Saturday, December 26, 2015

Best of the Year

Broadway Shows. Football plays. Donald Trump insults. At this time of year it's customary to publish a list of the best of everything. Each beat writer scours his or her little corner of the world, and compiles a subjective list of the things that stood out to them above all else. Some lists you look forward to eagerly: best books, best movies, best new restaurants. Others are less useful, but still of interest: best corporate apologies, best fashion faux pas', best amazing-technology-that-is-actually-more annoying-than-useful (we're looking at you, Google Glass). And others cater to a, well, very specific audience: best blow dryers, best strange new musical instruments, best oddball job interview questions. And yes, those all exist.  

As for me, my universe is much smaller. And so to compile a list of the best of most things would be disingenuous at best. After all, to say that "these" are better than "those," you have to have partaken of all of "them" that make up the set. And about the only universe of which I have total knowledge of is, well, me. So in that light, here are some of my personal yearly superlatives, taken from boxed sets wherein only I have had the complete experience.

Best Nap. While there are many contenders, I would have to point to the one on March 19. By about 3PM I had finished up everything in my office and the phones were quiet. I decided to catch up on a little reading on the couch. Five minutes in, after I realized I had read the same paragraph three times, I took off my glasses, put my book on the floor and closed my eyes. Twenty minutes or so later, I woke up. Very refreshing.

Best Sandwich (Homemade Division). Numerous contenders, but it would have to be one from September 5th. Nothing too fancy, but we had some good rye bread, as well as some pesto left over from dinner the night before. Add some thinly sliced turkey, some Swiss cheese and some lettuce, and the result was sublime. Runners up: too many peanut-butter-and-jelly efforts to mention.

Best Use of Coupon(s). I'm not a big coupon user, so each instance stands out. But May 15 was one of those serendipitous combinations of events. I had ripped my pair of blue pants. Fortuitously, the kind I like was on sale at Kohls. Also, I had woken up to find a 20% off coupon in my email. And my wife had left on the counter a $10 Kohls Cash chit that expired a day later. So starting from a "list" price of $55, all in I was able to walk out of the store with my wallet being just seven dollars lighter. Supremely satisfying.

Best Beating of Traffic. Like most of you, 90% of the time I'm driving someplace I know the way. However, that doesn't mean that it's the best route considering what's on the roads at that moment. And so I have started to always use Google Maps to guide me (some of you prefer Waze; while hardly a Bush/Trump choice, that's a style debate for another time). Which brings me to November 26, Turkey Day. I've driven to my mom's place in New Jersey a thousand times. But to counter Thanksgiving traffic, it vectored me on routes I would never have considered. The result is that it only took an extra 15 minutes to get there on one of the busiest travel days of the year vs. a sleepy weekend in June. Drive on.

Best Walk. (Tie) December 7, 8, 9. Three successive days when I had very early starts in downtown Manhattan, but was finished by noon. Being the end of the year, an unseasonably warm stretch of days and nothing pressing in my office, I decided to walk from Wall Street to Grand Central, each day taking a different route. One day I meandered through Tribeca and Soho, another up Broadway, a third via Chinatown and the East Side. On each route I explored places in the Big Apple I never knew existed, finding donut shops, hat emporiums and vest-pocket parks that demanded to be sat in. And bonus points for the exercise of a three and a half mile hike. Can you say win-win?

I can hardly wait to see what tops the lists in 2016. Happy New Year!


Marc Wollin of Bedford hopes you had many bests in 2015. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

For Immediate Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE. Just in time for the holidays, it's the publishing event of the year! Hot on the heels of his New York Times bestseller "Killing Reagan," the author of "Killing Jesus," "Killing Lincoln," "Killing Patton" and "Killing Kennedy," superdupermega media personality Bill O'Reilly publishes his earth shattering 7th non-fiction-novelized-historical-revisionist-mostly-accurate-with-a-twist account of the story of St. Nicholas. Available today, be among the first to read the book everyone will be talking about around the tree, KILLING SANTA.

If you grew thinking you knew the story of the Jolly Old Elf and his yearly trips to reward good little boys and girls, well, get ready to be shocked. Using recently discovered undiscovered documents, refuted and debunked claims that include minor grains of truth, cherry picking facts to fit his narrative, and just plan bluster, O'Reilly lays bare the myth you only THOUGHT you knew about St. Nick and his so-called "reindeer." (More on them later.)

For the first time, O'Reilly brings his patented "No Spin" approach to expose the truth behind a fictional character. Never again will you walk past a fat man in a red suit and think all is well. After you read KILLING SANTA you'll see the darkness between all that tinsel. And you'll know the difference between a patriot elf and the pinhead variety.

Using as his starting point the original Saint Nicholas, O'Reilly traces the history, legends and liberal bias that has resulted in the Kris Kringle we know today. Using interviews with current and former children, discredited elves, disgruntled national security operatives, retired military commanders with an ax to grind, conservative think tank spin masters and hosts of other Fox "news" programs, he races through history to frame the tarnished story behind the cherished Christmas tradition.

In KILLING SANTA, you'll learn about the secret deals made between Big Toy and Big Pole concerning Talking Barbie and Silent Elmo. You'll be a fly on the wall during the negotiations between the Reindeer Coalition and FedEx, as they divide up the ceremonial vs. actual process of moving 15 million presents in a single night. And you'll see how our western tradition of giant bows for Lexus cars is under siege by radical Islamic terrorists.

And the early reviews are just what you'd expect.

Donald Trump: "Look, I don't need Santa, because I have everything. Did I mention I‘m rich? And elves love me. Even the Mexican ones. But if you don't have as much money as me, and still want presents, then this book, which, admittedly isn't as good as my New York Times bestsellers, is still pretty good, and tells you the real story."

Bernie Sanders: "I mean, let's not mince words about the holiday season: it's an excuse to maximize corporate profits on the back of a captive work force. Doesn't matter if it's China and miners, or the North Pole and elves. To that end, O'Reilly gets it right. I mean, the man's a right wing nut, but I think people are sick and tired of hearing that naughty or nice crap! Everyone should get presents. That's not socialism. That's just – well – it is socialism, but it's good socialism! And O'Reilly, call him what you will, lays it all out there."

Ben Carson: "I think it's good to talk about Christmas. Christmas is nice. We need to be nicer. On the talk shows we're not being as nice as we should be. And Bill is a nice man, even if he is a little loud. He would be nicer if he was quieter. But his book is nice. Reading is nice."

Hillary Clinton: "I usually don't agree with Mr. O'Reilly. But I do have a 12-point plan to rein in the excesses of Christmas. And to that end, I can see where he is coming from. You see? For those of you who like his book, we do have common ground. My 14-point plan details the 23 steps we can take so we can all celebrate this wonderful ecumenical-celebratory-occasion-not-offensive-to-anyone together."

Miley Cyrus: "O'Reillyyyyyy!!! Santaaaaaa!!! Partyyyyyy!!! Yeah!!!"

If there is one present under your tree this year, make sure it is KILLING SANTA. Available online and wherever you can find a store that sells actual books. KILLING SANTA. You'll never look at Christmas the same way again.


Marc Wollin of Bedford wishes all a happy holiday. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

A Tweak Too Far

When we talk whether we've made progress in the world, we usually talk in big sweeping concepts. Equality. Technology. Diversity. Without a doubt we've advanced in all these areas beyond where we were 100 or 50 or even 5 years ago. But when you get down to the details, you sometimes have to concede that perhaps the case isn't so clear cut. Indeed, we're sometimes forced to admit that perhaps we may have pushed the envelope too far, and what we view as groundbreaking actually takes us backward.

Such is the case with the lowly three-ring binder.

I know, I know. This sounds perilously close to an Andy Rooney moment. Rooney, who had a long and distinguished reporting career going back to World War II, was perhaps best known for his postscripts on "60 Minutes." From his very first television rant in 1964 entitled "An Essay on Doors," he became famous for his three or four minute monologues musing about such everyday things as bottled water or shoes or paper clips. It's not that he didn't tackle the bigger issues of the world. But ask anyone who remembers his end-of-show grumblings, and they will more likely recall him saying something like "Did ya ever wonder about cat food? I have, and I don't even have a cat."

And so it was when I went to get a notebook from the store. I wasn't looking for anything special, just one to match the 20 others I had on my shelf holding past editions of this column. They max out when filled with about 26 plastic sleeves, each of which holds 2 columns, which works out to a year's worth per binder. And having just passed into the 21st edition, it was time to spend the couple of bucks to protect these valuable jottings for the ages. No, it's not the Gutenberg bible, but it's what I got.

Looking at my shelf, in one sense you can see an example of the progress of civilization over the last two decades in these most pedestrian of office supplies. When I started, they were made up of two vinyl-covered cardboard covers and a half inch central spine, with round rings attached to the inside center. Simple, effective and utilitarian. About 15 years ago they flattened the round rings a bit, enabling you to more easily have all the pages lay flat when a full binder was opened. A small step, to be sure, but a meaningful advance in organizational technology.

Then about nine years ago, a significant change: they moved the ring assembly from the center spine to the back cover. Even more than the flattening of the rings, this helped the binder to lie flat when open, and the pages not to bunch up. Just like Apple inventing the iPod when no one even knew they needed a music player, this was truly progress ahead of public sentiment. Then building on this momentum, about 6 years ago they changed the shape of the rings even further to a flattened "D." If it was possible to make pages lie flatter, they achieved that holy grail.

Which brings us to this year's model. Once again, "they" must have stayed up late in the lab, and came up with the concept of extending one side of the ring a little further, to better align the pages. I'm sure they thought that this binder goes where no binder had gone before. And it does. But not in a good way. You see, the binder is a comfortable smidge larger than your standard 8 ½ by 11-inch piece of paper. But this offset ring pushes the paper beyond that border. And so now my carefully curated clippings aren't completely protected, but hang off the edge. I might just as well burn them or use them as flooring for a hamster cage. Well, maybe that's a bit much, but you get the idea: the edges are subject to bending.

The point is regardless of whether we're talking about nuclear power or super computers or legislation, sometimes you can go too far: you can blow right past perfection in your quest to be even more perfect. How many times have you decided that your new phone or software update has actually been a step backwards? Sometimes you need to appreciate where you are, and that going further doesn't really help.

And a little binder shall teach them.


Marc Wollin of Bedford like to be organized. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

What I Don't Want

When you were a kid and someone asked you want you wanted from Santa, it probably took you less than a millisecond to respond. No hemming, no hawing; you had a list, had checked it twice, and only hoped that you had tallied up more points on the nice vs. naughty side of ledger to make it a reality. Be it model or doll, game or bike, you could describe it in minute detail, tell the inquirer its unique features and exactly which store had it in stock.

Fast forward any number of years, and things have changed a bit. Yes, there's the old adage that the only difference between men and boys is the price of their toys. (Mind you, it's not a sexist statement: it's the same for women and girls, and probably more so, but it doesn't rhyme.) But while as an adult you might have things you covet, the older you get the smaller the list is likely to be. Partly it's because you have a lot of stuff: how many latte makers can you own? Your taste is probably more selective as well: just any another sweater won't do it. And even though it's not your money, the cost probably figures into your desire: sure, those earnings or that jacket are exquisite, but do you really want your loved one spending so much of their hard earned dollars on you that way? On second thought, it ain't your money, so what the hell.

I'm no different from you. As I cruise through the sheaf of circulars in the mail or the full page ads in the paper or the online etailers, there are any number of things that attract my attention. But what stands out are not the things I want, but those I don't. That's not to say they don't make me stop and take notice. But once I pass the "ooooo" factor and think about it's likely lifespan in my life, I measure it in weeks if not hours. We're not talking about the joke gifts that are out there, from exploding golf balls to bacon toothpaste to dribble coffee mugs. I'm talking mainstream gifts that are proudly above the fold. From all avenues, here a few things I think I can do without.

In the tech world, the gift of the year is a drone with a camera in it. Amazing technology, to be sure, and that fact that it comes at a price point anywhere less than a fighter jet is somewhat amazing. But since I'm not planning on aerial surveillance of my neighbor, it's likely to be one and done. And any gift that requires me to file a flight plan with FAA before I unbox it probably is more trouble than its worth.

I may not be a kid, but I like do like toys. And so I'm always looking at what the little one sare clamoring for. One that caught my eye was a Wubble. Described as a cross between a balloon and a ball, it comes in various sizes up to several feet. You inflate it, and do, well, ball things with it. But it doesn't seem too durable. The first three reviews on Amazon are "Horrible product," "Don't waste your money!!" and my favorite, "Makes Kids Cry."  Next!

I'm not a gun enthusiast, but depending on which set of statistics you believe, somewhere between 20% and 45% of the country is, including 12% of women. Add to that is the fact that Black Friday is the day when more guns are sold than any other during the year, as tallied by FBI background checks. Still, even I was looking to be packing and I were a female, I would pass on the Browning Range Kit for Ladies. Consisting of eye and ear protection, the fact that the items are better sized for females is a good thing. But the fact that it's all trimmed in pink takes a certain edge off the firepower. Nothing says "self-protection" like a Glock with glitter.

I hate to look the proverbial gift horse in the mouth, but if these were on your list for me, please don't. Get me some Nutter Butters, or a movie pass or just buy me a drink the next time we're together. Beyond that, keep your money in your wallet, and leave the bungee office chair on the shelf.


Marc Wollin of Bedford wants nothing for the holidays but good wishes. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.