Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Cancel Anytime
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Eddie Van Halen of Van Halen performs onstage during the 2015 Billboard Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 17, 2015 in Las Vegas. When the guitarist last October, columnist Cathal Kelly went back and listened to every Van Halen album.

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

This year, all the good stuff I listened to, read and watched was a beneficiary of the Lindy effect.

This is the unscientific law that suggests the lifespan of a thing or idea is proportional to its current age. If people today are still reading a 100-year-old book, they are likely to still be reading that book a 100 years from now.

It’s a comforting thought – that, unlike us, good ideas can survive forever.

Story continues below advertisement

The opposite also holds true. The newer something is, the more brightly it burns, the less likely it is to remain relevant or appreciated past one season or the next.

Have you read Don Quixote? Because the first time you do that, you may come out the other side thinking it so modern it seems ahead of its time. Then you go back and skim a bad book you kind of liked five years ago and it feels like it was dug out of a tomb, that’s how out of touch it seems now.

This was not a good year for new things. We were a little preoccupied to devote the usual energy to our entertainments. So fewer new entertainments were provided to us.

That made it an excellent year for old favourites and personal classics. Having lost the ability to be nostalgic about our present lives – Remember summer? Wasn’t that great, doing nothing and going nowhere? – you may have become an explorer of your own past.

When Eddie Van Halen died, I went back and listened to every Van Halen album. Even the Sammy Hagar stuff, and don’t tell me that’s not a special sort of bravery.

I didn’t like Van Halen much when I was a kid. You can only be so enthusiastic about a band whose lead singer’s primary talent is doing the splits. But Van Halen reminds me of drinking in the park back when that was illegal, and therefore still fun. So I tarried there, loudly, for several days.

Before John le Carré died, I rewatched the 1979 BBC mini-series Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Greatest show ever made, and all because of Alec Guinness’s eyes. That guy could say more with a slight pupil dilation than any current leading man can with 10 pages of dialogue.

Story continues below advertisement

Then le Carré died and I started it again. Even better the 13th or 14th time through.

I reread a bunch of Stephen King novels, trying to figure out why they’d so captured me as a grade-schooler. You know what? They stand up. That is really something – a book that appealed to you at 10 still grabbing the completely different person you are in middle age. Stephen King and The Wind in the Willows. That’s a tight list.

King’s mistake was being so good at what he does, so prolific, so effortless in his style, that people assume what he produced is genre trash.

Sadly, if you want to get over in this world, you have to make the things that come easy seem hard. Just read any interview with any mediocre artist enjoying a moment. It’s a lot of blather about process that makes writing or whatever it is sound as complex as particle physics. It’s not that it isn’t. It’s that it shouldn’t be.

Also, I doubt that scientists sit around at particle physics conferences complaining that their work is as hard as poetry.

That right there was a textbook pointless digression, which is essentially all I did this year. Digress constantly. Spend long hours visiting the internal archives to consult a few records. Trying to figure out if I still like what I once liked, and can therefore assure myself that the old me might still recognize the current me. It’s not an entirely satisfactory experience.

Story continues below advertisement

For every good thing I would like to be associated with, there is a mountain of garbage I used to think fantastic. This is the stuff the Lindy effect forgot – A Flock of Seagulls, Soft Cell, Billy goddamned Idol.

I disavow it entirely. That was a different me with limited access to culture. My people were more pop-a-bottle, put on the Irish Rovers and then we got ourselves a party types.

I also disavow the books. I would not, for instance, read the complete works of Robert Ludlum again, because it is only now I recognize they are all the same book, only with different titles.

The only thing I do not blame myself for is the TV. Like every member of my generation, I didn’t get any say in that. We watched what they showed us. All of it.

Would the 2020 me – just picking at random here – watch Magnum P.I. every weekday for a year? Probably not. Would the 2020 me agree that that was the greatest show on television, not because of the depth of its characterizations, but because the guy who played Higgins was actually from Texas? Doubtful.

But the me who did think and do those things was capable of having a conversation with a stranger. This me no longer is. So who’s the real winner?

Story continues below advertisement

I wonder if you had these same experiences this year, looking for comfort in the old and familiar, stuff that reminds you of the before times. At a certain point, the need to find the next big thing dulls in you, and you are happy with the thing that has lasted. On some level, life is a gradual receding of the new, until there is nothing you can see or hear that you have not seen or heard some version of before.

I used to think that was a tragedy. But after spending most of a year marinating in the idea – another one that has withstood the Lindy effect – I just think that like most things, it is neither good nor bad. It just is.

Keep your Opinions sharp and informed. Get the Opinion newsletter. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies