Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Die die must try

I like to think of myself as a fairly calm guy. Theoretically, nothing ruffles me. There are, of course, exceptions to this general rule. Several, in fact. Oh, alright, many things annoy me. But other than that, I’m generally fairly calm.

Since we’re on the topic though, can I just say that one of the things that really bugs me is those dumb-ass ‘1000 Places to See Before You Die’ books?

First of all, who has time to visit 1000 places before they die? The unemployed sure don’t. They’re too busy trying to feed a family on a dollar. And I know for a fact that Donald Trump doesn’t. He’s running a real estate empire, flying around in his helicopter and firing people.

So that leaves people like me. And let me tell you that these days, I don’t have time to pee.

“I’m sure they don’t mean it literally,” Amanda said the other day at Borders as she tried to hide behind her copy of Vogue while I furiously waved a copy of ‘1000 Places to See Before You Die’ at her.

“It’s ridiculous!” I said, flipping through the book. “Look at this…the Ring Road in Iceland? A country full of bankrupt banks! Who goes there?”

“Uhm, I hear it’s quite pretty,” Amanda said vaguely.

“And look at this,” I went on. “Doubtful Sound in New Zealand! Seriously, would you go anywhere that had ‘Doubtful’ as part of its name?”

Saffy says she’s with me on this one, but her beef is with books that are titled ‘1000 Movies You Must See Before You Die’ or ‘1000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die’.

“Does anyone realize how expensive the whole exercise would be?” she snapped recently. “At $20 per album, 1000 albums is $20,000, and just like that, we’re looking at a down-payment for a retirement village!”

“I don’t know why you two are getting so upset,” Amanda said. “They’re just gimmicky books. No one takes them seriously.”

Saffy took a deep breath and puffed up. “Yes, but these books are deliberately written to make me look dumb! And that’s unacceptable. They always include obscure things on those lists that no one has ever heard of. If I wanted to listen to a Nigerian acapella group, I sure wouldn’t wait for you to write a book to tell me about it! I want to listen to Spice Girls and are any of their fabulous albums on the list? No, but Rachmani-bloody-koff is, though!” Her bosom inflated dangerously at the musical slight to Posh and Baby.

And there you have it. The problem with these books is the assumption that someone else knows better than we do about what we like and what we should read, watch and listen to. And the fact that there are apparently a thousand books, movies and albums that we’ve not heard of only serves to make us feel guilty.

Saffy, for one, is not having any of it. As she points out, if she’d listened to all those dumb-asses who told her that ‘Titanic’ was a crap movie, she would have missed out on what she insists is one of the most moving cinematic experiences of her life. “Though,” she recently conceded at a Harvard cocktail party which she attended as Amanda’s plus-one, “I probably should have listened to them about ‘Rocky Balboa’, but that’s so not the point!”

Amanda says it’s a good thing that Saffy has such an incredibly high self-esteem that she can feel intellectually superior even in a room full of Harvard professors.

“I don’t know what the big deal about Harvard is,” Saffy sniffed recently, and noticing Amanda’s hurt look, she hurriedly added, “But not you, Amanda! Not you! You’re a big deal!”

“Shut up, Saffy!”

The other day, Saffy rang me in a state of excitement. “I’ve got a great idea that will make us an obscene pile of money!” She drew in an audible breath. “OK, we should write a book called ‘1000 Crappy Books You Should Not Bother Reading Before You Die’! Huh? What do you think? And then when we’re done, we can move onto movies and music! We’d have no problem getting material. There’s just so much junk out there!”

“It’s a catchy title,” Amanda later admitted. “But aren’t you afraid people may sue you for saying their work is crap?”

“Let them!” Saffy huffed. “It’ll be great publicity! Oooh, who knows, we might even end up on Oprah’s Book Club!”

And in spite of myself, I’m getting excited about the idea. Amanda thinks we’re nuts. Saffy says we’ll see who’s nuts when Oprah comes calling.

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