Posts Tagged ‘Takers’

Thoughts on Aronofsky’s ‘NOAH’

Well, I finally got around to seeing NOAH (given the limited staying power and increased turnover rate of mainstream releases these days, my movie-going pattern is pretty much either Opening Day With Bells On, or Dollar Theater Several Months Later.)
Before I get into my discussion of the film’s troubling big-picture issues, I feel I should give at least a couple of quick thoughts about it as a film, cultural implications aside.

It’s not that bad.
*I thought the pacing was off (I didn’t check my clock, but I think about the first hour of the film is pre-Flood, and the second hour is all post-Flood, on the boat), and since most of the Drama is crammed into that second hour, it feels a little unbalanced. Personally, I would’ve liked to have spent a little more time watching the Ark being built, instead of the ten-year (?) fast-forward, while it gets 90% completed off-screen.

*The setting is really ambiguous, but I understand that it was intentional—we’re not meant to be sure if we’re seeing Earth in the far, far, far distant past, or pseudohistorical, deconstructed Biblical times, or a distant ‘post-apocalyptic’ future (a la the Sloosha’s Crossing… section of Cloud Atlas), or even a totally different planet (in which case, the use of biblical names works in a kind of folk-archetype way)—witness the radically-different continents and the celestial objects visible in the skies, even during daytime. In the end, of course, a case could be made for each of these possibilities, which makes for a more interesting, multilayered film in general, but in the interest of avoiding ambiguity I still would’ve liked the film to have picked one and stuck with it.

*Everybody (the literalist Christians, especially) seems to have been surprised and up in arms about the director’s inclusion of ‘Watchers’….they should get over it.
It’s funny, because these ‘rock monsters’ were totally edited out of the film’s promotional material, just to surprise the audience out of nowhere! I actually really liked these characters (they’re like kickass helpful stone Ents!)—plus, using Nick Nolte to voice a pile of gravel incarnate was doubly brilliant—and it’s nice to see references to apocryphal ‘giants’ and Nephilim and such interpretable-as-extraterrestrials spookiness getting used. The character design and animation on these guys was great; I could watch them all day.

Anyway, on to the big picture fun.

When I first saw the teaser for NOAH months ago, my first reaction was probably some grumble about the whole production design (costumes especially)—reflecting Hollywood’s zeitgeist-y obsession with “gritty” (for the current ringleader and worst offender, see HBO’s Game of Thrones…but on second thought, no, don’t see it, because that show is toxic).
You know how it goes—even though a property is ostensibly set in a ‘historic’ or at least ‘realistic’ setting, outfits are designed with visual storytelling and not practicality in mind. Call it ‘Hollywood primitive’: garments are always incredibly threadbare and made of what-looks-like loosely-woven burlap with exposed, crudely-sewn seams in uncomfortable places (with grime rubbed into every crevice), as if to suggest that people occupying more ‘primitive’ levels of technology are incapable of both craftsmanship and regular laundering:

If this film wasn’t associated with Darren Aronofsky, I’d just chalk it up as another ‘gritty’, Russell Crowe-led anachronism-stew historical epic with copious amounts of shakycam—of which he has been in quite a few (but not Master and Commander—that’s a quality piece!).
However, because Aronofsky was directing, I know there was probably going to be a fair amount of realism sacrificed for the sake of Art. From what I’ve read, the Christian audience the film has been halfway courting—you can’t make a major film based on a major episode of the Old Testament without attracting Christian attention, after all—seems to have been expecting NOAH to have been a literalist reading of the story thrown up on the screen. I understand they were disappointed. Apparently, it would seem they expected a film about a fairy tale to have been realistic!

But the costumes and the ‘realism’ of NOAH aren’t what I came to grumble about. My main grumble is about the film’s underlying philosophy, which is nothing if not unquestioning of the status quo. This is especially troubling considering the myriad possibilities of alternative viewpoints that an innovative director like Aronofsky could have brought to a film like this. But unfortunately, what we got was the same old Younger Culture message that we see encoded and enacted all around us every day: the one about how Humanity is fundamentally (and irreparably) flawed as a result of some half-understood original ‘sin’ first manifested in the killing of a figure called Abel by a figure called Cain.

Especially indicative of this is the segment I’ve embedded below, in which the character Noah summarizes the pre-Flood chapters of Genesis, and in which Aronofsky fairly successfully (and visually beautifully) shoehorns the history of evolution into the biblical six-day creation of the world, via the deployment of copious amounts of poetic license:

This ‘evolution’ sequence seems to reinforce our culture’s misguided anthropocentric viewpoint, suggesting that every stage of creation—from the first dividing cells on up to fish, frogs, lizards, mammals and monkeys—has been leading towards the emergence of Man. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—the human species is not the end-point of evolution.

Despite depicting his ‘Adam’ and ‘Eve’ as radiant creatures straight out of Cocoon, Aronofsky’s version of ‘The Fall’ still remains the same old mess of incomprehensibility as our culture’s accepted interpretation, heard or seen everywhere, even when reduced to a simple repeating three-note wordless visual motif (snake hiss, apple lub-dub, rock thwack).

The montage which follows—various historically-costumed warrior silhouettes killing and being killed—only serves to underline the status quo message of the film. Crowe’s narration (reflecting our deluded, dominant cultural narrative) suggests that our major flaw (encoded as ‘Human Nature’) is such that we’re simply unable to keep from killing each other. This, frankly, is bullshit, as anyone who has ever dug even slightly more than surface-deep into human history would see that even the most sustainable societies still have warfare and the occasional murder.

Luckily, the truth, which this film doesn’t seem to recognize, is that the problem doesn’t lie with Humanity as a whole.

In NOAH’s opening exposition cards, we are told that following The Fall (snake hiss, apple lub-dub, rock thwack), the followers of Cain created an “industrial civilization” which spread over the earth. If you take Quinn’s anthropological view of The Fall story—in which Cain (the metaphorical first practitioner of our culture’s model of aggressive agriculture) kills pastoralist Abel in order to possess and farm his land—and look out the window, you can see that story being enacted before your very eyes.
Throughout the film, Noah repeatedly (ad nauseum, in fact) asserts that for the good of all, the whole murderous human race (‘mankind’) needs to be wiped off the face of the planet. This is, of course, untrue: saving the world requires stopping only one single culture—Ours—the one whose rise to dominance was metaphorically depicted in the biblical story of ‘The Fall’.

This was the part where Aronofsky really dropped the ball, in my opinion.
Given the film’s explicit connection of a life-destroying industrial civilization with the ‘line of Cain’, it would have been very easy, in all those scenes where Noah insists that wicked, murderous Man must not be allowed to survive, to replace ‘Man’ with ‘Cainites’, as a handy sort of shorthand for ‘Totalitarian Agriculturalist-model Civilized Takers’.
(Some reviewers seem to have picked up on a ‘green’ message in NOAH, but I must have missed it; I don’t recall a point at which Noah ever suggested the Flood was retribution for the damage the Cainite civilization had wreaked on the planet. If he did, it was done, again, by pinning the blame on ‘Man’ and not a single culture.)

While it may be hard for us, here in the conquered 21st century, to conceive that civilization is not the whole of humanity, for the protagonists in NOAH, there’s really no reason they shouldn’t be able to. After all, as Noah himself is descended from Cain and Abel’s other brother Seth, he should be well aware that the Sethite line which he embodies (vegetarian and friendly to non-human animals as they seem to be) represents a far more healthy approach to life than that of the industrialized Cainites.

In short, while Aronofsky’s Noah continues to assert that Man must be destroyed because he simply can’t stop killing himself, it would have been exceedingly more accurate (and productive) to say that the line of Cain must be stopped before it is allowed to destroy all life in its relentless, myopic pursuit of Growth and Power.

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Doomsday Preppers: Kenny

Season three barrels ahead with episode “No one will ever know’, beginning with Kenny (no last name) of the fittingly-named Gun Barrel City, Texas.
© NatGeo/Sharp EntertainmentThere’s very, very, very little worth mentioning in this episode, so I’m going to try and keep this short.
Kenny—who uses antlers in all of his decorating!—is preparing for a hypothetical second American Civil War, of citizens against the guvvmint. His strategy for preparation takes a form identical to the western-style civilization that bore the American system: namely, massive weaponization. Or in other words, if you’re worried about your future ability to survive unforeseen contingencies, the best way to prepare is ‘firepower through purchasing power’. Kenny has $135,000 worth of firepower (65 guns?), a ‘scuba room’, and 40,000 rounds of (as Kenny says) amma-nition, plus a damned-impressive bullet-reloading setup. However, I don’t think he has ‘everything’ to produce his own bullets—all the empty brass, powder, and bullet molds in the world aren’t worth much without primers.

There’s a moment of squeamishness when Kenny lets his daughter draw blood for his private blood bank—to complement his collection of medical supplies, y’know, to patch up all the anti-guvvmint freedom fighters he expects to get shot up in his civil war scenario.

Rest of profile: build “ultimate rooftop command center” onto his existing house. This amounts to a 13,000-pound plywood box with walls full of sand.
Required stunt 1: testing bulletproof window material (friend stands behind glass while he shoots. Friend survives).
Required stunt 2: shooting at armed friends ‘invasion drill’ + exploding ‘mines’.

Because all that^ is stretched out and constantly recapped, there’s really not much to talk about. Like I’ve said before, this kind of southern-fried, heavily-armed Type 1 survivalism really has zero appeal to me.
Anyway, dude, assuming even half of your 65 guns were bought from federally-licensed firearms dealers, the guvvmint has about 30 or so 4473 forms with your name on them.
Ergo, the guvvmint knows you have a lot of guns. Thanks to your appearance on this show, they know you’re all puffed-up about being ready to violently defend your rights. Should your little civil war scenario be preceded by a nationwide gun-grab (and/or ‘neutralization’ of potential troublemakers), your little plywood rooftop box isn’t going to protect you from a UAV strike or a helicopter rocket or pretty much anything more powerful than a single infantry rifle squad.

And in the interest of food for thought, here’s a good enough place to raise the issue that self-identified Preppers seem to be by-and-large middle-aged White Men—who historically have been, for the last 6,000 years or so, the sole group at the top of the pyramid. So what are all these guys so afraid of that they feel the need to buy scores of weapons and stock up on supplies?

At the end, Kenny says something about “working together to take back the country”, or something; but to my eyes, he seem more interested in being in a position to shoot trespassers than in working together.
Meh.

Doomsday Preppers: Bret and Shane Maggio

The other half of this episode is spent with Bret and Shane Maggio of Fruitland, Utah:
© NatGeo/Sharp EntertainmentThey’re supposedly preparing for a “collapse of the US economy that will lead to a lawless society”, at which point one of the guys points a pistol at the camera, with his finger on the trigger.
Bad form, sir. Remember, folks:
the four rules of gun safety(Also, this is exactly the kind of macho, guns-as-macho-posturing-accessory bullshit I was talking about last week.)

Since pretty much their entire profile is spent in pointless-diversion-land, I’m gonna focus more on what they say than on what they do, and try to unpack their comments.

To begin: people around the world get by just fine (likely better than Us, in fact) living in what folks of Our Culture would consider ‘lawless society’. Just because there are no Hammurabi-style stone tablets (‘laws’) telling citizens ‘Thou Shalt Not __ for Fear of Retribution From the State-sanctioned Brutes Allowed to Use Violence to Strip You of Your Rights/Property/Life (‘police’)’, doesn’t mean that these societies were/are bloodbaths, with people running about willy-nilly raping and killing each other on a whim. Unlike civilized/statutory law, groups with functioning tribal laws are aware that people are going to misbehave. Instead of having a group of top-of-the-pyramid, above-the-law elites telling citizens the things they aren’t allowed to do (knowing full well that they will do them anyway) and then punishing them, tribal laws focus more on group decisions to decide consequences for actions on an individual basis.

Sidebar: take a minute to notice how violence in pyramid societies always flows downwards—you never hear about about police hassling Congressman, but they sure do love to bust heads when it comes to the ‘homeless’—but when violence is directed upwards, they call it revolt and rebellion. Hey kids: think about defying gravity.

“When the dollar loses its value, the government isn’t getting paid; systems collapse! Imagine turning on the faucet, but there’s no water; going to the grocery store but there’s no food on the shelves. These systems could collapse at any time, leaving people no choice but to fight for survival!”
Yeah, guys, these systems could collapse at any time (because we continue to increase their complexity and therefore their inherent fragility), but if people took proper steps before said collapse (organize, localize, communitize), they wouldn’t have to fight for survival.
Also, the system that allows for city water in the desert and Just-In-Time resupplied grocery stores is a fundamentally unsustainable one powered by ancient sunlight, a blip on the long timeline. The only smart thing to do would be to consider ways of living outside that matrix of control, or better yet, make it obsolete!

Next comment: in their collapse scenario, “Nobody’s going to be able to be governed.”
WAIT, WHAT? I’m pretty sure this means ‘The government won’t be able to govern its citizens!’, or, more accurately, ‘The top-of-the-pyramid elites will have lost their grasp on the systems used to exert control over the rest of the pyramid’.
C’mon, what would be so bad about that? You’d think such a scenario would be fully embraced by an open-minded citizenry of ‘freedom enthusiasts’, because I don’t think any sane person really wants to be governed—but then again, we live in a culture that’s been drilling into our heads the meme that we should want to be governed for the last 5,000 years, so sane people are a rare commodity.

They conclude their talk-to-the-camera portion by admonishing “If you don’t have a plan to get out of civilization and get to a bug-out location, you’ll be caught up in the mess!” Hey, for once, we are in agreement!: getting out of civilization is the only way to ensure one’s survival.
endangered-species
So why are these guys not taking their own advice (we’re told they live in the ’burbs and have corporate jobs, which would suggest they’re entrenched in the very System that makes their collapse all but inevitable)? I guess when they said ‘get out of civilization’ they just meant ‘get out of the city’, not ‘get out of the entire life-destroying Matrix’. Ugh. Hey, don’t expect things to change if you can’t see the bars of your cage.

We’re told that their family has ‘been preppers’ for 40 years, going all the way back to their grandma. They say that their “family has a preparedness mindset”…yeah, guys, because you’re Mormons; it’s a tenet to have years and years of stuff stored up, so that the members of your made-up cult will outlive the other made-up cults.
‘Show-off preps’ time: food stored, water and filter, and 5,000 gallons fuel, “so that when doomsday comes, we’ll have all the comforts of home for several years.”
Hey guys, you do realize that all those comforts of home are part and parcel of that civilization you said to get out of, right? If the aim of your post-disaster living is just to prolong and perpetuate the unsustainable pre-disaster lifestyle of comfort and convenience…well, you’re just setting yourself to fail. Again.

Anyway, the guys think that all their preps “will make them a target”. Well, yeah, now, because they’ve broadcast the details to the world. If they actually downscaled and lived quietly off the grid, who would know? Of course, that would make for ‘boring’ (read: possibly educational) TV, so they decide to build themselves a ridgetop ‘sniper tower’ (with zipline)!

Man, one thing’s for sure, watching this show has really strengthened my ability to read between the lines. I would guess what we’re really seeing here are a couple of city slickers building a zipline tower for the kids to play on when the family gets together at grandma’s house, calling it a ‘sniper tower’ to get it on TV and/or have NatGeo pay for it, and bringing in a prior serviceman to complete the illusion.

So Bret and Shane get their vet sniper to come in, take some long-distance shots, and give the project his seal of approval. We then waste some time watching kids work harder-not-smarter dragging materials up the hill. There’s a discouraging moment when one of the guys’ younger cousins observes, “Prepping seems like a lot of hard work: you have to buy a lot of stuff and build a lot of stuff!” Well, yeah, if you’re going off what we’re shown on DP, or if your goal is to continue living within the System and become a capital-P, self-identified Prepper.
On the other hand, rewilding/unlearning/unbranding, enlightening oneself on big-picture issues (learn to recognize root causes!), building community, and increasing one’s self-reliance are often extremely cheap, if not gratis (and pay off way more!).

Once they get the ‘tower’ built, they string a cable down to a tree at the bottom of the hill—allegedly a quick-escape zipline. As a ‘professional zipliner’ (I am literally paid to fly through the trees), this is an area in which I have extensive experience.
Now, on my outfit’s 440-feet-long, 30-feet-of-drop zipline, most folks hit speeds in the mid-twenties (mph). And yet, simple trigonometry tells me that our line has a downward angle of only 3.9 degrees. Compare this to the Maggio’s homemade cable, which we’re told is 250 horizontal feet, with a vertical drop of 70 feet; this works out to a downward angle of around sixteen degrees! And yet, when they send a couple of sand-filled tires (to approximate someone’s weight) down the line, the guys act totally surprised that they come in like a meteor and plow into a tree! Well, duh! Those tires were probably pushing 60!
Also, for the record, I’d really recommend using a proper harness (bonus tactical points!) and a double trolley (Petzl makes good ones).

Once their platform built is finally built, they bust out the black guns and execute some watermelons to prove they can…but only at like, 150 yards. What gives? I thought the point of the tower was to be able to hit trespassers at their property line 400 yards away?
And then they explain how if they can’t eliminate an intruder from the tower, then they’ll go down on the zipline and fight at ground level? Dudes, just stick with the high ground.

At the end, the experts say their tower is ‘not effective from a military standpoint’, probably because a ridgetop is a terrible place for ‘sniping’ (silhouettes against the sky and all that). Whew, good thing we’re talking a family fun tower, and not actual military!

Doomsday Preppers: Robert

After a break for Thanksgivukkah, I’m back with season three’s next collection of elaborate survival-related construction projects, episode Survival is an Ugly Beast.
© NatGeo/Sharp EntertainmentFirst up is Robert (no last name) of somewhere outside Dallas, TX; the episode guide says he operates a ‘survival store’ in the area?

He’s a former serviceman (Airforce) and it shows. It’s kind of disarming, because his face really reminds me of Cody Lundin, except that Rob ’Roids is bald, sweaty, sausage-necked, and on the complete opposite side of the spectrum from the AboDude.

Anyway, Rob is “preparing for martial law”, *summarily execute mannequin*; so…that’s pretty telling.
As before, a minimal amount of time is spent ‘showing off preps’. Their around-the-house stuff isn’t horrible: in addition to two years’ worth of stacked foodbuckets, he has two pretty big pv-solar panels and a battery bank he claims can power the house for a week. Not sure if that’s a week of normal Amerikan usage (all the lights on, bigscreen TV, A/C, dishwasher, &c.), but if they were to preemptively adopt a low-power lifestyle, that stored juice might last them two weeks or more, post-disaster! Also, I’m not sure if the batteries are ‘saved’ for emergency use only or if they just use that juice day-to-day? I’m hoping the latter, though I suspect the former.

And while the narrator announces that “Rob makes his own bullets”, it’d be more accurate to say he’s a reloader. Which of course brings us to his ‘stockpile of weapons’, because “firearms are important at any time, but especially after martial law is declared!” Alright, if you say so.
Rob shows off his arsenal of overpowered, high-capacity boom-sticks, up to and including a .50-caliber rifle (“If you can’t stop them with this, you probably need a tank!”—which is apparently what he expects to go up against).
Ugh. Seriously, this kind of puffed-up, ‘guns equal masculinity’, fetishizing, overcompensation nonsense is possibly the most significant—yet overlooked-by-most—root causes behind the rash of school- and other mass shootings in recent decades. Of course, you’ll never hear that perspective on the network news, which instead focus on mental health and gun control, which are easy to ‘fix’ in our system’s traditional manner—all together now: make a Program and throw money at it, while avoiding introspection and discussion (which might lead to making actual cultural changes). Blerg.

Anyway, Rob links up with his ‘Nam-vet friend Gary, and decides the best way to protect his “family, supplies, and freedoms” is to surround his property with booby-traps. Honestly, I have a feeling we’re just seeing two grown men cutting loose and getting to act like boys for an afternoon. Because grown men making (and seriously considering using) booby-traps is all kinds of silly/disturbing, but goofing off with powertools and guns and building ridiculous, impractical ‘traps’ for shits and giggles sounds a whole lot like what I did with my buddies on the weekends in high school.

So, first up is an auditory alarm (tripwire + rat trap + shotshell), which doesn’t work. They bump it up a notch and move to tripwire + red phosphorus flares, which actually works, but will also probably burn down whatever tree you attach it to. Also, every single deer, coyote, or wild hog in the neighborhood would be setting off traps left and right. These are the kinds of things one must consider if you don’t want to do things half-assed.

Next up is essentially a punji-stick pit trap. Hey, don’t forget to smear ‘em with poop!
They ‘test’ it with a pig’s head. Whoo. I guess either Rob is only considering two-legged intruders, or he’s really hurting for wild game, because widespread use of spikey fall traps would result in a whole lotta dead-or-maimed critters.
Last up—because it’s not an episode of Doomsday Preppers without a tannerite explosion!—they put some boom-powder in some livestock tubs, surround with mannequins, and explode. Whoo.

Oh, and because context is for the weak, there’s a bit in which Rob tests out some one-way bulletproof glass. He shoots at it from one side, and then crawls into an empty oil drum and shoots up another mannequin. No idea what the point of that was, but for what it’s worth, enclosed metal spaces aren’t the best for shooting in without ear/eye protection.

And in the midst of all this, there’s a big chunk of drama spent worrying about a thunderstorm when Rob’s wife Wendy runs to pick up their daughter at school; she’s a little late getting back and Rob turns into a nervous wreck, because as he says, pretty much his only reason for existing is to protect them. Yet again—why not get the wife and daughter involved?: take a family survival course, get some skills and know-how, make sure every vehicle has a roadside survival kit, and hope for the best? I’m totally sick of all of these gung-ho, ex-mil Patriarchs thinking that the responsibility for family safety falls entirely on their shoulders—it shouldn’t.

The experts’ scoreless assessment pats Rob on the back for doing some TV-friendly stunts and suggests he think about storing seeds for food resupply. Rob responds with some corporate/military buzzword-y nonsense.

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 Preppers: Mike Evock

The show continues on to Laurinburg, North Carolina, where it will spend a half hour gratuitously pandering to the lowest common denominator of Red State American cable-tv viewers.
© NatGeo/Sharp EntertainmentMike Evock runs a 700-acre ‘ATV park’, which somehow (he claims) doubles as his bug-out location. We’re told that “what most people don’t know is that the family business is a front”…well, they do now!

He’s ex-Special Forces (of course), and based on those experiences he’s prepping for a bio/chemical attack of some sort, possibly involving cropduster planes?
Apparently, Evock’s site has some interesting water filtration systems and watchtowers, but of course the audience might actually learn something useful from seeing those, so instead the producers give us an uninspiring look at Southern internal-combustion-engine-enthusiast culture.

There’s a Task segment where we watch Mike’s goofy son Junior put up a ‘biodome’ while dad does laps. And when I say ‘does laps’, I don’t mean he goes for a jog in the interests of cardio and mental/physical well-being, but instead (because this is ‘Murka!) he just drives his four-wheeler in a circle around a track. Dude, if you’re worried about surviving various disaster scenarios (unless you’re really only worried about biochem attacks—in which case you’re completely shortsighted), learning to get by without petrol would be an excellent first step; swap the Ancient Sunlight Juice for Person Power (use your own two feet!).

There’s a big chunk of chasing-trucks-with-four-wheelers, something with anti-marauder maneuvering? In this case the marauders apparently have come for their treasured (remember, this is NASCAR country) checkered flag.

And so we get yet another ‘welding-crap-onto-a-petrol-powered-vehicle-over-generic-rock-music’ montage, because four-wheelers aren’t extreme enough by themselves – they need armor plating and machinegun(excuse me, ‘Weapons Systems’) mounts!

While they’re camouflaging the quad, Mike reminds his son that “Nothing in nature has straight edges”; wanna guess what shape his ‘body armor’ is? Yup, a square. And besides, a single two-foot square of armor mounted dead-center just looks pretty ineffective. Couldn’t they have welded some sheet steel between the wheels, to shield the driver’s legs from the sides? Or some angled pieces above the front wheels, to shield the driver’s arms and body? Unless the operator is protected from multiple directions, you don’t have much business calling it a “mini tank”. I dunno, I’m just not a fan of people getting all puffed up when they only do a project half-assed.

Oh, and I guess it’s now required that preppers give their overkill vehicles a macho, tactical-posturing name.

© NatGeo/Sharp Entertainment

behold, ‘the Interceptor’…*yawn*.

Mike shows his father-worshipping son how to make caltrops out of sheet steel, and then they burn some more petrol to test them out on a car. Yeah…I’m pretty sure they didn’t really work.
And we wrap up with even more chasing of trucks with four-wheelers. Except this time, they can train a rifle on the truck and make them stop and hand over their precious checkered flag.

Man, car culture (and its devotees) just leaves me completely uninspired. Blech.

Doomsday Preppers: Chad Hudspeth

Season three continues with episode two, ‘The Fight Ahead’.

As before, we cut between two families undertaking television-friendly stunts that really have little to do with true survival, much less addressing the root causes that necessitate the need (in their minds) for such measures.
First off is Chad Hudspeth, from Phoenix, Arizona.
© NatGeo/Sharp Entertainment
Oh, where to begin?
Well, how about Arizona? What’s wrong with Arizona, you ask? Well, there’s nothing wrong with the area itself, just with Our culture’s approach to living there, which is—as usual—a one-size-fits-all solution: dig a concrete foundation (oriented to an arbitrary direction, because self-regulating, south-facing, passive-solar houses are for hippies), erect some stick-framing and drywall, call it a house, and then hook it up to The Grid. Unfortunately for the people living there, the truth is if it weren’t for that grid infrastructure, cities like Las Vegas and Phoenix simply Would. Not. Exist.:

“…the region has exceeded its natural carrying capacity so such an extreme degree that even mild to moderate disruptions in the energy supply will be disastrous. Transportation, air conditioning, and water distribution will become critically problematic in the years ahead. As oil- and gas-based agriculture fails, and it becomes necessary to grow more food locally, places like Phoenix, Las Vegas, Albuquerque,  and Los Angeles will painfully rediscover that they exist in deserts.”

Built to conform to our culture’s prevailing ostrich-like attitude (which denies the possibility that the grid could ever fail), such cities are completely reliant on Hoover Dam electricity for air conditioning (because it’s hot in the desert and our culture insists on building aboveground), petrol juice (for commuting to and from the sprawl), food, and water (from underwater aquifers which are being depleted faster than they are being replenished, because it’s the desert). What’s the answer? Probably first recognize the inherent weaknesses of the system as Kunstler and I have just broken it down (and then get out), but if you’re going to continue to stay in this environment, you might want to study the strategies—both successful and unsuccessful—of the indigenous locals.

With that out of the way, right off the bat, I pick up on a certain amount of, shall we say…off-ness in Chad’s obligatory talk-at-the-camera moments. He seems like someone who might know just enough to be dangerous, but he got his details from the wrong sources. For starters, he opens by explaining how “the Founding Fathers thought government was a terrible evil”.
Ohhh-kaayyy… I’m pretty sure that as Male, White, Western property-holders (aka the elites of their society – those with the most to gain from a formal, civilized, capital-g Government), they all thought top-down governing was pretty fine. True, there may have been some quibbles about the specifics of said governing (see Hamilton’s Federalism versus Jefferson’s more liberal model), and while the Framers did try to work in some more pure-Democratic, Anglo-Saxon and Iroquois influences (all that “by/of/for the People stuff”), the American system still came out pretty damn centralized. The pyramid might have three checked-and-balanced branches at the top, but it’s still a pyramid.

Chad seems to believe that the Powers That Be are “in control of policies coming down the pipe that are evil, something something not for the good of the people.” Is he a Tea Partier trying to make a veiled reference to the Affordable Care Act, or is this some conspiracy-theory stuff about how the guvvmint is controlling our minds with chemtrails and HAARP antennas in Alaska?
Either way, he believes that “As the man, it’s my responsibility and duty to protect my family.” Y’know, because women can’t be counted upon to protect themselves without a man around? A little later, his wife explains how her favorite survival tactic is Prayer, and she believes the scripture that says she’s supposed to defer and be submissive to her husband who knows best. Because hey, six thousand years of Patriarchy can’t be wrong! You know what a better, real survival tactic is? Re-empowering women. Seriously, FUCK THIS SHIT.

Oh, did I mention that Chad’s supposed fear is of a “nuclear strike by the US government, resulting in a genocidal siege”? … Again: ooookay. Hey, look on the bright side: at least it’s not economic collapse.

So, the positives:
Chad has a nice little aquaponics system in his backyard greenhouse. I think I saw some Swiss chard growing in it. He explains how “it’s far superior to traditional agriculture”: yeah, that’s because everything is far superior to traditional agriculture.
There’s about 30 seconds of his neighbor showing Chad how he can make biodiesel from the algae in his pond, but that’s all we get.
While the segment could have given the ignorant public a detailed breakdown of what the aqua system consists of and how it was put together, instead we get some tinfoil-hat fearmongering and a half-hour of digging holes with heavy equipment, because his plan is “to survive a genocidal siege by building a tunnel that will lead [his] family to safety”.

Like, I’m grateful that he’s not all Type I, gung-ho, ex-military, guns, gear, and-tacticrap (that’s the other half of this episode), but he could very easily go the other way and have a really solid footing to survive lots of disaster scenarios if he just focused his efforts on more sustainable food production—convert the whole backyard to aquaponics, or raised beds, or anything, really. Unfortunately, he’s really completely mainstream in his thinking, believing true survival can be attained through deft use of the all-powerful checkbook and credit card. As a caption informs us, “The first thing Chad did in his prepping was to take his funds out of the bank and invest in goods he thinks will flourish during martial law”. From the folks I’ve seen on this show, the most misguided ones are those who ‘turn Prepper’ overnight and take the same approach to being ‘prepared’ that we do to everything else in this culture—throw money at it! (Conversely, the best off are those who have already been living innovative, self-reliant, frugal lives, often as part of a community of like-minded folks.)
It’s as if Chad one day decided he was going to become a prepper, googled ‘prepping supplies’, and got roped into some fringe-y websites that told him he needed to bury a shipping container and build an escape tunnel through his backyard.

Unfortunately, Chad wraps up his segment saying: “I am an American. I have the American spirit. My advice to others would be to do the same things that I’ve done.” So, in other words, drop a lot of money on bullshit ‘solutions’ you mistakenly believe will somehow help you?

And then he says something about how “the men with the power have been swayed by demonic or satanic powers.” Wait, what??! Huh? Is he suggesting the Koch brothers are black-magick-wielding occultists? I have absolutely no idea what to make of that statement; like I said, the things he talks at the camera are just a bit off.

And as always, the experts tell him good job. And as always, final segment ‘The Odds’ functions as our dominant Mother Culture mouthpiece, once again reassuring us that we have “checks and balances to protect our personal freedoms and prevent any one group from taking power”, so go back to sleep.
Except for, y’know…corporations?