Stateside With Rosalea: 2004 Kaleidoscope
**Most effective weight-loss diet**
Airline water. Coming back from DC in the middle of the year, I drank a tiny paper cup of the water on tap in the plane, spent the next eight weeks running to the bathroom, and lost ten pounds.
**Best antidote to most effective weight-loss diet**
BRATT. The doctor gave me a complicated diet to follow and told me to buy some over-the-counter medicine. Neither worked. Then, while skimming the upper range of cable channels--ie the public service ones--I came across a class for trainee caregivers.
The remedy they advised was bananas, rice, apples, tea and toast--BRATT. It worked. Bananas contain kaolin and apples contain pectin, two of the main ingredients in OTC diarrhea medicines, but don't have the pharmaceuticals' negative side effects. (You really wanted to know all this, right?)
**Most damning comment about a Health Maintenance Organisation**
Overheard on a bus: "I wouldn't take my *cat* to Kaiser." Kaiser Permanente was one of the first group practice prepayment health plans in the US, i.e. health insurance tied to specific doctors, specialists, and hospitals. The program was originally started in 1938 to cover workers on big construction projects like the Grand Coulee Dam in Washington state, which was built by a Kaiser family company.
To be fair, a friend who recently fell and broke her pelvis in San Diego had nothing but praise for the facilities and the treatment she received at the Kaiser hospital there. And Kaiser has a great preventative health advertising campaign, which includes putting little labels saying "You, Me, Dinner--Thrive" on vegetables in the supermarket.
**Most peculiar ingestibles**
Is there no stopping the happy ingenuity of food manufacturers in this country? Not content with cheese that comes in an aerosol can, they now make water "using high-energy ultrasound to break down large clusters of H20 molecules into smaller, stable clusters." It has the miraculous effect of enabling you to pay through the nose, and is called Penta, if you want to know.
And what about those Quaker Oats people! Don't be fooled by that smiling, grandfatherly face on the label, folks--the old bastard's lying through his teeth. His "Peaches and Cream" flavor of instant oatmeal contains "flavored fruit pieces (dehydrated apples [treated with sodium sulfite to promote color retention], artificial peach flavor, citric acid, annotto color)" and "creaming agent (maltodextrin, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, whey, sodium caseinate)".
Believe me, folks, once a "food" manufacturer has to resort to square brackets to list the ingredients, you'd be getting as much nutritional value--if not more--by eating the packet it came in.
Oh, and I can't leave off without mentioning an actual, organically grown fruit about the size of a gooseberry--the Baby Kiwi. No hair; soft, sweet skin. Just like a real baby!
**Scariest advert on TV**
Speaking of the little ones...there's a statewide campaign in California aimed at getting parents to send their children to pre-school. Hollywood film producer, Bob Reiner--who toyed with the idea of running for governor in the recall election--created First Five several years ago, and its ad campaigns concentrate on the positive benefits of getting your kid educationally motivated at a very early age.
Still, I can't help but worry "what for?" when one series of ads features an airline executive traipsing through a factory that builds airplanes with a bunch of hard-hatted littlies in tow. To endear himself to the impressionable little dears, the business-suited executive stretches his arms out like wings, and swoops around the floor of the hangar, playing planes--just like mommy and daddy!
The implication is that sending kids to pre-school creates a pool of happy, efficient workers. Isn't that just exactly what the nineteenth century Prussian model of education is? That is, the desired goal isn't to produce thinking, feeling, well-rounded adults with a lively interest in what goes on around them, but a docile workforce to make profits for a company.
It has a picture of a bicycle and the words: Anti-terrorist vehicle.
**Most peculiar magazine article**
Time magazine's 2004 Person of the Year. When I described to someone the accompanying photo of President Bush riding his mountain bike, listening to Van Morrison on his iPod, they immediately asked: Was he in Marin? "Marin County" is shorthand for stoned old hippies in hot tubs, and is the most damning descriptor anyone on the right can use, as Bush the elder once did.
After reading the Time article, you realize that the Clinton years were just an interregnum. Now, that's really scary! I mean, what if the plan is: 2008-2016, President Powell and VP Jeb Bush (you saw them take that flight to South East Asia, right?); 2016-2024, President Jeb Bush; 2024-2032, VP George P. Bush; 2032-2040, President Geroge P. Bush, VP Jenna Bush; et cetera, et cetera, et cetera? And who's going to stop them?
**Most peculiar magazine photograph**
Time wins again! In the same article is a photo of Laura Bush brushing down her hubby's suit in the elevator at the White House. Plainly visible on the President's right cheekbone is the shape of the implant that allows his handlers to tell him what to say in press conferences.
Okay, okay, I'm just kidding. But if I was in the White House press corps, I'd take a frequency scanner with me into the next huddle just to be sure I'm just kidding.
**Best magazine cover**
Robert Crumb's cover for The New Yorker's Thanksgiving weekend edition. In his inimitable cartoon style, he shows a New York sidewalk crowded with people of different ages and races, in a hurry, all oblivious to the down-and-out, dejected Native American wearing a sandwich board that offers a Thanksgiving Special for $29 at a local eatery.
**Most shocking Been-Away-Too-Long realisations**
Glancing at a headline on an A/NZ website, I wondered why they hadn't capitalised a certain famous composer's name--and then realised it was a story about a holiday home at the beach. Conversely, I was shocked and surprised to learn from a late December headline that 800 little brown flightless birds had gone missing when I didn't think there were even that many still living, and why on earth did they capitalise "kiwi"?
**Most creative antidote to Been-Away-Too-Long**
Suddenly missing phrases like, "The spuds are in the back shed", I have created a back shed in the laundry corner of my kitchen. There's a picture of a cow in a meadow, and pictures of the cats that live in the shed, and a wooden box for storing potatoes and onions, just like every good shed would have. And tools, and string, and things that "will come in handy some day," like little cardboard boxes for mailing things in. It's amazing how much better I feel now that I have a back shed.
**Most disturbing question**
What has happened in between December 2000 and December 2004 that I have gone from writing ditsy doggerel about the 2000 presidential election (see link below) to getting emails from people who say that someone planted a bomb in the Indian Ocean and then triggered it to set off the tsunami? I've heard all about Rumsfeld's plans to make the US military smarter, but that idea really takes the cake!
Still, you can't help thinking that if it were true, Operation Tectonic Thrust was helluva less messy as an anti-"terrorist" campaign than the never-ending war in Iraq, incurred far less cost, and not only did other nations rush in to help with the reconstruction efforts, but it gave people the chance to say "of Biblical proportions" at every opportunity.
Golly, how pleased all those evangelical Christians must be that their programming is broadcast to India, Indonesia and Southeast Asia via the Palapa C-2 satellite so those poor souls can see how much better it is to accept the Lord than to suffer the terrible fate of the unbeliever in these End Times!
Link to December 2000 column: http://www.scoop.co.nz/mason/stories/HL0012/S00048.htm]