Zombies


It has recently come to my attention that zombies are the dumbest of the undead creatures and that people who indulge in zombie apocalypse hypotheticals are less than what Darwin might consider prime breeding material.

This was the essence of an angry rant that was posted in the comment feed after I posted the results of a quiz that ensured me that it could tell just from looking at my Facebook page how far I would travel, how long I would last, and what would get me killed in the event of a zombie apocalypse (Yorktown to Golden Gate, CA, 12 days, faulty shoelace).  Now, I take a lot of those dumb quizzes, primarily to ascertain how wrong they can be about me, but I usually don’t post results.  Why?  Because the results are often embarrassingly wrong.  Like, how could my “book husband” be anyone besides Mr. Darcy?  The quizzes are dumb, frequently easily manipulated to get the answers I want or far too simplistic to be trustworthy.  How exactly can they know what my dream life is based on 10 questions?  Especially when 5 of the questions are about my favorite color, my “spirit animal,” or my favorite way to spend a rainy day.  I mean, dumb.  But they take up my time, of which I have a lot, and they keep me entertained to a degree.  They also act as a platform for discussions on interesting subjects.  Which is why I posted the zombie quiz results.  I have pretty set ideas of my apocalypse strategy and it in no way involves a crosscountry trek or faulty shoelaces.  It was fun seeing people’s responses, especially from those who also took the quiz for equally bizarre results.  It was an intellectual exercise, which was ruined a bit when someone decided we were being serious.  There was some trolling and I had to dress down the troll, which took some time and effort, but which was certainly better than name-calling.  But it got me thinking, mostly because the troll’s argument was pretty weak, but his overall point was relatively valid if poorly defended.  And since I’ve done posts on vampires and werewolves, it seemed only right for me to complete the horror trinity.

First things first, we need to define our zombies.  Like all monsters, they have evolved over time.  I haven’t done much deep research into  the origins, so please correct me if I’m wrong, but from what I know of general knowledge, zombies started out in voodoo (probably far earlier, though) and they were primarily individuals risen by a powerful magic practitioner to be slaves.  I have read some versions where they are used as assassins, essentially given the name of a person whom they will tirelessly hunt down.  Once they have your name, there is no escape.  You could call it an allegory for the inevitability of death.

This is a far cry from modern zombie interpretations, except for the undead bit.  Modern zombies are more frequently the results of a disease and, of the undead trinity, have the least to do with supernatural forces.  This might explain their general appeal for hypotheticals.  Vampires and werewolves are steeped in mystical lore, but zombies are more and more scientifically explainable.  There is even some scientific basis for the original zombies (something to do with a neurotoxin n a plant or animal that can induce a zombie-like trance in living people).  Furthermore, while vampires and werewolves are popular, they aren’t good vehicles for apocalypse theorizing because they rarely come in the form of a pandemic, which is a genuine concern.  Just look at the panics we had about Ebola, bird flu, and AIDS.  The Zombie Apocalypse is the Black Plague of the modern age.  Here you have a disease which has no known cure, is extremely virulent, and the corpses are just as dangerous as the live carriers.  Plagues have a long history of being how population levels are reduced when they get too high, so as the planet gets more and more crowded, the basic anxiety about such acts of God become more  and more realistic.  Furthermore, in cases where the virus is man-made, zombies represent the dangers of scientific hubris.  Someone is trying to play God to a disastrous result.  So zombies are a very thorough representation of the conflict between science and religion, while vampires and werewolves are more indicative of the conflict between emotion/instinct and civilization.  Zombies are our modern Prometheus tale.  Which says a lot  about our society.  In every zombie story, there is a moment where the protagonist sees someone they care about turn from a rational, thinking person into a mindless monster.  This is something we can all relate to, right?  Any time a friend or family member succumbs to addiction or mental illness, we stand by and watch, feeling helpless.  When the victim is someone you know, you can instantly empathize.  If it isn’t a stranger, then it could be you.  Just think back again to the Ebola outbreak, which no one gave two figs about until some of the victims came here for treatment.  Suddenly, it wasn’t a disease in some faraway place.  It was on our soil and that much closer to being in our homes.  Panic.

Psychologically, zombies are an interesting subject.  The people who tend to get pulled into zombie stories are not your typical heroes.  There isn’t a Van Helsing leading the charge against an evil foe.  It’s usually just people running for their lives, trying to survive.  So the story isn’t about the monsters at all; it’s about how ordinary people handle crises.  The whole reason I watch The Walking Dead is because it isn’t really about zombies.  Yeah, they’re there, and it gets gory and violent.  Still, the journey and struggle of the humans is why I keep watching.  And World War Z (the book, DEFINITELY NOT the movie) is fascinating because it goes so far beyond the initial crisis which is usually the whole scope of the movies.  This is the plot of a standard zombie story: Group of people at the beginning of the outbreak running for their lives and either getting overrun or getting rescued by the military or something.  It stays on a very individual level to make the peril seem more immediate.  But TWD and WWZ both look at the further implications of an outbreak on the civilized world.

So, yeah, zombies are popular for good reasons.  But like all monsters, there are serious flaws in their mythos.  The first and most immediate issue is that they are actively decaying monsters.  It adds to the gruesomeness, sure, but also to the improbability of them as a serious threat for long.  I mean, how could they be that dangerous against whole, healthy people with full use of their limbs and fully functioning brains?  Well, numbers help.  That’s a major factor in every zombie story.  The living have limited resources and have to do things like eat and sleep, while zombies tend to keep going without either for long periods of time.  It’s the classic race between the tortoise and the hare.  The hare loses, though he is the faster animal, merely because the tortoise just keeps going.  Zombies have no higher brain function so they are driven by base instinct.  Nothing else matters, not pain nor exhaustion nor severed limbs.  And they will continue to be driven until the brain is destroyed, regardless of origins.  Even though scientific zombies still need some form of body to function, as long as the brain is functioning, they are driven until the body is burned out completely.  Zombies are obsession, the meth addicts of the undead.  Which is why it doesn’t actually matter if they are “fast” or “slow” zombies.  It isn’t really the speed or numbers that make them effective.  It’s the inevitability.

Still, as decaying monsters, that draws the question of the outbreak itself.  In many older stories, the zombies all rise from their graves (this is most often a mystical rather than scientific outbreak).  Now, this is very gross and creepy, but seems to imply that zombies have super strength since they are able to not only escape from their coffins but up through six feet (at least) of packed dirt.  Now, there is some validity to this argument, which is probably why modern stories are skipping graveyards entirely, but it does speak to a degree of ignorance about coffins.  Yes, we build them out of steel as well as wood but trends are leaning more toward environmentally friendly coffins which decompose with the body, so they’re not impregnable.  Moreover, as stated above, zombies are driven by base instinct, not higher brain function.  This doesn’t give them super strength, per se.  It’s more like the strength a normal person can get under a surge of adrenaline.  And since they don’t feel pain, any injury incurred while escaping the coffin that would cripple a normal person is simply shrugged off.  And, since this kind of outbreak is more likely of mystical origins, the bodies are not being operated by muscles and sinew but by willpower.  Regardless of how far the body is decomposed, if some of it is left it will strive to reach the surface.  That’s not to say there wouldn’t be a bunch of bodies stuck below, just that the assumption that none of them would make it is based on the strength of coffins is a weak argument.  The freshly dead, at least, would surely make it because they are the most intact and the dirt least packed.  Also, there is the question of people not buried properly.  I imagine the desert around Vegas would be swarming with victims of the mafia.  And finally, escaping from the grave is, if not an easy feat, then at least a probable means of survival for people in movies (think Kill Bill Vol. 2).  Right, that’s in movies, but if we were talking about reality, the topic wouldn’t be zombies, would it?  To be fair, though, the super strength does not seem to be limited to escaping the grave.  Zombies are capable of ripping a living body apart with their bare hands.  Usually this is seen when an individual is mobbed by a horde of undead (so strength in numbers), but individual zombies are apparently just as capable of detaching limbs by just pulling and biting though just about anything wrapped in flesh.  Part of this can be attributed to that “adrenaline” strength, however mostly this is movie magic bringing the expected gore.  Humans are no longer equipped to be carnivores and it takes more than brute strength to accomplish a dismemberment.  Without sharper teeth and claws, it is unlikely that they could be so very effective at this particular feat.

When the source is viral or scientific instead of mystical, coffins aren’t really a problem at all.  Most people aren’t buried immediately after death.  It takes a couple of days, which is more than enough time for someone to “turn” by most sources.  According to WWZ the movie, it takes 10 seconds from being bit to turn, but only if you don’t cut off the bitten limb in less than that.  TWD clocks it at no more than 2 hours from death of the host.  This is about the standard for the zombie films I’ve seen.  It takes an indeterminate amount of time for the infection to kill the host, but turning is within hours and even minutes of death.  This helps to explain the swiftness of the outbreak to some degree, but isn’t fully satisfying to me.  See, even in cases of normal diseases, the outbreak needs just the right conditions to spread as fast as zombie outbreaks do (usually from a single case to global pandemic in a matter of days).  The virulence of zombie-ism is mostly an expression of fears, like globalization and the dangers there of, but isn’t all that realistic, especially if you consider how obvious the symptoms would be.  Yes, some people would be able to hide bites for a time, but it’s not a disease that spreads before symptoms are apparent.  The worst diseases are spread through the air before anyone even knows they’re sick, so the fact that the zombie host has to die to become an active vector is a bit of a drawback.  AIDS is a far more effective disease and, while it is still a big problem, it didn’t take over the world despite years of free reign on society.  I mean, it passes the same way as zombies (usually interpreted as an infection via bodily fluids like saliva and blood, with the bite being just the most likely means of transmittance), but the initial spread happened because people didn’t have symptoms until later stages (HIV-positive to full-blown AIDS).  This simply can’t happen with zombies.  Even in cases when the infection has symptoms like fever, hallucination, etc, the person is not contagious until they die.  Plus, the point of plague is more than just population control.  The Black Plague in the 1340’s wiped out an estimated 3rd of the population and is the major reason civilization moved from the Dark Ages into the Enlightenment/Renaissance.  Besides having a major effect on how man viewed the world and how society was shaped, it did what all plagues do in nature: it made a stronger herd made up of survivors.  It wasn’t deadly to everyone, after all.  Despite how quickly it spread and the lack of medical understanding of the cause, some people were naturally immune.  Those capable of surviving or remaining immune to infection passed on their genes to the next generation.  Standard survival of the fittest.  Logically, the zombie disease would have the same natural drive and some people would be immune.  This is never the case in the movies, though this could be because the disease is most often a man-made one rather than something brought on by nature.  Again, this is evidence that a zombie outbreak is based solely on fear rather than real science.  The only source that seems to find a loophole is TWD.  If you haven’t seen the show at all, I’m sorry to give away spoilers.  In the show it is soon revealed that everyone living or dead is infected.  So even if you die of natural causes, you turn.  This is a brilliant way to explain the global decimation of the population.  There is no way to stop the infection, no way to avoid or contain it because everyone is a carrier.  There wouldn’t be a Typhoid Mary.  Just one day, there would be 56 million zombies worldwide who died of natural causes.  This is a level of horror unheard of in any other story.  It does return a bit of the mystical back into the zombie mythos (how else could the entire planet by infected all of a sudden?), which to me is a bit refreshing after all the strained attempts at “scientific” explanations.  But without that aspect of the myth, there is little chance of a genuine global pandemic, whatever the fear monger media says.

One myth that can be completely dispelled is the success of amputation to stop the spread of infection.  The zombie disease is blood-born and your heart pumps blood too quickly.  The time it would take you after a bite to remove the limb is far too slow to stop anything.  Even if you manage it in under 10 seconds.

Conclusion:  Zombies are not real.  They, like other monsters, are allegory for common, widespread fears.  They are rife with improbabilities and scientific inaccuracies.  They are obviously fantasies.  And when normal people engage in discussions about fantasy topics, they aren’t being stupid.  It is really only worrisome when people start building zombie shelters in their yards and stocking up on MREs.  And being a fan of something is an indicator of taste, not intelligence.  Which is why I try not to hate on other fandoms, even of those I find abhorrent.  I may have good reasons to despise them, but the minute I start throwing shade, I leave my own fandoms open to attack.  Amazingly, there are people out there who do not love everything I do.  That doesn’t make them dumb or inferior.  Just makes them different.  So even if they start hating on something I love, even when it would be so easy to make insinuations about the childishness/stupidity/inferiority of their own fandoms, I resist the urge.  Even when I can attack them on a personal level, I don’t.  Part of the problem with our culture is that we don’t argue.  If someone disagrees with us, we get defensive and immediately take the stance that the other person is stupid.  Instead of having a discussion which can enrich both sides even if they never come to an agreement, we attack the person in a downward spiral to hurt feelings.  Nothing is learned, nothing is gained, we are all reduced to assholes.  I admit that I don’t always act the adult, but I am trying to become more open to other viewpoints.  I may not like your stance, but I will endeavor to see the validity of it.

 

And in case of a zombie apocalypse, I would steal an LMTV or MTV from the Transportation Museum on post and head for the Appalachians, since I’m on the east coast.  I know most people argue for heading to the nearest coast, but since the traffic to VA Beach is impossible on a normal day, I’d rather not get stuck in tunnel traffic with a horde on my ass.  The Appalachians are ideal because they have a lot of low-population areas, they are fertile, and they aren’t as treacherous as the Rockies.  They still can have harsh winter conditions, but looting a Dick’s Sporting Goods on the way out of town would be a means of attaining winter survival gear, all of which would fit easily in my LMTV.  My vehicle choice is built on a few factors.  First is familiarity.  I need a vehicle I know how to drive.  Second, both vehicles are high off the ground, ideal for off-roading, fording, and relatively safe from attack from the ground, making them good for temporary shelter until a more permanent defense can be managed.  They’re large enough to plow through a great deal of debris/road blocks/traffic jams and can hold a great deal of cargo and personnel.  Finally, they’re older vehicles and I’m assuming that the local military would be using the more modern troop carriers to fight the zombies.  Drawbacks include how slow they are compared to commercial vehicles and they are not fuel-efficient.  However, given enough of a head start, I should be able to stock up on enough diesel fuel to get us to safety.  And you better believe the cab is gonna be packed with MREs and empty bottles for stocking up on water.  What about guns?  Nope.  While guns are highly effective for sharpshooters, I am not a sharpshooter.  They also make a great deal of noise, which can draw more zombies, and they run out of ammo.  I prefer swords and axes, though I might rig up a lawn mower shield ala Dead Alive.  If I have my husband and cats, we might make it a year or more.  Without my husband, I wouldn’t leave my house.  Then again, depending on the situation, we might be smart to just stay on post.

Honestly, though, I’d probably die in the initial outbreak for no other reason than disbelief.

 

Sources/Favorite Zombie Stories:

The Walking Dead (AMC)

World War Z by Max Brooks (book only, eff the movie => it sucked)

The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore (A Tale of Christmas Terror)

Shawn of the Dead (Simon Pegg/Nick Frost)

Dead Alive (Peter Jackson) => you will never look at pudding the same way

Zombie Strippers => don’t ask.

Planet Terror (Robert Rodriguez)

MythBusters (Season 11, Ep. 11: Zombie Special)

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Mercy Thompson Series by Patricia Briggs

Romero Zombie Movies (haven’t seen them all, but I have general knowledge)

 

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15PM00000032011 · 15:03

Practical Reasons for Missing My Husband


There are lots of obvious reasons for missing my hubby.  Most are emotional, of course.  But since we just passed the six month mark, I thought I might enumerate some of the daily reminders.

1. Chores:  Maintaining a house is work, but at least with him here, we can divide the work load.  We  trade-off on doing the litter every night.  If one of us cooks dinner, the other washes dishes.  When I run the dishwasher, he empties it and vice versa.  Plus, when we have friends over, cleaning up the house and prepping food goes twice as fast before.  And when everyone leaves, we eventually get everything cleaned up because at least one of us will be prepared to motivate the other.

2. Two-Man Jobs:  The thing about houses is that they are large and rife with tasks that seem to require two people.  Like emptying the gutters.  I have a ladder, but need someone to hold it.  Or spring-cleaning the flowerbeds.  I admit that I managed this on my own this year, but it was a lot of rigorous work and would have gone more smoothly with a partner.  Especially one willing to do more of the heavy lifting.DSC_1088DSC_1089DSC_1113DSC_1116DSC_1114

3. Heavy Lifting:  Now, I am a grown woman and do not need any man to open doors for me or carry my groceries or any other pansy BS.  However, when I was at Lowes to pick up the lawn supplies (9 bags of mulch, 4 bags tree/shrub top soil, 1 bag garden soil, 16 bags top soil, 1 sage plant, 2 Goldie yarrow plants), I could have used my big, strong, manly husband to load the cart, push the unbelievably heavy cart to the register, and then help me load my car.  Now, I did get help from some of the staff on all these tasks, but I hated having to ask.  Additionally, my husband is particularly good at efficiently packing our vehicles.  And he would have known to bring his car instead of mine, which has more cargo space.

4. Manly Tasks:  Okay, in an objective world, there are no such things as jobs delineated by gender, because only willpower and ability (or lack thereof) are barriers.  To be perfectly honest, the jobs that fall primarily to my husband are those tasks which I would prefer not to do.  Top of that short list is mowing the lawn, which I imagine is going to be my eternal torture if I end up in Hell.  Now, since mowing the lawn is his permanent chore because he doesn’t mind doing it, I do all the laundry since I don’t mind doing that.  It isn’t an even exchange, in my opinion, but it works for us.  All the other “manly” tasks are just those I don’t know how to do, like home or vehicle repairs.

5. Ladder Work:  I am 5’4.  My husband is not.  My step-ladder has been used a great deal more the last six months.  And Buddy has little difficulty replacing the air filters in the ceiling, while even with the ladder I have a hard time reaching.

6. My back is cold when I sleep.

 

That is all.

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Filed under Misc Short Stories

Not Sleeping


This is me trying to sleep.

Okay, got my sleep mask.  Got my water.  Got my knee pillow.  It is all dark and cozy.  Just need to close my eyes and let nature work.

Brain:  HEY WHAT’S UP WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL DAY I HAVE SO MUCH TO TELL YOU!!!!!

Me: Oh, hey, Brain.  Yeah, it’s been a long day so it’s time to shut down.  Tell me all about it tomorrow.

Brain:  OKAY JUST THOUGHT YOU MIGHT LIKE TO RECAP ALL THE THINGS YOU SAW/READ/SAID/THOUGHT TODAY AND MAYBE RUN SOME STORY IDEAS BY YOU AND THEN DWELL ON ALL THE MISTAKES YOU’VE MADE IN A DOWNWARD SPIRAL OF…

Me:  No, seriously, Brain.  I need to sleep.  I have a lot to do tomorrow…

Brain:  SPEAKING OF WHICH HAVE YOU THOUGHT OF ALL THE THINGS YOU HAVE TO DO CUZ SERIOUSLY YOU SHOULD CONSIDER ALL OF THE DETAILS AND PLANS DOWN TO THE MINUTE EVEN THOUGH YOU KIND OF WANT TO PLAY IT BY EAR AND ALSO HERE ARE A BUNCH OF WAYS IT COULD GO HORRIBLY WRONG AND YOU KNOW IT WILL GO WRONG IF YOU DON’T OBSESS OVER EVERY LITTLE THING…

Me:  Could you just stop yelling for a minute?  I think I’m getting a migraine…

Brain:  OH RIGHT BECAUSE YOU DID ALL THAT SWEATY WALKING TODAY AND I DIDN’T ONCE TELL YOU TO DRINK WATER BUT I DID INVITE THE MIGRAINE GNOMES TO START DRILLING ON YOUR CRANIUM AFTER YOU HAD LAY DOWN SO YOU WOULD HAVE TO GET UP AND CRAWL OVER BUDDY TO GET YOUR MIGRAINE PILLS IT’S YOUR OWN FAULT FOR DOING ANY KIND OF OUTDOOR ACTIVITY HEY YOU REMEMBER ALL THOSE CEREMONIES YOU USED TO DO WHICH REMINDS ME OF ALL THE ARMY STUFF I LOVE REMEMBERING THE ARMY STUFF OH AND DON’T FORGET TO BE SAD BECAUSE YOU’RE HEADING HOME SOON AND YOU REALLY NEED TO START LOOKING FOR JOBS AND WHY HAVEN’T YOU HAD ANY BABIES YET AND…

Me:  What?!?  Could you just calm down–

Brain:  HERE’S SOME MORE STORY IDEAS SINCE YOU ARE SO FAR AWAY FROM ANY WRITING UTENSIL THIS IS REALLY GREAT STUFF SO I HOPE YOU REMEMBER IT OH AND DO YOU WANT TO DO A RECAP OF ALL YOUR FAVORITE SHOWS BECAUSE I CAN DWELL ON ALL KINDS OF USELESS STUFF FOR SIMPLY HOURS AND HEY WHAT IF YOU AREN’T A GOOD MOTHER OR CAN’T FIND A JOB OR THE PLANE BLOWS UP OR HIS PLANE BLOWS UP OR THE APOCALYPSE HAPPENS OR ZOMBIES…

Me:  HEY LOOK!  SUDOKU!!!

Brain:  ooo feeling drowsy think i can sleeeeee–  HEY WHY’D YOU TURN IT OFF THIS BED IS UNCOMFORTABLE HOW DOES HE ALWAYS SLEEP SO WELL I’M GONNA MISS HIM I MISS THE CATS BET THEY ARE ACTING LIKE BRATS OH YOU’RE GONNA HAVE TO MOW THE LAWN WHEN YOU GET HOME…

Me:  Sigh.

Brain:  OH WHAT WAS THAT ANNOYING SONG YOU HAD STUCK IN YOUR HEAD IT WENT AWAY A COUPLE DAYS AGO BUT I BET IF I JUST THINK FOR A MOMENT THERE IT IS TOO BAD YOU DON’T KNOW ALL THE WORDS CUZ THAT MEANS I JUST HAVE TO REPEAT THE REALLY LAME CHORUS GOOD LUCK DROWNING OUT BRATTY POP MUSIC!!!!!!!!!!

 

Later that evening:

Subconscious:  Hey, Brain!  Are you sleeping?  Ever wonder what would happen if Big Bang Theory and Walking Dead combined?  Let’s find out.  In the form of Pins.  MWAHAHAHA!

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15PM00000012011 · 13:41

I am a Picky Eater. Honest.


We all know picky eaters, right?  They won’t eat something for reasons incomprehensible to you.  No corn unless it is on the cob.  Potatoes only in mashed form.  Milk only in a certain glass.  Most of the time, we hear specifications like this from kids.  I knew a little girl who, for a time, would refuse any food that was a combination of ingredients.  This may seem completely impossible, but she was young and didn’t understand that almost all prepared food is a combination of ingredients.  All she knew was if there was an “and” in the description, she wasn’t having any.  “What’s in the rolls?”  “Butter and bread.”  “No, thank you.”

By the next Christmas, she had grown out of it, as most kids do when their parents get sick of catering to such habits.  One can only put up with so much.  Still, there are plenty of adults out there who could be classed as picky eaters and they are a bane for people like me.  I am a Feeder.  My self-esteem is linked to how people receive the food I offer them.  Rejecting my food is rejecting me.

I realize this is a little extreme and I am working on it.  Taste is unique to everybody and just because someone doesn’t like chocolate doesn’t mean we can’t be friends (though I’m sure we’ll never be close).  I do have to actively remind myself that turning down the cookies I’m offering is not a comment on the quality of the food or myself as a person.  This is especially true for what I call the “legitimate” reasons, i.e. dietary needs and allergies.

It is still a challenge, though, because there are all those “illegitimate” reasons.  The “I just don’t like it” or the “I don’t like the texture” or the “I’ve never had it before.”  As a food snob, I admit to some amount of scorn for people with mundane palettes, those who won’t try something just because it is new or different.  Simply put, I don’t like picky eaters.  I don’t like when people refuse the food of their host because they just don’t like it.  I hate when people quibble or complain because there’s nothing for them to eat.  “I would have eaten that, but they put pepper on it.”  “Oh, I only eat Velveeta cheese.”  “I’m sorry, I don’t like vegetables.”  “No, I don’t eat fish unless it is in stick form.”

Sadly, this makes me a hypocrite.  As it turns out, being a food snob makes me a picky eater by default.  I turn my nose up at food if it wasn’t made from scratch from fresh ingredients.  I snub processed foods like fish sticks or Hamburger Helper.  I despise anything that contains a “processed cheese product.”  And fast food is pure evil.  Cafeterias/buffets are out of the question.

While my parents were visiting, we had to pick up some fast food before doing some sight seeing.  I obstinately ordered some grilled chicken nuggets and planned on getting something more substantial later.  Except I couldn’t find anything.  At first, I felt like it would be rude to have a nice sit-down meal in front of others who weren’t eating, then because the eateries I saw didn’t suit me, and finally because I couldn’t find a food truck or similar small meal dispenser.  Mom pointed out the irony that I would eat from a food truck, but not fast food, to which I replied that food truck food isn’t fast food.  And then it hit me.  I am full of sh*t.

I was looking for food trucks because they are trendy now.  There are innovators out there turning food trucks into classy yet inexpensive cuisine, but that doesn’t mean that all food trucks are making good food.  I am just as picky as those people who bring their own food to parties because they can’t be sure if there will be food they can eat.  I worry that I’ll show up to a gathering where all there is to eat is junk food that I can’t stomach.  I’ll admit to going hungry and fervently wishing that I’d eaten something before venturing out.  I have (shamefully) thought less of my host for not making food to my standards.

Unfortunately, my dietary choices put me at odds with normal people, but refusing junk food doesn’t make me better than anyone.  I admit to being a picky eater, but that doesn’t have to make me a bad guest.  As a Feeder, I see the cardinal sin of a guest to be refusing the food of the host.  In ancient times, such a refusal could be seen as a grave insult or a declaration of animosity.  In The Count of Monte Cristo (one of my absolute favorite books), Edmund makes it a point not to eat the food of his enemies, even as he pretends to be their dearest friends.  So I am only picky when it isn’t rude to be so.

The reason people don’t like picky eaters is because it’s rude.  When someone makes food for you, you should eat it without complaining.  This is a lesson many of us learned as children when Mom gave us the old “there are starving children in China” speech.  We all have foibles about food, but unless those foibles will put you into anaphylactic shock, then it is best to smile and shut your mouth just for courtesy’s sake.  Another tip for picky eaters when meeting with new foods is to just try it.  You may need to engage a poker face to hide how horrible something is, but refusing to try something just because it is new could mean missing out on stuff you may actually like.

Ah, but the testament between guest and host is not a one-way deal.  When hosting, you have an obligation to provide for your guests, which seems kind of obvious.  Except that this obligation isn’t always fully understood.  I’m not saying that you have to make a special dish catered to the tastes of every guest.  That would be ridiculous.  But there are some things one must keep in mind when providing food for a crowd.  The first is timing.  If the party falls during a meal time, then people will show up expecting more than finger food.  Easiest thing to do is have burgers and hot dogs ready to grill -OR- have pizzas ready (frozen or otherwise).  Any other time of day, snack foods are fine.  For finger foods, chips and dips are classic, but I always recommend a fruit or veggie tray as well, especially with the number of people on specialty diets nowadays.  You can always ask your guests to bring stuff, too, if they want.  Then you get lots of variety without stressing yourself out.

The key to party feeding is not to get anything you won’t eat because there will be leftovers.  That means, I don’t ever by chips because I don’t eat them regularly.  Most have too much salt for my taste and corn-based chips tend to give me migraines.  People will still bring chips and often leave them behind, but I just stow them away for the next party.  If I decide to put together a veggie tray, I’m only using veggies that I cook with regularly or have for snacks, so no radishes or jalapeños.  If you don’t like veggies, don’t put out a veggie tray.  If you don’t like salsa, don’t buy a big jar of salsa.  You are obligated to provide enough food for your guests with some variety of choices, that is all.  Provide for picky palettes only so far that it doesn’t actually inconvenience you.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that there is a social contract we must adhere to regardless of our personal tastes.

1.  The host will provide enough food for guests, accommodating to dietary needs (allergies, diets, etc) within reason.

2.  The guest will eat food when and if possible.  If no food is edible (for whatever reason), the guest will politely decline.  There should be no complaining, especially if food is being declined for any reason other than allergies or medically prescribed diets.

Now, let’s say we aren’t talking a serve-yourself buffet-style party but an actual sit-down dinner.  Social contract says that you eat what is put in front of you unless it will kill you.  This is not always easy, and I understand that.  It isn’t always about taste.  Sometimes it’s about health.  Sometimes it’s about cooking methods or cleanliness or quality of ingredients.  Sometimes it’s about cooking skill.  And, yes, you may have to stomach food you don’t like in order to be polite.  But let’s say you don’t like someone’s cooking and it’s someone you eat with frequently.  It’s Grandma or Father-in-Law or Spouse or Best Friend.  You don’t want to hurt feelings, so you claim picky eating as an excuse.  Don’t.  Honesty in this case is very important.  Picky eating to many is a childish excuse and not to be tolerated.  And lying about your reasoning will only add tension to a relationship.  So find a way to talk to this person, face to face and not over a meal.  It may not make any difference, but it’s better than lying.

I’ve rambled a bit, I know.  I’m trying to get back into writing habits.  Plus, I wanted to set the record straight.  My Mom, like all Feeders, has a thing about picky eaters.  Refuse her food and you will never be her friend.  But she is so proud of me for not being picky, just because I’m always willing to try new foods.  The fact is, I think everyone is picky about their food and with good reason.  It’s just a matter of balancing personal preference with politeness.

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15AM000000112011 · 11:39

Ups/Downs


Yesterday was a good day.  Which made me begin to wonder what makes a good day.

If I were to melt down all the elements of a good day, would it separate into good things and bad things, with more good than bad?  Because, well, it doesn’t seem to matter so much what happens as my mood when it happens.

If I’m down, everything pulls me down.  Whatever I try, be it shopping or chocolate or reading, the down stays.

If I’m up, then even sleep deprivations, expensive car repairs due to the incompetence/neglect of the dealer,  and an ill-fitting leather jacket that must needs be returned won’t bring me down.

Of course, sushi will always switch a down to an up.

Not really interesting, me pointing out that attitude is everything, but I think it’s a misconception that positive attitudes can be forced.  I don’t decide my ups or downs.  I just ride them, trying to maintain an even keel as well as I can.

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15AM00000012011 · 01:02

2014 in review


The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,700 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 28 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Filed under Misc Short Stories

Today.


Today, I turned in my last paper.  Then I wandered campus looking for people to give eggnog truffles to.

Then I did some Christmas shopping.  And I wandered Barnes & Noble.

And I didn’t have to read anything or write anything.  I didn’t have to do research or take notes or trudge through some brain-sucking analysis that might be total crap but feels like the most brilliant thing I’ve ever thought of.  No studying.  No brain whatsoever.

It felt great.

I’m excited to start baking again, especially holiday baking.  And sleeping at normal hours.  And writing because I want to, because I have something to say.

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15PM000000102011 · 22:56

Moment


I thought it would be the quiet or the cold.

I thought it would be things I saw or heard, your music, your shows, your clothes.

I thought it would be the empty spaces where you’re supposed to be, the bare shelves, the missing clothes, the pieces of you in their special places, gone, gone, gone.

I was wrong.

It was a little moment of joy.

I wanted to share it with you.

But all I have is silence.

Then the crushing, crushing, crushing, like a black hole in my chest.

It all comes out and I’m scared that it won’t stop.

Keep moving, pull the towels from dryer, put the jeans in, clean the lint tray, add a dryer sheet, press start.

Then I can go to the dark.  Then I can cross from dealing to dying for just a little bit.

Just until I have to live again.

Just until you come back to me.

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Filed under Misc Short Stories

Letter from a Reformed Grammar Nazi


IMG_20130130_193155 Take a second to look at this photo. What you are seeing is a cold-hearted, cruel monster, a villain of the highest order. I am a member of that elite dark order of cyber bullies about which you have been cautioned. I use my assumed superiority to publicly shame friends and enemies alike under the guise of helping them. I lurk in comment threads with daggers of indignity, waiting to pluck at the failures of my fellows. I am that creature who cannot allow even the smallest infractions to pass, eagerly poised with an asterisk at my fingertips for the least grammatical mistake. That’s right. I’m a Grammar Nazi. Or I was.

It all started when I became an English Major. I’m certain many of you understand how such a descent into malevolence can begin with such a choice. After taking so many classes on the “proper” use of English, I began to feel that I was master of all words, which was great for my own confidence. Unfortunately, that supposed mastery made me feel entitled to judge others, to correct their mistakes regardless of the context in which we interacted. I corrected status updates and clucked over spelling errors in blog posts. I shared memes that explained how English grammar is so simple, one must be an utter moron to confuse “your” and “you’re.” I scorned the practices of text-speak as base and pitied those who foolishly ended a sentence with a prepositional phrase. I was embarrassed by the ignorantly written posts by my own family. I’m an English Major and my own brother doesn’t know how to use capitals and punctuation! How could I ever show my face if people found out I was related to someone who used “lol” as a period?

This snobbery leeched its way off the computer and into my life. I was most critical of my fellow English Majors, who should certainly know better. How could they expect anyone to take them seriously if they talked like that? Ums and uhs and likes and you knows and, the most hated of all phrases, “I was just gonna say.”  You probably said that exact phrase today and perhaps caught the look on my face of utter contempt. Forget the fact that “just” implies that you are apologetic about your own opinion and that it is obvious you’re “gonna say” something as your mouth is open and words are falling out. I can’t stand the “I was.” It implies that you are correcting your own assertion (I was going to say this, but now I am going to say this), which isn’t what you mean at all since you never correct yourself. What you mean is that this is what you think but it is probably wrong and you just wanted to point out something you thought was significant fully aware that it might not be. You’re asking permission to speak your mind and it drives me out of mine.

It was all going so well. I was fully entitled to label others as dumb or ignorant at the drop of an apostrophe. Then I started taking linguistic-based classes and my world of supremacy began to crumble. As I learned more about the history of English as a language, my certainty that there was a wrong way to use it eroded away. It seemed that correct spelling and grammar was an invention of xenophobes looking to protect the “purity” of the mother tongue from the scourge of foreigners. Further study of English showed that it was a fluid language, evolving over hundreds of years in clear linguistic patterns until we reached its youngest incarnation, African American Vernacular, which turns out not to be some broken conglomeration of English and slang but a legitimate dialect with its own grammatical structure. It became ever clearer that not only is there no wrong way to use English, there may not even be a right way, either. Language is for communication, so as long as someone is communicating it doesn’t matter whether she says “it’s going good” instead of “it’s going well.” I can believe I have been so petty that I will deliberately misunderstand someone’s post if it isn’t written to the same standard as my formal essays.

When I see a bigoted rant about how foreigners should speak English if they’re going to live here, I feel truly smug because there is always some kind of grammatical or spelling error. But is my editing any different from people complaining about having to press “1” for English? My claims of superiority over others based on language use, I now realize, is no different from bigotry in other forms. Racism, sexism, grammarism: all ways to make people in power feel that they deserve to be in power.

It will take a lot of work to reform myself of this unfair bias. I will probably always mutter “well” under my breath every time “good” is improperly used and I will flinch at misspelled or confused words. However, I will try to keep my proofreading to academic papers and resist devaluing people according to arbitrary linguistical rules, allowing such insignificant errors to distract me from the glory that is expression through language. Language is the greatest gift of the human race and I am ashamed that I ever saw it as a tool for belittling other human beings.

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15AM00000092011 · 09:42

Angry War/Grammar Rant


This post is rated NC-17 for strong language.

 

I’ve been more ignorant of the news recently, choosing to listen to audiobooks on my drive than NPR (the only news source I can stomach besides Daily Show and Colbert Report).   Mostly this started because I discovered just how much a treasure trove my local libraries are.  But as ISIS (and whatever else the American Devil is calling them) becomes more and more active and word spreads of terrorist cells and attacks on American soil, I find that I am less inclined to shut off my book (currently Dexter’s Final Cut => yes, I would rather listen to a book about a serial killer than listen to the violence in the news) and catch up on recent events.

Before you start crying “isolationism won’t make it go away,” know that I am perfectly aware of this fact.  Even without basic history to demonstrate this, I’m married to the Army.  Can’t really pretend things don’t exist when they’re knocking at your door with a reminder that soldiers don’t exist for peacetime.   It’s getting serious again so something has to be done and the rumors are already flying about who is up to bat first.  Isolationism isn’t my goal at all.  The problem is that if I’m this angry all the time, my health is going to suffer.  You know, ulcers, headaches, insomnia.  And the jail time for all those murders isn’t going to help anything.  It’s just hard not to be angry when you hear all that craziness.  Especially spouting from the mouths of normally rational people.

“It may be time to take the proactive approach and start rounding them up and putting them in camps or deporting them. Otherwise, they will be doing it to us Christians and Jews.” – Facebook

” These terrorists want to kill us, plain and simple.  We have to kill them first.  It’s better on their soil than ours.” – NPR interview of retired cop.

I suppose what sets me off first, besides the ignorance of such statements, is the obvious errors in grammar.  You see, they both use anonymous, 2nd and 3rd person pronouns.  They, them, their, we, us, ours.  But that’s not what is meant, of course.  When they say we, what they mean is “someone-not-me.”  I recommend to anyone spewing blanket statements of this sort to make slight changes to their pronouns and see if the message still holds.  “I must start rounding Troy up and putting him in a camp before he does it to me.  Because, well, Troy’s a nice guy and a killer bass player, and he was in the Army a while and deployed with my husband.  But he’s a Muslim and I just can’t trust him.”  Doesn’t sound right once I replace the impersonal pronoun and it becomes my responsibility.  Now, you may not personally know a Muslim, so imagination may be your fist step in this process.  I wish I could compare this sort of “proactive” response to the “camps” set up for the Jews (and sundry) in Germany or the Japanese in America, since that would be instantly understood by everyone.  But that isn’t exactly right because those atrocities have a slightly different flavor to them and someone could bring up a valid counter-argument.  The Jews weren’t terrorists and the Japanese weren’t “relocated” because of their religion.  Fair point.  So how about the Protestant burnings of England during the Reformation?  They were also terrorists, a threat to the State trying to bring down the Apocalypse upon the Empire.  Maybe the Hugoenots are more your style?  Or the Catholics?  Do you remember the outcry against JFK because he was a Catholic and his presidency would open the door for the Pope to take over?

There is a lot of pressure out there to sacrifice our freedoms to gain greater safety, but I cannot, will not give up the freedom of religion.  The minute we start rounding up (hear how dehumanizing that phrase is?) Americans based on their religious beliefs and not their actual criminal activity, we lose in every way.  I shouldn’t have to explain this.  Religious freedom means for all, not just those beliefs you like.  If you don’t care for Islam for religious reasons, it isn’t your government’s job to do something.  Get your Bible/Torah/Watch Tower, etc, and start evangelizing.  It is their right to believe and your right to attempt conversion.  It is not your right to imprison someone because an extremist thousands of miles away is committing a murderous rampage, even if that extremist is in this country.  That is all I’m going to say about that.

That second statement needs some changes, too.  “I have to kill them first” works better for me.  But that’s not how it works, is it?  No, when people say “we” in this case, they don’t intend to rush off to the recruiter the next day to join the good fight.  Their “we” actually means “you.”  As in, “You need to send  soldiers into an knuckle-dragging game of hunt-and-peck against an enemy that doesn’t play by conventional rules of war, and can’t even be classified as one coherent enemy, while I sit at home, stroking my hunting rifle and telling my buddies about how if I was only twenty years younger, I’d give those terrorists what-for.”  Sorry for the redneck stereotyping here.  I did say I was angry.

They never mean “I’m going to leave my family for a pointless war we don’t know how to fight.”  “I’m going to risk my life, my health, my sanity, while guys in fancy suits bicker over who has the most patriotic lapel pin.”  “I’m going to come home after a frustrating struggle with no guarantee that I’ll have a job or retirement benefits because some people need to make sure their kids have sufficient trust funds.”  “I have to pray that I don’t suffer injury because there’s no telling whether I’ll have health benefits to cover my medical costs when I’m no longer fit for service because the people getting those benefits are too worried about the long-term side effects of sitting on their *sses and b*tching about how the other side are a bunch of chai-drinking nancies who are too scared of war to send my friends and family to die for their personal jet and thousand-dollar shoes.”

In case you were wondering, YES, I AM PRETTY F*CKING ANGRY.  While those f*ckers are out there saying we should do something, it’s us or them, why don’t they just send in the troops already, I hear something completely different.  Their impersonal pronouns don’t exist for me.  The troops aren’t just vague camo-dressed extras in the back of the glorious war movie.  They’re my friends, my family, closer to me in many ways than my blood-relatives can ever be.  If I was still in, I would still make an uproar, I’m sure, but at least I’d be there with them.  I’d know they were okay, I’d share the daily frustrations and irritations and that vague worry that maybe today the IDF won’t land harmlessly in some open desert space.  But I’m out and those f*cking civilians are demanding that my husband fixes this sh*t-storm when I know perfectly well that he’ll just be another anonymous cog in the war machine waiting to be forgotten just as soon as they get war-weary.

War-weary.  That’s a funny term.  Americans wanted out of Iraq and Afghanistan because they were war-weary.  They didn’t want to do anything in Syria because they were war-weary.  They want to pay ransoms to terrorists because they’re war-weary.  (Note my heavy-handed use of 3rd-person pronouns.  Pisses you off when people generalize, doesn’t it?)  Less than a percent of the US population is in the military and yet everyone is war-weary.  Tired of hearing about it in the news, tired of their hard-earned tax dollars being spent on it, tired because it just doesn’t seem to matter to their everyday lives.  I think the term everyone is looking for is war-bored.  You can’t get weary of something you don’t experience, don’t see the effects of each day.  You can’t get weary when it isn’t you ripped from your family or your spouse is left alone with a new baby.  Or when you deploy just as you start reconnecting with your 8-year-old daughter who hasn’t forgiven you for the last deployment when she was 5.  When you have sat day after day, breathing toxins from burn pits, checking your boots every day for vermin, eating and sleeping and working out because you don’t have a mission and your job is to be there and then go home and shut up until the next time.  When you have sat impotent while your friends went without you and you have wondered if the randomness of this conflict will take out someone you know this time, if maybe that safety you felt when you were there was just complacency and you were only lucky, after all.  Come to me then and tell me of your deep-boned weariness.  Maybe I’ll believe you.

I don’t know what to do about ISIS.  I’m not a war strategist.  I’m not even good at chess.  I don’t think sending in ground troops is going to be effective at this juncture, but I’m not in a position, nor do I have the full scope of the situation, to make that decision.  I just have to hope that the powers-that-be will actually take the time to develop a strategy before they start chucking soldiers/marines/sailors/airmen at this problem.  It is horrific what is happening out there, yes.  But this is not the time for simple solutions like “kill them before they kill us.”  War is not, can never be a simple solution.

What I ask is that you, my individual readers out there, think before you make grandiose statements about this problem.  If you follow my guidelines and become a liar with a simple adjustment to 1st-person pronouns, maybe you should rethink posting it on the Facebook.  If the boots on the ground aren’t going to be your boots, then shut the f*ck up.

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15AM00000082011 · 08:44