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January 24, 2012

January is Zombie Month
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 12:10 AM * 61 comments

If you do it twice, it’s a tradition!

Following the shamblerun-away success of Zombies On My Shoulder and Dead On Arrival….

When nibbeling on brainstems and men’s eyes
Such nourishment betrays uneasy state:
Not dead, nor living, summoned by the cries
Of those whose hearts beat yet, bewailing fate
Which makes them prey to us, who lack all hope.
Perhaps we are ensorcelled, or possess’d
By demons who can have no further scope
Than tempt despair, of all our sins the least,
And waken in our minds our own despising.
We were the same as you, of mortal state,
Once buried and once mourned, arising
To shamble through the lich-yard’s rusting gate.
We eat of meats unclean; one truth that brings:
A poor man’s offal tastes the same as king’s.

Comments on January is Zombie Month:
#1 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2012, 12:34 AM:

Brains brains brains brains brains,
Brains BRAINS!

(and for dessert, brains)

#2 ::: JDC ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2012, 02:58 AM:

Meet the Zombeatles! (If you're ever in Madison, the Gomers are excellent.)

#3 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2012, 05:16 AM:

And if you've done it three times, it's been that way always?

Scrambled brains on toast, anyone?

#4 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2012, 06:48 AM:

Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, and three times . . .

#5 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2012, 07:19 AM:

Jim shakes a spear at zombies. I would seek a dry den wherein to hide out.

Zombies and such, I sing, who forc'd by fate
And noble Erzulie's continued hate
Expelled and exiled, fled the Haitian shore.
Long time at sea and many storms they bore
And in the doubtful time before they won
Into our land and entered our poor town
They haunted many lands and ate such meats
As fallen armies leave on their defeats.
This truth I tell you, and my pious strains
May serve as warning 'fore their cry of "Brains!"

#6 ::: Megpie71 ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2012, 07:43 AM:

It's definitely not cold weather over here in Perth, Western Australia (we're heading into a heatwave - at least seven solid days of temperatures around the 40C mark; Saturday is forecast to have a maximum of 42C). This made me think about the challenges facing any enterprising horde of zombies who decided to snack out on Aussie brains over here in the next week or so.

Naturally enough, the first consideration would be fly-strike and other insect attack. The average Aussie blowfly is a tenacious little critter, and a parade of zombies lurching down the road would be a prime target not only for the blowies, but also for the bullants. It's highly likely that an Australian zombie would be detectable by the buzzing noise of a swarm of insects tucking in long before the characteristic cry of "braaaaains" became audible.

So, number one note for Aussie zombie masters: don't forget the Aerogard[1]. This probably goes double for Aussie zombie hunters.

Next up would be the consideration that, should your zombie horde survive the insect barrage, they're rather prone to dehydration. While brains are relatively high in water content, they're not exactly going to make up for a solid twelve-hour barrage of very strong sunshine. It's therefore likely that a zombie under Australian conditions would rapidly reach a condition of dessication, and possibly near-mummified conditions. At this point, they'd be far more susceptible to such menaces as fire.

Note number two: ensure your zombie minions keep well away from the barbecue.

A third major consideration is the well-known Australian tendency to drink to excess given the slightest provocation (or indeed no provocation whatsoever). This tendency, combined with the well-known effects of alcohol on brain matter, means that an Australian zombie is more than likely to be suffering from the detrimental effects of extreme malnutrition, particularly during summer when alcohol intake among the expected prey population increases sharply.

Note number three: target "alcohol-free" social events and festivals, for the best chance of successfully feeding your zombie minions and thus avoiding them turning upon you and rending you limb from limb. Also, don't drink and raise the undead.

Quite frankly, zombies really aren't suited, by and large, to the mainly hot and dry conditions of the Australian climate. They're tropical creatures, best raised in rainforest and jungle. For Australian conditions, I'd suggest going for the old favourite: skeletal warriors. All you'll need is a bag of dragon's teeth, obtainable at this time of year from your nearest celebration of the Chinese New Year. Sow these in any reasonably fertile piece of soil, and recruit them as they pop up.

[1] Aerogard - popular brand of insect repellent.

#7 ::: JDC ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2012, 08:39 AM:

I mentioned the Zonmbeatles earlier but it was a very short comment with an embedded link and went to moderation. I'm guessing such pithiness ran afoul of the spam filter. So use your favourite search engine if you're inclined to learn more!

#8 ::: JDC ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2012, 08:39 AM:

Whoops. That's Zombeatles. No "n".

#9 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2012, 08:41 AM:

Megpie's post started me wondering what the effect on flies would be of consuming zombie flesh and/or being hatched out in it. Zombie flies? How would they be different from regular flies? A proclivity for biting people on the head? Special trephining mouthparts?

#10 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2012, 09:15 AM:

Without some defense against being eaten by insects and microbes, zombies would disintegrate within a few days, so I think we have to assume zombies are very hard to eat. The tricky part is that whatever defense they have, outside of magic, will probably be susceptible to something, in a world where microbes live in deep sea vents, hot springs, nuclear reactors, salt lakes, inside rocks in the desert, in permafrost, in ice-covered lakes in antartica, etc. I visualize an ending to the zombie apocalypse that parallels the ending of the War of the Worlds--some bug suddenly discovers that its former niche of lukewarm acidic saltwater has now started shambling across the land and is available everywhere, and the zombies start coming apart before our eyes.

#11 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2012, 09:19 AM:


Perhaps there's a progression of some sort? The larval stage is mummies, then they become zombies for their adult life cycle, and a few survive long enough to become skelitons? Alternatively, maybe it's like trees moving into a recently burned down forest--first come the zombies, then werewolves take over their niche, and skelitons are the climax species?

#12 ::: Duncan Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2012, 11:16 AM:

Trying (veinly) to wrest the conversation back to its original purpose:

Thy bosom is engorged with all rotting flesh,
Which I by chewing have created dead,
And there grows slime and all the bodies rotting parts,
Of all the friends which I thought buried.
How many a whole and porous lung
Hath dead yet moving fingers stol'n from mine corpse
As interest of the dead, which now appear
But things swallow'd that hidden in thee lie!
Thou art the grave where eated love doth moulder,
Hung with the braaaainss of all my lovers gone,
Who all their parts of me to thee did feed;
That due of many now is thine alone:
Their braaaains I chewed and bit in thee,
And thou, and they, hast all the all of me.

#13 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2012, 12:02 PM:

Megpie71 #6: Well, the idea of zombies (let alone skeletons) pretty well buggers the rules for small-scale biology anyway -- not only should long-dead muscles not be functional (for one thing, where are they getting their energy?), but living muscles have their fibers continuously replaced, because they wear out with use. The Romero thing of them eating brains makes even less sense biologically (digestive tract? bloodstream?). One can only guess that any biomass entering them is magically incorporated into the overall construct; presumably this would also include unwary insects and the like.

Of course, if your "zombies" are just mind-controlled and/or berserked (but living) humans, most of that goes away, but so does a lot of the ultimate terror -- they may keep coming even after being wounded, but massive bloodloss will kill them (no headshot needed), and forget about being chased by disconnected limbs....

(As for skeletons... what force is moving those unmuscled bones? And why is it limited to their original anatomy, instead of, say, a lethal whirlwind of bone shards?)

#14 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2012, 12:31 PM:

The characteristic feature of the Australian ecosystem is that everything wants to bite (or sting, or scratch) you, so you do wonder how long the zombies would last.

#16 ::: Chaz Brenchley ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2012, 01:29 PM:

"A poor man's offal tastes the same as king's."

I'm not really sure that's true, y'know. Consider foie gras: I'm fairly sure a royal diet makes for better liver.

#17 ::: Rob Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2012, 02:13 PM:


Brains of fooools!

(which are mighty tasty I'm sure)

#18 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2012, 02:24 PM:

O fragrant flesh, beside my tomb
You wander freely through the gloom
And think you're safe among the dead
With those sweet brains still in your head.

You turn your back, and I arise
And look on you with rotten eyes
But then you hear my hungry moans
And see the flesh hang from my bones.

You scream in panic, run away
While all around the graveyard sway
The revenants, in shambling race,
Converging on your hiding place.

And when we find you crouching there
We seize your ankles, wrists and hair.
We bite your flesh, we chew your veins
And then at last, we eat your brains.

And when the feasting time is done
You rise again, and we are one:
The eaten eat, the victims stalk
We shamble where we once did walk.

Remember, man, as you pass by:
As you are, once was I;
As I am, you're to be,
Lurching through eternity.

(To the tune of Look on and Cry)

#19 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2012, 02:36 PM:

Roses are red.
Violets are blue.
My cat is dead.
Me she will chew.

#20 ::: Rob Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2012, 03:32 PM:

Also I am very fond of Lord Invader's "Zombie Jamboree" (circa 1953) as performed by the Kingston Trio on Live at the Hungry I....

#21 ::: rescdsk ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2012, 04:39 PM:

I saw a zombie yestereen. I put brains in the eating-place, blood in the drinking-place, and screams in the listening-place. And in the name of hunger, he ate myself and my house, my cattle, and my dear ones. And the lark said in her song, "'Brains, brains, brains,' goes the zombie in the stranger's guise."

#22 ::: Megpie71 ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2012, 05:17 PM:

Albatross @11 - I think you might have the first two stages the wrong way around - zombies are the larval stage, then mummies for pupating (makes sense, with all that wrapping) and finally they emerge as skeletons for their adult lifespan.

#23 ::: thomas ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2012, 05:32 PM:

Armi virumque cano

#24 ::: lee Thomson ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2012, 05:35 PM:

Zombies eat braaains.
They ride on traaains.
They sing in the raaains.
They make steady gaaains (while lurching and staggering) going after their prey down sweet country laaanes.

Zombies prefer Claude Raaains over other leading men, although Michael Caaaine is more recent.
And they will watch Tarzan but only for Jaaane.

They can read too - sometimes they will look for a western from Zaaane Graaay.

#25 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2012, 06:54 PM:

Dibs on "Let me not to consumption of true minds admit impediment" (but I may not get to it for a couple of days, so I'll understand if someone runs with it).

#26 ::: Randall M ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2012, 08:08 PM:

David Harmon #13

The Romero thing of them eating brains makes even less sense biologically

Romero Zombies never ate brains.

#27 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2012, 09:48 PM:

Randall M #26: wait, where did the brains thing come from then? I thought that was Romero....

So confused....

#28 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2012, 10:34 PM:

Serge Broom #19: Oh yeah, Sluggy Freelance is currently doing a "Zombienom" sub-arc where a rogue game app is turning animals (apparently not people) into zombies. (Link is to the beginning of the "Safehouse" arc, which leads into this.)

#29 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2012, 11:47 PM:

The "brains" thing comes from Return of the Living Dead (1985).

#30 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2012, 02:06 AM:

Munching and munching on the cingulate gyrus
The zombie cannot hear the bokor;
Bodies fall apart; the spine cannot hold;
Cerebrospinal fluid is dripped on the ground,
The blood-tinged tide is loosed, and everywhere
The mythology of necromancy is found;
The dead lack all affliction, while the undead
Are full of hungering density.

Surely some devolution is at hand;
Surely the Zombie Apocalypse is at hand.
The Zombie Apocalypse! Hardly are those words out
When a summer blockbuster out of Image Ten
Comes to my screen: a waste of good film;
A corpse with cankered body eats the head of a man,
Decays, rank, disfigured, fair to none,
Are moving on its slow thighs, while all about it
Crawl shadows of the indulging zombie hoards.
The munching starts again but now I know
That many columns of the marching dead
Were waxed to fragments by a roaring shotgun,
And what rugose beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Allentown to be fed?

#31 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2012, 09:20 AM:

Rob Thornton @20: I prefer the Harry Belafonte version, but it's a great song.

Also, staring in AWE at the top-level post. I've been spending a lot of time with the original sonnet lately (I used it to open a fanfic) and... just wow.

#32 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2012, 09:23 AM:

Jim #29: Ahh, I see.

tl;dr for others: Night of the Living Dead was made by George Romero and John Russo, who then split up, each making their own series of zombie movies. Romero, of course, went on to do Dawn of the Dead (et seq.). Russo had rights to the "Living Dead" titles, but chose a director who wanted to differentiate the new movies from NotLD, yielding the several Return of the Living Dead movies.

#33 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2012, 10:17 AM:

Rob Thornton #20/Rikibeth #31: That should be "Jumbie Jamboree". Ghosts and revenant spirits in Trinidad being "jumbies", not zombies.

Allsopp defines jumbie, inter alia, as synonymous with duppy (Cassidy orthography: dopi), and provides an etymology which states that the word is probably of Bantu origin and that in the Kongo-Ngola group of languages clearly ancestral words mean "God" and "Devil".

As the Trinidadian folk song has it:

A me one a walk a road,
Jumbie O!
Jumbie come an' knock me down.

#34 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2012, 11:38 AM:

Bruce Cohen @ 30:

Oh dear! "Zombie hoards"? Srsly? It was late at night, and the words were sneaking around, whispering mischievously to each other and betting that I wouldn't recognize them if they switched places when I called them.

"Zombie hordes"! There. that's you put in your place, you little devil!

#35 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2012, 11:44 AM:

Fragano, the song available when I was growing up was definitely Zombie Jamboree. Apparently somebody changed it from Jumbie along the way somewhere. Jumbies actually make more sense in the song.

lee Thompson @24: And yarn zombies want skeeeeeeins. (I did a whole series of those Yarn Zombies earrings; they've all found their homes by now.)

#36 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2012, 01:20 PM:

elise #35: I presume that the name got changed for the US market, zombies being well-known up here by then.

For your delectation, and everyone else's:

#37 ::: Bill ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2012, 01:36 PM:

When I consider how my life was spent,
Timid and weak in this dark world and wide,
And how, so strong, so fearless since I died
And turned into a zombie, solely bent
On eating brains unto my heart’s content,
I can express my more aggressive side.
“Am I then better off, my life denied?”
I fondly ask; but others, to prevent
Such rumination, say “what zombies need
Is brains and brains and more brains to ingest.
Our undead hunger no amount can sate.
A thousand zombies, lurching out to feed,
And never pausing even to digest
Do not need introspection. Grab a plate.”

#38 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2012, 02:00 PM:

Bill @ 37:

"Do not need introspection. Grab a plate."

Nice. Just goes to prove that the examined unlife is not living.

#39 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2012, 03:40 PM:

Bruce Cohen #38: 8888888888888

#40 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2012, 04:43 PM:

Bruce Cohen StM @34 -- what would a zombie hoard? Brains? Would s/he be able to resist them long enough to accumulate a collection? Where would s/he keep them, what with all the restless shambling and lack of permanent address?

#41 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2012, 08:21 PM:

Fragano, wow, that sounds a lot different. Thanks!

#42 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2012, 07:38 AM:

Elise #41: It's a lot different than the original (ska rather than calypso, for one thing, and Peter Tosh rather than Lord Beginner as lead vocals).

#43 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2012, 08:57 AM:

Debbie @ #40:

Oh, I thought a "zombie hoard" was something one had in reserve, should one need to unleash a horde of undead on someone.

#44 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2012, 11:06 AM:

Jacque @#15


#45 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2012, 06:15 PM:

Did you know that there's a game called Zombies versus Humans? Invented at Goucher college in 2005, it is described as a game of moderated tag, where one side are human and the other zombies.

Games often last a week, so there is lots of fun to be had dodging zombies inbetween classes. The zombies wear a headband in bright colours, the humans have it as an armband. The idea is that the humans stun the zombies with rolled up socks or nerf darts, and the zombies are stunned for a set time, usually 15 minutes. Because the games last so long you might have 200 humans and 5 original zombies, then over several days more and more humans get tagged by zombies until by the last day 10 humans are trying to fight off 150 zombies, and usually die trying. According to some people it is a game for both jocks and nerds, with fast running zombies and humans armed with modified nerf machine guns. (Only they prefer the word blaster because obviously people are worried about guns on campus)

The humans usually have missions to do, like escort the scientist or get to the helipad to be airlifted out. This ensure they don't just camp up in a dormitory for days on end.

It looks quite fun and a bit scary. Even better it seems that foam firing blasters have improved a lot since I was a child.

#46 ::: Nicole Fitzhugh ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2012, 09:27 PM:

Bruce Cohen @30:
Thank you.

#47 ::: John M. Burt ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2012, 11:03 PM:

I will go back and read all the comments later, but first: has anybody else mentioned the fact that the zombies of legend are submissive and tractable and reliable workers, who if they ever taste meat will go bury themselves?

That, IOW, movie zombies are pretty much the exact opposite of "real" zombies?

#48 ::: John M. Burt ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2012, 11:37 PM:

And let's not forget the contribution made to zombie lore by Commander USA and Folksinger Frank:

#49 ::: ctate ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2012, 12:18 AM:

This is just to say

I have eaten
the brains
that were in
your skull

and which
you were probably
not expecting
to be a repast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so soft
and not yet cold

#50 ::: ctate ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2012, 12:54 AM:

John M. Burt @ 47:

That is awesome and I would appreciate citations with which to convince my skeptical orkers.

#51 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2012, 02:01 AM:

ctate @50 -- William Seabrook has a good book that has much of that in it, IIRC. Older style zombies would also go back to their graves if fed salt. Doesn't make it that hard to get rid of them. They were used as plantation workers. If you're a Carl Barks fan, there was an Uncle Scrooge that featured the older style of zombie that Gladstone reprinted -- Voodoo Hoodoo, I think, was the title....

#53 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2012, 09:53 AM:

The GIS system I work with has zombie records. They were retired, but someone touched them (probably by mistake) and they came back. We have threatened people with having their brains eaten if they do anything with a zombie record....

#54 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2012, 10:33 AM:

guthire @45: Zombies versus Humans? Invented at Goucher College

I knew my alma mater would be good for something! Since most students live on campus, it's a great place to play a game like that.

#55 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2012, 11:02 AM:

And in honor of Warren Zevon...

I saw a zombie with a Chinese menu in his hand
Shambling through the streets of Soho in the rain
He was looking for a place called Lee Ho Fook's
Going to get a big dish of brain chow mein
Zombies of London

If you hear him shambling around your kitchen door
Better not let him in
Little old lady got masticated late last night
Zombies of London again
Zombies of London

They're the scary lurching gents who ran amuck in Kent
Lately they've been overrunning Mayfair
Better stay away from them
They'll suck your brains out, Jim
They'd like to decerebrate your tailor
Zombies of London

Well, I saw Lon Chaney noshing on the Queen
Doing the zombies of London
I saw Lon Chaney, Jr. noshing on the Queen
Doing the zombies of London
I saw a zombie drinking a bloody Mary at Trader Vic's
His teeth were rotten
Zombies of London again
Eat braaaaainz

#56 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2012, 12:34 PM:

I like the Zombie Jamboree by these guys...

And then there's this, though I'm afraid the book wasn't as good as the trailer, alas.

#57 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2012, 12:42 PM:

Debbie #52 - that seems to be partly what Hvz games end up as - humans running like crazy from zombie hordes, so before the game you need to be a bit fit.

Ginger #54 - that's cool. Certainly one of the more unusual ways of making a college famous, but a good way to keep the students amused.

#58 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2012, 11:50 PM:

Zombies are so much the in thing these days. Heck, I even saw something in the craft store that was zombie-related—and not for Halloween. (Facebook photo of a crocheting magazine.)

#59 ::: John M. Burt ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2012, 02:02 PM:

ctate @50, here are some citations on zombie diet:

#61 ::: David DeLaney ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2012, 02:15 AM:

I'm just surprised nobody yet has mentioned what vegetarian zombies crave...


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