The root of the word apocalypse comes from the Greek word apocálypsis, which broadly translates to: a disclosure of knowledge, an unveiling, a thing to uncover.

Though in some sense terminal, an apocalypse is an ongoing state of change and growth; whether that knowledge revealed is cataclysmic—like the news that the 10,000 year old Larson B ice shelf will have melted in five years—or something more ominous, like the opening of James Murphy's new wine bar in Williamsburg, Four Horsemen.

It's an extremely brief passage—four short paragraphs—in the Book of Revelation when the Four Horsemen arrive on the orders of God. Biblically speaking, our understanding of the apocalypse comes most directly from the Book of Revelation, which details (among other things) the return of God to Earth, preceding a catastrophic war between Good and Evil.

The Four Horsemen appear successively, Conquest, War, Famine, and Death, riding horses each their own color, white, red, black, and pale (sometimes green, pallid, corpse-like) respectively.

The first of the four, Conquest, rides a white steed, traditionally a color of holiness and benevolence, and in some interpretations actually represents the son of God returning to earth. The return of God to his terrestrial domain is a key feature of many apocalyptic revelations. In this sense, something welcome inaugurates the end.

Like the apocalypse itself, it's not His arrival that signifies the coming apocalypse so much that the apocalypse has already come, and the world is ready for his arrival, effectively conquered. That means the apocalyptic conditions that precipitate the arrival of Conquest must cross a certain, predetermined threshold. The Oxford Annotated Bible spells it out: the white horse "symbolized a conquering power that no one can resist."

So, it's with the Greek etymology and the trajectory of Revelation that I'd suggest the apocalypse is more of a process of the world ending, rather than the actual moment of the end of the world. The apocalypse is not necessarily an event, but an extended period of time, an age or epoch, a series of conditions, and ultimately some kind of epiphany. One bears witness to and experiences the apocalypse; the apocalypse is not instantaneous.

volcanic minerality, by the glass

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Certain physical signs of an apocalypse, like Murphy’s Four Horsemen, enter the world as fully-formed objects (conceptually, financially, ethically, artistically), utterly perfect and irresistible. Nothing is revealed by them because nothing is allowed to escape containment.

Others—a chain restaurant, anything affiliated with Guy Fieri, must be objects of violent condescension and negativity as one condition for their existence. In New York City, where these things can quite literally live right next to one another, the possibility of a neat and simple division is undermined.

So are we sipping wine in soft lighting with great acoustics while the world falls apart? Or are we stuffing our faces with six-cheese queso dip in a deep-fried bacon helmet? Is this apocalypse an active, ongoing process or are we waiting for something to be revealed to us?

During the midpoint of the Book of Revelation, a few angels of God are preparing to dump bowls of bad shit onto earth. In a rare moment of uttered instruction, God tells one angel, “Put in your sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth for its grapes are ripe.” And so, “the angel swung his sickle on the earth and gathered the vintage of the earth, and threw it into the great wine press of the wrath of God. And the wine press was trodden outside the city, and blood flows from the wine press, as high as a horses bridle, for 1,600 stadia.” The world will drown in wine.

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All the major metropolitan news outlets reported the arrival of the Four Horsemen in pretty much the same way: tame, uncritical, bemused, nearly fatigued, mildly enthusiastic, without surprise. The only commonality was a dithering urge to acknowledge obvious jokes but not make them.

It seemed like a trap (the jokes write themselves!) and so the whole enterprise is shrouded in suspicion. We are suspicious of our desire—to love and engage with this entity earnestly while simultaneously intuiting that this has the potential to burn us.

It is noteworthy—and human—that the skepticism finds its outlet in its opposite (faith). We don't confront the concern that maybe this wine bar represents something with a darker underbelly, or may manipulatively profit off our loyalty, but rather we enact a plan to give this project a deep benefit of the doubt. All parties involved sing the same refrain: "I know how this looks, but trust me."

It's a practiced, nuanced position, the contrapposto of the contemporary moment, this impossible mobilization of irony, authenticity, earnestness, anxiety, and class discomfort, into one deft force. This stance has been honed in part out of necessity, to deflect and withstand regular threats to cultural and creative authenticity, among other things. The ground rumbles and shakes, so you grab to the only thing that remains standing: the thing itself that caused the quake and was built to withstand its specific tremor.

The Four Horsemen is an endeavor so deeply inoffensive as to provoke no reaction at all. The existence of an LCD Soundsystem frontman-owned wine bar in Williamsburg is reasoned and logical. James Murphy’s development into an authentic “gastronome" can be charted. He's been to vineyards in France, befriended chefs in Copenhagen. For true believers, an apocalypse is anything but unexpected.

Pitchfork chose the angle about the music industry at large when reviewing Four Horsemen. There are thoughts on business diversification and horizontal integration. By the second paragraph, any lingering doubt about the wine bar should be soothed by the patatas bravas that, "paired with a dry cava...lingered on [my] mind's palate, weeks later."

Consider another arrival: a celebrity brand opens a buzzworthy establishment in a distinctive and analyzed neighborhood in New York City to much fanfare and press. Guy's American Bar in Times Square.

In his celebrated, infamous review of Guy's American, New York Times Restaurant critic Pete Wells dedicates 1,000 words to a series of rhetorical questions. He, the Times, New Yorkers, whatever, are fed up. This is the line in the sand. Valid points float through—poor preparation, bad flavors and combinations, et cetera—but the form of the review trumps the content.

It is some of the final text of the piece that is revealing. The summary at the end of the review, basically a rubric that is the only part of the article that sticks to the standard format of the restaurant section, tallies up the good and bad of the food, drinks, atmosphere, service. If you made it all the way through and by some act of God still weren't convinced, the wines at Guy's American are "largely dull." The guillotine lands with a muted thud.

One can't give too much credit to the New York Times—whose primary reason for continued existence is because they existed, once, grandfathered in—because they are far too calculating.

Guy's wonton tacos (Tien Mao / Gothamist)

But can you even imagine the same kind of contempt, scorn, and condescension being mustered up for James Murphy’s wine bar? Some condescending bullshit about the “mind-blowing, radical” Sicilian orange wine that turned James Murphy’s palate upside down? I know that no one is dying for more below-average bar food, but are they foaming at the mouth for another shared-plates wine bar?

We hate celebrity chefs like we hate most everything else: arbitrarily, inconsistently, and without self-reflection. Why do you hate Guy Fieri? Because he dresses like he is in Smash Mouth? Because it seems he is famous for not cooking? Because of his personality, crafted for public consumption to maximize his brand appeal?

Fieri would be a fascinating analysand—his psychotic anxiety over portions, his limited vocabulary for food description, his obsession with taking in the bodies of others. A large, brusque, unsophisticated man, Guy Fieri is the perpetual tourist, bullying his way through the country on a budget, loud and ravenous, leaving a trail of BBQ sauce and exhaust behind his fuel inefficient Cadillac. Guy Fieri is not precious.

If you like James Murphy, why? Is it because he makes good music? Because he looks, feels, acts more like you? Because you can graft aspects of his public persona onto parts of your own self-image? Because he speaks to your primary concerns? Because of his personality, crafted for public consumption to maximize his brand appeal? Because of his Concerns, which often are shaped most directly by economic circumstances? Because a sad, sensitive white guy is much more pitiable than loud white guy?

Following War, the third horseman Famine bats comes forth to clean up, striking down all laid low, but not finished off, by War. It’s not often throughout Revelations that the disembodied voice of God speaks, so regardless of what is said, the gesture carries a certain philosophical weight. He does speak to Famine, and his orders are clear: "Do not harm oil and wine!"

Guy Fieri makes us anxious because he operates at the limit of acceptable behavior, psychotically tapping into the id of an American that New York City prefers to distance itself from. A hypocritical and delusional distance, of course, because the city—and Times Square—is sustained by the presence of strip-mall America, through the symbiotic relationship between chain retail and tourism.

Like it or not, the average American experience has a lot more in common with Times Square than anything else. That doesn’t absolve the very real issues raised by the chain store economy, or Middle America, but instead it should revitalize that territory as a place for meaningful critique and possible change. Besides, these are just different definitions of excess: a 22-course meal, a refreshing take on patatas bravas or a plate of the Guy-Talian Nachos.

Programming executives would have you believe someone like Anthony Bourdain is Fieri’s antithesis, his foil. Anthony Bourdain certainly believes that himself, and perhaps it is at least partly true. Bourdain appears genuine, and does not wear his sunglasses on the back of his head, so his passage through your world is smoother. The target audience that he resonates with has proliferated in the past 15-20 years—liberal, young, educated, affluent, cultured, worldly—and the people who like him the most are often the loudest, most visible, most valuable.

Fieri certainly doesn’t appeal to a segment of the population that prefers to be appealed to. A fan comes to Fieri, identifies with him and is drawn in. Anthony Bourdain must come to his fans, and prove himself before them. What we consume culturally is better if we feel like we are in control. We don’t have to put as much of ourselves out there.

Like Bourdain, the primary battles that James Murphy fights are ideological and done before the actual work—here is why this project is good, moral, lofty, pure, beautiful, generative—so we can disregard who is paying the bill (usually us).

We need to be consenting and uncritical in equal measures towards Murphy (and Bourdain). For the Guy of our projections to thrive in such a milieu, we must be patronizing and dismissive. Otherwise the similarities between these men and what they represent start to become clearer, or rather, the differences less stark.

An important step for James Murphy after retiring from LCD Soundsystem was participating in Rick Alverson’s The Comedy—a confrontational film directed at men (always men, has to be men, men-2-men) of a certain place, age and affect. These men were Williamsburg’s men, getting older, aging out of the place. The interesting things about The Comedy (namely, how people communicate with each other) existed despite itself. The Comedy would perhaps have been more effective if its provocation wasn't aimed at some sort of unreal nihilistic uber-hipster. But maybe I'm projecting!

It doesn’t matter that Murphy has always been a corporate shill when it has been in his best interests and given him the opportunity to make work, though it does seem to make him deeply uncomfortable. The Nike jogging album was pretty well-received. His short film (read: commercial) for Canon seemed like a nice little thing. Murphy has his own signature coffee—“thoroughly accessible”—but so does David Lynch. What changes between the two? And turning MTA rush hour into a beautiful symphony—what’s not to love?

Despite the call to action (You, sensitive person, your support is vital for the success of this project. Also please validate my creative compromises.) the MTA made Murphy and Heineken acknowledge that the project was not viable as a condition of filming in the subway. Creatively, it is always better to beg forgiveness than ask permission, and good things are rarely enabled by bureaucracy.

But the facts of the situation are concealed, so nothing will stop the whole machine from running and implicating you. You need to co-sign. It's all built on questionable presumptions: this is an objectively good thing, and you should support it, and also fuck the MTA. I'm not even sure that it's a good thing if the turnstiles sound pleasant! False equivalencies aside: what if you partnered with the billion dollar beer company to, like, lower the per ride cost? Or a free ride day? Addressing actual issues, though, doesn't leave as much room for Murphy to work.

The best James Murphy projects combine the elements of kitsch, sentimentality, and utopia (but what if this thing…was more like…this?) into a kind of siege-proof art fortress. The weight of its bullshit rests on a simple conceptual keystone: so long as he makes music or art that we have come to expect from him (decent, inoffensive), then he is not responsible for who foots the bill.

And I think this is a pretty generous reading too, because one could state objectively that nearly all the projects above are simply 21st-century advertising campaigns. There are no uncomplicated and ethically pure creative pursuits, so what Murphy does, how he does it is, and who pays for it is not the real issue. It is the attitude with which he achieves his goals that is at best deceptive.

When regular people get older, the well-adjusted ones move on to new phases of their lives and new understandings of their identity as they grow and develop. When celebrities do it, because their past is the only perpetually bankable commodity for them, their carefully presented presence is always leveraged against a dated, but more valuable product. A celebrity's future, more acutely than normal people, is utterly contingent upon their last celebrated success.

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And LCD Soundsystem is a fine band. Hamburgers with bacon on them are good, too! Things that are good and bad are not mutually exclusive. You can be glad that Barack Obama is the President and also very disturbed by the expansion of his drone program. Contradictions are naturally occurring.

I recently came across the term "microtopian", which involves the production of a community populated by members that identify with one another because they have something in common. A tautology, microtopian communities are invented in a vacuum, without conflict or tension, and like a fusion reaction sustain themselves through themselves, participation in a group reproducing the group.

Though from the crux of this argument there is a suggestion that Fieri is preferable to James Murphy, he is preferable for very specific reasons, in that Murphy profits off of who you are at your most desperate-to-be-included moments, while conducting himself on a plane of untouchable sensitivity. He makes money off of you because he manipulates you.

Fieri doesn't manipulate, but he does (from the perspective of a suspicious party) take advantage of low expectations and a middle American ignorance. This is not an apology for Fieri's ills—his profiteering, his opportunism, his exploitation. He is not the first to do it, he just slapped his brand all over it, and owns it.

The distinction is one of posture (that lies in the heart of a class tension). That posture which claims artistic purity. A platonic appeal, not so dissimilar from the effect generated by a practiced illusionist, that says, "Look over here. Look through this advertisement. Look past the support system. Listen to the music instead. Also never question me."

Murphy is unassailable, so if he is threatened, he lashes out. How dare you? Do your research. Think his gout is stupid and indulgent? Too late, he knows that. He wants to underperform and overdeliver. New Yorkers live in a city built on lowering your expectations. Why does James Murphy need to be so insulated from critique? Is he that fragile? This is rather an attempt at leveling the playing field. To be an equal-opportunity hater.

What we are nostalgic for when we talk about Old New York City, the crummy porn huts and petty crime, is not the sex and the violence per se, or the actual reality of the place and time, but the simple value judgement the porn and crime enabled.

We can keep it at a distance, explored on our own terms. We prefer it because it is totally unreal. A complete fantasy is always more appealing, and the Times Square of old will never exist again. You want turnstiles that sing, not clank. You want Bourdain’s market or Batali's, not Arthur Avenue. You want Murphy’s Flavortown, not Guy's. Why?

There's a folk story I heard as a kid of a man who wanted to teach a fish to breathe air. So he caught a fish and put it in a bucket of water. Each day he would take out a single cup of water until there was none left. In the tale, once all the water is gone, the fish keeps breathing and walks off. In reality, by the end, the fish just doesn't realize it's dead.

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No one should really hate James Murphy or Guy Fieri. At least Fieri, though, is unrepentant, and lacks the opportunism of a man that probably has always been a wack sellout, or at the very least will continue to build his livelihood off of your sad nostalgia for years to come.

Obviously it's a personal choice—to decide what is stupid, what is wasteful, what is interesting, what you are afraid of. These boundaries of celebrity, personality, branding, culture, creativity, art are all too easily collapsible, and are emulsified all together into a toxic sludge, one singularly untenable and vapid contradiction. Perhaps that is what keeps Murphy up at night, and what prevents us from opening the door and peeking through to the other side. He’ll slam it shut and you’ll look like an asshole. Lighten up!

Either because James Murphy deserves the benefit of the doubt or we live fully immersed in a cultural milieu where wine connoisseurship is a noble creative pursuit, a new city has been growing. We have participated in that creation—a very comfortable city for James Murphy to pursue his characteristically bourgeois taste under the auspices of goodwill generated from a career profiting off of inoffensive, characteristically bourgeois creativity. Give me Guy's American any day, at least while I'm there I'll know exactly why I feel bad.

Marc Yearsley has eaten the patatas bravas at Four Horsemen.

.Gif by Cricket Day.