Was Hugo Chavez a demagogic despot who cloaked his dictatorial tendencies in long-winded rhetoric about his love for the poor or a champion of an underclass who had spent too long in brutal subjugation to a wealthy elite who cared little and did less for them? Either way, he's dead now, which means his life must be recounted in cut-rate CGI from Taipei. This is the world in which we live.
"Doc Watson, the guitarist and folk singer whose flat-picking style elevated the acoustic guitar to solo status in bluegrass and country music, and whose interpretations of traditional American music profoundly influenced generations of folk and rock guitarists, died on Tuesday in Winston-Salem, N.C. He was 89."
"He did one of the first American interviews with Elton John, and got a rousing ovation when he brought a rented surfboard to Carnegie Hall for a Beach Boys show. He introduced Curtis Mayfield to Bob Dylan at a Muhammad Ali fight. In 1982 he started 'Mixed Bag,' a program that emphasized singer-songwriters, on Sunday mornings. His regular guests included Suzanne Vega, who introduced herself to him by sending a fan letter." —If you grew up in this area and listened to rock radio, Pete Fornatale's voice was one of the voices of your childhood. Fornatale died yesterday at the age of 66.
The poet Christopher Logue passed away on Friday. Best known for his modern reconstructions of The Iliad, he also wrote a remarkable memoir called Prince Charming, a terrifically frank and self-critical work which is well worth tracking down. Here's a recording of an excerpt from his All Day Permanent Red. The London Review of Books is featuring two poems, one by him and one dedicated to him, here. And here's an interview from 2003. Logue was 85.
Brooklyn's Al Goldstein had one of those captivating personalities that it's easy to not recognize is actually the presentation of mental illness until it all collapses and the interior self is revealed. An incredibly intelligent and hilarious man crippled by self-hatred, an inside-out Woody Allen, a lecherous troll from out of the Qumran caves, mid-life Al Goldstein washed up like a whale onto New York's public access channels. There he talked endlessly, lecherously and also quite hilariously, documenting New York City in a way that no one else did.
For a man who worked in the industry of hardcore pornography, Al Goldstein apparently only ever spent six days [...]
"Iain's more conventional literary works were generally delightful, edgy and fully engaged with the world in which he set them: his palpable outrage at inequity and iniquity shone through the page. But in his science fiction he achieved something more: something, I think, that the genre rarely manages to do. He was intensely political, and he infused his science fiction with a conviction that a future was possible in which people could live better — he brought to the task an an angry, compassionate, humane voice that single-handedly drowned out the privileged nerd chorus of the technocrat/libertarian fringe and in doing so managed to write a far-future space operatic [...]
If you grew up in the '80s, Dr. C. Everett Koop was the first person you saw who made you realize that some people actually still styled their facial hair that way. (Unless you grew up in Pennsylvania Dutch country, in which case you probably had some other questions.) And with the possible exception of that lady who got fired because she revealed to the youth of the nation that masturbation would not cause them to spontaneously explode, he is probably the only surgeon general whose name or tenure you remember. He died yesterday at the age of 96, and he probably deserves a more thorough remembrance than some stupid [...]
Novelist and Talking Heads fan David Bowman, whose Let the Dog Drive was one of the more memorable debuts of the '90s, has died. He was 54.
David Eric Lowen, co-writer of Pat Benatar's ubiquitous hit "We Belong," has died at the age of 60. Now that song is going to be in my head all day. Like pretty much every other day, I guess.
Hal Needham was never a household name, something about which he did not care. He passed away last week at the age of 82. He was (by his account) the highest paid stuntman of all time and the director of a slew of memorable Burt Reynolds movies from the ‘70s and ‘80s, including Smokey And The Bandit, a film that, if you grew up in the South, rivaled the popularity of Star Wars. He ushered in a lighter touch to American pop movie culture, but he probably mostly cared about the checks in his mailbox.
Had Needham never sat behind a movie camera, we would still be talking about [...]
Lifelong comic book man Carmine Infantino died yesterday at the age of 87. If you are even a casual nerd, you know Infantino as that guy that got to draw The Flash off and on for thirty years. And his pencils were immediately identifiable: square-jawed and kinetic, with characters constantly tilting into a run or skidding to a halt. But that’s not all Infantino did.
Born in Brooklyn in 1924, Infantino got into the business while still in school (at what is now the High School of Art and Design), freelancing for "packagers." (At the time, the early 40s, some comic books were sub-contracted to studios—"packagers"—who would write and draw [...]
Leroy "Sugarfoot" Bonner died of cancer Saturday in Trotwood-Dayton, Ohio. Bonner was guitarist and lead singer of funk legends and hip-hop forefathers the Ohio Players. The synthesizer line from the Player's 1972 hit "Funky Worm" became a bedrock foundation of gangsta rap when Dr. Dre sampled it for N.W.A's "Dopeman" in 1988. Four years later, Dre replayed it for his own "Nuthin' But a 'G' Thang," and it has been used in about a million other songs since then. So much so that any high-pitched synth line used in rap production is commonly referred to as a "worm synth." Bonner was 69.
"The bear famously tranquilized on the University of Colorado campus last week, and immortalized in a viral photo by CU student Andy Duann, met a tragic death early Thursday in the Denver-bound lanes of U.S. 36. Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials said a 280-pound black bear that died on U.S. 36 after being hit by a car at about 5:40 a.m. Thursday was the same bear that became known worldwide last week after wandering onto the CU campus near the Williams Village dorm complex." [Via]
"I first saw Mark on a dudeblog, someone reblogged a video of her and I was supposed to think what I was watching was bizarre/pitiful/gross/funny. Instead I felt better about everything I had ever been through, and I laughed, and felt bad for anyone too plain and typical to get anything positive out of it." —Tumblr user "BRB Nightmares."
According to friends, artist Mark Aguhar has died. Among other projects, Mark ran a blog called Call Out Queen. Aguhar's MFA performance at the University of Illinois can be found here; an archive of drawings can be found here; an archive of performances and sculpture can [...]
"I think death will be a good career move for me. People will say, 'Yes, Hoban, he seems an interesting writer, let's look at him again.'" —Author Russell Hoban, who wrote the post-apocalyptic classic Riddley Walker and the beloved "Frances" series for children, among others, has died. Hoban was 86.