Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Internet’s Best List Not To Read

By: Ben Johnson



We’re the internet. We makes lists. That’s what’s up, and that’s what is happening, and that is the story. We know this. We go on the internet, we make lists of things, we click on other people’s lists of things, we say “I don’t like this list of things” or “check out this list of things, I think it’s pretty cool,” and then we read the lists and say “OMG #9” or “LOL, no” and then go on the fuck about our day. That’s what this is and that’s what we are doing.

I found the worst list.

It’s this list that an MST3K enthusiast on rateyourmusic made of the most common LP’s you’ll find while picking through the record crates at a thrift store or an antique mall. Do not read it. I urge you not to read it. I read it. I’ve read it several times in real life, out in the world, with my fingers, looking through some old records in a Goodwill. And then I clicked on it and read it online now too.

This list is exactly what it claims to be. Spoiler alert: there are no spoilers in this list. If you click on it and read it, and I recommend you don’t, you are going to look through it, and you are going to see exactly the amount of Johnny Mathis you would expect. You are not going to be surprised, not even once.

If you have a lot of experience digging through crates of records at a thrift store or antique mall, you might say something like “hmm, I guess I would have included the first Monkees album on this list,” and then you will look through the entire list to see if it has the first Monkees album on it, and then when it doesn’t you will realize that you’ve just been tricked into going through a 158-item list because you hoped to see a first Monkees album in it, even though seeing a Monkees first album in some list online would not cause you to alter your actions in any way. This will almost exactly replicate, mentally, the sensation of looking through a crate of records in a thrift store.

Looking just at the title of this list, “the most common albums you’ll find in thrift stores,” (do not click on it) lets you know for a fact, just like you also know for a fact in real life when you are looking through actual records in an actual thrift store, that you are not going to find an original pressing of Relatively Clean Rivers in there. And yet, compulsively, that’s the hope, right? That you can find a record in this list and be like “wrong!” And then you can get that and you can know that and you can hold that in your brain. But that is not going to happen. This list is a list of the things in the list. It’s exactly only those things.

You know about wasting time? Like how being on the internet and reading lists of things is a waste of time? Or in the real world like how it’s a waste of time to be in line at the grocery store while somebody argues for seven minutes about a coupon for 79 cents off dish soap? Or how sometimes it’s pleasant to waste time, like how Otis Redding talked about wasting time in “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay,” which seemed like, okay, this guy is homeless and hopeless and he lives on the dock of a bay but at least he’s pretty chill about it. He’s even whistling. That sounds like a nice, if also racially charged and deceptively complex, way to spend time unproductively. That’s at least not hurting anybody.

Looking through records in a thrift store can be like that kind of wasting time. Reading internet lists of Top Sixteen Camels Who Are Fresh Out Of Fucks can be that kind of wasting time. Human beings have figured out all kinds of shit to make sure that time isn’t so precious you can’t waste a little of it.

When was the last time you ran for your life, for example? Never. Maybe once ever. The rest of it is like “I want to be able to run for my life if needed” training. We invented treadmills. Machines designed to replicate the experience of running for your life. Just in case you get chased by a wolf some day while listening to Cher, or whatever they have playing at the gym. Running on a treadmill can be a pleasant form of wasting time. It gets your blood pumping and makes you appear slightly more fuckable during times when you’re not on a treadmill. But running on a treadmill when there is an approximately zero percent chance of applying the run for your life skill is, technically, a waste of time. Really, our entire species is just wasting time. Just playing out the string. If you get down to it.

So why is this list of most common albums you find in a thrift store the worst list? It certainly did not waste my time any more or less than any other list I could have read, or amount I could have run on a treadmill. It actually saved me a little time, considering how reading this list is effectively the same thing as going to a thrift store, looking through the records there, seeing only these records, not buying any of them, and then going to take a shit at Starbucks before heading back home. The virtual experience version had no actual records in it, but at least I didn’t have to go anywhere or take a shit in a Starbucks.

I think this list is the worst for the following list of reasons:

1. Its extreme accuracy does not offer any surprises or ignite any real debate, so it is not a particularly entertaining list.

2. Since it is so accurate and therefore dull, reading it replicates the experience of repetitive, unwavering disappointment inherent in the activity which this list is a representation of, but with a chance of reward which is actual zero and not “technically some infinitesimal number above zero wherein depending on extreme luck it is theoretically possible to find a decent copy of Iron Maiden Number of the Beast for less than $10, really the ideal amount for me to spend in order to be able to play ‘Run To The Hills’ on vinyl instead of an mp3 whenever I get the urge, which probably is about $10 worth of sometimes, lifetime, and not a penny more.”

3. This list is on the internet, and the entire point of looking through record bins in thrift stores is to search for something real which only exists in the analog world and is only available through ritualized pilgrimage into the communal nightmare of American poverty which finds its purest spiritual representation at the Salvation Army, a process which unites, briefly, the human animal’s dim distant hope for humanity’s survival in the grim circumstances we bring to bear on each other with the much more selfish dim distant hope a record collector has for finding a butcher cover, and even if thwarted constantly by the insane, needless former popularity of Herb Alpert and Glen Campbell, this temporary unison of selfish and unselfish hope can be edifying, whereas the internet version, represented by this list, is all thwarted hope, all disappointment, exactly as advertised, and involves no sacrifice or understanding of communal longing of any kind.

4. It doesn’t even have anything remotely encouraging on it. Not even The Cars Heartbeat City or a James Taylor Flag or a Jackson Browne Hold Out or anything like that. I mean, Jesus. This is just the absolute worst stuff. There’s not even a glimmer of hope on this list.

5. I’m gonna look at it again, just to see.

6. Yeah, that list sucks.

7. Let me just make sure one more time that there’s nothing on this list that’s secretly good.

8. Carpenters Singles is okay, I guess, but this one is trashed.

9. How about B.J. Thomas? Is that on there? No.

10. I need to take a shit now. Is there a Starbucks near here?

11. I am going to die one day.

12. We are all going to die one day.

13. One time I found a clean Love Forever Changes at an antique store for $8. That was in Montana, though. Seven years ago.


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