Zombies, Aliens, and Congressmen

There’s been much speculation in the popular media as to how the long-awaited zombie apocalypse would begin. A virus? Bacteria? A new strain of rabies? Spores from a meteorite crashed to Earth? A plague introduced by aliens or a madman? A curse cast by a sanctimonious zealot? Divine retribution for some perceived sin? A super-top-secret government experiment gone awry?

Well, the government part is right, but who would ever think our dysfunctional Congress could ever create anything?

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Discover the real cause in “A Congressional Zombie Love Story” – the newest flash fiction piece in the Second Edition of my humorous horror e-book collection “Zombies and Aliens” on Amazon Kindle (Only 99 cents!). Also included: Adopt-A-Zombie.

The new edition should be available by this time tomorrow!

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Are Zombies Really Just Migraine Sufferers?

The dazed, glassy-eyed expression; the shuffling, rambling walk; the moaning. Sound familiar?  Yeah, Zombies. It also looks and sounds a lot like me in the throes of a migraine. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

But I’m not sure if it’s a coincidence that my interest in (dare I say fondness for) zombies happened to coincide with an increase in the frequency of my migraines. It also coincided with a resurgence in the zombie sub-genre of horror fiction. And thank goodness for that. I’d been waiting for the vampire sub-genre to die off and be replaced with something better (no offense to vampire lovers). How on earth can anyone who’s as pale as a frigging corpse be considered sexy?? Yuck!

I only know how disconnected I feel when a severe migraine strikes. Disconnected from what’s going around me (from humanity); and my brain disconnected from the rest of my body. Or rather, maybe I’m just wishing that my brain was disconnected from the rest of me. If it was, I could go about my day, accomplish the necessary tasks (my job, the grocery shopping, the visits to the veterinarian, etc.) while leaving my brain at home to wallow in its pain.

Instead I sometimes find myself a prisoner of my brain, the pain the center of my universe as it stabs through my head, radiating through one side or the other. It can even feel like it’s pulling my head apart, sometimes the left from the right, sometimes the top from the bottom. I can still remember my doctor’s expression when I described the pain as feeling like someone trying to saw off the top of my head (at the eyebrow level) with a semi-sharp spoon. He was probably thinking ‘brain tumor’ but didn’t say it, just sent me for a cat scan. (I hear Arnold Schwarzenegger saying “It’s not a tumor.”) Or lately, the pain is more likely to feel like it’s pulling one side of my face down, creating a bizarre numbness. I find myself poking my cheek, testing its sensitivity. I’ve even found myself in front of a mirror, checking out my face and doing the FAST Test (sometimes referred to as the Smile Test) to see if I’m having a stroke. BTW, those are symptoms everyone should know just in case you really are having a stroke.

When I’m watching a zombie movie like “Dawn of the Dead” or “World War ZImageor reading zombie fiction, like Brian Keene’s “The Rising,”Image I find myself picturing zombies as prisoners to their brains – the only body part still functioning, its errant and erratic signals jerking legs and arms into that shambling gait, pulling them ever forward in search for human flesh to consume. I find myself sympathizing with them, wondering if they’re just suffering from a really bad migraine. Maybe we could give them some medication instead of shooting them in the head? I know it makes me feel less of a zombie (after making me feel more like one for a while).

In the meantime, I don’t crave human flesh. Just a dark, quiet place to rest while my brain lives in its own zombie world, concocting new zombie ideas. (Soon to be found in the forthcoming second edition of my “Zombies and AliensImage e-book collection on Amazon Kindle.) And some new zombie fiction from other authors to read. Any suggestions? What are your favorites?

Chasing Shackleton

http://www.pbs.org/program/chasing-shackleton/

Just a quick and rare mid-week post to alert my readers that PBS is airing a three-part special “Chasing Shackleton” about a modern-day attempt to recreate the famous 1916 journey of Ernest Shackleton from Antarctica to South Georgia Island to effect the rescue of his stranded crew.

You can read more about “The Boss” in my earlier blog posting “A Toast to Sir Ernest Shackleton”

A fascinating look at what the typical Antarctic tourist will never experience!

I Lost on Jeopardy! (on-line test), baby, ooooh-aah-ooooh

Jeopardy! fans, anyone? Cue the Jeopardy! theme music. Can you hear it running through your brain now? (Will you be able to banish it from your thoughts? or will it haunt you for days like “It’s a Small World” after a visit to Disneyland? You’re welcome.)

Like many longtime viewers, I too have dreams of being a Jeopardy! champion. And have now taken the test three times. Try Number One was a few years ago, when they happened to be in San Francisco for in-person tests. I think I did fairly well, but they never tell you your score. They only announced the names of those who passed and the rest of us shuffled quietly out of the hotel conference room, hopes dashed. Out of approximately 60 of us, only 8 or 9 were asked to stay.

Some time after that they started doing on-line tests, so Try Number 2 was last year in the comfort of my home. (Kudos to whoever it was on the Jeopardy! team who came up with that idea!) Again, I think I did fairly well, with five questions in the “I definitely missed those” category and maybe a couple others.  Not only do they not tell you your score, they don’t even tell you if you passed, only that if you did pass you might get a call sometime in the next year to come audition. But, alas, no call came.

So last Thursday evening was Try Number 3. Even though I was again at home, I didn’t feel quite as relaxed as during previous attempts for whatever reason, and that showed in my test results, or maybe it was just the questions, but I definitely did not do as well as before. I missed eight questions that I know of, and probably 2 or 3 others. (Out of 50 questions, that’s one-fifth. Ugh.) I feel like Weird Al. And I don’t even get a year’s supply of Rice-a-Roni.

I suppose my brother and sister-in-law will have to disown me for not being able to name the current Broncos quarterback. Naturally I missed the Opera Question, and the President Question, and the Classical Musical Question. And while I’m usually good at word categories, like homophones, that one left me blank.

On the other hand, I sailed through the history questions, the geography questions, and quite a few others. The only Speaker of the House from California? Pelosi. The Sicilian volcano famous for eruptions? Etna. That desert in Chile? The Atacama (I remember that from my college courses in Archaeology.) The Mohs Scale measures what in minerals? Hardness (Introduction to Geology). The national park located in Utah which is the last alphabetically? Zion. Of the three rivers in Pittsburgh which is first alphabetically? The Allegheny.

I admit that last one threw me for a loop. Not the question. But my answer. I’ve never been to Pittsburgh. Never studied Pennsylvania. How did I know that? Maybe I heard it during a broadcast of a Pittsburgh Penguins hockey game. I don’t know.

That reminds me of a different Jeopardy! experience, many, many years ago, back when Alex Trebek still had his mustache. The clue had something to do with Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The correct response was “Who is Ophelia?” Sitting at home, a cat on my lap, I blurted it out with no hesitation. And then I stopped and thought to myself, How do I know that? I’ve never read Hamlet. I’ve never seen Hamlet. (This was prior to 1990, before Mel Gibson released his movie version.) And then I thought to myself, yes I have, many times, in innumerable repeats of Gilligan’s Island. Yes, you read that right, Gilligan’s Island, the 1960’s sitcom. In the third season, they aired “The Producer” with Phil Silvers guest starring as film producer Harold Hecuba, where the castaways staged a musical version of Hamlet to showcase Ginger’s talent, using dialogue from Shakespeare mixed with music from various operas.

Don’t ask me why that episode stuck so solidly in my memory. But it must be why, when I see more current movies like Pixar’s “Up!” and you’re enjoying the overture from Bizet’s “Carmen” in that one scene, I’m hearing Alan Hale Jr. sing “Neither a borrower nor a lender be.” 

Hopefully, on Try Number 4, that bit of trivia may again come in handy. Or, who knows, by the time I pass the test I’ll be old enough to qualify for the senior’s tournament. Either way, I will keep trying. And hope I don’t get eliminated from the contestant list like I did in late 2002 from “Win Ben Stein’s Money.” I was all set, selected for the last day of taping (late October, if I remember correctly), when I got an apologetic phone call from the producers announcing they had to randomly choose three contestants from that last day per an order from Comedy Central. Our replacements? The geeks from the short-lived “Beat the Geeks” in a network publicity stunt. Seriously? “Beat the Geeks” sucked and didn’t last much longer anyway, making the whole gimmick pointless. (We unlucky three were promised to be brought back the following season, but the show got cancelled.) Thanks, Comedy Central, for nothing!

To be (a Jeopardy! contestant) or not to be, that is the question I ask of me. Yes. If you, too, have taken the test once, twice, thrice (or more) with no luck, keep trying. Maybe we’ll face off against each other on national television. May whoever has the most seemingly useless trivia stuck in their brain – and can hit that button fastest – win.

Can you now hear Bob Denver singing “To be or not to be” on endless loops through your brain? You’re welcome.

A Hole in my Soul

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A year ago today, in the dark chill of a January morning, a piece of my soul was forever ripped away. After a few gasps for air with lungs rapidly shutting down, Turtle’s limbs relaxed and she was gone. I knew that she was, but I denied it, continuing to lay there with my beloved cat on my chest. I told myself that the gentle rise and fall I felt was her breath, not mine. But soon her body began to stiffen and chill like the winter air. I couldn’t ignore the truth any longer. It was time to drive her to the veterinary clinic and hand her off for delivery to the crematorium. I wrapped her in a towel and, as undignified as it was, I put her in a box. I couldn’t bear the thought of returning home with an empty cat carrier in my hand as I’ve done in years past.

Turtle is, of course, not the first pet I’ve lost, but the hardest to lose. She was my soulmate and I miss her still. I think of those last few days, of the joy of having her with me for one last Christmas and one last New Year’s. But I also reflect on what I could have done to make her passage easier. I knew that she was ready to go on Friday, the 4th. I could tell. It’s something you come to learn as a pet owner. But I needed to go to the office. I vowed that I would only work a partial day and get back as quickly as possible. But that didn’t quite happen. I wasn’t able to escape until close to the end of the day, giving me only an extra hour to spend with her. And the vet closes early on Fridays. Selfishly, I did not rush to take her in for euthanasia because I wasn’t ready to say goodbye. I told myself she’d make it through the night.

But as I lay awake with her, holding her on my chest, I knew she wouldn’t. Turtle suffered through two seizures before the end came. While I doubt she was aware of much after the first seizure (maybe even before), I too suffered watching her, feeling her little body tremble and thrash. I begged her to let go and slip away; I told her it was okay to go to kitty heaven, to join Indy & Marian & Annie & Fluffy. But I still watched the clock tick away the minutes for nearly an hour before those final gasps for air came on January 5, 2013.

ImageSo tonight I light a candle for her memory, and I look through her photo album at her kitten pictures, and I choose to remember her healthy and happy, draped across my face sound asleep. And I remember those little moments I wish I’d caught on film like when Turtle was a wee little furball, and she came bounding across the room like a rubber ball, bounced off the coffee table, bounced off the sofa, and bounced right past my head and up on to the window screen, her tiny claws latched on tight. She hung there for a moment, looking around, and then started screaming her little head off. It took me a couple minutes to peel her off the screen.

Thank you, Turtle, for 16 years of love. Can you feel my tears?