Will's Coffee House

John Dryden, Dramatist, Critic, Poet Laureate, and my ancestor, frequented a coffee house called Will's almost daily, where he would hold forth on sundry subjects with great wit and aplomb. Same deal here, only without the wit or aplomb.

Location: Large Midwestern City, Midwestern State, United States

I am a stranger in a sane land...

Friday, October 08, 2004

Top Ten List

Ian Shoales (the misanthropic public persona of Merle Kessler) said that he hated Top Ten Lists--that they were shorthand for the smart, and guideposts for the stupid. And yet, as viewers/readers of High Fidelity will recall, there's something addictive about them. Letterman has done, as he remarked the other night, over 4000 shows (including, one assumes, his years on "Late Night With"), and the Top Ten List remains a popular fixture still, arguing mightily for the durability of the format. Plus, they're a cheap and easy method of conversational bomb-throwing--say, in a list of "Top Ten Films of All Time," you squeeze One Night at McCool's between Seven Samurai and Citizen Kane--by God, you're gonna hear about it. It's the perfect tool for the loathsome, reptilian blogger.

So who am I to resist?

Let's see: How about...hmm...Top Ten Revoltingly Overrated Cultural Phenomena? In no particular order:

10. The Pennant Race. A lot of attention being paid to that these days, but really folks, if the Cubs or the Red Sox don't win the Pennant and The Series, who really gives a good god-damn?

9. The Oscars. As I've implied before, the median age of the Academy Voter is roughly 687 years. (Sorry, 687 years young. Wouldn't want to appear age-ist.) These are not people who are open to, shall we say, films that contradict decades of preconceptions--the collective view that Playing Gimps and Retards is Hard and Therefore Better Acting, and Long Historical Movies Are Good and Comedies Are Bad. Put it this way: Titanic and Forrest Gump won Best Picture. Citizen Kane and Rear Window did not. I rest my case. So, again, who really gives a good god-damn?

8. The Olympics. I know I've already ragged on them, but let's do it again. Let's stop pretending that it's about "All the Nations of the World Coming Together in Peace to Celebrate the Purity of the Athletic Experience." It's all about international d--k-swinging, and which American will win a gold in a high-profile event in order to get the endorsement deals waiting back in the States. Oh, and about which African will win the Marathon--though I confess an admiration for this accomplishment--the impoverished nations of Sub-Sahara may not be able to afford any kind of training facilities for their athletes, but when all you need to train is a pair of legs and an open road, my GOD do they show their stuff. Still, four months after the fact, who gives a good god-damn? Except those poor 12-year-old gymnasts and figure-skaters, whose lives have peaked prior to menstruation. Good luck on having a happy life, girls. See you in the mug shot after you crash your car in the getaway from the liquor store hold-up.

7. Every Single Popular Musician Ever. Maybe one or two exceptions to this. But even with a group like the Beatles, you can't help but watch those New York girls screaming and screaming and screaming at the airport when the Fab Four get off the plane, and fainting at the Ed Sullivan show, and think "Jesus--it's just the friggin' Beatles, folks!" This goes double for Elvis, the Stones, Zeppelin. Don't even get me started on the Dead. People who were devasted when Cobain shot himself seriously needed to step back and say, "Well, Nevermind was a good album, but it's not like it changed my life or the world." And never mind the groups/performers that really, really suck--I won't waste your time taking cheap shots at Britney, or Christine, or Beyonce--who actually has the revolting nerve to go mono-nominative. I like lots of current musicians--I think Alanis Morrissette is quite witty, I think David Bowie still has interesting things to say and do, I think there's a lot of relatively talented people out there. But so what if I do--it's my own taste, and it doesn't make them any good. I also like Dodger Dogs and Taco Bell nachos--doesn't make them haute cuisine. It's like Gilbert & Sullivan, folks. It may not be easy to do what they did; nobody else could have written The Mikado--but that doesn't make it deep or meaningful. Pop music is just something to make the car-ride more bearable when you're stuck in traffic. Let it go.

6. Bragging About Your Native City. This is especially true of Americans. Frankly, thanks to McDonald's, Starbucks, Target, and the Multiplex, your city is no different from any other. I can have the exact same experience in New York as I can have in Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, etc.--we are all the same city, now. So stop pretending, New Yorkers, that yours is the greatest city in America--it isn't. It's crowded, noisy, filthy, and hostile. It has moderately good museums and libraries, a zoo, a big park, and lots of crazy people cadging change and screaming about the electronic elves sending microwaves into their brains through their foil-lined underwear. In short, it is exactly like every other major city in America. Stop deluding yourself into imagining you're unique. You're not. Let it go.

5. Children. Shame on you if you have them, my pity for you if you don't. Yes, we must propogate the species, I suppose, but stop stop stop talking about how wonderful they are. I know, I know, you truly, truly believe that your child is the exception, that your child is the good one. You're wrong, and if you doubt me, look at the face of the person on the plane who has to sit next to your child. Not happy, is he? Wonder why? Because children suck. All of them. Even yours. I recognize that you are genetically hard-wired to love and adore and worship your child, and I suppose it's just as well that you do, because if you didn't, you'd realize what we all know: your child is nothing more than a shaved monkey: loud, obnoxiously curious, uncontrollable in temper and in toilet habits, and amusing only from a distance and behind bars.

4. Celebrations of patriotism. Not only is it the last refuge of a scoundrel, it's like being proud to be subject to gravity--not exactly a major accomplishment, that whole "having mass" thing. Being born in a certain country had nothing to do with you--being an American (something we hear far too much of in this post 9/11 era) is not an achievement. It's basically a product of inertia. You stayed put. Good for you. So does the mold underneath my fridge--yet nobody writes songs of the mold's nobility. Only people who actually make their country a better place get to tout their patriotism. That narrows down the list of appropriate patriots to about 4. And you don't know any of them because, being true patriots, they're humble and don't want to tout their own achievements when they know they owe it all to their country. You're American. Big deal--you're also an a--hole, and that is something you had a lot to do with, and I don't hear you bragging about that.

3. High Fashion. I don't think I need to waste anyone's time on this one. Let's move on, shall we?
2. Getting Sober/Kicking Drugs/Losing A Lot Of Weight. Yay for you. And frankly, so what? If I drop a plate of cookies on the kitchen floor and make a mess, and then I clean it up, I don't expect a round of hugs and a movie of the week and the cover of People. I made the damn mess, so of course I cleaned it up. If you chose to f--k up your life and the lives of those around you and then you decide to stop, that's not an applause-worthy event, that's just par. The minimum. I'm much more impressed by those who were careful enough not to f--k up in the first place. So we're happy you're not an embarassing mess anymore, really. But don't become an equally embarassing self-advertisement for Going Clean--the rest of us were able to eat and drink and ingest sensibly, and we're going to continue, so bite us, loser.

1. The Jihad Against Smoking. Jesus, people, it's smoke, it's not gaseous mercury. Why we've allowed ourselves to turn into a nation of complete and utter cowards and ninnies over this subject baffles and infuriates me. Whatever happened to "Smoking or Non-Smoking"? A choice: simple, clean-cut, not judgmental. Sure, smoking is bad for the smoker, but since the science on second-hand smoke is anecdotal at best, what the hell? I'm not a smoker myself, but I'm embarassed by those who choose to speak for me--I really don't mind if I'm at a bar and someone next to me lights up--I'm at a bar, for Chrissakes, I'm clearly not there for my health. You want a non-smoking gym? Fine. But what's up with "You can't smoke on this plane, but here's all the free booze and wine you can pound, Mr. First-Class Passenger"? You know who I blame for this? Parents. "Not in my baby's lungs, you don't!" You know what? I take it back--this Top Ten List SHOULD be in a particular order--just so I could put Children first. But really, that's not quite fair. It isn't just Children who are the problem. It's the second-hand Children they create, also known as Parents. Now those people really suck...


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