“I saw six men kicking and punching the mother-in-law. My neighbor said, ‘Are you going to help?’ I said, ‘No, Six should be enough.’” – Les Dawson
“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.” – Elie Wiesel
“A man only becomes wise when he begins to calculate the approximate depth of his ignorance.” - Gian Carlo Menotti
“If it’s true that our species is alone in the universe, then I’d have to say the universe aimed rather low and settled for very little.” – George Carlin
“All generalizations are false, including this one.” – Mark Twain
“Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.” – Douglas Adams
“Our attitude toward life determines life’s attitude towards us.” – John N. Mitchell
“What you perceive, your observations, feelings, interpretations, are all your truth. Your truth is important. Yet it is not The Truth.” – Linda Ellinor
“The unreal is more powerful than the real, because nothing is as perfect as you can imagine it. Because it’s only intangible ideas, concepts, beliefs, fantasies that last. Stone crumbles. Wood rots. People, well, they die. But things as fragile as a thought, a dream, a legend, they can go on and on.” – Chuck
“By believing passionately in something that still does not exist, we create it. The nonexistent is whatever we have not sufficiently desired.”― Franz Kafka
I fear as I write this, it may already be too late. By the time I am finished, the zombies will have attacked, and there will be very few readers left to convince of the imminent doom.
In the past few weeks, a face was eaten in Florida; intestines were ripped out and thrown at police officers in New Jersey; heart and brain portions were consumed in Maryland; human male genitals were served for dinner in Tokyo; a man ate his wife’s lips so they couldn’t be sewn back on to kiss another man; and for history’s sake, let’s not forget the woman who ate her infant son’s brain and toes in 2009. If those morsels of flesh-eating mayhem aren’t enough to alert you to some sort of flaw in the fabric of normality, check out the bizarre things that have been happening in the past two weeks across the country.
To top the eek factor of the cannibalistic stories in the news, our nation has been engaging in a collective zombie-apocalypse discussion ever since the CDC so brilliantly incorporated zombies into their marketing strategy. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if the CDC, in conjunction with the secret illuminati branch of the government, know of this coming zombie apocalypse, or are perhaps even choreographing it.
This ongoing, collective discussion of a possible zombie apocalypse has captured the imagination of the masses, and if you’ve ever heard of The Secret, you know what this collective imagination is capable of. So, let’s face it— if the zombie apocalypse hasn’t already started (which, in my opinion, it has), it soon will.
Many of us are asking ourselves what this zombie apocalypse business is all about, and why people are flocking to the idea like Trekkies to a sci-fi convention. My curiosity lies in why it took so long for people to realize the potentiality of and fear for a zombie apocalypse, as I have been having nightmares about it for years.
I’m not a rocket scientist or student of Freud, but I feel confident assessing my irrational fear of zombies. The thing that scares me most in life, aside from snakes, is people. People are freakin’ scary. Zombie apocalypse movies give me nightmares because they resemble my greatest fear: hoards of evil, mindless, soulless people whose only desire is to consume, as quickly as possible, every resource (in the case of zombies, non-zombie flesh) in sight. I imagine my general sense of sucking at life also contributes to my zombie nightmares. I break almost every piece of electronic equipment I touch. I start fires unintentionally (but don’t have the confidence or know-how to actually start, say, a grill or campfire). I have very few, if any, practical survival skills, and positive thinking only gets me so far before “reality” sets in. If the zombies start attacking, I will be in trouble.
Listening to these responses made me even more certain that the zombie apocalypse is right around the corner, because in order for there to be a zombie apocalypse, there has to be zombies. These people are ready. The apocalypse isn’t even full blown, and there are already willing participants. To top it off, the Oxford dictionary explains that a zombie can be conceived of as a dull or apathetic person. Likewise, Adele Nozedar notes in her book, Secret Signs and Symbols that “the term zombie has come to mean a person who carries out certain actions automatically without seeming to apply any conscious thought or decision making process.”
I know why zombies have been giving me nightmares for at least a decade, but why have zombies entered the collective mind of America as the monster of the year? Is it all because of the CDC’s propaganda? The concept of a zombie as an animated corpse or otherwise “husk” of a person under the influence of a sorcerer has existed for centuries; the concept of a zombie as an undead monster with an insatiable desire for brains has existed since the late 1960s; the zombie as a diseased, crazed, living freak is more recent, and the idea of a zombie as a dull or apathetic person must have existed at least since prescription drugs became so popular. So what is propelling this zombie-apocalypse compulsion right now?
Author Stephen T. Asma looks at the history of monsters in the mortal imagination in his book “On Monsters: An Unnatural History of Our Worst Fears,” and asserts that the monsters we conceive of and insert into our popular culture (i.e., through movies) parallel societal conditions of the time.
So, perhaps the constant threat of “bioterrorism” made us choose zombies. Perhaps all the dead or wounded warriors with missing limbs in our recent wars remind us of the decaying, undead corpses. Perhaps those aimless individuals who do nothing but stare at their cell phones or televisions compel us to resurrect a monster in their image. Maybe our fears of dwindling natural resources coupled with our complete inability to stop consuming everything in sight make us sympathetic to the zombies. All in all, a zombie apocalypse seems like the perfect metaphor for the state of our society. Zombies survive on the flesh of the uninfected living, but they consume the edible ones so rapidly that their own demise is imminent. They will eat their way through all the eligible people, and there will be no way to renew the resource of non-infected human flesh. Zombies can’t eat zombies, and people can’t eat money.
That said, I have spent a lot of time thinking of alternative solutions to survival in the pre-apocalyptic “real world,” and have concluded that should the incidences of flesh-eating, zombie-like behavior escalate, I will not “join ’em.” The best way to survive any situation (zombie apocalypse included) is to decide you want to live. If it gets to the point where “living” means giving in (“If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em”) and becoming “undead,” I’ll take person number three’s advice and end my own life. I will never choose to be a zombie. Will you?
I have to leave the house to check for packages.
Though I suppose it could be worse. And frequently was. Back in my college days (as though it were all that long ago) I lived in barely on-campus housing for my sophomore and junior years. It was a once-classy old house, probably built in the thirties or forties, down the road from campus proper and probably a quarter-mile walk from the nearest academic building. The Writers Institute had taken possession of the building and it was afterwards reserved for writing majors, although it from time to time was home to biology majors whose loud and possibly disease-ridden girlfriends frequently spent the night and made loud retching noises in the mens’ bathroom late at night on the weekends and every so often left a mess for housekeeping in the only upstairs sink that cannot be accurately rendered verbally. Bucket of cream of broccoli soup is the nearest visual touchstone I can provide.
Generally, the house itself had been kept in good condition, though our imaginations ran wild with the permanently closed-off attic. Nothing good ever happens in attics. And there was that one unfortunate incident with the tart warmer – a sort of plug-in candle that melts delicious-smelling wax in a ceramic dish that diffuses scent through the room. I’ll tell you it wasn’t my fault (because it wasn’t) and that alcohol wasn’t involved (because it was), but a certain friend of mine blundered himself against the mini fridge and upset the tart warmer, splashing molten, emerald green wax all behind the fridge and on the wall and the floor. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to clean wax off something after it’s been left to dry all night, but it’s about as effective as playing whack-a-mole with an Italian sausage. We scratched off what we could and then made the trip to Lowe’s to get some ill-matched interior paint to hide the rest.
But the house was comfortable, for the most part. It would get hot in the summer, what with the lack of air conditioning, and got even hotter in the winter, with the girls downstairs screwing around with the thermostat, attempting perhaps to replicate the climate of the forest moon of Endor. I frequently left more than one window open in the long winter months and slept quite comfortably.
The student mailboxes were located at the campus center – probably yet another third-of-a-mile away. Mail was not delivered directly to the house, unless it was a large parcel (like a television or a birdbath) and you trusted your housemates to let the delivery man inside and sign for it in your absence. So we had to walk that lonely walk across campus to check for mail, which even after four years in attendance at that school still arrived at a schedule that I found completely inscrutable. While expecting some parcel of great importance, I’d frequently make that trip multiple times throughout the day, knowing that the emails they send to students informing them of newly arrived packages frequently arrived several hours after the package had. And more than once I’d make the trip and even recognize the particular size and shape of the item I was expecting, piled back there in the mailroom only to be informed by the work-study student that it hadn’t yet been passed through whatever computer system tabulated and recorded the comings-and-goings of parcels, and that I would have to leave empty-handed and return in an unspecified time, despite the fact that my next class ended shortly after four o’ clock – that is, after the mailroom closed every day – and I’m here right now and I can see my package back there on the desk and why can’t you just give it to me now, damn you?
College has come and gone; my framed diploma hangs on the wall. A very expensive decoration. But I’m getting along well enough to be renting a house in a quiet little suburb and living comfortably enough, tucked behind the landlord’s house. Packages are delivered to his front porch along with the daily mail, and so I have to get shoes on and possibly fish the umbrella out of the closet because it’s of course raining at the precise moment that my preternatural parcel-sense informs me that UPS has just come and gone. Parcel-sense is 100% effective 30% of the time. Just as Amazon.com’s parcel-tracking text messages arrive when the parcel does 30% of the time, 100% of the time.
I wish there was some paradigm-altering lesson to be learned here. If anything, it’s the realization that stepping outside is frequently more trouble than its worth. I’ve also begun counting the times where I reach for my smartphone to consult the Weather app for the current temperature instead of poking my head out the front door. And I don’t take walks because I don’t like walking without a destination in mind. This is the reason I’m fond of backpacking; when it’s over, I’ve accomplished something that I can describe in the language of absolutes: I climbed that mountain. I only brought n changes of underwear.
I experience the great outdoors piecemeal, when it suits me. Any other time it’s a distraction and a nuisance and an inconvenience, as when about thirty yards of it separates me from whatever lovingly packaged book or CD or video game I’ve ordered and paid for with mere money and patience.
April Fools! Got you, didn’t I? But that’s not the point. The point is the world has been celebrating April Fools Day (All Fools Day) for centuries. Its beginning is shrouded in hysterical mystery. Historians believe many theories about the creation of the April 1st holiday, but one idea seems to stick for some historians: it’s the French’s fault. Around 1582, under the rule of Charles IX, the French calendar changed to the Gregorian calendar. This calendar changed New Years’ Day from March 25-April 1st to January 1st. With communication extremely slow during those days, many didn’t know about the change till years later. Still there were rebel French who decided to still celebrate New Years’ on April 1st. These people were labeled as “fools.” Though there is still some debate as to whether this calendar switch is the real culprit for this insane holiday, the fact remains that pranks are a vital and traditional part of the day’s success throughout the ages. Practical jokes were played on these fools, who were sent on ‘fools errands’ or given fake invitations to nonexistent parties. In France today, the term that was coined in the 16th century still describes the French April Fools as “poisson d’avril” meaning “April fish”. As a tradition, paper fish are taped onto the victim with the name of whoever “fished” them. Occasionally, some pranksters (my high school friends) go too far and place a real fish outside someone’s door.
Another theory for the origin of this holiday is that April Fools started out as a prank. During the 3rd and 4th centuries, the ruler of the Roman Empire, Constantine, handed over the empire to King Kugel, the court jester. The original plan was that the jester, as a joke, tried to get the ruler to let someone of his court become king for a day. And the jester’s prank backfired as he was the one chosen. During his reign as king for a day, he declared the day he ruled, April 1st, as a day of absurdity. Or did he? This explanation was actually a prank itself, given to us by Professor Joseph Boskin from Boston University in 1983!
This tradition has lived on for centuries, spreading across Europe then into the Americas by the British and French during the 18th century. In England, jokes and pranks are played only in the morning hours, for it’s said to be bad luck if a bad joke is played during the afternoon. In Scotland, it is called “Taily Day” and focused around butt jokes and is consequentially the origin of the “Kick Me” sign.
No matter where you live in the world, don’t be the fool of your friends on this April Fool’s Day! Anyone and everyone is a target on this day of trickery!
I frequently have to flush twice. Or thrice.
Everything in our house is low-flow except our colons. I suppose I might have foreseen some of this ugly business back when we signed our lease and our kindly landlord told us that he’d be paying for our water. I could have tried out the shower and the sinks, imagined what it might be like to wash the shampoo from my hair or the dried milk from my cereal bowl with a stream of water that has all the urgency of a YMCA drinking fountain. I should have anticipated his phone calls asking us again to please keep an eye on our water usage. “I’m not hassling you guys, you know – you’re great. But with this economy, I’d appreciate it.”
Ah, the economy. The go-to escape goat. I don’t begrudge him a little frugality, though; hell, I clip coupons on a regular basis, which – along with driving with two hands, is the least manly thing a man can do. Still, I have to imagine that whatever our water-using habits, we have to be a categorical improvement over his last tenants, who left behind holes punched in walls with fists or possibly heads or other blunt instruments, cracked and broken windows, and what looks frighteningly like a bullet hole in the refrigerator.
I had a dream as a youngster to one day own a toilet that could flush 100 golf balls at once. Just in case you think I’m joking, have a look at this puppy here; I’ll wait. Satisfied? It’s called the Champion, which means that in terms of hilariously epic names, it’s right up there with Kramer’s Commando 450 shower head from Seinfeld. I think this toilet could suck the ugly off Steve Buscemi. In fact, they don’t even put a number on this one; numbers are for training potties. No, they claim it can flush a bucket of golf balls. How many golf balls in a bucket? At the Polar Shot driving range back in New York, a bucket consists of however many golf balls don’t fall out as you carry it to the mats. So I don’t know for sure, but to paraphrase Star Wars, “I can imagine quite a bit.”
Since I’m apparently trying to get all of this scatological humor out of my system in one fell sploosh, I’ll give you another First-World Problem as a freebie:
Sometimes I have to poop right after I shower.
There, I said it. I’m not going to tell you that my hygiene habits have me knuckle-deep down there, but I do like to be as fresh as I can be. But now and then my schedule gets upset by some daring culinary choices or just by circumstance, and my carefully orchestrated morning routine gets shot to hell. A friend of mine from college found this particular problem as unsettling as I did, and would frequently excuse himself in the afternoons to have a follow-up shower to restore his Dove for Men-enhanced freshness. And who can blame him?
I’d probably take this opportunity during any other month to lapse into navel-gazing and talk about how lucky we are, in most parts of the United States, to not only have running water of various degrees of potability, but to have indoor plumbing to carry our little brown crimes against humanity far, far away from us only to return once again as sparkling city water an unspecified amount of time in the future. It truly is a miracle, when you consider the alternative. I have done a fair amount of backpacking in my life, and invariably, when packing the toiletries, some lucky soul braving the trail will get to carry the shovel. It’s not what you think it is; the poop never touches the shovel. Rather, the shovel is used to dig the hole over which you’ll be squatting when nature calls, and then to cover it over again with dirt. God help you if your poop touches the shovel.
If I were to be granted three wishes tomorrow, I have a feeling that wish number one would be something like, “Any time I have to poop, my waste would be instantly transported into the heart of the sun, leaving behind a faint trace of the smell of ozone and maybe a splash of Irish Spring.” I can’t even calculate what I’d save not having to buy toilet paper anymore, to say nothing of the years I’d reclaim over the course of my life that were otherwise spent paying tribute to the ivory throne. The math works out to something like four years in an average lifetime.
According to Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, a person can become an expert in any field after approximately 10,000 hours of studying it. Four years works out to about 35,000 hours, which means that if I didn’t have to poop, by the time I died I could be an architect, a concert pianist, a professional chef, and half an astronaut.
If I die having accomplished none of these lofty ambitions, I demand the following inscription be put on my tombstone: Here lies a man felled by a troublesome anus.
Wal-Mart greeters, a mainstay of the retail giant, were ordered to be on “Hi Alert” early Monday morning as the company’s regional managers and secret shoppers were said to be visiting “any day now” according to anonymous sources.
Local Wal-Mart greeter and retired shoe salesman, Joe Hiller, neither confirmed nor denied the directive, only acknowledging a customer’s entrance onto the premises with the requisite salutation. Ordinarily known for his brusque and curt hellos, the 84 year-old part time employee slouched atop a stool usually would uncross his arms only momentarily to feign a greeting. But with the unconfirmed “Hi Alert” he now stands erect, attentively greeting each customer with previously unheralded zeal, occasionally peppering the customers with merry rejoinders involving local weather phenomena and shoe trivia.
Hiller, who quit the shoe sales business in 1986, stopped shaving and brushing his teeth regularly until this Monday when the internal communique was dispatched. Other observers have noted a similar up tick in grooming and general decorum at several Wal-Mart locations.
Wal-Mart spokesperson, Danielle Hefferberger, maintained the media blackout only noting that regular directives are given every Monday morning. She also said “Hi, welcome to Wal-Mart!” as she smiled and held her hand out while assuring that this action neither confirmed nor denied the purported “Hi Alert.”
But that hasn’t stopped patrons from taking notice as well. Long time shopper and seasoned hoarder, Joanne Christopher, was startled out of her shopper/gatherer routine by an ebullient, cross-aisle “Hello, welcome to Wal-Mart!” issuing from a young associate hanging women’s undergarments.
Christopher who has shopped daily at this particular location for 14 years, only taking brief vacations to empty her house of rubbish and dead cats to periodically stave off court ordered property seizures, noted the change in behavior.
“Normally, nobody says nothing. Today and yesterday nearly a dozen people said hi to me. I think the government sent them to watch me. But I’ll be damned if they think they can take my belongings. Today I’m buying fresh undies. The cats got into my pile of undies at home. They used to call them ‘unmentionables’ but I mention them all the time.”
Most shoppers welcomed the welcoming. Plumber and armchair sociologist, Don D. Dwayne, wanted more greeters to be hired by Wal-Mart adding that “our society is becoming more and more apartmentalized.”
“Ever since 9-11, we’ve been watering down our values. Patriots and veterans are unwelcome—no salutes, no salutations. We’re flushing all our hard won victories down the drain. We’re flooding the countryside with crap.” Alluvial allusions aside, Dwayne saw Joe Hiller’s erect posture as a promising start to bringing pride back to service. “I served in Grenada. So it’s nice to be greeted with respect at a place like Wal-Mart.”
Real sociologists could not draw a direct link between treatment at Wal-Mart and actual patriotic values or cultural backsliding, although such a link was not immediately ruled out.
Meanwhile, Wall Street responded well to the rumor with company stock up 5% over last week, which had already gained 3% on rumors of a clean bathroom directive.
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