Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Is the Lion and the Rose the ultimate critique on our modern society, our widespread apathy, and the tyrants we fear?

You may have heard of Megan Huntsman in the news. If you haven't, then this is all you need to know: she's a local (Utah) gal who was booked into the Utah County jail on suspicion of killing six of her newborn children over a 10-year period. Seven dead babies were found on April 12, 2014 in a garage at a Pleasant Grove home where Huntsman lived up until 2011.

Is there a lesson to any of this? Not really. Utah captured one monster and this sicko's name is Megan Huntsman. But anyone that thinks a change has happened is just fooling themselves. People saw Megan for years. They never interacted with her; they never said a word even if they thought something suspicious might be going on. It reminds me of stories of girls who get kidnapped and are held in backyards next door to neighbors who ignore what's happening on the other side of the fence.

This "stick your head in the sand and scream LA LA LA" part of our culture won't change because we live in a society that prizes its privacy. People have been raised to detest intrusion; even the American dream consists of a picket fence. This notion of building walls has a purpose: to hedge the "riff raff" out. I've noticed a trend among young people in this area. They are initially outgoing until they meet someone and get into a relationship. From that part forward its all about building walls, separation, and isolation to "couple-only" activities. The wishes of the couple are all filled with dichotomies like "I want to have access to all the things that a city has to offer, but I don't want any of the people around that might tell me what to do or influence my children or possibly covet my partner."

They don't even bother to ask: do any of the things I want run counter-intuitive to each other? Yes it's possible for isolation in a big city, but not without a lot of money to build a house on a double lot to ensure that the neighboring houses aren't staring into your windows, and then put a wall around that house to keep all the undesirables out. Ever drive into a gated community? It's kind of a surreal, sterile experience. It's like driving into a land ruled by the Borg from Star Trek where everyone thinks the same and all yards have one tree, accent lighting, and varying degrees of the same paint job. But most of them (if asked) will tell you how much better life is inside the wall than outside. Otherwise they wouldn't choose to live there, right? Life is better where you don't have to deal with commoners.

Game of Thrones has this same loathsome view that the rich have for the poor in spades. It's funny how access to money makes people think that they are better than other people who don't have money. As I watched the "Purple Wedding" episode of Game of Thrones on Sunday wherein King Joffrey dies, I thought to myself, how can George R.R. Martin's world be so ridiculously cruel yet so real to me? And suddenly I thought of Megan Huntsman, and it all became clear as glass. George is a master observer, and he's merely imbuing these characters with what I'm seeing every day. And most of that is how ugly, petty, and inhuman people are. This episode has so many examples of people being awful that it's hard to cover them all. But, like a good blogger, I'll give it my best shot.

There's Stannis Bartheon. This "would be" king watches as his witch/high priestess Melisandre burns three loyal supporters at the stake (one is his brother-in-law whose only crime is refusing to tear down his altars to the Seven Gods when Stannis orders it). And yes, just like Megan Huntsman, no one says a thing. Everyone just watches it all go down with a kind of "clueless" expression.

Then there's Reek. Reek, a.k.a. Theon Greyjoy, just watches as Ramsay Snow slaughters an innocent girl because she's pretty and made his girlfriend jealous. For the record, Ramsay shot the girl in the leg so that the dogs could rip her pretty face off. I guess she isn't so pretty anymore.

Oh and of course there's Joffrey. How can we not forget the most vile character in the series? Has there ever been anyone more hated and grotesque than this young king? Let's just concentrate on the wrongs that he visited upon everyone in this episode:

1) Joffrey makes a hideous spectacle by humiliating his uncle Tyrion and his wife, Sansa, over and over again. He insults him, pours wine on his head, and makes him his cup-bearer (which Tyrion tries to turn into a compliment) but it isn't. Joffrey makes him bend over to pick up his cup, kicks it under the table, and is just a complete ass. I suppose what may be most shocking is the fact that he's clueless that he's actually so awful. I know people who are exactly like this: completely unaware to the idea that they are chauvinist pigs, jerks, and ignorant. And these aren't old people but young, raised in households that stuck a silver spoon in their mouths and raised them to call "flight attendants" by the name "stewardess" even though that term hasn't been used in twenty years.

2) Joffrey pretends to take an interest in a book that Tyrion's given him for his wedding only to destroy it with his next gift, a Valyrian sword forged from Ned Stark's original weapon. Not only that, but he cracks jokes about beheading Ned Stark over and over again. I suppose cutting a book to ribbons isn't so far-fetched these days. There's plenty of people in our society now who view reading as a chore and would like nothing better than to see books burned.

3) Joffrey throws things at minstrels, gives people money to be cruel to his fool, and then hires five little people to impersonate himself and other kings to recreate the murder of Robb Stark. It's all calculated to insult Sansa and Tyrion to the max. This kind of behavior is called bullying, and I see it every day.

When Joffrey died, the internet the world over celebrated. In a way, it reminded me of how the world celebrated when Osama Bin Laden died. I think that's where George is at his most brilliant and his most real. George recognizes that the world is filled with tyrants and that there are very few people who ever stand up to these tyrants. Most of us are guilty of allowing them to go about their business, doing awful things, because our lives are too busy or too valuable to get involved in stopping so much evil. Maybe when Melisandre of Ashai said, "The world we live in now is the real hell" she was not just uttering a line, but taking a cue from the master himself and showing us what George R.R. Martin really thinks of this world. Perhaps The Lion and the Rose is the ultimate critique on our modern society, our widespread apathy, and the tyrants we fear.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Why I kind of detest time travel in my science fiction

Continuum is a show that's on SyFy, and its third season started a week ago. Warning: there will be some spoilers ahead (if only to use as a platform to allow me to bitch). So in Continuum, we've got this organization called Freelancers. We don't know much about them other than they like to put time travelers in glass boxes similar to Joss Whedon's horror movie Cabin in the Woods and they are an ancient organization that's been around for over a thousand years that doesn't "time travel." Instead they know all about "time travel", have great technology to do so, and monitor the integrity of the timeline like a "firewall" monitors the integrity of your network. When bad stuff gets through to corrupt the present, then they selectively choose and dispatch a cure because not everyone that goes into the past has the ability to change the future.

Continuum has decided to integrate time travel so much that it's a plot device. In some ways this works for me. I do like the idea that every time you time travel, you create a new branch of the timeline. I like the idea that when you time travel, you could meet yourself and this would be bad. It explains why Kagame had to sacrifice himself on the day he was born just to make sure that he never met himself (that was season one). It also explains why Kiera could not go forward in time and just stop herself from ever embarking on time travel to begin with.
I also like the idea that major paradoxes cause the universe to destroy itself. In Continuum, there's no Alec to grow up and invent the time machine and create Kiera's advanced suit and weaponry so super storms are basically destroying the earth. That scratches out one timeline.

It all sounds like great science fiction, right? But here's the thing: I feel like too much time travel just moves all the writing "left" into another universe kind of like a dream or where all the characters are just slightly different because they don't shave or wear wigs. I'm not a fan of "good Spock" meets "evil Spock" (nerdy Star Trek reference I know) and that's essentially what we're getting in this season of Continuum. Kiera has basically become an asshole because she's so stressed out over what her timeline Alec has done and it's almost like we've got entirely different characters. For one, she no longer trusts Alec (which was one of the things I really liked). Also, the flash futures no longer make sense to me because I don't know if they're actually plausible given the split that's now caused by so many time travelers going back in the past. Like why should I care if these things may or may not even exist now?

I guess this is where time travel really gets under my skin in a bad way. I detest clones running around and I don't think it ever really improves a narrative. Back to the Future's installments 2 and 3 were not superior to the original in this aspect and were simply an excuse to spend more time with a loveable character. Hopefully they (the writers of Continuum) will just stick with the one timeline and not pull this crap again because its too confusing, and I don't like the character changes occurring in their personality. Honestly, writers should steer clear of time travel. No one ever does it well unless "time travel" is part of the opening and that's where the readers/watchers are dropped. Doing time travel mid-series is just too awkward.

Friday, April 11, 2014

The body count in the Walking Dead and a Game of Thrones results in the ultimate question.

"Valar Morghulis" means "All men must die." But actors in need of a job
may be hoping that it is not their turn for the cutting room floor.
So now that HBO's Game of Thrones is back on television and dripping with the stench of those they carved up last season in the infamous "Red Wedding" episode...and given that "The Walking Dead" is on hiatus until fall but left Rick Grimes and crew basically locked up in the post-apocalyptic version of a larder for cannibals...there is a question that's been burning in the back of my mind. But before I get to that question for you (my readers) to decide, I want to present a thorough analysis beginning with George R.R. Martin's work. These are deaths of major and/or semi major characters in the story (they all appeared in more than one episode and had lines).

Eddard Stark was played by well-known fan favorite and actor Sean Bean. Many of us thought for sure that with this casting, he wouldn't get killed. But he got his head chopped off in season one.

What about Robb Stark, his son? Well Robb got murdered along with his mother Catelyn Stark at the Red Wedding. Weddings are supposed to be happy occasions. I guess Walder Fray never got the memo.

Renly Baratheon? Murdered by a demon sent by Melisandre the witch.

Kal Drogo? Poisoned by a soothsayer and witch. The best parts of him died when Daenerys refused to let him go and was rewarded with a body that lived but had no mind. Then she killed him.

Robert Baratheon? He was a king and I quite like the actor. But he got done in by conspirators and traitors and died too.

Talisa Stark (Robb's wife)? She got stabbed in the baby maker at the Red Wedding. That's like killing two wolves with one rock.

Viserys Targaryen? Kal Drogo crowned him with molten gold. That had to hurt.

Ros? Littlefinger found out she was spying on him for Varys so he gave her to King Joffrey who used her as a live target, brutally killing her by filling her with crossbow bolts.

Jeor Mormont, leader of the Crows, has his watch ended in Crastor's keep by Rast who betrays him.

Xaro Xhoan Daxos is killed when Dany seals him in his own vault from which there is no escape.

Pyat Pree the necromancer is set on fire by Daenerys' dragons.

Rakharo, one of Daenerys' blood riders, dies off screen when his horse returns bearing a severed head.

Body count for HBO's Game of Thrones is 13 (and this excludes probably a hundred minor characters). Okay, so now for The Walking Dead. Here's who we've lost thus far (by the end of season four):
These iconic characters didn't die yet. But do the actors have job security?
Decide by taking my poll!
Amy (Andrea's sister) got bitten in the neck and died of blood loss.

Jim got bit in the stomach, died of infection.

Dr. Edwin Jenner and Jacqui died in an explosion at the CDC via suicide.

Otis was hobbled by Shane and devoured by walkers.

Sophia (Carol's daughter) died of infection from a walker bite.

Dale got disemboweled by a walker. Rick Grimes put him out of his misery with the trusty colt python.

Randall got his neck broke by Shane.

Shane was stabbed in the heart by his best friend Rick.

Jimmy got devoured by walkers.

Big Tiny got his head bashed in repeatedly.

Tomas got his head split in half by Rick and a machete.

T-Dog got devoured by walkers.

Andrew was shot in the head.

Lori was dying from childbirth complications so her son, Carl, killed her out of mercy.

Merle was shot in the chest by the Governor.

Milton was stabbed repeatedly in the stomach by the Governor.

Andrea got bitten on the shoulder by Milton and then committed suicide.

Karen and David were killed by Carol and then set on fire.

Caleb (the doctor) died from an unknown flu.

Caesar Martinez got bashed over the head by the Governor who then fed him (while still alive) to walkers.

Hershel got decapitated by the Governor.

The Governor was stabbed in the chest by Michonne (and killed).

Lizzie got put down by Carol (in one of the most shocking episodes ever).

Joe (leader of the claim gang) got his throat ripped out by Rick Grimes (and he bled to death).

That's twenty-four deaths of characters that got varying degrees of screen time, but all of them had speaking parts on the show. Just from memory (and looking at these numbers) I'd have to say that the group of actors in HBO's Game of Thrones probably have better job security in their characters. The Walking Dead is just way more brutal.

Agree? Disagree? What say you? Please take my poll and have a good Wednesday.
Which group of actors have better job security? free polls 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Being Human had its swan song and now its all over but the crying

Being Human is over. I shall miss you guys so much.
I sit here late at night writing this post because I can't get the images of the series finale for SyFy's Being Human out of my head. This was a gem of a series not because it did anything ground breaking with the mythology behind werewolves, ghosts, and vampires, but because it focused so much on the characters and how their love for each other was all that mattered when they died.

Being Human in its final hour made me sob so many times. The first time came only moments into the show when Sally (by far my favorite character) made the choice to cast a spell that would claim her immortal soul, but she did it because it was the only way to keep Josh safe from an enraged Aiden. Through season after season I thought for sure that Sally would eventually get her door. She missed her door in season one when she helped Aidan, so this isn't how things are supposed to end, right? But that's exactly how it ended, and Sally did what Sally always did: she made a choice out of love, door be damned. And her goodbye was so perfect and so filled with good that it just didn't seem right that this is how this character goes out.

In monologue came the most profound explanation behind Sally's choice:

"The day they moved in was the best day. It felt like the start of something new, something good. After everything that had gone so wrong with my life, they walked in that door and they brought possibility. When you look back at your life with a person, sometimes you wonder, would we be friends if we met now? Or did the path that we went on together lead us to this place? Did every triumph and mistake along the way make us fall in love? I think that everything happens for a reason: love, life, even death. I hold onto this place for a reason, and that reason is now."

In the aftermath of Sally's sacrifice (that made Aidan human) the once mighty vampire is laid low first by sadness at losing Sally, and second by the thread of his own mortality which is quickly overtaking him. All those centuries start to catch up on Aidan, turning his hair gray, and making him move like a man in his nineties. With the specter of dying (and the fear that results from that) Aidan almost makes a choice to become a vampire again. However Josh stops him, and in that redemption I got a new respect for Aidan because he decides to make sure that Josh and Nora would go on to live happy lives by returning to the house that lay at the center of their world. He did this to burn it down in order to kill a malicious ghost that haunted it (and was murdering people because they all moved out). Josh says in monologue to a dream (one Josh and Nora seem to have shared):

"The day we moved in was the first day of my life. Before then, before them, I had no chance, I didn't think I could feel human, feel love. The little things--coffee grounds, laundry day, sleeping late, living life--thank you for every small moment of this world."

I guess Josh's words reminds me of that song, "Little Wonders" sung by Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20. Have you heard it? In any event, each of the cast central to this series gets to say something profound in this final episode. But, I think Aidan's final haunting words as he's dying in their home near Sally's death spot captures the essence of the series the best (and very poetically):

"When the end comes rushing up at you and everything that you thought was real starts to fall away, you consider the meaning of the life that you lived and you realize that the only thing that means a damn thing at the end is what you loved. And you think of who you loved, and you let it take you home."

Oh my gosh. I guess all that ever really matters to any of us who are human is the feeling of home, right? Some like to say it's where you hang your hat. But really, it's where you are loved and where your memories are forged. Home is the place that defines you. This finale was bittersweet but very satisfying. There are series that end with characters leaving an empty apartment or whatever place brought them together. This one ended with Josh and Nora as the parents of two adorable kids named Aidan and Sally. And therein is the true prize: Josh and Nora made it. They got to be happy and have a family.

Josh told Aidan's ghost right as he got his door (a thing that vampires are never supposed to be able to get), "We promise to live ridiculous lives in your honor." The chemistry of this cast made this the little series that could, and I think I'll never forget how it made me feel when all things came to an end.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Aspiring writers could take a few cues from the inventiveness in Godzilla because clever is the new black

I'll just get right to the point: there's a new extended trailer out for Godzilla (due out next month) and you should watch it to prove you're not a complete dullard. Most of the footage in it seems to be new. I don't know if you're one of the people that's following this like I am (I am my own particular brand of crazy), but it is pretty exciting. At around the 2:15 mark there's a glimpse of what looks like a new kaiju through the window of a train. And when Bryan Cranston seals his wife into a contaminated area of the plant they're both working at there's a pink/lavender mist that looks really ominous and has nothing to do with supporting breast cancer. I kept asking myself "What is it?" which is probably what I'm supposed to be asking. But when I ask questions like that I just produce even more questions:

1) Is the Godzilla in this movie going to be some kind of angry god? Or will he be Earth's protector and champion like Toho later evolved him into?

2) What are these new kaijus? Are they enemies of Godzilla? Do they have cool powers?

3) Is anyone else tired of the Golden Gate Bridge getting trashed?

4) Could Bryan Cranston make me believe anything? Seriously...this guy's acting ability could sell me on using paper towels as toilet paper. He's that good. Example: Bryan Cranston is panicking? Okay shit just got real folks.

5) Is the plant featured in the film (that has a nuclear accident) Fukushima? Are they really going to go there? That probably means either the Japanese are going to love this film, or they're going to hate it. There won't be any middling "feels" here. The last time Americans made a Godzilla film, the Japanese put out one of their own (in short order) that featured the Godzilla from the Mathew Broderick film. It got its ass kicked by the real Godzilla in under ten seconds. I'm not kidding.

The film coming out next month has the awesome potential to be a really huge deal because it has a solid cast, a good story, and effects that are impressing the hell out of me. And by solid story, the writing seems to "frame" history in clever context. Take (for example) these particular talking points (and yes I know I've used up my allotted ration of bullets):

1) All those nuclear tests that we did in the Pacific? The public was told they were tests...but what was really happening is that the army was trying to kill something huge.

2) And if that is Fukushima going up (with the purple mist that kills Cranston's wife) then the earthquake that started it all may have been caused by Godzilla. How cool is that? Or uncool if you don't like the idea that a huge fire-breathing lizard thing is responsible for the deaths of thousands of people.

Either way, I like it when writers get clever with history. It feeds into my "conspiracy theory" gene that for the most part remains dormant. I'll even go so far as to say this: aspiring writers could take a few cues from the inventiveness in Godzilla because clever is the new black. As I edit my own manuscript this week, I'll be thinking of ways I can frame historical context or scientific observation to make sense of the weirdness in my stories.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Flash Boys is an eye-opening reveal of the highway robbery taking place on Wall Street every day

It's amazing how quickly technology changed how Americans do business. I had assumed prior to picking up Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt by Michael Lewis, that computers had taken over trading with algorithms going back to at least year 2000. However, the change was more recent than that. It happened in and around 2007-2008. Mr. Lewis conjured an image of a trading floor full of screaming brokers slamming telephones along with a hysteria-infused ticker tape like you see in the movie Trading Places, and all of that ended less than a decade ago. It's now pretty quiet at the exchanges and much of what gets done happens in secretive black boxes.

The New York Stock exchange and the Nasdaq are two "for profit" businesses that provide a platform for the buying and selling of stock. Because they are "for profit", high frequency traders have been able to get an edge on everyone else. One company (calling itself Spread Network and under stealth conditions reminiscent of Cold War espionage) built an absolutely straight tunnel to run fiber-optic cable through the mountains of Pennsylvania. This involved drilling, getting permission from every small town along the way, making sure that no one ever figured out what the tunnel was for, and spending hundreds of millions of dollars. When completed, Spread Network sold access to their "cable" for $14 million each...access that gave a .00008 second advantage on the buying and selling of stock.

What does this mean? Well with the right algorithm (and they did have the right algorithm) a high-frequency trader could identify a big order coming in from say Pershing Square (hedge fund controlled by Bill Ackman) for scooping up a million shares of a company, buy all that available stock on the open market a micro-second before the order hit, and then turn around and resell those stocks to Pershing for more money because they were no longer available.

If you don't understand how this works imagine this: you are at a supermarket and there are a limited number of bananas on the shelf (as there always are) and you need to buy some. As you reach for the bananas, someone pushes you out of the way, buys all the bananas, and then offers to resell them to you for five cents more.

Is this at all capitalism? Is this what America is about these days? Or is this just highway robbery?
As you can see from this graph, high-frequency trading happens in bursts.
The line at the bottom is the stock market activity involving General Electric
shares over 100 milliseconds (one-tenth of a second) at 12:44 p.m. on Dec 19th.
So these 44 trades basically happened during that time (source: New York Times).
There are two camps of thought on this subject and they've been raging ever since Michael Lewis' book came out earlier this week (I started reading it on Monday).

The first train of thought goes like this: It is capitalism because high-frequency traders provide liquidity to the market. Additionally, Spread Network paid to have the tunnel built and the exchanges (which are "for profit" businesses) gave their blessing, and if you wanted to they would do the same for you (the only problem being that the average Joe like you and me doesn't have hundreds of millions of dollars to spend on a cable).

The second train of thought (mine) goes like this: These people are crooks. They are pirates and need to be stopped. Forcefully making yourself a middleman in a two entity transaction is criminal. Sure, these high-frequency traders are making a very small margin of profit per share, but the thing is, when mutual fund managers of 401K's and retirement plans are moving assets around that total billions of dollars, these mosquitoes ravage the common person's money (essentially adding hidden fees on top of what you're already getting screwed out of by taxes and regular fees). In other words: it's bullshit.

It's going to be interesting to see the fallout from this book and whether or not the heroes, one is named Bradley Katsuyama, are vindicated or vilified for daring to come out and say that the markets are rigged (high-frequency traders have been attacking him publicly ever since the release of the book). For me, Katsuyama is a hero, pointing out what I'd suspected about Wall Street but never had any proof. I'm not a day trader but a long-term investor, so the impact on what I do personally is minimal (outside of my retirement plan). But because my retirement plan is getting bigger and more significant, it pisses me off that these swarming insects will scalp further profit from a pile of money that should rightfully be mine.

Consider this fact: In early 2013, one of the largest high-frequency traders, Virtu Financial, publicly boasted that in five and a half years of trading it had experienced just one day when it hadn't made money. Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley can't do this, so how is HFT even allowed to happen? The more I think about it, the more it really starts to make my blood boil.

Do any of you have an opinion? Or has apathy at how unfair life is finally taken its toll and beaten you into the ground? I look forward to reading your comments.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Walking Dead explores the last taboo by hinting at cannibalism in season five

Sunday's "A" episode of The Walking Dead had what looked like a
slaughtering pit filled with human skeletons. I could be wrong though.
If there is insecurity in my writing, it's that the things that I like to read or watch broach subjects so hard-hitting and in ways that are so real, that I doubt my own abilities to recreate the same. I think I'll never be able to evoke this kind of emotion. Take dark fiction as an example. Everyone knows that I'm a fan, especially when it comes to science fiction that takes on a horror twist. When I'm engrossed in these kinds of stories, inevitably I compare them to my own works. The little voice inside pipes up and says, "Your stuff is boring compared to this." Maybe it's just an uncomfortable truth; I guess only a lifetime of writing will give me the perspective to answer this to my liking.

Cormac McCarthy published The Road in 2006. It's a post-apocalyptic story where a father and his young son (over a period of several months) cross a landscape languishing in the fall of civilization. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2007. In thinking of the blasted environs of The Road I am reminded of the sardonic voice of Tyrion Lannister in George R.R. Martin's magnum opus, A Clash of Kings. Tyrion at one point turns to his "beloved" sister Cersei and says, “A day will come when you think yourself safe and happy, and suddenly your joy will turn to ashes in your mouth, and you'll know the debt is paid."

In The Road, there is no debt to pay unless it is to the unnamed sins of the survivors who are ambiguous in the insistence that they are the good guys. The land is ashes, it is devoid of living animals and vegetation, and many of the remaining human survivors are cannibals, scavenging the detritus of city and country for flesh to eat. The horrors they face include seeing a newborn infant roasted on a spit and captives being gradually harvested for food.

This is the kind of darkness that has come to The Walking Dead whether by caveat that it was always this way and we were in denial, or whether it was driven in this direction because it is exhausting its ability to continually shock the audience. In either case by the close of season four Rick, Michonne, his young son Carl, and the other survivors reached "the end of the line" at Terminus, are now imprisoned in a rail car painted with an "A" (by what we can presume are cannibals), and are in a heap of trouble.

Is it disturbing how effectively Scott Gimple has been able to build attachment in these characters? Disturbing, yes but also brilliant. It's hard for me to not squirm in my seat. The creepiness of Terminus makes the Governor look tame. I can only imagine that next season will probably be a grotesque blood bath, with amputations being done via tourniquet because the world has no refrigeration. In other words, the living monsters are alive while they eat you (and probably discussing the day's business and how much they miss Facebook). The hints have been strong, from the constant barbecuing of meat when there are no animals around, to what looks like a slaughter pit filled with the bloody skeletal remains of butchered humans (shown only briefly on screen), and the strange foreshadowing of the rabbit trap.

And what about previous episodes? Remember this painting? Contrast it with the appearance of Mary, the woman we met at Terminus played by Denise Crosby, a.k.a. Tasha Yar from Star Trek: The Next Generation.
The image (posted on Reddit) suggests that Michonne and Carl were in this lady's house. Take a look at the hair, the layers of clothing, and remember the bloodbath in the nursery. There was also a picture of a dog on the wall that looks eerily similar to the dog that distracted Daryl and led to Beth's kidnapping. 
The dog on the wall behind Carl looks a lot like the one-eyed dog in
the episode that resulted in Beth's kidnapping.
The theme for this season's The Walking Dead has pretty much been "internal monsters." It isn't too much of a stretch to imagine that the food on Mary's barbecue is human (probably Beth's and that makes me sad). Unfortunately, these events also parallel those that occur in The Walking Dead comic book, a.k.a. the appearance of "The Hunters" that I mentioned in a post last week. This leads me to the next question: what is it about cannibalism that we find so terrifying? Perhaps it's the idea of being someone else's food, and that we can imagine those around us adopting this lifestyle were times to get tough. Yes, you read that last line right. Your neighbors are perfectly capable of eating you if they were starving.

According to a new poll from the Society for Progressive Meat, I learned that 10% of Americans would consider eating humans while a measly 3% would consider going all vegan. 2,500 respondents were polled over a two-week period. Interesting eh? Admittedly, this poll was commissioned by an organization associated with efforts to introduce human meat to the mainstream. So there's no doubt that the members of this society get their buddies to drive up the numbers similar to how bloggers get their followers to do the same on goodreads (should I be disturbed that there's a society devoted to cannibalism?) But the study does seem to point to an unsettling fact: many of us could become monsters if the situation warranted it.

I suppose it shouldn't surprise me that The Walking Dead is exploring this last human taboo. It's arguably one of the components that led Forbes to declare the season finale "the most watched hour ever." Zombies have been chomping down on humans through four seasons now, so why should it be any different when those humans are actually alive? For me it has to do with the horror of a reality check in which there is no sanctuary at all in a society that utterly collapses. Without some measure of trust, society is impossible. After all, how can you trust anyone who could possibly view you as dinner?

I've got to hand it to the likes of The Walking Dead. The story (in my opinion) is part of a select group of fiction I label "the best in the business." Can something be so good that it actually discourages you in your own ambitions? I think so.

This post is part of the Insecure Writer's Support Group collective. Go HERE to find out more.