Feb. 27, 2002

Patriotism is for the Birds

By Roy Rivenburg
Oh, Say Can You Squawk?: The patriotism fad seems to be a bust. It’s one thing to fly a tiny flag on your car antenna, but the true test of loyalty is training your parrot to utter pro-American sayings like ‘‘Down with Osama,’’ ‘‘Afghanistan banana stand’’ and ‘‘Polly wants a smart bomb.’’

Sadly, a Washington company that produces custom CDs that teach birds to talk reports zero demand for patriotic parrot lessons.

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Trivia: The upcoming 20th anniversary edition of Trivial Pursuit will contain an unusual twist -- a trivia question written by a member of the public. Hasbro is sponsoring a contest in which people can have a quirky personal feat immortalized in a question (details at www.trivialpursuit.com). Unfortunately, the rest of the game might be pretty dull. That’s because the categories for questions are restricted to such tiresome topics as movies, headlines and sports. Therefore, we propose livening up the game with some new categories and sample questions:

-- Crime and Punishment. If mosquitoes replaced the electric chair as a method for executing prisoners, how many bites would it take to suck all the blood from a typical inmate? (Answer: 1.2 million.)
-- Beauty Pageants. What beauty contest is held in Atlantic City each February? (No, not Miss America. It’s the Miss Cement Mixer pageant, in which judges rate cement trucks painted to resemble zebras or hot rods. The winner gets a sash.)
-- Lovers’ Spats. Around Valentine’s Day, hospital emergency rooms report an increase in what type of injury, according to a California psychologist? (Fork stabbings, usually committed by women whose dinner dates asked them to split the check. Another case involved a woman who tried to strangle her beau with a G-string.)
-- Illegal Bodily Functions. What is the penalty for urinating in public during Carnival season in Cologne, Germany? ($8.63.)
-- Dying to Get Into Show Biz. How many actors are on the waiting list to play corpses on the HBO mortuary drama ‘‘Six Feet Under’’? (3,000.)
-- Prurient Publishing. Which of these romance novel titles are real: ‘‘Hootenanny Nurse,’’ ‘‘Doctor in Bondage,’’ ‘‘The Hard-Boiled Virgin,’’ ‘‘The Nurse and the Pirate,’’ ‘‘The Abortive Hussy’’? (They’re all real, according to author Jennifer McKnight-Trontz in ‘‘The Book of Love: The Art of the Romance Novel.’’)

Alarming Trends Bureau: The world is being overrun by Elvii. In addition to exponential growth in the number of Elvis impersonators (up from 1,000 in 1987 to 10,000 in 1997 to 35,000 last year), now there’s the threat of cloning. A Texas company is auctioning off a lock of the King’s hair, and admits the strands could be used to duplicate the Hunka-hunka burnin’ love’s DNA.

The Torch Still Burns: A few weeks ago, we told you about several new Winter Olympics sports, such as the Moulin Luge. Now there are more, as we explained in a Feb. 25 Los Angeles Times article, excerpted below:

In a bold attempt to keep its ratings sky-high after the conclusion of the Winter Olympics, NBC has decided to extend the event indefinitely. Unfortunately, because many of the participants are busy taping an Olympics-themed episode of "The Weakest Link," the network has had to make a few adjustments.
For example, all judging will now be handled by an impartial panel of jurists--the Dancing Itos from NBC's "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno." The network is also introducing a bevy of new sports to its "Must Ski TV" lineup:

-- The Other Skeleton: Not to be confused with the 90-mph sled race in the real Games, this event entails hunting for actual human skeletons inside a rural Georgia crematory.

-- Bobsled & Carol & Ted & Alice: Can you say orgy on ice?

-- Speed Cloning: Racing against government crackdowns on the duplication of human beings, mad scientists attempt to destroy civilization as we know it by cloning Richard Simmons.

-- Skate and Leopold: A freak time portal brings a 19th century gentleman to Salt Lake City, where he is forced to compete in figure skating.

-- Olympic Sniveling: To placate the hurt feelings of the Russians and improve their gold medal chances, this event is specifically matched to their newest talent--whining.

-- The New Biathlon: The original biathlon combined cross-country skiing with target shooting, making it one of the most difficult competitions. To spice things up, the new biathlon mixes skiing and surgery. Athletes must race along a treacherous ski path, then perform a delicate brain operation.

Lawsuit of the Month: The Chicago Sun-Times reports that a Canadian bank robber who held up another bank after being paroled is suing the Canadian National Parole Board, claiming that he wouldn’t have returned to a life of crime if the board hadn’t released him.

Erroneous Blasts From the Past: Spotted in downtown Los Angeles, a restaurant called Ye Olde Taco House. What’s next? Ye Olde Laser Surgery Shoppe?

Supermarket Tabloid Headline of the Week: ‘‘Talking French Fry Saves Woman’s Life!’’ (Weekly World News)

The loquacious potato persuaded the woman not to jump off a ledge after her husband died in a bizarre dough-machine accident. Perhaps the fry will host its own talk show next.

Unpaid Informants: Wireless Flash News Service, Maxim magazine, the Oregonian's Edge column, TV Guide, Reuters, Big Texas Auctions.

Copyright 2002 by Roy Rivenburg
Off-Kilter is syndicated to newspapers in the U.S. and overseas by
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