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April 18, 1997

Another thing I’d like to see go out with the 90’s is the urban legend. I know that every culture has its own myths and legends, but we wouldn’t still be reading _The Iliad_ if the Greeks defeated the Trojans using the "Good Times" e-mail virus. And no one really believes that a diver was inadvertently sucked up by an airplane and then dropped–along with several hundred gallons of water–on a raging forest fire, do they? Or that one grocery store beat its coupon-stealing competitor by raising all its prices to $1,000,000 plus the actual prices of its items and then giving customers coupons for $1,000,000 off? And of course the internet has made it worse by allowing these things to keep on going. They appear spontaneously, are in perpetual motion, and cannot be destroyed. If they could be harnessed, they’d be a better source of power than the one invented by that guy in Texas who created a cold fusion reaction in his garage and then mysteriously disappeared…

A few more things that should go out with the 90’s:

  • Conspiracy theories. The real conspiracy is centered around convincing people that any government or agency thereof is competent enough to do half the things they are given credit for.

  • Sequels, follow-ups, and spinoffs. Are we really so pressed for ideas that we have to base everything on something else? Oh, that reminds me, look out for next week’s edition: Uncle Rupert and Ivor get together and try to swim to Canada!

Why it takes a license to drive

The following are a sampling of REAL answers received on exams given by the California Department of Transportation’s driving school (read: Saturday Traffic School for moving violation offenders.)

Q: Do you yield when a blind pedestrian is crossing the road?
A: What for? He can’t see my license plate.

Q: Who has the right of way when four cars approach a four-way stop at the same time?
A: The pick up truck with the gun rack and the bumper sticker saying, "Guns don’t kill people. I do."

Q: When driving through fog, what should you use?
A: Your car.

Q: What problems would you face if you were arrested for drunk driving?
A: I’d probably lose my buzz a lot faster.

Q: What changes would occur in your lifestyle if you could no longer drive lawfully?
A: I would be forced to drive unlawfully.

Q: What are some points to remember when passing or being passed?
A: Make eye contact and wave "hello" if he/she is cute.

Q: What is the difference between a flashing red traffic light and a flashing yellow traffic light?
A: The color.

Q: How do you deal with heavy traffic?
A: Heavy psychedelics.

Q: What can you do to help ease a heavy traffic problem?
A: Carry loaded weapons.

Spam, spam, spam…

April 11, 1997

I was plum out of ideas this week, so hungry for something that I almost considered sending out something serious. But seriousness and Freethinkers go together like tuna fish and jelly beans. Then I remembered that this is National Poetry Month. So I dug through my archives for the spam haiku one of you sent me some time ago, and let me take this opportunity to say a sincere thank you, because they have given us the perfect way to celebrate. But before I let you see the poems themselves, I’d like to say a few words about Spam and its cousin product, the other great source of corneal protein, Treet. For those of you who have never seen Treet, it’s a cheaper version of Spam made by a different company. Treet is my personal favorite, because I always cheer for the underdog. And Treet is obviously putting some market pressure on Spam because Spam is starting to branch out into new varieties. There’s Lite Spam with less fat, Low Sodium Spam, and new Pepper Spam. Considering similar trends in product development, the future of Spam is as unlimited as its list of ingredients. We can look forward to Seasoned Spam, Cheddar Spam, Taco Spam, Sour Cream ‘n Onion Spam, Strawberry Spam, Fried Spam Sticks, Teriyaki Spam… The possibilities alone make me want to wax poetic.

Ode to Spam

Ears, snouts and innards,
A homogeneous mass–
Pass another slice.

Pink tender morsel,
Glistening with salty gel.
What the hell is it?

Cube of cold pinkness
Yellow specks of porcine fat
Give me a spork, please

Old man seeks doctor:
"I eat SPAM daily," he says

Highly unnatural,
The tortured shape of this "food"
…A small pink coffin.

SPAM can do it all.
Need a fake amputation?
SPAM can do it all.


Something else to make you want to open a poetic vein:

  • If at first you don’t succeed, destroy all evidence that you tried.

  • A conclusion is the place where you get tired of thinking.

  • Experience is something you don’t get until just after you need it.

  • For every action, there is an equal and opposite criticism.

  • He who hesitates is probably right.

  • Never do card tricks for the group you play poker with.

  • No one is listening until you make a mistake.

  • Success always occurs in private, and failure in plain view.

  • The colder the X-ray table, the more of your body is required on it.

  • The hardness of the butter is proportional to the softness of the bread.

  • The severity of the itch is proportional to the reach.

  • To steal ideas from one person is plagerism; to steal from many is research.

  • To succeed in politics, it is often necessary to rise above your principles.

  • Two wrongs are only the beginning.

  • Work is accomplished by those employees who have not reached their level of incompetence.

  • The problem with the gene pool is that there is no lifeguard.

  • Monday is an awful way to spend 1/7th of your life.

  • The sooner you fall behind, the more time you’ll have to catch up.

  • The light at the end of the tunnel is the headlight of an approaching train.

More famous quotes…

April 4, 1997

You may remember Ivor–the guy who e-mailed me out of nowhere sometime around the Christmas holidays and started reminiscing about wacky adventures he and I had had in Cancun. The fact that I have never been within a hundred miles of Cancun didn’t stop me–I emailed him back and asked how Gretchen and the kids were. That was the last I heard from him–until recently. Yesterday, that is, Thursday, I got another message from him. Just a quick one–it said, "Hey! Ready for the weekend? Gonna ‘pull the parachute out of kerosene’, eh? Nudge nudge!" He was probably speaking figuratively, even though I’ve never heard this expression before and have no clue what it means. Not that that ever stops me. I wrote back: "Yeah, it’s gonna be a big weekend. I’m ‘painting my hard hat pink’, if you know what I mean. I’m ‘filling my bathtub with lawnmowers’. I’m gonna ‘ignore the instructions on salt’–wink wink. I’m ‘feeding licorice to squids’. This is weekend’s gonna be a ‘tree stump full of tapioca’–right? Yeah. I’m gonna ‘strap wigs to my feet’ and ‘wallpaper the dog’. Strange–I still haven’t heard back from him. I guess I really knocked his hamster out of his cactus that time.

The Top 15 Pick-Up Lines Used by William Shakespeare

15. "How about a little Puck?"

14. "Of course, ‘Romeo and Gertrude’ is just a working title.

13. I might be persuaded to change it for you, M’Lady."

12. "Et tu, Cutie?"

11. "Shall I compare thee to a brick outhouse?"

10. "If I whispered in thine ear that thou hadst a body of beauty unknown but to the heavens, wouldst thou hold it against me?"

9. "Wouldst thou care to join me in forming the beast with two backs?"

8. "My heart, it pines, as my trousers tent."

7. "Without thine companionship, dear lady, I fearest I’d spend the evening with pen in hand, if thou knows what I mean."

6. "Hey, Baby, can Ophelia up?"

5. "Is this a dagger I see before me? Nay! I’m merely happy to cast eyes upon thy beauty!"

4. "But soft, what light through yonder trousers breaks?"

3. "Wouldst thou away to yon Motel 6 with me?"

2. "O! Prithee sitteth upon my visage, and perchance to let me divine thy weight."

and the Number 1 Pick-Up Line Used by William Shakespeare…

1. "Do me, or not do me. THAT is the question."


Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?

Plato: For the greater good.

Karl Marx: It was a historical inevitability.

Machiavelli: So that its subjects will view it with admiration, as a chicken which has the daring and courage to boldly cross the road, but also with fear, for whom among them has the strength to contend with such a paragon of avian virtue? In such a manner is the princely chicken’s dominion maintained.

Hippocrates: Because of an excess of black bile and a deficiency of choleric humour.

Jacques Derrida: Any number of contending discourses may be discovered within the act of the chicken crossing the road, and each interpretation is equally valid as the authorial intent can never be discerned, because structuralism is DEAD, DAMMIT, DEAD!

Thomas de Torquemada: Give me ten minutes with the chicken and I’ll find out.

Timothy Leary: Because that’s the only kind of trip the Establishment would let it take.

Douglas Adams: Forty-two.

Nietzsche: Because if you gaze too long across the Road, the Road gazes also across you.

B.F. Skinner: Because the external influences which had pervaded its sensorium from birth had caused it to develop in such a fashion that it would tend to cross roads, even while believing these actions to be of its own free will.

Carl Jung: The confluence of events in the cultural gestalt necessitated that individual chickens cross roads at this historical juncture, and therefore synchronicitously brought such occurrences into being.

Jean-Paul Sartre: In order to act in good faith and be true to itself, the chicken found it necessary to cross the road.

Ludwig Wittgenstein: The possibility of "crossing" was encoded into the objects "chicken" and "road", and circumstances came into being which caused the actualization of this potential occurrence.

Albert Einstein: Whether the chicken crossed the road or the road crossed the chicken depends upon your framme of reference.

Aristotle: To actualize its potential.

Buddha: If you ask this question, you deny your own chicken-nature.

David Hume: Out of custom and habit.

Salvador Dali: The Fish.

Darwin: It was the logical next step after coming down from the trees.

Emily Dickinson: Because it could not stop for death.

Epicurus: For fun.

Ralph Waldo Emerson: It didn’t cross the road; it transcended it.

Johann von Goethe: The eternal hen-principle made it do it.

Ernest Hemingway: To die. In the rain.

Werner Heisenberg: We are not sure which side of the road the chicken was on, but it was moving very fast.

Jack Nicholson: ‘Cause it (censored) wanted to. That’s the (censored) reason.

Pyrrho the Skeptic: What road?

The Sphinx: You tell me.

Henry David Thoreau: To live deliberately … and suck all the marrow out of life.

Howard Cosell: It may very well have been one of the most astonishing events to grace the annals of history. An historic, unprecedented avian biped with the temerity to attempt such an herculean achievement formerly relegated to homo sapien pedestrians is truly a remarkable occurence.

Ronald Reagan: I forget.

Mark Twain: The news of its crossing has been greatly exaggerated.

Zeno of Elea: To prove it could never reach the other side.

The 90’s? They were groovy…

March 28, 1997

I used to think that the most original thing to come out of the 90’s would be nostalgia. Then I started looking back, and realizing that, so far, we’ve had a pretty original decade. (I know the decade has at least three more years to go, but people were thinking about how to define the 90’s in the late 80’s, so I’m actually a little behind.)

However, as with all decades, there are some things that should be dropped when the new one begins. Like beanbags, bellbottoms, and lace headbands from its predecessors, the 90’s can be remembered for:

  • Really big pants. Has anyone noticed that the same kids who laughed at their parents for wearing bellbottoms now wear pants big enough to be hot air balloons? That is, of course, if there were such a thing as DENIM hot air balloons…

  • Infomercials. Anyone who complains about "channel surfing" (another 90’s invention) does not realize that its only purpose is to escape from the bow-tied guy with the bad Australian accent showing his multi-permed buddy how to use the new home plumbing repair kit, available for only fourteen easy payments of $49.95!

  • Piercing. I’m all for expressions of individuality, but…I remember the days when, if you could "pinch more than an inch", it meant you had to lose weight. Now, if you can pinch an inch, you can pierce it too. I know a lot of ancient cultures practiced piercing, but they were also smart enough not to practice slam dancing at the same time. If you can’t figure out why piercing and slam dancing don’t go together, you probably financed the local hospital’s new wing.

  • Exercise machines. All right, these aren’t exactly a product of the 90’s. I used to think, though, that some of the newer machines were original–until I looked through a book about the Spanish Inquisition.

Enjoy this week’s offering.

Very Short Books

1) A Guide to Arab Democracies
2) A Journey through the Mind of Dennis Rodman
3) Amelia Earhart’s Guide to the Pacific Ocean
4) Career Opportunities for History Majors
5) Contraception by Pope John Paul II
6) Detroit – A Travel Guide
7) Different Ways to Spell "Bob"
8) Dr. Kevorkian’s Collection of Motivational Speeches
9) Easy UNIX
10) Ethiopian Tips on World Dominance
11) Everything Men Know About Women
12) French Hospitality
13) Bob Dole: The Wild Years
14) How to Sustain a Musical Career by Art Garfunkel
15) Mike Tyson’s Guide to Dating Etiquette
16) Mormon Divorce Lawyers
17) One Hundred and One Spotted Owl Recipes by the EPA
18) Popular Lawyers
19) Staple Your Way to Success
20) Tasty Bile Recipes
21) The Amish Phone Book

In the springtime…

March 21, 1997

Yesterday was the first day of spring. Also yesterday, someone who shall remain nameless said, "Let’s see what this will do…" Four people from the tech department then spent two and a half hours trying to undo what had been done. Of course, we’ve all at one time or another followed the "Let’s see what this will do…" impulse, but it’s always best to take some precautions. I learned this valuable lesson from, of all people, Uncle Rupert. A few years back, in the spring, the kudzu vines in Uncle Rupert’s backyard leafed out and started their warm-weather rampage. For those of you who don’t live in the south, kudzu is a vine that grows at the rate of about half a foot an hour and suffocates anything in its path. Well, Uncle Rupert had some leftover fertilizer (the kind used for making homemade bombs–but that’s another story) and decided to throw it into his kudzu patch. The resulting vegetative explosion covered his driveway, his car, and three of his dogs completely disappeared. He managed to hold back the runaway vines with a lawnmower, some lighter fluid, and a pack of matches. Fortunately, a sudden overnight freeze followed by four weeks of continuous rain (in other words, typical spring weather in Tennessee) saved the rest of us from the plant peril. So now, whenever I say, "Let’s see what this will do…" I do three things:

  1. convince someone else to try it while I stand far back

  2. wear protective clothing, and

  3. keep a lawnmower handy.

Unfortunately none of these measures saved me from the glaring looks of the tech department. Enjoy these other examples of intelligence in action:

The Smithsonian Museum’s phone answerers usually get questions like "How do you get there?" "When are you open?" Etc. More detailed questions get shunted to departments such as Anthropology. But every so often, you get funny ones. Here are some Cordelia Benedict of the Smithsonian’s telephone information services and Marilyn London of the anthropology outreach and public information office have gotten over the years:

There’s a mastadon in my back yard. Can you send some scientists to dig it up? "There was literally a mastodon buried on her ranch," Benedict says. "She was right. We referred her to the vertebrate department, I think."

Do you have the Original Bible? You know, 10 Commands, tablets, Moses, etc?

What’s the name of the guy who invented the wheel? ("How do you know it was a man?" London replied.)

Where do you keep the flying saucers you’ve captured?

Can a small plane land on the Mall? The caller was sure it could since "all those planes in the Air and Space Museum had to get there somehow."

Is Fawn Hall’s underwear on display? This from "two men in a Texas bar who obviously had a lot to drink," says Benedict.

Where is the Ark of the Covenant? (Try Indiana Jones movies.)

Does the Smithsonian display Civil War planes?

Is the Smithsonian interested in buying the carcass of Bigfoot?

Will the Smithsonian sell the starship Enterprise, used for the popular "Star Trek" television show? "She only wanted it if the transporter was in working condition," Benedict says. (The only life-size Enterprise at the Smithsonian is the space shuttle of the same name).

Can the Smithsonian set up a caller with a hula teacher? "Actually, I tracked one down for her," remembers London. "We have a curator involved in South Pacific and Hawaiian culture, so she knew one."

How do you say "I’m thinking of you" in Apache?

Can you send "all the information you have on human evolution, even the secret stuff?" from a grade school letter writer.

How about the coin George Washington tossed across the Delaware River?

Could the Smithsonian take a "petrified whale" off a caller’s hands? He was referred to paleontology. "I told him that means `very old biology,’ and he said, `good because this is a very old whale,’" Benedict recalls.

And one of Benedict’s favorites: an offer to donate a collection of potato chips resembling "famous people and animals."

The shortest distance…

March 14, 1997

I’ve gotten a lot of criticism for not using sidewalks. And not just from Going Nowhere, the official Sidewalk Society of America. Close friends have yelled at me from across long distances to say, "Hey, why aren’t you using the sidewalk?" I ask: Why bother? First, grass is a lot softer to walk on. Sure, it can be damp sometimes, but if the grass is wet, the sidewalks will be covered with enormous puddles ranging anywhere from a few inches to several feet in depth. Grass is also made to be walked on. Millions of years of evolution have made grass the perfect walking material. And even if you’re environmentally conscious, grass is not even close to being endangered. Grass also provides you with the shortest distance between two points. Every nine-year old in the world knows that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. The ones that don’t grasp this simple fact grow up to be sidewalk designers. Sidewalks inevitably take you as far from where you want to go as possible, then lead you back around. A five-minute walk becomes five hours if you follow the sidewalk. Come to think of it, they’re the perfect excuse. The next time your boss says, "Why are you late?" just answer, "It’s the sidewalk’s fault." People who use the sidewalks are people who are going to classes, meetings, or jobs that they really don’t want to go to. Maybe it’s about time I give sidewalks a second chance.

Speaking of second chances, enjoy this bit of nostalgia…


while in high school, you and all your friends discussed elaborate plans to get together again at the end of the century and play "1999" by Prince over and over again

the phrase "going courting", to you, means fighting an unjust traffic ticket or playing tennis

you know, by heart, the words to any "Weird" Al Yankovic song

you took family trips BEFORE the invention of the mini-van. You rode in the back of the station wagon and you faced the cars behind you.

you knew all the words to Billy Joel’s "We Didn’t Start the Fire", but it really didn’t hold any meaning for you until about the third verse

you’ve ever conversationally used the phrase "Jane, you ignorant slut"

you watched HR Puffenstuff as a child, but now that you’re older, you really understand that it would have been much better had you known about drugs at the time

you remember the days when cocaine was just fine in powderform, thankyouverymuch

the Brady Bunch movie brought back cool memories

you remember the first time "Space: Above and Beyond" aired – it was called "Battlestar Galactica"

songs by Debbie Gibson still haunt you to this day

three words: "Atari" "IntelliVision" and "Coleco". Sound familiar?

you remember the days that hooking your computer into your television wasn’t an expensive option that required gadgets – it was the ONLY WAY to use your computer!

you remember "Friday Night Videos" before the days of MTV

a predominant color in your childhood photos is "plaid"

you see teenagers today wearing clothes that show up in those childhood photos, and they still look bad

you remember when music that was labeled "alternative" really was

you were shocked and horrified at the Challenger explosion (which you were probably watching in school at the time), and yet, when someone mentions the name "JFK", the first thing you think of is "Oliver Stone"

you, yes you, sat down and memorized the entire lyric sheet to "It’s the end of the world as we know it"

you can’t remember when the word "networking" didn’t have a computer connotation to it as well

you’ve recently horrified yourself by using any one of the following phrases:

  • "When I was younger"
  • "When I was your age"
  • "You know, back when…"
  • "Because I SAID so, that’s why"
  • "What is this noise on the radio?"
  • "Just can’t (fill in the blank) like I used to

You can’t remember a time when "going out for coffee" DIDN’T involve 49,000 selections to choose from

Schoolhouse Rock played a HUGE part in how you actually learned the English language

Kids that work in restaurants and supermarkets are starting to annoy you by calling you "sir" or "ma’am"

you’re starting to view getting carded to buy alcohol as a GOOD thing, and you’re ready to marry the next person who cards you when you want to buy cigarettes

flashback: it was your first chance to vote in a presidential election, and you were SO disappointed because, just for laughs, you really wanted to vote for Gary Hart

the first time you heard the candidates names, you were pumped because you thought MICHAEL Jackson was running for President, not this Jesse character.

you ever dressed to emulate a person you saw in either a Duran Duran, Madonna, or Cyndi Lauper video

at one point during your teenage years, you walked with a noticeable tilt to one side due to the number of plastic rings on that arm

"Celebration" by Kool & the Gang was one of the hot new songs when you first heard it at a school dance

the first time you ever kissed someone at a dance fell during "Crazy for You" by Madonna

there were at least three people in your school that voluntarily went by the names of "Skip" "Buffy" "Muffy" or "Dexter"

you ever owned one of those embarrassing crimping irons

you used to hold in your head the thought that all those gold chains on Mr. T actually looked kinda cool and the thought that Mr. T made millions seemed rational to you at the time

you remember with pain the sad day when the Green Machine hit the streets and made your old big wheel quite obsolete

the phrase "Where’s the beef?" still doubles you over with laughter

you read the "Hot Video Games Player’s Secrets" guide for Mortal Kombat just so you could find the hidden screen, and play Pong again for old time’s sake

honestly remember when film critics raved that no movie could ever possibly get better special effects than those in the movie TRON.

you ever had nightmares about the giant red evil robot Maximillian from the Disney movie "The Black Hole" and those blender attachments he had for hands

you were convinced for years that Batman was a mildly overweight man with a moderate beer belly who wore his underwear outside of his clothes and talked strangely

(female) you thought Sean Cassidy was "dreamy", lusted after "Ted, your ship’s photographer" on the Love Boat and Chachi, or, to keep it fair to the comically interested, thought Fred was just a hunk on Scooby Doo

you’re still occasionally suffering flashbacks from your 21st birthday party

you’re starting to dread you’re 30th birthday, and have even begun going into denial about it’s possibility

you’ve ever said "I’m a vegetarian" and immediately had someone call you a hypocrite by saying "Nice leather jacket you have there…and gee, is that a suede bag…those shoes leather, too?"

you’re starting to believe that maybe 30 isn’t so old after all, and it’s those people over 40 you have to look out for

you freaked out when you found that you now fall into the "26 – 50" age category on most questionnaires

you have begun to lust after women (or men) that it would be socially inappropriate for you to date due to their age

your hair, at some point in time in the 80’s, became something which can only be described by the phrase "I was experimenting"

this timeline appropriately describes actual events in your life: Star Wars opens, you are still in single digit ages, and you think the creatures are WAY cool. Empire Strikes Back opens, you are now in early double digit ages, and you are convinced that the special effects are much better, the characters are cool, and you want one of every collectible out there. Return of the Jedi hits the theaters…you are now a teenager, and you cannot get your eyes off Princess Leia or Han Solo. You fantasize forever and ever about it, and send off to join every fan club for them on the planet, hanging posters, photos, and "teen"-type magazine spreads all over your walls and lockers at school.

you’ve ever shopped at a Banana Republic or Benetton, but not in the last five years, okay?

you can’t remember a time when "hitting the outlet stores" didn’t mean going to an electrical warehouse

you’re starting to believe (now that it wouldn’t affect YOU) that maybe having the kids go to school year-round wouldn’t be such a bad idea after all

you’re doing absolutely nothing with anything pertaining to your major degree

you won’t walk into the place where you once knew every bartender on a first name basis because "there’s too many kids there"

going to keg parties no longer involves hiding out in the woods when the cops show up

you want to go out dancing, you really, REALLY do, but your back hurts, sorry

(male) you’re starting to think that Corvettes really look good, and aren’t REALLY for guy’s going through a mid-life crisis. That’s not YOU.

you’re starting to get that "why aren’t you married yet" shpiel, not just from parents, but now from friends that are married

you’ve recently horrified yourself by groaning as you get out of bed, not because of a hangover, but because it genuinely just hurts to do so

you’re finding that you just don’t understand more than half the lingo used on MTV any more

you never wanted to be gagged with a spoon

U2 is too "popular" and "mainstream" for you now

you ever used the phrase "kiss mah grits" in conversation

When someone mentions two consecutive days of the week, the Happy Days theme is stuck in your head for hours on end

you remember trying to guess the episode of the Brady Bunch from the first scene

you ever used the phrase "don’t make me angry…you wouldn’t LIKE me when I’m angry" when trying to frighten someone off

you had ringside seats for Luke and Laura’s wedding (on General Hospital)

you remember "Hey, let’s be careful out there"

your parents wanted you to attend medical school, but you decided it was pointless since Quincy got all the babes, anyway

you know who shot J.R.

this rings a bell: "and my name, is Charlie. They work for me."

Biography This Week

March 7, 1997

Years ago in the comics section of the newspaper–the only part of the newspaper that I really pay any attention to–there was a special section called "Biography". It was, I think, one of those semi-hip attempts to draw teenagers to the comics. It lasted about six months, but in that period of time, its effect was devastating. Regardless of what kind of entertainer they focused on each week–singer, comedian, actor–that person would disappear completely from the public eye immediately afterward. Their career could be rising, falling, mediocre, successful…it didn’t matter. Once they were featured, they were gone. If out-of-work performers appeared on milk cartons, they would all say "Last seen in: Biography comic strip." It’s not hard to guess, though, why this comic strip cut down everything in its path: they all ended the same way. "<Blank> is destined to be one of the greatest <fill in occupation> ever!"

Enjoy the following piece about some other people who were unquestionably destined for…well…

Darwin Awards II

You may recall last year’s Darwin Award winner: The man who found out moments before making a 300 MPH dent in an Arizona cliff that the JATO (jet assist take off) unit he’d strapped to his car could not be turned off once it was turned on.

Darwin Awards are (by definition) granted posthumously. This citation is bestowed upon (the remains of) that individual, who through single-minded self-sacrifice, has done the most to remove undesirable elements from the human gene pool.

The 1996 nominees are:

[San Jose Mercury News] An unidentified man, using a shotgun like a club to break a former girlfriend’s windshield, accidentally shot himself to death when the gun discharged, blowing a hole in his gut.

[Hickory Daily Record 12/21/92] Ken Charles Barger, 47,accidentally shot himself to death in December in Newton, N.C., when, awakening to the sound of a ringing telephone beside his bed, he reached for the phone but grabbed instead a Smith &Wesson .38 Special, which discharged when he drew it to his ear.

[Unknown, 25 March] A terrible diet and room with no ventilation are being blamed for the death of a man who was killed by his own gas. There was no mark on his body but autopsy showed large amounts of methane gas in his system. His diet had consisted primarily of beans and cabbage (and a couple of other things). It was just the right combination of foods. It appears that the man died in his sleep from breathing from the poisonous cloud that was hanging over his bed. Had he been outside or had his windows been opened, it wouldn’t have been fatal. But the man was shut up in his near airtight bedroom. He was "a big man with a huge capacity for creating [this deadly gas]." Three of the rescuers got sick and one was hospitalized.

[Reuters, Mississauga, Ontario] Man slips, falls 23 stories to his death. A man cleaning a bird feeder on his balcony of his condominium apartment in this Toronto suburb slipped and fell 23 stories to his death, police said Monday. Stefan Macko, 55, was standing on a wheeled chair Sunday when the accident occurred, said Inspector D’Arcy Honer of the Peel regional police."It appears the chair moved and he went over the balcony," Honer said."It’s one of those freak accidents. No foul play is suspected."

[UPI, Toronto] Police said a lawyer demonstrating the safety of windows in a downtown Toronto skyscraper crashed through a pane with his shoulder and plunged 24 floors to his death. A police spokesman said Garry Hoy, 39, fell into the courtyard of the Toronto Dominion Bank Tower early Friday evening as he was explaining the strength of the building’s windows to visiting law students. Hoy previously had conducted demonstrations of window strength according to police reports. Peter Lauwers, managing partner of the firm Holden Day Wilson, told the Toronto Sun newspaper that Hoy was"one of the best and brightest" members of the 200-man association.

[AP, Cairo, Egypt, 31 Aug 1995 CAIRO, Egypt (AP)] Six people drowned Monday while trying to rescue a chicken that had fallen into a well in southern Egypt. An 18-year-old farmer was the first to descend into the 60-foot well. He drowned, apparently after an undercurrent in the water pulled him down, police said.His sister and two brothers,none of whom could swim well, went in one by one to help him, but also drowned. Two elderly farmers then came to help, but they apparently were pulled by the same undercurrent. The bodies of the six were later pulled out of the well in the village of Nazlat Imara, 240 miles south of Cairo. The chicken was also pulled out. It survived.

[Times of London] A thief who sneaked into a hospital was scarred for life when he tried to get a suntan. After evading security staff at Odstock Hospital in Salisbury, Wiltshire, and helping himself to doctor’s paging devices, the thief spotted a vertical sunbed. He walked into the unit and removed his clothes for a 45-minute tan. However, the high-voltage UV machine at the hospital, which is renowned for its treatment of burns victims, has a maximum dosage of 10 seconds. After lying on the bed for almost 300 times the recommended maximum time, the man was covered in blisters. Hours later, when the pain of the burns became unbearable, he went to Southampton General Hospital, 20 miles away, in Hampshire. Staff became suspicious because he was wearing a doctor’s coat. After tending his wounds they called the police. Southampton police said: "This man broke into Odstock and decided he fancied a quick suntan. Doctors say he is going to be scarred for life."

"More intelligence-challenged people"

45 year-old Amy Brasher was arrested in San Antonio, Texas, after a mechanic reported to police that 18 packages of marijuana were packed in the engine compartment of the car which she had brought to the mechanic for an oil change. According to police, Brasher later said that she didn’t realize that the mechanic would have to raise the hood to change the oil.

Portsmouth, R.I.Police charged Gregory Rosa, 25, with a string of vending machine robberies in January when he:
1. fled from police inexplicably when they spotted him loitering around a vending machine and
2. later tried to post his $400 bail in coins.

Karen Lee Joachimi, 20, was arrested in Lake City, Florida, for robbery of a Howard Johnson’s motel. She was armed with only an electric chainsaw, which was not plugged in.

The Ann Arbor News crime column reported that a man walked into Burger King in Ypsilanti, Michigan at 7:50 am, flashed a gun and demanded cash. The clerk turned him down because he said he couldn’t open the cash register without a food order. When the man ordered onion rings, the clerk said they weren’t available for breakfast. The man, frustrated, walked away.

In case you’ve forgotten about the 1995 awardees, some of them are listed below:

* James Burns, 34, of Alamo, Mich., was killed in March as he was trying to repair what police described as a "farm-type truck." Burns got a friend to drive the truck on a highway while Burns hung underneath so that he could ascertain the source of a troubling noise. Burns’ clothes caught on something, however, and the other man found Burns "wrapped in the drive shaft." [Kalamazoo Gazette, 4-1-95]

* Same thing up here in MI. Seems some poor fella thought it would be a good idea to "move" a downed wire from his car. Newspaper reports it took a FULL MINUTE of neighbors whacking away at him with a 2×4 to free their freshly fried former friend from the fatal flashing.

* Bowling Green, Ohio, student Robert Ricketts, 19, had his head bloodied when he was struck by a Conrail train. He told police he was trying to see how close to the moving train he could place his head without getting hit.

* In Wesley Chapel, Florida, Joseph Aaron, 20, was hit in the leg with pieces of the bullet he fired at the exhaust pipe of his car. When repairing the car, he needed to bore a hole in the pipe. When he couldn’t find a drill, he tried to shoot a hole in it.

I’ll be seeing you…

February 27, 1997

Well, folks, I am sorry to say I’m not going to be here tomorrow. Sure! If having Friday off depressed me, I’d be in need of serious help. Well, actually…

You may be wondering what I’m going to do with all that time off. Mainly I’m going to be catching up on all the TV watching I’ve missed with my busy schedule. Why TV? Well, let me tell you what I’ll be watching: People’s Funny Home Videos, Funny Home Videos of the World, Disasters Caught On Video, Funny Animal Home Videos, Deadly Animal Attacks Caught on Video, Scary Car Chases on Video, and some show about how to make home videos. After all, vacations are meant to be spent with friends, and with that many home videos, I’m sure to see someone I know. And if I don’t, well, there’s always America’s Most Dangerous Criminals.

Enjoy this week’s offering which involves that other outlet for excess creativity: the answering machine.


Some newly discovered answering machine greetings…

My wife and I can’t come to the phone right now, but if you’ll leave your name and number, we’ll get back to you as soon as we’re finished.

Hello, you’ve reached Jim and Sonya. We can’t pick up the phone right now, because we’re doing something we really enjoy. Sonya likes doing it up and down, and I like doing it left to right…real slowly. So leave a message, and when we’re done brushing our teeth we’ll get back to you.

A is for academics,
B is for beer.
One of those reasons is why we’re not here.
So leave a message.

Hi. This is John. If you are the phone company, I already sent the money. If you are my parents, please send money. If you are my financial aid institution, you didn’t lend me enough money. If you are my friends, you owe me money. If you are a female, don’t worry, I have plenty of money.

(Narrator’s voice:) There Dale sits, reading a magazine. Suddenly the telephone rings! The bathroom explodes into a veritable maelstrom of toilet paper, with Dale in the middle of it, his arms windmilling at incredible speeds! Will he make it in time? Alas no, his valiant effort is in vain. The bell hath sounded. Thou must leave a message.

Please leave a message. However, you have the right to remain silent. Everything you say will be recorded and will be used by us.

….and my personal *favorite*

Hi. I’m probably home, I’m just avoiding someone I don’t like. Leave me a message, and if I don’t call back, it’s you.

Wise men say…

February 21, 1997

There’s an old riddle that goes like this: A man is trapped in a room with only a mattress and a calendar. How does he survive? Simple: he eats dates from the calendar and drinks water from the springs in the mattress. Strangely enough, this has never been tried. There’s another old saying that goes like this: If you put a thousand monkeys in a room with a thousand typewriters, eventually they’ll produce the complete works of William Shakespeare. This has been tried, and the end result was a thousand obsolete typewriters and a thousand dead monkeys. Maybe they should have given them a bunch of calendars and mattresses, but I suspect the result then would have just been a lot more monkeys. Why am I sharing all this with you? I have no idea. Maybe it’s because of an even older saying: A little nonsense now and then Is relished by the wisest men. If that’s true, I must be practically a genius.

Actual questions asked by Actual tourists at various
U.S. national parks

Zion National Park
What is your best parking area?

Mount Rainier National Park
Where’s the road to the summit?

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore
Don’t you think the polluted sky makes a much prettier sunset? (Obviously someone who voted for Newt)

Grand Canyon National Park
Was this man-made?
Do you light it up at night?
I bought tickets for the elevator to the bottom — where is it?
Is the mule train air-conditioned?
So where are the faces of the presidents?
Why did the Indians only build ruins?

Everglades National Park
Are the alligators real?
Are the baby alligators for sale?
Where are all the rides?
What time does the two o’clock bus leave?

Mesa Verde National Park
Did people build this, or did Indians?
Why did they build the ruins so close to the road?
Do you know of any undiscovered ruins?
What did they worship in the kivas — their own made-up religion?
Why did the Indians decide to live in Colorado?

Carlsbad Caverns National Park
How much of the cave is underground?
So what’s in the unexplored part of the cave?
Does it ever rain in here?
How many ping-pong balls would it take to fill this up?
So what is this — just a hole in the ground?

Yosemite National Park
Where are the cages for the animals?
What time of year do you turn on Yosemite Falls?
What happened to the other half of Half Dome?
Can I get my picture taken with the carving of President Clinton?

Denali National Park
What time do you feed the bears?
What time do they let the animals out in the park?
What’s so wonderful about Wonder Lake?
Can you show me where yeti lives?
How often do you mow the tundra?
How much does Mount McKinley weigh?

Yellowstone National Park
Does Old Faithful erupt at night?
How do you turn it on?
When does the guy who turns it on get to sleep?
We had no trouble finding the park entrances, but where are the exits?

Isn’t it romantic…

February 14, 1997

February is a weird month, especially since it’s the shortest month of the year. February has more special days packed into it than probably any other month. First there’s Groundhog Day–the second, and never in my life can I remember a time when the famous groundhog was not frightened by his shadow, signifying six more weeks of winter. You would think after millenia of this people would either shoot the groundhog or pick another animal, but snakes aren’t as cuddly and bears, like various movie stars, have been known to maim and kill photographers. Next there’s Mardi Gras. Not only is this the time when people get so drunk you’d think they were practicing for St. Patrick’s Day, it’s also the time when people do completely insane things they wouldn’t do at any other time of the year. These things almost always involve balloons, shaving cream, and donkeys. Because people–usually guys–do these idiotic things, it’s a good thing the next really special day is Valentine’s Day, when a barrage of cards, chocolates, and other goodies give the hung-over a chance to appease their significant others. In fact, very few people realize that Valentine is the patron saint of people who have done very stupid things and need otherworldly assistance when they go crawling back. So happy Valentine’s Day, everybody, and hope you don’t need the help–I understand Valentine is a little overworked this year. Enjoy the following list of statements by people who are beyond help, and how to answer them.

Pick-up lines heard around the world and possible responses

I know how to please a woman.
A-> Then please leave me alone.

I want to give myself to you.
A-> Sorry, I don’t accept cheap gifts.

May I see you pretty soon?
A-> Don’t you think I’m pretty now?

Your hair color is fabulous.
A-> Thank you. It’s on aisle three at the corner drug store.

You look like a dream.
A-> Go back to sleep.

I can tell that you want me.
A-> Yes, I want you to leave.

Hey, baby, what’s your sign?
A-> Do not enter. Or Stop.

I’d go through anything for you.
A-> Let’s start with your bank account.

May I have the last dance?
A-> You’ve just had it.

I would go to the end of the world for you.
A-> Yes, but would you stay there?

Your place or mine?
A-> Both. You go to your place, and I’ll go to mine.

Your body is like a temple.
A-> Sorry, there are no services today.

Is this seat empty?
A-> Yes, and this one will be too if you sit down.

What’s it like being the most beautiful girl in the bar?
A-> What’s it like being the biggest liar in the world?

Haven’t I seen you someplace before?
A-> Yeah, that’s why I don’t go there anymore.

If I could see you naked, I’d die happy.
A-> If I could see you naked, I’d die laughing.

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