Monday, May. 08, 2006

Meet the Other 100

I took a long, careful look at this year's TIME 100, and I came to this conclusion: these people don't matter to my life. I mean, Chinese businessman Huang Guangyu? Egyptologist Zahi Hawass? If it weren't for Balenciaga designer Nicolas Ghesquiere, would my year have been any different? Sure, in that I wouldn't have had to Google Nicolas Ghesquiere. Or Balenciaga.

I asked a bunch of people if these were the 100 people who were most important in their lives this year — and not one of them said yes. I don't know what kind of research Time's editors are doing, but maybe they should get out of the building more. Especially during the hours they have to edit me. But no matter how many times I suggest we focus the TIME 100 on the people who actually affect us — the buyer at Wal-Mart, the office IT person, the two guys who sing the Applebee's Shrimp Sensations song—no one listens to me. And if there's one thing the past few years have taught me, it's that when something needs to be altered, the best thing to do is tear it down and replace it with a shoddily built alternative. That's why I've taken the radical step of coming up with the Joel 100™, a list that I suspect will in a year or two supplant the TIME 100. You can check it out at the TIME website and spend hours reading about exactly who was important to me this year. That might sound ridiculous until you remember that Rupert Murdoch paid $580 million for MySpace.

The first thing I noticed when putting together the Joel 100™ was the same thing you noticed when riffling through this issue: namely, that 100 is way too many. I don't know how I found 130 for my wedding. By No. 65 on my list, I was thinking about how much my wife's waxer means to me. O.K., by 35. I also noticed some very significant differences between the TIME 100 and the Joel 100™. Only one of the TIME 100 has anything to do with food, and none of them directly involve sex — whereas a full 13% of the Joel 100™ have to do with eating, and 4% involve sex, and, trust me, the Joel 100™ was holding back. Any list about important things that doesn't concentrate on food and sex is obviously compromised and full of lies. It is the work of a group of people who want to sell magazines about things other than food and sex. Which is, needless to say, a losing battle.

I decided to steal from my favorite part of the TIME 100, where someone like Tom Cruise writes about director J.J. Abrams. So I got people who mean an awful lot to me to write about other people who mean an awful lot to me. I felt slightly bad about doing this — not because it's hokey and emotionally manipulative but because I'm probably accidentally stealing Mitch Albom's next book. As with the TIME 100, the people approached to do this writing universally considered it a great honor and were very excited. When I asked my wife Cassandra to write about my mother, for instance, she said, "Oh, God."

One of the four people with the distinction of making the TIME 100 and the Joel 100™ was George W. Bush. The President made the Joel 100™ because he lowered my taxes, just like Scott Jeffers, my accountant, who also made the list. The problem was, being a Jew who works in the media and lives in Los Angeles, I didn't know any Republicans to write the Bush entry. Luckily, I remembered that my friend Mike Gorker from high school is now a G.O.P. member. Gorker did the Bush entry in three sentences. If the Time art department had its way, he would be the magazine's main political writer.

I want you to know that this was not an easy process or an exact science. Undoubtedly, blogs will be alight discussing whether certain people really deserved to make the Joel 100™, or if there was some logrolling going on. I deny such accusations. People spent a lot of time on the Joel 100™, and as with all such lists, our intentions were purely academic. This is a brave first stab at history. And if history means Dora at Yuca's Taco stand throws an extra taco in the bag, perhaps the cochinita pibil ones that history finds especially delicious, then history will be very grateful.