Thursday, December 29, 2005

Edged Weapons I

In my last tactical post, I promised to speak on edged weapons. I thought about giving an exhaustive overview of knives, swords, spears, and other slicey/pokey things until it occurred to me that such a list, fun as it would be to make it, would be of very limited utility to our readers. For the most part, edged weapons require a fair amount of training. As the kids in Flock Hall can vouch, fighting successfully with even something as simple as a 16" dagger takes footwork, timing, and practice, practice, practice. All of these are commodities that will likely be in short supply when the dead rise, so I have decided to limit this discussion to the two edged weapons which are simplest to use, and most useful overall - the spear and the camp knife. We will cover the spear first.

The Spear
The spear is much like the game of chess; it takes an afternoon to learn the basic moves, but a lifetime to master. I selected it for our purposes because it is the simplest of the major edged weapons to use reasonably well, and the least likely to injure the inexperienced (you'd be surprised how easy it is to smack yourself in the shins with an axe or sword). Anyone with two hands and ordinary mobility can deal out lethal blows, and the long shaft affords the wielder a lot of room for error and second chances.

For our purposes, a spear shall be defined as a long stick (at least 4 feet) with a pointed tip. The non-weapon usefulness of such an implement should be readily apparent to horror movie watchers. How many times would the folks in horror movies survive longer if they just had a handy stick with which to poke and prod things? Don't stick you head up (or down) into that dark attic (or cellar) - use your spear. Don't push the door open with your hand - use your spear. Don't try the rickety stairs with your body weight - use your spear. Don't roll the monster over by hand to see if it's dead - use your friggin' spear!

If you have your doubts about the effectiveness of the spear against the undead, I would point you to John Carpenter's Vampires. Those guys were tearing up the suckheads with spears - until the big daddy vampire arrived. If it can work that well against intelligent, free-willed blood monkeys, it should be more than capable against the shambling idiots we will be facing.

The principle attack mode of the spear is thrusting, but many also incorporate edges sharp enough for slashing. Some spears (more appropriately called javelins) are balanced for throwing as well, but I do not advocate the throwing away of a perfectly good weapon, so you needn't worry about balance much. The spear can be used as a solo weapon, but it is usually best employed in teams - 1 guy with a spear, and from 1 to 3 or 4 with mass weapons. Don't go solo - you may feel that your teammates are a liability, but they will prove important when the action gets thick. At the very least, it gives the dead guys someone else to chomp on...

The spear may be improvised quite easily - any sturdy rake handle can be broken off and sharpened (using your camp knife) to a dangerous point. Although numerous replica spears can obtained on the internet, most are designed to be wall-hangers. Very few combine a quality shaft with a sharp, stiff head to make them worth their inflated prices. If you feel the urge to purchase one, take a look at the Cold Steel Boar Spear. It's not much to look at, but it's got a tempered head with crossguards to keep the impaled ravening undead from running up the ash shaft at you, and it's relatively cheap.

The best thing about a spear in combat is reach. With even a small spear, you should be able to stick any on-rushing brain muncher before he can come close to grabbing you. It does take a bit of training, but medieval armies used to go to battle with peasant pike levies that had no formal fighting training at all - they taught them how to march and how to hold a pike, but not how to fight with it. Just think of it; by reading this brief article, you will already be better trained than the brave men of William Wallace's schiltron! "They may take our lives, but they'll never take our BRAINS!"

Assume a basic fighting stance. (If you don't have a basic fighting stance, concentrate on making friends who do.) Place your rear hand, palm down, on the butt of the shaft, and support the rest of the spear in your forward hand, palm up. (If you do not understand "rear hand" and "forward hand" in this context, you do not, in fact, have a fighting stance. See above.) Employ the spear with a pool cue type motion, allowing it to slide smoothly on your forward hand as you thrust. Aim for the torso - anywhere in the rib area will do.

A lot of people miss completely when they try to use a spear for the first time. It is not as easy as it sounds; the rear hand has a tendency to push the tip off line as it comes forward. The trick that fixes this, is the touch and thrust. As the target approaches, reach out with both hands and touch his chest with the tip of the spear. Once you have made contact, just push it in with the rear hand. I know it sounds crazy, but this deceptively easy technique has worked on battlefields since the hoplites fought for their city states, and it continues to work even now on historical recreation battlefields every weekend. Once you master it, you can back off and try thrusts from greater and greater ranges, until you can thrust accurately with full extension.

Obviously, a poke in the torso will not end your opponent's unlife, but here is where the spear's other great advantage - leverage - comes into play. By lodging your spear in the deathpuppet's guts, you have effectively attached a long handle to his fragrant carcass. Using this new-found mechanical advantage, you should have little trouble pushing/pulling/tripping him to the ground. Once he is down you have many options, including flight, using a shorter weapon to finish him off, or holding him down while your teammates club him in the head (see, I told you they were important).

If you are alone or facing just one zombie, you can use my personal favorite, the heroic coup de grace. This last bit is risky (but very cool) and should only be attempted when imminent danger of further attack is minimal. Place your foot on the rotter's neck to hold him down, and wrench your spear free. Hold the tip just over his face and deliver a tough guy line - something like, "Let me help you see my point..." - then ram the spear into his brain through an eye socket. That's just beautiful, man.

In my next post, we will examine the humble camp knife, and why it should be in every zombie survival kit. Until then, sharpen up your broom handles!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

What's Your Role?

I usually hate quizzes, but this is relevant. Things might go better for us if we sort out our roles now...

"It's my way or it's the highway!"
The current situation has brought out the best in
you, bringing your intelligence and decisive
nature to the fore. When others are losing
their heads you're using yours, organising and
planning and trying to restore order to this
insane world. Without you, any group is just a
collection of individuals with no unity or
direction. Typical skills: Organisation, authority, tactics. In your free time you: Inspect defences and
equipment. Chances of survival: High (others will lay down their lives for you) Secondary class: THE DEN MOTHER
After The Zombie Apocalypse, Which Role Will You Fit Into? (11 possible results!)
brought to you by Quizilla

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Christmas Leers

I'm off to Thailand, so I hope my blogmates update or something while I'm gone. But until then, enjoy the cute zombie child, because that's what Christmas is all about. I think. At least, that's what I told my students. Their eyes were wide with wonder... or was it fear?
Before I go, one last tip: You may want to purchase a flame thrower. Neil Gaiman pointed the way to some rather practical ones, in this post.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Rock that fanny pack

The fanny pack: a zombie survivor's secret weapon. Guns, grenades, sticks of dynamite... you could find a lot of good uses for a fanny pack. Be a man; get a pink fanny pack today!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The infection will be televised

An important part of surval is staying informed. But when the media is censored by a paniced government (or worse, the reporters have been taken out by zombies), where can you turn to find out what is happening outside of your boarded up shelter. Well, as long as the power keeps going (and that very well might be a while), you can check on the outside world through one simple google search: Liveapplet. Using this, you can look through thousands of cameras placed in public locations throughout the world, and see the progress of the zombie plague. You can even control the movements of the the camera (provided there is not a bunch of people using the same applet) and take snapshots.

I took these pictures through a camera I found in a Nipponese location.
At the very least, this link will provide you with some fun voyerism today.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

I scored a Shawn

The loose canon
You scored 78%! Although your not the sharpest knife in the kitchen, you made out alive. You might have made some mistakes here and there, but who doesn't? You were a great asset to your team and you helped whoever needed it, and even though your not the hero, you will always be remembered for your courageous acts!
Link: The Horror Movie Survival Test
That's right, I'm the bawdy survivalist that takes himself out with the zombies and lots of dynamite.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Impact weapons

Kit has provided us with an excellent basic overview of weapons. Given my experience with blunt weaponry, I thought I'd expand a bit on the category of impact weapons.

Impact weapons were probably man's first killing tools, and they are still a popular and inexpensive way of subduing the enemy. You probably have a few nearby as you read this. These weapons of opportunity may form the first line of defense when the ravening hordes rise.

First, a bit about targeting. Modern martial arts folklore holds that cracking the human (or formerly human) skull requires 1400 lbs of pressure. I have always figured that was calculated at the top of the skull (the thickest part), and not at the delicate facial bones which crack much more easily. A blow to the front of the head, particularly in the eye/nose area is more likely to penetrate and damage internal structures like the brain, which is the point of smacking zombies anyway.

Another vulnerable point is the junction between the head and neck. The hollow in the back of the skull can provide easy access to the brain and spinal structures. This is a good target for attacks from the rear - and why give the dead a chance to face you anyway?

In short, aim for the front or back of the skull, not the top. That said, let's move on to the weapons.

Probably the most commonly available impact weapon is the time-honored stick. Baseball and cricket bats, hockey sticks, pool cues, and the like obviously fall into this category, but don't overlook table and chair legs, pipes, and even the clothing rod from your closet. The stick has the advantage of being simple to use; grab one end with one or both hands and start swinging. In general, horizontal strikes come more naturally to the untrained, and since zombies usually just wade in without much in the way of defense, you should have little difficulty scoring telling blows.

The next category of impact weapon is the mass weapon, or mace. This differs from the stick in that the mass of the mace is concentrated at one end. Axes, hammers, wrenches, and golf clubs all fall into this category. These require a tiny bit more finesse and strength to use properly, because wild swings are harder to recover. In other words, if you miss it will take a bit longer to get ready for another swing, due to the weight at the end of the weapon. The mace easily makes up for this minor inconvenince with killing power. All things being equal, a well-placed blow with a pipe wrench will do much more damage than the same blow with a pool cue. In order to make best use of the mace you have to let gravity to its part, so try to incorporate some diagonal or overhead blows in your repertoire as well, keeping in mind the above caveat regarding targeting.

The final category we will cover today are flexible impact weapons, or flails. Nunchaku and three section staves are obviously members of this group, but so are log chains, blackjacks, and improvised weapons like a bar of soap wrapped in a towel or a couple batteries in a sock. This is probably the most misunderstood form of impact weapon. Martial artists can do amazing amounts of damage with a flail, but in the hands of the unskilled the flail often hurts the weilder as much or more than the target. If you are not trained, only resort to these weapons when nothing else is available. In a pinch, putting a couple cans of frozen orange juice concetrate in a pillowcase is better than trying to fight off hungry zombies with your bare hands, but try not to put yourself in this position.

Take a few minutes to make sure you have a good impact wepon in each room of your house, and also in the car. Next time, we'll discuss edged weapons...

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Time is running out!

Sorry to usurp the position of Kit's excellent post so soon, but time is running out for you, the groaning public, to bid on a one of a kind item, a set of knit action figures based off of Shawn of the Dead. Drop by the eBay auction, and don't miss out on the flicker of these dolls in action, knitted minions!

You've got a little red on your shirt.

Guns, germs, and lead pipes

As anyone who has played one of the "Silent Hill" games knows, surviving zombies is no mean feat. Even if the Zombies didn't try to kill you, the subsequent collapse of human infrastructure can make maintaining a daily routine difficult. In addition, of course, there exist hordes of mindless, soulless psychopaths that want to kill you. The first thing to do is find a weapon. In lieu of finding firepower, I recommend the lead pipe, or similar implement. This item, while heavy, commands respect when used appropriately. This means that one weilds the lead pipe like they would a cue stick in pool. Imagine the cue ball to be located in front of the zombie's face or solar plexus. Grip the rear end of the pipe while letting the pipe slide through the front hand. This will allow you to strike hard and fast while minimizing the expenditure of energy necessary for each blow.

I would also recommend reserving overhead chopping motions, such as you would use with an axe, only for "kill strokes" when the zombie(s) are already immoblized. In case you have never chopped wood, bring the pipe over your head and, as you bring it down, let the forward hand slide down the shaft. This will lend power and accuracy to your stroke. Attempt to crush the cranium. This type of attack can be very tiresome, as anyone who has made fire wood knows, and running might be necessary at a moments notice.

Also of zombie fame is the chain-saw. While powerful, this has some unfortunate handicaps. For one, the range of the chainsaw is very limited. You have to get too close to a given zombie. The chainsaw is not only heavy but unweildly, making the removal of multiple zombies a slow and dangerous process. Three: It needs a gas/oil mixture. Even if you can find gas, no one wants to be siphoning some gas out of a nearby SUV and trying to get a 10:1 ratio of oil into their chainsaw while the zombie horde approaches. Four: Bodily fliuds, and lots of them. This could be an infectious disease, folks. Don't get splatted.

While you are doing this, take care to avoid contact with the bodily fluids of zombies, as these may be vectors of infection. Other common implements -- such as knives, baseball bats, and mop handles -- are limited either in range (knife) or in the amount of damage that they can deal (bats and brooms). Of course, there is always the unclaimed treasure trove of high-power ordinance or melee weapon extravaganza, but these could prove rare.

But with a little luck and a little ingenuity, we should all be safe regardless of how many of them there are.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Nice day for a white wedding

I whipped up this PSA to generate awareness of the need for zombie preparedness; you have to have foresight to survive.

Print out a copy and post it somewhere public to spread zombie awareness. There is also a ytmnd for this PSA.

Friday, December 02, 2005

New month, new shambling theme: Zombie survival

Okay, I'm using the powers vested in me to decide what to do about last month's poll's tie. I've decided the shambling theme of this month shall be Zombie survial, with a touch of christmas cheer, hopefully. As this month goes on, we here at zombie blog will discuss the basics, including food shelter, weapons, and which islands to hang out on. Don't miss it, it could be the difference between life and undeath!
As you may have gathered, last month's theme was the truly bizarre one of Japanese zombies, but this month's theme is much less obscure. Many people have theories about what is best to do during a zombie-level event. The book The Zombie Survival Guide Is a good place to start. I personally have yet to get ahold of a copy (my geographic location prevents this) but I've heard personal testimony that it is full of sound advice, and more importantly, very funny due to use of dry humor. The author also presents the theory of Solanium, the virus that is responsible for zombie perpetuation. The website for the book contains some good selections, check it out.


Not sure when you'll be bursting from the grave to begin your career as an undead brain location and extraction technician? While we can't tell you the exact date of your reanimation, we can give an idea of when you'll graduate from living. Death Clock calculates your day of death, and even tells you how many seconds you have left to live.

Assuming my weight loss continues and I reach my goal weight, I'll be checking out on Dec. 14th, 2038. Go and check your own date of death, and put it in your Palm Pilot now. While you are at it, feel free to page through the new Cofanifunebri calendar, and let Italian swimsuit models help you pick out a place to "rest"...