Sunday, December 31, 2023

There Have Been Other December 31's That Were Much More Momentous

This piece by Mark Steyn (not to be confused with Lady Justice Steyn) was originally published in the Telegraph on December 31, 1999.

With Santana's "Smooth" on constant replay providing the background music, the most talked about topics, in some circles anyway, were the Y2K bug and whether this was really the turn of the Millennium or if it was next year. The dotcom bubble was in full stride and the zeitgeist was a bit frivolous.

This Date in History

December 31st, 999
A reluctant King Ethelred the Unready has been pressured by the Thane of Blair into attending tonight's opening of the Millennium Dome in London. Initially, His Majesty had argued that the new millennium did not start until January 1st, 1001. "Sire," the Thane pointed out, "the clock of your consultations and executions is forever set some hours late. Your people are ready for this new millennium, yet Your Majesty persists in his unreadiness."

"Give us a break," replied the King. "This Millennium Dome of yours is just an overgrown tent. It's not even a permanent structure."
"But in this kingdom what is?" riposted the Thane. "We put up a fabulous abbey at Tavistock, but the Danes burnt it down. They sack London, they rape Kent. The beauty of this Dome, Sire, is that, with any luck, it will have collapsed before Svein Forkbeard's hordes have a chance to torch it. Oh, by the way, a belated Merry Christmas from all us barons." He handed the King a copy of the current best-selling self-help manual Men Are from Norseland, Women Are from Kent.

Two thousand years ago
December 31st, 1 BC

In Rome today, officials insisted that fears of a so-called "Y1" bug were groundless, and that the rush to the forum to stock up on food before midnight was simply causing unnecessary panic. Despite these statements, soothsayers around town have been urging citizens to beware: "They laughed at me about the Ides of March," says one. "But I'm ready to go double or quits." He predicts widespread chaos on January 1st, affecting everything from utilities to transportation: "Chariots will be dropping off the aqueducts," he warns.

Others note that, whereas in previous years 4 BC changed smoothly to 3 BC and 3 BC to 2 BC, at midnight tonight there will be no new year for the calendar to flip to - a design fault that experts claim was all too predictable when the system was installed. "They've known this was coming since at least, er, 4000 BC, and maybe earlier," says Computa Geekus, editor of BC PC. "They've had plenty of time to think up some numbers lower than one - and what have they come up with? Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero. Well, come to think of it, if they'd come up with 'zero,' we wouldn't be in this mess. But zero as a numerical concept is unknown to the Roman world. Hence, this crisis. Happy No Year."
However, Bill Portas, the richest man in the world, says there should be no problems, as long as everyone upgrades to Windows AD.

In other news, Chronos, the popular Greek magazine, has announced its "Top Ten People Of The Millennium": 1) Alexander the Great; 2) Plato; 3) Socrates; 4) Pericles; 5) Aristotle; 6) Protagoras; 7) Aristophanes; 8) Mimnermos; 9) Hippias of Elis; 10) Cleopatra.
Meanwhile, Campus, the popular gay magazine, has announced its "Top Ten Gays Of The Millennium": 1) Alexander the Great; 2) Plato; 3) Socrates; 4) Pericles; 5) Aristotle; 6) Protagoras; 7) Aristophanes; 8) Mimnermos; 9) Hippias of Elis; 10) Sappho.

Three thousand years ago
December 31st, 1001 BC

In the abandoned city of Hattusas, Dick Clark announced the results of his poll for the Millennium's All-Time Greatest Hittite. The winner is King Suppiluliuma I (circa 1380-1345 BC).

Four thousand years ago
December 31st, 2001 BC

In Sumer today, officials were divided as to whether tomorrow is really the first day of the new millennium. "What can I tell you? It's circa this, circa that, so let's just call it CY2K," said the King's press agent, In-Nummeru. "I've been in this business circa 40 years and, lemme tellya, there's no need to reinvent the wheel here. We did that in the last millennium."
But critics contend that, actually, we do need to reinvent the wheel, since Babylon is developing something called a "chariot" - a two-wheeled high-speed vehicle that could revolutionize warfare in the next millennium. "You're either on the Conflagration Super Highway or you're left behind in the dust," says one defence expert.

Sumerian complacency has also been attacked by leading property developer and potential candidate for King, Donald the Trump. "They call me a clown, but I'm not joining the circa's," he said, in a sustained attack on how inefficient Sumerian statism had left its economy way behind the more entrepreneurial Babylonians. "You wanna put up a building here, the planning board says, sure, as long as it's a ziggurat," he complained. "Listen, I got Trump Ur Ziggurat, Trump Nippur Casino and Ziggurat, Trump Mari Palace Ziggurat. You know how sick people are of ziggurats? The whole town looks like a discount staircase warehouse. You've got 200,000 square feet on the ground floor and by the time you get to the penthouse you're lucky if you can get a broom closet up there. I'm the biggest developer in the hottest city in the world, and I say: Let's build buildings that go straight up. You'll have your regular temple on the ground floor - strictly the best, high class all the way - but on top of that we'll have room for a parking garage that blocks out all sunlight from here to the Euphrates."

However, commentators thought The Trump's proposals had come too late to save the atrophied Sumerian civilization from total collapse. "Sumer is riven by inter-city rivalry. Ur has been sacked by the Elamites, Isin is struggling to hold Nippur," reported a correspondent for the Sumer edition of Time magazine, Sumer Time. "As for this circa business, as the old saying goes: Spring into Sumer, Fall back to Winter."

Five thousand years ago
December 31st, 3001 BC

The Nasdaq index bounced to a record high today of three following the latest stock offering by a hieroglyph start-up company. "This is revolutionizing communication," said hieroglyph entrepreneur Ptolyouso, founder of e-Gypt and the mail-order bookstore "Before, if you wanted to tell a joke to your cousin in Thebes, you had to get into a boat and paddle up river. Now, you simply use p-mail: Relate your joke to a scribe and he'll deliver it within weeks in convenient papyrus form."....


I thought I had a PDF of the original as published but it seems to have disappeared somewhere in the link-vault so the above was copypasta'd from Mr. Steyn's website. 

For some reason I do not comprehend, when I did a quick search of the link-vault, the first hit was "On this day in 1004":

Events in History in 1004      
May 15 Henry II the Saint crowned King of Italy
Nov 13 Abbo van Fleury [Floriacensis], French abbott and saint, dies
Not as funny as Steyn but amusing in a trivial sort of way.