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Children’s Books Written By (or about) Vladimir Putin

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He may be a power-mad Russian strongman, but that doesn’t mean Vladimir Putin doesn’t have a sensitive, artistic side. For example, many people are unaware that Putin has written a number of children’s books. Here are a few titles to get you started.

THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE LACK OF WARDROBE

HORTON HEARS A COUP

THE VELVETEEN WHACKJOB

HAROLD AND THE PURPLE CRANIUM

UKRAINIA BEDALIA

THERE’S A WOCKET IN MY POCKET! NO, SERIOUSLY. THERE’S AN ACTUAL WOCKET IN MY POCKET

THE TAKING TREE

CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF TEAR GAS

DIARY OF A KGB KID

OH, THE PLACES YOU’LL CRUSH!

BROWN BEAR, BROWN BEAR, WHAT SORT OF INSANE PLAN FOR WORLD DOMINATION DO YOU SEE?

THE LITTLE DESPOT WHO COULD

CURIOUS GEORGE MAYBE SHOULD STOP BEING SO CURIOUS

THE VERY HUNGRY AUTOCRAT

HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CRIMEA

VLADIMIR AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD INVASION

He’s still waiting for his first Caldecott, I hear.

7 Great Survival Stories

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This has been a banner year for stories of survival, including the excellent film “All Is Lost,” starring Robert Redford. These tales, whether in movies or the printed word, bring us to the brink of what it means to be human. Are we reckless? Resilient? Reflective? Yes to all three. In any case, here are seven terrific stories of trying to survive. No spoilers here, but I will point out that some of the protagonists live and some of them die. What they have in common is that all of them put up a fight.

GRAVITY

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A dazzling, seat-of-the-pants adventure, “Gravity” has grabbed tons of attention – and deservedly so. The special effects are stunning, the central performance by Sandra Bullock is perfect and there’s not one wasted moment in the film. Like many survival yarns, it offers something beyond the notion of trying to stay alive. In this case, Bullock’s plucky astronaut is grieving the loss of her daughter as she tries to dodge shards of floating space debris.

TO BUILD A FIRE

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This classic short story by Jack London was published in 1908, and it is as riveting now as it must have been back then. With no frills and an almost clinical attention to detail, it is the story of a man who sets out with his dog near the Yukon Trail on a day much too cold for safe travel. The temperatures are 75 degrees below zero, and dropping. Every decision, good and bad, has immediate consequences, which gives the story a chilling clarity.

CAST AWAY

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Here we have survival as transformation – a common theme in this List. Tom Hanks is his usual, charismatic self as a guy stranded on a desert island. He endures only to the extent that his knowledge and will allow him – but is that enough? Why does survival matter? What is the point of existence? If only there was a bloody soccer ball around to tell us.

127 HOURS

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Based on a true story, “127 Hours” stars James Franco as a fun-loving adventurer whose hand becomes wedged between immovable rocks during a solo climbing trip. The inner journey takes center stage, as this man takes stock of his young life and considers what he is willing to do to stay alive.

LEININGEN VERSUS THE ANTS

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To some extent, hubris is the subtext of many of these stories. That’s certainly the case with the short story, “Leiningen Versus the Ants,” written by Carl Stephenson and published in 1938. Leiningen is a swaggering plantation owner in Brazil, who decides to stand his ground against a miles-long army of hungry ants. His true enemy, one he valiantly combats, is panic. If the plot sounds familiar, it may be because the story was made into a 1954 movie, “The Naked Jungle,” starring Charlton Heston.

BURIED

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Unlikely premise, but an interesting movie. Ryan Reynolds plays a man buried alive in a coffin, trying to get out. He’s got his cell phone, so it should be no problem – except that he doesn’t know where he is. Gulp.

ALL IS LOST

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I can’t say enough about the extraordinary work Redford does in “All is Lost.” All alone on a sailboat on the Indian Ocean, Redford lets his iconic face do the talking as a freaky accident sets in motion a brutal chain of events. The movie is heartbreaking and inspiring, without caving in to unnecessary sentiment.

I limited myself here to singular survival tales. Any good ones I left out?

10 Beautiful Dreamers

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We’re all subject to the occasional daydream, but some of our most indelible pop culture characters take it to the extreme. And thank goodness they do. Their little fantasies are hilarious, illuminating and endearing.

SNOOPY

snoopyredbaronSome may prefer his Joe Cool persona, but I was always a sucker for Snoopy’s exploits as the adversary of World War I flying ace the Red Baron. It’s amazing how effective those “Peanuts” cartoon strips were. Just a beagle in a scarf and aviator goggles, sitting atop his doghouse, mixing it up in the skies over France.

BILLY FISHER

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Played devilishly by Tom Courtenay, Billy Fisher is the title character from the 1963 film, “Billy Liar.” He’s a lowly clerk in England who fuels his juvenile behavior with wild fantasies about heroic deeds and power.  Naturally, his situation spins spectacularly out of control.

MARY KATHERINE GALLAGHER

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Mary Katherine Gallagher is one of the many brilliant characters to come out of  “Saturday Night Live.” Intense, misunderstood and stubbornly independent, Mary Katherine is a Catholic school girl who lives almost entirely in her daydreams – which consist mainly of after school TV specials and coming-of-age movies. The reason it works is because comic actress Molly Shannon surrenders herself completely to Mary Katherine’s single mindedness.

WALTER MITTY

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“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” started out as a short story published in The New Yorker in 1939. Written by the great James Thurber, it had to do with a mousy, henpecked husband who escaped his mundane world via reveries of being a fighter pilot and a surgeon. In 1947, a film version of the story starred Danny Kaye. He was a great Mitty. A 21st century Walter Mitty is set to debut later this year, in a new movie starring Ben Stiller.

JOHN MONROE

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As long as we’re talking about Thurber, let’s say a word about the 1969-70 sitcom, “My World and Welcome to It.” It used many of Thurber’s drawings and starred William Windom as John Monroe, a guy with a lot of similarities to Mr. Thurber. Windom was excellent, separating the character from Walter Mitty by making him crusty and somewhat sarcastic. But the daydreams were still there, front and center.

CALVIN

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Paging Spaceman Spiff! This is a case of personal fantasy as sheer joy. Little Calvin, the human half of the comic strip “Calvin and Hobbes,” loved nothing more than to place himself smack in the middle of a made-up adventure. My favorite was his intergalactic imp, Spaceman Spiff.

PIRATE STEVE

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Those who are unfamiliar with the 2004 comedy, “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story,” are missing out on one of pop culture’s most engaging dreamers. Pirate Steve, played by Alan Tudyk, is a dude who finds meaning by dressing and talking like a pirate, 24-7. That’s living the dream.

BARON VON MUNCHAUSEN

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Fantasy doesn’t get any more epic than old Baron von Munchausen (John Neville), who may or may not have have been to the Moon, the Underworld and back with an odd band of superhuman characters.

COMMANDER McBRAGG

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Here was animation brilliance, circa the 1960s. In cartoons that didn’t run beyond two minutes, you had a retired British military man, McBragg, relating some crazy adventure halfway around the world. It had all the elements I loved: an absurd British accent, an exotic setting and a series of bad puns. Jolly good.

DON QUIXOTE

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And finally, inevitably, there is Don Quixote. One of the greatest characters in all of literature, he has been thrust into any number of movies, stage productions and TV shows. It’s remarkable, considering the guy dates back to Spanish novels of the early 1600s! Don Quixote is an ordinary man so taken with his favorite heroic books that he envisions himself as a knight, riding into the horizon and fighting for all that is good and true. So what if that angry giant over yonder is actually a windmill? This brings us to why we put up with the beautiful dreamers of the world in the first place. Who is to say that their delusions of grandeur are any less valid than the positive images and reinforcements we all use to inspire and motivate ourselves? Dream on, I say.

If you have a few more dreamers to add, I’m all ears.

Great Poetry Scenes

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Roses are red, violets are blue. Great poetry scenes? Here are a few.

BULL DURHAM (1988)

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Adding to the richness and fun of this bawdy baseball classic are some nice flourishes of poetry. My favorite is when Susan Sarandon tosses a William Blake line from “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” at Kevin Costner and he replies, “William Blake?!” Beautiful.

MAGIC TOWN (1947)

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At the time, this satire about a pollster who found a town with perfect demographics was considered somewhat edgy. Today it’s decidedly on the hokey side. But there’s one scene that I love, where Jimmy Stewart and Jane Wyman are flirting with each other and give an impromptu, dual poetry recitation.

ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND (2004)

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Kirsten Dunst is a side character in this terrific movie about memories, love and pain, but she gets a nice poetry moment thanks to Alexander Pope’s “Elisa to Abelard.”

MILLION DOLLAR BABY (2004)

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In the excellent Clint Eastwood film “Million Dollar Baby,” old Clint uses lines from “The Lake Isle of Innisfree,” by W.B. Yeats, to convey a deep well of love and a sense of comfort to his tragic young boxing protegee, Hilary Swank.

THE OUTSIDERS (1983)

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Actor C. Thomas Howell, as Ponyboy, does right by Robert Frost’s “Nothing Gold Can Stay.” Totally appropriate for a bittersweet story of youth and the yearning to find your place in the world.

HANNAH AND HER SISTERS (1986)

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Painful and perfect use of poetry here, as married man Michael Caine attempts to woo his sister-in-law, Barbara Hershey, with the e.e. cummings poem, “somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond.”

EL DORADO (1966)

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Yes, even westerns can have poetry. James Caan made fine use of Edgar Allan Poe’s “El Dorado” in this one. Of course, John Wayne thought he was nuts.

BACK TO SCHOOL (1986)

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I doubt very much that Dylan Thomas, when he wrote “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night,” envisioned a day when it would be recited by comedian Rodney Dangerfield in the slob comedy, “Back to School.” Having said that, Rodney rocks.

APOCALYPSE NOW (1979)

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Like the rest of his performance in “Apocalypse Now,” Marlon Brando’s reading of “The Hollow Men,” by T.S. Eliot, is haunting, ominous and captivating.

DEAD POETS SOCIETY (1989)

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The liberating, soul-nourishing nature of poetry is part of the theme of “Dead Poets Society.” Robin Williams is an English teacher at a rigid Vermont boarding school who shows his students that poetry and literature help you see the world from a different perspective. If you read poetry while standing on your desk – Whitman’s “Oh Captain! My Captain,” for instance – it’s even better.

THE GATHERING (1977)

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Ed Asner belts out a fine rendition of “Christmas Day in the Workhouse,” in this old TV movie about a dying father trying to bring his family back together for one last holiday.

SKYFALL (2012)

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Here we have poetry being used to add gravitas to the proceedings. Judy Dench, in “Skyfall,” deals with some government bureaucrats in a hearing by reciting part of Tennyson’s “Ulysses.” It didn’t help her situation, let me say.

SOPHIE’S CHOICE (1982)

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At the end of the almost unbearably sad “Sophie’s Choice,” Stingo lets some words from Emily Dickinson try to make sense of the world’s senselessness. That sort of grace is a much appreciated counterpoint to the sudden, harsh choice that haunts the story.

JIMMY STEWART ON “THE TONIGHT SHOW” (1981)

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One night on Johnny Carson’s old “Tonight Show,” Jimmy Stewart pulled out a couple of pieces of paper and read a poem he’d composed about his late, beloved dog, Beau. It was sweet, incredibly corny and amazingly moving.

FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL (1994)

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Great Odes to the Open Road

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Oh, but the tug of the open road is contagious. We’re draw to the uncertainty, the adventure and the promise of new experiences. Any number of artists and ordinary souls have been inspired to share this excitement. These are some of my favorite examples.

ON THE ROAD

For many, Jack Kerouac’s classic story of wondering and wandering is the last word on road trips. It’s a marvel of stream-of-consciousness writing. “On the Road” perfectly conveys the intoxicating, surreal, gritty, dangerous sexiness of hitting the open road.

ON THE ROAD AGAIN

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started a road trip and found myself warbling Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again.” It has such a pleasing lilt and sense of movement. Road trips may be grueling sometimes, but they usually start off happy.

MIDNIGHT RUN

Here’s an action movie comedy, featuring odd couple Robert DeNiro and Charles Grodin. DeNiro is a bounty hunter bringing in a mob accountant, played by Grodin, who has skipped bail. Like many great tales of the road, it’s a journey of transformation – in this case, with guns, punches and comedic slow burns.

TRAVELS WITH CHARLEY

Toward the end of his life, the great John Steinbeck directed his magnificent reporting skills and humanity to a cross-country road trip. He and his dog, Charley, traveled the highways and byways in an RV. Through brief interactions and keen observations, he painted an insightful picture of postwar America. Some critics have questioned his journalistic accuracy, but the power of his writing is unassailable.

ROADFOOD

In a way, road trips are just an excuse to search for the best slice of banana cream pie or the best plate of cheese fries. Jane and Michael Stern dug deep into the heart and soul of America’s glorious greasy spoons and dreamy diners for this gem. On a personal note, I found the best banana cream pie, ever, while traveling a mountain road in Montana.

TRAIL JOURNALS

For more than a decade, Trail Journals (www.trailjournals.com) has provided a digital home for hundreds of thousands of photographs and pieces of writing by long distance hikers around the country. The Appalachian Trail is prominent here, but there are many other trails represented, as well. The best trail journals are utterly engrossing. They tell stories of beautiful vistas, animal encounters, physical hardship, budding friendships and deep, solitary thought – all unfolding day by day.

THE FUGITIVE

I loved everything about this old TV show from the 1960s. The variety of locales, the gritty narration by William Conrad, the central storyline of a guy on the lam from the law for a murder he didn’t commit. Mostly, I loved David Janssen’s low-key, understated hero. After four seasons, “The Fugitive” ended with one of the most satisfying finales in TV history.

IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT

Hundreds of films since 1934 have attempted to recapture the chemistry and romance of Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert in “It Happened One Night.” It’s a silly story about an heiress and a newshound making their way across the country during the Great Depression, but it’s sheer bliss. Witty banter, funny supporting characters and a classic hitchhiking scene. For a different sort of road story from the Depression, there’s …

THE GRAPES OF WRATH

We return to Steinbeck for one of the great American novels. “The Grapes of Wrath” follows a family searching for work and dignity as they flee from the Oklahoma Dust Bowl. Instead, they encounter greed, poverty and indignity. It’s a harrowing journey, one that strips individuals down to their core beliefs and little else. I’ll never forget reading this book for the first time and thinking about the pure poetry of a human being deciding who and what he is.

Now let’s go a bit beyond the reach of the American road.

THE AMAZING RACE

This show actually IS amazing. You want to test a marriage/friendship/relationship? Send people halfway around the world in the middle of the night and ask them to go from the airport to some out-of-the-way local landmark as fast as they can without killing each other. It exposes every hidden grudge and emotional sore spot before the first commercial break. Want to have your mind blown? Imagine your parents as contestants.

THE WIZARD OF OZ

Best. Road. Ever.

DANCING MATT

Matt Harding, also known as “Dancing Matt,” has recorded a series of videos of himself doing a crazy, happy dance in dozens of countries around the world. Millions of people have watched these videos and been charmed by the simple joy of a goofy, global dance. That’s what I call a great road trip.

So tell me, what are your favorite road trips from pop culture?

10 Terrific Tigers

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I’m hearing some great things about the special effects tiger in the film version of “Life of Pi.” This has me intrigued. Tigers just may be the most beautiful creatures on the planet, and if this pixelated critter is as wondrous as advertised, he’ll join an illustrious roster of pop culture tigers.

SHERE KHAN

I’m going with my favorite tiger first. Yes, he’s the villain from “Jungle Book,” but he’s undeniably great. He’s droll, he’s cunning, he’s merciless. He also has the voice, heavy-lidded eyes and lantern jaw of the urbane British actor, George Sanders.

TONY THE TIGER

On the other end of the spectrum, you have Frosted Flakes icon Tony the Tiger. He’s no villain – he’s more like that gregarious uncle who let you stay up past your bedtime and showed you wrestling moves like the Backbreaker and the Spinning Toe Hold. He’s not PC, but he’s ggggrrreat!

DETROIT TIGERS

Can’t say this is one of my favorite teams, since I’m a National League guy. But still, props to a Major League franchise that’s been around since 1894, boasts four World Series titles and has had players such as Ty Cobb, Hank Greenberg and Al Kaline in the lineup. Best of all, the Tigers stayed in one city all these years.

TIGGER

Dear lord, what a great creation Tigger is! Anyone with little kids (or grandkids) knows that Tigger is a welcome infusion of energy, action and humor in all situations. He’s dangerous and tame, simultaneously. Thank you, A.A. Milne and Paul Winchell.

CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON

Ang Lee’s 2000 film classic is the cinematic equivalent to a tiger: it’s powerful, graceful, violent and visually arresting. You want tragic heroes and villains? You want epic history and scope? You want some kick-ass swordplay and wire walking? Your search is over. Also, it’s only fitting to include Mr. Lee in a List inspired by “Life of Pi.”

DIEGO

Dennis Leary is the voice of Diego the prehistoric tiger in the “Ice Age” movies. Although he curbs his normally robust language as Diego, Leary does a nice job of lending a soulful quality to the proceedings.

DANIEL STRIPED TIGER

Of course, there is no pop culture tiger with more soul than Daniel Striped Tiger from “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” This little gent had the voice of Fred Rogers, which explained why he was so darned nice. Another thing in his favor? Sporty wristwatch.

TIGER WOODS

No, he is not a model citizen. He’s a tremendous golfer, though. For years, he absolutely commanded the attention of his competitors and sports fans in general. Very tiger-like.

HOBBES

This guy – how could you not like him? Half of cartoonist Bill Watterson’s brilliant comic strip, “Calvin and Hobbes,” tiger Hobbes is the savagely sophisticated counterpoint to incorrigible little boy Calvin. Young Calvin believes Hobbes is an actual tiger and not a stuffed animal. I’m inclined to agree.

EYE OF THE TIGER

There are several tiger songs I could have chosen, such as “Hold That Tiger” and “I’ve Got a Tiger By the Tail,” but instead I have selected Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” from 1982. Why? Because it’s in “Rocky III,” fool.

And now I’m off to see “Life of Pi.”

Fictional Presidents You May Not Remember

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Here in the final weekend before the 2012 presidential election, figuring out who will occupy the Oval Office seems all too real. Perhaps a brief respite is in order. To that end, here is a selection of fictional presidents for your politically-overloaded pleasure.

JAMES EARL JONES IN “THE MAN”

In 1972, the idea of a black president made for gripping drama. Here’s the premise for this TV movie that was released as a feature film: the President and Speaker of the House are killed, and the Vice President is in ill health and declines the job. Suddenly, the president pro tempore of the Senate – the great James Earl Jones – is president. What follows is a morality play about racial fears, idealism and political hardball. Guess who wrote the screenplay? Rod Serling.

JEFF BRIDGES IN “THE CONTENDER”

Speaking of political hardball, I greatly enjoyed this 2000 movie that had Jeff Bridges as a wily Commander in Chief. The film was primarily about Joan Allen as a senator being considered for vice president, but Bridges also stood out. Partly it had to do with his cutthroat deal making; partly it was his strange obsession with sandwiches.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN IN “STAR TREK”

Oh yeah – fictionalized versions of real presidents are still fiction, in my book. Now some of you may prefer “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” or even “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” but to me nothing beats seeing Honest Abe (Lee Bergere) battle bad guys with Kirk and Spock on an alien planet. If you need to know the rationale for this scenario, then you clearly don’t understand the crazy vibe of “Star Trek,” season 3, 1969.

MARTIN SHEEN IN “THE DEAD ZONE”

Please, you didn’t think I was going to use “The West Wing,” did you? This is The Jimbo List, not The Obvious List. Here’s a different sort of Sheen presidency. In 1983’s “The Dead Zone,” based on the Stephen King novel, Sheen is a nutjob Senate candidate. When the movie’s main character, a psychic, touches Sheen’s hand, he sees a vision of a future in which Sheen is president. Let’s just say it isn’t pretty.

FREDRIC MARCH IN “SEVEN DAYS IN MAY”

March had just the right formality and gravitas to ground this 1964 political thriller. He played a U.S. president who dared to negotiate a nuclear disarmament treaty with the Soviets during the Cold War. This, in turn, leads to a potential overthrow of the U.S. government by a mad general. It’s a little melodramatic, in the way movies used to be, but still satisfying.

TERRY CREWS IN “IDIOCRACY”

By no means is this a recommendation of the 2006 comedy, “Idiocracy.” I actually found it a little depressing. But it accurately reflects a fear many people probably have, that our culture is elevating stupidity and celebrity at the expense of essential institutions. Crews, who I generally get a kick out of, is a kick-ass, gun-toting Prez here.

JOHN TRAVOLTA IN “PRIMARY COLORS”

As anyone who saw “Primary Colors” knows, it’s a thinly-veiled look at Bill and Hillary Clinton, complete with habitual womanizing and feel-your-pain empathy. I thought Travolta did a very good job playing a fictional version of someone we all think we understand.

TIMOTHY BOTTOMS IN “THAT’S MY BUSH!”

Remember this 2000 Comedy Central series? It lasted only a couple of months, using George W. Bush as fodder for a merging of sitcom cliches with current events. It was created by the “South Park” guys, and it had plots that included gun control, abortion, wacky neighbors and trying to impress the in-laws.

JACK NICHOLSON IN “MARS ATTACKS!”

The Martians were by far the coolest part of 1996’s “Mars Attacks!” Nicholson, overacting with wild abandon, was front and center as the president in this all-star comedy extravaganza. A few laughs, nothing more.

MARY McDONNELL IN “BATTLESTAR GALACTICA”

Believe it or not, McDonnell was a more realistic president in this TV space opera than many of the other examples on this List. She was pragmatic, deceptive, ruthless and driven. She also happened to be on a space ship.

CHARLES LINDBERGH IN “THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA”

In this 2004 novel, Philip Roth envisions a world in which Charles Lindbergh beats Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1940 election. The country quickly unravels in a frightening spiral of antisemitism. Roth adds his own family members into the alternate history, to great effect.

HENRY FONDA IN “FAIL-SAFE”

The burdens of the presidency weigh heavily on Fonda here, with good reason. There’s been a malfunction on one of our war planes – it’s about to nuke Moscow out of existence. Can we stop it? And if we can’t, what does the president do next?

ROBERT CULP IN “THE PELICAN BRIEF”

Pure potboiler, but lots of fun. Culp gives his supporting role as a villainous president a whiff of Ronald Reagan. He’s grandfatherly and let’s his staff do a lot of the heavy lifting.

KELSEY GRAMMER IN “SWING VOTE”

This somewhat minor 2008 comedy had a presidential election coming down to the vote of one dude out in New Mexico (Kevin Costner) who needed to recast his ballot. Grammer played the sitting president, running for re-election. I include this one mainly because it gives you a sense of what Grammer would bring to his fantastic portrayal of a Chicago mayor in TV’s “Boss.” In both comedy and drama, he’s believable as a powerful politician.

OLD RICHARD NIXON IN “WATCHMEN”

In the movie and comics versions of “Watchmen,” Richard Nixon has remained president right into the 1980s. It’s a chilling and cynical view of politics and public opinion, on a grand scale. With superheroes, of course.

PETER SELLERS IN “DR. STRANGELOVE”

What is it with these fictional 1964 presidents and their phones & nukes? Anyway, I loved Sellers in this role. His president, Merkin Muffley, was a mild-mannered guy handling an international crisis with all the bureaucratic pomposity we’ve come to expect from Washington, D.C. Here’s a typical line: “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room!”

So there you have it – a plethora of fictional presidents. Now, back to our regularly scheduled election!

Best Imaginary Friends

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Some fictional characters are more fictional than others. Take imaginary friends, for instance. In movies, TV, books and comic strips, they’re one step removed from the action – but they provide key insights into the minds of other characters. Here are some great ones.

HOBBES

Hobbes is an awesome, witty, slightly moody tiger who roars to life in the mind of a young boy named Calvin. Their comic strip adventures together – snowball fights, wagon rides and the like – are rivaled only by their hilarious banter. Calvin is all about impulse and action; Hobbes is a calmer, more playful influence.

MRS. BEASLEY

Mrs. Beasley, the doll carried around by Buffy (Anissa Jones) on TV’s “Family Affair,” hewed pretty closely to the classic, imaginary friend. She was part security blanket, part confidant, to a little girl who had lost her parents.

TYLER DURDEN

Here was a great role for Brad Pitt. In the 1999 movie “Fight Club,” he got to combine his penchant for bug-eyed comedy with some macho coolness as Durden, a guy who liked to punch and be punched. This film’s cult popularity has taken on a life of its own, and Pitt is the big reason why.

HUMPHREY BOGART

A fictional, imaginary version of Bogie is the gimmick in Woody Allen’s Broadway play and 1972 film, “Play It Again, Sam.” Bogart appears periodically to give Woody dating advice, usually with comic results.

MR. SNUFFLEUPAGUS

Aw, who doesn’t like Snuffy? Here’s the thing, though: Initially, Snuffleupagus was Big Bird’s imaginary friend. No one else around “Sesame Street” could see him. But then the TV show’s producers had a change of heart and made Snuffy a character who interacted with everyone.

TONY

Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film “The Shining,” based on the Stephen King novel, has one of the great imaginary friends ever. It’s “Tony,” and he exists only as the bent index finger of a little boy. Tony speaks through young Danny in a croaky voice; he knows there are evil spirits at the deserted mountain resort where Danny’s parents (Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall) are working. In a freaky sort of way, Tony is the only rational character in the whole affair.

HARVEY

Likewise, the audience doesn’t really get to see Harvey, the giant rabbit friend of Jimmy Stewart in the popular 1950 movie, “Harvey.” Although mental illness is certainly brought up in the movie (and stage play version), the central message seems to be that imagination and pleasantness are preferable to conformity and rational intelligence.

CHARLES HERMAN

In “A Beautiful Mind,” imaginary friends (and enemies) hold the protagonist back rather than help him. Paul Bettany played one such friend, Charles, in this acclaimed 2001 movie biography of Nobel prize winner John Nash.

WINNIE THE POOH

Pooh Bear, as everyone knows, headed up a stable of stuffed animal friends for young Christopher Robin in the Hundred Acre Wood. His lumbering, good-natured manner made him all the more endearing.

BIANCA

In the little-seen 2007 movie, “Lars and the Real Girl,” Ryan Gosling plays a disturbed man who pretends a sex doll, Bianca, is his girlfriend. Even more amazing, various relatives and townspeople decide to go along with the idea. Gosling is very good here.

WILSON

Really, has there ever been a ball that sparked so much emotion, outside of the World Cup? Wilson, Tom Hanks’ silent companion in “Cast Away,” was a brilliant construct. Without him, the audience would have been adrift about Hanks’ inner thoughts and gradual descent into madness. WILSON!!!

But those are only MY favorites. Now tell me YOURS.

Bestsellers, As Written By Accountants

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The tax filing deadline is soon upon us, which means America’s accountants are shifting into overdrive. But what happens to them once tax season is over? Do they feed their creative side with music, art or writing? Here’s what I think they’d come up with if they exchanged their calculators for typewriters:

CRY, THE BELOVED REFUND

ALL QUIET ON THE AUDIT FRONT

CATCH W-2

CENTS AND SENSIBILITY

THE ACCOUNTS OF MONTE CRISTO

FAHRENHEIT 1040

OF MUNICIPAL BONDAGE

BRIDESHEAD HOME OFFICE REVISITED

THE SCARLET LEDGER

UNCLE TOM’S CABIN IN BARBADOS

RECEIPTS OF WRATH

PILGRIM’S PROFITS

HARRY POTTER AND THE LOOPHOLE OF DOOM

DAVID COPPERFIELD, C.P.A.

GULLIVER’S TRAVEL EXPENSES

A CONFEDERACY OF DEDUCTIONS

MIDDLEMARCH FILERS

DR. JEKYLL AND “MR. HIDE YOUR ASSETS”

CHARLOTTE’S NET

A TALE OF TWO INCOMES

THE OLD MAN AND THE SCHEDULE C

Feel free to add to The List! And let’s hope our accountants don’t have to be so creative with our returns.

Tops in Hops: Best Rabbits in Movies & TV

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The Easter Bunny will get all the attention this weekend, but he’s not the only rabbit to hop down the pop culture pike. Here are a few hares from TV and movies that I’ve come to admire.

BUGS BUNNY

Who doesn’t love this wascawy wabbit? With a great Brooklyn accent, courtesy of Mel Blanc, and an endless supply of wiseguy bravado, Bugs glides smoothly through life (crazy hunters, cowboys and Tasmanian Devils notwithstanding). Also, his “Rabbit of Seville” is priceless.

HARVEY

For those not familiar with the 1950 film (or the stage play it was based upon), “Harvey” is an invisible rabbit who likes to tag along with Jimmy Stewart to the local pub. It’s an appealing meditation on the virtues of pleasant goofiness over cold, harsh rationality. Stewart does a nice job with it, at a time when special effects were severely limited.

SID

We proceed from a rabbit that is never actually heard to one that is heard all too well. Sid, part of Craig Ferguson’s late-night puppet gallery on CBS, is almost certainly the most foul-mouthed rabbit in TV history. Got to admit, though, the little stinker makes me laugh.

WHITE RABBIT

We’re going back into the musical vault for this 1967 gem of psychedelic rock from Jefferson Airplane. Grace Slick sprinkled lots of references to Alice in Wonderland in “White Rabbit.” She also gave it a trippy, drugged-out vibe. Best of all, it’s a cool song, full of drama.

CRUSADER RABBIT

I love this little guy’s ears. They’re like loaves of French bread stuck on the back of his head. “Crusader Rabbit” was a pioneering bit of TV animation from the 1950s that managed to work its way onto the air occasionally in reruns even in the ’60s and ’70s. Crusader went on cliffhanger-type adventures, had a tiger (Rags) for a sidekick and – my favorite part – had episode names such as “Sahara You.”

A BUNNY’S TALE

The famous feminist Gloria Steinem worked briefly as a Playboy Bunny in the 1960s in order to write a magazine article about the experience. The result, “A Bunny’s Tale,” turned heads by showing how demeaning such work. The article was turned into a movie in 1985 starring … Kirstie Alley.

ENERGIZER BUNNY

Admittedly, I found the Energizer Bunny somewhat loathsome at first. But, like his product, he simply kept going. And you know what? The commercials kept getting better. The Energizer Bunny has smartly hitched his TV wagon to some of the most iconic characters in our culture, from King Kong to Darth Vader.

RABBIT, RUN

The first of John Updike’s famous “Rabbit” books got the Hollywood treatment in 1970. James Caan played Rabbit Angstrom, the self-obsessed guy who runs away from his wife and life and finds nothing but confusion. It was like a highly literary version of “Mad Men.”

ROGER RABBIT

Believe it or not, 1988’s “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” was considered a technological breakthrough. It blended animation with live action better than anything up to that point, and it gave us a smart look at older characters such as Betty Boop and Daffy Duck.

“TELL ME ABOUT THE RABBITS, GEORGE.”

John Steinbeck’s timeless novella, “Of Mice and Men,” has been the basis for several movies and TV productions. Two of the best were in 1939 (Lon Chaney, Jr., and Burgess Meredith) and 1992 (John Malkovich and Gary Sinise). Steinbeck used the imagery of rabbits in a powerful way. The story is about two drifters, protective George and man-child Lennie, who find jobs on a California ranch during the Great Depression. Something tragic happens, and the only way Lennie can be soothed is by hearing George talk about their dream of having their own farm. The farm would have soft, calming, lovely rabbits to pet – which is not a bad stand-in for the dreams we all have tucked away to keep the demons at bay.

Fine rabbits, all. So – do you have other favorites?  Be sure to add them to The List!