Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Magpie List

My sister Eve started a new site at It holds lists of inspiring things that individuals submit directly to  the site, either through a form on the site or via email. For example, University of Oregon freshman Bridget Egan recently submitted the following list:
  1. Toy Story
  2. The O.C.
  3. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
  4. Titanic
  5. The Strokes
  6. The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
  7. Mean Girls
  8. Superbad
  9. Who’s Lovin’ You,” Jackson 5
  10. Moulin Rouge!
Her list includes movies, a TV show, books, a band, and an individual song. So what makes the site interesting? While a reader could reasonably guess at the demographic of the person who submitted this list based on its contents, probably no one else in the world has exactly the same list, in exactly the same order. I might have the same band and the same books, and even match up exactly on the TV shows and movies, but to have that list and the individual track "Who's Lovin' You" by the Jackson 5? Unlikely.

And that's the beauty of the site. Each person will submit a list, and it will be unique, probably forever. The lists will reflect perhaps the culture, time period, income level, age, and other demographic attributes of the submitters, but even two people who share all those attributes will have different lists.

Case in point: Bridget Egan's roommate, who submitted a list at the same time. They're the same age and grew up culturally close enough to find themselves in the same dorm room at the University of Oregon, but Kate Robinson's list appears to be from another universe:
  1. The Fall
  2. The Tell-Tale Heart,” Edgar Allan Poe
  3. La Condition Humaine, René Magritte
  4. Black Coffee,” Ella Fitzgerald
  5. PomegranateW
  6. Knife,” Grizzly Bear
  7. Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut
  8. Delivery
  9. Moleskine
  10. Synecdoche, Byron Kim
While the inclusion of "The Tell-Tale Heart" and Slaughterhouse-Five might suggest someone who recently finished an American high school English curriculum, the rest defies guessing about who Kate is. She's got an obscure tune by old jazz singer, an animated short film, a notebook, an abstract painting, and a fruit. This begs the question, "why?"

Luckily for us, the site's founder is well-connected in Hollywood, and occasionally gives a list the full film treatment, as long as the submitter includes a digital video file with her list. You can see the result--and why these two girls love pomegranite and that particular song by the Jackson 5--in episode 3 of MagpieTV.

Conclusion: Read some lists. Get inspired. Then: Submit a list! Submit an un-edited, raw video along with it, and see what the Magpie List does with it. Good luck.

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