Pixelbitching with Lee and Clementine

Lee and Clementine

I don’t play a lot of video games, so I claim no expertise, but recently started playing ‘The Walking Dead’ from Telltale Games and thought I’d write about it. I don’t know if this video game represents state of the art or not — I’ve played a bit of games like ‘Fallout’ and ‘Oblivion’ (video games that I guess would be called ‘RPGs’).  ‘The Walking Dead’ seems to be a kind of interactive story game (like Fallout) but is much more like a TV show that looks like a comic book than what I think of when I think of a computer RPG.  And I don’t know if this ‘story’ type of game is common or not; it’s the first one I have played. I’m still reserving judgement until I play further, but so far there are both things that I like and dislike about ‘The Walking Dead’ game.


‘The Walking Dead’ game seems to be based heavily on the TV show (which I guess was based on the comic, er, excuse me, graphic novel, ahem — but I haven’t read the comic yet). You start the game and you are ‘Lee’ (who looks and sounds like a young Richard Roundtree, but with circa 2013 clothes, haircut and language). ‘Lee’ is sitting, handcuffed, in the back of a police cruiser and is being driven to prison by a chatty sheriff’s deputy. From the dialogue, we learn that ‘Lee’ (who is us) has been convicted of murdering a man who slept with his wife. We are given a choice of responses to the driver’s questions, and the responses we pick (which range from polite to hostile) seem to determine what the people we are conversing with will say next and how they might consider us in the future. I’m only part way through chapter one (out of five) and haven’t managed to get all the way through without getting eaten fairly early. Eventually, Lee teams up with an eight year old girl named Clementine.

Some events seem ‘hard coded’ into the story. In the first scene, the police cruiser we are riding in crashes and we are hurled head first into the zombie apocalypse.  As far as I can tell, there is no way to avoid the crash or the encounter with the first zombies that follow it. In other cases, as players we can influence the course of events a little more. We can direct ‘Lee’ around the room or wilderness area he and the others are in and there are various objects (like weapons, tools, etc.), that Lee can pick up and use. Sometimes the game is frustrating since it will sometimes not allow you to use an object in a manner that the game designers did not predict or intend — a common problem for me with most computer RPGs. Also, the gameplay alternates between phases where you control Lee’s actions  and other parts where he just seems to go on autopilot.  In scene 1, Lee picks up a shotgun and uses it to defend himself from a zombified deputy. He then drops the shotgun and runs away — keeping the shotgun to use as a crutch to help Lee hobble along on his injured leg or using it as a club to beat the other zombies are not options, a limitation of computer games which I find frustrating.*

Other ‘characters’ in the game seem have their own personalities — I suspect that if, as Lee, I chose to be polite and deferential to everyone in the game, that the ‘nice’ characters would respond positively and the ‘mean’ (or hostile) characters would take advantage.  Similarly, if I make ‘Lee’ act like a dick in every interaction with every other character, they will probably soon all lose patience with me and I will fail to succeed in going forward in the game.  The essence of this ‘Telltale’ game, in addition to solving puzzles (i.e.: you gotta find the keys to unlock the handcuffs on Lee’s wrist before he can defend himself from zombies), is to choose the right approach with all of the different characters in the game. This makes it more like a TV show in which you can take part some of the time; other times the game just takes over and you just watch… which is taking some getting used to and I can’t decide if this is OK or lame. Probably a combination of both.

Decades ago I remember reading a very enthusiastic article about programs like ‘Hypercard Player.’ ‘Hypercard’ allowed the Mac user to create groups of files that could be linked or sorted in whatever way the user wanted. The files could be words, pictures, sound files, etc., that could be linked to one another. Hypercard Player had the author of this article very excited because people had started to use it to write ‘interactive fiction’ (this was before the internet). Rather than a work of fiction proceeding as the author intended, the reader could decide where they wanted the story to go. People were sharing their ‘Hypercard Stack’ novels and the author of this rather gushing article felt the novel of the future had been born. To me, it sounds a lot like one of those ‘Choose your own adventure’ books. ‘The Walking Dead’ video game seems a lot like a more sophisticated ‘choose your own adventure’ book with better graphics and sound. According to my friend Kevin, choices you make in chapter 1 will effect play in later chapters, so, once I figure the game out, maybe I’ll play it again and see how making different choices makes the game proceed in different directions.

I’m going to say a bit about the art since I care about such things. The characters and animation look pretty good in a clean, storyboard/graphic novel style. The faces look pretty expressive and they have kept settings and lighting fairly simple; I think to help the player concentrate on the expressions and reactions of his fellow survivors (since that is what you are supposed to be using to make your in-game choices).  Everything is outlined in black, giving it the appearance of a graphic novel; the whole thing looks like an animated film. It’s not flashy or elaborate, but they do a lot with a little; gore is usually more suggested than outright.

I had a lot of problems with getting the cursor where I wanted it when I first started playing — just trying to make Lee pick a shotgun shell up off the ground and load it into a shotgun would send the cursor skittering all over the damn place — but experiements with the mouse sensitivity helped solve that problem. I also don’t understand what the keyboard commands are supposed to be — while Lee is wrestling with a zombified babysitter, I’m pressing Tab, shift, q, w, e, r, t or y, trying to get him to push the zombie away or kick it in the head. I did a little unsuccessful online hunting, but there is a lot of assumed knowledge in the video game community — perhaps most or all of these games use the same keyboard commands and everyone assumes that anyone with half a brain knows the commands, because my search turned up a lot of spoilers, but not specific help as in what key to press when in order to get it so that Lee can run away from the zombie and grab something to bash it’s head in rather than just standing there saying ‘No! Get away!’ while I desperately press keys at random, hoping one of them will make Lee do some Kung-Fu move that will save his bacon. I bought it via Steam, so there is no instruction booklet.  I’m think I’m close to figuring it out, but I don’t know if figuring it out is worth my time.  Damn; I suck at these video games.

* I accept that you can’t have a computer game where it is possible to do ‘anything’ simply because everything that happens has to be provided for in the game itself; I’m just saying that this is a limitation of the medium I find frustrating.

World War Z (part 2)

Do zombies have ‘swarm consciousness’ like ants or bees?

The other day I posted a bit about the World War Z movie and how much I was looking forward to it.  Since posting, I’ve seen a lot of negative comments about the movie from people who think its going to suck, which made me wonder if a) do I have really crappy taste or b) did we all see the same preview?

A lot of the negative comments about the movie focus on the fact that it doesn’t resemble the book that much.  People really liked the book and thought that the movie should be more like it… but I just can’t see a series of vignettes of different people talking about the zombie-pocalypse like a Ken Burns documentary really working as a Hollywood movie.  I think that using the ‘World War Z’ book title is misleading, but I didn’t like the book that much (I liked Brook’s tongue-in-cheek “Zombie Survival Guide” much more). If I had been a bigger fan of the book, I would be more upset about the World War Z movie bearing only a superficial resemblance to the World War Z book.

One of the things I didn’t like about the book was that many of the characters from different parts of the world who were all relating how they spent the ‘Zombie Wars’ didn’t seem ‘different’ enough in voice in the book. It just kept me from buying the premise. Maybe writing a book from 100 different points of view is an impossible task — I don’t know if another writer could have carried it off, either, and I certainly like the concept, but Brooks’ prose just didn’t work for me.  I also found some of the characters were too close to stereotype for me to buy them.. the Japanese otaku who, faced with the end of the world, becomes a master of the samurai sword, for example. It just didn’t ring true for me. I don’t know if that is a failure of imagination by me as a reader or a result of failure by Brooks as a writer. I loved “Zombie Survival Guide.” I just found portions of “World War Z” a bit flat and melodramatic.  I seem to be in the minority in that opinion (my friend Jon C., whose opinion on all things writing I respect, loved Brooks’ WWZ book, so there you go).

I’ve mentioned it before, but if I had to recommend only one book of zombie genre fiction, it would have to be ‘Zone One’ by Colson Whitehead. I haven’t read anything else by Whitehead (although, based on how much I enjoyed Zone One, I plan to), but Whitehead’s novel was more effective because he kept the scope pretty narrow. Everything is told from a single protagonist’s point of view, even though he is just one man with PTSD in the army of ‘zombie clean-up crews’ that have been formed since the zombie apocalypse. As opposed to World War Z, Whitehead shows the emotions in his characters rather than tells — an important distinction that made it a lot more enjoyable for me to read.

It’s been a couple years since I read World War Z, so I probably don’t remember the book well enough to write an in-depth review, but I do remember parts where some of the different narrators described the zombies just moving forward relentlessly, in a swarm.  There was one battle described in (I think) India where the military retreated across a deep ravine and blew up the bridge behind them, and then just watched in horror as the zombies just started to pour over the cliff like a waterfall, slowly filling up the ravine, which was one image from the book I really found effective… and that’s what the exploding swarms of bodies in the preview made me recall. A similar ‘zombie surge’ figures prominently in the end of Whitehead’s “Zone One.”  Zombie surges are perhaps becoming all the rage in the genre. Maybe that’s what helps make zombies scary again… by this point, everyone knows you can defeat them by shooting them in the head and evade them by closing the gate of a chain link fence, but what if there are so many of the living dead, swarming like ants, that you know you can’t kill them fast enough to keep yourself safe and they will press and pile up against any barrier until they knock it down through sheer numbers? Maybe it’s the idea of all of these humans having lost their humanity that fascinates us — people are starting to say that the zombie genre is played out; I think it still has some mileage left in it yet.

World War Z and Zombie Fantasy

I previously mentioned the Max Brooks books, World War Z and Zombie Survival Guide, on this blog. I just found out that the World War Z movie (starring Brad Pitt) will be out in July 2013. My friend Jon C. has been so excited to see this that I wonder if he will be able to stand having to wait that long? I also wonder if I’ll be able to convince Annie to see it with me?  She hates scary movies.

The preview looks like it was inspired by Brook’s book rather than a straight translation to film, mostly because the book is really just a series of anecdotes from different people in different countries following the zombie plague — recollections of people in China who saw the first outbreak contrasted with stories from Frenchmen who exterminated zombies in the catacombs beneath Paris, for example.  It looks like the film makers stitched the different vignettes together with Pitt as a central character; he apparently is some sort of U.N. crisis specialist who is jetting around the world while they try to deal with the whole ‘Z’ situation. Hopefully Pitt is better at his job than that  Brownie guy from FEMA was during Katrina.

The preview doesn’t tell me much, but, wow, rivers of people surging forward instead of the usual shuffling hordes of rotted zombies is a welcome change… it looks like this film might manage to make zombies scary again! With ‘The Walking Dead’ on T.V. and movies like this coming out, zombie fans are getting a lot of entertainment.  What makes us love this zombie stuff so much?

I have a theory. I think one of the things people love about zombie movies is that these films allow us to imagine ‘killing’ people without moral consequences. I remember hearing about how the rationalist, Rene Descartes, used to say that animals didn’t feel pain; he claimed that if a dog howls after you kick it, the ‘pain response’ of the dog was of no more significance than a squeaking of a wheel on a cart. I have no doubt that Descartes was wrong; I believe animals do feel pain, but maybe Descartes was actually seeking to excuse how horribly people treat animals by saying that it didn’t matter. And maybe that’s part of the appeal of the zombie fantasy. Descartes statements about animals have (thankfully) been mostly discredited and Hollywood has discovered that Americans actually don’t like to watch people killing animals (just ask artist Tom Otterness; he was videotaped shooting a dog in way back in 1977 as an ‘art project’ and a lot of people (including me) still think he’s a douche).  We hate to see animals getting killed, but we do like to watch people killing other people (well, at least simulated versions of people killing other people).  One of the advantages of ‘deactivating’ a zombie is that it is not potentially immoral in the same way that shooting another human in the head might be immoral simply because you are not actually ‘killing’ the zombie; it is supposedly already dead. In fact, by ‘deactivating’ the zombie, you are performing a public service since that zombie will just wander around trying to infect other humans, right?

I think another reason that the ‘zombie apocalypse’ has common appeal is that most of us live fairly trammeled lives in which we travel back and forth between work, home, school, etc., and little that we do in our day to day lives has much significance.  Whatever else one might say about a world in which the social order has been destroyed, zombies shuffle or surge up and down the streets while the survivors seek to live just another day (or even another few moments), at least it wouldn’t be boring. Romero had his zombies shuffling up and down the escalators of a shopping mall, and the appeal of that image probably said a lot about how many members of the audience felt like they were not really living, either.  The survivors, on the other hand, need to be quick and clever and resourceful. The irony is that in television shows like ‘The Walking Dead,’ the priciple characters spend a lot of time saying how horrible life after the zombie event is — they are always on the run, dirty, hungry, scared and afraid of losing their humanity — but I can’t help thinking they will also never have to sit in traffic or listen to a mind numbingly boring sales pitch/teacher’s lecture/sermon/power point presentation again.  The zombie apocalypse takes away a lot, but, at least in it’s fantasy form, it appears to give a lot too — bursts of adrenaline as we try to outrun the shuffling hordes, a ‘first person shooter’ experience that would be more immersive than any video game and the chance to remake yourself in a brave new world where the old social order has been swept away and the population is defined in one of three ways: dead, undead and still living. Basejumping and other more pedestrian thrill seeker activities pale in comparison.

Bait & Switch

Above was clipped from one of Dunham’s Weekly circulars, the “Sports Hunting Circular” with prices valid through 10/13/2012. For those not in the know, Dunham’s is the place to go for long underwear in a camo print, soccer jerseys for the kids, hockey sticks and skates, socks, athletic supporters, duck calls, etc.  It’s like a discount Cabelas that also serves as a one-stop-shop for people with kids playing school sports.

The item in question is a civilian model of the HK 416, supposedly one of the best automatic rifles in the world. I’m normally not that excited about civilian semi-auto carbines, but $549.99 seemed too good a deal to pass up.  Come zombie apocalypse or the rise of the machines, I’d want something with the combined accuracy and ROF of a semi-auto carbine, and the HK416 is not only better than the various AR15 clones in terms of fewer ‘failure to feed’ problems, but is also the weapon of choice for special forces around the world — and, at $549.99, cheaper as well. If my future involved manning the barricades, I wanted an HK416 in my hands. It’s the rifle that killed Bin Laden.

Well, I visited two Dunham’s and called several more, and not only did they not have it, everyone I spoke to said they never carry any rifles from Heckler Koch but they would gladly sell me a Bushmaster carbine for $999.99 if I used the coupon, $1099.99 regular price.  Bunch of bait and switch motherfuckers.

Tip of the hat for marketing genius goes to whomever came up with Hornady “Zombie-Max” ammo.  Yes, it is for real. Hornady is one of the many companies selling ammunition in the US and came up with “Zombie-Max” to sell more ammo to more people. The ammo is apparently a capped hollowpoint, but the plastic cap is green instead of the usual white or clear, which of course means it is better for killing zombies, because zombies are (apparently) sensitive to green plastic the way that werewolves are sensitive to silver. Who knew? If green plastic does kill zombies, I’m going to buy a bunch of green plastic army men, grind ’em up and pack ’em into shotgun shells. Just in case.

The End of the World

The End of the World (Apocalypse Preparation #4)

A year ago, when this blog was a lot more popular, I did a “how do you think the world will end?” poll, allowing people to vote between such popular choices as “Alien Invasion,” “Zombies,” “Nuclear War,” “Asteroids,” etc.  Unfortunately, I think one of Blogger’s redesigns or my incompetence ate my poll and data — so the results are gone, but I think you can still see some of the responses. With my recent posts on apocalypse preparation, I thought now would be the perfect time to revisit the topic. After all, if one is going to prepare for the end of the world, one should consider what form this end will take.

Here are some possible ‘end of the world’ scenarios, in no particular order:

1) Zombies: I know that zombies have been done to death (hah hah, joke; previously I blogged that the living dead seem to have jumped the shark).  It seems as if everyone and his brother is writing a crappy Zombie genre novel, but zombies, as an end of the world proposal, still seem like a good bet. To start with, we have those Canadian statistical studies that suggest in a George Romero-esque zombie scenario, humanity is probably fucked.  Zombies continue to appeal to the imagination because the idea of shooting that annoying coworker because he’s turned into a zombie is something most of us would like to at least imagine doing.
I just want to make it clear that I was into zombies before everyone else thought they were cool.
However, we are also going to have to differentiate between actual living dead scenarios (like
Romero’s ‘Dawn of the Dead’) and “rage virus” type scenarios like ’28 Days Later.’ The ’28 Days
Later’ infected are, technically, not ‘undead,’ but they may as well be because they certainly behave like zombies. They are also faster and meaner than Romero’s shuffling, bumbling undead. Romero zombies have to bite you for you to be infected, then you need to die from the diesease (which takes hours) and then, finally, you rise again.  This gives other people plenty of time to tie you up, lock you in a closet, decapitate you or take other precautions. 28 Days Later infected just have to bite you, spit in your eye or kiss you on your lips and, seconds later, you have become one of them.  I’m not as fast on my feet as Vice Presidential candidate Paul “Marathon Man” Ryan claims to be, but even I could keep up a brisk trot that would keep me out of reach of the slow “Dawn of the Dead” Romero zombies.  The 28 Days Later infected would be another story… those bastards are all adrenaline.
Other films, like Romero’s “The Crazies” (where a chemical weapon gets into the water supply and turns a whole town into homicidal maniacs — I reviewed both the 1973 original and the 2010 remake) are sort of like ‘zombie’ scenarios, but are more localized phenomena — unless you go to the town with the poisoned water and drink the water over a period of time, you are unlikely to get infected. And the question remains unanswered as to whether or not people who have been driven mad by the poison in the water supply can be cured. Sure, the ‘Crazies’ are not undead… but they are the next best thing.
Strategy: Avoid, hide, shoot-em-in-the-head. If it’s Trixie, don’t drink the water and get out of Dodge.

2) Plague: Whether flesh eating virus, bird flu or bubonic plague, what if a diesease just killed ~90% of the humans? See Carriers, a movie from a few years ago that I really enjoyed but didn’t get a lot of popular attention.  There was also a BBC TV show called Survivors; I saw a few episodes on Netflix a while back. In the wake of having 90% or more of the people die, societies collapse and a few people are left, fending for themselves in a new dark age.  Of course, there are always the little Hitlers in these stories who want to take shit over and those frequent shoot outs over food supplies, a possible cure or that last can of gasoline. Survivors or Carriers were a bit like “Mad Max” but without the S&M outfits and the crazy cars.
The biggest problem, in my opinion, is how badly all those dead bodies are going to stink. Even if you are immune to the plague that wiped out most of humanity, cities and towns are rapidly going to turn into disease infected maggot piles which will eventually produce some sort of something that WILL kill you. The fact that dead bodies stink really badly and make us want to puke is nature’s way of telling us, “Stay away — this rotting flesh is dangerous.”  If the plague doesn’t get you, maybe something caught with trying to retreive a can Vienna sausages from the corpse filled ruin of a 7-11 will.
I suppose the medieval Black Plague survivors or the South American natives in the age of the Spanish invasion experienced what seemed like apocalyptic plagues; to those living through it, it probably seemed like ‘the end of the world.’ And then there was the flu pandemic of 1918 when somewhere around 100 million people might have died — shit, this is getting just too depressing.
Strategy: Inoculate, Evacuate, Isolate. Wear lots of rubber and use lots of hand sanitizer. Move to the country and learn to like the taste of venison. Cough into your sleeve. Wave instead of shaking hands. No glove = no love.

3) Meteors / Super Nova: These seem the least interesting to me, simply because there is nothing I can conceive of doing to improve my chances of survival. Faced with zombies, I can shoot them in the head; when the reptilian overlords take over, the machines rise up or the apes attack, I can join the resistance, etc. But the entire planet disintigrated in a ball of flame?  Unless we can send Bruce Willis up in a space shuttle to destroy the asteroid, it’s game over for all of us.
Strategy: None.  U.R. phuct.

4) The Day of the Triffids: I’m not sure where this one belongs.  “Day of the Triffids” was a sci-fi novel and then a BBC TV series and, maybe, a movie.  It applies several Apocalypses at once.  First, a night time meteor shower produces a wonderously colorful light show in the night sky.  Almost everyone stays up to watch it.  Unfortunately, the next morning they all wake up fucking BLIND! If that were not bad enough, mankind had domesticated some sort of a weird, walking plant called a ‘triffid’ that could be used to make an oil for fuel, thus solving the energy crisis once and for all (I guess it was written in the 1970s or so).  The triffids are dangerous (they have a whip with poison that can wound and (eventually) kill a human), but are easily managed through the use of electrified wire fences and other barriers.  When the humans go blind, the triffids escape and start hunting down the now blind humans who are bumbling around trying to survive.  There are a handful of humans who did not go blind (some were in prison and thus not permitted to see the lightshow, others were sleeping off a drunk, had suffered an eye injury and were wrapped in bandages, etc.) and the action revolves around these ‘sighted’ few. Triffids are sort of like zombies — they move slowly and are not very intelligent, but are dangerous in larger groups and they don’t give up. The whole ‘meteor shower causing 99% of the population to go blind” is an interesting wrinkle.
Strategy: If a ‘glorious meteor shower with astounding colors’ is predicted, draw the curtains, close your eyes, stay inside and hide.  Stockpile food and weapons. Avoid city centers where large numbers of decaying dead-and-blind people will be found.  Watch out for sighted megalomaniacs who want to lord it over the blind. Stock up on agent orange and other herbicides.

5) Rise of the Machines / Apes / C.H.U.D., etc.: The “that which was our servant has taken over” has worked very well for the Terminator franchise — we got a series of films, television shows and a robot Governor for the state of California out of the deal. And I LOVED the ‘Planet of the Apes’ movies when I was a wee sprat — especially the one with the army of mutated humans who lived under the ruins of a city fighting the apes (although the one where the other group of mutants worship a bomb was pretty cool, too). Planet of the Apes was from the 70s, a time when the ideas of social unrest were on the minds of a lot of people, so I  think those stories had a little more resonance then than they have today.
I guess ‘The Matrix’ belongs in here too, but it’s a lot more post modern so I’m gonna pretend I didn’t mention it.
C.H.U.D. doesn’t count as an ‘end of the world’ scenario (unless you are a hobo or a late night dog walker living in the early 80s NYC), but I loved the movie and the idea of mutants living in the sewers because the people who run the nuclear power plant are too cheap to truck the radioactive waste out of town and instead stash it in the sewers under Manhattan is pretty boss.
Strategy: Stockpile weapons, food, ammo. Grenades and Geiger counters would be useful in a C.H.U.D. scenario. Be nice to your pet monkey and when he wants another banana, give it to him. Knowing where the circuit breakers are, so you can shut the whole fucking system down if needed, is key, so respect the janitor and his big ring of keys. Stay out of the basement if it’s CHUD; head to the basement if it’s terminator.  If you are in the Matrix, the basement is in your mind (which I just blew, by the way).

6) War of the Worlds / Space Invaders: I’m showing my age here, but I remember when a video game where you were a little rocket that moved left or right and shot missiles out of your nose at advancing hordes of bug-like space ships was considered ‘cutting edge.’ A few months ago, I re-read H.G. Well’s “War of the Worlds” and, as a both a novel and science fiction I think it really held up well, despite all the references to cravats and horse drawn carriages and other late 19th century-isms. I guess that’s because Wells could write and Space Invaders just got boring after a while.
But what are we going to go if the Martian Tripods arrive and our orbital satellite defense platforms are not ready for them? I’d suggest running, hiding and allowing the tiny bacteria to eventually do to the martians what all our military might cannot (i.e.: kick their asses).  If you are in danger of being caught by the martians, try to have a cold so the martians that drink your blood will get sick and die. If the martians have anti-biotics, we are fucked.
Strategy: Good running/hiking shoes, a canteen and food, weather gear and quick wits and a will to live will serve you well.  Weapons are more likely to help you against fellow humans who want to fuck you over for a chocolate bar than the martians; don’t waste your ammo taking potshots at the tripods (it will only let them know where you are). Avoid mentally unbalanced travel companions and do not accept a berth on a ship named HMS Thunderchild. Hopefully it will all be over in less than a week.

7) Atomic War: My, how times have changed.  When I was a kid, a war to end all wars with ICBMs between the USSR and “The Western Democracies” was considered very likely. All these years later, we are more worried about terrorists than Ivan here in the US (although some worry about underpaid soldiers or disgruntled commisars of the former USSR selling nukes to the terrorists). When I was a youngster I played GAMMA WORLD and I thought after a nuclear war I would have 1d8 hp per point of CON and I would be riding around on a cactus-horse and fighting mutant rabbits with my vibro-blade in one hand and my slug-thrower in the other.  Then I saw a movie called “The Day After” in which the inhabitants of Lawrence Kansas got the shit blasted out of them by nukes and their hair and teeth all fell out and they were vomitting all the time and I was considerably less enthusiastic.
When I was a school boy, one of our teachers was talking about how he grew up with ‘Duck and Cover’ exercises in which an alarm would sound and everyone would scuttle under a desk to protect themselves. Someone asked why we didn’t do such exercises anymore and I remember him saying he didn’t know why but that hiding under a desk wouldn’t protect you against a nuclear attack, anyway. “Gee, that’s swell Mr. Ryan! I guess if they bomb, we are all fucked! Now that you’ve traumatized us, can we go to recess?” Good thing it didn’t come to that.
I wouldn’t mind nuclear war if it was more like Fallout 3 or Gamma World. Since it will instead probably be really dusty and everyone getting either blasted to atoms or slowly sickening and dying, I’m thinking, “no, thanks.”
Strategy: Hope that it doesn’t happen? If it does, have stored food, shotguns and assault rifles, geiger counters and a fallout shelter handy. Live someplace far from anything that the Russkis (or Chinese or whomever) want to blow up and learn to grow your own food.  String up lots of barbed wire to keep the mutants out. If you live in Fallout 3 and can afford it, buy space in a vault from Vault-Tec!

8) Mutants/Food of the Gods/The Blob/Monolith Monsters/Last Man on Earth: Growing up, I used to watch monster movies on the local independant channels (KPLR-11 in Saint Louis and/or the local UHF station TV 30 back when TV sets still had knobs you had to twist). I loved these B-movies because they were always coming up with monsters from some mysterious source (usually radiation or outer space) which would have humanity pinned to the mat and be about to rip our collective throats when someone would come up with a solution and the movie would end with the equivalent of, “Whew, that was close!” (or, in the case of the Blob, it would end with the US Airforce dropping the frozen blob into the arctic wastes via parachute…. and just when you started to feel safe, an enormous question mark came surging up out of the screen— The blob isn’t dead… it is only dormant!  Who knows what will happen!?!).
I don’t remember if they ever explained where the ‘Food of the Gods’ came from in that movie — it was some sort of mysterious substance that caused chickens to grow to enormous size when mixed with their feed.  Unfortunately, rats broke intot the barn and ate the chicken feed and the heroes of the movie spent most of their time trying to escape the resultant giant rats.  They managed to kill the rats by blowing up a damn and flooding the valley, but, at the end of the film we saw broken jars labeled “Food of the Gods” lying in a stream… the stream flowed into a river… that flowed into a cow farm where the cows drank the F.O.t.Gs contaminated water… and… in the last scene… a bunch of snot nosed school kids happily slurping milk out of little paper cartons in the school lunch room…. “WHAT WILL HAPPEN!?!” Plus we had ‘THEM’ which was about giant ants attacking people in California.
Carpenter’s “The Thing!” was a direct descendant of these B-movies but with special effects that were more special and Kurt Russel. Again it ended with a “WHAT WILL HAPPEN!?!” and a sequel (or was it a prequel?).
“Monolith Monsters” deserves an honorable mention because it was perhaps the weirdest apocalypse idea that Hollywood came up with.  There are these giant crystals (I don’t remember where they come from) that keep growing out of the ground until they grow so huge that they snap off and fall over, crushing whatever they fall on. They are easy to avoid, but, like a game of Tetris, you are likely to get surrounded by them and cut off and they just DON’T STOP! I don’t remember much about this movie other than I couldn’t decide if it was cool or stupid when I saw it (I would have been about 10 or so)… which makes me think it was probably pretty cool.  I’m going to have to see if I can find it on netflix or something.
Strategy: If you are dealing with giant ants, shoot them in the antennae and they will go crazy and kill each other. Steve McQueen defeated the blob with fire extinguishers. You are gonna have to handle these things on a case by case basis, but, in most cases, stick close to the star of the movie and don’t downplay the danger — the people who wander off on their own or doubt the danger are always the ones who get killed.

9) Let’s get Biblical — Noah and the Great Flood: Did you know that Russel Crowe recently starred in a yet-to-be-released movie about Noah’s ark? Ironically, he and a friend also recently got lost while kayaking and had to be rescued by the Coast Guard. Noah would have been able to deal with that shit on his own is all I’m saying.
Strategy: I’m tempted to say you ought to just carry an inflatable life raft around with yourself at all times, but, IMO, the God of the old testament would have just sent a swordfish to pop your raft while you were floating above the waves in order to drown your ass. He was always setting up these situations where humans would fail and then destroying them. If god didn’t want people having anal sex, why did he give people assholes and let them build a city called ‘Sodom’?  And what kind of god puts two naked people in a garden and says, “You can do anything you want… just don’t eat the apple,” and then acts surprised when they eat the apple? Of course they ate the apple.  And if he’s all knowing and all powerful, he would have known they were gonna eat the apple before he even made the garden.
You just can’t win with a god that acts like a spoiled jerk.

Improvised Apocalypse Arsenal Part 2: Self Defense

I’ve been musing more on the ‘Improvised Apocalypse Arsenal’ concept that I introduced on Saturday. I think I have more posts in me on the subject.  Sorry. 
Today I’d like to talk about ‘Self Defense.’  No, not ‘self defense’ as in having weapons with you — I would categorize that as ‘defense of self through self offense.’  When the shit comes down. whether it be ravenous undead, Mad Max type wastelanders armed with hand-made crossbows, feral children with tooth and nail or mutants with super powers, you are going to want something to protect yourself from harm — a barrier between you and danger that can be as big as a castle or as small as a shield improvised from a trash can lid.  Self protection becomes doubly important in an ‘infection’ scenario — when the bite of one zombie = eventual zombification, then taking pains not to get bitten seems a worthwhile investment.

It’s just a matter of time…

1) Don’t get out of the car: Is this good advice?  I don’t know.  I guess it depends. The good thing about the car is that you can lock yourself inside of it and drive away.  And maybe you’ll have some bottled water, road flares or a blanket in the trunk. But when the apocalypse comes (and come it will), the roads are going to be jammed with bumper-to-bumper vehicles, each containing a happy-meal for the undead, mutants or cannibals in the form of a commuter who is probably armed only with a smart phone and a coffee.  Easy pickings.
Also, most cars have a lot of glass, so, unless you are moving down the road at considerable speed, any determined adversary who can pick up a rock or other window smasher is going to eventually get you.  The car is also a crappy place to hide; anything taller than a schnauzer is going to see you trying to hunker down in the driver’s seat of your Corolla.  Be smart.  Know when to make a break and hoof it.  I suppose there are exceptions — if you have a helicopter instead of a car, you can thumb your nose at the proles stuck on the freeway below, but what goes up must eventually come down (and, if the apocalypse scenario is flying monkeys or fire breathing dragons, perhaps up in the air is the last place you want to be).
Max Brooks recommends vehicles like armored cars and the like, but good luck in getting your hands on one of those.  If you try to jack the dudes who work for the armored car company, they will just shoot you; end of your story, or maybe they will just smile and wave at you through the bullet proof glass as the rabid mole rats or whatever rip you apart.

Zombies: more persistent than Amway people.

2. Don’t go outside: Good advice? Again, it depends.  If you are shopping at ‘The Sunglasses Hut’ and suddenly the irradiated ghouls attack, unless you can lock down the whole mall immediately, get your ass out of there.  If the threat is outside and you are inside, that’s probably more good than bad — figure out where they are going to get in and either barricade or surrender indefensible parts of the territory.  But always leave yourself an exit! That upstairs bedroom might seem like a good place to hide, but if they are coming in the bedroom door can you go out the window?  Have an exit strategy.
 Also: how defensible and well supplied is this place you want to call home?  Shopping malls seem to be a movie favorite for zombie survival, but Hollywood has some peculiar ideas about the defensibility of a mall… too much glass and not enough moats and machine-gun nests for my taste. Most malls seem to be a good source for stylish clothing, designer purses and jewelry, but these items are going to be less useful than shotguns, iodine and canned beans, which, in my experience, are left for more prosaic shopping destinations to provide.  Some place like Wal-mart might be better, but those big box stores are also going to be ground zero for infection as panicking suburbanites pack in there, trying to grab all the toaster pastries and bottled water that they can fit into their mini-vans.
The last urban high school I taught in might have made a pretty good fortress.  The kitchen was provided with industrial sized cans of cling peaches and fruit cocktail. The pre-war building had thick walls and bars on the windows. The nurses office had at least some medical supplies. There might have even still been some dated supplies* in the fallout shelter. Best of all, it was a run-down place with an undesirable zipcode, so few people are going to contest you for it’s ownership.

3) Learn from the ancestors: Time was, our ancestors defended themselves by scampering up a tree.  And a tree still makes a good refuge… consider the dog and squirrel.  If dogs had hands instead of paws, squirrels would have been wiped out years ago.

4) Clothes make the man: We need to divide this into sub-categories:

Survival skills for post-collapse America!

4a) Hooray for the SCA: I never did the SCA thing, myself.  When I heard of it, I envisioned people in armor whacking each other with blunted weapons, which seemed to me like a very good way to train for many possible versions of the apocalypse. Unfortunately, most SCAers seem to spend most of their time wandering the Ren Faire in floppy hats, bodices and cloaks; garments that offer little or no protection from bites, claws or bullets and probably are impossible to run or climb a chain link fence in. If you an SCAer, leave the pirate costume in the closet and stick with the chain mail instead. Accessorize that battle armor with a decidedly non-period shotgun and replace the rattan sword with a machete or baseball bat. Armor will slow you down, however, so stay close to a vehicle in case you need to make a quick get away.

Dress for success

4b) Road Warrior: Leather motorcycle gear is probably a good choice – a nice compromise between protection and maintaining a decent movement rate. Stylish AND lots of zippered pockets for extra ammo, etc. Plus it makes you look like a tough guy… and, in case you dress for the apocalypse on a day when it fails to come about, you can just tell people that you are on your way to Sturgis. Accessorize with boots, leather gloves and helmet.  Leather won’t stop a bullet, but it will probably slow down the teeth and claws of the undead or offer at least some protection from the teeth of rabid doberman pinchers.

Kelley was a badass, no doubt.

4c: The Sporting Life: Football players wear shoulder pads that would make damn good protection while battling other post-apocalyptic warriors armed with chains, boards studded with nails, lead pipes, etc.  Lacrosse helmets offer great impact protection and high visibility — probably as good or better than those buckets most SCAers wear on their heads. Hockey offers shin guards, elbow protection, knee protection and gauntlets.  Baseball offers the ever important groin protection: preserve your ability to repopulate the earth! About the only thing I can’t see being that useful are those giant shin guards that Cricket players wear — maybe if the apocalypse involves low-to-the-ground attackers like prairie dogs.

4d: Full Metal Jacket: Modern body armor, made for the military and law enforcement, offers medieval style protection with less weight, easy on-easy off velcro fasteners PLUS it is the only garment that can have a chance of stopping a bullet.  Unfortunately, it is also expensive.
For those of us on a budget, I suppose there is the Ned Kelley “Hillbilly armor” option.  A few visits to the scrap yard and hardware store, a few hours with the blow torch and pop-rivet gun and maybe you, too, can walk through a hail of bullets like Kelley.

He who smelt it, dealt it.

4e: Hazmat: To be truly prepared, you gotta figure out a way of getting at least one of those Hazmat suits and masks into your life in case the future apocalypse involves contagion, chemical menace or similar. The problem is, of course, that unless you KNOW that the risk is and what form it will take (is a painter’s particle mask sufficient?  Or are you going to need the full body condom with bottled O2?) and you know exactly when to put your gear on, you are either limited to living your life like ‘The Boy in the Plastic Bubble’ (i.e.: assume 24-7 that you are under attack from some sort of unseen chemical or biological menace and spend your life inside a giant zip-lock bag — sorry; I’d almost rather be dead than succumb to that level of paranoia) or hope for an early warning from the CDC. Perhaps a few filter masks and latex gloves in the glove compartment couldn’t hurt…

4f: Less is More: I envision that the future might belong to the fit and athletic practitioners of the art of parkour. Dressed, at most, in Adidas, jeans and a hoodie, they seem to effortlessly leap from parapet to fence to rooftop, always one step ahead and out of reach of whatever menace the apocalypse holds.  I envy them and wish them well; the future probably belongs to them.

*On a dare I once ate some “survival biscuits” that we found sealed in tin cans in an abandoned building. I think they dated back to when Nixon was in the Whitehouse. They were dry and tasteless; like Saltines without salt.

What’s in your Improvised Apocalypse Arsenal?

School of Hard Knocks

Last night I watched about 1/2 of ‘Battle Royale,’ a circa 2000 Japanese movie/novel that some say inspired the more highbrow novel, The Hunger Games. The basic premise is that in the near future, the school kids of Japan start to behave so badly that the adults decide to pass a ‘Battle Royale’ law in which classes of kids are chosen at random and dropped on an uninhabited island where they have to battle one another to the death.  Each student is given a bag that contains food, water, a map and one weapon. The weapon is chosen at random; it might be an Uzi or it might be a spork. In addition, the students are fitted with explosive collars and certain regions of the island will randomly be chosen to become “get out of here NOW or your head will explode” zones to keep the kids moving around. I don’t know how it all turned out because I was tired and I couldn’t bring myself to keep watching it — maybe I’ll finish it when I am less tired.  It’s not as unwatchable as some Japanese popular cinema, but the acting conventions of Japanese popular cinema are something I think I just don’t get. People are always convulsing with anger, fear or sadness which usually involves screaming through clenched teeth, doubling over like they have been hit in the stomach and having their eyes bug out… in short, they behave like cartoon characters.  This Gaijin just doesn’t get it and will leave it to the bloggers who are Japan-o-philes to explain.

The genius of having the kids get random weapons, however, is hard to ignore. Which made me want to wonder, with my morning coffee, about the question, “When the shit hits the fan (be it attack of space aliens, the rising of the disenfranchised classes, zombie outbreak, etc., take your pick), how are YOU going to defend yourself?”

1) Guns are the obvious choice, especially if you live in the US where there seem to be as many guns as people.  Unfortunately, unless you are a concealed carrier of weapons or in a job that gives ready access to guns (like law enforcement or working in ‘Firearms’ at Bass Pro Shop), you are only likely to have your guns with you if you know the shit is about to come down or you are at home (or wherever you keep your gun(s) if you have them).

My sidearm of choice would be my .38 Special revolver or a shotgun (only because I am familiar with these tools), but people who are into guns will probably have Glocks with 30 round magazines and semi-auto rifles illegally modified to class 3 status with 75+ round drum magazines, so my shootin’ irons are probably woefully outclassed and I’ll be dead in the first few minutes.

The Decider.

Speaking of gun porn, if one had to choose just one gun, you might want to go for the Kel-Tec shotgun. It features twin magazines that hold 6 shells each, so you could load one with buckshot and the other with slugs and then blast away, switching back and forth with buckshot for close range and slugs for further away.  Plus it looks like it’s from the future. Kel-tec says the ejection port is underneath so southpaws won’t have it ejecting spent shells into their face. $800.00 MSRP means it’s not the most expensive option, either. 

The good news is that if you live in the US, guns are cheap and easy to get, so you can easily add a .380 to your wardrobe, a pump shotgun to your hall closet and a 9mm to your nightstand.  The bad news is that if you live in the US, guns are cheap and easy to get, so when the shit goes down we will all probably be shooting each other.  We won’t have to wait for the zombies to kill us; our neighbors will probably shoot us because we look a little off or we were about to grab the last pack of Twinkies from the floor of the looted Wal-Mart.

2) The kitchen provides a lot of potential improvised weaponry. My first impulse is to grab a “chef’s knife” with as long a blade as I could find, perhaps 8″ or more.  I like the chef’s knife because it could be used to stab or slash and has a little more reach than the paring knife or cleaver. Since it’s made for chopping, the blade has a little more heft than some of the longer knives.  AVOID the wavy bladed bread knife.  It looks like it would hurt like hell (and it probably would if your enemy just stood there and let you saw at him) but the blade is usually too thin to stand up to living sinew and bone (which is a lot tougher than cooked meat).  Let some other fool take the bread-knife. Remember, although a lot of people show up in emergency rooms with cuts from bread knives every day, those wounds are always self inflicted by bagel eaters who are too lazy to get out a cutting board (yes, I have thought about this… wait, don’t look at me like that…).

Whacking someone with an iron skillet seem like a no-brainer (get it?), but the cast iron skillet has become a relic of a bygone era in many US kitchens, probably because you can’t just stick ’em in the dishwasher, so unless you are in the kitchen of a foodie or a southerner, the likelyhood of finding a plain old iron skillet is greatly reduced.  The problem with the iron skillet is that it is damned awkward to wave around… in order to do damage with it, you are going to need a lot of wind up for your swing, and the short handle combined with the big round pan makes it just too damn top heavy. These space-age material pots and pans usually have all the disadvantages of the iron skillet (awkward shape and you need a lot of swinging room) with none of the heft; I’d leave ’em on the shelf unless you really have no better options. Rolling pins seem like a good idea, but they are usually too light to give a good whack. I’d probably grab a meat tenderizer mallet instead, although, honestly, go for the chef’s knife if you can.

People in the movies often seem to throw hot water or coffee on an attacker, but, honestly, unless you standing right beside the stove and the liquid is REALLY fucking hot, you really can’t make this your battle plan.  It’s also  a one shot weapon — afterwards, you are just a guy holding an empty carafe and facing an enraged and wet opponent.

Be nice to the groundskeeper; maybe he’ll let you live.

3) The garden shed / storage area provides some very good options.  Baseball bats, axes/hatchets or a machete might be my first choice, but a shovel shouldn’t be underestimated. Erich Maria Remarque discussed the possibilities of the shovel as an effective hand-to-hand weapon in ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ (go for the throat with it!).

I’d take the hardwood ‘Louisville Slugger’ over those $100.00 aluminum bats simply because I remember seeing a kid in grade school take a whack at a phone pole with an aluminum bat and bending the thing in half… and he wasn’t that strong a kid. Remember that you can also use the bat as a baton in close quarters — a good poke in the gut with 3 feet of ash or hickory is going to slow most tough guys down, although you should swing for the head if it’s a zombie situation.

Axes or crowbars are also good for getting through doors, windows, etc., in a hurry when you don’t have a key.  Speaking of axes — why are there so many ‘fire axes’ in office buildings in movies?  I’ve been in hundreds of office buildings in real life and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a fire axe just hanging on the wall, but in every movie it seems the hero is always breaking the glass and grabbing that bright red axe when he needs to do some chopping.  Fucking Hollywood bullshit is what that is.


Speaking of Hollywood, LEAVE the chainsaw in the garage for some Tobe Hooper fan-boy to take. Chainsaw injuries are horrific, but are, as far as I know, almost always self inflicted accidents.  The chainsaw is only dangerous when it is running… and while it is running it is so fucking noisy that you might as well tie bells all over yourself to tell the zombies, “Here comes dinner!”  If you switch it off, good luck in starting it when the shit hits the fan; your opponent will have chewed out your throat or stabbed you 100 times with a pointed stick before you can get it started.  I’m no Hercules but I can cut tree trunks lying on the ground all afternoon with a chainsaw, but when I have to reach out from my body to get the high branches, I’m exhausted in about ten minutes… imagine trying to hit a moving target with that thing?  And, if you are dealing with an infection situation, do you really want all that blood flying around?

I hope my little essay has helped you consider YOUR apocalypse plan.  Remember, we don’t know what form it will take or when it will come, but unless Murphy’s Law is wrong, we know it’s coming so BE PREPARED!

This may be the worst book I have ever (tried to) read

I might read this Kilgore Trout book.

I got a free download for my Kindle of William Bebb’s novel, “Valley of Death, Zombie Trailer Park.” I don’t know who William Bebb is, but a quick search of wikipedia tells me that “William Bebb” was a whig who served as the 19th Govenor of Ohio and died in 1873.  Something tells me that ‘Zombie Trailerpark’ was not written by the same William Bebb.

A few posts ago, I opined that if one wanted to write a shitty book, one way to stack the odds in your favor on this quest of ‘shitty bookness’ is to write a zombie novel. And I think ‘Zombie Trailerpark’ could serve as exhibit A if one wanted to prove that proposition. Despite its 5 star rating on Amazon, Bebb’s book is pretty damn bad. 

I haven’t managed to read the whole thing. I have pretty low standards — it’s not all Gogol and Shakespeare on my bookshelf — but I enjoy my pulp and genre fiction (and even manage to read them without having to assume an ‘ironic post modern manner’ — I sometimes read shitty, lowbrow genre novels because I sometimes LIKE shitty, lowbrow genre novels). But “Valley of Death” failed to amuse.  After a few pages, I kept reading because I didn’t believe that a book could be so bad.  I wasn’t laughing WITH it or AT it — it was like watching a literary car crash — I was reading with disbelief. I think I got about 1/2 way through when I threw in the towel.

I previously thought that “The Cannibal Within” by Mark Mirabello had to be the worst book I ever failed to finish reading… and I might have read more of ‘The Cannibal Within’ if the Kindle edition I had of it had not had so many formatting problems that it was close to impossible to read simply because it was entertaining in a ‘John Waters Pink Flamingos meets Richard Shaver’ kind of way. And, despite the worship heaped at the altar of Lovecraft, his prose is pretty awful… which doesn’t stop me from enjoying it (on the contrary, the ridiculous piling on of adjectives can be delightful — and, no, I don’t make any claims for my own skill as a writer).

How to write a book that sucks 90% of the time…

How do you write a book that sucks 90% of the time?  Write books about zombie survival scenarios.  I shit you not. Those books suck 90% of the time (or maybe more — I’m being conservative here).  And there are A LOT of them.  A fucking shitload.  And they multiply faster than the walking dead.  It seems that anyone who ever took a creative writing class is cranking out an ‘apocalypse scenario’ book involving zombies or ‘infected’ and the like. Most of them include cute lingo that survivors employ or more detail about firearms than NRA gun porn.

Let me back up a bit.  I have a Y chromosome, therefore it can be safely assummed that I am 90% likely to enjoy movies where people are running around shooting the undead in the head while trying not to get bitten or eaten or swarmed or whatever. Annie hates those kinds of movies; she finds them that awful combination of “gross and boring and scary,” which is kind of how I feel about TV shows like “Sex in the City.” Shoe obcessed narcissists prattling on about their man problems make me want to become a knuckle-dragging pig purely as a defensive mechanism.  But it’s OK.  I don’t make her watch “a really good headshot!” and she doesn’t make me watch shows about relationships. You don’t have to share everything.  In fact, it’s probably good if you don’t. But I’m off topic here — back to zombies.

Keyless entry becomes a selling point.

For decades now there have been zombie apocalypse* movies and some of them are good and some of them are bad and most of them are somewhere inbetween… but they all shared one thing in common: they feed my deep rooted desire to see the whole world of corporate culture and work and school and parking tickets and putting up with douchebags all go to hell in an afternoon by introducing a scenario in which you can murder your fellow humans and it’s OK because they are not humans anymore — they are zombies.  So, not only are you free from guilt about shooting your zombified co-worker in the head, you are also freed from having to go to jail because of it — as everyone knows, in zombie scenarios, the cops are the first to go because they get calls telling them to go to infection central before anyone else knows it’s infection central.  Imaginary mayhem without moral or social consequences.  Who can resist?

Unfortunately, no one.  Which is why all things ‘zombie’ are being rushed to the production stage whether they are ready or not and whether they are worthy or not.

A notable exception is Colson Whitehead’s “Zone One.” Whitehead is apparently a ‘real author’ who has made waves by dipping his toe into ‘zombie genre fiction.’  I don’t know what other fans of all things undead think of it, but I think “Zone One” is great. I enjoyed Max Brook’s “Zombie Survival Guide” but thought his other Zombie book, “World War Z,” was weak.  But, almost without exception, every other book I’ve tried to read about zombies has been shit.

A funny things happens when you finish reading a book on an Amazon Kindle.  After you hit the last page, your Kindle tells you, “People who enjoyed ‘Zone One’ also read…” and then it gives you a list.  And you can just click on them and it will let you read the first chapter or two for free.  I know they say that ‘you can’t judge a book by it’s cover,’ but I would suggest that one could make an educated guess by the first chapter… and I read a lot of these first chapters the other night while I waiting for some software to download (another sad story)… and, without exception, they SUCKED (except for “After the Apocalypse” by Maureen F. McHugh, which is great but doesn’t really count because even though it was in Amazon’s auto-generated list, I read it before I read Zone One… and McHugh’s is a collection of short stories, only one of which deals with zombie matters anyway).

*For purposes of this rant, “Zombie Apocalypse” movies can include movies where people are getting infected with some sort of virus and becoming ravenous cannibals or whatever that are not ‘undead.’  Let’s just say that ‘infected’ movies are a sub-category within the ‘Zombie Apocalypse’ genre and leave it at that.

Detroit as Spookhouse

OK, someone is running a crowdfunding campaign to turn a stretch of abandoned, post-industrial Detroit into a ‘zombie’ theme park. You can also read about it here. Or here.

Here in Detroit Metro, we hear the mayor and the city council spitballing ideas back and forth to increase shrinking revenues while decreasing expenditures.  Some proposals include simply abandoning sections of the city and relocating the residents to other parts to save on utilities, police and fire coverage, etc… which has people proposing greenspaces, urban farming, etc.  There are a few urban farms up and running already.  One entrepeneur, Marc Siwak of Royal Oak, thinks the time is right for Detroit to launch the ‘zombie’ equivalent of a lasertag or paintball arena — a few acres of abandoned buildings and overgrown lots… some locals employed as ‘zombies’ with blood stained costumes, and thrillseekers paying a few bucks a piece to be one of a few ‘survivors’ trying to escape the zombies.  Run, hide, try to barricade yourself into an abandoned building, team up with someone slower than you are to increase your own odds of survival… if you get tagged and you join team Z.

From their pitch: Z World Detroit will be a unique and spectacular zombie themed experience park that will transform a virtually neglected section of Detroit, Michigan. Participants will be chased by a growing zombie horde through abandoned factories, stores and homes across hundreds of derelict urban acres. The Z World Detroit initiative is a radical rethinking of urban redevelopment and Detroit’s well-documented blight and de-population. It turns perceived liabilities into assets that will bring a renewed vitality to a struggling neighborhood. When done right, Z World Detroit would be transformative for part of the city and become a legitimate destination.

What do you think?  Sound reasonable and plausible? AFAIK, it currently lacks funds or permission.

My thought is, “Why not try it”?  I don’t know if it will work or not… or how many years it will work if it does, but, given the condition the city is in, provided the city itself does not have to pay for it, what does Detroit have to lose?  The city could lease abandoned land in return for a tax credit to the company running the operation, and perhaps make money on parking and the revenue that the ‘zombie camp’ might bring in.  If it fails, well, the land could go back to being abandoned, right?  If it succeeds, the city and ‘Z World Detroit’ can look at re-negotiating a few years down the road. It could be fun, too.

addendum: One of the thoughts that occurs to me is that ‘zombie walks’ and similar things, where people in zombie make-up shuffle around drooling ketchup and chewing on beef jerky (or whatever they chew on) are going to dull our senses to the point that when a real zombie outbreak occurs, many people are going to assume that the moaning, drooling, bloody creature shuffling towards them is just an amateur actor in greasepaint… and that will be the last mistake they make.  It’s enough to make me think its part of a plot — they are trying to mainstream zombies, like the satanists encourage kids to dress up as ‘ghouls’ and ‘goblins’ for fun… and the next thing you know, they are listening to their Beatles records backwards and killing kittens for Satan.  Mark my words.