You've probably heard by now that some folks believe the apocalypse will get under way Saturday evening, with the four horsemen already clip-clopping up to the starting gate and the seven-headed beast tugging at the leash.
Chances are, most of you aren't buying it. Suit yourself, but it never hurts to be prepared. So, in case the end is at hand, here are a few recommendations for music, TV shows, movies, meals, poems, and books (short ones, natch) you might want to sample before time runs out. And if the sun comes up tomorrow, no harm done.
The Book of Revelation. It's hard to imagine any more appropriate reading on the eve of destruction than the last book of the New Testament with its vivid description of the end times. Besides being a preview of things to come, it offers a chance for reflection and prayer that many might find appropriate.
"The War of the Worlds." H.G. Wells' 1898 masterpiece doesn't deal with Armageddon, but its description of a Martian invasion might just get you in the mood for hard times.
"The Code of the Woosters." Can't face the end? Then escape into P.G. Wodehouse's 1938 comic masterpiece, in which the cerebral valet Jeeves guides the mentally negligible Bertie Wooster through a world of genteel lunacy.
"A Christmas Carol." Since this seems like a particularly apt occasion for repentance, what better reading than Charles Dickens' great tale of a skinflint's conversion?
The Boy Scout Handbook. If there's ever been a time to be prepared, this is it!
International oyster extravaganza. Start with a platter on the half-shell, including Pemaquids (Maine), Wellfleets (Cape Cod), Hog Islands (Northern California), Abbeville (Cajun Country), Cape May Salts (Jersey Shore), big Belons (France), and true Kumamotos (Japan, the nonradioactive part). Save a few Gulf oysters, meanwhile, for some hot lagniappe: broiled Rockefeller-style; grilled with garlic butter; and deep-fried in a dusting of corn flour for a mini-po-boy.
Soup dumplings at Sakura Mandarin in Chinatown. As much as I eat them, there is still something so magical about these beggar's-purse dumplings with hot broth brimming inside their delicate noodle skins. Nip, slurp, dip, devour. It's not too late to learn this life-improvement technique.
A plate of spaghetti aglio-olio in my home kitchen. It's taken me two decades to master pasta with garlic and oil - the ultimate plate of perfection in simplicity. It's so hard to get just right, and so Zen-like in its demand for patience and intuition, cooking it is like kitchen yoga. Eating it, meanwhile, is like channeling the spirit of garlic itself, which, more than any other ingredient I know, is the spirit of life.
A gigantic dry-aged porterhouse for two at Butcher & Singer. All those years of cholesterol worries really don't matter now, do they? Here's a cut worthy of the final splurge - mineral-y, full of juicy savor, and just begging for a great bottle of cab to wash it down. Plus, gotta love the act of sharing this last indulgence with someone special.
A box of Éclat chocolates filled entirely with Calvados caramel. I've never been one to pussyfoot with samplers, and this is no time to mess around. Biting into these West Chester wonders gets me where I want to go quick: It's a boozy burst of Normandy orchard captured in slow-motion caramel, all wrapped inside a tiny globe of divinely dark and delicate chocolate.
Marvin Gaye, "Let's Get It On." OK, the world's going to end any minute now: What's the best way to spend the precious few moments that remain? The unarguable selection.
The Clash, "Armagideon Time." My favorite band in the world specialized in songs of the apocalypse. But I've heard "London Calling" enough already. This dub-reggae Willie Williams cover captures the impending doom vibe, and Joe Strummer's righteous anger faces up to a world of injustice worth pushing back against, to the very end.
Johnny Cash, "The Man
Comes Around." The title track to Cash's American IV is as chilling an evocation of the reckoning as I know:
"There's a man going 'round taking names / And he decides who to free and who to blame / Everybody won't be treated all the same." Sinners, you know who you are.
Robert Johnson, "Hellhound on My Trail." If the good people are going up the golden ladder, I've got a bad feeling about what's in store for the likes of me. It all comes back to the blues, and there's a devil dog nipping at my heels.
The Rolling Stones, "Out of Time." That's it. Time's up. Playlist over. The Stones, from 1966, sweetly - yet simultaneously, demonically - letting us all know that our time on this mortal coil is through. "Baby, baby, baby, you're out of time."
Rent, stream, or download these end-of-the-world flicks, three of which are set in the Antipodes, about the end of the world in both the geographical and physical senses.
"Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb." Trenchant 1964 satire of hotheads entangled in Cold War brinkmanship, with Peter Sellers in a triple role as the U.S. president, a British army captain, and a nuclear-bomb physicist who might be the spawn of Edward Teller and Wernher von Braun.
"Encounters at the End of the World." Werner Herzog's offbeat 2007 travelogue of Antarctica, where misfits flee to contemplate the meaning of life and death and the idea of civilization.
"Happy Accidents." This quirky 2001 time-travel romance stars Vincent D'Onofrio as a space cowboy who comes from the future back to the present to pledge his love to Marisa Tomei, whose face he has seen in a snapshot that has survived global devastation.
"Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome." After the "pock eclipse," as child survivors of nuclear apocalypse call it, two settlements rise from the rubble in this 1985 film: Bartertown, a rough necropolis ruled by dominatrix Tina Turner, and that of a tribe of children creating their own Eden. With Mel Gibson.
"On the Beach." Nuclear fallout has wasted the Northern Hemisphere, and as the nuclear cloud drifts Down Under in this 1959 tale, an assortment of Australians and visiting Americans each plan an exit strategy. With Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, and Fred Astaire.
Schubert: "String Quintet in C." This 1828 work written for string quartet and an extra cello has one of the most time-stopping, thought-stopping slow movements of all time - long, indeed, but never long enough.
Jo Stafford: "I'll Be Seeing You." Her recording of the classic song soothed the troops of World War II and can do the same for us whether or not the apocalypse is nigh. Great singer, largely forgotten since her retirement in the 1970s.
Mahler: "Symphony No. 10 (Adagio)." All of Mahler's symphonies are essential hearing, but this one - left incomplete at his death and as great as any - seems to be confronting some sort of horrible truth and suggests life in the abyss may be doable.
Ravel: "L'Enfant et les sortileges." The end of the world won't leave time for long operas, so here's the most delightful short one ever written, based on the Colette fairy tale about talking/singing/dancing chairs, teacups, and coffee mugs with effervescent fox trots.
Richard Strauss: "Metamorphosen." Though Strauss' best-known swan song is the Four Last Songs, this great string-orchestra elegy reacting to the destruction of Europe after World War II perhaps goes even deeper. And we thought we had it bad.
Five poems (they have to be short - the hand is coming down from the sky). No time to lose, go straight to the websites listed below:
"In my eyes he matches the gods," by Sappho. From 2,700 years ago, still one of the most vivid of all depictions of desire. It seems fitting that such overwhelming passion should break off in midsentence. www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15850
"Sonnet 18," by William Shakespeare. You're so great, I'll make you immortal with this here poem - and so far, that's what Sonnet 18 has done! www.shakespeare-online.com/sonnets/18.html
"Ode: Intimations of Immortality," by William Wordsworth. From time to time, many have had a glimpse of the transcendent, a link between the child in us and the beyond, in transfiguring simplicity and bliss. Few poems ever captured such a moment as well. www.bartleby.com/145/ww331.html
"I Cannot Live With You," by Emily Dickinson. A love so deep it cannot stand to live as other lovers do. A love so fierce it would reject heaven itself if the loved one weren't there. Dickinson at her boldest, her most transgressive, her most original and exhilarating. www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15802
"The Lanyard," by Billy Collins. Love of mother for son and son for mother - hilariously and directly presented in this celebrated 2005 poem. www.youtube.com/watch?v=0EjB7rB3sWc
This exercise gives new meaning to "must-see TV." Before I go, I'm queuing up on my DVR:
Early "SCTV." Take me back to Melonville, let Johnny LaRue (John Candy) and his station mates regale me and I'm in heaven.
Vintage "Nash Bridges." I don't know why, but I always found this cop show with Don Johnson and Cheech Marin (created by Carlton Cuse, of Lost fame) to be soothing.
"Brideshead Revisited" (PBS). I need a little intellectual roughage in my last meal.
An episode of the short-lived "Chevy Chase Show." Just to get my courage up. Whatever apocalyptic nightmare follows the Rapture, it can't possibly be as harrowing as this debacle.
"The Mary Tyler Moore Show" finale. That's how I want to go out: embraced in that group hug in WJM's newsroom.
Any way this goes down I'm going to be miffed. It means I'm going to miss the conclusion of AMC's The Killing. I'm kind of invested in finding out who killed Rosie Larsen.