News of the Week: New Technology, Naming Winter Storms, and Nat Hentoff

CES 2017

When I was around 20 years old, in the mid-1980s, I was excited by technology. I loved working on my best friend’s Mac, I was really into the latest stereo equipment and science fiction magazines, and I dreamed of a future that was a mix of Star Trek space travel and Dick Tracy watches.

Now I’m just annoyed, disappointed, and exhausted by tech. We’re drowning in new this and new that, and most days all I want is my laptop and a pen and paper to get my work done. I don’t need to watch TV on my coffee mug, and I don’t need Wi-Fi-enabled pickles or whatever else they’re coming up with these days.

But don’t let me dissuade you from getting excited! The annual Consumer Electronics Show was just held in Las Vegas, and CNET has a good rundown of all the new toys and more serious products that were on display. There’s a new television from LG that is only 2.5mm thick! I don’t know why I’m supposed to be excited by that, but there you go. There’s also a motorcycle that balances itself, drones, and Sony’s fancy e-ink watch, which is also really, really thin! (I guess thin is in.)

There was something rather cool shown at CES: the Super Retro Boy, a new version of the original Nintendo Game Boy that plays all of the games and comes with a battery that lasts for 10 hours. We need more tech like that.

Snowstorms Have Names Now

We all know that hurricanes have names (here are the names for the next five years — what, no Bob or Robert?), but for the past couple of years, we’ve been giving snowstorms names too. Or more precisely, the Weather Channel has decided to give them names. The storm that hit the mid-Atlantic region and came northeast up the coast this week was named Helena.

Here’s the odd thing (besides the fact that we’re now giving snowstorms their own names): Campbell’s Soup has been running a commercial for the past couple of years, showing a mother shopping with kids as a winter storm approaches (she buys wine because the kids are going to be home from school and she needs alcohol). What’s interesting about the commercial is that they’ve been changing the words in the ad to reflect what storm is coming. The ads running this week add the words “Winter Storm Helena promises to be the biggest of the decade,” while previous versions of the commercial plugged in the name of whatever storm was coming that week (like Jonas, below, from last winter). Isn’t this a little misleading? I mean, this most recent storm, Helena, wasn’t one of the biggest of the decade, was it? Are they all dropping three feet of snow?

Alexa, What Should I Do If an Asteroid Hits?

Meanwhile, as you were shoveling snow and playing with new electronics, a giant asteroid almost hit the Earth.

It happened early Monday morning. Asteroid 2017 AG13, which scientists say was about the size of a 10-story building, passed within 100,000 miles of our planet. That may seem like a lot, but it’s actually pretty darn close.

The scary part? The asteroid was discovered only two days before it passed by us. We need a Bruce Willis/Ben Affleck-ish backup plan and we need it right now.

RIP Nat Hentoff, Buddy Greco, Buddy Bregman, Clare Hollingsworth, and Francine York

Nat Hentoff did a little bit of everything with words. He was a journalist, a jazz expert, a political and social commentator, and an essayist. Besides writing for places like The New Yorker, The Washington Post, and Downbeat, he wrote for The Village Voice for 50 years. He died Saturday at the age of 91. Terry Teachout of The Wall Street Journal has a nice tribute.

In the “odd timing” department comes this: I was listening to a Buddy Greco song on the Comcast music channels when word came that he had died at the age of 90. He was a pianist and singer known for his version of “The Lady Is a Tramp.” He released 60 albums in his career and played with everyone from Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin to Rosemary Clooney and Ella Fitzgerald.

Another Buddy of the music world passed away: Buddy Bregman. He was a veteran producer, composer, and arranger, working on such films as The Pajama Game, The Delicate Delinquent (one of the better Dean Martin-less Jerry Lewis films), and Born Reckless. He also worked with Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald, and worked on television with people like Ethel Merman and Eddie Fisher. He died Sunday at the age of 86. By the way, his former wife is actress Suzanne Lloyd, and his daughter Tracey plays Lauren on The Young and the Restless.

Clare Hollingsworth? She was the reporter who, in 1939, broke the news that World War II was starting, after only a week on the job. She was driving alone on a German road and happened to see massive troops being assembled after a tarp the Germans had put up to block the view had blown away in the wind. Hollingsworth was 105.

Francine York appeared in many TV shows, including Batman (she was The Bookworm’s girlfriend), The Odd Couple, Bewitched, Route 66, The Wild, Wild West, Columbo, Hot in Cleveland, The Mindy Project, The King of Queens, and a hundred more. She also appeared in films like Bedtime Story, Doll Squad, The Family Man, and several Jerry Lewis films. York died at the age of 80.

This Week in History

The Battle of New Orleans (January 8, 1815)

General Andrew Jackson defeated a British army at the important battle, which lasted until January 18.

Elvis Presley Born (January 8, 1935)

Although he’s been dead for 40 years, the King still brings in a lot of money.

Surgeon General Issues First Cigarette Warning (January 11, 1964)

On this day, Dr. Luther L. Terry released the first report on smoking and health. We don’t see TV commercials like this anymore:

Happy (?) Friday the 13th

I bet you don’t think of yourself as a superstitious person, but do you avoid walking under a ladder, just because? Do you avoid black cats, not because of superstition but because it just seems like good common sense? Do you wear your favorite team’s jersey when they’re in a big game because, hey, it seemed to work last time?

I don’t know if anyone “celebrates” Friday the 13th, but it got me thinking about recipes for the day. Are there such things? There are! The ones I’ve found are very scary/creepy/monster-related, so you can print them out and also use them for Halloween next October 31 — like this Camp Crystal Cake (a reference to the Friday the 13th slasher films) or these Black Cat Cupcakes. And if you want to play it safe today, there’s always this Lucky Chicken.

If any of those recipes call for salt, remember: If you spill any, throw some over your shoulder because … well, you know.

Next Week’s Holidays and Events

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (January 16)

Here’s Saturday Evening Post Archive Director Jeff Nilsson on a 1963 article about the civil rights leader, written by Reese Cleghorn.

Thesaurus Day (January 18)

This holiday celebrates the day Peter Mark Roget was born in 1779. The first version of his famous language book, Roget’s Thesaurus, was published in 1852.

Presidential Inauguration (January 20)

Donald Trump gets sworn in as our 45th president in Washington, D.C. Here’s a guide to what we can expect to see.