Hell Is a World with No Print Books
For a while there it looked like print books were the past and digital was the future. Soon, everyone would be reading books on their Kindles and iPads and smartphones and print books would die and we’d save all the trees and the world would be a digital paradise!
Well, someone forgot to tell print books.
As I mentioned a few months ago, sales of print books are up, and sales of ebooks are down. And it’s not just Amazon that’s selling a lot of them. We’re actually starting to see more brick-and-mortar bookstores opening. Yes, one of the companies opening those physical bookstores happens to be Amazon, but there are others too, and it’s a comforting feeling to know that we still live in a world where we can walk into a bookstore, handle all of the books and magazines on the shelves, and be part of something. Not everything has to be point and click. (By the way, please point your cursor at those links and click on them.)
One way that bookstores can survive and thrive is by offering more than books. Barnes & Noble already as cafés, and they’re experimenting with full-service restaurants. Many independent bookstores hold author events and sell more than just books.
Remember You’ve Got Mail? If it were made today, Meg Ryan would merge her Shop Around the Corner store with Tom Hanks’ giant Fox Books chain and take on Amazon.
YOU Get a Bowl of Soup, and YOU Get a Bowl of Soup …
Oprah Winfrey might not have a daily talk show anymore, but she has figured out a way to be in your life every single day anyway.
Oprah is coming out with a line of “refrigerated comfort foods” in September called O, That’s Good! Right now the selection will just be four kinds of soup and four side dishes, all priced under $5.00. She’s teaming up with Kraft for the products, and since she already is an owner of Weight Watchers, this seems like the next logical step.
I’m surprised more celebrities don’t do this. Kevin James could come out with a line of potato chips, and maybe Warren Buffett could have a line of “Buffett Table” foods.
Don’t Be a Sucker
This U.S. Military film from the mid-’40s has been getting some attention lately (I’d say that it has gone “viral,” but boy do I hate that word), and I present it here with no political commentary whatsoever. I just think that, as a historical and cultural artifact, it’s … interesting.
For the next four years, no one in London is going to know what time it is.
Big Ben is going to stop chiming (or is it bonging?) this Monday and won’t start up again for four years. It’s undergoing repairs and, well, the workers won’t like it making a giant sound every hour. But they still plan to chime in on special days, like New Year’s.
Of course, this is already getting pushback from citizens, so officials are going to review the idea. Prime Minister Theresa May wants the chimes (bongs?) to continue.
If you’ve been looking for a smart device for your home but have been disappointed in the choices you’ve seen because none of them dispense salt, you’re in luck. Introducing SMALT, the world’s first interactive salt shaker!
At first I thought it was a fake commercial from Saturday Night Live or a satirical website, but it’s real. You put the device in the middle of your dinner table, and it plays music and delivers ambient light for you and your guests. Oh, and if you need salt, you don’t need a whole separate salt shaker crowding the table.
I’m surprised they’re not releasing Smepper at the same time. You know it’s coming.
RIP Joseph Bologna, Alan Peckolick, S.J. Harris, and Neil Chayet
Joseph Bologna was not only an acclaimed actor, appearing in such films as My Favorite Year and Blame It On Rio and starring in the sitcom Top of the Heap, he was also an Oscar- and Emmy-nominated screenwriter. He died Sunday at the age of 82.
Alan Peckolick was a designer who created logos for many companies, including GM, and font designs for companies such as Revlon, Mercedes-Benz, and Pfizer. He died August 3 at the age of 76.
Neil Chayet hosted the Looking at the Law radio show on WBZ in Boston and other radio stations for 41 years. He died last week at the age of 78.
This Week in History
Alfred Hitchcock Born (August 13, 1899)
The master of suspense was born in Leytonstone, England, and died in Bel Air, California, on April 29, 1980. In this piece from the December 15, 1962, issue of The Saturday Evening Post, Hitchcock gives his opinions on a variety of topics, from Walt Disney and TV commercials to Hollywood stars and his weight.
Elvis Presley Dies (August 16, 1977)
This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: Where the Girls Are (August 17, 1957)
If you didn’t know the title of this cover by Thornton Utz, you might think it’s Car Smashes into Motel. But the reason the male driver and his buddies make a sudden turn into the parking lot is because they see a group of young ladies lounging by the pool. The least the guys could do is park the car correctly.
National Bacon Lovers Day
Francis Bacon was born in 1561 and died in 1626. Besides being the Attorney General and Lord Chancellor of England, he was a scientist and author who some people believe was the actual writer of Shakespeare’s plays. He was …
Oh wait, this Sunday is the day we celebrate bacon the food. All righty. Here’s a recipe for a Bacon, Cheddar, and Apple Bake, and here’s one in honor of Elvis — Chunky Elvis Ice Cream — which contains not only bacon but also peanut butter, honey, and bananas.
Next Week’s Holidays and Events
National Aviation Day (August 19)
In 1939, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared that Orville Wright’s birthday would be celebrated as National Aviation Day.
Total Eclipse (August 21)
Monday is going to be a big day, with the eclipse being witnessed by millions who will take the long journey to see it and live coverage on television by the news channels. Even jets are going to chase the moon’s shadow. The path of totality, which I think was the title of a Star Trek episode, runs from Oregon through the middle of the country and ends in South Carolina. You can see a partial eclipse in other parts of the country — just make sure you protect your eyes. And, of course, your heart.
RIP Roger Moore, Dina Merrill, Anne R. Dick, and Marsh McCall
Every generation has their favorite James Bond, usually the one you remember seeing in movie theaters. I’m a Sean Connery guy, but the first 007 I saw in theaters was Roger Moore, who died earlier this week at the age of 89. Moore also played another famous character, The Saint, for several seasons and appeared in Maverick, Ivanhoe, and The Persuaders with Tony Curtis.
Here’s a great story from a fan that illustrates the type of person Moore was.
Dina Merrill was an actress and philanthropist (she was the daughter of E.F. Hutton and Post cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post), appearing in such movies as Desk Set, Operation Petticoat, BUtterfield 8, and The Player, as well as TV shows like To Tell the Truth, Murder, She Wrote, and Batman. She passed away Monday at the age of 93.
Anne R. Dick was a jewelry-maker, publisher, and writer who was also a major inspiration in the writings of her husband, Philip K. Dick, author of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (which was turned into the movie Blade Runner), The Man in the High Castle, and many other books and stories. She wrote a memoir of their time together, The Search for Philip K. Dick, and was about to publish her first novel. She died in April at the age of 90.
Marsh McCall started his TV career as a writer on Late Night with Conan O’Brien and went on to write for such shows as Just Shoot Me! and The Naked Truth. He was also a producer on Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing and the Full House reboot, Fuller House, and co-created My Big Fat Greek Life. He died Sunday at the age of 52.
Print Books Are Back!
I prefer print books over e-books. It’s not that I’m a Luddite and don’t want to get involved with electronic versions of books — hey, I have the Kindle app! — it’s just that I prefer the look, the feel, the history, even the smell of the printed page. Honestly, I spend so much time in front of screens already. I’m always looking for a way to get away from them, and print lets me do that.
It seems a lot of other people like them too, as this piece at The Guardian explains. E-book sales reached a high in 2014 but ever since then have seen their sales drop. In fact, last year, sales dropped 17 percent. It’s also interesting to see that while many big bookstore chains have failed or aren’t doing too well, independent bookstores are doing better.
I don’t think e-books are going away, leaving us in a world where just print books exist — digital is still where we’re headed — but I think there’s a real future for print that goes beyond just being a niche product that only collectors are still interested in. Print books and bookstores are here to stay.
The American Writers Museum
Many of the books you’ll find in those bookstores (boy, that’s a tortured segue) were written by classic American writers, and now you can go to one place that celebrates their work. The American Writers Museum in Chicago opened recently and showcases the work of such writers as Mark Twain, Herman Melville, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jack London, Shirley Jackson, John Updike, Kurt Vonnegut, David Foster Wallace, and even I Love Lucy writer Madelyn Pugh Davis (who, by the way, went to the same high school as both Kurt Vonnegut and former Saturday Evening Post owner Beurt SerVaas).
Journalists Aren’t Normal, Study Shows
No, this isn’t another story about so-called fake news. It’s about a scientific study that shows journalists’ brains aren’t the same as everyone else’s.
Neuroscientist Tara Swart, in association with the London Press Club, interviewed and tested 40 journalists from various newspapers, magazines, and websites and found out that not only do their brains show a lower-than-average level of functioning than the average population, they’re also more prone to dehydration, to not getting enough exercise, to an inability to “silence the mind,” and to self-medicate with caffeine, sugary foods, and alcohol.
Every single writer and journalist will tell you that those findings are absolutely true.
The study wasn’t all bad news. It also showed that journalists did very well with things like “abstraction” (the ability to deal with ideas rather than events) and “value tagging” (the ability to figure out what’s important or what has meaning). It just so happens that, to many journalists, those important things are caffeine, sugary foods, and alcohol.
Frankenstein and The Mummy and The Creature, Oh My!
Universal Studios wants to make a monster movie universe, a series of connected movies, much like all the Marvel movies are connected and part of the same universe. And they’re going back to their roots to create that universe.
With the launch of The Mummy (with Tom Cruise) on June 9, the studio is well on its way to forming what is being called a “Dark Universe.” Other movies in the series will include The Invisible Man (with Johnny Depp), Van Helsing, and new versions of Frankenstein (with Javier Bardem) and The Bride of Frankenstein.
I hope they don’t ruin these movies with too many special effects when it comes to the actual monsters. They have to be guys in suits, right? That’s the only way these movies will work. Part of the charm of the original Creature from the Black Lagoon was that we knew it was a guy in a creature suit swimming around. I don’t want to see a CGI Creature or Frankenstein.
Finally, You Can Drink a Latte out of an Avocado
The Truman Cafe in Melbourne, Australia, is currently serving the Avolatte, which combines two Australia favorites, lattes and avocados. It started as a joke, but now it has taken off and everyone is talking about it.
It probably won’t catch on, and soon we’ll be on to the next fad. Maybe my invention will become popular: drinking Diet Pepsi out of a hollowed-out tomato. I call it The Tomepsi.
This Week in History
Arthur Conan Doyle Born (May 22, 1859)
The creator of Sherlock Holmes contributed several articles to The Saturday Evening Post, including “The End of Devil Hawker,” a nonfiction piece about the wrongful conviction of a half-English, half-Indian man, George Edalji.
Dunkirk Evacuation Begins (May 26, 1940)
Also known as Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of Allied troops from Dunkirk’s beaches and harbor on the French coast took place between May 26 and June 4.
Director Christopher Nolan’s new movie about the event, Dunkirk, opens on July 21. Here’s the trailer:
This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: First Cake Cover (May 21, 1955)
I love that kitchen. I want to live in a time and place where that kitchen exists. This cover is by the great Stevan Dohanos, and it’s so well done you don’t even have to see the date on the cover to know it’s from the 1950s. But it proves you can have all of the most modern appliances in your kitchen and they still won’t guarantee you’ll make a great cake. Even the oven looks shocked at how it turned out.
National Cherry Dessert Day
Today is the day when you can officially eat cherry-inspired desserts, such as these Cherry Oatmeal Cookies or this Cherry Dream Cake. You can also make Mary’s Royal Cherry Trifle. “Mary” is Mary Berry, the tough but fair British food writer and co-host of The Great British Bake Off and The Great American Baking Show.
If you want to pour a latte into one of these desserts, well, I guess I can’t stop you. I don’t think Mary would be too happy about it, though.
Next Week’s Holidays and Events
Memorial Day (May 29)
This Monday isn’t just the unofficial kickoff to summer, the day to fire up the grill and get out the patio furniture and bug spray; it’s also a day to honor our heroes.
National Doughnut Day (June 1)
There are actually two National Doughnut Days (the other is on November 5), but most people consider this day the official day, as this Mental Floss piece explains. But feel free to celebrate both if you really like doughnuts.
News of the Week: A New Harry Potter, a Really New Captain America, and the Dangers of Netflix Adultery
Harry Potter is Back!
We all knew this was coming. What, you thought that we’d seen the last of Harry Potter?
Yup, the boy wizard is back, only this time he’s a man, and it he won’t be in a book or movie (not yet anyway — stay tuned). The adult Harry and his teen son Albus will be seen in a new play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which opens in previews at London’s Palace Theatre next week. Pottermore, the official Harry Potter site, has details on the play, along with photos of the cast in costume.
Remember that issue of Superman where you find out the Man of Steel has always been working with General Zod, and then he kills Jimmy Olsen? Yeah, I don’t either, because it never happened. But it could!
I don’t see why not, because it seems to have happened to Captain America. In a new comic book, Captain America: Steve Rogers #1, we find out that not only is Rogers — the most American of superheroes — working with the evil Hydra organization now, he has always been working with Hydra. An editor for Marvel attempts to explain this to Time, and while he says the twist isn’t a gimmick, I think it’s safe to say it’s a gimmick.
Now, I’m not the ideal fan or even demographic for comic books. I like a lot of superhero movies (the Captain America series in particular), but I haven’t read a comic book in many years. And the story lines for comic books are really hard to follow now. There are constant reboots and the killing off (then resurrection) of characters and “re-imaginings” of a comic’s universe, so that we’re in a time when literally anything can happen. It all seems confusing and needless and inconsistent. Supposedly, hardcore fans will eventually understand why Rogers has gone to the dark side, and in a way that even old comics will hold up. I don’t buy it. On the other hand, I don’t plan on buying it, so I’ll just pretend this never happened.
Let’s just hope that the new Harry Potter play doesn’t show he’s been on Voldemort’s payroll since he was a kid.
Print Books Are Back, Too!
Harry Potter isn’t the only thing making a comeback. Apparently, print books are back, too.
Of course, they never really went away, but for the past several years all we’ve heard is that print books (and newspapers) are on the way out and they’ll be replaced by e-books and other digital offerings. The New York Times reports that in 2015, sales of print books rose 16 percent while the sale of digital books fell 10 percent from the previous year’s sales. Even younger readers like print books more.
Now, e-books and digital aren’t going away. That probably is the future, but I don’t think that print is ever really going to go away. Maybe in the far-flung future, when we’re all living like The Jetsons. But even then I think there will at least be a niche space for paper, even if our brains are hardwired directly to social media and we make all our purchases via a retinal scan.
Christopher Kimball Launches New Cooking Venture
Last year, I told you about America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Country founder/host leaving the company he started. This week we found out why Kimball was let go and what he plans to do next.
Kimball has started Milk Street Kitchen, a new cooking venture that will include a PBS show, a magazine, books, and even a cooking school. And while that might sound an awful lot like his former venture, he’s actually taking a different route. He’s going to focus on the foods and cooking methods of other countries. As Kimball puts it, “I don’t think I have anything left to add about how to make an oatmeal cookie.” He’s currently renovating the Flour & Grain Exchange building in the Financial District of Boston, which will serve as the headquarters for the company.
Interestingly, Kimball will continue to host the weekly America’s Test Kitchen radio show.
RIP Irving Benson and Mike Dann
Irving Benson was one of the last of the classic vaudeville performers, and he had a bunch of roles on television as well. He was on shows like Here’s Lucy, Happy Days, and The Tonight Show, and you might remember him as Sidney Shpritzer, the guy in the balcony who would heckle Milton Berle on all of Berle’s shows in the ’60s:
He must have been one of the inspirations for the Sesame Street characters Statler and Waldorf, right?
Benson passed away in May at the age of 102. His wife Lillian passed away this March. They had been married for 79 years.
Mike Dann wasn’t a household name, but he had a big hand in many TV shows that were beamed into your household. He started at NBC and helped create both Today and The Tonight Show; then later at CBS, he gave us rural shows like The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction, and Green Acres, along with more metropolitan shows like The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, an extremely controversial show that CBS canceled even though it was popular with younger viewers.
Dann passed away last Friday at the age of 94.
I Don’t Remember John Daly Bumping and Grinding
Regular readers of this column know that I’m a big fan of old game shows like What’s My Line?, To Tell The Truth, and I’ve Got A Secret. I have this fantasy that What’s My Line? will come back in a new version, but that fantasy is tempered by the realization that it wouldn’t be the same show at all. They’d try to make it more “modern” by having the celebrities be reality show stars or C-list celebs, and the witty, urbane, classy vibe of the original show would be replaced by screaming and raunchy jokes and a loud audience. The contestants on the show would no longer have normal occupations or be in the military, they’d all be porn stars or YouTube stars, and the audience would “whoop” at all the dirty lines. They couldn’t do live commercials during the show because we’re so drenched in irony and cynicism now.
But some of the old shows are coming back. In April, I mentioned that Match Game would return to ABC this summer with Alec Baldwin as host, and we now have the previews for ABC’s reboots of To Tell The Truth and The $100,000 Pyramid. Watch these previews for both shows and see if you have the same reaction I did. At first, you’re excited these shows are back, and then, a few moments later, you’re thinking, “Oh, um, well …”
This is To Tell the Truth:
And here’s The $100,000 Pyramid:
While I don’t know if these new versions will work, it’s really great to see Betty White on game shows again, and I’ll certainly be watching. Please don’t screw this up.
Have You Cheated on Your Partner (with Netflix)?
Don’t you hate it when your significant other watches a TV show before you do and you can’t watch it together? It’s apparently a major problem in modern-day marriages and grounds for divorce in 33 states. But there’s a solution.
Introducing Commitment Rings, rings that you and your partner can wear that will actually block one of you from watching the streaming of your favorite show if the other person isn’t watching it with you. They’re from Cornetto, a British ice cream company. Yes, a British ice cream company.
I don’t really understand how it works. I mean, unless you can set up the streaming apps to not even work at all unless both rings are being used, can’t you just take off the ring and cheat on your partner? I mean, that’s how real adultery works.
June Is National Iced Tea Month
I don’t know what it’s like where you are, but Mother Nature seemed to have just flipped the summer switch this past week, as it went from rainy and cool to muggy and gross in just a day or so. The screen door is in, the windows are open, and the bugs are out in full force.
It’s a perfect time for iced tea! I’m a fan of the packaged, sugary stuff. “Real” iced tea, to me, just tastes like regular tea that’s been sitting out for a while and gotten cold. I guess you get used to a certain flavor when you’re a kid and it sticks with you forever. But if you’d like to mix up a batch yourself, here’s a classic recipe from Lipton. If you want something a little bit different, how about an Arnold Palmer, which combines iced tea and lemonade and just screams “summer.”
The first suit I ever bought, back in the ’70s, was one with the Arnold Palmer label. How many people can say they have a classic drink and a clothing line named after them?
Upcoming Events and Anniversaries
President Ronald Reagan dies (June 5, 2004)
George Orwell’s 1984 published (June 6, 1949)
Jean Harlow dies (June 7, 1937)
The film star was only 26 when she died.
Cole Porter born (June 9, 1891)
You can learn more about the iconic American songwriter at the “Cole Wide Web.”
Hattie McDaniel born (June 10, 1889)
The first black actress to win an acting Oscar accepted her award at a segregated Los Angeles hotel.