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March 2002


A Special Report

Is there a significance?

2002 2002 2002 



GlobalomNet Media Service*



2002 2002 2002 - It happened on Wednesday.


The year 2002. The 20th day of the 2nd month, 2002. And, on the 24-hour clock, at two minutes after 8 p.m., harmony. 2002.


Or was it in the wee hours of the morning, at 2002 0220 0220 2002. That is for someone familiar with the descending international style approved by the Canadian government — year, month, day, hour, minute, second and so on.


It  was a minute of perfect symmetry — a certain magic moment that brings everything into harmonious balance.


The last one was 1221 1221 1221 – the year 1221, 12th month, 21st day, 1221 p.m. – that was 781 years ago.


Prior to that was 891 years ago:  11:11 p.m. on Nov. 11, 1111, in fact. That would have been expressed as 1111 1111 1111.


The next one will be: 2112 2112 2112 - at 9:21 p.m. on the 21st day of December in the year 2112.


These strings of numbers, words, or even entire sentences that read the same coming or going, backward or forward  are known as Palindromes.


Some of us wonder: "How do these people end up with so much time to figure this all out?"


Well, there's that magazine devoted to palindromes. Web sites. Newsletters. Newsgroups.


"Scientists have done research showing that symmetry is inherently beautiful," observed Mark Saltveit, editor of The Palindromist Magazine, which bills itself as "a journal for people who write — and read — palindromes.


“Numerical palindromes appeal to lots of people who feel they could never write a palindrome.”


Palindromes comprised of numbers — especially those involving dates, which Saltveit dubs "calindromes" (calendar palindromes, get it?) — are universally popular because of their simplicity, he said.


The credit for the first palindrome goes to Sotades the Obscene, whose vulgar verses about Ptolemy II of Egypt (282-246 B.C.) led to a very painful execution — encased in lead and dropped into the sea. The word "palindrome" first showed up some time in the 17th century, coined from the Greek palin (back, again) and dromos (running).


"Myself, I actually find palindromic words and sentences more interesting than dates; they require a bit more ingenuity," said Saltveit, who lives in Portland, Ore. "But, maybe for the same reason, numerical palindromes appeal to lots of people who feel they could never write a palindrome. But they can recognize, or notice, a palindromic day.


Mike Clelland of Driggs, Idaho, penned an entire play with every line of dialogue expressed as a palindrome. In 1968, choreographer George Balanchine created Metastaseis & Pithoprakta for the New York City Ballet. Part of the work — Metastaseis — was a giant palindrome, in which the dancers, first massed together, gradually dispersed like spilling mercury, then flowed back in reverse order until they returned to their original grouping.


There was Feb. 2 set of palindromical digits: 2-02-02. Some people actually chose the day to get married. At 2:02 p.m. And a Florida resort, the massive $450 million (U.S.) Gaylord Palms resort and convention centre in Kissimmee, picked the day for its official opening.


Florida governor Jeb Bush  was on hand for the "explosive" grand opening ceremony, timed to the minute at 2:02 p.m. on 2-02-02.


There are also literary palindromes. Words work only one way.


"Madam, I'm Adam." Perfect, except for the apostrophe.


There's no punctuation dilemma with "Dennis and Edna sinned."


Or "Able was I ere I saw Elba."


One of the finest is Leigh Mercer's tribute to Theodore Roosevelt, the American president who had the Panama Canal built: "A man, a plan, a canal: Panama!"


And British genius Peter Hilton came up with this one after a night spent breaking codes during World War II: "Doc, note. I dissent. A fast never prevents a fatness. I diet on cod."


Go on. Read it backwards. And forwards.


Well, this rare moment brought attention to Saltveit, a standup comedian, who had three radio interviews lined up with European stations.


There is a Web site that called for a two-minute prayer for peace to begin at the start of the palindromic moment.


However, all the excitement comes from a western perspective, leaving aside the many other calendars that track the passage of time - Chinese, Islamic, Jewish, Ethiopian and others.


Well, that doesn't bother Salveit.  "Occasions like this are good excuses to party," he said.


( * With files from various news and media services.)