Go ahead. Guess what this post is about. I dare you.
As some of you may already know, I’m obsessed with my own death. I spend my days practicing my tombstone authoring skills. (See Twitter.) Like a little girl hosting tea parties with her imaginary friends, I enjoy planning my own wake. (It’s going to be fabulous. The fashion event of the season.)
And yes, as I’ve written about in the past, I dwell on the folks I’ve outlived.
Some people say that death comes in threes. I don’t know about that. But it does seem like death has been more visible of late. That includes real life people in my home town, famous people, and friends of friends on the Facebook and stuff. A couple of them even rocked my world to the point where I looked up and shouted, “Well played, Universe! Those were some damn good people. Now they are gone and I’m still here? Well played!” My dad taught me that life isn’t always fair. He was right.
–Tom B. Taker, Five Kinds of People, Aug. 14, 2011
It was true back then and, weirdly, it’s still true in the present day.
It works like this:
Let’s say I’m X years old. (X is as close as you get. Hiding my age and other vital stats adds to the guru mystique.) And let’s say someone famous dies and they were only X minus 1 year. In other words, a year younger than me.
Yep! Add them to the “People I’ve Outlived” list. Looks like we’ve got another live one here. Or not.
For those of you still reading, this is the part where I amaze you with a brilliant new idea I just invented. Today. Right now. And I owe it all to Hugo Chavez. No, I’m not older than him. Yet. But I plan to be. Someday. And by dying he’s the one who gave me the idea.
Cue up some Wikipedia. This is when things start to get eerily spooky.
Birthdays are a happy time. Humans seem to instinctually crave celebrating when the number of circuits of the planetary body of their birth around its star is an integer. Whatever. I’m not saying I understand all of the rituals of you people.
For me, though, it has become a day of reflection. My age is a new integer. It’s time to see who I can add to the outlived list. (Which is, by the way, the implied fourth dimension of Survivor. Almost always left unstated, it follows outlast, outwit and outplay.)
They may have been famous. They may have been rich. They may have lived a rich, full life of excitement. They may have been a million times more beautiful. They may have even had sex. But now they’re all in the same boat. They are gone and I’m still here. Yes, you got outlived by a lame dude who spent 99% of his waking life sitting on his ass and moaning about the way things are.
The new trick, which came to me while viewing Hugo Chavez’ Wikipedia entry, is to enter the following search phrase in the google (replace XX with your own age minus 1):
The phrase site:en.wikipedia.org “aged XX” died does a special kind of Google search. The “site” directive limits the search to the Wikipedia site. The quotation marks around “aged XX” looks for that exact phrase which, it turns out, is how Wikipedia talks about dead people. And the word “died” helps to refine the results so they’ll be just right and minimize the chance of pages that used the other phrase by chance.
Viola! The result is a pretty useful list of people you’ve outlived! I know. You’re welcome.
You can retry the search as often as you like, too, subtracting an additional year each time. The results get more and more tragic the further you progress.
I just tried this and whoa! My results include Peter Steele, lead singer of Type O Negative, one of my favorite bands of all time, and a rapper named “Guru.” Whitney Houston, Laura Branigan, Oscar Wilde, Judy Garland, John F. Kennedy, Freddie Mercury, and Harvey Milk also make the list. And, of course, Elvis Presley, who was only 42.
Who knew Wikipedia could be even more fun than it already was? Now get out there and research one for the Gipper. Yes, George “The Gipper” Gipp died when he was only 25. Better add him to the list.