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Off-Kilter

June 25, 1998|ROY RIVENBURG | Times Staff Writer

Scratch and Sniff: What is the smell that best defines America? Is it napalm in the morning? A whiff of Starbucks latte? Or a lungful of car exhaust while stuck in traffic? According to a survey by Miller Lite, the definitive American scent is a smoky barbecue. That smell was chosen by nearly 40% of those surveyed. Runner-up odors included apple pie (31%), the ocean (12%) and garbage (7%).

When asked what smell most reminded them of summer, 68% said freshly cut grass, 17% chose suntan oil, 2% said bug spray and 1% said fireworks.

Miller Lite commissioned the survey to promote a contest in which scratch 'n' sniff stickers are affixed to the lids of its beer cans. Buy a can that smells like suntan lotion, and you win a trip to a Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue photo shoot. Other lucky odors include beef (prize: 400 pounds of red meat), hair spray (win a stint as an NFL cheerleader), toenail polish (get a free pair of sandals) and burning rubber (you get to hang out with a professional pit crew).

Creative Law Department: This week's award for most unusual legal argument is split between drivers who ask the CHP if it's OK to use the carpool lane with a dog as their only passenger, and San Diego lawyer Thomas Tanana.

Tanana, whose client list leans toward porn film stars and S&M dominatrixes, is trying to get a prostitute off the hook by arguing that if it's legal for a surrogate mother to rent her womb for nine months, then it should be legal for prostitutes to rent other parts of the female anatomy for "30 minutes of pleasure." That's absurd. Not the prostitution part. We mean the 30 minutes part.

Almost Lunatic Fringe Department: Earlier this week, we found Off-Kilter nirvana. A news bulletin arrived about a Montecito insect-rights group that thinks it's immoral to kill bees, grasshoppers, ants and mosquitoes (speaking of which, this is also National Mosquito Awareness Week). Group leader Dale Lowdermilk was quoted as saying that speed limits should be lowered to 10 mph to prevent windshield bug splattering. He also argued that disease-causing viruses have as much right to life as humans.

After reading all this, we made a critical mistake. We called the group. And we found out its real purpose is to satirize government over-regulation. Lowdermilk also supports banning the sale of white sheets (to eradicate the Ku Klux Klan) and improving airline safety by requiring all planes to taxi to their destinations.

Ashes to Ashes Update: The San Diego businessman who wanted to finance a new Padres baseball park by selling urn space in the outfield wall has been turned down. So he's taking the idea to the New York Yankees. Actually, the concept might work better back East, which already has Jimmy Hoffa buried in the end zone of Giants Stadium.

Best Supermarket Tabloid Story: "Seinfeld" has left the building in America to become a hit sitcom in Iran. According to our trusty Weekly World News, reruns of the show have been translated into Farsi and modified for Iranian audiences. For example, although Jerry is Jewish in the original version, he is presented as a devout Muslim in Iran's broadcasts. Also, the trademark phrase "Yada, yada, yada" has been translated as "Greater glory to Allah."

* Roy Rivenburg's e-mail address is roy.rivenburg@latimes.com.

Contributors: Wireless Flash News Service, Ann Harrison, Marianne Wallace, Joe Tash, San Diego Union-Tribune

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