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News of the Week: Facebook’s Future, Han Solo’s Past, and a Bunch of Flowers You Can Eat

Published: April 13, 2018

Zuckerberg!

We all go through a lot of painful times in our lives. We endure broken bones and root canals and tax audits and maybe even some particularly bad paper cuts. When I was a kid, I had such a bad earache one night that I had to go to the emergency room. (Oddly, the pain went away while I was sitting in the waiting room.)

But there are very few things in life as painful as watching people of a certain age who know nothing about technology talk about technology. That was the case this week when several senators and representatives questioned Mark Zuckerberg about the latest privacy scandal involving Facebook.

I’m not a fan of social media (you may have read about that in this column 2, 3, or 5,000 times), but it would have been better to get some questions from people who actually knew something about, well, social media. Sure, some of the questions were clever, some incisive, and some even focused on Facebook’s power, but too many questions showcased a lack of understanding of not only how Facebook works but how internet advertising works in general, especially if you love chocolate. Some of the people asking questions actually thought that FaceMash — a joke version of Facebook from when Zuckerberg was still in college — was still in business.

It’s not that a lot of the officials asking questions didn’t know how algorithms work or how cookies are stored on a browser. A lot of people don’t get that stuff. But if you’re holding two days of hearings questioning the CEO of a company that shared the data of 87 million of its customers, you would hope those people would know that when you “reboot,” it doesn’t mean you put your boots on again.

 

It was almost enough to make me feel bad for a multi-billionaire. Almost.

Solo!

I have a problem with the Star Wars movies. I haven’t yet seen the most recent film, The Last Jedi, but I did see all of the films before it and something really bothers me.

(This is where I put a space and give you plenty of notice that SPOILERS FOLLOW.)

Han Solo dies in The Force Awakens. Now, this in itself isn’t a big deal, since heroes die in movies all the time, but it makes it hard to watch the first three in the series (A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi). If you go back and watch them now, you see that when they succeed in their mission and Han and Princess Leia have a family, it doesn’t lead to peace and happiness in the universe. It leads to the birth of their son, who grows up to kill a bunch of people, lead a new war, and eventually kill his father Han Solo. That’s really an odd thing to have in the back of your mind as you watch everyone smiling and Ewoks dancing at the end of Return of the Jedi.

Anyway, here’s the trailer for Solo: A Star Wars Story, the prequel that depicts the early adventures of Han (played by Alden Ehrenreich). It’s directed by Ron Howard and opens on May 25.

111?!

The world’s oldest military veteran (and probably the oldest person in the U.S.) just took a ride on a private jet.

Richard Overton of Texas served in the Army during World War II, and he recently received a free trip to visit the National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. He still lives in Austin, Texas, in the same home he built 70 years ago.

It’s really amazing to think that Overton was born in 1906. That’s the year of the great San Francisco earthquake, six years before the Titanic sank, and eight years before the start of World War I. Teddy Roosevelt was president.

Herman Wouk Deserves a Medal

It’s not 111, but 102 years old is pretty good, too. That’s the age of writer Herman Wouk, famous for the novels The Caine Mutiny, The Winds of War, and War and Remembrance. He even wrote for comedian Fred Allen in the 1930s and ’40s! There’s a petition on the White House website to honor Wouk with a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Wouk turns 103 next month, so let’s get that medal for him now. He needs 100,000 signatures before the White House will consider it.

Friday the 13th

If you’re the superstitious type, you’re probably spending today avoiding black cats, ladders, and mirrors (you don’t want to chance breaking one). Maybe you’re so paranoid that you don’t even want to take any risks and you’re reading this on your laptop while curled up in bed.

You’ve probably wondered how Friday the 13th became Friday the 13th. If you’re really young, you might think it has to do with the gory film franchise (it doesn’t). Instead, it involves the Knights Templar, Judas Iscariot, and/or the number 13 itself.

If you do fear the day, you’ll be happy to know there’s a name for your fear: friggatriskaidekaphobia. That’s something you can tell people today. You can explain that you’re not crazy, because there’s actually a name for it.

RIP Susan Anspach, Cecil Taylor, Soon-Tek Oh, Chuck McCann, and Mitzi Shore

Susan Anspach was an actress who appeared in movies like Five Easy Pieces and Play It Again, Sam and TV shows like The Slap Maxwell Story and The Yellow Rose. She died last Monday at the age of 75.

Cecil Taylor was an acclaimed jazz pianist known for his innovative style. He died last Thursday at the age of 89.

Soon-Tek Oh appeared in a million TV shows and movies over the years. Too many to list here. He died last Wednesday at the age of 85.

Chuck McCann was a veteran comic and actor who had a really varied career, from roles in movies (The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter) and TV shows to classic, long-running TV commercials. He even originated the voice of Sonny, the “Cuckoo for Cocoa-Puffs” bird. He died Sunday at the age of 83.

Mitzi Shore was the owner of The Comedy Store in Los Angeles, where many comics, including Robin Williams, David Letterman, Jay Leno, Billy Crystal, and Roseanne Barr, got their start. She was the mother of Pauly Shore. She died Wednesday at the age of 87.

Quote of the Week

“We had to decide, do we go back into the lobby or into the elevator? Those are terrible options when what you’re looking for is a hospital.”

Late Night host Seth Meyers, whose wife went into labor in the lobby of their apartment building last weekend

This Week in History

The Great Gatsby Published (April 10, 1925)

The F. Scott Fitzgerald novel is on most “best novels of all time” lists. You can read it for free at the Internet Archive.

Apollo 13 Launched (April 11, 1970)

The seventh manned Apollo mission almost ended in tragedy when an accident occurred around hour 56. It was the basis for the 1995 Tom Hanks movie Apollo 13 and the source of a famous quote that a lot of people get wrong.

This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: Men Working (April 12, 1947)

Men Working
Stevan Dohanos
April 12, 1947

My favorite detail of this Stevan Dohanos cover is that the guy hasn’t even finished painting the “Men Working” sign.

Spring Recipes

To me, spring food = boring food. In the winter we have enticing, filling comfort foods like pasta and chili and steak and soups. Spring means … salad?

But if we’re going to eat during the warmer months of the year — and the latest medical evidence suggests we should — let’s make sure they’re the best salads we can eat. Here’s a recipe for a classic Cobb Salad, which seems to have everything in it but chocolate and potato chips. Here’s a Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad, and our own Curtis Stone has a recipe for an Apple Salad. And here’s a list of edible flowers (yes, flowers) you can throw into your favorite salad. Dandelions are okay, but stay away from those azaleas.

Supposedly, if you eat a lot of salads, they’ll help you live longer. Maybe to 102 or even 111.

Next Week’s Holidays and Events

Taxes Due (April 17)

Spring is also tax time! You get two extra days to file this year because the 15th is a Sunday and the 16th is Emancipation Day in Washington, D.C.

National High Five Day (April 19)

Maybe you can give yourself one when you finish doing your taxes.

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  • That Stevan Dohanos cover reminds me of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (both the Danny Kaye film and the James Thurber story). Now that the weekend is finally here, I shall make a conscious effort to spend more time dreaming of adventure and less time living in what one of my friends has described as “The Hellscape.”