News of the Week: Difficult Words, Johnny Carson’s Desk, and Can You Still Send Kids Through the Mail?

In the news for the week ending June 2, 2023, are psammophile, studio sets for sale, some very American films, and more.

Dev Shah of Largo, Florida wins the 2023 Scripps National Spelling Bee (Craig Hudson / Scripps National Spelling Bee)

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Do You Know What “Psammophile” Means?

The Scripps National Spelling was held this week. That’s that annual televised competition where you’re equally impressed by the kids’ knowledge of words and horrified by the amount of pressure they must be under.

The winning word was “psammophile,” which is an organism that prefers or thrives in sandy soils. It was correctly spelled by 14-year-old Dev Shah of Largo, Florida, winning him this year’s title, a trophy, and $50,000.

Some of the other words in the final rounds?

“Pharetrone.” That’s one of a group of sponges that are thick-walled and have spicules united in a rigid network.

(Spicules? You know you’re in trouble when the definition of a word contains a word you have to look up in the dictionary.)

“Kelep.” A Central American stinging ant.

“Nunnari.” Indian sarsaparilla, which we here in the U.S. will always pronounce “sasparilla” no matter what.

“Bathypitotmeter.” An instrument that measures current velocity and water temperature of a sea or lake.

“Rommack.” To romp or play boisterously. Used in England, where kids apparently romp.

“Collembolous.” Relating to an order of small primitively wingless arthropods characterized by a thick median tubular pouch usually terminating in a bilobate vesicle on the first abdominal segment. Oh, of course. Duh!

By the way, my spellcheck doesn’t recognize three of those words.

Wanna Buy a Used TV Set?

Last week I mentioned that the Brady Bunch house was for sale, and it was great to see a part of pop culture being preserved when so many others are going away (for example, they’re tearing down the Bewitched and Partridge Family houses). The house where the Bradys lived — the one with a gigantic living room but oddly only three small bedrooms (and no toilet) — is going for $5.5 million. If that’s too much for you, Johnny Carson’s TV set is going for around $100,000.

Not the set he used to watch television; I mean the actual studio set where he filmed The Tonight Show. Heritage Auctions has the couch, desk, microphone, even the carpet and scenery from the set that Carson used on NBC the last ten years of the show. But hurry! Bidding ends June 2.

And if Carson’s set isn’t something you’re interested in, perhaps you’d like David Letterman’s.

Barbie and Oppenheimer

These are two very different films, but each subject — the mother of all dolls, Barbie, and the father of the atomic bomb, J. Robert Oppenheimer — holds an important place in American history. Here’s the trailer for Barbie (starring Margot Robbie as Barbie and Ryan Gosling as Ken) and here’s the trailer for Oppenheimer (with Cillian Murphy). They might make for a great double feature.

Something I Learned This Week

I knew that you can (still) send odd things through the mail, like bricks and Hula Hoops and even potatoes. You don’t even have to wrap them or put them in a box! But I didn’t know that — when mailing parcels was still kind of a new thing — parents could send their children through the mail.

Headline of the Week

“Woman Wins UK Cheese Rolling Race Despite Being Knocked Unconscious”

RIP Ed Ames, George Maharis, Kenneth Anger, John Beasley, John Dunning, Michael Norrell, Milt Larsen, Marlene Clark, and Linda Lewis

Ed Ames started out as a singer with the Ames Brothers (joining Joe, Gene, and Vic) and then went on to co-star with Fess Parker on Daniel Boone. He was also famous for a very funny segment on The Tonight Show involving a tomahawk. He died Sunday at the age of 95.

Uploaded to YouTube by Johnny Carson

George Maharis starred, with Martin Milner, on the popular ’60s drama Route 66. He died last week at the age of 94.

Kenneth Anger was a filmmaker and artist known for such counterculture classics as Fireworks and Scorpio Rising. He was also the author of the controversial book Hollywood Babylon. He died last month at the age of 96.

John Beasley was a veteran character actor who appeared in such TV shows as Everwood, The Soul Man, Treme, and The Mandalorian, as well as films like Rudy, Little Big League, The Gift, and The Sum of All Fears. He died this week at the age of 79.

John Dunning wrote the Cliff Janeway series of mystery novels and was a well-known bookseller and collector. He died last week at the age of 81.

Michael Norell played Captain Stanley on Emergency! and was also a writer, penning episodes of that show as well as The Love Boat, Nash Bridges, and the TV movies I Spy Returns and Murder by the Book. He died last month at the age of 85.

Milt Larsen was the co-founder of The Magic Castle and a writer/producer for TV and radio. He died Sunday at the age of 92.

Marlene Clark played Lamont’s fiancée on Sanford and Son and appeared in such films as The Beast Must DieNight of the Cobra WomanGanja and Hess, and Enter the Dragon. She died last month at the age of 85.

Linda Lewis was a British singer known for her hit “You Turned My Bitter into Sweet” and for doing backup vocals for artists such as David Bowie and Rod Stewart. She died last week at the age of 72.

This Week in History

Wild Bill Hickok Born (May 27, 1837)

The soldier, gambler, and gunslinger’s real name was James Butler Hickok. The Post interviewed Wyatt Earp (!) in the late 1920s and Earp said that when it came to talent with a six-gun, no man was Hickok’s equal.

Phil Hartman Dies (May 28, 1998)

There aren’t many celebrity deaths that completely shock me, but this was one of them. The star of Saturday Night Live and NewsRadio was shot by his wife Brynn while he slept in bed. She took her own life several hours later.

This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: “Kay Natural Cheddar Cheese” (May 28, 1949)

I’ve seen ads for Kay cheese but for some reason didn’t realize it was a Kraft product (probably why it was called “Kay”). It also came in cheese spread form.

Sunday is National Cheese Day

You can celebrate the day by making one of these recipes, and you don’t even have to chase any of them down a hill (unless you want to).

Start with these Best Chicken Nachos from The Pioneer Woman, or maybe this Potato and Cheddar Cheese Soup from Food & Wine. Are you a fondue person? Betty Crocker has a Cheese Fondue made with Swiss, Gruyère, and white wine.

For the main course, you can try Grandma’s Ground Beef Casserole or this Pasta with Garlic and Cheese from The Spruce Eats.

Dessert? You guessed it, a cheesecake. Specifically, this Chocolate Cheesecake from King Arthur Baking.

Next Week’s Holidays and Events

National Trails Day (June 3)

The American Hiking Society has a full guide to the day.

National VCR Day (June 7)

Right now I’m looking at a VCR that’s still hooked up to the TV in my living room. I haven’t used it in 15 years and it’s all caked with dust.

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  1. Marci, all Bob meant was that the previous song to Candy-O though technically separate, acts as this amazing lead-in to the title song. The name Shoo Be Doo is similar sounding to the old cartoon, but that’s where the similarity ends. I also love The Cars, especially the Candy-O album. One song beautifully flows into the next. You’re right it has a techno space age sound to it that has remained cutting-edge to this day. I think he recommended it because it really is excellent.

    If it’s not your thing, that’s okay! Listen to what you love, and take in the vibe and energy that works for you. There’s no judging here. Thanks Bob Jr. I’m re-listening to the entire album and it’s taking me to different space and place I love and needed to go. Music is definitely your thing, and mine. I’d love to see a tribute band for The Cars. too. Meanwhile, it sounds like you had a GOOD time at the Pink Floyd tribute concert some months back!

  2. I don’t get what Bob Jr. meant in his last comments about Shoo Be Doo with Candy-O. I looked it up on Youtube and there was a woman on top of a car. The music didn’t make any sense, it was very strange. I thought the first part was named after a cartoon dog but instead both songs was this weird space age I don’t know what. I never want to hear it again. Why would or how could he recommend it? Terrible. Whatever happened to good music?

  3. Speaking for myself, no I had no idea what a ‘psammophile’ was until I read ‘News of the Week’. Words with that suffix tend to give me the creeps, but for $50k I might make an exception. This kid must have known/seen this word to know the first letter was a ‘p’; how else?!

    The only other word here I knew (but not really) was nunnari. I knew of the word ‘nunnery’ as the residence for nuns. The nuns preferred the term ‘convent’. I knew that first hand, trust me. The Indian sasparilla, I had no idea. The drink itself was an occasional treat for my mom as a child in the ‘Paper Moon’ era. I’ve never had it myself.

    I prefer Johnny Carson’s California Art Deco-inspired set over Letterman’s. Have neither the room nor the $$, but I think Jerry Seinfeld does. The trailer for ‘Oppenheimer’ looks interesting and enticing. ‘Barbie’ is absolutely the perfect vehicle for Margot Robot and Ryan Goose Egg.

    Sending a baby or toddler through the U.S. mail I found rather shocking, but must remember it was the early 20th century and can’t judge, especially in this messed up day and time. Look at that headline about the woman being knocked unconscious. Your column is SO weird this week dude I’m feeling higher than I did at ‘Which One’s Pink?’ in February!

    25 years since Phil Hartman’s shocking murder in Encino, not far from where I live. I know the house, haunting knowing what happened. As far as cheese goes, mozzarella (in moderation) on pizza, cream cheese, cheesecake and cottage cheese. Cheese-cheese slathered on everything, forget it. No wonder Americans are so overweight.

    Bob, I’m working on getting a tribute/cover band for The Cars to the Canyon Club. Gotta make that happen. The Cars are the Beatles of New Wave of course, and this month is the 44th anniversary of ‘Candy-O’. To get the full impact it HAS to be be ‘Shoo Be Doo/Candy-O (by The Cars) Remastered with that futuristic fade-out/lead-in!


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