Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Darwin Awards

The annual Darwin Awards, named in honor of Charles Darwin, the father of evolution, commemorate "those who improve our gene pool by removing themselves from it;" most notably by doing something incredibly stupid.

To receive the award, the act of stupidity must meet the following criteria.

1) Reproduction – Upon completion of the act, the recipient must be incapable of reproducing.
2) Excellence – The act of stupidity should be colorful and memorable.
3) Self-selection – The recipient should have known better but voluntarily chose to do it anyway.
4) Maturity – The recipient should be old enough to know better. Kids are not included.
5) Veracity – The act of stupidity should be widely reported in local news outlets and verifiable.

As perpetrators of acts of stupidity, some of the winners of recent Darwin Awards are true geniuses.

A man named Phillip, 60, was in a hospital being treated for a skin disease. He had been smeared with a paraffin-based cream and warned not to smoke because the cream could ignite. But Phillip sneaked out onto the fire escape for a nicotine fix anyway. Soon, he ignited his pajamas that had absorbed the flammable cream. The good news is that the resulting inferno cured his skin condition. The bad news is he suffered first-degree burns on a large portion of his body and, as a result, died in intensive care.

NOTE: Smoking cigarettes is stupid. At a pack a day, it costs about $2,000 per year to suck toxic fumes into your lungs. And setting yourself on fire, on a fire escape, may be poetic but it's also bad for your health.

A man in Brazil tried to disassemble a Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) by driving a car back and forth over it. He had 15 grenades he wanted to sell as scrap metal. When he failed with the car, he began pounding the RPG with a sledgehammer. The explosion wiped out one man, six cars and a repair shop.

NOTE: Explosive devices are not scrap items – they create scrap items.

A man in Florida speared and tethered himself to a grouper (a fish) that weighed several hundred pounds. Some time later, the experienced snorkeler was found pinned to the coral, 17 feet underwater, with three coils of line around his waist and a dead grouper that had been impaled by a spear at the other end of the line.

NOTE: If you have some sort of demented desire to take a joy ride on a large wild beast, put on a cowboy hat and sit down on the back of a bull, accompanied by a couple of rodeo clowns. Bulls don't go underwater.

A 35-year-old pastor in a small African country told his congregation that anyone could walk on water as long as one had enough faith. And to prove it, he set out to walk across a current where a river meets the sea. Not only did the pastor fail to walk on water, but he also couldn't swim. He did, however, meet his maker.

NOTE: You need more than faith to walk on water – you need connections in high places.

In Belize, an electrician named Kennon, 26, was flying a kite when the string made contact with a high-tension line. The kite string was made out of thin copper wiring, the sort of material an electrician would have on hand, sending a bolt of electrical lightning his way. He was survived by his parents, five brothers and six sisters.

NOTE: Electricity and copper don't mix, unless you intend to send electricity to the other end of the copper.

Jason and Sara were college students in Florida. This pair of thrill seekers actually climbed inside an eight-foot advertising balloon filled with helium. Their last words consisted of high-pitched giggling and incoherent mumbling as they passed out, due to a lack of oxygen, and died painlessly. No drugs or alcohol were involved. A family member explained, "Sara was mischievous, to be honest. She liked fun and it cost her."

NOTE: Being mischievous is disrespectful, fun is overrated and the inside of a balloon is not an empty room.

Acts of stupidity are common among the human race. While some people lead lives of quiet desperation, others enhance the species by riding groupers or squeezing into balloons. It's nature's way of thinning the herd.

Quote for the Day -- “Stupid is as stupid does.” Forrest Gump

Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and where acts of stupidity are part of the local culture. His blogs appear on several websites, including

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