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Shaun of the Dead
Shaun of the Dead

Directed by Edgar White

I'll be straight up with you: I hate zombie comedies. It's not just because they're overwhelmingly stupid, but they have no redeeming value. They're usually just a vehicle for idiot frat-boys doing things to unrealistically portrayed undead. In fact, I'd be willing to bet that today's teen-age male population would be wiped out should we have another widespread outbreak given that they probably believe everything they see in those movies.

Let me be clear: Shaun of the Dead is NOT one of those movies!

Yes, it is a comedy. It is hysterical on many levels, not the least of which is the realistic portrayal of how folks typically reacted to the fact that their world is overrun with the undead. But don't let the hilarity fool you. Beneath it lies good advice and excellent examples of how to act (or not) in a catastrophe. Allow me to use the format described in The Unthinkable to describe the movie.

Denial: I'm not talking about those who were thrown into a mental shut down by their inability to cope with the concept of the walking dead, though this was a majority of the deniers and, indeed, several characters in the movie. I'm thinking of people like myself who went on blithely with their lives despite what was happening. Is my behavior any different than Shaun's? He stumbled to the store in a hungover stupor, while I boarded a plane to New York for business. Both of us could have seen the news or even the stumbling corpses in our streets, but didn't connect the dots. It's not really denial, but rather blindness on our parts. Good thing it didn't kill us.

Deliberation: It sounds so simple, let's make a plan and execute it! As the movie shows, it rarely worked out that way. What are your objectives? How best can you achieve them? It's one thing if you're acting alone (which I was in many cases), but the complexity increases geometrically with the size of your group. This is how groups fall apart AND coalesce. I liked how, in the movie, various groups kept encountering each other, exchanging information. Since the period covered in the film was just the first few days of the outbreak, people were inclined to help each other. It would have been interesting to see how the interactions would have turned out if their crisis lasted longer. They may not have been so friendly.

The Decisive Act: What this movie clearly demonstrates is that you cannot judge how someone might behave in a crisis based on their everyday, pre-SHTF behavior. Let's face it, Shaun was a loser. However, when it came to it, he stepped up. I'd've been proud to number him in my group.

I just offed my mum, don't ask me to do my friend.

There's only so much one can take. Shaun proved more able than most, but he still had his limits. That just proves he retained his humanity.

This is an entertaining movie worth watching purely for it's artistic merit. The fact that it ably demonstrates how a good group should act is just icing on the cake.

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Green River by Credence Clearwater Revival
Green River by Credence Clearwater Revival

Hope you got your things together
Hope you're quite prepared to die
Looks like we're in for nasty weather
One eye is taken for an eye

These morbid lyrics are hidden behind seemingly happy music. The writer, John Fogerty, certainly had an ear for what was coming.

Though familiar with this song long before the SHTF, a specific incident locked it into my memory. I've always been a fan of rockabilly. The beat can't help but raise my spirits. And I was desperate for that. At the height of the crisis, I needed to make a night time foray. As you well remember, the dark is the worst time for a jaunt amongst the undead. CCR's playing in the background, I've pulled on my ass-kicking, steel-toed Doc Martens and I'm touching up the duct tape wrapping on my sleeves (a surprisingly effective defense against bites). I see rising from the eastern horizon a full, orange-tinged moon. I was ready

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The Road by Cormac McCarthy
The Road by Cormac McCarthy

by Cormac McCarthy

The author uses words like Monet applies brush strokes. Mr. McCarthy takes ordinary scenes, frames them in unusual perspectives and creates a story that is both beautiful and horrific. I admit that I am not objective when it comes to his works as he is my favorite author. A movie based on this book was released, but I'm a little hesitant to watch it for fear of what it may do to this great story. Before I do so, I wish to get my thoughts down.

This IS great literature. It may be hard to grasp at first, if The Road is your first book of his. You'll have to get used to his unusual style, especially the fact that he doesn't use quotation marks. You'll be wondering if a line was spoken out loud or even who said it. I implore you to stick it out, though, as it will be worth your while. The fact that you are forced to think about what's written, rather than mindlessly plowing through the pages, gets you into the story. With your mind thus engaged, you'll gain greater insight.

Beyond being a great TEotWaWKI story, this also appears to be a personal allegory for the author. Mr. McCarthy is an elderly man with a very young son. I could not help but see those two at times in this story. But I do not wish to delve into the literary aspects of the book, this review will focus on the lessons for end of the world survival: food, security and the philosophy of survival.

Despite all of the horrors in the Zombie Wars, the lack of food was never more than a short term problem, except for those in the far north during that first winter. Everyone experienced hunger at one time or another, sometimes quite severe. But the fact that the catastrophe was not an environmental one and the greatly reduced human population (at least the non-undead), meant that as long as you were able to devote time to the effort, you'd be able to find sustenance. I cannot imagine ALWAYS wondering when my next meal would occur. Heck, even the thought that there was a finite supply of food that will run out eventually would drive me insane.

The food situation in The Road directly impacts the state of one's security. EVERYONE realizes there's only so much food. All bets are off. It's not just a matter of protecting your own supply, but you, too, could be considered food. This is different than dealing with zombies. First, you cannot form large groups. Even if you tried, they would tear apart during the first lengthy period without food. Second, you have to be constantly on the move. You will either exhaust the local food supply or others will learn how good you have it. It must be difficult to walk away from food that you cannot easily carry. Finally, what do you do when the food truly does run out?

That final reckoning, I believe, is the major TEotWaWKI point made in this book. What is the point of survival? It becomes extremely difficult to argue with those who want to end it all. Why struggle and suffer when everyone's going to starve to death or meet with a brutally violent end anyways? This was an issue during our catastrophe. I knew a number of people who swallowed a bullet rather than deal with the world as it now is. I took everyone of those as a betrayal. But in The Road? I don't know.

Read this book and think good and hard. What is the point of it all? I did not fight the Zombie War just so I could return to a life where I worried about making my credit card payments.

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28 Weeks Later Soundtrack
28 Weeks Later Soundtrack

I have mentioned before the opening scene to 28 Weeks Later, how it is heart-in-your-throat exciting. The theme song from this movie will induce the same feeling. Slowly building and ever louder, your adrenaline will start pumping. I believe this is the perfect song for a PEM since the slow start will help set the mode for your unit while the undead take notice of and then march towards your kill zone. Make this the first song on your list.

3

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From:    billdrinkmore@bill-lenoir.com
Subject: Experiences from the Zombie War
Date:    October 29, 2009 6:18:44 PM EDT
To:      editor@rapidan-publishing.com

To whom it may concern,

I am writing in regards to your request for remembrances 
from the war. Please feel free to contact me if you have any 
questions or need clarification.

Thanks,
Lt. Col. Z. William Drinkmore, Ret.

The child is dead.

I can see him, down hill about 200 yards away, just off the road.

And, yes, despite his longish blond hair gently waving in the wind like a prayer flag, he is a boy. I can tell even from this distance: his head is about a foot too far from his shoulders and his hands are bound behind his back.

The raiders wouldn't have done that to a girl, too valuable. Even if it means walking miles with her slung over a shoulder. But a boy? A small one? Probably couldn't get enough work out of him to justify the food he'd eat. Certainly not someone they would have slowing the group down.

The shade and breeze just inside the tree-line takes the edge off of the early spring heat. It's a good spot to catch my breath.

It's sad, really. Not the fact of the dead boy, but that it means so little to me. I've seen too much to readily give a shit anymore. It's energy wasted on what cannot be changed.

I look at the boy again. Thankfully, I cannot see his face. I gnaw some jerky.

The zombies don't worry me. Though raiders are truly an ill wind, they do have one side benefit: They leave no undead in their wake.

I break cover and stop, looking for movement in the bushes opposite signaling, perhaps, the rousting of a guard. Nothing.

I move along the tree line until I'm directly above the boy. Still, nothing.

I run down hill, more of a controlled fall. I lose my balance on the last stride, slamming into the road in a near face plant.

The only noise is the sound of the air I struggle to suck back into my lungs. If they're out there, I'm dead, or worse.

No, I hear the birds now. That's always good. They go quiet when Zed's around.

Most roads clearly show the fact that there hasn't been traffic for nearly a year. The build up of dirt and the weeds growing in the cracks. Not to say they're useless, just unused.

This road, however, clearly shows the passage of a large group. These guys have no fear of the undead or other humans. And why should they? They are reavers from what passes for any type of power and authority in the whole mid-Atlantic region.

I can see the soles of his feet, or what remains of them. They're mostly raw. Damn, that must have hurt to walk. I won't complain about the hitch in my side.

They didn't even waste a bullet on him, just a quick swing of an obviously sharp blade. I see foot prints in his pooled blood, most going in the same direction. Most, not all. Looks like a scuffle. A knee down? Is that a hand print? Whoever it was, she wasn't killed here. Was she his mother? Would that have been a good or a bad thing?

I have seen enough of those who have joined the so-called White Republic up around Front Royal to know that they were not all bad people, just hungry. They sold their souls for a regular meal. That makes them worse than evil.

How far gone do you have to be to just lop a head off like that?

I can't bury him. I don't have the tools and the soil here ain't easy to dig. The thought that coyotes will get him disturbs me. I can't burn him, that will signal my presence. I'll cover him with rocks.

I cut his binding, but the arms don't move, frozen in place. He hardly weighs anything and the rigidity of his body makes it obscenely easy to move him. I put his head back where it belongs. His purplish face distorts his expression, the torment exacerbated.

How old are you? I cannot tell. Is that Sponge Bob on your shirt? Were you a fan? At first glance, you could pass for an old man.

You survived the outbreak, that's gotta mean something. Though, by the looks of you, even before your capture, you weren't that far from death. Couldn't have been a local, those who have survived are well stocked with food and are fortified enough to deter the raiders, at least for now.

The smoke I saw yesterday evening, bet it was from the refugee camp just outside Culpeper. That's a long reach for the White Republic. Their power is growing.

And what do we do? Those of us who still consider ourselves to be members of that nearly forgotten entity, the United States? We cower in fear, worried about our next meal, about the undead infecting a new wave, about enslavement up north. Well, those of us who are white. The agony is shorter for minorities who fall into their hands, but several orders of magnitude worse. Did your blond hair prolong your suffering?

Who are you? What is your name?

There's nothing in your pockets but a worn piece of paper with writing too faded to read. Looks like it could have been an address. Yours? Did one of your parents write that last year, in case you were separated? Where was your home?

In the ditch I find plenty of silt washed down by the last storm. I know you'll be carried away in the next heavy rain, which, being March, won't be too long, but this is the best I can do.

Did my children meet the same fate? I don't know. I haven't considered that until now. But what right do I have to complain, to beg mercy for them when I did nothing for you or others?

I use a branch to brush away traces of my work and place it on top of the grave. As close to flowers as you'll get for your funeral.

I'm sorry.

I've heard it sung that it ain't no sin to be glad you're alive. And I suppose it's true, the part about being glad. But shouldn't survival be a means, not an end?

I head back up hill, the way I came. I must get back before dark.

Back within the tree-line, what was cooling is now cold. Anger, guilt or relief? I feel all three. That is good.

Thank you.

From:    jsmith@rapidan-publishing.com
Subject: Re: Experiences from the Zombie War
Date:    November 5, 2009 17:45:53 PM EDT
To:      billdrinkmore@bill-lenoir.com

Dear Col. Drinkmore,

Thanks for your submission to our collection of stories we 
are assembling. Unfortunately, we are looking for something 
more upbeat. However, we will reconsider your story should 
we publish another volume with a theme more inline with 
yours.

Regards,
Jennifer Smith
Editorial Assistant

3

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28 Days Later
28 Days Later

28 Weeks Later
28 Weeks Later

Days directed by Danny Boyle, Weeks directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo

A very important lesson was learned during these movies, but not by someone who was watching them nor for anything specific about the content. I beat the living crap out of the Anderson's boy. We had to take him to the hospital. His father came after me with a gun to even the score, but once he learned what happened, believed the boy got off light. Let me explain.

I'm watching the opening scene of the second movie (28 Weeks Later), utterly filled with terror. The movie making is so good, I feel like I'm there. I've had more than my fair share of encounters with the undead, but the thought that they could run so fast caused me to panic. I wasn't in that room, watching that movie. I couldn't suck in enough air, I got a stitch in my side as if I, too, were running from the infected.

It was at that point that Jacky decided to jump out and scare me. Next thing I know, Javi is pulling me off him. I had grabbed a lamp and was pummeling the boy with it. I feel terrible for what I did, but, dude, that was wrong. He's lucky I didn't have a gun at hand.

That's how good these movies are. You should watch them.

The premise of this story line is that a virus causes the infected to become consumed with a mindless rage, a desire to destroy the uninfected. The initial outbreak seems to occur in London and spreads from there. The first movie, Days, follows a bicycle messenger who wakes up from a coma weeks after the outbreak. He has no idea what happened. The second movie, Weeks, covers the period just before containment of the initial outbreak to its re-emergence. I like the fact that the two movies do not share any characters and that there is a slight overlap in the time period they cover. They come across as independent efforts.

Again, these are a must see. Just be mindful of the lessons you absorb.

First of all, this is not just a fictional story, but that world compares to ours as apples to oranges. I mentioned the sprinting zombies (OK, I realize they are not undead, but, effectively, they are the same), but the rate of infection is just as speedy: within seconds, a healthy human becomes a raging maniac. This requires a completely different mind set. In that world, there can be no room for doubt. True, outbreaks did and still do occur in our world. However, now that we're aware of how to deal with them and have procedures in place to do so, we are extremely unlikely to have another one as serious as the first. Besides, we don't have the resources to deal with the level of effort required to ensure that every single human is free of infection at all times. That would have a seriously negative impact on our quality of life.

Secondly, many characters had a rather blasé attitude towards security, even for our standards. In Days, they camp in the outdoors, with no protection from marauding infected. Sure, they set up watches, but still, you need four walls to be sure of a good night's sleep. And in the final scenes of that movie, at the fortified estate, the military unit certainly didn't practice light and noise discipline. I hardly think the undead would attack piece meal over the course of weeks. Everyone of them within sight and sound range would have made a bee line to the place. And don't get me going on the medical containment security in Weeks.

Selena in 28 Days Later
Selena in 28 Days Later
Sergeant Doyle in 28 Weeks Later
Sergeant Doyle in 28 Weeks Later

These idiosyncrasies did not ruin the movie for me because the characters more than made for them. Each movie had someone I'd want on my team during a crisis. Selena from Days is a woman who knows how to survive and doesn't hesitate to do what's necessary. She may be so tightly wound up that she couldn't re-adjust to a new normality, but during SHTF, she'll have your back. Sergeant Doyle from Weeks is a well trained US Army sniper. Not only can he effectively deal with Zed, he can be just as ruthless with "normals" of ill intent. And, yet, he comes across as a nice guy when not in crisis mode. This is a rarity since someone who works well during SHTF tends not to be a well adjusted person when things return to normality (myself, for example).

Anyways, see this movie, but with a grain of salt. Oh, and make sure the house is empty of pain in the ass neighbor kids, just in case.

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Man Called Zombie While Ordering Food, Punched Twice

OK, I can appreciate this guy's initiative, but please, when confronting the undead, follow this protocol:

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

Let the professionals deal with the situation. That's what they're trained to do.

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Zombieland
Zombieland

directed by Ruben Fleischer

I so wanted to hate this movie. It's another instance where I got screwed out of the recognition I deserve. I signed on as a consultant to help the screen writers get the details right. I do a fair amount of this kind of work due to my varied experiences during the zombie war. And what happens? They base the two male characters largely on me and yet, no mention of my name in the credits. True, they took some artistic license with the facts: I am better looking than either actor, wear a much nicer hat and had a thing for Hostess apple pies, not Twinkies. Just once, I'd like the world to know my story.

Like I said, I went into this movie filled with a rage burning brighter than a thousand suns. But those bastards made a great movie! I can't hate it. Sure, I can quibble with some of the details — explain to me how rotting flesh can run a 4.4 forty? — but over all, sound advice has been packaged in an great story.

The list of rules that Columbus generated is absolutely brilliant. I wish I could lay claim to that idea (though I did live by rules, I never wrote them down, dammit!). While some of these are obvious and covered in other sources like The Zombie Survival Guide, he came up with a few that I had not considered, such as:

Rule 2: Beware of Bathrooms

A very good idea since they usually have only a single entry point, it would be easy to become trapped.

Rule 7: Keep the Dumb Dumbs Close at Hand

This is a variant of the "You don't have to be faster than the bear" rule. It's kinda cold, and I wouldn't use this strategy with just anyone (say a child or the elderly), but with someone who should otherwise know better and is a pain in the ass? Sure. Better him than me.

Rule 24: No Drinking

Ah, I would have thought that this would be a tough one for me, but given that I didn't have time to chill for the first few weeks after the outbreak, I never even considered taking a nip. But it's true, in a world where you are prey, you cannot afford to check out mentally, even for a few hours.

Rule 4: Doubletap

This is one rule with which I might have an argument, but if you listen closely to Columbus's explanation, he limits its applicability. Still, it's important to remember your goal when combatting zombies: you don't necessarily want to kill them, you need to eliminate them as a threat. If you're on the run and you put a zed down, it don't matter if he's still a twitcher. Don't stick around to finish the job, get the hell out of there!

Go see this movie! Yes, you will be riveted by the well written story and believable characters. More important, though, you will learn useful tips that may save your life should we experience another outbreak.

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USA Today reports that Finger bitten off during California health protest. Specifically:

O'Hanlon said the man got into an argument and fist fight, during which he bit off the left pinky of a 65-year-old man who opposed health care reform.

While this is positioned as an escalation in the fight over health care reform, I'm thinking otherwise. This would be a good time to review your procedures and check supplies, just in case we have another outbreak.

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Dead City by Joe McKinney
Dead City by Joe McKinney

by Joe McKinney

Now that enough time has past, survivors of the zombie catastrophe are writing memoirs of their experience. Dead City, which takes place in San Antonio and is the story of one of a local cop, is just such a book. Unlike most authors, McKinney does have the ability to write well. It's his story telling that is lacking. My reactions while reading this were equal parts, "Woah, that couln't be!" and "What's the point?"

One thing I always find interesting in these types of books is the speculation as to what caused the dead to rise. In this case, the author believes a particularly nasty hurricane stirred something up on the Gulf Coast that then spread to the rest of the nation. I think it's pretty clear that China was the source and that the plague's outbreak in Texas was just coincident with that storm. I'm not going to argue the point, though.

I have a bigger beef with the fact that he says his son, though wounded, did not become infected. Despite the author's contention that this was caused by a zombie, there's no way that child could have survived. I've heard of bite victims immediately amputating the affected limb to save themselves, but have never witnessed such an event. I can only conclude that if the kid was injured, it was not by a zombie.

The thing to keep in mind about this story is that it covers just the first day or so of the outbreak. Knowing that, I cannot blame him for some of the tactical errors he made, such as being cornered in a warehouse. He should be thankful that he didn't pay the ultimate price for his mistakes.

There's plenty of other books of a similar nature out there that would make for far better reads. However, lacking other options, this is book will pass the time.