News of the Week: Winter Begins, Apple Grabs Peanuts, and a Gift You Shouldn’t Give to Anyone

In the news for the week ending December 21, 2018, are non-Christmasy weather, justice in the spotlight, the reincarnation of Charlie Brown, Christmas recipes, and much more.

Woman enjoying a walk in a snowy wood

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Let It Snow (Seriously, Let It Snow — Maybe a Dusting?)

When a new season begins, it’s usually not a “light switch” moment. It’s not as if it’s 55 degrees on December 20 and then, when the winter solstice hits on the 21st, it suddenly drops down to 29 and we have a snowstorm. It’s usually more gradual than that — and more disappointing to people who love when it’s more cold than warm. For the next few days, the temps are supposed to be in the 50s here, and may even hit 60, with lots of rain. No walking in a winter wonderland or sleigh bells jingling.

So if you have snow where you are on Christmas morning, consider yourself lucky.

Winter officially begins tonight at 5:23 p.m. EST, if you keep track of such official things.

Charlie Brown Is Back

You might not know that Apple is going to start creating original programming … some time, somewhere. There’s no word yet on what type of service it will be — probably something based in iTunes, or streaming like Netflix on Apple TV — but they’re starting to buy the rights to various properties for a 2019 launch. They have a new drama coming up about the behind-the-scenes goings-on at a network morning show; it’s based on CNN media guy Brian Stelter’s Top of the Morning book and will star Jennifer Aniston, Steve Carell, and Reese Witherspoon. And they’re going to reboot the ’80s sci-fi anthology show Amazing Stories. Now they’ve announced that they’ve grabbed the rights to the most iconic comic strip in history: Charles Schulz’s Peanuts.

Apple has made a deal with DHX Media to create new animated shorts and specials. (DHX owns the rights to Peanuts along with Sony and the Schulz family).

The new shorts will be exactly like the old ones, only this time Linus will carry an iPad around all the time instead of a blanket, and Lucy will give her psychiatric advice via an app instead of a booth.

By the way, some of Schulz’s work appeared in the Post in 1949, a year before Peanuts made its debut.

Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year Is …

I recently told you about Oxford Dictionaries’ pick for Word of the Year (toxic), so it’s only fair I tell you what Merriam-Webster’s choice is for 2018.

It’s justice. They picked it because of the various investigations involving the president and the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court hearings. The Merriam-Webster site saw a 74 percent increase in the number of searches for the word compared to last year. Other popular words this year include lodestar, respect (because of Aretha Franklin’s death), maverick (because of John McCain), and excelsior (Stan Lee’s call to action). Laurel was also searched for a lot, but not yanny, which is going to further irritate all the people who heard that word in this year’s big audio debate.

In somewhat-related trivia, All in the Family’s Archie Bunker was originally named Archie Justice.

Library Books: A Terrible Christmas Gift

I love books. I support libraries. I support getting books from libraries. But I don’t support giving those books as Christmas gifts.

That’s one of the suggestions in this piece at The Atlantic about people who celebrate a “no-gift Christmas” because they’re trying to find ways to be less stressed out during the holidays. Other suggestions include spending more time together, making something for someone, or simply not buying any Christmas gifts at all.

I know Christmas can be hectic and stressful, with too many commitments and pressure and guilt, and I love some of the suggestions. Put a spending limit on gifts? Great. Buy just for the kids? That can be okay too. But can we draw the line at giving a gift that comes with a time limit before you have to give it back? “Merry Christmas! I know you’ll love this book! It needs to be returned by January 9.”

This is worse than that time on Seinfeld when George gave everyone at work a card for Christmas saying that a donation had been made in their name to The Human Fund, a fake charity he created so he wouldn’t have to buy anything.

I can’t imagine librarians being too keen on someone borrowing books from their library and then giving them to someone else as a gift. But I guess the ultimate revenge for such a gift is to never return it and watch the late fees get higher and higher and higher.

The Rise and Fall of Sears

Back in October, I told you about all the Sears stores that have been closing, including the one I had frequented since I was a kid. More stores are closing, and the future doesn’t look bright for the chain. (There were 2,300 locations in 2010, and that’s now down to around 500.) CBS Sunday Morning did a fascinating piece last weekend on the history of the company and why its fortunes changed so much:

RIP Penny Marshall, Nancy Wilson, Melvin Dummar, Sondra Locke, Colin Kroll, Helen Klaben Kahn, and Michael Paul Smith

Penny Marshall was probably best known as Laverne on Laverne & Shirley (a spinoff of Happy Days), but she was an acclaimed director as well, helming such films as Big, A League of Their Own, and Jumpin’ Jack Flash. She played Oscar’s secretary Myrna on The Odd Couple and appeared in many other sitcoms as well. She even auditioned to play Gloria on the aforementioned All in the Family, but the role went to Sally Struthers. (Marshall’s real-life husband Rob Reiner got the role of Gloria’s husband Mike.) Marshall died this week at the age of 75.

Nancy Wilson was an acclaimed singer of classic standards and jazz, including “Guess Who I Saw Today,” “The Very Thought of You,” and “Face It Girl, It’s Over.” She also hosted her own TV show in the mid-’60s and the popular series Jazz Profiles on NPR. She died last week at the age of 81.

Here’s Wilson’s version of “The Christmas Waltz”:

Melvin Dummar claimed that Howard Hughes had left him millions of dollars after he found Hughes on the side of the road and gave him a ride to Las Vegas. A court ruled the will a fake, and Dummar didn’t get anything. He died Sunday at the age of 74.

Sondra Locke appeared in many Clint Eastwood films, including The Outlaw Josey Wales, Every Which Way But Loose, and Sudden Impact. (She later sued Eastwood in a famous palimony case, winning a settlement.) Locke received an Oscar nomination for her performance in The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter. She died in November at the age of 74.

Colin Kroll was one of the co-founders of the popular mobile game HQ Trivia and the video service Vine. He died earlier this week at the age of 34.

Along with pilot Ralph Flores, Helen Klaben Klahn became internationally famous after crashing in the Yukon and surviving in the wilderness for 49 days. She appeared on To Tell the Truth, wrote a book, and had a movie made about the ordeal, and appeared in the pages of the Post. She died earlier this month at the age of 76.

Michael Paul Smith didn’t plan on becoming well-known when he created a miniature, mid-century small town called Elgin Park and posted the photos online, but he did. He was even profiled by Steve Hartman on CBS. He died last week at the age of 67.

This Week in History

Boston Tea Party (December 16, 1773)

The dumping-tea-into-Boston-Harbor protest began after the Tea Act let the British East India Company sell tea from China without paying certain taxes.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Released (December 16, 1968)

The movie was based on the novel by Ian Fleming. Yes, the same Ian Fleming who created James Bond. In 2015, the Post interviewed Dee Dee Wood, the woman who did the choreography for the Dick Van Dyke/Sally Ann Howes film.

This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: Cutting Down the Tree (December 17, 1955)

Two pulls pull a pine tree though the snow, freshly cut from the woods.
Cutting Down the Tree

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who put up their tree a few (or more) weeks before Christmas, and those who have a tradition of putting it up on Christmas Eve. My family was always in the former group, but I’m sure there are still people who do it the night before, to surprise their kids in the morning. This cover is by John Clymer.

Christmas Recipes

How do you come up with a list of recipes for one of the biggest cooking days of the year? I don’t really have an answer for that. There are approximately 9,000 different ways to prepare each of the foods you’re going to eat next week. I decided to go with the basics and found some classic recipes.

For an appetizer, how about some stuffed celery? Here’s a recipe for roast turkey from Delish, and here’s a recipe for mashed potatoes from Allrecipes. Like carrots? Here’s a recipe I’ve used from Simply Scratch for brown sugar glazed carrots. For dessert, you can impress everyone with some peppermint bark, a classic sticky toffee pudding, this applesauce cake, or one of the 49 various cookie recipes from The New York Times.

If you need a cocktail or two for the holidays (and you probably will), Martha Stewart has recipes for everything from mulled wine and hot buttered rum to a cranberry mule and a Christmas punch.

Here’s hoping that you and your family have a wonderful Christmas.

Next Week’s Holidays and Events

Festivus (December 23)

A Festivus for the rest of us.

Boxing Day (December 26)

This holiday originated in the United Kingdom. It’s also known as Return the Christmas Gifts You Didn’t Like Day.

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  1. An (active) library book as a Christmas gift? That’s really is pretty terrible, unless the recipient is in on the joke ahead of time and will return it by the due date. It’s also just like something ‘George’ would do. I wish there would be a new version of ‘Seinfeld’.

    Thanks for links of Jane Pauley’s special report on the fall of Sears, Michael Paul Smith and Nancy Wilson. She had her own special style as you can hear in this Christmas song, and was under appreciated. Penny Marshall also. Very funny lady on screen, but equally talented as a director of some great films. In addition she was very humble about her accomplishments and seemed like a genuinely nice person.

    The never-ending, Ancestry ads with the really annoying Kelly Ripa have had me keeping the TV off more than usual this month and last. She didn’t “just find out” recently she’s 74% Italian. She’s been talking about it for years on her ‘Live’ show according to my friends (Italian-American and otherwise) that can’t stand her either, Bob.


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