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Fads, Fashion and Foolery for 1994

January 04, 1994|WILLIAM D. MONTALBANO

Rome — Weighty matters will transpire in 1994, statistics and experience insist. Many will be important, some genuinely interesting; a few truly readable. It is the challenge of a good newspaper to chronicle them: Dogs bark at strangers, don't they?

As your life hurtles along in tandem with momentous events in the new year, though, it's probably not a bad idea to keep news in perspective. Mites often affect the way you live and what you think more than Mighties.

Fads, fashions and frivolity--sex, saris and soccer--may not often sup on Page One with war, revolution and market-moving affairs of state and commerce. But who is to deny them a place at the table?

Not, surely, a keen-eyed team of foreign correspondents who, with equal elan, can imbibe Issues of Our Time and Junk Worth Knowing.

Every year home-grown events, people, ideas and issues excite interest in individual countries without necessarily awakening international echo.

What follows then, a New Year's appetizer, is a sampling of foolery and flotsam--an eclectic collection of who's in, what's out and what to look for in '94.

Some of the antipasti will probably not make many appearances on American plates. But one dish--the 1994 World Cup--will rivet international attention and clog Pasadena arteries as the most-discussed, most-watched spectacle in the world this year.

Safer to dismiss are some dainties on the haircut 'n hemline circuit: Japan is anxious for a royal pregnancy but German wags have already named the unborn child of a tennis star and his American bride. The Year of the Dog will be bowing in China the same month that samba dancers are wowing Brazil in another "shine in fantasy" Carnevale.

Wedding of the year is the British Isles to the continent, with the new Channel Tunnel as best man. But beware if you go to the reception. Food may become edible bat about the same point the waiter starts snarling if you mispronounce the soup du jour.

One nation grappling with an uncertain future, Russia, must also decide how to literally lay its past to rest. Another, Pakistan, is consumed by a feud among members of its most prominent family. The arrival of television commercials and a plethora of official languages strike minor chords amid big news in Israel and South Africa, while Mexicans who work to NAFTA are learning to dance to the equally new-fangled quebradita.

By contrast, simplicity and honesty are ideas whose time has come to '94 Italy. Design is moving away from hyper-decorative; one designer has even been heard to opine that the brain counts more than the dress. Probity, after two revelatory years of unprecedented scandal, seems a daring new idea: Will zealous Milan magistrates uncover an honest politician?

When some guileless Neopolitan actually drives down a one-way street the right way, it might even mark microcosmic Italian witness to that elusive juncture of froth and substance that makes the world go round.

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