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Due to our innate sense of gratitude and optimism, humans have probably been envisioning the end of the world since the world began. Many different eschatological scenarios have been conceived – some positive, some negative – and I cannot hope to deal with all of them here. But here are some of the most commonly known events that just might bring about the end of the world and/or a new age.
Although there is virtually no evidence that any Christians believed in the Rapture (as it is described today) before Margaret MacDonald had her vision in 1830, it has become a widely accepted end-of-the-world scenario. Definitely the rosiest of the scenarios listed here, when the Rapture occurs, the true believers of Christ will disappear into thin air as they are driving to work in the morning, causing cataclysmic traffic accidents that will set off a chain of events resulting in the complete destruction of the wicked and the end of the world. (According to some groups, this will be happening next month, so buckle up folks!)
Also called the “Singularity Event,” the Singularity has been described as “the Rapture for geeks.” Basically, the Singularity is when scientific and technological progress begins to occur so rapidly that we cannot even keep up with it. Artificial intelligence and robotics will ensure that we no longer have to do anything for ourselves (but we will remain in complete control of our robotic slave armies, of course), while nanotechnology and other advances will bring about the immortality of the human race, letting us make full use of our superior faculties by watching Jersey Shore reruns for eternity. (It won’t be boring because perfect beings with synthetic brains do not get bored.)
That is, of course, the arrival of extraterrestrials. Of course, their technology and/or diets will be completely reliant upon our inferior gray matter, resulting in a mass brain-sucking frenzy. But perhaps some of us will survive due to their inability to prepare for things like bacteria, hackers, and fighter planes from the 1980’s.
The trees are trying to kill us! Aren’t you scared?! Yeah, me neither. (Sorry, M. Night.)
The Gray Goo
Often presented as a more overtly negative possibility resulting from misguided efforts of scientists toying with nanotechnology, the gray goo is a doomsday scenario in which matter-altering nanobots malfunction and turn all biological material into something that looks like pudding made by the Galactic Empire.
So now for the vote. It doesn’t really matter what you think the vote is about: you could pick the doomsday scenario that you think is most likely to occur, your favorite one, the scariest one, or the funniest one. Just vote for the one that sticks out to you the most in some way.
I know that I tread on thin ice by merely mentioning the name of Oprah in my blog. I fear that the slightest misstep will lead to my utter and complete destruction. It is for this and other reasons that I do not dare post a picture of Oprah. Instead, as Muslims use intricate calligraphy to convey the essence of the prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) visage, I use the great letter “O” as a vehicle of expressing Her Greatness’s likeness. (Although “O” is the name of her magazine, I’m pretty sure she cannot claim that she invented that particular letter, so my team of lawyers tells me that I should probably maybe sometimes be safe from legal reprisal on the grounds of copyright infringement. Please, Oprah: consider this textual oblation to be within the realm of fair use.)
Who can tangle with The Great O? If anyone, it would be a (perhaps) lesser O: Ogra from The Dark Crystal!
(If you are a child of the 80’s and you never saw The Dark Crystal, shame on you for being an uncultured swine!)
Sure, Ogra is a bit less welcoming than Oprah: I doubt she has a couch for you to sit on (or jump on excitedly), but she does have a really big planetarium-thingy, and she does have the gusto to stand up to Skeksis and their arthropod henchmen.
So who would win in a tussle between the two O’s?
Though all of these skillful vehicular maneuvers are ostensibly attributed to various nationalities in name, they were probably all invented in the greater Los Angeles area.
The Mexican Sneak
How to do it:
If you have an unprotected left in a busy intersection, simply put the gas pedal to the floor as soon as you get a green light and turn before oncoming traffic can get going.
Utility Factor: 8
Safety Factor: 4
Exhilaration Factor: 6
Coolness Factor: 3
The Cuban Cruise Missile
How to do it:
If you are behind an annoyingly slow driver and cannot pass on the left, utilize any right-turn lane that may appear by moving into it, accelerating drastically, and moving back in front of the slowpoke before the turning lane ends.
Utility Factor: 9
Safety Factor: 3
Exhilaration Factor: 9
Coolness Factor: 5
The Chinese Fire Drill
How to do it:
When you come up to a light that has just turned red, park your vehicle and command all occupants to proceed to the nearest exit, run around the vehicle as quickly as possible, and return to their seats before the light turns green again. (The purpose of this drill is to make sure that there are not any portions of the vehicle or the surrounding asphalt that are on fire.)
Utility Factor: 3
Safety Factor: 5
Exhilaration Factor: 4
Coolness Factor: 7
The Trans-Pecos Pleasure Cruise
How to do it:
Take a full-size pickup truck and line the bed with plastic. Fill the plastic-lined bed with water and invite some attractive friends to a pool party. Get some chump to drive and cruise around town.
Utility Factor: 2
Safety Factor: 6
Exhilaration Factor: 3
Coolness Factor: 10
- Bionic enhancements.
- Uncanny ability to remain famous for no identifiable reason.
- Armies of Twitter-controlled zombie zealots.
- Advanced weapons technologies.
- Propensity to ally with Klingons in alternate universes and pseudo-humanoid slime-gods in this universe.
- The ability to pool rainwater in their faces while napping. (It’s a wilderness survival skill.)
In the dark corner, wearing the white plastic:
When I was playing Gears of War, there was this guy on the squad who wore a mask. “Wow,” my brother said, “he looks cool!” But, cool-looking or not, I knew the real reason he wore a mask: He was going to bite the dust pretty soon, so the game designers didn’t see the point of designing a face for him. And, sure enough, guess what happened during one of the first cinematic sequences in the game.
Whether in a game, a movie, or a TV show, your expendability rating starts climbing pretty quickly as soon as you put on a mask. That is, unless you’re wearing black, like Darth Vader, Batman, or Snake Eyes.
You would think that any attire or armor donned by a crack military unit would serve two basic functions: protection and camouflage. Unfortunately, though, the camouflage properties of stormtrooper armor are quite limited anywhere other than Hoth, a modern art gallery, or a mayonnaise factory, and when attacked by three-foot teddy bears, their rigid armor suddenly becomes strangely susceptible to stone-age weapons.
But the strength of stormtroopers is also directly tied to their expendability: There are always more of them.
And in the red corner, wearing the red spandex:
According to NCAA lingo, getting “redshirted” means that you are a little less than important. For adventurers aboard the Enterprise, though, it means you should not get out of bed in the morning. Ever.
No, they do not wear masks, but one must remember that, in order to wear a mask, one must either be evil or wickedly good, like Batman, Snake Eyes, or the Dread Pirate Roberts. Remember that there are more factors that lend to expendability than just not having a recognizable face. If you all wear the same color, this may make you more expendable. If you have an easily forgettable name – or no name at all – and no back-story, this makes you more expendable as well. So I’m sorry, redshirts, but if we do know who you are, we probably won’t know for long.
Do not lose heart though, because you do serve a very valuable purpose. You see, when Kirk, Spock, and McCoy go down to tango with the lava monster, someone has to die. And you do not want Kirk to die, do you? Where would the show be then? That’s right. Someone has to take one for the team. So if you do decide to get out of bed in the morning, keep your chin up and know that you are engaged in a good cause. But please, for the love of all that is good and holy, try to shoot one of the bad guys before you bite the dust!
(How do they carry an unending supply of people wearing red shirts on a starship anyway? They must bud off of each other like yeast.)
In the white corner:
And in the red corner:
The Swiss Army Knife
Does AT&T have coverage where you are stranded? If not, the winner is obvious. If so, it might not be so obvious, since I’m sure that there’s an iPhone app that alerts the Swiss Army of your position and condition and calls in an airstrike on the enemy.
In the caliginous corner:
Sinister Genius: 9
Force Power of Choice: Long-distance strangulation.
And in the tenebrous corner:
Sinister Genius: 9
Force Power of Choice: Piercing Jedi glare that stews the brain.
They look very different, but they have the same message: Embrace the Dark Side or be destroyed!