By In Stuff

50 things that make me happy


1. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

There is no order to this list, no purpose beyond fulfilling a promise to a friend. “The Internet is so negative,” she says. “I go on there every day and see rage, I see racism, I see sexism, I see anger at the world. Even the jokes are cynical and angry.”

“Well,” I said, “what if I made a thoroughly non-cynical list of 50 things — people, places, things — that make me happy?”

“How long would that take you?” she asked.

“I think I could do it in a couple of of hours,” I said.

It took me closer to three, but that’s because I had to get the photos and videos and stuff. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are thoroughly delicious no matter what mood you are in. Two great tastes that taste great together is also a wonderful wordplay that perfecty describes chocolate and peanut butter.



2. The We Rate Dogs Twitter Account

Rate it 13/10. Makes me happy every single post. They’re good dogs, Brint.



3. Junk of the Heart (Happy) by The Kooks

Not sure how I came across this song … I think someone mentioned it when I wrote about songs that make you happy. I listen to it at least once a week every week, and I still have no idea what it means, and I don’t want to know — don’t tell me. I just know that it makes me happy.



9780545162074_p0_v2_s1200x630.jpg4. Harry Potter books

I’ve read them all myself, read them all to my oldest daughter, read the first four to my youngest daughter, and I still find myself every now and again picking up one of them, just to read a Dumbledore-Harry discussion or the amazing Snape flashback or the time turner sequence or something. And it makes me feel young, like a kid, and young like a new parent, and young in ways I never was young.




5. Playing tennis

I’m 50 now, and I think I have tendinitis in my left knee — it hurts a lot, anyway — and I had some disturbing heat exhaustion/dehydration moment a few weeks ago, and all I can think about is how much my backhand has improved this year. I sometimes ask friends: “What is the thing that takes you out of your own head, the thing that makes the world go away for a time and allows you to just feel alive. Golf? Yoga? Playground hoops? Wine?  Beer? Running? For me it’s getting on a tennis court.




6.  Arthur Bryant’s Burnt Ends

The best foodstuff at the best restaurant in the world.




7. Casablanca

It doesn’t matter how many times I see it — I’ve probably seen it 50 times — it always makes me happy, and I always notice something new. I came to Casablanca for the waters.




8. Steph Curry

He’s been making me happy since his days at Davidson. One of the greatest and rarest gifts an athlete can have, it seems to me, is the ability to not only feel joy when playing but to transmit it, to take us all into his or her world and make us feel what they feel. When I watch Steph Curry make one of those absurd long jumpers — even when I’m technically rooting against his team — I involuntarily feel that joy, as if I made the shot.




9. Dreamland Bar*B*Que Ribs

The best foodstuff at the best restaurant in the world.




10. OK Go’s “This Too Shall Pass” Rube Goldberg video

All OK Go videos are awesome — the one with the treadmills is another favorite — but the sheer delight in this impossibly complex video makes me so, so happy.



11. Emma Stone’s dance to “I Ran” in La La Land

I don’t care if it’s not cool or anything else, I loved La La Land, and Emma Stone’s mock dance at the 1:20 second mark above is one of the most wonderfully gleeful movie scenes ever.




12. Paying with my phone

I don’t know if this will ever really become the ubiquitous way to pay for stuff. All I know is every time I actually DO pay for stuff with my phone, the person behind the counter inevitably says, “Wow, that’s cool, I’ve never seen that before.” Makes me feel like I’ve transported from the future.



Death Cab for a cutie – I will follow you into the dark from Aditya Bandi on Vimeo.

13. I Will Follow You Into the Dark by Death Cab For Cutie

The song I sing most often with my 15-year-old daughter.




14. Chocolate covered strawberries

Strawberry doesn’t need chocolate. Chocolate doesn’t need strawberries. Still amazing together.



15. Those Kristen Bell-Dax Shepard commercials

I don’t know if those commercials are still on, with Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard having preposterously cute exchanges regarding their new appliances, but I fell for them every time. And based on Twitter it seems like they really are like that. My wife desperately wants to be best friends with Kristen Bell. I think they’d make for good couple friends, a rare thing.




16. The Great British Baking Show

Everything about this show, absolutely everything — a wise and kind chef with the perfect name Mary Berry, a slightly difficult but with a heart of gold chef with the perfect name Paul Hollywood, two saucy women who crack wise in glorious British accents, the gorgeous tent in the British countryside, the odd camera cutaway to sheep, the constant rain, the collection of bakers who are all wonderful and help each other so that you don’t root against any of them — all of it is entirely perfect. I wish life was the Great British Baking Show.




17. Giancarlo Stanton

My 12-year-old daughter’s favorite baseball player. Those home runs …




18. Daveed Diggs as Thomas Jefferson in Hamilton

You haven’t met him yet, you haven’t had the chance

‘Cause he’s been kickin’ ass as the ambassador to France

But someone’s gotta keep the American promise

You simply must meet Thomas. Thomas!




19. The Runs Created Formula by Bill James

Baseball stats in general make me happy, but none makes me happier than this simple but beautiful little formula created by Bill James about 40 years ago.

Take times on base and multiply it by total bases.

Divide it all by plate appearances

And, like that, you have a remarkably accurate picture of just how many runs that hitter created. I don’t know enough about science to fully appreciate the genius of E=MC2. But I think I get the same kick out of runs created.




20. A Skyline Chili 3-Way

The best foodstuff at the best restaurant in the world.




21. The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum

It used to be that you would come to the Museum and there was a good chance that the great Buck O’Neil himself would be there to give you a hug, take you on a tour, make you feel alive. Buck’s gone but he isn’t — you can still feel his presence here. The Negro Leagues Museum tells a story that has much sadness in it,  but it isn’t a sad story. It’s the happiest story imaginable, a story of triumph and baseball.




22. Gary Gulman

“I’ll recommend a couple (documentaries) right now. Helvetica! Riveting. I’ve seen it twice, I gave it five stars. I loved it. And now you’re thinking, ‘Not the font.” Yeah the font. ‘Wait a minute, is it about fonts?’ It’s about fonT. Helvetica. ‘Hevetica bold?’ Oh no, no, they didn’t have time to cover the more exotic forms of the typeface.”

Genius. Everything he does: Genius.




23. David Foster Wallace on tennis

Obviously David Foster Wallace wrote beautifully on everything, but he was especially wonderful on tennis and my favorite DFW tennis essay isn’t even the brilliant “Roger Federer as Religious Experience.” It is the review he wrote about Tracy Austin’s autobiography called “How Tracy Austin Broke My Heart.” It is funny and insightful and perfect in more or less every way.




24. Utz Barbecue Potato Chips

Michael Schur makes the fair point that as an avowed Yankee loather, it’s not right to eat and love Utz chips since they are a famous Yankee sponsor. But they’re so good.




25. Lionel Messi

When you are feeling a little bit down, the day has got you, Twitter has you twisted up inside, your boss is being a jerk, just watch this video (or one of about a 1,000 like it on YouTube).



26. Jake Shimabukuro’s While My Guitar Gently Weeps

Or this video — now more than a decade old but still as amazing and wonderful as ever. Sometimes I just go to 2:40 or so when Jake starts going crazy on the ukelele, and that look on his face … gets me every time.



27. This is Spinal Tap

Funniest movie ever made. “I don’t think the problem was that the band was done. I think problem may have been that there was a Stonehenge monument on the stage that was in danger of being crushed by a dwarf.”



28. Card tricks

I love card tricks, they make me so happy. I’ve worked on a few — ugh, here’s that video I did for The Machine eight years ago — but I really prefer watching the masters at work, like my friend Joshua Jay.




29. Wall-E

A perfect little movie.




30. Pat’s King of Steaks Cheesteaks

The best foodstuff at the best restaurant in the world.




31. Beef on Weck at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo

They’re famous for the Buffalo wings, of course, but this is the best foodstuff at the best restaurant in the world.




32. Seafood Gumbo at Brennan’s in New Orleans

Best foodstuff at the best restaurant in the world




33. Ice Cream cone at Eiffel Tower

I don’t care how cliche it is, how touristy it is, how ridiculous it is — getting a chocolate ice cream cone and walking around Paris is one of the happiest things I’ve ever done.



34. Bruce Springsteen’s Out in the Street

Put on your best dress baby

And Darlin’, fix your hair up right

‘Cause there’s a party, honey

Way down beneath the neon lights




35. Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man

Different people play Batman, Superman, James Bond and so on, but I never want to see anyone else ever play Iron Man.



36. Dave Barry writing about women in sports.

This wonderful paragraph, written in 1985, is one of the inspirations for me to become a writer.

“As far as I can tell, our second basewoman is a pretty good player, better than I am, anyway, but there’s no way to know for sure because if the ball gets anywhere near her, a male comes barging in from say, right field, to deal with it. She’s been on the team for three seasons now, but the males still don’t trust her. They know that if she had to choose between catching a fly ball and saving an infant’s life, she would probably elect to save the infant’s life, without even considering whether there were men on base.”




37. Becky Hammon

My daughters ask me all the time, ‘When will there be a woman playing in the Major Leagues.” I don’t know the answer to that. It will happen, I feel sure of it, and it will happen in their lifetime … and hopefully mine. In the meantime, I root constantly for someone in the NBA to hire Becky Hammon as their coach, not because she’s a woman but because she’s a smart, funny, tough and accomplished woman who commands respect and will break down walls. Her awesomeness makes me so happy.




38. Graeter’s Raspberry Chocolate Chip Ice Cream.

The best foodstuff wherever you happen to be.




39. Made in America, by Bill Bryson

Every single Bill Bryson book is awesome, but this is my favorite, a little gem that is a story of American English and also the story of America.



40. ELO’s Don’t Bring Me Down

Is it a great song? I don’t know. I do know that it’s impossible to listen to it without it bringing your happiness level up five spots. Mr. Blue Sky too, especially when you see Baby Groot dancing to it.



41. Diner Sinatra vs. Mathis scene

The whole scene is brilliant, but especialy at the end when a flustered Steve Gutenberg tells Mickey Rourke, “You’ve gone two steps below in my, my, uh, book.”




42. Soft Pretzels

Another argument with Mike Schur … but he’s wrong. Soft pretzels are heavenly.



43. Here Comes the Sun

When my girls were very young, babies really, I used to hold them at night and very quietly, so only they could hear, sing to them “Here Comes the Sun.” There is, of course, no way they could remember that, and I have never told them that. The other day, I asked my 12-year-old what here favorite Beatles song is. She said “Here Comes the Sun.”



44. Barry Sanders highlights

I’ve written before that I don’t think Barry Sanders was the greatest running back ever … that’s a technical football argument. From an entertainment standpoint, yeah, no one has ever been more fun to watch.




45. Table Tennis

Every time I play table tennis or ping pong or whatever you want to call it, I’m reminded how much I love it.




46. Mechanical keyboards

As a writer who types all day, mechanical keyboards just make me so, so happy.



mcds fries shutterstock.jpg

47. McDonald’s Fries

Terrible for you, the very essence of junk food, gross if they’re left out too long, representative of all this is unholy about food … and utterly, entirely, competely and wonderfully delicious.




48. The last two paragraphs of The Great Gatsby

I will never reach those heights, none of us will, but this is is the perfection we strive for, and knowing that it is out there, the perfect order of words, gives us hope on those days when the writing is hard.



49. The moonwalk

It comes at 1:30 of this video, the steps forward and then the perfect mooonwalk. But all moonwalks are perfect.




50. The Mirror Cuffs

One day in 1904, Harry Houdini accepted a challenge from the Daily Mirror in England — they challenged him to escape from a pair of handcuffs that took a locksmith in Blackburn five years to build and design. It is one of the most famous moments in magic, a dramatic duel between Houdini and the impossible cuffs. You will get the whole story in this book I’m writing — did I mention that I’m writing a book about Houdini? — but here’s the part that makes me happy. It has been 113 years. And while there are countless theories from many of the smartest people in magic, the truth is: Nobody knows for sure how Harry Houdini escaped.

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51 Responses to 50 things that make me happy

  1. Dave G says:

    #51- anything Joe writes. I’ve had a particularly tough week- and this was just what I needed to see. Thank you for all you write.

  2. AndyL says:

    Songs that make me happy:

    Sugar Sugar
    Walking on Sunshine
    Build Me Up Buttercup
    My Sharona

    I also love She Moves in Her Own Way by the Kooks

  3. David Cox says:

    ELO,Casablanca, Diner, The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and Soft Pretzels. We agree on so much I feel like we could be related.
    Of course I’ve told you before, at length, that the “Soul of Baseball” is perhaps the greatest book on baseball ever written, that being said, uou couldn’t find room in your top 50 for the Kansas City Royals?

    • Rob Smith says:

      I was a huge ELO fan. But I feel a little embarrassed about it. I think that stems from the Traveling Wilburys where Jeff Lynne made Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, George Harrison and Tom Petty somehow sound just just like ELO. That was a trick that didn’t need to be done.

  4. Chris says:

    Love seeing Cincinnati references. While I still think Gold Star is better, the “chili” round these parts is generally pretty awesome. (I’m a transplant, so it’s still not chili to me, but regardless of what it is called, it’s darn good.)

    And there’s no denying the wonder of Graeter’s. I know their ex-QA manager. Guy said he ate more ice cream by noon every day than most people would eat in a month. Dream Job.

    • SDG says:

      I was in Cincinnati last fall. After work a group of us wanted to try Graeter’s ice cream but it was always closed. So we were told that this other place, at a gas station, whose name I forget, was just as good. It was pretty good. Cincinnati’s ice cream game is on point.

      Being a QA manager for ice cream probably means you get sick of it really fast.

    • Rower41 says:

      I couldn’t get through the list. By the time I got to the Skyline 3-Way my stomach was making noises that would embarrass me in public. I try to make it back every summer to see my team (undefeated in their last 9 WS games!) play at GABP and grab some cheese coneys with my brother but not this year. Luckily, I have another great team closer by so I can enjoy Dusty’s magic with that lineup each day.

      Placing that other chili restaurant in the same reading with Skyline is heresy…

  5. Chaz says:

    Thanks Joe.

  6. Mark Daniel says:

    Cool list. Everyone should make one of these.

  7. Rob Smith says:

    If I went with anything from the movie Diner, I would have gone for the scene with the sports quiz of the girlfriend as a pre-requisite to marriage. Impossibly stupid, yet impossibly brilliant. And yes, it’s possible to be both.

  8. Rob Smith says:

    I’d have to add Spotify to my list. I have a stack of old LPs with no turntable (yeah, I could get one, and take the time to set it up, then find out that the albums are horribly scratched and warmpe). So, not desiring to buy a bunch of duplicate CDs, I went a long time without hearing my favorites. Last year, I agreed to sign up my son for Spotify, the pay version ($15/mo), and all of us in the family could install the app and use the service. At first I didn’t use it. Then I searched for different songs and general playlists. Then I discovered that I could pull up ANY album and play it right then. That, to me, is the most amazing thing created by the tech industry ever. Playing some old album on Spotify start to finish makes me very happy.

    • invitro says:

      Spotify is truly wonderful. I wish I could afford the pay version, but dealing with the commercials isn’t all that bad, especially when I mute them.

      • Rob Smith says:

        It’s only $15/month for the whole family, I think up to 4 people. That’s less than $4/month each. I’m sure “family” could be loosely defined to be any four people. That’s the way it works on Netflix in reality.

  9. invitro says:

    1. Playing a well-maintained Williams/Bally pinball machine.
    2. Writing a Perl computer program.
    3. Watching the Astros.
    4. Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.
    5. Chocolate chip ice cream.
    6. My beloved, big, old cat.
    7. Pretty girls.
    8. Tom Apostol’s Introduction to Analytic Number Theory.
    9. Twin Peaks, Season 3, Episode 8.
    10. (Since this is JoePos) This five-song stretch on Springsteen’s The River: Cadillac Ranch, I’m a Rocker, Fade Away, Stolen Car, Ramrod. Both incredibly moving and incredibly hard rocking.

    • Rob Smith says:

      You mention Twin Peaks. And I really did love almost all of David Lynch’s movies, although watching Eraserhead in my college years while stoned was a massive mistake. Blue Velvet & Wild at Heart are absolutely two of my favorite movies. But I never even slightly got into Twin Peaks. It just didn’t do it for me. And it would be something that would be typically right up my alley.

  10. Ed says:

    I could make a list of just music: Wouldn’t It Be Nice (Beach Boys), the Brandenburg Concertos (Bach), Say Hey (Michael Franti), June Hymn (Decemberists), I Really Need Love (the Bees), I Want You Back (Jackson Five)… and so many others.

    But then there’s also stuff like Parks & Recreation, or a really good history book/podcast/series (especially Hardcore History and Revolutions), or college football, or stepping out onto the golf course on a perfect spring day…

  11. Larry says:

    The first moment of a live performance. It can vary what that means to you. It could be when the band comes on the stage. It could be when the kicker’s foot hits the ball. It could be when the curtain rises on the first scene or the orchestra starts the overture. It can be when you come up the steps into the air/room and see the field/stage for the first time that day. Perhaps my favorite: it can be when you hear the first word from the singer and the moment of recognition hits where you know that it is real and it is now.

  12. Brad says:

    1. The Royals winning the World Series
    2. Wimbledon
    3. An ice cold can of Coca Cola
    4. Cherry mash candy bars
    5. Night moves by Bob Seger
    6. Angela Cervantes signing Great gig in the sky
    7. Watching a thunderstorm roll in from the west in the early evening
    8. The moment a nice sized fish strikes your lure
    9. The feel of solid bat on ball contact
    10. Friday evenings
    11. Watching your children smile and laugh

  13. Mr Fresh says:

    I just watched that dude playing the ukulele… and I’m reminded of that old Letterman saying… if I could do THAT, you could all just kiss my ass.

  14. Dominic Rivers says:

    Are you sure you didn’t break and enter into my brain? Skyline, Graeters, and Don’t Bring Me Down were my actual Top 3 at age 10.

  15. Sharon Rasmussen says:

    Absolutely agree with many of these entries, especially the Great British Baking Show, Wall-E and Robert Downey Jr. Inspiration to make my own list! (I’d change the Springsteen entry either to Dancing in the Dark or I’m on Fire.)

  16. Jeff Chamberlain says:

    Bartolo Colon.

    • SDG says:

      I’m assuming you aren’t a Braves fan 🙂

      • Rob Smith says:

        Truly. He became a fat batting practice pitcher who threw in the mid 80s…. which didn’t bother me a ton, really, because it was totally predictable heading into the season.

  17. Jim says:

    Joe is the WeRateDogs of everything.

  18. Ross H. says:

    My fav line from the Tracy Austin line: “‘I had just won the U.S. Open, and I was thrilled.’ (That sentence haunts me.)”

  19. Mark Daniel says:

    I’ve been to Anchor Bar several times on trips to Buffalo. I never ventured beyond chicken wings there. It’s Beef on Weck for me next time!

    • Willard says:

      I swear, try the wings st Gabriel’s Gate. My favorite food ever, and I’ve sampled most of the wing places in Buffalo. Get some beef on deck, too!

  20. Gerry says:

    A couple of years ago, per Joe’s recommendation, we had Arthur Bryant’s burnt ends when we made our first trip to KC. My wife still talks about that as the best BBQ she’s ever tasted. There’s a lot of food on this list that I still need to try. Thanks, Joe.

  21. Austin Parnow says:

    So much good stuff here. But Skyline Chili? Diff’rent strokes for diff’rent folks!

  22. Marc Schneider says:

    I’ve become such a tennis fanatic (playing, not so much watching) that it begins to dominate my week and weekends. I’m not particularly good, but I sure love it when I hit a good shot. And I agree about David Foster Wallace on tennis, but really, I think he’s a genius on everything. His take on depression in “Infinite Jest” is incredible, but I guess it’s what ultimately killed him.

    • Rob Smith says:

      I had to stop playing because I kept getting injured (hard courts). But when I played, my style was more to make them hit another shot, get to the net & make them try to hit a winner (and hit out). It was all about making them make unforced errors. So my “winner” count was generally single digits. But there is nothing better than hitting a clean passing shot as your opponent turns to watch it hit the line. Their shoulders kind of sag, and they drop their head, maybe curse under their breath…. and it’s SO SWEET! I miss that.

  23. Richie says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen or tried Utz chips. Are they an east coast thing?

  24. Richard Aronson says:

    I showed the OK Go Rube Goldberg Machine first day of my college physics class back when I was teaching, and stopped it at various points to discuss when we’d be learning how to calculate various effects. In addition, this video from Canvas makes my “Must cheer me up” list:

  25. fred says:

    Re: that OK Go video. You may want to check out Der Lauf der Dinge by Swiss artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss. Admittedly less flashy, but slightly more real, and it might have been an influence:

  26. Mike123 says:

    That “Here Comes the Sun” story is fantastic. Thank you for sharing, Joe.

  27. hamish42 says:

    One thing that makes me happy: the love of my family.

    The other 49 don’t count. Don’t need ’em.

  28. greg elle says:

    ok Joe,

    All the years I have read and all the joy you have brought me simply with your writing, story telling, and relaxed perspective on sports, people, and family has been wonderful. The writing is a joy and your presence on the web is a blessing of many years, may you roll on for many more.
    Now you share this list, oh my, all that joy you have given and shared, and now this.
    I have chased down some rabbit holes before thanks to you. Danny’s Wee Day Out is still in play for me. It still brings a smile, I think it is the song, and is in my rotation of instant smiles.

    I will be down some deep rabbit holes on the interwebs for days and days, smiling all the way. Thanks or Curses to you Joe!

    Thank you so much. For all the years of smiles, and tears, your writing and generous sharing of your life and heart has brought me.
    Thank you Joe.

  29. Crazy Diamond says:

    Everything about “Hamilton” sucked!

  30. murr2825 says:

    Just stumbled across this list. Loved it, and as one BR said, everyone should make a list of their own (and show it to those they love, which will inspire them, etc.)

    And I was SO glad you included Wall-E. One of the great love stories of all time.

  31. DeadCenterPerfect says:

    My family used to go to Denny’s every Sunday after church for breakfast. The weekly Dave Barry article would be in the Chicago Tribune every Sunday & Mom would read it while we waited on our food. I remember one article where he described a farmer who witnessed his cow spontaneously combusting. He then went on to worry that this could fall into the wrong hands. As soon as Mom said the words,”Imagine you’re on a commercial airline flight” I was laughing like a maniac along with my brother & sister.

  32. Astorian says:

    Becky Hammon is an awesome person, and I hope she WILL get a chance to be a head coach in the NBA.

    But there is absolutely no chance of a woman earning her way into any major men’s professional sports league, and Joe HAS to know that.

  33. Anonymous1 says:

    I had read the final two paragraphs of The Great Gatsby before (probably the whole book at some point), but now that I am a little older and have a better understanding of the world – I read those two paragraphs just now and immediately started crying. It is amazing how powerful words can be.

  34. […] great Joe Posnanski posted this piece on 50 things that make him happy this week. I guess I could say it inspired me, but it would be more honest to just state the […]

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