I’m writing this just before midnight, as the wind howls outside, rattling the windows and transporting the leaves from the trees onto my front steps. It’s not raining hard, but the wind makes it seem like it is. (Hey, at least I didn’t start this with “It was a dark and stormy night …”).
We are having a classic nor’easter here in Massachusetts. The TV meteorologists keep telling us that if it was cold enough for snow, we’d have two feet! I don’t really know how that’s supposed to be helpful or even interesting, but I assume they say this as if it would be a bad thing if that happened. I’m hurt by the assumption that snow is worse than rain. As a lover of winter and snow, I would welcome it (well, maybe not before Halloween).
Across the region, lots of trees came down, there was some flooding, and almost 500,000 homes and businesses lost power. I didn’t, but I did lose one refrigerator repairman. Because of the storm he’s now not coming until Friday. No frozen foods until this weekend I guess.
I Still Have a Landline
Sometimes a book comes along that isn’t just “interesting” or “well done” — it’s a book where it seems like the author looked into your brain and wrote a book specifically for you. A book like that for me was released this week. It’s called 100 Things We’ve Lost to the Internet, and it’s by Pamela Paul, editor of The New York Times Book Review.
Paul lists all of the things we used to do that the internet has either changed or taken over completely: writing letters, phone calls (to the phone in your kitchen!), the Rolodex, print newspapers, TV Guide, eye contact, paper maps, civility, punctuation, the joys of being bored (we’re always doing something now), and not having all the knowledge in the world in your pocket.
(I’m happy to report that I still write letters and thank you notes, read print newspapers, keep a pocket planner, and have a landline phone, and I quit social media years ago.)
She’s not unrealistic. Not all of the old ways were the best, and sometimes the fact that the internet makes something faster and more convenient is a good thing (I like being able to pitch editors via email, shop late at night in my sweatpants, and magically receive money digitally). She’s not anti-internet or anti-tech, but she does realize there was a world before being online 24/7/365 and, hey, we got along just fine.
Not only is it a fun book (everybody loves lists!), it’s an important one. I think that if you use the internet at all (and who doesn’t?) it should be on your shelf. And if you’re an internet user of a certain age, it serves as a reminder of the way things used to be, and with a little work, maybe can be again. Not in all ways but maybe in a lot of the ways that matter.
If a book can be comfort food, this is that book.
Speaking of The New York Times Book Review, it turns 125 this year, and you can access some classic reviews, author interviews, essays, even the best irate letters to the editor.
Quote of the Week
“I have been cool for a long time but I’m even more cool now.”
—Martha Stewart, who is selling NFTs of carved pumpkins and other things
RIP Peter Scolari, Mort Sahl, James Michael Tyler, Ralph Carmichael, Jay Black, Arnold Hano, Val Bisoglio, Jack Angel, and Richard Evans
Peter Scolari starred in Bosom Buddies with Tom Hanks, Newhart, Girls, Evil, and Honey I Shrunk the Kids, and appeared on shows like Gotham, ER, The West Wing, Family Album, Madoff, and Touched by an Angel. He also appeared on stage several times, in shows like Hairspray, Wicked, and Lucky Guy (with Hanks). He died last week at the age of 66.
Mort Sahl was an influential stand-up comic and political satirist. He died Tuesday at the age of 94.
James Michael Tyler played Gunther, the Central Perk barista on Friends. He died Sunday at the age of 59.
Ralph Carmichael not only did music for such TV shows as I Love Lucy and My Mother the Car and movies like The Blob, he also arranged the classic Nat King Cole holiday tune “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire).” He also worked with Peggy Lee, Frankie Laine, and Bing Crosby. He died last week at the age of 94.
Jay Black was the lead singer of Jay and the Americans, known for such songs as “Come a Little Bit Closer,” “Cara Mia,” “Walkin’ in the Rain,” and “This Magic Moment” (originally by The Drifters). He died Saturday at the age of 82.
Arnold Hano wrote over 20 books, including one of the classic baseball books, A Day in the Bleachers, about the famous 1954 World Series game where New York Giants outfielder Willy Mays made his famous catch. He died this week at the age of 99.
Val Bisoglio was a veteran character actor who appeared in such films as Saturday Night Fever, The Cool World, and The Hindenburg, as well as TV shows like The Doctors, The Sopranos, M*A*S*H, and Quincy, M.E. He died last week at the age of 95.
Richard Evans appeared in many TV shows, including Peyton Place, Perry Mason, and Star Trek, as well as movies like Islands in the Stream, Dirty Little Billy, and The Nickel Ride. He died earlier this month at the age of 86.
This Week in History
Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (October 26, 1881)
It’s an iconic battle but it actually only lasted for 30 seconds.
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown Premieres on CBS (October 27, 1966)
The Peanuts special ran on CBS and ABC for many years but now the only places you can see it are Apple+ and PBS (it already aired on PBS earlier this week, but it’s still streaming on Apple+).
This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: “Scarecrow” (October 26, 1946)
None of the scarecrows in this Vermont field looked right to artist John Atherton, so he built his own.
I’m not big on Halloween. It’s a day for kids and I don’t like that adults have made it one of the biggest holidays of the year. I haven’t had a trick-or-treater since the ’90s, but I do try to eat all of the Reese’s peanut butter cups myself (and I usually succeed).
Let’s go a little retro this year if you’re having a party or just want to make something for yourself. You can try this Black Midnight Cake from 1941 or this It’s the Great Pumpkin Cookie recipe from 1986 (I don’t know what connection it has to Charlie Brown or Snoopy. It looks more like a possessed doll). You can also make Caramel Apples and Popcorn from 1976.
Of course, you’ll want to make this Vampire Vodka Cocktail from Martha Stewart. Maybe you’ll be cool too.
Next Week’s Holidays and Events
Cabbage Night (October 30)
It’s also known as Mischief Night, but Cabbage Night is a much better name.
Guy Fawkes Day (November 5)
Read all about Fawkes and the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605.
Featured image: Shutterstock
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