Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A facebook meme for people with my obsession

This 20-questions list was apparently developed by Nicole Williams. I saw it on Brian Chung's wall on Facebook and really liked it (duh), so I copyied it (with a couple of minor modifications).

“Get to know your iPod”

1. How many songs are on your iPod?
32,758

2. Choose the first artist on your iPod that begins with an M. Who is it?
M (song: “Pop Muzik” from 1979)

3. Which artist has the weirdest sound?
Mergen Mongush (Mongolian throat singing)

4. Which artist has the most inappropriate lyrics?
Half of my rap collection (Basehead, DMX, Juvenile, Mystikal, …) plus one awkwardly inappropriate song by Patti Smith

5. What song on your iPod would you call the best love song (in your own opinion, and by your own standards)?
“I Only Have Eyes For You” by The Flamingos (1959)

6. Which song are you most likely to be unable to help dancing too, even though you clearly cannot and should not dance?
Lots of ‘em – most recently: “Blind” by Hercules And Love Affair

7. Do you have anything on your iPod that is not actually music (e.g., book-on-MP3, comedians, podcasts, etc.), and if so what is it?
No, but I have a couple of audio books in iTunes on my desktop

8. Which band has the strangest name?
I dunno - I guess Neutral Milk Hotel, although that name seems pretty normal to me now. The most awkward is: ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead (or “AYWKUBTTOD” for…uh… short)

9. What song/album/artist would you call your guilty pleasure (I’m talking the kind of music you would never, EVER want your friends to find out about, i.e. Celine Dion and that whiney Titanic song)?
I’m not ashamed of any of it. I love Britney Spears. (I do NOT have any Celine Dion, however.)

10. Check your Top 25 Most Played songs on your iPod or on iTunes. Which song have you listened to most and how many times?
“A-Punk” by Vampire Weekend (28 times)

10. On your top 25 list, which song is 13th?
Tie: “Keep The Car Running” by Arcade Fire and “Head Over Heels” by The Go-Go’s (17 times each)

10. Press shuffle on your iPod. What’s the first thing that comes up?
“My Dear Persephone” by The Mooney Suzuki

10. Did you notice that this is the fourth Question 10?
No!

11. Where’s the weirdest place you’ve ever taken your iPod?
Friedrichshafen, Germany

12. Where’s the weirdest place you’ve ever left your iPod (in or out of the house)?
Hidden pocket in gym bag – couldn’t find it for a week

13. Do you have any songs on your iPod that are sung in a different language?
Tons (Spanish is most common, followed closely by Portuguese, but just about every region of the globe is represented)

14. What song/artist makes you sad?
None of it makes me sad, but there are things I like to listen to when I’m sad – Césaria Évora, for example

15. Check your Genres list. Which genre has the most artists?
Rock, of course (13,151 songs). Classical has the fewest (7 songs).

16. What is the very last song/album that you loaded onto your iPod or iTunes?
Dennis Wilson, Pacific Ocean Blue (1977)

17. What is your favorite artist?
I will say John Coltrane, but I’m not sure I would stick with that answer if asked again tomorrow

18. Scroll through your playlists and pick the one with the oddest name. What types of songs are on it? What is the first song in the list?
“Surfer Suicide” – I named it after a headline from a two-second Inside Edition promo on TV. (“Surfer suicide – today at 4 on Inside Edition!”) It contains a bunch of punkish songs from 1987-1990, some of which have to do with surfing or the ocean, but most by coincidence. The first song is “Stop” by Jane’s Addiction.

19. If you could choose only five albums to listen to for the rest of your life, what would they be?
I would kill myself. But the albums would be: John Coltrane, Giant Steps; Nas, Illmatic; Radiohead, The Bends; The Rolling Stones, Exile On Main Street; Led Zeppelin, Houses Of The Holy (with “The Crunge” edited out). No, seriously, I would kill myself.

20. What is your least favorite song on your iPod and why is it there?
“Feel” by Robbie Williams. Because Carmen Scheiblich tried to get me to sing it karaoke style in front of customers in Berlin, and I had no idea what the heck it was. There’s a reason this guy’s not popular in America! Anyway, she gave me the CD, so I keep the one song on my iPod as a reminder. (Bad song, fun night.)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Wolverine vs. Terminator

I should be working, but as Mark Twain said, "Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow." So instead, I'm going to reflect on the two movies I saw this week: X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Terminator Salvation. (SPOILERS!)

First of all, I give both movies *** three stars ("worthwhile"). They were both fairly entertaining action movies, but without much depth. That surprised me, as I had expected Wolverine to be a two-star movie and Terminator to be a four-star one. Here are some more thoughts:

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

  • The first two X-Men movies were great; the third was possibly worse than Ghost Rider. The difference was storytelling: in X1 and X2, there was character development and an consistent underlying story that people could relate to about what it feels like to be different. Not everything worked in them, but the stories were strong enough to make the movie more than just a series of action scenes. X3 lost all of the subtlety of its predecessors. It tried to keep the same themes, but was heavy handed about it and threw a bunch of extra gimmicks into the plot that didn't make much sense. (A lot of this stems from trying to be too faithful to the comic book source material, instead of creating something to work specifically in this movie format.) So in the end, X3 lost the magic and went all alien robot zombies.
  • In a lot of ways Wolverine - a prequel to the X-Men trilogy - is a lot like X3, but it does have some differences that ultimately make it better. Early buzz on Wolverine was that it was horrible, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it was merely incredibly shallow. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. It is that shallowness that keeps the plot from getting bogged down trying to wrap up loose ends that shouldn't have been started in the first place. I've seen X3 twice and still couldn't tell you what it was about. I can tell you what Wolverine was about, though: man gets metal claws and slices up bad guys with them. There are some additional things going on, but the plot never gets sidetracked from this basic premise, and if that sounds like an interesting diversion to you, this movie will not disappoint.
  • Don't think too deeply about character motivation or intelligence, though, or a lot of it won't make sense. As a case in point, one of the things that I always find myself wondering about is the mechanics behind Wolverine's claws. Those things have to retract into his forearms when not in use, which means: (a) he has to keep his wrists straight when they come in or go out; (b) the claws can be no longer than his forearms, including whatever portion of them anchor within his hand; and (c) there should be a noticeable difference in the size of his forearms and hands when they're retracted. (Also, since they rip through his flesh of his hands whenever they come out, there should really be some blood involved - mutant healing power or no.) During the movie, a so-so job is done showing how Wolverine's claws emerge. However, at the end of the movie, the "Deadpool" character is shown to have metal blades that some out of the back of his hands just like Wolverine. However, the blades are a lot longer, meaning that retracting them should prevent him from bending at the elbows. Impractical to say the least!
  • There are lots of similar areas where you just have to be willing to look the other way in terms of logic. However, if you can do so, you might just have some fun.

Terminator Salvation
  • As I mentioned, I had expected this movie to be four stars. Apparently, so had a lot of other people, because word-of-mouth has not been strong and the film only earned 34% at Rotten Tomatoes. The movie even ended up getting topped at the box office on its opening weekend by supremely meh family drivel Night At The Museum: Battle Of The Smithsonian. That's unfair, though, because the movie really is worth seeing. It's not as good as it should be, but it's still enjoyable. (Seriously... Night At The Museum?!)
  • I couldn't quite put my finger on why this movie didn't work as well as it should, but I scanned some other reviews, and this one from sci-fi website io9 sums it up pretty well: Terminator Salvation's Terrible Shortfall. Reviewer Charlie Jane Anders is considerably more negative about the movie than I am, but hits the nail on the head on several points. Short version: there is a compelling story here, but the dialogue is weak, the editing is horrid and ultimately the movie fails to tell it.
  • The movie had one moment that made the audience laugh. Other than that, it was gritty and intense the entire two hours. Unlike the earlier Terminator movies, this is a war movie first, sci-fi action movie second.
  • There were several moments during this movie where I had to stifle my mental gag reflex. Why would Skynet create a Terminator it couldn't control? Why wouldn't Skynet kill Kyle Reese as soon as they captured him and win the war? Why wasn't Skynet headquarters better protected? Why did they cut Moon Bloodgood's topless scene?
  • With such weak storytelling, a lot of the actors are wasted. Moon Bloodgood should have been used more (as mentioned above, she should have gotten at least one more scene). And Common - who has bad-ass rapper street cred and an incredible, distinctive voice - doesn't appear in any action scenes and hardly speaks. Huh? Sam Worthington and Christian Bale each have some great scenes in the beginning of the movie, but the second half is a mess and neither character develops its potential.
  • Also, the ending is alien robot zombies. There's an entirely unnecessary heart transplant that doesn't make sense scientifically or even really in terms of the story.
  • Probably the biggest disappointment for me, though, was the lack of a dominant bad guy. There was no one to fill Ahnuld's shoes. (Although I will say that seeing the CGI Schwarzenegger Terminator at the end was exciting.)
  • Nevertheless, many of the sets, effects and action sequences were incredible and ultimately redeemed the entertainment value of the movie. (Bale's helicopter scene in the beginning is simultaneously artistic and thrilling.) And really, that's what the Terminator franchise is all about - or have we all forgotten that this is exactly what we said about T2?
Photo: http://www.sidekickcomicsuk.com/blogs/blog4.php/2009/09/13/something-silly-for-sunday-35-wolverine-

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A quicker brown fox

A pangram is a sentence or phrase that includes every letter of the alphabet. The most famous English pangram is:

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.

This has the benefit of being a coherent, easy to remember sentence. However, it is not a "perfect pangram" since it contains several letters more than once (including three e's and a whopping four o's).

To create a perfect pangram, you must use every letter once and only once. This is extremely difficult, since the alphabet only gives you six vowels to work with. You often end up with an ungrammatical series of random, obscure words:

Cwm fjord bank glyphs vext quiz.

It gets a little better if you allow abbreviations, punctuation and/or proper names:

NBC glad. Why? Fox TV jerks quiz PM.

A few years ago, I was collecting fonts for some brochure work I was doing, and I wanted to print a page that showed all of them in action. I wanted to see an actual sentence rather than just the alphabet, but I didn't have enough space on the page to show the "quick brown fox" sentence for every font.

Today, you can Google or Wikipedia "pangram" and get a long list to choose from, but back then I had to come up with something on the spot. So here is what I used:

Zeb's fjord myth: plucking wax (q.v.)

(By the way, the abbreviation "q.v." stands for quod vide, which literally means "which see" in Latin, and indicates that the preceding word or phrase should also be looked up.)

OK, so it's not Shakespeare, but for what it is, I'm proud of it.

Finally, this is not mine, but I like it. It's a German pangram that uses every letter, including the umlaut vowels and the "sharp s" (ß) character:

Zwölf Boxkämpfer jagen Viktor quer über den großen Sylter Deich.

Translation: "Twelve boxers drive Viktor over the great Sylt Dike."

Hmmm. Somehow I think that lazy dog got off easy!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Officials establish zombie colonies in Texas

In yet another sign of the coming zombie apocalypse, the United States Department of Agriculture has authorized the introduction of a non-native species of parasitic flies into Texas. The phorid flies, originally from Africa, "dive bomb" their victims and lay eggs inside of them. When the eggs hatch, the maggots eat away at the victims' brains, causing them to exhibit "zombie-like behavior."

This stage may last for two weeks, during which time the zombies wander aimlessly. (I imagine this is the stage where they attack violently in search of brains, although the news stories do not specifically mention at what stage these attacks occur.) It finally ends when the victims' heads fall off and the adult phorid flies emerge to begin their cruel cycle of life and undeath all over again.

The flies have migrated throughout Central and South Texas and have now reached the Oklahoma border. As insane as it may seem, "academics" from the University of Texas, with the blessing of the federal government, are actually planning to introduce more of the flies this year to increase zombie production! The story goes on to say:

Draw what conclusions you will about the mental state of those "farmers" and "ranchers"!

As horrifying as this sounds, I swear that I am not making it up. I only skimmed to bring you the most pertinent details, but the full story can be found here.

P.S. - I also recommend this prophetic article (NSFW) titled "5 Scientific Reasons a Zombie Apocalypse Could Actually Happen." The phorid flies, by the way, fall into the very first category listed: "brain parasites." The other four possibilities are: neurotoxins, rage virus, neurogenesis and nanobots. I read this article a little more carefully than the other one, because it provided a lot more details. I was especially frightened by the part where it said that "science has proven" with certainty that one of these five things will eventually "end civilization by flooding the planet with the cannabalistic [sic] undead." Spelling error aside, that is pretty scary stuff!
Despite initial concerns, farmers and ranchers have been willing to let researchers use their property to establish colonies.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Buffalo^5

As I have mentioned before, I am a word nerd. Today I would like to introduce you to my favorite sentence in the English language, but before I do, I need to first introduce you to all of the subtleties of the remarkable word that makes this sentence possible: "buffalo."

The word "buffalo" has a number of different meanings. First and foremost, it is used to describe various species from several different genera of large, bovine mammals, including Syncerus (including the African Cape buffalo), Bubalus (including the Asian water buffalo) and Bison (including the American buffalo, or bison).

By the way, all of those who claim that it is only proper to refer to the American version as "bison," you need to get off your "one true buffalo" high horse. Not only is buffalo an extremely common, generic term (the etymology traces back to Greek bous, "cow"), but it was the only English term used for more than a hundred years after the American animal was first discovered by Europeans.

"Buffalo" is an ancient, poetic word that flaunts modern conventions. While you sometimes see "buffaloes" as a plural form, it is most often used as a collective noun, so that its plural form matches the singular: "a herd of buffalo" not "a herd of buffaloes." This is important for the linguistic gymnastics it performs in my favorite sentence.

Buffalo is also a common place name; most notably it is the name of a large city on the shore of Lake Erie in upstate New York. And it can be used as an adjective to describe things associated with that city: "I hear Buffalo winters are brutal."

Finally, "buffalo" can be used as a transitive verb meaning "to intimidate by a display of power": "As mayor, I tried to buffalo the officer into not writing me a ticket, but it backfired and I ended up in jail."

Now a word about buffalo society. (Notice the lowercase b.) It is clear that the meaning of the verb is derived from the behavior of the animals. It is the nature of buffalo to buffalo; it's just what they do. A buffalo will buffalo anything that it can: people, bears, prairie dogs, you name it.

It should also come as no surprise that buffalo can and will buffalo other buffalo. And while buffalo herds do move around a bit, in general it is safe to say that Kansas buffalo will interact in this way with other buffalo from Kansas, as opposed to, say, buffalo from Wyoming.

And so here we come to our payoff, because if asked to describe the social interactions of buffalo in upstate New York (as I'm sure you will some day), the first thing that should now spring to mind is my favorite sentence of all time:

Buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

P.S. - You can also say "Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo." That's eight buffalo in a row, if you're counting. This version is grammatical in theory, but it really does stretch the rules of English grammar beyond all practicality. As a courtesy to the listener, the speaker of the eight-word version would almost have to insert some extra words to preserve the flow of the sentence: "Buffalo buffalo whom Buffalo buffalo buffalo in turn buffalo other Buffalo buffalo." Because of this, as opposed to the five-word version, I can't see myself ever using it.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Trek FTW

I just saw the new Star Trek movie. Wow. I mean... Wow.

I have never been a big Star Trek fan. I mean, the original 1966-1969 TV series had its moments of lo-fi genius to be sure. It was a fresh approach to science fiction with enough fun gizmos and aliens to trigger the nerd endorphins, but it also had a campy side and a cast that wasn't afraid to go overboard in the name of entertainment. I think the subsequent movies and spin-offs, however, largely lost that sense of newness and excitement. The franchise got stale catering more and more to its base, and lost itself in the process.

In the wake of the Star Wars phenomenon, the Star Trek franchise managed only one brilliant movie (1982's Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan), then fell hopelessly behind. (And this despite the fact that Star Wars creator George Lucas has spent every moment since 1980 trying desperately to drive his own franchise into the ground.)

But it didn't have to be that way: whatever missteps it made along the way (1989's Star Trek V: The Final Frontier was one of the worst sci-fi movies ever), there was a solid core there: memorable characters and a rich back story.

So how to recapture that original magic? Reboot the franchise!

And that's just what J.J. Abrams and company did. To be honest, the new movie doesn't completely wipe out everything that came before it: without going into too much detail, Abrams uses time travel as a gimmick to establish this reboot as an alternate timeline that parallels the original instead of replacing it. It sounds confusing, but it is actually handled quite well, and given the series' rabid fan base, it is a nice way to keep longtime followers happy while simultaneously wiping the slate clean.

While that will keep longtime Trekkies happy, though, what keeps everyone else happy is the fact that the moribund old Star Trek is dead. Part of the promotional campaign for this movie says: "This is not your father's Star Trek." How true that is! From this point on, anything goes.

The new Star Trek movie is both edgier and more fun than we have come to expect Star Trek to be. The braininess is still there in the background, but it takes a backseat to emotions, tension and excitement. These characters are as strong as ever, and the young cast of actors assembled to play them is superb. In fact, while this may be sacrilege for longtime fans, in many cases I prefer the new interpretations hands-down to the old ones. They are reverent enough to capture the spirit of the original character, but re-imagined enough to make them relevant for modern movie-going audiences. They swear a little more, they argue a little more, they love a little more.

Probably the most surprising character for me was communications officer Lt. Uhura, played by Zoe Saldana. In the original series, she had seemed little more than a secretary in space. That may have been a groundbreaking role for an African American woman in 1966, but in 2009 that same role would have seemed dated. So in this movie, Uhura is a key character with a major role.

Oh, and it doesn't hurt that Zoe Saldana is smoking hot.

In fact, the entire crew is sexy: Chris Pine as James Kirk, Zacahry Quinto as Spock, John Cho (Harold from the "Harold & Kumar" comedies) as Hikaro Sulu. And, honestly, why not? J.J. Abrams wastes no opportunity to entertain us. Given the opportunity to reboot the franchise, he pulls out all the stops. Brilliant English comedian Simon Pegg (of Shaun Of The Dead fame) is brought in as Scotty. Karl Urban perfectly channels DeForest Kelley as medical officer Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy. ("I'm a doctor, not a physicist!") And pay attention to Anton Yelchin, who plays a small role as Pavel Chekov in this movie, and in just a few weeks will star as a young Kyle Reese in Terminator Salvation. (That's the character who eventually travels back in time in the original Terminator movie to save Sarah Connor.)

The plot does have some holes and certain aspects of the story aren't very well developed, but honestly that's just nitpicking. I was on the edge of my seat for the entire movie, and I can't wait to see it again. Beautiful sets, spectacular visual and sound effects, riveting character interaction, and compelling storytelling make this the best big-budget film I've seen since last year's Iron Man.

My rating is ***** five stars (essential) - for Trekkies and non-Trekkies alike. (Note: rated PG-13 for sci-fi action and violence, and brief sexual content.)

Yes, this franchise has legs. And I can't believe it, but I have to say that I now consider myself a Star Trek fan. I guess I'd better get used to it and go buy a pair of pointy rubber ears and an English-to-Klingon dictionary, because the Trekkies have won. After this movie, we're all Trekkies now.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Bright Knight

There is an animated series called Batman: The Brave And The Bold that just started its second season on Cartoon Network last night. If you have not yet seen this show, check it out: it will surprise you.

I certainly was not expecting much when I sat down to watch with my six year old son, but... Wow. This is the most fun I have had watching a "kid" show since I was a kid myself. The creators have found something magical here: just the right blend of action and whimsy. The writing is top notch, the characters larger than life, and the stories fresh and entertaining.

The portrayal of Batman in popular culture has evolved greatly over the years, going from the absolutely camp of the 1966-'68 Adam West TV series, to the dark fun house of 1989's Tim Burton version, and finally to Christopher Nolan's grim, gritty vision in 2008's The Dark Knight.

The latter movie paints the Batman myth in the most realistic terms possible for a "superhero": he is a regular man in extraordinary circumstances, a conflicted and vulnerable hero whose actions have unforeseen consequences, and who finds himself at odds with the very legal system he is trying so hard to defend. It is a gripping story, but intense and intensely gloomy.

Fortunately, the Batman character is big enough for multiple interpretations, and Batman: The Brave And The Bold approaches the character from a delightfully different angle. While it is not as campy as the Adam West version of the '60s, the new animated series makes no attempt at realism, injecting humor and fantasy at every turn.

There are some occasional absurd or silly moments, but they are handled fluidly, never as cheap gags or cheats to jump over plot holes. In the most recent episode, the Batmobile changed Transformer-style into a robot so that Batman could fight an evil robot. In another episode, Batman used an "ancient meditation technique" to project his spirit out of his trapped body so it could go find help. These moments are absolutely ridiculous, yes, but so entertaining and so in keeping with the light-hearted, fast-paced rhythm of the show that they never induce an alien robot zombies reaction.

Each show is divided into two sections, which are usually unrelated. A short, opening sequence before the credits provides an opportunity for random action scenes - candy for the brain that can be appreciated without much need for plot. The rest of the episode then presents a longer adventure that allows a more complex story to be told. Both sections pair Batman with one or more other superheroes. And happily, the episodes feature mostly obscure or under appreciated heroes and villains. I have not spotted Superman yet, and Batman has fought villains like Gentleman Ghost and the Brain rather than his normal rogue's gallery of the Joker, Penguin and Catwoman.

My favorite character so far, however, has been Aquaman, who is portrayed here as a bearded, jovial, heroic megalomaniac. He is simultaneously a parody of the character and its first compelling portrayal ever. One can only hope for a spin off.

My rating: **** four stars (recommended) for both kids and kids at heart alike. This is an intelligently written and exciting show, and surprisingly one of the best things on TV right now. You can catch it on Cartoon Network every Friday night at 8:30 PM Eastern & Pacific Time, with repeated showings throughout the week. It is rated TV-Y7 for "fantasy violence."

Friday, May 8, 2009

Cogito ergo dim sum

The universe can be as mysterious as you want it to be, but if you're brave enough to know the truth, I am going to spell it out for you here.

At the end of your meal in a Chinese restaurant, they will bring each diner a cookie with a piece of paper inside it. You do not have to eat the cookie - there is no effort made to make it taste remotely edible anyway - but you do have to open the cookie, remove the paper and read it. Inside is your fortune. Failing to read it will not change it.

Of course, all of the fortunes are good, right? No Chinese restaurant wants to print fortunes that say "you are going to die of swine flu this year" or "your relationship will end in heartbreak." That doesn't bode well for repeat visits.

But not every customer can actually be lucky. In fact, such is the nature of this cruel, finite universe that every life sees its fair share of pain, misery and disappointment, and even the mightiest among us will finally succumb to death in the end. You may have a few laughs along the way, but make no mistake about it: your life is a tragedy not a comedy, and your story will end badly.

But back to fortune cookies. Don't be fooled! There are two kinds of cookies: those that provide a fortune, usually good ("unexpected money will come your way"), and those that make no claim about telling the future whatsoever ("you are well liked by your peers").

The former type should be believed to a fault, as they are never wrong. If the cookie says you're going to get a new job and a big raise, immediately quit your current job and enjoy the time off: you've earned it! If it says you will soon meet the love of your life, dump your current significant other as fast as you can, because he/she is only slowing you down.

However, I am sorry to say that the second kind of cookie always lies. If it does not predict your future, then there is simply nothing good in your future to predict. It says, "you have a warm heart and a friendly smile" - do you really buy that even for a second? No, you know as well as anyone that you're a douche bag. The cookie is trying to let you down easy, but I feel compelled to inform you that there is bad luck headed your way. Probably really bad luck. There is a new death every 0.57 seconds after all. Approximately 212 people have died just since you started reading this blog post. I'm just saying.

Then again, because the cookie spares you the grisly details, there's nothing you can do about it and really no use worrying about it. As you read your so-called fortune, push the negative thoughts out of your mind and bury them deep inside. Read the fortune out loud and add the words "...in bed" to the end to enjoy a good laugh with the people around you.

Enjoy it while you can.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The latest sign of the coming zombie apocalypse

According to a report out today by the BBC, the H1N1 virus, also known as the swine flu, has now evolved into a new strain known as H1Z1. The new, more potent, more difficult to control strain is being referred to as the zombie swine flu, for reasons which will become obvious when you follow the link to the article.

That's it, I don't have anything else to say; just follow the link.

And panic. Yes, if you have not already succumbed to the apocalyptic cage rattling of the 24-hour news channels, now is the time to start.

Brains... (cough, cough)... brains...

--------------

UPDATE: The link no longer seems to work, so I have added the full text of the article below...


"EU quarantines London in flu panic"

There has been a small outbreak of “zombism” in London due to mutation of the H1N1 virus into new strain: H1Z1.

Similar to a scare originally found in Cambodia back in 2005, victims of a new strain of the swine flu virus H1N1 have been reported in London.

After death, this virus is able to restart the heart of it’s victim for up to two hours after the initial demise of the person where the individual behaves in extremely violent ways from what is believe to be a combination of brain damage and a chemical released into blood during “resurrection.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) has raised the alert to phase six, its highest level, and advised governments to activate pandemic contingency plans.

In Mexico, the epicentre of the outbreak, President Felipe Calderon urged people to stay at home over the next five days.

There are many cases elsewhere - including the US, Canada, Latin America, Europe, Israel, and New Zealand.

BBC health correspondent Mark McGrith says the raising of the WHO alert on Wednesday suggests a global epidemic, or pandemic, is imminent.

In the latest developments:

The Netherlands confirms its first case of zombie swine flu, in a three-year-old boy recently returned from Mexico. After passing away early this morning, he rose from the dead and lunged at his mother.

Ghana has become the latest country to ban pork imports as a precaution against swine flu, though no cases have been found in the West African country

China's health minister says that the country's scientists have developed a "sensitive and fast" test for spotting swine flu in conjunction with US scientists and the WHO. The country has recorded no incidence of the flu yet. There methods, however, have been uneffective in spotting the H1Z1 strain.

At the meeting of health ministers in Luxembourg, a French proposal for a continent-wide travel advisory for Mexico will be discussed.

It is unclear whether the EU executive has the power to impose a travel ban.

Several countries have restricted travel to Mexico and many tour operators have cancelled holidays.

Other members are resisting calls to implement travel bans or close borders, on the grounds - backed by the WHO - that there is little evidence of their efficacy.

The EU ministers will also try to agree on how to refer to the new virus.

The European Commission has been calling it "novel flu", replacing the word "swine" to avoid prompting a fall in demand for pork and bacon.

On Wednesday, Egypt began a mass slaughter of its pigs - even though the WHO says the virus was now being transmitted from human to human.

CONFIRMED CASES
  • Mexico: 168 suspected deaths - eight confirmed - 12 zombies
  • US: one death, at least 91 confirmed cases
  • New Zealand: 13 confirmed cases
  • Canada: 19 confirmed cases
  • UK: 5 confirmed cases
  • Spain: 10 confirmed cases
  • Germany: 3 confirmed cases
  • Israel, Costa Rica: 2 confirmed cases each
  • The Netherland, Switzerland, Austria, Peru: 1 confirmed case each

SYMPTOMS - WHAT TO DO

Swine flu symptoms are similar to those produced by ordinary seasonal flu - fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, chills and fatigue

If you have flu symptoms and recently visited affected areas of Mexico, you should seek medical advice

If you suspect you are infected, you should stay at home and take advice by telephone initially, in order to minimise the risk of infection

If you feel yourself passing away, then notice your strength and vigor returning at an alarming rate, please attempt to restrain yourself to prevent infection and harm to others.

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Have you been affected by the zombie strain of swine flu? You can send your experiences using the form below. You can also send your questions about the decision to raise the alert and we will send it to our health experts.

Happy Lisping Jedi Day

Today is May fourth.

May the Fourth be with you.