All posts by scottkenemore

Poetry: Zombie Haiku

A Haiku: This poetry's great--If you like verses about-- Brain eating corpses!

Ryan Mecum has written a marvelous new collection of Haiku poetry called Zombie Haiku.  He has also produced an interesting and original zombie-themed YouTube video to plug it.  Of both of these things, I must strongly approve!

The poetry in Zombie Haiku is not just a bunch of poems about zombies (though there would, of course, be nothing wrong with that).  Rather, the poems form a narrative told from the point of view of a rampaging zombie.  Tremendous!  However, this is not to say that the poems don’t stand on their own.  Consider the elegant simplicity of this excerpt from Mecum’s work: 

You’d think I’d get full

eating so many people,

but really,  I don’t.

If this sort of verse tickles your fancy (as, certainly, it does mine), then Zombie Haiku is totally worth your checking out.  Mecum has already appeared at ComiCon, and I predict big things for him in the future.  You can click here and here for more information about Mecum and Zombie Haiku.

Vampires… the opposite of zombies

Pictured: A lot of "fru-fru"

A question I get a lot is: “Why do people like zombies?” 

It’s an incredibly broad and daunting query. However, I’ve found that most people who ask it don’t actually mean “Why do people like zombies out of all the things in culture you could like?”  Instead, they mean something more like: “Why, out of all the possible movie-monsters and mythological creatures that horror fans could fixate-on, are zombies so popular?”

Here is my answer:

People like zombies because they are the blue-collar, working man, Joe six-pack of the monster world.  They’re not fancy.  They get things done without a lot of “fru-fru.”  They’re not big on drama or intrigue.  They’re not serious or emotional.  And there is no pretense or mystery to them.  In these respects, I often think they are the opposite of vampires. 

Vampires (and people who like vampires, a mon avis) tend to be dramatic, serious, and concerned with their appearances.  They want to feel things deeply.  They want to be tragic and sad.  They want to be envied and/or lusted-after.  And they want to look fabulous doing it

Zombie fans are just a different kind of people.  Their sensibilities are different than those of vampire fans. 

Zombie fans don’t need to walk around in the newest, most-expensive designer clothes; a comfy work-shirt and faded jeans will usually do just fine.  Zombie fans don’t need to go to the fanciest, most-exclusive restaurant in town to have a good time.  And zombie fans always prefer an ice cold watery-domestic to a 99-point French wine.

I guess it’s possible that there are dramatic, moody, immaculately-dressed zombie fans out there, but in all my travels, I sure haven’t met them.

Mark your calendars…

Attention insomniac conservatives: It is your patriotic duty to buy ten copies of THE ZEN OF ZOMBIE by Scott Kenemore.

On October 24, I will appear on Red Eye on the Fox News Channel to discuss zombies and other scary things.  Red Eye is the Fox News Channel’s overnight show, which I think runs from 3am-4am EST.  I am excited about the appearance, as I haven’t done much TV.

I think you’re not supposed to say that Fox News is “the conservative news network,” especially if you’re going to be appearing on it, but I think that there are many ways in which conservative politics are strongly aligned with the politics of zombies.

To wit, conservatives and zombies:

  • Are both in favor of less government intervention–whether it’s liberal senators who want to “tax rich people” or federal anti-zombie shock troops who want to “destroy all zombies on sight using machine guns and rocket propelled grenades” so they will be”wiped out forever.”  Both zombies and conservatives see big government as way too involved in their lives (or “lives”).
  • Are both in favor of less regulation.  So what if a factory owner would rather not pay his workers a minimum wage, ensure that they have safe working conditions, or be censured when the products produced in his factories “kill people.”  It’s his factory, so it’s none of your business, federal government!!  Right?  Zombies likewise get annoyed when the government wants to “intervene” and “regulate” the eating of people.  What business it is of Washington D.C. if I want to eat a guy’s brain in Pittsburgh?  C’mon dude, just get the government off our backs.
  • Both style themselves the victims of a liberal media bias–whether it’s Keith Olberman characterizing false statements as “lies,” or a live-remote news reporter calling an approaching group of zombies a “murderous threat to humanity” and a “danger to all that is good and decent.”  It’s like, woah, you’re being super-biased there, Mr. Reporter.  Whatever happened to being objective?  Weren’t you supposed to learn that stuff in journalism school?
  • Both are for state’s rights.  Especially the right to eat somebody’s brain.

Anyhow, tune in on October 24 to see what happens!!

Zombie songs I like…

So, Mister “Wrote-A-Zombie-Book-Guy,” where are you weak on zombies?

The answer is: Zombie songs! 

Lars Frederiksen and the Bastards
Lars Fredriksen and the Bastards--These men know zombies!

But I don’t want to be!  I would love to learn more zombie songs.

When the Zen of Zombie first came out in late 2007, I went on WLUW in Chicago to talk about zombies and play some of my favorite zombie songs.  When I got to the station, I spoke with this program director-type-guy who asked me which zombie songs I was going to play.  Then he named his favorite zombie songs–like 10 or 15 of them–and to my horror I realized I had heard of exactly zero of them.  Clearly, I have more to learn about good zombie music.

Anyhow, here’s what my best-of zombie mixtape would look like right now:

  • “Army of Zombies” by Lars Fredriksen and the Bastards (I submit that this this the BEST SONG ABOUT ZOMBIES EVER.  I may have to write an entire blog-posting about it one day.  It’s magnificent!)
  • “The Walking Dead” by the Dropkick Murphys
  • Among the Dead” by Tim Armstrong (Admittedly, this song is about his time between being in Op Ivy and starting Rancid, but still, when I listen to it, it sort of evokes zombies for me.  Is that cheating?) 
  • London Calling” by The Clash (It mentions “The zombies of death!”)
  • “Zombie” by The Cranberries (I get sick of this song, but there’s just no avoiding it.)
  • “Re: Your Brains” by Johnathan Coulton
  • Songs by The Zombies  (They were called The Zombies, but never really wrote songs about zombies.  What’s up with that?)
  • Songs by African American Zombie Lawyer (Easily the best rap group in Richmond, IN.  These guys are hilarious.)

Then there’s everything by Rob Zombie, White Zombie, and so forth.

What am I leaving out?

I will appear on the radio in Denver, CO

Rick Barber, who will interview me in the middle of the damn night

Attention insomniac Denverites:  Tomorrow (Thursday) morning at 6am EST (4am Denver time), I will be on the “After Midnight with Rick Barber Show” on KOA 850 AM in Denver, Colorado.   I will be Rick’s guest for a full hour, and we will talk about zombies and zombidom!

Apparently, KOA is one of the few stations at 50,000 watts (the largest broadcast-range allowed by the FCC), so you can hear it hundreds of miles away.  Rick’s program director says that it can be heard in 38 states, and has an estimated audience of over 1 million people.  So anyway, it sounds like you can tune it in even if you live outside of Colorado. 

I am excited to do the show, and am trying to think of interesting zombie things to talk about.  I haven’t been on the radio since I did the Alan Colmes show a couple of months ago, and that was just for five minutes.  This will be a chance to go into zombies in a little more depth!

Mantan Moreland: An early zombie comic-genius

“There’s just two things I hate… and zombies is both of ’em!” – Mantan Moreland

This coming Sunday will mark 35 years since the passing of Mantan Moreland, a American journeyman actor who attained modest fame in the 1930’s, 40’s, and 50’s for playing comic foils, frequently in B-grade horror films.  (Probably, his two best known zombie films are King of the Zombies and Revenge of the Zombies.) describes Moreland as “an American original whose work in film was usually better than the films themselves.”  I can’t put it any better than that.

Mantan Moreland, 1902-1973
Mantan Moreland, 1902-1973

But too few zombie fans (and horror fans) are familiar with Moreland’s delightful work.  I suspect that this is because he is incorrectly lumped-in with actors of his day who perpetuated negative sterotypes.  In Moreland’s era, there were actors (with racist names that make me cringe just to type) like Stepin Fetchit and Sleep ‘n Eat who definitely perpetuated stereotypes of African Americans as lazy, dull-witted, and servile.  However, Moreland’s performances should not be lumped-in with theirs.

The characters portrayed by Moreland are, generally, resourceful and perceptive.  (When he’s in a horror-film, Moreland’s character is usually the first to suspect that monsters might be lurking nearby.  [They ARE!])

Moreland’s humorous, easily-flustered characters reacted to zombies (and other monsters) in ways that were funny to watch.  (That was usually the point of the film–or at least what the filmmakers were counting on to be funny and entertaining.)  This comedian-encountering-monster setup was an accepted formula for many comic-horror films of the time, regardless of the race of the actors involved.

So I feel like there’s a double-standard when people call Moreland’s films racist.  It’s like, Bob Hope can stammer and bug-out his eyes when he sees a zombie (as he, in fact, does in films like the 1940 horror-comedy The Ghost Breakers), and that’s perfectly fine.  But when Mantan Moreland does the exact same thing, it’s racist?  What?

I guess the characters Moreland plays can be said to be “servile” in that they’re usually butlers or chauffeurs or what-have-you, but you’ve got to remember that it was 1939.  If Moreland’s character had been the Vice President of the United States, the film wouldn’t even have been called King of the Zombies, it would have been called Holy Crap!!!  Black Vice-President!!! or something.  The zombies would have been incidental.

But I think the greatest vindication of Mantan Moreland (and his work) comes from his peers in Hollywood.  When Shemp Howard died in 1955, Mantan was seriously considered as an addition to the Three Stooges.  And Bill Cosby (an actor who definitely has zero-tolerance for negative portrayals of African Americans) cast Moreland to play his uncle in the original 1969-1971 Bill Cosby Show.

Anyhow, I think Moreland was a great comedic actor, and that many of his zombie films are worth watching, especially if you like “classic” zombies (that is, Haitian Voodoo zombies who are under a shaman’s command–as opposed to reanimated corpses who want to eat your brain).  To learn more about him, I heartily recommend this article: “B-Horror’s Humorous Hero.”