Murder, She Wrote
The end of the year always brings some certainties with it:
a) The annual visit to the parents to renew the old goodwill meter, as I find it's good to do with all individuals who have any spare genetically-matched body parts in their possession.
b) Year-end best-of lists of media that I use as checklists by which I can measure my self-worth for the year.
c) Reception of fancy hand lotions sharply spikes, despite careful avoidance of any sort of reference to fancy hand lotions over the previous year.
e) The renewal of my Celebrity Death Pool list.
I've always had a morbid fascination with death--not sure there's any other kind, come to think of it--but the celebrity death pool is the single greatest thing to distract me from my responsibilities that does not include cheese. There's a few of them kicking around out there; I use this one, but am considering switching to this one--but the whole concept is the same: you write down famous people you think are going to die, and are summarily rewarded when they do.
A great deal of people find my joyful exuberance in a celebrity death pool to be unsettling, as if my desires played any sort of active role in the demise of marginally famous people; I take this as a complicit admission of my being some sort of deity, or at the very least, godlike, and am quite flattered. Aside from the fact that the rules very clearly stipulate that you're not allowed to actually cause the death of any of your team's registrants, or "even try to scare them or make them sick or anything", it's still gratifying to know that people think you're at least capable of it.
A year's roster is typically submitted in December, and no additions are allowed during the year. I used to start thinking about my team much earlier, but after getting bit in the ass by Gerald Ford and Saddam Hussein in the same sad, mortal last week of December, I now try to put off my selection process for as long as possible. If there's one thing a celebrity death pool teaches you, it's that the human spirit is either resilient or stubborn or both; I half expected Estelle Getty to croak before I finished typing her name, but she did some serious keep away with the Grim Reaper and kicked my ass three years in a row until shuffling off her mortal coil this past fall. Similarly, Castro's added "Continuing to Exist" to his list of atrocities in my book (just below "Hogging the Good Cigars" and just above "Bay of Pigs").
Although I see myself as more of an oracle of mortality than any sort of harbringer--and no one questions you when you claim to have a hand in anything relating to their extinction--it doesn't change the fact that I'm still actively rooting for certain people to die, and for that reason I can never add anyone whose existence makes me happy, decrepit as they may be. While I don't mind wishing death upon Eunice Kennedy Shriver and would even lend a hand to any prospective Andy Rooney assassination plots out there, no part of me could ever take pleasure in Julie Andrews' or Bea Arthur's demise.
When I start soliciting suggestions for my upcoming year's roster, I always get a slew of people who think they've got the dark horse picked out and try let me in on their little secret--right on with your Britney conspiracy, champ, but I'm still gonna stick with the good ole "passage of time" as my main determining factor--and then a lot of people who truly don't grasp the concept of old. A lot of folks seem to think that career longevity is enough to get on the list, but merely spanning the decades isn't enough- I need the people who cause you to register surprise when you find out they're still alive, or even better, who you're shocked to discover still alive even when you're looking at a picture of them taken that week.