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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Ouch! Kurt Cobain Death-Scene Note Mocks Wedding Vows to Courtney Love

Posted by on Wed, Apr 30, 2014 at 4:20 PM

Taking on the form of the traditional wedding vows, the letter asks "Do you Kurt Cobain take Courtney Michelle Love to be your lawful shredded wife..." “…even when she’s a bitch with zits and siphoning all (your) money for doping and whoring…”

I guess this note, written on hotel stationery, was found inside his wallet. Kidding/not kidding? Sarcasm/real resentment? Read more on CBSNews.com.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Quote For the Day

Posted by on Tue, Apr 29, 2014 at 8:34 PM

"From this day forward, I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death."—Harry Blackmun

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Monday, April 28, 2014

Chicago Footwork Catalyst DJ Rashad Dead

Posted by on Mon, Apr 28, 2014 at 12:28 PM

Chicago producer DJ Rashad was found dead on the city’s Lower West Side April 26. The official statement from Rashad's PR representative says that the cause of death "has not yet been determined." Several news sources, including Billboard, are reporting that Chicago police found drugs and drug paraphernalia near the body. Rashad Harden was 34.

DJ Rashad was one of the world’s leading proponents of ghetto house, juke, and footwork, genres born in Chicago that commonly feature twitchy, accelerated rhythms and staccato, pitched-shifted R&B vocal samples and often revolve around competitive dance battles. He had released the acclaimed Double Cup album last year on renowned UK label Hyperdub and his career seemed to be on the upswing. His performance at a crowded Crocodile last December with frequent collaborator DJ Spinn was excellent. Rashad’s death is a serious loss for electronic music.

Friday, April 25, 2014

RIP Soul Singer Deon Jackson

Posted by on Fri, Apr 25, 2014 at 7:00 AM

Damn, this past Easter weekend was quite the killer: Guitarist Mike Atta from the Middle Class died as well as '60s soul man Deon Jackson.

Jackson, born in 1946 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, was still in high school when he was discovered and signed to Ollie McLaughlin's Carla label. For good reason—within the next year he'd scored two local hits: “You Said You Love Me” and “Come Back Home.” Then, in 1965, his self-penned A-side, "Love Makes The World Go Around" hit number 11 nationally. As a result, he was afforded the chance to cut a fantastic LP, Love Makes The World Go Around, on Atco. After the popularity of "Love Makes The World," Jackson went on to have two more Top 100 singles, "Love Takes a Long Time Growing" and "Ooh Baby," but then the hits dried up. After his recording career tapered off in 1970, he settled in Chicago and continued to perform, but he eventually quit music and became a high school principal in a Chicago suburb. Jackson passed away Friday, April 19.

Oddly, even with his chart success, he's perhaps only remembered as a one-hit wonder/also-ran; it's a bummer, because his entire catalog is solid and full of fantastic soul.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Widowed and Pissed

Posted by on Thu, Apr 24, 2014 at 10:00 AM

(Alternate headline: Queen LaGriefa.) From this week's I, Anonymous:

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  • Steven Weissman

It's been about 18 months since the accident. Almost immediately after my husband's death, SO many stupid people did SUCH stupid shit that I wanted to take out an ad in the newspaper to tell you all to STFU. However, I didn't have a dime at that particular moment, and so it's had to stew a while. It was worth putting off, turns out, cause the really shitty shit didn't hit the shitty fan for a while. And now, here are the well-seasoned fuck-yous I've been sitting on. To the private clients who dumped me: Good. You're a bunch of whiny, neurotic babies. To Rabbi Fuckface: My husband was an atheist. You said kaddish for him without asking my permission and never once asked if my family was okay. WHOOPS. To my husband's coworkers: You showed up late and drunk to his memorial service, and your director gave me a T-shirt. WOW. THANKS. To the ex-wife: You sued me over MY husband's estate. You FUCKING SUED ME. I have no words. (Wait, I do: Get a job, you lazy twat.) Finally, to my husband who went and died on me: You signed all your life insurance TO YOUR TEENAGE KID, you dumbass. I'm sure you didn't mean to, just like you didn't mean to fall off that fucking cliff. I'm sure you didn't mean to leave your beloved son fatherless and leave me to pick up the pieces because you did not leave a will. For that, I have to pronounce you the dumbest genius that ever lived and died. If there's any justice in the world, you will somehow know that I'm fucking one of your best friends and that he's way better in bed. May the flying spaghetti monster have mercy on your soul, because I sure as shit ain't there yet.

Join the commiseration and judgment in the I, Anonymous comments.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Oxford English Dictionary...

Posted by on Tue, Apr 22, 2014 at 1:21 PM

...is now out of print.

It is the world’s most definitive work on the most global language, but the Oxford English Dictionary may be disappearing from bookshelves forever.

Publishers fear the next edition will never appear in print form because its vast size means only an online version will be feasible, and affordable, for scholars.

The next edition won't be ready until 2034, at which time we'll either be burning books for warmth in a post-apocalyptic hellscape or inhaling the internet from ampules.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Spacemen 3 Bassist Natty Brooker Has Died*

Posted by on Mon, Apr 21, 2014 at 1:31 PM

Natty Brooker—bassist for the vastly influential UK psych-rock group Spacemen 3—has passed away after a long struggle with cancer. News of Brooker's death surfaced April 18 in a forum on the website of Spiritualized, the band led by former Spacemen 3 member Jason Pierce. In Spacemen 3, Brooker played on some of the most transcendent rock records of the '80s, including Sound of Confusion and The Perfect Prescription. Spacemen 3/Spiritualized superfan DJ Explorateur informs that Brooker—a noted visual artist—also created the cover for Spiritualized's 1992 debut LP, Lazer Guided Melodies. RIP, Natty Brooker.

*There is scant mention of this news so far on the internet, other than the citing noted above. I'll update the post when/if I hear more about Brooker's status.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Posted by on Thu, Apr 17, 2014 at 1:13 PM

The AP is reporting that Gabriel Garcia Marquez has died:


The Nobel Prize winner has been ill for a very long time. This is very sad news. We won't see another talent like his in our lifetime. The LA Times has more.

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Arthur Smith

Posted by on Wed, Apr 9, 2014 at 11:47 AM

Dead:

Arthur Smith, a country musician known for the hit “Guitar Boogie” and for “Feuding Banjos,” a bluegrass tune that became “Dueling Banjos” in the film “Deliverance,” died on Thursday at his home in Charlotte, N.C. He was 93... [A] version of “Dueling Banjos” appeared as a deceptively amiable musical duel in “Deliverance,” the 1972 film starring Jon Voight and Burt Reynolds. Mr. Smith was not credited as the writer and filed suit against Warner Brothers after a version of the song reached No. 2 on the Billboard pop chart in 1973. The studio offered a $15,000 settlement but Mr. Smith wanted to go to trial. The judge ruled in his favor. “He recouped all past royalties and all future royalties, and the credit was changed” to show he had written the song.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A Suit That Simulates Old Age

Posted by on Wed, Apr 2, 2014 at 3:00 PM

There's a futuristic suit designed to make young people feel what it's like to be in the body of an old person—it slows you down, makes bending down harder, makes hearing more difficult, and impairs vision. Guardian reporter Josh Halliday tried it out:

It's usually used by the Institute of Vocational Learning at South Bank University, and the idea behind the suit is to increase empathy between young healthcare workers and the elderly people in their care. People over 85 are the fastest growing demographic group in the UK, where care of the elderly is one of the fastest growing job markets.

You can checkout the video here.

That Ebola Outbreak In Guinea...

Posted by on Wed, Apr 2, 2014 at 10:31 AM

...is getting worse:

An outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in the West African nation of Guinea has reached the crowded capital, Conakry, prompting new fears about its spread, health officials said Tuesday. Over the past month, the disease has traveled from Guinea’s remote forest regions near the Liberia and Sierra Leone borders and has already killed 83 people, including four in Conakry. Now, with 13 cases in a densely populated capital of two million people, health officials say the challenge of containing the outbreak has become more acute. Ebola has killed hundreds in rural Central Africa over the past four decades, but it is unusual for it to reach urban centers.

Guineans are fighting the virus with... hand sanitizer.

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The Very Tiny Town of Oso Grapples with One of the Deadliest Disasters in State History

Posted by on Wed, Apr 2, 2014 at 9:05 AM

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At 10:37 a.m. on March 22, a huge section of a hill in Oso, Washington, collapsed and buried an astonishing number of homes, automobiles, pets, and human beings. Though it's too early to say, it's possible that this disaster killed close to the number of people killed by the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens (57). At the exact moment of the landslide, Don Lein, a local retiree, was at a Shell gas station in Darrington, a short drive on Highway 530 away from Oso. Don says he did not hear the landslide, but he did hear the sirens of emergency vehicles. As he got in his car, he saw still more ambulances and police cars rushing down Highway 530. They were headed in the direction of his house. He followed them in complete ignorance. Then, all of a sudden, he saw something that terrified him: The emergency vehicles had turned around and were now rushing toward him, fleeing the area in a panic. He instinctively did the same. He turned and fled something he could not see or imagine.

A week later, Don and I are standing in the rain across the road from the Oso fire station, two miles from the landslide. He speaks slowly and clearly, but I'm failing to take notes because the rain is soaking the paper in my notebook. Whatever word I write, the rain almost immediately turns into a blotch of blue ink. The rain is also soaking my hat, coat, pants, shoes. I attempt to use the voice recorder on my cell phone, but the raindrops repeatedly pound the touch screen and make it impossible to press clear commands. The photographer with me, Kelly O, begins to take pictures of Don, but after two or three clicks, the rain shuts down her camera. She presses and presses the power button, but it will not come to life. It has had enough of this maddening weather. All of our reporting equipment has been rendered useless by the rain. To say nothing of the real problems the rain is causing. A USA Today story began: "Heavy rain and strong winds played havoc Friday with rescue teams looking for more bodies...

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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Revered House-Music Pioneer Frankie Knuckles, 1955-2014

Posted by on Tue, Apr 1, 2014 at 1:50 PM

DJ/producer/remixer Frankie Knuckles—one of the prime architects of house music—died March 31, reportedly due to complications from Type 2 diabetes. He was 59.

In the '70s, Knuckles took the knowledge and skills he learned under New York DJ Larry Levan to Chicago and applied them to the dance-music scene there at the Warehouse club, where he held a residency from 1977-1982. After leaving the Warehouse, Knuckles started his own club, the Power Plant, and further established his eclectic style of DJing. He became famous for stretching out soul and R&B songs until they became marathon dance tracks. He also added his own drum-machine beats to augment tracks he was spinning. His midnight-to-noon weekend DJ sets would involve creative uses of lighting and sound. In Greg Kot's Chicago Tribune obit, Knuckles is quoted as saying, “Sometimes I’d shut down all the lights and set up a record where it would sound like a speeding train was about to crash into the club. People would lose their minds.”

Former Stranger contributor Michaelangelo Matos also has a thoughtful, passionate Knuckles obituary on rollingstone.com. Here's a key passage:

At his Chicago clubs the Warehouse (1977-82) and Power Plant (1983-85), Knuckles’ marathon sets, typically featuring his own extended edits of a wide selection of tracks from disco to post-punk, R&B to synth-heavy Eurodisco, laid the groundwork for electronic dance music culture—all of it.

RIP, Frankie Knuckles.

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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Interview With Rescue Logger Todd Shirley

Posted by on Sat, Mar 29, 2014 at 8:10 AM

KEVIN AND TODD  Loggers heading to the disaster zone in Oso.
  • Kelly O
  • KEVIN AND TODD Loggers heading to the disaster zone in Oso.

Yesterday, at a gas station and general store east of the Oso mudslide disaster, I meet Todd Shirley and his logging partner Kevin. Both are heading to the mudslide site to cut trees. Both, they tell me, were dispatched by Washington State Department of Natural Resources. Kevin, the one in the hat, is filling canisters with gas. Huge chainsaws are on the bed of the pickup truck. Todd explains that this is his first time into the zone. He doesn’t know what to expect. But he is confident that whatever he sees, it will boggle him.

“There should be a timber-cutting boss when get there, directing on us on what to do,” Todd says. “They will tell us to either block a flow or open a flow. We do not know which it will be out there. We are not even sure if we are cutting trees down or cutting stuff that has fallen down.” Todd is from the area and so, like everyone else from the area, has friends out there, in the mud.

On asking if he had done anything like this before, he explains: “We usually do forest fires. 110 degrees, 115 degrees—that kind of thing. We are usually cutting standing timber that's on fire. But this time we are dealing with the exact opposite. It's wet out there. Just raining. We are not used to [that kind of disaster]. There might be cars in the trees. There might be people in the trees. From the map they showed us, we are looking at some tall timber. It could be a nightmare.”

On asking what he personally hopes to accomplish in the disaster zone: “I hope we can still save a life. But I also hope we can save some animals. More likely if I come across a person, they will not..." He can not complete the sentence. "It’s not something you want to see. But someone has to do it.”

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The River That Runs Through Oso

Posted by on Thu, Mar 27, 2014 at 3:49 PM

GRAY WATER  The view from a bridge two miles from the mudslide.
  • Charles Mudede
  • STRANGE AND MURKY WATER The view from a bridge two miles from the mudslide.

The day after the mudslide, the Associated Press photographed a group of people standing on one of the many bridges in Oso that crosses the winding Stillaguamish River. They were pointing down at debris drifting from the catastrophe. In another photograph, people were on another bridge, staring at the strange and murky color the river had taken.

That color had not cleared when I stood on the bridge on 221st Avenue East (the road runs directly into town). It was thick, slow, and gray. The grayness is glacial flour—silt from the slope that collapsed, which used to be suspended in ice thousands of years ago. Thousands of years later, it became the silt on the hillside that slid. Today, it's flowing down the river. To watch the Stillaguamish from a bridge is to leave human time, the scale of the journalist, and enter the time before our time, geological time, the longue durée. In human time, Jesus was nailed to a cross long, long ago. In geological time, he was nailed to the cross this morning.

"You people are just crazy!" yelled someone from behind me. I turned and saw a middle-aged man sitting in a boat-sized white pickup truck. I was not sure if he was going to spit at me, pull a gun on me, or walk out of the truck and throw me into the eternal river. He was mad, he had had enough, he wanted his town back to the normal rhythms before the mudslide. The man abruptly shifted gears, drove halfway down the bridge, stopped, and, to my surprise, looked out of his window and apologized for yelling at me. I accepted his apology. The pickup then crossed the remainder of the bridge, turned right, and continued down an old country road.

Soon, we outsiders and the national attention will be gone and the folks around here will have plenty of time process this extraordinary tragedy on their own.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Interview with an Oso Mudslide Volunteer: "I Have a Friend Who Is Missing"

Posted by on Wed, Mar 26, 2014 at 5:38 PM

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  • AARON HOLLANDER "It's just chaos. It takes forever to walk anywhere."

Four days ago, a massive chunk of hill in Oso, Wash., slid down into Stillaguamish River and buried around 30 homes. So far, 24 humans are officially dead, eight of the dead are still in the mud, and it's possible some of the dead will never be exhumed. This is the stuff of nightmares.

"I really thought I was prepared for this," says Aaron Hollander, a volunteer from Arlington. "I had two years training for search and rescue. I've done disaster scenarios… The big difference between the training and what I have seen out there is just the scale. Nothing could prepare me for how massive it is."

He was heading to a second shift at the disaster site today when we talked. "It's just chaos. It takes forever to walk anywhere. It's like you are walking through four feet of snow. These are my third pair of pants today."

The bottom of his clean pants are duct-taped to his hiking boots. Behind him is an old-fashioned white community center, flags at half mast, and the local fire station where volunteers have been signing up to help (you must be from the area, have some amount of training or familiarity with the terrain, and, most importantly, health insurance—this is dangerous work). At a press conference today, officials said they do not need any more help right now.

"I do have a friend who is missing," Hollander says. "It's impossible for anyone around here not be affected. Everyone knows everyone along this this road [Highway 530]. Their kids went to the same school in Arlington. Even those in Darrington." That town is now practically isolated. The mud covered the road, the lifeline of this region. Presently, Hollander explains, the only other way to get there from here is to go to Bellingham and make your way down. "Yeah, there are people [in Darrington] who can't get to work in Arlington without making a long journey. They are pretty much stuck."

Monday, March 24, 2014

Egyptian Court Orders Mass Killing of Muslim Brotherhood Members

Posted by on Mon, Mar 24, 2014 at 9:17 AM

The BBC reports:

A court in Egypt has sentenced to death 528 supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.

They were convicted of charges including murdering a policeman and attacks on people and property.

The group is among some 1,200 Muslim Brotherhood supporters on trial, including senior members.

Authorities have cracked down harshly on Islamists since Mr Morsi was removed by the military in July. Hundreds have been killed and thousands arrested.

Amnesty International calls the ruling "grotesque." But the attitude of the Obama administration and Congress towards Egypt is, "Eh, too bad that revolution thing didn't work out. Let's occasionally pay lip service to the notion of human rights, but keep on giving their military rulers money and arms because geopolitics."

Some beacon of democracy we are.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Fred Phelps Is Finally Fucking Dead!

Posted by on Thu, Mar 20, 2014 at 9:14 AM

Jesus, that took a while. But the guy's dead, finally. Thank fucking God.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Monk Time: RIP Gary Burger

Posted by on Tue, Mar 18, 2014 at 8:11 AM

Gary Burger, front man for the now-infamous beat group the Monks, passed away this past Friday from pancreatic cancer. He was only 72. Some folks consider the Monks to be the first punk band. Hmmm, well...it IS an arguable point; they certainly crafted a LOT of fantastic NOISE!!

Jump the hump for more details on Burger and the Monks.

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Monday, March 17, 2014

The Death of Rock Action: Stooges’ Drummer Scott Asheton, 1949-2014

Posted by on Mon, Mar 17, 2014 at 4:30 PM

Scott Asheton, the man who supplied the beats for the Stooges—probably America’s most primal and influential rock group—passed away March 15 of an undisclosed illness. He was 64.

Asheton (aka Rock Action) drummed on three of the most iconic and potent rock albums of all time: The Stooges (1969), Fun House (1970), and Raw Power (1973). He and his guitarist brother Ron and bassist Dave Alexander (and later guitarist James Williamson) provided the tumultuous foundation on top of which frontman Iggy Pop adrenalized rock with unprecedented proto-punk fury. Thousands—if not millions—of musicians continue to be inspired by those records to this day.

To my ears, Asheton’s drums always sounded a bit too buried in the mix on The Stooges and Raw Power. It’s only on Fun House that you can clearly hear the man’s lethal mastery of those fairly basic but vital rhythms. And the lewdly funky beats on “Dirt” were filthy enough to be sampled by Native Tongues hiphop greats Jungle Brothers for their track “I’m in Love with Indica Jones.”

Besides that aforementioned triumvirate of classics, Asheton played with Ann Arbor supergroup Sonic’s Rendezvous Band and continued working with the Stooges up through 2013’s Ready to Die album. Asheton’s death leaves Iggy Pop as the sole surviving member of the original lineup. It’s doubtful anyone could’ve predicted that outcome during the Stooges' heyday.

In a Facebook post, James Williamson wrote this about Asheton:

My only comfort is that [Scott] reached out to me in an email about a week or two ago saying that he was thinking of me and the good times we had together and that he would like to make some music with me. I responded but he never got back to me again. I guess that was his way of saying goodbye for now…. Anyway, my heart goes out to his immediate family Liz, Leanna Raquel Asheton and Kathleen Asheton He was one of the good guys and a friend of mine.

Bank Intern Dies After Working 72 Hours in a Row

Posted by on Mon, Mar 17, 2014 at 12:24 PM

Details from the Guardian:

Moritz Erhardt, the 21-year-old Bank of America Merrill Lynch intern who was found dead in a shower at his London flat after working for 72 hours in a row, died of an epileptic seizure, an inquest has found.

The coroner Mary Hassell said fatigue could have been a trigger, but there was no proof of this and it was possible that the seizure was something that just happened.

Erhardt, from south-west Germany, was found dead in a shower cubicle at his temporary accommodation in east London in August. The death of the dedicated student as well as reports of extreme working habits in investment bank led to a debate about a culture that effectively forces interns into working 100-hour weeks in an attempt to break into the lucrative industry.

Erhardt was a week from completing a placement at Bank of America Merrill Lynch's London offices, and was due to be offered a job at the bank.

The whole thing is disturbing: Interns giving away their labor to businesses that turn around and sell it*; the fact that internships (especially time-intensive ones) are heavily weighted in favor of those who already have access to wealth, lowering the possibility of wealth mobility; even the possibility that a bank has just worked a 21 year-old intern to death. (The corner was cautious and inconclusive, of course—but it's not hard to imagine putting a thumb on the scales for "inconclusive" with the massive bank and the legal ramifications hanging in the balance.)

But the most disturbing part of the story comes at the very end:

One City intern, who wanted to be known only as Alex, told the Guardian at the time of Erhardt's death that working for more than 100 hours was normal, but said that despite the pressures he and other interns enjoyed the experience.

"On average, I get four hours' sleep about 70% of the time … [but] there are also days with eight hours of sleep," Alex said. "Work-life balance is bad. We all know this going in. I guess that's the deal with most entry-level jobs these days."

He added that despite the amount of time spent in the office, he "enjoyed it greatly".

"That's the deal" these days—give away your labor, give away your "free time," let them sell it at a massive markup, and enjoy it.

The story also reminds me of Rumpelstiltskin. What does the imp offer the woman? To make the labor she gives away more productive. What does he want in exchange? Her child.

Sounds like a rotten deal, doesn't it?

* This is something I can't help thinking about when business owners, even small-business owners say: "I create jobs! My employees need me! I'm doing all my employees a favor!"

That's not actually true.

Your employees are selling you their labor, which you sell at a markup, and you can have nice things: nice cars, nice condos, trips to tropical beaches, and so on. (Or at least that's the goal.) Really, your employees are doing you a favor. If you can't run a business that pays its (very generous) employees a fair wage, maybe you're not cut out for business.

L'Wren Scott, Designer and Girlfriend of Mick Jagger, Found Dead in NYC

Posted by on Mon, Mar 17, 2014 at 12:11 PM

Read more on the Daily Mail Online. Suicide is so sad.

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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Fred Phelps: Excommunicated and Near Death

Posted by on Sun, Mar 16, 2014 at 1:30 PM

So... it sounds like the hate machine founded by Fred Phelps—Westboro Baptist Church—has turned on its founder:

Some online sources are reporting that Fred Phelps Sr., pastor of the Westboro Baptist Church, a Topeka church known for its virulently anti-gay pickets, may be near death.... The reports are mostly based on a late Saturday Facebook post by Nathan Phelps, one of Fred Phelps Sr.’s children. “He is now on the edge of death at Midland Hospice house in Topeka, Kansas,” Nathan Phelps wrote....

Nathan Phelps, who exited the church years ago, asserted that his father “was excommunicated from the ‘church’ back in August of 2013.” Writing about his father’s condition, Nathan Phelps added: “I’m not sure how I feel about this. Terribly ironic that his devotion to his god ends this way. Destroyed by the monster he made. “I feel sad for all the hurt he’s caused so many. I feel sad for those who will lose the grandfather and father they loved. And I’m bitterly angry that my family is blocking the family members who left from seeing him, and saying their good-byes.”

Excommunicated from Westboro Baptist? What? Had Phelps grown too old and infirm to hate hard enough for the toxic little shits he fathered, raised, and poisoned? The Phelps family, of course, has picketed the funerals of gay hate-crime victims, soldiers killed in battle, beloved celebrities, and many others. Fred Phelps' funeral should be entertaining.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Meeting the End of Life with LSD

Posted by on Fri, Mar 14, 2014 at 3:24 PM

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From this week's Last Days: The Week in Review:

TUESDAY, MARCH 4 The week continues with LSD, that chemical hallmark of every good liberal-arts education and the only thing on earth that made Grateful Dead shows even temporarily palatable, which may be en route to a resurgence as a mainstream therapeutic aid. Details come from the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, which today published results from the first controlled trial of the hallucinogen in more than 40 years, undertaken in Switzerland on 12 patients with soon-to-be terminal illnesses, all of whom appeared to derive tangible psychological benefit from tripping in the face of death. "Their anxiety went down and stayed down," Dr. Peter Gasser told the New York Times, specifying each session of acid-enhanced talk therapy lasted about eight hours and regularly involved tearful revelations and a diminished fear of death (several passed away within a year). "We want to break these substances out of the mold of the counterculture and bring them back to the lab as part of a psychedelic renaissance," Rick Doblin, executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, said to the NYT. Will the deathbed trip become a routine part of end-of-life care, or will the mystical secrets of LSD remain accessible only to those brave enough to approach the weird guy hanging out on the street around the corner from the college? Stay tuned.

(Meanwhile, my previous experience in talking friends through complicated acid trips is seriously informing and enhancing communications with my suffering-from-situational-dementia father.)

Go here to read this week's full Last Days: The Week in Review.

Plane vs. Ocean

Posted by on Fri, Mar 14, 2014 at 8:11 AM

It sounds like the search for the missing flight 370 may be shifting west, into the Indian Ocean.

So how hard is it to find a Boeing 777 in the Indian Ocean*? Since we humans are so bad at contemplating things at massive scale (the solar system, for example), Rob Cockerham has helpfully translated this problem down into more approachable scales.

Finding a 777 in the Indian Ocean is like finding:

A single grain of salt A pen somewhere in the city of San Francisco.

Or a sesame seed shoe in Yosemite.

Or a red blood cell pin at Burning Man.

* The search area isn't the entire Indian Ocean, of course, they'll start at the eastern side and work out, but still.. oceans are big! And also note that these comparisons are surface area. Once that thing sinks, oh boy.

UPDATE: As pointed out in the comments, Cockerham's original calculations were off, he's posted an update. The point remains - oceans are big.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The City Council Is Trying to Kill Pedestrians

Posted by on Thu, Mar 13, 2014 at 3:55 PM

For years, Seattle City Hall has allowed developers to shut down the sidewalk in front of construction sites—sometimes for weeks or months at a stretch. The incontrovertible truth of human behavior is that pedestrians rarely cross the street. Say what you like about right, wrong, scofflaws, or Darwin Awards, the fact is that pedestrians will walk into traffic around these construction sites. It's guaranteed danger. It's unnecessary. It's easily solved by requiring developers to set up a temporary protected pathway around the construction site. And if we don't require that, someone's eventually gonna get injured or killed.

I've written about this problem again and again. Other writers have written about it. The city issued a report in 2008 saying this was a problem. And even elected officials have acknowledged that this is a problem. But for at least six years now, the Seattle City Council and the mayor's office have said two things: (1) They're working on fixing the issue, and (2) they'd never, ever shut down both sides of the sidewalk.

Bullshit.

Here's the scene today on 11th Avenue between Pike and Union Streets—smack in the middle of the Pike/Pine overlay district, which is designed for pedestrians, and on a block that city law designates as a "principal pedestrian street"—where both sidewalks are shut down and walkers must contend with drivers:

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There's been a construction project on both sides of this street for weeks. There is no pedestrian passageway right now. Those orange rods aren't for pedestrians, either. There's a truck and other construction equipment behind them. So you're supposed to walk down the middle of the street with traffic—like these people did on a nearby Capitol Hill street—to get through:

1360955982-sidewalk_closed2.jpg

This happens all over town, all the time.

Is this the biggest issue in the city? Obviously not. Is it a problem? Yes. It's a problem that former mayors Greg Nickels and Mike McGinn, and the city council, have ducked for years and years, a problem that nobody with the power to fix has does anything meaningful to fix, and a problem that could be easily solved by requiring a temporary pathway be built around construction sites. At the very least, in parts of the city designed for pedestrians. Good development is good for Seattle, and it should be encouraged—while making room for humans to move around on the public property near the development. Other real cities do this. But lawmakers in Seattle don't do a damn thing.

Why not? Because the Seattle City Council hates all pedestrians, obviously, and wants them killed.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Tear Down the Damn Viaduct Already!

Posted by on Mon, Mar 10, 2014 at 3:04 PM

The Washington State Department of Transportation posted new information today about newly discovered damage to the 61-year-old, double-decker Alaskan Way Viaduct. And meanwhile Mike Lindblom—love that guy—at the Seattle Times reports on growing cracks in the concrete:

Inspections on the Alaskan Way Viaduct on March 1 found new cracks forming near Seneca Street, and some existing cracks have lengthened, according to state highway engineers....

Tom Baker, WSDOT bridge engineer, said the most likely cause for cracking is the 2001 Nisqually Earthquake, which he said weakened the underground foundations in ways that aren’t fully understood. Cracks have recently spread on vertical columns, as well as the horizontal girders that support the road deck, he said.

The viaduct has been sinking and cracking a lot since since the Nisqually earthquake in 2001. One part of the central viaduct has sunk five inches since then. Here's a photo from 2007 of cracks in the upper deck. In 2008, former governor Chris Gregoire said she would tear down the central portion of the viaduct by 2012—the part that's still standing—because, as former county executive Ron Sims put it, "It's not safe." The Seattle Times reported portions of the viaduct have a 9-out-of-100 safety rating. In 2009, the state issued an alarming video that depicts the viaduct collapsing into a flame-engulfed waterfront:

No joke. This was the states 2009 depiction of the imminent risk to the viaduct in an earthquake.
  • WSDOT
  • This was the state's own depiction—in 2009—of the imminent risk to the viaduct in an earthquake.

There's also the Washington State Department of Transportation's "Seismic Vulnerability Analysis Report":

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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Innovative Avant-Garde Composer Robert Ashley, 1930-2014

Posted by on Tue, Mar 4, 2014 at 1:00 PM

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American avant-garde composer Robert Ashley died March 3 at age 83 of natural causes. A key member of Sonic Arts Union with Alvin Lucier, Gordon Mumma, and David Behrman, Ashley is renowned for his operas and theatrical pieces marked by imaginative, minimalist use of electronics and emotionally resonant deployment of language. My introduction to Ashley was Automatic Writing. “Purposeful Lady Slow Afternoon” particularly struck me as one of the most disturbing musical pieces I’ve ever heard, despite being so sparse. In it, the combination of a traumatized woman’s stunned recitation of a twisted sexual encounter with beautiful yet sinister bells and strained groans is indelibly compelling.

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Friday, February 28, 2014

Who Do You Like To Close Out The Oscars' Dead Movie Stars Montage?

Posted by on Fri, Feb 28, 2014 at 11:57 AM

Well it’s Oscar time and part of the fun leading up to Sunday’s telecast is trying to predict who will close out the montage of dead Hollywood folk.

You know the drill: At some point during the Oscarcast, usually after the best song nominees but before they bust out the big awards, some celebrity ambles out and says IT'S DOWNER TIME, EVERYBODY. The audience—all eventual stars of a future edition of this montage—follow ritual, clapping politely for the lesser stars at the segment's beginning, but getting louder and more ferocious as the music swells along with the caliber of dead celebrity. The last star—usually the most notable—gets the biggest gush of applause before cutting to commercial and having a cigarette. In short, it's a cross between the obituaries and a money shot. (Just try not to get any dead celebrity in your eye. It stings.)

Last year, the hammer (aka the final shot of the montage) fell on composer Marvin Hamlisch. While he wrote music for films, he was an odd choice for a year that saw folks like Jack Klugman, Michael Clark Duncan, and Charles Durning make like a screenwriter and (cemetery) plot.

Who’s the lucky stiff who will be our hammer this year? Let’s run down the candidates!

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