I love odd coincidences and weird moments of synchronicity. Recently I heard / read something that reminded me of Laurie Anderson’s track (and surprise hit) ‘O Superman‘. It’s been a while (1981!), so I looked up the lyrics out of curiosity (Memory can play tricks). It seems disturbingly sinister and prescient now:
“….This is the hand, the hand that takes.
Here come the planes.
They’re American planes. Made in America.
Smoking or non-smoking?
And the voice said: Neither snow nor rain nor gloom
of night shall stay these couriers from the swift
completion of their appointed rounds.
As a kid I was ever so slightly geeky, and rather obsessed with space. My parents, always keen to support my quest for knowledge, bought me a telescope one birthday and I used to spend many an evening gazing up at the moon and the stars in awe. Eventually hormones kicked in, and my interest in heavenly bodies shifted somewhat closer to home.
There are approx 300 billion stars in our galaxy. And there are more than 200 billion galaxies in the known universe. So, doing a quick bit of maths, there are a shitload of stars out there. And although not all of them support intelligent life, a heck of a lot of them surely must.
Of course whether ours can be said to do so is increasingly debatable in the age of Trump, Brexit and the ongoing spectacle of a race seemingly intent on bringing about its own extinction. On the plus side, Donald Dumpf is a gift to comedy, although in the minuscule cluster of neurons that passes for his brain, he probably thinks we are laughing with him and not at him. How deluded can one person get?
It is 2021 and the Earth is a smouldering ruin. What little remains of human civilization exists in small pockets, stretched across the scarred and barren wastelands of our once mighty cities. Starving, diseased and horribly disfigured, they fight giant rats and rabid wild dogs over the last of the McDonalds‘ still-fresh-looking burger patties.
The apocalypse, so often predicted, had finally come to pass on a date nobody had expected: a rather ordinary Tuesday in February. And it was all down to the chaotic results of the flapping of a butterfly’s wing in an Amazonian rain forest.
Of course that’s not true at all. It was in fact largely brought about by the actions of one man. A despicable orange goblin, with tiny hands and a massive ego. A misogynist, racist, science-denying, sociopathic TV celebrity, with the demeanour and appearance of a sleazy used-car salesman. Donny Trumpet, billionaire sex pest and reality-avoider, had concocted the ultimate con, with the help of his old chum, Vlad ‘The Impaler’ Putanski. And, it was said, it had been partly inspired by a much beloved Christmas movie starring Eddie Murphy.
There was a survey a while back that showed that a quarter of the American population believe that the sun revolves around the Earth, and not the other way round. This was of course the mainstream view until our old chum Nicky Copernicus upset the apple-cart with his heliocentric model, published in the 16th century. At last the Earth was put in its rightful place, although not everyone was thrilled with this particular advance in human knowledge. There were certainly some major grumblings from the Catholic church. Still, at least Mr C managed to avoid the fate of his defender and fellow astronomy clever-clogs, friar Giordano Bruno, who apparently was just too much of a rebel for the church and had his chestnuts roasted on an open fire, along with the rest of him.
Identity is a funny thing, something we often take for granted. How do you define the you that you see in the mirror? Who is that person looking back at you and is it the same person who was there yesterday? What do you mean you have no reflection? Do your friends know you’re a vampire?
When you think back you might realise just how much you’ve changed over the years, even if you’re still relatively young. The fact that you (hopefully) no longer howl when hungry, or throw a temper tantrum at the supermarket ‘cos they’ve sold the last of your favourite ice cream or potato chips shows that you are evolving. Of course not in a Darwinian sense: you are unlikely to develop gills just because you swim a lot, or wings because you are tired of taking the bus. It doesn’t quite work like that, unfortunately.
The dystopian world of the undead is a truly terrifying vision. They shuffle along mindlessly, all grotesque faces and guttural grunts, falling upon any flesh they find and devouring it in an horrific display of terrible table etiquette.
But even if you choose to avoid the big city-centres on any given Friday evening, you cannot help but see where George Romero or the writers and producers of TV’s excellent The Walking Dead series found their inspiration.
We now have a whole new category of accidents becoming commonplace in the modern era: a category that one could well label zombie-related injuries. People roam the streets distracted, their eyes glued to mobile devices, and frequently fall under cartoon-style steam rollers, over cliffs or into piranha-infested rivers. Well, they definitely bump into lamp-posts and trees anyway.
It seems our cultures have something of an obsession with superheroes. The enduring myth of a superior being, a saviour figure not held back by mere mortal limitations who sacrifices himself to save mankind. Does that sound like someone familiar? A figure revered by millions throughout the western world? Yes, of course, it’s Superman.
He has died quite a few times over the years, but keeps on getting resurrected. I guess the world cannot do without this ultimate hero in the jolly red underpants and cape.