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News of the Week: Hugh O’Brian, Hand Soap, and the History of Uncle Sam

Published: September 9, 2016

RIP Hugh O’Brian and Jon Polito

Hugh O'Brian

Hugh O’Brian
By ABC Television (eBay itemphoto frontphoto back) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Hugh O’Brian has passed away at the age of 91. He’s best known to people of a certain age as Wyatt Earp in the late ’50s/early ’60s series The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp. He also starred in the private-eye show Search in 1972 and ’73 and appeared in movies like The Shootist, In Harm’s Way, Game of Death, Twins, The Cimarron Kid, Rocketship X-M, There’s No Business Like Show Business, as well as in many TV shows. He also started the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership organization, which aims to inspire kids and help them become leaders and good citizens. He created it after meeting and working with Albert Schweitzer.

If you watched any television in the past 35 years, you knew Jon Polito. He guest-starred on numerous shows, including Seinfeld (he was landlord in the episode where Kramer and Newman reverse their peepholes), Modern Family, Miami Vice, The Equalizer, NYPD Blue, Murder, She Wrote, and too many others to mention. He was also a regular on Crime Story, Ohara, and Homicide and appeared in such movies as Stuart Little, Highlander, The Tailor of Panama, and Big Eyes. He was also a common sight in Coen brothers movies, like The Big Lebowski, Barton Fink, The Hudsucker Proxy, The Man Who Wasn’t There, and Miller’s Crossing.

Polito passed away from cancer at the age of 65.

Mom Was Right: Just Use Regular Soap and Water

If you’re like me, you wash your hands a few times a day with antibacterial soap. Turns out, we’ve probably been fooling ourselves for the past few decades.

Not only do scientists say that antibacterial soaps aren’t any more effective than regular soaps, they might actually be harmful. The FDA is giving companies one year to get rid of products that contain triclosan and triclocarbon, along with 17 other antibacterial chemicals currently found in the soaps. Of course, most companies will just reformulate their products, so we probably won’t notice any difference unless we read the ingredient list.

Interestingly, the ban will not include antibacterial soaps used in hospitals.

Back to School!

This week marked the return of kids to school. Sorry kids!

Actually, some kids started school in August. As I mentioned last year, I can’t imagine doing that. It just wouldn’t feel right. When I was a kid in Massachusetts, we started school after Labor Day, and that is still true today.

Philip Gulley has a really nice piece about the kids going back to school — how the neighborhood is quieter when they’re back in class and how school has changed since he was a kid. And here’s a series of covers from The Saturday Evening Post and The Country Gentlemen that show how much dogs hate school.

A Worrrrrrrld of Pure Imagination

Last week, Gene Wilder passed away, and many publications and websites gave tributes. One of them was The New Yorker, which ran a Willy Wonka-themed cartoon that nobody understands. Slate actually came up with 38 things that are wrong with the cartoon.

Sure, the cartoon is easy to “get,” but it still doesn’t make any sense. Was the cartoonist on deadline and had to get something done quickly? It’s just odd and lame. I mean … dankyougene?!

This Week in History: Star Trek Debuts

Star Trek — or as it’s known in fandom, Star Trek: The Original Series — debuted on September 8, 1966. It was almost canceled after two seasons, but a fan campaign saved it and it lasted for one more season. Little did they know that it would lead to so many spinoffs, so many movies, so many comic books and action figures and conventions that are still going strong all these years later.

A new series, Star Trek: Discovery, will premiere on CBS’s All-Access streaming network in January 2017 (after debuting on the CBS broadcast network).

This Week In History: The United States Becomes “Uncle Sam” (September 7, 1813)

The nickname “Uncle Sam” has been used for a very long time, but how many people actually know how the U.S. got that moniker? No one is 100% sure, but evidence points to it being named after New York meat packer Samuel Wilson during the War of 1812. Then again, “Uncle Sam” is mentioned in the lyrics of the Revolutionary War-era song “Yankee Doodle,” though it’s not clear if those lyrics refer to the United States or to something else.

This Week in History: Japanese Bomb Oregon (September 9, 1942)

Yes, I’m as surprised as you are. I never thought the Japanese had bombed the continental United States during World War II, but it actually happened. A Japanese plane, piloted by Nobuo Fujita, dropped bombs in western Oregon in order to start major forest fires.

Fujita actually came back to Oregon several times, to plant trees and dedicate the spot where he dropped the bombs. His trip was paid for by donations in Brookings, Oregon, and later he paid for several residents to visit Japan.

Believe it or not, this wasn’t the only event in Oregon involving a Japanese bomb. In May of 1945, school children found a Japanese balloon in the woods, and as they were dragging it out, a bomb attached exploded, killing five students and their pregnant Sunday school teacher.

National Honey Month

I never think about honey. I never buy it and never really think about making anything with it. If I do consume honey, it’s from foods I buy that already have honey in them. It’s so sticky I hate using it.

But September is National Honey Month so don’t let my frustrations stop you from making these recipes! Here’s one for Grilled Peaches with Mascarpone and Honey, and here’s one with the intriguing name Zion Canyon Lavender Pound Cake.

That might make for a good afternoon snack when the kids get home from school. They’ll dankyou for it.

Next Week’s Holidays and Events

Patriot Day (September 11)

Where were you on 9/11/01? I was at a Barnes & Noble when someone asked me if I had heard what happened. I ran over to Sears and watched the TV coverage with several other shoppers.

POW/MIA Recognition Day (September 16)

This day honors people who were prisoners of war or are still missing in action.

Big Whopper Liar Day (September 17)

Hey, did I ever tell you about the time I created Star Trek?

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  • Well, as far as the soap and water goes I’d heard a few years ago it wasn’t good or all it was cracked up to be. I like liquid soap in the pump bottle, but usually dilute it with water and add just a dash of rubbing alcohol for the sterilizing factor.

    Out here, the LAUSD students have already been back in school for a whole month Bob, since early August in the terrible heat. I remember starting school usually the week after Labor Day, with the first couple of days half days, to kind of ease you back in. It also helped that the huge Sherman Oaks park pool remained open until mid-month so I could still keep my deep end diving fun for the first week of school mental transition.

    Thanks for the dog cover link. I love them all, in particular the
    1936 Country Gentleman cover of the boy and dog. Both faces say it all, don’t they?

    I’d never heard of these Japanese balloon bombs before, and the NUMBER of them! It’s a miracle more people weren’t killed or injured. I found it shocking, even if I shouldn’t have. Those poor innocent people in the Oregon woods. My heart goes out to them, and to all of the victims of 9/11 on this 15th anniversary weekend.