52: Top 5 Beatles

  1. John Lennon
    While John Lennon could not have done it on his own, perhaps he’s the one that would have been able to come closest to creating the Beatles with a different group of people.  His guitar and ability to write songs that not only were remarkably influential, but continue to be exciting today.

  2. Paul McCartney
    The most successful Beatle post-Beatles, McCartney’s bass, lyrics, and vocals all were deeply essential to the success of the Beatles.  And Paul and John working together were unstoppable.

  3. George HarrisonWhile not nearly as prolific as the others, Harrison’s songs are among the best and his attitude was essential to keeping the Beatles together.

  4. George Martin
    The phrase “fourth Beatle” fits no one better than George Martin.  He took the “fab three” and did exactly what was needed to take them one more step.

  • Honorable Mention: The Abbey Road Beatle
    This list is difficult because there are only three normal Beatles.  But thankfully the Abbey Road cover has another Beatle on it, although this one is a Volkswagen Beetle, not a living breathing Beatle.  But then again, Abbey Road is such an incredible album that it seems fitting to award the next slot to an integral member of it.

5.Ringo Starr
Oh, RINGO!  Yes, it seems that he does qualify for a spot on this list.  But then again, Ringo isn’t even the best drummer in the Beatles (apparently Lennon didn’t even say that, but it’s hilarious regardless).  Ringo made a huge different to the band (even if it’s fun to make fun of his sad, sad face) and shows just how amazing the Beatles were because he is still honored as so deeply significant to the history of drumming.

  • Bottom: Yoko Ono
    Unlike George Martin, who made the Beatles sound better when he was in the studio, Yoko Ono made the Beatles sound like nothing because they don’t exist any more.  Ok, sure McCartney has said she didn’t break up the Beatles, and yes this is the second list with her at the bottom, but on principle Yoko Ono is the worst of the people that made the Beatles the Beatles.  (ALRIGHT FINE, some of Lennon’s best songs are about Yoko, so arguably she did make some positive influences on the band, but this is principle!)

52: Top 5 Advice Animal Memes

  1. Good Guy Lucifer
    30dHave some sympathy for the devil.  He’s just misunderstood.  Sure he’s the prince of darkness, but I mean, think of all the positive things he’d like to do for you.  This well-dressed good-looking Lucifer (originally featured in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series!) is ready to explain his side of the story.  Not particularly popular, but a humor goldmine.

  2. The Most Interesting Man in the World
    e51This meme really grew from the commercials, which themselves functioned like memes with their highly patterened structure and consistent final line.  The digital meme just carried the punchline forward.  The most interesting man in the world is a legend, and these memes carry on his humorous exploits beyond the commercials.

  3. I Too Like to Live Dangerously
    dfdThe only meme on this list that has source-material with which I’m unfamiliar, like most good memes, the image itself is enough.  There are several different memes that have this same idea, but the “I too like to live dangerously” punchline seems to be most appropriate.

  4. Hipster Ariel
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    Disney Princess Hipsters were a very brief cultural moment, but they remain remarkably hilarious.  The slight change to an angsty Ariel made for a perfect meme, and the many spin-offs furthered the joke.  Memes are about being a part of a collective inside internet joke, and so the experience of the meme is an important part of why memes like this were so hilarious.

  5. I Took an Arrow in the KneeThere aren’t many examples of this meme as an advice animal, but it’s certainly a fantastic meme and the quote’s use in popular culture is itself rather fantastic.  While these jokes were most popular at Skyrim‘s release, it’s occasional appearance keeps it relevant.

  • Honorable Mention: Well that Escalated Quickly
    While this is not an advice animal, it’s still a wildly popular and prolific meme that is usually attached to rather hilarious images.

  • Bottom: The very many memes that perpetuate hatred
    The best individual memes are often based on upsetting our expectations.  However, by doing so, they usually end up reinforcing what those expectations are.  Sadly, many memes use expectations that reinforce racial, gender, and other stereotypes and ultimately further objectify minority identities.  The harm these do is greater than the humor they provoke.

52: Top 5 Shakespeare Quotes

  1. All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.  They have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts –As You Like It Act 2 Scene 7
    Shakespeare knew theater perhaps better than any other person who has ever lived.  He knew what it meant to treat the world like a stage, and just as his plays display many different facets of humanity, he intimately knew the range of experiences that an individual can endure.  This quote reflects most naturally his understanding of the world.
  2. There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so –Hamlet Act 2 Scene 2
    Our experience of the world is the world.  Everything is in our heads, but that does not trivialize things, it magnifies them.  This quote can be interpreted in a range of ways, but it seems what Shakespeare is implying is that our minds determine how we react and understand experiences, such that even terrible circumstances can be considered good and marvelous circumstances considered bad.
  3. Earthly power doth then show likest God’s when mercy seasons justice –The Merchant of Venice Act 4 Scene 1
    Humans come closest to the divine when we exhibit the qualities of God.  Nothing more perfectly reflects God than the ability to merge His divine righteous justice with His loving mercy.  All human justice ought to aim to reflect God in this way.
  4. We are such stuff as dreams are made on, rounded with a little sleep –The Tempest Act 4 Scene 1
    A late romance, this story about forgiveness has a fairy-tale quality.  Shakespeare once again emphasizes the centrality of the mind to humanity, for what is a dream but the pinnacle of imagination?  And what part is the sleep–the dream, or our waking moments?  This quote celebrates the wonder that can inhabit life.
  5. Men at some time are masters of their fates: the fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings –Julius Caesar Act 1 Scene 2
    Here Shakespeare emphasizes the power the individual has in his or her own destiny.  While other quotes emphasize how much is determined by our mind, this quote emphasizes how the mind can be turned to influence the outside world.
  • Honorable Mention: Let’s kill all the lawyers –Henry VI Part 2 Act 4 Scene 2
    Shakespeare wrote some incredible courtroom dramas, but this quote humorously points out the perpetual attitude people have about those who often seem to obscure the justice that he celebrates.
  • Bottom: To thine ownself be true –Hamlet Act 1 Scene 3
    The problem with this quote is that the character who says it is a joke.  While the words themselves can still certainly have a positive sentiment, this specific quote is meant satirically, and therefore really shouldn’t be quoted positively.

52: Top 5 Looks at the 2016 Grammys

  1. Jidenna
    This look is incredible.  That suit is a magnificent color and cut.  It’s paired perfectly with shoes and a tie that would be a bit busy except for how perfectly it works here.  The collar on the suit is beautifully cut.  The jewelry on this look is a brilliant touch and doesn’t distract from the already mentioned gorgeous suit.  The cane is a distinctive touch that just adds to the overall elegance of the look without being too much.
  2. Diana Gloster

    There’s something enchantingly perfect about this dress.  As the dress expands from the waistline, so does the sheet music decorating it.  This look is definitely served by the simplicity of black and white.  The large black band cinching the waist ensures the notes aren’t the most eye-grabbing piece of the look.  The simple, unpatterened bodice similarly keeps the look from being too much.
  3. Big Sean

    This shirt’s cut is perfect.  The way it dances around the chest to reveal the rapper’s chest and necklace is gorgeous.  The tuxedo black lapel keeps this suit from being a snooze and instead further frames the neckline.  The shoes are a great touch, and ultimately continue what every part of this ensembles does: takes elegant simplicity and enhances it with beautiful, simple detail.
  4. Gary Clark Jr.
    It’s hard to say whether the accessories or the suit itself is the better part of this look.  The neck scarf is magnificent and draws attention to the cut and simplicity of the many buttons of the jacket.  The material used on that jacket is perfect and makes the grey-black shimmer.  The boots and hat complement the look as well, being distinctive without distracting.  Also, those are black jeans he’s wearing, and the overall ensemble works perfectly for either the red carpet or a casual day out.
  5. Mya
    Elegance defines this dress which is cut to marvelously accentuate the singer’s form.  The curves of the colors perfectly balance each other, and the all-black top is perfect.  The jewelry pairs nicely with the dress and the look has a nice touch of asymmetry that enhances the overall effect.  The train is a beautiful touch and just stresses the controlled beauty of this look.
  • Honorable Mention: Serayah

    This dress accomplishes the impossible: it is a one-strap dress that wouldn’t be better as a strapless or two strap dress.  Obviously many people like a one-strap look, but I don’t, but this dress’ spiral wrap aesthetic justifies the style choice.  The train perfectly accentuates that aesthetic.  While I’m not a huge fan of the front, the profile of this dress is gorgeous.
  • Bottom: Taylor Swift
    I need to make something clear: my opinion of Taylor Swift’s music has nothing to do with why she is in this slot.  This look is awful.  You’ll notice that almost no one else at the Grammys decided that a tube top was the way to go on this elegant night.  Yes, the split skirt does pair nicely with the top, and the colors match nicely, but the random tube top is an unforgivable choice in the first place.

52: Top 5 Magic: the Gathering Mono-Blue Cards

  1. Ancestral Recall

    This is without question the greatest card in the game.  Black Lotus is more expensive because any deck can play it, but the real question is why aren’t you playing blue if you could be playing Ancestral Recall?  There is never really a situation that I don’t want all four copies of this card in my hand.  Other cards are situational, but this is universally powerful.  Draw three cards!  It’s three Time Walks if you’re stalled on an empty board.  I say proudly that I have actually seen one of these in person, and while I will never own this card, it’s a universal signifier of how powerful blue can be as a color in Magic.  This is such an obvious choice that after making my list I looked at other lists and effectively everyone puts this as the greatest Magic card of all time.  The all-star of the “Power Nine,” no card printed since has come even close to this.  It’s simple and elegant and far too powerful.
  2. Mana Drain
    Card draw isn’t fun.  Do you know what’s fun?  The other player not having fun.  And not just stopping their fun, but then proceeding to throw a party with the failed illusions of the fun they wish they had so you can keep laughing at them.  Well, anyway, if you’re playing blue that probably sounds like fun to you (I wanted to clarify I was joking when I said “card draw isn’t fun–it is).  Two mana to counter the other player’s spell is strong, but add on this effect and you have a card that only escalates in power as the game progresses.  I can’t imagine a more frustrating way to have something countered than this.  There are almost no situations where this card is worthless (but they are conceivable), and it can be immensely powerful at any point of the game.  Did I mention this is an uncommon?
  3. Force of Will
    Counterspells are powerful because they can stop whatever the other player’s plan is and therefore both enable you to do what you want safely or protect you from the other players.  Force of Will enables a player to counter something without spending mana.  My greatest Magic regret is that I didn’t buy a playset of these when I first got back into the game.  They have skyrocketed in value since then.  New players tend to struggle to understand the value of this one, but the important thing to remember is that the more advanced formats often end in just a few turns, when you haven’t had time to play many lands yet for better answers, but this card will ensure even if you tapped out your lands, you are still safe from your opponent’s hidden plans.  Another uncommon!  For experienced players, the power of this card is enshrined in the card Storm Crow.  The thoroughly mediocre Storm Crow is jokingly venerated as the most powerful card ever printed but these jokes began because Force of Will was so strong when it was printed that any card that was blue (even the lowly Storm Crow) was considered better than any card in the game what wasn’t blue because you couldn’t exile it with Force of Will.
  4. Jace, the Mind Sculptor
    My best explanation for how powerful this card is that previous to Jace, Mono-Blue Control Legacy and Vintage decks would usually run one copy each of three unique creatures (Meloku the Clouded Mirror(because of her ability to end the game on the next turn), Rainbow Efreet(because of his effective invincibility to all removal), and Morphling (because of his flexibility), but once this card was printed a full playset of this card was the only win condition blue decks needed.  Experienced players say the best planeswalkers have to have a way to defend themselves, and the third ability can get rid of a single dangerous creature while the first ability can ensure that your opponent won’t get any new dangers.  The last ability ensures your opponent will lose in the most frustrating way possible, and it only takes five turns of controlling your opponent’s draws to get there!  This card was so powerful in standard that before it was banned players would run four copies of Jace Beleren in addition to their four copies of Jace, the Mind Sculptor just so they’d have four more cards that could kill the opponent’s Jace.  I doubt they will ever print a card quite this powerful again, but every new Jace seems to try to push the boundaries.  However, this is the card that not only smashed those boundaries, but pushed aside dozens of other cards that had previously been legends.
  5. Snapcaster Mage
    I went back and forth between this and Time Walk, but I wanted a creature (sorry True-Name Nemesis) and I tried to decide which I would rather have in my hand.  Snapcaster wins because while unlike the other cards on this list it doesn’t win games by itself (although I realize suddenly that as a creature this is the only card that can win games by itself), it opens up more options for you than a Jace, the Mind Sculptor.  Effectively adding the best cards in your graveyard to your hand, it’s practically an Ancestral Recall (even better than Ancestral Recall if you’ve played an Ancestral Recall–wait, would playing this when you had an Ancestral Recall in your graveyard make it an Ancestral Recall Recall?).  Timetwister is very strong, but the major reason it is strong is that you can replay cards, which this lets you do with more finesse.  So this little recent creature beats out two “Power Nine” cards!  Impressive.

  • Honorable Mention: Counterspell
    My favorite card that I own, this is the original counter spell.  While countering other players’ cards may be one of the best things in this game, blue would still be a fantastic color if it couldn’t (note: top card on this list is card draw not a counterspell), but countering spells has always been a part of Magic for me.
  • Bottom: Pale Moon
    Pale Moon does effectively nothing.  You’re basically throwing away two mana and a card.  While there are of course always situations where this might be useful, there are far stronger forms of disruption available to blue.  As another comment, this card effects you as well, so you can potentially lock yourself out of a useful opponent’s turn.  Then again, if you’re playing this, you probably weren’t the sort of person who had many plans to do useful things on their turn anyway.

52: Top 5 United States Supreme Court Cases

  1. Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka
    Few cases have so substantially reversed a long trend within a country’s policies in a way to tangible to millions.  This case famously ruled that it was unconstitutional to force people of different races to go to different schools.  “In the field of public education, the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place.”  A unanimous decision that was almost completely unprecedented, this case deserves this spot because change on this level was perhaps unreachable from any venue other than the Supreme Court.  Richard Kluger’s Simple Justice goes into great detail about the history of the case but makes an important note: this case is not an example of some great statement of victorious benevolence, but rather stands more as a reminder for how long the United States denied the fundamental personhood of a large portion of the population.  All that this case did was reverse one instance of gross (both meanings) inequality.  This was a baby step for the United States, and while a remarkably important one, should serve to remind us how recently massive, blatant, systemic inequality festered within the world.
  2. Worcester v. Georgia
    President Andrew Jackson allegedly claimed “John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it.”  In Worcester v. Georgia the court ruled nearly unanimously that it was unlawful to keep a member of the Cherokee Nation from Cherokee land–a simple and obvious decision, but one that was ultimately meaningless in actual policy until years later as a precedent.  Of course not the only case that involved the rights of Native Nations, this one stands out because of the attempt the court made to acknowledge sovereignty rights–albeit a minor one in the scheme of things–of a group, but the complete failure of that decision to change anything.  Ultimately, all politics is enforced by actual people.  The Supreme Court only has any power because people choose to actually enforce its rulings.  The law of the land is no excuse for individuals not fighting against injustice, because that same law can also be overturned for evil by individuals.
  3. Gideon v. Wainwright
    Next to Miranda v. Arizona (and a few others), this case acknowledges the reality that those who enforce the law are not above the law, and that the only way to ensure that people are given justice is if both defendant and accuser are represented by someone who knows the law.  While this ruling is a massive step towards promoting justice in the United States, it is often subverted by both police practices and the difficult realities of a law that puts a burden on the taxpayers but benefits only the poor and usually disenfranchised.  A unanimous decision, this decision has made a practical, positive difference for many people through the years.
  4. Fletcher v. Peck
    An early decision of the Supreme Court (and one that allegedly Chief Justice Marshall would try to mitigate in Worcester v. Georgia), this is one of the most interesting cases to talk about today.  The Supreme Court decided that even though Georgia’s legislature had been bribed to sell Yazoo lands at unfairly low prices, Georgia could not later repeal that mistake because it would undermine the people’s trust in the ability to do business.  Effectively, the Supreme Court unanimously decided that protecting the economy was more important than rectifying illegal and unjust actions.  What would this country look like if they had decided otherwise?
  5. Roe v. Wade
    This case is one of the most fascinating that the Court has ever decided.  At the time of the decision, the Supreme Court was composed of a group of men (all white except for Thurgood Marshall) that had been appointed based primarily on their beliefs about economic policies who were suddenly responsible for determining if the law allowed for states to limit a woman’s ability to have an abortion.  One of the first major social cases that has dominated the Court since then, many justices had to formulate their opinions and legal opinions about abortion simultaneously and immediately.  It’s interesting to imagine how the so-called “culture wars” of the past decades would have played out had this case been decided differently.  However, one of the most important aspects of this case is that when the Court (now with a woman appointed to it!) would have a chance to overturn it in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, they didn’t, even though appointees since Roe v. Wade had been chosen in part because of the assumption that they would overturn it given the chance.
  • Honorable Mention: Republic of Austria v. Altmann
    A country sued a person and the Supreme Court had to decide who was right. One of the more fun cases in Supreme Court history, the court decided that Maria Altmann could indeed sue the country of Austria in the United States for the paintings that had been stolen from her family by Nazi Germany. It’s a fascinating story that combines my love for the Supreme Court with my love for art history. Thankfully the court decided that indeed she could seek justice in the United States.
  • BottomKorematsu v. United States
    Although Dred Scott v. Sandford may actually be the worst decision that the court has ever made (and the vague preface-less way I make these lists means that this list of most interesting/influential (and not ones I most agree with) cases could actually put both of these in the positives), Korematsu v. United States edges it out for this spot for two reasons.  First, Korematsu v. United States, which ruled that the racially based internment of Americans of Japanese ancestry without charge was fine and dandy, is still on the books as good law.  While maligned since then as an awful decision, no decision or law has explicitly challenged it, while Dred Scott v. Sandford was countered by constitutional amendments.  Second, Korematsu v. United States showed that even just 75 years ago large scale massive racialized imprisonment without cause was permitted because of the fear of the majority.  At least we have some distance from Dred Scott, but this devastating decision could be easily made again.

52: Top 5 Living Female Visual Artists

  1. Wangechi Mutu
    Collage is a fantastic medium because it forces the artist to use images that actually come from our world.  Like a poem structure with a difficult form, the well composed collage can convey many layers of meaning not only from the final image, but from the very act of sampling specific sources.  Wangechi Mutu’s works explore gender and racial identity in the modern world, pointing out important but often disgusting realities about our world.  She is simultaneously able to capture violence and beauty in her works, drawing attention to the long history of colonial control that art has actually perpetuated.
  2. Yayoi Kusama
    On the threshold between sculpture and performance art, Yayoi Kusama is perhaps the artist that will most endure as a symbol of our era.  Some of her most poignant art explores questions of narcissism and self-obsession in the modern world, forcing the viewer to interact with themselves through use of mirrors in a way most contemporary art doesn’t.  She also invites questions about the art market and the commodification of self-expression.  Kusama raises many of the same questions in her work as someone like Jeff Koons, but in ways that actually engage the viewer and force reflection.
  3. Faith Ringgold
    Using a form that is rarely seen in Western high art, Faith Ringgold is able to merge an artistic tradition that has long excluded women of color with a unique form of cultural heritage.  While her works often point out deep inequalities in society, her works are also often remarkably optimistic, speaking to a hope that the injustice embedded in modern society will someday erode.  Using written word alongside of her art, Ringgold is able to reinforce her images with narratives that contextualize and expand on the image.
  4. Jaune Quick-to-See Smith
    Heavily inspired by twentieth century artists, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith takes stylistic innovations of recent artistic  movements but drastically enhances their capabilities by pairing them with intensely emotional experience.  Her canvases literally drip with history, and the images she incorporates into her work represent generations of representation of First Nations people.  Whereas the canvases of Frankenthaler, Pollock, and Rothko can seem abstract, the history and present day injustice that Smith points to is immediately affecting.
  5. Cindy Sherman
    Cindy Sherman’s carefully composed photographs are so exciting because of how she draws attention to the history of art.  Art has long been a weapon of inequality in the West, and Sherman uses the medium to deliberately present and represent in ways that have been restricted to female artists for many years.  Many of her works include the cord she uses to photograph in them, making it very clear that she is the one in control of the image, images that are usually familiar because they are inspired by works embedded in the cultural consciousness.
  • Honorable Mention: Guerilla Girls
    A collective with hidden identities, the Guerilla Girls point out forms of sexism that are still prolific in the art world.  By incorporating images from the history of art with beautiful graphic design sensibilities, these works make bold statements.
  • Bottom: Yoko Ono
    Yoko Ono might not have broken up the Beatles, but she broke up the Beatles.  Is it petty to dislike an artist because of something she didn’t even do that was completely unrelated to visual arts anyway?  Yes.  It’s the principle of the thing.  I actually teach Yoko Ono in my art history classes as a noteworthy artist of the Conceptual Art movement, and her works definitely do engage interesting questions.  But on principle, Yoko Ono must be at the bottom of this list.