Readers’ tributes to Hitchens: The final day, with music.

Here are the last three tributes to Hitchens proffered by our readers.

I wanted to save the first one for the last day because it’s so lovely, elegiac and creative.  Reader Andrew Hackett composed a piece of music, “in memoriam: c e h” and made a video of himself playing it on the organ.  It’s very moving, and Andrew explains it a bit:

The sustained pitches in the uppermost part represent his initials: C, E, and H (“H” is the letter used in German to denote what we would call B-natural.  They reserve “B” for what we would call B-flat). The piece is organized into three harmonic areas: F-major, A-major, and F-major again.  This is a reference to atheist composer Johannes Brahms, who did something similar in his third symphony.  The acronym “F-A-F” stands for “frei aber froh” (free but happy), an appropriate reference for a piece dedicated to a committed freethinker. The piece leaves off, however, before the third and final section is really able to re-assert “F-major.”  We have to make do with an abrupt and unstable 6-4 triad, which would normally herald continuation to some kind of resolution.  I think this is an effective and poignant analogue for the way Hitchens left us.  This procedure is made all the more unsettling by the intrusion, into the “F-major” sonority, of “B-natural” (or “H”, for “Hitchens”) – the raised fourth.  That “H” hangs there for a moment, then departs.

There are only 12 views and no comments on YouTube as of 6:30 this morning Chicago time, for the piece is being introduced here.  Go have a listen, leave a comment if you feel so moved, and spare a thought for Hitchens and his family.  Thank you, Andrew.

Reader kdward contributed this photograph, which he describes as “It’s me, balancing God is not Great in one hand, and my infant daughter in the other.”  The picture reminds me of the lyrics of the Stephen Stills song, “We Are Not Helpless,” which go: “The new order is upon us now/It is the children/Who have the wisdom to be free.”

And finally, reader Rixaeton coins a new phrase (introduced on his website), which I think we should all adopt and use.  He explains:

I have no photographs to give to honour Hitchens. However, when I heard that he had cancer, I thought at that time (Dec 2010) that one of the best ways for him to become immortal was to become part of the lexicon. We already have a hitchslap, and a hitchling, but at that time I considered a good possibility would be a razor; after all, we all know of William of Occam, don’t we?

Hitchens’ Razor: What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.

I have conducted extensive research (ie: Googled for it) and have not found the phrase used anywhere as an official razor, but would it be nice if it came to be? Whenever the faithful or trolls leap into the fray with some baseless assertion, just cutting it short with a “That violates Hitchens’ Razor” would save a lot of time and effort.

So end our readers’ tributes to Hitch. As I expect many of you have been doing, I’ve spent quite a few hours over the last two weeks watching videos of Christopher in debate, giving talks, or taking down pompous talking heads on television.  I could recommend my favorites, but suggest instead that you just find a random one and follow the YouTube links.  You will be impressed: for someone who talked so often, he rarely repeated himself, and everything he said sounded fresh.  We have nobody to replace this man, but, thank Ceiling Cat, he left us a legacy of not only his writings and the example of his courage, but also the visual record of his eloquence and incessant fight for the truth.

And thanks to all the readers who took the time to create and send me their own tributes to Christopher Hitchens.


  1. Posted December 25, 2011 at 6:23 am | Permalink

    “For someone who talked so often, he rarely repeated himself, and everything he said sounded fresh.”

    Ah, I’ve noticed the opposite – a lot of his talks on atheism are the stuff from god is not Great recycled. OTOH, it does nail the case pretty succinctly.

  2. GBJames
    Posted December 25, 2011 at 6:56 am | Permalink

    Most excellent tributes. I think I’ll make regular use of “Hitch’s Razor”.

  3. Hempenstein
    Posted December 25, 2011 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    I’m generally averse to razors, but I like elevating the quip to a Razor!

  4. Still learning
    Posted December 25, 2011 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    How about Hitch’s Laser?

    1. Lasers provide light. Hitch certainly enlightened a lot of people.

    2. Lasers are used to cut away extraneous material. Hitch did that.

    3. Lasers are more technologically advanced than razors and can do many things. Hitch was able to reference a wide variety of subjects.

    • Still learning
      Posted December 25, 2011 at 8:51 am | Permalink

      Oh, #4. Lasers drive kittehs crazy. Hitch affected a lot of people that way too.

    • Posted December 25, 2011 at 12:56 pm | Permalink


  5. Posted December 25, 2011 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    Merry Hitchmas and Happy Coynezaa to all.

  6. Chris
    Posted December 25, 2011 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    Since Occam has already cornered the market on razors, what about another implement, like Hitchens’ Broom or Hitchens’ Brush (sweeping evidence-free assertions away), or Hitchens’ Axe (sounds cooler than broom or brush)?

  7. Posted December 25, 2011 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    Hitchens’ Hatchet, anyone?

  8. Posted December 25, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    The C E H is lovely, reminiscent but not imitative of Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings. (played here by the NZSO) – less saccharine, more provacative, like Hitch. I hope it becomes better known.

    • Posted December 25, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

      Thank you very much!

  9. Posted December 25, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for sharing my piece, Dr. Coyne.

    As Hitch (along w Dawkins) was instrumental in precipitating my final and decisive break from religion, I immediately felt compelled to do something commemorative. Especially considering the rather tragic circumstances surrounding his death.

    I hope it doesn’t come across as sappy hagiography.


    • Tumara Baap
      Posted December 25, 2011 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

      That’s precisely how it comes across to me. The good part is this is supposedly the last day of unctuous tributes to a deeply flawed person. Having acknowledged Hitchens’strengths, it seems I’m the only atheist here who was embarrassed by him.
      So far the most honest tribute about Hitchens (and belatedly Ronald Reagan) has been by the inimitable Glen Greenwald.

      • Posted December 25, 2011 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

        It’s rude of you to diss everybody who has posted an honest tribute to Hitchens. He affected many lives for the better, regardless of his flaws, and that’s what those “unctuous tributes” were about.

        If you don’t like it here, I really suggest you frequent other websites. I won’t have a whole group of readers, moved by his life, characterized as “unctuous.”

      • Posted December 25, 2011 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

        I don’t think these memorials are intended to try to sweep any of what you might consider Hitchens’ flaws under the rug. Acknowledging that someone held questionable stances and opinions doesn’t preclude appreciating them for what they did contribute.

        I certainly don’t agree with everything that came out of his mouth, either. But it can’t be denied that he was one of the most potent forces for anti-theism we had, nor that this potency came from erudition, eloquence, and dedication.  He possessed these qualities in heroic proportions. I think he deserves some respect for that.

      • Posted December 26, 2011 at 2:18 am | Permalink

        “greatest political crime of the century.” Yes, writing in support of the Iraq war was undoubtedly a far greater “political crime” than actually doing it. What? Then what is a “political crime” in that context?

        When a polemical piece calls something “GREATEST X OF THE CENTURY” and X turns out to be a weasel phrase, it’s not quite so great. Thinking Hitchens was full of it on Iraq is one thing (though I think understandable given his personal history with the Kurds), but Greenwald’s piece is the sort of hamfisted polemic Hitchens would have been embarrassed about from his socialist activist youth.

      • James C. Trager
        Posted December 26, 2011 at 9:54 am | Permalink

        Honest, perhaps, but not the most honest, Tumara Baap.
        I have found many different takes, all of them honest to the writers, I would think, and with much to admire, and not, in all of the post-mortem essays on him that I’ve read. Hitchens was a person of complex and multifaceted humanity, brilliant, (sometimes obnoxiously) opinionated, wrong about some things, right about many. And as I’ve written elsewhere, I find it terribly sad that he never used his evident intellect to address the idiocy of smoking and excessive drinking that killed him, and that have been glorified in too many of these tributes.

    • Diane G.
      Posted December 30, 2011 at 2:37 am | Permalink

      I hope it doesn’t come across as sappy hagiography.

      I found it haunting–sensu:

      — adj
      1. (of memories) poignant or persistent
      2. enchantingly or eerily evocative

      (World English Dictionary)

      And thanks for the mini music tutorial as well.

  10. Posted December 25, 2011 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

    Here i tried making a wiktionary page

    • Aidan Karley
      Posted December 26, 2011 at 1:00 am | Permalink

      Good thought.
      Having just posted about it on my Facebook page, I’ll see if I can get it Slashdotted too.
      What’s that cynical old journalist’s saw? Oh yes : write once, publish often.
      (The Cynical Old Journalist being my friend, Bob.)

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