Obit watch: February 8, 2017.

February 8th, 2017

Professor Irwin Corey, “the world’s foremost authority”, has passed away. He was 102.

One of Mr. Corey’s best-remembered routines was staged not in a club or broadcast studio but at Alice Tully Hall in Manhattan, at the National Book Awards ceremony in 1974. That year the fiction prize was shared by Isaac Bashevis Singer and Thomas Pynchon. No one in the crowd had any idea what the reclusive Mr. Pynchon looked like, and when Mr. Corey arrived to accept the award for him (the novelist had approved the stunt), many people thought they were getting their first look at Mr. Pynchon.

For the record, Richard Hatch: NYT. A/V Club.

The lead isn’t the only thing that was buried.

February 3rd, 2017

I’m kidding. Mostly.

But there’s a story in the NYT about the archaeological excavation of what turns out to be a 19th century brewery, that makes me go “Hmmmmmm.”

Not so much for the excavation itself, but for some of the surrounding details. Either this guy was really unlucky, or the past really was a different country. Or maybe both.

Once a servant in Schnaderbeck’s house mistook arsenic for baking soda. The pudding she made poisoned Schnaderbeck’s family.

Damn. I hate it when I confuse the arsenic and the baking soda.

Another time, a man who had been staying in Schnaderbeck’s house died in bed. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle said the coroner attributed the death to natural causes until a packet of strychnine was found “in the bed he had lain on.” The cause of death was changed to suicide.
“Apparently, Schnaderbeck had known about the packet,” Dr. Bergoffen wrote in one of her archaeological assessments, “but ‘kept mum’ as he said, ‘It was bad enough to have the old scoundrel die in my bed without having any more bother about him.’”

I know it sounds mean, but really, killing yourself in someone else’s bed and home is kind of inconsiderate, don’t you think? Schnaderbeck probably had to get all new sheets and bedding, and probably a new mattress as well. And this was the 19th century: it isn’t like he could just have ordered a new mattress from one of those Internet mattress sellers that I won’t give free advertising to here.

(Seriously, I feel a rant coming up in the not so distant future about the internet mattress/prepackaged meal delivery/website hosting based economy of podcasting. But that’s another subject for another day, after I finish updating some lists.)

Speaking of Travis County…

February 2nd, 2017

I’ve updated the county commissioners page as much as I can. Jeff Travillion’s page still has staff and contact information “coming soon”.

As always with any of these pages, if you detect errors or omissions, please contact me.

Half a million dollars.

February 2nd, 2017

This is slightly old news that I’ve been meaning to note for a couple of days now. I still think it’s worth mentioning, because it seems to me there’s something buried in the press coverage.

The Travis County Commissioners Court has voted to pay Judge Julie Kocurek $500,000.

“Does this have something to do with her being shot?” you might ask.

Indeed, it does.

“But why? The county didn’t shoot her. The cops didn’t shoot her. She was shot by a bad guy.”

Indeed, this is true. The money is being given as a settlement for “any claims against the county that Kocurek could have sought in a lawsuit”. Some of this is spelled out in the Statesman stories, and some of this is me reading between the lines, but it looks like the argument is:

  • There was a credible tip that Chimene Onyeri was targeting a judge.
  • The tip was investigated by the Travis County DA’s office.
  • Apparently, the investigators thought that the judge being targeted was both a male judge and one that wasn’t in Travis County.
  • It isn’t clear to me if the investigators knew that Onyeri had an appearance coming up in Judge Kocurek’s court (where he likely would have been sent back to prison) and ruled her out as a target because she wasn’t a male judge, or if they weren’t aware of his upcoming appearance.
  • In any case, they decided there was no “credible threat to any Travis County district judge”.
  • Judge Kocurek was shot three weeks later.

It’s hard for me to tell if anyone was wrong here. On the one hand, it seems like there was a credible threat: was it dismissed because the investigators screwed up and didn’t realize the subject of the threat might not have a been a male judge? And a big question is: why didn’t they warn all the judges? On the other hand, there’s an argument that the investigators did the best they could with limited information. And if they sent out warnings to all the judges every time some jackhole shot his mouth off, pretty soon it’d be “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” all over again.

No matter what, though, taxpayers are going to be out $500,000. I don’t begrudge Judge Kocurek the money: if you offered me $500,000 to let someone shoot at me, my response would be three words (two of those being “go” and “yourself”).

But it still bothers me.

Can’t get no sleeves for my records, can’t get no lasers for my shoes…

February 1st, 2017

The St. Louis Blues, who are a professional hockey team in the NHL, fired Hitchcock.

Actually, that would be Ken Hitchcock.

Hitchcock, the head coach since Nov. 8, 2011, led the Blues to a 248-124-41 record over six seasons. He leaves with 781 NHL victories, which keeps him one short of tying Al Arbour for No. 3 on the all-time list of regular-season coaching victories.

(Subject line hattip. You know, for a while I thought many of the songs on Brothers In Arms were massively overplayed. I’m starting to come around to the idea that it may be a classic now.)

Thud.

January 30th, 2017

That’s the sound of the other shoe dropping.

Remember the great Houston Astros hacking scandal of 2015? If you don’t, that’s okay. Briefly: the St. Louis Cardinals were accused of hacking into the Astros computer system and stealing information on players. Christopher Correa, the Cardinals “director of player development” pled guilty to federal charges and was sentenced to 46 months in prison (plus restitution).

MLB has issued their decision on how they plan to punish the Cardinals. Good news: the Astros will get their top two draft choices, plus two million dollars.

Bad news: those draft choices are number 56 and 75 overall.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred ruled the Cardinals are “vicariously liable” for Correa’s conduct despite finding the evidence “did not establish that any Cardinals’ employee other than Mr. Correa (who was the only individual charged by the federal government) was responsible for the intrusions into the Astros’ electronic systems.”

Off the top of my head, I think I would have liked to see a more severe penalty, but I’m not sure what would have satisfied me (other than Correa’s head on a pike outside of Minute Maid Field). Correa, who “declined to answer questions or cooperate with MLB” has been placed on the “permanently ineligible” list. (Yes, that is the same list that includes Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson.)

Interesting (to me) fact that I found while looking up the list: Correa is the second person banned by Commissioner Manfred in the two years he’s had the job. The other one is Jenrry Mejía, who was a pitcher for the Mets until he tested positive for drugs “three times in less than a year”. In contrast, Bud Selig banned one person during his time as acting commissioner and commissioner (1992-2015).

Obit watch: January 30, 2017.

January 30th, 2017

I didn’t become aware of this until I saw it on the NYT obits Twitter feed, but: J.S.G. Boggs, one of my favorite visual artists, has died.

..he painstakingly reproduced British pounds, Swiss francs and American dollars, with quirky deviations.
On American currency, for example, he might use the signature “J. S. G. Boggs, Secret of the Treasury,” or inscribe “Kunstbank of Bohemia” on a $5,000 bill, or append the motto “In Fun We Trust.” At first he created the notes one by one, a time-consuming process. Later he ran off limited-edition prints.

In the mid-1990s, when Worth magazine asked him to design a note using the Treasury Department’s new guidelines, Mr. Boggs produced a $100 bill with the image of Harriet Tubman as a young girl, anticipating by 20 years the announcement that Tubman would replace Andrew Jackson as the new face of the $20 bill. In 2001, he ran off a series of 100,000 plastic Sacagawea dollars, stamped with his own mint marks and paid for with a $5,000 Boggs bill.

A very quick Google search does not turn up any indication of how much the Boggs dollars are currently going for. Which is a shame: I’ve always figured I’d buy a Boggs artwork when I got filthy rich.

(On a side note: Canadian Tire money is available for surprisingly reasonable prices on eBay.)

The obit mentions Lawrence Weschler’s Boggs: A Comedy of Values, which I think is a fine (though dated) book. But I’d also put in a plug for Weschler’s Shapinsky’s Karma, Bogg’s Bills: And Other True-Life Tales, the essay collection that was my first introduction to Boggs.

Speaking to ARTnews after Mr. Boggs’s death, Mr. Weschler said, “He was just short of being a con man, but no more than anyone in the art world, or for that matter in the world of finance — which, of course, was his whole point.”

Obit watch: January 28, 2017.

January 28th, 2017

John Hurt. NYT. A/V Club.

Since the A/V Club hit one of his most famous scenes, I’ll hit the other:

For the calm dignity he brought to this performance — a powerful reproof to those who demonized and humiliated Merrick — Mr. Hurt was rewarded with an Oscar nomination for best actor, critical plaudits and the admiration of the film’s director, David Lynch, who said 10 years later, in an interview in The New York Times Magazine: “John Hurt is simply the greatest actor in the world.” (Robert De Niro won the best actor award in 1981.)

(I’d kind of like to see the Hurt/Egoyan “Krapp’s Last Tape”, but it looks like you can only get that in the “Beckett On Film” set, which is pricy but contains some other stuff I’d like to see as well.)

Barbara Hale, who knocked around movies and TV a bit before she settled into her most famous role. LAT. NYT.

That role, by the way, was “Della Street”, Perry Mason’s secretary during the Raymond Burr run from the beginning of the TV series in 1957 all the way through the last TV movie in 1993. (I make the distinction because: while I personally don’t remember this and it didn’t last very long, there was an attempt to revive Mason in the 1970s, with Monte Markham in the titular role. Ms. Hale was not involved with that. She was, however, involved with “The Perry Mason Mysteries” which were made after Burr’s death and didn’t involve Perry Mason at all.)

Noted: she was also the wife of Dean Martin’s character in “Airport”.

Obit watch: January 27, 2017.

January 27th, 2017

Mike Connors.

He served in the Air Force during World War II, then enrolled at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he played basketball (and earned the nickname “Touch” on the court).

Under the name Touch Connors, he also appeared in several forgettable films (“Swamp Women,” “Flesh and the Spur”), many of them for the director Roger Corman, and at least one enduring film: “The Ten Commandments” (1956).

By the end of its eight-season run, “Mannix” earned Mr. Connors a salary of $40,000 an episode. He used his fame to publicize a then-underreported chapter in Armenian history by narrating “The Forgotten Genocide,” a 1975 documentary about the targeted killing of hundreds of thousands of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire during World War I. He would later narrate another Armenian-themed documentary, “Ararat Beckons,” by the same director, J. Michael Hagopian.

Serdar Argic, call your office, please.

One more crime series lay in Mr. Connors’s future — “Today’s FBI,” which lasted one season on ABC in 1981…

I remember liking that show. Doesn’t look like it has ever had a DVD release, and I can’t tell if it streaming anywhere. But the opening is on YouTube.

Remember when TV shows had openings? And theme music?

Historical note, required for use in schools.

January 27th, 2017

The Apollo 1 fire was 50 years ago today.

Report of the Apollo 204 Review Board.

Obit watch: January 26, 2017.

January 26th, 2017

Your Mary Tyler Moore roundup: NYT. A/V Club. LAT. WP.

CBS is doing an hour-long tribute special tonight. And apparently, MTM Enterprises has been posting full episodes of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” on YouTube (minus the opening credits).

If they don’t play “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” at her funeral, there just ain’t no justice in this world.

My mother asked me yesterday if there was anybody from the show other than Betty White who was still alive. The answer kind of surprised me:

Cloris Leachman (“Phyllis”) is still around, though she’s pushing 91. Ed Asner is also still alive (he’s 87). Gavin MacLeod’s still around. Valerie (‘Rhoda”) Harper seems to be doing more or less okay after that cancer scare a couple of years ago. And Georgia Engel (Ted Baxter’s girlfriend) is only 68 and still working.

Notes on film: Hidden Figures

January 24th, 2017

The Oscar nominations are out. Once again this year, I have seen exactly one of the nominated films. And I didn’t get around to seeing it until this past Sunday, and mostly because my mother wanted to see it.

I’m going to put in a jump and talk about “Hidden Figures” a bit. Before the jump, a couple of notes:

A) As I’ve said before, my father worked for NASA during some of the same period covered by “Hidden Figures”. Specifically, he worked at what is now known as the Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. Some of what I’m going to say is filtered in part through my mother’s experience. (I wasn’t born for much of the time my dad worked for NASA, and am too young to remember the rest of his time there.)

B) There may be some things here that could be considered as spoilers, which is why I’m inserting the jump. The movie itself is based on historical fact that you can look up, so I’m not sure how much of what I’m about to say is really “spoilers”. (John Glenn orbited the Earth and returned safely. If that’s a spoiler for you, well, welcome to our planet, I hope you enjoy your stay here.)

Read the rest of this entry »