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YEAR'S END PUTS STRANGE THINGS ON OUR PLATE

The millennium is trying to work its way into your digestive tract. Eternal vigilance is necessary. And we're not just talking about the phenomenon called -- what were those letters again? Oh yes, Y2K.

We all know that whenever there's any kind of event in the world today, there's a marketing opportunity. As a person who starts getting Thanksgiving press releases during the summer solstice, I accept that fact. Sometimes I even think that's what makes America great.

But the trickle is becoming a flood.

I started out this year vowing I would not become a victim of millennium fever. I took all those swirling rumors of a midnight Champagne shortage in stride, for instance. (The big news now is that there will be no shortage of bubbles on New Year's Eve. What a surprise!)

So what should arrive on my desk from the Krups Corp. but a brand-new battery-powered appliance shaped like a champagne flute, called a "Midnight Cocktail." It's designed to celebrate you-know-what at the stroke of midnight. Don't put the Roederer Cristal in this, folks! The thing is pure plastic, and ugly. It stands over 12 inches tall and comes with a special ice cube tray.

"At the push of a button, a built-in rotating stirrer in the shape of a barman holding the number 2000 blends cocktails for two in a mesmerizing swirl," the accompanying directions say. (My italics.)

Be the first on your black to get one. For $14.99.

Cocktail mixers are one thing, but classic foods are quite another. Am I the first to introduce you to this new ready-to-eat cereal from General Mills and his girlfriend, the once staid Betty Crocker?

The cereal is called Millenios.

What they really are, of course, are Cheerios that have undergone a makeover. Some clever person suddenly realized that those standard doughnuts made from oat and corn looks like zeros.

Millenios are mixed with what the company calls "crunchy cereal bits" in the shape of -- the number 2.

2000 -- get it?

Just in case you're living in a cave, be advised that the box, which will appear in a grocery store near you shortly, will also feature some millennium-type activity on the back and side panels.

The consumer can answer such questions as: "When will the first woman be elected president of the United States?" (I nominate Betty Crocker.)

These answers can be stored as your personal time capsule; Millenios, of course, are meant to be a collectible. You can even buy limited-edition boxes signed by celebrities on e-Bay.

To trivialize Cheerios is bad enough. How do you feel about the M & M's Millennium Party Box, described as "a limited edition of cool confetti-colored candies in a built-in candy dish"? The dish turns out be the cardboard package, and you can collect all four boxes in a series, if you wish.

The colors are weird, though: hot pink and aquamarine.

I want red, yellow, blue, brown and green. I want tradition.

They have to start leaving sacred things like M & M's alone.

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