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Dave's 25₵ Video Reviews #4 - Millennium Bug and the Year Two-Thousand

Remember the Y2K scare? I do. I wasn't a true believer, but I thought there could be something to it. The idea that systems could crash because of old code that couldn't handle the rollover to the 4 digits that were going to be needed on Jan. 1, 2000—a highly symbolic moment when the odometer rolled over for western civilization—seemed plausible. It was plausible, in fact, at least to some degree; there were some real problems caused by old code, code that few people knew how to rewrite.

But it turned out it wasn't the collapse of civilization... it was more like the inconvenience of having your car recalled. Still, I think it was an interesting event, sort of a teachable moment. Our world is quite vulnerable to disruptions of the electronic infrastructure. We're so alienated from nature... we rely on vast industrial processes that are almost all coordinated by computers. If the scaffolding ever comes crashing down, we're in for a very hard landing.

So this video should have been an interesting window back into a moment when we were forced to stop and look under the hood of the civlization we had got used to driving without thinking about too much.

Should have been, I say, because Great God in Heaven is this thing ever boring.


I guess I shouldn't be surprised. It's always been my experience that apocalyptic enthusiasts are painfully tedious. One of the most boring nights of my life was spent listening to some 7th Day Adventists drone on about the end of all things in a motel conference room in Dubuque, Iowa. I had convinced some friends to go because the flier, which was lurid with flame-licked demons, made it look like fun... boy was I wrong. It was like a lodge meeting in Poughkeepsie in the 50s. The only other event I ever voluntarily attended that was as dreadfully dull was a UFO convention at a Howard Johnson's in Austin. That one was really bad. I recall chewing on a stale donut as a lumpy fellow in a rumpled sportcoat pointed at blurry black and white slides and mumbled vaguely about cover-ups. How can the possibility of extraterrestrial contact be more boring than the minutes of the garden club? I don't know, but somehow they accomplished it.

Now where was I, before I so rudely interrupted myself? Oh, yes... I was recalling much happier and more interesting experiences than watching this brain-numbing, hackneyed, attempt to cash in on any vague anxiety you might have about the future. Shall I describe it to you?

Well, it starts off with a lot of stock footage... the earth from space, earthquakes, the old familiar nuclear test reels. A muffled voice asks piercing questions like, "What if America suffered a heart failure?" We then meet our host, one Ken Klein, who—google tells me—is still hawking prophecy and end-times hokum to this very day. He's standing by some rocks, wearing a windbreaker, with his pleated slacks hoisted way up old man style, asking us if we should be worried, in general about, you know... stuff? The impact of this weak pitch is not strengthened by the production values, which are about what you would expect if you bought an old VHS camera at a pawn shop and found a tape in it with some raw footage from a community access video show.

To up the professionalism factor, Ken passes us over to some footage yoinked from some kind of professional association with a forgettable acronym... think a training video you might have to watch if you're the IT guy for county government somewhere in the midwest. Boring, but definitely the showiest segment we're going to see.

When this is over, it's time for Ken, the Family Dollar version of Geraldo Rivera, to get on the case and talk to the experts. How deep does this thing go? What are the ramifications? Let's talk to a guy from., erm.. Oregon state government?

Yep. This is the guy who can tell us if we're all going to die. He recites the bullets from the powerpoint he's been giving in conference rooms for the past few months. And boy, does he have some scary scenarios. Well... one. He has one scary story. See, there was this tourist? Who tried to use his debit card at an ATM in Mexico? It didn't work.

Did. Not. Work.

Man, I'm getting shivers.

Aaaand then there are a couple more interviews with nebbishy suits talking about how expensive it will be to rewrite all the code and how there's no easy fix. Terror begins to paralyze me with its icy grasp. What if this video never ends? I frankly would prefer that civilization collapse and we all revert to cannibalism.

Fortunately, things begin to pick up. By which I mean that Ken stops talking about technical matters he doesn't understand and starts to say stuff that makes no sense of any kind in any context. He refers to the Y2K virus... Virus? What virus? He starts to insinuate about the end times.

Ah, here we are at last. It's that old fear-mongering, bible thumping, snake oil. And now here comes Pat Boone on the Trinity Broadcasting Network. He's got some expert on Revelations talking about what a great opportunity this would make for the Antichrist to get a toe in the door with a new computer system that would make everyone feel safe. (Apple, anyone? Muahaha.)

Some shit about scripture. Pictures of volcanoes. Are you ready for the worst that could happen? Finally, Ken is taking a stand!

But as the end (of the video) draws nigh, there's a bit of unsatisfying equivocation. No certainty, no shrill "repent or burn." No, Ken dials it back down a bit. We just need to hedge our bets. We need to prepare for the worst, just in case. You can never be too careful. I get the distinct impression Ken is not buying into the worst case scenario."One thing we can know for sure... it won't be long until we find out." Huh? That's all you got? Well, maybe Ken's thinking a little longer-term. Like, if this Y2K thing isn't actually the complete end of the world, maybe I don't want to bank my brand on it. I might need to keep earning money after it doesn't happen.

But there are still some earning opportunities in the better-safe-than-sorry market niche. Like pitching the Y2k Family Preparedness Series. which is how we finally, mercifully, come to the end of this, the longest 25 cents I have ever spent.
Tags: Dave's 25₵ Video Reviews
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