Posts Tagged ‘lists’
From Aitken’s to Zipf’s– some of them coined by their namesake (e.g., Parkinson’s); others, based on their work or publications (a la Moore’s): consider the rules, adages, observations, and predictions that make up The List of Eponymous Laws.
As we take the oath, we might spare a thought for Persian polymath Omar Khayyam; the philosopher, mathematician, astronomer, epigrammatist, and poet died on this date in 1131. While he’s probably best known to English-speakers as a poet, via Edward FitzGerald’s famous translation of the quatrains that comprise the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, Omar was one of the major mathematicians and astronomers of the medieval period. He is the author of one of the most important treatises on algebra written before modern times, the Treatise on Demonstration of Problems of Algebra, which includes a geometric method for solving cubic equations by intersecting a hyperbola with a circle. His astronomical observations contributed to the reform of the Persian calendar. And he made important contributions to mechanics, geography, mineralogy, music, climatology, and Islamic theology.
What’s a reader to do? The disciplined Matt Kahn has a plan: he’s reading– and reviewing– every one of the novels that reached the number one spot on Publishers Weekly annual bestsellers list, starting in 1913. All 94 of them.
Check out the list, and follow Matt’s progress at Kahn’s Corner.
* Frank Zappa
As we renew our library cards, we might send wistful birthday greetings to Douglas Noel Adams; he was born on this date in 1952. A writer and dramatist best remembered as the author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Adams surely, by merit, belonged on Kahn’s list. That will never be; Adams passed away in 2001. Still, one can honor his memory in a couple of month’s time by celebrating Towel Day.
From The New Yorker, The Hundred Best Lists of All Time.
As we rankle at the rankings, we might note that this was the Feast Day of the Ass in ancient Rome. The festival honored Vesta, the daughter of Chronos (Time) and Rhea (Earth), and legendary founder of the Vestal Virgins, a cult of six virginal women priestesses who were charged with keeping alive the flame burning in their temple at the center of Rome. The celebration was named as it was in honor of the donkey that saved Vesta’s honor: As told by Propertius, the young Vesta was being sought by the “horned” Priapus, who approached one night as she lay sleeping. Her ass’s loud braying awakened her in time to defend herself from his advances.
Because one never knows when one will need to know: The List of Lists of Lists.
[TotH to Pop Loser]
As we scrawl scintillating series, we might send carefully-lined birthday greetings to Herman Melville; he was born on this date in 1819. The author of Moby Dick (along with other novels, short stores, and essays) was a fan of an altogether different kind of listing:
I am sick of these terra firma toils and cares; sick of the dust and reek of towns. Let me hear the clatter of hailstones on icebergs, and not the dull tramp of these plodders, plodding their dull way from their cradles to their graves. Let me snuff thee up, sea-breeze! and whinny in thy spray. Forbid it, sea-gods! intercede for me with Neptune, O sweet Amphitrite, that no dull clod may fall on my coffin! Be mine the tomb that swallowed up Pharaoh and all his hosts; let me lie down with Drake, where he sleeps in the sea.
- White Jacket (1850)
In 1699, satirist, essayist, political pamphleteer , poet, and cleric Jonathan Swift — author, most notably, of Gulliver’s Travels — penned this list of resolutions, titled, “When I come to be old.” At the time of writing, he was 32 years of age… and it must have worked, at least up to a point: Swift became Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin.
When I come to be old. 1699.
Not to marry a young Woman.
Not to keep young Company unless they reely desire it.
Not to be peevish or morose, or suspicious.
Not to scorn present Ways, or Wits, or Fashions, or Men, or War, &c.
Not to be fond of Children, or let them come near me hardly.
Not to tell the same story over and over to the same People.
Not to be covetous.
Not to neglect decency, or cleenlyness, for fear of falling into Nastyness.
Not to be over severe with young People, but give Allowances for their youthfull follyes and weaknesses.
Not to be influenced by, or give ear to knavish tatling servants, or others.
Not to be too free of advise, nor trouble any but those that desire it.
To desire some good Friends to inform me wch of these Resolutions I break, or neglect, and wherein; and reform accordingly.
Not to talk much, nor of my self.
Not to boast of my former beauty, or strength, or favor with Ladyes, &c.
Not to hearken to Flatteryes, nor conceive I can be beloved by a young woman, et eos qui hereditatem captant, odisse ac vitare.
Not to be positive or opiniative.
Not to sett up for observing all these Rules; for fear I should observe none.
As we reconsider our own resolutions, we might send wry birthday greetings to Saul Bellow; he was born (Solomon Bellow) on this date in 1915. Bellow’s fiction earned him the Nobel Prize for Literature, the Pulitzer Prize, the National Medal of Arts, and the National Book Award for Fiction (he’s the only three-time winner)–and the affection of countless fans.