News of the Week: Pluto Is a Planet, and Mary Poppins Is Back, but White Chocolate Still Isn’t Chocolate

In the news for the week ending September 21, 2018, are the possible return of Planet Pluto, the definite return of Mary Poppins, the honorable departure of Bill Geist, a questionable list of top toys, and much more.

The dwarf planet, Pluto, in space

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Scientists Are Angry, and They’re Not Going to Take It Anymore

As kids, we were taught that Pluto was one of the ten planets, along with Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Vulcan. Then several years ago, Pluto’s “planet” designation was taken away by the International Astronomical Union, which I bet throws some wild parties. They started calling it a “dwarf planet” because it didn’t meet the new criteria for what a planet should be, which includes the rule that a planet needs to “clear the neighborhood,” meaning it should be big enough and be in an orbit that would allow it to knock other space debris out of the way.

But now, several experts, including University of Central Florida planetary physicist Philip Metzger, say that two centuries of research show that Pluto meets all of the standards of what a planet should be, regardless of what “new” rules the IAU tries to slap on it, and it never should have been downgraded at all.

This isn’t the first time that scientists have wanted to make Pluto a planet again. We told you just last year that NASA was thinking about it. But now it seems like it’s really going to happen. #PlutoIsAPlanet

It’s not the type of thing that you and I cared about, of course. To you and me, Pluto will always be a planet. Also a lovable, animated Disney dog.

Mary Poppins Returns 

A lot of people assume that the new Mary Poppins movie is a remake of the original. Actually, it’s a sequel. It stars Emily Blunt in the iconic role first played by Julie Andrews. It also stars Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, Julie Walters, Angela Lansbury, Colin Firth, Meryl Streep, and … Dick Van Dyke! He’s playing the son of a character he portrayed in the original — not Bert, the jack-of-all-trades, but Mr. Dawes Sr., the old banker. Here’s the trailer:

“Alexa, Ship Me a Live Christmas Tree”

I believe that one day people will never leave the house again. There will be no need. You can already work from home in many cases, you can bank and pay bills online, and everything you might need to live — food, clothing, entertainment — you can buy on Amazon. One day, Amazon will provide us with our spouses and our children (though you’ll probably need to be a Prime member for that).

This week the online retail giant announced that they’re going to be selling live Christmas trees starting this holiday season. They’ll be seven feet tall, and they’ll ship directly to your door. Sure, it will take away the fun of going to the lot with your family and picking out the one you want, the one that looks good, but hey, it’s just a click away!

The trees will go on sale in November and the company says they’ll ship them within 10 days of being cut down.

Toy Hall of Fame Nominees

Chalk is not a toy.

But it’s one of the nominees for this year’s Toy Hall of Fame, along with American Girl Dolls, Chutes and Ladders, Fisher-Price Corn Popper, Magic 8 Ball, Masters of the Universe toys, pinball, the sled, Tic-Tac-Toe, Tickle Me Elmo, Tudor Electric Football, and UNO. A committee will pick the top three contenders, but fans can vote for another toy and get it added to the finalist list, too.

Besides chalk, which would be a weird choice, I’m also not going to vote for Tic-Tac-Toe (which is more of a game that doesn’t even exist until we create it on paper), Masters of the Universe toys (which I was too old for and don’t really get), or electric football, which was always maddening to play (and I don’t mean John Madden). I’m voting for the Magic 8 ball, pinball, and the sled.

Football Player Retires (Mid-Game)

We’ve been seeing more and more professional and amateur athletes retiring early in their careers for health or family reasons. But it’s very rare that they’ll retire mid-game.

That’s what Buffalo Bills cornerback Vontae Davis did last Sunday. He released a statement saying that he realized at halftime he “shouldn’t be out there anymore” and that he “meant no disrespect to teammates and coaches,” though that’s what a lot of his teammates think it is. Davis says he wants to walk away from the game while he’s still healthy.

Actually, this sounds like a good idea. I’ve decided to retire in the middle of this column. Thanks for everything, everyone!

Bill Geist Retires (The Regular Way)

Okay, I’m back. I couldn’t stand those 30 seconds of retirement. Drove me crazy.

I told you last week about CBS Sunday Morning correspondent Bill Geist’s retirement. The show ran a tribute to Geist on Sunday that looked back at 31 years of quirky people and funny road trips.

There aren’t many people on TV who can do what Geist did in the way that he did it, and he’s going to be missed.

RIP Peter Donat, Marin Mazzie, Andre Blay, and Alan Abel

Peter Donat was a veteran actor who appeared in numerous TV shows and movies, but he is probably best known for playing Fox Mulder’s father on The X-Files. He died last week at the age of 90.

Marin Mazzie was an award-winning Broadway star who appeared in such shows as Ragtime, Man of La Mancha, Passion, and Kiss Me, Kate. She also appeared on many TV shows, including Still Standing (she played Kevin Nealon’s wife). She died last week at the age of 57.

If you ever watched movies on videocassette, you have Andre Blay to thank. He changed the entertainment industry when he came up with the idea. Blay died last month at the age of 81.

Alan Abel was a notorious prankster who fooled the world several times over the years with various big hoaxes. He even convinced The New York Times that he had died in 1980, which the new, real obituary in the paper points out in a clever way. Abel died last week at the age of 94.

This Week in History

Agatha Christie Born (September 15, 1890)

In 1926, the mystery writer vanished without a trace for several days. Here’s how the Post covered the story.

Billie Jean King Beats Bobby Riggs (September 20, 1973)

Just a couple of months after King and Riggs played their “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match at the Houston Astrodome, they appeared together on an episode of The Odd Couple.

This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: Daydreaming Women (September 19, 1959)

Daydreaming Women by Constanin Alajalov
Daydreaming Women
Constanin Alajalov

The Post probably couldn’t put this Constantin Alajálov painting on its cover today. At least not the panel on the left. Can you imagine the outcry? We would be accused of not supporting women in their careers, being old-fashioned, wanting to keep women in the kitchen. None of those things would be true, of course, but people would misinterpret it (and completely ignore the panel on the right) and bring their own agenda to it, and someone would create a hashtag that would go viral on Twitter. And cable news channels would do 90 segments on it, with experts and pundits, each side yelling at each other via those tiny boxes that litter the screen.

Quote of the Week

Perhaps you missed the big Sesame Street controversy this week. Lucky you! (Until this moment, that is.) Mark Saltzman, a former writer for the show, said that he always felt that longtime roommates Bert and Ernie were gay. But not so fast! One of the men who created the characters, Frank Oz, says that isn’t true at all. Sesame Workshop, the company that produces the show, released this statement:


If Bert or Ernie were on Facebook, their relationship status would be “It’s Complicated.”

White Chocolate Deserves Respect

Tomorrow is National White Chocolate Day, and the first thing we have to say, of course, is that white chocolate isn’t really chocolate at all (it doesn’t contain chocolate solids). The second thing we have to say is that some people, even pastry chefs, believe that we should consider white chocolate “chocolate” because it’s all made from the same base.

At any rate, white chocolate doesn’t get that much respect. It’s the Rodney Dangerfield of chocolate. No one talks about white chocolate, you don’t go out and buy white chocolate candy bars, and the only time most people have white chocolate during the year is on special occasions or holidays (and even then it’s an afterthought). I love the taste, but admit that I rarely think of buying it.

But let’s put it in some recipes, including these White Chocolate Blondies from AllRecipes, this White Chocolate Hot Cocoa with Coconut and Rum from Martha Stewart, and these White Chocolate Buckeyes.

I also came up with these Black and White Oatmeal Cookies, which are a variation on the classic Toll House cookie. If you want, you can just use all white chocolate chips instead of using both milk chocolate and white chocolate, but then you’d have to change the recipe’s name.

Next Week’s Holidays and Events

Fall Begins (September 22)

If you want to be precise about these things, it begins at 9:54 p.m. EDT.

Hobbit Day (September 22)

Yup, it’s a real holiday, and it celebrates the birthdays of the fictional characters Frodo and Bilbo Baggins. It’s part of Tolkien Week, in honor of author J.R.R. Tolkien.

Here’s a joke: If Chuck Norris starred in one of the Lord of the Rings movies, what would the title be? 

A Force of Hobbit.

Feel free to use that joke on Hobbit Day.


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  1. Pluto has always been a planet, and always will be. It was only ‘demoted’ a number of years ago because we’re in SUCH a scary, screwed up day & age! This is a why we love and seriously need our dogs more than ever; whether he or she is similar to Disney’s wonderful Pluto or not. Someone sent me ‘Da Vinci Boston Terrier’ on YouTube. There are scenes in it not unlike the 1/5/57 ‘Doggy Buffet’ classic POST cover by Richard Sargent. Regarding Alajalov’s 59 year old cover (from ’59), you’re probably right in your reasons about it “upsetting” the people of today, who sadly seem to get off on being upset nearly all the time about something! As far as the panel on the left goes, the lady (at work) looks overworked and tired, and sees herself assisting her future husband doing the dishes. She’s also smiling and looks happy with things on her terms. Let’s hope it works out that way. It could and should. The right side panel is the one that really IS upsetting. The amount of stuff on her kitchen counter alone is ridiculous and overwhelming. These women might do well (if it were possible) to try a little job switching like Lucy & Ethel did that time. Either way, our TV watching husband needs to get a clue, RIGHT NOW; thank you!


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