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

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.


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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 09, 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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March 01, 2012

Well, Crap.

 Andrew Breitbart died last night.
 11 months older than me...which...I'm thinking is really too young.

Few have had as much impact. With Drudge he really changed the media world.

More here and here.

In any event, reaction to this individuals passing reinforces my view that however infuriating it is to be on team stupid, it is a far more noble calling  then the other side. Ace has further thoughts on that.

Note that this headline at the Telegraph seems to kick the guy by focusing  on the Shirley Sherrod controversy, claiming that he maligned the woman through editing. That's not quite what happened.

(More behind the spoiler tag)

In the first video, Sherrod describes how she racially discriminates against a white farmer. She describes how she is torn over how much she will choose to help him. And, she admits that she doesn’t do everything she can for him, because he is white. Eventually, her basic humanity informs that this white man is poor and needs help. But she decides that he should get help from "one of his own kind”. She refers him to a white lawyer.

Sherrod’s racist tale is received by the NAACP audience with nodding approval and murmurs of recognition and agreement. Hardly the behavior of the group now holding itself up as the supreme judge of another groups’ racial tolerance.

Sherrod was making an important point. The audience was missing it. The video did not put her in a bad light, but the Administration threw her under the bus. Beck and others on the right came to her defense and it is clear from Brietbarts own story that the video was not an expose' on Sherrod.

These facts of course mean  nothing to those who feared Brietbart.

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February 03, 2012

One of The Great Ones Has Passed

Peter Decker Jr., one of Virginia's outstanding citizens has passed away at 76. He came from nothing, growing up in a small house in Lambert's Point (If you're not familiar with Norfolk that area  is "the docks"; a cargo terminal).Decker founded a law firm which became one of the most respected in the state. He was also instrumental in the revival of Norfolk's downtown. 30 years ago there were rats running down Granby Street, now there are cafes, malls, shops and...mermaids, which were actually his idea.

He was a remarkable philanthropist who gave millions to causes ranging from children's hospitals to saving the Chrysler Museum. His flamboyant voice was a fixture on local radio extolling any number of charities.

This morning the local talk station pretty much suspended their programming from 6-10 and filled the entire time with callers and e-mailers telling stories about how the great 'Petuh Deckuh' had impacted their livers either through his many charities or directly.

There are very few men like him and we are all diminished by his passing.

He will be greatly missed.  More here and here.

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October 05, 2011

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs just died.

Professor Jacobson has thoughts on Jobs who had just recently retired from Apple. Ars Technica has an obituary.

Jobs really changed the world and ultimately for the better.

Few people remember what a change this was....

He was only 56.
His short time amongst us was not certainly wasted.


"There’s always the hope that if you sit and watch long enough, the beachball will vanish and the thing it interrupted will return."

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January 12, 2011


I started to blog this memorial service in Tucson...but something about it is creeping me out. I'm not sure what, maybe, the logos...maybe the T-shirts.
Perhaps the cheering.

The president should be on in a moment. Thus far he has actually handled this with a good deal of class.

UPDATE: It seems to be perfectly decent speech by the President. But the cheers seem really inappropriate and off-putting.

UPDATE2: He went there.

UPDATE3: Maybe not, it actually sounds like he's trying to walk back some of the excesses of his erstwhile allies.

UPDATE4: Pretty decent speech...it just won't...end.

All in all a decent speech. It went quite long but covered all the bases and was respectful and actually presidential. It was the audience that seemed off.

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September 22, 2010

A Great one Passes

Captain Robert Truax, USN, (later USAF) has died. Perhaps best known for the invention of the JATO system, most of his contributions went largely unsung. However, Truax was one of the most important figures in the history of rocket development.  In addition to working on such projects as Polaris and Apollo he was a advocate for cheap access to space and was well ahead of his time in trying for suborbital space tourism.   Clarke Lindsay has a fine overview of his career here.

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September 09, 2010

Satoshi Kon

I had missed this, ironically because I was in Japan at the time.

One of the greats has passed.

Satoshi Kon died on August 24. He was just 46.

Via Blogfonte, Makiko Itoh has provided a translation of his farewell, here.

Kon was, hands down one of the greatest animation  talents of the last decade and a half. His work included...

Perfect Blue,
Millennium Actress,
Tokyo Godfathers
Paranoia Agent

He was at the top of his form.

Such a loss...

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May 13, 2010

Frank Frazetta, 1928-2010

Frank Frazetta has died.

Few had as big an impression on the look of our fantasies as this man.

May he rest in peace.

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April 19, 2010

Carl Macek 1951-2010

 Carl Macek, died of a hear attack Saturday

Most of today's anime fans have probably not heard of this man, but he was  important in bringing anime to the mainstream.

In the 1980's Maceck  acquired the US rights to Super Dimension Fortress Macross and attempted to market in the US. His company produced an excellently dubbed, quite accurately translated and very respectful US version of this hit Japanese mech show. It found no buyers except for a brief video release of the first few episodes. The reason was that the syndication market of the time required 65 episodes, minimum. Maceks response was to get two more less successful series, dub them and market them as a 3 series package...which went nowhere. At the time, no one would buy three separate series....so he rewrote and re-dubbed them  as one series, keeping the shows plots basically intact but linking them together by an overarching storyline and a somewhat awkward narration that made the shows a trilogy.
For reasons not entirely clear, he also produced an original BGM that was passable and even innovative by the standards of US cartoons of the day but was vastly inferior to the soundtracks of all three series. Most of the (very few) anime fans of the time sneered...but the show was a huge hit.

I would say that most younger fans  (and those who discovered it in the last decade or so ) would not be aware of Anime today if not for Robotech, which, for all its imperfections, introduced a lot of people to the art form.

Perhaps more importantly, the huge marketing buzz around Robotech in '86-'87 proved that licensing extant anime series  for American audiences other than pre-teens was economically viable.

This is not to say that there hadn't been Anime shows brought over before, but with the exception of a very few like Starblazers, all had been edited for viewing by US pre-teens, which standards and practices considered to be an exceedingly fragile species.

Robotech was certainly heavily edited, but the drama, death and romance were kept largely intact which caused it to stand out as quite a novelty and attracted a high school and college age demographic. The success of this show started a flurry of interest  by fans in Anime....at a time ( the mid to late 80's) that Japans anime and manga industries were in one their most productive and innovative phases ever. Robotech's success also made pitching subsequent US TV animation projects aimed at audiences other than children...such as Batman...vastly more viable.

Macek not only did Robotech, he was instrumental in promoting and popularizing Hayo Miyazaki in the US. He directed the original US dubs of Totoro and other Ghibli films which were as good or better than the later Disney versions.

 Jerry Beck has a good rundown of Maceks career here.  Current fans may not know his name, but Macek brought over Naruto and Bleach, two shows that most will have a passing familiarity with.

I never met the man but I need to say a few words about the animosity he generates in some quarters (which can be a sight to behold). A lot of anime fans of a certain age ( mine and older) will go on about how they would have done better and been more respectful of the source material. This ignores the reality of the market at the time....for a very good reason....these detractors didn't do it. They talked about someday doing it.

Well Carl Macek did do it and his subsequent accomplishments belie not only a certain degree of business savvy but a love of animation in general. Carl Macek had the motivation and courage to start a business, make it succeed, fall down , pick himself up and do it again....and again. He brought a lot of entertainment to a hell of a lot of people and helped to jump start an industry many of us enjoy
He is despised by people who, for the most part, endlessly aspire, never attempt and angrily snipe at those who actually do what they only dream of.

If one is judged by the virtues of ones accomplishments and the nature of ones enemies then Carl Macek led a damned successful life.

He will be missed.

UPDATE: In the comments John Turner points out that of all the Streamline dubs of Ghibli films, Laputa was actually the one that Macek was NOT involved in. Thanks for the heads up sir. I have corrected the text.

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September 22, 2009

Horrible News

Please send condolences to Wonderduck.
His mom passed away Sunday.

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November 24, 2008

John Corbett Talton 1921-2008

 My Great Uncle John has passed away.

Born in 1921, he was one of 7 children.  He survived a bout of whooping cough in his early years. By the time he was 10 the nation was in the throes of the Great Depression and he frequently missed school doing odd jobs to help feed his parents and 7 siblings.

When the US finally became involved in World War 2, he enlisted in the Navy. After serving in various capacities in the battle of the Atlantic, he volunteered for a spot on an underwater demolition team. Despite their name, their concept of operations at the time involved rather little swimming. Rather, they planned to use rubber rafts to approach obstacles and plant their explosives, swimming only a fairly short distance and freediving. It was hoped that darkness and surprise would cover them.

On June 6 1944 the folly of this became clear.Uncle John's unit was tasked with clearing obstructions on what would be known to history as "Easy Red" sector of Omaha Beach.

On approach their raft bottomed out, forcing them to swim nearly half a mile under the tender ministrations of Rommel's crack machine gunners. The swimmers on ether side of  took rounds in their satchel charges, detonating them and blasting his shipmates to the four winds.

Uncle John found himself unable to contact anyone else in his squad but swam through a hellish fusillade of enemy fire to plant his charges. After that, he waded ashore with the first wave and, dodging machine gun fire, pulled several wounded allied soldiers and sailors from the blood red surf. He grabbed a rifle from a fallen soldier and, despite having next to no infantry training, moved inland off the beach.

Due to the fact that his insignia (and wetsuit) had been lost when his shipmates exploded, he entered battle wearing swim trunks, a scavenged rifle and an ammo belt. As he had no way to prove that he was navy, he was pressed into Army service wearing a dead mans uniform and served along with other members of his unit in France as an infantryman for several weeks before he was returned to what was left of his unit. Of 175 UDT swimmers engaged at Normandy, 91 were casualties, including all but one of the other members of John Talton's squad.

After the war, he went to college and became a mechanical engineer. He worked at the Radford Arsenal and for Hercules Engineering where he worked on rockets and missiles. He was involved in several NASA projects involving solid rockets, particularly trans-stages, and assisted in the development of the Nike-Ajax and Nike-Hercules AAA missiles. He was also instrumental in the development the innovative solid rocket motor for the ridiculously fast accelerating Sprint point defence ABM.

He did charitable works through the Masons and Kiwannis International for 50 years as well as his church.

He can be seen interviewed at length in Peter Jennings 50th anniversary D-Day special and in the History Channel's  Suicide Missions of D Day .

Update: Fixed link. Corrected text. (John Talton did not serve in the Pacific. His brother, my great uncle Doug, served as a Landing Craft Coxwain after commanding a landing craft at Normandy.)

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