The best and worst

My Thoughts Exactly

The best and the Worst

By LEIGH ANN WHIDDON

Lifestyles Editor

I picked up a book in the bookstore a few years ago called  “Felton & Fowler’s Best, Worst and Most Unusual.” Its subtitle is “A fascinating miscellany of achievement, blunders,  oddities, and curiosities on virtually everything — from literature, film and diplomacy to baseball lovers and quiz shows.”

Now that we have gotten past the title, Bruce Felton and  Mark Fowler, who obviously have too much time on their  hands, put together sort of a unique world‘s record book. I  picked it up and really flipped through it for the first time a  few days ago. I found it interesting that I have been to or  experienced some of “the worsts.”

For example, the worst family entertainment: the Tiger  Balm Gardens in Hong Kong. I have never been to the one in  Hong Kong, but I have been to the one in Singapore, which is just like it. Tiger Balm is an over-the-counter eucalyptus salve  which cures everything from mosquito bites to sore muscles,  to hangovers, to stuffy noses. I’ve got lots of it in my bath-  room. Itvwas created by Aw Boon Haw. I have no idea why he  decided to build a garden, but he did. Felton and Fowler calls  it “a concrete and plaster Disneyland of the Vulgar.” I won’t  go into details, this is a family paper, but most of the exhibits  have to do with what various tortures mythical Chinese  kings put their captives through. Rather graphic, to say the  least.

Felton and Fowler lists the worst fruit ever as the durian.  The durian is sold all over southeast Asia and is very popular, if you can get past the smell. F&F say that if you smelled  it you would think the’city’s» sewer system was on the blink.  The durian is the size of a big bowl and is covered in big,  sharp spikes. F&F describe the taste as a combination of  rancid cheese, garlic and smoked ham;  I don’t remember  what it tastes like, I don’t think I ate enough to find out. The  interesting thing is, durian is a fruit that you either love or hate, with a passion.

Lest you think all of the worsts come from Asia, there are  few American ones.  One of the worst ice cream flavors, according to the book,  is Baskin-Robbins bubble gum. I hate to admit it, it was a big  favorite of mine for awhile. The secret to choking it down is to save the bubble gum for last — It needs time to thaw,  anyway.

The worst monument in the United States is right here in  the Lone Star State. Felton and Fowler were not too impress-ed with the monument to Lyndon Baines Johnson on the  campus of the University of Texas. They called it “squat and  sinister and designed with a mysterious dearth of windows.”  I’ve been there, too.

What about the worst ever television situation comedy‘?  Plenty of nominees come to mind, but Felton and Fowler give  that honor to “I Dream of Jeannie.” According to F&F, NBC  studios was bombarded with letters from viewers who did not  appreciate the fact that Jeannie’s (Barbara Edens) skimpy  outfit got skimpier with every episode. Fact is, the size of the  costume stayed the same, but Eden was pregnant so a little less of her fit in it every week. I would like to redeem myself  on this one, I watched “Jeannie” but it never was one of my  favorites.

What about some of the bests? Felton and Fowler list the  best (most beautiful) structure in the world at the Ta] Mahal  in Agra, India.  I’ve been there and I second (third?) the  motion. It smells nice too, like incense. ‘

The best symphony ever written was Beethoven’s Ninth  Symphony. I played that one in band and loved it.

Another favorite of mine is Tchaikovsky’s “I812 Overture.”  The best performance of this ever, according to the book, was  performed in Atlanta. For those of you who are not familiar with the piece, it ends with cannon fire. Most orchestras,  however, substitute the cannon fire with something a little less dangerous. Not this conductor. He added real fireworks.  He pressed the button at the appropriate time. smoke filled  the concert hall, a blast shook the room, the smoke set off a  fire alarm, the fire department arrived with axes and waterhoses. The concert ended early.  I have never been to a concert quite so spectacular. but I  did attend a concert at Hardin-Simmons University, when  the chapel caught on fire and the fire department made us all  leave. At five minutes, that was probably the shortest Cowboy  Band concert ever.  Well, that’s about the best and the worst of the best and  the worst. Next time, I’ll tell you about some of the most unusual.