It's that time of year again for all the Top Ten lists of movies you never saw, music you never heard, TV shows you never watched and books you never read.
Not that you didn't try. You wanted to see that must-see movie all the critics were talking about at Sundance and Cannes but, like the rest of the movies on their Top Ten list, it never came to your town. Now you can't remember what it was called, just that it sounded wonderful. But you also remember that, three years ago, you went to a movie that was at the top of everyone's Top Ten list and you hated it. Why didn't anyone mention that it was in Dutch with English subtitles?
There were some movies you wanted to see this year but they only stayed at the mall for one week and that was the same week Sally at work was sick and you had to fill in for her. Oddly enough, she saw it. Where does she find the time?
Then there were all the movies that opened Thanksgiving Day. Why didn't you go? Oh yeah, you were busy that week cleaning the house and getting the extra bedrooms ready and shopping for stuffing and preparing a Thanksgiving meal and then cleaning up the mess afterwards — while everyone else went to the movies. Everybody went on Thanksgiving night because the next day was Black Friday and they wanted to shop, not see a movie. Then you got so busy with Christmas cards and making cookies that you still haven't seen any of the new films. You won't be able to go Christmas Day, either, because you'll be on the road to Grandma's house and that thing you ordered for Bob never came in the mail so you've got to get that straightened out, but you kids, you go see something. The kids have got plenty of time to go to movies. They aren't spending any of their free time studying, that's for sure. They act like it's hard to maintain a grade point average of .02. That's worth $50,000 a year. Why is it that when you send kids off to college, they come back stupider than when they left? You wouldn't think it was possible.
You didn't get a chance to hear any of this year's Top Ten songs, either. When you turn on the radio in the car, they never tell you what song you're listening to. You'd really like to know so you'll know what song it is that you're hating. You're just now starting to like stuff that was on 1997's Top Ten list. All the new stuff sounds awful until you've heard it about 50 times. By the time you start to like it, it's an oldie and no one plays it on the radio anymore. So gradually you go back to listening to stuff that was popular when you were in high school. You know you're officially out of touch when you go to the wedding of two 20-somethings and you've never heard any of the songs they're dancing to at the reception.
The Top Ten Books of the Year? Do you know what it means if you sell a million books in the U.S. of A.? It means 309 million people didn't buy it. And very, very few people sell a million books. So making a Top Ten List of Books is like making a Top Ten List of Edible Worms. What's strange is that most small children love books. But when they get to school, we teach them that reading is boring by making them read Shakespeare and Dickens, when we should be "making" them read the Harry Potter and Hunger Games books.
Since there is absolutely nothing that can't be turned into a Top Ten list — Top Ten Back-of-the-Airplane-Seat Magazines, Top Ten Shepherds, Top Ten Roadkill Recipes — you may wonder why there are so many of them. It's so we can go to the office party early. Ours is one of the Top Ten in our building.
Jim Mullen is the author of “It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life,” “Baby’s First Tattoo” and “Now in Paperback.” He can be reached at email@example.com.