To Carolyn Kellogg: Given the strange question “Walken or Shatner?” I might likewise find myself opting for the latter, purely out of chronological consideration. I would select Shatner because the man is twelve years older than Walken, and there is greater pressure from the elements. From a pragmatic standpoint, Shatner is likely to expire earlier in time than Walken. But this assumes that these two men will die at more or less the same age in their respective lives. There may indeed be twelve more years to see Walken. Then again, there may not. Walken could die in some freak accident next month. Or perhaps the two men could die on the same day, with Shatner’s last words being, “Walken still lives.” This seems to me a sufficient speculative premise that unites these two gentlemen in some hard and inevitable future, suggests mutual respect and consideration of the other’s works, and dovetails this all rather nicely into a notable historical coincidence that occurred on July 4, 1826.
But back to the initial question (“Walken or Shatner?”), we can express this proposition in mathematical terms:
S = W + n
W = S – n
In present time, n = 12. Upon expiration of W or S, n = 12 – m, where m represents the difference between W or S’s final value and the number of years the other variable has to catch up to first expired variable’s final value.
Now this is a cold and morbid formula. I certainly wish both Walken and Shatner long lives. They have both entertained and informed audiences in unexpected ways. But I recuse myself from the equation’s insensitive auxiliaries by impugning the individual who put forth the question in the first place. The question should never be “Walken or Shatner?” There should be an option accounting for both choices. In this way, both Walken and Shatner can both be afforded respect and the person carrying the burden of this question will not have to make a terrible decision.