The End Of the Year In Review

Every year about this time at least a dozen people feel the urge to ask me if I've made any New Year's resolutions. And every year I feel compelled to tell them that although Albert Einstein calculated the density of the Milky Way in 1931 he never fully understood the Snickers bar. Heck, it's easier than telling them the truth: that I've never made a New Year's resolution in my life.

Call me un-American (there, aren't you glad you got that out of your system?), but I don't see why I should wake up on January 1 with any further resolve than to brush my teeth, eat a decent breakfast and call my mother to make her proud by telling her that I brushed my teeth and ate a decent breakfast, two things she spent the best 17 years of her life trying to get me to do. Oh and to wish her a Happy New Year.

While it's true people may be asking about New Year's resolutions innocently enough, I suspect they really do it so they can go home, write it in their diary and confront me the next year by saying, "Ah ha! That's what you said last year, yet you're still collecting dryer lint in the hopes of making the Guinness Book of World Records by forming it into a life-size bust of Oprah in her pre-diet days." What's wrong with having goals in life?

Actually, making resolutions may be the least offensive of the New Year's traditions, a loosely related group of annual rituals that includes having Ed McMahon and Dick Clark send me 19 letters offering me the chance to win $10 million, none of which manages to spell my last name right; having the IRS locate my new address even though my best friends didn't know where to send my Christmas cards; and having to read an interminable array of Year in Review, In and Out, and Top Ten articles which appear in every publication released between mid-December and the end of January, apparently by government mandate.

What's so fascinating about rehashing the year we've just escaped is a mystery to me, much like why every female in California above the age of 14 has had a nose job yet the Sphinx -- one of the seven Wonders of the Ancient World -- still looks like an inbred Pekinese after a car wreck. In the last two weeks I've seen annual reviews of 2002's music, TV, art, movies, top news stories, books, tattoos and dryer lint sculptures. I've scanned Top Ten lists of the highest paid actors, funniest TV commercials, most lurid court cases and best Top Ten lists.

Since most of us lived through the previous year and hardly need, or want to be reminded of it, who are these year-end wrap-ups aimed at? The primary targets are those under the age of 1 who didn't have a chance to experience it all first hand, those living in abandoned fallout shelters in our national forests and anyone who doesn't own a radio, television or subscribe to any of the newspapers and magazines that are regurgitating their own contents at the end of the year. This is an endeavor much akin to writing a cookbook for anorexics.

If they really wanted to print something that would be of use they would forget the past and instead publish their predictions for the coming year. While this has traditionally been the domain of the tabloids ("Psychics predict: We will make up a story about a famous person, put it on front page and be sued but not care because we'll have already sold millions of copies!"), there's no reason every newspaper and magazine can't get in on the fun. After all, in the old days they would have had to have known a psychic. Or at least looked in the Yellow Pages between "Psychiatrists" and "Psychologists". But now any editor can pick up the phone and get the lowdown directly from LaToya Jackson's Psychic Connection.

Printing the results would be a great public service. A survey for U.S. News and World Report revealed that nearly six in 10 Americans believe the world will come to an end or be destroyed within a few years. And they were the optimists. Imagine the boost we'd see in the economy when these people read the newspaper and realized that the washing machines, cars and deluxe energy-miser fondue pots that were on their last leg would have to make it through another full year. Why the stores would be jammed!

But there would be an even bigger bonus to getting these predictions, because as long as the editors had the psychics on the line they could find out the answers to some of the century's most baffling mysteries. Like why LaToya's oracles don't call you by name when they answer the phone, how come they can't tell Ed McMahon and Dick Clark the correct spelling of your last name and why people who make New Year's resolutions they know they'll never keep think they're better off than those of us who don't even bother. Oh well, maybe next year.

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