Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Five Reasons We Find Zombies So Fascinating

Zombies! Those hideous, mindless, exhausted, filthy creatures who just can't stop moving forward, obsessed with consuming the most mysterious and amazing thing on earth, human brains. Lumbering along, grasping and groaning; they've loped their way up to becoming the most popular of the supernatural evil beings of the early 21st Century. Mummies, Frankenstein's many monster incarnations and vampires have all had their runs of popularity, vampires still going pretty strong, but zombies are taking the lead with their many diverse varieties. In an attempt to figure out what the attraction is, I've come up with a short list.

1. Let Off Some Steam; Blow Away Some Zombies.
With the exception of the historic Voodoo zombie, where the idea probably originated, zombies weren't very common until around the mid 20th Century. Coincidentally (or not), this was after WWII and the middle class office culture, nuclear family, house-in-the-suburbs lifestyle became the American Dream of Western culture. I think all of us who have striven to realize this dream can relate to zombies in the wearing and tearing of day to day struggles to, not only obtain this lifestyle, but to maintain it as the material possessions and means to attain them become more complicated and expensive to possess. In the desire to relieve the stress of  the daily grind and ever present fear of losing everything we've worked so hard for along with the fear of loss of control over the things that allow us to live this lifestyle, like our jobs, we wish we had some mindless moving targets to mow down with a high powered automatic weapon without being locked up for the rest of our lives. A herd of zombies would suffice.

2. No More Laws and Financial Obligations.
I think the zombie craze really picked up after 911 when we in western society had to face the fact that it is a possibility that some outside force could cause our society to break down into lawless anarchy leaving us all in a situation of survival of the fittest and a vicious competition for few and rapidly diminishing resources. Just seven years after 911, we were cursed with the Great Recession, which forced many people to lose all those possessions that make up and define the American Dream. Middle class citizens of other countries suffered severe losses during the recession as well, some much more than Americans. People helplessly lost everything they had worked so hard for.

3. The Best of Both Worlds.
Zombies are the opposite of the death experience humans expect to have, especially humans who believe in some sort of a spiritual afterlife once the body ceases to function. While people expect their bodies to die and, hopefully, their soul to live on; zombies bodies remain animated while their minds and/or spirits die. I think that's the scariest part of zombie life. Loss of control over bodily functions, loss of freedom of choice, inability to make decisions or experience any kind of emotion. Actually, some days I'd welcome a little temporary numbing of the mind.

4. Sometimes don't we all feel like the walking dead? 
Especially, during the stage of life where you're working all day, raising a family, taking care of a house, maybe caring for your parents as well. There just doesn't seem to be enough time in a day and you never stop running. You get to a point where you've got routines down so efficiently that even though you're running non-stop day after day,  you're on cruise control and the exhaustion is so overwhelming that you don't think about what you're doing. You just keep doing it because if you think about it, you might lose momentum and not be able to get yourself back up to speed. So you turn off your mind and move steadily forward until one day you wonder where the years went.

5. Life Could Be Worse. Zombies Could be Threatening Your Loved Ones.
 There's an idea of consciously tallying up things to be grateful for that's probably been around since the beginning of humankind. However, it seems like in recent decades our culture has been really shoving it down our throats. All the self-help literature advises us to battle depression and anxiety and overall unhappiness by acknowledging all the things we have to be grateful for every day. I have found a really easy way to do this is by watching zombie movies and TV shows and imagining myself as one of the survivors. Zombie movies are really about the survivors and the challenges they face as they struggle to maintain their status as survivors. Otherwise, the movie would be as dull as watching grass grow. Life may be stressful, difficult at times and occasionally some situations seem intolerable, but at least reanimated corpses aren't trying to kill my loved ones and eat their brains!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Save Money. Die Better With Walmart Funeral Gear

Wedding registries, baby registries and caskets! You really can get almost anything at Walmart. Not only do they sell nice looking caskets at very reasonable prices, they also sell official Major League Baseball caskets. Take a look at the velvet lining and the nice hardware. They look comfy enough to use as a bed! A little narrow for my taste though and I didn't see any double-wides. Only one to three days required to ship your casket to arrive in time for the funeral.

If you'd rather be cremated, there are MLB urns available to hold your ashes as well as a variety of decorative urns.

Grave markers and headstone sprays are also available.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Walking Dead Season 4: Reunions of Joy

After the devastating battle at the prison The Group was separated and scattered, no one knowing who was alive or dead unless they were lucky enough to be together. If nothing else this season really drives home the luxury of communication devices that we take for granted every day. They have to decide whether they should waste precious time and energy looking for the others, when chances are, they're all dead or move on with their lives and find a new means of survival on their own. 

I needed a tissue when Michonne, after walking alone through the woods surrounded by walkers decided to track Rick and Carl whose footprints she had seen in the mud earlier. When she found them at the end of the episode I had to reach for the tissue big time. 

Hope was dancing in the air for me when we are following Tyrese, Lizzy and Mica through the woods and Tyrese turns to expose little Judith riding along unscathed like a little papoose. It would have been too obvious and corny if they had named her Hope but she seems like a symbol of hope for the future; innocence and purity in a world of filth, cruelty, pain and horror. Soon after, Carol turns up to rescue the girls from a walker in the woods. How she turned up there in the woods at just the right time, I don't know, but I'm glad she did! She mentioned following them from the prison where she watched the battle rage.

But the best reunion of all was between Glenn and Maggie! Maggie so desperately believed that Glenn was alive and would follow her bloody messages to Terminus. Glenn, refused to be convinced by anyone that all odds pointed toward Maggie being dead and moved on relentlessly and tirelessly in search of her. When they were finally reunited in the railroad tunnel full of massacred walkers it was once again time for tissue! I think that might have been the best lovers reunion since Luke and Laura on General Hospital in 1983. I'm looking forward to seeing Rick, Carl and Judith reunited in Season 5!

The Walking Dead Season 4: Fun Fight Scenes

There were so many loses in Season 4, especially the loss of Hershel and the prison and Rick's odd expulsion of Carol (I was so happy when she returned!), but there were also some fun fight scenes. I'm a peace lover so I'm not a fan of wars, battles, or fights; however, I accept that sometimes they're necessary, especially on TV. 

I could not stand The Governor aka Philip aka Brian or whatever name he's using. I really wanted Merle to be the one to kill him in Season 3 since Andrea couldn't bring herself to do it, but evil dies hard on TV and movies, living on to cause good people more pain and anguish before finally being put to rest. Even our hero Rick was overpowered and almost murdered at his evil hands. Finally, Michonne and Lily ended his reign of evil terror for the remainder of Season 4.

While all that violence was taking place in the yard, the jerky guy with the tank was up by the building in an attempt to kill the entire cast. My favorite scene from the tank area was when Daryl, using a walker corpse as a shield, fought his way to the tank's cannon and tossed a grenade inside. That was such a cool move! Jerky guy wasn't so arrogant without the shelter of his giant tank and received his just desserts. 

Much later in the season while Rick, Carl and Michonne were making their way toward Terminus, they were accosted by Joe and his ornery band of losers who Daryl had reluctantly joined after losing Beth. For a bunch of hapless thugs they did a good job of tracking Rick down to avenge the guy that Rick had to kill to escape the rest of them undetected and warn Carl and Michonne away from the house. As scumbag lowlife (yet cute) Joe explained to Rick that they would rape and kill Carl and Michonne before killing him, Rick fell into one of his eye-rolling psychotic states and gave Joe a reverse head butt that gave them all the chance to fight for their lives. During the fight, Rick, while still handcuffed and weaponless used the only weapon he had, his teeth, and took a huge bite out of Joe's neck sending blood gushing from Joe's grubby neck and killing him almost instantly. That was both the nastiest and coolest fight scene of the season. After that they neatly took out the rest of the bad guys making the horrific, zombie infested world a slightly better place.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Walking Dead: Going On a Run

In Episode 12, Season 3 of The Walking Dead, Rick, Michonne and Carl take a ride into town to, hopefully, find some guns and ammo for their upcoming fight with the Governor of Woodbury. Having carried out my own trip to the shopping center before a recent snowstorm, I couldn't help but notice the similarities.

Just like they didn't have to worry about coming upon a lot of crazy drivers on the road, I didn't have to worry about being eaten by a zombie. On the other hand, the weather report calls for snow and it seems like most rational people turn into crazed lunatics as though they're going to be trapped inside their homes with no food or power for eternity. So, I guess I could have been killed by one of them. Aside from a really bad blizzard, which could keep you inside for 2 or 3 days at most, you're going to be out on the road again in 24 hours or so on average. It's a few inches of snow, not a zombie apocalypse. Watch a movie, take a nap, it's all over except for the shoveling.

No bread, no eggs, no problem.
The trio make their first stop at the police station to take any remaining guns and find the racks completely empty. The same thing happened to me when I went to the bread aisle at Walmart to get my daughter a loaf of wheat bread! I thought everyone is gluten free these days. Did one person buy the whole bread aisle? The same with the eggs. I thought people were going easy on the eggs to keep their cholesterol intake down. What are people doing with all the eggs and bread during a snow storm? I was completely out of both so I thought I should pick some up. Better luck next time.

The lines of people at the registers were crazy too. Everyone's pissed off because they don't have a register and a cashier all to themselves, which I never understand. They just came in from a packed parking lot where they had to circle every aisle twice to find a parking spot and they are surprised to find long lines at the registers. The snow isn't forecast to start for four more hours but they act like they need to get home right away so they don't become stranded on the road with their car full of bread and eggs.

When I get back to my car and I'm exiting the parking lot, it's like total chaos with cars cutting me off and pulling out in every direction. It was like running the gauntlet. You really might think the world as we know it is coming to an end. I pull into my driveway relieved that I made it home alive only to realize I left one of my bags on the bagging carousel at the register. Great news, survived the trip twice!

The Walking Dead Season 3: The Governor 's Invitation vs A Job Offer

When Andrea and Michonne were "rescued" by the Governor's crew and given medical care and offered a place to rest and recuperate, I knew it had to be a bad deal. There was something creepy and dishonest about the handsome Governor. He was too friendly and easy-going, like a predator luring in his victim. He reminded me of a manager offering a job that seems to good to be true. When I was young and inexperienced I fell for that, but only once.This is how it goes:

The invitation: "We have a safe secure community with health care, utilities, warm beds and high walls." Or something to that effect. He insists they are free to go and to stay would be their choice. He assures them that they'll fit right in. Andrea, always giving her loyalty to the wrong people (Shane and the Governor) and pushing away her true friends (Dale and Michonne) eats it right up. She never learns or she just believes what she wants to believe.

The invitation reminded me of this:

The job offer: "We're a growing company with a lot of opportunity for someone with your skill set. If you decide to come grow with us, I see no reason why you won't advance and share in the profit that's in our future going forward." Business people always find a way to use the phrases "going forward" and "reach out" whenever they can.

The reality: You get hired and the guy doesn't even remember your name let alone give you the time of day. When you tell your new coworkers what he said during the job offer, they laugh and tell you it was line of bull. Then they regale you with stories of their own screwings by the boss to back up their statement. When you go see the boss and remind him of what he promised you in the interview, he tells you that you're lucky to have a job and no one is indispensable. He might even accuse you of not living up to YOUR promises.

Now you've left your last job, which wasn't as bad as this and your former position has already been filled. When the boss acts too enthusiastic to see you and overly friendly for the situation, don't accept the offer. Run away.

Michonne, in her great capacity for reading people, knew right away that this guy was trouble. I thought Andrea was never going to accept The Governor for what he really is. Even after Michonne exposed him to her and the evidence was in her face and under her feet and in his arms (dead zombie Penny), she talked herself out of running for her life. How arrogant of her to think she could mediate a cease fire between The Governor and Rick and avoid more deaths. As a former lawyer she should have known you can't reason with a nut job. I was surprised she lived as long as she did.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Last Day to Stream House on Haunted Hill on Netflix

House on Haunted Hill will be taken down on March 15. It's your last chance to stream it on Netflix. This is the 1959 version starring the late great scary Vincent Price. Aside from Vincent Price, you don't want to miss some terrifying blood-curdling screams and campy low-budget props including a corset-like device used for a fake hanging, a furry claw glove, a manikin apparently on wheels, a walking skeleton and more.

In one scene where the furry claw glove curls around a door frame in an attempt to entrap the pretty young victim of the movie, Nora, (Carolyn Craig) I was reminded of a Three Stooges episode where thieves pretend to haunt a house to scare the stooges away from their lair, especially after the victim slips out of its grip leaving the fake-furred hand hanging empty in failure.

The story was pretty well written in a now common plot where several mysteriously chosen strangers are invited or challenged to stay and survive a full night in a haunted house in order to win some sort of reward, usually monetary. In this case, $10,000. That amount of money went a lot farther back in 1959 when the movie was released! I thought of Dr. Evil's "One million dollars" demand in Austen Powers.

Certain characters were strategically placed to set the scene and the tone like Mr. Pritchard (Elisha Cook, Jr.) who described in detail the history of murders taken place in the house and his belief that evil spirits were lurking around planning to murder them all. The private conversations between the host, Frederick Loren (Vincent Price) and his young beautiful fourth wife Annabelle (Carol Ohmart) show the audience their loveless marriage, distrust for each other and lust for money as they stay married only to keep from losing or having to divide their millions in a divorce. Being 1959, it was implied that divorce wasn't an option and only death dissolved a marriage.Or maybe death just made the movie more fun!

The story had some pretty good twists and surprises which were the movie's focus rather than the premise of the strangers surviving the night without being scared out of their wits. At the end I wondered just how did his previous wives die and did he actually pay out that $10,000 to the survivors?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Graveyard Travels

Ye Olde Burial Ground
I like visiting cemeteries, not only to wonder about the mystery of death and where we might go after our bodies die, but also to appreciate history. This cemetery dates back to the American colonial days of the 17th and 18th century. I've studied enough history to know that I'm glad I didn't live back then! I really appreciate modern conveniences like public utilities, indoor plumbing, central heating, etc. Not to mention modern transportation.

However, there were some pretty cool things going on back then and it's interesting to learn how people thought and what they believed and see how our culture has changed over the centuries. Most of the words are worn from these stones, unfortunately, but many of them are still legible. Rubbings are not allowed in this graveyard because the stones are so fragile; visitors are discouraged from touching them. I was intrigued by those two memorials in the photo that are shaped like tables. they look kind of awkward and crowded, even out of place.

After a small amount of research I learned that they are simply elaborate gravestones that resemble altars. Elaborate mostly because of the financial expense as well as standing out from the rest. The people buried under them must have had lots of money! Probably very high ranking in the community too. I've read in several sources that later in the 19th century, cemeteries were built in park-like settings where people would go for walks and bring picnic lunches to visit graves and enjoy the scenery. In fact, both my mother's ancestors and my father's ancestors are buried in cemeteries that fit that description. 

I don't know if that was the case in the earlier centuries when these altar-like monuments were erected, but it seems as though the markers would have come in handy for the picnics!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Zombies Crave Fat

After watching Episode 2 of Season 3 of The Walking Dead, on Netflix I've started to notice sort of a pattern regarding zombie attacks and fat guys. Obese men seem to be easy pickings for zombies, but have you noticed how few zombies are fat? Is it a reflection of our society's habit to regard fat people as inferior to thin people intellectually as well as physically able to escape or overcome pursuers, even dead brainless slow moving pursuers?

Without the complex characters that make up the group of survivors in The Walking Dead, the show would just be another boring zombie story. Face it, zombies are boring unless you or a loved one is the one who's being attacked. When The Group gains entrance to the prison and sets up residency there, they meet a small group of inmates; one of whom, a really huge guy called Big Tiny. At first I wondered whether the two groups could join together, keeping in mind these guys are convicted criminals guilty of who knows what. Wouldn't that have been a good sign for humanity and human nature in general? However, Rick decides they could live in the same prison, but not the same cell block. In aiding the prisoners along their zombie-filled path to the adjacent cell block Tiny is severely scratched by a zombie. I was disappointed since Big Tiny seemed to be the nicest guy of the prisoners. It would have been an interesting dynamic to add him to The Group. But no, not only was he the first of the guys to be tagged by a zombie, his crazy lisping leader chopped him into smithereens, showering himself in his blood.

In Season 2 there was poor sweet Otis who had more integrity than many survivors we viewers have met so far outside of The Group and a heart as big as his belly. His only mistake was trusting crazy, self-serving Shane who took advantage of Otis' physical size by marking him as weak and not as valuable as his own buff self and fed him to the zombies to ensure his own selfish escape. Otis knew his physical limitations but was smart and, until he teamed up with Shane, could figure out alternative ways of getting things done. Would he have survived even if Shane hadn't shot him in the leg to leave as zombie bait? Probably not. He was exhausted and on his last round of ammo. But, he did go a long way toward the success of their plan of getting needed medical provisions and fought a great fight despite his size. But he only last a couple of episodes.

After that, same season, Rick, Glenn and Hershel meet two strangers, Dave and Tony, in the town bar. Tony is pretty rotund and it's obvious, he's the dumb sidekick of the pair. He whips it out and pisses on the floor, remarking how he hasn't been laid in ages and asks the men if they have any women with them. Suddenly, it's the wild west as these strangers pose an obvious threat to The Group with their barbaric and misogynist remarks and their insistence that the men let them visit the farm. Rick skillfully shoots them both as Dave reaches for his gun in a 21st century old west showdown. Dave gets one shot to the head while Tony, the fat guy, gets three bullets.

It's not only The Walking Dead that kills off fat people pretty quickly. The movie Zombieland (one of my favorites) shows a fat guy futilely running for his life across a football field trying to escape a pursuing zombie. The image is an illustration for the main character Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) as he suggests the importance of cardio as a necessary attribute in surviving the zombie apocalypse. He sighs, "Poor fat bastard," as the terrified man is overpowered and devoured by the zombie. I don't think the contrast of the lack of fitness and the victim being portrayed on the athletic field was random. On the other hand, the other fat-guy zombies in the movie are shown wandering aimlessly in a grocery store as Columbus and Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) enter on a quest for Tallahassee's constant search for Twinkies. Is the grocery store as a home for fat-guy zombies a random coupling? I don't think so.

Are heavy people born to lose, even in the highly humane show The Walking Dead? Why are they depicted as dumb or at least not as smart as thin people? Why are the obese live characters still heavy when they're scrounging for food and have been for months? Why are all the zombies skin and bones? Do they become that way over time or do they lose all flesh at resurrection?

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Can't Stop Watching The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead is the most addictive show I have ever seen! From the very first episode, I was hooked and I'm now just into Season 3. Usually, I have to let a show grow on me and more often than not, sooner or later give up on it. I've been streaming it on Netflix and it's a darn good thing because if I had started watching it on AMC from day one I don't think I could stand the suspense. I would absolutely go insane waiting, not only for the next season, but the next episode!

I'd like to know how anyone who's been watching it as it airs on AMC how they can stand the wait. I think I'd pull my hair out and look like a crazed zombie myself from the suspense. Thanks to The Walking Dead I now have another reason to live.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Free Vampire ebook for Read An Ebook Week

 Please download my free ebook, Whaling City Vampires: Love After Death, at You don't even need a Kindle or any other kind of ebook reader. You can download it in PDF format and use the free Acrobat Reader download if you don't already have it.

I wrote it to get some use out of my English degree and also to honor my father's memory. He was raised in the Whaling City and loved working there and devoted his free time to volunteer work, although he never mentioned seeing any vampires.

The story takes place in the mid 19th century when the whaling industry was still strong, but the industrial age was moving into town full force. Amy doesn't know her handsome lover is a vampire until he appears on the balcony outside her bedroom, turns her into a vampire so they can be together and swoops her away into the night never to see her family again.

When he suddenly and mysterious disappears Amy is devastated and in her desperate loneliness turns two other young women into vampires as companions. She then struggles to show them the advantages of the vampire life without being discovered and destroyed and solidly maintains her belief that her lover will return to her.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Walking Dead: Guillermo and Felipe
Something I like to do while watching The Walking Dead (I'm about halfway through Season 2) is to notice how the apocalypse has effected the characters' values and personalities. I'm sure a lot of other fans must do the same thing because it seems like the writers focus pretty nicely on it. The first people who really made a big impression on me were Guillermo and Felipe in Season 1, Episode 4. At first they seemed like ruthless thugs when they took Glenn hostage and Rick desperately tried to devise a way to rescue him without having to hand over the bag of guns they were competing over. 

When Abuela came wandering out looking for Felipe I was kind of confused about her presence but then was impressed with the respect the men showed to her as she interrupted a very intense standoff. I assumed they would consider her an annoying pain in the butt, but instead they were very attentive and respectful toward her and finally, on Abuela's gentle insistence, backed down led their "enemies" straight into their safe house.

What a surprise to find they were protecting helpless elderly nursing home patients who had been abandoned by the staff who had either been killed or ran away! I felt that Guillermo and Felipe must be earth angels or saints or something to that effect to be so compassionate and caring to sacrifice their lives to care for and protect the lives of these elderly patients. They could have escaped with the other employees, but chose to stay instead.

I don't know if I would have done the same thing.