RIP Howard

Howard Zinn is dead.

Howard Zinn, the Boston University historian and political activist who was an early opponent of US involvement in Vietnam and whose books, such as “A People’s History of the United States,” inspired young and old to rethink the way textbooks present the American experience, died today in Santa Monica, Calif, where he was traveling. He was 87.

Bummer

Edgy comic George Carlin dies at 71

Comedian George Carlin, a counter-culture hero famed for his routines about drugs, dirty words and the demise of humanity, died of heart failure at a Los Angeles-area hospital on Sunday. He was 71.

Carlin was amazing. His routines were those of a 2%er who managed to actually connect with the rest of the world. From religion to sex to politics to culture to plain reason, he was a veritable cornucopia of wit and humor.

In sum, I have this to say: shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker and tits.

Some favorite quotes.

Religion convinced the world that there’s an invisible man in the sky who watches everything you do. And there’s 10 things he doesn’t want you to do or else you’ll go to a burning place with a lake of fire until the end of eternity. But he loves you! …And he needs money! He’s all powerful, but he can’t handle money!

I have as much authority as the Pope, I just don’t have as many people who believe it.

Well, if crime fighters fight crime and fire fighters fight fire, what do freedom fighters fight? They never mention that part to us, do they?

Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.

Most people work just hard enough not to get fired and get paid just enough money not to quit.

Some people see things that are and ask, Why? Some people dream of things that never were and ask, Why not? Some people have to go to work and don’t have time for all that.

Update: he got better as he got older. To a point. Just don’t read the later books.

Phrase retirement watch: w00t

It’s dead, y’all. Dead.

“w00t,” an expression of joy coined by online gamers, was crowned word of the year on Tuesday by the publisher of a leading U.S. dictionary.

Massachusetts-based Merriam-Webster Inc. said “w00t” — typically spelled with two zeros — reflects a new direction in the American language led by a generation raised on video games and cell phone text-messaging.

It’s like saying “yay,” the dictionary said.

“It could be after a triumph or for no reason at all,” Merriam-Webster said.

Probably not what he had in mind

Ooops

A man died while trying to outdo a rival with an acrobatic move while “battle dancing,” police said.

Robert Stitt, 48, and his rival were competing in a parking lot Monday night when he tried a forward flip and landed on his head.

Dammit, I need a new death scene now. This guy just stole all my thunder. He’s a death plagiarist!

The Xmas Death Trio

It was an interesting triumverate of deceased this year. James Brown, Frank Stanton, and Gerald Ford.

The Godfather of Soul, the father of news television, and … the inspiration for Chevy Chase’s best SNL bits. Hard to come up with a lasting Ford impression other than his unforgivable pardon of Nixon. He was more like the town drunk who happened to fall into a bag of cash. Nice enough guy, but more lucky than good.

Joe Barbera (of Hanna-Barbera fame) also passed, but four legs breaks the Rule of Three, so I’m going to ignore it.

I’d write a long obit about James Brown and what his music meant to me (not to mention the world), but he’s way too busy getting a new pair of shoes in his afterlife of choice, teaching Rick James what funk is all about. Nothing left to say, outside of the bad jokes that keep popping into my head (e.g. the hardest working man in showbiz is now Kid Rock).

Hit it!

RIP Satchmo

Satchmo had to be euthanized this morning. His cancer had metastasized to the kidneys and he was miserable. Unable to eat and in obvious pain, his time here was done.

I’m not here to mourn Satchmo, but to celebrate him. I remember when I first got him at 8 or 9 weeks old. That was 13 years ago. From the start, he was feisty, fearless and full of life. Brimming with charisma and attitude, he just oozed personality (and not just relative to other cats). Later I learned how intelligent, interested, and curious he was. He bit me, I bit him. We were cool.

We moved on. Lived in a shared house where the roommates got him high and taught him to hate The Hand. You know, that slowly descending hand that lands on his head that must be attacked, and attacked NOW. No quarter asked, none given. A feud, plain and simple. He won more times than he lost against The Hand, particularly as measured in terms of blood lost.

Later he discovered his new nemesis, The Light. A red dot that could appear anywhere, anytime, forever eluding his reach, though many hours were spent trying. Similar to The Light was The Pen (occasionally, The Finger), which would protrude slightly from some edge somewhere and must be destroyed via his mad ninja skillz. Again, he won more than he lost… especially in terms of blood lost.

He had many other endearing qualities, such as treating spiders as truffles and suckling on the tag to my comforter. Whenever I would try and record vocals, he would become concerned that I was in physical pain and come and check on me. This included ruining many a take by mwaow’ing in the middle of a verse. He knew his name and would answer when called. Occasionally, he would come when called as well. When he felt like it. He would lay next to the food bowl and scoop it into his mouth, much like a rajah or a Roman Emperor. He was a curmudgeon. He was me in cat form.

I will miss all of these things about him and more.

Satchmo, best cat ever

So long, buddy. May you be claw deep in the tender, sweet flesh of The Light. That fucker’s been taunting you for far too long.

See you soon. Relatively speaking. (more pics)

Toodles

Looks like the plagiarizing nepotista entitlement box turtle baby ben has been sacked.

In the past 24 hours, we learned of allegations that Ben Domenech plagiarized material that appeared under his byline in various publications prior to washingtonpost.com contracting with him to write a blog that launched Tuesday.

An investigation into these allegations was ongoing, and in the interim, Domenech has resigned, effective immediately.

I’m sure he meant “resigned” resigned. Couldn’t happen to a more worthy individual.

Good riddance

Slobo’s dead

“Milosevic was found lifeless on his bed in his cell at the United Nations detention unit,” the UN tribunal in the Netherlands said in a statement.

“The guard immediately alerted the detention unit officer in command and the medical officer. The latter confirmed that Slobodan Milosevic was dead.”

The perils of government regulation

See what happens when you have a safety-first approach to regulation and stringent governance over the workplace? Why, you save people’s lives, is what.

The safe extraction of 72 potash miners following a serious fire about a kilometre underground at the Mosaic Co. mine at Esterhazy is particularly remarkable for its contrast with fires at two West Virginia coal mines that took 14 lives earlier in January.

Even though there’s a vast difference between the extraction of coal that occurs in an environment of flammable and often toxic gases, and the excavation of benign potash from among the world’s largest deposits in Saskatchewan, the 72 miners owe their unscathed survival to stringent regulations and the mining industry’s commendable safety-first approach in this province.

The moment miner Dennis Lachapelle and a group of co-workers confronted a giant wall of fire as they were travelling in a pickup truck at the end of their shift on Sunday, their comprehensive safety training told them to turn around and head immediately to one of a dozen airtight “refuge stations” situated inside the whopping 20 km by 30 km cavern.

Such refuge stations, most of which double as lunchrooms and are replete with moist clay that miners can use to further seal the doors in case of smoke, have been required since the 1930s in the wake of a fire in Ontario that killed 39 miners. At about 650 square metres, and stocked with water, food — even if it’s the “horriblest little biscuits you would ever eat,” according to one rescued miner — blankets, a phone, and pressurized oxygen independent of the mine’s main ventilation system, the vital role these safe rooms play cannot be overstressed.

RIP Chris Penn

Good actor. He will be missed.

Actor Chris Penn, brother of Sean Penn, was found dead Tuesday at his condominium near the beach in Santa Monica, police said.

Police said they discovered the 40-year-old actor’s body around 4 p.m. Lt. Frank Fabrega said there were no obvious signs of foul play.

Salon did a nice piece on Penn a ways back. You may have to sign up for the day pass to read it, but it’s worth it.

Stanley “Tookie” Williams to be executed tonight

I’m a long-time opponent of the death penalty (basis and reasoning posted a ways back), so high profile executions like this really stick in my craw. Particularly, when they are politically motivated by empty suits with oedipal complexes playing the role of Serious Men that they are not (see also, Bush, GW).

With just hours to go before Stanley Tookie Williams was to be put to death, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger denied his plea for clemency, thus allowing the execution of perhaps the nation’s most prominent death row inmate to proceed at San Quentin’s death chamber at 12:01 a.m.

Tookie Williams has, since his murder spree, become an advocate against gangs, written children’s books, and otherwise been a decent citizen, all things considered. The informants were all inmates who had incentive to lie, and there was evidence that at least one of the four murders was not his doing that was not allowed to be presented at trial.

In any reasonable, non-partisan, mind, that should raise sufficient doubt to postpone a decision of such inarguable finality. And there are these same doubts in every case. Yet the clemency decisions are still made by actors and petulant Caligulas and slick willies who are part and parcel of their political party’s machinations and maneuverings. It is a ridiculous state of affairs. Tookie’s victims aren’t going to come back to life and a changed man is going to disappear from the earth. I’m not arguing that Tookie is a good man, but we are not appropriate creatures and our system is incapable of deciding this issue justly.

In an interview last month, Williams said that he had received a poor defense. “If I were affluent, I wouldn’t be here,” he said.

Absolutley, undeniably true. You will never find a rich man (or woman) on death row. It’s a truism that highlights the injustice of our system. Race is another factor that, just coincidentally, happens to be in play here as well.

Oh, and der gropenfuhrer also said this:

“Is Williams’ redemption complete and sincere, or is it just a hollow promise? . . . Without an apology and atonement for these senseless and brutal killings there can be no redemption.”

If Williams’ apologized, he would receive clemency? How the fuck does one determine what is sincere and what is facade? If advocating against gangs, preaching nonviolence, and writing childrens novels isn’t atonement, what is? Dying, apparently.

What an enragingly transparent fig leaf.

Ahnuld is as much of a murderer today as Tookie was 26 years ago.

Richard Pryor Dead at 65

One of the saddest things I have ever listened to is Pryor’s interview with Terry Gross, and some of the funniest things I ever listened to were That Nigger’s Crazy and Wanted. Pryor was a man ahead of his time; his social observations and comedy blazed a trail we are still following today. He thought large, he felt much, and he lived a cesium-bright candle light. Goodbye, Richard. You were one funny motherfucker. You will be missed. 65 years was not enough.

Richard Pryor, the groundbreaking comedian whose profanely personal insights into race relations and modern life made him one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, died of a heart attack Saturday. He was 65.