24/08/2012 by noonobservation
I spent a good 10 minutes of my life today trying to remember the name of the founder of the boy scouts. I kept wanting to call him Colon Powel, but I knew that wasn’t right (I think a colon powel might be a medical instrument…)
Since reading (most of) 1066 and All That (while drinking wine in a tent), I have been thinking about what makes someone “Memorable”. 1066 generally uses the criteria of whether or not they made it into the history classrooms of British public schools in the 1930s. As a historian however, I feel this mode of classification could be improved upon.
One common mistake is to confuse memorability with importance. People can do awesomely world-changing things without being at all memorable (like that internet guy from the Olympics opening ceremony. What was his name?)
“So…”, in the style of Carrie Bradshaw, “…what is it about some people in history that makes one go all giddy about them?” What we need is new criteria.
Here are mine. I’m not saying they are right:
1. Eccentricity. This doesn’t have to mean actual madness, but is rather a measure of how bonkers their ideas were in their personal context. E.g Napoleon scores high for eccentricity due to his boundless megalomania. Wellington scores low, due to his dogged defence of various outmoded European monarchies.
2. Violence. How easily could they disembowel you (or a neighbouring country)? E.g. Ghengis Khan possesses good levels of violence. Anna Pavlova is badly deficient in violence.
3. Hotness. Would you? If they weren’t dead? E.g. Prince Rupert of the Rhine – yes. General Charles Gordon – not on your nelly, or anyone else’s. I may not be best positioned to judge female historical personages.
Using this methodology, we can thus start to categorise historical people:
Elizabeth I = violent hotty
Alexander the Great = hot (except when played by Colin Farrell – yag!), violent eccentric
Lord Byron = hot eccentric
Isaac Newton = eccentric
Adolf Hitler = violent eccentric
Being a fan of infographics, I tried long and hard to find a good online programme for making scatter graphs in three dimensions, but having failed, I can only express historical characters using colour. This is quite disappointing, but we’ll have to live with it.
Assign a colour to each criteria using the RGB colour mode. Let’s say Hotness is Red, Eccentricity is Green and Violence is Blue.
Now pick a personage and quantify each characteristic on a scale of 0-255 (this is the scale used by PhotoShop – I am not being eccentric). Type each number into the colour picker and apply:
She’s a bit indistinct. Now let’s have a go with our old friend Gordon.
This illustrated Gordon’s uncomfortable mixture of violence and full-blooded Christianity. It’s interesting, but you wouldn’t want it in your living room.
One more for luck…
The colour obtained for Casanova shows the absolute validity of my method.
One can then start to put together a swatch of historical characterisation:
This is not quite right. I need some sort of triangular diagram, but that’s really hard to make using PhotoShop’s gradient tool. Still, I may bring out my own range of interior design products. What could be better than painting your bathroom a good Bismark Bright Violet, or an Elisabeth I Mellow Fusia? Or a good Ghengis Terracotta Red?
Perhaps the National Trust would be interested as a means of choosing colours for various residences?
After discussions with M we have rated Nelson Hotness: 190, Eccentricity: 210 and Violence: 215. This gives the most exquisite Ocean grey/blue. Very NT.
M and I have now descended into discussing who was hotter: Richard III or Churchill. If you didn’t know who they were, and you met them in a bar. And you had to. Which one?