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Posts Tagged ‘end of the world’

The Days After

December 20th, 2012 No comments

In honor of Saturday, the day after the day that the Maya never claimed would be the end of the world, no matter what any moron tells you, here are some of my favorite pop culture post-apocalypses…

Planet of the Apes (1968)

The Road Warrior

John Christopher’s Tripods trilogy (image from BBC’s The Tripods)

In the Mouth of Madness

The Twilight Zone “Time Enough at Last”

Fallout 3

Wizards

Logan’s Run

Robot Monster

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We’ve Crossed The Border(s), And We’re Not Coming Back

February 14th, 2011 No comments

Updated (2/16): See below.

I’ve dreaded this development for years: the Borders bookstore chain is headed for bankruptcy. I’ve long been a loyal Borders customer, thanks in large part to the constant reinforcement of cascading discounts. Hardly a week goes by without at least one visit, and I usually walk out with something.

I never fully understood why Borders always struggled in comparison to rival Barnes & Noble. Granted that–here in Champaign, at least–B&N tended to be the better stocked, but Borders handed out free coupons like candy while its counterpart charged $25 a year for the privilege of saving 10 percent. When I had my Borders-branded Visa, I existed in a consumerist spiral of discounted books and DVDs that earned me Borders Bucks that allowed me to buy more books and DVDs at even steeper discounts and accumulate still more points.

I know that I abused the system; despite warnings that multiple uses of a given coupon during its cycle constituted fraud, I might drop by several times in one weekend when there was an especially meaty one. The golden ticket–40% off any item–was a clarion call to let my printer rip.

I may have been part of the problem.

Yet, in my mind, I made up for it in volume. I have bought a lot of books these past few years, and I wasn’t buying them on Amazon.

It’s too early to tell if Borders will go the K-Mart route (still in existence, albeit without a store within 30 miles of my house) or that of Circuit City (going, going, gone). Hopefully, our outlet will escape the purge. If not, we’ll be down to a B&N, a couple of used book sellers and the campus bookstore. Last week, USA Today speculated that small book dealers may make a comeback, but ours–Pages for All Ages–is long dead.

And it’s all the Internet’s fault.

Okay, you can’t assign blame to a series of tubes.* Besides, it’s a specious argument that ignores other concurrent technological and societal changes. But there’s no ignoring that the infinite timesink of the Web, the rise of the tablet computer, the mass acceptance of e-books, and the 80,000-pound cybernetic gorilla that is Amazon.com have combined to make selling slabs of wood pulp out of a locally-operated brick pile an untenable business.

I’m very sorry to see that happen.

Don’t get me wrong: I love my iPad.

Really. I LOOOOOOVE MY iPAD.

If you’d told Ten-Year-Old Me that 35 years later he’d be carting around an object that contained hundreds of record albums, a thousand books and all the comics he could ever hope to read; that it would play video games, offer movies on demand and allow him to access the sum of all human knowledge**, Ten-Year-Old Me would’ve said “No fucking way!” Actually, no he wouldn’t have, because Ten-Year-Old Me didn’t talk like that. Ten-Year-Old Me was a good boy. But he would’ve been desperate to get those 35 years out of the way so that he could have the Precious.

Forty-Six-Year-Old Me worries that it’s too much, too fast. It’s not just the book publishing business that’s been affected, but magazines, newspapers, music, movies, radio and television***. And I have a vested interest in that last one. Retirement is an awfully long time off with changes occurring at microchip speed.

The thing is, I have a hard time blaming anyone for the dissolution of the media forms I hold dear. Truthfully, it is faster, easier and cheaper to push bits around. It’s hard to argue for the relative inefficiency of physical offices full of people with insurance policies and pensions, when most of the work can be done from a central location with a small staff.

It all makes sense. Hence comes the fear.

I wonder, when the time arrives and the last of the buggy whip factories close, what are all of these booksellers, editors, journalists, publishers, engineers, etc. etc. etc. going to do? When one person can do the work of fifty, how are we going to keep the other 49 occupied?

And don’t tell me that we’re all better off without the middlemen who got in the way of the creative folks behind the content. The artistic Utopia of self-publishing will only be viable so long as there are people making enough money to afford ephemeral, virtual non-essentials. Maybe you don’t need us to distribute your crap, but you need us to buy your crap.

So, the book stores are closing. The newspapers are shuttering. The broadcasters are next. It’s the end of the world as I know it.

At least, that’s what I read on my iPad.

*At least, not until it attains self-awareness. Which will be soon, meatbags.

**Well, the important pop-cultural parts, anyway.

***And the Post Office. And the printers. And the paper sellers. And the lumberjacks. Why does no one ever think of the lumberjacks?

Updated: Our local Borders survives. So far.

Me Of Little Faith: Expert Witness

March 20th, 2009 No comments

Back in 2007, I made an abortive attempt at a mini-series of navel-gazing blog posts regarding religion. I managed to log only one entry before becoming terminally distracted by a Metroid invasion. It’s something I’d long intended to revisit, but I’d been looking for something to spark my interest in the topic.

This past week, I’ve been reading I’m Perfect, You’re Doomed: Tales from a Jehovah’s Witness Upbringing by Kyria Abrahams. Yes, I’m as amazed as you are; I’m reading a real book, not a TV tie-in or collection of ’60s comics. It may be far from my usual bathroom fare, but I was intrigued by the cover featuring a happy, little girl standing beneath an umbrella in an idyllic circle while the rest of civilization around her perishes in a rain of hellfire.

What’s it like to grow up knowing that the world will end within your lifetime, and that everyone who fails to share your one true faith is doomed, doomed, doomed? It turns out that you wind up boggled by normal social interactions and completely incurious about the world, because what’s the point of getting an education and making something of yourself if an earthly paradise is right around the corner? Granted that Kyria’s problems seem to spring as much from a panoply of mental disorders and a stunning self-centeredness as they do from her sheltered, cultish upbringing.

The book starts out hilarious, dealing with such earthly perils as Smurfs and demon-infested yard sale items, but becomes rather sad as Kyria grows up and flails about in a series of bad choices and loveless relationships. Judging by her blog, she seems to have turned herself around in the end, and I’m glad to know that.¬†

My interest in the Jehovah’s Witnesses goes back to my own childhood. My Great Aunt Vera was one, and while I don’t recall her attempting to send me home with a stack of Watchtower¬†magazines, I do remember that even back then I could tell that something about her world view didn’t quite add up. Great Aunt Vera gave me my first exposure to apocalyptic end-time prophecy over a casual dinner at a local eatery on the west side of Hobart. It didn’t make much sense to me: something about having sixes tattooed on my head and the evils of a one-world government. I’m not sure quite when this conversation occurred, but as someone who grew up under the shadow of the Vietnam War, having a single government sounded like a pretty good idea at the time.

What really got me about the Jehovah’s Witness faith, as explained by Great Aunt Vera, was that it only allowed for 144,000 of its own followers to ascend to Heaven. Okay, sure, the rest got to live in an earthly paradise. Still, it seemed like a bum deal. According to my own vague, generic notions of Christianity, Heaven was for everyone, including pets. But here was an orthodoxy that preached that even if you did everything right there was still a much-better-than-even chance you wouldn’t get to hobnob with the Big G. (Er…Big J.) I mean, even then I realized that 144,000 was a pretty small number, especially if it was drawn not only from current-as-of-Armageddon Witnesses, but those who’d died prior to The End. What, was Heaven running out of room? Couldn’t an omnipotent God whip up a few more clouds for his chosen people to sit upon?

Right then, I thought, “Wow, that religion blows.” And that was before I found out about the not-celebrating-birthdays thing.

Crazy Daisy

October 5th, 2008 No comments

This political ad seems to be running every time I turn on the TV. It’s from Colleen Callahan, the Democratic candidate for Illinois’ 18th Congressional District.

And every time I see it, I want to say “Really? The ‘Daisy’ ad? You’re invoking perhaps the most infamous political commercial of all time to go after some schmoe who has about as much chance of starting a nuclear holocaust as I do of perfecting mind-over-matter?” I mean, I give her points for knowing her history, but surely there must be something more relevant to run on.