News of the Week: Holiday Books, a New Beatles Song, and Martha Needs a Medicare Advantage Plan

In the news for the week ending November 10, 2023, are a new song, an old sign, a big tree, and a not-so-small list of books that would make great gifts.

The original Hollywoodland sign was erected in 1923 (Wikimedia Commons via the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license)

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Read This!

It’s almost Christmas, and you’ll probably be buying more books than usual, so this list is longer than usual (and there are more picks from in our latest issue).

Opposable Thumbs: How Siskel & Ebert Changed Movies Forever by Matt Singer. A behind-the-scenes look at the careers of the world’s most famous movie critics, their fierce rivalry, and the love and respect they eventually had for each other.

A.K.A. Lucy: The Dynamic and Determined Life of Lucille Ball by Sarah Royal. This beautifully designed look at Lucy’s career and marriage to Desi is officially authorized by her estate.

Remembrance: Selected Correspondence of Ray Bradbury by Ray Bradbury and Jonathan Eller. This is one of two books on this list that I’m reading. The prolific letter writer’s output is organized by category (“Mentors,” “Editors and Publishers,” “Friends,” etc.), and unlike many letter collections, contains letters to Bradbury as well. He mentions the Post, including in a January 13, 1950, letter where he says he got $1,000 for a story he wrote for us, “The World the Children Made.” That’s over $12,000 today.

Astor by Anderson Cooper and Katherine Howe. This is subtitled “The Rise and Fall of An American Fortune” and includes the famous family’s connection to the Titanic and explains why there are beaver plaques at the Astor Place subway station.

I Must Be Dreaming by Roz Chast. The terrific New Yorker cartoonist’s new collection of dream-inspired cartoons.

The Six: The Untold Story of America’s First Women Astronauts by Loren Grush. This tells the story of the six elite female astronauts chosen by NASA out of a pool of 8,000 for the Space Shuttle program.

The Adventures of Ellery Queen by Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee. This is a new reprint of the classic collection of “eleven problems of deduction” by cousins Dannay and Lee.

Normal Rules Don’t Apply by Kate Atkinson. These are a collection of short stories, too, all interconnected, by the acclaimed author.

Peace: The Wide, Wide World of Dave Garroway, Television’s Original Master Communicator by Jodie Peeler, Dave Garroway Jr., and Brandon Hollingsworth. This is the first book-length biography of the original Today host, focusing not only on his professional life but his troubled personal life too.

The Upstairs Delicatessen by Dwight Garner. This is the other book I’m reading. Do you like reading? Do you like eating? Then grab this insanely entertaining book by the New York Times book critic. It’s a really fun blend of memoir and book/food suggestions, and an instant classic.

The Pioneer Woman Cooks – Dinner’s Ready! by Ree Drummond. I feature her recipes so much in this column I should mention her new book. It’s for “slightly impatient home cooks.”


I’d watch a sitcom featuring this woman. She’s a grandmother who lives alone with her dog Clancy and just wants to do her crossword puzzles, tend to her garden, and watch television, but she ends up getting into wacky trouble with her family and neighbors. They can call it Martha!

Here’s the 2023 Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

It’s 80 feet tall, weighs 12 tons, and will arrive at Rockefeller Center tomorrow, November 11.

And the Winner Is …

Several months ago, I told you about a lawsuit between several relatives of President Franklin Roosevelt’s press secretary over four classic Norman Rockwell drawings worth $8 million. Now a judge has made a ruling in the case!

The Hollywood Sign at 100

It originally said “Hollywoodland” and was refurbished in 1978.

Uploaded to YouTube by CBS Sunday Morning

“Now and Then”

This is absolutely, definitely going to be the last Beatles song released (until they find another one). It’s pretty good, though the video by director Peter Jackson is creepy, and a perfect illustration of why there’s a limit to what we should do with technology (and nostalgia).

RIP Peter S. Fischer, Peter White, Sara Lippincott, Don Laughlin, Helen Marcus, Shannon Wilcox, Ken Mattingly, Evan Ellingson, and Robbin Bain

Peter S. Fischer co-created Murder, She Wrote and was a producer and writer on Columbo and Ellery Queen. He also wrote episodes of The Law and Harry McGrawThe Magical World of DisneyBlacke’s Magic, and Marcus Welby, M.D. He later wrote a series of mystery novels. He died last week at the age of 88.

Peter White was a cast member in the groundbreaking play and film The Boys in the Band and played Linc Tyler on All My Children for several years. He also appeared on SistersDallasThe X-Files, and The West Wing, and in movies like DaveArmageddon, and Thirteen Days. He died last week at the age of 86.

Sara Lippincott was a veteran editor of books and at The New Yorker. She died last month at the age of 85. (Here’s her last column.)

In the mid-’60s, Don Laughlin took a dusty road with one motel and turned it into Laughlin, Nevada. He died last month at the age of 92.

Helen Marcus started out working on such game shows as To Tell the Truth and What’s My Line? and later became an acclaimed photographer. She died last month at the age of 97.

Shannon Wilcox appeared in many movies including SongwriterSix WeeksThe Karate KidSeven, and The Border, and TV shows like DallasHawaii Five-0Buck James, and Magnum, P.I. She died in September at the age of 80.

Ken Mattingly was the astronaut bumped from the Apollo 13 mission who later helped in getting the stranded astronauts back. He was played by Gary Sinise in Apollo 13. He died last week at the age of 87.

Evan Ellingson was a former child actor who had regular roles on the sitcom Complete Savages and the dramas CSI: Miami (he played David Caruso’s son) and 24. He also appeared in several movies. He died Sunday at the age of 35.

Robbin Bain won the Miss Rheingold beauty contest in 1959 and became a cast member on NBC’s Today. She died last month at the age of 87.

This Week in History

Abraham Lincoln Elected (November 6, 1860)

He was the 16th U.S. president and the first Republican.

Days of Our Lives Premieres (November 8, 1965)

The NBC soap is one of only four daytime dramas still on the air – though now you have to watch it on their Peacock streaming service – and they still use the Macdonald Carey narration in the opening.

This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: “Night Raid” (November 6, 1954)

Two observations about this Richard Sargent cover. One, in the second panel, it looks like he’s eating a salad, and the waitress is offering him butter for it. Is this a thing, butter on salads? And two, the last panel may be one of my favorite Post illustrations, because we’ve all been there.

And Taking a Cue from That Cover …

… here are recipes for Pumpkin Pancakes, an Herbed Broccoli Salad, a Deep Dark Chocolate Cake, and a Perfect Ham and Cheese Sandwich.

Next Week’s Holidays and Events

Veterans Day (November 11)

Here are many of the veterans celebrated on the covers of the Post over the years.

Clean Your Refrigerator Day (November 15)

Clean it out like that guy on the cover above is doing.

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  1. There’s a butter dish in front of the guy. My guess, the butter is for a roll that he can’t eat cause he’s dieting!

  2. The recommended book list is wonderful, but you missed one: Mea Nico, by Donna Lee Davis, a novel about the life and legends of St. Nicholas of Myra. You will be entertained, and you will learn something! As for Martha, sorry, she is much too annoying and has been giving us old folks a bad name every fall for several years now!

  3. Thanks for listing the Post’s recommended books. Several good reads here, but Lucy will always come first of course, please. When I saw the ‘Martha!’ headline, I was thinking of someone else; someone I’d love to work for… but no; this was not her. Having said that though, why not give her a chance at her own show? Still. I’d rather have new episodes of “Mama’s Family” with Vicki Lawrence again.

    The Sunday Morning segment on the Hollywood sign at 100 is historically interesting, but I see it for what it really is: trying to give s— show L.A. badly needed PR through the legitimate image and anniversary of its most famous landmark. Nice try, but it can’t phony up a facade of greatness anymore than the cable cars or Golden Gate Bridge can of equally mucked up Frisco up north.

    I’ve watched “Now and Then” a few more times this week. It seems you like the song itself well enough, but the video not so much. It’s kind of a love it or hate it thing; like the still-controversial ’59 Impala. The video is a fulfillment (of sorts) of clever reunions of the Fab 4 transcending time and space through a technological odyssey and Peter Jackson’s vision; impossible in real life otherwise. Where it starts to really take off is at the 1:25 mark!

    Like the ’59 Impala, I do love this ’54 Post cover, all lit up. Sargent’s one of THE best mid-century cover artists. I’ve never heard of putting butter on a salad either, but can see why he’s saying ‘no thank you’ per the calories. What happens in panel 4 is what always happens when we have to say ‘no’ to too much, too close together: the refrigerator raid at the worst possible time, then going back to bed.


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