The Beanstalk


by David N. Townsend


August 31, 1999

The Top 100 Everything of the 20th Century (Pt. 1)

You've seen the lists, the tributes, the polls, endlessly and everywhere as we approach the false bottom of the Millenium.  (See previous discussion.)   The Top 100 Sports Stars of the 20th Century.  The Top 100 Actors, Actress, Movies, TV Show Episodes, Record Albums.  The Top 100 Dogs, Cats, Insects, Serial Murderers, Watermelon Seed Spitting Performances, etc., etc. 

And much as you try to snub your nose at such silly and arbitrary rankings, you can't help peeking at the results, especially the Top of the Top: 

"They put Cocoa Krispies ahead of Frutie Pebbles?? NO WAY, Man!"

"What kind of a bonehead ranks Paper Clips as the Number 1 Office Supply of the century, when White-Out doesn't even make the Top Ten?!"

"I must say, despite the obvious strengths of the Second World War, one could make a strong case that the IndoChina conflict was, in fact, the more influential war."

Always one to jump on and ride somebody else's ideas, I've decided to take this trend one step further.  As the 19's draw to a close, therefore, the list I'm proposing is the Top 100 of Everything for the past 100 years.  Let's not sit on the fence: what have been the most important and influential events, people, inventions, discoveries, ideas, personal hygene products . . . everything that touches the lives of humans around the globe?  (I stopped short of other species.)

This is not an easy task.  There will be controversy, there will be heated arguments.  Undoubtedly, those who read this column in Mongolia and Fiji will be outraged to learn that not a single whiff of their history is worthy of inclusion.   Sure, it's a list heavily biased toward American culture, but let's face it, as George Bush liked to point out, this has been the "American Century," and Americans are simply more important than other people. 

The selections on the list have been chosen in an entirely objective and scientific manner.  I conducted an extensive poll over several days of ones of people, statistically weighting the results according to my preferences, then meticulously narrowing down the choices using the sophisticated "dartboard" methodology.   The outcome is Fact, Truth, Inviolable.

This, then, is the first installment of the

Top 100 Everything of the 20th Century

100.    Rudolph Nuryev.  I don't know anything about him, but some people think that Ballet is important, so he just makes the cut.

99.    Conquest of Mt. Everest.  Because it was there.  And still is, actually.

98.    Public toilets.  Never undersitimate the vital importance of this innovation.

97.    Frank Sinatra.  Sung, acted, hung out with the mob, got real famous.  No intentional relation to the previous entry.

96.    "Lucy".  No, not the insufferable and interminable TV actress, ubiquitous though she was.  I refer instead to the cutest 3.2-million year-old skeleton ever discovered, and Everybody's ancestor.

95.    Franz Fanon.  Sure, you never heard of him, but 400-million or so Africans are slightly less oppressed today in part thanks to his ideology.

94.    Oreo cookies.  The quintessence of junk food.

93.    Vacuum cleaners.  Liberated housewives, made fortunes for door-to-door salesmen, absolved household pets, gobbled up dust the world 'round.

92.    Pele.  Played soccer (futbol) for Brazil (Brasil).  Won two World Cups.  Made cover of Wheaties.

91.    James Joyce.  Novelist supreme in an era of supreme novelists, the heyday of American literature.

90.    Credit cards.  Allow the masses to experience the luxuries of life, the freedom to travel, the thrill of bankruptcy.

89.    The Titanic.  Big ship, sunk.  Came back as movie, scored.

88.    "Les Miserables".  Nineteenth century novel (#136 for that century), that snuck into the 20th as the ultimate theater musical.

87.   Che Guevara.  The pure revolutionary (knocking off such pretenders as Fidel Castro and Ho Chi Minh, two falls out of three).

86.   Deodorant.  Perhaps the single greatest contributor to World Peace and Harmony.

85.   The United Nations.  Second only to the above in the W P & H category; helps feed hungry kids, too.

84.   Chuck Berry.  A different kind of revolutionary, he made kids dance with a guitar instead of a gun, and changed the world in his own way.

83.    Theory of Relativity.  Most widely known scientific equation (E=MC2), whose meaning is understood by exactly 17 people.

82.    Princess Di.  Is she really higher up on the list than Chuck Berry and James Joyce??  Not in my book . . . oh, wait, this is my book.

81.    Frank Lloyd Wright.  Not one of the Wright Brothers (that comes later).  He designed buildings and stuff.

80.    Plastic.  Includes other key contenders for recognition, such as Tupperware, every toy on the planet, plastic surgery, etc.

79.    Co-education.  What the heck did students do before?  Study?

78.    Jesse Owens.  The Olympian who truly lived up to the name.

77.    Rogers and Hammerstein.  One wrote music, the other lyrics . . . or was it the other way around?

76.    Salvadore Allende.  Inspiration throughout Latin America and the world, with the notable exception of the CIA.

Okay, are you inspired?  Incensed?  Curious where it goes from here?

Stay tuned, or wired, or logged on or whatever.  Next week we'll count it down to #51, and build the tension from there.  Be sure to send in your comments, suggestions, outrage at omissions or inclusions.  I'll reprint the most thoughtful, as long as they're not too insulting.


Recent ramblings:             

Grade School grades cool (5/7/98) Be thoughtful, or the kid gets it (1/18/99) Over the hill and far away (2/28/99)
One thing I am not inclined to do is to put down or ridicule public schools or teachers. But . . . Do I really need to hear about Dead Babies at six o'clock in the morning? I have the humble honor of reporting to you from the far side of my 40th birthday, which occurred a week ago

(Click Elsewhen for the complete list)

  1999 David N. Townsend

The Beanstalk grows out of my head, so to speak, but I welcome
any seeds that readers may wish to plant.  Just as long as you don't use
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and I'll occasionally respond to, publish, or otherwise dispose of them.

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