Sunday, June 03, 2012

Bucket Listing

Some time ago, my wife caught me listening to the George Michael album Faith.   Having been married to me for over nine years, she knew that this behavior on my part was out of character.  "Why are you listening to this?" she asked me.  "Because Rolling Stone named it the 480th best album of all time," I replied.  "Um, that doesn't seem like a very high ranking," was her response.

And she was very right of course.  This was a horrible reason to listen to an album which I didn't enjoy listening to.  Perhaps if a reputable music magazine had ranked the album in the top 10, or even the top 100 all-time, I could have made a better case for listening to it.  But 480?  Then again, I had decided a couple of years ago that I was going to try to listen the top 500 albums of all time, in order, as ranked by Rolling Stone in 2003.  By no means have I been obsessive in this pursuit.  I am listening to plenty of other things in addition to the Rolling Stone quest.  In fact, at the rate that I've been on, I realized today that it would take me between 30 and 40 years to finish all 500.

The other thing that I just realized about this pursuit is that it qualifies as a "bucket list" item. recently ran an article by Simon Doonan condemning the bucket list phenomenon (subtitle: "America's most idiotic new pastime").  I nodded along as I read this take-down of the practice, feeling smug about my ability to refrain from such foolishness.

But then today I ran across a news item that stopped me in my (album) tracks.  2003 was a long time ago, and Rolling Stone has now updated their list of top 500 albums.  I'm left with the choice of either starting over completely (which would make me feel like I haven't accomplished anything by listening to the 23 albums that I have listened to), ignoring the new list until I finish the old one (which might take me until I'm retirement age), or going back and filling in with new additions to the list (which seems so blasted imprecise).  At this point, I've chosen option #2--which clearly means I've given myself at least one bucket list item.

Now, I definitely want to avoid the pratfalls that are covered in the Slate article.  Doonan observes two bucket list categories: death-defying adventures (e.g. skydiving) and materialistic or hedonistic accomplishments (e.g. buying a speedboat).  Regarding the second category, I'm good.  Regarding the first category, I understand that "throwing a dart at a map" is a popular bucket list item.  But who uses darts anymore when random generators exist?  Two years ago, I wrote on this blog about my desire to use Wikipedia's random page generator to plan a future vacation.  So I guess I've uncovered another item.  And since plural items make a list, I guess I have a bucket list.

So now that I'm stuck with a bucket list, I may as well go all out and consciously fill it out.  A bucket list with two items is kind of pathetic, so let's shoot for five.  Given my lack of ambition when it comes to active accomplishments, I will use my Rolling Stone project as a model.  The rest of my bucket list will consist of the passive consumption of media.  I have a lot of books that I still want to read in my life, but none that I feel compelled to read.  I've already done the complete works of Shakespeare.  Going through Harold Bloom's recommended Western Canon seems just a bit too daunting.

I've read a lot and listened to a lot, but I haven't watched very much non-sports programming in my life.  I've probably watched fewer movies than anyone that you know.  So catching up on the "western canon" of film may be a worthwhile project for me someday.  Here's my proposal (for myself): to watch every "best picture" Academy Award winning film in order.  I've previously seen only Lawrence of Arabia, The Sound of Music, Gandhi, The Last Emperor, Schindler's List, Forrest Gump,  and Lord of the Rings: ROTK.  That leaves 77 that I haven't seen, and another 30-40 by the time I get around to doing this.  If I watch two movies per week, I can cover 120 films in a little less than three years.  I promise to blog my reviews of these films when I get around to it circa 2050.  (As a bonus, I might even review The Bucket List).

Along the same lines, everybody tells me that I ought to watch the Star Wars films sometime.  It might be fun to watch all six in order in one day.  I won't have to wait until retirement to do that; I could foreseeably do that when I get a vacation day sometime.  So I'll tentatively plan bucket list item #4 for 2030.

And finally, I'm intrigued by the idea of experiencing serialized fiction in real time.   The obvious candidate is 24, of which I have seen one episode.  I could see myself and my teen-age kids taking a summer day (and night) to watch a whole season.  Let's put that one down for 2026 or 2027.  Just don't expect us to listen to George Michael during the commercial breaks.


Blogger Mr. Twister said...

I love buckets. I don't have one myself; I prefer to think of it as "Stuff I'd like to do, eventually, if it's not too much trouble."
I have two ways to help you.
Six years ago, during the last second of her preteen years when my daughter actually respected what I had to say about culture, I devised a fairly elaborate matrix to come up with the best 50 movies of all time. The purpose of the list was to watch these films with our family. I used Top Lists from NPR, Slate, Roger Ebert, as well as the Oscars and I'm pretty happy with it. I'll send it to you if you'd like.
The other list - the Rolling Stone Top 500 albums - is a non-starter. Yes, you will listen to all of the Beatles, Stones, Zeppelin, and Dylan albums, and will get the cream of the rock and roll crop. But you won't get much in the way of classical, jazz, blues and opera and especially world music.
I highly recommend the list I've been working on the last four years:
I have two copies of this book - one at home, one at work. I'm about 3/4 of the way done with the list, and I have truly been blessed.
And thanks to Spotify, you can listen to a sampling of the greatest music the world has had to offer. Ever.

1:59 PM  

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