This Day in Death

12.18.15: Norman Bridwell, Creator of Clifford, the Big Red Dog – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 6:07 pm December 21, 2015
Norman Bridwell, Dick Robinson[via Today]

Bridwell, right, appears at a birthday event for Clifford, who has raised his paws in a symbolic gesture of solidarity with the #redlivesmatter protesters. Jesus, we’re trying to have a party here, can you turn off the social justice rhetoric for one day?

 

Norman Bridwell, creator of the much-tolerated Clifford, the Big Red Dog series of books, has died at the age of 86. Clifford, of course, was the heartwarming story of a runty puppy who eventually grew to become a crippling financial burden to his owner, a little girl without a job. I think it’s a metaphor for going to college.

You know, everyone thinks they can just wham bam a children’s book and make a fortune because they’re only, like, 50 words long and most of the pictures are of everyday things like dogs and trees and gimp masks and stuff. Well, that’s where you’d be wrong, you cynical opportunist, you. Even the simplest writing is extremely draining. Why, just check out this exclusive sneak peek at the climactic scene from my in-the-works screenplay, Lawyerhorse 2000: The Horse That’s Also a Lawyer:

LAWYERHORSE

 

That right there is the result of two years of meticulous plotting, intense personal introspection, and one failed marriage. So don’t go assuming that Bridwell just one-two’d the whole concept in an afternoon.

…Scholastic accepted the manuscript that he’d written over a weekend.

See? A weekend. That’s three days if you count Friday. For all we know Monday was Memorial Day, it could’ve been a solid 96 hours invested. Alright, fine, so it’s still not that long. But that’s only because Bridwell was a professional and knew how to execute an idea in a short amount of time, the result of years of disciplined writing. By the time he came up with Clifford he must’ve been firing with enough precision and prolificacy to make Stephen King throw up his corn chowder all over his L.L. Bean signature shearling-lined duck boots. (He lives in Maine.)

Bridwell told Simon that he “was shocked when it was accepted for publication, because I’d never written anything before.”

Okay, so, this is getting hard to justify, like feeding a cow a hamburger. I guess the real lesson here is, “just do it, you might get lucky.” It’s the same attitude bank robbers have. Just sayin.

 

Source: NPR

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5.14.15: Blues Legend B.B. King – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 5:23 pm May 15, 2015

B_B_KINGI swear, Bono wasn’t even in this picture when I uploaded it. That guy’s just gotta find a way to make it about himself, doesn’t he? Check out that Canadian Tuxedo, though.

 

Legendary bluesman Riley “B.B.” King has reportedly died in hospice care on Thursday. If only there were some form of music the blues community could use to adequately express their feelings of sorrow and lose at a time like this. I vote they try klezmer. Even the goyim have to admit that some of those shofar players can really rock the shtetl!

His death comes only weeks after the passing of “Stand By Me” singe Ben E. King, which can only mean one thing: Death is now alphabetical. Oh sure, you can say this is just another one of those times where I make an aggrandized connection based on the most nebulous data available, but if you think the Burger King’s creepy facial paralysis is the result of anything less than a near-fatal stroke, well, you’re the one with the confirmation bias, not me.

Mr. King went out on the road and never came back after one of his first recordings reached the top of the rhythm-and-blues charts in 1951. He began in juke joints, country dance halls and ghetto nightclubs, playing 342 one-night stands in 1956 and 200 to 300 shows a year for a half-century thereafter, rising to concert halls, casino main stages and international acclaim.

Man, even adjusted for inflation (one year in 2015 would be about 430 days in 1956) that’s a lot of shows for a guitarist to play in a pretty short amount of time. If my calculations are correct, that’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 15,000 hot licks a year. If he was smart, he made sure to get paid by the *squiddily-skwow*.

 

Source: The NY Times

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5.4.15: Ellen Abertini Dow, aka The Rapping Granny – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 8:38 am May 7, 2015

ELLEN_ALBERTINI_DOWAnd still only slightly less street cred than Snoop has had since Soul Plane.

 

The 90s were great. Wait, sorry, I phrased that wrong. The 90s were awful. But, as I’ve said before, at least back in the day the entertainment industry and our appointed representatives knew that we really didn’t wanna hear about any of that depressing stuff going on in the world and wisely kept it out of our theaters and televisions. Sure, Slick Willy was dropping bombs on the Sudan, but we were able to avoid having to give a tug as long as it didn’t preempt Big Willie dropping weapons-grade laughs on our 900-pound tvs. We bought shitty Mexican food from dogs that spoke for no reason and called it brilliant entertainment. Hell, I bet you still consider The Wedding Singer to be a classic film, don’t you?

Well, you’re wrong. It was stupid, not least of all because one of its most beloved moments featured then-79-year-old Ellen Albertini Dow singing “Rapper’s Delight.” That really was the extent of the joke, that it didn’t make sense for this old woman to be singing this song, and we had zero qualms about rewarding this kind of behavior with untold gobs of currency. You see, for some reason a lot of people find it hilarious when one kind of person does something that is typically associated with a different kind of person. Allow me to illustrate the point using the most intuitive way of communicating information (as well as the most intuitive way of communicating how awesome you are at Halloweening): The Venn diagram:

VENN_DIAGRAM

As the diagram suggests, by appealing to those who enjoys all three major types of shitty comedic juxtaposition, you hit the surprisingly lucrative tender zone of people with impaired cognitive function and endless disposable income. For years an old white woman engaging in an activity typically associated with young black men was the gold standard of lowbrow pandering. But, to be fair, the artistic validity of these things can change with time. Someday when death is cured and we cease to age we’ll look back at footage of the rapping granny via the latest build of Wikipedia Synaptica downloaded onto our Brainstream and, like a fossil preserved in timeless amber, marvel at its beauty, alien yet somehow impossibly relatable all at once. And if none of that sounds believable to you, keep in mind that the Mona Lisa was originally commissioned to be used as toilet paper for the pope. I wouldn’t lie to you people.


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7.5.14: Washington Generals’ Entrepreneur Louis ‘Red’ Klotz – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 10:12 pm July 21, 2014

LOUIS_RED_KLOTZCome on, Generals! If you’re gonna go out there and be made jackasses of, at least take a cue from the Detroit Lions and demand a discount on concession nachos or something. Ha, I’ve been assured by my sports friends that that is quite astute.

 

As all of you guys know, I’m a huge sports fan. Only exhibition games, of course. Contests where prizes or money are at stake tend to get me all anxious and trigger my psoriasis. That’s actually why I turned down that referee position with the Miniature Golf League. Burdened is the back that shoulders the MGL stripes.

For the better part of the last century, the absolute kings of the pointless exhibition game have been the Harlem Globetrotters, who, incidentally, weren’t originally from New York and didn’t play a game in Harlem until 42 years after their founding because huh? But geographic scruplelessness hasn’t kept the team from winning over 22,000 games against a stacked deck of mostly inept opponents, largely due to the use of such tools of questionable legality as buckets of confetti, hypnotic umbrellas, and mid-game pantsings. Also, I think I caught Meadowlark Lemon traveling once.

For decades, the Washington Generals have functioned as the primary stooges for the Harlem Globetrotters’ incessant showboatery. In 1952, Louis ‘Red’ Klotz somehow managed to put together a team of legitimate athletes who would allow themselves to be humiliated every night for the rest of their careers. Unless Klotz’s scouting process involved placing a net over a door marked “Self-Esteem Workshop” like it was a damn Wile. E. Coyote cartoon, I have no idea how he managed to keep that train rolling. Are they paying these guys in ruby scepters and Google stock? Who the hell is signing up for this shit? Even their logo has them getting punked out:

WASHINGTON_GENERALS_LOGO

Not to mention the subtle use of a white man, representing the military-industrial complex, being clowned on by a black man dressed in the colors of the flag, signifying the beginning of the overthrow of America by the Nation of Islam.  It’s all true! I stumbled on it while hanging out on this fair and even-handed forum for fair and even-handed people who just want to celebrate their own culture and that’s not racist so what’s so wrong with that this is still America for now isn’t it?

Anyway, in keeping with the Generals’ tradition of loserdom, I’m going to allow “Sweet” Clyde Dixon to deliver my eulogy to Klotz, whom I forgot to mention died recently. Sorry about that.

Cold as ice, that “Sweet” Clyde.

 

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6.24.14: Eli Wallach – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 2:42 pm June 29, 2014

ELI_WALLACHI don’t claim to know the reason behind the downturn in Westerns being produced nowadays, but if it has anything to do with budgetary constraints you could probably save a few bucks by filming all of the desolate, ghost town scenes in the ruins of what we used to call Detroit. Just make sure to crop out all those “cash for gold” storefronts.

 

Stage and screen actor Eli Wallach passed away last week at the age of 98. Well, technically, 98 and a half. Impressed now? I thought so. Let’s move on.

Wallach is remembered for playing the titular “ugly” in 1966’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. He also starred in 1960’s The Magnificent Seven as Calvera, one of the decidedly non-magnificent characters. Not, uh, not the most ego-flattering of billings during that decade for Mr. Wallach, it would seem. Later, he could be seen in The Godfather Part III: Still ‘Fatherin’, Chinatown follow-up The Two Jakes (released in America as Chinatown 2: The Sequeling) and more recently in Wall Street: The Bad One.

Unlike his Method brethren, Wallach didn’t go for tragic grandeur; he was not one to mumble or mope. The men he played could be evil — sometimes pure evil, like his psycho-killer Dancer in Don Siegel’s 1958 crime drama The Lineup — but they usually enjoyed their venality, revealing a smile behind the scowl. […] For all his Method training, Wallach had the born showman’s gift of communicating to audiences the pleasure he got from acting.

Plus, if the 21 inhaler salute I just heard is any confirmation, Wallach also portrayed the villainous Mr. Freeze in the 60s Batman television show. Again: Mr. Freeze. Because the character’s birth name is Victor Fries and he’s big on cryogenics, you see. Awful, yes, but that’s goddamn Tolstoy compared to naming a character E. Nygma because he loves riddles, or having a William Tockman be really into… clocks, which is stupid on a couple different levels. With a roster that weak you’d really think DC Comics would take my proposed new character, The Blogger, a bit more seriously. He threatens the world by trolling WordPress forums and forgetting to pay the rent, gradually weakening the world’s economic infrastructure. He’s sorta working the long con that way.

 

Source: Time

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6.4.14: Chester Nez, Last WW II Navajo Code Talker – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 7:06 am June 13, 2014

CHESTER_NEZNow that’s how you take a picture. Grave, dignified, still wondering what exactly happens to your soul when the flash goes off. My theory is it goes to a place called “The Dream Zone,” but most of the evidence I’ve gathered thus far is admittedly pretty weak.

 

Chester Nez, last of the Navajo “code talkers,” the group that helped the U.S. military transmit and receive secret messages during World War II, has died at the age of 93. To honor Mr. Nez’s work, I’m writing the rest of this post in a unique and fun alphanumeric code. It’s easy: First, make a table of the first 26 prime numbers. The first is 2. Then 3, I think. Then I’m pretty sure it skips 4 and goes to 5. After that you’re kinda on your own. Or maybe it skips 3 and goes to 4? I don’t know, you can probably trial and error that out for yourselves. To be honest I’m not sure I know what prime numbers are. I think I may’ve meant to use exponents this whole time… You know what, nevermind. I’ll just write in whatever language I normally use for these things. Uh, English, I guess.

U.S. forces had decided to base a code around the Navajo language because of the extreme difficulty it posed to non-Navajos to understand or replicate it. Also, because if you’re going to mercilessly exploit a culture for hundreds of years, it’s only right that you use every part of that culture. Now, astute readers will notice I kinda already used that joke once before. That’s true, but I hadn’t yet used it twice. Getting as much mileage as possible out of a single flimsy premise is what the Native Americans would’ve wanted, which proves that I’m just a little more in tune with the Navajo spirit than you guys. That would explain why I’m so big on ponchos.

Nez was among the code talkers who were shipped out to Guadalcanal in 1942, where the code talkers worked in teams of two, with one relaying and receiving messages while the other cranked the portable radio and listened for errors in transmission.

“That was my first combat experience, and there was a lot of suffering and a lot of the condition was real bad out there,” he told CNN’s Larry King in 2002.

Despite being discharged after WWII Nez still volunteered to fight in Korea, an admirable decision that speaks volumes for he and his people. God knows that if a bunch of pasty Puritans came to my land, fucked up all my maize crops and gave my family herped-out blankets or whatever, the last thing I’m doing is voluntarily working with their military. Then again, I’m a very petty guy. I once willed myself to menstruate just because my 9th grade biology teacher told me I couldn’t. Don’t you sick the “Can’t” Police on me, Mrs. Blackthorn!

 

Source: CNN

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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

 

 

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6.4.14: Don Zimmer – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 11:28 pm June 7, 2014

DON_ZIMMERYou’d better hope that if you Google “Don Zimmer + 3rd Base” you only get back sports-related results.

 

I don’t do a lot of sports posts around here. When you’ve lost as many loved ones to jock itch as I have, it just takes all of the comedy out of athleticism. Seriously, parents: Talk to your kids about not sharing towels.

But despite that, we’re gonna go ahead and do this Don Zimmer post. Why? Because baseball is America’s pastime, along with co-ed toga parties and putting desserts inside of other desserts. Read your Constitution, you heathens, it’s all in there.

Zimmer, nicknamed “Popeye” (which was probably the “Diddy” of the 50s), remained a figure in professional baseball right up until his death, marking an amazing 66-year career in the game. Let me try and put that into a context we can all relate to: In that same span of time Tolstoy’s landmark work of realist fiction Anna Karenina could’ve been reprinted in its original serialized format sixteen and a half times over. Of course, I don’t have to tell you that’s a prospect the Russian Orthodox Church most certainly wouldn’t be too excited about, considering their harsh criticisms of the man whom they believed helped the Bolsheviks rise to power during the Russian Revolution of 1917. Wow. I guess sports are pretty interesting. You know what? I’m gonna apply for that job at ESPN after all.

 “He was a great, fiery ambassador for the game,” said Zimmer’s former Dodgers teammate Roger Craig, who also hired him as a coach when he managed the Padres and Giants. “That’s why he worked for so many teams and with so many good baseball people. He loved the races and he loved baseball. He was a great human being.”

Also, if you say his name the way it appears in a phone book, it sounds like a Rastafarian telling someone to “simmer down.”


Source: The Chicago Tribune

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5.18.14: Jerry Vale – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 5:47 pm May 21, 2014

JERRY_VALETypically the phrase “great Italian hits” is just a list of people Frank Sinatra has had killed. Man, if the Italians were allowed on the internet I would be in some shit right about now.

 

50s-era singer Jerry Vale is dead today, most likely from something medical, but I feel we shouldn’t shut the door just yet on the possibility of a new rabies strain that only affects aged crooners. Sorry, “natural causes” has just reached the saturation point of boredom for me. You gotta spice this shit up, Nature.

Vale also played himself in the films Goodfellas and Casino, the latter of which is actually just Goodfellas with an additional half hour of Joe Pesci calling Sharon Stone a “puttana,” plus some stock footage of a roulette wheel spinning. Probably.

Mr. Vale rose to stardom performing in supper clubs as a teenager, and hit the charts for the first time in 1953 with “You Can Never Give Me Back My Heart.” He was a fixture at Columbia Records, where he recorded more than 50 albums and churned out hits like “Two Purple Shadows” and “Al Di La.” His biggest hit, “You Don’t Know Me,” peaked at No. 14 on Billboard’s Hot 100 list in 1956.

More like, “You Don’t Know This Song,” am I right? Ha! I tell you, sometimes they just write themselves. Not this time, though. That one actually took a deceptively long time. But I’m still left strangely unsatisfied, like watching a fat mime. Let’s see if we can get even further out of my web-savvy target demographic’s wheelhouse. Hey Blockquote; Have you got anything with that uncomfortable old person smell on it?

After Mr. Vale and his wife, Rita, moved to California, the two became a constant presence at Mr. Sinatra’s Rancho Mirage ranch. He played at the annual Frank Sinatra Celebrity Invitational Golf Tournament for several years and once performed at the event in 1996.

Holy Methuselah in white pants. I haven’t seen so many geriatric bullet points since I lied about my age to join the AARP. Goddammit, members get a 15% discount at participating Denny’s restaurants and I can’t go 12 hours without a Grand Slamwich, I did what I had to do.


Source: The NY Times

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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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