Talking Refrigerators, Etc.: The fire marshal has ordered Off-Kilter to reduce the clutter on its desk, so we hereby present the following flammable news items:
* A Japanese company is introducing a talking refrigerator that issues such warnings as: "A door is open" and "Be careful not to stuff in too much food."
* Last month's Winter Olympics featured some amazing technological innovations, including: remote-control heated toilet seats, recyclable plates made from apples, and public restrooms with chirping-bird sound effects to drown out "other" noises.
* Barney, the satanic purple dinosaur, will promote his new movie, "Barney's Great Adventure," by dipping one of his feet into the La Brea Tar Pits. Please, all we ask for is just a little push.
Shameless Self-Promotion Department: We are thinking about suing New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. His recent campaign to nice-ify Manhattan sounds suspiciously like a screenplay we wrote seven years ago, "Slightly Used City," in which a bankrupt Big Apple is sold on the Home Shopping Network ("New York City: Some assembly required"). The winning bidder is Disneyland, which converts the entire city into an amusement park, complete with a parachute drop at the Statue of Liberty and a Muggers of the Caribbean subway system with underground waterfalls and loop-the-loop elevated tracks. Citizens must wear costumes and sign contracts promising to behave nicely. A cynical radio host played by Bill Murray (or a reasonable facsimile) eventually leads a revolt to restore the city to its "former glory."
We also had an idea for another film. It would be titled "Sorry, This Theater Closed for Remodeling," just because we'd love to hear the recorded show listings when we call the local multiplex: "And in theater No. 3, 'Sorry, This Theater Closed for Remodeling.' "
Electronic Blarney: After reporting on the new computerized virtual lover toy and the Palmdale company that sells coffins for expired virtual pets, we thought we could give the whole category a rest. But noooooooo. Now Ireland has posted a "virtual Blarney stone" on the Internet. Computer users who visit http://www.irelandseye.com can kiss a cyber version of the famous rock and, according to legend, receive the virtual gift of gab.
Dead Letters: The fire marshal also made us empty our mailbox:
* In response to our item on a New Jersey school board that changed Christmas to "December Season" and St. Valentine's Day to "Special Person Day" in order to eliminate religious connotations, reader Sean McGinly suggested renaming St. Patrick's Day "Get Drunk Until You Throw Up Day."
* A report on designer beverages that mentioned "a new blend of water for babies that Gerber plans to sell" prompted several members of the grammar police to ask where they could buy these babies that Gerber is selling. Check your local supermarket.
* In another column, we made reference to Off-Kilter's "77 readers." In response, Jerry Boyce asked if he could become No. 78. If this is just an attempt to get your name in the paper, Mr. Jerry Boyce, it won't work. Do you understand, Jerry Boyce?
Best Supermarket Tabloid Headline: "Farmer Develops the Elvis Chicken! New Birds Sport Slick Hairdos--& Swivel Their Hips When They Walk!" (Weekly World News)
* Roy Rivenburg can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contributors: Premiere Radio, Daily Variety, Denver Post, Wireless Flash, Chicago Sun-Times