Picks and Pans Review: Boston
The Audubon Society (617/259-8805) It reports area bird sightings, which one recent day included a blue heron, four great egrets, 65 ruddy turnstones and a yellow-bellied flycatcher. Phone-a-Poem (617/492-1144) Among poets reading their works recently was Englishman Opal L. Nations, who recited "Irrigation of the Artificial Head," from his Multi-Media Project Poems.
Dial-a-Reg (312/663-0884) Day-to-day changes in federal regulations on social security, civil service or tax questions are not the hottest subjects in town, but this is a city of political job-holders. The number stays busy.
Call-Santa (312/936-2525) Illinois Bell is among the systems that seasonally provide a recorded Santa—and in some cases a Chanukah message—for electronic-age kids who don't believe someone exists if he's not in the phone book.
Population Institute (213/273-2101) Want to know the world population now (4.2 billion)? In 1931 (2 billion)? By 1987 (5 billion)? Rental Hot Line (213/624-7368) The housing division of the L.A. Department of Community Development dramatizes its message. For instance, a concerned female voice asks if it is legal for a landlord to raise rent. A cheery, authoritative voice gives a discouragingly long list of situations where the answer is yes. Those seeking personal help are offered an alternative number.
Tel Med (213/547-9911) The caller asks for a tape on any of 200 medical problems—heart trouble, bee stings, poisons, venereal disease—and receives a recorded briefing, approved by doctors. Similar services operate in other cities.
Dial Dr. Brothers (212/936-4444) It's almost like being Johnny Carson to hear Dr. Joyce personally offer a homily or two. A recent example pointed out that some grandparents dislike the role but most "enjoy playing with their grandchildren or taking them on excursions."
The Good Looks Line (212/999-2222) Skin too oily? Waist too expansive? Just not gorgeous enough? The city of compulsive beauty gets advice on such crises from the phone company. Horoscopes-by-Phone (12 numbers) Those who didn't like the newspaper prognosis can always hope the phone astrologer is more optimistic.
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