MAD DOG: Something to Look Forward To

Well, we made it into the new year and absolutely nothing happened. And I do mean nothing. The most hyped event since the last one no one cared about except the media turned out to be a dud. Surprise! Surprise! So now that the dawning of the new M-word is behind us, the question begs: What do we have to look forward to?I don't mean what do we have to look forward to the way Time and every other magazine on the face of the earth did when they made their -- yawwwn -- predictions for the next 20 years. After all, how accurate could they hope to be when the best minds of our country can't even figure out that no one has any interest in seeing a TV show about rapping white brothers, half-hour retreads of Ally McBoring, or anything on UPN?No, I mean what do we have to look forward to in the short term. You know, like next month. Maybe we should ask some of those people who get paid big bucks to sit around and figure out what will be the Next Big Thing. They're called futurists, and they're a lot like the psychics whose predictions are printed in the Weekly World News except futurists get paid more, see their bylines in Forbes and The New York Times, and are more concerned with what color car interior people will want next spring rather than whether Michael Jackson will have an AOL chat room's love child. The truth is, it doesn't take a genius to see what's coming. To prove it, I have my own predictions.First, there will be more fad diets than you can shake a rice cake at, largely because Americans have become, well, large. The first one to catch on will be the Chewing Gum Diet, based on a report by researchers at the Mayo Clinic that claims you can lose weight by chewing gum. These researchers, who tried but couldn't figure out anything better to do with their cushy government grants, figured out that chewing gum increases the number of calories you burn by 19.4 percent. That means that if you chewed gum all day every day for a year you could lose 11 pounds. Of course you'd have no teeth, be unable to slide your legs under the kitchen table because of the huge wads of gum stuck to the bottom, and couldn't be in the same room with anyone for more than a half hour without driving them absolutely nuts. In other words, you'll end up looking like a skinny Brit with no friends, but that's a small price to pay for a chance to be mistaken for someone whose half-hour retread TV show was cancelled.It won't stop there. Once people realize they burn up between 45 and 60 calories for every ten minutes of sex (meaning the average man burns 7 to 15 calories in a normal sex session), you can expect the Tantric Diet Plan to hit the shelves (and the bedrooms). But I predict no diet will be half as successful as the Crab Picking Diet, in which you eat nothing but hard-shelled crabs because, as any researcher worth his or her weight in Jenny Craig endorsements will tell you, people expend way more energy picking crabs than they take in eating the meager pickings.That won't be the only food news this year. Candy bars may be in short supply because a deadly fungus is threatening the world's cocoa crop. Then, when that news drives you to drink, you'll need to order something other than tequila because there's an agave shortage in Mexico and prices are rising faster than a 16-year-old boy who just came across www.sweetcheeks.com. But before you think it's all bad news, this is the year you'll finally be able to eat Macaroni-And-Cheese-On-A-Stick.This is true. A company in Ohio called Breakaway Foods is testing a line of meals that come in push-up tubes, the perfect thing for people who spend their evenings with their butt cradled in a La-Z-Boy recliner holding a remote in their hand thinking, "Life sure would be perfect if I only had a Meatloaf-On-A-Stick right now."Well, your dreams are almost coming true. IncrEdibles, as they so cutely named them, are the perfect no-muss, no-fuss meal -- you toss it in the microwave, eat it by pushing up on the attached plastic stick, then use any paper towel or sponge to clean up after you spit it out. I shouldn't say that since I haven't tried them, but the idea of push-up macaroni and cheese with chili, scrambled eggs with sausage, and leftover tuna casserole with crumbled potato chip and green mold topping just doesn't sound very appetizing. And you thought we couldn't top last century's invention of Spam, Velveeta, Slim Jims, and Reese's Peanut Butter Puffs cereal.What else can we expect in the near future? More lawsuits like the one from the Canadian tourist who's suing Starbucks for $1.5 million because his penis was crushed in a toilet seat in a store in Manhattan. Or at least warning labels on the toilet seats. The preservation of endangered species by stuffing them, like they're doing to Hsing-Hsing, the National Zoo's panda which recently died. More web sites than you can shake a mouse at, which won't be hard since they're predicting there will be 3.2 billion websites in 2000. Of course, since they're also predicting that only 256 million people in the world will be online this comes to 12.5 websites per person, making me wonder who the hell's putting them up. And finally, we can expect a lot of Jacobs and Emilys, since those were the most popular children's names last year. At least they were in the U.S. In England the two most popular were Jack and Chloe, which I could have sworn was a cancelled series on UPN this past season.And you thought you didn't have anything to look forward to.

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