One of the best known and most frequently visited web sites is the Darwin Awards web site. Practically everyone who is on the net has received a Darwin story in their e-mail at one time or another. It is one of those legendary sites which has become part of the fabric of being on-line. Started in 1993 by biologist Wendy Northcutt she set out to collect together and authenticate stories of individuals around the world who, through their stupidity, have removed themselves from the gene pool, (i.e. killed themselves). These are the people for whom warnings such as 'coffee is hot' and 'this superman cape does not enable the wearer to fly' were made. This is black humour elevated to its purest commercial form. There are rules here too. The candidate must: exhibit astounding misapplication of judgement; remove himself/herself from the gene pool; be capable of sound judgement; be self selecting (i.e. it was their fault) and the event must be verifiable.
Silenced by the Lambs
(28 January 1999, England) A flock of sheep charged a well-meaning British farmer's wife and pushed her over a cliff to her death. Betty, 67, was charged by dozens of sheep after she brought them a bale of hay on the back of a power bike. The sheep rushed forward and rammed the vehicle, knocking Betty and her bike over the edge of a vacant quarry near Durham. "I saw the sheep surround the bike. The next thing she was tumbling down the incline," a neighbor told reporters. Her husband is being comforted by friends.
I guess I'm a party pooper, and I admit I've snickered at "Darwin Award" anecdotes told to me over instant messenger and email. But being told these are verified and realizing there was a real person (and this story doesn't make her sound all that stupid, just unlucky) takes all the fun out of it for me. I should add though, I'm really not a joke book person and this is very unlike my usual read. I read it because it was in the Humor Section of "The Ultimate Reading List" which I had been working through. Oh well, maybe Nora Ephron or Dave Barry will suit me better.
Accordingly, I skipped almost all the chapter introductions, and I liked the book much better. I did feel a little bit guilty reading this. I suppose by definition this book is taking delight in others misfortune. Perhaps it is simply that God works in mysterious ways.
For anyone who might not be familiar with the Darwin Awards, they are given each year for:
significantly improve the gene pool by eliminating themselves from the human race in an obviously stupid way. They are self-selected examples of the dangers inherent in a lack of common sense, and all human races, cultures, and socioeconomic groups are eligible to compete. Actual winners must meet the following criteria:
Out of the gene pool: dead or sterile.
Astounding misapplication of judgment.
Cause one's own demise.
Capable of sound judgment.
The event must be true.
Always good for a chuckle!
* Darwin Awards: nominees lost their reproductive capacity by killing or sterilizing themselves, thereby removing themselves from the gene pool.
* Honorable Mentions: survived their escapade but still illustrate the innovative spirit of Darwin Award candidates.
* Urban Legends: these are cautionary fables with various versions circling the internet, but any resemblance to actual events is purely coincidental.
* Personal Accounts: these were submitted by loyal readers and are plausible but generally unverified.
Darwin Awards and Honorable Mentions are further divided into:
* Confirmed by Darwin: indicates that a story was backed up by multiple submissions and more than one reputable media source.
* Unconfirmed by Darwin: indicates fewer submissions and the unavailability of direct confirmation of media sources.
This is a seriously funny book and I highly recommend it.