News of the Week: Manhattan Blackout, E.B. White, and Iced Coffee You Need for Red-Hot Summer Days

In the news for the week ending July 19, 2019, mysterious blackouts, E.B. White’s legacy, evolving courtship, and commemorating Apollo 11.


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In the Dark

Blackouts are strange.

One minute you’re watching TV or you’re at a Jennifer Lopez concert or you’re standing in an elevator, and then suddenly the power goes out. There’s always that first moment where you’re surprised and confused, wondering what just happened, when you’ve probably been through the same thing 20 times before and would realize what was happening if you just gave it a few seconds’ thought. But that’s human nature. It’s always a shock. Something you take for granted, something that is literally available to you every second of your life, goes away and your immediate thought is, “Oh wow, the power went out!”

I’m rarely bothered by a blackout. My thinking is, it’s no problem that the power went out — I have plenty to occupy me while I wait for it to come back on — I just hate not knowing how long it’s going to last. It’s going to be just an hour? Great! It’s going to be 10 hours? Well, that’s not so great for the Stouffer’s Lasagna (made with real cheese!) I have in my freezer, but at least I know what’s going on.

But you know what’s stranger than a blackout? A televised blackout. That’s what we had last Saturday night on all of the major cable networks, as they reported live from Manhattan while a blackout affected around 72,000 people. You knew it was important when CNN’s Brian Stelter came on — on a Saturday night! — in casual clothing and reported from the street near his apartment. They even interviewed tourists! And — surprise, surprise — they weren’t even expecting a blackout when they came to New York City! So crazy!

What did these tourists do during this tragic, life-altering event? Uh … well, they got something to eat and walked around.

It’s funny; while I understand that a sudden, unexplained blackout in the center of the media and financial universe is newsworthy, you wouldn’t get live, national coverage if a blackout affected 72,000 people in Iowa, Florida, or Oregon.

But what’s even stranger still is that this blackout occurred exactly 42 years to the day of New York’s famous 1977 blackout. That one lasted 25 hours and resulted in almost 4,000 arrests due to looting and vandalism. So if you were stuck in the three-hour-long blackout last weekend, you were lucky. It could have been a lot worse.

E.B. White’s On Democracy

When I need to calm down, escape, and get some clarity — which is often in this day and age of 24-hour cable news, internet chatter, and political horrors — I turn to one of my favorite writers, E.B. White. There’s a new book out that compiles many of his essays and letters focusing on America and the role democracy plays. The introduction is by historian Jon Meacham, and you can read it for free at Literary Hub.

How Couples Meet

We used to meet our partners at school, at work, through neighbors, or maybe through friends. Now we don’t even have to leave our homes, apparently.

RIP John Paul Stevens, Jim Bouton, Johnny Clegg, Freddie Jones, Pernell Whitaker, Denise Nickerson, Charles Levin

John Paul Stevens was nominated for the Supreme Court by President Gerald Ford in 1975, retiring in 2019 after serving 35 years, the third-longest term. He died Monday at the age of 99.

Jim Bouton was a baseball pitcher, an author, and even an actor. He was best known for his tell-all book Ball Four, but as a pitcher he won 20 games for the Yankees and won two World Series games. As an actor, he appeared in movies like The Long Goodbye and the TV series based on his book. He died last week at the age of 80.

Johnny Clegg was an acclaimed South African musician known for his anti-apartheid songs. He died Tuesday at the age of 66. “Warsaw 1943” is a beautiful song.

Freddie Jones was a veteran British actor who appeared in TV shows like Emmerdale, Nicholas Nickleby, and The Ghosts of Motley Hall, as well as movies like The Elephant Man, Dune, Wild at Heart, and Young Sherlock Holmes. He was the father of actor Toby Jones. He died last week at the age of 91.

Pernell Whitaker was a Hall of Fame boxer who held titles in four different weight classes and won an Olympic gold medal in 1984. He died Sunday after being hit by a car. He was 55.

You know Denise Nickerson from her classic role as bratty Violet Beauregarde in the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. She also had regular roles on Dark Shadows and The Electric Company. She died last week at the age of 62.

Charles Levin was a veteran character actor who had roles on such shows as Seinfeld (he was the mohel in the classic episode “The Bris”), Alice, NYPD Blue, Murphy Brown, and Hill Street Blues, as well as movies like Manhattan, Annie Hall, and This is Spinal Tap. His body was found this week after he was reported missing on July 8. He was 70.

This Week in History

Apollo 11 Blasts Off (July 16, 1969)

CBS has been doing a fantastic job covering the 50th anniversary of the moon landing this week. They even broke into regular programming with a “Special Report” to mark the moment Apollo 11 launched. Among the many stories the network aired this week was this one, about the women who sewed the suits that the astronauts wore. I never knew about this before, and it’s fascinating.

Uploaded to YouTube by CBS Sunday Morning

More links: Esquire has a feature about astronaut Michael Collins, who stayed in the capsule while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon; USA Today has a list of moon books you should read; The Washington Post has the story on what Major League Baseball did when the Eagle landed; and NPR interviews two engineers who worked on the command module.

Disneyland Opens (July 17, 1955)

28,000 people visited the park on opening day, but only half of them had tickets. The rest either had counterfeit passes or climbed over the fence to get in.

Here’s the Post’s Troy Brownfield on the history of the park’s monorail.

This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: Chase & Sanborn Coffee (July 13, 1957)

Chase & Sandborn Coffee ad
(Click to Enlarge)

Nine out of ten disembodied heads agree: Chase & Sanborn coffee is the freshest!

Summer Coffee

Chase & Sanborn is still around — they’re owned by the same company that owns Hills Bros. and Chock Full o’Nuts — so you can use it to make some cold drinks to get you through the rest of this month and August. How about this Pioneer Woman Iced Coffee from Ree Drummond, or this Vanilla Iced Coffee. If you don’t feel like making your own, pick up some Sparkling Coffee, which is iced coffee mixed with citrus flavors and carbonation, and is apparently a trend I missed along the way. If you want coffee you can eat from a stick, try these Mint Mojito Iced Coffee Popsicles.

Popsicle is a brand name, so you can just call them “ice pops.”

Next Week’s Holidays and Events

Ratcatcher’s Day (July 22)

There’s a dispute about which day this holiday, which celebrates the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, actually falls. Hamelin, Germany uses June 22, while other places around the world use July 22.

So if you celebrate on July 22, I hope you have a good Ratcatcher’s Day. If you celebrate on June 22, I hope you had a good Ratcatcher’s Day.

Pioneer Day (July 24)

If you live in Utah, this is a state holiday for you. It marks the day Mormons arrived in Salt Lake Valley from Emigration Canyon in 1847.

Featured image: Shutterstock.

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  1. Bob: I think you’re right about that being Shelley Winters! I did a quick search and found similar ads with people like Donna Reed and Tom Ewell. I think Chase & Sanborn did a series of ads like that with Hollywood stars.

  2. What a strange coincidence of the New York blackout happening exactly 42 years to the day from the one in 1977. The link came up at first then did a ‘blackout’ of its own since I’m not a subscriber. I don’t want to have to login to ANYTHING I don’t already have to. It really should have been Bruce Springsteen performing ‘Dancing in the Dark’ when the the lights went out on the 13th, instead of J. Lo.

    I love the quote of the week at the Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church. No doubt it WAS too hot to keep changing the sign from what I’ve heard on World News Tonight all week. Yikes! In an odd rarity it’s only 76 degrees out here, today. Don’t be too jealous now, 100-117 will be on it’s way—–oy vey!

    Thanks for the CBS Sunday Morning link. I never thought about what went into making the space suits. God bless every one of those women, and ILC for so accurately anticipating the conditions the astronauts would be facing. I realize now, more than ever, what a fantastic feat the whole thing was. The technology in 1969 was far more impressive for that time than what we have now is for this time, for sure.

    I can’t seem to get an accurate answer as to what the admission price currently is for Disneyland Bob, even online. I hear $125.00 or $150.00 depending on the DAY from different people. On top of THAT, overcrowded and hijacked by Star Wars, I say NO thank you!

    Isn’t that Shelley Winters in the vintage Chase & Sanborn coffee ad? She was always a great actress and had beautiful legs back then. Many people that do remember her, only do when she was older and no longer thin.


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