EDITOR: So The Stranger doesn't like Seattle Weekly's "Best of Seattle" issue. I'll admit that the Weekly's "Best of Seattle" issue is exceedingly lame, pretty much pointless, and usually unreadable. So what does The Stranger do? "Best of Our Advertisers in Seattle 2002"--a parody of the issue. Funny? Yes. But not ambitious. Why not show the Weekly and the world how it's done and do your own "Best of Seattle" issue? One that's cool and exciting? Instead of making fun of their "Best of Seattle" issue, you guys should have the courage to do your own "Best of Seattle" issue.

No, wait... then you would have to write sincere things about what you like about this town. It's so much easier to mock and belittle, isn't it?

Drew Shaub, via e-mail

DAN SAVAGE RESPONDS: Our own "Best of Seattle" issue? Hm... interesting....

But first, on the kissing-advertiser-butt scale, the Weekly's "Best of Seattle 2002" issue was off the charts. A brave new low. Let me draw your attention to the winner in the "Best Luxury Car Dealership" category. Did I say winner? I meant winners, plural. The owners of Seattle Weekly would have us believe that their readers simply couldn't pick one winner in the hotly contested "Best Luxury Car Dealership" category. After counting and recounting the ballots, there were two--count 'em, two!--winners (and potential advertisers) in this category! Congratulations to Barrier Motors and Phil Smart Mercedes-Benz!

Okay, on to your question, Drew. Why don't we do our own "Best of Seattle" issue? The short answer: because we like being able to sleep at night, thanks.

The long answer: "Best of..." is sues are the crack cocaine of the alternative-weekly industry, i.e., addictive (for sales staffers), and deadly (for editorial staffers). It's true that most alt-weeklies in the United States and Canada do annual "Best of..." issues, and most cities with two competing alt-weeklies are subjected to two "Best of..." issues. San Francisco gets slapped with a "Best of the Bay" (Bay Guardian) and a "Best of SF" (SF Weekly); New York City has to endure a "Best of New York City" (Village Voice) and a "Best of Manhattan" (New York Press). If we did our own "Best of..." issue, Seattle could enjoy two exhaustive, lengthy, advertiser-friendly feature packages devoted to the "best"--or the "best known"--record stores, clubs, shops, restaurants, and service-providers.

But you know what? While advertisers love "Best of..." issues, most editors of weekly papers know in their heart of hearts that very few people actually read the things. And why should people read them? "Best of..." is a lie. Awards don't go to the "best," they go to the best known, which is why in every "Best of..." all over the country, decent and perfectly average chain pizza places win "Best Pizza" year after year, while relatively unknown, completely superior, and brand-new indie pizza places do not. So one very important reason we don't do our own "Best of..." issue is because ordering writers to crank out tens of thousands of words that no one will read--or that they hope no one will ever read (pity the poor Weekly staffer who had to crank out "Best New Restaurant" for the Cheesecake Factory)--isn't something I want to do when I get to work in the morning.

So why doesn't The Stranger reinvent the "Best of..." genre, and do one that's cool and exciting and has some editorial integrity? Because it can't be done. It's simply impossible. "Best of..." can't be redeemed--there's not a single kernel of editorial integrity in the whole ugly "Best of..." business. "Best of..." issues were conceived as advertising gimmicks, they remain advertising gimmicks, and they always will be advertising gimmicks. And for the record, Drew, The Stranger does print positive pieces--every week--about things we like: arts events, businesses, local politicians, random shit. When we find something we like in Seattle--something cool and exciting--we write about it right away.

While it's not a mystery why the folks who own weekly papers order editors to churn out "Best of..." issues (it's the money, honey), it is somewhat baffling that advertisers fall for "Best of..." issues. But while most editors are painfully aware that "Best of..." issues aren't widely read, I don't suppose that's what advertisers are told by salespeople who work on commission. They're told that the city anticipates "Best of..." issues, that people hang on to them, and that putting an ad in a "Best of..." issue will get them noticed. Psst! Don't tell the winners or the advertisers, but very few people notice ads next to editorial content that no one reads.

But advertisers in Seattle, God bless 'em, appear to be catching on. In 1999, the Weekly's "Best of Seattle" issue was 240 pages; in 2000 it was 236; 2001, 208, and this year it was 192. Who knows? Maybe two more years' worth of shrinking "Best of..." issues and the Weekly will drop the whole empty charade and we'll have to find some other reason to mock them. Like, oh, the Weekly's fall fashion issue or their bridal issue or their garden issue or their four annual holiday gift guides or their special features about couches and tourist traps or their "sexiest Seattleites" issue--no, wait, that last one's ours....

So, Drew, that's why we won't do a "Best of Seattle" issue--not with a straight face, at least. Or, shit, maybe we mock the Weekly's "Best of..." issue every year because I'm bitter. The Weekly used to give "Best of..." awards for "Best Local Columnist" and "Best Writer at a Weekly Paper," until I won both awards one year. They haven't risked giving an award in either category since.

Oh, and I never got my plaques, which I'm still pretty peeved about.

DEPT. OF CORRECTIONS: Due to a production error last week, many beloved advertisers were accidentally left out of our "Best of (Our Advertisers in) Seattle 2002" issue. We, of course, regret the error, and in an effort to fully express just how much we love and cherish all of our advertisers, below are the winners missing from last week's issue.

Best Advertiser Selling Strands of Dreams: Dreamstrands; Best Advertiser Who Hosts the "Bun Fun Run": Fraternity Snoqualmie; Best Advertiser with a Fabulous Patio: Harbor Place Restaurant; Best Advertiser Employing Maria, the Kindest Hair Stylist in Town: Paradyne Salon; Best Advertiser Employing a Man Called Sprite: Racha Thai; Best Advertiser Selling Yummy Quesadillas with Spinach in Them: Tacos Guaymas; Best Advertiser Helping You Find a Great Date in Seattle: Seattle Great Date; Best Advertiser Selling Love Potions: The Herbalist; Best Advertiser Who Routinely Brings Great, Weird Art to the Pacific Northwest and Employs Charles Smith in Its Audience Services Dept.: On the Boards; Best Advertiser Selling Slick Hipster Clothes on First Avenue in Belltown: Moda Xpress; Best Advertiser Whose Name Is an Anagram of "Avec Thick Gin": Vintage Chick; Best Advertiser Who'd Be Happy to Rent You a Kayak: NWOC Seattle; Best Advertiser Offering Glass-Blowing Classes in Ballard: Art by Fire; Best Advertiser Whose Owner Has a Pretty Wife Named Miki: Claudio's; Best Advertiser Whose Business Is Situated in a Cool Old House: Horizon Books; Best Advertiser Who's Always Packed for Sunday Brunch: Julia's in Wallingford; Best Advertiser Selling Kegs to Go: K's Beverage House & Deli; Best Advertiser Named after a Greil Marcus Book: Lipstick Traces; Best Advertiser Selling Cute-Ass Mexican Folk Art in Post Alley: Milagros; Best Advertiser Specializing in Italian Motorcycles: Moto International; Best Advertiser Employing a Super-Sweet Boy Named Kelly: Mount Analogue; Best Advertiser Making Vegetarianism Delicious and Easy: Sunlight Café; Best Advertiser Providing Succor and Advocacy for Queer Survivors of Abuse: Northwest Network; Best Advertiser Selling Cool East Indian Exports: Travelers; Best Advertiser Whose Name Sounds Like an Apartment Building but Is Really a Sunday Community Market: University Heights; Best Advertiser Offering Styles by Merritt: In Style by Merritt; Best Advertiser Researching That Crick in Your Neck: UW Medical Center Whiplash Research Study; Best Advertiser Utilizing the Word "Fadó": Fadó Irish Pub; Best Advertiser Suggesting You Experience Shoes: Experience Shoes; Best Advertiser Named after a Notorious District: Red Light; Best Advertiser Named after a Notorious One-Eyed Monster: Cyclops; Best Advertiser Probably Not Selling Eyes in Fremont: Eyes on Fremont; Best Advertiser Whose Name Rhymes: Theater Schmeater; Best Advertiser Intentionally Misspelling the Word "Orifice": Aurafice Internet Café; Best Advertiser Whose Delicious Pizza Has Often Rescued Us from Being Way Too Drunk Way Too Early in the Evening: Hot Mama's Pizza; Best Advertiser Using the Name Artemis: Artemis Gallery; Best Advertiser Offering Both a Greeting and a Pleasant Affirmation in Its Moniker: Hello Gorgeous; Best Advertiser Who Wants to Teach You How to Blow: Seattle Glassblowing Studios; Best Advertiser Offering Theater Done Simply: Theater Simple; Best Advertiser Featuring Someone Named Mieko Who Wants to Whip You into Shape: Mieko's Fitness; Best Advertiser Offering to Make Your Eyes Rite: Eyes Rite Optical; Best Advertiser Offering an Alliance Against a Ridiculously Terrible Disease: Lifelong AIDS Alliance; Best Advertiser Whose Name Suggests a Combination of Top Gun's "Maverick" and the Tape Brand Memorex: Mavirex; Best Advertiser Named after a Spunky, Tiny Mouse: Stewart Salon; Best Advertiser Offering a Service Many Stranger Staffers Should Seek Out: UW Marijuana Treatment Project; Best Advertiser whose ads confuse us: Seattle Snowboard Connection.