10th Jun2016

The 42 Project – It Begins … Part 1 of The List!

by Chris Thompson

A couple of days ago I announced plans for #The42Project – an attempt to create some fun and interesting challenges for myself over the next year (June 10, 2016 to June 9, 2017). It’s not meant to be painful – or create extra stress – it’s just meant to be fun … A birthday present to myself. And so today, on the occasion of my birthday, it begins!

As I said last time, compiling a list of 42 things like this is not easy. It sounds like it would be (it probably should be) but, when you sit down to actually do it, it’s tough. I was only going to post a few items from the list today, but after some pressure from those around me I’ve decided to present a third of them right off the bat.

Some of these are things I’ve always wanted to do, yet never been able to push myself. Others give me an excuse or a reason to indulge myself. And some … well, some are just going to require effort. They’re not all easy, but in my mind they’re all worthwhile. So, what’s on the list? Well, here goes …

1. Rent a karaoke room all for myself.

I should add these are in no particular order, but this first one I’m really excited about. In preparing for this I’ve discussed it with a number of people, and they all ask the same thing: “You mean with friends, right?” … The answer is no. It is exactly how I’ve written it – I want to rent a karaoke room all for myself and just go to town. Try out some new material. Not have to share the mic. Just enjoy singing for the pleasure. It’s the dream.

2. Get a really good bottle of whisky/whiskey and not worry about the price.

I enjoy a nice whisky, but I’ve never really treated myself to anything really special before. There’s a lot of options here (and perhaps I’ll still explore them), but I’m in love with the idea of Jack Daniels’ Sinatra Select, which is a limited edition they released 2-3 years ago. I realise there may be better whiskies, but as a fan of Ol’ Blue Eyes I really can’t get past this one as something that fits the bill perfectly for me.

3. Compile a full set of Fighting Fantasy gamebooks and play through them all.

I’m still trying to get an exact number on this but, if I include the Sorcery! and Advanced Fighting Fantasy books as part of it, then we’re looking at around 73 books (give or take). I think part of my quest will involve determining exactly how many there were and figuring out what actually counts, but I recently picked up a few books from the series and have enjoyed playing them through, so I want to continue down this path. I know some are quite rare and hard to get, so I’ll have my work cut out for me, but this feels entirely worthwhile.

4. Visit Japan for the first time.

I have always wanted to visit Japan, but time and money have thus far prevented me. I love so much about Japanese culture – from the food to the comics to the music – so it’s natural to want to see and experience it first-hand. The plan is to (somehow) save over the next few months and attempt this challenge towards the end. Wish me luck!

5. Interview an A-list Hollywood celeb.

You know me … keeping it small and easy. I have no idea how I’m going to make this happen, but I’m confident it can be done sometime over the next year. Either that or I’ll be throwing this out to the public and asking for favours – which is part of why I’m being so public and accountable with all of this.

6. Become a member of the Tate Modern and see all their exhibitions during the year.

One of my favourite places to visit on a day off is the Tate Modern. I realise Tate Membership covers all the Tate Galleries, but I’m singling out Tate Modern to make the idea of seeing all their exhibitions more achievable … Maybe I’ll go above and beyond and just see them all anyway, but I’m keeping it specific for the time being.

7. Do a course at The School of Life.

Speaking of membership, one thing I’d love to do is complete a course at Alain de Botton’s The School of Life. Each course has a set fee, but I believe membership (which costs just slightly more) includes a free course, so I think that’s the way to go. I know people have various thoughts about de Botton and the School, but having read a couple of their books I’d like to do something more practical with them and see for myself.

8. Go on a week long retreat.

This is actually something I’ve done in the past, but I find it so hard to give myself the reason (or permission) to go. Adding it to the list will ensure I do it again this year, and it might encourage me to explore what other options are available to me in this regard.

9. Read War & Peace.

It’s the classic book we’ve all heard jokes about since we were young. To say War & Peace is long would be an understatement, but despite it’s great length there are still so many people who swear by it. In the back of my mind I’ve always wanted to give it a go, so again this is just a way of ensuring I actually do … Even better than that, I have to finish it.

10. Meet the members of the band Level 42 (circa 1987).

Okay, this one could be hard … Coming from Australia, I wasn’t really familiar with Level 42 as an ongoing concern, but their 1987 album Running In The Family was a big hit with me. I’ve also heard their name was inspired by Douglas Adams (which fits perfectly with #The42Project), so I thought it would be fun to track down each of the members of the band from that time. It might just be a handshake and a photo, or a beer and a chat, or maybe even a podcast interview. Whatever it is, I am definitely looking forward to it.

11. Sit down and listen to a record without doing anything else.

Remember the days when people would just sit down and actually listen to records? So do I. These days my attention span is terrible and I can barely sit for 10 minutes doing one thing, but once upon a time this was pretty normal … I’m trying to bring it back (at least for me), and this attempt is what I’d call my baby steps in that direction. Maybe I’ll listen to Level 42’s Running In The Family? Or perhaps I’ll listen to a bit of Frank while I sip on my Sinatra Select? I’m not sure right now, but you can bet it will be an experience.

12. Fast one full day a week for the year.

Here’s one that won’t cost anything – in fact, it might even save me money – but man, it’s going to be hard. The plan is to eat dinner one night, fast through the next day, then resume eating with breakfast the morning after. I’ve read a bit about the health benefits of intermittent regular fasts, and I think it’s a good idea. The trick is to pick a day of the week you’re particularly busy and less likely to notice, so I’ll probably be opting for Tuesdays. Either way, I’ll be holding myself to once a week over the coming year.

13. Go to the opera at least once.

Again, this is something I’ve done a couple of times before, but not in a very long time. The opera can be a wonderful, enriching experience, and I have no doubt there will be some amazing production over the next year … Feel free to recommend if you see anything outstanding, but I know that before this year is out I’ll have found something worthy.

14. Have a proper Sazerac at The American Bar in The Savoy.

The Sazerac is hands-down my favourite cocktail. I’m wary about when and where I try it, because it’s so easy to get wrong, but one place I’d trust to get it right is The American Bar at The Savoy Hotel here in London. Definitely not something to indulge on one of the days when I’m fasting, but when I’ve had a good meal and just want to chill out this will make a nice treat. In fact, I might insist that I have a good meal first and really spoil myself!

So, there you have it … The first 14 items from #The42Project, with a little further explanation and clarification for each one. What do you think? What would you choose to do? You can follow me on Twitter @popculturehound, using the hashtag #The42Project for updates.
[Side note: I’m not attempting to trivialise the meaning of life – or the fact that there are bigger questions to consider. This is just my attempt to restore a little fun in a way that only I can.]

08th Jun2016

The 42 Project – A New Series of Blog Posts!

by Chris Thompson

2015 wasn’t the best of years for me … It wasn’t one specific thing – just a number of different things which came together to make it a real challenge. Money was tight, I was feeling drained and depleted, and things simply weren’t going my way. I was hoping 2016 would be different, but that didn’t start out well either.

It got me thinking about how I could turn things around. How I could draw a line in the sand and take control again. More than that, it got me thinking about the meaning of life, and that of course led me to the ultimate answer: 42 – a number which holds a lot of power, but that will resonate more clearly with some.

For those who don’t know the story, in Douglas Adams’ famous novel, The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, the supercomputer Deep Thought is asked the meaning of life, the universe and everything. After 7.5 million years, Deep Thought provides the answer ’42’, though she admits to not quite knowing what the question is. It’s a joke which has taken root in popular culture, and provided me with a question of my own.
What if I set myself a list of 42 things to do this year to make things more fun and interesting? Sure, I can’t control everything, but if I could provide myself with some new focus and a reward then maybe that would make this next year better – and so #The42Project was born.
The issue then, was to come up with 42 different things I could set myself to do. That might sound easy in theory, but when you actually sit down to write 42 things, it’s hard … 42 is a lot, especially when you want them to mean something. They need to be challenging – that helps me feel like I’ve accomplished something – but the key element is that they need to be fun. I have to want to do these things and to see them through.
For that reason, some of the goals are quite easy … It’s just a case of doing them. Sometimes you just need to commit yourself to do something or it’ll never actually happen. It’s like an excuse to do things I’ve always intended to do. Other things may be harder. They might involve more time, money, contacts and, more than likely, a good dose of luck.
Which is why I’m choosing to blog about it. By making myself accountable to an unknown audience, it’s a way to keep myself on track. And maybe, just maybe, if time is running short then there are some folks out there who can give me a hand? That’s the idea anyway.
So, I’ll be unveiling a few goals at a time, with a view to having the complete list by the end of the month. That will give me a year to work on things and see what I can do. I hope you’ll join me on this journey of fun and discovery as we attempt to understand the answer – even if we don’t know the question!
You can follow me on Twitter @popculturehound, using the hashtag #The42Project for updates. I’ll be publishing the first part of the list on Friday. In the meantime, I’d be curious to know, what would be on your list of 42 things?
[Side note: I’m not attempting to trivialise the meaning of life – or the fact that there are bigger questions to consider. This is just my attempt to restore a little fun in a way that only I can.]