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Stateside with Rosalea: The Year In Review

Stateside with Rosalea
The Year In Review

Most prescient moment

January 16, when a suicide trucker drove an 18-wheeler twice around the block gathering speed and then rammed it into the California State Capitol building in Sacramento where it erupted in a ball of fire. For the Spooked on Coincidence among us, write 116 (i.e. January 16) on a piece of paper and then rotate it a half-circle through the horizontal plane.

Silliest costume

January 20. The bibs and bobs Chief Justice Rehnquist added to the usually (and deliberately) plain gown Supreme Court justices wear. Oh well, I suppose when your one vote brought a king to power you can afford to indulge yourself with the garb of a Gilbert and Sullivan comic admiral at the coronation... oops, inauguration.

Best costume

Bjork's of course! Anyone who has ever been hissed at and bitten by those big bullies of the bird world - swans - appreciated the humour of it. But then, when the media are disposed to think that all swans do is glide around looking smug and inspiring beautiful music, ballets and heart-warming stories about ugly ducklings, I guess they would miss the point.

Most consistently missed point

Very many people in the world have reason to think the US is a bully, not the least of them being leaders of nations with a history thousands of years older than that of the US. Just because mud turns to dust doesn't mean the people who have built in that material for millennia are any less important or 'civilised' than the ones who build in marble or steel and glass.

Scariest sound

September 12. Waking from a nightmare in which I was about to be discovered in my motorboat hideaway by someone who was stamping their feet on the steps leading down from the pier. As I began to wake up I realised it wasn't footsteps outside my apartment door making that noise but the blood pounding in my ears as my heart raced in fear. Fully awake, I recognised the source of the fear and the metronome effect it was having on my bloodstream - the thwok, thwok, thwok of a helicopter overhead.

Most expressive image

A photograph in a travelling exhibition of photos taken in New York on September 11. It shows three men sitting at what looks like a lunch counter looking to the right of the photograph, presumably at a television set that is off-camera. Two of them have a look of stunned fascination on their faces. The third has averted his face towards the camera and his gaze towards the floor. He has the look of someone trying to fathom the unfathomable.

Most succinct summation

On September 11 I happened to share a staff lunchroom with a group of Mexican plasterers who were working in our building. Silent and dusty they watched, as I did, with a mixture of stunned fascination and incomprehension, the tv footage of the planes hitting the towers, which was being played over and over again. "These men," said one of the plasterers finally, "they have no brains."

Most pathetic 'ha, ha, ha'

December 23. On NBC's 'Meet the Press', NY mayor Rudolph Giuliani laughing about how he pointed out to President Bush just a couple of days after 911, as they drove with the NY Governor down to Ground Zero through crowds of cheering and saluting New Yorkers in a solidly Democrat-voting part of town: "None of these people voted for you. But now they love you. They all love you and they'd vote for you unanimously."

Most badly timed mailout

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee survey that arrived in the first week of September asking: "George W. Bush and Congressional Republicans say they have a 'mandate' to advance their extreme right-wing agenda. What do you say?" The Survey Mission states: "This is a pivotal moment in history for America and for the Democratic Party. With the GOP clinging to the slimmest majority on record in the House, we have a tremendous opportunity to advance a progressive agenda." The date by which the survey had to be returned saying you concurred that Bush had no mandate and would help the Democrats "fight for America's families and TAKE BACK THE HOUSE..." was 12 October.

Second most badly timed mailout

Amnesty International sending me an invitation in a bulky envelope with no return address, my address mispelled, and no indication who it was from other than a frank saying "non-profit org." It arrived in the week of the first anthrax mail scares.

Nadir of television journalism

Anchor and managing editor Tom Brokaw on the 'NBC Nightly News With Tom Brokaw' holding a bottle of antibiotics in his hand and saying "In Cipro we trust." He caused a run on a drug that some people actually need to stay alive, and a huge extra burden for public health services hardly able to cope as it is with REAL health crises such as the surge in the incidence of tuberculosis. TB is a highly infectious disease and its treatment needs to be closely managed by by public health workers because the complicated drug regime can easily make the situation worse if it's not followed exactly.

Most interesting question

In the 1980s, smallpox having been declared officially vanquished, the World Health Organization planned to store the vaccine (which can be done almost indefinitely at a temperature of minus 20 degrees centigrade) in sufficient quantities to vaccinate many millions of people should the need ever arise again. Should the WHO list on the stock exchange?

Best riddance

NBC will be moving beyond my exasperated ken on January 1st, ending a half-century affiliation with KRON4 in San Francisco. It is going down to San Jose, where it has also bought four Spanish-language cable TV stations. Unless I get AT&T cable (which promises me a mysterious NBC programme called 'Fraiser' in its latest glossy direct marketing brochure) I will have to watch the station through a snowy haze on channel 11.

Surest bets for 2002


The San Francisco media market, which was the sixth largest in the US, will largely evaporate in the after-effects of NBC's move, and the local channels will struggle to stay afloat. A Republican will be elected Governor of California. Thirty-six thousand children will die EACH DAY of hunger in this world, and there will be no soaring monument, no moments of silence, no questioning why this should be.

Oh, one last thing. The year's most abominable print ad. A lingerie ad in the latest edition of American Express's upmarket travel magazine 'Departures', in which the model looks like she has two black eyes. Who'd WANT to "eat the rich", as the graffiti used to say, when they're so tasteless?

No, that's far too gloomy a note on which to end. Year's most welcome sound - te ruru e nga piwakawaka. F/LOTR may suffer from its source material having the plotline of a barbed-wire charm bracelet, but it was great to hear the little birdies sing!

Happy New Year. Really!

lea_barker@hotmail.com
Lea Barker
California
Saturday December 29, 2001


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