Thursday, May 19, 2011

Read before Saturday: "A is for Armageddon"

The end is nigh. Prepare to meet your doom this Saturday. Or as the songwriter Cole Porter once put it so delightfully, "Have you heard? It's in the stars, next July we collide with Mars ..."

That was Frank Sinatra commiserating with Bing Crosby in 1956's High Society: so Porter was off by a few decades. Who's counting?

From recent billboard sightings regarding the end of the world, the earth will end in a big bang the day after tomorrow. Literally. What better time to read about the end of days? Humans have thrilled and terrified themselves fantasizing about an event which few of them will ever be unlucky enough to see, although mankind threatens every so often to come tantalizingly close: war, plague, fear, disease, and sheer human nature are capable of capsizing even the warmest thought of good will toward men.

And then there's the ever-threatening volatility of nature itself: the butterfly sneeze in the forest that leads to ultimate planetary destruction. It's a wonder that most of us don't spend the next few days trembling in bed with the covers pulled securely above our heads. As the great philosopher Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry Callahan once phrased our eternal, daily doubts about the human dilemma, do you feel lucky, punk? Well, do ya?

Mankind has been preparing for The End at least since the biblical battle of Megiddo, which occurs in the Book of Revelation and gives earth-ending times their signifying name.

A is for Armageddon: An Illustrated Catalogue of Disasters That May Culminate in the End of the World As We Know It (Harper Books), just released in paperback, is a funny, nervous laugh at the end of days -- whenever and however it should occur. The eternal, open-ended speculation on ultimate doom-and-gloom, as both religious and secular soothsayers have always emphasized, is a game with a singular escape clause: it will happen to someone else before it ever happens to us .... that is, if we heed the warning signs.

The book and its accompanying website, a "veritable panoply of impending doom," is a needed tonic just before all of us take off on our much needed Memorial Day vacations. Of course it's a cynic's cornucopia of unknowably bad things that will happen to good people -- and unsuspecting too -- which provides the chill. Those unlucky folks will not be us, likely, so you might as well gather the beach umbrellas and gas up the car for next weekend's traffic jam ahead.

Part of a colorful periodic table of man's possible Doom

The book's author Richard Horne is an equal-opportunity doomsayer: Divine wrath is here (as expected) but one ought to be wary of animal flatulence as well. There are untold ways The End might arrive, and no matter how we prepare and contemplate ultimate Doom, it will still catch us off our guard; for those who like to quantify and identify such unknowables Horne provides a handy periodic table of possibilities.

In any event, how can a reader know if it's the beginning of the end? The fully-interactive website offers the nervous and worried a glass-half-empty measure of your own Doom-monger status.

Horne is a kind of one-man-disaster band, fixated more on endings than beginnings. He's responsible as well for the list-making success of 101 Things to Do Before You Die. So it's expected that the ultimate end of the inexplicable, irrational human race is presented in all of its widescreen Technicolor glory: the end of the end, so to speak.

And if Horne is even half-right it will be a party with a real bang. So, relax, pour yourselves a drink with Frank and Bing, and invite some friends over to keep watching the skies ... if you dare.


Beth said...

Nice to see that V is Volcanic activity. Representing.

Grady said...

If the Rapture is tomorrow, can I have your stuff?

M Bromberg said...

Certainly. Dylan-the-cat likes 9 Lives dry kibble...