This Day in Death

3.23.15: Gary Dahl, Inventor of the Pet Rock – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 8:57 am April 1, 2015

GARY_DAHLIf a Spencer Gifts could ejaculate, this is what it would look like.


Back in the 1970s, civilization was still submerged in a bubbling bath of primordial ooze and chlamydia, bouncing aimlessly from discotheque to key party and back again in an endless search for ever-bigger fucking shirt collars. Then one day a young visionary named Gary Dahl beheld this motley stew, recognized that the people simply needed a little direction to allow them to reach their full potential, took a hard look in the mirror, and realized he could probably turn a quick buck on these backwater rubes. So he packaged a bunch of rocks under the guise of some vague existential statement and sold them for $3.95 a pop. That’s $17.23 in 2015 dollars, by the way. For that price you could buy one of those “get your shit together” books and stand a chance of actually contributing something meaningful to the world some day. Instead a bunch of hippies spent a combined two mil on rocks in boxes while complaining about consumerism run amok and you wonder why people like me are on a slow but steady march to suicide.

But this post is more than just a thinly-veiled cry for help. The famed… let’s say “inventor”… has died at the age of 78. Yeah, that works. I mean, sure, he “invented” the Pet Rock in the same sense that Columbus “discovered” America: That shit was already there, they just had to keep people from realizing it until they could cash out and/or get some cities named after them. Shine on, you magnificent hucksters!

“People are so damn bored, tired of all their problems,” he told People magazine in 1975. “This takes them on a fantasy trip — you might say we’ve packaged a sense of humor.”

He recruited two colleagues as investors, visited a building-supply store and bought a load of smooth Mexican beach stones at about a penny apiece.

The genius was in the packaging. Each Pet Rock came in a cardboard carrying case, complete with air holes, tenderly nestled on a bed of excelsior. Mr. Dahl’s droll masterstroke was his accompanying manual on the care, feeding and house training of Pet Rocks.

It just goes to show you that it doesn’t matter what you’re selling, it only matters how what you’re selling looks. That’s probably why Bible sales are way down. Without some razzle dazzle on the outside all you’re left with is a thousand pages of life lessons about not washing your beard near another man’s sheep or whatever. Let’s see if we can’t put some meat on that grill:


Now that’s a Bizzible worthy of the limited-edition phylactery treatment. You won’t be able to burnish your calfskin fast enough to keep these suckers on the shelves.

Source: The NY Times

Tags: , ,

6.2.14: Alexander Shulgin, the ‘Godfather of Ecstasy’ – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 12:48 pm June 11, 2014

ALEXANDER_SHULGINJust spitballin’ here, but maybe it would take some of the stigma out of recreational drug use if your lab didn’t look like the set of Edward Scissorhands.


Medicinal chemist Alexander Shulgin, commonly known as the Godfather of Ecstasy (still my least favorite Godfather sequel, by the way), died last week. Mainstream news reports are saying it was due to his declining health over the past few years, but that’s probably just a conspiracy, if my buddy Sketchy Lou’s Facebook page about shapeshifting lizard people from outer space is on point. And it usually is!

Shulgin developed and synthesized hundreds of chemical compounds, but the drug that made him a household trailerpark name was MDMA, also known as Ecstasy, also known as E, also known as Molly, also known as X, also known as the Devil’s Dishrag. That last one is probably regional. The drug became commonplace in the rave community, and Shulgin’s death brings up a touchy subject: How do ravers grieve? I’m guessing they just turn into goths.

According to the psychedelic-research website Erowid, which broke the news of his death, Shulgin’s health had been on the decline since 2010, when he suffered a stroke.

In fairness, he’s only dead if you can’t see beyond the 3-dimensional constructs of our brains and realize that, divorced from the concept of “time,” we’re all joined together as a single tenth-dimensional creature, always both alive and dead, floating heedlessly through a universe where the length of a lifespan is of no more significance than a person’s height. At least, that’s how it seemed while I was dealing with a pretty scary Melatonin addiction a while back. Rollin’ on that Melly got me feeling slightly sleepier than I otherwise would’ve, yo.

The adverse effects of MDMA quickly ruled it out as a therapeutic tool, however, and instead the drug forged an intimate connection with dance music and modern rave culture. This reporter first learned about Shulgin while researching a 2013 story on MDMA and American electronic dance music. At that time, the drug was the subject of intense media scrutiny. Two college students had died at, or shortly after, the Electric Zoo music festival in New York City; the killer, several media outlets insisted, was a strange new drug called Molly (as MDMA came to be colloquially called in the U.S.).

America, you’re never gonna win the war on drugs when the drugs you’re fighting have awesome names like Ecstasy and Angel Dust and Matanuska Thunderfuck. What unsuccessful blogger wouldn’t wanna leave his woes behind and enter into a land called Ecstasy, a realm bumpin’ with nonstop house jams and raver chicks brandishing glow sticks like some kind of Psychedelic Knights Templar? You can’t go legit and expect to compete with that. It’s the reason the global pharmaceutical industry only manages to scrape together a paltry… $85 billion a year in profit?! Whoa. I bet if Sketchy Lou was pulling in that kind of scratch he probably wouldn’t still be dealing out of his ’95 LaBaron. Just when you think a guy’s got everything going for him, you know?

Source: Time



Tags: , , , , ,

9.12.13: Audio Pioneer Ray Dolby – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 3:19 pm September 17, 2013

RAY_DOLBYMan, it sure takes a lot of skill and equipment to faithfully reproduce the sound of Bruce Willis pretending to act in 7.1 surround. But, you know, doing the Lord’s work is its own reward.


Ray Dolby, the audio pioneer who founded Dolby Laboratories and definitely had about a million girlfriends in high school, died last week at the age of 80. Cause of death is being reported as leukemia, but it was probably mixed with a little psychological stress brought on by his failure to develop and commodify the brown note. What the hell is wrong with this country when I have to manually control my own bowels instead of blasting my coccyx with an ultra-powerful sonic gun like a civilized human being?

Blind me with science, Block Quote! Wait, sorry, that was the other guy. You know what, screw it, just do the thing anyway.

In the 1960s, when magnetic tape was coming to prominence as a recording medium, “tape hiss” seemed to be an inevitable part of the listening experience. It was a problem that plagued all types of magnetic tape formats, from open-reel to audiocassette.

Dolby and his team invented a recording (and playback) process that greatly diminished the unwanted noise.

Dolby’s breakthrough would later be applied to feature films and soon become an industry standard until digital production made the noise-reduction process unnecessary, gradually eroding Dolby’s significance in modern technology. The same thing happened with the internet and porn, and now clammy-handed old men in drug stores buying multiple polybagged copies of Screw just look weird. There was a time when parents would proudly point those men out to their children, promising that they, too, could grow up to do the same if they stayed in school and never moved out of the attic. Damn you, technology! Will nothing stop the cursed deathmarch you call “progress”?!


Source: Time

Tags: , ,

7.2.13: Douglas Engelbart, Inventor of the Computer Mouse – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 7:30 am July 8, 2013

DOUGLAS_ENGELBARTFinally a clit that gamers can actually find, am I right?! Don’t leave me hanging, brosef!


In the 1960s, computing visionary Douglas Engelbart and his (presumably bespectacled) peers had a dream. A dream that one day moms across the country would accidentally give their social security numbers to a banner ad disguised as a flash game where you swat anthropomorphized flies with a cartoon newspaper. A dream that locally-stored pornographic content could be easily accessed without having to tab around like a goddamn mongoloid. Lo was born the computer mouse, forever replacing the archaic technology of poking a nerd with a stick and telling him to “do computer stuff.” People make fun of them now, but in 1982 if your new Commodore 64 came with a nerdstick you were the coolest kid in the neighborhood.

Englebart had said that he did not, however, come up with the name “mouse.” When asked in an interview with Stanford about the name in December 1986, Engelbart said, “No one can remember [who came up with the name]. In the lab, the very first one we built had the cord coming out the back. It wasn’t long before we realized that it would get in the way, and then we changed it to the front. But when it was trailing out the back like that, sitting there, just its funny little shape.”

Additionally, Wikipedia points out that “mouse” is *not* an acronym for “Manually Operated User Selection Equipment,” as is sometimes claimed. It should be pretty obvious that that’s just another one of those instances where someone’s tried to reverse engineer the name into an acrostic that seems more meaningful, like S.H.I.E.L.D., or cinematic classic F.A.R.T.: The Movie. I’d also like to take this opportunity to dispel the hurtful rumors that my name is actually an acronym for “Jews are mighty evil, Sam.” It’s totally out of line, I don’t even know anybody named Sam!

Source: ABC News

Tags: , , , ,

1.11.13: Electronic Breathalyser Inventor Tom Parry Jones – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 8:21 am January 25, 2013

TOM_PARRY_JONESSo you can add the breathalyser to the list of things you might accidentally invent while attempting to create the fabled auto-fellator. I guess you could argue that *something* good has come out of our decades of failure, but I’m still pretty let down.


Tom Parry Jones, inventor of the first electronic breathalyser and scourge of degenerate drunkards the world over, is dead. It’s also my 200th post, but no, it’s cool, we don’t need to talk about that. Hey, let’s just talk about death again instead! It’s not like we ever get a chance to do that around here. Honestly, you guys have really been stunting my creativity lately. I didn’t wanna say anything because I didn’t wanna ruin this special day but it looks like that ship has already sailed, thanks. Let’s just hit the block quote while I lock myself in the bathroom for a while.

In 1972 Parry Jones began examining the possibility of developing a fuel cell alcohol sensor as the basis of a more reliable screening instrument. His portable “Alcolmeter”, an electronic device the size of a cigarette packet, transformed the process of screening by providing police with a more reliable kerbside test, removing the need for a follow-up blood or urine test. However, it took some time to catch on, and Parry Jones recalled that he found “inventing the device the easy part, but producing it, developing it and selling it was the challenge”.

That’s definitely true. I’m always down in the lab, slamming magnets together, boiling unspecified blue liquids with Bunsen burners, just inventing awesome shit all day long, and nobody takes any of it seriously. Like the Doubleknife, the only knife whose handle is not a handle at all, but actually a second, even deadlier knife. No one wanted to listen to me when I invented Facebook, either. I mean, it was six months ago, so technically it already existed, but I had assumed the dinosaurs at the patent office didn’t know that. Turns out they’re actually pretty sharp when it comes to these things. I bet they have all that stuff written down somewhere, nice and safe.


Source: The Telegraph

Tags: , , ,

12.9.12: N. Joseph Woodland, Inventor of the Barcode – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 7:10 pm December 18, 2012

MAD_UPCMAD in the 70s: Come for the sharp commentary about rampant consumerism, stay for another David Berkowitz fold-in.


Being an inventor in 2012 has got to be borderline impossible. I’ve already got Prozac and ketchup bottles that open from the bottom, good luck convincing me I need anything else to lead a fulfilling life. Americans were probably a dramatically softer sell in 1949, though, when the afterglow of that whole “killing Hitler” thing started to fade and we desperately needed new stuff to keep us interested until mail order pornography became viable. That’s when N. Joseph Woodland swooped in and invented the now-ubiquitous UPC barcode, creating an entirely new system that would allow data for millions of commercial products to be easily encoded into a scannable symbol. It also gave every middle class college student the perfect idea for a super hardcore neck tattoo that’s really gonna blow the minds of a few of those conformos down at the Quad. Because corporations.

What would happen, Mr. Woodland wondered one day, if Morse code, with its elegant simplicity and limitless combinatorial potential, were adapted graphically? He began trailing his fingers idly through the sand.

“What I’m going to tell you sounds like a fairy tale,” Mr. Woodland told Smithsonian magazine in 1999. “I poked my four fingers into the sand and for whatever reason — I didn’t know — I pulled my hand toward me and drew four lines. I said: ‘Golly! Now I have four lines, and they could be wide lines and narrow lines instead of dots and dashes.’ ”

Wow. That’s a productive day at the beach. Normally I just put on my tightest “Bikini Inspector” t-shirt and look for snail shells to throw at on-duty lifeguards. Who the hell do they think they are, anyway, sitting all high up in the air like that? Oh, I’m sorry, I thought we left England to get *away* from kings, your majesty!

Source: The New York Times

Tags: ,

2.19.12: Steve Kordek (Pinball Innovator) – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 7:15 pm February 28, 2012

If the pinball thing hadn’t worked out he definitely could’ve fallen back on his degree in wearing awesome windbreakers.


Pinball innovator Steve Kordek died last week at the age of 100. Kordek created the dual flipper design for the game, effectively defining the modern pinball machine as we know it today. Or, more precisely, as 1950s greasers who needed to kill time before impregnating both of the Pickerelli Twins in the alley behind the malt shop knew it. That is a lifestyle that is in dire need of a comeback.

Mr Kordek’s mark in history as the man who revolutionised the classic arcade game almost did not happen – he was walking in Chicago in 1937 when he was caught in a rainstorm without an umbrella, forcing him into the nearest lobby for shelter.

The lobby was that of Genco, which was for a prominent pinball factory. Mr Kordek unexpectedly walked out with a job, earning 45 cents an hour soldering on the production line.

That’s right: In 1937 you could walk into literally any building and leave with a job. It was a magical time of great prosperity for all! Your great grandpa is such a fucking liar, man.

Source: MailOnline

Tags: , , , , , ,