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Video on ‘dumb ways to die’ attracts millions of online viewers

By Nancy Szokan and ,

Staying Safe

It’s the train tracks, stupid

“Dumb Ways to Die,” www.youtube.com/watch?v=IJNR2EpS0jw

A famous 1980s Second City skit was set at a funeral: Mourners, arriving one after another, tried to keep a straight face after learning that the dear deceased had suffocated when he “got his head stuck in an economy-size can of VanCamp’s pork and beans.” That’s the kind of twisted humor behind a sly little animated video called “Dumb Ways to Die.” One by one, egg-shaped, pastel-colored characters blow up, poison, electrocute or otherwise kill themselves, accompanied by a cheery tune: “Get your toast out with a fork/Do your own electrical work . . . Take your helmet off in outer space/Use a clothes dryer as a hiding place . . . Dumb ways to die/So many dumb ways to die.”

The singer (who sounds like a young Alison Krauss, with guitar) ends up chirping that the dumbest way to go might be standing too close to the edge of the train platform, or trying to dodge across the tracks, because . . . ha!

The video is actually a public-service safety announcement produced by the Melbourne, Australia, Metro board. Since turning up on YouTube Nov. 14 it’s gotten 23 million views. Despite its “Sesame Street” style, this may not be the best vehicle for teaching kids to be safe: The little characters spurt bright-red blood when, say, one’s head is bitten off by a grizzly bear.

— Nancy Szokan

Healthful Eating

Interactive exhibition aims to increase knowledge of which foods are best

“Food for Thought,” Koshland Science Museum

Shop for virtual food, design a balanced cafeteria meal and learn about the science behind national nutrition guidelines in a new exhibition at the Koshland Science Museum in Northwest Washington.

“Food for Thought” features hands-on activity stations designed to increase nutritional know-how of adults and children age 10 and older. One game allows you to drive a cart around a virtual grocery store, racking up points by choosing nutritious foods while staying within a budget and correctly answering questions about serving sizes and sugar content. Other stations let you explore the wide world of popular supplements such as calcium and play lunch lady to virtual teenagers by selecting the most nutritious options in a high school cafeteria.

“Each day, we are faced with many decisions about what to eat,” said Diane E. Griffin, a professor of molecular microbiology and immunology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who helped develop the exhibit. “Understanding the science behind good nutrition can help us to make better choices for life.”

To encourage visitors to take their lessons home, the museum is hosting the Healthy Plate Challenge. People can snap pictures of meals they create featuring fruit, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy. Experts will pick the top three photos and the public will vote on a winner. The deadline to enter is Dec. 17.

— Maggie Fazeli Fard

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