News of the Week: The Return of Scott Kelly, the Departure of George Kennedy, and the Sadness of Never Dunking an Oreo

Meanwhile, an American Hero Returns to Earth

On the night everyone was trying to figure out which candidate was going to win which state, following Twitter jokes about Chris Christie, and watching pundits argue on cable news, something else was going on that maybe we should have paid more attention to.

Astronaut Scott Kelly returned to Earth on Super Tuesday after spending 340 consecutive days in space aboard the International Space Station, a record for an American. Kelly also holds the record for total number of days in space for an American: 520.

Kelly was the perfect choice for this experimental mission because scientists can now study the effect that so many days in space had on Kelly’s body by comparing it to a similar body that was down here on Earth the whole time: his twin brother Mark.

RIP George Kennedy

George Kennedy in 1975
By CBS Television (eBayfrontback) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Actor George Kennedy had a long, terrific career as an actor, in everything from The Andy Griffith Show and Cool Hand Luke to Charade and the Naked Gun films. I’ll best remember him as Joe Patroni, the crusty head mechanic who saved the day in Airport and several sequels. He was one of those actors who was good in everything he did. Kennedy passed away last Sunday in Boise, Idaho, at the age of 91.

Kennedy just missed making the “In Memoriam” segment of the Oscars that same night. Hopefully they won’t forget him next year, like they forgot Abe Vigoda in this year’s montage.

There are many great obituaries for Kennedy, and at least one that, well, has a rather insulting headline. I’m astonished they haven’t changed that.

By the way, it was reported this week that Jerry Maren, the last surviving Munchkin from The Wizard of Oz, had passed away at the age of 96. But he’s actually still alive. I guess you can’t believe everything on social media.

If You Have Harry Potter Books, You Might Be Rich!

It’s a safe bet that most homes have at least one copy of one of the many Harry Potter books. Go check, because they might be worth a lot of money.

Okay, the one you have probably isn’t, but rare books dealer AbeBooks says that some of the early edition hardcovers of the books can bring in anywhere from $6,500 to $55,000. If the books are signed they might be worth even more.

I bet J.K. Rowling has a lot of early editions. She should sell them!

Putting the “Fuller” in Fuller House

Fuller House logo
By Jeff Franklin Productions and Miller-Boyett ProductionsE! Online, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

I consume so much pop culture — TV, film, books, magazines, music, the web, etc. — that I often get exhausted. There’s so much pop culture these days that I’m sometimes actually relieved when a TV show I watch is canceled or when it’s one I have no interest in. Hey, don’t have to worry about that one anymore! Such is the case with Fuller House, the reboot of the ’90s sitcom Full House that recently debuted on Netflix and has already been renewed for a second season. I had no interest in the original, so I have no interest in the new version. It makes me happy that I don’t have to think about it.

But I did come across an odd piece of information about the new show. I assumed that the “Fuller” in the title was a play on the title of the original show, showing that this is a continuation of Full House and now it’s “Fuller.” And it does indeed mean that, but did you know that it also refers to the fact that the married name of one of the characters (DJ) is Fuller? I didn’t either.

This reminds me of the time years ago when I found out that the “Grey” in the title Grey’s Anatomy was actually the name of one of the characters on the show. I thought it just referred to the medical book. I got so many nasty comments because I didn’t know that.

So I’m assuming The Price is Right is about the life and career of Vincent Price?

Like, Love, Haha, Wow, Sad, Angry

What do you think of the new Facebook “Reactions” emoticon buttons? Besides the Like button that everyone uses, you now have a choice of several other buttons, too, for those special posts when a simple Like isn’t enough and you want to express your anger, sadness, shock, or unbridled joy. Facebook users have been asking for a Dislike button, too, but that would just cause more trouble than it’s worth.

Of course, if you think Facebook has introduced the new buttons just to please you, well, think again.

The Return of Zubaz Pants

I didn’t even realize they had been gone, but Zubaz (pronounced “Zubas”) pants are back! The baggy pants with the colorful stripes were big in the early ’90s.

I saw the new commercial for the pants last weekend. What the announcer says around the 52-second mark and how the actors look on the couch really amuses me:

I don’t know what you’re wearing as you read this, but I hope it’s not uncomfortable and boring.

National Oreo Day

I have a big confession to make. This isn’t easy for me to admit, so I hope you’ll be understanding when you hear it and won’t judge me for my shortcomings.

I have never dunked an Oreo in milk. I am 50 years old.

This Sunday is National Oreo Day. You can celebrate by twisting them open and licking them, dunking them, or just eating them by the handful, but how about a few recipes? The official Oreo site has several, including an Oreo milk shake, cheesecake bites, and a frozen Oreo torte. You can also try these Oreo cupcakes. And if you really want something different, how about Oreo popcorn?

Maybe I’ll celebrate the day by finally dunking one of those black and white discs in milk.

Upcoming Events and Anniversaries​

New York Stock Exchange founded (March 8, 1817)

In a 1914 article for The Saturday Evening Post, Will Payne explained why the start of World War I in Europe closed the New York Stock Exchange from July 31 to November 28, 1914 .

Bobby Fischer born (March 9, 1943)

The Atlantic has an interesting piece on how the chess champion’s life unraveled.

First Book-of-the-Month Club selection published (March 10, 1926)

The first book selected was Lolly Willowes, or The Loving Huntsman, by Sylvia Townsend Warner. The club is actually still around if you’d like to join.

Lawrence Welk born (March 11, 1903)

The Lawrence Welk Show was a staple in my home when I was a kid, and it had an amazing run, debuting in 1955 and ending in 1982.

Blizzard of 1888
See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The Blizzard of 1888 hits the northeast (March 12, 1888)

The storm, also called The Great White Hurricane, dropped 40 to 50 inches of snow in many areas from Maine to the Mid-Atlantic coast. Many people were trapped in their homes for a week, and even railroads and telegraph services were disabled.

Jack Kerouac born (March 12, 1922)

He wrote the classic novel On the Road in only three weeks (and on one roll of paper).

The Great War: October 3, 1914

From the Post October 3, 1914: A Post author gets swept up with Belgian refugees fleeing the advancing German army, Americans become desperate to get home, and tragedy jars the British awake.

The Refugees: A Night Among the Peasant Fugitives at Ostend

By Reginald Wright Kauffman

Belgian refugees from Ostend
Belgian refugees from Ostend

By October, many Americans caught in Europe when the war began had finally secured passage home. Among the eyewitness contributors in this week’s issue was the American author Reginald Wright Kauffman who painted a vivid picture of a Belgian resort town crowded with war refugees.

“When I left it, Ostend looked like the lakefront of Chicago must have looked during the great fire.

“Picture to yourself Atlantic City [with] three times its accustomed population … crowd them along all the pavements of all the streets, up the Boardwalk and down; toss them on to the beach — women, children and old men, some wounded, more ill, all robbed of their material possessions, and many robbed of the lives of those they loved best on earth!

“Do this, and you have Ostend as I saw it.

The Refugees
Read the entire article “The Refugees: A Night Among the Peasant Fugitives at Ostend” by Reginald Wright Kauffman from the pages of the Post

“I was in the midst of the refugees; and from that moment, wherever I went about the town, I remained surrounded by them. … I saw one young woman in a bedraggled wedding dress and was told that, her fiancé having been called to the front on the day before that set for their wedding, she had gone mad and insisted on wearing her wedding dress when she fled with her mother from the oncoming Germans.

I saw two graybeards with great crêpe rosettes on their hats, and they explained to me that they were mourners at a funeral in their village when the [cavalry] suddenly appeared; the coffin was hastily lowered into the grave and the entire funeral party took to their heels.

“I talked with a tottering woman of 25 whose husband had been called to the colors and killed in the first day’s fighting about Liege. She had with her a son of 5, who was staggering under the weight of his 18-month-old sister; another sister carried a basket as large as herself, and the mother had in her arms an infant that she vowed had been born to her on the roadside only 36 hours before.

“‘What will you do?’ I helplessly asked her.

“She made the sign of the cross.

“‘What the good God wishes,’ she answered.

A few yards behind her a girl, who might have been 18 years old, was lying where she had fallen a minute before. She was beautiful, with black hair and a creamy skin; and her face was very calm. A wound, some one explained, had reopened — a wound inflicted by a stray shot some days since. I bent over to speak to her; she was dead!

England Wakes Up

By Samuel G. Blythe

Meanwhile, Samuel G. Blythe, still in England, reported on how the news of the first major engagement of the war struck the British.

“At three o’clock on the afternoon of August twenty-fifth—three weeks after England’s actual declaration of war—the newsmen came up the street with red [placards], and the Londoners looked at them and saw, yelling at them in the biggest possible type:

‘Two Thousand British Casualties—Official!’

England Wakes Up
Read the entire article “England Wakes Up” by Samuel G. Blythe from the pages of the Post

The men had fallen at the Battle of Mons, in Belgium, where the British army had vainly tried to stop the German advance toward France. The official casualty figure has been calculated as 1,600, which is still a staggering figure of dead and wounded. Much, much higher figures were to come in the months ahead.

On the day before there had been a dispatch saying that a few English soldiers, including an earl, had been wounded; but that was nothing. Of course, as the Londoners and the provincials viewed it, a few men, more or less, must be hurt in an enterprise of this kind. That was to be expected.

The news that two thousand British soldiers had been wounded, perhaps killed—casualties is an all-embracing word—fell on London like a bomb dropped from the sky. It shocked, surprised and stunned…

“They began to wake up. Two thousand British casualties! Why, it was only a day or two before that they had known that the British troops had been sent to the Continent.”

Taking the Cure: The Treatment of Americans for Europitis

By Corinne Lowe

Cartoon Writer Corinne Lowe seemed to relish the sight of panicked Americans desperate to get a ship’s berth out of war-torn Europe. Her scorn for Americans seeking culture in the Old World was shared by the Post editors. In the coming months, they ran several articles and editorials that mocked Americans who had snubbed their homeland to pursue Europe’s quaint, continental charms.

Taking the Cure
Read the entire article “Taking the Cure” by Corinne Lowe from the pages of the Post

“Picturesqueness! There is the Pied Piper who has led us children of the Western Hemisphere out of our cool verandas and comfortable homes, who has made us turn from the Grand Canyon in order to sit at a smelly café where we could see a Franciscan monk or a booted and spurred officer. …

“Undoubtedly the principal factor in this life of Europe was constituted by the officers. What strange compensating joy there has been, for the most of us, in the sight of a handsome Austrian colonel crunching his morning roll at an outdoor café ! One glance at those fawn-colored ‘panties,’ at that tidy little green coat, and those fierce mustaches, and I have seen a little New Jersey school-teacher crumple up in a rapturous colic. ‘Isn’t it too lovely!’ I have heard her babble. ‘That’s what we do miss in America — the color of it all.’

“In our bondage to this foreign ‘atmosphere’ we have gradually lapsed into the belief that the militarism of Europe has been carried on for the special refreshment of the American public.”

War and Business

By Will Payne

New York Stock Exchange
New York Stock Exchange

While the Post reported on the political and social aspects of Europe’s war, it never lost of sight of the impact it would have on American business. Will Payne explained why the outbreak of fighting 3,000 miles away had caused America to close trading on July 31, 1914 it wouldn’t reopen until November 28.

War and Business
Read the entire article “War and Business” by Will Payne from the pages of the Post

“In the United States the first violent effect of the war was the closing of the New York Stock Exchange. It is clear now that this step was inevitable; yet so little were people prepared for war — so little were the effects of war on modern business conditions really understood in advance — that 10 minutes before the Exchange closed many persons of ordinarily good judgment believed it would remain open.

“The most conservative estimate puts the amount of American securities held in Europe at four billion dollars. If the Stock Exchange remained open we should have to face the possibility of buying immediately, say, a billion dollars of foreign-held securities and paying for them, not in credits, but in gold. We could not possibly do it, [and frankly acknowledged the fact by closing the Exchange]. With no market to sell in, foreigners would have to hold our paper whether they wanted to or not.

“You may have heard somebody mention that this is the richest country in the world. So it is; yet its total fund that is practicably available for the purchase of foreign-held securities under conditions of July 31 is really very small.”

Step into 1914 with a peek at these pages from The Saturday Evening Post 100 years ago.