Does Your Local Council Care About Zombies?

Last Friday, the 10th of June, 2011, Leicester City Council revealed that they’d had a request from a concerned citizen to explain their plans for a zombie invasion under the Freedom Of Information laws. Councillor Lynn Wyeth appeared on a local radio station to discuss the issue, amongst others, and revealed that “if it’s specifically about zombies then I would say, from my recollection of the plan… then unfortunately there’s nothing in there… saying how we would respond to zombies“. She postulated that elements of other emergency protocols could be implemented to create a sort of jury-rigged response but that, as the situation stood, there was no explicit code-of-conduct for dealing with the risen dead.

Ms. Wyeth then spoke about the necessity of responding to all questions delivered to the council under the Freedom of Information act, and stated “To you it might seem frivolous and a waste of time… but to different people it actually means something…“.

Well, Ms Wyeth, I completely agree with you there, which is precisely why I am both shocked and horrified at the blasé attitude you have concerning this very real danger.

As we all know from watching documentaries such as ‘Shaun Of The Dead‘ and ‘Zombieland‘, the world can go from normal Thursday afternoon to complete and utter shit-storm in a matter of hours when it comes to ravenous hordes of the risen dead walking the earth, lusting for human flesh. This is mostly due to the fact that there are zombies EVERYWHERE, but local councils must accept that they are, in part, at fault and – were the majority of their electoral role not either eating their own spouse or vice-versa – some pretty forceful complaints would be lodged due to their failure to deal with the problem.

Zombie apocalypse scenarios tend to address survival on an individual basis, the government having collapsed into chaos shortly after the first wave of perambulatory corpses tore apart every single civil servant. Very rarely does any form of civilized ruling body survive the transition from pre-Z-Day to post-Z-Day and whilst this is for a number of reasons, a lack of accountability on the part of devolved organisations is first and foremost.

Let us quickly consider a zombie outbreak. Whether it begins at one single localised point or simultaneously at random points throughout the globe, it is always with a very small number of zombies. After all, one has the dead before one has the undead, and I doubt there are a particularly high concentration of fresh bodies anywhere in the British Isles. Let’s say, then, my hometown could suddenly spawn 80-150 zombies. The creatures would shamble their way about town looking for people to bite, swelling their ranks until they were unstoppable. Even only 10,000 of the undead is a force capable of bringing about the end of the world as we know it.

However, during this invasion, think about how many CCTV cameras the zombies will have passed? How many people will have reported walking corpses? Regardless of the time of day, there are always people awake except in the sleepiest of villages. A local council would have to actively try not to notice the arrival of Z-Day more than about thirty minutes after it had occurred, and likely making them the first governmental organisation capable of dealing with their own outbreak at a grassroots level. A failure to do this will result in them being single-handedly responsible for apocalypse.

So how should local councils prepare for a zombie invasion? Whilst I am not anywhere as close to a zombie authority as Max Brooks (and if you haven’t read ‘The Zombie Survival Guide‘ then you’re going to be at a serious disadvantage when they arrive), I have taken a bash at outlining a couple of possible measures below.

1. Educate Your Voters

The first people to die in a zombie apocalypse are the ones that don’t believe it’s happening, or who can’t recognise the signs of infection, or the ones who fail to barricade all the entry points into their house. An educational leaflet circulated around all the homes covered by your council will help to prevent unnecessary maulings and, if citizens are provided with a questionnaire to evaluate their usefulness and likelihood of survival in a Z-Day scenario, might even allow you to create something of a voluntary militia to be the front-line of zombie defence from the stronger candidates and ensure the slow and stupid – or ‘should-have-seen-that-coming’ victims of infection – are kept in some kind of corral for their own safety.

2. Provide A Helpline

Although to be fair, I'm not sure if she scares me more than the zombies or not...

Whilst it is distinctly likely phone lines and other methods of communication will go down shortly after the beginning of the End, the hours before this will be crucial in providing as much information to your constituency as possible. The location of the nearest safe-house, details of where the zombie hordes have been most recently spotted and reassurance that actions are being taken to deal with the problem are all things any concerned citizen would be grateful for in this context. Perhaps even an online map of the area colour-coded into ‘safe’ and ‘infected’ zones, or an iPhone app telling you how close you were to a ravenous zombie, would be investments in zombie-survival protocol.

3. Properly Outfit Your Police Force

Whilst in the United Kingdom we have a much more stringent approach to gun control laws than the trigger-happy USA, saving countless lives every year, this will in fact be a disadvantage when it comes to Z-Day. With this in mind, each local police station should be outfitted with a ‘zombie emergency locker’ containing a number of small firearms and a couple of long-range rifles, with ammunition. This should, of course, only be opened in the event of walking dead, and it should be emphasised that the guns are a last resort. A little known fact is that many zombies will in fact respond to the sound of gunfire and follow it to the source, making a gun very dangerous for the person firing it. With this in mind, your police force should be trained in basic hand-to-hand combat, possibly with machetes or some similar implement designed for crushing the brain case of a zombie.

4. Creating A Safehouse

Whilst there are major disadvantages to large numbers of people in a closed space in this scenario, the fact remains that it’s important to have some kind of rallying point for survivors, as well as somewhere to stay safe. Luckily enough, governmental buildings such as hospitals, schools, and town halls are often easily fortifiable, even as a last-minute emergency measure. Churches, banks and larger Victorian Era houses are also good bets. Ideally these will have been chosen pre-Z-Day and fortified somewhat already but, failing that, it is fairly easy to barricade doors and windows sufficiently to ensure a day or two of survival for the occupants at least. The important thing is being sure that EVERY ENTRANCE IS COVERED; countless people have lost their lives during zombie outbreaks simply because someone missed checking the back door was locked (see: Shaun Of The Dead).

5. Checking Survivors

Whilst it may seem like an unnecessary, sometimes even inhuman, concern to many people, checking the survivors for signs of bites and scratches is vital; one infected person in a room of fifty will almost invariably result in a room of fifty zombies (see: Dawn Of The Dead). Providing on-call counsellors in safe-houses for imminently bereaved families will help the process occur smoothly, and employing a trained ‘projectile ingress agent’ to dispatch the dying person can ensure the passing is as dignified as possible.

6. Ring Milla Jovovich

The best bit is when she gets cloned and there's an Alice for everyo- I MEAN THE SHOOTING OR SOMETHING

Ms. Jovovich is, as demonstrated in her training DVDs, very adept at dispatching large amounts of zombies in short spaces of time whilst clad in the best use of red silk I think I’ve ever seen. Once the local populace has been safely gathered in the safe-houses, Ms. Jovovich should immediately be notified of the situation so she can sort it out. After getting rid of all the zombies she could hang around, maybe sign a few copies of Resident Evil, and if she’s hungry I could take her to dinner. Or something.

ANYWAY as demonstrated, a basic zombie outbreak plan is fairly easy and cost-effective to implement, and certainly something local councils should be considering, especially so as to put the growing number of concerned residents’ minds to rest. Any local councils who wish to do so may contact me here for a more in-depth and personalised consultation for a nominal fee and, when you think about how many residents you’d be saving from a truly unpleasant undeath, isn’t it worth it?


If You Succeed In Doing This, Tell Me How…

On this day in 1997, the words that were immortalised by Baz Luhrmann “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)” are 14 years old. The original article appeared in the Chicago Tribune entitled, “Advice, like youth, is probably just wasted on the young”. The author, Mary Schmich set out to write a fictitious graduation speech. “Most of us, will never be invited to sow our words of wisdom among an audience of caps and gowns”. She invited her readership to do the same, 14-years later we take up that mantle and the #sunscreenchallenge was born.

Each blogger spent 1-hour creating a graduation speech. Essentially, it’s the advice that they’d pass onto school leavers today based on their own life experience. If you’ve enjoyed the blog – please RT the post, include the #sunscreenchallenge tag and find other blog posts using this hashtag.

I’m horrendous at taking advice. I’ll invariably listen to it, nodding my head and saying ‘yep, I totally agree, I know, you’re right, of course…’, and the minute it’s done being dispensed I’ll tip my head up and it’ll all pour out my ear and fall in the gutter. That’s why for many reasons I’m not entirely certain why I’m doing this. I’ve made my own mistakes all my life and, to be completely honest, I think I’m a better person for it. I have very few regrets, and they are almost invariably things I didn’t do as opposed to things I did do.

Maybe advice isn’t something you’re supposed to give, because you’re taking someone’s mistake away. I don’t want to call this ‘advice’; it makes it sound too prescriptive. Instead, I’m just going to say ‘these are mine…but you can borrow them if you want’…

– Don’t eat toast for every meal. Seriously. It’s easy, I know, it’s always there, but there are so many other things that you can make. Really delicious stuff that you’ll sit down to, serve to your partner or kids, have at a dinner party or whatever, and you’ll think ‘wow…I can’t believe I made this myself.’

– Find a piece of pop-culture that you can obsess about and geek out over. When you meet another person who has that in common with you, the connection will be instant. Buffy is a good start, or other sci-fi. The more people look at you like you’re crazy when you enthuse about it, the better.

– Be nice to waiters, barmen and shop workers. There’s no need, you’re not going to get anything for cheaper, but you can make their day with a smile and a joke.

Don't read Richard Littlejohn - he'll only make you angry.

– If you want to bust a move, do it, regardless of where you are. The worst someone can do is think you’re weird for dancing in the street.

– There’s very little anyone can say about you that you shouldn’t take with a smile. The ruder someone is about you, the more upsetting it is for them when you turn around, give them a beatific smile and forget about it, and the more satisfying it is to see them throw a hissy because they’re not getting to you.

– Honesty is only appropriate where the damage it will do is outweighed by the repair you can do as a result. Don’t be honest if you’re only going to hurt people; be honest when you know you’ll help.

– Wait for the perfect one, and be sure of it before you tell them you love them.

– Take every risk once. EVERYTHING. If you don’t like it, you won’t do it again. If you do like it, understand it’s a risk, and be safe. There’s nothing worse than wondering ‘what if?’. Just know that risks tend to hurt, so be ready to take the pain then shift on. Remember the proverb ‘what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger’.

– Don’t trust proverbs. ‘You catch more flies with honey than vinegar’? Not true. Put out a plate of balsamic vinegar and one of honey and see which gets more. ‘Sticks and stones’? Bullshit. ‘A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush’? Why? Don’t listen to them. Decide your own proverbs; don’t listen to the ones people have been ignoring for thousands of years.

– Stand up for what you believe in, but remember it’s only what you believe in. People will have different views to you, and you’ll meet them everywhere. If you need to change their opinion, though, don’t shout and scream and tell them they’re wrong, because it won’t work. Prove them wrong instead by being reasonable, friendly, and completely truthful. Give them the same benefit though, by changing your mind when you’re proved wrong back.

I can’t tell you I’ve always done all of these, because I’d be lying. I do know they’re what I do now, and I don’t want to change them yet. They’ve worked for me and I feel good as a result. Like I say, though, I’m not telling you these are the only ways to live your life…but you’re welcome to borrow them, if you like. And if you don’t like mine, then go look at someone else’s, but decide for yourself how you want to live.

‘My Job Is To Be A Conduit To The Public…’

Is it possible to write a letter for a job application that sounds like you? Not ‘who you want to be’ or ‘who you worry you are’, but actually bare bones basic take-’em-as-they-come you? I’ve been struggling with mine enormously over the last three or four months and I’m starting to conclude that it isn’t.

I will be graduating from Cardiff University in about two months and so am starting to think about work. A fifteen minute chat with the careers adviser and countless leaflets, handouts and pamphlets concluded that, seeing as my degree is effectively ‘professional chatting’, I’d probably be most suited to PR, advertising, journalism – ‘The Media’ is the umbrella you can simplistically group those under. ‘Sounds good’, I said to the lovely lady who seemed to be very optimistic about the amount of open positions in this industry, ‘so what, I just send people my details and I get the job, then?’

Apparently not, she said. In The Media, 85-90% of the jobs aren’t advertised; people get positions through ‘a friend of a friend of a friend’. Nepotism is the name of the game, and you can’t play it unless you’re in our gang. Once you’re in and you’ve made the right contacts, you’ll never go hungry, but until that point it’s somewhat like beating your head against a brick wall whilst being very very poor. Not a great way to spend your time.

In a conversation with my mother later on in the day I bemoaned the fact that I wasn’t going to be able to find a good job and would have to start pushing drugs and giving tramps blow-jobs for money. Although I’d been intending this as encouragement for her to tell me that she’d send me more money, my mother replied with ‘I have a friend who might be able to get you an internship…’. I was seeing the nepotism of The Media unfolding in front of my eyes, and it was benefiting me. I asked a couple of questions and found out it would be for a local literature festival, meaning I could live in a nice place rent-free whilst earning experience in advertising and public relations doing a job which would have the side effect of allowing me to read a fairly wide range of popular modern writing. The only downside would be living with my parents again which, although it’s a pretty substantial downside, is able to be coped with.

I was counting my lucky stars when Mother Dearest said ‘all you’ll have to do is send in a CV and cover letter, do you have one ready?’
‘Course I do.’
She sighed, heavily. ‘Not the one you use for getting bar jobs; one that can be used for REAL work.’
I chose not to start the argument about bar work ‘not being a real job have you any idea how difficult it is stop shouting at me I’M NOT SHOUTING’ again and promised I’d show my CV to her later. After taking a look, she suggested some revisions and a couple of things I’d left off, but said it was acceptable. All I needed to do now was write the cover letter about why I really wanted the job.

I’m a man who has written 2,000 word essays in the three hours between 2AM and 5AM fueled entirely by cans of Monster and still managed to get 2.1s for them. A cover letter? CAKEWALK.

Five hours later I held my head in my hands as I stared at the two-hundred or so platitudes on the screen in front of me, considering whether the correct form for these situations was to cry, or break something.

It’s very difficult to write about myself, I’ve found, in a way that manages to make me sound like a typical human being. I tend to vascillate hugely from ‘I’m a worthless human being who isn’t worth the mud on your shoes – I’ll be so grateful if you give me this job that you’ll never need toilet roll again because I’ll be licking your arse so much’ to ‘I am the second-born Son Of God and it’s a travesty I don’t already have this job’. There is no middle ground. I’m either the best thing since sliced bread or I’m an awful failure, and I don’t really like saying either of these, because I don’t believe either one.

I’m not hugely neurotic – people telling me I’m fugly isn’t going to send me into a spiral of self-doubt and paranoia – and I wouldn’t consider myself an arrogant person either. I find arrogance an enormously unattractive quality in people and I really hate hypocrisy, so I try not to practice the one to avoid the other. Unfortunately, CV writing doesn’t lend itself enormously to sending the message ‘I’m an alright person’; one is expected to big oneself up as hard as possible, lying, cheating and bartering in order to get an edge over other candidates for the job, especially in this job market. Every man for himself, women and children to the back of the line, etc etc. Some people seem able to do that completely happily, but not me. If I write something good about myself, my brain panics. I start wondering whether that makes me sound like an arse, and if it does, will that lose me the job? No-one wants to hire a cocky prick! So I’ll mitigate the good statement with a bit of self-effacement, to take the edge off it and show I’m a reasonable person.

But then, who’ll hire an nervous failure? So I write something about how I’m great at team-management, then something about not working hard enough at uni, then something about how I’ve never met a customer I couldn’t woo, then how my need to constantly please people eventually leads me to inevitably fail them and myself, then how I’d be the perfect person who’d fulfil the job role described brilliantly, before finishing with my ever-present paranoia that I’m never going to leave anything tangible behind me when I die. It is a deeply deeply vicious cycle. Finally, after two pages of this spiralling out of control, I’ll delete EVERYTHING apart from ‘I’m very interested in working in a customer-based environment’ (because let’s face it, that covers almost every job ever in some respect or another) and decide that I need a drink, and that bleach is looking particularly refreshing right then.

Does it get any easier? I’m hoping so; that once the first job has been got my CV will magically become a honed tool expressly for impressing big business men who will throw positions at my feet, and I shall pick and choose any employment I want. I do occasionally revisit the real world though, and I’m very aware that’s not how it works. Every time I want to apply for anything, be it the Head of the U.N. or the man who picks the dodgy gristly bits of cow they use in fast-food burger vans off the floor of the abattoir, I’m going to have to update my CV to make it more ‘targeted’ – to emphasise my previous experience in a way that makes me sound suitable for the work I’m going for. It’s all about self-presentation, and I either have to get a lot better at that, or I have to swallow my pride and start swallowing a whole bunch of other things. I hear drug-running’s pretty lucrative…at least I’ll get to see exotic places and get threatened in a variety of foreign languages. And those airport security full cavity searches look like they could be a lot of fun!

Spending All My Time On Twitter? Now THAT’S Coursework I Can Get Behind!

The first thing I noticed about writing an essay in blog posts is how I obviously do not adhere to suggested word counts in any of my other essays. The fact is my methodology had to be padded out in order to hit just below 200, whilst my discussion could have run on and on; stopping myself from starting points I wouldn’t have the time to finish is not something I’m used to doing.
I also saw, about three-quarters of the way through writing, that this is an enormous topic. 1600 words was never going to be enough to adequately address it to my own satisfaction. It was, however, mentally stimulating to look at celebrity Twitter accounts from a deeper perspective, and I hope I’ve shown how interesting I found analysing celebrity self-presentation.
Considering I would not have judged myself particularly techno-savvy, I’m praying all the hyperlinks work. Although it all seems to be tickedy-boo currently, I am still something of a panicker.

At The End: What Conclusions Can Be Made?

Examining celebrity Twitter accounts from the perspective of investigating the self-presentational intent behind them, I feel it is important to say firstly that no celebrity appears to be consistently trying to portray one particular persona (with the exception, perhaps, of Lady GaGa, whom I feel is an exception to most rules in today’s world). Although there is a discernible distinction between celebrities who primarily portray themselves in a personal manner and those who do so in a professional manner, each one occasionally strays into the opposite grouping.
Celebrities who portray themselves formerly as people as opposed to being famous appear to be using Twitter as a medium of their own self-disclosure, allowing the public an insight into their day-to-day lives as something of an antithesis to the tabloids’ image of extremes of highs and lows. Celebrities who show themselves professionally seem to use Twitter as another method of marketing, but one which they completely control. In much the same way as propoganda, they can promote themselves in the precise way they desire. Both methods, I believe, have their intended effect for the celebrity using either one.

Who, How And Why: Celebrities And Their Twitter Goals And Personalities

I felt there were a number of different styles to how celebrity tweeters presented themselves which could be broadly lumped under three particular titles based upon their connecting to followers. Firstly, there was the personal connection, which I judged based on the @ replies sent by them and to whom. Some celebrities – Oprah and Alan Sugar are two prime examples – reply to messages they are sent; Oprah even has the particular occasional ‘live tweeting session’, where she personally reads and replies to certain tweets her 5.5million followers send her. This appears to be the most intimate form of celebrity/fan connection. However, it portrays the celebrity tweeting almost as a gift to the message recipient, which appears honest and forthright, as it seems to demonstrate the personality on Twitter as real, but in reality shows the celebrity tweeting as important; there is no room for a dialogue with a fan, which makes the message seem intimate but in fact distances the two, maintaining the celebrity’s ‘professional’ demeanour.
A second form of connecting with followers is the ‘Lady GaGa approach’, which also exemplifies Justin Bieber’s and Britney Spears’ attitudes – her Twitter account appears as her acting as a kind of orator and whipping up her fans into various states of excitement. This then manifests itself as trending topics created as millions of twitterers tweet as GaGa has instructed them or, more subtly, in many of them adopting the term ‘Little Monster’ to describe themselves. This phrase, coined by Lady GaGa to denote her fans, both has the effect of unifying twitterers as a sort of mock-army, as well as providing a connection with Lady GaGa – ‘Mother Monster’ – which presents her as their leader. This still holds a not inconsiderable impression of honesty to it, but GaGa does use her Twitter as a form of viral marketing; aside from the expansive messages, she mainly posts information about her upcoming events, albums, etc.
A final form of connection to their followers I judged was in what celebrities chose to tweet about. Whilst every celebrity tweeted in some respect or another about their professional life a number of celebrities, such as Stephen Fry, Lily Allen and Rihanna, had a great number of tweets I deemed to be ‘personal’; that is, about their day-to-day lives without an apparent intention to self-present – ‘walking the dog’ tweets. This I felt was closest to Erving’s 1959 work in self-presentation as, unconscious or not, the celebrities who tweet this way are trying to present themselves as normalised and no different to everyone else. By portraying themselves as relatable and seemingly the same as everyone else, these celebrities created an attractive persona for themselves whilst apparently being honest in their self-presentation. It is appealing for the public to feel their idols are human too, and by tweeting as human, the celebrities here garner affection for their down-to-earth attitudes.

Under The Magnifying Glass: How To Study The Celebrities?

Twitter does not lack celebrities, but there is a limit to the number a person can examine in one study, particularly with a restriction on word-count. With that in mind, I feel it is still important to have a large enough group of celebrities that I can form some basic conclusions on how they are presented. I also think it is vital to study a disparate group, both in background and influence, rather than simply the celebrities with the largest number of followers (although I will of course include them), as that will not necessarily present the correct data for the uses celebrities have for Twitter. With this in mind, I chose celebrities based on number of followers, activity levels of tweeting and public presence, as well as who I recognised as an ‘useful’ tweeter i.e. who I felt exemplified a particular style of celebrity tweeting and who would provide what I considered the epitome of personal or professional presentation. To judge how they presented themselves, I looked at how they related to and addressed their followers and what this could be intended to achieve by way of their self-presentation.