Thursday, October 28, 2010

Recording Debut on Forgotten Classics

In my spare time I managed to record a couple of Grimm's Fairy Tales for one of my favorite podcasts, Forgotten Classics. Check out my recording at this post. It was a lot of fun to do and I will be recording some more in the future. Check out the podcast too, there's lots of great content. She is currently reading a recent translation of the Book of Genesis and has great stuff like The Riddle of the Sands and Uncle Tom's Cabin in her audio archives.

Movie Review: Dead Snow (2009)

Dead Snow (2009)

MPAA rating

Unrated, I guess since it was a foreign film that barely got released in the USA. I heard about it from BBC film reviewer Mark Kermode a long time ago, and finally watched it through Netflix's on demand queue.

ZPAA rating

Late teens and up

Gore level

9 out of 10--Lots of people being torn to pieces on screen; plenty of intestines and one human brain make appearances; people never bother to wash off blood splatter; the bad guys ooze dark, blood-like liquid from their pale gray orifices, but otherwise aren't too gory for the walking undead. Except when they lose limbs or are otherwise torn up by the living.

Other offensive content

Lots of bad language and violence; one non-marital sex scene without nudity.

How much zombie mythology/content

This movie is all over the place about the zombies. Sure, they are the reanimated corpses of Nazi soldiers from World War II. They eat their victims when they can. But, even when they bite people, no one ever turns into a zombie. And they are pretty intelligent in attacking and can run like a normal person. They follow the orders of the Nazi commander (there is a cool scene where he screams "Arise!" and hundreds of Nazis pop up out of the snow). And they're just as interested in getting back their gold as they are in killing and eating.

How much fun

The movie seems to be intended as a comedy horror, though the jokes don't really start till a third of the way through the film. Even then, the humor is a little lame and mostly gross out gags. They references to other films are entertaining but didn't sustain my interest. This isn't Shaun of the Dead or Evil Dead II by any stretch.

Synopsis & Review

This movie has a fabulous premise: Nazi zombies. Eight medical students head to a cabin in the middle of a snowy Easter break for fun and frivolity. The first night, an old guy drifts through and relates as creepily as he can how haunted the mountains are, especially since a Nazi troop had terrorized the nearby town, stole everything of value from the town and was eventually driven off by the disgruntled townfolk. Presumably the Nazis froze to death in the mountains but strange tales abide and no one stay on the mountains for long if they can help it. This old coot then heads out into the snowy darkness leaving the other to sort out what to do. They then find Nazi gold hidden in the crawlspace under the house, which brings on the undead Nazi mayhem as they come to get their gold back.

I'm certainly willing to forgive a film that has a hackneyed set-up (the characters even discuss that the "cabin in the woods" beginning has been used countless times in horror movies). As long as the movie rewards the viewer with inventive twists or clever writing or characters you feel invested in or interesting visuals or some other worthwhile payoff. Certainly Nazi zombies should allow for a lot of creative license and fun playing around, which could make up for uninteresting characters, predictable twists and a nearly complete lack of visual flair. Unfortunately, all of these faults are in the movie AND they do more or less nothing with the Nazi aspect of the zombies. Sure, there's the awkward joke about how the zombies wouldn't turn one of the guys into a zombie because he's half Jewish. And the zombies have Swastikas on their costumes and WWII weapons. That's it. It could just have easily been an undead Attila with a bunch of zombie Huns running around trying to get back their gold. Only the uniforms and the weapons would be different. Even as zombies, they are unsatisfying, as I said above.

So I can't recommend the movie, unless you're into just the gore, which I don't really enjoy. I'm not even going to post an Amazon link at the end. Yeah, it's so bad I would be ashamed to make money off of it. I will post the trailer, though, if you are desperate to see more:

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Safest Place to Hide from Zombies

A zombie attack on the nation's capital was narrowly averted on Tuesday, October 26, 2010. The zombies arrived by bus at the Lincoln Memorial but were quickly repulsed by the US Park Police. See the Washington Post story and video here. It seems the zombies didn't have a permit to assemble on a national park like the National Mall. They were perfectly free to swarm over a nearby subway station.

Who knew that the safest place from zombies isn't an isolated, boarded up house or an underground bunker or even a shopping mall, but a National Park? Here's hoping you have a national park near you (check for the nearest one at their web site) and that it is well stocked with park police. And hoping that the zombies forget their permit to visit the park.

Hat tip to sister Regina for emailing the article.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Zombie Review: The Walking Dead, Book Two

The Walking Dead, Book 2

See previous reviews of Trade Paperback 1 and TP 2. You might be confused to see this review of Book 2, instead of TP 3 or Book 3. Well, the Howard County Library, in its infinite wisdom, decided to buy hard cover editions of The Walking Dead 3 and 4. The only problem with this scheme is that each hard cover edition has the content from two paperback. So hard cover Book 2 has the content of trade paperbacks 3 and 4. So I wound up buying book 2 from my favorite comic shop to cover their flub. Thus, we have a review of Book 2.

ZPAA rating

Adults with high capacity only (use your judgment based on content summary below)

Gore level

8 out of 10--Continuation of the same stuff from before--lots of more and less gruesome zombie killings. New for this volume is a bunch of human on human violence (killings and beatings) with more gore than you'd expect.

Other offensive content

The aforementioned human on human violence; lots of extra-marital affairs with varying degrees of nudity; lots of bad language, including a racial epithet; implication that God does not answer prayers.

How much zombie mythology/content

There's some more explanation of how people become zombies and how fast they come back from the dead. The focus of the story is still on human interactions.

How much fun

The grimness continues in this book. The idea of building a new life or creating a new social structure is explored, which is fun to think about. Lots of characters die throughout and many betrayals happen, which won't put a smile on your face. Even so, it's still compelling reading.

Synopsis & Review

After finding the prison at the end of the last trade paperback, the story continues as our group of survivors start clearing out the prison and trying to establish a more stable life. As they clear out the yard and one of the cell blocks, they discover some survivors who've been locked in since the outbreak. An intriguing new arrival and some old friends return, causing interpersonal conflicts that naturally turn into violence and mayhem for everybody. Other people are just as much a threat in this volume as the zombies.

A lot of interesting issues come up revolving around justice and leadership. Rick is pushed beyond his limits and has a hard time dealing with the pressure of being the chosen leader and trying to integrate his former job as a law enforcement officer with his new responsibilities. After all, there are no lawyers or legal system to back him up or to fill in the roles of prosecutor, judge, executioner, etc. When murders happen in the prison, a discussion of what kind of justice has to be meted out and to whom and by whom is a natural result.

Also, how the group integrates with others (the prisoners, the outsider, the old characters) provides some forward momentum when the situation really could have stagnated into a "let's get set up as a happy little group here." Anyone expecting a happy little group will be disappointed.

Sample Text

After a serious injury, Rick finds Lori and Carol and give them the bad news:  Lori: What is it? Are the kids okay?! Rick: No. The kids are fine. It's Allen. He was hurt. He's okay for now--He's--downstairs. [Carol runs off to check on him] Rick: Lori, do you want to check on Allen? Are you going down to see him? Lori: No. It's nothing I haven't seen before. Why bother?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Max Brooks vs. Roger Ma

Next up in our dual/duel reviews, we find Max Brooks trying to redeem himself (he lost the last one) against another opponent, The Zombie Combat Manual: A Guide to Fighting the Living Deadby Roger Ma.

As you may remember from the previous smack down, the best section of Mr. Brooks’ The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead(hereafter ZSG) was the historical review of zombie outbreaks from prehistoric times to the present. The rest of the book was consumed by practical advice and exhaustive (and exhausting) reviews of different situations, weapons, etc., involved in a zombie outbreak.

Roger Ma’s work is more focused: after separating zombie myth from fact (e.g. he resolves the issue about whether zombies can run), he discusses their strengths and weaknesses, how we can prepare ourselves for combat, how to choose weapons and the best combat strategies and techniques. Sprinkled throughout the book are “combat reports” which are interviews of people involved in a recent world-wide zombie outbreak. These interviews help to illustrate the previous discussion. For example, after discussing important physiological concerns in combating zombies, Ma has an interview with a dentist from the 7th Combat Sciences Group (part of the American government, naturally). The dentist describes how zombie teeth are different from human teeth and how he works with the government on ways to combat the zombies through science, like trying to make their teeth rot and developing specialized weapons (like for removing teeth or jawbones).

Clearly Ma is inspired by both ZSG and World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie Waralso by Brooks. Adding the oral history component gives Ma more human interest throughout the book, so it isn’t all dry descriptions with wry humor like the early part of ZSG. Ma certainly has much better use of illustrations (some are step-by-step depictions of how to use particular weapons to behead, de-brain or otherwise incapacitate a zombie) and includes twenty pages worth of child protection advice (for which any underage zombie overlord is grateful). Plus, you’ve got to love quotes like, “Evading the undead can be an exhausting war of attrition, against an enemy that will not attrite.” (ZCM, p. 269)

Even with all these strengths, Brooks’ dry humor is a lot funnier than Ma’s dry humor. And Ma’s zombie outbreak is only describe in snapshots taken from the different interviews, so there is no big, cohesive picture or narrative. Also, I found the interviewees in Ma to be less well-rounded and believable as people. Some bits of dialogue read okay but seem like they’d be clunky if someone actually spoke them. So in this round, the winner is Max Brooks with his one-two punch ZSG and World War Z.

You may say it isn't fair having two books beat one, but when has zombie combat ever been fair?



Saturday, October 16, 2010

Making Choices, Zombie-Style

 Being a zombie parent, sometimes your choices are limited, either by circumstances or your darling little children.

We were supposed to go to a wedding today. Mommy picked out a lovely dress for Lucy, Jacob looked sharp in his new vest and pants. Directions were printed out. A card was ready, along with a gift certificate to the store where the happy couple are registered (we waited too late to go shopping to pick something out, whoops!). Everything seemed to be in place.

Except for last night. The family has been on the verge of recovering from a cold for the past three days. Last night, Lucy thought we were losing our sleep-deprived zombie state and had to intervene. She decided she couldn't sleep without one of her parents in her room. I spent the night "sleeping" on her floor. She was still ill in the morning and I was sleep deprived, so we started to discuss options for the wedding. The original plan was to have the kids nap on the drive to the church about an hour and a half away. It wouldn't have been quite enough nap but they usually are okay if they are healthy. We thought Lucy wouldn't get enough sleep to keep herself on the road to recovery, so maybe she shouldn't go. So the options were:
  1. We go anyway, hoping Lucy would sleep extra in the church or driving between church and reception.
  2. Just Daddy and Jacob go.
  3. Just Daddy go with Mommy caring for Lucy and Jacob.
  4. Nobody goes.
Option 1 seemed highly unlikely. Option 3 looked like it might be too much for Mommy, especially if Lucy didn't nap anyway. So 2 and 4 were the most likely contenders. In order to get me more sleep, Mommy would take the kids on some errands in the morning while I rested up.

I helped get the kids in the car. A serious problem manifested itself quickly when the automatic doors on the minivan wouldn't open from the key fob buttons. So I sat in the driver's seat and pushed the buttons to open the doors. Still no action. So I put the key in the ignition and turned it. That's all that happened. No lights came on, no bells started ringing, nothing at all. Seemed like a big problem with the battery. I noticed one of the automatic doors was slightly ajar, so maybe the interior lights were on all night.

Luckily we have jumper cables, so we would be okay.nIn order to jump start the van, we'd have to get it out of the garage. The new problem was the gear shift not changing to neutral. It runs on battery power, of which there was none. Consulting the owner's manual, we found the manual override in the dash that let us change the gear.

With the car finally in neutral, Mommy pushed because she didn't want to be responsible for steering out of the garage (a minivan is a tight fit for a one-car garage). After getting it out to the driveway, we drove up the other car. But the jump clearly wasn't working. A quick call to our favorite repair shop determined that it was probably a completely drained battery. The battery's six years old, so replacing was probably the best idea.

Extracting the battery was challenging too, since we don't have proper wrenches to loosen the cables. Phoning a friend worked out well. Thanks, BJ, not only are you a great source of YouTube videos but of great tools too! We got the battery out in no time, even though some of the nuts were hard to get too. A quick trip to the auto parts store procured a new battery and eventually a revived car.

Of course, by this point, going to the wedding was a moot point so we chose number four, though not by free choice. Sorry we couldn't make it to your wedding, Mike and Kimberly. The card will be in the mail shortly!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Smell Like a Monster, Monster!

In case you have been living under a rock or without access to any pop culture at all (which would be odd since you must be on the internet, right?), there is an extremely popular series of Old Spice commercials, that have been parodied by none other than Sesame Street. In case you haven't seen the original ads, here's the object of parody:

And here's the parody featuring Grover:

Why is this on the Zombie Parenting blog, you might wonder? The parenting connection is obvious, but what about the zombie connection? Well, the only thing that detracts from the awesomeness of the "Smell Like a Man, Man" ad campaign is the replacement of the previous Old Spice spokesman, the greatest zombie killer the silver screen has even known. That's right, Mr. Bruce Campbell, hero of the Evil Dead movies:

Hat tip to BJ (Facebook friend & zombie parent) for the Grover video.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Review of a Great Superhero Book

How Do You Tuck In a Superhero? And Other Delightful Mysteries of Raising Boys by Rachel Balducci. Revell, 2010, 203 pages, $12.99 US.

I picked this book up back in August at the Catholic New Media Celebration in Boston, Massachusetts. It was a very inspiring experience, meeting other bloggers and podcasters. I also love the opportunity to buy a book and get it autographed!

That being said, I acknowledge that the title of this book seems entirely antithetical to this blog's central conceit, viz., that our children are turning us into mindless servants of their whims. At best, they are misled geniuses making scientific experiments of us. From the kids' point of view, I'm sure they think of themselves as superheroes. I mean, Lex Luthor thinks he's saving the world from Superman, right?

Brief overview of content:

This book is a collection of essays and stories by a mom raising five boys. She chronicles the ups, downs, laughs, tears, antics, aggravations, eating habits, clothing limitations, limitless imaginings and Chuck Norris obsessions she deals with every day.

Author overview:

Blurb from the back of the book: Rachel Balducci is a writer and the mother of five lively boys--with another baby on the way. Her website,, has been nominated for several awards and chronicles the antics of her boys.


1. Read cover to cover vs. consult as needed.

The book does not present practical advice for the reader, so you wouldn't really consult the book. Many lists, like unlikely household rules and gear needed for life with boys, are sprinkled throughout. I'm tempted to adopt some of these, such as "no throwing things out of second story windows; yes, even if you have a bucket below to catch them; especially not Daddy's underwear and our nicely bound books." [p. 151] It reads pretty quickly and is uniformly delightful, so I would recommend reading it cover to cover.

2. Readability.

The essays are short (from one to four pages), so it's easy to read little bits in between checking to make sure the kids aren't killing each other or destroying important property. The style is warm and engaging and quite often laugh out loud funny.

3. Helpful to a parent?

Here's the tricky one. Even though the book doesn't present practical advice, I'd say its real value is practically indispensable. Many are the times that I think I'm going crazy over the antics of my three year-old and one and a half year-old. They want impossible things or they aren't sure what they want or just can't communicate it or just keep asking figuring I will eventually say yes. Seeing other people dealing with the same craziness is comforting. And even more, learning to embrace and enjoy the amazingly fresh and unconventional acts and attitudes of our children. You don't have to survive the childhood of your children, you can thrive in it.

4. Did we use it?

I've thought about it. We are definitely adopting the "no throwing Daddy's underwear and nice books out the window" rule. We'll probably even extend it to Mommy's underwear.

Sample text

On Sticks: I continue to be amazed, for instance, when I see the wide and varied list of things that a simple stick can become. I see a stick. My boys see a lance, and then a spear, a javelin, or possibly a high jump pole. Later on it's a fishing pole and the world's skinniest rocket. And that's just the first ten minutes." [p. 83]
On Boy Scouts: My boys are natural-born Boy Scouts. This stems less from a nature that is always prepared and has more to do with their inherent love of fire and wild behavior. If you have a passion for fire and for being wild, you will make a very fine Scout. [p. 116]

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Letter to a New Zombie Parent

Here is an edited version of a letter my wife sent to a friend who has recently been turned to a zombie parent by her lovely first-born son. Names have been changed to fool the gullible.


It was great to talk to you today. I'm sorry that YOUR ZOMBIE OVERLORD SON isn't sleeping better. It's a problem as old as motherhood! Some people say that some babies sleep better in a more enclosed space at first. If you want to try our bassinet we can bring it over any time. I liked to pull it right next to my bed so I could reach my hand in and insert the pacifier without sitting up.

I've heard that for a lot of people that co-sleeping really makes the baby sleep better, even if they're not touching you, sometimes I think just hearing your breathing and smelling you on the sheets is helpful. We let OUR SECOND ZOMBIE OVERLORD WHO IS IN FACT AN OVERLADY sleep in our bed for many nights during the first few months. If you're nervous about safety issues you could try something like this: But I think that studies show that unless you are on drugs or are drinking that the baby is just as safe with you in bed as in the crib.

I always found that my babies slept better the tighter they were swaddled.  With the velcro swaddlers it's tough to get a tight fit when they're little. SENTENCE DELETED FOR BEING FAR TOO SCANDALOUS. OVERLADY, I'm sorry. Some of my friends liked this one: And, of course, with OVERLADY it helped to attach a stuffed animal to the pacifier. This was the inspiration:

I've also heard that if you sleep and nurse in a T-shirt and get it nice and smelling like you, that you can put this in the crib to help them sleep.

Who knows, all this stuff could be superstition - one night the baby just decides to sleep for reasons of their own, and we zombie parents decide it must be because of the last desperate thing we tried :)

We all love you and will pray for your good sleep tonight!