News of the Week: The Joy of Pencils, a Musical Lawsuit, and Burgers and Shakes for Labor Day

No Siree, My Clue Was Good, I Can Prove It!

School has started — or will soon be starting, depending on where you live — and that means all of the kids and their parents are going to Staples and Target to buy their school supplies. I won’t pretend I loved school when I was a kid, but I certainly loved buying all of the notebooks and pencils and other things I would need for the school year. Funny how I never used a pen as a kid; it was always a pencil. Now I’m starting to get back into pencils, thanks to discovering the Blackwing line. I spend way too much money on writing utensils and paper products.

CBS This Morning’s John Dickerson is also a notebook and pen aficionado, and here he talks about his love of pencils, the memories they invoke, and how they can be a tool in the war against information overload and being in front of a screen all day.

By the way, bonus points to anyone who gets what I’m referring to with the “no siree” line. No fair Googling! If you give up, here’s the answer.

Breaking News about “Breaking News”

This hasn’t been a good month for Michael Jackson.

Last week I told you that the Eagles had overtaken the King of Pop for the No. 1 spot when it comes to album sales. Now we find out that some songs on an album released after Jackson died might not even feature his voice.

There’s a class action lawsuit going on involving Sony and fans, and many online news sources reported that Sony actually admitted the songs weren’t sung by Jackson but by an impersonator. But that’s not exactly what lawyers for Sony said. They were giving a hypothetical legal argument based on the merits of the case and said, “even if the vocals weren’t Jackson’s …” Of course, some people might think that just bringing up a defense like that means it’s possible the songs are sung by someone else.

This actually isn’t a new story. Rumors have been swirling since the album Michael came out in 2010 that the vocals aren’t Jackson’s, and while members of Jackson’s family at first said it was him, some of them now aren’t sure. You can judge for yourself. Music experts say it’s Jackson. Here are “Breaking News,” “Monster,” and “Keep Your Head Up.”

Booze News

Don’t drink alcohol.

That seems to be the results of a new global study published in The Lancet last week. In fact, experts are saying that no amount of alcohol is safe. It’s the type of news that makes you want to, well, take a drink.

This comes many years after all the experts told us that one glass a day of red wine is good for us. Now it seems that all alcohol has turned into battery acid or something. But hey! Here’s an expert who says that we shouldn’t panic. (I choose to believe this expert.)

But even if it turns out alcohol isn’t good for us, we can still eat meat and cheese and chocolate.


The Old Man and the Gun

Robert Redford announced recently that he is retiring from acting. Here’s the trailer for his last movie, The Old Man and the Gun, which will be released on September 28. Looks good!

Chicago, 1968

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, an event marked by riots, arrests, and CBS newsman Dan Rather getting punched on live television. It was just one of the many intense events of a very tumultuous year, as Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote in the classic Post article “Has This Country Gone Mad?

RIP John McCain, Neil Simon, and Robin Leach

John McCain was a war hero, a longtime Arizona senator, and the Republican nominee for president in 2008. He died Saturday at the age of 81.

Here’s McCain’s farewell letter to the nation, and here’s what fellow senator and close friend Lindsey Graham had to say about McCain a few days ago.

Neil Simon was the acclaimed writer of such plays as The Odd Couple, Barefoot in the Park, Come Blow Your HornSweet Charity, Lost in Yonkers, and Biloxi Blues. He also wrote several screenplays and worked alongside Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner for the classic 1950s variety show Your Show of Shows. He died last week at the age of 91.

Robin Leach was the man who wished us “champagne wishes and caviar dreams” on the popular show Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. He died last Friday at the age of 76.

This Week in History

Lyndon Baines Johnson Born (August 29, 1908)

Author Robert Caro has been writing a multi-volume biography of the 36th president, starting with 1982’s The Path to Power. He’s working on the final book in the series now. Late-night host Conan O’Brien, a huge fan of Caro’s, has been trying to get the writer on his show for years, to no avail. But he’s not going to stop trying.

Beatles’ Last Concert (August 29, 1966)

This was the last concert that John, Paul, George, and Ringo put on … unless you count the impromptu performance on that roof.

This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: Postcards (August 25, 1951)

Old man selecting post cards from a rack
Stevan Dohanos
August 25, 1951

What I love about this Stevan Dohanos cover is that it takes something rather mundane — buying postcards during a summer vacation — and makes it rather beautiful.

End of Summer Recipes

Sure, I can call this section “End of Summer Recipes,” but it’s hard to do that when I’m sitting here in 90-degree temps and dew points in the 60s. Just as I finished that sentence, the power went out for a few seconds. Now I’m typing this knowing it’s not going to be saved until my internet comes back. This is the second time the power has gone out today. Funny, I can go through an entire winter of storms, with wet snow and ice and intense winds and not have one power outage, but when it’s really hot, I can get two in one morning.

But Labor Day marks the official (or is that unofficial?) end of the summer season, and here are some recipes to try this weekend. How about these Sweet Hawaiian Mini Burgers or this German Potato Salad, which uses mustard instead of mayonnaise, so millennials will like it? For a refreshing drink, you can try this Vintage Lemonade, and for dessert this cold Hershey’s Chocolate Milkshake.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go turn my fan back on.

Next Week’s Holidays and Events

V-J Day (September 2)

This marks the day that Japan surrendered to the Allies during World War II. It can be a confusing holiday because “V-J Day” can be a reference to the day that Japan’s surrender was announced (August 14 or 15 in the UK and other places, depending on your time zone) and September 2 in the US, which is the day that Japan officially signed the surrender papers.

Labor Day (September 3)

Here’s a gallery of Post covers that show how labor and the workforce have changed over the decades.

Read a Book Day (September 6)

Come on. You should read a book every day!


50 Years Ago: Has This Country Gone Mad?

50 Years AgoThe happenings of the late 1960s in the U.S. seemed apocalyptic to those accustomed to the country’s status quo. Race riots, war protests, a worsening conflict in Vietnam, and several high profile assassinations brought renewed focus to American violence. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a sociologist and politician, wrote about America’s new “age of violence” 50 years ago in the Post (“Has This Country Gone Mad?”).

Moynihan decried the country’s new status quo as one of institutional and individual violence: “It is greater, more real, more personal, suffused throughout the society, associated with not one but a dozen issues and causes. It is invoked by the most rational, public, and respected of our institutions, as well as by the most obscure and piteous lunatic.”

His preferred solution for the country’s 1968 predicament was bipartisan agreement between liberals and conservatives. “The great power of the American nation is not the natural wealth of the continent, nor its physical isolation, nor the invigorating mix of peoples that make up our population, nor the genius of scientific research and business enterprise that have made so much of these assets. Our strength lies in our capacity to govern ourselves,” he wrote. Moynihan’s indictment of violence at a time when “one group after another appear[ed] to be withdrawing its consent from the understandings and agreements that have made us one of the most stable democracies in the history of the world” can seem applicable still. The answer to it all, in turn, is just as elusive.

Read Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s 1968 editorial “Has This Country Gone Mad?”

A Voice From a Truly Violent Year

Journalist Lance Morrow once wrote that the day John Kennedy was killed was the day the U.S. stopped believing it could choose its destiny. Faced with a rising tide of violence, he argued, Americans came to accept the future was beyond their control.

That sense of powerlessness would only be strengthened by the killing sprees that have become more frequent over the years. Since Charles Whitman shot 14 students at the University of Texas at Austin 46 years ago, 22 other Americans have opened fire on strangers in restaurants, schools, and, most recently, a movie theater. From 1990 to 2000, there were four of these shooting sprees. There have been six in the past two years.

When viewed alongside the current wave of political hostilities and mistrust in the country, some Americans have been tempted into seeing an imminent collapse of society. Sooner or later, the thinking goes, this streak of violence in American society will push the country to some disastrous end.

For perspective’s sake, we thought we’d offer some reflection on this subject from someone who lived in a truly violent and troubled year. In a Post article of 1968, Daniel Patrick Moynihan asked, “Has This Country Gone Mad?”


When Moynihan wrote this article, he was listed as merely a former Assistant Secretary of Labor. Later, he served four terms as New York

“Violence has rarely been altogether absent from American life… But I think the violence of this age is different: It is greater, more real, more personal, suffused throughout the society, associated with not one but a dozen issues and causes.

“The rise of black violence has been an… ominous and irrational turn… White terrorism against Negroes is an old and hideous aspect of American life, but… now it seems to be becoming a pastime for suburban housewives, taking target practice before television cameras, filling black silhouettes with white holes.

“Protest against war has been an old and honorable tradition in America, but with this war [in Vietnam] the peace movement itself has turned violent, threatening elected officials…

“One group after another appears to be withdrawing its consent from the agreements that have made us one of the most stable democracies in the history of the world.

“The espousal of violence, and violence itself, mount on every hand: private crime, organized crime; civil disorder at home to the point of insurrection, violence abroad on a scale unimagined.”

Students occupy an administration building at Columbia University, 1968.

Keep in mind what was taking place as Moynihan was writing. In 1968, black militant activists were promoting violent resistance to white society. Black Panthers and policemen were trading shots in Oakland, Calif. The war in Vietnam was expanding: the Tet Offensive had brought enemy troops to the gates of the American Embassy in Saigon, and the U.S. began moving troops into Laos. Anti-war protestors became more militant; students took over Columbia University and rioted outside the Democratic convention. The murder of Martin Luther King Jr. and the subsequent riots were barely a month in the past. Just a few months later, Robert Kennedy would be assassinated while campaigning for the presidency.

In 2012, as the media reports (and sometimes promotes) messages of bitter social division, the separation between conservatives and liberals seem wider than ever before. But for all the bluster and threats, it still isn’t as great as in 1968. Back then, reactionaries and radicals were trying to overturn society, while a great number of Americans seemed willing to watch the collapse.


Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Killed on April 4, 1968.

“A good many Americans do not hesitate to conclude from all this that American society is doomed, and they make no effort to conceal their great pleasure at this prospect. The ‘lust for apocalypse’… is something formidable to behold, especially in… the Ivy League radicals… [Meanwhile] Gov. George Wallace of Alabama… will have millions of Americans voting for him for President next fall… In East Harlem, a school official advises black children to get themselves guns and to practice using them. On silhouettes of suburban housewives, perhaps.

“Increasingly the nation exhibits the qualities of an individual going through a nervous breakdown. Is there anything to be done?”

Not a great deal, Moynihan answered, but a good beginning would be to abandon the myths that we could either control events or we were helpless. It would help, he said, if we “try to understand our collective strength as a people, and to try to see what is happening to that strength.

“The great power of the American nation…lies in our capacity to govern ourselves.

“Of the 123 members of the United Nations, there are fewer than a dozen that existed in 1914 and have not had their form of government changed by force since that time. We are one of those very fortunate few. More than luck is involved.”

Robert F. Kennedy. Killed June 6, 1968.

What separated us from them was “the ability to live with one another.” America had been so brilliantly successful at this that we no longer appreciated it. It was time to remember what an accomplishment creative harmony was.

“An Englishman, an expert on guerrilla warfare, put it concisely to a Washington friend about a year ago. The visitor was asked why American efforts to impart the rudiments of orderly government seemed to have so little success in underdeveloped countries. ‘Elemental,’ came the reply, ‘You teach them all your techniques, give them all the machinery and manuals of operation… The more you do it, the more they become convinced and bitterly resentful…  as they see it… you are deliberately withholding from them the one all-important secret that you have and they do not, and that is the knowledge of how to trust one another.”

This ability to trust, he continued, would not survive all the reckless talk about dissolution and despair. We shouldn’t come to accept civil hostilities and divisions as the natural state of America. “There must be a stop to this trend toward violence, and in particular, an immediate and passionate objection to any voice that gives aid and comfort to the present drift of events. That is almost a violent statement itself, but one surely warranted in the present state of the American republic.”