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Off-Kilter

June 30, 1998

Opera Kills: Listening to opera while driving can be fatal, according to a new study by Britain's Royal Automobile Club. The report says certain opera music, such as Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries," can rev up a driver's emotions and lead to accidents. On the opposite end of the musical spectrum, an Off-Kilter study found that listening to Kenny G causes drivers to fall asleep at the wheel.

In the Year 2525: Our time-traveling journalist, cruising through the future aboard Caltech's top-secret time machine, has just landed in the year 2525, when man is still alive and everyone has his or her own personal area code to accommodate the explosion of fax machines, pagers, computer modems and pet phones (animals are now able to speak).

He filed this report from Rome about an amazing religious discovery: "The long-held belief that early Christians were free from secular influences began crumbling this week as scholars examined heretofore secret documents obtained through the Vatican Freedom of Information Act.

"The scrolls and artifacts revealed that 1st century churches were surprisingly similar to today's. For example, in one volume of scriptures, researchers found 'Paul's Letter to the Occupant,' an apparent fund-raising epistle for something called the Crystal Catacomb, an all-glass underground church. The letter offered various bonus gifts for donations above a certain amount, such as chariot bumper stickers that read, 'Crack Your Whip If You Love Jesus' and 'Christians Aren't Perfect, They're Just Eaten by Lions.' Another gift was a shirt that said, 'My Parents Went to the Colosseum and All I Got Was This Lousy Tunic.'

"Scholars also uncovered several book-length manuscripts that sound strikingly similar to modern bestsellers. Among the titles: 'Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sects,' 'Winning Souls Through Intimidation,' 'What Color Is Your Paraclete?' and 'Jesus: How to Prosper in the Coming Bad Years' (which recommends investing in myrrh)."

Aptly Named Businesses Department: Today's prize goes to Amigone Funeral Homes of Buffalo, N.Y. Suggested slogan: "Am I Gone? Not If You Can Still Read This. But We'll Check Back Later."

Fugitive Insect Update: Tucson's $50,000 cockroach is still on the loose. Last month, an Arizona pest control company released 100 specially marked cucarachas throughout the city, offering cash to anyone who captured one of the critters dead or alive. By Friday, the last day of the contest, 160 insect bounty hunters had turned in about 500 bugs, but none bore the winning coding, which is visible only under ultraviolet light. Exterminator Bruce Tennenbaum promises another bizarre roach contest next year.

Animal Weddings: Twenty donkeys were "married" in southern India recently in an attempt to persuade the rain gods to end a two-year drought. According to the Internet edition of the South China Morning Post, a similar mass wedding of frogs was held a few months earlier. "The people are willing to try anything, however weird, to make it rain," one villager said. So far, the drought continues.

Best Supermarket Tabloid Headline: "Show-Off Slides Down Banister to Impress His Buddies--and Friction Sets His Trousers on Fire!" (Weekly World News)

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

Contributors: Ann Harrison, Linda Sator Harrison, Wireless Flash News Service

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