Ravi Shankar, RIP: A performance on the Dick Cavett Show, and a reporter's recollections of a visit with Raviji
In the clip above, the late Indian music legend Pandit Ravi Shankar (web, Wikipedia, Amazon) performs on the Dick Cavett show, in an episode where his friend George Harrison of the Beatles introduces him to the viewing audience.
It is with heavy hearts we write to inform you that Pandit Ravi Shankar, husband, father, and musical soul, passed away today, December 11th, 2012. As you all know, his health has been fragile for the past several years and on Thursday he underwent a surgery that could have potentially given him a new lease of life. Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of the surgeons and doctors taking care of him, his body was not able to withstand the strain of the surgery. We were at his side when he passed away.
Read the rest here at the Shankar Foundation website. He had upper-respiratory and heart problems, and underwent heart-valve replacement surgery last week. The surgery was successful, but recovery was too much for the 92-year-old musician. His last performance was with his daughter, sitarist Anoushka Shankar, on November 4 in Long Beach, California. It was a celebration of his tenth decade of creating music.
I interviewed him in 2003 at his home north of San Diego for Grammy Magazine. The article is no longer online, but I'll try to dig it up from the old print copy. His home was set up a little like an Indian villa, and I remember feeling like I was back in India as I sat on the floor in the room where he received guests and visiting reporters. He was very patient and attentive; very sweet to this starstruck and stuttering reporter.
His son Alec Lom told the Associated Press that his dad "died peacefully in his sleep at home in London."
A two-part series of clips on YouTube:
Steve Jurvetson, on the recurring nightmare Neil Armstrong had for two years leading up to Apollo 11
Venture capitalist, photographer, and master-level space fanatic Steve Jurvetson has been digging in to his archives for snapshots and relics related to the life and legacy of the late astronaut Neil Armstrong. For instance: above, a vintage 11”x 14” X-ray of Armstrong's lunar EVA spacesuit boots dated 7-7-69, only 9 days before the launch.
Steve shared some amazing conversations with the "First Man," from what I can tell. Here's one:
Tang is a farce. That was the first thing Neil Armstrong told me last night. “We did not use it on the Apollo missions.”
I asked him, of all of the systems and stages of the mission, which did he worry about the most? (the frequently failing autopilot? the reliance on a global network of astronomers to spot solar flares in time to get the warning out? the onboard computers being less powerful than a Furby?....)
He gave a detailed answer about the hypergolic fuel mixing system for the lunar module. Rather than an ignition system, they had two substances that would ignite upon contact. Instead of an electric pump, he wished he had a big simple lever to mechanically initiate mixing.
That seemed a bit odd to me at first. So, I asked if he gave that answer because it really was the most likely point of failure, or because it symbolizes a vivid nightmare – having completed the moon mission, pushing the button... and the engines just wont start.
He responded that he had dreams about that for two years prior to the launch.
My boyfriend Miles O'Brien lost his beloved little sister to breast cancer today. She was only 46 years old.
They both lost their mom to it a few weeks after I was diagnosed with the same disease.
There is so much to say about what a beautiful soul Aileen was, what a cruel and ugly and brutal disease breast cancer is, how torturous treatment is, how enraging it is that science and medicine have nothing better to offer us yet, how unjust the financial devastation a diagnosis brings to so many women is—and, most of all, what it means to those of us with cancer to have the kind of support in our lives that men like Miles provide, selflessly and heroically and with unconditional love.
But for now, I just want the world to see, respect, and remember this photograph Miles took of his sister this morning, shortly before her life ended. He brought her dog Jethro from her home to the hospice house so Jethro could also say goodbye.
Gone but still loved by all. RIP Aileen Crimmings O'Brien Graef - 10/30/64-8/21/2012
She is survived by two beautiful daughters, Katie and Aileen, whom she loved very much.
And, their dog Jethro.
Update: Miles and her daughters suggest that donations in honor of Aileen be sent to Visiting Nurses Association of the Treasure Coast (@vnatc), 1110 35th Lane. Vero Beach, FL 32960. This is the hospice center that cared for Aileen in her final days. Services at Strunk Funeral Home, 916 17th Street, Vero Beach, FL 32960. If you wish to send cards or flowers, this is the best address.
David Rakoff, best known as a storyteller, author, and a regular contributor to the radio programs "This American Life" and "Fresh Air," has died of cancer. The news first appeared on the website Third Beat. Rakoff wrote beautifully about the experience of going through treatment here, in the New York Times.
In his lifetime, Vidal received the National Book Award, wrote many novels, short stories, plays and essays. He was a political activist, and received the most votes of any Democrat in more than 50 years when he ran as a Democratic candidate for Congress in upstate New York. Vidal's The City and the Pillar was one of the first American novels to present homosexuality in a direct manner, and outraged many at the time.
The Midland, GA-based fast food chain Chick-fil-A has been in the middle of a public relations firestorm over homophobic comments by its CEO. Today, the company's chief spokesman Don Perry died unexpectedly. Various news outlets are reporting the cause of death as a heart attack, citing Ross Cathy, owner of the fast food chain and family member of company CEO, Dan Cathy, as a source. The company's CEO has long made his conservative, non-gay-friendly political positions known, but recent remarks against gay marriage sparked widespread protest. The company is now being sued by a former employee (PDF) over allegations of gender discrimination.
Donald J. Sobol, the author who created the great Encyclopedia Brown series, died last week. Encyclopedia Brown were kids' mystery stories about a boy detective, whose solution required careful reading and imaginative reasoning. When I started working on Little Brother, I told people it would be "Encyclopedia Brown meets Wargames" -- and I've often noodled with the idea of a set of contemporary, Internet-based mystery stories called "Wikipedia Brown."
I'm always running into die-hard Encyclopedia Brown fans in the happy mutants set. GeekDad's Ethan Gilsdorf is another megafan, and he's written a very good, informative obit for Sobol:
I lived vicariously through Encyclopedia Brown. And I came up with a hundred schemes a summer to make money, trick the bully, or otherwise engineer a scenario to be the smart one who would sweep in to save the day.
But Encyclopedia’s success wasn’t only due to his problem-solving prowess. Credit his best pal (and girl Friday) Sally Kimball: older, stronger and sometimes smarter. She also could stand up to Bugs, and was Encyclopedia’s bodyguard. That was a novel premise, to give that role of “the muscle” to a girl.
Update: There's one more Encyclopedia Brown book coming out in the fall (Thanks, Craig Pittman!)
From an early account of Hollie's story by Vanessa Pinto at SF Weekly, it sounds like the lack of access to affordable health care (and health insurance) was a significant factor in the case of Hollie, a freelance creative based in San Francisco:
She was no different than a lot of us when we were young who believe we're invincible. So when this very young healthy woman noticed a lump on her breast, she let it go at first.
"I noticed it and paid attention to it, but going to the doctor is hard when you don't have insurance," says Stevens.
The lump didn't go away.
Wired's Geeta Dayal got a lovely remembrance of Maurice Sendak from Neil Gaiman. Sendak died yesterday.
As a parent, I read Where the Wild Things Are to my children. But [my daughter] Holly’s favorite was Outside, Over There, and I must have read it to her hundreds of times, perhaps thousands of times, marveling at Sendak’s economy of words, his cruelty, his art...
“What I loved, what I always responded to, was the feeling that Sendak owed nothing to anyone in the books that he made. His only obligation was to the book, to make it true. His lines could be cute, but there was an honesty that transcended the cuteness.
Too many parents and too many writers of children’s books don’t respect the fact that kids know a great deal and suffer a great deal.
I was 11 or 12, and had been given a small allowance by my parents to buy my littlest sister, who did not read, books, if I would read them to her. I loved books and reading aloud. It was liberating, transgressive and a dream come to life: I understood the nakedness, could not understand why all the chefs were Oliver Hardy but loved that all the chefs were Oliver Hardy. Years later I discovered Little Nemo in Slumberland, and In The Night Kitchen came into focus.
David Stutz has posted a small collection of obituaries for Alan Turing after he was hounded to suicide as a punishment for being gay. Here's my favorite:
“For those who knew him here [at Sherborne] the memory is of an even-tempered, lovable character with an impish sense of humour and a modesty proof against all achievement. You would not take him for a Wrangler, the youngest Fellow of King’s and the youngest F.R.S. [Fellow of the Royal Society], or as a Marathon runner, or that behind a negligé appearance he was intensely practical. Rather you recollected him as one who buttered his porridge, brewed scientific concoctions in his study, suspended a weighted string from the staircase wall and set it swinging before Chapel to demonstrate the rotation of the Earth by its change of direcction by noon, produced proofs of the postulates of Euclid, or brought bottles of imprisoned flies to study their “decadence” by inbreeding. On holidays in Cornwall or Sark he was a lively companion even to the extent of mixed bathing at midnight. During the war he was engaged in breaking down enemy codes, and had under him a regiment of girls, supervised to his amusement by a dragon of a female. His work was hush-hush, not to be divulged even to his mother. For it he was awarded the O.B.E. He also adopted a young Jewish refugee and saw him through his education. Besides long distance running, his hobbies were gardening and chess; and occasionally realistic water-colour painting.
In all his preoccupation with logic, mathematics, and science he never lost the common touch; in a short life he accomplished much, and to the roll of great names in the history of his particular studies added his own.” — The Sherbornian, Summer Term 1954
Antinous sez, "RIP Bill Hinzman, the actor who played the first zombie in Night of the Living Dead." Mr Hinzman died of cancer at the age of 75.
Hinzman was working on the movie as an assistant cameraman when Romero spotted him and knew he'd found his zombie muse. "We'd like to tell the story that it was a hard audition session," said Russ Steiner, who co-produced the film and played Johnny. "But Bill was there and old enough and thin enough and he had an old suit." Hinzman (whose name is spelled "Heinzman" in the credits of Living Dead) remained in Romero's orbit for years, working in a variety of functions on There's Always Vanilla, Hungry Wives, and The Crazies, as well as the equally chilling 1974 TV sports documentary O. J. Simpson: Juice On The Loose.
He’d largely drifted out of the business by the time Romero's post-Living Dead career really began in earnest with Martin and Dawn Of The Dead, but by the late 1980s, his cult status was secure, and he found himself lured back to appear in a number of low-budget horror pictures where his presence served as an instant in-joke. (For example: In 2006’s Shadow: Dead Riot—starring Night Of The Living Dead remake lead—Hinzman’s character is billed as "Romero the Zombie".)
Jacob "Jack" Goldman, the founder of Xerox PARC, died Tuesday at 90. In the New York Times's obit, John Markoff describes how Goldman's vision convinced a copier company to invest in the future, even if it had no idea what to do with the returns: "PARC researchers designed a remarkable array of computer technologies, including the Alto personal computer, the Ethernet office network, laser printing and the graphical user interface. ... Years later, Dr. Goldman explained Xerox’s failure ... as part of a large corporation’s unwillingness to take risks."