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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Ahhh, Zombies!!


“I also have always liked the monster within idea. I like the zombies being us. Zombies are the blue-collar monsters.”

"I've gotten letters, but mostly from Bible-belt types who say, you must be Satan! They come right out and call me Satan and hope that I'm damned to hell.”

"I always thought of the zombies as being about revolution, one generation consuming the next."  -George A. Romero (Father of the modern zombie)
For some reason, America, and arguably much of Western culture has become obsessed with zombies.  They are everywhere nowadays, in books, movies, video games, apps, tv shows, and on countless articles of apparel and accessories.  There are zombies everywhere: zombie pub crawls, zombie runs, zombie conventions, zombie proms, zombie burlesque, and even real zombie clubs (and this is worldwide, not just within the good ole US of A).  I mean, I even bought an Obama vs. Zombies t-shirt off of (that I ended up selling on Ebay).  Why?  I'll get to that in a bit.  I, however, am just as obsessed as anyone else.  Okay, I admit I'm more obsessed than most people.  I constantly think about where I would go and what I would bring in the event of a zombie pandemic.  I must say, though, that I've always been obsessed with the notion of a hoard of undead.  And I don't discriminate; I am fascinated by both zombies and vampires (However the former takes up most of my time).  

I have read Max Brook's books World War Z and The Zombie Survival Guide.  I have watched Zombieland, 28 Days Later, 28 Months Later, Shaun of the Dead, Night of the Living Dead , Dawn of the Dead (both versions), Return of the Living Dead and countless other lesser known, lower budget zombie flicks (including Trauma's own Redneck Zombies).  I've seen I Walked with a Zombie from the 1940's, though that is more about voodoo zombies than what we understand as 'zombies'.  For our modern understanding of the zombie we have, of course, George A. Romero of the 'Living Dead' franchise to thank and also Michael Jackson for his Thriller video in 1983.  Without them, zombies wouldn't have eaten their way so pervasively into pop culture.  

I just got finished reading Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Zombies by Matt Mogk.  By the way, Mogk is founder and head of the Zombie Research Society (ZRS) which you can join and start chapters of. He makes a good point, though, that we need to be discussing issues related to a zombie catastrophe now because when it happens, it will be too late.  

To say I'm impressed with the book is an understatement.  When my wife came into the room while I was reading it, and wanted me to either a) burn it or b) read it in my closet so it would be out of sight.  I, however, told her that the book was non-fiction and was unlike the gore I usually go for.  She just was 'glad it wasn't about people eating each other's guts' is all she commented.  I merited my reading the book by telling her that there was a lot of science and sociology in the book, which is true.  

By the way,  I got rid of the Obama vs. Zombies t-shirt.  I would have barred  from EVER wearing it around my apartment.  In fact, I even had to get both my copies of Max Brook's books out of the apartment for fear she'd throw them in the garbage can.  She REALLY hates and despises my obsession with zombies.  However, back to Mogk's book.  It's worth a read for any zombie enthusiast whether you're a novice or expert zombie connoisseur. 

I don't consider myself an expert at all

In a world between vampires and zombies, who would win?  It's obvious!  

Mogk's book, unlike other zombie guides, is very realistic.  For once, I actually stop to think that I'd be screwed in the event of a zombie apocalypse.  He actually asks some tough questions and demands you to ask yourself what you would do, as a survivalist.  Yea, I'd be screwed.  Water is the most important item to have?  I might have to eat rats and squirrels?  I would have to defend myself from human vandals and thieves along with the zombies?  Damn, I'm screwed!  I, however, like this book because it isn't some wishy-washy oh zombies will come and eat you.  It examines our culture's fascination with zombies and explores the plausibility of a zombie virus and what its ensuing breakdown of society would mean for us, as human beings.  

First of all, it is noble that Mogk tackles the question of our modern concept of zombie.  Many people conflate the Voodoo zombie with our current notion.  I agree with Mogk in that the two couldn't be more different than night and day.  The Voodoo zombie a person who was given drugs and herbs to fade away, nearly die, go into a coma-like state, and then wake up to be controlled by said necromancer/sorcerer.  In Haiti, people really do fear witch doctors who will steal their hair or a valuable possession in order to gain control over that person's mind and body.  I took a class on Voodoo in college along with other Caribbean religions, and Voodoo is very scary, though not as much as Santeria. 

 Oh and also, Voodoo has NOTHING at all to do with Voodoo dolls.  That's also more of an invention of our Western culture's notion of the Haitian religion.  In a nutshell, Voodoo is a mixture of African tribal religious customs with Catholicism.  In Voodoo, the gods are called loi and have counterparts with Madonna and other Saints (St. Patrick, etc).  Within the ritual, people will take on the persona of the loi and offer him/her specific food and light specific colored candles (each that correspond to that specific loi).  

Back to zombies.  So, frighteningly, there are many things in modern human biology that could result in a zombie apocalypse.  In Mock's book he lists many things: prions and other bacteria/viruses.  A prion, by the way is a protein that mutates and attacks a human's brain very aggressively.  Certain prions can also get transmitted through bodily fluids and with mutation possibility could spell danger.  Scared?  Mock also talks about the possibility of the flu mutating with rabies (something I scare my wife with all the time and am banned from talking about in our household).  Seriously though, if the flu mutate together with rabies, then we'd all be royally fucked.  

What I also like about this book is the fact that, throughout, I ask myself, literally, what I would do?  Would I leave my family behind?  If I leave the city with a person/people, then who?  Who would I trust?  How would I get my medication?  What happens when cell phones, computers, and other technological advances become obsolete?  What will I do without my Iphone and its apps?  God, help me!  What happens if my blood sugar goes low while I'm being stalked by the walking dead?  Or would I just stay locked in my apartment in Brooklyn?  Cities are the WORST place to be, but maybe there's a possibility to survive especially if the majority of people book it out of dodge.

I know where I'd go.  I would try to get to either New Mexico, Wyoming, or an island off of Washington (state), in that order.  New Mexico is hot, but it is very dry and there are very isolated and secluded areas where there is very little human activity.  Wyoming for the same reason minus the weather.  Both NM and WY have very different climates from each other but they are not as dense population wise and have mountains (which form nice natural barriers against the swarming undead).  Then an island off of Washington because though cold and rainy, an island would be ideal.  Unless, that is, that zombies can walk on the bottom of the ocean (as they can in World War Z). 

I also get to thinking about what kind of zombie I would prefer in my version of Z-day.  Though I know I wouldn't have a choice.  I think I would want the dead to stay dead, meaning that cemeteries are clear of any walking corpses, unlike Night of the Living Dead.  I would prefer a version similar to Zombieland, where the people are still 'alive'.  They are shells of themselves in the sense that they are taken over by the deadly virus/disease, but I prefer that to actually  being dead and reanimated.  The latter REALLY creeps me out.  Because then, if the dead actually do rise, as in graveyard zombies, then it would be an uncontrollable situation.  If people just get sick and turn rabid, though nightmarish is not as hellish as the dead rising from their coffins.  

I literally would not go into graveyards when I was younger (unless I was at a funeral) because I would get scared a hand, from a grave, would grab my foot.   No joke.  I was scared to go into graveyards because of zombies.  I had (and still have) zombie phobia but that also feeds into my obsession and fascination.  If the dead were to walk (in whatever sense) then I'd sure as hell not want to become one of them.  Unlike George Romero who is quoted as saying that he'd love to wake up and have a swarm of zombies in his living room because then he'd become 'one of them', a zombie, I would run for my life.  

By the way, fear of zombies is known as kinemortophobia; it's a real definition!  Sanguivoriphobia is fear of vampires.  

Interestingly, I would rather want to become a vampire.  And I'm also afraid of vampires, but I have more of an interest in living forever, though pale, with my body intact.  And yes, I'd drink blood of young virgins but at least I'd get to be a cool vampire like those in Anne Rice and Stephanie Myers books.  Right?  Not a gross one like Bram Stoker's Dracula.

Actually, I was surprised to find out that the vampire and zombie are very closely connected.  Matt Mogk opens his book by discussing this phenomenon.  George A. Romero got the idea for his movies from the 1953 I Am Legend book by Richard Matheson.  Matheson even thought Romero was ripping off his own idea.  The modern zombie as we know it really didn't exist before the 1968 Night of the Living Dead.  

I, for one, am excited to see what comes out in literature and film in the upcoming months and years.  I know there's a film version of Brook's World War Z but from the previews, it doesn't mesh well with how I imagined the book.  There's a great scene in the book, one of my favorites, actually, where a swarm of zombies comes down I-80 through Nebraska (near Lincoln), right  along a stretch of rode I've been on.  So I can visualize the scene in my head of the piled up cars and running, frightened people (many of whom are probably very overweight).  

I just hope that if Z-Day does come, then I'll not be in NYC at all.  Or any city for that matter.  Hopefully, I'll have some warning dreams ahead of time.  And yes, I have had dreams of that nature, about zombies (also vampires).  I've also dreamt about floods and fires.  Sometimes I'm wandering alone, sometimes I'm with a family member (realizing that all my other family is deceased).  So, if I have to go it alone, I think psychically I'm ready though psychologically I'm not at all.  

I, however am the type of person who argues with people over the best type of weapon: machete and the best place to seek shelter (urban): drug store with sliding/locking gate and only a small handful of other doors or (suburban/rural): two to three story house with attic and accessible roof.  If in a house, though, I'd prefer to have the foldable/collapsible armor that many Israelis have over their windows.  Am I crazy to even be considering this stuff?  I'm also the type of person to survey places when I'm there.  'Oh no, too many stairs'.  'Oh those stairs could be broken away easily and the elevators suspended.  There's some food on the third floor.  Oh but too many people would swarm here.'  Yes, things like that run through my head.

So I know I'm DEFINITELY not ready for Z-Day today or tomorrow.  But with some time, I'll continue to hone my survival skills and be ready.  If not for Z-Day then whatever comes our way.  I  know one thing is for sure.  I will learn how to ride a bike, and I will bike my way out of the city as if my life depended on it (and it might).  

Okay, now with these warm fuzzy thoughts running through my head, I'm gonna get some shuteye and hope I don't wake up to a street filled with the frothing, decaying corpses of people who used to be my NY neighbors. 

Good night!  Sleep tight!

Kinemortophobically yours,


*By the way, if you like zombies, I have a short story on zombies in a post called 'Zombie Jesus'.  Check it out!



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