Cultural Revolutions

The New Millennium

The new millennium is still a year away, but in London, as elsewhere, the moment appointed for its celebration is that marked by the first appearance of those three mystically consecutive zeros in the calendar. Turnstiles at the vast Millennium Dome are oiled and ready to spin on January 1: click, click, click. Rather more zeros, of course, figure in the price the nation has paid for an architectural extravagance that our political masters have ordered built as a monument to their ambition. The bill for the biggest covered space in the world has been billions—though it would be churhish to include in that sum the banknotes which wallpaper the part of the Dome which is explicitly dedicated to the celebration of wealth: They are on loan from the Bank of England and must later be returned for practical use. And, until recently, another zero, solitary and unqualified, would have summed up the Dome's planned contents, for the bubble was almost fully blown before anyone had an idea of what to put in it.

Nevertheless, to the government's relief, commercial participants eventually came forward to sponsor the various sections of the Dome. Tesco, a supermarket chain, has stumped up for what is called the "Learning Zone." Here, with unconscious irony, visitors are reminded of whatever schooling they might once have had by an evocation of its most memorable elements: the recorded sound of bellowing teachers and the artificial...

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