Best-of List

by Steve Lancaster    3/21/14

This list is the result of a few beers with friends mostly Marines, and mostly made up on 10 Novembers over the last several years. No apologies are offered if you do not agree. However, I suggest if you aint’t been there and done that, think twice as the subjective and the empirical are mixed.

1. Best statement of Natural law
US Constitution

2. Best political thinker of 18th century
James Madison

3. Best general of 18th century
George Washington

4. Best place to start a revolution
Tun Tavern

5. Best novel of 19th century
Hick Finn by Mark Twain

6. Best general of 19th century
Robert E Lee

7. Best president of 19th century
Abraham Lincoln

8. Most underappreciated inventor of the 18th century
Eli Whitney

9. Most advanced warship of 18th century
USS Constitution

10. Most ruthless capitalist of 19th century
Jay Gould

11. Dumbest monarch of 20th century
Czar Nicholas of Russia, runner up Wilhelm of Germany

12. Most heroic stand against incredible odds in 19th century
Roark’s drift 125 English v 3000 Zulu

13. Worst military blunder of 20th century
Operation Barbarossa/Hitler

14. Best American president of 20th century
Ronald Reagan, runners up Warren G Harding and Calvin Coolidge

15. Best General of 20th century
George Patton

16. Most fearsome military unit of 20th century

17. Best military uniform ever
Marine Dress Blue

18. Greatest athlete of 20th century

19. Best place to be a kid in the 50’s
Highland Ca

20. Best place to be a teenager in the 60’s
Fayetteville Ar

21. Best battleship from WW II
USS New Jersey

22. Best tank from WW II

23. Best handgun of 20th century
M 1911 45 auto

24. Best infantry weapon of 20th century
M 1 Gurnard

25. Best place to live in 2014
Anywhere but NY or CA

26. Best racetrack
Churchill Downs, close runner up Saratoga

27. Most scenic drive
Pacific Coast Highway 1 from Big Sur to Santa Barbara

28. Best beach

29. Best national park

30. Best view of Grand Canyon
North Rim

31. Most scenic Great Lake

32. Best beach in Asia
China beach, Vietnam

33. Best sunset on east coast US
Guantanamo bay Cuba

34. Best close support aircraft
A 10

35. Best place for morning coffee
On the beach, Tel Aviv Israel

36. Best place for good beer

37. Best stock car race

38. Best muscle car of 60’s
1964 GTO

39. Best natural lake
Tahoe, runner up Crater Lake

40. Best bass lake
Ten killer OK

41. Best natural cave

42. Best sunset on West coast US
Stimson beach

43. Best amusement park
Original Disneyland

44. Best place for fish tacos
Santa Barbara Ca

45. Best tacos in US
Jimboys Sacramento Ca

46. Beat novel of the first half 20th century
You Can’t Go Home Again, Tom Wolfe

47. Best science fiction novel
Time Enough for Love, Robert Heinlein

48. Best science fiction short story
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Phillip k Dick

49. Best fantasy novel
Lord of the Rings, J R R Tolkien

50. Funniest fantasy novel
Dragon and the George, Gordon Dickson

51. Best jazz piece
Rhapsody in blue, Gershwin, runner up American in Paris

52. Best song of WW I
Over There, George M. Cohan

53. Best song of WWII
American Patrol, Glenn Miller

54. Best song of Vietnam
I can’t Get No Satisfaction, Rolling Stones

55. Best Regimental song
Men of Harlach, Charlotte Church

56. Best year for movies
1939, Gone With the Wind, Wizard of Oz, Mr. Smith goes to Washington, Goodbye Mr. Chips and many others

57. Best espionage novels
Karla trilogy, Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy. Honorable Schoolboy. Smiley’s People. John LeClarie
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31 Responses to Best-of List

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I think that’s a pretty good best-of list, Steve. Getting into the spirit of the thing, I’ll give you a couple picks. I’ll include only the cases where I disagree or where your picks are so good or subjective, there is little point to quibbling. And as to where we agree, well, who cares? What fun is that?

    2) I don’t necessarily disagree. Frankly, no one obvious person pops into mind. I could name a lot of geeky Scottish philosophers, but they are somewhat like the Thomas Sowell of their age: full of content, but awfully difficult to get to at times. They are people everyone mentions but few have read (including me). A nod could be given to Thomas Paine for his early work during the Revolution (most of his later stuff being ideologically kooky stuff to some degree).

    5) I think “Tom Sawyer” is clearly better than Huckleberry Finn. But I would pick neither. I would pick Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables.”

    6) Napoleon

    18) Secretariat is a bold pick. If I were to choose a human, I would choose Wayne Gretzky.

    21) The USS Missouri

    22) The Tiger II. This is the tank that Arnold Schwarzenegger would have driven. Not the T-34. The Sherman and T-34 were good tanks (as was the Panther). Bu if gas and metal were no limit, give me a fleet of Tiger II’s.

    36) The refrigerator

    37) Darlington. Size isn’t everything.

    55) GaryOwen.

    56) 1942 (Casablanca…the only entry that matters)

    • steve lancaster says:

      6) Napoleon
      An excellent choice, however a great general not only commands an army but sets a standard. Napoleon did not command respect after his defeat in Russia. Lee, on the other hand, commanded even more respect after the war than during it. Not long before his death in 1870 Lee was in church and a black man was at the rail taking communion, no one would get up and knell beside him. Lee rose strode down the isle and knelt for communion. A simple gesture on the part of a great leader and a symbol of the healing process.

      22 Tiger tank
      An excellent tank and in many ways superior to any other made during the war, however, the technology was difficult to maintain and production time was slow leading to many breakdowns that could not be fixed.

      The T-34 was simple, easy to repair and even Russian factories could churn them out in the thousands, a lesson we could spend more time relearning today. They were ultimately out classed but many were in service until the late 1960’s. Egypt and Syria both had battalions of T-34’s during the six day and the Yom Kipper wars.

      The same hold true for most of the Nazi weapons, to big, to complicated and too few.

      I chose the New Jersey simply because I had a relative who served on her during Gulf War I, but any Iowa class would do.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        6. No doubt Lee was a better man than Napoleon, who was something of a butcher. Few remember the fact that he did not exactly give quarter to opponents on the field after they had surrendered. But quite a few people must have respected him after the Russian campaign, because the 100 days and Waterloo came sometime afterwards. His solders had to come from somewhere.

        22. The Tiger II like many German machines of WWII was certainly over-engineered and the early models were too prone to breakdowns. But in a one-one contest between a Tiger II or even Tiger I and a T-34, I think I would prefer to be in the Tiger especially one where the initial kinks had been corrected. Of course, if overall effect on the war is to be discussed, the T-34 is vastly more important. The Soviets did turn out something like 80,000 of the things. By the way, the chassis and suspension of the T-34 was developed by an American who tried to sell it to the US military which rejected it. The Soviets were smarter.

        • steve lancaster says:

          Even almost 150 years after his death Lee is a special case for Southerners. If you have ever attended a meeting of any kind in the south you know that we are often opinionated, stubborn and loud, however, if any one asks if this the way Lee would have us behave a polite silence ensues. January 19th is still officially Robert E. Lee day in many states, and the 21st is Stonewall Jackson b-day. The daughters of the confederacy and sons of confederate veterans hold banquets all over the South to honor these men.

          Napoleon was able to raise an army, but I suspect in part because of his history of allowing the troops to loot after a battle, remember he thought of himself as Caesar.

          A working Tiger either I or II was a fearsome weapon and one on one more than the equal of the T-34. If Hitler had not kept interfering in production Manstein might have had ample panzers to break the Soviet army at Kursk, at the worst he could have stalled the Soviet advance by 6 months perhaps a year. However, he didn’t and the Soviets did so three T-34’s could and did defeat tigers on a regular basis just like three Sherman’s did the same on the Western front.

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            There were still a few living veterans of the War Between the States when I came into this world. Being born and spending my early years in Alabama as well as having no Yankees in my family tree, I think I have a pretty good idea of the esteem in which Robert E. Lee is held. But that does not make him the greatest general of the nineteenth century.

            Many historians consider Napoleon a milder version of Hitler in his attempt to unify Europe, but although he may have been a complete tyrant, he was a great, some historians say the greatest, general. As to the fighting spirit of his army, it is generally agreed that, especially in the early years of his reign, the French army was unbeatable because of the unleashing of revolutionary fervor. Of course, that fact that the French were the first modern army to use general conscription is important.

            What you say about Tigers and T-34’s is true. But for a tank crew having to have odds of at least three to one is not encouraging. I believe the Patton was far below either the Tiger or T-34 in quality.

    • steve lancaster says:

      During WWII a bookseller put a copy of Les Miserables in his front window between pictures of Hitler and Mussolini, it was months before the Nazis tripped to it.

      Don’t forget 1939 also had Stagecoach, Weathering Heights, Gunga Din, Young Mr. Lincoln, Buck Rodgers and the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

  2. Timothy Lane says:

    I have a few differences of my own (and this is my third try due to computer glitches).

    3: I would take Frederick the Great; Washington was the greatest leader of the 18th century, but not a great general (unless maybe at the very end; he was a good learner).

    12: I consider the Alamo a more heroic stand than Rorke’s Drift, though the latter has the advantage of having succeeded.

    21: If you include turretless tanks, I’d name the Jagdpanther.

    22: Any Iowa class battleship would do. Brad’s suggestion of Missouri has the advantage that the Japanese surrender was signed on it.

    24: I might agree with the M-1 (some automatic rifles might be better, but I have no personal knowledge), but it was the Garand.

    26/41: As a Louisvillian I would agree with Churchill Downs, but place Mammoth Cave above any other cave system.

    47/48/50: There are plenty of great choices for the best SF novel or short story, and I doubt I’d select either of those. I consider The High Crusade by Poul Anderson the funniest SF/F novel (and might go with it for 47); if it’s excluded because it probably would be considered SF rather than fantasy, I would include something by Mike Resnick (especially Stalking the Unicorn or Esther Friesner (probably Elf Defense).

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Thinking about it, I certainly should have considered both Pandora’s Planet (SF) by Christopher Anvil and The Warlock in Spite of Himself (fantasy) by Christopher Stasheff under item 50. And I’d add a spot for the Best Popular Singer (Petula Clark, of course, with Karen Carpenter a strong second place).

      • steve lancaster says:

        The last gun show I went to M-1 30.06 were selling for over $1000 mostly to retired grunts, like me. Patton used a strategy he called walking fire. A unit advancing on a suspected enemy position would fire their M-1’s at random targets as they advanced. The effective range of most German rifles was about 300 yards while the M-1 was effective at up to 800 yards and in the hands of a skilled rifleman over 1000. Walking fire stopped the enemy from even attempting to take aim and kept their heads down and I might add was scary as hell.

        I agree on Pet Clark, I had not thought of her. Maybe a strong second Nancy Sinatra, these boots are made for walking.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        “And I’d add a spot for the Best Popular Singer (Petula Clark, of course, with Karen Carpenter a strong second place).”

        I would flip those two. Carpenter had the purest female voice in pop. She didn’t have to resort to vocal gymnastics, just tone and control. Pure warm honey. Long ago, and oh so far away.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Needless to say, I recognize the reference, and she was indeed a superstar. I probably would agree on pure voice, but Petula Clark has had a remarkable career and was still active as of a year or two ago (if not still) at age 80.

  3. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    3. Frederick the Great. George Washington is simply the Greatest American and possibly the greatest man of all time.
    5. Too many great novels. Impossible to say.
    6. Napoleon or Wellington
    12. Alamo
    13. Pearl Harbor
    15. Guderian
    16. Depends on size of unit
    22. Later model Tiger II commanded by Kurt Knispel or Michael Wittman
    35. Any terrace overlooking a lake in Switzerland
    39. Lake Lucerne
    54. Symphony for the Devil

  4. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    My additions:

    A) Best ice cream flavor: chocolate

    B) Best sex position: not being for gender-bending

    C) The bluest skies you’ve ever seen: are in Seattle

    D) Most Communist major city: Seattle (so long blue skies)

    E) Most photogenic mountain: Mt. Rainier

    F) Deadliest snake: Plissken

    G) Most obnoxious PC movie: Brokeback Mountain (tied with Avatar)

    H) Best operating system: buying her a couple glasses of wine followed by “Aren’t you a professional model?”

    I) Leading social philosopher: Theodore Dalrymple (thoroughly supplanting Thomas Sowell…Mark Steyn remains a close second)

    J) Hottest supermodel ever: Kathy Ireland.

    K) Most obnoxious female celebrity: Rachel Maddow

    L) Most obnoxious male celebrity: Jon Stewart

    M) Most conservative public figure: Rush Limbaugh

    N) Best species of bird: American Eagle

    O) Most corrupt major politician: Eric Holder

    P) Best web site:

    • Timothy Lane says:

      My favorite ice cream flavor would be either butter pecan or chocolate mint (aka mint chocolate chip). Our local Golden Corral buffet has both, along with cookies & cream and rainbow sherbet. When we go (which isn’t often, since I can’t afford to eat that much frequently) I get all 4.

      Speaking of Mt. Fuji as a photogenic mountain (this effectively responds to Steve as well), Elizabeth once made a painting of Fujiyama yama means “mountain” in Japanese) seen through some wisteria, this being in effect a Japanese pun (apparently Fuji in a different set of ideographs means “wisteria”).

      I think some readers will choose the Serpent from Genesis over Snake Plissken from Escape from New York. When I was growing up, the deadliest actual snake was thought to be the tiger snake from Australia, though the taipan also ranked very high.

      And while I certainly consider Eric Holder as corrupt a public official as it’s possible to be, Steve has a point there as well.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        I was going to mention chocolate chip mint as one of my favorites. But the good stuff, not the stuff that tastes like toothpaste.

  5. steve lancaster says:

    Excellent choices, do I sense some location centrism here?

    C bluest sky, Montana
    D most communist city, Chicago and not Detroit only because Detroit is already bankrupt, close runner up any city run by progressives or social democrats.
    E tie Mount Fuji and Mount Rainier, I have been on both and its an equal split.
    O How can you single out just one in this administration?

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Yes, I’m from the Left Coast. And no doubt Chicago, Detroit, or now New York, are the most Communist major cities in America. But remember, Seattle and King County elected and keep re-electing someone who is Left of Obama: Jim McDermott. This guy is a certified whack-job. And Seattle just elected their first openly socialist city council member. But that’s a bit of a lie right there because many, if not most, of the Democrats in Washington State are de facto socialists. For someone in elected office to admit it is refreshing. That such a person would be elected to an office of any importance shows how little the Red Diaper Doper Babies learned from history. They are fools.

      And, no, the bluest skies are not in Seattle…but it was a hell of a song by Perry Como.

      Yes, Mt. Fuji comes to mind in terms of photogenic mountains. But it’s a bit too perfect. Mt. Rainier, on the other hand, is a working man’s mountain. It’s beautiful because of its flaws and non-symmetry. And a damn fine regional beer was named after it as well.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        I think you must add the Matterhorn to this list. All three are beautiful and awe inspiring.

        Most anywhere west of the Piney Woods to the Arizona/California border has great blue skies, particularly in winter.

        “Escape from New York” was on TV several nights back. I liked this, and Russell’s “Big Trouble in Little China”. Both escapist (sorry) and not to be taken seriously. Not great cinema, but films which can be viewed every five years or so with a big bowl of popcorn, when you want to unwind.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          I don’t know where to put this, since it’s a vista from (not of) a mountain, but the view from Pike’s Peak inspired Kathy Bates to write “America the Beautiful”, my favorite of the traditional patriotic songs. (My favorite of the more recent is “God Bless the USA” by Lee Greenwood. Come to think of it, there should be a spot for best patriotic song.)

  6. Pokey Possum says:

    Best Sounds:
    Man made: 1) Fighter jet flyover. 2) guitar of any kind, well played.
    God made: 1) Booming thunder. 2) the approaching wind in the distant trees.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      1) Can’t argue with that
      2) 12 string acoustic?
      1) Silence
      2) Babbling brook

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        The wind rustling through the trees while sitting near a babbling brook.

        The surf rolling up the shore with the wind rustling through palm trees is also not bad.

  7. steve lancaster says:

    1. Sound of a broadside from any Iowa class BB
    1. Autumn wind in the trees of the Ozarks

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I’ve never directly heard the sound of a broadside of an Iowa class battleship. But it has to give God’s thunder a run for first place. They say that each projectile is like throwing a Volkswagen 10 miles. A full broadside will physically move the ship sideways-backward in the water.

      I would imagine that the sound of the Autumn wind in the trees in the Ozarks is incomparable. The Northwest equivalent might be the foam of a latte clinging to one’s upper lip, then slowly dripping down onto the pages of the Seattle Times staining yet another story about global warming as you sit in a street-side coffee shop basking in your sense of moral superiority.

  8. steve lancaster says:

    Best symphony 1-9
    1. Mahler #1, Runner up Tchaikovsky (Winter Dreams)
    2. Brahms #2
    3. Beethoven #3 Erocia, runner up Mendelsohn #3 Scottish
    4. Mendelsohn #4 Italian
    5. Mendelsohn #5 Reformation
    6. Beethoven #6
    7. Beethoven #7
    8. Shubert # 8 Unfinished
    9. Beethoven 9 Runners up, Dvorak 9 From the New World, Shubert 9 The Great, Mahler 9

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      1. Brahm’s 3rd
      2. Brahm’s 4th
      3. Brahm’s 2nd
      4. Tchaikovsky’s 4th
      5. Bruckner’s 8th

      Beethoven took symphonic music in such a different direction than that of his precursors that he must be included in the list. I like his 9th and 5th the best.
      Any number of Hayden’s or Mozart’s symphonies could also be included to demonstrate the roots of the art form.

  9. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    Theme from a motion picture

    Moonglow from “Picnic”. The scene with William Holden dancing with Kim Novak is not bad either.

  10. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    I think another name for this list could be “Things to be thankful for” especially considering the direction it is taking.

    • steve lancaster says:

      I agree, we have so much to not only be thankful for, but there is even more to come.
      I like Bruckner’s 8th and 9th put prefer the more vivid romantics like Smetana and Dvorak.

  11. steve lancaster says:

    Motion picture themes:
    Adventures of Robin Hood Wolfgang Korngold
    El Cid Miklos Rosa
    Ben Hur, Miklos Rosa
    Exodus, Ferrante and Ticher piano and music by Henry Mancini
    Breakfast at Tiffanies Henry Mancini
    Those pesky Welsh again, Men of Harlach adapted for Zulu
    Darth Vader theme from Star Wars, John Williams

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