News of the Week: Willard Scott, Words of the Year, and Way Too Much Happiness

Oh, what a week! Longtime Today weatherman Willard Scott retires; votes are in for the worst toy of the year; how sleep and happiness affect longevity; and more.

A very happy woman

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Willard Scott Retires

Longtime Today weatherman Willard Scott retired this week after 65 years (!) at NBC. For the past several years he has been doing his birthday wish segments from his home in Florida. On Tuesday the cast and crew of Today paid tribute to Scott , a tribute that includes an appearance by someone you probably haven’t seen in many years … Gene Shalit!

And if being on NBC for 65 years wasn’t enough of a career, Scott was also the very first Ronald McDonald. A very odd, very scary Ronald McDonald:

Hopefully one day Scott will be honored with his own tribute and Smucker’s jar on Today when he reaches the age of 100.

The Words of the Year

What happens when you get a word that isn’t actually a word? You get the Word of the Year.

Merriam-Webster has announced their word of the year, and it’s “-ism”. That’s not a typo, that’s the whole word. It isn’t really a word, of course, it’s a suffix, the ending of many of the most-searched-for words from 2015, like socialism (thanks, Bernie Sanders!), racism, terrorism, and fascism.

Meanwhile, picked “identity” as their word of the year. I guess we can be thankful that Merriam-Webster and didn’t pick an emoji as the word of 2015.

For the Love of God, That’s Not a Hoverboard!

No hoverboards

We’ve seen the words of the year, but what’s the worst toy of the year? It’s Barbie!

That’s according to the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, who picks the worst toy of the year every year. The 2015 award didn’t go to the Sky Viper Video Drone, the Bratz Selfie Stick Doll, the Nerf Rebelle Charmed Dauntless Blaster, the Tube Heroes Collector Pack, or the Brands We Know book series, which teaches kids about famous companies and products. It went to Hello Barbie. That’s the Barbie that you can talk to and will talk back to you (ah, the magic of computers and “the cloud”). In the words of CCFC’s Josh Golin: “It’s the perfect storm of a terrible toy, and threatens children’s privacy, well-being, and creativity.”

What does he mean by the doll threatening the privacy of children? It turns out that Barbie can be hacked. Bring on the class-action suit!

While we’re on the subject of toys, can we talk about the hoverboards that seem to be sweeping the country this Christmas season? First, several airlines have banned the toys on flights because there have been several reports that they actually catch on fire, and Amazon has stopped selling many of them until companies can prove that they’re safe.

But I wanted to mention one important thing in this discussion: THEY AREN’T HOVERBOARDS! There’s nothing about them that “hovers.” Maybe companies want to tie Back to the Future 2 into their products somehow, but real hoverboards don’t have wheels. These are more like mini hands-free Segways.

Star Trek Beyond Trailer

There’s a really big movie opening today. That’s right, Sisters, the new comedy with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler premieres! (You can see that Star Wars movie when it comes out on DVD — little artsy movies like that always look better on the small screen anyway).

In other movie news, the trailer for Star Trek Beyond debuted this week, and if you’ve always wondered what Star Trek would be like with a Beastie Boys soundtrack, well, here you go:

Too Much Sleep, Too Much Happiness


I was reading recently about a guy who sets his alarm clock to wake him up in the middle of the night. He doesn’t have to get up at that time, he just likes the feeling of being awakened in the middle of the night and being able to turn off the alarm and go back to sleep, knowing he still has several hours of sleep ahead of him.

I thought of that person when I read these two stories, about how too much sleep isn’t good for you and how too much happiness actually doesn’t make you live longer. In fact, experts say that getting too much sleep can be as bad for you as smoking cigarettes! It’s best to get less than 9 hours of sleep a night. And don’t sit a lot either. People who sit and sleep a lot are four times as likely to die young.

So I guess the takeaway from these studies is this: Stand around and smoke more cigarettes and strive to be as miserable as possible.

Sliced Chocolate?

So you love chocolate, but you’ve always been frustrated that you haven’t been able to buy it in a form like Kraft wrapped cheese slices? Well, you’re in luck. Introducing sliced chocolate! A Japanese company called Bourbon created the dessert product and there are a lot of uses for it. You can eat it just as it is or you can put it in desserts or in crepes, or even on white bread with some ham and mustard (note: I’m not responsible if you actually try that last one). They’re available in Japan, but you can also get them online.

Now we just need to see cheese in the shape of Santa Claus every holiday season, so we can put them in stockings.

Pickles and Pine Trees

I love television this time of year. Not only do we get Christmas specials to watch, we also get Christmas episodes of our favorite TV shows.

CBS has been doing something interesting the past few holiday seasons. They’ve been showing classic, colorized episodes of I Love Lucy, and they get good ratings every year. This year the network is doing a little more for Christmas. On December 23 at 8 p.m., they’re going to show the I Love Lucy Christmas Special, which will include the 1956 Christmas episode and also the classic episode where Lucy does a commercial for Vitameatavegamin (which I watched again recently, and it’s still very funny). Then on Christmas night, the network is going to show two colorized episodes of The Andy Griffith Show: “The Christmas Story” (the one where the gang has to deal with Mayberry’s Scrooge-like department store owner) and “The Pickle Story,” which happens to be the favorite episode of several Andy Griffith Show cast members (and mine too). It’s the one where Aunt Bee enters a pickle contest but her pickles taste like kerosene.

I’d love to see more networks do this, air episodes of classic TV shows from decades ago. Looking at the ratings, viewers love to see stuff like that, and not just on Me-TV or TV Land.

Christmas Recipes

I don’t know what the weather is like where you are, but it has been in the 50s (and some days almost 60) here in Massachusetts. So maybe it has been hard for you to get into the Christmas spirit. But it’s only a week away so you don’t have much time to get into that spirit. Here are some recipes that might help.

How about some Stuffed Celery, which sounds like an appetizer you would serve at a holiday party. Though keep in mind that New York Times food editor Sam Sifton is against appetizers. Or maybe you’re in charge of making the potatoes this year and you want to try some Rosemary Mashed Potatoes. For dessert you could make one of the 20 Christmas desserts suggested by Martha Stewart. And for a snack that also makes for a great gift, how about some Peppermint Bark?

Upcoming Events and Anniversaries

National Christmas Tree
By White House photo by Susan Sterner. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

National Crossword Puzzle Day (December 21)

The ______ (Comes before second – 5 letters) crossword puzzles appeared in ______ (Country where Winston Churchill was born – 7 letters) in the 19th ______ (Another word for 100 years – 7 letters).

Beethoven’s Fifth debuts (December 22, 1808)

Is there a more famous opening to a piece of classical music? You can listen to the entire piece here.

Van Gogh cuts off his ear (December 23, 1888)

Why did he do it? The truth may be different than you think.

First National Christmas tree lighting (December 24, 1923)

President Calvin Coolidge pressed the button to light the first National Christmas Tree, but he probably didn’t say much after pressing it.

Christmas (December 25)

This day we celebrate the birth of another great man. That’s right, writer and Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling, born in 1925.

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  1. Yeah, Merriam-Webster’s choosing a suffix as an actual word is SO beyond stupid it’s solidly in ‘r’ word territory. That’s a nicely as I can put it here.

    Has anyone ever picked the equally ‘r’ level word “issues” as word of the year? It most recently was used 100’s of times in last night’s Democratic debate almost exclusively instead of the real word: PROBLEM (or PROBLEMS). Issue/issues has been SO over used and abused its come to mean nothing at all at this late date.

    As bad as “awesome’ and “amazing” was also being over used for many years (its largely subsided now) to describe the most mundane, ordinary things, “issues” is far worse because it minimizes extremely serious situations and events as nothing in a very patronizing, degrading way. The more the word problems is denied, the more (duh!) problems we have.

    You’re right Bob, these are NOT real Hoverboards, which is a good thing. The accident and death rates from those would be through the roof, not to mention the lawsuits!! Fortunately the mini hands-free Segways haven’t caused fatalities yet, even though spontaneous fires are still very serious. I do feel though once the battery problems are fixed and proven safe, they’ll be fine. I test rode one at the Topanga Mall in Woodland Hills on a quiet weekday morning in October, and they’re a lot of fun! It just needs perfecting, testing, then be re-introduced.

    I don’t know what to say about ‘Hello Barbie’. Who would have thought she’d be a high-tech booby trap?!


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