"By writing or reading obituaries, we can discover ways to make our time on earth more worthwhile, more productive, more meaningful to others."
Alana Baranick, "Life on the Death Beat"

"'I always read the obituaries in The Times,' I explained to her. 'They make me bloody glad to be alive.'"
John Mortimer, "Rumpole's Return"

Mel Stuart

Film and TV producer and director -- via the BBC. Although primarily a documentary filmmaker, and an Emmy-winning one at that, he will be best remembered for his direction of "Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory."

David Rakoff

Humorist and actor -- via the New York Times.

Irvin Faust

Writer -- via the New York Times.

Russ Mayberry

TV director -- via the Chicago Tribune.

Tony Sly

Musician -- via the San Jose Mercury News.

Don Erickson

Former MLB pitcher -- via the Springfield State Journal-Register.

Jimmy Jones

R & B singer -- via the New York Daily News. His two million-selling hits: "Handy Man" and "Good Timin'." His falsetto style was a strong influence on future pop high-noters such as Del Shannon, Frankie Valli, and Robin Gibb.

Jason Noble

Musician -- via Billboard. Was in Rodan, Rachel's, and Shipping News.

Johnnie Bassett

Blues guitarist, singer, and songwriter -- via detroitnews.com.

John Graham

Guitarist with The Ramrods -- via the Daily Mail. He was buried in a 12-foot, white replica of a Fender Stratocaster.

James Stevens

Composer -- via the Guardian. He worked across a plethora of genres and styles; he scored an English hit in 1968 with "Exploding Galaxy."

Vanya Kewley

An incredibly ballsy documentary filmmaker -- via the Guardian.

Warren Winkelstein Jr.

Epidemiologist -- via the New York Times.

Robert Hughes

Writer, historian, art critic, documentary maker -- via the Guardian. A marvelous and engaging writer, he composed and/or presented such book/TV hybrids as "American Visions" and "The Shock of the New," and the excellent early history of Australia, "The Fatal Shore." A model for those who like to write non-fiction, he delivered the information and did so with his own inimitable style.

Here are some greats quotes from him:

"The basic project of art is always to make the world whole and comprehensible, to restore it to us in all its glory and its occasional nastiness, not through argument but through feeling, and then to close the gap between you and everything that is not you, and in this way pass from feeling to meaning. It's not something that committees can do. It's not a task achieved by groups or by movements."

"I have always tended to take art contextually. If I have any merits as a critic, they have to do with my ability as a storyteller … and above all I wanted to tell a story."

"I am completely an elitist in the cultural but emphatically not the social sense. I prefer the good to the bad, the articulate to the mumbling, the aesthetically developed to the merely primitive, and full to partial consciousness. I love the spectacle of skill, whether it's an expert gardener at work or a good carpenter chopping dovetails. I don't think stupid or ill-read people are as good to be with as wise and fully literate ones. I would rather watch a great tennis player than a mediocre one, unless the latter is a friend or a relative. Consequently, most of the human race doesn't matter much to me, outside the normal and necessary frame of courtesy and the obligation to respect human rights. I see no reason to squirm around apologizing for this. I am, after all, a cultural critic, and my main job is to distinguish the good from the second-rate, pretentious, sentimental, and boring stuff that saturates culture today, more (perhaps) than it ever has. I hate populist [shit], no matter how much the demos love it."

“It seems obvious, looking back, that the artists of Weimar Germany and Leninist Russia lived in a much more attenuated landscape of media than ours, and their reward was that they could still believe, in good faith and without bombast, that art could morally influence the world. Today, the idea has largely been dismissed, as it must in a mass media society where art's principal social role is to be investment capital, or, in the simplest way, bullion. We still have political art, but we have no effective political art. An artist must be famous to be heard, but as he acquires fame, so his work accumulates 'value' and becomes, ipso-facto, harmless. As far as today's politics is concerned, most art aspires to the condition of Muzak. It provides the background hum for power.” 

Mark O'Donnell

Tony Award-winning playwright ("Hairspray"), screenwriter, novelist and humorist -- via the New York Daily News.

And, for your delectation, here is his famous "O'Donnell's Laws of Cartoon Motion" from Esquire magazine in 1980 --

 I. Any body suspended in space will remain in space until made aware of its situation. Daffy Duck steps off a cliff, expecting further pastureland. He loiters in midair, soliloquizing flippantly, until he chances to look down. At this point, the familiar principle of 32 feet per second per second takes over.II. Any body in motion will tend to remain in motion until solid matter intervenes suddenly. Whether shot from a cannon or in hot pursuit on foot, cartoon characters are so absolute in their momentum that only a telephone pole or an outsize boulder retards their forward motion absolutely. Sir Isaac Newton called this sudden termination of motion the stooge's surcease. III. Any body passing through solid matter will leave a perforation conforming to its perimeter.Also called the silhouette of passage, this phenomenon is the speciality of victims of directed-pressure explosions and of reckless cowards who are so eager to escape that they exit directly through the wall of a house, leaving a cookie-cutout-perfect hole. The threat of skunks or matrimony often catalyzes this reaction. IV. The time required for an object to fall twenty stories is greater than or equal to the time it takes for whoever knocked it off the ledge to spiral down twenty flights to attempt to capture it unbroken. Such an object is inevitably priceless, the attempt to capture it inevitably unsuccessful. V. All principles of gravity are negated by fear. Psychic forces are sufficient in most bodies for a shock to propel them directly away from the earth's surface. A spooky noise or an adversary's signature sound will induce motion upward, usually to the cradle of a chandelier, a treetop, or the crest of a flagpole. The feet of a character who is running or the wheels of a speeding auto need never touch the ground, especially when in flight. VI. As speed increases, objects can be in several places at once. This is particularly true of tooth-and-claw fights, in which a character's head may be glimpsed emerging from the cloud of altercation at several places simultaneously. This effect is common as well among bodies that are spinning or being throttled. A "wacky" character has the option of self-replication only at manic high speeds and may ricochet off walls to achieve the velocity required. VII. Certain bodies can pass through solid walls painted to resemble tunnel entrances; others cannot. This trompe l'oeil inconsistency has baffled generations, but at least it is known that whoever paints an entrance on a wall's surface to trick an opponent will be unable to pursue him into this theoretical space. The painter is flattened against the wall when he attempts to follow into the painting. This is ultimately a problem of art, not of science. VIII. Any violent rearrangement of feline matter is impermanent. Cartoon cats possess even more deaths than the traditional nine lives might comfortably afford. They can be decimated, spliced, splayed, accordion-pleated, spindled, or disassembled, but they cannot be destroyed. After a few moments of blinking self pity, they reinflate, elongate, snap back, or solidify. IX. For every vengeance there is an equal and opposite revengeance. This is the one law of animated cartoon motion that also applies to the physical world at large. For that reason, we need the relief of watching it happen to a duck instead. X. Everything falls faster than an anvil. Examples too numerous to mention from the Roadrunner cartoons.

Esther Kartiganer

Long-time "60 Minutes" producer -- via the New York Times.

Martin Segal

Driving force behind the Lincoln Center, and the Film Society therein -- via the New York Times.

Joan Stein

Theatrical producer -- via Playbill. She produced work by Beth Henley, Steve Martin, A.R. Gurney, Larry Shue, and works such as the great "Side Man" by Warren Leight.

Marvin Hamlisch

Composer, conductor, and performer -- via mercurynews.com. A child prodigy, he went to Juliard and worked as a rehearsal pianist for Broadway shows, his work in "Funny Girl" leading to a long collaboration with Barbra Streisand. He won a Tony Award and a Pulitzer Prize for "A Chorus Line"; four Emmys, two Golden Globes, three Oscars (for "The Way We Were" and "The Sting"), and four Grammys. Additionally, his focus on ragtime music for the score of "The Sting" led to a revival of interest in the genre, and a resurrection of high regard for composer Scott Joplin.

And he wrote "Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows."

On a personal note, I could swear I saw him conduct a schoolchildren's concert as an assistant at the Denver Symphony Orchestra, long long ago. I could be wrong. Also, I saw the original Broadway production of "They're Playing Our Song" . . . but that was more due to me idolizing Robert Klein.

Ruggiero Ricci

Violinist -- via the Guardian.

Metin Erksan

Film director and art historian -- via Hurriyet Daily News.

Marguerite Piazza

Soprano -- via the Memphis Commercial Appeal. Best known for her extensive appearances on "Your Shows of Shows" in early television.

Jorge Luke

Actor - via westernsallaitaliana.blogspot.com.

Chavela Vargas aka Isabel Vargas Lizano

Singer of rancheras -- via the L.A. Times.

Sidney Reznick

Comedy writer -- via the Hollywood Reporter. Holy cow -- he worked in radio and TV. He wrote for Hope, Durante, Jolson, Merman, Silvers, Wynn, and Henry Morgan, among others. He wrote for game shows, sitcoms, variety shows.

Bill Doss

Musician -- via the Rolling Stone. He co-founded the Elephant 6 Recording Company; he played with Olivia Tremor Control, the Sunshine Fix, and Apples in Stereo.

Abdi Jeylani Maloq aka Marshale

Comedian -- via the Independent. Murdered for mocking militants.

George Armitage Miller

Cognitive psychologist -- via the New York Times. Best known for his "Magical Number Seven" paper (in which he described the phenomenon that people, on average, can only maintain seven items in their short-term memories), and for Miller's Law, which states, "In order to understand what another person is saying, you must assume it is true and try to imagine what it could be true of."

August Kowalczyk

Actor and Holocaust survivor -- via the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Maeve Binchy

Writer -- via the New York Times.

Jonathan Hardy

Actor, writer, and director -- via the New Zealand Herald. Most notably, he wrote the screen play for "Breaker Morant."

Tony Epper

Stuntman and actor -- via emmys.tv.

Conrade Gamble II

Stuntman and stunt coordinator -- via the Hollywood Reporter.

Paco Moran aka Francisco Moran Ruiz

Actor -- via westernboothill.blogspot.com.

Andrzej Lapicki

Actor -- via rp.pl.

Ismail Hutson aka Datuk Ismail Omar

Actor -- via The Star.

Fern Persons

Actress -- via the Chicago Tribune. Known most for her work on stage and extensive work in Golden Age radio, in such shows as "Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy," "Author's Playhouse," "The Bartons," "Hot Copy," and "Midstream." Films include "Field of Dreams" and "Hoosiers."