Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Zombie Apocalypse Is Upon Us

Could Miami, FL, be ground zero for the zombie apocalypse? It could be as Miami police reported shooting and killing a man -- naked -- who was eating the face of another man, also naked. According to news reports, the man eating the other ignored police warnings to move away from the body, but instead continued devouring the man's face.

"According to police sources, a road ranger saw a naked man chewing on another man’s face and shouted on his loud speaker for him to back away.Meanwhile, a woman also saw the incident and flagged down a police officer who was in the area.

The officer, who has not been identified, approached and, seeing what was happening, also ordered the naked man to back away. When he continued the assault, the officer shot him, police sources said. The attacker failed to stop after being shot, forcing the officer to continue firing. Witnesses said they heard at least a half dozen shots."

Although police are blaming "cocaine psychosis" as the reason for the attack, it also sounds suspiciously like a zombie attack, though there was no indication of whether it took a head shot to finally stop the man.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Coming Collapse

There are a lot of reasons why I think the stock market is headed for a fall and a double-dip recession is coming our way, but the herald of doom has apparently already arrived: so far in the month of May, the S&P 500, generally considered a proxy for the overall market, is down 6.66%.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Zombie Fitness

To me, jogging is slightly worse than having my wisdom teeth pulled without Novocaine. However, when a new zombie app hits the Android marketplace sometime soon I may no longer have an excuse. Or have the need to go looking for one.

"Zombies, Run!" is an app designed to make running fun. You're living in a post-apocalyptic world where zombies have risen and are looking to feed on your brains. Your goal is to help keep your base camp well supplied and while you're out running you're sent off on a mission to find supplies and gear to keep your people stocked.

"You’re Runner 5. Hundreds of lives are counting on you. You've got to help your base rebuild from the ruins of civilization by collecting critical supplies while avoiding roving zombie hordes. Can you save them and learn the truth about the zombie apocalypse?"

You load up your mp3 player with your favorite songs and in between tracks you get your mission information, along with news reports on where zombies are and if you're about to run into a horde of them. Once you finish running, you load your data into the app and it keeps track of how well you're completing your missions. You learn more about the world you live in and as you succeed in finding medical supplies or tools you're able to attract more people to live in your base camp.

Currently the game is available only for the iPhone, but the developers have been promising one for Android phones "this Spring!" We better get it soon, otherwise it will be summer.

While I think it would be really cool if an app developer would combine an adventure game like this with Google Maps so that the actual streets you're running on would be used to plot your path -- "Main Street is coming up on your right but don't go that way, it's filled with zombies! -- this seems like a fun diversion that could make getting in shape a lot more tolerable for the perpetually lazy like me.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Review: National Haunters Convention

I attended the National Haunters Convention yesterday in Oak, PA, and was hugely disappointed by the show. The venue seemed smaller, the vendors fewer, and the supposed highlights of the event -- two on-site haunted attractions -- were a joke.

Part of the problem was likely due to Hauntcon being scheduled for the same weekend in western Pennsylvania. While I had considered attending the show, the six hour drive wasn't all that appealing and from what I heard from people who went to that show instead of NHC it wasn't all that much different there.

According to rumors that have trickled their way down to me -- and I'm way, way, way down on the list of "need to know" people, so it's like the old game of "Telephone" you'd play in school, a lot gets lost in the translation -- Hauntcon deliberately scheduled its show the same weekend as NHC in an effort to cripple the show. Regardless of whether it's true or not, it seems both shows ended up getting shot in the foot.

But NHC had its own problems that went just beyond the torn loyalties of vendors who would have had to choose one show or the other (and it seemed many chose "the other"), National Haunters Convention did the worst thing a company could: it over-promised and under-delivered.

As disappointed as I was with the vendors that were there (and I did buy some stuff at the show, but shockingly no one was selling air cylinders at the show and that was one thing I had hoped to buy), I can give NHC a pass on that, though I think it speaks volumes about which show the vendors thought was the more important one. What I can't forgive is the sloppy way NHC handled its marketing.

They made a big deal of having two haunted attractions on the show floor that were going to be run by The Psycho Trail, which bills itself as the best haunted house in South Jersey. There were going to be zombies and clowns around every corner with thrills, chills, and excitement. We'd laugh, we'd cry, we'd come back for more!

Um, no.

First, thank goodness I didn't have to pay to go through owing to having subscribed to Hauntcast. However, because the haunts were so lame, I don't think they were charging anyone. Good thing.

The first was a maze of chain link fencing. Since the top was open and the convention hall lights were on you could see right through from one end of the maze to the other. What you could also see was there were no actors and no props. Seriously, you were walking through a "maze" (and I'm being charitable describing it as such) and there was nothing to see. I do recall they had a metal shelving unit tipped over in one area and that was about it. Oh, and a couple of plastic things that may have been barrels cut lengthwise in half. It really looked like they had gone into the storeroom of the convention center and found some stuff not being used and threw it here and there.

Oh, and we were "attacked" by zombies: a cute teen girl and her 7-year old brother dressed inexplicably as a cop who jumped on a section of fence. We then asked him to go run and jump on the fence again so Joiseygal could vlog it. That was it.

The next haunt was the clown haunt. I have no idea what they were thinking. A couple of plastic masks were hung on the wall and hit with fluorescent paint was the extent of the decor, but because it was again an open haunt the paint had zero effect as you'd expect. And they did some imaginative work with Great Stuff (okay, snark has been turned off): on the horizontal 2x4's that held up the maze walls, they made long lines with the expanding foam and spray painted it orange. But only for 2 or 3 walls and they either ran out of got tired. Seriously, that was the extent of the decor. Okay, they did have Chuckles the Clown sitting in one room.

One section had some PVC cages in it, but no actors in there (note to Dave from Pandemic not touch the props in such a lame haunt, they will come off in your hands!). There was one clown -- I think she might have been the older sister to the other two "actors" -- who popped in here and there with a whoopee horn she blew every now and then. She did tell us to come back in October as it was going to be better then. Well, it couldn't possibly have been worse.

Although I bought a couple of things at the show, I didn't spending much money there because there wasn't anything really all that interesting -- or affordable for the stuff I was interested in. I bought a prop mask and some small body parts, but only because they were $1 each, and some Foam Coat from Hot Wire Foam Factory. Dave (who also puts on the awesome Dead with Dave show on YouTube) highly recommends it for coating foam props so a small, 3-lb container that cost $10 seemed worth it. I also bought a doll that reminded me of the La Santa Muerte dolls I wrote about last month. It was definitely overpriced for how it was constructed but I knew my wife would like it.

Some of the static props from one of the vendors looked like low quality stuff. Although their animatronic ones had some good movement to them, I'm pretty sure I could replicate for $20 what they were trying to sell for $400. All Scares was also there with their hydraulic props and while very cool and professional, it's just out of my league.

We did manage to come across one vendor, an author hawking his books, who managed to insult my friend's wife even while complimenting her. He told her she had pretty hair and bright eyes, but was coasting through life because of her looks. He then told her she was psychologically crippled because she read books for information and education, not for simple pleasure reading (she's a special ed teacher). Okay, way to go with turning off potential customers!

We did watch some of the "makeup wars" they had going on, and that was interesting too, though some artists were definitely more talented than others. I didn't attend any of the classes there, though I did get to meet Allen Hopps of Stilt Beast Studios. I admire his artistic talents a lot and it was fun to be able to meet in person people you see regularly online ("It's YouTube Wednesday!").

So in short, it was a huge disappointment and I won't be attending NHC again anytime soon. Sure some of the show's shortcomings were the result of a rumored personality conflict between the two haunt show owners, but NHC shouldn't have promised attendees they would be geting so much more for their money when in fact they would be getting a whole lot less.

I'm not sure I'm going to go to Hauntcon either in the future, if for no other reason than if the rumors are true, than that wouldn't be a show I'd want to support with my money. Both shows could have been good for their attendees (that's what it's supposed to be about, right?) and probably profitable for both, had not one or the other had too big of an ego.

While these shows are supposedly geared more for the home haunter, there really wasn't anything to suggest that at NHC this year, so I guess it comes down to it that if you're going to go to a haunt show, just save your pennies and go to Transworld.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Zombies Aren't Just Human

While popular culture typically says humans are the only species that can succumb to the zombie virus -- though on occasion dogs are subject as well -- science has now found that ants can become zombies too. Really.

The zombie ant fungus attacks the brain of the ant growing inside (and outside) of its head causing it to "march to its death at a mass grave near the ant colony, where the fungus spores erupt out of the ant's head."  How awesome is that?! And how freaky is it that real life nature can create something horror film producers thought they had a lock on?

Yet there already seems to be a cure, or at least a parasite the debilitates the fungus preventing it from spreading and allowing a colony of infected ants to survive -- presumably as zombies. Apparently the spores which spread the fungus are castrated by the parasite so they're unable to spread and infect more of the colony.

The article linked to above says "even though there are a lot of dead and infected zombie ants in the neighborhood, only a few of the spores of the zombie-ant fungus will become mature and able to infect healthy ants." Seems to me that we need the Zombie Research Society to look into how the parasites cripple the spores in ants and apply that to the spread of the zombie virus in humans. Moreover, it appears that zombification is not just a viral infection and we need to keep an eye out for such other types of pollination that lead to a mass outbreak.

It is good to know though that while nature can, in fact, create a true zombie outbreak, it also creates a defense against it as well. As always nature keeps things in balance.
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