"Move over, Y2K. Mankind has found a new number to be afraid of, and it is WAY better than anything you had to offer. I mean, honestly... Computer crashes? Bank errors? Oh Y2K, we could have been SO much more. Don't ever call me again." - Earth
"A long time ago in a little place called Mexico, the Ancient Maya designed a calendar that looked a lot like the ultimate Plinko chip..."
That, or an insanely complex dart board.
Yup, that's how tomorrow's textbooks would read if history was dictated by Google Images searches instead of Google Books searches (which freaking rule). The above is actually the yearbook picture of Señor Piedra del Sol, better known around town as "the Sun Stone," and he was totally not Mayan. Hell, he wasn't even Spanish; the dude is Aztec. The actual Mayan calendar humanity fears is really not all that creepy, but since most people are suckers for whatever gets a jolt out of them, Señor Piedra's tattooed tongue is at least four times more popular than "dude trying to throw out his old iMac." Displayed below is the real deal Mayan calendar.
We've all been this guy at some point in our lives.
The calendar had one purpose: to predict the future (and by 'predict', we mean it simply showed you the date). However, unlike the highly-evolved calendars of modern man, the Mayan calendar could function well past December 31. Like, say... for 5,125 years.
The average Mayan calendar had a shelf life of thousands of years because it kept track of a hell of a lot more than days. It also counted tun (360 days), K'atun (7,200 days, or 19.7 years), and B'ak'tun (144,000 days, or 394.3 years). This meant that every 400 years, instead of flipping to the next page in the calendar, you simply looked at the next badass picture on the wheel. (And yes, they were pretty badass.)
This dude's Thursday.
So, we know what you're probably thinking: where is the part about the end of the world in the calendar? To quote Tarantino: "It ain't there, 'cause [predicting the end of the world] ain't [the Mayan calendar's] fucking business!" You have no more reason to fear the Mayan calendar than to fear your own calendar running out of days. Hell, if anything, the Mayans could have given us lessons in calendar making; every year, K'atun, and B'ak'tun the Mayan calendar practically updated itself! Imagine if we had that kind of technology...
Every year, she'd get hotter.
Let's face it: Y2K was total bullshit, and we were fucking morons for fretting over it as long as we did. Instead of focusing on how a little-known group called Al-Qaeda was planning to ring in the new year at LAX, all the major news networks told us was that the world was going to end on January 1, 2000 (which it didn't), and that the only way to survive was with duct tape.
Don't fucking ask. Just buy it.
However, what's done is done. Every terrorist attack was thwarted, the damage report was so low it was embarassing, and Y2K dethroned Star Wars, Episode I as the biggest let-down of the century. As a result, mankind was forced to confront for another millenium the hell that it had so desperately sought escape from: everyday life. Fortunately, with memories of Y2K still fresh in everyone's minds, it was going to take something big to make people forget what suckers they had been. Something huge. Something Old Testament.
That something is 2012.
It all started in 1975, when a bunch of New Age authors / hippies decided to take a break from their social worthlessness to talk about the Mayan calendar. Since this was not long after the whole "Age of Aquarius" craze made popular by the 1967 musical Hair, these sacks figured there might be a growing market of hipsters to learn about the new "age" [badass picture] the Mayan calendar would enter on December 21, 2012. Sounds pretty harmless, and it was.
And then entered Terence McKenna...
A self-professed expert on whatever the hell he felt like selling, McKenna first made his name when he claimed that the natural selection of prehistoric man went into hyperdrive once they started indulging in a steady diet of psychedelic mushrooms. This became known as his "Stoned Ape" hypothesis, and it was made even more famous by the fact that McKenna was a total stoner.
Really? The guy with the flying shrooms?
This was the guy who concluded completely on his own - and without any evidence whatsoever - that December 21, 2012, was not simply the beginning of a new "age" on the Mayan calendar, but the end of life as we know it.
Wait, scratch that... he claimed he DID have some evidence: the fortune-telling game of chance known as I Ching (which is best played during sleep-overs), a drug-fueled bing with his brother in the Amazon, and a conference with a "divine voice" known only as Logos.
McKenna's lab assistants.
So, is the world going to end on December 21, 2012? Probably not, unless humanity becomes so misled through its disregard for substantiation that it literally nukes itself into extinction. The bigger question is what we have in store for ourselves as our next apocalyptic event. After what we built 2012 up to be, how are going to top that?
Question: What do the following TV programs--Day After Disaster, Mega Disasters, Life After People, MonsterQuest, The Lost Books of Nostradamus, Nostradamus Effect: 2012 Extinction, UFO Files, and UFO Hunters--have in common? If you said "History," then you are correct: they all have absolutely NOTHING to do with history. Instead, these are all programs that cover topics rooted in hearsay, speculation, and/or drug-inspired science fiction.
So, where do you think you could find such a hogshead overflowing with contempt for historic method? Where else: The History Channel.
Let's be fair: the History Channel isn't all that bad. In fact, there was a time when it was the closest thing a teenager had to experiencing WWII without actually visiting the elderly. However, movies like Saving Private Ryan and videogames like as Medal of Honor and Call of Duty have made WWII so played that even 12-hour marathons of Hitler's Women fail to arouse today's audiences.
The way things were.
Hitler History Channel forced to either learn new tricks or play dead, network executives decided to try something many had once thought impossible: talk about something other than Hitler. However, since this did turn out to be too tall an order for The History Channel, they decided to abandon history altogether and instead take the Dan Brown route to financial success: mysteries, conspiracy theories, and total tin-foil-hat bullshit.
What? You never studied UFOs in History class?
Programs featuring the SS were replaced with the Illuminati, Adolf Hitler was replaced with Nostradamus, and WWII - the granddaddy of them all - was replaced with 'end of the world' scenarios. December 21, 2012 replaced December 7, 1941. Instead of Mt. Vesuvius, The History Channel made everyone dread the Yellowstone supervolcano. Instead of the American Revolution, children learned about Masons and "the shadow government". And instead of WWII stock footage, The History Channel's audiences were treated to daytime-TV-worthy CGI like this:
Only on The History Channel.
Way to go, History Channel. You demonstrated to a whole new generation that even you find history boring.