We lost 2 good people this week: Jack Horkheimer and Satoshi Kon

Two people I greatly admired died this week and I’d like to pay them some tribute in my own limited way…

Jack Horkheimer
If you grew up watching PBS in the 80s or 90s, no doubt you know this man. Jack Horkheimer was the host of the always educational and shamelessly enthusiastic Star Gazer TV show (very 90s webpage warning!), which only lasted for about 5 minutes and basically “filled in the cracks” between late-night programming. Jack clearly loved to share his knowledge of the stars and planets and wanted everyone to appreciate the beautiful heavens above.

Jack Horkheimer - on Star Gazer, doing what he did best!

Yep, the synthy whistle theme song (which never, ever changed!) and the hilarious green screen effects were cheezy and quirky, and that’s what made this show so fun to watch. As a kid who grew up wanting to be an astronomer (so I could one day be Captain Picard, of course) I relished the chance to see Jack’s report on where I could find Mars in the sky or where a constellation might be that season. And I’d go out and apply what he’d taught me, and to this day, no matter where I am, if there’s a night sky, I take a few moments to study it. Thanks to Jack, I keep looking up!

Jack made naked-eye astronomy easy to understand and incredibly fun. Jack Horkheimer was, to me, the epitome of what a great science teacher should be. I hope someone is able to continue Star Gazer in his honor and keep alive what he did with such zest for so many years.

Satoshi Kon
I can’t believe this amazing anime director died so young at 47, I was completely shocked to hear the news today of his sudden passing. Satoshi Kon created several film masterpieces of Japanese animation, many of which have made their ways to cinemas outside of Japan: Perfect Blue, Paprika, Tokyo Godfathers, and Millennium Actress, to name a few.

I love Japanese animation, both as an escape through entertainment and as an art form that can be challenging and rewarding (depending on what you’re watching!) The older I get the more I tend to lean more towards artistic animes aimed at the *ahem* more aged set, but directors like Satoshi Kon prove repeatedly that this art form can push boundaries and convention while still being immensely entertaining.

I’ll never forget watching the terrifyingly good Perfect Blue in my freshman college dorm, on the edge of my seat, cringing but still completely rapt by the story. A year or two later I came across Millennium Actress, a beautiful and touching film my friend Dan very aptly calls a “love letter to Japanese cinema.” The intertwining stories and timelines work seamlessly with masterful use of the animation. This famous scene from the film displays a bit of what I mean:

If you’ve watched a good amount of Japanese films you’ll recognize conventions he’s paying homage to here, not just through theme but through the composition of the shots and the color palettes.

Kon was one of the best and brightest in the Japanese animation scene, and many of us were looking forward to seeing what his career would reveal as he was still so young. It’s hard to convey how sad his death is for those of us who really enjoy this art form. Satoshi Kon left us way too soon.

Jack Horkheimer and Satoshi Kon, you are missed. May you rest in peace.