Saturday various

  • Proof again that parasites are the scariest damn things out there. [via]
  • Speaking, sort of, of parasitic mouth-breathers, you have read the single worst sports column ever written, right? The fact that Mark Whicker doesn’t seem to understand how his column trivialized Jaycee Dugard’s horrific 18-year ordeal — and is lousy journalism to boot — is just disgusting. Joe Wilson gave a more sincere apology.
  • Speaking of Wilson, via Twitter Kurt Andersen writes:

    Nobody who applauded the dude in Baghdad who threw his shoe at Bush really has any standing to accuse Joe Wilson of incivility. Right?

    It’s an interesting point, but I do think it’s wrong and maybe over-simplifies. For starters, this is at least partly about context. Shoe-thrower Muntazer al-Zaidi was a journalist attending a press conference, whereas Joe Wilson was a Congressman attending the President’s address to that legislative body. There are different levels of decorum expected, if only by tradition, in those two very different settings. Also Bush is obviously not Iraqi, whereas both Wilson and Obama are Americans, and Iraq was/is a more hostile battleground than health care. (Although you maybe wouldn’t know it, from some of the “debate” and hysteria surrounding the latter.) Both the thrown shoe and presidential heckling were uncivil acts, neither the best solution at the time, but the shoe is more defensible, if only because it was born out of a shared desperation instead of politics. That Wilson was demonstrably wrong about Obama’s so-called lie, and yet has continued to spread his own lies about the proposed governmental health care… Well, it’s tough to continue drawing parallels between the two outbursts.

  • James Patterson signs a 17-book deal “that will keep him with publisher Hachette through 2012.” Do the math: even if the deal goes into effect immediately, that’s 17 books in just over two years, about eight books a year. I guess it’s a good thing James Patterson doesn’t actually have to write well, huh? [via]
  • And finally, this proposed Plan 9 from Outer Space remake…is a joke, right?

    Plan 9 Teaser Trailer from Darkstone Entertainment on Vimeo.

Sunday various

  • Well here’s a shocker: a zombie apocalypse really would wipe out mankind. So say Canadian researchers, anyhow, and I’ve learned to trust Canadians on matters zombie-related. [via]
  • From the “Are You Sure That Isn’t from The Onion Department”: “College Grad Sues College Because She Can’t Find a Job.” [via]
  • I had real problems with Ron Moore’s Battlestar Galactica near the end — not as much as some people, maybe, but still enough that I have yet to finish watching the final season. (It’s telling how much I wasn’t enjoying it that I was able to stop, months ago, midway through the cliffhanger mutiny episodes, and not really feel compelled to continue.) But how can it not be too early for yet another remake? The elements that Moore didn’t adapt were the cheesy Star Wars-ripoffs of the original show. Who, besides maybe Glen Larson and Dirk Benedict, is crying out for that? And so soon?
  • Fox News gets okay to misinform public:

    In its six-page written decision, the Court of Appeals held that the Federal Communications Commission position against news distortion is only a “policy,” not a promulgated law, rule, or regulation.

    Well that’s reassuring.[via]

  • And finally, uniting all robots under a single operating system? Yeah, that couldn’t possibly go wrong… [via]

“Future events such as these will affect you in the future.”

Last night, three fellow cappers and I went to see Rifftrax Live in Union Square, allegedly the first theater in the nation that sold out for their simulcast riffing of Plan 9 from Outer Space. I’d never seen the movie in its entirety before — just bits and pieces, and then a big block of it earlier this week when I discovered Netflix had it online — so it was a blast seeing it on a big screen in a crowded theater. It’s such an endearingly awful movie, obviously made with a huge amount of love and excitement by Ed Wood, if not even the tiniest shred of talent or ability. For a movie that is so terrible — “the Citizen Kane of bad movies” — it really doesn’t drag at all, and I think it could be genuinely entertaining even without three really funny guys making fun of it on the side.

But Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett did a great job, first with a really terrific short — “Sorry, Fort Worth!” — and then the feature, really bringing their A material, a script you can tell they’ve been honing for awhile. It was also great to see and hear Jonathan Coulton do a couple of songs (and help out with another), and you definitely got the sense that some people were going to go home after the show and look him and his music up.

Speaking of going home, I didn’t make it there until sometime after midnight, just missing the first subway uptown from Union Square — no Metro card, and long lines at malfunctioning machines — and then having to wait around Penn Station for half an hour until my train showed up. It gave me time to chat with some of the station’s late-night drunks and transients, particularly the one gentleman who, instead of just asking me for some money, wanted to give me a story about how he’d just gotten out of prison for…well, something cocaine-related, though it wasn’t entirely clear what. I was happy to give him a dollar, especially if it meant he’d wander off and bother someone else. He had the unmistakable scent of alcohol on him, plus the look of a man whose good humor and gregariousness could turn to violence, so I just wanted to escape with my book to another (more crowded) section of the station. He, of course, wanted to fist-bump me in thanks for the dollar and to ask me about the book. When I told him it was a book about gardening, I don’t think he approved. But at least that seemed to end the conversation, and he walked off to the Amtrak station upstairs.

Those few moments of weirdness — plus the disgusting heat in Manhattan, especially in the subway — notwithstanding, I had a great evening, and I’m definitely glad I went.

Wednesday various

  • Sense And Sensibility and Sea Monsters, huh? I worry about diminishing returns, but I’ve heard pretty good things about Pride And Prejudice And Zombies, Quirk’s last book in this sort-of-series. (Seeing as how Pride and Prejudice is the only Jane Austen I’ve ever read, maybe I should also read Seth Grahame-Smith’s parody of it. Then again, I read Austen’s book, along with another for a test, in a single weekend, and I can’t say I remember a lot about it. Some people get married in the end, I think?) I just worry: can The Werewolves of Mansfield ParK or Emma: Vampire Hunter be far behind?
  • I fucking knew it! Cursing may be good for you. Clay Davis must be the healthiest man alive. [via]
  • Toxic Substance Allows Birds to “See” Magnetic Field:

    Cryptochrome is also present in the human eye, but our amount of superoxides is even lower.

    That’s because superoxides reduce longevity, so human evolution has put a premium on longer life spans instead of on better steering.

    In birds, however, evolution has favored a bit of cellular damage in return for the navigational benefits of magnetic vision, the researchers conclude.

    What this seems to suggest, possibly, is that if we increased the amount of superoxides in our system, we could “see” the magnetic field just like birds. Of course, given the trade-off in toxicity, I don’t think we’ll find anyone too eager to test this hypothesis. [via]

  • One should always be scared when George Lucas turns his eye towards “relationships and emotional landscapes.” [via]
  • And finally, I love these fake library ads. More pictures from the Johnson County Library here. [via]

Zombies on the brain

Here are three zombie-inspired links: Zombie Neurobiology [via], Zombie Legos [via], and China Mieville’s proposed literary movement, “Zombiefail ’09-ism” [via]:

…this will be the movement for those tired of the unrelenting imperialism of zombies in horror–and now other–fiction. The writers’ position will be that what started as an invigoration (one hesitates to say ‘revivification’, in this context) of an antique trope has viralled to the point where its ubiquity makes it ambulonecrotophile kitsch. Zombies that once stalked the cultural unconscious like baleful rebukes are now cuddly toys, dead metaphors (ba-boom) at which we can’t stay mad. Paradoxically, out of very respect for increasingly degraded zombies, Zombiefail ’09-ist writers will either explicitly undermine their banalisation by melancholy mockery of them, or refuse to write about them at all, instead plundering various mythoi for more neglected monsters with which to end the world.

I’m not sure I can jump on the “fewer zombies” bandwagon, however tongue-in-cheek, and even if we maybe are reaching a saturation point. Books like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies are supposed to be surprisingly good, Plants vs. Zombies is great and addictive fun, and there’s no end of intelligent discourse on zombies to be had. Just because there are zombie toys, that doesn’t mean that zombies can’t also be scary. (I’d maintain that those zombie Legos are pretty darn creepy in their own right.)

Still, Mieville isn’t wrong; their ubiquity maybe has undermined some of what made zombies so frightening in the first place. Certainly it’s happened with other boogeymen, notably vampires. As Zach Handlen writes in his reivew of Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s new novel The Strain:

Vampires aren’t scary anymore. Blame Anne Rice, Stephenie Meyer, Hot Topic, whoever; whatever the reason, blood-sucking fiends lurking in the shadows no longer carry the same old skin-crawling cultural cachet. Which presents a problem for writers who still want to use them.

But every problem is a challenge if you look at it in the right light. I have no doubt there are still new and inventive takes on the zombie still waiting to be created. Even 28 Days Later, which Mieville includes among the “negative influences” his movement will shun, can be seen as a reaction against the sort of campy Romero knockoffs that dominated zombie pop culture for most of the’70s and ’80s. No doubt something — or many different things — will come along to react against the camp that’s since followed it.

Then again, even in Romero’s movies, it’s rarely the zombies who are the most frightening people.