Office Supplies: The Movie

You’re at the office, and you want to clip some papers together, but there are no paper clips in your desk drawer. So you go to the supply cabinet, and there are no paper clips there either. As you walk back to your desk, you realize there weren’t any empty spaces on any of the supply cabinet shelves, which implies there are never paper clips in the cabinet, which can mean only one thing: you’ve somehow been transported to an alternate universe that’s identical to ours in every way except that the paper clip was never invented.

You begin to panic. You break into a run, and when you reach your office, you fling open your desk drawer. Your stapler is still there. You can breathe again. You force yourself to calm down, to focus. How long has this been going on? When was the last time you saw a paper clip? When was the last time paper clips came up in conversation? Has it been days? Weeks? Months? You can’t remember.

Maybe it’s not so bad. Maybe you can use this to your advantage somehow. You toy with the idea of “inventing” the paper clip yourself. You could patent it, collect royalties on every paper clip ever sold, and make huge amounts of money. But without competition, the stapler industry is probably much more powerful in this world, and they probably won’t take too kindly to the idea of another fastener hitting the market. What kind of tactics would they use to prevent that from happening? Would they resort to violence? You decide to proceed with caution. Also, you have some doubts about the ethics of claiming this invention as your own.

Maybe you’re wrong. Maybe there’s another explanation. Maybe if you just walk into someone’s office and ask them for a paper clip, they’ll open their desk drawer and hand one to you. Or maybe they’ll just sit there, looking confused, and you won’t know whether they’re unfamiliar with the concept or whether they just didn’t hear you. If no one’s ever heard of a paper clip, then “do you have any paper clips” just sounds like gibberish, and you can’t let your colleagues think you’re standing around babbling incoherently all day. You’ll need to explain it away somehow. You almost settle on “Paper clips? No, no — I said, do you have any vapor strips“, but then you realize that “vapor strips” doesn’t make  sense in either universe. Unless “vapor strips” does mean something here. You decide to google it.

Before you can do your search, you glance at your email, and you see something you’ve never noticed before: all the messages that have attachments have little pictures of paper clips next to them. You check Wikipedia, and paper clips do seem to exist, so you haven’t stumbled into an alternate universe after all. You have, however, stumbled upon a brilliant idea for a series of science fiction movies.

The first movie would be the paper clip movie. The main character wakes up in a universe without paper clips, decides to “invent” them, and experiences lots of intrigue and car chases involving the evil stapler industry. In the final scene, the main character somehow makes it back to the real world and celebrates by throwing a handful of paper clips into the air; the closing shot of the movie is the paper clips raining down, which is why the movie needs to be in 3-D.

In the second movie, paper clips exist in the alternate universe, but staplers don’t. The main character decides to “invent” the stapler and clashes with the evil paper clip industry.

In the third movie, paper clips and staplers exist, but the staple is never invented. This is the final movie of the series, and the least successful.

We Have Nothing to Fear But Fear Itself. And, Of Course, Zombies.

Warning: this post contains many run-on sentences. Proceed with caution.

I once watched the movie 28 Days Later right before going to bed. This was a mistake; watching a bunch of fast-moving rage-filled zombies viciously attack and eat people makes it kind of difficult to drift gently off to sleep. Technically, I probably shouldn’t call them zombies, because they’re alive and infected with a disease instead of dead and, you know, zombified — but it says “zombie” right there on the movie poster, and regardless of what they are, you still don’t want one of them biting you, because then you’ll get infected and all you’ll ever want to do is attack and eat people, which will put a huge strain on your personal relationships and also probably make you lose your job because you keep skipping work to go on violent rampages and even when you do show up you spend most of your time biting people even though you’ve already been warned about your company’s no-biting policy several times. And then you won’t have an income, and although your living expenses will go down because you no longer have to buy food because you’re eating people instead, you still won’t be able to pay your rent, which means you’ll have to move in with your parents, which will be even more awkward than you might have imagined because even though your parents never expressed any strong opinions about cannibalism while you were growing up, they turn out to be pretty closed-minded about it. So of course you’ll eat them, which will seem like a good idea at the time but will mean there’s no one left to pay the rent on their house, so you’ll wind up out on the streets and even worse off than before.*

The point is, it’s a scary movie. So I was still a little frightened when I went to bed after watching it — which only got worse when I started hearing frantic scratching and clawing noises right outside my window. I’ve heard these noises before: directly under my bedroom window, there’s a screened-off entry to the crawl space under my house, and I sometimes hear sounds that turn out to be either an animal trying to get into the crawl space for warmth or an axe murderer trying to get into the house to kill me. So far, it’s mostly been animals:

Type of intruder Number of occurrences
opossum 58
raccoon 42
skunk 15
axe murderer 0
unknown 23
zombie 0

Whenever I hear these clawing noises, I remind myself that there haven’t been any confirmed axe murderers so far. But then I think, well, I guess that means we’re due for one, until I remember that probability doesn’t work that way: the likelihood of it being an axe murderer this time is independent of the number of previous axe murderer visits.** But I still haven’t gotten around to looking up axe murder statistics for my neighborhood; all I know is that I’ve never seen a report of one in my local newspaper, which means they must happen so frequently that they’re not considered newsworthy. Often, by the time I finish with that line of reasoning, the noise has stopped, so I count that as “unknown” in my ongoing intruder tally.

But this time is different. This time, I’m not thinking about axe murderers; I’m thinking about zombies. And while I know that zombies don’t exist, that doesn’t make me any less concerned about the possibility that there’s one right outside my window. So I’m lying there in the dark, afraid to look at the window because if I do then whatever is out there will become real. As long as I don’t look, it’s simultaneously a harmless raccoon and a murderous zombie in the same way that Schroedinger’s cat was both alive and dead, or dead and not-dead, which means that whatever’s outside my window is basically a Schroedinger’s zombie, which I can almost deal with except for the fact that “dead and not-dead” also describes a regular garden-variety zombie, which means there’s a zombie in my garden — and as I’m pursuing this train of thought, my cat jumps onto the bed. I’m so startled by this that I leap three feet into the air, still completely horizontal, like a cartoon character,*** which frightens the cat, who jumps even higher, which apparently scares off whoever or whatever is outside. And I suddenly realize that my zombie was an imaginary zombie, just like Schroedinger’s cat was an imaginary cat.

*Some of this is speculation on my part. The movie tends to focus less on long-term economic and social outcomes and more on short-term murderous rampages.

**Well, almost. An individual raccoon or axe murderer’s decision to visit a particular house is likely to be influenced by his or her prior experience with that house, so the events aren’t entirely independent.

***I’m pretty sure that’s impossible. But that’s how it felt.

Should You See Contagion? This Flowchart Will Help You Decide

Here’s a handy flowchart to help you decide whether or not to go see Contagion. One tip: if you see this movie with a group of people, one of whom is very germophobic, and the rest of you have a betting pool to guess how many minutes of the movie that person will be able to take, then you should probably pick a number less than 10.

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The Unsuccessful Undead: Four Animal-Themed Horror Movies You’ll Never See

Thanks to everyone who commented on the “vampire bees” post; some of the stories about zombie bees and similar creatures inspired this list of hypothetical horror movies.

1. Jaws 5: Night of the Wolf


Sharks are scary, and werewolves are scary, so what could be more frightening than a shark werewolf? This 3D IMAX movie features some breathtaking underwater visuals but ends somewhat abruptly after the first full moon, when the shark turns into a wolf and drowns.

2. Hummingbird Horror


Hitchcock’s classic The Birds meets, well, any zombie movie ever made. Zombie hummingbirds terrorize an isolated coastal town; however, because hummingbirds need to flap their wings very rapidly to fly, and zombies move very slowly, all these creatures can do is sit and stare at passers-by. Still, this behavior is pretty creepy, and some people do sustain injuries tripping over the birds.
Continue reading “The Unsuccessful Undead: Four Animal-Themed Horror Movies You’ll Never See”