“The Darwin Awards: Evolution in Action” by Wendy Northcutt (Dutton, 2000)

Stupidest Act Ever

Darwin Awardsstarstarstarstar

Think of the stupidest thing a person could ever do.  Multiply this by a factor of ten. Then imagine that this person gets killed in the process of carrying out the stupid act.  This is an example of a Darwin Award.

In the founding days of the Internet, these Darwin Awards were one of the first chain letters to be created, named after the father of evolution, Charles Darwin.  In 1993, UC Berkeley began collecting them, finally starting a website http://www.darwinawards.com.  Since July of 1999 there have been one and a half million unique visitors to this site; it was also named “Coolest Wacky Site of the Year” in April of 2000.

In October of last year, these many amusing yet fantastic stories were brought together in book form, under the same title.  It is now possible for one to have a traveling companion to the Darwin Awards, for those times when one needs a “little something” to read.

But how does one become an entry or at least a nominee for a Darwin Award?  Northcutt has set out five strict rules that one must adhere to:

1)      The candidate must remove himself from the gene pool.

2)      The candidate must exhibit an astounding misapplication of judgment.

3)      The candidate must be the cause of his own demise.

4)      The candidate must be capable of sound judgment.

5)      The event must be verified.

So basically, if you can get someone to film this wacky “idea” you want to try, where in the process you kill yourself or render yourself unable to reproduced, you are eligible.

This book is recommended in any library for any person, for the simple reason that it is one of those books you can just pick up and begin skimming through anytime, anywhere and be extremely amused.  What is interesting about The Darwin Awards is that it does not only contain the essential Darwin Awards, but also has a selection of possible winners and runners-up, as well as Honorable Mentions and Urban Legends.

“Darwin Award, Junk Food Junkie: The 1994 Darwin Award went o the fellow who was killed by a Coke machine, which toppled over on top of him as he was attempting to tip a free soda out of it.”

“Honorable Mention, Official Drug Test: A woman called the police with a complaint that she had been burned in a drug deal.  She declared that a man had sold her a rock of crack cocaine, but when she brought it home, it ‘looked like baking powder.’  The police dispatched a narcotics agent to her house who tested the rock and verified that, despite its appearance, it was indeed cocaine.  The woman was promptly arrested for drug possession.”

“Urban Legend: Cow Bomb: A dairy worker who heard that bovine flatulence was largely composed of methane, and potentially explosive, decided to apply the scientific method to the theory.  While one of his contented cow charges was hooked up to the milking machine, he waited for the slight tail lift that dairy workers know signals an impending expulsion, generally something one avoids.  The hero struck a match.  To his satisfaction at seeing the resulting foot-long blue flame lasted mere seconds, before the flame was subsumed by a rectal contracting  The poor Holstein exploded, killing the worker, who was struck by a flying femur bone.”

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally published on March 19 2001 ©Alex C. Telander.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.