Despite its unfortunate name, Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader is actually full of really great information, most of which is even true! I managed to get myself a copy of Plunges into History, which has amused me greatly. Today I found my favorite thus far, and thought I would share it with you:
BEST LIST OF BESTS
They’ve withstood the test of time, they’ve beaten out the competition, they’re the all-time greats: Uncle John’s choices for some of the best stuff ever.
Best Writing Implement: The computer. Because the idea of going back and retyping (or, hell, repenning) an entire book should fill any writer with suicidal horror.
Best Hat: The fedora. Any hat that can make a mug like Humphrey Bogart’s look good has something going for it.
Best Method of Execution: The guillotine. You know, it was created to be a humane way of chopping off someone’s head. Someone should have thought that point all the way through.
Best Means of Transportation: The locomotive. Probably the single most important tool in opening up North America, which is why the natives spent so much time wrecking the rails.
Best Use of the Wheel: In clocks, to provide accurate, standard measurements of time. Western Civilization as we know it would not be possible without it; you decide whether this is good or bad.
Best Phallic Symbol: The Washington Monument. Started in the early 1800s, paused during the Civil War (constructus interruptus), completed thereafter.
Best Useless Structure: The Eiffel Tower. It was built to represent progress. The French hated it. Insert your own punchline.
Best Cleaning Material:Soap. Just soap. Around for millennia, its use as a cleaning agent only really picked up in the last couple of hundred years. In the 19th century, Justus von Liebig said that the amount of soap consumed by a nation was an accurate measure of its wealth and civilization. So, pick up a bar and lather up!
Best Use of Propaganda: Shakespeare’s Richard III. As it happens, Richard III wasn’t a hunchback or a mass murderer. (He wasn’t a very nice guy, but who among royalty back then was?) Why such a nasty representation of Richard? Could be because the reigning monarch at the time was the granddaughter of the man who overthrew him. Just a guess.
Best Dance: The waltz. When it came out, it brought Vienna into chaos, as people neglected home and business to dance night and day and night again. (Because people loved dancing so close to each other! The horror!) Made the Macarena look like a blip. Which it was, but even so.
Best Drug: Nicotine. Percentage-wise, it’s easier to quit heroin than nicotine. Although admittedly, heroin doesn’t advertise in trendy magazines with young men with washboard stomachs sail-boarding with hot chicks in bikinis.
Best Inappropriate Remark: “Let them eat cake.” Purists note that Marie actually said “brioche,” which is a sweet bread, and not exactly cake, but, you know, it’s the thought that counts.
Best Board Game: Chess, which was intoduced to Europe at the beginning of this millenium. Why is it the best? Because no one gives a damn that a computer can beat a human at Monopoly.
Best Use of an Unpleasant Climate by a Defending Army: Russia. Russian winters did in Napoleon and Hitler. Not bad. Oh, sure, the Russian soldiers helped. But look how successful they’ve been in warm-weather wars, and you’ll know. It was the snow.
Best Proof the Human Race Is Not Merely a Festering Sore on the Face of This Over-Burdened Globe: Beethoven’s ninth symphony, which is quite possibly the greatest artistic achievement the human race may accomplish. If all the universe gets out of us is that one piece of music, I figure we’ve paid our way. However, it means we’ve peaked. Let’s try not to make the decline too steep, okay? Thanks.
That’s it. I like it. In fact, I like it so much, I’m just gonna stick with that today. I’ll close with the same quote that they did.
“Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened.”