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kottke.org posts about obituaries

Chris Marker, RIP

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 30, 2012

Chris Marker, best known as a filmmaker and for his film La jetée, has died aged 91.

Marker’s creative use of sound, images and text in his poetic, political and philosophical documentaries made him one of the most inventive of film-makers. They looked forward to what is called “the new documentary”, but also looked back to the literary essay in the tradition of Michel de Montaigne. Marker’s interests lay in transitional societies - “life in the process of becoming history,” as he put it. How do various cultures perceive and sustain themselves and each other in the increasingly intermingled modern world?

La jetée is available in its 28-minute entirety on YouTube and is well worth watching.

Kim Jong-il dead

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 19, 2011

The North Korean leader died two days ago and now no one knows who’s in charge or what’s going to happen, which is pretty much par for the course for North Korea.

Kim Jong-il, the North Korean leader who realized his family’s dream of turning his starving, isolated country into a nuclear-weapons power even as it sank further into despotism, died on Saturday of a heart attack while traveling on his train, according to an announcement Monday by the country’s state-run media.

Whatever else might be said about him, Kim sure liked to look at things.

RIP Christopher Hitchens

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 16, 2011

Critic and writer Christopher Hitchens died last night at the age of 62 from complications of esophageal cancer.

“My chief consolation in this year of living dyingly has been the presence of friends,” he wrote in the June 2011 issue. He died in their presence, too, at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. May his 62 years of living, well, so livingly console the many of us who will miss him dearly.

Although I suspect there will be posthumous writings to come, Hitchens’ final piece for Vanity Fair, published in the January 2012 issue, is a rumination on pain and death.

Before I was diagnosed with esophageal cancer a year and a half ago, I rather jauntily told the readers of my memoirs that when faced with extinction I wanted to be fully conscious and awake, in order to “do” death in the active and not the passive sense. And I do, still, try to nurture that little flame of curiosity and defiance: willing to play out the string to the end and wishing to be spared nothing that properly belongs to a life span. However, one thing that grave illness does is to make you examine familiar principles and seemingly reliable sayings. And there’s one that I find I am not saying with quite the same conviction as I once used to: In particular, I have slightly stopped issuing the announcement that “Whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.”

Couple married 72 years dies holding hands

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 21, 2011

And if that headline doesn’t tug enough at your heartstrings, here’s the really tear-jerking is-this-out-of-a-movie part:

Gordon died at 3:38 p.m. holding hands with his wife as the family they built surrounded them.

“It was really strange, they were holding hands, and dad stopped breathing but I couldn’t figure out what was going on because the heart monitor was still going,” said Dennis Yeager. “But we were like, he isn’t breathing. How does he still have a heart beat? The nurse checked and said that’s because they were holding hands and it’s going through them. Her heart was beating through him and picking it up.”

“They were still getting her heartbeat through him,” said Donna Sheets.

(via @jcn)

RIP Dennis Ritchie

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 13, 2011

Dennis Richie passed away last week. Richie created the C programming language, was a key contributer to UNIX, and wrote an early definitive work on programming, The C Programming Language.

We lost a tech giant today. Dennis MacAlistair Ritchie, co-creator of Unix and the C programming language with Ken Thompson, has passed away at the age of 70. Ritchie has made a tremendous amount of contribution to the computer industry, directly and indirectly affecting (improving) the lives of most people in the world, whether you know it or not.

These sorts of comparisons are inexact at best, but Richie’s contribution to the technology industry rivals that of Steve Jobs’…Richie’s was just less noticed by non-programmers.

Remembering Steve Jobs

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 06, 2011

I am incredibly sad this morning. Why am I, why are we, feeling this so intensely? I have some thoughts about that but not for now. For now, I’m just going to share some of the things I’ve been reading and watching about Jobs. And after that, I think I’m done here for the day and will move on to spend some time building my little thing that I’m trying to make insanely great.

The 2005 Stanford Commencement Speech. For me, the speech is better in text than in video.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

The iPhone announcement in 2007. I am with Dan Frommer on this one: this is Jobs at his absolute best. He was just so so excited about this thing that he and his team had created, so proud. His presentation is also a reminder of how revolutionary the iPhone was four years ago.

Part two is here.

Here’s to the crazy ones… Here’s a version of the famous Think Different commercial narrated by Steve Jobs…it never aired on TV.

Compare to the aired version with Richard Dreyfuss narrating.

Steven Levy on Jobs. Levy covered Apple and Jobs extensively for many years; his obit is a good one.

Jobs usually had little interest in public self-analysis, but every so often he’d drop a clue to what made him tick. Once he recalled for me some of the long summers of his youth. I’m a big believer in boredom,” he told me. Boredom allows one to indulge in curiosity, he explained, and “out of curiosity comes everything.” The man who popularized personal computers and smartphones — machines that would draw our attention like a flame attracts gnats — worried about the future of boredom. “All the [technology] stuff is wonderful, but having nothing to do can be wonderful, too.”

Steve Jobs’ grass-stained shoes. Damn you Gruber for making me tear up like that.

I like to think that in the run-up to his final keynote, Steve made time for a long, peaceful walk. Somewhere beautiful, where there are no footpaths and the grass grows thick. Hand-in-hand with his wife and family, the sun warm on their backs, smiles on their faces, love in their hearts, at peace with their fate.

Steve Jobs rainbow over Pixar. What does it mean?

Moments after news broke about Steve Jobs’ death, a rainbow popped out of the Pixar campus (taken with my iPhone 4). Rest in peace, Steve, and thank you.

Jobs testing Photo Booth filters. Perhaps these aren’t the best photos ever taken of Steve Jobs, but they are among my favorites.

Walt Mossberg remembers his friend. Among journalists, few knew Jobs as well as Mossberg; he shares his stories and tribute here.

I have no way of knowing how Steve talked to his team during Apple’s darkest days in 1997 and 1998, when the company was on the brink and he was forced to turn to archrival Microsoft for a rescue. He certainly had a nasty, mercurial side to him, and I expect that, then and later, it emerged inside the company and in dealings with partners and vendors, who tell believable stories about how hard he was to deal with.

But I can honestly say that, in my many conversations with him, the dominant tone he struck was optimism and certainty, both for Apple and for the digital revolution as a whole. Even when he was telling me about his struggles to get the music industry to let him sell digital songs, or griping about competitors, at least in my presence, his tone was always marked by patience and a long-term view. This may have been for my benefit, knowing that I was a journalist, but it was striking nonetheless.

At times in our conversations, when I would criticize the decisions of record labels or phone carriers, he’d surprise me by forcefully disagreeing, explaining how the world looked from their point of view, how hard their jobs were in a time of digital disruption, and how they would come around.

This quality was on display when Apple opened its first retail store. It happened to be in the Washington, D.C., suburbs, near my home. He conducted a press tour for journalists, as proud of the store as a father is of his first child. I commented that, surely, there’d only be a few stores, and asked what Apple knew about retailing.

He looked at me like I was crazy, said there’d be many, many stores, and that the company had spent a year tweaking the layout of the stores, using a mockup at a secret location. I teased him by asking if he, personally, despite his hard duties as CEO, had approved tiny details like the translucency of the glass and the color of the wood.

He said he had, of course.

4 Steve. Loved this tweet:

From now on, the “4S” is going to stand for, “For Steve.” #apple

Dada. Oh and this one from Neven Mrgan too:

Heartwarming/breaking: shortly following the news of Steve’s death, our daughter called me “dada” for the first time. It goes on.

The Computer That Changed My Life. Bryce Roberts shares the story of the first Apple computer he bought.

As I sat alone in my makeshift office in Sandy, UT I decided that I wanted to start fresh, all the way down to my operating system. It sounds funny now, but it was an important psychological move for me. I wanted the next level to look and feel different than what I’d experienced in the past in every possible way.

I fired up my Sony Viao and surfed over to Apple.com. I wasn’t an Apple fanboy. I’d never owned one of their machines. And that was the point.

I didn’t know if I would love it or even like it, but it was going to be different. And different was exactly how I wanted the next level to feel.

This is *exactly* why I bought an iBook in 2002 after a lifetime of Windows/DOS machines.

Statement from Bill Gates. It really says something about a person when once-bitter rivals become friends later in life.

For those of us lucky enough to get to work with him, it’s been an insanely great honor. I will miss Steve immensely.

Apple’s homepage. Pitch-perfect tribute. Archive here.

Brian Lam apologies to Steve Jobs for being an asshole. If you followed the whole Gizmodo/iPhone thing, this is worth a read.

I was on sabbatical when Jason got his hands on the iPhone prototype.

An hour after the story went live, the phone rang and the number was from Apple HQ. I figured it was someone from the PR team. It was not.

“Hi, this is Steve. I really want my phone back.”

He wasn’t demanding. He was asking. And he was charming and he was funny. I was half-naked, just getting back from surfing, but I managed to keep my shit together.

And from the kottke.org archives, the 60+ posts I’ve made over the years about Jobs.

RIP Huguette Clark, aged 104

posted by Jason Kottke   May 25, 2011

File this one under Interesting Obituaries. Huguette Clark was “the daughter of a scoundrel” and heiress to the Clark copper fortune. She had lived in seclusion in Manhattan since the late 1930s.

For the quarter-century that followed, Mrs. Clark lived in the apartment in near solitude, amid a profusion of dollhouses and their occupants. She ate austere lunches of crackers and sardines and watched television, most avidly “The Flintstones.” A housekeeper kept the dolls’ dresses impeccably ironed.

Nate Dogg, RIP

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 16, 2011

Nate Dogg died yesterday; he was 41 years old.

With his deep, melodic voice and smooth soul rumble, Dogg was one of the key elements in the rise of the West Coast G-Funk sound pioneered by Death Row Records in the early 1990s. Though overshadowed by such peers as Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Warren G, Nate was a critical participant in a number of major left-coast gangsta hits, including G’s “Regulate” and Dre’s iconic solo debut, 1992’s The Chronic.

Benoit Mandelbrot, RIP

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 15, 2010

Nothing in the news media yet, but many folks on Twitter and colleague Nassim Taleb are reporting that the father of fractal geometry is dead at age 85. We’re not there yet, but someday Mandelbrot’s name will be mentioned in the same breath as Einstein’s as a genius who fundamentally shifted our perception of how the world works.

Update: The NY Times has confirmation from Mandelbrot’s family. The cause of death was pancreatic cancer.

Jure Robic, RIP

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 27, 2010

Jure Robic, the world-class ultra-endurance cyclist I wrote about earlier this year, was killed in a traffic accident in his native Slovenia late last week. He died as he lived: on his bike. (thx, @ddewey and several others)

Manute Bol, RIP

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 21, 2010

Former NBA player, shot blocker extraordinaire, and humanitarian Manute Bol died over the weekend at age 47. He died of a rare skin condition caused by a medication he took while in Africa.

“You know, a lot of people feel sorry for him, because he’s so tall and awkward,” Charles Barkley, a former 76ers teammate, once said. “But I’ll tell you this — if everyone in the world was a Manute Bol, it’s a world I’d want to live in.”

According to Language Log, Bol may also have originated the phrase “my bad”.

Ken Arneson emailed me to say that he heard the phrase was first used by the Sudanese immigrant basketball player Manute Bol, believed to have been a native speaker of Dinka (a very interesting and thoroughly un-Indo-Europeanlike language of the Nilo-Saharan superfamily). Says Arneson, “I first heard the phrase here in the Bay Area when Bol joined the Golden State Warriors in 1988, when several Warriors players started using the phrase.” And Ben Zimmer’s rummaging in the newspaper files down in the basement of Language Log Plaza produced a couple of early 1989 quotes that confirm this convincingly:

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jan. 10, 1989: When he [Manute Bol] throws a bad pass, he’ll say, “My bad” instead of “My fault,” and now all the other players say the same thing.

USA Today, Jan. 27, 1989: After making a bad pass, instead of saying “my fault,” Manute Bol says, “my bad.” Now all the other Warriors say it too.

Update: As a recent post on Language Log notes, several people picked up on this and kinda sorta got rid of the “may have” and the story became that Bol absolutely coined the phrase “my bad”. Unfortunately, the evidence doesn’t support that theory (although it doesn’t entirely disprove it either). The internet is so proficient at twisting the original meaning of things as they propagate that Telephone should really be called Internet.

Fruitful multiplication

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 23, 2010

Yitta Schwartz died last month aged 93. It’s estimated she may have had over 2000 living descendants, including more than 200 grandchildren.

In 1953, the Schwartzes migrated to the United States, settling into the Satmar community in Williamsburg. She arrived with 11 children — Shaindel, Chana, Dinah, Yitschok, Shamshon, Nechuma, Nachum, Nechemia, Hadassah, Mindel and Bella — and proceeded to have five more: Israel, Joel, Aron, Sarah and Chaim Shloime, who died in summer camp at age 8. Sarah came along after Mrs. Schwartz had already married off two other daughters.

(via mr)

Timothy McSweeney, RIP

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 05, 2010

Timothy McSweeney, after whom the McSweeney’s literary magazine and web site are named, died late last month.

As a young man, Timothy was an artist of tremendous talent. The canvases he leaves behind are filled with haunting and beautiful imagery. They are also filled with a palpable desire-to be heard, to connect, to be understood better by others and himself. The letters that inspired this journal’s name were a continuation of that same lifelong effort to more intimately know the world and his place within it.

Dave Eggers tells the story of the real Timothy McSweeney and why he named the magazine after him.

J.D. Salinger, RIP

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 28, 2010

J.D. Salinger, the reclusive author of Catcher in the Rye, is dead at 91.

Howard Zinn, RIP

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 27, 2010

Howard Zinn, the author of The People’s History of the United States, died today. He was 87 years old.

World’s strongest man dead at 104

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 12, 2010

I doubt I’ll live to 104 and my obituary won’t begin like this:

Joe Rollino once lifted 475 pounds. He used neither his arms nor his legs but, reportedly, his teeth.

Rollino wasn’t even felled by old age. He was killed by a minivan — a fucking Windstar! — while crossing the street in Brooklyn. Here’s the deceased circa 1915 at age 10, already displaying a winning form:

Joe Rollino

Rest in peace, Joe.

Brad Graham, RIP

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 04, 2010

Old-school blogger Brad Graham was recently found dead at his home. More at MetaFilter, where a commenter says that he’d been ill for some time.

Jeanne-Claude, RIP

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 19, 2009

Jeanne-Claude, one-half of the art duo Christo and Jeanne-Claude, has died at the age of 74. The front page of the couple’s web site has a short tribute. I loved The Gates.

An abundance of death

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 18, 2009

Joanne McNeil on The Daily Death:

In the future, a famous person will die every fifteen minutes. Already it’s happening. The ascent of the microcelebrities, the 24 hour news cycle, citizen journalism, and our darkest fantasies all collide on Twitter now. The website’s rhetorical question “What are you doing?” sometimes feels more like “Who died today?”

I wrote about something similar a few years ago in a post called Death in the celebrity age:

Chances are in 15-20 years, someone famous whose work you enjoyed or whom you admired or who had a huge influence on who you are as a person will die each day…and probably even more than one a day. And that’s just you…many other famous people will have died that day who mean something to other people. Will we all just be in a constant state of mourning? Will the NY Times national obituary section swell to 30 pages a day? As members of the human species, we’re used to dealing with the death of people we “know” in amounts in the low hundreds over the course of a lifetime. With higher life expectancies and the increased number of people known to each of us (particularly in the hypernetworked part of the world), how are we going to handle it when several thousand people we know die over the course of our lifetime?

The population pyramid for who the average American knows (or knows of enough to care) probably looks something like this:

Celebrity Population Pyramid

That’s a lot of future death.

Update: On Twitter, Kurt Anderson quoted David Kipen:

Baby Boomers have created so many celebrities that, in the future, somebody famous will die every fifteen minutes.

Update: The NY Times has a slightly different take on the recent rash of celebrity death:

This summer could come to be known as the summer when baby boomers began to turn to the obituary pages first, to face not merely their own mortality or ponder their legacies, but to witness the passing of legends who defined them as a tribe, bequeathing through music, culture, news and politics a kind of generational badge that has begun to fray.

Sincerely, John Hughes

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 07, 2009

Thoughts from a former teenaged pen pal of John Hughes, who recently passed away.

John told me about why he left Hollywood just a few years earlier. He was terrified of the impact it was having on his sons; he was scared it was going to cause them to lose perspective on what was important and what happiness meant. And he told me a sad story about how, a big reason behind his decision to give it all up was that “they” (Hollywood) had “killed” his friend, John Candy, by greedily working him too hard.

A lovely tribute. (thx, mark)

Update: A remembrance from Molly Ringwald.

John saw something in me that I didn’t even see in myself. He had complete confidence in me as an actor, which was an extraordinary and heady sensation for anyone, let alone a 16-year-old girl. I did some of my best work with him. How could I not? He continually told me that I was the best, and because of my undying respect for him and his judgment, how could I have not believed him?

And somewhat related, How Sloane Peterson from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off Taught me how to be an Awesome Girlfriend.

Rein him in, but only when necessary.
You are his girlfriend, not his mother. If he wants to sing to the city on a giant float, let him do it. He’s a big man and he can deal with the consequences. You can nicely remind him, Look, if you do that there might be trouble, but if you throw a bitch fit and give him the silent treatmeant you will look fucking retarded when he has a new girlfriend on his arm from the impressive stunts he’s pulled.

The most trusted man in America

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 17, 2009

Walter Cronkite has died; he was 92. CBS News has a nice remembrance.

Robert McNamara dead at 93

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 06, 2009

Robert McNamara, former Secretary of Defense during a large portion of the Vietnam War, died early today at 93. Errol Morris’ documentary on McNamara, The Fog of War, is well worth checking out if you haven’t seen it.

RIP, Joe Ades

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 03, 2009

Joe Ades, the gentleman vegetable peeler salesman familiar to all who roamed the streets of Manhattan, died on Sunday. He was 75.

Ms. Laurent said she sometimes went to look for him at the end of the day, but he would have packed up and left after selling out. She could tell where he had been. “He cleaned up really well,” she said, “but still there were these little shreds of carrots that said, ‘I was here.’”

Ades was such a fixture on the streets of New York that it never occurred to me that one day he might not be there. :( David Galbraith posted a tribute and correction to the Times piece.

None of this myth busting denigrates the fact that Ades was a charming and charismatic New York character. But if, in future, Ades is remembered as an aristocratic, fancy suited, upper-class English dandy that hawked vegetable peelers as an ironic hobby, that would be wrong and actually less interesting.

(thx, david)

Andrew Johnston, RIP

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 27, 2008

The season’s final Mad Men recap is up at The House Next Door, but it was not written by its usual writer, Andrew Johnston. Johnston passed away yesterday at age 40 after a lengthy battle with cancer. RIP.

David Foster Wallace dead at 46

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 13, 2008

David Foster Wallace, the novelist, essayist and humorist best known for his 1996 tome “Infinite Jest,” was found dead last night at his home in Claremont, according to the Claremont Police Department. He was 46.

Jesus. No no no no. So fucking sad and unfair. I am in here and upset.

In a world, RIP

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 02, 2008

Don LaFontaine, the voice of countless movie trailers, is dead at 68. I liked this tribute from the Washington Post:

In a world of people who all have some sort of private omniscient voice-over running things inside their heads, sometimes God, sometimes Mom, and sometimes Don LaFontaine…

In a world where marketing is far more important than content…came one man…with a Voice.

Check out a brief bio video of LaFontaine with his voice in action.

Bernie Mac, RIP

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 09, 2008

Bernie Mac, RIP.

.

I missed this earlier this week: physicist

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 18, 2008

I missed this earlier this week: physicist John Wheeler has died at the age of 96. A snippet from the NY Times obituary:

At the same time, he returned to the questions that had animated Einstein and Bohr, about the nature of reality as revealed by the strange laws of quantum mechanics. The cornerstone of that revolution was the uncertainty principle, propounded by Werner Heisenberg in 1927, which seemed to put fundamental limits on what could be known about nature, declaring, for example, that it was impossible, even in theory, to know both the velocity and the position of a subatomic particle. Knowing one destroyed the ability to measure the other. As a result, until observed, subatomic particles and events existed in a sort of cloud of possibility that Dr. Wheeler sometimes referred to as “a smoky dragon.”

This kind of thinking frustrated Einstein, who once asked Dr. Wheeler if the Moon was still there when nobody looked at it.

Wheeler recognized that physics is about ideas and the language used to express those ideas, not just mathematics and experimentation. He coined and popularized several phrases during his long career, including black hole, wormhole, and quantum foam.

Obituary of Charles Fawcett, who led an “

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 11, 2008

Obituary of Charles Fawcett, who led an “unlikely” and “unbelievable” life.

In Paris Fawcett also took part in the rescue of a group of British prisoners-of-war who had been placed under French guard in a hospital ward by the Germans. By impersonating a German ambulance crew, Fawcett and a comrade marched in at 4am and ordered the French nurses to usher the PoWs out into the yard. “Gentlemen,” he announced as he drove them away, “consider yourself liberated.”

“You’re a Yank,” said a British voice.

“Never,” came Fawcett’s lilting southern burr, “confuse a Virginian with a Yankee.”

He also romanced Hedy Lamarr, starred in movies with Sophia Loren, and got married a few times:

In three months at the end of the war, Fawcett married six Jewish women who had been trapped in concentration camps, a procedure that entitled them to leave France with an automatic American visa.

(via cyn-c)

When I heard that chess champion Bobby

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 20, 2008

When I heard that chess champion Bobby Fischer had died, I immediately went searching for some of that “sprawling New Yorker shit” on Fischer. Sure enough, the New Yorker ran a piece on Fischer back in 1957, when he was 14 and still “Robert”. Also from their archives, a 2004 review of a book about the 1972 Spassky/Fischer match. The NY Times has extensive coverage of the hometown boy from past and present, including the annoucement of his victory against Spassky.