No, not Heaven's Gate. The Guiding Light premiered on January 25, 1937 on NBC Radio. Pending some last minute savior, the final episode will air on CBS television on September 18, 2009.

As of March 27, 15,638 episodes of the show have aired, which I'm reasonably sure makes Guiding Light the longest, most complex story that humans have ever told one another.

Back in my narrative theory nerd days in college, I spent a lot of time studying serial narrative, and the unusual demands that the form puts on the story. Nothing's been around as long as GL, and here's hoping that the producers can find some way to keep the story alive.

AuthorMark McClusky

This week’s issue of Rolling Stone includes “Twenty interviews with the artists and leaders who helped shape our time.”

Here’s who on that list, with their ages.

Bob Dylan: 65
Jimmy Carter: 82
Paul McCartney: 64
Ringo Starr: 66
Norman Mailer: 84
Tom Wolfe: 76
Bob Weir: 59
Patti Smith: 60
Steven Speilberg: 60
Martin Scorsese: 64
Jane Fonda: 69
Jack Nicholson: 70
Bill Moyers: 72
George McGovern: 84
Stewart Brand: 68
Michael Moore: 53
Mick Jagger: 63
Keith Richards: 63
Jackson Browne: 58
Neil Young: 61

So, the youngest person on the list is 53? Average age is 67.05? Seriously?

But hey, nice vinyl cover, though.

AuthorMark McClusky

My huge apologies for the utter lack of activity here -- I'm trying to close the special issue of Wired Test which I edit, and we're really slammed.

So, I haven't had a chance to tell you about that cute baby who just gets more fun, or Kristen's new job, or Ohio State's big win against Texas, or the A's leading their division, or the fun of HD TiVo, or any of that stuff. But I swear, some day I will.

AuthorMark McClusky

So, two years ago today, Kristen made me the luckiest guy in the whole darn world when she married me. Today, she made me the luckiest guy in my whole darn office when she sent me these lovely flowers, which have inspired a lot of comments, as well as admiration, especially from my female co-workers.

Happy anniversary, honey. I love you.

AuthorMark McClusky

Pete Greene was one of those teachers that every kid who grows up in a small town needs to encounter -- he taught me to dream.

You see, Franklin, PA isn't a hub of international activity. In fact, by the time I reached high school, I was pretty much over it. There wasn't any real culture that I could see at the time, and beside my best friend Mike, not a lot of people who I felt much connection with. The horizons seemed so nearby, but I knew there was more out there.

Mr. Greene taught 11th grade honors English. I had spent most of my academic career unchallenged and uncaring, until I hit Mr. Greene's room; he proceeded to force me to think and argue and learn to express myself clearly. The half-assed work I had done before, coasting, wasn't enough. He was going to push me to discover what I could actually do when I put pen to paper.

Today, in addition to teaching, Mr. Greene writes a column for the local newspapers back in Franklin, which he thankfully archives on his blog. His most recent one, I'm gobsmacked to say, mentions me.

One benefit of teaching, particularly in a small town, is that you get to see your students grow up and become admirable, accomplished adults. Some become the good, solid citizens who keep the world spinning. That’s a great, honorable thing.

Some pursue something a little chancier, a little riskier, and it’s a great, proud thing when they find a measure of success. In the last few weeks, I’ve been reminded of four former Franklinites doing just that.

He then goes on to say some very nice things about me, and my career and writing that caused me to blush.

As I sit here thinking about it, I don't have any memory of a specific conversation with him about what was out there in the world outside of our little town, but there was something in his insistence that I could do more that made it crystal-clear to me that there was more -- to do, to see, to strive for. And so I did.

But there's something else that's hard to articulate. I wonder if what Mr. Greene does, or what Mike has done, is somehow the more noble endeavor. It's easy to move somewhere like New York or San Francisco and find like minded souls. It's another thing altogether to stay in an area like Venango County and work to educate, to inform, to improve. Building that community, that's the hard part, and it leaves me in awe of them.

I've been lucky enough in my life to get to places, personally and professionally, that thrill and excite me, that I'm proud of. And part of me wonders if that would have been the case without Mr. Greene. I don't know how to repay that sort of debt, so I'm left with saying, simply: Thank you.

AuthorMark McClusky

Here's a little news item for my Rhode Island native wife: Dunkin' Donuts has come up with a redesigned store and new branding, in anticipation of a big national expansion push.

Look at that swirly new thing in the coffee cup! Look at the toned down version of the classic pink and orange color scheme! Somehow, it seems just plain wrong.

One other big change -- customers will be able to get their own coffee, and doctor it up how they like it, instead of relying on regional differences in what constitutes "coffee, regular."

For you non-New Englanders out there, Dunkin' Donuts has achieved the sort of market penetration in the region that makes it seem like there's one on nearly every corner. In fact, just about every set of directions I've received in Rhode Island uses at least one Dunkin' Donuts as a waypoint.

AuthorMark McClusky

I've been doing a little maintenance and upgrade work behind the scenes here at, and today, it's ready to roll out.

First of all, I've taken the linklog that I had been maintaining in Movable Type, and moved it to Then, those links are pulled back into the blog pages via a javascript. It's just too easy to use the tools that are out there for, rather than doing a manual linklog. Hopefully, removing some of the friction from the process will mean more interesting links, and more of them, too. If you're interested in subscribing to a feed of just my linklog, you can do that at

To integrate those links into my full-text RSS feed, I've switched to Feedburner. The new url for my feed is But if you're using the old links, they should automatically be redirected to the Feedburner version using a handy mod_rewrite rule on the Apache server. Thanks to Doug for the tips.

Please drop a comment or an email if you have any problems with these changes. And enjoy!

AuthorMark McClusky

Thailand Photos 315Please join me in wishing my darling wife Kristen the happiest of all birthdays. She's made my life so much better in every way I could imagine, and every day I just feel so lucky to have found her. Plus, she's my new favorite blogger!

So happy birthday, darlin'. I love you.

AuthorMark McClusky

Bur really, should we need a special week to stem the tide of name calling?

I was thinking of standing on the steps at the start of no name calling week, and calling the students names as they arrived. Not super mean ones, just, you know, name calling.

And don't even get me started about early release.

AuthorMark McClusky

Today was my 34th birthday, and I was completely blown away by an amazing surprise from my wife -- she kidnapped me and spirited me away to lunch at The French Laundry.

If you're into food at all, you know what a big deal this is. French Laundry is generally acknowledged as the best restaurant in America -- Thomas Keller, the chef is an obsessive genius who's crafted a tiny little oasis of perfection in Yountville, Calif.

I've wanted to eat at the restaurant for years, but the near-impossiblity of securing a reservation and the bank-busting cost conspired to keep me from getting there. So, when I realized, at the last moment, that we were going there, I was giddy with delight. Kristen deserves an Oscar for completely fooling me.

So, can any meal live up to the sort of hype that the French Laundry gets? Let's start eating, and see.

Salmon Tartare Coronet with Crème Fraiche

This is Keller's signature amuse-bouche, which has become such a signature that it will be on the menu forever. It's a perfect distilation of what makes him such an interesting chef -- it's beautifuly presented, delicious, and shows a sense of humor. Salmon ice cream cones? Sure!

It's a lovely starter, and I say that as someone who isn't a big fish eater. Clean flavor -- the coronet is especially flavorful. A great way to start the meal, but, as an amuse should, was most notable for the excitement it built for the rest of the meal.

"Cauliflower Panna Cotta" with Beau Soleil Oyster Glaze and Russian Sevruga Caviar

I had resolved to eat every single thing that was placed before me -- who am I to second guess a place like French Laundry with my palate? And immediately, a test. My caviar experiences in the past have been uninspiring, and I'm usually not interested in Cauliflower.

But this was wonderful. The panna cotta balanced an earthiness from the cauliflower with the rich texture of the cream. The caviar cut through that richness with its ocean-like salinity. I liked almost everything else better, but this would have been the best dish of any normal meal.

Salad of Big Island Hearts of Peach Palm, Marinated Sweet Peppers, Hayden Mango "Coulis" and Young Cilantro

All of my dining companions ordered the white truffle risotto (see below), so I figured that someone should stick with the salad, so we could take a look at it. And visually, it was magnificent. It's hard to imagine the precision that goes into sending out hundreds of plates like this at each service.

It was very tasty, as well, light and balanced. The hearts of palm when they're left large have a soft texture -- but one of the most interesting things was the small quenelle-shaped pile of chopped hearts of palm on the salad. They tasted completely different with a different texture.

The pickled peppers played off the mango dressing nicely, a good balance of sour and sweet. It was a nice dish, but no one at the table was paying much attention to it, frankly, myself included. That's because of...

"Carnaroli Rosotto Biologico", Castelmango Cheese and Shaved White Truffles from Alba

...the outrageousness of the risotto. As the plates arrived, a waiter presented a large wooden box (a modified humidor, they said) that contained two absoultely massive white truffles. Fist-sized monsters that smells so powerfully of the earth and decay that it was overwhelming.

God, and then they started shaving one of these monsters over the risotto, and the aroma filled the room. They shaved some, and then some more, and then more still. I was shocked at how much. Just crazily, over the top decadent. The $45 suppliment was looking like a bargain, as truffles like that go for three grand a pound.

Just the smell was enough, as the heat of the rice hit the shaved truffles. There wasn't a single subtle thing about this dish, just reveling in the amazing ingredients. I had a couple of bites of Kristen's, and that was enough for me; in some ways, it was just too much.

Sautéed Fillet of Gulf Coast Cobia with Jacobsen's Farm Sunchokes, Pickled Red Pearl Onions and "Créme des Ciboulettes"

Cobia is a common in the Gulf of Mexico, although I had never heard of it before. Here was another test for me -- growing up in Western Pennsylvania, I didn't really encounter a lot of good, fresh fish, and that's left me seafood-phobic.

It was just perfect. Firm, white flesh, cooked all the way through but not dry in the slightest. My cousin John, who was there with his wife Jenn, talked about the moisture of the fish, and I pointed out that it was absoultely drenched in butter, which helps more than a little.

The sunchokes were a nice compliment, slightly sweet. The sauces were a chive and a sunchoke sauce, rich with cream. The pickled red onions were absoultely delicious -- I could have eaten dozens of them. Surprisingly, this was one of my favorite dishes of the day.

"Peas and Carrots" Main Lobster "Pancake", with Pea Shoot Salad and Ginger-Carrot Emulsion

Get it? Peas and carrots? It's one of Keller's little plays on words, and it's an absolutely perfect dish. The real trick is that with everything else going on in the dish, the first thing that hits your palate is the taste of the peas from the shoots and the carrot in the sauce; the name doesn't feel like a parlor trick, but a real description of the dish.

Meanwhile, there's everything else. Sweet lobster meat that pulls out the sweetness in the carrot sauce while highlighting the vegetal hit from the pea shoots. The chive crepe that ties it all together, the wonderfully seasoned sauce. If you had told me before the day that this would be my favorite dish, I would have been shocked, but that's how good they are there.

All-Day Braised Hobb's Shore "Poitrine de Porc", French Laundry Garden Collard Greens, Sierra Beauty Apple "Confit" and Blackstrap Molasses "Gastrique"

Move over bacon, it's time for something better! "Poitrine" is chest or breast, but this is what most of us would call pork belly. You know it better as bacon, once it's been smoked and cured. But take that same cut and braise it all day in thyme-scented stock, and you get this dish.

The big layers of fat might cause concern, but the meat is all falling apart and the fat does impart huge flavor to it. It's an especially nice touch to brown the top -- not only to add textural contrast, but as a nod to a nice crisp slice of bacon.

The greens and apples are natural riffs on pork -- greens from the South with ham hocks, apples and pork are a classic. It was a nice dish, very enjoyable, but it also might have been the only dish that I felt like I might have come up with on my own. Which isn't to say I could have done it anywhere as well.

Sirloin of Australian Platinum Grade "Wagyu", Broccolini "Fleurettes", Hen-of-the-Woods Mushrooms, Yukon Gold Potato "Mille Feuille" and "Sauce Bordelaise"

Kobe beef not raised in Kobe gets called Wagyu, after the animal itself. It's pricey, but unique. Imagine a piece of meat with the succulent texture of filet mignon, but with the intense beefy flavor of a good ribeye. That's what Wagyu is like.

It was simple and delicious. The potato Mille Feuille was sort of the fanciest scalloped potato that you've ever had, the sauce was impeccable. I didn't overcome my mushroom issue to eat this bad boy, sadly. Overall, probably my second-favorite dish, which shows the power of really great ingredients and the importance of preparing them so sublimely.

"Tomme de L'Ariege" Zante Currant "Bread Pudding", Grain Mustard "Vinaigrette" and Garden Arugula

All I can say here is that I tried. I tried to enjoy this goat's milk cheese, and it wasn't bad -- a sort of astringent chalkyness was my biggest hit from it. But frankly, it was lost on me. I admire cheese in the abstract, but I've never really enjoyed it alone. Which is a pity, as there's a whole world of really interesting cheeses out there that I'd love to love.

Also, this is the one course that I forgot to photograph before we dove in. More's the pity, as it was lovely.

Satsuma Mandarine Sorbet "aux Agrumes d'Automne et Feuille de Bric Croquante"

Mmmmm, dessert time. The sorbet itself had the classic Mandarin floral nose -- what was most interesting to me is the foam on top, which was stunningly intense, a pure hit of citrus essence. I think it was pomelo.

Underneath was a crunchy sheet of what I think was sugar, maybe bound with some gelatin. Overall, beautiful and refreshing, just as a sorbet should be.

Valrhona Chocolate "Dome", Tupelo Honey-Sicilian Pistachio "Nougat Blanc", Cocoa Nib "Coulis" and "Cerceaux de Sucre"

Good lord, this was delicious. We had been given a dessert wine to enjoy with this, and it was one of those pairings that takes both the food and wine to some metaphysical level that neither could approach on its own. Deeply rich with the chocolate, a fun surprise in the nougat when I ran across whole pistachios in there.

No photos of the bonus dessert -- miniature creme brulees or lemon custards with impossibly thin, crisp cookies made of pastry dough and sugar. I was too stuffed to take pictures at that point. And no pictures of the chocolates at the end, including a magnificent rosemary-honey concoction.

Just over four hours after sitting down, we were done, sent on our way with little bags of shortbread to snack on, which, it might not surprise you to hear, was the best I've ever had.

Overall, the meal was a knockout, easily one of the best two or three meals that I've ever eaten. You go into a place like French Laundry with such outrageous expectations that it's nearly impossible for them to be met, but somehow they pull it off. Service is casual but precise, gracious without being obsequious.

The wines, picked with the help of our sommiler, were delicious and a perfect compliment for the food. The company, both my cousin and his wife, and my dear Kristen, was impeccable. I couldn't have asked for a better birthday.

AuthorMark McClusky
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To set the scene, it's a beautiful sunny day here in San Francisco. Temperature is about 70 degrees, which is pretty stunning for November 15.

I walk down the street from my office, enjoying the sunshine, and stop in the nearby Borders books to browse the magazine racks. And there it is, playing on the sound system:

"God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen." Sounded like Manheim Steamroller. On November 15!

My first edict when I take over the world: No Christmas carols until after Thanksgiving.

AuthorMark McClusky

Testing out the new blogging system ecto, from the maker of the amazing Kung-Log.

AuthorMark McClusky

Traveling on the day before Thanksgiving is only something that should only be attempted for reasons of thrift or masochism. In my case, the lure of an afforadable airfare chased me out of bed at 4:15 in the morning, with 10 hours of travel ahead of me to get to North Carolina to see my family. There's something eerily beautiful about a deserted city. Walking to the BART train that would take me to the airport, I saw only one car. It was a crisp night still in San Francisco, and the silence and the solitude were magical.

You know that you've arrived in Dallas when you see guys walking around with a nice crease ironed into their jeans, with Tony Lama's peering out from underneath. A shoe shine at DFW costs you $4, but it's $5 for a boot shine.

The weather in North Carolina over the next four days is predicted to range from 72 degrees to 29 degrees. This presented a packing problem for me, so I ended up hauling far too much stuff across the country.

I'll be catching up with my family, eating and drinking and arguing and watching sports, through the weekend. Not sure if there will be any more posts until Monday.

AuthorMark McClusky