A Layman's Guide to Millennium Fever

The next millennium is approaching and it's causing everyone to lose their mind. You'd think people would wait for the big day to arrive before this happens, or at least let it get a bit closer. But no, we live in times where anxiety and anticipation are more important than the event itself.Notice how newspapers have been bumping front page stories about war atrocities and famine and icky things like that to make room for the important news that Seinfeld won't be returning for another season? They're feeding our anxieties, knowing that people everywhere will be standing by water coolers at work sipping their half-decaf double distilled spring water with Sweet and Low while wringing their hands and whining, "What are we going to do on Thursday night from now on?". Like they won't be able to see enough Seinfeld in reruns or on the new All-Seinfeld cable channel ("All Seinfeld, all the time!").To understand Millennium Anxiety we need to look at six basic questions: Who, what, when, where, why, and how. These are, incidentally, the same six questions journalists are taught to ask. And that children constantly bug you with for the first 10 years of their life, after which they switch to "When can I move out?", "Why won't you buy me a car?", and "Why do I have to have parents?". Journalists, like children, never get tired of asking the same questions.The first thing you want to know about the millennium is WHO -- as in, who cares? Actually, a lot of people care. And by some coincidence they all stand to make money from it. Miller Beer got a trademark to call themselves the "Official Beer of the Millennium" because, well, they thought of it before you did. Newspapers run stories daily about the millennium because they know it sells papers. Or at least fills the white space between the "What are we going to do without Seinfeld?" articles. But most of all it's computer programmers and software developers who care, which brings us to ... WHAT - As in, "What's this about every computer on the face of the Earth self-destructing the instant the clock strikes 12:01 am on the millennial D-day?" This is a fallacy. The truth is Bill Gates made it up because he has nothing better to do than sit on the throne in his office and spread nasty rumors in the hope that it will sell more software. Right. Like he needs to sell more software.It's true a lot of mainframe computers -- defined as any computer that's bigger than a bread box and is owned by a large corporation which will pay programmers an arm and a leg to fix a problem they should have taken care of years ago -- will have trouble with the new millennium. But for most of us the biggest problem we'll be trying to figure out is ... WHEN will it actually happen? There's a lot of debate about when the millennium starts. One side says it's Jan 1, 2000 because that sounds good and it's logical. The other side points out that since there wasn't a year 0, the millennium actually starts on Jan 1, 2001. The truth is (as I pointed out before), who cares? The important thing is to know ... WHERE you'll be spending the dawning of the new millennium. Some people will spend it at home, quietly contemplating the meaning of it all. They're called boring. Others will spend it in Times Square with Dick Clark, freezing their asses off while pickpockets discover something the rest of us already know -- the government has all our money. Still others will travel around the globe to ring in the millennium.There seems to be an international competition to have the biggest and best New Millennium celebration, the winner, of course, being able to lay claim to being the "Official Welcomer of the Millennium". (WARNING: All these celebrations will be ringing in the year 2000, so get it out of your system now or you're going to spend the night arguing about whether it should be happening yet or not with people who don't understand a word you're saying. And don't care.)In Greenwich, England they're building the Millennium Dome, which will look like a flying saucer for reasons no one can explain. In London they're erecting the world's biggest Ferris Wheel. In Berlin they're planning the largest fireworks display they've ever had. And in France they're going absolutely nuts.The plan, if it happens, is to build a 660 foot tall Tower of the Earth on the Left Bank in Paris. As if that's not enough, they're also planning a guitar festival in homage to Jimi Hendrix, the transformation of the Place de la Concorde into the world's largest sundial, and a ceremony at the Eiffel Tower which will include 2,000 drums playing as a giant egg descends, breaking open to show hundreds of TV sets tuned in to programs from all over the world. Which leads us to the natural question of ... WHY? I'm sorry. I have no good answer for this.And lastly, there's the question of HOW. Not "How can I make money off the millennium just like everyone else?" -- which is irrelevant since there's probably no Official status left to be had -- but rather "How can I go on with my life knowing that Seinfeld won't be around on Thursday nights next year?"Hey, it's a new millennium. I'm sure you'll come up with something.

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