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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

ASSIGNMENT - "Dionysus in Stony Mountain" discussion for Journalism

My fellow CreCommers and I went to see a play at the Rachel Browne Theatre called Dionysus in Stony Mountain.  The title of the play could have served as a warning for me about the complex language and concepts I was about to sit through, as I had never heard of the Greek god Dionysus.

Having seen the play now, I still don't really understand the title's connection.  The character James (Ross McMillan) gets a prison tattoo of Dionysus on his arm, and explains a bit about him to his psychiatrist, Heidi (Sarah Constible).  But this conversation was a bit over my head, as was much of the first half of the play.

The first half takes place in Stony Mountain, during a session between James and Heidi, after James has stopped taking his lithium, and started memorizing quotes from the German philosopher Nietzsche.  James spends most of the session ranting about his new beliefs and views on the world, and often quoting at length from Nietzsche's writing.

The language is very heavy.  But I think that even though I didn't understand much of it, that didn't take away from my experience of the story.  I don't think James is meant to be completely understood by your average person meeting him for the first time.

The second half was easier to digest.  Constible still played Heidi, though no longer a psychiatrist, and McMillan switched characters to play Heidi's uncle, checking up on her at her mother's request.

Heidi's uncle brought a lot more comedy to the play.  He's a jaded businessman who enjoys taking jabs at Heidi and her new life.  He also speaks much simpler than James did in the first half.

I haven't been to many plays, but I think the acting in Dionysus in Stony Mountain was incredible.  Each half was around 55 minutes long, and the shear fact that these two actors could remember that many lines is commendable to me.  The fact that they could deliver that many lines emotionally and convincingly is nothing short of amazing.

I felt like McMillan did an outstanding job switching roles.  Had I not been told earlier, I may not have known it was still him in the second half.

But the play did drag a bit.  The first half was a long time to pay as much attention as I felt the dialogue needed me to.  The second half should have been easier, but I felt my mind was already pretty exhausted from the first half.

Overall it was a good experience.  It was very interesting to see how much a script can do with just two people talking.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

ASSIGNMENT - "Journey for Justice" discussion for Journalism

In class we read the true-crime book Journey for Justice: How 'Project Angel' Cracked the Candace Derksen Case.

Cover of Journey for Justice.
It was written by Mike McIntyre, and it details the events of Candace Derksen's disappearance, death, and the eventual trial of her killer, Mark Grant.

The book feels like it has two sections with two different styles of writing.  The first section deals with the initial disappearance of Candace, and the search for her.  This section reads much like a regular novel.

As this was the first true-crime book I've ever read, I wasn't expecting this style at all.  I was pleasantly surprised.  I think the style works because it kept me interested in what would happen next, as it was told as a story.  It also made me feel a connection to the characters, as McIntyre used lots of dialogue, much of it from Wilma Derksen's (Candace's mother) own book, Have You Seen Candace?

The second section looks at the trial of Mark Grant.  I lost some of my interest reading this part because it was written the way I expected a true-crime book to be written: lots of facts, legal jargon, newspaper articles, and psychiatric reports.  While some of these things were interesting, a lot of it was over my head or repetitive.

The main thing this section loses out on, is the connection to the characters I felt in the first part of the book.

I think that journalists can learn the importance of emotional content from this book.  While getting the facts straight is the top priority of a journalist, it is only the skeleton of a story.  I believe that all stories can be improved by the thoughts and feelings of the people involved in the story.  This is why I enjoyed the first half of the book more than the second.

I saw a documentary called Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father, which also deals with a murder case.  When I compare these two works, it strengthens my thoughts on emotional value.  Dear Zachary shows the struggle of a murdered man's parents to gain custody of his daughter from the woman they believe murdered him.

Seeing how they feel and think is what makes the film so interesting.  They also give factual information, but it doesn't bog down the story like the end of Journey for Justice.  Although, I did feel that Journey for Justice felt like much more of a journalism piece than Dear Zachary, as the director of Dear Zachary was a friend of the deceased and very involved in the story.

After reading Journey for Justice, Mike McIntyre and Wilma Derksen came to Red River to speak to us.  It was interesting to hear how the book came to be, but I would have liked to hear more of what Wilma had to say, as McIntyre did most of the talking.  I was amazed reading the book and listening to Wilma speak, at how loving and forgiving she is.  It's hard for me to understand how she doesn't, and never did, let anger towards Grant overwhelm her.

Overall, the book was a very interesting read and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys true-crime books, or those who haven't read one.  It was nice to see that good story telling can thrive in these kinds of books.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Zombie Muhammad

I have come across an interesting news story while surfing the World Wide Web.

Apparently during a Hallowe'en parade in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, a man named Ernest Perce V decided to dress up as a zombified Muhammad.  He was joined by a zombified Pope, both part of the Parading Atheists of Central Pennsylvania.

Talaag Elbayomy, a Muslim man, was at the parade with his family, and allegedly choked Perce.

"He grabbed me, choked me from the back, and spun me around to try to get my sign off that was wrapped around my neck," Perce told ABC 27.  The sign said: Muhammed of Islam.

When the case went to court, Judge Mark Martin dismissed the charges against Elbayomy, saying there wasn't enough evidence.  He also gave Perce a piece of his mind with this speech:

"Having had the benefit of having spent over two and a half years in predominantly Muslim countries I think I know a little bit about the faith of Islam.  In fact I have a copy of the Koran here and I challenge you sir to show me where it say in the Koran that Mohammad arose and walked among the dead.  I think you misinterpreted things.  Before you start mocking someone else's religion you may want to find out a little bit more about it.  It makes you look like a doofus.  In many Arabic speaking countries something like this is definitely against the law there.  In their society in fact it can be punishable by death and it frequently is in their society."

After the incident, Perce said he had received over 470 threats.

"People have said they would kill me, rip my eyes out, run me over, shoot me and then laugh at me, since I have blasphemed Muhammad.  They say I will be found and hung in front of my family."

The judge has also received threats based on his ruling, causing him to be relocated for safety reasons.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

ZR: Zombie Relations

Public Relations, Advertising... what ever you want to call this, it's just a great idea.  Props to fellow CreCommer Matt TenBruggencate for bringing it to my attention.

This video was shot in a movie theater at Sandton City to promote the second season of The Walking Dead, and by the wild applause at the end, I'd say it did it's job.

The zombie actor was just lucky nobody in the audience decided to be a hero.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day

Well, it's Valentine's Day again.  What better way to melt the heart of your significant other than a zombie themed day of romance?

Want to play a game where you are Cupid fighting off an invasion of zombie kids?  Try Zombie Kids Valentines Day.

And here are some V-Day cards you can use to get your loved one in the mood:

Thursday, February 09, 2012


I was recently pointed to another real disease that has some bizarre similarities to zombies.  During her scholarly studies, my friend Nikki Basset stumbled upon kuru, and passed the disease to me... figuratively.

Kuru is a rare disease that affects the nervous system, it's also a fun word to say.

The case that kuru is known for is very interesting.  It's very similar to a zombie outbreak, only backwards.  While we're used to the spread of zombies caused by dead humans eating living brains, this case involves living humans eating dead brains.

Back in the day, the Fore Tribe of Papua New Guinea would eat the bodies of the dead (including the brain) as part of the funeral process.  I know, it sounds like a completely safe practise, but it turns out human brain tissue can contain an infectious protein which causes kuru.

Supposedly the funeral ritual stopped around 1960, but cases of kuru still popped up years later because of the long incubation period of the disease, which can last anywhere from 5 to 20 years.

The disease is kind of like mad cow for humans.  Once a person has kuru, they will go through 3 stages.

In the first stage, the person will have a hard time balancing and slurred speech.  The second stage makes it extremely hard to walk, and causes severe muscle tremors.  In the final stage, the infected will have no muscle coordination, they won't be able to speak, and they won't be at all responsive to their surroundings.

But unlike a zombie, the strangest effect of kuru is that it causes the infected to laugh uncontrollably.

Album cover for House Cannibal by Kuru.

Friday, January 27, 2012


brains... braaaaaiiiiiiiins... BRAAAAAAIIIIIIIIIINNNNNNSSSSSSSS!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Zombie Kid

This reporter made the mistake of expecting a zombie to make any sort of rational comment for her news story.

Friday, January 13, 2012

My Top 10 Zombies

In the mobs of mindless walking dead, it can be hard to tell one zombie from another.  But certain ghouls have risen above their peers with certain charms; becoming 'undead celebs' if you will.
Here's a list of my favourite zombies who don't just shamble with the crowds, but stand out and moan on their own.

10) Zombie Leader - Land of the Dead (2005)


Coming in last place is a type of zombie that I'm not a big fan of, from one of my least favorite zombie movies.

George A. Romero created Land of the Dead as an evolution of the zombie, in which this guy gains intellegence, and eventually leads the rest of the zombies against the humans.

While I'm not a fan of intellegent zombies, I've got to give Zombie Leader credit where credit is due.

He's a revolutionary.  He feels sadness when his fellow undead get their heads blown off, so he banded them together, taught them to use tools, and invaded the human's stronghold.

The ironic part is that he probably achieved more in death than he did in life as a gas jockey.

9) Zombie Stripper - Zombieland (2009)

This zombie only had a brief appearance in the opening credits of Zombieland, but I'm sure she caught some attention for it.

Zombie Stripper confused young boys around the world about their feelings towards animated corpses covered in blood, and she did it in slow motion.

8) Singing Zombie - Shaun of the Dead (2004)

This zombie proves naysayers wrong about the undead having rhythm.  Granted, he won't be the next American Idol, but he moaned in-time to Shaun and Ed's rendition of 'White Lines' by Duran Duran.

7) Burt Reynolds Zombie - Dawn of the Dead (2004)

Not much to say about this guy.  In Dawn of the Dead, the characters succumb to boredom with their life trapped in a mall.  They begin to search for zombies that look like celebrities and pick them off with rifles.

This unfortunate ghoul happened to look like the Bandit himself, and that's enough to get him in my top 10.

6) Zombie Hulk - Marvel Zombies (comic series)

I felt like the Marvel Zombies needed to be represented in my list, and who better to do it than The Incredible Hulk.

After Bruce Banner gets infected, everytime he gets hungry for flesh, he transforms into the Hulk and devours everything in sight.

But, once he has satisfied the hunger, he reverts back to scrawny Banner, still with a belly full of flesh.  Needless to say, Banner's stomach erupts open in the first issue.

5) Zombie Clown - Zombieland (2009)

Zombies: terrifying.  Clowns: terrifying.  Enough said.

4) Executioner - Resident Evil 5 (video game) / Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)

One bad as motherfucker, the executioner from Resident Evil is the last zombie I'd ever want to have to deal with.

Complete with a mystery inducing hood over his face, nails sticking out of his head and shoulders, and the biggest axe he could possibly carry.

3) Zombie Cyclist - The Walking Dead (comic series) / The Walking Dead (TV series)

While only making a brief appearance in both the comic and TV versions of The Walking Dead, I put this zombie at number 3 because of the amazing make-up and special effects job on her in the show.

She showcases the great work the guys on the show are doing as she crawls legless across the grass, and she is one of the only zombies I have ever truly felt sorry for.

2) Cemetery Zombie - Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Although there's nothing special about him, and he looks like a regular human, Cemetery Zombie deserves to be high on the list.

He's the one who started it all.  The first one we saw stumbling in hunger.  He opened the door for all zombies who would come after him.


And now, my #1 favourite zombie of all time:
1) Tarman - The Return of the Living Dead (1985)

Tarman is the shit.  I loved him from the moment I saw him.  There's just something about the way this melted ghoul looks and moves, so I will let the following clip do the talking.  I give you...

Friday, January 06, 2012


The closest things to real life zombies seem to keep popping up in the insect kingdom.  I have now come across three seperate ways that bugs can lose control of their minds, and begin to infect their communities.

Artists rendering of a zombie bug.
Zombie Making Fungus

The first phenomanon I found while watching Planet Earth.  There is a fungus called cordyceps, which does something as terrifying as it is amazing.  It infects bugs, and takes over their brain.

In the Planet Earth video below, they show ants being infected, losing their shit, and starting to climb.  They just start climbing what ever's around them.  Somehow the fungus makes their brains want to do it.

Once they get up high, they clamp down with their jaws, and die.  That's when the fungus grows out of their dead bodies, and shoots spores down to infect the other ants.

Not just ants are at risk either, there are all kinds of cordyceps that attack all kinds of different bugs.

Zombie Making Virus

The second occurance is even closer to the common idea of zombies.  This one works with an actual virus instead of a fungus.

Gypsy moth caterpillars are the specific target of a type of baculovirus.  The virus, like the cordyceps fungus, causes the caterpillars to climb trees.  Once up there, they also die, but instead of sprouting spores, they begin to melt.

Their bodies melt into a virusy ooze that rains down on all their unsuspecting buddies, infecting them, and causing them to climb.

Liquidy caterpillar guy.

Body Snatching Flies

The third example was recently brought to my attention be fellow CreCommer Corinne Rikkelman.  She shared with me an article from Scientific American about the decline of honeybee population.

It turns out, these little fly guys will lay eggs in the bees.  A couple days later, usually at night, the bee will just take off, flyin' solo, to nowhere.

It seems like they aren't even in control of their own bodies, as they will walk around in circles.  Eventually the bees die and the fly babies are born safely away from the hive, or at least that's what I assume the purpose of the strange night flight is.