Louis Zamperini [previously], subject of Laura Hillenbrand's popular biography Unbroken, died on July 2 at age 97 (link to NYTimes obit). A movie of Unbroken, with a screenplay by the Coen Brothers and directed by Angelina Jolie, is set for a Christmas release. Zamperini was an Olympic distance runner who survived weeks at sea in the Pacific and a Japanese prisoner of war camp after being shot down while serving in WWII. [more inside]
“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ― Maya Angelou 1928 - 2014
John Paul Henson, who has been playing beloved Muppet Sweetums since 1991, has died of a sudden heart attack at the age of 48.
Tom Finney, one of the all time greats of English football, has died at the age of 91. [more inside]
One of the 20th century's most prolific and well regarded authors of crime fiction, Elmore Leonard, has died at the age of 87, following a stroke two weeks ago. Leonard's novels and short stories were frequently adapted to movies and television, with particular acclaim in the cases of Get Shorty, Out of Sight, Jackie Brown, and Justified.
For more than 50 years, Linear B was an ancient language that hadn't given up its secret. Professor Bennett spent much of the 1940s hammering out a list of about 80 characters, and in 1951 he published the first definitive list of the signs of Linear B. The next year, archaeologist and Linear B enthusiast Michael Ventris finished "breaking" the code, with some hope from the research of Bennett, and another scholar named Alice Kober, but apparently she was rather hard to get on with and they went their separate ways. Except the magnitude of Doctor Kober's painstaking and self-sacrificing work is still largely unacknowledged. [more inside]
Robert Bork, the conservative jurist at the heart of two political firestorms--in 1973 he carried out the "Saturday Night Massacre" by firing Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox, and in 1987 had his nomination for the Supreme Court rejected by the Senate after a combative confirmation hearing--died yesterday. A perennially divisive figure, Bork's passing drew encomiums from the right and condemnation from the left.
Tweedland has some interesting stories and characters. Here's two to get you started:
Robert de Montesquiou - "Tall, black-haired, rouged, Kaiser-moustached, he cackled and screamed in weird attitudes, giggling in high soprano, hiding his little black teeth behind an exquisitely gloved hand – the poseur absolute. He was said to have slept with Sarah Bernhardt and vomited for a week afterwards."
Lord Berners - "As a child, having heard that if you throw a dog into water it will learn how to swim, he threw his mother's canine companion out of the window on the grounds that if one applies the same logic it should learn how to fly. (The dog was unharmed, and he was "thrashed" by his mother.)"
Shulamith Firestone, RIP. The founding radical feminist was found dead in her apartment, a quiet end to a revolutionary life. [more inside]
Nina Bawden, writer of novels for adults and children, born in 1925, died on 22nd August 2012. “As a child, Nina said, she had felt wicked because the children in the books she read were all so good, and she was one of the first writers for children to create characters who could be jealous, selfish and bad-tempered” (Guardian obituary). [more inside]
"The real satisfaction from mathematics is in learning from others and sharing with others." William Thurston, one of the greatest mathematicians of the 20th century, has died. He revolutionized topology and geometry, insisting always that geometric intuition and understanding played just as important a role in mathematical discovery as did the austere formalism championed by the school of Grothendieck. Thurston's views on the relation between mathematical understanding and formal proof are summed up in his essay "On Proof and Progress in Mathematics." [more inside]
Chuck Colson has died at age 80. The former "hatchet man" for President Nixon, Colson once remarked that he would "walk over his grandmother to get the president elected to a second term." After serving eight months in prison for his role in the Watergate scandal, Colson announced that he'd become a born again Christian. In 1976, he founded Prison Fellowship International to aid and evangelize prisoners and their families. He was quickly embraced by the Evangelical world, and eventually eventually became an influential figure in conservative Christian politics.
"Hilton Kramer, whose clear, incisive style and combative temperament made him one of the most influential critics of his era, both at The New York Times, where he was the chief art critic for almost a decade, and at The New Criterion, which he edited from its founding in 1982, died early Tuesday in Harpswell, Me. He was 84." [more inside]
“Obituaries are not about death. They are a celebration of life." The Art of the Obituary [more inside]
Songwriter Nick Ashford died yesterday. Nickolas 'Nick' Ashford, along with his songwriting and marriage partner Valerie Simpson, wrote dozens of songs performed, covered and interpreted by artists like Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell, Chaka Khan, Beyonce and Justin Timberlake and Amy Winehouse. [more inside]
Obituaries editors probably belong by the sea. The cries of seagulls are their music, fading into infinity, and the light-filled sky bursts open like a gateway out of the world. The elderly gravitate there, shuffling in cheerful pairs along Marine Parade or jogging in slow motion past the Sea Gull Café, intent on some distant goal. Their skin is weathered and tanned, as if they have fossilised themselves in ozone to keep death at bay. They wear bright trainers, young clothes. But they have shifted to the shore here, or in Bexhill, or in Eastbourne, as if to the edge of life, and each flapping deck-chair reserves a waiting-place.Ann Wroe, obituaries editor of The Economist, muses on mortality and the sea in the latest correspondent's diary, a series of articles by various Economist writers. You can read the magazine's obituaries here, including a recent one of former obituaries editor Keith Colquhoun. [Ann Wroe previously]
The Boston Globe reports that historian Howard Zinn has died of a heart attack. The pioneering radical historian is best known for A People's History of the United States.
Oil City Confidential is a new film from director Julien Temple, previously responsible for The Filth and the Fury, about the Sex Pistols, and Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten, focusing on Strummer and The Clash. This time round, in a kind of prequel to both those films, he tackles the life and turbulent times of Dr. Feelgood. Finding fame on the same Pub rock circuit (as remembered by writer and Kursaal Flyers drummer Will Birch) that also supported Ian Dury's Kilburn and the High Roads (not to mention Eddie and the Hot Rods and Joe Strummer's pre-Clash band The 101ers), Dr. Feelgood played stripped-down, taut and aggressive R&B. Hailing from the wildlands of Essex's Canvey Island – the "Oil City" of the film's title – Dr Feelgood were punk before punk really hit, a whirlwind of raucous energy, with a fierce work ethic. In Wilko Johnson, they had a guitarist with a scorching, slash and burn technique, while their singer, Lee Brilleaux (1989 interview), who died of cancer in 1994, aged just 41, oozed cheap-suited menace, and, into the bargain, helped found Stiff Records. [more inside]
San Francisco's Bay Area Reporter, together with the GLBT Historical Society, are making available all of the gay newspaper's AIDS obituaries in an on-line searchable database. The database, to be unveiled on December 1, 2009, World AIDS Day, contains the obituaries for about 10,000 people. [more inside]
Newspaperman, war hero, blacklist front, distinguished screenwriter, co-creator of Mr. Magoo, novelist at age 90... Millard Kaufman is dead at 92.
Gore Vidal Speaks Seriously Ill of the Dead Annoyed with the rose-tinted view of William F. Buckley displayed by some of his obituarists, Vidal slams Buckley, Newsweek, and the media in general. (MeFi Buckley obit thread here).
Opening a restaurant is not an easy way to get rich, but for 36 year old Lovie Yancey, an African American woman living in Southern Califoria in 1947, the gamble paid off. As founder of the Fatburger chain (warning - audio), Lovie is remembered as the creator of arguably the greatest hamburger in a nation obsessed with hamburgers. Lovie passed away Jan 26, at 96 years of age, and even if you're not a fan of her burgers, take a moment in tribute to a remarkable woman.
With the death of Louis de Cazenave, Lazare Ponticelli is the last surviving French veteran of World War One, and the country has been wondering how to mark the inevitable. By contrast, Germany's response to the recent death of Erich Kaestner has been a more muted affair, indeed, all but unnoted. [more inside]
Some of the inventors and creators that died in 2007 who leave behind something for us to remember them by: David H. Shepard (Optical Readers, Farrington B numeric font), J. Robert Cade (Gatorade), Herbert Saffir (The Hurricane Scale), George Rieveschl (beta-dimethylaminoethylbenzhydryl ether hydrochloride --- a.k.a. Benadryl), Arthur Jones (Nautilus machines), Jack Odell (Matchbox Cars), Raymond Douglas (Color in the NY Times), George Kovacs (The ubiquitous halogen torchiere lamp), Martin J. Weber (The Posterization technique), Edwin Traisman (Cheez Whiz and McD's French Fries), Ed Yost (Modern Hot-Air Ballooning), Theodore Maiman (The Laser), John Billings (The Rhythm Method), Paul C. Lauterbur (The M.R.I.), John W. Backus (Fortran), Florence Z. Melton (Slippers), James Hillier (The Electron Microscope), Iwao Takamoto ("Scooby-Doo"), and Momofuku Ando (Instant Ramen). So it goes.
A wonderful obituary in the NYT for Grace Paley, who died yesterday at her home in Thetford Hill, Vt. She was 84.
I don't know what other people’s first thoughts may be on Monday mornings; but mine, as the jabber of my husband’s radio crawls into my dreams, is “Has anyone died today?” So began a week-long diary by The Economist's obituaries editor, Ann Wroe, which she completed today.
The Florida Panty Snatcher is gone, but his last request was granted. The mild-mannered truck driver wanted his long-time CB handle mentioned in his obituary. If you knew your days were numbered, what would your final wish be? What would your epitaph say?
Premature, prepared, and alternative obituaries for Cuba's Fidel Castro. Time to get ready for the real thing? Conjecture and hope about Life After Fidel: Time to get to know Fidel's brother Raul.
Mountaineer, Scientist, Photographer Brad Washburn dies at 96. Across the world of mountaineering, but especially in New England, people are mourning a legend. He discovered the West Buttress Route -- the most popular route -- on Denali. He was director of Boston's Museum of Science for forty years. He took some of the most iconic photos of mountains and mountaineers. He won the National Geographic Society's Centennial Award and the King Albert Medal of Merit. His name may not be familiar, but chances are that you've seen his work.
Bo Knew Football. On the eve of one of the most anticipated college football matchups in decades, Bo Schembechler, the storied ex coach of the Michigan Wolverines passes away. The Michigan/OSU game is one of the longest and most storied rivalries in the history of sports. His battles with Woody Hayes are the stuff of Wolverine and Buckeye legend. Hail to the Victors, Bo.
"Overall, I’m amused that the bastards who threw me out in the gutter, now want to “honor” me with a fancy obit."
Bob "Mad Dog" Lassiter, dead at 61. Bob was one of the most notorious and entertaining "confrontational radio" hosts to ever sit behind a microphone. WFMU's The Professor wrote , "every other talk host I’ve ever heard usually gets off on like-minded callers, but not Bob. In fact, he was often quite impatient with callers who agreed with him." Bob was an absolute master of baiting the listening audience, ensnaring many callers who thought that they were clever enough to outwit him. Of course, none of them were. He once played "dead air chicken" with a belligerent caller for 11 minutes straight, saying absolutely nothing until the caller finally gave up and hung up his phone. Tapes of these broadcasts have been prized by aircheck collectors for years, many of which are now available as mp3 downloads at BobLassiterAirchecks.com. Bob knew he was dying, yet he actively resisted any measures that would improve his health. He blogged nearly every moment of his last days, often in graphic detail. His last written words were posted yesterday.
"He spent much of his life recovering from the misadventures that plagued him even in the womb." A most unusual obituary that illuminates the life of a Denver-area man with unusuably horiffic bad luck.
"Hitch was always trying to push the limits on techniques and to be different". Cary Grant chased by a crop-duster plane in a corn field; Janet Leigh screaming in the shower; Tippi Hedren attacked by killer seagulls. The man behind lens? Leonard J. South (1914-2006) , Hitchcock's camera operator. More inside.
Jeff Chapman (Ninjalicious of Infiltration.org) dies. He created Infiltration, the zine that documented and instructed the practice of "urban exploration" (spelunking in buildings where you're not supposed to go). Discovering his zine led me to understand that my lengthy time-killing in the catacombs of the Ontario provincial government was an activity with an actual name - and purpose. Chapman, a liver-transplant recipient, died in Toronto of cancer at age 31. Details from his wife. (Previous mention)
Obituaries of the Future An example: June 5, 2019. Bush – George W. (72), the 43rd president of the United States, was struck down “in action” early yesterday morning from injuries sustained during a failed one-man invasion of Mexico. Write your own!
Shelby Foote died on Monday. Somehow I missed this, and I assume others will have as well. Booktv will rebroadcast a lengthy interview with him July 2. Downloads available as well.
Saunders Mac Lane, mathematician, has died, age 95. Winner of the National Medal of Science, Vice-President of the National Academy of Science, President of the American Mathematical Society, author of three of the canonical texts in algebra [reg. maybe req., here's a local copy], Mac Lane was also mathematical ancestor to over a thousand mathematicians, father of category theory and homological algebra, and expert in topology, topos theory, group cohomology, logic, and applied mathematics. He was one of the towering figures of postwar mathematics. Remembered by his students and all of us who were affected by his work and his life.
A Walk in the Woods. Farewell to the original Cold War warrior: Paul Nitze, the college professor's son who went to Hotchkiss and Harvard and worked as investment banker before going to Washington in 1940, where he quickly became one of the chief architects of American policy towards the Soviet Union. His doctrine of "strategic stability" became its cornerstone for half a century (Nitze held key government posts in Washington, from the era of Franklin Roosevelt to Ronald Reagan's, when he was the White House's guru on arms control). By the end of 1949, Nitze had become director of the State Department's policy planning staff, helping to devise the role of Nato, deciding to press ahead with the manufacture of the H-bomb, and producing National Security Council document 68, the document at the heart of the Cold War: in it, Nitze called for a drastic expansion of the U.S. military budget. The paper also expanded containment’s scope beyond the defense of major centers of industrial power to encompass the entire world. (NSC-68 was a top secret paper, written in April 1950 and declassified in the 70's, called "United States Objectives and Programs for National Security"). More inside.
Eddie Adams has died at 71. Just last week the NPPA sent out a poignant message warning of his looming death from Lou Gehrig's disease. Who is he, you ask? The photographer who took the iconic image of an on-street execution in Vietnam and who set up the Eddie Adams Workshop. Top video here.
Filmmaker Alexander Hammid died earlier this week at the age of 96. By far one of the most prolific and eclectic underground filmmakers, his filmography included marital industrial films, home movies of his cats, and work as an editor on Gian Carlo Menotti's filmed opera The Medium. However, he is best known as the first husband of iconclastic director and actress Maya Deren.
NFL player, who walked away from a $3.6 million contract in the aftermath of 9/11 to join his brother in the Special Forces, dies in Afganistan. Unselfishness personified.
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