Happy Ragnarok everybody!
I couldn’t let this date pass without marking the occasion. You’ve probably heard off and on over the years and especially over the past few months that the ancient Mayan calendar ends on Dec 21, 2012.
Today, as it were.
Some people have interpreted this as meaning that the end of the world will come to pass, even though that is silly.
So, if you’re reading this, my best guess is that the world HAS NOT ended and in fact we are all just as lost and miserable and happy and confused and hopeful and wistful as we were before this magic date, so that’s good, right?
I have to tell you, all I really know about this Ragnarok business I’ve gleaned from minor television celebrity and deranged millionaire John Hodgman. He has written a trilogy of COMPLETE WORLD KNOWLEDGE books. The third book in the series , “That Is All” particularly spends time musing about what signs and portents will occour throughout 2012 as a lead up to the final day. It’s all completely made up, of course. I feel like I should point that out. These are humour titles, after all, and I think it’s quite obvious to anyone who starts reading them, but you never know.
So, to mark the occasion, here’s a list of some of my favourite “End of the World” related things in pop culture.
Starting off with songs, there’s probably no better one to start off with than R.E.M.’s “It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine”. I’ve heard this song so many times, and it’s cover version by Great Big Sea, that I actually skip over it when it comes up on the iPod. It’s not that I don’t like it, it’s just that I don’t need to hear this song ever again. Does that make sense?
Green Day’s “Last Night on Earth”
This is Green Day at their most “Beatlesesque”. It’s a song like this that made my wife think she was a Green Day fan, and as a result we got tickets to see them a couple of years ago. I don’t think either of us really knew what we were in for, but it sure wasn’t the high energy, pyrotechnically fuelled, stage diving, profanity laden spectacle to which we were treated. I personally had a great time, but my wife was LITERALLY cowering throughout most of the show, terrified of the next explosion. When it came time for the obligatory final encore of “Good Riddance”, she was over and done with them. Dunzo!
U2’s “Last Night on Earth”
Sure, U2 ALSO has a song called “Last Night on Earth” from their overlooked 1997 effort, “Pop”. There’s a special place in my heart for the “Pop” album. Probably because during their Popmart tour in support of the album I saw them live for the very first time, twice. (Winnipeg and Vancouver).
Here’s the music video. Tell me if you can make any sense of it. It’s filled with disturbing imagery and what I think is beat poet William S. Burroughs at the end.
Moving onto books, the first one that comes to mind has to be Stephen King’s “The Stand”. A mysterious “superflu” infects and kills 99.4% of the world’s population, so we get to follow what happens to the remaining 0.6%. When it was originally published in 1978, Doubleday didn’t think that people would want to read such a long book, so they forced Stephen King to cut about 400 pages from the manuscript. The original version was still 800 pages long! It wasn’t until about 12 years later that Stephen King was able to re-release the book with the missing pages restored. The inscription in both versions is to his wife, Tabitha. “To Tabby, This dark chest of wonders”.
I read the original version on one summer vacation in the late 1980’s. We went out west to Calgary and the mountains, and I can still remember staying up late, after the rest of my family had turned in for the night, sitting up outside in the cool of the summer mountain evening in an easy chair on the porch of the place we rented, not being able to put the book down, night after night. I’m sure I basked in the glorious beauty of the mountains by day, but I actually remember the evenings of that trip reading alone on the porch the best.
I loved the book so much that I didn’t even hesitate to read it again when the expanded version was published a year or two later. If anyone ever asks me what Stephen King book they should read, I always say “The Stand”, but if the length discourages them, I’ll say “Salem’s Lot” instead.
The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis
It’s the final book in the Narnia series, where he deals with “the end of the world” among other things. The story gets a lot darker at this point, and we’ve come a long way from Lucy encountering Mr. Tumnus by the lamp-post. Reepicheep’s mantra, “Further up and further in” still sticks with me. I read these books only as an adult; they just weren’t on my radar as a kid. I think I saw there was a talking lion in it or something and thought “that is for suckers”. The books deeply moved me as an adult, and I still remember the time when I was working at the circulation desk and I had set all the books aside so I could read them back to back without interruption. A cute little girl came up to the desk and asked for “A Horse and his Boy”. I was just about to start it myself, and actually guiltily looked down at my little pile of Narnia books behind the counter before telling her, “Sorry, they are all checked out.” I know, I can be a REAL JERK sometimes.
The Chrysalids by John Wyndham
It’s a post apocalyptic world where humanity is collectively terrified of any genetic mutation. A small child is found to have six toes on one foot at the playground one day. But an even worse mutation is secretly infecting the community. David and his friends are able to communicate through thought alone. If this ever got out, the children would be banished from the community forever. I always loved the idea that the kids could communicate with each other from their own homes without their parents knowing. It wasn’t until I got on Twitter that I could approximate the experience myself. Occasionally I’ll get into an epic twitter exchange with one or more of my friends late at night and I am always reminded of “The Chrysalids” when this happens. Magic!
On to movies:
I guess we should start with 2012, since that one deals specifically about the Mayan calendar and the end of the world. The only tricky thing is that I HAVEN’T SEEN IT, although I am told John Cusack is in it, so certain members of the fanbase will defend its inclusion. In fact, I think one of John Hodgman’s plans to prepare for Ragnarok is to kidnap John Cusack and keep him safe. Full Circle.
I know there are a pile of “zombie apocalypse” movies out there. If I had to choose just one, it would be Danny Boyle’s “28 Days Later“. I almost tricked my wife into watching this, as she thought this was a Sandra Bullock movie about going into rehab. The joke was on me, however, because she starting watching it and ACTUALLY LIKED IT. Sometimes she can surprise you. The zombies in this story are humans infected by a government created virus called “Rage”. (Is that ALWAYS the way?) These zombies can move FAST, and the story follows a group of survivors who soon find that perhaps, there’s just as much evil among the remaining humans as there is among the infected. To take the tagline from season three of “The Walking Dead”: “Fight the Dead, Fear the Living”. Nice.
I’ll finish up with Don McKeller’s “Last Night” from 1998. We’ve just been alerted by the CRTC that we need to have more Canadian Content on this blog, so here we go. I’ll make sure future posts have some gratuitous beaver shots to satisfy them. “Last Night” follows a group of people who are spending their last day alive in a variety of ways, with intersecting story-lines. Oh right, and it has David Cronenberg acting, which is always fun. And Oh, it has Sandra Oh (see what I did there?) Ever since I saw David Cronenberg in Clive Barker’s Nightbreed, (another story set in Canada. Canada! Beavers!) I thought “this guy makes crazy movies, but he should TOTALLY act more. He’s a natural!” Please don’t make the mistake of watching 2010’s Last Night instead, starring Keira Knightley and the ever dishy Sam Worthington. I don’t know, maybe it’s a good movie. I haven’t seen it, but it doesn’t have anything to do with Ragnarok that I can tell.
Well there you have it: A ragnarok listening, viewing, and reading list………assuming, of course that we still have light and electricity. Hugs!