Glen Campbell, 1936–2017

Rolling Stone reports that country legend Glen Campbell is dead at 81.

Campbell was a rare breed in the music business, with various careers as a top-level studio guitarist, chart-topping singer and hit television host. His late-career battle with Alzheimer's - he allowed a documentary crew to film on his final tour for the 2014 award-winning I'll Be Me - made him a public face for the disease, a role President Bill Clinton suggested would one day be remembered even more than his music.

Read the rest

RIP, Bassel Khartabil, Syrian free culture activist executed by the Assad regime

Syrian Creative Commons lead Bassel Khartabil disappeared in 2012, snatched off the Damascus streets by Syrian authorities; in 2015, he was secretly executed by the Assad regime, a fact that has only just come to light. Read the rest

Ms Sheila Michaels, activist who popularized "Ms." honorific, dead at 78

Sheila Michaels, popularizer of the honorific "Ms." for women, is dead at 78. The BBC:

"I didn't belong to my father and I didn't want to belong to a husband - someone who could tell me what to do."

Born in St Louis, Missouri, Ms Michaels spent some of her childhood in New York City. She was a lifelong feminist activist, biblical scholar, and collected oral histories of the civil rights movement later in life.

In her professional life, she worked as a ghostwriter, editor, and even ran a Japanese restaurant - but her obituary in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch notes her favourite job was being a New York City taxi driver.

"Ms." — referring to women without reference to a husband or lack thereof — dates to 1901, but was only adopted by the New York Times in 1971.

Oddly, Wikipedia has an extensive article for Sheila from South Park, but not a word for Sheila Michaels. Someone who can nagivate that place should fix this! Read the rest

Grotbags dead at 74

Actress and entertainer Carol Lee Scott died this week at 74. Britons of a certain age will remember 1980s' TV witch Grotbags; Americans of any age are in for a bizarre treat.

Her character Grotbags was a dastardly pantomime witch, with a bright green wig and face to match. She famously hated "brats" and did her best to spoil the fun of children, using her "Bazazzer" - a pointy stick with a gold hand on the end of it.

Fans of the show flooded Twitter with comments, with Gary Dewar writing: "Daleks. Zelda. Skeletor. Nothing - NOTHING - terrified me quite like Grotbags. Bravo!"

Noob added: "Rest in peace Grotbags. You made my early years awesome. I was so scared of you!" ... The show, set in the Gloomy Fortress, also starred puppeteer Richard Coombs.

Here she is presenting a ghoulish game show with her gay robot:

Read the rest

Adam West, 1928-2017

Adam West, famed as Batman and latterly for his work in animation, is dead at 88.

“Our dad always saw himself as The Bright Knight, and aspired to make a positive impact on his fans’ lives. He was and always will be our hero,” his family said in a statement.

With its “Wham! Pow!” onscreen exclamations, flamboyant villains and cheeky tone, “Batman” became a surprise hit with its premiere on ABC in 1966, a virtual symbol of ’60s kitsch. Yet West’s portrayal of the superhero and his alter ego, Bruce Wayne, ultimately made it hard for him to get other roles, and while he continued to work throughout his career, options remained limited because of his association with the character.

Read the rest

Trance legend Robert Miles dead at 47

Robert Miles, the Italian DJ behind 1990s EDM breakthrough hit Children, is dead at 47. Born Roberto Concina, he popularized a chilled-out form of trance that came to dominate European airwaves in the 1990s.

News of the Swiss-born Italian artist’s death was first reported by DJ Mag Italia, who claim he died of an “unspecified illness” but this has yet to be confirmed. Producer and longtime friend Joe T Vannelli verified the reports to the Press Association, saying: “Yes man, (it) is a tragedy.”

He later posted a tribute to the producer on his Facebook: “The tragic news of the death of a very talented artist of our time, makes me incredulous and upset,” Vannelli said. “I will miss the fights, brawls, criticism, judgements but especially your talent in finding sounds and melodies unparalleled.”

Children cost $150 to produce and hit Number 1 in twelve countries. Read the rest

RIP Robert M. Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

"The truth knocks on the door and you say, ‘Go away, I’m looking for the truth,’ and so it goes away. Puzzling." -- Robert M. Pirsig

I was saddened to learn that Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance author Robert M. Pirsig died today at the age of 88.

I read the pop philosophy treatise Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance in college and thought it was the greatest book ever. I read it again 15 years later and didn't get as much out of it the second time around. It's been another 15 years since I re-read it and I no longer remember why I had those opinions (I have a lousy memory when it comes to books and movies). I think I should give it another try and see what my current nervous system thinks of his exploration into the nature of quality.

One thing is for certain, the title of the book is one of the best ever (and has been imitated ever since the book came out in 1974), and the paperback cover design is absolutely iconic. [UPDATE: reader Simenzo corrected me. Zen in the Art of Archery, by Eugen Herrigel, was published in 1948]

Author Robert Pirsig and his son Chris in 1968. Pirsig, who wrote Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, died Monday at age 88. William Morrow/HarperCollins

From NPR:

Zen was published in 1974, after being rejected by 121 publishing houses. "The book is brilliant beyond belief," wrote Morrow editor James Landis before publication.

Read the rest

Mandy Johnson, 1953-2015

by Rob Beschizza

In her final hours, mum's death sleep grew louder. Morphine lost control of her body. Murmurs rose into a harrowing whine, swelling with each unconscious breath.

The nurse said she wasn't there, not really, but I wondered otherwise. Between her cries, during the bouts of apnea where she did not breath at all, in the terrible silence before she gasped back to life, I begged her to let go. I joked about her refusal to do so—anything to end the pain. Then her face, for hours a mask of frozen yellow wax, screwed up in what seemed a sudden awakening of incredible agony. She tensed, relaxed and sputtered, but did not wake. It happened again. And then she was quiet.

Whether she had fled hours ago, or had been aware and trapped in her body, she was gone now. Read the rest

Richard Hatch of 'Battlestar Galactica' has died. He was 71.

Richard Hatch, who starred in the original television science fiction series 'Battlestar Galactica' and the mid-2000s reboot, died today of pancreatic cancer. He was 71. Hatch was nominated for a Golden Globe award in 1979 for his performance as Captain Apollo in the iconic science fiction series.

Read the rest

Namco founder dies

You can thank Japanese game publisher Namco for Pac-Man, Galaga, Pole Position, Splatterhouse, Rolling Thunder, Soul Calibur and Tekken. And you can thank Masaya Nakamura, who died last week, for Namco.

During the decades following World War II, the rooftops of Japanese department stores were home to family friendly rides and carnival-style analogue arcade games. Namco got it start making such amusement machines. In the late 1970s and early 80s, Nakamura’s business took off with arcade hits like Galaxian, Galaga, Pole Position, and Xevious. However, it was Pac-Man that wasn’t only the biggest Namco hit of that era, but also of the most important Japanese video games ever made.

Pac-Man is, according to the Guinness book of World Records, still the most successful coin-op of all time.

.

Update: dupe! Read the rest

Sir John Hurt, 1940-2017

Actor John Hurt, famous for his gravelly-yet-vulnerable voice and craggy appearance, is reported dead at 77. Known for his roles in Alien, Elephant Man, Nineteen-Eighty Four, Doctor Who and the Harry Potter series, Hurt was knighted in 2015 for services to Drama and won two Golden Globes, four Baftas and two Academy Award nominations. Read the rest

Mary Tyler Moore, a television icon for women in an era of change, has died

“How will you make it on your own?,” the theme song asked a “girl,” played by Mary Tyler Moore. “This world is awfully big.” She made it, after all.

"Today, beloved icon, Mary Tyler Moore, passed away at the age of 80 in the company of friends and her loving husband of over 33 years, Dr. S. Robert Levine," her rep said in a statement.

Read the rest

RIP, Larry Smith, traveling science fiction bookseller

Larry Smith is a mainstay and fixture of America's science fiction conventions (as well as many overseas events); he's someone I've conversed with dozens of times, and, like John Scalzi, I always made a point of signing his stock because I knew that anything I signed for Larry would go all around the nation. Read the rest

RIP Tyrus Wong, unsung Chinese-American Disney legend who had to lie to come to America and save his life

Nagurski writes, "Tyrus Wong was a brilliant Chinese-American artist who designed the look of the landmark 'Bambi' cartoon for Disney. Due to racial attitudes and at the time, he received limited recognition for his contributions, but was belatedly named a Disney Legend in 2001. He also was an accomplished painter and made fantastic kites, which he flew on the Santa Monica beach, continuing to do so past the age of 100." Read the rest

Pan Pan, 1985-2016

The world's oldest male panda, Pan Pan, has died in China.

Pan Pan, 31, was diagnosed with cancer six months ago, having lived almost all his life in captivity. He was captured in Sichuan as a six-month old cub. The BBC reports that his name means "Hope."

The centre described the news of the death of the "hero-father" panda as "heart-wrenching". Keepers said he had stopped moving and eating, and lost consciousness, as his health had deteriorated rapidly over the preceding three days.

In September, the International Union for Conservation of Nature announced that the status pandas had been changed from "endangered" to "vulnerable", as numbers had begun to increase.

The latest Chinese estimates show a population of 1,864 adults, as well as - according to China's State Forestry Administration - 422 in captivity.

Pan Pan is survived by 130 descendants — reportedly a quarter of the world's captive-bred pandas — with family in California, Washington D.C., Edinburgh, Brussels, Ya'an, Chengdu, Chiang Mai and Taipei. Read the rest

General Organa's obit

Leia Organa's commitment to the cause placed her at the heart of the Rebellion, the Republic and the Resistance.

Her uncanny ability to predict the actions of enemies and allies alike made her essential, but the Alliance treated her warily, concerned she might manipulate its forces for her own ends. ... Operation Rogue One remains controversial; critics note that Organa sacrificed the entire volunteer cadre, hundreds of troops and much of the Alliance fleet to acquire Designation Stardust intelligence, and that its ultimate success owed itself to her activation of a Jedi asset, Obi-Wan Kenobi, as she was captured by Imperial forces. Indeed, the coincidences behind her subsequent escape and organization of the defense of Yavin IV have been ascribed to the Force, singular tactical genius or pure luck – all ideologically fraught options.

Read the rest

Star Wars icon Carrie Fisher dead at 60

Last weekend, actor Carrie Fisher had a heart attack while flying to Los Angeles. She was rushed to UCLA Medical Center as soon as her flight landed, and was under medical care since. Earlier today, Tuesday, December 27, 2016, Carrie Fisher died at the age of 60.

Read the rest

More posts