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Artificial Reality Department: The geniuses who brought us the video aquarium and video fireplace are now peddling a "Christmas Through Your Window" videotape that shows falling snowflakes and twinkling holiday lights viewed through icy windowpanes.

On the Yuletide tape, holiday music plays in the background. The video fireplace, which "turns your TV into an old-fashioned hearth," features the sound of crackling logs. "No chopping wood, no cinders or soot to clean," boasts a recent advertisement. "Creates a romantic atmosphere for special evenings."

In that spirit, we were going to suggest a video baby as the company's next project ("No changing diapers, no 3 a.m. feedings"), but then we found out it already exists (although there's no video baby-sitter to keep it company when you're not at home).

So instead we came up with the video oven, which shows a cake rising, and the video restaurant table, which allows you to experience the ambience of a four-star dining establishment while wolfing down your Swanson's frozen entree.

Last but not least, for armchair astronauts, we've developed the video space shuttle so you can pretend your living room is in orbit. Scenery includes assorted satellites, a tiny Earth in the background and John Glenn's dentures floating by.

Weird Polls Department: You've probably heard of people who shave or brush their teeth while driving, but what about motorists who argue with their dogs, accidentally set themselves on fire with matches or debate puppets in their cars?

According to a new survey by Pennzoil, those are a few of the strange behaviors reported by American drivers. Other findings:

* Southerners are the most likely to floss their teeth on the road.

* Motorists in the Pacific Northwest are the most inclined to talk to themselves or argue with other passengers.

* Midwesterners are more apt to change their clothes in traffic.

* Californians are the least likely to read while driving.

One of the strangest statistics is that 46% of women and 4% of men nationwide say they've applied makeup on the road.

Pennzoil also compiled a list of the funniest things seen while driving, which included parrots perched on steering wheels, iguanas lounging on dashboards, various romantic encounters, a car full of clowns and another vehicle in which all three occupants were chattering on cell phones.

In other words, America's highways are out of control. You're much safer staying at home and watching "Video Rush Hour."

Ghost of Cujo Department: The winner of General Mills' recent terrifying-story-title contest for kids was 10-year-old Braden Gardner of Milo, Iowa. His entry: "Dead Dogs Still Fetch."

Alarming Trends Bureau: Mattel is introducing a Barbie-sized Susan Lucci doll, which will retail for $60. Emmy Award set not included and not sold separately.

Best Supermarket Tabloid Headline: "Frog Jumps Into Patient During Open-Heart Surgery!" (Weekly World News)

* Roy Rivenburg's e-mail address is Or you can write him in care of Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles CA 90053.


Unpaid Informants: Janet Eastman,, Wireless Flash News Service,, Samantha Kimmel (belated)

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