Maya Angelou, legendary poet and author, 1928-2014

Maya Angelou receives a Medal of Freedom from U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House in Washington, February 15, 2011. (REUTERS/Larry Downing)


Maya Angelou receives a Medal of Freedom from U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House in Washington, February 15, 2011. (REUTERS/Larry Downing)

The great American poet, author, activist, and actor Dr. Maya Angelou died today at her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She was 86.

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Dave Brockie, punk artist of GWAR fame, has died. Here's video of the first GWAR show ever.

GWAR creator Dave Brockie has died. He was found in his home, and no cause of death has been released. He was 50 years old.

I knew Dave in the mid-1980s, and crashed at punk/art houses where he and co-creatives practiced and built props for GWAR, and before it, Death Piggy.


Dave Brockie, from the era of "Death Piggy," the pre-GWAR band. For a time, I went to every show. —XJ

RVA Magazine has extensive coverage of his life and death, and a statement from GWAR's manager. Style Weekly broke the sad news. Here's an earlier interview with Brockie from RVA Mag. My old friend from that era, Doug Dobey, wrote a beautiful homage on Facebook.

As Gareth Branwyn said on Facebook today, the comment seen about Brockie so far: "He was a great space Barbarian, and an even better human."

Above, the very first GWAR show. I was there.

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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.

You can scroll through more photos here, on Steve's Facebook page.

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.

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David Rakoff, 1964-2012

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.

Choire Sicha at the Awl:

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Gore Vidal, 1925-2012

Writer, analyst, and eloquent opinionator Gore Vidal died today. He was 86. The LA Times reports that he died Tuesday in his Hollywood Hills home, from complications related to pneumonia.

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.

Above, his epic 1968 debate with noted dirtbag William Buckley, in which he tells Buckley to "shut up," and calls him a "cryptonazi."

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Sally Ride, first American woman in space, has died

Dr. Sally Ride, an American physicist and former NASA astronaut, has died of pancreatic cancer. She joined NASA in 1978, and in 1983 became the first American woman to travel into space. From a statement on her website:

Sally Ride died peacefully on July 23rd, 2012 after a courageous 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer. Sally lived her life to the fullest, with boundless energy, curiosity, intelligence, passion, joy, and love. Her integrity was absolute; her spirit was immeasurable; her approach to life was fearless.

Sally was a physicist, the first American woman to fly in space, a science writer, and the president and CEO of Sally Ride Science. She had the rare ability to understand the essence of things and to inspire those around her to join her pursuits.

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Ernest Borgnine, 1917-2012

He won an Academy Award for his portrayal of a lovelorn butcher in 1955's "Marty," but to me he's Airwolf's Dominic Santini. [CNN]

Robin Gibb, 1/3 of the Bee Gees, has died of cancer at 62

Photo: Robin Gibb. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor, 2008.

From multiple sources today: One of the three Bee Gees has died. Robin Gibb was 62 years old, and was diagnosed two years ago with colon and liver cancer that responded to treatment, then returned and spread.

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Chuck Brown, godfather of Go-Go music, dies at 75

Chuck Brown performing at the 20th St. Lucia Jazz Festival, May 8, 2011. REUTERS/Andrea De Silva.


The artist widely credited with founding the Go-Go music genre died today. Chuck Brown was 75.

Like many punk teens growing up in Virginia in the eighties, I discovered this DC-rooted genre of black American music by accident—a go-go band opened up for a hardcore group I'd traveled from Richmond to DC to see. But it just took once to fall under the spell of that heavy, funky beat.

Bands like Trouble Funk and E.U. were among the go-go acts to achieve fame beyond DC, but Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers started it all.

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Adam "MCA" Yauch of the Beastie Boys, by photographer Glen E. Friedman: "why A you see H"

Photographer Glen E. Friedman, widely known for his work chronicling the intersection between punk rock and hiphop in the 1980s, has posted some beautiful shots of MCA, Ad-Rock, and Mike D from that era: "why A you see H".

Christopher Hitchens, 1949-2011

Journalist, pundit, author, and gentleman philosopher Christopher Hitchens has died at 62, after a long battle with esophegeal cancer.

Obituaries: Vanity Fair, NPR, CNN, WaPo, Reuters, LAT. Graydon Carter's memorial is the one to read.

Photo: For the release of his memoir "Hitch 22," Hitchens poses for a portrait outside his hotel in New York, June 7, 2010. (REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)