Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Numbered list


I'm pretty busy, so just posting some trivia. The Internet is awash with numbered lists. Recently I was asked by a friend for a top 10 favourite songs. Last week for a top fifteen favourite albums. Using the same formula, I saw a Facebook friend's top fifteen favourite visual artists. (My top: hmm, Anish Kapoor?) None of us are immune – you can see my top 100 favourite movies here, just for example. The Internet seems built to house numbered lists. There are so many numbered lists, I thought I'd list my favourite numbers. So, my top ten favourite numbers are:

1.) 3 (It's a great number. If a number is divisible by 3, its digits add up to 3: eg: 21 where 2+1=3. In art and design a triangle is a strong design element. So many things – not least in religions – are split into 3. "3 is a magic number" as De La Soul adapted)
2.) 2 (A pair can be such a good state. Somehow also more fundamental – matter and anti-matter for example. Or if you want to be more poetic, the earth and the moon, the stars and the planets, When 2 R in Love. Dividing into 2 is the start of life itself. If we weren't symmetrical ourselves, would we like 2 so much?)
3.) pi (How come there's a number so essential and so mysterious? Wondrous: it should be number 1 on the list. You can abbreviate it to 22/7 [very roughly], or 3.14159 – or to 5 trillion decimal points, still an abbreviation, thanks to these Japanese and American computer geeks. Before it was "accurately" worked out, the ancients rounded it up to 3 – see list number 1.)
4.) 3866 (My first telephone number. From the days when you used to say your number when you answered the phone – and you used rotating dials. Not nostalgia, its just ingrained in my head from answering the phone. It begins with 3 – see list number 1)
5.) 1976 (A great year for film releases. Including one that heads my own list: The Man Who Fell to Earth. Also Carrie by Brian de Palma, who went on to mix great entertainments with duds, and continues to so do; Taxi Driver, by Martin Scorsese who went on to become the most over-rated directed still working. And also, not only Oshima's In the Realm of the Senses … but Storm Boy, Clint's masterpiece The Outlaw Josey Wales, Network, The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane, Rosi's Illustrious Corpses, Freaky Friday (Jodie Foster again), Eraserhead, Bugsy Malone – the fourth Jodie Foster Release of the year,  Assault on Precinct 13 – whose music I still hum, and All the President's Men. A bumper crop.)
6.) 300,000 (The speed of light – in kilometres/hour and approximately. Got to have an Einstein-related number in there somewhere! I learned it as 186,000 miles/hour, but kilometres is easier. And includes "3" – see list number 1. Of course, they have slowed it down to 38 miles/hr – I think just because they can.)
7.) 7 (Another number featuring in its own place. How many colours in a rainbow? That's right – nobody really knows as there's a whole spectrum in there. The ancients used to say 3 or 4. Isaac Newton decided on 7 because he believed it was magical number. Don't you love the accuracy of science!)
8.) 10x8 (Numbers which are stuck in my memory from my print photography days. It was, in fact always just a tad too small for a print size – while being the last design-related number I remember in inches. How can Americans still design in them? Actually, for display reasons I always preferred 11x16, but it's not quite as magical as 10x8.)
9.) 1.6 (…or 8/5 or 1.6180339887 – here's an interesting fact, this 10-number string doesn't appear in the first 200,000,000 numbers after the decimal point of pi [perhaps not surprisingly]. It's the Golden Ratio, and such a great balance for design – notably architecture and photography. I believe I read it was 1.4 in Japanese art.)
10.) 12 (British money used to be figured in base 12: how unhelpful is that! About as unhelpful as the Japanese counting in 10,000s – so 100,000 is named 10x10,000s. Thank god for the decimal, or 10 – but a small celebration of 12. After all, the earth is about 24,000 miles round the equator – give or take about 1,000 miles –  splitting its 24 hour day at 1,000 miles/hr. Not so neat in kilometres. 12 is easily divisible into 1/3s and 1/4s – unlike 10 – where the answers are actually opposite to the fractions: 4 and 3. For the latter, see list number 1)

Apologies for commandeering Tatsuo Miyajima's Counter Window to illustrate this piece of frivolity. I saw it in London. Impressive, but not as impressive as his superb room-of-numbers Mega Death. Come to think of it, Miyajima may be my number 1 favourite visual artist.

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