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Mis-Guided Guidance
We have been at pains to tell companies all the self-defeating things they do to achieve recognition from investors.  In “If You Believe in Yesterday, Your Stock Will Not Act Like Tomorrow,” we lay out some of the myths that companies believe in and act upon in their dealings with the stock market.  But we did not deal with the worst thing companies can do to themselves: giving quarterly or yearly financial guidance to investors is nothing short of suicide.  Sooner or later, you won’t make your numbers and Wall Street will savage your stock.  Sooner or later, the shareholder suit mills such as Lerach, Coughlin will go after a chunk of your assets, claiming you deceived investors and traded on your own behalf.  In an attempt to meet the highflying targets you have set out, you will sell products at low prices and fail to invest for the long term.  The reasons for not giving financial guidance are so numerous and so obvious that it’s hard to imagine why companies fall in this trap.  But, of course, analysts, like reporters, are lazy and want their work done for them.  Better for them if you make a fool of yourself by putting out predictions and then they can put out long scripts on why you may and why you may not make it.

At long last some sober citizens at the Business Roundtable and the CFA Institute have come out with an impressive document that examines forecasting.  Simple to say, “Breaking the Short-Term Cycle” instructs companies, “Give It Up.”  Focus on the long term and communicate about the long term.  We have spent considerable energy with our clients here and abroad for several decades teaching them how to do just that.  Basically we have shown companies how to devise and communicate very long term goals: everyone is clear that they are goals and that performance may deviate sharply from the goals from year to year.

We have constructed an impressive list of long-termers who have given up quarterly forecasting.  One caveat: we have missed many companies who have also given up this addiction, and a few have taken up the habit again after becoming forecast-free.  At any rate, an impressive list of enterprises have given themselves breathing room and greater capacity to manage their businesses in the right way by fighting off the tyranny of quarterly forecasts.

Journalists Worth Reading.  Some people are a joy to read, and many of the others are a trudge, prompting you to say, “Why did I read that?”  Even the best of newspapers or magazines are lucky to get one or two people who make the cut.  The New York Times sort of invented good food writing and good restaurant reviewing with Craig Claiborne, and yet it has not found anyone of his caliber since.  Finding a persona who can write and who has judgment and who focuses on substance:  it is simply serendipity.  One newspaper recently passed over a journalist for its top job, and so, thank goodness, he is writing columns again, simply outclassing every other scribe on the paper.  We have looked over the lists newspaper nabobs nominate to sundry halls of fame:  most of the honorees are terribly pedestrian.  It’s a miracle that cream occasionally rises to the surface.  We hope you enjoy the following guys and gals as much as we do:

2.  -new- Robert A. Caro.  We often forget that this marvelous historian and biographer came off the New Brunswick Daily Home News and Long Island’s Newsday.  But he has the journalist’s predilection to tell the whole story, leaving  nothing—and we mean nothing—out.  What he picks are  politicians who have clearly made a giant difference in American society, because they will stop at nothing to move their plans along.  So his subjects have been Robert Moses, who paved over New York City with cement and, in effect, instructed the nation that highways are the American route to eternity, and Lyndon Johnson who showed us that you “get along by going along.”  You’d say that Caro has a passion for authoritarian, well-meaning, and simultaneously corrupt individuals who did us proud and/or did us in—who knows.  His picks are interesting, because Caro himself has a genial, hardworking, ethical demeanor:  he is not afraid to continuously make his point, but, unlike his subjects, he clearly does not push people around.  Somewhat to his wife’s chagrin and as part of his next chapter on Johnson’s career, the man who must pursue every detail next intends to go and live in Vietnam, where he will surely capture details about the Vietnam War that have escaped all those who have come before.  Caro is a relentless reporter who fairly presents all sides of his subjects, but perhaps never quite makes up his own mind about them.  For a good account of him, see Scott Sherman’s “Caro’s Way” in the May/June 2002 issue of the Columbia Journalism Review.   Also learn a bit about Caro at, perhaps paying special attention to the Kurt Vonnegut interview.

Some of his titles include:

1.  Malcolm Gladwell.  We have previously written about Mr. Gladwell under Big Ideas, Item 21.  He is author of The Tipping Point, a book that had a whirl a year or so ago.  Though it was a trendy affair about how trends happen, we don’t think it’s his top stuff.  Gladwell is prolific and has written about everything under the sun.  Visit his website and read everything he has written, because each piece gives you some major insight into the complex architecture that lies behind all the ordinary stuff in our lives, whether he is talking about retailing, dieting, or 40 other things.  A Canadian, he is the son of a mathematician who wins awards (See his entry in Slate magazine for November 19, 1999) and a writer.  All 3 I think—Canada, mathematics, writing—explain Gladwell to us.  He denies understanding the mathematics of his father, but I think it can fairly be said that he bemusingly applies rhetorical algebra to ordinary existence to see if he can solve for the unknowns.  He does a heap of writing for the New Yorker, one of a stable of writers who are pretty good at explaining stuff and who have saved the magazine from trendy or ideology-stuffed editors who tend to take the magazine down side streets.

Solid State Stuff.  We have already posted rankings of the states according to fiscal performance, as prepared by the Fraser Institute. See Best of Class, item 126L. Gradually we are finding other state rankings that are of some interest. Kaiser looks at health throughout the United States, where you can learn, for instance, that Hawaii has the lowest number of deaths per 100,000 people, and the District of Columbia the most. Generally states in the West and a few in the North have a longer lifespan whereas you will depart early in the South and in the Southwest. Morgan Quitno Press ( is making a living publishing directories showing which states are best or worst in a number of categories. Connecticut is the smartest; New Mexico is the dumbest. Minnesota is the most livable, Mississippi the least. Mississippi won another award: it is the unhealthiest, while Vermont comes in as the healthiest. North Dakota is the safest, and Louisiana the most dangerous. Who knows whether Morgans rankings are correct. We suspect the Fraser and Kaiser tabulations will help you spot the right place to live.

London Pubs.  We found the ones we treasure listed here, so it is a trustworthy list: Put together by Paul Keating, an ITN cameraman, it even includes a pix or two besides detailed information, so its worth a look. He does supply enough of a description to tell you whether any one drinkery is worth the visit. And if you are just touring, he has done a handy trick of naming the pubs that are near some of the famous sites.

10 Best Magazines.  Well, we have not found 10 good ones but we promise to keep on trying. What’s more, the good magazines have an awfully hard time making a living which means that our choices below are imperiled unless and until they restage themselves economically with other types of sponsorship.  Two of our picks, The Atlantic Monthly and The New Yorker, were big winners at the recent National Magazine Awards 2002.  Here is what we have so far; it’s in no particular order because none of these picks stand out over the other.

7. Foreign Policy.  This is much more cosmopolitan in its approach than the city in which it is based, Washington, D.C.  See our longer description of it at Best of Class. For a think tank magazine, it is distinguished by the real diversity of its authors and its topics, which range well beyond the conceptual thickets on which policy wonks feed.

6. Paris ReviewOnce of Paris, but now from New York City, of course.  We are not even sure you have to read this magazine's current contents, but we know for certain that you have to look at its archives.  Since its founding in 1953, all of America's literary figures seem to have worked their way into its pages.  Its marvelous website reminds you of those little green parks you see in New England communities where a World War I memorial commemorates all of the soldiers who died in The Great War; likewise, the Paris Review celebrates all its literary heroes of the last half of the 20th century.  Pay particular attention to its pleasant little history, solid proof that writers could teach the ad world a thing or two about branding.

5.  The Atlantic Monthly.  Along with Harper’s, you thought this magazine was going to bite the dust, but somehow it got revived.  It is very uneven, because it normally does one topic very well, and then the rest of the magazine is so-so.  When the topic is right—the next age of small point-to-point aircraft, our national asthma epidemic, or something on next generation warfare—the magazine is very good.  When the magazine thinks it is a monthly newspaper reporting on the ins and outs of the Afghan war, it is an abject failure (several of the new younger editors at magazines occasionally get carried away thinking they are daily journalists).  We suspect the magazine should do a better job of tapping into New England where it is based and into doing a better presentation job on poetry where it feels it has a franchise.

4.  Scientific American.  We were reminded of how good this publication is when we read an archived piece on quantum computing.  Either you will find two pieces you like in an issue, or you will find nothing at all.  This is a magazine that needs an ever-more creative relationship with the web, which, after all, was created to share the results of scientific research and could easily be used to expand the reach and audience of the publication.  Watch out, however, for balance in this magazine.  John Rennie, the editor, gave a long, one-sided hosing to Danish scientist, Bjorn Lomburg.  Rennie published several critical pieves of Lomburg, who has come up with some environmental views that are very unpopular in the scientific community.  The commentary is very polemical rather than discursive.

3.  Mercator’s World.  We happened on this magazine quite by accident and are surprised that it is not more widely known.  It is not just for map buffs; it will give you an education on everything from mapping in the world wars to Samuel Pepys as cartographer or the like.  In other words, you get a heap of history with your maps.  Plus you will find your way around the map world, discovering all the shops and map compulsives of note.

2.  The New Yorker.  The cartoons are not quite as funny, and the one-topic issues, when they occur, are deadly.  But The New Yorker is back, thank goodness, after an unhappy tenure under an English chat editor.  An occasional new experiment is worthwhile, even the ones that fail such as the abortive financial news page which never quite manages to get its arms around any topic.  Curiously the best stuff is about medicine, often by Boston doctors who know their stuff.  Plus Malcolm Gladwell ( is always welcome whatever he chooses to look at.

1.  The Economist.  Remember as a kid when you read Time magazine every week and thought you were getting the real stuff?  It is a hash now, so you have to read The Economist, which pretends to be English, but is as much American as it is UK.  The best part of the magazine is the briefest:  the back of the book where it does science, books, culture, and the like.  It’s there that you learn something is happening in Iranian cinema or in some other unlikely part of the world.  Next comes business and finance, with politics a very weak third.  The Economist does very long surveys which need a lot more work to be successful, though recently it surprised us with a very good treatment of the long-term inertia in Japanese society which, clearly, is not going to change without a rude shock from the outside world.  It’s a curiosity that the British do a better job in their magazines than in their renowned but often inadequate newspapers.  The Economist is a jewel based on a host of wonderful stringers spread about the globe who seem to operate very much on a shoestring but who get lots done.

Best and Biggest Lists. We're coming across more best and biggest lists, some of which even promise to be helpful.   As you know, there has been a lot of emphasis on finding the best prices for things on the Internet, rather than attending to quality.  We hope that, in time, the quality gap will be closed so that we can begin to find, on a worldwide basis, the mostus for the leastus.  For now we think these rankings will help.  We expect eventually there will be a worthwhile Michelin for everything--not just restaurants in France.

p. Turner's Bests.  Bill Turner, a programmer for Yahoo, has put up these book, movie, and music best lists.  In each of the 3 areas, he has put up 20 or so best lists—Random House on books, the Grammies, etc.  Some lists are even valuable:  the Newberry Awards tell you pretty good books to get your youngsters.  Probably the film list can help you if you are off to the video store and you are not sure what you want to watch tonight.  These lists  are not  refined, but you may pick up a few ideas when you are trying to break out of a rut.  See

o. Country Rankings is moving to become the champion of the country rankers, looking at a wide number of variables and also allowing one to group countries in all sorts of ways for comparison.

n. How Countries Stack Up.  Professor Suzuki at the European Institute of Japanese Studies, Stockholm School of Economics, has patched together these rankings of all the major European and Asian countries, but including a few small countries at the margin.  He ranges over education, health, economics, etc., with subcategories on a host of factors.  You will find much of what you expect—the United States ranks high in terms of the percentage of the population that has completed secondary education, but low on scientific, reading, and mathematical literacy, from which we might infer that our schools may not be too effective.  But there are surprises—who knew that Luxembourg had such a high density of mobile phones?   See

m. Ranking Economic Freedom.  The Fraser Institute, up in Vancouver ( ranks the nations of the world every year through the prism of laissez-faire market orthodoxy.  It's not clear that more freedom, thus defined, buys you a better economy, but this exercise does tell you a few things.  City states (Hong Kong is #1 and Singapore #2) have a large stake in free markets, without which they cannot exist.  You want to watch out for nations where freedom has plummeted over the last thirty years, such as Germany, Belgium, and Central American countries such as Costa Rica, Panama, and Nicaragua.  Spectacular improvements in some -- Chile, Bolivia, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and a few others -- merit attention by investors.

l. Ranking the States and Provinces.  Fiscal Performance Index 2001.  This is how you learn whether your state (or province) is fiscally responsible--or not.  Massachusetts, Nevada, Ontario, and Texas get high marks for controlling spending and taxes.  Oregon and California are at the bottom of the totem pole.  We were surprised that North Carolina came in at number 38 out of 54, all contributing to its current fiscal jam and slowing economy.

k. Root Beers Taste-Off.  Matt Bergstrom--don't know the man--offers here the Great American Root Beer Showdown.  Boylan's, of ginger ale fame, has a lot of winners, including this site's top-rated root beer at 4.50 points.  IBC, our favorite thirteen years ago, is damned with faint praise, but still gets a high 3.46 rating.  In general, the Midwest seems to produce the most winners.  We need a sociologist to tell us why the cornbelt is so rooted.

j. The Hundred Funniest Movies.   This list proves that rankings should never be calculated by self-interested insiders.  Asking 1500 Hollywood types to rate movies is like having financial analysts rate stocks. The list may be starry-eyed but it is not stellar.  Airplane and Young Frankenstein had their many moments, but they are simply not all-time funnies.  From our biased point of view, The Thin Man movies and Raising Arizona should have been much closer to the top.  But whatdya gonna do?   See  

i. 2000CPI.  Not the Consumer Price Index, but rather the Corruptions Perceptions Index of Transparency International.  Finland is the best and Nigeria is the worst--not too many surprises there.  Nevertheless, there are a few surprises elsewhere, with Mexico, China, and Argentina one-half to two-thirds of the way down the list, behind some magnificently corrupt countries.  Go to and click on 2000 Index.  (Update: The 2001CPI is now available at

h. Top 100 Books in Libraries.  There are too many management-genre books here, which makes us fear for our librarians.  Naisbitt makes it twice.  Peters is all over the place, and so is Bob Woodward.  Conclusion: libraries, like our intellectuals, are largely prisoners of the present.  See

g. Top Thirty ArtistsArtcyclopedia, which tracks 7,000 artists, tells us who is hot now by seeing which artist gets the most visits on its website.  You can also see which posters are selling well, which may be more important.  For the popularity stats, see

f. Ranking the Presidents.  78 imaginative academics were polled for this survey of the Federalist Society and the Wall Street Journal.  Washington is #1, Lincoln #2, and FDR #3.  See  

e. Ranking Marketing Journals.  But by academics, so don't necessarily rush to look at this site.

d.  Supercomputers.  Go to  This rates computers by GFlops and shows you who owns them.

c. Looking at websites.  Be careful of, since Gomez is a website consultant.   If the truth be known, there are probably only fifty good websites around, but these fellows would have you believe they are breaking out all over.  While this guide will not really help you find quality sites, it will help you build a better site by showing you what's judged to be acceptable now.

b.  Decorators and such in New York City.   See The Franklin Report (, which has already created waves among interior decorators and home craftsmen in Manhattan.   Like the Zagats (lawyers in their other lives), whose guides on restaurants now cover the nation, Ms. Franklin is an emigre from investing banking, I believe, who also uses a consumer-report approach to weed out shoddy craftsmanship and overcharging in the home trades.  If students at some universities can rate their professors, why can't we rate every profession and trade, since licensing bodies have proved totally derelict in carrying out this kind of task?

a.  Decent toilets.  See, which now covers twelve major U.S. cities as compiled by David Vogue from New York City.  How vital this is!  In New York, many of the great bathrooms of the past have disappeared.  Philip Morris has displaced the old East Side Air Terminal--always a good stop in an  emergency.   The showers of Grand Central, where New Yorkers could primp for job interviews,   have gone the way of all good things.  Incidentally, we recommend the Crescent (Hotel) in Dallas.

Best Free Email Newsletters.  We are on the lookout for email newsletters that have the ring of quality, are free, and add to our store of wisdom.  Generally they are short, reasonably literate, and don’t have a particular axe to grind.  Often they just present data, but some deal in insights.  A few follow.  We will be adding to this list.

10. The Scout Report.  The Scout Project at the University of Wisconsin captures a huge amount of internet information for all users and also puts out a report telling us about new finds in the area of math, science, etc.  Here you can read lots of items that show up much later in the popular science press.  See

9. Singapore Extra.  The Singapore Government puts out "Bites of the Week" each week, and it gives you a good idea of what people are focusing on on that special island.  Admittedly, this is government thinking, but in Singapore, the citizens think about what the ministers think about.  As you can see, everybody has economic recovery on the agenda.  Subscribe at

8. NewsScan. Good, miscellaneous spot news about mini-trends in technology by John Gehl and Suzanne Douglas.  One sponsor, incidentally, is Research Libraries Group, which deals with digital archives of universities, national libraries, and cultural societies here and abroad.

7. Netfuture. We previously have talked about Steve Talbot's love/hate relationship with technology.  (See Best of Class, item 50.)  It worries him, but, of course, he's a computer guy.  We enjoy the fact that he's now given up conversing by email.  Just like Bill Joy at SUN or all the plasma physicists we know who are upset by atomic power.  But his wandering newsletter is read by everybody and has tremendous impact.  Lately he has been wrestling with globalization gone astray, a topic now brought to a white heat by Duke professor Michael Hardt, who has tried to lay a neo-leftist theoretical foundation for all the clamor against technology and economics of global forces.  Co-author, with Italian Antonio Negri, of Empire, he is now read and talked about in universities around the world.  See The New York Times, July 7, 2001, pp. A15 and A17.  Subscribe to Netfuture at

6. News.  The folks at New Generation have been dealing with bankruptcies, turnarounds, and distressed securities for quite a few years, not only as publishers but as money managers.  The interesting thing about their new site is that it has vastly increased their audience not only reaching financial audiences and bankruptcy professionals but also financial managers in corporations across the land.  To get their daily newsletter, simply go to and follow instructions.

5. AsiaBizTech.   From Nikkei Business, this covers enough of the headlines in Japan, China, Taiwan, Singapore, etc. to keep you abreast of the real players in computerdom, networking, telecommunications, etc.  Often an early flag as to what will happen in U.S. markets.    To subscribe, go to

4. Global Province Letter.   This is a  weekly update as to what’s new on, with trends in business as well as other trends in culture, fashion, health, etc. that are expected to change the rules of business.  To subscribe, click here.

3. Newsletter for Web Editors.  Davenetics, at, may sound like something put out by the Scientologists, but it is actually an Internet headline collector that also, conveniently, includes a list of sites you can go to for Web news.  If you are responsible for building content at a substantial website, you will want to get on its daily list.  An acquaintance involved with the Internet at the New York Times put us on to this one.  The only downside, of course, is that virtually all the media sites on the Web are strategically flawed, so here you will not find a way out of that media morass. 

2. Diabetes E-News Now!  The American Diabetes Association offers both consumers and health-care professional newsletters, which carry everything from recipes for diabetic cooking to prevention tips in __ to diabetes.  It is most useful for those wanting to keep track of all the ways America is raising awareness of this growing scourge on our society.  See to subscribe to the various newsletters.

1. F. Kindlmann's Archives.  Peter J. Kindlmann-- consultant, Yale professor, Director of Undergraduate Studies--issues a thought or two a week on everything from quarks to Lady Hamilton's Portrait to mumbo jumbo, all depending on what new idea has come his way.  He's a new product guy in electrical engineering, but he's interested in all the issues surrounding "the sensible application of technology."  See

Great Fly-Fishing Books.  We will be adding to this list.  It is about both fish and fishing.  To our embarrassment, we don’t know where we got some of these names; they have been hanging out in our files for a long time, so somebody is due a lot of credit: 

11. Fly Fishing Through the Midlife Crisis.  Howell Raines.  William Morrow, 1993.  We bought a bunch of these books on remainder and sent them to friends.  Howell Raines has been at the New York Times an awfully long time, spent a good spell as head of the editorial pages, and now resides in the top job as executive editor at the behest of the publisher.  Raines demonstrates what he is about in this fun book and shows as well why he made it to the top of the Times, why he is pretty good as head of the paper, and why he was not as good as the head of the opinion slot.  This is a pretty conventional fellow, good at telling a story or two, who knows how to play with people rather than think deep thoughts.  The book has a lot about crappies and trout, but it has more on the social mix of fishing, whether chatting about Hoover, fishing with George Bush, or going on about Richard Blacock, out of the State Department, who becomes sort of fishing mentor to our hero.  This is an easy read by a guy who shows up at fishing holes and knows all the right trappings, expressions, people.  We know (because we have read elsewhere) that he is passionate about fishing but here we feel like we have met the guy who perfectly plays the role of the perfect fisherman.  As executive editor, Raines is a populizer who brings in a common man story to exemplify big events and who includes more popular culture on the Times pages than we found there heretofore.  He has a nose for the hot story, not necessarily the important idea.  Hence, his midlife crisis that never is resolved.  He’s good at fish stories.

10. Red Smith on Fishing.  Doubleday, 1963.  He was the great civilized sports writer, and we have not found another like him.  (Out of print.  Try locating a used copy at

9. The Fly Fisher’s Reader.  Leonard M. Wright.  Jr. Simon and Schuster, 1990.  Short stories.

8. The Compleat Angler.  Izaak Walton (and Charles Cotton).  Stackpole Books, 1653, 1998, with innumerable editions inbetween.  This, of course, is the high literature of fishing texts, famous not only for its illustrations but also for its witty and eloquent depiction of a gentleman’s five-day fishing excursion.  Absolutely a must-read.

7. Fisherman’s Fall. Roderick Haig-Brown.  William Morrow, 1964.  Advice guy. 

6. The Orvis Fly-Fishing Guide.  Tom Rosenbauer.  Lyons Press, 1988.  New York. 

5. Fishing Came First.  John N. Coal.  Lyons Press, 1997. 

4. Trout Bum.  John Gierach and Gary LaFontaine.  Fireside Books, 1988. Rockies. 

3. Trout Madness.  Robert Tarver.  Fireside, 1979.  Judge, writer, and great Michigan fisherman. 

2. A River Never Sleeps.  Robert Hague-Brown.  Nick Lyons, 1946.  (Out of print.  Try locating a used copy at

1. Early Love and Brook Trout.  James Prosek.  The Lyons Press, 2000.  Prosek does love and trout here.  Also, though, he has done a few beautiful books which we will have to list later, including his illustrated history of trout.  This guy has a way of making life seem idyllic, just right for summertime.

Best Catalogs.  We look at their design or editorial merit, not the goods.  We are just beginning to think about catalogs, because an inordinate number pour through our mail slot.  A few tantalize.  The point of this entry is just to look at their design or editorial merit—without judging the goods.  Please understand then that we are neither recommending for or against the purveyors cited here:  we are simply telling you to enjoy the catalogs in their own right.  We are reminded, incidentally, of a wonderful account of the pre-war life of a couple off on a lark in the Caribbean.  They built their own house and other buildings, freely using the Sears Roebuck catalog for all sorts of fixtures.  Not only did they frequently order merchandise, but the catalog pages also doubled as a source of toilet tissue.  The Sears catalog, sadly, has long disappeared.  Sears is just buying Lands End, and we hope it does not do in that catalog, which has occasional amusing snippets.

4. SaksySaks Fifth Avenue.  Wonderful Saks Fifth Avenue has stumbled in recent years, and it is still having a bad patch.  But if it can smooth its management processes, it will be worth it, since it provides the only pleasurable shopping experience for discriminating women in some parts of the country.  Despite its operating troubles, Saks has gotten its catalogs very right and pulled ahead of the competition.  Its Spring Preview 2006 features an array of wonderfully photographed exotic ladies done up in the clothing of all the tres chaud designers, put against a “due South” (South Carolina) backdrop for those wanting to escape the cold.  The images of the women fill out each page, making each seem bigger than life.  (See original entry here.)  (2/22/06)

3. Dooney & BourkeDooney and Bourke makes fancy handbags and a bit of other leathery stuff.  It and others have learned that the way to put a premium on such goods is to display them in exotic settings.  Dooney, in its catalog, does this as well or better than anyone.  We are looking at Spring 2003 which is set in Laos this year; Southeast Asia is all the rage in many catalogs.  Perhaps it was just last year that a wonderful Morocco was featured.  Of course, you might ask yourself, “With these kinds of settings, who needs purses?”

2. Lands End   This catalog could be better designed, and a lot of the clothes lack a graphic sense.  But, like the wares of L.L. Bean, the goods of Land’s End have a certain Midwestern integrity, sometimes lacking in the sharper looking items from the smartest houses.  But the reason for looking at the current catalog (and a darn smart merchandising idea) is the cover pix of Rosie the Riveter as well as the fictional memoir from her on pages 27-29.  The June 2002 catalog celebrates the American spirit with enough panache that we can say that it is clever, appropriate, and a bit heartwarming.  So much of retailing consists of striking just the right note.  And Rosie fans are referred to a West Coast website in her honor at

1. The J. Peterman Company.  As you know, J. Peterman has risen from the dead after the collapse of his last enterprise.  We now have Owner's Manual No. 8 , Summer 2002, in hand.  His new catalogs are far better than his old ones, although those were also good.  The pix make every product look great.  But it is the prose that has all the fun.  Read, for instance, his opening comments under Philosophy:  "People want things that are hard to find.  Things that have romance, but a factual romance, about them.  …  Clearly, people want things that make their lives the way they wish they were."  You can get started on the website but make sure you do get the actual catalog.

"Other" MuseumsMuseums have become somewhat tiresome big businesses.  Half Barnum and Bailey, one-quarter auction house, and one-quarter rent-a-hall for blow-out art extravaganzas, they are less and less places to contemplate works in tranquility, works that aspire to speak eternally and universally.  Still, there are other kinds of museums, where you can linger and rest.  Often former residences of well-to-do families, they have now becomes homes for everybody.  They're as much about atmosphere, feeling, and environment as they are about precious collections.  Sometimes, in fact, it seems a shame to waste such places on art and crafts, when the parts are only a distraction from the whole. Over time we will list here musees you visit to get away from it all, not to get with it.  Good places to go AWOL.

6. Venerable Asia: Pacific Asia Museum.  We wish we had visited this museum because its stupendous online collection of its offerings is immensely attractive.  Its Visions of Enlightenment: Understanding the Art of Buddhism is a wonderful introduction to Buddhism and Buddhist art.  And it embraces Western graphic interpretations of Buddhism.  Or one can explore Nature of the Beast: Animals in Japanese Paintings and Prints , where the work of Edo period artists is caught in screens that would enhance anyone’s imagination and contemplation.  Pacific Asian Museum.  46 North Los Robles Avenue. Pasadena, California 9110l.  662-449-2742.  We suspect we might stop here on the way to the Huntington and never quite make it to that wonderful institution.  To bolster their presence in the modern world, other museums will be forced in time to be equally imaginative in their use of the Internet.  (1/18/06)  For original entry in Best of Class, click here.

5. The Sanxingdui Museum.  Read more about this museum at  Two Rivers.  We hear that both the museum and its collections are gems, more than worth the stop for anyone with a serious interest in archaeology. Going to Sichuan takes one into the interior of China, an arena that will now merit more of our attention economically and politically.

4. The McNayWhen the sun gets piercing in San Antonio, there is nothing like a retreat to the McNay, which is nicely buried in a residential area you may miss because it is well away from the madding crowd.  You can read more vividly about the museum at our San Antonio's Best Small Art Museum.  The art collections here are almost incidental to the household, to the lovely tiles, and to the collection of theater effects.  Older than Dallas or Houston, San Antonio is certainly the most civilized city in Texas, and this museum conveys the graciousness and the Hispanic accents that are inherent here.  The most pleasant eating club in town is also in an old residence, perhaps an ideal prelude to a lazy visit to the McNay.

3. The Frick CollectionDon't be put off by the Frick's unwieldly website, which is often hard to reach and which includes an over-complex, hard-to-use virtual tour of the collections.  The museum itself is still wonderful relief after you have taken in its overwhelming, over-peopled neighbor, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.  We recommend just hanging about the pool of water, which gives solace in spiritually arid New York.  Others will remark upon the concerts.  Obviously an ambitious management has tried to busy up the place, but it ever retains its charm. The Frick Collection.  1 East 70th St., New York, New York 10021.  Telephone:  212-288-0700.  Website:

2. Mrs. Jack's Place:  The Gardner MuseumIf you are just going to one, this is it.  But first read about the patroness in Mrs. Jack:  An Autobiography of Isabella Stewart Gardner by Louise Hill Tharp.  Then visit the website at, which, unlike many museum sites, is easy to use and comfortably informative.  The Gardner is a little worse for wear, what with funding problems and a burglary or two.  But, as you wander, you can still imagine Mrs. Jack’s goings on there, transporting you to an earlier time when Brahmins dreamed of bringing Europe into their lives.  Boston has a raft of good museums, but the best ones seem to surround you with history, more than collections.  The Gardner Museum.  280 The Fenway, Boston, MA 02115.  Telephone:  617-566-1401.

1.  Louisiana.   About 35 kilometers north of Copenhagen, the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art is in a lovely setting beside the water, looking across to Sweden.  It houses a fine collection, adjoins a lovely sculpture garden, and mounts several worthy modern shows each year.  We first visited at the end of the sixties, a hurried end to an afternoon, yet we did not feel rushed even at the close of a day. 

Yes, it suffers from that relentless passion to expand, but remains pretty because it is situated in a park, the legacy of the Louisiana estate about which we intend to learn more.  Proudly, the directors say the park overcomes the "museum fatigue" which has been known to overcome all of us, that feeling of surfeit and enervation that attacks all visitors to museums. 

Louisiana Museum of Modern Art.  DK-3050 Humlebaek.  Telephone:  45-4919-0719.  Website:

Family Movie Hit List Walt Disney has gone to pot, TV kills off any show that has a touch of wit, and the movie theaters veer between blood thrillers and carnality.  Nevertheless,  there are plenty of films on tape that might not pass all the good censors yet add up to a good time for the whole family.  We have put these that follow to the vote, and they have passed the test.  More will be added....

15. The Palm Beach Story.  Nobody knows about Joel McCrea anymore, or the marvelous Preston Sturges who wrote and directed this 1942 delight.  Throw in Claudette Colbert, Rudy Vallee, and Mary Astor—and you are in for a devil of a good time.  Vallee was a crooner, saxophonist, and comedic actor in real life whose eccentric air is an excellent foil for all the humorous doings.  McCrea and Colbert play a New York couple who are not getting by on his meager earnings as an inventor.  She takes off to Palm Beach, with the idea of leaving him so that he can focus on becoming a success without the burden of supporting her.  But love triumphs: they get rejoined and, at the last, his invention looks like it will get backing and go to market.  The movie’s packed with terribly witty lines, which means you can watch it with your eyes closed and still have quite a giggle.  Imagine putting your marriage back together in Palm Beach.  Later, incidentally, McCrea mostly did Westerns, rode horses on his ranch, and put away $50 million or so—it’s more fun to see him in the lighthearted Sturges movies.  (See original entry on Best of Class.)  (2/15/06)

14. The Philadelphia Story (1940).  This 1940 George Cukor charmer makes Philadelphia seem a great deal more fun than it is.  One likes everybody—James Stewart, Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, Ruth Hussey, and all the large supporting cast.  Tracy Lord (Katherine Hepburn) is about to marry the wrong fellow, but a lot of hijinks and a little booze get her out of it and re-married to her old husband.  The fellow she dumps is a pompous stuffed shirt, someone you could imagine having to get away from in Main Line high society.  Later this movie was restrung as the musical High Society with Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly in Newport.  Both are as much fun, though there’s a little more serious meaning in this original which lends ballast to the comedy.  This is theater, while High Society is just a movie.  (See original entry on Best of Class.)  (2/8/06) 

13. Phorpa (1999).  When you go into your video store, there is a very good chance the counter people will recommend the wrong soccer movie, sort of a ninja soccer comedy.  Phorpa (translated “The Cup”) is much more moving, and definitely provides bemusement for the whole family.  Emigres from Tibet, the monks here in the reaches of India at Chokling Monastery deftly show the innocent allure of a global culture for young people released from Tibet.  The novitiates cannot resist the pull of the World Cup in soccer.  At the same time we see this little society hold onto Buddha and that for which they stood in the old country.  Director Norbu has credentials both as a filmmaker and teacher of Tibetan Buddhism (  It is based in general on a true story.  Also read relevant commentary in Gentle Voice about the movie (  (See original entry on Best of Class.) (10/12/05)

12. Four Weddings and a Funeral.  A hit and made on a shoestring.  Everybody from Episcopal priests to soccer moms will find this flick inappropriate, but it's a pretty good celebration of love.  And it's got one of the finest on-film readings of an W.H. Auden poem one can imagine.

11. Goldfinger.  The early Bonds with Sean Connery as 007 rise to the top of the rankings.  We particularly miss Gert Frobe and Odd Job.  Bond is never our of fashion, as evidenced by the fact that Corgi -- the collectible toy maker -- still turns out 007 incarnations.

10. Father of the Bride.  For once, we're not suggesting the original version.  Here we go for the over-the-top versions (I and II) with Steve Martin and Diane Keaton.  Martin Short as Franck earns extra points from all of us.

9. North by Northwest.  A bunch of Hitchcocks and a bunch of Grants could make it on to this list.  But little remarked Eve Marie Saint (also in On the Waterfront) helps make this a classy and comic thriller.  And then there's James Mason and a touch of Walter Pidgeon.  Nobody forgets the scene in the cornfield where the cropduster threatens to snuff out Cary Grant.

8. Much Ado About Nothing.  Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson, Denzel Washington, and a host of other half greats joyously take us through romance to jealousy to love ever after.  (The abysmal acting of Keanu Reeves is only a minor blight.)  This movie is even good for breakfast if you fear the day will be pedestrian and lacking in comradeship.

7. Waking Ned Devine.  The whole of a town wins the Irish Lottery, sort of.  This comic experience awakens a sweet village from its torpor.

6. Crocodile Dundee.  There are at least three episodes where Dundee stops predators (natural and human) dead in their tracks.  Neither the bush nor New York City can daunt our Australian hero.

5. Fawlty Towers.  John Cleese and his band of hellians will leave you in stitches as you see them abuse their guests and get into all sorts of jams at their hotel in Torquay.  Any episode will substitute for the wonderful raft of radio comedies that used to make Sunday evening a joy in America.

4. Auntie Mame.  Auntie Mame is Rosalind Russell, and all the imitators who have tried this part should be ashamed of themselves.  She is proof that no one who lacks the spirit of adventure and a taste for the colorful can educate children.

3. The Quiet Man.  John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara.  Pugilist John retires to Ireland and finds a lass who can bring out his boisterous side.  Wayne's comic war with the brother-in-law (Victor McLaglen) provides a barrel of laughs.

2. Cool Runnings.  John Candy and his band of Jamaicans put together an unlikely bobsled team that wins, in spirit, the world competition in Canada.  (See more on Best of Class.)

1. The Thin Man.  William Powell and Myrna Loy made six of these detective giggles, and they are all great.  The detective marries well, drinks his martinis with panache, but never quite manages retirement, getting involved with yet more murders and more zany characters.  Our only regret is that Powell and Loy never married in real life, since they seemed divinely suited to one another.

Best ToystoresChasing about the nation, we have looked at all the toy stores that the media praise. Well, the stores they laud are as humdrum as the current FAO Schwartz, a wonderful store that has been lobotomized by the current owners.   We have a couple, not on the charts, for you to inspect (we will be adding to this list).  For original entry, see Best of Class.

5. -new- The Attache List (December 1997, pp.74-83).  Back in 1997, toy collector Barry Janoff put together a fine toy store list for Attache, a fine airline magazine Pace does for U.S. Airways, this issue dating back to when that always troubled airway still had dreams of grandeur aloft.  We’ve been to many of the stores, and they are of mixed quality.  But each provides entertainments for the toy fancier in all of us.  They are:  Archie McPhee, 35110 Stone Way, North Seattle, Washington 98103.  206-545-8344.  McPhee is a very fun provider of toy kitsch and has a dribs and drabs catalog that proves it.  Classic Toys, 218 Sullivan Street, New York, New York 10012.  212-674-4434.  We hope this still exists: it’s a little mysterious den on a side street down in SoHo and could have been wiped out by rising rents.  Le Petit Soldier Shop, 528 Royal Street, New Orleans, Louisiana 70130.  504-523-7741.  This should be all right since it was in the quarter.  It has some beautiful hand-painted figures, and, as is the case here, enough wares are in the window to hint at its ambiance.  Nashville Toy Museum, 2613 McGavock Pike, Nashville, Tennessee 37214.  615-883-8870.  It’s a little hard to tell the current status of this museum, but at least you can get a history here.  It’s probably more of a train store now.  Star Wars Collectible & Old Tyme Toy Store, 6159 N. 9th Avenue, Pensacola Florida 32504.  904-857-1343.  This store seems to have moved so do some checking before you venture there.  Sullivan’s, 3412 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. 20016.  202-362-1343.  Actually this was a pleasant, run-of-the-mill store.  Toy Joy, 2900 Guadeloupe Street, Austin, Texas 78705.  512-320-0090.  The late hours here make it a thing to do after a bite in Austin.  It looks like a hoot.  Toys & Co, 803C Friendly Center, Greensboro, North Carolina 27408.  910-294-1114.  This is actually a rather typical mall store, but with more inventory than you will find at many North Carolina locations.  Interestingly, it has spread to a number of locations in the Piedmont and onto the coast.  U.S. Toy Company/Constructive Playthings, 208 West 103d Terrace, Leawood, Kansas 66206.  913-642-8247.  This shop and its many sisters had an educational tilt, its CEO once a preschool teacher, but it has since become all things to all people.  The Wound & Wound Toy Company, 7374 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90046.  800-937-0561.  Full of tin cars and other action toys.  Incidentally, U.S. Airways and America West are merging, with the new leadership coming from America West executives.  (10/19/05)

4. Hamleys.  We have it on the word of Forbes that this 200-year plus store in London is worth the visit, although we cannot remember for sure whether we liked the store or not.  But it is the sort of place you have to visit once anyway because it is a colossus. Besides, how can we resist visiting what claims to be the finest toyshop in the world?  See or  Hamleys.  181-196 Regent Street.  London.  Telephone:  011-44-202-2900.

Addendum:  One of our very faithful readers reports that there is a very big downside to the renowned Hamleys.  He says, "I have been to Hamleys three times.  It is always overcrowded, and it has a poor selection and absolutely horrible service.  Three episodes of unresolved frustration."  Well, we suppose you still have to go, though you may also leave very fast.

3. Le Petit Soldier Le Petit Soldier is ground zero for strategic warriors of all ages.  Ranged amongst the military medals, uniforms and antique pistols are battalions of beautifully hand-painted miniature soldiers from the time of the Greeks and Romans to the present day. We spied a legion of generals and other leaders:  Julius Caesar, MacArthur, Robert E. Lee and Mussolini to name a few.  But among the thousands of troops, we were most enchanted by the colorful Louisiana Tiger Zouaves, in blue-striped pantaloons and red fezzes.  Owner Dave Dugas knows his stock intimately and is not averse to trading war stories if business is slow.  Contact:  Le Petit Soldier Shop, 528 Royal Street, New Orleans.  Telephone:  504/523-7741. 

2. WoodShop Toys.  320 lst Avenue South, Seattle at Pioneer Square.  1-888-624-1763.  Owned by Douglas Norwood, a.k.a Top Dog, this store has a unique selection of most everything, so don't be fooled by the wooden toys name.  He claims he is "Often a circus, always a zoo."   This fits because his specialty is folkmanis puppets, darn cute animals of reasonable dimension that also happen to be puppets.  We found Doug lending voice to Chuck the Dog when we visited--so we bought Chuck the Dog.  Doug's father Willis started the store in l972.  Now Doug divides his time between his child life at the store and his six- and two-year olds at home.

1. Oz.  1977-1 Main Street.  Blowing Rock, North Carolina. 1-828-295-0770.  This is probably the only really charming shop in Blowing Rock, a wonderful tourist mecca where the stores have taken to kitsch.  We found Jim Thirtle busily putting more stuff on the shelves, pained a bit that he did not have enough room for all his new discoveries.  Suspended in the air was a vintage Roadmaster bike; on one side, a fair number of tin toys.  He and Iris claim to have all sorts of "needful things," which, I presume, are all needed by the Thirtles.  A retired contractor from Florida, Jim obviously thinks you can only get it truly right when you construct fantasies.



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