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Rick's List - The Lists List

Some of you — deep thinkers with a sense of history and order! — have asked what it is about lists that fascinates me and compels me to keep compiling them. Some theories:

1. A less humble man might suggest I feel a sense of duty to provide wisdom, good cheer, and a reliable source of insight that, to be honest, many readers would not discover on their own.

This is not true — at least not in the sense that I'm driven by ego and intellect to show how clever I am.

2. A psychologist might suggest this "list thing" might be something that began to coalesce when a child associates a list with the desire/gratification dynamic as realized through the prism of Santa Claus. The youngster writes a list of things he or she wants — and Santa brings them.

There's a lot to like in that premise. It's also true I figured out early on to cover all bases. I started to include "Coal, one large lump" on my annual Christmas list. That way, in the unlikely event St. Nicholas regarded my behavior as less-than-deserving and decided to punish me in the time-honored "bad kids" fashion by delivering coal in my stocking, I still received at least some gratification!

But, no, these theories don't apply.

For me, my "list obsession" actually predates an awareness and comprehension of pleasant North Pole folklore. When I was only 14 months old or so, my parents told me, I marveled over Martin Luther and the 95 theses he nailed to the door of the Castle Church in Witternburg, Germany.

My Mom insists my first spoken words were, "Wow! Ninety-five, eh? That's a big list! And this is what kicked off what we call Protestant Reformation?"  

Despite this promising start, though, it's sad that for most of my 20s and 30s, any lists I wrote were:

1. Set lists for our band's gigs each night. Not as easy as it sounds.

a. If the club required "cover tunes," just play our stuff anyway and announce the song as "a new one by Squeeze" or "Here's the latest by Icicle Works."

b. The post-gig complaint from the always-irritable band member: "If we're going to pretend one of our songs is a copy tune, why say it's by a band no one's heard of?!"

c. He was right.

d. If the singer sees "a hot girl," immediately play "Never Tear Us Apart" by INXS. And intro it by saying the singer wrote it.

e. Post-set complaint from Captain Irritable: "Why did you say we wrote an incredibly popular song when everyone knows it's by INXS?"

f. Point to singer making out in the dressing room corner with "hot girl."

2. Grocery lists:

a. Beer.

b. Pork skins.

c. Beef jerky.

d. Check dumpster for any discarded copies of The Economist (or, as long as you're looking, maybe Penthouse, too).

Well, making lists finally became an obsession when a friend of mine wanted to start a website devoted to lists of classified ads. He wondered what I thought. "That's a stupid idea for a list, Craig," I said.



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