Saturday 18 November 2017

Radio: Zombie science makes dead good entertainment

Jonathan McCrea
Jonathan McCrea
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

When the zombie apocalypse comes, how long do you think humankind will survive? According to a group of students at the University of Leicester, less than 100 days. Gulp.

As revealed in an amusing little section on Futureproof (Newstalk, Sat noon), the researchers - not sure if that's technically the right term considering zombies don't exist, but sure we'll go with it anyway - began with three important assumptions.

Every zombie would bite, and thus infect, an average of one person per day. Every zombie can live without its brain for 20 days. And everyone on the planet would be within reach, ie the undead won't be piloting planes to remote islands or anything.

Then they - students, not zombies - ran the numbers and got a figure of 100 days or less. However, Jonathan McCrea's guest, Shane Brogan, was having none of it.

"Biting," he countered, "is a really ineffective way to spread an infection." Also, zombies aren't that impressive an enemy: they're stupid and have no immune system. Whereas we humans are "smart and good at wiping out other species" - so we'd win.

A fun piece on an always interesting and enlightening show. Also fun was the segment on Front Row (BBC Radio 4, Mon-Fri 7.15pm) about using dead actors in films.

Not in any zombie-esque sense - though I see now how my intro might have been misleading - but through computer effects. So we had Peter Cushing, who died in 1994, reprising his role as an intergalactic baddy with a really stupid name in the new Star Wars. Or Oliver Reed doing a ghostly CGI turn in Gladiator, or Brandon Lee in The Crow.

It's all a bit icky if you ask me, though it would be intriguing to make a zombie movie starring actually-dead actors. (And probably unethical, now that I think about it.)

And I liked the Ryan Tubridy Show (Radio 1, Mon-Fri 9am) interview with Adam Clayton on the announcement of U2's Joshua Tree 30th anniversary tour. But only when they steered clear of politics.

Clayton is one of the more charming, thoughtful musicians out there. And that's the key word: musician. Being in a band is what makes Clayton interesting. His opinions on Donald Trump or Brexit are not.

It's not even about whether entertainers should shut up and entertain, or what the hell does a bass player know about politics and economics. The problem is far more fundamental than that.

Politics (both party-political and in terms of social issues) is a dismal, tedious thing, and those who follow it are often dismal, tedious people. But somehow, their dismal, tedious obsession seems to have come to dominate the entire culture.

Nothing can happen now without some bloody "issue" being dragged into it. Latest blockbuster movie? Talk about why there aren't more minorities in the cast. Someone famous dies? Talk about their favourite "causes". That new brand of breath fresheners? Their ad campaign is probably offensive to some clown, somewhere.

And one of the greatest bands of all time are touring one of the greatest albums of all time? Get the guy to talk politics. Blurgh.

And it's a double whammy here: not only is that an incredibly boring subject, but being in a band is about the coolest, most interesting thing possible, yet you're ignoring it for… no! More politics!

In fairness to Tubridy, there was plenty of music talk, too - but for me, when you've got a legendary rock star on the line, it should be only music talk. Leave the politics to the other 99pc of all media, and a curse on the lot of them.

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