Five Things That Make Life Better on December 7, 2018


December 7, 1941 was a “date that will live in infamy,” as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said. The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and the United States entered the war — World War II — 77 years ago. I wasn’t there, but it doesn’t really seem like it was very long ago. Does it? (As I indicated last week, I have clothes that are older than I am — probably in their 60s or 70s.). Then again, I can’t believe it’s December already, so feel free to disregard my statements about time. (And confidentially, I play stupid, but I usually know I’m going to be about 5-10 minutes late, and so do my friends.)

 A greeting card awaiting the perfect occasion

A greeting card awaiting the perfect occasion

My list for the week starts now! (I’m emulating cable news shows.) (For no reason.)

1) Greeting cards, as they used to be called, are my jam. When I find something that resonates as a future birthday, get well, thank you, or congratulations message, I buy it. If it’s smart and funny enough, I might buy two. I know it’s old fashioned to send cards, and I know a lot of people just throw them out, but I like the opportunity of writing to people. I know I’m always delighted to receive a hand written note or card from a friend. It’s a perk-me-up in my mailbox.

 Magpie on Amsterdam Ave. in NYC

Magpie on Amsterdam Ave. in NYC

Because I am a #Giver, I will tell you some of the best sources for my card collection: the New Orleans Museum of Art giftshop, the gift shop at the Seattle Central Library, Madewell Stores (who knew?), a great shop called Magpie on the Upper West Side, and Book Culture bookstore on Columbus Avenue.


2) I also love to buy presents for friends at the holidays. Not all friends and not all holidays. But I enjoy matching person and gift. It’s like creating a successful blind date. I love watching the recipient’s facial expression when he or she opens my gift. I aim to please. That’s all.


3) I’m reading a book I am enjoying so much — and unusually for me, it’s a memoir. It’s Claire Tomalin’s A Life of My Own. Best known as a biographer — (of Thomas Hardy, Samuel Pepys, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, and Mary Wollstonecraft) — I read an excerpt online and then had to secure a copy of it. She writes so clearly and with such feeling of daily occurrences, and yet it’s unputtdownable.

[An] intelligent and humane book…There is genuine appeal in watching this indomitable woman continue to chase the next draft of herself. After a while, the pages turn themselves. Tomalin has a biographer’s gift for carefully husbanding her resources, of consistently playing out just enough string. When she needs to, she pulls that string tight.” —Dwight Garner, The New York Times


4) Do it Yourself Kiosks at the Post Office. You walk into the post office with energy, gusto, and some optimism. The line is long, but you assume since it’s Christmas season, there will be a lot of windows open to service the customers. There are only two windows being manned ,and one of the clerks is arguing with her patron. It’s going to be a long wait, and your phone only has 10% charge. As you start to unwrap yourself from the many layers causing you to perspire, you notice no queue at the self-service area. EUREKA! A victory. A victory for me and for you and the recipient of my packages. Frankly, I go to the post office all the time. And yes, sometimes the self-service machines are broken. Sometimes they too have a line. But if your package is already wrapped and sealed, it’s a much more efficient way to go.

5) As usual, you know who.


Any day… any day….

Happy Chanukah and Act Natural!




Five Things That Make Life Better on November 30, 2018


Today’s edition has the added attraction of a thoughtful and wonderful guest. It’s Elliott Forrest, a multi-hyphenate friend who is a voice artist, producer, director, tv presenter, and the host of WQXR-fm classical radio, and’s afternoon programming, 3-7 pm.


A friend wondered recently why “cashmere” wasn’t one of my five things. WHAT A GOOD QUESTION! And then my mind went to a funny place it visits semi-freqeuntly — the past, to childhood memories. In my youth, cashmere was an old-fashioned concept, associated to the Hollywood lore of (actress) Lana Turner being “discovered” at Schwab’s Drugstore wearing a tight cashmere sweater. That was before my time, thank you, but the sound of it lingered. Sweaters in our day were mostly Shetland or Merino wool, thicker, coarser, and scratchier than any cashmere. I’m not complaining; just saying. Our wool sweaters were sturdy (I still have my dad’s old tennis sweater) and perfectly wonderful We also had Mohair, and some Lambswool, but somehow cashmere had taken a time out. In the 1980s cashmere made its way back, but tentatively. In Manhattan several boutiques opened which only sold cashmere clothing at first; a novelty. By 1990 when my first exhibit ™ was born, cashmere had saturated the market. I know this because someone had bought him a Lilliputian baby blue cashmere pullover from TSE Cashmere. It could not have been cuter. And now, every sweater is cashmere it seems. A friend’s husband prefers the ones they sell at Costco. Have you ever? Thus ends the history lesson. And regarding the science lesson about how cashmere strands are pulled from lambs’ whiskers or throats or wherever, our science teacher’s car was towed this morning, so we must unfortunately postpone that class. Watch this space!

  1. I love cashmere. It’s finer, softer, and drapes better than those old thick yarns of old. The kings and queens of Cashmere have also figured out how to keep the price points lower: by blending them with silk, or cotton, or Merino wool, by buying in tremendous bulk (that’s you, Costco.!), and of course, you can always find cashmere pieces at second-hand and vintage stores. I cannot prove it, but I believe cashmere is warmer than other wools, because the stitches are smaller.

  2. Who doesn’t love a roaring fire when the temperature drops? I am crazy about them. Sitting in front of a fire is to me a full activity. It’s enough by itself — the smells, the sounds, the hypnotic effect of watching your logs turn into embers and ash. To read in front of the fire, or pet one’s dog, or listen to music — by God, that’s delightful! Alas I became fireplace-less two moves ago, but I enjoyed sitting near a fireplace last week.

 The author’s former fireplace

The author’s former fireplace


3. I’ve been ambivalent about Facebook almost since I first joined it in 2008 or 2009. (Seems both so long ago and so recent.) I am constantly thinking of dropping off of it altogether — and would if there were another way, frankly, to stay in touch with the old friends and schoolmates I only communicate with there, and if there were a more efficient way to direct attention to this blog and pod. However, I have become intrigued and attached to a group chat called “What Would Virginia Woolf Do?”, started by Nina Lorenz Collins. I don’t know what stroke of luck admitted me to this group, but I’ve only started reading it, realizing it’s a conversation about things high and low for women in their 40s and older. What moisturizer works best on dark circles on the eyes? What should I do about the old boyfriend who’s suddenly so eager to see me again? Advice comes from other women who’ve been in the same situations; so much of what I’ve gobbled up there is good natured. Since I’m late to this party, there is also a book version of What Would Virginia Woolf Do? I’m going to recommend it.

 Henry, last summer

Henry, last summer

4. Our amazing Henry is doing better! Thank you for all your great wishes, prayers, consolations, and anything else you might have done. Tending to him seems to be my new part-time (at least) job — what with the IVs, the long feedings, and so on, but he seems happier, and his markers are improving.

5. Don’twanttosayanythingmoreabouthim. Don’twanttojinxanything. Just putting this picture here and quietly leaving.

smiling Mueller.jpg

Elliott Forrest’s Five Things:

  1. His instapot.



2. His annual “Men’s Week”, now in its fourth decade.

 Men’s Week, circa 1990. Elliott is on the far right.

Men’s Week, circa 1990. Elliott is on the far right.

 And a more recent one. “What happens at Men’s Week stays at Men’s Week.”

And a more recent one. “What happens at Men’s Week stays at Men’s Week.”

3. GPS on his phone


4. Gratitude

5. Projects with Meaning — in particular, “Considering Matthew Shephard,” an oratorio, which Elliott directed. And here’s the link to the PBS special:


Thank you Elliott!

To all of you, stay strong and act natural.



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Five Things That Make Life Better on November 23, 2018


It’s the mother of all gratitude posts, or it should be, right? Thanksgiving is the holiday for sharing our blessings. Appreciation on all fronts, right?

With all the anger and meanness, intolerance and violence in the world right now, we sort of need Thanksgiving more than ever. Not the Thanksgiving of awkward dinners that devolve into cliques. Not the Thanksgiving of Uncle Sonny having too much to drink and saying that awful thing to cousin Binnie. Not the Thanksgiving of introducing new partners to the family that goes horribly awry. Not the Thanksgiving where half the table is blue and the other half red and everyone wants to sit with the kids.

This year my Exhibits ™ will be with their father. I already miss them like crazy. But it’s just a day, right? A Thursday, like many other Thursdays, but with a Tryptophan chaser. (By the way, I just looked it up and though we always think of turkey making us sleepy, it turns out that cheddar cheese has more tryptophan than turkey. Maybe we get tired for other reasons… Hmmm?)


Anyway, I’m grateful that my kids will be together with one another, and I appreciate that I will be with my significant other and my mother and other Birnbachs only a car ride away.

!. Henry, Exhibit D.

 Henry this week, in the hospital.

Henry this week, in the hospital.

Our wonderful dog Henry, who we adopted only in December, 2014, is not just a game-changer; he’s a life-changer. He is a lovely chap who has brought joy and calm into our lives. He’s a fantastic companion for me. (Writing is solitary and sometimes lonely-making.) and now Henry is quite sick. The vets are doing their best to improve his prognosis and make him comfortable and so are we. We are grateful to have him back home with us this Thanksgiving.


2. Newsletters like Brian Stelter’s Reliable Sources and The Hive from Vanity Fair. These arrive in my emailbox daily and are great reads when you are looking for digests of bigger stories. (Apologies to Mary Underwood.) Stelter’s focuses on the media and how different news sources are breaking and treating the news. I OBJECT TO THE TERM FAKE NEWS, by the way. There are newsletters about dressing, about shopping, about skincare, about relationships, about cooking, about gender, but these two are enough for me.


3. Plain yogurt. Not vanilla. Not French vanilla. Not plain with fruit at the bottom. PLAIN. For me the point of yogurt is its tartness. I find there is too much fruit in fruit yogurt, making the yogurt taste sweet, which again, is not the point for me. Then again, we live in a world in which people mix bits of Oreos in their frozen yogurt dessert, so what do I know?

I will try any and all yogurt brands. I love Liberté yogurt, but they seem to have stopped manufacturing their unflavored version. Years ago, when you traveled abroad, if you ordered yogurt at your hotel for breakfast, you’d get a big bowl of plain slightly sour yogurt with fresh fruits on the side. (I approve.) Now too often the yogurt on offer is Dannon (or Danone, depending on where you are), and utterly unexciting. Try plain next time you’re at the grocery. Tell me what you think.


4. 2018 has been a year in which several of my friends had serious health challenges. I’m sure many of you have dealt with the same thing yourselves. Fortunately, many of them have not just survived but have cleared great surprising hurdles of health. For that, I could not be more grateful.


5. What would this blog and pod be without Special Counsel Robert Mueller? I suspect that many Thanksgiving dinners included him in their inventory of appreciations.

Blessings to you all.

Stay safe and warm, and act natural!


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Five Things That Make Life Better on November 16, 2018

How have you been? I was away last week and missed you (actually I did). I was on a family trip and between the time differences and the amount of time needed to post this pod’n’blog properly, it was not possible to do. Next time I’ll prepare an episode in advance.

 My Exhibit and me in Jerusalem last week.

My Exhibit and me in Jerusalem last week.


To make it up to you, I’ve brought a guest to today’s proceedings. It is the writer and director of the new film, What They Had, Elizabeth Chomko.


1) I LOVE the way my phone can alert me that the call from Florida, Pennsylvania, (or wherever) is a telemarketer. It’s so nice just to ignore those intruders. (I really do think they intrude on my day.)


2) What They Had, a moving and honest movie about the effects of Alzheimer’s on a working class family in Chicago. Starring Hillary Swank, who produced it, it costars Michael Shannon, Robert Forster and Blythe Danner. Best of all, it’s written and directed by Elizabeth Chomko, a young woman who will be my guest on today’s podcast.


3) I traveled last week with a backpack. I can no longer imagine using a shoulder bag when walking as much as we did (5-7 miles most days). The backpack I carried was made by Aimee Kestenberg, and it’s in my favorite oxblood color. We met at a luncheon a few years ago, and the backpack showed up at my doorstep as a wonderful gift. Aimee’s background, as I recall, was in engineering and design, and she’s very good at the details — big zippers, well-designed compartments…. anyway, I loved having my hands free (often to hold onto railings) and to feel balanced!

Screen Shot 2018-11-16 at 5.42.18 PM.png

4) Mom and Pop stores. There are a few in my neighborhood that I make a point of patronizing: the pharmacy, a very old-timey stationery store, a jeweler who does pretty fast and good repairs, and the butcher. It’s not a judgment; I shop at chains too, but it’s a better feeling to keep the locals alive. And the service is just so much better. The proprietors get to know us, look out for us, and sometimes even anticipate our needs.


For years there was a spectacular independent bookstore on Madison Avenue called Burlington Books, owned by a reading genius named Jane. Her large black lab Ingrid (Could someone please confirm?) was often in residence as well. Jane and her staff (including the wonderful Dottie) got to know their customers intimately. The shop felt like a salon, somehow; patrons were encouraged to hang out and chat. Once when a new novel appeared from a writer I enjoyed, Jane sent it over to my house as soon as she got it, with a note, “I thought you’d want to read this.” I have mourned the demise of Burlington many times over, and dried my tears many times over. You cannot mimic that interest and insight, no matter how often you go to Barnes & Noble. And Amazon, for all the hoopla and mind-meld hasn’t and can’t figure out a way to Artificial Intelligence that.

military Mueller.jpg

5) Crossing my fingers and toes that Robert Mueller hasn’t been cowed, bullied, or threatened as the Mess in Washington gets messier. I want to thank him for his service, both as a veteran and as a holder of our feet to the fire.

Elizabeth’s Five Things That Make Her Life Better

1) FilmStruck, a streaming service for classic motion pictures.


2) Old Family Recipes


3. Her rescue pitbull, Maggie

4. Not Saying ‘I’m Sorry’ all the time

5. Classic musical comedy dance numbers.

 Donald O’Connor & Gene Kelly in “Singing in the Rain”

Donald O’Connor & Gene Kelly in “Singing in the Rain”

Finally, I’m thinking about Californians, north and south who are dealing with the loss, the fright, and the devastation of the fires. Wishing you all safety.

Be safe and act natural,




Five Things That Make Life Better for November 2, 2018


We can’t deny it is upon us: the “most important election of our lifetime.” For some reason, I hate that phrase. I think it is because it is overused; it is the boy who cried ‘wolf’ situation. We have said and we have been told that every election is the most important one. And now that we have a mid-term on which all the weight of correcting the ills and changing course are imposed, hearing that worn-out talk can sound like babble. (Yet, indeed the 2018 midterms are the most important elections so far. Truly.)

I do hope you will vote.

My Five Helpful Thoughts


1) Like you, I imagine, I have had really long waits and incredibly unfriendly service at the post office when I go there to mail a package or two. (“I just got here; why are you mad at me?”) However, I love Yaya, my mailwoman, and I appreciate the hard work she has and the good humor in which she labors. She has taught me how she layers socks and plastic wrap in her boots for the long winter days on her feet. Romeo, my previous mailman downtown was also wonderful. He really was my first friend in the neighborhood. When I read about the bombs being sent in the mail it made me remember how decent and thankless so many of the men and women of the postal service are. And we only know about those 14 intercepted devices. I am sure there have been plenty more of those. Thank you to these folks.

2) Last week I was part of a half dozen women friends at a performance of “Gloria, A Life.”


“Gloria, A Life,” is a play and a post-play discussion/salon/talk-back/group therapy session based on Gloria Steinem’s life and writings. She is portrayed by the effervescent actress Christine Lahti. I have to confess that even with video images of Steinem on the walls, I sometimes forgot that she was being portrayed by someone else. But the evening was even more special to me because of the group of women I got to join. A sophisticated mix of accomplished women of many backgrounds, they include an artist, bankers, a professor at NYU, a jeweler, and one of the producers of the play. (I’m the newbie and very honored to be one of this bunch.) We laughed, we cried, we talked. We listened. And we want our children and the men in our lives to see “Gloria, A Life” too.


3) “The Ferryman” Was high on my list of plays I wanted to see this fall. I didn’t know much about it beyond that it was written by Jez Butterworth (who wrote “Jerusalem”, the remarkable Mark Rylance play) it was imported from London where it was directed by Sam Mendes. He’s brought a first-rate production to Broadway. The story of an extended Irish family in Ireland in the early 1980s — it’s a kind of “August Osage County” set at the farmhouse just before the harvest celebration. There are plenty of children and wizened old people, an actual real human BABY, a live goose, and several rabbits. There’s a lot to see and understand in the play. The virulent anti-English sentiments of the older generations, bullying by the powerful in the neighborhood, the tug of tradition versus new ways of thinking, and always love. I couldn’t recommend this play more highly. It’s exciting to see a new play which isn’t based on a commercial movie from the 1980s or 90s. It’s exciting to be provoked into thinking. And it gave me many hours’ respite from you know what.

 Donald Fagen

Donald Fagen

4) We saw Steely Dan perform at the Beacon Theater on Tuesday night. It was weird doing something so frivolous with everything happening in Pittsburgh, but we had bought the tickets and we also have to live. Right? It is always amusing going to a concert of someone whose music meant a lot to me growing up. The audience is made up of older people…. like…. us….(I’m hyperventilating now.) Tuesday night brought a suprising mixture of ages. No, no babies but a lot of younger (and ardent) fans. Perhaps they were introduced to Steely Dan’s music by George St. Geegland and Gil Faison (John Mulaney and Nick Kroll) in their show “Oh Hello.” [Netflix trailer is here:] In any case, never did I feel so average (in the best possible way — I was like everyone else at the Beacon). At some point I stopped being the mother of three fine exhibits ™; I was just another happy college junior listening to some of my favorite songs. But even better too, because while I was compulsively listening to Aja, The Royal Scam, and Pretzel Logic, the band didn’t perform or tour. This tour is now over, but listen to their music, if you haven’t already.

Screen Shot 2018-11-02 at 4.38.30 PM.png

5) Some weeks — this one in particular — getting to 5 is a real effort. Thank you Robert Mueller, for making number 5 the easiest part of this work. And on behalf of many of my friends and many likeminded strangers, I would like to apologize to Special Counsel Mueller for the vulgar debasement that was attempted on his reputation. Of course, the attacks didn’t stick.

Make this “the most important week of your life.”

Stay calm and act natural, and most of all, VOTE.




Five Things That Make Life Better on October 26, 2018


I love the Fall. I like pumpkins (to look at). I loathe the concept of Pumpkin-Spiced everything. I like nicely decorated pumpkins, but I am no fan of Halloween. I’m sorry, but that’s the way I feel.

I don’t want to lose your friendship or following, but I have to be honest, and Halloween is (to me) a giant disappointment, jacked-up on sugar. [HYPOCRISY ALERT: I do appreciate a “fun size” candy bar — the kind they sell for Halloween: it’s the only time of the year I eat a Baby Ruth, Bit’o’Honey, or mini 3 Musketeers.]


With that out of the way, let me wax on my five good things for the week.

1) Ankle boots. Who’d a thunk they would make the difference between a decent outfit and a cool one? (Though not terribly, preppy, alas.) With pants they are fantastic. I like them because they take no time to put on. I used to hate the way an ankle boot looked with a gap between the ankle and the hem of a skirt or dress, but I’ve been persuaded that that’s a good proportion.


2) Tiffany Haddish is hilarious. She is one antidote to all the negativity that surrounds us. Once, while seeing a comedy in a movie theater, I saw a trailer for “Night School,” in which Tiffany Haddish’s 30 seconds were funnier than anything I paid to see. You need to figure out who makes you smile these days and keep their video or audio clips on your desktop. For emergencies.


3) Days When I cross all my tasks and projects off my to do list.

These don’t happen frequently. I’m hoping that by putting this into its digitally permanent place I will goad myself into having more productive days. You know how it is — you’re in the middle of doing something — working on a project, researching health insurance plans, writing a thank you note — and then, PING! A news alert. Your train of thought is interrupted, and you begin to worry about what’s going on in Washington, or Turkey, or the house next door. You call your elderly dad just to say hi. You text your kids to make sure they’re where you think they are. You start telling everyone you love them before you say goodbye on the phone…. even your Spectrum customer service robot.

Experts say that to-do lists are part of the secret to the success of …. the successful. So put that into your vape.


4) VOTING. It’s our right and a privilege of being an American citizen. Please do it. I’ve got mine here and will send it in today, as I will not be home on Election Day.


5) Please tell me there are no Robert Mueller Halloween costumes, or worse, “Sexy Mueller” costumes. That would just…. be wrong. Keeping Mueller in my thoughts, and ask that you do too.

Stay calm and act natural





Five Things That Make Life Better on October 19, 2018


I’m writing this from the west coast, where we are visiting family and friends for a few days. When the weather is good here, it is magical. When it’s bad, it’s not too bad (not counting earthquakes, fires, more fires, and mudslides.) In any case, the weather, the views, the Pacific Ocean — all sources of great pleasure and gratitude.

I am writing this week’s blog at a desk in a friend’s beautiful house in San Francisco. I wish you could all see the view of the Pacific Ocean that I see right now. Oh wait; you can:


We’ve had a great visit and I’m not even thinking about the fact that I haven’t watched the news on tv once in 11 days. Coincidence? I think not.

Here are my Five Things.


1.) Not to beat a dead horse, but even though I am in America, I have avoided the news as much as possible since I left home. My phone is nestled in my pocket or my purse. The news alerts which have me trembling and panicking day and night in New York are at a remove. It’s me on vacation mode, and it feels pretty good. And yet… and yet… When I do want to use my phone to take a picture or text an exhibit ™, I’ll see the words “Breaking: Washington Post: State Dept.” or something similar, and my heart sinks.

When I return home in the next day or so, I will turn on the news and read more of the Times than just reviews, food, puzzles, and other lighter distractions. I will dig back in, and get worked up and feel responsible. But not now. Not just yet.

2.) Letters.


I like to write letters. I also like to receive letters. I prefer them to emails. There is effort involved, but in the scheme of things, not too much. Choosing your paper and envelope. Looking up your friend’s zip code. (Easy.) Putting on a stamp. Going to a mailbox. Getting a surprise in the mailbox in turn. It’s not just bills and catalogues!!! It’s an instant memento.

3.) Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex


You may laugh, write me off as a silly person, (which I am), but I like looking at pictures of Meghan Markle. I like her looks. I like her smile. I like her energy. I like her manner. I like her clothes. I like watching her transformation into a Windsor. I like the idea of her. And now she will be a mummy. Oh I like that too. Sometimes I go over to Google and plug her name in the search bar and enjoy a couple of minutes’ respite from the online craziness of our world and look at photographs of this happy and poised young woman.

4.) Watching My Kids Grow Up

The Exhibits ™ aren’t getting any younger. The are all in their 20’s now, and are very much coming into their own. “(idiomatic) To reach a stage of development or maturity where one has achieved strength and confidenceeconomic security, or respect and social acceptance.”


Despite my interference or with my help, A, B, and C are becoming adults, following their own individual paths, and making independent strides. I am proud of them. They make my life better and give it meaning. Sometimes, though, I wish they were Bonsai Children, who I could keep tiny and by my side forever.

5.) I wonder what Robert Mueller is doing this weekend? Wisconsin’s homecoming? Parents’ Weekend somewhere? I have a feeling he’ll be working overtime, and for that I am grateful.


Until next week, stay calm and act natural.




Five Things That Make Life Better on October 12, 2018


Welcome to my Five Things, a weekly blog in which I reveal much more about myself than I ever intended. If you are new to this page, I’ve been at this since last March, when I starting writing the blog as a kind of gratitude exercise and to remind myself that not everything was terrible in the ‘new normal.’ Now my blog and companion podcast are an essential part of my week; I no longer approach them kicking and screaming. And I hope to spur you to find a minimum of a handful of good moments or feelings or tastes or sounds in your week as well.

1) When I was in my 20s and 30s I used to say my body was made up of 80% french fries; 20% sarcasm. To be candid, I cannot resist a french fry if it is sitting on my plate or even on the plate of someone at my table. If I am offered a choice of a side salad or a side of French Fries, I don’t ever think or even hesitate. I don’t love all French Fries, but I’ll eat any of them. I mean, after all, they are a conveyance for salt.

I like them thin, not so crispy on the outside that they’re not soft on the inside. I’m not a snob; I love MacDonald’s french fries and I love the pommes frites at Quatorze Bis. (Not a huge fan of steak fries, in case you care.) HOWEVER, I am going to try to cut back. Just un peu. Just for now. Just to see if life is better or worse without a packet of fries around my waist.

 These French Fries look like the Platonic Ideal of fries.

These French Fries look like the Platonic Ideal of fries.

2. I know a lot of people who find calm and pleasure from watching videos of small animals. Or of any animals. Or the genre of videos of two species being friendly — that goat that loves a cocker spaniel, or the cat and the seal that are best friends. I am diverted by funny animal moments too, but my favorite distraction is Paul Newman, the actor.. I love the photograph of him dancing (the monkey? the frug? — only someone over the age of 48 could know the answer to that one) with his wife, Joanne Woodward. I see fun, whimsy, joy, elegance, and unforced sexiness in that shot.

Speaking of ‘unforced sexiness’, in the Newmans we see the real thing — palpable chemistry between people who look like real people, as opposed to the trying-so-hard, coarser, come hither poses that leave nothing to the imagination. I know I sound like an old fogey, and I resent that! I’m a middle-aged fogey, if you please. But fully dressed they seem thoroughly appealing and alluring. Anyway, Paul Newman was the best looking man I ever saw (or met), a cool guy, a philanthropist, and someone who didn’t seem to take himself too seriously. I will be very content to look at pictures of him for the rest of the week.


3. Kickstarter and IndieGoGo.

Are you familiar with these seeding/investing/crowd-funding sites? I always find cool inventions through them, and I feel better buying from startups than buying from giant corporations. There are always videos of the team behind the invention and they help you understand more about the product they’ve created. There are interesting items in the health and fitness categories, like the Ostrich pillow; great stuff in the travel accessory department — like rolling luggage with an attached USB charging port. For the holidays this year, I’ve already bought my exhibits ™ presents from these two websites. #NoNotTheOstrich

 The Ostrich Pillow, for napping (or scaring people)

The Ostrich Pillow, for napping (or scaring people)

I wasn’t sure how they were different, so I asked Google. “Probably the biggest difference between the two platforms,” Google wrote, “is their approach to money and when you get it. Funding on Kickstarter is all or nothing. ... Funding on GoFundMe is not all or nothing. That means you keep whatever money you raise regardless of whether or not you reach your designated funding goal.” Since we’re all inundated with ads on every single platform, I decided to explore the crowd-funders this year. (Yes, I know that retailers as a group are hurting.)

4. The New York Public Library, Library for the Performing Arts


This New York treasure is also, strangely enough a kind of secret, or at least not terribly well-known. Nestled inside Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts (specifically between the Metropolitan Opera and the Vivian Beaumont Theater), this library, open to the public, offers free concerts, exhibitions, recitals, and so forth that are well worth a visit. Perhaps you’ll find costumes or set designs for the ballet created by Alexander Calder. Or the story of Leonard Bernstein through videos, photographs, and documents. Or even the backstage memorabilia of a great Broadway diva. (Currently you can learn about choreographer Jerome Robbins.) Even more magically, library card holders can watch videos of entire Broadway plays (everything since 1962), operas, concerts, ballets, and modern dance. The archives here are extensive and exclusive. It’s like getting a first row center mezzanine seat for free.


5. Gratitude is all I have for Robert S. Mueller. Go get ‘em, tiger!

Stay calm and Act Natural.