Idle Time: A Look Back, Part 2

Uncle Isey, the official historian of our collective, recounts our humble origins in the website’s About the Institute section. Admittedly, however, some of those early tales of Top 5 tomfoolery and mixtape mayhem have been either dismissed or disregarded as a mixed bag of half-truths and hyperbole. It’s much more interesting, after all, to say that Isey ate Beau Baca’s entire seven-layer burrito without asking rather than report that he unwittingly snuck a bite before realization set in. Never let the truth get in the way of a good story, I’ve been told.

Sometimes we get lucky. Sometimes, scouring through drawers of discarded memoranda and forgotten files actually turns up something of value. An original artifact of those halcyon days of yore was recently uncovered, serving as far more than just a time capsule reminder of idle days past. This gem of a CD-R, in all its archaic glory, gives us a glance at an early music-themed Top 5…

But it also gives us a bonafide anniversary date.

It’s printed right there on the CD booklet: “conceived on January 30, 2002 in response to Will Howell’s request for the top five songs to appear on the soundtrack to a film about a hitman.” It wasn’t our first list, but it was the first list worth immortalizing with a rudimentary application of digital twenty-first century mixtaping. Apple’s iTunes store hadn’t even opened for business yet.

I’m not going to share the list itself with you, because it is, as Isey describes, “amateurish. How young we were.” Regardless, it is a vitally important piece of Idle Time history. Lists were no longer just midday distractions. Be careful what you jot down, comrade. Mark might turn that sticky-note into a word document. Whoa, Coach: don’t think your casual inclusion of “Madonna” and “shoes” on a list of guilty pleasures is going to be glossed over or forgotten. Suddenly, opinions had validity and decisions were weightier and more consequential than ever.

The promethean light of mp3 versatility enthralled us, and we began burning CDs.

The next few weeks were spent furiously turning any viable list topic into something concrete and shareable. It was exciting. Beginning with the 1960’s, we made compilations of representative tracks from our favorite albums of each decade. Pre-cut CD booklets, glossy labels and a completely superfluous device called a CD Stomper. File-sharing was at its height, and we were firing off computer lasers like a starfight over Tatooine. And, for the first time, coined by yours truly, the name of our instantaneous collective on the cover: The Institute of Idle Time.  Bill and Jim were contributing members back then, and the fervor for curating musical milestones was only just beginning. At the end of 2002, Will dropped off his “What I Heard” game changer mix on our desks…

Next Monday is our tenth anniversary. Some things have changed, some things never will… etc., etc. But I’m excited for what 2012 means for the Institute. As well as the prospects of dropping another game changer on our virtual desktops.

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