Walter Becker died. You probably don’t know him, but you know Steely Dan.

There are a ton of musicians who’ve played with Steely Dan (Michael McDonald, Skunk Baxter), but the two who made it Steely Dan were Donald Fagen and Walter Becker. Becker played guitar, sometimes sang, but not often, and wrote the songs and produced the albums with Fagen.

I don’t mean this to sound like an insult, but Steely Dan was the original smooth jazz band. Its sound was distinctive, in that hipster cool, Southern Califonia via New Jersey and Queens vibe. I spent many hours mellowing out to “Aja,” “Can’t Buy a Thrill,” “Pretzel Logic,” “Countdown to Ecstasy,” “Katy Lied” and “Gaucho” back in the ’70s and ’80s. I’ve heard the albums from the 2000s were good, but I’m content with the classics.

Here’s a live performance in Charlotte:

Becker’s the older, bearded guy in glasses on guitar. Fagen had some nice things to say about him:

Walter Becker was my friend, my writing partner and my bandmate since we met as students at Bard College in 1967. We started writing nutty little tunes on an upright piano in a small sitting room in the lobby of Ward Manor, a mouldering old mansion on the Hudson River that the college used as a dorm.

We liked a lot of the same things: jazz (from the twenties through the mid-sixties), W.C. Fields, the Marx Brothers, science fiction, Nabokov, Kurt Vonnegut, Thomas Berger, and Robert Altman films come to mind. Also soul music and Chicago blues.

Walter had a very rough childhood – I’ll spare you the details. Luckily, he was smart as a whip, an excellent guitarist and a great songwriter. He was cynical about human nature, including his own, and hysterically funny. Like a lot of kids from fractured families, he had the knack of creative mimicry, reading people’s hidden psychology and transforming what he saw into bubbly, incisive art. He used to write letters (never meant to be sent) in my wife Libby’s singular voice that made the three of us collapse with laughter.

His habits got the best of him by the end of the seventies, and we lost touch for a while. In the eighties, when I was putting together the NY Rock and Soul Review with Libby, we hooked up again, revived the Steely Dan concept and developed another terrific band.

I intend to keep the music we created together alive as long as I can with the Steely Dan band.

But the thing about Steely Dan is the sound. And the Nerdwriter explains what that’s all about:

Walter Becker died yesterday at age 67.

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This happened 20 years ago today

Paris, Sunday, Aug. 31 — Diana, the Princess of Wales, was killed shortly after midnight today in an automobile accident in a tunnel by the Seine. The accident also killed Emad Mohammed al-Fayed, the Harrods heir, and their driver, the police said.

Diana’s death was announced this morning by the Interior Minister, Jean-Pierre Chevenement. She died after being hospitalized in intensive care at the Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital in southeast Paris.

A bodyguard was seriously injured, according to a police spokesman. ‘The car was being chased by photographers on motorcycles, which could have caused the accident,’ a spokesman for the Prefecture of Police said. Several motorcyclists were detained for questioning after the crash, Reuters reported, quoting police officials.

The Princess, 36, was divorced from Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales and heir to the British throne, last year. She had vacationed with Mr. al-Fayed, 41, the son of Harrods’s owner, Mohammed al-Fayed, on the French Riviera earlier this month and had been expected to return to London today to be with her two sons, the Princes William and Harry. [Obituaries of Diana and Mr. al-Fayed appear on page 31.]

French radio stations reported that a spokesman for the British royal family in London expressed anger and said the accident was predictable because photographers relentlessly pursued the Princess wherever she went.

The crash occurred 35 minutes past midnight in the Alma Tunnel, on the right bank of the Seine under the Place de l’Alma, the police said.

The driver was hired from the Ritz Hotel in Paris. The Princess and Mr. al-Fayed had been pursued from the Ritz Hotel, where they were believed to be staying after spending time together on the Riviera.

The Paris police said that the Interior Minister, Jean-Pierre Chevenement, and the Prefect of Police, Philippe Massoni, had accompanied the British Ambassador in Paris to the hospital where the Princess was treated.

The police said the car was totally wrecked. The impact was so great, the car’s radiator was hurled onto the knees of the front-seat passenger. The Princess was in the back seat.

The site of the accident, in the Eighth Arrondissement, is on a high-speed road along the Seine with a divided roadway as it passes under the Place de l’Alma to the Place de la Concorde.

On Aug. 21, Diana and Mr. al-Fayed, who is of Egyptian ancestry and is commonly called Dodi, flew to the French Mediterranean resort of St. Tropez for their third holiday in each other’s company in five weeks. Mr. al-Fayed’s father said in an interview with The New York Times in London last week that the two were simply ‘young people getting to know each other.’

British newspapers reported that Diana first met Mr. al-Fayed almost 10 years ago when he and Prince Charles played polo on opposing teams. Films he had produced or co-produced included the 1981 Oscar-winning ‘Chariots of Fire,’ ‘The World According to Garp,’ ‘F/X’ and ‘Hook.’

Reportedly a multimillionaire, Mr. al-Fayed had homes in London, New York, Los Angeles and Switzerland and a garage full of luxury cars. He was divorced after a marriage that lasted eight months in 1994. Diana was catapulted into the public eye at age 19 in 1981 when it was announced that she was engaged to Charles, the heir to the British throne and 12 years her senior.

The couple were married on July 29 that year in London in a ceremony watched by millions and billed as a ‘fairy-tale wedding.’

Diana soon became a mother, to Prince William in June 1982, but by the birth of her second son, Harry, in September 1984, her biographer Andrew Morton wrote in ‘Diana: Her True Story,’ she was already suffering from bulimia and had attempted suicide five times.

From 1986, the first press stories began appearing of cracks in the marriage, and Mr. Morton later wrote that Charles had resumed his relationship with a married friend, Camilla Parker Bowles, at that time.

The voice of Rocky and Natasha and Cindy Lou Who died

This got lost the shuffle of last week’s insanity:

Animation legend June Foray, the voice of both Rocky the Squirrel (of Rocky and Bullwinkle) and Natasha (of Boris and Natasha), has died at 99.

Her New York Times obituary is fascinating—apparently the woman could do nearly any voice requested of her, was basically the female Mel Blanc and was known in the business as “First Lady of Animated Voicing”:

I grew up on many of these voices:

When police get away with murder

The right wing outrage machine doesn’t get fired up over certain things.

Like this, which happened yesterday:

The Minnesota police officer who fatally shot Philando Castile during a traffic stop was acquitted on all charges by a jury Friday, a decision that came nearly a year after the encounter was partially streamed online to a rapt nation in the midst of a painful reckoning over shootings by law enforcement.

Probably because it’s happy with this, which is happening all the time:

WHITE SUPREMACISTS AND other domestic extremists maintain an active presence in U.S. police departments and other law enforcement agencies. A striking reference to that conclusion, notable for its confidence and the policy prescriptions that accompany it, appears in a classified FBI Counterterrorism Policy Guide from April 2015, obtained by The Intercept. The guide, which details the process by which the FBI enters individuals on a terrorism watchlist, the Known or Suspected Terrorist File, notes that “domestic terrorism investigations focused on militia extremists, white supremacist extremists, and sovereign citizen extremists often have identified active links to law enforcement officers,” and explains in some detail how bureau policies have been crafted to take this infiltration into account.

Although these right-wing extremists have posed a growing threat for years, federal investigators have been reluctant to publicly address that threat or to point out the movement’s longstanding strategy of infiltrating the law enforcement community.

No centralized recruitment process or set of national standards exists for the 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States, many of which have deep historical connections to racist ideologies. As a result, state and local police as well as sheriff’s departments present ample opportunities for white supremacists and other right-wing extremists looking to expand their power base.

In a heavily redacted version of an October 2006 FBI internal intelligence assessment, the agency raised the alarm over white supremacist groups’ “historical” interest in “infiltrating law enforcement communities or recruiting law enforcement personnel.” The effort, the memo noted, “can lead to investigative breaches and can jeopardize the safety of law enforcement sources or personnel.” The memo also states that law enforcement had recently become aware of the term “ghost skins,” used among white supremacists to describe “those who avoid overt displays of their beliefs to blend into society and covertly advance white supremacist causes.” In at least one case, the FBI learned of a skinhead group encouraging ghost skins to seek employment with law enforcement agencies in order to warn crews of any investigations.

Why do I say it’s happening all the time? Because I remember what happened when the issue was brought up in President Barack Obama’s first year in office:

IN 2009, SHORTLY after the election of Barack Obama, a Department of Homeland Security intelligence study, written in coordination with the FBI, warned of the “resurgence” of right-wing extremism. “Right-wing extremists have capitalized on the election of the first African-American president, and are focusing their efforts to recruit new members, mobilize existing supporters, and broaden their scope and appeal through propaganda,” the report noted, singling out “disgruntled military veterans” as likely targets of recruitment. “Right-wing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to exploit their skills and knowledge derived from military training and combat.”

The report concluded that “lone wolves and small terrorist cells embracing violent right-wing extremist ideology are the most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States.” Released just ahead of nationwide Tea Party protests, the report caused an uproar among conservatives, who were particularly angered by the suggestion that veterans might be implicated, and by the broad brush with which the report seemed to paint a range of right-wing groups.

Faced with mounting criticism, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano disavowed the document and apologized to veterans.

So, yeah. American conservatives are just fine with police shootings. In fact, they encourage them.

Adam West. the Batman of my childhood, died at 88

From Variety

Adam West — an actor defined and also constrained by his role in the 1960s series “Batman” — died Friday night in Los Angeles. He was 88. A rep said that he died after a short battle with leukemia.

“Our dad always saw himself as The Bright Knight, and aspired to make a positive impact on his fans’ lives. He was and always will be our hero,” his family said in a statement.

West became known to a new generation of TV fans through his recurring voice role on Fox’s “Family Guy” as Mayor Adam West, the horribly corrupt, inept and vain leader of Quahog, Rhode Island. West was a regular on the show from 2000 through its most recent season. West in recent years did a wide range of voice-over work, on such shows as Adult Swim’s “Robot Chicken” and Disney Channel’s “Jake and the Neverland Pirates.”

But it was his role as the Caped Crusader in the 1966-68 ABC series “Batman” that defined West’s career.

With its “Wham! Pow!” onscreen exclamations, flamboyant villains and cheeky tone, “Batman” became a surprise hit with its premiere on ABC in 1966, a virtual symbol of ’60s kitsch. The half-hour action comedy was such a hit that it aired twice a week on ABC at its peak. But within two seasons, the show’s popularity slumped as quickly as it soared.

West’s portrayal of the superhero and his alter ego, Bruce Wayne, ultimately made it hard for him to get other roles, and while he continued to work throughout his career, options remained limited because of his association with the character.

Adam West’s Batman definitely wasn’t the sociopath we know and love today. His Batman had a kiddie show quality with lots of bright colors and ’60s go-go music:

Today’s Batman would mumble and drop you off a building. In a battle between the Dark Knight vs. the Bright Knight, the Batman of the ’60s would be destroyed.

But I was a kid in the ’60s, and my life revolved around the two days of Batman episodes in the middle of the week on ABC television. Same Bat time, same Bat channel.

Adam West and Burt Ward were in DC (the city, not the comic company) a year ago at Awesome Con, talking about the old days:

Another icon of my youth, gone.

Roger Ailes, serial sexual harasser, dies at 77

The man who created Fox News is dead:

Roger Ailes, who built Fox News into a cable powerhouse before leaving the company last year, died Thursday morning at the age of 77.

The Ohio-born television pioneer was a confidant of presidents and an acknowledged master of communications. He founded Fox News in 1996 and built it into the nation’s long-running No. 1 cable news network.  Ailes resigned from Fox in July amid charges of sexual harassment.

Yeah, that’s right. I linked to Fox News because the pump truppets won’t believe it otherwise.

There are all kinds of things I could say, but I’ll defer to Tengrain at Mock, Paper, Scissors:

There is nothing nice I could say about him when he was alive, so there is nothing nice I can say about him now. There is probably no one more responsible for the toxic divide in this country than Roger Ailes.

I wish for Ailes everything he ever wished for us on the left.

I will note one thing, though. According to the lying New York Times:

The cause was complications of a subdural hematoma that Mr. Ailes sustained when he fell and struck his head on May 10 at his home in Palm Beach, Fla., the local authorities said.

This means that if he hadn’t been a sexual harasser, he would have instead been at work at Fox headquarters in New York the day he fell, and he would be alive today.

So Karma is a bitch. And she got even with him for sticking his slimy tongue on her face.