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News of the Week: Summer Heat, Sam Shepard, and the Scariness of Mac and Cheese

Published: August 4, 2017

There’s Only One Good Thing about August 

I walked to the convenience store today and it was like walking through a sauna, the kind of heat that makes your skin feel dry and moist at the same time. There was no air, no breeze, nothing but a wall of heat and steam that made every step a chore. When I got to the store, it was air conditioned, and I wanted to just stand there all day long next to the Slim Jims. But I don’t think the guy behind the counter would have liked that, though he would have had someone to talk to.  

Like most people who don’t have air conditioning, I spend most of my time in the summer sweating (the rest of the time is taken up killing bugs). I don’t like summer, and I particularly don’t like the time of summer we’re officially in now, the “dog days of summer.” According to National Geographic, the phrase doesn’t come from the image of dogs lying around in the heat during the month of August; it actually comes from Greek beliefs about a star. 

I like August for one thing and one thing only: It’s the signpost that says SUMMER IS COMING TO AN END. Soon the kids will be back in school, Labor Day will be over, and we’ll be digging our sweaters out of the closet. I can’t wait. 

RIP Sam Shepard, Judith Jones, Jeanne Moreau, Marty Sklar, John G. Morris, Patty Deutsch, Michael Johnson 

Sam Shepard was a true Renaissance man, one who worked as a writer, actor, artist, and maybe even philosopher. He wrote many plays, including Buried Child (for which he won the Pulitzer Prize), True West, and Fool for Love. He acted in many films, including The Right StuffBlack Hawk Down, and Frances, and wrote many screenplays and short story collections. Shepard died last week at the age of 73. 

Shepard is one of the writers interviewed for the new documentary California Typewriter, which opens on August 18: 

If not for Judith Jones, we might not know Julia Child and Anne Frank. Jones was the editor who saw the value in Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking and rescued Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl from the rejection pile. She also worked with writers such as John Updike, Lidia Bastianich, and Anne Tyler. She passed away Wednesday at the age of 93.  

Jeanne Moreau was an acclaimed French actress who appeared in such films as Diary of a ChambermaidJules and Jim, and The TrialA 1965 profile of her in the Post paints her as an artist of intellect, culture, and sensitivity. She died last week at the age of 89. 

Marty Sklar was a Disney “Imagineer” whose work was vital to the development of the Disney theme parks. He died last Thursday at the age of 83. 

John G. Morris was a veteran photo editor who worked for LifeThe New York TimesTime, Magnum Photos, The Washington Post, and National Geographic, in a career that started during World War II. He died last Friday at the age of 100. 

You remember comedian and actress Patty Deutsch from her appearances on Match Game and Tattletales. She also appeared in Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In and did voice work for many cartoons. She died last Wednesday at the age of 73. 

Michael Johnson was a musician whose songs you loved but you didn’t know who did them, songs like “Bluer Than Blue,” “Give Me Wings,” and “The Moon Is Still Over Her Shoulder.” He also did this beautiful hit from 1979:  

Johnson died last week at the age of 72. 

Flake News 

Two new books you might be interested in. The first, by Republican Senator Jeff Flake, is called Conscience of a Conservative. If that title sounds familiar to you, it’s also the title of the classic 1960 book by Senator Barry Goldwater. Flake’s book is getting a lot of attention. 

The other book is Sting-Ray Afternoons, a memoir by sportswriter Steve Rushin that looks back at his years growing up in the 1970s. Since I also grew up in the 1970s, I’m putting this on my “must-read” list, even if I wasn’t a big rider of bikes.  

Should You Be Afraid of Mac and Cheese? 

The short answer I want to give is “no.” The longer answer is … well, let’s have James Hamblin of The Atlantic answer that question from a reader. 

Specifically, the reader is referring to New York Times piece from earlier this year that reported that the powdered cheese used in many mac and cheese products might be hazardous. Of course, the real story isn’t something you can fit in a headline or tweet, so Hamblin gives up the real deal.  

This is all part of a fantastic new column by Hamblin called “Asking for a Friend,” where he answers medical and health questions from readers. He did another health-oriented video series for the magazine called “If Our Bodies Could Talk” (you can check out the archive here) and released a book by the same title last year.  

Mission Control Is Falling Apart 

NASA’s control center at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas — the HQ that controlled Apollo 11, the Space Shuttle, and many other space missions — is not in good shape. It hasn’t been used since 1992, and though tourists still visit it, it has been pretty much ignored for the past couple of decades. It’s falling apart and some equipment has even been stolen. As Today’s Kerry Sanders reports, the facility has started a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to restore it and create an interactive tourist center, one that looks exactly as it did in the 1960s and ’70s — right down to the coffee cups and ash trays on the consoles!  

Man Has Lived Alone on Island for 28 Years 

In 1989, Mauro Morandi landed his catamaran on Budelli Island, which is near Sardinia and Corsica. He liked the place so much that when he found out that the island’s caretaker was retiring, he decided to take the job.  

He’s still there, and at the age of 78, he doesn’t want to live anywhere else. The island used to be a big tourist spot, but because the Italian government closed it off for ecological/historical reasons, Morandi is the only one there. 

This Week in History 

President Harding Dies (August 2, 1923) 

As Post Archive Director Jeff Nilsson explains, Harding was plagued by many scandals at the time of his death. Samuel Blythe wrote a defense of Harding for the July 28, 1923, issue of the Post, and Harding’s wife, Florence, was reading it to him when he died in bed. 

Ernie Pyle Born (August 3, 1900) 

The famous war correspondent died from gunshot wounds on a small island in Japan on April 18, 1945. Writer and 60 Minutes essayist Andy Rooney was a friend of Pyle, and Mike Leonard has a nice piece about the friendship at the National Society of Newspaper Columnists website. 

This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: “Inn In Ogunquit” (August 2, 1947) 

Cover

Inn in Ogunquit
John Falter
August 2, 1947

I live in a big tourist town (the population almost doubles in the summer) known for its beaches, and I see this scene all the time: people walking down the street carrying things to the beach. Times have changed, though. The people in this John Falter cover don’t seem to be taking much. Maybe an umbrella, a picnic basket, and … what is that yellow thing, a bird? A duck? The people I’ve seen this summer are carrying chairs and backpacks and giant coolers I’m sure are just filled with soda pop.  

August Is National Peach Month 

I can’t eat peaches. I like the taste but the fuzzy skin sets my teeth on edge. I do love nectarines though, which I think of as “peaches you can actually touch.” 

But if you have no such phobia (I mean “adorable quirk”), here are some recipes for National Peach Month, including a Peach Johnnycake and this Rustic Open-Faced Peach Pie. 

I understand that both of these recipes require an oven being turned on, and maybe in this heat you don’t want to do that. In which case I’d just get some peaches from the store and eat them. Or some nectarines. 

Next Week’s Holidays and Events 

National Underwear Day (August 5) 

I guess you can celebrate the day by … wearing underwear? 

National Lighthouse Day (August 7) 

As the National Lighthouse Foundation site explains, the act passed by Congress in 1789 also mentions beacons, buoys, and public piers. But “National Lighthouses, Beacons, Buoys, and Piers Day” doesn’t have the same ring to it. 

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  • Well I’m glad your torturous walk was finally rewarded with that Wizard of Oz moment of stepping into the cool air conditioned store, Bob. Hopefully your walk home was better, provided the bag wasn’t too heavy!

    I definitely don’t like summer either. The only time I ever did was as a boy in the ’60s and ’70s because it meant no school, and 7 days a week trips to the Sherman Oaks Park’s Olympic-sized pool with the diving boards. Mom would take us in her lime-green ’61 Ford Falcon station wagon, and on the weekends my Dad would in his black ’65 Lincoln Continental (with the suicide doors). SUCH a beautiful car!!

    Ironically, I kind of enjoyed the 6 week summer school time between 6th and 11th grade. It was only between about 9am-12pm, let me learn something new with no pressure, and made the transition back to school in September that much easier.

    After high school, reality hit about what a drag summer really was. All the carefree fun of the pool and annual family vacations were over. My parents disguised what an ugly, awful season it really was.

    It went by quickly back then, not anymore. Technically it’s exactly mid-summer now, but with global warming I’m looking at late November/Thanksgiving before autumn starts. Looks-wise, it starts in October with the falling leaves. But with 90 degree weather, Santa Ana winds and endless fires, it feels really weird seeing Christmas displays in stores and ads on TV.

    Hang in there. I hope a beautiful fall will be starting sometime next month. Just get plenty of electrolytes everyday in addition to enough water and enjoy the covers of the Saturday Evening Post each day also. I know I do!

    It’s hard to believe the John Falter cover above is 70 years old this week. It could almost pass as being from the present if some of the people’s arms were computer-altered to have them holding cell phones to their ears.

  • Joan Jeffries

    I love the magazine and read it from cover to cover and then pass it on to an elderly friend who does the same.

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