76: Is Niagara Falls a tourist trap?

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John Steinbeck visited Niagara Falls in 1960, while on his Travels with Charley roadtrip, and summed it up simply with ‘Niagara Falls is very nice.’ And it is. But when you go, as 12 million do each year, and see the cynical embrace of 1980s-era commercialism and $15 Imax screenings of the falls a stone’s throw from the real thing, it’s hard not to think you’ve been punked after the first glorious view. But it is worth going? Yes, as … Continue reading

TV: Talking Marilyn Monroe on the Insider

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Marilyn Monroe died 50 years ago last Sunday, and researching this Lonely Planet piece on Marilyn Monroe sites a couple weeks ago, I surprised myself by becoming fascinated. Here was a poor illegitimate girl raised by a dozen sets of foster parents, while her mom live in a mental institution — she dreamed of Hollywood and became the ultimate star. It’s quite a story. Of all things, while on vacation in Oklahoma’s 113-degree heat, I spoke via Skype and green … Continue reading

Photo of the Week: Goose Attack! (in Oklahoma)


There are so many things I admire about this shot that my sister took recently at Norman, Oklahoma’s Duck Pond. For starters, the look on the expression of the central figure’s face. The duck has clearly just been attacked and physically pushed to the side. But it couldn’t care less. It just ignores it, looks forward, steadfast and true. Don’t you wish we could all exert such grace under trials and tribs that life offers us? Meanwhile, I’m equally intrigued … Continue reading

My Ian Frazier Monologue: How to be Curious

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Sometimes people ask me who my favorite writer is. And I’m always embarrassed not to have a prepared reply. I had phases with Twain then Dostoevsky, and quieter ones stalking the words of various college football columnists. I don’t really have one, I guess. From now on I’m just going to say that whenever there’s a subject I’m drawn to, one I’d imagine wanting to write a book about, I always find Ian Frazier’s already done it. An Ohioan expat … Continue reading

New York City’s Bowery in 1949

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Been watching videos of US cities in the 1940s. Fun seeing how so much has changed, and sometimes not changed. (This TWA ‘travel video’ of San Francisco in the early 1950s — the heading of the video wrongly calls it the ’40s — pretty much runs along the same Top 10 list most give the city today; cable cars were touristy even then.) And I stumbled upon MGM’s ‘Travel Talks’ series of videos from the 1940s too. The host gives … Continue reading

Photo essay: A questionable statue in Queens


I find it funny when people get really really mad at statues, particularly the 90-year-old “Triumph of Civic Virtue,” which has long endured nicknames like “Fat Boy” and “Cave Man” since it was set outside City Hall in Manhattan in 1922. Many call it sexist, as “virtue” is represented with a man triumphantly trampling a couple female figures (actually mermaids). Terry O’Neill, the president of the National Organization for Women, couldn’t believe there’s even debate. As she told the New … Continue reading