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Off-Kilter

January 22, 1998|ROY RIVENBURG | Times Staff Writer

Political Mudslinging Takes on New Meaning: It's a dirty job, but someone feels compelled to do it. For four years, Ohio legislator Jim Buchy has been trying to get Buckeye lawmakers to name an official state soil. And for four years, his dirt bill has been ridiculed at every turn. According to the Wall Street Journal, even if other legislators did support the concept, they might spend the rest of the century fighting over which of Ohio's 400 soil types deserves top billing. Yet Buchy remains optimistic. Dirt seems to be gaining new respect. California recently chose San Joaquin as its state soil. And Connecticut came close to honoring Windsor Loamy Sand. The Connecticut Senate endorsed the idea, but the state House of Representatives refused to even vote on it. As one legislator explained: "I made it through the [official state] fish [and] the [official] dance. But I can't do dirt."

Not Roeing With Both Oars? It's no shock that Americans are still bitterly divided over abortion on the 25th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe vs. Wade decision. But it's encouraging to see someone try to move the debate to higher ground. In Waukesha, Wis., a doctor's wife fed up with abortion protesters outside her home decided to reach out by . . . baring her bottom at them. According to the Associated Press, Brenda Duncan now faces possible charges of disorderly and lewd conduct for the incident. Although she considers the derriere display "a matter of free speech," prosecutors say the 1st Amendment offers no guarantees of a "right to moon."

Sacre Bleu Department: Alan Funt never went this far. In Paris last week, a candid-camera crew for a French video service set up a sidewalk stand selling fake "souvenirs" of Princess Diana's car crash and secretly filmed the reactions of passersby. Reuters news service said the "Diana Store" offered smashed-up car parts, locks of hair and a pair of earrings. Nobody bought the stuff, but plenty of stunned looks were taped for a show to be aired in Paris bars.

Water, Water Everywhere: Our time-traveling journalist returns from his third trip aboard Caltech's experimental time machine with an El Nino-related report from February: "A mysterious flood that injured 100 people in downtown L.A. yesterday is believed to be the work of a 'hydromaniac,' police said. Hydromaniacs, which are the opposite of pyromaniacs, get psychological thrills from setting things on flood, authorities said. The wall of water started near City Hall at rush hour. Police became suspicious when they discovered an empty swimming pool lying near the scene. Apparently the hydromaniac dropped it as he fled. Witnesses described the suspect as a middle-aged man with dark hair, a mustache--and enormous plastic pockets.

"It was the latest in a series of baffling El Nino incidents. Two weeks ago, careless campers in Big Sur were blamed for inadvertently starting a forest flood. In a related story, local hardware stores report a sharp decline in the sales of smoke detectors and sprinkler systems to protect buildings from fire, but say there has been an increase in the sales of drains."

Correction: Because of an outdated phone number sent to us by the company, our Wednesday item on personalized romance novels inadvertently steered readers to a psychic hotline. Unfortunately, the psychics aren't clairvoyant enough to supply the right number. So here's the correct toll-free line: (888) 668-3505.

Best Supermarket Tabloid Headline: "Doctors Using Rap Music to Help Cure Cancer!" (Weekly World News)

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

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