Posts Tagged ‘EMP’

Doomsday Preppers: ‘Dr. Dave’

This not-terrible episode wraps up with a look at Dr. Dave Jensen of Colorado, who has supposed fears of an EMP.
© NatGeo/Sharp Entertainment
‘Dr. Dave’ (as the show insists on calling him) is a big proponent of holistic medicine, which really is only logical for a survival-minded person, because as he explains, our modern (read: unsustainable, Petrol Age) approach to dealing with sickness is “based on technology and prescription drugs”.
And so, the good doctor runs a clinic founded on ‘natural and alternative healthcare’ practices…or as it was known in the pre-petrol world, healthcare. Think acupuncture, herbal remedies, ‘traditional Chinese medicine’ and—because this is Colorado!—prescription cannabis.

Of those, the only one I have a problem with is the Chinese junk, mostly because of its obsession with body parts of critically-endangered animal species, but also because I think it’s a whole lotta placebo-effect bullshit. For example, if I was feeling crummy and someone reputable gave me an exotic-sounding tea made from fire-berries that are only found in the mountains of the Sun (or albino rhinoceros pancreas, or something), then I’d think it must be really special stuff!, and I’ll probably start to feel better.
Seriously, when one or two hundred species a day are going extinct, there’s really no good reason why this junk medicine should still be perpetuated—well, except for the one billion Chinamen claiming “it’s tradition!” Yeah, so is patriarchy; doesn’t make it worthwhile.

Because there’s not really too much else to discuss in this segment, here are some thoughts on medicine in a post-collapse/disaster world.
Let’s say hypothetically—even though I don’t believe in isolated scenarios, they make for good thought-experiments—some out-of-the-blue, Hollywood-style disaster (planetwide solar flare or something) goes down offscreen, knocking the civilized world down the ladder of technological progress a few rungs. With electronics now shiny doorstops, things are looking very similar to the early 19th century (instead of consuming Apple products, people are consuming actual apples again!)
Now, assuming that 1) pre-disaster, a sufficient number of people were well-versed in pre-modern medicine (I’m thinking plants with proven medicinal qualities—pennyroyal and willow, likesay, not Chinese powdered lily stamens or whatever), and 2) people remember how to pass on information without electronic intermediaries, what’s to say a happy balance couldn’t be struck between the advances of our current model and the healthcare approach of the recent past?
You know, when something is broken, it is acceptable to pick out and save the things that work and dispose of the rest. What’s worth saving in modern medicine? Antibiotics and sterile theory. What was good about medicine a few hundred years ago? How to heal folks with what Nature provides, without reliance on petroleum or complex technology.
Think of that wistful “I wish I knew then what I know now” sentiment, but applied to medicine.
Penicillin is easy to culture. At the minimum, how difficult is it to throw your medical instruments into boiling water? Ethanol is ridiculously easy to make. Honey is antibacterial…
Meh, as usual, I’m sick of the prevailing, Progress-based belief that if the Grid goes down, folks will immediately revert to trepanning each other with stone tools (which, of course, would require a functioning means of passing on information about both lithic industries and brain surgery!).
But, I digress.

This segment following Dr. Dave really felt more like the pre-Season Three iterations of DP, because there isn’t really a Big Dramatic Build-Project with him. He already has a greenhouse (thumbs-up!), a ’69 Airstream trailer (extra points for retro style!), and a pre-’78 truck and motorbike (no computers=EMP-proof, in theory).
We do see him add a solar panel to the top of his Airstream, to power his growlights and hydroponics setup.

And just for fun—because he’s all about pre-modern medicine—he takes the nuclear family foraging for leeches! Not to nitpick, Mr. Narrator, but is it foraging if the leeches aren’t going to be eaten? Whatever; semantics aside, you can’t go wrong with Mother Nature’s all-natural bloodsuckers. They’re certainly better than going all medieval and just sticking somebody with a sharp piece of iron to bleed them.
And old-time style points if you keep them in one of these jars:

The experts tell Dave he’s done a good job and his trailer project is commendable. Dave accepts graciously and says he’s happy with their assessment, because “it boils down to being sustainable”. Damn right, doc. Are you taking notes, would-be capital-p Preppers?

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Doomsday Preppers: Kevin Poole

The episode’s second profile is of Kevin Poole, whose family lives outside Washington DC, and is using this appearance to pimp his business, Triton Shelter Technologies Bunkers.

© NatGeo/Sharp Entertainment

Hypothetical disaster of choice: EMP.
Preparations: walk-in faraday room; private gun range to protect family (???); “manufacturing facility to produce anything [he] wants or needs”. Well, at least until the EMP goes down, at which point all those fancy machining mills and computerized cutting torches will count for nothing.
Building project: ‘Baby Bunker’.
Because all three of his daughters are—or have recently been—pregnant at the same time:
© NatGeo/Sharp Entertainment

Well, at least two-thirds of the daughters are at least hypothetically on-board with dad’s prepping, and make some dehydrated baby food. Hey, thumbs-up for dehydration; it’s the best.

Anyway, we spend the next 20 minutes watching yet another steel box (closely resembling a trash compactor) being welded together. Ugh. Once again, I completely fail to understand the thinking behind the prevalent idea of bunker-as-survival.
Are these people seriously thinking of living long-term in underground tin cans? Where’s your water going to come from? If you’re going to be relying on electricity for lights/heat/cooking— because nobody concerned about life without Juice ever actually considers living without Juice—how are you going to generate it? Where’s your waste going to go?
On this last point, Kevin at least spends a minute considering it, before adding a ten-foot pipe off the side of the bunker. I’m still not clear if the trash tube is just for household waste (like, food wrappers and papers?) or sewage? Either way, Kevin seems to think it’d be a good place to put a dead body—because suicide rates are really high in bunkers! Wow, can’t say I’m surprised. Huh, in that case, maybe buttoning up underground isn’t such a great idea?

Whatever, I have a feeling the bunker we’re seeing get built is maybe a show model for Kevin’s business. In which case, this segment is really a 20-minute advertisement.

During his closing remarks, Kevin proclaims how, “in America we have a lot of creature comforts that other countries don’t have. If you’re willing to work hard, you can gain anything, do anything you like. Live in any kind of home, drive any type of car, have a swimming pool, whatever you like!”
UGH. People, WAKE UP. That ‘American dream’ lifestyle of creature comforts, convenience, and consumption (and bunker-survival, too, for that matter) can only be possible because of abundant and cheap petroleum. Without the Black Stuff, it’s a dead-fucking-end.
And besides, if people like this continue to affirm that the single best thing about Amerika is the vast array of consumer goods one can purchase (after being coerced into willful slavery—exchanging one’s time for the idea of money—of course), we deserve collapse.

‘Doomsday Castle’ Episode 1

Well, they did it. They really did it. Throwing money and camera crews at deluded wannabe survivalists for one show wasn’t enough, so the ratings-hungry vultures at NatGeo (who really ought to be disowned by their parent entity, the eminently respectable National Geographic Society) have given Doomsday PreppersBrent Bruns his very own spin-off miniseries…‘Doomsday Castle’. Ohboy.

© NatGeo/Sharp Entertainment
For starters, it’s really quite funny how the producers have taken the family we last saw in a 20-minute segment of DP, and totally remade them into easily-consumable, airbrushed, up-to-Eleven, caricature-personalities properly befitting the ‘reality tv’ genre. Pappy Brent still makes self-important-sounding declarations to the camera, Dawn-Marie is still fairly levelheaded, DM’s twin brother is still young and cocky, the Spray-Tan Sisters are still ‘more primpers than preppers’, and Brent Jr is still…whatever he’s supposed to be (Gary Busey-in-training??), but whereas with their DP appearance, one could assume that we were just seeing a single facet of each person’s personality on-screen, here the idea seems to be that what we see is all there is to each. Ohwell, such is the nature of this repugnant genre.

And right off the bat, we have daddy dragging a pickaxe up the red-clay hill, narrating some macho dreck about The End Of Days, to the mellifluous tune of…Inception horns?!?! C’mon, you’ve got to be kidding!
In general, if you saw the family’s profile on ’Preppers, you’ve seen ’Castle. Brent I fears some sudden and unknown disaster (he’s gunning for—as he keeps saying—‘an EMPelectromagneticpulse’) which will befall the world, and instead of just spending a few thousand dollars on an underground prefab bunkertube like everyone else, he’s sunk nearly a million dollars into an ugly cinderblock structure on top of a North Carolina hilltop.
Note: Brent and everybody on the show will continue to refer to this structure as a ‘castle’, but don’t worry, it’s not. Honestly, I’d be totally fine with the whole undertaking if Brent just announced that he really wanted to own a Medieval Times franchise.

At one point Brent refers to the need for a “massive fortress that very few people could ever storm or tear down.” Well, massive it may be, but a fortress…it ain’t. A million dollars of cinderblocks and Portland cement in the form of a half-assed, lopsided design clearly built without defense in mind (unlike, something likesay a star fort) do not equal a fortress. At another point daddy-o predicts that “someday this castle is going to be under siege”. Yeah, from a strong wind. Really, I’m surprised that all those spindly, unbuttressed, one-brick-thick walls combined with the site’s hilltop location haven’t resulted in the whole thing getting blown down in a stiff breeze. To sum up: I’m really not a fan of people forgoing research into proper designs and methods, only to whip up something half-assed and calling it the real thing.

Anyway, in describing the effects of The End of Days brought on by an EMPelectromagneticpulse, papa smurf remarks that, “There’ll be no government that could help you, no neighbors that could help you, you’d be on your own!”, and so “the whole idea is to make us self-sufficient.”
Clearly, one of the negative effects of our American myth of rugged individualism is the mistaken-but-widespread belief in the solitary, self-sufficient mountain man, a myth which Brent clearly puts much stock in, as he foolishly picked a site in the middle of the North Carolina forest, far away from other potential survival-community-network members.

Reflecting the typical gung-ho, macho Type 1 prepper, Brent informs his offspring that “if we’re to survive a cataclysmic event, we need training!” Unfortunately, aside from astronomical or geological events, most human-caused disaster-producing events (which I would almost consider more likely) are almost never isolated! Long Emergency, much?

And so, to give them some of that needed training and in order to “show how vulnerable this family and this castle really are!”, Senior hires a small army of friends to ambush the newly-arrived kiddies. He really needn’t have bothered, because they don’t need an army of airsofters and paintballers, just a pack of firecrackers and a strong wind. Meh, there’s drama-stuff as everybody runs around; Brent’s friends get a chance to posture as tacticool Survivalist Men and assault them some women. So everybody ‘fails’ his little test, disappointing Brent, who brags how he “was an infantry training officer…I know the way a person needs to be trained.” Okay, mister One Right Way. If you say so.

Eventually, Brent reveals his plans to upgrade the castle with a drawbridge…and a moat!? Dude, you’re on the top of a mountain, ain’t no water gonna stay in a moat! He and Younger Son head out into the woods to shoot at steel plates to decide with which thickness they should clad their ‘drawbridge’. They shoot a .22 (pistol only, for some reason), as well as a .308 rifle, and a shotgun (at an unrealistic distance). What about a .22 rifle? Or a pistol in the 9mm/.40/.45 range? Or a 5.56 or an intermediate .30 rifle? If you really want to test these things, at least be thorough!

While they’re doing that, Jr and the girls are sent into the 2,000-square foot underground bunker basement (c’mon, let’s call it what it is) to get things organized. More concrete; how attractive; ugh.

Brent2 gets impatient and believes his potential is being wasted, and so he exasperatedly exclaims, ‘Let’s go find some supplies. I’m gonna fortify this bunker!” Dude, are you trying to sound like a video game character?

We take a pointless detour into Great Recession reality tv with a American Pickers-type segment in which B2 (with DM in tow) haggle over a local’s hoarded junkyard-yard.

Meanwhile, the Spray Tan Sisters eventually get the foodbuckets organized and beds assembled, and find time to put together some kind of improvised rat trap (utilizing bleach to drown the critter for some reason…bah, save it for disinfecting water).

Daddy and Younger Son get to work adding ‘drawbridge’ ‘hinges’ to a building probably not designed from the start with them in mind; they assemble their ‘drawbridge’ (thick, heavy-ass oak planks bolted to a couple of pipes) and it’s visibly wobbly and bending. I can’t say I’m surprised given the whole idea of Brent’s ‘castle’, but just ugh…the word craftsmanship has no place in a discussion of any part of this project.

With the thing installed, there’s some edited-for-drama b.s. as they’re raising the drawbridge right before the commercial break that amounts to nothing. (By the way, isn’t it kinda gauche to show ads for a show during that show’s timeslot? Maybe it’s just me.) Anyway it’s only once the thing is installed and raised in place do they decide to see how the steel plating does against an AR-15. What a surprise, it goes right through the steel (and very nearly splinters out the wood behind). What was the point of waiting until it was assembled and installed to test that???
And the stupidity gets even worse, when we pick up our b-plot (Brent Jr just wants daddy to love him!), in which Junior attaches junk to a lawn tractor and drives it into a half-assed-propped-up door. This apparently doesn’t please him, and so he then cuts down some trees, ratchet-straps them to a slightly larger vintage tractor, and proceeds to run it into the raised drawbridge—standing the tractor up onto its back wheels and tipping him out of the seat onto the ground. I honestly expected we’d see our first casualty, but damn, no Darwin Award for B2.

The rest of the series (thankfully they only got picked up for like, a 10-episode run)—which I will be neither watching nor covering here—looks just as bad as you’d expect.
However…If you enjoy the reprehensible entity that is ‘reality tv’…
Number one: such stuff is the fast-food of entertainment (entirely artificial, addicting, and ultimately harmful); get a life, read a book (might I suggest one of these?).
Number two: you should love this show. Everything I hate about the genre (which is to say, everything) is here in spades:


With all the ramping and frame-skipping – no wonder cognitive dissonance is on the rise!
Number three (and most encouragingly): you might be outnumbered on this one. I’m really pleased to see that a much larger number of people on the interwebz seem to have come out against NatGeo for promoting this kind of stuff.

ADDENDUM: for you curious folks out there, the ‘castle’ is located at 34°58’41.23″ N  82°43’37.96″ W (plug into GoogleEarth).

The Suburbs: ‘Month of May’

Man, when was the last time you heard a real rock-and-roll song that started with such a solid and sincere, “1, 2, 3, 4!”? It’s funny, while I’ve heard so many of Arcade Fire’s songs described as ‘anthemic’, not too many of them are real fist-in-the-air singalongs. Month of May, however, is definitely one:

Gonna make a record in the month of May
When the violent wind blows the wires away

This isn’t the first time on this album that we’ve heard about a wind blowing things around; the first time this thread was touched upon was in Rococo, which seems to serve as a companion piece to this song. However, while last time the wind was simply blowing around ashes, this time the wind is explicitly violent. Which begs the question: What is the violent wind? Is it a primitivist social movement, tearing down our culture’s machinery of enslavement (wires, &c.) like a force of nature? Is it a blast of radiation from a nuclear mushroom cloud (the EMP produced by high-altitude detonations could fry electronics and effectively “blow the wires away”)? Is it a massive solar flare, playing havoc with our unshielded power grid? Hmm…

Month of May, it’s a violent thing
In the city their hearts start to sing
Well, some people singing sounds like screaming
Used to doubt it but now I believe it

I believe the band has spoken in interviews how May is the time when Winter finally ends in Montreal, and everybody is full of an almost-violent energy with the promise of Spring. I’ve spent some time in Montreal, and it’s definitely the kind of place that would make my heart start to sing.
However, singing that “sounds like screaming” doesn’t sound too pretty. Is this the same as the “horrible song” being sung in Rococo? Butler has explained in interview that these songs were inspired by the Baroque period, and the notion that a beautiful piece of art could become “hideous and grotesque” by ‘turning it up to eleven’; the same could be said of the modern music industry, that it’s possible to take something decent and beautiful “and overdo it” into a rococo mockery of itself.

Month of May, everybody’s in love
then the city was hit from above
And just when I knew what I wanted to say
The violent wind blew the wires away

Traditional associations with May as ‘the lusty month’—all those young people’s springtime hormones—juxtaposed with violence. Once again, Butler’s songwriting exhibits a subversive undercurrent dealing with the destruction of our modern built environments.  I wonder if the city destroyed in this song is the same as the San Francisco of Half Light II?

We were shocked in the suburbs
Now the kids are all standing with their arms folded tight
Now, some things are pure and some things are right
But the kids are still standing with their arms folded tight
So young, so young, so much pain for someone so young,
Well, I know it’s heavy, I know it ain’t light
But how you gonna lift it with your arms folded tight?

Why were they shocked in the suburbs? As hinted at previously, is it because the ’burbs are designed to artificially insulate their inhabitants from the blows of Life? A city being “hit from above” is the kind of event that seems impossible (until it happens) to middleclass suburbanites. The rest of the verse is—like much of Rococo—another jab at that “certain breed of pseudorebellious youth”, the cynical hipster-types who are too-cool-for-school to uncross their arms to just get up and DANCE!

First the built they road, then they built the town
That’s why we’re still driving around and around and around…
(At least once at this point, Win has observed, “I don’t know where we are, but I know that something ain’t right”)

LLipton-Round&RoundAs brilliantly illustrated by pencil artist Laurie Lipton, it’s hard to break out of this vicious cycle of consumption, disconnection, and environmental destruction when the whole System is designed and built to encourage and reward those very evils.

2009, 2010—wanna make a record how I felt then
When we stood outside in the month of May
And watched a violent wind blow the wires away

Another reference to recent history (see Half Light II’s crashing markets) as Butler seems to break the fourth wall. So now we’re in the realm not of future dystopia but something that actually happened?

If I die in the month of May, let the wind take my body away,
I wish I may, I wish I might
Don’t leave me down there with my arms folded tight?
Start again in the month of May
Come on and blow the wires away

There are several songs on this album that speak of finally being able to start or begin, or starting again—this time, with fried wires. The destruction of the powergrid (or whatever) in the Springing of the year has given us an opportunity for a fresh start when we might connect with ourselves and the world—perhaps this time we will build the towns—if we build them at all—before we build the roads.

Doomsday Preppers: Freda

The series’ next episode (‘Let ‘Er Rip!’) opens with a visit to the Virginia homestead of Freda Stemick.
fredasHer producer-enforced single issue is “Chaos, caused by an EMP attack due to World War III.” The way she sees it, “we are setting the stages worldwide” for a nuclear shootin’ match, involving “somebody shooting a warhead in our direction”. To which I have to congratulate NatGeo on their perfect timing, seeing as how this episode comes a few days after Pyongyang decided to ratchet up their saber-rattling, abandon their armistice, and cut all ties with South Korea.

Freda is apparently descended from some of the Hatfield clan, so because she happens to still live in the woods of Virginia (instead of say, downtown Chicago), the producers rely heavily on that angle to play up the ‘backwoods’/‘folksy’ nature of the segment; if I were just a little bit more rhetorically-minded, I could probably say something about how the show’s constructed image serves to reinforce Appalachian stereotypes. Or something.

It’s probably a good sign that one of the first things out of Freda’s mouth is a declaration that her family has lived in the “mountains and valleys” of Virginia for hundreds of years. Could’ve fooled me – that doesn’t sound very Virginian. Here in Kan-tuck-kee, we call ‘em “hills an’ hollers”.
She goes on to talk about her great frontiersy forebears who “hacked their way through the wilderness” (which, remember, was only a wilderness because the indigs who’d been tending the place like a garden for thousands of years had been wiped out).

Because she’s aware of the unsustainable nature of our just-in-time distribution system, Freda’s put a big focus on making her homestead as self-sufficient as possible, starting with food. She and boyfriend Mike Davis keep a nice garden to produce fresh veg, most of which it seems they home-can. However, I noticed that their jars are—as we’ve too often seen—just out on shelves, unprotected with no shock buffers or anything to keep them from smashing to the floor. Remember, just because you’re preparing for one possible contingency doesn’t mean a different one can’t sneak up on you: a tornado or earthquake or inland hurricane could always come along and turn your larder into a pile of un-canned food and broken glass.
They also keep a number of chickens, with the intention of using eggs as a compact, versatile form of true wealth. In other words, Freda is the first person on the show to advocate a Barrelhaven-style, eggs-based barter economy! Finally!

Because she fears that having an arsenal of firearms would make her a target for a gun-grabbing government in the event of martial law, she has a bare minimum of traditional armament—twelve gauge shotgun, nine millimeter pistol, compound bow. However, her ever-crafty boyfriend has made a set of ‘throwing stars’ with which he is apparently a pretty good shot. Despite being a fan of improvised and handmade equipment, I’m always wary of single-use (weapon-only) items. Like I’ve said before, I find hatchet-throwing to be a useful skill.

While they’re supposedly in a pretty isolated area (though I saw big trucks passing through the trees several times) they’re concerned about smoke from their cooking fires attracting attention, so they decide to test out their solar oven!
Now, this is a subject with which I actually have experience, and so, some thoughts on the subject.
It should come as no surprise that I’m a big fan of solar cooking; over the years I’ve cooked or dehydrated bushels of apples, bananas, peaches, tomatoes, daylilies (even mini pizzas!), using nothing more than the free and abundant energy radiating from the nearest star.
I’m not really a fan of the design of the oven we see them use (it’s basically a wooden cold-frame with foil lining the bottom). Personally, I’ve used a folding, all-foil-covered reflector-based ‘Cook-It‘ to good effect in summer, but simplest is often better: some of my best dried peaches and daylilies were done simply with a cheesecloth-covered wooden frame, placed on a concrete slab, with a large pane of window glass over it. In fact, bugs don’t bother the food, because it’s actually too hot under the glass for them to stand it!

Now, for actual cooking like, a pot of maize and beans, I’ve never tried going solar. For that kind of meal, it’s usually recommended to use a dark-colored pot, inside a sealed, heavy-duty clear plastic bag, all placed on or in the oven for several hours.
However, for simply dehydrating food, this is hard to beat:

I don’t have a car, but I do have a solar oven that I occasionally drive.

The dashboard of a car with windows just slightly opened (to let the hot air circulate) can be an effective dehydrator from March on through October (in the northern hemisphere); hell, in high Summer it’ll get hot enough that you can do two batches per day!
Attentive viewers will note that while we see Freda put a small pig in the cooker, we never see the results of the experiment. As she explains, “we originally planned to put the pig on the campfire and bake bread in the oven but time got short for filming and the crew said “just throw the pig in the solar oven”… I took it out of there within an hour and threw it on the stove.”
However, as our caption reminds us—solar cooking really only works in areas with abundant sun: much of Africa comes to mind; the forested mountains of Appalachia—where the sun comes up about ten in the morning, and goes down about three in the day—do not.

With the food situation well under control, we learn that Freda’s homestead has not one, not two, but three sources of fresh water (a flowing creek, artesian well and pump well?). Mike puts on his diy hat again, and comes up with a turbine wheel to put in the stream to make some free hydroelectricity. I don’t know if it actually charged their batteries, but if so, it’s pretty sweet.

Then they show off their ultimate “perimeter defense weapon”, which as it turns out, is Mike’s homemade catapult…of sorts.
It’s counterweighted like a trebuchet, but the counterweight isn’t articulated, which gives it an arc of swing more like a mangonel. Either of those designs can be solid when they’re followed (back in high school, I built an eleven-foot oak treb that could throw big rocks about 200 feet), but unfortunately this design borrows from both types and doesn’t perform particularly well. Or maybe it would, if they’d thrown something with some weight (like one of the many pumpkins we see lying around?), instead of the negligible-mass ‘throwing stars’.
Actually, I think the best solution in this case might be for Mike to trade his “catapult” to Brent (to go with his “castle”!) in exchange for some long guns to properly defend their wooded homestead.

The experts say her food plan is great, now she should stock up on medical supplies. They give her 56 points, for seven months’ initial survival. I don’t know why, but that seems low to me. Anyway, it’s always nice to see self-reliant country folks instead of the gung-ho beans-n-bunkers types.

Doomsday Preppers: Captain Bill Simpson

We next move on to the prepping strategy of Bill Simpson, aka Captain William E. Simpson the Second.
As his NatGeo profile proclaims, he is “a U.S. Merchant Marine Officer with decades of boating and expedition sailing experience, who has successfully survived long-term off the grid at remote uninhabited desert islands.” He is also apparently the author of the forthcoming book The Nautical Prepper, which I’m guessing was his reason for agreeing to appear on the show (we’ve yet to see a true ‘Joann and Cletus’ off-the-street prepper; everybody always has something they’re pimping).

Like Doug the Rock Man, whose prepping revolved around his livelihood (in his case, selling Really Big Rocks), Bill’s approach is reflected in his maritime lifestyle.
And for what specific contingency is he preparing? A “geomagnetic storm”, (translates to Big Solar Flare), which he believes would have the effect of a planet-wide EMP, knocking out the electrical grid and sending our modern technocivilization into ruin. To counter that threat, he has spent several years (and half a million dollars) designing and building a 70-foot-long, 90-ton steel boat (at what point does a Boat become a Ship?) he calls the Iron Maiden.

In his estimation, such a big-ass boat—made of 3/8” steel—will function as a giant floating Farraday cage, protecting his radar and such delicate instruments from the effects of the solar flare-up. Now, I am by no means an electrical engineer, but something about that seems kinda…off…to me. Maybe because I’m picturing a solar-storm-EMP like a bolt of lightning?, and I’m pretty confident a metal watercraft is just about the least-safe place to be in a lightning storm. I dunno.

Anyway, Captain Bill’s basic premise with his nautical prepping is that a boat is the anti-bunker. In other words, instead of being holed up underground in a concrete box, breathing stale air and eating canned peaches, his boat allows him complete…freedom of the seas, as it were. Assuming one likes seafood, it’s not a bad notion.
To give this a test, Bill has invited a group of family members and family friends for a 70-mile, multi-day trip down the Columbia River to the sea. While they’re on this voyage, they’ll live off some of the 2,000 pounds of staples which Bill has stored on the Iron Maiden. Alright, pretty impressive. It’s good to have stuff to fall back on if the fishing is bad. Of course, he hasn’t stored any citrus-y fruit or anything rich in vitamin C (t’ fight off th’ scurrrrrrvy, yarr!), but that’s okay because he plans on gathering seaweed, which is apparently rich in it. At this point a caption pops up to remind us that a daily requirement of vitamin C would require eating five pounds of seaweed!

 Eventually they go ashore to practice using all of Bill’s improvised defensive weaponry: spearguns, harpoons, &c. Then they break out the real goodies—Bill’s flare gun! They waste some shells shooting at logs, and then use one to start a petrol fire! Somehow I guess the idea was to deliver the gas onto an enemy boat via Molotov cocktail, shoot the flare at it, and then speed away while they burned up. Or something. Not the best use of resources, if you ask me.

At least then we get to see some actual practical skills—Bill demonstrates wound-suturing on a chicken breast (which they hilariously set up to look like Grandson Billy’s arm)…GREAT sight gag!:
© NatGeo/Sharp EntertainmentThumbs-up on that, because knowing how to stitch up wounds is one of those skills that could definitely come in handy in a long-term disaster scenario. Best learn how and practice such skills now, before the time comes when you might need it.

And then there’s the format-enforced Big Dramatic Stunt, involving ramming the boat into a dinghy of ‘pirates’. Meh.

However, it does remind me of the joke where the bosun goes below deck and announces that all the oarsmen are to get a double measure of grog! Everybody starts to celebrate, until he announces…“But the Captain wants to waterski!” *rimshot*

In the experts’ assessment, they tell Bill not to rely on deepwater fishing; something to do with poor yields? I dunno, but I don’t think they’re worried about it for the same reason I would be. Witness the fact that the world’s oceans are rapidly becoming acidified and deoxygenated, leading to massive die-offs of phytoplankton (the foundation of all ocean food-chains).
The experts also tell Bill to store water, just in case his onboard desalination plant should fail. Like I’ve said before, ‘Practical Preppers’ job on this show is really just to reinforce the misguided belief that the consumption-and-hoarding-based Type I/Bunker model of prepping is the One Right Way. Bah. The Captain dismisses their criticisms on the basis that they apparently have no experience with life at sea, which is probably true. He then makes a quip about how their idea of being prepared is just “a piece of flat land with some chickens”. Ha ha ha.
Strangely enough, however, even though his nomadic, nautical approach is just about the furthest thing from the mode the so-called ‘experts’ advocate, they still give Bill 83 points (a new high!), for eighteen months’ initial survival.

With regards to making saltwater drinkable, I’m a big fan of solar stills, which can be improvised with any number of readily-found materials. Here’s a link to build a simple one of your own!

Doomday Preppers: Derek Price

The second group featured in the ‘superbunker’ episode is Derek Price of Bear Grass, North Carolina.
Daniel, Haven, and Derek PriceDerek and his family run Deadwood, a Wild West-themed park that they use as a profitable cover for their prepping activities.

Price is worried about a solar flare and/or EMP that will “end civilization and send us back to the wild west!” A bit later on he says something about how he fears a disaster that would be responsible for “sending our way of life at least back to the wild west.”
There are a couple of things that need to be dealt with in those statements. First off, our conception of the so-called ‘Wild’ West is largely a result of Hollywood Westerns and dime-store novels.
Second, as long as people keep thinking like this, the only result of something like a massive solar flare or EMP would be a regression in our level of technology; Derek’s statements reveal Our Culture’s assumption that civilized people in our past somehow lived differently than we do today. The fact of the matter is—technological inflation aside—our ‘way of life’ is the same as that of the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, English, and just about every other Empire of the last 6,000 years or so. The Old West, even in its non-Hollywood reality, was still Civilized.

However, yet again, the real fear isn’t having to live without juice, but the “lawless days that might ensue if society breaks down due to loss of electricity.” I wonder if learning to live with less electricity would be a good start? Y’know, wean ourselves off?, so that when the effects of peak oil (which already happened, by the way) dramatically rear their heads, we’ll be used to it? I’m a big fan of the Transition Town movement.
So, while his driving concern is the same as everyone else’s, in a departure from others on the show, Derek is at least able to admit and possibly embrace his paranoia and obsession. It’s a nice change of pace from the suburban folks who look at the camera and say, “I’m not crazy!” as they stack cases of astronaut food; Derek just shrugs and says, “Eh, maybe I am.”

Derek gets together with his brother Daniel (ex-military type) to review possible sniper positions around Deadwood. To patrol their property, they use their miniature train powered by biodiesel. That’s pretty shiny. Then they cut some bamboo punji sticks. Some folks will say, “Bamboo in North Carolina?” It’s not native (though related to native river-cane, which once choked the banks of all the big rivers in the Ohio valley) but I say it’s a sustainable, sturdy material; go for it.
They stick the punjis in the ground, test ‘em out with some kind of dummy, and determine that the intruder would be lethally wounded. Daniel seems pleased, and remarks, “…that person’s dead, and that’s what we want!” WOW. I don’t think we’ve yet heard such blatant death-mongering on this show. Along the same lines, earlier one of the Prices remarks that “If an EMP were to hit, this is where I’d want to make my final stand.” Right, because like everyone else in this terminal death-culture, you’re at war with the world.

And then they wheel out the CANNON. Yes, you read that right. Cannon. I guess they have several around the park for demonstrations and ‘atmosphere’, and they want to see about using them for defense. So, to test the shot spread (to find out if it’s an effective defensive weapon?) they load it with plastic BBs and Pydrodex-type ‘gunpowder’, and then take about five tries to get it to fire. No wonder! Swap the modern powder for some good old-fashioned Black Powder, none of that needs-open-flame-to-ignite junk.
The whole cannon Charlie Foxtrot leads Derek to conclude that “vintage weapons are unreliable.” Hmm, do I detect the voice of Our Mother Culture and her myth of Progress (newer is always better)? If you think vintage weapons are unreliable, I suggest you visit your nearest frontier rendezvous shooting-match, and watch some of the old-timers use their handmade flintlocks to reach out and touch small targets at ridiculous distances.
Also, I understood the cannon was supposed to be part of their wild west show? If so, why do they act like they’ve never used it before?

As part of their anti-intruder techniques, Derek is teaching his son to “patrol in the dead of night”, which is funny…because it looks like the middle of the day the way they seem to have every light in the place switched on. What I don’t get is this: if they’re supposedly preparing for a scenario where the grid doesn’t exist, you’d think they would practice in a situation that approximated what they expect to deal with. Y’know, like with the lights off?

So, they want to do an invaded-by-marauders drill. They divide up into two teams and make their battle plans. Our narrator informs us that they’re wielding “real weapons…but the safeties are on.” Doesn’t matter; firearms should always be assumed to be loaded, and if they are (I swear I heard someone chamber a round), relying on a manmade mechanical device still doesn’t mean they’re safe.
Then there’s the bit when Derek’s eleven-year-old says he’s going to “get his assault rifle”. Ohboy. That’s exactly the sort of thing—especially in this post-Newtown environment—that will give the anti-gun lobby some very potent ammunition (pun…intended?)

In their analysis of his preparations, the experts tell him to beef up his water storage; Derek counters that he can filter (what’s already naturally-occurring on his property?). In the end, he gets 68 points, which now somehow works out to twelve months (funny, the last guy got eleven months for the same amount)?

In the post-filming update, Derek and his dad demonstrate the hand-pumped well they’ve put in. Nice to see a slightly more Appropriate level of technology to get their necessary liquids (compare to Bryan Smith who insisted on hooking his aquifer up to electric pumps and fossil fuel-dependent generators).