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There’s a well-known episode of the old “Twilight Zone” series where a book-loving Burgess Meredith sequesters himself in a bank vault so he can enjoy an uninterrupted reading session during his lunch break.  He emerges from the vault to find that while safely underground, nuclear Armageddon killed off the rest of the world, leaving him as the last homo sapiens on the planet.  He finds this a positively delightful result and proceeds forthwith to the library, where he eagerly stacks all the books he plans to read.

Of course, this being the “Twilight Zone,” the requisite ironic punishment is delivered when the character breaks his reading glasses before opening the first book.  Amazingly, we, as viewers, are far more alarmed by this cruel turn of events than by the fiery dismemberment of a few hundred million men, women, and children only moments prior.

This episode is surely not the first time that humanity’s demise has been served up for mass consumption, but it is certainly evidence that even fifty years ago, the subject of our own extinction was considered to be an acceptable plot point, if not downright mainstream.  Since then, we’ve been peppered with a proud and trite lineage of post-apocalyptic (“PA”) pictures (“Mad Max,” “The Postman,” “Waterworld,” “The Day After Tomorrow,” and “2012,” to name a few) where the plot is essentially the same- the only evolution is the degree to which motion picture technology can display the destruction.*

For many years, nuclear Armageddon was the new black in entertainment.  Movies, books, albums, and video games all jockeyed to find ways to cash in on our date with obsolescence.  But these days, nuclear war is so fifteen minutes ago!  Lately, nothing short of complete planetary obliteration seems to get any attention.  Nowhere has this shift received more play than on the small screen, which is enjoying a new renaissance in extinction porn. The sheer numbers and variety of Apocalyptic programming is conclusive proof that our species is so egocentric that even our own terrifying demise thrills us.  It’s like we’re rubbernecking our own death.

I first noticed the trend when I happened upon a History Channel special called “Life After People.”  If ever there were a science show made for and by stoners, this is it.  The show posits that at some point humanity will perish, leaving the rest of the planet intact.  The program notably spends little time speculating on how our species ends, but simply gets right into what happens to our pets, who apparently survived, in the following hours and days.  After we learn that our snuggly little pets all starve to death or join feral pet gangs, the show cues the sexy CGI destruction sequences that seem to account for almost the entire production budget.  Grim voice-over narration accompanies sequences of moss-covered cities and monuments tumbling into the wilderness/sea/desert after thousands of years of neglect.  You can practically hear the bong water bubbling as late night smokers mutter “Whoa…” while taking in money shots like the Eiffel Tower silently collapsing into the jungle that once was Paris.

Apparently, “Life After People” was such a smashing success that the network turned it into a series, with episodes given attention grabbing names like “Toxic Revenge,” “Waves of Devastation,” and “Wrath of God.”  In the “Holiday Hell,” episode, the producers tease viewers by promising to confront what might happen when “Christmas tree farms grow out of control.”  I kid you not- I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.

Life After People” has been so successful that History has rolled out other end-of-the-world specials.  Even it’s eminently popular show, “The Universe,” has succumbed to extinction porn.  The show’s affable team of super-geek scientists now excitedly demonstrate how the whims of the Universe could (and likely will) usher in the eradication of humans.  For example, in the episode “The Day the Moon Was Gone,” we are advised that the disappearance of the moon would lead to “pitch-black nights, steady 100-mph winds spawning giant hurricanes that last for months, and virtually no complex life forms, much less humans” could survive.  If I ran a skydiving school, I would advertise during this show.  “Might as well give it a shot!  You’re going to die anyways when the moon’s gone!”

Another episode is called “Stopping Armageddon.”  What’s funny about this one is that while the title suggests that Armageddon is in fact, stoppable, a teaser quickly clarifies that “in reality, it’s only a matter of time before a giant space rock threatens to wipe out civilization.”  Duck!

In the episode “10 Ways to Destroy the Earth,” the show’s scientists each offer a plausible theory as to how our planet might be completely destroyed.  With an “Aw, shucks!” attitude, they breezily describe the brain-scrambling science behind black holes swallowing the Earth, asteroids smashing into the planet, or the loss of gravity pulling the Earth apart.  Wisely, and perhaps at the suggestion of the corporate sponsors, there are no CGI vignettes of elderly people engulfed in flames while writhing on the ground, or flying space rocks raining down on a park full of families.

To be fair, for those viewers who look to the History Channel for events that have actually occurred, the network also offers shows like “Sex in the Ancient World.”  I don’t know if there are any CGI recreations of ancient Phoenicians knocking sandals.

Not to be outdone, the folks at the National Geographic Network (“Nat Geo”), have responded with an equally grim spectrum of end-of-the-world programs, leading with the recent “What if the Earth Stopped Spinning.”  This special is notable in that it offered more than the now-pedestrian CGI landscapes of oceans becoming deserts and planets cracking in half.  In this program, the producers upped the Apocalyptic ante by adding a sub-plot involving live actors portraying a multi-cultural group of khaki-clad survivors from Kansas who are forced to find food and shelter from the perilous conditions of six month-winters and dehydration.  Disappointingly, the multi-cultural group of climactic refugees do not address the issue of proliferating their species.  At least not on camera.

It is noteworthy to add that during “What if the Earth Stopped Spinning,” Nat Geo featured a commercial for its show “Stellar Storms.”  This commercial shows a bearded man wearing goggles and chuckling while using a fantastically high-powered air hose to rip apart a chicken breast on a spit.  He cheerfully notes that were a human to get caught in a storm on Jupiter, the ferocious winds would rip that person’s skin from their bones in much the same fashion.  Now, back to the decimation of Earth!

Nat Geo also rolled out a poor man’s version of “Stopping Armageddon” with its own asteroid-themed special called “Cosmic Collisions,” which asked, “Could an asteroid impact with Earth wipe out the human race?”  Obviously the answer to this is “No,” because we know in any asteroid situation, Bruce Willis can simply fly out to the space rock and blow it in half with a nuclear bomb, while Ben Affleck sits locked safely in a closet.

Nat Geo has also created an entire sub-genre of programs called “Natural Disasters,” which showcase the devastation of avalanches, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, tsunamis, volcanoes, and wildfires.  Of course, these programs are irrelevant unless they can highlight the vast numbers of humans likely to perish from each flavor of disaster.  In a giant middle finger extended to its colleagues over at the Travel Channel, the “Vesuvius Time Bomb” episode of “Naked Science” reminds us all that “a ticking time bomb that could kill millions in a fraction of a second sits a mere five miles outside of Naples, Italy.”  As of press time, there has been no response from the Naples Board of Tourism.

As quickly as an astrophysicist can conceive a new way for mankind to be completely eradicated, there will be a network, a CGI team, and a humorless, deep-voiced narrator to show us how it will look.  Is it a manifestation of our ego that we’re fascinated by a world without us?  Do we unconsciously hope that the Universe will look boring and uneventful without our tight jeans, swimming pools, and beer can collections?  Or is this just good ol’-fashioned schadenfreude aimed at our remote progeny?  Is this just our smug way of looking at our grandchildren’s grandchildren’s grandchildren and saying, “Hah!  Sucks to be you!”

For now, I’m not really sweating it. If Bruce Willis can’t save me, I know that Kevin Costner surely will.

———-

*I have to acknowledge that I will feel incomplete until Kevin Costner finishes his PA trilogy.  I’m thinking something along the lines of “The Sandwich Maker,” where Kevin Costner, as Randy “The Kid” Howell, works in a deli in Pittsburgh until Armageddon, after which he has to cross the post-nuclear landscape to find the fabled Condiment City, where he can eventually locate enough mayonnaise and Russian dressing to continue making sandwiches for the unwashed, yet plucky survivors of the modern holocaust. I’m thinking of Russell Crowe as the leader of The Pizza Boys, a savage, leather-clad bike gang, and Danny Glover as Costner’s wise and patient advisor who dies at the hands of The Pizza Boys, but not before grabbing Costner by his shirt and pulling him close, whispering, “You make yo’ damn sammiches Kid!  Don’t let them… stop… you…”

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JOE DALY writes for a number of publications, including the UK's Metal Hammer and Classic Rock magazines, Outburn, Bass Guitar Magazine and several other print and online outlets. He is the music and cultural observer for Chuck Palahniuk's LitReactor site and his works have been published in several languages. When he is not drafting wild-eyed manifestos, Joe enjoys life in San Diego's groovy North County, teaching music journalism, doing yoga, running, playing guitar and spending tireless hours in deep and meaningful conversations with his beloved dogs, Cabo and Lola. You can check out his rants at http://joedaly.net and follow him on Twitter: @JoeD_SanDiego

88 responses to “I Could Watch You Die All Day Long”

  1. Brandy says:

    Extinction porn. Hah! As an archaeologist, one of my first projects was to go through a trash can and draw conclusions based on what I found. I’m so not kidding! (Because your garbage is your most intimate thing). You can veritably find out anything about someone by going through their trash–No, kiddos don’t try this at home.

    I always wonder what future generations would think about today’s people if they found our remnants a million years from now. I mean, what would you think if you dug up a skeleton and found silicone sacks in the rib cage of an ancient ancestor?

    • Joe Daly says:

      Brandy, that’s hilarious! And scary, too. I don’t know what my trash says about me. In the recycling bin, you’d find coffee creamer and water bottles. In the regular trash, you’d find lots of boxes of vegetarian food and crappy magazines.

      Wow- as I write this, I realize that my trash probably reveals me to be shallow and obsessed with instant gratification. Sigh…

      Laughing at the silicone sacks. Don’t forget the Prada sunglasses that would be wrapped around the skull!

      • Brandy says:

        Hahahahahaha. Garbage archaeology is interesting. You find receipts, old shampoo bottles, mail. You can usually determine quite accurately how many people live there, their basic eating habits, their ages (within reason), male or female, etc.

        I would be afraid if someone went through my trash. I mean, checking out at Target is bad enough…I went through the other day with colored light bulbs (for photos), cold medication, Guinness, birth control, rope, and a Scooby-Doo dvd. I’m neurotic I know…but I still felt self-conscious checking out!!

        Prada sunglasses–nice detail, how did I forget about those! 😉

        • Anon says:

          Self-conscious? I once, due to terrible domestic timing, had to buy duct tape (it fixes everything but doesn’t auto-generate), latex gloves (makes diaper duty more tolerable) and condoms (because I hadn’t been “cleared for takeoff” by my urologist yet) in one trip. Thank God I didn’t need box cutters or I wouldn’t have made it out of the parking lot without a SWAT take-down.

        • Brandy says:

          Hahahahahaha. Just add some acetone, ethanol and bleach to your cart next time. …and please, please describe the look the cashier gave you.

        • Anon says:

          Ha. Never mind a description, how about adding to the fun by saying, “Hang on a sec – ” and taking a picture of them with your phone-cam? When they ask why you did it, you can answer, “Just in case.”

        • Brandy says:

          I double dog dare you!

        • Matt says:

          Hah. You guys should read my “First Time Before the First Time” post from a couple of months ago. It touches on this very topic.

  2. Becky says:

    Ahhhh…I, too, am a History Channel/Nat Geo devotee, and I’ve had so many of the same thoughts you’re having.

    There has been a startling proliferation of doomsday entertainment lately. I’d say, as a species, we must be feeling somewhat vulnerable. If we were a girl in a bar, we’d be swept off for a one-night stand by even the most average suitor.

    I think of “The Invention of Lying”: “The world’s going to end if we don’t _______ RIGHT NOW!”

    Of course, in the movie, it’s “have sex,” but put whatever you like there.

    I watched most of “10 Ways to Destroy the Earth.” It was sort of funny, in a way; like asking a bunch of comic book geeks which notorious villain’s world domination plot they’d most like to see succeed.

    Hey. Yeah. THAT’S the show I want to see.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Becky, I’m stoked you saw “10 Ways to Destroy the Earth!” It was totally funny, wasn’t it? It’s like they grabbed them all at the holiday party and said, “You get to destroy Earth, however you want. GO!”

      Surprised that I enjoyed “The Invention of Lying” so much!

  3. Becky says:

    Oh, yes. And a few episodes of “Life After People,” and I also saw the “The Day the Moon Was Gone.”

    My least favorite way for the world to end would be gamma radiation, I think. I’ve seen that one discussed more than once. It looks particularly nasty.

    Though I was happy to hear that in the unlikely event earth is ever dislodged from its orbit and hurled into outer space, we could probably still survive as mole people, living underground and using geothermal power to…I don’t know. Power our electric toothbrushes. In vastly reduced numbers, of course.

    Good to know. Might invest in a really big drill, just in case.

  4. Anon says:

    Ha! I can’t bring myself to watch those things. I think I tried once but was so offended by the lack of “cause of death” you noted that I couldn’t get interested. The one I did suffer through (out of morbid curiosity) was something like “Apocalypse Man” – sort of a “Survivorman for the Coming But Unexplained Demise of Civilization”. Great tips on making grappling hooks out of crowbars and rope, foraging for supplies, miraculously finding batteries and CB units, knowing the best way to carry a flashlight so you can club any unexpected and attacking cannibals into at least unconsciousness – all sorts of goodies. It was atrocious. As much as I tried to give it a fair shot, the silly contradiction factor was too high. Plus, you know, what kind of disaster happened, dammit?!?

    • Becky says:

      Not knowing what disappeared the people in “Life After People” was the most ridiculous thing ever.

      As far as I can tell, the options were 3: 1) Virus that only affects humans and causes victims’ corpses to magically vanish 2) Humanity unanimously decides to vacate a perfectly good planet, for no apparent reason, to the last man, and 3) a rapture in which every human on earth is accepted into heaven.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Exactly! The lack of explanation for disaster is maddening. AND it would logically affect your survival plan, wouldn’t it? For example, if the disaster were a new ice age, then you could probably hang out above ground without fear of radiation poisoning. But if the disaster was biological, then maybe you would no longer be able to eat those tasty turnips your dog (who miraculously survived) brought in from the field.

      The frustrating thing about “Life After People” was not only that the buildings were all intact- everything looked like people had simply gone “POOF!” and disappeared. Aliens? Implosion?

      I think the show we all really crave is “Life Immediately Before Life After People.”

      • Becky says:

        YES.

        These answers have questions, History Channel!

        You know what it is…it’s this foray into the future.

        They’re dabbling outside their area of expertise, with preposterous results.

      • Anon says:

        There was also a less cerebral (imagine!) series on “Spike TV”, I believe. Essentially another “how to survive [x]”, ranging from burning skyscrapers to Beslan-type terrorist attacks on malls to home invasions. About as dopey as anything else in the end but at least 1. the scenarios were clearly outlined and didn’t rely on any deus ex machina nonsense, 2. there were a few scenarios in which the proper answer was “they’re going to die anyway – leave them there or you’ll die with them”, 3. probably better than half of the first aid and navigation advice given was actually workable (which was a far cry over the other dreck) and 4. at least one episode gave accurate – if quick-&-dirty – instructions on loading, charging, sighting-in and firing an AK47. 😀

  5. Thomas Wood says:

    This piece makes me want to write an essay on the very male part of my man-brain which tells me that, despite all evidence to the contrary, it will be a good idea for me to prepare for the post apocalypse through storage of water and pistol lessons at the gun range. Also, start scouting out your mates.

    • Anon says:

      If I may, I would suggest starting with water (a basic need that should be indulged daily) and then move to potential mates (a basic desire… that should be indulged daily, if not hourly, depending on the hottitude of said mate) before considering shooting lessons. Ideally, you could
      find a heavily-armed mate that works at a water treatment facility but lives on the family cattle ranch.

      • Thomas Wood says:

        The shooting lessons are so that I don’t have any trouble when someone else comes for my 1st and 2nd need.

        • Anon says:

          Hm. Good point. Perhaps consider water, then mate, then body armor and then pistolero work in case all hell breaks loose before your lessons are complete?

          Of course, in a perfect world, you could just hook up with an incredible hot yet viciously brutal cyborg – say, Number 6 from (forgive my geekness) this latest incarnation of Battlestar Galactica. That would cover your hydration needs, too, since Tricia Helfer is so hot she could make the heavens weep on command. Woof….

        • Thomas Wood says:

          i was always a 7of9 man myself, if we’re going to show our geeky cards.

        • Anon says:

          But – AHEM! – it is all completely academic as I am happily, happily married and no literal sex machine could hold a candle to my spouse or raise my interest – or anything else – even after an ELE.

          Just in case, you know, this page ever turns up in a search or anything…

        • Cheryl says:

          Um, Anon? You do remember you’re like, anonymous, right? Ugh, and you said ELE… reminds me of that horrible asteroid movie with Frodo and Helen Hunt’s doppleganger. Just like those t.v. shows only so, so long. I know that movie didn’t make up the term ELE, but it was such a dramatic plot point in the script, I will forever associate the two.

          Just remember, Armageddon was the “good” asteroid/comet-hitting-the-earth movie that year. I love Jerry Bruckheimer movies.

          You boys can have your girlbots. Just in case Bruce Willis doesn’t save us, in a perfect world, I would stick with Starbuck and Sam. Sam is technically cylon, it’s true, but he’s tough, resourceful (from his resistance days) and easy on the eyes (pre-shooting and hybridization, of course). And Starbuck is crazy, but I’d take her over Six any day. Threesome!

        • Anon says:

          Madam, no one is truly anonymous – let caution be your watchword. You do, however, make a very valid point on Starbuck being crazy which immediately puts me in mind of the “batshit crazy/wild ride in bed” nexus theory. Threesome it is!

          Hm. It looks like I may end up with a full five on my “Fantasy Infidelty List” after all. Who knew?

        • Joe Daly says:

          Holy crap. I just realized I don’t have a “Fantasy Infidelity List!” Wait- I’m single. It would just be a “Fantasy List.” Still, I better get cracking on mine…

        • Anon says:

          Another advantage to cylon chicks – “there are many copies”. We could have the same model numbers on both of our lists yet not actually have to worry about the ickiness of time sharing. This would allow us to avoid territorial behavior detrimental to the unit cohesion necessary for surviving such a completely undescribed disaster of an indeterminate magnitude.

          Or something.

        • Cheryl says:

          Well, in the spirit of generosity (and greediness), provided my own dear husband survives (pray to baby jesus), he is, of course, invited. We can start the first porn-reality-show of the new world – Post-Apocalyptic Wife Swap: Bitches Got Guns!

        • Anon says:

          Of course, it really would be a reality show. With no electricity, we’d have to set up a gigantic, puppet-show mockup of a TV screen – audience on one side, “performance” on the other. Could make channel surfing a bit awkward… possibly painful. And viewer boredom might be uncomfortable to hear – “Repeats already?? He did that same move with the pillows, feather and honey last week!”

        • Cheryl says:

          The apocalypse has pillows and honey!?! Well that doesn’t sound so bad! Bring it on, apocalypse!

        • Joe Daly says:

          So to channel surf, would the audience just call out to the performers?

          “Cop show!”

          “News!”

          “Barney!”

          “Back to cop show!”

          That sounds like a supreme pleasure…

        • Cheryl says:

          Now that’s entertainment! Improve at the End of the World.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Which raises another good point- firearm dealers would do well to advertise on these shows. Wait- can people advertise guns on tv? Now that I think about it, maybe not. But certainly thrill seeking/militia-type suppliers could tap into a potential gold mine of consumers who watch these shows.

      Apocalypse or no Apocalypse, my mate scouting process remains keen and intact. Still, better set up a short list in my iPhone if and when it all hits the fan.

      • Thomas Wood says:

        Ironic that you would pick the first device to be useless as, surely, all of the mobile stations would be inoperative. I stick with bird calls which are a lively introduction to any party and a true life-saver when you’re trying to find your loved ones amidst a post-apocalyptic prairie of wild and, no doubt, hunting feral pets. Aren’t I clever?

        • Joe Daly says:

          A hah! But if I simply created a short list with names/last known addresses, I wouldn’t need reception to begin my quest. I’m a planner- I hate the idea of having to wait for the asteroid to hit before knowing who my post-Apocalyptic mate would be.

  6. Zara Potts says:

    When I was a child, I used to fantasize about a bomb going off and killing everyone except me and my loved ones. I thought it would be so much fun to have the run of the world. I imagined moving into a different house every day, having a new outfit to choose every day from any shop I wanted… It was bliss. I really wanted that to happen.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Zara- me too! Although to be fair, I think it was the pre-teen burglar in me, just looking for a consequence-free way of breaking into houses.

      Based on recent programming, you might still get your wish. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for you! No, wait… should I do that? I’m so conflicted…

    • Anon says:

      I think most kids/teens go through that sort of thing. I outgrew it early when I suddenly thought, “What are the odds that you would be the one Darwin cheered for?”

      Pff. Stupid, damnable, early-bloomer intellectual honesty, wasting a perfectly good apocalyptic fantasy.

  7. Irene Zion says:

    Joe,
    I don’t have any faith in Kevin Costner.
    Bruce Willis can save the entire planet single-handed, though.
    I have no doubts at all.

    • Joe Daly says:

      But Irene- he figured out how to deliver mail. AFTER THE APOCALYPSE! Don’t give up on Kevin so quickly!

      Wait. I just remembered the rest of his career. Yeah, ok, you can give up on him.

  8. Greg Olear says:

    Great piece, Joe.

    Organized religions are almost all founded upon a belief in the Apocalypse…perhaps Modern Science, which is its own religion in many ways, is going to the same End of Days well.

    Also: “What If the Earth Stopped Spinning” might be the stupidest idea for a show I’ve ever heard.

  9. Lorna says:

    Whoa, Dude….I am like rubbernecking my own death on a daily basis. Please pass the bong. Just kidding….I don’t do that anymore. But it does humor me to imagine a bunch of stoners (are they still called that?) sitting around watching these shows of Armageddon.

    “Is it a manifestation of our ego that we’re fascinated by a world without us? Do we unconsciously hope that the Universe will look boring and uneventful without our tight jeans, swimming pools, and beer can collections? Or is this just good ol’-fashioned schadenfreude aimed at our remote progeny? Is this just our smug way of looking at our grandchildren’s grandchildren’s grandchildren and saying, “Hah! Sucks to be you!”

    Yes, yes, yes and yes.

    I can dig it.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Lorna- can’t you just picture the conversations that might go on between the late night stoners watching Apocalypse programming?

      “Dude, I would bring ‘Mr. Bubbles’ (pet name for bong), the 1979 Virginia Beach show where they did ‘Sugar Magnolia’ right before ‘Ripple,’ a shitload of graham crackers, and a knife!”

      “Dude… the Dead only played those songs back to back once in 1979 and it was Detroit, not Virginia Beach. Wait- what were we talking about again?”

      Nothing wrong with a little schadenfreude to start out the week, eh?

      Thanks!

  10. Marni Grossman says:

    If you’re to be believed, Joe, I’m the only person who doesn’t view the Apocalypse with fascination.

    I remember seeing advertisements for “Life After People.” I yawned and flipped over to an episode of “America’s Next Top Model.”

    Although, now that I think about it, maybe “America’s Next Top Model” is one of the signs of the coming End of Days…

    • Joe Daly says:

      Marni-

      Your disassociation from human annihilation is not just refreshing, but inspiring. You’re just the kind of person I want to lead my group of survivors after an Earth-scorching disaster. After all, in most disaster movies, the true hero is reluctant at the beginning, repeatedly rebuffing the entreaties from the people who need them, until the Big Moment comes, when the hero steps up and takes on the mantle of leadership.

      So yeah, after the Apocalypse, look for a guy with a bunch of tattoos and two dogs- that will be me looking for you!

  11. Cheryl says:

    I’ll bet that when the world actually ends, millions of people will be glued to their t.v.s watching “10 Ways to Destroy the Earth.”

    I am currently existing without cable (no the apocalypse didn’t happen here), and the only one of these shows I knew about was “Life After People.” Which struck me as ridiculous for reasons mentioned by you and Becky above. No rotting bodies everywhere? What a disappointment. If my hypothetical corpse can’t be eaten by my own pets after I’m dead and before they starve or are eaten themselves, it’s not the end of the world, in my book.

    “Obviously the answer to this is ‘No,’ because we know in any asteroid situation, Bruce Willis can simply fly out to the space rock and blow it in half with a nuclear bomb, while Ben Affleck sits locked safely in a closet.”

    Hah! Just shut up and stay in the closet, Ben. Let the big boys handle this. Such a hothead.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Cheryl-

      That’s a hilarious image! People alternately looking from their TVs to the windows as asteroids shatter the landscape on both the small screen and their backyard. “Hey! The asteroids on TV are much smaller than the one that just leveled those houses over there!”

      You have also imparted great compassionate wisdom in your comment about your pets eating you. I will make sure to keep some beef stock handy so I can (hopefully) pour some over myself as I lay dying, just to make sure the dogs know it’s OK to eat me. Hopefully they’ll have the good taste to wait until I’ve actually died.

      • Cheryl says:

        You dogs must be must better than mine. I think mine would be eyeing the whole family about 6 seconds after the kibble ran out. Maybe we should stop wearing our ham costumes every night. I think its giving him ideas.

        Ditto for the bacon jewelry.

        • Joe Daly says:

          Well, one of my dogs is party coyote, so I think she’d probably get to me quicker than the golden retriever.

          I’m relieved to hear that there are still families out there who recognize the importance of porkwear.

  12. Erika Rae says:

    “In this program, the producers upped the Apocalyptic ante by adding a sub-plot involving live actors portraying a multi-cultural group of khaki-clad survivors from Kansas who are forced to find food and shelter from the perilous conditions of six month-winters and dehydration.”

    Oh, Joe. That line got a good chuckle out of me.

    Great idea for a post. Loved it.

  13. D.R. Haney says:

    The scholar Mike Davis wrote a book entitled Ecology of Fear: Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster, in which he outlines the numerous times that Southern California has been destroyed in art. The end of Nathaniel West’s great novel The Day of the Locust ends with an apocalyptic riot at a Hollywood premiere, for instance. It seems that, sometimes wittingly and sometimes not, a great many people have wished to see L.A. reduced to ash or rubble, and movie producers seem to have transferred that wish to other locales, with the public tagging along, as it’s tagged along with Hollywood overall. This is why, to me, there’s less and less difference in the L.A. mentality and the mentality found elsewhere nowadays. The whole world is being, or has already become, Californicated.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Duke-

      Such great points. Of course, the studios are always going to bring it back to LA just so they can show how devastating the loss of their entertainment culture is to the rest of humanity. Let’s face it, old man Anderson’s farmhouse in Witchita getting hit by an asteroid won’t sell as many tickets as the Capitol Records building suffering the same fate. At least not to the studios.

      Yes, the world is being Californicated, and I for one, could use some more snuggling when it’s done.

  14. Gloria says:

    Extinction Porn – I love that phrase. Don’t forget 12 Monkeys – which is actually one of my favorites.

    The most horrifying one I ever saw was when I was about 13. My parents happened upon some grainy VHS tape, which looked like a home movie (ah! home movie porn!) It was about the rapture and it showed people refusing to accept the sign of the beast and being beheaded and good-souled Christians running in the street as the heathens came after them to force them to do or die. It was horrifying. Gave me nightmares for days.

    How I love The Twilight Zone. Strangely, this is the third time in two weeks that that episode with Burgess Meredith has been referenced – the first two times were by me. And now I’ve remembered the episode called “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” – which is, of course, an adaptation of the Ambrose Bierce story (and an extremely accurate one, too.) You can find all of these old episodes on Youtube. They’re usually broken down into three parts.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Gloria- still haven’t seen 12 Monkeys, but it’s on my list now!

      That old movie you describe sounds AWESOME. If you ever remember the name, please pass it along!

      Thanks for the tip on the other episode as well. Looking forward to checking it out.

  15. Slade Ham says:

    I, too, find it a bit hilarious that the History Channel airs specials about the future.

    I’m addicted to documentaries like that; they’re the only reason I still have cable. Still, I watch them like speculative fiction and with the knowledge that all of these brilliant minds are probably wrong. There are a million ways life on this planet could be destroyed, but unless they happen to occur in the next 50 years or so, I can honestly say that I probably won’t care.

    • Joe Daly says:

      No kidding, eh? “Next on the History Channel- Life on Mars!” Are they out of history already?

      You’re so dead on about the 50 year window. They must tell the scientists to keep their predictions far enough out in the future that people don’t freak out. As long as these black holes are a hundred years out or so, I’ll sleep like a baby.

      Btw- caught one of your bits on YouTube where you seize a guy’s phone in the audience. Freaking hilarious!

      • Slade Ham says:

        Hahahaha, I forget sometimes that there are clips out there of me. I know the one you’re talking about (I think). That’s a pet peeve of mine. I will happily banter back in forth with a person that is talking during the show, but to flagrantly have a cell phone conversation? I get a little ornery 🙂

        “Out of history”. Hahaha, perhaps they are.

  16. Matt says:

    And now I’ve got another item to place on the List of Reasons Matt is Glad He Doesn’t Have Cable: apocalypse porn. I find it genuinely disgusting how fictional end-of-the-world programming gets so much attention when real EOW events like the Haitian earthquake disappear from public consciousness after a week or so. And having been in New Orleans for Hurricane Katrina and endured what potential EOW conditions might be like, I really find no need to revist them via fiction.

    Well, okay, I still love the shit out of The Road Warrior, 12 Monkeys and Children of Men. And I thought The Road (the novel, didn’t see the movie yet) was spectacular, if unrelentingly brutal.

    My last girlfriend was a big fan of the Zombie Apocalypse scenario, especially the original Romero trilogy, but never – even after I explained it – got how those movies were a metaphor for our eventual self-destruction through mindless, aggressive consumerism. She once told me that she very seriously evaluated the prospective places for our first apartment together on how safe they would be in the event of a zombie attack – well after we’d finally settled on a place, of course. No wonder she rejected so many otherwise decent prospective abodes.

    • Anon says:

      Matt, did you ask her to qualify the requirement – running/shrieker versus shambling/moaning zombies? Because I suspect strategies would need to vary.

      I do confess I really enjoyed the hell out of Zombieland, possibly even more than Shaun of the Dead.

      • Matt says:

        Oh, she was a traditionalist. Moaning/shambling all the way. Which kind of decribes her performance in bed there towards the end of things, as well.

        I enjoyed Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland quite thoroughly myself. Bill Murray’s cameo in Zombieland is utterly priceless.

      • Joe Daly says:

        >>I do confess I really enjoyed the hell out of Zombieland, possibly even more than Shaun of the Dead.<<

        Hey- that’s crazy talk there…

        • Anon says:

          What can I say? I have a thing for creative mayhem and watching Woody go on killing sprees had me rolling. Shaun was special for me, though, because “Ed” looked and acted remarkably like a very good friend of mine, including his staring blankly at a video game screen for hours at a time.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Matt-

      It’s an ego thing. In fictitious EOW programming, the ego is unscathed because it’s all make believe, futuristic stuff. So the ego is entirely removed. On the other hand, in real life EOW stuff, the ego has to deal with the fact that there are more significant things happening than said ego’s problem of the day.

      Another underrated EOW production was The Stand. I’m a Stephen King fan, so I went into it wondering if they’d be able really pull off what the book had so grippingly done. Randall Flagg was perfectly cast, and in true King fashion, he did not shy away from the cause of death and from the consequences of life with dead bodies everywhere.

      Zombies don’t really scare me. If I can’t outwit or outrun a zombie, then I bow in deference to natural selection.

  17. I remember during the beginning of the U.S.-Iraq War I was talking to some of my history students at the time about the idea of a soldier channel. Think of all the real-time warfare we could be watching on the old boob tube, which would include lots of sitting around and digging latrines. Of course, an entire end-of-the-world channel would be next. Lots of apocalyptic telethons and cool commercials advertising local churches and potlucks. In fact, we could just start the channel on our own on cable access. We could have special guests. Lots of em. Everyone from fire department officials to local politicians…

    OK, I better turn my brain off now.

    • Joe Daly says:

      It’s amazing that hasn’t come to fruition yet. There’s no shortage of military-themed programs, and as long as R. Lee Emery continues to draw breath, you’ll have a charismatic face for the channel. Plus you could get all the Viet Nam guys just heading into retirement. Maybe morning weapon-themed game shows or Navy soap operas. I really think you’re onto something!

  18. Simon Smithson says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sCnHz45XEGo

    That’s not fair…

    Then, of course, there’s Futurama’s awesome satire:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IKnfKxBYL4M&feature=related

    Isn’t there an idea that horror reflects society’s deepest fears? In this age of larger-than-large disaster movies, maybe what we’ve come to fear, most of all, is extinction?

    Or Kevin Costner.

    • That Futurama clip is one of my favourite moments from what I consider one of the greatest shows ever.

    • Joe Daly says:

      That’s awesome! Thanks for the vids! I love where the boss angrily points out:

      “You, Mr. Beemis, are a READER!”

      Maybe the ultimate (and next logical) genre will be the Extinction of Kevin Costner.

      “10 Ways to Destroy Kevin Costner”

      “What if Kevin Costner’s Heart Stopped Beating?”

      “The Day the Moon Fell on Kevin Costner”

      and the inevitable

      “Life After Kevin Costner”

      Simon, every moment that you are not pitching these ideas to a network executive, you might as well be throwing twenty dollar bills into the toilet.

  19. Mary says:

    “The sheer numbers and variety of Apocalyptic programming is conclusive proof that our species is so egocentric that even our own terrifying demise thrills us. It’s like we’re rubbernecking our own death.”

    Oh my god… That statement made the pit of my stomach do something unsettling.

    Also, I have to admit that “Life After People” sounds fascinating, and no, I’m not a stoner, but I really love the mental images of what the world would look like after we’re gone. This was so funny and insightful. I love when those things work together.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Thanks, Mary. And apologies for unsettling your stomach. Better now?

      I was completely captivated by “Life After People.” In fact, I downloaded it to watch on a cross country flight. Just in case I finished my book, my magazines ran out, and I couldn’t sleep. Of course, as soon as the in flight hostess gave us the green light to go turn on our electronic devices, I went straight for LAP. Apart from pets dying, I have to admit- it was fascinating. There, I said it.

  20. Irene Zion says:

    HA!
    Go look at Kristen Buckley’s piece!
    She agrees with me about Bruce Willis, totally without having known about our discussion on who could save the world.
    I believe I have been proved correct here.
    (Nanny nanny doo doo.)

    • Joe Daly says:

      Irene- how funny is that? Who would have thought that as the End of Days approaches, the world will polarize between Bruce Willis and Kevin Costner??

  21. Irene Zion says:

    AHA!
    Only YOU think the world is polarized between Bruce Willis and Kevin Costner.
    There is no one, thus far, who has come forward to support the kevin Costner theory.
    The rest of the people in the world know that, at the approach of the End of Days, the mighty and wily Bruce Willis will save the day!

    • Joe Daly says:

      The Kevin Costner Contingent don’t feel the need to even address the spurious claims that Bruce Willis comes even close to comparing with our fearless, wolf-dancing icon. We will be happy to shoot Bruce Willis into space as a first line of defense, safe and snuggly in the knowledge that Kevin Costner is but a phone call away if humanity needs him.

  22. Irene Zion says:

    I am SHOCKED, Joe.
    SHOCKED!
    I doubt that there is a contingent working for the likes of that skinny-ass, wimpy Kevin Costner.
    I think you are making all this up because you have a man-crush on Kevin Costner.

  23. Irene Zion says:

    AHA!
    I knew it!

  24. Judy Prince says:

    “It’s like we’re rubbernecking our own death.” Great piece,
    Joe, on several levels. And that quote nails most of them.

    Kevin Costner? What are you thinking?!

    Bruce Willis, well ok, but look who preposition-name
    Demi is with now—-Ashton Kuchner, not bad to look at
    and has brains, too.

    Oh, forgot to mention he’s lots
    younger than BW.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Thanks, Judy! Have ye no faith in Crash Davis?? I fear that Irene’s gotten to you before I could plead my case.

      I would say though, that I’ve seen some of Ashton Kutcher’s Twitter posts, and if the world does begin to come to an end, I have a sneaking suspicion that Natural Selection will be knocking on his door in the early rounds…

  25. Elizabeth says:

    Hilarious! Personally I’m down for any show that features “a bearded man wearing goggles and chuckling while using a fantastically high-powered air hose to rip apart a chicken breast on a spit.” If that’s not great television programming, I don’t know what is.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Thanks, Elizabeth! I’m with you about that commercial. If/when history looks back on these early days of the new millennium, a video clip of a man skinning a chicken breast with an air hose might be the most succinct comment on society at the time.

      It only hit me after writing the piece, that if the winds on Jupiter are really that strong, if a human ever got there, and got caught up in such a wind, wouldn’t he or she simply be carried away by the wind, a la Dorothy? I think the goggled air guy’s analogy only works for humans transported to Jupiter and then speared to the ground.

  26. Team Rosalie says:

    Team Rosalie…

    I love Team Jacob but I love Team Rosalie so much more……

  27. Hello! Thanks for the heads up!

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