Engaged with the World

Tag: zombies

Out of Zombies, Egypt

A few years ago, the Archaeological Institute of America published an article hypothesizing that the formation of ancient Egypt was linked to recurrent Predynastic zombie attacks due to outbreaks of Solanum virus. Further study has proven the early hypothesis to be true. In matters of archaeology, history, and development of civilizations, this finding is every bit as significant as learning that the Higgs boson, theorized since the early 1960’s, does, in fact, exist.

Solanum, as you may know, was isolated in 2003 by famous zombie researcher Max Brooks, who immediately published his findings in the scholarly Zombie Survival Guide. Solanum is the insidious virus that feasts on the frontal lobe, killing its human host’s ability to maintain basic bodily functions. (The virus has absolutely no relation to the plant genus of the same name, despite the fatal characteristics of the nightshades. The tastier, less deadly members of this plant genus include tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplants.)

The virus keeps the victim’s brain alive, though, and actually mutates it so that it is no longer oxygen-dependent.  As the Urban Dictionary correctly points out, “By removing the need for this all-important resource, the undead brain can utilize, but is in no way dependent upon, the complex support mechanism of the human body.” The mutated brain eventually controls the body of the host, but in a very different way than the original, uninfected brain.

The most recent outbreak of Solanum happened just three years ago but was apparently confined to the jackalope population. This outbreak was particularly disturbing because for the first time Solanum was proven to have infected a non-human host. However, in examining the historical documents, it appears likely that the Rabbit of Caerbannog, encountered by the British King Arthur and his loyal Knights of the Round Table in their quest for the Holy Grail, may well have suffered the undeadly effects the Solanum virus, too.

They’d better not risk another frontal assault. That rabbit’s dynamite.  (source)

Headless skeletons found at Egypt’s historic city of Hierakonpolis are what gave the ancient zombie plague away. According to archaeologists studying the site, “[t]he number and the standard position of the cut marks (usually on the second-fourth cervical vertebrae; always from the front) indicate an effort far greater than that needed simply to cause the death of a normal (uninfected) person. The standard position also indicates these are not injuries sustained during normal warfare.”

The archaeologists’ findings mirror what we know to be true about modern zombies. In multiple documentaries about the zombie plague, George A. Romero taught us that the best way to stop a zombie is by decapitating or braining it. Deprive the Solanum of its host, destroy the tissue in which it lives, and it cannot animate that which ought not to be animated in the first place. And if you think for a moment that these films are not important, think again: in 1999, the first of the documentaries was one of 25 selected by the National Film Registry at the Library of Congress as one of the most “historically… important” films ever made.

Bless your googlie-eyed wisdom and your dedication to raising social awareness, Professor Romero. (source)

Recent studies of the Narmer palette, discovered at Hierakonpolis, served as the interpretive breakthrough the scientists needed to piece together the clues at the dig site. We don’t have to tell you that the Narmer Palette was named for the famous Egyptian King of Dynasty 0. That’s a zero, not a letter, and it stands for the dynasty that begat all future Egyptian dynasties, back when begetting was still a new thing. (The people of the Levant would jump on the begetting bandwagon about fifteen hundred years later. They would maintain the trend until 70 C.E. That’s when the Romans sent them out on a diaspora, which is the Aramaic term for “schlepping your kids all over creation.”)

About 5100 years ago, Narmer ruled Upper Egypt (the south part, closer to the source of the Nile). He was known among his people as “Raging Catfish,” which, as a mascot and spirit animal, does not exactly seem terribly fearsome, but nevertheless, that’s what “Narmer” means in ancient Egyptian. The Catfish moniker may have come from his propensity to dam up the Nile to increase the tillable acres in his kingdom. Dams make for still water, where catfish like to scavenge, but when they want to go farther and butt their whiskered heads against the wall of the dam, well, they rage.

But as history would happen, the Solanum virus outbreak in the Nile Delta, to the north, got out of hand and the northern king ruling the area couldn’t keep things under control. The hordes started to move south, toward Narmer’s kingdom. Narmer would have none of that.

As soon as Narmer finished putting down the zombie hordes, the grateful citizens of the upper and lower Nile Deltas held themselves an election and declared Narmer King of Everything. It seems that the old king of Lower Egypt had lost his head, and thus his crown, in the zombie wars, the grateful inhabitants of the delta decided to give that crown to Narmer, to wear in conjunction with his own crown. Fortunately, the adoration of so many Egyptians of every stripe made Narmer’s head big enough to hold two crowns, and thus Upper and Lower Egypt united under a single ruler and the First Dynasty began.

The ancient stonecutters of the Nile were especially delighted that they could go around carving things without jumping and running for their lives every time they heard a moan. In grateful appreciation, they got together and designed the Narmer Palette, a big stone carved on both sides chronicling events of the zombie uprising.

Detail of the obverse side of the Narmer Palette, showing the decapitated zombies being presented to a doubly-crowned king.

As Egyptian rulers would frequently do upon the resolution of some momentous event, Narmer decided to change his royal sobriquet. Besides, folks in the north thought “Catfish” was too endearingly redneck for the ruler of two magnificent kingdoms. He became “Menes” and founded the northern city of Men Nefer, which means “enduring and beautiful.” In modern language, Men Nefer’s name is pronounced “Memphis.”

While “enduring” might suit the victor of the Great Zombie War who had saved humanity, Narmer/Menes probably had enough battle wounds to disqualify himself as “beautiful.”  His southern subjects recognized the need for a name change but did not like the one he chose for himself. Some people wanted him to take the title of Zombie King, but others suggested that name was probably culturally insensitive given the circumstances. So, they came up with the next most deadly creature they could think of, and they called him the Scorpion King.

Catfish the Scorpion King (source)

Book Review – This Dark Earth



John Hornor Jacobs has written a powerful novel of the Zombie Apocalypse. In his just-published second novel, the zombie virus is a biological weapon that is accidentally released from the installation in Whitehall, Arkansas. The opening scenes take place at a Little Rock hospital. After the government drops nuclear bombs intended to eradicate the outbreak, a doctor and a truck driver join forces with a military unit to set up a local government and defend against the hungry hordes of undead. They soon find themselves in conflict with a megalomaniac who wants to take over what remains of the still-living world.

Well written and fast-paced, the first-person voices of survivors shape this novel into an exposition of how some people survive and many others die when society falls completely apart. This Dark Earth is more robust than an ordinary zombie novel. It deserves classification with the exceptional novels of catastrophic social change, including Steven King’s The Stand, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, and Pat Frank’s Alas, Babylon.


Zombie Apocalypse: How it Happens

God, I love The Oatmeal!

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The Oatmeal’s Zombie Apocalypse

Breaking Up

It’s all the talk.

At cocktail parties and in the small talk before business meetings, we’re all talking about that certain Russian prediction of the breakup of the American union and the new countries that will take its place.

With Governor Perry in Texas talking secession, and Japanese having bought up Hawaii, and the Northwest’s own secessionist movement, maybe professor Igor Panarin’s prediction isn’t all that far fetched.

In case you haven’t heard, the Wall Street Journal ran an article in late December 2008 in which Professor Panarin was quoted as saying that there was about a fifty percent chance that the United States of America would break up by July of 2010.  That’s fourteen months from now.

According to him, we won’t be able to hold together as a nation until the end of the world – or the new era – predicted by the Maya. Brash and impulsive, we’ll disintegrate into six different countries, each under the influence of a different foreign power.  The economy and unimpeded immigration will be major causes of our downfall.  Being Russian, Panarin also attributes the coming civil war to our “moral degradation.”

But those two words, “moral degradation,” are awfully subjective.  Our morals, which the Soviets never thought we had in the first place, have actually gotten worse?  This is the result of the rabidly conservative administration we had until January? George Bush’s administration was closer to Putin’s than any other administration in history – yet our morals are fatally degraded?

I’m just glad that Putin’s Evil Twin is no longer in the highest office in the land. That man scared me.  He left us with a constitution in tatters and a reputation sullied worldwide.  He left us with an economic disaster of pestilential proportions. Under his watch an unnecessary war was started and a war that maybe should have been over by now may never be.  We are indeed following in the footsteps of the Soviets in Afghanistan. There’s a reason that country cannot stay conquered.

Russia’s economy tanked – a solitary tank, by the way, and not as part of a worldwide economic downturn – because communism, while perhaps a lofty ideal, is just an ideal.  In practice it can never work because of the avarice of humans and the specialization of society.  Like it or not, capitalism started with the rise of the medieval merchant class, and capitalism is here to stay. China’s gradual embrace of capitalism is much better than the free-for-all Russia and its satellites endured, but that embrace is tantamount to an admission that as much as we might all like to be equal, some will always be more equal than others.

I don’t see the US breaking up.  I see a future in which some secessionist movements might succeed. Perhaps in the Northwest, where politics and civil rights are far more liberal than in, say, Arkansas, a new country could rise. I don’t see it becoming part of Russia or Japan or China.  The cultures are just too different, and the survivalists are just too adamant. Instead of this secessionist entity clinging to the coast like in Panarin’s notion, Montana will allow it to flex its muscle eastward.

Now, Texas has been an independent country before and, as a former resident of the only state with a school in the Southwest Conference that wasn’t located in Texas, I say let ’em be again.  (My ex-husband never mentions the University of Texas at Austin without an exaggerated spit of disgust.)  We don’t need Texas. If we built a fence around its borders, it might help a great deal with the illegal immigration issue. In fact, give Texas New Mexico and Arizona, too.

The South, as they have always said, will rise again.  The Southern economy, lifestyle, and outlook just doesn’t quite mesh with that of those folks up East. Atlanta can be our capital, or New Orleans, at least until it washes away again.  Now, despite Panarin’s model, I just don’t see West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, or the Carolinas joining some urban Atlantic nation-state. We’ll keep them in the South, as well as the Southern two-thirds of Virginia. Washington D.C. is not a Southern city, and Maryland, despite its location south of the Mason-Dixon line, just doesn’t feel Southern. The damn Yankees can have them both.  The South will also take the Florida panhandle, because we need our “Redneck Riviera.” Disney can have the rest of the state and no one will miss it.

That city that stretches from the Chesapeake to Boston Harbor will become a country unto itself.  To give it arable farmland we’ll donate western Pennsylvania and Ohio to its holdings. It’ll eventually sort of have that “Escape From New York” feel to it.  With any luck it’ll turn into “I am Legend” and we can build a fence around it, too, to keep the zombies corralled.

New England will revert to its colonial status, with the exception of Western Massachusetts, which is part of that Atlantic city-state. Its capitol will be Hanover, New Hampshire, that venerable seat of learning that is crowned by Dartmouth University.

The twin capitals of the landlocked Midwest will be Chicago and port city of St. Louis. With the fall of the Atlantic city-state to zombies, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan will become the industrial hub of the continent.

Wisconsin, the Dakotas, and Minnesota will join Canada.  People there sound like Canadians already, so the cultural assimilation won’t be difficult for them.  Likewise Alaska will become Canadian, just because Canada needs more tundra.  Although, come to think of it, with global warming, that tundra will turn into bog by the next century.

That takes care of every place except Hawaii.  Since Japan already owns Hawaii, we won’t be able to do much with it.  Vulcanism will render the Hawaii question moot in another few thousand years, anyway.

So, I guess I can see the US breaking up, but not the way that Russian Panarin conceives of it. I have to take the cultural inclinations into consideration, whereas he just looked at state lines.  And other than those northern states that defect to Canada, Japanese Hawaii, and maybe a Cuban or Bahamian Florida, I just don’t see any other country taking control of the nations that result.

And now that I have frittered away a couple of otherwise billable hours on these mental gymnastics, I really should get back to work.

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