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News of the Week: Punch Clocks, Pun Contests, and the Picking of Blueberries

Published: July 7, 2017

Old Technology, Young Students

There are lots of ways for teachers to teach students about history. They can do it the usual way, through the reading of books and taking of tests, or through pop culture and even by showing students the history of food. Another way to do it is with technology, which is how Stephen Scully is doing it.

The Westford Academy teacher is letting his kids get hands-on with old technology to show them what the world was like before iPads and smartphones. The kids are using manual typewriters, rotary phones, punch clocks, inkwells, and even a German Enigma machine that teaches them about codes and World War II.

I think my favorite part of the story is that Scully plans to teach them about bomb shelters by packing them into the school’s janitor’s closet and have them eat freeze-dried food. Now thats hands-on.

The World of Puns

Puns can be painful, but reading about them doesn’t have to be. Fast CompanysJoe Berkowitz has a new book out titled Away with Words: An Irreverent Tour through the World of Pun Competitions. I bet you didn’t even know there were “pun competitions,” but they exist. They range from the Punderdome (sigh) 3000 in Brooklyn, New York, to the O. Henry Pun-Off World Competition in Austin, Texas.

I guess there are competitions for everything.

The book’s title is a pun itself, a play on the phrase “a way with words.” Wordplay in the titles of books about puns and punning is so common — a quick search turned up The Pun Also Rises, Have a Little Pun, and It’s a Punderful Life — that I have to wonder if it might actually be a law, and whether there’s a special police farce to enforce it.

Olivia de Havilland vs. FX

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was really enjoying Feud, the FX drama that looks at what went on behind-the-scenes of the Bette Davis/Joan Crawford movie Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? A lot of people like the series. Olivia de Havilland isn’t one of them.

The Gone with the Wind actress is suing the network and producer Ryan Murphy for how she is portrayed in the show. De Havilland is played by Catherine Zeta-Jones, and the real de Havilland doesn’t like how the network “appropriated Miss de Havilland’s name and identity and placed her in a false light to sensationalize the series and promote their own businesses.”

In other Olivia de Havilland news, she celebrated her 101st birthday on July 1.

How Do You Like Your Steak?

Well done. I like my steak well done. You have a problem with that?

I once had a friend look at me sideways with a shake of the head when I told him I liked my meat well done. He couldn’t understand how anyone could like their meat “burnt.” But here’s the funny thing about food: You like it the way you like it. It’s not “burnt” to me; it’s the way I think it tastes best. I’m not sure how people can think it’s okay to be the food police and dictate how you should prepare something. You even get it from cooks in restaurants (and I can testify to this because I worked in restaurants for several years), because cooks seem to know how their customers should eat their food.

I’m in the minority, though. According to data gathered from Longhorn Steakhouse from May 2016 to May 2017, most people like their steak cooked medium, followed by medium-well, medium-rare, well done, and then rare.

Americans eat 25 billion pounds of meat a year, a statistic that surprises me. And I bet most of that was consumed this past Tuesday.

RIP Skip Homeier, Barry Norman, Van Amburg, and Loren Janes

Skip Homeierwas a veteran actor who started as a child under the name “Skippy” Homeier. He won acclaim in the stage and movie versions of Tomorrow, the World!, in which he played a Nazi youth who came to live with a family in the United States. He had roles in hundreds of movies and TV shows over the years. He died on June 25 at the age of 86, but his children announced his death just this week.

Barry Norman was an acclaimed movie critic and TV host in Britain. He hosted the BBC show Film for over a quarter century, wrote for The Guardian, The Observer, and The Times, and was the author of many books. He passed away last Friday at the age of 83.

If you lived in the Bay area in the 1970s and early ’80s, you know Van Amburg. He was considered the Walter Cronkite of the area, a solid, well-loved anchor for KGO-TV. He died on June 22 at the age of 86.

Loren Janes appeared in every single movie ever made. Okay, that’s an overstatement, but not by much. Janes was a stunt man who performed in hundreds and hundreds of movies, from 1955’s Jupiters Darling to 2002’s Spider-Man. He did stunts in many Steve McQueen films, including doubling for McQueen in the famous car chase in BullittJanes died June 24 at the age of 85. Here’s his IMDb page for all of his credits.

This Week in History

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams Die (July 4, 1826)

That’s right, both Jefferson and Adams not only died on the same exact day, that day just happened to be the Fourth of July. Not odd enough for you? Well, both Jefferson and Adams were also born on the same day: October 30, 1735!

P.T. Barnum born (July 5, 1810)

The famous showman was well-known for the phrase “There’s a sucker born every minute,” which might be why you believed me when I said that Adams and Jefferson were born on the same day. (Jefferson was actually born on April 13, 1743.)

This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: “Fork in the Road” by George Hughes (July 7, 1956)

Fork in the Road
George Hughes
July 7, 1956

A lot of families are hitting the road for vacations this month, much like the couple in this George Hughes cover. Only today they wouldn’t be arguing over an unfolded map. More likely than not they would be yelling at the GPS voice about which way to go.

Pick Blueberries Day

Picking fruit is something I don’t think about. I know a lot of people go apple-picking in the fall, but the only picking I do is when I go to the supermarket and pick apples and oranges and blueberries out of the produce bins. (This paragraph makes you believe I eat a lot more fruit than I actually do.)

This Monday is Pick Blueberries Day. It’s probably way too hot where you are to eat hot soup, so how about this Special Chilled Blueberry Soup from Chef Scott Jenkins? Or if you don’t mind turning on your oven, you can make Blueberry Buckle or this Blueberry-Oatmeal Breakfast Cake.

And here’s Fats Domino singing “Blueberry Hill.” There aren’t enough blueberry songs.

Next Week’s Holidays and Events

Barbershop Music Appreciation Day (July 13)

This is one type of music that isn’t appreciated these days. The only time you hear it is if someone is making fun of it or performing it ironically. There should be a barbershop quartet supergroup, maybe with Bruno Mars and Justin Bieber. That would get barbershop music on the charts, and kids would download barbershop songs to their iPhones.

Bastille Day (July 14)

It marks the day in 1789 when the Bastille Prison in Paris fell. It became a national holiday in 1880.

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  • (Continued)

    It looks like that’s not going to happen. The link explains Olivia says she didn’t engage in the type of conversations she’s portrayed as having engaged in in ‘Fued’. She feels the series has damaged the classy image she’s always had in avoiding that very type of thing.

    De Havilland is 101 and sharp as a tack, so the lawsuit obviously has validity. Hopefully it’s been conveyed to her by Jones she meant to honor Olivia in her portrayal, and Olivia advised Jones it has nothing to do with her personally. That’s what I hope happens anyway. Maybe it will.

    I’m with you Bob, on liking my steak well done, and have no apologies about it either. And horrors: I love my occasional pizza cheese-less with extra sauce, and often vegetarian. A pizza without cheese or meat? What kind of pizza is THAT?? One that’s fantastically delicious, and healthy! Thanks for asking!

    The exact death dates of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams on July 4th is a bit mind boggling. I did learn about this in school. It’s still not the shocking list of coincidences of Lincoln and Kennedy that I still find bone chilling. I ran across it in a drawer last month.

  • Stephen Scully is onto something good with his students in getting them to interact with the forerunners of what we have now. These kids will have a perspective on technology that few if any people their age have.

    This should also include history of film when they weren’t never ending lookalike pyrotechnic reliant crap, and music that wasn’t just corporate “crybaby” boy band barf, and “gospel” style of elongating every vowel! It’s especially important because this “music” has been the norm for over 20 years, and appears to be permanent at this really late date.

    I too am one of the people who initially did NOT expect to be interested in ‘Fued’ much less really like it. (Sadly the opposite seems to be the case with the new ‘Twin Peaks’). No slight to Susan Sarandon, she was great, but the real frosting on the cake was Jessica Lange AND Catherine Zeta Jones as Olivia de Havilland!

    I think one of the things that drew me into ‘Fued’ was a lot of the ‘Mad Men’ style of quality. I actually thought to myself I hoped Olivia was watching it too, and loving Catherine’s portrayal of her! I even thought further it would be wonderful for Catherine to meet Olivia!