The 25 hottest weblog entries about lists

One of the most perplexing trends in magazine journalism in recent years is the tendency to categorize service articles into definitive lists — the “25 Best Rivers For Kayaking”, for example, or “America’s 10 Most Liveable Cities”. The conceit of such “list journalism”, of course, is that these lists are largely arbitrary — thrown together to appeal to one’s sense that the world is some kind of contest that can be won. As a writer this can be frustrating, as one’s nuanced observations about a complicated world wind up being boiled down to “50 Hot Summer Getaways”.

From a reading standpoint, however, these lists can be exciting, as I discovered when Men’s Journal recently named La Jolla’s Windansea Beach one of the “25 Hottest Beaches in the World”. Since I just spent the month of June living on the shores of Windansea, I felt privileged to read that the “the cradle of San Diego’s storied surf culture — and the setting of Tom Wolfe’s 1968 essay, “The Pump House Gang”, whose fervent watermen tenaciously protect their reef breaks from outsiders — has remained surprisingly under radar.” Somehow, by dumb luck, I appear to have stumbled into beach-scene hipsterdom.

Ironically, I spent one of my afternoons at Windansea last month complaining about this very magazine trend while sea-kayaking with Jim Benning of World Hum. As writers, both of us expressed disdain at “list” articles, which turned ironic when World Hum later made Men’s Journal‘s list of “100 Best Websites For Guys“. As a World Hum contributor, I was happy with this accolade, though the supporting text (a “great place to find out about the newest hot spots before everyone else does” — hardly WH‘s mission statement) made me wonder if the MJ people even read the website that closely. And of course that made me wonder if any of these breathless “list” pieces are all that authoritative.

Whatever case, I will probably continue to hold the tenuous (yet somehow satisfying) position of despising “list” articles on principle, yet approving of them whenever they make my life sound cool. So it goes.

In other magazine-related news, I have created a new blog category — “Catching up with my magazine reading“. This category will include snippets and thoughts from the magazine world — or, at least, the magazine world that I stumble into whenever I return to Kansas to find an enormous stack of New Yorkers and Economists and Harperses and whatnot waiting for me. This huge, backdated stack of magazines is what I get for not keeping a permanent address, but — as I went to the trouble of subscribing to these fine magazines — I always feel like I need to read through them all. I’m hoping that blogging magazine-outtakes will make my periodic periodical bingeing feel more worthwhile. So stay tuned for more.

Posted by | Comments (2)  | July 20, 2004
Category: General

2 Responses to “The 25 hottest weblog entries about lists”

  1. Casey Says:

    Synchronicity almost always makes me feel good. I was browsing your archives today and saw the piece on Dahab and the Trans-Global Beach Nation. It made me feel good to have visited Dahab back in the mid-90s, before you the big invasion. I felt the same way about Dahab as you felt about Windansea; even though Dahab wasn’t part of a list, it has joined the Trans-Global Beach Nation (a selective set) and I was there first.

    I also dislike the trend toward lists, and its cousin–the themed issue. “The BBQ Issue”; “the Beach Issue”; “The Election Issue”; etc.


  2. Jim Says:

    Who would have thought the lists were converging right there in La Jolla, Rolf? Hilarious. The Onion once had a headline that went something like,