History's 11 Most Important Lists

Good morning! It's the 11th of the month, which means we've got lots of '11 lists' for your reading enjoyment. We'll post one list every hour starting at 9:11am until we get tired. It's going to be a good day.

If there's one thing we at mental_floss know, it's this: people love lists! Even fancy pants NPR psychologists and professors say so, which means it has to be true. The list-love isn't a recent phenomenon: mankind has been using lists for ages, just look at the influence of the 10 Commandments throughout history.

With this in mind, we set out to create what should logically be the most irresistible list of all, history's 10 most important lists. All together now... "Lists! Lists! Lists!"

1. Santa's List

If you're anything like me, before your loud-mouth friend Sam ruined everything in the 2nd grade, this was by far the most important list of your life. Its significance also extends past children hoping for a new toy (that will doubtlessly be disregarded within a week) to the parents who can use it as a tool for manipulating their child year-round.

2. Benjamin Franklin's List of 13 Virtues

At the mere age of 20, Benjamin Franklin was busy creating his list of the 13 virtues for developing good character. You can read the whole list here, but basically they all boil down to: Look at Brett Ratner and do everything exactly the opposite.

3. Schindler's List

This list of Jews employed by Oscar Schindler during the Second World War allowed them exemption from the concentration camps. Schindler's wife once said in an interview that he "did nothing remarkable before [World War II] and nothing after it." I guess if you saved the lives of an estimated 1,200 people by endangering yourself and spending your entire savings bribing Nazi officers, you can rest pretty comfortably on your laurels.

4. Jousting Lists

In the Middle Ages, jousting matches featured two people with pointy sticks (lances) charging at each other on horseback. The "list" was the roped off area where the battle would take place. The "sport" was often used to settle disagreements or simply serve as entertainment for what would have been the WWF fanatics of the time.

5. Craigslist

Probably the most versatile list out there, Craigslist is the place to go whether you are looking for a new coffee table, a job, or things we're not allowed to talk about on a site like ours.

6. The Hollywood Blacklist

This group of actors, screenwriters, and directors were forced into unemployment by the House Un-American Activities Committee for allegedly sympathizing with the American Communist Party. The list was ever growing between 1947 and 1957. Today it still serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of McCarthyism.

7. Friedrich List

The 19th-century German economist's ideas had a large impact in the forming of the European Union. His economic principles are far too nuanced to explain here but, since he's already dead, let's just go ahead and blame our whole global economic crisis on him.

8. The A-List

Entertainment journalist James Ulme coined this term for bankable movie stars, developing a 100 point "Hot List" to quantify a star's value to a film. According to his 2009/10 list, Ulmar claims that Nicholas Cage is the 8th most valuable actor. Since then, Cage has made Season of the Witch (budget: $40 million / domestic gross: $25 million), Drive Angry (budget: $50 million / domestic gross: $11 million), and The Sorcerer's Apprentice (budget: $150 million / domestic gross: $63 million), so clearly the accuracy of this method cannot be refuted!

9. America's Most Wanted Fugitive List

The list publicized by the America's Most Wanted TV show has resulted in the capture of more than 1,000 criminals to date. In 1989, the America's Most Wanted list got extra list-y when an episode resulted in the capture of John List, a New Jersey Sunday school teacher and accountant who murdered his wife, three children, and mother, and had evaded arrest for 18 years. (Of course, we could have gone with the FBI's official version, but we talk about that one all the time.)

10. Listerine

At various points in Listerine's history, it's claimed to cure dandruff, colds and sore throats, and that it's just as effective as flossing.

11. Bucket Lists

Your "bucket list" is a list of things you want to do before you die. Why do I have a feeling that surfing the net for collections of tangentially related factoids organized in "listicle" form isn't on it?

Hate Red M&M's? You Need a Candy Color-Sorting Machine

You don’t have to be a demanding rock star to live a life without brown M&M's or purple Skittles—all you need is some engineering know-how and a little bit of free time.

Mechanical engineering student Willem Pennings created a machine that can take small pieces of candy—like M&M's, Skittles, Reese’s Pieces, etc.—and sort them by color into individual piles. All Pennings needs to do is pour the candy into the top funnel; from there, the machine separates the candy—around two pieces per second—and dispenses all of it into smaller bowls at the bottom designated for each variety.

The color identification is performed with an RGB sensor that takes “optical measurements” of candy pieces of equal dimensions. There are limitations, though, as Pennings revealed in a Reddit Q&A: “I wouldn't be able to use this machine for peanut M&M's, since the sizes vary so much.”

The entire building process lasted from May through December 2016, and included the actual conceptualization, 3D printing (which was outsourced), and construction. The entire project was detailed on Pennings’s website and Reddit's DIY page.

With all of the motors, circuitry, and hardware that went into it, Pennings’s machine is likely too ambitious of a task for the average candy aficionado. So until a machine like this hits the open market, you're probably stuck buying bags of single-colored M&M’s in bulk online or sorting all of the candy out yourself the old fashioned way.

To see Pennings’s machine in action, check out the video below:

[h/t Refinery 29]

Universal Pictures
Pop Culture
The Strange Hidden Link Between Silent Hill and Kindergarten Cop
Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

by Ryan Lambie

At first glance, Kindergarten Cop and Silent Hill don't seem to have much in common—aside from both being products of the 1990s. At the beginning of the decade came Kindergarten Cop, the hit comedy directed by Ivan Reitman and starring larger-than-life action star Arnold Schwarzenegger. At the decade’s end came Silent Hill, Konami’s best-selling survival horror game that sent shivers down PlayStation owners’ spines.

As pop culture artifacts go, they’re as different as oil and water. Yet eagle-eyed players may have noticed a strange hidden link between the video game and the goofy family comedy.

In Silent Hill, you control Harry Mason, a father hunting for his daughter Cheryl in the eerily deserted town of the title. Needless to say, the things Mason uncovers are strange and very, very gruesome. Early on in the game, Harry stumbles on a school—Midwich Elementary School, to be precise—which might spark a hint of déjà vu as soon as you approach its stone steps. The building’s double doors and distinctive archway appear to have been taken directly from Kindergarten Cop’s Astoria Elementary School.

Could it be a coincidence?

Well, further clues can be found as you venture inside. As well as encountering creepy gray children and other horrors, you’ll notice that its walls are decorated with numerous posters. Some of those posters—including a particularly distinctive one with a dog on it—also decorated the halls of the school in Kindergarten Cop.

Do a bit more hunting, and you’ll eventually find a medicine cabinet clearly modeled on one glimpsed in the movie. Most creepily of all, you’ll even encounter a yellow school bus that looks remarkably similar to the one in the film (though this one has clearly seen better days).

Silent Hill's references to the movie are subtle—certainly subtle enough for them to pass the majority of players by—but far too numerous to be a coincidence. When word of the link between game and film began to emerge in 2012, some even joked that Konami’s Silent Hill was a sequel to Kindergarten Cop. So what’s really going on?

When Silent Hill was in early development back in 1996, director Keiichiro Toyama set out to make a game that was infused with influences from some of his favorite American films and TV shows. “What I am a fan of is occult stuff and UFO stories and so on; that and I had watched a lot of David Lynch films," he told Polygon in 2013. "So it was really a matter of me taking what was on my shelves and taking the more horror-oriented aspects of what I found.”

A scene from 'Silent Hill'
Divine Tokyoska, Flickr

In an interview with IGN much further back, in 2001, a member of Silent Hill’s staff also stated, “We draw our influences from all over—fiction, movies, manga, new and old.”

So while Kindergarten Cop is perhaps the most outlandish movie reference in Silent Hill, it’s by no means the only one. Cafe5to2, another prominent location in the game, is taken straight from Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers.

Elsewhere, you might spot a newspaper headline which references The Silence Of The Lambs (“Bill Skins Fifth”). Look carefully, and you'll also find nods to such films as The Shining, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Psycho, and 12 Monkeys.

Similarly, the town’s streets are all named after respected sci-fi and horror novelists, with Robert Bloch, Dean Koontz, Ray Bradbury, and Richard Matheson among the most obvious. Oh, and Midwich, the name of the school? That’s taken from the classic 1957 novel The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham, twice adapted for the screen as The Village Of The Damned in 1960 and 1995.

Arnold Schwarzenegger in 'Kindergarten Cop'
Universal Pictures

The reference to Kindergarten Cop could, therefore, have been a sly joke on the part of Silent Hill’s creators—because what could be stranger than modeling something in a horror game on a family-friendly comedy? But there could be an even more innocent explanation: that Kindergarten Cop spends so long inside an ordinary American school simply gave Toyama and his team plenty of material to reference when building their game.

Whatever the reasons, the Kindergarten Cop reference ranks highly among the most strange and unexpected film connections in the history of the video game medium. Incidentally, the original movie's exteriors used a real school, John Jacob Astor Elementary in Astoria, Oregon. According to a 1991 article in People Magazine, the school's 400 fourth grade students were paid $35 per day to appear in Kindergarten Cop as extras.

It’s worth pointing out that the school is far less scary a place than the video game location it unwittingly inspired, and to the best of our knowledge, doesn't have an undercover cop named John Kimble serving as a teacher there, either.


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