Posts Tagged ‘urban’

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: 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: Greg

© NatGeo/Sharp Entertainment
Our other prepper in this episode is Greg (no last name, though this is his website, and youtube channel)
Greg lives in the ‘burbs south of Nashville with a wife, daughter, and son. His prevailing worry is for an “economic collapse and the chaos that will follow”.
He goes on to recite the usual mantra about how after a collapse, money will be worthless and one’s savings account will just be numbers on paper. However, what he (or anybody else, for that matter) doesn’t seem to realize is that said money is already inherently worthless—everyone just treats it as valuable because everybody else still goes along with it. ‘Money’ is weird that way.

He shows off his preps in the ’burbs home—rain barrels, eight months of food, a garden, and rabbits. Not bad! Plus, we see that most of that stored food is home-canned, which is even better.
In addition to the house in the ’burbs, he also has a 30-acre property at an undisclosed rural location.

On this property Greg wants to build an innovative shelter for his family—instead of bugging out when things look rough, he wants to bug up. Apparently, Greg has had this idea for an ‘invisible treehouse’ for a while, and the producers thought it was so crazy they helped him make it happen. And so the majority of the segment is spent building this mirrored-box-on-stilts in the woods. Basically, it’s based around the idea of ‘adaptive camouflage’ so that it will always reflect its surroundings, which is handy for changing seasons. Of course, if you go out at night with a flashlight it’d be seen a mile away.
Semantically, I’m not even sure they should be calling it a ‘treehouse’—which in my mind, should involve being built in/on/around an actual tree. This thing is more of a ‘high hide among trees’. Whatever.
© NatGeo/Sharp Entertainment
In the larger scheme of things, however, this ‘treehouse’ really just takes the place of other preppers’ underground backyard bunkers, in that they speak of escaping to them without a real plan in mind. Sure, you might stash some foodbuckets in your shelter, but to what end? How long do you expect to be staying there? How are you going to occupy your time while you’re there? These things deserve serious consideration.
Anyway, since Greg’s hypothetical scenario involves his family holing up in the ‘treehouse’, while—like the previous subject—he remains their sole protector (get them involved), he digs a little ‘spider hole’ nearby to help him get the drop on any intruders. Hey, at least his little periscope is pretty neat.

Oh, and in the interest of drama, Greg’s wife is scared of heights and so is unwilling to climb the rope ladder into the treehouse? His solution is to screw a board behind it so that the climber doesn’t swing while climbing; however this addition kind of negates the whole camouflaged point of the structure. Meh; whatever.

The Suburbs: The Wilderness Downtown

As smart and innovative as the Sprawl II dance-video is, Arcade Fire found a way to top themselves, with The Wilderness Downtown web experience.


note the use of fractal-based ‘roots’ to form the words—
the sublime wonders of Nature!

This amazing interactive is based around the song We Used to Wait and therefore ties deeply into the underlying themes of The Suburbs—roads, connection to place, escape, youth, the wild, and interaction with technology—while at the same time being a potent showcase of digital wizardry (it was designed to highlight the capabilities of Google Chrome and HTML 5).

Unfortunately, TWD is custom-made to each user’s environment, so I can’t put up a video for you to watch; you’ll just have to try it yourself (although this page provides a decent overview). It’s recommended to use the address of your childhood home, which works really well if you grew up in the ever-shifting sprawl of American ’burb-land, because it’s quite likely that said environment no longer appears as you remember it (“this town’s so strange/they built it to change/and while we sleep we know the streets get rearranged”). Me, I grew up way out in the country, which doesn’t pack nearly the same punch.

Once your experience is compiled, we open with an anonymous, hooded young person running through the streets of The Suburbs. Based on the urgency expressed, he’s clearly not just out for a jog. What is he running from? As we’ve seen throughout the album, when the prevailing narrative of Modern Kids raised in the ’burbs is to seek escape by fleeing to the city only to return to the ’burbs as ‘adults’—who wouldn’t blame him for wanting to Get Out?
wilderness_downtown runner
Throughout, we follow our running figure from high overhead, drifting along with a flock of birds, as well as at street-level courtesy of Google.
Eventually, the video culminates with some very-likely eco imagery as the trailing birds begin to divebomb into the ground, causing trees to grow up beautifully and cover the map in a sea of rewilded green. Of course, this is really only effective if the map—and therefore your childhood home—is in a deforested suburb.
This all transpires over the song’s final section, in which Win implores us to “Wait for it!” As I’ve said before, the song is all about cultivating patience in the face of a technologically-increased pace of life, which brings us to The Wilderness Machine.
Now, back during the middle section of TWD—over the “I’m gonna write a letter to my true love, I’m gonna sign my name” verse—we took a break from watching our harried runner and were invited to “Write a postcard or advice to the younger You”, using super-cool fractal-roots. Now, while Arcade Fire was still touring to support The Suburbs, their concerts would coincide with appearances of said Machine—a steampunk-y contraption which would print out postcards submitted from TWD. While that alone is a great way to play around with the back-and-forth between digital and analog suggested by We Used to Wait, here’s the best part: the postcards that the Machine printed out were embedded with tree seeds!—so that you could take someone’s former self’s postcard home and reforest your own environment, thus bringing TWD’s video experience full circle into the real world.
And believe me, nothing cultivates patience like growing a tree.

Doomsday Preppers: Jay

JayThe last would-be survivor profiled on the Escape From New York episode is Jay (no last name, smart!), family man/stock trader worried about a second September 11-scale terror attack, possibly using a ‘dirty bomb’.To help him prepare, he enlists the guidance of Shane Hobel of the Mountain Scout Survival School.

If there’s one common thread running through all three of these people’s challenges, it’s one of resiliency. Margaret Ling was in fine physical shape but needed to focus on awareness of her environment and keeping vigilant against possible assailants, as well as finding it within herself to be able to physically harm those assailants in order to survive. Cameron Moore needed a little more physical exercise, but he also had some mental walls to break down—accomplished by ‘acquiring’ a bicycle for better transportation, and adopting a ‘spray first, ask questions later’ with regards to hostile encounters. Jay’s practice escape is no different. As a middle-aged urban man, he’s not as physically fit as he used to be, so undertaking a multi-mile hike on foot is going to challenge his endurance as well as his attitude. This is a good point to stress the pre– part of preparedness. It’s not postparedness for a reason—preparation is something that needs to be done before disaster actually strikes. One shouldn’t wait for a disaster to discover you can’t take it; get off the couch and get out there for some practical exercise. If your bug-in plan relies on heating with wood, don’t say, ‘Oh, I’ll start splitting firewood once things go south’, do it now! If you’re like Jay and are your family rendezvous point is twelve miles away, don’t assume that when disaster strikes you’ll instantly be transformed into a Tarahumaran marathon runner. These things take time, and if you wait until shit goes down, time’s up.

Since Jay is focusing on a dirty bomb attack, his mentor shows him how to use matches to determine wind direction; I’m not sure I buy it. Might as well lick your finger and hold it up in the air. Shane also tells Jay to walk into the wind, in order to get the threat behind him as soon as possible. In other words, late great Mitch Hedberg’s parade theory applied to radiation!:
“If you’re watchin’ a parade, make sure you stand in one spot; don’t follow it, it never changes. And if the parade is boring, run in the opposite direction. You will fast-forward the parade!”

After what I assume is several miles, Jay starts getting tired, so Shane takes him to a public fountain to get a drink. Of course, it’s full of algae and gunk, so Shane uses powdered charcoal and a bandana to filter the water. I don’t really buy that either. We’re told that such a filter method will remove chlorine (more on that in a minute) and sediments, which is all well and good, but it doesn’t kill microorganisms (what you should really worry about)–it just makes nasty water more palatable. The caption tells us that water can also be purified with household bleach, 1/8 teaspoon to a gallon. That’s more like it. Although personally, I prefer 2% tincture of iodine, which isn’t as affected by temperature as chlorine, and can also be used to clean wounds as well as water. To have really safe water, however, I recommend using at least two purification methods, and luckily there are lots of options. Take your pick: chemical solutions (chlorine, iodine), UV (SODIS, SteriPen), boiling, distillation, the list goes on. Once you’ve got the bugs out, then run your H2O through a charcoal filter to improve the taste.

I might’ve missed something, because Shane starts showing Jay a handy medicinal weed: Plantain! Not those starchy banana-things, but a common plant you probably have growing in your yard: plantago. I frequently use it on cuts, as the sap is great at stopping bleeding. But unlike what this guy shows, just crush up or bruise a leaf or two in your hand, don’t chew it up to get the juices out—if you have an open wound, you definitely don’t want mouth germs in it.

I can’t say the techniques this guy demonstrates are great, but it’s more than most folks know; I’m starting to think NatGeo should give Hobel his own show. Doomsday Preppers is great for looking at folks and their various approaches to what they consider survival, but there are certain basics (navigation, what to eat, how to drink, shelter, medicine, and fire-making) that people just don’t know.

In the end, Jay meets up with his family and they drive off to the Hamptons in their SUV. But not to worry, their bug-out vehicle has three bikes on the back rack! Which is AWESOME, as it’s nice to finally see someone thinking practically, sustainably, and survivably.

Looks like the next episode next week’s episode is also themed? And it’s superbunkers? Oh boy. Until next time, folks!

Doomsday Preppers: Cameron Moore

I’ve set this to publish at 00:01 01/01/13, so Happy Arbitrary Point in the Solar Revolution!

‘Escape From New York’s second would-be survivor is Cameron Moore, a medical student worried about a meltdown at the nearby Indian Point nuclear facility, located about 35 miles from Manhattan. Like everyone else on the show, what he’s really worried about are the hordes of panicked city-dwellers, unable to find food without a job and unable to keep the economy moving forward with purchasing power; Cameron explains that the world economy is bound to the fluctuations of the US economy, itself bound to that of New York. What’s the word for the opposite of self-sufficiency? Other-dependent? Whatever it is, the modern world seems based on it, and its scope is almost beyond comprehension.
Cameron says that “When the shit hits the fan, I’m bugging out!” and so to help him through a mock bugout, he partners with head of the IPN, Aton Edwards.
Edwards brings up something I wonder if many think about—he reminds Cameron that once he leaves his apartment, everything left behind will become “a museum…of what we shouldn’t do ever again”. I’m not sure if that’s a reference to the long-lingering nature of nuclear radiation, or civilization itself. Either way, I think folks assume that when they bugout in a disaster, they’ll be coming back eventually, and those folks might want to consider the possibility that might not be the case. Check out some of the images of Chernobyl or other hastily-evacuated areas, and you’ll be surprised how quickly Nature comes back to reclaim and rewild.

Like Margaret Ling, they plot a path out of Manhattan and have one night to execute their plan. Aton radios Cameron to grab his bag and they head out, with Cameron jogging while Aton bikes. Cameron starts to fall behind, which isn’t surprising—sustained jogging is pretty tough for nonatheletes. It’s been years since my crosscountry days, so I’m in the same boat; if I don’t go for a jog like, every other day, my endurance never improves. In which case, I suggest Cameron try ‘scout pace’, which I think is just about the best way to run. Scout pace—running/jogging a set number of paces (I like to do about 30), followed by walking for the same number, rinse, repeat—gives you just the right amount of time to get your breath back before your next stretch of running.
Like I said, Cam has trouble keeping up with Aton on two wheels, who suggests Cam open himself up to the possibility that he may have to steal a bicycle! Now, I assume this is a scenario Edwards has set-up ahead of time; he’s not just having Cameron steal a random bike! They make a big deal showing how Aton carries a small pair of bolt cutters in his pack, which they use to cut the lock off the bike. However, if they kept their eyes open for a pre-2005 Kryptonite lock, they could save the weight and just open it with a Bic pen!

Aton suggests Cameron carry a can of bear mace instead of regular pepper spray, which comes in handy when two guys conveniently happen by in the park. Again, I assume this was a setup. Also, how did they get people to sign up to be on the business end of the spray?

There’s a scene where Cameron and Aton are shown carrying their bikes up a flight of stairs. You can’t do that with a motorcycle! Just one more reason bicycles are the perfect survival vehicle.

In the end, they reach the Hudson River where Cameron sets out for the opposite bank in an inflatable kayak. Wait a second, where’d that come from? Has one of these guys been carrying an inflatable kayak around in his pack all night? And if not, how do you covertly hide something like that on the bank of the Hudson?
Cam paddles across—they edit the trip to be dramatic (it’s not)—and reaches “the promised land”, Jersey! That’s great, but, um, now what? We never hear if he has prepping buddies he’s going to meet up with or anything. I hope so, because as scary as getting out of Manhattan would be, crossing through New Jersey might prove scarier!

Case in point.

Doomsday Preppers: Margaret Ling

Up next we have what looks the first themed episode: Escape From New York! I like the idea of having episodes with common threads, instead of the slapdash collection of folks usually on. So, this time, the show looks at three individuals who’ve all decided they don’t want to be in the Big Apple should things go south. And really, who can blame them?
We hear how should something happen to the city’s “fragile system” of bridges and tunnels, 23 million people could be trapped on the island without access to food, water, or electricity. Well, what did you expect? By their very nature, cities leave little room for self-reliance, because they’re designed for complete dependence on the system. In its most basic definition, a city is simply a place that cannot sustain itself with its own resources, and so must have those resources brought in from elsewhere. If our culture didn’t encourage such ostrich behavior in its members, you’d think we’d have seriously considered the possibility of disruptions to the system, and designed our cities to be able to sustain themselves. But alas. As the opening narration reminds us, preppers tend to prefer remote locations over cities, which they usually imagine will completely melt down in the event of a populace-panicking disaster. Yeah, that’ll probably be true.

© NatGeo 2012First up is Margaret Ling, with a worry about—in this post- Katrina and Sandy age—another megastorm, which is entirely likely when one factors in the exponential nature of climate changes.
Transparency clause: Ms. Ling isn’t just some random person off the street, but—like Aton Edwards from the next segment—an instructor from the NYC-based NGO International Preparedness Network.
There’s a funny bit where—because this is Doomsday Preppers, after all—she has to declare what she’s preparing for. Except this time, she’s not staring straight into the camera wearing a gas mask: she’s in a yoga studio, declaring her fear for a megastorm while surrounded by other women in Warrior II. I’m sure it’s supposed to be super-serious, but I couldn’t help but think of Stuart Smalley psyching himself up in the mirror.
margaretling2She drops by the krav maga studio run by Matan Gavish (who mentored Jason Charles last season), because as a woman, she knows she’s more likely to be victimized and wants to be able to defend herself.
Oh, did I mention that they make her go everywhere with this big modern hiking pack? It makes for some funny juxtaposition with her little green dress. Apparently, her bug-out plan is to escape the city and head for the mountains of upstate New York, where she will ride out whatever disaster? Hope she’s competent with off-grid strategies and wilderness skills. Knowing her real background, I have confidence in her proficiency.

Her bag is packed with lots of extraneous survival goods, which Matan tells her could easily be downsized by focusing on skills instead of gear. Gavish also identifies what he considers the most effective weapon in her arsenal:…a lollipop. Yep, seems he thinks it would make a premium eye-gouger. I really like Margaret’s humility when Mr. IDF asks her if she could stab someone in the heart: “I don’t want to say no, but I don’t want to say yes!” Which is a welcome, down-to-earth change from the steely tactical-type guys going on about ‘taking out’ adversaries usually featured on this show.

So, she and Gavish design a route to test her escape plan: fourteen miles on foot, from the tip of Manhattan through Central Park, north to the George Washington Bridge. He arranges for her to be jumped by two guys in the Park, and that’s what happens. The whole artificiality of the scenario is weird, with the camera crew following her and all, but she should’ve still at least had a weapon—lollipop or whatever—at hand, ready to use. Because that’s what you should do when walking around a shadowy area at four AM. Constant vigilance!

He essentially tells her to dump the whole pack, saying that all she really needs is her stabbing weapon and a water bottle. Which is probably true, as all a pack really does is make you a big target for less-prepared folks.

Eventually she reaches the bridge at sunrise. So, yay!, she survived and hopefully now knows what she needs to work on. I’m a big fan of practical exercises as the best way to field-test gear, skills, and strategies. Hmm, what else? How ’bout a picture of pre- and post-civilized Manhattan?

mannhatta 1609-2009