Tuesday, August 31, 2010 August Zombie Round-Up

Whiz-banging around the intertubes is the length preview trailer for AMC's upcoming series based on Image Comic's The Walking Dead. Early promo stills had me excited, and the preview just stokes the flames.

If the series is only half as good as the comics, it's going to kick ass. I keep up with Robert Kirkman's zombie opus via trade paperback collection, and I swear I tear through each new volume in mere minutes, rushing through the pages in an anxious desire to find out what horrible thing happens next. I expect - and hope - that the television series will carve its own path and eventually stray from the on-going plot of the book. As long as AMC preserves the mood and nail-biting tension of the source material, I'll be happy.


While The Walking Dead may be unique on traditional television, the 'net is crawling with zombie web series. Most are amateur affairs, long on enthusiasm but short on production values (and all too often, talent). So a professional joint like Universal Dead really stands out from the pack; even though it's budget probably wouldn't cover catering for a Tom Cruise film, it looks great and features a couple of actors you might actually recognize. The downside? Chapters are short and are apparently released on a sluggish bi-monthly schedule. The first installment is below, and you can catch up with the rest via the link above.


Social commentary in zombie flicks ain't nothing new - Fido, Deadgirl, Homecoming, and of course Romero's pioneering works. The latest in this vein is a Spanish-Cuban production called Juan of the Dead. As the title suggests, it's a comedy. A slacker named Juan decides to profit from an undead uprising by selling his services as a zombie killer. Wackiness ensues. Expect a third-act epiphany that leads to Juan abandoning his capitalist ways in order to defend his family and country. Oh, and there's a rumor I totally believe that Fidel himself has a cameo. As a zombie.

Sneak peeks like the one above (more are available on YouTube) have not been very enticing, but it is cool to see a zombie movie coming from such unexpected quarters. The unique viewpoint may make Juan of the Dead worth checking out. I mean, it can't be any worse than Zombies of Mass Destruction.


And finally, thanks to RPG.NET, I have been made aware of a site selling custom zombie marital aids. The sellers also offer models inspired by Cthulhu and Alien. We can only hope they are being purchased for their conversational value and not for any practical use.

Monday, August 30, 2010 British Museum Mystery

From the BBC:
British Museum alert will remain mystery

29 August 2010 Last updated at 08:58 ET

The British Museum has reopened after a suspected noxious substance left visitors with irritated eyes and throats, as managers admitted the cause of the scare will remain a mystery.At least 8,000 people were evacuated from the British Museum on Saturday after what was described as a "gas" incident.

Police and the fire brigade moved in but have been unable to identify the cause.

Nobody was injured during the incident.

A British Museum spokeswoman said: "The fire brigade conducted a full search but could not find anything.

"They declared the site safe and handed back control of the museum at 5pm."

She continued: "The answer won't ever be known for sure.

"It was just a strange one-off incident."

A London Fire Brigade spokesman said: "When we arrived we used our equipment to carry out very extensive checks.

"We were there for about four hours. But we did not get any readings."

The spokesman added: "People may well have smelt something but it dispersed before we got there."
Mass panics are nothing new, though most reports we get these days typically involve schoolgirls and/or the developing world. There was a case in the US a couple of years back where a spritz of perfume set off fears of gas attacks, and I wonder if a similar cause wasn't at work here as well.

On the other hand, this is exactly the kind of thing a brilliant criminal mastermind might engineer if he needed some alone time with an exhibit. No fatalities means no follow-up investigation, so you can swap out some rare artifact with a cunning copy or resurrect the mummy of the Princess of Amen-Ra without anyone being the wiser. At least until you're marching your army of animated terracotta soldiers down Victoria Embankment.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010 Water Sucks

I was affected by the flooding that hit Chicago's western suburbs last month. Lost a couple grand worth of trade paperbacks, all my RPG magazines and many games (including full runs of Feng Shui and Underground and my Mayfair/DC Who's Who binders), and my radio-controlled Dalek. Oh, and I will probably have to buy all new furniture. While many other folks suffered far greater losses, it was still a heart-rendering moment for this geek.

The apartment has been cleaned and repaired, so I'll be moving back in this weekend. And maybe posting more.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010 Zombie Justice!

Once the undead start lawyering up, we're all doomed. From Monday's Star-Tribune:
Minneapolis will pay $165,000 to zombies

Minneapolis will pay seven people who were jailed after a street theater protest.
By RANDY FURST, Star Tribune
Last update: August 23, 2010 - 12:20 AM

The Minneapolis city attorney's office has decided to pay seven zombies and their attorney $165,000.

The payout, approved by the City Council on Friday, settles a federal lawsuit the seven filed after they were arrested and jailed for two days for dressing up like zombies in downtown Minneapolis on July 22, 2006, to protest "mindless" consumerism.

When arrested at the intersection of Hennepin Avenue and 6th Street N., most of them had thick white powder and fake blood on their faces and dark makeup around their eyes. They were walking in a stiff, lurching fashion and carrying four bags of sound equipment to amplify music from an iPod when they were arrested by police who said they were carrying equipment that simulated "weapons of mass destruction."

However, they were never charged with any crime.

Although U.S. District Judge Joan Ericksen had dismissed the zombies' lawsuit, it was resurrected in February by a three-judge panel of the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which concluded that police lacked probable cause to arrest the seven, a decision setting the stage for a federal trial this fall. The settlement means there will be no trial.

"I feel great that the city is being held accountable for the actions of their police," said Raphi Rechitsky, 27, of Minneapolis, one of the seven zombies, who said he and his friends were performing street theater when they were arrested. He is a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at the University of Minnesota.

Minneapolis City Attorney Susan L. Segal said it was in the best interests of the city to settle. "We believe the police acted reasonably, but you never know what a jury is going to do with a case," she said.

If a jury had concluded that the seven plaintiffs' constitutional rights had been violated and awarded $50,000 to each, plus defense attorney's fees, "it could have been quite substantial," Segal said.

The four men and three women, all of whom lived in the Twin Cities at the time, were playing the role of zombies to illustrate their belief that people buy and rely on new products "as a replacement for real interaction," said Rechitsky.
More at the link. I like how the protesters are almost never referred to as anything other than "zombies" throughout the story.

Sunday, August 22, 2010 Real Life Supervillains Suck #2

From the August 18th edition of the Peninsula Daily News of Port Angeles, Washington:
Deputies arrest man in banana costume with shotgun

By Paige Dickerson
August 18. 2010

PORT ANGELES -- A man in a child's banana costume and a friend were arrested after a string of events led Clallam County Sheriff's deputies to corner their car on Old Olympic Highway on Tuesday evening.

Carlton Jeffery Kohnert, 21, who is apparently in the Marine Reserve, was arrested for investigation of reckless endangerment, aiming or discharging a weapon and indecent exposure, said Clallam County Sheriff's Sgt. Randy Pieper.

Police believe Kohnert -- fully costumed in the yellow banana costume -- exposed himself to a woman at the Port Angeles Wendy's restaurant and drove through Four Seasons Ranch brandishing a shotgun.

Anthony Marks Maybury, 21, was arrested for investigation of reckless endangerment.

An 18-year-old woman was in the car with them, but Pieper did not name her because she was not arrested nor is she thought to be involved in any crimes.

"The banana costume has been seized and put into evidence," Pieper said.

"[Kohnert] couldn't really tell us why he was in the costume.

"All we know is he was drinking earlier in the day, but he didn't really have a reason for the costume."

The Port Angeles Police Department received the first report about a costumed man at about 6 p.m., after he was seen at Wendy's, Pieper said.

After leaving Wendy's in a Dodge Stratus, Kohnert -- the costumed man -- and Maybury drove to Saar's Market on U.S. Highway 101 on the east side of Port Angeles, Pieper said.

"They then were called in for a car doing a burnout -- in other words pulling 360s in the Saar's Market parking lot," Pieper said.

"They did not, it appears, get out at Saar's, though."

After leaving Port Angeles, the group made a stop at Four Seasons Ranch, where Kohnert -- still dressed in the banana costume -- got out, brandished a shotgun and began yelling, Pieper said.

"We believe he was yelling something or other about white supremacy," Pieper said.

The group then left and drove east on Highway 101 again.

State Patrol troopers and Clallam County Sheriff's Office deputies followed the car, which turned off onto Old Olympic Highway, where another deputy was driving from the east, Pieper said.

The car stopped at about 6:15 p.m. and the occupants got out. The costumed man, holding a shotgun, released the weapon when told to put it down, Pieper said.

Investigators are awaiting a warrant to search the car. They could see two empty shotgun shells in the passenger seat, Pieper said.

"At this point, though, we have absolutely no reports of any shots fired," he said.

"And he denies that it was loaded at any time, so those might not be related."
There was absolutely no art to this rampage at all. The Banana Bandit utterly failed as a supervillain because he utterly failed to properly incorporate his fruit motif.

1) No Banana-Themed Crimes. Granted, it's easier to work with some themes more than others. Clock King can heist Rolexs between major gigs, various holidays provide easy inspiration for the Calendar Man, and there's always something feline-related for Catwoman to snag. But if the Signal Man can pull off a fifty-year career, there's no excuse for this guy to not even try. Maybe he's not ready for something major like kidnapping Bob Dole, but why not knock over a Banana Republic? At the very least, work the motif into your robbery patter: "What's long and yellow and holds up liquor stores? A banana with a shotgun!"

2) No Banana-Themed Equipment. Of course, it's unreasonable to expect a beginner to start out wielding a banana-shaped deathray. But using banana peels to trip pursuing policeman is a no-brainer. And it's not like there isn't gear out there that's appropriate right off the shelf:

3) No Banana-Themed Henchmen. Would it have killed his buddy to wear, I dunno, a yellow track suit and black beret? And I'm betting that the woman they were with was not named "Chiquita". You know what would make awesome minions for the Banana Bandit? Trained monkeys! With a little financial backing, he could be rocking something like this:

Trust me, a guy with a fleet of chimp-guided banana tanks is not gonna meet a gratuitous death in some stupid crossover event!

4) Lame Costume. Freddie Mercury did it much more stylishly.

So yeah, the Banana Bandit sucks and real-life supervillains continue to disappoint.