March 27, 2023

Wonderduck Has Left Us

So, yesterday, I learned that Wonderduck, (Eric Carra) had thrown off this mortal coil on the 8th of March. 

I do not know the circumstances of his passing beyond that it was due to complications stemming from his health issues, which were many of late. 

Eric was a blogger from back when blogging was new and his website remained an eclectic convergence of interests; ducks, history, anime, ducks, wacky anecdotes science fiction, music, Formula One racing, and ducks....rubber ones usually. He was an avid collector of rubber ducks. 

Wonderduck's Pond remains a repository for quite a few reviews of anime spanning nigh on 20 years, reviews that were exceptionally entertaining and brought many a chuckle to his readers over the years. 

He was also an amateur historiographer with a particular interest in the battle of Midway. Shortly before his health took a sharp turn for the worse in 2021 he was invited to contribute to a historian's roundtable on the battle. Due to his hospitalization he was unable to do so.

'Wonderduck' encouraged me to become an early adopter of, when I outgrew Blogger. (His site was hosted on, the predecessor of this service.) 

He also was a good friend. When I was recovering from my stroke he was in a hospital bed, yet despite his own issues, he gave me considerable encouragement through those dark times.

Eric was a well liked blogger who had a following and counted as fans some of the more impressive representatives of the medium. No small feat. 

His last few years were fraught. A blood clot precipitated a hospitalization which in turn led to several other issues that combined to cause him great dismay. 

Yet he soldiered on. 

While we never physically met, we did used to correspond at least once a week, however, I had not spoken to him in just over a month. Despite his myriad problems, his main complaint was that he was having difficulty blogging due to technical issues, so he was still pursuing his hobby after everything. 

Wonderduck had a lot of hurdles to deal with in his short life. Despite that he brought smiles to the faces of many people from all over the world over the years and made the world just a little quirkier and fun. 

Few people accomplish that. 

Eric, you will be missed. 

We've managed to obtain an actual picture of Eric in heaven, studying naval history and being a kaiju. 

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July 31, 2022

Nichelle Nichols 1932-2022

Nichelle Nichols, best known for playing Lt. Uhura on the original Star Trek series, has passed away at 89. 

Nichols was a talented entertainer who appeared in 27 films and whose career saw her give superb performances as an actor, voice actor, dancer, choreographer, singer, songwriter and director. 

She also worked for NASA, initially as recruiter for women and minority employees, (successfully, she personally recruited Guy Bluford and Sally Ride among others) but later she worked for the agency in more substantive roles. She was an amateur astronomer and a lifelong space enthusiast who served for many years on the board of governors of the National Space Society. 

She was most famous for her role as Lt. Uhura, on Star Trek, a role that she gave considerable gravitas to. Most other female characters in the original series tended to be 'window dressing' but Nichols' character gave off a distinct impression of competence and professionalism. She managed this while being one of the best looking women on the show. 

Most of us know of her through her work on the Science Fiction convention circuit, where she was always charming and professional. 

She certainly led a long and full life, but she will be sorely missed. 

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May 20, 2021

Aw Crap.

Another passes

Dr. Kentaro Miura, the author of "Berserk", passed away on May 6, 2021 due to acute aortic dissection. We would like to express our utmost respect and gratitude to Dr. Miura's painting work and pray for his soul.

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February 17, 2021


Rush Limbaugh has passed. 

He was a voice in the darkness for many years. When there were no other opinions being broadcast he was there reminding people that no matter what they might see, hear and read in the media, there were other people who thought like them. We were reminded, by Rush, that each of us was not alone and or crazy, no matter how much the powers that be insisted that we were alone. 

He was quite possibly the most influential radio personality in U.S. history. He jump-started conservative publishing, highlighting conservative thinkers on his program at a time when no one else would give them the time of day. His very existence was a lifeline to both the populist and intellectual right, and the megaphone he wielded broke the the information monopoly of the day, allowing voices not of the establishment to be heard, and affect change. 

In his own odd, button down way, he was kind of..punk, delighting in stirring up controversy and when the scolds came for them, he'd usually turn the tables on them and raise millions for various children's charities. 

I don't agree with everything he said. He talked 3 hours a day for 22 years so I'm sure there's something there to offend everybody. But he was a voice for the people that the powers that be hate. People like myself would never have emerged from the wilderness if not for him. 

Through his personal hardships , his deafness, his cancer he remained, in public, upbeat until the end, providing an example as well as an inspiration.

His optimism will be missed.

There's more on his passing here, here, and here

I especially recommend this late addition

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December 08, 2020

Chuck Yeager Has Slipped the Surly Bonds of Earth

General Chuck Yeager, the first man to break the sound barrier has passed away at 97. 

A veteran of WW2 and Viet Nam he was a test pilot from 1945-1957 where he ran many of the most cutting edge aviation designs through their paces in an era when the envelope of performance was being pushed to the limit and learning was by doing and making mistakes.

Yeager is best known for the first piloted flight past mach one, but was awarded many honors including  the, Air Force Distinguished Service Medal the Army Distinguished Service Medal, 2 Silver Stars, 2 Legion of Merit awards, 3 Distinguished Flying Crosses, a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.

After retirement as a Brigader General, he set several civilian aviation records, worked on the commission investigating the loss of the Space Shuttle Challenger, acted as a technical advisor to Electronic Arts and was engaged in numerous educational initiatives. in 2012, on the 65th anniversary of his historic flight, he recreated it, in an F-15. 

Passing away at 97, he lived a long, wondrous and fruitful life, but he was an American icon who will be sorely missed. 

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December 02, 2020

Walter Williams 1936-2020

One of the wisest and most sane men of our age has left us. Walter E. Williams, Professor of economics at JMU, syndicated columnist, radio personality and inspiration for so many of us, passed away this morning of as yet unknown causes, aged 84. 

 He came from the direst and most hopeless poverty, served his country in Korea, went on to pursue an academic career and eventually became one of the most respected minds in America. 

His books can be purchased here, they are worth it. Some of his wisdom can be gleaned here. We as a nation have suffered a loss that is hard to describe. A show he did for PBS can be found here and there is an interview with him here

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July 14, 2020

Grant Imahara 1970-2020

Mythbusters host Grant Imahara passed away yesterday due to a brain aneurism. 

A roboticist by trade, in addition to Mythbusters, he was at one time the chief model maker at Industrial Light and Magic who oversaw all their animatronics. 

He was also an unrepentant nerd, playing Sulu in the fan made series Star Trek Continues.  

He was only 49.

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February 28, 2020

Freeman Dyson

94 years is a long time. Mr. Dyson did not waste that time. Wikipedia provides a partial overview of his discoveries and concepts, as well as this non-comprehensive list of just the things that were named for him.

Dyson, being a contrarian, was a true scientist, challenging orthodoxies whenever they came up. 

There is an excellent interview with him from a year and a half ago here.  

Thank you Freeman Dyson.



Issac Arthur has a fine tribute to this great man.

Mr. Arthur also links to a Ted Talk and interview with Professor Dyson.

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December 31, 2019

2019 Gives Us Another Kick In the Gut on Its Way Out

Syd Mead just died.

The visionary artist and futurist (perhaps ironically, best known for the art direction of Blade Runner) who's generally optimistic aesthetic defined "the future" for a generation has just passed away.

Support his family by buying is art here.
Screw 2019.

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November 06, 2019

Robert Mitchell Jr.

There are people who storm enemy held positions, climb distant mountains, cure diseases, invent wonders, or are lauded as celebrities and "influencers". The praises of those sorts of people are sung constantly.

There are other metrics for a consequential life.

Robert Mitchell Jr. was never married and his visible achievements consisted of a comic book store.

However, known to his friends as "Bob!" he touched myriad lives and was a remarkable force for good. In 1990, Bob worked as a clerk at a store called World's Best Comics, which was teetering on the edge of oblivion during the comic market collapse of the early '90s. He bought out the senior owner when it looked like the store was going to go under and because of his astute sense of the market and his willingness to live on a shelf behind the new release rack he pulled the store through what was a bloodbath in the local market. 85% of the comic stores in Southeastern Virginia went out of business in the early 90's. Bob diversified and became a local institution.

Bob wasn't just better than most at business though, he was a better than average person. Bob would give you the shirt off his back, and in many cases he literally did.

Bob gave support, advice, sometimes a place to stay, and frequently a reference to literally dozens of young men who got hit by the buzzsaw of life and just needed a few days or weeks to get on their feet. Some of those people went on to great things. A few of them work now in Hollywood or in the video game industry. Inevitably, some of those people took advantage of him. Indeed, some of them so resented the fact that they owed him everything that they turned on Bob, in two cases, trying to get him arrested. And yet in spite of it all, Bob continued to do little these bits of charity here and there.

Bob lacked tack and did not dress elegantly, but he was a true gentleman. Bob was, my father aside, the most honest person I ever met. He ALWAYS kept his word. He was, superficialities notwithstanding, a real gentleman.

For several years, he had made an annual pilgimage to Japan to  get anime and Manga related goods for his store. These were not readily available in the U.S. in the '90s. Along the way, he had learned all the tricks for budget travel in Japan. I would never have gone to Japan had Bob not acted as a tour guide in 2007. I am not the only person he did this for. At least a dozen people, many of whom he hardly knew, were shown the ropes of the dirt cheap Japan tour, some of whom have parlayed that into their own careers. The memory cards with the pictures of that 2007 trip and most of my pictures from the days when I worked part-time at his shop were destroyed when my house as taken out by a tree a few years later. Neither Bob nor myself was particularly sentimental and I now realize that this picture, from that above-lined post, may be the only picture I have of him. 

At the HIJNS Mikasa

More importantly, than his services as halfway house and travel agent, Bob helped me to appreciate what friendship is.

In 1993-4 I was at my absolute darkest hour. Basically everyone in the local fan community had turned on me because, well, there was drama. I did something that was unpopular in the circles of local anime, SF and comic book fandom. I still think I was correct but I was seen as violating fan solidarity.  The point is that this controversy, over night, changed my social credit rating in the local community from "cosmo guy" to "pariah" and further resulted in my own business venture exploding in my face; landing me in what was to me at the time, inconceivable debt, Bob remained my friend.

It was not easy to run a comic store in this area at that time, and remain my friend.

When basically everyone else in the local fandom stopped talking to me, Bob would talk.

When I was homeless, and living in my car, Bob took me in for several months. Because of Bob's help, I was able to get out from under that debt and never file for bankruptcy. About 8 years ago, when my new circle of IRL friends I'd had a decade or more began giving me "The quiz", Bob did not put his finger to the wind and see which way it was blowing before doing a cost benefit analysis on our friendship. Bob was my friend. He was one of the last of my local IRL friends.

I never adequately thanked him.

Now I never will.

Robert Mitchell Jr. was found dead in his shop this morning by his clerk.

There had been a health scare earlier this year, but he had been improving. This was quite unexpected.

This tragedy will get no coverage beyond a few obituaries, but something of great consequence has been lost. Bob, was a fine man and a remarkably positive influence on innumerable people especially here over the last 40 years.

He will be missed more than he imagined.

I am numb.

Godspeed Bob.

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December 01, 2018

On Bush

There are lots of memorials being written today of the late George H. W. Bush who was the last of the old-school presidents, being a patrician gentleman of considerable skill competence and civic mindedness. He was a bomber pilot, oilman, Civil servant, diplomat, intel specialist, the guy who convinced his boss (Nixon) to resign, and arguably the most successful one term president in U.S. History. 

And in that latter capacity, he saved the world. 

Regan's defense buildup and hardball diplomacy had pushed the U.S.S.R. to the brink, without firing a shot outside of a few Proxy fought spoiling actions in Central America. However, after the Berlin Wall fell, with the Soviet Union on the verge of collapse, there was the real danger that the Commissars might lash out due to spite or fear. Russia had at that time, a tad over 40,000 nuclear warheads aimed at the West

Bush did not back them into a corner, and reassured the Russians that we were not going to drive them into the dirt. There was no war. Bush (and Gorbachev and Thatcher) kept the whole thing from going to worms as it very well could have.

He also won the Gulf War, brought the country out of recession, started a big push to launch manned expeditions through the solar system (later cancelled by his successor, aside from the space station) and tried, with some success to re-invigorate the American tradition of voluntary associations (see his thousand points of light speech).

Certainly there were mistakes, and policies of his that can be debated, but now is not the time, for George H. W. Bush was a man who dedicated his life to the service of his nation and through his steady hand and calm demeanor saved the world when it when it was on the brink.

Fair winds and following seas sir.
Thank you.

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November 12, 2018

Stan Lee 1922-2018 (UPDATED)

95 is a long life by any measure and Stan Lee led a full life to boot, but none of that lessens the sadness at his passing

His contributions to American comic books are being remembered in many places today but they are perhaps still not fully appreciated by many. 

The Comics Code derailed the development of the medium in America and probably knocked it back decades. Stan Lee's reinvention of the superhero genre almost certainly saved the medium in this country.

His legacy is indeed profound, but he was also a gentleman. Back when I was in comics retail, everyone I talked to who knew him considered him to be a singularly fine man. 

Finally, there is a cool anecdote from his early years... He became the editor of what became Marvel in 1941(at 19!), but the next year, he took military leave to join the Army during WW2. He served in a Signal Corps unit repairing electronics and as a lineman...he also wrote manuals and training comics, serving alongside Frank Capra and Dr, Seuss.

So today, the last of the Howling Commandoes has left this mortal coil. 

Stan Lee gave us our childhoods and dreams to aspire too. He was a man of consequence, without whom the world would be a lesser place. He will be dearly missed.


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March 14, 2018

The Universe Just Got a Bit Dimmer

Five and a half decades after being being told he would be dead in two years, Stephen Hawking expired in his sleep this morning at 79. Long confined to a wheelchair by his terrible disease this unlikely but undeniable badass divided his time between keeping death at bay through sheer force of will and making tremendous strides in expanding mankind's knowledge of how the universe works. 

This obituary seems to have gotten short shrift as the news today is cluttered with stories of domestic politics, international crises, celebrity asshattery, and the fact that it is snowing in New England in March. However, (if we don't blow it all up) the contributions of this man will be celebrated and studied long after all the other news of the day has faded into the dusts of time. 

Fair winds and following seas Dr. Hawking.
Few have fought so hard and so long against the twin darknesses of death and ignorance.
Thank you sir. 

UPDATE: Issac Arthur has an overview of Hawking's discoveries, rather more in depth than I'm capable of.

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September 08, 2017

Jerry Pournelle Has Passed Away

Word is that Jerry Pournelle has passed away quietly at his home. 

Few have had as big an influence on Science Fiction as Dr. Jerry Pournelle. Best known as a fiction author he was also a veteran who fought in the Korean war and an engineer of some repute. He worked in the government developing advanced defense technologies in various capacities during the Cold War , he was tasked as well with various strategic studies and was very involved in civil defense issues as well. After Civil Defense was placed on the back burner by the government in favor of a more top down approach exemplified by F.E.M.A. , he helped to start the preparedness movement in the 1970's. (It should be noted that many of his views on civil defense have been spectacularly vindicated in recent weeks by the response to Harvey.)

With the late Max Hunter, he helped develop the DC-X a vtovl rocket test rig for a proposed re-useable spacecraft. It was, unfortunately, cancelled despite a succsessful test run.

Dr. Pournelle received numerous awards for fiction and nonfiction work, including the  Robert A. Heinlein Memorial Award for a lifetime achievement in promoting the goal of a free spacefaring society. It was well earned as making humanity a multiplanet society was a passion for him as was individual liberty.

I have read nothing of his, that was not enjoyable, inspiring or both. If you have not read his books, then you need to start with A Mote in God's Eye.

He left unfinished several works including an update of his earlier The Strategy of Technology, a nonfiction policy oriented essay which I particularly recommend.

I did not know Dr. Pournelle, however the dozen times or so that I interacted with him,  he was a perfect gentleman, respectful, professional and kind. 

His life was long and has to be judged successful. He went above and beyond though. His daughter is an archeologist and his son is a naval officer and in addition to blessing the world with such worthy progeny, he gave joy to millions through his prodigious quantities of fiction and hope for humanities future through his vision and wisdom.

May we be worthy of his legacy. 

We have truly lost one of the greats. 

UPDATE: Sarah Hoyt remembers Dr. Pournelle..
There is a silence after a giant falls.  We’re all concussed by the sudden loss.

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June 17, 2017

Stephen Furst Has Passed Beyond the Rim

Everyone is talking about his roll as Flounder, which was indeed legendary, but this is where he really shined.

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June 05, 2017

A Cracking Good Fellow Has Left Us

Peter Salis, the voice of Wallace and Gromit, had passed away. He was 96.

Here is a clip from The Wrong Trousers.

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May 10, 2017

Bob Owens Has Passed On

Bob Owens was always an important voice on the right side of the blogosphere, having started blogging at the now defunct Confederate Yankee around late 2003. He was a major figure in the early years of blogging. his most recent blog, Bearing Arms, was a clarion voice in support of the second amendment and  a source of advice on gun related legal matters. His passing was completely unexpected. The manner of his passing far more so. 

There is a Go-Fund-Me page for his wife and two daughters here

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December 09, 2016

Sic Itur Ad Astra

War hero, test pilot, senator and the first American to orbit the Earth; John Glenn has passed away at 95.

95 is a ripe old age and he certainly lived a full life. It is terrible, however, to loose such a storied and august individual. 

What is, in some ways, more terrible still, is that, so many years after his pioneering flight,  he did not have the option of an off-planet hospice. With Senator Glenn, the last of the Mercury astronauts has passed, and we are rapidly approaching a point where no living person will have walked on the moon; a rather retrograde development.

 The total number of people off planet now is six

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October 24, 2016

Steven DenBeste 1952-2016

Steven DenBeste has passed away.

I just received word from Steven's brother, graciously thanking me for making the welfare call to the police and confirming that what many of us feared had indeed come to pass.  I did not inquire as to specifics, but Steven had been in very poor health of late, having had a stroke just under four years ago.

Steven was brilliant, a former engineer with a crackerjack mind. His old blog, U.S.S. Clueless was tremendously important in the early days of the 'blogosphere'. It is hard to overstate the importance of U.S.S. Clueless and the brilliance of his analysis. Sadly, that site went down this past week as well, when Steven's server failed. That site was immensely influential to many of us, and I am far from the only person he inspired to blog or helped along.

Bill Whittle once described Steven as 
..brilliant, insightful, inspiring and ALWAYS RIGHT.

Bill, like so many others, was positively impacted by Steven's writings and inspired to do his own. Mr. Whittle also described Steven as one of the most gentle people he had known.

Some years ago, due to declining health and vicious internet trolling, Steven started Chizumatic to focus on less consequential topics, but he continued to be inspirational and influential in his new bailiwick. 

Pete describes it thus:
 Named after a character in Mahoromatic, Chizumatic was one of the oldest anime blogs.......

.....From the beginning, Chizumatic offered a strong editorial voice for the most competent direction and the cutest girls, as well as an excellent understanding of the classical blogging, which Steven brought with him from the political arena. Explanations and WMG were another hallmark. Did you think too that the crow in Haibane Renmei represented Rakka’s dog? We aren’t getting such insights anymore and animeblogging has become poorer for that.

Steven DenBeste had an overwhelmingly positive influence on the world despite his physical frailty, one out of all proportion to his resources. The world today is undeniably a better place for his having lived, but it is a bit dimmer today with his loss.

He will be sorely missed.

Others, far more talented and eloquent than I have opined on this sad turn of events. 
Rand Simberg, Dustbury, Aziz, Bill Quick, Neo-Neocon, J.C. Carlton, Ed Driscoll, Ace of Spades, Jim Geraghty, Wonderduck, Suburban Banshee, Paterrico, Cold Fury, and Pixy has a whole other set of links. Sarah Hoyt, being a professional author, summed it up pithily
We shall not see his like again.

It looks like most of the U.S.S. Clueless archives have been saved and others in the comments to this post are working on additional backups. 

Thank you for all you did Steven DenBeste. 

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April 25, 2016

Douglas Holmes Talton: November 19, 1924 - April 14 2016

Uncle Doug spent many his formative years in the crushing poverty that characterized Smithfield North Carolina during the depression era. in 1943 he enlisted in the Navy and received his baptism of fire as a landing craft coxwain at an obscure location known as Omaha Beach where, after the constructive total loss of his first command,  he had an unlikely meeting with his brother John before chaos intervened and he found himself running ammunition to the troops with the landing parties from the battleship Texas. He subsequently served in the Pacific and was one of the first Americans to land in Japan after the surrender. He later was present at tests Able and Baker, where he suffered radiation poisoning. In the following years he served in China during the tumultuous retreat of the Nationalists to Formosa, saw combat in Korea, and as a cryptographer, served in stations as diverse as Japan, England, Italy, and the South Pacific test range where he was present at several Pacific nuclear tests. 

   Retiring in 1964, he served as an analyst for NATO and later in the Merchant Marine. Later still, he captained numerous passenger vessels and private yachts. 
   He was in remarkable health despite his years, but a bit over a week ago he went into the hospital for a simple gall bladder removal and never woke up from the operation. He is survived by his wife, three daughters, five grandchildren and five great grandchildren.
   He definitely did his bit.
   The things he, his brothers, and many of his day saw and did were nothing short of epic. The loss of their experience is a tragedy beyond words and their shoes are unlikely to be soon filled. 

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