Thursday, November 22, 2012

Zombie Movies

I was almost eleven-years-old when I saw my first zombie movie.  The movie was Return of the Night of the Living Dead, featuring sexualized punk rockers, death, and the military in no particular order.  I was scared for the next year ... or 25.

The zombies struck a chord of dissonance in my mind.  They were unlike the other monsters I had known.  The zombie obeys no rules for one -- no fear of God, full moon, silver bullets, garlic.  My young Catholic-trained mind couldn't reconcile that zombies didn't fear a cross or a church.  They were manmade and the byproduct of a radiation, an obvious code word for nuclear war.

My subconscious reasoned thusly: if radiation creates zombies and I don't understand radiation then there is no known reason not to believe a zombie is possible.  So I rode my bike home extra fast, planning my zombie-avoidance and defense strategy in case my suburban neighbors become infected.

I feared my neighbors.  Civilization was a threat.

In the original Night of the Living Dead (1968), the hero is a black man named Ben.  Ben is the only capable character, and the only character who isn't paralyzed with fear or paranoia.  But his entire life has been the night of dead.  The masses have passed laws against him and actively tried to destroy him.  His entire life has been training for the night of the living dead.  He's shot dead by the white militiamen  at the end of the movie, "mistaken" for a zombie.  The viewer is left to construct what would have happened had he not been murdered.  Would he be allowed to join the militia?  How would the militiamen respond to a sole black survivor?

I'm a big fan of Civilization and  Its Discontents.  The premise is the dichotomy between the individual's desire for freedom and civilization's desire for order.  The individual surrenders freedom in exchange for civilization's benefit -- a 9 to 5 for not dying during childbirth.  The zombie apocalypse represents the collapse of the individual and civilization contract.  Civilization turns against its members.  The rescue message from Dawn of the Dead is obvious: ALIVE INSIDE painted on the roof of a mall and symbolizing the individual's struggle against civilization.  The survivors grotesquely resume their former lives in the comfort of consumerism.  But the zombies are attracted to the mall as well, drawn by the shadows of their former existence.  We feel we are the ones who are alive inside and the others are the zombies.

Another film to mention is REC (the Spanish version).  The outbreak in REC seems to be caused by a possession rather than a scientifically knowable fact. REC also takes place in a quarantine, rather than civilization as a whole.  The characters are pitted against each other and the undead.  REC is a good scary zombie movie, but lacks the overt social commentary of american zombie movies.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Python Virtualenvs

There are very few things I'm willing to say I hate in public, but I hate managing packages.  Fortunately Python makes this really easy.  Here's how.

First, get pip.  If you're on Ubuntu, do:

$ apt-get install pip

On Mac do (requires setuptools):

$ curl http://pypi.python.org/packages/source/p/pip/pip-1.2.1.tar.gz -O
$ gunzip -c pip*.tar.gz | tar xvf -
$ cd pip-1.2.1/
$ sudo python setup.py install

Second, get virtualenvwrapper.  Here's how:

$ pip install virtualenvwrapper

Third, start using you virtualenvs.  Here's how you make a virtualenv for you project called my_project:

$ which virtualenvwrapper.sh
$ source $(which virtualenvwrapper.sh)
$ mkvirtualenv my_project

Notice your prompt will change.  Add the FQP to your profile if you want.  Next leave your virtualenv:

$ deactivate

Now reactivate:

$ workon my_project

Last, and here's the awesome part.  Install software into your virtualenv:

$ workon my_project
$ pip install django
$ pip install django-celery

But you'll also want to be able to recreate this virtualenv on another machine, so create a requirements.txt file using pip freeze:

$ pip freeze > requirements.txt

Alright, now your coworker needs to workon this project.  You coworker would checkout the repo and:

$ mkvirtualenv my_project
$ pip install -r requirements.txt

Oh, and one more piece of awesomeness: you can add git repos to requirements.txt, which is very useful if there's a bug fix not yet on pypi:


git+https://github.com/joe/something.git