31 December 2013

I Believe In Harvey Dent Too

"There are two of you, don't you see? One that kills... and one that loves..."

Harvey Dent says in The Dark Knight, "You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain," shortly before all that he loves is taken from him and he is left forever scarred and deeply embittered from the experience and downright half insane as a result... the embodiment of everything that was ever good in a man, a man that fought for truth and justice in the diplomatic way rather than by way of a cape and cowl; but no longer...

This year like the year prior succeeded once more in breaking me down right to my very foundations and leaving me more than just a little fucked up... I've definitely come to realize time and time again how easily I get burned and remain more or less unscathed but after all the drama and bullshit and backstabbing I've kinda just had it... usually I'm more or less a nice guy... lately though I've just had it.

I don't ever think I could ever go full chaotic evil... truth be told that whole categorization system is kind of lost on me... though I have always admired the anti-hero, that always suited me better... Captain America, Spiderman, Superman...? Nah, give me Wolverine, The Punisher, Spawn, Rorschach or Venom any day...

....that said, here's hoping everyone survived their version of 2000 the 13th alive and mostly intact. Call it a wish a hope a fervent fucking prayer or whatever you want but I've found my toast to the New Year to be:
To Better Ways
and Better Days

Cheers all, Happy 2014

02 December 2013

This motherfucker's gonna get my metal

[Considering I brought the Zombie Tools article back to life I figured I'd re-showcase my own purchases from them here as well especially since they've been returned to my possession finally]

My newly arrived order from the hammersmithing geniuses at Zombie Tools can't help but make me think of Manson's Lunchbox... I've got my lunchbox and I'm armed real well

Well I certainly won't be packing these new toys of mine for lunch but if something is trying to have me for lunch, plan on seeing plenty of these bad boys.
I've even gone so far as to name them.

The squids I've named Edward (Gein) and Charles (Manson) since these remind of a favorite game of mine Who's the better Killer? The Spikes I've named Larry, Moe and Curly (who will soon have a paracord length tied around him and be fashioned into a rope-dart for those Scorpion impressions). And the Machete is named Ol' Painless for obvious reasons. They were even kind enough to etch a 13 onto the handle, 13 being my lucky number. Now I feel safer. More on arms and armament to be reported later.

01 December 2013

Apocalyptic Blade Runners: Zombie Tools

A friendly Public Service Announcement
from Zombie Tools brought to you
in part by your local Pabst Blue Ribbon brewer
When it comes to the Apocalypse you'll need the right tool for the job, the job being kill as fucking many of the undead as possible! While guns are fun, they draw too much attention and require ammo... and let's be honest: Nothing beat's a good old fashioned sharp object. The coolest blades in my opinion would have to be hand-crafted by my good friends and drinking buddies at Zombie Tools. I met these guys back in 2011 at a preview event where they showcased some of their wares to us before the big show... I oogled and drooled at the craftsmanship... a year later I would blow my entire convention's pay on a hand crafted katana from them. As the Good Doctor would say, Res Ipsa Loquitur (the thing speaks for itself) and holy shit do these tools ever do that alright.

The Apokatana

Now that you've wiped the drool off we're here with the boys behind the blades with Zombie Tools

Single Bullet Theory: How did Zombie Tools get established?

Zombie Tools: Zombie Tools was the product of a convergence of interests among a group of friends over many years. Max and Joey met about 12 years ago and discovered that they shared an interest in swords. They started a tradition of beating the shit out of each other with rapiers and shinai once a week, a black Sabbath of beer and violence known as the Drunken Jedi Pirate Circus. About 7 years ago, they decided that they were sick of buying other people's swords and decided to try to do it themselves. They began begging, buying, borrowing and stealing tools for their backyard projects, and learning from books and internet forums.

Chris showed up about 6 years ago to photograph and write a story on the group for a local magazine. They haven't been able to get rid of him since.

Max and his friend Wes Saint John met while hitchhiking around the West many years ago. They ended up in Missoula (where Max went to high school) and spent a lot of time together getting drunk and making horror paintings, assemblage and performance art. They were known as the Tainted Saints.

In October 2007, these people and more came together to produce a Halloween performance for a local bar. Over the course of 6 weeks, we transformed an abandoned Mexican restaurant into an Old West zombie brothel. It was somewhere in the midst of creating this show that the streams of swords and zombies began to fuse. In November, the concept began to solidify, by December we had our first blade prototypes, and in March 2008 we launched our website.

SBT: Do you have a blade your tend to favor in particular?
ZT: Asking us to choose our favorite blades is like asking a mother which of her children she loves best. But, of course, like any mother, we have our preferences.

As the lead designer on the blade, and a student of Japanese sword combat styles, Max is a big fan of the Apokatana.

The Vakra is Joey's design baby. Two-handed, he's a fan of the Deuce.

Chris likes the new Backwoods Bone Machete, and whenever we do test cutting it's hard to get the Reaper out of his hands.

SBT: When it comes to beverages: Brewed or distilled?

ZT: As for brewed vs distilled.....we'd prefer both, but if we had to choose, it would probably be brewed. We've modeled our company after the ancient Egyptians, who built their pyramids with labor fueled by beer. Give us a couple thousand beers, and we're sure we could do just about anything.

SBT: PBR, Miller High Life or Busch?
ZT: Any port in a storm. But while the beer is still cold, we'll always take PBR.

SBT: How is this gnarly etching achieved on your blades?
ZT: We get our distinctive finish by spattering the blades with a mixture of bees wax and Essence of Evil. We then coat the blades with ferric chloride acid which does not react with the wax.

SBT: What exactly do the different steels mean in laymans terms? Can you do more with certain kinds over others?
ZT: There is a huge variety of steels available, and the fundamental difference between them is the proportion of elements added to iron -- among them, carbon, manganese, and chromium. Differing percentages of these elements affect the steel's hardness, tensile strength, and ductility.

We use 5160 spring steel in our designs currently. In general terms, spring steel is an excellent compromise between hardness and durability, which is what you need for the longer types of weapons that we make and the conditions that we make them for -- day after long day of killing. Other steels can be harder, which gives them a very sharp edge, but they are also brittle, and if they were used to make a sword, would be at risk of breaking under long use.

SBT: How do you come up with some of your creative designs like The Reaper or The Squid? What's the story behind the Tooth and the Squid Axe? 

ZT: The Reaper came straight out of Max's personal sketchbook. Max has been drawing and painting his whole life and has been working on graphic novel ideas off and on for years. He drew a picture of a hot, lithe chick holding the Reaper. Joey saw it on his desk one day and said, "Let's make THAT!"

The Tooth was the second attempt at a smaller knife after the ZT Lil' FUK (the Field Utility Knife) that we sent with about 30 Montana soldiers to Iraq. And the FUK was not designed specifically for the troops. The Squid Ax started as a custom knife for a group of security guys at a local gaming convention (MisCon) who were all fans of Cthulhu, thus the "Squid" and the shape of the knife.

The Squid came about at a local gaming convention. A group of friends that run security for the con were into Cthulhu and they wanted a unique knife that they could all carry. So we started working with a basic squid shape, and out came the Squid Ax.

SBT: Do you have any other new designs in the works to the lineup of Fistful of Fuck Yeah?
ZT: Always. Currently in the design stage are a cutlass that will replace the d'Capitan; a kopis, which is an ancient Greek blade that's like an over-sized kukri; a kopesh, which is a crazy looking ancient Middle Eastern weapon with an extreme curve and something like a hook on the back of the tip; and a hand-ax that we'll call the Traumahawk.

SBT: I noticed 'the kids' are looking a bit different these days, what's new about them?
ZT: About a year ago, we decided that our whole line needed an aesthetic overhaul. Most of the blades in our lineup we had designed almost 2 years earlier, and we've learned a lot since then. So we cleaned up lines, added our maker's mark to all the blades, made our handles more ergonomic, eliminated features that were a production pain in the ass, and focused on issues of balance and cutting dynamics.

SBT: After a long difficult day of cutting, chopping and slicing your way through the undead horde, what would you recommend for care and blade maintenance?
ZT: First, dip that nasty girl in some bleach to kill the biologicals. Wipe her down til she's good and dry. Then apply any form of oily hydrocarbon that you have handy. We'd use bear fat, but you can substitute with the fat of your local fauna.

SBT: What will Zombie Tools do when the shit finally hits the fan during Z-Day?ZT: Throw a party.
Really. The worst thing you could do in the early stages of any apocalyptic crisis is panic. If you panic, you'll do something stupid and probably end up getting killed -- not by the primary threat -- but by other people as panicked and as stupid as you are.

What better way to avoid panic than to throw a party? We'd gather our troops, get drunk, play some music, fuck somebody. Do some hallucinogens to increase group cohesion, think deeply about the threats facing us, and get our priorities straight. Then wake up in the morning and calmly go about executing our early-stage plan.

SBT: How has Zombie Tools prepared for an apocalypse?
ZT: We've focused most of our energies on what we consider to be the single most important factor in post-apocalyptic survival -- community. You can have your stockpiled food and weapons, your bug out bags and safe houses. We'll trade all of that for a group of skilled, intelligent and creative people who know how to work together as a team. And that's what we have. Within an hour of anything going down we'd have a minimum of 12 people gathered here at the ZT shop. This group has a wide variety of skills: we have mechanics, we have combat veterans, we have hunters, we have carpenters, we have people who know how to grow food and purify water, we have people who can tell a good joke or story (not to be underrated under stressful conditions), and we have metalworkers who can fabricate just about anything given enough useful junk. We've worked together doing difficult things and have developed a working style that allows us to make good decisions quickly. A crew like that will have no problem getting what it needs.

SBT: Who would win in a swordfight, Conan the Cimmerian...


...or Miyamoto Musashi?
ZT: Neither. One is a fictional character. And the other is dead.

SBT: Haha ok. No but seriously. Who would win in a fight between the two of them?

ZT: It would all depend on how much Conan partied the night before. If the Barbarian was having a queasy morning, Musashi would probably have no problem carving a lovely Zen landscape on C's chiseled pecs. Otherwise, Conan would give the master some trouble.

SBT: Any swordfighters you hold in particularly high regard, real or fictional?
ZT: We're rapier fighters, so we like some of the boys from the golden age of dueling. Take the Chevalier D'Andrieux. He was a hired blade during the days when just about any dispute was settled with a duel. He killed at least 70 opponents. He wold regularly disarm his opponent and then promise to let the dude live if he renounced Christ. When the opponent complied, he would proceed to kill him anyway, just to have the pleasure of killing the man both body and soul.

SBT: The 2012 calender you sent over looks awesome. Do you have anymore artistic projects like it lined up?
ZT: We've never had any problem coming up with ideas around here. We've probably got about 5 years worth stacked up. In the immediate future, our major project will be a TV show.
As for the TV news, yup, we've started shooting the first two episodes. Our production company, Warm Springs Productions here in Missoula (they are the group behind the Travel Channel show "Making Monsters" which recently premiered to outstanding reviews), is going all out. They hired a fancy-ass helicopter to shoot some intro scenes in downtown Missoula on Sunday. (Funny side note: one of our scenes was shot a half a block away from our local "Occupy Wall Street" protest. Folks at the protest thought they were being harassed by the government.) We can't yet announce the network, but it's one of the big ones. Don't know exactly when the show will air, or *if* it will air, but it will likely be in the spring. The show will be about 3 douchebags making kickass weapons and fumbling their way toward something like preparation for an apocalypse. Name of the show is to be determined, but it's probably not going to be "Zombie Tools" as was reported in our local press. Which is too bad. We kinda like that name.

The boys have continued to grind out all the hand crafted instruments of stabbing and slashing undeath dealers even releasing a 3-episode special on Discovery channel.
Check out the first episode of Surviving Zombies!

One of my favorite videos though is a demonstration by Max vs a 24-pack of PBR cans!

And another... testing the breaking point of the Deuce

Some highlighted moments from ZomBcon 2010:
Maxon bestowing the Urban Bone Machete to the One, the Only
The Chin himself and Guest of Honor: Bruce "Don't call me Ash" Campbell

Author of World War Z and The Official Zombie Survival Guide Max Brooks with his Apokatana

Zombie Tools is:
Joey Arbour: Master-at-Arms
Chris Lombardi: Minister of Propaganda
Maxon McCarter: Chief of Surgery
Rob Lawlor: New Wave Ninja
Dillon McAfee: Sheath Hippie
Dan “the Man with an Ax in his Hand” Griffin
Check out the Zombie Tools website and Facebook

No, seriously, invest in some of their wares to add to your arsenal... you will not regret it like forgetting to save the last bullet for yourself....

"...aw shit,"

28 November 2013

Be Thankful to Be Alive this Thanksgiving

 So of course Thanksgiving is kind of lacking in it's holiday themed horror movie but Eli Roth (Hostel) remedied that with his Grindhouse faux trailer Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Trailer by darkknight37

But on that note I am thankful for you my readers. Cheers, kempai, salud, nostorovia.

14 November 2013

NECA's 8-Bit Freddy Krueger

Back in August I told the tale of how I came to acquire NECA's San Diego Comic Con Exclusive 8-bit styled Jason figure. Around the same time as that they hinted at what was coming next in their line of NES themed toys would be. Yep, the ol' Springwood Slasher himself, Mr. Freddy Krueger would be receiving the same Nintendo treatment and color scheme.
Well I got so caught up in my own personal excitement I forgot to post that mine had finally come in the mail this cold November afternoon. Freddy looks gnarly in his red and orange portrayal and true to his in game rendition. NECA has treated the idea behind these toys with a respect that I fully salute and would love to see more of.

"This is God..."

One, two Freddy's coming for you...


Just imagine that tell-tale metal on metal screech

Freddy vs Jason: The NES years

NES Nightmares immortalized

650h NESRobo6

09 November 2013

Song of the Week: Joy to the World

No no, never fear, I'm not already getting into the holiday spirit... I happen to be referring to a song by Combichrist off their Joy of Gunz album. I always found it particularly interesting since the 'lyrics' are actually samples of an interview with the infamous Charles Manson. Manson and Family were convicted for the horrific and grisly Tate-Bianca murders in 1969. The song is sampled from an interview with Heidi Schulman from 1987. At first listen I didn't quite fully grasp who was speaking until the switch flicked and I realized whose words were echoing in my ears. The full interview is quite interesting since Manson shows an interesting range of varied emotions during it's course. It also features some interesting quotes again ranging from bone-chillingly cold...

....to downright fucking hilarious

In case wondering just what in the fuck he says there it's:
Do you feel blame? Are you mad? Uh, do you feel like wolf kabob Roth vantage? Gefrannis booj pooch boo jujube; bear-ramage. Jigiji geeji geeja geeble Google. Begep flagaggle vaggle veditch-waggle bagga?

Yup. Ol' Charlie said it best alright. Combichrist has a unique appreciation for murders and the macabre and they make an excellent pair. So Joy to the World!

And for those of you interested here is the full video interview with Charlie:

31 October 2013

Ultimate Halloween Mixtape

Death by stereo!

Horror movies have actually helped my love for music as well. Early on I associated songs with the movies they appeared it which always gave me a giggle from my own personal jokes at hearing Credence Clearwater Revival while clothes shopping or Clearing up the Town as a theme to a basketball final when I was a kid.  
This is a playlist of a mixtape I found on a blog almost 7 years ago... it compiles what I think to be some of the best songs from horror movies... it covers a wide variety of films, artists and genres... from the heavy metal of Motörhead and Megadeth to the sexy saxing from Michael Sembello to the punk rock of The Ramones and Dramarama, it even includes the wackiness of Weird Al and The Fat Boys!

01 - Alice Cooper - He's Back (The Man Behind the Mask) (Friday the 13th Part VI)
02 - Dokken - Dream Warriors (A Nightmare on Elm Street 3)
03 - The Dudes Of Wrath - Shocker (Shocker)04 - Motörhead- Hellraiser 3 (Hellraiser 3)
05 - .45 Grave - Party Time (Zombie Version) (Return of the Living Dead)
06 - AC/DC - Who Made Who (Maximum Overdrive)
07 - Dramarama - Anything, Anything (A Nightmare On Elm Street 4)
08 - The Fat Boys - Are You Ready For Freddy (A Nightmare On Elm Street 4)
09 - J. Geils Band - Fright Night (Fright Night)
10 - The Dickies - Killer Klowns from Outer Space (Killer Klowns from Outer Space)
11 - Divinyls - Back to the Wall (A Nightmare On Elm Street 4)
12 - Tim Cappello - I Still Believe (The Lost Boys)
13 - Ozzy Osbourne - Secret Loser (The Wraith)14 - Ian Hunter - Good Man in a Bad Time (Fright Night)15 - Michael Sembello - Rock Until You Drop (Monster Squad)16 - Metropolis - Darkest Side of the Night (Friday the 13th Part 8)17 - Autograph - You Can't Hide From the Beast Inside (Fright Night)18 - Fastway - Trick or Treat (Trick or Treat)19 - Megadeth - No More Mr. Nice Guy (Shocker)20 - Gerard McMann - Cry Little Sister (Theme From The Lost Boys)
21 - The Ramones - Pet Sematary
22 - Goo Goo Dolls - I'm Awake Now (Freddy's Dead)
Bonus Track - The Elm Street Group - Do The Freddy
Bonus Track - Weird Al Yankovic - Nature Trail to Hell

So as a special Samhain gift to you, my loving readers I have uploaded it so you all can have a Happy Halloween everyone!

Rules of Trick 'r Treat

Trick 'r Treat became an instant holiday classic upon it's first release in 2007. The movie has certain rules that needed to be followed in order to live through the night, they were:
1. Wear a costume
2. Hand out treats
3. Never blow out a Jack O' Lantern
4. Always check your candy

Any practitioner of holiday tradition will tell you, these are especially vital when there are potentially easily pissed off spirits around that won't take kindly to any violations of said rules.

The story intersects surrounding a serial killer, a coven of werewolves, a town's deadly secret about missing children, and a cute but creepy holiday stalker named Sam. Not since John Carpenter's Halloween has All Hallow's Eve been so highly regarded as a seasonal horror film.

It was just announced this year that finally there will be a sequel to this sleeper gem, so here's something to look forward to for next year! Remember just not to run out of candy since the last trick or treater of the night may be the one that takes your life if you don't give them something good to eat...

In Defense of Halloween III: Season of the Witch (AKA "The one that doesn't have Michael Myers in it")

Yes, yes I know the followup to Halloween 2 has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the slasher series and the ensuing hating that occurs when compared as such. As a kid rifling through the October channel guide I would make it a point to clearly miss that flick simply on those grounds and hated it solely based upon it, no questions asked. When I finally did see it albeit, much later in life (as in within the last 3 years) I could appreciate it for what it was, a good horror movie centered around my favorite holiday. So here are 5 reasons I do hereby defend Season of the Witch:

Reason #1: (Tie) Tom Atkins and his moustache)
At the time little did I know that Tom "Thrill Me" Atkins was the star in this one. I grew up on Lethal Weapon seeing him as a revenge filled father involved in the heroin trade. I loved him most though in Night of the Creeps (I'll get to Fred Dekker's masterpieces here soon...).

Reason #2: Awesome Death Scenes
 The best death scene happens to be the first and not even 15 minutes into the movie and what gets Tom's attention in the first place. This poor old man literally has his skull pulled apart by Dick Warlock (who happened to play Michael Myers in Halloween 2).

Reason #3 Irish Halloween

Seriously, at this point of the 1980's everyone had pretty much forgotten that Halloween started off as an Irish celebration known as Samhain. There's actually a great explanation of it by a character in another new Halloween classic Trick 'r Treat.
Which makes a lot of sense now if you think about the intents of Silver Shamrock now.

Reason #4 Nihilistic as fuck when you think about it
Kill the kids, kill the parents, kill everyone irregardless. Now that's just plain mean.

Reason #5 It has an evil plan with good marketing skills behind it
As Bill Hicks so wisely phrased it: By the way if anyone here is in advertising or marketing … kill yourself. But the marketing execs just decided to wipe everyone else out instead by absolutely saturating the airwaves with ads for their masks making them the absolute must-have for every kid this season. The ending itself leaves you wondering if whether or not that last ad got yanked in time or not...
All in all it's a great fucking movie and deserves a good viewing of you haven't already!
Tom Atkins and his mustache demand:
"Turn it on, Turn It On, TURN IT ONNNN!!!!"

29 October 2013

The Nightmare

[This was an essay I had to write for an English class not to long ago about a piece of classic art and the emotions it evokes... naturally me being me I chose something near and dear to me... Nightmares... I figure what better thing to right about in a horror blog than the cause of most terror than those at night... enjoy kiddies]

 “Sleep, those little slices of death — how I loathe them.” ― Edgar Allan Poe

“I've got a picture in my head of what you look like when you're sleepin'
This skin sinks into the instincts of a demon” – Atmosphere - The Snare

Nightmare (1800) Nicolai Abildgaard
after Henry Fuseli's The Nightmare (1781)

Henry Fuseli's The Nightmare (1781)

 I chose the picture The Nightmare by Danish artist Nicolai Abildgaard painted in 1800. The picture itself is a variation of a 1781 oil painting by Henry Fuseli. I decided on this particular piece because I feel the variation makes for a scarier picture with a clearer message. I consider art to be a powerful tool that is at the disposal of its creator and it can be molded, shaped or made to convey a particular emotion; whether it is the serenity of nature, the beauty of life and romance or in this case, fear and horror.
Though some people do not enjoy getting scared, some people thrive on their nightmares and let it inspire their own art. Authors write books and filmmakers shoot movies based straight from their own hellish dreams, others show us their vision in one picture. I highly respect any artist who can create fear with their work, especially in the case of Abildgaard’s rendition of The Nightmare due to its timeless nature I feel this piece evokes some universal raw emotions regarding the darker side of life at its most susceptible and vulnerable.   
Abildgaard’s variation of the painting has more striking imagery to it than Fuseli’s original interpretation. The picture itself remains true to the original and retains the same chilling tone if not more effectively. Both pictures have an incubus or demonoid type of creature sat perched upon a sleeping woman’s form. These variations make for a more thought-provoking and terror inspiring vision than its predecessor.
The nightmare creature itself has a more terrifying look to it in Abildgaard’s vision, looking less like a fat goblin or an ugly cherub and more like a squat demon with its glowing red eyes and more pronounced, pointed bat-like ears. The nightmare’s pose suggests it is patiently waiting for the right moment to infiltrate and terrorize this unsuspecting woman’s peaceful slumber and ensuing dreams. The seeming smirk on the imp’s face suggests it will soon take fiendish pleasure in doing its job.  An individual is at their most vulnerable during periods of sleep, the nudity of the woman only makes her seem all the more vulnerable in this version as opposed to Fuseli’s fully-clothed original.
 It is also because of this slight variation that it suggests more sexual undertones. The fact that the both the woman and the masculine figure next to her both lie in the nude suggest that perhaps a moment of copulative intimacy was recently shared between them; that they both drifted off to sleep in a state of bliss completely unaware of the terror that would shortly ensue thereafter. This part of Abildgaard’s rendition alone raises some possible questions about the morality of the overt sexuality of the picture. What is the relationship between the two people? Is this a possible tryst between lovers? Does this nightmare represent a potential repercussion from an adulterous or pre- or extramarital relationship? Is this creature a representation of everyone’s worst fear of the invasion of their slumber or perhaps even death?
The duality of the colors might evoke the age old good versus evil mythology. The contrast of colors between the greenish evil tone of the nightmare creature representing evil and the alabaster white woman representing purity, innocence or good. The ears also cast a shadow that look strikingly similar to horns. One could also assume the creature represents Death itself coming to claim a life of an unsuspecting person and waits to do it in her sleep. 
The culture surrounding the image in the year 1800 might suggest a time when there was still a fear regarding sleep and potentially not waking up from a nightmare due to a still semi-superstitious mode of thinking,  but more than likely due to something health or medically related gone undiagnosed.  A nightmare is a good example of your unconscious fears coming to the conscious by way of ones dreams. One may not be consciously aware of their fears and may spend their waking moments, in fact, refuting fear and exuding strength; but a nightmare can bring any unrealized fears to the forefront of one’s mind. Though dreams and nightmares may vary from person to person this picture is a depiction of the potential terrors of one’s dreams that anyone can associate with.
The contrast between the grotesque demon and the beautiful woman is intended to be both scary and provocative simultaneously. A horrible nightmare is also a universal concept that anyone can relate to.  Almost everyone regardless of age, culture, gender or any such variable can say that they have had at least one nightmare in their lifetime.  In his book The Hagakure (an ancient Japanese manual on the art of samurai – or warrior class) author Yamamoto Tsunetomo relates in this early 18th century text:

It is a good viewpoint to see the world as a dream. When you have something like a nightmare, you will wake up and tell yourself that it was only a dream. It is said that the world we live in is not a bit different from this.”

  Even I have endured my own fair share of nightmares in my life. Nightmares have haunted me throughout my own life for various reasons from test anxiety to a scary movie. One such nightmare in particular I remember from childhood while on vacation with my family, a creature not too dissimilar from this one was crawling up the side of the hotel we were staying in, when I looked over the balcony and saw it, it looked at me with its red eyes and sharp teeth and hissed at me and began its ascent toward me even quicker than its previous slow crawl. I awoke in fear and ran out to the porch where my parents were relaxing to look over the balcony and see only the ground below, and thankfully no nightmare creature. This picture represents to me childhood fears or something akin to the boogie man, the lurking monster under the bed or in the closet. Fear, despite its overall bad reputation, can be and is a normal human emotion, but as Franklin Delano Roosevelt put it best “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

22 October 2013

Song of the Week: Ultra Street Fighter

No you didn't miss a Street Fighter installment. But fans of the early 90's animated movie may remember the fight between Chun Li and Vega in her apartment, I sure did. At the time I wasn't one for associating music to the movie, only later as I came to appreciate industrial music did I fully appreciate this song. So Chun Li is showering when she is attacked by the claw-handed masked maniac Vega and we cue up Seattle's own KMFDM and their song Ultra for a knockdown dragout brawl.
Skip to 3:35 for the fight and the song.... but you'd miss out on some very most excellent Chun Li footage.... otherwise... here ya go the song of the week

Or just the song if you'd prefer:

21 October 2013

Management Apologizes for the Trouble

Apologies all. The thing about the zombie apocalypse that will be hard for me will be the temporary alliances made and lost during that time. My partner in crime bailed on me last week suddenly leaving me in a bit of a state. And of course it had to be during my finals week of class at that. But on the plus side with the sudden abundance of free time it means more time to dedicate here. So on that note, I'll be trying to do a few more pieces of the Origins series, a special Halloween 3: Season of the Witch article, and since I've had AMC's FearFest playing nonstop since I've been solitary again, I've been gorging myself on the classics. Thank you all my readers for sticking with me. Cheers

07 October 2013

Zombie Science: Steven Schlozman - Zombie Autopsies: Secret Notebooks of the Apocalypse

In my my absolute favorite interview EVER I got to conduct was with a Harvard neuroscientist about zombies and even dissect the mystery of the nature of a zombie infection.
Dr. Schlozman published a zombie book from a medical standpoint entitled The Zombie Autopsies: Secret Notebooks from the Apocalypse. The book is told in two parts, the first is a journal from a United Nations scientist being sent to a secret government location known as The Crypt on a mission to unravel the biggest medical mystery to ever threaten humankind, zombies. The second part is a series of notebooks and diaries with notations trying to make heads or tails of Blum's research and piece together the medical mystery they are left with. The clues to the infection are all within the text, it's just up to the reader to do some medical Sherlocking to figure it out... I did, and even had it confirmed by the Good Doctor himself.
(Read on to the very end of the article, highlight the text if you don't want to do the research yourself... I've done all that already... ye gods am I ever a geek to have actually sat and figured this out...)

Stages 1-4 of ANDS

 The Single Bullet Theory: You've come up with a medical classification for the infection we've previously called Romero's Disease or Shambler Syndrome or in short zombiism, ANDS, what does ataxic neurodegenerative satiety defeciency disorder mean in standard, non medical terms?

Dr. Steven Schlozman: So, for starters, its a syndrome.  In medicine, when we don't have a clear understanding of the cause of something, but we note that a series of symptoms glop together more often than not and have a replicable natural history, we call it a syndrome or a disorder (as opposed to a disease).   Kind of a silly distinction, since we also use these terms interchangeably, but still, with something new you tend to call it a syndrome, then later a disorder.

So, to break down the term, it is purely descriptive:
ataxic = lack of balance.  zombies don't walk well
neurodengerative = they seem to have progressively worsening neurobiologically function, especially with regard to higher brian function (problem solving) and balance.  Remember, these are particular to the slow moving zombies, tweaked to meet the needs of the story I made up for my book
satiety = the sense that you're full of food, that you eaten enough
deficiency = a short-coming
therefore, satiety deficiency  = a short coming or failure in the body's ability to know that it has eaten enough
syndrome = when all this stuff hangs together consistently, it earns the term syndrome

ANDS up close and personal

So are the humanoids "dead" or are they "infected" or both?

In my conceptualization, they are philosophically dead.  I couldn't (though I tried) come up with any medical etiology for things rising from real death with any regularity.  However, if everyone is infected, then everyone progresses through the stages of the zombie disease, and in my book religious and other spiritual leaders gather with policy makers and decide that the final stages of the zombie disease are equivalent to "philosophical death."  They are as good as dead, and all that made them who they were (or anybody at all, really) is entirely gone.  Hence, they're dead and funeral rites etc are now appropriate.

Are there any hopes of a cure? or perhaps domestication as one crazed theory suggests?

No domestication, but definitely hopes for a cure.  The disease is caused by a contagion, and we're in general pretty good at either preventing altogether or at least slowing the progression of infectious processes. Some bugs are hard to control (think Ebola, or Bacterial Brain infections) In my book, a component of the disease is prion related (i.e. the things that cause Mad Cow Disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease).  These aren't even alive - they're just proteins.  They don't have DNA or RNA and are therefore one of the biggest mysteries of medicine.  How do they become infectious?  Why are they infectious?  How do they reproduce?  We know that prions are more likely to become dangerous to brain tissue when they fold rather than remain straight in shape.  That happens more often in a low pH environment.  In my book, we control the progression of the prions as they destroy brain material my manipulating our pH artificially.  The higher (even dangerously high) our internal pH, the less active the prions.  But then you have to deal with the unpleasant symptoms of high pH, which look somewhat like being a zombie without the hunger or rage.  You have confusion, lack of balance, seizures, body twitches, etc with abnormally high pH.

Stage IV is the 'final' stage of ANDS, do you suppose there is any chance of further mutation of the disease?

Sure.  Any micro-organisim evolves as a function of natural pressures (as we all do) but it takes thousands of generations for anything to allow evolution to stumble upon a random mutation where things work better than before.  Because germs have short life spans, they can evolve more readily.

Brain function seems to be primitive at best, how do you explain the large groupings or "herds" of them? or certain instances of people being attacked with crude bludgeons (similar to apes leaning to use tools)? Are these the signs of animalistic behavior or are these individuals following the same stimulus?
The zombies I like (the slow shambling ones) can't do that stuff.  You'd have to have higher brain function for the coordinated attacks, and you'd have to stumble on a hunting strategy similar to wolves;  also, to use tools, you need higher brain function (think apes and sticks for getting termites) but then you'd have to lose the higher brain function that stops the aggressiveness.  When I conceptualized the disease in my book, the brain deteriorates in such as way as to destroy the capacity for this higher brain functions.

I've heard the term protean used to describe similar infectious agents when describing zombiism, does ANDS follow a similar pattern? (Airborne to bloodborne to droplet transmission)

Protean means "displaying great variety" so I guess I'd say that zombies are the opposite of that.  Prions are the infectious proteins I discussed above; I would definitely see prions as possible zombie contagion.

Due to the level of health found in the amygdala found in Stage IV humanoids, essentially we're dealing with crocodiles... is that correct?

All there is to a crocodile is the amygdala (in terms of higher brain function), but crocodiles are at least coordinated.  The zombies are like drunk crocodiles.

In regards to other 'reported' outbreaks do you suppose there is connection between complex nature of infection with ANDS when compared to other causes such as the Tyrant and Rage viruses and the 245-Trioxin Gas?

They all share the capacity for rapid infection and then use of the host (the zombie) as means of spreading the disease.

As infants our cranial plates take time in fusing together, during Stage Iv dissection of humanoids the crown appears quite fragile due to hemorrhaging and inter-cranial pressure, could this be a potential Achille's Heel that could be exploited for combatative purposes?

Absolutely.  They're skulls don't require much of a physical blow to get to the brain tissue and therefore destruction.

How did you come to love zombies enough to 'study' them?
Always loved zombie movies (love all horror, but love supernatural or imaginary horror more - i.e. not as into the Friday the 13th stuff), and zombies feel the most easily co-opted by a medically plausible account.

Do you have a favorite zombie movie?
SUCH A TOUGH QUESTION!  still gotta go with the 1978 Dawn of the Dead. I think its one of the smartest, scariest, funniest, and poignant of all the zombie movies ever made.  The social commentary is unmatched.

Are you prepared for the inevitable zombie apocalypse?
As a doctor and as a relatively humble human - gotta say that I worry about a whole lot more than zombies.  We see always throughout history to be in the brink of something awful...war, massive destruction, uncontrolled pandemics, etc.  Having said that, we've also been remarkably resilient as a species, and when we get our acts together we do pretty well.  Think about this: when I was a kid, it was the middle of the Reagan-Soviet Cold War. We had enough nuclear bombs pointed at each other to blow up the entire freakin' world a zillion times. I didn't think we'd as a species allow my friends and me to see age 30.  But still, here we are.  We can survive if we keep our heads.

Regarding lungs and respiration: the lungs seem more or less healthy and Stage IV humanoids seem capable of vocalization, now when a human has a blow delivered to the solar plexus (a good old fashioned gut shot in other words) it drives the air out of the lungs and an involuntary reaction is to 'double over' as it were, do you suppose a similar reaction could be evoked with a Stage IV humanoid? 
(I.e. could a zombie be jabbed in the solar plexus in an attempt to expose the more vulnerable back of the head when the air is driven out of the lungs? Something like this?
Great idea in terms of self defense - it would buy you time and allow you to take a lot at once.  Still, any attempt to survive from one battle to the next is gonna require coordinated efforts.

Since the time of our interview, I had the opportunity to re-interview the Good Doctor and Jonathan Maberry at ZomBcon 2011 to further discuss the topic. George Romero has been working on a movie adaptation of Schlozman's book... as soon as we get a trailer or more definitive news you'll hear all about it here.


Notes: I've actually grown quite interested in unraveling the ANSD puzzle, I think I may be on to something but what I'm not sure... I know this for sure though: It wasn't born, it was Borna as in Borna disease virus, it affects cats and birds and leads to proventricular dilation disease and would explain both the neurological and colonic issues. From there the disease jumps to humans in the form of Psittacosis, which if left untreated in humans it could lead to encephalitis, which is also a crossover symptom common with Rabies infections... also during rabies infections anti-viral immune cells are not allowed to enter the brain allowing the virus' reproduction and possibly breaking the blood/brain barrier would it be a safe assumption to say the myelin sheath of the brain is relatively nonexistant in the late stages of ANSD, correct? Demylination is a side effect from the usage of sheep dip as an insecticide too.