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Babylon 5.1
by Rick Norwood

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Ratings are based on a four star system.
One star means that the commercials are more entertaining than the program.
Two stars watch if you have nothing better to do.
Three stars is good solid entertainment.
Four stars means you never dreamed television could be this good.

Top ten lists are almost irresistible to read -- and equally irresistible to write. A typical top ten list in the media -- as people who can thumb their noses at books like to call the visual arts -- will consist of ten movies -- sorry, films. There will be three films about women who commit suicide, two about Jews who feel powerless, two about Blacks who hang out, one about an ordinary gal who lands Hugh Grant, one about a writer suffering from writer's block who writes a film about a writer suffering from writer's block, and one about a WASP who has wasted his life. This year they may also include Gangs of New York, because they love Martin Scorsese and because Daniel Day-Lewis eats Leonardo DiCaprio for lunch.

My list is a little different, if only because genre art is not excluded.

   No. 1
Firefly by Joss Whedon
My favorite television show since Babylon 5. Every episode wonderfully entertaining. Cancelled, of course.

   No. 2
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
I put off reading it because of its reputation for difficulty, but the modern translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky is not only readable, it is hard to put down.

   No. 3
Minority Report
Not quite as shattering as A.I., but clever and exciting, a totally enjoyable movie experience.

   No. 4
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Not quite as good as the first one, but still one of my favorite movies of 2002.

   No. 5
Star Wars: Attack of the Clones
The first big action sequence alone makes it better than any three films about women who commit suicide.

   No. 6
The Two Towers
Just because it made my top ten does not mean that Peter Jackson can stop looking out for short people with axes.

   No. 7
Girl Genius by Phil and Kaja Foglio
Adventure, romance, and mad science. By far the best comic book of 2002.

   No. 8
Shadow of the Hegemon by Orson Scott Card
I am sure I'm not the only one who votes for the Hugo awards based on the author's previous novel, because I haven't gotten around to reading the new one yet.

   No. 9
Tomb Raider Chronicles
I know it's gotten a lot of bad reviews on the web, but I enjoyed it more than either Starship Titanic or The Ocarina of Time.

   No. 10
My Name Joe by David Massengill, live in Jonesboro Tennessee
This one song is better than everything else he has written and is the best song I heard for the first time in 2002. Available on the album Coming Up for Air.

Runners up:

   No. 11
Sports Night by Aaron Sorkin
Now on DVD.

   No. 12
The Quiet Man by John Ford
Starring John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara, now on DVD. Most of my students have never heard of John Wayne. If you fall into that category, this is a good introduction.

   No. 13
Doonesbury by Gary Trudeau
The only good comic strip left.

   No. 14
The Quest for Kalevala by Don Rosa
Samsdat. First official US publication in 2003.

   No. 15
The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold

   No. 16
Roman Blood by Steven Saylor
A murder mystery set in Ancient Rome.

   No. 17
Careless Creek by Stan Lynde
A western novel by the author of the comic strips Rick O'Shea and Latigo.

   No. 18
The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
Reissued in trade paperback.

   No. 19
Antarctica by Kim Stanley Robinson
A near-future, near-SF novel. Thanks to this novel, Antarctica has for the first time been named one of the top ten continents. Since there are only seven continents, this is quite an achievement.

   No. 20
1984, Selected Letters by Samuel R. Delany

And there you have my list. Five are science fiction, six are fantasy, two are mysteries, one is a western, five are realistic fiction, and one is non-fiction. None are about women who commit suicide, Jews who feel powerless, Blacks who hang out, women who marry Hugh Grant, writers who can't write, or WASPs who have wasted their lives.

Copyright © 2003 Rick Norwood

Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon.

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