News of the Week: Phones Take Over, Satellites Are Falling, and Weird Al Did Something Cheesy

Brain Drain

I know I’ve talked about smartphones before, how everyone is addicted to them and how they’ve changed everything (mostly for the worse), but indulge me a few more words on the subject. (If you’re already bored, you can scroll down the page a bit and read about Jake Tapper’s new novel and Marilyn Monroe’s new movie.)

To put it simply, being connected all the time isn’t a good thing. Sure, smartphones are great in emergencies, but there’s no mental breathing room anymore. Before smartphones, we would put down our phones and mail, shut off our TVs, stereos, and the internet, and leave the house. Now we carry those things around with us 24/7. We’re always “on,” and it has changed the way we associate with each other and with tech, and has even affected the way that we think. It can’t be good to have this much information coming at us all the time. That’s why I’m in favor of dumb phones — phones that are actually phones and not also connected to the web — instead of smart ones. I’d also suggest signing up for a cheap phone plan if you don’t have to be connected to the web all the time and just want to make and receive calls. And don’t ever give up your landline!

CBS Sunday Morning’s Ted Koppel had a piece on information overload this week, detailing how smartphones, the web, and social media have taken charge of our lives. He even interviewed the guy who invented the Facebook “like”:

On a related note, Tuesday marked the 45th anniversary of the first cellphone call.

Down to Earth

In January, I told you about a Chinese satellite that was going to crash back to Earth. This week, that satellite did indeed come back, and luckily no one was hit by it, though you’d have had better luck hitting the Powerball.

Most of the Tiangong-1 satellite burned up during reentry, and what was left seems to have fallen into the Pacific Ocean. Those of you who had “2500 miles south of Hawaii” in your office pool are the big winners.

2001 at 50

Speaking of things in space: This little admission may destroy any pop culture cred I have and may even get me barred from several theaters, but I’m not a fan of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s true that I’ve only seen it once, many years ago, but I remember being profoundly disappointed in it, even if I appreciate its influence. Maybe I’ll watch it again to celebrate the film’s 50th anniversary and see if I agree that the film is not only fascinating, but one of the best movies of all time.

New Books

In addition to the new books you’ll find in the current issue of the Post, here are four more that will be released soon.

Look Alive Out There: Essays by Sloane Crosley. Crosley first broke through with her fun essay collection I Was Told There’d Be Cake, and this new one is getting great reviews too. (Out now)

The Hellfire Club by Jake Tapper. The CNN anchor’s first novel is a political thriller set in 1950s Washington, D.C. Here’s an excerpt. (April 24)

The Ideal of Culture: Essays by Joseph Epstein. Epstein is one of our great essayists, and his new collection explores such topics as parenthood, cowardice, grammar, the 1960s, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and reaching the age of 80. (May 7)

Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Lanier. As you can read above, this is a subject that’s near and dear to me, so I can’t wait to read what the tech/virtual reality visionary has to say about Facebook and Twitter. (May 29)

Digital Marilyn

It’s obvious that Marilyn Monroe will never really die. Not only does she still make a lot of money decades after her death, but now she’s coming back to the movies.

Actress Suzie Kennedy will portray Monroe in a new film about the actress’s life. She already looks a lot like Monroe, but she’s going to have help from digital technology. A team of tech whizzes took 3,000 photos of Kennedy’s face and body to create an “avatar” of Monroe that will be featured in the film.

This could be an incredible advance in filmmaking. At some point you know we’re going to see new movies and TV shows starring Abbott and Costello, Cary Grant, and Humphrey Bogart. We’ve already seen commercials that use the technology, and digital trickery is used online all the time. But I bet one day we’re going to have entire movies based on the technology, and stars will never stop working. It’s one of those tech developments where you say, “Wow, this is so cool!” and then a few minutes later you say, “My God, where is this leading?”


I’d like to take a moment here to say a few words about a couple of milestones at the Post. The first is the magazine itself, which was honored by the Pop Culture Association this week at their 48th conference. They describe us as “an American institution” with a “unique cultural legacy,” and I have to say I agree with that.

And happy anniversary to Executive Editor Patrick Perry, who celebrates 40 years at the magazine!

RIP Steven Bochco, Winnie Mandela, Rusty Staub, Anita Shreve, and Deborah Carrington

Steven Bochco was the legendary TV producer and writer responsible for such shows as Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law, NYPD Blue, Murder One, and Doogie Howser, M.D. He also wrote the iconic sci-fi movie Silent Running and several classic episodes of Columbo. He died Sunday at the age of 74.

Several friends and stars offered their condolences and memories of Bochco in The Hollywood Reporter, including Sharon Lawrence, Jill Eikenberry, and Mike Post.

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was an anti-apartheid activist and the ex-wife of Nelson Mandela. She died Monday at the age of 81.

Daniel “Rusty” Staub helped the New York Mets win the National League pennant in 1973. He also played for the Detroit Tigers, Texas Rangers, Houston Astros, and Montreal Expos. Staub died last Thursday at the age of 73.

Anita Shreve was a beloved author of such novels as The Pilot’s Wife, The Weight of Water, and Sea Glass. She died last Thursday at the age of 71.

Debbie Lee Carrington was an actress and stuntwoman best known for her appearance in the Arnold Schwarzenegger film Total Recall and her role as the woman Mickey wants to date on Seinfeld. She also appeared on The Drew Carey Show. As a little person, she often doubled for children in movies, including Titanic and Child’s Play. She died in March at the age of 58.

Best and Worst of the Week

Best: Weird Al Yankovic, along with veteran crossword-maker Eric Berlin, took over The New York Times crossword puzzle on Wednesday with a cheese-themed puzzle. An example of the kind of clues you’ll find? 20-across is “Cheesy 1992 military drama.” The answer is A Few Gouda Men.

You have to subscribe to do the puzzle, but you can see what it looks like in this PDF.

Worst: I’ve been meaning to catch up on Instinct, the new police drama starring Alan Cumming. Looks a little routine — an unpredictable genius teams up with a by-the-book detective to solve crimes, how novel — but Cumming is always good, and it looks like fun. But this week’s episode, about an Amish boy who is murdered after he leaves home and moves to New York City, felt familiar to a lot fans. A little bit too familiar. Turns out the plot and scenes mirror a 2009 episode of another buddy-detective show, Bones, right down to some of the clues.

This Week in History

First Issue of TV Guide (April 3, 1953)

Who was on the cover of the first issue? It was a baby. Specifically, the newborn son of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Desi Arnaz Jr. Ball actually arranged ahead of time to have a caesarean section so the birth would coincide with the airing of the I Love Lucy episode where Ball’s character Lucy Ricardo gave birth as well.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Assassinated (April 4, 1968)

Wednesday marked the 50th anniversary of the death of the civil rights leader. King wrote a piece for the Post in 1964 titled “Negroes Are Not Moving Too Fast,” and here’s an interview NBC’s Sander Vanocur did with King 11 months before his assassination:

This Week in The Country Gentleman History: Cousin Reginald is the Hero (April 6, 1918)

Cousin Reginald is the Hero by Norman Rockwell from April 6, 1918.
Cousin Reginald is the Hero
Norman Rockwell
April 6, 1918.

The Country Gentleman, a sister publication of the Post, was published from 1831 to 1955. Norman Rockwell painted several covers for it, including this one. When I first saw it, I couldn’t quite figure out what it was all about. I thought it might be titled “Crazed Fan Disrupts Performance of A Christmas Carol.” The cover is actually part of a series of paintings that Rockwell did for the magazine focusing on a group of boys and their cousin Reginald. That’s Reginald with the sword.

April Is National Grilled Cheese Month

I’m pretty much a traditionalist when it comes to grilled cheese — I prefer cheddar or American cheese on white bread — but there are so many other options if you want to try something a little different for National Grilled Cheese Month.

Here’s a recipe that Bon Appétit calls the “Best-Ever Grilled Cheese,” though it has mayonnaise, so I don’t know if it deserves that title. Here’s one called a Nacho Grilled Cheese, made with jalapeños and Doritos. This one from Genius Kitchen is made with green olives. And if you’re going to have grilled cheese, you can’t forget this.

Maybe you can do Weird Al’s cheese puzzle while eating grilled cheese, if that’s not too much cheese for you all at once.

Next Week’s Holidays and Events

Winston Churchill Day (April 9)

This day is mostly celebrated in the United States, marking the occasion in 1963 when President Kennedy named the British Prime Minister an honorary U.S. citizen. Here’s a 1939 Post piece about Churchill titled “Old Man in a Hurry,” and here’s our interview with John Lithgow, who plays Churchill in the Netflix series The Crown.

National Siblings Day (April 10)

I know, I know, sometimes you argue with your brothers and sisters (I’m the youngest of seven), but maybe today you can put that all aside. You can always argue tomorrow.