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Antidote to Road Rage
The trick is to keep the atmosphere inside your SUV serene while everyone outside
is running amok. Two of the best mood-mellowing CDs we've recently encountered are Medusa
by Annie Lennox and The Best of
Marvin Gaye: Vol. 2: The '70s. If you saw American Beauty, you
heard Lennox sing her haunting version of Neil Young's "Don't Let It Bring You
Down." Ten songs by such artists as the Temptations ("I Can't Get Next to
You") and Procol Harem ("A Whiter Shade of Pale") are elegantly interpreted
in this lushly scored 1995 album. Lennox's honey-sweet voice is as soothing as they
The Millenium Collection of Marvelous Marvin's 1970s Motown hits
is pure soul seduction, even when he's singing about the environment ("Mercy, Mercy
Me") and taxes ("Inner City Blues"). And when he gets down, he can be
as sweetly romantic ("I want you") as he is insistent (fabulous concert
recording of "Distant Lover"). Aggravations just seem to float away in the
cool innocence of Marvin's voice and vision.
Primer for Budding Scientists
If you have had a chance to look at science textbooks for primary school children
or adolescents, you know they dont work. In
fact, they turn kids off, discouraging their natural curiosity and nipping our future
scientists in the bud. But take a look at
Marshall Brains How Stuff Works (see www.howstuffworks.com). Brain used to teach in the Computer Science
Department at North Carolina State University. But
this evocation got the best of him, and now he is explaining everything--from How
car engines work to How Christmas works.
We like the fact that his top ten articles include How toilets
work. Brain has also written a fair
number of books in this vein:
Teenagers Guide to the Real World
Professional Applications for Windows 98 and NT Using MFC
In the 1950s there was a sometime ambassadoress Perle Mesta -- whom we called the
hostess with the mostest and who later became the subject of a fun Broadway play. Someday there will be a musical about Letitia
Baldrige, called In a Class of Her Own, re-using Cole Porters song,
Youre the Tops. As you can
see from her website (www.letitia.com), she is the
best of the manners ladies, because she believes good manners alone wont do
it. She is the mistress of manners and the
doyenne of civility. She feels you must have
heart, kindness, and style. Her family is
quality itself; the Baldrige Awards for Quality are, in fact, named after Malcolm
Baldrige, Ronald Reagans Secretary of Commerce.
She herself also put time in the White House, serving as Jackie Kennedys
Chief of Staff. Shes written
innumerable books about manners, a few of which we have listed below:
Baldrige's Complete Guide to the New Manners for the 90's
made in Mexico, but under the complete control of W. Park Kerr of El Paso Chile Company
fame. See An American in Jalisco:
Living Out a Tequila Dream, New York Times, May 21, 2000, p.6 (Business). Its called Tequila Nacional Silver, and it
took an alliance with Thomas Fernandez, a chap of American and Mexican heritage, to rescue
Kerrs dream and get the silver out of a Mexican distillery.
of the Beekeepers
just died. Dr. Roger A. Morse of Ithaca, New
York was the beekeepers beekeeper. If
youre in doubt, purchase his The New
Complete Guide to Beekeeping or A Year in the
Beeyard, much sweeter territory than A Year in
Provence. Apparently, according to
his obituary, he died with a sting on his eye, as will happen to those smitten by the
bees. (See New York Times, May 21,
2000, p. 23.)
best used to come from the West Coast, but a couple of scruffy, Scientologist investors
fouled-up the whole enterprise, and we dont know whats become of the founder. So now the best is La Maison du Chocolat in New
York City (i.e., an import from France) at 1-800-988-5632.
Theyre absurdly expensive and not quite as great as they should be, so
entrepreneurs will some day give us a better value. Meanwhile,
these will have to do.
69. Best State Song
its from New York, and several states have tried to knock-off its lyrics. Its I Love New York, and, as I remember, it came onto the scene when neither
the states nor the citys fortunes were at high-tide, due to the profligacy of
politics of yore, whatever their stripe. We
recently spoke to the composer, who wants to remain anonymous, so this is a statue to the
unknown, modest composer.
68. Best Comeback Kid
No, we don't mean Clinton's comback in New Hampshire after da-Flowers episode,
which was ludicrous. We are talking about Sir Terence Conran who, as much as anybody, and
more than Martha, brought style into the lives of the middle classes in the United Kingdom
and the United States. This includes home furnishings, restaurants, and a host of
other ventures. Virtually belly up at one point, he has been a marvelous Phoenix,
getting back on our screen when we visited his London restaurant Bibendum in its early
days. Conran is a revival or a Lazarus worth talking about. His new
Guastavino's, under the Queensboro Bridge in New York, is a giant, magnificent affair.
Read more about him at his extensive website or
in his several books:
67. Best Mail Order Company
It's still L.L. Bean. It answers the
phone. Its operators are painstaking, polite, accurate, and informed. The
merchandise is fairly priced. Bean does not resell your name to other merchants.
Bean does good repairs on shoes and the like. It makes good -- fast -- on
flawed merchandise. Its styling and selection leaves something to be desired, but
maybe it's good that Bean is "not quite in style." It's anti-stylish enough to
have "strong integrity," not a hallmark of the last decade. In the U.S.,
call 1-800-441-5713, or browse and order online.
66. Best in St. Louis
We're always hard put to know what's up in St. Louis, beyond beer and arches.
Even St. Louis people don't brag too hard about the city's wonders. But there
is a hot spot -- the Missouri Botanical Garden, which
adds 120,000 specimens a year. And, last we know, it had a whiz for a director named
Dr. Peter S. Raven, who not only grows his garden and his budget, but prowls the world
campaigning for the environment, the earth, and all the plants on it. See
"Through politicking for plants, he made his garden grow," The New York
Times, August 4, 1998, p. B11.
65. Best Quiz Show
Certainly not Regis et al. Win Ben
Stein's Money, which appears on the cable network Comedy Central, has some wit and reasonably
literate questions. Ben Stein, a Nixon speech writer, proves that conservatives can
help remake television.
64. Best 1960s Update
The Wonder Boys
is about a writing professor in Pittsburgh who has plateaued out and needs to recapture
the flame. Which he does, after some wonderful misadventures. The movie is a
new start for Michael Douglas, Robert Downey, and even Bob Dylan, who composes anew for
this wacky affair. It is also full of yesterday's music (Van Morrison and others) to
remind us of prior times when America had something to say.
63. Best Fitness Center
The Cooper Aerobics Center in Dallas
is more than a fitness center. It embraces fitness, a medical clinic, funded
research, health exams, a campus, and a chitchat spa for all sorts of Dallas people.
It's not well decorated nor particularly comfortable, but it's effective, as
middle-aged and oldsters faithfully get their stretches done daily. It is the
creature of the father of aerobics, Dr. Ken Cooper. Strangely enough, Dr. Ken does
not cater to the young, even though there are modest accomodations for children. The
Cooper is very, very good. It could even be excellent if it understood a bit more
about the social and civilized aspects of creating fit people, because it would do more
about avoiding high blood pressure, since it knows a bit about getting rid of it.
62. America's Best Surfer-Legend
Joseph Wolfson just died at age 50. Teaching surfing classes was one of the
ways he got by. Surfboards he endorsed sold well. He used a body board to
spin full circle as he worked his way to the beach; this display of ultimate
agility was called a 360, and he seems to have been the first to do it. When he
learned he had cancer, he gave away his worldly goods and tried to commit suicide at sea,
working his way out to the ocean with a bellyful of sleeping pills. But he was
rescued, to enjoy a little more fame. Eventually he crashed -- in an
61. Best Irish Mystery Read
Bartholomew Gill, who spends a goodly amount of time in America, knows the old
sod very well. And that's the charm of his mysteries. You can learn about
Irish politics and fishing by reading him. And he will also lead you through
literary Dublin. His Inspector McGarr is one of the few mystery protagonists you
might actually be willing to hoist a pint with. Some of Gill's winners are:
The Death of
an Irish Politician
of an Irish Sea Wolf
of an Irish Tinker
of an Irish Lover
Update: We like to think that Albert Camus owns ‘the absurd.” But Bartholomew Gill (a pseudonym for Mark McGarrity) knew something about it. A graduate of Trinity, he, as all Irishmen, knows about both the absurd and the ridiculous. He died in 2002, just after midnight on July 4, having forgotten his key and trying to enter his house through an upstairs window in his Morristown house. He took a spill which we assume was the result of a night of tippling. According to the Times, “Bartholomew Gill was the name of Mr. McGarrity's grandfather, who was a great storyteller.” McGarrity wrote a few novels under his own name, and was also a prolific writer about nature for the Newark Star-Ledger. (07-14-10)
60. Best Book on Charts
Edward R. Tufte, professor emeritus at Yale, is author of The Visual
Display of Quantitative Information, still the modern classic on how to build a
chart that says something Often he argues for charts that are a bit too complex, but
he is a wonderful advocate for clean, accurate graphics. His other books include:
Explanations:Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative
Statistical Thinking: Displays of Evidence for Decision Making
59. The Great One (of Food)
Craig Claiborne, the great New York Times food critic and its only
substantial cookbook writer, died recently at 79. The obituary in the Times,
while amusing, missed the essence of Claiborne. Like Wayne Gretzky, who forever
changed the game of hockey, he was in a league of his own. Pre-Claiborne, food in
America was pedestrian. After Craig (ACC), we began to eat. He put dining on a
new course. And, arguably, he is the most important journalist the Times
spawned, at least from the 1960s forward. All the rest have mixed records.
Today, of course, there simply are no titans at the Times, though there are a few
middling journalists of quality. Below are a few of his titles (all of which are
worthwhile), including his last:
The Best of
Claiborne's Kitchen Primer
York Times Cookbook
58. Best Website for High Quality Tea
For exceptional handpicked teas from India, China and points east, lovers of the leaf may
wish to investigate www.inpursuitoftea.com. The site not only offers a wealth of information
about different types of tea, the regions in which they are grown, and health benefits,
but it also has beautiful close-up color photos of the leaves of each individual variety.
(And the variety is staggering.) Proprietors
Alexander Scott and Sebastian Beckwith journey to Asia several times a year, selecting
most teas from small family farms in remote mountain areas; some are winners of regional
competions; few, if any, are ordinarily available in this country.
names of the teas are poetry. It was hard to
resist Drum Mountain Cloud & Mist, or Snow Dragon, but at length we settled on two new
offerings: Oriental Beauty Charcoal Roast
Oolong ($40 for 1/4 lb) and Jade Spring Green Tea ($15 for 1/4 lb). We ordered by phone (though you can order online)
on a Wednesday afternoon and had the tea in hand on Monday.
Each of the two varieties came vacuum-packed in sleek black envelopes with
clear brewing instructions on the back -- important, since the ideal water temperature varies with the type of tea. Oriental Beauty produced a delicate pale gold
brew, with hints of cinammon; Jade Spring a lovely fresh aroma. This is a site that will please the tea connoisseur.
57. Best Article on Sleep Deprivation
it may be late to be making New Year's resolutions, one might put "get more
sleep" at the top of the list. Jane Brody's December 28, 1999, New York Times
column, "Paying the price for cheating on sleep," confirmed that chronic sleep deprivation has serious health
implications: obesity, diabetes and high
blood pressure. Participants in a recent
study at the University of Chicago experienced difficulty in processing glucose (leading
to insulin resistance and memory impairment), a rise in late afternoon and evening levels
of cortisol (an indicator of stress), and poor immunological response to flu vaccine. How much sleep is enough? Oddly, the article doesn't say, but we assume that
it's 7 or 8 hours a night. A followup column
on January 4, 2000, touts the benefits of brief midday naps.
56. Best Hedgerows
With the Fed putting up interest rates and looking at margin requirements, a
market fall is probably not far behind. The question where do you park the money, or
how can you guard principal? Click here to read more.
55. Best Ben Franklin State
No, not Pennsylvania. For years we've puzzled as to why West Virginia -- of
all places -- produces so many practical geniuses. I can only imagine that the very
oppressiveness of it all, the relentless poverty, the lung disease, the mining shards
produce people that soar (and often leave West Virginia) in some sort of weird dialectic
only Hegel could understand. Today, Professor John Dennison told me of the four Phi
Betas that came out of one household. Reputedly the state has spawned more Rhodes
Scholars per capita than any state in the union. For me, this was the state that
coined $.08 Marsh Wheeling cigars -- a very cheap smoke in college. But then, a more
apt symbol might be the wily Senator Byrd who who has raked in massive pork for his state,
using a mountain fiddle and complex rhetoric to conquer one and all. This lost state
is just enough at odds with America to create some very different drummers.
54. Best Sushi Hideaway
The name is SAZAN, owned by Mr. Sato and Mr. Murayama. The name is taken from
SA-TO's SA and Murayama's Yama (mountain), which is also pronounced as SAN or ZAN in
Japanese. They combined the two, SA and ZAN, together to come up with the name of the
restaurant. Mr. Sato is the chief sushi chef and I recommend you sit in front of Mr. Sato
along the counter, which seats about 10. He belongs to the old school of sushi chefs,
dating back to the Saito Restaurant in NY. It serves a wide variety of excellent
sake. Location: 729 Saw Mill River Road, Ardsley, NY 10502. It's off NY Throughway
(Exit Ardsley) and also reached from Saw Mill River Parkway (Exit Ardsley) and takes a
minute or two from these exits. Phone number: 914-674-6015. --Described by Toshio Ozeki as
Westchester's "hidden jewel of sushi bars"
Update: Best Economic Forecaster
Gail Fosler, The Conference Board's all-star economist, currently thinks
Europe will be in the ascendancy in 2000, with the U. S. growth rate dropping from 3.9% to
3.7%. But the world will rise from 2.7% to 3.5%. In The Wall Street Journal's
semiannual survey of economists, Fosler came in first. As chief economist at The
Conference Board, she directs the construction of so many domestic and international
indexes that she has unique insight into how the economic world turns. See WSJ, July
2, 1999, "Fosler, Avoiding the Crowd, is No. 1 Forecaster."
Update: 1-10-99 - Once again, Gail Fossler tops The Wall Street
Journal economic forecasters survey. See The Wall Street Journal,
January 3, 2000, p. A2. Apparently, her calls on our GDP and the strength of the yen
put her ahead of the pack. Watch out for the 2nd quarter of 2000 where she predicts
a dip that matters. To read more, click here.
See also her outlook books:
Outlook 1999-2000, Conference Board, 1998.
Outlook 1998-1999, Conference Board, 1999.
52. Best Christmas Show
At the Grolier Club in New York City until January 29, 2000. Even if
you, like us, have taken your Christmas tree down too soon, you can keep the season alive
at Jock Elliott's assortment (150) of Christmas mementos and books. He's put
together 3,000 or so over the years, while simultaneously tending to a career at Ogilvy
& Mather where he closed out a very good run as Chairman. See The New York
Times, December 15, 1999, B17, "Spirit of Christmas Past and Present, All
Stuffed Into One Man's Collection."
51. Best Way to Mine SEC Data
Look at 10Kwizard.com (10-K Wizard Technology). Or
look at Invisible World's Edgarspace. See The
Wall Street Journal, December 16, 1999, p. B10.
This turns out to be a simpler way for analysts to find warts that companies are
not bragging about. See http://www.10Kwizard.com.
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