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For starters, I’m irritated because I had a lot of things planned. I was finally going to learn the Chicken Dance. I was going to make my signature brownie & peanut ice cream this summer. I was going to teach myself the sweetest slap bass solo ever right after I learned how to play the bass. More importantly, I had a party all planned for the night of December 20th, 2012 (The Eat-Like-A-Fat-Pig-Before-The-World-Ends Party), which was supposed to be Judgement Day Eve, followed two days later by the Why-Did-I-Eat-A-Cheesburger-Baked-Inside-Of-A-Cheesecake 5K Fun Run. It was going to be awesome. I was going to invite Lance Armstrong.

I’m even more irritated about the beginning of the world’s end on May 21st, as this group claims on their website, because that’s the exact day of Dave the Cat’s birthday. Let’s face it, he’s not a kitten anymore; he’ll be six in human years. That’s about 40 in cat years. Middle age, David. On this birthday he should be taking out a second mortgage to lease a Porche and cruising for co-eds, not dancing around crevasses and avoiding lava flows. It’s a real bummer when a meteor crashes onto your butter cream-frosted birthday cake. And, yes, he will have a birthday cake, but not carrot cake because David hates carrots.

This isn't Dave, but you get the idea. He would look much cooler and have a least three gold chains around his neck.

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So I saw this story on CNN.com a while back. I also read the bible passages they cite and did some of their calculations. These folks have conviction in their conclusions and that’s fine. I cannot say that this group should be faulted for believing in their beliefs. Their right to do so is not in doubt. Their actions, though…

Check this out:

Study this picture for as long as you want, but this is still a custom-painted, doomsday Winnebago. This RV and others like it are currently touring the country. Its drivers wear t-shirts and hats that are no less garish. They hand out pamphlets and talk to those who will and won’t listen. Apparently we’ve come a long way since the old “The End is Near” sandwich board. But with such a loud delivery you’d assume there’s a constructive take-away message, something worthwhile and beneficial.  There must be a call to action. Repent. Find God. Go to church. Be a better person. Something. Right?

Not exactly. Actually, their message goes something like this: a) the world is ending on May 21st, b) your status (chosen or forsaken) has already been decided by God and was actually determined before you were even born, c) there’s nothing you can do to improve your odds, d) but, hey, we just wanted to let you know cause that’s the kind of people we are, e) so, uh, have a great next four weeks.

Okey dokey.

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If someone wielding a hammer asked you to put your hand on a table then said, Hey, in five minutes I’m going to smack your finger with this hammer and you can’t do anything about it, what would you be thinking about for those five minutes? You’d be thinking about how much it’s going to hurt.

So… is that it? That’s what they want us to take away? We’re all out of luck. Don’t start stocking up on batteries and potable water because it won’t matter. Oh, and it’s going to hurt.

I suppose my apocalypse anxiety is my own fault. It’s not like I have to listen. After all, the world is saturated with people willing to share their opinions. And it’s easier than every to disperse those opinions with youtube, podcasts, recreational vehicles, and ridiculous, long-winded blogs. I could always choose to ignore this as I do every other piece of wannabe propaganda and opinion—be it offensive or insightful; stupid or smart. But I’ll admit, I’m antsy about this sort of thing. I have trouble brushing it off. A big part of me finds this threatening, pre-destined, resistance-is-futile prediction a little disturbing. Call me weak or gullible if you will because I’m probably a little of each.

So I guess what I’m really asking is: why can’t these people be more considerate of me? (Perhaps selfish, but I think it’s okay to ask for baseline respect from the world around us.)

Possible answers: Could be plain old egotism at work or fear mongering under the guise of virtue. The RVs are part of a quest to be the smartest people in the room, the ones who said, I told you so. They want to be the ones laughing when the hammer finally falls.

Maybe there’s a fame factor here too. I can see the temptation behind religious-oriented fame. If you’re a fame connoisseur it’s probably the awesomest kind of fame because it lasts for a long time. Way longer that Paris-Hilton-famous-because-you’re-famous fame or Kerri-Strug-sticks-the-landing fame or William-Wallace-they-cannot-take-our-freedom fame. Then again, if the world ends on May 21st, no one’s going to care about who predicted it. There will be no sitting on Oprah’s couch, no 60 minutes interviews, no action figures. No reality shows.

Jesus: more famous

Kerri Strug: less famous

And maybe I’m missing the point completely; I’m not enlightened enough. Perhaps this is supposed to be a good thing, whether you’re one of the chosen or not. They do call it The Rapture. But that’s a tough pill to swallow.

I just want there to be some good in this message for people like myself. My hope is that this group just wants us all to live better while we can, to reorganize things. Not a bad message at all. But why not just say it. Keep the hammer out of it and paint the sugar-coated version on the side of your RV for me, would you:

Start living better. Skip work and go to a baseball game. Drink a chocolate shake. Pray. Eat nachos your recliner. Love. Kiss your family and your pets. Sit on the porch. Be nice. Help someone. Laugh at bad jokes. Watch your favorite movie twice in a row. Tolerate. Meditate. Learn something new. Be spiritual. Go to your place of worship. Read. Don’t watch Jersey Shore. Take pictures of things that don’t make sense. Take a minute to not talk. Run really fast. Keep pretending you’re cool.

If we do only have a few weeks left, I better get going on more blogs.

-MC JLight

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Rollin' some steam.

Many of the cool things I think up—and there are many, even if they’re only cool in my own head—seemingly come too late.  Still, I believe that the following must be addressed. Besides, I don’t want to wait until next year. So here we go.

It’s something I must address because it surfaces every year around the holidays like an annual case of explosive diarrhea. What I am referring to is in no way festive, as it ought to be. Rather, it is scary. It does not recall holiday goodwill or thanks or abounding love or wise men. It recalls a scrap iron processing plant: sheet metal grinding upon itself, sparks, carbon-stained machinery, hydraulics. It does not produce anything close to a feeling of warmth. It, instead, gives me the scary kind of goosebumps. Of course I am talking about the robotic stylings of Mannheim Steamroller and other “holiday” music of its ilk. The Trans-Siberian Orchestra makes me mad too, but I’m going after you in this blog, Steamroller.

Unfortunately, I remember this garbage from my childhood. The blare of synthesized trumpets echoed between the ceiling and our hexagonal orange kitchen tiles before tunneling into my skull like a Martian truth ray. Steamroller’s screeches contradicted the smell of cinnamon and sugar cookies and pine needles. Such forceful music produced by a computer, lacking the hominess and nostalgia of an actual Christmas carol in favor of an ethereal orchestral entity that, I imagine, was conducted by Arnold Schwarzenegger circa The Terminator. “I’ll Be Back” was one of their most popular songs.

The Mannheiminator

And I use the word “their” here, but I can’t say for sure if there’s an actual band involved or even a group of people or even a single person. As far as I can tell, Mannheim Steamroller’s songs are the result of a drunken lab rat bumping into maze walls that have been outfitted with a series of pressure plates. The rat bumps the plate and completes a circuit, which produces a sound. Put a year’s worth of these chirps together and you have The Steamroller’s version of Deck the Halls.

I pose this question to The Steamroller: Huh? Yes, remakes are okay. In a sense, we remake a Christmas carol every time we sing it. But while I don’t mind Bing Crosby singing “White Christmas,” The Steamroller’s remakes border on butchery. Sure, you can keep cutting a New York Strip, but cut too much and it turns into hamburger. Furthermore, if an already existing work is complete in the truest sense then I wish people would leave it alone, or at least be respectful. Take Gus Van Sant’s version of Psycho as an example of remake hell. The film is perfect already, what is one to do that might make it better? Granted, Hitchcock movies and Christmas carols are vastly different. The point is, why screw around with songs that have been decades in the making, have been sung and have been the same for a long, long time? If you want to invent some new carols, be my guest (see Mele Kalikimaka). But I don’t see the point of remaking time-tested carols so drastically. You can’t sing along to this stuff. You can’t enjoy a cup of cocoa or give gifts with The Steamroller blaring the background. You can’t look your children in the eye while it’s playing and say, “Sweetie, this what Christmas is all about,” because you’d be lying.

In fact, the best part about The Steamroller is the name, because nothing describes such irreverent, aggressive music better than a piece of paving equipment. Actually, if you listen to a Mannheim CD for long enough the odor of freshly-melted tar will permeate every room in your house. But don’t worry, nothing’s on fire; it’s just the smell of your eardrums frying like thinly-sliced pancetta. And if you close your eyes, you’ll see it. You’ll see the steamroller mowing down everything, flattening the Christmas tree, blowing out the Menorah (because it’s so bad that Hannakah is affected too), and chasing all eight reindeer into the night. That red sparkle you see on the carriage? That’s the remnants of Rudolph’s nose. Say goodbye to Jimmy Stewart and St. Nick’s jolly hue and candy canes. Not even fruitcakes will persevere. And I know what you’re saying, “At least angels will survive.” That’s true… But they’ll never get wings because no one can hear the bell ringing because The Steamroller is too damn loud.

Yes.

This said, The Steamroller isn’t a total loss. I propose a couple of alternate uses. 1) Rave music for senior citizens. The Steamroller has that industrial sound, without being offensive (in subject at least). So get some glow sticks and an abandoned warehouse and let’s party until 8 pm. 2) The aforementioned Angela and I prefer this option—use the term “Mannheim Steamroller” as an expletive. It’s fun to say, but no one will get offended. Suggested uses: a) Surprise. “Mannheim Steamroller, that deer came out of nowhere.” b) Exaltation. “This bratwurst is Mannheim Steamrollin’ delicious.” c) Frustration. “I can’t believe you cheated on me with the limo driver. You’re a real Mannheim Steamroller.” d) Ridicule. “You play Dungeons and Dragons? What are you? A Mannheim Steamroller?” e) Open-Mouthed Awe While Viewing The Aurora Borealis. “Ooh, Mannheim Steamroller.” f) Expressing Pain After Hitting Your Thumb With A Hammer. “Mannheim Steamroller!” g) Excited Fear When Going Down The First Drop On A Roller Coaster. “Maaaannnnheeeiiimm Steeeeaaammmrolleeeeer.” h) Crying (So Hard You Can’t Breathe) On Account Of The Simultaneous Pain And Rapture Of A Justin Bieber Concert. “Man…Mann…nnnn…hei…heim…mmm St…st…ste….steam…mmm…mmm…rolllllll…er…er…er. Justin, I love you.”

Boycott The Steamroller. Save Christmas.

-MC JLight