unknown god.”
--William James

“What is not possible is not to choose.”
--Jean-Paul Sartre

Pirate Latitudes (2009)
No epigraphs

The Pseudonym Novels:

As Jeffery Hudson:

A Case of Need (1968)

“I will prescribe regimen for the good of my patients, according to my judgment and ability, and never do harm to anyone. To please no one will I prescribe a deadly drug, nor give advice which may cause his death. Nor will I give a woman a pessary to procure abortion. But I will preserve the purity of my life and my art…”
--from the Hippocratic Oath demanded of the young physician about to enter upon the practice of his profession

“There is no moral obligation to conserve DNA.”
--Garrett Hardin

As Michael Douglas (Michael Crichton and Douglas Crichton):

Dealing, or the Berkeley-to-Boston Forty-Brick Lost-Bag Blues (1970)

“Most of what my neighbors call good, I am profoundly convinced is evil, and if I repent anything, it is my good conduct that I repent.”

“When somebody like Timothy Leary comes out and justifies [using drugs], we’ve just got to jump on him with hobnailed boots.”

“I knew I was going off [hard] drugs when I didn’t like to watch TV.”
--Billie Holliday

As John Lange:

Odds On (1966)

”There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”
--Benjamin Disraeli

Scratch One (1967)
No epigraphs

Easy Go (also published as The Last Tomb ) (1968)
Title page
“What secret was ever kept in Egypt?”
--Howard Carter, discoverer of the tomb of Tutankhamen

Part 1: The Plan
“Everything forbidden is sweet.”
--Arab proverb

Part 2: The Search
“Evil is of old date.”
--Arab proverb

Part 3: The Last Tomb
“…and the idols of Egypt shall be moved…”
--Isaiah 19:1

Zero Cool (1969)
Part I
“Radiologists see things in black and white.”
--D. D. McGowan M.D.

Part II
“The diagnostic skills of the radiologist are significant, but limited.”
--Harold Ellison M.D.

Part III
“Radiologists have the shortest lifespan of all medical specialists.”
--U.S. Bureau of Statistics

The Venom Business (1969)
No epigraphs

Drug of Choice (1970)
Title page
“The beginning of modern science is also the beginning of calamity.”
--Karl Jaspers

“Give me librium or give me meth!”

Part I: Coma
“Shall I tell you what knowledge is? It is to know both what one knows and what one does not know.”

Part II: Eden
“If an urn lacks the characteristics of an urn, how can we call it an urn?”

Part III: Madness
“It is indeed harmful to come under the sway of utterly new and strange doctrines.”

Grave Descend (1970)
Title page
“He is no wise man that will quit a certainty for an uncertainty.”
--Samuel Johnson

Part I: Swift Ship
“Much may be made of a Scotchman, if he be caught young.”
--Samuel Johnson

Part II: Dark Swamp
“Being in a ship is being in jail, with the chance of being drowned.”
--Samuel Johnson

Part III: White Money
“It is better to live rich than to die rich.”
--Samuel Johnson

Binary (1972)
“Binary: any system composed of two interacting elements. As in binary stars, binary numbers, binary gases, etc.”

“Chemical agents lend themselves to covert use in sabotage against which it is exceedingly difficult to visualize any really effective defense…I will not dwell upon this use of CBW because as one pursues the possibilities of such covert uses, one discovers that the scenarios resemble that in which the components of a nuclear weapon are smuggled into New York City and assembled in the basement of the Empire State Building.

In other words, once the possibility is recognized to exist, about all that one can do is worry about it.”
--Dr. Ivan L. Bennett, Jr., testifying before the Subcommittee on National Security Policy and Scientific Developments, November 20, 1969

Links and more info on Michael Crichton at:
Kahlessa's Corner

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Michael Crichton Estate in Hawaii for Sale

Michael Crichton’s estate on the Hawaiian island Kauai is now for sale. There is speculation that the house may have been used in the series ER. When the character of Mark Greene is terminally ill, he moves to a beach house in Hawaii with his family to spend his last days there. I don’t know if this is true. There are several photos of Crichton’s home online, plus a video tour of the estate.

The ER episode in which Mark Greene (played by Anthony Edwards) lives in Hawaii is “On the Beach” in Season 8. I’ll have to dig it out to compare.

It would be nice if it was true because of something Crichton once said:

Have you ever made a character in one of your novels represent yourself?

They all represent me, in a way. And they all don't represent me, in a way. But I was aware of the Noah Wyle character in ER, and the Anthony Edwards character in ER, being close to me because they were close to my life experiences.

The death of Mark Greene was one of the most poignant and heart-rending events in the Crichton-created series. I still tear up just thinking about it.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Origins of Pirate Latitudes - Part 2

In my post The Origin of Pirate Latitudes? I speculated that a novel Michael Crichton mentioned he was working on in his autobiography Travels was Pirate Latitudes. Crichton, while describing a 1982 trip to Jamaica, wrote:

For many years I had been working on a book about seventeenth-century Jamaica, and now I wanted to visit this museum.

As I’ve mentioned before, I thought it was likely that the book was a novel, and any novel about Jamaica in the 17th century would probably contain pirates, given their prominence in the locale at that time.

Recently I discovered a March 1979 American Film article “Ready When You Are, Dr. Crichton” by Patrick McGilligan. From the article:

His future calendar is just as wide-ranging: Crichton will write a contemporary story set in Africa, his first novel in roughly three years; he will direct a thriller for Twentieth Century-Fox about television commercials; he will try to complete a long-standing book project about Caribbean pirates in the seventeenth century. (p. 53) [Emphasis mine]

Crichton’s novel Grave Descend (published in 1970 under the name John Lange), was set in Jamaica and contained a historical reference to the privateer/pirate Henry Morgan. After reading Pirate Latitudes three times and several biographies of Morgan, I am convinced that Morgan was the real-life model for the character Captain Charles Hunter.

Given the familiarity with Jamaica that Crichton demonstrated in Grave Descend, he might have been thinking about (if not actually working on) the novel Pirate Latitudes as early as the late 1960s.

Another question to ponder--did Crichton, an avid scuba diver, ever dive at Port Royal, Jamaica? The city was struck by a horrific earthquake in 1692, and two-thirds of the city sank into the sea. It was excavated by marine archeologists in the early 1960s, and people are allowed to dive there with permission from the local authorities. Henry Morgan’s tomb disappeared into the sea because of the earthquake.

Links and more info on Michael Crichton at:
Kahlessa's Corner

Friday, June 11, 2010

Michael Crichton’s Flag by Johns on Display in Philadelphia

The crown jewel of Michael Crichton’s art collection, Flag by Jasper Johns, will be on display at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia from June 26 to September 12.

The painting was sold in on May 11 for 28.6 million. The new owner has not yet been publicly identified.

Related Posts:
Video – Flag by Jasper Johns Auction

Links and more info on Michael Crichton at:
Kahlessa's Corner

Monday, June 7, 2010

Michael Crichton Art Auction Results

In the past two months, 98 works owned by Michael Crichton were auctioned off at Christies – 5 at the April 15 photographs sale, 14 at the April 26 prints sale, 31 at the May 11 evening sale, and 48 at the May 12 day sale. (You can see detailed info on each piece at the Christie’s website.)

When I did a search of “Michael Crichton" in past lots at Christie’s, I discovered something interesting. 101 results popped up, including one from the December 17, 2003 sale “Playboy at 50”. This particular lot contained letters from various well-known writers, such as Anthony Burgess, Philip Roth, Carl Sandburg, and Ogden Nash.

From the lot description:

Three typed letters signed ("J. Michael Crichton") to Murray Fisher, Boston, Nice, Greece, 1965-1966. Together 3 pages, 4to, with carbon responses from Playboy. Crichton proposes an interviewing Isaac Asimov for Playboy and other projects.

Crichton published several pieces in Playboy. The first one that I am aware of is a short story “How Does That Make You Feel?” published in the November 1968 issue under the name “Jeffery Hudson”. That was the pseudonym under which Crichton published the novel A Case of Need.

Those three letters make me wonder if Crichton published anything in Playboy earlier. (Wish I knew what the letters in response said.) I would love to see an interview of Isaac Asimov by Michael Crichton. Asimov has long been a favorite of mine.

Links and more info on Michael Crichton at:
Kahlessa's Corner

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Happy Birthday Jasper Johns

Today is the 80th birthday of artist Jasper Johns.

Michael Crichton, in a 2008 speech said “… [Johns] has been such a profound influence on me for so many years."

Happy Birthday Mr. Johns! I hope the day was wonderful.

And thank you for the part you played in making Michael Crichton who he was.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Video – Flag by Jasper Johns Auction

If you didn’t watch the Christie’s auction of Michael Crichton’s art collection, you can see the high point—the auction of the painting Flag by Jasper Johns.

The auctioneer for the sale was Christopher Burge (whom I found just marvelous to watch). Burge has portrayed an auctioneer in two films: The First Wives Club (1996) and Wall Street (1987).

Monday, May 10, 2010

Watch Crichton Art Auction Online

Did you know that you can watch the Christie’s auction of Michael Crichton’s art collection online? Just go to the website, click on “Calendar”, and click on the “Enter Sale” button for the auction. You can watch auctions as a viewer only. I watched a wine auction on Saturday. Nice spectator sport.

The auction of Crichton’s art collection is in two parts.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010, 6:30 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time)
Sale 2406 - Works from the Collection of Michael Crichton
31 lots

Wednesday, May 12, 2010, 10 a.m. (Eastern Standard Time)
Post-War and Contemporary Art Morning Session Including Works from the Collection of Michael Crichton
224 lots – the first 47 are from Crichton’s art collection

Make certain you get logged in well before the auctions begin, as things move fast. You can enter a sale up to 15 minutes before the start of the sale.

(On a side note, my catalogue for the Crichton auction arrived last week. It’s beautiful, and very informative. I highly recommend it for dedicated Crichton fans. The e-catalogue may be taken off the website once the auction is over.)

It’s pleasant to think that there will come a day when I can actually bid during a Christie’s auction. But there’s something I would have to do to prepare.

My small black female cat Asimov has an impressive talent for jumping on my computer at the worst possible moment. She’s caused so many problems over the years that her photo is on “Wanted” posters at call centers across the country.

From Christie’s Live Terms of Use:

If your computer is logged on to Christie's Live™ and a successful bid is sent to Christie's from your computer, you are accepting personal liability to pay the purchase price, including the buyer's premium and all applicable taxes and other applicable charges.

A live auction is by its nature fast-moving and competitive bidding can often progress very quickly. To ensure that online bidders are not placed at a disadvantage when bidding against bidders in the room or on the telephone, the procedure for placing bids through Christie's Live™ is a one-step process. As soon as the "Bid" button is clicked a bid is submitted. You acknowledge that this is necessary in order to ensure that online bids are submitted and received as promptly as bids from other sources. You also accept and agree that bids submitted in this way are final and that you will not under any circumstances be permitted to amend or retract your bid.

In other words, Christie’s will not accept the excuse “My cat bid on that painting.”

So if I ever want to bid online during an auction, I must first secure the cats. My female cat is capable of blowing my entire credit limit on something I don’t even like.

“No! Don’t bid ten thousand for that painting! Bad cat! Bad!”

Saturday, May 8, 2010

1998 Architectural Digest Article on Crichton

The July 1998 Architectural Digest article The Jurassic Park and Sphere Writer’s Los Angeles Residence is now online. The nine photos accompanying the piece show several artworks belonging to Michael Crichton. And one photo contains the family dog, a dachshund named Frankie.

Related posts:
2002 Architectural Digest Article on Michael Crichton

Links and more info on Michael Crichton at:
Kahlessa's Corner

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Crichton on Jasper Johns – April 2008

In April 2008, Michael Crichton gave a lecture on Jasper Johns at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Christie’s has posted an abridged transcript of the lecture on their website.

The title of the lecture was In Search of an Artist: "Gray is my Favorite Color".

Links and more info on Michael Crichton at:
Kahlessa's Corner

Monday, May 3, 2010

2002 Architectural Digest Article on Michael Crichton

The July 2002 Architectural Digest article A Dino-Sized House for the Jurassic Park Author and His Wife is now online. It features Michael Crichton’s house in Bedford, New York. There is also a slide show of 12 photos, many of which feature pieces from Crichton’s art collection, including Jasper John's Flag.

(Thank you Chris, for discovering this!)

Related posts:
1998 Architectural Digest Article on Crichton

Links and more info on Michael Crichton at:
Kahlessa's Corner

Monday, April 26, 2010

Christie’s Catalogue about Michael Crichton Online

The E-catalogue for the Christie’s sale “Works from the Collection of Michael Crichton” is available for viewing online. (You may have to register at the Christie’s website to see it, but it’s free.)

The 290-page catalogue contains a transcript of Crichton’s last lecture on Jasper Johns at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in April 2008.

Links and more info on Michael Crichton at:
Kahlessa's Corner

Friday, April 23, 2010

In Honor of Earth Day

In honor of Earth Day, (sorry I’m a day late) here is Michael Crichton's tribute to George Carlin--with video of Carlin's routine "The Planet is Fine".

Links and more info on Michael Crichton at:
Kahlessa's Corner

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

W Article on Michael Crichton and Art

The May 2010 issue of W magazine features an article Michael Crichton: Private View on Crichton and his art collection. It contains quotes from his widow Sherri and from others who knew him.

The magazine is currently on newsstands.

Links and more info on Michael Crichton at:
Kahlessa's Corner

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Christie’s Video - Michael Crichton’s Art Collection

The auction house Christie’s has created a 17-minute video about Michael Crichton’s art collection. The video, which features interviews with Crichton’s widow Sherri Crichton, agent and friend Michael Ovitz, Printmaker Ken Tyler, and Brett Gorvy, Christie’s Deputy Chairman of Post-War & Contemporary Art, explores his love of art and his passion for collecting. The video contains a clip of Michael Crichton talking about art in a 1976 interview.

Christie's will be auctioning off many works from Crichton’s collection on May 11 & 12, 2010 in New York.

Links and more info on Michael Crichton at:
Kahlessa's Corner

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Newsflash - Gene Patents Ruled Invalid

On Monday March 29 United States District Court Judge Robert W. Sweet ruled that seven patents held by the biotech company Myriad Genetics were invalid. The patents involved two genes considered to be factors in breast cancer.

News stories:
New York Times


Wall Street Journal

The judge’s 152-page decision

Michael Crichton called for an end to patenting genes in the “Author’s Note” from his novel Next. He mentioned this biotech company:
Gene patents are bad public policy. We have ample evidence that they hurt patient care and suppress research. When Myriad patented two breast cancer genes, they charged nearly three thousand dollars for the test, even though the cost to create a gene test is nothing like the cost to develop a drug. Not surprisingly, the European patent office revoked that patent on a technicality. The Canadian government announced that it would conduct gene tests without paying for the patent.

Crichton published two op-eds in the New York Times on the topic of gene patents:

This Essay Breaks the Law
March 19, 2006

Patenting Life
February 13, 2007

Somewhere, Michael Crichton is smiling. (Again)

Links and more info on Michael Crichton at:
Kahlessa's Corner