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Section Gee! | Off-Kilter

Two Turkeys at the White House

November 23, 1998|ROY RIVENBURG | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Vice-Gobbler Bureau: Every Thanksgiving, Washington holds one of its strangest ceremonies: the pardoning of a turkey by the president. The lucky bird arrives at the White House with an entourage from the National Turkey Federation, which includes a backup bird who is ready to be sworn in if the first gobbler dies or is assassinated.

So far, the vice-turkeys haven't been needed during the 51-year history of the ritual, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Weird Polls Department: According to a new survey in the book "Why Men Marry: 150 Guys Reveal What Prompted Them to Pop the Question" (NTC/Contemporary Press), 8% of men say they got hitched so they wouldn't have to cook or clean, 12% wanted to avoid loneliness and 10% were reacting to ultimatums from their girlfriends.

One of the men surveyed said he tied the knot so people wouldn't think he was gay, and another got married for cheaper auto insurance rates.

Non-Pardoned Turkeys Bureau: Things you might not want to know about your Thanksgiving meal, courtesy of the Washington Post:

* Compared with turkeys of the 17th century, today's gobblers are humongous mutants, sometimes weighing more than 60 pounds and strutting around on scaly, three-toed Velociraptor legs.

* The creatures are so plumped up that they can't get close enough to mate, which means all 300 million turkeys born in the U.S. each year are products of artificial insemination. As the Post describes it, "The full story of where turkey semen comes from can be found in various professional journals, but suffice it to say that people with PhDs have become very adept at handling male turkeys (the technical term is 'abdominal massage'), and the turkeys don't exactly run away when these experts enter the pen."

* Although gobblers of yesteryear were feathered in iridescent green and bronze, today's commercial varieties are plumed in snowy white. The old colors were bred out partly because when dark-plumed turkeys are processed, pigment from their feathers seeps into the skin and turns the flesh blue.

Also, tiny "pin feathers" sometimes left behind after plucking are harder to see on white-feathered turkeys, which eliminates the unsavory appearance of dark "whiskers." Apparently, nobody wants a holiday bird with a Nixonian shadow.

Lecture of the Week: In Anaheim, "Dragons from Eden to the Apocalypse: John Rhodes discusses evidence that our planet is controlled by intelligent reptilian beings."

Yes, but it's better than being ruled by high school dropout reptilian beings.

Religious Capitalism Bureau: Kmart opened a store in Detroit last week with a Baptist church service. The center was built in partnership with a church as an experiment in "faith-based economic development."

Best Supermarket Tabloid Headline: "First Thanksgiving Was Really a Drunken Party, Say Historians! Pilgrims Pigged Out on Eels, Not Turkey!" (Weekly World News)

Roy Rivenburg's e-mail address is roy.rivenburg@latimes.com. Unpaid Informants: Wireless Flash News Service, Dave Barton, PR Newswire. Off-Kilter is published Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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