This is a favorite time of year for all sorts of reasons.                    
    I enjoy the glitter and glam of the holiday season. I look forward to and love the time we set aside for family and friends. And, as a list-loving American, I can hardly wait for all the various rankings which have already begun coming out. Among them are such goodies as the most significant news stories of the year, most beautiful people, most prestigious schools and such. I have recently encountered a new series regarding 2008 in review from the online search engine Yahoo! — its 10 most searched for items in various categories and overall.
    {mosimage}For me, these lists were a real eye-opener about what interests other people as well as what is going on in our culture that I have missed altogether. Yahoo’s list of what it calls “trends” is hardly scientific. After all, it includes only people who use the Internet and who spend time searching for what interests them. This excludes plenty of folks who do not use the Internet or who belong to the email-word processing only crowd. Nevertheless, what we were collectively interested in this year is fascinating and sometimes surprising. In a huge political year, it is not surprising that President-elect Barack Obama is the most searched for politician. His meteoric rise from an Illinois legislator to a United States Senator to the White House is a tale for the ages. Same for Sarah Palin, who went from national obscurity in faraway Alaska to international celebrity. Farther down the list were Ron Paul, Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney, political wannabees many of us were probably trying to find out who they were. Sadly, our own John Edwards also made the politician list after he disclosed an extramarital affair while his wife was battling cancer.
    Our economy overshadowed much of the year’s news, so what aspect of that were we most interested in? Oil prices? The stock market? Home foreclosures or the AIG bailout package? Nope. We were most interested in the stimulus checks the U.S. Treasury Department announced early in the year. We were dying to know when the checks would be in the mail, with some version of “When will I get my tax rebate check?” coming into Yahoo’s search machine from all around the nation. It turns out, too, that many of us have something in common with the big boy entities seeking bailouts. Number 10 on the economic trend list is “debt consolidation.”
    I had a little jolt when I saw the “Influential Women” category. I expected and found Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama and Katie Couric. Funny and talented as she is, I was nonetheless surprised to see Tina Fey at number six, and I had to do a search myself for Gina Carano, who is number five. For those of you in my shoes, Gina Carano is an undefeated kickboxing champ who found her place in television history in the first primetime fight between women. The jolt came when I saw who was number one among “Influential Women.” None other than Angelina Jolie. Go figure.
    In the “Farewell” category, we cared enough to search for several newly and dearly departeds, including Paul Newman, George Carlin, Tim Russert and Isaac Hayes. The one who interested us most, though, was Heath     Ledger, a young actor who died of an accidental overdose.
    I struggled with the all-important “Celebrity Brat Pack” category, because I recognized only five of the 10 names. Maybe you will have better luck than I did. In order, they are Miley Cyrus, Vanessa Anne Hudgens, Chris Brown, the Jonas Brothers, Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Jamie Lynn Spears, Hayden Panettiere, Zac Efron and Selena Gomez. What did we search for most often in the “News” category? Hurricanes are number one, which I certainly understand. I had to look up number two, Caylee and Casey Anthony, who turn out to be a missing Florida toddler and her mother who is charged with her murder. Number three is Election 2008, reasonably enough, followed in order by Pakistan, the pregnant man, China, Iraq, Shelley Malil — who my search informs me is an actor charged with stabbing an ex-girlfriend more than 20 times, actor Patrick Swazye who is battling pancreatic cancer, and Afghanistan.
    And, finally — drum roll, please, the Top 10 searches across the board for 2008, the topics that moved us to rev up Yahoo’s search engines more often than any others. These I give you in descending order to save our number one interest for last: 10. The TV show American Idol. 9. Angelina Jolie (again). 8. Lindsay Lohan. 7. Naruto, described as the “Web’s most popular fictional character.” 6. Jessica Alba. 5. RuneScape, a computer role-playing game. 4. Miley Cyrus (again). 3. The man set to become the leader of the free world, Barack Obama. 2. The ongoing saga of World Wrestling Entertainment.
    Now for the envelope, please.
    The most searched for words sent to Yahoo during 2008? And the winner is — none other than Britney Spears!!
    Is this a great world, or what?

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