hradzka: (jason)
It's all over my flist: Andy Hallet, who played Lorn (aka Krevlornswath of the Dethwok Clan, aka The Host) on ANGEL, has died. Cause of death is reportedly a heart condition he'd been contending with for several years. Sad news; he was a talented and charming performer, and while he was focusing on music of late I'd hoped to see him turn up on my TV screen again.

I will say this: he died aged 33? Yeah, right. I met him when he did Dragon*Con one year, when I was on track staff, and no way was he my age. Maybe he was 33 then. Hollywood years, man, Hollywood years.
hradzka: (plane)
I think that I am like most people in that there are some phrases that are guaranteed to at best annoy me, and at worst to make me think the speaker is an asshole. It is hard to say just what tops the list, but a major contender is "speaking truth to power."

Ave atque vale, Lasantha Wickrematunge. )
hradzka: (plane)
Here is one vignette from those years as it actually occurred. A district Party conference was under way in Moscow Province. It was presided over by a new secretary of the District Party Committee, replacing one recently arrested. At the conclusion of the conference, a tribute to Comrade Stalin was called for. Of course, everyone stood up (just as everyone had leaped to his feet during the conference at every mention of his name). The small hall echoed with "stormy applause, rising to an ovation." For three minutes, four minutes, five minutes, the "stormy applause, rising to an ovation," continued. But palms were getting sore and raised arms were already aching. And the older people were panting from exhaustion. It was becoming insufferably silly even to those who really adored Stalin. However, who would dare be the first to stop? The secretary of the District Party Committee could have done it. He was standing on the platform, and it was he who called for the ovation. But he was a newcomer. He had taken the place of a man who'd been arrested. He was afraid! After all, NKVD men were standing in the hall applauding and watching to see who quit first!


-- Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008), THE GULAG ARCHIPELAGO, VOLUME I.



For the record, the director of the local paper factory quit first. That night, he was arrested and sentenced to ten years' imprisonment.

As for Solzhenitsyn himself, he wrote a private letter to a friend criticizing the course of WWII. He used a couple of uncomplimentary nicknames for Stalin. He was sent to the gulag for eight years.
hradzka: (jason)
via [livejournal.com profile] catrambo, I saw that SF writer Thomas M. Disch has died -- a suicide, alas, apparently on July 4.

In reponse to the notice posted on [livejournal.com profile] ellen_datlow's LJ, [livejournal.com profile] madrobins posted a wonderful memory:

My memory of Tom will always be colored by an afternoon that he and Stan Shaffer--a fellow Clarionite--spent at a junior college in New Jersey at a symposium on speculative literature. Stan had introduced me to to Tom, and he had a slight "don't embarrass me in front of my friend" air about him. So when the symposium was over and we were walking over the lawn--a series of immaculately groomed hills--and I put down my bag and books and lay down and rolled down the green, Stan was appalled. And then Tom, bless him forever, said "Oh, yes," handed his stuff to Stan, and rolled down the hill too. I think we went up and down that hill a few times, and Stan finally joined in.

I know Tom was depressed these last few years; I'm so happy to have this joyful recollection to pair with his extraordinary writing.


I have a very strong memory of rolling down a hill at Carnegie-Mellon University with [livejournal.com profile] cyano and several of her friends one night, ages ago, back when I was still in high school. My high school sweetheart had just dumped me (for the first time), and getting the hell out of town for the weekend seemed like a remarkably good idea. We tore around campus goofing off the way geeks do, and at some point decided that rolling down the hill was a logical thing to do. It was; if you haven't done it lately, give it a shot.

Nuggets of joy where you can, folks. I'm sorry Disch found his too brief and too few.

ETA: Some of Disch's poetry.
hradzka: (jason)
Holy crap. Stan Winston has died.

Now there's the end of an era in practical effects. The guy was an absolute master of his craft. Variety has quotes from several of Winston's colleagues and friends, including Steven Spielberg and Arnold Schwarzenegger, as well as producer Gale Anne Hurd. Notably absent is James Cameron himself, whose Terminator sketch Winston brought to life and for whom Winston built the power loader and Alien queen; I don't know if he was unavailable, or just couldn't get a statement out in time. It's my understanding that Cameron and Winston were very close, so the latter may be the case -- Cameron is a famously difficult guy, but those who have few really close friends often feel the loss of those few tremendously. (ETA: Cameron sent an email to Harry Knowles.) Winston has apparently suffered from cancer for seven long years. That must have been a terrible period for Winston and his family; he kept it as quiet as he could, and this longtime fan hadn't even known he was ill.

His company kept producing great work, even as he suffered. It was the talented designers and fabricators at Stan Winston Studios who built the suit for Iron Man.

Stan Winston: a man who knew how to leave the game when he was on top.
hradzka: (jason)
Andrew Olmsted, a blogger and US soldier, was killed in Iraq within the past few days.

I don't mention him because I knew him, or because I read his blog. I mention it because I read his final post, and it's worth a link. He knew what he was getting into, and so he composed a final post, in the event that he didn't make it back.

And the reason I mention this is that Andrew Olmsted was a fan.

There's a lot of talk about fandom as a transformative culture: we take the objects of our fandom to our heart, and shape them to suit our ends. But it's rarely mentioned that the reason we do so is that we see ourselves, our hearts, in it in the first place. Andrew Olmsted's final post reminded me of that: he sprinkled in quotations that felt relevant to him: Plato, yes, but also TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE and GREG THE BUNNY, and, overwhelmingly, BABYLON 5.

I don't know if I've ever posted here how much BABYLON 5 meant to me: it was my first serious fandom, and it was my gateway into organized fandom as a whole. And to see it quoted so heavily, and often, by a guy who was writing his farewell to the planet and the people he loved, meant more than I could easily express: because I saw the heart of a man I never knew in a show I deeply loved -- and so his letter spoke to me, for me, not just because of his own words, but because of his invocation of words that were written by someone else. Because there was a time when I was heading into a dicey situation, and I composed a just-in-case letter for some friends. And the last line that Andrew Olmsted quoted, I quoted, too.

Fandom does the damnedest things. When Olmsted posted on the group blog to which he was a contributor, he posted with the username "G'kar." That's what BABYLON 5 meant to him. It helped him to see, and feel, and express what he felt within himself. Fandom has lately focused on the aspects of transformative culture: we change what we take in. For me, it's always been the other way around: what we take in changes us. Fandom transforms us. It transformed me.

And tonight it gave me an unexpected, deeply felt connection to a man I never knew. He asks that rather than mourn his passing, people remember the good things. I didn't know him, so can't speak to that. But I can say that tonight he reminded me of parts of fandom I hadn't remembered, or felt in quite this way, for a while.

He also asks that if you're going to think of him, have a good time while doing it:

What I don't want this to be is a chance for me, or anyone else, to be maudlin. I'm dead. That sucks, at least for me and my family and friends. But all the tears in the world aren't going to bring me back, so I would prefer that people remember the good things about me rather than mourning my loss. (If it turns out a specific number of tears will, in fact, bring me back to life, then by all means, break out the onions.) I had a pretty good life, as I noted above. Sure, all things being equal I would have preferred to have more time, but I have no business complaining with all the good fortune I've enjoyed in my life. So if you're up for that, put on a little 80s music (preferably vintage 1980-1984), grab a Coke and have a drink with me. If you have it, throw 'Freedom Isn't Free' from the Team America soundtrack in; if you can't laugh at that song, I think you need to lighten up a little. I'm dead, but if you're reading this, you're not, so take a moment to enjoy that happy fact.


I have 'Freedom Isn't Free,' so that's covered. As for the '80s music? Only one choice.

Rest well, Andrew Olmsted.
hradzka: (jason)
George MacDonald Fraser has died. Author of the Flashman books, one of the all-time greatest historical novel series: the premise was that Harry Flashman, the bully of TOM BROWN'S SCHOOL DAYS, became a great hero of the British empire by scheming, lying, swiving, and shtupping his way to the top, despite being a cheat, a liar, and an utter coward. The series was absolutely wonderful, though for me the first book, with Flashy's adventures in the Afghan War, still stands high. (A close second: ROYAL FLASH, Fraser's brilliant spoof of THE PRISONER OF ZENDA, in which Flashy not only stands in for royalty in a wedding, but on the wedding night as well. That was actually made into a film with Malcolm McDowell, as I recall.)

Fraser also wrote other wonderful things: he wrote the screenplays for the delightful Richard-Lester directed Musketeer films, with Michael York as D'Artagnan -- hey, *I* loved 'em -- and for my favorite Roger Moore 007 picture, OCTOPUSSY. But my vote for his least-appreciated work: THE PYRATES. A gloriously hysterical swashbuckling comedy written by a guy who has clearly loved and enjoyed far too many adventure novels, pirate movies, and rollicking films of all kinds, to the point that you can pretty much see the actors he's mentally cast in the roles (including, awesomely, Pam Grier); I will bet money it's on Terry Pratchett's bookshelf, because it's in that similar vein of utter insanity.

Fraser was 82, and a class act. God bless him; I'll always remember him fondly.
hradzka: (jason)
I found out today that the owner of my favorite gun shop died last week.

Harry Beckwith was 78 years old. He'd been in declining health the past few years, but stayed hale and hearty for a remarkably long time before that. He went in for some surgery earlier this year, and I think it took a lot out of him. He was one of those old guys who seemed to be made out of rawhide, and you thought he'd go forever. Nothing had stopped him before, and lots had tried: the Japanese Navy, back in World War 2, didn't make out any better than the thugs who looked at an old man's shop and saw an easy score. Actually, they made out worse; Harry had to defend himself a few times as a civilian, and only wound up with one notch on his gun under those circumstances. I never asked him how he did against the Japanese, but I can't imagine they'd fared better.

I met Harry when I was getting into guns. I had an idea of doing a scientific study involving firearms, so went down to the local shop -- his -- to ask questions. My father had owned guns, but he died when I was young, so I'd never fired one before. So I went down to Beckwith's shop, talked with Harry a little, did the NRA safety course, and bought an old Colt Army Special revolver. And thus began my descent into gun-geekery. I bought a couple guns from Harry, and shot at the attached range, and stopped in fairly often to chew the fat. Harry had a marvelous assortment of weaponry, and some very friendly gun shop dogs. He also had a lot of pictures on the wall. One was of a guy with a rifle posing next to a target. There was a bullet hole in the picture, smack in the center of the bulls-eye. The picture was inscribed to Harry with best wishes, and I remember thinking that the champion shooter in question had come up with a cute stunt for a publicity photo.

It wasn't a cute stunt, it turned out. It was from the night Harry... well. If you want to know about the kind of guy Harry could be, when he had to be, read that.

Further memories. )
hradzka: (jason)
Today I got the news that two of my favorite writers had died.

John M. Ford )

Col. Jeff Cooper )

Crikey.

Sep. 4th, 2006 10:14 am
hradzka: (jason)
Steve Irwin, known as the Crocodile Hunter, is dead.

He said once that if he were ever killed by a crocodile, he'd hate it if people blamed the animal, when it would really have been his own fault for making a mistake. The cynic would say that getting that close to wild animals was probably a mistake in general. If you watched Irwin closely, though, you could tell that he really was a keen student of the way animals, particularly crocodiles, reacted, and that's probably what kept him alive so long. It wasn't a crocodile that got him, or a poisonous snake, with which he'd had some amazingly close calls over the years; a stingray speared him in the chest while he was filming an underwater documentary, and that was that. He was dead by the time he left the water.

Irwin's passing brings to mind Timothy Treadwell, who was eaten by one of the bears he filmed in Alaska, but I think there were more differences between the men than the circumstances of their deaths would lead one to believe. Treadwell treated animals, particularly bears, like people in animal suits; he loved them desperately because he'd turned to them to salve his pain. Irwin felt deeply for animals, but remembered that they were different from him in ways that couldn't be bridged, and if he had any psychic pain, he never showed it. What he had was enthusiasm, in truckloads; he was an Australian redneck who'd grown up living in, working in, and loving the wild, and he used his money to buy chunks of land in order to keep them natural. The man lived what he loved, and it's too bad that he made his mistake so soon.

I liked Steve Irwin, and I'll miss him. The man was insane, fearless, a hell of a lot smarter than he looked, and utterly without pretense. At first, I thought his exuberant persona was a public act; then I saw some candid footage of him from well before he became even slightly well-known, and realized, no, *he's really like that.* And I was glad. In an age where every media celebrity is ruthlessly calculating about their appearance, it's nice to know that some people are still authentic, and don't get changed much by fame. Rest in peace, mate.
hradzka: (jason)
A good actor. Very underrated, forever typecast as Superman; I remember an theater audience laughing when his screen credit appeared in Remains of the Day. Then he had his accident, and his image changed again forever -- he wasn't that guy who was Superman any more; he was brave, an ennobled sufferer. Maybe his rekindled fame bemused him.

The funny thing is, during his years in the wilderness (and, let's face it, after the crapfests of SUPERMAN III and SUPERMAN IV), people forgot how good he was as Superman -- and as Clark Kent. I heard Reeve say once that he figured there were two possible explanations for why Lois Lane didn't immediately realize Clark Kent was Superman. A: she was very stupid. B: Superman was really, really good at his disguise. Reeve decided on option B.

He told that story on the occasion I saw him in person, at a speaking engagement at the University of Florida. He took some questions, but I didn't get to ask mine. I was torn between two possibilities. One was, "Out of all your screen kisses, how would you rate Michael Caine?" The other? I wanted to ask him if he'd seen this article from the October 2, 1996 issue of The Onion, and what he'd thought of it.

I wouldn't have been surprised if he'd had it framed.
hradzka: Cassidy, from Garth Ennis's PREACHER. (Default)
The comedian is dead at 82. He'd gone into the hospital for brain surgery last month, and never came out. He knew there was a good chance of that, and even joked about it: "If it goes well, I'll be in for a few weeks. If it doesn't, I'll be in for about an hour and a half."

He was in longer than an hour and a half; by some reports, he was in a coma for some considerable time before the end.

There are many classic Rodney lines -- Back to School brought us the moment when Rodney stumbled across a co-ed in the shower ("I'm sorry, honey! I didn't see anything! Not a thing!" [pause. peeks again.] "You're perfect."), and everyone remembers his signature line, "I don't get no respect" -- but for my money, there's no topping the last line of Caddyshack: "Hey, everybody! We're all gonna get laid!"
hradzka: (jason)
Fay Wray, the 96-year-old star of KING KONG, died yesterday.

There are parts of KING KONG that seem dated today (such as the immortal line: "Some big hard-boiled egg gets a look at a pretty face, and bang -- he cracks up and goes sappy!"), but the film remains a classic adventure with great effects, some truly touching moments, and moments of real horror.

In the movie's biggest scare, Kong isn't even on the screen. He hasn't even appeared yet; the characters on on the boat making for Skull Island, and documentarian Carl Denham (played by Robert Armstrong) is shooting test footage of Wray's Ann Darrow. He starts harmlessly enough, telling Ann to look over there, turn her head a little more, there's something over there, she can't quite see it -- and then he relentlessly pushes her on, and on, telling her that what she sees is huge, and terrifying, and coming for her. Armstrong's delivery is fantastic, and Wray plays it perfectly, becoming more and more horrified -- but Armstrong tells her she can't scream, it's too horrible -- maybe if she didn't see it she could scream for help, maybe she'd have the faintest chance -- if she could just throw an arm over her eyes so she couldn't see -- and finally he shouts, "Scream, Ann! Scream for your life!"

And Wray screams.

If that scream does not make your blood run cold, then you have no soul.
hradzka: (jason)
One of the greats. His body of work as a film and TV composer is so enormous -- and excellent -- that when you try to sum up his career you don't know where the hell to begin. Alien; The Omen; Star Trek out the wazoo (movies, and the themes for TNG, DS9, and Voyager); Planet of the friggin' Apes, Chinatown -- Jesus, I forgot he did Seven Days in May! (Which was ripped off for a two-part episode of DS9. Talk about going full circle.)

Here's the story.
hradzka: (jason)
President Reagan has died.

It's always sad when anyone suffers the kind of long, slow decline that marked President Reagan's twilight years, but Reagan was such an vigorous man that his disappearance into Alzheimer's was especially tragic for the contrast with his earlier vitality. Perhaps that contrast provides some consolation for his family and admirers; Rudolph Giuliani's comment to media was that it was a sad day, but also a joyous one -- because President Reagan had been gone for a long time, and people had missed him, and now they didn't have to miss him in that way anymore.

Read more... )
hradzka: (jason)
Richard Biggs, who played Dr. Franklin on BABYLON 5 (the show that got me into organized fandom), died Saturday morning. I'm out of the B5 loop these days, so just found out now. The word is natural causes, apparently a stroke or aneurysm. Biggs was only in his early forties.

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A POEM EVERY DAY

The collected poems from my descent into madness year spent writing daily poems are now available from Lulu as the cheapest 330-page book they would let me make ($16.20). If that's too pricey, you can also get it from Lulu as a free download, or just click on the "a poem every day" tag to read them here. But if you did buy one, that'd be awesome.

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