Sic Transit Paul Spragg

Today someone you probably never heard of died. His name was Paul Spragg, and he was one of the main people at Big Finish, the company I shill for on a regular basis. He did a lot for them, handling customer inquiries, editing their fan magazine and doing a podcast, among other duties. He also handled people like me, the critics who received Big Finish products to review. He was my point of contact with the company, and he and I had a fairly enjoyable and entertaining email relationship. He was always a pleasant, polite guy, who was very enthusiastic about setting me up with the latest new releases, and supporting things like my annual Big Finish panel at Phoenix Comicon. Each year, he’d send out a prize package for me to give away, which I always appreciated.

Beyond his relationship with Big Finish and my email relationship with him, I never knew all that much about Paul on a personal level. I don’t know how old he was, for example. But I do know that he was a great guy to correspond with, and that I’m going to miss opening up emails from him.

The second-to-last post on his Facebook page simply had a picture of him with Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred, and the words, “I’m going off on an adventure.” How very appropriate.

Goodbye, Paul.

Goodbye, Paul.

Sic Transit Kate O’Mara – 1939 – 2014

She has died, but the sneer lives on.

She has died, but the sneer lives on.

I sometimes make jokes that when anyone cancels out on appearances at the Gallifrey One convention, it means that they’re probably going to be dead shortly. This came up after that happened with Mary Tamm and a couple of other actors.

This year, Kate O’Mara, best known to Doctor Who fans for her role as the Rani, cancelled out on Gallifrey, and today we learned that she died at the age of 74.

O’Mara was born in Leicester in 1939. She began her career as a stage actress in 1963, the year Doctor Who first aired. She then went on to several appearances on British TV in shows such as Z-Cars and The Avengers.

O’Mara reached international fame when she started appearing on the American soap opera Dynasty, where she played the sister to Joan Collins’ character. She then went on to sci-fi fame by appearing in two stories for Doctor Who; both times playing the renegade Time Lord scientist, the Rani. She later reprised the role for the rather horrible 30th anniversary special, “Dimensions in Time”. Then in 1995 and 2003, she appeared in two episodes of Absolutely Fabulous, playing Paty’s older sister.

O’Mara was fairly active on Twitter, leaving behind one final Tweet on March 17.

“Thank you so much for your kind tweets. It’s both humbling and completely overwhelming to read all of your messages. Much Love x”.

She is survived by her son, Christopher, and her sister, actress Belinda Caroll.

Sic Transit Fred Phelps – 1929 – 2014

Fred Phelps, 1929 - not fucking soon enough!

Fred Phelps, 1929 – not fucking soon enough!

Not too many people really do the world a massive favor by dying, but Fred Phelps has accomplished just that. He is finally dead, and I come not to praise him, but to bury him. He was a horribly unpleasant person who may, or may not, have been abusive toward his children, who certainly abused the system that guarantees our liberties, and who, merely by existing, made the world a slightly less wonderful place.

Now he is dead. He died earlier today, and did so estranged from much of his family and possibly from his own church, though there are conflicting messages there. Apparently his daughter posted up something on her Twitter feed last week about how he was a “fag-loving whore” and would be in Hell soon, so that’s pleasant.

I really don’t have too much to say about this guy. But I do have something to say about the media. Ignoring Phelps and his outrageous and stupid behavior was always an option, and it’s often struck me as unfortunate that the media didn’t do that as as often as they should have. He was an attention-seeker, and we all gave him what he wanted. In return, we got a villain so repulsive that I’m sure he was instrumental in moving some people toward the gay rights movement, lest they appear to be like him.

Anyway, the dick is dead. If I believed in a god, I’d be thanking him.

Sic Transit Harold Ramis – 1944 – 2014


Harold Ramis, one of the larger figures from my youth, has died at the age of 69. He’s famous as an actor for such roles as Egon Spangler in Ghostbusters and as the director of such films as Ghostbusters. His work also includes classic films like Stripes, National Lampoon’s Vacation and many other greats.

Ramis was born in Chicago. His career in comedy began taking off when he started working for Second City Television and began doing joke editing for Playboy (yes, it really is possible to enjoy that magazine for reasons other than the obvious). He then went on to work for National Lampoon, creating the script for what would become National Lampoon’s Animal House. This success led him on to doing Vacation and then onto the wildly-successful Ghostbusters.

Ramis, to quote Wikipedia, “…contracted an infection that resulted in complications from autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis.” It was that that eventually killed him.

Ramis hasn’t had a popular or successful movie in a while. His last film, Year One, was hated by audiences and critics alike, and that’s a real shame. But on the plus side, at least we have a great body of his to look back on, and I can think of worse legacies that someone can leave the world than the creation of a character whose primary hobbies include the collecting of various spores, molds and fungi.

Sic Transit Philip Seymour Hoffman, 1967 – 2014


So apparently I’m the only person who was unaware that Philip Seymour Hoffman had a drug problem. This became a very serious problem today, when he was found dead of an apparent drug overdose.

Hoffman first came to the public eye in a big way in 1997 when Boogie Nights was released. From there his career slowly, steadily, improved, culminating in his 2005 Oscar win for Best Supporting Actor in the title role in Capote. He also received numerous other awards and nominations, including three more Oscar nominations.

Hoffman was known for a largely quiet acting style. His characters seldom screamed or acted out. Even his villain characters, such as Owen Davian in the under-rated Mission Impossible III, tended to be quiet characters.

But that quiet apparently hid some serious demons. Hoffman went public with drug problems last year when, after a long span of sobriety, he checked into a rehab center. It seems, sadly, that the rehab was ineffective, as it is believed he died from a heroin overdose.

Hoffman was a brilliant and talented actor who will be severely missed.

Sic Transit Cal Worthington, 1920 – 2013

For this man, I can think of no better obituary than this.

Sic Transit Margaret Thatcher – 1925 – 2013


One of the towering figures of my youth has died. Margaret Thatcher has passed away from a stroke at the age of 87.

Born in the era between the wars, Thatcher originally studied chemistry and had a successful career in the field before going into politics. She eventually worked her way up through the Conservative Party ranks until, in 1979, she became the first female Prime Minister and the longest-serving PM of the modern age.

While in office, Thatcher was known for disempowering the trade unions, privatizing industries, helping to end the Cold War, bolstering morale at home, and waging a war abroad, retaking the Falkland Islands after Argentina’s ill-advised invasion. She helped bring the United Kingdom out of the doldrums of the “ex-empire” era and to a huge extent laid the groundwork for what the modern country has become.

I only feel so qualified to talk about her. I’m not British, after all, and wasn’t an adult during her time in office. So I’ll quote from Andrew Sullivan’s obituary of the Iron Lady.

To put it bluntly: The Britain I grew up in was insane. The government owned almost all major manufacturing, from coal to steel to automobiles. Owned. It employed almost every doctor and owned almost every hospital. Almost every university and elementary and high school was government-run. And in the 1970s, you could not help but realize as a young Brit, that you were living in a decaying museum – some horrifying mixture of Eastern European grimness surrounded by the sculptured bric-a-brac of statues and buildings and edifices that spoke of an empire on which the sun had once never set. Now, in contrast, we lived on the dark side of the moon and it was made up of damp, slowly degrading concrete.

I owe my entire political obsession to the one person in British politics who refused to accept this state of affairs. You can read elsewhere the weighing of her legacy – but she definitively ended a truly poisonous, envious, inert period in Britain’s history. She divided the country deeply – and still does. She divided her opponents even more deeply, which was how she kept winning elections. She made some serious mistakes – the poll tax, opposition to German unification, insisting that Nelson Mandela was a terrorist – but few doubt she altered her country permanently, re-establishing the core basics of a free society and a free economy that Britain had intellectually bequeathed to the world and yet somehow lost in its own class-ridden, envy-choked socialist detour to immiseration.

Regardless of ones’ politics, Thatcher’s place in the annals of history cannot be denied. She was a force of nature that will be sorely missed.


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