Nine more to go

So, Seattle’s usual February sunshine has finally arrived—in March. And we can finally bid adieu to the season of despond, the dripping winter that time forgot (we should all be so lucky), and look forward to the YTK. No, not Y2K, about which we’ve already heard too much, thank you. That’s Year To Come, 1999, the year we still have to get through before we can find out if our computers turn into toasters at New Year’s. At year’s start, the Q&D prognostication team (soon to be spun off as a major IPO, solicited your forecasts of 1999’s hottest trends, biggest events, and flattest flops. In nine months, we’ll tally the score. Meanwhile, here are some of the more intriguing (if less likely) predictions from January, and a few that are already panning out.

“The artist formerly known as” will change his name to: Millennial Man; Prince 2K; the Artist; Prince.

The National Book Award for fiction will go to: Stephen King; Cherry Wong; the Clinton memoirs.

The Nobel Peace Prize, to: Jesse Jackson; Pope John Paul II; Yasser Arafat.

Notable disasters: war; Mount Rainier earthquake; Mount St. Helens eruption during the WTO meeting, covering Seattle with ash.

Sex scandals in: Washington, DC, and Hollywood; the Burien School District, again.

Bankruptcies: Elliott Bay and other independent book shops.

Prime-time television inanity: Linda Tripp talk show opposite Roseanne.

Where will they be at year’s end?

Newt Gingrich: on the rubber-chicken circuit; a political analyst on CNN; a Delta Airlines flight attendant working out of Atlanta.

Hillary Clinton: at the United Nations; president of NOW; running for office; using another name.

Monica Lewinsky: in a new dress and hair color; doing TV interviews; in the US Senate.

Ken Starr: Chief Justice Starr.

Y2K will be: a minor nuisance; Prince’s new name.

US troops will fight in: Iraq; India; Africa; Cuba.

Scientists will clone a: pig; monkey; Furby; Chinese political prisoner.

1999’s most annoying fad will be: confessing; Catch Kitty; Y2K; Y2K merchandise.

Its most inscrutable trend: Seattle teens wearing stacks of neck rings “like those Burmese mountain tribeswomen.”

Hottest fashion statement: stock ownership; fleece; nudity.

Biggest comeback: the Arizona Diamondbacks; Baltimore Orioles; mood rings; virginity; Shakespeare.

The disaster or global menace that will underpin in the summer’s biggest blockbuster: earthquake; war; Bill Gates; Bill Clinton as the Antichrist.

1999’s biggest movie flop will feature: post-apocalyptic religion and Kevin Costner; Tibetan monks mounting an armed insurrection with help from James Bond, co-starring Richard Gere as an American journalist who always finds himself in bed with Chinese starlets.

Christmas 1999’s must-have, can’t-find toy will be: Teletubbies; millennial talking cats; a stuffed shoe.

Thanks to Hei Hua, Kathy Biscardi, Roger Clarke-Johnson, J.E.B. Woodhouse, P. Mc-Intyre, Gail, and everyone else who sent in predictions. Tune in next year (the year formerly known as “Prince”) for the winner.

Next week: Linda Tripp on ‘Jerry Springer’

The Lewinsky saga hasn’t just punctured the dignity of the presidency and the balloon of the 106th Congress. It’s also updated Marx’s famous dictum. Instead of tragedy repeating itself as farce, we have farce coming back as soap opera. A year ago, the world’s most famous intern was thrust upon the world through the machinations of Lucianne Goldberg, an agent—a midwife to celebrity—who wanted to be a Nixon plumber. Then, Lewinsky was fronted by a lawyer, William Ginsburg, who wanted to be an agent and a celebrity. Last Thursday, all her unwitting agents having done their work well, she received (and apparently enjoyed) the ultimate affirmation of celebrity: a two-hour Barbara Walters interview. And ABC sold the hell out of the show, for more than $1 million a minute, with commercial breaks just six minutes apart.

Hell’s belles

The Interview also afforded one last chance for that favorite American pastime, jeering Linda Tripp. So let’s bid the Rat Woman farewell with one more literary recollection: Dante put the wayward lovers Paolo and Francesca in an outer, less-culpable circle of Hell, and the betrayers Cassius, Brutus, and Judas in the innermost ninth circle, where they writhed in the Fiend’s bloody jaws.

Then again—Bill Clinton, and other politicians and media purveyors, take note—Dante stuck seducers and panderers in the eighth circle.

Monica who?

But how fleeting is fame. Last week, I also ran across an only slightly older magazine story about someone so familiar the headline just called her “Monica.” Selles, of course.

Temerity in Timor

But nothing really changes for the press. We hate ourselves in the morning for slobbering, again, all over a story like Lewinsky’s, and give but glancing attention to big changes in obscure places like East Timor. And what attention is given has been cheery and credulous of Indonesia’s declarations that it’s relaxing its brutal 24-year occupation and ready to grant the East Timorese autonomy or even independence, as they wish.

But the international East Timorese Action Network, which has documented many past Indonesian atrocities, tells a different story. It reports that even as it talks pull-out, Indonesia’s new “reformist” government has stepped up the violence by government-trained, contrastyle “civilian militias,” to bolster its claim that continuing occupation will be “necessary to prevent civil war.” This would suggest that the world’s fourth-largest nation isn’t reforming so fast after all. But such news probably isn’t coming soon to a paper or station near you.

Let ‘er rust

Last Wednesday, when it looked as though the main New Carissa problem was solved—before the towline snapped and the ship’s bow, with most of its oil, went drifting back to shore, only to be towed off again this week—the only problem seemed to be the smaller stern section. As The Seattle Times put it, “Officials still haven’t decided what to do with the stern section, which remains partially buried near the beach.” The answer is simple: Leave it there, and not just to avoid further mishaps. Leave it as a marker and a memorial, like the hulks that used to rust off the beach at Normandy, or Berlin’s bombed-out and eloquently unreconstructed Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church—a warning of the consequences of waging war against the ocean.

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