Wednesday, August 25, 2010

This Book of Lists

I said I was going to share some of my favorite lists from this odd little book of lists, so here I am making good on the threat...

The Threefold Aim of Art

Aristotle believed there were three goals in artistic creation:

1. To induce relaxation and pleasure
2. To achieve purification of the soul, which leads to
3. Moral perfection

The Three Keys to Happiness at Work

According to Ruskin (1819-1900), three things are needed to make people happy in their work:

1. They must be fit for it
2. They must not do too much of it
3. They must have a sense of success in it

The Ten Categories

Aristotle named ten fundmental categories by which everything in the universe can be defined:

1. Being
2. Quantity
3. Quality
4. Relation
5. Doing
6. Suffering
7. Having (possessing)
8. Position
9. Place
10. Time

Schopenhauer's Thirty-eight Stratagems, or Thirty-eight ways to Win an Argument, is hilarious but I'm not typing that monster up.

It's really devious and it's exactly what everybody does.

I've just never seen people called on their bullshit so efficiently as Schopenhauer does here lol.

This little essay is truly a Classic.

I bet before you read the following you couldn't name more than two or three of these babies...

The Fifteen Tectonic Plates

Geologists who study the earth's surface believe these are the main plates that can move independently of each other:

1. African Plate
2. Antarctic Plate
3. Arabian Plate
4. Caribbean Plate
5. Caroline Plate
6. Cocos Plate
7. Eurasian Plate
8. Indian-Australian Plate
9. Juan De Fuca Plate
10. Nazca Plate
11. North American Plate
12. Pacific Plate
13. Philippine Plate
14. Scotia Plate
15. South American Plate

The Seven Primary Types of Odors

Some scientists believe that most odors can be classified into these groups:

1. Camphoraceous
2. Musky
3. Floral
4. Pepperminty
5. Etherlike
6. Pungent
7. Putrid

I don't get the inclusion of "pungent." Any odor can be pungent. It's a subjective sense of the degree of an odor. Or that's always been my understanding. Granted, something that is pungent is usually considered unpleasant, but I could easily see someone referring to a "camphoraceous" or a "musky" odor as "pungent." How many people today know what ether smells like? Not many I'd wager. I'm imagining alcoholic spirits would fall into that "category." And there are so many different types of "putrid" odors. Do they mean to include sulfur here? Do they mean the smell of cadaverine in a rotting corpse? One could go on and one. The word itself implies rot, but there are many fetid odors which aren't even produced by rot or any catabolic process whatsoever. This is, to my mind, a very unsatisfactory list. Plus, we can all think of very distinct odors that aren't included on this list. What about the odor of plastics? Or other new synthetic substances, fabrics, etc. The smell of burnt gunpowder? I suspect they were using that bullshit "pungent" category as a catch-all.

And many musical pieces, paintings, stained glass windows, sculptures and poems have been written or created around these...

The Fourteen Stations of the Cross

Fourteen episodes that occurred during the Passion of Christ are set chronologically as stations or shrines for devotions and meditation. The fourteen events are:

1. the sentencing by Pilate
2. the receiving of the Cross
3. falling the first time
4. the meeting with His Mother
5. the compelling of Simon of Cyrene to carry the cross
6. the wiping of His face by Veronica
7. falling the second time
8. exhorting the women of Jerusalem
9. falling the third time
10. the stripping of His clothes
11. the crucifixion
12. His death
13. the taking down of His body from the cross
14. the burial of His body

For some reason, I thought the Harrowing of Hell figured in here. But I guess that comes after.


  1. "There is nothing more wonderful than a list, instrument of wondrous hypotyposis." —Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose

  2. I love the way you think (and talk) about language's skeleton.

    They seduce me. Lists.

    I have a love of the list poem too.

    Elaine Equi is probably my favorite when it comes to list poems.

  3. Now that I bathed in hypotyposis today, I wonder if that's the word Eco actually wanted there?

    Blasphemous to question such a keen linguistic mind.

    But I'm trying to remember the rhetorical term for linguistic compression or shorthand...there is a "hypo" word for that but it evades me.

    And that would make sense in the context of lists, which are known for this.

    They're not usually known for their vividness or enargia or hypotyposis; although I suppose some lists possess that.