News of the Week: Caffeine Wars, Orson Bean, and the Pre-Frozen Rats of Valentine’s Day

News of the Week: Caffeine Wars, Orson Bean, and the Pre-Frozen Rats of Valentine’s Day

Boxes of Dunkin' Donuts brand Keurig coffee
(ZikG / Shutterstock)

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Mud, Java, Rocket Fuel, Joe

It always amuses me when a company comes out with a “new and improved” version of a food or drink that has used the same recipe for decades. It makes me think, What was wrong with the old version, and why did you change it? Now you’re saying it wasn’t that great? The best example of this is Domino’s. Several years back, they changed the recipe for their pizza and mounted a huge marketing campaign explaining how the old pizza wasn’t that great but now it is! Of course, this marketing campaign had the extra benefit of being true. Domino’s pizza really is better now.

Maybe that improvement will happen with Dunkin’ Donuts coffee. Oh, sorry, it’s supposed to be just Dunkin’ now. They’re still going to sell donuts and Munchkins, but they’d really rather be known for their beverage choices. Their big plan is to outfit all of the locations with new “smart brewers” that will make better coffee. Dunkin’ Donuts (sorry, DUNKIN’) wants to change their coffee? They do know that millions of people go there every single day because they like the flavor of the coffee, right?

Why are they doing this? They’re in a battle with places like Starbucks and McDonald’s and other chains for the cash of caffeine-craving customers. The CEO says “it’s important to give our customers on-trend choices,” which is the type of corporate-speak that makes my head and stomach feel all tight and twisted. Maybe this will work out in the end, but as one person who has been going to Dunkin’ every day for 30 years said to me this week, “But I like their coffee!”

I wish we could ask Fred what he thinks, but he’s not making the donuts anymore.

Ice Cream Drones

No, not ice cream cones. Ice cream drones.

Ben & Jerry’s is getting into the delivery business. And they’re not going to do it the old-fashioned way, with trucks and humans and a knock at the door. They’re going all futuristic on us and will use drones. They haven’t said when the service will start, but they do plan to test it in New York.

I’m not convinced that food delivery via drone is going to work. My God, imagine the mess if — or rather when — something goes wrong.

Happy Valentine’s Day?

Just in time for the day of love comes this promotion from the San Antonio Zoo in Texas. For $25 they’ll let you name a rat after your ex, and then they’ll feed that rat to a bigger zoo animal. And because it’s 2020 and everything has to be online, they’ll stream it on Facebook Live for everyone (including your ex) to see. The zoo says the rats are already dead and “pre-frozen,” but I don’t think Disney is going to make an animated movie out of this. Frozen III: Really, Just Let It Go.

If $25 is too much to spend, even to get revenge for a failed relationship, you can name a cockroach after your ex and have it fed to a bird, and it will only cost $5.

Making the Scene

What do the 1949 drama The Fountainhead and the ’70s sitcom The Jeffersons have in common? They’re both about choosing individuality and freedom over the compromises that can lead to conformity and the destruction of an artist’s personal beliefs.

Just kidding! They both used the same painted backdrop.

That’s one of the tidbits you’ll learn in this great piece from CBS Sunday Morning about the giant works of art used as background in many classic movies and TV shows, and the effort to save them.

Uploaded to YouTube by CBS Sunday Morning

RIP Robert Conrad, Orson Bean, Kevin Conway, Roger Kahn, Ron McLarty, Lyle Mays, and Paula Kelly

Robert Conrad was best known for his role as secret agent James T. West on The Wild Wild West — I wanted to be James T. West when I was a kid — but he also had starring roles in shows like Baa Baa Black Sheep (a.k.a. Black Sheep Squadron), Hawaiian Eye, Assignment: Vienna, The D.A., Centennial, A Man Called Sloane, and High Mountain Rangers. He died Saturday at the age of 84.

Orson Bean did just about everything in his long career. He was an actor, appearing in such TV shows as Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman and Desperate Housewives. He was in movies, including Being John Malkovich, Anatomy of a Murder, The Equalizer 2, and two animated Lord of the Rings movies. He was a frequent panelist on To Tell The Truth, hosted The Tonight Show, acted on Broadway and in community theater, did a famous Q-Tip commercial (“Never put anything in your ear … except your elbow”), and appeared on The Bold and the Beautiful with his real-life wife Alley Mills. On top of all that, he wrote books and even spent time as a hippie in the ’70s. He died last week at the age of 91.

Kevin Conway had a long, distinguished career as a screen and stage actor, appearing in such movies as Slaughterhouse-Five, Thirteen Days, and Gods and Generals, as well as TV shows like Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Black Donnellys, Oz, and the acclaimed mini-series Gettysburg. He was also the narrator of the ’90s reboot of The Outer Limits. He died last week at the age of 77.

Roger Kahn was an influential sportswriter who penned the 1972 book about the Brooklyn Dodgers The Boys of Summer. He wrote 19 other books, from other nonfiction tomes about baseball to novels. He died last week at the age of 92.

Ron McLarty played Sgt. Frank Belson on Spenser: For Hire and appeared in other shows, including Law and Order, Ed, and the infamous flop Cop Rock, as well as movies like The Flamingo Kid, Heartburn, and The Postman. He had a second career as a writer after Stephen King mentioned that he liked his unpublished novel The Memory of Running, which started a bidding war that led to a $2 million advance. He was also a prolific reader of audiobooks, lending his voice to over 100 books. He died Saturday at the age of 72.

Lyle Mays was an 11-time Grammy-winning jazz keyboardist who played with The Pat Metheny Group for many years. He died Monday at the age of 66.

Paula Kelly received Emmy nominations for her work on the sitcom Night Court and The Women of Brewster Place. She also appeared in movies like Sweet Charity, The Andromeda Strain, Soylent Green, and Uptown Saturday Night. She died Sunday at the age of 77.

This Week in History

Boy Scouts of America Founded (February 8, 1910)

Here’s Troy Brownfield’s 5 facts about the Boy Scouts you might not know. I think you’ll particularly be interested in number 5.

Hollywood Walk of Fame Groundbreaking (February 8, 1960)

For some reason it seems like it’s been around longer. The first stars to get stars were Joanne Woodward, Ronald Coleman, Burt Lancaster, Olive Borden, Preston Foster, Ernest Torrence, Edward Sedgwick, and Louise Fazenda.

February Is Great American Pie Month

As I’ve mentioned here before, I’m more of a store-bought pie guy than a homemade-pie guy. It’s one of my food quirks, probably inspired by a childhood of eating more desserts from the supermarket than the oven. There’s just something about the taste of a Table Talk apple pie that beats a homemade one, especially when the from-scratch pies are badly made. But you can make a good one if you follow these instructions for making the best pie dough, fine for any pie you decide to make, or this recipe for Curtis Stone’s Spiced Apple Pie.

And check out this collection of Post (and Country Gentleman) pie covers, complete with recipes for Squash Pie, Hawaiian Pineapple Fruit Pie, and something called Blueberry Flummery.

Next Week’s Holidays and Events

Daytona 500 (February 16)

The 62nd running airs on Fox at 2:30 p.m.

Presidents’ Day (February 17)

It started as a day to celebrate George Washington and Abraham Lincoln but now it’s a day to honor all of our presidents.

Featured image: ZikG / Shutterstock

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  1. It would be nice if you could put (as recent as possible) pictures of the people who have died. Sometimes a look at the person can reminds us of their work. Thanks!!

  2. Bob, you don’t mention anything about the weather at the beginning of your column this week. Is that because it’s below freezing?! I know you like the c-c-c-c-cold weather. Something that left me feeling cold were the Academy Awards show I had on in the background as I was doing housework.

    I didn’t need to pay close attention to see they were really “ghettoed out” in a big way, even I didn’t expect, but should have! The Kennedy Center Honors (previously one of the ONLY good awards shows) are that way now, too. On last Sunday’s spectacle, it was appropriate to have Brad Pitt win best supporting actor. Fortunately his speech was limited (like his speech otherwise) and didn’t make too much of a fool out of himself. Not that it would have mattered with nose candy crowd anyway, or anyone else. The ratings keep on sinking, fortunately. 🙂

    I just heard an ad the other day for Dunkin’ Donuts coffee. The link advised the ‘Donuts’ was dropped in Jan. ’19, just over a year ago. Maybe they’re doing it regionally to see how it goes? Ben & Jerry’s should re-think the drone strategy thing. I can only imagine the lawsuit$ when the accidents start happening. Amazon too, of course.

    Thanks for the Hollywood movie backdrop feature from ‘Sunday Morning’ . Very interesting! Sorry to hear Robert Conrad passed away. (Sorry Brad, you can’t hold a candle to him in handsome movie star looks, acting, or anything else). Orson Bean at 91 was sharp as a tack and still youthful for a man his age. Horrible he was hit by a car in Venice, crossing the street. I could easily have seen him making it to 100; seriously. He was just getting a new stage show ready.

    I did find fact number 5 in Troy’s report interesting, particularly about the calendars, and wish to say here Rockwell’s 1976 calendar (pictured) was classic Rockwell all the way. It was probably done in ’75; just 3 years before he passed away.


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