flood

What Hurricane Sandy taught us about the Urban Apocalypse – Part 2


(Mark Segar – Reuters)

It was unsettling how things changed. From the safety of social feeds, we watched as photoshopped spoofs and Michael Bay rip-offs paled before the quiet aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Smouldering burns scarred into whiteboard neighbourhoods. A suburban block turned to some vast waste dump. A seafront bar dragged across a bay, a boat perched on railroad tracks. More than the Boxing Day Tsunami, this felt uncomfortably close to home.

We may be incredulous of the naive expectations of the massive storm; or the religious leader who blamed Sandy on New York State’s acceptance of gay marriage. Yet, what lay in front of us was a solid lesson in where the future may lead for many cities across the globe.

In Part One of What Hurricane Sandy taught us about the urban apocalypse, we looked at Corporate Sponsorship, Disaster Parasites, and the not-so sweet smell of the apocalypse.

Past the cut, in Part Two, we’ll be looking at the comfort of petty theft, how hipsters decorate their fallout digs, and why it’s not over til it’s over…

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What Hurricane Sandy taught us about the Urban Apocalypse – Part 1


(Spencer Platt – Getty Images)

It was unsettling how things changed. From the safety of social feeds, we watched as photoshopped spoofs and Michael Bay rip-offs paled before the quiet aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Smouldering burns scarred into whiteboard neighbourhoods. A suburban block turned to some vast waste dump. A seafront bar dragged across a bay, a boat perched on railroad tracks. More than the Boxing Day Tsunami, this felt uncomfortably close to home.

We may be incredulous of the naive expectations of the massive storm; or the religious leader who blamed Sandy on New York State’s acceptance of gay marriage. Yet, what lay in front of us was a solid lesson in where the future may lead for many cities across the globe. Past the cut, here’s the first of a two part blog on what Hurricane Sandy taught us about surviving the urban apocalypse.
 
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Hurricane Sandy

The Internet is a burst with Sandy. Hurricane Sandy, that is. There are posts about fictional Weather-pocalypses, and everyone seems to want to give you a playlist for the Franken Storm, even The Guardian. Tuesdays is usually the day when I try to get a Music for the Apocalypse up for you guys, but this Tuesday… I feel like everyone else has done it for me. There was also an element of questioning the clammering to use an international disaster to drive hits to your blog. It’s… a sensitive area. However, one of the amazing things about Sandy has been the buoyant spirit of those in the path of the storm, sticking two fingers to the ‘cane and battening down the hatches. So, instead, I’ve decided to look at some of the wonderful things other people have done to bring hope and joy and laughter to each other.

Some people met the hurricane in swimming trunks and a horse’s head.

Jimmy Kruyne has taken credit for this little piece of joy, having tweeted ‘The news crew is down the block, Im thinking horse mask and swimming trunks?

Props should also be given to David Tra for one-upman ship:

The caption on YouTube pleasingly reads ‘On a scale of one to horsehead jogger…’, and whilst I think videoing yourself is not quite the same as high-jacking national news coverage, you have to admire a man who, according to Metro, said: ‘I see your shirtless, horse-head jogger and raise you a shirtless, unicorn-head roller-blader.’

Some people took slightly mean pleasure in tricking Twitter users into retweeting pictures of other storms. istwitterwrong has made an excellent post debunking these. Whilst others responded by satirising this practice and tweeting links to pictures like these:

Click here to see image

click to see image

Naturally, spoof twitter accounts popped up for the hurricane itself:

click to the Twitter pageAnd amidst all this good humour, good people were also on the ground, helping each other out. Witness this haunting image of ambulances moving patients from one hospital where the power had gone out to another:

click to see original Twitter status

Meanwhile, 190 firefighters battled through the night to tackle a catastrophic fire that had broken out in Queens, and Emily Rahimi, a seven year veteran of the Fire Department of New York sat by a Twitter feed through the night providing vital support to people who couldn’t get through the over-taxed 911 calls. Truly a woman you’d want with you, come the apocalypse.

If this were in Britain, we’d call it ‘Dunkirk Spirit’, but really it’s just the simplicity and goodness of people pulling together in a crisis, to stand by one another and keep their spirits up. Not just the heroes, although we should never undermine the work they do, but the jokers who bring us around to the funny side of our situation – who play us a song, or make a silly image, or run around in the rain with a horse mask on their head.

To all of the people keeping it together in the face of Sandy, we at the Girls’ Guide to Surviving the Apocalypse salute you.

Music for the Apocalypse #32: When the Levee Breaks, by Led Zeppelin

by Apocalypse Womble

When you start compiling a list like this, you check out the competition. Sad but true, we at The Girls’ Guide to Surviving the Apocalypse cannot claim to be the first to try and create a music collection for it. It’s one of those things, as Mark Owen said:

Four minute warning,
Everybody wants to know,
What should we do?

Which song or songs do you pick to go out to? It’s a bit like Desert Island Discs, only more frantic. So, yeah, I ran across a few in my travels in search of the very best music to see out the end of the world by, and I was a little surprised to see that ‘When the Levee Breaks’ featured more than once. This guy has measured out songs for your last 51:35 minutes of life, and for points of predicted population loss. ‘When the Levee Breaks’ comes in at T-minus 35:01 and 84,375,000 people left – the point where those on the coast or below sea level will find that the end has come.

OK, so, yeah, water can kill, but is it really apocalyptic? ‘When the Levee Breaks’ is just about a flood, right? I wanted to put it in because I loved Led Zeppelin, but did it really count? Well, those who live in the UK or who follow people in the UK may have had reason to contemplate such matters this week. Very, very shortly after the dreaded hose-pipe ban was declared the heavens opened and the UK Twittersphere began to mutter about collecting the animals two-by-two. At the time of posting, there are 31 flood warnings in effect.

A still from Waterworld.
I liked this film. So there.

It got me thinking, and I think perhaps floods do come under the umbrella (sorry) of traditional apocalypse after all. I mean, wiping out everything except Noah and his menagerie is pretty extreme. And although it’s really about polar ice-caps melting, you can’t deny that Waterworld has a place in the apocalypse-o-sphere, and focuses similarly on the consequences of excess of water.

And then I began to look into the song, and, as is so often the case, reality can come up with more terrifying things than the imagination. The Led Zeppelin version is a cover. The original was first recorded in 1929 by Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie, based on the events of the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. That alone is interesting. Sure, rock bands reworked old blues songs all the time in the sixties and seventies, but why did this one have such longevity? What drew Led Zep to it for the close of their fourth album, joining immortal tracks like ‘Stairway to Heaven’ in what is widely regarded as their best work?

The answer is that the song achingly depicts a truly catastrophic event at least as worthy of being called a historical apocalypse as the eruption at Pompeii. On Good Friday of that year 15 inches of rain fell in just 18 hours, and the rain just kept on coming. Until June. Levees were built and raised: ‘from two feet to 7.5 feet to as much as 38 feet’ and they could not contain the water. 13 levees broke, flooding 26,000 square miles. Figures vary from 246 deaths to over a thousand, but seem to agree that somewhere between 700,000 and 1 million people were displaced. The black community was hit particularly hard, as whites were rescued as a priority and given higher standards of aid. This account describes ‘concentration camps’ where refugees were held in squalid conditions. At Greenville the refugees were put to work to reinforce the levees, and were caught as water ‘more than double the amount of Niagara Falls’ poured through it. Shockingly, in the panic, one man reportedly suggested cutting free an entire boat full of black people.

The Wikipedia article on the flood cites it as a spark-point for the Great Migration of African-Americans away from Southern States like Mississippi towards more northerly cities, although the article on the migration itself suggests a more disparate number of sources. What is certainly true is that there was a large migration of poverty stricken refugees (especially African-Americans) away from the desolate landscape that had once been farmland and towards the cities, and, as the song records, Chicago in particular.

And so. I have a new found respect for this song, and the pain it depicts. Global destruction, in an objective sense? No. But for those people whose lives were lost, or irrevocably ruined, who were cast forth as destitutes upon a world that had little sympathy for them or aid to offer them. ‘Apocalypse’ almost feels like a small, tawdry word.

 - Apocalypse Womble out.

Music for the Apocalypse #30: Bad Moon Rising, by Creedence Clearwater Rivival

by Apocalypse Womble

Now, don’t be fooled into thinking that this is a song purely for werewolf apocalypse survival – the bad moon rising is an equal opportunities omen. In an interview with Roling Stone, John Fogerty said that ‘It was about the apocalypse that was going to be visited upon us’, presumably meaning the classical vision of apocalypse. It was inspired after Fogerty saw a scene in The Devil and Daniel Webster (a film in which the protagonist makes a deal with the devil for seven years good luck) in which everything is destroyed – crops and houses – all around, but Webster’s property is left untouched. Fogerty was blown away by the scene, and wrote a song inspired by the sense of destruction (although not intended to be directly referential of the film itself).

The resulting song juxtaposes an apocalyptic vision of ‘rage and ruin’ with a remarkably chipper rhythm and tune, ideal for braving out the rising tides and stealing yourself for the coming earthquakes and lightning.

Now, I’d have liked to give you the cover version of this by The Blue Aeroplanes, who produced their version for NME‘s 40 year anniversary album, Ruby Trax, as that’s the version I own and prefer, but I guess it’s a bit obscure for YouTube. I’ve been meaning to start adding links to places where you can buy these awesome tunes for a while now – apologies for my laxness, when we reach 52 tracks I’ll call it Music For the Apocalypse Playlist One and do a post with a YouTube playlist and links for where you can buy them all. In the mean time, I will try and correct my lapseness haphazardly. Links to both the original and Blue Aeroplanes versions are below:

‘Bad Moon Rising’, Creedence Clearwater Revival
‘Bad Moon Rising’, on the Ruby Trax album, by The Blue Aeroplanes

This song has been following me around for the last week – I had a whole bunch of songs I was thinking of putting up for number 30, but after I heard it again in the background of a Dexter scene this evening, it felt like fate. In the course of researching this post, I was reminded that it has also apeared in Supernatural, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s had a fairly regular outing since it was written in 1969 any time a film or TV production team wanted to wryly suggest that bad things were on the horrizon. You gotta give hats off to its longevity.

 - Apocalypse Womble out.

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