Compiling year-end lists leave some wondering

Wednesday, December 24, 2008 | 6:00 a.m. CST

 Happy Christahanukwansolcitica (Did I get everyone?) and welcome the annual Great List Distribution.

I am always curious about the process media uses to select their version of the “Top 10” or “Top 100.”  I know David Letterman uses a system developed by Major Sedgwick Finagle of the Her Royal Majesty’s Engineering Corps, the “Finagle Factor.”  Simply, it is the adding, subtracting, multiplying or dividing your answer by any number to make it the right answer.  This method was apparently used a lot by the Bush admin… . But that’s another article all together.

Finagle also developed the “Stair Method of Selection,” one that is used by many teachers to grade papers.  The process is straightforward: Stand at the top of the stairs, throw the tests or essay papers and see where they land.  Those at the top receive an “A,” two steps down an “A-,” two more a “B,” and so on.  This process eliminates favoritism, nepotism, plagiarism and any other “ism” you could name as well as spelling and grammatical errors.

The list that made me smile is the Top 100 Living Geniuses put forth by Creators Synectics of London.  The 2007 survey, with 600 responses and more than 1,100 nominated geniuses, is an international mix of those you would expect, those you do not know and a few surprises.

The criteria ranks five elements: paradigm shifter, popular acclaim, intellectual power, achievement and cultural importance.  I believe the methodology is a modification of Finagle’s Factor.

Some names just seem to stand out. American filmmaker Quentin Tarantino holds up the fort at No. 100. Russian Mikhail Kalashnikov, the designer of the infamous AK-47, is No. 93.  J.K. Rowling is 83 on the list.  Stan Lee, John Williams and George Lucus share slot 73.  Steven King, Paul McCartney and Jane Goodall sit at 58. 

My giggles stem from the top half of the list.  Mohammad Ali, Steven Spielberg and Osama Bin Laden share number 43 and are ranked higher than Henry Kissinger.  If Bin Laden was chosen for outwitting President Bush, I think it proves that the process of selection was badly flawed.

I expected Stephen Hawkings (7) and Nelson Mandela (5) to be near the top of the list, but it is the top ranking American that gives me pause.

In the No. 4 slot is “The Simpson’s” creator Matt Groening.  What I found most interesting is Groening’s intellectual power index is zero.  So why so high on the list? 

Groening's achievements, his international acclaim, his 25 Emmys and the adoption of Homer and Bart by the world gave him high marks.  But if Groening is a valued member of this elite club, why are Trey Parker and Matt Stone, creators of “South Park” and great commentators on politics and religion, not on the list? 

There are some others who are conspicuously absent: American astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, British musician Mick Jagger, American musician Bob Dylan and American comic Stan Freberg.  I am sure you can think of a few others.

Also absent are world leaders. Yes, Mandela and Kissinger are ranked, but others are not.  Does that mean we have no one of greatness leading any government of this planet? 

And Santa Claus is not on the list.  I know he is still alive because tonight he will be delivering toys to all good girls and boys, men and women, and pets.

I am thinking of making my own list next year and including names such as investor Bernie Madoff and Enron’s Jeffery Skilling.  I would include Kenneth Lay, but he may be in a higher court. Or maybe a lower court.

As we approach the end of the year and this season of new beginnings and hope, I am optimistic that Barack Obama will make the list.  Maybe if I ask Santa for peace on earth, goodwill to all and a genius for a prez… . One could only wish. 

David Rosman is a business and political communications consultant, professional speaker and instructor at Columbia College. He welcomes your comments at

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Going LikeSixty December 30, 2008 | 5:10 p.m.

Wow, pretty lame post.

From the pathetic pop references to giving all that thought to an insignificant list based on a survey of Brits.

Were you wavering between funny and serious or did I just miss it altogether?

If I did, it's because your post was poorly written. You could use an editor.

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