In 2007, Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman made a breezily average buddy flick called The Bucket List, about two dying dudes gobbling up life goals before they kicked the titular container: Drive a race car, visit the Taj Mahal, you get the game. The Rob Reiner-directed dramedy was in and out of your cineplex terminally quickly; it now has a middling afterlife on Netflix. The movie itself is largely forgotten, but its carpe-diemistic premise — and its name — have blossomed in the pop-cultural vernacular. Suddenly, we all have "bucket lists," and we're all eager to share them.
Just last week, a software company called Equilibrium Enterprises unveiled the Bucket List PRO, a digital application for the iPhone that allows users to keep track of epic life goals (swim with sharks, hike Mount Everest, kiss George Clooney) and share their dreams via sites such as Twitter. Tweeting against Father Time? Might work.
Facebook has hundreds of "Bucket List" groups for users to join, from regional chapters (the Gainesville Bucket List!) to international ones. Jim Caple, a writer for ESPN.com, recently unveiled his "Baseball Bucket List": Spend a week at spring training, coach a Little League team. This inspired readers to leave comments about their own hardball bucket lists.
The phrase "kick the bucket" goes back to the 16th century. It originated in the messy world of animal slaughter; when hung and gutted, a pig or such would literally kick the bucket collecting its blood.
And the idea of living like you were dying, well, it's been part of the conversation long before the Tim McGraw hit. Hundreds of books, including the wildly popular 1001 Things to Do Before You Die series, are devoted to gathering ye rosebuds while ye may.
But the notion of the "bucket list" is thoroughly modern, not to mention cross-generational and universally accepted. Next year, a 71-year-old Arizona man named Al Slusser is hiking from one side of America to the other. Why? Because, as he has said online, where you can track his progress, it was on his bucket list, which was cobbled together one dark, lonely night.
On the opposite end of the age spectrum: A recent scan of Green Day chat rooms found punk fans creating bucket lists of bands they were dying (or living) to see. That was a bit of a shock — not that they had lists, but that they were labeling them in a way contrived by Mssrs. Nicholson, Freeman and Meathead.
Whether these kids see any of the bands is beside the point. This phenomenon is not about the making of the bucket list; it's not really about the actual doing of the bucket list, either. Instead, it's about sharing with strangers who want to not be dead as much as you do.
As long as you have a bucket list, the idea of kicking it seems a safe distance away.
Sean Daly can be reached at [email protected] and (727) 893-8467. His Pop Life blog is at blogs.tamapbay.com/popmusic.