News of the Week: Crazy Summer, Shirley Jackson’s Letters, and 20 Things to Make with Vanilla Ice Cream

In the news for the week ending July 23, 2021, are Olympic rings, school bells, space billionaires, ice cream sundaes, and more.

JUDr. Martin Kovacs / Shutterstock

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It’s Almost August?!?

Here’s a peek behind the curtain to show how the column sausage is made every week.

This section was originally an observation about the many back-to-school TV commercials I’ve been seeing the past couple of weeks. I marveled at how we’re already seeing ads for school supplies and kid’s fall clothing when we’re still going to the beach and grilling burgers. Wasn’t that cruel to the kids?

Then I was informed by people in the know (people who actually have kids) that for many areas of the country, school is only a couple of weeks away, so those commercials aren’t really early at all. I guess this is what happens when someone who grew up in a part of the country that doesn’t start school until after Labor Day and doesn’t have any kids tries to write about school and kids.

It also made me realize that it’s almost August! How did that happen? It’s been a weird summer. (I’m not complaining, just explaining.) I know I’ve talked about the heat waves we’ve had in these parts in June and July, but we’ve had just as many days where it was cooler than usual and days and nights when it was nothing but rain rain rain.

But August is now only a week away so those back-to-school commercials are going to increase in number. And soon we’ll be taking the kids to Staples for notebooks and pencils (I guess a parent and their child can shop together on Amazon for those things, but it’s not the same), buying fall clothing, and changing our family schedules completely.

There was a commercial in the ’90s for Country Time Lemonade (it’s on YouTube, of course) that talked about how summer lasted only 94 days. It was supposed to be a lament, a light warning that fall was just around the corner so we better make the best of the summertime we had left. I always thought of it the other way: I have to go through 94 whole days of this until the fall comes?

I believe August is the second-worst month. July is the worst, if only because it’s the center of summer, a full-time summer, the month when there’s nothing but summer things to do and think about. At least in August we can see the finish line.

The Olympics Begin

There has been a lot of controversy over whether or not the summer games in Tokyo should even be held this year, since Japan is seeing a surge of COVID cases, several athletes have already tested positive, and fans won’t even be allowed into the events. But if you’re excited about watching from the comfort of your couch, it all starts on Friday and you can watch on all of the various NBC networks. By the time you read this, the opening ceremonies will be over: They streamed live at 7:00 a.m. ET, but they will be rebroadcast tonight, with coverage starting at 7:30 p.m. ET.

However successful these summer games are, it will never not be weird that they took place in 2021 but they’re still called the 2020 Olympics.

Billionaires in Space: Part 2

A week after Richard Branson did it, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos blasted off on Tuesday morning with three other crew members on the Blue Origin rocket. The capsule landed safely in West Texas after an 11-minute trip.

Congratulations to Mars. Not the planet, the candy company. Skittles candy was mentioned during the flight. This is going to do for sales of Skittles what E.T. did for Reese’s Pieces.

I was hoping Bezos would place an Amazon order from space, to show it could be done. I assume he’s an Amazon Prime member.

Marilyn Maye: Still Singing at 93

From last weekend’s CBS Sunday Morning:

Uploaded to YouTube by CBS Sunday Morning

Post Writers You Should Read: Shirley Jackson

I would bet that even though you’ve read Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” — a classic short story that is taught in most high schools — you’ve probably never read much else by her. You should remedy that. She was a terrific writer of not only haunting novels that get under your skin, but also lighter essays about her family, nonfiction, and numerous letters and notes.

The last are featured in a glorious new collection titled The Letters of Shirley Jackson. She never wrote an autobiography, but like all of the best collections of letters (see also the letters of E.B. White, Raymond Chandler, and Andy Rooney), they serve as a type of memoir, a look at what she was like from her teen days to college to her years as a writer and wife and mother. It’s a stunning collection, really, that’s not just informative (about what she was working on, her worries about her career, her family life, complete with drawings) but ridiculously entertaining too. In fact, I’ve read letter collections from a dozen or so writers (it’s one of my favorite genres), and I’d put this in the top three. Even if you haven’t read anything else from Jackson, this is a great introduction. You’ll love her.

It’s also great to see the Post mentioned so much in these letters. Jackson wrote for the magazine, including the short stories “The Bus,” ”Strangers in Town,” which ran in the May 30, 1959, issue, and “The Possibility of Evil,” which appeared in the December 18, 1965, issue, four months after her death at the age of 48.

By the way, Jackson’s son Laurence (who edited this book of letters) was also featured in the pages of the Post. The August 25, 1962, issue followed his college jazz band as they toured Europe.

RIP Biz Markie, Shirley Fry Irvin, Robby Steinhardt, William F. Nolan, Joyce Mackenzie, and Dolores Claman

Biz Markie was a rapper best known for his song “Just a Friend.” He died last week at the age of 57.

Shirley Fry Irvin was a tennis star of the 1940s and ’50s who won at all four Grand Slam tournaments, as well as a dozen doubles championships. She died last week at the age of 94.

Robby Steinhardt was the violinist and co-lead vocalist of the rock group Kansas, known for such hits as “Dust in the Wind” and “Carry On Wayward Son.” He died Saturday at the age of 71.

William F. Nolan was a prolific writer in all genres. He co-wrote the classic science fiction novel Logan’s Run, several mystery novels, short stories, biographies, and nonfiction, as well as TV movies like Trilogy of Terror and The Norliss Tapes, and the big-screen film Burnt Offerings. He died last week at the age of 93.

Joyce MacKenzie appeared in such movies as Destination Murder, The Racket, Tarzan and the She-Devil, Whirlpool, Tomorrow Is Forever, and Deadline — USA. She later became an English teacher. She died last month at the age of 95.

Dolores Claman wrote the classic theme song for Hockey Night in Canada. She died last week at the age of 94.

This Week in History

TWA Flight 800 Explodes (July 17, 1996)

A fuel tank explosion that occurred just 12 minutes into the flight from JFK International Airport took the lives of 230 passengers and crew.

Ernest Hemingway Born (July 21, 1899)

The Post rejected every story that Hemingway submitted, but he did appear on the cover of the March 12, 1966, issue.

This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: 7Up Ice Cream Float (July 18, 1953)

7-up ad

Look at all those smiling kids, blissfully unaware that summer will soon be over and they’ll have to go back to school and do math.

National Vanilla Ice Cream Day

It’s celebrated on Friday, July 23, and you can attempt the floats in the picture above. They’re made with strawberry ice cream in the ad, but you can use vanilla. There’s no real recipe but it looks pretty easy to figure out. The ad says it’s two scoops of ice cream and 7Up, though you could even use more scoops with reckless abandon if you have a large glass.

Or you could try these Saltine Cracker Candy Ice Cream Sandwiches from Smitten Kitchen. If you’re a fan of ice cream sundaes, Delish has 18 recipes that they call “spectacular,” including one that uses Froot Loops. If you’re a purist and just want a bowl of good vanilla ice cream, try this recipe from Taste of Home.

I never liked vanilla ice cream when I was younger, unless it was with other flavors (like in a Hoodsie). I was a chocolate kid all the way. Somewhere along the line I stopped eating chocolate ice cream and became a fan of vanilla. Weird how things change when you get older.

I even like dark chocolate now. When I was 10 you couldn’t have paid me enough to eat it (unless that payment was in the form of milk chocolate).

Next Week’s Holidays and Events

National Day of the Cowboy (July 24)

This annual celebration is in its 17th year.

Tell an Old Joke Day (July 24)

Two guys walk into a bar. The third guy ducks.

Featured image: JUDr. Martin Kovacs / Shutterstock

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  1. I actually haven’t noticed many back to school ads out here on TV yet Bob, which I have in July before 2020. It could be due to the massive uptick in COVID cases, in which case they may be back at home for school once again. I have noticed a return of the Folger’s commercial with the exhausted Mom on a work Zoom call (trying not to snap) with her little boy wanting attention in the background.

    Hopefully the Olympics will go as well as possible. They’re my favorite sporting event; winter and summer, and a really great “up” in SUCH depressing times. Apparently surfing’s going to be an ‘event’ too, with acrobatics; kind of like with the snow. This is quite a feat on land. On water? I gotta see that! I understand what you mean about the year. They ARE the 2020 Olympics; just postponed. I think the Olympic Committee want what should have been, not historically altered by these circumstances. Can’t say I blame them.

    Sorry I don’t share your enthusiasm over this past Tuesday’s $10 billion (all taxpayer money paid) ego trip by Jeff Bezos in his phallic-style rocket penetration of space. It’s a wonder it wasn’t flesh colored. Yes, he who’s Amazon employees have died while on the packing lines due to his refusal to run the a/c, track them like machines, and make them pee in bottles. That continues while out delivering. Oh, and they can be fired on the whim of an Amazon “app” for no real reason. Such a prize he is. Millions facing eviction and homelessness, he could have been a force of good in this country; but no.

    On a happier note is the feature on Marilyn Maye! She’s amazing. I’m so glad ‘Sunday Morning’ did this feature. Her singing is keeping her young and sharp at 93, and hopefully will until she’s 100 or beyond. Why not?!

    I didn’t know the Post rejected every one of Hemingway’s stories. I hope that wasn’t a contributing factor in his July ’61 suicide! Well, the ’66 Post cover by Fred Otnes is pretty spectacular. I don’t have that issue, but have the (red) January ’67 Kennedy Assassination issue he also illustrated.

    Nice 7-Up ad. I could immediately which section of the decade it was from without even seeing the year. I wasn’t good at math either. Ironically, today I do all kinds of things involving numbers in my mind and mostly like it.


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