So. I promised you some content. And I have been brainstorming and sketching and trying things out but none of them feel like they are quite ready yet. A feeling partly based on the fact that I haven’t written anything for them.
I don’t want to keep you at bay with nothing but promises though, so I thought I’d do a quick introductory piece on a number of products of popular culture I like. Just to give you a better feeling of who you’re dealing with, you know. Because this is how we define personalities now.
There’s some irony in my opening with an article like this, as I have been known to rant to anyone who will listen about the danger of a culture of picking favorites. Someone always loses. (Especially the audience.) Seemingly innocent, trivial ponderings subtly establish a habit of making emotionally based value judgements. Stuff like that. But do those realizations keep me from regularly hosting my own subconscious oscars? Of course not. So today, I will surrender to my humanity and – with a grain of salt as an appetizer – serve you up my current top seven movies, TV or web series, books, podcasts, songs and albums.
Why not my top seven video games? Because I only thought of that after the fact for some reason, and it would make the titular 42 a 49, i.e. not nearly as cool. Aside from that, there’s a bunch of categories I’ve actively decided not to include. I’m not gonna go full consumerism mode and do favorite brand or favorite actor. Nothing that’s not an artifact that I have consumed in its (current) entirety. Because people (and companies) that I think are cool today might a) do something really uncool tomorrow or b) have already done something that I don’t know of that might change my opinion. If I find out about those things, I might have to go back and edit the article, but maintenance sucks. Or I might never find out about them but you will and then I’ll look like an idiot and that defeats the whole purpose of operation I’m-so-hip.
Now, I know that products are not entirely immune to the ever-eroding tides of time and the inconceivability of indirect implications; products age. We all know that movie that seemed alright when we were kids but now we notice a few jokes or motifs in it that strike us as unnecessarily insensitive. And if it’s a movie anyone else has seen, its popularity might even have had some pretty questionable side effects outside of our perception. Did you know that Fight Club inspired some people to start similar clubs of their own? I didn’t know that when I first saw it, and there’s tons of factoids like this. A book might have increased suicide rates at the time of its release. A movie might have been produced under morally questionable conditions.
But if I took all that into consideration, there would not be an article. There would be no more articles, because my knowledge of any subject is limited and circumstantial. I can’t see everything, especially not the future. Yet, the blind man chooses to speak to the world. Someone needs to. Because being considerate is important, but using your voice is as well.
I’m basically a hero for doing this, is what I’m saying.
So let’s do it. Should be easy enough, right? Quick article. Couple of lists. No biggie.
Or so I thought. Which is foolish, since I’ve known myself for a long time now. I know that I can’t just spit out a list like that. I mean, I can, but then it needs to be cross-checked. I need to make sure that I’m not forgetting anything, that the items on there actually deserve their place. If you care about the methodology, here’s how I did it:
Luckily, I already keep a list of series that I’ve watched / am watching, each entry including a short description of my overall impressions and a reminder of which episode I’m at. It’s quite neat. Some entries in said list are even marked bronze, silver or gold. Thus, picking the top seven wasn’t all that hard. Except that the first list I got didn’t seem entirely right, so that a few ratings had to be updated to fit my current perspective.
Movies were a whole other story. For one, I simply know a lot more of them. For another one, I have attempted to create the movie counterpart to my series list multiple times over the course of years. As a result, there were .docx, .txt and .xlsx files strewn all across my computer when I set out to write this article, each one overlapping to some degree with the others but none of them entirely redundant. Unifying them was a nightmare. By which I mean that it was horrifying and painful and it seemed to take forever and one morning I woke up to realize that I hadn’t actually done it. So now there’s one more such file. I might keep working on it sporadically, as it actually looks pretty decent. What’s good is that I had started my new list with the top-rated movies from the other lists, so although incomplete, it served the purposes of this article just fine. But just to make sure, I went through the family DVD shelf to ensure that I hadn’t neglected any of those. Still, even with all my resources reasonably exhausted, the fear that I might have watched and forgotten about one of my top seven movies continues to haunt my mind.
As a break from my movie horror trip, I dealt with podcasts. Even though I find the concept of podcasts and their rise to fame highly interesting, I haven’t been actively exploring that realm for a long time. Back at uni they just never seemed to fit into my day, and even now I find it hard to listen to them consistently. To make it short, there’s about seven podcasts I like and have listened to more than one episode of. I sorted them and that was that.
Unlike movies and series, songs were actually easier than albums. I’ve got mad resources in that area; a playlist with the most “round” tracks, i.e. the most complete and self-contained artworks, yearly playlists with the twenty songs most relevant to me in that timespan, and of course those auto-generated year-in-review-lists that Spotify brings to the table. Though I found mine way more useful. As per usual, I made a list from those lists and stared at it until it got shorter.
Now, albums were pretty hard, since Spotify* has made me a playlist-arranging maniac. I listen to music all day now at work, but I hardly ever take the time to really dissect an album. Not that I’ve ever been overmuch about that. I am a collector of CDs though, even in this age. So I was able to dig through my own personal crates (and my sister’s and our shared stack of vinyls) and complement what I found with Spotify’s favorite-album-thingy. While I was at it, I took the time to go through my liked artists as well, seeing if reflecting about them would spring any memories about forgotten gems. It did. After some rounds of pre-elimination, there were still 42 (!) albums left. I wasn’t getting anywhere, so I had to resort to methods resting deeper inside my toolkit. I made a decision matrix. The columns were density of great songs, coherence (is there an overarching motif or sound), distinctness or texture (am I aware of the singular songs or is it more of a uniform mush), and the overall level of quality. I weighted all the columns evenly and allocated points from one to five. I have no idea whether those are the core factors that make a good album or, if so, how they should be weighted in relation to one another. But that’s not the point. It’s more of a psychological game than anything. You’ll rate those albums favorably that you subconsciously want to succeed. It even helps to have immeasurable and contrived criteria. In my case, only one album got a perfect score of 20, and eleven scored 19. With that, I went back to my staring technique, which was now much easier to employ. Also, I was thoroughly annoyed at this point, which tends to help speed things up.
I saved books for last, as I suspected them to mean pure agony. I have no book list. I have a book shelf, and my family has book shelves, but a lot of what I read in my youth I got from the library. And I hardly remember any of it consciously. Hell, I don’t even remember the contents of some of the books I own, not even the good ones; which Hunger Games book was the best? Do they count as separate books? I’m sure there’s a version somewhere where they’re all stuffed into one. What about manga series? What about drama, poetry and best-of-collections? I ended up being very generous with my definition of a book, probably just to get it over with. Those lists were increasing my blood pressure and I’d come to the inescapable conclusion that no matter how intricate my technique, it would always be flawed and the result imperfect. I came up with 17 candidates, decided that that were plenty and used the same two-step process I had for albums. This time the columns of my matrix were literary quality, story and impact. That got me down to nine. The rest was fairly easy.
So here it is. My answer to a world of uncertainty, this is what I shout into the darkness:
- Kino’s Journey – The Beautiful World (2003)
- The Magicians (2015 – 2020)
- Community (2009 – 2015)
- Chuck (2007 – 2012)
- Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (2016 -2017)
- Video Game High School (2012 – 2014)
- Rick And Morty (2013 – present)
- Parasite (2019)
- Inception (2010)
- Fight Club (1999)
- Brick (2005)
- Ghostbusters (1984)
- Johnny English Reborn (2011)
- The Magnificent Seven (1960)
- The Hunger Games (Trilogy) by Suzanne Collins
- Woyzeck by Georg Büchner
- Naruto (Evdomintaduology) by Masashi Kishimoto
- 1984 by George Orwell
- Grit: The Power Of Passion And Perseverance by Angela Duckworth
- Harry Potter (Heptalogy) by J. K. Rowling
- The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart
- Hallelujah by Jeff Buckley
- Sail by AWOLNATION
- Time by Hans Zimmer
- New Slang by The Shins
- Starve The Ego, Feed The Soul by The Glitch Mob
- Where Is My Mind? by The Pixies
- Claire de Lune L.75 by Natacha Kudritskaya
- The Rising Tied by Fort Minor
- Drink The Sea by The Glitch Mob
- Megalithic Symphony by AWOLNATION
- The White Stripes by The White Stripes
- Lindsey Stirling by Lindsey Stirling
- Error 404 by Suzi Wu
- Meteora by Linkin Park
- Acquisitions Incorporated: The Series by Penny Arcade Inc.
- Downloadable Content by Penny Arcade Inc.
- Sawbones by Justin McElroy & Dr. Sydnee McElroy
- Tales From The Loop: The A.V. Club by Penny Arcade Inc.
- Corpses And Curios
- Writer’s Routine by Dan Simpson
- The Truth by Jonathan Mitchell
Alright. I guess that concludes this abomination of a first article. If you’ve actually read all of it, congratulations. I respect your tenacity. I hope reading it was a little less of a pain in the ass than writing it. Maybe I’ll do one like this again in a year or so, longitudinal study style. See how my taste has evolved, what cultural treasures I’ll have unearthed that I won’t be able to imagine ever having lived without. If you have gotten some enjoyment out of my struggles and expect that phenomenon to be reproducible, let me know.
* I mention them a lot in this one, but just so you know, Spotify doesn’t pay me. I make no money off this blog. Not at the time of writing, and likely never. This is a hobby thing.