Sunday, June 03, 2012

Zombie Pataphysics Revisited

Blasts from the past #2 - Wednesday, January 25, 2006 -

What is Zombie? What is 'Pataphysics?

"And they said unto him, Whereof may we speak, that thereof we need not remain silent?
And he replied, When you know what to say, and when the man become the woman and the woman the man, and the father the daughter and the mother the son, and the outer shell the inner core, and vice versa, then shall ye enter into a place not unadjacent to the kingdom of heaven. And they were speechless."
From the (apocryphal) gospel according to St. B.

Apart from the eponymous cocktail and musicians etc., there are three kinds of Zombie: the Hollywood (more correctly the Pittsburgh) version; the "real" Voodoo/Vaudun Zombie, poor buggers, and the philosophical construct: the p-Zombie. The reeking, living dead are almost certainly amongst us, in one form or another. I should know since I became a Zombie about 6 years ago in the Lariboisière Hospital in Paris.

More later, off for lunch. Toasted ham and organic Red Leicester cheese on good sunflower seed bread, a fine salad with nut, olive and pumpkin seed oil dressing followed by many lychees.

Well... and dinner too.

Anyway: more later about how I became a Zombie. But for now, let us be amazed that from the Zombie films, especially those of the 1930s and 1940s, there has actually been a back-adoption of certain made-up aspects of the Zombie/Voodoo rites and rituals into the religion itself - or so I am led to believe. That "real" Zombies exist is, though contentious, rather probable. There was a BBC documentary (Last of the Medicine Men, Benedict Allen, BBC, 2000) which culminated in a Zombie being presented to the camera. On the other hand, they know that we expect Zombies. There have even been cases of tourists buying a Zombie by mistake.

In fact, they are slaves. Poor, uneducated people are given a potion containing a cocktail of drugs, and fall into a coma. They are buried, but later dug up and, after the administration of an antidote, I suppose also containing hallucinogens, are in a more or less aware but damaged state. They are told that they are now Zombies, and what is more believe this. Then they work on the Bokor, or priest's, farm, as slaves. The traditional Zombie bandage round the head and jaw is suppose to keep the latter closed, so that the P'tit Bon Ange - the little good angel - shall not escape.

As I said, this is contentious, and may possibly be based on misunderstandings and myth, but I tend to believe it.

One of the poisons used is tetrodotoxin, the same agent that causes painful paralysis and a terrible death in a few hundred Japanese every year, from eating the naughty bits of the Fugu or Puffer Fish. It is worth noting that the genome of the puffer fish is so close to that of humans, having most of the same genes but far less "junk" DNA, that it is the subject of massive study...

It is thus a tragedy - it was for me - and perhaps an actionable failing, that the French health care system sees fit to use the Puffer fish instead of the usual balloon in a process called ichthioangioplasty, whereby a blocked artery feeding the heart is opened again. Usually, a tube is inserted into an artery in the thigh, and is manipulated under X-ray guidance into the required spot, when a small balloon is inflated, pressing the blockage back against the artery wall. It is true that the process is not risk free, but surely hardly less so than the "bio" or "natural" alternative, involving the insertion of a tiny Puffer fish which, receiving at the crucial moment a small voltage on its tail, suddenly inflates (used to scare enemies when under threat) and thus unblocks the artery.

For there is a small but real chance of toxin release, about as close to the heart as it is possible to get. In my case, the hospital and health authorities have denied even using this process, and it is still subject to a legal investigation. However, although I cannot comment on the actual details, what is sure is that although in all respects I am like a human - that is, there is no objective test in science, psychology or epiphenomenology that may distinguish me as a Zombie - I am now part of what Derrida was referring to when he said that "In between the true and the false, there is always the undead, the Zombie." The Situationists too talked about the mass of the non-living. Neither dead nor alive, neither true nor false, one nor zero if you like, the Zombie is entirely without qualia - that is, it has no feelings. But you cannot tell.

Present me with a glass of armagnac, I will appreciate its colour, its taste and smell. I may ask for a second glass, hold it to the light and comment on its age. Burn my finger with a match and I will yell, and blister. Yet I have no real feelings. I can cry, real tears too, yet don't "really" mean it. How unlike a real human.

Would you hurt me, knowing this? Would you torture a computer, a robot, that screamed and begged for mercy? Shame on you.

To be continued. And in case you have been, thanks for looking.

Zombie Pataphysics revisited

Some blasts from the past, that is to say from the archives: #1 Zombie Biscuits

A clearly visible "Black Zombie" (inset enlarged) - note the eyes. The appropriate authorities have been notified.

Regular readers will know that I have previously celebrated examples of the stupidly gullible (usually "religious") believing that they have found or observed sacred imagery in potatoes, aubergines, American subways (the underpass and the sandwich) and so on. Doubtless there are many who would willingly put up with long queues of the frenzied and the rich outside their doors, pushing and fighting to see some holy phenomenon and perhaps to buy some small but not insignificantly priced memento.

Now, you too can participate in this gastronomic iconography, using these easily made ZOMBIE BISCUITS - a startlingly realistic image virtually GUARANTEED in every biscuit. Your friends will be amazed, the press stunned.

They also taste very good, though clearly to eat one would be tantamount to heresy under some religious regimes.

Preheat an oven to 200° C, (500 °F - Ha! Let the Americans burn them!) then make a dough that would usually end up as oatmeal biscuits:

50 g oatmeal flour, 175 g wholewheat or spelt flour, 2 level teaspoons of baking powder (raising agent), 90 g cold, chopped up butter, 2 level table-spoons of sugar, 2 table-spoons of milk; a pinch of salt, and a few pinches of oat flakes.

Mix all the dry ingredients and the butter together in a large bowl with the fingertips until they become crumb-like, then add the milk and mix and knead to form a dough, about 2 on a scale of 0 to 9 where 0 = totally dry and 9 = sloppy and wet; the mixture should seem a bit too dry, if you tried to roll it out now it would crack. Leave the dough covered in the bowl for 10 minutes.

Now toss 50 g fresh blueberries into the bowl and mash them into the dough. The juice that emerges will make the dough moister. Don't let the fruit totally disintegrate though.

Put the dough in a lump on a floured surface & roll it out to about 0.5 cm thickness with a floured rolling pin or bottle. Using a small glass, cut out circles of approximately 5 cm diameter and place them on a baking sheet, either special baking paper or non-stick metal: they can stick badly if not. Prick the biscuits several times each with a fork, and place in the preheated oven. Ignore, for the moment, all the dark forms in the biscuits. Just do it automatically, don't think. You want to be surprised by the emergent properties.

After 10 to 12 minutes the biscuits should be just changing colour at the edges, no more. Remove from the oven and put somewhere to cool for a few minutes.

Now you can observe the multitude of Zombies, saints, prophets, gods, sexual symbols, miniature horses and cosmic patterns that you have created. Savour each form, photograph the best, send it to the local press— the national press will take up the story later. Declare that the fruit fell in by accident, though as if it were meant to, and that you didn't notice the picture until much later.

In case there are biscuits containing (but this is unlikely) no significant religious or other imagery, the biscuits should be eaten with either Blue Stilton or Red Leicester cheese, available from any decent cheese shop. Roquefort or Cheddar make rather poor, but just about acceptable, substitutes.

To those who might aggressively argue that I am cheapening or demeaning food-based religious experiences, just shut the fuck up.

And if you have been, thanks for looking…
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