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The news media condemns itself, as does our political class, once more, with their relative silence. A true American hero, whose virtue was proved in the skies of two wars, the hell on earth of the worst part of the Communist Vietnamese torture chambers, and in the halls of Congress that so often corrupt, has been called home. Retired U.S. Air Force Colonel, retired Congressman Sam Johnson went home on Wednesday, May 27, 2020, at the age of 89. There is a famous photograph of Colonel Johnson reunified with his wife, Shirley, after seven years of captivity. At the end of May 2020, I believe they were reunified a second time. We do not know what Heaven is actually like, but we may well imagine these two people embracing again in bodies not ravaged by this fallen world.
Sam married his high school sweetheart, Shirley in 1950, shortly before graduating from Southern Methodist University. They remained faithfully married for 65 years until Shirley was called home before Sam. Shirley Johnson’s obituary confessed their faith:
Jim Lehrer died Thursday, peacefully in his sleep at 85. He got his three-score years and ten with change back, a life lived in full. Lehrer was best known as half of PBS’s “MacNeil-Lehrer Report.” It debuted in 1975 and was an example of balanced reporting through at least the mid-1990s (when I drifted away from watching it).
Lehrer was also an entertaining author. I read and enjoyed several of the novels he wrote back in the 1980s and 1990s, notably, Kick the Can. He was an example of what news reporting and journalism should be and is no longer.
At a certain age on the path to adulthood, we begin to realize not just that our heroes are human, but that they are mortal. In the last five years, we have said goodbye to Harry Jaffa, Kenneth Minogue, Rene Girard, Bernard Lewis, Gertrude Himmelfarb, and Forrest McDonald, among brilliant others, and I have watched each go with an increasing sense that I was seeing my pantheon of intellectual greats fade rapidly.
Roger Scruton always held a special place in my heart, much as he might despise the trite cliche, because he was with me almost from the very beginning (I first read one of his books when I was 14) and because he spanned such a wide variety of mediums and topics with stunning skill. He showed me that a conservative could claim a place in academia, could show true genius and originality of expression in their field, and also claim a place outside of it, in the culture. On an even more personal level, his love of Britain, so beautifully expressed in much of his work, and the way that he had simply represented British academia for me was one of the things that inspired me to push aside myriad fears and take up a place at a British university.
Lauren Bruner, aged 98, passed away Tuesday in California. He was one of four remaining survivors of the USS Arizona. The remaining three are Don Stratton (97), Lou Conter, and Ken Potts (both 98).
On December 7, 1941, Bruner was strafed in the legs trying to get to his battle station and received burns over 70 percent of his body from a subsequent explosion. In his memoir, Second to Last to Leave the USS Arizona, Bruner announced he would answer no more questions about the attack. “As you read these chapters,” he wrote in the preface, “know that they were real and that it was truly a Hell on Earth. The horrors of what I witnessed on that morning have kept me from sleep for many years after.”
“Then I saw the wicked buried. They used to go in and out of the holy place and were praised in the city where they had done such things. This also is vanity. Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil. Though a sinner does evil a hundred times and prolongs his life, yet I know that it will be well with those who fear God, because they fear before him. But it will not be well with the wicked, neither will he prolong his days like a shadow, because he does not fear before God.” —Ecclesiastes 8:10-13
Robert Mugabe died in a hospital in Singapore, at the age of 95.
H. Ross Perot, the man who could have been America’s first Independent President, died today at age 89. When he ran in 1992 against the incumbent George H.W. Bush and the Democratic Party nominee Bill Clinton he received 19% of the popular vote, the highest since Teddy Roosevelt’s Bull Moose bid in 1912.
An Annapolis graduate, he was a pioneer in computer data systems, twice building companies and twice selling them to make his fortune. And he was generous with his money while being appalled at the government’s generosity with the money of taxpayers. A special cause of his was the medical care of veterans. He personally funded the research of Dr. Robert Haley at UT Southwestern that showed that many vets of the first Gulf War did, indeed, suffer from a chemical-induced toxin syndrome.
He was many things. A gag writer, a sailor at war, a novelist, the grandson of a rabbi. But above everything else, he was a storyteller. Herman Wouk has died at age 103.
He is best remembered for his breakthrough novel, The Caine Mutiny, and an epic pair of television mini-series The Winds of War and War and Remembrance. Caine won the 1951 Pulitzer and was made into a classic film starring Humphrey Bogart as the mentally unstable Captain Queeg.
“A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse over a loose fiscal policy, (which is) always followed by Dictatorship.
The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations from the beginning of history, has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence:
Over the last couple of years, comedic actor Tim Conway has been in the news quite a lot and not in a good way. As Alzheimer’s ravaged one of television’s funniest minds his wife and daughter were in a court battle over his care. That battle is done as of this morning as Conway has passed away aged 85.
Born Tom Conway, he started his career in local television in the late 50s and early 60s in his hometown of Cleveland. He was writing and co-starring in comic skits that aired as filler for B-movies shown on the CBS affiliate WJW. His partner in crime was Ernie Anderson, whose greatest claim to fame was as the primetime announcer for ABC in the 1970s and 80s (“Next week on The Loooooooooove Boat!”) and the father of movie director Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights). It was in these sketches that he was discovered by actress Rose Marie who was visiting the station during a promotional tour for The Dick Van Dyke Show. She secured him an audition on The Steve Allen Show and his national career took off from there. Tom became Tim in order to avoid conflicts with another, already established performer.
The most tempting cliche in noting the passing of a celebrity is that a death marks “an end of an era.” Doris Day’s era ended much sooner than she did, but she truly was the last of her kind. She was the last of the great “girl singers” of the Big Band Era, the last of the great musical stars of the Hollywood studio system and the last performer to have headlined a weekly half-hour network radio show.
Rechristened Doris Day because Doris von Kappelhoff was a mouthful and a bit of a stretch for a marquee, she began her career singing on WLW (The Nation’s Station) in her hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio. At that time, WLW had a habit of taking local acts and turning them into national sensations. Besides Day, WLW launched the careers of Rosemary Clooney, Andy Williams, and the Mills Brothers. It was in Cincinnati that she hooked up with Les Brown and his Band of Renown. Their partnership resulted in her first number one hit, Sentimental Journey.
Bruno Ganz, the Swiss actor who helped give the world it’s first serious German-language portrayal of the last days of Adolf Hitler on film and an enduring internet meme, has died at age 77.
Thanks to the “Hitler finds out about X…”parodies that populate YouTube, Ganz’s turn in Der Untergang (The Downfall, 2004) has probably made him the most known “unknown” in the English-speaking world. He had a 50-year career in cinema but he made very few films for Hollywood.
Yesterday morning, Ricochet promoted to the main feed my short post about the passing of a local icon in Waterbury, Connecticut – Zeqir Berisha (Ziggy the Flagman). Last night, a local independent newspaper in Waterbury published an absolutely outstanding piece on the man which covered the writer’s almost 20 year friendship with Zeqir. This morning, […]
Known to the residents of Connecticut as Ziggy the Flagman, Zeqir Berisha passed on Christmas Day. An immigrant from communist Kosovo, Zeqir adopted and loved this country. In Connecticut, Ziggy was an absolute icon of America.
Some misunderstood both his passion for this country and his fear of encroaching communism — a passion and a fear that refugees from Marxist states often show. Others however, a bit more deplorable, understood these perfectly. And this polarizing presence is what made him an icon.
Public reaction to the death of SpongeBob Squarepants creator Stephen Hillenburg, who died from ALS last Monday, might have confused those unfamiliar with his most famous work. Here was a man being mourned across all ages and demographics, from the trades to Twitter, for creating … a cartoon made and marketed for children?
But this gets SpongeBob, Hillenburg ’s magnum opus, all wrong. At its best, SpongeBob was not simply a kids’ cartoon. From the beginning, Hillenburg brought to the show a unique tone and aesthetic that drew from his background in marine biology. He attended the show’s pitch meeting in a Hawaiian shirt. SpongeBob, the relentlessly upbeat, cleaning utensil-shaped main character, lives in a pineapple under the sea; Squidward, his grouchy next-door cephalopod, inhabits an Easter Island head. And the opening theme song is sung by a portrait of a (human) pirate. Though a veteran of Rocko’s Modern Life, another successful Nickelodeon program, Hillenburg had something all his own in mind from the start.
R. Lee Ermey, USMC drill instructor, bordello owner, Golden Globe nominated actor and TV host is dead at age 74.
Statement from R. Lee Ermey’s long time manager, Bill Rogin: “It is with deep sadness that I regret to inform you all that R. Lee Ermey (“The Gunny”) passed away this morning from complications of pneumonia. He will be greatly missed by all of us.”
Science fiction author Ursule K. Le Guin has died. I want to talk about one of her obituaries–but a search of the site shows no one has commented on her death. So first, a quick summary of her life: Le Guin was a remarkable writer. She was also a member of the far left. Both […]
There are but a handful of American network executives that can rightly be called legends in the land of television. There were the founders, David Sarnoff and William Paley, the mavericks like Ted Turner and the two men that shaped what I and thousands of others do for a living — live sports production. Those men were a vibrant force at ABC and their names were Roone Arledge and Don Ohlmeyer.
Ohlmeyer, aged 72, passed away Sunday night. His contributions will not pass soon.