Top Ten List
Setting: Bare stage
Ben: I don't get how a top ten list can ever be right. Top ten songs, top ten movies? Who really knows what they are? No one. Not even the top ten experts in the top ten, top-ten categories can really figure all that out. People just want easy facts; they don't want to dig into something. Give them the easy list. Do they ever think what number eleven on the list must feel like? I was debating this very issue with my friend, Helen, a couple weeks ago, and she said...
Helen: It's all just opinion, Ben. Lighten up. Unless you can actually measure something objectively, using commonly accepted means of measurement, you're right; you can't really make a top ten list that is actually anything other than opinion. But why shouldn't people be able to give their opinion in the form of a top ten list? It's just entertainment.
Ben: It's misleading. Most of the time, it's just disguised advertising. I can't stand it. People just get so duped into it. It encourages people to simplify entire histories of art, music, performance, or even worse, natural phenomena or places, into little sound bites. And we eat it up, like little fish... hust one meaningless morsel at a time.
Helen: One morsel at a time isn't meaningless. Over a length of time, you can make a meal out of those morsels.
Ben: No, you can't. You're eating crap. One morsel of crap after another morsel of crap, over a length of time, means you've eaten a lot of crap.
Helen: Oh, come on, you're being too harsh. Relax a bit... (pause) Let's try something.
Ben: (suspiciouly) What?
Helen: You're a big fan of music, right?
Ben: Yeah... so?
Helen: Whoa! Nothing "so" about it, just play along, Ben... you must have favorite songs?
Helen: Like ten favorite songs?
Ben: I knew that was coming! No, the favorite songs change all the time. Even to say that is a little misleading, the songs and my opinions of them are never static... they don't just stop and sit there so I can tally them up.
Helen: Oh, now, you're just saying that to be argumentative.
Ben: No... it's like a quantum thing in my head... the very act of trying to categorize the songs at that level changes my perceptions of the song; so it can't be done. I can't look into the light, without the light looking back, without the light changing into something else entirely.
Helen: How poetic... but, now, for my challenge. Let's count down your top ten favorite songs as of this moment; as if they were nailed down in your mind, as if you took a picture of them lined up...
Ben: The very act of taking the picture...
Helen: (holding up hand) I know, I know... changes the subject of the picture... I know. Please, let's do it this way; I'll count down ten to one, all you have to do is say a song that fits that approximate place in your mind at that approximate time.
Ben: It won't work, Helen.
Helen: Humor me. O.K. You have opinions, that's all I'm asking for.
Ben: But it's dishonest.
Helen: Opinions are never dishonest. Let's try it. I bet you won't be able to resist.
Ben: You'll lose that bet.
Helen: Fine. Let's go... number ten?
Ben: Not interested.
Helen: Number nine?
Ben: (playing along in a very cynical way) Unknowable.
Helen: (humoring him, as if he's named a song) Love that one. Number eight?
Ben: (with a little more difficulty) To be determined.
Helen: Careful, don't commit to anything! Number seven?
Ben: (more difficulty, a little anger) Unclear.
Helen: Number six?
Ben: (frustration growing) Not a chance!
Helen: Number five?
Ben: (getting quite frustrated, looking away a lot, restless, this increases dramatically with each number) Nothing!
Helen: Number four?
Ben: By nobody!!
Helen: Least it's by someone. Number three?
Ben: No! No! No!
Helen: Number two?
Ben: (hands over head, trying to stop himself) Don't do this!!!
Helen: And number one!!?
Ben: (shouting) "Celebrated Summer" by Husker Du!!!!
(Ben starts hitting himself for breaking down, and falling for it, cursing his weakness under his breath)
Helen: Hey! You did it! A Top One List! Only nine more to go! We'll save those for another day, huh?
Ben: (stalking off as lights fade out) I can't belive... I never should have said... Stupid Helen, she tricked me (adlibs)
Helen: (calling offstage after Ben) Hey, Ben! Don't fret about it! It IS a great song!!