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Is it a meme?

OK, now in the category of Least Meme-y Thing that somehow seems like a meme anyway, Your Humble Blogger, in Wikipeding Bobby Short, clicked over to the list of people born in 1924, and was entertained, in a Book of Lists way, for long enough to decide to make a list of 26 of them, all alphabetical and whatnot. My criterion was pretty much whichever name most made me think about the person the name was attached to, or at any rate most caught my attention. Try it yourself, Gentle Reader, but with some other year (you could try using a d6 for the decade and d10 for the year, or use two d10 and add to 1861 or something to avoid having to decide between Shia LaBeouf and Lindsay Lohan). Anyway, here’s mine for 1924:

  • Lloyd Alexander. An easy win over the evocative Joan Aiken and Chet Atkins, so I suppose actually being in a room with the man counts for something.
  • Lauren Bacall. This was hard, as I was tempted by Billy Barty, Marlon Brando, Jack Buck, and Poppy Bush, not to mention James Baldwin. But I had to go with Lauren Bacall.
  • Truman Capote? Wally Cox? Jimmy Carter? No, I’ll go with Shirley Chisholm.
  • Stanley Donen. Doris Day was second. Larry Doby was third.
  • E is a bit scarce. I’m going with George Economou, who turned out to be who I thought he was. If I had remembered who Billie Sol Estes was, he clearly would have been the selection, but I’m pretty sure I don’t want to count people I have to look up.
  • Sad but true: Norman Fell
  • Even sadder: I didn’t recognize a single G. Having been clued in, it’s probably a toss-up between Bill Grundy and Bette Nesmith Graham (who should be an N, right?)
  • I gotta go with Buddy Hackett in a tough competition over Al Haig, Benny Hill and Charlton Heston. On the other hand, I’ve never heard Al Haig tell the joke that starts “Two faggots were fucking a dead alligator on a city bus...”
  • I go for Daniel Inouye over Lee Iacocca. I’m that way.
  • At the moment, Maurice Jarre is on the first page, and he’ll be tough to beat ... Hm. J.J. Johnson edges him.
  • I’m going with Ted Kluszewski over Don Knotts and Ed Koch. I still think that baseball card image was foreshortened.
  • Frank Lautenberg over Sidney Lumet, but ask me again tomorrow. Minority report for Jean-Francois Lyotard
  • Robert Mugabe, although he has competition even among crazy African dictators. In other categories, it hurt to pass up Rocky Marciano, and I suspect in a weaker year, Mssrs Mandelbrot, Mancini, Marvin, Mastroianni and Murphy, would be in with a chance, not to mention Big Maybelle
  • Lyn Nofziger. So sue me.
  • O is a weak one. Yuri Orlov? I’m going on to P
  • Bud Powell. Geraldine Page was second, Jacques Pepin third
  • No Qs
  • Hard to turn down Nipsey Russell (not to mention Bill Rehnquist), but for me it’s Al Rosen by a country mile
  • Allen Sherman is in the lead, I think, although Bobby Short got me here in the first place, and then there’s Telly Savalas, Phyllis Schlafly, and George Segal. And Rod Serling.
  • I’m surprised that Margaret Truman rose to the top, but there was limited competition.
  • Leon Uris wins by default, but it’s hard to imagine him out of the top five anyway, right?
  • Atal Bihari Vajpayee edges out Sarah Vaughn and Gloria Vanderbilt in a surprisingly tough letter
  • The Divine Miss W (that’s Dinah Washington) wasn’t bothered by serious competition here, although the likes of Slim Whitman and Ed Wood might disagree
  • No Xs. No surprise
  • I haven’t heard of any of the three legitimate Y names, and I refuse to consider Prince Alexander of Yugoslavia a Y. It’s not just that I don’t recognize their names (like Yuri Orlov), but I seriously had never heard of them. Can I substitute Sal Yvars?
  • Finally, Muhammed Zia ul-Haq wins by default, although I had heard of him. He’s no Benazir Bhutto
OK, that’s that. If you have as much fun reading it as I had compiling it, well, I’ll be surprised.

chazak, chazak, v’nitchazek,


You passed over Mandelbrot? Amy spent an hour the other week trying to convince me that science is just as good a way to change the world as being a dictator. I feel all disillusioned (vindicated?) now.

Make your own damn list, Pomerantz.

No, seriously, Mandelbrot was way higher than Audie Murphy, but nowhere close to Rocky Marciano. Would it have made you feel better if I had chosen Rocky? But no, my list is scant on scientists and inventors, and I noticed that as I was going through. There were a bunch of them on the Wikilist, though (mostly astronomers if I remember and recognize correctly), so perhaps Amy's vindication is that scientists outnumber crazy dictators on the broader list, and that it's just YHB with degenerate tendencies.
Oh, and if you were thinking about a benevolent dictatorship, that's much harder. There are very few benevolent dictators on the list (and very few evil scientists for that matter). I suppose, if I were to count Prince Alexander of Yugoslavia as a Y...

Nah, i'm too lazy to make a list, so i figure obnoxious comments are better than no comments.

In point of fact, though, you said "whichever name most made me think about the person the name was attached to", and that would not actually be Mandelbrot, whose first name i can remember only on a good day, but who i like because he reminds me of happy childhood days spent watching Fractint struggle for 20 minutes to draw his set down to the pixel level on my 386.

It's probably easier not to think of scientists as evil, though, if, like me, you generally know nothing about them except what theorems or discoveries are named after them. Being a dictator is a much more public post --- even if you won't let the media report it, the historical record is more likely to eventually notice if you're a jerk. But, also, there's the set of opportunities afforded by a particular line of work: suppose i'm a famous mathematician. Even if i'm really big on the slaughter of innocents by the thousands, the chance is just not likely to come up that often.

I mean, of course, everyone likes mad scientists for this very reason, but they suffer from a very strong tendency to be, umm, fictional.

Do Pons and Fleishman count as real-life mad scientists? By one interpretation, they thought they could revolutionize the world through their invention but were foiled by science!. But not by a clever intrepid adventurer or a band of meddlesome kids and their dumb dog, so maybe Pons and Fleishman don't count after all.

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