Friday, September 10, 2010

Good-bye to dreams of uniqueness

For some time now, I have been thinking that the Internet is a great eroder of that sense of uniqueness that many of us have been attached to.   I have a rather odd last name, and I have never met anyone named Muhlberger who was not related to me. My father, who lived until his mid-80s, never did either. But now, thanks to the Internet, I know that there are a fair number of Muhlbergers in South America and even more in German-speaking Europe. The latter group includes one Steven Muhlberger, who like a variety of other Muhlbergers appeared in a scientific journal in a footnote.  Of course I could have guessed that there must be other Muhlberger around – in fact I had evidence  of their  existence  – but search engines easily throwing out numbers of Muhlbergers have made a bigger impact on my view of life.I may not have  physically stumbled across any nonrelated Muhlbergers, but they are easy enough to find if you really are interested.

There is a humorous report on the Internet which makes a point of non-uniqueness, or at least our realization of that situation. Chuck Shepherd, in connection with News of the Weird, back in 2003 assembled a list of things that can no longer be considered unusual, since they have been reported in the media so often. (I believe John Emerson referred this to me.)  Here are the first 10 of those items. No proof whatsoever is offered at these things have been reported ad nauseam, or just happen to occur all the time, but you know they have been. Just ask your stomach:

1. an old, widely-advertised phone-sex number is reassigned to a
2. suspicious package thought to be a bomb, turns out to be something stupid
3. robber leaves his ID [wallet or appointment card for probation officer or etc.] at the scene
4. peace/brotherhood conference erupts into violence
5. robber on getaway accidentally hails unmarked police car
6. political candidate dies but still wins the election
7. family thinks he's dead, but he's not and attends his own funeral
8. hunters shoot each other
9. funeral home owner neglects/mixes up bodies
10. "victimized" drug buyer complains to police that someone sold him weak or bogus drugs
Plenty more where those came from!

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