The Dubious Past of the Annual Hot Dog Eating Contest

Traditions are grounded in history. Which is why the Coney Island Hot Dog Eating Contest fabricated its own history to be grounded in.

“Legend has it that on July 4, 1916, four immigrants gathered at the very first Nathan’s Famous hot dog stand in Coney Island and made eating contest history. … They were competing to see who was the most patriotic. How did they determine the winner? With a hot dog-eating contest, of course!” According to Nathan’s Famous hot dogs, this was the beginning of the annual contest’s rich American history. That must be it then. Whichever Irishman could eat the most frankfurters — an Austrian food, popularized by Poles, that takes its name from a German city — would be the most American.

Something just doesn’t add up.

ESPN retells story before the competition every year, but the contest and the hot dog itself have a false backstory used to associate them with America in order to sell more of the tube steaks. The first record of the most gluttonous sporting event of the year is from 1972, not 1916. Comparing the story that is told to what actually happened reveals how this famous cookout food took over American cuisine and how the contest became a tradition by convincing people that it already was one.

How the Hot Dog Became American

Nathan Handwerker, a Polish immigrant living in New York in the 1910s, worked at an “exotic” sausage restaurant in the unfinished Coney Island Resort under Charles Feltman, the man credited with bringing hot dogs — or wienerwurst as they were then called — to the States. In 1916, with $300 he borrowed from friends, Handwerker opened up his own unnamed wiener stand with a plan to undersell Feltman. He sold his hot dogs for 5 cents apiece — half of what Feltman was charging. Lower prices and a higher volume gave Handwerker the tools to pay back his loan in less than a month, and his brand has been on top ever since.

Being the cheapest hot dog in town attracted attention from the Brooklyn crowd, and attracting attention has been a part of the company’s identity ever since. Handwerker’s prices were so low that his competitors, including Feltman, accused him of making his all-beef hot dogs with other animals and even had some people wondering if there was more to the name “dachshund sausages” than just a silly piece of slang. The accusations attracted media attention, but as they say, all publicity is good publicity, and Handwerker played it up. He hired college students posing as doctors in lab coats to sit in the front of his stand and eat hot dogs, “authorizing” that his food was made with kosher, healthy meat. This stunt allowed him to gain the trust of the people of New York. It wasn’t much later that he named his restaurant Nathan’s Famous.

The modern Nathan's Famous Hotdogs restaurant at Coney Island, at night. The building's facade is covered with neon signs.
Nathan’s Famous at Coney Island, Brooklyn, NY. (Shutterstock)

Over the years, New York hot dog culture permeated the nation, and the food became an American classic. Hot dog stands are cheap and easy to run, so they spread through the United States as a practical business. But no brand drove home this tie between Americans and hot dogs like Nathan’s Famous. Their marketing was reliant on this American pride to such a degree that in the 1970s, Nathan’s came up with the most American PR stunt imaginable: the hot dog eating contest, a gluttonous display of patriotism.

How the Contest Became a Phenomenon

In a 2010 New York Times interview, Morty Matz, an influential figure in the advertisement industry, admitted that, to sell more product, they had crafted the backstory about the contest starting in 1916 to make it look like a well-established American tradition. But Nathan’s legend didn’t stop at “four immigrants competed to see who was the most American.” Matz injected fictitious politics and controversy to make it more interesting and believable. Matz’s canon includes a contest cancellation in 1942 for World War II, as Brooklyn’s population was made up largely of European immigrants, as well as a cancellation in 1971 to protest Richard Nixon and the Vietnam War.

Nathan’s may have had an actual hot dog eating contest in 1967, as part of a celebration to mark the 100th anniversary of the hot dog coming to America. A few publications of the time recorded that the victor of the 1967 contest was Walter Paul, who was able to finish 127 sausages in an hour. (The current record is 74 hot dogs in 10 minutes.) However, it’s unclear whether Paul even existed.

The first recorded mention of the competition is in a 1972 article; this is most likely the first year the annual contest was actually held. But all these believable story threads wove together to create a “tradition” that had seemingly been around for decades.

Even after Matz’s exposure of the contest’s true origins, Americans continue to revel in the showcase of excess and sportsmanship. Every year, the contest attendance and ratings rise. The 2018 contest attracted over 40,000 attendees to watch Joey Chestnut break the hot dog-eating world record, and 2 million viewers tuned in to watch it on ESPN.

Crowd watches the Coney Island Hot Dog Eating Contest. Many in the audience are wearing hot dog-shaped hats.
The 2016 Coney Island Hot Dog Eating Contest, held during Nathan’s Famous’ 100th anniversary (Shutterstock)

Aside from the money made from the contest’s ratings, the export hot dog industry pulls in over $15 billion a year for American companies because the world considers them to be the American-style sausage. Even in countries that have their own sausage delicacies, you can find a “New York Style” sausage at a restaurant and know exactly what to expect.

The Fourth of July contest has become a symbol of American culture through crafty and ethically dubious PR, but the results are anything but secret. Every year Americans consume 155 million of the “all-American” (but not-at-all-American) sausages. So, it’s no surprise that the industry uses the most American of holidays to promote its product.

Featured image: Library of Congress

News of the Week: Star Trek Favorite Returns, There’s a New Hemingway Story, and Is a Hot Dog a Sandwich?

Make It So (Again)

A friend of mine went to the annual Star Trek convention in Las Vegas last week. In addition to the speeches and autograph sessions and hobnobbing with fellow geeks … I mean dedicated fans … some big news was unveiled, and it concerns one of the franchise’s favorite characters.

Actor Patrick Stewart took the stage and announced that he will bring back his Star Trek: The Next Generation character Jean-Luc Picard for a new series that will air on the CBS All Access streaming service. The service currently airs another Trek show, Discovery, which takes place between the original series and The Next Generation.

There are no details on the plot or title of the show, but I’m going to assume that the new series won’t just feature a retired Picard reading books in a comfy chair while sipping Earl Grey tea. There has to be some action, some adventure involved, so I assume that Picard will either be an instructor at Starfleet Academy (which will give younger actors the chance to do all of the action) or maybe they’ll completely fool us and Picard will once again be captain of the Enterprise or a new ship.

Since I know what Starfleet is, and that Picard’s signature line is “Make it so,” and I know the history of all the shows, I guess I can lump myself into that “geek” category too, apparently.

New Hemingway

“A Room on the Garden Side” is a short story written by Ernest Hemingway in 1956, five years before his suicide. The narrator is an American writer, probably based on Hemingway himself, and the story is set days after the 1944 liberation of Paris. It’s one of five stories that Hemingway wrote that he didn’t want released until after his death, and now, 57 years later, it’s being published in The Strand Magazine.

The Strand should really release a new anthology of these recently discovered stories. Last year they published a new story by Raymond Chandler, and in 2015 they published one by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Pizza Guy Plays Piano

When you get a pizza delivered to your home, you don’t expect this:

I hope they gave him a good tip.

What Is a Hot Dog?

National Review’s Jonah Goldberg writes about politics and culture for a living, so he’s not a stranger to controversies and arguments. But nothing else he writes could ever be as controversial as his latest piece, where he declares that … are you sitting down? … a hot dog is not a sandwich!

It’s not a crazy assertion. After all, just because you have a filling and some sort of bread product doesn’t mean it automatically becomes a “sandwich.” But here’s why I hesitate on agreeing with him 100%.

A hot dog is just a hot dog. It doesn’t always go in a bun; it exists without anything else. It’s a “hot dog,” just like ham isn’t called a “ham sandwich” until you put it between two slices of bread. So I ask, if you slice the hot dog a certain way, so it fits between two slices of bread, why isn’t that a sandwich? You can argue that a hot dog put into a hot dog bun isn’t a sandwich, but if you put hot dogs in between two slices of Wonder Bread, why does that make it ineligible for sandwich status?

Goldberg says “a hot dog isn’t served between two slices of bread.” But … what if it is served that way? Doesn’t that change things? By that “one slice of bread vs. two slices of bread” logic, if you make a quick late night snack by taking some cheese or ham or even peanut butter and putting it on one slice of bread and then folding it, does that mean it’s not a sandwich? I would say no, of course it’s still a sandwich. And then there are open-face sandwiches …

But that’s not a hill I’m willing to die on. I’ve never really given any thought to the “sandwiches vs. hot dogs” debate. They (along with cheeseburgers) have always been naturally separate in my mind, and a case could be made either way. You can argue about it in the comments below.

The Winner of the Brady Bunch House Is … Not Lance Bass

Last week I told you that the Brady Bunch house was for sale. This week, *NSYNC member Lance Bass posted on social media that he had bought the house and was going to renovate the interior so it looked like the interior of the house on the show (which was just a studio set). But the next day, Bass posted a follow-up on Instagram which disclosed that his winning bid had been rejected and another buyer’s had been accepted.

The winning bidder? HGTV! The network says that they are going to renovate the house so it looks like it did in the early ’70s. I’m sure they’ll make a TV show out of the project, and if they’re smart, they’ll give it away as a prize in one of their “dream home” contests. I have no plans to move to North Hollywood, California, but if I win I’ll let you know.

RIP Charlotte Rae, Stan Mikita, Shelly Cohen, Joël Robuchon, and Robert Martin

Charlotte Rae was best known for her role as Mrs. Garrett on Diff’rent Strokes and The Facts of Life, but she was a veteran actress who played a variety of parts on TV and movies since the early ’50s. She was nominated for several Tonys and an Emmy. She died Sunday at the age of 92.

Stan Mikita was a legendary member of the Chicago Blackhawks hockey team, who still holds the team record for goals scored. He was also an eight-time All-Star. He died Tuesday at the age of 78.

Shelly Cohen was the assistant musical director for every single episode of Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. He died last month at the age of 84.

Joël Robuchon was an award-winning French chef whose influence can be felt throughout the restaurant world. He died Monday at the age of 73.

Robert Martin flew dozens of missions during World War II as one of the Tuskegee Airmen. He died last month at the age of 99.

This Week in History

DuMont TV Network’s Final Broadcast (August 6, 1956)

Even though a lot of people might not remember it, DuMont was one of the big TV networks from 1946 until its end in 1956. Many of the shows aired on the network are gone forever, but several still exist. Here’s a list.

Hiroshima Bombed (August 6, 1945)

The Enola Gay dropped the first of two atomic bombs at 8:15 a.m., instantly killing over 50,000 people and eventually killing over 100,000. The second bomb was dropped three days later over Nagasaki.

If you haven’t read John Hersey’s classic New Yorker article “Hiroshima,” you should. Some people have called the 1946 piece the best magazine article ever written.

This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: Eighteenth Hole (August 6, 1955)

Eighteenth Hole from August 6, 1955
Eighteenth Hole from August 6, 1955

I’ve played golf around 20 times in my life, but I don’t understand this John Falter cover. Where’s the windmill and the clown’s mouth and the little bridge you putt the ball over?

Quote of the Week

“I won’t comment on that.”

—actress Kathleen Turner, on what she thinks of the acting abilities of the Friends cast, in a wide-ranging, controversial interview at Vulture. She also had choice words for Burt Reynolds, Elizabeth Taylor, and a “very famous Hollywood actress” who has “played the same role for 20 years” that I’m going to assume is Julia Roberts.

August Is National Sandwich Month

I’m not sure what I can possibly link to when it comes to sandwiches. The possibilities are endless, right? So I’ve decided to point you to some sandwiches you may not have heard of before, sandwiches you probably never thought of making yourself.

You can try this Baked Bean French Toast Sandwich, this Grilled Macaroni and Cheese Sandwich, or maybe you can travel to Treylor Park restaurant in Savannah, Georgia, where you can order this Grilled Apple Pie Sandwich. That actually sounds pretty fantastic. I’ve put apples into sandwiches before and they always seem to make things better.

And let’s not forget Elvis Presley’s favorite sandwich, peanut butter, bacon, and bananas on white bread. The King also liked the Fool’s Gold Loaf, which is a loaf of Italian bread stuffed with an entire jar of peanut butter, a jar of grape jelly, and a pound of bacon.

Should you include hot dogs in your sandwich? That’s entirely up to you. Perhaps you can try them with some potato salad, graham crackers, and maple syrup on white bread.

Next Week’s Holidays and Events

National Tell a Joke Day (August 16)

How do you catch a unique rabbit?

U nique up on him.

How do you catch a tame one?

The tame way!

Hey, I didn’t say it was called National Tell a Good Joke Day.

News of the Week: Heat Wave! Meteorites! Coffee Is Good for You (Again)!

Stop Saying “It’s Not the Heat, It’s the Humidity”

Wooden thermometer sticking out of the sand on a beach.
(Shutterstock)

(This is another rant about the weather. If you don’t want to read it, you can scroll down to where I talk about meteorites and zip codes.)

All I want to do is sit in front of a fan and eat Popsicles.

This heat wave has been supernaturally unbearable. Several days of temps at 90 or above and dew points near 70. (The old saying is wrong, it’s both the heat and the humidity.) That’s not even air, that’s soup. And I don’t mean a thin broth; it’s more like walking through a Chunky soup that eats like a meal. I went to the supermarket the other day and the parking lot was like a giant cookie sheet in an oven. It has gotten to the point where I can’t even watch news reports about the weather because they all show people sitting in the hot sun or, worse yet, wearing suits and walking around. It makes me uncomfortable.

I hope it’s better where you are, but if you live in a part of the country that’s affected by the high temps and humidity, don’t overdo any activity, drink lots of water, check on your pets, and try to stay in a place where there’s air conditioning. We’re supposed to get a short reprieve this weekend, but then early next week it’s back into the nastiness. It’s like living on the sun.

I’m thinking about going to the liquor store tonight. Not for liquid refreshment; I’m going to ask if I can live in their walk-in cooler until Labor Day.

Watch This

3D rendering of a meteorite entering Earth's atmosphere.
(Shutterstock)

There was a lot of space news this past week, from a story that explains how the wreckage of just five or six planets created the asteroid belt, to NASA releasing this terrific new photo of Jupiter. But the most fun news is that the space agency is looking for a meteorite, and you can watch them do it.

On March 7, a large meteorite broke apart above the Earth and fell into the Pacific Ocean. It weighed two tons, and the pieces are probably 330 feet down, but NASA wants to retrieve them for study. You can watch a livestream of the search conducted by the Nautilus here and read about the preliminary findings of the expedition here.

Chestnut and Hot Dogs

Joey Chestnut broke his own record at Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest on July 4. He ate 74 hot dogs (with buns!) in 10 minutes. It’s a new world record and the 11th time in 12 years that Chestnut has won. Miki Sudo won the women’s division by eating 37. The “sport” is now televised live on ESPN, like basketball and tennis. I still don’t understand how it’s physically possible to eat 74 hot dogs and buns in just 10 minutes. Forget about LeBron or Federer, Chestnut is the ultimate athlete.

I’ve said this before but I still want to know: Is there someone out there named Joey Hot Dog, and every year he enters a chestnut-eating contest?

WWII Vet Has All of His Money Stolen

This is a rather depressing story, but it has a happy ending.

Richard Overton, a World War II veteran and, at 112 years old, the oldest man in America, recently had his bank account wiped out by scammers. Thieves got hold of his account information and Social Security number and used them to buy savings bonds.

The story has a happy ending, though. Overton’s bank replaced the funds that were taken from his account.

One side note to this story: Overton reached the age of 112 despite his habit of smoking 12 cigars a day, enjoying alcohol, and drinking a ton of coffee.

Java, Dirt, Joe, Mud, Jitter Juice

Coffee mug being filled with espresso from a machine.
(Shutterstock)

Maybe Overton is on to something.

Researchers in the United Kingdom studied over 500,000 people between the ages of 38 and 73 to see how the consumption of coffee affected their health. Turns out the benefits of coffee outweigh any risks.

I wouldn’t get too excited, though. If you like coffee and you don’t have a medical condition that prevents you from drinking it, then fine, keep drinking it. I know people who drink four, six, eight cups a day. Just be aware that in approximately seven weeks there are going to be news reports touting a study that says drinking coffee causes iguanas to grow a fifth leg or something similar. Though the often-talked-about cancer risk doesn’t seem to be as big a problem as once thought, as Dr. Zipes explains.

In related news, here’s a bunch of great vintage coffee ads from the Post.

RIP Stanley Anderson, Gillian Lynne, and Derrick O’Connor

Stanley Anderson appeared in such movies as Spider-Man and Armageddon and TV shows like L.A. LawThe Drew Carey Show, and Seinfeld (he played the judge in the finale). He also did a lot of voiceover work for political ads. He died Sunday at the age of 78.

Gillian Lynne started out as a dancer and went on to be the choreographer for such classic Andrew Lloyd Webber productions as Cats and The Phantom of the Opera. She died Sunday at the age of 92.

You’ll remember Derrick O’Connor as the evil henchman in Lethal Weapon 2. He also had roles in movies like Daredevil and Hope and Glory and many TV shows, including Alias, Stringer, and Murder, She Wrote. He died last Friday at the age of 77.

Quote of the Week

“The two most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity.”

—Harlan Ellison, in a line that has been making the rounds again since his death last week. Here are some more memorable quotes from the acclaimed writer.

This Week in History

Zip Code Debuts (July 1, 1963)

I don’t remember a world before zip codes existed, so the history of how they came about is fascinating to me. CBS Sunday Morning did a story about it this week for the 55th anniversary. I want one of those cardboard Mr. Zip figures.

 

 

By the way, if you want to see the entire promotional video that the USPS did for zip codes — complete with the full version of “The Zip Code Song” by the Swingin’ Six! — it’s here.

Nick at Nite Launches (July 1, 1985)

Can someone explain to me how a channel that has always been devoted to classic TV shows like The Donna Reed Show, The Adventures of Superman, and The Mary Tyler Moore Show can now run disgusting tripe like Two and a Half Men and Mom?

Luckily we still have MeTV, Cozi, and Antenna TV.

This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: First Day at Camp (July 3, 1954)

Kids bidding their parents farwell at a summer camp.
First Day at Camp
George Hughes
July 3, 1954

I never went to camp when I was a kid. I sometimes wonder if I missed out on something, but then I remember that camp involves all of the things I hate about summer, and I realize I lucked out that my mom never sent me to one. I do like this George Hughes cover, though.

Saturday Is World Chocolate Day

Mug of hot chocolate
(Shutterstock)

Every day is World Chocolate Day, really, but maybe you can celebrate the day by trying a chocolate you’ve never tried before. I was always a milk chocolate person — and for the most part I still am — but I love a Dove or Ghirardelli dark chocolate once in a while, too. Though I have to admit that I usually go for something that has a pretty high cocoa content, like 60 or 72 percent.

Some recipes: Here’s a Deep Dark Chocolate Cake from the Hershey Make It Chocolate! cookbook; here’s a Quick Creamy Chocolate Pudding, also from Hershey; and here’s a recipe for a Chocolate Milkshake from Betty Crocker.

A suggestion: With this heat, I’d go for the milkshake. You won’t have to turn on your oven.

Next Week’s Holidays and Events​

Friday the 13th (July 13)

This is the second and last time we’ll have a Friday the 13th in 2018. If you’re planning your 2019 schedule, the date will show up twice then, too.

News of the Week: Chestnut’s Hot Dogs, Crystal Pepsi, and the Comforts of Classic TV

Joey Chestnut Is Back!

Vintage hot dog adNathan’s Famous held its annual hot dog eating contest on July 4, and an old champion regained his crown — or should I say the official Mustard Yellow International Belt. Joey Chestnut, who won the contest eight years in a row until he was beaten last year, ate 70 hot dogs (with buns) in 10 minutes. Chestnut, whose nickname is Jaws, beat the person who stole his crown last year, Matt Stonie, whose nickname is The Megatoad.

I don’t think I’ve eaten 70 hot dogs in my life.

Crystal Pepsi Is Back Too!

Maybe Joey can wash down those hot dogs with Crystal Pepsi next year, though that might be against the rules. PepsiCo has announced that the ’90’s clear soda will be coming back this summer. This comes on the heels of Ecto Cooler returning because of the new Ghostbusters movie. Please note that both of these sodas are back “for a limited time only,” so stock up this summer so you can serve them during the holidays.

Hey, if Donald Trump picks Newt Gingrich as his running mate, the ’90s comeback will be complete.

RIP Elie Wiesel, Noel Neill, and J.P. Warwick

Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor and 1986 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, passed away last Sunday at the age of 87. He was also known for his 1958 memoir Night, about his family being sent to concentration camps, a book which is now on the curriculum of many high schools and colleges.

You’ll remember Noel Neill from her role as Lois Lane on the 1950s series The Adventures of Superman (though she was in many other movies and TV shows too). There’s an interesting story about that role. Neill played Lane in the first Superman serial, 1948’s Superman. She played the role again in the 1950 serial Atom Man vs. Superman (Kirk Alyn played Superman in both). But when the TV show debuted in 1952, with George Reeves donning the cape, it was Phyllis Coates in the role of the Daily Planet reporter. She only lasted for one season, and Neill took over the role in season two. She made an appearance in the 1978 Superman film, too, playing Lois Lane’s mom, and in an episode of the TV series Superboy in 1991. She can also be seen in 2006’s Superman Returns.

Neill passed away last Sunday at the age of 95.

John Petersen Warwick has also died, at the age of 90. His agency came up with the classic Timex “It Takes a Licking and Keeps On Ticking” ads. Here’s the first commercial for that campaign, performed live on television with John Cameron Swayze. It doesn’t go as planned:

Serena Williams Fined $10,000

I get a little ill when I hear ESPN tennis announcers like Chris Evert either defend Serena Williams when she does something awful on the court or simply shrug off those actions. Serena doesn’t deserve anything more than any other player just because she’s one of the greatest tennis players in history. Remember a few years ago at the U.S. Open when she threatened to shove a ball down a linesperson’s throat?

It happened again last week when Serena, angry at how a match was going, smashed her racket while sitting down during a changeover. She then threw the racket behind her, without looking, and it landed softly in the lap of a photographer. Now, I smashed a racket or two when I played tennis, but I never threw it at anyone. Besides, there weren’t any ball kids or people photographing me, so even if I had thrown a racket, it wouldn’t have mattered. Serena had no idea who was behind her when she threw it. What if a ball boy was behind her, or an official? Or what if that photographer had been hurt? It was a dumb thing to do, and she was fined $10,000, which she can probably find between her couch cushions. It’s not a lot of money, and you know something similar is going to happen again. But Serena said she did it because she was “really, really, really angry” and she was “in warrior mode,” so I guess that makes it okay.

Are You Addicted to Classic TV?

It’s an interesting question, and I would answer it with another question: Can you be addicted to oxygen? That’s how I feel. I can’t imagine living on a TV diet of just current shows and news. That’s why you’ll find my television tuned to channels like MeTV, COZI TV, and Turner Classic Movies. It’s like comfort food to me.

The New York Post’s Michael Starr has a piece on why he’s addicted to classic television, and I agree with a lot of what he has to say. As I’ve mentioned here before in my writing about classic game shows like What’s My Line? and To Tell The Truth, I like seeing the people and places and products of the ’50s and ’60s and ’70s. And let’s face it, a lot of the shows from decades ago are better than what you’ll find on TV today. The Dick Van Dyke Show and Leave It to Beaver aren’t fantastic just because they’re “classic” or “retro”; they’re fantastic, quality shows, period.

One thing I hate, though, is how the shows on these channels are edited. I love The Andy Griffith Show, but both MeTV and TV Land chop them up, either because that’s how they got them for syndication or they’re editing them more to fit in more commercials. If you’ve ever watched the shows uncut (for example, on DVD), then you know how they’ve been edited. But I don’t know what’s worse, having episodes edited like that or having them sped up, like channels do with ’90s shows like Friends and Seinfeld, to fit in more ads.

Pasta Is Good for You Again

If you’re trying to lose weight but you love pasta, here’s some good news: According to scientists in Italy, it doesn’t make you gain weight. The researchers studied 23,000 people in Italy and found out that eating pasta has no bearing on weight gain or overall health. This contradicts earlier research that said eating too much pasta and other carbs was bad for you, which contradicted other research that said carbs were okay in moderation, which followed another study that said carbs were okay, but only the “right” kind of carbs. Got that?

Please note the headline on that CNBC story: “Pasta Doesn’t Make You Fat, Say Italian Scientists.” Italian Scientists. The next study will be from beer companies who will say that more beer consumption will solve our national debt problems.

Monday is National Blueberry Muffin Day

When you have a good blueberry muffin — a really good blueberry muffin and not a packaged thing you can tell came off a conveyor belt somewhere six months ago — there’s nothing better. Well, there are plenty of things better. But in the world of muffins, it’s pretty hard to beat.

Here’s a recipe for The Best Blueberry Muffin from Food.com. I don’t know who voted them “the best,” but I don’t think there are any laws that govern these things.

Some of the truly best blueberry muffins were served at Jordan Marsh, the New England department store chain. The New York Times has the recipe for them, along with the interesting story from 1987 that tells of a battle between these muffins and those from another department store, Gilchrist’s.

Upcoming Events and Anniversaries

John Quincy Adams born (July 11, 1767)

The son of John and Abigail Adams was the sixth President of the United States.

Hollywood Bowl opens (July 11, 1922)

Last Friday, Garrison Keillor recorded his last Prairie Home Companion at the famed amphitheater.

Skylab falls to Earth (July 11, 1979)

It was big news when the first U.S. space station crashed to Earth. I remember the sub shop around the corner from my house sold a sub called “The Skylab.” I don’t remember what was in it.

Major League Baseball All-Star Game (July 12)

The annual game, played this year at Petco Field in San Diego, airs on Fox at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Henry David Thoreau born (July 12, 1817)

The writer and philosopher “sought freedom not from government or capital, but from human nature.” He also had a beard a lot of hipsters today would die to have.

Apollo 11 takes off (July 16, 1969)

The flight, with astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins aboard, landed on the moon four days later.

News of the Week: Cold Baseballs, Warm Robots, and a Heated Debate About Selfies

This Is Baseball Season?

Ah, spring. That time of year when the umpire screams “play ball!” and everyone buys their hot dogs and popcorn and basks in the sunshine. This year, it’s also the time when people have to shovel out their cars to get to the baseball stadium and wear wool hats and gloves while holding those hot dogs and popcorn.

It snowed in many areas of the country this first week of baseball season. I had to shovel three times in one day because it just wouldn’t stop snowing. The Boston Red Sox, who I’m mentioning because they’re my team, actually had their first game of the season postponed, not because of rain but because of cold temperatures. The game was played the next day, and the Sox beat Cleveland 6-2.

To help you get into a baseball frame of mind, even if there might be a chill in the air and white on the ground, here’s a gallery of classic Saturday Evening Post baseball covers, this collection of vintage baseball ads, and my take on why we shouldn’t change the game. And don’t forget to get our special baseball collector’s issue.

Here’s the full schedule for every MLB game that will be played this season. It’s okay to be excited about baseball — just make sure you don’t put away the shovels and ice melt yet.

Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!

The robot from Lost in Space survived a lot of ordeals during the show’s three-season run: the scheming of Dr. Smith, various attempts by aliens to control it, and that weird episode where he and the Robinson family were captured by a big carrot.

Now the robot has escaped a real-life danger. A garage in Los Angeles where the robot was being stored with other TV and movie props caught on fire. I’m glad the fire didn’t spread, but there’s something funny about the picture in that article, with all the firemen on top of the garage while the headless robot from Lost in Space stands in the foreground.

If you’re wondering why the robot just didn’t run out of the burning garage on his own, if you ever watched Lost in Space you’ll remember that moving fast wasn’t one of the robot’s strong suits.

“It’s a Trap!”

Erik Bauersfeld had a long, distinguished career in radio, but he’s probably best known to general audiences for three words he spoke in Return of the Jedi:

Bauersfeld passed away last Sunday at his home in Berkeley, California. He was 93. He also did the voice of Ackbar in last year’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Merle Haggard passed away this week too, on Wednesday, which just happened to be his 79th birthday. (It’s always surprising when someone dies on their birthday, and it makes for an odd tombstone.) He was a colorful country music star, not just singing about hard times and prison but actually serving time, too, for three years after being convicted of burglary in 1957. He was still touring right up until his death, having to cancel several recent concerts because of health problems.

Internet Is Now internet

Finally, the Associated Press is catching up to everyone who uses the internet.

If you’re like me, you hated to capitalize the word internet. It wasn’t something that people did many years ago, but somewhere along the line, it became the right thing to do. It never looked right to me — or maybe it was the simple fact that I just got used to doing something a certain way and didn’t want to do it the “right” way — so I always used the small i.

Now it looks like we can officially use that lowercase letter, because the Associated Press has ruled that we can use that small i and not lose any sleep over it. We can also use web instead of Web.

The change doesn’t officially take effect until June 1, when the AP publishes the 2016 edition of its stylebook. Of course, individual publications can still make up their own minds, so I’m going to wait and see what my editor here has to say about the subject. My spell-checker still tells me I’m wrong.

And the Jeopardy! Power Players Are …

Some people like to watch celebrities mambo and waltz on their TV screens, and some like to watch celebrities answer in the form of a question. I’m in the latter camp.

Jeopardy! has announced the names of the celebrities who will take part in its Power Players Week. Not to over-hype it, but it really does seem like one of the best celebrity tournaments they’ve had. Competing will be comedian Louis C.K.; writer and internet-hater (and Internet-hater) Jonathan Franzen; Meet The Press host Chuck Todd; former Meet The Press host David Gregory; CNN hosts Anderson Cooper and Kate Bouldan; CNN political commentators S.E. Cupp and Ana Navarro; Minnesota Senator Al Franken; CBS’s Lara Logan; Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner; The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart; MSNBC’s Michael Steele; ABC senior legal correspondent Sunny Hostin; and Melissa Harris-Perry, who just famously left MSNBC in a very controversial and public way.

The episodes will tape next week and will air the week of May 16-20. I don’t know which celebrities will face off against each other, but they have to pit Todd against Gregory in the same game, right?

De Plane, De Plane For Sale

In other TV prop news, the airplane seen at the beginning of Fantasy Island — in the scene where Tattoo points and yells, “De plane, de plane!” — is for sale. If you’re actually thinking about buying it, you might want to know what kind of plane it is. It’s a 1967 Grumman Widgeon G-44. It will be auctioned off April 14-15 at the Branson Convention Center in Branson, Missouri.

One thing you should know: After appearing on the show, the plane went through several different owners, one of whom used it to smuggle drugs.

What Is a Selfie?

The answer to this question should be selfie-evident: A selfie is a picture of yourself that you take yourself. That’s all there is to it, right? Not to some people, including Fusion news director Kevin Roose:

https://twitter.com/kevinroose/status/714895523438702592

 

Okay, so by that logic, every single photograph that has ever been taken of someone is a selfie? I’m pretty sure those are just called, you know, photographs.

I wouldn’t usually call attention to the replies that a tweet gets, but the ones on the above tweet are worth clicking on and checking out. Not many people agree with Roose, and they give many examples of why he’s wrong (and for the record, Roose is indeed massively wrong).

I say that the word self in selfie is a big clue to what a selfie is, and you can’t just come along and start to expand the meaning of a word whose meaning is obvious. This is a good example of why you shouldn’t post anything on social media before thinking it through first. Actually, maybe it’s a good example of why you shouldn’t post anything on social media. End of sentence.

April Is National BLT Sandwich Month

I don’t know if I’ve ever referred to a BLT as a “BLT sandwich” before. I mean, it’s not like anyone could refer to a BLT as anything else but a sandwich, like a BLT ice cream sundae or BLT shake.

Here’s the recipe for a “classic” BLT, which of course combines bacon, lettuce, and tomato on white bread with mayonnaise. If you’re looking for something a little less classic and a little more adventurous, Serious Eats has several twists on the BLT, including one made with waffles and one called “animal style,” which adds ketchup, mustard, pickles, and onion.

Oh, and if you’re wondering, yes, there is such a thing as a bacon milkshake. You can leave the lettuce and tomato on the side.

Upcoming Events and Anniversaries

Apollo 13 takes off (April 11, 1970)

The crew was put in danger after an oxygen tank exploded, but they safely splashed down in the Pacific six days later.

Civil War begins (April 12, 1861)

The Saturday Evening Post has been around so long that we actually covered the war while it was going on.

First man in space (April 12, 1961)

His name was Yuri Gagarin, and he completed an orbit around the Earth in the Russian spacecraft Vostok.

Butch Cassidy born (April 13, 1866)

His real name was Robert Leroy Parker, and he looked nothing like Paul Newman.

Titanic hits iceberg (April 14, 1912)

Here’s how The Saturday Evening Post covered the tragedy that took over 1,500 lives.

President Abraham Lincoln dies (April 15, 1865)

What did Lincoln hide from the public?

News of the Week: Hurt Hands, Hot Dogs, and Halloween

Jimmy Fallon Is Now Officially Out of Hands

Maybe it would be a good idea if Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon simply didn’t leave the studio.

Back in July, Fallon badly hurt his left hand after falling in his kitchen. This week, Fallon injured his right hand after tripping over a woman who was kneeling down at an event put on by The Harvard Lampoon in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Fallon was in town to accept the Lampoon’s Elmer Award. He was carrying a bottle of Jägermeister at the time, fell, and his hand landed on the broken glass. He was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital and luckily the injury wasn’t nearly as bad as last time.

He really puts the fall in Fallon, doesn’t he?

Breaking News: Nobody Knows What’s in Hot Dogs

Hot Dog Vintage advertisment
(Shutterstock)

This wasn’t a good week for meat lovers. Just when we heard that the Worldshut Health Organization is now going to classify the bacon, beef, and processed meats we’ve been eating as carcinogens — even if some of the reports have been misleading — we also got word that the hot dogs we’ve been eating all these years might have some things in them that we, well, don’t want to eat.

Clear Food, a testing lab, tested 75 brands of hot dogs and sausages and found that 14.4 percent had problems, some “hygienic” and “substitution” issues. Hygienic means that a non-harmful element was introduced to the hot dog, such as human DNA, which was found in 2 percent of the hot dogs tested. Now, I don’t know how finding human DNA in hot dogs can be considered “non-harmful,” but that’s how it’s classified. Substitution means that there’s something in the hot dogs that isn’t listed on the label.

And those vegetarian hot dogs you’re eating to be healthier? Ten percent of those tested contained meat.

Janet Riley, president of the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council (yes, there’s a National Hot Dog and Sausage Council) says that she has questions about how the tests were conducted, and that any hygiene or ingredient issues could have been introduced to the hot dogs by the staff of Clear Food or by the way the tests were performed and how the samples were handled. She also calls the scary report “silly” and accuses Clear Food of looking for publicity.

Four brands did get a passing grade: Butterball, McCormick, Eckrich, and Hebrew National. Expect a run on those brands at your local supermarket.

RIP, Maureen O’Hara

Maureen O'Hara
Maureen O’Hara in Miracle on 34th Street (20th Century Fox)

If I were to pick my two favorite movies, they just might be two Christmas movies: 1946’s It’s a Wonderful Life (yes, a common choice but it really is a terrific film) and 1947’s Miracle on 34th Street. The latter starred the beautiful Maureen O’Hara, who passed away at her home in Boise, Idaho this week at the age of 95.

Turner Classic Movies will be running a 24-hour tribute to O’Hara on November 20, with such movies as McClintock!, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Big Jake, and The Quiet Man.

Sherlock Returns on January 1

There’s a great Sherlock Holmes television series, but it’s not the one on CBS. Elementary is … fine, I guess, a passable entertainment, but it’s not great. That would describe the other Holmes and Watson show on television, PBS’s Sherlock. Filming doesn’t begin on the fourth season (or “series” as they say in England) until the spring, but they did film a 90-minute special that will air on both the BBC and PBS on January 1. That’s a first for the show (it usually airs first on BBC and then later on PBS). Here’s the trailer. The show is set in modern times but this episode, “The Abominable Bride,” is set in Victorian England for some reason. It would be great if they don’t even explain why:

Also for the first time, the episode will be shown in select theaters, with 20 minutes of additional footage.

Vintage Words Are Making a Comeback

Dictonary entry for language
(Shutterstock)

Have you noticed that there are a lot of words from decades ago that we don’t use anymore? Language evolves, and some words just vanish as the decades go by, replaced by whatever words we’re all using at the time.

Using Google’s Ngram, which tracks the number of times words are used in print, a researcher discovered that many older words are making a comeback. People are actually using words like “fortnight” and “smitten” and “amidst” and “dapper” again. There’s a chance some hipsters are using these words ironically, but hey at least they’re being used.

There are many words and phrases I’d love to see come back. “Cockamamie.” “Old hat.” “Aces.” “Cahoots.” “Scram.” “Geezer.” “Hoosegow.” Those words are better than any Internet slang or LOL, and if some of them returned it would really be the bee’s knees.

Is Saying “You’re Welcome” Rude?

20151030-be-polite
(Shutterstock)

Crazy question, isn’t it? In what world would saying “you’re welcome” after someone says “thank you” be considered rude? Not to sound like an old man, but it’s coming from you meddlesome kids!

In this Boston Globe essay, Murray McClellan reveals that he recently learned from his son and the son’s girlfriend that saying “you’re welcome” is something you just shouldn’t do. Apparently, saying “you’re welcome” is now looked upon as the equivalent of saying “you owe me one,” an “acknowledgement of an uneven balance of power,” and it’s just plain rude.

Maybe some people don’t want to use the phrase for some reason, but calling it rude?

Now, I’ve noticed that in some situations people actually don’t say “you’re welcome,” Like after the NPR interviews that McClellan mentions (or any interview) where the interviewer says “thank you for being here,” the interviewee won’t say “you’re welcome,” they’ll instead say “my pleasure” or “thanks for having me.” But certainly the phrase “you’re welcome” can and should be used in other, traditional situations we all have, right?

I really do think this is an age thing, a generational thing, and specifically pushed by the tech/business world. In the same way I’ve noticed people start off their answer to a question by saying “So …” which is one of the oddest language things I’ve ever heard.

At this rate, it won’t be long before “thank you” disappears too, and all manners will be gone. We’ll just grunt at one another or stay home so we don’t have to interact with anyone anymore. It’s easier to just type “thx” or “k” in an email (because typing the “o” is too labor-intensive) than to communicate normally. What a cockamamie world this has become.

The Return of the Phone Booth

Phone booth
(Shutterstock)

I miss phone booths, or maybe I miss the idea of phone booths. I’ve gotten sick of hearing other people’s cell phone conversations while at the supermarket, the bank, the movie theater, the street corner. Nobody seems to understand that everyone around can hear what they’re saying. I know what people are having for dinner, what problems they’re having, and even what medical procedures they’re going to be having soon.

But maybe the phone booth is coming back. Or at least a certain kind of phone booth. The new ones don’t have phones in them (unless they’re decorative — a retro touch), they’re more like little rooms so people can have some privacy when they’re on their cells. Several companies are beginning to install the booths in their offices.

This is a fine idea. Now Superman and Supergirl will have some place to change again.

Boo!

Ghosts pops
(Shutterstock)

This year for Halloween I’m going as the same thing I’ve dressed as for the past several years: Guy Who Doesn’t Get Any Trick-or-Treaters So He Eats All the Candy Himself.

Assuming the planet isn’t destroyed by an asteroid and you’re planning a party, how about trying some of these Ghouly Cupcakes from Food Network? Or how about these Tarantula Tacos? You can even top off the evening with a Jack-o’-Lantern Cake.

Now, if you want a really scary recipe, how about this creepy Frankfurter Macaroni Salad Loaf thing? Oh God, it includes … hot dogs!

Upcoming Events and Anniversaries

Don’t forget to “fall back” this weekend
Before you go to bed on Halloween night, turn your clocks back an hour (and here are some things that might be smart to check after the clocks are changed).

Flight of the Spruce Goose (November 2, 1947)
Howard Hughes’s giant wooden plane only made one flight and is now housed at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum in McMinnville, Oregon.

Laika the Dog launched into space (November 3, 1957)
The three-year-old female was the first animal to orbit the Earth.

King Tut’s tomb discovered (November 4, 1922)
Was a curse unleashed when Howard Carter and his crew entered the tomb?

Will Rogers born (November 4, 1879)
Everybody has a Facebook page these days, including the acclaimed American humorist.

John Philip Sousa born (November 6, 1854)
He wrote “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” the music that’s played during every Fourth of July fireworks display.

News of the Week: Harry Shearer, Harper Lee, and a Whole Lotta Hot Dogs

Exxxxxcellent

Stefanie Mohr Photography / Shutterstock.com
Stefanie Mohr Photography / Shutterstock.com

Well, that didn’t last long. Just a couple of months after leaving The Simpsons, veteran voice artist Harry Shearer reached a deal for two more years and will be returning to the show. Sure, they could have probably found someone new to mimic the voices of Mr. Burns, Smithers, Ned Flanders, Principal Skinner, and Reverend Lovejoy (maybe Ted Cruz?), but it just wouldn’t have sounded quite the same.

We’d know.

‘Go Set a Watchman’

Harper Lee’s sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird will be released on Tuesday, and you can read the first chapter today at The Wall Street Journal. You can also join in a discussion of the books on the WSJ Book Club’s Facebook page.

Lee said at a private luncheon last week that she’s excited about the book’s release and always thought it would be published some day.

Am I Supposed to Like Soccer Now?

(Shutterstock)
(Shutterstock)

Congratulations, blah, blah, blah, women’s soccer, blah, blah, blah, etc., etc.

I don’t mean to be one of those people, but I still don’t like soccer. Hey, it’s great that the U.S. women’s team beat Japan this week for the World Cup, and it’s great that the match got terrific TV ratings, and it’s fitting that they’re getting a ticker-tape parade this morning in New York City but … I still don’t like soccer.

On Twitter I started to feel guilty reading all the tweets congratulating the team, many with more exclamation points than anyone should use when you have a limit of 140 characters. If I didn’t tweet something too, was I being a Debbie Downer? Maybe you feel the same way. I’m happy for the team, and I’m happy that other people are happy for them, but it doesn’t mean that I’m suddenly going to start watching soccer now. Sorry!

The World of Amy Schumer

Is there anyone who’s being talked about more right now than comic Amy Schumer? She was once just another comic but suddenly she’s being treated as a combination of Carol Burnett and Lenny Bruce. She has a popular show on Comedy Central called Inside Amy Schumer; she’s on the cover of Glamour; she’s causing controversy because of some of her sketches and comments; she was asked to be the new host of The Daily Show when Jon Stewart steps down but turned it down; and now she has a new movie with Bill Hader that’s getting good reviews. It’s called Trainwreck. Here’s the trailer.

One note about the movie. One of the cast members is Norman Lloyd. You might know him best as Dr. Auschlander from St. Elsewhere, or maybe as the villain who falls from the Statue of Liberty in the great 1942 Alfred Hitchcock thriller Saboteur. He turns 101 in November.

KO KO’d

We found out this week that ESPN host Keith Olbermann was leaving the sports channel once again. Rumors were swirling the past couple of weeks that Olbermann’s contract negotiations weren’t going well because execs at the network wanted him to “tone down” his commentary during Olbermann. Who knows if that was even true (the network says it wasn’t) or if it’s the reason why he and ESPN are parting ways? The news was first reported by reporter Jim Miller on Twitter:

So what will Olbermann do now? Let the betting begin. He could easily show up on another sports program, or maybe we might even see him back at MSNBC, which he left in 2011 after hosting the news show Countdown for several years. Hey, stranger things have happened (like Olbermann going back to ESPN after leaving the first time). With MSNBC not doing too well, having Olbermann go back to where he was successful might be a good thing for both. With Olbermann and Brian Williams at the news channel, things could improve ratings-wise.

Introducing Oreo Thins!

“Thin” and “Oreos” aren’t usually words you’d see next to each other, but this week we had the debut of Oreo Thins, which is a healthier (ahem) alternative to the classic cookie we’ve all loved for over 100 years. They’re thinner than regular Oreos, and they’re healthier (ahem) because four of them have 140 calories, compared to the 160 calories of three regular Oreos. So now Oreo has a cookie for everybody: regular, regular cookies with different frosting flavors, different cookie flavors, DoubleStuf, Oreo Minis, and now Thins.

The new cookies are so thin that you can’t do something you can do with the regular ones: Split them open and lick the frosting inside. You can, but they’ll usually break. So since you’re not taking the time to separate the cookies, you’re probably just going to mindlessly gobble the thinner cookies, which means the thinness and lower calorie count won’t even matter. Though I guess you could dunk them in skim milk and feel better about it. Neil Patrick Harris likes them!

Thank you @oreo for sending me new Oreo Thins and sponsoring this evening's treat. #oreothins #delicious

A photo posted by Neil Patrick Harris (@nph) on

Oreo says the new thinner cookies are more “sophisticated.” I know I always feel more grown-up and sophisticated when I have a bunch of chocolate cookie bits all over my teeth.

National Hot Dog Month

(Shutterstock)
(Shutterstock)

This is the time of hot dogs, a food you can probably categorize as “unsophisticated.” Last weekend we saw a big upset at the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island. 23-year-old Matt Stonie ended Joey Chestnut’s 8-year reign by eating 62 hot dogs (with buns!) in 10 minutes. I’m getting kinda gaggy just thinking about that.

It’s also National Hot Dog Month! How can you possibly do something different in the preparation and cooking of hot dogs that hasn’t been done before? So instead of a recipe, how about taking a look at Serious Eats, where they list 13 signature drinks from various regions to pair with hot dogs? You’ve probably heard of drinking tropical drinks at Papaya King and Gray’s Papaya in New York, but in New Jersey and Virginia you could have one with some buttermilk.

I wonder if there is a Joey Hotdog somewhere, and every year he enters a chestnut-eating contest?

Upcoming Events and Anniversaries

Live Aid concerts (July 13, 1985)
This is the 30th anniversary of the two concerts held in London and Philadelphia to aid in the fight to end hunger in Ethiopia.

Bastille Day (July 14)
Officially became a national holiday in 1880 France.

Billy the Kid dies (July 14, 1881)
This site has an exhaustive amount of information on the famous outlaw, including rare photos and letters he wrote.

“Catcher in the Rye” published (July 16, 1951)
J.D. Salinger’s classic comes in at number 72 on The Guardian’s list of the 100 Best Novels of All-Time.

Disneyland opens (July 17, 1955)
SEP Archives Director Jeff Nilsson on the early days of the Disney dynasty.

Erle Stanley Gardner born (July 17, 1889)
The TV show based on Gardner’s famous character Perry Mason was on the air during the supposed “vast wasteland” of programming in 1961.