Paul Fussell, RIP

Paul Fussell died yesterday. Wartime is the best book I’ve read on World War II, and Doing Battle is a painfully honest account of being a soldier. Here’s how the latter starts:

Late in the afternoon of March 15, 1945, in a small woods in southeastern France, Boy Fussell, aged twenty, was ill treated by members of the German Wehrmacht. His attackers have never been identified and brought to justice. How a young person so innocent was damaged this way and what happened as a result is the subject of this book.

There’s a lot of this kind of understated irony, and a whole lot of anger, in that book. If you haven’t read his stuff, you’re missing out.

(h/t Librarian in the comments)

RIP, Robin Gibb

Dead at 62. Cancer sucks.

I doubt there has ever been cheesier music that still makes me smile.

RIP Adam Yauch


Adam Yauch, one-third of the pioneering hip-hop group the Beastie Boys, has died at the age of 48, Rolling Stone has learned. Yauch, also known as MCA, had been in treatment for cancer since 2009. The rapper was diagnosed in 2009 after discovering a tumor in his salivary gland.

One of my favorite all time bands.

Adam ‘MCA’ Yauch Dead at 48

I am sad. I’ve loved Beastie Boys for as long as I can remember. I saw them in concert in D.C. the night before President Obama’s inauguration. Paul’s Boutique is hands down one of the best albums ever made.

Adam Yauch, one-third of the pioneering hip-hop group the Beastie Boys, has died at the age of 48, Rolling Stone has learned. Yauch, also known as MCA, had been in treatment for cancer since 2009. The rapper was diagnosed in 2009 after discovering a tumor in his salivary gland.

Yauch sat out the Beastie Boys’ induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April, and his treatments delayed the release of the group’s most recent album, Hot Sauce Committee, Pt. 2. The Beastie Boys had not performed live since the summer of 2009, and Yauch’s illness prevented the group from appearing in music videos for Hot Sauce Committee, Pt. 2.

So sad.

Update: Beastie Boys and The Pharcyde — it doesn’t get better.

Junior Seau RIP

Truly crappy news:

Former NFL star Junior Seauwas found dead at his home Wednesday, authorities said.

The cause is suicide, gunshot.
I only got to watch Seau play regularly at the end of his career, when he joined the New England Patriots.  He was a class act here, fun to watch, fun to listen to. Before that, he was a terror, the reason you really didn’t want a quarterback you liked to face the Chargers.
And then there’s this:
Seau’s death, by gunshot wound to the chest, is similar to the way former Chicago Bears defensive back Dave Duerson died of suicide. Duerson shot himself in the chest on Feb. 17 — a method used so that his brain could be examined for symptoms of CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), a trauma-induced disease common to NFL players and others who have received repeated blows to the head.
If this suggestion plays out, then it’s going to get harder still for me to indulge the pleasure I get from watching the game.  The head trauma thing has to be addressed at every level of the game, or the sport is just going to eat itself up.
But for now, condolences to Seau’s family and friends.
[And yes, I know, he’s been implicated in domestic violence charges. A terrible thing, and something one can only condemn. But I think one can still regret the life lost.  And suicide tells you that whatever violence he may have done within his family, whatever was wrong for and with him brought the most harm on himself.  It’s important to retain the capacity for moral judgment even at times of loss….but recognition of the suffering he may have brought down on others can’t, or shouldn’t, annihilate the capacity to feel sympathy for whatever that brought him to kill himself at 43.]

RIP, Mike Wallace

Dead at the age of 93.

My favorite at 60 Minutes will always be Harry Reasoner, but Wallace was pretty good, to put it mildly.

I heard the news today…


It has been a busy time at my day job and sometimes almost an entire day can pass by before I catch up with the news of the day. Occasionally, a lot of things happen. Today was one of those days. Rush Limbaugh went public with his sex fantasies. The Koch bros are suing a widow over control of the Cato Institute. The War on Women suffered a defeat in the Senate. My Governor in Maryland signed the law approving Marriage Equality. Mitt Romney continued to say and do stupid things. President Obama called for an end to Oil Company Welfare (and found time to talk about sports). And Andrew Breitbart went on a walk and died.

Others on the Front Page have commented on Breitbart’s passing. And I would agree, in general, with the advice that one should not speak ill of the dead. But, that advice is not a reason to avoid the work and impact of a public figure when they pass. And Breitbart was a public figure with a record of doing great harm to our Nation and our politics. His death does not free us from the obligation to call out and condemn that damage. His life’s work was to embrace and push any tactic, distortion, threat or lie that might help him “win” any real or imagined political battle. He embraced a rejection of fairness, integrity and honor in political discourse as virtues to celebrate–as long as they helped him win a news cycle, embarrass a foe or score a cheap political point. The product of his life’s work was public and full of harm. Our world is poorer, sadder and a more damaged place because of the choices Breitbart made and the work that he did. His passing ends the damage he can continue to do, but not the harm that his legacy and his fellow travelers will continue to inflict upon our politics and our Nation. So it goes.

I wish that he had not died. In part because he leaves behind four children, who I’m sure saw his non-public side and will miss him. In part because I was looking forward to the ass whooping he was going to get in the Shirley Sherrod libel trial. And in part because I wish that he had a chance to change his path–that he had a chance to have his own “Road to Damascus” moment. Other paid shock troops of Wingnutopia made that choice and it was one that Beirtbart could have made as well. Such a transformation was never likely, but while he was alive there was a small chance that one day he might turn away from his grifter-for-hire-hit-man path. His death closes that door.

When I heard the news of his death, Hieronymous Bosch came to mind–especially his Triptych of The Garden of Earthly Delights. The outer panels (the shutters that open to reveal the triptych) are of the creation of Earth. When opened there are three panels. The Left Wing, depicts the Garden of Eden and earthly paradise. The Center Panel depicts life on Earth with all of its many pleasures and temptations. The Right Wing (shown above) depicts Hell.

The Right Wing as Hell seemed a fitting image as I thought of Breitbart, his life’s work and his passing. If he is fortunate he is now in a void of emptiness or with the FSM drinking stale beer and engaging in risky sex. OTOH, if Judeo-Christian mythology informs your view of the afterlife, then Breitbart is likely living in Bosch’s Right Wing for all eternity.

I’ll hope he’s with the FSM, at least in that myth he still has a shot at redemption–or if that fails, bad beer.