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Milking Another Paper's Efforts Like a Dairy Cow After a Hay Binge

May 21, 1999|ROY RIVENBURG

Write Your Own Headline Here: Journalists are getting so lazy. For example, the Washington Post, in a slothful hunt for clever new turns of phrase, recently made readers do the work by sponsoring a contest to create new analogies (sample winner: "She grew on him like she was a colony of E. coli bacteria and he was room-temperature Canadian beef"), which will no doubt soon be stolen for articles about Kosovo or the U.S. trade deficit.

Even lazier is the Portland Oregonian, which ripped off the entries from the Post contest to fill its own popular column, the Edge.

Here at Off-Kilter, we condemn such corner-cutting. When readers pay 25 cents for a copy of a newspaper, they deserve their full money's worth. So rest assured you will never see us try to fill space by swiping such Washington Post contest entries as:

* He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame. Maybe from stepping on a land mine or something.

* Her artistic sense was exquisitely refined, like someone who can tell butter from I Can't Believe It's Not Butter.

* It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids around with power tools.

* The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But unlike Phil, this plan just might work.

* He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up.

Spiritual Vacuum Bureau: A 28-year-old father of three in Tucson has legally changed his name to Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Fact-o-Rama: If a cargo of shoes falls overboard at sea, the right-footed sandals tend to wash up on different beaches from the left-footed ones. According to Beachcombers' Alert newsletter, the sorting is caused by the way winds and currents push against the opposite-shaped soles. The typical split on a given beach is 60-40.

Quote of the Day: From Ann Harrison, commenting on Sen. Ted Kennedy's anti-handgun speech on the Senate floor: "Guns don't kill people; driving cars off bridges kills people."

What April Showers Bring: May is National Asparagus Month, National Breathe Easy Month (which is hard to do when everyone's urine smells like asparagus), National Birds of Prey Month (slogan: "It's National Birds of Prey Month, do you know where your small furry rodents are?"), National Mime Month (slogan: " "), Iowa Tourism Month and Gazpacho Month.

Alarming Trends Bureau: A Nevada company has announced plans to introduce Star Trek Bottled Water. Its five-year mission: to boldly go where no cheesy merchandising tie-in has gone before.

Return to Sender: The U.S. Postal Service, which apparently relies on the same maps as NATO, has printed 100 million stamps that say: "Grand Canyon, Colorado."

Too Much Information Alert: In his new autobiography, Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura confesses he doesn't wear underwear.

Best Supermarket Tabloid Headline: "Sex-Change Chicken Went From Being a Peace-Loving Mother Hen to a Hell-Raising Rooster!" (Weekly World News)

Unpaid Informants: Arizona Daily Star, National Journal's Hotline, PR Newswire, Allie Borden, Chicago Sun-Times, Associated Press, Zan Dubin. Off-Kilter's e-mail address is roy.rivenburg@latimes.com. Off-Kilter runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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