News of the Week: Geoffrey Fired, Mockingbird Killed, and Unicorn Dip Is Better Than It Sounds

Toys ’Rn’t Them Anymore

I still remember that commercial. I don’t just remember it in a vague way, the general way you might remember something from decades ago, or a feeling you remember more than specific details; I remember everything about it. When I found it on YouTube, I realized that I instantly knew the lyrics word for word, the various scenes, and how they synced with the music, with no struggle to jog my memory whatsoever. That’s either impressive or scary, I’m not sure which, but for some reason it’s embedded in my brain’s hard drive.

So I was a little sad when I heard this week that Toys ’R’ Us is filing for bankruptcy and closing its stores. Thanks to places like Walmart, Amazon, and Target, the iconic chain just couldn’t compete.

It’s probably a little silly to be sad and nostalgic about the closing of a chain of stores, especially ones you haven’t shopped at in many years (which means I was part of the problem, though in my defense, I no longer buy toys), but it’s a special memory for me, and a place and time I consider mental comfort food.

I hate to see brick-and-mortar stores vanish. Do we really want to live in a world where every single thing we do, from the moment we get out of the shower to the time we go to bed, is done online? Everything we buy, everything that entertains us, everything we experience?

I also hate to see Geoffrey out of work. It’s not easy for a giraffe to find another job, at least not one his age.

Killing Another Mockingbird

I didn’t realize that there was a Broadway version of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird in the works, and I didn’t realize that West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin was writing it. Lee’s estate knew about it, however, and they’re suing to stop it.

The lawsuit argues that the show is too different from the novel and violates a contract between Lee and the show’s producers that made sure the script wouldn’t stray far from the characters, plot, and tone of the novel. One of the changes the estate is worried about is the depiction of Atticus Finch, who they say is shown at first as a “naive apologist for the racial status quo.”

I wonder if the Mockingbird follow-up, Go Set a Watchman, will figure into the case. Fans of the original novel were also upset at how Finch was depicted in that book.

Snuggie News

Did you buy a Snuggie years ago? Not the Slanket — that was a completely different robe/blanket thing — but a Snuggie. If so, you might be entitled to a refund.

Allstar Marketing Group settled a $7.2 million lawsuit brought by the Federal Trade Commission last week for false advertising. It seems that even though the company was advertising the Snuggie as “buy one, get one free,” they were charging more money than customers thought and didn’t disclose certain additional fees. Customers are going to get an average of $33.14 back.

I have an idea for a product I call the Snop. They’re sneakers with cleaning pads attached to the bottom, so you can mop your floor while you walk around. Investors can email me.

Desk Jobs vs. Physical Labor

I love washing dishes. I don’t mean I enjoy loading dishes into a dishwasher — I haven’t had one of those in 25 years — I mean I actually like manually washing dishes. I also like folding laundry. It’s not something I’d like to do as a career, but it calms me down and helps me think. It’s good to do something during the day that doesn’t involve looking at a screen, tasks and chores that you can complete and consider little victories.

And I’m not the only one who feels that way. CBS Sunday Morning had an intriguing episode this week about the mind, and in one of the segments, they compared desk jobs to physical labor, with some interesting results.

By the way, just so we’re clear, I don’t want to wash your dishes or fold your laundry. I’ll do it for myself, but I’m not looking for any outside work, thanks.

Unicorns: They’re Grrrrrrreat!

Yesterday was a Kellogg’s day. I didn’t eat any cereal, but I did read Howard Markel’s great piece in the current issue of the Post on how the Kellogg brothers changed that industry forever. After reading it, I found out that Kellogg’s has a new cake-flavored cereal out called Unicorn. By all accounts, it seems to basically be Froot Loops, only with some sort of magical white unicorn dust on top. You better grab it online or at your local store, because it’s selling out quickly. Maybe you can sample it at the Kellogg’s restaurant in New York City. Yes, there’s a Kellogg’s restaurant in New York City.

Note: No actual unicorns were harmed in the making of the cereal.

RIP Kate Wilhelm, Nokie Edwards, Ken Flach, and Betty Ann Bowser

Kate Wilhelm was an acclaimed author of science fiction and mystery books. With her husband, writer Damon Knight, she ran the Clarion Writers Workshop for decades. She died March 8 at the age of 89.

Nokie Edwards was the lead guitarist for the Ventures, famous for such songs as the theme to Hawaii Five-O, “Wipe Out,” and “Walk, Don’t Run.” He died last week at the age of 82.

Ken Flach was a professional tennis player who won a 1988 Olympic gold medal, two Wimbledon Championships, and a U.S. Open with his partner Robert Seguso, plus another U.S. Open with Rick Leach, and even the mixed doubles championships at Wimbledon and the French Open with Kathy Jordan. He died last week at the age of 54.

Betty Ann Bowser was a veteran journalist who started in local television in 1966 and went on to work at CBS News and on PBS NewsHour. She died last Friday at the age of 73.

Quote of the Week

From Bob’s Burgers writer Kelvin Yu, about Facebook’s data privacy scandal:


The Best and the Worst

Best: This week’s episode of The Simpsons was a takeoff of the 1970s TV show Banacek, renamed here as Manacek. What was great about it was that it wasn’t really a Simpsons episode that had Manacek in it; it was more a Manacek episode that had the Simpsons in it. Take a look at the re-creation of the Banacek opening the show did and compare it to the original.

Worst: This is another story from CBS Sunday Morning (hey, it’s a good show!). Vint Cerf, tech legend and an architect of the web, says that digital media like CDs, DVDs, and the equipment they’re used on will eventually go away and stop working. If I were you, I’d start making copies of everything you own and maybe even printing everything out on paper.

This Week in History

Grover Cleveland Born (March 18, 1837)

Cleveland is the only U.S. president to serve two non-consecutive terms, from 1885 to 1889 and 1893 to 1897. He also kept a really big secret.

“Who Shot J.R.?” Episode of Dallas (March 21, 1980)

It’s hard to believe now, in this age of daily spoilers and leaks, but there was a time when you actually didn’t know what was going to happen next on your favorite TV show. When J.R. Ewing was shot, it created a national pop culture frenzy, with fans spending the summer trying to guess whodunit. The show actually filmed several different solutions in case word got out. (Spoiler alert! It was Kristin.)

This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: Fifth Avenue (March 19, 1960)

Panorama of New York's Fifth Avenue
Fifth Avenue
March 19, 1960

Not every Post cover was a big two-page fold-out, which is just another reason to love the terrific work by John Falter. I don’t know how he created such beautiful, realistic detail in his paintings, but he has always been one of my favorite Post artists.

Post Writers You Should Read

This is a new, once-in-a-while feature, where I’ll talk about great writers you might not know much about who have written for the Post. First up is someone mentioned on the cover above, Jean Kerr.

Jean Kerr was an essayist and playwright probably best known for her essay collection Please Don’t Eat the Daisies, which was made into a 1960 movie starring David Niven and Doris Day. Kerr’s plays include The Song of Bernadette, Lunch Hour, and Mary, Mary, which remains one of the longest-running shows of all time. She was a fantastic writer, part Erma Bombeck and part E.B. White, writing mostly about her kids and life in suburbia.

You can read Please Don’t Eat the Daisies for free — that’s right, for free! — at the Internet Archive. One of the pieces in the book, “Where Did You Put the Aspirin?” was originally written for the Post under the title “Children Really Are Not People.”

Today Is National Chip and Dip Day

I agree with Puddy on Seinfeld when he opined that chips and dip can be a meal and not just a snack. Tonight, instead of the usual pizza or steak and salad or chicken with vegetables, how about this Spinach-Artichoke Dip, this Caramelized Onion Dip, or this Nashville Hot Chicken Dip? And if you plan on having a regular meal tonight, maybe you can have a dip for dessert, like this Unicorn Dip.

I really didn’t know there were going to be so many unicorns this week.

Next Week’s Holidays and Events

Earth Hour (March 24)

Specifically, that hour is 8:30 to 9:30 p.m., whatever your time zone in the world.

Palm Sunday (March 25)

This is the day Christians “commemorate Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.” Good Friday, the day of his crucifixion, is next week.

Weed Appreciation Day (March 28)

I know what you’re thinking, but it refers to the other kind.