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October 19, 1998|ROY RIVENBURG | Times Staff Writer

Jesus Air Fresheners and Christian Karaoke: We've always heard that cleanliness is next to godliness, which may explain the existence of two bizarre new products: the Jesus Saves Air Freshener and Holy Steps insoles, which are shoe odor-eaters that contain actual soil from Jerusalem.

We found these and other "Gadgets for God" at a quirky, smart Web site called Ship of Fools (, a British venture that bills itself as "the magazine of Christian unrest."

In addition to cataloging karaoke hymn machines and stuffed Jesus dolls, the site features offbeat religious news, wacky Christian bumper stickers and a team of incognito "Mystery Worshipers" who visit churches around the world and report on such things as how comfortable the pews are and the length of the sermon.

Bureau of Random Facts: We must liquidate our entire stock of useless trivia! The following facts are now available at a fraction of their original cost:

* Actor Patrick Swayze once held a tea party for his horse, according to a new book by "caterer to the stars" Nick Grippo.

* The League of Conservation Voters recently sponsored TV ads in New Mexico attacking the environmental record of Congressman Bill Redmond. The commercials opened with a desert scene of saguaro cactuses and the words, "New Mexico's rugged beauty." In fact, it was Arizona's rugged beauty. As the Albuquerque Journal noted, saguaros don't grow in New Mexico.

* Recent callers to the Iams pet-food consumer hotline include a woman who wanted to know how many calories her cat would get from eating a mouse, and someone who wondered whether the company had a pet food that would improve the odor of a cat's feces.

* A new survey by Ny-Quil found that 67% of senior citizens feel cheerful when they wake up in the morning, versus 25% of people ages 18 to 24.

* A trio of "finger historians" has written a book called "The Finger: A Comprehensive Guide to Flipping Off" (Acid Test Productions), which says the infamous gesture originated about 2,400 years ago in Greece.

* When Minnesota ordered local government agencies to change the name of all lakes, rivers and other geographical sites containing the word "squaw," officials in Lake County tried to rename Squaw Creek and Squaw Bay as Politically Correct Creek and Politically Correct Bay, according to the Realist newsletter.

Oxymoron Department: Our favorite stupid press release of the week comes from Club Recluse, which describes itself as a group for "people who don't like clubs and want to be left alone." Naturally, it is based in sparsely populated New York City. Members are urged to "set themselves apart from the crowd" by buying club T-shirts and hats. We'd tell you the group's Web address, but we know the club doesn't want to be bothered by anyone.

Celebrity Potshot Bureau: John Travolta has been named "Hollywood's most overexposed" star by Movieline magazine. What were they thinking? Compared with the annoyingly ubiquitous Christina Ricci, Travolta is practically J.D. Salinger.

Best Supermarket Tabloid Headline: "Your Internet Dream Gal May Be a Chimp! Trained Apes Are Surfing the Web Posing as Women!" (Weekly World News)

* Roy Rivenburg's e-mail address is

Unpaid Informants: Wireless Flash News Service, Arizona Daily Star

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