Thursday, Apr. 21, 2011

The TIME 100 Most Influential Things in the World

1. Earthquakes
Not just the tsunami-causing one in Tohoku, Japan, that killed more than 14,000 people, but the ones in Burma and Christchurch, New Zealand as well. No matter how sophisticated we get with our gadgets and eighth-grade method of categorizing conflict in novels, it's still man vs. nature out there. Man vs. himself is for bored rich people.

2. The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant's reactor core
Worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. Worst Gilbert Gottfried disaster since 9/11.

3. Youth unemployment
Causing unrest throughout the third world and uncomfortable interactions when buying Big Macs from people older than you.

4. Bombs
Like protests but far more effective.

5. Protests
Still far more effective than petitions. Glenn Beck tried one; Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert pretended they were mocking it but really just wanted to throw one too. Wisconsin teachers couldn't stop doing it. Then the "Arab Street" actually went to the streets in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Bahrain, Iran, Djibouti, Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Oman and Yemen. And the U.S. somehow managed to get only one war out of it.

6. Tweets
Ending a painful past in which people went on and on in bursts longer than 140 characters. Now they go on and on all day in burst of 140 characters. Much improved.

7. Diplomatic cables
Like e-mail but sexier. Thanks to WikiLeaks' exposure of American diplomatic cables, we learned that Colonel Muammar Gaddafi sleeps in a tent when in hotel rooms and travels with a voluptuous blond Ukrainian nurse. Making him the world's most powerful 12-year-old.

8. The government shutdown
Seemed so scary, and yet all anyone could say would happen was that we wouldn't be able to go to national parks. I bet we could have still gotten into national parks. They're pretty big, and those gates are pretty small.

9. Watson
The robot kicked Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings out of a purpose, but Jennings then went and wrote a funny, self-deprecating bit about it for Slate. Which means, indirectly, that the robots have taken my job.

10. The Verizon iPhone
Its main influence was stopping the painful conversations about how this person would totally get an iPhone, but AT&T's coverage sucks.

11. The Constitution
Thanks to the Tea Party, it's become the bible for conservatives, except for the Bible, which is really the bible for conservatives. So they've got two bibles. I wonder if this list could become like a third bible for them. They like bibles.

12. The cloud
Everything is up there. It better have a surge protector.

13. The drug called Charlie Sheen
Although only one man has ever done it (Smoked it? Snorted it? Injected it? Basked in it? Only one man knows), it changed the history of both CBS television and celebrity. "I am on a drug. It's called Charlie Sheen. It's not available because if you try it once, you will die. Your face will melt off, and your children will weep over your exploded body." Also, you will bore the crap out of live audiences.

14. Alcohol
Influencing people to do both regrettable things and things they pretend they regret.

15. Muppets
A few lip-synching YouTube videos, and they've got a 2011 hipster movie written by and starring Jason Segel.

16. Home
No one goes out anymore.

17. Whatever the opposite of unions is
Whatever the opposite of unions is, is getting union contracts ripped apart and even getting liberal documentarians to destroy the teachers' unions' reputations.

18. The debt ceiling
If they called it a "debt roof," people would be way more excited about raising it.

19. Conflict minerals
Not as sexy as blood diamonds but still pretty sexy.

20. Birth certificates
In the age of Photoshop, people still want to see them.

21. Vampires
Losing ground to zombies but still kicking mummy ass.

22. No-fly zones
If you need proof that we live in an ugly time: the great 1990s euphemism for not having sex is the 2010s euphemism for war.

23. Thundersnow
A rainstorm with thunder, well branded.

24. Eyjafjallajökull
Despite the weak dollar, Iceland's volcano was able to stop Europeans from heading to America.

25. Bioengineered fish
The FDA may soon say it's O.K. to eat giant salmon, but people are worried about giant salmon escaping from fish farms and leading to the most lame horror movie ever.

26. Oil drills
After a bad 2010, they're back underwater and having a banner 2011.

27. Broken airplanes
Little holes in your airplane — scary, but not scary enough to distract you from wi-fi.

28. Greece
Hadn't heard from the Greeks in 2,400 years. Turns out they were spending a lot of money.

29. Justin Bieber's hair clippings
Someone bought his hair for $40,668. I'm guessing she's going to have a Super Sweet 16.

30. Food trucks
Mobile restaurants — Grill 'Em All! Chairman Bao! Miso Hungry! — have not only taken high-end food to the masses and gotten their own TV show (the Food Network's Great Food Truck Race); they have changed history. When vegetable-cart owner Mohammed Bouazizi was harassed by corrupt police in Tunisia, he set himself on fire, starting the Middle Eastern democracy protests.

31. Drones
Star Wars: Attack of the Clones only bored people to death. The U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan are literally killing people.

32. Brett Favre's alleged penis
The penis that stopped all other penises from posing for photos — we hope.

33. The royal wedding
Making women and gay men wake up ridiculously early around the globe.

34. Korans
Ironically, there are rarely book burnings in cold climates.

35. Blood libel
Sarah Palin accused people of doing it to her. Then Sarah Palin found out that the person who wrote it for her was kind of anti-Semitic.

36. Auto-Tune
Turning normal 13-year-olds into YouTube music sensations.

37. Tea
Popular both as a drink and a way of distinguishing yourself from less angry Republicans.

38. Meat dresses
Take up less space than bubble dresses and get even more attention. Lady Gaga rocked one, and then Jeremy Scott put a fake prosciutto dress (PETA acceptable) in his fashion show.

39. The national anthem
It's the new way to find out if we should get a celebrity some help. First Roseanne Barr, then Christina Aguilera. Can't the Dodgers hire Charlie Sheen to sing it?

40. Zombies
Gaining on vampires, leaving mummies in the dust.

41. Electric cars
The Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt are solving one problem and causing another. If I plug my car in at home, where do I buy my 5-hour energy drink?

42. General Electric's tax bill
The company somehow ducked out of both paying taxes and owning NBC. Good year.

43. Bacon
Just when bacon was fading, Denny's put it in an entire menu, including the sundae. Enjoy your last moment, bacon. Duck fat is on your ass.

44. Irish banks
Spending money like drunk Irishmen.

45. Rainbows
Much better when you're on ecstasy and filming them for YouTube.

46. Inflation
Just the fear of it is making Congress crazy.

47. White-girl problems
Huge on Twitter, where developing-world-women problems aren't so big.

48. Moonshine
Legal, unaged corn whiskey sold to Brooklyn hipsters. I believe we can also sell them our economic problems if we brand them the Great Depression.

49. Sequels
We have turned movies into TV shows and TV shows into webcams and webcams into pretaped porn.

50. Four Loko
When this tall drink of alcohol and caffeine was pulled from stores, people in my neighborhood who had never tried it grabbed all the cans left on shelves and threw parties. It was, for one brief moment, the golden age of canned alcohol-and-caffeine beverages. Isn't this exactly the kind of government intrusion we voted the Tea Party into office to avoid?

51. Pat-downs
Standoffs between passengers and the TSA become intense, but they could be solved if the TSA just hired hotter pat-downers.

52. Jeggings
Blue-painted tights are the tightest jeans possible. Until body-paint jeans, coming in 2012.

53. Bloombox
You can power your house with your energy source. Commercial will definitely use the Who song.

54. Wisconsin
Green Bay Packers. Union fighting. Leaving Minnesota in the dust.

55. Toilets
Rand Paul used a congressional hearing to say he wants the government to leave his toilet-flushing power to be decided by him and not our government. Causing us to think about what Rand Paul is flushing down his toilet.

56. Tigers
Amy Chua's tiger mom; Charlie Sheen's tiger blood; Margaux Fragoso's memoir Tiger, Tiger; Robin Williams' playing a tiger on Broadway — it's like The Lion King never happened and no one loves Julie Taymor anymore.

57. Facebook
Stirring up rebellions. Mostly over our privacy.

58. iPad 2
Like the iPad but with a better cover.

59. Bees
Apparently necessary for growing everything we eat.

60. Concussions
The first bad thing Americans have found out about football. We have lost our innocence.

61. Food dye
May cause hyperactivity in kids. Which is offset by the sluggishness from snacks that have food dye. Problem solved.

62. Boobs
Still highly influential. Hugo Chávez is the only person who doesn't like them.

63. Meteorite fragments
People are stealing them. People are dorks. That's why people are not on this list.

64. Modernist Cuisine cookbook
Former Microsoft chief technological officer Nathan Myhrvold wrote a 2,438-page, $625 molecular-gastronomy cookbook. Even he knows there's no money in apps.

65. Vuvuzelas
They were big in July. That totally counts as this year. Though I don't know if they influenced anyone to be annoying in the long term. Look, 100 is a lot of stuff.

66. Spider-Man
People used to like that guy. Then he decided to put on a big song-and-dance show. No one likes that stuff.

67. Friday
The overcelebrated workday is finally given the song it deserves. One that sounds like it was written by a Frenchman for a risqué 1970s Parisian burlesque show but apparently done by a 13-year-old California girl. Yes, our culture has become so skeevy that our tweens believe they're in a 1970s Parisian burlesque show.

68. Korean tacos
Thanks to Roy Choi's Kogi trucks, you can now put anything in a taco without having to call it a wrap. Remember all those wrap places in the mid-'90s? I bet people lost a lot of money on them. If this were the 1995 TIME 100 Things list, wraps would definitely be on it. What I'm saying is, maybe don't put your money in a Korean-taco joint.

69. Groupon
It's like a coupon for something you didn't want that you have to pay for in advance. But it's on a computer!

70. Kate Middleton's Issa engagement dress
The dress that launched a thousand knockoffs.

71. Military tribunals
Lost influence in 2008 but are now back to making the U.S. look as bad as it did when we had a white President.

72. Escaped cobra
Although the Egyptian cobra was missing for only a week and was found inside the very reptile house in the Bronx Zoo where it lived, it entertained all of New York on Twitter: "Holding very still in the snake exhibit at the Museum of Natural History. This is gonna be hilarious!"

73. Proposed Malawi schools
Ruining Madonna's reputation more than Truth or Dare did.

74. Nerd glasses
Destroying the already borderline hotness of hipster girls.

75. Pelicans
Making people care about oil spills.

76. Veils
French law says women can't cover their faces in public. French law loves women. Almost as much as Italian law.

77. Gas prices
Up more than 85 cents a gallon from a year ago, which adds up to a few hundred dollars a year — about what America is saving now that porn is free on the Internet. And yet it drives consumer-confidence numbers.

78. Football fantasy leagues
Totally replaced team loyalty, freeing people to move from city to city.

79. Birds
Angry birds eat up our time. Cute birds appear as outlines on our housewares and clothes. Actual birds are still not influential.

80. Sexting
After Tiger Woods, people were predicting its decline. But it's destroying the lives of Brett Favre, Congressman Christopher Lee and high school girls everywhere.

81. Supermoon
It was just a full moon that looked a tiny bit bigger than a regular full moon, but it was just the kind of stupid phrase people like to write about on Twitter. It is technically called a perigee-syzygy, which makes me really glad it didn't happen in the early 1970s, or else instead of a Twitter hashtag it would have been a concept album by Yes.

82. 3-D everything
3-D has taken over movies, television, porn, video games and even real life.

83. Pink toenail polish
An ad e-mailed by J. Crew showed one of the company's execs playing with her son, who had pink toenail polish on. The Media Research Center called it "blatant propaganda celebrating transgendered children." The Media Research Center should not come to our house, which is plastered with motivational posters featuring transgendered children.

84. The NFL strike
It's like the debt-ceiling threat, except even less likely not to be settled in time.

85. Charter schools
The private schools of the Great Recession.

86. Short hair
The greatest argument between the sexes is back. Being sported by Emma Watson, Elle style director Kate Lanphear, Katie Holmes, Carey Mulligan and the one who started this, Agyness Deyn. My wife pretty much wrote this one. I hope she's right.

87. The singularity
The theory that in the not-so-distant future, computers become smarter than humans and are able to make, all by themselves, even smarter computers, way smarter than people. Influential not because it will ever happen but because it is giving meganerds airtime on television shows.

Microlending without anything scammy going on. Plus, for $25 you get to feel like an international bank that, unlike many of them lately, doesn't lose money.

89. Live shows
As if mainstream media weren't already taking it from the Internet, everybody is also physically taking their shtick right to the people: Conan O'Brien, Larry King, Charlie Sheen, Rainn Wilson.

90. Cricket
Cricket diplomacy brought together Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and his Indian counterpart, Manmohan Singh, to watch their teams play each other in the World Cup semifinals. Then India won the cup, which probably didn't help the diplomacy thing that much.

91. Shale
The April 11 TIME magazine cover says, "This Rock Could Power the World." Could be true, though I vaguely remember the same headline on a 1983 TIME cover about Men Without Hats.

92. Public radio
Straight from boring the nation to infuriating it. Marco Werman is now somehow as bad-ass as Che Guevara. I think it was the Girls Gone Wild–style steel-drum intro.

93. Wiretapping
Rupert Murdoch's News of the World allegedly listened in on celebrity phone calls. This could be the Watergate of our era, with politicians replaced by interesting people.

94. Spider silk
Stronger than steel, more bulletproof than Kevlar, and yet somehow I can tear webs down with a small stick. Other problem: spiders are lazy. So scientists are trying to genetically modify other animals, including goats, to make spider silk. Julie Taymor is very, very interested.

95. Cloud girlfriend
She tweets at you, she leaves you Facebook wall posts, she doesn't physically exist. The exact opposite of Internet porn. Influencing the world by signaling the end of the social-networking boom.

96. Salvia
This short-acting hallucinogenic herb is legal in many states and much cooler since Miley Cyrus got caught smoking a bong of it.

97. Las Vegas' New York–New York Statue of Liberty
Posing as the real Statue of Liberty and fooling post-office stampmakers.

98. Stripper heels
Super-high heels — sometimes Lucite — on Beyoncé and Taylor Momsen. Even more influential than stripper stripping.

99. Arsenic-eating bacteria
This means there might be living bacteria on other planets that have arsenic. Worst Star Trek movie ever. "Bones, set your phaser to 'Throw out the milk.' "

100. Duck Duck Moose's "Fish School"
The ABC song is over. It's all "Fish School" now. It was just "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" with bad lyrics anyway.