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Off-Kilter

April 13, 1998

Alarming Theory Department: Reader Lorri Block of San Diego thinks the real reason they never show Godzilla's face in previews for the new movie is because he's actually Barney.

Weird Tea Bags Department: Today's award for strangest tea ingredient goes to the Tazo beverage company of Portland, Ore., which explains in fine print on each bag that the contents include an assortment of tea leaves, plant extracts, flavorings and "the mumbled chantings of a certified tea shaman." The packaging also lists a company address and adds, "Allow two weeks of this lifetime for a response."

H&R Bark: Last-minute tax filers in New York City can relieve tension on D-day by petting an armful of puppies stationed outside Manhattan's landmark general post office. The Wednesday afternoon petting zoo isn't part of the IRS' new gentler image or Mayor Rudy Giuliani's campaign to make New York nicer. It's a publicity stunt by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Assn., which says playing with pets lowers blood pressure and stress. If you can't get to New York, we recommend listening to a CD of chanting tea shamans.

Tax Dollars at Work Department: NASA plans to launch 60 snails into space this week as part of the mission of the space shuttle Columbia. The goal is to have the creatures mate so scientists can study the effects of zero gravity on the development of baby snails' nervous systems.

The findings could also help NASA figure out if humans born during long space voyages will develop properly functioning organs.

Tombstone of the Day: In honor of National Plan Your Epitaph Day (and National Poetry Month), we present yet another graveyard poem from cemetery sleuth Clyde Chamberlin's Solitude in Stone newsletter. This one was found in Britain, although we think it has sort of a Dr. Seuss-esque cadence: "Underneath this pile of stones, lies all that's left of Sally Jones. Her name was Briggs, it was not Jones, but Jones was used to rhyme with stones."

For subscription information, write Chamberlin at P.O. Box 1745, East Lansing, MI 48826.

By the way, after you finish composing your epitaph, don't forget that April is also National Tomato Month (not to be confused with Fresh Florida Tomato Month or National Fresh Celery Month, which are also this month), National Anxiety Month, National Holy Humor Month, National Lawn and Garden Month, National Zoo and Aquarium Month, National Send Snails Into Orbit Month (OK, we lied about that one) and National Recycling Month Recycling Month Recycling Month.

Best Supermarket Tabloid Headline: "Miracle Monkey Saves Zookeeper's Life With Mouth-to-Mouth Resuscitation! Animal Probably Learned CPR From Watching TV, Say Amazed Experts!" (Weekly World News)

This proves our theory that "Baywatch" appeals to lower life forms. It also reminds us of a non-tabloid report about a 51-year-old chimp at the zoo in Eureka, Calif., that paints abstract watercolors, a skill he apparently picked up watching PBS, zookeepers say.

* Roy Rivenburg can be reached by e-mail at roy.rivenburg@latimes.com.

Contributors: Wireless Flash, Chicago Sun-Times, Buzz Report, Premiere Radio

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