News of the Week: Retro Tech, YouTube Stars, and the Dangers of Working from Home

Can Pagers Be Far Behind?


It seems that a lot of old technology is making a comeback. We’ve seen a new fondness for typewriters, retro video games, and even vinyl records. Maybe pagers and butter churns are next, but in the meantime we can enjoy the return of cassette tapes.

This Boston Globe article gives a rundown of how “the kids” are getting their music these days. In my day, we had to walk four miles through the snow to buy our music, but now kids have formats like streaming and YouTube and iTunes. But for some reason, cassette tapes are also becoming a little more popular than they were 15 years ago, when no one cared about or missed them.

Okay, so cassettes are back. What I want to know is, what the heck do you play them on? If they still make tape decks, I can’t imagine spending money on one. I remember spending a lot of time picking out various stereo components when I was in my teens and 20s and spending extra money for the premium blank tapes, but the cassette is one technology I don’t see a need to bring back. And I really don’t want to hear that 8-tracks are back.

YouTube Killed the Medical Star

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a little kid, but I distinctly remember also wanting to be a baseball player, a detective, and a stuntman. Those seem like old-fashioned goals now, as many kids now want to grow up to sit in front of a screen.

A poll by the travel company First Choice, in which they surveyed 1,000 kids aged 6 to 17, reveals that 75 percent of those kids want to grow up to be YouTube stars, vloggers, and bloggers. Occupations such as doctor and lawyer placed lower on the list, and “TV presenter” came before writer and athlete. I don’t know how “TV presenter” got to be a thing, but I guess we should be happy that “reality show star” isn’t on the list.

Hopefully, kids understand that most people who are on YouTube or blog don’t make a lot of money. Not everyone can be PewDiePie.

7,000 Letters

As a big fan of handwritten letters, this is my favorite story of the week.

Ninety-eight-year-old Alleen Cooper, from Lakewood, California, has been writing letters to American troops since World War II. She has written over 7,000 of them, and she writes them all by hand. She’s up there in age but she says she doesn’t plan on stopping because the men and women overseas appreciate them so much.

I bet those 7,000 letters are approximately 7,000 more than most people write these days.



A lot of people think that working from home is a perfect situation. You can make your own hours! There’s no office politics! No commuting! You can come and go as you please!

As someone who has worked from home for many, many years, I can tell you that while it’s great that I don’t have to put on a tie or shave every day, it’s also difficult to concentrate on work when you have a TV and couch calling you, visitors coming to the door, the phone ringing all the time, and no coworkers pushing you to work and helping you concentrate.

This NBC News piece focuses on another problem with working from home: loneliness. You’re isolated from other people and you don’t have the interaction and feedback you get working with other people someplace else. This may seem like a good thing — you can focus on your work — but it often doesn’t work out that way. The internet and social media? They can help but can be a distraction you don’t want.

I think people who work from home should get a dog.

RIP Gregg Allman, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Frank Deford, Denis Johnson, Jared Martin, Jim Bunning, and Manuel Noriega

Gregg Allman was a rock legend and leader of The Allman Brothers Band, who had classic songs such as “Ramblin’ Man,” “Whippin’ Post,” “Midnight Rider,” and “Melissa.” He died Saturday at the age of 69.

Zbigniew Brzezinski was national security adviser under President Jimmy Carter and was author of several political books. His daughter is Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski. He died last Friday at the age of 89.

Frank Deford was a veteran sports journalist and commentator, writing for Sports Illustrated for 30 years and appearing on NPR, NBC, ESPN, and HBO. He passed away May 28 at the age of 78.

Denis Johnson was the acclaimed author of the story collection Jesus’ Son as well as several novels, plays, and poems. He died last week at the age of 67.

Jared Martin played Dusty Farlow on Dallas, was a regular on The Fantastic Journey and War of the Worlds TV series, and appeared on dozens of other shows. He died last week at the age of 75.

Jim Bunning was a Hall of Fame pitcher (he threw no-hitters in both the American and National Leagues) and former Republican senator from Kentucky. He died last weekend at the age of 75.

Manuel Noriega was the former Panamanian dictator who was eventually sent to prison in the United States, France, and Panama for drug charges and murder. He died Monday at the age of 83.

This Week in History

John F. Kennedy Born (May 29, 1917)

This week marked the 100th birthday of our 35th president. Here’s our December 14, 1963 issue, with a cover portrait by Norman Rockwell, in which we reprinted a piece that originally ran when Kennedy was running for president.

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band Released (June 1, 1967)

The classic Beatles album was released 50 years ago this week and changed rock ’n’ roll forever. Can you name all of the people on the cover?

This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: Charles M. Schulz’s First Appearance (May 29, 1948)


This was the very first comic that Schulz published in The Saturday Evening Post, two years before the debut of Peanuts. It’s interesting that the 17 cartoons that Schulz drew for the Post don’t have titles, even though he was drawing a strip calledLi’l Folks for the St. Paul Pioneer Press at the time.

National Turkey Lovers’ Month


There is no sensible reason why National Turkey Lovers’ Month should be celebrated in June. Turkey is not a June food. Sure, we eat sliced turkey in sandwiches during the summer, but turkey is a fall and winter food, a Thanksgiving and Christmas tradition, not something you eat wearing shorts. And who wants to have the oven on all day long in June?

So what I’ll point you to this week are some recipes for turkey sandwiches, like this Turkey, Cheddar, and Green Apple sandwich from Martha Stewart, this Turkey Sandwich with Cream Cheese and Bacon, and this California-Style Turkey Sandwich, with avocado and Monterey Jack cheese.

If you insist on cooking a turkey, then you can make Monica Geller’s famous Moist Maker. Just make sure you don’t leave it in your office fridge.

Next Week’s Holidays and Events

National Yo-Yo Day (June 6)

It’s celebrated on June 6 because Donald Duncan Sr., who started the Duncan Company, maker of yo-yos and other fine toys, was born on this day in 1892.

Donald Duck Day (June 9)

Here’s another person with the initials D.D. we celebrate this week. He made his first appearance in the cartoon “The Wise Little Hen” on June 9, 1934. This means I have two things in common with Donald Duck: we were born on the same day and we both usually walk around without pants.​

News of the Week: Christmas Trees, Cassette Tapes, and Cookies Shaped Like Both

These Are Christmas Trees

The official lighting of the White House Christmas tree was last night, but if you weren’t there you didn’t see it live. For the first time in 33 years there was no Christmas in Washington special on television. The producers couldn’t find a TV network to air it in time. The event had been on TBS for the past 15 years but 2014 was the last year. Here’s the video:

And here’s this week’s Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting. It’s the 83rd lighting of the tree (don’t worry, they get a new one every year).

This Isn’t a Christmas Tree

The Web meme You Had One Job highlights job “fails,” those situations where someone had one job to do and they couldn’t even do that right. For example, maybe someone had to paint the word SCHOOL on a street and ended up spelling it wrong.

I thought of this when seeing this story about the Reese’s Peanut Butter Christmas Trees that look nothing like Christmas trees. If you took the cups out of the package and showed them to someone and asked what the shape was, “Christmas tree” wouldn’t come up in the first 1,000 guesses.

Of course, people are upset and have taken to social media, armed with the hashtags #ReesesTree and #ReesesChristmasTrees. The Hershey Company has apologized and says that it “isn’t the perfect experience we want for our fans.” But come on. They look nothing like trees. They look more like eggs. Maybe that makes things easier for the company when they have to do peanut butter cups that look like Easter eggs come April but it’s not very merry. But if it tastes the same as their regular cups that’s the most important thing. Or as Today’s Willie Geist says, “stop tweeting and start eating.”

The Return of the Cassette Tape


One of the interesting aspects about technology is that old technology eventually comes around again, either as a niche thing or maybe even as a mainstream one. Some people still love pencils and manual typewriters and landline phones and vinyl albums (which even Barnes & Noble is selling, along with turntables) and will never give them up, and now it looks like some people are starting to love cassette tapes all over again.

In this Boston Globe piece, we see that it isn’t something that only unknown bands are putting out or people are creating in their garages. Major bands and major record labels are actually putting out their music on cassettes and vinyl albums again. I remember cassette tapes well. Besides buying them, I used to swap albums with friends and we’d record vinyl albums on the cassette tapes and make mixes, and the quality of the versions we made were often better than the manufactured cassettes. As the article says, beyond portability and nostalgia, I’m not sure what the appeal of cassettes is over other old tech like CDs or vinyl.

Meanwhile, millennials are looking at these things as if they’re quill pens and powdered wigs. I predict the next comebacks we’ll see will be handkerchiefs and movie rental stores.

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice

I’m still not sure about this movie. I’m pretty sure Superman could beat Batman if they got into an actual fight. Batman is just a man, after all, even if he can fight and has some neat gadgets, Superman could just punch him, crush him, set him on fire with his laser eyes, or pick him up and fly him to an ice flow in the Arctic and leave him there until he promises to behave. Maybe the “v” in the title refers to them being on opposite sides of the law in this film. Or maybe Batman has a lot of kryptonite stashed in the Batcave, who knows. I’m assuming they become friendly at some point and join forces because Lex Luthor wants to destroy Gotham and/or Metropolis.

Here’s the new trailer, which debuted this week on Jimmy Kimmel Live:

I like how Superman says to Batman at one point “If I wanted it, you’d be dead already!” so even he knows he could take him.

Now I just want to know why Wonder Woman has to be in this. Isn’t the first meeting between Batman and Superman enough for one movie?

Are You Doing Laundry the Wrong Way?

I’m tempted to just say probably not! and end things there, but hey, maybe you are doing your laundry wrong.

In this video I found on Lifehacker, the Sklar Brothers — whom you might know from their 2004-2006 ESPN show Cheap Seats — explain all of the things that we’re doing with our laundry that we shouldn’t be doing.

Honestly, I think a lot of those are pretty obvious and they’re things we already do or don’t do. Don’t use too much detergent? Don’t overstuff the washer? Wear clothes multiple times? I think we all know these things. I would also add “don’t try to clean your clothes with Listerine” and “don’t throw fish sticks into the dryer to stop static cling.”

I do have a problem with my white socks though. The bottoms are getting blue for some reason. It’s not happening to any of my other clothes when I wash them and it’s only on the bottom of the socks not the top or sides or the inside. Weird.

Game Show Googling


I have a new hobby.

In my obituary for game show host Jim Perry last week, I mentioned that I’ve become obsessed with the game show channel Buzzr. I’m so obsessed with it that I’ve started to watch classic game shows from the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s like What’s My Line?, To Tell the Truth, and I’ve Got a Secret and Googling the names of the contestants to see what happened to them/if they’re still alive, etc. I didn’t say it was a productive hobby, but it is an interesting one.

For example, a 1956 episode of To Tell the Truth had contestant Korczak Ziolkowski, a sculptor who worked on Mount Rushmore and was also at the time working on another project. He was sculpting a giant Crazy Horse memorial on private land in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

I decided to jump online and Google his name, and here’s the interesting thing. The project started in 1948 and is still going on! Besides being a massive undertaking in general, Ziolkowski didn’t want to take any government grants, instead relying on charging admission to the site to fund it. He passed away in 1982 and is actually buried in a tomb at the base of the sculpture. His wife Ruth took over the project, and she passed away in 2014. Their children are now in charge. Here’s the official site for the project, and there’s even a live webcam so you can follow the progress.

How big is it going to be when it’s finished? The four heads of the presidents on Mount Rushmore would all fit into the head of Crazy Horse.

(By the way, if you’ve never seen the above game shows or haven’t seen them in a while, take another look. They’re not just game shows but a fascinating look at the advertising, celebrities, and culture of the time. And Buzzr leaves the old commercials and intros/outros intact in each episode, which is a fantastic thing I hope they never change.)

Update: Mary Tyler Moore Statue Has a New Home

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Back in October, I told you about the Mary Tyler Moore statue that was put in storage because Minneapolis couldn’t find a place to put it. But now they have. Starting next week the statue can be seen at the new visitor center at Fifth Street and the Nicollet Mall. She’s gonna make it after all.



Ordinary pie just can’t cut it anymore, and ordinary cake is just too boring. Cronuts? They’re sooooooo 2010.

Now we have … piecaken! And yes the name says it all: it’s a pie baked inside of a cake! Personally, I think that just calling it PieCake would be enough, but it’s a play on Turducken and you have to keep things consistent.

Pastry chef Zac Young has created one that’s 1/3 pumpkin pie, 1/3 pecan pie, and 1/3 apple turnover cake. It looks great, but I wonder what happens if you don’t like one of the layers? What if you love apple turnovers but hate pumpkin pie? I guess you have to turn the cake on its side and just carefully eat what you like.

Note: If you’re on Weight Watchers or some other diet plan, please be advised that this dessert will probably use up all of your points until April 2016.

National Cookie Day

It’s today, and to celebrate how about cookies shaped like something I mentioned above? And no I’m not talking about cookies shaped like laundry. I’m talking about Christmas trees.

Pillsbury has Swirly Christmas Tree Cookies and Betty Crocker has another type of Christmas Tree Cookie. If you’re a recipe rebel, the Recipe Rebel has No Bake Christmas Tree Cookies that stand up.

And we have a bunch of great cookie recipes, including Cream Cheese Cookies, Zesty Orange Cookies, and Holiday Breakfast Oatmeal Cookies.

I also mentioned cassette tapes above, and I bet you think I couldn’t find a way for you to make cookies shaped like cassette tapes. Oh, you’d be so wrong.

Upcoming Events and Anniversaries

The Halifax Explosion (December 6, 1917)

The explosion, caused by a French cargo ship colliding with a Norwegian ship, killed nearly 2,000 people and injured thousands more.

President Roosevelt’s “A day that will live in infamy” speech (December 8, 1941)

The speech came the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor and officially ushered the U.S. into World War II. (You can also read about Norman Rockwell’s Four Freedoms series, inspired by another speech Roosevelt gave earlier that year.

James Thurber born (December 8, 1894)

Read the short story “You Could Look It Up” that Thurber wrote for The Saturday Evening Post in 1941.

First Nobel Prizes (December 10, 1901)

The first Nobel Prize ceremony lasted only 15 minutes.

Emily Dickinson born (December 10, 1830)

After the poet’s death, her family found close to 1,800 poems that she had written in forty handbound volumes.