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The End Times demand music

Fireball on October 21, folks, a-comin’ to consume the planet and all of those of us who were left behind — all of us — the 6 billion minus the 200 million who weren’t carried up May 21.

Excuse me? You mean to say that there was no mass exodus of bodies, no defiance of gravity, no disappearance of the true believers? No one was transported to the heavenly realm and treated to nosh trays while they waited to get issued white robes, harps, halos and glittering wings? No vehicles were suddenly left pilotless, careening across the opposite lane while unbelievers in the back seat screamed in terror? No one left asking, “Where’s my sandwich?” because the waitress was whisked away?

Damn, and I made plans. In fact, I had placed several articles of clothing around the yard in hopes of giving the appearances that the brood and I had been whisked away without our socks, shoes or underoos.

The gesture was, unfortunately, lost on the neighbors. Indeed, the gesture was lost on God and the rest of the world as Saturday, May 21, ended up as a huge goose egg, Rapture-wise.

While Pastor Harold Camping obviously lost his big bet on May 21, could he be right about the fireball on Oct. 21 and, if so, what’s his deal with 21?

Astronomers say there might be a comet heading our way in 2034 that could decimate our planet should it make impact. Maybe sometime in October, 2034? But a comet is hardly a fireball as much as a big, dirty cosmic snowball, so dirty that some theories posit that the organic building blocks for life on our planet arrived via a comet.

Presumably, those same scientists weren’t among those giving away all their worldy goods last Friday.

Perhaps Camping’s fireball will be a gamma ray burst (GRB), a very real and terrifying phenomena that would indeed result in life being burned to a crisp as the GRB strips away the Earth’s ozone layer (and large chunks of the atmosphere).

However, since GRBs are extremely rare, occurring two or three times per galaxy every million years, the burst is highly directional and our planet would have to be aligned just right to be in a GRB’s sites.

Thus, a GRB hardly seems to fit the description of Camping’s fireball.

Of course, in about 5 billion years, the sun will enter a red giant phase and essentially swallow up the earth with plasma but that fireball is quite a bit farther down the road than Oct. 21, 2011.

If I had any chance of collecting on the bet, I’d wager that humans no longer exist as a species in 5 billion years. If we haven’t annihilated each other (the most likely scenario and the best explanation for Camping’s fireball), we’ll have scooted off our home planet or evolved into pure energy space ghosts or been made the main course for a race of alien bugs.

Pastor Camping, what is this fireball you speak of?

Dear readers, if you’ve made it this far and detected a hint of schadenfreude, buy yourself a beer and put it on McQuiggin’s tab (numerous and skimpy throughout town). And while the world wasn’t without some of the usual chaos on May 21 — Iceland’s most active volcano started erupting, a 6.1-magnitude quake struck 600 miles off New Zealand with a much smaller 3.6 quake felt in the San Francisco Bay area that evening, a tornado killing one person and damaging at least 20 homes in Kansas, government thugs murdering over 900 people seeking democracy in Yemen — but by truly catastrophic standards those events hardly qualified as close to apocalyptic. Sure, some awful stuff, some mundane stuff, but nothing like four horsemen rampaging through humanity, mowing down everything and everyone in their path.

I confess that I spent far too much time in front of the computer on Rapture day, attuned to any and all Rapture news, the deviant in me somewhat hoping for some evidence that millions of people had been whisked away to the sound of Gabriel’s trumpet.

While the Intertubes were short on people-whisking, snark and Rapture songlists/mixes were in abundance. Unfortunately, the music mixes were also long on snark and short on inspiration. I saw at least a half dozen lists over the weekend, all of them including R.E.M.’s “End of the World as We Know It (And I feel Fine)” — pretty much a no-brainer.

Some “1812 Overture” (really?), some Metallica, a but no “End of Days” by GOBBLE GOBBLE (yes, all caps) or “Race to Heaven” by Glitter Bones?

And while Gil Scott-Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” would have been appropriate on some level (although certainly not in the way that End Timers would admit), it was probably too scary a cut for the snark-fest (R.I.P., Gil).

As I read the various mix lists, it occurred to me that they were all “End Times” lists, a soundtrack for Armageddon. Snark aside, I realized that what I wanted was a soundtrack for those of us left behind. Convinced I’m a Left Behinder (and equally convinced that there’s nothing to be left behind from), I preferred to put together a mix reminding me that life goes on and that, despite the predictions, it’s pretty cool, all things considered.

As such, while AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” made it on a few list (of course), “Let There Be Rock” would be perfect for a Left Behind list, what with it’s Creation story imagery and confidence that Rock will not only prevail but that faith in its transformative and celebratory essence.

Needless to say, while the Rapture is a one time event, the Left Behind times go on for quite awhile. An End Times mix is therefore brief while my Left Behind mix was, well, almost infinite.

I started with “Liar, Liar” by The Castaways; considering Camping walked away from his prediction with over $70 million in the bank, the song seems like a good starting point.

Elvis Costello, “The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes” — the obvious choice on other mixes would have been ”Waiting For the End of the World” but not for my Left Behind mix. Besides, I like this song better especially with its gut-punch opening, “Oh I used to be disgusted/and now I try to be amused/But since their wings have got rusted/you know, the angels wanna wear my red shoes.”

I felt Common’s “Faithful” was a good addition as it raises some interesting questions about End Times, theology and (especially) misogyny. Common has mad rhymes and the beats are irresistible.

The Fox News ragegasm a few weeks back when Common was invited to a White House poetry slam was utter comedy. It illustrated the craven intellectual impoverishment (and dishonesty) of the meatheads at Fox News.

Jon Stewart slammed Fox News over the non-incident, then sparred with Bill O’Reilly over the kerfluffle. Stewart annihilated O’Reilly and even a poll on O’Reilly’s own website showed 79 percent of respondents thought Stewart won the debate.

And really, isn’t the fact that a major news network in high dudgeon over a rap artist at the White House an indication that the End Times are here?

Jay-Z’s “Hard Knock Life” and “Heaven” by Nas seemed like good additions, for various reasons, both snotty asides on End Times thinking.

Dawn Penn’s “No, No, No (You Don’t Love Me) throws some sublime (and downbeat) reggae into the mix, a lament on being left behind. On the other hand, Jimmy Cliff’s “Many Rivers to Cross” reminds us that we have a long way to go before the sky catches fire.

However, Randy Newman’s “Political Science” reminds us that, if the sky does light up like a Roman Candle, it’s because we’ve convinced ourselves we’re a bit better than the rest of the world.

“Just Keep Goin’ On” by Eric Bibb and Needed Time sweetens Newman’s sneer with a blues and gospel feel; with the next cut being Califone’s “Burned By the Christians,” it provides a nice counterpoint to the latter song’s rancor.

Following that, Andrew Bird’s “Banking on a Myth” pretty much sums up my entire point here while the next cut, “Seven Swans” by Sufjan Stevens exemplifies my doubts of my doubts (with beauty and symbolism), hedging my bets in some small way. Yet, Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” is further affirmation that I have indeed not been banking on a myth. With the next cut, The Beatles’ “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?”,” I’m convinced we Left Behinders (if the myth attains) will have freedom to do pretty much as we want.

“Let’s Get Out of Here” by Les Savvy Fav and “Forever and Ever, Amen” by The Drums are included as existential snapshots of what the Earth looks like for those of us left to fend for ourselves.

“Damaged Goods” by The Hot Rats (and a cover of the wonderful original by Gang of Four) describes those of us watching the lucky millions flying off into heaven. Next, “Meet Me on the Equinox” is the escape plan for the multitudes still here after Camping’s prediction comes true — some day, perhaps?


The Doors, “Waiting For the Sun” — Again, an “End Times” mix would have put on the truly apocalyptic “The End” (so much a song for Armageddon that Francis Ford Coppola ended “Apocalypse Now” with the tune) but hey, we’re here waiting for the sun. What else are we gonna’ do?

“Summertime” by Girls was one of my favorite songs of last year, from one of my favorite albums. That it perfectly captures what life Left Behind will be like for us committed hedonists is also reason to put it towards the end of this mix. Followed by “Believe E.S.P.” by Deerhoof (a wonderfully weird and funky cut) we finish with Chuck Berry’s “No Particular Place to Go,” the obvious end to the, er, end. “Riding along in my automobile/My baby beside me at the wheel/I stole a kiss at the turn of a mile/my curiosity running wild/cruisin’ and playin’ the radio/with no particular place to go,” seems like a perfect way to kill all that time we have, knowing we’ve been Left Behind.

If I’m wrong and it goes down the way the believers, say it will (whether they bought Camping’s soap or not), we might as well swallow that bitter pill with some good hooch and some excellent music. Dance in the sunshine and wash away the demons.

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