A Reel Stocking Stuffer

Stumped for that perfect Christmas gift? The National Archives has the answer for you! Now, for the first time ever, it has some of the greatest hits of the Watergate era available, all on handy, 30-minute audio cassettes.

It's President Richard M. Nixon as you've never heard him, live and unpolished, chatting presidentially with counsel John Dean, and top aides John Ehrlichman and H.R. "Bob" Haldeman. The 121/2-hour collection of Watergate Trial Tapes is available for only $702, plus tax, shipping and handling. Or you can buy solo releases, single cassettes -- available for the low introductory price of just $18 -- that feature such spellbinding hits as "Milk Fund"

and the blockbuster "Smoking Gun." Or you could go for "Cancer on the Presidency," a classic five-cassette item.

Or two two-cassette favorites: "Dean Resignation" and "Telephone Conversations."

And that's not all. By late January "the entire collection of `abuses of governmental power' tapes" -- 2511/2 hours in all, the Archives says in promotional literature -- will be available

for sale. It's all of the original stuff, unedited, uncut (except,

of course, for 18 1/2 minutes).

We know that's a bit late for Christmas, so you'll have to put together some sort of gift certificate. Also, the Archives warns of one other problem: "The sound quality of the tapes may be poor due to the limitations of the original recording system."

Don't let that stop you. These are gifts that keep on giving.

Able to Leap Tall Buildings?

Yes, Lois, there is a job for the Superman in your life!

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is looking for a "SENIOR SCIENTIST FOR PLANETARY PROTECTION" and it's willing to pay between $110,351 and $125,900 annually. The duties? Here's what the NASA announcement sent to the Loop said:

Provides scientific and technical advice and consultation on all aspects of planetary protection efforts and represents the division in all related areas. Ensures the development and monitoring of NASA's planetary protection policy and its implementation on space flight missions. Serves as discipline scientist in a related field of research within the space science disciplines.

All that and a disciplinarian, too.

Where's The Beef?

French Agriculture Minister Jean Glavany has been most uncomplimentary in his comments about U.S. food, reportedly calling it the "worst food

in the world." (Obviously he hasn't been to England.) And Washington has been having a particularly nasty fight with the French over getting hormone-treated U.S. beef into the European Union market. The French also have continued to refuse to allow British beef into France, even though it's now been cleared of any "mad cow" problem.

But Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman has been working on Glavany.

The two were in Buenos Aires in August for a meeting of the Cairns Group of agricultural exporting nations and Glickman brought him a delicious McDonald's burger and fries for lunch one day. Far better than any of that bouillabaisse at Cap d'Antibes, but Glavany didn't eat it. French farmers, known for their charm, have dumped manure and rotten fruit at Mickey D's around France and ransacked the site

of a new franchise.

So when Glavany -- who claims he was misquoted about his feelings toward U.S. food -- came to town recently for more talks, Glickman decided to try again. He took him to the upscale steakhouse Sam & Harry's and ordered him some medallions of beef over mashed potatoes, complete with mushroom gravy. This was preceded by a scrump-tious spinach salad and followed by cheesecake for des-sert. (Glavany, no doubt worried about cholesterol, eschewed the dessert.)

It's unknown if the minister enjoyed his meal. But sources say there was not much left on his plate afterward. And the wine? Not some of that commonplace French stuff. It was a 1991 Caymus cabernet sauvignon from Napa Valley, which came out of the personal wine cellar of Tim Galvin, the administrator of the Foreign Agricultural Service and a wine connoisseur. (We're told 1991 was a spectacular year for Napa Valley cabernets.)

Alas, it's also not clear what Glavany thought of the wine, but he had two large glasses.

As with the beef, we'll let his actions speak for him.

Tips and comments for Al Kamen's column are welcomed at: In the Loop, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or by e-mail at Loop@washpost.com. Please include home and work phone numbers.