News of the Week: Space Junk, Colonel Sanders, and Is Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Really for Kids?

In the news for the week ending December 11, 2020, are a UFO identified, a Dickens-era Christmas card for sale, fruitcake, eggnog, ugly sweaters, and more.

An American country home during wintertime
Featured image: American Homestead Winter (Currier and Ives)

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This Is Ground Control to Major Tom 

The ’60s are back! The rockets of the ’60s, anyway. 

That mystery space object that has been orbiting the Earth recently has finally been identified, and it’s exactly what scientists thought it might be: a rocket booster from the September 20, 1966, Surveyor 2 mission to the moon. The Surveyor 2 crashed on the moon but this rocket flew off into space and has been travelling around for the past 54 years.  

How long ago was this? Star Trek had just premiered, Jimi Hendrix was still called “Jimmy,” and I was only a year old. It’s amazing that the rocket not only survived in some way but actually came back. 

Space is a really weird place. 

Don’t get used to it sticking around, though. It will swing out toward the sun in March 2021 and hang out there for a while. Much like the rest of us, by March the rocket will be craving a little more warmth from the sun. 

Warner Bros. Has a Plan 

I’m waiting for MGM to announce that the new James Bond film, No Time to Die, has been sold to a streaming service. Its theatrical release has been delayed a couple of times already because of the pandemic, and its April 2021 release could be delayed again. I have to admit, as of right now, I’m in no hurry to see the film — or any film — in a theater with other people (no matter how much I like the 007 movies). 

Warner Bros. has made the innovative (and controversial) decision to not only release their 2021 slate of movies in some theaters but at the same time release them on the HBO Max streaming service. So if you want, you can catch Wonder Woman 1984 and The Matrix 4 from your couch. You’ll have to provide your own snacks and sticky floor. 

Many people in the industry hate this move, especially director Christopher Nolan. 

The Very First Christmas Card Up for Sale 

Have you sent out your Christmas cards yet? Don’t tell me you “don’t have time” or “people don’t do that anymore” or “I’ll just send a text.” Those are all sad excuses and I don’t want to hear them. 

(This is where I’d usually insert a Christmas card rant, but I already mentioned it last week, so I’ll stop here. Just get some cards.) 

We’ve been sending Christmas cards for a very long time. Since 1843, to be exact. The very first commercially printed card, depicting a bunch of British people (including a child) indulging in alcohol, is currently being sold online by Battledore Ltd., an antique dealership in Kingston, New York, through a consortium headed by a rare-book dealer. The asking price? $25,000. (Christie’s in London is also selling a card.) 

That’s a lot more than the typical box of Hallmark cards you get at CVS, so if you buy it, you better make sure you send it to someone really special. 

And the Best Christmas Town in America Is 

Country Living has released its list of the top Christmas towns, and the winner has a Saturday Evening Post connection. 

The magazine has chosen Stockbridge, Massachusetts, as the best Christmas town in the country. Stockbridge resident Norman Rockwell’s painting Home for Christmas (sometimes called Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas) appeared in the December 1967 issue of McCall’s, and the scene is recreated every year by the citizens of the town.  

Other towns on the list include Duluth, Minnesota; Manchester, Vermont; and St. Augustine, Florida. 

I Swear This Is Real 

But it’s not “real” in the sense that it’s a real movie. It’s a satirical mini-movie/commercial from Kentucky Fried Chicken, a takeoff on all of those cable Christmas movies we see every year. It premieres this Sunday on Lifetime. 

Uploaded to YouTube by Lifetime

RIP Chuck Yeager, David Lander, Dick Allen, Betsy Wade, Harold Budd, and Warren Berlinger 

Chuck Yeager was the first person to break the sound barrier during a test flight in 1947. He won several awards, including the Silver Star and a Purple Heart, and wrote a memoir. Yeager was one of the subjects of the Tom Wolfe book The Right Stuff and the movie of the same name (he was played by Sam Shepard). He died Monday at the age of 97. 

David Lander played Squiggy on the sitcom Laverne & Shirley and appeared in many other TV shows. He died last week at the age of 73. 

As a member of the Philadelphia Phillies, Dick Allen won the 1964 National League Rookie of the Year Award, and as a member of the Chicago White Sox was named National League MVP in 1972. He was also a seven-time All-Star. He died Monday at the age of 78. 

Betsy Wade was the first female news editor of The New York Times. She died last week at the age of 91. 

Harold Budd was a musician and composer known for his long ambient instrumentals. He often collaborated with Brian Eno and Robin Guthrie. He died Tuesday at the age of 84. 

Warren Berlinger was a character actor who appeared on The Joey Bishop Show as well as Bracken’s World, A Touch of Grace, Operation Petticoat, Friends, Columbo, and dozens of other shows. He was also a stage actor who received a Theatre World Award for his role in Blue Denim. He died last week at the age of 83. 

This Week in History 

Martin Van Buren Born (December 5, 1782) 

The eighth president was the first one born in the United States. 

First Showing of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (December 6, 1964) 

I love this Rankin and Bass special and watch it every single year, but I have to admit that Caitlin Flanagan makes some great points in this piece for The Atlantic. Santa and Rudolph’s father are jerks! 

This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: “The Great Songs of Christmas” (December 5, 1964) 

Goodyear came out with one of these albums every year, and because the web has everything, you can listen to it on YouTube. 

December Is Fruitcake Month (What, You Thought It Would Be in July?) 

There are so many bad fruitcakes floating around — the old joke is that the same fruitcake has been passed around for decades — so why doesn’t someone just decide to, you know, make a good one? The Post’s Nicholas Gilmore searched high and low for a perfect recipe (the search took him from a 70s Jack and Jill magazine recipe to The Great British Baking Show) and decided on Everyone’s Favorite Fruitcake from King Arthur Flour. You should try it too. 

December also happens to be Eggnog Month, and whether you write it as one word or two (I go back and forth), there are several recipes you can try. Tastes Better From Scratch has a recipe for Homemade Eggnog, while AllRecipes has this Amazingly Good Eggnog (I haven’t made it so I can’t vouch for the “amazingly” part). Martha Stewart makes her Classic Eggnog in a big hotel-silver punch bowl. You can put yours in something else, it just won’t be Martha Stewart-ish. 

If you just want something quick and easy, The Chunky Chef has this 5Minute Homemade Blender Eggnog. 

Next Week’s Holidays and Events 

Wright Brothers Day (December 17) 

This commemorates the day in 1903 when Orville and Wilbert Wright successfully flew their plane near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. 

National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day (December 18) 

Of course, if you don’t think the sweaters are ugly, you can just call this National Christmas Sweater Day. 

Featured image: American Homestead Winter (Currier and Ives)

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  1. Now that is one rockin’ rocket doing it’s thing in outer space since September 1966. The month to me began the ’66-’67 school year; my favorite–the 4th grade. So you were a year old then when the Monkees TV show debuted and the first Camaro came out. This means we’re practically the same age! 3 and 4 in the ’60s. I’ll just leave it at this: the 20th century’s ultimate decade for sure!

    I’ll also have you know I got ALL of my out-of-state Christmas cards out on Dec. 10th so they should be arriving in PA., DE., MA. and IN. early next week. They may be plainer (by my standards) this year, but they’re still “grrrreat!” I didn’t let a lack of work space get in my way. I like the artwork of that 1843 Christmas card. If I didn’t know the year I would have guessed between the 1830s-1850s. It looks like it could be American for that matter, really. Substantially different from the looks of the later 1800’s.

    Everyone, click on Nick Gilmore’s Chuck Yeager feature link above. This is where I first learned he’d passed away. I always liked David Lander from ‘Laverne and Shirley’. Of course, I always felt it was a funnier show than ‘Happy Days’, didn’t you? He helped make it so.

    I read that link in The Atlantic. I never thought about what dark overtones ‘Rudolph’ actually has until this deep dive examination. Heretofore I thought ‘The Addams Family’ was the darkest TV creation of 1964! I remember Nick’s fruitcake feature per the link where I put in my 2 cents on the unloved ‘cake’. But that was then, maybe it’s coming back into style again. Don’t we all deserve a 2nd chance (except our worst and stupidest government in the world)?

    As a fun escape from that and nearly everything else, may I suggest “Here He Comes to Save the Day: Mighty Mouse’s TV Debut’ by Troy Brownfield? It should still be up. Aside from the great article, he has a wonderful MM link that’ll help you forget all about 2020 for as long as you want to. Seriously. Check it out!


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