This Day in Death

1.27.14: Folk Singer and Activist Pete Seeger – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 9:43 am January 29, 2014

PETE_SEEGERIf you were looking for Waldo, he’s between the crate of white guilt and the guy who’s only using drugs “to enhance the experience.”

Well hello there, fellow traveler! I was just spending some time with my old banjo, Fretsy Ross, singing some of our favorite non-copyright-protected songs of yore in honor of the death of folk legend Pete Seeger. You know, all the classics; the one about the guy who loved his hammer. That other one about wanting to have a hammer. And who could forget all those ones about using a hammer to murder the woman who done her man wrong? Really, a surprising amount of aggression for folk songs, when you think about it.

Yessir, in all the time that ol’ Fretsy and I been together I suppose we’ve seen some pretty monumental changes in this country of ours. We’ve watched people lose faith in their leaders and find it in anonymous internet hate mobs. We’ve seen me learning how to do the Dougie only two years too late. We’ve seen racism end like 40 goddamn times. And yet, despite all that, it seems like only yesterday when I accidentally whittled her into life after misreading a set of especially tricky IKEA end table instructions. In reality, of course, it was almost three and half weeks ago. I have to say, I’ve aged much better than she has.

Seeger, a singer-songwriter, was a major figure in the history of American folk music; he helped forge ties between the genre and political activisim. His work in political folk predated the socially charged folk that became popular in the 1950s and 1960s—he sang for the labor movement in the 1940s before joining civil rights and anti-war movements in later decades. He adapted his own version of “We Shall Overcome”, for example, and turned it into an important song in the civil rights era.

Seeger was also the guy who reportedly threatened to take a hatchet to Bob Dylan’s power supply during the Newport Folk Festival in 1965. The legend goes that Seeger wasn’t cottoning to Dylan’s newfangled hard-rockin’ ways and was protesting what he perceived to be blasphemy against traditional folk music. However, in later years Seeger would claim he actually enjoyed Dylan’s performance and was simply unhappy with the distorted quality of the audio coming over the PA system. Oh, sure, and I cry myself to sleep every night because tears are a good facial moisturizer, not because I’m trapped inside this persona I’ve created and am now forever tormented by my inability to connect with people on any kind of loving or sincere level! Ha! SORROW’D!

…God, I’m barely even human anymore.


Source: Pitchfork

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1.13.13: Poster Artist Gary Grimshaw – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 8:30 am January 27, 2014

GARY_GRIMSHAWIs that a poster advertising other posters? That is some next level meta shit right there. Also, what the hell are you listening to that needs that much high end? Is there a band that consists entirely of nothing but cymbals and banshee shrieks? Jesus, it’s called “equalization,” not “make-the-neighbor’s-dog-think-someone’s-jamming-an-ice-pick-in-his-ear… ization.”


I believe it was Ghandi who said that a product’s advertising is almost always better than the actual product being advertised. A slickly-executed promotion is the thin psychological membrane keeping us from realizing that there’s no scenario where getting a payday loan isn’t a terrible idea, or wondering why white people apparently can’t go a month without taking an extravagant vacation. Even musical performances need eye-catching ads to ensure no one will notice that all of those White Stripes songs are pretty much the same thing.

Of course, music is gone now, no longer being produced or consumed in any measurable quantity. Many of the younger generation believe it was never more than an urban legend to begin with, and those who were actually able to hear it at some point in their life have been left with nothing but the fading memory of Gwen Stefani’s brutal and unprovoked murder of beloved Beastie Boy Adam Yauch. But back in the days before the FCC declared that all advertising was legally required to be about insurance, cell phone plans, or interchangeable first-person military shooter games, there was Gary Grimshaw advertising local Detroit bands and festivals with his psychedelic poster art. Grimshaw’s work perfectly captured the mind-expanding, drug-fueled, grope-who-you-want madness of the rock and roll scene during the 60s and 70s. Unfortunately his later, more mellow posters were never quite as successful, and mostly focused on how having a loving family and a stable home life is the most intense high of all.

Born in Detroit in 1946, Grimshaw was a graduate of Lincoln Park High School, a Vietnam veteran, an antiwar activist and onetime member of the White Panther Party. He began producing art at the age of 20, and, over the next four decades, made his name working in media (including famed Detroit-based underground magazine Creem) and producing concert promotional posters for acts like the MC5, Sun Ra, Miles Davis, Iggy & the Stooges and the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

Hey, you know what poster I’ve always liked? That one with Einstein sticking his tongue out at the camera. It really reminds you that, even though he was a genius, he was still just a normal person like everybody else. It’s why I commissioned that oil painting of Carl Sagan starting a cockfighting ring in Mexico. We’re all just people, doing our best to make this crazy experiment called “life” work, man.


Source: Detroit Free Press

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1.11.13: Ariel Sharon – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 8:32 pm January 15, 2014

ARIEL_SHARONGoat boa is fashion worth the risk of contracting foot-and-mouth disease for.


Unsuccessful prop comic Ariel Sharon died over the weekend after being in a coma for eight years following a stroke suffered in 2006. You’ve probably never seen his comedy routine, or even heard of him, such was the extent of his failure to break through into the mainstream. I blame his name. It just doesn’t scan as very funny, and as someone who’s sat through a lot of Kathy Griffin specials, I consider myself qualified to make that call. Hang on… Wait wait… Wait, let me doublecheck my notes… Okay… Alright. Upon closer reading it turns out Sharon was actually the former Prime Minister of Israel. Okay. Well, in that case I guess the name isn’t too odd after all, but I still maintain you’re not gonna pack the Guffaw Hut in Sioux City, Iowa with it.

Many in the Arab world called Sharon “the Butcher of Beirut” after he oversaw Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon while serving as defense minister.

He was a major figure in many defining events in the Middle East for decades, including his decision to turn over Gaza and parts of the West Bank to Palestinian control.

Sorry, I wanted to keep going here, but honestly after all these years this whole conflict “Israeli” starting to bore me. Ha! Now that’s how you structure a good joke, Sharon!


Source: CNN

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1.7.14: Chinese Movie Mogul Run Run Shaw – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 9:14 am January 13, 2014

RUN_RUN_SHAWWait, only 60% of your harem are princesses? Get back to me when you’ve learned a thing or two about decadence, Shaw.


It’s sad times for people who enjoy watching half-naked Asian dudes get sweaty with each other in a non-sexual context, because Kung Fu movie pioneer Run Run Shaw passed away last week. Shaw lived to the age of 106, because the Chinese have to be better than us at every goddamn thing. If they ever start making their own “Who Farted?” apparel we might as well concede defeat. You just know those shirts are gonna have some stunning hem work.

Mr. Shaw enjoyed the zany glamour of the Asian media world he helped create. He presided over his companies from a garish Art Deco palace in Hong Kong, a cross between a Hollywood mansion and a Hans Christian Andersen cookie castle. Well into his 90s he attended social gatherings with a movie actress on each arm. And he liked to be photographed in a tai chi exercise pose, wearing the black gown of a traditional mandarin.

Asked what his favorite films were, Mr. Shaw, a billionaire, once replied, “I particularly like movies that make money.”

Alright, so maybe Shaw’s business integrity could’ve been a bit more Russell Simmons and a lot less Gene Simmons, but his empire was still a testament to what you can do with the right amount of dedication and focus. That’s a lesson I’ve applied to this post, which I’ve completed despite having both of my index fingers stuck in a Chinese finger trap as a result of a rather misguided attempt at research. It’s the same way that I got trapped inside those Russian nesting dolls after Mikhail Kalashnikov died. Some days my life would be a lot easier if I didn’t know literally only one thing about every country.


Source: The NY Times

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1.3.14: Phil Everly of the Everly Brothers – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 7:11 am January 9, 2014

PHIL_EVERLYPhil’s (right) fallout with brother Don (left) was one of the more publicized breakups in modern music history. Less discussed but equally tragic was the prolonged and gradual separation of Phil’s pompadour from his scalp. I was always Team Scalp, for the record.


Phil Everly, one half of the Everly Brothers, the legendary musical brothers who bridged the gap between country and rock, has died at the age of 74. Careful not to confuse them with fellow legendary musical brothers Nelson, who bridged the gap between butt rock and cock rock. Kids these days just assume Daughtry came out of the ether, no respect for the forebearers.

On a personal note, the Everly Brothers have been my favorite musical duo ever since I realized that Taylor Hicks is only one person and I just had my tv next to a mirror. I… really need to see my optometrist.

You could argue that while Elvis Presley was the king of rock `n’ roll, Phil and Don Everly were its troubled princes. They sang dark songs hidden behind deceptively pleasing harmonies and were perfect interpreters of the twitchy hearts of millions of baby boomer teens coming of age in the 1950s and `60s looking to express themselves beyond the simple platitudes of the pop music of the day.

Nowadays the legacy of the Everly Brothers proudly lives on courtesy of… uh… Norah Jones and the guy from Green Day. They apparently released a rerecording of the Everly’s album Songs Our Daddy Taught Us last year, presumably retitled Songs Our Agents Told Us to Record Because Country Audiences Are an Untapped Market (Proudly Brought to You by Samsung #Authentic).

Alright, that was overly cynical, but if you can come up with a better explanation for why all of these guys spontaneously jumped ship to country just as the U.S.S. Every Other Genre capsized I’m all ears. With even the more rat-faced of the Spears sisters planning a country album it’s safe to say the plot’s been pretty thoroughly lost. Plus it’s kept Kevin Costner from bringing us that Tin Cup sequel I keep writing petitions for. It’s been 18 years, Costner! I need better closure!

Source: Billboard

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12.31.13: James Avery, Television’s “Uncle Phil” – DEAD!

Filed under: Uncategorized —James @ 5:33 pm January 3, 2014

JAMES_AVERYUncle Phil has long been a key square in my patchwork quilt of television father figures, right between Archie Bunker and Inspector Gadget. I was kinda on the fence about including that last one, but by the time I’d reconsidered his square was already landlocked.


Actor James Avery, or Rick Ross if you’re super racist and bad at Google image searches, has died from complications related to heart surgery. Avery is probably best know for portraying Uncle Phil on television’s The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air in the 90s. You know, it’s long been my pet theory that the character of Will Smith actually suffered a traumatic head injury during the street fight that supposedly resulted in his being sent to Bel-Air. As far as I’m concerned, Smith actually fell into a coma, and the entire series was simply a manifestation of his fractured psyche attempting to reassemble itself.

You see, jarring trauma had left Smith imagining himself in a landscape diametrically opposed to everything he’d ever known in terms of culture, class, income level, and even geography. He now lives in a west coast “mansion,” which is in actuality a complex psychological structure, a nest, to allow Smith some manner of protection from the onslaught of his upcoming trials. In this new lifestyle he sees what he can become if he can slay his personal demons and escape the poverty-stricken hell that he was born into.

Each of the “children” that he now lives with represent an aspect of Smith’s psyche, forcing him to confront all of the most difficult internal struggles of a young man growing up in the ghetto; “Hilary” is Smith at his most vain and sexually manipulative. “Little Nicky” is his childishness, his inability to focus his talents personified. “Ashley” is his rebellious naivete, a noble urge to reject societal norms that largely lacks the contextual nuance necessary to understand said urge. “Carlton” represents the intellectual gifts that Smith has forced himself to conceal in order to better fulfill the stereotype of the ignorant thug he had played into to survive on the streets of Philly. The key giveaway here comes at the end of the pilot episode, when we see Will, believing he is unobserved in his “mansion” (i.e. his psyche’s defense mechanism), display a seemingly uncharacteristic knowledge of classical music.

Avery, as “Uncle Phil,” fulfills an ambitious triple function; Firstly, he represents a grounding agent for Smith. “Phil” is clearly a stand-in for Smith’s hometown of Philadelphia, a huge, looming presence in the boy’s life. His relationship with “Uncle Philadelphia” (seemingly a laughably obvious portmanteau for the viewer to infer, lazily spoonfed to us by the normally subtle writing staff, but the delicate truth of this will be explained later) is one of tension and conflict, but ultimately love and respect. Secondly, in his “uncle,” Smith sees his own journey complete. That is, to be born of little means but remain resolute and eventually conquer the oppressive forces in his life. Finally, “Phil” is a father figure, a stand-in for Smith’s own absent biological father, his mind’s desperate attempt to pull together some sort of paternal influence to guide him through his trials.

“Jazz” represents the allure to return to his old lifestyle of ignorance and low ambition. Simultaneously, we see in “Jazz” the most explicit dichotomy of the two worlds that Smith is torn between. This is why Smith rarely objects to “Uncle Phil” ejecting him from the “mansion”; He recognizes that “Jazz” does not deserve the sanctuary, and is instead a disease that will destroy everything he is working towards.

“Geoffrey” the butler can be viewed as Smith’s fear of becoming an “Uncle Tom” if he abandons his street life, which is a common fear among those he has grown up with. However, with time, Smith comes to understand that “Geoffrey” has lived an admirable life and is well-respected and loved by the family he serves. The revelation serves to signify Smith’s gradual understanding of the misleading cultural traps he has fallen prey to all his young life. The boy begins to recognize the shades of grey that make up the real world.

“Aunt Viv” is largely unrealized as a character, seemingly the show’s rare misstep in characterization. In truth, she is underdeveloped because Smith already has a healthy relationship with his biological mother and has no reason to construct a surrogate one. She mainly exists to add authenticity and a sense of a fully-formed “nuclear family” to Smith’s delusions.

At “Bel-Air Academy,” Smith regularly puts his new skills to the test, confronting prejudice, temptation, vice, and judgement. It is less a “school” and more a “training ground.” However, to most inner-city youths, there is no distinction between the two. Truly masterful.

Over the course of his ordeal, Smith’s mind tries to convey to him some limited information about the truth of what he’s dealing with by hinting that he is surrounded by metaphorical constructs. It does this by giving these constructs obvious names that reveal their significance and reach beyond the level of coincidence, such as “Banks,” “Butler,” and “Phil.” Furthermore, Smith should be able to sense that his life has been broken down episodically, with major developments usually fitting neatly into a three-act structure spread over 22 minutes of relevant interactions.

If Smith can successfully rise above his own existential shackles he will be rebuilt, renewed, cleaned, truly “fresh” and deserving of the “mansion” he has found himself in. Smith can become a fully-realized individual, a model of human achievement rising from a wasteland of ash and ruin. However, to our national despair, our hero never fulfills his journey: The unmentioned change in actors portraying both “Aunt Viv” and “Little Nicky” (as well as the inexplicable age jumps of several characters throughout the series) are, sadly, the result of Smith’s mind failing to keep together the narrative strands it has developed, a sign that his journey is taking too long and the structure is collapsing around him. Smith’s brain continues to deteriorate as the episodes begin to take on slightly more bizarre or metatextural aspects, but through it all the boy remains oblivious to the truth, lost in delusion even as he strives to overcome the challenges that have become all too real to him after so much time inside his own psyche.

Yes, it’s true that Smith, the psychological construct, eventually makes the right decisions. He has doubtlessly grown. But not quickly enough. After six years his mind has become lost in its own labyrinth of plot and character, unable to wake from the coma it no longer realizes it’s trapped inside. The end of the series is bittersweet: Smith, in his mind, will lead a full life, never suspecting the truth about himself. But the rest of us are left devastated, with a cautionary tale about the always-ticking clock that hangs above us all like an albatross ringing in our ears, begging us to break free of our oppressions while we still have that divine luxury.

Avery was also the voice of Shredder on the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, which was a show about turtles who had been mutated and then became martial arts masters in their teenage years. That’s a dumb idea.

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12.23.13: Mikhail Kalashnikov, Inventor of the AK-47 – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 8:50 pm January 2, 2014

Russia Obit KalashnikovOh, cool, this post should go well; Nothing screams “reasonable, well-researched article” like an American writing about guns in 2014.


Mikhail Kalashnikov, the creator of the infamous AK-47 assault rifle, has died as a result of a gastric hemorrhage. In tribute, rapper Ice Cube opted to use his AK, despite the fact that he had been having an otherwise good day.

Kalashnikov lamented that his creation had fallen into the hands of terrorists, instead of being used exclusively for the purpose of Russian borderland defense, often claiming that the government is the reason he wasn’t developing agricultural equipment instead:

“I’m proud of my invention, but I’m sad that it is used by terrorists,” he said on a visit to Germany, adding: “I would prefer to have invented a machine that people could use and that would help farmers with their work – for example a lawnmower.”

But, come on, that’s a bit of a cop out. It’s a gun. It’s a device that kills things that you point it at. You can’t really claim you were blindsided when the deadly weapon you put into the world got used by the guys you didn’t want using it. Terrorists don’t tend to worry much about original intent; That whole “I’ll kill you because my God is one of love” thing should’ve tipped you off that there was an outside chance of that happening. I knew when I created this blog, with the noble intent of soliciting hate mail so that I might once again experience some form of human emotion, that it would eventually be hijacked by spambots looking to share unbelievable deals on genuine Versace winterwear. It’s a risk we geniuses accept when the protective membrane that holds back all of our intellectual metaspheres can no longer withstand the strain of our brains’ solar flare-like brilliance, causing our revolutionary thoughtwaves to burst forth and wash over an existentially-unprepared world, recasting it in the glow of a color that only exists in the visible spectrum of those of us gifted with the proper ocular nanostructures. (We also get very different biology textbooks in high school.)

Besides, it’s not like you can’t hurt someone with a lawnmower. Hell, sticking your hand into a flywheel is the official pastime of the state of Florida, and I don’t see John Deere pussyfooting around the carnage his murderwagons hath wrought. Sometimes you just gotta own that shit.

Source: The Guardian

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