Monthly Archives: October 2010

Album: “Thriller”


Thriller contained nine songs, seven of which were released as singles. All made the top 10. It's the best-selling album of all time, and it still sells more than 100,000 copies a year, 28 years after its introduction. Uploaded by

Remember music videos? Okay, music videos are still being made, so let me put it another way: Remember when music videos mattered? If you can recall that distant past, you’ll know the impact that the album Thriller had on the pop music world. First came “Billie Jean,” pretty much Michael Jackson by himself. Then “Beat It,” with a group dance. And finally “Thriller,” probably the most famous music video dance ever. (Just ask Philippine convicts if you doubt this claim.)

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Of the nine songs on Thriller, seven were released as singles, and all went to the top ten. They included “The Girl is Mine” (No. 2), “Billie Jean” (No. 1), “Beat It” (No. 1), “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'” (No. 5), “Human Nature” (No. 7), “P.Y.T. Pretty Young Thing” (No. 10), and “Thriller” (No. 4).

Thriller was named the number 20 album on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. It won eight Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year. And it’s the best-selling album of all time, still selling an amazing 109,000 copies each year, 28 years following its initial release.

Films: The Movies of 1939


The Wizard of Oz is universally regarded as one of the best movies of all time - yet you could argue that there were at least a half dozen better in 1939. Uploaded by

For unknown reasons, some years just happened to feature more great movies than others. From time to time, we’ll feature the films of a particularly outstanding year as a Great American Thing. We’re starting with 1939, which some consider the best year ever in movies. Once you look at the films released that year, you may find yourself in agreement. Some of the best, in alphabetical order:

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Beau Geste – Gary Cooper in the French Foreign Legion. With Ray Milland, Robert Preston, and Susan Hayward.

Destry Rides Again – A Western, directed by George Marshall and starring Jimmy Stewart and Marlene Dietrich.

Gone With the Wind – Winner of the Academy Award, from amongst all these films, for Best Picture. See Great American Things, April 28, 2009.

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Goodbye, Mr. Chips – A British film, directed by Sam Wood and starring Greer Garson and Robert Donat as Mr. Chips.

Gunga Din – Cary Grant fighting for the Empire in Colonial British India. With Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Joan Fontaine, and Sam Jaffee as the title character.

Hound of the Baskervilles – One of two films in 1939 (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes was the other) pairing Basil Rathbone as Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson.

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Hunchback of Notre Dame – The best of many versions of this story. With Charles Laughton as Quasimodo and Maureen O’Hara as Esmerelda.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington – One of Frank Capra’s common man rises to heroic status films, starring Jimmy Stewart and Jean Arthur. Nominated for eleven Academy Awards.

Ninotchka – Greta Garbo laughs! A great comedy, co-written by a young Billy Wilder and directed by Ernest Lubitsch.

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Of Mice and Men – The Steinbeck classic brought to life by William Wyler. Aaron Copland composed the score. Nominated for four Academy Awards.

Stagecoach – Another John Ford western, featuring Claire Trevor and starring John Wayne in his breakout role.

Wizard of Oz – Judy Garland takes us down the yellow brick road, and ultimately somewhere over the rainbow. Only a modest hit upon its release, you can understand why when you see its competition here. Won three Academy Awards.

Wuthering Heights – Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon in the Emily Bronte classic. Earned eight Academy Award nominations.

Young Mr. Lincoln – Directed by John Ford, starring Henry Fonda as Abraham Lincoln.

Person: Ralph Lauren


Ralph Lauren started out selling neckties to his classmates in high school. Today he's the world's 173rd richest person according to Forbes, with personal wealth estimated at $4.6 billion. Uploaded by

Some people struggle through their lives, never finding what they’re meant to do, never experiencing more than a regular paycheck. Then there are those, like Ralph Lauren, who seem to understand their destiny from an early age. While still in high school, Ralph Lauren was known by his classmates as the guy who sold them neckties. In the yearbook he wrote that he wanted to be a millionaire.

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In the ensuing years, he’s sold neckties and every other piece of casual clothing that goes on the human body under his “Polo Ralph Lauren” brand. And he’s expanded into fragrances, bedding and bath products, furniture, and home decor. He now presides over one of the largest retail empires in the world, with annual sales in 2009 of just over five billion dollars.

Lauren has mastered the art of selling in tiers – the purple label for high rollers, the black label just below that, down to Polo, Polo Denim, Polo Golf, Polo Sport, etc. He’s ridden that polo pony to riches and fame. So how did the dream of the boy born Ralph Lifshitz do on his dream of becoming a millionaire? Pretty good, I’d say — Forbes named him the 173rd richest person in the world with a personal fortune estimated at $4.6 billion. Buddy, that’s a lot of neckties.

Food: Chili


Some people add strange things to a chili recipe, but you don't have to preen to create a hearty, satisfying dish. Uploaded by

When the calendar gets deep into fall and winter, almost nothing tastes better than a steaming hot bowl of chili. Now, what goes in that chili varies from individual to individual, but many of the best recipes have quality chuck beef, some variety of chiles, cumin, and probably some beer. What most chili purists won’t have, however is beans. (I’m not a purist, though; I like beans in my chili.)

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Now that any city worth its salt has a chili cook-off, and there are national competitions that showcase this hearty soup, we’ve learned the unconventional ingredients sometimes include in winning recipes. Some include: pineapple, honey, vanilla (sounds pretty sweet so far), bacon, grape jam, Peppermint Patties, pumpkin, peanut butter. And anything that will make your mouth blister.

To each his own. One personal observation — there’s no reason I can think of why good chili has to be blistering hot. Spicy hot, I mean. The tongue needs to savor the richness of the flavors, not be hanging out of the mouth looking for an icy drink to plunge into. There are lots of excellent chili recipes available online, but here’s a page that has the recipes of the Chili Appreciation Society International’s Terlingua Championship winners all the way back to 1988. Enjoy.

Song: “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”


The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face was Roberta Flack's first No. 1 hit (she had two more) and won the Grammy for Record of the Year and Song of the Year. Uploaded by

This is a testament to what inclusion in a movie can do for a song. “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” was written back in 1957 by Ewan MacColl as a love song to his future wife, Peggy Seeger. It was a folk song. It was fast and, contrary to Mr. MacColl’s protests to the contrary, forgettable.

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Roberta Flack recorded a fresh version, slowing it down and making it much more sensual. She has a beautiful voice, and she took the song to a different level. Even so, she included it on a 1969 album, and nothing ever came of it. Then Clint Eastwood (Great American Things, July 13, 2009) included it in his directorial debut, Play Misty for Me, and Flack released it as a single in 1972. It sent straight to number one, and stayed there for six weeks.

“The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” was Flack’s first hit, following a pair of solo albums that had a difficult time finding an audience. She would later have two more solo number one hits, and two top five songs with Donny Hathaway. “The First Time” won  Grammy Awards for Record of the Year and Song of the Year in 1973.

Travel: The Ahwahnee Hotel



Imagine the task of getting 5,000 tons of stone, 1,000 tons of steel, and 30,000 tons of lumber to a remote location - in 1927. Photo by QT Luong, uploaded by

As you can see by the tags for this entry, the Ahwahnee Hotel earns its way on this list in several ways. It’s a great hotel, so Travel. It’s been a part of Yosemite National Park Since its creation in 1927, so History. And it’s a combination of the architectural elements of the Art Deco and Arts and Crafts movements, so The Arts.

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The site for the Ahwahnee was chosen because it looks out on several of the most distinctive features of Yosemite, including Yosemite Falls and Glacier Point. It’s constructed of rough-cut granite, and what appears to be wood siding is actually poured concrete stained the color of pine bark and redwood. You can imagine the complexity of getting 5,000 tons of stone, 1,000 tons of steel, and 30,000 tons of timber to this remote location in 1927.

As a hotel, this 4-Diamond property provides 99 rooms, parlors, and suites, as well as 24 additional cottages. It offers a range of amenities that almost mock the idea of it being in a national park, from turn-down service to afternoon tea. If you choose to go, be sure and cash out some CDs — the cheapest room for a simple room with no breakfast is over $400…

Kid Stuff: Where the Wild Things Are


Published in 1963, Where the Wild Things Are won the Caldecott Medal as the most distinguished American picture book for children. Uploaded by

Where the Wild Things Are, written and illustrated by Maurice Sendak and published almost 50 years ago (1963), still is a favorite of children everywhere. According to HarperCollins publishers, it has sold more than 19 million copies worldwide as of 2008. The book won the Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished picture book of the year.

Poster from the 2009 film. Uploaded by

The story isn’t all that complicated, which is appropriate for its age group. Young Max puts on a wolf suit, gets into trouble, and gets sent to bed without his supper. Sendak draws monsters that are more likely to tickle than frighten, and his prose breaks rules in a way that kids find hilarious. By the end of the story, Max is ready to go back home, and home is once again ready for him. All is right in his world.

Wild Things has reached a special status now; the children who originally loved it grew up, and got to share it with their children. Now their grandchildren are smitten by it. The book is still in print, and one of the reasons it’s still popular is that its illustrations aren’t dated, those monsters look just as “scary” now as they did when it was first published. Kids still love this book — and their parents still love reading it to them.

Album: Tapestry


Tapestry won the big four Grammy Awards in 1972: Album, Song, Record, and Female Performance of the Year. Uploaded by

Carole King (Great American Things, March 28, 2010) isn’t one of the great singers of our times. Nor is she one of the great entertainers. But she is one of the great songwriters, and in Tapestry she brought her considerable talents to this 1971 album that still ranks, almost 40 years later, as the longest run a female artist has had on the Billboard chart: 305 weeks.

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A couple of the songs (“Natural Woman” by Aretha Franklin and “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” by the Shirelles) had already been hits for other artists. One more (“You’ve Got a Friend”) would become a number one hit for James Taylor (Great American Things, September 6, 2009). Even so, two of the other songs became number one hits for King (“I Feel the Earth Move” and “It’s Too Late”), and two others (“So Far Away” and “Smackwater Jack”) reached number 14.

Tapestry has sold more than 11 million copies in the U.S., and more than 25 million worldwide. The album won the top four Grammy Awards of 1972: Album of the Year, Song of the Year (“You’ve Got a Friend”), Record of the Year (“It’s Too Late”), and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. In Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, Tapestry was selected number 36.

Film: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs


Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs featured a lot of firsts: first American full-length animated film, first in Technicolor, first to have a soundtrack recording, first to have merchandising. Uploaded by

Computer animation can be a marvelous thing, and studios such as Pixar have taken it to a new level of excellence. So it’s hard to imagine what a marvel Snow White was when it was released in 1937. It was the first American full-length animated feature, and the first ever produced by the master himself, Walt Disney (Great American Things, April 14, 2009). It’s the first to have a soundtrack released, and the first to have merchandising support.

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Also hard to believe today is that most of those closest to Walt Disney tried to talk him out of making the film, including his brother Roy and his wife. “No one’s going to pay a dime to see a dwarf picture,” she said.  Walt thought it would cost $250,000 to produce, and ended up as a then unheard of $1.5 million. Disney had to mortgage his home to get the picture finished. The industry called it “Walt Disney’s Folly.”

But audiences loved it. It became the highest-grossing film of all time, a distinction it held for one year (Gone With the Wind). The movie earned Disney an honorary Academy Award “as a significant screen innovation which has charmed millions and pioneered a great new entertainment field.” The American Film Institute has named it number 34 in its 100 Years…100 Movies series, and the number one animated film of all time.

Americana: South by Southwest


First, there was a trade conference in Austin. A music festival grew out of it. Then a film festival, then an interactive technology festival. Any more, and Austin won't be able to handle it alone. Uploaded by

First, there was a music industry trade show in Austin. (It’s grown from about 700 to near 12,000 registrants.) Then, a bunch of bands got the idea that this would be a good place to come and showcase their music. (Now almost 2,000 bands perform on 80 stages across downtown Austin.)

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The organizers then thought, why limit this synergy to music? Why not include film and interactive technology? So in 1994 the festival became the festivals, and now independent film and emerging technologies also are showcased at SXSW.

Of course, as with any festival, there are parties…and food galore…and long lines. There’s media coverage, excessive iPhone use, and nonstop Twittering. But to those who love music and movies, and the professionals in those businesses, South by Southwest is one of the circled events on their calendar. By the way, if you want to circle it on yours, SXSW is celebrating its 25th anniversary this coming March: Interactive (11th-15th), Film (11th-19th), and Music (16th-20th).

Actor: W.C. Fields


The last movies W.C. Fields made were his best, but disease complicated by alcoholism brought his movie career to a premature end. Uploaded by

Most actors take pains to make sure you realize they aren’t like the characters they play. “That’s just a role,” they’ll say, “I’m much nicer than that.” That’s one of the reasons to love W.C. Fields: He was pretty much the same guy when the cameras weren’t rolling as when they were.

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Born William Claude Dukenfield (you can see why he changed his name), Bill’s hard-drinking characters didn’t like women, children, or dogs. But we liked him anyway. He appeared in 37 films, some of them shorts, but it was some of his last films we remember him for: You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man (1939), My Little Chickadee (1940), The Bank Dick (1940), and Never Give a Sucker an Even Break (1941). And you had to love the names he gave his characters, including Elmer Prettywillie, T. Frothingill Bellows, Prof. Eustace McGargle, and Cuthbert J. Twillie.

No discussion of W.C. Fields would be complete without remembering some of his famous quotes. Here are some favorites:

“What contemptible scoundrel stole the cork from my lunch?” … (When caught reading the Bible) “Just lookin’ for loopholes.” … “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then give up. No use being a damn fool about it.” … “Once, during Prohibition, I was forced to live for days on nothing but food and water.” … “Start each day with a smile, and get it over with.” … “After two days in the hospital, I took a turn for the nurse.”

Travel: Santa Fe


In 1912, Santa Fe mandated that all buildings be constructed in the Spanish Pueblo Revival style, giving the city a distinctive look in harmony with the surrounding Sangre de Cristo mountains. Uploaded by

Okay, here’s a trivia fact sure to win you a bar bet: Santa Fe, N.M. is the highest state capital above sea level. (Cheyenne is second, Denver third.) Maybe it’s the altitude that has made the city so different, and so fascinating. Certainly the surrounding terrain is beautiful, with the mountains providing a palette for the desert sun. The architecture is in the pueblo, adobe style — mandated by law. And the mix of people who call the area home is as varied as the rich tapestries for sale in the markets and galleries.

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Historically, the city is at the intersection of the old Camino Real and the Santa Fe Trail. Geographically, it’s nestled in the Sangre de Cristo mountains. Culturally, it’s a national center for art, opera, and the traditions of both Hispanic and Native American life. And spiritually, it’s been a destination for wide variety of truth-seekers throughout its history.

Santa Fe is celebrating its 400th anniversary in 2010. And it’s certainly not a secret these days. Conde Nast Traveler Magazine Readers’ Choice Awards poll named Santa Fe as the #3 most popular travel destination in the U.S. In the TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards, Santa Fe was rated as the #2 U.S. destination in the Relaxation & Spa category, #9 for Great Food & Wine, and #10 for Culture and Sightseeing.

Person: George Eastman


The original 1888 Kodak camera. Prior to Eastman's invention, cameras were about the size of microwave ovens. The Kodak camera put photography into the ordinary person's hands. Uploaded by

You have a camera. As inexpensive and easy as digital models have become, you may even own several. Then you owe a debt to the man who took early cameras, which were the size of microwave ovens, and invented a way for them to be held in the hands. George Eastman invented roll film, then created the personal-size box camera he called “Kodak.”

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As with many inventors, Eastman was single-minded as he worked on his invention. He’d work as a clerk in a bank all day, then come home and experiment in his mother’s kitchen into the night, sometimes sleeping on the kitchen floor. Clearly, his hard work paid off: In 1880, he leased space on the third floor of a building in Rochester, New York, and established the Eastman Kodak Company.

Eastman coined a slogan for his business that could be used today: “You press the button, we do the rest.” Of course, that would be unacceptable by today’s standards. The film had to be shipped to Rochester where it was processed, and prints sent to the camera’s owner. Eastman Kodak became hugely successful, and Eastman gave away much of his fortune, becoming one of America’s leading philanthropists.

By the way, the original Kodak camera cost $25. But think of that in 1880s terms…

Sports: Joe Louis


Joe Louis, the "Brown Bomber," remains one of the greatest champions in boxing history, completing his career with a record of 65 wins and 3 defeats. Uploaded by

Joe Louis is one of the greatest boxers in the history of the sport. But his contributions to American life went beyond the ring. In an era when, as says, “his people were still subject to lynchings, discrimination and oppression, when the military was segregated and African-Americans weren’t permitted to play Major League Baseball, Joe Louis was the first African-American to achieve hero worship that was previously reserved for whites only.”

Uploaded by of Louis’s success came from a wise public relations approach. White America still had bad feelings about black boxers due to Jack Johnson’s flamboyant lifestyle. Louis followed a strict set of rules designed to give him a clean image, and it worked.

He even became a symbol for America and freedom, in addition to his race. He fought a famous bout against German Max Schmeling in 1938. The Nazis promoted this as another proof that Aryans were superior to other races. They even said that Schmeling’s prize money would be used to build tanks in Germany. In front of 70,000 people at Yankee Stadium, Louis knocked the German out in two minutes and four seconds.

Louis had several other major rivalries during his career. He beat Jim Braddock (“The Cinderella Man”) to win the title initially, and he had two celebrated fights with Billy Conn, winning both. “The Brown Bomber” finished his career with a record of 65 wins and 3 losses. It was said that he was a credit to his race. Sportswriter Jimmy Cannon had a response to that: “Yes, Louis is a credit to his race – the human race.”

TV Show: Hill Street Blues


Its first season, Hill Street Blues received poor ratings. But then it received 21 Emmy nominations. It didn't have rating problems again. Uploaded by

From the moment the great Mike Post theme song came on, you knew you were going to see a different kind of show. Hill Street Blues wasn’t just a great cop show, it created the template for ensemble dramas to come. So N.Y.P.D. Blue, E.R., L.A. Law, St. Elsewhere – the least you can do is send Hill Street Blues a Christmas card each year.

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HSB ran on NBC from 1981 to 1987. Most episodes began at roll call, when Sgt. Phil Esterhaus would admonish his team, “Hey, let’s be careful out there.” The show usually went through a day in the lives of officers at a single precinct in an unnamed Midwest city. The language was gritty, as realistic as TV would allow at the time. And like most successful shows, the casting was outstanding, no small feat considering that the cast consisted of 15 or 16 regulars each season.

This is one of those times when network executives rewarded quality in spite of low ratings. The show’s first season would normally have let to cancellation, but NBC renewed it for a second season. Or at least, for 10 episodes of a second season. One factor that may have rescued the run is that it dominated the Emmy Awards. People wanted to know what was this program that got a record 21 Emmy nominations, and won eight. They tuned in, the ratings rose, and we got to have 132 episodes of the Blues.

Food: Peter Luger Steak House


The star attraction at Peter Luger is the porterhouse, cut to serve one to four people, and served pre-sliced with creamed spinach and German fried potatoes. Uploaded by

There are lots of world-class steak houses in New York City. Some are new and innovative, such as The Strip House and BLT Prime. And some have become institutions; Sparks and Smith & Wollensky come to mind. But one restaurant is the institution, the must-have steak in the Big Apple: Peter Luger Steak House.

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Located in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, Peter Luger has been delighting New York carnivores since 1887. The main attraction is a large porterhouse, prepared for one to four people. The steak comes to your table pre-sliced, served with signature creamed spinach and German fried potatoes.

Just how great is Peter Luger? The readers of the much-respected Zagat (Great American Things, July 26, 2010) New York Restaurant Guide have chosen it as their favorite for an astonishing 26 consecutive years. Here’s the Zagat commentary, in its unique style:

Now in its 26th consecutive year as our surveyors’ “favorite” steakhouse, this Williamsburg porterhouse specialist “lives up to the hype” as a “quintessential NY experience”, with lots of imitators but “none that compare” to the “real thing”; despite prime prices, theatrically “grumpy service” and an “inconvenient” no-credit-card policy, its worth the trek for what fans call the “best steak in the world – period.”

Singers: The Four Seasons


Franki Vallie and Bob Gaudio are 50-50 partners in The Four Seasons. The other two guys made a nice living, but... Uploaded to Flickr by chaplinatra.

Frankie Valli (or Frankie Tyler, Frankie Nolan, Frankie Valley, Frankie Valle as he was known before The Four Seasons) knew he wanted to be a pop singer. He struggled trying to establish an identity until he met Bob Gaudio, then playing with a group called The Royal Teens. (Old-timers might remember their one hit, “Short Shorts.”) Valli and Gaudio formed a partnership in 1961, and The Four Seasons took off.

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The Four Seasons were one of the few American acts able to still top the charts during the height of the British Invasion. Their popularity peaked in the mid-60s, but they continued to have songs make the charts as late as 1975.

Their Top 10 hits were: “Sherry” (1962, #1) … “Big Girls Don’t Cry” (1962, #1) … “Walk Like a Man” (1963, #1) … “Candy Girl” (1963, #3) … “Dawn” (1964, #3) … “Ronnie” (1964, #6) … “Rag Doll” (1964, #1) … “Save It for Me” (1964, #10) … “Let’s Hang On” (1965, #3) … “Working My Way Back to You” (1966, #9) … “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” (1966, #9) … “Tell It to the Rain” (1966, #10) … “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” (1967, #2) … “C’mon Marianne” (1967, #9) … “Who Loves You” (1975, #3) … “Oh What a Night” (1975, #1)

The story of the Four Seasons has been successfully retold in the musical Jersey Boys, which won four Tony Awards in 2006, including Best Musical. The Four Seasons were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (Great American Things, August 31, 2009) in 1990.

Screenwriter: William Goldman


William Goldman wrote five novels before it ever occurred to him to write screenplays. But when he got started, he did it better than anyone. Uploaded by

I have to acknowledge that William Goldman is one of my writing heroes. I found his novels, including Magic and Marathon Man, to be some of the most enjoyable reading I’d ever experienced. And that was before I realized that he was one of the most talented screenwriters in Hollywood history.

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Goldman had five novels published before he wrote his first screenplay. But since that time he’s written some of the best movies of the last half-century. I bet you’ve seen a bunch of them (* indicates adapted from his own novel):

Harper (1966) ——… Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969 – Academy Award) … The Stepford Wives (1975) … The Great Waldo Pepper (1975) … Marathon Man* (1976) … All the President’s Men (1976 – Academy Award) … A Bridge Too Far (1977) … Magic* (1978) … The Princess Bride* (1987) … Misery (1990) … Maverick (1994) … Absolute Power (1997)

In addition, he worked as a script doctor, helping get such movies as A Few Good Men and Last Action Hero into presentable shape. If you can find it, grab a copy of Goldman’s autobiography, Adventures in the Screen Trade. It’s one of the most famous (and honest) “Inside Hollywood” books ever written.

Kid Stuff: Duncan Yo-Yo


Duncan yo-yos were so popular that they were included among the very first toys included in the National Toy Hall of Fame. Yes, there is one. Uploaded by

It’s on a string. It goes down. It comes back up. What’s so great about that, to have it considered a Great American Thing? Duncan took this simple concept, which seems to date back to 500 B.C., and made it cool.


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They did it in part by having yo-yo professionals – yes, professionals – go around the country doing exhibitions. Kids loved it. The youngsters who’d mastered the art of getting the yo-yo to “sleep” and “walking the dog” could now do more impressive tricks, such as “around the world” and “rock the baby.”


While yo-yos were on a par with hula hoops and frisbees as a fad toy of the baby boomer generation, they’ve definitely not gone away. There seems to be a yo-yo community thriving online and in the social media, and Duncan still sponsors traveling pros and world championships. Duncan yo-yos were included in the initial class of the National Toy Hall of Fame.

Take a look at the video below to see the amazing things done with a yo-yo today, something earlier Duncan generations couldn’t have imagined:

Americana: Warehouse Club Stores


Costco is the largest of the warehouse club chains by sales, Sam's Club has the most domestic locations. Uploaded by

Personally, I love the warehouse stores. Of course, you don’t go to the warehouse store for a pack of gum. You go for a 24-pack. And if you want a can of green beans, it’s going to be a 6-lb. can. But that’s part of the attraction, even part of the fun, of shopping there.

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The major competitors in this retail segment are, in order of market share, Costco, Sam’s Club, and B.J.’s Wholesale Club. Sam’s Club actually has the most stores operating in the U.S., but Costco earns more per store.

And what stores they are! Selling to small businesses as well as individuals, the stores carry merchandise across a wide spectrum of categories. Food, electronics, jewelry, office supplies, eyeglasses, medicine, appliances, furniture, clothing, books, sporting goods, auto supplies.

I’ve gone in my local Sam’s, bought maybe $40 of merchandise, and realized I was the only person in sight who wasn’t spending at least a C note. The average sale at these stores is breathtaking. Oh, and I forgot to mention one attraction: food samples. Get a half-slice of pizza, a couple of crackers with cheese and luncheon meat, maybe a piece of sausage – you never know what’s going to be there, but it’s like trick or treating without having to dress up.