Special Feature: Four Recent Signs of the Apocalypse…Real-Life Horror!

Originally planned for you guys this past weekend, all of the trick or treating, cupcakes, haunted houses and horror movies got the best of us, and we completely forgot to share this gem with you. We’re already depressed that our beloved holiday has come and gone, so here’s a postmortem Halloween snack that’s perfect for the mood. Beyond the break you’ll find Chris Eggertsen’s “Four Recent Signs of the Apocalypse“, which features real-life scenarios along with movies you can watch in “preparation” for the big bang. Make sure to bring plenty of candy.
“Life is just a party, and parties weren’t meant to last.” – Prince, “1999″

Paranormal Activity may be the number one movie in the country as this is written, but when all is said and done, what transpires in the film isn’t exactly…plausible. Sure it was scary, but it’s not like we have to worry about being stalked and possessed by a murderous demon in our daily lives. That creepy noise emanating from outside your window? It’s called the wind. That rattling sound in the walls that’s been keeping you up at night? Bad pipes. Those malevolent voices you’ve been hearing inside your head? For chrissakes, see a psychiatrist already.

Really, all you need to do to scare yourself shitless these days is open up a newspaper or browse the top headlines on Google News. It’s crazy, I know, but there’s this thing called the real world, where something totally fucked up happens about every two milliseconds and on cable news there’s at least one new developing story every single day that could potentially lead to the destruction of humankind as we know it. In other words – it’s journalism’s business to scare the living daylights out of us, and business is fuckin’ good, y’all.

So in honor of Halloween, where basking in your fears is half the fun (in my experience, the other half involves close, extended contact between my liver and a bottle of 80-proof alcohol), I decided to shine a spotlight on a few choice headlines from Google News that made me think twice about pursuing these “goals” and “aspirations” everyone’s always telling me about. Along with each headline, a list of five thematically-linked films to maximize your sense of end-of-the-world paranoia. Word of warning: after you’ve finished browsing through these, you might find yourself seriously considering starting construction on that bomb shelter you’ve been thinking about for the last few years.

Note: The films I include in my viewing lists are not necessarily quality pieces of cinema; they are simply films that fit well with the apocalyptic scenarios being discussed.

End-of-the-World Scenario: Nuclear Apocalypse

Headline: “Old Trick Threatens the Newest Weapons” (NY Times – October 26, 2009)

Telling excerpt:In the future, and possibly already hidden in existing weapons, clandestine additions to electronic circuitry could open secret back doors that would let the makers in when the users were depending on the technology to function. Hidden kill switches could be included to make it possible to disable computer-controlled military equipment from a distance. Such switches could be used by an adversary or as a safeguard if the technology fell into enemy hands.

What does it all mean: The U.S. almost exclusively uses computer chips manufactured in foreign countries for use in “classified systems”, a category that includes military weaponry and defense systems. Smart.

Why this is a problem: Using computer chips that have been manufactured on foreign soil in our heavy-duty military equipment could allow foreign enemy combatants intent on the destruction of all of us ignorant American mullet-heads the opportunity to modify said computer chips in undetectable ways. Ways that could lead to the failure of our missile defenses in the event of an attack, or potentially cause our own weapons to turn against us. Need I mention that some of these weapons are of, um, the nuclear variety? That’s right, people – as long as nuclear weapons still exist, it’ll only take one asshole to obliterate a sizable portion of the human race.

Viewing List: Terminators 1-3 (1984-2003), Fail-Safe (1964), When The Wind Blows (1986), On The Beach (1959), Miracle Mile (1988)

Link to Article: NY Times

End-of-the-World Scenario: Deadly Pandemic

Headline: “H1N1 Widespread in 46 States as Vaccines Lag” (NY Times – October 24, 2009)

Telling Excerpt:President Obama has declared the swine flu outbreak a national emergency, allowing hospitals and local governments to speedily set up alternate sites for treatment and triage procedures if needed to handle any surge of patients, the White House said on Saturday. The declaration came as thousands of people lined up in cities across the country to receive vaccinations, and as federal officials acknowledged that their ambitious vaccination program has gotten off to a slow start. Only 16 million doses of the vaccine were available now, and about 30 million were expected by the end of the month. Some states have requested 10 times the amount they have been allotted. Flu activity — virtually all of it the swine flu — is now widespread in 46 states…

What does it all mean: Yeah, the President. National Emergency. Outbreak. And a shortage of vaccine to boot.

Why this is a problem: Ok, so Obama calling the swine flu pandemic a national emergency is perhaps more of a political move (hello, health care reform) than a genuine cause for alarm, but the panic surrounding the H1N1 virus over the past few months has certainly made many of us stop and think about what we’d do if a more deadly pandemic were to descend. And you know, not to scare anybody – but viruses have been known to mutate into deadlier forms. Listen, all I’m saying is if you suddenly find yourself with a few less friends and family members in the coming weeks, you might want to get the fuck outta town.

Viewing List: 28 Days/Weeks Later (2002, 2007), The Stand (miniseries) (1994), The Last Man on Earth (1964), The Andromeda Strain, 12 Monkeys (1995)

Link to Article: NY Times

End-of-the-World Scenario: Environmental Disaster

Headline: “Arctic Ice To Vanish In Summer, Report Says” (CNN – October 15, 2009)

Telling Excerpt:Professor Peter Wadhams, head of the Polar Ocean Physics Group at the UK’s University of Cambridge said: `With a large part of the region now first year ice, it is clearly more vulnerable. The area is now more likely to become open water each summer, bringing forward the potential date when the summer sea ice will be completely gone.’

What does it all mean: This study, undertaken by UK-based Catlin Arctic Survey and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), found that the majority of ice in the area of the Arctic they surveyed was already too thin to survive next summer’s ice melt. In the next twenty to thirty years, they predict there will be no ice left at the North Pole during the warmest months period. By the way, that’s not normal.

Why this is a problem: Just a further indicator of global warming’s potential to radically alter the world that we live in within a relatively short period of time. Of course, what we really need to worry about is the ice pack in Antarctica – if that were to melt, the sea levels would rise by 61 meters. Unlikely, sure – but even if the seas rose by a fraction of that (say 3 or 4 meters) it would still have catastrophic consequences for the world’s coastal cities. On the upside: gondolas in Manhattan!

Viewing List: The Day The Earth Stood Still (2008), The Day After Tomorrow (2004), The Arrival (1996), Waterworld (1995), Split Second (1992)

Link to Article: CNN

End-of-the-World Scenario: Asteroid/Comet Strike

Headline: “Asteroid Explosion Over Indonesia Raises Fears About Earth’s Defenses” (Daily Telegraph – October 27, 2009)

Telling Excerpt:The asteroid, estimated to have been around 10 metres (30ft) across, hit the atmosphere at an estimated 45,000mph. The sudden deceleration caused it to heat up rapidly and explode with the force of 50,000 tons of TNT. Luckily, due to the height of the explosion – estimated at between 15 and 20 km (nine to 12 miles) above sea level – no damage was caused on the ground. However, if the object had been slightly larger – 20 to 30 metres (60 to 90ft) across – it could easily have caused extensive damage and loss of life, say researchers.

What does it all mean: Ok, seriously NASA, what the fuck? Were you guys just too busy geeking out on your Battlestar Galactica box set, or is this a budgetary problem? Because if it is I’m starting a petition today to increase your federal allotment by 10 thousand trillion gazillion dollars, goddamn it. Screw the bailout – let’s put those funds to better use, like the construction of a giant, high-powered, asteroid-blasting ray gun (which I believe is the technical term for it).

Why this is a problem: The article begs the question – if the asteroid had been any bigger, would NASA or other international space agencies have spotted it? If not, we basically would have been powerless to stop the bastard and millions likely would have died. See, the dinosaurs had an excuse – they didn’t possess the ability to design complex technology. Last time I checked, we’re a lot more intelligent than they ever were. If we can come up with the freaking Internet, surely we (and by “we” I mean scientists) can devise something with the capability to monitor for huge rocks hurtling towards Earth. On a side-note: why does it always seem like the universe is targeting Indonesia?

Viewing List: Night of the Comet (1984), Deep Impact (1998), Armageddon (1998), The Day The Sky Exploded (1958), Meteor (1979)

Link to Article: Telegraph.co.uk