Monthly Archives: March 2004

I Ran with a Zombie

Last week Slate ran this piece on the recent appearance of fast-moving zombies in movies. Not until the end does the author consider what the two different portayals might represent:

George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, more than any other creature feature, hammered home the slow zombie’s metaphorical possibilities. In the first Dawn, scores of shopping-mall-bound corpses ride escalators in an endless loop and wobble listlessly to Muzak. This new Dawn, though one of the best scare movies of the last few years, is far more concerned with zombie style than zombie substance: While Snyder’s zombies may be mindless, they’re less a consumerist mob than a bunch of high-strung car chasers.

Indeed, the slow zombie represents the loss of humanity through the loss of the drive to acheive and to better oneself, reduced to shuffling among the crowd with an occasional swipe at living flesh whenever it comes into arms’ reach. The slow zombie is a person who surrounds himself with the comfortable, material satisfaction of what he has and never thinks about what he might become. But the fast zombie is a loss of humanity at the other end of the spectrum: the hypercompetitive, single-minded dash driven by the basest of instincts. If the slow zombies are the lines at Wal-mart on a Saturday afternoon, the fast are the ones rushing in the door at 8 am, trampling each other to get the $20 DVD player. And so as society becomes more efficient and profit-driven, productivity rising while employment remains stagnant, the fast zombie becomes the metaphor of the day.

I didn’t think zombies were known for their speaking ability.

The various Dawn of the Dead-related news has had a negative impact on the signal/noise ratio for my Google News zombie searches. How will I know if there’s a real outbreak? Besides the mindless hordes trying to eat my flesh, I mean. I did find this article about unconscious behaviors.

When you’re talking, do you construct each sentence first in your mind, piecing the words together? Or do you simply talk, the words tumbling out in proper sequence and syntax?
For the most part, it’s probably the latter. You don’t think about each word before you speak it. “Your brain,” says Koch, “takes care of that quite well without any conscious effort on your part.”
Speaking is, in profound ways, a “nonconscious” behavior. It is a mental operation not directly associated with conscious feelings, sensations or memories. It just sort of happens, seemingly, on its own.

But I do consciously compose what I say before I say it. Is speech really an unconscious act for most people? Could this be part of my conversational difficulties? (If so, I arrive at the conclusion that I will get better at conversation if I practice a lot, which I more or less already knew. The problem, as usual, is that practicing something I’m really, really bad at is quite unpleasant.)

When there’s no more room in hell, the obnoxious will go to the movies.

That was absolutely the worst audience in the entire history of mankind. Why do I keep going back there? I’m so dumb. I’m going to ritually geas myself never to return to Century 16 Hilltop theater, lest I instantly die.
But the new Dawn of the Dead was excellent. I overestimated my soda intake and consequently missed a scene near the end, so I may go for another viewing. In Emeryville.

I guess it’s Zombie Month here.

What can I say? I love loathe the undead.
I’m off to see the new Dawn of the Dead over at Cinema of the Damned. I could see The Passion instead, but I hear there’s only one reanimated corpse in that one and it only shows up at the very end. Maybe Mel Gibson will make a sequel involving the dead rising from their graves — apparently that was in the book.
While I’m out, enjoy this in-depth report on the activities of California’s elected officials.

A few centuries ago, he’d be tortured and burned at the stake. Progress!

Via Atrios, news that Kerry supporters are not welcome in the Catholic church:

Message to church employees who support John Kerry’s presidential bid: public endorsement of the pro-choice Catholic senator could cost you your job.
Just ask Ono Ekeh, founder and moderator of the Catholics for Kerry e-mail discussion list and, until March 9, program coordinator at the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for African-American Catholics. The 33-year-old father of two is now looking for work.

I wholeheartedly agree with Atrios that if the Church is going to do this, it doesn’t deserve its tax-exempt status. I suppose the Catholic leadership must look back fondly on times past when they had actual political power. I myself look forward to the day when the Church is completely irrelevant, even if I won’t live to see it.
(Disclaimer: I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Catholics as individuals. I just think that the organization is a blight upon humanity.)

In-flight Movie Horror

I’m back from the icy wastes of the north, having risked major neck pain on the return flight by attempting to sleep. Still, unconsciousness was clearly the preferable alternative to the in-flight movie, Cheaper by the Dozen (2003). Every time I opened my eyes, what I saw on the screen was Steve Martin surrounded by a whirlwind of hyperactive, feral super-brats. I thought The Passion was the movie to beat in terms of watching someone being tortured, but I was clearly wrong — what I saw of this movie resembles what I imagine, in my darkest nightmares, as my personal hell.
Anyway, I wish I’d had time to see Montreal, but it’s good to be back where water falls from the sky in its liquid phase. Tomorrow I hope to catch up on the news so I can return to posting about stuff that matters.

Final Montreal Update

Got to sleep in a bit on my final day at the March Meeting; this didn’t erase the cumulative effects of the past few days so I still found myself nodding off in some of the less relevant talks. I attended the session for Physics Careers Outside the University, and found the science policy talks especially interesting. Then Mason’s talk, and some more qubit talks, and then I left a few minutes early to go running.
At the gym they had Lou Dobbs on (or at least his show; someone else was subbing for Lou himself). The topic for part of it was the Pledge case, which was argued before the Supremes today. From what I gathered by squinting at the captions from a distance, the justices were not particularly sympathetic to Newdow. Unfortunate, but at least Bush won’t have one more culture-war campaign issue. I should probably wait for an actual ruling before I say things like this, though.
I still fail to understand the mentality that regards “under God” in the Pledge as something less than a state endorsement of religion. On the other hand, I also fail to understand the mentality that regards millions of American children robotically and uncomprehendingly reciting a loyalty oath every day as a good thing. Unfortunately, a failure to understand my fellow Americans is a common affliction for me.
Tomorrow: 5 am wake-up call! Referred to California time, this is 2 am, so I am now fully phase-shifted to the point that I am waking up when I used to go to bed (at least on weekends). Well, if we weren’t meant to sleep on planes, they wouldn’t have such comfortable seats. Wait a minute…

Late quote post

I’ve been too busy to post the new quote, but it’s up now. Difficulty: Slightly Obscure; 2 points.
Last week’s quote was from Chapter 26 of Dracula by Bram Stoker, recorded by Jonathan Harker in his journal as he pursues Dracula on a river to Transylvania.