Ursula K. Le Guin, 1929-2018

Ursula K. Le Guin died today at 88. The author of the Earthsea novels, The Left Hand of Darkness and many others, she was and remains among the brightest stars in the sky of fantasy literature.
Ursula K. Le Guin, the immensely popular author who brought literary depth and a tough-minded feminist sensibility to science fiction and fantasy with books like “The Left Hand of Darkness” and the Earthsea series, died on Monday at her home in Portland, Ore. She was 88. Her son, Theo Downes-Le Guin, confirmed the death. He did not specify a cause but said she had been in poor health for several months. Ms. Le Guin embraced the standard themes of her chosen genres: sorcery and dragons, spaceships and planetary conflict. But even when her protagonists are male, they avoid the macho posturing of so many science fiction and fantasy heroes. The conflicts they face are typically rooted in a clash of cultures and resolved more by conciliation and self-sacrifice than by swordplay or space battles.
Photo: Oregon State University / Marian Wood Kolich (CC) Read the rest

Cranberries singer Dolores O'Riordan dead at 46

Sad news from London, where Cranberries' lead singer Dolores O'Riordan died suddently today. The band's official page announced her death at about 1 p.m. EST, with no further details and a statement requesting privacy for her family.

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Erica Garner, 1990-2017

Erica Garner, the daughter of police brutality victim Eric Garner, died early Saturday aged 27. Inspired to activism by her father's killing, she suffered a massive heart attack on Christmas Eve and fell into a coma. ABC News:

Garner's official Twitter account, run by her family and friends since she became ill, asked that she be remembered as a mother, daughter, sister and aunt with a heart "bigger than the world."

Eric Garner was choked to death by New York police officer Daniel Pantaleo, who had attempted an illegal chokehold while arresting Garner for selling untaxed cigarettes. Pantaleo was not charged with a crime despite the death being ruled a homicide, and video of the attack being recorded by a bystander. The NYPD settled the family's lawsuit for $5.9m to avoid a civil trial.

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Cheggers dead at 60

A headline meaningful only to Britons of a certain age, and for all others a momentary visit to the strange alternative reality of UK childrens' light entertainment in the 1970s and 1980s. Keith Chegwin is dead at 60.

Chegwin was known for hosting programmes including children's game show Cheggers Plays Pop and Swap Shop. ...

He went on to make infamous Channel 5 nudist gameshow Naked Jungle, appearing naked except for a hat, and also starred as himself in Ricky Gervais show Extras....

The larger-than-life character, described by his family as "a loving husband, father, son, brother, uncle and friend" leaves two children and his wife Maria. He had been cared for at a hospice in recent weeks.

Photo: BBC

Here is footage from the nude game show. Read the rest

Harry Dean Stanton dead at 91

Harry Dean Stanton, who starred in Repo Man, Twin Peaks, Alien and many other movies and TV shows, is dead at 91.

Stanton also led his own band, first known as Harry Dean Stanton and the Repo Men and later simply as the Harry Dean Stanton Band, and would play pickup gigs in L.A. area clubs. Bob Dylan, with whom he worked on Sam Peckinpah’s 1973 film “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid,” was a friend. Another friend was Hunter S. Thompson, and Stanton sang at his funeral.

The character actor was the subject of two documentaries: 2011’s “Harry Dean Stanton: Crossing Mulholland” and Sophie Huber’s 2013 “Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction,” which featured interviews with Wenders, Shepard, Kris Kristofferson, and Lynch.

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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.

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Study finds that hurricanes with female names kill more because they aren't taken seriously (Old news)

The Washington Post's Jason Samenow reports that "people don’t take hurricanes as seriously if they have a feminine name and the consequences are deadly."

The conclusion is that of a wide-ranging study, Female hurricanes are deadlier than male hurricanes, which found that the death toll nearly triples when a severe hurricane is given a feminine name.

Abstract

Do people judge hurricane risks in the context of gender-based expectations? We use more than six decades of death rates from US hurricanes to show that feminine-named hurricanes cause significantly more deaths than do masculine-named hurricanes. Laboratory experiments indicate that this is because hurricane names lead to gender-based expectations about severity and this, in turn, guides respondents’ preparedness to take protective action. This finding indicates an unfortunate and unintended consequence of the gendered naming of hurricanes, with important implications for policymakers, media practitioners, and the general public concerning hurricane communication and preparedness.

The study was formulated to track individual willingness to seek shelter. In other words, sexism is what's killing them, not the storm. The death toll since 1950: 50 deaths from female storms compared to 23 from male storms.

Meteorologists seem unimpressed: "I am not ready to change the naming system based on one study," the WaPo quotes ones.

UPDATE: Sorry about the oldnews: turns out this is three years old and has been widely contested. 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:

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Blogger killed by exploding gadget

A popular French blogger was killed after a pressurized whipped cream dispenser exploded and struck her in the chest.

French media reported she had died of cardiac arrest after the incident, despite medical attention.

The popular fitness and travel figure was well-known in France, with some 55,000 Facebook fans and 154,000 followers on Instagram.

One of Ms Burger's family members took to Instagram, warning readers not to use the dispenser, saying that tens of thousands of "defective devices" remain in circulation.

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Sir Roger Moore, 1927-2017

Roger Moore, famous for his portrayals of master spy James Bond and master criminal Simon Templar, is dead at 89, reports the BBC.

Sir Roger's family confirmed the news on Twitter, saying he had died after "a short but brave battle with cancer". The statement, from his children, read: "Thank you Pops for being you, and being so very special to so many people."
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Roger Ailes dead at 77

Roger Ailes, the disgraced former Fox News chief and accused sexual harasser, is dead at 77. His wife, Elizabeth Ailes, released a short statement, as published by The Washington Post:

“I am profoundly sad and heartbroken to report that my husband, Roger Ailes, passed away this morning. Roger was a loving husband to me, to his son Zachary, and a loyal friend to many,”

Ailes founded the network in 1996, steering it to supremacy over cable TV rivals and providing conservative viewers with a sympathetic source of news and opinion. He was forced to leave last year amid the organization's still-roiling sexual abuse scandal, which has also claimed the jobs of his successor, Bill Shine, and star anchor Bill O'Reilly.

Update: Aaron Stewart-Ahn found a flattering photo of Ailes to remember him by. Read the rest

Man dies after bathtub phone charger shock

Phone chargers usually only deliver a few volts of juice at a feeble amperage, but they'll deliver a lot more if you give them the chance. The BBC writes that a UK man died in the bathtub after being shocked by a charger connected to an extension cord.

Richard Bull, 32, died when his iPhone charger made contact with the water at his home in Ealing, west London. A coroner ruled his death was accidental and plans to send a report to Apple about taking action to prevent future deaths. Safety campaigners have warned about the dangers of charging mobiles near water following the inquest. Mr Bull is believed to have plugged his charger into an extension cord from the hallway and rested it on his chest while using the phone, the Sun reports.

Those little switching power supplies won't save you when wet. The bottom line, from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents: "any appliance attached to the mains electricity circuit is dangerous near water." Read the rest

Assassination of Kim Jong-nam captured on surveillance video

Doesn't look like they thought they were pranking him.

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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.

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Investigators uncover identity of mystery man found dead on remote moor

Last year I blogged about the mysterious death of a man found on a remote English moor. Found with only a pocketful of pills and no identifying documents, "Dovestones" sent investigators hunting worldwide in search of answers. They found them: Dovestones was 67-year-old Londoner David Lytton.

Officers identified the smartly dressed man in CCTV footage from Ealing, west London, where he is believed to have started his journey on the morning of 11 December. He arrived in Manchester shortly after midday after taking a train from London Euston, then went to Greenfield, Saddleworth, and visited the Clarence pub at 2pm, where he asked the landlord how to get to the top of the 460-metre (1,500ft) Indian’s Head peak above Dovestone reservoir.

Despite being warned about treacherous weather conditions by the landlord, Mel Robinson, he left the pub and was spotted by witnesses walking up the hill at about 4.30pm.

His body was found the next morning by a passing cyclist on a boggy section of track. He was wearing slip-on shoes and had £130 in cash in his pockets, along with three train tickets, including a return ticket to London. He was carrying no documentation.

The mystery of how and why he died near a mountaintop remains. The suicide hypothesis, based reasonably enough on the presence of strychnine in his body, seems solid. But why travel all the way from Pakistan? Why there? Read the rest

Jean-Jacques Perrey, 1929–2016

Photo: Scott Beale (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, with permission; see the full set)

French electronic music pioneer Jean-Jacques Perrey died Friday at 87. He quit medical school after encountering synthesizers to spend his life making beautiful sounds with them. Frequent collaborator Dana Countryman writes:

For those who don’t realize it, Jean-Jacques first started recording electronic music in 1952, long before the Moog synthesizer was first made for sale in 1967. Relocating from Paris to New York City, JJ actually owned and recorded with the second Moog ever produced, and with his musical partner Gershon Kingsley, they released their first Moog album -- almost two years before Wendy Carlos released her first Moog album. Jean-Jacques was truly the pioneer of popular electronic music.

His crazy, happy music has been heard everywhere from commercials, to Sesame Street - in hip-hop songs, in dance remixes and most famously, for decades in the delightful featured music in Disneyland’s

“Main Street Electrical Parade”. In recent years, his music has even made appearances on The Simpsons, and on Comedy Central’s “South Park”.

As a teenager growing up in the ‘70s, I was charmed by Jean-Jacques’ inventive Moog albums released by Vanguard Records, and many times I secretly would smuggle those albums into my high school French class. There, instead of conjugating French verbs and nouns, (when the teacher wasn’t looking)

I would carefully sneak peeks at the back cover liner notes. I’d spend the class time dreaming impossible dreams of someday owning a Moog synthesizer of my own, and having a chance to twirl its many knobs, to unleash its wild cornucopia of never-heard-before sounds.

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