Take a drag or two

21 08 2013

Nobody cares about you.

I mean this in the worldly sense, that strangers are spending their time following you and wondering about you and seeking to control you. They don’t care. Really.

There are ways to make them care, of course—social media has given us all kinds of ways of turning strangers into people who care at least half a fig about you—but as a general matter, if you’re an American and you go about living your life and not otherwise flinging your words and pictures into cyberspace, nobody who doesn’t already know you is going to care.

It is a healthy indifference.

Now, there is the little matter of the national-security apparatus blindly scooping up every stray electronic bit, and, more pointedly, there are clearly some individuals and groups, designated as threats and treated as criminals-/terrorist-in-waiting who are right to worry about political surveillance.

But the rest of us? No.

This ought to be a relief—how awful to have to carry the interest of millions!—but some folks seems determined to believe that They Are Out To Get Us. This sentiment is currently most strongly expressed on the right side of the spectrum, especially amongst Christians opposed to the incorporation of gay rights into our political culture and Constitutional understandings, but I’d guess the fear of incipient repression could be found among any group which sees its superior status threatened.

To be merely equal is to be oppressed.

Unsurprisingly, this sentiment is oft paired with the conviction of The End Is Near, Boy, Just You Wait. Changes in the culture are not just changes in the culture, but harbingers of the apocalypse. Thus, the only responsible response is to run away before one is dragged off or everything falls away—either of which one just might secretly hope for if only to be proven right.

People like to be right—that famous xkcd cartoon wouldn’t be reproduced so often if it didn’t hit a nerve in so many of us—and we like to be seen to be right. We like to be seen, and we like to be right.

Which is why the idea that nobody is looking for us, and nobody cares if we’re right, is so hard to take—so much so that some would rather believe themselves targets of a police state or living at the end of everything. At least then they know they matter.

I went through my own personal disillusionment a decade or so ago, and while at first it was devastating—pathological neuroses are a remarkably sturdy structure on which to build a disordered life—it was a crucial part of what ultimately allowed me to live in this world. I had to shrug off my anti-hero status in order to have any chance at living as a human being.

I don’t want to be too hard on those who see danger everywhere—I know the pleasures of that kind of sight, and, yes, there are times when one is treated unjustly—but pity does them no favors. If they want to run away from us, they have that right, but they should know we won’t be running after them.

They can Go Galt or take the Benedict Option or flee under whatever other rubric of withdrawal they choose, and the rest of us won’t care.

We’ll just keep living our lives, and trying to care for those who remain in our lives.





I’d burn up into a million pieces

19 11 2012

I’ve mentioned my nuclear nightmares, haven’t I?

I had them fairly regularly as a teen and young adult, and they still pop up occasionally, but for the most part they’ve slipped out of my unconscious and lodge mainly in a side aisle on the fifth floor of memory.

Then Robert Farley at Lawyers, Guns & Money linked to the fascinating NUKEMAP by Alex Wellerstein, and that memory box popped open.

It’s so easy to use! Simply drag the target to your preferred neighborhood or type in a city, select a nuke from a dropdown list, and fire away!

I’m mostly not worried about nukes in New York, but since I do occasionally wonder what would happen if a terrorist exploded one in Manhattan, I decided to detonate a relatively small and crude device (10kt) in the Financial District.

The effects would be felt up to Little Italy and Chinatown and would reach Governor’s Island and Brooklyn Heights, but that’s it.

Not until the bomb reaches 300 kilotons would it hit my neighborhood, and then only with thermal radiation (which, it must be said, could set off a firestorm).

The biggest bomb? A hundred megaton “Tsar Bomba”, the largest Soviet bomb designed (although never tested). That would take out all five boroughs, over half of Long Island, large chunks of New Jersey, and even a bit of Connecticut.

Why mention this, and with such good cheer? Honestly, it’s cool, in a ghastly sort of way.

And it’s so remote. I remember when it wasn’t, when I had a real, hmm, if not fear, then a kind of resignation, that the world would end in a hail of missiles; now, I am no longer resigned to that end (tho’ don’t worry: there are many ways for the world to end!), and the fear is tamed. The nukes are, if not in cages, at least no longer MADly menacing the landscape.

Of course, then I watched the clip of The Day After Farley posted, and my cheer drained away. Guess I’ll have to nuke another city to get my mojo back.





19 05 2011

JUDGMENT DAY

THE END OF THE WORLD IS ALMOST HERE!
HOLY GOD WILL BRING JUDGMENT DAY ON
MAY 21, 2011

      Thus Holy God is showing us by the words of 2 Peter 3:8 that He wants us to know that exactly 7,000 years after He destroyed the world with water in Noah’s day, He plans to destroy the entire world forever. Because the year 2011 A.D. is exactly 7,000 years after 4990 B.C. when the flood began, the Bible has given us absolute proof that the year 2011 is the end of the world during the Day of Judgment, which will come on the last day of the Day of Judgment.

      Amazingly, May 21, 2011 is the 17th day of the 2nd month of the Biblical calendar of our day. Remember, the flood waters also began on the 17th day of the 2nd month, in the year 4990 B.C.

~~~~~~~

Huh. Guess I can stop worrying about my student loan debt.

(h/t: Jaweed Kaleem, HuffPo)





Signs of the apocalypse?

4 01 2011

The folks of Beebe, Arkansas, need stronger umbrellas:

Around 11 that night, thousands of red-winged blackbirds began falling out of the sky over this small city about 35 miles northeast of Little Rock. They landed on roofs, roads, front lawns and backyards, turning the ground nearly black and terrifying anyone who happened to be outside. . . .

State scientists believe one thing to be almost certain: that the bird deaths were not related to the roughly 85,000 fish that died a few days before near Ozark, in the western part of the state, the biggest fish kill in Arkansas that anyone can remember. . . .

Meanwhile roughly 500 dead birds were found on Monday outside New Roads, La. Those birds were much more varied, with starlings and grackle in addition to blackbirds, and a few samples picked up by James LaCour, a wildlife veterinarian with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, did not show any signs of trauma, he said.

Run if you hear trumpets.

h/t  New York Times





The monster mash

8 11 2010

Zombies give me nightmares.

Actually, scratch that: zombies onscreen give me nightmares. I read and enjoyed Max Brooks’s World War Z and have sketched out a short ‘story’ (basically, a fake journal article on zombies)  and nary a blip in dreamworld.

But put a zombie where I can see it? Shudder.

I don’t know why. I mean, in 28 Days Later—which jolted me out of my sleep for a week after, and then sent me lurching awake a full six months after viewing—what shocked was not the zombies (and really, not zombies, but rage-virused monsters) but the people. That military commander? The thought that one would become the rape-thing to a bunch of despairing soldiers?

Jesus, at least the monsters were just hungry, not evil.

And in the new show The Walking Dead, again, the forewarning that the problem will be with the people, not the zed-heads.

That’s what set this post off—the premiere to The Walking Dead. I watched it early yesterday evening on Hulu, figuring that gave me enough time before bedtime for me to forget it, but: no.

It wasn’t that scary, honestly, certainly not in comparison to 28 Days Later. And afterward, I thought, Eh.  Too soap-opery, too predictable, too somber, not scary enough. And the lead? Okay, so he needs to wear his sheriff’s outfit to keep himself in line, but is he really this innocent?

Dumb, actually. Or maybe not dumb, but not thinking. He needs gas, all those cars on the road, and he leaves the road to walk some ways to a gas station, which—surprise!—is out of gas.

He never heard of a siphon?

Then he ditches the car in favor of a horse, because, let’s face it, nothing makes more sense than leaving behind a steel-and-glass contained space (with storage!) for a pretty pretty equine bit of zombie bait.

Maybe if it all moved faster, carried some of the jangle that good B-movies like 28 Days Later or even the nausea-inducing Cloverfield managed to convey, I could enjoy rather than pick apart the predictability.

But nightmares for the boring? No thanks.

~~~~~

I should add that I enjoyed Shaun of the Dead, and that since it’s been so long since I’ve seen any of George Romero’s movies, I can’t remember if those gave me nightmares.

Anyway, it’s not just zombies. The Ring creeped me out, and I vowed never to camp in Maryland after The Blair Witch Project. Oh, and I recently made the mistake of watching the mediocre Event Horizon before bed—not a good idea.

I’m not generally a scary- or horror-movie aficionado, and have little patience for spatter movies, but I do enjoy a well-crafted bit of unease. (Okay, enjoy may be the wrong word; appreciate, perhaps?) The Others wasn’t scary, and even a bit somnolent, but I liked its meditative vibe.

The Sixth Sense and Signs? No.

I don’t recall any nightmares following The Road, but, then again, I don’t know that that would count as a horror film. It’s full of horror, true, but perhaps one reason my response was dulled was because I knew nothing would get better. The hope or possibility of escape or reprieve was gone, as with it the altertness that one holds on behalf of the characters. It was the end, that’s all, and I was sad for the characters, that’s all.

I had nuclear nightmares as a teenager, but as I had been experiencing those prior to seeing The Day After or Testament, I blame the miasma rather than the movies.

No, my worst nightmares when young were unrelated to anything I saw on t.v. or at the movie theatre—likely because my parents didn’t let me watch scary flicks. I’d already demonstrated the, ah, ability to scare myself shriekingly awake (Over vents. Don’t ask.), so I’d guess that they thought ‘Why tune her up even more?’

Still, there was that one episode of The Outer Limits, wherein the woman tried to vacuum up something in the corner. . . .

That probably set me off, too.

~~~~~

Still, I’m not eight and I don’t believe in zombies. In fact, I consider nuclear or environmental or even cosmic apocalypse, however unlike in my lifetime, still more likely than a zombiepocalypse. So why the scare at the latter and not the former?

Maybe because I don’t consider it likely at all, and thus don’t have the rational responses to the truly fantastical (the undead) that I do to the merely improbable.

Maybe there’s something about the uncanniness of the zombie: to be dead, but still restless, ravenous, recognizably human but demonstrably not.

Or maybe because I just keep watching these @#$!!$% zombie movies too close to bed. . . .

 





And when I fall asleep I don’t think I’ll survive the night

27 08 2010

Everyone dies, and everyone was dying.

It was the end of the world, gently. People were falling over and dying, everyone, and everyone knew their own ends were soon, and instead of hysteria and rioting we were going out restaurants and laughing on our barstools and everyone was well-lit (as in the lighting was good but maybe also a little drunk) and in a really good mood.

A bit of melancholy, but mostly a resigned good cheer.

At one point I felt the heaviness in my chest and I crept behind a plywood wall and lay on shaded grass next to a wooden bench and thought Okay, this is it, and the only thing that felt wrong was that I was all alone. We were all dying and it seemed we should die together.

I wasn’t afraid or angry or anything but accepting; it was not a bad feeling.

But then I started to write and I thought, Well, wait a minute, let me try to write before I die, so I got up and was writing on the wall and then on boards and then I thought I need another marker. I got on a bus to take me to a place to get that marker and the bus started careening all over the place and everyone was laughing and I realized that this was a crash bus (it had specific name which I can’t remember) and I had to get off. Not yet, I said, not yet. So when we passed a patch of grass I launched myself off the bus and landed and rolled and when I looked up the people on the bus were laughing and giving me the thumbs up and saying Way to go, Radio.

Radio? I was confused and thought that maybe that had something to do with something I said on the radio. I didn’t know anyone had heard.

Was I afraid to die, was that why I left the bus? I was more worried about the crashing, the injury, than death. Still, I wanted to write.

I ended up in a lab run by the guy who played Michael on LA Law and his young assistant and I said I needed markers and the assistant gave me a small marker which didn’t work and Michael said No, no, she needs a real marker and he gave me a couple and I started writing then and there on whatever wood I could find.

I knew I wouldn’t finish but I thought There has to be a record, someone has to write something down before we’re all gone. Michael and the assistant and the other people in the lab were all working on why we were all dying and they were all smiling, gentle and resigned and still working.

Is this how it is? Wouldn’t there be violence and mayhem and denial and wouldn’t we do anything wreck anything to get away from our end? But no it was like a charmed party nearing its end which we didn’t want to leave but knew the evening had finally come to a close.

So I was back to writing in block letters because it was a thick marker and my penmanship is terrible and I wanted to make sure you could read it and I wondered if other people were writing. I hope other people remembered to write about our end.

And then my chest got heavier and heavier and then I woke up.





Waiting for Armageddon

19 05 2010

I do loves me some apocalypse—fictionally.

But actual death and destruction does not make my heart go pitter-pat, unless by ‘pitter-pat’ one means racing-with-anxiety-and-despair-not-joy.

Yeah, I have my moments of ‘fuck ‘em all’ and ‘people suck’, but I have no real sense that all humans should perish, or that by large numbers of us perishing the survivors will be redeemed. I don’t think we can be made clean or whole or without all the crap that led us to the apocalypse in the first place. Maybe the survivors would  chomp on one another, a la Cormac McCarthy, or maybe they’d*separate themselves into chosen communities and live-and-let-live; either way, it’s not at all clear to me how this is in any way ‘better’.

(‘*They’, not ‘we': I have a chronic disease which requires daily treatment; absent that treatment, I die. It’s possible that I could manage to stockpile the thousands of pills necessary to keep me going for years, but I doubt it. The apocalypse will have to go on without me.)

C. and I had a conversation about this the other night, and while I’ll desist saying much about her position beyond noting that she’s more optimistic about post-apoc possibilities than I, I will admit that I was a bit startled by her, mm, cheer.

I am not cheerful about humans, pre- or post-apocalypse. We’re greedy and self-centered and violent and far too willing to use one another for our ends. Sure, we have our good qualities—I happen to like that we figured out how to make wine, chocolate, and a comfy pair of slippers—but we’re not all that.

We are, however, all that we have.

Now, the godly among us might disagree, but except for the  world-hating of the god-believers, most of  the faithful admit there can be joy in the world.

In any case, this is our world: beat-up and weird and so, so complicated and ours. This world is ours, and we are who we are in this world. If this world ends, so do we.

And I think that would be a damned shame—again, not because we’re so great, but because we’re not, because we don’t have to be, because we can be beat-up and weird and so, so complicated. I’m pissed that we’re fucking our world over because in so doing we’re making it increasingly difficult to find out just how we can be human in the world. The possibilities we’re foreclosing. . . .

There are some among us, of course, who do revel in the foreclosure. Some may be secular (extremist environmentalists, for example), but it’s that minority of the godly who look forward to the end-times who grab the bulk of the attention.

Which brings us, belatedly, to Waiting for Armageddon. This short documentary, now streaming on Netflix, follows a group of dispensationalists who are straining at the confines of the world and looking forward to its end—an end which begins in Jerusalem.

It’s basic Bible-prophecy stuff: The in-gathering of the Jews in Israel is foretold in scripture, as is the rebuilding of the Temple, one-world government headed by the anti-Christ (and, for some pre-tribulationists, the early return of Christ), the rapture of the faithful, the tribulation (think ‘great wailing and gnashing of teeth’, ‘four horsemen’, etc.), and the millennial reign of Christ on earth. One hundred forty-four thousand Jews will convert and be saved, while the rest will perish, (along with almost everyone else), all as a prelude to the great cleansing and the springing forth of heaven on earth.

Great, huh? One guy said it was going to be a lot of ‘fun’. Well, y’know, he said, maybe not fun-fun, seeing as how so many will suffer and die horrible, horrible, deaths, but fun in that I was-right-and-I-get-to-watch kind of way.

Whoo-hoo! Totally not at all like the crowds cheering the lions ripping apart the Christians in the Coliseum.

Some of the folks at least managed to be chagrined at the thought of so much death, and most preferred not to dwell on how exactly the Al-Aqsa mosque and al-Haram ash-Sharif complex will be removed without utterly destroying the site of the putative third Temple—but hey, God will take care of all that.

What matters most of all of that these people are right, and if it takes the destruction of the world to prove them in their right[eous]ness, so be it.

Of course, they’d say it’s not about them, it’s about God, that they’re just following the Word. But they’re so God-damned happy about all of this, so God-damned sure that this is The Way, that it’s difficult not to conclude that this is less about God and more about them.

They don’t like the world, and they want to see it end.

Not coincidentally, those who are younger are less avid for The End. They want to marry and have kids and then maybe the end could come, as one young woman said, ‘When I’m 85,’ i.e., when she would end anyway. She doesn’t despise the world quite enough for it to end before she’s had a chance to enjoy it.

These dispensationalists are a minority even among evangelicals, who are themselves not representative of all of Christianity. The film was too short fully to engage cross-Christian talk on The End, nor even those who believe that we are in End Times and are pained by the prospect of the extermination of billions of people.

Instead, we are left with the smiling faces of those who want to see us all end.








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