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Stateside With Rosalea - Oh-two in review


Stateside With Rosalea - Oh-two in review

?Best new foods Imagine a corn cob with pellucid scarlet kernels, turn it inside out and then reshape it into a sphere, flattened at top and bottom. Give it a leathery crimson skin. There you have a pomegranate. To get to the delicious scarlet bits (called arils) you put the fruit underwater and cut it open. Squishing an aril underwater results in what looks like a bloodbath. Pomegranates got a big marketing push here just before the holidays.

Collards. Mmm, mmmm. Imagine an oustide cabbage leaf on a single skinny stalk, the leaf uniformly shaped like a serving plate for the Sunday roast, and with none of that cooking cabbage smell. Throw some rice, chili sausage, and chopped-up collards in with some chicken or vegetable stock and boil till the rice is cooked. Better hope there's some juices left over so you can savour "pot likker". Did I say Mmm, mmmm?

?Favourite fauna The mud gribble. Tiny creature that it is, the combined effort of thousands of them is gradually eroding away the Pacific edge of the continent and undermining high clifftops. Small joy to the folks perched in a cliffside apartment block in Pacifica, but great encouragement to all the people making their small effort to restore credibility to the US democratic process.

?Most prized possession The copy of 'Fixing Elections' that author Steven Hill autographed saying thanks for helping make history by getting the Instant Runoff Voting initiative passed in San Francisco in March 2002. Pity I had to throw it at the TV this Sunday morning when SF Mayor Willie Brown was being interviewed on a news show. When asked for his prediction of the outcome of next year's mayoral race (for which he is termed out), he said it would come down to a December run-off. Know something the voters don't know, Willie, about the implementation of IRV, a system that is designed to do away with December run-offs, and which is supposed to be in place in 2003?

?Favourite accidental eavesdrop Just after the November election, I was walking behind a couple of regular guys in their twenties and overheard one say to the other: "What we need in this country is three parties. One to the left and one to the right, and another one for all us people in the middle." Only a matter of time till that whole generation gets sent away to war, I suppose.

?Foot-stompingest memorial service In September I went to a celebration on the UC Berkeley campus of June Jordan's life. An African-American poet and professor, Jordan started a programme called Poetry for the People, which takes poetry into high schools, homeless shelters, and the like, using student teacher poets as catalysts for others to make poetry. Names you might recognise from the order of service include Danny Glover, Alice Walker, and Angela Davis, but the jewel of the service was the appearance on stage of a chorus of student teacher poets reading a collaborative Poetry for the People Renga.

And the polish on the jewel was a rousing rendition of one of Jordan's songs 'Greensboro, North Carolina/Death to the Klan'. To stand in a packed auditorium at the end of a week of stressful sentimentality brought on by the 9/11 anniversary, and experience the depth of feeling invested in those words - Death to the Klan - was to experience a very potent understanding of what a civil rights movement is about. Although the song is based on an incident that occurred in NC, "the Klan" in the song refers not just to the KKK, but to all who would usurp others' rights at any time or place, for whatever reason.

?Most ill-considered remark On a personal level that would have to be my own "Bullshit!" in reference to the declaration - before any evidence had been obtained - that the Bali bombing was the work of Al Qaida. Believe me, if you lived in the media environment here where everyone else in the world is Bad and Lying, or, at best, Misguided because they're not privy to the superior mindset of the United States administration, you'd be infuriated too.

?Scariest sign of my assimilation I hardly ever watch TV news or current affairs any more, and the lack of interest in those two things was one of the first differences I noticed between Kiwis and people in the US when I came here. Actually, when I do watch, I think there's been an improvement in the standards of journalism over the past year in a mud gribble sort of way. Yay!

?Most interesting coincidence never explored by the media The DC snipers were in action in the weeks following the airing of a documentary series about the Civil War, and practically every place where the snipers shot people had a name I recognised from battles and incidents talked about in the documentary.

?Most obvious cause and effect ignored by the media A couple of years ago the growth of retail sales at the end of the year shot up by an astonishing amount. In the years since, growth has diminished and may even be in negative territory this year. 'Zero down, zero payments until next year, and zero financing' has been a very popular sales ploy for the last couple of years, on everything from autos to furniture, and credit card companies try to outdo each other on how long a period they give you in which you won't have to pay interest. Eventually, of course, you do - along with the payments you haven't made as part of that deal that looked so sweet last holiday season.

?Clearest new perception That high on the Hill sits a bunch of cowherds, who will lead the people who elected them into any number of milking sheds marked, for example, "health insurance", "credit cards", "pharmaceuticals", "investments", "telecommunications", there to be milked by the corporations whose interests the politicians, it seems, serve ahead of the interests of the people who elected them. Well, that might be a silly thing to say when people who work and invest in corporations are voters too. And it sounds like something people have railed about in the US ever since it was created, but it's not until you live here and you experience the impact of the bad laws that result from corporations' ability to argue in the Supreme Court that the right to free speech is also the right to freely fleece consumers that you see the land of opportunity in a new, greatly diminished, light. OK, cows don't have fleece. So sue me!

?And finally... some of the year's Kiwi Moments - The elderly couple standing in line with me for lunch at an ESL event, on learning my country of origin, who were excited to tell me they had once written a letter to my Prime Minister congratulating him on our government's refusal to let nuclear-powered ships into our harbours. - The transgender comedian attending the same night school as me, who said she didn't have a job but lived off her investments, and her favourite investment was the NZ dollar. - Walking into my living room to see Ed Hillary on the telly advertising Toyota, at the same time Crowded House were on the radio. - The radio ad for a foodmarket, in which a shopper says she's delighted to be able to buy wines there from "Spain and New Zealand". - The gripe by one MSN Slate internet columnist about how Google uses a computer to decide what's on the front page at news.google.com, thus ending up with stories from (shock, horror!) New Zealand media about world events. As if journalists all around the world don't use the same news wires, and as if the US view of the world is the only one that has any validity.

So, what's new for you?

Happy New Year, and many more of them!

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