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Off-Kilter

October 21, 1998|ROY RIVENBURG | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Millennium Music Countdown: We have had it with so-called oldies radio stations, which hardly ever play our favorite songs from the 3rd and 5th centuries. That's why we can't wait for Rhino Records' forthcoming "20 Centuries of Hits" CD, which features chart toppers from each of the last 20 centuries.

The album opens with "The First Delphic Hymn to Apollo" from 138 BC (which was a smash on Dick Clark's "Athenian Bandstand" show in ancient Greece), followed by a 1st century drinking song called "Epitaph of Seikilos" and a classic 4th century rocker "Oxyrhynchus Hymn Fragment" (the "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" of its day).

Other ancient hits include a 14th century "Gloria" that swept through Europe like the plague and Stephen Foster's 19th century blockbuster "Swanee River."

Representing the 20th century are Bing Crosby's "Stardust" and Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode."

The record is scheduled to arrive in stores in January.

Philosophical Question of the Day: Commenting on a news report that the Witches' League for Public Awareness is demanding the withdrawal of a Massachusetts political ad that reinforces "negative stereotypes" of witches, Chicago columnist Zay N. Smith asks, "Why didn't they simply cause the ad to vanish?"

Loser of the Week: This one almost went the other way but didn't quite make it (plus, it's against Off-Kilter's nature to reward positive contributions to society). Therefore, the loser is: DreamWorks, for the product tie-ins to its new animated film about Moses, "Prince of Egypt."

At first, we were impressed with the company for refusing to allow Moses action figures, McPharaoh Happy Meals or other products. We also heard that when studio executive Jeffrey Katzenberg was asked by Japanese reporters why DreamWorks wouldn't tweak the biblical tale to make the movie more interesting, he motioned heavenward and replied, "Because it's his story, not mine."

But then we learned about all the books being issued in conjunction with the film, including a troublesome one for children. DreamWorks officials told the author of that book that they were uncomfortable with the phrase "the Lord" and didn't want God referred to as "he." We would have suggested the substitute phrase "My Higher Power as I understand him / her / it."

But DreamWorks decided to go with four "Lords" and no references to God as male. Although the author concedes those changes don't destroy the book's message, he was upset by DreamWorks' push to keep the text from being too "religious."

Yes, heaven forbid a book about Moses be too religious.

Macabre Furniture Department: Westminster Abbey is selling 800 chairs that were used at Princess Diana's funeral, according to the Sunday Times of London. The beech seats--priced at $5,100 each and bearing a certificate of authenticity--are being advertised in Architectural Digest.

Best Supermarket Tabloid Headline: "Monica Talks: I'm Not a Fat, Cheesy Slut" (Star)

* Roy Rivenburg can be reached by e-mail at roy.rivenburg@latimes.com.

Unpaid Informants: Wireless Flash News Service, Chicago Sun-Times, New York Post, Mark Joseph, http://www.ship-of-fools.com, Steve Hoffmann

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