News of the Week: Bad Diets, Unused Gift Cards, and the Adorable, Headless Robot Kitten

In the news for the week ending January 10, 2020, are a Christmas tree that’s still up, promises to bring down weight, an adorable headless robot kitten, and much more.

Collection of low-carb diet options

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Food for Thought

I saw the Rockefeller Center tree on TV a few days ago, and my first thought was “That’s weird … why is that still up?” And then I realized it was only the first week of January.

Does it seem to anyone else like Christmas was two months ago? It actually felt that way the day after Christmas. The “feeling” of the season seemed to vanish rather quickly, the ho-ho-ho turning to ho-hum (though if you have kids and/or snow on the ground where you are, your mileage may vary). It’s been sunny and a little warmer than it should be here and just doesn’t feel like winter right now, and it certainly doesn’t feel like just a week or two ago we were listening to Perry Como and drinking egg nog. I’m actually celebrating the holidays with my family this weekend (couldn’t get together in December), which is weird when the decorations have been put away, everyone’s back to work, and I’m starting to see commercials for tax preparation services.

But there’s still time to start those New Year’s resolutions I mentioned last week. Looking to lose weight and get into shape? You might want to read this piece from U.S. News and World Report on the best and worst diets. The Mediterranean Diet gets the best grade, while the various low carb/high fat diets get the lowest marks.

Lost and Forgotten

Did you get any gift cards for Christmas? Some people don’t like them, finding them impersonal. I disagree. Some people, even close family and friends, simply don’t know what to get you, but they know that a gift card to a store you like, a card you can use, is the right gift. Now, if someone gave me a gift card to Victoria’s Secret or Build-A-Bear Workshop, I’d be a little confused. But if someone gives me a card to Macy’s or Amazon? My smile and “thank you” will be sincere.

For some reason, a lot of gift cards go unused every year. According to The Hustle, from 2005 to 2015 over $45.7 billion — yes, that’s billion — worth of gift cards went unused because people didn’t want them, lost them, or simply forgot about them. It’s odd because gift cards were requested by 59 percent of people this past Christmas (beating out clothing and books), and you’d think that when they got one they’d immediately put it in their wallet or purse. How do you lose or forget a gift like that?

“Smart” Tech

One year at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, a tech company is going to do something clever and funny, like unveiling pencils, analog watches, and typewriters as their new products, declaring them “smart” technology, the “hip” thing that everyone needs to have, stuff that’s so “retro” it’s actually futuristic.

Alas, this isn’t that year. Instead, we once again got smart bathrooms (because you can’t escape technology anymore), rotating TVs (so your TV looks more like a phone, making it easier to surf Facebook and Instagram), and the Headless Robot Kitten, a “pet” that people find adorable for some reason. A mechanical cat with no head that moves oddly and purrs? Nope, nothing creepy about that at all!

By the way, I saw Headless Robot Kitten open for Weezer in ’95.

The Best Police Blotter in the Country

We keep hearing that a lot of smaller, local newspapers are dying, which is a shame because they’re one of the few places left where you can still find stories like this on a daily basis.

The Flathead Beacon, a newspaper in Kalispell, Montana, has one of the more entertaining police blotters you’ll ever read. There aren’t a lot of major crimes in places like this, so we get entries like “A Kalispell family’s new puppy keeps running away from home” and “A Kalispell man pocket dialed 911.”

My favorite is the first one, about the guy who wanted all of his family members removed from his house on Christmas. Probably got some bad gift cards.

Because Nobody Believes the “Dog Ate My Homework” Excuse Anymore

2 Teenage Snowboarders Lost in B.C.’s Backcountry Burned Homework to Stay Warm

RIP Buck Henry, Edd Byrnes, Don Larsen, Elizabeth Wurtzel, and Natalie Trundy

Buck Henry wrote the film The Graduate and, along with Mel Brooks, created the classic sitcom Get Smart. He hosted and guest-starred on Saturday Night Live several times in the ’70s and co-directed Heaven Can Wait with Warren Beatty. He wrote the screenplays for such films as The Owl and the Pussycat, Catch-22, To Die For, and What’s Up Doc? and TV shows like The Garry Moore Show and Quark, and he appeared on everything from Falcon Crest and Hot in Cleveland to Law and Order: SVU and 30 Rock (he played Tina Fey’s dad). He died Wednesday at the age of 89.

Edd Byrnes became massively popular for his role as Kookie on the classic private eye drama 77 Sunset Strip. He also played Vince Fontaine in Grease and appeared in other films like Marjorie Morningstar, Up Periscope, and Darby’s Rangers, as well as TV shows like Mannix, Charlie’s Angels, and Murder, She Wrote. He was even the subject of a hit song by Connie Stevens, “Kookie, Kookie, Lend Me Your Comb.” He died Wednesday at the age of 87.

Here’s a great trivia tidbit to stump your friends: Byrnes was also the first host of Wheel of Fortune. After filming two pilot episodes he was replaced by Chuck Woolery.

New York Yankee Don Larsen was a rather average pitcher until 1956, when he threw the only perfect game in World Series history, against the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Yankees won the series in seven games. Larsen died last week at the age of 90.

Larson was the subject of this 1957 Post article that questioned whether he was a one-game-wonder.

The first page of the Post article, "Is Larsen a One-Game Wonder" by Arthur and Milton Richman.
Read “Is Larsen a One-Game Wonder” by Arthur and Milton Richman from the March 30, 1957, issue of the Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

Elizabeth Wurtzel wrote the controversial 1994 memoir Prozac Nation and several other books detailing her depression and addictions. She died Tuesday at the age of 52.

Natalie Trundy appeared in several of the Planet of the Apes sequels as well as other films like Huckleberry Finn, The Careless Years, and Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation. She also appeared in many TV shows, including The Twilight Zone, Perry Mason, and Quincy, M.E. She died last month at the age of 79.

This Week in History

Buck Rogers (1929), Tarzan (1929), and Flash Gordon (1934) Comic Strips Debut (January 7)

I’m not sure what it was about January 7, but all three of these classic action comics debuted on that day, with Buck Rogers and Tarzan launching on the same exact day. As a kid, Ray Bradbury was a fan of all three.

First Typewriter Patent (January 7, 1714)

There are people who have never used typewriters and can’t understand why someone would want to use a machine that doesn’t connect to the internet. This is actually a feature, not a bug.

The first patent for a typewriter was issued to Henry Mill, a British waterworks engineer. There were typewriter/writing “devices” before that, and more famous ones after, but this was the first official patent for “impressing or transcribing of letters singly or progressively one after another.”

This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: Royal Typewriter (January 10, 1948)

A vintage Royal typewriter ad featuring a mid-20th century woman kissing her boss because of his gift of a typewriter.

Something tells me this ad just wouldn’t fly today.

Today Is Oysters Rockefeller Day

I always thought this classic dish was so named because it was either a favorite of John D. Rockefeller or something he used to make himself. Turns out it was given that title by New Orleans chef Jules Alciatore in 1899 because it’s a very rich dish.

How rich? This recipe from Epicurious includes lots of butter, Parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, hot pepper sauce, and anise-flavored liqueur.

Depending on what diet you plan to follow as a New Year’s resolution, this could be a very good or a very bad thing.

Next Week’s Holidays and Events

National Nothing Day (January 16)

This day was created in 1972 by writer Harold Pullman Coffin as a chance to provide Americans one day where we can “just sit without celebrating, observing, or honoring anything.” Though I have to point out that if you celebrate this day then you’re really not celebrating this day, even if you are.

National Fig Newton Day (January 16)

They’re just called “Newtons” now because there are 470 other flavors to choose from besides fig.

Here’s the tricky part:

Featured image: Shutterstock

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Comments

  1. Sounds like you’ve managed to stay well so far, Bob. I’ve been out all week with a nasty cold/throat infection. Thought I was doing better until last Monday when I was prescribed prednisone in addition to the amoxicillin. It’s hard to sleep when you’re coughing and have coughing heaves. Thank God for that Coricidin syrup; literally.

    Your report on unused gift cards is something a lot of people really aren’t aware of, but has been going on for a long time. When I worked at Robinson’s retail collection dept. at 7th & Grand in downtown (’88-’93) L.A. it was a well known fact for the salespeople to do “suggestive selling” of the benefits of gift cards, all of which ARE true, IF the cards are used. Therein lies the “ugly beauty” of it. Most are NOT redeemed, and the stores make billions not having to do anything. Same principle frankly of buying gym memberships and never going.

    Maybe the ’48 Royal typewriter ad wouldn’t ‘fly’ today, but has it’s own charms when considering the era it’s from. There were far worse ads back then and even decades later. I’m glad I’m not sick to my stomach Bob, because the description of the Oysters Rockefeller would make me throw up!

    We have to support our American firefighters and volunteers in Australia saving as many lives of people and animals as possible. It’s so unbelievable what’s happened, but we can still help them online with our donations.

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