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The Walking Dead
The Walking Dead

Developed by Frank Darabont

It's been more than a decade since the initial zombie outbreak, but only now are we beginning to see it portrayed in drama. The new TV series on AMC, The Walking Dead, is the first serious portrayal of the period just after SHTF. I've only seen two episodes, but beyond a few nitpicks and similarities with other TEotWaWKI stories, I'm hooked.

The focus is on survivors in the Atlanta area starting a week or two after the outbreak reached a crisis. Those poor bastards down south had it much harder than even up here in Virginia. They had no appreciable winter to slow the ghouls down, so they never got a break. Even today, the Florida peninsula, surrounded as it is by water, is still pretty much a wasteland.

The main character, Rick Grimes (played by Andrew Lincoln), is a cop who was severely wounded before the outbreak and in a coma during it, only to regain consciousness in an eerily empty hospital, scattered with corpses. This is reminiscent of Stephen King's The Stand and 28 Days Later. He's trying to figure out what the hell happened while still staying alive. I'm surprised he's lasted this long, given his proclivity to fire off all of his ammo at anything which stumbles. He's lucky, though, to encounter folks willing to help out.

His motivation is to find his family. This drive is a common theme to most stories that cover this period. It, too, was my spur as I was in Manhattan when hell brook loose and had to make my way back to Northern Virginia. Alas, I have yet to learn what happened to my family. In this case, Mr. Grimes makes it back to his house, but his family is missing. We learn separately that they are alive, but there should be some interesting fireworks should they reunite.

The nits I have are how the undead are portrayed. For the most part, it is in line with reality: dumb, slowly stumbling and killed with a headshot. Occasionally, though, we encounter some outliers. Some use tools like the one with a rock used to break through a glass window. Others are agile and rather speedy, being able to climb a fence. These are rare, though, so not enough to kill my disbelief.

I am happy to see that this show has been extended another 6 episodes. I will surely watch them all.

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From the Smithsonian: The Scariest Zombies in Nature

It's unclear whether or not this is related to Solanum; however, at the moment, we are not in danger. This fungus, while 100% fatal once it has infested an organism, does not appear to cause its victim to get violent. Also, for the moment, it does not affect humans.

We'll keep an eye on this, though.

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Cell by Stephen King
Cell by Stephen King

Stephen King is the go to guy when you want a great TEotWaWKI story. I have reviewed The Mist and I need to so for The Stand, which I haven't read that since pre-SHTF days. That is the granddaddy of all end-of-the-world stories. I figured his novel Cell wouldn't disappoint.

I was wrong. I don't want to say this book is bad. I really respect Mr. King. This is also his first book after his horrific car accident. It is still infinitely better than anything I could write. Let's just say that it's not his best book, but it has it's moments.

The opening grabs you right away. You barely have time to absorb the ordinary world before he brings it crashing down via cells phones that corrupt callers' brains, driving them into homicidal rages. This is Stephen King at his best:

  • Pass the test of immediate survival, but just barely.
  • Assemble a small group and seek shelter.
  • Figure out what the fuck to do now.

I'm lapping this up as it's classic TEotWaWKI story-telling, but then we hit some speed bumps. The writing's not that good. It feels rushed, lacking an editor's touch. I may be unusual in this way, but these kind of mistakes begin to affect my ability to suspend disbelief. Some of the story flaws begin to nibble at me:

  • Driving is a task that can rarely be accomplished because the roads are all clogged. I'm not buying this. Sure, there will be clots of vehicles, and you may have to drive off to the side, but I cannot imagine it would severely restrict you to the level represented in the book. At least that wasn't my personal experience during the outbreak.
  • The "zombies" behaved weirdly. I can't go into detail on this since it would involve serious spoilers, but this ultimately killed it for me.

I'm not saying there aren't worthwhile lessons. He was correct to point out that obtaining one or more fire arms is a top priority. Also, group cohesion is extremely important. There are times when you'll need to subordinate your desires for the good of the group. Truly, though, you're better off reading some of his other works. My apologies, Mr. King.

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Man shot cop because he thought he was a zombie

The facts are not all in, yet, so let's withhold judgement. Let me just say that, a decade after the end of the Zombie Wars, more people are killed when mistaken as undead than at the hands of actual zombies. Listen, folks, you don't have to kill the thing right away. Unless someone is in immediate danger of a bite, evacuate, isolate and call the authorities.

Don't be stupid.

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The Undead have long been the subject of classes, even at the university level. I myself have taught several on the subject of area defense and removal strategies. I see now that the subject is making its way into the liberal arts realm: Exploring the undead: University of Baltimore to offer English class on zombies. I like the course description:

Is "Night of the Living Dead" a simple zombie film or a subtle antiwar statement? Precisely when did viral pandemic supplant nuclear radiation as the lead cause of zombification? And which sort of animated dead has the greater potential to frighten: shambler or sprinter?

I applaud this move.

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"Zombies" crash on I-84 near Lloyd exit

I realize I'm an old fart, I just don't see why anyone would want to look like a zombie. They're lucky that someone didn't unload on them at the time. Must be a sign that the Zombie Wars are firmly in our past.

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Police: Woman bites man after being called fat

There's been a lot of stupidity lately in dealing with the undead. Perhaps too much time has past since the catastrophe that people have forgotten how to handle themselves.

Don't taunt a zombie! They don't get it, you look like a fool and you'll probably wind up a zed yourself. Leave it to the professionals.

Fat zombies, ugh! That brings back some unpleasant memories. They might be slower moving, but when they get a head of steam going, they can barrel through all but the strongest barriers. I had a particularly nasty encounter in a dark hall way in which the freaking thing, though finally killed, still blocked my exit. I still have nightmares about that.

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This is a constant subject of conversation: What could I have done to improve my chances once we had an outbreak of undead? If you knew for sure that it was coming, yes:

  • Build a fortress
  • Stock it with a lifetime supply of food and ammo
  • Heck, build a solar array and a reverse osmosis water purification plant

Truly, though, even with 20/20 hindsight, you'd've been an idiot to do that. Taking such steps would have meant completely writing off a normal life. If the end of the world never came, you'd be broke and probably lose contact with your kids after they leave the nest, seeking a normal life.

This is not to say, however, that you couldn't prepare in a way that would still be beneficial if you never encountered a single zombie in your lifetime. This is just general good advice.

  1. Get in shape: The ability to run long distances interspersed with quick sprints not only maintains a healthy cardio-vascular system, but also allows you to escape the hoards of undead giving you chase.
  2. Get regular checkups: The last thing you want in any TEotWaWKI situation is to experience a health issue. Make sure you're always up to date on your vaccinations, get your teeth checked every 6 months and pay special attention to foot health. Zed would just love it if you had a bad case of plantar fascitis.
  3. Know how to use and maintain a fire arm: First, get a lesson on how to fire a weapon. You're local gun shop or firing range should have classes. Once you're comfortable with that, buy something. Become an expert in how it works. Keep it clean.
  4. Understand your local weather patterns: This means more than just reading the weather report everyday. You need to be able to rely on more than just your newspaper and be familiar with the whole region. Quick, tell me, when does the first frost usually happen where you live?
  5. Be the map: I know, you're thinking, "I have no problems getting from point A to point B." I'm telling you, post-SHTF, your points A and B are going to change. Can you navigate off road? What are some terrain features that could impede your progress? What if you're half way to point B and learn you need to get your butt to point C?

Like I said, I believe this to be valuable advice whether or not the dead rise again.

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Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

This book changed my life. I realize people think me a curmudgeon and I'll cop to that charge. I take my undead seriously and have witnessed the grisly result of those who don't. I see nothing funny about them. So it may come as a surprise to some to learn that I enjoyed this book, found it to be a worthwhile read. Let me explain.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies has been sitting in my To Read pile for quite sometime (I mentioned this about a year ago). The reviews made the book seem lighthearted. Not at all, the authors clearly show in serious tones what life is like in a world over-run by the living dead.

What makes this a great piece of fiction is that the zombies are not central to the story. I found myself more concerned about Mr. Darcy's boorish behavior than how best to dispatch a ghoul with a katana sword. Perhaps this is best, because what is covered leaves me wondering about the authors. One of them seems not to realize that the musket is a weapon, even in the hands of an experienced user, that can fire only 3 rounds a minute. That's a recipe for disaster. I'd stick with older technologies, like the battle ax or halberd. But then, I've never had proper training in the Asian martial arts. Maybe they provide courses in flint lock fire arms.

So, yes, read this book. Enjoy this book. And demand of other authors that they focus on the story rather than on how they can make their undead more outlandish. Oh, and don't forget, my daughter comes from a fine family, has impeccable manners and is second to none with the machete.

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Cops believe teacher ate piece of ear she bit off man

I want to urge caution here. Enough time has past since the Zombie Wars that the risen dead are quite rare. Odd behavior is not enough to indicate someone is a zombie. Play it safe, follow the standard protocol:

  1. Clear the premises.
  2. Alert the authorities.
  3. Monitor all exits.

Don't risk going to jail on a murder wrap if you can keep everyone safe without resort to violence.