Which lists are the greatest lists of all time? These lists are.
1. The Code of Hammurabi
2. AFI’s 100 Years/100 Films
3. The Periodic Table of Elements
4. FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives
5. The Billboard Hot 100
5. The Billboard Hot 100
For many people, the Billboard Hot 100 is nothing more than a list of which annoying songs are being played over and over and over again during the commute to work. It is that, which doesn’t nearly deserve space on a top five list of lists, but it is much more.
The Billboard Hot 100 is an American musical pop culture time capsule. It doesn’t just tell you what annoying songs are being played over and over and over again during the commute to work today, it also can tell you what song was annoying the hell out of you any time in your life – probably your parent’s and grandparent’s lives, too. When I was growing up, I remember a particularly painful stretch where I was slammed out of slumber every morning by “Walk Like an Egyptian.” Thanks to the Billboard Hot 100, I can reliably guess that that was the winter of 1986.
The Billboard Hot 100 is the best baseball card collection the music world has to offer. It’s also a pretty decent record of American musical tastes. Those same crappy songs by musical hacks that I grew up reviling inevitably become some of the most popular “retro” songs, proving that multiple generations of Americans grew up eating paint or paste. Or both.
Despite what many people think, the official Big Brother list of the biggest baddies is relatively young. Young enough that historical national crime staples like Billy the Kid and Bonnie and Clyde never made the list. It wasn’t until Hoover realized how advantageous it would be to use the media to his advantage.
Since 1950 the FBI has been maintaining a list of America’s most dangerous fugitives. People like Bin Laden, Whitey Bulger and James Earl Ray have been on the list that’s been a staple of post office walls nationwide since.
The FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives has done more than get public assistance in capturing one-third of the 466 (at last count) listed and apprehended felons that have made the cut. It has also created a strong Hollywood trope for scriptwriters to capitalize on when they need a way to show how bad a baddie the bad guy can be.
It also inspired America’s Most Wanted.
OMG the periodic table is sooo annoying! Who cares!
I care, because the periodic table is so full of win you not caring puts you in a special class of stupid that is unfortunately gnawing away at America’s soul. The periodic table is essentially a list of everything in the universe.
People are intimidated by the periodic table because many years ago in the medieval 50s a group of disgruntled science teachers got together and thought “Hey, what can we do to make these little smart-asses work super hard with as little work on our end as possible?” The answer was to memorize the periodic table. Almost nobody in the world was able to do it, which frustrated children all over and gave everyone a distaste for the elements.
The thing is, there really isn’t any reason to memorize the periodic table. It’s a reference and repeatedly referencing reinforces recall. Most of those people that loathe the periodic table can still tell you that the “H” and “O” in “H2O” is hydrogen and oxygen. That’s because of repetition, not because they spent two weeks rote memorizing the damn thing and never taking a second look at half of what was on it.
The periodic table is a science-y list. That’s why we call it a table.
Lists have always and will always be cool, but the explosion in information culture that has proceeded the industrial age turned the list into an art form. List topics range a wider gamut even than porn, but as mass media self-propagates, lists on all things media dominate.
AFI’s 100 Years/100 Films is the definitive list of the greatest movies ever. If I were to make a list of my favorite 100 films, it would look nothing like the AFI list, because my list is inferior. So is yours.
The best lists are written by somebody totally elitist, an unappreciated scholar that shits on people who know less than them, which is everybody. What is AFI if not one of the most elitist group of film snobs in the world? That’s a good thing, because 100 Years/100 Films is a picture perfect introduction to film.
AFI updates the list every ten years, because the best film of all time might be different later. Voting and list-making is done through the scientific methodology of which bandwagon is the most popular, but who cares when the end result is the perfect list to go to on a rainy day. The films are easy to find on the internet, and even if they aren’t in “the right order,” it’s still not a bad idea to pick one you’ve never heard of and give it a watch.
There are many reasons why Hammurabi’s Code is the sweetest list in the history of lists, but the number one, all-time, desert-island reason of reasons is this: If any one bring an accusation against a man, and the accused go to the river and leap into the river, if he sink in the river his accuser shall take possession of his house. But if the river prove that the accused is not guilty, and he escape unhurt, then he who had brought the accusation shall be put to death, while he who leaped into the river shall take possession of the house that had belonged to his accuser.
In case you weren’t quite able to follow all that, it says that if you accuse me of a crime and I go down to the river and float around for a while, I get to kill you and take your house. That makes a person think twice about calling the cops. “Oh, shit. What if he can swim?”
Most people seem to think the 10 Commandments, a list that almost made this list, was based on the Code of Hammurabi. It wasn’t. Hammurabi’s Code has 272 more instructions than Moses’s Code. Those instructions detail everything from daily wages to marriage instructions on dowry to estate law. It evens makes provisions for the youngest, unmarried son. Seriously, look: If a man take wives for his son, but take no wife for his minor son, and if then he die: if the sons divide the estate, they shall set aside besides his portion the money for the purchase price” for the minor brother who had taken no wife as yet, and secure a wife for him.
This thing was written in 1772 BC. This was one man, telling everyone how it was going to be. He even had provisions for dealing with bad judges. And this all happened so long ago the very act of writing was in its infancy.
If a son strike his father, his hands shall be hewn off.
If a man put out the eye of another man, his eye shall be put out.
If a man knock out the teeth of his equal, his teeth shall be knocked out.
If any one be guilty of incest with his mother after his father, both shall be burned.