Observations Along the Road

Theatre Writeups, Musings on the News, Rants and Roadkill Along the Information Superhighway

Category Archive: 'obituaries'

Remembering Harry Harrison

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Aug 15, 2012 @ 10:48 am PST

Harry Harrison has died.

Harry Harrison was one of my two introductions to the genre of Science Fiction*. Back when I was in high school, the Science Fiction Club at Pali High (in Mr. Layton’s room) introduced me to Harrison’s novel Captive Universe. I can still remember the lines:

“Now follow closely my thoughts because they are of the lougest importance. This man is of the valley yet he cannot return to the valley. I will tell you why. It is written in the klefg that the people of the valley, the derrers, shall not know of the Watchers. That is ordained. This one will then not go back to the valley.

“Now listen closely again. He is here, but he is not a Watcher. Only Watchers are permitted here. Can anyone tell me what this means?”

There was a long silence, finally broken by a weak voice which said, “He cannot be here and he cannot be in the Valley too.”

This was the start of a long love of Harry Harrisons books. Through the Deathworld trilogy, through all the Stainless Steel Rat books, through his teen work, and especially all of his alternate histories — I devoured it all.

Harrison had a way of writing that I just love; that just gabbed you. Just look at the first line of Bill, the Galactic Hero:

Bill never realized that sex was the cause of it all.

Great opening line. Then there was the fabulous Star Smashers of the Galaxy Rangers, a parody of all the EE Doc Smith 1950s-style SF. Again, just listen to those opening lines:

“Come on, Jerry,” Chuck called out cheerfully from inside the rude shed that the two chums had fixed up as a simple laboratory. “The old particle accelerator is fired up and rarin’ to go!”

“I’m fired up and rarin’ to go too,” Jerry whispered into the delicate rose ear of lovely Sally Goodfellow, his lips smacking their way along her jaw towards her lips, his insidious hands stealthily encircling her waist.

This is a story where Chuck and Jerry, two fun-loving students at an American College discover a faster-than-light space drive, and install it into the football team’s Boeing 747. They, together with the lovely Sally Goodfellow, crusty Pop, and loveable old John veiw with horror a practical joke gone awry as the plane screams off to Titan. But that’s only the beginning. When loveable old John’s true and awful identity becomes known, a wild batter across the Universe and through centuries ensues. But love triumphs in the end, in the oddest way.

There are his alternative histories, such as A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah where America loses the Revolutionary War, and Geo. Washington’s great grandson now is building a network to connect England to the Colonies. There are the Civil War books, the Eden series, the Wheelworld series, and the Technicolor Time Machine. Books I just loved.

Thank you, Mr. Harrison, for your words over the years.

*: The other author that got me started on SF was Kurt Vonnegut in the short story collection, Welcome to the Monkey House.


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The Ride Home

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Aug 07, 2012 @ 11:33 am PST

Today’s news brings word of the passing of Marvin Hamslich (Playbill, LA Times, USA Today), and that means it is time to trot out my story of my encounter with Mr. Hamslich.

It is 1975; I’m 15 years old and in the high school program at Wilshire Blvd Temple. This program, which was run by Rabbi Goldmark, brought in various name speakers to talk about Judaism in their lives and what they do. This includes folks like Monty Hall, political figures, and Marvin Hamlisch. As WBT was near downtown, and I was living in Brentwood (16 miles away), Wilshire ran a bus from near University Synagogue to the downtown campus. This bus left promptly at its scheduled time; if I missed it, I had no way to get home.

One particular Sunday in 1975, our speaker was Marvin Hamlisch. He’s running long, so I get up to go get the bus. He stops speaking, looks at me, and asks where I was going. I told him I was going to catch the bus to go home. He says that he doesn’t like to lose an audience, and he would give me a ride home. This he does, but along the way, we stop at the newsstand in Westwood so that he could pick up the New York papers and read the reviews of A Chorus Line, which had just opened. I did get his autograph on a piece of notebook paper, which I have to this day.

Thank you, Mr. Hamlisch for your music throughout the years. From A Chorus Line to They’re Playing Our Song to Smile to Goodbye Girl to Sweet Smell of Success to numerous others, you have added art and richness to our culture. Thank you for your movie music throughout the years, starting with The Sting and the music of Scott Joplin. I’ll even forgive you for The Way We Were :-). Oh, and thank you for the ride home. I look forward to seeing The Nutty Professor if it ever makes it out to Los Angeles.

P.S.: Reading the reactions, nobody has a bad word for the man (here, here, here). That says something about him.

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A One-Two Punch

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Jun 06, 2012 @ 11:53 am PST

Today’s a busy day, so here’s a quick one-two punch over lunch:


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Passing of Note: Digby Wolfe

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue May 08, 2012 @ 7:51 am PST

This morning, while skimming the LA Times before leaving for work, I noticed a familiar name in the obituaries: Digby Wolfe. My parents had an accounting office, and Digby was one of their long-time clients. Digby’s death has been floating around my head, so I wanted to write a quick post remembering Digby.

Now, I think I only met Digby in person a few times. But he did create memories. Thanks to Digby, I remember going to tapings of Cher (which he was a writer on) and the 2nd version of Laugh-In (I think this one had Robin Williams or Jim Carrey on it). I remember my folks talking about Digby all the time. I got the impression (remember, I was a teen here) that he was a nice, caring man.

In Digby’s memory, I want to share something he wrote in the 1980s for a Goldie Hawn TV Special:

Here’s to the kids who are different,
The kids who don’t always get A’s,
The kids who have ears twice the size of their peers
And noses that go on for days…
Here’s to the kids who are different,
The kids they call crazy or dumb,
The kids who don’t fit,
with the guts and the grit,
Who dance to a different drum…
Here’s to the kids who are different,
The kids with the mischievous streak,
For when they have grown, as history’s shown,
It’s their difference that makes them unique.

Rest in peace, Digby.

(Note: Completing the death trifecta, we have George Lindsey (“Goober”) and Maurice Sendak. Both men understood kids who were different: Lindsey, from all his work for Special Olympics, and Sendak, well, from his books.)

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A Death Close to Home

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Apr 23, 2012 @ 8:11 pm PST

Saturday, while I was judging the IEEE Ethics competition, I received a very unsettling phone call. My cousin, Nick Faigin had unexpectedly passed away on Friday morning. Nick was 47; 5 years younger than me. You don’t expect younger cousins to go before you.

Now, I didn’t know Nick closely, although we always got along when we saw each other. The age difference was part of it; I tended to associate more with his older sister. I did follow Nick, however. He had a wonderful poetry blog, and was very active in the club and music scene, doing a lot of promotion of bands. I hadn’t realized how much of an impact he had until I was reading all of the wonderful tributes and testimonials that had been posted on his Facebook page.

Being one of the more computer literate of the cousins, I’m the one fretting over the modern worry: how to preserve Nick’s wonderful digital legacy. The two domains he owns do not expire until October; I’ve already contacted the registrar to figure out how to transfer them to my ownership so I can keep them alive. But other areas are harder. What does one do about his Facebook presence? I’m guessing the account will stay there forever, but it would be nice to be able to post a closing message (I guess we could just write something to his wall). What about other places? His gmail account? Other email accounts? This is an area that is far too new and far too sensitive (another good article, another on turning facebook pages into memorials).

In any case, I’ll worry about that latter. For now, Nick, recognize that you touched the lives of a lot of people for good. This is a great legacy to leave behind, my cousin.

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Rabbi John

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Apr 19, 2012 @ 8:15 am PST

Last night, I learned of the passing early Wednesday morning of Rabbi John Sherwood, a dear friend.

I first met Rabbi John through my wife — she had been active at Temple Emet of Woodland Hills, and wanted John to officiate at our wedding. Over the years we talked many times — he was a regular contributor to my mailing list and the FAQ. He named our daughter. He was going to do her bat mitzvah until he got sick.

For the longest time, John’s spiritual home was Temple Emet of Woodland Hills. I don’t think he was the founding rabbi, but he was there for 23 years. Before that, I know he was a rabbi at North Valley Reform, which through mergers became our current congregation, Ahavat Shalom in Northridge. John remained at Emet until the merger with Shir Chadash to form the current congregation Kol Tikvah. At that time he retired and moved off to Ventura.

Retired, however, does not mean inactive. John was active through Ventura and on the web, officiating on cruises and doing all sorts of good work. We had been out of touch the last few years, alas, so I don’t have the latest details on what he had been doing.

The online obituary for John may be found here. I found a better summary of John’s career here:

Dr. John M. Sherwood is Rabbi Emeritus of Temple Emet of Woodland Hills, California, where he served as Senior Rabbi for twenty-two years. Early in his career, he was the first reform rabbi in western Canada, and taught in the religious studies department of the University of British Columbia. For six years he was an adjunct professor of pastoral studies at St. John’s Roman Catholic Seminary in Camarillo, California. A graduate of the Los Angeles Police Academy advanced chaplaincy course, he was a chaplain and crisis intervention counselor for the Department from 1982 to 1997. His colleagues elected him coordinator of the chaplain corps in 1995. He is a past president of the San Fernando Valley Interfaith Council, and the author of a high holy day prayer book and a number of creative haggadahs. He has written many articles on liturgy and the relationship of Jewish and Christian ceremonial observances. One of his favorite community projects was working with the priest-rabbi dialogue committee that is jointly sponsored by the Board of Rabbis of Southern California and the Archdiocese of Southern California. Upon his retirement from the pulpit, he qualified as a personal fitness trainer in order to develop a motivational program bringing mind, body and spirit together. His interest in computers has led him to pursuing intellectual interests all over the world through the Internet. He is a frequent respondent to the Union for Reform Judaism’s “Ask the Rabbi” web site, and that of Jewish.com, and a regular contributor to the Liberal Jewish Newsletter. When not following his academic pursuits, he enjoys travel with his wife, Dolores. These journeys, coupled with his passion for scenic photography, have led to the creation of his slide lecture series entitled “Judaism Around the World, from Budapest to Bangkok and Back.” His biography appears in the Marquis Who’s Who in Religion in America, as well as several other similar publications. Since moving to Oxnard, he has become a chaplain for the Ventura County Fire and Rescue Department, is a member and chairperson of both the Oxnard Clergy Association and the Ventura Interfaith Ministerial Association. He led the two organizations to joint sponsorship of a new program for the west county in interfaith education. He and his wife, Dolores served for three years as chair and vice-chair of the Oxnard City Sea Air Community Council, and as members at-large. He has been active in environmental causes, specifically the Save our Open space and Agricultural Resources (SOAR) movement. He is also a professor for Elderhostel. He has served on the executive committee of a study group created by the Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, Supervisor John Flynn. The group is known as “Society Ecology Economy Ventura County Vision”. The Board of Supervisors also appointed him to the newly created County Election Finance Ethics Commission, of which his colleagues elected him vice chair, in which position he served for two years. He served for five years on the Institutional Review Board of St. John’s Regional Medical Center. In addition, he serves as co-chair of the Oxnard Police-Clergy Council. He is a member of the Oxnard Community Relations Commission. He is a recipient of the California Central Coast Anti-Defamation League Distinguished Community Service Award.

John gave me one piece of advice I’d like to share as part of this brief note. Back when we got married, we visited him at his house. His note with directions reminded us to stop and enjoy his beautiful rose bushes and their fragrance. I think of that note to this day when we walk by roses.

Rest well, John.


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Three Twos

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Apr 04, 2012 @ 12:01 pm PST

As you know, when I post my lunchtime news chum, I like to do things in threes. I thought I had no such luck, but then I realized I had three groupatwos:

Music: Hotcakes (Carly Simon): Older Sister

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Drive By Post

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Mar 28, 2012 @ 6:55 pm PST

Obit of the Day: Earl Scruggs, a legend in banjo and bluegrass music. If the name doesn’t sound familiar, well, he wrote and played the theme to the Beverly Hillbillies.

In other news, this has been a very stressful week. Hopefully, the stress will be relieved, one way or the other, tomorrow. I’ll then update folks on what has been happening.

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