death Archive


Rap In Peace, Macho Man

Macho Man Randy Savage died today in Seminole, FL, after suffering a heart attack while driving.

Though the world may remember him better as a world-famous wrestler or colorful spokesperson for dehydrated meat tubes, to me he will always be the man who recorded the truly boundary-breaking rap-rock-soul hybrid album, Be a Man, in 2003.

Forthwith, four songs to haunt your dreams…



And, of course…


Neither an Intellectual Nor a Visionary

I lived in Portland, Oregon for three years, and for two of those years I lived at a flop house in deep South East. During my time there we subscribed to three perodicals: The New Yorker, Harper’s, and The Economist. One summer I was laid out with a broken foot (fifth metatarsal, ripped out of place when my right foot hit a mud puddle rounding second base — snap!) and I drank beers and read magazines from cover to cover (and books — lots and lots of books, though I never did get started on the Critique of Pure Reason) on the front porch all day every day, and even though it was really quite terrible not being able to walk, I managed to make the best of it.

We subscribed to The Economist, is where I’m going with this, and that summer one of my favorite rituals on Saturday mornings (Economist arrival day in Portland) was to open it up, skip to the letters to the editor, read the last one (the last one is always their “joke” letter, and is often charming in a peculiar British way), then flip to the back and read the obituary. The Economist does a proper obituary, and they only do one a week, so they make it count.

(I’m not of the age where I scan the obituaries in newspapers for dead friends, but I’m getting older all the time.)

Anyway. Here you can find The Economist’s obituary for Osama bin Laden.

His mind and approach were those of a businessman. The same caution that characterised his fugitive existence in Afghanistan and Pakistan—avoiding phones, the internet, even watches, anything that might be used to track him, slipping from cave to safe house to compound—featured in his investments, which were profitable and practical. No political ideology guided him, though he might lie for hours at night thinking, or read for most of the day. The polite, pious rich boy, who had left university without a degree, became neither an intellectual nor a visionary.


Somewhere, according to one of his five wives, was a man who loved sunflowers, and eating yogurt with honey; who took his children to the beach, and let them sleep under the stars; who enjoyed the BBC World Service and would go hunting with friends each Friday, sometimes mounted, like the Prophet, on a white horse. He liked the comparison. Yet the best thing in his life, he said, was that his jihads had destroyed the myth of all-conquering superpowers.

The price set on his head for more than a decade never bothered him, for Allah determined every breath in his body, and could ensure that the bombs dropped on his hideout at Tora Bora, or on his convoy through the mountains, never touched him. His martyr’s time would come when it came. The difference between pure Muslims and Americans, he said, was that Americans loved life, whereas Muslims loved death. Whether or not he resisted when the Crusaders’ special forces arrived, their bullets could only exalt him.

As I said, they do a good obituary.



From Buckles to Chuckles: last WWI combat veteran dies at 110

No, he's not dead in this picture (it was taken in 2009), but you'd be forgiven for thinking so.

It looks like 110 is the not-so-magic number for remaining World War One veterans. Last February, we noted the death of America’s last WWI veteran, Frank Buckles. Today, we acknowledge the passing of Claude “Chuckles” Choules, The Great War’s last known combat veteran period, who died this morning at a nursing home in the Western Australia city of Perth.

Beloved for his wry sense of humor and humble nature, the British-born Choules — nicknamed “Chuckles” by his comrades in the Australian Navy — never liked to fuss over his achievements, which included a 41-year military career and the publication of his first book at the age of 108.

To me, however, the most notable characteristic displayed by Mr. Choules was the fact that:

Despite the fame he achieved because of his military service, Choules grew to become a pacifist who was uncomfortable with anything that glorified war. He disagreed with the celebration of Anzac Day, Australia’s most important war memorial holiday, and refused to march in parades held each year to commemorate the holiday.

“He didn’t believe in war,” Edinger said.

“He always said that the old men make the decisions that send the young men into war,” said his son Adrian Choules.

“He used to say, if it was the other way around, and the old … were off fighting, then there would never be any wars,” Adrian Choules told local media.

Amen to that, Chuckles. Amen to that.


America Pwns Terrorism

In case you have neither turned on, flipped open, nor been passively receptive to any sort of media device this morning, you should probably know that Osama bin Laden

was killed by U.S. forces Monday in a mansion in Abbottabad, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) north of the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, U.S. officials said.


Bin Laden’s body was later buried at sea, an official said. Many Muslims adhere to the belief that bodies should be buried within one day.

Ben or Tom may have more to say on this subject later today since I’m not really our politics guy, but two things:

  1. A fucking mansion??? Every report for the last 10 years has had Osama scurrying around from cave to cave in the dead of night with his goddamn kidney dialysis machine, and instead he’s been kickin’ it in a mansion for as long as five years? Christ. (I mean, Allah.)
  2. Buried at sea? What is he, a goldfish? Also: no body = no closure. Now every conspiracy theorist and Trump’s mother is going be forever convinced that Obama faked this achievement to draw attention away from this, that, or the other failing. (Where’s his long-form death certificate? That’s what I wanna know. If they would just release his long-form death certificate, maybe we could put this whole deather controversy to rest.)

Anyway, congratulations everyone! No more terrorism! Now we can leave Afghanistan and Iraq, right? Right?


Submitted Without Comment: Shaking Hands With Death



The Rest is Silence

See you around, Dad.


Nine Transocean employees died in the Gulf explosion last year. Company calls it “the best year in safety performance in our company’s history.”

So apparently killing your employees and poisoning hundreds of square miles of ecologically fragile environment is good business these days.

According to Jeff McMahon Forbes,

Transocean Ltd., owner of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, awarded millions of dollars in bonuses to its executives after “the best year in safety performance in our company’s history,” according to an annual report and proxy statement released yesterday.

Eleven people were killed, including nine Transocean employees, in the April 20 explosion and collapse of the rig, which gushed crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico for 86 days.

“Notwithstanding the tragic loss of life in the Gulf of Mexico, we achieved an exemplary statistical safety record as measured by our total recordable incident rate and total potential severity rate,” Transocean states in the filing.

Good god. I sure hope my employer doesn’t achieve an exemplary statistical safety record this year. I still haven’t drawn up a will.


Ummm, worst thing ever?

I have no idea how old this video is. I have no idea how common the techniques and conditions depicted within it are in the industry today. And though it’s easy to get all dramatic and claim that you may never eat meat again after watching it, chances are you will. And so will I. Because bacon is delicious.

But holy shit.


Watching This Will Make You More Informed About the Situation in Libya. But Then You’ll Forget. But Maybe You Won’t. So You Should Probably Watch It, Just To Be Safe. And, Oh Yeah. It’s Long. (UPDATED BY BEN, FUCKER!)

Ben and I had a long debate a couple of days ago about the US intervention in Libya. I am against and Ben is for, basically, and we both made our cases there (Warning if you click on the link: it is very long!). I left his last response unanswered mostly because I’m lazy, but also because I don’t think anyone is reading anymore (that was two days ago) except Ben. And I like Ben, but I don’t want to talk to him all the time, you know? Sometimes I want to talk to you and Ben at the same time. So, uh, Hey there, Ben. Wink. I’m back on the front page, motherfucker!

No I’m not. I’m letting this video speak for itself. Take Ben to be Juan Cole and me to be Vijay Prashad, if you wish. Alternatively, take it to be two people who are smarter than Ben and me, and watch them have a lefty vs. lefty debate. To the death!

Here’s Part Two:


UPDATE BY BEN!: Frontpage! Okay, so this isn’t directly a reply to your post, but it’s related to our previous discussion and you’ve convinced me that that’s done now and best left sliding into the archives. What I wanted to write was this:

I’ve been trying to think about worst-case scenarios in a wider frame, and it struck me that what is obviously the worst-case scenario from the American FP perspective is that Obama’s decision to basically ignore Congress at the beginning of this whole thing, now, and, apparently, in the months to come, is setting an easily exploitable precedent for any future presidents that might want to go even rogue-er. What’s striking to me, though, is how un-phased I am by that probability. I guess my thinking is that – who are we kidding? – there’s only one party interested in negotiating with precedent to justify its active erosion of democracy in America and the world. The Republicans put on a show of being interested, but it’s transparently phony, and frankly,  since McCain’s simultaneous election loss and fall into complete nihilism I’ve been convinced — whereas before I was only inclined to believe – that whatever Republican is next elected to the office (barring some kind of radical, society redefining change — come on guys! Wisconsin can be everywhere!) was always going to do whatever catastrophic thing he or she wanted to outside America’s borders (and in). Obama being the Obama of the campaign wasn’t going to change that. His adherence to the law would have been twisted just as easily into a legitimation of doubling-down-on-Bush illegality (all we’d hear about is any bad thing that might possibly be claimed could have been prevented by some kind of extra-judicial executive superheroing). The only thing that might have limited them was an aggressive, DOJ-led effort like two years ago to expose and respond to the Bush administration’s lawlessness, but did we ever really think that was going to happen?

But what about the next Democrat? If things go badly in Libya she or he’ll go extreme protectionist. The worst outcome, I predict, from the standpoint of what the next Democratic president will do in the world, would be Libya going well. And frankly, I’ll agree to that Faustian bargain, and take the Democrat when he or she comes.

But in general, I guess what I’m saying is that my lack of hope for America is why I feel so strongly about the democratic movement in the Middle East, and why I’ll take what I can get from America to serve that movement as much as possible. Convince me that the intervention is likely to be more counter the revolution than non-intervention would have been and you’ll have won this debate.


Houdini’s last stage assistant dies, and how this will solve the crisis in Libya

According to The Daily Mail:

Dorothy Young, the last surviving stage assistant of illusionist Harry Houdini and an accomplished dancer, has died at 103.

Young’s death was announced by Drew University, where she was a prominent donor and patron of the arts. The statement came earlier this morning, on the day that would have been Houdini’s 137th birthday.

The cosmic coincidence of this occurrence is blunted by the fact that Young actually died on Sunday, March 20 — four days before the anniversary of Houdini’s birth — but no matter. As a former magician myself (in the loosest sense of the word), the story still resonates, for even today, no magician in the world has more name recognition than the near-mythical Harry Houdini, despite a growing handful who have probably topped him in such conventional metrics of success like wealth and exposure (David Copperfield, Lance Burton, Penn & Teller, David Blaine, Criss Angel, etc.).

Ruminating on the legendary double H (or, as I like to call him, H2OH!), I was led inexorably down the following path: Houdini — born Erik Weisz — adopted (then adapted) his stage name from French magician, Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin. Robert-Houdin — widely considered the father of modern magic — was once asked by the government of Louis-Napoleon to

participate in a ‘pacification’ of the tribes in French Algeria. Specifically, a tribe of religious mystics, the Marabout, who claimed magical abilities in the name of Allah, [and] were reluctant to accept French rule. Perhaps, his government suggested, Robert-Houdin could demonstrate that French magic was superior.

Oh yeah, this dude DEFINITELY believes in magic.

French Algeria is, of course, modern-day Algeria, which shares its eastern border with Libya, which is currently a total shit show. Libya’s embattled leader-cum-robe-fetishist-in-chief, Muammar Gaddafi, believes (among other things) that H1N1 was intentionally created in a lab as a biological weapon that then got away from us, so there’s a very real chance that he also believe in magic.

So keeping all that in mind, here’s my proposal: gather up all the millionaire magicians listed above — and anyone else who wants to jump on board — fly ‘em over to Libya, drop ‘em off at Muammar’s palace, and let ‘em go to town. Maybe what a dozen Tomahawk missiles can’t accomplish, a few colored handkerchiefs and a deck of Bikes can. (Just don’t perform the bullet catch. I guarantee that shit would not go well there.)

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