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Off-Kilter

October 01, 1998|ROY RIVENBURG | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Night of the Living '70s: We think the U.S. Postal Service's plan to commemorate the 20th century with a series of stamps for each decade is a terrific idea--except for the part about honoring the 1970s.

As evidence, we cite the official ballot for that decade, which asks the public to vote on 30 stamp ideas. The nominees include disco, polyester, the dreaded smiley face and the jogging fad.

We vote no to all of the above--and no to the entire decade. Instead, we propose skipping forward to the 1990s, which has everything the '70s had but without the cultural baggage. For example, the proposed Earth Day stamp could be replaced by a 1990s ozone layer stamp with a hole punched out of the middle of it.

Likewise, the Watergate stamp could be scuttled in favor of its 1990s equivalent--a cigar and beret.

Other official '70s nominees and their 1990s parallels include: CB radios (cellular phones), the opening of China to U.S. trade (the opening of China to Democratic fund-raising), oil shortages (Beanie Baby shortages), medical advances like ultrasound and MRIs (Viagra), "Monday Night Football" with Frank Gifford in the announcers' booth (Monday-morning newscasts with Frank Gifford on a hotel balcony with his mistress), the videocassette recorder (Linda Tripp's tape recorder) and the women's rights movement (OK, not everything has a '90s counterpart--the women's movement has been curiously silent about Bill Clinton's escapades).

Bureau of Useless Statistics: The Golden Gate Bridge is equal in length to 11,200 Jumbo Jack hamburgers, in case you were wondering.

After the Beep Department: The way you leave messages on answering machines might reveal your personality. According to a study by Southwestern Bell, people who leave voicemail messages usually fit one of four categories:

* "Ramblers" are long-winded bores who leave way more information than necessary and routinely exceed the voicemail time limit.

* "Auctioneers" try to cram every single bit of data into 10 seconds, but they also mumble, rendering their messages incomprehensible to the listener.

* "Riddlers" tend to be shy on answering machines, so they forget important details like their name, number or why they called.

* "Smooth operators" are usually "detail-oriented go-getters," but they're so controlled that they sometimes rehearse a voicemail message several times before leaving it on the machine.

33 Cents Down, No Payments Until January!: L.A.'s 99-Cent stores are now advertising a "layaway plan." Guess that means we can finally afford that three-pack of Ajax cleanser we've been lusting after.

Alarming Trends Bureau: Ravi Shankar's 17-year-old daughter is releasing her own album of sitar music, thereby prolonging the musical agony wrought by her father (exhibit A: Side 1 of the "Concert for Bangladesh").

Best Supermarket Tabloid Headline: "Meet the Man Who Literally Laughed His Head Off! Top of His Skull Blew Off Like a Champagne Cork, Say Witnesses!" (Weekly World News)

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

Unpaid Informants: Wireless Flash News Service, Jack in the Box, Valerie Marz

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