News of the Week: Fall Books, Comma Abuse, and the Weird World of Inebriated Seafood

In the news for the week ending September 28, 2018, are some big-time name changes, too many commas, a stoned lobster, and a voice-activated microwave.

Reading glasses on a book

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If this were 1988 and a time traveler came back in time and told me that in 2018, Bill Cosby goes to prison, there’s a new Magnum P.I., and President Donald Trump addresses the United Nations, I would have probably put that time traveler in the same category as the guy who stands on the street corner yelling at birds. Of course, it wouldn’t have stopped me from asking him what the Megabucks numbers would be on a certain date.

But those are all actual things that happened this week, which leads me to this: There’s so much news coming at us now, and it’s all simply exhausting. It seems like there is BREAKING NEWS every five minutes (and most of it isn’t even “breaking”), and it has made me tense and irritated. I’m not even on social media and I feel overwhelmed. We’re all in information overload, we all have ADD, and we all need a break.

And we can get that break by turning off the TV, putting down our phones, and opening a book. Here are a few new ones that might interest you.

Leadership in Turbulent Times, by Doris Kearns Goodwin (out now). The historian looks back at four presidents — Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Lyndon B. Johnson — and explains how they became leaders.

None of My Business, by P.J. O’Rourke (out now). The humorist tries to explain the financial world to us, including why you’re not rich.

Your Duck Is My Duck, by Deborah Eisenberg (out now). The acclaimed author is back with a book of short stories, her first collection since 2006.

My Life with John Steinbeck: The Story of John Steinbeck’s Forgotten Wife, by Gwyn Conger Steinbeck (out now). This memoir by the second wife of the Of Mice and Men author reveals some things that his fans might not want to hear.

Transcription, by Kate Atkinson (out now). The latest novel from the acclaimed author of Life after Life and A God in Ruins is “a dramatic story of WWII espionage, betrayal, and loyalty.” She’s one of Stephen King’s favorite writers.

The Reckoning, by John Grisham (October 23). Grisham’s latest novel concerns an attorney who tries to defend one of the most-liked citizens of a small Mississippi town, who admits to killing a pastor and friend, but won’t say why.

Cook Like a Pro, by Ina Garten (October 23). This is the Barefoot Contessa host’s 11th book. I don’t know if you’ll be able to actually cook like a pro, but I bet you can make something that tastes really great.

Too Many Commas

Never mind foreign policy, the economy, or healthcare. I’m more interested in what the current administration is doing about punctuation.

The State Department is cracking down on the misuse of commas in official documents and press releases. According to CNN, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has sent out emails asking staff to stop using so many commas. It seems that Pompeo is a big fan of the Chicago Manual of Style.

This is all well and good, and I applaud any attempt to fix bad punctuation and bad grammar. I just hope they’re fans of the Oxford Comma.

By the way, the new Magnum P.I. I mentioned above is missing its comma, too. As I told you a while back, CBS did this on purpose so the title would be hashtag-friendly on Twitter and more easily found in Google searches.

Papa John’s May Change Name to Papa Johns

Let me repeat that if you didn’t get it the first time: Papa John’s wants to change its name to Papa Johns.

Do you notice the difference? The apostrophe in John’s is gone (seems like everyone is cracking down on punctuation this week). It’s not a huge change, but the company is trying to distance itself from controversial founder John Schnatter, who is actually trying to buy back the company.

In other name-change news, Weight Watchers is becoming WW. Not only is this name change confusing, it’s also needless. The company wants to focus more on general well-being and health, and not focus so much on weight loss, because the word weight is probably too politically incorrect.

Isn’t WW rather cumbersome? Do they believe that everyone in the world will just forget that the first W stands for weight?

Not to be outdone, Dunkin’ Donuts is changing its name, too. They’re still going to sell donuts (as well as doughnuts), but they want to be known as a beverage place first, so starting in January, it’s just going to be known as Dunkin’. Because everything is ridiculous.

Do We Need a Voice-Controlled Microwave?

No, of course not. But that’s not stopping them from coming.

Amazon wants to be in every single room of our homes, and one of their kitchen items is a microwave that takes commands via Alexa. The Senior Vice President of Amazon Devices says “the user interface is stuck in the ’70s,” and it’s time for something like this. Yes, those days of pressing a button on your microwave are soooooo 1979.

The only way a voice-controlled microwave would make sense is if it goes to the supermarket for me, places the meals in the microwave for me, and then yells at me for buying microwave dinners instead of cooking something myself.


Did you know that octopuses (and I’ll never believe that’s the plural) are more social when they’re given the drug ecstasy?

That’s the odd headline in this BBC story. I don’t know why you’d want to make an octopus more social, but there it is.

And they’re not the only citizens of the sea who are getting high. Charlotte’s Legendary Lobster Pound, a restaurant in Maine, has been giving marijuana to lobsters to make them more docile and sleepy before they’re, well, thrown in boiling water. The state of Maine has asked the restaurant to stop doing this.

By the way, Social Octopus was the name of my high school ska band.

RIP Gary Kurtz, Jack Young, and Laurie Mitchell

Gary Kurtz produced such movies as Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, American Graffiti, and The Dark Crystal. He died Sunday at the age of 78.

Jack Young was a stuntman who worked on dozens of movies over the years, including Rio Bravo (he’s the guy who falls from the loft after Dean Martin shoots him), D.O.A., High Noon, The Conqueror, 3:10 to Yuma, The Alamo, and How the West Was Won. He died last month at the age of 91.

Laurie Mitchell played the evil space queen in the 1950s camp classic Queen of Outer Space. She also appeared in Attack of the Puppet People and TV shows like 77 Sunset Strip, Perry Mason, and Richard Diamond, Private Detective. She died last week at the age of 90.

Quote of the Week

“Why would they cancel a popular show that everybody loves?!”

—Kyle, surfing around, looking for his favorite TV show, on tonight’s season premiere of Last Man Standing, now on Fox after being canceled by ABC

This Week in History

60 Minutes Premieres (September 24, 1968)

The venerable CBS news magazine celebrated 50 years this week. Here are five times the show shocked viewers, and here’s our interview with humorist Andy Rooney.

William Faulkner Born (September 25, 1897)

The Post published 22 short stories by the Southern writer from 1930 until 1967. He won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1949.

This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: Penny Candy (September 23, 1944)

Boy deciding on penny candy, bored clerk watches
Penny Candy
Stevan Dohanos
September 23, 1944

One of my favorite childhood memories is going to the store and getting a big bag of penny candy and other goodies. The expression on the clerk’s face in this Stevan Dohanos painting is one I remember well. Come on kid, what do you want, I have things to do. 

The taped glass is a nice touch. Probably from kids tapping on the glass too hard, pointing to the candy they want.

National Coffee Day

I always laugh to myself when I hear about this holiday, because people who drink coffee don’t need a special day. They drink it every day anyway. You’re probably drinking a cup right now as you’re reading this.

Saturday is National Coffee Day, and many of the chains are having special deals. I couldn’t find anything for Starbucks, but at Krispy Kreme you can get a free hot or iced coffee of any size. Peet’s is offering a free drip coffee or tea and 25% off a pound of beans at participating locations. And Dunkin’ Donuts is having a “buy one, get one free” promotion on hot coffee all day long.

Oh, sorry: DUNKIN’. I’m never going to get used to that.

Next Week’s Holidays and Events

Clergy Appreciation Month

October is the month when congregations honor their pastors and priests and their families. This month also has Clergy Appreciation Day, which this year is October 14.

Get Organized Week (October 1-7)

New Year’s Day seems like the logical time to change things up and finally get organized, with a fresh new year starting up. But many people (like me) like to do it in the fall, when the air turns cool and kids are back in school and everyone has more energy and it’s time to go to The Container Store and Staples for supplies to get things organized.

But that’s next week. This week, you can still be disorganized and frantic if you want.

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  1. Wow Bob, you’ve come up with some pretty wild stuff this week. I did watch the first episode of the ‘new’ Magnum P.I.’ and it wasn’t as bad a I thought, making allowances for the far-fetchedness of this era in advance. I may watch it here and there. I also watched the new ‘Murphy Brown’. Let’s see how it goes. I only watched the original here and there; never regularly like ‘MacGyver and ‘Hawaii 5-0’ which may have something to do with more acceptance of P.I. Both of the older ‘re-boots’ are unwatchable “Michael Bay” (need I say more??) disasters, strictly cashing in on the names. Too many commas? I find them an important necessity. Occasionally, my sentences run longer. It can be awkward to stop a sentence sometimes, and the commas really help. I say they stay. I say be gone with Papa John’s completely, converting them to the far superior Shakey’s Pizza. Not sure what to make of the octopi/lobster situation. I think the cannabis is certainly safer than ecstasy. There IS too much coming at us Bob, and it is overwhelming. I feel overwhelmed too, and need a break from it all. Being an American is very draining. Keeping the TV off helps a lot, meditation, exercise AND some low Mg Ativan and Xanax within reach as needed! Love the Stevan Dohanos cover A LOT, but would like to see that glass panel replaced with something safer. I also wish the yellow cover blurb box wasn’t there, but it was the logical spot.


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