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ZombieLaw studies zombies in law, politics and current events.

Advice for the incoming class of zombies 2018

This post is about zombie education and primarily Higher Education. Because High School is not enough, because who doesn’t want to get higher? Like a drug reference but also “PhD” can stand for “piled higher and deeper” which sounds like a poop reference (and that pun works best in sciences where proceeded by “BS”).

Malcolm Gladwell suggests that non-Ivy league is better in part because we consistently underestimate underdogs and because maybe he has a chip on his shoulder from his own education pedigree. More recently in “The Gangster’s Guide to Upward Mobility” Gladwell notes that the West was won with violence and that historic upward mobility has come from outright criminality. Now, we might suggest school as better route to upward mobility than a life of zombie crime, but can education hope to provide the kind of economic growth that violent force can provide? The schools sell crap and the brand name schools sell it for luxury prices.

GameFront: “People Can Steal Stuff You Buy With Real Money in H1Z1 (VIDEO)” by Phil Hornshaw. This is an important development in the gaming world because stealing is a reinforcement of property rights! What a shock to virtual reality to add this realism! Now here’s another shocker, businesses are not always totally honest about their products. Not that they lie but they exaggerate in advertising. And here’s another shocker, schools are businesses. And they have been stealing our youth. Burying them under a pile of debt and cynicism.

Walter Williams latest column available at the Washington Examiner: “Your college tuition pays for this” (also published in Daily World: “Campus censorship is misaligned with higher education goals“) gives many controversial examples of college administration, including:

At Columbia College Chicago, there’s a class called Zombies in Popular Media. The course description reads, “Daily assignments focus on reflection and commentary, while final projects foster thoughtful connections between student disciplines and the figure of the zombie.”

It’s easy to pick on the class title, or point to “zombie” classes as if they are only about zombies, but if you are interested in zombie movies then it can be a good way to motivate students to write. The topic of a writing class is irrelevant if the skills of writing are being taught. Unfortunately, too often the skills of writing are not taught and all that is remembered is a little bit of what was read. Perhaps core classics might be better remnants in the memory?

The College Fix: “As Higher Ed Implodes, College Leaders Accuse Peers of Dereliction of Duty” by Jennifer Kabbany:

If a lack of intellectual and academic diversity is identified, trustees must have the courage to demand change, the report advises. Moreover, trustees must demand a strong general education framework, or a core curriculum, and stop allowing students to meet requirements with esoteric and bizarre classes.

“Sometimes these courses will be exotic and narrowly focused, including topics such as zombie movies or similar elements of popular entertainment,” the blueprint states. “Governance for a new era demands that trustees, working with their president and provost, reexamine their general education programs with an eye to ensuring that general education promotes preparation for a major and skills and knowledge for life after graduation.”

Esoteric and bizarre can motivate a focus on core skills like reading and writing, but we do need some broader exposure to core classics. It would be nice if everyone who had a college degree could be said to understand something specific. But what? Shall we list some texts by dead white European males? Would we be remiss without Kant? Hegel? Marx? Foucault? Freud? Lacan? Derrida? Piaget? Vygotsky? Maybe a little Zora Neale Hurston for diversity? Can there be a common core that we can agree on, or is there no list of knowledge a college graduate should have because there are too many directions? That’s a good thing but how can a student explore the diversity of all the world knowledge if there is no clear way to start?

Perhaps more math! CitiBike blames interns for drunk math as caught by Reddit, see Gawker: “Citi Bike Uses Sci-Fi Math To Brag About Insane, Impossible Journeys“. Maybe it was an intentional stunt for publicity but it’s a believable story because so many college graduates are still so bad at math.

zombie walter williams zombie Deresiwicz william

Last month, William Deresiwicz made lots of internet noise with his article on Ivy League zombies. See New Republic: “Don’t Send Your Kid to the Ivy League The nation’s top colleges are turning our kids into zombies“.

Now he’s interviewed in Slate: “My Most Offended Readers Are Ivy-Bound 18-Year-Olds: A conversation with Excellent Sheep author William Deresiewicz” by Rebecca Schuman:

former Yale professor William Deresiewicz describes today’s Ivy League as a highly competent zombie factory, one that “manufactures students who are smart and talented and driven, yes, but also anxious, timid, and lost, with little intellectual curiosity and stunted sense of purpose: trapped in a bubble of privilege, heading meekly in the same direction, great at what they’re doing but with no idea why they’re doing it.”

But, as noted in Newsweek: “Here Are All the Ivy-Educated Zombies on the New Republic’s Masthead” by Zach Schonfeld, calling out the hypocrisy of the Ivy-educated calling their education zombifying – of course, who else would know?

It’s one of those cruel jokes that you only get after you’ve spent 100grand on useless credits, credits that are literally worth nothing, but a Hegelian Nothing, so ya know, still something. Or maybe you don’t know, maybe you didn’t read Hegel in college (I didn’t until law school)

ChicagoNow: “College Advice: Freshman Year Social Decisions” by Chris OB:

Want to get in heated arguments about free will vs. pre-destination vs. what if tomorrow is the zombie apocalypse and all we have for weapons are classroom supplies, just knock on another door and hop in the conversation.

Yes, but wouldn’t an online chatroom be cheaper? Do you need to pay college tuition in order to get a group housing environment for cool smart young people? What if instead the prospective student were to buy real estate in a hip co-op, mightn’t that investment outperform the college degree? But then, who would teach them to think? They might forever feel inferior without the authority of an academic institution to associate themselves with; HAHAhaha! Jokes on us! Should have just stole that shit! Fuck, it’s free on YouTube!

Zombie Art World: surrealism, realism, formalism, conceptualism, ART!

Pop icon Katy Perry has tweeted her tour of Magritte paintings at the Art Institute of Chicago via Instagram:

GO SEE THE MAGRITTE EXHIBIT @artinstitutechi It will blow your conventional mind & wake you up from your zombie state! 🙇 🎨

This plays to social media zombie themes, music, celebrity, and art. Also, I wonder about the intellectual property implications of walking through a museum and tweeting all the paintings to support the feed of a commercial artist, but ok… See Spin: “Katy Perry Has ‘Conventional Mind’ Blown by Art: A visit to the René Magritte exhibit at Art Institute of Chicago changes everything” by Elissa Stolman

Surrealism is an important genre for zombies. I personally have had a large copy of “The Son of Man” on my wall for over a decade. Also his “Treachery of Images” (one of the images tweeted by Perry) is very important for understanding the difference between symbols and their meanings (see also a map and its territory). Many philosophers have referenced the painting, including Bruno Latour in his explication of modes of existence.

zombie frankenstein not a zombiethis is not a pipe

Katy Perry writes: “Um…YES IT IS”, but of course it’s not, it’s not a pipe, it’s only the image of a pipe. This relates to the question of whether something is a zombie or just the image of a zombie. Or more importantly the opposite question of whether someone is a person or just the image of a person, whether we have free will or just the appearance of free will.

With persons there is the part we are conscious of, and the part where the zombie machine takes over. It’s really unclear how much control our consciousness has over this zombie within (see recent work by Alva Noe and more classic philosophy on p-zombies from Dennett, Chalmers, Nagel and many others – see Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry for “zombies”)

This work (like the art of Magritte and other surrealists) problematizes the question of other minds, perspectives, alternative viewpoints, and alternative logic, and it forces the viewer to question themselves and their surroundings.

With respect to Katy Perry we might say, that’s not Katy Perry. That’s just the image of her. “Katy Perry” exists in ideological space behind the veil of the media machine, attached to her material body and its productions but also separate as an emerged idea. See ZombieLaw on Bill O’Reilly and author function.

Even as materialists we can find essence in the patterns of emergence in the material itself. This is the promise of big data, and yet so far it seems that more data is not solving this problem. There is a hole in the bucket, always a hidden more, hiding in the observer herself. The starting position changes the material and art alienates us from ourselves. To paraphrase this song by Katy’s ex-boyfriend: ‘The body is a remnant of a wonderland.’

Katy Perry has always been a zombie, the icon of an industry machine. Is this really her first tour of French phenomenology or mere cross-promotion for Chicago tourism? It’s hard to say… Are any of us aware or are we all feeding into the machine, fed back and responding? Is it human or merely the appearance of a human? We have never been fully human, any more than we have ever been modern (see Latour’s “We’ve never been…“). Still, every once in a while, a work of art creates that moment of the sublime, and we feel more human.

Meanwhile, a popular post today on Imgur features digital artwork attributed to (query again copyright or fair use), at imgur: “This awesome artist perfectly recreates all our childhood and modern tales into a revisited realistic reality.“, a near to top comments is:

I don’t think the word ‘Realistic’ means what you think it means.

real winnie the pooreal smurf armyreal alice in wonderland

In this artist’s renditions of classic children’s fiction, “realistic” seems to mean less childish, more violent and punk. Winnie the pooh is an angry bear in a t-shirt. Yes, it’s a more realistic bear, but still with a t-shirt? The Smurfs become more military-like but still blue. This is fantasy in realism or realism in fantasy or what?

Another noteworthy development from the art world is something called Zombie Formalism. Artist George Pfau first alerted me to this use of the word in this way. His own zombie art includes impressionist paintings based on zombie movies. He sent me some articles about “zombie formalism” and the word seems to apply in at least two ways. First these works are sets of systematic repetitions of art work (coating canvases with electroplating and other similarly automatic-like art production). That’s formalism and it’s clearly related to the automaticity of zombie-like behavior. But also these artists are discovered and resold by art dealers who take lots of profit as middlemen. These middlemen also play a significant role in getting the works recognized in the first place, so it’s hard to say who is the zombie: the machine-like artist or the shill act of the artist selling. They are both producers of the art because there is the physical production and then the ideological production. Some important players here are Walter Robinson and Jerry Saltz:

zombie jerry saltzzombie walter robinson


Artspace: “Flipping and the Rise of Zombie Formalism” by Walter Robinson:

these days, loud and clear, is the hum of an art style that I like to call Zombie Formalism. “Formalism” because this art involves a straightforward, reductive, essentialist method of making a painting (yes, I admit it, I’m hung up on painting), and “Zombie” because it brings back to life the discarded aesthetics of Clement Greenberg, the man who championed Jackson Pollock, Morris Louis, and Frank Stella’s “black paintings,” among other things.

Do I need to prove that formalist abstraction is a walking corpse?

Vulture: “Zombies on the Walls: Why Does So Much New Abstraction Look the Same?” by Jerry Saltz:

“These artists are acting like industrious junior postmodernist worker bees, trying to crawl into the body of and imitate the good old days of abstraction, deploying visual signals of Suprematism, color-field painting, minimalism, post-minimalism, … “

Huffington Post: “Zombie Conceptualism” by John Seed:

“Zombie Formalism” tends to be easy to understand and it favors novelty and off-hand effects and images: you can be newly “undead” and still get it. Because of its air of easy-going warmed-overness, “Zombie Formalism” seems to have some attitudes in common with “New Casualism,” a related set of trends in abstract painting.

Wall St Journal: “The Weird and Surreal, Natural and High Tech” by Peter Plagans:

There’s a style in abstract painting these days called “the new casualism” or, in the felicitous phrase of painter-blogger Walter Robinson, “zombie formalism.” Its hallmarks are a loosely or partially stretched monochrome canvas, an exposed stretcher bar or two, and perhaps an oddball embellishment such as a bent nail or quick hit with some spray paint. Current figurative painting enjoys an equivalent, something I would call “casual weirdism” or “slacker surreal.” Its main tenet is, in effect, paint whatever you want however you want.

NewAbstration: “Undead Formalism” by Robert Linsley

Two Coats of Paint: “Responses to Zombie Formalism

If the art jargon is throwing you for a loop, try MoMa’s Learning site: “Glossary of Art Terms

Pop music is formalism, and though we can forever marvel at the sublime within the old alienated images of Katy Perry’s youth, she’s growing up and getting philosophical, and the pop fads don’t last forever… As for Hegel, the truth of things is that they end but the digital and material traces can last forever.

That’s not Katy Perry, that’s just the image of what was maybe once Katy Perry’s body, but does that make it any less sublime? Would it have ever become sublime without the hidden music producers and networks of influence that her literal body had nothing to do with? Katy Perry is a composite cyborg of the machine, an ideological marketing function of a vast enterprise. Is she also a person? Yes precisely, but I think maybe that word doesn’t mean what we think it means…

“zombie case” about european prison voting

Votes for prisoners: The zombie case that won’t die” by Dominic Casciani:

like the plot of a decent zombie movie – every time we think it’s all gone away, the issue groans and staggers to its feet and waves its arms in a menacing way at Whitehall, sending officials and ministers fleeing in panic. There’s brief respite … and then the moaning and the lurching all starts again.

… just like a good zombie movie …

zombie Dominic Casciani bbc

government zombie money

Yesterday at Bonner and Partners: “Are you a Zombie?” by Bill Bonner:

What are “zombies?” Neither dead nor alive, from an economic perspective, they are people who live at the expense of others. Are you a zombie?

Here’s how to tell: Ask yourself, in the absence of the government, would people voluntarily pay you to do what you do? If not, you’re probably a zombie.

Bill Bonner has zombied many times before, and today in MoneyWeek: “How to spot a zombie” by Bill Bonner:

A regular reader writes in. The bone he picks concerns our definition of ‘zombie’.
“Your definition of ZOMBIE is WRONG.
“A ZOMBIE lives on the back of someone else and is not productive (he consumes more than he produces).
“This is true in PRIVATE and PUBLIC BUSINESS.
Zombies in the private sector are the most dangerous.”

Meanwhile in Epoch Times: “Wakeup Call for Europe” by Philippe Legrain:

Much of Europe has zombie banks and crushing debt. Most of it has feeble productivity growth and weak investment. All of it is aging fast, and without immigration, workforces are set to shrink. In both Britain and the eurozone, bank credit to businesses continues to fall: While zombie banks are extending existing loans to zombie companies, they are denying new loans to promising businesses. In many countries, private debt remains huge while public debt continues to rise. Southern Europe threatens to sink into a deflationary debt trap.
Europe needs a monetary union that works for all its citizens. Zombie banks should be restructured; excessive debts, both private and public, written down; and investment increased.

And in fashion, Just-Style: “Government giveaways stifle garment industry growth” by David Birnbaum:

It seemed that government efforts to support the industry allowed companies that should have gone broke to survive, albeit in a commercial zombie state, at the expense of companies that having received no benefits were forced to adapt to existing conditions.

ECNS: “Credit easing cannot fix the structural slowdown” web editor, Qin Dexing:

Analysts are also worried that with liquidity easing again, “zombie” enterprises, once at the edge of extinction, could survive to function for another day.

computer robot zombies

Robots and zombies. They are both slaves. The computerized zombie is a significantly more powerful threat than the original creature.

CUTimes: “Russian Credentials Breach: Threat of the Week” by Robert McGarvey:

it was an array of robots– a zombie army of computers contaminated with malware that let the criminals take control – that were programmed to hunt for network vulnerabilities.

The Washington Post editorial calls for action: “The growing scourge of cybercrime demands action from Congress“:

Russian hackers strung together networks of virus-infected zombie computers known as botnets that were programmed to do their bidding.

And so therefore, The Washington Post (newly owned by internet-mega-billionaire Jeff Bezos) insists Congress must act! Yes, this zombie-robot fear is setting the stage for legislative lobbying on cybersecurity.

GovInfoSec: “Senate Weighs Botnet Busting Changes” b Mathew J. Schwartz:

Some botnet operators – known as botmasters or bot herders – directly use their collection of infected, or zombie, PCs to launch attacks.

ECNS: “Exploiting subconscious, shared fears“:

Jiangsu Normal University’s Chen has studied the differences between zombies in Hong Kong and Western movies. The 1990s witnessed a series of classic Hong Kong-made zombie movies, starring actor Ching-ling Lam, but the Chinese undead are very different from their Western counterparts. For example, Chinese zombies - called jiang shi, literally “stiff corpses” – hop to move, while Hollywood zombies simply stagger. Unlike Western zombies, they don’t eat flesh, or bite people to drink their blood. Instead, they drink qi, or “life energy”.

Meanwhile at Ars Technica:”The six tech policy problems Congress failed to fix this year” by Joe Mullin:

One: Pass anti-troll patent reform
Two: Reform ECPA, and finally grant due process for e-mail privacy
Three: Reform our vague anti-hacking laws
Four: Bring out-of-control intel agencies to heel
Five: Do something on immigration
Six: Pass a strong, permanent “right to unlock” bill

Cybersecurity means tracking us on the internet, so let’s be sure that all of this legislation (because clearly we do need some) must include strong protections for both privacy AND fair use.

Seattle PI: “The Fair Use Defense – Part 3: Information Must Flow To The Sciences & Arts” by Timothy B. McCormack:

For example, Tina is a scientist who wants to publish a revolutionary report on global warming. For the more imaginative, Tina has discovered the “zombie strain that threatens humanity.” … Tina is eager to release her important findings to the public … Without the doctrine of fair use, the cost of repeating all those studies would be prohibitively high and the public would be deprived of her contribution to our knowledge of global warming (and zombies).

Fair use is a defense but just because you think your use is fair doesn’t necessarily mean that a court will agree. Do you have the money to fight the case in federal court? That risk can have a serious chilling effect on speech.

Watch the ways a visual meme can be created and transformed on any given day at Imgur. This wonderful form of speech is almost entirely copyright infringement. It should absolutely be protected as fair use but it’s really not clear that it is in every case. Largely this becomes an issue of individual test cases on less than sympathetic defendants.

Consider recently ArsTechnica: “Porn studio sues immigrant who has “no idea how BitTorrent works,” wins big” by Joe Mullin about the court order of US District Judge Robert Jonker.

It’s hard to get the public outraged about an immigrant guy who has 57 porn movies stored on his computer but Judge Jonker’s order makes no mention of it being pornography. That fact doesn’t matter to his ruling, it’s copied content and it’s there on the computer, so that’s infringement as a matter of law. Recall similarly child pornography conviction for one click.

These should be concerning precedents. Everyone just assumes that what they are doing themselves is ok and only the bad people get in trouble.

Is it all a matter of public perception? Most people don’t use BitTorrent so they don’t get outraged here? Like they didn’t get outraged for Napster or Grokster? We all just let it happen. We let them teach us about their Intellectual Property, and revise it for Digital Millennia and now cybersecurity (so they can track us and charge us). Stop letting them take away our free internet – the next legislative action should include stronger protections for Fair Use and DIY rights!!!

Instead, LA Magazine spins the metaphor into a twist on the classic alcohol drink: “6 Wacky Cocktails to Try on 1886’s Summer Menu” by Garrett Snyder:

The creative juices are always flowing at 1886, the hidden bar inside Pasadena’s The Raymond. … Age of Piracy: An ode to classic tiki cocktails, this potent refresher riffs on The Zombie, mixing pineapple, lime, grapefruit, cinnamon syrup, and spiced vanilla liqueur with the unexpected combo of aged rum and single malt Scotch. It’s a doozy.

But, oh no, did my copying that excerpt use more of than was fair? Can LA Magazine sue me now? Is it piracy to steal that little snippet for the scholarly purpose of this blog about word meaning? Should internet writers and artists everywhere have to think like this and speak only in approved soundbites??? Is that the world we want to live in, where sharing is prevented by surcharges?

Also, speaking of Robots and Zombies, consider the celebrity name Rob Zombie. Rob Zombie is raising money independently through the internet and making really cool animation.

And recall also “Zombie Zero worm malware” and other zombie hackers and computers.

politics: Obama, ebola, immigration, vote them out!

Times Herald: Opinion “Sound Off” defines “Democrat”:

Democrat: Someone who blindly supports Obama because of his skin color, plays a zombie on the “Walking Dead” series and watches MSNBC news.

Recall Bob Hope’s similar definition from 1940.

Inquisitr: “Obama Approval Rating In 2014 Drops To New Low, But Not Enough To Impeach President Obama“:

In a related report by The Inquisitr, a Trayvon Martin cartoon depicted a zombie-like George Zimmerman as being like the effort to impeach Obama.

See more Zombie Obama . With many politicians, “zombie” is used to mean something like “lame duck” and if the Republicans take Congress then that meaning will finally apply in a more literal sense. But what’s interesting about Obama as a zombie politician, is that he’s been called “zombie” since nearly the very beginning. Perhaps a lame duck Obama would be the most powerful zombie of them all? Maybe he could get more done if he could really guilt the Congress into action instead of Harry Reid taking fire.

Meanwhile, ebola in Congress, Washington Post: “Apocalypse now? Some reassuring facts from the congressional subcommittee hearing on Ebola” by Alexandra Petri quoting apocalyptic tweets, while herself livetweeting the hearing:

“Am I the only one who thinks this Ebola virus thing sounds a little TOO similar to the beginning of a zombie apocalypse movie?” tweeted @kristenjadeQ. “Im calling it right now that the ebola outbreak is how the zombie apocalypse will start,” concurred @I_The_King_.

JSonline: “For TV, Ebola patients’ privacy is in quarantine” by Duane Dudek:

said the paramedic. We see things like the film “Outbreak” “and assume everyone will be these horror-show zombie people…and it’s not anywhere close to that.”

This is further evidence of Hollywood entertainment as public education. Our expectations are (to some extent) set by the fantasies of movies and television.

News Review: “Libertarian argument against the Drug War” by Brendan Trainor:

to many Republicans, these children are not refugees, but an invading army of teddy bear-wielding existential threats. These children are being called invaders, gang members, they are scabies-infested, disease-laden parasites whose impure little bodies threaten to pollute our native blood streams in a real life zombie apocalypse.

I’m not sure it’s fair to say that’s all the Republicans, nor only them. The zombie metaphor set of teddy-bear disease parasites is a bipartisan perspective. Often the extremes positions of either party are closer together than the middle.

The Guardian: “We don’t know how to throw the bums out of Congress, so they keep winning” by Ana Marie Cox

Notwithstanding David Brat’s flukey upset over Cantor in June and Chris McDaniels’s zombie campaign in Mississippi, complete with this week’s binders full of protest, incumbent politicians are actually doing a lot better than usual.

Why does no one know how to vote out their congressperson? Why do we think it’s only everybody else’s representative that’s causing the stalemate? What if every district just refused to elect the incumbent? Can we start a campaign on the internet somehow and reach every district and register new voters this month to vote for anyone except the incumbent? I think there are enough unregistered-wouldbe-first-time-voters that if they all voted for the opposition we would have a wholy new House of representatives and 33 new senators. Imagine.

And, as if on cue to my writing, this scene from “Mars Attacks!” was just posted to Imgur:
mars attacks congress

“Mars Attacks!” was released on December 13, 1996, just after the 1996 elections that saw the re-election of Bill Clinton and a congressional election that didn’t change the balance much at all.

“True fact: Hubble telescope finds ZOMBIES in SPAAAACE” @TheRegister

The Register: “True fact: Hubble telescope finds ZOMBIES in SPAAAACE” by Shaun Nichols

It’s funny cuz it’s “true”!
True zombies
True zombies, CORAL!!!!


See ZombieLaw tags: facts or truth or “zombie lies


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