News of the Week: Presidents, Pluto, and the Perfect Snacks for Oscar Night

Millard Fillmore
Wikimedia Commons

And the Greatest President of All Time Is…

… Millard Fillmore! That’s right, according to a new survey that ranks our nation’s leaders over the years, the greatest president of all time is Millard Fillmore.

Okay, I’m lying (or maybe I’m just providing “alternative facts”). C-SPAN conducted a Presidential Historians Survey to rank the U.S. presidents. It’s probably not a surprise that Abraham Lincoln tops the list, followed by George Washington and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. But what about John F. Kennedy placing above Ronald Reagan? Or Barack Obama placing 12th even though he just left office?

William Henry Harrison isn’t last, even though he was only in office for 31 days. (He didn’t listen to his mom when she told him to wear a coat at the inauguration and died from pneumonia.) This is one of those surveys that’s built for an argument.

We once had a president named Chester Arthur. I always forget that.

NASA Wants to Make Pluto a Planet Again

Poor Pluto. One day you’re a planet, the next you’re not. But it’s another day, and maybe you’re going to be one once again.

Scientists at NASA are thinking about changing the definition of what a planet is, which means that Pluto — which was demoted to “dwarf planet” status in 2006 — could become a planet once again. Alan Stern, the principal investigator on NASA’s New Horizons, calls the demotion of Pluto “b***s***.” NASA scientists swear like sailors.

This isn’t the only space news from the space agency this week. They also announced that they’ve found several Earth-sized planets 40 light-years away, and some of them might contain water and could sustain life.

I wonder if Pluto’s upgrade means that other objects in our galaxy will also have to be upgraded to planet status. Seems only fair. They could name them Mickey and Goofy.

90 Years of NBC

The Peacock Network’s special this week answered the question: “Is it possible for a three-hour history of a TV network to move along quickly and still be incredibly boring?” The answer would be yes.

Kelsey Grammer hosted the event (that you can watch online), which was billed as “The Paley Center Salutes NBC,” even if there didn’t seem to be much Paley Center involvement beyond the title. It’s just a stiff Grammer talking about the network and introducing clips centered on genres (comedy, drama, variety show, news, etc.) and interviews with stars.

It would have been better to have a chronological history of the network (they had three hours!) and to have given less time to shows that debuted in the past 20 years (and in some cases are still on). It’s great to see clips from the shows of the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s, but there weren’t enough of them. (And did anyone really want to see Jennifer Lopez’s thoughts on the network just because she’s currently starring in Shades of Blue?) It was also oddly filmed. The interviews with the celebrities were filmed in such a way that they cut off the sides of faces of people like Helen Hunt and Paul Reiser. I bet they were mad about that.

By the way, they didn’t mention Bill Cosby or The Cosby Show that much. Not sure why.

75 Years of The New York Times Crossword Puzzle

I keep forgetting to do The New York Times crossword. Does that make sense? I love crosswords, and the Times’ puzzles are the gold standard, but for some reason I don’t think of doing them. I don’t think of doing any crosswords, actually. I watch Wheel of Fortune every night, though.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the puzzles in The New York Times. The paper has a great feature on them, including a timeline (the paper initially didn’t want to run crosswords and called them “a sinful waste of time”), a profile of the various editors the crossword section has had (they’ve only had four in 75 years), and a reprint of the very first crossword that appeared in the paper in 1942. Let me know if you figure out what an “obovoid pome” is.

CBS Sunday Morning had a great profile on current New York Times crossword editor Will Shortz this week that talked about his big obsession (besides crossword puzzles). It’s table tennis:

RIP Norma McCorvey, Warren Frost, Richard Schickel, Clyde Stubblefield, and Alan Colmes

You know Norma McCorvey under her other name: Jane Roe. She was the plaintiff in the famous 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court case that made abortion legal. In her later years, she actually became pro-life and regretted her decision. McCorvey passed away at the age of 69.

Warren Frost joined the Navy when he was 17, was at Normandy on D-Day, and later became a teacher at the University of Minnesota. Oh, he also played Susan’s father on Seinfeld (Kramer burned down his cabin), Doc Hayward on Twin Peaks (his son Mark created the show), and was in such movies as Slaughterhouse-Five, War of the Colossal Beast, and The Mating Game and TV shows like Matlock, The Larry Sanders Show, The Stand, and Playhouse 90. He’ll also appear in the Twin Peaks sequel that premieres on Showtime in May.

Frost died last week at the age of 91.

Richard Schickel was the film critic at Time for 38 years, and before that was the film critic for Life. He also wrote 37 books, penned reviews and essays for The Los Angeles Times Book Review, and directed many documentaries.

He passed away Saturday at the age of 84.

You probably heard Clyde Stubblefield playing drums at some point recently because a short drum pattern he performed in 1969 in the James Brown song “Funky Drummer” has been sampled in many pop and hip-hop songs over the years, including George Michael’s “Freedom ’90,” Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power,” and Sinead O’Connor’s “I Am Stretched on Your Grave.” Some estimates say it has been used in over 1,000 songs.

Stubblefield passed away last weekend from kidney failure at the age of 73.

Alan Colmes was the liberal part of the Fox News show Hannity & Colmes for many years. After that show ended, he continued his Alan Colmes Show radio program and appeared on the network on various shows, including The OReilly Factor. He was also the author of several books.

Colmes died yesterday at the age of 66 after a brief illness.

This Week in History

Japanese Internment Begins (February 19, 1942)

The aforementioned Roosevelt ordered the deportation and incarceration of over 110,000 Japanese and Japanese descendants on the West Coast, Midwest, and South. Saturday Evening Post Archives Director Jeff Nilsson has a fascinating history of the order and discusses a 1939 SEP article by Magner White. Star Trek actor George Takei often talks about his experience in one of the camps.

President Andrew Johnson Impeached (February 24, 1868)

The Democrat missed being removed from office by only one vote, and if C-SPAN did a list of the best vice presidents, he probably wouldn’t be on it.

This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: Sunday Paper Cover (February 21, 1948)

"Sunday Paper" From February 21, 1948

“Sunday Paper”
From February 21, 1948


It took me a while to figure out what’s happening in this terrific cover by Constantin Alajálov. The man is hiding behind the door because it’s Sunday and he just ditched church. Who’s outside his door? The minister, of course, and now the guy can’t get to his paper and bottled milk.

The cover probably doesn’t make sense to a lot of younger people today. Is not going to church really such a big deal? And why the heck would anyone get bottled milk delivered to their house?

Oscar Night

There are two ways to celebrate the Academy Awards, which air on ABC this Sunday starting at 7 p.m. Eastern (though the red carpet show starts — and I’m not kidding — at 1:30 on E!). You can dress up in a tux and roll out a red carpet in your living room and serve things like filet mignon and martinis, or maybe you’re more of a popcorn-and-pizza type of person. I’m going to assume the latter.

The Pocket Change Gourmet has several recipes for the night, including Queso Dip, Spiced Nuts, and Academy Award Oscar Cupcakes, while Food & Wine has seven — seven!ways you can eat popcorn. You might also need a good recipe for guacamole and salsa. Or you could just get on the phone and order Domino’s. Hey, if you can use their wedding registry, you can have it on Oscar night.

I haven’t seen any of the nominated films, but I’m just going to assume La La Land is going to win everything.

Next Week’s Holidays and Events

Mardi Gras (February 28)

This day is also known as Fat Tuesday, and the first one was held in 1857. Even though the celebration starts today, the parades actually started in January.

Ash Wednesday (March 1)

The ash is from the palm branches blessed on last year’s Palm Sunday, and they are pressed into the foreheads of worshippers in the sign of the cross. I remember this from Sunday school.

National Salesperson Day (March 3)

The term salesperson encompasses a large group of people, from insurance salespeople and retail store clerks to the little ones who sell Girl Scout cookies and writers who want you to buy their writing, so this sounds like a day for all of us.