SHIRKING-CLASS HEROES Transylvania's mayor, Gheorghe Funar, proposed making the handles of shovels of city workers too short to lean on so the workers will get on with their work.Volkswagen reported it has cut absenteeism in half at its German factories by hand-delivering get-well cards to workers who call in sick. Those who are not at home when the cards are delivered are interviewed when they return to work.MODEST PROPOSALIn Augusta, Ga., singer James Brown announced he is looking for a site for a museum dedicated to himself. "It would be a great thing," he explained, "because there's a need for it."LACKING SOULFord Motor Co. in the United Kingdom acknowledged that it used a computer to change the races of five workers when their picture appeared on the cover of a company brochure. The original photo, which was used on the U.K. Ford Credit Options brochure, showed four blacks and a Sikh in a crowd with 27 whites. Advertising Age reported that when the same photo was used in press and poster ads in Poland, the non-whites were altered because, according to the company, "the U.K. version obviously did not portray the ethnic mix in Poland." The photo was used in Poland until 1994, but then this year the altered version was mistakenly used in a new credit brochure distributed in the U.K. Blaming "an administrative error," Ford issued formal apologies and checks for $2,400 to four of the non-white workers; the fifth had already left the company.CURE FOR A COOKOUTA federal court in Cleveland ordered the destruction of 16,000 "Stimulator" devices being marketed as a medical product without the required approval of the Food and Drug Administration. The Stimulator, endorsed by daredevil Evel Kneivel and sold for $79.80 plus shipping, is advertised as alleviating pain and medical ailments, but, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Alex Rokakis, "the FDA has determined the device is a gas-grill igniter."BIG BANG THEORIESOakland police investigating the deaths of two brothers in an explosion and fire said the two men had removed the gas tank from a Chevrolet Suburban when one of them opened a side door in the garage. According to police Sgt. Ron Hanson, the sudden rush of air either blew the vapors into a hot water heater or created a chemical mixture that caused the explosion. Three days after the incident, detectives reported hearing a street rumor that someone was offering $3,000 for recovery of the gas tank from the wreckage. They checked and found about 200 pounds of marijuana in the tank, leading them to conclude that Jose Guiterrez, 22, and Lionel Guiterrez, 26, had been trying to remove it when they were fatally injured.In the Chinese village of Jiqi, 10 tons of dynamite illegally stored in an apartment building exploded, leveling 40 buildings and leaving a 2-1/2-acre crater full of rubble. The resulting inferno killed at least 95 people and injured more than 400. Reports said He Gen, a businessman, owned the dynamite but gave no reason why it was being kept in an apartment building.In Orange, Calif., real estate agent Lorraine Brunskow was making a last inspection of a home she had sold when she discovered a foot-long cylinder in a closet that she said "looked like a little bomb." Her client, a 70-year-old widow, said to just throw it away or use it as a doorstop. Instead, Brunskow tossed it in her trunk. The next day, she showed the object to a co-worker, a former agent for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, who recognized it as an artillery shell and called police. Jittery authorities wouldn't touch the shell, which was stuffed with two pounds of dynamite and starting to leak, so they used a robotic arm to slide it from Brunskow's trunk into a container. Ordnance experts destroyed the World War I relic at a nearby Marine Corps air station.LITTLE BANG THEORIESBonnie Booth, 38, was hospitalized in Muncie, Ind., after shooting herself in the foot while using a shotgun to try to remove a callus. "She told investigators she drank a gallon of vodka and two or three beers and tried to shoot the callus off her foot," police Capt. Baird Davis said. "She told officers she had already tried to cut off the callus with a razor, and it didn't work. She was afraid it was getting infected because it hurt real bad."At an American Legion club bar in Watford City, N.D., rancher Robert Mead Jr. complained about the quality of the beer he was served and left. According to witnesses, he returned with a lever-action rifle in one hand and a semiautomatic rifle in the other. Customer Patrick Wagner reported, "He fired a shot into the ceiling and then said, 'Now, bring me a real beer.'" Police were called, and when Officer Keith Braddock arrived, Mead fatally shot him and took two other men hostage for nine hours before walking out at 2:20 a.m.CABBAGE-PATCH DISPATCHHungarian authorities investigating the death of Julianna Farkas, 80, concluded she bent into a barrel of sauerkraut that was in a shed to scoop out a portion, was overcome by the pungent fumes, fell in and drowned. Police said the liquid in the barrel where the body was found was 12 inches deep.In Pittsburgh, a jury ruled that the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation was not liable for the car accident that Sarah Milliken, 48, claimed caused her to lose a year's wages after she suffered a broken back. A highlight of the evidence that Deputy Attorney General Robert McDermott used to prove Milliken was able to perform strenuous activity was a videotape provided by her now-estranged husband showing her and another woman in bathing suits wrestling in coleslaw during Bike Week activities in Daytona Beach, Fla., a year after the incident.Compiled by Roland Sweet from the nation's press. Send clippings, citing source and date, to POB 8130, Alexandria VA 22306. Odd-news hounds will enjoy the latest compilation, "Dumb, Dumber, Dumbest: True News of the World's Least Competent People," by John J. Kohut and Roland Sweet (Plume/Penguin).