MAD DOG: Life Will Be Fine in '99

I spotted the new year coming from a mile away. The first tip off was the note on my Martha Stewart desk calendar to "chop down a tree to make paper for next year's calendar." Then there was the arrival of Christmas -- a pretty strong clue in itself. Next came People magazine's "100 People Whose Movie Studios and Record Companies Bought The Most Advertising So We'd Put Them On Our Cover" issue, which sold briskly in spite of the fact that we all guessed that Leonardo DiCaprio would be number one. But the real clincher was when I blindly stumbled across my first "Year in Review" article. I don't remember what magazine or newspaper it was in but I'm pretty sure it happened in October.Since then I've seen thirty-four Best and Worst of '98 articles, twenty-six Ins & Outs, eighteen Hits and Misses, twelve What's Hot and What's Not, and enough year-end wrap-ups to circle the earth more times than John Glenn's Geritol I.V.There have been articles about the Year in TV, the Year in Music, the Year in Books, and the Year in Movies. I'm sure somewhere there was an article on the Year in Fondue Oil Recycling, the Year in Bellybutton Lint Sculpture, and the Year in Vegetarian Livestock Management. Unfortunately I didn't get to see them because I don't subscribe to all the magazines I'd like, which isn't to say Ed McMahon and Dick Clark aren't sending me plenty of mail trying to remedy that.What bothers me most about these articles is that I get dizzy from the whiplash deja vu. Editors must believe the American public has a very short memory. Think about it, nothing on these lists is over 12 months old! If George Santayana had been forced to live through 1998 I'm sure he would have said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to spend January reading about it over and over and over."That's why the only year-end articles worth reading are the tabloids' predictions for 1999. At least these look ahead. While the Year in Review reminds us that 229 people died when Swissair Flight 111 went down in Nova Scotia ("Honey! Guess what happened last September while we were watching reruns of the Bob Hope Christmas Special?"), the Weekly World News is more likely to give us a glimpse into the future by informing us that a talking dog will run for mayor of Guthrie, Oklahoma (though it doesn't say whether it will win). And while it's nice to reminisce about how El Niño brought us more rain, harsh weather, and news stories than any weather system since Noah's flood, isn't it going to do you more good to know that before she died a couple of years ago, psychic and astrologer Jeane Dixon, predicted that one of President Clinton's old girlfriends of will be found dead in the Lincoln Bedroom and Hillary will be a prime suspect?For a nation of people who turn to the morning horoscope before Ann Landers, I'm confused by this preoccupation with the past. Sure, like most Americans I occasionally long for the good old days of the Cold War, the threat of nuclear attack, Vietnam, and polio. But then I stop and remind myself that to go back to those days also means having to put up with Jerry Lewis movies, Dan Quayle, and Tiffany all over again.So I suggest that we forget the past. Okay, maybe we shouldn't actually forget it, but for 1999 -- as a trial run -- we could just pretend it's not the most important thing in our lives. We can ignore the 105th and 106th sessions of Congress, the Starr Report, every Billboard Top 100 before the first one this year, and for those 13 of you who saw it, the movie remake of Lolita. Then we can live our lives to their fullest and look forward to January of 2000 when there will be 238 Year in Review articles, 115 lists of the Ins and Outs, and God-knows-how-many itemizations of What's Hot and What's Not in the Coming Millennium. Who says there's nothing to look forward to?

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