ETC...

OFFENDED? NOT ME

Heard the one about Damien Hirst? How's that? You've never even heard of Damien Hirst? Well, he's a prize-winning conceptual artist who last week found out what some people really think of his work. At a London gallery, Hirst built an exhibit out of empty beer bottles, candy wrappers, dirty ashtrays, and discarded coffee cups. Alas, when the janitor arrived the next morning he saw only a "mess," which he threw into the trash. Horrified gallery employees retrieved the items and, using photographs, carefully reconstructed the display. Said the janitor: "I didn't think for a second that it was a work of art." As for Hirst, he took the matter in stride, calling it "very funny."

BUT THE MICE THINK IT'S GREAT

Then there's the artist known as Cosimo Cavallaro, whose latest work also is finding doubters. He currently is coating a vacant Powell, Wyo., house in melted pepperjack cheese. The project more or less coincides with this weekend's Cheesefest. But, says resident Bob Mueller, it risks turning the town into a laughingstock. Mayor Jim Milburn stopped by for a look and, choosing his words carefully, called it "a work in progress."

States where local taxes cut deepest into paychecks

New York residents had the highest combined state and local tax burden as a percentage of personal income in 1999 (the most recent year for which statistics were available), according to a new report by the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance. New Yorkers paid an average of 15.1 percent of total annual income in nonfederal taxes. The top 10 states and the percentage of annual personal income taxed, according to Taxpayers Alliance:

1. New York 15.1%

2. Maine 14.7

3. Wisconsin 13.3

4. Hawaii 13.2

5. Utah 13.1

6. Rhode Island 12.9

7. Vermont 12.8

(tie) Connecticut 12.8

9. New Jersey 12.6

10. Nebraska 12.2

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