News of the Week: Notes for a New Year, the Best States, and the Viennetta Is Back!

In the news for the week ending January 15, 2021, are comfort foods, classic video games, Fran Lebowitz on New York, Tim Berners-Lee on the internet, and more.

Viennetta frozen cake with a Physalis

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Thoughts and Links

Random notes I jotted down this week …

January is a weird month. Christmas is a nice distraction from our regular lives, but there’s always a bit of a letdown when the new year rolls around, even in years when we don’t have to social distance and wear a mask to buy milk. It’s those post-holiday blues that make everything feel a little “off.” No more trees in our living rooms or lights in our window or peppermint bark for another year.

We stay inside more during the winter months and even more so right now. I’ve gotten to know my friends Mrs. Smith, Sara Lee, and Little Debbie a little too well. But whatever gives us comfort.

Sophie Haigney at The Guardian has found comfort in the comment sections of recipe sites, probably the only comment sections you actually want to read (except the ones here written by you, of course). Many people are finding social media to be an important part of getting through this, probably the only time you actually want to be on social media.

The secret to that is to avoid politics, if that’s even possible. (Note: On social media it’s not possible.)

The man who invented the web, Tim Berners-Lee, knows that it hasn’t turned out the way he envisioned it, but he has a plan to make it better.

A company in Washington is bringing back forgotten video games like Doom 64 and Turok: Dinosaur Hunter. They’re also bringing back the video game based on Harlan Ellison’s short story “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream.” I remember seeing that game in a store in the ’90s and might play it simply because you rarely see the words Harlan Ellison and video game in the same sentence.

Netflix has a new limited series, Pretend It’s a City, in which Martin Scorsese follows Fran Lebowitz around New York and she comments on everything and everyone. I’ll watch that because I’ve always liked her and you never see Netflix and Fran Lebowitz in the same sentence (she doesn’t even own a computer or smartphone).

And the Number One State to Raise a Family in Is …

… the one I live in!

Massachusetts beats Minnesota, according to this report by WalletHub. The site based their rankings on income, housing, childcare costs, healthcare, violent crime stats, and divorce rates. Rounding out the top five are North Dakota, New York, and Vermont.

If you live in New Mexico, you might not want to read the list.

100 Years of Scholastic

Children’s magazine and book publisher Scholastic turns 100 this year, and CBS Sunday Morning went behind the scenes. I knew about their magazines, but I don’t think I knew the company also publishes the Harry Potter and Hunger Games books. They’re somewhat popular.

Uploaded to YouTube by CBS Sunday Morning

The Viennetta Is Back!

Now, you may be thinking to yourself, “I didn’t know it was gone!”

It’s not the name of a hotel or a car or a trendy dance; it’s actually a popular dessert from the ’90s that the Good Humor brand is bringing back to stores. As Food & Wine reports, it’s fancier than your typical supermarket frozen treat.

I can’t remember if I’ve even had it before — maybe once? — but I remember the commercial vividly.

RIP Tommy Lasorda, Michael Apted, Sigfried Fischbacher, Sheldon Adelson, John Richardson, Dearon Thompson, John Reilly, Diana Millay, and Pat Loud

Tommy Lasorda coached the Los Angeles Dodgers to two World Series, and was involved with the team as a scout and executive for over 70 years. He was also a member of the Hall of Fame, and pitched for the Philadelphia Phillies, the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Brooklyn Dodgers in the ’40s and ’50s. He died last week at the age of 93.

Michael Apted directed such movies as Coal Miner’s Daughter, Gorillas in the Mist, and the 007 film The World Is Not Enough, but he may be best known as the director of the Seven Up series of documentaries, which followed a group of British school children from 7 years old to their 60s. He died last week at the age of 79.

Siegfried Fischbacher was half of Siegfried & Roy, the Las Vegas magicians who incorporated wild animals into their act. He died Wednesday at the age of 81 (Roy died last year at the age of 75).

Sheldon Adelson was the billionaire businessman who not only poured a lot of money into politics and social causes but also owned the Sands and Venetian hotels in Las Vegas, among other properties. He died Monday at the age of 87.

John Richardson appeared in such movies as One Million Years B.C., She, and On a Clear Day You Can See Forever. He also auditioned to play James Bond after Sean Connery left the role. He died last week at the age of 86.

Dearon Thompson — also known as Deezer D — played nurse Malik on ER. He died last week at the age of 55.

John Reilly was best known for his role as Sean Donely on General Hospital. He also appeared in many other shows and movies. He died last week at the age of 84.

Diana Millay played Laura Collins on the long-running horror soap Dark Shadows. She died last week at the age of 85.

Pat Loud was the mother of the family profiled on what is usually described as the first reality show, An American Family, which aired on PBS in 1973. She died Sunday at the age of 94.

This Week in History

“Dear Abby” Debuts (January 9, 1956)

Pauline Phillips — under the pen name Abigail Van Buren — started giving out her commonsense advice 65 years ago this week, shortly after her sister Eppie took over the Ann Landers advice column.

“Dear Abby” is still going. Today it’s written by Phillips’s daughter Jeanne.

Thomas Paine’s Common Sense Published (January 10, 1776)

Speaking of common sense, Paine’s pamphlet with that name was published 245 years ago this week. Eleven months later he published another pamphlet that may have changed the course of history.

This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: Campbell’s Soup Ad (January 14, 1939)

Campbell soup ad from a 1939 issue of The Saturday Evening Post
Campbell Soup ad published in The Saturday Evening Post on January 14, 1939.

Here in the best state to raise a family, it hasn’t been incredibly cold or snowy the past few weeks, but the temps have been in the upper 30s and 40s, and that can still be considered “soup weather.”

January Is National Soup Month

I know that I often mention National Soup Month or National Soup Day or just soup in general in this column, but … it’s soup! A winter staple. It’s not like I’m constantly mentioning frozen dessert treats from the ’90s. Soup is something we need this time of year, as much as a scarf and heavy boots.

So in that spirit, Curtis Stone has this Winter Minestrone, while Ellie Krieger has her Navy Bean Soup with Ham. Melissa d’Arabian’s Rich, Roasted Tomato Soup sounds good, as does Taste of Home’s Ultimate Chicken Noodle Soup. Bon Appétit has this French Onion Beef Noodle Soup, and The Slow Roasted Italian has this great Bacon Double Cheeseburger Beer Cheese Soup.

It has to be great because it has cheese in its name twice.

Next Week’s Holidays and Events

NFL Playoffs (January 16 and 17)

In divisional battles, the Rams play the Packers Saturday at 4:30 p.m. on Fox. Then at 8 p.m. on NBC, the Bills play the Ravens. On Sunday at 3 p.m., CBS will have the Browns and the Chiefs. At 6:30, Fox has the Bucs vs. the Saints.

Winnie-the-Pooh Day (January 18)

This day is celebrated because it’s the birthday of writer A.A. Milne. The first Pooh story was published on December 24, 1925, in the London Evening News. When Disney started to make their Winnie the Pooh features in the 1960s, they decided to go without the hyphens.

Presidential Inauguration (January 20)

All the broadcast and cable news networks and C-SPAN will have live coverage of the swearing-in ceremony, which happens at noon.

Featured image: Esteban Martinena Guerrer / Shutterstock

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Comments

  1. Oh Bob, you naughty boy. So it’s more than just the midnight slices of Sara Lee cheesecake. I watched the early ’90s Vienetta commercial from the link. You can’t remember if you’ve ever had the treat before—maybe once—but remember the commercial vividly. But of course. The last sentence IS ‘one slice is never enough’!

    The ranking of the states is pretty interesting, actually. I’m surprised California is as high as 25, putting it right in the middle, it’s so messed up. The EDD has my UI claim ‘suspended’ along with 1.4 million others per ‘possible fraudulent activity’. After 10 months I have to jump through a bunch of hoops to verify my identity so it can be unblocked. It’s not MY fault they erroneously sent money to men doing time in San Quentin, including Scott Peterson!

    I’m sorry Diana Millay’s gone now. The link you included has a great opening shot from 1968 (Dark Shadows peak year) of The Collinsport Historical Society. The lady in red pictured there is ‘Cassandra’ (Lara Parker). ‘Laura’ and ‘Angelique’ had more than one female power skirmish. By the way, the 1991 version is 30 years old this week.

    The soups you listed seem pretty good except for the Bacon Double Cheeseburger Beer Cheese Soup. That’s not healthy at all, and you know it! The NFL will have plenty of good distractions from politics on Sunday. I just hope the Inauguration on Wednesday goes well, or at least well given the frightening circumstances.

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