Anybody Got an Abacus?
I have a theory: We use the technology that we’re most comfortable with. Maybe you’re a writer and you still like using a typewriter. Maybe you prefer vinyl records over iTunes. Maybe you still have a landline because you hate smartphones. You don’t have to be a slave to technology and grab the newest, shiniest thing just because the media tell you to. Besides, that new thing will probably be obsolete in 10 months.
Joe Queenan has a fun piece at The Wall Street Journal about “the shame of loving old technology.” But I don’t think it’s shame at all; it’s pride. I’m old enough to remember when CDs were the new thing that was going to replace vinyl. It was compact! The sound was incredible!
I still actually buy CDs. I refuse to buy everything in bits and bytes and simply live in files and in the cloud all the time. I like to have the physical object, though anyone in their teens and twenties probably looks at CDs the way people my age look at those old AOL discs we used to get in the mail to get online.
Speaking of typewriters (three paragraphs ago, but still), author Frederic S. Durbin has a terrific piece at Tor about his love for typewriters. I still have this dream that Apple will make a line of manual typewriters, in various colors, with the Apple logo on the front. Imagine how hip typewriters would become once again, almost overnight.
Some new novels and nonfiction for you to read on the beach, or wherever you happen to read books during the summer:
End of Watch, by Stephen King. This is the last book in the Bill Hodges trilogy that started with Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers, with the retired cop battling an old foe out for revenge.
Magic & Loss, by Virginia Heffernan. Can the internet (now with a small i) be considered art? That’s the argument made by Heffernan in this long-awaited look at the good side and the bad side of the thing you’re staring at right now and can’t seem to get away from.
But What If We’re Wrong?, by Chuck Klosterman. What if everything we assume to be true now isn’t true, or won’t be true in 20, 40, 100 years? That’s the premise of Klosterman’s new book that looks at rock music, politics, sports, and everything in between. And yes, the cover is supposed to be upside down.
Seinfeldia, by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong. Armstrong wrote a terrific book a few years ago about The Mary Tyler Moore Show titled Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted. Now she sets her sites on another classic sitcom, Seinfeld. She goes behind the scenes of the shows and also talks to devoted fans. (Comes out July 5)
Introducing: Tiny Toast!
When was the last time the launch of a new cereal got any attention? I’m sure there have been other new cereals launched in the past several years, but Tiny Toast, the new product from General Mills, is getting some buzz. Maybe because it’s the first new cereal from the company in 15 years, or maybe it’s the name, Tiny Toast!
And it’s exactly what it says: little toast-shaped pieces with real fruit “spread” on them, with no high-fructose corn syrup or artificial flavors. Right now it comes in two flavors, blueberry and strawberry. They should make one that’s butter-flavored.
I haven’t tried them yet, but I know I’m going to. I’ll give a full report in a future column.
What do you get when you combine Burger King’s Whopper with a burrito? You might get indigestion, but you definitely get the Whopperrito. That’s right, the fast food chain has put together those two products and come up with a new concoction for those late-night munchie runs. It’s not available everywhere yet; Burger King is testing it in several Pennsylvania locations.
They could have gone with a different name that combines both foods, though “The Burper” probably wouldn’t have gone over as well.
Night of the Gun
Writer and media columnist David Carr passed away in February 2015. He was a beloved figure in the media world, not just for his fine work for The New York Times and other publications, but also for his memoir, Night of the Gun, a hard-hitting and unflinching look at his many years of addiction.
Now that book will become an AMC mini-series. The network announced the film this week. Better Call Saul’s Bob Odenkirk will play Carr, and the book will be adapted by Shawn Ryan, creator of The Shield.
Hey, Let’s Spend the Night at Bing Crosby’s House!
I bet you’ve seen a celebrity home on television and wished you could own it. Or maybe you simply just want to visit it and maybe stay for one night? Well, thanks to Airbnb and Luxury Rentals by Homeaway, you can.
For a rather large fee, you can spend the night in the home of a classic celebrity. Want to see how Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz lived? It will cost you $1000 a night. Want to have a ring-a-ding time at Frank Sinatra’s? That’s $2,450 a night. Too much? You can stay at Ava Gardner’s place for only $85 a night.
It’s Negroni Week
The Negroni is a drink you don’t really hear much about anymore. Have you ordered one recently or heard anyone order one? A lot of people have probably never even heard of it, but it’s really a solid, classic cocktail that should be ordered more. The recipe is pretty simple, and you can make one this weekend for Negroni Week, which ends on Sunday:
- 1 oz. Campari
- 1 oz. gin
- 1 oz. sweet vermouth
Combine ingredients in a rocks glass with ice and stir. Throw in an orange peel or slice if you want.
Goes great with a Whopperrito.
Upcoming Events and Anniversaries
Miranda Warning established (June 13, 1966)
The “You have the right to remain silent…” warning given by police after they arrest you arose from the case of Ernesto Arturo Miranda.
President Harding broadcasts first presidential radio message (June 14, 1922)
EarlyRadioHistory.us has a complete history of the radio address, including a photo that shows where all of the microphones were placed.
Battle of Bunker Hill (June 17, 1775)
The line “Don’t shoot ’til you see the whites of their eyes” wasn’t really spoken at the battle.
Stan Laurel born (June 16, 1890)
Steve Coogan will play the legendary comic in a new BBC movie about Laurel and Hardy. Hardy will be played by John C. Reilly.
O.J. Simpson arrested (June 17, 1994)
O.J.: Made in America, a new, critically acclaimed five-part documentary on Simpson’s life and the murder case, debuts tomorrow night on ABC.
Napoleon defeated at Waterloo (June 18, 1815)
After his loss, the General was sent to live in exile on the island of St. Helena, where he died of stomach cancer in 1821.
Goodbye Jon Stewart
Wait, that makes it sound like he died. I just mean that last night’s episode of The Daily Show was the last one for host Jon Stewart, after hosting the show for 16 years. Stewart’s final guests were Amy Schumer, Denis Leary, and Louis CK, along with some surprise guests to celebrate Stewart’s tenure on the show, the show that made Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell household names.
Everyone is celebrating the departing host this week, with retrospectives and best-of lists and essays. Time’s James Poniewozik reveals what he’ll miss most about Stewart. The Wall Street Journal’s Speakeasy blog has a rundown of some of his more odd guests. Newsweek delves into the comic and crusader parts of The Daily Show , and and the show itself showcased some of the craziest interviews earlier this week. Note: some NSFW moments in that last link.
What will Stewart do now? Don’t expect him back on television anytime soon. I would think he’s going to write more, direct more, and maybe even do more standup. He did a surprise gig at Comedy Cellar in New York City last week with Louis CK. I was just going to call him “CK” but that doesn’t sound right.
Trevor Noah takes over as host of The Daily Show on September 28. I think it would have been funny to have Craig Kilborn return as host. He hosted the show before Stewart, and on Stewart’s first night he said that Kilborn was on assignment in Kuala Lampur. It would have been great to have Kilborn finally come back from that assignment to resume hosting duties again.
New F. Scott Fitzgerald Story Published
The discovery of new works by writers continues! Now we have a long-lost short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. It’s called “Temperature,” and it’s about a writer who drinks a lot and then finds out he’s sick. And before you even make a joke about how art imitates life, Fitzgerald beat you to it. He says at the beginning of the story, “And as for that current dodge ‘no reference to any living character is intended’ -no use even trying that.” He wrote it in the summer of 1939, when he was hospitalized twice for alcoholism. (According to a letter Fitzgerald wrote his agent, he submitted the story to The Saturday Evening Post, and it was rejected. Sorry, Mr. Fitzgerald!)
The story is in the current issue of the magazine The Strand. The managing editor of the magazine, Andrew Gulli, found the manuscript while he was looking at the Fitzgerald archives at Princeton.
So besides Fitzgerald, we’ve also had new works from Harper Lee, Dr. Seuss, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Raymond Chandler, Orson Welles, and probably a few others I’ve forgotten about. Quick, someone check Dorothy Parker’s attic!
Happy Birthday to You
Have you ever sang “Happy Birthday to You” at a party? Then you probably owe someone some money.
Yup, that’s a copyrighted song, even if it is sung 57 bajillion times a day (a conservative estimate). Like every other “cover song,” you’re supposed to pay to sing it. Warner/Chappell is the publisher and they make around $2 million in royalties from it every year. The song, originally titled “Good Morning to You,” was written by two sisters in 1893.
But now there’s a lawsuit (there’s always a lawsuit) brought by a filmmaker who wanted to use the song in her movie but was told she had to pay $1,500. She wants everyone to be able to use the song free of charge because it’s in “the public domain” and everyone sings it. It all comes down to when the “happy birthday” lyrics were added to the song. A federal judge will rule on it later this month.
By the way, even if you’re singing the song only in your head right now, you owe some money.
It’s Official: Kermit and Miss Piggy Have Broken Up
This has been a big couple of weeks for celebrity breakups. Reba McEntire and her husband are divorcing after 26 years of marriage. Country stars Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert are also going their separate ways, as are rockstar couple Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale. But the most shocking split comes from two celebrities that aren’t even human.
Kermit and Miss Piggy are no longer dating. The frog and pig announced the breakup during a Q&A session at the annual Television Critics Association get-together, where they were promoting ABC’s update of The Muppets, which will debut this fall. Kermit said that Miss Piggy made his life “a bacon-wrapped hell on Earth.”
If these two can’t make it work…
And the Highest Paid Actor in the World Is…
…Ian Ziering, star of the Sharknado movies. I know, I was surprised too!
Okay, that’s not true. The highest-paid actor in the world – for the third year in a row – is Robert Downey Jr., according to the annual list compiled by Forbes. Thanks to all of the superhero movies he’s doing, he raked in $80 million last year. Second on the list is Jackie Chan, with $50 million, followed by Vin Diesel ($47 million), Bradley Cooper ($41.5 million), and Adam Sandler ($41 million).
Adam Sandler. One of the richest movie stars in the world.
August is National Sandwich Month
I usually provide a few links to recipes in this section, but how do you do that with sandwiches? There are literally thousands, if not millions, of different sandwiches a person can make, depending on the bread you use, the filling, whether you toast it or not, etc. So instead why don’t I provide a link to something and you can all get into an argument?
Here’s a list from Thrillist that lists the 50 best sandwiches of all-time. Let me just say that number 36 should be a lot higher. And I’m sure that some people are going to question why a hamburger wasn’t considered – because it’s not a sandwich – but “hamburger sub” is on the list because they took the burgers and shoved them into a sub roll. And peanut butter and jelly, one of the classic sandwiches of all-time, should be in the top 10, not 26.
By the way, as we all know, the sandwich was named after the man who invented it, Alexander Hoagie.
Upcoming Events and Anniversaries
The Smithsonian Institution established (August 10, 1846)
A lot of people might think the Smithsonian is just one museum, but it’s so much more.
Victory Day (August 10)
Did you know this once federal holiday is now only celebrated in Rhode Island?
Alfred Hitchcock born (August 13, 1899)
The BBC recently released their list of the 100 Greatest American Films and Hitchcock grabbed several of the spots. But come on: everyone knows North By Northwest is better than Psycho.
Berlin Wall construction begins (August 13, 1961)
USA Today has 9 things you might not know about the fall of the wall.
Steve Martin born (August 14, 1945)
Check out the scary hand on his official site.
Woodstock opens (August 15, 1969)
The official title for the event was The Woodstock Music & Art Fair, though no one really talks about the art.
“Improve Your Memory”
Self-improvement is a noble endeavor, as in this cartoon that appeared in the Post in 2001. Unfortunately, the woman still doesn’t remember leaving a pot burning on the stove. Dave Carpenter has enjoyed drawing since childhood, but he didn’t consider becoming a professional cartoonist until the 1970s while he was in college.
“This car was paid for by the last driver who tailgated me.”
I want this bumper sticker! Like many cartoonists we’ve met, Dave had to work a full-time job while trying out his craft. “In the early years I primarily sold cartoons to trade journals and eventually worked my way up to national publications.” His first sale was to Skin Diver magazine for $10.00. Those first victories are sweet, even if not particularly lucrative.
“This is fun, Henry. Why don’t you catch one?”
Dave “began studying a cartoon correspondence course evenings and weekends. After graduating I went to work full time at a grocery store and started cartooning on a part-time basis. I began to sell to a few smaller publications and eventually went full time as a cartoonist in 1981.” He sold his first cartoon to The Saturday Evening Post in 1987, and has also appeared in Reader’s Digest, The Wall Street Journal, and other publications. This fishing cartoon from October 1987 is one of the first Dave did for the Post.
“The pharmacy said bring back your medication and they would be happy to put on a non-childproof cap.”
Dave hits the drawing board in his home studio around 10:00 a.m. “after visiting with the morning gang at the coffee shop” and works unit 5:00 or 6:00 p.m. “I also work a number of evenings (unless there is a good football game on TV).”
“Waiting Room Tic-Tac-Toe”
Well, just how many old magazines can a person read while waiting for the doctor? “Over the years, I have seen a lot of changes in the business, especially with today’s technology,” says Dave. “I still do all my drawing and painting on the drawing board (not computer), though, I must confess, I recently found a ‘paint’ program on my computer that allows me to touch up the drawings.”
“Louise, maybe you’re overdoing the ‘forest’-scented air freshener.”
Nothing like that fresh pine scent. Just ask the moose at the window. And the bear. “For the beginner, I would recommend studying your markets before submitting,” Dave suggests. “Seeing what type of cartoons the editors prefer increases your chance of selling.” I’ve noted before how frustrating it is for editors to wade through material that isn’t even appropriate to their publication. Thanks for the advice, Dave. And for the laughs!
“Sorry, but ‘What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas’ is not a recognized legal precedent.”
There’s that guy in the pin-striped suit! You’ll see him in The Wall Street Journal, Barrons, and Harvard Business Review—and very often in The Saturday Evening Post. “I started doing business cartoons because I was following the lure of the existing cartoon markets,” says Schwadron (pronounced “Sway-dron”). So the character I’ve dubbed “pin-stripe guy” has been good to him.
“U.S. Postal Service: When it absolutely positively has to be there this year!”
Ouch. The poor post office gets no respect. “My first big cartoon sale when I was starting out was to The Saturday Evening Post!” says Harley. I wonder if it was this one from 1984.
“House protected by not having anything of value inside.”
“I’ve been drawing cartoons since I was eight years old,” Schwadron reports. “However, I never thought I could earn a living at it.” So he got a master’s degree in journalism and worked as a reporter and later editor for Michigan News Service. He drew cartoons in his spare time and “in 1985 I took a chance and started doing cartoons full-time. I’ve been happily at it ever since!”
“The correct response is ‘I do’—not ‘it’s worth a try.’”
Maybe we can place bets on how long this union will last. “There are a lot of rejections,” in the cartoon business, Harley says. “My routine is to turn out a regular amount of cartoons each day, send them out, and hope for the best.”
“Someone in our neighborhood must have won the lottery.”
Good guess based on the appearance of the three major news networks and the IRS. Harley may not have won the lottery, but as a cartoonist, he has arrived: “I recently built a studio on the back of my house. You have to be a ‘serious’ cartoonist to go to the expense and stress of building a home studio.” Another perk of the job: “If I feel like it, I can work in my pajamas and no one cares.”
“This is your captain. In the event of a drop in cabin air pressure, the oxygen mask will drop down, and you will be billed $2 per breath.”
I hesitate to show this cartoon from last year, lest it give the airlines ideas. “My niche seems to be business and topical cartoons,” Harley says. He advises aspiring cartoonists to “do the kind of cartoons you like and to find a niche that you enjoy doing.”
“I don’t care if you’re tired, Gerald. Get down at once!”
Harley lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, (where, presumably, he behaves himself in grocery stores) with his wife, a psychiatric social worker. They have two grown children.