Friday, July 01, 2011

Top ten top-ten lists

I'm about three days late with my weekly post due to actually working and having company. Why do I feel guilty, like I took time off of work I wasn’t entitled to? I don’t get paid to do this. I don’t have a boss. There are more players on the field at a pro football team as there are those who read this every week. Why do I care? I don’t know, but I do and feel as if I somehow let down the world.

Top ten lines from movies from action movies

10. “We’re outgunned and undermanned. But, you know sumptin, we’re gonna win. You know why? Superior attitude. Superior state of mind." (Mason Storm” played by Steven Seagal – Hard to Kill. I live to say this sometimes, but I also attribute it)

9. “Well, there goes this new suit.” (townsman in Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles while being dragged along the ground by a man on a horse. I know you think this is a comedy, but it was a cowboy movie too and I want it in my list)

8. “Never tell me the odds.” (Hans Solo in Star Wars, after an android tells him the odds of escaping an imperial attack)

7. “I know.” (Hans Solo in The Empire Strikes Back to Princess Leia after she says “I love you” just before he is put in suspended animation)

6. “Isn’t that just like a wop? Brings a knife to a gun fight.” (Sean Connery’s Jimmy Malone in The Untouchables just before he himself is surprised and shot)

5. “Look out, Little Lady. Hell is coming to breakfast.” (Lone Watie played by Chief Dan George, in Clint Eastwood's The Outlaw Josey Wales when he sees Josey Wales hailing the comancheros who kidnapped him and a traveling Missouri family)

4. “I love the smell of napalm in the morning. . . Smell like . . . victory.” (Robert Duvall playing the irrepressible surfer, Colonel Kilgore, in Apocalypse Now)

3. ““Did he fire six shots or only five?” Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself a question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya punk?” (Eastwood's Harry Callahan in Dirty Harry. Eastwood had a lot of great lines written for him)

2. “Yippee-ki-yay, motherf*cker.” (Bruce Willis in Die Hard. More plot flaws pure minute than a bad porno film, but you just had to root for the guy. If I ever have to shoot someone [don't get me wrong - not looking to]I hope I get to say this first)

1. “Now remember, when things look bad and it looks like you're not gonna make it, then you gotta get mean. I mean plumb, mad-dog mean. 'Cause if you lose your head and you give up then you neither live nor win. That's just the way it is.” Eastwood's Josey Wales instructing a bunch of amateurs how to survive a fight)

Top ten Seinfeld guest characters

10. Mickey (Kramer’s midget friend)

9. Susan Ross (George’s waspy fiancée)

8. George Steinbrenner (Larry David’s own wacky version)

7. FDR (a truculent friend of Kramer who gives Cosmo the evil eye)

6. Mr. Kruger (one of George’s bosses for a while who doesn’t seem to care much about his job)

5. Tony the mechanic (Brad Garrett from Raymond plays a crazy car repairman who steals Jerry’s car when he feels Jerry isn’t caring enough about it)

4. Lieutenant Bookman (high school library police)

3. Kenny Bania (an awful comedian always sucking up to Jerry)

2. Puddy. “That’s right.” (Elaine’s boyfriend for a while)

1. The soup nazi. “No soup for you.”

I was not a fan of Jackie Chiles. And, yes, I do notice they are mostly men.

Top ten super heroes

10. Wonder Woman

9. Monel (a Superman like hero from the future)

8. Sub-mariner (much cooler than Aquaman; he almost stole Sue Storm from Reed Richards)

7. Doctor Fate (he had magical powers and in my opinion – the coolest costume – a vibrant light blue and canary yellow)

6. Hawkeye (the Green Arrow of Marvel’s line up and an Avenger, he has a difficult personality and clashes with his teammates. But, gritty, and comes through a lot despite being a mere mortal)

5. Silver Surfer (a unique, powerful and really cool super hero with a flying surfboard)

4. Daredevil (they destroyed this character in a very bad movie – but great comic hero)

3. Martian Manhunter (a Superman like hero from Mars, but can turn invisible and change his shape

2. Spider Man

1. Superman

I never was a big Batman fan.

Top Ten Wars

10. Anglo-Sikh Wars (really two wars in the 1840s during Britain’s heyday, but the Sikhs one of the toughest opponents the British ever faced)

9. Norman conquest

8. Expedition of the Thousand (while we were warming up for the Civil War Giuseppe Garibaldi and a band of amateurs conquered The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies leading to the creation of Italy)

7. Russo-Japanese War (little Japan surprised Russia. Teddy Roosevelt earned a Nobel for his negotiating a treaty. Decades later Japan recreates its surprise attack on America at Pearl Harbor, but gets a different result in the end).

6. Trojan War (I know it may never have happened, but that’s why I’m not putting it first)

5. The Greco-Persian War (against Xerxes – Thermopylae and the Battle of Salamis make this a classic

4. Second Punic War (the one between Rome and a Hannibal led Carthage)

3. American Civil War

2. Peloponnesian War


Top Ten Scientists

10. Nikolai Tesla (the alternating current motor, radio, arguably x-rays, to name a few. Contemporary of Edison and I thought the greater of the two)

9. Lucretius (I am probably just playing favorites here – I love his On the Nature of Things, a long poem from the 1st century B.C., it explores Epicurian philosophy, discusses atomism and is more an explanation of and inspiration to science rather than actual science, so if you feel cheated, put John von Neumann – perhaps the brightest of the Hungarians of the early 20th century who helped revolutionize physics. He has too many fields to discuss – google or wiki him)

8. Max Planck (in some ways, his comprehension of quanta is as important as relativity; he also pretty much “discovered” Einstein for us)

7. Leonardo Da Vinci (the renaissance man)

6. Niels Bohr (in some senses a great rival to Einstein and possibly smarter in some ways – we may not know for a while as their great debate isn’t settled – Does God play dice with the universe?)

5. James Clerk Maxwell (the electromagnetic field)/Michael Faraday (classical field theory)

4. Galileo

3. Francis Bacon (So important in developing the scientific method. He had too many fields – law, philosophy, politician)

2. Albert Einstein

1. Isaac Newton

I could switch one and two, but Newton was probably greater. Obviously, this is physics and engineering heavy. Soft science is so much less certain, but perhaps it is so much harder and that is why a Darwin or Lyell belongs here.

Ten best American Novels

10. The Buddha Book (a classic urban almost surreal novel by the occasional and virtually unknown author, Abraham Rodriguez)

9. The Stand (Stephen King)

8. Ragtime (E. L. Doctorow)

7. The Big Sleep (Raymond Chandler)

6. Slaughterhouse Five (Kurt Vonnegut)

5. The Maltese Falcon (Dashiell Hammet)

4. For Whom the Bell Tolls (Ernest Hemingway)

3. The World According to Garp (John Irving)

2. Pudd’nhead Wilson (Mark Twain)

1. The Last of the Mohicans (James Fenimore Cooper)

I do not like conventional fiction too much and my list is admittedly controversial. I think Pudd’nhead Wilson was Twain’s best book other than the posthumously published Letters from Earth. Sometimes I think Irving’s Setting Free the Bears was better than Garp, but I might have just liked the subject matter better. I am not a Stephen King fan, and The Stand is the only book of his I really like (because I don’t like him much, I’ve read only a few) but it was brilliant. Besides than Rodriguez’ family and I guess his agent, I’m pretty sure no one else would pick him. Bear and I were discussing how Cooper has gotten harder to read as we get older, but I believe that is because modern novels are so much more slam bang easy to read.

Ten Best NBA centers
10. George Mikan

9. Moses Malone

8. David Robinson

7. Bob Lanier

6. Nate Thurmond

5. Shaquille O’Neal

4. Hakeem Olajuwan

3. Kareem Abdul Jabbar

2. Bill Russell

1. Wilt Chamberlain

Wilt was greater than Bill, who had better teams. Argue about it all you want but live with it. Nate Thurmond was always underrated. I am not a Patrick Ewing or Bill Walton fan. They were good, but not as good as these guys. Ordering 7-9 was tough and you could convince me I have it wrong. Mikan is in mostly in because he was the first great big man and I apologize to Dave Cowens and Wesley Unseld for leaving them out.

Ten best non-musical sounds

10. Soda can flip top opening

9. Solid contact between a fist and a jaw

8. horse clip clopping on solid ground

7. rhythm of train on a track

6. the crack of a bat on a ball

5. birds chirping at dawn

4. crickets/toads chirping at night

3. shower running

2. Waves pounding

1. Babbling brook

Yes, I like water sounds. Sue me.

Ten worst things about Thomas Jefferson

10. The Louisiana Purchase was a critical act in American history. Jefferson gets credit for it but really had nothing to do with it – Robert Livingston, James Monroe and Napoleon did. But, he himself thought it unconstitutional. So, what did Mr. Strict Scrutiny do? He let it happen anyway without a constitutional amendment. Hypocrite.

9. When his neighbor and friend went away and asked him to look after his wife, Jefferson did – and took liberties which were rejected.

8. The Sally Hemmings matter is still complicated and controversial. But, it seems pretty evident that it was he, not one of his relatives who was the father of Sallie’s children. He kept them as slaves (her too) but freed the children eventually. So, he either kept his own children and their mother as slaves for a while, or his relative’s children. But, the slavery was so reprehensible, keeping his children as slaves is only emotionally worse.

7. Jefferson had his scandalmonger James Callendar write scandalous attacks on John Adams and Alexander Hamilton – his political foes. It was justice when Callender, shunted aside by Jefferson, turned his pen on him.

6. Jefferson publicly humiliated Britain’s representative Anthony Merry, which almost resulted in Britain assisting Burr in his Western plot – whatever it may have been, and indirectly helped lead to the war of 1812 by his strength through weakness approach.

5. His war with Hamilton while both were in Washington’s cabinet drove Washington bonkers and he begged both to stop. It is of no moment that Hamilton was as bad as Jefferson.

4. When Haiti became the next country to win independence Jefferson refused to recognize it and even embargoed it rather than have a free black state so close to America and particularly the south. He pretended not to be politically ambitious, but was anything but.

3. His secret writing of the Kentucky Resolution and getting Madison to write the Virginia Resolution while Vice President. He was right on the issue, but this was political backstabbing like no other. There were more honest and better ways. His position indirectly led to the Civil War decades later.

2. His keeping slaves while decrying slavery was a lesson for all others that there was no reason to give them up. It is hogwash he couldn’t afford to let them go. He did not have to live at Monticello. It is hogwash he wasn’t allowed. In fact, his friend Robert Carter III let go far more slaves than Jefferson even had.

1. The 1807 embargo act, meant to teach France but particularly Great Britain a lesson, nearly brought our own country to its knees. His enforcement of it was tyrannical.

Jefferson’s ghost is lucky this is only a top ten list. I could go on.

Top ten ancient civilizations
10. Qin Dynasty (a relatively short lived Chinese empire (from whom we get the name China, of course, and not so early in time, 3d century b.c., it was the model for so much that came later and its language was a unifying force)

9. Rome (they are not really among my favorites, but how can I leave them out. They conquered Europe and much of the east, and influenced more cultures in more ways than perhaps anyone else on this list)

8. Huns (who were these mounted archers who could defeat almost anyone, had no written language, and yet seemed very civilized in other ways? We really don’t know. What was their language even like? We don’t know this either. Maybe Turkic)

7. Mongols (yes, Genghis Khan and co. I love the way they came out of nowhere and took over everything)

6. Indus Valley civilization (a contemporary of Egypt and Sumeria, they were equally inventive and creative. Archaeologists have found well over a 1000 cities of it so far; they were practicing dentistry over 7500 years ago, but that is just a smidge of information; I could have moved them up)

5. Olmecs (I love this short lived, mysterious pre-Columbian civilization that was sort of an inspiration for the rest of the Central and South American empires)

4. Egyptians (same as the Sumerians. The pyramids are still around and that, my friends, is amazing)

3. Sumerians (because they invented it all before the Greeks did. You could substitute the Egyptians in their place)

2. Hebrews (if they did nothing but create the old testament and lay the foundation for the new, that was enough. Besides, a few of them are still sneaking around, I hear)

1. Greece 9th century through 5th century b.c. (because we are who we are because of them, including the inventors letters I use to write this for the most part)

I apologize to the Phoenicians/Carthagians. It would have been a lot different if you had defeated Rome.


  1. Conchis8:05 AM

    Three words that will remind you of two: "Sue Ellen Mischke". Have a wonderful July 4th!

  2. So, I'm reading my witty friend's ten BEST list, and we all know how much I love lists, and I'm getting all sorts of pithy responses based on what I'm reading, and then... The ten WORST Jefferson things!ARRRGHHHH! That is the sound of me puking up the McDouble with chees and fries I was so enjoying for lunch while reading this. And of course, first thing I read is "Louisana Purchase", arguably the greatest (certainly top ten) single Presidential act.... and on it goes as my otherwise brillant friend slanders one of the four greatest founders of this country. It's almost blasphemous enough to get me to start blogging again. You exhaust me, you moron!


    As to Bear, you know, I'm really surprised at his response. I thought being a Jefferson fan, he'd appreciated my analysis. I suppose I have to write about the Louisiana Purchase soon. All right then.


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About Me

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I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .