[Cross-blogged on Leland Quarterly‘s new website.]

At 5:20pm on Sunday, April the tenth, two-thousand and eleven years after a nice Jewish boy was nailed to a cross for telling us we should all just get along, my phone buzzed.  Twice.  A small envelope notification flashed in the upper left corner.  And then all hell broke loose.

It was what I’ll call—and what I hope the history books will refer to as—Listomania.  Acute readers may realize this is a reference to the general hysteria induced by Franz Liszt’s piano performances in the mid-1800s, and not a mediocre Phoenix song—though, to be honest, both have probably accounted for roughly the same number of women’s undergarments being thrown on stage.  Anyway, as a historical aside, Lisztomania was probably generated by the sheer virtuosity of Liszt’s performances, his steely eyes, and his fantastic haircut (something like James Polk meets a Hungarian Keith Urban).  It also probably did not last into old age (sorry, Liszty, some people age like Clooney, some age like wine, and some age like Clooney dunked in wine—somewhat fruity, mostly drunk and pruney).

Young Liszt, lookin' dapper if bookish.


Polk, winner of presidential medal of mullet.

Urban, professional pretty person and occasional guitarist.

Our Listomania was the result of, well, probably an errant checkbox which allowed everyone subscribed to some mysterious mailing list (previously used for room condition forms and now repurposed to inform people—a third, or possibly fourth, time—of an unresolved sexual assault case) to post to said list.  So okay, fine.  Noble goal, if I hadn’t heard about it three different ways beforehand.  And obviously terribly executed, in a ham-handed fashion that even this woman who has hams for hands could have avoided.

Frankly, I’m surprised a Google image search for “ham handed” only had one of these results.

But that’s not what this post is about.  This is a post about the collective consciousness that emerged from the two hundred messages that crammed themselves into every Stanford undergraduate’s inbox in the span of just over an hour.  Suddenly, 6,000 people were given the chance to say something—anything—to an audience of 6,000, and they rose to the challenge.

Generally, the pattern followed the five stages of grief.  I’m no psych major, but this says something meaningful about the human condition, right?

  1. Denial. No one could possibly have put every single undergraduate on one enormous mailing list!  That’d be absurd.
  2. Anger. Holy shitballs they did put every single undergraduate on one enormous mailing list.  Stop sending me goddamn emails you assholes.
  4. Depression. “unsubscribe-list-this” doesn’t work? NOOOOOOO
  5. YouTube. Or acceptance, whatever.

But beyond that, it seemed that this 6,000-person strong list was Stanford in microcosm.  People used it for shout outs (though conspicuously without the oh-so-Stanford “I SEE YOU” preamble), people used it to plug events, plug personal projects, and people used it, of course, to humiliate their friends—which, in the long run, is the goal of any form of mass communication among college students that doesn’t devolve rapidly into inside jokes.

In short, it was beautiful—somewhere between Liszt-piano-sonata-beautiful and biking-through-White-Plaza-on-Activity-Fair-day beautiful.  A complete and utter disaster that showcased Stanford’s humor, the displayed the breadth of student involvement, and proved beyond a reasonable doubt that being brilliant does not translate directly to being tech savvy—and that’s okay.  We’re all imperfect.  (Just especially the ugres_rcfs moderator.)

Anyway, without further ado, some of the superlatives from Listomania 2011:

First. The first video to go out on the list, while more kind-hearted Stanfordites were still trying to explain this mysterious inbox apparition.

First to market. Battle of the Bands plug, 5:42pm—the first cynical realization of the massive exploitation potential of ugres_rcfs.

Best. Rick Rolling of the entire Stanford undergraduate population.

Worst. Smanging of the entire Stanford undergraduate population.

Most questionable taste. I’ma let this one speak for itself.

Quote: It's pretty tight.

Darkest horse candidate. Senator “Palatine” made an appearance (waaaay more underground than Palpatine).

Most. I count three separate “Friday” links, plus one more Ark Music Factory video, which really makes it just four instances of “Friday.”

Truest. “This is like the Diaspora, but for all of F-n campus!”

Most “Step Up 2: The Streets”-esque. Mirrielees teaches all of Stanford how to dougie.

Most innocent. 5:26pm: “what is this list?”  And lo, the floodgates were opened.

Most helpful thing to send to a list of 6,000 Stanford students. “woof woof.”

Most silent. Housing, naturally.

Last. 6:20pm: “unsubscribe-list-this.”  It had to be, right?



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