It’s embarrassing to admit this, but we’re into the third week of January and I still haven’t cobbled together one of those obligatory end-of-the-year lists for 2008. I can’t begin to explain how bad this makes me feel.
These lists have become such a staple of the blogosphere that each and every one of us feels obliged to complete one each and every year. You know the sort of thing: My Top 10 Albums of 2008, My Top 10 Films of 2008, My Top 10 Bloody Top 10s of 2008… each one a highly subjective attempt to reduce the year’s cultural and artistic highlights into an ascending or descending sequence of chart positions. It is a dull, arduous and thankless task that we’re forced to do on an annual basis. To put it another way, it’s the blogging equivalent of completing a tax return.
According to some sources, the first year-end Top 10 blog post appeared as far back as 1995, when blogging pioneer Zeppo Connery posted his groundbreaking Top 10 of Dodgy Flash Animation Shorts on a CompuServe bulletin board. This was remarkable for a number of reasons, not least of all because his list was actually compiled prior to the launch of Macromedia Flash and the subsequent wave of late-90s dodgy Flash animation shorts.
Of course, year-end Top 10 lists were in existence long before the advent of blogs and even the Internet. Newspapers and magazines have used them for many decades as a means of filling column inches while staffers spend Christmas with their families. Even the music industry has been known to utilise a similar methodology, regularly using ‘Top 10s’ to track the sales of records over a given period.
According to some sources, however, this tradition of compiling year-end Top 10 list dates back to ancient times. Recent discoveries about the the Mayan Civilisation of pre–Columbian Mesoamerica suggest that their people were decatheistic, that is, while a veritable plethora of Gods and Goddesses were available for worship, only ten of them were ever taken seriously at any one time. This ‘Top 10’ was updated annually, but since the Mayan year was considerably longer than the Gregorian year the process was a lot less bothersome.
This phenomena also seems to have a precedent in the Judeo-Christian tradition. The recent discovery of an apocryphal biblical text suggests that the Ten Commandments, previously believed to be delivered on stone tablets on Mount Sinai, were actually updated on an annual basis:
“And the Lord said unto Moses: Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife and neither shall thou covet thy neighbour’s house, thy neighbour’s ox or thy neighbour’s chart position. And thou shalt not kill shalt be a new entry at number 9, whilst thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour shalt still be a non-mover at number 8.”
Of course, to the modern-day blogger, none of this offers any reassurance. Any failure to reduce the year’s artistic and cultural highlights to a sequence of highly subjective chart entries can result in dire consequences. If you don’t knock out a Top 10 Albums, Top 10 Films or even a bloody Top 10 Top 10s of 2008 you can lose your licence, be exiled from the blogosphere or even find yourself stripped of your hard-earned Technorati points.
I’d better get my finger out, then.