3 Questions with Patrick Stewart

Patrick Stewart looks absolutely splendid. He smiles at the compliment. “It’s a tribute to my peasant genes.” Stewart admits that being a self-declared workaholic is part of the secret to seeming more than a little like the Captain Jean-Luc Picard from 25 years ago. Now, he’s bringing him back for CBS All Access on Star Trek: Picard in a startlingly new take on the futuristic world.

Stewart made his debut in a school play at six and has never stopped working, on screens big and small as well in theaters around the world. At 79, he can look back on a career in which he’s played nearly every Shakespearean legend and a stunning array of memorable characters in too many movie and TV shows to count, but Sir Patrick is probably most proud of being knighted by the Queen. Stewart reveals that the biggest challenge he faced in his new venture was making sure that Star Trek moved into a future which reflects changes even Gene Roddenberry hadn’t imagined.

Jeanne Wolf: You had some very strong opinions about what you wanted Star Trek fans to see before you took on the challenge of a new series, didn’t you?

Patrick Stewart: I wanted diversity. Many years have passed since the last time I was on a Star Trek set. The world is a different place. So we find our beloved Picard in a life which bears no resemblance whatsoever to his service as a Starfleet captain.

“There’s always an improvement that can be made for humankind and society.”

As for taking on a new challenge, I have never thought of retirement. Sigmund Freud said, “The two most important things in a life if you want to be happy are love and work.” I am very blessed that I have the former, perhaps in ways I’d never have anticipated. However, the work has always been a bit more negative because I’m obsessive. People have said to me, “The problem with you is that you only know how to work, and when you’re not, you don’t feel as though you’re Patrick Stewart at all.” In a sense, that is true. With acting, when I first dipped my toe into that particular creative pool, I was delighted to discover that I could spend a lot of time not being Patrick Stewart, which gave me a great deal of satisfaction.

I sometimes look back and think, How did this all come about? All I wanted to do was be on stage reciting Shakespeare and nothing else, and then suddenly I find that I had become somebody that I still don’t quite know how to be.

JW: What has shaped you both personally and as an actor?

PS: I didn’t have an idyllic childhood, although I started doing some acting at a very young age. My education was over at 15. In the society that I grew up in, you went to work after that. It was usually in a factory, mill, or coal mine. That was where most of my family, after primary school, ended up — and quite a few of them went to prison as well. I was blessed to have one significant person standing at my side, my English teacher, Cecil Dormand. He’s 96 and still doing great. We still have wonderful conversations, and he talks to me like I’m 15 sometimes. Cecil was the one who encouraged me and pushed me in the right direction. We all need someone like that.

And I inherited something from my father. Actually he was an incredible man — a soldier, the most senior noncommissioned officer of the parachute regiment. There was always optimism in the things he expressed. That’s why I felt so connected to Jean-Luc Picard, because he always looked for a better way and improvements that could be made. I’ll never forget one fan letter I got from a police officer who said he loved his job but there were days when he came home stressed and depressed, feeling there was no future at all for any of us. That’s when he’d get out a DVD of Next Generation and watch it and be assured that he was wrong. There was a better world waiting for us. There’s always an improvement that can be made for humankind and society. That, I still passionately believe in, I just think it’s going to be a very difficult few years until we get to that place again.

JW: After some years together, you married singer and songwriter Sunny Ozell. What about love and marriage; has that become simpler even though she’s half your age?

PS: Yes. In the sense that I now think I understand the importance and significance of sharing life with one other person in particular. It’s a glorious gift. The communication between two people from massively different backgrounds like my wife and I brings out in me a reassurance and happiness that, quite frankly, I never thought I would experience. So much joy. Fun doesn’t begin to describe it. Joy would be closer to the experience.

—Jeanne Wolf is the Post’s West Coast editor

This is an expanded version of an interview that appears in the March/April 2020 issue of The Saturday Evening Post.  Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

Featured image: Shutterstock

50 Years Ago, Star Trek Boldly Showed TV’s First Interracial Kiss

When the Enterprise began its maiden voyage in 1966, few suspected that they were witnessing the launch of one of the most important and enduring franchises in the history of television. More than 50 years later, Star Trek consists of six television series (with one in development), 13 films, an animated series (with another pending), and countless tie-in novels, comic books, and games. The original series repeatedly broke new ground, but perhaps no moment was more shocking to the sensibilities of 1960s viewers than a scene in the November 22, 1968, episode, Plato’s Stepchildren; in that moment, Star Trek broke a cultural taboo by broadcasting TV’s first interracial kiss.

It’s fair to say that Star Trek pushed boundaries from the beginning. After a false start with an initial pilot that featured a largely different cast (which was later integrated into the episode “The Cage”) including a female first officer, Star Trek debuted in 1966 with the episode “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” The first season introduced most of the familiar, iconic cast: Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner); Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy); Dr. Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley); Lt. Hiarku Sulu (George Takei); Lt. Commander Montgomery Scott (James Doohan); and Lt. Nyota Uhura (Nichelle Nichols). As communications officer aboard a Starfleet vessel, Lt. Uhura is considered one of the first African-American women on television to hold a job of particular distinction.

Uhura on the U.S.S. Enterprise bridge
Lt. Nyota Uhura, as played by Nichelle Nichols. (©Paramount Pictures)

Series creator Gene Roddenberry and a murderer’s row of some of the most talented writers in speculative fiction told stories that went beyond the conventional action series of the day. They explored social issues and concepts that other shows avoided; Star Trek’s science fiction milieu allowed them to use more metaphorical approaches for tackling racial inequality, fascism, and other hot-button topics. Though dogged by lower ratings in the second season, the show was renewed based on two factors.

One was that the demographic that the show attracted was considered “high-quality” and desirable because the fanbase consisted of many professionals in science, law and medicine. The other major factor was an aggressive writing campaign from fans urging NBC to give the show a third season; while Trek already received the second largest amount of fan mail in television (behind only The Monkees), the write-in campaign eclipsed any previous outpouring for a show. A whopping 52,000 letters hit NBC in February of 1968 alone. They got their renewal.

Headed into the third season, the show’s overall prospects were bleak. Budgets had been cut, and the show’s timeline had been moved to Fridays at 10 p.m., which is traditionally bad news for a show that leaned in part on a young viewership. A dissatisfied Roddenberry had less hands-on involvement with each episode, but the writers kept pursuing social concerns. That came to a head with the 10th episode of the season, Plato’s Stepchildren. In the episode, the crew runs afoul of telekinetic aliens who base their civilization on Earth’s ancient Greece; the aliens use their powers to force the crew into various situations, including making Kirk and Uhura, against their will, kiss.

Though the certainty of this moment as the first interracial kiss on television has been debated, it certainly appears to be the first scripted kiss between a white man and a black woman in an America series. It also occurred only a few months after the Supreme Court handed down their decision in Loving v. Virginia, the case that struck down state laws banning interracial marriage in the United States. In her book Beyond Uhura: Star Trek and Other Memories, Nichols recalled that NBC was afraid that the kiss would anger viewers in the South. Two versions of the scene were filmed, one with and one without the kiss. However, Nichols recalled that she and Shatner intentionally blew the non-kiss takes so that the kiss would have to be used. In her book, she went on to say that nearly all of the fan mail they received after the episode was positive, with only one slightly negative letter that stated, “I am totally opposed to the mixing of the races. However, any time a red-blooded American boy like Captain Kirk gets a beautiful dame in his arms that looks like Uhura, he ain’t gonna fight it.”

Nichelle Nichols speaking at a podium
Nichelle Nichols delivers a speech at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in 2012. (NASA.gov)

While the kiss is considered an important moment for the erosion of barriers on television, the impact of Uhura and Nichols on the progress of women and African-Americans can’t be underestimated. Early during the series run, Nichols had considered leaving the show for Broadway, but a chance meeting with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at an NAACP fundraiser changed her mind. King told her that he was a huge fan and insisted that she stick with the show because she was making history by showing African-Americans as a valued part of the future. Nichols literally shaped the future of America in space when she later worked with NASA as a recruiter of women and minority astronaut candidates; her recruits included Dr. Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, and USAF Colonel Guion Bluford, the first African-American in space. Asteroid 68410 Nichols was named after her in 2001.

Today, it’s not unusual to see interracial couples and diverse casts on American television. Highly rated shows like Grey’s Anatomy and NBC’s multi-series Chicago franchise showcase a variety of relationships, and series like Black-ish and Fresh Off the Boat deliver the perspectives of families and cultures outside the realm of whiteness. Gene Roddenberry wanted Star Trek to show an inclusive, cooperative future; in several small ways, it helped make that future possible.

News of the Week: Star Trek Favorite Returns, There’s a New Hemingway Story, and Is a Hot Dog a Sandwich?

Make It So (Again)

A friend of mine went to the annual Star Trek convention in Las Vegas last week. In addition to the speeches and autograph sessions and hobnobbing with fellow geeks … I mean dedicated fans … some big news was unveiled, and it concerns one of the franchise’s favorite characters.

Actor Patrick Stewart took the stage and announced that he will bring back his Star Trek: The Next Generation character Jean-Luc Picard for a new series that will air on the CBS All Access streaming service. The service currently airs another Trek show, Discovery, which takes place between the original series and The Next Generation.

There are no details on the plot or title of the show, but I’m going to assume that the new series won’t just feature a retired Picard reading books in a comfy chair while sipping Earl Grey tea. There has to be some action, some adventure involved, so I assume that Picard will either be an instructor at Starfleet Academy (which will give younger actors the chance to do all of the action) or maybe they’ll completely fool us and Picard will once again be captain of the Enterprise or a new ship.

Since I know what Starfleet is, and that Picard’s signature line is “Make it so,” and I know the history of all the shows, I guess I can lump myself into that “geek” category too, apparently.

New Hemingway

“A Room on the Garden Side” is a short story written by Ernest Hemingway in 1956, five years before his suicide. The narrator is an American writer, probably based on Hemingway himself, and the story is set days after the 1944 liberation of Paris. It’s one of five stories that Hemingway wrote that he didn’t want released until after his death, and now, 57 years later, it’s being published in The Strand Magazine.

The Strand should really release a new anthology of these recently discovered stories. Last year they published a new story by Raymond Chandler, and in 2015 they published one by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Pizza Guy Plays Piano

When you get a pizza delivered to your home, you don’t expect this:

I hope they gave him a good tip.

What Is a Hot Dog?

National Review’s Jonah Goldberg writes about politics and culture for a living, so he’s not a stranger to controversies and arguments. But nothing else he writes could ever be as controversial as his latest piece, where he declares that … are you sitting down? … a hot dog is not a sandwich!

It’s not a crazy assertion. After all, just because you have a filling and some sort of bread product doesn’t mean it automatically becomes a “sandwich.” But here’s why I hesitate on agreeing with him 100%.

A hot dog is just a hot dog. It doesn’t always go in a bun; it exists without anything else. It’s a “hot dog,” just like ham isn’t called a “ham sandwich” until you put it between two slices of bread. So I ask, if you slice the hot dog a certain way, so it fits between two slices of bread, why isn’t that a sandwich? You can argue that a hot dog put into a hot dog bun isn’t a sandwich, but if you put hot dogs in between two slices of Wonder Bread, why does that make it ineligible for sandwich status?

Goldberg says “a hot dog isn’t served between two slices of bread.” But … what if it is served that way? Doesn’t that change things? By that “one slice of bread vs. two slices of bread” logic, if you make a quick late night snack by taking some cheese or ham or even peanut butter and putting it on one slice of bread and then folding it, does that mean it’s not a sandwich? I would say no, of course it’s still a sandwich. And then there are open-face sandwiches …

But that’s not a hill I’m willing to die on. I’ve never really given any thought to the “sandwiches vs. hot dogs” debate. They (along with cheeseburgers) have always been naturally separate in my mind, and a case could be made either way. You can argue about it in the comments below.

The Winner of the Brady Bunch House Is … Not Lance Bass

Last week I told you that the Brady Bunch house was for sale. This week, *NSYNC member Lance Bass posted on social media that he had bought the house and was going to renovate the interior so it looked like the interior of the house on the show (which was just a studio set). But the next day, Bass posted a follow-up on Instagram which disclosed that his winning bid had been rejected and another buyer’s had been accepted.

The winning bidder? HGTV! The network says that they are going to renovate the house so it looks like it did in the early ’70s. I’m sure they’ll make a TV show out of the project, and if they’re smart, they’ll give it away as a prize in one of their “dream home” contests. I have no plans to move to North Hollywood, California, but if I win I’ll let you know.

RIP Charlotte Rae, Stan Mikita, Shelly Cohen, Joël Robuchon, and Robert Martin

Charlotte Rae was best known for her role as Mrs. Garrett on Diff’rent Strokes and The Facts of Life, but she was a veteran actress who played a variety of parts on TV and movies since the early ’50s. She was nominated for several Tonys and an Emmy. She died Sunday at the age of 92.

Stan Mikita was a legendary member of the Chicago Blackhawks hockey team, who still holds the team record for goals scored. He was also an eight-time All-Star. He died Tuesday at the age of 78.

Shelly Cohen was the assistant musical director for every single episode of Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. He died last month at the age of 84.

Joël Robuchon was an award-winning French chef whose influence can be felt throughout the restaurant world. He died Monday at the age of 73.

Robert Martin flew dozens of missions during World War II as one of the Tuskegee Airmen. He died last month at the age of 99.

This Week in History

DuMont TV Network’s Final Broadcast (August 6, 1956)

Even though a lot of people might not remember it, DuMont was one of the big TV networks from 1946 until its end in 1956. Many of the shows aired on the network are gone forever, but several still exist. Here’s a list.

Hiroshima Bombed (August 6, 1945)

The Enola Gay dropped the first of two atomic bombs at 8:15 a.m., instantly killing over 50,000 people and eventually killing over 100,000. The second bomb was dropped three days later over Nagasaki.

If you haven’t read John Hersey’s classic New Yorker article “Hiroshima,” you should. Some people have called the 1946 piece the best magazine article ever written.

This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: Eighteenth Hole (August 6, 1955)

Eighteenth Hole from August 6, 1955
Eighteenth Hole from August 6, 1955

I’ve played golf around 20 times in my life, but I don’t understand this John Falter cover. Where’s the windmill and the clown’s mouth and the little bridge you putt the ball over?

Quote of the Week

“I won’t comment on that.”

—actress Kathleen Turner, on what she thinks of the acting abilities of the Friends cast, in a wide-ranging, controversial interview at Vulture. She also had choice words for Burt Reynolds, Elizabeth Taylor, and a “very famous Hollywood actress” who has “played the same role for 20 years” that I’m going to assume is Julia Roberts.

August Is National Sandwich Month

I’m not sure what I can possibly link to when it comes to sandwiches. The possibilities are endless, right? So I’ve decided to point you to some sandwiches you may not have heard of before, sandwiches you probably never thought of making yourself.

You can try this Baked Bean French Toast Sandwich, this Grilled Macaroni and Cheese Sandwich, or maybe you can travel to Treylor Park restaurant in Savannah, Georgia, where you can order this Grilled Apple Pie Sandwich. That actually sounds pretty fantastic. I’ve put apples into sandwiches before and they always seem to make things better.

And let’s not forget Elvis Presley’s favorite sandwich, peanut butter, bacon, and bananas on white bread. The King also liked the Fool’s Gold Loaf, which is a loaf of Italian bread stuffed with an entire jar of peanut butter, a jar of grape jelly, and a pound of bacon.

Should you include hot dogs in your sandwich? That’s entirely up to you. Perhaps you can try them with some potato salad, graham crackers, and maple syrup on white bread.

Next Week’s Holidays and Events

National Tell a Joke Day (August 16)

How do you catch a unique rabbit?

U nique up on him.

How do you catch a tame one?

The tame way!

Hey, I didn’t say it was called National Tell a Good Joke Day.

William Shatner on Sci-Fi, Aging, and the Environment

William Shatner has been on a voyage of personal discovery that is bolder and more ambitious than his exploration of the galaxy at the helm of the USS Enterprise. Beyond his legendary role as Star Trek’s Captain Kirk, he’s been a best-selling sci-fi author, singer, prize-winning horseman, commercial spokesman, and director. “Star Trek carved a path to the future, and that continues to inspire me,” he says of his continuing adventures at 86.

Shatner has written more than 40 books. He started with novels based on Star Trek, but his latest is the second in the futuristic Zero G series (co-authored by Jeff Rovin) called Green Space. The hero is 80-year-old FBI agent Sam Lord. Aboard the space station Empyrean, there is a vine designed to reach Earth that starts growing out of control. There is a character who can change gender at will. And to keep the mystery going, there is a rivalry with China and Russia.

Shatner has a delightfully quirky and offbeat sense of humor. So his serious and introspective side can surprise people.

On Science Fiction

Jeanne Wolf: Great scientists respect sci-fi creators like yourself.

William Shatner: Science fiction these days is only half a step ahead of science. Astrophysicists and scientists are working in the same way as science fiction writers. They’re working things out in their imagination based on the slim scientific facts that they know. Hawking imagines a black hole and then discovers the mathematics that support his theory, and new possibilities come to light. That’s the imaginative flair that scientists have to have. For me as a sci-fi writer, spinning those ideas in your mind brings you to the point where you dream in science fiction. Suddenly you think of something in the middle of the night, and it’s so vivid you don’t need to write it down because you know you’ll remember it in the morning. That’s what these books, Zero G, reflect: a vivid imagination.

JW: Having talked to some of the great thinkers of the world and asked yourself for years and years these questions in your mind, have you come up with any answer for why we exist and what the future holds?

WS: The dilemma, I think that would be the right word, is that we poor human beings have no answer even though we want one. There are so many mysteries around us. As a grandfather, I’m frustrated in not being able to impart the knowledge that I have. I can’t get it into the heads of my grandchildren fast enough because they want to look at their phone or play with their siblings. I’ve gotta be on guard that I’m not trying to be the teacher all the time. As a loving grandfather, I want to give them everything that I’ve acquired, but they’re going to have to make it their own way, and sometimes that’s painful. If the reality is that in a few billion years, the Earth will cease to exist and all remnants of anything that was thought of as human will be destroyed, you wouldn’t want to go through the challenge of living and then the pain of dying. I wonder if, at death, I’ll know the answer in an instant or in the moment. We have rose colored glasses, though. “It’s not gonna happen to me,” I say to myself. “I’m 86 and I’m not gonna die.” The biggest blessing of all is my health. The fact that I’m healthy and energetic and strong and my mental capabilities are still there, I don’t want to let go.

JW: I love that you made the hero of these two books 80 years old. It made me wonder if you’d turn down a chance to play Captain Kirk again.

WS: What we did in the books wouldn’t happen in Hollywood. If you’re going to make a movie of this book, they would never cast an 80-year-old man. It’s been 50 years since I first stepped on the set of Star Trek. I don’t know if the audience could take the shock of Captain Kirk at my age. It’s embarrassing sometimes. People, some kids, are thinking they’re going to meet the Captain Kirk they saw on the screen, and they’re looking right through me. It’s like, “It’s me! I’m here.” I used to be driven out of fear and anger, and then it became curiosity, and then it became amazement at the adventures that very few people could have that I have had. I would rather grasp them and maybe not do them as well as I’d like but at least attempt to rather than deny them because I was fearful.

On Aging

JW: Your main character in ZeroG says that as you get older, things have a brighter side and you get more optimistic. Is that true?

WS: Well, yes on certain subjects. Not optimistic that the universe is cold and hard. Whether there’s a benign being at the head of that who will comfort you and take you into her bosom, that gets more frightening.

JW: You are always going and going. You seem happy at this point in your life.

WS: Passion, romance, family, and curiosity are what keep me going. Everything I do is personal. I love to perform. I love the puzzle of putting the pieces of a character together. I love to be in love; I love to write about things that baffle us. Coming up with innovative solutions makes me ecstatic.

On Politics

JW: On Star Trek, part of the idea was trying to make peace in the world. Of course, enemies always come up. In this book, the Russians are still the enemy.

WS: It’s only 50 years in the future.

JW: Do you think they still will be? And if so, does that make the book all the more relevant in terms of the news and all the talk about whether Russia is our friend or out to get us?

WS: We took as the political situation that China and Russia would still be major powers and would be our rivals even in 50 years. Look what happened 50 years ago. After World War II, Germany became a power, China has risen, Russia is still there, everybody is vying for second, third, and fourth, but America is the leading power 50 years later; 50 years is not a long time. The geopolitics of it will be basically the same, we think. In that, everybody is vying for influence and to be able to sell their products.

JW: So the competition isn’t going to stop?

WSThe competition will always be there inasmuch as the caveman fought the other caveman for the rights to kill the pterodactyl.

JW: At the end of the book, two people who start out on opposite sides make a pledge that they won’t use the secrets they found out for any nationalistic gain.

WS: Right. It’s called the Hitler-Stalin pact.

JWSo you’re saying that’s a very nice promise in a book but the competition will always be there and we’re always going to go for our country?

WS: Yes. That’s in our genetic structure: loyalty to the clan. That’s how morality started. That’s how humans have been able to live — by clinging together in packs. The packs, like any other animal group, compete against each other, and when you have weapons of mass destruction, the competition becomes very bad.

On Ecology

JW: The environment is very important to you. What can you say to get that message across? I loved the scientist who said, “We’re going to mess up this planet and then we’re going to go mess up another one.”

WS: I’m starting to work in solar power. I signed an agreement with a company to talk about solar power. The reality is that I have dear friends who are ecologists. It’s really bad. The condition of the world is really bad and I’m a grandfather. You and I will be out of the mess before it becomes really bad, but our grandchildren will not be. It’s for them that we have to stop what we’re doing. The world will not exist the way we want it to if we continue the way we’re going.

I try to do what I can do. I talk to people like yourself to get that message across. If it appears in print or in front of a camera, maybe I can convince one person. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could convince Trump?

JWWe don’t want that to be the only quote, but wouldn’t it be nice! Finish your thought.

WS: Well, the thought is that there is no argument. People who are arguing about climate change are the people who can’t stand that the world is coming to an end.

On Family

JW: You dedicate this book to your wonderful family. When you describe being with your daughters and your grandchildren and your daughters’ husbands, I don’t think people know that family loving side of you.

WS: I was very reluctant to do a cruise that involved fans on the boat — 2,800 fans on a boat with me. So I said to the entrepreneur, “I want to take my whole family.” It’s 14 people. There’s a whole deck that is totally private. So for seven or eight days on a private deck, with the exception of the hours that I had to go perform, I sat with the 14 members of my family from breakfast until sleep time. I sat on the deck, we swam in the pool, we ate the meals, and everybody would go to their rooms or come back. It was a continual flow of family and it was the most beautiful time you can imagine. Being catered to, having to do very little work, and everyone being so happy. It was a wonderful family thing.

JW: Okay. I want to ask about your wife. I’ve been married a long time and when people ask me what makes a happy marriage, I don’t know how to answer. How do you answer why that works and why she’s the right woman for you?

WS: Most of it is her patience with me. (Laughs) But we have a lot of mutual interests besides the children and home and all the arts that go into making a home. A major factor is our obsession with horses and competing with horses and breeding horses and loving horses. It brought us together to begin with, and I’m sure it’s a big factor in keeping us together.

JW: What would you say if I asked you what she does to make you feel loved?

WS: She loves me.

JW: Is that the same way you try to make her feel loved?

WS: Yes. I like to think I do my part, but she’s very good at it.

JW: How do you feel that?

WS: Well, sometimes it’s the look in the eye, it’s the phone call at a precipitous moment, it’s the arms around me — flesh against flesh.

An abridged version of this interview is featured in the September/October 2017 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

News of the Week: Hugh O’Brian, Hand Soap, and the History of Uncle Sam

RIP Hugh O’Brian and Jon Polito

Hugh O'Brian
Hugh O’Brian
By ABC Television (eBay itemphoto frontphoto back) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Hugh O’Brian has passed away at the age of 91. He’s best known to people of a certain age as Wyatt Earp in the late ’50s/early ’60s series The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp. He also starred in the private-eye show Search in 1972 and ’73 and appeared in movies like The Shootist, In Harm’s Way, Game of Death, Twins, The Cimarron Kid, Rocketship X-M, There’s No Business Like Show Business, as well as in many TV shows. He also started the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership organization, which aims to inspire kids and help them become leaders and good citizens. He created it after meeting and working with Albert Schweitzer.

If you watched any television in the past 35 years, you knew Jon Polito. He guest-starred on numerous shows, including Seinfeld (he was landlord in the episode where Kramer and Newman reverse their peepholes), Modern Family, Miami Vice, The Equalizer, NYPD Blue, Murder, She Wrote, and too many others to mention. He was also a regular on Crime Story, Ohara, and Homicide and appeared in such movies as Stuart Little, Highlander, The Tailor of Panama, and Big Eyes. He was also a common sight in Coen brothers movies, like The Big Lebowski, Barton Fink, The Hudsucker Proxy, The Man Who Wasn’t There, and Miller’s Crossing.

Polito passed away from cancer at the age of 65.

Mom Was Right: Just Use Regular Soap and Water

If you’re like me, you wash your hands a few times a day with antibacterial soap. Turns out, we’ve probably been fooling ourselves for the past few decades.

Not only do scientists say that antibacterial soaps aren’t any more effective than regular soaps, they might actually be harmful. The FDA is giving companies one year to get rid of products that contain triclosan and triclocarbon, along with 17 other antibacterial chemicals currently found in the soaps. Of course, most companies will just reformulate their products, so we probably won’t notice any difference unless we read the ingredient list.

Interestingly, the ban will not include antibacterial soaps used in hospitals.

Back to School!

This week marked the return of kids to school. Sorry kids!

Actually, some kids started school in August. As I mentioned last year, I can’t imagine doing that. It just wouldn’t feel right. When I was a kid in Massachusetts, we started school after Labor Day, and that is still true today.

Philip Gulley has a really nice piece about the kids going back to school — how the neighborhood is quieter when they’re back in class and how school has changed since he was a kid. And here’s a series of covers from The Saturday Evening Post and The Country Gentlemen that show how much dogs hate school.

A Worrrrrrrld of Pure Imagination

Last week, Gene Wilder passed away, and many publications and websites gave tributes. One of them was The New Yorker, which ran a Willy Wonka-themed cartoon that nobody understands. Slate actually came up with 38 things that are wrong with the cartoon.

Sure, the cartoon is easy to “get,” but it still doesn’t make any sense. Was the cartoonist on deadline and had to get something done quickly? It’s just odd and lame. I mean … dankyougene?!

This Week in History: Star Trek Debuts

Star Trek — or as it’s known in fandom, Star Trek: The Original Series — debuted on September 8, 1966. It was almost canceled after two seasons, but a fan campaign saved it and it lasted for one more season. Little did they know that it would lead to so many spinoffs, so many movies, so many comic books and action figures and conventions that are still going strong all these years later.

A new series, Star Trek: Discovery, will premiere on CBS’s All-Access streaming network in January 2017 (after debuting on the CBS broadcast network).

This Week In History: The United States Becomes “Uncle Sam” (September 7, 1813)

The nickname “Uncle Sam” has been used for a very long time, but how many people actually know how the U.S. got that moniker? No one is 100% sure, but evidence points to it being named after New York meat packer Samuel Wilson during the War of 1812. Then again, “Uncle Sam” is mentioned in the lyrics of the Revolutionary War-era song “Yankee Doodle,” though it’s not clear if those lyrics refer to the United States or to something else.

This Week in History: Japanese Bomb Oregon (September 9, 1942)

Yes, I’m as surprised as you are. I never thought the Japanese had bombed the continental United States during World War II, but it actually happened. A Japanese plane, piloted by Nobuo Fujita, dropped bombs in western Oregon in order to start major forest fires.

Fujita actually came back to Oregon several times, to plant trees and dedicate the spot where he dropped the bombs. His trip was paid for by donations in Brookings, Oregon, and later he paid for several residents to visit Japan.

Believe it or not, this wasn’t the only event in Oregon involving a Japanese bomb. In May of 1945, school children found a Japanese balloon in the woods, and as they were dragging it out, a bomb attached exploded, killing five students and their pregnant Sunday school teacher.

National Honey Month

I never think about honey. I never buy it and never really think about making anything with it. If I do consume honey, it’s from foods I buy that already have honey in them. It’s so sticky I hate using it.

But September is National Honey Month so don’t let my frustrations stop you from making these recipes! Here’s one for Grilled Peaches with Mascarpone and Honey, and here’s one with the intriguing name Zion Canyon Lavender Pound Cake.

That might make for a good afternoon snack when the kids get home from school. They’ll dankyou for it.

Next Week’s Holidays and Events

Patriot Day (September 11)

Where were you on 9/11/01? I was at a Barnes & Noble when someone asked me if I had heard what happened. I ran over to Sears and watched the TV coverage with several other shoppers.

POW/MIA Recognition Day (September 16)

This day honors people who were prisoners of war or are still missing in action.

Big Whopper Liar Day (September 17)

Hey, did I ever tell you about the time I created Star Trek?

News of the Week: The Dog Days of Summer, Delivery Drones, and Dating Dos and Don’ts

Water Fight by Thornton Utz
Water Fight
Thornton Utz
June 30, 1951

And Its Not a Dry Heat

It’s 147 degrees where I live. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. It’s 91 degrees and humid. It only feels like 147.

These are “the dogs days of summer,” and the saying actually doesn’t have anything to do with dogs being lazy in July and August. It has to do with Sirius. That’s the dog star in the sky and not the satellite music channel. Though they once used a dog in their logo too. But I think it’s one of those sayings that changed over time and for all intents and purposes that’s what it means now.

Here are some classic covers of The Saturday Evening Post that celebrate these summer days. My favorite is 1951’s Water Fight by Thornton Utz. There’s so much going on in that picture.

Knock Knock. Whos There? Amazon. Amazon Who?

I don’t know if I ever want to open my front door and see a flying machine in front of it with my order from Amazon. How would that even work? Does a metal arm come out and ring your doorbell or knock on the door? Does a robotic voice call you on the phone and say “Hey, I’m outside!” or yell through an open window?

The company is testing drone delivery in Britain. Right now the tests, which aren’t allowed in the U.S., will be conducted under 400 feet, in rural and suburban areas.

These drones probably can’t deliver an 80-inch HDTV to you, but it might be great if you need socks.

Political Conventions on TV: A History

The Democrat and Republican conventions are officially over. We now return you to regular programming.

Atlas Obscura, a terrific site that explores the nooks and crannies of the world and its history, has an interesting piece about the first televised Democratic convention. It was in 1948 and it was the last one that didn’t have air conditioning (it was probably 147 degrees in there). And like this year’s Democratic convention, it was held in Philadelphia.

VHS tapes
Shutterstock

Goodbye VCRs!

I gave up my VCR years ago, which was probably an odd thing to do since I have many, many videotapes of TV shows that will probably never be on DVD or online (and I like the old commercials that are on the shows as well). I also don’t understand DVRs. They’re great and convenient, but more than once I’ll have a bunch of episodes of a TV show on them I want to catch up on and then my cable box will die, and I’ll have to give my cable company back the box, and I lose everything I’ve recorded. Is there an easy way to transfer stuff on my DVR to DVD or my computer?

After 40 years, VCRs are going away! Funai, the last company to make the devices, has announced that they will stop making them because not many people want them anymore and the parts are hard to get.

What’s interesting is that there were 750,000 VCRs sold last year, so somebody is still buying them. I’ll probably buy another at some point. Maybe they’ll become hip again, like vinyl records and flip phones and typewriters.

RIP Marni Nixon, Jack Davis, Richard Thompson, and Miss Cleo

Marni Nixon’s voice was known more than her name, even though you didn’t know she was singing. Does that sentence make sense? Nixon was the singing voice for various actresses in many movies over the years, including Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady, Natalie Wood in West Side Story, and Deborah Kerr in The King and I. Her voice can also be heard in Cheaper By the Dozen, An Affair to Remember, Mulan, and other films. She passed away in New York City at the age of 86.

I didn’t realize that Nixon was the mother of Andrew Gold, who wrote and performed the hit song “Lonely Boy” and also wrote “Thank You for Being a Friend,” later used as the theme song to The Golden Girls. He died in 2011.

Jack Davis was one of the more influential pop culture artists of the 20th century. He was a cartoonist and illustrator and worked in many fields, from comic books and movie posters to album covers and magazines like TV Guide and Mad, where he was one of the founding artists in 1952. He was the last remaining EC Comics (Tales from the Crypt, etc.) artist. Davis passed away Wednesday at the age of 91.

Another cartoonist died this week too. Richard Thompson did the comic Cul de Sac until he had to retire because of Parkinson’s Disease in 2009. He was only 58.

Youree Dell Harris passed away this week too. You knew her better as Miss Cleo, the host of late night infomercials for The Psychic Readers Network. She died of cancer at 53.

Star Trek: Discovery

I know, I know, Star Trek posts two weeks in a row, but this is big news in Trekker-dom. At Comic-Con, CBS announced the name of the new series that will debut on the network’s streaming service All-Access in January (after the first episode is shown on CBS). The new show will be called Star Trek: Discovery (the U.S.S. Discovery is the name of the ship).

The show won’t follow the new timeline of the current big-screen movies, and executive producer Bryan Fuller says that each season of the show will focus on one story and won’t be episodic. Fuller also says the rumors going around that Discovery will take place before Star Trek: The Next Generation are false. No cast members have been announced yet.

Did You Miss Me?

Also coming in 2017 is season — or series, if you’re in England — four of Sherlock. Very excited. Here’s the trailer:

Smelly Apartments Are a Deal Breaker 

One of my favorite episodes of Friends — it’s actually one of the greatest sitcom episodes, period — is “The One with the Dirty Girl.” Not only does it come in the middle of two of the show’s great story arcs (Chandler falling in love with Joey’s girlfriend; Monica and Phoebe doing their catering service), it’s also the episode where Ross dates a really attractive woman (Rebecca Romijn) and finds out she has a truly disgusting apartment, with garbage everywhere and rats running around. As the kids say, it’s LOL funny.

I thought of that episode when reading this list of the top dating dos and don’ts. The list comes from Wayfair, the home furnishing company that appears to have nine different jingles in their commercials. The thing that guys and girls equally hate the most about potential dates? Smelly apartments. Other deal breakers include grimy bathrooms, bad plumbing, poorly behaved pets, and lack of privacy.

Men and women also seem to hate ripped upholstery. Honestly, this is something I’ve never thought of when considering who I will date.

Cheesecake
Shutterstock

National Cheesecake Day

When I was a kid I hated cheesecake. Looking back it wasn’t because I didn’t like the taste. In fact, I don’t think I ever had cheesecake as a kid. It was more of a “Cheese? In a dessert?!?” type of attitude. But as an adult I learned to love it. Probably too much. But a lot of people love cheesecake too much. I mean, to keep up with demand there have been entire factories built just for their production.

Tomorrow is National Cheesecake Day. Here’s a recipe for chocolate chip cheesecake from Bake or Break, and here’s a classic no-bake version from Kraft that uses Philadelphia Cream Cheese. If it’s 147 degrees where you are, you might not want to turn on the oven.

A convention in Philadelphia and Philadelphia Cream Cheese. This was a theme week.

Upcoming Events and Anniversaries

I Want My MTV! (August 1, 1981)

Here’s the very first video that was broadcast on the network.

Germany and Russia go to war (August 1, 1914)

Is the Great War still relevant?

Iraq invasion of Kuwait (August 2, 1990)

After Iraq defied United Nations sanctions and orders, the United States and Coalition forces launched an attack on January16, 1991.

Ernie Pyle born (August 3, 1900)

The great war correspondent was born in Dana, Indiana, and was killed near Okinawa, Japan, in 1945.

First issue of The Saturday Evening Post published (August 4, 1821)

SEP Archives Director Jeff Nilsson takes a look at some of our earliest issues.

Marilyn Monroe dies (August 5, 1962)

Here’s a terrific profile of the actress by Pete Martin, from the May 5, 1956, issue of The Saturday Evening Post.

News of the Week: Star Trek 4, Retro Nintendo, and a Little Penuche (What the Heck Is Penuche?)

Beyond Star Trek Beyond

The third of J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek movies, Star Trek Beyond, hasn’t even hit theaters yet — it opens later today — but we’re already getting news about the fourth one. And this movie will be tied into events from the first.

In a press release this week, Abrams says that the fourth film will feature Chris Hemsworth as Kirk’s father. Hemsworth played the role in the first film in the series but only for what amounted to a cameo, as he quickly died. So it looks like this will be another time-travel adventure. I wonder if they’ll once again mess with the Trek timeline, maybe somehow putting it back to the way it was after changing it in the first film.

Abrams also says that the role of Chekov will not be recast in the fourth movie, following the death of Anton Yelchin.

Nintendo Goes Retro

I don’t play video games anymore, but if I did, I might buy something like this. It’s not the first game system of its type, but it comes with a lot of games and it’s pretty inexpensive. It’s the NES Classic Edition. It’s a mini-console that comes with 30 games already built in (no need for cartridges), including The Legend of Zelda, Donkey Kong, Galaga (which I was addicted to as a teen), Mario Bros.and Pac-Man. It will sell for $59.99 and will come out in November, just in time for Christmas.

Los Angeles: 1940s vs. 2016

The most recent video game I’ve played is L.A. Noire, a fun game that makes you a detective in 1940’s Los Angeles. It looks fantastic, with beautifully rendered cars and buildings. It’s the type of game where you don’t even have to play it. It’s a joy just to get into one of the cars and drive around.

I thought of the game after watching this video by Keven McAlester. It’s a 2016 retracing of a car trip someone made in the Bunker Hill section of Los Angeles in 1940. You get to watch the two videos side by side to see the changes (and there are many) to the area in the past 70 years. Bunker Hill was used in a lot of movies back then, especially film noir, but the city started a large redevelopment project in the area in 1959, which ended only a few years ago.

Confessions of a Republican, Part II

Remember back in March when I posted the video of the famous 1964 LBJ ad “Confessions of a Republican”? A lot of people thought that if you inserted the name “Trump” for “Goldwater,” it still works today. Well, it looks like Hillary Clinton’s campaign thought the same thing, as this week they released an update of the ad … with the same actor, William Bogert!

Oddly, I didn’t see this ad played at this week’s GOP convention in Cleveland.

RIP Garry Marshall and Norman Abbott

Garry Marshall passed away Tuesday at the age of 81. Before directing such movies as Pretty WomanThe Flamingo Kid, and The Princess Diaries, he was a writer/director/producer on a ton of classic shows, including The Dick Van Dyke ShowThe Odd CoupleHappy DaysLaverne & ShirleyMork & MindyThe Lucy Show, and Make Room For Daddy. He acted in over 80 TV shows and movies, too. His sister is director and actress Penny Marshall.

The Washington Post has a list of careers that Marshall helped launch.

Norman Abbott was the nephew of comic Bud Abbott. After starting out as an actor, appearing in such films as the Abbott and Costello comedy Who Done It? and Walking My Baby Back Home, he became a top sitcom director. He directed many episodes of Leave It to Beaver, including the classic episode where Beaver falls into a giant bowl of soup, as well as The Jack Benny ProgramGet SmartMcHale’s NavyThe Brady BunchWelcome Back, KotterAliceThe Munsters, and Sanford and Son. He was also a stage manager on I Love Lucy and the man behind the Broadway hit Sugar Babies. He served in World War II in the original Navy SEALs unit.

Abbott passed away at the age of 93 in Valencia, California.

How Did They Do That?

Last week I showed you a video of one of the finalists for the 2016 Illusion of the Year Award, and I promised that this week I’d tell you how it’s done.

The answer: It’s real magic!

Well, no. It’s actually simpler than that. There really is no “trick”; the shapes used look different depending on what angle you’re viewing them from. You can even see that if you pause the video when the shapes are turned around in front of the mirror.

Here’s a video that explains how it’s done:

Today Is National Penuche Day

Fudge
Shutterstock

Penuche is one of those foods that I’ve never heard of before but have eaten plenty of. Does that make sense? I mean I’ve eaten it but never knew what it was really called. I always just called it fudge, But penuche is lighter in color and made with brown sugar.

Here’s a recipe for penuche from Fearless Fresh. In fact, it’s two recipes. A new recipe was created for the site because the original didn’t set right. Both are included if you want to experiment and see which one works.

Or if you don’t want to bother making penuche, you could just buy some.

Upcoming Events and Anniversaries

Pioneer Day in Utah (July 24)

This official holiday celebrates the arrival of Brigham Young and his group of Mormon pioneers into Salt Lake Valley.

Manchu Picchu
By Pedro Szekely at http://www.flickr.com/photos/pedrosz/ (http://www.flickr.com/photos/pedrosz/2115782565/) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Discovery of Machu Picchu (July 24, 1911)

Archaeologists believe the mountain sanctuary was built for Incan emperor Pachacuti.

Mick Jagger born (July 25, 1943)

He may have been born during World War II, but he’s about to become a father again.

Sinking of the Andrea Doria (July 25, 1956)

The Italian passenger liner collided with the Stockholm near Nantucket, Massachusetts; 46 passengers and crew died.

United States Post Office established (July 26, 1775)

What became the United States Postal Service in 1970 has gone through financial problems in recent years, and the idea of stopping Saturday delivery is brought up every now and then.

Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis born (July 28, 1929)

After the deaths of husbands John F. Kennedy and Aristotle Onassis, she became a respected editor at Viking Press and Doubleday.

News of the Week: Men of Late Night, the Monopoly Musical, and a Moon of Strawberry

What Letterman Said About Colbert

This week’s stupid internet controversy involves David Letterman and Stephen Colbert. When a preview of Letterman’s talk on Dateline with Tom Brokaw (which was postponed to last Sunday because of the shootings in Orlando) made the rounds a couple of weeks ago, social media and the web in general FREAKED OUT because Letterman supposedly said some bad things about Colbert. CBS shouldn’t have given him the show! They should have given the show to a woman!

You know what happened next, right? We found out that, actually, Letterman didn’t say anything bad about Colbert or “blast” him, as many outlets reported. He simply stated that he wondered why CBS didn’t give the show to a woman (more an observation than “they made a mistake” opinion) and that he didn’t watch late night television anymore and it’s no longer his problem. The “controversial” lines in question lasted for a total of less than 20 seconds, but hey, at least it gave people on social media and pop culture blogs something to have a “hot take” about.

Here’s a snippet from the interview (and here’s the entire episode):

Monopoly: The Musical Coming To Broadway

This could be a complete disaster or the most bizarre, brilliant thing ever seen on stage.

The Broadway production company Araca Group is putting together a musical based on the classic board game Monopoly. It’s still a few years away, so for now we’re just going to have to do with the board game.

You know what’s going to happen. Every actor in the production is going to want to be the car.

Could be great, could be terrible, but it will certainly be interesting. They’re aren’t many Broadway shows that can say they’re brought to you by Hasbro. I can’t wait for songs like “Pass Go (And Collect $200),” “Taking a Chance on Love,” “The Secret Marvin Gardens,” and “I’m Just a Thimble.”

RIP Anton Yelchin

There’s a theory online that 2016 has been a horrible year for celebrity deaths. I think every year seems to be that type of year when you go down the list of famous people who have passed away, but I’ll admit that 2016 does seem to stand out.

Anton Yelchin, a really talented actor, passed away this week when his SUV somehow pinned him against a security fence at his Studio City, California, home. The death has been ruled an accident. He was 27.

His most famous role was as Anton Chekov in the big-screen Star Trek movies. The third in the series, Star Trek Beyond, will open on July 22. Yelchin also starred in several movies including Alpha Dog, House of D, Hearts in Atlantis, Fright Night, Terminator Salvation, as well as TV shows like Huff, ER, Law and Order: Criminal Intent, and The Practice. Here are messages from JJ Abrams and Star Trek star Zachary Quinto:

Yelchin’s 2015 Grand Cherokee Jeep was actually recalled because of roll-away concerns.

Strawberry Moon

We had a strawberry moon this week. No, it’s not the name of a dessert or a new rock band – though it could be and probably is — it’s the name we give to the full moon in June, around strawberry harvest season:

https://twitter.com/nypost/status/745458007895511040

This one was unique because it was the first time in 49 years that it happened on the same day as the summer solstice. That won’t happen again until 2062.

Remembering Pay Phones 

I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been at the supermarket, just minding my own business shopping, when I’ll see someone talking really loudly on their phone. They’ll be arguing with someone or talking about a boyfriend they broke up with or about some medical problem they have. I also see a lot of husbands talking to their wives, making sure they get the right product the wife asked for. When I hear these conversations, my first thought is “I wish phone booths still existed.”

Ian Frazier misses them — or, pay phones in general — too. In a 2000 essay that’s included in his new collection, Hogs Wild, Frazier writes about how they gave us a cultural commonality, and how “they belonged to anybody who had a couple of coins.” Now most of them have gone away because we carry phones with us all the time. And even the ones that still exist aren’t the “booth” type, so there’s no privacy anymore.

But maybe they’re coming back, in a way. Some restaurants and office buildings are starting to put them in again. And New York City is starting to turn some booths into Wi-Fi hotspots. I think there’s an argument to be made that because everyone has their own phone now, phone booths are needed more than ever. And let’s keep pay phones around too for the people that don’t use smart phones, even if the number of those people are vanishing faster than pay phones are.

Starbucks Being Sued

Does Starbucks underfill their lattes? That’s the basis of a lawsuit against the chain brought by two California customers. The plaintiffs say that the company changed their recipe in 2009 and they now use less milk, which makes the drinks 25 percent smaller, which makes them overpriced.

Starbucks tried to get the suit dismissed but a judge disagreed, saying it could go forward.

I always have the opposite problem at Starbucks or the cafe at Barnes and Noble. They always fill the cups up too much, with excessive amounts of ice, and it overflows when I try to put the straw through the hole. I hate when that happens.

This Twinkie is 40 Years Old

In 1976, a high school teacher in Maine unwrapped a Twinkie. He ate one and kept the other under glass so his students could see how long it lasted. Here’s what it looks like today:

That’s odd and fascinating, and I guess we could look at it two ways. We could say, “My God, if it’s still around, what is in those things? Maybe we shouldn’t even be eating them!” Or maybe we should be eating more of them, if it can stay around, intact for over 40 years. Forget daily vitamins or Ensure, just eat a Twinkie a day.

The Twinkie is now owned by one of the teacher’s students, who is the dean of students at the very same school. She has it in her office.

The “Internet of Everything” Has Gone Too Far

This is how people used to shop for Twinkies and other groceries: You’d open up your fridge and cupboards, see what you needed, and you wrote it down. Or maybe you just went to the store and bought what you needed without a list. Now, apparently, if you have to figure out what you need, you take out your smartphone:

Yup, that’s right. Instead of just remembering what you need or taking a guess or having your wife — who is standing right next to the fridge balling a melon — check to see, you push a few buttons and an app shows you what’s in your fridge. Thanks, Samsung! How did we ever get by without this?

I can’t wait until the day I can open an app on my phone and see if I have clean socks or not. Don’t laugh. That day is coming.

National Chocolate Pudding Day

It’s this Sunday. Here’s a recipe for the ultimate chocolate pudding from Betty Crocker. Here’s one from The New York Times using dark chocolate. Or, if you want something a little healthier, how about this recipe for chocolate almond pudding?

Throw some chopped up Twinkies in there and tell us how it tastes. Just make sure you check the expiration date first.

Upcoming Events and Anniversaries

The Berlin Airlift (June 25, 1948)

The crisis, which involved Soviet troops blocking Allied access to parts of the German city, lasted for almost a year, ending on May 12, 1949.

Wimbledon starts (June 27)

The grass court tennis tournament is one of the very few things I like about summer.

Jayne Mansfield dies (June 29, 1967)

The actress died in a car accident along with two others in Mississippi. Her children, including Law and Order: SVU star Mariska Hargitay, were in the car but survived.

26th Amendment ratified (July 1, 1971)

The constitutional amendment lowered the voting age from 21 to 18.

News of the Week: Ann Guilbert, Ruined Game Shows, and the End of the Word as We Know It

RIP Ann Guilbert, Janet Waldo, and Michu Meszaros

You’ll know Ann Morgan Guilbert from her role as Millie Helper, neighbor to Rob and Laura Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show. She also played Grandma Yetta (under a lot of makeup) on The Nanny, and appeared on such shows as Seinfeld, Modern Family, Grey’s Anatomy, Home Improvement, Cheers, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Murder, She Wrote, and many others. She recently appeared on episodes of Life in Pieces and Getting On. She appeared on stage many times, and had a critically acclaimed role in the 2007 film Please Give.

Guilbert passed away from cancer on Tuesday at the age of 87.

When you make a list of the greatest cartoon voices of all time, Janet Waldo would be near the top. She not only did the voice of Judy Jetson on the classic ’60s show The Jetsons (and its ’80s version as well), she was Josie on Josie and the Pussycats. You also heard her voice on The Flintstones, The Smurfs, Battle of the Planets, The Perils of Penelope Pitstop, King of the Hill, and many other shows and movies.

Besides doing voice work, Waldo was an actress who appeared on such shows as I Love Lucy, The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet, and The Andy Griffith Show, as well as dozens of movies in the ’30s and ’40s.

Waldo passed away last Sunday at the age of 96.

Waldo was involved in a controversy in 1990. She recorded the voice of Judy Jetson for the big-screen Jetsons movie, but producers wanted to have someone younger and, I guess, “hipper” in the movie, so they re-recorded those scenes with pop star Tiffany. Waldo wasn’t happy about it.

Michu Meszaros played ALF on the 1980s NBC sitcom of the same name. Now, you’re probably thinking, wasn’t ALF a puppet? Ninety-nine percent of the time he was, but if a scene called for the alien lifeform to walk, that was Meszaros in the suit. He also made appearances in Big Top Peewee and other movies and TV shows.

Meszaros died at the age of 76 after being in a coma for about a week.

On Wednesday Night, My Worst Fears Were Realized

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that To Tell The Truth was coming back to television on ABC, with Anthony Anderson as host. Well, it premiered this week, and it’s approximately 70 times worse than I thought it was going to be.

While the core of the game remains — celebrities having to guess which one of three contestants is telling the truth — everything else is completely messed up. Everything is really loud, every other joke is sexual, and there’s a live band for some reason (it adds nothing). Even the questioning from the celebrities is different and nonsensical. In previous versions of the show, each person would get a certain amount of time to question the contestants, and then they’d move on to the next person. This new version is more of a free-for-all. Questions are asked randomly, with no order or logic, and sometimes questions aren’t asked at all, only comments are made. At one point, they even changed the later game by using the two imposters from the previous game in the next game because one of them had an interesting secret as well. But that only leaves two contestants to choose from, and … I really don’t get it.

It’s clear that in this modern version, the game isn’t really the important thing. It’s how many smutty jokes Anderson and the cast can get in to make the audience say “oooooooooo!” There’s also no mention of how much money the players get if they fool the panel, and do we really need Anderson’s mother there to keep score and respond to Anderson’s jokes?

In the two episodes that aired this week, there was twerking and even a male pole dancer who put on a show. Sure, it’s great to see Betty White on To Tell The Truth again (even with her usual nudge-nudge, wink-wink jokes that got old a decade ago), but I couldn’t name the other celebrities if you paid me (besides Mike Tyson, who looked like he didn’t even want to be there). I think they were reality show stars and athletes, but I couldn’t say for sure.

I’ll probably keep watching it because it’s only a short-run summer show, and I love game shows. But if it comes back next season (these episodes were actually filmed last summer), I’d want to see a complete overhaul. The original lasted for a couple of decades, so they must have been doing something right.

First Ghostbusters, Now Ocean’s Eleven

When the all-female Ghostbusters was announced, the nerd world went crazy. And by “nerd world” I mean “guys.” For some reason, the project got attacked by a certain part of the male fan base of the original movie. I guess because it’s well known that women can’t fight ghosts.

Now comes word that they’re making a sequel to the Ocean’s Eleven movies titled Ocean’s Eight (early rumors said it was going to be called Ocean’s Ocho). It won’t star George Clooney and Brad Pitt, though. This will be a sequel/spinoff that will have an all-female cast. So far the names attached to the movie are Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, and Mindy Kaling. Most of the plot is in the rumor stage at this point, and one of those rumors is that Clooney might make a cameo; Bullock’s character is his sister, who wants to steal jewelry from the Met Ball to frame the bad guys.

There probably won’t be as much of a freak-out over the all-female Ocean’s Eight cast. It’s not in the realm of geeky pop culture like Ghostbusters.

Imagine a Facebook Without Words

There’s one of those weird rumors spreading around the web. This one says Facebook wants to eventually get rid of words and text and go all video. It’s such a ridiculous concept that no one is taking it seriously.

Oh, wait, it’s not a rumor at all. It comes from Facebook itself.

At a tech conference earlier this week in London, Nicola Mendelsohn, Facebook’s operations chief in Europe/Africa/The Middle East, said that in five years, not only will Facebook be mostly mobile, “it will probably be all video.” She also added that “the best way to tell stories in this world, where so much information is coming at us, actually is video.” This will come as a big surprise to the people who have been writing for the past several centuries.

Yes, this idea really is as horrifying as it sounds. But don’t worry, writers! Mendelsohn says that words won’t go away completely because “you’ll have to write for the video.” In the future, the only writing that will exist will be captions.

This lines up with what Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said in the past, which makes me glad I haven’t gone back to Facebook. You’d think that Zuckerberg would want to put more emphasis on words. After all, this is the guy who discovered books last year.

Imagine a World Without the Period

If words are going away, is the period next?

If I wrote this column without periods, you’d probably be a little confused, a little irritated, and maybe even reach for the Advil at some point. But it might be the wave of the future. David Crystal, a language expert, says that the period is slowly being phased out in communication, especially among millennials. It’s happening in texting, on social media, and in instant messages. Those forms are for speed and getting your point across, not proper sentence structure, I guess. Sometimes I wonder if social media and texting went away tomorrow, would younger people know how to communicate? Soon, all job interviews and romantic interludes will be held on SnapChat.

Think I’m overreacting? Crystal says that not only is the period passé, it might actually be taken as confrontational or sarcastic if you use it. The example he uses is “fine.” If someone answers a text or e-mail with “Fine” (without a period) or “Fine!”, then that’s okay. But if you answer “Fine.” (with a period), people will think you’re annoyed. I’m not making this up. (Personally, I think if someone answers with an exclamation point — “Fine!” — then that would be a sign that they’re annoyed.)

Some people don’t see this as that much of a deal, including Dante Ramos at The Boston Globe, but I beg to differ. Sure, I don’t see the period — or any punctuation — going away permanently. We may use them less in places like social media and texting, but in the places they are needed, they will always be used. But I think it’s a slippery slope. We don’t want to start getting rid of punctuation or certain words or grammar traditions and simply shrug our shoulders.

I do see some people not using periods or proper grammar even in e-mails. I have a relative who sends me e-mails once in a while, and not only does she rarely use periods, she also doesn’t capitalize words, space words correctly, or spell things correctly, often using a mixture of misspelled words and abbreviations. It’s like trying to figure out a code or a text version of Rubik’s Cube.

To Boldly Spend Where No Man Has Spent Before

Is there money in the future depicted in Star Trek? I don’t recall seeing any, but if there is, then maybe we can use these $200 Star Trek insignia gold coins that the Royal Canadian Mint has created. Yup, they’re legal in Canada, though only 1,500 of them were made and they’re already gone — for more than six times their face value. (You can get some other Star Trek collectible coins for the show’s 50th anniversary there, too.)

And no, I don’t understand why the coins are worth $200.

It’s National Candy Month

I’m going to just assume — and I apologize if I’m wrong about this — that you don’t want to make candy from scratch. It’s not easy, and there are so many delicious things you can just buy. And I don’t mean the typical candy you’d find at the supermarket. I’m talking about retro candy that you can buy online from places like Groovy Candies, Retro Candy Online, and Old Time Candy. Yup, you can actually buy the candy you ate as a kid in the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s (though I’m still waiting for the Marathon Bar to come back).

And if you want to talk about National Candy Month on Twitter, you can probably guess that the hashtag is #NationalCandyMonth.

If you’re on Facebook, well, don’t use any words at all. Just upload a video of yourself stuffing your face.

Upcoming Events and Anniversaries

Father’s Day (June 19)

Here are the letters humorist J.P. McEvoy wrote to his son in his “Father Meets Son” column in The Saturday Evening Post during the 1930s.

Lou Gehrig born (June 19, 1903)

The baseball great’s real first name was Henry, and his ALS diagnosis was released to the public on his birthday in 1939.

Audie Murphy born (June 20, 1924)

The World War II hero’s official site has a ton of information, including The Saturday Evening Post’s account of his return home in 1945.

Jaws released (June 20, 1975)

CNN rounds up 21 things you might not know about the classic movie, including what famous line was ad-libbed.

Great Seal of the United States adopted by Congress (June 20, 1782)

The history of the U.S. seal, which appears on many official documents, is really fascinating.

Three civil rights workers killed in Mississippi (June 21, 1964)

Saturday Evening Post Archive Director Jeff Nilsson writes about the three men who became “victims of politics.”

Jack Dempsey born (June 24, 1895)

The boxer was also known as The Manassa Mauler because he was born in the Mormon village of Manassa, Colorado.

News of the Week: So, Star Trek, and the Smushing of Bread into Your Face

So, the Reason Why I’m Manspreading Is Because I Need to Vape

I know we’re a week into 2016 (break your resolutions yet?), but how about one more list from 2015?

Every year Lake Superior State University picks several words and phrases that we should banish because they’re overused, hated, or just plain wrong. Past words have included “bae,” “hack,” “free gift,” “live audience,” and “my bad.” Unfortunately I still see a lot of people using these words and phrases so apparently the banishment hasn’t been made law yet.

This year’s list includes “manspreading” and “vape.” The former is when a man spreads his legs out really far — for example, taking up two seats on a subway — while the latter comes from the word “vapor” and refers to the smoking of e-cigarettes. I really hope the word “manspreading” goes away as quickly as it arrives, though I don’t see “vape” going away anytime soon.

LSSU also wants us to stop using the word “so.” Now, “so” is a perfectly fine word when used correctly. But people have been using it in odd ways for several years now, either as an exclamation in the middle of a sentence (picture Chandler on Friends saying “that is SO not true”) or even worse at the start of sentences, even if they’re just answering a question.

I actually wrote a piece about the word “so” a few years ago where I go into more detail about why it’s such a weird way to use the word, so I’m really happy to see it on the list. See, now that’s a normal way to use the word.

Space, the Final Frontier … These Are the Stamps of the Starship Enterprise

Star Trek stampsI know, I know, everyone is talking about Star Wars these days, but let’s not forget the show that came long before Han Solo and company. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the original Star Trek series (we’ll also see the release of a new Star Trek film this summer, Star Trek Beyond), and the USPS will release a series of stamps to commemorate the milestone, along with two other space-related stamps for NASA’s New Horizons space mission.

The four Star Trek stamps include different shots of the Enterprise, a crew member on the transporter, and Spock’s Live Long and Prosper salute. What, no tribbles?

Samsung Wants to Control Your Home with Their TVs

Samsung Smart TVs
By The Conmunity – Pop Culture Geek from Los Angeles, CA, USA (CES 2012 – Samsung Smart TV) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
I don’t own a smartphone. I’m already online too much and I don’t need to access the Web or my e-mail on my phone while I’m out of the house. But there are days I think that soon I won’t be able to do anything unless I get one.

Samsung wants to control your home with their TV sets. Starting this year, the company’s Smart TVs will be able to connect to other Web-enabled Samsung products, like light bulbs and coffee makers and your home security system. You probably think that your TV is just, well, a TV, but if you don’t have your TV controlling other products in your home, then you’re obviously living in the Stone Age.

This “Internet of things” won’t mean a thing to me until I can post my Saturday Evening Post columns from my toaster.

Have You Smushed Bread into Your Face Today?

You mean you haven’t? Boy, are you out of touch.

Every month we get a new Internet meme whether we want it or not. We’ve had “planking,” where you spread your body over an area like a plank and post the picture online, and “Rickrolling,” which involves surprising people with the song “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley. There was even a short-lived meme a year or so ago which involved people eating spoonfuls of cinnamon (note: do not try this). There’s even a whole website that keeps track of memes.

But all of those are old-hat now. The latest meme is where you take some bread — it can be white bread or raisin bread or garlic bread or even corn bread — and you smush your face into it. Then you post the photo or video online. The woman who created the trend — and I don’t know how many people are doing it besides her — started the BreadFaceBlog last year, and she already has over 33,000 followers. She hasn’t made any money off of it yet, but if she eventually does, it’s proof I’ve obviously chosen the wrong career path.

They said that social media was going to change the world, and they were right.

Dogs: How Should They Wear Their Pants?

A Dog wearing shorts on a beach
Shutterstock

Pants on dogs. It’s probably not a topic you’ve thought about before, even if you’re the type of person who puts clothing on your dog, like a sweater. But it’s a thing now!

A Facebook user wanted to know whether a dog, if he were to wear pants, would he wear the pants on just his two back legs or all four legs? And we have an answer! According to a company that actually makes pants for dogs, it’s all four.

This answer is wrong. The pants should just go on his two back legs. Yes, a dog technically has four “legs,” but in this case I think we have to consider his two front legs as also “arms,” and you don’t put pants on your arms. At least until the next wild Internet meme called “pant-ing,” where you wear your pants on the upper part of your body and post the pics to Facebook and Twitter.

Oh no, I hope I just didn’t start something.

It’s National Oatmeal Month

Norman Rockwell's Oatmeal Cookies
Norman Rockwell’s Oatmeal Cookies

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to eat more healthy and filling foods like oatmeal. I’ve been making this same resolution every year since 1992.

But January is National Oatmeal Month, and the cold days and nights seem like a great time to start eating it more. Here’s a recipe from Ina Garten for Sunday Morning Oatmeal, and here’s one from Real Simple that includes cheddar cheese and scallions. I have to admit I never thought of putting cheese and scallions in my oatmeal before.

And nobody said the oatmeal has to be in cereal form inside of a bowl, so how about these Norman Rockwell Oatmeal Cookies, which I’m going to make right away because they look great and the phrase “Norman Rockwell Oatmeal Cookies” might just be the most American recipe name I’ve ever heard. He sent the recipe to the editors of The Saturday Evening Post just before he passed away in 1978. They were his favorite.

Upcoming Events and Anniversaries

Napoleon Bonaparte born (January 13, 1807)

If the French leader was still alive, maybe he would have liked this Sole, Zucchini and Tomato Napoleon from Melissa d’Arabian.

Wyatt Earp dies (January 13, 1929)

Wyatt Earp
See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Believe it or not, The Saturday Evening Post printed an interview with the gunman in 1930!

Albert Schweitzer born (January 14, 1875)

You can read more about the talented doctor/writer/pastor/musician/philosopher at the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship site.

First Super Bowl (January 15, 1967)

The Green Bay Packers beat the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10 in Super Bowl 1.

Hello, Dolly opens on Broadway (January 16, 1964)

Mary Martin and Ethel Merman both turned down the lead role (which Nancy Walker auditioned for). Carol Channing was hired and the show went on to win a record 10 Tony Awards.

News of the Week: Willard Scott, Words of the Year, and Way Too Much Happiness

Willard Scott Retires

Longtime Today weatherman Willard Scott retired this week after 65 years (!) at NBC. For the past several years he has been doing his birthday wish segments from his home in Florida. On Tuesday the cast and crew of Today paid tribute to Scott , a tribute that includes an appearance by someone you probably haven’t seen in many years … Gene Shalit!

And if being on NBC for 65 years wasn’t enough of a career, Scott was also the very first Ronald McDonald. A very odd, very scary Ronald McDonald:



Hopefully one day Scott will be honored with his own tribute and Smucker’s jar on Today when he reaches the age of 100.

The Words of the Year

What happens when you get a word that isn’t actually a word? You get the Word of the Year.

Merriam-Webster has announced their word of the year, and it’s “-ism”. That’s not a typo, that’s the whole word. It isn’t really a word, of course, it’s a suffix, the ending of many of the most-searched-for words from 2015, like socialism (thanks, Bernie Sanders!), racism, terrorism, and fascism.

Meanwhile, Dictionary.com picked “identity” as their word of the year. I guess we can be thankful that Merriam-Webster and Dictionary.com didn’t pick an emoji as the word of 2015.

For the Love of God, That’s Not a Hoverboard!

No hoverboards
Shutterstock

We’ve seen the words of the year, but what’s the worst toy of the year? It’s Barbie!

That’s according to the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, who picks the worst toy of the year every year. The 2015 award didn’t go to the Sky Viper Video Drone, the Bratz Selfie Stick Doll, the Nerf Rebelle Charmed Dauntless Blaster, the Tube Heroes Collector Pack, or the Brands We Know book series, which teaches kids about famous companies and products. It went to Hello Barbie. That’s the Barbie that you can talk to and will talk back to you (ah, the magic of computers and “the cloud”). In the words of CCFC’s Josh Golin: “It’s the perfect storm of a terrible toy, and threatens children’s privacy, well-being, and creativity.”

What does he mean by the doll threatening the privacy of children? It turns out that Barbie can be hacked. Bring on the class-action suit!

While we’re on the subject of toys, can we talk about the hoverboards that seem to be sweeping the country this Christmas season? First, several airlines have banned the toys on flights because there have been several reports that they actually catch on fire, and Amazon has stopped selling many of them until companies can prove that they’re safe.

But I wanted to mention one important thing in this discussion: THEY AREN’T HOVERBOARDS! There’s nothing about them that “hovers.” Maybe companies want to tie Back to the Future 2 into their products somehow, but real hoverboards don’t have wheels. These are more like mini hands-free Segways.

Star Trek Beyond Trailer

There’s a really big movie opening today. That’s right, Sisters, the new comedy with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler premieres! (You can see that Star Wars movie when it comes out on DVD — little artsy movies like that always look better on the small screen anyway).

In other movie news, the trailer for Star Trek Beyond debuted this week, and if you’ve always wondered what Star Trek would be like with a Beastie Boys soundtrack, well, here you go:

Too Much Sleep, Too Much Happiness

20151218-sleepy-baby
Shutterstock

I was reading recently about a guy who sets his alarm clock to wake him up in the middle of the night. He doesn’t have to get up at that time, he just likes the feeling of being awakened in the middle of the night and being able to turn off the alarm and go back to sleep, knowing he still has several hours of sleep ahead of him.

I thought of that person when I read these two stories, about how too much sleep isn’t good for you and how too much happiness actually doesn’t make you live longer. In fact, experts say that getting too much sleep can be as bad for you as smoking cigarettes! It’s best to get less than 9 hours of sleep a night. And don’t sit a lot either. People who sit and sleep a lot are four times as likely to die young.

So I guess the takeaway from these studies is this: Stand around and smoke more cigarettes and strive to be as miserable as possible.

Sliced Chocolate?

So you love chocolate, but you’ve always been frustrated that you haven’t been able to buy it in a form like Kraft wrapped cheese slices? Well, you’re in luck. Introducing sliced chocolate! A Japanese company called Bourbon created the dessert product and there are a lot of uses for it. You can eat it just as it is or you can put it in desserts or in crepes, or even on white bread with some ham and mustard (note: I’m not responsible if you actually try that last one). They’re available in Japan, but you can also get them online.

Now we just need to see cheese in the shape of Santa Claus every holiday season, so we can put them in stockings.

Pickles and Pine Trees

I love television this time of year. Not only do we get Christmas specials to watch, we also get Christmas episodes of our favorite TV shows.

CBS has been doing something interesting the past few holiday seasons. They’ve been showing classic, colorized episodes of I Love Lucy, and they get good ratings every year. This year the network is doing a little more for Christmas. On December 23 at 8 p.m., they’re going to show the I Love Lucy Christmas Special, which will include the 1956 Christmas episode and also the classic episode where Lucy does a commercial for Vitameatavegamin (which I watched again recently, and it’s still very funny). Then on Christmas night, the network is going to show two colorized episodes of The Andy Griffith Show: “The Christmas Story” (the one where the gang has to deal with Mayberry’s Scrooge-like department store owner) and “The Pickle Story,” which happens to be the favorite episode of several Andy Griffith Show cast members (and mine too). It’s the one where Aunt Bee enters a pickle contest but her pickles taste like kerosene.

I’d love to see more networks do this, air episodes of classic TV shows from decades ago. Looking at the ratings, viewers love to see stuff like that, and not just on Me-TV or TV Land.

Christmas Recipes

I don’t know what the weather is like where you are, but it has been in the 50s (and some days almost 60) here in Massachusetts. So maybe it has been hard for you to get into the Christmas spirit. But it’s only a week away so you don’t have much time to get into that spirit. Here are some recipes that might help.

How about some Stuffed Celery, which sounds like an appetizer you would serve at a holiday party. Though keep in mind that New York Times food editor Sam Sifton is against appetizers. Or maybe you’re in charge of making the potatoes this year and you want to try some Rosemary Mashed Potatoes. For dessert you could make one of the 20 Christmas desserts suggested by Martha Stewart. And for a snack that also makes for a great gift, how about some Peppermint Bark?

Upcoming Events and Anniversaries

National Christmas Tree
By White House photo by Susan Sterner. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

National Crossword Puzzle Day (December 21)

The ______ (Comes before second – 5 letters) crossword puzzles appeared in ______ (Country where Winston Churchill was born – 7 letters) in the 19th ______ (Another word for 100 years – 7 letters).

Beethoven’s Fifth debuts (December 22, 1808)

Is there a more famous opening to a piece of classical music? You can listen to the entire piece here.

Van Gogh cuts off his ear (December 23, 1888)

Why did he do it? The truth may be different than you think.

First National Christmas tree lighting (December 24, 1923)

President Calvin Coolidge pressed the button to light the first National Christmas Tree, but he probably didn’t say much after pressing it.

Christmas (December 25)

This day we celebrate the birth of another great man. That’s right, writer and Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling, born in 1925.

News of the Week: Warp Speed, Way Too Much Media, and the Wonderful Wah Wah Machine

To Boldly Stream Where No One Has Streamed Before

Star Trek

It has finally happened. A new Star Trek TV series is coming. Only it won’t be on “TV.”

CBS has announced that they’ve hired Alex Kurtzman, producer and writer of the recent Star Trek films as well as shows like Alias, Fringe, and Sleepy Hollow, to be the executive producer of a new Trek series that will debut on CBS in January 2017. After the first episode airs on CBS, the series will run exclusively on its online streaming service, CBS All Access.

This won’t be a remake or reimagining of shows or movies that have come before. It will be an entirely new show, with new characters and new missions, though set in the same Star Trek world (the original series timeline or whatever timeline the new movies are set in). Because Kirk and Spock are still appearing in the feature films, you won’t see them here. But maybe they can refer to them once in a while. The new crew can say things like, “Hey, this is just like that time that Kirk had to …” You don’t see Iron Man helping out the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. either.

This reminds me of when Howard Stern left terrestrial radio and went to SIRIUS XM. A lot of people who weren’t subscribers suddenly became them when Stern went to satellite radio. He brought millions to the service, and maybe that’s what CBS is hoping when Star Trek goes to CBS All Access. While these network streaming services have a place and they’re becoming more popular every year, they haven’t quite hit the mainstream yet. Most of us still get our TV shows on our televisions, with a little Hulu/Netflix/website viewing mixed in. It will be interesting to see how many people pay for this and if a younger generation even wants to watch Star Trek every week. I would just make sure that they make it so it’s something hardcore Star Trek fans will like and not just something “new.”

When Do They Sleep?

Teenagers sitting outdoors and texting with their smartphones
(Shutterstock)

A new study by Common Sense Media shows that teens spend an average of nine hours a day on media. That includes smartphones, video games, computers, social media, television. That means they spend more time on devices than sleeping.

The study also shows that teens really love to multitask, because many of them use social media or text or watch TV while they’re doing their homework. Though that’s probably not teen-specific. A lot of adults do it too. I bet you’re watching TV or talking on the phone while you’re reading this, aren’t you?

I guess this is what happens when we can carry our media around with us 24/7. Our lives and media are one and the same now. There’s no separation anymore.

Stars Become Hearts

Speaking of teens and social media, Twitter can be a lot like high school, and this week that became even a little more evident.

People who use the social media service know that there have always been stars you can click to favorite something. It was a good way to show someone you liked a post without having a like button like Facebook has (though a lot of people who favorite your post don’t necessarily like it, it might include a link to something they want to read later). But apparently a star just wasn’t the perfect icon because the people at Twitter have changed the stars to hearts. Longtime Twitter users do not heart it:


Now, a lot of people might not see what the big deal is. Hearts, stars, who cares? But I think it indicates what direction Twitter might be going in and how they see the service as a whole. Hearts are something you see on Tumblr or personal blogs, something you click if you like someone’s cat photo, and it would be nice if Twitter could differentiate itself. Of course, as someone who doesn’t use Twitter anymore — and even when I did I was very stingy about what I favorited, instead relying on retweets — I don’t really care if they replaced the icons with green clovers, blue diamonds, or another Lucky Charm shape. But you have to wonder why Twitter would make a decision like this instead of working on the many other problems they have.

By the way, make sure you heart this column on our Twitter feed!

RIP, Fred Thompson, Al Molinaro, and Charles Herbert

There aren’t many people who can have a long, successful acting career and a political career too, but Fred Thompson did. In fact, a lot of people who enjoyed his work on Law and Order and in movies like Die Hard 2, The Hunt For Red October, Secretariat, and In the Line of Fire might not have even known he was a Tennessee Senator for almost a decade (and an attorney during the Watergate hearings). After an unsuccessful run for president in 2007, Thompson went on to guest star on shows like The Good Wife, Allegiance, and Life on Mars. He died of lymphoma at the age of 73.

You know Al Molinaro from two iconic sitcom roles: as Al’s Diner owner Al Delvecchio on Happy Days and his role as Murray the Cop on The Odd Couple. He also spent many years as the commercial spokesman for On-Cor frozen foods (“With taste and more it’s On-Cor”). Molinaro passed away last week at the age of 96.

One interesting aspect about Molinaro’s career is that he actually became wealthy before he even became an actor, from investing in real estate. He started acting because he enjoyed it.

Charles Herbert? You might not know the name but you’ve seen the child actor in many movies, including The Fly, Houseboat, Please Don’t Eat the Daisies, The Boy and the Pirates, and 13 Ghosts, as well as TV shows like The Twilight Zone, Wagon Train, Lassie, and The Fugitive. He passed away from a heart attack at the age of 66.

The Hollywood Reporter’s obit for Herbert has some insight from his friend (and Houseboat co-star) Paul Petersen of The Donna Reed Show.

Your Cat Is Trying to Kill You

Seated Woman with Big Cat in Her LapHarrison FisherNovember 7, 1908
Seated Woman with Big Cat in Her Lap
Harrison Fisher
November 7, 1908

Cats can be aloof and eerily quiet and seem not to be especially friendly (even if they do make for some great magazine covers), but did you know that they’re actually murderous?

According to researchers for the University of Edinburgh and the Bronx Zoo, domestic cats have many of the same characteristics as lions and wildcats and snow leopards, especially when it comes to being aggressive and being neurotic. If they could, they’d kill you. I knew that’s what they were thinking when they were just sitting in the corner and staring at me.

One psychologist even says that we’re letting “little predators” into our homes, and they can be “fantastic, sweet companions … until they turn on you.” That actually sounds like the tag line for a new horror movie.

They’re fantastic, sweet companions … until they turn on you.

The Cats. Starring Ryan Reynolds and Christina Hendricks. Coming 2016.

So, to summarize: Cats are evil, dogs are awesome.

The Wah Wah Machine

The new animated Peanuts movie opens today, and as part of the marketing for the movie the studio has created a site for the Wah Wah Machine. You know how in Peanuts TV specials and movies you never hear the adults talk in a normal voice, and instead you get sort of a trombone-ish mumble? Now you can type words into the Wah Wah Machine and whatever you type will come out as “wah wah” Peanuts talk.

And because I’m a guy and guys are eternally 12 years old, I typed in a few naughty words to see if the machine would accept them. Try that yourself and see what happens.

In related news, Snoopy received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame this week.

Today Is National Nachos Day

Plate of nachos
(Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock)

I know someone who just likes cheese on his nachos. No salsa, no guac, no sour cream, no refried beans, no jalapenos, just melted cheese on top. I’ve often suggested he just buy a bag of Doritos instead.

But if you do like a little bit more on your tortilla chips, how about trying one of the 50 nachos recipes from Food Network? The variations include Buffalo Chicken, Greek (with feta and olives), Cheesesteak, Pretzel, and even Frank and Bean.

I often make nachos using Triscuits. I’d like to say I came up with the idea myself in a flash of culinary brilliance, but actually I just ran out of tortilla chips one night and didn’t want to go to the store because I was already in my sweatpants and had to use whatever was available (and I’m sure I’m not the first to think of it). They’re quite good though.

Upcoming Events and Anniversaries

Margaret Mitchell born (November 8, 1900)
We all know how popular the 1939 film edition Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind became, but Clark Gable was afraid of taking the role of Rhett Butler.

Veterans Day (November 11)
This is the day, of course, that we celebrate our military heroes.

George Patton born (November 11, 1885)
The Saturday Evening Post Archives Director Jeff Nilsson on D-Day: The Century’s Best Kept Secret.

End of World War I (November 11, 1918)
Did The Saturday Evening Post actually see the coming of The Great War?

Robert Louis Stevenson born (November 13, 1850)
You can read Stevenson’s classic novel The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for free at Project Gutenberg.

To Boldly Return

 Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner as Mr. Spock and Captain Kirk in Star Trek
Then: Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner as Mr. Spock and
Captain Kirk in Star Trek. Courtesy NBC/Photofest.

Director J. J. Abrams, whose Star Trek Into Darkness opened May 2013, is not counting on the sci-fi special effects (although there will be plenty) to guarantee the success of the sequel to his huge 2009 hit Star Trek. “I want it to be real and relevant,” he says, speaking of the 12th film based on the iconic ’60s TV show. “Cool as they are, the spaceships and the gadgetry aren’t what really matters.”

For Abrams, the crew of the Enterprise is paramount. “You want to be cruising with them on an amazing and fun adventure,” he says, echoing the words of Star Trek’s late creator, Gene Roddenberry, who famously pooh-poohed the technology component of his stories: “I wrote my daydreams,” he said. And his late wife Majel Barrett-Roddenberry pointed out: “He wrote about things that he understood, and that wasn’t science, it wasn’t technology.”

Maybe Roddenberry put his other interests before science, but there are countless concepts and tools we first encountered on Star Trek that have since become, not only real, but a part of our lives.

“Their Universal Translator? Today we’ve got an app for that,” notes Linda Wetzel, who teaches a course at Georgetown University on the philosophy of Star Trek. “We may not have phasers, but we have lasers and tasers. And we can talk to computers now, and they understand us.”

But the show was never really about the gear: “The original series tackled burning issues of the day,” says Wetzel. “It explored big ideas—philosophical, political, and scientific. Star Trek asks ‘What if?’ and just runs with it.”

The show first beamed into millions of living rooms in the tumultuous ’60s when visions of Armageddon danced in our heads; the U.S. and the Soviet Union were uneasy adversaries in a nuclear stand-off. Space exploration had become a priority after the Russians one-upped us with the launch of the Sputnik satellite followed by Uri Gagarin’s historic flight into space. We responded with a huge and expensive effort to put a man on the moon.

Against this dark, historical backdrop, Star Trek broke new ground with a racially diverse spaceship crew that included Nichelle Nichols as communications officer Uhura and George Takei as helmsman Sulu. It held out the possibility that an uncertain future could have a happy ending as The Federation tried to contain the vicious and violent Klingons, whose homeworld Kronos was a superpower not unlike the Soviet Union, while the Enterprise discovered life on other planets. And the series explored timeless questions about where we were going—not just in outer space but in our lives as human beings.

As William Shatner, the original Captain Kirk, explains, “A wonderful story is something people can relate to—whether it’s a search inside or an exploration of our future in space. I think the real, lasting connection is that we entertain people. I never came to the set thinking ‘Today I save the universe.’ I usually would say, ‘Where are the bagels?’”

Professor George Slusser, curator of the Eaton Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy at University of California, Riverside, agrees. It’s important, he notes, that Roddenberry never let the values he promoted stand in the way of entertaining his audience. “A person who has a hard day isn’t interested in reading about philosophy or hard science,” Slusser says. “But they will sit down with a beer in their hand and watch Star Trek and encounter some grand ideas. And they may not even realize they’re getting them.”

Zachary Quinto and Chris Pine as Mr. Spock and Captain Kirk in Star Trek
Now: Zachary Quinto and Chris Pine reprise the roles of Mr. Spock and
Captain Kirk in Star Trek. Courtesy Paramount/PhotoFest.

As the late James Doohan who played Scotty once put it, “We knew about the lessons in Star Trek, and we knew as actors how important it was that we get them across. I remember Roddenberry once said to me, ‘If we think it’s going to be difficult for the audience to believe something, we’ll just cut to your close-up.’ I thought that was marvelous.”

Leonard Nimoy, who became legendary as Mr. Spock, says that Roddenberry’s perspective on life changed his own. “I was much more emotional before I started to play him,” he remembers. “Spock had a big impact on me personally. It made me understand better how to approach a difficult situation without the emotion taking over. And I hope some of that was passed on to the audience.”

What could have been the end of Star Trek turned out to be a new beginning. After three seasons on NBC, the series was cancelled because of low ratings. But in a serendipitous twist, reruns in TV syndication became more popular than the series had been on NBC and also attracted a coveted younger audience. That led to the first Enterprise venture on the big screen, Star Trek: The Motion Picture. The flick got mixed reviews for drawing mainly on previously produced television episodes, but it scored huge at the box office with ticket sales of $82.3 million domestically, thanks in large part to Trekkers who returned to see it countless times.

The movie’s success jump-started a string of sequels, which were basically review-proof as Trekkers rallied around the box office—although many claimed, in a strange calculation with which a lot of critics seemed to agree, that the even-numbered sequels were always better than the odd-numbered ones.

Roddenberry had little involvement in Star Trek on the big screen but, nearly 20 years after the TV series had debuted on prime time, he re-imagined his vision in the syndicated Star Trek: The Next Generation, or TNG for short. An entirely new cast was led by Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard, who had the emotional control that was often missing in the impulsive Kirk, and the series’ trademark diversity included Whoopi Goldberg as an alien bartender and LeVar Burton as the blind engineer.

The series reflected a new time in America. While Captain Kirk’s Enterprise was always pressing on to a new planet and another conflict, Captain Picard headed a calmer and more sophisticated ship, complete with chamber music concerts. There was not much fighting but a lot of negotiating. The Klingons had been tamed and were now allies of The Federation. Everything was running pretty smoothly except for frequent technical turmoil ranging from dangerous radiation leaks to warp jumps that had to be calculated to the nanosecond.

Trek Trivia

So you’ve seen all the movies and watched all 716 episodes. But do you have what it takes to move through the ranks of the Starfleet Academy? Pick your choices, then click “Answers” to find your score.

1. “Live long and prosper” is the greeting of which planet?
a. Vulcan
b. Romulus
c. Earth

2. Which actress played the first female commanding officer in a leading role?
a. Kate Mulgrew
b. Denise Crosby
c. Nichelle Nichols

3. Name that alien:
a. Lieutenant Worf, Klingon
b. Nero, Romulan
c. Sybok, Vulcan

4. Who was the captain of the Enterprise in the original Star Trek pilot?
a. Christopher Pike
b. James T. Kirk
c. Jean-Luc Picard

5. In the original series, what was the tip off that a character would die early on in a mission?
a. The character would say the line, “Beam me up, Scotty.”
b. The character was the first one off the ship.
c. The character was wearing a red shirt.

6. Before Leonard Nimoy, which actor did Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry consider to play Spock?
a. Adam West
b. Patrick Stewart
c. Peter Graves

7. Besides Whoopi Goldberg, which other Oscar host appeared on a Star Trek TV series?
a. Seth McFarland
b. Billy Crystal
c. Johnny Carson

8. Other than Kirstie Alley, which Cheers cast member also appeared in the Star Trek franchise?
a. Rhea Perlman
b. Kelsey Grammer
c. Woody Harrelson

 

Check the Answers!