The seminar was a pet project of Brentwood Library’s Youth Services Librarian Lindsay DuPont.
“This is my dream because I’m totally into zombies. A lot of the kids here are super into it, too,” said DuPont, sporting a black T-shirt inscribed with “Zombie Research Society” on the front. Capitalizing on the cultural zeitgeist stirred up by “The Walking Dead,” a hit TV show on AMC, DuPont was pleased to have captured and sustained the attention span of 10-17 demographic for two solid hours.
“The zombie brains are actually focused,” she joked.
Speakers Kocen, Dr. Bradley Voytek and Jack Foley offered up a variety of insights and survival tips to follow if a zombie apocalypse were ever to ravage the Bay Area.
A neuroscience researcher at the University of California, San Francisco by day, Voytek cleverly combined actual scientific research and his zeal for zombie entertainment into a presentation comparing and contrasting the human brain with the mythology of the zombie brain.
“My buddy Tim and I did our Ph.D.s together, and my wife and Tim’s girlfriend are all big zombie fans,” he said. “Growing up I was really into comic books and science fiction and general geek things.”
Voytek displayed an MRI of a normal human brain and compared it to an image that represented what he thought a zombie brain might look like. “You notice that whole parts of the zombie brain are missing,” he said. “We think this is because zombie brain damage patterns can explain their behavior.”
As an example, Voytek recalled a patient he worked with who suffered damage to his cerebellum and exhibited the lurching, off-kilter zombie gait that terrifies intended victims – but allows them to escape the zombie pursuit with relative ease.
“Because zombies don’t appear to be able to form new memories, we’ve hypothesized that they must have amnesia, and that they’re missing their hippocampus,” said Voytek, citing the real-life example of a patient named H.M.
Ricky Montalvo found the seminar stimulating and fun. “It’s fascinating,” he said. “I like the fact that he’s incorporating real science into his lecture.”
Indeed, Voytek thrilled the audience by unveiling an actual human brain and welcomed the audience to line up, slip on gloves and touch it.
An intrepid globetrotter and instructor for Trackers Bay, a Berkeley-based primitive skills program for youth, Foley channeled the intuition, invention and survival skills reminiscent of “The Hunger Games” and recommended Mt. Diablo as a good choice for a zombie-free sanctuary.
“You can survive for three hours without shelter in bad weather, three days without water or three weeks without food,” he said. “If you don’t have that, you will straight up die.”
Depending on how fast infection spreads following a zombie plague, and given the disintegration rate of the human body, Foley surmised, “If you can survive for approximately 33 days, you can probably survive a zombie apocalypse.”
Author of the online guide “The Bay Area Guide To Surviving a Zombie Attack,” Kocen discussed the pros and cons of various strategies offered by audience members when facing a local attack. East County residents can sleep a little easier at night: Given our more rural, less populated locale, we’d have a higher survivability rate than city dwellers.
“I’ve loved zombies for as long as I can remember. They are a way to tell a story about something else,” Kocen said. “’Night of the Living Dead’ is about bigotry. “Dawn of the Dead” is about consumerism. “Day of the Dead” is about the military getting out of control. Zombies are a force of nature, and they make for a compelling external thing keeping everyone in one place so that the real, interesting stories can get told.”
Think you could survive a zombie apocalypse? Ninth-grader and zombie aficionado Tristan Gallagher seriously pondered the question before replying, “Probably. I was in Boy Scouts, so I know how to survive.”
Zombie Survival Tips
During their visit to the Brentwood Library’s Zombie Seminar last week, Dr. Bradley Voytek, Jack Foley and Mitch Kocen offered the following tips for surviving a zombie attack:
Tip No. 1: Don’t try to fight them; they can outfight you. (They feel no pain.)
Tip No. 2: Be quiet and wait it out. (They’ll forget you’re there.)
Tip No. 3: Distract them. (They have pathetically short attention spans.)
Tip No. 4: Try outrunning them. (They’re typically slow and clumsy.)
Tip No. 5: If you have a gun, kill the brain and shoot the ghoul.
Tip No. 6: If you’re within spitting distance of a zombie, you’re too close.
Tip No. 7: The woods aren’t out to get you. If you don’t fight it, nature can provide anything and everything.
Tip No. 8: The human mouth is one of the most disgusting things ever. If you’ve been bitten, it wouldn’t hurt to take a really strong antibiotic.
Tip No. 9: Mobility is vital. Don’t ever get pinned down in any one location.
Tip No. 10: Zombies don’t fare well in the cold, so how fast can you move to Wisconsin?