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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February 02, 2013

Ed Koch

Neo and Professor Jacobson have thoughts on the passing of Ed Koch.

I certainly didn't agree with him on a lot of things, but he was a likeable character who seemed to be decent and principled.The nations political discourse is much diminished by his loss. Additionally, it should not be forgotten that long before his entry into politics he was serving his country at the Battle of the Bulge.


  Mayor Koch with the tombstone he bought some time ago. which contains the last words of Journalist Daniel Pearle "My father is Jewish, my mother is Jewish, I am Jewish." It also contains a prayer from Deuteronomy: "Hear, O Israel: the Lord is our God, the Lord is one,"

Godspeed Mayor Koch. May you rest in peace.

UPDATE: The NYT has released a video interview with the late Mayor that he'd asked not to be aired until after his death.

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January 31, 2013

Ampontan Has Passed On

Bill Sakovich, an English teacher in Japan who blogged on all things Japanese at the informative and enjoyable Ampontan blog has passed away.  According to one of his neighbors, he died on December 21 after going into the hospital for what he thought was an ulcer, but turned out to be late stage cancer. Eerily, his last post was January 1. It turns out that his last several posts were pre-written and set to auto-post as he expected to be home by the first of the year.

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December 26, 2012

Jerry Anderson

The creator of Fireball XL5. Thunderbirds, UFO, Stingray, Space: 1999,  and Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons died today after a battle with Alzheimer's.



  His work was hugely popular worldwide and his shows were, of course, extremely popular in the UK. However, it may be that his most lasting artistic influence was in Japan, where the optimistic. high tech 'look' of shows like Thunderbirds and bits like the iconic stock footage scenes of vehicles launching were adapted to many anime and even Sentai Shows. Eventually the Gerry Anderson tropes became solidly ingrained in Japanese telefantasies to the point that many people today think of these things as Japanese altogether.

    Another of the great ones has passed.

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August 26, 2012

Sic Itur Ad Astra

Neil Armstrong



War hero, aviation pioneer, astronaut, and the first man to set foot on the moon, Armstrong was by all accounts a humble and decent man. He was also absolutely crucial to the Apollo programs success. Ace puts it succinctly.

No one, least of Armstrong, would say the Apollo program was a one man show. But at several key moments, its success or failure was on him

At each of those moments he delivered. He then spent 40+ years not tarnishing that legacy. What a loss but we were blessed to have had him


Both Gemini 8 and Apollo 11 nearly ended in disaster, but Armstrong's cool head saved them both.

His death is a grim milestone....of the12 men who walked on the moon, one third are now dead.

There is pressure to hold a state funeral for him. I think that is certainly appropriate as he is a greater hero and gentleman than many of the Presidents so honored. However, a more fitting way to honor him is to ensure that we become a space-faring civilization.

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June 10, 2012

Lucille Myatt Talton 1919 - 2012


She was born near Raleigh North Carolina to a fairly well to do dairy farmer. Despite this, and to the astonishment of all, she married one of the field hands...a scrappy but utterly impoverished young man from the streets of Newport News who had moved south in search of work. She followed him  to the coast where he built houses and rented them. She bore him a son, then saw him off to war and waited 4 years until he returned in traction. She nursed him back to health, bore him another son, stood by and supported him as he built a business from nothing, built a boat, and became one of the most sought after charter boat captains on the Crystal Coast. A decade ago she buried him, and tonight, just after dinner she joined him.

  Despite her age, it was a bit of a shock. She had actually been improving by leaps and bounds over the last few months and had regained the ability to walk. Nevertheless,  my grandmother, who was born in an utterly different world, passed quite suddenly this evening a little after 6.

  The things she'd seen, the change she'd experienced...it truly boggles the mind.

  She was born before women could vote. For a third of her life there was a polio season. For the first decade of her life there was no electricity in her house. She saw the great depression, a world war the cold war, Jim Crow, integration, all six moon landings, and the Berlin Wall go up and come down. She saw the introduction of radio, then television and then the internet.  She saw all the other things that transpired over nearly a century.

Now, in the blink of an eye, all that perspective has left us.

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March 07, 2012

Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidd'st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea.

Captain Carrol LeFon USN, better known to many of us as  Neptunus Lex, has died.  After his retirement he flew F-21 Kfir's as a civilian contractor providing aggressor training to Navy and Air Force pilots. Yesterday, while performing that duty he perished in a crash.

Cdr. Salamander, has much more as well as a round up of links to remembrances.


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