News of the Week: Vanishing Signatures, Things You Shouldn’t Do in Public, and Strange Burgers

Sign Here

Supposedly, in some horrible future where pen and paper will be viewed the same way we now view butter churns and 8-track tapes, signatures are going to go away. Instead, we’re going to use electronic signatures, fingerprints, retinal scans, and other technological “improvements” that will replace the burden of taking two seconds to sign our names to something. I am going to fight this to my last breath.

That’s why I was happy to read this defense of the signature in The New York Times from Steven Petrow. He talks about how the major credit card companies are getting rid of signatures and how he himself didn’t even do a traditional signature when he bought a home last year.

I don’t want to live in a world where signatures go away. I think that’s why I consciously fight against a lot of this stuff, even if I have to use some of it because I have no other choice. But as long as cursive handwriting and signatures don’t lead to a lengthy jail sentence, I will continue to sign contracts with a pen and send out paper Christmas cards and thank-you notes. To paraphrase Charlton Heston, they can have my checkbook when they pry it from my cold, dead hands.

Spitting and Swearing

While we’re on the subject of seemingly old-fashioned things like signatures, how about good manners and the way we dress?

While surfing around Twitter, which one of these days I’m going stop surfing around because I hate it, professor and author Tom Nichols wrote a series of tweets bemoaning what people seem to think are okay things to do, say, or wear in public (scroll down his feed here). Among the things he can’t stand are adults wearing sweatpants and baseball caps everywhere, swearing in public, wearing shorts to dinner or church, and spitting.

I agree with all of those (side note: I have never once spat in my life — true story), and I would add people who put their feet on the seat in front of them at the movies, people who don’t return shopping carts to the parking lot corral, and people who chew loudly with their mouths open. As for hats, I wouldn’t mind seeing the return of dress hats like fedoras, but guys, you’d have to take them off when you go inside a building.

What’s your public pet peeve?

Lost Monkey

The weirdest story this week comes from Minneapolis. Workers renovating an old Dayton’s department store building found the mummified remains of a monkey!

No one knows how it got in there, or why it stayed in there and died, but Robbinsdale, Minnesota, mayor Regan Murphy might have the answer. His dad and a friend actually stole a monkey from a “Pet-O-Rama” display in Dayton back in the 1960s while playing hooky from school. His mom and his dad’s friends all knew about it. The monkey tore up his dad’s house, so they brought it back. They left it on the escalator and ran out of the store.

This scenario is the exact reason why Theodore Roosevelt once famously said, “Never bring a monkey into a department store.”


Hey, Fribo would be a good name for a monkey.

Fribo is billed as “the robot for lonely people.” It’s a creepy … I mean “cute” … black thing with big eyes that sits on your table. As it learns more and more about you, it can anticipate what you want or need, and even encourage you to text your friends or post on social media. Judging from the video, it looks like the type of thing that will eventually steal money electronically from your bank account and kill your pets because they’re too much competition. Just think: One day we won’t have to deal with other people at all!

This will be the perfect companion in a world where we no longer have signatures.


Just when you thought we couldn’t possibly invent another condiment, along comes Mayochup. That’s right, it’s a combination of mayonnaise and ketchup. It’s been so popular in the Middle East that Heinz is bringing it to the United States.

The company might continue to call it Mayochup, but they’re open to other suggestions as well.


New Books and Movies

Show Trial: Hollywood, HUAC, and the Birth of the Blacklist, by Thomas Doherty, gives an in-depth look at how the Hollywood blacklist of the 1940s and ’50s started. I recently watched Trumbo, the 2015 film about the blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo (played by Bryan Cranston), and while it’s a highly entertaining film, it’s not entirely accurate, so Doherty’s book will probably tell you more about the period.

Andre the Giant is a new documentary on the famous wrestler, who died in 1993. It’s currently airing on HBO and is available On Demand.

He had big hands.


RIP Barbara Bush, Miloš Forman, Harry Anderson, Carl Kasell, R. Lee Ermey, Tim O’Connor, and Jean Marzollo

Former First Lady Barbara Bush married future president George Herbert Walker Bush on January 6, 1945, during World War II, which means they were married for over 73 years. She was the author of several books and a champion of literacy and AIDS research. She died Tuesday at the age of 92.

Miloš Forman won Oscars for directing Amadeus and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. He also helmed Ragtime, The People vs. Larry Flynt, Hair, and Man in the Moon. He died Friday at the age of 86.

Harry Anderson starred in the 1984–1992 NBC sitcom Night Court and later played writer Dave Barry in the CBS comedy Dave’s World. He was also an acclaimed magician and made several appearances on Cheers and Saturday Night Live. He died Monday at the age of 65.

Carl Kasell started on the radio at the age of 16 and went on to work at NPR for over three decades as a newscaster and a judge on the quiz show Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me! He died Tuesday at the age of 84.

R. Lee Ermey was a veteran character actor whose early career in the Marine Corps served him well in his many roles as military leaders and other serious types. He appeared in such movies as Full Metal Jacket, Se7en, Mississippi Burning, and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake. He also lent his voice to the Toy Story movies, The Simpsons, and Family Guy. He died earlier this week at the age of 74.

Tim O’Connor was a regular on Peyton Place and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and made appearances on shows like The Twilight Zone, The Defenders, All in the Family, Columbo, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and dozens more. He died earlier this month at the age of 90.

Jean Marzollo was the author of the popular I Spy books for children. She also wrote several books for adults. Marzollo died last Tuesday at the age of 75.

Best and Worst of the Week

Best: While doing some research on the career of Harry Anderson, I came across a pilot he did in 1999 for a new version of What’s My Line? I couldn’t find anything except this very short clip, but it looked like it could have been promising. The panelists on the pilot were Betty White, Bryan Cranston (hey, there he is again), Catherine Bell, and Al Franken.

I’d love to see this show come back, as long as they did it like the original and not the horrifying new version of To Tell the Truth currently on ABC.

Worst: Far be it for me to say something against museums, but do we really need a Museum of Selfies? That’s an actual place that opened up earlier this month in Los Angeles. Is the taking of more selfies something we actually want to encourage?

Luckily, the museum is only a limited thing, running until May 31. Besides, we already have a permanent museum of selfies. It’s called “the internet.”

This Week in History

Titanic Sinks (April 15, 1912)

Rare correspondence from the doomed luxury liner will be auctioned off this weekend at the British auction house Henry Aldridge & Son. Items include letters, postcards, and even menus from the dining room.

First Appearance of Daffy Duck (April 17, 1937)

The iconic Looney Tunes character looked very different when he made his debut in the Porky Pig cartoon Porky’s Duck Hunt.

This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: Sack Full of Trouble (April 14, 1956)

Sack Full of Trouble by Richard Sargent from April 14, 1956
Sack Full of Trouble
Richard Sargent
April 14, 1956

I don’t know why, but at first I didn’t even realize that the kid in this Richard Sargent cover is actually inside the bag. I think I was trying to figure what the “Quarters” sign behind them is referring to. Free quarters?

Strange Burgers

I know that the warm weather will eventually arrive, and when it does, it means that cookout season has begun. I could link to some traditional recipes, but where’s the fun in that? I assume you already know how to cook a cheeseburger. How about something a little … weirder?

You’ve probably always wanted to try a burger with a tarantula on top of it. I couldn’t find a recipe for it, but you can go to Bull City Burger and Brewery in Durham, North Carolina, and get one for $30. That sounds like a lot, but I really don’t know what the going rate for a tarantula burger is. If that’s a little too exotic for you, how about these Cream Cheese Stuffed Garlic Burgers or this Lasagna Burger from Dude Foods?

Maybe the tarantula burger would be better with some Mayochup on it. Lots and lots of Mayochup.

Next Week’s Holidays and Events

Administrative Professionals’ Day (April 25)

This is what we used to call Secretaries’ Day, and it’s not the only national day whose name has changed.

Take Our Daughters and Sons To Work Day (April 26)

This used to be called Take Your Daughter To Work Day until they expanded it to include boys in 2003.


News of the Week: Christmas Cards, Cigarette Commercials, and the Cosmic Crisp

It’s That Time of Year

It’s December 1, which means if you haven’t already sent out your Christmas cards, you really should start thinking about it. What? You say sending out paper Christmas cards is sooooo 1997? Oh, how wrong you are.

I still send out Christmas cards every year because I like the tradition, I like the way they look, and because they take more effort than shooting someone a quick email, e-card, or (please, please don’t do this!) text. Sure, if you’re just an acquaintance of someone online and you’ve never even met or talked to them, it’s okay to send them an email greeting (as long as you say more than “Merry Christmas” in that email). But if it’s a family member, friend, or someone else you care about, why wouldn’t you take the time and effort to get some nice cards, sign them, and put them in a mailbox? I know in this column I lament that too often these days we go for the quick and convenient solution when it comes to communication, but honestly, would it hurt you to buy some cards and show people that you really care, at the most wonderful time of the year?

I mean, Bing Crosby sings that he’s dreaming of a white Christmas “with every Christmas card I write” not “every Facebook post I like.”

An Anti-Smoking Ad, Brought to You by Tobacco Companies

The last TV commercial for cigarettes aired on The Tonight Show on the last day of 1970. They’ve been banned ever since. Now they’re coming back, but I’m guessing it’s not in the way cigarette companies ever wanted.

This weekend you’ll start seeing a new ad that the cigarette companies are being forced to pay for, thanks to a 1999 lawsuit won by the Clinton administration. It’s actually an anti-smoking ad, which warns people, especially teens, that “more people die every year from smoking than from murder, AIDS, suicide, drugs, car crashes, and alcohol combined.” Here’s the Associated Press story on the new ad:

Space Music

Now you can own the music that NASA launched into space 40 years ago.

In 1977, the space agency launched two gold records on the Voyager probes, one on Voyager 1 and one on Voyager 2. The records had classical and pop music etched into them, as well as words and other noises to give anyone (or anything) who might find them out there a sampling of what life on Earth is like. Among the music selections are pieces from Beethoven and Bach as well as Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode.” Ozma Records launched a Kickstarter and raised enough money to release a vinyl box set of the music in January (it is already available on CD).

It’s really wild to think that these probes, launched 40 years ago, are still way out in space, ready to be found, and these gold records listened to by whoever is out there.

RIP Jim Nabors, Rance Howard, Peter Baldwin, and Mitch Margo

Jim Nabors played quirky gas station attendant and mechanic Gomer Pyle on The Andy Griffith Show and later on his own sitcom, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. He also possessed a great baritone and released several albums. Nabors died yesterday at the age of 87.

Rance Howard was not only the father of director and actor Ron Howard, he was a veteran actor himself, appearing in many of his son’s movies and tons of TV shows over the years. He died Saturday at the age of 89.

Peter Baldwin seemingly directed every sitcom in history, from The Andy Griffith Show and The Dick Van Dyke Show to The Wonder Years and NewsRadio. He started out as an actor. Baldwin died Sunday at the age of 86.

Mitch Margo was 14 years old when he sang the Tokens’ hit “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” He died Friday at the age of 70.

The Best and Worst of the Week

The Best: I knew that the special Christmas episode of At Home with Amy Sedaris on TruTV was going to be weird, but I didn’t know how inspired the weirdness would be. Who else could do a Christmas show, one where the host shows you how to cook holiday dinner and create fun holiday crafts, that also features the killer Zuni fetish doll from the terrifying ’70s TV movie Trilogy of Terror. As a big (scared) fan of that movie, it was truly shocking (yet funny!) to see the doll running around Sedaris’ studio with a pair of scissors. The doll ends up killing the big guest star, and the incident leads to a Christmas Carol-ish series of events in which Sedaris remembers the true meaning of the holidays. At Home with Amy Sedaris continues to be one of the few laugh-out-loud shows on TV right now, and this could be a new Christmas classic.

The Worst: There seems to be some unbelievably strange backlash against actor Armie Hammer for, well, being an actor. After Buzzfeed posted a really odd takedown of the actor because he likes to act and gets a lot of roles, Hammer said the heck with this and deleted his Twitter account. That move prompted someone at Slate to write an article saying he should “man up” and get back on Twitter. Because real men use Twitter, or something. It’s still a little hazy as to why either of these articles were written, and thankfully, a lot of people are taking Buzzfeed and Slate to task for writing them.

This Week in History

Louisa May Alcott Born (November 29, 1832)

In 1863, the Post published Alcott’s description of what it was like to be a nurse during the Civil War.

Ken Jennings Finally Loses on Jeopardy! (November 30, 2004)

The Seattle resident’s 74-game win streak came to an end when he lost to Nancy Zerg. During the streak, Jennings won over $2.5 million (and he won more on later championship tournaments and other special appearances on the show).

This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: Burnt Turkey (November 29, 1947)

Burnt Turkey
Constantin Alajalov
November 29, 1947

Hopefully this is not a scenario that will play out at your home this holiday season (and late apologies to you if it already happened on Thanksgiving). I love how artist Constantin Alajálov mixes the real with the surreal. The big eyes on our unlucky cook and the big white teeth of the people waiting to eat really stand out. I hope they like mashed potatoes and squash, because that’s what they’re getting for dinner.

The Cosmic Crisp

What exactly is a Cosmic Crisp?

It’s none of those things, actually. It’s a new apple. Yes, they’re still coming out with new apples. It will make its debut in 2018. You can learn about it in this more-interesting-than-you-think segment from CBS Sunday Morning, which goes into the history of the real Johnny Appleseed.

Today is also National Eat a Red Apple Day, so try to, you know, eat a red apple, maybe in these Red Apple Butter Bars or this recipe for homemade sangria.

Next Week’s Holidays and Events

Advent Begins (December 3)

It’s “the time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas.” It’s also the time that kids get to open little windows filled with chocolate every day for a few weeks.

“The Carol Burnett 50th Anniversary Special” (December 3)

The comedienne looks back at her classic variety show with former cast members, such as Vicki Lawrence and Lyle Waggoner (where’s he been?), and fans of the show like Steve Martin, Kristin Chenoweth, and Jay Leno. Airs at 8 p.m. on CBS.

Dreaming of a GREEN Christmas

December holidays bring extra packaging, millions of chopped down trees, and megawatts of flashing lights, adding 25 million tons of garbage to our landfills. Consumers can decrease these excretions by taking small measures to lower their carbon footprints. According to National Geographic News Online, if every family reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet! The following tips suggest more ways of accomplishing a green holiday.

Recycle Wrapping Paper

Wrapping paper adds excitement to gift giving, but it also adds to tons of accumulated trash during the holidays. Consumers wrap an average of 20 gifts during the holidays. If just three of those gifts were wrapped in reused paper, the paper saved could cover 45,000 football fields!

Look for leftover paper from gifts you received last year, use old newspaper clippings or magazine adds to cover shoe boxes, or cut up brown paper bags as wrapping paper. If you can’t stand the do-it-yourself projects, opt for 100% recycled wrapping paper. You can find it online at or, and even in some organic foods markets.

Reuse Old Cards

We all love to hang those Christmas cards around the door frame or make collages on our refrigerators, but cards are known to stack up! Most of us throw them away after the holidays or stash them in a dark closet to take up space. The amount of cards sold in the U.S. each holiday season could fill a football field 10 stories high and consume up to 300,000 trees. Using the fronts of old Christmas cards as gift tags, new card stock (just glue on new pictures), or as a homemade postcard could save on paper where envelopes are no longer needed. If you can, opt for a paperless Christmas by calling family and friends on the special day or by looking for eco-friendly e-cards online.

Reduce Lights

Christmas tradition says the house with the most lights is the best. Well, not anymore! An average of 300 Christmas tree fires occur in the U.S. every year, leaving 14 fatalities. Timers can emit fires by controlling the amount of time lights stay on while you are not at home. Electricity also drains natural resources and reducing the size of displays can still offer an attractive light show and cut down on consumption!

Can’t live without your life-sized nativity scene in the front yard? Using LED lights can offer an alternative to downsizing, and they stay cool to the touch. If all conventional holiday lights were replaced with LED lighting, at least two billion kilowatt-hours of electricity could be saved in a month. That could power 200,000 homes for a year! LED lights can use up to 95 percent less energy and last much longer than traditional bulbs. Over a 30-day period, using 500 traditional lights could cost you $18 or more, where the same number of LED lights would only cost around 19 cents! Another huge incentive to switch, they are virtually indestructible, and when one bulb burns out, the others keep on shining.

Cut Down on Trees, Literally!

The U.S. Census Bureau observes that each year, roughly $410 million is spent in the U.S. for the purchase of real Christmas trees. Yet, fake trees are made out of nonrecyclable plastic. Fake trees may be used longer, but they are mostly manufactured overseas and emit toxins into the atmosphere when heated, and once they are shipped to landfills, they stay forever.

This season, opt for a real Christmas tree. These trees are grown on farms and are replaced by seedlings every year. As they grow, they help reduce carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and help support the farmers who produce them. Try to buy locally to reduce manufacturing and shipping emissions. You will love the smell, and you can even recycle the real tree once the holidays are over! Enter your zip code at to find nearby recycling posts for Christmas trees. The mulch could be used in gardens, playgrounds, and along riverbeds.

More: Picking the Perfect Christmas Tree

Paper or Plastic? How About Neither!

The Internet can be a great way to forego unneeded packaging, gas emissions, and overspending! Utilizing your options can help you save money on offers as you take the time to compare prices instead of indulging your impulses. Four in 10 consumers research purchases by Internet, but fewer than two percent buy online.

Buying online helps reduce several trips to several stores, overuse of paper or plastic bags, rewrapping, and spending more time and energy to mail gifts. As the song says, brown paper packages tied up with string are some of our favorite things! Shipping directly from the store to your recipient’s house will lack the pretty paper, but memories during the holidays are usually focused on time spent with family and friends. They won’t even notice the packaging; besides, it’s the thought that counts, right?

Experience the Gift of Giving

Instead of opting for physical objects, think of different activities that your recipient can enjoy without the use of packaging and bows! There are several choices: gift certificates, massages, tickets, etc. Check out for ideas. Just by using your imagination, your recipient will feel like you went out of your way to get to know them, and will appreciate the gift all the more!

Make It a Habit

It may seem difficult at first, making your holidays green, but be persistent. Once you take the challenge and are successful, you will reap those good feeling rewards. It will be much easier to continue through the holidays to follow—like second nature. And speaking of nature, she’ll be happy, too! Get out there and have yourself a green Christmas, and just like that old Mr. Grinch, you may be finding your heart growing a few sizes!