22 April 2007

*exerpted from an email to joel miron

So, as to World War Z. The novel was overall enjoyable, to be sure. Max Brooks' previous work The Zombie Survival Guide, while interesting is primarily comical and easily overlooked. WWZ on the other hand gives us new and interesting ground in zombie thought.

First off, the way it is written is new and interesting (or as new and interesting as you can be in our post-Shakespeare world). The 'oral history' of the Zombie Wars is told in a huge array of voices and, for the most part, Brooks captures those voices interestingly. The premise of the book sometimes necessitates selling some of the best stories short, not giving us enough time with them, but I think it does the story service. I also find it wildly amusing that Brooks finds some answers to some questions that have been weighing heavily in my mind (and disproving some very minor points from my thesis). Seeger claims that zombies

"can also be thought of as life that merely meets the requirements for biological existence. While the zombies are dead humans, upon reviving they behave in a way that approximates life, by consuming, presumably excreting (or zombies in later films would be bloated having fed for so many years) and performing a kind of reproduction by creating more zombies. Although the zombie condition in Romero's films is environmental and not viral (that is, all dead humans rise from the dead, not just those who are bitten), the zombies still reproduce themselves either by killing humans or making for difficult living conditions, leading to human deaths, thereby creating more zombies. The zombies are in some sense alive, even if they can no longer be considered human life (Seeger 12)

Brooks, however, answers at least the excreting claim by pointing out that zombies are often broken apart in the middle, having torn themselves apart because they cannot excrete and only eat more and more and eventually... pop.

Additionally, while i thought there was a fair amount of 'in China people are like... in South America people are like...' i think Brooks does quite an amazing job of making characters not sound unique and (usually) interesting. Brooks seems like the type of zombie fan who plays through a lot of scenarios, somewhat regularly visits zombiedefense.org, and has seen every zombie movie ever made. Overall, i enjoyed the experience (though i had it a while back) and think there's more to look at there, but not, ultimately, a lot more...

15 April 2007

Kid Rock ain't got nothin' on me

except perhaps that short-lived marriage to PamAnderson.

Friday night Brooke and i were as far out west (the wiki-wiki-wildwildWest) as you can get in Omaha (except for the remaining 40 or so blocks that Omaha recently annexed) to hit an Irish Pub she'd heard about and was having living music that night. Sadly, the Irish pub was sadly un-Irish (a large Irish flag was draped from the roof, alongside Old Glory). Disappointed in the scene (and the cider selection) we headed (a little bit) back into town. On the way out we'd passed a bar called The Shamble Inn. Fantastic name... we had to go. As we pulled up, however, we noticed the American Flag curtains and were hesitant.

Nevertheless, we ventured forth and were rewarded with (yep, you guessed it) an electric bull. I'm not one to pass up an opportunity to ride an electric animal (or publicly embarrass myself) so i volunteered (to pay $5). Most of the people who'd been riding the bull up until this point had been women wearing tube tops. While i was wearing my new tight t-shirt, i didn't feel as though i measured up. Boy, was i wrong.

In fact, this wasn't my encounter with a raging, headless, automated bull. Back in '99 i attended Münster's annual Stadtfest and though we regrettably failed to find the Jägermeister-Coke guy we'd met in Soest (he had a jet pack type contraption strapped to his back and roamed Soest's city festival handing out drinks. One chamber contained Jägermeister, the other Coca-Cola) we did happen upon an electric bull. Because i was the only American in our group, cries of "come on, cowboy" started up and i was compelled to climb aboard the bull. Though my performance in Germany was disappointing, i managed to stay on for a good 13 seconds before being tossed aside (i blame my poor performance that time on my lack of shoes, owing to the fact i'd been wandering around most of the summer in Birkenstocks).

This time, i swore it would be different. I climbed aboard my first of two rides (2 rides for 5 bucks, what a deal) and set what i believe is a new record for the establishment. In order to clock the exact amount of time remained on the bull you'd need a team of scientists and some of those speed-of-light measuring type devices. I can't even estimate, but it was long enough for the photos bouncing off of me to reach the camera, so some evidence exists, but man, it was embarrassing. I'd like to blame drunkenness for my poor showing (my second ride lasted twice as long), but i don't actually remember being that drunk... (hey, memory loss is a sign of inebriation, isn't it?.. so, yeah, i'll say i was zonked).

Anyway, what i really wanted to say, before i got distracted in storytelling, was that these electric bulls are a menace... truly quite dangerous... and i urge all of my readers to never Ever try one. Don't be tempted to get on, just to see if you can "beat joel's time" because more likely than not, you will die, so let's just agree to have a non-competition for this event... we'll call it a tie, ok... just don't get on for ... your sake.

13 April 2007

The Work of a Poet

Yesterday afternoon i went to a public reading by Ted Kooser at Metro's South campus. This was actually my second personal encounter with Mr. Kooser, as i met him briefly at Woody's wedding a couple summers ago.

Kooser's poetry is understated, approachable, and funny. I've only read poems here and there, never an entire book. Part of this is due to my own personal issues with poetry. I never really know how to approach a poet's work. Obviously, a collection that the poet puts together around a specific theme or idea (say Leaves of Grass) you take as a whole and read through, but is that true of all books of poetry? I find that if i read too many poems in a row (especially by the same poet) they start to run together.

Kooser's reading was broken up with brief anecdotes and commentary on his works. Kooser's poems are generally short and often surprising. His humor comes from quick turns and juxtapositions as well as actual funny moments. Where he is at his best, i think, is when he is doing the work of definition. As he read a poem describing encountering a person walking down the street who you think you recognize, but aren't quite sure, i was reminded of another great poet, now lost to us: Douglas Adams. Adams' The Meaning of Liff is a dictionary of things and experiences we all know, but have no words for. Adams (along with John Lloyd) provides those words to us (though the index is maddening and nearly unusable, because it is clever and witty instead of structured - though i think it could be both). Kooser approaches these things and events from the other angle, however, forcing us to consider and understand these moments instead of naming them. Naming is the easy way out (sorry Douglas)... the real work is consideration.