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10 Paragraphs About Lists You Need In Your Life Right Now
September 3, 2013 8:12 PM   Subscribe

"[W]e all recognize that the list[icle] is the signature form of our time" - A New Yorker magazine blogger considers the meaning of the rise of the listicle and mediates on The ListiClock, which really is a real thing, and will actually be happening to you right now when you click on that link, in a way that it's possible that you may never look away from the computer screen again.
posted by Bwithh (38 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
That Listiclock is PRIME! Nice share.
posted by Samizdata at 8:15 PM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


And if you are one of the few who finds, on turning back one innocent moment to that browser window, that everything in the window has turned deep pitch black except for THE LISTICLOCK - why that is no programming bug, that is a sign that you are on the Path of the Acolyte.
posted by Bwithh at 8:19 PM on September 3, 2013


I had to look it up: "listicle" is a portmanteau of "list" and "article". It refers to a magazine article which largely or wholly consists of a long list.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:20 PM on September 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


I only recently realized that it wasn't a portmanteau of 'list' and 'testicle'. Yes I have the intelligence and inner life of a six year old.
posted by naju at 8:25 PM on September 3, 2013 [17 favorites]


"Powered by Pepsi Next" on that ListiClock really pushes the limits of language.
posted by wemayfreeze at 8:27 PM on September 3, 2013 [9 favorites]


ListiHell is a real place where you will be sent at the first sign of defiance.
posted by Rhaomi at 8:29 PM on September 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


"18 microwave snacks you can cook in a mug". What was that Jaime Oliver? Hope you like a good old fashioned crab boil cuz it looks like Buzfeed picked you up a new can of Told Bay at Costco.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:41 PM on September 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


When it reaches midnight, the internet turns into a black hole and sucks everyone in. Top ten internet black holes #10 internet black holes #9 internet black holes #8 internet black holes #7 internet black holes #6 internet black holes #5 internet black holes
posted by not_on_display at 8:50 PM on September 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


I was disappointed that the 'seconds' repeat, so it's not really a different list for every single second. Then I worked out how many that'd have to be--well, give it another few months.
posted by Sequence at 9:35 PM on September 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Felchfests forever!
posted by planetesimal at 9:41 PM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


11 reasons why we should still love listicles

2 They afford online commenters the opportunity to respond/debunk in kind with a rebuttal list, so that they too can feel like journalists, rather than stooped, cringing serfs who keep us all in foie gras.
posted by Artw at 9:50 PM on September 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


The ListiClock is cool, yes, but it doesn't have a patch on the UniQlock for keeping my eyeballs hypnotically glued to the screen.
posted by Hal Mumkin at 9:56 PM on September 3, 2013 [10 favorites]


"[W]e all recognize that the list[icle] is the signature form of our time"

No, we all don't recognize the listicle as the signature form of our time.

God, the torrent of terrible feuilleton and opinion writing in our world. Hits like:

A is really on the upswing
Is A really on the upswing?
Is B the New A?
Is B replacing A?
A is making a comeback
The three things you need to know about A (a Friedman Production)
Everything you know about A is wrong. (See: Malcom Gladwell).
That guy who said everything you know about A is wrong, is wrong.
The behavior of A is shameful and everyone should have a quick conversation to agree about this.
A, victim.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:21 PM on September 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


There will be a day when we stare, transfixed, as the constant whirl of new lists passes by our eyes. The rapid transmission of information will be our end..
posted by vantam at 10:33 PM on September 3, 2013


Two Degenerate Listicles You’ll Be Amazed You Actually See All The Time: (1) “One Weird Trick”; (2) The Empty Listicle.
posted by mubba at 10:36 PM on September 3, 2013 [2 favorites]



10 Terrible Feuilleton and Opinion Writing Hits in Our World

1. A is really on the upswing
2. Is A really on the upswing?
3. Is B the New A?
4. Is B replacing A?
5. A is making a comeback
6. The three things you need to know about A (a Friedman Production)
7. Everything you know about A is wrong. (See: Malcom Gladwell).
8. That guy who said everything you know about A is wrong, is wrong.
9. The behavior of A is shameful and everyone should have a quick conversation to agree about this.
10. A, victim.


Sorry, I couldn't resist the reformatting!
posted by Bwithh at 10:52 PM on September 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


Infinite Pepsi Blue Listicle. The end times are truly here.
posted by eyeballkid at 11:28 PM on September 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Infinite Pepsi Blue Listicle. The end times are truly here.

The end times, yes, but they're also Delicious.™
posted by GoingToShopping at 11:51 PM on September 3, 2013


The list—or, more specifically, the listicle—extends a promise of the definitive while necessarily revealing that no such promise could ever be fulfilled.


Maybe it could be fulfilled, if only other people weren't so mindblowingly wrong about everything.
posted by louche mustachio at 12:37 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I only recently realized that it wasn't a portmanteau of 'list' and 'testicle'.

I still prefer to think that it is. Whenever I see the word I imagine a scrotum, the contents of which hang at an awkward angle.

This also gives new shades of meaning to the above-mentioned "empty listicle," some of which involve visuals which I will not share with you because I'm not that awful.


Yes I have the intelligence and inner life of a six year old.

And I have the sense of humor of one.
posted by louche mustachio at 12:43 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I only recently realized that it wasn't a portmanteau of 'list' and 'testicle'.

I thought it was a mashup of list and popsicle. Sadly, list and article makes much more sense, but I think I'll stick with the image of a refreshing, sweet, cooling list of deliciousness.
posted by marsha56 at 1:23 AM on September 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


I kind of wish it was made of "list" and "brinicle," because a listicle has a bit of information in list form and also kills everything it touches on the sea floor.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:01 AM on September 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, amateur writers use the list form because it grabs attention. Magazines discovered this way before the internet did. Hell, you can make an argument that Chaucer came up with with this. Or Hammurabi. It's not a function of internet communication. It's a function of communication. We just have more of that now. I'll grant you, it's one which mostly leads to poor communication, but it's not new. It's just more.
posted by converge at 2:41 AM on September 4, 2013


p.s. trying to watch the listiclock with NoScript enabled reminds me of 1998.
posted by converge at 2:43 AM on September 4, 2013


Oh, David Wallechinsky, Irving and Amy Wallace, what have thee wrought?
posted by jeremias at 3:46 AM on September 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


Woah.

If you click on a Listicle in the ListiClock, the entire Listicle show up in one page....

What sort of dark magic is this?
posted by eriko at 4:11 AM on September 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


The three things you need to know about A (a Friedman Production)

Stealth listicle!
posted by Artw at 6:14 AM on September 4, 2013


Ironmouth: "No, we all don't recognize the listicle as the signature form of our time.

God, the torrent of terrible feuilleton and opinion writing in our world
"

That doesn't prove that it isn't the signature form of our time. It may be a LOUSY form, that doesn't mean that it isn't being very widely used.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:46 AM on September 4, 2013


As an incredibly vain writer whose usual delivery mode is the essay so long-winded it becomes practically an absurdist metacommentary, I have put a lot of thought into this. Or rather, I have put a lot of thought into things so similar to this that I can quickly repurpose them all and pass them off as relevant and focused.

I would make this into an ironic bulleted list, but I'm pretty sure I only have a couple of things to say. Ah, what the hell, here goes anyway.



1. The Need For Obvious Rhythm

When I first wanted to take my writing a bit more seriously, at the age of fifteen or sixteen or so, I subscribed to a lot of writing blogs. Not blogs written by serious writers, mind you: at fifteen or sixteen I wasn't certain there were actually talented people on the Internet, and I learned to accept absolute shit as the status quo. Which was a pretty reasonable decision, considering Digg and Reddit were my vantage points.

If you haven't seen this sort of blog before, then hooray for you! They are shittier than shit. These blogs pump out listicles of their own, each one in the format of "How To Pre-Digest Your Writing Even Further." Lists, or rather "frequent subtitles", were one of the most oft-cited ways to do this. If you try and make somebody read more than three paragraphs at once, the argument went, then you were risking them deciding for themselves that your writing wasn't good/interesting/relevant to their tastes. Then they would leave and you would feel sad and unappreciated. But if you give 'em another subtitle, they'll be hooked for life! Or at least for another less-than-four paragraphs. Because why not, it's not like they're investing much of their time as it is.

A number of serious, intelligent, well-known bloggers actually went for this shit. Most of them have since grown up and now reflect back on their youthful foibles with some mixture of horror and contempt, but there were a number of not-entirely-sucky people who thought, "Hey! Continuing studies in communication! It's science! So they listicled, and what's more, they developed the practice of randomly bolding key words in each paragraph. Or sometimes even in each sentence. Because sentences and paragraphs can be made more digestible too! And if they can't, why shouldn't they be?

This is all a crude facsimile of something that really does matter in writing, and that's rhythm. It's impressive how many writers, even ones who have written for a long time, even ones who have taken some sort of creative writing course over their lives, don't give rhythm the credit it deserves. It literally defines the way we read and interpret. And rhythm is not a simple thing: there's the rhythm of ideas, the rhythms of sentences and paragraphs, the rhythm of one word over another... It's like producing a song, except all the parts of it – bass line, rhythm section, vocal tracks, even guitar solo – are contained within one linear stream of words. It's closer, I think, to those virtuosic string players who can turn a guitar or a piano or a cello into a veritable orchestra of its own. You need to make a lot of pieces work in tandem while you write. This is not as appreciated as much as it should be, by readers and writers alike.

Rhythm is the sort of thing that takes a lifetime to master. The subtlest rhythms are also among the most powerful. It's why a poet like Philip Levine or Stephen Dobyns can write a poem that seems cheerful, chaotic, informal, even rambling, and then touch upon a word that suddenly gets you crying, bawling your face off, even though the word in question is something like "potatoes" or "trash can" and has nothing to do with those metaphors or allusions you thought were what made poetry into poetry. It's also why writers often seem to get less flashy over time, and this is true of directors and musicians as well: Glenn Gould and Quentin Tarantino both strike me as artists whose earlier work is flashier than their maturer, later stuff. It's the discovery of a subtler way to let things flow.

The thing about those cheaper forms of rhythm is that they drown out the deeper patterns you may be trying to evoke. They're a stopgap measure, that's fine, but they're so arbitrary and blatant that you'll find it difficult to craft anything meaningful in between the lines. Even the better listicle writers, like John Cheese on Cracked, are pretty hampered by the form they've chosen to write in. It limits your length and it limits your breadth. Which is fine for writers who have neither length nor breadth to offer, but that's what the list is, primarily: a crutch for writers who haven't yet learned to write.
NEXT (Page One of Three) >>>>>>
posted by Rory Marinich at 7:30 AM on September 4, 2013 [9 favorites]


I only recently realized that it wasn't a portmanteau of 'list' and 'testicle'.

Have you ever seen an undescended listicle?
posted by octobersurprise at 7:32 AM on September 4, 2013


I assume that's where the bullets are not visible, but you can kind of tell they're there.
posted by Artw at 7:33 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Actually, now that I consider it, listicles are like semiological testicles: they're pleasant, they provide useful bits, and they're never as remarkable as their owners think they are.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:41 AM on September 4, 2013


Not to mention if you play with listicles too much or put them into web sites without protection, then nine months later you get another listicle.
posted by Rory Marinich at 7:46 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh and if you listicle by yourself too much then God makes you go blind.
posted by Rory Marinich at 7:47 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Based on my reaction to this thread, I would totally read, laugh, and share virally "23 Ways Listicles are Like Testicles"
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:14 AM on September 4, 2013


The listclock is ... amazing.

12 must-have spring trends for toddlers.
18 emasculated versions of manly foods.
21 dogs who need help getting unstuck.
48 situations that aren't going to end well.
50 smileys you've probably never used.
53 amazing pistachio desserts.

There go several minutes of my life that I won't get back.
posted by RedOrGreen at 9:07 AM on September 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


1 reason why comments about listicles should be formatted as actual HTML lists:
  1. if you turn the tag ‹ol› 90 degrees counter-clockwise it sort of looks like a testicle.
posted by jeremias at 9:10 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


18 emasculated versions of manly foods.
21 dogs who need help getting unstuck.
48 situations that aren't going to end well.
50 smileys you've probably never used.


This is starting to sound like a Mountain Goats song.
posted by jeudi at 3:00 PM on September 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


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