Flavin's Corner
1-1-99

Space: 1999

'Cuz they say two thousand zero zero party over
Oops out of time
So tonight I'm going to party like it's 1999...
c.1982 Controversy Music (and Roger Nelson/Prince/The Artist)

    For those old enough to remember, and young enough to care,
the 70s were a dreary time.  Star Trek was in reruns, the
season and a half of the animated Star Trek in 1974 and 1975 is
too painful for words, and we had to endure until Dec. 7th, 1979
and the premiere of Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  There was,
however, a short-lived British television series in 1975 and 1976
which made the Trek-less years manageable--Space: 1999.

     Basically a Martin Landau and Barbra Bain vehicle, Space:
1999 envisioned a future where we had established an outpost
on the Moon before the turn of the century.  Unfortunately for
the fictional inhabitants of Moonbase Alpha, on Sept. 13th, 1999
a chain-reaction in their nuclear dump caused a massive
explosion and hurled the Moon out of Earth's gravity, off into
deep space, and some 43 (?) adventures.  Viewers fondly
remember the highly realistic communicators of Space: 1999,
handheld two-way devices a decade before Sony popularized the
"Watchman" televisions.  I suspect much of the then and
current interest in the show centers on the title itself, Space:
1999.  The end of the century and dawn of a new millennium.

     We love numbers.  The popularity of lotteries, scratch
tickets, and casino gambling is at an all-time high.  Recently,
oh-so-hip Madonna and the too-cool-to-drool crowd have
encouraged number mysticism and the study of Kabbalah, though
Sherman Hemsley ('George' on CBS's All In The Family and The
Jeffersons) was the first celebrity to discuss the Kabbalah and
related Jewish works in a TV GUIDE interview during the early
'80s.  As we get close to the end of both the century and the
second millennium of the Christian (or Common) Era, many have
begun to act goofy when confronted with certain numbers.  They
see 1999 as some pivotal year in human existence.  Me?  It's
just another annual trip for Spaceship Earth around the Sun.

     Though we're all equal passengers aboard Spaceship Earth,
we're deliciously distinct in appearance and character, and
fiercely different when it comes to what calendar we use. [For
an entertaining and useful resource of dates, times, terms, and
calendars, click here.]  Our struggle to define and mark the
passage of time could very well be as old as sentiency itself.
The ancient Egyptians and Babylonians, as well as the classical
Greeks and Romans, all tried their damnedest to get a good,
dependable calendar going.  All failed, though in fairness, each
contributed a little 'something' to our current calendrical
reckoning system.

    Our Western convention of dividing the time-line into events
before and after the birth of Jesus began with the Scythian
monk turned Roman abbot, Dionysius Exiguus (Denis the Little, in
English, also called the Menace).  Around 527, to avoid any
possibility of misdating a previous Easter observance before
the death and alleged resurrection of Jesus, Denis introduced
the designation Anni Domini Noster Jesu Christi, later
shortened to Anno Domini ("in the year of our Lord").  In this
system, the Christian (or Common) Era began on A.D. January 1,
Year 1.  Lacking an appropriate designation (or interest to invent
one) for the years before Jesus' birth, those rare scholars who
did speak and write concerning ancient days, continued to use
classical Greek and Roman calendars, i.e., in the blah-blah year
of blah-blah's reign.

     In 1627 another Denis the Menace, the Jesuit scholar Denis
Petau(s), popularly known as Dionysius Aurelianesis S. J. Petavius
or simply Petavius, published his monumental two-volume work,
Doctrina temporium, in which he suggested a designation for
those years before the birth of Jesus.  This work of Petavius
went through many editions through the mid-19th century, but
none more important than the one published in London in 1659
which established Before Christ or B.C. as the proper
designation for the years before the birth of Jesus.  Our
calendar of history was complete.  A.D. 1 followed 1 B.C.  This
was helpful, of course, but ...not very realistic and accurate.
Time begins from a fixed point, babies are not born a year-old
(okay, so nine-months old in China, ...geez), and to find absolute
dates, science needed yet another calendar.  Science needed a
zero year...

     A change from the Christian A.D. and B.C. to a secular C.E.
(Christian or Common Era) and B.C.E. (Before Christian or
Common Era) goes a step toward making our Western calendar
more acceptable to non-Christians, but science (specifically
astronomy) needed a Year Zero for accurate calculations.
Science has dropped A.D., C.E., B.C., and B.C.E. from its counts
and uses the plus '+' and minus '-' signs, with 1 B.C.E. becoming
Year 0, rather than -1.  In astronomical reckoning, -1 is the
historical 2 B.C.E., expressed as:

Historical Year minus Astronomical Year equals Historical Year
(Astronomical Year plus 1) B.C.E.

Got it?  If an astronomer cites (for example) a date of -714, a
date of 715 B.C.E., according to the 'historical' calendar, is
meant.  So, ...this is WHY folks are confused about the start of
the new millennium.

     Before Space: 1999 chose to portray the near side of the
turn of the century, Arthur C. Clarke introduced us to the far
side.  Continued from his 1951 short story, "The Sentinel,"
Clarke and director Stanley Kubrick gave audiences the 1968
movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey.  Still visually stunning after 30
years, the success of the movie inspired Clarke to the sequels
2010 (also a movie), 2061, and the series finale of the recently
published 3001.  Captivating science fiction which begins with
the next millennium and takes us through to the following one.
Clarke's series is recognized as one of the finest in fantastic
literature and he was recently knighted in his native Britain.
[Note:  The knighthood achieved controversial status this last
February as shortly before the ceremony an interview was
published in which Clarke admitted to a lifelong pedophilia.
Ouch!  ...Perhaps this explains Clarke living in Sri Lanka since
1956.]

     Whether one regards the coming year as +1999, A.D. 1999,
or 1999 C.E., hopefully most of us will look at it as just another
year, with all the necessary ups and downs which are part of life
aboard Spaceship Earth.  Have a safe trip!

traveling standby,
Rick

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