Current projections suggest that in the July 10 referendum to select a new Syrian president, 34-year-old ophthalmologist Bashar Assad, son of the late Hafez Assad, will receive 99.9 percent of the votes. What is it that most accounts for his anticipated landslide?
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Monday's Question (No. 447)—"Wise Crackers":
Praising the decision by Philip Morris, owner of Kraft Foods, to buy Nabisco, retail consultant Burt Flickinger said, "Kraft's biggest issue is having too many products that are in categories, like cheese, with declining consumption. Nabisco is in one of the few fast-growing expandable areas." What area is that?
"Cheez."—Tim Carvell (Marya Grandy had a similar answer.)
"Ritz Crack."—Francis Heaney (similarly, Anthony Wright)
"Last meals for death row prisoners in Texas."—Greg Steffensen
"Bob Hope shiva platters."—Charlie Glassenberg
" 'Fast-growing expandable areas.' Heh heh."—Daniel "Jon Zerolnick & Josh Kamensky" Radosh
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Throughout my lifetime, food innovation of every sort has been a fast-growing expandable area, not just as a consequence of the work done in the chem labs of Kraft and Nabisco and their ilk—and not just their ilk, one hears of tasty experiments performed by their kith and their kin—but also due to the continued marketing of foods from all the world's, er, markets. For instance, the salad green of my youth was iceberg lettuce and only iceberg lettuce. Oh, one heard of uptown swells and their Caesar salads with their fancy romaine lettuce and their top hats, but such things were more spoken of than actually eaten (although I have a cousin who swallowed most of a wool cap once, but that's merely a colorful and no doubt untrue family anecdote). Now, however, even around my suburban home, everyone has access to Boston lettuce and green leaf lettuce, red leaf, and watercress. Indeed, even an appearance of arugula would not cause comment.
Nearly everyone's salad now is better—or at least more varied—than nearly anyone's then. There is, alas, one area where an overt pledge of continued innovation has been betrayed, the realm of mind-expanding drugs. In 1967, marijuana was described as a gateway drug, one which—if you were very, very lucky—would open the, er, gate, to the amphetamines, the barbiturates, the opiates, and the hallucinogens. It is this last category where the mescaline and LSD of that decade were said to be mere forerunners of what would be an infinite array of mind-altering chemicals whose effects would be as different from that of a tab of acid as acid is from a bottle of Budweiser. So, where are they? Oh, there's ecstasy, of course, a pretty paltry fulfillment of so grand a promise. Where are ecstasy's hundred brothers and sisters? Nowhere. Where are those thousand unprecedented psychedelic experiences? The promises of 1968's drug culture are as unfulfilled as 1958's plan to farm the ocean floor, which, I suppose we don't really need, since we have plenty of arable land producing vast crops of innovative salad greens.
Tasty, but Thirst Inducing, Answer
Cookies, crackers, and salted snacks. Just like in that overly memorable exchange from The Graduate.
Mr. McGuire: I just want to say five words to you ... just five words.
Benjamin: Yes, sir.
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
Benjamin: Yes, sir, I am.
Mr. McGuire: Cookies, crackers, and salted snacks.
The deal will create the world's most profitable food company, to the extent that Tang, LifeSavers, and American-processed-cheese food substance are food (although Nestlé remains No. 1 in terms of revenue). In 1999, the combined revenues of Kraft and Nabisco were $34.9 billion; profits were $5.5 billion.
Dan Dickinson's Sing-Along Extra
The gulf-stream armada must be at National Airport. Our Moses is going back to be Our Little Pioneer. Let's sing him a farewell song, shall we? Wave. Follow along with me: "It's-a-long-way-to-Cer-tio-ra-ri ... !"
Jack Shafer's Washington Post Correction Extra
A May 24 "Style" review of the movie Mission: Impossible 2 incorrectly linked a company that makes coffee machines, Krups, with Krupp, the German firm that manufactured weapons during World War II. There is no connection between the two. (June 27, 2000). Except for an experimental model that Heisenberg was (or wasn't) working on that might have changed the course of the war if only he'd done the damn calculations and remembered to pick up some heavy cream.—Ed.
Francis Heaney's Tough Talk for Teens Extra
"Teen Critical After Car Plunges Off Cliff": "Saying things such as 'What idiot put that cliff there?' and 'Why didn't my brakes work better?' no doubt."—Francis Heaney
Best Wire-Service Sentence About Rising From the Tomb Extra
"The still-spry church leader emerged wearing leis of pink and white flowers over his tuxedo."—Associated Press, June 27, 2000 (OK, not reincarnation; Excite classifies this story as "Entertainment.")
"SALT LAKE CITY (AP)—'Happy Birthday' sounds pretty impressive when sung by 21,000 people and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The rousing chorus was in tribute to Mormon Church President Gordon B. Hinckley, who turned 90 on Friday. The still-spry church leader ..."
Yes, but What About Me and Patricia Duff? Don't Our Feelings Count for Anything Extra?
Ron Perelman and Ellen Barkin to marry Wednesday, his fourth, her second. The Revlon mogul, 57, is worth almost $5 billion; he has six children and recently became a bald unattractive grandfather. The actress, 46, and way too good for him, starred with Al Pacino in Sea of Love and Dennis Quaid in The Big Easy, and in some lame Blake Edwards thing (What was she thinking? What is she thinking?). She has two children with actor Gabriel Byrne.—AP report, more or less, via Charles Star. (This changes nothing. Marriage or no marriage, she'll continue to be as unaware of my existence as she ever was.—Ed.)
News Quiz Picnic—Please Join Us
Wednesday evening July 12, from 6:00 p.m., in Central Park on the shore of the Turtle Pond. (That's at the south end of the Great Lawn, just east of the Delacorte Theater, in the shadow of Belvedere Castle, right in the middle of the park at about 81st Street, easily reached from East or West Side.) In the proud and cheap tradition of the original News Quiz Party, it's BYOE—Bring Your Own Everything.