Friday, December 30, 2011

Top Ten Anti-Historical Characteristics of Top Ten Lists

10. What were your top ten seven minute walks of the year? Top ten mornings you woke up stressed about the day ahead? Top ten minor injuries that no one really knows about but acutely bothered you for a week or two?

9. Top ten awkward eye contacts with a stranger on the subway? Top ten mundane conversations with a coworker that you really wish you had skipped? Top ten moments of borderline suicidal depression?

8. The top ten list is a stopper in time, an anti-historical historical marker that produces what Debord referred to as psuedocyclical time.

7. "Pseudocyclical time is in fact merely a consumable disguise of the production system’s commodified time. It exhibits the latter’s essential traits: homogenous exchangeable units and suppression of any qualitative dimension. But as a by-product of commodified time whose function is to promote and maintain the backwardness of everyday life, it is loaded with pseudovalorizations and manifests itself as a succession of pseudoindividualized moments."

6. The top ten list is a key (anti)intellectual breaking of historical continuity by making the arbitrary calender year appear as a somehow relevant or meaningful aggregation of time and experience.

5. The top ten list encourages a particular form of acceptable nostalgia for past consumption, a nostalgia that reoccurs conspicuously simultaneous with the celebratory consumption period of the Holidays. The top ten list teams up with the always "anti-climatic" New Years Eve party and the ironically-indulged-in-but-designed-to-fail New Year's resolution to make the repetition of the same psuedo-experiences year after year after year seem historically differentiated.

4. The top ten list is often used to discuss cultural consumption: consumed, the film/book/blog post/song has become not a continuing art object which moves with us into the present and colors our experience, but rather becomes a singular (and hierarchichally rankable) past experience whose value becomes primarily its ability to appear on a top ten list for the year.

3. The top ten list functions to produce an anxiety about what cultural products or experiences were not had: this anxiety leads to, of course, consumption (maybe I should go see those movies after all!) and self-recrimination ("God I barely saw any great movies at all this year! I'm such a phony.")

2. The psuedo-rationality of the number ten (we operate in a base ten mathematics, after all) and the idea that a list of ten things can include all of the meaningful information helps to reproduce hierarchical and exclusive notions of the value of experience. Resistance to the idea of the top ten, then, can only think in terms of expanding the list (ten isn't enough! We need 20! 30! One hundred!), turning any grappling for meaning into a squabble over how many paper cuts are needed in order to kill the year.

1. The top ten list, then, functions to destroy any actual historical value of the experiences had over the 365 days by making those experiences 'history' in two senses: in the colloquial sense that gangsters use to mean dead, inert; and in the grade-school sense: something that happened, is over and is only of interest as a date or part of a pattern of progress. The top ten list takes events, products and experiences and makes them points on a time line in order to end any possibility of their continuing to exist meaningfully beyond January 1st.

0. The top ten list's relevance and production ends at the precise moment of its reenactment as the year-ending countdown. Dick Clark will ruin your shit. Till next year, fuckers!

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