Posted: September 27, 2011 in Humorous Bits
Tags: , ,

We live in a chaotic world rife with intense random juju, so it’s no surprise the creation and sharing of lists has gained enormous appeal. They’re neat, clean and provide an illusion of order when everything else is on the verge of supernovaing out of control. You can appreciate how tantalizing that is.

Aside from that, lists have plenty going for them. They’re numbered, which is a big selling point. Who wants to be bothered with deep thoughts when a simple numbering scheme can make it oh so very easy to understand? (Assuming you can count.) They’re generally brief without a lot of distracting explanatory text while simultaneously presented in a pleasing linear format. Does it get any better? Simple to understand, requires little or no brainpower, and fun to look at. It’s like dating a supermodel. No wonder we love them!

Lists are among our most accomplished discussion starters. Whenever you see someone’s Top Ten of this or Top Twenty of that, your contrary self immediately rises from the dust. “They forgot to include The Flash,” you bellow. “I don’t see pumpkin pie,” you scoff. By being so definitive in their inclusion (and exclusion), lists inspire well-reasoned debate. Okay, maybe “well-reasoned” is a bit excessive. Come to think of it, “debate” probably is too, especially when you’re riffing on Rob Schneider’s most memorable movie roles (#3 – Ula from 50 First Dates) or the best ways to avoid malaria in the Amazon (#1 – Don’t visit the Amazon). Regardless of how they’re framed, lists are a legitimate contender for the top spot on the “Top Ten Ways to Kick Start a Conversation” list.

Where did this infatuation come from? Who can we credit for sparking this long-burning cultural spliff? Some may point to David Letterman and his ever fashionable Top Ten lists. Others may go back a bit further and reference the enormous popularity of 1977’s The Book of Lists and its subsequent sequels. While a valid argument can be made for either, perhaps the real genesis lies with Moses, that tablet carrying wild man of the Old Testament. As you recall he offered up a list. Oh boy, did he! The main differences between his list and the ones we see today are:
(a) It may seem like it, but his list is not really ordered by importance. Every item on it carries the same weight in the eyes of He Who Etched the Stones, even though I have trouble understanding why coveting another’s sweet Bartlett pear is as grave an offense as murder. Maybe that’s just me.
(b) You could disagree with his list, but deviating from it is met with the promise of eternal damnation. No matter how compelling an argument one makes for the ’65 Pontiac GTO’s place on the list of “Top Muscle Cars”, he/she would be hard pressed to the demonstrate why excluding it altogether would have the same impact as enduring everlasting hellfire on Satan’s rotisserie.

Thankfully, not all lists come with such strident terms and conditions. Still, that’s probably why it took 30+ centuries for lists to reassert themselves into the social consciousness. Ranking the Top Ten Star War Characters may not sound as much fun as dancing with the devil (it’s not), but ultimately it’s less of a buzzkill (close though).

  1. BrainRants says:

    The things I like about this post, in order of importance, are…


  2. sparklebumps says:

    Yes, of course. Cowgirl, Zakk Wylde, and Starburst are my #1’s. 🙂


  3. sparklebumps says:

    I hate being one of those people who makes lists, but I have to much crap going on in my brain NOT to make them! Top kama-sutra positions, best guitarists, favorite candy….


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