As we approach what may turn out to be the end of life on earth, The Stranger would like to pause and reflect on those things that have made our time here so special. From the Big Bang to the sports blooper, from the discovery of penicillin to the invention of Glide tooth floss, these are the things that made us say "Wow!" since the dawn of time!


Of all the marvelous and catastrophic events Hollywood has reproduced -- the sinking of the Titanic, a comet destroying Paris, a tornado tearing across a Midwestern state, a volcano exploding into red hot lava, an earthquake destroying a major city, a Boeing 747 crashing into a polar mountain -- there is one event not even James Cameron can attempt to duplicate. We speak, of course, of the greatest moment of all time: the Big Bang. Where would we be without the Big Bang? Nowhere, with nothing! Whether it was the result of a red shift in the cosmic microwave background or simply God's fart, the Big Bang was the birth of everything we know. Without it we would never have had John F. Kennedy's assassination, Lolita on the bestseller list for 53 weeks, Alexander the Great's great feast to reconcile the east and the west (he married 9,000 Macedonian soldiers to Asian brides), Muhammad Ali's rumble in the jungle with George Forman, the spaceship Challenger exploding over Florida, or stretch pants. Big Bang, we salute you!


All humans are conceived in sin and born into a world of pain and torment, a veil of tears, a tale of woe, a shroud of Turin, a murder of crows, etc. Dust we are and -- thanks to original sin, a.k.a. SEX -- to dust we shall return. Only two people in recorded human history were born without the stain of original sin, a.k.a. SEX: Jesus H. Christ, and his mommy, Mary. The Immaculate Conception, however, does not refer to Jesus' birth, as so many supposed Christians will tell you, but to the birth of his mother, Mary. Mary gave birth to Jesus without the prior unpleasantness of physical intimacy, true, but that's known as the Virgin Birth. The Immaculate Conception refers to Mary's conception, not Jesus', for Mary was born of a woman who was not a virgin. Mary grew in her mother's womb like a sponge or a dust bunny -- no one knows quite how she got there -- and this is important for two reasons. First, it's a miracle. Second, Mary's immaculate conception gives hope to lesbians everywhere that one day they, too, will be able to conceive without having to get some straight guy drunk or climb into the stirrups in a fertility clinic. Let us pray.


Prior to the revolutionary art of Aeschylus (525-456 B.C.), popular entertainment was pretty stupid. Large groups of people (called choruses) gathered on stage, faced forward, and spoke in unison directly to the audience. It was like a Seattle Men's Chorus concert, only without music, melody, or Harvey Feirstein; that the plays being performed were usually tragedies in metered verse only added to the drudgery. But when Greek dramatist Aeschylus dared to allow two characters to break from the chorus and speak directly to each other, all hell broke loose. Men fainted. Women miscarried. Toddlers burst into flame. Aeschylus' insurrection paved the way for all that we hold near and dear to our entertainment-lovin' hearts, from Sophocles' addition of a third actor (circa 456 B.C.) to Sherwood Schwartz's introduction of eight whole Bradys (circa 1969).


One century we're out behind our houses, huddled miserably over a wooden slat. Then, BAM! -- it's 1900 and we're all sitting pretty atop porcelain thrones! Thomas Crapper's ingenious flushing system was the Rosetta stone of plumbing, and paved the way for the luxury and indulgence that would characterize modern First-World life in the 20th century. Nothing distinguishes us from the animals and the grievously disenfranchised more than our ability to defecate indoors without shame, in an efficient, sanitary, and preferably pine-scented environment. In addition to saving us from a multitude of poo-borne illnesses of the B.T.E. (Before Toilet Era), the modern potty has played a significant role in cultural life, inspiring millions of affairs with Roto Rooter men, fueling Mr. Whipple's Reign of Terror, and providing our greatest entertainers with a place to die.


After thousands of years of burning urination, puss-oozing chancres, and ultimately, insanity and death, in 1928, British scientist Alexander Fleming had the morbid curiosity to peer into a moldy petri dish and ask, What is this shit? Fleming won a Nobel Prize for discovering the world's first magic bullet, but the real credit goes to Howard Florey and Ernst B. Chain, who figured out how to properly use the fungus -- and the chronically naughty, truly trashy, and just plain unlucky of the world have been giving a collective cheer of joy ever since! The first in a long line of miracle drugs, penicillin is handy for handling many common scourges, like TB, pneumonia, and meningitis. But it's the far more entertaining-to-catch diseases like syphilis and gonorrhea that really took it on the chin as the new wonder drug allowed a nubile population to act like perfect sluts -- virtually disease-free! Plus, the discovery of penicillin inevitably contributed to the chain reaction that led to a population explosion, free love, and -- due to over-prescription and general abuse -- strains of antibiotic-resistant Super Bugs that could very well wipe out humanity! Go penicillin!


This leap in leisure technology was heralded on May 17, 1939, at the New York World's Fair. One camera behind third base transmitted the Columbia vs. Princeton baseball game to those lucky few with TV sets of their own -- and got the figurative ball rolling on what would reveal itself to be the cornerstone of popular entertainment during humankind's final half-century on earth. Sure, sports are fun, but up-close, multi-angle, instant-replay sportscasts are art, and have provided us with many indispensable totems of modern life: the celebrity athlete/convicted rapist, the knee-thwacking gymnast, the multi-million-dollar endorsement deal, the Super Bowl Sunday commercial derby, and most importantly, the sports blooper, which all intelligent beings recognize as the pinnacle of entertainment throughout history. Watching someone fall down is always a delight, but watching a whole bunch of people fall down (or crack heads, or run into poles) to the added accompaniment of Frank Sinatra's Everything Happens to Me and assorted boing noises, is sublime.


In January of 1982, feminism chomped its way into the greed decade in the form of fearless video-game goddess Ms. Pac-Man. With her not-afraid-to-be-feminine hair bow and a most unladylike appetite, the Divine Ms. P. was the culmination of the history of feminism, as well as the harbinger and spiritual godmother of what was yet to come. Making good on the promises of pioneers Susan B. Anthony, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Bella Abzug, Ms. Pac-Man laid the groundwork for all that passes for feminism at the end of the millennium, from Riot Grrl to Lilith Fair to those postmodern psychofemmes Camille Paglia and Courtney Love -- hard-biting bitches who'll only deign to get married after devouring their way through maze after maze packed with ravenous ghosts. (You'll notice Ally McBeal is left off the list, 'cause Ms. Pac-Man doesn't puke up what she eats.) If there were any justice, Ms. Pac-Man's face would be on the quarter.


For those of us who witnessed it, this moment is indelible. On May 16, 1983, mid-way through a lip-synched performance of Billie Jean, Michael Jackson, a hyper-talented little Nellie boy whose album Thriller was about to change pop music forever, unveiled a new dance move -- and blew the world's mind. Known as the Moonwalk, the move saw Michael taking a simple step forward, then gliding effortlessly backward across the stage and into the pop culture stratosphere. Never mind that Michael's earthshaking move had been swiped from inner-city break dancers, or that, in later years, this cute and charming black guy would be replaced by a pasty-white child molester. Michael Jackson's Moonwalk achieved what all great art aspires to -- bonding his audience in awe, propelling its maker to new heights, and simultaneously making and improving upon history. Can Neil Armstrong's boring, actual moon walk of a decade and a half earlier even compare with Michael's dazzling artistic reinterpretation? No.


Of all the technical advances of the 20th century, cinema was widely acknowledged to be the most ridiculous -- until of course, Patrick Swayze's Roadhouse. It was with this 1989 film that cinema finally found both respectability and a reason for being. Swayze plays a bouncer-for-hire (as well as a philosophy major and practitioner of Eastern religions) who tries to clean up the meanest bar in Kansas. However, a local redneck/organized-crime boss uses everything in his power (karate thugs, strippers, and monster trucks) to stop him. After facing several dark moments of the soul (and a make-out session with sexy nurse Kelly Lynch), Swayze emerges victorious, and successfully transforms the once down-and-dirty bar into a clean, neon-filled family establishment that spookily resembles a Nagle painting. Road House -- a brilliant metaphor for Western expansionism, and not a bad showcase for titties.


For centuries, the human spirit writhed beneath a crushing, unconquerable guilt -- a guilt that inspired daily self-flagellation, impassioned resolutions (always broken), and often, chronic alcoholism. But with the invention of Glide tooth floss in the early 1990s, non-flossing remorse was assuaged once and for all, and humankind was free to enjoy life as never before. Forget the fat, snaggy, waxy floss of yesteryear; thin 'n' silky Glide makes it possible for even the laziest, klutziest slob to floss with ease. Statistics reveal that the widespread use of Glide correlates to an upswing in human invention and endeavor -- Tony award-winning theater artist Julie Taymor, AIDS researcher David Ho, and founder Jeff Bezos all claim that their celebrated efforts of recent years are directly tied to the psychic energy they've saved since they've begun flossing with Glide. Too bad the Earth's time may be up -- Glide's inventors are most certainly in line for a Nobel Prize.

50Worthy Runners-Up

Worthy Runners-Up

• Cheese

• Pornography

• Lip balm

• Monkeys on skates

• Killers for hire

• All in the Family

• Nutella

• Elastic waistbands

• The Reformation

• The Counter-Reformation

• Sister Wendy

• Blow-dart guns

• Domesticated animals

• Hair products

• Percodan

• The cotton gin

• Birth control

• Helen Keller jokes

• The Great Flood

• The Emancipation Proclamation

• The Artist Formerly Known as Prince

• All-you-can-eat buffets

• Plea-bargaining

• Mail-order brides

• Practical jokes

• Monster trucks• The Olympics

• Strunk & White

• Rodgers & Hammerstein

• Shields & Yarnell

• The Renaissance

• The Second Law of Thermodynamics

• Toga parties

• Jesse Owens

• Gravity

• Electricity

• Burlap

• Urban legends

• The Gutenberg press

• The hoop skirt

• Post-it notes

• The scene in the movie Primary Colors where Allison Janney falls down the stairs

• Protease inhibitors

• 69 Love Songs by the Magnetic Fields

• Annie's Goddess Dressing

• Conjugal visits

• Fermentation

• The Fastbacks

• Oral sex

• Sliced bread

by Andy Corren, Brian Goedde, Wm. Steven Humphrey, Charles Mudede, Adrian Ryan, Dan Savage, & David Schmader