Freakin' Smoke!

Right now, there are an estimated 842 wildfires burning in California. All of them are mostly in the northern part of the state, which is definitely unusual; the southernmost fire is burning in Monterey. There have been about 6,000 lightning strikes, and apparently these strikes are responsible for most of the fires. At the moment I don’t have the numbers for how much damage has been done, nor how many lives have been lost, homes destroyed, but I’m sure they’re too high for comfort.

Really, though, this blog is all about me, me, me. So I’ll mention that just because there are no fires very close to where we are and we’re not in a whole lot of direct danger from them, we still get the smoke, because we’re roughly in the middle of several of them. The sky ranges from a lovely gray to a beige-ish sort of brown, which makes me think it has a healthy tan to it. The Sacramento Air Quality Board has issued a health warning for the area which roughly translates to, "If you’re asthmatic, don’t even think about stepping foot outside, let alone breathe." Still, it’s hard to keep the air from coming inside, and even though I have the air conditioner running, my lungs still ache, my throat is sore, and my eyes are burning.

And since I’m in my own blog here, I get to wonder whether anyone has suffered as much as I have because of these fires? Well, probably a lot of people are suffering a lot more, and my heart and prayers go out to them; still, though, I really don’t like living on my inhaler like this. It’s just annoying.

Some Names…

There are some names that are supposed to last forever. Names that you grow up with, or that come to you at a significant point in your life and change your direction. I remember when I learned that Charles Schultz had died; the guy who had created Peanuts was supposed to last forever because I’d grown up with that comic strip. Ditto with John Denver (and anyone who laughs at me for that is gonna get punched in the mouth — John Denver would have wanted it that way).

I was introduced to George Carlin roughly my first week in college, and his acerbic humor definitely changed the way I looked at things and how I appreciated humor. Sometimes his humor made my laugh hysterically, sometimes It pissed me the hell off, but I figured that was the mark of a comedian who was thoughtful and genuine. Carlin was many things but he wasn’t a fake, not that I could tell.

I don’t know how to properly honor the man, so I’ll just say this: you will be missed, you crotchety and funny old bastard.

Great moments in book marketing

First, I was happy to see that Tolstoy is still churning out books; in the "New Fiction" section, I found War and Peace. I guess it was a sequel or something.

Second, from the cover of Rogue Angel: The Soul Stealer: "Fearing the unknown can be scary." Um. Well, yeah, I suppose it would be. Except for those people for whom fearing the unknown is a happy experience. I invite your thoughts on this.

Random, disappointing observation

So, after seeing The Happening with my wife and my good friend Dale Emery, I drove home, stopping at the Colonial Heights library on Stockton Boulevard on the way. I was listening to Dreams from my Father, by Barack Obama, and feeling very proud of myself for being a liberal Democrat who supports an African American for President, and feeling very pleased that we live in a day and age when an African American finally has a shot at becoming President.

I was stopped at a red light, and I heard a shout to the left. I looked over and saw a black kid shouting and waving at someone. Then he started running into the street. Toward my car. And my first thought was, "Oh crap," and I immediately moved to lock my car doors before reason took over and I stopped myself. The kid ran across the street, and caught up with his friends.

Would I have reacted the same if it had been a white kid? I asked myself that question and I seriously thought about it, and I had to admit, to my shame, that my reaction would very likely have been different. I’m disappointed that even though I was brought up to believe that racism is wrong and went to schools where we were taught the same thing and to churches where we were taught that racism is a sin, it’s still in me. I’m glad that I have the self-consciousness to see it when it rears up, but it’s annoying that it does.

I guess overcoming racism or sexism or any other -ism just isn’t as easy as we would like it to be. Cleaning these flaws out of your character is a bit like cleaning your kitchen, I guess. Just as soon as you think you’ve got all the dishes rinsed and in the dishwasher and the counters are all wiped down, you find a glob of peanut butter spilled on the floor, or some crud baked on to the stainless steel between the burners on your cooktop. It’s a stupid analogy and it would work better if you assumed that you were suffering from OCD and trying to constantly deal with the mess in your kitchen, but you get the point.

And now I worry that I’ve perpetuated bad stereotypes against people who suffer from OCD.

The struggle never ends.

And it's over.

The worst part was what happened to Pat Robertson, who came to California to berate us, telling us that the zombies had attacked us because we had given gays the right to marry and then done the same for the zombies. He had drawn a huge crowd of conservatives and family rights folks to his speech, and the place was full before the zombies attacked. Seriously. It was scary. It was practically overflowing with drooling, shambling, lurching, brain-eating monsters; and when the zombies attacked it was even worse.

But then around midnight, the zombies started to leave. It was almost kind of anticlimactic. One moment, there’s a zombie munching on your favorite mechanic’s femur; the next, he’s shuffling and lurching away. As of about 3:00 it was official: the zombies are leaving.

No one seems to know why the undead are vacating California, but they are, leaving the state a ruin of what it once was, leaving all of us to pick up the pieces. Reports say that they are streaming along Highway 80 and gathering at the eastern border; but, as I said, no one knows why.

I have a theory though.

My theory is that, having gotten what they wanted in California, the zombies are gathering to start making their way eastward to fight for equal rights in other states. California was the first to fall to the undead political action committees, and I fear that Nevada might be left. Then probably Minnesota. Then the rest of the states. They’ll probably skip Oklahoma, though, because no one wants to be in Oklahoma, even if they are dead.

Will there be political consequences to yesterday’s events? Who can say? I think there will be a significant shift in the makeup of the state’s two legislative bodies, especially given the fact that zombies, being itinerant corpses, really don’t have voting rights, yet they were given special rights by the state. I know that when November rolls around, I, for one, will vote accordingly.

Give 'em an inch…

Aw crap!

The zombies got too much. They’ve become emboldened by their victory in the California State Legislature and Assembly, and now they’re walking the streets! People are being attacked, dragged to the ground, eaten in ways that are just so typically zombie.

I can hear the conservative commentators chortling away on the radio even as I type this. "Everyone who laughed at the ‘undead agenda’?" they say. "Well, who’s laughing now? AAARRRGHHH!"

If you’re still out there, able to read this, then heed this warning: STAY AWAY FROM CALIFORNIA! Not only are the dead walking the earth, killing people and eating their brains, but they’re doing so with LEGAL SANCTION! There’s nothing we can do about it! I just saw our neighbor chased down, dragged to the ground, and eaten, her brains spurting out all over the front of her house like strawberry jam squirting out of a jelly doughnut. I can’t tell you how horrible it was to see! My God it was like Limbaugh going after a bottle of Oxycontin!

Remember, people… If you give rights to minorities, THEY WILL COME BACK AND EAT YOUR BRAINS!!!

We should have listened to Michelle Malkin.

Good luck, everyone who’s left. Try to hold on to the remnants of civilization as the undead armies march across the face of the earth…

Victory for Undead Rights!

After long intense meetings with the Governor, the California Assembly and Legislature have passed legislation recognizing the rights of metabolically challenged Americans everywhere to marry, vote, and enjoy all the rights that other Americans have as well.

Victory for humanity, alive and otherwise, everywhere? Or sure sign of the apocalypse?

There are of course those who say that acknowledging the rights of undead Americans minimizes the value of rights held by living Americans, cheapening what we have and enjoy. What’s the point of having the rights of the living, they say, if those same rights can be enjoyed by the walking dead? These people argue that the citizens of California should be allowed to vote on the issue. But do we really get to vote on whether some people have rights that we enjoy? Isn’t the Constitution in place specifically to avoid that sort of thing?

Predictably, the Concerned Family Values Coalition of the Living is promising to put the issue on the November ballot.

In the meantime, though, zombies are wandering the streets of Sacramento, celebrating as much as they can. I can almost hear them through the window, crying out celebratory excalamations of "BRAIIIINSS!!!"

Backlash: Get Your Jaws Off My Brains

I suppose that a backlash against the zombie rights movement was inevitable. Too many people are entrenched in the old ways of doing things. I think the last straw, though, really was when the undead contingent, enheartened by the recent victory of the gay rights movement, starting demanding the right to marry the living. As Undead Lord Stephen Halpert put it in a stirring speech on the steps of the capitol today, "Arrrgghh grrrwrargh mmgpmph argh BRAINS". I couldn’t agree more.

But the counter protests were in full swing. These costumed folks were decidedly opposed to equal rights for the dead:

"Adam and Eve", the one sign reads. "Not Adam and GGGBLAAAAGGH" in an obvious riff on the anti-gay-rights signs I’ve seen. Not very imaginative, but it gets the point across. I’m not sure, though, why this guy felt the need to dress up as a pirate.

I do like the sign that says, "These colors don’t lurch!" I suppose that’s true. The US Armed Forces have never been big on employing the dead in their ranks. Just another way, I guess, that the US has fallen short.

Curiously, there is a zombie in the ranks of the counter protesters. I guess there’s always one in every minority group who thinks that things ought to be that way. How does he justify it to himself? Does he? Does he even have the mental capacity to do so?

This guy in downtown Sacramento had a strong point to make:

The problem, though, is that it’s a tautology. "Zombies Stay Dead". Well, yeah. Isn’t that kind of the point?

At any rate, while there are reports that the zombie armies have taken most of the rest of the United States, including Georgia, and there are even rumors that Davis, a mere twenty miles away from the capitol, has been utterly overrun by zombie students (though in my mind that’s just a redundancy, especially if they’re graduate students), the California Assembly and Legislature have been meeting in an emergency session with the Governor. There are serious issues to be addressed: the ongoing budget crisis, the drought, the faltering state of the economy, the wildfires, and, of course, the rights of the walking dead.

It’s going to be a long night, I think.

The Zombie Menace in Sacramento

While zombies are apparently wreaking havoc and devastation worldwide, here in Sacramento, California, life seems to be going on as normal. For the most part, at least. I mean, it’s California. When you’re undead and bored and you’ve exhausted the cerebral eateries in the rest of the continent, where else are you going to go for some sun and surf? The beaches, right.

Still, California does definitely have its share of problems. We’re a tolerant, open, and accepting society, full of compassion and acceptance for all our residents, living, dead, and undead. We seem to be attracting a mellower sort of zombie as well. Our zombies are not about tracking down people and eating their brains; ours are about getting equal rights.

Getting to work in downtown Sacramento this morning was, as I’d anticipated, more difficult than normal. The streets near the capitol building were thronged with protesters all trying to get Governor Schwarzenegger’s attention, to bring the plight of the undead to the open for the world to see. We recently legalized gay marriage, so this sort of approach is perfectly understandable.

I didn’t get any pictures of my own but I did find these photographs elsewhere on the web to share with you. These were all taken in Sacramento today and I saw a few of them myself.

First, this one:

STOP TRYING TO BURY US, the sign reads. Obviously these zombies want the world to know about their plight, about how the rest of the world is treating them. We’re living beings, they want us to know, or at least animate. Don’t force us underground!

Other more radical groups had a stronger message:

REanimated REvolution. In the background a pair of the walking dead carry signs that read, "WANT BRAINES" and "MOAN", which certainly get their point across. Personally I’m uncomfortable with these zombie extremists. I prefer a more moderate solution.

Another crowd of zombie protesters:

"THE DEAD HAVE RIGHTS TOO!" Well, yes, of course they do. That much is obvious. I’m more amused by the other sign in this photograph, obviously meant as a jab at the Republican lawmakers in California who refuse to allow equal rights to the metabolically challenged: "GIVE ME YOUR BRAINS… YOU OBVIOUSLY DON’T NEED THEM."

I suppose I should have seen this coming. After all, as I reported yesterday, there were some panels at the Moodle Moot conference that were obviously geared to address the needs of the walking dead to pursue an active online existence. Last night I signed up with a Zombie Friends account (where my handle is, naturally, "underpope") but I haven’t really done anything with it yet.

What do you think of this situation? Michelle Malkin, that paragon of intelligence and civility, refers to the zombies as "The Undead Menace", and also says, "Better Dead then Z" (which sounded better when Simon Pegg said it in Shaun of the Dead, since he pronounced it "Better Dead than Zed"). I find it difficult to agree with her just on general principle. The walking dead are, after all, sensitive creatures, in need of understanding and acceptance in our society. On the other hand, they do eat living brains.

I’m going to leave the topic alone for now, because it’s sounding dangerously like a political discussion and I really hate talking politics.

In other news, I’ve been having trouble connecting to Moodle’s download servers all day. I hope the sysadmins are still alive in San Francisco.