The End of the World…Again? I Must Have Missed it Last Time.

All right, I can’t resist anymore. I didn’t want to jump on the whole “the world will end on December 21 this year” thing, but it looks like so much fun I’m going to add my bit so when the whole thing blows over at least I will have contributed in some way.

The world will not end on 21 Decmber 2012. At least, not by the predicted method of the expiration of the current Long Count in the Mayan calendar. It may end by some other means, such as asteroid impact or coronal mass ejection, or any number of other possibilities espoused by Dr Phil Plait in his brilliant book Death From the Skies! But the chances of that happening on that day are no more than on any other day.

Now, as far as I can figure out, if you ask someone who thinks the world will end this year why it will end, they can’t actually tell you. There are some vague mumblings about the Earth aligning with the plane of the galaxy, which it has done many times before, and of Jupiter completing one of its orbits around the sun, which it has done billions of times before. But just why exactly the finishing of one cycle of the Mayan calendar should bring about such a catastrophe, they can’t actually tell you. It just will, so there.

Now, I have a few problems with the whole Mayan calendar thing:

1) Why does the ending of one cycle bring about the end of the world? The present Long Count was not the only one. The world existed before this cycle began. Why didn’t it end at the conclusion of the last Long Count?

2) The experts disagree as to when the present Long Count started. It is generally (please note, “generally” does not mean universally) believed to have started on August 11, 3114 BCE. But there’s no guaratee of that. So saying the present Long Count ends on December 21 this year is by no means a sure thing.

3) The Mayans, credited with so much insight into the fate of the world, could not even predict their own fate. They were conquered finally by the Spanish in 1697. They didn’t see that coming.

Like religion, the belief that the world will end on December 21 this year is an insult to the intelligence. It is merely an example of gullibility among those who wish to be beguiled. Some people are not happy unless they think we are going to die. And when the world does not end this year, they will pick another date. It will be then that they agree that perhaps they got the date for the end of the Long Count wrong and will rework their calculations. It will be then that they latch onto some other sign of the end. Because if they didn’t, they would not feel superior to everyone else.

I confess I feel superior to them because I know they are wrong. But I don’t keep kicking a dead horse. When I am proven wrong, I accept it.

December 21 will prove them wrong. Only they won’t accept it.

Tattoos Blues

Well, Christmas and New Year’s are over, and if you live in Australia like I do that is a hot time – literally. It’s summer here, and while December wasn’t as warm as it usually is, January is looking like what we Aussies call a “scorcher”. This means, of course, that everyone heads to the beach and dresses in less clothing than usual, and that means that those people with tattoos have the opportunity to flaunt them.

It seems everyone under the age of twenty is getting a tattoo these days. It seems to be a trend for both guys and girls. I don’t have any problem with tattoos as such, but if young people are giving in to peer pressure to get them then that is a cause for concern, given that it is a permanent commitment. And I know that when I was a teenager I was interested in styles and things that are no longer to my taste. So the designs that a teenager gets whilst still maturing intellectually and physically may not be what they want in twenty years’ time.

One teenage girl I know announced proudly that she was getting a tattoo and I asked where. She said “On my neck.” Two stars, apparently. I warned her, being the grumpy old man I am, that some employers are not going to like people with tattoos on their neck, or anywhere else visible for that matter. She shrugged the suggestion off, stating that she could hide it under her hair. I haven’t seen the tattoo yet, but it gave me cause for concern.

Another girl I know got an Eye of Horus on her stomach. She proudly showed it to me and I, in my tactless way, asked what happens when she needed to have her appendix out. The scar would go right through the design. She stopped smiling and said she hadn’t thought of that. The next tattoo she got was on her foot.

But that’s a side-issue. Teens are getting tatts, if not always in the right places,and I guess until the trend wears off (unlike the tattoos themselves) there’s not much we can do to dissuade them. I personally think they are ugly, but that’s me. Each to their own.

But I was amused, and I guess a little saddened, by a tattoo I saw a few days ago when I was waiting to get on a ferry. There was a shirtless young man, about twenty or so, sporting a tattoo of the Southern Cross on his arm.

Now, the constellation of the Southern Cross, shown below, is very important to an Australian. It’s on our flag. Every Australian not only knows the Cross but can see it almost every night when we look up at the sky. It is the smallest constellation of them all, but is also one of the most recognisable and easily identified. And one of which we are justifiably proud.

The point about this guy’s tattoo, however, was that it was backwards, flipped left to right, thus:


This just doesn’t look right. The tilt of the horizontal arms is wrong and the fifth star is on the wrong side.

How did this happen? Did the tattooist get it wrong or just didn’t care about what way he drew the pattern? Did the guy getting the tattoo look at it in the mirror and it looked right that way? I admire his attempt to be patriotic but some people would regard this as an insult to our country. The Southern Cross is a cherished symbol of Australia. Perhaps he intended it to be this way. Perhaps he was making a protest.

I told a friend of mine – who has tattoos of bows on her legs – about this backwards Southern Cross and she said she had seen one on a guy’s chest without the fifth star. That star is important. Again, maybe he was making a point.

It matches a few other tattoo mistakes I have seen. Not counting just plain badly drawn ones, which are more common that might be imagined. One man had a crucifix on the back of his neck. When he held his head forwards you could see the whole design, but when he held it normally Jesus’ middle section was hidden, with just his head and feet showing. Again, maybe intentional, but also maybe he had his head forwards when the tattoo was being done and the mistake wasn’t realised until he stood normally.

I admire people’s choice to be individual. But perhaps getting tattoos as a result of peer pressure isn’t such a good idea. Especially skinny white guys with tribal tattoos.  They are really trying too hard to be cool, and just looking weird.

I don’t have a tattoo. I never want one. I have seen good ones, on both men and women. If someone wants to get one, as long as it is their choice and not just to fit in, then that is fine by me. But perhaps they should take more care in getting it right, and where they get it. Just saying.