On the way back from Tennessee, James put REM in the player. It had been a long time and I kept expecting this song to be next. Then, there it was, words and words and words, and the important part in between.

Time I had some time alone.

We were a rocket in the dark. I looked out but could not see the trees we were leaving behind. The top was down and I huddled into my jacket. So many words in that song, so fast fast crammed in, so much to say they had to leave out the syntax to fit everything in. I think I was the inverse of that.

Time I had some time, and I feel fine.

This song, like Magnolia, goes a million miles an hour. That is to say, it's like a sensory overload. The words overwhelm your defenses and burrow into your brain. Sort of like chiggers.

This could probably be an effective brainwashing technique - overload the higher brain functions with a torrent of information, and the message will be embedded in the deep structures of the brain. Sort of like Snow Crash. Scary.

Interestingly enough, Michael Stipe and the boys wrote this song after attending a policy debate tournament. They were so impressed with the speed at which policy debaters can make coherent and strong arguments (to those not submerged in debate, it often sounds like gunshots). Hence the frantic pace of the song.

Stipe also uses some policy debate terms in the song, such as net, which is a stock debate arg that is used to argue that the social net, as it widens, gets bigger holes that allows more people to slip through. (Incidentally, the lyrics are "net", right? ... right, not "neck" - even Stipe admits that) and "tournament of lies" refers to the practice of assigning policy debate teams various positions, regardless of their personal agreement with the argument they are making.

Weird little factoid.

I'd have to agree with jessicapierce that the 'It's time I had some time alone.' line is the most important part of the song, or at least for me it is.

The first exposure to this song for me was on the radio. I put most of my effort in a vain attempt to sing along. The double effect of not really knowing the words and the fact that I just can't sing that fast made everything come out as more of a mushy mumble than anything else. Had you removed the music and the vocals of Mr. Stipe, I'm sure I'd sound really silly by myself. Because of this I never really heard the background vocals during the refrain.

'It's time I had some time alone, and I feel fine.'

I eventually picked up Eponymous on CD and in the process of breaking in the CD (namely, putting it in the player and not removing it until about 30 listenings and 3 weeks later) I heard this line being sung by Mike Mills (thanks to wunderhorn1 for the identity of the mysterious backup singer).

And I was floored. Totally floored.

I mean, here it is, the End of the World. The song brings up images of war and television correspondents on exclusive location. Fire. Brimstone. All that biblical stuff. Words flying past your head. You've no clue what's going on. And if you're not totally dulled to the song due to radio overplay, it's a rather disconcerting experience.

And then out of the distance, a voice of reason. Of sanity.

It's the End of the World as we know it (and I feel fine). That's the title of the song. Note the bit in parentheses. Why the hell would you feel fine, if it was the end of the world? You could be sick of life. Suicidal. Or maybe you brought on the destruction. Evil genius takes over world. But I'm not Mojo Jojo. I'd probably be slightly bummed with the end of the world. But the voice has a different reason to feel fine.

It's time I had some time alone.

Yeah! That's the ticket! I could use some time alone. Time away from everyone. No work, no need to eat, sleep, excrete, reproduce. Those are all nice things, but sometimes they get in the way. Our friends, family, enemies, jobs, pets, they all demand our attention. But with the end of the world that's all gone. There's nothing. It'd be like death. Only I'd like to keep my net connection.

I'd like to node the End of the World

To be like John writing the Book of Revelation (not Revelations grrr...). Well, something factual. Something for posterity. So later universes and races could see what happened.

I just want some time alone. Time to do what I want. Some 'me' time if you will.

Granted noding this while on the clock at work is pretty close to that. Back to the rat race....

It's The End Of The World As We Know It!


By Vectormane

Well, not for another 10,000 years or so.

Back in the summer of 1998, Hollywood spawned two asteroid movies, Armageddon, and Deep Impact. In both of these movies, astronomers discover an Earth-bound object, and must destroy or move it to save the human race. While those movies were fictional, the chance of a large asteroid hitting the Earth is small, but real.

In a study published in the journal Nature, scientists simulated, with computers, what would happen if an asteroid were hit by a force equivalent to a 17-kiloton bomb. Their subject was the 1-mile wide asteroid Castalia. They projected what would happen if it were hit by a 50-foot-wide asteroid traveling at 11,000 mph. If Castalia were made of solid rock, it would've been blown to many small pieces, but the 90% of the pieces would remain on the same path. In a different situation, assuming that Castalia is really two large pieces, the piece hit by the projectile would be shattered into little bits, which would be drawn towards the other, almost unaffected half. In a third scenario, assuming that this asteroid is a group of many large rocks, the one rock that was hit exploded, but the others were unaffected. In all three situations, if the asteroid were headed towards Earth, it would still hit. Only if the object were detected decades before it came close to Earth would such a minute course adjustment steer it clear of us.

What implications does this have? Well, it casts doubt on the chances of using nuclear warheads to successfully deviate an Earth-bound object. It also points out a possible need to rethink our priorities in space. $3 million a year in NASA's budget is allocated to detecting possible doomsday asteroids. To compare, the entire NASA budget is 13.6 billion dollars. It is possible to track most large objects that will cross our orbit, but in order for any effective action to be taken against an Earth-bound object, it must be detected early. Keep watching the sky.

Sources:

Nasa's Budget: http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/pao/facts/HTML/FS-003-HQ.html

Hannibal Courier Post Destroying asteroids may be difficult task harder than it looks in the movies: http://www.courierpost.com/stories/061598/Destroyingasteroids.html

Do what you will with this document. Feel free to plagiarize. No, seriously, I mean it.


Credit to fuzzy and blue for catching my spelling error.

"It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" by R.E.M. (Berry, Buck, Mills, Stipe)
Document, 1987; Eponymous, 1988. (2 C!s)

(official lyric sheet)

That's great, it starts with an earthquake,
birds and snakes, an aeroplane--Lenny Bruce is not afraid.
Eye of a hurricane, listen to yourself churn--
world serves its own needs, don't misserve your own needs.
Feed it up a knock, speed, grunt no, strength no.
Ladder structure clatter with fear of height, down height.
Wire in a fire, represent the seven games
in a government for hire and a combat site.
Left her, wasn't coming in a hurry
with the furies breathing down your neck.
Team by team reporters baffled, trump, tethered crop.
Look at that low plane! Fine then.
Uh oh, overflow, population, common group, but it'll do.
Save yourself, serve yourself.
World serves its own needs, listen to your heart bleed.
Tell me with the rapture and the reverent in the right--right.
You vitriolic, patriotic, slam, fight, bright light,
feeling pretty psyched.

It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.

Six o'clock--TV hour.
Don't get caught in foreign tower.
Slash and burn, return, listen to yourself churn.
Lock him in uniform and book burning, blood letting.
Every motive escalate. Automotive incinerate.
Light a candle, light a motive. Step down, step down.
Watch a heel crush, crush.
Uh oh, this means no fear--cavalier.
Renegade and steer clear!
A tournament, a tournament, a tournament of lies.
Offer me solutions, offer me alternatives and I decline.

It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.

The other night I tripped a nice continental drift divide. Mount St. Edelite.
Leonard Bernstein.
Leonid Breshnev, Lenny Bruce and Lester Bangs.
Birthday party, cheesecake, jelly bean, boom!
You symbiotic, patriotic,
slam, but neck, right? Right.

It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel
fine...fine... It's time I had some time alone.

And so, deconstruction begins.

1987: Iran - Contra scandal. Reganomics. Colombia. The Iran - Iraq War. Intifada (IIRC). Life was not good.

Now, as it has often been mentioned, this seems in the tradition of Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues." Guitarist Peter Buck even admitted in an interview that the song was '"Subterranean Homesick Blues' with a chorus."

The song works with imagery overload, natural, mechanical, and sociopolitical, beginning with earthquakes and hurricanes (typical apocalyptic imagery) and beasts in revolt. But it grows to encompass a world in upheaval--governments invading, book burning anti-intellectualism, and so on. It works by presenting a world in chaos, as presented watching, say, the news--a barrage of images, things beyond our control, flickering lights, quick edits of destruction every night for your infotainment pleasure.

But what's odd is that it doesn't say this is the end of the world, only the end of the world as we know it. For in most eschatological beliefs, the old world passes away, but it is replaced by a new one. The universe doesn't cease to exist, only changes radically. Ragnarok only brings about Baldr's reign; Armageddon brings the New Jerusalem.

It ends, oddly enough, with a dream Michael Stipe once had, combined with a true story. The story is that in 1980, Michael and Peter, back before R.E.M. was even a formal band, drove up to New York City with some fellow Athens music scenesters, and ended up at a party with Lester Bangs, who was Peter Buck's idol. It was a strange meeting, with Buck unable to say much to a very out-of-it Bangs, who called Buck "a rotten cocksucker" (thanks, CloudStrife). Years later, Michael had a dream about the party, but instead, everyone there had the initials "L.B."--Leonard Bernstein, Leonid Breznev, Lenny Bruce, Lester Bangs. It's interesting to note that two were counterculture figures, one was a composer that flirted with the counterculture, and the third was the leader of the Soviet Union.


The end of the world is always coming, just as tomorrow always comes. But the end of the world as we know it? Let's think about that--the end, not of the world or existence, but the world as we know it.

The first time that happened was when my father died. I was seven. It was Christmas. Things were never the same again. Having a parent die is like having the world crumble. The world exists, but it's fragmented, impossible to put together the same way.

The second time was when my family moved from Philadelphia to Gilbertsville, a small town in rural Pennsylvania. To be taken from a large city and placed in a small town is a culture shock. Especially when you're suddenly exposed to things like the Klan or farms next door to my housing development.

The third--puberty. But that's true for everyone.

The fourth? Oddly enough, this song. I heard it the first time watching MTV Unplugged. And I was mesmerized by the rapid fire of words and images. The next day I ran out and bought a cassette tape of Document--the first album I ever owned. I was 13. I spent an entire weekend trying to memorize the lyrics, constantly rewinding and replaying the song. Over and over again. Mesmorized. There have since been others, but this was the most radical, this lead to the other "end of the world as I knew it" events.

And I wanted to learn guitar, and I wanted to form a band. Music suddenly seemed like more than silly pop songs about love. Music had meaning, music could make you think, music was an overload. Music could promulgate ideas. From this song, I suddenly dived into the world of rock and roll, and my whole world, the old order, collapsed.

Because it was the end of the world as I knew it, and I felt fine.

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