Aug. 22, 2001

Robots and Spam in the News

By Roy Rivenburg
Danger, Will Robinson: This was supposed to be the year of the robot. Al Gore was going to be sworn in as the first robot president. Steven Spielberg’s ‘‘A.I.’’ was going to rule the box office. And Wattson, a 350-pound humanoid who speaks Italian and has his own American Express card, was going to help usher in a happy era of electricity deregulation.

Instead, ‘‘A.I.’’ bombed, energy deregulation fell from grace and Gore merely became the first robot to grow a beard. Still, there is one bright spot. According to New Scientist magazine, researchers at North Carolina State University are on the verge of creating a robot journalist that could scan news wires and government documents, then rearrange the words into snappy newspaper articles.

Here at Off-Kilter, we’re working on a robot that does just the opposite: It takes important, fascinating articles and removes everything but the most inane and useless trivia. This is what’s left:

-- Tina Turner’s chest is insured for $790,000.
-- Stock traders go to the restroom, on average, a bladder-busting 1.2 times a day, whereas lawyers go 10.4 times daily.
-- Italian pastry chefs recently built an edible Ferrari from 40,000 cream pies.
-- In 1999, the Honey Nut Cheerios Bee, whose name is BuzzBee, became the first bee balloon to appear in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
-- 79 percent of Texans have been stung by fire ants, which, incidentally, often break into homes via air-conditioning vents. No Texans have been stung by the Honey Nut Cheerios Bee.
-- The most commonly misspelled city names in America are Pittsburgh, Tucson, Cincinnati and Albuquerque.
-- Godzilla’s name in Japan, ‘‘Gojira,’’ combines the words for gorilla and whale.
-- The average American woman owns 11 bras.

Luncheon Meat Luau: For those of you who’ve booked September vacations to Europe, Hawaii or any other spot, we have good news and bad news. The bad news is: You need to cancel your reservations immediately, even if it means losing deposits. The good news is: We found a much better destination -- Austin, Minn.

That’s where Hormel will open its new Spam Museum on Sept. 15. The event promises to be spectacular. For starters, instead of a traditional ribbon-cutting ceremony, TV moms Barbara Billingsley of ‘‘Leave It to Beaver’’ and Marion Ross of ‘‘Happy Days’’ will open a giant Spam lid. Other highlights include musical performances by the Spamettes and former Eagle Joe Walsh, a Spam ballet, an appearance by the Spam Mobile, a 12-minute film titled ‘‘Spam ... A Love Story,’’ a World War II tribute led by news anchor Tom Brokaw, and Gov. Jesse Ventura broadcasting his weekly radio show from K-SPAM, a radio station inside the museum.

Mark Your Calendars: Aug. 15 was National Relaxation Day. Sorry for not notifying you sooner; we must have dozed right through it.

Quote of the Week: From Chicago columnist Zay N. Smith, commenting on news reports that Sen. Jesse Helms is retiring and Al Sharpton might run for president: ‘‘Nature, as always, finds a way to replenish itself.’’

Supermarket Tabloid Headline of the Week: ‘‘Man Sues His Siamese Twin Brother to Make Him Brush His Teeth!’’ (Weekly World News)

Unpaid Informants: The Guardian, Mark Kellner, Columbia Dispatch,,, Baird Jones, DiMassimo Brand Advertising, Reuters, Wireless Flash News Service, Chicago Sun-Times, Journal of Allery and Clincal Immunology, Arizona Daily Star, Associated Press,, Geoff Boucher,, PR Newswire.

Copyright 2001 by Roy Rivenburg
Distributed by
Creators Syndicate