Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

Zombies as a Personification of Nature

Recalling an interview with Romero in one of the prior "X of the Dead" films, I was struck by one of the themes/rules he has for his branch of the series - that the struggles between humans are ultimately more destructive and dangerous than those between the humans and the zombies. The zombies, for their part, arn't reduced to total mindlessness - they instead are basic predators of nature, with vision, the ability to make and hear noise, and other things suitable for that. We might easily project a number of more detailed themes onto this (fall of man, class struggle, etc), but the series suggests the basic interpretation is stronger with its cultural commentary - one gets the impression that Romero makes the zombie movies because he's frustrated with people. These types of frustration - are they just the normal "I live in society with varied people who don't all agree with me and those conflicts of wills irritate me", or is there something that stands out about that criticism as either being particularly interesting/powerful or saying something striking about the criticiser? (I like the idea of using "criticisant" as the target of criticism, but I don't get the chance to coin that here except within these parentheses) ... and we might apply that line of reasoning to criticisms of society in general. What does it mean to criticise society well, and what does it mean to do so poorly? Hopefully we can do better than the ingroup-outgroup style arguments (that nontheless may have inspired a lot of this to begin with - age finds new use for tools forged in the foolishness of immaturity) - self-congratulatory insults of "the enemy" don't, I think, get us much. In my recent rereading of Ken MacLeod's "Cassini Division", in the flashback to arguments between the homewarder and transhumanist tendencies, I found myself intensely irritated by the main character's arguments for this very reason - this was probably intended by the author, although it's hard to say for sure. Some authors want to move the reader carefully through their work towards one conclusion or perspective - others leave room for sympathy for various opposing characters, either in a "fall/redemption" style or in a truly non-moral-universe way. I tend to like the latter of the latter - the struggle for meaning and the costs incurred seem much more real to me than good/evil struggles. Romero gives a clearer body to these struggles (which are partly necessary) and the attitudes such as mistrust that arise from them (which may be strategically necessary at times but are less externally necessary). I think one of the things we can draw from these situations is a criticism that the mutual trust and solidarity against outside nature that, as a species, we've used to build a society over the last tens of thousands of years is something we're either failing to keep sufficiently strong (in which case the only thing keeping society from dissolving is the threat of force) or that it is naturally fragile. If the second is true (more presumably due to biological determinism), it's an unfortunate reality (although by no means a new one - from Freud to Calvinism). If the first is true, it points at an interesting crisis - we might ask "Why?", "Does it mean anything and if so, what?", "How can we fix it?", "Has anything like this happened before?" (ibn Khaldun's notion of decay and cycles of government in the Muqadimmah and Plato's corruption-based justification for philosophical rule may be relevant), etc. For those of us who value civilisation, it's an interesting challenge.

Handful of things:

  • I found on Slashdot an interpretation I like of the recent political tasering of a student at a political town hall.
  • The challenges Linden Labs faces in making their MMO environment more open/flexible while theoretically improving scalability are interesting. I wonder if at some point we'll see a completely open sure-you-can-run-your-own-server-and-your-own-everything-else-too model. If it were as open and cross-system friendly as XMPP/Jabber, that'd be pretty interesting.
  • If you can overlook all the other factors that might make someone a good president of the United States like *cough* avoiding entry into pointless wars, issues of political corruption, stances on health-care, abortion, political interference with science, etc, and .. want to drill all the way down to their stances on technology, here's the guide for you. On the off chance you care that much more about technology than the other matters, I have some impolite words for you.
  • Greece should sue the United Kingdom for copyright infringement (or vice-versa) :)
Computerworld had a "21 biggest technology flops" article recently.. a few thoughts on a few things on the list:
  • Apple Newton - The Newton wasn't a flop. Many were sold, and they were one of the most successful PDAs. They may not still be around today, but they survived for a number of years.
  • DIVX - I was worried that they would succeed, and was pleased that they did not. I think they failed more due to pre-marketplace concerns than the customer test.
  • Dot coms - I wonder how many of them were expected to succeed.
  • E-books - I think the DRM (and the organisation/coordination that requires) is at least as much to blame as viewing technology not being good enough for portable readers. If we took that problem away - used non-protected PDF (or postscript) as the default format (maybe adding annotation support), gave the devices wireless ethernet or a USB port to transfer media on, and gave them a halfway-decent screen, and imagined big publishing houses getting behind it, I believe the technology would sell today.
  • PCjr - heh. It was a flop, but their reasoning/expectations are kinda shoddy.
  • Internet currency - I was worried that this would catch on too - just like the strange currencies that the libertarian fringe keeps talking about (Ooh, we're being anti-statist, arn't we cool?) and the rare groups of survivalists with gold fetishes (sometimes but not always the same people), they can't help but make, on the large scale, the management of the economy more difficult, and on the small scale, collection of taxes more difficult. Their failure is society's win.
  • Microsoft Bob - was kind of cute. I don't think anyone expected it to go very far though, so it almost fails to qualify as a flop.
  • Net PC - I still believe in them. We need more bandwidth to the home first though so they can be multifunction, and a reemergence of interest in lightweight apps. Google might be providing both factors with some of the things they're working on as well as Google Office.
  • Paperless office - this is a social problem that might also relate to the e-book problem.
They have some runners-up too... NeXTStep and OS/2 both failed partly beause they were managed by companies that didn't understand the markets they were targeting. A NeXT box was too expensive for the home, and given that home computers were inevitable at that point, the tendency for mindshare to flow from one place to the other doomed the product. OS/2 never had much of IBM's attention (it was joked that the worst hardware on which to run OS/2 was a PC from IBM) nor did IBM know how to market to home users or cooperate with hardware vendors (plus it had some technical flaws). I loved both operating systems (for different reasons), but it's not a surprise that they failed. It's funny they mention speech recognition - OS/2 4.0 included speech recognition software that I irritated my university roomates with. It was reasonably good - I dictated a number of my assignments into it.

I regret my prior involvement with Team-OS/2, partly because I think it encouraged childish zeal in me, although I know that that zeal was (of course) based on a potential that I brought to the table as well. Being ashamed of it probably was productive on some level - it's an important chance for intellectual/personal growth to have stuff like this to look back on and learn from/avoid.


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