Meaningfully Meaningless Milestones

 Shut up, dumb Morpheus meme

Shut up, dumb Morpheus meme

These are exciting times here at Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place. I just completed the tenth and final entry in Cannontober, the project where I watched and wrote about every film included in the big Cannon box set that came out in connection with the release of Mark Hartley’s wonderfully entertaining Cannon documentary Electric Boogaloo. 

We also reached a milestone over at the Weird Accordion to Al, where I recently posted the 100th entry in my ongoing, obsessive exploration of the albums of American pop parodist “Weird Al” Yankovic. Speaking of 100s, we’ve also nearly gotten to the 100th entry in My World of Flops, the column I began over a decade ago at The A.V Club during a very different stage in my life. 

These milestones are on one level meaningless. The only meaning they possess, really, is the meaning that we give them. Yet I treasure them all the same. My brain craves order and purpose and having projects like My World of Flops or the Weird Accordion to Al gives it something to work on constantly and milestones, even bullshit milestones like the one I just reached in the Weird Accordion to Al, give me a sense of accomplishment that helps keep one day from bleeding into the next. 

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That’s why I’ve always been attracted to either big, open-ended ideas like My World of Flops, Forgotbusters, Control Nathan Rabin, Lukewarm Takes, Sub Cult and Nathan Rabin’s Literature Society as well as projects with clear-cut endings and parameters, like Nashville or Bust, That’s What They Called Music Then, The Simpsons Decade, Hip Hop and You Do Stop and Nathan Rabin Vs. The IMDB 250. 

There was a time when I foolishly imagined that no reputable website would cancel a column or fire me before it was finished. How exquisitely naive I was! I honestly imagined that Pitchfork would not fire me until I had written about all 250 movies in the IMDB 250. Now I assume that anything that I do outside of Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place can be killed at any time. If I were doing the Weird Accordion to Al outside of this website, for example, I doubt the series would have made it past the first 20 entries before the bosses would have killed it, citing a tiny readership. 

I know all too well how fragile and heartless this industry and business can be. That’s one of the big reasons that I’m inclined to celebrate milestones and take satisfaction in a job done or an epic task completed. 

But some milestones aren’t inherently meaningless. I just finished writing my seventh book (with my friend Brock Wilbur), for example, about the video game and movie Postal after procrastinating on it for way too long. I feel a genuine sense of achievement over finally getting that baby over the goal line, as well as an overwhelming sense of relief over not having that hanging over my head anymore. 

On a similar note, number 100 might not mean much for the Weird Accordion to Al, but it will mean something when I finally finish the project. But even then it won’t be the end. Then I’ll have to edit and rewrite the entries for the Weird Accordion to Al book, and I want that to be as perfect as humanly possible before I send it to Al to copy-edit and fact-check. I'm also contemplating making part of the Weird Accordion to Al book a You Don't Know Me-style road book about following Al's 2018 tour, but that might prove a little too ambitious and a little too costly.

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When you’re a freelance writer in 2017, you need to give yourself a steady stream of pats on the back and huzzahs because God knows you’re not liable to get them from your bosses or the industry at large. While I love writing Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place, maintaining it involves a lot of unceasing labor. So it’s nice to be able to congratulate yourself sometimes for reaching various milestones, even as you realize how little those milestones matter outside of your own fragile self-esteem and regularly battered ego. 

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