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Off-Kilter

January 29, 1998

Attack of the "Marv Albert Monkeys": A pack of wild monkeys terrorized a Japanese seaside town this week, injuring 26 people, according to Reuters news service. The evil apes apparently crept up on passersby in gardens and streets, then bit them on the back and legs. The Internet's www.tabloid.net news service immediately dubbed the creatures "Marv Albert monkeys."

The victims later received rabies shots, and local authorities used loudspeakers to warn other citizens of the simian terror. Officials of Ito, the Japanese village where the raid occurred, also launched a monkey hunt to find the six perpetrators. "We're not sure why [the two-day attack] happened," said one official. "But we've had a lot of snow in the mountains during the past couple of weeks, so maybe the monkeys were looking for food below."

All the News That's Fish to Print: For the fish (or human) who has everything, Hammacher Schlemmer proudly presents the official Newspaper Stand Aquarium. It's an authentic, hand-assembled news rack with an 11-gallon, lighted fish tank inside. And it's yours for just $1,599 (fish not included, shipping and handling a lot extra).

Actually, we think this item should be marked down as a factory second. Although you probably can't see it in the photo that accompanies this column, the coin slot says "35 cents daily" and "75 cents Saturday." Saturday? If this were a truly authentic newspaper rack, the most expensive edition would be Sunday.

Point, Click and Separate: Israelis will soon be able to file for divorce over the Internet. According to a blurb in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, which quotes a Jerusalem newspaper, the computerized filing method will allow splitting couples to avoid the often interminable waits at Israel's rabbinical courts. It was inevitable. First, electronic dating. Now, electronic divorce. Happy Valentine's Day.

Lovers Lame Department: London's annual "stupidest sex scene" award has been bestowed upon novelist Nicholas Royle, according to a report in the New York Times Book Review. The honor is designed to recognize pretentious, embarrassing or otherwise lame literary descriptions of the sexual act. Winners are chosen by a committee from the Literary Review, which is edited by Auberon Waugh, son of Evelyn.

Royle's passage had a female character "making a noise somewhere between a beached seal and a police siren" while her partner was "punching smoothly in and out of her like a sewing machine." Past nominees include authors Philip Hook ("They became some mad mobile sculpture"), Salman Rushdie ("For ever they sweated pepper 'n' spices sweat") and David Huggins ("Liz squeaked like wet rubber"). We'd like to print other entries, but this is a family column. OK, a dysfunctional family, but we still have standards. And for next year, given what's going on in Washington, we expect a whole new category just for journalists.

Note to Readers: In order for Off-Kilter to have some semblance of a social life, this space will be occupied tomorrow (and every Friday) by a new feature called Wide World of Weird, a weekly roundup of unusual wire stories. We'll be back Monday.

Best Supermarket Tabloid Headline: "Brazilian Ants Eat Computers!" (Weekly World News)

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

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