Pigeon in a cowboy hat, RIP

A bird rescue group in Las Vegas says one of three hat-wearing pigeons which gained popularity on social media has died.

Lofty Hopes pigeon rescue of Las Vegas tweeted the sad news this past Sunday. Read the rest

Rest in Power, Allee Willis — Queen of Kitsch

Allee Willis with psychedelic Fluffernutters

It's never fun to report that someone in our tribe has passed. That's especially true when that person is also someone you know and love.

Allee Willis, Happy Mutant Extraordinaire, died just after 6 p.m. on December 24 of cardiac arrest. She was 72.

My friend Heather was in tears when she phoned me to tell me the news. It was 10:15 p.m. on Christmas Eve. She had just read about Allee's sudden and unexpected death in Variety. We were both shocked and deeply saddened. We pondered together on the call, "How is it possible that she's gone?"

I first met Allee back in the February of 2011. Friends of mine here in Alameda, Jessica and Mel, introduced me to her. "You HAVE to meet her!" they insisted. At that time, a TV show called Clean House was filming the decluttering and redecorating of their home. Their excess stuff was soon to be sold in a televised public sale. Since they are well known for their massive collection of pop culture kitsch and, being the Queen of Kitsch, Allee was compelled to drive up for the sale. And because their house was out of commission for the show's filming, I offered up mine to host a party in Allee's honor, not entirely sure what I was getting myself into or, honestly, grasping the full understanding of who she was. But I was game. I invited a group of local friends, all self-proclaimed kitsch lovers. Read the rest

Actor Danny Aiello has died at 86

PHOTO COURTESY Universal Pictures: Danny Aiello, second from left, with Spike Lee, John Turturro, and Richard Edson in a scene from “Do the Right Thing” (1989).

Beloved blue collar tough-guy actor Danny Aiello has died. He was 86. Read the rest

Microsoft’s Cortana is sleeping with the fishes

Lots of people are fine with allowing a helpful wiretap into their lives. I am not one of them. None of them. So, when I heard that Cortana was being sent out to pasture by Microsoft, I was pretty excited. The dismantling of surveillance apparatus that’s slimed its way into our daily lives always leaves me feeling a little frisky.

From Gizmodo:

That’s according to a support article Microsoft posted to several regional markets this week, though a spokesperson later clarified to Gizmodo that only users in the following areas can expect to say goodbye to the voice assistant: Great Britain, Australia, Germany, Mexico, China, Spain, Canada, and India. Despite dropping the app in these regions, Cortana itself remains “an integral part” of the company’s business model to incorporate “conversational computing and productivity” into its products according to the spokesperson, so Microsoft doesn’t appear to be closing the coffin on it entirely.

According to Gizmodo, at least in North America, we’ll have to put up with the company’s post-Clippy assistant on our smartphones until January 31, 2020.

Cortana’s death has been a long time coming. Last year, Microsoft’s CEO admitted that the company’s virtual assistant could keep up with the likes of Alexa or Siri.

Score one for those of us who don’t want our gadgets listening in on us. I can only hope that Halo’s Master Chief will be able to quickly deal with the loss of his long-term companion and move on with his life.

Image via Wikipedia Commons Read the rest

Rep. Elijah Cummings has passed away

A great American has passed away. US Representative for Maryland's 7th congressional district, Elijah Eugene Cummings has passed away at age 68.

Elijah Cummings has been an inspiration for as long as I can remember. We have lost one of the last true statesmen in this broken US political system.

Baltimore Sun:

The U.S. congressman from Maryland, who died early Thursday morning at 68, was a long-time warrior for justice, truly a great man. He spoke truth to power even as a member of the power class. And the Democrat was not above pleading, with rival Republicans or constituents, for what he knew was right.

He chose politics and public life because he wanted a better country, a better city. Immersed in the complex problems of both, he kept his eyes on the prize all through his career. As a member of Congress, with oversight of government operations at a range of levels, Cummings was in the role of examiner, and what he examined was usually bad — from incompetence by bureaucrats to price gouging by corporations to the abuses of power of the executive branch. And so his words were often aspirational, uttered while mired in mud, yet pointing us toward a mountaintop.

Read the rest

RIP MoviePass (again)

On Saturday, September 14th, the grand and ultimately fatally flawed experiment known as MoviePass will finally come to an end. And this time, it looks permanent. Read the rest

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.

Read the rest

Monday Music: Warren Zevon — Play it All Night Long

I got told by a friend as I described what I was having for lunch "enjoy your sandwich". With the way that my brain works, I instantly heard, insdie of my skull Bruce Springsteen singing Warren Zevon's My Ride's Here from the Enjoy Every Sandwich tribute album that popped after Zevon's death in 2003. This, in turn led me to a wicked heartache over the fact that there will never be another Warren Zevon tune brought into this world.

Listening to him play Play it All Night, acted as a bit of a balm against that pain. I'm pretty sure that this video would have been snagged by some lucky audience members attending the concert tour where Zevon's Learning to Flinch live album was recorded. His writing's pretty dark, but damned if it never fails to bring a smile to my face.

Image via Wikipedia Commons Read the rest

Fare thee well, Tim "Zeke the Sheik" Dundon

This video perfectly encapsulates everything I remember when first meeting Zeke the Sheik so many, many years ago. Tim Dundon, Altadena's composting vigilante, has passed away at age 77.

Decades ago I was planting my first home vegetable garden. A large portion of the soil needed to be replaced and my friend David took me to meet Zeke the Sheik. Zeke maintained THE PILE.

The pile appeared to be a double lot completely covered by a 15' to 40' high mound of compost. Zeke had planted a huge and dense hedge of vegetation around the property to try and act as a firebreak, as the gas the pile would off-put occasionally burst into flame.

I got soil from Zeke all those years ago. He spoke in rhyme and really entertained. Whenever you were way the heck out near Altadena you could stop by and say hi. I knew he had legal troubles with his neighbors and the place sure seemed odd-ball, but Zeke was dedicated to the pile and worked hard to make it safe and healthy.

The other day my friend David told me that Tim Dundon had passed away. I apologised and said I did not know who that was. It never occurred to me that he was anyone but Zeke the Sheik. Tim certainly led a colorful life and composted a lot.

LA Times:

Dundon, a rhyming whiz known widely by his alter ego “Zeke the Sheik” and whose legendary, mountainous compost pile delighted some and troubled others — and who famously defended himself in court in rhyme — died Monday in West Hills, said his friend Ilham Akraa.

Read the rest

New Orleans music legend Art Neville has died.

New Orleans music and cultural legend Art Neville, who co-founded the Meters and Neville Brothers, has died. He was 81 years old. Read the rest

Fare thee well, ThinkGeek

It's the end of a geeky era: After 19 glorious years of flogging movie, comic book and gaming-related swag, ThinkGeek is shuttering its website next month.

From The Verge:

ThinkGeek will officially close down its website and will migrate its operations over to its parent company GameStop’s website instead. In the meantime, the store is holding a 50 percent off “moving sale.”

By way of explanation, a GameStop spokesperson would only provide the following business-speak: The company is “engaging in a strategic business transformation initiative to build the GameStop of the future,” and that as part of that effort “we have made the decision to reorganize our ThinkGeek business by streamlining the operations of our ThinkGeek.com ecommerce platform and transitioning it within our GameStop.com omnichannel platform.”

Apparently, renewing that domain name every year was way outside of GameStop's budget. I suppose that being able to buy the same kit online will do, but it just won't be the same. Back in the day, I bought a number of handheld console emulators from ThinkGeek. It always felt like I was getting away with something special. I can't imagine having that same customer experience by shopping through a corporate behemoth like GameStop.

On the bright side of things, for the time being, over 40 of ThinkGeek's brick-and-mortar shops will remain open across the United States. I mean, you can't shop there at 3am in your underwear like you could with their website, but it's something, I suppose.

Image via Wikipedia Commons & Amazon Read the rest

RIP, science fiction and fantasy Grand Master Gene Wolfe, 1931-2019

Gene Wolfe, author of more than 30 books including classics like The Book of The New Sun, has died at the age of 87. Read the rest

Deaths: Actor Bob Einstein, 'Super Dave Osborne' and Marty Funkhouser on ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’

'Super Dave Osborne' and 'Marty Funkhouser' have left us. Read the rest

The great Ricky Jay was the magician’s magician

Ricky Jay – magician, sleight-of-hand artist extraordinaire, actor, author, scholar of weirdness and oddities, Guinness award winner for throwing playing cards – passed away on November 24th at age 72.

Ricky Jay's life and legacy have been dutifully celebrated in the feature documentary Deceptive Practice, an enduring 1993 profile in The New Yorker, and lately by David Mamet's eulogy. The man indeed left a dent in the magic community.

A personal note should say enough for my love of this man's work. I have only one object hanging on my studio walls: an original print of Ricky Jay’s book cover “Cards as Weapons.”

I was a teenage kid when I stumbled upon the card-magic bible "The Expert At The Card Table" by S.W.Erdnase. This book became an obsession of mine for a few years; eventually I translated and published the work in my native Italian. One day I got my paws on a VHS tape of a man who took Erdnase’s century-old presentation “The Exclusive Coterie” and brought it back to life – with humor, a charming style, and a never-before-seen flair. I was completely enraptured. That performance set the bar for artistry and excellence for years to come.

Ricky Jay’s long time friend, collaborator and co-conspirator Michael Weber said, “The real mark of an artist is not becoming known as the finest exponent of their art. It’s when the only way to describe what they do is to name them.”

Well, Ricky Jay’s name is set in stone: an artist in a league by himself. Read the rest

Robin Williams gets 22-disc box set tribute

The deeply missed Robin Williams will have some of his best work commemorated in a massive 22-disc box set called Robin Williams: Comic Genius. Produced by Time-Life, the set includes all five of Williams' HBO specials, his best talk and late-night show appearances, 11 episodes of Mork & Mindy, the 2018 HBO Documentary Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind and so much more. Seriously, there is a TON of material in this set. Complete details and ordering information are available on Time-Life's website. Here's the preview: Read the rest

RIP Al Matthews, 'Aliens' fantastic Sgt. Apone

Former US Marine and well-known actor Al Matthews has passed away at the age of 75. His portrayal of Sgt. Apone in Aliens remains one of my favorite all-time military characters. 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

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