News of the Week: Christmas Cards, Cigarette Commercials, and the Cosmic Crisp

For the week ending December 1, 2017, Bob Sassone looks at new cigarette ads, music in space, the importance of Christmas cards, a new fruit, and more.

Christmas card writing

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It’s That Time of Year

It’s December 1, which means if you haven’t already sent out your Christmas cards, you really should start thinking about it. What? You say sending out paper Christmas cards is sooooo 1997? Oh, how wrong you are.

I still send out Christmas cards every year because I like the tradition, I like the way they look, and because they take more effort than shooting someone a quick email, e-card, or (please, please don’t do this!) text. Sure, if you’re just an acquaintance of someone online and you’ve never even met or talked to them, it’s okay to send them an email greeting (as long as you say more than “Merry Christmas” in that email). But if it’s a family member, friend, or someone else you care about, why wouldn’t you take the time and effort to get some nice cards, sign them, and put them in a mailbox? I know in this column I lament that too often these days we go for the quick and convenient solution when it comes to communication, but honestly, would it hurt you to buy some cards and show people that you really care, at the most wonderful time of the year?

I mean, Bing Crosby sings that he’s dreaming of a white Christmas “with every Christmas card I write” not “every Facebook post I like.”

An Anti-Smoking Ad, Brought to You by Tobacco Companies

The last TV commercial for cigarettes aired on The Tonight Show on the last day of 1970. They’ve been banned ever since. Now they’re coming back, but I’m guessing it’s not in the way cigarette companies ever wanted.

This weekend you’ll start seeing a new ad that the cigarette companies are being forced to pay for, thanks to a 1999 lawsuit won by the Clinton administration. It’s actually an anti-smoking ad, which warns people, especially teens, that “more people die every year from smoking than from murder, AIDS, suicide, drugs, car crashes, and alcohol combined.” Here’s the Associated Press story on the new ad:

Space Music

Now you can own the music that NASA launched into space 40 years ago.

In 1977, the space agency launched two gold records on the Voyager probes, one on Voyager 1 and one on Voyager 2. The records had classical and pop music etched into them, as well as words and other noises to give anyone (or anything) who might find them out there a sampling of what life on Earth is like. Among the music selections are pieces from Beethoven and Bach as well as Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode.” Ozma Records launched a Kickstarter and raised enough money to release a vinyl box set of the music in January (it is already available on CD).

It’s really wild to think that these probes, launched 40 years ago, are still way out in space, ready to be found, and these gold records listened to by whoever is out there.

RIP Jim Nabors, Rance Howard, Peter Baldwin, and Mitch Margo

Jim Nabors played quirky gas station attendant and mechanic Gomer Pyle on The Andy Griffith Show and later on his own sitcom, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. He also possessed a great baritone and released several albums. Nabors died yesterday at the age of 87.

Rance Howard was not only the father of director and actor Ron Howard, he was a veteran actor himself, appearing in many of his son’s movies and tons of TV shows over the years. He died Saturday at the age of 89.

Peter Baldwin seemingly directed every sitcom in history, from The Andy Griffith Show and The Dick Van Dyke Show to The Wonder Years and NewsRadio. He started out as an actor. Baldwin died Sunday at the age of 86.

Mitch Margo was 14 years old when he sang the Tokens’ hit “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” He died Friday at the age of 70.

The Best and Worst of the Week

The Best: I knew that the special Christmas episode of At Home with Amy Sedaris on TruTV was going to be weird, but I didn’t know how inspired the weirdness would be. Who else could do a Christmas show, one where the host shows you how to cook holiday dinner and create fun holiday crafts, that also features the killer Zuni fetish doll from the terrifying ’70s TV movie Trilogy of Terror. As a big (scared) fan of that movie, it was truly shocking (yet funny!) to see the doll running around Sedaris’ studio with a pair of scissors. The doll ends up killing the big guest star, and the incident leads to a Christmas Carol-ish series of events in which Sedaris remembers the true meaning of the holidays. At Home with Amy Sedaris continues to be one of the few laugh-out-loud shows on TV right now, and this could be a new Christmas classic.

The Worst: There seems to be some unbelievably strange backlash against actor Armie Hammer for, well, being an actor. After Buzzfeed posted a really odd takedown of the actor because he likes to act and gets a lot of roles, Hammer said the heck with this and deleted his Twitter account. That move prompted someone at Slate to write an article saying he should “man up” and get back on Twitter. Because real men use Twitter, or something. It’s still a little hazy as to why either of these articles were written, and thankfully, a lot of people are taking Buzzfeed and Slate to task for writing them.

This Week in History

Louisa May Alcott Born (November 29, 1832)

In 1863, the Post published Alcott’s description of what it was like to be a nurse during the Civil War.

Ken Jennings Finally Loses on Jeopardy! (November 30, 2004)

The Seattle resident’s 74-game win streak came to an end when he lost to Nancy Zerg. During the streak, Jennings won over $2.5 million (and he won more on later championship tournaments and other special appearances on the show).

This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: Burnt Turkey (November 29, 1947)

Burnt Turkey
Constantin Alajalov
November 29, 1947

Hopefully this is not a scenario that will play out at your home this holiday season (and late apologies to you if it already happened on Thanksgiving). I love how artist Constantin Alajálov mixes the real with the surreal. The big eyes on our unlucky cook and the big white teeth of the people waiting to eat really stand out. I hope they like mashed potatoes and squash, because that’s what they’re getting for dinner.

The Cosmic Crisp

What exactly is a Cosmic Crisp?

  • a new cereal?
  • a spaceship launched by NASA?
  • a new animated feature from Pixar?

It’s none of those things, actually. It’s a new apple. Yes, they’re still coming out with new apples. It will make its debut in 2018. You can learn about it in this more-interesting-than-you-think segment from CBS Sunday Morning, which goes into the history of the real Johnny Appleseed.

Today is also National Eat a Red Apple Day, so try to, you know, eat a red apple, maybe in these Red Apple Butter Bars or this recipe for homemade sangria.

Next Week’s Holidays and Events

Advent Begins (December 3)

It’s “the time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas.” It’s also the time that kids get to open little windows filled with chocolate every day for a few weeks.

“The Carol Burnett 50th Anniversary Special” (December 3)

The comedienne looks back at her classic variety show with former cast members, such as Vicki Lawrence and Lyle Waggoner (where’s he been?), and fans of the show like Steve Martin, Kristin Chenoweth, and Jay Leno. Airs at 8 p.m. on CBS.

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  1. I absolutely plan on getting the Christmas cards out, and out on time. There’s nothing like a handwritten card, more impressive than ever now! In your ‘how wrong you are’ link on it, I talked about my handwriting skills in the comments, but forgot to mention the 26 capital and small cursive letter examples that helped me more at 7 than the Declaration of Independence. THAT has helped me as an adult, and I LOVE adding the fancy 18th century curlique under my signature, for special people only!

    The anti-smoking ads have to be fined-tuned as far as where they air and to whom. They need to be in the faces of Facebook users (for example) on their laptops getting their dual nicotine and caffeine fixes at dear little Starbucks.

    Jim Nabors was brilliant on Gomer Pyle, USMC but the show never would have been as wonderful as it was without Frank Sutton as Sargent Carter always being driven to the edge of insanity by Pyle. No one could wear a crew cut better than Sutton either.

    I read the link on Armie Hammer. Although I agreed with quite a few of Anne Petersen’s comments, the article almost bordered on personal hatred which (I feel) goes too far.

    His name helps and hurts, being born wealthy also. He certainly seems to have more going for him than old Gosling, much less the ape-ish Jake Gyllenhall or penis-nosed Owen Wilson. Despite that, both of them have a likability factor about them that makes them—likable. Armie Hammer just doesn’t. He really seems like an a****** you want to see get killed off early in any film he’d appear in—very early.

    Love the ‘Burnt Turkey’ cover by Constantin Alajalov. His blend of the serious and cartoon never ceases to amaze me. The link on the apples was pretty interesting too. Haven’t gotten a buzz off apples since drinking apple wine in the ’70s. I spoke about that in my ‘North Country Girl’ comments recently. Hopefully the Carol Burnett Special won’t be ruined by the likes of Amy Schumer and the Owen Wilson-nosed Ellen, Bob!


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