I know I’ve talked about smartphones before, how everyone is addicted to them and how they’ve changed everything (mostly for the worse), but indulge me a few more words on the subject. (If you’re already bored, you can scroll down the page a bit and read about Jake Tapper’s new novel and Marilyn Monroe’s new movie.)
To put it simply, being connected all the time isn’t a good thing. Sure, smartphones are great in emergencies, but there’s no mental breathing room anymore. Before smartphones, we would put down our phones and mail, shut off our TVs, stereos, and the internet, and leave the house. Now we carry those things around with us 24/7. We’re always “on,” and it has changed the way we associate with each other and with tech, and has even affected the way that we think. It can’t be good to have this much information coming at us all the time. That’s why I’m in favor of dumb phones — phones that are actually phones and not also connected to the web — instead of smart ones. I’d also suggest signing up for a cheap phone plan if you don’t have to be connected to the web all the time and just want to make and receive calls. And don’t ever give up your landline!
CBS Sunday Morning’s Ted Koppel had a piece on information overload this week, detailing how smartphones, the web, and social media have taken charge of our lives. He even interviewed the guy who invented the Facebook “like”:
On a related note, Tuesday marked the 45th anniversary of the first cellphone call.
Down to Earth
In January, I told you about a Chinese satellite that was going to crash back to Earth. This week, that satellite did indeed come back, and luckily no one was hit by it, though you’d have had better luck hitting the Powerball.
Most of the Tiangong-1 satellite burned up during reentry, and what was left seems to have fallen into the Pacific Ocean. Those of you who had “2500 miles south of Hawaii” in your office pool are the big winners.
2001 at 50
Speaking of things in space: This little admission may destroy any pop culture cred I have and may even get me barred from several theaters, but I’m not a fan of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s true that I’ve only seen it once, many years ago, but I remember being profoundly disappointed in it, even if I appreciate its influence. Maybe I’ll watch it again to celebrate the film’s 50th anniversary and see if I agree that the film is not only fascinating, but one of the best movies of all time.
In addition to the new books you’ll find in the current issue of the Post, here are four more that will be released soon.
Look Alive Out There: Essays by Sloane Crosley. Crosley first broke through with her fun essay collection I Was Told There’d Be Cake, and this new one is getting great reviews too. (Out now)
The Ideal of Culture: Essays by Joseph Epstein. Epstein is one of our great essayists, and his new collection explores such topics as parenthood, cowardice, grammar, the 1960s, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and reaching the age of 80. (May 7)
Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Lanier. As you can read above, this is a subject that’s near and dear to me, so I can’t wait to read what the tech/virtual reality visionary has to say about Facebook and Twitter. (May 29)
It’s obvious that Marilyn Monroe will never really die. Not only does she still make a lot of money decades after her death, but now she’s coming back to the movies.
Actress Suzie Kennedy will portray Monroe in a new film about the actress’s life. She already looks a lot like Monroe, but she’s going to have help from digital technology. A team of tech whizzes took 3,000 photos of Kennedy’s face and body to create an “avatar” of Monroe that will be featured in the film.
This could be an incredible advance in filmmaking. At some point you know we’re going to see new movies and TV shows starring Abbott and Costello, Cary Grant, and Humphrey Bogart. We’ve already seen commercials that use the technology, and digital trickery is used online all the time. But I bet one day we’re going to have entire movies based on the technology, and stars will never stop working. It’s one of those tech developments where you say, “Wow, this is so cool!” and then a few minutes later you say, “My God, where is this leading?”
I’d like to take a moment here to say a few words about a couple of milestones at the Post. The first is the magazine itself, which was honored by the Pop Culture Association this week at their 48th conference. They describe us as “an American institution” with a “unique cultural legacy,” and I have to say I agree with that.
And happy anniversary to Executive Editor Patrick Perry, who celebrates 40 years at the magazine!
RIP Steven Bochco, Winnie Mandela, Rusty Staub, Anita Shreve, and Deborah Carrington
Steven Bochco was the legendary TV producer and writer responsible for such shows as Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law, NYPD Blue, Murder One, and Doogie Howser, M.D. He also wrote the iconic sci-fi movie Silent Running and several classic episodes of Columbo. He died Sunday at the age of 74.
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was an anti-apartheid activist and the ex-wife of Nelson Mandela. She died Monday at the age of 81.
Daniel “Rusty” Staub helped the New York Mets win the National League pennant in 1973. He also played for the Detroit Tigers, Texas Rangers, Houston Astros, and Montreal Expos. Staub died last Thursday at the age of 73.
Anita Shreve was a beloved author of such novels as The Pilot’s Wife, The Weight of Water, and Sea Glass. She died last Thursday at the age of 71.
Debbie Lee Carrington was an actress and stuntwoman best known for her appearance in the Arnold Schwarzenegger film Total Recall and her role as the woman Mickey wants to date on Seinfeld. She also appeared on The Drew Carey Show. As a little person, she often doubled for children in movies, including Titanic and Child’s Play. She died in March at the age of 58.
Best and Worst of the Week
Best: Weird Al Yankovic, along with veteran crossword-maker Eric Berlin, took over The New York Times crossword puzzle on Wednesday with a cheese-themed puzzle. An example of the kind of clues you’ll find? 20-across is “Cheesy 1992 military drama.” The answer is A Few Gouda Men.
Worst: I’ve been meaning to catch up on Instinct, the new police drama starring Alan Cumming. Looks a little routine — an unpredictable genius teams up with a by-the-book detective to solve crimes, how novel — but Cumming is always good, and it looks like fun. But this week’s episode, about an Amish boy who is murdered after he leaves home and moves to New York City, felt familiar to a lot fans. A little bit too familiar. Turns out the plot and scenes mirror a 2009 episode of another buddy-detective show, Bones, right down to some of the clues.
This Week in History
First Issue of TV Guide (April 3, 1953)
Who was on the cover of the first issue? It was a baby. Specifically, the newborn son of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Desi Arnaz Jr. Ball actually arranged ahead of time to have a caesarean section so the birth would coincide with the airing of the I Love Lucy episode where Ball’s character Lucy Ricardo gave birth as well.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Assassinated (April 4, 1968)
Wednesday marked the 50th anniversary of the death of the civil rights leader. King wrote a piece for the Post in 1964 titled “Negroes Are Not Moving Too Fast,” and here’s an interview NBC’s Sander Vanocur did with King 11 months before his assassination:
This Week in The Country Gentleman History: Cousin Reginald is the Hero (April 6, 1918)
The Country Gentleman, a sister publication of the Post, was published from 1831 to 1955. Norman Rockwell painted several covers for it, including this one. When I first saw it, I couldn’t quite figure out what it was all about. I thought it might be titled “Crazed Fan Disrupts Performance of A Christmas Carol.” The cover is actually part of a series of paintings that Rockwell did for the magazine focusing on a group of boys and their cousin Reginald. That’s Reginald with the sword.
April Is National Grilled Cheese Month
I’m pretty much a traditionalist when it comes to grilled cheese — I prefer cheddar or American cheese on white bread — but there are so many other options if you want to try something a little different for National Grilled Cheese Month.
Here’s a recipe that Bon Appétit calls the “Best-Ever Grilled Cheese,” though it has mayonnaise, so I don’t know if it deserves that title. Here’s one called a Nacho Grilled Cheese, made with jalapeños and Doritos. This one from Genius Kitchen is made with green olives. And if you’re going to have grilled cheese, you can’t forget this.
Maybe you can do Weird Al’s cheese puzzle while eating grilled cheese, if that’s not too much cheese for you all at once.
Next Week’s Holidays and Events
Winston Churchill Day (April 9)
This day is mostly celebrated in the United States, marking the occasion in 1963 when President Kennedy named the British Prime Minister an honorary U.S. citizen. Here’s a 1939 Post piece about Churchill titled “Old Man in a Hurry,” and here’s our interview with John Lithgow, who plays Churchill in the Netflix series The Crown.
National Siblings Day (April 10)
I know, I know, sometimes you argue with your brothers and sisters (I’m the youngest of seven), but maybe today you can put that all aside. You can always argue tomorrow.
Should Grown Men Use Emoji?
Short answer: No. Long answer: No no no no no no no no no no no no no no.
If you don’t know what emoji are (is?), well, I envy you. They’re the little smiley faces and other faces or symbols you see replacing words online, sort of like really fancy emoticons. The New York Times is asking if grown men should even use them or, you know, stick to words. And it’s not a sexist thing, if you’re wondering. Women use emoji more. Though, as Columbia University linguist John McWhorter says in the article, that might be changing.
I’m not going to use emoji unless they start to replace letters on the keyboard. I don’t care how much they’re beginning to infest the online world. I’m not even used to semicolons yet, even if I do use them in the next story.
Attack of the Lucille Ball Statue!
I love this trend of installing statues of classic TV characters around the country. TV Land has several of them, including a Mary Tyler Moore statue in Minneapolis; Andy and Opie from The Andy Griffith Show in Raleigh, North Carolina; Bob Newhart in Chicago; and Samantha Stephens from Bewitched in Salem, Massachusetts, not too far from me. There’s also a statue of Lucille Ball (which TV Land doesn’t have anything to do with), and it’s completely freaking out fans of the actress.
The 400-pound bronze statue was actually installed in Ball’s hometown of Celoron, New York, six years ago, but efforts to either fix or replace it have really picked up steam recently. There’s a Facebook page called We Love Lucy. Get Rid of this Statue! — and if you listen carefully you can even hear Lucy Ricardo’s famous “WHAAAAAAAAAAAAA.”
The artist is now apologizing and says in a letter to The Hollywood Reporter that he’ll fix it. But the mayor of Celoron, Scott Schrecengost, wants someone else to fix it.
It’s not that it doesn’t look like Lucille Ball. It’s just that it looks like Lucille Ball’s corpse, arisen from her grave a la The Walking Dead.
’90s Nostalgia Has Gotten Out of Hand
For some reason, NBC is bringing back Coach, the Craig T. Nelson sitcom that ran on ABC in the late ’80s to mid-’90s. Fox is bringing back The X-Files. Arrested Development is already back on Netflix, Boy Meets World (only this time with a girl) is currently on Disney, and Bob Odenkirk and David Cross are even going to do a Mr. Show-ish sketch comedy for Netflix. But the biggest news for people whose knowledge of pop culture doesn’t go past 1994 is that Full House might be coming back! I’m using that exclamation point sarcastically!
The update, called Fuller House, will focus on characters DJ Tanner and Kimmy Gibbler. John Stamos, Bob Saget, and Dave Coulier will all make appearances but don’t count on seeing the Olsen twins. Slate has a three-minute video that will tell you all you need to know (and then some) about the show.
You can thank ’90s nostalgia on the Web for this. Soon there will be an entire TV network based on BuzzFeed listicles and GIFs.
RIP, Pillsbury Doughboy and Pet Rock Creators
Here’s more nostalgia, but not in a good way. The creators of two pop culture icons have passed away. Rudolph Perz was an advertising executive who invented the Pillsbury Doughboy for General Mills in 1965. He died at the age of 89 on April 1. And Gary Dahl, the inventor of the 1970s fad Pet Rock, passed away in March. He was 78.
I never owned a Pet Rock. I’m assuming having a rock as a pet must sound awfully confusing to 10-year-olds who have their own smartphones, but it was silly fun. You can actually still buy them. I do have a Pillsbury Doughboy figure somewhere in the house. In the latest TV commercial, someone finally buys him some pants.
Choosing A College? Use Instagram
I realize as I get older, many of my sentences start out with “When I was young…” or “When I was in school…” but when I was in school, we didn’t have the Internet to help us pick a college. We had to use pencils and typewriters and snail mail and our cars to research colleges. We didn’t have websites and Wikipedia and all of the fancy Googles and Tumblrs and Meerkats that kids have these days (oh sorry, Meerkat is already soooooo early 2015 — it’s Periscope now).
Now students are actually using Instagram to see what their colleges are like. Since they can’t actually go to every college campus to see what they’re like (well, they can, but they can’t), kids are looking at the official Instagram accounts for the schools to see what the campuses look like and what student life is like there.
One day, probably not too far from this very moment, people will be able to get their college degrees without ever leaving Facebook. Your GPA will be based on the number of Likes you have.
April Is National Grilled Cheese Month
I went on a health kick a few years ago and tried to find smart and healthy alternatives for the foods I loved to eat. One of the things I tried was making a grilled cheese without grilling it. Instead I put the bread in a toaster and quickly put a few slices of low-fat American cheese on the bread while it was still hot. Let’s just say it wasn’t the same. The bread wasn’t the same without butter, and the low-fat cheese tasted like cheese-flavored envelopes.
So let’s celebrate National Grilled Cheese Month by using our stovetops. There are more variations on the classic than you think: Food Network has 50 grilled cheese recipes and All Recipes has several too. You can also check out the Grilled Cheese Academy. As the site says, it’s not a culinary school or a school of higher learning, they just love cheese (from Wisconsin, to be exact).
Upcoming Anniversaries and Events
Thomas Jefferson born (April 13, 1743)
President Lincoln shot by John Wilkes Booth (April 14, 1865)
I bet you don’t know what happened to Booth after he shot the president.
Titanic hits iceberg (April 14, 1912)
Read more on the inevitable tragedy of the great ship.
Charlie Chaplin born (April 16, 1889)
Record Store Day (April 18)
Remember independent record stores? Visit one today so they’ll stay in business!