News of the Week: New TV Shows, Expensive Phones, and Why People Steal All the Jack Kerouac

Is Your DVR as Full as Mine?

The new TV season is just about here. One show I’ve been waiting for, Fox’s The Orville, has already debuted, and I like it. I’m still not sure if it’s a sendup of Star Trek, a sincere homage, or both, but it’s a fun show and I’m going to keep watching.

It would take the entire column to list all the new shows that are coming to our screens and when they premiere, so I’ll leave that to the people who write about television full-time, including Kate Aurthur and Jarett Wieselman at BuzzFeed, Robert Lloyd at The Los Angeles Times, and Sophie Gilbert at The Atlantic. And of course, check out TV Guide for their big annual fall preview issue. They have all of the premiere dates for both new and returning shows.

I still have 20 or 30 episodes of various TV shows to catch up on from last season. I used to write about TV full-time, but I don’t know if I could do it today. With the addition of Netflix and Hulu and Amazon and other streaming services to an already crowded broadcast and cable schedule, watching television has, in a way, become exhausting.

I Will Never Spend $1,000 on a Phone

I’m an Apple loyalist and have been since around 1985, but there’s a limit to that loyalty. This week, Apple released new products and updates to old products. There’s the iPhone 8, and new features for the Apple Watch (which bring it even closer to Dick Tracy territory), and there’s also a special iPhone X. Please don’t say “ex,” as the X stands for 10.

It costs $1,000.

I don’t currently own a cellphone, but when I get one, it’s going to be a dumbphone, one that simply — gasp! — makes phone calls. I’m already online 10 hours a day on my laptop, so I don’t need to be tempted when I’m at the supermarket or at a restaurant. The X has a nicer screen, longer battery life, can be unlocked using facial recognition, has no “home” button (everything is touch-screen now), and you can now turn your face into an emoji, if you’ve always wanted to turn your face into an emoji.

If you’re wondering why they went from the iPhone 8 to the 10, I don’t know. Maybe the 9 will come out as a rare, “lost” edition next year.

People Have Already Forgotten about Fidget Spinners

Maybe the iPhone X will be one of the hot toys this December (though I don’t know if anything that costs $1,000 can be considered a toy). Every year around this time, news shows and morning shows and websites start to release their lists of the toys they think every single kid is going to want to find under the tree this Christmas.

A lot of people go by Walmart’s annual list, and this year they’ve picked 25 toys they think will sell big, including littleBits Star Wars Droid Inventor Kit, Barbie DreamHorse and Doll (that’s horse, not house), Fisher-Price Zoom ’n’ Crawl Monster, the Soggy Doggy Board Game, and Hatchimals, which were popular before but are making a big comeback, like denim overalls and bubonic plague.

I don’t even know if anything on that list would interest me even if I were 9 years old. Don’t kids still play outside or at least enjoy board games?

Who Is Stealing All the Bukowski and Kerouac?

I don’t know what the statute of limitations is on something like this, but I have a confession to make. When I was a little kid, I stole a book from a bookstore. It was one of those pocket guides to space and the planets (it was the “pocket” aspect that made it easy to steal). I’m not going to try to justify the theft, but in my defense, I will say that I was really into space when I was young.

Adults steal books too, like ones by Charles Bukowski and Jack Kerouac. They’re always on the top of the list when it comes to books that are stolen, and have been for many years. In this interview by NPR’s Scott Simon, the owner of Porter Square Books in Cambridge, Massachusetts, discusses what books get stolen the most and the theories on why the same authors are targeted.

What I would tell these people is that it’s wrong to steal. But if you are going to steal, let me know and I can give you the names of some other authors you might like.

The Worst Thing Since Jack the Ripper

This is both fascinating and disgusting.

Beneath London, there’s a monster. It’s not a living creature that’s set to devour you, but it might be even worse. They’re calling it the Whitechapel fatberg, and it’s a giant mass of fat, disposable wipes, condoms, diapers, and other gross things Londoners have discarded that is clogging a century-old stretch of the city’s sewer system. It’s a sixth of a mile long, weighs 140 tons, and is bigger than a similar thing that was found beneath London a few years ago. Now I’m going to stop writing about this because it’s freaking me out.

Wasn’t Fatberg the name of a chubby character from an ’80s teen comedy movie?

RIP Don Ohlmeyer, Troy Gentry, Don Williams, Edith Windsor, Blake Heron, Gene Michael, Sugar Ramos, Jerry Pournelle, Len Wein, Jack Keil

Don Ohlmeyer was a veteran TV executive who was not only famous for being one of the first producers of Monday Night Football and for playing a huge role in NBC’s “Must-See TV” lineup in the 1980’s and ’90s, he’s famous for firing Saturday Night Live’s Norm Macdonald after Macdonald made too many jokes about Ohlmeyer’s friend O.J. Simpson. Ohlmeyer died Sunday at the age of 72.

Troy Gentry was part of the popular country duo Montgomery and Gentry, known for such songs as “My Town” and “Headlights.” He died in a helicopter crash last Friday at the age of 50.

Don Williams was a country star too. He started playing in bands in the mid-’60s and eventually became popular as a solo artist in the ’70s with songs like “The Shelter of Your Eyes” and “I Wouldn’t Want to Live If You Didn’t Love Me.” Williams died last Friday at the age of 78.

Edith Windsor became a champion of gay rights when she was the lead plaintiff in the landmark Supreme Court case where the court decided that gay couples have a right to get married in any state, just like heterosexual couples, and are also entitled to the same benefits. Windsor died Tuesday at the age of 88.

Actor Blake Heron was probably best known for his role at age 13 in the 1996 film Shiloh. He later appeared in TV shows like Nick Freno: Licensed Teacher, Good vs. Evil, ER, The Practice, and Justfied, as well as many movies. Heron died last week at the age of 35.

Gene Michael played for the New York Yankees in the late ’60s and early ’70s and even managed the team in the ’80s, but he found even more success in the ’90s as an executive, where he built the Yankees into a championship team. One of his big moves was signing Derek Jeter. Michael died last Thursday at the age of 79.

Sugar Ramos was a boxer who is unfortunately best known for winning his 1963 fight with Davey Moore. Though Moore survived the fight and even talked at a press conference later, he collapsed and fell into a coma shortly afterward; he died three days later. Ramos passed away Sunday at the age of 75.

Jerry Pournelle was an award-winning writer known for several classic works of science fiction and nonfiction. He was also a columnist for Byte and Galaxy and maintained the popular blog Chaos Manor. He died last Friday at the age of 84.

Len Wein was a comic book artist who worked on many series and created the characters Wolverine and Swamp Thing. He died Sunday at the age of 69.

Jack Keil not only created McGruff the Crime Dog, he provided the voice for the character. He died August 25 at the age of 94.

The Current War

Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock) is a good actor who seems to be in everything these days, including the new movie The Current War. He plays Thomas Edison, and the film explores the battle between Edison and George Westinghouse for the control of electricity. It opens on November 24. Here’s the trailer.

Here’s Post Archive Director Jeff Nilsson on Edison’s solution to copyright theft. Edison only made money from one of his many patents in his lifetime.

This Week in History

“United Colonies” Becomes “United States” (September 9, 1776)

The original thirteen colonies became the United States after the U.S. declared independence from Britain and defeated them in the Revolutionary War.

President McKinley Dies 8 Days After Being Shot (September 14, 1901)

McKinley isn’t as instantly well known as many other presidents, but he is one of only four that were assassinated. He’s also on the $500 bill. I don’t know how many of you have a $500 bill in your wallet, but go check to see what he looked like.

This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: “Morning Coffee Break” (September 12, 1959)

I’m not a parent, so I have a question for all the people out there with children: Does this cover by Amos Sewell accurately depict what it’s like when summer is over and the kids finally go back to school? You love them and hold them close, and it’s great they’re on summer break, but you’re manically happy when September rolls around and they’re out of your hair so you can read the pap … I mean browse Facebook and drink your coffee in peace?

September Is National Biscuit Month

It was cool last week, but this week, summer returned with a muggy vengeance in my part of the country. It’s so warm, I had to go back to drinking cold beverages instead of hot tea. But the cold days and nights will be here soon enough, so it’s time for biscuits.

Here’s a recipe from Paula Deen for Homemade Biscuits, and since they’re from Paula Deen, you know there’s going to be a lot of butter and sugar. If you want something a little healthier, how about this Healthy Chicken Pot Pie that utilizes flaky refrigerator biscuits.

If you decide to make the pot pie and go to the store for the biscuits, please don’t steal them.

News of the Week: New TV Shows, Old Technology, and the Vanishing American Adult

The Upfronts

May is the month when all of the TV networks tell you about the new shows that are coming up in the fall and which of your favorite shows they have dumped like last week’s leftovers. They’re called “The Upfronts,” when the networks put on a showcase for advertisers (and fans). It would take too long to give you a complete list of what’s going and what’s coming, but you can read all of the coverage at The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, and Deadline.

I do want to talk about a few shows, old and new. Both Will & Grace and Roseanne are coming back for limited-run final seasons. I don’t know how either of these shows are going to do new seasons. The final episode of Will & Grace showed the two title characters not speaking to each other for several years and then showing a flash forward several years into the future where they became best friends again when their kids end up in the same college dorm. So I’m not sure when the new season will take place. And John Goodman’s character on Roseanne actually died in the last season, so I’m curious to see how they bring him back. Maybe it’s inspired by TheWalking Dead.

ABC has a new show coming called Deception, which is about a magician who helps the FBI solve cases. Sounds a lot like a show I loved as a kid, The Magician. And we’ll see another season of Arrested Development on Netflix.

CBS’s Two Broke Girls has finally been put out of our misery, as was Fox’s Sleepy Hollow. Also, NBC canceled one of my favorite shows from last season, Timeless, and then, in a stunning reversal, changed their minds a couple of days later, renewing it for a second season! I guess those online fan campaigns to save a show sometimes actually work.

And finally, here’s the trailer for The Orville, Seth MacFarlane’s Star Trek spoof that looks like it could be fun:

Hollywood Is Worried about Technology

Most films today, with exceptions here and there, are shot and edited digitally. While that’s great for clarity and flexibility, it’s when the films have to be stored that a problem comes into focus.

The problem is with the magnetic tapes that studios have been using since the 1990s to store films in their archives. It’s a very complex, insider-ish problem, but IEEE Spectrum has a fantastic, detailed rundown on what the problem is and what solutions Hollywood is looking at. One expert in the piece says that a lot of media from the 1990s through 2020 will actually be lost forever. While that’s incredible to think about, if Two Broke Girls is one of those things lost, I’m not going to lose any sleep over it.

New Books

I’m reading The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis — and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance. It’s a long title and a long book, but one that’s very readable and enjoyable. It’s by Ben Sasse, a Republican senator from Nebraska who is worried that we’re not doing our kids any favors these days in the ways that we (and schools) are raising them. It’s not just one of those books that simply gives you tips on how to solve problems. It’s also extremely well written, which is not something you often see in a book written by a politician. But luckily, Sasse is also a historian. I think it’s one of the most important books of the past 10 years, one that argues for a return to hard work, common sense, and more reading. You should read it.

On a somewhat related note, The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place by Andy Crouch explains why we should control the tech in our lives instead of having it control us. Because we all know that a lot of people would rather give up food or a limb than have to be away from their phones for even a day. Buy the print edition so it’s one less thing you have to read on a screen.

RIP Roger Ailes, Chris Cornell, Powers Boothe, Brad Grey, Anne Morrissy Merick, Steve Palermo, Curt Lowens, and John Cygan

Roger Ailes was the former head of Fox News who was embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal that forced his ouster from the network. He was also a consultant for several presidents and was executive producer of The Mike Douglas Show. He died Thursday at the age of 77.

Chris Cornell was the lead singer of the bands Soundgarden and Audioslave. He also performed the theme song “You Know My Name” for the James Bond movie Casino Royale. Cornell was found dead in his Detroit hotel room Wednesday night after a Soundgarden concert. He was 52.

Powers Boothe was a veteran actor know for movies like Nixon, Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones, Sin City, and Red Dawn, and for TV shows like Deadwood, 24, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and Philip Marlowe: Private Eye. He died Sunday at the age of 68.

Brad Grey was the former CEO of Paramount and half of the prolific producing team of Brillstein-Grey. He died Sunday at the age of 59.

Anne Morrissy Merick was a pioneering TV producer who was not only one of the first female sports reporters but also had a hand in getting women permission to cover wars. She passed away May 2 at the age of 83.

Steve Palermo was a baseball umpire who officiated at many games, including the tense Boston Red Sox/New York Yankees one-game playoff in 1978. He was paralyzed trying to stop a holdup outside a Dallas restaurant in 1991. Palermo died Sunday at the age of 67.

Curt Lowens was a Holocaust survivor who later went on to appear in many movies, including Torn Curtain, Tobruk, and To Be or Not To Be, as well as TV shows like Hogan’s Heroes, Mission: Impossible, and MacGyver. He died Monday at the age of 91.

John Cygan co-starred on the ABC show The Commish and provided voices on tons of animated shows and movies, including Toy Story, Cars, and WALL-E. He died Saturday at the age of 63.

Coke Is It!

We live in a world where people jump from job to job more often than people did in generations past. If you stay at the same job for 6 or 8 years, that’s considered a very long time. So what do you say about a person who has stayed at the same company for 80 years? Meet 97-year-old Fred Kirkpatrick, who has worked for Coca-Cola since … 1938!

Not surprisingly, he also collects Coke memorabilia.

Show of Hands

Let’s talk about washing your hands. You’re probably not doing it right.

NPR has a story — in a section on their site called, for some reason, “Goats and Soda” — highlighting the Center for Disease Control’s campaign to teach you how to wash your hands. Basically, you have to really get inside the spaces between your fingers, dry your hands thoroughly with a paper towel, and then turn off the faucet with the paper towel. I have to admit, I’m pretty thorough when I wash my hands, especially in public restrooms.

And may I suggest something to all of the retail stores and restaurants out there? Make sure your restroom doors push out so we don’t have to grab a door handle to open the door. You won’t believe how many guys don’t wash their hands when they’re, well, done with what they have to do. It makes you worry about American adults and how the art of simple hand washing is vanishing.

This Week in History

James Thurber
By Fred Palumbo, World Telegram staff photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Congress Lets Women Enlist in Military (May 14, 1942)

This article from our May 30, 1942, issue explains how women actually did a lot of the heavy lifting during World War II.

Charles Lindbergh Takes Off from NYC for Paris (May 20, 1927)

The American aviation hero was later vilified for his thoughts about Nazi Germany and his promotion of isolationism, but maybe there’s more to that story.

This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: “James Thurber, I Love You” (May 20, 1967)

Elizabeth Acosta’s story ran in the magazine 50 years ago this week. It’s about a fan letter she wrote to humorist James Thurber and the response she got back from him. The piece was accompanied by original Thurber drawings.

National Quiche Lorraine Day

I’ve never had quiche in my life, even though I worked in breakfast places for many years. I don’t think we even had them on any of the menus (an omelet isn’t the same thing). When I was younger, I often wondered what a “quiche” was, and if this “Lorraine” person is the one who invented it.

Tomorrow is National Quiche Lorraine Day, so here’s a recipe for a classic version from Simply Recipes. And while it’s not Quiche Lorraine specifically, here’s a recipe for California Party Quiche if you want a variation.

Lorraine, of course, refers to the Lorraine region of France. There was also a Laraine Day, but she’s a whole different thing.

Next Week’s Holidays and Events

Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey’s Last Show (May 21)

The final Ringling Bros. Circus performance is this Sunday, and you can watch it online for free at their official site or on their Facebook page. It starts at 7 p.m. Eastern.

Sally Ride Day (May 26)

This day celebrates the life and career of the first American woman in space, who died in 2012.