Posts Tagged ‘masculinity’

Doomsday Preppers: Firefighter Mark

It seems they’ve saved the best for last, because this is possibly the most over-the-top, ridiculously-deluded prepper profile we’ve seen yet—but if you take it with a truckload of salt and remember that we’re just seeing grown men ‘playing Army’ and goofing off, it might help keep you from wanting to repeatedly bang your head against the wall:

Our final (thank goddess!) segment finds us in Georgia, following around one Mark Sanders:

click the pic for Mark’s youtube channel of apparently random bullshit!

Right off the bat, Mark wants us to know that he really takes his self-identification as an Amurikan capital-P Prepper seriously. ‘Wolverines!’ sticker on his OD jeep, extraneous stars&stripes bandana on his shotgun, &c.…
Mark’s cooked-up paranoia is of a “foreign occupation of the Yoo-nited States of Amurika”. At least he’s not so misguided as to believe we’ll be occupied by terrorists (I’ve already commented here on the interplay between terrorism/occupation).
However, Mark does state right from the get-go that he believes “it’s gonna be like Red Dawn!”: y’know, with Russian paratroopers and stuff. As we’ll see throughout the segment, that particular piece of 1980s Cold War jingoism seems to take up a significant portion of Mark’s thought process (my guess is, he saw the flick in theaters as a youngling and has been fixated on it ever since).

We see him do the requisite food hoard show-off (six months worth) and then get right into the meat of our Prepper Build Project: Mark and his band of firefighters/paramilitary wannabes decide it’d be a worthwhile endeavor to make a ‘Trojan Horse’ out of a 500-gallon propane tank, y’know, so they can ‘get into the enemy base’. Ohboy.

But…they don’t get very far in their building project before they decide to test their mettle by waterboarding each other. Seriously. At least I’m 90% sure that’s what they did; I dunno, I don’t think it’s one of those things you can really fake for TV, and they come across as just crazy enough to do something like that.

For some reason or other, we also see the guys try cooking up some homemade sugar-and-potassium-nitrate smoke bombs. I really, really hope they got the recipe from a 1980s dial-up text-based bulletin board system, just ‘for teh lulz.’ Seriously, this is what my friends and I did in high school, so again, I feel I should stress that we’re just seeing grown men goofing off in this segment.

So, what exactly is their half-baked plan to ‘infiltrate the enemy base’? Apparently it involves leaving the tank (with the guys in it??) in a public place where they hope their occupying enemy will happen by with a hankering for some propane, at which point they’ll immediately tow it back to their ‘enemy base’, leaving Mark and the boys to pop out and yell “Wolverines!”

They believe accomplishing this requires adding a ‘periscope’ (tiny mirror on a wire) to their propane tank, cutting a man-sized hole in the bottom of the tank, putting said tank on a trailer, and equipping said trailer with a trapdoor and yet another spike-strip ‘trap’ for following vehicles.
To ‘test’ their ‘plan’, Mark and his boys all squeeze into the tank with their guns and nightvision and body armor and junk, and then sit tight and wait to get picked up by an enemy tow truck.

When one just happens by, their group’s other member follows the truck in his vehicle and keeps in constant contact with Mark (via radio headset, of course!). However, in an actual occupied scenario (with curfews and such in place, remember), I really don’t think there’s any way their buddy would be able to tail them in the tank and provide radio tips.

Once they’re in place, just listen to the way Mark explains their plan—“Team 33 is getting ready to bail out, cause havoc behind enemy lines!” Man, so much puffed-up swagger. And when they’re done? “We were able to get behind enemy lines; it was nothing less than brilliant, it was executed perfect!” Yeah, okay, if you say so.

What I want to know is this: why don’t we see—instead of all this camo-clad macho posturing with his bros bullshit—how Mark deals with four small children and an unseen wife on a bug-out to their retreat location? Oh right, because that’s a scenario people might actually learn something from watching, especially as it’s the far more likely situation!

Meh, I am so done with this show; <micdrop> I’m out.


Doomsday Preppers: ‘the Lifeboat’

Season Three’s last episode—which I really hope will also be DP’s last as a series—starts off in south-central Texas, with a group of would-be survivors under the leadership of a fellow named Joe:
Joe’s segment of the episode feels like a throwback to seasons one and two, as this time it seems there’s no big Prepper Project to fixate upon and fetishize.
He’s worried about an impending cyber-attack, which he believes would see America “reduced to horse-and-buggy days, or at best the 1950s”. I’m not really sure what to make of that, I guess mid-20th-century tech was more analog than today’s digital gadgets, but they still ran on copious amounts of electric Juice, and so were still very much reliant on the grid.

In the requisite show-off-the-goodies bit, ‘nam vet Joe has stockpiled his little group of 28 with two years worth of food, 1500 gallons of water (which, at a gallon per person per day, is less than two months worth, so I hope they have a resupply plan), and a fancy ‘communications center’ full of radios he hopes to use to contact fellow survivalists.

There’s a segment where Joe and his well-educated wife D’Ann (pronounced Dee-Ann, apparently) get some folks together and talk about setting up formal schooling for their little post-disaster colony. Y’know, because as Joe says, “to reestablish society (*eye twitch*), you’re going to need education.”
Dude, don’t worry—when our culture’s little civilizational experiment goes belly-up sooner (more likely) or later (as it will, unless our dominant paradigm—Business-As-Usual—changes), the folks still hanging around will still be learning, just as people were learning long before our culture came along and started building pyramids. However, I’d probably bet their learning won’t be spent in a series of concrete boxes, in a little uncomfortable desk for nearly half the day for twelve years, memorizing the names of dead, old white men and the dates of battles against less civilized Others, probably all while being advertised at. I’d bet their ‘education’ won’t be designed to keep them out of the labor market until an arbitrary age at which point some of them will go become the reliable worker/consumer-cogs they’ve been trained to be, while some will go on to more of the same type of ‘education’, proving they can sit in little desks for four more years, before going on to be slightly-higher-paid worker/consumer-cogs. Because that’s how education works when your culture’s Way Of Life revolves around keeping your head down, being obedient, and collecting green paper (to be exchanged for locked-up food).
This piece does a good job exploring the issue, but in a less-grumpy package! Basically, children learn best when they’re allowed to follow their own interests and learn organically.
Unfortunately, Joe’s little post-disaster school begins by making an improvised blackboard, which is fine if your education system is all about rote memorization and sitting in rows. Then they weed through a bunch of donated books to be ‘preserved’ against digital obsolescence. They put a priority on ‘The Classics’ and Math and Science. I wonder how many of those ‘classics’ they themselves have read, and appreciate, and how many they’re just keeping around because they’re ‘The Classics’?

And then the other shoe drops, when Joe declares that he is “developing a lifeboat to ensure the continuation of humanity.”
Wait, what? Is he suggesting that his digital disaster of choice could somehow make the human species extinct? I understand that he’s worried about a “Level Three cyber-attack that will disable our tech-driven culture” (to which I roll my eyes and say sarcastically, ‘Oh no…’), but maybe I missed something along the way where he makes the leap from ‘grid-down’ to ‘Extinction-Level Event’?

Regardless, here’s (one of the many places) where self-identified preppers and I part ways. Folks on this show always frame their fear-arguments in terms of what would be lost in the event of their disaster of choice. I, on the other hand, imagine what would be gained (or regained) should something happen to cause our culture to take a little trip down the complexity ladder it’s built for itself.

Anyway, in the course of all this lifeboat-retreat-group stuff, there’s some father-figure drama between Joe and Welder Wes (a ‘security specialist with military experience’ who just comes across as a fuckup). There’s also some go-nowhere fluff where Wes tries to set off yet another improvised trap involving a shotgun shell (in the name of ‘perimeter defenses’). You know you’re dealing with Old Minds when borders are ‘hard’ (instead of fluid) and to be defended with force.
And, really? We’re meant to believe that their crack ‘military strategist’, a supposed ‘former Navy SEAL’, is this toothless cowboy-hobo ‘Catfish’? Give me a break.

What’s halfway framed as their Prepper Project is the guys putting a little work in getting their gyrocopter to fly. I dunno, while it looks like a helluva lot of fun to tool around in a small aircraft with apocalyptic pedigree:
the great Bruce Spence in 'The Road Warrior', for you unfortunates(and who wouldn’t love a bird’s-eye view of your own backyard?), it also looks pretty complex. To paraphrase Max Brooks, “How many moving parts are there in a [gyrocopter]? I don’t know, but it only takes one to break and take it offline.”

As his little sum-up segment, Joe espouses how “We live in a very fragile world that we created for ourselves. We’re reliant upon systems that are reliable as long as they’re untouched, but once they fail we’re in real trouble.”

Why is it that while I often agree with these folks’ opening and closing statements, it’s the in-between parts that leave me banging my head against the wall?

Doomsday Preppers: Richard Huggins

Season 3 continues with a not-terrible episode “No Stranger to Strangers”. We’re back in Texas, but this time it’s not as belligerently chest-thump-y.
On the side of a highway outside the DFW metropolis lives Richard Huggins.
© NatGeo/Sharp EntertainmentThe show has him claim to be preparing for a “Nuclear attack by a terrorist state”. For a historical-pictorial discussion of that phrase, please see my post on Mike Adams’ segment from last season.

Richard shows off his three years’ worth of food stored up, much of it home-canned, which is always good to see: it shows he and his wife realize there’s more to being prepared than simply buying foodbuckets.

From what I can gather, Richard’s machinist’s shop is focused on special effects fabrication, which throws almost everything we see of him into question. When he claims that he has “300 weapons ranging from a crossbow to a Thompson”, I have to wonder how many of those are actual functional weapons, and not ‘dummy guns’ (blank-firing or otherwise) or props that he might rent out to film companies.

Honestly, with that in mind, from what we see of Richard, I wouldn’t even call him a prepper. He really just looks like a movie-weapon-replicator/prop-supply-house-owner with a classy character moustache, who just happens to own a 1919 Browning (and probably a few other real weapons too—this is Texas, after all).

That BMG takes center stage in Richard’s ‘preps’, as—after he turns a car into Swiss cheese—he settles in with his buddy Seth to put together a ‘pillbox’ and ‘grenade launcher’. As a last line of defense against city-fleeing refugees, they install ‘claymore’ mines—although like I’ve said, given what we know about Richard, I’m pretty sure that C4 he’s packing into those empty claymore shells is Play-doh or something. There’s some drama when the ‘teargas’ from his grenades starts wafting back towards their position, and then when the ‘mines’ don’t immediately go off when they throw the switch. Meh, smoke and mirrors.

Probably the best part of this segment is Richard’s buddy Seth’s comment at the end, when he says of Richard, “He’s old-school…but it works!”. People have said the same about me before, and it’s a sentiment I wish the tacti-happy survivalists (and the larger community of consumers in general) would adopt. I’ve written about it before, but when the dominant paradigm is an Ancient Sunlight-fueled culture of disposability, embracing the so-called ‘old-school’ should only be natural for those with a desire to survive the ongoing decline of that fragile system.

Doomsday Preppers: Tyler Smith

Season three continues with the episode ‘We Are the Marauders’, a title that thankfully only applies to one of the folks profiled.
Like I said at the beginning of the season, unless I see good things (demonstrating positive, life-affirming attitudes, progressive thinking, and real solutions) or jumping-off points for serious issues that need discussing, I’m keeping these short. And unfortunately, this guy’s profile is probably the least ‘good’ we’ve seen yet.

© NatGeo/Sharp Entertainment

All the production values and dramatic lighting in the world can’t disguise the fact that he has a BudK hunting knife bolted to his arm.

The short and sweet version goes like this: Tyler Smith (and a group of his family/friends/neighbors) apparently has no interest in increasing his disaster preparedness by stockpiling beans, bullets, and band-aids. Instead, he’s got it in his head to be a ‘marauder’ (of the sort regular survivalist guys always bring up as the reason they have fortified bunkers and multiple firearms per person)…and to broadcast this intention on television.

Although it’s not mentioned on the show, a little digging reveals that Tyler “is the leader of Spartan Survival”, a group “founded…in 2005 to train and prepare others on survivalism” with “more than 80 dues-paying members.” Note that he’s not described as the Owner or Instructor of his outfit, like you might see with someone with a legitimate wilderness survival school like Cody Lundin’s Aboriginal Living Skills School or Creek Stewart’s Willow Haven Outdoor. Similarly, such actual schools have paying students, not “dues-paying members”. Basically, what this boils down to is that Tyler has managed to put together his own personal local militia, with himself installed at the top. How he managed to sucker in so many people is beyond me, because he creeps me right the fuck out. Oh well, “hard times flush the chumps”, or something.

And hey, while we’re talking ‘marauders’, here’s some food for thought from Cormac McCarthy on the type of post-disaster-warlord private army I’m sure ol’ Tyler would love to rule.

He woke in the morning and turned over in the blanket and looked back down the road through the trees the way they’d come in time to see the marchers appear four abreast. Dressed in clothing of every description, all wearing red scarves at their necks. Red or orange, as close to red as they could find. … An army in tennis shoes, tramping. Carrying three-foot lengths of pipe with leather wrappings. Lanyards at the wrist. Some of the pipes were threaded through with lengths of chain fitted at their ends with every manner of bludgeon. They clanked past, marching with a swaying gait like wind-up toys. Bearded, their breath smoking through their masks. The phalanx following carried spears or lances tasseled with ribbons, the long blades hammered out of trucksprings in some crude forge up-country. They passed two hundred feet away, the ground shuddering lightly. Tramping. Behind them came wagons drawn by slaves in harness and piled with goods of war and after that the women, perhaps a dozen in number, some of them pregnant, and lastly a supplementary consort of catamites illclothed against the cold and fitted in dogcollars and yoked each to each. All passed on.

 Anyway, why he believes it’s necessary to be a roving band of marauders is beyond me, seeing how he claims to have a fifteen-acre rural property, which could probably very easily be converted into a self-reliant off-grid compound, doing away with the need to wander in search of supplies.

Oh, and they have three kids—aged three, two, and one newborn—which brings to mind the term ‘brood mare’. Of course, the latest one is still in utero during the segment, so if you like getting the willies, just think about this guy giving a DIY cesarean in the barn. Really. I trust this guy about as far as I could throw him.

Now, because his survival plan is to simply roam around and help himself to other folks’ stuff—and said folks wanting said stuff for themselves—he expects to get shot at. And instead of letting that possibility act as the impetus to reassess his survival plan, he decides to enlist the help of his skeezy cousin Jesse Pinkman Chris and make some homemade ‘body armor’.
His wife asks him if he’s going to build her a suit of armor, too? Tyler indicatively replies, “No, you’re going to be a stay-at-home prepper, dealing with all the stuff I kill” Of course! Because a societal collapse couldn’t also mean collapse of patriarchy, enforced outdated gender roles, and macho posturing, right?
Their recipe involves woven fiberglass, bathroom tiles, roofing tar, and of course, duct tape.
Honestly, I’m confused…because it looks like once they make their (not-)bulletproof tiles, then they go ahead an make a ‘suit’ out of steel plate and some mesh stuff? Anyway, it’s about what you’d expect from guys who not only don’t know what they’re doing, but also have no sense of aesthetics (I have a very bad feeling that such postapocalyptic function-before-form will be the death of craftsmanship as we know it). Tyler puts on the ‘suit of body armor’ and cousin sycophant proceeds to ‘test’ it by hitting with rocks, pipes, and a 12-gauge shot across the bow…which is to say, he never comes close to actually shooting him. Some have suggested they actually took the shot out of the shell.

In the end, despite his overcompensating and posturing as a hardcore, ultimate badass survivalist ‘apex predator’…I don’t think anyone is afraid of Tyler. Thankfully, the general interwebs consensus seems to be that “He’s an asshat”, as well.

And so, folks living around Tacoma, Washington, you’ve been warned. You’ve got a volatile idiot in your midst. Take care.

‘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).

Doomsday Preppers: Jason Beacham

Up next is young Jason Beacham from Missouri:
I was curious to see how this kid comes across on the show, because he’s…well, a kid; at age fifteen, Jason is the youngest subject thus far profiled on the show. I’m willing to try and go easy on him, and cut him a certain amount of slack on account of being fifteen. I would definitely not have wanted a film crew following me and my friends around when we were that age (though it would’ve been way more exciting what with the blackpowder mortar and all), so I guess there’s a certain amount of courage—or foolhardiness—at work there. While I don’t think there’s anything wrong with youngsters getting into disaster preparedness, the way this kid goes about it is a little disconcerting.

So, the issue he claims to be preparing for is “anarchy following economic collapse”. Jason’s first order of business should be to take off his cultural blinders and realize that Anarchy doesn’t mean moustache-twirling and bomb-throwing anymore: if you’ve ever dreamed of living in a world free of domination (whether from corporations, nation-states, arbitrary laws, patriarchy, racism, homophobia, &c., you might be an anarchist.
Unfortunately, he apparently intends to face this imagined challenge by abandoning his mom and siblings when the going gets tough, because they don’t really support his prepping activities. Now, this show has already shown families in which one party isn’t interested in the other’s prepping, but they still go along with it because, hey, they’re family. Not in this case; Jason’s mom seems to spend a lot of the segment looking like she expects him to start killing puppies or something at any moment. Granted, I think her apprehensiveness comes from the fact that he approaches preparedness the way most fifteen-year-old boys would (showy weapons and gas masks first, then food and water as an afterthought), which isn’t surprising for someone whose introduction to survival issues was the recent wave of Zombie 2.0 movies. (see my post from last year for more on this). Regardless, by not including his mom in his activities, he’s missing out on learning skills that could come in handy in a long-term situation—things like food canning, sewing, &c.
Now, while I still think his mom has her head in the sand (she asks him, “Don’t you wish you were like everybody else and didn’t worry?”), I can understand her concern with her son’s fixation with preparedness (There’s a funny bit where Jason looks into the camera and explains that he’s “not obsessed with prepping…”, as the camera pans across his four gas masks on a shelf. Hilarious editing!). Like when he shows off his arm-sword thing, straight out of the BudK ‘Display-Weapons-R-Us’ catalog. And when he brings out his ‘maceball bat’…oh boy.

Now, maybe I was spoiled by having been brought up generally old-timey, but I was taught that one should take pride in his work, and don’t do stuff half-assed. This kid’s project reminds me of this wannabe pyro guy I hung out with back in grade school who kept a stash of what he called ‘chemicals’ under his bed…that were just bottles of like, shampoo.
Witness the evolution of the interplay between makebelieve and craftsmanship. When you’re a little kid, you pick up a stick, call it a bat and fight invisible zombies. When you’re a little older, you pick up a toy baseball bat and beat on your friends when you’re playing Zombies and Survivors. When you’re a teenager, you halfassedly pound nails into a bat and call it a formidable weapon for use against speculative zombies in the future. And then there’s taking your time to cultivate useful skills (maybe you learn woodturning and make the bat on a lathe!) and gather proper materials, so you can actually make something you can show off and be proud of, and keep beside the bed to defend your family. This is a good argument for why we should bring back Shop Class in schools.
And personally, if I was in need of a homemade mace, I would’ve used like, sixteen-penny nails, drilled pilot holes, and hammered them all the way through so the heads would be flush, like so (compare with Beacham’s method on the left):

And naturally, once he brings out the bat he just has to test it, so the poor watermelon gets the Gallagher treatment. Of course, it would have been similarly liquefied just from being hit with a normal bat, and I don’t think the half-assed nails really did much. Plus, if you want to realistically test weapons on pumpkins/watermelons/coconuts/whatever, don’t put the test subject on the ground, put it at about shoulder-height. Of course the bat’s going to obliterate it with five feet of swing behind it!

Luckily, Jason isn’t totally a lone wolf, and he has a friend with whom he practices survival skills, and they decide to go on an adventure with another youngster who they might recruit into their fold. So they put on their packs and go walk around in some long grass until they find an abandoned building, and decide to camp there for the night. Well, they need a fire for cooking and heat, so they build one. Out of eight-foot-long lumber. In the corner of the room. As you might expect, it gets way out of hand, and the flames start licking the ceiling. Somehow they get it put out (there’s a hilarious shot of one of the guys splashing water from a liter bottle on the fire. I don’t think it had much effect). At the end of the night, they decide to let the third guy join their ‘group’ on account of having common sense (a rare commodity among teenagers), and give him a scrap of ratty camouflage to put on his pack. Now, I’m all in favor of making your own ceremonies and rituals and culture all diy-like, but again, make it something you can be proud of and have some style about it (back in high school, when my guy-friends and I got together and formed ourselves a group, we taught ourselves how to card-weave and made old-timey wool armbands for ourselves!).
Well, the kids use the near-disaster of their survival practice to “learn what to work on”—I would suggest perhaps learning how to build a proper fire—and assess what they feel confident in knowing—“we’re ready to make a shelter we can stay in”—no dude, you found an abandoned building and almost burned it down. Start small and learn to build debris huts.
In the assessment, the experts give him 50 out of 100 points, computed to four months’ survival time.

In the end, while it’s good to see young people getting involved in preparing for uncertainties in their future, I wish Jason would take a more balanced, productive, and sustainable approach (I know that’s asking a lot for most people, teenagers especially). Joining a Venturing crew would be a great first step, providing all the benefits of Boy Scouts (older male role models, practical skills, comradeship &c.) but co-ed!, as would be taking some survival courses, or maybe going to an Appleseed shoot to improve his marksmanship, and developing a skillset or two that would be applicable to longterm disasters—gardening, woodworking, blacksmithing, candlemaking, anything!

Doomsday Preppers: Michael James Patrick Douglas

The series’ fifth episode begins by featuring Michael James Patrick Douglas, a bushcraft teacher who lives on 30 acres in rural Maine.

The producer-enforced worry in this case is overpopulation, which is a good one to focus on—it’s probably the shatterpoint that will determine the course of the next fifty years or so.

As a primitive skills teacher, he definitely has low-tech solutions to things, which I like. Instead of electronic perimeter alarms to warn of intruders, Mike teaches his family to rely on the flighty nature of songbirds. Which, of course, requires them to have a deep understanding of dozens of calls; I’m impressed. Instead of normal hunting weapons, they practice using rabbit sticks. For defense, they have a bunch of tomahawks (which the teenage son unnecessarily twirls around like a flashy videogame character).

Apparently, he doesn’t have any guns—because he doesn’t want to be dependent on bullets, which he perceives will become increasingly scarce post-disaster. While I agree with that idea, I do think it’s kind of naïve. Unless you’re going to be a silent, invisible injun archer shooting invaders from behind trees (and I didn’t see any archery going on), keep a few rifles around—even a .22 would be good for hunting small game. If you’re concerned about being beholden to modern bullets, what’s wrong with a flintlock? Blackpowder (as opposed to modern smokeless powder) can be made at home pretty easily, lead balls are easy to cast, and I would bet he already has a good source of flint on hand.

A sizeable part of this segment focuses on Mike taking his middle child out in the woods to test his skills of debris shelter-building and firestarting. Although throughout the segment the kid is shown as being uninterested in the dad’s drive for self-reliance, I have it on good authority that the kid was told to play it up for the producer to inject some drama. In the end, they build an awesome debris shelter, light a fire, and have some quality father-son bonding time. Apparently, dad has kept each kid’s umbilical cord preserved to give them on just such an occasion, to symbolize they are no longer children. It’s kind of a weird way to do it, but hey, rites of passage are sorely lacking in modern society, so this family makes their own.

His outfit is another example of the producers spinning these folks to seem like some serious societal outliers. I’m in a facebook group that Mike posts in frequently, and he doesn’t appear to wear buckskins all that often. While it’s cool to make and wear leather clothes that will last you the rest of your life, in this case it makes him look like a walking caricature of ‘the primitivist’.

Finally, Michael states that when the SHTF, his family doesn’t plan just to survive, but to ‘sur-thrive’. I like that; reminds me of a bit of propaganda from the good folks over at crimethinc. It’s a bit heavy-handed, but I still find it pretty motivating.

1. to remain alive or in existence
Are we alive?  Do we know what survival really is?  We can’t be alive so long as our lives, almost every aspect of them, are controlled by others: they convince us to work, to buy things we don’t need, to alienate ourselves from others, to dominate and compete, to mow the lawn.  We dream their dreams without ever imagining our own.  Their desires are fulfilled while we die sick and alone, never content but not knowing why.  If we are not alive-if our lives are not in our own hands, then what are we? We are Domesticated: like a plant, grown to fit a mold and then usurped.
We don’t know survival because we have never lived.  It’s time to break free from our domestication and live wild, learning what it means to have freedom, autonomy, solidarity, the pursuit of our desires, and what it means to live outside of civilization (their quaint name for domestication).  Break free and learn what it means to
[Middle English surviven, from Old French sourvivre, from Latin supervvere: super- above, vvere- to live.]
above living.

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