News of the Week: Academy Award Changes, Space Force, and It’s Way Too Early for Pumpkin Spice Drinks

“Oscar, Oscar, Oscar”

That line is from The Odd Couple, one of my favorite sitcoms, and I can picture Felix Unger shaking his head in disappointment and saying it to the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences after their recent announcement.

AMPAS actually made a few announcements this week, and most of them were infuriating and ridiculous. They’re going to limit the show to three hours. Now, that sounds fairly benign and logical, but one way they’re going to speed things up is to give away some of the awards during commercial breaks. Hey, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, how about taking out the dance numbers or a rambling segment or a tedious comedy bit to find more time to, you know, honor the people of your own industry on the biggest night of their lives? Am I supposed to go online to see who won during that commercial for Diet Coke, or wait for some highlights later in the show?

If that wasn’t enough to make you slap your forehead, how about this? They’re introducing a Best Popular Film category. Yup, for all those movies that might have gotten a lot of box office cash but weren’t good enough for the Best Picture category, apparently. Are they admitting that Black Panther is a “popular” film but can’t be a Best Picture nominee? It’s almost as if the people in AMPAS don’t understand movies, art, fans, network TV viewing habits, or the movie industry in general. They’re trying to appeal to more people and become more “relevant,” but I think these changes will have the opposite effect. A Best Popular Film award will be looked at as a consolation prize, which it kind of is.

Everything is getting watered down and ruined these days, so I guess it was just a matter of time before it happened to the Oscars.

Hey, here’s a solution, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences: Why not just have better taste in movies? Realize that even popular films can be quality films and increase the number of films in the Best Picture category from 10 (which you already did from 5 several years ago to include more “popular” films, remember?) to 15 or even 20. Boom! Problem solved.

The Final Frontier

This is a story about the new branch of the military called Space Force, but I don’t want to get into the politics of it. Let’s talk about something more important: the logo.

Here are the choices.

I like the one with the shield shape or the blue-and-white one with the rocket, because it looks like the title card from a Space Force cartoon. The red-and-white logo with the yellow ribbon? It’s okay, but it looks too much like a space logo that already exists.

Idris Elba Is the Next 007? (Probably Not!)

For years, fans of Idris Elba have been pushing for him to be the next James Bond. He has never auditioned and there’s been no real serious talk of him taking over the role, but his fans really, really want it to happen. And now it just might, because there’s a report that there are serious talks about it.

Antoine Fuqua, director of the Equalizer movies, says that Bond producer Barbara Broccoli told him that Elba would make a great Bond. Daniel Craig will be leaving the role after the next movie, so there’ll be an opening, and it looks like we can officially add Elba’s name to the ever-growing list of potential onscreen spies, along with Tom Hardy, James Norton, Tom Hiddleston, Henry Cavill, and several others.

That was the story last week. This week we found out — surprise! — Fuqua never had a conversation with Broccoli, never brought up Elba’s name, and the whole thing was made up and hyped by the web. Sorry, fans!

But there’s an obvious reason Elba won’t be the next 007 anyway. You can tell what I mean just by looking at him. It’s pretty obvious, right? I know it might be controversial to say this, but I’m going to say it anyway. Elba wouldn’t be good as James Bond because he’s … too old.

I looked at the ages of the previous Bonds, from Connery to Craig, and all of them were in their 30s or early 40s when they took on the role. Since Craig still has one more movie to go, and it won’t be released until late 2019, Elba will be close to 50 by the time he would make his first Bond movie. That means if he were to make a second movie, he’d be, what, 52 or 53? I’m 53, and that’s too old to be running around, even if Tom Cruise can still do it somehow (but he started the Mission: Impossible movies when he was 33).

Breaking News: It’s Still Summer

Look at the calendar. It’s August 17. We’re still wearing shorts, and the new TV season hasn’t started yet. But for some reason, stores and restaurants are trying to push the fall season on us already.

Case in point: Starbucks is going to start selling their seasonal favorite Pumpkin Spice Latte on August 28. Yes, that’s just what I want: to sip a hot beverage while sweating from the 90-degree temps and 70-degree dew points.

But this early appearance of pumpkin spice is still not as bad as what I saw at my local supermarket last week: a giant Halloween candy display. At this rate, Christmas decorations will be for sale just after Labor Day.

RIP Aretha Franklin, V.S. Naipaul, Morgana King, Richard H. Kline, Patricia Benoit, and Lorrie Collins

Aretha Franklin was called “the greatest singer of all time” by Rolling Stone. Starting as a gospel singer and pianist, she went on to have a ton of classic hits like “Respect,” “Natural Woman,” “Chain of Fools,” “Freeway of Love,” “Who’s Zoomin’ Who,” and her duet with George Michael, “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me).” A multiple Grammy winner, she also had a memorable role in The Blues Brothers, was the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.

The Queen of Soul died yesterday at the age of 76.

V.S. Naipaul was an acclaimed writer of such novels as A House for Mr. Biswas, Guerrillas, and Miguel Street, along with several works of travel writing and other nonfiction. He died last week at the age of 85.

Morgana King was a veteran jazz singer and actress. She had a hit song with her version of “A Taste of Honey” and played Marlon Brando’s wife in The Godfather. She died in March at the age of 87.

Richard H. Kline was a cinematographer and camera operator who worked on such films as Camelot, Body Heat, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and the 1976 remake of King Kong, along with TV shows like The Monkees and Mr. Novak. He died last week at the age of 91.

Patricia Benoit played Wally Cox’s girlfriend on the ’50s sitcom Mr. Peepers. She died last week at the age of 91.

Lorrie Collins was the female half of the brother and sister duo the Collins Kids. They were quite popular in the ’50s and ’60s, singing such songs as “Problems Problems” and “Hoy Hoy.” Collins died last week at the age of 76.

If you’ve never heard of the Collins Kids, take a look at this video. She had a beautiful voice, and her little brother Larry was an incredibly skilled guitarist.

This Week in History

Hedy Lamarr Gets Tech Patent (August 11, 1942)

Do you use Wi-Fi or Bluetooth? You have actress Hedy Lamarr to thank for that. Lamarr and her partner, inventor George Antheil, invented the frequency-hopping technology that led to many of the gizmos we use today.

Will Rogers and Wiley Post Killed in Plane Crash (August 15, 1935)

The humorist and his close friend, aviator Wiley Post, both died when the plane Post was piloting crashed near Point Barrow, Alaska.

This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: Moonlit Future (August 15, 1959)

Engaged couple dreams of their future by moonlightMoonlit Future
Constantin Alajalov
August 15, 1959

We should update this Constantin Alajálov cover and include something created with the help of Lamarr and Antheil’s invention.

Quote of the Week

“At the end of the day, it’s adults getting trophies. Why should that be taken seriously?”

Saturday Night Live’s Colin Jost, co-host of next month’s Emmy Awards, on award shows

More Summer Desserts

I don’t eat a lot of dessert during the summer months. I’m more of a cold-weather dessert kind of guy. The only “desserts” I’ll have in the summer are ice cream and Popsicles, and even those are half taste enjoyment, half “oh my God how am I going to cool down?”

But if you’re in the mood for something fruity and refreshing to make during the next several weeks, how about this Kiwi Summer Limeade Pie, this Mini Peach Melba Ice Cream Cake, the elegant Strawberries Romanoff, or maybe an icy cold Galaxy Milkshake?

Just don’t include any pumpkin. Fall and winter will be here soon enough. There’s plenty of time.

Next Week’s Holidays and Events

Bad Poetry Day (August 18)

Here’s my contribution:

Roses are red
Violets are blue
Sugar is sweet
Hey, does anybody know when the new season of
Game of Thrones starts?
I think in early 2019
Great, thanks
No problem

I know that’s pretty bad, but for Bad Poetry Day, it’s pretty good.

News of the Week: Hello Autumn, Goodbye Cassini, and Yes, Virginia, There Is Cheese Tea

Fall Begins

I was trying to find a poem about fall that I could mention here, but most of the poems I found are rather depressing. They talk about the sadness of the light of summer dying, or how the leaves are changing and it’s a bad thing, or how autumn is just a precursor to winter, which we all know is the worst season of all. But I actually love fall — and winter for that matter — so I didn’t include one.

Today is the first day of fall, and I’m glad that summer is over. I’m ready to replace my iced tea with hot, my shorts with jeans, my T-shirts with sweaters, and my screen door with glass. I’m also looking forward to fall because maybe, just maybe, the cold weather will drive away the people who hang out at the base of my stairs, leaving their coffee cups and other refuse.

The Cassini Crash

We told you back in May about the stunning pictures the spacecraft Cassini was sending back from Saturn. No more pictures will be coming from Cassini, as this week it crashed onto the surface of Saturn.

But don’t be sad! The spacecraft spent a successful 20 years sending back photos and other data from Saturn and its many moons. Cassini took one last photo before crashing just north of Saturn’s equator.

Sitting Is the New Smoking

If you’re sitting there reading this… stand up!

Suddenly, sitting down is incredibly bad for you. Based on a recent study and many past studies, doctors are actually saying that sitting is the new smoking. The longer middle-aged and older people sit, the more likely they are to have problems with obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Of course, like most studies, the data is incomplete and might not tell the whole story. But it wouldn’t hurt to get up from your desk to walk and stretch once in a while.

This sounds like one of those health things that, well, isn’t that easy to fix. Sure, we can walk around more and make sure we exercise in general, but sitting is what we do, at home and at work. It’s like telling someone that standing is really bad for you and you should sit more. Yeah, okay, but it’s hard to go places if you can’t stand up. If sitting is bad for us, how dangerous is lying down and sleeping eight hours a night?

I was wondering why I’ve been seeing so many commercials for those standing desks and treadmill desks.

The Happiest State Is …

A question for all of our readers in Minnesota: Are you happy?

You should be, because your state came in first in a study conducted by WalletHub. The site takes data and ranks the states in categories like Emotional and Physical Well-Being, Work Environment, and Community and Environment. Minnesota was number one, followed by Utah and Hawaii. Sorry, West Virginia, but you came in dead last. Sad!

Of course, I don’t know how accurate this study is, so I wouldn’t recommend you suddenly get depressed just because you live in a state that’s low on the list. I mean, I don’t feel like I live in the 19th-happiest state. It feels more like top 10. Certainly top 15.

Cheese Tea Is a Thing, Apparently

Some food combos make a lot of sense. There’s peanut butter and milk chocolate, bagels and cream cheese, and of course peanut butter and jelly. But how did anyone think of putting cheese in their tea?

The Daily Mail says it’s an Asian trend that is coming to New York and Los Angeles. It’s the popular bubble tea, hot or cold, only topped with a sort of whipped cream cheese. This is becoming one of those trends that you are about to hear a lot about but will probably never actually experience yourself, like planking or winning the lottery.

I’m addicted to tea — it’s 11 a.m. and I’m already on my third cup — but this is something I just have no interest in trying. I mean, I’m not even a big fan of teas flavored with fruit, so I’m not going to top my tea with the same stuff I top my nachos with.

I like chocolate chip ice cream and I like onions, but I’m not going to combine them.

The Man Who Carved Mount Rushmore

This week, the National Park Service finally recognized the work of Italian immigrant Luigi Del Bianco, the chief carver of Mount Rushmore. Here’s a report from Jim Axelrod of CBS Sunday Morning.


RIP Harry Dean Stanton, Jake Lamotta, Frank Vincent, Lillian Ross, Grant Hart, Stanislav Petrov, J.P. Donleavy, Mike Hodge, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, and Mark Lamura

Harry Dean Stanton was one of the great character actors, appearing in so many movies and TV shows that you’ll have to take a few minutes to read his IMDb page. He has the lead in the new movie Lucky and was recently seen in Twin Peaks: The ReturnHe died last Friday at the age of 91.

In 2013, Lawrence Grobel interviewed Stanton for the Post.

Jake Lamotta was the brawling boxer who inspired the classic Martin Scorsese film Raging BullHe died earlier this week at the age of 95.

Frank Vincent was an actor who appeared in Raging Bull but is probably best known for his role as Phil Leotardo on The Sopranos. He also appeared in such classic films as Goodfellasand Casino. In the 1970s, he was in a band with fellow actor Joe Pesci. Vincent passed away last Wednesday at the age of 80.

Lillian Ross was an acclaimed writer and journalist who, except for a short break in 1987, worked at The New Yorker from 1945 until 2012. She authored several books, including Here but Not Here and the 2015 collection Reporting AlwaysShe died Wednesday at the age of 99.

Grant Hart was the drummer and one of the lead singers of the rock group Hüsker Dü. He died last week at the age of 56.

Stanislav Petrov saved the world in 1983 when, while working as a military officer at a Russian nuclear early-warning center, he got information saying that the United States had launched several nuclear missiles. He decided to check things out instead of retaliating, and it turns out it was a false alarm. Petrov died in May at the age of 77.

J.P. Donleavy was an author known for several novels, including The Ginger ManHe died on September 11 at the age of 91.

Mike Hodge was an actor who appeared in many TV shows and movies. He was also the New York local president of the Screen Actors Guild-AFTRA. He died Saturday at the age of 70.

Wrestling fans will remember Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. He was the colorful manager of such wrestlers as Andre the Giant, Rick Rude, and King Kong Bundy. He died Sunday at the age of 72.

Mark Lamura was an actor known for his many years playing Mark Dalton on All My Children. He also appeared in several other shows, including The Sopranos30 Rock, and Star Trek: The Next GenerationHe died last week at the age of 68.

This Week in History

Earthquakes Hit Mexico City (September 19, 1985)

The earthquake that hit Mexico City on Tuesday came on the anniversary of the first of two earthquakes that hit the area 32 years ago, which killed thousands and caused billions of dollars worth of damage. The second earthquake hit a day later.

“Yes Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus” Editorial (September 21, 1897)

Don’t worry, you haven’t fallen asleep for three months. It’s still September and way too early to talk about Christmas. But the answer to the famous letter from 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon was published in The New York Sun this week in 1897. Some interesting trivia: O’Hanlon was the cousin of George O’Hanlon, the actor who did the voice of this guy.

This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: Norman Rockwell’s Runaway (September 20, 1958)


A runaway boy sits next to a police officer at a soda shop.


I think we can all agree that this cover is the most famous Norman Rockwell work, right? Well, it’s certainly up there with Freedom from Want. Here’s a 2011 interview with the Massachusetts state trooper and little boy who posed for the painting, Dick Clemens and Ed Locke (Clemens passed away in 2012):


Get Ready for the Return of Pumpkin-Spiced… Everything

The start of the fall season means it’s the start of pumpkin spice season. If you haven’t noticed, everything is pumpkin-spiced now. Not just the drinks at Starbucks, but also cerealbutterpizza, and, of course, dog cologne. We were promised jet packs and flying cars but instead we got Facebook and pumpkin-spiced everything.

A lot of people hate pumpkin spice and dread all of the products that include it. As someone who actually likes the flavor (within reason), I really don’t mind the onslaught of pumpkin-spice-flavored drinks and cookies and cakes. A thousand recipes caught my eye, but I’d go with these Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Squares from Recipe Girl.

By the way, I just checked my high blood pressure medication, and guess what? Pumpkin spice flavored.

Next Week’s Holidays and Events

Oktoberfest (September 23–October 8)

This is billed as the world’s biggest fair, but we all know that when you hear the word Oktoberfest, you think of beer.

National Good Neighbor Day (September 28)

Do people still borrow cups of sugar from their neighbors? I was thinking of that before coming across this day started by Lakeside, Montana, resident Becky Mattson in the 1970s. Why do people always run out of sugar and not eggs or milk or bread? Will people some day borrow pumpkin spice?