Category Archive 'Obituaries'
09 Sep 2019

Remembering Françoise Sagan, 1935-2004, III

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Sagan received an appropriately admiring obituary in the Telegraph.

Françoise Sagan, who died yesterday aged 69, exploded on to the French literary scene in 1954 with her first novel, Bonjour Tristesse, written when she was just 18.

The novel tells the story of a rebellious 17-year-old whose manipulations destroy the relationships between her libertine father and his various women. Published just as teenagers were emerging as a distinct social group, it was an immediate succes de scandale, delighting and shocking with its worldly cynicism and suave amorality. It won the Prix de Critiques and earned Françoise Sagan £500,000 and a papal denunciation. François Mauriac, France’s most respected novelist, hailed the talent of “ce charmant petit monstre” on the front page of Le Figaro.

Yet though she continued to produce novels and plays at a rate of roughly one a year, Françoise Sagan’s writing lost its astringency and she began to be dismissed as a lightweight author of women’s romantic fiction – more Mills and Boon than enfant terrible.

Instead, propelled by her celebrity and wealth, she became better known for her rackety lifestyle – sports cars and crashes, serial lovers, addictions to gambling, whisky and drugs and run-ins with the tax authorities. An opinion survey conducted a few years after Bonjour Tristesse showed that most people in France thought her a film star, rather than a writer.

Fame – or rather, the Paris Match version of celebrity – clung tenaciously to Françoise Sagan. Moody, gamine and matchstick thin, elfin face peeping out from under a mop of cropped hair, in the 1950s and 1960s she seemed the epitome of Parisian radical chic. A frequenter of cafes, nightclubs and student barricades, she dined with Sartre, Hemingway, Henry Miller and the young François Mitterand. Vanessa Redgrave admitted that she began smoking after reading that Françoise Sagan always smoked Gauloises and had a cup of coffee for breakfast: “Immediately, I decided this was sophistication itself.”

Her literary oeuvre offered a version of France in which personal responsibility counts as nothing against stylish living – a principle she was determined to live by. One of her tricks was to arrive at a nightclub with one escort and leave with another; and she always parked her sports cars outside the door of her destination whatever the traffic regulations. As if to illustrate the point, a cover of one of her novels showed her aged 19 or 20, draped in a long leopardskin coat over the door of an open-topped Jaguar, dark circles under her eyes. Yet despite the hype that inevitably accompanied everything that she did, she managed to remain remarkably honest about her own limitations as a writer and as a person.

When offered membership of the Academie Franaise, she turned it down: she had read enough good books, she said, to recognise the difference between the literary merit of Bonjour Tristesse (which she claimed never to have re-read) and the fuss made about it. She never uttered a word of regret for her “unbridled life” but confessed that she had never really grown up: “as a result I don’t really understand adult values and I never will”. …

Françoise Sagan’s life was more colourful copy than her books. Flushed with the success of Bonjour Tristesse, she sped down in her new Ferrari to St Tropez where she turned her publishers’ cheque into gambling chips, whisky and lines of cocaine – and indulged a prodigious appetite for sex. “She tried every experience,” a former lover recalled, “with two persons, with a woman, with three, four. She was in the avant garde, La bande Sagan – a group, with Juliette Greco. They were drunk almost every night and they were a most crazy group. La bande Sagan was the top of sophistication.”

In 1957, she survived a serious accident when her Aston Martin overturned on a sharp bend and left her in a coma for three days. Soon afterwards she married Guy Schoeller, a publisher 20 years her senior. When that broke down, she married an American sculptor, Robert Westhoff. They had a son, but that relationship too ended after only a year. Marriage, she reflected, is “like the matter of asparagus eaten with vinaigrette or hollandaise – a matter of taste but of no importance”. …

Françoise Sagan maintained her reputation as the voice of hedonistim with a fund of bons mots: “You should celebrate the end of a love affair as they celebrate death in New Orleans, with songs, laughter, dancing and a lot of wine”; “a dress makes no sense unless it inspires men to want to take it off you”; “Every little girl knows about love. It is only her capacity to suffer because of it that increases.”

But by the 1970s, with her brown hair turned miraculously blonde, fast living was taking its toll. Her passion for gambling became so intense that she asked the Ministry of the Interior to ban her from casinos. She had several brushes with death and in 1978 gave up drinking after a misdiagnosis of cancer of the pancreas. Her drug abuse landed her in court on several occasions and led to a demand from the Right-wing politician Jean Marie Le Pen that she be guillotined.

In 1990 a satirical puppet show on French television presented her as a disshevelled old bat butting in on every conversation, wild-eyed and gesticulating. “I believe I have the right to destroy myself as long as it doesn’t harm anyone,” she said. …

[S[he never quite managed to exorcise her demons. In 2001 she was convicted of tax fraud and given a one-year suspended jail sentence for failing to declare $726,000. But she said: “I always believe things are going to work out. Every time I see a film about Joan of Arc I’m convinced she’ll get away with it. It’s the only way to get through life.”

26 Jun 2019

Norman Stone, 8 March 1941 –19 June 2019

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Richard J. Evans, in The Guardian, really unloaded on the conservative historian Norman Stone in an obituary.

was character assassination. As a judge of the Fraenkel prize in contemporary history some years ago, he told the astonished members of the jury that they should not award the prize to a historian of Germany whose politics he disliked because she was an East German agent – an allegation that was enough to rule her out of contention even though it was absolutely baseless and undoubtedly defamatory.

Shortly after the death in 1982 of his patron and mentor in Cambridge, EH Carr, the author of a multivolume History of Soviet Russia and influential works on historiography and international relations, Stone published a lengthy assault on his reputation, which included lurid details of his three marriages. When a colleague criticised this “outrageous” diatribe to his face, telling him that Carr “always said you were amoral”, Stone responded: “And he always said you were a bore” (probably an invention, though one cannot know for sure).

At a time when malice and rudeness were highly prized by some rightwing Cambridge dons, Stone outdid them all in the abuse he hurled at anyone he disapproved of, including feminists (“rancid”), Oxford dons (“a dreadful collection of deadbeats, dead wood and has-beens”), students (“smelly and inattentive”), David Cameron and John Major (“transitional nobodies”), Edward Heath (“a flabby-faced coward”) and many more.

Stone was undoubtedly clever. He could write entertainingly and could summarise complex historical circumstances in a few pregnant sentences, gifts which brought him a flourishing career as a journalist and commentator. He was a talented linguist who read and spoke more than half a dozen languages, including Hungarian. Yet his career was also dogged by character flaws that prevented him from fulfilling his early promise as a historian. …
Read the rest of this entry »

30 May 2019

Leon Redbone Passed Away

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Variety:

Singer-songwriter Leon Redbone, who specialized in old-school vaudeville and Tin Pan Alley-style music, died earlier today, his family confirmed. He was 69 — although, in characteristically whimsical fashion, the official statement announcing his death gave his age as 127.

RTWT

26 May 2019

Albert Ollie Poe (8 July 1931 — 18 May 2019)

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photo: Douglas Lees.

Albert was the younger brother of the great Melvin Poe and nearly as famous a huntsman.

He had a renowned career as Huntsman with the Piedmont Fox Hounds, the Fairfax Hunt, and the Middleburg Hunt, and was particularly noted as a Fox Hound Breeder.

He was honored in retirement as a Member of the Huntsmen’s Room, Museum of Hounds & Hunting NA, Inc.

Albert had a devilish sense of humor. Karen and I had fun with Albert in Virginia and will miss him very much. I’m told that Tommy Lee Jones, Casanova’s famous huntsman, blew “Going Home” at Albert’s Middleburg Funeral.

01 Mar 2019

Charles McCarry, 14 June 1930 — 26 February 2019

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WaPo obituary:

Charles McCarry spent almost 10 years in the CIA as an undercover officer, operating alone as he roamed throughout Africa, Europe and Asia in the 1950s and 1960s. He never carried a gun. He didn’t kill anyone.

He was in the agency when the Berlin Wall went up in 1961. He was in and out of Vietnam. He was at an airport in Congo in 1963, when a Belgian priest told him about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He always went by an assumed name and never lived in the same countries in which he worked.

After he resigned from the CIA to become a writer, Mr. McCarry used many of those elements in the novel that many consider his masterpiece, “The Tears of Autumn.” But when he turned in his manuscript, it was initially rejected by his publisher.

“Where’s the car chase? Where’s the torture scene? Where’s the sex? Where’s the good Russian?” the publisher demanded, as Mr. McCarry recalled in a 1988 essay for The Washington Post. “Do you call this a thriller?”

The publisher gave Mr. McCarry a best-selling novel to study. A month later, Mr. McCarry submitted his manuscript again — without so much as changing a comma. This time, it was accepted.

“I can only write what I know,” he noted.

Since it came out in 1974, “The Tears of Autumn” has sold millions of copies and has been hailed as a classic of espionage fiction. In his 13 novels, Mr. McCarry created dense, fast-moving plots of international intrigue populated by complex, troubled characters — male and female — seeking to find order and purpose in their lives.

“There is simply no other way to say it,” Otto Penzler, a leading expert on crime and espionage fiction, wrote in the New York Sun in 2004. “Just the straightforward, inarguable truth: Charles McCarry is the greatest espionage writer that America has ever produced.”

Mr. McCarry, whose novels about spycraft and politics were deeply admired if not always well known, died Feb. 26 at a hospital in Fairfax County, Va. He was 88.

He had complications from a cerebral hemorrhage sustained in a fall, said a son, Caleb McCarry.

No blockbuster movies have been based on Mr. McCarry’s books, his photograph seldom appeared on his dust jackets, and he didn’t go on book tours or appear on television. “They only want to ask me about my life in the CIA,” he told The Post in 1988, “and I can’t talk about that.”

Yet his novels were written with such a deft, knowing touch that he often invited favorable comparisons to another spy-turned-author. “Mr. McCarry is the American le Carré,” Penzler wrote, “equaling him stylistically but surpassing his English counterpart in terms of intellectual depth and moral clarity.”

RTWT

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Some quotations:

“Papa likes to know what a man is going to say to him before he starts to talk,” Cathy told Christopher. “If there’s no horse in the first sentence, he knows he’s in the wrong company.”

–The Secret Lovers, 1977, p. 65.

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The male parent seldom spoke. On first meeting he had established that he and Christopher had been in the same regiment of Marines in different wars and in the same house at Harvard; he had never asked Christopher another question. “He knows everything about you, knowing those two things, that he needs to know,” Cathy said.

–The Secret Lovers, 1977, p. 103.

——–

“I come from the most anti-American country on earth.”

“Canada? Ah, no, America is the most anti-American country on earth. When you speak of public opinion, young man, you speak of the opinions of the intellectuals because they are the only ones who publish and broadcast. The masses are dumb. Intellectuals always hate their own country, but the United States has produced an intelligentsia which is positively bloodthirsty.”

–The Secret Lovers, 1977, p. 127.

——–

“In Spain the Germans tested aerial bombing tactics; the Soviets, propaganda. You see who won in the end. In 1945 there was no Luftwaffe. No one has yet found a way to shoot down the illusions of the Left.”

–The Secret Lovers, 1977, p. 139.

——–

“This woman had the greatest private collection in Spain, portraits of her ancestors,” Rodegas said. “She was asked by a journalist if she was not filled with awe, to possess the works of all those dead geniuses. ‘Awe?’ she replied, ‘Genius? Goya, Velázquez, Rembrandt, were simply the people my family hired before the invention of photography.’”

–The Secret Lovers, 1977, p. 250.

17 Feb 2019

“W.E.B. Griffin” — November 10, 1929 – February 12, 2019

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Obituary:

William E. Butterworth III, the best-selling author, has died. He was 89, and had fought a years-long battle with cancer.

While his body of work includes more than 250 books published under more than a dozen pseudonyms, he is best known as W.E.B. Griffin, the #1 best-selling author of nearly 60 epic novels in seven series, all of which have made The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Publishers Weekly, and other best-seller lists. More than fifty million of the books are in print in more than ten languages, including Hebrew, Chinese, Japanese, and Hungarian.

Mr. Butterworth’s first novel, Comfort Me with Love, was published in 1959. The delivery-and-acceptance check from the publisher paid the hospital bill for the birth of his first son, who two decades ago began editing the Griffin best-sellers and then became co-author of them.

Mr. Butterworth grew up in the suburbs of New York City and Philadelphia. He enlisted in the United States Army in 1946. After basic training, he received counterintelligence training at Fort Holabird, Maryland. He was assigned to the Army of Occupation in Germany, and ultimately to the staff of then-Major General I.D. White, commander of the U.S. Constabulary.

In 1951, Mr. Butterworth was recalled to active duty for the Korean War, interrupting his education at Phillips University, Marburg an der Lahn, Germany. In Korea he earned the Combat Infantry Badge as a combat correspondent and later served as acting X Corps (Group) information officer under Lieutenant General White.

On his release from active duty in 1953, Mr. Butterworth was appointed Chief of the Publications Division of the U.S. Army Signal Aviation Test & Support Activity at Fort Rucker, Alabama.

Mr. Butterworth is a member of the Special Operations Association, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, the Army Aviation Association, the Armor Association, and the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) Society.

He was the 1991 recipient of the Brigadier General Robert L. Dening Memorial Distinguished Service Award of the U.S. Marine Corps Combat Correspondents Association, and the August 1999 recipient of the Veterans of Foreign Wars News Media Award, presented at the 100th National Convention in Kansas City.

He has been vested into the Order of St. George of the U.S. Armor Association, and the Order of St. Andrew of the U.S. Army Aviation Association, and been awarded Honorary Doctoral degrees by Norwich University, the nation’s first and oldest private military college, and by Troy State University (Ala.). He was the graduation dinner speaker for the class of 1988 at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

He has been awarded honorary membership in the Special Forces Association, the Marine Corps Combat Correspondents Association, the Marine Raiders Association, and the U.S. Army Otter & Caribou Association. In January 2003, he was made a life member of the Police Chiefs Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania, Southern New Jersey, and the State of Delaware.

He was the co-founder of the William E. Colby Seminar on Intelligence, Military, and Diplomatic Affairs.

The W.E.B. Griffin novels, known for their historical accuracy, have been praised by The Philadelphia Inquirer for their “fierce, stop-for-nothing scenes.”

“Nothing honors me more than a serviceman, veteran, or cop telling me he enjoys reading my books,” he said.

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W.E.B. Griffin quotations.

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I really liked his “Brotherhood of War” series, which was so thoroughly grounded in real history that you could describe it as a Roman à clef.

25 Jan 2019

Jonas Mekas, 24 December 1922 — 23 January 2019.

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Guardian obituary.

Back in the late 1970s, Mekas did a showing of “Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania” (1972) at Film Forum in New York.

Back in Soviet times, Americans had seen a lot more of Tibet than they ever had of any of the occupied Baltic States, so (being of Lithuanian descent and being a hard-core cinéaste) I was there with bells on.

You’d have expected the audience to be made up of the usual hip New York Experimental Film crowd, but actually that night it was full of Lithuanian Americans desperate to catch a look at their Fatherland.

The film (I’m remembering back over 40 years) was not very experimental, or arty, at all. It was really much more like a home movie. And Lithuania was startlingly poor and primitive. I remember that Mekas received accommodation at his relatives’ collective farm being given a pile of straw to sleep on.

Mekas clearly had bent over backward to avoid politics. If he had not, the Soviet authorities were holding lots of relatives of his hostage, and he would certainly never be visiting Lithuania again, if he’d expressed negative opinions of the system.

The audience, however, of hot-blooded, anti-Soviet Lithuanians was not happy with Mekas’s restraint. He got no cinematic questions, but he was deluged with demands that he openly condemn Communism and the Soviet Occupation.

The poor film-maker was nonplussed. He wanted to talk film. His audience wanted to fight Communism.

I met him, and found out that he was a Lutheran from Northern Lithuania.

01 Dec 2018

George H. W. Bush, 12 June 1924 — 30 November 2018

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George H. W. Bush, captain of the Yale Baseball team.

As the photo above demonstrates, George Herbert Walker Bush was the living embodiment of the All-American Boy ideal represented in fiction set at Yale by Dink Stover and Frank Merriwell.

He was handsome, athletic, well-born, a good student, and a fine sportsman, captain of the Baseball teams at Andover and Yale, tapped inevitably for Skull and Bones, youngest pilot in the Navy during WWII.

He was a good and decent man, embodying to perfection all the virtues and weaknesses of his culture and his class. Alas! he was too indifferent to theory and ideology to make a good conservative president. He was the sort who behaves with propriety and who governs in accordance with the best opinions, so he broke his word to the voters, raised taxes, and consequently lost in 1992 to a slick con man.

I knew him because he was so dutiful and so loyal to Yale. Back in the late ’60s and early ’70s, whenever a scheduled conservative guest speaker at the Yale Political Union cancelled, we knew that, even at the last minute, we could always get George Bush. We took advantage of him regularly, and –back then– he was only a minor Texas Congressman or defeated GOP candidate for the Senate, no kind of big name.

It fell to me several times to take George Bush to dinner at Mory’s. He just wasn’t famous enough in those days to draw a crowd, so he and I would eat dinner alone, talking typically of the differences between his time at Yale and mine. He wasn’t scintillating like Bill Buckley or dazzling like Ronald Reagan, but he was a classic example of the kind of good man and faithful public servant that the Old Yale specialized in producing. In fact, he was kind of a Rowland Ward record book specimen of that breed. It made me sad to recognize that America, Andover, and Yale had stopped making any more like him. Yale men of my own time, I thought, were cleverer, but men like George Bush were a lot better for the country.

13 Nov 2018

Stan Lee: Dead at 95

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Wikipedia:

Stan Lee (born Stanley Martin Lieber; December 28, 1922 – November 12, 2018) was an American comic book writer, editor, and publisher. He was the editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics, and later its publisher and chairman, leading its expansion from a small division of a publishing house to a large multimedia corporation.

In collaboration with several artists—particularly Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko—he co-created fictional characters including Spider-Man, the Hulk, Doctor Strange, the Fantastic Four, Daredevil, Black Panther, the X-Men, and—with his brother, co-writer Larry Lieber—the characters Ant-Man, Iron Man, and Thor. In doing so, he pioneered a more complex approach to writing superheroes in the 1960s, and in the 1970s challenged the standards of the Comics Code Authority, indirectly leading to it updating its policies.

11 Oct 2018

Good Obituary

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Delaware Online:

Wilmington – Rick Stein, 71, of Wilmington was reported missing and presumed dead on September 27, 2018 when investigators say the single-engine plane he was piloting, The Northrop, suddenly lost communication with air traffic control and disappeared over the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Rehoboth Beach. Philadelphia police confirm Stein had been a patient at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital where he was being treated for a rare form of cancer. Hospital spokesman Walter Heisenberg says doctors from Stein’s surgical team went to visit him on rounds when they discovered his room was empty. Security footage shows Stein leaving the building at approximately 3:30 Thursday afternoon, but then the video feed mysteriously cuts off. Authorities say they believe Stein took an Uber to the Philadelphia airport where they assume he somehow gained access to the aircraft.

“The sea was angry that day,” said NTSB lead investigator Greg Fields in a press conference. “We have no idea where Mr. Stein may be, but any hope for a rescue is unlikely.”

Stein’s location isn’t the only mystery. It seems no one in his life knew his exact occupation.

His daughter, Alex Walsh of Wilmington appeared shocked by the news. “My dad couldn’t even fly a plane. He owned restaurants in Boulder, Colorado and knew every answer on Jeopardy. He did the New York Times crossword in pen. I talked to him that day and he told me he was going out to get some grappa. All he ever wanted was a glass of grappa.”

Stein’s brother, Jim echoed similar confusion. “Rick and I owned Stuart Kingston Galleries together. He was a jeweler and oriental rug dealer, not a pilot.” Meanwhile, Missel Leddington of Charlottesville claimed her brother was a cartoonist and freelance television critic for the New Yorker.

David Walsh, Stein’s son-in-law, said he was certain Stein was a political satirist for the Huffington Post while grandsons Drake and Sam said they believed Stein wrote an internet sports column for ESPN covering Duke basketball, FC Barcelona soccer, the Denver Broncos and the Tour de France. Stein’s granddaughter Evangeline claims he was a YouTube sensation who had just signed a seven-figure deal with Netflix.

When told of his uncle’s disappearance, Edward Stein said he was baffled since he believed Stein worked as a trail guide in Rocky Mountain National Park. “He took me on a hike up the Lily Peak Trail back in the 90s. He knew every berry, bush and tree on that trail.” Nephew James Stein of Los Angeles claimed his uncle was an A&R consultant for Bad Boy records and ran a chain of legal recreational marijuana dispensaries in Colorado called Casablunta. Niece Courtney Stein, a former Hollywood agent, said her uncle had worked as a contributing writer for Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm and was currently consulting on a new series with Larry David.

People who knew Stein have reported his occupation as everything from gourmet chef and sommelier to botanist, electrician, mechanic and even spy novelist. Police say the volume of contradictory information will make it nearly impossible to pinpoint Stein’s exact location.

In fact, the only person who might be able to answer the question, who is the real Rick Stein is his wife and constant companion for the past 14 years, Susan Stein. Detectives say they were unable to interview Mrs. Stein, however neighbors say they witnessed her leaving the home the couple shared wearing dark sunglasses and a fedora, loading multiple suitcases into her car. FAA records show she purchased a pair of one-way tickets to Rome which was Mr. Stein’s favorite city. An anonymous source with the airline reports the name used to book the other ticket was Juan Morefore DeRoad, which, according to the FBI, was an alias Stein used for many years.

That is one story.

Another story is that Rick never left the hospital and died peacefully with his wife and his daughter holding tightly to his hands.

You can choose which version you want to believe or share your own story about Rick with us at the Greenville Country Club on Friday, November 9, 2018 from 3:00-6:00pm.

14 Sep 2018

Too Bloody Real

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11 Sep 2018

Requiem for the Village Voice

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Irony of ironies, Telly Davidson, in the Paleocon American Conservative, pays tribute to the passing, and has kind words for, the red rag Village Voice.

As a respected and accomplished Boomer-era composer recently told me, when he was making it as a young musician in the Big Apple in the early 1970s, he and his set thought of the Voice as “the New York Times for nonconformists.” It provided a truly alternative “voice” to the processed cheese pabulum and establishment headlines of the mainstream media. In its heyday, the Voice was a place where indisputably talented and iconoclastic writers who were too “out there” to get hired at the mainstream spots could not only pick up a paycheck and a byline credit but also have the chance to rub shoulders with Norman Mailer and Gore Vidal. Where writers who redefined arts criticism like Robert Christgau, Nat Hentoff, Andrew Sarris, and James Wolcott got some of their first and best breaks. Where conservatives and suburban liberals alike could shake their fists at Alexander Cockburn’s near-open communism, or the latest Robert Mapplethorpe exhibit.

The Voice employed to their very last day both new and old greats who did nothing but good by the standards of journalism and their communities. But it also housed writers and editors who were smug caricatures of everything they supposedly despised. Towards the end of the paper’s 63-year lifespan, it became an insular clique rather than a sanctuary for brilliant misfits and rebels. This was a storied institution that had earned respect but slowly lost it, thanks in part to the corporate buyouts and the inevitable dimming of its once strong independent compass.

RTWT

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