Here’s a fun way to impress your friends and deeply trouble your acquaintances.
Next time you hear a news report on TV or radio that the world’s oldest person has died, make the following statement: “I bet they were 113 years old.”
Inevitably, you will be right. For some reason, the world’s oldest person is always dying at age 113. Maybe that’s truly the extreme that human life can endure. Maybe it’s because “13” is an unlucky number. Maybe they become careless when they finally achieve the “world’s-oldest” status, and neglect to use a helmet while riding their motorcycles.
In any case, it’s very rare that anyone celebrates their 114th birthday.
The world of astrology was rocked last week with news that the zodiac has shifted. A Minnesota astronomer has determined that wobbling of the Earth’s orbit meant that it was no longer aligned to the stars in the same way as when the zodiac was first conceived about 5,000 years ago. That means that when astrologers say the sun is in Pisces, for example, it’s really in Aquarius.
Stupid me. I thought the sun was in the sky.
In addition to shifting almost everybody up by one class, a new thirteenth constellation is joining the standard 12. Ophiuchus, the “serpent bearer,” was a mythical healer who killed a snake, then watched as another snake showed up with an herb in its mouth that revived the dead snake. Not much of a myth, if you ask me, especially compared to grand fables of dragon-slaying and water-bearing.
Still, we now need to be prepared to encounter someone at a party or bar who claims “I’m an ‘Ophiuchus,'” and not immediately presume they’re a citizen of some obscure former Soviet republic.
Many believers in astrology were not pleased with the news.
“I think it’s a scam,” said Jose Arce of New Jersey, speaking of the change, not the idea that our persona is determined by balls of fiery gas located millions of light years from Earth. “I’ve known myself to be a Pisces since I was born. So to come up now with some new sign? It’s unacceptable!”
“I’d just like to know what I’m supposed to be like now,” said Mary-Iris Taylor of St. Louis. “As a Sagittarius, I was supposed to be the life of the party.”
Taylor was one of the unfortunates born between Nov. 29 and Dec. 17, and would now become an Ophiuchus. She’s going to have abandon a personality she’s felt comfortable with for years, and wait quietly in a dark corner until astrologers figures out what her new traits will be.
News that the announcement was made by an astronomer stoked a long-simmering resentment in the astrology community toward those who use scientific methods to study the universe rather than mystical charts devised by the ancient Babylonians.
“This is an attempt to show ignorance on the part of astrologers,” said one California star-follower. Another one doubted the astrology community would “accept what an astronomer is trying to put on them.”
Whether you want your view of the cosmos informed by scientists using telescopes or by earth-mothers using dreamcatchers, it does make us feel like part of a larger community to think we share traits with others born at the same time we were. I’ve made it a birthday tradition each year to check the “born on this day” feature in the newspaper every Nov. 6 to see which celebrities share not just my zodiac sign but my actual birthday. Then I ponder which of them I could beat up, and use the assessment as a gauge to determine whether I’m getting too old.
Last November, I felt pretty spry after this exercise, despite celebrating my 57th birthday. Among the well-known listed on that day were actress Sally Field (could take her), California first lady Maria Shriver (could take her), and screenwriter Mike Nichols (could whip his 79-year-old butt with one hand tied behind my back). I’d probably fall to actors Ethan Hawke (age 40) and Emma Stone (the 22-year-old Lindsay Lohan lookalike with a mean left hook) and might manage a draw with Eagle Glenn Frey (age 62). But certain victories over basketball inventor James Naismith and march composer John Phillip Sousa (both dead for about 100 years and, therefore, easily whup-able) meant I could still defeat over half the population were we to come to blows.
Now, I believe I might be ready to expand the concept to reality TV. I’m thinking of approaching executives in the entertainment industry with the following treatment — a round-robin boxing tournament in which famous people who share the same birthday battle each other in a single-elimination format to determine who is the mightiest person born on that day. That’s 366 shows worth of material, enough to run for years and years during prime time.
Just ponder the intrigue of some of the potential birthday matchups.
From Jan. 1, we could watch actor Frank Langella take on the diminutive-but-dynamic Verne “Mini-Me” Troyer. Langella might struggle to overcome a 30-year age difference versus the 42-year-old Troyer, but with a reach of some 67 inches compared to his opponent’s wingspan of about a foot, the elderly Langella just might prevail.
From Jan. 2, stay tuned for what’s likely to be a vicious battle between former House Speaker Dennis Hastert and the beautiful actress Kate Bosworth. The 28-year-old Bosworth, despite a willowy physique, would likely hold her own against the aging Republican. But the blonde star of such films as “Blue Crush” and “The Horse Whisperer” shouldn’t take the former high school wrestler lightly. His background in parliamentary maneuvering could be enough to surprise a much-younger opponent.
From Jan. 3, a busy day for mothers of future A-listers, maybe we could mix things up with a tag-team match, or perhaps an all-out rumble. Imagine the entertainment of watching Beatles producer George Martin, actor Dabney Coleman, hockey great Bobby Hull, rocker Stephen Stills, actresses Victoria Principal and Joan Chen, the controversial Mel Gibson and New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning squaring off in a crowded ring. My money would probably be on Hull, despite his age (72), though you can’t count out the always-combative Gibson and the clutch-performing Manning from triumphing over this melee. On the undercard, fighting in the “passed-on” division, a battle between comedy pianist Victor Borge and author J.R.R. Tolkien would tap into an older audience.
These are the stars that I look to for predictions of a rollicking, entertaining future.