Friday, February 19, 2010

The 100 Greatest Things Of All Time: #69-60

#69: Feldspar

Common, but uncommonly great, if you know what I mean.

#68: Power Locks

Very convenient.

#67: The Interdental Fricative


Without it, lisping wouldn't be nearly as funny.

#66: The Fake Punt

With a fake field goal, you're swapping a shot at 3 points for a shot at 7. With a fake punt, it looks like you're giving the ball away... but NO! And, unless it's a fumblerooski play, the punter usually has to do something to which he is unaccustomed: 1) throw the ball, 2) run the ball, 3) take a massive fucking hit. The fake punt gives rise to something even better:

#65: The Moment When Defenders Realize There's A Fake Punt
I love this moment. I could watch it on instant replay over and over again. "Ok, hit my blocker, drop back for the return... WHA?" If I had a "coach's clicker" (what ever happened to that?), I would wear the thing out.

#64: The Greater Kudu

Don't look for the lesser kudu further down on this list, for obvious reasons.









#63: Coffee Shops Posting That Onion Article By The Counter


You know, the one with the headline "Sources: Barista Not Actually Flirting With You". Lots of cafes go this route. Although it might seem like a big fuck-you to the customer, it makes purchasing coffee a far less pressure-filled transaction. Now you can wear anything when you go for your morning joe. This morning, for some reason, I had rubbed chutney over my body and then rolled around in Puffed Kashi. Ordinarily I would get dressed before stepping outside to grab coffee, but this time I didn't even put on my plastic batting helmet.

#62: Winter Olympics-Based James Bond Chase Scenes

It's kind of hard to go wrong here.

#61: Protein Folding

From what I understand, it's very important.

#60: A.O. Scott

I saw him in a Tribeca cafe last month. He looked doughy. If I had grabbed him by the lapels and spoken to him (spittle flying out of my mouth, misting his glasses), it would have been to compliment him on his review of "Away We Go," which was kind of perfect. God, Sam Mendes is horrible.

The 100 Greatest Things Of All Time: So Far
100: The 1989 Honda Civic LX sedan (manual transmission)
99: Weird dream that a Merychippus had one time
98: The sun
97: Pharrell Williams
96: A shack near San Gregorio, CA
95: The breakfast sandwich
94: Antimony
93: Seeing through Melville's bullshit
92: The scrappy white guy
91: Barack Hussein Obama
90: Foam
89: Dinosaur tributes
88: The way Jason Statham would pronounce "hydrocortisone"
87: Fruit
86: Light
85: Vernon Davis
84: 9969 Braille
83: Brick
82: The balk rule
81: Ink
80:
This answer to the question "Is it possible to have wooden legs and real feet?"
79: Determinism
78: Quantum Mechanics
77: Will Clark
76: Man Vs. Wild
75: Jockeys
74: Glass
73: The Oval Logos Of The Late 1990s
72: Edamame
71: Baby Wipe Warmer Cleaner Holder Rags
70: Bouncing
69: Feldspar
68: Power Locks
67: The Interdental Fricative
66: The Fake Punt
65: The Moment When Defenders Realize There's A Fake Punt
64: The Greater Kudu
63:
Coffee Shops Posting That Onion Article By The Counter
62: Winter Olympics-Based James Bond Chase Scenes
61: Protein Folding
60: A.O. Scott

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The 100 Greatest Things Of All Time: #79-70

#79: Determinism

Takes the worry out of those awful circumstances when you're brushing your teeth but also have to urinate. Should you

a) finish brushing your teeth, then urinate?
b) stop brushing your teeth, urinate, then resume brushing your teeth?
c) urinate while brushing your teeth?

Ultimately, it does not matter, and you are causally (though perhaps not morally) blameless no matter what you think you decide to do. Initial conditions + the laws of physics = whatever, you know!

#78
: Quantum mechanics

Like most of post-1900 physical theory, sufficiently opaque to provide aid & comfort to anyone seeking to rescue some cherished fantasy from implausibility (see free will, above).

#77: Will Clark

A racist hunter who had a massive belly by the end of his career, this sweet-swingin' phenom hit a home run off Nolan Ryan in his very first major-league at-bat.

#76: Man Vs. Wild

This show is awesome. Relentless hard man and self-promoter Bear Grylls performs increasingly stagy survival-type bullshit on the Discovery Channel. The show has finally abandoned all pretense that Bear is ever actually at risk or teaching us anything about survival. On the episode I saw most recently, Bear taught the audience that the best way to survive being stranded in the Sahara is to find either 1) a well, or 2) a section of coastline that has a shipwreck filled with octopi. The show seems aimed at people who have never spent any time outside while not complaining. Watch Bear climb down a moderately steep grade! "You've got to be careful around these sharp rocks. They could result in a twisted ankle.... or worse."

#75: Jockeys

They are adorable. Hey, you know what I also like? The word "space" when applied to a designed interior, and the word "piece" when applied to an item of design. "This is a great space for that piece." "I like this piece in your space." "What a great space! Ooh, nice piece."

#74: Glass

Of all the miraculous things in this miraculous, miraculous universe, glass must surely be the seventy-fourth most miraculous.

#73: The Oval Logos Of The Late 1990s

Remember when? Remember when you could get a free Nordic Track by going to www.freenordictrack.com? Remember when venture capitalists threw money at FreeNordicTrack because there were some really creative people working there, and-- although it was not yet clear what the business model would be-- FreeNordicTrack was revolutionizing the way that people got free Nordic Tracks? I remember those days. And I'm not quite sure, but I think that the logo for FreeNordicTrack was inside of a dynamic-looking oval, with an arrow shooting tangentially out of the oval and upward (never downward!) into space.

Ovals! Nothing looked as web-savvy as the oval. Nothing said "we are members of the digerati" like an oval.

#72: Edamame

Soybeans cost about 3 cents per ton. Edamame costs about $5 per pound. Yet again, the pigs have it easy, while we get screwed.

#71: Baby Wipe Warmer Cleaner Holder Rags

I know it seems totally ridiculous-- another example of consumerism gone mad-- but I swear these things have totally saved my life! These rags are tailor-made for cleaning the holders of baby wipe warmer cleaners. You'd be surprised how often baby wipe warmer cleaner holders get smudged. And of course our baby wipe warmer cleaner holders get a ton of use, because they hold all our baby wipe warmer cleaner! Will you excuse me for a minute? I'm going to go violently kill myself!

#70: Bouncing

Although it has been well-chronicled in lay science books, and it's a common factoid trotted out at cocktail parties, it bears repeating here: there is literally no reason why the phenomenon of bouncing exists. Physicists have run the numbers (because that's what physicists do: they run numbers), and both the Newtonian model and the quantum mechanical model work equally well with and without bouncing. Bouncing is an entirely frivolous bit of bunting on the universe. A signature flourish, if you will, by God. Indeed, many scientists have seen the existence of bouncing as evidence that the universe was created by a single Creator who gave his only son to redeem the sinful human race, and who allows instantaneous sanctification through the perfection of "holiness" in opposition to traditional Methodist thought but not quite in line with modern Pentecostal theology.

The 100 Greatest Things Of All Time: So Far
100: The 1989 Honda Civic LX sedan (manual transmission)
99: Weird dream that a Merychippus had one time
98: The sun
97: Pharrell Williams
96: A shack near San Gregorio, CA
95: The breakfast sandwich
94: Antimony
93: Seeing through Melville's bullshit
92: The scrappy white guy
91: Barack Hussein Obama
90: Foam
89: Dinosaur tributes
88: The way Jason Statham would pronounce "hydrocortisone"
87: Fruit
86: Light
85: Vernon Davis
84: 9969 Braille
83: Brick
82: The balk rule
81: Ink
80:
This answer to the question "Is it possible to have wooden legs and real feet?"
79: Determinism
78: Quantum Mechanics
77: Will Clark
76: Man Vs. Wild
75: Jockeys
74: Glass
73: The Oval Logos Of The Late 1990s
72: Edamame
71: Baby Wipe Warmer Cleaner Holder Rags
70: Bouncing

Monday, September 21, 2009

The 100 Greatest Things Of All Time: #87 - #80

#87: Fruit

It's delicious and it doesn't hurt anybody. Except for that one time.

#86: Light

Helps you see stuff, etc.

#85: Vernon Davis

He's still kind of a tease, but he's a solid waiver wire pickup if your TE has a bye.

#84: 9969 Braille

It's an asteroid with an exceptionally slow rotation period. 'Nuff said.

#83: Brick

This unconventional film noir-- set in the halls of a modern-day high school-- marks a promising debut for writer-director Rian Johnson. Rated R. 1 hr. 50 min. 2005.

#82: The balk rule


It's to prevent the pitcher from deceiving the opposing team. It just needs to be expanded to include pickoff throws, signals from the catcher, hiding the grip with the glove, slide-steps, quiet conversations with the pitching coach, false mustaches, lies of omission, infidelity, and prostheses.

#81: Ink

The story of the liquid that changed the world. From the bestselling author of "The Gaussian Function: The Remarkable Story Of A Normal Curve" and "Greyhound Station Cock: A Memoir."

#80: This answer to the question "Is it possible to have wooden legs and real feet?"

From user never_sing_melody at Yahoo! Answers: "?? i doubt it. how would any blood vessels or nerve endings travel through wood to get to your feet?"

Doubt suffuses this answer. But that's a good thing: the first step to wisdom is knowing that we don't know.

The 100 Greatest Things Of All Time: So Far
100: The 1989 Honda Civic LX sedan (manual transmission)
99: Weird dream that a Merychippus had one time
98: The sun
97: Pharrell Williams
96: A shack near San Gregorio, CA
95: The breakfast sandwich
94: Antimony
93: Seeing through Melville's bullshit
92: The scrappy white guy
91: Barack Hussein Obama
90: Foam
89: Dinosaur tributes
88: The way Jason Statham would pronounce "hydrocortisone"
87: Fruit
86: Light
85: Vernon Davis
84: 9969 Braille
83: Brick
82: The balk rule
81: Ink
80:
This answer to the question "Is it possible to have wooden legs and real feet?"

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Back from the DL

When I last posted, back in January, it was a completely different world. We were gripped by "Paul Blart: Mall Cop" Fever, sweating in bed and crapping ourselves. Rod Blagojevich was still in office, clutching his "football" nervously. Tucker Carlson was still alive. "Off the Wall" had just hit #1 in the Prussian Empire, propelled by a savvy guerilla marketing campaign in Vilnius. A team of Shaolin monks was preparing to play an Inca squad in Super Bowl -CDXCIII.

If I don't finish the Greatest Things Of All Time countdown soon, you and I both might-- might-- lose interest. So we're going into the speed round

Thursday, February 05, 2009

BREAKING NEWS

The Mystery of the Maple Syrup Smell (see here and here for Pulitzer-worthy original reporting) has been solved: fenugreek seed processing.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The 100 Greatest Things Of All Time: #88

#88: The way Jason Statham would pronounce "hydrocortisone"

As in, "Looks like you could use a spot of hydrocortisone, mate." Were he to ever speak this phrase in a movie. Which he has not done. Sorry-- done which he has not.

The 100 Greatest Things Of All Time: So Far
100: The 1989 Honda Civic LX sedan (manual transmission)
99: Weird dream that a Merychippus had one time
98: The sun
97: Pharrell Williams
96: A shack near San Gregorio, CA
95: The breakfast sandwich
94: Antimony
93: Seeing through Melville's bullshit
92: The scrappy white guy
91: Barack Hussein Obama
90: Foam
89: Dinosaur tributes
88: The way Jason Statham would pronounce "hydrocortisone"

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The 100 Greatest Things Of All Time: #89

#89: Dinosaur tributes

Friend MM alerted me to this odd little subculture on YouTube. As he put it, "If we act now, we could be among the very first to make fun of these people. Now is not the time for timidity!" And so we press forward boldly, heedless of the perils that threaten from every side.

As a lover of dinosaurs since the tender age of 5, I realize that, in a counterfactual realm in which I swallowed several lead fishing weights during childhood development, I could have become a prolific auteur of dinosaur tribute videos set to Gwar. Actually, wait a second. There is nothing stopping me from doing so now. Prepare to be rocked by a tribute to Compsognathus; music by Viking Love.

Here's a quote from the annotation to a video tribute to Spinosaurus:

"There is absolutely no point in arguing about Spinosaurus vs. T. rex. Especially on this video. I'll just remove your comment without hesitation. I'm bloody sick of people fighting about this. It's an endless cycle, and you can't win it. Nobody is going to change other peoples' minds."

An endless cycle without resolution. The only way out is in.

The 100 Greatest Things Of All Time: So Far
100: The 1989 Honda Civic LX sedan (manual transmission)
99: Weird dream that a Merychippus had one time
98: The sun
97: Pharrell Williams
96: A shack near San Gregorio, CA
95: The breakfast sandwich
94: Antimony
93: Seeing through Melville's bullshit
92: The scrappy white guy
91: Barack Hussein Obama
90: Foam
89: Dinosaur tributes

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The 100 Greatest Things Of All Time: #90

#90: Foam

There was a vigorous internal debate about this entry; that's why it took so long. Corn Chips & Pie staff members-- a team of rivals-- were bitterly divided, turning this seemingly inoffensive substance into ground zero for the culture wars. There were harsh words, resignations, even low-grade violence (slap fights). Not even time may heal these wounds. The figurative ones, I mean. Allow me to recap the various arguments:

  • Pro: Ocean foam (or, if you prefer, "turgid, roiling sea-cream") is lovely.
  • Pro: The line "...to the oceans, white with foooooaaaaam" is the high point of "God Bless America."
  • Pro: Foam is a comfortable substance upon which to sleep.
  • Pro/Con: The very fabric of space-time may be a type of foam.
  • Pro: Foam "#1" fingers allow sports fans to convey a sentiment otherwise inexpressible, freeing the hitherto unrealized notion from the nebulous aether outside the gates of human communicability.
  • Pro: Prior to the invention of foam by Jesus Christ, people shaved with menstrual blood.
  • Pro: Some people enjoy foam on their twee little coffee drinks.
I really don't see what the fuss was all about. Foam!

The 100 Greatest Things Of All Time: So Far
100: The 1989 Honda Civic LX sedan (manual transmission)
99: Weird dream that a Merychippus had one time
98: The sun
97: Pharrell Williams
96: A shack near San Gregorio, CA
95: The breakfast sandwich
94: Antimony
93: Seeing through Melville's bullshit
92: The scrappy white guy
91: Barack Hussein Obama
90: Foam

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Good article

Andrew Sullivan on Sarah Palin.
Here.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The 100 Greatest Things Of All Time: #91

#91: Barack Hussein Obama
He would be higher on this list, but I'm waiting to see if he's an Islamo-Marxist who screws white women and kills their babies. If so, #1.


The 100 Greatest Things Of All Time: So Far
100: The 1989 Honda Civic LX sedan (manual transmission)
99: Weird dream that a Merychippus had one time
98: The sun
97: Pharrell Williams
96: A shack near San Gregorio, CA
95: The breakfast sandwich
94: Antimony
93: Seeing through Melville's bullshit
92: The scrappy white guy
91: Barack Hussein Obama

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The 100 Greatest Things Of All Time: #92

#92: The Scrappy White Guy
Having long since passed into the realm of cliché, one might justifiably wonder about its eligibility for the List. Fear not, pilgrim. American cities will always prefer the white guy with the .290 / .358 / .425 line to the black guy who is Barry Bonds. Todd Heap still occupies billboards in Baltimore, despite a recent level of performance that could not unjustifiably be described as "LeMasterian". Ryan "The Riot" jerseys outsell those of Aramis Ramirez. Probably.

Hey, who isn't a little "spooked" by the primal rhythms of your Terrell Owenses, your Doug Glanvilles?

The 100 Greatest Things Of All Time: So Far
100: The 1989 Honda Civic LX sedan (manual transmission)
99: Weird dream that a Merychippus had one time
98: The sun
97: Pharrell Williams
96: A shack near San Gregorio, CA
95: The breakfast sandwich
94: Antimony
93: Seeing through Melville's bullshit
92: The scrappy white guy

The 100 Greatest Things Of All Time: #93

#93: Seeing Through Melville's Bullshit
From Variety comes welcome news: the folks who brought you "National Treasure" and "Wanted" are planning to "re-imagine" Moby-Dick. Quote:

Ahab will be depicted more as a charismatic leader than a brooding obsessive. "Our vision isn’t your grandfather’s ‘Moby Dick,’ " Cooper said. "This is an opportunity to take a timeless classic and capitalize on the advances in visual effects to tell what at its core is an action-adventure revenge story."

The 100 Greatest Things Of All Time: So Far
100: The 1989 Honda Civic LX sedan (manual transmission)
99: Weird dream that a Merychippus had one time
98: The sun
97: Pharrell Williams
96: A shack near San Gregorio, CA
95: The breakfast sandwich
94: Antimony
93: Seeing through Melville's bullshit

Monday, September 15, 2008

The 100 Greatest Things Of All Time: #94

#94: Antimony

A late surge of online votes from Japan pushed this ahead of the breakfast sandwich. We really need to review our voting procedures; this kind of phenomenon violates the spirit of The 100 Greatest Things Of All Time list. I mean, yes pentavalent antimony used to be the first-line treatment for leishmaniasis, yes it has utility in the semiconductor industry, but-- let's face it-- it does not fracture evenly, and it is a poor conductor of electricity and heat. I mean, it makes bismuth look good, for Christ's sake. Antimony: the Kosuke Fukudome of elements.

The 100 Greatest Things Of All Time: So Far
100: The 1989 Honda Civic LX sedan (manual transmission)
99: Weird dream that a Merychippus had one time
98: The sun
97: Pharrell Williams
96: A shack near San Gregorio, CA
95: The breakfast sandwich
94: Antimony

Monday, September 08, 2008

The 100 Greatest Things Of All Time: #95

We're back online here at Corn Chips & Pie with the countdown of the 100 Greatest Things Of All Time. The honeymoon was lovely; thanks for asking.

#95: The breakfast sandwich


I've asked my reclusive neighbor, who also happens to be a published author beloved by children of all ages 21-29 (male), to write a few words about one particular breakfast sandwich. Here goes:

Wilmer Ochocinco was a Dominican immigrant and Washington Heights corner store employee with a taste in paranoia that borrowed heavily from, indeed was being crushed under an unsupportable debt to, childhood memories of Spanish-language translations of In Search Of, with a peculiar focus on the Rosenheim Events of the late 1960s. Ochocinco spent most of his time waiting for a shadowy dispensation neither feared nor even secretly desired, when you got right down to it, which left his nerves in a state that less seasoned hands might dismiss as benign boredom, but whose silences and empty spaces could be inhabited by spores with baroque potential and sinister intent, if intent could even be read in those mindless, antic, and ultimately relentless algorithms borne on the winds of daily life, eager to settle into just such an empty little vessel as offered by his ennui. So he kept vigilant and active, making eggs and frying bacon with more than the customary degree of vigor.

On the morning in question, a rather doughy, if not in fact porcine, customer was sniffing around the deli counter but had as yet failed to place an order. Ochocinco, a true pro, continued his prep work alongside the other deli-counter cooks with apparent inattention but quietly flexed his leg muscles, waiting to leap toward the grill in cheery solicitousness. Then he felt it: an undeniable chill passing through his right arm. There was the far-off sound of wind chimes. An egg cracked… the egg seemed to fry itself, a piece of thermodynamic mischief entirely unaided by any visible sources of combustion, in what the few observers who would willingly discuss the phenomenon would come to describe as an act made in the spirit of self-improvement prevailing during the decade.

A slice of Boar’s Head Vermont Cheddar cheese joined the fun by leaping unbidden upon the auto-fried ovum, and two bagel halves spilled out of the toaster oven, a pleasing golden brown. Ochocinco had no memory of toasting this bagel.

“A-and a slice of ham, please!” added the customer, rapidly acclimatizing to the day’s miracles and moving quickly on to the day’s salted protein demands. And so it was done, but not by human hand. Not by living human hand. Ochocinco and the boys, faces flushed and nerves pleasantly jangled by the presence of this spectral helpmeet, began to sing:

Oh, we’re – the –
Cooks at your bodega,
Breakfast is served!
Whippin’ up an egg, a
Slice of cheese,
If you please!
Throw on some ham
And toast that buttered roll
Poltergeists welcome,
But please don’t steal my soul!


The 100 Greatest Things Of All Time: So Far
100: The 1989 Honda Civic LX sedan (manual transmission)
99: Weird dream that a Merychippus had one time
98: The sun
97: Pharrell Williams
96: A shack near San Gregorio, CA
95: The breakfast sandwich

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

personal note

I got married on Saturday to The Special Lady. She is wonderful, and I am very happy.

The countdown of the 100 Greatest Things Of All Time continues after the honeymoon.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The 100 Greatest Things Of All Time: #96

The 100 Greatest Things Of All Time! As decided by your votes, my wisdom, and a random walk ranking algorithm as per Freschi (2007)! But really decided by the cold empirical facts of greatness as made manifest since time began! Go!

# 96: A shack near San Gregorio, CA
I think it was my friend and fellow sushi chef Dug who told me about this barn/house/shack, sometime in the mid-1990s. A friend of his had shot a film inside it, or something. It was just off a country road that led out of the town of San Gregorio. I usually remember it as Pescadero.

One fine spring San Francisco morning my girlfriend and I drove down the coast and managed to find the shack despite somewhat vague directions. It just sat there beckoning young city folk, ignoring the sneers of the nearby artichoke fields. Young people are welcome and you can just mind your own damn business, is what it said.

It kind of made you work for it, that was the appealing thing. It was hidden behind a thick fog of blackberry bushes and other thorny vines, and plus it was on someone's property. The state of neglect, which I'll get to, might make you think that the owner cared little about such matters as trespassing, but a little experience had hinted at a positive correlation between disrepair and shotgun-brandishing.

So we kind of had to sneak in, parking well down the road and then wriggling through blackberry bushes. In truth, this was not much of a tourist destination. Nobody had been here for a long time. Spider webs crisscrossed the open doorway. Sunlight shot through the broken roof like security lasers in movies. There were flowers growing on the floor. There were vines and prehistoric empty jars. Lots of dust motes waiting for decades to be cleared for takeoff. Apples sat on the floor, having fallen from an overhanging tree and jounced around, eventually finding a nice patch of sunlight to rest in. It was dark and cool but the effect was bright and green.

What really made it was the nearly pristine Model A sitting right there in the middle of the shack. I am no old car expert but I think that's what it was. There were no signs of the Late Twentieth Century or of recent trespass by hooligans: no condoms, no graffiti, no disused jetpacks or postmodern novels.

There were other rooms, too. The kitchen had ancient appliances and peeling old wallpaper: behind the wallpaper were pages from 1883 issues of the San Francisco Examiner. There were classified ads for all kinds of old-timey things that would make hipsters' moustaches stand on end. Somewhere in the kitchen there were probably articles by Ambrose Bierce and Mark Twain clamoring for sunshine.

Shacks like it probably exist all over this great nation, but no other shack was there for us in 1996 when we needed it.

The 100 Greatest Things Of All Time: So Far
100: The 1989 Honda Civic LX sedan (manual transmission)
99: Weird dream that a Merychippus had one time
98: The sun
97: Pharrell Williams
96: A shack near San Gregorio, CA

Monday, August 04, 2008

The 100 Greatest Things Of All Time: #97

The 100 Greatest Things Of All Time! As decided by your votes, my wisdom, and the power of prayer! But really decided by the cold empirical facts of greatness as made manifest since time began! Yaaaay! Literally everything is eligible! Stay tuned!

#97: Pharrell Williams
I saw him at the airport the other day and asked Cormac McCarthy to write a short description of our interaction in the first person.

I looked to my right and saw a man wearing a flat-brimmed yellow baseball cap. He appeared rich. His presence drew the postures of his entourage inward, forming a nexus of celebrity attention that was fuel for some kind of subtle radiation. It blew outward beyond the baggage claim area and through the reinforced concrete and rebar of the airport walls. Its strength did not ebb but remained soft and strong like an undertow. It went out through the parking garage and the rental car dropoff area and out into the wide open godless stretches of low warehouses and traffic islands and pavement covering the soil whose opiate embrace kept the brittle bones of our past in repose.
Excuse me but are you Pharrell Williams, I said.
Yes I am.
You dont know it but you and I are not so different.
Pharrell Williams fiddled with his cell phone and looked wary. What do you mean, he said.
Well I guess I'm taller.
He looked at me and indeed he saw the truth of this observation, as I was taller. He looked back at his cell phone and started to send a text message. After some time he thought to himself: So I guess we're kind of different after all.

97th best!

The 100 Greatest Things Of All Time: So Far
100: The 1989 Honda Civic LX sedan (manual transmission)
99: Weird dream that a Merychippus had one time
98: The sun
97: Pharrell Williams

Friday, August 01, 2008

The 100 Greatest Things Of All Time: #98

The 100 Greatest Things Of All Time! As decided by your votes, my wisdom, and the power of prayer! But really decided by the cold empirical facts of greatness as made manifest since time began! Yaaaay! Literally everything is eligible! Stay tuned!

#98: The sun

It provides hope each morning and encourages amateur photographers each evening. It sustains life on our planet, and is the reason that all of us (except some shitty little bacteria hanging out near thermal vents) are here today. Not bad, right? The only thing keeping the sun from ranking higher on this list: it hasn't really shown me very much recently. No innovation. It's kind of a celestial Stereolab, cranking out the same thing over and over, content in stasis. Some critics might say "stagnation." Enjoyable, yes, but only 98th best.

The 100 Greatest Things Of All Time: So Far
100: The 1989 Honda Civic LX sedan (manual transmission)
99: Weird dream that a Merychippus had one time
98: The sun

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The 100 Greatest Things Of All Time: #99

Here at CC&P we're counting down the 100 Greatest Things Of All Time, using your votes, my noxious prejudices, a random walk ranking algorithm as per Freschi (2007), and the cold empirical facts of greatness as made manifest since time began. What's eligible? I'll tell you, you fat fuck. Everything. Everything aggregated or elemental, corporeal or conceptual, that one might modify with an adjective: in short, any noun.

#99: Weird Dream That A Merychippus Had One Time
About 12.7 million years ago, there lived a Merychippus (an early ancestor of the horse), in present-day Nebraska. Its high-crowned cheek teeth allowed it to become the first grazing horse; its previously unsurpassed hight (4 feet) made it rather uppity. One night, it was sleeping in a matted swirl of high grass. It had this really weird dream. It was in a familiar grove of trees along a river, only it wasn't really the familiar grove-- it's hard to explain. Anyhoo, the dream progressed into an explosion of proto-horse eroticism suffused with a kind of questing mysticism. There were revelations, nocturnal emissions, synesthesia. It seemed totally real. It was weird, but awesome.

The 100 Greatest Things Of All Time: So Far
100: The 1989 Honda Civic LX sedan (manual transmission)
99: Weird dream that a Merychippus had one time

Monday, July 28, 2008

The 100 Greatest Things Of All Time: #100

Here at CC&P we're counting down the 100 Greatest Things Of All Time, using your votes, my noxious prejudices, a random walk ranking algorithm as per Freschi (2007), and the cold empirical facts of greatness as made manifest since time began. What's eligible? I'll tell you, you fat fuck. Everything. Everything aggregated or elemental, corporeal or conceptual, which one might modify with an adjective: in short, any noun. So let's begin:

#100: The 1989 Honda Civic LX sedan (manual transmission)
Who better to merge fuel efficiency with comfort than the wizards at Honda? This 4-door humdinger of a sedan, though not spectacularly novel in any single way, nonetheless perfected disparate mechanical and design challenges to create the perfect package. 92 horses, 1.5-liter 16-valve engine, double-wishbone suspension, and power windows. 98.4-inch wheelbase: a stretch limo? No-- the 1989 Honda Civic LX, haterz!

"The apogee of the economy car," proclaimed the renowned sculptor and unlikely automobile critic Ann Hamilton in a special article for Car & Driver magazine. Hamilton was not alone in her devotion to the 1989 Civic LX. Lenny Dykstra drove his Civic from New York to Philadelphia following the trade that brought him to the Phillies, later recalling the dreamlike drive down 295: "To be honest with you, I didn't think I could do it. I really didn't. I loved the Mets; I really loved them, you know? And the Phillies seemed a little, I don't know, kind of frighteningly masculine. So I thought I'd quit playing for a little while, maybe get into origami or something, I don't know. I had a faggoty little cousin who was really into making paper cranes. It sounded peaceful. But somehow-- I don't know how-- I got myself into that car sometime around 10am and drove down to Veterans for a night game. I always felt real good in that car. Safe. And guess what? It was a real ruminative drive. The engine purred at a resonant frequency with my thoughts, allowing me to see the trade in a wider perspective. I thought, fuck it. I'll play. And I did, and you can read the rest in the history books. I loved that god-damn car." It should be noted that Dykstra was driving a Mercedes when he drunkenly crashed into a tree two years later.

Plus, my Civic has 260,000 miles on it and is going strong.

The 100 Greatest Things Of All Time

I'd like to take a moment to thank all of the enthusiastic readers who sent in their votes. Your participation and engagement keeps Corn Chips & Pie a vibrant community resource. I know a lot of readers get a kick out of our annual "100 Greatest Things Of All Time" feature, and-- to tell you the truth-- it's a lot of fun for us too!

I notice that our email is still being flooded with votes from regions as far-flung as McMurdo Sound and Cupertino, so I should just reiterate that the final vote tally was recorded last night. But don't lose heart-- save your votes for next year!

It's your support and your generous donations that allow us to bring premium Corn Chips & Pie content to you, for absolutely free, year-round. We want you to continue to enjoy this public web-log in perpetuity, or at least until the blacks take over the internet. So please, please consider a modest donation. You may contact our ombudsman for details on how to donate.

For $100 (that's only 100 divided by 12 dollars per month!), you'll receive as generous recompense for your largesse an authentic whipsaw emblazoned with the CC&P logo (designed by Chip Kidd). For $1000 (that's only 1000 divided by 52 dollars per week!) we'll send you the goat's bladder canteen carried by Dr. William Brydon on his tragic retreat from Kabul to Jalalabad in 1842 . For $10,000, which is a whole lot of money, to be honest with you, we'll send you three items from the Top 100 Greatest Things Of All Time. Our choice.

The countdown starts tomorrow with #100. Let's get ready to have some fun! But let's also be ready to learn.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Semioticians: They're Just Like Us!

Interviewer:  Are there any shows that you particularly love?

Eco:  The police series.  Starsky and Hutch, for instance.
Interviewer:  That show doesn't exist anymore.  It's from the seventies.
Eco:  I know, but I was told that the complete series was just released on DVD, so I am thinking of acquiring it.

Friday, June 13, 2008

It's time for a new post

I hadn't been to Dublin since 1996. Things had changed.

Twelve years ago, walking across a bridge that spanned the Liffey, I looked down and saw a seal happily munching on a salmon. At the time, I knew this was quite an unusual sight. I was happy to see it.

This time, every time I crossed over the Liffey, I would glance into the river and fail to see a seal eating a salmon. This would cause a brief, highly irrational flicker of disappointment.

I know you believe that this is merely a throwaway vignette with no larger significance, but no. No. I am about to spin this flax into some seriously spun flax. There is a deep lesson here: avoid anything interesting as if it were a strain of hemorrhagic smallpox. Buffer yourself from all pain.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

High food prices = bad

Of course you don't need reminding-- not from this blog, anyway (but apparently this blog needs reminding*)-- but now's a good time to donate money to the World Food Programme.** If you like squinting at the horizon, you can invest in rural infrastructure by building a road or founding an institution like a small farmers' grain cooperative. Just kidding. Food aid will do for now.

*I heard my old boss, Per Pinstrup-Andersen, on NPR today with his weird Danish accent, making good Danish sense. Yesterday I talked to a friend who's teaching a course on the world food economy in Minnesota, and who related a story about getting a bit agitated in front of her students re: the food crisis.
**By the way, hats off to whomever coined "silent tsunami" over at the WFP. Marketing genius.

Monday, April 07, 2008

conversation transcript

Friend: Has anybody ever fucked a bear?
Me: No.
Friend: Dead bear?
Me: Yes!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

2 important milestones

First appearance of an infectious disease epidemiologist in The Wire: season 3

First appearance of Mr. Boh's smiling visage glowing eerily above Baltimore: season 4

Friday, March 28, 2008

Motoring in the north

I don't know if you are aware of this, but it turns out that you can do a lot more with the internet than leaving agitated, punctuation-free comments on celebrity blogs.

A mildly interesting story follows. Read on only if you like old things.

I had some people over one recent night for some good old-fashioned drinking and garlic-eating, and I was cleaning my apartment in the morning. Picking some spent National Bohemian cans off my mantelpiece, I noticed something protruding through the bottom of the mantel, wedged between it & the wall above the fireplace. Upon fishing out the filthy thing, I realized it was an ancient postcard.

The front of the postcard features a pastel-colored photograph of a dull low skyscraper, with the caption "The John B. Starks Building. Louisville, KY." The rear of the card informs the inquisitive reader of the Building's size, location, and date of completion (1918). Apparently the choice of postcard didn't merely reflect an odd appreciation for the omnibus speculative office building: the entire text of the postcard reads "New Year's Greetings from 'The Starks.'"

Indeed, the postmark reads "December 31," but the year is illegible. It is addressed to a certain John S. Gibbs, Jr., at 1026 N. Calvert St. in Baltimore, MD. I live in a carriage-house, and enter from an alley running parallel to N. Calvert; 1026 is the address of the apartment building attached to the rear of my place. So this was John S. Gibbs, Jr.'s carriage house (and, apparently, postcard-storage facility).

30 minutes of Googling followed. To narrow down the date, I identified the stamp on the postcard. Not being a philatelist, this was kind of annoying, but still relatively easy: it's a 1c Washington of the Washington-Franklin series, issued from 1912-1922. So 1918-1922, probs.

Next, Gibbs. His dad was a fancypants finance man; he was a receiver of the derelict Baltimore Iron, Steel, and Tin Plate Company in 1897, and a director of the Union Trust, which had some trouble in 1903 when its railroad ventures in Mexico collapsed. The guy was a canning magnate: founded Gibbs & Co., Inc.

Our boy Junior was an usher at the Carr-Brown wedding in 1902, as covered by the New York Times. He had a lovely socialite wife. From the Baltimore Sun in 1918: "Mrs. John S. GIBBS, Jr., who has been occupying a cottage at Chatham, Cape Cod, since the early summer, where Mr. Gibbs joined her several times, is returning by motor and stopped over at Providence, R. I. On her return she will go over to the Eastern Shore, where she will visit her mother, Mrs. DIXON at her country home for the late season. Mrs. GIBBS, who was the beautiful Miss Anne RANSON, is with Mr. GIBBS motoring in the North. She has recently had her portrait painted by Mr. Alfred Partridge KLOTS, one of the most charming that he has done. It is to be placed in the home of Mr. and Mrs. GIBBS at Roland Park." Stop the presses.

By 1921 he was a director of the Fidelity and Deposit Company of Maryland. By 1946 he was the President of the Board of Trustees of Johns Hopkins Hospital. Hats off, Junior.

He died in 1953. His NYT obituary tells us that he was 77, that he was president of the board of Gibbs & Co. canners, that he died at his "Baltimore County estate, Tyrconnell," and that he was fancy in various ways. One may trace his surviving relatives on the web in a similar fashion.

Finally, the John Starks building: it still stands, on Fourth & Muhammad Ali in Louisville. It was sold in 2006. It is on the National Register of Historic Places, and has its own unspectacular Wikipedia entry.

30 minutes of Googling. I realize this is all fairly boring, but the notion that all this was easily recovered from one dusty postcard? God-damned amazing.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Monday, March 24, 2008

Happy World TB Day

9 million active cases per year. Rising.
Almost 2 million deaths per year.
#1 killer of those with HIV.
5% of cases multi-drug-resistant.
Most currently available drugs about 40 years old.
About 2 billion people-- 1/3 of the planet-- with latent TB.
Etc. Go wiki the hell out of it.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Correction

I did not survive the Holocaust running drugs in an East Baltimore tower with my mother, who does not have Asperger's. The queue forms on the left for publishers who would like to offer me book deals for my traumatic journey through the hell of attention-whoring.