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Archive for the ‘obituaries’ Category

Charles Bradley, a soul singer who was one of the hardest working men in R&B, died yesterday of liver cancer at age 68.

To answer the question in his above song, “Why Is It So Hard?”: Selfishness, greed, and hate.

Sigh.

Time to go back and re-listen to his three-album catalog of heartfelt soul.

– Badtux the Music Penguin

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Jerry Pournelle, science fiction writer.
August 7, 1933 – September 8, 2017

Jerry Pournelle, once upon a time, was at the top of the second tier of science fiction writers, right below giants like Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke. That was a long time ago, in the 1970’s, back when he was still insecure enough to take direction from editors. After around 1980 or so, only collaborators could keep him from writing blatantly racist and sexist military / fascist fan fiction, as his arrogance and ego took over and outran what talent he had. And even collaborators didn’t always manage to keep him from going off the rails.

Ask any con-goer, and they’ll have their own “Jerry stories”. He was not a surly prickly presence like Harlan Ellison, but his sexist, arrogant and domineering behavior at cons was infamous. Yet, despite the fact that he was born in the Deep South and had many of the beliefs typical of his generation of Southerners, including racism and sexism that were typical of more “genteel” Southerners (nothing crude like the racism and sexism of the Orange Racist Pussy Grabber), he had one redeeming quality: He was not a stupid man. Furthermore, he was not a mendacious man like, say, William F. Buckley. He didn’t bend the truth in order to justify his beliefs, and when in positions of responsibility he performed his responsibilities fairly and without bias. During his stint as President of the Science Fiction Writers of America, he didn’t run it as a white boy’s club, he ran it in a fair manner that benefited all of its members, even the minority and female members.

Furthermore, while arrogant and egotistical, he was not a mean-spirited man, and did not cloister himself away from people and ideas that might challenge his own beliefs. He rarely changed his own beliefs, but unlike his son Alex who has made death threats against liberals, he didn’t demonize people simply because they had beliefs different from his. He collaborated with Steven Barnes, a black liberal writer, and he collaborated with Charles Sheffield, notoriously liberal writer of Brother to Dragons which is probably the most radical left-wing science fiction novel ever published by Baen Books during Jim Baen’s lifetime (and which is sadly out of print despite being the Campbell Award winner in 1993). He even tolerated Joe Haldeman, the ferociously anti-war author of The Forever War whose opinion of Jerry’s war fan fiction was unprintable. Quipped Pohl Anderson at one con, “He’ll put up with Joe because Joe makes the metal detectors go off at airports.” I.e., as a Vietnam veteran who still had shrapnel in him from being blown up in Vietnam, in Jerry’s mind that earned Joe the right to say whatever Joe wanted to say, regardless of whether Jerry agreed with him or not.

So anyhow, on September 7, Jerry wrote something about DACA on his web site, basically parroting the Trump administration line that Obama had no right to create the program so Trump was forced, forced I say (at what gunpoint?) to end it, and mentioning as an aside that he had enjoyed Dragoncon but had caught a cold and/or the flu. Then he went to sleep, and he didn’t wake up again. It was a quiet death, likely pneumonia, the old man’s gentle helper in passing from this mortal coil. And so it goes.

In any event, Jerry leaves behind a lot of good science fiction, as well as some spectacularly bad science fiction in his later years. I doubt any of it will survive the test of history, but he entertained and in some cases educated a whole lot of people in this lifetime. He was an ass, but the world has art in it today that would not have existed if he’d never existed. In the end, that’s all that anybody can ever wish for.

R.I.P to an ornery old ass…

– Badtux the Fiction Penguin

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Shaken, not stirred

And a fond farewell to Roger Moore, who has passed on, ceased to be, expired, gone to meet his maker, pushing up daisies, bereft of life, and joined the choir invisible. Roger Moore was always a controversial Bond. He lacked the virile brutishness of a Sean Connery or, more recently, Daniel Craig, and his take on the character was far different from theirs and indeed far different from the books by Ian Fleming. Still: Roger Moore put the bon vivant into James Bond. Roger Moore’s James Bond was an elegant wit always quick with a quip who also happened to be a secret agent capable of taking out bad guys with his little pinky (or at least with one of the many gadgets secreted upon his person). He managed to single-handedly make some of the worst Bond movies ever scripted watchable, despite scripts that were laughably bad in many cases (Octopussy? Really?!).

And of course his non-Bond stint as “The Saint” was the prototype of his Bond character.

Despite the criticisms of his performances, criticisms that in many cases were more a function of the appallingly bad scripts that he was given than of Moore’s performance itself, Roger Moore brought the class to the Bond franchise. He lived, he made his mark, and now Roger Moore is no more.

Bon voyage.

– Badtux the Obituaries Penguin

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I am perhaps tardy in talking about the death of Roger Ailes. They say don’t speak ill of the dead. Yet what can I say that’s good about a man who had no redeeming qualities? Other than, “He’s dead. Good.”

It is perhaps appropriate that Roger Ailes’s introduction to politics was via Richard Nixon in 1967. Richard Nixon was a twisted man who required a corkscrew to put his boots on in the morning, and Ailes and Nixon got along with each other like macaroni and cheese, spaghetti and meatballs, slime and slugs. Nixon was evil in the way of insecure men with a desire for power and no moral scruples, but Ailes was evil just because. Ailes was a master of the Big Lie, never letting the truth out of its barn if a lie would do, because he didn’t care about polluting the body politic with fake news to keep people confused and uncertain — all he cared about was corrupting the public discourse so that evil could win. As such, he led the media propaganda efforts of Nixon and Reagan and Bush 1, then met, finally, someone who was both evil and rich enough to make his ultimate dream come true. I am talking, of course, about Rupert Murdoch, who sadly still walks this earth despite making Richard Nixon look like an honest man.

Ailes was a creep, a serial molester of women, a serial molester of the truth. When he convinced Murdoch to fund his Fox News Network, he un-ironically proclaimed it to be “Fair and Balanced” at every point in time, where “fair” meant both falsehood and truth was given equal crdibility, and “balanced” meant that both good and evil were given moral equivalence. He polluted the public discourse to the point where frothing white snowflake MAGAts truly believed that there were evil Communist Liberals out there whose sole goal was to exterminate the white race, something which any reasonable person would simply laugh at, but after two decades of concerted propaganda there were few reasonable people on that side of the bench, only true believers who believed every lie that Ailes had his network present. Every morning, every single person at Fox News Network got the day’s talking points from Ailes. Their job was to reiterate those talking points, over and over again, repeating the Big Lie over and over until it became not something incredibly racist and venal and evil but, rather, became normal. Normalizing evil was the thing that Ailes loved to do, and the results can be seen on every Youtube video that attracts attention from the rightward side of the political spectrum, and every newspaper comments section, where people spew evil as if it were simply common wisdom, and it’s the people *not* spewing evil who are attacked and marginalized.

It is too bad there is not a Hell, for if there was, Ailes would certainly be condemned to inhabit it for the rest of eternity for his work in the service of evil. But there is not a Hell, and so all we can do is talk about the evil that Ailes did — an evil that will far outlast his worm-eaten body, alas, an evil that has the potential, in all likelihood, to destroy the nation and the world itself.

That is Roger Ailes. He was a creep. And evil. Let us never forget that.

– Badtux the Obituaries Penguin

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Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance didn’t have much to do with motorcycle maintenance. It was a semi-autobiographical memoir of a trip he took with his then-twelve-year-old son, Chris, by motorcycle across the United States in 1968. The make and model of the motorcycle wasn’t even mentioned in the book — that’s just how little the book had to do with motorcycle maintenance.

That said, generations of motorcyclists read the book because it captured a feeling just right, the feeling of being on a motorcycle, riding the highways long distance, thinking about life, the universe, and everything in it. Chris didn’t get to see the book go on to become a legend — he sadly was stabbed to death in a strong-arm robbery four years after the publication of the book, a criminal act that devastated his father. Now Robert M. Pirsig has left on that last ride at age 88.

Fare thee well, Mr. Pirsig, and my condolences to your survivors. You had a long life, and though troubled, you left something behind that will survive in people’s minds long after your death. That’s something that most people never manage.

– Badtux the Obituaries Penguin

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One of the finest blues harp players to ever walk this Earth. James Henry Cotton, July 1, 1935 – March 16, 2017.

– Badtux the Music Penguin

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Greg Lake, 1947-2016

2016 takes another one. Goddamn, 2016 has sucked. Fucking cancer got him at age 69.

Greg Lake, “Still You Turn Me On”, which first appeared on Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s 1973 album Brain Salad Surgery.

– Badtux the Sad Music Penguin

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