News of the Week: Saving Bookstores, Star Wars, and Some Guy Ate 30,000 Big Macs

Barnes & Noble

(Wikimedia Commons)

I’ve mentioned here before that if You’ve Got Mail were made today, The Shop Around the Corner would team up with the Fox Books superstore and go up against Amazon (I smell sequel!).

I thought of that after reading this New York Times op-ed by David Leonhardt on how we need to save Barnes & Noble. It seems like only yesterday when B&N (and other big chain bookstores) were seen as the bad guy. Now, with Amazon taking over everything, and the major chains going away, we’re getting nostalgic for the big chains. And well we should be. I want brick-and-mortar stores to survive, even if I love Amazon at the same time. (It’s interesting how the number of indie bookstores is increasing in this age of online book sales.)

The only problem I have with Leonhardt’s piece is a paragraph near the end, where he mentions that “publishers are focusing on big name writers” and “the number of professional authors has declined.” Publishers have always put their money and energies behind the bigger name authors, and I think there are probably more writers right now than ever; they’re just doing more on their own.

Now, a Story about a Family That Wants to Rule the Galaxy

Solo, the new Star Wars movie directed by Ron Howard, comes out on May 25. It was announced this week that the fifth season of Arrested Development launches on Netflix on May 29. Since Howard is the narrator of Arrested Development, it makes sense that there would be a way to combine the two. And here it is.

In other Star Wars news, a set of twins born on May 4 (aka “Star Wars Day”) was given the names of characters from the series to celebrate the day they were born. They were named Jabba the Hutt and Chewbacca (just kidding — they were given the middle names Luke and Leia).

Come, Let’s Mix Where Rockefellers Walk with Sticks

How much would you pay for an original Matisse? How about $80 million? That’s just one of the sales in this week’s auction of the David and Peggy Rockefeller art collection at Christie’s in New York City.

The three-day auction wasn’t even finished yet when they broke the record for the most money brought in from an art collection. On the first day, the total was at $650 million.

A lot of the winners were anonymous bidders. I can promise you I wasn’t one of them, though I did once own an album that had Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks on the cover.

And the No. 1 Rock Artist of All Time Is …

You wouldn’t think that someone would take the time to rank all 214 members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame from best to worst, but you’d be wrong. Bill Wyman did it for Vulture.

It’s a massive undertaking, so kudos to Wyman for even attempting it. He even gives his list of the artists that aren’t in the HoF but should be. Now, all lists are subjective, but this one is especially so, and I’m sure it will lead to a lot of arguments. Wyman says a lot of things about certain artists that fans of those artists are going to hate, and in some cases, his arguments are inconsistent. I mean, picking Chuck Berry over the Beatles? The Ramones over Buddy Holly? Jeff Beck and Hall & Oates should be higher on the list, and I know Bon Jovi fans aren’t going to be happy at all (though I think they should be number 215 in this list of 214). Let me know in the comments below what you think of the list.

You Want Fries with That?

(Wikimedia Commons)

I once stopped at a Burger King and was informed that I couldn’t have a cheeseburger because they were all out of buns. I was rather stunned. A burger place that runs out of buns? That’s like Dunkin’ Donuts running out of coffee.

Don Gorske broke a record recently for eating burgers, not at Burger King, but at McDonald’s. He finished his 30,000th Big Mac last Friday at the same Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, location where he ate his first one in 1972. I guess this answers the eternal question, “How many years does it take to eat 30,000 Big Macs?”

With all of the publicity that Gorske’s eating has garnered, McDonald’s should give him free meals for life.

And if you’re wondering what it has done to him, note that Gorske has run marathons and probably has better cholesterol than you or I.

IMHO, This Controversy Is Ridiculous

I had no idea there was a debate going on about what that the abbreviation IMHO stands for. Many people think it stands for “In My Honest Opinion.” It actually stands for “In My Humble Opinion,” as this piece from The Atlantic explains.

BuzzFeed is conducting a poll to find out what readers think is right, and like most of the things that BuzzFeed does, the results are wrong. As I type these words, “In My Honest Opinion” has 57 percent of the vote, and “In My Humble Opinion” has 43 percent. Either BuzzFeed readers don’t know what they’re talking about, or they’re just clicking the wrong choice on purpose to mess with the results. The latter would be funny, but I sense it’s the former.

For the record, “LOL” stands for “laugh out loud,” “BRB” is “be right back,” and “tl;dr” stands for “this article is too long so I didn’t read it but I have an opinion on it anyway.”

RIP Art Paul, George Deukmejian, Anne V. Coates, Dick Williams, and Gayle Shepherd

Art Paul was the first art director for Playboy and created the famous bunny logo. He died last Saturday at the age of 93.

George Deukmejian was the governor of California for two terms, from 1983 to 1991. He died Tuesday at the age of 89.

Anne V. Coates edited many classic movies, including Lawrence of Arabia, The Elephant Man, Murder on the Orient Express, and Out of Sight. She received several Oscar nominations and was given an honorary award in 2016. She died Tuesday at the age of 92.

Dick Williams was a singer in the Williams Brothers singing quartet, which included his brothers Bob, Don, and Andy, who later went on to solo success. He died Saturday at the age of 91.

Gayle Shepherd was a member of another famous sibling group, the Shepherd Sisters, best known for their hit song “Alone (Why Must I Be Alone).” She died Monday at the age of 81.

Quote of the Week

“Movie reviews, they’re not even movie reviews anymore, they’re just ‘how come you made the movie you made and not the one I would have made?’”

—Bill Maher, ranting about how everyone seems to get so easily offended these days (warning, some salty language!)

This Week in History

Alan Shepard Becomes First American in Space (May 5, 1961)

Shepard went into space aboard the Mercury spacecraft Freedom. He made a second trip into space in 1971 as part of Apollo 14, along with astronauts Stuart Roosa and Edgar Mitchell.

Three Stooges Debut (May 5, 1934)

The very first Three Stooges short was titled Woman Haters, and the entire thing is done in rhyme and song. It’s one of the few Stooge shorts where they don’t use the names Moe, Larry, and Curly. Their names here are Tom, Jim, and Jackie.

Look for Walter Brennan as a train conductor. Co-star Marjorie White, who plays Larry’s bride, was killed in an auto accident just a year after Woman Haters was released.


This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: Father’s Homework (May 7, 1960)

Father’s Homework
John Falter
May 7, 1960

Have you ever had that dream where you’re back in school and you have a big test, and if you don’t pass it you won’t graduate? I haven’t had a dream like that in many years, but I did have it throughout my 20s and 30s, and it disturbed me each time. During the dream, I could actually feel the dread of being stuck back in school. I’d wake up relieved that I wasn’t actually back in school but worried about going back to sleep, because I didn’t want the dream to continue. I guess I assumed my “waking up” was like a commercial break in the story.

Anyway, here’s a cover by John Falter depicting two dads trying to help their sons with algebra homework. I had to repeat algebra.

How to Make a Big Mac at Home

Did you know that there are several websites and books dedicated to the art of replicating restaurant food at home? One of the most famous is Top Secret Recipes. Here’s their attempt at copying the recipe for a McDonald’s Big Mac. Besides ground beef and a seeded bun, you’ll need dill pickles, iceberg lettuce, and their copycat recipe for the Big Mac special sauce.

And after you eat it, just think: only 29,999 more to go!

Next Week’s Holidays and Events

Mother’s Day (May 13)

Here’s a Post article on Anna Jarvis, known as “the woman behind Mother’s Day.” Make sure you get something nice for your mom this Sunday. And by “nice,” I don’t mean something you find at the last minute at the CVS checkout counter.

But when you do buy her something, remember: Mother’s no mechanic!

Courtesy of Zippo



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

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

No hoverboards

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


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.