Furniture to Go – “Pool Table”

In the 1990s, if one was asked about humorous repair shows on television, the press-the-buzzer answer for most Americans would have been Home Improvement, the ABC sitcom that starred Tim Allen as President of the Binford Tool Company and the host of the DIY home improvement show “Tool Time.”

Furniture to Go

Ed Feldman (left) and Joe L’Erario, hosts of Furniture to Go

But, for a small population of Philadelphians, humorous repair was synonymous with Joe L’Erario and Ed Feldman, stars of The Learning Channel series Furniture to Go, which aired from 1993 to 1997.  The two furniture repairmen from the City of Brotherly Love somehow carved out a niche and developed a loyal following in the crowded how-to television genre by intertwining their bonhomie and bad humor with cinematic references and an easygoing approach to their craft.

Over the course of four years, the pair channeled their restorative powers toward a panoply of furniture, from French Deco cocktail tables and walnut pews to poplar armoires, mahogany throne chairs, and Old World roll-top desks.  And, in 1996, for their 49th episode “Pool Table,” they tackled – you guessed it – the refurbishing of an old pool table.  The full episode is available to watch here.

Like most Furniture to Go episodes, “Pool Table” begins with a cinematic interstitial. Mr. Feldman plays Minnesota Fats, and Mr. L’Erario plays Bert Gordon, in a black-and-white parody of The Hustler, which also randomly weaves in a reference to “my friend Harvey” from The Honeymooners billiards episode “The Bensonhurst Bomber.” (Other episodes have lampooned films, such as Arsenic and Old Lace, A Clockwork Orange, and On the Waterfront.)

After the clip, Mr. Feldman and Mr. L’Erario take the viewer to Monarch Billiards in Crum Lynne, Pennsylvania, where they have been contracted by the owner to repair an ash pool table (as opposed to the nearby $56,000 table with ­the Carpathian Elm aprons and legs with hand-carved mahogany lions).

Furniture to GoWith table in hand, they return to their studio to begin the restoration, which includes three stages: (1) refinishing the wood; (2) repairing the leather pockets; and (3) refelting the table. Though each stage is intended to be straight-forward, there are a sufficient number of steps involved to make one admire the difficulty of the artistry from afar.

For example, in the first phase, when Mr. L’Erario seeks to replace the “ugliest color finish he’s ever seen,” he takes the viewer through the following steps: sanding, cleaning, tack ragging, masking off, mixing (clear lacquer, burnt sienna japan color, and red mahogany stain), straining the mix, adding fisheye destroyer, spraying, adding a second layer of color (pure golden oak), spraying again, and finally, spraying a semi-gloss lacquer.

All the while, the duo engage in a series of terrible jokes, many with a nod to movies and celebrities.  Describing the legs of the pool table, Mr. Feldman says, “These legs aren’t that attractive either…They’re kind of like my aunt’s leg.” To which Mr. L’Erario replies, “They’re kind of like Ernest Borgnine’s legs.” Referring to the flattening agent in the semi-gloss lacquer, Mr. Feldman asks, “Flattening agent? Is that what Kate Moss uses?”

By the end of “Pool Table,” after the pockets have been treated with mink oil and the rails have been refelted using a rawhide hammer to secure the fabric beneath the splines, the table is reassembled using just a ratchet wrench (“Use the Ratchet. Miss Ratchet. Nurse Ratchet.”), and becomes the setting for a friendly game of billiards.

Though Furniture to Go only lasted a few years, the repair pair have channeled their skills and zany charm through a variety of off-camera activities, including authoring The Furniture Guys Book in 1999 and teaching classes at the Art Institute of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania, as well as have appeared on numerous talk shows, such as Good Morning America, Regis and Cathy Lee, Maury Povich and The View.

However, for true zealots of the show, the great news may be the team’s return to television.  In March 2017, a pre-production announcement for their new show The Old Furniture Guys lit up YouTube. For everyone who can’t wait to watch and once again wish to see these guys “lay down some gorgeous Charlie Sheens,” your prayers may have been finally answered.

Mr. Show – “Van Hammersly”

American History. Science.  Mathematics. Taught by the wrong educator, these can be dry subjects. But, what if you could learn about these subjects in an exciting, entertaining format from a world-wide billiards champion using nothing more than a pool table, balls, and cues?

That would be genius!  Or, if not genius, than downright, gut-busting, absurd.

Van HammerslySuch was the premise of the 1996 “Van Hammersly” sketch from Season 2, Episode 4, of the Emmy-nominated HBO comedy series Mr. Show, starring and hosted by Bob Odenkirk and David Cross.

Across the 30 episodes that aired between November 1995 and December 1998, Mr. Show lampooned everything from traditionalism to capitalism to organized religion with hilarious sketches that earned the show the 3rd greatest sketch comedy TV show of all time, according to Rolling Stone.[1]

Today, most people associate Mr. Odenkirk with the dubious, silver-tongued lawyer Saul Goodman from Breaking Bad and its spin-off Better Call Saul.  But, long before assuming the role of the smooth-talking attorney, Mr. Odenkirk portrayed a plethora of memorable characters on Mr. Show, including Van Hammersly, a cheeseball billiards champ hawking a line of educational video cassettes that are equivalent to earning your GED.  You can watch the full “Van Hammersly” sketch here.

The 150-second faux infomercial is must-see TV.  “Van Hammersly” begins with an introduction his first videocassette, “I Oughta Be in Pictures,” which “showcases his incredible talent and passion for the golden age of film.”  Featuring billiards balls named after Marilyn Monroe, Humphrey Bogart (“Judy, Judy, Judy”)[2] and the Three Stooges, Van Hammersly engages with, and then pockets, the balls as they interact at a 1952 Hollywood Awards show.

In the second video, we’re “off to the races as Van recounts the running of the 1974 Kentucky Derby the only way he knows how – with a pool table!”  Shooting each ball (horse) into a pocket, Van Hammersley details the race, rattling off with gusto a series of fictional equines:  Mr. Fasthorse, Papa’s Delicate Condition, Kystallnacht, Batman: The Horse, Nice ‘N’ Sticky, Stinkfinger, If Mandy Patinkin Was a Horse, and (“bringing up the rear”), Ol’ Felcher.[3]

Van HammerslyOther videos in Van’s series detail the history of mass transportation; science; mathematics; American history (“And that’s when Lincoln said [sinking the ball] don’t dis my homies.”); Renaissance painting, oceanography, corn futures, belly dancing; December 7th, 1941; billiards, rock lyrics, and many, many more!

Whether because of the memorable nut-job one-liners, the signature physical gestures, or the ludicrous concept, “Van Hammersly” often ranks among the most popular of the 157 Mr. Show sketches.[4]

And yet, ironically, the concept of teaching academic subjects through billiards is neither fictitious nor far-fetched.  Many probably remember watching in elementary school the 27-minute educational vignette Donald in Mathmagic Land that explains math angles to Donald Duck through a game of three-cushion billiards.  In a similar vein (though very poorly executed), the Australian Commonwealth Unit commissioned a series of educational “message films” in 1972. One such short film was “The Billiard Room” which lamely tried to teach the adult learning process through a game of snooker.

More recently, the National Film Board of Canada aired the “Let’s Play Long Billiards” episode of their Discover Science television series in which they explain the effects of colliding forces through a massive game of billiards. And in January 2015, the Science Channel’s wonderful series Outrageous Acts of Science featured billiards trick shot artist Florian “Venom” Kohler in an episode of “Fact or Faked” which asked real scientists to explain the science behind his improbable shots.

Maybe “Van Hammersly” is not so preposterous after all.  Anyone up for a billiards lesson on Zombies in Popular Media? Patternmaking for Dog Garments? Queer Musicology? Science from Superheroes?[5]

[1]        “40 Greatest Sketch-Comedy TV Shows of All Time,” Rolling Stone, March 27, 2015.

[2]    The best part is while the origin of the “Judy, Judy, Judy” line is murky, it is always attributed to Cary Grant, not Humphrey Bogart.

[3]       Still don’t get the pun?  Look it up. #NSFW.


[5]       Yes, these really are the names of courses currently taught on college campuses. (

Wanted! – The Original Billiards Movies

The turn into the 20th century was an exciting time for movies.  In 1900, the first films appeared, as defined by incorporating basic editing techniques and narrative.  One-reel films, running five to eight minutes, replaced the earlier single-shot films. Distribution exploded, with the number of US theaters skyrocketing from a handful in 1904 to 8,000-10,000 in 1908.  By 1910, several “firsts” had occurred: Hollywood produced its first film (Old California by D.W. Griffith); Life of Moses became the first multi-reel film to show; and a man jumped out of a burning hot balloon into the Hudson River, marking the first movie stunt.

But, there is an even greater reason to landmark 1910.   Yes, ninety-seven years ago, the first two billiards movies, both French, were created: Calino joue au billard and The Devil’s Billiard Table.  Unfortunately, I have not been able to locate either of these films, and I cannot confirm they still exist.  So, I beseech my readers:  If you can help me locate either of these movies, please contact me directly.

Calino joue au billard

Calino joue au billardAt the turn of the century, the leader in European cinema was the Pathé Company, which was revolutionizing the film industry by manufacturing its own equipment and mass producing movies under one director. In 1907, the Pathé Company innovated once more when it launched a series of one-reel comedies starring André Deed.

The only serious competitor to the Pathé Company was Gaumont Pictures, which was just a quarter its size. In 1908, Leon Gaumont told his production head they needed a comic series similar to that of Pathé.  The net result, beginning in 1909, was the Calino series of one-reels, directed by Romeo Bosetti.  Calino was portrayed by Clément Mégé, an “acrobatic veteran of the circus and music hall.” [1]

In total, Gaumont produced 23 Calino films between 1909 and 1910.  Calino joue au billard, which translates to Calino Playing Billiards, released in 1910.  Like all movies of that time, it was silent and black-and-white. The six-minute comedy largely depicted the troubles and panics caused by Calino around the billiard table.  Unfortunately, no more information is available.

The Devil’s Billiard Table

Devil's Billiard TableThere is some confusion surrounding the French comedy film The Devil’s Billiard Table (originally titled Le Billard du Diable). Released in the US as a split-reel along with Faithful Unto Death, the movie has been erroneously attributed to the directors Georges Hatot and Victorin-Hippolyte Jasset.  But, in fact, that duo directed Faithful. The directors and actors behind The Devil’s Billiard Table remain an unsolved mystery.

What is more certain is that the movie was created by Éclair Films, a French film manufacturing company that one year later opened an American branch, the Éclair American Company, in Fort Lee to churn out short films. [2]

Judging by its length, 83 meters (272 feet), The Devil’s Billiard Table was approximately three minutes in length. A description of the film comes directly from IMDB:

Mr. X is a great billiard player, and is quite proud of his accomplishments in this direction. He never misses to challenge any of his friends, and, of course, never fails to come out victorious. As time goes on, his friends grow tired of being continually beaten, and besides, they are goaded by the knowledge, that despite their best efforts, they are unable to humiliate the proud Mr. X. At about this time, Mephistopheles happens along and tells the young friends of Mr. X, that if they will give him their souls, he will, in turn, challenge the mighty billiard player, and beat him at his own game. So keen has become the desire to avenge themselves upon their adversary that they make the compact. Accordingly Mephistopheles challenges Mr. X, who readily accepts, feeling confident, of course, of victory. He does not play very long, however, before he realizes that he is playing against some greater power than himself and all too soon, he is beaten by the artful wiles of his enemy.[3]

Regrettably, the consensus online is that the progenitors of the billiards movie genre — Calino joue au billard; The Devil’s Billiard Table; Billiards Mad (1912); and A Game of Pool (1913) – are all now gone.  If this is true, we should mourn the passing of this noteworthy quartet.  Fortunately, the W.C. Fields’ short film Pool Shark (1915) is widely available, thanks to its distribution by Criterion, making it now the grand patriarch of the genre.

[1]       The Ciné Goes to Town: French Cinema, 1896-1914, Updated and Expanded Edition



Benrat – “Billiards”

By my count, a near Noah’s ark of anthropomorphic pool players have picked up a cue stick.  I’ve written about cats and mice (Tom and Jerry – “Cue Ball Cat), ducks (Donald in Mathmagic Land), sharks and rainbow fish (Rainbow Fish – “Pool Shark”), sheep and sheepdogs (Shaun the Sheep – “Shaun Goes Potty”), woodpeckers and buzzards (The New Woody Woodpecker Show – “Cue the Pool Shark”), and even a talking Palomino (Mr. Ed “Ed the Pool Player” ).  Now, to this menagerie, we must add rats and bears.  Welcome to the “Billiards” episode of Benrat.

BenratBenrat is a Chinese animated web series that included 30 six-minute episodes released across two seasons in 2013. “Billiards” is the fifth episode from the first season of Benrat.  The series features four characters: the eponymous Benrat, an optimistic, well-intentioned murine; Bossy, a self-righteous, trouble-making bear; Noby, a smaller ursine who is simple and honest; and Fansy, a cute pink female rabbit. Together, this quartet engages in a variety of activities, from the mundane (e.g., “Brushing Teeth,” “Waste Sorting”) to the competitive (e.g., “Archery,” “Ping Pong Ball”).

BenratUnlike some cartoons aimed at the pre-tween set, Benrat seems to offer no life lessons for kids; rather, it is intended purely to engage and elicit laughter, even at the expense of the characters. In “Billiards,” Benrat and Bossy compete in a game of 8-ball.  Bossy, clearly the better players, sinks all the balls, except the eight, on his break.  When Benrat has his turn, he accidentally jams the cue into the felt, ricocheting him backward into the wall.  With the game up for grabs, the pair continue to distract one another with harmless antics, until Bossy’s cue stick hits the overhead lamp, causing it to fall on him and — electrocute him (?!?), thereby giving the victory to Benrat. (Kids, do not try this at home on your parents’ pool table.)

You will not find Benrat on any network or on IMDB. There is a surprising dearth of available information about the series.  Ultimately, I realized this is because Benrat is a property created by the KungFu Animation Group. It can be found on KungFu World, their online animation copyright trading portal, which exists for the sole purpose of allowing Chinese animation copyright owners to sell their works to professional buyers overseas. [1]

Though there is a distributor (Elite Movies) associated with Benrat, I could not determine if the series had found an international buyer.  The little rodent may have won the game of 8-ball, but I suspect his days of billiards were numbered.

The “Billiards” episode of Benrat is available here to stream on Amazon.


Hagiga B’Snuker

In the mid-1970s, the mood was not light in the State of Israel. With a population at the time of about 3.5 million people, the Middle Eastern nation, which is only a little larger than New Jersey, had gone through the Six-Day War (1967); the War of Attrition (1967-1970); a number of Palestinian attacks, including the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympics; and the highly violent Yom Kippur War (1973).

Hagiga B'SnukerConfronted by such hate and immersed in such carnage, perhaps it is not surprising that a group of Israeli filmmakers tried to inject some escapism and levity into the times with their introduction of Bourekas films, a genre of “comic melodramas or tearjerkers… based on ethnic stereotypes” that proved highly popular at the box office. [1] Included in this peculiar genre is Hagiga B’Snuker, the sole billiards movie to originate from Israel.

Also known as Snooker or Festival at the Poolroom, this 1975 film was directed by Boaz Davidson, one of the pioneers of Bourekas (and likely the creator of the term). Today, Mr. Davidson is better known as a prolific movie producer, with films ranging from Rambo to The Expendables, though he is also the director behind a streak of ‘80s sex comedies, such as The Last American Virgin, Hot Bubblegum, and Private Popsicle.

Hagiga B’Snuker is about two estranged twin brothers, Azriel, a shy and religious Jew who works in a village fruit store, and Gavriel, a hustler who operates in a pool hall called Moadon Snooker, where unsuspecting victims are roped by his friend Hannukah and then conned out their money. (Both brothers are played by Yehuda Barkan. Hannukah is played by Ze’ev Ravach.)

The act works well until Gavriel makes the mistake of hustling Mushon (Tuvia Tzafir), a nebbish dolt, who happens to be the son of Salvador (Joseph Shiloach), a mobster once known as the Israeli King of Snooker.

Fleeced by Gavriel of the money intended for his tooth replacement, which was to make him more attractive for his upcoming arranged nuptials, Mushon returns to the pool hall with his father, who pretends to be an easy snooker mark.  Hannukah and Gavriel approach him for a game of 3 Reds (essentially a faster version of snooker, with only three red balls instead of 15).[2]  Overly confident, they increase the bet to 60,000 Israeli lira, which equals about $10,000 US dollars (or $46,500 in 2017). But, the moment the bet is sealed, Salvador unlocks his briefcase, and begins to assemble his cue stick. Hannukah and Gavriel, mouth agape, stare incredulously, as Salvador subsequently pots every ball without missing, therefore winning the wager.

Hagiga B'SnukerHagiga B’Snuker then follows the duo’s foiled attempts, first to avoid paying the debt and then to secure the money.  Ultimately, with no options remaining, Gavriel is forced to renew contact with his brother, who could conceivably provide Gavriel with the money if they sell the family estate. But, their parents’ will specifies that the property can only be sold if Avriel is married.

More hijinks ensue, especially as Hannukah impersonates a rabbinical matchmaker and Gavriel pretends to be his twin brother in order to win the heart of, and marry, a local rabbi’s daughter, Yona (Nitza Shaul).  But, in a bizarre coincidence, Yona is also the bride-to-be for Salvador’s son Mushon.

[SPOILER ALERT!] At last, the only way Gavriel and Salvador can settle both the monetary debt and the competing love interest for Yona is, predictably, through another game of 3 Reds. Even this game, however, is compromised when Azriel accidentally shows up at the pool hall.  Seeing Azriel (and mistaking him for Gavriel), Salvador forces him to play the game. Azriel, never having played snooker, quizzically picks up the cue stick and, mistakenly using the butt of the stick, miraculously pots all the balls on one shot, thereby unknowingly winning the bet and the heart of Yona.

Though not an overly memorable film, Hagiga B’Snuker is nonetheless a welcome addition to the billiards movie canon because of it humorous setup, as well as its Israeli representation and portrayal of the game 3 Reds.

Hagiga B’Snuker is available to buy with English subtitles on DVD from the Israel Catalog.

[1]       “And Then There Was One,” Uri Klein, Harretz, 2008.

[2]       Thank you to my colleagues at Snooker Potcast for helping me to identify the 3 Reds variant of snooker.

Lovejoy – “The Colour of Mary”

When historians chronicle the origins of billiards, they frequently cite Mary, Queen of Scots, as one of the sport’s earliest and most famous enthusiasts.

Colour of Mary

Painting of Mary, Queen of Scots, by Nicholas Hilliard. The painting resides at the National Portrait Gallery in London.

Mary ruled over Scotland for almost 25 years in the mid-16th century. When she claimed she was the legitimate heir to the throne of England, the current queen, Elizabeth I, had her confined to various castles.  One of the last prisons for Mary was Tutbury Castle, where she was moved to in 1585.  Under the guardianship of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, she was treated kindly and was granted her request to have a billiards table on the premises.

However, her time at Tutbury was short-lived.  She was subsequently moved to Fotheringay Castle, without her billiards table.  There, she was found guilty of plotting to assassinate Elizabeth and was beheaded in 1587. According to reports from her lady-in-waiting, her headless body was wrapped in the cloth from the billiards table.

Now, fast-forward about 400 years.  Charlie Gimbert, a sleazy antiques dealer, has inherited the management of fallen snooker champion Murray McNally, who insists his game depends on the procurement of Mary, Queen of Scots’ billiards table.  To find the table, Gimbert contracts Lovejoy, a rougish dealer, and sics him on the impossible fool’s errand with a promise of a big payoff if he successfully secures the trophy.

Colour of MaryWell, that’s at least the premise of “The Colour of Maryepisode of the British comedy-drama series Lovejoy.  First aired in 1986, Lovejoy follows the antique-hunting adventures of the eponymous Lovejoy (Ian McShane).  The series had a five-year gap between its first and second seasons, which is why this particular episode aired in January, 1993, during the fourth season.

“The Colour of Mary,” with an obvious cultural nod to The Color of Money, begins with Lovejoy’s well-intended pursuit of the mythical table. Unfortunately, after connecting with antique historians and visiting the famed Fotheringay Castle, it becomes clear to Lovejoy that the table no longer exists, most likely incinerated hundreds of years ago along with all of Mary’s possessions.

Expecting that neither Gimbert (Malcom Tierney) nor McNally (Alex Norton) know the table’s true history, Lovejoy proceeds to create a forgery, using some early baize and nailing it to an Elizabethan table.  The table is put up for auction by an estate, and Gimbert buys it for £15,000 with the intent of showing it to McNally.  But, surprise, surprise, McNally was acting in his own ruse, and upon seeing the table, proceeds to demolish it, citing his militant preference for snooker over billiards.

This curious coda seems intent on fanning the flames of a ‘snooker versus billiards’ rivalry, but I strongly question whether such a dogfight exists.  More to the point, any player that would take an axe to an antique billiards table is truly not deserving of his cue stick.

“The Colour of Maryalso include an exhibition snooker match with real world snooker champion Dennis Taylor, but his presence does little to save this rather uneven episode.

The full episode is available for purchase on YouTube.

The Billiard Ball

As portrayed in contemporary pop culture, billiards has become surprisingly lowbrow; a game primarily associated with smoke-filled pool halls, barroom brawls, garish intimacy, and/or fast con trick shots.  The irony, of course, is that billiards was once entertainment strictly for the gentry, popularized by royalty, such as King Louis XI of France, who introduced the first indoor billiards table.

The Billiard BallIn literature, the cultivated origins are equally evident, certainly ever since Shakespeare wrote “let’s to billiards” in Antony and Cleopatra (1606). Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and Lewis Carroll are just some of the canonical authors who appreciated and fervently played the sport.  Rudyard Kipling, author of The Jungle Book, wrote about billiards in his tale, “My Own True Ghost Story” (1888).  So, too, did Italo Calvino in “Le Joueur de Billiard,” (1956); Winnie-the-Pooh creator A.A. Milne in “A Billiard Lesson,” (1914); and Wallace Stegner in “The Blue Winged Teale” (1950).

One of the most notable billiards-themed short stories is “The Billiard Ball,” penned in 1966 by Isaac Asimov, the Hugo Award winning science fiction author, who wrote or edited more than 500 books, including I, Robot, which was made into a movie starring Will Smith. “The Billiard Ball” appeared in his 1968 collection Asimov’s Mysteries.

In “The Billiard Ball,” a journalist recounts the events leading up to the discovery of an anti-gravity device in the mid-21st century.  The device results from the efforts and rivalry between billionaire Edward Bloom, who invented the device, and Nobel Prize winning physicist and Professor James Priss, who discovered the theories underlying the device.

Throughout the story, the two men successfully put their differences on hold by competing in friendly games of pool. However, as tensions mount regarding the feasibility of achieving anti-gravity, Bloom opts to prove the success of the device by staging a public challenge on a billiards table.  Specifically, he dares Priss to shoot a ball toward the center of a billiards table, where it will enter a zero-gravity field, thereby eliminating mass.  Priss takes the shot, sending the ball caroming into the field. But when the ball enters the device’s field, the ball vanishes and Bloom instantly collapses dead with a mysterious hole drilled through his chest, begging the question: Did Priss intentionally murder Bloom?

So what does any of this have to do with movies?

As it happens, in 2013, Chelzea Hendrus and Tyler Johnson, two students at the University of Akron, created a 7-minute claymation adaptation of “The Billiard Ball” for their Extreme Physics (Physics Theatre) class.  The film, aptly titled The Billiard Ball, is available to watch here.

The characters’ names are changed (e.g., Professor Priss becomes Professor Higgs) and the film interweaves a lot of physics mumbo-jumbo not covered in the original story, but otherwise it’s an abridged version of the same famous Asimov tale, right down to the fatal, head-scratching carom shot. And the use of Mozart’s “Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major, K467 Andante” gives the film an appropriately foreboding feeling, even for watching two clay figures interact.

Lemon Tree Billiards HouseNow, does this signal a cultural shift for pool? A billiards literature renaissance? Will Leo Tolstoy’s “Recollections of a Billiard Maker” (1855) make it to the silver screen, just as his 864-page opus Anna Karenina did in 1987?  Given The Billiard Ball only has 310 views, probably not.

But, the notion of sourcing future billiards movies from literature is not as far-fetched as it may sound.  After all, the two most famous billiards movies – The Hustler and The Color of Money – were both adapted from novels written by Walter Tevis, as was the short billiards film The Lemon Tree Billiards House, which was based on a shorty story by Cedric Yamanaka. So, if Hollywood is looking to procure new material, there is a catalog of classic billiards stories awaiting perusal.


A special thanks to my colleague René G., who first turned me on to Asimov’s story, as well as many of the other great works referenced in this blog post.