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July 09, 1998|ROY RIVENBURG | Times Staff Writer

The War of 1812, Part II: Britain's Virgin Cola has landed on U.S. shores and opened fire on American soft-drink companies with a full-page ad in--of all places--the wacky Weekly World News supermarket tabloid. In the ad, Virgin bigwig Richard Branson challenges Coca-Cola boss Douglas Ivester to arm-wrestle for control of the U.S. cola market.

Instead of both companies wasting millions of bucks on celebrity endorsements and TV spots, Branson proposes a duel in which "the loser promises to never sell his cola in the United States again."

Off-Kilter is trying to procure pay-per-view rights to the match. We also phoned the sultans of soda to find out their bicep size and vital statistics. A Virgin spokesman described Branson, an avid hot-air balloonist, as 6 feet tall and "pretty robust," but said the CEO was on vacation and unavailable for bicep measurement. Coca-Cola was less forthcoming. When asked if Ivester, 51, was "an athletic-type guy," a media spokesman laughed and said the company had no comment.

One Nation, Invisible: A Catholic priest once told us it's good for the soul to step back every now and then and think about life's deepest philosophical and existential questions. Thus, on the recent Fourth of July weekend, we found ourselves sitting around a bonfire discussing whether we'd rather have the power to become invisible or to fly. We opted for flying, partly because invisibility's perks might be outweighed by the trauma of overhearing negative comments about ourselves.

Also, invisibility creates a whole new set of conundrums, such as: If an invisible person goes to the bathroom, is the "byproduct" invisible or would it leave a carpet stain? Can invisible people get sunburned? Do their bones show up in X-rays? And what happens when an invisible person and a regular person have a baby: Is the child translucent?

Mark Thy Calendars: If you think July is all downhill after the fireworks displays, you're reading the wrong datebook. July also brings us National Boredom Awareness Month, National Nude Recreation Week (no need for invisibility here), Be Nice to New Jersey Week, National Canned Luncheon Meat Week, National Lifesaving Techniques Awareness Week (technique No. 1: Avoid canned luncheon meats), National Get Along With Your Ex Month, National Purposeful Parenting Month, Oil Heritage Week, National Blueberry Month, National Baked Bean Month and, in Alaska, the 26th annual Talkeetna Moose Dropping Festival.

Best Supermarket Tabloid Story: "New Robot Will Replace Husbands by the Year 2010!" (Weekly World News)

Invented by a team of female scientists, the artificial man will be available in 16 personality types, including Rugged Outdoors, Strong Silent, Sensitive Poet and Worldly Intellectual. Each robot is encased in a huggable, flesh-like rubber skin and is programmed to be "affectionate, patient and attentive, but not to leave clothes all over the floor or talk sports 24 hours a day like real men."

By the way, if you think such an invention is about as likely as pigs learning to fly, the same issue of Weekly World News reports that Air Force pilots recently spotted "a flock of more than 30 flying pigs" during military maneuvers over the South China Sea.

* Roy Rivenburg's e-mail address is

Contributors: Martin Miller, Ann Harrison, "Would You Rather . . . ?" by Doug Fields (Zondervan, 1995), Mary McClements, Chicago Sun-Times, Buzz Report, Daily Scoop, Wireless Flash News Service

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