Gone Fishin’

Now that the warm days are drawing to a close, I’m trying to get my little shamblers outside as much as possible. The fresh air is good for their muscle and skin tone; when they spend too much time in the house it starts to smell like damp rot after a while. It doesn’t bother me any—I don’t have the nose I once did, since the neighbor’s dog ate it—but the last time the kids spent a rainy week inside playing video games, the neighbors were convinced that we were hiding bodies under the house. As if anything bigger than the neighbor’s dog could fit down there.

One of my favorite outdoor activities is fishing. This surprises a lot of breathers. I guess they’ve all bought into the stereotype of the perpetually shambling, groaning monster that can think of nothing but brains. Well, groaning and shambling are hard work when your body is in the shape mine is, and there’s a reason fish is called “brain food.” It’s the next best thing to actual brains.

Fishing is the ideal pastime for a family of shamblers looking to get away from it all. Out on a boat in the middle of a lake, it’s highly unlikely anyone will come at you with a maul or machete. And if anyone does come too close for comfort, you’ll see them in plenty of time to get away. No need to move the boat; just jump overboard and disappear. Depending on the depth of the water, you can either wait at the bottom or walk back to land. Just make sure you’ve dropped the anchor before you abandon ship. I once had to make an underwater getaway from a couple of cops looking for unlicensed fishers (somehow they thought mine was invalid just because it postdated my death certificate) and I lost my canoe downstream. Thankfully the cops retrieved it for me; they thought I was a murder victim and impounded the canoe as evidence.

If you take your little shamblers fishing with you, you’ll need to take a few extra precautions. Hooks caught in hands don’t hurt, but you still want to take care that nobody gets a finger ripped off due to an errant cast. Undead flesh makes decent bait, but it’s not worth the drama that will ensue. My youngest still hasn’t forgiven his older sister for the pinkie toe incident, even though it did net him a ten-pound bass.
And speaking of bait, if you have very young shamblers, keep them away from your tackle box. Most small children can’t tell the difference between night crawlers and brains, and you may end up running to the nearest bait shop for an emergency re-stock. One of my kids even managed to swallow my favorite lure, despite its unnatural color, shiny feathers, and bristling hooks. Apparently he thought it was a very crunchy, bristly fish. We were picking metal out of his teeth for weeks afterward.

One word of caution for all the breathers out there: watch how much you drink. Since the life-challenged have a sluggish circulatory system, it’s not something we worry about, but nothing burns my brains like hearing about some breathers who drank too much and drowned themselves. If you want to throw your life away, come to my house for dinner. At least we’ll put you to good use, and if you ask nicely I might even marinate you in alcohol.
Before summer is over, grab your pole and head out to the nearest fishing hole. Maybe the fish aren’t the only things biting.

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The Zombie Casserole Chronicles – Part Twelve

So here we are nearly one year from the date of the project’s inception.  For the past several months it’s felt like we’ve been taking one step forwards and two back.  If it’s not issues with sound, then it’s issues with light stands in shots that need to be removed, or trying to figure out how to do what should be simple DVD authoring using Adobe’s stupid products.

So it was with a considerable amount of joy that John and I got the news that Zombie Casserole was selected to be shown on Saturday evening August 17’th at the 2013 Mascara & Popcorn Film Festival in Montreal.

Mascara And Popcorn Laurels


Not only is our film getting a premiere, but it’s outside the country.   Eeeeeekkkk!!!! (Sounds of Sanj squealing like a little girl).

Last year our short Blobageddon was screened at the film festival, and John and I made the trek north and sat in a room with a bunch of complete strangers and watched them watching our onscreen hijinks.

This year instead of a 5 minute short featuring ourselves, we’ll be presenting a 27 minute and 40 second film with a cast of 20 plus an assorted crew that was shot over the course of five extremely full days, and as I stated earlier, represents nearly a year’s worth of pre and post-production work by myself, John and musical and audio genius Shmoolie.

We’ve done a few test runs with friends and family over the past couple of months to make sure the sound and such were right, but this will be the first time it’s showing in front of people who had absolutely nothing to do with our production.  We’re still doing some tweaks, but at this point it’s very nearly the final product.

So on that note, there’s no time like the present to step into the deep end!

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Read To Your Shamblers

Some people claim that the undead are incapable of learning anything new, because their brains are rotten. This, in my opinion, is a very pulsist way of thinking. It’s not as though a brain rotted through disuse is an undead-specific trait. And the cure for this condition is the same for both breathers and shamblers alike. Read.
Reading is the single most important thing you can do with your child. You may think that buying that expensive learning toy or that educational software will make your child smarter or more successful, but compared to sitting down and reading a book together, you may as well be tossing him a severed foot. Trust me on this.
Reading expands the mind. Not in a bad way, like a sledgehammer. More like a stretching exercise for the brain cells. It’s a way for different people to know and understand each other. It’s a way to introduce children to ideas that they could never discover by simply staggering around, slack-jawed and ravenous, trying to eat everything that’s not nailed down. And that also goes for the life-challenged child.
My own little shamblers can read pretty well (when they’re not playing Got Your Eye with each other) but I still read to them whenever I can get them to sit still. Some parents don’t allow comics or graphic novels, saying that the violence is bad for them. I say horserot. I’ll read anything that catches their interest. I even read zombie apocalypse stories, though some of the deaths are pretty violent. But I figure that it’s good to be ambitious about the future, and reading about zombies being shot, blown up, and dismembered will help them prepare.
Reading is a way for complete strangers to get to know each other. Take this post, for example. If you and I were standing face to face, we would not be engaging in this bit of dialogue. I would likely be trying to eat your face, and you would be trying to blow me away. All that aside, my verbal skills haven’t been the same since the time the cat got my tongue. Reading and writing are a way around communication barriers.
Most importantly of all, reading engages the imagination in a way that no purely visual medium ever could. A movie or TV show tells you, “This is what it looks like. This is how things are.” A book says, “This is what it could look like. This is how it might be.” A breather might read a zombie apocalypse story and come away from it dreaming of hope and survival and the tenacity of the human spirit. A shambler might read the same book and come away from it dreaming of gourmet meals and the tastiness of the human body. Any reaction is the right reaction, because there are no wrong answers at the end of a book.
Some folks claim that they don’t like to read, or they don’t have time. What they mean is that their brains are out of practice and they’re afraid of the effort it would take to get back into shape. Exercise hurts, especially when you haven’t done it in a while. So start small. Graphic novels. Comics. Trashy young-adult brain candy. It might hurt a little, just like the gym hurts the first few times you go. But keep at it. Work your brain. Clear the rot away. You’ll be happier, you’ll be healthier, and you may even live longer because of something you read.

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Footloose and Shamblin’ Free

The life-challenged don’t sleep, not the way that breathers do. Since our brains only function at a very basic level, they don’t need to shut down and recharge for eight hours at a stretch. And of course we never need to dream. Dreams and nightmares are your brain’s way of flushing out anxiety. We are the nightmare-inducing anxiety.
That doesn’t mean, though, that we don’t need to relax once in a while. Raising and home-schooling three little shamblers is hard work, especially for someone with half a brain. With the days getting longer and the nights getting warmer, here are a few ideas for anyone looking to kick back and vegetate in their own fluids for a while.
Read a bad book. I mean an awful book. Dreadful writing, lousy plot, wooden characters that make the extras in a Romero movie look like Oscar-caliber performers. Anything by VC Andrews is a sure hit, as are Danielle Steele or EL James. Read something so trite and predictable that you’ll come away from it refreshed and feeling like an intellectual giant. If you’re a writer yourself, this is a must. Nothing recharges the old batteries faster than thinking, “And you made a million bucks? I can totally do this!”
Visit the beach. If the weather’s nice enough to go swimming (or wading or floundering, depending on your muscle tone and state of decay) that’s fun too, but just getting out in the sun and watching the water move is great for the soul—even if you’re not sure if you have one. Bring a book (maybe one of those awful ones I mentioned; there’s a reason they’re called beach reads) or just sit and stare for an hour or two. You’ll come away feeling like a fresh corpse. If you’re lucky you might be discovered by a couple who mistakes you for a murder victim. This can be hilarious or delicious depending on where you want to go with it.
Take your shamblers someplace fun and turn them loose. Nothing makes me want to chew my own face off like constant whines of “I’m bored” or “It’s too hot” or “She won’t give me my leg back.” Now that our curriculum schedule is set to an easier pace, we have more free time. The beach isn’t a such a good choice for this if your kids happen to be alive; constantly watching to make sure they’re still breathing makes relaxation difficult. But there are parks, forest preserves, or your local community center. There are usually lots of kids for mine to play with, and on a good day I don’t have to make dinner afterwards.
Ride a train. This last tip may sound odd, but it’s terrific fun. Get up early in the morning, hop on a train, and ride until you’re tired of it. Get off at a random destination and explore. You might find a fun new store or restaurant you never knew existed. I’m always on the lookout for new taste experiences for my children, so I get very excited when I find a place that serves exotic foods. The people there have great taste.
Whether or not you need to sleep, everyone needs a break from reality once in a while. This goes double for people whose reality is sometimes a real horror movie.

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The Zombie Casserole Chronicles – Part Eleven

Over the past few months, we’ve been busily churning away at sound and video post-production.  This has resulted in a number of character-building and learning moments.  There’s a vast difference between chunking out four to five minute web videos and making a thirty minute short film.

One of our more painful lessons was that you should really avoid crossing platforms when working on video projects.  John and I do all of our editing using Adobe Premiere Pro on Windows, but Shmoolie does all the sound editing and music using Logic on a Mac.  We send lo-res MP4’s back and forth all the time over DropBox to make sure we’re all seeing the same thing.  In order for the sound to get properly mixed, Shmoolie needed separate audio tracks.  We had four, so we figured that since we were sharing MP4’s, we’d just create AAC files (the same format in our MP4’s) and send them over to Shmoolie.  What could possibly go wrong?

It turns out that since AAC is heavily compressed. Although the format is public, different software packages use different algorithms to compress/decompress.  Since Shmoolie needed to work using uncompressed sound, we discovered that the decompression algorithms on the Mac seriously degraded the sound quality and also resulted in some sync issues.  After a few more false tries, we finally managed to settle on us sending the tracks as WAV files, and Shmoolie would send back a mixed AIF we would then sync to the main project.  It took us days to get here.  I would also note that to even get to this point we had to lock down the main video project. Once sound mixing commences, we can’t change anything or we invalidate Shmoolie’s projects as all the sound would then go out of sync.

We’ve done a number of the back and forths at this point and are getting closer to a final mix; however, as we got closer the Wizard World 2013 Comic-Con in Philly, we decided it would be a good idea to show a trailer for Zombie Casserole at our table.  I knocked out what ended up being the final trailer in a couple of evenings of work, and over the course of a couple of more evenings, Shmoolie knocked out several different soundtracks and mixes for us to choose from.  For some reason a one-minute project is a lot simpler to deal with than a thirty minute project.

You can see the results below.

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