Finding Damo

The story of a man, his job, two cats and the meaning of success.

Archive for the category “zombies”

The coincidence thing…

After my Bullying post, I received a Like from Christine Barba, who writes a blog called Project Light to Life. I checked out her page and, coincidentally, found the name of the coincidence thing I keep talking about on Finding Damo. It’s called the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon. So thank you to Christine. Go read her blog.

That means that I can now add BMP to all of the posts that have previously referred to ‘that coincidence thing’.

And speaking of which:

A couple of weeks ago I finished the third book in a most unusual trilogy.

Not that the books were written by the same author, had the same characters or were written in the same universe. None of the three writers wrote their novels as part of this trilogy. But they were a trilogy nonetheless.

Holding to my desire to write about things when they turn up more than three times in a row (BMP!) I wanted to chat briefly about this trilogy.

The Body SnatchersChronologically, the first book in the series is a little known story entitled “The Body Snatchers” (later re-released as Invasion of the Body Snatchers). It’s popular enough for the term “pod people” to have entered into standard English speech, so I won’t worry too much about spoiling the story. It is set in a small town in the United States where a doctor starts noticing unusual behaviour from his friends and neighbours. After an encounter with the town’s resident author, the small band realise that they are being invaded by beings from space, who are rapidly replacing the locals with replicas grown from giant pea pods.

It is an easy read, but Finney manages to really hook you in with some incredible prose. There were moments where a chill thrilled through me at a passage in the story. This book is a conspiracy theorist’s wet dream. I’m pretty sure there is a dissociative disorder that manifests itself in removing the brain’s ability to connect to people, leading to a person thinking that their family have been replaced by exact duplicates.

Yes, here we go. Capgras Delusion. I typed “pod people delusion” into Google. Anyway, where was I? OK, yes. For anyone who has seen any of the numerous film adaptations, it is well worth taking the time to read this novel. You can knock it off in an afternoon, and Finney’s son, in an interview on the audio adaptation, states that his father was never really happy with the movie version, even though it is a cult classic.

RedShirtsThe second book in the trilogy was written much later. It is an amusing, meta little story called Red Shirts, by John Scalzi. It has nothing to do with The Body Snatchers, but the third book I want to talk about links these two together so tightly that I just had to write about it.

From Amazon:

Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. It’s a prestige posting, with the chance to serve on “Away Missions” alongside the starship’s famous senior officers.

Life couldn’t be better…until Andrew begins to realize that 1) every Away Mission involves a lethal confrontation with alien forces, 2) the ship’s senior officers always survive these confrontations, and 3) sadly, at least one low-ranking crew member is invariably killed. Unsurprisingly, the savvier crew members belowdecks avoid Away Missions at all costs.

Then Andrew stumbles on information that transforms his and his colleagues’ understanding of what the starship Intrepid really is…and offers them a crazy, high-risk chance to save their own lives.

I listened to this one as a download from Audible. Wil Wheaton read it and between Shereen and I, we almost crashed the car at least twice from laughing so hard. The line between reality and fantasy is severely blurred in this novel. It is almost a drinking game turned into a novel. But Scalzi quickly takes us to a point where we really care about the characters, so much so that by the end of the third coda, I had tears in my eyes (again, making it hard to drive). And yes, the codas take a bit of staying power to get through, after the rapid pace of the rest of the story, but they are definitely worth it.

To explain why the third novel in the trilogy actually makes these three novels a trilogy I need to go spoiler-fest on it. I won’t spoil RedShirts, and I assume you already know enough about Body Snatchers that conversation on it isn’t a spoiler (and if not, you might not want to read further).

Night of the Living TrekkiesKnowing the storyline of the third book – Night of the Living Trekkies by Kevin David Anderson and Sam Stall – isn’t going to affect your enjoyment of the story. The spoilers are on the covers (I really LOVE the German cover). Basically, Jim Pike is an ex-soldier, returned from fighting in the Middle East. He is settling into quiet obscurity as a security guard at a posh hotel in Dallas. On this particular weekend, there is a Star Trek convention. Also on this weekend, a number of staff are off sick, and others are in, but suffering from illness. There have been a number of unusual biting attacks, and the wounds just won’t stop bleeding…

Soon, the Trek convention is completely overrun with zombies. Not only that, but Jim’s sister is in town for the convention. Jim Pike (get it?) needs to save his sister and get over his fear of command before day break.

That’s the premise. Now for the spoilers.

Spoiler Alert
Early in the novel, Jim notices that the zombies are manifesting an eye on various parts of their body. These eyes are a vulnerable spot. They appear after showing up as a bruised lump, finally splitting through the skin and taking over the host. Here’s the sequel to Body Snatchers: these eyes are an alien life form that drifted to earth as spores, traveling through space for aeons and then landing on earth. They take over the hosts and use them as spreading mechanisms (hence the zombies) but their more sneaky goal is an amalgamation with the Earthlings and eventual colonisation of the planet.

The link to RedShirts is more mundane. The novel is littered with references to Star Trek, and the rules of surviving a Trek episode (even one with zombies). The funniest moment in the novel was the discovery of the last surviving member of a pack of Red Shirts. None of the others had died from zombie attack and he didn’t even realise that the hotel had been infested.

Night of the Living Zombies is the love child of Body Snatchers and Red Shirts. It is a bastard child, not written as well, or with as much raw talent. Neither parent would be overly proud of their offspring. But they, like me, would love it anyway, for the simple joy of laughter and dead trekkies that it brings to the world.

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Child logic

Cute werewolf. Not scary.

Cute werewolf. Not scary.

NB: Thought I’d try drawing my own pictures instead of taking stuff from the Internet. Don’t know how long it will last, but here goes.

My 8yo step-daughter Ophelia is now completely terrified by werewolves. We were over at her friend’s place and they were watching Michael Jackson video clips (damn you Michael, stop messing with our children, even from beyond the grave). When Thriller came on, she was transfixed by Michael’s yellow eyes and ‘cat ears’. It was clear proof that werewolves existed.

That night (P is for parent. The irresponsible responses were probably me. The thoughtful ones were more likely my wife):
O: I’m not going upstairs alone. The werewolf will get me.
P: There’s no such thing. Go to bed.

(I am a caring step-parent)

O: I can’t. Walk me up.
P: No. Turn on the lights on the way up. You’ll be fine.
O: I can’t. If I reach into the room to turn on the lights, the werewolf will get me.

(Aargh)

P: Monsters are scared of you. Just yell “Shoo monsters!” as you climb the stairs. I’ll watch you.
O: Shoo monsters.
P: Louder!
O: Shoo Monsters!

If it were me, I’d be less than reassured that my mother could see me as I was devoured by monsters.

O: There’s something in the spare room.
P: Then don’t go in there.
O: Duh! I have to go past it to get to my room!

Michael's a dick.

Michael’s a dick.

Of course. With a lot of shoo monstering she was in bed. I say don’t give in to fears like this. But when we came up to tuck her in, shortly afterwards, we quizzed her on the werewolf thing.

P: You know werewolves are made up, don’t you? You’re not worried by zombies.

(By this stage, I’m feeling your judgement. Stop it)

O: Zombies are silly.

(Hooray for Plants vs Zombies)

P: And werewolves?

O: Michael Jackson had those yellow cat eyes. I hate Michael Jackson. Why would he do that?

We explained about contact lenses and makeup. We agreed that Michael Jackson was an idiot.

P: You weren’t scared by the ogres or the spiders in Harry Potter, why are they different?

(Again, stop judging)

O: They were, like, sooo not real.

Seriously? She’s 8. She really says this. No more Winx Club for her. Another point: kudos to Michael, whose 80s werewolf effect was more “real” than state-of-the-art CGI.

This conversation lasted all this week. Every now and then:
O: Are werewolves ambushers or scavengers?
P: Neither. They just run about killing people. Plus, they’re not real.

O: In stories, (clever change of tack) when do werewolves come out?
P: During the full moon. Depending on the story, usually the night before, the night of, the night after. But they’re not real.

O: Is it a full moon tonight?
P: Er, yes, but it doesn’t matter, because werewolves aren’t real.

Good parenting.

Good parenting.

O: How do you become a werewolf?
P: It depends. If you are bitten or scratched by one, you become a werewolf. Otherwise they just eat you.
O: So,  (ignoring the eating bit, thank the gods) how did the first werewolf get made?
P: A curse, usually. Someone annoyed a witch or a god.
O: Oh. Do they live in the city? Cos there’s lots of places here for them to hide.
P: Not really. They prefer forests and open spaces.
O: And they’re people, except for the full moon?
P: Yup. But they’re not real.

O: If I was a werewolf, I’d lock myself up during a full moon so I didn’t kill anyone.
P: That’s what Oz did in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (No, she hasn’t seen Buffy)

P: Ok. Seriously. They aren’t real. What evidence do you have to suggest that they are?
O: We-ell, if they were real, I suppose they’d be on the news.
P: Exactly. Have you seen them on the news?
O: No-o.
P: There you go then.

Of course, there is so much wrong with using that argument to make a point that I can’t even begin. But at this point, I’m not trying to have a discussion about belief or the reliability of the media. I just want her to sleep without all of the lights in the house on.

Werewolves don't do doors.

Werewolves don’t do doors.

O: So, werewolves won’t come into the house?
P: Nope. It’s too much of a hassle. There’s always someone wandering about in the bush or down a deserted road. By the way, could you take the dogs out into the backyard so they can go to the toilet?

My wife, working through the issue, got Ophelia to acknowledge that what she’s afraid of, with werewolves, is that she might die. So the issue is death, not a monthly curse and a diet high in raw meat. And that sounds about right for her age.

Not Me: There you do then. There are lots of other ways to die than by werewolf!

(I had to make sure I wasn’t blamed for that comment)

I’m pretty sure I was that age when I realised I might die and started freaking out at night time, much to the consternation of my parents, I would assume. I don’t remember ever abstracting my fear of death through ghosts or werewolves or anything. I went straight for the hardcore stuff. I mentioned that in an earlier blog.

No. Actually, there was an episode of Greatest American Hero. Our hero was lured into a cave or a dark room and then attacked by vampires. He wash!t invulnerable to them and the attacks in the dark freaked me out completely.

My brother-in-law, when we talked about it yesterday, suggested that “an ogre is always an ogre” but that a werewolf can be anybody. Taking that further, the werewolf has always been a metaphor for the beast in all of us. The ability (and even desire) to lash out and be destructive without being responsible for the actions. The werewolf did it, it wasn’t me.

I was going to use O as an intro to something bigger on fear in general, but this looks like a post in itself. Excellent. Fodder for the next one.

Night night. Don’t let the werewolves bite!

WoooOOOOOOoooooo!

This little titbit is another one of those “I keep hearing this in completely unrelated forums, so I feel like I should make mention of it” news items. In this case, it is the Loch Ness Monster. It started with Dave showing me photos from his trip to Scotland, and his trip to Loch Ness. Unfortunately, he didn’t get a shot of the famous Nessie, but it put the creature in my head. Then my step-daughter was telling me how the Loch Ness monster is actually a dinosaur. My gentle assertion that the correct phrasing was more along the lines of “could be a plesiosaur if it actually existed” were met with the scorn it deserved. Finally, from two different sources, the final being Kevin Smith’s Smodcast, I hear that in America, the education department is funding a text book for schools that states that the Loch Ness Monster is real, is probably a plesiosaur (dammit, foiled by a 7 year old again), and its existence proves that evolution is false.

Socrates would have a field day with the logic involved in that one!

From here, I have a real Sliding Doors blog moment. Or a Trousers of Time scenario. Or a Community dice roll.

Depending on where I go from here could mean the difference between being picked up by a major newspaper or wallowing forever in obscurity. Or ending up evil, or with only one arm. Here are the options:

  •  Trouser leg one: from here, I go on to talk about education and the teacher stereotypes that are prevalent in the media, compared to those that are prevalent in my ten years of teaching.
  • Trouser leg two: from here, I go on to talk about all of the weird and wonderful things in this world, which ones I believe in and which ones are absolute rubbish.
  • Trouser leg three (I’m Jake the Peg, diddle-iddle-iddle um) – there is NO leg three. Although I’m going to do a blog soon on being a sudden parent, in order to stay within the realms of the Finding Damo universe.

Shooting myself in the foot – career-wise – I’m going to go with spooks and the unexplained.

We love Ghost Kitty

Girls With Slingshots – another great web comic

The other night, I had a dream that my brother was only a child – say about ten years old. He had a red parka on with the hood up and I couldn’t see his face. He was autistic. He was playing in the playground and fell over. I ran over to help him up and to hug him better and he pushed me away because he didn’t like being touched. It broke my heart. I woke up sobbing and it took me a good five minutes before I could wake up enough to realise it was just a dream, calm down and go back to sleep. I’m not sure what Shereen thought. She was very sympathetic. When we were talking about it the next morning, I said that if we found out she was pregnant any time soon I’d be highly nervous following that dream.

We are still largely ignorant of the universe we live in. There are thousands of strange and unsettling occurrences that – well, that occur – every day. Some people say that they can explain it, WITH SCIENCE! but they often just ignore the element that isn’t explained.

I wouldn’t have been surprised if Shereen had been pregnant and a doctor had told me that the baby would be born autistic. Because I’d dreamt it. I might have been surprised if they doctor had told me that the baby was made out of strawberry icecream, and I’ve dreamt that as well. But I’m quite happy to believe that I had a prescient dream.

I mean seriously, who wouldn’t be? It means that I’m a super hero! I can see the future! The day that I stop dreaming is the day I can tell the Prime Minister that the world is about to end! If I ever dreamed of tattslotto numbers I’d be set for life!
Of course, that’s rubbish. I seem to get déjà vu more than the average person. I remember dreaming it and then it comes true. Or I just live an incredibly boring life where I do the same thing over and over again, and have shocking short term memory. But I’m not dreaming true dreams, and don’t place a lot of credence in the words of other people who say that they do.

But I believe it’s possible. I just haven’t done it yet.

True dreaming. Out of body experiences. Aliens, ghosts and poltergeists, clairvoyants, past lives, the yeti and the panther living in the Rushworth forest. I’m quite happy to believe in all of these things. They aren’t outside the realm of possibility. They’re as plausible as God, heaven, guardian angels and the like, and some people get quite upset when you laugh at those beliefs.

OK, ghosts. That I can give a little more personal experience about. I have two personal ghost stories and one that I’m going to butcher because I can’t remember it properly. I think it comes from one of Shay’s friends, so Shay, if you remember the conversation, feel free to weigh in via the comments.

Ghost story no. 1:

I was living at the Terraces in Bendigo. Every Tuesday, I’d walk over the hill in the dark to where Mark lived to watch Star Trek: TNG. And then I’d walk back much later at night over the same hill. At the top of the hill one night I noticed a pure white cat sitting in front of a car wheel. As Death says: CATS. I LIKE CATS. So I watched it. It watched me. As I walked past the car, it should have passed beyond my line of sight behind the wheel – it was just sitting there looking at me. To my shock, I realised that I could still see the cat, through the wheel of the car. Now it was slightly transparent, but it was still there.

I kept walking. I never saw it again. It could have been a trick of the eyes, but that’s my story.

Ghost story no. 2:

I’d just broken up with Cath, back when she was still Cath. We were civil, outwardly friendly, but there was still a bit of stress there in the relationship. She was flatting with Dave in Middleborough Road, a brilliant house that we almost destroyed in the time we lived there. Those two stayed in the same place for another… year? after I left. I was back for a visit and stayed out in the lounge. During the night I woke up and stared into the face and torso of an old man staring back at me out of the roof. I felt the thrill of fear but he wasn’t threatening. He seemed more evaluative. He was trying to get a measure of me. When I sat up, he faded.

I told Cath about him the next day and she said “Mmm. I know him. He looks after me at night. He’s very protective.” To top that off, I emailed a clairvoyant who dealt with ghosts and spirits. She emailed back saying “Oh yes, that’s the man who used to own the place. He’s looking after Cath and he has always been a little bit curious about you. He never quite trusted you in your relationship with her. He isn’t threatening, just curious. He watches you on the loo, cos he liked to read there too.”

Quite apart from being freaked out by the fact that a ghost is watching me on the loo, I hadn’t told her most of that information, so it was an impressive feat of either ghost whispering or making stuff up.

Ghost story no. 3:

This one is absolutely freaky. But it was ages ago, and I’m not sure if I can tell it properly. It happened to a friend of a friend of mine… But the friend experienced a number of the ghostly symptoms, so I give it a lot more credence. OK, let’s see what I can get out.

This girl’s boyfriend lived in a flat. He experienced a number of elements of a haunting – The lights would turn on and off by themselves. The taps would turn on when he left the room. There was a cold patch in the lounge, directly under the fan. He loved it. A haunted flat. And then, somehow, he found out what had happened. The guy who’d been there beforehand had committed suicide after his girlfriend had died (I’m making up the reason, but he committed suicide). After he found out, the spirit started to get angry. Objects would move around the room. My friend’s friend (the girlfriend) was hit with a glass one day when she visited. And then the guy had a dream where he died, hanging from the fan like the man who’d died in the flat. It wasn’t fun any more.

He started to look for a new place. He started to get angry very quickly. He withdrew, argued with his girlfriend. One morning, his girlfriend came over and he didn’t answer the door or his phone. You know where this is going. He was hanging from the fan, attached by his belt around his neck.

I can’t explain that one. I have another friend whose ghostly companion follows her from house to house. There are hundreds of stories out there. You can’t explain them all. Oh, you could say they’re lying, deluded, psychotic or mad. There are atmospheric anomalies and magnetic disturbances and the like.

But for now, I’ll keep an open mind.

Remember Alfie Dog and my stories. Apparently they’re selling well. Thank you to everybody who as supported me.

Post-Bucket List

So, as I’ve mentioned before, I was hunting down life insurance. Well, I’m now insured. Take all the pot-shots you want, my family is covered.

Oh, unless I get bowel cancer. Apparently one person in my entire family getting it means that I’m too much of a risk to get it as well, so I’m not covered for that.

Never mind, I’ll just have to make sure any critical illnesses I get aren’t that.

I wonder whether becoming a zombie counts as a “critical illness”. I’m sure I couldn’t effectively do my job. What would zombies teach? Biology? Physical  Education? I’d be unemployed and almost unemployable. Maybe McDonald’s. “Would you like brains with that?”

Dead, but still poking around. That reminds me. Awhile ago I posted on Twitter a “post-bucket list”. A list of things I want to do once I’ve kicked the bucket. Everyone has a list of things they want to do before they die. I thought I’d be a little more ambitious.

This list came out of noticing that a number of dead friends and relatives were still popping up on Facebook. “You haven’t chatted to this person for awhile!”

Yes. They’re dead, you insensitive multi-national corporation!

But anyway, the list:

  1. Delete my Facebook account. Although, I might post a couple of status updates first.
    1. “Man it’s hot down here!”
    2. “Oh look, Elvis!”
    3. Damian has poked you… with a chilly, ghostly finger.
    4. Make a clay pot with Demi Moore
    5. Haunt someone. Kevin Smith was talking about a friend who saw her brother on the wing of a plane, saying that he was at peace. I think I would have something more interesting to say. “You know, there are all these tiny lights. So pretty. And they’re getting closer… Oh, oh no. Stop! Get off me! AAARGH!”
    6. Brainssssss
    7. Participate in a séance – from the other side.
    8. Melvin Death…
    9. … and then Fear the Reaper.

Hmm. It’s not a long list. Oh wait, one more:

  1. Go to my own funeral.

I know it’ll be good. I’m pretty sure anyone who would bitch about me at my funeral is pretty much happy to bitch about me in front of my face. But I am very aware that I haven’t written a will. Or an obituary. Or my epitaph. Or prepared my Death Press Kit.

“My what?” you ask. My Death Press Kit, I answer. “Yes, but I think that needs clarification,” you say. Well, yes. Fair enough. Let me see if I can find an example…

Schoolgirl Sheniz Erkan farewelled as friend urges bullying victims to speak out

Hmm. Microsoft Dictionary doesn’t recognise the word “farewelled”. Ah well, it is the Herald-Sun. Here’s the picture:

See? Pretty. Obviously a phone picture, so it fits the Social Media aspect. She did a good job. Or her parents, or whoever sent the papers her photo. Or whichever reporter hacked into her Facebook account.

On the other hand:

Megrahi, Convicted in 1988 Lockerbie Bombing, Dies at 60

You look at this guy and you think “yup, sleazy, obviously a killer. Hope he rots in Hell.” Or maybe that’s just me.

See? You need a Death Press Kit to ensure the papers know how to deal with you after your death. So, to make things easier, I have some photos for various occasions:

Traveler and philanthropist Perry dies after decades of community work

Perry, shamed teacher, dies alone after extended scandal

Conspiracy nut Perry dies in accidental piano incident

I don’t really want to write my obituary yet. I think that’s a blog in itself. I’ll leave you with the Death Press Kit and try to relax after the earthquake that’s scaring Melbournians to death. Gods. I remember Japan. These things happened every week. Still, I better make my sacrifices to the Ancient Ones.

Oh, that reminds me, and speaking of terrible Death Press Kits:

Suspected Maryland cannibal ranted about ‘human sacrifices’ on Facebook

This guy didn’t pick his Death Photo.

This guy killed and ate a guy who was living with him, including his heart and brain. The response from the on-campus co-ordinators:

“He noted the university has a zero-tolerance policy toward violence and a student in such a situation would likely be suspended or expelled.”

Ummm…

However, where I really think they were stretching for evidence:

“In February, Kinyua posted a question on Facebook, asking fellow students at historically black colleges and universities if they were “strong enough to endure ritual HBCU mass human sacrifices around the country and still be able to function as human beings?””

OK. The man was a looney. He killed and ate someone. But if I was indicted for every call to human sacrifice I placed in a Facebook status, I would never again see the light of day!

Let’s see what I can find.

  • “Today, I invade England!”
  • “Happy Invasion Day!”
  • “So birds are dying all over the globe and now there is a cow that’s given birth to a two headed calf. Is anyone else worried?”
  • “OK. Got an hour to finish the Multimedia class. That’s 3 minutes per student!”
  • “Sorry Paul, I have a social group on Wednesdays. Knock em dead!”
  • “is apparently NOT the killer, but is incompetent.”

See? I’m stuffed. Ok. Back into hiding. See you next week.

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