How to survive a zombie apocalypse

Type “how to” into Google enough times, you will eventually—inevitably—end up at eHow.

My query today started innocently enough, with a search for how to change the permissions on a computer file. But before I knew it, I had gone down the eHow rabbithole.

My first stop was How to Become a Death Metal Guitarist. The instructions seemed simple enough:

Find a teacher and take guitar lessons. A death metal guitar coach can guide you through the basic techniques and give you the skills you need to become better, teaching you the proper scales and riffs.

Is it just me, or do “death metal” and “proper scales” seem a bit incongruous? And what the heck is a “death metal guitar coach,” anyway? (For some reason, I keep picturing leather track pants.)

But perhaps you prefer to hang out with the undead instead. Thanks to eHow, you can learn How to Identify a Vampire—or at least How to Act Like a Vampire. From the latter:

To act like a vampire, you should look focused and serious (like in the movie). Don’t smile or actively engage in conversation, vampires like to blend in, but also keep to themselves so their secret isn’t discovered.

Going by that definition, approximately 50% of my colleagues may be vampires. (Note to self: Have the garlic bread. And go home before it gets dark.)

Worried about *other* things that go “bump” in the night? Perhaps you should learn How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse or How to Find/Join a UFO Discussion Group. If you’re looking for a support group for Sasquatch-sighting survivors I’m afraid you’re out of luck, though.

On a more practical note, you can learn How to Use Up Those Tiny Pieces of Leftover Soap, How to Eat Apples  (1. Put on bib. 2. Pick up apple. 3. Bite it.), and How to Get Fired. That last one comes with some helpful advice: “You had better have another job waiting or you may be scrambling for cash.” REALLY?!

In the Animal Husbandry and Domination department, there’s How to Tell if a Chihuahua is Pregnant (Step 1: Determine if your Chihuahua has been around a male dog, or alone outside in the last month or two). You can also learn How to Dominate a Cat and How to Become One While Riding Your Horse.

Find a older very calm gentle horse. … When you feel that you are friends, put a bridal on him and head for the corral.

Yes, that’s right: To properly bond with your horse, take him to a wedding. Preferably one held in a corral.

If you’re curious about medical matters, maybe you’ll be interested in How to Perform a Fake Eye Poke. And don’t worry if you don’t quite master the technique at first: there’s always How to Treat Eye Injuries. You can also learn How to Deliver a Baby:

Do not freak out. Childbirth is designed to be noisy, messy and scary as a deterrent to the less committed. Your role is to be comforting and reassuring no matter how awful you feel.

I loved the description of childbirth as a “deterrent to the less-committed.” But of all the eHow articles I read today, my favorite was How to Write a Bad eHow Article. Step 1 is to “Pick a topic. Think of something you’ve never done and don’t know much about.”

That’s all the encouragement I need! Check back soon for “How to Remove an Appendix Using Only Duct Tape and Common Kitchen Utensils.”


    • It really *is* unbelievable that someone took the time to write these articles, isn’t it? I know exactly how it happens, though: I freelanced for an SEO firm for a while writing similar “infotainment” articles, and sometimes getting those keywords in was a bit of a stretch. You can end up with some pretty structurally unsound sentences — and equally unsound advice — when you’re serving the words more than the message. Still … I thought that “How to Write a Bad eHow Article” was pretty inspired.

  1. No, no, I am *not* going to follow up on eHow! The vistas you open up here are bad enough!! Ach, I do love your equine wedding riff, though. Put a bridal on your horse, indeed. And your bit about vampires, for whom I have a bit of a soft spot. (Mainly for the sparkly ones, though. I know this gives me about a thousand minus-credibility points. I think it’s because they’re just so damn cheerful all the time, you know?)

    • You are wise to resist the siren song of the eHow, dancingbeastie. I think I lost about 30 I.Q. points on the chihuahua article alone. And don’t worry about losing credibility points over the vampire thing: You’re among friends here. (If it makes you feel any better, there’s nothing I fancy more than a good ghost story and I’m also a bit of a sucker for UFOs.) I’m not entirely sure about the “cheerful” part, though. Are you perhaps confusing vampires with The Count from Sesame Street? Grin.

      • Oh, yeah, the Count! 🙂 No, actually, I was thinking of Edward saying ‘We’re all going to die’ in one of his more light-hearted moments. Remember that post of yours?! Happy days.

        Have you ever heard of Irn Bru? It’s a sickly orange fizzy drink, made here in Bonnie Scotland. It has great adverts, often heavy on the irony (irony/ Irn – I just noticed that). My favourite was a picture of an emo kid, all dressed in black, goth makeup, miserable expression; with the caption, ‘Cheer up, Goth!’. I have been known to shout that at the telly when Twilight is on.

        • “Cheer up, Goth!” Ha, ha!!! That’s bril. I may just have to track down some of this Irn Bru. Sounds like my kind of (sickly orange soft) drink.

          And thank you for giving me the best line of the week. “Cheer up, Goth!” 🙂

  2. I’ve been thinking about doing a post on how writing for the web is different than writing for a paper but I think you should — if you haven’t already. I try to but when I have something to say, it might not score well on the search engines.
    BTW, I was trying to catch up on some of your posts last night. Was in the middle of a comment and got the black screen on my Macbook. It’s working now but my comments are gone. Sorry!

    • I think this is the first time I’ve ever gotten a “request.” Thanks, Marcia! Today’s HBlog topic will be about writing for the web, in your honor. 🙂 (If you’re curious, I did do one post on writing better subject lines:

      And what’s up with your Macbook? hope the black screen isn’t a recurring phenomenon. That doesn’t sound good at all (especially if it robs me of your kind comments, H wrote selfishly …)

  3. I’m glad I’m the first! Thanks, H. Love your post, excellent tips. I’ll be using a few of them. Thanks, again.
    Well, whether we like it or not, we’re trying to attract readers and the best way I know how is to write more compelling content. As you know, writing for the web is a bit different — the rules are new and sometimes confusing. I’ve been reading everything I can get my hands on and I still feel like I need a college course.

    Not sure what’s going on with my Mac. A few days before it went black, the back light died. It’s only about 2 years and, unfortunately, out of warranty. It’s working again (Hallelujah!) but I’m still nervous. Hopefully, it’s only the heat — it’s been brutal here in NYC.

    • Hey! It’s late and I’m exhausted, so the post I promised will have to wait until tomorrow. But if there are two bits of advice I can offer about blogging (or writing in general), they’re: (1) choose topics about which you’re passionate, and (2) write for your own enjoyment.

      As for your laptop … hope it was just a momentary hiccup. But if the problem resumes, I highly recommend a visit to the Genius Bar. They usually don’t charge unless they have to replace a part, and they’re awesome at resolving the little glitches that sometimes occur.

      Anyway, I hope your NYC heat wave ends soon. Here in Minnesota we’re praying for some sweet relief, too. I’ve never felt so lucky to have central air!

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