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ZombieLaw studies zombies in law, politics and current events.

First case of ebola in the USA

Wonkette: “Derp Roundup: KKK And James Woods Gonna Clean Up The Border” by Doktor Zoom:

In another sphere of panic, the spectacularly idiotic Donald Trump worries that allowing Americans with ebola to be treated in America, even in high-containment medical facilities, is gonna kill us all, because haven’t you people ever seen a movie? The containment systems NEVER work, and then 28 days later there’s only scattered groups of survivors fighting off the zombie hordes.

And from Standard Media in Kenya: “Hold on, Ebola is coming our way” By Ted Malanda:

we zombie around our bedrooms at night, gnashing our teeth and squashing the little blighters on the walls using our fists and other crude weapons. … when you recall how porous our borders are, you begin to cough with fear.

Serious Zombie Math @MathOverflow

MathOverflow: “Escape the zombie apocalypse” asked by user1708 on July 29 seems to be a serious math problem about stochastic-processes, random-walks, game-theory and percolation:

Consider zombies placed uniformly at random over R2 with asymptotic density μ zombies/area. You are placed at a random point and can move with speed 1. Zombies move with speed v≤1 straight towards you, what is the probability P(μ,ν) you can escape to infinity without a zombie catching you?

According to Wikipedia:

MathOverflow is an interactive mathematics website, which serves both as a collaborative blog and an online community of mathematicians. It allows users to ask questions, submit answers, and rate both, all while getting merit points for their activities. It is a part of the Stack Exchange Network.

Some answers and clarifying questions have already been posted in response to the zombie question and it seems like they are taking the question seriously.

See more prior posts of ZombieLaw: Math

Holy Toledo: DON’T DRINK THE WATER

BUSTLE: “Toledo Residents Ordered Not to Drink Tap Water, Grocery Stores Go Crazy” by Sarah Hedgecock:

The City of Toledo first issued a do-not-drink warning on its Facebook page at 2:00 a.m. on Saturday. Apparently aware that Toledo is currently a straight-up disaster movie, the author of the post opened with an all-caps warning right out of the opening of a zombie-apocalypse story:

URGENT NOTICE TO RESIDENTS OF TOLEDO & LUCAS COUNTY WHO RECEIVE WATER FROM THE CITY OF TOLEDO

DO NOT DRINK THE WATER
DO NOT BOIL THE WATER

A few posts later, the city helpfully pointed out that “it is NOT recommended that you sell/scalp water to residents.”

The microcystin contamination is thought to be the result of an algal bloom in Lake Erie, where Toledo’s water comes from.

The article includes many picture from tweets showing the stores quickly selling out of water. Reports seem to vary between 400,000 and 500,000 people effected by this, with no estimates of when it will be safe to drink. Ohio’s governor has declared a state of emergency and the National Guard is trucking safe water into the area. Probably this could have been prevented by more routine investment in maintenance of public infrastructure.

selfies at auschwitz: nazi and zombie identity

SocialBarrel: “Auschwitz Selfies: Has the Selfie Craze Gone Too Far?” by Cicely Blain:

Many people criticize the millennial generation for their selfie-taking obsession and view it as a marker of social decay. They fear that the constant need to be online is removing ‘real’ social interaction and creating a zombie, personality-less generation. They believe that the photos are a result of narcissism and self-indulgence that is fuelled by the online world and criticize selfie-posters as desperate and vain.

the latest craze of teenagers taking selfies at landmarks with terrible historical connotations such as Auschwitz and the Holocaust Memorial.

An Israeli Facebook page roughly translated as “With my Besties at Auschwitz” displayed people taking selfies at the historical landmark. The page had over 12,000 likes before it was removed after complaints of inappropriateness.

See the source article at The New Yorker: “Should Auschwitz Be a Site for Selfies?” by Ruth Margalit – and see syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts, Jr. recent opinion “Don’t take selfies in Auschwitz” or “Selfie at Auschwitz — and why it’s wrong“:

In a place haunted by ghosts, on a thoroughfare of the damned, standing upon ground once watered by blood, Breanna Mitchell lifted a camera to take her own picture. She smiled a sunshine smile. And the Internet exploded.

Pitts thinks her action was wrong because it “feels viscerally … wrong” (like a zombie?) and that the picture makes it all about her instead of reverence for the atrocity. Recall when Obama took a selfie. And so the internet exploded. But that’s what it does best! It gets people talking! And as Blain pointed out, we can’t assume we know what these selfies mean:

This type of selfie seems inappropriate because we are convinced that taking selfies is a narcissistic and attention-seeking act. However, as Dr. Thorin Tritter of the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics comments, people may be choosing to take selfies at Auschwitz because they want a personal memory of their time remembering the history of the place and … possible to conclude that while some are just self-absorbed, vain and attention-seeking individuals, others are genuinely honouring the past in the only way the 21st century allows them to.

Consider this issue of ambiguous meaning in regards to other symbol interpretation. For example, the ongoing trademark issue of the Washington football team, the Korean Zombie’s offense at the Rising Sun symbol, and the difficulty of determining zombie meaning! Provocation for provocation’s sake is not entirely narcissism.

Speaking of which, let’s also mention that World War Z author Max Brooks mentioned Nazi’s on Bill Maher referring to the Tea Party, and that was just one week before Bill Maher started his “zombie lies” segments – with such narcissism that he acts like he coined the term – or that a comedian could speak about truth this way – though perhaps only a comedian really can. The truth is so much simpler if the goal is only a laugh or to promote another product. Note also “World War Z 2 Release Date: Expected Premiere Date to Be Set for Summer 2015” by Shilpa Chakravorty, BREATHEcast News Reporter:

the war against the zombies has just begun.

The issue of selfies and creating self-identity on the internet and symbols overloaded with historical meaning. This is only just beginning. One of the reasons that that Guy Fawkes mask is such a good symbol for Anonymous is because Guy Fawkes Night itself is so overloaded with conflicting historical meaning; it’s bonfires to celebrate the King’s successful suppression of assassination plot or is it modern celebration to honor the would be matyr terrorist for plotting against tyranny. Recall the court martial of Pfc. Moyers for Resident Evil symbols and considering a scenario in which his commanders have become zombies, would it then be treason to stop them? Of course, but…

The spirit of Anonymous is directly opposed to the spirit of selfies. These two internet cultures cannot understand each other, but they have in common an native relationship with the internet that mainstream culture still doesn’t quite understand. And once again the dichotomy is false because some people engage in both cultures. Still, when Pitts rails against irreverent selfies he is still thinking of meaning-making in a pre-internet society, when symbols held their meaning differently.

anonymous auschwitz selfie guy fawkes
star trek nazi cosplay

Remember 1968 when in Star Trek they took that trip to the Nazi world in the episode “Patterns of Force”. It’s a great episode, with a plot sort of like the movie “Apocalypse Now” (or rather the book “Heart of Darkness”). The still images of the cast in Nazi cosplay might seem somewhat offensive, and it took decades before it was allowed to broadcast in Germany, but the plot suggests that simply using Nazi insignia and methodology ultimately leads to an oppressive society even with the most benevolent of leadership intentions. The episode ends with Drs. McCoy and Spock arguing about the interpretation for human history but Kirk cuts it off with a knowing Shatner smile. After all, even in the Star Trek utopia there is a military command hierarchy. Is this authority structure necessary? What would it look like for a decentralized group to explore space?

Recall also the story of a young Max Brooks went to dinner in a Nazi uniform. His father, of course the great Mel Brooks, writer of “Springtime for Hitler” the song in the movie and musical “The Producers”, but the costume still wasn’t appropriate for the dinner table. Dragging further out of context, the hacktivist and internet troll Weev has claimed to have taught the song to white supremacists in prison. What wonderful shifting of meaning and further evidence of the alienation of authors from their works.

We never know how what we create will be read, but we should create anyway! Consider in light of today’s previous ZombieLaw posts regarding Frankenstein’s last opera and the risks of satire-and-all-speech.

And finally, consider that the meaning of history are zombies and the dead hand of the past should not be allowed to control the meaning of today. Today is a new day for the people here today. On this recently popular post to imgur, what appears as the yearbook quote of Ashley Cunningham:

I make black history everyday, I don’t need a month.
ashley cunningham makes black history everyday

These young people are making history. Let them, don’t condemn them to the meanings of the past, teach them respect but not by condemning their culture and way of experience sharing. We don’t need death threats or flame wars. We need more conversations, these controversies teach us what we value. Smiling tourist are not the problem, fanatics in either direction are, for example compare Ashely Cunningham and Breanna Mitchell to Holly Fisher – Girls of the Zombie Generation:

holly fisher fanatic guns

breanna mitchell Auschwitz selfie

banks vs entrepreneurs

Asia Times: “Ukraine pact may deal blow to dollar” by Chris Cook:

Since the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008, the global dollar economy has been functionally dead and in zombie mode. Those who believe that the BRICS countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – are capable of creating an alternative bank-centric global reserve currency simply do not understand how deficit-based money creation systems work.

Daily Reckoning: “This Recovery Has Been a MASSIVE Fraud” by Bill Bonner:

Cheap money has corrupted the entire economy, twisting it away from real long-term investment and business building toward fast-buck speculations, financial engineering and zombie activities.

BloombergView: “Levine on Wall Street: Conquering the Sun” by Matt Levine:

What is the point of being a billionaire if not to insure yourself against catastrophe? There are conventional catastrophe hedges — Singer owns a lot of gold, etc. — but you can’t have that much confidence in those hedges in the zombie-apocalypse scenario. One solution is farmland/guns/walled compounds, but I guess the other is to invest heavily in preventing zombie and sunspot and other apocalypses. If modern civilization lets you live like a king, it seems reasonable to invest some of your extra money in making sure that modern civilization continues.

Compare these with some entrepreneurship links from this past June of last year:

Forbes: “World War E: How To Cure A Zombie Entrepreneur” by Raoul Davis, claiming to cure symptoms like “Entrepreneur ADD” and “Lack of Conviction”:

Having a vision and a plan for your business will clear the zombie fog and get you in the proper mindset for success

Davis blames a “tight” job market “is igniting the entrepreneur zombie movement.”

These “forced entrepreneurs” are similar to zombies, bumbling around leaving destruction in their wake.

Meanwhile at BloombergBusiness: “Pursue the Passionate; Avoid the Zombies” by Mark Hopkins, who is involved in private equity:

remember, pursue the passionate [proactive, goal-oriented, curious-multifaceted, unconventional-innovators]; avoid the zombies.

In defense of satire

As someone who’s always thought Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” was a good idea, I cringed reading The Daily Beast: “The Case Against Cards Against Humanity: Is Max Temkin a Horrible Person?” by Arthur Chu:

I’ve been having second thoughts about Cards Against Humanity for a while now, and about satire in general. In my younger years I was such a fan of satire and of defending controversial, offensive art as “satire” that it’s strange I’ve done an almost complete 180. I’ve been wondering if satire isn’t a bad thing in and of itself.

The often-cited problem, as master satirist Tom Lehrer has pointed out (referencing master satirist Peter Cook before him), is that satire always preaches to the choir. It requires you to get the joke to understand it, and the people most likely to get the joke are those who already share the satirist’s opinion. Indeed, the ease of missing the point of satire is part of the point. Satire isn’t intended to teach so much as to test. It’s a way to filter out smart people who share your beliefs from the dumb masses who don’t.

Concluding (because Cards Against Humanity creator Max Temkin is also connected to the game ‘Humans vs. Zombies’):

Cards Against Humanity isn’t a game for horrible people. It’s a game where people have fun by pretending to be horrible people. And unlike with Temkin’s other game, this is a serious problem. Because unlike zombies, horrible people are all too real.

This strikes me as wrong for at least two reasons.

First, zombies are real. On that issue I’ve written before, see for example Palin’s real America and similarly “Tell Grover Norquist that Pink Unicorns DO exist“. Consider that reality is psychological and not merely material. And consider that if zombies aren’t real, what the heck have I been blogging about about for over 1000 posts?

Second, satire can teach. Chu argues that satire is not teaching, but rather testing. Perhaps Chu is not familiar with the current educational climate of Common Core and Pearson-style neoliberal educational testing regimes. From this controversial perspective, the tests are the teachers. When done well, this might also be called ‘formative assessment‘; that the assessments and the educational formation are one in the same, the test acts as a formative encounter for the student. The reaction to the test is the education, and so too for satire, the reaction and ensuing conversation are the lesson.

However, Chi argues:

That awkward moment when you wonder not just “Who did I just offend?” but “Who did I just encourage?” ought to give all satirists pause.

Should it? Should we chill speech to avoid the possibility of encouraging others we disagree with? That doesn’t seem like education to me, that sounds like censorship and propaganda. Educators must strive to make people think. No one knows the best ideas but satire can inspire thought. Yes it can normalize the horror but blaming the satirist is shooting the messenger.

All speech should give us pause but there is not something more special about satire, all speech is apt to misunderstanding. That “pause” taken too seriously would lead to a silencing of all political arguments. Politics is not about sincerity, it is about ‘deploying controversies’ (a concept I am borrowing from Bruno Latour). The best satire teaches by stirring the pot. If a horrible comment gets a conversation started, then it wasn’t so horrible.

At ABA Journal: “Satanists assert a Hobby Lobby exemption from abortion informed-consent laws” by Debra Cassens Weiss:

Temple spokesperson Lucien Greaves was previously known as Doug Mesner, who studied false memories related to ritual abuse. In a Vice.com interview, he was asked whether the Satanic Temple was a satanic or satirical group. “I say why can’t it be both?” Greaves answered.

The link to Vice is article “Unmasking Lucien Greaves, Leader of the Satanic Temple” by Shane Bugbee. A comment from AndytheLawyer on the ABAJournal site quotes:

“One man’s religion is another man’s belly laugh.”—Robert A. Heinlein

more zombie opera

NY Observer: “When It Comes to Opera, Walking Dead Trump German Romanticism” By James Jorden:

La Zombiata’ shines, but SummerScape turns Weber into Ed Wood

As a conductor, Mr. Botstein is something of a musical zombie, so maybe he should turn his attention to a new piece called La Zombiata, billed as “an opera farce with zombies” in its premiere with Fresh Squeezed Opera Company.

a deliberately banal libretto that somehow managed to send up both Verdi’s La Traviata and the general concept of zombies in barely 45 minutes.

Opera is sort of a zombie of itself, recall previous ZombieLaw “Zombie Opera”, about the impending death of NYCO, now this zombie opera comes in a time when the Metropolitan Opera is facing a looming strike! But, much like Hamas, the Metropolitan Opera and unions have agreed to a 72 hours contract extension (weird coincidence – see “Metropolitan Opera Extends Its Contract Deadline for 15 Unions” by Michael Cooper and USAToday: “Israel and Hamas agree to 72-hour cease-fire” by Ilana Conway, Yousef Al-Helou and Jennifer Collins) — so we’ve got three days to save the world.

MVTimes: “Camp Jabberwocky stages “Frankenstein’s Last Dance”” by Pat Waring:

Mix together a crew of zombie-like monsters, a flock of sweet angels, some cheerful red-horned devils, a batch of good-hearted, hard-working Amish folk who just want to keep their community free from sin — or at least from electricity. Add a crazed doctor, spirited musicians, and a camp full of inspired performers and you get an evening of colorful fun. These were the ingredients for “Frankenstein’s Last Dance,” Camp Jabberwocky’s hilarious play presented July 18 and 19.

And also in high art, a reference to fashion magazine Vogue’s cover at TheFashionSpot: “Cara Delevingne Looks Like a ‘Luxury Zombie’ for Vogue UK September 2014 (Forum Buzz) ” by Jihan Forbes quoting a user comment from Nymphaea. Additionally, at Fashionista: “Cara Delevingne’s September ‘Vogue’ UK Cover Looks Familiar” by Dhani Mau suggests that maybe this is picture from an already used shoot, which would make it another sort of zombie image.

september vogue

Personally, I think this look is zombie chic, which seems fitting for this weekend’s outlook; a last dance before the apocalypse, or can we find a way to create a new shared vision for a utopian future, one where skilled artists have good high paying jobs at the Met!

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