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what's the big to do?
my obsession with lists
by katie morris
7.5.02
general


I have no major vices. I don't smoke, don't do drugs, don't have sex for money, don't wear Lee Press-On Nails™. But I do have one serious addiction.

Grocery List
Good, cheap wine
Baby carrots
Paper towels
Special K
Peaches

I am an obsessive list maker.

Movies To Rent
Network
Bringing Up Baby
Sophie's Choice
Hamlet
Ten Things I Hate About You

I really can't remember when this habit became such a part of my daily life. I'm sure I wasn't making lists all through grade school and junior high. No, then I was either pining for Shawn Cassidy or teasing my vertical bangs even higher.

Classes To Take
Philosophy
Art lessons
Self-defense
Sewing basics
Auto Repair 101 (so I can tell if my mechanic is lying to me)
Beginning Italian
Piano lessons

By now, list making is an ingrained part of my personality. Just like my East Coast upbringing or my deep hatred of pantyhose, it has become a part of who I am.

Books To Read
Death in Venice
A Moveable Feast
Cat's Cradle
A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again
One Hundred Years of Solitude

I once dated a guy (we will call him Bob) who never made lists of anything. Ever. He even dared to mock my need to write everything down. Needless to say, I quickly showed him the nearest exit. I just couldn't relate to him. I mean, how can you ever remember all of the random ideas floating around in your head, if you don't copy them down into neat, orderly lists? I'm telling you, it's just not natural.

Things To Do On A Regular Basis – No Excuses
See my friends more often
Consistently get eight hours of sleep
Exercise
Stop eating chocolate every single damn day
Write something – anything – every morning

Some of my scribblings are what I consider my "practical" lists. These are the lists of things that need to get done. They are the workhorses of the list family.

Things To Do This Week
Laundry
Go to the gym (at least once)
Pay minimum $50 on $2,800 credit card bill
Take Friday off (fake being sick)
Get a haircut before I cut it all off myself
Volunteer
Return hot pink sweater from Mom (she meant well)

But for me, it doesn't stop there. I make lists of everything. I always have a pen and paper at the ready (even in my car) so I can add to my lists or cross things off (that's the best part) at any given moment.

Pipe Dreams
Have a live-in masseuse
Be independently wealthy
Clear up my skin forever
Have a lipstick named after me
Tell off everyone who was mean to me at any point during my life
Have one good hair day

I make lists in my head. I make lists from my lists. I make lists of things to make lists of. I told you – it's an addiction. Maybe I should start a twelve-step program. But that would just be another list I'd have to keep track of.

Clothes To Buy
Cute summer skirts
Stylish big tote bag to put my gym crap in
Jeans that make me look skinny
Cool suede coat
Strappy high heels to intimidate my short dates with

Part of the reason I make so many lists is because I don't feel like I can be organized or assess the state of my life until I have everything herded into neat little categories and sub-categories.

Places To Travel To
Zihuatanejo
Austria (take Sound of Music tour)
Door County, Wisconsin
Japan
Bora Bora
Norway (it looked cool at Epcot Center)
North Dakota

So you see, rather than being a low-grade obsessive-compulsive disorder, my list making is really a highly evolved motivation system. That, or it's a really elaborate method of procrastination. But the former explanation sounds so much more glamorous, don't you think?

Things To Fix On My Car
Rear brake shoes and brake cylinder - $500 (it's not wise to have bad brakes in San Francisco)
New coolant hoses - $400
Front struts (or is it the shocks?) - $395
New fuel filter - $111
Get a new car

But most of my lists consist of goals I want to reach, or things I would like to accomplish. Writing them down makes them seem less of an intangible dream and more like something I can achieve in this lifetime. Once it's on paper, anything's possible.

Things To Do Before I Die
Milk a cow
Go to an NFL football game
Ride in a hot air balloon
Go deep-sea fishing
Own a dog and a cat
Fall in love, get married, have kids (in that order, I hope)
Conquer all my fears
Write an Intrepid Media column

Check.


ABOUT KATIE MORRIS

a dilettante who grew up back east, then came to her senses and moved to san francisco. loves: strong coffee, warm weather, and good books. loves not: cell phones, emoticons, and bad drivers.

more about katie morris

IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...

home alone
one hundred days of solitude
by katie morris
topic: general
published: 4.5.05


june is bustin' out all over
and july and august, too
by katie morris
topic: general
published: 8.9.02





COMMENTS

mike julianelle
7.5.02 @ 8:48a

Which Hamlet?

russ carr
7.5.02 @ 8:56a

Gibson bad, Branagh good.

mike julianelle
7.5.02 @ 9:16a

Well, there's also the 60s version, the Ethan Hawke version, the Campbell Scott version....there are tons. The Laurence Olivier version...and many more.

tracey kelley
7.5.02 @ 9:53a

I have lists, but it depresses me to look at the list at the end of the week (like today) and realize (like today) that I am no where near completing everything on my list.

So I stick to the grocery, book and to-do-before-going-somewhere list.

joe procopio
7.5.02 @ 10:04a

My old editor at Smug, Leslie Harpold, was so into lists that she had a list email, daily, that people would subscribe to. What they would get every day was literally a list from Leslie. Some days it was top 10 scariest places in Grenwich Village. Other days it was her grocery list. The subscribers were rabid. She was very good at it.

katie morris
7.5.02 @ 11:31a

Re: Hamlet -- the Kenneth Branagh version. Anytime I go to rent it at the video store, I take one look at how long it is, and end up renting something else. The Laurence Olivier version was good though. My 10th grade English teacher made us watch it while we were memorizing the "To be or not to be" speech. She was in love with Sir Laurence and kept pointing out what nice legs he had. Um...OK Mrs. Washnik -- whatever floats your boat.

mike julianelle
7.5.02 @ 11:39a

Maybe you should do a list of the crushes your elementary school teachers had.

I feel the same way about Branagh's 4 hour Hamlet. Daunting. Like Das Boot.

russ carr
7.5.02 @ 11:46a

Daunting but very good. There are weaknesses, to be sure, but of the versions I've seen, Branagh's seems the most...realistic, somehow. The characters aren't characters, they're people.

mike julianelle
7.5.02 @ 11:55a

He is good at getting around the cumbersome nature of the language and getting to the heart of the characters, the passion and all that. Sometimes the actors are just reciting lines.

From what I've seen of the movie, it looks gorgeous. The Gibson version is weak, but Helena Bonham Carter made a good Ophelia.

russ carr
7.5.02 @ 12:22p

Nothing kills Shakespeare as readily as people reciting dialogue as if it were poetry...

...with beat and cadence pentametric bound...

Maybe Branagh provides scripts that have converted the plays from line-line-line to paragraphs of prose, so no one thinks on the construction. However he does it, he elicits more than flat reading, and that's the difference.

mike julianelle
7.5.02 @ 12:35p

Agreed. Aside from Shakespeare, lots of plays written suffer from that, especially ones not written in modern english. Like The Crucible. Powerful play, and the Daniel Day-Lewis film version phenomenal, but if your actors can't convincingly and naturally read the dialogue, it's weak. That's actually one of the problems with the new Star Wars movies. "Be mindful of the force, my young padawan learner...", I mean, that shit is just too much, and few of today's kids can make it sound natural. McGregor himself can barely do it.

daniel castro
7.5.02 @ 3:01p

Hehehe, good one Mike.

adam kraemer
7.8.02 @ 12:26p

It's a good point. I remember reading an interview with Carrie Fisher once where she pointed out that the most difficult thing about acting for Lucas is that he writes in a way that no one has ever spoken.

mike julianelle
7.8.02 @ 12:28p

Either his dialogue in the new movies is much worse (seems to be) or the awkwardness is just more glaring due to today's informalized culture.

audrey watson
7.8.02 @ 1:02p

- Baby carrots -- greatest vegetable creation of the century.
- One Hundred Years of Solitude - highly overrated.
- Chocolate - I think I eat it every day too, but I could never give it up.
- I think my favorite lipstick color name is "Make Mine Mauve".

russ carr
7.8.02 @ 6:07p

Baby carrots rock.

matt morin
7.8.02 @ 11:44p

I make lists all the time. And it's always for little things like "Clip my nails" or "Do dishes."

I'm not sure what that says about my memory.

sarah ficke
7.10.02 @ 12:23p

I recently crossed 100 Years of Solitude off my list. It's a great book, to the point where I had problems putting it down. Death in Venice, on the other hand...well, I found it boring and overdramatic, but I know that there are people out there who like it.

Oh, and the Sound of Music tour is overrated. The cemetary in Salzberg where they filmed is really really cool, but the glass summerhouse and the outside of the mansion aren't very exciting.

mike julianelle
7.10.02 @ 12:29p

I'm currently reading The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. Good stuff, fun read.

adam kraemer
7.10.02 @ 12:35p

I read it last month. Totally agree with you.



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