June 12, 2015

Another Great One Passes

As many of you know, Christopher Lee died on June seventh. An exceptional actor who generally played villains, and he was remarkably active into his 90's. Indeed, her started a new career as a heavy metal musician at 88. 


He served with distiction in World War 2 and after the war, hunted Nazi war criminals before starting his august acting career. Cdr. Salamander has much more on that and points us to Christopher Lee's impressively long entry over at Badass of the Week
He's also a 6'5" tall world champion fencer, speaks six languages, does all of his own stunts, has participated in more on-screen sword fights than any actor in history, served for five years defending democracy from global fascism as a British Commando blowing the shit out of Nazi asses in World War II, and became the oldest person to ever record lead vocals on a heavy metal track when, at the age of 88, he wrote, performed on, and released a progressive symphonic power metal EP about the life of Charlemagne ...


Pic Via Bryan Adams/Instagram


A true renaissance man has passed. May he rest in peace. He certainly earned it. 




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March 12, 2015

Terry Pratchett 1948-2015

Sir Terry Pratchett, author of the Discworld series quietly passed away this morning, having fought a battle with early onset Alzheimers, which, in a manner of speaking, he won.  You see, he succeeded in completing his last novel The Sheppherds Crown shortly before his passing. It will be published posthumously. 




Pratchett leaves behind a vast body of work that has brought and will continue to bring joy to millions. He also had a fossil sea turtle named in his honor and a greenhouse full of carnivorous plants, because he was just that awesome a person. 

A great man has passed, but in both his work and his life, he inspired many of the great people to come. 

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February 27, 2015

Damn


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February 06, 2015

On This Day In Sports History

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Another One Taken Too Young

Origa, whose haunting voice graced such productions as Turn A Gundam, Final Fantasty XIII-2  Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: Solid State Society, Fantastic Children, and Princess Arete.  passed away  from heart failure in Kanagawa on the 17th. She was only 44.




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February 02, 2015

Monty Oum (June 22, 1981 – February 1, 2015)

Monty Oum has passed away. The creator of  RWBY and Dead Fantasy  died yesterday of a severe allergic reaction he had during a routine surgery. He was only 33.


Oum, who became a renowned 3d animator, was entirely self taught. He got his start doing you tube videos initially using sprites hacked from Final Fantasy and DOA, he quickly improved his skills and began rendering his own characters. After stints at both Midway and Namco, doing combat choreography, he moved to Rooster Teeth where he worked on Red V Blue and put together RWBY, which was an ambitious concept for a staff of 15 people. Oum pulled it off! RWBY was one of Crunchyroll's top rated series when it premiered and this little show developed a solid fan following in the US as well as (perhaps surprisingly) Japan.

Monty and his team learned the quirks of their medium as they went along.  In some ways, their experience was like the early filmmakers and they continuously improved their craft through the first two seasons despite having their production disrupted at one point by floods. 

Monty Oum broke considerable ground in proving that a tiny group of creators can use the internet and CGI to bypass the usual entertainment gatekeepers and produce a real hit. His series was not without faults, but it remained engaging, fun and entertaining. Many of us were eagerly looking forward to the next season. 

Monty Oum, leaves behind a wife and family, but also a legacy of innovation and art. He accomplished more in 33 years than most of us do in a lifetime, and he did it with style. The world is a bit darker today for his passing, but remains more enjoyable for his having lived. 

There is a donation link for his family here.


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August 11, 2014

Robin Williams 1951-2014

He was a great actor, a fantastic talent and one of relatively few thespians to be capable of such astounding range.  He had the ability to be moving and even inspirational in the most unlikely roles, one result being that very young man alive should watch Dead Poet's Society.  One thing not widely mentioned about him is that he was one of the few celebrities who went to the considerable trouble of participating in USO shows in Iraq and Afghanistan, something that in today's Hollywood, speaks to a certain moral courage in addition to his talent.

The world is a less happy place and we are certainly all diminished by his loss. 

I will note that it in no way detracts from or diminishes the immense contributions of this singularly talented entertainer to posit that perhaps, just perhaps, there are certain additional developments currently transpiring that might actually warrant at least some attention from our cable news anchors this evening.

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May 15, 2014

Mr. Ice Cream has Passed On

Albert Doumar passed away yesterday at 92


 His father, Abraham Doumar, a Lebanese immigrant, set up a snack stand at the St Louis Exposition. There he ran out of cups for his ice cream but extemporized a work around using waffles wrapped into cones as edible containers. This was a spectacular success and Doumar made enough money there to set up a buisness in Norfolk in 1905. After refining the concept of the edible ice cream container into something slightly more durable than a waffle, he had a local machine shop build him a semiautomatic cone making machine, the first one in the world. In 1907 Abe and his brother sold 23,000 cones at the Jamestown Exposition. The original ice cream parlor was destroyed in the disasterous hurricane of 1933 and relocated (along with the cone machine) to 1919 Granby Street in 1934. 

Albert Doumar returned from sevice in the Pacific Theater in World War Two and took over operation of Doumars when Abraham died in 1947. Shortly thereafter, he remodeled the ice cream stand into one of the first drive-ins with curb service and waitresses on rollerskates. 

Doumar's has been a Norfolk institution for decades, with astoundingly good ice cream and barbecue as well as a small, nondescript looking cheeseburger that is so good it defies logic. Doumars is still a soda shop and all manner of carbonated bliss can be had there from modern sodas to old fashioned creations like lime or cherry-aid. 

 For as long as I can remember Albert Doumar was a fixture at the ice cream parlor that carries his family name, making ice cream cones and talking to customers.  He rebuffed numerous offers  over the years by the Smithsonian to take his fathers machine and display it in DC. Instead he continued to use it to make the stores signiture cone...which I strongly advise people to partake of while the machine is still there. The store which was ahead of its time in so many ways is something of an anachronism now, but its still in operation, complete with bobbysocks, rollerskates and a 109 year old cone machine. 

He was always friendly and courteous. Several times, I took exchange students there and he would break out old photo albums to show and explain to them a world long past. 


Albert Doumar lived a full life, and was a thouroughly decent fellow who, via both his business and personality, made Norfolk a more pleasant place. 

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March 29, 2014

Jeremiah Denton 1924 - 2014

Jeremiah Denton passed away yesterday in Virginia Beach.

An Alabama native who put down deep roots in Hampton Roads, Jeremiah Denton served one term as a senator from his home state before returning to Virginia where he was a local fixture for many years.



A successful lawyer, a professor and political activist, he served as chairman of the presidential commission  on the merchant marine and founded a Christian charity (The National Forum Foundation) that lobbied successfully for welfare reform and assisted in humanitarian and peacekeeping endeavors throughout the world.

A lawyer politico and lobyist, if not for the faith based charity, that bio would have be the sort of life today's ruling class would aspire to.

However, Jeremiah Denton had other rather more august accomplishments that still get under the skin of a certain type of individual.


Navy Cross
Defense Distinguished Service Medal
Navy Distinguished Service Medal
Silver Star (3)
Distinguished Flying Cross
Bronze Star Medal (V)
Air Medal
Navy Commendation Medal (V)
Purple Heart
Combat Action Ribbon
Prisoner of War Medal

Jeremiah Denton was an accomplished naval aviator and commanded the US Navy's attack squadron VA-75 off of USS Independence. On 18 July 1965 he and his co-pilot were shot down over North Viet-Nam, Cdr. Denton was captured and placed in the P.O.W. camp known to American Servicemen as The Hanoi Hilton.

In 1966 he was forced to give a television interview. While parroting the propaganda that his sadistic captors instructed him to convey, he blinked...rather a lot.

In Morse Code to be precise.

 T-O-R-T-U-R-E


In this way he not only confirmed to US officials and the public that American Servicemen were being tortured, he earned himself "special"attention from his captors. Jeremiah Denton was one of the group of US officers who were known as the Alcatraz Gang, men who were especially defiant and were singled out for particular abuse. He endured this while helping his men maintain their morale for nearly 8 years.

Then, in 1973, after getting clobbered in yet another attempt to invade and conquer South Vietnam, the North Vietnamese signed the Paris Peace Accords.   As part of the Treaty the North Vietnamese swore to acknowledge South Vietnam's right to exist and US POWs including Denton, were released.

Jerimiah Denton, a after a period of recovery in Norfolk Naval Hospital, continued with his military career Commanding the Armed Forces Staff College and Pensacola Naval Airstation before retiring a Rear Admiral. He then proceeded to do all the other things mentioned above.

 In the meantime, while, the US signed a treaty to come to Saigons aid if the North invaded again, however, Congress passed the Case-Church Amendment which broke the treaty and deprived the Vietnamese of US Assistance. The Communists fell upon the South like wolves and killed over 500,000 people whose crime was believing the US would keep its word. Over the next several years other nations that depended upon US military assistance to fight off the communist onslaught Laos and Cambodia fell and became abattoirs....


Hippies get results.

This, however was not for any lack of courage or effort by Denton and his fellow servicemen.


The left of course never forgave him for his service and as recently as 2004 he was barred from speaking at Independence Day celebrations.  

Well, Jerimiah Denton, who faced hell for eight years is unlikely to have suffered much from those whose great moment of courage was avoiding service. He was a bit eccentric, but lived a full, good life and the Law Firm he and his son founded continues to serve the People of Virginia Beach. He lived his life in and out of service with considerable honor and we as a society are diminished by his loss.

One of the great ones has passed.

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November 19, 2013

Senator Deeds Stabbed:

Oh my God.
It looks like Creigh Deeds, a member of the Virginia Senate has been stabbed, apparently by his own son, who then committed suicide.

Deeds, a Democrat, ran against McDonnell for the governorship in 2009. I'm no fan of many of his views but he's been a colorful and passionate member of the Virginia General Assembly who has fought stridently for what he believed to be right.

This is a particularly awful thing to happen to any human being. It's not just the terrible physical wounds, but the fact that he's got to deal with the emotional agony of having to bury his son even if he pulls through. I can't even get my head around it.  Send condolences and prayers to state senator Deeds, who is in a terribly dark place this evening.

UPDATE: Fellow Virginian R.S. McCain has lots more.

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September 22, 2013

Hiroshi Yamauchi 1927-2013

Hiroshi Yamauchi has passed away.


For 53 years he led Nintendo, and through that helped change the world.

Mr Yamauchi ran the company from 1949 until 2002.

In that time, he took what was a small-time collectable trading card company and built it into one of the most recognisable - and successful - video games brands today.



His achievement was remarkable, as was his foresight. He not only recognized the potential for video games, ge picked the right people to develop them and gave them sufficient creative freedom to succeed. Getting his games into the US Arcade market at a time (the early '80s) that there was considerable antipathy towards all things Japanese was no mean feat.


It's hard to get ones head around the impact he had.
 

His story gets more remarkable still...

The article mentions that he made mistakes and encountered setbacks in the shaky postwar economy. However he learned from them and, most remarkably, after paying off the debt those setbacks incurred, never went into debt for a business venture again.
Even today, Nintendo carries no debt.

Wow!

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July 18, 2013

Marty Gear 1940-2013

 Marty Gear died peacefully in his sleep today of congestive heart failure.

He'd been involved in cons for a mind blowingly long time, having attended his first World Con in 1953.

You may not be familiar with Mr Gear. However, if you are on the east coast and are in any way involved with cosplay at sci-fi or anime conventions, you probably owe something to Marty Gear.

   In the '80s he helped to organize the Balticon costume contest and over the years built it into a truly impressive affair. He assisted in organizing costume contests at other other cons as well including Dragon Con, Anime USA, Katsucon and he chaired Costume Con3, having succeeded in convincing its backers via the example of Balticon that a costume convention was viable on the east coast.  Mr. Gear organized the first chapter of the International Costumers Guild chapter in 1991.




There's an interview with him here.


He was always charming and professional. He will be greatly missed.

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July 07, 2013

More Than 20 Years Ahead of His Time

Actually...no.
We're over two decades behind where we ought to be.

Doug Englebert died last Tuesday and it is a testament to how screwed up our media is that I learned of his passing from XKCD.

Englebert was one of the greatest computer pioneers of all time.
 
After returning from service in the Philippine theater of operations in WW2 he studied electrical engineering and worked for NACA. He then worked on computers at Ames, and with Hewlett Crane developing magnetic core memory. In 1962 he put together a hand picked team of researchers at Stanford's Augmentation Reasearch Center.

Between 1962 and 1968, he and his 17 person team developed, amongst other things, the computer mouse, cursor (which he called a "bug") hypertext, instant messaging, video instant messaging, audio files, dynamic file linking, keyword searching, modern computer word processing and the hyperlink.

Here follow this "hyperlink" to the video of his 1968 demo of the fruits of their labors at the 1968 joint computer conference. watch the whole thing. It's 90 minutes that changed the world...just a bit slower than it ought to have.

It was all there...all of it was demonstrated except cat videos and pr0n and it was demonstrated in 1968.



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May 10, 2013

Ray Harryhausen

Ray Harryhausen died Tuesday in London aged 92. He was a genius who really helped to perfect the stop motion techniques pioneered by his mentor Willis O'Brien.

In 1953 he did an expanded adaptation of Ray Bradbury's short story "The Foghorn" which became The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms. That film spawned the whole giant atomic monster genre of the 1950's including a Japanes film that was in some ways a re-imagining of the Harryhausen film...I seem to recall it began with a "G".

Harryhausen brought much magic to the screen in a series of modestly budgeted but exquisitely produced films in the the 50's and '60s, and was still doing effects work into the early '80s.


He did a tremendous amount to popularize fantasy films. His creations were top flight effects in their day and even now can be remarkably effective. 

He also had a reputation for being a perfect gentleman at conventions. Another of the greats has left us. He will be missed.

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April 08, 2013

The Iron Lady 1925-2013

Margret Thatcher has passed.



She was born the daughter of a grocer and lived her childhood in a modest apartment over his store. In a nation defined by class, she rose from this to become the longest serving Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in the 20th century and the only woman to hold that office ever.

She had the moral courage to face down Argintina when that nation seized the Falkland Islands in 1982. She did this over the opposition of many of her advisers who thought the task hopeless or not worth the effort. That last bit sums up what the west faced in the late '70s and early 80s, a sense of utter hopelessness and helplessness. Thatcher fought back against that tenaciously. She helped pull not just her nation but a good chunk of the west out of that  destructive malaise.

With Pope John Paul and Ronald Regan, she was one of the three western leaders absolutely instrumental in helping to win the Cold War without the apocalyptic hellfire we all dreaded.

Economically, her time in office offered her nation a respite from the slide into perdition it was on. On her watch the UK surpassed France in economic activity and has maintained that lead since.  Perhaps even more importantly, she was able to articulate the wisdom of her views on these policies most eloquently.



Thatcher was an advocate for the Common Market, but she developed a deep skepticism of the EU and particularly the Euro. This view was not shared by many in her cabinet and was widely mocked, but events of the last few years seem to have proved her to be frighteningly prescient.
 

Thank you Lady Thatcher. The world is better for your having lived in it.

more...

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