Stay alive: A Hollywood guide to surviving a disaster

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  • Something wicked this way comes? Great news. Hollywood includes survival tips with the price of a movie ticket, and has for years.

    Certain tips get repeated so often you may instinctively realize, for instance, that you could outrun a fireball if you were leaping off an exploding building. When in a foreign country, the best way to avoid a pursuer is by driving down a path with a camel or a fruit cart - it slows down the evildoers. However, dirt paths are bad paths to take, no matter how much time it'll save; horror films tell us this.

    And about zombies.

    Shoot them in the head.

    Not in the leg or the shoulder.

    In the head, only the head.

    These tips are useful - in a completely nonuseful sort of way. It's about knowing where to look, and spotting creative opportunities.

    Disaster movies, for example.

    They are a valuable resource.

    And with today's opening of Poseidon, a remake of the 1972 hit The Poseidon Adventure, and the popularity of The Day After Tomorrow - not to mention the late '90s volcano (Dante's Peak) and asteroid (Deep Impact) flicks - they are somewhat back in vogue. Good for you. Consider this tip from the latest Poseidon:

    If you should find yourself in a flooded ocean liner overturned in the North Atlantic, 1. wait for the room to fill completely with water, 2. hold your breath, and 3. wait for pressure-sensitive drains to suck you room to room and 4. straight to safety - like a water slide! Whee!

    In the event of an Ice Age sneaking up and turning the planet into a sno-cone, The Day After Tomorrow teaches us, much like the fireball lesson, strong legs are vital. Simply 1. outrun the cold front, 2. find a library, 3. burn books to stay warm (Tuesdays with Morrie, for example), and 4. wait for Dennis Quaid to arrive in snowshoes and rescue you.

    Also, bring a coat.

    Now say there's a meteor the size of Texas headed toward Earth. Don't hide under your bed (wrong movie; see The Wizard of Oz for further details). Armageddon has a solution: 1. Take a space shuttle to said meteor, 2. wait until the meteor is uncomfortably close and plant a nuke and blow it up. If you performed properly, the big rock should split into halves, allowing Earth to shoot straight up the middle, like Lynn Swann.

    Now the less practical stuff.

    For decades, the movies have been the place where impressionable children learned to smoke, swear, flirt, dress, and act cool. But did you know the movies also teach us what to be afraid of? For instance, West Virginia.

    The movies say, stay away.

    Same with certain parts of New York City, small towns in the Midwest with nobody around, and offices in Washington, D.C.

    Also, avoid nature entirely.

    Bad things happen in cabins down by the lake. There are men in goalie masks. Things in swamps. Bad stuff in the ocean. If you happen to accosted by a great white shark, for instance, Jaws teaches us the best way to handle the problem is to 1. throw a tank of compressed air into his mouth, 2. shoot the tank, 3. watch the fun. (If you don't own a gun, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider reminds us a punch in the nose will shut a shark up.)

    Otherwise, have a nice summer. But stay out of the water; stick to DVDs (The Ring warns you off VHS); and if you do spot aliens, there are a few options. You could 1. flush them through an air shaft, as in Alien, 2. spill water on them, as in Signs, or simply 3. sneeze on them, as in War of the Worlds.

    And if all else fails, run.