I'm a huge fan of lists, and since I can't seem to accomplish much else in life, I always try my hand at completing some list or other. My earliest attempt was the AFI 100 movies list. I started on it when the list first came out, but gave up on it when I started viewing movies which may have been important, maybe even groundbreaking, but bored the living shit out of me ("The Jazz Singer" and "Birth of a Nation," I'm looking at YOU). However, every now and then I get an urge to start on a list, just to feel like I've done something productive with my dicking-around time. I've made attempts at the Modern Library's 100 Novels list, the Radcliffe Rival list, the updated AFI movie list, and even some album lists. I have yet to finish a single one of them, but I've gotten pretty well along and have found some amazing new stuff because of these lists. Thus, I feel vindicated for the time spent.
There is another list, though, that has held a strange appeal over me. Actually, it's a series of lists, and while they may seem pretty cool upon first encountering them, when you get into it, you want to kill the editors for giving you false hopes. The lists I'm talking about are the "1000 (blank) You Must (blank) Before You Die" lists. These books are fat, pretty, and seem like nirvana for dorks. There are tons of nice illustrations, and just flipping through one of these fuckers is enough to make you cream in your jeans. Just don't make the mistake of actually trying to complete one of these lists. The editors, who may be decent folks, put these books together in such an insidiously evil way that you will never finish these lists unless you're scary-obsessive and have resources at the tips of your fingers that other mere mortals do not.
Take the "1001 Books" book. I'm going to ignore many of the flaws in the book and only mention one. This flaw, however, is so glaring that you wonder how the editor was given his job. The flaw is this: some of the books are unavailable in English. Now, it may only be a few books, and if you do some serious, hard-core digging, you may find an elusive copy of Mann's "Professor Unrat" in English, but still, if you're going to put out a book like this, shouldn't availability be a bare-minimum for inclusion? The most egregious example is "The Taebek Mountains," a book that has never been published in English, and which there are no plans whatsoever for translating into English. So unless you speak Korean, you will never read this book. Now some smart-ass out there may point out that you can get a French translation...well guess what? That translation isn't even complete. It's only of a few volumes, and who knows when it will ever be finished? Thus, YOU WILL NEVER FINISH THIS LIST.
Also, I have been looking through the "1001 Movies" list, and have been shocked at how many films are completely unavailable, not just on DVD, but also on VHS. Bruce Conner's short film "Report" is only available as a $30 rental on 16mm film, so unless you have a projector, you will never see this movie. Also, there are over 100 movies on the list that are not available on DVD, some not available on VHS, and a few that have never been released here. Why, why, WHY make these fucking lists if you can't easily access the materials? OK, I understand why "Scorpio Rising" made the list, and at least that one finally got a DVD release, but many others have not been as lucky. If it hasn't been on the market in the last ten or twenty years, it has no business being in this fucking book. NEXT!
The "1001 Albums" list is a little better, but just keep in mind that the Loretta Lynn album is only on vinyl. I haven't gone through the entire list yet, but considering what I've encountered in the prior two books, I can only imagine that some shit will be on the list that's only available as a limited-edition 8 track released only in New Zealand. Thanks a lot, dickheads!
These books have become quite a sensation, and there are volumes with gardens, paintings, buildings, wines, and fucking FOODS that you must see, drink, and eat before finally dying. I'm sure that the gardens book includes the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the paintings book a picture that Van Gogh painted over and then burned, the buildings book the Stardust casino, the wine book some shit that was aged in California but then smashed outside the French consulate by pro-war protesters, and the food book slabs of mammoth bathed in dodo eggs.
Enough bitching. In my next post, I'll throw up some of my own lists.