August 16, 1996
I was in one of those health food stores the other day looking for some twinkies. Honestly–I figure anything with a shelf life of twenty-five years has got to be good for you. Twinkies are so full of preservatives that, if you eat enough, you’ll probably be just as well preserved as they are. Of course, your skin will probably look a little like fiberglass, and you may make a funny squeaking noise when you walk, but twinkies are the health food of the future. Why? I’ll come back to that. I didn’t find any twinkies, but what I did find was diet tea. Diet tea. Take a moment to let that sink in. It’s not as though it was some kind of prepared, fruit flavored tea that, in its regular form, is so full of calories that you might as well eat a handful of sugar. No, this was dry, leaf tea in the little flow-through baggies. Now, normally tea has about three calories anyway–and I may be estimating upward there, so I can only imagine what diet tea has. Maybe it has millicalories or something goofy like that. Honestly, a world that has to have diet tea is a world too obsessed with health for it to be healthy. No one’s going to think they can eat a great big custard doughnut and compensate by drinking diet tea. What they’re going to think is that, if things are so bad that even regular tea is fattening, they might as well say, The heck with it, I’ll just have a twinkie. Pretty soon this’ll catch on. People will begin to understand that indulging yourself once in a while is healthier than living on a 72-calorie-a-day diet, and maybe–just maybe–the health food stores of the future will have a pastry counter with a sign that says, "Hey, you’ve worked hard. Have a twinkie."
Enjoy this week’s offering.
How Not To Die: The Dumbest Deaths in Recorded History
Attila the Hun
One of the most notorious villains in history, Attila’s army had conquered all of Asia by 450 AD–from Mongolia to the edge of the Russian Empire–by destroying villages and pillaging the countryside.
How he died: He got a nosebleed on his wedding night
In 453 AD, Attila married a young girl named Ildico. Despite his reputation for ferocity on the battlefield, he tended to eat and drink lightly during large banquets. On his wedding night, however, he really cut loose, gorging himself on food and drink. Sometime during the night he suffered a nosebleed, but was too drunk to notice. He drowned in his own blood and was found dead the next morning.
An important Danish astronomer of the 16th century. His ground breaking research allowed Sir Isaac Newton to come up with the theory of gravity.
How he died: Didn’t get to the bathroom in time
In the 16th century, it was considered an insult to leave a banquet table before the meal was over. Brahe, known to drink excessively, had a bladder condition — but failed to relieve himself before the banquet started. He made matters worse by drinking too much at dinner, and was too polite to ask to be excused. His bladder finally burst, killing him slowly and painfully over the next 11 days.
Pioneered the use of anesthesia in the 1840s
How he died: Used anesthetics to commit suicide
While experimenting with various gases during his anesthesia research, Wells became addicted to chloroform. In 1848 he was arrested for spraying two women with sulfuric acid. In a letter he wrote from jail, he blamed chloroform for his problems, claiming that he’d gotten high before the attack. Four days later he was found dead in his cell. He’d anaesthetized himself with chloroform and slashed open his thigh with a razor.
One of the most influential minds of the late 16th century. A statesman, a philosopher, a writer, and a scientist, he was even rumored to have written some of Shakespeare’s plays.
How he died: Stuffing snow into a chicken
One afternoon in 1625, Bacon was watching a snowstorm and was struck by the wondrous notion that maybe snow could be used to preserve meat in the same way that salt was used. Determined to find out, he purchased a chicken from a nearby village, killed it, and then, standing outside in the snow, attempted to stuff the chicken full of snow to freeze it. The chicken never froze, but Bacon did.
Jerome Irving Rodale
Founding father of the organic food movement, creator of "Organic Farming and Gardening" magazine, and founder of Rodale Press, a major publishing corporation.
How he died: On the "Dick Cavett Show", while discussing the benefits of organic foods.
Rodale, who bragged "I’m going to live to be 100 unless I’m run down by a sugar-crazed taxi driver," was only 72 when he appeared on the "Dick Cavett Show" in January 1971. Part way through the interview, he dropped dead in his chair. Cause of death: heart attack. The show was never aired.
A Greek playwright back in 500 BC. Many historians consider him the father of Greek tragedies.
How he died: An eagle dropped a tortoise on his head
According to legend, eagles picked up tortoises and attempt to crack them open by dropping them on rocks. An eagle mistook Aeschylus’ head for a rock (he was bald) and dropped it on him instead.
Author of the best selling "Complete Book of Running," which started the jogging craze of the 1970s.
How he died: A heart attack….while jogging
Fixx was visiting Greensboro, Vermont when he walked out of his house and began jogging. He’d only gone a short distance when he had a massive coronary. His autopsy revealed that one of his coronary arteries was 99% clogged, another was 80% obstructed, and a third was 70% blocked….and that Fixx had had three other attacks in the weeks prior to his death.
And finally there’s Lully, one of our favorite 16th-century composers, who wrote music for the king of France.
While rehearsing the musicians, he got too serious beating time with his staff, and drove it right through his foot. He died of infection.