Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Serpent and the Rainbow

Today, I picked up a copy of The Serpent and the Rainbow by Wade Davis. It is an ethnobiologist's research into the Haitian phenomenon of zombiism. Now, as we know (from pages 19-22 of The Zombie Survival Guide), the Voodoo zombie is not the same as the undead threat of the zombie menance. The Haitian zombies are (as Wade Davis argues) live human beings who have been brain-damaged through a pharmacological cocktail, producing a zombie-like stupor, after a prolonged death-like state. These zombies, while not meeting the important qualification of being dead, are also not aggressive, not contagious, and can be killed through conventional methods.

So why study Haitian zombies? Other than that they present an interesting study of beliefs manifest, said research will provide valuable discretionary resources. While my focus is on the flesh-eating variety of zombie, I want to be thorough. It is important to understand all types of zombies, whether they be cultural, historical, or hell-spawn.

The Serpent and the Rainbow is still in print if anyone is interested. However, if you have a short attention span, you might want to watch the movie version of The Serpent and the Rainbow, a fictionalized, and much more dramaticized version.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Brain Death

It appears that Brain Death is the optium result of brain trauma (in the case of zombies, not humans). This is the complete cessation of electrical brain activity, with or without the cessation of bodily functioning. This appears to be the cause of zombie death.

Unfortunately, the cause of brain death is indeterminant. It can result from a number of actions, including force trauma to the head (but also diseases, which don't really effect zombies). In all of my research (which does expand beyond Wikipedia), I couldn't find the minimum amount of damage necessary to cause brain death, and all of these results were human-based, as zombie research is seriously underfunded.

Of course, in any practical situation, you won't be going, "I wonder if my baseball bat caused large enough of a blunt force trauma?", you'll be going, "Holy Crap! It's still moving! Hit it more!"

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


In lieu of my continued research on the brain (which is very interesting, and results are very promising), I would bring to attention the Federal Vampire and Zombie Agency. While some of their research seems dubious, they do have several interesting diagrams of the different stages of zombism.

The website has bits of relevant information that should not be disregarded with some of the obvious drivel. There are several "real-life" accounts (which pick up where Max Brooks leaves off). Of course, some of them are clearly falsified, but there is a kernel of truth to some.

In the meantime, I will continue with my research of the brain, with more postings to come.

Monday, August 28, 2006

The Brain

After my extensive post yesterday that remained unresolved I started researching the brain. Before understanding brain damage, I figured it was important to understand healthy brain function.
The brain is made up of four lobes and the cerebellum.

(Diagram courtesy of Wikipedia)
Overly simplified, here is what each part is responsible for:
Cerebellum: Governs movement and coordination
Occipital Lobe: Governs visual reception and recognition
Parietal Lobes: Processing sensory information and responsible for speech
Temporal Lobes: Sound and smell receptors and may be involved in short term memory
Frontal Lobe: Primary processing center, responsible for personality.

However, this is an oversimplification, and much of how the lobes interact to form consciousness and much of what we consider to be human is not understood. However, we might be able to speculate on how a zombie's brain might function. Obviously there is an interested sensory awareness, primarily in hearing and smell. Sight loses the primacy it most likely had in life due to accelerated decomposition in the eyeballs, and the decrease in use. The cerebellum is very important as far as maintaining the shamble, but it is very protected due to its location within the skull and surrounding muscle tissue. The largest part of the brain, the frontal lobe is inconsequential, as these higher functioning skills are no longer necessary for the zombie simple hunt/eat stratagem.

So how does this all effect the damage to the brain? Is it possible to injure part of the brain and not kill the zombie? Or (the more likely theory) the brain is a summation of its parts and needs to be whole in order to allow for zombie survival. I tend to think this may be the answer. Even though live humans are able to make up for parts of the brain that are removed zombies lack the healing (and cell growth) to allow for the brain to compensate for its absent bits. Regardless, this will require more research.

In a more practical application, I picked up this lovely tool at my local hardware store:

Intended for gardening and lawn care, it can serve as an excellent braining tool. At five feet in length, it has a significant reach. It is light weight and easy to carry. With a simple swing, it could easy penetrate the skull of zombie, causing significant trauma to the brain (just to be sure it was traumatizing enough it is a good idea to give it a little wiggle after it's in the skull). And it was only ten bucks.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Brain damage and quiet weapons

I was thinking today about the appropriate level of brain damage is necessary to dispatch with a zombie. A significant trauma is enough to take them out, but what defines significant?

Since a gunshot is probably the simpliest, most effective way of braining a zombie. We should examine what causes this significant level of damage. As we all know from countless police dramas, Mythbusters, and other crime scene investigation type shows, the real damage caused by a bullet, is not the impact it makes, but rather less graceful exit.

However, guns are not always the most appropriate way of taking out a zombie. Unless you have a silencer (which through extended use loses its silencing capabilities), gunshots are inevitably loud and attention drawing. Quieter alternatives are occasionally needed.

Max Brooks discusses quiet ranged weapons more in-depth on pages 38-41 of The Zombie Survival Guide, so I will just highlight some of his points,
The crossbow, and moreso, the handbow, are probably the best bet for a generally unskilled individual. They are easier to aim, and the ammo is relatively small. Brooks is rather quick to discount the compound bow because of the amount of skill necessary to use it. Since I grew up in deer-hunting country and have met quite a few bow hunters with lethal accuracy, I do feel that the select group of individuals who can handle the compound bow is a larger group than Brooks predicts. It should be noted that the time to reload means that you need to be effective in the first shot.
But do handbows and compound bows have the stopping power? Though they do not effect the larger area of damage produced by the exit wound of a gunshot, and accurately placed arrow seems to be just as lethal. Moreover arrows are reusable (for the eco-friendly zombie hunter who prefers not to litter), but this does necessitate retrieving them.

Brooks dislikes ninja-type weapons such as shuriken (throwing stars) and kunai knives (throwing knives) for the amount of skill necessary to operate them. Again, I would be interested in trying them before dismissing them so quickly. Though I do agree that they probably cannot deliver a lethal bow in the hands of an amateur, they may be able to serve a slowing function. Still there are many more drawbacks. Much like the katana, actual weapon-grade ninja weapons are difficult to find. Since much of the shuriken and kunai knives effectiveness depends on their sharpness and durability, only found in professional (non-showy weapons).
Penetration is another question here. Bullets and arrows have good penetration because much of the driving force is mostly dependent on the weapon, not quite as much on the user. However, shuriken and kunai are dependent on the user directly delivering the weapon. The amount of force generated is directly related to the talent, and strength of the user.

This brings us back to the original question about what defines significant damage. If one were to throw a shuriken and lodge it in the skull, but not penetrate the skull, would that be enough to kill a zombie? Or would it only destroy the function that part of the brain enables?

This definitely necessitates further research into both lethal brain damage, and alternative long-range weapons. With that in mind, I’m popping in Resident Evil and going to sleep.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Dead Alive

In continuing with the theme of zombie movies, I rented and watched Dead Alive (Braindead in New Zealand), I can say that it is wholly inaccurate in terms of zombie information. However, I can also say that it is one of the more disgustingly entertaining films available. Also, though it doesn't provide any information that might be useful in disposing of zombies, it does provide several bits that are still helpful in preventing the zombie menace:

1. Do not keep zombies as pets.
2. Do not feed zombies in an attempt to satiate their hunger, as they may develop other carnal desires with much more disgusting consequences.
3. When overtly stereotypical native people warn you not to take their indiginous Rat Monkey, DO NOT TAKE THEIR RAT MONKEY!

Otherwise, I suggest Dead Alive, as an entertaining zombie romp. Just don't watch it while you're eating. Truly, truly gross.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Zombie movies

Now I feel the love, thanks everyone. So here’s to another attempt at nearly daily rants against the growing zombie menace!

First, this necessitates some kind of commentary: I was watching Futurama the other night on Adult Swim (yes, even zombie hunters need their daily cartoon dose). Regular watchers may remember Professor Farnsworth’s exclamation, “Holy Zombie Jesus!”. Such a proclamation was uttered the other night, however, the “Jesus” part was blanked out. Talk about censorship. Granted, this was probably done to appease the right wing religious regime, but as a result a valuable pop culture reference to America’s most popular zombie-worshiping religion was lost. And what a terrible loss it was.

Burial Ground does seem like an awful movie that is attempting (and probably failing) to capitalize on zombie fears. Unfortunately, there does seem to be an entire genre dedicated to exploiting these fears. Making a good zombie movie isn’t that difficult, zombie movie expectations are not that high. All that is required is:

1. Blood and gore
2. One interesting weapon choice
3. One initial, especially gruesome death to show the zombie threat (not necessarily a buxom blonde, i.e. Sarah Polley’s husband in Dawn of the Dead (redux)
4. At least one ironic death (thanks Slash)
5. A thinly veiled moral

Now, what the genre really needs is an instructional film. Something that tells you what do when the zombie menace strikes. Kind like Duck and Cover but for the undead.

Finally, I’ve been exposed to a new verb, “Braining”- as in, a means of killing zombies by destroying the brain. Courtesy of the Onion review of Dead Rising.

Thursday, August 24, 2006


Justin, I wish that I could say that my complete lack of updates is due to getting Dead Rising. That would be awesome.

Unfortunately, I have not been posting due to a mix of computer problems and hectic scheduling. Since I haven't been receiving any reader input as of late, I thought that either I was alone in the world (and I felt like shouting "Hello, is anyone there?" a la Day of the Dead) or that readers have lost interest. I've spent the last week using time between random jobs and screwing around with my computer to try and think of new topics to discuss.

So far here is what I've got:
Zombies: the fear of the contagion
Zombies: reality vs. fantasy
Various zombie movie reviews (better movies than Ring of Darkness)
Battle Gear: the best protection to be wearing during hand-to-hand combat (sparked by Kate Beckinsdale's latex outfit in Underworld)
and the dreaded Zombie Porn topic

I would definitely appreciate any input or discussion topics from anyone who is still reading.
and I will try to resume posting more regularly.
and I will try to acquire Dead Rising

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Necropalypse Dream

I had a dream last night about the explosion of the zombie menace. It happened right in my hometown. I was totally unprepared. I did everything wrong too. I tried to contact my family, I panicked, I had trouble killing zombies, it was a nightmare. I didn't die, but lots of people did. It was complete chaos. This dream has lead me to the conclusion that I am not ready for the necropalypse. While it is hard to mentally prepare for such circumstances, I have to be ready for the unexpected. I have to practice calming techniques, so I can maintain my cool when the zombie menace strikes.

I'm really tired today too.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Zombie-related stuff this week

A lot has happened in the last week that is pertinent to zombie defense training.

I managed to lock my keys in my workspace again, and had to scale the chainlink fence, yet again. While not as fast as my second time (but much faster than my first) the need for ninja shoes has become quite clear. The shoes I was wearing at the time were completely impractical because the toe was too wide, and my feet were too fragile to scale the fence barefoot. I really need to order those shoes.

I watched a portion of a movie (for inexplicable reasons), that is by far and away the worst "zombie" movie ever. Ring of Darkness, is a complete waste of film. Obviously I knew this out from the description (something like "boy inducted into zombie boy band"). However, I was unable to resist this pile of crap. I was hoping for zombies onstage looking something like GWAR. I was sorely disappointed. The boy band wasn't even made up of real zombies, they were all healthy and not rotting.

Finally, my big news:

I have been promoted to a Yellow Belt in Karate. This involved taking a vigorous, two hour test that required me to do sets of Kihons and Katas, as well as kick and punch combos. While definitely not a violent, climatic brawl with the undead, it certainly gave me a feel for my physical limits. Accordingly, I slept for three hours immediately after my exam.

Few people realize (mostly due to Hollywood, the great deceiver) that fighting is exhausting. Unless you have actually been in a fight (I have), you don't realize how much the combination of huge amounts of adrenaline and physical activity take a toll on you. You will be exhausted afterwards. This is something to keep in mind when actually engaging with zombies. Obviously, the more zombies you can pick off sniper-style, the better it will be for you when you actually get into the physical combat. Actual hand-to-hand combat should be limited, with an escape plan always in place. It is best if you have a safe place to recuperate and refuel afterwards.

Advice of the Day: While under an adrenaline surge the human body is capable of many great things, but you don't want to be eaten in the following naptime.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Dead Rising

I haven't been feeling so good lately, so I apologize for my lack of vigor in posting.

In the meantime, Dead Rising out. It looks like a possible training simulation. Unfortunately, you are required to play as a man, which I always find frustrating.

Anyway, I may have to buy an Xbox 360.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Martial Arts con't

In continuing with the theme from my last post...
I think these will be my next "big" purchase:
I could really stalk and kill zombies ninja-style then.

I'm hoping to get some more firearms training in before the summer is up. However, I either need to come out with the cash to rent a spot on the firing range, or find an isolated backwoods where no one can hear my gunshots...

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Martial Arts Mayhem

Yesterday, I started to learn how to use Sai (a 3-pronged, blunt dagger-esque bludgeon). If anything, I will look cool when I am ramming a foot and a half long metal rod through a zombie skull.

Today I learned how to do a flying snap kick. I don't know how it will fare against a zombie foe, but it made a loud satisfying smack against the target bag.

If the necropylapse never comes (which is heresay, I know) I might have a successful career as a ninja.