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Cheap Shots

LET the reader about to ring in the New Year beware. 'Tis the season to be jolly. But on the down side, 'tis also the season to face up to those year-in-review 10-best (and 10-worst) lists. It's those 10-worst lists that are the problem. At some point, the people in charge of the 10-best lists got bored with leading the applause for the 10 best-dressed men and women, the 10 best movies, and so on. To cut the holiday sweetness, an anonymous grumpy listmaker with a touch of Scrooge in him decided to mix some pans with the picks - a little ``Bah, humbug!'' to go with the three cheers.

Fair enough. Balance is a worthy ideal. But in the years since the first boo rang out, the 10-worst lists have grown in prominence, becoming so popular that they now seem more anticipated than the 10-best lists. Not satisfied with just 10 on a hit list, Spy magazine put out an issue devoted to the year's ``most annoying, alarming, and appalling people, places, and things.''

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Have the bashers taken over?

Alas, the 10-worst lists are getting almost as predictable as the 10-best lists. Does anybody really need to be alerted again that Donald Trump has clay feet, Roseanne Barr possesses a terrible voice and worse taste, and rock stars Milli Vanilli have no voices at all?

These are times hardly free from arrogance, vulgarity, and just plain sleaze. But there's something mean-minded about putting brickbats in snowballs at the holiday season, and then throwing them at the sitting-duck targets of the moment.

It's too late for this year. But as an early New Year's resolution for next year, maybe a one-year truce could be proposed on 10-worst lists before the brickbat tossers throw their arms out. And if the back-patters want to give their arms a rest from 10-best lists, well, that might not be such a bad idea either.

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