Monday, October 29, 2012

Disasters: It’s The End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

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I’m sitting here in my house in suburban New York, unable to get to work because the trains aren’t running. It’s raining and windy and I’m watching the President of the United States addressing emergency issues sharing a split screen with a video of churning waves. So far, things are OK here, but it is early in what is supposed to be a massive, long lasting and dangerous storm. I’m working remotely today, but am taking a break to post.

“Disasters” is a good theme for this week. The media and government officials have been talking about the potential dire effects of this storm for days, and in our current environment, if they are right, no one will give anyone credit, and if they overstated the risk, they will be mocked, and the next time, more people will ignore the warnings and put themselves in danger. This morning, I saw a report on the news about people who have ignored “mandatory evacuation orders.” Then, I guess, it really wasn’t mandatory, was it?

I had a bunch of different ideas for this week, from natural disasters—floods, hurricanes, cyclones, to man-made disasters—wars, famine, genocide, to alien and zombie attacks. But, when you come down to it, there is no bigger disaster than the end of the world, as we know it. I’ve been posting here for almost a year without repeating artists, and I did post an R.E.M. cover of Leonard Cohen a couple of weeks ago. But I’m going to argue that the Cohen cover was a “bonus” song, and not the focus of the previous post, so this isn’t a repeat. (As Marshall Eriksen, of How I Met Your Mother would say, “Lawyered!!”)

This is a great song, although the lyrics, in typical R.E.M. style, are difficult to make sense of. But the brilliance of R.E.M., especially in their early-middle periods, was that they were able to convey a mood or emotion without lyrics that were easily understood. Even the lyrics sites on the Internet don’t agree on all of them. I have a vague recollection of seeing this performed on TV once, and Michael Stipe needed to have a music stand with the lyrics available to him, presumably because there are just so damn many of them.

In the summer of 1988, my then-fiancée and her cousin Hilary were driving up to Connecticut to prepare for our wedding. The temperatures in the northeast that week approached those on the surface of Venus, and they drove together, listening to music and singing, including “End of the World,” which was still a pretty new song. Hilary, who was the maid of honor, cleverly worked the song into her toast at the wedding. So, despite the dire message, the song has some very happy connotations to me.

The wind is picking up, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed. I feel fine.

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