Hi zombies. I wasn’t sure what it was going to take for me to resume this odd hobby. When I left for the new years holiday I had been intending a much shorter hiatus, but instead when I returned I shifted my zombie obsessive tendencies toward simply tweeting instead of blogging. I felt I had written enough about zombie and the new links could stand for themselves.
There have been some big moments the past few months when I thought it was time to come back, and I will maybe try to catch up to some stories I missed in the past few months. There were two Friday the 13ths this year already. And there are continuing parallel stories of a zombie cat and zombie dog (both buried alive and crawled out, and then custody issues for who gets the animal after the veterinarian – property rights or best interest of the animal), are sort of interesting in the way they have grabbed media attention. Questions of animal consciousness remain an important part of the zombie meme set (also related to zombie vegans).
Also the Zombie Foreclosure issues rage on. There are still homeowners who are trying to negotiate with banks and the banks are still playing games. New York’s newly re-elected Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is still stumping for legislative efforts but quite honestly it’s a lot of pomp and circumstance and other than lots of pictures of run-down houses and talk of community banks buying property… I don’t know what this is about. How can we help the homeowners who are still struggling battling bank frauds from like a decade ago? It’s basically nothing exciting on this issue since 2013 when ZombieLaw wrote: “Zombie Foreclosures are Bank Fraud“. OK, that’s not true, and there are exciting zombie foreclosure developments all the time (including lots of press on the NY bill this morning), so probably I’ll write more about that later this week. I’ll have to read the bill but I’m not sure the banks aren’t still screwing the borrowers with government assistance.
And then there’s Bill Bonner still zombie’ing – this week attacking Social Security zombies, claiming social security recipients are zombies and then comparing zombies to a herpes infection (so social security recipients are diseased?), in MoneyWeek: “Social Security is braindead, but that doesn’t make us all zombies“.
There’s so much interesting zombie art (not just zombie formalism – see also Bruce La Bruce exhibiting at MoMa). And there’s zombie drug law reform efforts and the pharmaceutical’s zombie side-effects, and debts, lots of zombie debts from all sort of zombie companies. And Canadian hackers (see “Foreign hacker sentenced for first time ever in US” – involved hack of “Zombie Studios”). And zombie parasitic insects (see this zombie praying mantis). Yes, there are still so many fascinating zombies on a daily basis.
And yet, I had been contenting my zombie obsession with mere tweets and not sure when I might return to this blog, but it’s this weekend’s NYTimes that I finally has me rise from the dead. Both Paul Krugman and Maureen Dowd using the word in their respective NY Times columns. Now, I am still really not sure what the point of this ZombieLaw blog is or ever was, but mocking the NYTimes zombies has definitely been an important part. Recall ZombieLaw previously listed Maureen Dowd’s “zombies” and would tag Paul Krugman with significant frequency.
This week “zombie” is in Krugman’s headline, “Zombies of 2016“, and he repeatedly uses the term throughout his column to describe the status of current Republican politics. Starting in on zombie Chris Christie (who used to fashion himself the zombie-killer), Krugman says “a zombie went to New Hampshire” then assails the GOP primary process for adherence to false economic ideas (“classic zombie”).
Recall Krugman thinks of “zombie ideas” as “zombie lies,” and in this column he directly refers to the voodoo economics of supply-side politics. This is a important connection for zombie political rhetoric: that zombie economics is the result of voodoo … voodoo economics = supply-side economics! For Krugman, it’s the supply-side voodoo that makes zombies. And it was George H.W. Bush (the father) who helped popularize “voodoo economics” as a denigration of then candidate Ronald Reagan’s supply-side proposals in the Republican primary in 1980. See this NBC report from 1982. Bush as VP denied having ever said “voodoo economics” but it the camera can catch zombie doublespeak (be careful camera’s might also steal souls).
The voodoo connection runs through West Africa to Haiti . Recall my visit with George Pfau to the African Burial Grounds, a Federal property with voodoo symbols. But note that the George Romero and the modern fast zombies have transcended the voodoo roots, (perhaps with the aid of computer technology?)
Meanwhile, in Maureen Dowd’s column, “Beware Our Mind Children” is promotions for “Ex Machina“, a new movie written by, Alex Garland, who previously wrote “28 Days Later”. So Dowd’s zombie reference was sort of obligatory, and we all know zombies and robots are well-connected ideas in terms of automaticity, worker-slavery and mindlessness (coincidentally interesting, it’s partly a robo-signing problem causing the zombie foreclosures). Dowd asks:
what will end humanity first, zombies or robots?
and Garland responds:
We’re going to manage that perfectly without any help from zombies or robots.
Krugman’s column also concludes with a question, asking:
why has the Republican Party experienced a zombie apocalypse?
Whatever the reasons, the result is clear. Pundits will try to pretend that we’re having a serious policy debate, but, as far as issues go, 2016 is already set up to be the election of the living dead.
Consider also from The National: “Zombie facts that pose as real science” by Robert Matthews discusses why false facts don’t die.
So yeah, it’s a political circus, a rhetorical mess of zombie facts, so look out zombies, ’cause like Arnold in “Maggie”, we be back… to, ya know, save the children from the future we’ve created for ourselves. I’m not promising to be back forever, this may just be a last hurrah at the end of the zombie movie when the monster rises one last time. Be sure to also keep watching the @Lawzombie twitter feed too, because there will surely still be more zombie links than I will blog.
Ok zombies, I’m out.
Gone fishin’, python huntin’, whatever Florida zombie metaphor you want (down to where they go to die?). See ya when I see ya. Save some brains for me.
While I’m gone, read the previous three posts (Part1, Part2, and Part3) for about two years worth of failed “zombie” cognitive research. Part1 is junk science but Part2 still really excites me and Part3 is a cute proof of a rhetorical paradox. None of it is particularly ground-breaking but I do think Part2 could be a new way to study character words in legal opinions, and Part3 should make us pause every time anyone refers to their supposed reality. But then we already pause at “zombie” and, of course “creativity“, and “anonymous” and soon every word is pause-worthy and none of the words make any sense. All we can do is add more words.
For more recent zombie themes, read the posts that precede those three. Zombie scholars should note particularly George Pfau’s presentation, and cultural theorists will be additionally interested in the SVA Zombie Formalism panel discussion.
Haven’t heard of zombie formalism yet? See my attempts to explore it here and here. And for more of the artist names being associated to this see Howard Hurst asking: “Who Has the Cure for “Zombie Formalism”?“.
That article is about the art world in which the answer might be obvious: stop buying it. But many wonder what is the cure for zombie. So as I pause this blog, let’s recall some zombie cures: salt, lemons, frogs, love, yoga, puppies, comedy, iron(y), juju, sadhu, water in the ear, mirror boxes, muscle transplants, shotguns, legislation, fire. I’m sure I’ve left some out and even more I’ve yet to discover, but “not buying it” is a good one to add to the list.
This blog isn’t dead, just a hiatus. Until them, nom nom…
It started when I noticed so many journalists (and others) writing that “zombies aren’t real”. I began asking survey participants (recall previous failed survey efforts) to identify which is the “real zombie” from two choices (“Uncertain” was also a third option). The two choices included one fictional answer choice: “A “zombie” is a mindless monster that eats human brains” and that was tested individually against three alternative answer choices (other alternatives were tested in pilot research but these three were used in the controlled version of this experimental design):
– “A “zombie” is an insect controlled by a parasite,”
– “A “zombie” is a computer that has be taken over by malware,” or
– “A “zombie” is a mixed drink made with rum and fruit juice.”
Each of these alternative definitions is something that exists tangibly and has been called a “zombie” by popular press (see for examples ZombieLaw posts tagged: rum-drinks, botnets, and insects). The survey instructions specifically told participants that both of the choices were ways the media had used the word.
The majority of participants responded that the “real zombie” is the “mindless monster that eats human brains”. This was somewhat surprising to me because I would have thought that the other objects were more real. I have frequently argued that zombies are real but not as monsters, as words. These results show that most participants think the fictional zombies are more real.
The cover of last month’s November 2014 National Geographic was Carl Zimmer’s article with cover headline: “Real Zombies”, about parasite-controlled insects. And yet, the majority of my survey participants seem to disagree.
Another question on the survey asked these same participants whether they believe zombies exist in reality. Most participants respond “No.” but the proportion of “Yes” increases significantly if the order of the questions asks about whether zombies exist after the comparison question. This makes sense because the comparison question answers remind some participants about the existence of an alternative definition. This simple exposure is enough to increase the proportion of participants that will say zombies exist.
Yet many participants who claim that zombies do not exist will still select the fictional definition as the “real zombie”. This means that the participants are willing to label something as “real” even after claiming it doesn’t exist. This suggests that “real” is not a reference to tangible reality, but is perhaps something more about authenticity or essential referent.
This result excited one adjunct professor in my department, so I worked with him to write it up for a Masters degree. After depositing that thesis, I continued to explore the word “real” as related to zombies but continued to fail to intrigue my doctoral advisor. In fact, he claimed I was “harassing” him for trying to get him to read that paper draft too early in the semester. Without any ‘real’ academic support or advisement this process is impossible. Honestly, it’s not entirely my advisor’s, nor the school’s fault. I have been a difficult student and clearly I still don’t get it. My writing is disjointed and poorly styled. I love ideas, but I don’t particularly like the pragmatism of neoliberal institutions nor the insidious mentality of the ivory tower. Grants are all they care about. If the practical applications are not immediately obvious than it’s not science. This is the modern academic system. I should have known better.
My graduate studies have reminded me that I don’t particularly like academia. Like I said, I like ideas but academia is a terrible style. After a decade of trying, I think I’ve learned an important lesson. I’m ok without them. It would be hypocritical of me to keep paying money to a zombie institution that I don’t respect. They want over $4000 a semester just to maintain continuous registration. No credits, just continuous enrollment in supposed “doctoral advisement” except the only advisement I have managed to get is denigration (see Part1 and Part2 of this series of posts on my research failures). I’m done with this crap.
Nevertheless, I conducted one more follow-up study, even though I don’t even care what they think about it anymore. I am sharing it here because I think it’s interesting and you all can decide for yourself. The crumbling zombie Ivy league is an elitist scam and I have wasted enough of my life trying to impress them. Their style works for them, good for them.
I think this last study is pretty great but I’m sure it still doesn’t explain the cognitive implications. The results show that participants do distinguish between the words “real” and “nonfictional”. This was a controlled study, the participants were randomly assigned by the survey software to either a question asking participants to indentify the “real zombie” (as above) or the “nonfictional zombie”. The answer choice options were the same as the version above (the fictional version tested individually against rum-drink, malware and insects, plus an “uncertain” option). The variable of interest is the one word changed in the question asked (to identify either the “real zombie” or “nonfictional zombie”).
The difference between these groups shows a statistical difference in the understanding of the words. Participants are more likely to select the fictional definition when asked for the “real zombie” than when asked for the “nonfictional zombie”. Hence, the rhetorical “real” is not perceived as synonymous with the “nonfictional”. Therefore, being “real” is different than being “nonfictional”, at least as applied to zombies (and also seems to work on some pilot testing I did with “wizards”, i.e. participants are likely to think “real wizards” are spellcasters as opposed to math, finance, computer, or pinball experts).
Surprisingly, many participants still select the fictional monster definition even when asked for the “nonfictional zombie”. I don’t have a good explanation for that. Perhaps participants don’t know what nonfictional means or perhaps this word also has something more to do with authenticity than it might seem. Still, the main effect is significant, and there is a proportional difference in the interpretation of “real zombie” versus “nonfictional zombie” on all three sets of answer choices tested. Again, as mentioned in the previous post about my other MTurk surveys, some of the samples had inconsistent results, but I didn’t throw out any of the data and summed overall and the effect holds.
I do believe this project was on it’s way to maybe finding some ‘real’ cognitive implications potentially regarding the perception of rhetorical reality. However, without a supportive advisor, I refuse to continue paying for so-called “doctoral advisement” that I am not getting. Honestly, who cares about the letters appended to the end of my name? It’s all so bourgeois-gauche. Sorry mom, but this work ain’t doctoral material. Maybe it could have been… Surely it’s as much my fault as anyone else, this program was a bad fit and I kept trying for way too long. There is an “adjunct crisis“, and still the adjuncts are the only faculty that care at all. Paying any more money to this zombie institution would be psychotic. It’s time to stop being a zombie student and try making a real living…
“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”
– J.K. Rawling, in the book “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”
“Reality is merely an illusion albeit a very persistent one.”
– Albert Einstein (* is this an authentic quote or a persistent attribution?)
“what the art of physics is, is the ability to sniff out which mathematics is relevant for reality and which mathematics isn’t”.
– Brian Greene, modern physicist in “The Hidden Reality” (2011)
“Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.”
– Philip K. Dick, science fiction writer
“It’s now reality. It’s not science fiction. It’s real and you can look at it.”
– Rear Admiral Matthew Klunder, chief of naval research, about a new rail gun weapon system
“It was so real it didn’t seem real.”
– School Police Officer on scene of Newtown school shooting
“It doesn’t have to be understood to be real.”
– Peter Lanza, father of Newtown school shooter Adam Lanza.
“I challenge you to make sure all students feel like the ‘realist person on earth'”
– Sonia Nieto at the Teachers College 2014 commencement
“too many of them are getting addicted to video games, and we just can’t let them do that, nope, we gotta get out there, and you gotta get them out there, doing real stuff.”
– Temple Grandin at the Teachers College 2014 commencement
“Pick any metric you want — America’s resurgence is real.”
– President Barack Obama, December 20 2014 weekly address
“that’s how you want to portray the world but we know a different reality.”
– Mayor Bill de Blasio, December 22 2014 press conference
Hello ZombieLaw readers. Thank you for your readership. This post (and possibly the next few posts) is going to be quite a bit different. I have been working on various “zombie” research for years and failing so much. It’s finally time for me to quit on a portion of these efforts but I wanted to share the results with you all.
It’s been a very long road and some of the studies I tried are sort of interesting, but at this point none of them are particularly worth my time to continue. I’m not sure what that means for the future of this blog but the blog is a very different part of this project, and can still continue. However, in a larger sense it’s all sort of related so it will be interesting to see how my art develops.
None of this work I am going to report now has ever sparked the interest of my academic advisors. I’m done. I’m tired and burnt out. It’s not entirely the school’s fault, I was a difficult student, frequently bit the hand that fed me, my writing is disjointed and sometimes incomprehensible, I never liked formal academic style and clearly I still don’t get it. It’s ok. I think I’ll be happier without these zombies. But as I close off this time, let’s look back at some of my doomed efforts.
First, one of my early “zombie” cognition projects, I tried looking at the serial position effect. This is a classic of human memory that causes people to better remember words in the beginning and end of a list. Words in the middle of a list are more likely to be forgotten.
The word “zombie” seems a sticky word, and so I thought maybe it is more memorable than it should be. I put “zombie” in the middle of a list of words and the participants recall the words they remembered immediately at the end. I would need to do a lot more study to say for certain what is happening. Might need to try the word in other positions on the list and also test against other word options. In this study, the other words were selected from a database of word frequency in modern language but it’s possible that “zombie” had already become more frequent since the creation of that word frequency database. And also something is maybe going on with the word “reindeer” too. And some other irregularities. I tried a few iterations and these results happened:
After that study failed to spark my so-called advisor’s interest I moved next to exploring if there was something about the syllables themselves that made this word “zombie” special. I tried replicating the classic Bouba-Kiki experiments and replacing one of the words with “zombie” syllables. These results seemed to show that zombie could be perceived as either the round-shape or the pointy-shape depending on the contrast comparisons. Compared to Bouba or Kiki, “zombie” swings to the other.
In that table it says “right” and “left” but it means the first word of the comparison in the row heading. Notice a good repetition of the classic results for with Kiki being the sharp character and Bouba the rounded. The other versions show some of the effects of changing the -ie ending on zombie. Recall previous ZombieLaw posts made tangential reference to Bouba-Kiki research and possible syllable-effects: see “zombie linguistics scrabble dictionary” and “Noam Chomsky zombies! and why!“.
Who cares about shapes and word sounds? Not my so-called advisor. Round and sharp might be zombie false dichotomy and the effects are not clearly because of ambiguities in the sound-shape meaning (i.e. zom = rounded ; bie = sharp). Also zombie is a more familiar word than Bouba or Kiki. Who knows what it means? So I moved on…
I started asking people about their belief in zombies. Just a regular survey. I collected a bunch of participants on this survey via Amazon’s MTurk (which is how the previous studies were conducted too) and it seemed to show that the participants were more likely to think other people could be zombies if they also think they themselves might be a zombie. Duh? Too obvious, right? And the percentages of both were small so it’s not much of a finding.
There also seemed to be an age effect for affinity to zombies (based on likelihood of clicking an article with “zombie” in the headline title) but not a big difference in the ages. The average age of those with high zombie affinity was around 30 compared to about age 35 for those with lower affinities, but both groups with standard deviations larger than that difference. So again, not much of a finding. Also, that zombie-affinity variable (based on selecting headlines) also related to the question about whether other people might be zombies. Again this finding is somewhat obvious in that participants who prefer “zombie” headlines are also more inclined to be unsure about whether other people might be zombies. This doesn’t imply any actual effect of having these beliefs. Obviously an interest in zombies might increase the likelihood of considering the possibility that other people are zombies. It doesn’t mean these participants are processing any information differently. So again, not cognitive enough.
I did think I found a gender effect in the first sample of this survey that I collected. It was a somewhat large sample for cognitive research with over 100 participants, but unfortunately, these gender effects failed to reappear in the subsequent sample. Damn you, Type 1 error (or perhaps some unknown sampling bias – sometimes MTurk is an amazing service to collect survey opinions, but then sometimes the samples are so wildly different for no apparent reason. Anyway, none of my replicated effects were of particular interest to my so-called advisor, and so I moved on again…
Eventually, I hit upon a study idea that would become my Master’s thesis… unfortunately, not the doctorate I had hoped. Oh well, sorry Mom… but that’s a story for future posts… stay tuned… nom nom….
Softcover copies have been readily available via Amazon and Createspace for a while, along with other book collections of some fun words in the law.