Michael Kinsley wrote a great column, back in the day, about the most boring headlines ever written. The winner was, indeed, stupefyingly boring (“Worthwhile Canadian Initiative”), but what I recall about the piece were the rules he set out for determining degrees of boredom. One was about the story that informs us things are changing in a place nobody cared about in the first place; the example for this was, “Chill falls on warming relations between Australia, Indonesia.”
I think the following falls into that category, although not in the headline, but the lead:
Long a two-funeral home town, Kendallville recently got its third with David Funeral Home.
That’s from the Journal Gazette, in Fort Wayne. Kendallville is one of its, ahem, bedroom communities.
OK, so we’ve established the death theme. Agreed? I’m starting with death because I thought it would be sort of gross to kick off the week-ending blog entry with a discussion of…well, you’ll see.
Alan came home the other day and reported that the syndicated medical column he handled contained a remarkable question: “I hear Elvis Presley died with 37 pounds of impacted feces in his colon. Is this true?” Reader, I know you’ll be as relieved as I am to hear this is, indeed, not true. But it does reveal something about the credulousness of the average person who writes to syndicated medical columns, doesn’t it?
(The ask-the-doc column has been a rich source of newsroom amusement for years. In Fort Wayne an editor kept a computer file of the best questions. Here was my favorite: I seem to be bleeding internally. Sometimes blood will literally pour from my rectum. Could it be something in my diet?)
But back to Elvis and his 37 pounds of poo. If I were giving out MacArthur genius grants, I’d save one for the tireless folks at Snopes.com and their urban-legends reference page. Of course it was the first hit when I punched “elvis presley + ‘impacted fecal material'” into Google.
You should not be surprised to hear that the story didn’t start with Elvis. It was originally John Wayne, and it was 40 pounds, not 37. Snopes does its usual fine job pointing out that the very idea of a human colon packed with the equivalent of a large bag of topsoil is, not to put too fine a point on it, bullshit. The Elvis angle has a germ of truth, in that the King died on the terlet and was massively constipated, mainly because of all the downers he was taking with those fried peanut-butter sandwiches. But they also point the finger of blame where it belongs — the reports of John Wayne’s intestinal problem is frequently followed by a pitch for colonic “cleansing.”
I dunno, maybe an enema might make you feel better. I’d prefer a bowl of raisin bran, a couple cups of hot coffee and a walk around the neighborhood.
The “spa” industry seems to enjoy propagating this crap. I have a very fine aesthetician who gives me an eyebrow wax once in a while. Since I am congenitally incapable of relaxing and not talking while in a room with another person, we make chitchat. She upsells various facial and skin-care services, many of which seem to involve the removal of “toxins.”
“What sort of toxins?” I ask.
“The body’s toxins,” she replies, calmly. Oh, those. She has a technique where she puts suction cups on your body, and “draws the toxins to the surface,” or something like that. It’s at this point I’m glad my eyes are closed and she can’t see me rolling them.
I wonder where the toxins go once they’ve been drawn to the surface. I suspect the colon. Beware.