No. 239: "Terror Train"

No. 239: "Terror Train"

No. 239: "Terror Train"

Testing your knowledge of what happened this week
May 10 1999 11:19 PM

No. 239: "Terror Train"

"We're not being motivated by what's to come, but a fear of being left out as the train is pulling away from the station, with some exotic station in mind." Who said this about what?


Send your answer by noon ET Tuesday to

Thursday's Question (No. 238)--"4-Meta-4":

"The so-called low-hanging fruit has all been picked."

"All of the cards have fallen the wrong way at the same time."


"If all you do is fix the watch, nobody ever builds a better watch."

"Everyone's in deep yogurt."

These four lines have something in common. What?

"Every college student knows this one! They are the four sentences you always insert in plagiarized papers to throw the professor off track."--Dale Shuger


"Promo lines for Yoplait's new 'playing card and watch parts on the bottom' yogurt."--Al Petrosky

"They are all quotations from the Old Testament Book of Aunt Ruth."--Adrianne Tolsch

"OK. Four haiku translated and only 16 more to go for my Japanese final."--Mike Mays

"Awkwardly translated, anti-American signs held by Chinese protesters."--Beth Sherman


Click for more answers.

Randy's Reasons To Read the Paper Wrap-Up

Many cultures have a great epic filled with heroes and villains who personify the culture's values and vices. That function is now provided by our daily papers, which offer a kind of ongoing myth, related to but not a literal rendering of any actual events, much as the Old Testament account of Noah's Ark may allude to an actual flood, but it doesn't really matter. (A more simplistic version of our National Mythology is provided by TV news--the Classics Comic version, the Cliff Notes.) This serialized myth presents a roster of stock characters--among them, the erotic dynamo, male; the erotic dynamo, female; the sexless genius, male only; the sexless workaholic, female only; the amiable doofus--to nobly embody or disgracefully lack the qualities we prize.

If you follow our Ongoing Epic, you become familiar with these characters, handy for making metaphors or making conversation with your fellow North Americans. This theory also gets at the proliferating sections of many daily papers, devoted to so much that is clearly not news--developments in TV sitcoms, personal lives of athletes, chefs. These aspects of life provide additional character types, imps and demigods, nymphs and satyrs, to further populate our great saga. If we lived in ancient Athens, we'd sprinkle our conversations with references to gods and goddesses; instead we refer to those Titans of the Times.


The particularly loopy metaphors in Thursday's question inspired many of you to suggest the same candidate for the role of amiable doofus in our national drama, a sort of Loki figure if that clever trickster were just a little less, well, clever. See below.

Code Blue Answer

Each was said by a doctor worried about cuts in Medicare payments to teaching hospitals.

The particular mission of these institutions--training new doctors, developing new methods, treating the poor--is paid for not by patient fees but by federal funds, and cuts have been severe. Medicare cuts alone will cost New York state hospitals $5 billion through 2002. Doctors will be laid off. Entire departments will be closed down.

  • "The low hanging fruit" (Dr. David Skinner) refers to the most easily made budget cuts.
  • "The cards" (Dr. Stuart Altman) are the lamentable combination of increasing expenses and decreasing funds.
  • "The watch" (Dr. Alan Roper) is the patient; "fixing" it is curing the patient; "building a better watch" is developing new medical techniques if you really torture the metaphor. He's a doctor, damn it, not an English speaker. Well, OK, he is an English speaker, but he's not a writer.
  • "Deep yogurt" (Dr. Mitchell Rabkin) is a coy metaphor for deep trouble.

Does Your Doctor's Size Count Extra

An ad for the Barron Centers runs in today's New York Times under the banner: "When it comes to ... PENILE ENLARGEMENT ... there is a difference" (ellipses theirs). Below, some all too infrequently asked questions with answers gleaned from the ad and the Web site,

  • Q: Is there an illustration with the ad?
    A: Yes. The famous statue, the discus thrower. I'd never noticed this before, but he appears to be embarrassed by his unusually small penis.
  • Q: Have the centers been seen on television?
    A: Yes. (I'm not sure where I first heard about the centers, but it may have been on Everybody Loves Raymond Despite His Unusually Small Penis.)
  • Q: Does penis size matter?
    A: Duh! Dr. Rodney S. Barron's answer is more articulate, more elegant, more--what's the word?--Lincolnesque: "Size matters to some of the people all of the time and to all of the people some of the time, but not to all of the people all of the time." And then he didn't go on to add: "Is that the Emancipation Proclamation in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?"
  • Q: But surely there is nothing known to medical science that could possibly give me a lovelier scrotum, that could make a silk purse out of my, er, wait--is that my phone ringing?
    A: "Yes, there is. It's possible to do a fat transfer to the scrotal sac, which results in a larger and fuller looking scrotum."
  • Q: Is there some sort of hoity-toity name you could give the procedure to make is sound kind of--I don't know--not stupid?
    A: "Scrotum Enhancement."
  • Q: How do I know where my penis fits in? No, wait, let me rephrase that.
    A: Don't worry. I'm writing in the voice of a doctor. A chart on our Web site shows the percentage of the population that has various sizes of erect penis from 3.75 to 9 inches, broken down in quarter-inch increments. And it shows erect girth from 1.5 to 6.75 inches. (You understand, that's the size of the penises. We're not a country full of guys only 6-inches tall. Now that would be funny. Little 6-inch guys. Can you imagine! Is that my phone?)
  • Q: Does the site have lots of before-and-after pictures of penises dangling next to rulers?
    A: Indeed it does. They'll put you in mind of a rather odd fishing trip.
  • Q: Isn't there some way you could cash in on the insecurities of women as well as men?
    A: Would you like to rephrase that?
  • Q: Isn't there some way you could use your medical training to help women as well as men?
    A: In addition to penis stretching, the Barron Centers offer liposuction. And not just to women. If you can afford it, we'll happily suck the fat out of a poodle or a peach cobbler. In accordance with medical ethics, of course.
  • Q: What's all this going to cost me? Not me, but one of those small penis guys or the fat gals.
    A: "The simple truth is that the procedures range from about $4,900 to slightly over $6,900, depending on which procedure or combination of procedures you select. All fees include the procedures you've selected, all facility costs, anesthesiology charges, and aftercare-follow-up with Dr. Barron. There are no 'optional extras.' "
  • Q: So, I suppose that rules out some kind of blinking red light?
    A: Medical science is in its infancy.

Common Denominator

Dan Quayle