You’ll Never Catch Up

Comments from my last post “Movies to watch with Mom” had me running back to the 60’s, 50’s and even the 30’s for movie recommendations. Admittedly, I’ve been playing catch-up in recent years, watching films I’ve missed, including those from “The Golden Age of Hollywood”, the 30’s and 40’s. TCM is one of my favorite channels. So, thanks to litlove and shoreacres, I’ve been having a fun time digging out gems… IMDb is a great resource.

The oldest movie I’ve seen in its entirety is probably Charlie Chaplin’s “The Kid” (1921). I’ve watched only excerpts of D. W. Griffith‘s “The Birth of a Nation” (1915), so that doesn’t count. Dreyer’s “The Passion of Joan of Arc” is probably the next oldest (1928) I’ve seen. Then comes Ozu’s “A Story of Floating Weeds” (1934). They are all silent films.

Several of my all time favorites are in black and white: “Casablanca” (1942), Ozu’s “Tokyo Story” (1953), Robert Bresson’s “Diary of a Country Priest” (1951) and “Pickpocket” (1959), and to the 60’s, “To Kill a Mockingbird” (1962).

Yesterday, I came across this tweet from Scott Myers of Go Into The Story, a top screenwriting site in the blogosphere:

Thor” is the 46,775th movie registered with MPAA. If u watched 1 movie per day, it would take you 128 years to see them all.

That is… “see them all” up to “Thor”.

So, I don’t feel that bad for having a relatively limited ‘repertoire’. And it’s perfectly justified that I only see and write about those that interest me… That may well explain why you see mostly three out of four ripples in my reviews, since I’ve already eliminated the bulk of them. So, don’t feel bad that you haven’t caught up, it’s humanly impossible. And I’m afraid I’ll have to skip “Thor”.

The same with books.

I joined Goodreads recently. A whole new world opened up for me. I mean, the number of books people have read, or are currently reading… I feel like a tortoise in a race among road runners. Now this is not as easy as adding a friend on Facebook. Turning a ‘currently-reading’ book into ‘read’ is an achievement, not just a click on the ‘confirm’ button.

Lately, there’s a lot of discussions about the topic of being well-read. First off, finding a consensus on its definition is hard enough, let alone its measurement. According to Wikipedia, in 2009, there were 288,355 new books published in the United States (UNESCO data). Now that’s only for one year, in one country. Consider the past decades and centuries and all the classics of all human history and languages.

I like the title of a recent NPR article by Linda Holmes: “The Sad, Beautiful Fact That We’re All Going To Miss Almost Everything”. It begins with this statement:

The vast majority of the world’s books, music, films, television and art, you will never see. It’s just numbers.

We just can’t keep up with them all. In the article, Holmes calculates if you read 2 books a week continuously from age 15 until you’re 80, you’ll have read 6,500 books, which sounds pretty impressive. Let’s say you limit yourself to just read books from the last 250 years, those 6,500 books don’t even make a dent. Further, as you’re reading, catching up with all those already published works, by the time you’re 80, you’ll have missed 65 years of new publications.

Why even bother playing the catch-up game? If there’s any catch-up that’s truly meaningful, catch up with your own passion, curiosity and purpose, instead of heeding the tyranny of the populace. I’d probably enjoy my reading most if I don’t need to achieve anything by it. I’m sure the tortoise would see every single flower along the way.

Photo Source: The British Museum Reading Room from Wikimedia Commons