Oh, the Books You’ll Refuse!
What librarian would refuse a donation of Dr. Seuss books? One in Cambridge, Massachusetts, apparently.
In an open letter published in The Horn Book, librarian Liz Phipps Soeiro says that she’s refusing the donation of the books (sent to one school in each state) by First Lady Melania Trump, for a couple of reasons. One, she says that her school and community already have enough book resources. Oh, and second, Dr. Seuss is “a bit of a cliché,” a “tired and worn ambassador for children’s literature,” and that many of his books have “racist propaganda, caricatures, and harmful stereotypes.”
Insert painful sigh here.
While it’s an honest, upfront letter, it’s also a snarky riff against Mrs. Trump’s husband and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Imagine being so political, wanting to make a point so much, that you drag down the creator of How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Cat in the Hat. And to think, just a couple of years ago, she loved Dr. Seuss.
I don’t have kids, but when and if I do, I will happily buy them all of the Dr. Seuss books and read them at bedtime. I will not throw them in the trash, I will not sell them for hard cash. I will not hate them here and there, I will not hate them anywhere.
In Defense of Megyn Kelly
Since I’m in the mood to defend people, how about Megyn Kelly?
Oh, I’m not going to completely defend comments she has made in the past or her new morning show, one of the 17 hours of Today programming on NBC every day. Last week’s launch was, well, awkward, from the Jane Fonda interview to the over-the-top congrats from the NBC staff and the “getting to know Megyn” segments that tried way too hard to convince us that she’s a normal human being with feelings and everything (as if anyone doubted that?). It’s early, but she still isn’t a great fit for morning television. The show is a mix of the usual Today fare, Oprah, and The Talk, and Kelly really has to stop it with the weird voices she’s using and the hand gestures (at several points it looked like she was pulling down an invisible curtain).
But I will defend her regarding the most recent controversy. Earlier this week, she had Tom Brokaw on to talk about the shooting in Las Vegas. Brokaw was speaking, and it looked like Kelly cut him off quickly, and some think it might be because he was talking about the National Rifle Association. I watched it live and didn’t think that at all. It just looked like Kelly was out of time and had to wrap up the segment to get to a commercial. But everything now is a conspiracy or negative, and social media went crazy about how “rude” Kelly was and how she cut him off because of where the conversation was going. Several articles were even written about it, including this dumb one at Jezebel and this equally dumb one at The AV Club.
As Brokaw himself explains, the cutoff seemed awkward because he didn’t have an earpiece in his ear and couldn’t hear what Kelly was saying. But I guess the more controversial explanation, the quick “hot take,” is one many people prefer believing.
This Could Be a Dan Brown Novel
This may seem like an odd story. I mean, how can there be a grave for someone who never existed?
But Santa Claus actually did exist. Oh, maybe not the way we know him now, drawn by Thomas Nast and Norman Rockwell, the ho-ho-ho-ing jolly man at the mall holding up cans of Coke. But Saint Nicholas was a real person, and they may have found his remains in an undamaged grave at the Saint Nicholas Church in Turkey. They found the tomb after surveying the church and noticing gaps underneath it.
So now when your kids ask if Santa Claus is real, you can tell them, “Yes, yes he is! But now he’s dead.”
The 100 Greatest Screenwriters of All-Time
Another day, another internet list we can argue about.
This one is from Vulture, and it gathers several current screenwriters and asks them to pick the greatest screenwriters of all time. The results are, predictably, a mixture of “That’s a great pick!” and “How the heck could you leave ______ out?!?”
No one is going to disagree with people like Billy Wilder (Double Indemnity, Sunset Boulevard, The Apartment), William Goldman (All The President’s Men, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid), Ernest Lehman (North By Northwest, Sweet Smell of Success), or Preston Sturges (Sullivan’s Travels, The Lady Eve). But I will happily argue about the inclusion of George Lucas, Adam McKay, and Jordan Peele.
I think some of the picks are an attempt to look contemporary (Peele has written two full-length screenplays, for movies that came out in the past year or so), to seem well rounded, to nod to nostalgia, or maybe even to acknowledge to friends. This is what happens to these lists. They’re never based on pure merit.
RIP Tom Petty, Monty Hall, Anne Jeffreys, Si Newhouse, Richard Pyle, and Jan Triska
Hall was also in one of the best episodes of The Odd Couple:
Anne Jeffreys was a screen and stage actress best known for her work on TV shows like Topper and General Hospital, as well as in movies like Step Lively, Dillinger, and the Dick Tracy films of the 1940s. She died last Wednesday at the age of 94.
For 40 years, Si Newhouse was the Chairman of Condé Nast Publications, which includes magazines like The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, and Vogue. He died Sunday at the age of 89.
Richard Pyle was an acclaimed journalist and war correspondent who worked for the Associated Press and was there for many of the big stories over the past several decades. He died last Thursday at the age of 83.
This Week in History
The Andy Griffith Show Premieres (October 3, 1960)
The show’s Mayberry setting was so realistic that many viewers thought the show was actually filmed in North Carolina, but it was filmed on a Hollywood back lot. The opening where Andy and Opie go fishing? That was filmed near a manmade reservoir in Franklin Canyon Park in Los Angeles. This father and son re-created the opening (Griffith sings the theme song, and yes, it had lyrics):
President Rutherford B. Hayes Born (October 4, 1822)
I wonder how the 1876 presidential election would have been covered by today’s media. It was plagued by accusations of intimidation and cheating. On election night, Republican candidate Rutherford B. Hayes and Democrat Samuel Tilden both went to bed thinking they had won, and the election was ultimately decided by a bipartisan commission set up by the House Judiciary Committee. If all that happened today the cable news channels would cover it nonstop, the streets would be filled with protestors on each side, and social media would implode.
This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: Tipping the Scales (October 3, 1936)
This is one of the most famous covers by artist Leslie Thrasher, who is often compared to Norman Rockwell in his style. There’s a sad back-story to this painting. Two months after the issue came out, a fire at Thrasher’s home destroyed most of his work. Thrasher suffered severe smoke inhalation and eventually died from pneumonia on December 2.
Sunday Is National Fluffernutter Day
The Fluffernutter is a New England thing, but I think it’s also made its way to other parts of the country too. Marshmallow Fluff is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. It was invented in 1917 by a Somerville, Massachusetts, man with the fantastic name Archibald Query. He sold it door to door for a while before selling the recipe to the Durkee Mower candy company. The company came up with the “Fluffernutter” name in 1958 (even if the sandwich itself had already been created by another Massachusetts company in 1918).
It’s pretty simple to make. You take two slices of white bread and spread peanut butter on one side and Marshmallow Fluff on the other. Whether you use creamy or crunchy peanut butter is up to you, though I think creamy is the norm.
I have to admit that even though I’m from New England and still live there, I’ve only had a Fluffernutter once or twice in my life. I never loved it enough to have it more than that. I did often eat white bread covered in sugar though. That was one of my favorite snacks.
Don’t judge me.
Next Week’s Holidays and Events
Columbus Day (October 9)
Did Christopher Columbus really discover the Americas? While a lot of people credit the Italian explorer — and we have a special day set aside for him — a lot of people credit someone else.
Leif Erikson Day (October 9)
And that other person is Leif Erikson, who did it in the 11th century. So he gets a day too, and that day just happens to be on the same day we celebrate Columbus. That must really irritate both of them.
Of course, there’s a third option, too.
Indigenous Peoples Day (October 9)
When Leif Erikson and Christopher Columbus arrived in the Americas, it wasn’t empty — millions of people were already living here — so discover doesn’t really describe what either of these men did. Because of this, four states and a growing number of cities have replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day.
You may recall Rutherford B. Hayes’ comment after making the first ever presidential phone call on Alexander Graham Bell’s new telephone. “An amazing invention,” he said, “but who would ever want to use one?”
Our cover artists, quite inventive in their own right, have been chronicling America’s quirky new devices for decades. In observing our reactions to them, they have shown we are all pretty much like kids with new toys (with the exception of Rutherford B. Hayes, that is). It’s the kids, however, who take to the “new” at lightning speed, be it telephones, computers, or e-books. They garner new technologies for their own use, leaving their clueless elders far behind. And kids are inventive, too. But look out when they start thinking they are Henry Ford, the Wright brothers, or Alfred Nobel (inventor of dynamite). Kids in inventor mode, our artists suggest, can sometimes be unsettling.
Contributing writer: Joan SerVaas.