When Modern Ferret magazine named the "Ferret of the Century," I realized that this thing had gone way too far.
Every year at this time, magazines churn out their special year-end issues. This year, they also churned out decade-end issues, century-end issues and millennium-end issues. It's the kind of harmonic convergence that comes only once in a lifetime, thank God.
Millennial fever drove magazine editors into a frenzy of list-making. U.S. News & World Report picked the "Crimes of the Century." American Lawyer listed "The Lawyers of the Century." Ski listed "The 100 Most Influential Skiers of the Century." Cigar Aficionado named "The Top 100 Cigar Smokers of the Twentieth Century." Skeptical Inquirer named "The 10 Outstanding Skeptics of the Twentieth Century." And Biography mag pulled out all the stops, naming "The 10 Most Beautiful Women of the Decade," "The 50 Most Famous People of the Century" and "The 100 Most Important People of the Millennium."
Meanwhile, Aquarium Fish gave us "100 Years of Fishkeeping," Shooting Times named "The Autoloading Shotgun of the Century," American Enterprise identified "The Mistake of the Century" ("centralization of political and economic power"), and Kid City, the magazine of the Children's Television Workshop, named the cockroach the "official bug of the year 2000" because they "can live through almost anything--except being squished."
Working tirelessly to make sense of all this stuff, the entire staff of The Magazine Reader gathered at a secluded rural retreat and pored through magazines until our eyes glazed over and our brain turned to mush. Then we banged out this Special Millennium Edition of the Annual Year-End Best and Worse of Year-End Best and Worst Issues:
Best Photo in a Millennium Issue: Discover's cover shot of Albert Einstein cracking up.
Goofiest Photo in a Millennium Issue: Modern Ferret ran a two-page shot of the Ferret of the Century (the Budweiser Ferret) wearing a smoking jacket and clutching a rose in its teeth.
Least Arguable Choice for a Millennium Award: MHQ, the Quarterly Journal of Military History, named the atomic bomb as the "Most Effective Weapon."
Most Arguable Choice for a Millennium Award: David Chase, creator of "The Sopranos," told Rolling Stone that the song "Over the Rainbow" is "the superior work of modern times. . . . You get everything that every philosopher and writer tried to say--it's right there."
Most Predictable Prediction in a Millennium Issue: Glamour prophesied the coming of an orgasm pill, "red-hot" sex robots and something called "Cyber-Dildonics."
Most Depressing Prediction in a Millennium Issue: In Playboy, pop futurist Faith Popcorn prophesied the shopping of the future: "We'll be watching 'Ally McBeal' (or another show), like what Ally's wearing, put our hand on the screen to stop the program, and order the clothes, furniture, even the dog right off the screen."
Most Depressing Revelation in a Millennium Issue: "In looking back at the past 100 years," U.S. News noted, "one thing stands out: Man's capacity for cruelty seems fairly constant."
Most Wildly Poetic Prose in a Millennium Issue: In the essay that accompanied Playboy's "Centerfolds of the Century," novelist D. Keith Mano described each of the 100 winners in prose that soared to orgasmic heights: "She looks like a bureau with the top two drawers pulled out . . . a grin that could power a breeder reactor . . . as clean and precise as the Swiss civil code . . . stunning as an oil field blowout . . . ." Maybe it's time for a cold shower, D. Keith.
Best Proof That Our Species Has Come a Long Way in This Millennium: Esquire revealed that "one commonly prescribed remedy for the black death was piercing your testicles."
Best Proof That Our Species Still Has a Long Way to Go: Harper's revealed the "estimated number of people today who live on less than $30 a month: 1,300,000,000."
Best Suggestion for a Song of the Century: In Rolling Stone, Jimmy Buffett nominated "Lawyers, Guns and Money" by Warren Zevon. "That song about sums up the century."
Best Animal-Related Millennium Issue: Dog Fancy's "100 Great Dog Moments of the Century" chronicled everything from the invention of the dog biscuit to the founding of the world's first "pet-loss support hotline." Reading this issue, you can't help but conclude that dogs had a better century than we did.
Best Explanation by an Editor for Not Publishing a Special Millennium Issue: "You can chalk this up to laziness, incompetence or just a general millennial ennui," wrote Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter. "I prefer the last explanation."
Most Useful Issue for Shutting Up Those Tiresome People Who Say It's Not Really the End of the Millennium: Scientific American called its December issue the "End-of-the-Millennium Special Issue." If Scientific American says it's the end of the millennium, that's good enough for us.
Best Millennium Parody Issue: The New Republic, not normally a font of mirth, published a hilarious anti-millennium issue. On the cover, the headline "The Millennium Dawns" sits on a photo of three people sound asleep on a bench. Inside, there are parodies of millennial lists. For instance: "TNR's Top Two Types of Water Faucet of the Millennium: 1) Cold 2) Hot." And then the editors made the best self-consciously idiotic millennium award of any magazine: They named Rep. Dick Armey "Man of the Millennium."
Public Service Award for Bringing a Sense of Perspective to This Whole Ludicrous Millennium Flapdoodle: Life revealed that what we call the year 2000 is the year 2543 for Buddhists, 1420 for Muslims, 1921 for Hindus, 4697 for the Chinese, 1993 for Ethiopians, 5119 for Mayans and 5760 for Jews.
And finally, The Millennium Issue Cover Line of the Millennium: Nickelodeon, the children's magazine: "Let's Potty Like It's 1999." (The date is X'ed out and replaced with 2000.)