In the era before the internet, I was cruising the used-book stores in Lexington, Kentucky trying to obtain paperback copies of all the Agatha Christie murder mysteries (I eventually found all 66). As I read my way through the series, I realized that while some were outstanding (Roger Ackroyd, obviously) and would be worth a reread in later years after I had forgotten the details, others were eminently forgettable (think "Tommy and Tuppence"). So, I kept a list, rating each book on a scale from 4+ (outstanding) down to 1+ (poor). My plan was that when I was old and retired and had more leisure time, I would reread these, starting with the 4+ and working down from there.
I then extended this scheme to the books of the Time Reading Program series; I couldn't find some of the more obscure issues until the internet was created, but I finally read them all, and kept only the dozen or so that have "4+" pencilled inside the cover. From there it spread to all the books I was reading, so I now have "Books Read" lists as far back as 1988.
Finally, in 2006, I decided to use the ratings for movies. It's not hard to do; the system is crude but effective:
4+ Excellent, worth watching/reading again someday.I've been doing this with movies for six years now, almost all of them viewed on cable channels or from library DVDs, rather than in theaters. Of the 600+ on the list so far, there are about 50 rated 4+, about 200 rated 3+, about 250 rated 2+, and about 100 rated 1+.
3+ Very good. o.k. to recommend, but don't watch until finishing the 4+s.
2+ So-so. Don't recommend and don't rewatch.
1+ Terrible. Advise friends to avoid if they ask.
In the 1980s, I thought doing all this was a way to get ready for a leisurely retirement, but now that I'm actually in my retirement, I find myself still reading new books and watching new movies and not using the ratings -- yet. It was just in this past year that I've realized what the lists are really good for: they will help me tolerate dementia if/when it happens.
This past year I've spent increasing amounts of time helping my mother cope with the new onset of dementia, manifested primarily as a loss of short-term memory. She's 93 years old, so it's not presenile Alzheimer's, and presumably not hereditary, but the experience has keyed me in toward thinking more about my future several decades from now (should I be fortunate enough to live that long).
I've noticed that my mom can get great enjoyment out of reading a book, then will put it on a shelf or table, and perhaps a week later when I ask if I can take the book back to the library, she'll ask "What book is that?" "It's the one about pioneer settlement in the Midwest." "Oh, that sounds good. Can you leave it here while I read it?" "Ummm, sure..." And she'll get great enjoyment out of it again.
So now I have my lists, and I'm ready, if/when dementia starts to develop, to begin re-reading and re-watching my favorite books and movies.
But now there's one more consideration: TYWKIWDBI. For the last 4+ years I've been storing stuff here I thought was interesting. Later this year the archive will reach 10,000 posts. A lot of them now have dead links, and lots of the YouTube videos have been pulled. Others are no longer of interest because the material was political or economic or dependent on a situation that no longer exists. And some, frankly, just don't interest me any more. But there's lots of good stuff.
So here's my plan: If/when I start to sense the beginnings of dementia (or when my wife tells me it has started), I'm going to stop writing, and go through this blog to select out perhaps a thousand posts and reblog them into "The Best of TWYKIWDBI." That would be reading material for about a month. I'll read through that blog every month, again selecting the best stuff - perhaps a hundred - and when the situation warrants, I'll assemble them into a third blog of "the very best" material which I can then look at every week, thinking I'm seeing new material.
I just hope I never have to distill that last group down into the best dozen posts, to be looked at every day...
Addendum: I wasn't going to list my 4+ movies in this post, because my ratings are totally arbitrary and dependent on personal interests and biases, and because my opinion might have been influenced by variable degrees of intoxication during viewing. But... as I was proofreading this post I looked for my list of ratings for the Agatha Christies, and to my utter dismay - I can't find it! And many of the books don't have ratings pencilled inside. I'll keep searching, but for the moment this reminds me that everything important in life needs to be backed up, so I'll store my list of 4+ movies here for now. You're welcome to browse.
84 Charing Cross Road, All the Kings Men (2006), An Affair to Remember, As Good as it Gets, Brief Encounter, Brother Can You Spare a Dime, Cinema Paradiso, Da Vinci Code, Das Leben der Anderen, Dirty Pretty Things, Everest (Beck Weathers interview), Face/Off, Fahrenheit 911, Fair Game (2010), Girl Interrupted, God Grew Tired of Us, Harvard Beats Yale 29-29, Hot Shots, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), Juno, Million Dollar Baby, Miss Potter, Nanking, Never Let Me Go, No Way Out, Once Upon a Time in the West, Pan’s Labyrinth, Pay It Forward, Peter and the Wolf (Templeton), Planet Earth series, Stardust, State of Play (BBC miniseries), Storm over Everest, Sunshine, Temple Grandin, Tender Mercies, The Bourne Identity, The CCC [Amer. Experience], The Civil War (Ken Burns), The Cove, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Departed, The English Patient, The Fall,The Kite Runner, The New World [Pocohontas], The Pat Tillman Story, The Polar Express,The Pursuit of Happyness, The Shawshank Redemption, The Turning Point, The U.S. vs. John Lennon, The Usual Suspects, The White Countess, Up, Why We Fight.