With the year — and the decade — winding down, people are busier than ever.  So to keep things simpler in these tough times, we’ve narrowed down our list to five things that are in and five things that are out in each category: News and Politics, Entertainment, Sports and Life in the USA.

With the year — and the decade — winding down, people are busier than ever. In fact, who has time to review everything that’s in and out in society, politics, fashion, the arts and life in general? Not me — I’m swamped!

So to keep things simpler in these tough times, we’ve narrowed down our list to five things that are in and five things that are out in each category: News and Politics, Entertainment, Sports and Life in the USA. That’s a very manageable 10 each for 2010 — because manageability is in.

News and Politics

IN:

1) Sarah Palin. For better or for worse, you can’t get more in than good ol’ Sarah. Republicans love her because she’s the only member of the GOP who’s able to get a camera crew to follow her around for a reason that doesn’t involve a sex scandal, yet. Democrats love her because she reminds people who they could be stuck with if they dump Obama in 2012. And fruit vendors love her because she helps them move tomatoes.

2) Health care headaches. Complaining about health care was in last year; complaining about health care legislation is in this year. But never fear, because the Democrats are determined to pass something, even if they have to make it exactly identical to the healthcare system we have now.

3) Fame seeking. Used to be you’d work hard, study, excel in your given field and, if you were one of the fortunate few, eventually get on a TV reality show. But that was so 2006. Now you get on a reality show by party crashing the White House or pretending to send your kid up in an unmanned balloon. Let’s face it, life these days is just one big reality show audition — so you better start walking around with an egg on a spoon, just in case.

4) Swine flu. Yes, bird flu had its moment in the sun, but never really caught on, mainly because it was made up by the World Health Organization to justify their no-show jobs. (Er, that’s just a theory.) But swine flu, now there’s a disease people could get behind. It’s yet to reach pandemic proportions, but it’s prevalent enough to have people blaming Obama for the lack of vaccine, and pigs for existing.

5) Sexting. What did we do before we could send naked pictures of ourselves over our cellular phones? I don’t remember, but I’m sure it was much less interesting. We probably had to talk to each other. Talking is out.

OUT:

1) Change you can believe in. I’m not positive, but I’m relatively sure President Obama promised that by this time we’d be living in a war-free, prosperous, bipartisan utopia, where the air we breathe would be like the mist that rises off unicorns when they bathe. Turns out change is a little tougher to come by — I know he said it wouldn’t happen overnight, but it at least needs to happen before the world is taken over by killer robots. Killer robots are in.

2) Glaciers. Watching them melt out of existence is now officially a spectator sport; when a frozen dinosaur emerges thawed from one and eats Greenland, don’t come crying to me. But never mind these crazy scientists and all their wild “studies” and “facts” — global warming is a completely natural cyclical occurrence, like margarine and Jessica Simpson’s suntan.

3) War. It’s been almost seven years since we invaded Iraq, and we’re still over there getting the Iraqis ready to police themselves, which is apparently not unlike those film shorts where somebody had to teach the Three Stooges how to be doctors. And now we’re sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, but in order to placate people who are sick of all this occupying, President Obama is having them return home immediately upon arrival. The armed forces have been instructed to slap their foreheads in unison, declare that they forgot their bayonets and get right back on the aircraft carrier.

4) The Great Depression Part II. Turns out reports that our economy was about to collapse in a mushroom cloud of derivatives and credit default swaps were somewhat exaggerated — all it took was a few hundred billion in bailouts and everything’s fine again. Just look at those great Wall Street bonuses if you don’t believe me! There’ s probably an article about them in the defunct newspaper you’re sleeping under.

5) Republicans. You’d think they’d be more popular by now, with the Democrats dithering and “Yes we can” turning into a slogan about the administration’s ability to buy beer for its summits. But the ones we want to forget won’t go away (Cheney in ’12!), and the rest of them keep cheating on their wives while telling everyone else whom they can marry. It’s not a recipe for success, which might be why Lou Dobbs is out of work. Maybe he should try selling tomatoes on the Sarah Palin book tour.

Entertainment

IN:

1) Taylor Swift. Swift is all of, what? 12? 13? But she seems to have taken over the known universe with her pithy country numbers about love stories and white horses and, um — oh, who am I kidding? I’ve never listened to any of the words. But I do know that Kanye West thinks that Beyonce did a better video than she did, and that’s what matters.

But it’s not all-Taylor, all-the-time. Lady Gaga has filled the bizarre outfit gap left when Christina Aguilera started wearing real clothes, and Susan Boyle has sold more albums than The Beatles, Elvis and Slim Whitman combined. And older artists continue to plug away, with Bruce Springsteen coming off one of his most successful tours ever and Paul McCartney still selling out stadiums. Rod Stewart, unfortunately, has now covered every song ever written and has been forced to retire to his yacht with his 20-year-old wife.

2) Vampires. If you’re watching a movie or a TV show or reading a book right now, I can only hope someone in it is getting his or her blood sucked, or else whatever you’re watching or reading is out. Vampires are everywhere, thanks to “Twilight,” “True Blood” and books like the Darren Shan saga — they’re the new black. But 2010 will see the release of the “Wolfman” reboot, so you can expect werewolves to come roaring back in as well. Frankenstein is still out. Sorry, Frank.

3) Smart TV. TV in general is out, although recording shows on your DVR and never watching them is in. But some good TV, including droll dramas like “Mad Men” and “Glee” and intelligent comedies like “30 Rock” and “Modern Family” are in, at least among smart people, i.e., the ones who aren’t watching “Jersey Shore.” As for reality TV, it seems like it will never die — sort of like vampires — but the truly exploitative stuff is out. Sorry, Guidos.

4) 3-D. Let’s face it, unless the characters appear to be reaching out of the screen to forcibly bludgeon you, why would anyone go to the movies? We can only hope that in the future all films are 3-D, even ones like “Julie & Julia,” so audiences of middle-aged women can scream when the boeuf bourguignon flies out of the oven — AIEEEE! (Middle-aged women are also in, as long as they’re Meryl Streep.)

5) Michael Jackson. Turns out dying was, if nothing else, a good career move. Unfortunately, to paraphrase Daffy Duck, he could only do it once.

OUT:

1) Kanye West. It probably goes without saying that he’s out, for interrupting Taylor Swift (see “IN,” above) at the MTV Video Music Awards, which amazingly are still on every year. Although it seems to me we should be thanking Kanye for coming up with the single most spoof-able public moment since Neville Chamberlain came back from Germany waving the Munich Agreement.

But he’s not the only one who’s out. Our tween girl moles tell us the Jonas Brothers have fallen off their pedestal, owing at least in part to their Disney Channel show, “Jonas,” in which they play morons. Nick Jonas is even starting a side band he says he’s modeling on Bruce Springsteen’s; interesting that the Jonas Brothers keep citing influences like Springsteen and Elvis Costello, but they keep making music like the Jonas Brothers. (Elvis Costello is in.)

2) Oprah. Well, it may be a little misleading to say that Oprah is “out.” It’s more like she’s off, as in off her syndicated talk show, which ends in 2011. She says she wants to retire, travel the world and spend more time with her Stedman. Oh, wait, I read my notes wrong: She wants to take over the world with her own TV network (appropriately called OWN). Let me be the first to welcome our new Oprah overlords.

3) Crime dramas. After killing off unfortunate victims using every imaginable method, and some unimaginable ones, it seems oddly fitting that the SVUs of the world would be dispatched by — Jay Leno, of all people. But even though Jay is taking up five hours a week of formerly scripted drama, he’s not “in” either; in fact, most people watching “The Jay Leno Show” spend the whole time waiting for Mariska Hargitay to show up with the autopsy results.

This left poor Conan also out (remember him?), just in time for David Letterman to come out with his sex scandal. The only truly in late-night hosts are Stewart, Colbert and Tom Snyder. Yes, I know Tom Snyder’s been dead since 2007 — that’s how bad it is out there.

4) Creepy 3-D. Remember what I said about 3-D? I meant cool, peppy 3-D like “Up,” not creepy motion-capture 3-D like “A Christmas Carol.” Not that the way Scrooge’s ultra-realistic wrinkly and pockmarked skin contrasts with his glassy, dead eyes isn’t impressive. It’s just not in a good way.

5) Aging actors. Are the John Travoltas, the Denzel Washingtons, the Robin Williamses losing their luster? And did I really just write “Williamses”? Regardless, go see one of their films, for old time’s sake. They’re in all of each other’s movies anyway, so you only have to see one.

Sports

IN:

1) Celtics. Remember when, if you had the choice between watching the Celtics and banging your head against a wall, you had to think about it for a minute? Those days are long gone, with Doc Rivers’ gang playing consistently riveting basketball. Yes, I just said “riveting basketball.”

2) Yankees. They had to wait nine long, almost unbearable years — let’s face it, an entire generation of newts (lifespan: seven years) died out during that time — but the Yankees are finally back on top again. So rooting for the Yanks is in, as is rooting against the Yanks. Expos: Still out, but oddly more in than the Nationals are.

As for the Sox, we’ll give them one more year of “in” status, but they better win the World Series again next season. We don’t want to have to wait around as long as the Yankees did.

3) Saints. New Orleans could use a break, because it’s only a matter of time before it has another flood, political scandal or annoying celebrity move there to help with the recovery. So even though their undefeated streak may be over, three cheers for the Saints; may no one ever again have to live in their stadium.

4) College football. Wait — where are all the hissy fits and silly dances and grotesque sums of money changing hands? The players shooting themselves in the legs and going to jail for fighting dogs? The celebrity girlfriends to blame losing seasons on? They call this football?

5) Horse racing. If you think Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta are Rod Stewart’s 20-year-old wife and the name of a Police album, respectively, then you are out — because horse racing is in, and those are two of the top practitioners of the sport. And yes, that means jockeys are in. Deal with it.

OUT:

1) Tiger Woods. “Out” is probably not a sufficient word to describe what Tiger Woods is right now. Hopefully his actions will lead other billionaire golfers to think twice before cheating on their wives with several dozen barmaids, hookers and porn stars. I’m just saying.

Meanwhile, as goes Tiger, so goes golf — out, that is. I’d tell the other golfers how sorry I am, if I knew any of their names.

2) Bill Belichick. The sheen is off, Mr. Grumpy! Suddenly going for it on 4th and 2 doesn’t seem so brilliant, does it? Now change your darn sweatshirt! (Oh, and if you wind up winning the Super Bowl this year … Forget I said all that.) Also out: Gisele. It’s all her fault, whatever “it” is.

3) Steroids. Thankfully, we’ve finally shed the specter of illegal steroids that has hung like a shroud over professional athletics, particularly baseball. Now, instead of taking steroids, athletes are eating better, working out more, and having acquaintances inject “dietary supplements” directly into their buttocks.

4) Theo. What’s up with the Sox GM? Doesn’t he know you’re supposed to promise the fans a World Series trophy every single year, even if you can’t manage to sign anyone who could hit his way out of a bag of Fenway Park peanuts? Well, “bridge year” or not, he should keep Lowell, one of only two players with the same name as a Massachusetts town. (Any free agents out there named Dighton-Rehoboth? Better yet: Bring back Freddy Lynn!)

5) Tennis. Sure, the sport got a lot more interesting when we found out that Andre Agassi was taking crystal meth (crystal meth!) while playing back in the ’90s. But not that much more interesting. It’s still out.

Life in the USA

IN:

1) Social networking. Remember humans? You know, those fleshy creatures with arms and legs and eyeballs? No, me neither. That’s because all my friends, even the formerly human ones, are now avatars on Twitter and Facebook. It’s the best way to keep in touch with friends and acquaintances, both old and new, without ever having to actually see or converse with them. Fist bumps are tough, but I’m sure they’ll come up with a virtual one soon. (By the way, both avatars and “Avatar” are in.)

2) Doing it yourself. Used to be when something broke in your house, or you needed new tile in your kitchen, or you wanted a new room to put your widescreen TV, you’d call a guy. Well, no longer: Now you just call the guy after your screw these things up yourself and can’t figure out how to fix it. Luckily, you can no longer afford a widescreen TV, so you don’t need that room anymore.

3) Bargain groceries. Those fancy supermarkets that sell organic vegetables and pre-made gourmet meals and 47 different varieties of hummus (chipotle? really?) are just as suave as ever — and they’re also out. Because the grocery stores with the white floors that have been off-white since 1987 and the bins where you can buy rock-hard caramels for a nickel each are what’s fitting into our budget. Au revoir, semi-firm Gruyère!

4) Skinny jeans. If skinny jeans were only for skinny people, I wouldn’t have a problem with this. But it’s the other people, the ones who look like they just stepped out of an industrial strength dryer, that I’m concerned about. Mark my words: The person who invents fat jeans will make a fortune.

Tall boots are also back in — it’s only a matter of time before we’re all dressed like musketeers. But Crocs, alas, are out, as much as you’d think brightly colored plastic shoes with holes in them would be popular for all eternity.

5) Reading. Here’s the thing about books: You don’t need a cable hookup or a satellite dish. You don’t need $12 per person for tickets or $25 for popcorn. You don’t need 3-D glasses or a special plastic pad that you stand on. You just need a book, a couch and, if possible, a cat to sit on your lap. So books are in, and they’ll be really in once people figure out how to distribute them free on the Internet. The Internet is in.

OUT:

1) Eating out. Tight budgets mean more home cooking, which means cries of “Meat loaf again?” in kitchens across America. (Appropriate responses include “You’ll eat it and like it!” and “People are starving in Africa!”)

The one exception is if you can go out somewhere and have somebody bring your food to you in your car, whereupon you unwrap it and eat it in a parking lot with your motor running. As Julia Child would say, bon appetite! Julia Child is in.

2) Beauty pageants. These were already going the way of dog racing and indoor smoking (both out) when Miss USA Carrie Prejean dealt the final blow, dissing same-sex marriage from the pageant stage and then taking her show on the road … before her sex tapes started popping up like rhinestones on a tiara. Unfortunately for Prejean, same-sex marriage is in, and sex tapes are out — on DVD and Blu-Ray, probably. (Blu-Ray is in.)

3) Phones. Having a plain old phone would seem to indicate that you want to talk to people. This is completely unnecessary (see “IN,” above). The in people all have “smartphones,” from which you can text, surf the Web, watch videos, listen to music and taser people at parties. (Tasering is still in.) And with texting in, e-mailing is out, except among deposed Nigerian princes, who simply will not give up on it. Saying “application” instead of “app” is way out.

4) Dog breeds from hell. What is a labradoodle, anyway?

5) Dancing on the graves of newspapers. A year ago, people seemed to be thinking that by this time newspapers would be used exclusively to make papier mache animal masks. And while there are fewer papers than there used to be, things have calmed down a little bit, and people seem to be realizing that newspapers actually provide a valuable service.

Namely, bringing you this “What’s In and Out” every year. In and Out is in!
 

They’re in!
This year’s What’s In and Out was written by Peter Chianca and researched by Carol Brooks Ball, Richard Clapp, Myrna Fearer, Lisa Guerriero, Christopher Hurley, Dena Lisle, Dan MacAlpine, Sarah Menesale, Kris Olson, Charlene Peters, Nancy Prag, Marlene Switzer, Barbara Taormina, Kathryn O'Brien and Wendall Waters.