News of the Week: American Essays, Muppet Debates, and Recipes For Rainy Days

In the news for the week ending April 9, 2021, are bad Muppets, good books, stolen Legos, funny questions, pricy comic books, and much more.

Kermit and Miss Piggy during a movie premiere
(Tinseltown /

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New Books

Five new books you might want to buy, and maybe even read:

The Golden Age of the American Essay, edited by Phillip Lopate. A collection of essays from 1945 to 1970, including work from John Updike, Mary McCarthy, E.B. White, Walter Lippmann, Susan Sontag, Tom Wolfe, Loren Eiseley, and Joan Didion.

On the House: A Washington Memoir by John Boehner. No matter what your political persuasion, you have to admit the cover of this memoir by the former Speaker of the House is pretty great.

Why Didn’t You Just Do What You Were Told? by Jenny Diski. Sort of a “greatest hits” collection of essays by the underrated British writer who died in 2016.

The Hard Crowd by Rachel Kushner. This is also a collection of essays, by the National Book Award and Booker Prize finalist, spanning the years 2000 to 2020.

Philip Roth: The Biography by Blake Bailey. Oprah Winfrey says that this is one of the most anticipated books of the year, and you should always listen to Oprah.

International Thieves Are Stealing Legos, for Some Reason

This could be the plot of Ocean’s 14 (it would be a Lego movie, of course).

The Muppets, Ranked

I don’t want to get into a big debate here, but I was reading this list from NPR listeners of the 25 best Muppets and I have to shake my head. Oh, I have no quarrel with Kermit grabbing the number one slot (a predictable but not unwelcome choice), but I have to say that Gonzo is ranked way too high, and Oscar the Grouch and Bert and Ernie should be ranked much higher.

Look! In That Stack of Old Magazines! It’s Superman!

Every several years we hear about an auction involving the very first issue of Action Comics, the one that introduced Superman to the world. It happened again this week as a mint condition copy of the 1938 comic found in a stack of old magazines sold for a record (gulp) $3.25 million.

The same copy was sold as recently as 2018, so apparently it gets around.

I wonder what a mint-condition copy of the very first Saturday Evening Post goes for? Check your attics!

Aaron Rodgers on Jeopardy!

I don’t even follow football and I got this guy’s funny answer.

By the way, Rodgers is quite good as a Jeopardy! host. (Uploaded to YouTube by Jeopardy!)

RIP Prince Philip, Bibian Mentel, Gloria Henry, Walter Olkewicz, Mark Elliott, Arthur Kopit, William “Biff” McGuire, and Don Farmer

Prince Philip, also known as The Duke of Edinburgh, married Queen Elizabeth II in 1947 and was the longest-serving British consort. He helped guide the monarchy after the events of World War II. He died today at the age of 99.

Bibian Mentel was already a champion snowboarder when she found out she had a tumor on her right leg and had to have it amputated. She went on to win three Paralympic gold medals. She died last week at the age of 48.

Gloria Henry played the mom on Dennis the Menace and appeared on the first episode of Perry Mason. She also appeared in shows like The Life of Riley and My Little Margie, as well as on the big screen in Gene Autry westerns, Miss Grant Takes Richmond, Johnny Allegro, and Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back. Her last appearance was in an episode of Parks and Recreation. She died Saturday at the age of 98.

Walter Olkewicz was a character actor who had many memorable roles on such shows as Seinfeld (he was Kramer’s cable guy nemesis), Grace Under Fire, Twin Peaks, The Last Resort, Night Court, Who’s the Boss?, and Cheers. He also appeared in films like 1941, The Executioner’s Song, The Client, and The Big Picture. He died Tuesday at the age of 72.

You won’t know the name Mark Elliott, but you know the voice. He did voiceovers for thousands of movie trailers, Disney videos, CBS and Fox network promos, and commercials. Before all that he was a disc jockey at several radio stations around the country and fill-in host on Casey Kasem’s show. He died Saturday at the age of 81.

Arthur Kopit was a playwright who wrote Indians, Nine, and Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma’s Hung You in the Closet I’m Feelin’ So Sad. He died last week at the age of 83.

William “Biff” McGuire not only appeared in such movies as The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, the original The Thomas Crown Affair, The Phenix City Story, and Serpico, as well as TV shows like ER and Gibbsville, he was also nominated for two Tony awards. He died recently at the age of 94.

Don Farmer was one of the original anchors on CNN. He died Wednesday at the age of 82.

This Week in History

Washington Irving Born (April 3, 1783)

The writer and diplomat known for The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle also wrote for the Post, including the short stories “ A Haunted Ship” and “The Ruined One.”

First Issue of TV Guide Published (April 3, 1953)

The person on the very first cover of the magazine was the real-life son of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Desi Arnaz Jr. He was born on the same day, January 19, that the show’s Little Ricky was born, and that was planned.

This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: April Shower (April 8, 1944)

Woman plaid, opening an umbrella
April Shower
Alex Ross
April 8, 1944

The woman on this Alex Ross cover looks like an actress from the era. Any help?

Rainy Day (and Night) Recipes

I love rainy days. Does that make me weird?

I don’t know if April showers actually bring May flowers, but I’m not the type of person who gets depressed or sighs because it’s gray and rainy and/or cold out. And I like the sound of the rain as it hits the side of the house and the roof and the windows, especially at night, when it’s the only sound I hear as I lie in bed.

Some recipes: Here’s Taste of Home’s Favorite Chicken Potpie and here’s a French Spring Soup from AllRecipes. The Spruce Eats has a Classic Tuna Noodle Casserole (something I had quite a bit when I was a kid but haven’t eaten in 40 years), while Southern Living has a Shepherd’s Pie. And Food Network Canada has 30 cake recipes for rainy spring days, including Battenberg Cake and Lemon Berry Meringue Cakes with Bumbleberry Sauce.

And if Kermit is your favorite Muppet, you can make these Kermit the Frog Cupcakes. There’s something rather haunting about the eyes, but they look tasty.

Next Week’s Holidays and Events

Scrabble Day (April 13)

The first in-person official Scrabble tournament since the pandemic began took place in Australia this week. Here’s how it went.

National High Five Day (April 16)

You’ll have to do it virtually this year, but you can celebrate the fact that we get another month to file our federal taxes. Most states have extended the filing date too (though check your state just to make sure).

Featured image: (Tinseltown /

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  1. Bob, how DID you get Prince Philip in the ‘departed’ column that fast?! I only found out a few hours ago. He was doing really well up until 99. I know the Queen’s going to make it well past 100, like Beverly Cleary and Oliva de Havilland. I’m putting that vibe out there because Queen Elizabeth is awesome!

    I always liked Gloria Henry of ‘Dennis the Menace’. Excellent actress and a beauty. I liked her as a vileness too. Thanks for remembering Washington Irving’s birthday this week and including the two story links. I’ve read both, and highly recommend them.

    I’ll have to get back to you on which actress this ‘April Shower’ model looks like. A bit of a mystery. Unrelated related were some beautiful Post cover models not credited in the ’60s and ’70s. The model holding a daisy in ‘200 Years of Girl Watching’ in ’75 comes to mind as an example. I have a Collier’s magazine from about 1943 or ’44 where the illustrated model has an uncanny resemblance to Princess Diana, so you just never know!


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