Jewish World Review Nov. 1, 2002 / 26 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763

Ian Shoales

Ian Shoales
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Consumer Reports

"Extreme" annoyance


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | The word "extreme," I believe, was first attached to certain specific sports, such as snowboarding backward off an alp, tobogganing through an avalanche while strapped to a bear, jogging naked in a blizzard with your Adidas on fire, or leaping from an airplane at 35,000 feet using only Kleenex for a parachute.

Unlike traditional sports, participants in these extreme athletics tended to be less beefy, a little more wiry, with scraggly beards, unkempt hair, and an implicit fondness for marijuana.

All that changed with the introduction of the XFL, which was supposed to indicate a new kind of football, at once X-rated, kind of, and "extreme," kind of, even though it was pretty much identical to regular football, only the players weren't paid as much, and the cheerleaders were skankier. America did not embrace the XFL. It, and Jesse Ventura, headed into the sunset, taking the concept of "extreme" with it.

Sure, the term "extreme" is still around, but its meaning has been utterly degraded. In the TV ads for the recent flop movie, BALLISTIC: ECKS VERSUS SEVER, or EEK VERSUS SERVER, or whatever the hell it was called, the spies were referred to as two "extreme" agents.

But movie spies are, as a rule, already generically extreme, are they not? James Bond was, anyway, and Vin Diesel upped the extremity ante, becoming a kind of blue collar Bond, with tattoos. So what made Antonio Banderas and Lucy Liu so darn extreme, beyond appearing in a piece of straight-to-video murky dreck, with explosions?

Now the word "extreme" has reached its nadir.

Grabbing a quick lunch at Taco Bell the other day, I noticed an ad for something called an "extreme quesadilla." Again, just two short years ago, I associated the word "extreme" with a young person in voluminous pants bungee jumping into a volcano. So what exactly makes this quesadilla extreme? Cheddar cheese pushed to its limits? Sour cream driven to the edge of freshness, and beyond? If we strapped the extreme quesadilla to a mountain bike and dropped it into a pit of cobras, would it survive?

That's the real question here, isn't it?

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JWR contributor Ian Shoales is the author of, among others, Not Wet Yet: An Anthology of Commentary. Comment by clicking here.

Up

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© 2001, Ian Shoales