Column: Countdown mania inspires a countdown of countdowns

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 21, 2003

Q: What do New Year’s Eve, the space shuttle and VH-1 have in common?

A: Countdowns.

It seems everybody must love a good countdown. I’m talking about these lists where somebody (whose qualifications are never really clear) ranks everything in sight &045; like the top 100 songs of the last 25 years, which is now running on VH-1, the cable channel that’s allegedly devoted to music.

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List-mania seemed to start in earnest around the turn of the millennium, when we were bombarded with lists of the top people, news events, movies, songs and everything else imaginable from the last century or the last 1,000 years.

Three years later, VH-1 has held onto this penchant for lists and countdowns and is milking it to death. It seems like every time I look up, they are running a new countdown. They have the top 50 one-hit wonders, the top hard-rock bands, the top &uot;divas,&uot; the greatest female artists, and now are advertising the top 200 &uot;icons,&uot; which is airing this summer.

For some reason, the media actually gave some coverage to the top 100 songs of the last quarter-century countdown. The list was released in advance. The number-one song is Nirvana’s &uot;Smells Like Teen Spirit,&uot; a selection that caused plenty of &uot;what’s the world coming to?&uot; talk from the older set. Side note to those people: You sound just like your parents probably did when you came home with records by Elvis, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

Anyway, this countdown thing must be working for VH-1, because they keep doing it. What is it about a countdown or a ranking that causes people to pay attention? In theory, people shouldn’t care how somebody else ranks something, but for some reason, they do.

So in tribute to the countdown phenomenon, here’s my countdown of the five best top-ten countdowns I thought up myself. I’m not particularly qualified to make these rankings, but are any of the people who compile these lists?

5) Chicken Preparation Methods: 10&045;placed on a running car engine; 9&045;let to sit under hot lamps for six hours; 8&045;flame-roasted on a very small spit; 7&045;steamed; 6&045;deep fried in root beer; 5&045;stir-fried; 4&045;deep fried in something other than root beer; 3&045;broasted; 2&045;pan-fried; and 1&045;grilled.

4) Things Not To Do To With Your Car: 10&045;shift into reverse while driving 50 miles an hour forward; 9&045;fill the radiator with gumballs; 8&045;tint the windows so you can see in but not out; 7&045;change the oil with your infant son laying under the car beside you; 6&045;remove the steering wheel and deep-fry it in root beer; 5&045;whenever a part has to be replaced, use one made of Legos; 4&045;drive at 110 down the alleyway, throwing cinderblocks at trash cans; 3&045;invite all 16 members of the local Claustrophobics Anonymous club to take a ride; 2&045;paint it gray with a yellow stripe down the center and park it in the middle of the road; and 1&045;roll the windows down and drive slowly through neighborhoods with bass-heavy music blasting.

3) Beatles Songs They Should Play On The Radio More Often: 10&045;Maxwell’s Silver Hammer; 9&045;I Am The Walrus; 8&045;Lovely Rita; 7&045;Norwegian Wood; 6&045;She Said She Said; 5&045;I’m Only Sleeping; 4&045;Mean Mr. Mustard; 3&045;You Never Give Me Your Money; 2&045;Glass Onion; and 1&045;Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey.

2) Worst Gag Ways To Answer Your Phone: 10&045;&uot;This better be good, I’m missing Dr. Phil&uot;; 9&045;&uot;Bob’s Mortuary, you kill ’em, we chill ’em&uot;; 8&045;&uot;You have reached Freeborn County, please don’t bring up the same subject more than twice or we WILL hang up on you&uot;; 7&045;&uot;Thanks for calling Taco Bell, home of the salmon-n-cheese Gordita&uot;; 6&045;&uot;Bill’s Mausoleum, you whack ’em, we stack ’em&uot;; 5&045;&uot;Handy Andy’s House of Wing Nuts, how may I direct your call?&uot;; 4&045;&uot;We’re not home, please leave a message after the belch&uot;; 3&045;&uot;Cannibal Hut, you slay ’em, we souffle ’em&uot;; 2&045;&uot;Gardenhire residence, where you’re not welcome unless your ERA is over 5&uot;; and 1&045;&uot;Used Dental Floss Museum, Ricky speaking.&uot;

1) Words Most Four-Year-Olds Don’t Know: 10&045;regulate; 9&045;anachronism; 8&045;dumbfounded; 7&045;proton; 6&045;Steppenwolf; 5&045;haughty; 4&045;plutonium; 3&045;subliminal; 2&045;sanctimonious; and 1&045;behave.

Dylan Belden is the Tribune’s managing editor. His column appears Sundays. E-mail him at