Friday, December 30, 2016

Death be not taking our celebrities.

Okay, everyone, let's get morbid.


Because many people are unhappy about Brexit and/or the American elections, and think we've lost a huge number of celebrities this year, and think Harambe got a raw deal, they say that 2016 was the worst year in the history of ever.

To say that this was the worst year ever is ridiculously shortsighted, and I'm not sure I know anyone who really believes it to be the case. I'm not looking to write about politics today, and I'm never going to write about Harambe, but I would like to address the case of the various celebrity deaths.

Of course we are saddened by the loss of people of genius and vision, people like Dr. Henry Heimlich (96), the inventor of the lifesaving maneuver that bears his name. (If you missed the story in May, Dr. Heimlich actually used the maneuver to save a life in person, the first time he'd ever done it.) Or men like Robert Hulseman (84), who invented the iconic red Solo cup.

As for the various stars of film, TV, sports, and music -- I really don't think much of celebrities. I can't think of a time when I did. Growing up in the post-Ball Four era, I never thought sports figures should be the subject of idolization, and they at least didn't pretend to be something they weren't for money. I always pretty much figured that even the authors I liked would have feet of clay if I looked to closely, so I haven't, not unless they've been dead for fifty or more years. But actors and musicians? I always assumed I could never talk with these people, that I was nothing more than the price of a ticket to them. I didn't think they'd like me in person and I wasn't going to imagine I'd like them or approve of their actions. It hasn't stopped me from admiring their work.

While I'm sorry if you were devoted to Prince or Bowie or Abe Vigoda, it's a plain fact that celebrity culture is killing our actual culture. No one deserves worship, not even the saints. Not even Abe.

As for the death toll, I suppose that most famous people are from the baby boomer cohort, still the largest in history although no longer the largest living. The boomers are now entering their 72nd year. Worldwide life expectancy is 71.4 years. What I'm getting at is that the huge cohort of postwar babies is going to be dying off for some time, passing through life like a cow through an anaconda. Even if 2016 was the most deadly year for celebrities (Snopes says no) it wouldn't stay that way. We're probably not even at the bulk of the famous yet -- we still have two Beatles, three Traveling Wilburys, three Monkees, and if the elder Bush and Jimmy Carter hang on, a tie for the record number of ex-presidents as of January 20.

So if you're all upset about celebrities we've lost in 2016, just wait.
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