A list of popular song titles adapted to a zombie theme

From a trunked zombie story I wrote in 2003 called Dead Nick, Voodoo Honky that will probably never see the light of day, in no particular order:

  • Zombies Are Forever
  • Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Zombie?
  • Since My Zombie Left Me
  • I Ain’t Got No Zombie
  • A Pocket Full of Zombie
  • Zombie Got Back
  • Let It Zombie
  • My Zombie Just Cares For Me
  • One For My Zombie (And One More For The Road)
  • Everybody Loves Some Zombie
  • The Best Things In Life Are Zombies
  • Zombie It’s Cold Outside
  • What A Difference A Zombie Makes
  • You Must Have Been A Beautiful Zombie
  • Talkin’ Bout My Zombie
  • Red Roses For A Blue Zombie
  • Some Enchanted Zombie
  • Oh What A Beautiful Zombie!
  • Make Me Your Zombie
  • Unchained Zombie
  • Sock It To Me Zombie!
  • Dream A Little Dream of Zombie
  • Too Busy Thinkin’ Bout My Zombie
  • My Zombie Amour
  • Mama Told Zombie Not To Come
  • Take Zombie Home, Country Roads
  • What Zombies See Is Whatcha Get
  • Inner City Blues (Makes Zombie Wanna Holler)
  • Me and Zombie McGee
  • Look What You Done To Zombie
  • Your Zombie Don’t Dance
  • If You Don’t Know Zombie By Now
  • Zombie Mountain High
  • Killing Zombie Softly With His Song
  • Don’t Let Zombie Lonely Tonight
  • Zombie In the Sky With Diamonds
  • Thank God I’m A Zombie Boy
  • Ain’t No Way To Treat A Zombie
  • Say You Love Zombie
  • Show Zombie The Way
  • You Make Zombie Feel Like Dancin’
  • Take The Zombie And Run
  • Play That Zombie Music
  • Don’t You Want Some Zombie To Love
  • No Zombie Does It Better
  • Take A Chance Zombie
  • Runnin’ On Zombie
  • Three Times A Zombie
  • Don’t Let Zombie Be Misunderstood
  • I Want You To Want Zombie
  • Only The Zombie

No, you have a problem…

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Deadlines

“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” — Douglas Adams

As much as I adore Mr. Adams, work ethic was drilled into my skull at a very early age, and the thought of missing a deadline fills me with the sort of dread that perhaps can only be achieved by an earnest, Midwestern Catholic-raised boy like me.

My solution is simple. I overestimate. It’s an old customer service trick I picked up back during my compulsory training while working for subscription services at a theater company. “Under-promise, over-deliver”. So if I think it will take a month, I tell an editor six weeks. Then, when they get it two weeks early, they’re happy. I’m not lying, or trying to fool anyone, you understand. I’ve told every editor I’ve ever worked with that I always overestimate. Do they forget? Do they not believe me? I have no idea.

But what about the deadlines I don’t have control over? When someone tells me they need it next week, no matter what? This is a bit trickier, and depends on how well I know the person. I’ve found that 75% of the time, there is room for negotiation in these situations. But there’s also times when the deadline really is that tight, and that’s when I need to just buckle down, toss out anything unessential, and power through. I really try to not make that the norm, though.

The Trick Is Not to Mind the Fear

My mother’s favorite movie is Lawrence of Arabia starring Peter O’Toole. I can’t tell you how many times I saw this film a child. Despite the fact that it’s rather long (3 hrs 42 min), there are only two things I remember about this movie. But I remember them well.

The first is Lawerence toward the end, dressed in white, weilding a knife, covered in other people’s blood, his piecing blue eyes wide with maniacal glee after he’s just slaughtered countless people. I was 6 or maybe 7 at the time and I suppose this was a bit traumatizing.

My other vivid memory is right at the beginning, when he’s still a sane English officer. He lights a match and holds it up, watching the flame work its way down to his fingers until it slowly goes out. The whole time, even toward the end when the flame is clearly burning his fingertips, he looks completely calm.

Someone asks him how he does it. “What’s the trick?” they want to know.

“The trick,” he says, cool as you please, “is not to mind the pain.”

Anyone in any sort of artistic endeavour they really care about feels fear. It’s an inevitable, perhaps even necessary part of the process. People always seem to want to get rid of the fear or hush it up or ignore it somehow. I get that. I really do.

But honestly, the trick is not to mind the fear.

Ghosts in the Cloud

Monte Smock, or “Mama Te” as he was affectionately referred to by many who knew him, died of cancer on October 11th, 2011. He was one of those magnificent, larger than life people who made everyone smile whenever he appeared. One of my favorite memories of him was at my son’s baby shower, held at a Beer Garden in Queens, New York, naturally. My ex (then my wife) was about 8 months pregnant and huge (my son ended up being about ten pounds at birth). Monte had a rich, thunderous, gospel voice, and he knelt down next to her belly and sang a rendition of Amazing Grace to my unborn son that brought tears to my eyes.

That moment is how I choose to remember Monte. 

Even though he passed away nearly three years ago, he’s still on Facebook. I was reminded of this recently when I stumbled across his account. It was jarring at first. But then I flipped through some pictures and found this nice one of us with a few other friends at a beach house in the Hamptons. So all in all, it was a pleasant experience.

But it got me thinking. How many people have died but are still online? What does it mean when we leave this echo of ourselves behind that never fades?

 

Daily

There so many things that, if we did them for just ten minutes a day, our lives would be greatly improved. Exercise, read, meditate, journal, catch up with an old friend. Even if you stacked them all up end to end, that’s still less than an hour a day. I know this.

So the question is, why don’t I do it? Oh sure, sometimes I do. Inconsistently. When the thought strikes me and I have a spare moment and I’m not feeling especially lethargic. But not with any real consistency. Not in a way that would actually amount to the cumulative effect desired.

I have many excuses. Some quite valid. Single parent with two full time jobs is at the top of the list, always handy to pull out as needed. But what if I decided that wasn’t good enough? What if I decided to reach past all those available excuses? Not to be hard on myself, to lash myself into a workaholic frenzy. But simply because I chose to go further.

What if, daily, I made that choice?

Bringing back ye olde weblog

I stumbled across Warren Ellis’s new online journal project called MORNING.COMPUTER and I suddenly found myself missing my old blog/journal. Sure, I’ve got Twitter and Tumblr and all that. But there’s something about having a quiet space of one’s own, away from the dashboards and timelines, that I suddenly find really appealing. A place for slower, deeper thinking, I suppose.

I’ve always found Ellis’s tech impulses to be extremely prescient. I’m not sure why. Perhaps we have more in common as people than I think. Either way, without much fanfair, I’m quietly resurrecting this old blog. I’ve copied over a couple posts from my Tumblr so there wasn’t such a striking gap in the archive. Apologies to anyone who had this on RSS and got blasted by like 10 posts at once. Anyway, I’m not sure what I’ll do with this space yet. Perhaps it will fizzle quickly as I realize I don’t have time for one of those old fashioned weblog thingies. Or perhaps not. For the time being, jonskovron.com/journal is active again. It might get a bit more intimate or personal than I’ve been publically of late. We shall see.

Curiosity, Patience, and Life on Mars

Curiosity
Curiosity

Last night, fellow writer Sarah Brand and I attended a lecture at NASA Goddard given by Goddard’s Chief Scientist, Dr. Jim Garvin. The lecture was about the current exploration of Mars with the Mars Science Lab, aka Curiosity. Needless to say, I learned a lot about the history of NASA’s exploration and research of Mars, why they feel it’s important, and what they hope to learn. It was some really fascinating, inspiring stuff. Climate, geology, chemistry, and physics on Mars operate in ways we’ve never seen before. Because, well, it’s a different planet! Another interesting point he made regarding the need to explore other planets is that most animal species confined to a single island have difficulty surviving over a long period of time. Might the same hold true for single-planet species? Is it actually the natural order of things for us eventually need to expand beyond our own planet? I’m not sure I know the answer to that, but the question interests me a lot (which means at some point there will probably be a book about it).

But that’s not actually what I wanted to talk about here.

When Dr. Garvin described how operation of Curiosity worked, he said they sent some commands to “her”, over millions of miles, then “she” would follow those commands, and report back, again over millions of miles. He said, relatively speaking, it was like clicking your TV remote, and thirteen minutes later, the channel changes. By that time, of course, a new show could have started, perhaps even one you wanted to see. But if you then clicked the remote to go back to that channel, the TV would update thirteen minutes after that, by which time, the show you were trying to get back to might be over. So clearly, every move has to be carefully thought out, planned, and timed.

“This is patient exploration,” he said.

But it’s even more complicated than that. They pinpointed the spot where they want to end up. A spot that has a huge potential to show them whether or not Mars was ever capable of sustaining life, and if so, what that life might have been like. The problem is, the spot is right on the edge of a crater, so they couldn’t just drop Curiosity right there. So they dropped her in the nearest stable place they could find. Now they need to navigate it around sand pits, through ravines, and up a mountain. It’s not an entirely wasted trip, because they will be able to take and analyze a lot of samples along the way that they will then be able to use as comparisons for the final analysis along the crater. Essentially, they’re learning about the world they are in as they go, so that hopefully by the time they get to the end, it will all make a lot more sense.

To make it even more interesting, there have already been, and most likely will continue to be, unexpected things along the way. They recently stumbled across a stray, mysterious shiny bit of metal or plastic. Could it be natural to the area? Or from a meteorite? Or from an older Mars rover or satellite? Or even from Curiosity herself? They have no idea what it is and they have to pause all scheduled plans until they’ve examine it, because it could be unimportant or it could be the most important thing. And once they figure that out, all the careful planning they have done may need to be altered in some way. Perhaps in a major way. They simply have no idea. This is unknown country in the most extreme sense and they have to roll with events as they develop, hoping that it will eventually get them to where they want to end up, at the edge of the big, important crater potentially chock full of answers.

You know what this is starting to sound a lot like? Writing a novel.

Curiosity

A story begins out of curiosity. What would it be like if this or that happened? How would it feel if I suddenly could do such and such? We start with a question, hopefully a dramatic one, and through the story we attempt to answer it (and sometimes succeed, although that’s not necessarily a requirement for a good story). What would it be like to be a demon girl in Catholic school? How would you feel if you were the son of the most famous monster ever? I don’t know, let’s write a story and find out. That is curiosity.

Patience

Stories are big. Stories are complicated. You can’t just drop the reader off at the big exciting conclusion, because they have no context to understand the world in a meaningful way. So you have to start them somewhere nearby but relatively stable so they can get an initial footing and feel confident that whatever crazy things you through at them, they have some grounding in the world. Then you begin the journey. A physical journey, an emotional journey, hopefully a bit of both. But whatever it is, you have to plan it carefully so you don’t take a wrong turn or overshoot the destination and fall into a massive crater of story-fail. You must go with thoughtful intension. But when unexpected things happen, and I guarantee that they will, you must be patient. With the story, and with yourself.

Life on Mars

Because let’s face it, unexpected things are going to happen. You’re making up a new world. A whole new place. And nobody can anticipate every single aspect of this new world right at the inception. Not even you, the creator of it. You have to learn as you go, paying attention to discoveries along the way, some small and some so big that they might very well change the entire course of your story. And that’s okay. That’s writing. That’s life on Mars.

“We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” — John F Kennedy

Writing is hard, my friends. It’s been my experience that anything worthwhile usually is.