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May 13, 2004

Evaluating Stupidity

As most of you know, I'm spend a lot of my time recently banging out The Book of the Dumb 2 ("Now with 30% extra stupidity!"), and I imagine as most of you suspect, the task is not especially onerous, since there's a whole world of stupidity out there. The hard part is not finding stupidity to write about, the hard part is choosing what not to write about.

To give you an example of this, let me recount for you today's stupidity selections (as of around noon today -- yes, this is just in the first twelve hours of a 24 hour period), and tell you which of these I'm like to write up today and why. The rest will not be thrown away; no, they'll be stored in a stupidity archive, if you will, into which I can go if for some unfathomable reason there comes a day that has hardly any stupidity in it. This doesn't seem likely, however.

Also be aware that a) these are selections from just one of my stupidity harvesting stops -- they're from FARK.com, which to my mind is probably the best Web site ever, for me, because of these books. However, I have other sources I also hit, just not yet today; and b) these are the selections after I've thrown out quite a few other similar stories that I can't use. For example, the story about how two Ukrainian soldiers caused three-quarters of a billion dollars in damages by smoking in an ammunition dump (it has people dying, and the BotD books cede the "stupid and dead" arena to the Darwin Awards).

Okay? Here's today's stupidity harvest, so far:

Beermats explain EU to Welsh drinkers
Concept: Welsh people woefully ignorant about EU, so try to get them to read about it when they're drunk.
Use It: Oh, yeah. However, this will the third EU story I've written up so far; unless I'm planning a whole section on EU stupidity (which isn't a bad idea, actually), this is the last one.

Globe caught with pants down: Paper duped into running porn photos
Concept: The Boston Globe runs pictures of what they thought were Iraqi prison atrocities; actually, it's just staged porn.
Use It: Maybe -- On one hand, it's always amusing when the media does something really stupid; on the other hand, the Iraq prison atrocities are still not funny, and may continue to not be funny through September-October, which is when the book comes out.

'I Want You': Love Letters To Student Land Teacher In Trouble
Concept: Female teacher writes male student love letters, which are discovered in his locker.
Use It: Maybe, but probably not. To be sexist about it, it's the fact the teacher is female and the student male that makes it usable; it's kind of creepy and sad, but if the sexes were reversed it'd only be creepy and sad. I'll store it and see if any better sex-related stories come around, which they almost certainly will.

Coffins mixed up
Concept: Undertakers bring the wrong coffin to a funeral; funeral delayed an hour as they go back to get the right one.
Use It: Oh, yeah. Bringing the wrong coffin to a funeral is classic stupidity.

Man Says Tornado Made Him Try To Kill
Concept: Man uses a "Twinkie Defense," only in this case the Twinkie is a rampaging cyclone.
Use It: Maybe. The case isn't settled yet, and it'd be better to see how it turns out. The good news here is that the murder here is only attempted, and therefore I can use it.

Woman Commutes for Welfare Benefits
Concept: Women pretends to live in San Francisco to get city's comparatively generous welfare package, but actually commutes from Lake Tahoe to get take her appointments.
Use It: Probably, since there's a point to be made that all the effort and initiative the woman is making to secure a few extra bucks from Welfare could have been probably better used to get, you know, a job.

'Pirates' may lose some loot
Concept: Teenage kids posing as pirates walk in a kiddie parade as a prank; are cited and charged $100 each.
Use It: Eh. Maybe. It's definitely B-list material.

Bourbon sold in soft drink can
Concept: Four year old thinks she's drinking a Pepsi, but there's actually a Jim Beam and Cola mix. A screw-up at the factory.
Use It: Sure. You can never go wrong with corporate stupidity that involves getting a preschooler wasted (so long as the preschooler is not actually seriously injured, and this one was not).

Man leads officers to his own pot plants
Concept: Man, fearing hallucinated intruders, calls cops who can't help but notice his agricultural enthusiasms.
Use It: Duh. Of course. Don't do drugs, kids!

"Dead" Fugitive Found In California
Concept: Wanted man fakes his own death, but can't change his fingerprints.
Use it: Probably. This is a good "Tips For Stupid Criminals" story.

A Failing Grade For "Friends"
Concept: NBC Research report from 1994 says the sitcom Friends isn't funny.
Use It: You bet. It's timely and it's also correct in its details. Well, it is.

Audience Lied to at Reality Show Taping
Concept: Producers making an anti-American Idol tell audience members that the terrible singers they're about to hear all have terminal cancer, so please treat them nicely.
Use It: Absolutely, if only to get in the following comment from an unconvinced audience member: "I said to myself, 'There should be some cancer patients who could actually hold a note.' "

Naughty gnomes made to cover up
Concept: Guy buys naked gnomes; is told to paint clothing on them.
Use it: Possibly. This is one of those that I'd probably have to work myself up in the writing department to really make it fly.

Kid brings mercury to school
Concept: Teen thinks it'd be amusing to show friends a cup of poisonous liquid metal; resulting clean up costs school district $163K.
Use It: Eventually. I just wrote a piece on a kid bringing a live artillery shell to school, though, so I'll probably sit on it for a couple of weeks to think of some new way to write it up.

Lightning Close Tap On Beer Giveaway
Concept: Pro hockey team thinks nothing could go wrong by giving away free beer to season ticket holders; everyone else in Florida disagrees and force the team to change its mind.
Use it: Hockey? Free beer? Florida? How could one not use it?

Just remember: I do this every single day. And some of you wonder why I'm cynical about humanity.

Posted by john at May 13, 2004 02:05 PM

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