nuclear war

Music for the Apocalypse #38: Who’s Next, by Tom Lehrer

As pertinent today as it was in 1967:

The bombs at Hiroshima and NagasakiIt may seem like the days of the Cold War are long forgotten, and (as we’ve noted before) fear of The Bomb is not what it was… but we certainly still care about who’s allowed to have it. Now the worry is the Middle East and North Korea, rather than China, but as Tom Lehrer wisely observes, once one person has The Bomb it doesn’t stop nuclear proliferation, but simply prompts us to ask ‘Who’s next?’

Destruction at HiroshimaYou’re more likely to see zombies or pandemics as the source of the apocalypse in modern science fiction, but there remains something particularly chilling about the threat of global thermonuclear war. Because we’ve seen it. We’ve seen what we can do. And ever since the first bombs were dropped on Japan in 1945 the bomb has been as desired as it has been feared. Because it seems like the only way to be sure that no one will dare to drop a bomb on you is to make sure that you have one yourself.
Terrifyingly, having The Bomb seems to have been taken as a token of admission to being taken seriously on the world stage. Iran claims not to want The Bomb, and yet the ‘nuclear’ payload is still a political asset that Iranians covet: God willing, we expect to soon join the club of the countries that have a nuclear industry, with all its branches, except the military one‘  Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, former president of Iran, has said. And yet the rest of the world looks on with anxiety at their nuclear progress, thinking to themselves, well, if Israel has the bomb… who’s next?
 – Apocalypse Womble out.

Music for the Apocalypse #31: Terminator 2: Judgement Day (Theme), by Brad Fiedel

by Apocalypse Womble

Please go view the original footage here – it’s just too awesome, but they don’t allow embedding with that video, so I used the above.

Anyway, this may be the very greatest music ever to have been written for the apocalypse. Terminator 2: Judgement Day is my very favourite film, and this music is a significant part of the rich tapestry that forms one of the most evocative apocalypse movies ever to have been created.

It is, simply put, a masterpiece. It starts out with the distinctive drums. Big and martial and regular, and combined with the visual on a slow zoom in, first to the fire of apocalypse itself, and then to the name of the film, rendered in cold steal – the approach of war, the approach of the end. And that drum beat combining with the harsh metallic clang that forms the palpable presence of a Terminator within the theme – its regular beat underscores the martial human drums with something more relentless. We hear the measured pace of a killing machine in that sound, recalling the terminator’s relentless pursuit of Sarah Connor from the first movie, as well as Kyle Reese’s relentless, beat-driven warning:

It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.

 Yet, even as these beats tell us of the approaching war, of the terminators, of Judgement Day, this incredible, melancholy swell of hope rolls out along with the fire. Because this is not just about the killer robots that are coming to get you, it is also about John Connor – the boy Skynet is trying to kill, the boy who may one day be the man who will be our hope, who will form a rallying point for the resistance. And more than that, because in this film the question is also raised of stopping the war before it even begins – of defying Skynet and avoiding that bleak future altogether.

This whole film is written on the edge of a knife – on the edge of night – on the edge of possibility. The main lighting state is one of eternal sunset, echoing and reinforcing these two notes in the theme: of the hope and fear that an unfated life, a self-directed life, may take. A life of responsibilities – those of the whole world, in the case of John Connor, and the woman whose responsibility is to raise him and hone him into the weapon he must be; and also for Miles Dyson, too, who must face his own responsibility in helping to create that terrible future. The weight of responsibility is there in those heavy beats as well, and in the minor notes of the (synthesised?) strings that form the hopeful swell and fall back down into sad, laden, low notes again.

This film is called ‘Judgement Day’ and so it opens with the judgement itself – the flames of thermonuclear war – and in the slow-motion pan over burning play equipment the weight of responsibility could not be more palpable. It also puts up front the relationship that is at the centre of this movie: that of a mother to her child, and that same mother to all other children. She is haunted by visions of children who ‘look like burnt paper’ as they are torn apart by the coming apocalypse. As a mother herself, the vision is unbearable, and yet to stop it she has robbed her own son of a true childhood, burdening him with truths few adults could sanely believe. The music combines with these images of burnt innocence to form our opening impression of both a great and terrible moment approaching – a tipping point, where the world will be lost, or saved – and the terror and wonder that must face the people at the centre of that storm.

So, yeah, I think it’s pretty good. If ever I’m travelling down a black-top highway towards the unknown, this is the music I want playing.

The Terminator 2 soundtrack is available from Amazon.

 – Apocalypse Womble out.

Comics of the Apocalypse: Romantically Apocalyptic

 – by Apocalypse Womble

If you’re looking for guides in the apocalypse landscape, you probably can’t do much better than the Captain, from Romantically Apocalyptic.

Although, on the other hand, possibly not…


SNIPPY: Captain you do realise that this train isn’t going anywhere… ever?


SNIPPY: Dear God, we’re actually moving


What’s clear is that life with the Captain and his two gas-masked companions, Pilot and Snippy, will never be less than entertaining. Despite living in a blasted landscape as one of possibly just four human beings left alive, the Captain maintains an attitude of optimism, never seeming to accept (or possibly realise) the pointlessness of his or her existence. Long-suffering Snippy is a voice of reason, sometimes forgotten, but never left entirely behind, whilst the joyously demented Pilot accepts the Captains orders without hesitation – be it to create a working flying machine, or save Snippy from an alien monstrosity sent as judgement upon the Captain (who believes it to be Cancer, summoned by a bag he found that apparently contains cancer causing chemicals). Or possibly it is all just Snippy’s benighted dreams, caused by a super-computer that allows almost all humans to connect mind to mind, except for 1% of people who, like Snippy, can only endure maddening headaches and poor sleep, caused by the omnipresent transmitters.

Possibly, but probably not.

One thing I know for sure is that the artwork is stunning – painstakingly crafted from photographs of real settings with live actors and combined with digital art to create the most awesome of apocalyptic visions. If you’re not already following this comic to brighten whatever living Hell you are currently enduring, you should be.

Romantically Apocalyptic, make it a part of your life.

 – Apocalypse Womble out.

Music for the Apocalypse #24: 99 Luftballons/99 Red Balloons, by Nena

by Apocalypse Womble

’99 Luftballons’ was originally a German song (above), written after Carlo Karges saw red balloons being released into the sky at a concert in West Berlin, and wondered what would happen if they were to float over the Berlin Wall. The song supposes children innocently buying balloons and releasing them accidentally triggering nuclear war, as the balloons are mistaken for weapons. The success of the song saw it translated into English(below), becoming a major hit in translation as well.

For many years I never listened properly to the lyrics, and so didn’t realise what this song was about. It is one of the more gloriously cheerful songs about nuclear war, and all the more poignant for it when you realise what it’s actually saying. And it’s a complex imagery the red balloons could signify weapons used carelessly, but the balloon itself is such a symbol of harmless innocence – of carefree, floating play. It’s a hopeful symbol cut through with a childhood nostalgia that must always be bitter sweet – appropriate for a loss of innocence motif. And the colour – red – is surely symbolic. It’s highly evocative of poppies, and though the coincidence in English of ‘balloon’ and ‘bloom’ is presumably not intentional, a balloon is, in and of itself, like a flower – the red head on the slender string must seem like a bloom on top of a stalk. From one symbol of senseless loss of life to another.

And yet the simply joy and childish delight of a balloon cannot be done away with. The single balloon released in remembrance at the end is sad, to that extent, but cannot but be also a symbol of hope. A nice mix for the post-apocalypse campfire, methinks.

And the English version:

The Event

On Sunday 19th February I went to The Event. This was the second in a series of talks regarding the Apocalypse. (The first one had a space scientist giving talk as to how the Apocalypse would come from space which I think would have been awesome to listen to, so I’m a little disappointed that I missed the first one) But never mind I very much enjoyed the talks that I had.

Before I get into the specifics of the talks then I am going to note here the important things that I learned during this talk.

  1. Do not flush the toilet!
    If it’s a nuclear apocalypse and you’ve found shelter of some kind then flushing the toilet will bring in contaminated water and then you’re screwed. (Also don’t go outside! No matter what.)
  2. Keep Tins of Tuna and Custard packed away.
    For the first month of the Apocalypse then you can if necessary survive with these 2 items. Tuna provides any protein you need, custard the calories. Also a very very tiny drop of bleach into contaminated water and it will kill any nasty crap that’s in there. (If you put too much bleach in you need to dilute down again and leave for a while.)
  3. Have a facemask ready.
    If its a pandemic, then this cuts down the risk of you spreading any nasty germs to other people. (So clearly we kind of want everyone to have these.)
  4. The state only care about the well being of the state not you the individual. Make sure you look after yourself as an individual. (See Vinay Gupta’s video below on Complexity Kills)
  5. Those American survivalists who are so worried about the apocalypse? Who hoard all that food and have LOTS of guns? Most of them cannot farm. What are they going to do when they finally run out of food? Yes that’s right turn into the raiders they are so afraid of!!
While we (myself and hubby – who had kindly agreed to be dragged along – it was for his own good, what if the apocalypse had struck?) were waiting for The Event to start the projector was looping through a presentation that had several shots from various different Apocalypse themed movies/shows/games. I think we managed to work out most of them. I was surprised to see a picture of Watership Down flash up, but I guess when you think about it, while they maybe Rabbits, their whole warren is destroyed so it is an apocalypse.

I was also pleasantly surprised to see a shot of what we both thought must be the Illusive Man from Mass Effect 2. As I think people can often overlook apocalyptic themed computer games. (Don’t worry if you have NO IDEA what I’m on about here, then I am planning to do a post re:Mass Effect once number 3 has been out and I’ve finished it. :))

We got goody bags which had codes for a free eBook of Pandimonium – a collection of apocalyptic short stories, download of the Dinosaur Planet Musical (see further down), another cd of music by the same band (Forest Moon of Endberby), two copies of the Hackers paper, some sweets, a sticker, and a voucher for some money off a Zombie type event done by (This looks quite interesting I may well look into doing one of those!!)

Right so on with the talks:

1. Catherine O’Flynn
Whose talk was on visiting Hack Green (a declassified nuclear bunker that was built for the cold war) and how to make it a family fun event(!) (You have little mice hidden about and ask children to find them all – some of these mice may look strangely irradiated!) This was a fun if poignant talk.

And I think it was Catherine (although it may have been Sarah – speaker #3 so sorry if it was!) who made the point that when we remember the 80s we only ever think of the crazy hair and the clothes, people forget just how afraid everyone was of the possibility of a nuclear attack. How it was a very real threat. I was born in the 80s so I don’t really recall any of this, but I do recall my mum saying to me once how they had worried when they’d bought their house as it didn’t have a basement. Not that that would have done much good against the radiation but I guess it provided people some semblance of comfort?

2.MJ Hibbett & The Validators
We were wonderfully entertained by a very short rendition of this musical. A musical we’re we are informed that the apocalypse comes in the form of Dinosaurs invading from Space! (because everything is cooler when its From Space! or is For Science! 😉 ) Only to discover to our horror that they are shortly followed by space faring Robots who want their escaped dino slaves back! This was a very silly and entertaining take on the apocalypse and well worth listening too:

3. Sarah Angliss
Talked about the Protect & Survive Monthly magazines (late 70s early 80s) which gave information on how to ‘survive’ the nuclear war that was brewing. E.g. using tables as a shelter(!). She also talked about the shelter experiment, where a family of 3 lived in a bunker as if there had been a nuclear strike for 2 weeks. Turns out this experiment wasn’t the greatest. The family had to wind a crank 500 times every two hours to get ‘fresh’ air, they had also only been given 2 hours to shop for food just before they were put inside for 2 weeks. I believe their menu contained a lot of crackers and tins of sardines. (Annoyingly I didn’t write that down so I can’t quite recall what it was.) Additionally the people running the experiment had effectively breached the shelter to get a line in for a camera – this cause the shelter to flood and they had to call the fire brigade.

4: Vinay Gupta
A look at the things you need to consider in order to survive an apocalypse. He is a very good speaker and while this was amusing in places this was also quite a stark look at the things you have to consider to survive.

I’m really pleased that he has put this video up to watch as I don’t think I could do it justice in a summary, there were a lot of good points! This is a must watch vid!
(Most of my tips a the start of this post aside from #1 are from this talk. So I highly recommend you watch it.)

5. Alex Preston
Whose friends all joined cults while at uni, played us a sample of people speaking in tongues. He also read from his new book The Revelations, a scene where a group of people who have gone away for a religious weekend, begin to speak in tongues during a service.

6. Sarah Hardy & Suzanne Newcombe
They work at Inform (The information Network on Religious Movements) and talked about religious beliefs and what the apocalypse can mean. E.g. sometimes it s a beginning to something new such as ascending, possibly for everyone (if you prey enough) or perhaps just the chosen few.) They explained how there are apocalypses prophesied all the time and that 2012 is not unique in being the end of the world. Nor are all of the prophecies for the apocalypse in 2012 related to the Mayan Calendar, its just that that is what the media has latched on to.

There was another speaker after that but there was a little bit of a mix up with whether he was running late (at the time we thought he was, but turns out he wasn’t). We missed him as by this point hubby had cramp in his leg and I really needed a cup of tea so we headed home.

And I apologise for the rather long post! To sum it up I had fun, learned a lot and I hope I have imparted some of that on to you! Keep safe and stock up!

Music for the Apocalypse #22: Battlestar Galactica Theme (1978)

by Apocalypse Womble

Get your geek on, ladies, this is the the good shit. Don’t get me wrong, I love the hell out of the BSG reboot, but I will always have a special place in my heart for the original. The fundamental idea was the same, and it was new and staggering: the nigh on total annihilation of the human race – a human race itself more advanced than our present culture, but still completely and utterly out-gunned by the thoroughly alien and other cylons. For of course, in the original, cylons were not created by human beings – their mechanical life evolved on its own.

Maybe the science was ropey, maybe the plots petered out, maybe the final resolution was bizarre, but the imagination here is captivating. This was an apocalypse that brought an end to twelve worlds at once. At the same time it challenged ideas about gender and attitudes towards sex. Maybe it didn’t have the same kind of gutsy message to it as the remake’s Starbuck and President Roslin, but the women forced the menfolk to accept them as viper pilots, and the character Cassiopeia foreshadows the likes of Inara as a woman in calm possession of her own sexuality. And, well, I defy you not to be stirred by this:

There are those who believe that life here began out there, far across the universe, with tribes of humans who may have been the forefathers of the Egyptians, or the Toltecs, or the Mayans. Some believe that there may yet be brothers of man who even now fight to survive somewhere beyond the heavens…

Well, yeah, OK, we could do with a mention of the sisters out there fighting for survival, too, but I still say that it’s stirring stuff:

 – Apocalypse Womble out.

Christmas Music for the Apocalyspe #2: Stop the Cavalry, Jona Lewie

by Ro Smith

Nice to have something that loosely comes under the banner of ‘traditional’ Christmas music – always one of the traditional songs in my household, anyway.

Mary Bradley waits at home,
In the nuclear fallout zone…

I always thought the lyrics were ‘Mary gladly waits at home,/In the nuclear fallout zone’, but apparently not. Quite liked it as being a more direct metaphor for the Virgin Mary juxtaposed with a nuclear fallout setting, but I think the real lyrics still work.

Apocalypse Womble out.

Movie Week – Dr Strangelove

Or to give the film its full name: Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb – Director: Stanley Kubrick

If you’re going to watch any movie about the apocalypse then make sure to put this one on the top of your list. A satire about the whole Nuclear scare during the cold war, it looks at the absurdity of the theory of mutual assured destruction, which is the idea that neither side will fire their nukes because of how destructive they are. There are a lot of digs aimed at many of the other attitudes and ideas that surrounded the cold war, e.g the missile gap, and the idea of spending billions on underground fallout shelters.

Peter Sellars is on fine form as he covers 3 of the major roles in this film. It was nominated and won several BAFTA’s as well as often getting listed as one of the greatest films of all time.

This film is well worth taking the time to watch (its not actually that long), you’ll both laugh and be horrified by the insanity of it all.

Know Your Apocalypse #1

So the apocalypse has happened/is going to happen, and your survival strategy is going to depend greatly on just what sort of apocalypse is occurring. So here is a quick list, and a few notes for each to help you out as a short ‘beginners’ guide as it were.

1. Zombies
The unrelenting horde. Most people here will now think of the traditional zombie, the dead person who gets back up again to eat brains. But this can also include people changed by disease, controlled by nano bots (this alone can be the topic of many a post). So its important to know what kind of Zombies you’re facing. If its contagious how does it get passed on? (For example if it’s blood splatter you do NOT want to go close combat or use a shotgun.) Are they fast or slow zombies? How smart are they? All this will affect your overall survival strategy.
2. Contagion
This is harder to protect yourself from, you’ll either be immune or you won’t. Perhaps you’ll live somewhere remote enough that you’ll survive long enough for them to possibly find a cure. This can also potentially lead on to situation #1. Major cities are not a place you really want to be, either during the outbreak or after (all those dead bodies). Or maybe its a disease that just causes sterility…
3. Global War
This is perhaps a more unlikely world ending scenario, and could be caused by many of the other scenarios, an all out war that doesn’t involve Nukes (see #4), is unlikely to touch the whole world. Yes bombs can destroy large areas but they don’t leave radiation behind, radiation that can spread to other areas. Although if you’re living in the conflict zone, supplies hard to get, shelter hard to find. where will you go? Still it does depend when this happens, perhaps in the future there might be devastating satellite mounted weaponry. Or perhaps weapons that could lead to #7 or #10. The causes behind this are many, is it humans just bickering as we do? Or is there something else behind it, a powerful AI? Much of this may be unimportant if your goal is simply to survive.
4. Global Nuclear War
If you’re very lucky, you will have some kind of military grade bunker or perhaps just perhaps be far enough away from the fall out zones to survive. Otherwise, well good luck with all that radiation. The ground will be irradiated, so will the water, there’s a possibility of dust clouds filling the atmosphere, meaning not much sunlight will get through, thus making it cold and harder to grow plants, have I mentioned the radiation? And finally there is the added fun of potential zombies. As with #3 there could be several causes of this.
5. Aliens
Are they invading to wipe us out and ‘take our stuff’ as it were. Are they capturing humans and taken them off-world as slaves (which doesn’t really cause the end of the world but is incredibly destructive)? Either way it’s war which could well lead to #4. And even if they come in peace this could lead to situation #2, with diseases jumping across species, which could cause major deaths on both sides. Or maybe they just want to make a hyperspatial express route, in which case survival is unlikely.
6. Robots/AIs/Genetically engineered creatures
So our creations have risen up and decided that humanity is too stupid/destructive to live? This could well cause both situations #3 and #2 (a smart AI might well try and engineer something to kill us off quickly). Get ready for a long hard slog, particularly if they’ve decided we need to be exterminated and not just culled and enslaved. Keep moving, carry a weapon(s) and find a base. Food could well become an issue.
7. Natural Disaster
Drought, flooding, earthquakes, ice ages, volcanoes. Some of these are ‘worse’ than others and may be more localised. Drought in some parts of the world, flooding in others, destroying shelter and food. Volcanoes are worse, potentially causing large scale dust clouds like #4, although you at least won’t have the radiation. Its possible that one of the other scenario’s is the cause of this, or perhaps it is simply the fact that we humans have messed the world up beyond repair.
8. Asteroids
Technically this does fall under #7, as there’s not a lot you can do about a large incoming asteroid. (No you can’t blow it up, it won’t affect the direction it’s going in, most of that mass is still coming towards the Earth. ) You could hope you get selected to go live in a fallout shelter, or perhaps be on the other side of the world from the impact zone.. although watch out for all those natural disasters it causes. Afterwards? Well again this is very similar to #4 minus the radiation.
9. Demons/Angels/Magic/Dragons etc
A tough one, that is not covered a great deal. They could very well change the nature of the world as we know it. Perhaps literally turning the world into hell on earth, still you may want to follow a similar strategy as #6, keep moving, carry weapons (it may not necessarily be guns) and find a safe haven.
10. Eldritch horrors
Actually if one of these breaks through and causes the apocalypse then your probably screwed, because who knows what these things can do, what they want. They could just turn the world into a ball of goo or simply melt our brains. These need to be stopped before the apocalypse happens and that way madness lies.