Zom­bies life of the party in apoc­a­lyp­tic count­down

Austin American-Statesman - - BALANCED VIEWS - From the left Mon­day Tues­day Wed­nes­day Thurs­day Collins writes for The New York Times. Fri­day Satur­day Sun­day

It

ap­pears that a lot of peo­ple be­lieve the world will come to an end next Fri­day, pos­si­bly dur­ing a zom­bie apoc­a­lypse.

Now that I have your at­ten­tion, let’s pro­ceed with a dis­cus­sion of how var­i­ous ac­count­ing prin­ci­ples are in­flu­enc­ing con­gres­sional ne­go­ti­a­tions over the “fis­cal cliff.”

Just kid­ding! We are go­ing to talk about the end of the world and the zom­bie apoc­a­lypse. Hon­estly, this is a big deal. The Web, which al­ways knows what is really im­por­tant, is full of it. Panic buy­ing has popped up in Rus­sia. At an an­titer­ror­ism sum­mit meet­ing in San Diego this year, law en­force­ment of­fi­cials got to see a demon­stra­tion on what to do in the event that South­ern Cal­i­for­nia is taken over by zom­bies.

Also, there have been quite a few re­cent de­vel­op­ments that might well be in­ter­preted as a sign of the end of days:

The 5,125-year-long Mayan cal­en­dar stops on Dec. 21.

Sci­en­tists report the dis­cov­ery of an elephant that speaks Korean.

Rick Perry says he might be con­sid­er­ing an­other run for pres­i­dent.

All right, the elephant has a very lim­ited vo­cab­u­lary. But ever since the world failed to come to an end in 2000, apoc­a­lypse afi­ciona­dos have been look­ing at De­cem­ber 2012 be­cause of the Mayan cal­en­dar thing. I be­lieve the zom­bies were added on sim­ply be­cause, right now, zom­bies are really pop­u­lar. There’s a high-rated zom­bie TV se­ries, “The Walking Dead,” a whole bunch of best-sell­ing zom­bie graphic nov­els, and an up­com­ing Brad Pitt movie, “World War Z.”

The movie isn’t be­ing re­leased un­til June, which sug­gests that Brad Pitt doesn’t have much faith in the Mayans.

What is it about zom­bies that ev­ery­body likes so much? As vil­lains, they aren’t par­tic­u­larly well-rounded. They don’t plan, so the plot op­tions are pretty lim­ited. You can’t de­velop a for­bid­den re­la­tion­ship with one. You don’t see a hand­some male zom­bie fall in love with a teenage hu­man and then an­nounce that sex is out of the ques­tion be­cause of the threat of neck­bit­ing and, there­fore, all he wants to do is cud­dle and talk about feel­ings.

That ac­tu­ally may be the key. Zom­bies never want to talk about feel­ings. I’ll bet nine-tenths of the world’s zom­bie fans are guys.

Th­ese days, if you want to sell some­thing, you add zom­bies. If you’ve got a sup­ply of pup tents you can’t get rid of, re­la­bel them “zom­bie sur­vival shel­ters” and they’ll fly out the door. The

Scot Le­high

Paul Krug­man

Dana Milbank

Mau­reen Dowd Cen­ters for Disease Con­trol and Preven­tion have been try­ing to get peo­ple in­ter­ested in emer­gency readi­ness by repo­si­tion­ing the ad­vice as “Pre­pared­ness 101: Zom­bie Apoc­a­lypse.” Or­ga­niz­ers of that coun­tert­er­ror­ism sum­mit meet­ing in San Diego said they fea­tured a sec­tion on zom­bie fight­ing to brighten up five days of meet­ings on home­land se­cu­rity. Zom­bies. Al­ways the life of the party. Peo­ple do love a good apoc­a­lypse. The Na­tional Ge­o­graphic Chan­nel feels it’s got a big hit in “Dooms­day Prep­pers,” which is sort of a “Project Run­way” for peo­ple with fall­out shel­ters.

Ev­ery week, “Dooms­day Prep­pers” vis­its folks who are get­ting ready for a cat­a­clysm — ter­ror­ists, earth­quakes, the col­lapse of the Green­land ice sheet, nu­clear war. The pro­gram is spon­sored by a brand of “gourmet emer­gency food” and it features a team of ex­perts who grade this week’s sur­vival­ists on their prepa­ra­tions. “Your score is 63 out of 100; you have 10 months’ ini­tial sur­vival time,” they told a guy who was mak­ing weapons and grow­ing al­gae to feed his five chil­dren in case of a col­lapse of the world fi­nan­cial sys­tem.

Sci­en­tists at NASA have taken the whole end-of-the-world thing se­ri­ously enough to post an­swers to a list of Fre­quently Asked Ques­tions, be­gin­ning with the big­gie. (“The world will not end in 2012.”) The Mayan cal­en­dar, NASA says, just ends like the one on your desk. Also, as long as they have your at­ten­tion, they want you to know that there is no planet named Nibiru hurtling to Earth and that “a re­ver­sal in the ro­ta­tion of Earth is im­pos­si­ble.” Just in case you were wor­ry­ing. To­ward the end of its Q-and-A, NASA takes up the is­sue of whether Earth will be hit by a me­teor in 2012, as­sur­ing read­ers: “We have al­ready de­ter­mined that there are no threat­en­ing as­ter­oids as large as the one that killed the di­nosaurs.”

NASA is sound­ing a lit­tle like Prime Min­is­ter Dmitry Medvedev of Rus­sia, who said he didn’t be­lieve in the whole end-of-the-world scare, then added: “At least, not this year.”

Sci­en­tists, if the topic is po­ten­tial cos­mic calami­ties, think about your bed­side man­ner. When dis­cussing life-ex­tin­guish­ing meteors or plan­eteat­ing black holes, never say “highly un­likely.” Re­mem­ber, you are talk­ing to a na­tion of peo­ple who kept buy­ing Power­ball tick­ets even af­ter the odds passed 1 in 175 mil­lion.

Gail Collins

John Young

Leonard Pitts

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