You’d think that any film involving Morgan Freeman and ol’ crazy-eyebrows Nicholson would be pure gold. But it turns out that you can still make nauseating shmaltz with even the coolest actor, and a rotten-script becomes no less rotten no matter who you get to read the lines.
Topics about “things to do before you die” seem quite popular, and you can probably tell a great deal about a person by the list they write. Sadly, most of the lists I have seen have suggested “this person is a pretentious, shallow, dinner-party-throwing halfwit”. People seem to write these lists knowing that other people will read them, and so fabricate their list to make themselves seem intellectual and Someone To Be Friends With.
This tends to be done in two ways:
1. They add things that they don’t want to do, but want to have done
Many of them sound like nice things to say you have done. But really? Examples:
- Tell someone the story of your life, sparing no details – I have little enough friends left as it is. Do you want me to lose the rest too?
- Swim with a dolphin – This one is a bit of a cliché now, isn’t it? Honestly, even the dolphins are getting sick of it. You show any dolphin a photo of a mid-life-crisis-suffering London Stockbroker in a pair of swimming trunks that looks like he wants a hug and it’ll promptly throw itself into the nearest tuna net. Trust me: you’re not going to commune with them, build up a mental bond, and find yourself communicating with UFOs. You’re just going to end the day smelling of Herring.
- Make love on a forest floor – I note there is never any footnote “then spend the rest of the day pulling twigs out of places you never knew existed, and applying insect-bite cream to delicate areas”. Forests only seem romantic places when photographed. The harsh reality is that when you lie down in one, you will discover that they are covered in animal shit and things that want to hurt you.
- Make love on a train – Anyone who thinks that a train is a romantic place for a horizon-broadening quickie is clearly not living in the UK. Though modern trains are so cramped it is entirely possible that after a rush-hour commute home, you could tick this one off whether you had intended to or not.
- Shower in a waterfall – Presumably to help get the twigs and leaves out of you, numb the pain of the stinging nettles and insect bites, or in an attempt to get rid of the smell of Midland Mainline toilet cubicles.
- Ask someone you’ve only just met to go on a date – I’ll file that one under “quick ways to get divorced”.
- Spend a whole day eating junk food without feeling guilty – Woohoo! Apparently, I’ve been Living The Dream every day for the last twenty years!
2. They leave off the obvious ones; those little ambitions that normally remain unspoken
I have never yet seen an entry in one of these lists that says “Convince my wife to let me do that thing that I reckon she’ll like more than she thinks she will.”.
So, after all that ranting and calling everyone else shallow and pretentious … here’s my list. Bereft of anything horizon-broadening or life enriching, and completely unafraid to appear unadventurous and mundane.
- Have a novel published.
- Go on a roadtrip across America.
- Resume my Japanese lessons.
- See Japan.
- Meet Janet Street-Porter and tell her to fuck right off.
- Think up a personal software-project that will sustain my interest long enough to actually FINISH it.
- Build my own computer. I mean: really build it. With a soldering iron.
- Visit Morecambe and see the statue.
- Own a Smart car.
- Play through and complete the Monkey Island games.
- Relocate to Devon.
- Learn to swear in Zulu.
- Watch “Citizen Kane”.
- Learn to juggle.
I reserve the right to add others as I think of them. But you’re not going to see “bask in the innocent glow of a child’s trusting love” appear here anytime soon.
So, just to sum up: write your own “things I want to do before I die” list. But write it as your own checklist, and not necessarily as a list of recommendations for anyone else.