News of the Week: Christmas Trees, Cassette Tapes, and Cookies Shaped Like Both

Christmas candy wars, cassette tapes making a comeback, National Cookie Day recipes, and more in this week’s pop culture roundup.

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These Are Christmas Trees

The official lighting of the White House Christmas tree was last night, but if you weren’t there you didn’t see it live. For the first time in 33 years there was no Christmas in Washington special on television. The producers couldn’t find a TV network to air it in time. The event had been on TBS for the past 15 years but 2014 was the last year. Here’s the video:

And here’s this week’s Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting. It’s the 83rd lighting of the tree (don’t worry, they get a new one every year).

This Isn’t a Christmas Tree

The Web meme You Had One Job highlights job “fails,” those situations where someone had one job to do and they couldn’t even do that right. For example, maybe someone had to paint the word SCHOOL on a street and ended up spelling it wrong.

I thought of this when seeing this story about the Reese’s Peanut Butter Christmas Trees that look nothing like Christmas trees. If you took the cups out of the package and showed them to someone and asked what the shape was, “Christmas tree” wouldn’t come up in the first 1,000 guesses.

Of course, people are upset and have taken to social media, armed with the hashtags #ReesesTree and #ReesesChristmasTrees. The Hershey Company has apologized and says that it “isn’t the perfect experience we want for our fans.” But come on. They look nothing like trees. They look more like eggs. Maybe that makes things easier for the company when they have to do peanut butter cups that look like Easter eggs come April but it’s not very merry. But if it tastes the same as their regular cups that’s the most important thing. Or as Today’s Willie Geist says, “stop tweeting and start eating.”

The Return of the Cassette Tape

(Shutterstock)
(Shutterstock)

One of the interesting aspects about technology is that old technology eventually comes around again, either as a niche thing or maybe even as a mainstream one. Some people still love pencils and manual typewriters and landline phones and vinyl albums (which even Barnes & Noble is selling, along with turntables) and will never give them up, and now it looks like some people are starting to love cassette tapes all over again.

In this Boston Globe piece, we see that it isn’t something that only unknown bands are putting out or people are creating in their garages. Major bands and major record labels are actually putting out their music on cassettes and vinyl albums again. I remember cassette tapes well. Besides buying them, I used to swap albums with friends and we’d record vinyl albums on the cassette tapes and make mixes, and the quality of the versions we made were often better than the manufactured cassettes. As the article says, beyond portability and nostalgia, I’m not sure what the appeal of cassettes is over other old tech like CDs or vinyl.

Meanwhile, millennials are looking at these things as if they’re quill pens and powdered wigs. I predict the next comebacks we’ll see will be handkerchiefs and movie rental stores.

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice

I’m still not sure about this movie. I’m pretty sure Superman could beat Batman if they got into an actual fight. Batman is just a man, after all, even if he can fight and has some neat gadgets, Superman could just punch him, crush him, set him on fire with his laser eyes, or pick him up and fly him to an ice flow in the Arctic and leave him there until he promises to behave. Maybe the “v” in the title refers to them being on opposite sides of the law in this film. Or maybe Batman has a lot of kryptonite stashed in the Batcave, who knows. I’m assuming they become friendly at some point and join forces because Lex Luthor wants to destroy Gotham and/or Metropolis.

Here’s the new trailer, which debuted this week on Jimmy Kimmel Live:

I like how Superman says to Batman at one point “If I wanted it, you’d be dead already!” so even he knows he could take him.

Now I just want to know why Wonder Woman has to be in this. Isn’t the first meeting between Batman and Superman enough for one movie?

Are You Doing Laundry the Wrong Way?

I’m tempted to just say probably not! and end things there, but hey, maybe you are doing your laundry wrong.

In this video I found on Lifehacker, the Sklar Brothers — whom you might know from their 2004-2006 ESPN show Cheap Seats — explain all of the things that we’re doing with our laundry that we shouldn’t be doing.

Honestly, I think a lot of those are pretty obvious and they’re things we already do or don’t do. Don’t use too much detergent? Don’t overstuff the washer? Wear clothes multiple times? I think we all know these things. I would also add “don’t try to clean your clothes with Listerine” and “don’t throw fish sticks into the dryer to stop static cling.”

I do have a problem with my white socks though. The bottoms are getting blue for some reason. It’s not happening to any of my other clothes when I wash them and it’s only on the bottom of the socks not the top or sides or the inside. Weird.

Game Show Googling

(Shutterstock)
(Shutterstock)

I have a new hobby.

In my obituary for game show host Jim Perry last week, I mentioned that I’ve become obsessed with the game show channel Buzzr. I’m so obsessed with it that I’ve started to watch classic game shows from the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s like What’s My Line?, To Tell the Truth, and I’ve Got a Secret and Googling the names of the contestants to see what happened to them/if they’re still alive, etc. I didn’t say it was a productive hobby, but it is an interesting one.

For example, a 1956 episode of To Tell the Truth had contestant Korczak Ziolkowski, a sculptor who worked on Mount Rushmore and was also at the time working on another project. He was sculpting a giant Crazy Horse memorial on private land in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

I decided to jump online and Google his name, and here’s the interesting thing. The project started in 1948 and is still going on! Besides being a massive undertaking in general, Ziolkowski didn’t want to take any government grants, instead relying on charging admission to the site to fund it. He passed away in 1982 and is actually buried in a tomb at the base of the sculpture. His wife Ruth took over the project, and she passed away in 2014. Their children are now in charge. Here’s the official site for the project, and there’s even a live webcam so you can follow the progress.

How big is it going to be when it’s finished? The four heads of the presidents on Mount Rushmore would all fit into the head of Crazy Horse.

(By the way, if you’ve never seen the above game shows or haven’t seen them in a while, take another look. They’re not just game shows but a fascinating look at the advertising, celebrities, and culture of the time. And Buzzr leaves the old commercials and intros/outros intact in each episode, which is a fantastic thing I hope they never change.)

Update: Mary Tyler Moore Statue Has a New Home

Ffooter / Shutterstock.com
Ffooter / Shutterstock.com

Back in October, I told you about the Mary Tyler Moore statue that was put in storage because Minneapolis couldn’t find a place to put it. But now they have. Starting next week the statue can be seen at the new visitor center at Fifth Street and the Nicollet Mall. She’s gonna make it after all.

Piecaken!

(Shutterstock)
(Shutterstock)

Ordinary pie just can’t cut it anymore, and ordinary cake is just too boring. Cronuts? They’re sooooooo 2010.

Now we have … piecaken! And yes the name says it all: it’s a pie baked inside of a cake! Personally, I think that just calling it PieCake would be enough, but it’s a play on Turducken and you have to keep things consistent.

Pastry chef Zac Young has created one that’s 1/3 pumpkin pie, 1/3 pecan pie, and 1/3 apple turnover cake. It looks great, but I wonder what happens if you don’t like one of the layers? What if you love apple turnovers but hate pumpkin pie? I guess you have to turn the cake on its side and just carefully eat what you like.

Note: If you’re on Weight Watchers or some other diet plan, please be advised that this dessert will probably use up all of your points until April 2016.

National Cookie Day

(Shutterstock)
(Shutterstock)
It’s today, and to celebrate how about cookies shaped like something I mentioned above? And no I’m not talking about cookies shaped like laundry. I’m talking about Christmas trees.

Pillsbury has Swirly Christmas Tree Cookies and Betty Crocker has another type of Christmas Tree Cookie. If you’re a recipe rebel, the Recipe Rebel has No Bake Christmas Tree Cookies that stand up.

And we have a bunch of great cookie recipes, including Cream Cheese Cookies, Zesty Orange Cookies, and Holiday Breakfast Oatmeal Cookies.

I also mentioned cassette tapes above, and I bet you think I couldn’t find a way for you to make cookies shaped like cassette tapes. Oh, you’d be so wrong.

Upcoming Events and Anniversaries

The Halifax Explosion (December 6, 1917)

The explosion, caused by a French cargo ship colliding with a Norwegian ship, killed nearly 2,000 people and injured thousands more.

President Roosevelt’s “A day that will live in infamy” speech (December 8, 1941)

The speech came the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor and officially ushered the U.S. into World War II. (You can also read about Norman Rockwell’s Four Freedoms series, inspired by another speech Roosevelt gave earlier that year.

James Thurber born (December 8, 1894)

Read the short story “You Could Look It Up” that Thurber wrote for The Saturday Evening Post in 1941.

First Nobel Prizes (December 10, 1901)

The first Nobel Prize ceremony lasted only 15 minutes.

Emily Dickinson born (December 10, 1830)

After the poet’s death, her family found close to 1,800 poems that she had written in forty handbound volumes.

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Comments

  1. Thanks for the reply, and the link Bob on the Lucy statue. I didn’t see this until today—busy week. What I have to say on the statue is I hope they get it right next time, even if it takes 15 years.

    I disagree with some of the comments they made about Lucille Ball’s 3 ‘increasingly unsatisfying’ television characters named Lucy. Her 2nd series, ‘The Lucy Show’ (1962-’68) was very funny also, and most episodes of her 3rd series ‘Here’s Lucy’ (1968-’74) were as well.

    She had created this phenomenally successful show with the 1951-’57 series and the 13 hour post ‘I Love Lucy’ series, ‘The Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Comedy Hour (’57-’59) that she could really never top herself in public opinion. She was kind of a victim of her own success.

    In an odd way the Beatles had the same problem. There was a lot of solo work the Fab Four did after the Beatles that was as great, if not greater than the Beatles. But because it wasn’t “the Beatles” in a lot of people’s minds, it was dismissed—completely. Very unfortunate.

    Lucy knew going into ‘The Lucy Show’ it was going to be compared with ‘I Love Lucy’ and worked very hard to have as much in common with it as she could with the type of situations she’d find herself in. Even her character’s last names subsequently were ‘Carmichael’ and ‘Carter’ giving the subliminal link to ‘Ricardo’ and Arnaz with the ‘AR’ commonality.

    She changed with the times and was always cutting-edge on the later shows. Mrs. Carmichael incorporated much of Lucy Ricardo, but was allowed to get into a much broader range of situations Lucy Ricardo could not.

    As Lucy Carter, she brought her own son and daughter into her 3rd series, with her daughter being the perfect ‘second banana’ female character for that show at that time. Lucie Arnaz (along with Gale Gordon) made that a great Lucy series! Lucie Arnaz was/is a great entertainer. It often dealt with the generation gap which was dead on for that time, and she ended it at the right time. All 3 series were perfect for their times, and still are now.

    She was criticized for her views on shows like “All in the Family” and movies glamorizing sex and violence. I can totally understand why she would have, and if she could see the way things are now could justifiably say “I rest my case”.

    I’ve seen nearly all of her shows/series in 2015 on ‘Decades’ and ‘Antenna-TV’ including many ‘All in the Family’ episodes. All of her shows have held up beautifully all these decades later, “All in the Family” not so much, due to its “of that time” topicality. So again, she has the last laugh in more ways than one which is how it should be.

    She just needs a statue to due her justice. She was far more than just a comedienne; she was a serious businesswoman with mind-boggling accomplishments. I’d like a ’60s era likeness with her smiling, and looking every bit the beautiful, sharp, classy, dignified woman she was, on screen and off.

  2. I was pleased to read that the cassette is making a comeback (of sorts) more on principle than the cassettes themselves. What we’ve seen with technology like i-phones, computers and their competitors is constant replacement of the “old” models, which really didn’t have anything wrong with them. It’s strictly about greed and an enabling gullible public.

    All the brainwashing to “have the latest thing” is very powerful and destructive, Bob. You’re being expected to dump only last month’s “must have” like an a dog’s poop bag into the trash.

    Technically most products are always ‘improving’ year after year, and have been since their inception be it autos, bikes, refrigerators, washing machines, irons and too many things to mention here. Most see incremental yearly changes which has always been the case. But really, would you dump your car or vacuum cleaner every so many months for a new one that has some slight something the others don’t have yet? Would you??

    I seriously doubt it. I have an immense respect for my parent’s and grandparent’s generation that were able to take their products in for repairs and it runs like new again. The environment wasn’t being destroyed by product obsolescence and disposability that’s been causing environmental nightmares to greatly worsen.

    I bought a brand new Norelco razor in 1985 I took in to the repair shop for service and sharpening last week for $18.95. That once a year, and new batteries every 4 years. Do I mind? Take a wild guess.

    Unlike mine from that time, made in Holland, they’re now made in China and made to last less than 10 years. With most technologies now “upgrade” (a.k.a. dump) time is more like 10 weeks.

    ——————————-

    I already know how to do my laundry just fine, and the ‘Sklar Brothers’ video just cemented the fact further. I did feel like I needed a bath though after watching these know nothing, know-it-alls, Bob.

    Very pleased to hear Mary’s statue is out of mothballs, in a great place. Your homework assignment from me is a year-end status report on Lucille Ball’s statue. Remember when I came up with the perfect statue idea? Ms. Ball, circa 1966 as Lucy Carmichael.

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