News of the Week: Willard Scott, Words of the Year, and Way Too Much Happiness

Willard Scott Retires

Longtime Today weatherman Willard Scott retired this week after 65 years (!) at NBC. For the past several years he has been doing his birthday wish segments from his home in Florida. On Tuesday the cast and crew of Today paid tribute to Scott , a tribute that includes an appearance by someone you probably haven’t seen in many years … Gene Shalit!

And if being on NBC for 65 years wasn’t enough of a career, Scott was also the very first Ronald McDonald. A very odd, very scary Ronald McDonald:

Hopefully one day Scott will be honored with his own tribute and Smucker’s jar on Today when he reaches the age of 100.

The Words of the Year

What happens when you get a word that isn’t actually a word? You get the Word of the Year.

Merriam-Webster has announced their word of the year, and it’s “-ism”. That’s not a typo, that’s the whole word. It isn’t really a word, of course, it’s a suffix, the ending of many of the most-searched-for words from 2015, like socialism (thanks, Bernie Sanders!), racism, terrorism, and fascism.

Meanwhile, picked “identity” as their word of the year. I guess we can be thankful that Merriam-Webster and didn’t pick an emoji as the word of 2015.

For the Love of God, That’s Not a Hoverboard!

No hoverboards

We’ve seen the words of the year, but what’s the worst toy of the year? It’s Barbie!

That’s according to the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, who picks the worst toy of the year every year. The 2015 award didn’t go to the Sky Viper Video Drone, the Bratz Selfie Stick Doll, the Nerf Rebelle Charmed Dauntless Blaster, the Tube Heroes Collector Pack, or the Brands We Know book series, which teaches kids about famous companies and products. It went to Hello Barbie. That’s the Barbie that you can talk to and will talk back to you (ah, the magic of computers and “the cloud”). In the words of CCFC’s Josh Golin: “It’s the perfect storm of a terrible toy, and threatens children’s privacy, well-being, and creativity.”

What does he mean by the doll threatening the privacy of children? It turns out that Barbie can be hacked. Bring on the class-action suit!

While we’re on the subject of toys, can we talk about the hoverboards that seem to be sweeping the country this Christmas season? First, several airlines have banned the toys on flights because there have been several reports that they actually catch on fire, and Amazon has stopped selling many of them until companies can prove that they’re safe.

But I wanted to mention one important thing in this discussion: THEY AREN’T HOVERBOARDS! There’s nothing about them that “hovers.” Maybe companies want to tie Back to the Future 2 into their products somehow, but real hoverboards don’t have wheels. These are more like mini hands-free Segways.

Star Trek Beyond Trailer

There’s a really big movie opening today. That’s right, Sisters, the new comedy with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler premieres! (You can see that Star Wars movie when it comes out on DVD — little artsy movies like that always look better on the small screen anyway).

In other movie news, the trailer for Star Trek Beyond debuted this week, and if you’ve always wondered what Star Trek would be like with a Beastie Boys soundtrack, well, here you go:

Too Much Sleep, Too Much Happiness


I was reading recently about a guy who sets his alarm clock to wake him up in the middle of the night. He doesn’t have to get up at that time, he just likes the feeling of being awakened in the middle of the night and being able to turn off the alarm and go back to sleep, knowing he still has several hours of sleep ahead of him.

I thought of that person when I read these two stories, about how too much sleep isn’t good for you and how too much happiness actually doesn’t make you live longer. In fact, experts say that getting too much sleep can be as bad for you as smoking cigarettes! It’s best to get less than 9 hours of sleep a night. And don’t sit a lot either. People who sit and sleep a lot are four times as likely to die young.

So I guess the takeaway from these studies is this: Stand around and smoke more cigarettes and strive to be as miserable as possible.

Sliced Chocolate?

So you love chocolate, but you’ve always been frustrated that you haven’t been able to buy it in a form like Kraft wrapped cheese slices? Well, you’re in luck. Introducing sliced chocolate! A Japanese company called Bourbon created the dessert product and there are a lot of uses for it. You can eat it just as it is or you can put it in desserts or in crepes, or even on white bread with some ham and mustard (note: I’m not responsible if you actually try that last one). They’re available in Japan, but you can also get them online.

Now we just need to see cheese in the shape of Santa Claus every holiday season, so we can put them in stockings.

Pickles and Pine Trees

I love television this time of year. Not only do we get Christmas specials to watch, we also get Christmas episodes of our favorite TV shows.

CBS has been doing something interesting the past few holiday seasons. They’ve been showing classic, colorized episodes of I Love Lucy, and they get good ratings every year. This year the network is doing a little more for Christmas. On December 23 at 8 p.m., they’re going to show the I Love Lucy Christmas Special, which will include the 1956 Christmas episode and also the classic episode where Lucy does a commercial for Vitameatavegamin (which I watched again recently, and it’s still very funny). Then on Christmas night, the network is going to show two colorized episodes of The Andy Griffith Show: “The Christmas Story” (the one where the gang has to deal with Mayberry’s Scrooge-like department store owner) and “The Pickle Story,” which happens to be the favorite episode of several Andy Griffith Show cast members (and mine too). It’s the one where Aunt Bee enters a pickle contest but her pickles taste like kerosene.

I’d love to see more networks do this, air episodes of classic TV shows from decades ago. Looking at the ratings, viewers love to see stuff like that, and not just on Me-TV or TV Land.

Christmas Recipes

I don’t know what the weather is like where you are, but it has been in the 50s (and some days almost 60) here in Massachusetts. So maybe it has been hard for you to get into the Christmas spirit. But it’s only a week away so you don’t have much time to get into that spirit. Here are some recipes that might help.

How about some Stuffed Celery, which sounds like an appetizer you would serve at a holiday party. Though keep in mind that New York Times food editor Sam Sifton is against appetizers. Or maybe you’re in charge of making the potatoes this year and you want to try some Rosemary Mashed Potatoes. For dessert you could make one of the 20 Christmas desserts suggested by Martha Stewart. And for a snack that also makes for a great gift, how about some Peppermint Bark?

Upcoming Events and Anniversaries

National Christmas Tree
By White House photo by Susan Sterner. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

National Crossword Puzzle Day (December 21)

The ______ (Comes before second – 5 letters) crossword puzzles appeared in ______ (Country where Winston Churchill was born – 7 letters) in the 19th ______ (Another word for 100 years – 7 letters).

Beethoven’s Fifth debuts (December 22, 1808)

Is there a more famous opening to a piece of classical music? You can listen to the entire piece here.

Van Gogh cuts off his ear (December 23, 1888)

Why did he do it? The truth may be different than you think.

First National Christmas tree lighting (December 24, 1923)

President Calvin Coolidge pressed the button to light the first National Christmas Tree, but he probably didn’t say much after pressing it.

Christmas (December 25)

This day we celebrate the birth of another great man. That’s right, writer and Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling, born in 1925.

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

Ffooter /
Ffooter /

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.