News of the Week: Images from Space, the Smiley Face, and Christmas Is a December Thing

In the news for the week ending July 15, 2022, are a shortage of peanut butter, a surplus of Christmas, pictures of soup cans, happy faces, and an infinite universe, and more.

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To Boldly Go …

It seems like there’s very little good news these days. Inflation is at a 40-year high, the country is being torn apart by political and cultural differences, and — most alarming of all — there’s not enough peanut butter on the supermarket shelves.

But at least we have some cool new space photos! NASA released the first batch of pictures taken by the Webb Space Telescope, and they’re rather remarkable.

Not to get all “dorm room discussion after a couple of bong hits” on you, but it does really make you think. About how we fit in the grand scheme of things, what (or who) else is out there, and just how big the universe is and if it ever ends. And what’s on the other side if it does?

Put on a Happy Face

It seems odd that someone had to invent the smiley face. Not our smiley faces, but the Smiley Face. The man credited with its creation in 1963, a Massachusetts artist named Harvey Ball, was only paid $45 for it and never registered a trademark. From there the story gets interesting, and involves a 19-year-old French journalist.

Why Are Young People Wearing Suits to the Minions Movie?

Even the people doing it aren’t exactly sure, but hey, at least they’re wearing suits!

Christmas Is in December

The phrase “Christmas in July” has had many meanings over the years. It was supposedly started at Keystone Camp in Brevard, North Carolina, in 1933, a literal “Christmas in July,” with a tree, carolers, and even Santa Claus — a tradition that continues there to this day. Since then, the phrase has been used in everything from store sales to television programming and a thousand casual meanings of the phrase.

But companies are starting to embrace it just a little too much. The Hallmark Channel is currently running a month-long celebration with that name, showing all of their popular Christmas movies; SiriusXM’s main Christmas channel, “Holiday Traditions,” now plays holiday music all year long; and even Martha Stewart is hawking her Christmas stuff on QVC this month.

(I’ll cut Martha some slack because at least she’s actually selling Christmas items. Also, she’s been to prison and scares me.)

And that’s in addition to the hundreds of local celebrations and events that use the “Christmas in July” phrase.

I guess this was inevitable, since so many of us try to find a little July in December, by going on vacation to a tropical paradise, or at least dreaming of going to one.

But doesn’t Christmas get a little diluted by celebrating it other times of the year? People always complain that Christmas commercials and songs start way too early (before Thanksgiving, gasp!), but it’s okay to watch Christmas movies and listen to Christmas songs while getting a sun tan and drinking iced tea?

It has to stop. Christmas is a winter thing, not a summer thing. If Hallmark is going to show a movie where a hardened businesswoman goes to a small town to close down the Christmas tree factory and changes her mind and becomes a better person after she meets a handyman named Kris (or maybe Nick) and they fall in love and she decides to stay there and run the company, they should show it in December, not July.

RIP Shinzo Abe, Ivana Trump, Monty Norman, Tony Sirico, Larry Storch, Gregory Itzin, George Elder, Don Graham, L.Q. Jones, and Adam Wade

Shinzo Abe was the prime minister of Japan from 2012 to 2020. He died last week at the age of 67.

Ivana Trump was the ex-wife of former President Donald Trump and the creator of a successful line of clothing, beauty, and jewelry products. She died yesterday at the age of 73.

Monty Norman was the composer of the James Bond theme. He died Monday at the age of 94.

Tony Sirico played Paulie Walnuts on The Sopranos. He also appeared in Goodfellas, several Woody Allen movies, and TV shows like Miami Vice and Family Guy. He died last week at the age of 79.

Larry Storch was best known for his role as Agarn on the sitcom F Troop (“Before they resume, with a bang and a boom”) and for many cartoon characters, including Phineas J. Whoopee on Tennessee Tuxedo and His Friends. He died last week at the age of 99.

Gregory Itzin played President Logan on 24, was a regular on Covert Affairs, The Mentalist, Big Love, and Murder One, and appeared in dozens of other TV shows, movies, and stage plays. He died last week at the age of 74.

George Elder was the oldest living Major League Baseball player. He was an outfielder for the St. Louis Browns in 1949, after a stint in the Marines where he fought on Iwo Jima. He later became a sheriff’s deputy. He died last week at the age of 101.

Don Graham was a legendary music promoter who helped sign The Everly Brothers, Connie Stevens, Edd “Kookie” Byrnes, and Ike and Tina Turner to the new Warner Bros. record label. He died last week at the age of 87.

L.Q. Jones appeared in a ton of TV and movie westerns over a long career, as well as other shows like Perry Mason and movies like Casino and A Prairie Home Companion. He died Saturday at the age of 94.

Adam Wade started out as an assistant to polio vaccine pioneer Jonas Salk and then went on to have three top ten singles in 1961, including “Take Good Care of Her.” He appeared in films like Shaft and Across 110th Street and hosted the game show Musical Chairs. He died last week at the age of 87.

This Week in History

Andy Warhol Unveils Campbell’s Soup Paintings (July 9, 1962)

At first the soup company hated them so much they sent a lawyer to deal with the artist. They later had a change of heart.

John Quincy Adams Born (July 11, 1767)

He was actually quite accomplished before he became president, and was one of only two whose father was also president (the other being George W. Bush).

This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: Vacation ad (July 12, 1947)

One way to get the most out of your vacation would be to not wear a suit and tie when you play golf.

Iced Coffee and Iced Tea

July makes one think of tall, iced drinks (not Christmas eggnog), and here are a few you might want to try, of both the coffee and tea variety.

Natasha’s Kitchen has a recipe for what she calls Extra Easy Iced Tea, while Taste of Home has a recipe for Raspberry Iced Tea. And I’m going to try Peel with Zeal’s Blueberry Iced Tea, because I’ve been craving blueberries lately for some reason. Meanwhile, the Pioneer Woman shows you how to make The Most Perfect Iced Coffee, and Damn Delicious has a recipe for what they call Perfect Iced Coffee.

You can try both and let them know which one really is perfect.

Next Week’s Holidays and Events

Lake Superior Day (July 17)

They’re all “great” lakes, so what makes this one so “superior?”

Comic-Con (July 21-24)

The first show had only 300 attendees, but now … well, it’s a lot bigger.

Featured image: A near-infrared image of galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 from the James Webb Space Telescope (NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI)

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  1. LOVE that amazing opening picture from NASA, and appreciate the link with a lot more great photos and info. Did anyone else see the big low orange moon in the southeastern sky Wednesday night? Spellbinding! I didn’t get to see the NY Times link for very long on the Minions thing before it cut me off, Bob. I saw enough to see these were 20 year old guys (some probably autistic; sorry) dressed up, and that’s a good thing. Yes.

    Thanks for the complicated story on the simple, happy face. It’s had a lot of abuse by people who had no right using it, but what else is new? Mmmm, that public service announcement in NY about trying to protect one’s self in the event of a nuclear attack. The very day our blood thirsty, warmongering President gets the hell out of the U.S. amid fresh bad economic news to start even more trouble in the Middle East. Way to go, Merry Joe!

    Christmas is a GREED thing, and confining it from September to early January isn’t enough. Kind of like someone’s son needing more crack in his pipe to smoke. Andy Warhol is overrated in every way. He’s certainly no Andy Hollandbeck, I know that. As for the man in the ’47 ‘Vacation’ ad, he’s also carrying luggage indicating he’s enroute to the destination. Probably a short sleeved shirt and checkered slacks once on the course I would think.


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