Muscle Memory

This article was originally published on Humorality, on September 7, 2009.

Get Ready to Flex

The comic books I read as a kid often had a full-page advertisement from Charles Atlas. These cartoon-panel ads featured a 98-pound weakling getting sand kicked in his face by a tough beach bully. Fortunately, the puny youth signed up for Charles Atlas’s body-building course, and in no time, he was able to confront the bully. Unfortunately, the bully was actually Charles Atlas himself, who pounded our hero into a heap of broken bones and sore muscles. To make sure this doesn’t happen to you, it’s important to learn as much as you can about muscles, in a lively question-and-answer format.

Q. What exactly are muscles?

A. Muscles are a type of bivalve mollusk found in either freshwater or seawater, and that taste great in the Spanish rice dish Paella. They have a large organ called the “foot” that lets the creature crawl around. Walking and kicking soon follow.

Q. Aren’t those “mussels?”

A. What is this, National Spelling Month?

Q. But what about muscles?

A. Muscles are a type of contractile tissue found in living creatures. And no, “contractile” is not a dirty word, so get your mind out of the gutter. In some animals, muscles join with bones and skin to form a “foot” that lets the creature crawl around. Walking and driving sports cars soon follow.

Q. Is the tongue a muscle?

A. Yes, the tongue is a muscle, and one of the most interesting. It’s the only muscle in your body that is attached on only one end. It’s also the strongest muscle in the body based on its size. It has more lifting power per cubic muscle inch (square Paella kiloliter) than any other muscle in your body, including biceps, quadriceps, or triceratops. In fact, if the tongue muscle was the same size as your thigh muscle, you would starve within three days.

Q. How do you keep your muscles healthy?

A. Regular exercise is essential for healthy muscles. Physicians recommend at least 45 minutes of vigorous exercise three times per week to keep the muscles in shape. But what do they know about keeping fit? Doctors used to smoke like chimneys, and we all know how bad smoked foods are for you, much less cigarettes. Years ago, you couldn’t visit a doctor’s office without having one of the medical staff hacking all over the tongue depressors. And they weren’t just casual smokers. Smoking was like a second career to them, after golf and before medicine. Consider this typical operating room conversation from the 1960s.

Doctor: Sponge.

Nurse: Here you go, doctor.

Doctor: Suture.

Nurse: Yes, doctor.

Doctor: OK, I think we’re done here. Go ahead and close.

Nurse: Doctor, should I empty the chest cavity ash tray first?

Despite this, we entrust these so-called “professionals” to dispense medicines for dubious conditions. What right does some quack physician have to determine who is borderline schizophrenic? It’s not like I threatened him. I’d like to see him try that again without the police escort and see who comes out of the room needing a prescription.

And dentists are no better. Did you know that only four out of five dentists surveyed recommended sugarless gum for their patients who chew gum? What’s with that fifth dentist? Getting regular kickbacks from the sugar industry? It’s health care miscreants like these that make me regret I even have muscles. Exercise, smexercise. Why don’t these doctors try getting some exercise for once? But no, they’re too busy chain smoking their way across the golf course with their commie-pinko dentist friends, plotting ways of marketing sugarless cigarettes to an unsuspecting public.

Q. Are muscles meat?

A. Yes, they are. In fact, one of the fastest ways to build muscle tissue is to eat meat, including hamburgers. Your digestive system will always send muscle material to the right part of your body. People are always amazed by my lower abdominal muscles.

Q. What about sumo wrestlers?

A. Sumo wrestlers are also meat.

Q. No, I mean are sumo wrestlers mostly muscle or fat?

A. From a distance, sumo wrestlers appear to be nothing but layer-upon-layer of fat. But when you get closer, you learn that it really hurts if you ask stupid questions about their body-mass index.

Q. I’m thinking of going to the beach today, but I only weight 98 pounds. What should I do if someone kicks sand in my face?

A. Check the foot. It might be attached to a mussel.

Tim Patrick

Tim Patrick is an author, software developer, and the host of Japan Everyday. He has published a dozen books and hundreds of articles covering technology, current events, and life in Japan. Find his latest books at

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