Not so in most other areas of life. Be it TV, movies or music, the rankings are subjective, with offerings appealing to one person and not another. That's not to say there aren't "winners" in those areas as well. People vote for the "Best Comedy" or "Best Actress" or "Best Performance by an Orchestra or Instrumentalist with Orchestra – Primarily Not Jazz or for Dancing" (yes, that was a real Grammy up until 1964), and the winner gets bragging rights and a lovely statue. But more often than not we acknowledge that there can be a set of things that are all good options. It's usually not a zero-sum game, unless you are a second grader or are in the White House.
It's an exercise that reaches its zenith at this time of year. Name an area, and there is a list that some arbitrator has created based on a set of metrics important to them. Type "2018 Best" into your preferred browser, you'll get a dropdown menu with the big ones listed first: best films, best songs, best books. They are the stuff of cocktail chatter, egging you on to debate with dinner companions or drinking buddies as to whether "Black Panther" bests "A Star is Born," if Cardi B is better than Ariana Grande, if "There There" trumps "Circe." (Note that the drinking buddies for that last discussion are likely sipping port, not beer.)
But there are far more beyond those high profile rankings. Take yardwork. As one review begins "It can be tricky with so many choices out here to pick the best backpack leaf blower." In spite of that challenge, multiple sites have named the Husqvarna 350BT as the "Best of 2018." Testers remarked on its increased power, though noting it was also somewhat loud. Interestingly enough, that was the exact same critique in another listing for Lady Gaga in "A Star is Born."
The lists roll on. Best upright vacuum? That would be the Kenmore Elite Pet friendly 31150 which is "no slouch at removing embedded dirt from carpet or tackling pet hair, either." Best Juicer? If you're talking the masticating type, it would be the Omega NC900HDC Juicer Extractor. If you prefer centrifugal juicing (no judging: it's a personal choice), it's the Breville JE98XL Juice Fountain Plus. And in Tamil cinema, a number of critics give the nod to "Pyar Prema Kadhal" partly because of lead actress Raiza Wilson who plays "a character who just cannot seem to make up her mind (in a very Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya Jessie-way)." Want to argue that one?
Of course, if there's a best, there has to be a worst. In the roundup of "Best Foods" from the Minnesota State fair, the winners were grilled peaches, an heirloom tomato and sweet corn BLT, and an UpNorth Puff pastry filled with "snappy porketta sausage, vinegary dill pickles and — why not? — chopped cheese curds." Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, the oxymoronic Top Ten Worst included a pizza/waffle hybrid and a "Rainbow Cloud Roll" which is cotton candy rolled around three scoops of ice cream and filled with Fruity Pebbles." But even that didn't match up to the winner, a "Zesty PB&J Sausage."
To truly be a renaissance man or woman you have to broaden your outlook. Sure, you can give kudos to the Apple Watch as the best way to tell time, or Sony headphones as the best way to listen to music. But if you're a dance enthusiast, I'm here to tell you you would be doing yourself a disservice to not look at a pair of Ryka Influence trainers, rated high in the category of "Best Zumba Shoes." Janet, don't say I'm not looking out for you.
Marc Wollin of Bedford does not have a favorite color. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at http://www.glancingaskance.blogspot.com/, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.