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December 25, 2016

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The year our daughter was born we had 13 funerals to attend. A couple of grandmothers, a godfather, several friends and business associates. It seems to come in waves.

I am reading a book about how the human mind almost can't help but see patterns where patterns don't exist. We interpret random variation as meaningful clustering automatically and search for causes where there is only randomness.

I've been rather befuddled by the meme about 2016 killing all the celebrities. Is it really more than any other year? I like bearing's point about the need to see patterns. Also, I think it gets back to the original meaning of the word "meme" as a unit of cultural transmission passed from one person to another, almost a viral idea. The idea of the year personified as a sort of vengeful deity or grim reaper seems to have taken on a life of its own.

I think, also, it has to do with our age and the rise of pop culture. A lot of iconic figures from the 60s, 70s, and 80s died this year. People who figured largely in our (Gen X) youth. We were the kids who grew up on TV--watching reruns of shows from the 50s and 60s, plus all our own 70s and 80s TV. Then came MTV. Our youth is rooted in media in a way that I think is different from previous generations. The later Baby Boomers got a taste of it. Subsequent generations may experience this kind of "everyone is dying!" thing even more thickly because there are a lot more kinds of pop culture now, and consumption has definitely increased. Add to that the broadening of our personal connections (online friends, etc) and we've exponentially increased the chances that on any given day, we'll hear about the death of someone we care about.

But, I mean, if only Prince and David Bowie had died in 2016, it would have felt like a massive impact, an unusual year. Those two plus all the others...I can't think of a year quite like it. But my guess it may become the new normal.

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