News of the Week: Holiday Season Has Begun, NaNoWriMo Is Here, and This Column Is Rated “G”

In the news for the week ending November 1, 2019, are the start of Christmas season (already?), people writing novels, rats driving cars, eggs being deviled, and more.

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And Kids Haven’t Even Finished Their Candy Yet

I saw my first Christmas commercial of the year on Monday, three days before Halloween. It was for Capital One (apparently you can buy gifts with your credit card). My supermarket is already selling Christmas-oriented boxes of Kleenex, and you can listen to the “Holiday Traditions” station on SiriusXM. Of course, that’s not too early for them. That station actually runs all year long. I’m a big fan of Christmas music, but even I can’t listen to “Silver Bells” in June.

You know Christmas is here when we’re already having silly arguments about “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” a song that is perfectly fine but people want to make controversial anyway. Yes, we’re apparently doing this craziness again. I guess it wouldn’t be the holidays without it.

There’s a theory, cliché at this point, that Christmas seems to come earlier every year. This happens to be true, though I don’t know if “earlier” is the right word to use. It seems that everything — holidays, TV seasons, the things we do every single day, time itself — are overlapping and happening all at once. There’s no separation anymore, no breathing room. Everything is faster and earlier. The perfect illustration for this is my supermarket in September, when sitting on one shelf they’ll have summer sand pails, back-to-school supplies, and Halloween candy. You don’t know what season you’re in.

They say — and by “they” I mean the talking heads on TV news who seem to be astounded by how calendars work — that the Christmas season is shorter this year, because Thanksgiving is on the 28th. That means there are six fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, less time to shop and make merry. Of course, this is ridiculous because it assumes that everyone in the world starts their Christmas shopping the day after Thanksgiving (and also assumes that this has never happened before). People shop before the holiday starts, and the web has changed shopping completely. But the news has made Walmart start their holiday deals earlier. In October. It started last week, which means you’re already behind on your Christmas shopping. Hurry up, get on over there before everything’s gone!

A Novel Idea

NaNoWriMo stands for “No, Please Don’t Write Any More Bad Novels This Month.” Actually it stands for National Novel Writing Month, the 30-day period every November when many people attempt to write the first draft of a novel. I don’t know how many of these novels are eventually published, but not everything someone writes has to be published. It could be a fun exercise, especially for beginning writers or kids. Just don’t be fooled into thinking this is actually how writing a novel always works. Unless you’re Mickey Spillane.

The Rat Race

Since we’ve eradicated disease, ended poverty, and solved the problem of climate change, it’s time to move on to the next big project: teaching rats how to drive tiny cars.

Yup, that’s what researchers are doing at the University of Richmond, and they’ve found that the driving reduces the animals’ stress. They must not have tested the rats in Boston or Los Angeles. The results could actually help doctors and scientists learn more about the mental health of humans.

But what if a rat steals a car? Naturally they’ll have to call this cat to catch him:

LMNOP

There are some things in life that just shouldn’t be updated or changed. Black-and-white movies, the number of innings in baseball, Jiffy Pop. I’d add to that list “The Alphabet Song,” the tune that taught us all about the letters we use. We all remember that part in the middle where several letters run together, “LMNOP.” Well, it seems that’s now too confusing for kids, so they’ve slowed that part down.

Nothing makes sense anymore.

RIP Robert Evans, John Conyers Jr., John Witherspoon, Bernie Parrish, and Jerry Fogel

Robert Evans was an outspoken movie producer and former head of Paramount who brought to the public such movies as The Godfather, Rosemary’s Baby, Chinatown, The Odd Couple, True Grit, and Love Story. He wrote an autobiography, The Kid Stays in the Picture, which became a documentary. He died last weekend at the age of 89.

Here’s the last tweet he sent, which turned out to be a great way to leave.

John Conyers Jr. was the longest-serving black member of Congress in history. The Korean War veteran served the state of Michigan for 53 years. He died last week at the age of 90.

John Witherspoon was a comic and actor who starred in such films as Friday, Bulworth, and House Party, as well as TV shows like The Tracy Morgan Show, The Boondocks, Black Jesus, and The Wayan Bros. He died this week at the age of 77.

Bernie Parrish was an All-Pro cornerback for the Cleveland Browns who was an advocate for players’ rights, and the rare player that stood up to and tried to unionize the NFL, a move that led to his release from the team. He wrote a book critical of the league, They Call It a Game. He died last week at the age of 83.

Jerry Fogel starred in the ’60s sitcom The Mothers-in-Law. He was also a recurring character on The White Shadow and made appearances on The Bob Newhart Show, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and Marcus Welby, M.D., as well as the movies The Day of the Locust and Tora! Tora! Tora! He died last week at the age of 83.

Quote of the Week

“Now they are mushy, dingy, gray and sometimes cold. I look forward to them the way I look forward to finding a new, irregularly shaped mole.”

—New York Times food critic Pete Wells on the German fried potatoes at Peter Luger, in his zero-star review of the famed steakhouse

This Week in History

New York City Subway Opens (October 27, 1904)

It’s the largest subway system in the world, with 472 stations, but Boston has the oldest underground transit system, with the Tremont Street subway having opened in 1897.

MPAA Film Ratings Take Effect (November 1, 1968)

Motion Picture Association of America president Jack Valenti decided to end The Hays Code, which had been used by the film industry since 1930, in favor of a new letter system. The letter ratings used until 1970 included G (for General Audiences), M (for Mature Audiences), R (Restricted), and X (You Shouldn’t Be Watching This). In 1970, GP (which confusingly stood for Parental Guidance) was added, and ages for the other categories were changed. That lasted until 1972, when the letters became G, PG, R, and X. (Someone needs to make an LMNOP-type song for the ratings.)

In 1984, complaints from parents about the violence and gore in two movies forced the MPAA to create another category, PG-13 (Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13). Do you know what the two movies were? Answers at the end of the column. No Googling!

This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: “The Penciliter” (October 30, 1948)

Magazine ad

Maybe you can use one of these for NaNoWriMo, especially if you’re “a smoker who writes” or “a writer who smokes.”

National Deviled Egg Day

It seems to me that Deviled Egg Day should be on October 31, for obvious reasons, but it’s actually November 2. Here’s the recipe for Curtis Stone’s Herbed Deviled Eggs, and here’s one for Curry Deviled Eggs, which utilizes Greek yogurt. If you like deviled eggs but have always wondered how they would taste fried, try this recipe from Food Network. The network also has this recipe for Bacon Deviled Eggs, which I’m including because it has bacon.

Next Week’s Holidays and Events

Daylight Saving Time Ends (November 3)

Many people hate the fact that it’s now going to get darker a lot earlier, but I truly love it. Remember to turn your clocks back an hour before you go to bed Saturday night. So it’s actually November 2 you have to do this, unless you’re up past midnight.

King Tut Day (November 4)

This isn’t the day the boy king was born, it’s the day in 1922 that explorer Howard Carter and his crew found Tut’s tomb.

Answers to trivia question: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Gremlins.

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Comments

  1. I just love this column every week so much. Wonderful alternative viewpoints and information on things you don’t hear about otherwise. I agree wholeheartedly on how bad it is with these holidays being pushed further and further back. It’s terrible.

    I like how Bob McGowan jr. put it as being under siege. That’s exactly how I feel too. I also remember that December column he mentioned where you were both chastised harshly regarding that song. I think those people criticizing should have kept quiet. Bob jr., I’m sorry about that 2nd round of punishment you got the same week some months later. You and your female co-workers of long ago, pay no attention. You and they did nothing wrong for back then; it was a different world. You add so much to a very high percentage of the wonderful columns here every week by the way, with your comments. You have this way of saying things in terrific unusual ways I’ve never heard before and love, that is for darn sure. I don’t know how you do it, but please keep doing so. You are in the right place at the right time with this magazine.

    In addition Bob jr., you’re very respectful of the women featured in various columns here like Val Lauder to name two recent ones. I’m so glad you put in your comments to her, but am disappointed I don’t see such support also coming from women. Bob Sassone, wouldn’t you agree? I love the way you write this column, and am impressed at how you write what you do as well. You never disappoint me with News of the Week!

  2. Well Bob, you’re certainly on top of the Christmas ridiculousness we’re already under siege with. This on top of another week of fires in my bleak state. My Christmas shopping is DONE, with some new gifts and several renewals to The Saturday Evening Post. The only other ‘gifts’ are my beautiful Christmas cards incorporating arts and crafts.

    I shouldn’t even mention “Baby It’s Cold Outside” as it got us into a heapin’ helpin’ of chastisement in your 12/7/18 column, sir. The problem is still with us, but does appear to have died down somewhat (we’ll see…) so it’s best I said nothing. At least you only got balled out on this. Earlier this year I had it socked to me AGAIN in your column and Andy Hollandbeck’s (the same week–yes!) for my Halloween costume as a shirtless but with the collar and cuffs, Chippendale’s guy a number of years ago.

    Thanks so much for including the SNL clip of ‘Toonces the Driving Cat’. This looks to be from about ’91 or ’92; very definitely near the end of SNL’s golden, creative era; lasting maybe into ’93 or ’94. It had a good 19-20 year run but will still be on the air (at this rate) in 2120.

    I so hate smoking, but LOVE this ‘Penciliter’ ad by Ronson. The handwriting, the font, the artwork? Print ad perfection!

    I love the ‘Fall back’ too because it’ll make this Sunday (anyway) longer. After the week I’ve had, I need to sleep a lot of extra hours to the sounds of silence. Spring Forward in February though is really ______ !

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