Best Of?

Ok, so I just noticed something. Some, though not all, of my FtB cohort have a widget of sorts that directs people to some of their “must read” posts from earlier months or years. This being the internet, pretty much anything that is older than a week or so tends to get lost, unless it happens to hit on a popular search term, in which case it will never die (that post was in my top five for every month on the old blog, with a handful of hits every day, each time from a separate search of the… obvious keywords).

So I’m thinking it might be a nice idea to have a side widget, maybe a pull-down so it doesn’t take up an internet mile, with some sort of “greatest hits” or “best introduction” or suchlike (it pleases me to see that “suchlike” is accepted by my spellcheck). I mean, I have over 1300 posts (true, some are re-posts); where is someone supposed to start?

I also am thinking that I have turned out to be a very poor judge of what people like. Things I am proud of are ignored; things I threw together in 15 minutes get lauded. As Linus Pauling would have said if he had talked about poetry, the best way to write a good verse is to write lots of verses. I may not be the best at what I do (I personally know at least three–perhaps four–better, one whose birthday is tomorrow), but by damn I am the most prolific.

I need your help to winnow the wheat from the chaff. I have no idea how many I will put in this sidebar thingy (it will depend on whether I can do a drop-down menu), but not a lot. So… which are essential? If this is the bare-bones (bare cuttlebones?) introduction, what do I include? Is there anything you printed out and tacked to your door at work or your fridge at home? Tattooed on your newborn?

What are the “Best Of”? (and yes, quit lurking and put your two cents in!)


  1. Cuttlefish says

    Wow, Shellity, I had forgotten all about that one! If it is what brought you here, it is special indeed! (um… other readers, click through on her name for a real treat!)

  2. says

    I have not been frequenting FtB for very long, so I cannot choose from older entries, but from what I’ll make a couple suggestions on what I’ve read. “My Place (In the Dance of the Universe)” is easily my favourite for many reasons and may be a good entry on the grounds that it helps to dispel the myth of the sad atheist. Also, since you wrote a lot about Cranston, the “Cranstons Cliff Notes” entry may be worthwhile as a summation of your works on the topic.

    And, since you’ve convinced me to finally comment, I’ll take the opportunity to say I’ve really appreciate your work. So much of the skeptic community is grounded in science (naturally) but it’s good to see the arts have a place too.

  3. says

    I think things such as best of best are always going to be highly subjective: for example, of the last couple of pages of your output, the one I like best is the mockery of Alvin Plantinga and the Art of Delusional Motor Vehicle Maintenance, but how many people are going to agree with me, rather than stating a preference for say those double stanzas of amphibrachic tetrameter to Stephen Fry or that double dactyl about Atheist Ireland?

    You could add a category or tag cloud, seeing as things like the Headline Muse limericks all get a tag, which would at least allow browsing by subject, rather than by form as you don’t categorise your poems metrically; and you could browse those subjects to pick out what you think are outstanding examples of each of them. I’d suggest that categorising by poetic form might be useful on occasion; I had to go searching back a month to find this impressive example of a pair of haikus that fuse into a limerick – or is it a limerick that fissions into haikus? But doing that for 1,300 previous posts doesn’t sound like fun… :-(

    Poems that got high numbers of comments might also be obvious ones to select for the best of best list, even though that’s actually a proxy for a different measurement, being quantitative rather than qualitative.

  4. Cuttlefish says

    geoffreysmith, thank you! Although I personally would not call this so much “arts” as “compulsions”.

    Xanthe–damn, I like your title better than mine. As for the question, hey, that’s why I ask! I did look at doing a cloud of sorts, but I really suck at tagging, so I tend to use about four categories and ignore all the rest. And a word cloud makes me look like a church site.

    Esceptrical Engineer (great name!)–see, this is why I ask these things! Why hasn’t that verse been out there embarrassing Rush Limbaugh? I curse my poor memory!

  5. says

    I’ve quit lurking to say that I really loved “His Frothiness, On Gay Marriage.” It was one of the more moving things I’ve read on gay marriage in a really long time. I also really liked “On (Mutual) Respect” and “One Nation Under God.” I love that even the posts you describe as being “blind rage” end up being compassionate, intelligent, and nuanced.

  6. says


    Thank you, Cuttlefish – it seems like aeons ago I read Robert Pirsig’s novel… philosophical ramblings? that I shamelessly riffed on there – Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is part of a tradition of taking philosophical thought and trying to relate it to the mundanities of the real world, even if I remember it being a bit wishy-washy and/or New Agey. What I hear of Plantinga’s philosophy strikes me as even less relevant, chasing shadows or sunbeams doing nothing to do with fixing the problem at hand.

    I thought there was a good poem close to when FtB launched but I can’t find it in the Archives, which are incredibly slow to search (don’t think it was one of the Headline Muses). In lieu of finding it, I’ll just mention:
    No Disrespect Intended — on a mother skipping her own daughter’s wedding because she’s marrying a woman
    But It Was Supposed To Be A Parody! — a real life followup to Jennifer, Jennifer
    12 Years For Rape (um… that’s the victim) — a travesty in Afghanistan

  7. otrame says

    My favorite is the one that starts off

    My faithful friends were wondering,
    And I was wondering, too,
    When atheists get together—
    Just what all do they do?
    They have no common purpose,
    And so I find it odd,
    To think they join together
    And talk about “no god”.

    I would link to it, but I’m on my iPad and just block quoting is enough of a pain in the butt (I have software on my desktop that provides HTML codes with just a couple key strokes, but not on this).

    I think I like it so much because it points out so forcefully all that we atheists miss out on with our lack of religion.

  8. says

    I’ll second “How Chromosome Numbers Change”; the fusion of haiku and limerick forms in illustration of the fusion of chromosomes was brilliant. I think it was the first of yours that I copied and saved to read aloud to friends and random strangers. “Daylight Savings” and “My First Experience With Faith-Healing Death” are two others I’ve similarly saved; they’re both sonnets, suitable for performing at the Renaissance Festival (always with attribution, of course). Thanks so much for your wonderful verses!

  9. says

    You wrote, “I also am thinking that I have turned out to be a very poor judge of what people like. Things I am proud of are ignored; things I threw together in 15 minutes get lauded.” In my short blogging career I have found the same to be true—funny isn’t it?

    I am not sure which of your posts I like the best. I need to think on this.

  10. says

    You wrote, “I also am thinking that I have turned out to be a very poor judge of what people like. Things I am proud of are ignored; things I threw together in 15 minutes get lauded.” In my short blogging career I have found the same to be true—funny isn’t it?

    I am a new reader to your blog, so am looking forward to the list that your longtime readers put forth.

  11. Thinker says

    Obviously, your “Scientific Valentines” have to make the list! Showing the world that romance and science are by no means mutually exclusive (even if we don’t express it with Hallmark syrup..) is one of your key feats!

    Other posts I like (this is just off the top of my head, and I’m on the road, so forgive me for not providing links…):

    “I never was good with machines”
    “Dance naked at my funeral”
    “Eating Mermaid”

  12. says

    I second the vote for the scientific valentines. And I also second the vote for your newly minted poetry form (almost any example will do – I loved last week’s offering!).

  13. Ray, rude-ass yankee says

    I printed out “The Night Before (The War On) Christmas” for my toolbox at work when I saw it back on 11/17/2010. So much of your work I have enjoyed, but that I had to share (with full attribution of course).

  14. Die Anyway says

    I’m thinking we need a “Top 1000″. I have a new favorite almost every day. But, if you ask which ones I have actually made a point to distribute to friends, there are two. Unfortunately I’m not on my home computer where I might be able to retrieve the names. What I remember is that one was about beer and one was about summer camp. I read them originally because you cross-posted on Pharyngula and they were waaay before FtB.

    >”… at least three–perhaps four–better…”

    OMG! That can’t be true. I’m almost afraid to ask for links, my head might explode if I read anything better.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *