Welcome to Don’t Eat My Brain!

Well hello there. It’s been… um… 3 years since I last posted. This is mostly because I’m 7 years older than I was when I started this blog (holy shit) and I now devote most of my free time to my Grown Up Job™ instead of to this zombie website. I know. Lame.

Anyway: just wanted to throw some quick context up here for those of you who are coming across this site for the first time. (And apparently, according to my stats, there are still quite a few of you!)

If there’s nothing in particular you’re looking for here, feel free to browse recent posts. If you’re looking for the good shit, though, here’s some recommendations on where to start:

I don’t post regularly anymore, but feel free to hit me up on twitter at @mayafish or email me at maya@donteatmybrain.com and if you have a compelling enough question I’ll see what I can do to help you out.


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Zombie Go-Bag

So I had a zombie nightmare the other night where I had to leave my house suddenly when the zombies came and I didn’t have time to take anything with me. It wasn’t super realistic – mainly because all that happened is that I kept asking to go back for my iPad – but it did get me thinking about how unprepared I really am. Sure, I’ve been stocking up on my weapons, but what am I going to run out the door with a handful of machetes?

No. Well, yes. But also: I need to make like a pregnant lady and pack my go-bag.

Toiletries: Dude, every single zombie movie or show I watch, all I can think about is how gross it is that no one ever brushes their teeth. I want a toothbrush, some toothpaste (I assume when I run out I can find… mint leaves?), and an all-in-one cleanser (shampoo / face wash / body wash) to save on space. Give me a break, I’m a lady.

Survival basics: stormproof lighter, first aid kit, a few thin but warm blankets, water purification tablets, and a nice big tarp.

Solar charger for my iPhone and iPad. Even after the 3G in the world stops working, I can entertain myself for hours while I’m hiding from hordes outside. I’ve always thought that part of the apocalypse would be so boring.

LED flashlight: I love my Icon Rogue 2. And I guess I’ll need lots of extra batteries…

Weapons: Hopefully when the time comes, I will own the Gerber apocalypse kit. I would also settle for the Ka-Bar ZK collection, but it’s not my first choice because they don’t come in one convenient (and easy to carry) set. For now, I have my Ka-Bar ZK Famine Tanto knife, and a couple of machetes.

I’m not worrying about food because I’m assuming we’d either be in the city where we could loot people’s houses, or out in the wilderness somewhere where we could hunt and fish. Also, obviously guns are conspicuously missing from this list, but that’s because I still don’t own any. I know, I am the worst zombie survivalist ever. NYC gun laws are strict, okay?

I’m serious about putting this together. What else am I missing?

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Follow up: why do zombies eat brains?

One of my most popular posts by far is the one where I tried to explain (more than 3 years ago, wow!) why zombies eat brains. I still think it’s the most common question of people who are getting into the genre (or just trying to figure out why I’m so weird), and I still don’t really have any better guesses than I did when I wrote it back then.

But! You guys seem to have some really good ideas. So I wanted to revisit this question and go into some of the points you’ve raised.

Zoghrob (a surgeon!) pointed out:

There is a fact that I want to add. Brain tissue got substances called “Endorphins” & “Encephalins” which are morphine like substances, & are produced by the brain in cases of severe pain to ease it out, so when the mouse is between the teeth of the cat, suddenly it falls into a coma like state, due to these substances. This was mentioned briefly in 1985′s “return of living dead” when they tied up the half woman corpse & asked her why do they eat brains, she answered “it makes the pain go away”. Nice fact.

I LOVE this theory. (Let’s just ignore the fact that it originated in a movie where zombies were talking; you all know how I feel about that.) It would totally explain a) why zombies can’t feel pain, and b) why eating people – even people they love – is preferable to the alternative, which I’m assuming would be unbearable pain. I mean, I would imagine that having to feel yourself decomposing would not be pleasant. It might even help explain some of the other inhuman qualities of zombies – maybe they can’t communicate or use any complex motor skills because they’re in the equivalent of a coma.

We all know no zombie conversation would be complete without some good arguing – and you guys sure did point out all the holes I conveniently avoided in my first explanation. Let’s see if I can be more thorough this time.

Zombie_lover asked:

Do they have vital signs and a metabolism? does eating help? what is the life expectancy of one sans bullet to the head?

I don’t think they have any vital signs except for some mild brain activity which keeps them functioning at the most basic level. In season 1 of the Walking Dead, the CDC shows a time-lapse video of a zombie victim turning during an MRI, and it shows the brain shutting down completely and then suddenly restarting a few hours later but with a tiny fraction of the activity that existed before the victim died. That seems about right to me. In terms of eating, again, I don’t think it sustains them the way eating keeps us alive. I think it serves some other purpose though – either giving them energy, keeping their minimal brain function going, or (as the doctor suggested, above) making the pain go away.

I spend a LOT of time wondering about the natural “life” expectancy of a zombie (no way to get around that oxymoron). If I had enough supplies, would I be able to hide out in my apartment and just let all the zombies die out? I haven’t come to a solid conclusion on this one because the experts seem to be divided 50/50 on it. Personally, I’m inclined to think that they will die out eventually. If not, then eating brains doesn’t serve any kind of preservation function, and that just doesn’t seem right. Anyway, the definitive answer comes as usual from The Zombie Survival Guide: a zombie will decompose completely (whether they eat or not, apparently) within 5 years.

Michele wanted to know:

Why is it zombies always seem to retain their teeth and vocal cords? Of course, it’s for dramatic effect – but you would think that someone would have come up with some “science” to add to the mythology.

That is a REALLY good question. I could definitely see this being explained as part of the effects of the zombie virus – maybe your teeth and throat are kept intact like certain parts of your brain while the rest of your body rots, since you need them to keep chomping on people. It is really weird that I’ve never seen a zombie in a movie without any teeth. (Actually, I’ve always wondered what it would be like for an old person without any teeth left to become a zombie – seems like a cop out to never address this question. Could they just claw a person open and suck out their innards to sustain themselves? Who knows!)

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Surviving zombies in a big city

I pride myself on being able to answer readers’ (and other humans’) questions about zombies, no matter how weird they are, but there are certain things I just can’t answer because we just don’t know. Specifically, when people ask me about what I would do in a certain situation… it’s really hard, because there are so many factors that would change my answer entirely. Any zombie movie can back me up on this: survival in the zombie apocalypse really hinges on people being able to make good decisions, and quickly. Sometimes you have to leave someone behind. Sometimes you have to shoot your fiance in the face. Sometimes you have to climb up a precarious ladder because you’ve got nowhere else to go. It’s all about short-term survival – just being able to make it through to the next day.

Anyway, the first question I always get from people once they hear how nuts I am about zombies is “What’s your survival plan?” I live in NYC. My answer has always been “Unless I’m on vacation somewhere else, I think I’m fucked.” Everything I’ve ever seen or read about zombies has drilled it into my head that you do not want to be in a city. A city means crowds, which means lots and LOTS of zombies. Transportation is a bitch – there’s really no way for people to escape, it’s an island with a handful of bridges and tunnels which will be shut down very quickly – and phone reception is already notoriously unreliable. Grocery stores are few and far between, people don’t trust their neighbors, hardly anyone has roof access – I could go on forever. My point is, I didn’t think I had a chance – until I read this Quora thread.

The guy who asked the question was just asking for basic zombie survival tips. Happily (for me), the best answer came from a dude who just so happened to have deduced that cities are the best places to be; he even encourages country-folk to go into the city. I liked a lot of his points but (predictably) had a few issues with his logic. You should read the whole thing, but here are a few highlights:

Things I have to argue over:

  • He says this plan will work because everyone will avoid large cities, and success here really does rely on having a largely empty city. I don’t agree with this logic – as I complained on twitter when I first read this thread, it’s like saying that you can beat traffic by taking the freeway because everyone else will avoid it at rush hour. (They don’t. They take it anyway.) I think there will be a mass exodus of people, but I also think a lot of people will have this same idea and hole up in their apartments.
  • He also says that once the zombie outbreak is raging, most of the zombies will file out of the city because no one will be left alive to make noise in the city. I totally disagree. If this guy ever lived in a city, he’d know that the people who live here don’t a) go down without a fight, or b) ever lower their voices. I think it’s going to take an unreasonable amount of time for the noise to die down enough for the zombies to leave. I also think a lot of the people who start out hiding will lose their minds and run out screaming into the streets, often enough to keep zombies circling in the city instead of wandering off to look elsewhere.
  • “Drape a black bed sheet over yourself.” The implication here is that a zombie won’t recognize you as a human… I disagree. And even if they can’t hear you breathing or smell your juicy flesh from wherever they stand, I think the sudden appearance of something standing underneath a sheet will pique their interest enough to lumber towards you and start biting.
  • He has specific, and mandatory, steps for securing the floor of your apartment building, which don’t apply to smaller buildings or brownstones. My stairwell is just open to the 8 apartments in my building. There’s really no good way to section off the whole floor, which could cause problems.

Overall though, I do think I’ve been swayed. Most of the problems in zombie movies arise because people are traveling to some place they think is going to magically solve all their problems. Staying somewhere safe and familiar really seems like a more appealing plan, and maybe I can count on everyone else to be dumb and bait the zombies away from the city for me?

Solid points that I love:

  • When the outbreak first happens, there will be chaos – specifically people running away from zombies and zombies chasing after them. If you do it right, you can take advantage of this and sneak by them in the opposite direction to gather supplies.
  • Don’t shoot at zombies unless you have to. If there’s one thing I learned from Walking Dead, it’s that gunshots attract more zombies. If you’re running around shooting stragglers for fun – let’s just say you won’t be having fun for very long.
  • “Zombies are really stupid and slow.” YUP. If you’re smart, you should be able to escape them whenever they come after you.
  • On your initial run for supplies, take the lightweight stuff. You’ll be able to fit (and carry) much more. They never think of this in zombie movies; it’s always cans. I’d like to see you try to outrun a zombie horde while carrying a duffel bag full of canned goods.
  • Recommended weapon? A .22 rifle. Fuck yeah, I’ve been saying this for years!
  • The echoes in empty city streets are your friends. A zombie mob (or a human mob, for that matter) can hone in on you with much more accuracy out in the middle of nowhere.
  • Be. Really. Quiet. I agree that zombies appear to find their prey through sight and sound (or whatever of those senses they have left). If they can’t see you or hear you, they’re not going to find you.

So, the next time someone asks, here’s my survival plan:

  1. Dang, I really need to step it up and buy a rifle and a stockpile of ammo. (Maybe some more zombie killing knives, too.)
  2. If I don’t have a gun by the time it happens, I know where I can go to look for one. In my case, if I’m at home my best bet is the Seneca Sporting Range. If I’m at work, there’s apparently some pistol range specialists across the street – I don’t know what that means but they appear to have guns there. (My life would be so much easier if we had Walmarts here, but we don’t.)
  3. Since we can’t block off the floor in our building, we’ll have to close off the entrance to the building itself. This will involve seeking out our neighbors and forcing them to leave. (Hopefully they’ll be scared enough when the shit hits the fan that they’ll just leave of their own accord and then we can take over the building. If not, we’ll have to take measures into our own hands.) We have a fire escape too, so we’ll have to saw that off or something.
  4. Once we’re secure in the apartment, we’ll gather supplies as often as possible and keep a lookout to gauge the outside world. Once things quiet down enough, we’ll start gathering supplies for gardening and turn our roof into a big sustainable garden.

Basically: stay hidden, stay quiet, keep to ourselves, gather food and weapons whenever possible, be smarter than everyone else. Okay, so I still have some work to do. But at least now I can say I have some ideas!

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Walking Dead Truck!!

My pal Pubby and I found the Walking Dead zombie truck! I’m sorry, I was too excited to pose like I was fighting zombies!

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Points docked for realism: Dead Set

This weekend I finally watched Dead Set, a British miniseries I’ve been dying (oh my god I’m sorry) to see since I heard about it last year. It takes place on the set of British Big Brother, and recounts the events that take place in and around the house throughout a zombie outbreak. They even got the real host of Big Brother UK – Davina McCall – to play herself.

Entertainment value? A million. Realism? Not so much. I got a strong Dawn of the Dead vibe, where the creators were much more concerned with making a statement about the economy or whatever than they were about staying true to the genre. (And by genre, I mean the hundreds of zombie movies and tv shows that have butchered Romero’s original intent and made them about real, horrible, terrifying monsters who have no interest in shopping. That’s the stuff I’m into.) It’s too bad, because if you’re not concerned with authenticity – all the zombie movies I watch are for preparation, so personally if it’s not realistic or there are gaping plot holes I get frustrated – I’d recommend this show wholeheartedly.

Anyway: let’s dissect all the issues with it, because I love ruining people’s fun. Warning: there may be spoilers ahead. (Spoiler alert: there are zombies and people die.)

1. Fast zombies. I won’t go too much into this one, since this is my complaint with 99% of zombie movies. Yes yes yes, I know there’s a good chance they could be fast right after they die, but they show zombies at least 24 hours in who should *not* be sprinting after people with such breezy abandon. (Wikipedia says rigor mortis begins at 3 hours and reaches its peak around 12. Just saying.)

2. Lightning-fast resurrection. For the most part, they leave it to our imagination how long the zombie virus takes to kill and turn a person, but there are a couple telling moments that I wish they’d just left out for my sanity. One scene in particular, which shows two of the main characters dying in the backyard, lets us witness their deaths and rebirths all in one take. It takes literally seconds for one dude to be bitten, die, and wake up to start snapping his jaws at his housemates. Come on. I know there’s no real answer about the proper timeline, but just physiology-wise it doesn’t make sense for any virus to have such a massive effect that quickly. Here’s a related Yahoo Answers thread to distract you from the fact that I don’t have anything to back up this complaint. I know, right?

3. Neck biting. This is a pet peeve of mine. I’m always jerked back from my horror into reality when the actors portraying zombies do this shit. If you’re a person pretending to attack another person with your mouth, of course it makes sense to push their head to the side and bury your face in their neck and groan. If you’re an actual zombie, I’m pretty sure you’d just go right for the face (or whatever body part was closest to you). Zombies don’t care about your face, dude. Also – and I’ve said this before – I think the eye sockets would be an especially good point of entry, certainly much better than the neck, if your target was someone’s brain.

4. Watching TV. Again, I get that the director’s point was “Ooooh, society, we’re all so hypnotized by television, Big Brother is terrible, our brains are rotting metaphorically and the zombies are just some twisted analogy I’ve lost hold of and can no longer explain but I’m going to run with it anyway” – but come on. You’re making a zombie movie. I don’t care what your agenda is, you could have just made a movie about regular people if you wanted to comment on the sad state of modern society, but you didn’t. So don’t have your zombies watching the people on the tv monitors as if they understand what that means. A zombie would look right past a tv. They’re looking for human flesh, not abstract entertainment. This is just silly.

5. Zombies can’t swim? This brought up a big philosophical question for me which distracted me from about 15 minutes of the movie – hopefully it wasn’t the 15 minutes of the movie where they explained away all these stupid devices. Anyway, they threw a lady zombie in a hot tub and it rendered her harmless. She was trapped in the 3 foot deep hot tub, splashing around and screaming. Ok, problem a) she could have just stood up and walked out. But problem b) is more complex. Why the hell can’t zombies swim? I guess you could argue it’s because it’s an acquired skill that a zombie would forget once she’s dead… but couldn’t you say the same about walking?? And I suppose you could say it’s a complex motor skill, but for heaven’s sake they have these zombies sprinting around like they’re Olympic gold medalists. It just don’t make any sense. Similarly, gates that the main characters had no trouble hopping over somehow magically stopped hundreds of zombies in their tracks – I just don’t buy it. They’d climb on top of each other or push it down or keep grabbing at it so relentlessly that I think they’d be able to breach it. Same with swimming. I do not recommend trying to push a zombie into a hot tub.

6. Smiling zombies. This is my least favorite one. They showed a bunch of zombies grinning as they sprinted towards their prey. Zombies wouldn’t smile, obviously, they don’t make any faces. They’re dead. They don’t have personalities or likes and dislikes or emotions. But mostly I didn’t like this because I really don’t need the zombies in my nightmares to start laughing at me. Thanks a lot, creators of Dead Set.

Anyway, you should watch it because it’s fun. But don’t let stupid movies affect your survival plan. (I repeat: do not assume that you’re safe because a zombie has fallen into a hot tub.)

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Zombie Killing Knives by Ka-Bar

My birthday’s coming up in a couple weeks, but the presents have already started rolling in. (I maintain an intense Amazon wishlist year-round, to make it as easy as possible for people to buy me stuff. Highly recommended.)

So far, my absolute favorite present – and honestly, I don’t see how anything can beat it – is my brand new Ka-Bar ZK-Famine Tanto Knife (top knife in the image below). Ka-Bar, if you aren’t aware, is known for creating awesome combat knives for the Marine Corps, so when I heard that they came out with a special series called Zombie Killers, the whole set went straight onto my wishlist before I even finished reading the article.

Why they’re amazing:

  • Bright green handles to find them quickly when the lights go out and the zombies are approaching (unfortunately, NOT officially glow-in-the-dark, but  it does make them easier to spot).
  • Super high quality: the blades are made from SK5 steel so they’re solid but super light to carry, and just feel good to the touch (well, unless you’re being stabbed by them).
  • Hilarious names (I couldn’t have named them better myself): War Sword, Pestilence Chopper, Famine Tanto, Death Dagger, to name a few. You can see the whole collection here.
  • Umm, they really do seem sharp enough to take someone’s head off with one slice. I almost cut my finger off just sheathing mine.
I love them all – and hope to collect them all in the very near future – but really wanted the Famine Tanto knife because it’s huge and you can use it for stabbing OR slicing. They all come with super fancy sheaths (seriously, I was shocked by the quality when I opened it), a mini skeleton knife, interchangeable handles in case you’re not a fan of the neon green, and a bunch of string to tie it to your leg or pack or whatever you need to do. Here’s the full description, which does it much better justice than I can:

The Kabar Zombie Killer Famine Tanto was created to ensure its user is prepared in the most extreme of situations, including an apocalyptic attack from flesh eating zombies. The Zombie Killer line came about when some of Kabar’s top officials joked they needed to make knives capable of killing a zombie when firearms aren’t available. The Famine Tanto has wicked partial serrations on the first 1/3 of the blade flowing into a razor sharp plain edge intimidating tanto point. The stout blade is formed from SK5 high carbon tool steel that has been black coated. The grippy toxic green GFN-PA66 handle scales are attached via allen screws to the full tang which comes to a skull splitting point at the bottom. The front of the blade is stamped with the ZK bio-hazard logo and features a lanyard hole. Included with this knife are a set of interchangeable black handles, a MOLLE nylon sheath with front stuff sack and a black ZK neck knife that has its own insert in the sheath.

I’m hopelessly in love with this collection. This knife is the first thing I’ve ever owned that actually makes me look forward to the zombocalypse, when I can start splitting open faces with it. Until then, my cat better stay out of my way.

You can buy them all over the place, but Amazon has them all on sale with free shipping if you’ve got Amazon Prime. LOVE YOU KA-BAR!

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Multilinguals in the zombocalypse

As a self-appointed zombiolinguist (no, wait! Someone else appointed me!), it’s always fun for me to combine my two greatest passions and consider how my linguistics degree would help me in the event of a zombocalypse. (It’s certainly not doing anything for me in this life, amirite linguistic grads??)

I mean, if you think about it, so much of survival once the zombies take over has to do with traveling. Even if you choose to hole up in a zombie-proof shelter instead of running, eventually you’re going to run out of provisions (I’m sorry, but it’s true) and you’ll have to go scavenging. More than likely, the remaining humans will have snatched up the majority of the remaining food and fresh water before you get to it, no matter how quickly you hobble over to the nearest Kroger.

So you’ll have to move on to the next town, and the next, and the next. Eventually (if you don’t die of starvation or zombie bites first) you’re going to get to a new country. If you’re super lucky and are able to find a (zombie-free) boat, you might even end up on another continent! Once you get there, you’ll have to communicate with the locals. You can try just speaking in your native tongue (I assume English, since you’re reading this sadly unilingual blog), but there’s a good chance they’ll interpret your incoherent grunting as zombie moaning and then where will you be?? (Answer: dead.)

Anyway, what I’m trying to say with this whole hypothetical run-on scenario is that if you know more than one language (just like if you know more than one martial art), you’re going to have an advantage over the people who don’t. My buddies at Pimsleur heard that I was struggling to learn French for this very reason, and helpfully sent me over a set of cds to expedite the process. You know, just in case.

So now, if the need arises, I can say the following in two (2!) languages:

Hello, are you a zombie? Bonjour, êtes-vous un zombie?
Have you seen any zombies? Avez-vous vu des zombies?
Did one of them bite you? L’un d’eux ne vous mordre?
I don’t believe you. Drop your pants and let me check. Je ne vous crois pas. Laissez tomber votre pantalon et je vais vérifier.
Do you work out? Travaillez-vous sur?
I’m sorry, you’re very handsome, but I’m going to have to kill you now so I can steal your provisions. Je suis désolé, tu es très beau, mais je vais devoir te tuer pour que je puisse voler vos dispositions.
Never fall in love during a zombie apocalypse. Ne jamais tomber amoureux au cours d’une apocalypse zombie.

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This Month in Zombie News: April 2011

An image of a severed-hand pancake arose from its 2009 grave to make its way through the internet to my heart.

W00t had a super-cute zombie shirt. I’ve heard the joke before, but I didn’t have it on a t-shirt. UNTIL NOW.

An advertising firm apologized for putting a Walking Dead billboard on the side of a funeral parlour. Wait for it… wait for it… there you go.

Everyone and their moms sent me this zombie Easter bunny, but maybe you haven’t seen it yet. (I’m not eating it, obviously – highly contagious.)

An ad agency launched a fake zombie marketing division to advertise a horrifyingly real zombie-infested 5k obstacle course race, which sounds exactly like the nightmare I had last night, only worse.

A “tattooed zombie” (those are sarcastic air-quotes) became Lady Gaga’s oh god I’m so bored already. Anyway, if you like this sort of thing, it’s a guy who calls himself a zombie because he’s got… a skeleton face? I don’t know.

Most importantly: I REDESIGNED DONTEATMYBRAIN. Enjoy it while you can (I mean until someone tears your guts out with his teeth and you know what it’s like to feel real pain). Kisses!

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Dead Island: Literal remix

Exhibit A: the trailer for the scariest video game no one’s played yet, a “first-person zombie-slasher/action-RPG.” Seriously, ugh. It sounds like it’s going to be terrifying.

Scared yet? Okay. Then you’re ready for Exhibit B, wherein some genius set the above trailer to a soundtrack with literal lyrics. Enjoy.

Thanks to Elan for the link.

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