Monday, October 18, 2004

The Greatest?

I have to say I'm ambivalent about these "The Greatest [fill in nationality]" shows that are the Next Great Thing after the "[fill in nationality] Idol" craze. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, look here, here or here). Sure, they might be fun and democratic (or as democratic as the Idol shows were at any rate), but the winners... Ugh! Actually, I don't much have trouble with the actual winners. It's the top 10 lists and the relative placements, especially where artists are concerned. You might say, "yes, but it's arbitrary, you can't dictate taste". And I would reply, "perhaps, but when on the top ten list of greatest Britons, Princess Diana places third ahead of Will Shakespeare's fifth, well, my faith in humanity takes a swandive into the outhouse pit." Sure, Diana was cool, but a greater Briton than the Bard? Puhleese! The winner was Churchill. OK, no problems with that. But he got over four times as many votes as Shakespeare, and even Diana got twice as many. We're talking about the guy who single-handedly created half the idioms in the English language. I'm shaking my head. (Incidentally, John Lennon was eighth, while Sir Paul didn't make the top ten. Bet that just bugs the hell out of him.)

The Greatest German was even worse. Can you believe that Bach, BACH, only rated 6th? Even worse, Guttenberg, originator of arguably the most important invention of the millennium, fared worse than J.S., placing 7th. And Einstein, the man who irrevokably and radically changed the way we think about the universe? He only just cracked the top 10. Well, at least Hitler wasn't on that list, though I'd be curious to see how many votes he got.

The greatest Canadian should be a funny one. The top ten list of nominees (voting hasn't started yet) is maybe not quite as silly, with one exception: Don Cherry (and if you've never heard of him, considerself lucky and forget I even mentioned him). If he places anywhere but 10th, I'll hang my head in shame. But like the other lists, there are some notable exceptions, especially among the artists. Where is Glenn Gould (he finished 55th in the preliminary voting)? What about Oscar Peterson? Love her or hate her, Margaret Atwood? Marshal McLuhan? Emily Carr? In fact, there wasn't a single artist of any kind on the list. In any case, the winner is a foregone conclusion before the thing even starts. If Wayne Gretzky doesn't win, I'll eat my laptop.


Radish King said...

I wouldn't want to have to choose between Bach and Beethoven for greatest German. It might piss off one of them. But Glenn Gould was my first thought for greatest Canadian.

Radish King said...

I wouldn't want to have to choose between Bach and Beethoven for greatest German. It might piss off one of them. But Glenn Gould was my first thought for greatest Canadian.

Peter Garner said...

I was thinking the same thing about Beethoven. Maybe they consider him Austrian, though I thought he was from Bonn originally.

Eliot Prufrock said...

Personally, I'd vote for Tim Horton. What is a day without a Tim Horton's coffee? For who has best taught Canadians their history and worth, Pierre Berton.

Don Cherry? Hmm, there's that regional vote again from the Ontario Honda assembly-line worker driving around in his American RAM-tough pickup truck, a full rack of hockey sticks in the back, along with an equipment bag full of stuff that hasn't seen a washing-machine for at least three seasons of two-four midnight pick-up hockey with all the boys who should have made it to the NHL.


Peter Garner said...

Hey Eliot. Figures you'd vote for Timmy (he was 59th, btw). Incidentally, I trolled through the top 100 and counted the hockey players: 10 out of 100! O Canada, O brother! (and Guy Lafleur and Martin Brodeur weren't even there, nor Eddie Shack!)

As for Pierre Burton, yeah, I can see that. he was 31--not too shabby. Loved "The Arctic Grail". At least he did better than Atwood. As for people who tell Canadian stories, Peter Gzowski was pretty high on the list (15); and Stan Rogers did pretty well too (60) considering he died 20 years ago.

I surprised my self by registering to vote, and it's going to Tommy Douglas--the only guy in the top 10 who's truly deserving, IMO.