April 16, 2009
Would you accept $5 million dollars if it meant somewhere, someone unknown to you would die?
How could you say yes to this? Didn’t you ever see the Button, Button episode of the New Twilight Zone? No? Oh my god it was so scary! This totally broke, desperate for money married couple receive – out of nowhere and from an anonymous sender – this plain wooden box with a button on it. Shortly after, this weird “men in black” type named Mr. Steward shows up at their shithole, rundown apartment and tells them that if they press the button, they’ll get $200,000 – but that someone they don’t know will die. The husband – who’s dead set against even having the box in the house – takes the box apart, discovers there’s no wires or anything inside, and throws it away. But the wife can’t help herself and retrieves it in the middle of the night. Then she spends the next minutes, hours, days, just sitting and staring at that box and driving herself crazy thinking about how desperately they need that money. And then, finally, she pushes the button. The next day Mr. Steward comes back, hands them a briefcase filled with $200,000, and turns to leave. The couple stops him to ask what will happen to the box and he says that it will be reprogrammed and given to someone else who will be made the same offer. And then, looking directly into the eyes of the wife, he says – and sorry to interrupt here, but, holy shit, this just freaked me the fuck out as a little kid – “I can assure you it will be offered to someone whom you don’t know.” I mean, he might as well have said, “Girlfriend, you fucked up big time!”
If there was ever a chance in life I’d accept a dare like this, that episode effectively destroyed it. Karma will beat the piss out of you, and you’ll deserve it (because, um…that’s like, the whole point of karma). Plus, I just couldn’t live with the guilt. Because if you say yes to this, you essentially have a hand in someone’s death. As I said from the start, no dares involving murder for me.
P.S. Live Wrong and Prosper is moving (!) to http://www.livewrongandprosper.com. The final day of posting on this site will be this Friday. I HOPE HOPE HOPE you’ll move with me!
April 14, 2009
Would you take a job as a short order cook in a diner for a year with the sole purpose of spitting in every dish that leaves the kitchen?
I know fuck all about cooking, so if you walk into your local diner and see me in the kitchen wearing a hairnet or a little paper cap or some crap, and I’m putting food in the window and ringing that little bell and yelling “Pick up!” you need to immediately GET THE FUCK OUT OF DODGE. No, really, I mean it. Because I am going to spit in your food. And then, after about a year of all that spitting, I’m going to have a million dollars. I’m not going to be a real asshole about it and hock a loogie right on top of your pancakes or anything like that – I don’t think I need to get all extravagant and show off-y about it. But there will be some saliva involved. Maybe I’ll just drool into the pancake batter or whip some of my spit into the butter I cook your eggs in. You won’t even know it’s there, and you probably won’t give a shit anyway, because every time you come to the diner it’s, like, 4 a.m. and you’re drunk and sloppy and drooling on yourself anyway. You’ll probably be like, “This food is delicious. My compliments to the chef.” And I’ll feel a little guilty, but also a lot proud. Because I’ll know that my spit is the secret ingredient that makes every dish better. And that will be our little secret. Except that you won’t actually be in on it, but whatever. Anyway, it’ll be a much nicer secret than what the delivery guy put in your food last week. That was just straight up nasty.
April 1, 2009
Would you invite friends over for dinner and secretly serve pieces of rat in a dish that would keep the meat’s identity hidden?
This reminds me of Peter Hessler’s “A Rat In My Soup,” which ran in the New Yorker years ago. In the article, he travels to a city in China’s Guangdong Province that’s home to two well-known restaurants specializing in rat meat. He learns about the tonic property of rat (it’ll put hair on your chest, literally), which is one of the main reasons for its consumption, and what they eat before they end up on your plate (grass and fruit). At the second restaurant he even gets to witness his chosen rat meeting its demise prior to cooking, but that’s rather unpleasant, so I won’t dwell on it. Despite the strangeness of it all, he concludes that rat meat doesn’t actually taste bad. And that’s all I really need to know.
My answer? Hell, yes. I’m sure I’m probably losing a few pals by admitting this, but I’d do it without a second thought (or without much of one). If I chose a heavily seasoned recipe with a bunch of different ingredients, I’m sure no one would notice anything was amiss (and why would they think anything would be amiss in the first place? I’m their friend. They trust me. Mwah hah). Of course, I wouldn’t serve any rat off the street. Just like fine restaurants, which serve farm-raised squab rather than the filthy one-eyed pigeons you see flapping around in the gutter, I’d make sure that my guests had the cleanest, tastiest specimen that money could buy. After all, nothing is too good for my friends!
Yes, but I’m only doing the serving here. Because I don’t care where that rat came from – I don’t care if it’s the finest rat money can buy, imported from the French countryside and wearing a little unisex rat tiara – I’m not touching a rat, and I’m certainly not skinning, gutting and preparing one. Fuck that. So, my answer is yes, I would absolutely serve my friends a rat – that I’d paid someone else to prepare and then shut the hell up about. They’ve eaten grosser stuff.
March 26, 2009
Would you spike a recovering alcoholic’s drink with liquor, knowing that it would cause a relapse?
If I had never seen an alcoholic relapse in front of me, then there’s a terrible part of me that might have been tempted to consider (just consider, mind you, not say yes) this dare for a second. Now, it’s no secret that I enjoy a drink or five from time to time. Many of my friends, too, are fond of the old Mother’s Ruin, not to mention my parents (hi, Mom and Dad!). You go out (or stay in), you have a few cocktails or glasses of wine. Maybe the next night you don’t drink at all, or maybe you do. No big deal. Except what I was never able to understand at a gut level is that for some people, it’s a really big deal. I realize how idiotic that sounds, but bear with me. When I was in Europe, I had a friend who had been in AA for several years and was generally doing really well with his sobriety. Although it was obviously a daily struggle, he made it look pretty manageable. He was diligent about finding meetings and a local sponsor, and he seemed tolerant of and vaguely amused by the prodigious amounts that everyone else drank.
Then came the visit to the winery. I’m still not totally clear on what happened, but he started to drink. I remember nervously asking him if it was a good idea, and I also remember other people being delighted that he was finally “loosening up.” And loosen up he did. To this day I’ve never seen someone go from zero to hammered as quickly, nor have I seen such an immediate and almost physical change come over someone. It was some serious Jekyll and Hyde business. The kicker came the next morning, when he said, “I really wasn’t that bad, was I? I was thinking that I could probably start drinking a little bit again.” Holy shit. Although things were OK in the end, I still feel guilty to this day that I didn’t execute a flying leap across the table and kick the wineglass out of my friend’s hand. And I never want to see that happen again.
Long story short – there is no way that I would be responsible for causing someone to relapse.
Wow. This is a compelling and scary story, and it really made me stop in tracks and think about this question in a way I don’t know that I would’ve if I hadn’t read it. Drinking is all fun and games (except for the hangovers) until someone gets…hurt in a way that genuinely impacts their life, I guess. I think the guilt associated with watching someone’s demise — especially one that you not only stand by idly and watch, but facilitate and are specifically responsible for, might be too much for me. In other news, Lauren, this story is kind of amazing.
March 18, 2009
Would you disappear for a year, leaving only a suicide note for your friends and family to find?
When we first dreamed up this dare, I had no idea that faking your own death was such a popular concept that it had earned its own neologism: pseudocide. Never underestimate the allure of getting completely away from it all. Those who really want to explore the topic (and gain practical tips) can read one of the books available on the subject, such this one, but for those of you with less time, I offer a short list of folks who attempted to pull this off:
– Lord Lucan, a stereotypically dissolute and mustachioed peer who went missing after allegedly murdering the nanny (hello, cliche!). Whether he committed pseudocide or plain old suicide is anyone’s guess, but Lucan sightings rival those of Elvis
– Former British Minister of Labour, John Stonehouse, who ditched his clothes (and numerous bad debts) in Florida, only to be discovered alive and well in Australia
– Author Ken Kesey, who faked a suicide note and fled to Mexico to avoid drug charges
– Steven Leung, who had the bright idea to arrange his “demise” to look like he’d been a victim of the WTC attacks
– John Darwin, money-hungry Englishman who faked his death in a canoe accident with the help of his wife (but not his two sons, who were left to grieve) in 2002
Good company? You be the judge. As for me, the answer to this one is a definite no. Putting aside for a moment the fact that you’d have to be something close to a sociopath to think that doing such a thing to loved ones was acceptable, just think of the aftermath. Imagine what it would be like to explain to your stunned, grieving friends and family that the whole thing was all a big joke, and that you convinced them you were dead for money. I don’t see a lot of forgiveness in your future. And rightly so, scumbag.
March 11, 2009
Would you eat the meat from a fully intact, rotisseried human baby?
I would not. And while we’re on the subject, it’s worth mentioning that there isn’t a single known society of people that eats its young. In fact, it’s probably humanity’s collective, innate revulsion toward child cannibalism that accounts for the continued popularity of Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal. The 1729 article is considered one of the most scathing, clever pieces of satire ever written, precisely because it pretends to take baby eating – universally recognized as one of the most depraved, abhorrent acts conceivable – so lightly. Swift’s exhortation to poor Irish parents that they sell their children to rich baby eaters is so shocking, so morally depraved, so disgusting, it could only be a joke. Seriously suggesting that kind of thing would be unthinkable.
So it’s no surprise that Chinese conceptual artist Zhu Yu’s Eating People sparked high levels of both outrage and confusion. The piece comprises still shots of Yu (above) washing, cooking and eating what he claims – and what appears to be – an aborted fetus. Eating People premiered at the Shanghai Arts Festival in 2000, but didn’t begin to cause a stir until some of the photographs, out of context, began to circulate online almost a year later. In short time, it was common knowledge among anyone who had ever used the Internet that in Taiwan, for a very reasonable price, you could actually purchase dead babies for consumption from local hospitals. Thus, from millions of erroneous emails was birthed (ha, ha!) the rumor that the Chinese, as a people, love to eat them some babies. The story later grew to even include an investigation into the Taiwanese practice of child cannibalism by both the FBI and Scotland Yard – a fact that, in keeping with the rest of the story, was completely untrue.
The quick fire spread of this particular urban legend can be chalked up to blood libel: fantastic, disturbing accusations of human sacrifice on the part of a particular group that serves to dehumanize and demonize the accused culture. So, when Westerners see a picture of an anonymous Asian man eating a baby, it seems perfectly reasonable to assume all Chinese – because they’re so unlike us, you know – eat babies. Ditto that Jews enjoy eating Christian babies (especially at Passover – but any time will do, really) and that Communists boil babies to make fertilizer. I’m not making these up; they’re all historically common blood libels, and they’re all total bullshit.
The first thing that pops into my head when I see crazy slurs about baby-eating is, “Where are all these babies supposed to come from?” Like, can you imagine how many fetuses it would take to mulch a reasonably sized yard? Or satisfy a hungry extended family at a Seder? It’s not only disgusting, it’s downright impractical.
It would be a cold day in Hell before I tried barbecued baby. I prefer to keep my distance from them when they’re alive, so I have absolutely no desire to see one turn up on my plate, thank you very much.