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75. Best 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 come.

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.

74. Best Primer for Budding Scientists
If you have had a chance to look at science textbooks for primary school children or adolescents, you know they don’t 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 Brain’s “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:

The Teenager’s Guide to the Real World

Developing Professional Applications for Windows 98 and NT Using MFC

73. Mistress of Manners
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 Porter’s song, “You’re 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 won’t 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 Reagan’s Secretary of Commerce.  She herself also put time in the White House, serving as Jackie Kennedy’s Chief of Staff.  She’s written innumerable books about manners, a few of which we have listed below:

Legendary Brides

Letitia Baldrige's Complete Guide to the New Manners for the 90's

Everyday Business Etiquette

72. Best American Tequila
It’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).  It’s called Tequila Nacional Silver, and it took an alliance with Thomas Fernandez, a chap of American and Mexican heritage, to rescue Kerr’s dream and get the silver out of a Mexican distillery.

71. Best of the Beekeepers
He just died.  Dr. Roger A. Morse of Ithaca, New York was the beekeeper’s beekeeper.  If you’re 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.)

70. Best Chocolate Truffles
The best used to come from the West Coast, but a couple of scruffy, Scientologist investors fouled-up the whole enterprise, and we don’t know what’s 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.   They’re 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
Naturally, it’s from New York, and several states have tried to knock-off its lyrics.  It’s “I Love New York,” and, as  I remember, it came onto the scene when neither the state’s nor the city’s 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:

The Essential House Book
Terence Conran on Design
The Essential Garden Book
Easy Living
Chef's Garden

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 automobile. 

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
The Death of an Irish Sea Wolf
The Death of an Irish Tinker
The Death 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:

Envisioning Information

Visual Explanations:Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative

Visual and 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 Craig Claiborne
Craig Claiborne's Kitchen Primer
The New 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. 

The 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
Though 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 (Financials)
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 (Bright Inventors)
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 in Westchester
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"

53.  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."

-new- 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:

North American Outlook 1999-2000, Conference Board, 1998.
North American 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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