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I was going to do my annual Fall Fashion Outlook, until I found out about these asteroids that might crash into the Earth and extinguish the human race. So I've decided to cover both topics, because we definitely want to "look our best" for fall even though it appears that DEATH ASTEROIDS ARE COMING.

You probably think I'm kidding about this, but that's because you didn't read Page 3 of the Aug. 19 Miami Herald. If you did, you'd have noticed a series of small brown spots where I spat my coffee out when I saw a headline that said: "Asteroid will fly close to Earth." This was followed by a short Associated Press story stating that a semi-large asteroid was going to barely miss the Earth by 2.5 million miles on the following Thursday. The story quotes Eleanor Helin, a planetary scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., as saying that this was the third serious asteroid to whiz past us this year, possibly indicating that there's a "sizable population" of asteroids heading our way, which could be "devastating." The story ends with this cheerful quote from Dr. Helin: "It's the one we don't see that's going to kill us."I'm sure that your immediate reaction to this story is the same as mine, namely to ask: Who's making the journalism decisions around here? Radishes? I mean, here we have a reputable scientist announcing that the Earth is an upthrust target in an astronomical game of Whack-a-Mole, and the story gets stuck on PAGE 3. You want to know what was all over the front pages that very same week? NEPTUNE. This was when the news media and the scientific community were engaging in one of their periodic joy spasms over Voyager 2, the plucky little robot spacecraft that travels through the galaxy beaming back the exciting news that every planet it encounters is basically The Toxic Waste Dump From Hell.

In this case, scientists were calling urgent press conferences to announce that Neptune has a lot of - get ready - methane. Yes. The very same gas that Mel Brooks used to film the legendary bean-eating scene in "Blazing Saddles." So what we have is scientists and journalists dancing far into the night to celebrate the thrilling news that Neptune is a large orbiting clot of flatulence, and meanwhile, on Page 3, the human race is coming within 2.5 million miles of Extinction City.

You're probably saying, "Yeah, but 2.5 million miles is a long way." OK, Mr. or Ms. Smarty Pants, try this simple experiment: Let's say your nose is the Earth, and your right forefinger is the asteroid. Hold your finger about a foot in front of your face, then slowly move it toward you until the tip touches your lip directly under your left nostril. Now look in a mirror. You look like an idiot, right? So where do you get off, claiming to be an expert on astronomical distances? It just so happens that 2.5 million miles is "almost a whisker," in the words of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Dr. Helin, whom I called up in an effort to get even more depressed about this story. She assured me that "near-Earth asteroids" come along regularly, and that eventually there could be a collision.

"Certainly it could happen," she said. "We continue to find more and more objects that are a threat to civilization."

What happens if a big asteroid hits the Earth? Judging from realistic simulations involving a sledge hammer and a common laboratory frog, we can assume it will be pretty bad. Dr. Helin said that if we got hit by an asteroid the size of the one that just missed us, "it would be a pretty unpleasant time for mankind. It could be an extinction time."

The good news, Dr. Helin says, is that if we see an asteroid coming, and we act quickly, we might be able to send a rocket out there armed with a bomb to destroy it. This made me feel a lot better, realizing that we have the competence and intelligence to pull off such a feat, until I remembered that the space program is currently under the leadership of the vice president ("OK, sir, let's say this golf ball is the Earth, and this nine-iron . . .") So the situation is still worrisome, extinctionwise, but I remain optimistic, and I'll tell you why:


Yes. This is the word from the Highest Fashion Authority, Vogue magazine, which describes legs as "The Body Part of the Year" in an article accompanied by photographs of extremely short designer outfits that look terrific on your typical professional model weighing slightly less than a box of Rice Krispies but that will of course make any normal woman look like the Queen of the Hooker Rhinoceroses. We're sorry, ladies, but this is what Vogue wants, and you're just going to have to accept it, the way you accepted giant clown pants, Herman Munster Model shoulder pads and extremely short hair apparently styled by Monsieur Henri's House of Intense Radiation.

As regards the Fashion Outlook for us men, I was paging through GQ magazine, and it appears that we're supposed to continue slicking our hair straight back and grimacing as though we had just been offered a nice steaming bowl of leech soup. Also I noticed an advertisement for Old Spice deodorant that said - I'm not making this up - "Now your underarms can be where your head is at." Which could actually be true, when the asteroid gets here.