News of the Week: The Rockefeller Center Tree, Stephen Sondheim, and the Microwave Oven Gets No Respect

In the news for the week ending December 3, 2021, are a library book returned a century late, Christmas movies you might have missed, some love for the humble microwave, and much more.

The Christmas Tree and ice skating rink at the Rockefeller Center in New York City
(lazyllama / Shutterstock)

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Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree

Many believe the Christmas season doesn’t officially begin until Al Roker shivers in the cold while several singers gather to help light the massive tree in Rockefeller Center. Of course, it’s lit a week after Thanksgiving, so maybe they should move this yearly special up several days. Maybe air it between Black Friday and Cyber Monday? Call it Rockefeller Sunday.

Here’s a CBS report on Wednesday night’s tree lighting, with a little background on where the tree came from and interviews with people who traveled far to see the lights go on in person.

Uploaded to YouTube by CBS New York

The tree also has its own Twitter handle where it…tweets things.

Library Book Returned More Than 40,000 Days Overdue

If you don’t want to do the math, that’s 110 Years.

Three More Christmas Movies You Should Watch

Way, way back in 2016 — a year that seems both long ago and also recent, if that makes any sense — I suggested three Christmas movies that you might not know about: Christmas in Connecticut, Holiday Affair, and It Happened on Fifth Avenue. Here are three more that don’t get talked about enough that you might want to check out (and I should really do this feature more often than every five years). I’m sure you can squeeze them in somewhere in your busy schedule, watching the approximately 6,000 Christmas rom-coms on Hallmark Channel and Lifetime.

  • Cover Up (1949). This is an unknown film noir gem. Dennis O’Keefe plays an insurance investigator who goes to a small town to investigate a suicide (or was it murder?). This is a unique mystery — it’s almost all talk and no action, and has a twist I can’t tell you about or it will spoil things — but it’s very entertaining and satisfying. This is rarely seen on television, but you can watch it on TCM December 20 at 11 a.m. ET.
  • The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996). Geena Davis stars as a woman who can’t remember her past. Years after being found washed up on a beach, she has a husband and child and a nice home and everything seems to be going great for the holidays until … well, there are lots of fights and explosions and bad guys. But it’s a Christmas movie! Samuel L. Jackson plays the private eye who helps her. You can watch it on Tubi and other streaming services.
  • The Thin Man (1934). The first entry in the popular movie series is set at Christmas, as Nick and Nora Charles (William Powell and Myrna Loy) try to solve a baffling mystery involving murder and the disappearance of a family friend, usually with a drink in hand. It will be on TCM (along with the next two movies in the series) New Year’s Eve starting at 8 p.m. ET.

Uploaded to YouTube by Movieclips Classic Trailers

Quote of the Week

“It’s a microwaveable pasta maker. For those of you who can’t boil water.”

—Drew Carey, about one of the prizes, on The Price is Right

Headline of the Week

“Mr. Goxx, the Cryptocurrency-Trading Hamster, Dies”

RIP Stephen Sondheim, Arlene Dahl, Lisa Brown, Sylvia Weinstock, Adolfo, Virgil Abloh, Lee Elder, David Gulpilil, Lou Cutell, and Dave Hickey

Stephen Sondheim was one of the legends of musical theater. He wrote the lyrics for such shows as West Side Story and Gypsy, as well as the music and lyrics for A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Company, Sweeney Todd, Follies, Into the Woods, Pacific Overtures, and Passion. He won several Tony Awards over his career, and in 1985 won the Pulitzer Prize for Sunday in the Park with George. He died last week at the age of 91.

Just five days before he died, Sondheim gave his last interview for the New York Times.

Arlene Dahl appeared in such films as Journey to the Center of the Earth, Slightly Scarlet, Scene of the Crime, My Wild Irish Rose, Wicked As They Come, and Three Little Words. She later founded her own beauty company and wrote a newspaper column. Dahl was the mother of actor Lorenzo Lamas. She died Monday at the age of 96.

Soap fans will remember Lisa Brown for her roles as Nola Reardon on Guiding Light and Iva Snyder on As the World Turns. She also appeared on Broadway. She died last week at the age of 67.

Sylvia Weinstock was a veteran baker known for the cakes she made for celebrities. She appeared on such shows as Today, Top Chef, Chopped, and Gossip Girl. She died last week at the age of 91.

Adolfo was a fashion designer known for dressing women such as Nancy Reagan and Gloria Vanderbilt. He died Saturday at the age of 98.

Virgil Abloh was another star of fashion. He was the artistic director for Louis Vuitton and also Kanye West’s creative director. He died Sunday at the age of 41.

Lee Elder was the first Black man to participate in the Masters golf tournament. He died Sunday at the age of 87.

David Gulpilil was an Indigenous Australian actor who appeared in movies like Walkabout, Crocodile Dundee, and Rabbit-Proof Fence. He died last week at the age of 68.

Lou Cutell had several roles in many TV shows and films, but he may be best remembered as the doctor whose license plates Kramer accidentally gets on a memorable episode of Seinfeld. He died last week at the age of 91.

Dave Hickey was an influential art critic and essayist. He could be direct and sharp in his opinions, but he liked Norman Rockwell, calling him “the last great poet of American childhood, the Jan Vermeer of this nation’s domestic history.” He died earlier this month at the age of 82.

This Week in History

Mark Twain Born (November 30, 1835)

Did the beloved writer write for the Post? Of course he did.

The Oregon Trail Video Game Released (December 3, 1971)

It’s a classic, groundbreaking game, one that everyone remembers and makes every “best game of all time” list, but I’ve never played it.

This Week in SEP History: “Amana Radarange” (December 1, 1977)

Advertisement for the Amana Radarange microwave oeven
Amana Radarange advertisement (December 1, 1977)

Whenever I hear the phrase “Amana Radarange,” I think of ’70s game shows.

Microwave Oven Recipes

The microwave oven doesn’t get any respect. What do we use it for? Frozen dinners and reheating a cup of coffee that has gone cold. But microwave ovens are made better than they used to be, with various contraptions you can put inside to help your food actually cook a little bit more like an oven. Contrary to what Drew Carey said above, I’ve actually had decent pasta from a microwave oven.

(I said decent, not great.)

There have even been books written about gourmet microwave cooking, and you shouldn’t feel ashamed to want to read them. Richard Deacon, the actor who played Mel on The Dick Van Dyke Show and Fred Rutherford on Leave It to Beaver, wrote two: 1974’s Richard Deacon’s Microwave Oven Cookbook and 1977’s Richard Deacon’s Microwave Cookery.

Here’s Deacon’s recipe for Microwave Oven Lasagna.

Kirbie’s Cravings has a recipe for Microwave Macaroni and Cheese in a Mug, while Insanely Good has Microwave Peanut Butter Fudge. AllRecipes has something you’ve probably made before, the classic Microwave Baked Potato. And on a cold night you can try Nestle’s Microwave Hot Chocolate or this Microwave Mulled Wine from the Microwave Master Chef, who has a lot of other things you can try.

I’m not saying you should get rid of your stove and cook everything in your microwave, but it’s good to know you can do things in it other than reheat a slice of pizza.

Next Week’s Holidays and Events

National Handwashing Awareness Week (December 6-12)

This seems really important considering what we’ve been going through the past two years, but washing your hands is always important.

Christmas Card Day (December 9)

The way some mail is these days, I’d get those Christmas cards out RIGHT NOW.

Featured image: lazyllama / Shutterstock

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  1. Thanks for the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting ceremony, Bob. I almost felt I was there too, minus the freezing cold! Interesting story about the 110 year old library book. I remember the rubber date stamps on the inside card just like that, only 5-6 decades later.

    They may mean well in leaving that book out for people to read/look at while there, but someone’s going to steal it. I promise I’ll continue to wash my hands frequently. Aside from them being clean, it just feels better when they are. LOVE the vintage 70’s Amana Radarange ad. If it had a taste, it would be fresh and full of life. I’m going to start working on the cards later today and have them out by the 8th. That sounds about right.

  2. Sarah Petroske certainly speaks for me.

    I’m grateful to have learned about Dave Hickey. Yet one more interesting mind to encounter.

  3. This is a wonderful way to view/ read bits of news and information—— and a walk down memory lane. Thanks


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