Prankster gets the obituary he probably deserves

Recently-deceased Joseph A. Heller, Jr., an 82-year-old dad from Connecticut, was known for being a prankster. So it makes sense that his family would take the opportunity to send him off with an obituary worthy of his twisted sense of humor.

Some highlights:

Joe Heller made his last undignified and largely irreverent gesture on September 8, 2019, signing off on a life, in his words, “generally well-lived and with few regrets.” When the doctors confronted his daughters with the news last week that “your father is a very sick man,” in unison they replied, “you have no idea.”...

Being born during the depression shaped Joe’s formative years and resulted in a lifetime of frugality, hoarding and cheap mischief, often at the expense of others. Being the eldest was a dubious task but he was up for the challenge and led and tortured his siblings through a childhood of obnoxious pranks, with his brother, Bob, generally serving as his wingman. Pat, Dick and Kathy were often on the receiving end of such lessons as “Ding Dong, Dogsh*t” and thwarting lunch thieves with laxative-laced chocolate cake and excrement meatloaf sandwiches. His mother was not immune to his pranks as he named his first dog, “Fart,” so she would have to scream his name to come home if he wandered off...

There he met the love of his life, Irene, who was hoodwinked into thinking he was a charming individual with decorum. Boy, was she ever wrong. Joe embarrassed her daily with his mouth and choice of clothing.

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Rocker Eddie Money has passed away at age 70

Rest in peace, Mr. Money.

People:

Eighties hitmaker Eddie Money died on Friday following complications from stage 4 esophageal cancer. He was 70 years old.

“The Money family regrets to announce that Eddie passed away peacefully early this morning,” his family said in a statement to PEOPLE. “It is with heavy hearts that we say goodbye to our loving husband and father. We cannot imagine our world without him. We are grateful that he will live on forever through his music.”

The “Two Tickets to Paradise” singer’s death came less than a month after he announced that he had been diagnosed with the disease.

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Nemo has passed away

This morning I woke up and my Great Pyrenees of six years Nemo was no longer with me.

We were sleeping in our Volkswagen bus. Apparently, I had missed Nemo ingesting something poisonous on our last walk of the night, last night. Before bed, he threw up and acted less than happy, but then Nemo hopped into our Westy and was not really any more or less comfortable than any other night. He drank a lot of water and went to sleep. When he'd move around I knew because that lower bunk is small. It was a night like any other night.

I woke up a bit surprised, however, that Nemo'd let Pretzel and I sleep in till 7:30 am. I went over the list of stuff I needed to do today for work in my head, and then I looked back and thought "Is Nemo breathing?"

Nemo was a very special dog. I loved him very much. He spent 6 years living on a beach and then a few months driving around living on lots of beaches in a VW van. He never wanted for a thing, was always surrounded by love and had no idea that a Great Pyr is supposed to live a lot longer than 6.

Nemo was rescued by fantastic folks who supported us and loved Nemo his entire life, even after they closed up shop. Randy has been there to answer questions or to help me with Nemo's training at every turn. Living with such a large dog that is bred to be a guardian would not have been possible without that guidance. Read the rest

Rachid Taha has followed Joe Strummer to rock the casbah in the hereafter

Punk, Algerian chaabi music, Rai, rock and techno: Rachid Taha had it all going on. He drew inspiration from the music of North Africa, New Orleans jazz, delta blues, The Clash and Elvis Presley. He cut his teeth spinning albums as a DJ and playing in a number of bands as he came of age in France. He worked with famed producers like Don Was and Steve Hillage and traveled in the same circles as David Bowie. In his later years, he was slowed down by muscular dystrophy, but he continued to rock, nonetheless. You've very likely enjoyed his music used in films and video games without ever knowing it. It's beautiful, fire-filled stuff.

On September 12th, Rachid Taha passed away at the age of 59. Read the rest

R.I.P. Koko, the amazing gorilla who used sign language to communicate with humans

That time Robin Williams hung out with Koko in 2001.

Sad news out of Woodside, California:

Koko, the western lowland gorilla who mastered American Sign Language, passed away Wednesday in her sleep at the age of 46.

The Gorilla Foundation, an organization founded by Koko's beloved caretaker and teacher Dr. Penny Patterson and Dr. Ronald Cohn, released a statement:

...Koko touched the lives of millions as an ambassador for all gorillas and an icon for interspecies communication and empathy. She was beloved and will be deeply missed.

Koko, a western lowland gorilla, was born Hanabi-ko (Japanese for “Fireworks Child”) on July 4, 1971 at the San Francisco Zoo. Dr. Francine “Penny” Patterson began working with Koko the next year, famously teaching her sign language. Dr. Patterson and Dr. Ronald Cohn moved Koko and the project to Stanford in 1974 and went on to establish The Gorilla Foundation. While at Stanford the project expanded to include a second western lowland gorilla, Michael. In 1979 Koko and The Gorilla Foundation moved to the Santa Cruz Mountains where Ndume joined them as a fellow ambassador for their species.

Koko’s capacity for language and empathy has opened the minds and hearts of millions. She has been featured in multiple documentaries and appeared on the cover of National Geographic twice. The first cover, in October of 1978, featured a photograph Koko had taken of herself in a mirror. The second issue, in January of 1985, included the story of Koko and her kitten, All Ball.

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Harry Anderson, TV's 'Night Court' star, has died at 65 in Asheville, N.C.

Actor Harry Anderson, best known for presiding over NBC's 'Night Court,' has died. He was 65. Read the rest

Watch this lovely tribute to Isao Takahata's groundbreaking animation career

Animation visionary Isao Takahata of Studio Ghibli fame died on April 5, and Smithsonian magazine published a great written overview that complements the video essay above. Read the rest

Ireland lost a musical giant this week

Irish music lost one of its legends this week, with the passing of Liam O'Flynn.

A player of the Uilleann pipes, O'Flynn, or as he was known by the Gaeilge iteration of his name, Liam Óg Ó Floinn, was born in 1945 to a family of musicians. In his youth, his piping earned him prizes at county and national levels, but it wasn't until he was in his thirties that he really hit his stride. As one of the founding members of Irish trad super group Planxty, O'Flynn helped to breathe new life to traditional Irish music by showing that it could be every bit as exciting and full of life as rock and roll. Without Planxty, there may not have been a Dexy's Midnight Runners; No Waterboys, Pogues, or Dropkick Murphys. We'd all be poorer for it. Plantxy's music left me with the impression, as a kid, that the tunes I played on the instruments I grew up with were cool. I had the privilege of meeting Mr. O'Flynn at a musical festival I was covering for a magazine back in the 1990s. He was pleasant and seemed genuinely pleased to make my acquaintance. The encounter left me feeling giddy for days afterwards.

One of my favorite songs by Planxty, Raggle Taggle Gypsy, has a tune lashed on to the end of it called Tabhair dom do laimh, which roughly translates as Give Me Your Hand. O'Flynn's rendition of the tune has been one of my happy places for decades. Read the rest

I was lucky to have a friend like Lu

I used to pretend to cry, whenever I was down, just so my dog Lucy would run up and comfort me. This worked well for a little over 16 years.

I have lived my entire life with dogs. I have been lucky enough to know several really special ones. Lucy Patterson was, from the very first day we got her, up until the minute she left, a dog that opened up every heart around her -- and then stole their food.

Lucy was a glutton. She once ate an entire 3lb bag of "Bit o' Honey" off my kitchen table. Lu proceeded to crap corn syrup and wax paper for days. I doubt she regretted it.

Lucy took a point blank shot in the face from a skunk, and in her suffering somehow decided to run back into the house and roll around in the clean laundry to try and get the stink off. She, and the house smelled for months.

Lu chewed the gear shift lever in every car she could.

When Lucy was 12 her cardiologist told us she had 3 to 6 months to live. Lucy did not hear this.

Mad at a member of our family, Lucy once took a dump at their spot on the dinner table.

Lucy would sleep on my feet, and I'd call her 'LuLu Shoes' -- when she'd sleep on my head it was known as a 'PatsPats Hat.'

Lucy trained Calliope to be a near perfect dog, but Zuul really became her mini-me. Read the rest

Chuck Berry, Rock Music Legend, Dies at 90

The great Chuck Berry, “who with his indelible guitar licks, brash self-confidence and memorable songs about cars, girls and wild dance parties did as much as anyone to define rock ’n’ roll’s potential and attitude in its early years,” died on Saturday, the New York Times and others reported Saturday. He was 90. 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

John Glenn, the first American to orbit Earth, dies at 95

John Glenn, a war hero and the first American to orbit planet Earth, has died after being hospitalized in Ohio for the last two weeks. Read the rest

Fidel Castro, former Cuban president, is dead at 90

Fidel Castro, the former president of Cuba and leader of the Caribbean nation's Communist revolution, has died, state TV announced tonight. He was 90. His brother Raúl Castro, who is the current President of Cuba, announced Fidel's death on state television tonight.

"The historical leader of the Cuban Revolution died on the night of Friday, November 25, at 22:29 hrs., and his remains will be cremated, in accordance with his will," said the Cuban president.

BBC:

Fidel Castro ruled Cuba as a one-party state for almost half a century before handing over the powers to his brother Raul in 2008. His supporters praised him as a man who had given Cuba back to the people. But his opponents accused him of brutally suppressing opposition.

The funeral details for Fidel will be announced in the coming hours, said Raúl. Fidel was last seen on November 15, when President Tran Dai Quang of Vietnam visited the longtime Cuban leader's residence.

[El País] Read the rest

Tom Hayden played right

Twenty-nine years ago I photographed people at play for a series in my portfolio. I wanted to shoot Tom Hayden, who I knew as the right fielder on a team in the men’s baseball league I played in. He agreed to pose for me at a batting cage in mid-town, and we made some good images. I gave him a print, and figured that was the end of our business. The next year I was looking for a new team, and called him to get his manager’s number. And that’s how I joined the Hollywood Stars in 1988.

Over the next two years Tom and I became friends, first through baseball, then through politics, and then just because. We had midweek work-outs and rode to games together on Sunday. We went to movies. I volunteered on some of his campaigns, and he kept me involved between elections. He debriefed me after my first date with my wife, and we attended each other’s wedding receptions. He gave our son a tour of the State Senate. Mostly, though, we had baseball.

That version of the Hollywood Stars eventually disbanded, and the bond between us weakened. It’s always that way in baseball; the ties forged on the field decay at a constant rate away from it. We last spoke about 13 years ago. We played catch in Culver City, and talked about his young son and about my teenage son. Then we parted and got on with our lives.

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Tom Hayden, famed civil rights and anti-war activist, has passed away

Activist Tom Hayden has passed away at the age of 76. Read the rest

RIP, R2D2: Star Wars actor Kenny Baker has died

The British actor who played R2-D2 in the classic Star Wars films died today, age 81, after a long illness. Read the rest

Michu Meszaros, who played ALF the extraterrestrial on television, RIP

Michu Meszaros, the circus performer and actor who played Alf the extraterrestrial on the 1980s sitcom, has died at age 76. Maestros also appeared in “Looks Who’s Talking, "Big Top Pee-wee," and episodes of "Dear John” and “H.R. Pufnstuf." Read the rest

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