the most beautiful nerd-rock song: Mandelbrot Set

What: “Mandelbrot Set,” Jonathan Coulton’s fantastical tribute to mathematician Benoît Mandelbrot, whose contributions to fractal geometry were only slightly less legendary than the demon-slaying versions found in the song. Here’s Pisut Wisessing’s brilliant video to the song, though it doesn’t use the complete lyrics. For that, listen to it on JoCo’s website. Why: Nerd rock […]

the most beautiful modern neologism: crowdsourcing

What: The rallying of massive decentralized and often anonymous effort through internet appeal, often (and controversially) called “crowdsourcing.” The term, a blend of “crowd” and “outsourcing,” was coined by Wired reporter Jeff Howe in the June 2006 article “The Rise of Crowdsourcing”. Why: As escribitionists like myself often note, neologisms come and go, and more’s […]

the most beautiful proof of advancing civilization: vegetarianism

What: The rise in vegetarianism across the world. Why: In all honesty, we should not be trending toward vegetarianism. As industry makes the harvesting of animals more efficient and further distant from the consumer, and as global nutrition and the economy improves, we should be eating a lot more meat. But we’re not. In a […]

the most beautiful military victory: Finland beats everybody

What: Finland stands up to the Soviet Union, Great Britain, and Nazi Germany in World War II, and comes out battered but still standing. Below is the precarious situation at one part of the war, in 1941. The Germans are in grey and black, the Russians are in red, and the Finns are in blue. […]

the most beautiful guitar signature: 1952 Vincent Black Lightning

What: “1952 Vincent Black Lightning,” Richard Thompson’s 1991 tale of young hoodlums in love. As it’s so hard to play, the studio version trumps any of his live versions, but you have to see him play it live to get just how intricate it is. Why: The ’52 Vincent Black Lightning was the last of […]

the most beautiful game convention: National Puzzlers’ League con

What: The annual gathering of the National Puzzlers’ League somewhere in North America in July. This year it is in Seattle, starting tomorrow. Details of the convention can be found here. Why: The National Puzzlers’ League is the world’s oldest puzzle organization, founded in 1883. At the time, its members gathered in small groups in […]

the most beautiful song about the rain: I Can’t Stand the Rain

What: Ann Peebles' delicate 1973 chartbuster "I Can't Stand the Rain," performed by many artists, but none as delightfully as Eruption in their awesome 1978 bug suits: Why: This is the third of my couldn't-miss-if-you-tried trio of song subjects, the first being the moon and the second being trains. Songwriters daily thank the gods for […]

the most beautiful portrayer of crazy people: Dennis Hopper

Who: Actor and director Dennis Hopper, who passed away today at age 74. Here he is in an immortal confluence of cool on The Johnny Cash Show, loopily reciting Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If,” which as he notes, is the middle word in “life.” Why: Dennis Hopper never let you forget he was onscreen. Maybe he […]

the most beautiful humorous reference book: Our Dumb Century

What: Our Dumb Century: The Onion Presents 100 Years of Headlines from America’s Finest News Source, a 1999 “compilation” of more than 100 fictional newspaper front pages from the years 1900 to 2000. (The Onion itself, as it turns out, has only been published since 1988, despite some evidence elsewise. But that little detail didn’t […]

the most beautiful joke: the duck joke

What: The duck joke. Here it is told, sort of, by James Ernest, while I try to ruin it, at yesterday's w00tstock in Seattle. Since that probably didn't help much, here it is in its entirety: A duck walks into a bar, and asks the bartender, "Do you have any grapes?" The bartender says, "I'm […]