Discerning readers of the "progressive blogosphere" will likely have noticed a growing tendency to title articles in the form of "Top 10 Best..." or "10 Reasons to..." or "10 Ways to a Better..." Not only does this subtle push to headline articles in such a manner impact the habits of readers, but encouraging this sort of framework affects the ways that writers craft their essays. The resultant linearization of our attention spans and creative impulses alike is a disturbing trend that merits serious critical attention.
But you won't find that here today. Instead, I'd like to explore this practice in such a way as to (hopefully) wear it out altogether. This may well be the last "10 Best..." article I ever write, and I feel compelled to do so with a methodology that is commensurate with the level of the trend itself. In other words, I am going to mock it mercilessly, in a vain attempt to render this one of the year's "Top 10" pieces. I might dislike the tendency to quantify and rank, but since it exists I would at least like to be good at it!
Here, then, is my personal list of alternate-reality "10 Best"-type articles. Feel free to dispute, dispel, disregard, or otherwise dismiss any or all of these. In fact, that's precisely what we ought to do when we encounter a real "Top 10" article passing as serious journalistic commentary. 'Nuff said... almost.
10 Best Places to Bury Your Head in the Sand, by Carmen Gettit
From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli, we've got your number -- ten, to be exact -- of places to get away from it all. Why bother with all of life's trials and tribulations when you can experience a magical trip to the land of denial? Let others worry about melting down and rising up, while you bask in the glory of blissful ignominy on the Jersey Shore. Let someone else give a crap, while you shoot craps in the backwaters of Monte Carlo. The sky may be falling -- so why not get a great tan?
9 Signs That Corporations Know You Better Than You Do, by Jorge Andwell
Like you, we are so tired of all that incessant typing of, you know, words and stuff when searching online for a good burrito shop or a place to get waxed after winter. Luckily, there's Google, Bing, Yahoo, and the rest of the serious-sounding search engines to complete your requests at the touch of a key. How did they know what you were thinking? Through the miracle of postmodern science, your every desire is now thoroughly market-tested and mass-manufactured before you even knew it existed! Yes, we can, and do.
8 Reasons Why Fast Food Can Help Save the World, by Josh Kidden
Health food is so five minutes ago. Turns out that eating well is expensive, selfish, elitist, and boring. Hungry? Stop, drop, and shop at any of our 20,000 locations! Just think of the opportunities for mutual understanding and cultural exchange when everyone is eating the same thing wherever you go. No more tiresome translating and obsessing over labels -- how bad could it be when it tastes this good? From Sheboygan to Shanghai, the familiar smells of comfortable food are on every corner. Have it our way!
7 Lessons on Where to Invest Your Nonexistent Savings, by Rebekka Boom
The doomsayers were wrong on this one -- the economy is healthy and your future is safe. In a bygone day, it was a real headache to protect investments; now, with your shares devalued and pension busted, you can focus on the things that really matter in life. Our crack staff has compiled these lessons on investing in today rather than waiting for a tomorrow that may never come. You are the future, and the best place to put your money is right back into yourself! From Abercrombie to Zales, money still talks...
6 Worst Reasons to Give Peace a Chance, by Ivan Lenin
We all know that peace is the universal desire of humankind, yet can never be attained in our lifetimes -- or ever, when you get right down to it. Human nature is what it is, and has always been so. Peace might have its appeal when compared to the harsh realities of war -- but a world without conflict would be, quite frankly, really boring. The only reasons left to pursue peace at this point are merely utilitarian: making a buck on it, fooling others to drop their dukes, hooking up, sleep, etc. That's all we are saying.
5 Dumbest Excuses for Plundering a Nation's Wealth, by Karla Grove
Did you hear the one about the king who was kindhearted, noble, charitable, easygoing, and friendly to all nations of the world? Of course not -- such a fool wouldn't even merit a footnote in the history books. Every ruler has to have blood on their hands in order to be taken seriously; umpteen wars have been started for just such a reason. The other major cause of war is even more base: to take other peoples' stuff. It's really for their own good, because they wouldn't know how to manage it anyway. QED.
4 Simple Ways to a Better Near-Death Experience, by Stan Trick
Let's face it: you've been mailing it in at work, your current relationship is going nowhere, and you're ready for a major life-changing experience. What could be more radically different than dying for a little while? Our experts have lined up the best in controlled near-death adventures to rejuvenate your spark for life! From oxygen deprivation to induced comas, we've got the 411 on all your ultimate escapist fantasies. Just think of the cocktail-party stories you'll be telling after this - and today only, 2-for-1!
3 Burning Itches That Can Never Be Scratched, by Hugh Betcher
One of the problems with civilization is that it's too good at satisfying all of our needs. This is so totally true that our desires always seem to be magically met by whatever is rolled out as "the next big thing." With such an elegant system, why bother rocking the boat? Well, some malcontents complain about bogus concepts like "hegemony" and the "linearization of desire." For them, we've got wants that can never be met and ills with no cure. Radiation, anyone? Runaway climate? Perpetual war? -- happy now?
2 Political Parties Favored to Win This Year's Elections, by Dee Tweedle
Our panel of blue-ribbon experts struggled mightily over this one, and nearly came to blows in the process. By the time it was all over, the melee had resulted in a plurality decision about the future of American politics. While there were many fine contenders to consider, at the end of the day we decided to go with what our crossword puzzle editor cryptically referred to as the "Corporate Classic" answer. And so, we are pleased to announce our prediction that the Democrats and Republicans will prevail...
1 Top Way That Obama is Meaningfully Different than Bush, by Tolya Sew
Like you, we fell willingly into the abyss of "hope and change" in 2008. It's not because we didn't know any better -- shades of "a town called Hope," guys? -- but mostly because we would've bought just about anything if it meant shaking off the utter despair of the Bush-Cheney regime. As cynical as we might be, it's still hard to believe that Big O has gone straight ahead with bank bailouts, troop surges, drill baby, big brother, et al. Even repealing DADT was a crass ploy for cannon fodder. But hey, at least he's black.
Whew, I feel much better now! I hope that it's been just as stimulating for you. In fact, I'm positively counting (to ten) on it...