Sunday, March 25, 2012

Top ten for March 2012

I. Ten best Elton John Songs

1. Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding

2. Daniel

3. Sacrifice

4. Grey Seal

5. Hercules

6. I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues

7. Crocodile Rock

8. Candle in the Wind

9. Rocket Man

10. Tiny Dancer

With apologies to fans of Your Song, Someone Saved My Life Tonight, The Bitch Is Back, Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting), Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, Ticking, Step Into Christmas and a lot of other incredible songs. What a career.

II. Ten best classical pieces (meaning all symphonic, chamber, choral and related music before 1900, and one afterwards, even if not technically classical)

1. Forest Murmurs – Wagner

2. Beethoven’s 9th Symphony (including Ode to Joy) – Beethoven

3. Brandenburg Concerto – Bach

4. Violin Concerto in E Minor - Mendelssohn

5. Toccata & Fugue – Bach

6. 1812 Overture – Tchaikovsky

7. Carmina Burana - Orff

8. Messiah – Handel

9. Fur Elise – Beethoven

10. Tie - Romeo and Juliet – Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev versions

Apologies to fans of Mozart (sorry, but I just don’t enjoy his like the other most famous composers), Mussorgsky, Ravel, Vivaldi and so on, infinitum.

III. Ten best Science fiction movies

1. Star Wars (and by that I mean what is now no. 4)

2. The Empire Strikes Back

3. E.T.

4. Revenge of the Jedi

5. Time After Time (1979 – Nicholas Meyer)

6. Back to the Future

7. Starman (Jeff Bridges)

8. Terminator 2: Judgment Day

9. Blade Runner

10. Total Recall

Apologies to fans of Soylent Green, The Matrix (all 3), Alien, Commando (with Arnold Schwarzenegger featuring what became known as the Predator), Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Westworld, Robocop and Barbarella. Yes, Barbarella. Sue me.

IV. Ten Greatest Founders Not To Become President

1. Ben Franklin

2. Alexander Hamilton

3. James Wilson

4. Sam Adams

5. John Jay

6. Patrick Henry

7. Albert Gallatin

8. Thomas Paine

9. John Marshall

10. James Otis, Jr.

V. Ten greatest cities

1. London

2. New York

3. Rome

4. Paris

5. Vienna

6. San Francisco

7. Amsterdam

8. Istanbul

9. Seville

10. Florence

Admittedly, I have not been to nos. 3 and 4 except to touch down briefly and rely on reading. Sorry if it is American-Euro centric, but, you know. . . . Venice is no. 11. Italy is big to me.

VI. Ten greatest Broadway musicals

1. Fiddler on the Roof

2. Guys and Dolls

3. Jesus Christ Superstar

4. Grease

5. Little Shop of Horrors

6. A Chorus Line

7. My Fair Lady

8. The King and I

9. A Funny Thing Happened on The Way to the Forum

10. Annie Get Your Gun

I did not have any interest in seeing or did not like Evita, Pippin, Les Mis, West Side Story, Oklahoma and Damn Yankees.

VII. Ten greatest Gibbs rules (and, if you don’t watch NCIS, sorry)

1. Rule 9 – Never go anywhere without a knife.

2. Rule 35 – Never screw over your partner.

3. Rule 40 – Always watch the watchers.

4. Rule 51 – If it seems someone is out to get you, they are.

5. Rule 13 – Sometimes -- you’re wrong.

6. Rule 4 - Never, ever involve a lawyer.

7. Rule 1 – The best way to keep a secret? Keep it to yourself. Second best? Tell one other person - if you must. There is no third best

8. Rule 1 (They had two no. 1s) –. Never let suspects stay together.

9. Rule 8 – Never take anything for granted.

10. Rule 3 – Don’t believe what you’re told. Double check.

Worst rules: Rule 12 – Never date a co-worker, and, Rule 39 – There is no such thing as a coincidence.

VIII. Ten greatest literary detectives

1. Sherlock Holmes (Arthur Conan Doyle)

2. Puddinhead Wilson (Mark Twain)

3. Sam Spade (Dashiell Hammett)

4. Hercule Poirot (Agatha Christie)

5. Phillip Marlowe (Raymond Chandler)

6. Archie Goodwin (Rex Stout – it may be heresy to put him ahead of Nero, but . . .)

7. Nero Wolfe (Rex Stout)

8. Spenser (Robert Parker)

9. Matthew Scudder (Lawrence Block)

10. Le Chevalier C. Auguste Dupin (Edgar Allen Poe - arguably the original)

All you Miss Marple and Maigret fans relax. Josephine Tey’s Alan Grant would have been no. 11.

IX. Ten greatest desserts

1. Pecan Pie

2. Apple Pie

3. Vanilla Ice Cream (actually, vanilla ice cream goes with many of these other desserts)

4. Fudge Brownie

5. Red Velvet Cake

6. Pumpkin Pie

7. Cherry Parfait

8. Chocolate Pudding

9. Banana Split

10. Banana Cream Pie

So, I like pie. It’s not a crime. I also consider chocolate chip cookies a snack, not a dessert. Just want to be clear about the important stuff.

X. Ten most memorable sports moments (I have to come off my blogger’s pedestal and admit that these are subjective – not that the rest weren’t – this is just harder to pretend)

1. Dave Wottle. Wottle passing the favorite, Ukrainian Yewgeniy Arzhanov (not to mention the entire field on his way), in the 1972 Olympic 800 meters race with an astonishing kick during which he claims he mentally went from hoping just to save face (he was the world record holder), to hoping for a silver, to winning by 3/100s of a second, is still the most exciting sport's event I have ever seen. Here’s a link. . Watch how far back he was right from the start. But, he catches up and then in the last 15 seconds does what I would think was a trick my mind was playing on me if it wasn't recorded. But, then, watch in slow motion how much ground he makes up in just the last THREE seconds. That was magical.

2. Franz Klammer This Austrian’s 1976 Olympic downhill run is a study in winning ugly. Klammer was already considered the greatest downhiller of all time before this race. Someone who still watches skiing would have to tell me if that is still the case. But, in this run, he almost loses it a few times and still comes out on top. It was breathtaking. I couldn’t sit down the whole run.

3. Alexis Arguello's first loss to Aaron Pryor. Arguello was one of the greatest fighters of all time as well as almost universally acknowledged to be the classiest act in boxing. His combinations were both beautiful and lethal. He could knock opponents out with just a left jab, but watch how many times it is a straight right set up by a left. Check out this series of knockouts (but I'd turn the sound off and play your own music) Of course, Arguello’s two fights with Aaron Pryor, a great fighter himself, are legendary. In the first fight, with Arguello was going for a record 4th title in 4 weight classes - this being his heaviest. Bear and I watched it together when we were still young men in 1982. Pryor got a tko in the 14th round, disappointing both Bear (a bigger fan than I was) and I, but Arguello gave it everything he had and sometimes hit Pryor so hard I think he could have knocked out some heavyweights. The fight was tainted by Pryor being given a drink mixed by his trainer, Panama Lewis, which seemed to revive him (possibly, it contained antihistamines, as another of Lewis’s fighters revealed in a 2009 interview). A rematch was granted and this time Pryor beat him in 10. They actually became good friends for life. Ring Magazine rated the first fight #8 and Arguello the #20th greatest puncher and the #1 junior lightweight, all of all time. Not bad. Watch the video for the beauty of it. His knockout of Boom Boom Mancini, where Boom Boom just wanders off dazed into la la land, and the last left jab, straight right combination against Kevin Rooney are my favorites.

4. Ali v. Foreman. So many great Ali fights, some of which I could only read about, but many which I saw. The first Ali v. Frazier fight may have been as good as Ali/Foreman fought several years later, but that was my favorite, among many, and I wish Ali retired as The Greatest after it. The fight was remarkable for many reasons. First, Foreman, was younger, bigger and possibly boxing's hardest puncher ever (so said Joe Louis and Jack Dempsey). He was undefeated, demolishing everyone on his way to a 40-0 (37 KO) record when they fought the Don King named Rumble in the Jungle. Foreman had already beat the stuffing out of Frazier and clobbered Ken Norton, who were the only two who had defeated Ali. The fight had to be delayed 5 weeks when Foreman cut himself, but the King of Zaire literally would not let them leave the country. Ali continuously mocked Foremean as he had Frazier earlier during that time. When they fought, Ali played his rope-a-dope card, which I originally thought he created out of necessity. But actually Ali and his trainer worked on it. For 7 rounds Foreman pounded him, only occasionally getting hit himself. But, the punches were not connecting with anything critical and he was exhausting himself. At the end of the 8th Ali caught him with a two punch combo that sent the big champion down. The knockout is a classic moment.

5. Sugar Ray Leonard v. Marvin Hagler and Davey Boy Green. Leonard had so many great fights, as did Hagler, it is hard to pick any as favorites. Leonard was, in my mind, the greatest fighter of the 1980s, beating all of the other great fighters at his weight - Benitez, Duran, Hearns, and so on, losing only once to Roberto Duran before later humiliating him in a second fight (The “No mas” fight – they actually fought years later and Leonard won again, but no one cared). I saw Leonard v. Hagler in Nassau Coliseum on a big screen with friends - I believe both Don and Bear were there, and it was as good as anticipated. Leonard had to come out of retirement for the fight and Hagler was going to retire afterwards. Leonard won a split decision, and in my mind deserved a unanimous decision. But, if you want to see a beautiful Leonard knockout, try this four punch combo against a hopelessly overmatched, Davey Boy Green.

6. 1985 Lakers over the Celtics in the NBA finals. The Lakers and the Celtics met three times in the mid-80s, and Magic Johnson of the Lakers and Larry Bird of the Celtics, both playing with all time great teams, were the best of an era ending with the rise of Isaiah Thomas and the Detroit Pistons and Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. Jordan was, in my mind, and I think most experts, better than Magic or Bird (my all time top ten NBA regardless of position and not in order – Robertson, West, Chamberlain, Russell, Jabbar, Erving, Johnson, Bird, Jordan and Cousy with Havlicek and Isaiah Thomas (and I don’t care if you don’t like him personally) runner ups. The Lakers beat the Celtics twice, but the 1985 Laker win was my personal favorite. I’m not going to get into the whole – who was better, Magic or Bird debate, but might another day.

7. Greg Louganis. This diver is tougher than you might think. He is actually half Swedish and half Samoan – not your typical diving heritage - but was adopted by Greek-Americans. His autobiography in the mid-90s revealed that he had gone through drug and physical abuse, rape, attempted suicide, being HIV positive and having an eating disorder. A machine like diver, who seemed unaccountably graceful compared to everyone else, dominated diving for years. He missed the 1980 Olympics because of the U.S. boycott, but won both the 3 meter springboard and 10 meter tower diving gold medals in 1984. In 1988 he tried to repeat his feat. During the springboard preliminaries, he misjudged a reverse pike and smacked his head against the board, flopping into the water. He was given some sutures and came back to finish the preliminaries. Despite having suffered a concussion, he went on to win both medals again. It’s hard to believe someone would compete after that, particularly as divers can’t cringe at all while performing, but he more than managed. The high board dive final was especially dramatic, as he needed a practically perfect difficult dive to win. He nailed it and passed the leader by only a little over a point (638.61 to 637.47), a squeaker for diving.

8. Affirmed. The last horse to win the Triple Crown beat the first horse, Alydar, to come in second three times, in the 1973 Triple Crown. They were three down to the wire races. It is hard to remember that Alydar went into the Kentucky Derby a slight favorite, having had a better season, although Affirmed had bested him 4 out of 6 previous races. Each race was magnificent, the first won by 1 ½ lengths but the next two by a neck and then a nose. They raced one last time and though Affirmed crossed the line first, Alydar was given the victory because Affirmed had cut him off (perhaps we blame the jockey for that). Affirmed had to race against not only Alydar, but also Seattle Slew and Spectacular Bid in his career. Affirmed was, of course, the greater horse, but Alydar is one athlete who came in second that is remembered. Blood-Horse Magazine ranked him the 27th best thoroughbred champion of the 20th century (Affirmed was #12  - but was descended from Man o’ War, #1* and War Admiral, #13).

9. Bob Beamon. In the 1968 Olympics, Bob Beamon leaped an unreal 29’ 2 ½”, beating the world record by nearly 2 feet. That’s mind boggling and perhaps the greatest world record ever. It was bested by only 2 inches some 23 years later (which record has lasted another 20+). Beamon’s jump overshadowed that same Olympics, which were possibly may favorite ever. Lee Evans ran a 43.86 second 400 meters, also a record that would last 2 decades. America had an amazing group of runners at that distance that year, including Larry James, Vincent Matthews and Ron Freeman, who together set the world record in the 4 x 400 meter relay there too.  This Olympic team is worth a whole post someday.

10. Unknown. I was at my daughter’s 11th grade homecoming game. Her school was being badly beaten. In the last two minutes, one kid on her team made an awe inspiring three touchdowns. One was a kickoff return for a touchdown. Another was a run and another was a diving catch in the end zone. I believe he also intercepted a pass during the same time frame. Wish there was a video of those last couple of minutes and I’ve looked. It is one of those games that will likely remain in that kid’s memory forever. Mine too. I heard he broke his leg later that year. I don’t know his name and don’t need to, but that was one of the most exciting things I have ever seen in sports.**

*Just feel I should say, if not for one crazy judge, who ranked Secretariat 14th, he would have been first and Man o’ War second and that is the way it should be.

** I could care about the U.S. Olympic Ice Hockey team’s 1980 victory over the U.S.S.R. My no. 11 -Kerry Shrugg’s last vault with an injured ankle during which I maybe, possibly, had a tear in my eye.  I was alive but only 2 or 3 when Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points against the Knicks, but it probably belongs in a top ten somewhere. I give it no. 12 though I did not see it and there is no tape. The Montana to Clark pass - "The Catch" - to win the 1982 NFC Championship game would be No. 13.


  1. Good god almighty - where to start? It's amazing you put shoes on your feet instead of your hands. First, correction of an error of fact. Affirmed (1973) is not the last triple crown winner, Seattle Slew (1976) is. Never write sports stuff without checking with me first. Lists 1,2,3, and 6 are just, well disturbingly uninformed.
    EJ - NO Levon? Goodbye Yellow Brick Road? Take me to the Pilot? Elderberry Wine?
    CLASSICAL - Aach! Your list just sucks, no point in naming all the pieces that should be there, here's just two Appalachian Spring by Copeland and Vivaldi's Four Seasons.
    SCIFI- So many glaring omissions, so little time, again just two: (both original versions) The Day the Earth Stood Still, Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Okay three: the original Night of the Living Dead.
    BROADWAY - Les Mis, YOU IDIOT! La Cage Aux Folles, SHOWBOAT, you moron, 42nd St, Godspell (far superior to Superstar), The Man of La Manchs, on and on, christ, you are such an idiot.
    DETECTIVES- just one name, since I'm having a freakin' heart attack trying to get over how you screwed this up - BURKE!
    SPORTS - OMG, just one word, Wottle?? The MOST memorable sports moment ever??????? Wottle? Wottle? Wottle,wottle, wottle, wottle, wottle,wottle, wottle, wottle. Hilarious.

  2. Yeah, I did screw up the last Triple Crown winner. Of course, I know better, but for some reason I did check it and changed it from one of the last to the last, but some cite or other had it wrong and I didn't double check. Won't be the last time. Enjoy it. It always smarts. But, c'est la vie.

    As to the rest of your remarks - NO! First, Elton. I did give my apologies at the end, and Levon and GYBR are legitimate contenders - but ultimately, not quite according to my official scores.

    Appalachian Spring? Sure, I hear that all the time in movie soundtracks. Riiiiggght. Please, it's a B list classical piece that people pretend to like b/c it is modern and they feel they should, but not even as good as Mahler, for goodness sakes. The Four Seasons is a legitimate selection though and I thought about it. I might even say it should be no. 11.

    Sci Fi. The original Night of the Living Dead is a great movie, but I do not call it sci fi. The Day the Earth Stood Still and Body Snatchers are B movies that have a cult following b/c they are so bad. Broadway - OMG NO! Godspell was great, but just misses the list. I never understood why people liked Les Mis (I can't think of a great song from it) and 42nd Street was greatly overrated and The Man of La Mancha has one great song.

    Detectives - I love Burke novels. We can make him no. 11, I guess, but I felt like maybe Saul Panzer deserved it even though we had to from Wolfe already.

    But, sports - Did you watch the Wottle video? I just yahoo'e the following words - wottle greatest olympic race of all time - guess how many people agree with me. Lots and lots. You could not be more wrong on that one, but I am surprised you only have one comment on that topic.

  3. Oh, and just to screw with you, Slew was not '76 either. It was '77 (although, I admit I just checked b/c I thought it was '78.)

  4. Well you are both idiots and both geniuses- depending on whether or not you agree with me. Actually I do agree that almost all of what you and Bear chose are worthy on inclusion in favorite's listings.
    Of course I have a few thoughts:
    I would have left off candle in the wind for Elton John songs. Kudos for including Scarifice which I think is under rated. I also would have placed Someone Saved My Life tonight higher.

    In the classical category I would have included Marche Slave and In the Hall of the Mountain King. But its hard to argue with your choices. And I didn't know if you were including operatic numbers but if so it would be hard to leave off Flight of the Valkyries. Also I would give an honorable mention to O Fortuna.

    On Broadway I have always condidered Little Shop an off broadway show. Never like Le Mis. Would have included Evita

    Where is my boy Evan Tanner in the detective lists?? He is, after all, the world's graetest detective and I have the autograph to prove it. Also, have to agree with Bear a Burke guy has to be there_I'm partial to Robicheaux. Also honorable mention to Kinky Friedman.

    Sports . Klammer is the all time best. Secretariat at Belmont probably belongs

    My favorite dessert Bananas Foster Flambe.
    Good work David.
    Good critique Bear.

  5. This guy is getting diplomatic in his old age.

    Marche Slav is a great piece. I had forgotten all about it. In the Hall of the Mountain King is pretty good, but I don't think top ten. But what can I expect from a man who wanted Fur Elise coupled with Paradise by the Dashboard Lights for his wedding song. Flight of the Valkyries is good enough for a top ten list. But, I like Forest Murmurs better. I was not an Evita fan. I like the one song, of course, but that's it. We agree on Les Mis. You are right that Little Shop was off Broadway, at least when I saw it, but it made it to Broadway afterwards. Evan Michael Tanner is the world's greatest spy, not detective (as in - The Spy Who Couldn't Sleep). I thought by Burke, Bear meant Andre Vacchs creation, not Robicheaux, but they are both all time greats - although I am done with both series. Robicheaux is always the same story and Burke is too dark. Kinky Friedman belongs in there too. Secretariat at Belmont was a thought of mine, but would have been better if he had some competition that race. Bananas Foster Flambe? What can I expect from a man who eats Strawberry Fig Newtons?

  6. The line between spy and detective is thin,but I'm with David on this one, Tanner is a spy. Burke, Robicheaux and Kinky all belong on the list and reinforce your holy moron-ness. I gave up on sports because you have your head so fully up your arse, though Don has Secretariat at number one correctly. Nothing compares with the emotion and sheer physical domimance of that performance that day. I watched it live, and I still get chills every time. Mocking aside, the Wottle thing is magnificent,but no way number one. Consider, just for starters: Colts-Giants first overtime title game "greatest football game ever", Ali-Frazier 3, Game 5 Red Sox-Cinn Reds world series, Game 7 Pirates-Yankees 1960,NC ST - Georgetown Jimmy V's national championship NCAA game. And on and on because again, with sports, you are wading in a sea of effete, olympic crappery.

  7. Conchis12:56 PM

    Not bad at all but a few suggestions are in order:

    I. Don't Let The Sun Go Down

    II. Beethoven's Fifth Piano Concerto (Emporer) -- especially second movement

    VI. South Pacific -- For the message as well as for the music

    VIII. Bernie Rhodenbarr (when a burglar is a detective)

    IX. Fresh (ie warm) zabaglione over fresh strawberries

    X. The last 5 minutes of any close game when John Havlicek and Jerry West were on the court simultaneously

  8. How can a guy know so much about sports and be so wrong about the top ten list? There is a reason that the Olympics has been around for so long. And baseball? There's an exciting game every couple of decades. The Mets 16 inning(?) overtime win in '86(?) was probably the last great one.

  9. I was going to let it go since your last response was obvious bait, but I'm going to give just one more example of your awesome wrongness: Commando has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with the predator. Commando is about Arnold rescuing his daughter from some psycho Latin-American dictator. The Arnold movie with the predator is called, oddly enough, "PREDATOR", and anyone can see why you'd be confused about that.

  10. You're right. Two screw ups for me in one post. Think it's my record.

  11. Response to Conchis -
    Fresh what?
    The others are great selections. Unfortunately, they are only top ten lists.


Your comments are welcome.

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 . . . .