Continuing the puppet-animation based (loosely) on the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh.
Having crossed the Ocean of Forgetfulness to reach the Island of the Dead, Gilgamesh re-encounters Uta-Napishti, the Distant One, who sets him a series of tests and tells the story of how death first came into the world. Part 9 of 10
On my site - http://edwardpicot.com/gilgamesh/gilgameshpart09.html
On YouTube - http://youtu.be/XR6UYCelE3U
On Vimeo - http://vimeo.com/66399202
Index-page for the project: http://edwardpicot.com/gilgamesh
- Edward Picot
Obviously the disturbing idea of a decaying corpse that is driven entirely by appetite, which cannot be reasoned with, appealed to and doesn’t feel pain, hunting you down for the sole purpose of eating you is not appealing. But why do they enjoy such ongoing popularity? More to the point what about them exactly is it that freaks me out?
Don’t get me wrong I have things that I don’t like much; slugs, that stuff wedding veils are made out of, being afraid in general. But zombies seem to simultaneously annoy me and flick the brown trouser switch. I’ll read pretty much anything but favorite areas of interest include paranormal, fantasy, sci-fi and dystopian fiction. So I can’t really get away from the buggers can I?
My other half has just lent me World War Z by Max Brooks. I’m only a third of the way through and I can say honestly that so far it is a good book, despite the lack of a continuing narrative or the chance to do more than start to get fond of characters before something awful happens to them. In that respect its right up there with Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead. (I have not read the graphic novels but I have enjoyed the HBO series.)
So what is it about zombies that make my flesh creep?
Try these on for size;
1) Death – it’s an obvious point and possibly the shallowest interpretation but zombies are death personified in all its icky entropic glory. Particularly for western civilization where death and the disposal of corpses is sanitized and distanced from the living, dealing with a non ambulant corpse is a mental feat for most people. If your job involves health care, forensics, funeral work or something else that crosses paths with the deceased you may be better equipped to deal with it. Speaking as a health care professional, being accidentally locked in a deserted corridor, in pitch darkness with a body on a gurney for 40 mins is not one of my top ten best memories of all time. Now add to such a scenario a corpse that is not behaving as it’s supposed to but is moving around and trying to eat you. Yeah. No dark, brooding sexy vampires here.
2) Predator/ prey dynamic – this hits a slightly deeper level of the subconscious. Let’s bear in mind that less than a tenth of 1% of our DNA has changed since we were Cro Magnon peoples living in caves. We would have been well aware of the feeling of being prey back then. Whether there is such a thing as race memory or not it’s left a deep impression on the human psyche. We rarely come up with monsters that are more terrifying or chill inducing that do not fill the predator niche, whether cannibalistic, sexual, animal or exploitative in some other way. In other words the fact that zombies are portrayed as eaters of human flesh sends huge flashing warning signals to the primitive part or our brains that remembers what it was like to be prey. (Incidentally there is some evidence that primitive peoples regularly practiced cannibalism so something human shaped eating humans may well flick a very special fear circuit.)
3) Genetics and survival – this one is largely theoretical on my part. Bear with me while I take a slight detour. Around 2.5 million years ago Australopithecus africanus walked upright. At least as far as we can tell from fossil records. Yay for Australopithecus. Suddenly tall grasses were less of an obstacle to vision allowing greater advantages such as the ability to pot predators or prey earlier (though we didn’t eat much meat then) and the development of the opposable thumb. The problem was that vertical ambulation required narrowing of the pelvis and thus the birth canal. In order to survive child birth, females were giving birth to young whose brains were not yet fully developed. Well and good – as long as your species then develops a nurturing instinct above and beyond the usual investment in their young, since otherwise the species would have been doomed. Clearly they did since I’m sat here blogging about it and you’re (hopefully) reading about it. This urge to protect and nurture our own became so ingrained that if geneticists one day discover a gene for nurturing as part of the human genome I won’t be surprised. So what does that have to do with zombies? Well there’s the question of infection. Bitten survivors of zombie attacks turn into zombies themselves, or so popular fiction would have it. (As a new species zombie are not humanoid they’re more like bacteria or viruses in their ability to reproduce.)
Most animals will drive away members of a the group exhibiting signs of infection. Rabbits will drive other rabbits with myxomatosis out of the warren for example. Humans tend not to do this in general. In a sense the very behavioral and genetic quirks that allowed us to become apex predators ourselves by working cooperatively, are being turned against us by the ‘Z factor’ in zombie infection. If I could accuse a virus of brilliance I would applaud the mythical Z factor. It’s genius. Infect one member of a group of gregarious creatures that naturally care for their sick and wounded, to the point of helping to conceal cases of incurable infection, incubate quietly, take over the host and have the host pass on the infection to others, who then pass it on further. It’s a chain letter that actually works and it’s utterly chilling because in it robs us of the very things that we would use to describe ourselves as human. Or at least humane.
As for the why zombies/ the infected/ the body snatchers/ the T virus remain so popular, I personally believe it is because they make a great vehicle for telling a story. Usually a very bleak and dystopian story; hopefully one of ultimate survival. Rarely are they anything but a vehicle * so they do not detract from the journey of the characters and how they change and adapt (or don’t) to new selection or survival pressures. It’s when humanity’s back is against the wall that we can put it under a microscope and examine the best and very worst of it without blame. At least in fiction.
So if you’ve read this far thanks for allowing me to share my disturbing thoughts with you. I know I’ll sleep better tonight ;)
*Isaac Marion’s book Warm Bodies is a notable exception with the story being told from the zombies POV.
Another time I lay in a hospital bed, all by myself, jacked up on morphine, looking at a blue left arm that was the size of my upper thigh. I watched as they tested the anti-venin on me, and in very serious tones told me that if they used it on me, I would die- which I would probably do without it when the venom reached my main artery. I remember thinking how absurd the situation was, this being the second time, in the span of ten years and five days, that I lie alone in a hospital facing death from a snake bite. How utterly absurd! And the fact that I had reached out on my own and caught this animal, knowing how deadly the bite was from firsthand experience, made me feel even more foolish than afraid.
But this time, this incident I endured on the evening of May seventh- at the hands of people I entrusted my life to- this scares me. I was dying, right here on this stretcher, in front of my sick and crazy Daddy, while being held down and shot full of a deadly drug by people who were supposed to be helping me...no, this took the cake , and continues to take it even as I write of it. In fact, I'm not sure if I can tell you about it- or if ,legally, I should. Because somehow, on some level, what that doctor did to me had to be wrong. My scarred mind that flinches away from bright lights thinks it was wrong, as do my bruised arms where the six interns held me down during the convulsions that followed the injection. Convulsions and contortions that lasted over one half of an hour, and were so violent that I actually kicked my walking cast off of my broken ankle- a cast that was strapped on by 5 broad velcro straps, so tightly that the ankle was kept immobilized. Or at least it was until the Doctor on duty decided I was overdosing and shot me up with an opiod antagonist called Narcan, even though I had told him and his staff repeatedly that I only take my opiod pain medication exactly as prescribed, and was only sleepy. As I lost control of my body and my head kept bashing itself off the stretcher, my legs and arms flailing, kicking and punching, back arching until I nearly snapped in two, I remember thinking that my heart was going to burst, and that I would never see my brother again. And I was so, so sad that they had called my poor sick daddy to the room, that he had to see what they had done to me. I begged them to make it stop, I cried out, "Why did you do this to me?", I screamed to them to ," Get my Dad out of here, he has Alzheimers!", while my body writhed and exposed my tattooed breasts for all to see, including the father I adore. I begged them to pull up my pants, as I lie panting and heaving under their 6 bodies, nightmare flashbacks of other times, other hands and other hateful faces leering above me. Only these faces weren't looking at me, but at each other, at their watches, at the clock- anywhere but at my contorted , snot covered, begging face. begging someone to tell me what they did to me, why they were killing me, why wouldn't they make the pain stop, the fear stop, the thrashing, and pounding of my heart stop... Why did they make me die there in front of my dad, calling me an overdose, when it was them who shot me up with some dope from Satan? As my eyes rolled up in my head the questions seemed less important, and just the sadness remained, the betrayal, the exhaustion, and the knowledge that if they had just believed me, they wouldn't have had to kill me.
When I came to, in the blackness, I did not know where I was , or why. I just knew I was sick, and alone, in pain, and tied to a stretcher.
Welcome to my May 7th.
Cook & Write Retreat - 6 nights from 8th November to 14th November
A retreat featuring workshops and cooking sessions with writing prompts to help you think about using food in your writing, lots of writing time and opportunities to get ideas and inspiration from other writers.
The lovely Debi Alper will be running a workshop at this
retreat, which will take place at the secluded and
beautiful Voley Farm in Exmoor National Park. As well as
holding a workshop on Psychic Distance, Debi will be staying for
the whole retreat and holding daily 1-1 sessions for writers to
have their work reviewed.
Cathie Hartigan of Creative Writing Matters will also be running a workshop but you will get plenty of time do your own thing as well.
Voley Farm has three holiday cottages set withing 45 acres of
farmland and ancient woodland and the retreat will fill them all.
There is also communal space to get together for workshops and
Find out more here. Hope to see some Cloudies there!
Received a phone call from BT, informing me that he was disconnecting me because of an unpaid bill... He demanded payment immediately of £31.00 or it would be £ 118.00 to re-connect at a later date. The guy wasn't even fazed when I told him I was with Virgin Media, allegedly VM have to pay BT a percentage for line rental! I asked the guy's name - he gave me the very 'English' John Peacock with a very 'African' accent - & phone number -0800 0800 152.
Obviously the fellow realized I didn't believe his story, so offered to demonstrate that he was from BT. I asked how & he told me to hang up & try phoning someone - he would disconnect my phone to prevent this. AND HE DID!! My phone was dead - no engaged tone, nothing - until he phoned me again. Very pleased with himself, he asked if that was enough proof that he was with BT.
I asked how the payment was to be made & he said credit card, there & then. I said that I didn't know how he'd done it, but I had absolutely no intention of paying him, I didn't believe his name or that he worked for BT. He hung up. I dialled 1471 -number withheld I phoned his fictitious 0800 number - not recognized.
So I phoned the police to let them know. I wasn't the first! It's only just started apparently, but it is escalating. Their advice was to let as many people as possible know of this scam. The fact that the phone does go off would probably convince some people it's real, so please make as many friends & family aware of this. How is it done?
This is good but not that clever. He gave the wrong number - it should have been 0800 800 152 which takes you through to BT Business. The cutting off of the line is very simple, he stays on the line with the mute button on and you can't dial out - but he can hear you trying. (This is because the person who initiates a call is the one to terminate it). When you stop trying he cuts off and immediately calls back. You could almost be convinced!
The sad thing is that it is so simple that it will certainly fool many. By the way this is not about getting the cash as this would not get past merchant services - it is all about getting the credit card details which include the security number, to be used for larger purchases. **Please Copy and Paste**.
(Shame I had such a shitty day... I don't really feel like going into huge detail, but I'm on the brink of resigning and taking grieiance proceedings against my manager. Allegedly, being Ofsted rated Good is not enough, and she has decided that I need compulsory coaching 'to bring me up to standard'. And what standard is that? Because silly me, I thought Ofsted rating me Good was enough of a standard. Needless to say, I am NOT happy about this. But even so - I'm having a book published, so yay!)
I received a phone call from a stranger, who asked to speak to me. I confirmed I was that person.
He introduced himself as Matt from XXX company (no surname).
‘Who?’ I asked.
He repeated the unfamiliar name, and continued, ‘For security, can you tell me the first line of your address?’
Technically, the answer is ‘Yes, I can’. However, ‘Will I tell?’ is entirely different.
To unspin the spin, how does this question provide any security to either of us?
‘You phone me on my landline and ask for me by name. So you have a reasonable expectation that the person picking up the phone is the person you want to speak to. On the other hand, I don’t know you from a bar of soap. Armed with my name and phone number, my address is freely available in the BT phone book and in on-line directories. You want me to give you the link so you can look it up?’
‘Unless you tell me the first line of your address, I can’t discuss the matter further with you.’
‘Dear, oh dear. What matter?’
‘I can’t discuss it.’
‘I don’t know who you are. My security question to you, is who are you?’
‘I can’t divulge that information until you confirm your address.’
‘Can I remind you that it’s you who wants to talk to me, not the other way around?
‘I can’t proceed with this conversation unless you answer my questions.’
‘I can see your problem. We appear to have reached an impasse.’
If I call my bank, do I ask ‘security questions’ of whoever picks up the phone?’ No. I expect the bank to pick up. And since I’m the one initiating the call, I expect them to check my credentials before discussing my account. So when an unknown person calls me, why is it so peculiar to want to ascertain their identity, before divulging anything to them?
It may seem that I was overly obstinate, but we all know that the question would be followed up by other questions which are not so easily in the public domain – date of birth, mother’s maiden name, favourite pet (I always get that wrong), perhaps account numbers. And all before I know what it’s about. In the past, I’ve fallen for that old rigmarole, only to discover that they want to sell me insurance.
And I will not perpetuate the myth that asking my address, is in any way secure.
I don’t even understand why anyone would think it is secure, and why would I want to do business with any stupid company who thinks it is?
Let’s try to imagine why a person picking up a phone might get the address wrong.
- They are drunk. If so, there’s no point proceeding with the conversation.
- They have dementia. This could be tested by further questions, like ‘Who is the Prime Minister?’ If they answer ‘Noddy and Big Ears’, make of that what you will.
- They’ve been kidnapped and don’t know where they’re being held; and haven’t already used the phone to call the police.
- They’re an invited guest; as such, improbable they would maliciously impersonate the householder.
- … No, can’t think of a fifth reason. Anyone?
Who else might pick up the home phone apart from me?
1. Someone else who lives there. If so, it’s plausible they know the address.
2. A workperson such as a plumber or cleaner. They’re likely to know the address, too. And unlikely to pick up the phone in the first place, knowing it’s not for them. And if they do, they’ll say, ‘She’s out.’ Call over.
3. A burglar. Ditto, really. Unlikely to pick up the phone, and if they do, likely to know the address that they’re currently burgling.
4. A random passerby who hears a phone ringing in a strangely unlocked and empty house and gallantly runs in to answer it. They might have to run out again to check the house number, but that’s easily done.
On occasions where I do have a connection to the company calling, I’ve suggested a compromise. ‘If I tell you the first part of my account number, can you supply the rest?’ This is at least some reassurance for both of us, and similar to the way that secure computer transactions work. Sometimes they comply, and I look on them with favour.
Since the address of a landline is such a prevalent question, what is its purpose? To give the illusion of security but no actual security at all? It’s meaningless box-ticking. Smoke and Mirrors. Spin. Which is why I don’t cooperate.
I agree that we all want to know who we’re talking to about our private business, but this goes both ways. The phone is convenient, I’m not denying that. And I really don’t need any more PINs or passwords. But demanding the address of a landline from the person obviously holding the phone? Perlease!
So my questions are: Who thinks this is a good security check? How does it achieve its aim? Who does it weed out? Is there a better way?