October 13, 2000
Several people have speculated about the reason for the recent craze of "extreme sports". You know the type–climbing a 700-foot cliff barehanded in order to parachute back down, mountain-biking down really steep tree-covered hills, deliberately starting avalanches and then snowboarding down just ahead of disaster, or riding the New York subway after midnight.
The other day in the grocery store, looking at the Halloween candy which is already fighting for shelf space with Christmas decorations, I finally figured it out. The whole idea of extreme sports started when I was a kid. We couldn’t scuba dive under icebergs or do anything really exciting because our mothers were always warning us we’d put an eye out or break our necks, so we got the extreme thrill out of certain types of candy. Some may think this explains why Generation X is one of the most sedentary generations yet. Despite the insistence of soft drink commercials, extreme sport enthusiasts are quite rare, due in part to the extraordinary physical prowess such sports require, but also owing a great deal to natural selection.
But I digress. The real reason, though, for the sedentary nature of Generation X is because we all spent the first twelve months of our lives in cushioned car seats and baby carriers. It’s a little known fact that baby carriers are ergonomically based on the same design as overstuffed reclining chairs. So when you see a Gen Xer kicking back in a recliner and watching other Gen Xers on television setting themselves on fire and bungee jumping off the Sears Tower, remember that they’re not being lazy. They’re reliving their childhood. But I continue to digress. Back to the candy. When I was a kid a friend handed me a small, yellow piece of candy and said, "Here, try this." I popped it into my mouth and was rewarded with what felt like a mouth full of burning alcohol–with a slight lemony flavor. (My mother told me that taking candy from strangers is dangerous, but never mentioned that taking candy from friends could be downright suicidal.) It was, my friend said when he stopped laughing, a Lemon Deathball. I never tried another one again. I also stayed away from Exploda-Hots, Mega-Sours, Grape Grapplers, and Makesyoupukes. I know from reading old comic books that candies like these were once sold as joke items–which explains the origin of the term "gag gift". My generation, for some reason, made "extreme candy" a rite of passage. Those who couldn’t hang from the monkey bars from one foot could still earn playground fame if they could tolerate the super-concentrated flavors of extreme candy.
Although most Gen X inventions, including extreme sports, are becoming passe, the candy stays around because parents continue to frighten their children with horror stories of creepy characters who put poison and sharp things in Halloween candy. So to children, and even to some adults, eating a Fireball Whizbang Squincher (which tastes like it’s full of cyanide and razor blades) gives them the thrill of living on the edge. It’s living dangerously–with most of the danger removed.
Enjoy this week’s offerings.
A guy goes into a costume shop. He says, "I’m going to a costume party, and I want to go as Adam."
The girl brings out a fig leaf.
The guy says, "Not big enough!"
So she brings out a bigger one.
"Still not big enough!"
So she brings out a HUGE fig leaf.
"Still not big enough!" he proudly tells her.
So she says, "Listen, Ace, why don’t you just throw it over your shoulder and go as a gasoline pump?"
This is to help you interpret medical research more accurately:
An Aid To Greater Understanding…
The following list of phrases and their definitions might help you understand the mysterious language of science and medicine. These special phrases are also applicable to anyone reading a PhD dissertation or academic paper.
"IT HAS LONG BEEN KNOWN"… I didn’t look up the original reference.
"A DEFINITE TREND IS EVIDENT"… These data are practically meaningless.
"WHILE IT HAS NOT BEEN POSSIBLE TO PROVIDE DEFINITE ANSWERS TO THE QUESTIONS"… An unsuccessful experiment, but I still hope to get it published.
"THREE OF THE SAMPLES WERE CHOSEN FOR DETAILED STUDY"… The other results didn’t make any sense.
"TYPICAL RESULTS ARE SHOWN"… This is the prettiest graph.
"THESE RESULTS WILL BE IN A SUBSEQUENT REPORT"… I might get around to this sometime, if pushed/funded.
"IN MY EXPERIENCE"… Once
"IN CASE AFTER CASE"… Twice
"IN A SERIES OF CASES"… Thrice
"IT IS BELIEVED THAT"… I think.
"IT IS GENERALLY BELIEVED THAT"… A couple of others think so, too.
"CORRECT WITHIN AN ORDER OF MAGNITUDE"… Wrong.
"ACCORDING TO STATISTICAL ANALYSIS"… Rumor has it.
"A STATISTICALLY-ORIENTED PROJECTION OF THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THESE FINDINGS"… A wild guess.
"A CAREFUL ANALYSIS OF OBTAINABLE DATA"… Three pages of notes were obliterated when I knocked over a glass of beer.
"IT IS CLEAR THAT MUCH ADDITIONAL WORK WILL BE REQUIRED BEFORE A COMPLETE UNDERSTANDING OF THIS PHENOMENON OCCURS"… I don’t understand it.
"AFTER ADDITIONAL STUDY BY MY COLLEAGUES"… They don’t understand it either.
"THANKS ARE DUE TO JOE BLOTZ FOR ASSISTANCE WITH THE EXPERIMENT AND TO CINDY ADAMS FOR VALUABLE DISCUSSIONS"… Mr. Blotz did the work and Ms. Adams explained to me what it meant.
"A HIGHLY SIGNIFICANT AREA FOR EXPLORATORY STUDY"… A totally useless topic selected by my committee.
"IT IS HOPED THAT THIS STUDY WILL STIMULATE FURTHER INVESTIGATION IN THIS FIELD"… I quit.