August 23, 2000

For Whom
the Poll Tolls

By Roy Rivenburg

Campaign Crystal Balls: Why do journalists put so much stock in polls when there are other, more scientific methods for predicting elections, such as the rubber mask index, podium analysis and cockroach races?

According to these indicators, the next president will be ... George W. Bush. Or maybe Al Gore, we're not sure. But either way, isn't it impressive that they can narrow it down to just two candidates?

Here's how the race is shaping up. In the rubber mask category, which is based on sales of presidential Halloween costumes, Bush leads Gore 51 percent to 49 percent. This method has accurately forecast every winner since 1980, according to However, the results can shift. A week ago, Bush masks led by 10 points, but Gore has benefited from the traditional post-convention mask sale "bounce."

Then again, the vice president's gains may be short-lived. A feng shui expert interviewed by Wireless Flash News Service claims Gore will lose in November because his podium at the Democratic Convention curved inward, which drained 40 percent of his energy.

Nevertheless, Gore looked strong in the New Jersey Pest Control Association's presidential cockroach derby. Held at Rutgers University earlier this month, the race featured Madagascar hissing cockroaches as stand-ins for the candidates, with Gore winning handily. However, the results might be suspect because the Dick Cheney roach beat the Joe Lieberman cucaracha by several roach lengths.

Philosophical Question of the Week: Scott Ostler's column in the San Francisco Chronicle asks: "Is it wrong to yell 'Firestone!' in a crowded Ford Explorer?''

Alarming Trends Bureau: The sponsors of Finland's annual World Air Guitar Championship say the contest has become so popular that they're considering adding competitions for air fiddle and air saxophone.

But we still want to know if anyone has ever broken a string while playing air guitar.

Truth in Advertising Bureau: On a recent trip through Arizona, reader John Haytol spotted what seemed to be the most honest political sign in decades: "Flake for U.S. Congress." Turns out it was put up by Republican Jeff Flake, who is a bona fide candidate for the House of Representatives (

Meanwhile, in Tucson, the Arizona Daily Star has uncovered a growing problem of birds flying into supermarkets when the automatic doors open and the difficulties encountered in trying to coax them back out. The story could've been Pulitzer material if not for one glaring omission: The writer failed to say whether more birds fly into stores which offer double coupons.

Econ 101: Tiger Woods gets a dime for every $2.79 box of Wheaties featuring his picture, according to the Catholic Spirit newspaper. The farmers who grow the cereal's chief ingredient get a nickel, which is barely enough to cover the cost of an air guitar.

Weird Polls Department: If the castaways from "Gilligan's Island" were competing on "Survivor,'" who would win? According to a survey by Nick at Nite, the professor would emerge victorious. Unless he had an inward-curving hut, which would sap his feng shui energy by 40 percent.

Off-Kilter Encyclopedia: It would take an estimated 14.3 billion fireflies to duplicate the visible brightness of the sun.

Supermarket Tabloid Headline of the Week: "Gang Members Spraying Animals With Graffiti!" (Weekly World News)

Apparently, vandals are running out of blank canvases. Animal-rights activists are upset, but say the problem might solve itself because the perpetrators are choosing hazardous targets: "It's foolish and extremely dangerous for young men to try painting crocodiles with spray cans."

Unpaid Informants: John Verdone, the Interpreter, U.S. Catholic, the Oregonian's Edge column.

Copyright © 2000 by Roy Rivenburg
Distributed by Creators Syndicate

E-mail Roy@off-kilter