An idea came to me this morning while riding along on the train looking at all the folks around me and noting with what can best be regarded as knowing disappointment that, though many of them were, in fact, reading, most of those that were reading were reading terrible, useless trash books or one of the many dailies not worth their newsprint. And this got me to thinking. While I regard reading to be an inherent good, I don't know that I would considered reading anything better than reading nothing. It depends on what one is doing instead. On the subway they tend to be fucking around with their cell/ipod, sleeping, or staring off into space. But the wider issue remains. Is reading a terrible work of the most slapdash fiction (or fanfic, or some other manner of unedited doggerel) better than watching a good film? Is it better than watching a mindless film? Or reality tv? And while these questions are at best open-ended and more important for the thinking they inspire than the answers they request, it got me to another point: is anything we are doing re: media in America (at least large scale and popularity-wise) 'good'? Thus, the Top 5.
Currently on The New York Times Bestseller List (as of 11/14/08):
1. Divine Justice, by David Baldacci.
2. Salvation in Death, by J. D. Robb.
3. Swallowing Darkness, by Laurell K. Hamilton.
4. The Gate House, by Nelson DeMille.
5. Extreme Measures, by Vince Flynn.
(via The New York Times)
Currently On Billboard (week of 11/22/08):
1. "Live Your Life", T.I. feat. Rihanna
2. "Whatever You Like", T.I.
3. "Hot N Cold", Katy Perry
4. "Heartless", Kanye West
5. "If I Were A Boy", Beyonce
(via Billboard Hot 100)
Currently at the Box Office (weekend of Nov. 14, 2008):
1. Quantum of Solace
2. Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa
3. Role Models
4. High School Musical 3: Senior Year
Currently on Television (week of Nov. 3, 2008):
1. 60 Minutes (CBS)
2. CSI (CBS)
3. Dancing with the Stars (ABC)
4. NBC Sunday Night Football (NBC)
5. Dancing with the Stars Results (ABC)
(thanks to Nielsen)
I would have put in a Top 5 of Video Games, but I can't find a comprehensive list of the best-selling titles in the U.S. Market.
Having now compiled theses lists, what indeed do I intend to do? I have read none of the listed books, seen none of the listed movies or TV episodes, heard none of the listed songs. It would be more than presumptuous to write them all off immediately. And I certainly don't have the time/money/desire to actually look into all of them. I suppose I could compare best-selling lists to critical review lists and see how they match up. My estimation is that most of them would not match up quite as well. And it is not like I put my full faith in the critics, either. So I guess it was more of something to do to pass the time. This is what is popular in America, now. And, given that of all the listed items I only desire to see two of the movies, I think that the most useful information gathered this morning was how far away from best-selling lists my tastes tend to fall. But I already knew that.