News of the Week: SpaceX, Herb Stempel, and the Cheesy Goodness of Velveeta

In the news for the week ending June 5, 2020, are Necco wafers, Velveeta cheese, large pickles, all our favorite TV shows, and more.

Rocket launch

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This Week in Social Distancing

In the early days of 2020 B.C. (Before COVID-19), I had so many plans.

Most of those plans involved leaving the house. Now a huge accomplishment is a successful trip to the supermarket.

I think we all feel like that right now. Unless we have a job we can actually get to, we’re in the same set of rooms all day and night. The kitchen, the living room, the bathroom, the bedroom, and back again. Maybe we’re lucky to have a yard or a park nearby. My summer travel plans involve visiting a different corner of my living room. Doctor and dentist and haircut appointments have been put off until “later,” and we really don’t know when “later” will be. Sure, things are starting to open, but even if they’re officially open in your state, are you really going to be comfortable going to a restaurant or concert or packed bar? We’re all going to decide for ourselves when our “later” will be. It’s going to be a very personal decision.

I wonder how many people will choose to keep working from home all the time when this is over?

Some notes from this week:

We needed some good news this week — boy, did we ever — and we got it in the form of a rocket launch. NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley — we have to call them Bob and Doug — took off on the first launch of astronauts from American soil in almost a decade. It was a joint venture of the space agency and SpaceX. The crew arrived at the International Space Station on Sunday.

One of the coolest parts of the launch was how the Falcon 9 rocket returned to Earth. It landed safely on a floating drone ship — named, believe it or not, Of Course I Still Love You — in the Atlantic and was returned to Florida for reuse at a later date.

In related news, don’t worry about the Empire State Building-sized asteroid that’s coming toward Earth this weekend. It’s going to pass us at a safe distance.

AMC Theaters is warning that they may not survive the pandemic. We can add movie theaters to the list of “later” places.

If you’re looking for a TV show to binge — a word I hate but that seems appropriate right now — and you’re overwhelmed by all of the choices on Netflix and Hulu and Amazon and cable, may I suggest Mad Men? Watch the episodes in order and read Matt Zoller Seitz’s recaps after each one.

If you’re looking for something to read, check out Bookshop, a new site where you can not only buy books but support local independent bookstores.

I see a lot of people using bandanas for masks (hopefully they’re thick enough). If you’re bored with the plain ones you’re wearing, check out the classic TV bandanas at MeTV. You can choose from various styles, including Star Trek, I Love Lucy, The Twilight ZoneThe Andy Griffith Show, and Universal monsters.

I’m thinking about wearing a full hazmat suit when I go out. Or maybe a suit of armor. They have to be more comfortable than the masks.

TV Shows: 1951-2019

This is mesmerizing. It’s a moving graph that shows the viewership for the most popular TV shows from the early ’50s to last year.

It’s fun to see shows that started slow suddenly make a surge toward the top and former top shows fall and fall. It’s also stunning to see how popular Westerns were in the late ’50s, something modern audiences probably can’t comprehend.

It gets sad around 2003-04, when reality shows start to intrude. Honestly, I don’t even remember My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiancé but it was an actual show that aired on Fox in 2004.

Uploaded to YouTube by Data Broz

Welcome Back

Necco Wafers is a candy that divides the candy community. People either love the little crunchy discs or they hate them. Maybe it’s because I’m from New England (Necco stands for the New England Confectionery Company), but I’m strongly in the former group.

Now people like me can rejoice! Spangler Candy — maker of Dum Dums and candy canes and rescuer of classic candies, including those candy Valentine hearts — bought the brand after the Revere, Massachusetts, company that made them for decades went out of business in 2018. They’re going to be back in stores this summer. They’ll look and taste the same, except for the chocolate ones, which will have more cocoa flavor.

What they should do is change the flavor of the black licorice ones. And by “change the flavor” I mean get rid of them. Ugh, licorice.

Headline of the Week

Man Allegedly Throws “Large Pickle” Out Window in Vermont, Hurting Worker

RIP Herb Stempel, Christo, Barbara Sher, Wes Unseld, Marge Redmond, and Al Rex

Herb Stempel was a key figure in the infamous quiz show scandals of the ’50s. After losing to Charles Van Doren on Twenty-One, he spilled the beans that producers had given the answers to contestants. He was played by John Turturro in the 1994 Robert Redford film Quiz Show. He died in April at the age of 93.

Christo was the innovative artist whose canvas was often an entire building or an entire landscape. His projects included erecting over 1,700 colorful umbrellas near Los Angeles, covering a Colorado mountain pass in a giant curtain, completely wrapping Berlin’s Reichstag Building, and placing saffron gates throughout Central Park. He died Sunday at the age of 84.

Barbara Sher wrote several popular humorous self-help books, including I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was and Wishcraft: How to Get What You Really Want. She died last month at the age of 84.

Wes Unseld was an NBA Hall of Famer who played for the Baltimore (later Washington) Bullets. He died last week at the age of 74.

Marge Redmond played Sister Jacqueline on The Flying Nun and had roles on Matlock and many other shows and films, like Manhattan Murder Mystery and The Fortune Cookie. She also appeared on Broadway and starred in a series of Cool Whip commercials in the ’70s and ’80s. She died in February at the age of 95.

Al Rex played bass on such Bill Haley and the Comets songs as “See You Later, Alligator” and “Shake, Rattle, and Roll.” He died last week at the age of 91.

This Week in History

CNN Launches (June 1, 1980)

It’s weird to think that when Ted Turner launched the Cable News Network 40 years ago this week, it was the only 24-hour news station. Now there’s too much news on TV and not enough Westerns.

Kraft’s Velveeta Cheese First Available (June 2, 1928)

I don’t like black licorice but I do like me some Velveeta.

This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: Necco Wafers (June 5, 1915)

Vintage ad for Necco Wafers
June 5, 1915

I don’t know what “guaranteed pure” means, but they’re fine for parties, afternoon teas, and luncheons!

Mmmmm, Velveeta

What, you thought I wasn’t going to go this week without posting some recipes that feature Velveeta cheese?

Grab some tortilla chips to have with this Beer Queso Dip, and grab some buns for these 3-Step Spicy Bacon and Spinach Sliders. You can also try this Cheesy Chicken ’n’ Shells, these Copycat Loaded Hash Browns, or this Grilled Cheese with Bacon and Apples.

I had to include a grilled cheese because only the best grilled cheese is made with Velveeta. I know that sounds like an ad, but I didn’t mean it to.

Next Week’s Holidays and Events

D-Day (June 6)

Here’s an interesting Post time capsule: What was happening in America on the day before D-Day.

Donald Duck Day (June 9)

This other D-Day marks the day that Donald made his debut, in the 1934 animated short The Wise Little Hen.

Featured image: Shutterstock

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  1. A huge accomplishment IS a successful trip to the supermarket, but even more so, the U.S. Bank inside; one of the ONLY ones still open. Wells Fargo’s mostly closed too, and completely so last Monday. I had to call to make an appt for Tuesday just to withdraw $$ from my savings account which I HATE doing, but sometimes you have to. I really try to only add to it, keeping it off limits, even to me. Everything takes way longer, like 3 hours instead of one.

    Then I had to explain why my premiere line payment was going to be a day late and asked them to PLEASE not charge me a $38 or $40 late fee. They said if was was assessed, I could call in to try and have it reversed. I reminded them I’m a good customer and said “I’m begging you on this; begging!” No fee was added. I know, that was degrading, but everything is now. Thank God my grandparents aren’t around to hear what their youngest (and favorite) grandson has to say sometimes in this 21st century. On occasion even being told “You’ve got some nerve!”

    I’m sorry the AMC Theater chain is in such dire straits. and the hurt of all of the many thousands of ‘worker bee’ people in the film industry working paycheck to paycheck. That industry’s largely toxic, sick stuff glamorizing fire, pyrotechnics, endless destruction and carnage may, may finally having karma catchin’ up with them and it’s a real “witch”. No offense meant to Bill Newcott. Bill, the public can continue watching your recommendations at home!

    Thanks for the top TV shows of 1951-2019. I really enjoyed it (with the sound down) but it still had my head spinning visually Bob; good grief. Thanks for the “Twenty-One” link. I saw ‘Quiz Show’ (in the theater) when it was new. Quite the scandal between ’56 and ’59, hmmm? Plenty of shame and blame to go around at NBC, even then. The 3 principal men all passed away at ages 93 and 95 between 2017-2020.

    I don’t like black licorice either, but do love me some Red Vines here and there. Redhots too, but apparently they’re only available online. I really like the Necco ad from 1915. Frankly, it looks more modern than that. 1910-1912 were the years the 20th century really began to emerge distinctive from the 19th.

    With all that’s going on, we still need to remember our World War II veterans on June 6th, so remember to put up the flag. No amount of thanks is enough for all you did for our country, but I’m trying.


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