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April 29, 1998|ROY RIVENBURG | Times Staff Writer

Federal Pickpocket Department: If you're wondering how the government plans to squander the tax money you coughed up April 15, you can get a detailed receipt on the Internet at We tried it with a $10,000 federal tax bill (be sure to type in the decimal point or the program won't work) and got a breakdown that contained:

* $82 to NASA (including a special Metamucil and Depends fund for astronaut John Glenn)

* $21 to disaster relief (El Nino, assorted hurricanes and Kevin Costner's last movie)

* $1,699 to national defense (enough to buy an ashtray, two hammers and several sets of $76 screws)

* $225 to food and nutrition assistance (also known as the "Marlon Brando fund")

* $15 to Congress (we still think we'd get a better deal buying two movie tickets)

* $1,524 to interest on the national debt

* $2,261 to Social Security (you'll never see a penny of it)

* $254 to transportation (much of it down an L.A. subway sinkhole)

* $1.25 to the president's executive office (Milk-Bones for Buddy the dog and gifts for White House interns)

Viva Gorditas, Comrade: Our time-traveling journalist, still hopscotching the space-time continuum aboard Caltech's top-secret time machine, recently checked in after a mechanical breakdown stranded him in June 2006. He filed this Washington report: "In an attempt to divert attention from charges that White House aides scripted the popular fistfights that erupt wherever he goes--his inauguration, his press conferences, a Middle East peace summit, a fund-raiser at a Buddhist temple--President Jerry Springer announced today that U.S. Marines will invade Argentina to put down a rebellion led by the Taco Bell Chihuahua."

Disciples of Duchamp: A recent column on the talking urinals at Las Vegas' futuristic SpaceQuest casino jarred the memory of reader Fred Catiller, who wrote to tell us about another talkative toilet, at the Magic Castle in Hollywood. It's currently out of service, but during the 1970s, whenever a men's room visitor, uh, stepped up to the plate, a red devil's head materialized in the mirror above the urinal and hurled such insults as:

* "Don't look now, but I think you're down a quart."

* "Hey, buddy, the ladies' room is next door."

* "Boy, you are a magician. Look at that wand."

* "That's the reason you don't have a deeper voice."

Catiller graciously gave us a tour of the gimmick-laden Castle, which features a piano-playing ghost, a telephone booth that flashes a skeleton when you close the door, a trick bar stool and the Great Alibi Machine, a pay phone with taped sound effects (car mechanic, airport, etc.) to fool your boss into thinking you're somewhere else.

As for the loquacious urinal, it's scheduled to return soon, Magic Castle President Milt Larsen said.

Cheesy Art Update: Our item two days ago about the American Dairy Assn.'s edible art contest failed to note that entries must be made entirely of domestic cheese (yes, that does include Cheez Whiz). Off-Kilter apologizes for this terrible oversight.

Best Supermarket Tabloid Headline: "Newborn Baby Flies Out of Mom's Womb at 50 mph!" (Weekly World News)


Roy Rivenburg can be reached by e-mail at

Contributor: U.S. News & World Report

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