BOOK REVIEW: On teaching kids about people of color (blue) - Danny Blue's Really Excellent Dream by Max Landrak

Once in a  blue moon,  everyone has  a really,  really excellent dream. 
How easy is it to write a good 10-and-under children's book?

Flip through the dozens of thin, large-format offerings in the 10-and-under kids section of any bookstore and you think, c'mon, how hard can that be? Large type, short sentences, the occasional big word thrown in (because kids these days listen to your business calls) and of course, cutesy illustrations - not photos. Drawings please. 

Hey, my kid could do that!

But flip a little slower and you'll discover just what it takes to achieve that winning trifecta: a fresh, engaging voice that's accessible but not infantile; a plot that's uncomplicated but not predictable;  a visual treatment you feel you haven't seen somewhere else before ... all laddering up to a stunning central premise that's carried unslavishly to the final endpaper. And if it's also a parable without being preachy, all the better. Once in a blue moon, a book nail…

The handsomest cars in Cuba: a reader reports curbside

One of the nicest things about writing a book is having readers pop up out of the woodwork and regale you with their tales of retracing your steps, doing it better, faster, slower, weirder (and even enthusing about some of the same obscure obsessions as you...)

Lydia Bogner, who hails from Massachusetts, discovered the Handsomest Man after taking a "lazy, 5 day cruise for my daughter and I, via Miami."
Finding your book at the library was pure serendipity and truly has strengthened and magnified my memories of our one day in Havana. Reading it enhanced both my understanding of the Cuban people and my memories. Having been to San Salvador 3 years ago, I can't help but compare the survival instincts of these 2 different cultures. Salvadoreans must survive the gang violence, and Cubans must work and eat one day at a time...  Love me, love my Cuban car So what was the first thing Lydia went looking for in Cuba? Not the handsomest man, but handsomest cars!
I looked for cars …

Thanksgiving in NYC: The Rent Stabilized Model

A WHILE back, I organized the odd thanksgiving for NYC transplants and itinerants, aka “orphans.”

Well, there must have been a lot of subsequent adoptions because this year, beau and I found ourselves to be the only orphans without invites in town. So we decided to do as the rent-stabilized might and the rent-controlled do, and seek out some turkey action at a local diner.

But to work up an appetite, why not bookend a Thanksgiving meal with a bit of New York starchitecture, conveniently served hot and happening along the Highline? 

See that gobletty thing wedged between the buildings? That's Thomas Heatherwick’s "Vessel," a honeycomb-like structure made of interlocking staircases, soon to be populated by thousands of bodies, aka the gum-chewing, selfie-snapping public. Like Calatrava's Oculus, it looks like it's elbowing for room in a subway car between those adjacent towers, but that's New York for you.

There are also a bunch of art installations flanking t…

Product Review: The Rinsten Spring Shock Absorber for bicycles

Pros:Simple device, fits on any bikeAccommodates riders up to 150 kg (330 lbs)Appears to work, good on small wheeled bikesMinimalist aestheticRelatively Inexpensive Considerations:You can’t as easily carry your bike upstairs on your shoulderGets in the way of your toolbagYou may need to cut down your seatpost to make it the right heightSome may not like the “oscillating” sensationAdds 392g (0.85 lb) VIDEO: A glimpse from the road

I WAS recently contacted by a mysterious person on LinkedIn, asking if I’d test a new bicycle shock absorber. The contact had a rather long, rather foreign-looking name, and I confess my first reaction was to dismiss it as a scammer from Russia along with the zillions of emails I get from factories in China asking if I want to order some traffic cones (yes, I’m the inventor of the Traffic Cone Bag). 

But since I was heading out of the New York tundra and into a perfect Australian summer, I said, sure, beam it over!

When I arrived in Sydney and the package lan…

Still rolling after 45 years: the Kosta Boda snowball

FOR THE BENEFIT of those Downunder: last week was Thanksgiving, the day when 'mericans down tools and celebrate the "the blessing of the harvest and the preceding year," according to Wikipedia

It's more like the blessing of the buffet, and generally not a day to bear gifts except for oneself: stores are now opening on the actual day of nothing sacred? 
As an advertising/marketing pundit I use retail therapy to keep abreast of product design and retailing strategies (ok that's my excuse). My destination? The TJ Maxx outlet in Wilton, Connecticut, where I'm visiting for the holiday. Today it was empty. One explanation: TJ's merchandise is always on sale, so there's no real reason to make a beeline for it on Black Friday. 
"You're the first customer to acknowledge that," said the bored gal at the jewelry counter where I pondered over a pair of truly fake-looking gold Ralph Lauren hoop earrings for $12. "Everyone else is demandi…