Posts Tagged ‘ww3’

Doomsday Preppers: Alex Dunbar

Up next is the episode ‘People Become Animals!’, which seems to continue the previous profile’s theme of low-key prepping. On the whole, this one is pretty much the Least Prepper-y Episode ever—nobody shoots anything, and incredibly, nothing blows up.
© NatGeo/Sharp Entertainment
So we begin with Alex Dunbar, of around San Luis, Colorado. He’s former USMC, which usually translates to supertactical and generally obnoxious. However, he seems pretty down to earth, as you’d expect from someone who claims to be “training an army of dogs to survive World War Three”.

Of course, I think—like most of the folks on the show—he’s really just appearing for some publicity for his dog-training outfit.
His rationale is something about “the whole world hating America” or some such. I dunno, the world didn’t always hate us back in our isolationist days, but about a hundred years ago that started to change. Now that we’re the imperial World Police, you can’t really blame them. But don’t worry—every empire in the last six thousand years (which is to say, all of them) has collapsed after exhausting their landbase and/or stretching themselves too thin.

In order to confront his hypothetical scenario, Alex has “pre-bugged out” to a 320-acre compound out in the middle of nowhere, very well-suited to his dog-training enterprise. As he says, a well-trained German Shepherd can fill all the roles of a body guard, offensive weapon, defensive alarm system, &c.

There’s a bunch of unnecessary focus on the individual dogs, giving them names and headshots and stuff. Bleh.

As you might imagine, it could potentially cost a lot of money to keep this many big dogs fed, so Alex takes the DIY route and makes his own dog food, using fruits, veggies, and yak meat. I think he says something about planning to raise yaks? That’d be cool, everywhere could use more megafauna.

Something I thought was interesting was how Alex has chosen to train his dogs in Slovakian. The rationale being the idea that it would give him a slight edge over anyone he was operating against, expecting to hear ‘Attack! Heel! Sic balls!’ or whatever, only to hear some completely foreign language (unless he’s invaded by Slovakians, that is). It’s probably not a bad idea.

The producer’s stunt comes when Alex takes one of the dogs (who has a fear of heights) and rappels with him off a 50-foot bridge. The dog doesn’t freak out too terribly, so I’d say Alex trains them pretty well.

On account of his isolation and pre-bugged-out-edness, experts award him 70 points for a year’s worth of initial survival time.

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Doomsday Preppers: Mike and Grayson

The episode’s final ‘preppers’ (and we’re using that term lightly here) are Mike Umberger and Grayson Smith of Maryland.

I guess they were hoping to get some publicity for skateboarding?

Mike is apparently a former Navy MP and Grayson is a…former Zen-Buddhist monk? There’s a lot of focus on how the guys seem like ‘polar opposites’, but that’s really just the angle the producers are spinning for drama. Ignore it.
Really, just be glad we’re seeing Young People with Little Money on the show for once, instead of the usual Middle-Aged-Guys With More Money Than Sense.

The show tries to pass them off as ‘slackers’–although that really hasn’t been a valid label since about 1995.
Their supposed fear is of a Third World War, which they describe by getting creative and actually giving specifics!: they predict that “by 2017, the Chinese will have cemented their place as the world’s superpower, and will quickly blockade the US&A”—something to do with too much of our food being imported instead of grown at home? At least it’s a novel idea!

And if you’re worried about blockading Chinese cutting off your foodstuffs, the smart thing to do isn’t to drop a couple grand on one-time-only foodbuckets *coughWiseCompanycough*, but to set yourself up to grow as much of your food as possible. And that’s exactly what these guys are starting to do: one of their fathers owns 100 acres, and so they’ve moved out of the city (which is a good move in itself) and started to farm it in their own way.

Right off the bat, Grayson and Mikelet us know that they’re “not looking to be traditional farmers”. Now, normally when people say they’re into ‘traditional’ things, that’s usually code for ‘old-timey’—which often happen to translate well into self-reliance (think blacksmithing, spinning, basketweaving, butter-churning, &c.
Here, the opposite is meant: when the guys say they don’t want to be traditional farmers, what they’re really saying is that they don’t want to keep Our Culture’s oldest tradition, totalitarian agriculture!
Hmm, what a novel idea! Says the average viewer: “But why would these bright young men not want to associate themselves with the most productive agricultural paradigm ever devised?”
I dunno, maybe because that approach has never been sustainable?, and because its current iteration amounts to little more than throwing petroleum and ‘natural gas’ (which, by the way, is a bullshit greenwashed term anyway—it’s fucking methane!) onto our fields to grow three main monocrops, all resulting in everything from topsoil loss and soil compaction, to eutrophication, loss of fertility, and greatly-reduced biodiversity? All of these translate to fundamental unsustainability. Especially given the fact that global petroleum production has likely already peaked, why we continue to operate under this model is beyond me. Well, it’s not really beyond me—I know exactly why we continue to do it, but the root causes are about eight thousand years old, and most folks these days seem to have trouble comprehending anything past about 50 years ago.

The dudes admit they’re different from most farmers another way: they don’t want to be part of the grid. There they go, using their brains again! Says the average viewer, “But why would they want to remove themselves from the most glorious organization of shelter, heating, cooling, electricity, water, and sanitation, again, ever devised?”
Perhaps because such wonders of the modern age are again, completely reliant on unsustainable nonrenewable resources (coal, petrol, propane, natural gas methane) and painfully indicative of Our culture’s belief in the One Right Way to Live? If you don’t believe me, why else do we build living structures that are identical (and identically connected to the Grid) whether in Arizona or Alaska? When did we exchange regional diversity for cheap two-by-four stickframing, drywall, and vinyl siding? (answer: probably around 1492, when White people showed up on the scene and set about replicating their beloved England/Spain/France, which required extirpating all the indigs and their pesky regional adapted-to-specific-environments lifestyles).

So yeah, Grayson and Mike intend to turn the traditional farm into a self-sufficient one. Exactly!, because sustainable/self-reliant living is real preparedness! Unfortunately, we’re seeing their self-sufficient farm project in its infancy, so they’re still taking baby steps. But hey, baby steps are better than none!:

To start out, we actually get to see them put together a COLDFRAME!
For you non-green-thumb’ed folks, a coldframe is basically a mini-greenhouse—a sun-warmed, glass-topped container that usually translates into about an extra month of growing time before and after the main season. They’re handy as hell.
Better yet, Grayson declares his bias when gathering building materials—“free is better!” WORD. A society that believes everything must be ‘new’ is one destined for failure (oh hey look, here we are!).
I also like the water-filled wine bottles—for thermal mass/solar radiators—that they stick in the ground inside the coldframe. That’s a good trick; I might have to steal that idea and implement it into my coldframe.

And it just keeps getting better, because HOLY SHIT, not only did the narrator actually say PERMACULTURE, but they even got a captioned definition!! This might just be a miracle—one of the most unenlightening shows on what has become a channel of regrettable, sensationalist programming actually gave its average viewers a like, 30-second glimpse of something actually worth learning about! I just wish they’d done it sooner on an earlier episode, because folks watching this might get confused and think that permaculture-in-action looks like gray, unproductive farmland.

It doesn’t.

But that land won’t be unproductive for long, because it just keeps getting even better, when they wheel out the CHICKEN TRACTOR!!! Grayson explains the genius of these moveable coops, which allow the birds to eat bugs (pest control/less feed to buy), scratch up (aerate) soil, and defecate (fertilize!) everywhere! If you move the tractor every day, pretty soon you wind up with light, fertile, bug-free soil, which is exactly what you want if you’re looking to grow all your own food.

Unfortunately, the producers apparently weren’t content with educating average visitors with three fantastic items of self-reliant living, and felt the need to remind us that we’re watching Doomsday Preppers. And so, for the mandatory producer-enforced stunt, the guys head into the woods to set up spikey booby traps to catch watermelons!

Yeah. It’s especially sad when you think about what they could have filled that time with—maybe the guys could have shown off their properly-carbon/nitrogen-balanced compost pile, or waterless humanure setup, or root cellar—who knows??

Being new transplants (gardening pun?) to the area, the guys throw a barn party, to meet their neighbors (building community is a huge part of offgrid living that we rarely hear about) and I guess maybe recruit folks, because let’s fact it—with 100 acres, these guys have all the ingredients for a kickass intentional community. There’s a Jack White-looking guy in a fur coat and derby hat at the gig, so I guess the producers told attendees to dress as outlandishly as possible?, because hey, let’s make sure nobody takes millennials seriously.

The experts give them just 51 points for five months’ initial survival. Ugh, experts: first off, these dudes aren’t even real ‘preppers’;
therefore, the form their ‘preparedness’ takes results from their operating on a completely different paradigm from the one the scoring system is designed to evaluate;
And finally: everyone has to start somewhere. If NatGeo sends a film crew back to their homestead in two or three years, I bet we’ll see some serious off-grid organic horticultural goodness. Best of luck, dudes!

The Suburbs: ‘City With No Children’

Thankfully, Empty Room fades out into hand-claps and an ever-so-catchy guitar riff that heralds the opening of the rollicking City With No Children.

The summer that I broke my arm I waited for your letter
I have no feeling for you now, now that I know you better

While I can’t say for sure that it’s an intentional connection, Butler only refers to Summer twice on this album, each in a context of passing time. Together, he paints a complete vignette of a young man who breaks his arm, and spends the season staring out the window, waiting for snail-mail correspondence.

I wish that I could have loved you then, before our age was through
And before a world war does with us whatever it will do

This verse seems to refer back to the Neon Bible closing track My Body is a Cage, in which our singer bemoans that he is “…living in an age whose name I don’t know”. Well, in this song, that age has ostensibly ended; in interviews Butler has referred to “the current information age”, but is that what he’s referencing here? Given the band’s apparent socio-political slant, if we’re talking about an age whose name no one seems to be able to agree on, I’d like to submit the Holocene or Anthropocene for consideration, although Derrick Jensen’s Age of the Sociopath is more accurate.
And once again, there’s mention of a world war looming on the horizon (compare to Neon Bible’s Windowsill: “World War Three, when are you coming for me?”).

Dreamed I drove home to Houston on a highway that was underground
There was no light that we could see as we listened to the sound of the engine failing

Aside from references to one’s home, and driving—possibly as a result of being called back West by one’s parents (Half Light II)—I’m not sure if this vignette is meant to mesh into the larger mosaic of this album, or if it’s just a testament to Butler’s great skill at composing tight verses. If you really want to get analytic and force a match with the album’s themes, that second line could be interpreted as “we had no hope while we watched the machinery that drives our system begin to break down and collapse”.

I feel like I’ve been living in a city with no children in it
A garden left for ruin by a billionaire inside of a private prison

Butler has explained how he was inspired to write this song when he received a picture “of an old school friend… standing with his daughter sitting on his shoulders “at the mall around the corner from where we lived”. He adds: “The combination of seeing this familiar place and seeing my friend with his child brought back a lot of feeling from that time. I found myself trying to remember the town that we grew up in and trying to retrace as much as I could remember.”
This also reminds us of the request for a child heard in The Suburbs; one can almost hear the singer’s biological clock ticking against a countdown to destruction. (As a cross-media connection, the only child-free city I can think of is London, circa 2027).

You never trust a millionaire quoting the sermon on the mount
I used to think I was not like them but I’m beginning to have my doubts about it

A Neon Bible-esque religious reference paired with a veiled fear of becoming a ‘sellout’; perhaps Win seems to be afraid that as he and the band become more well-known, the messages they spread in their songs might sound hollow and hypocritical. However, the very-down-to-earth Butler brothers have reassuringly tackled this topic in interviews:

Will: Maybe at some point we’ll get to the level where we have to really deal with the devil or decide to stay small, but so far we’ve been pretty much able to do what we want to do.
Win: I think you also have to want to be really famous. It’s a lot easier to sabotage your career than to have a career to sabotage [laughs].

When you’re hiding underground, the rain can’t get you wet
But do you think your righteousness could pay
The interest on your debt? I have my doubts about it

I’m really not sure what this verse refers to, but this isn’t the first time the band has sung about debt, although the last two occurrences (“I know no matter what you say/There are some debts you’ll never pay (Intervention); I don’t want to live with my father’s debt/You can’t forgive what you can’t forget” (Windowsill)) came from Neon Bible.

Doomsday Preppers: Freda

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doomsday Preppers: Brian Murdock

Up next is Brian Murdock, late twentysomething from Massachusetts.
brianmurdockHis segment doesn’t have much material, most of it is occupied with generic ‘reality’ show drama, which I have no interest in.
He’s worried about a third world war looming on the horizon. Honestly, I don’t think it’s such an outrageous concern. In fact, my cousin told me about an article she recently read in a popular magazine that pretty much said a world war would be likely in the next forty years or so. Brian sees it beginning with an early US&A-on-Iran strike, followed by Tehran retaliating with a strike on Tel Aviv. I think that might be a little simplistic by not factoring in nations like Russia, backer of both Iran and Syria—and let’s keep in mind that as I write this, signs are good that Assad is preparing to deploy chemical weapons on his people, possibly forcing the hand of the US/UN.
Allow me to springboard. However and whenever stuff goes down, I remember Einstein’s famous quote, “I don’t know what weapons World War Three will be fought with, but I know that World War Four will be fought with sticks and stones”. That may be true—eventually—but there are several things wrong with our notion of being “bombed back to the Stone Age”. First, ‘Stone Age’ societies don’t just spring out of the ground, they’re products of three million years of evolution, and they’re societies that Our Culture has been doing its damnedest to annihilate for the last eight thousand years or so. How many people in Our Culture, given a core of flint and a hammerstone, could craft a workable projectile point? Hell, I can barely knap an Olduwan chopper if I’m lucky—something my ancestors 2 million years ago would’ve had little problem doing—and I study this stuff! Second, calling them ‘Stone Age’ is to misunderstand how these cultures work. Sure, stone plays a part, but it’s like calling our society the ‘Glue Age’—glue plays a part, but it’s hardly the foundation of our way of life.

Anyhow, Brian has an prediction about this forthcoming war—he claims that it will claim exactly 2.3 billion lives.

Huh. That's oddly specific.

Huh. That’s oddly specific.

Because he lives near a major city, Brian is an ‘apartment prepper’. The narrator informs us that to get started as an apartment prepper usually costs $1,500. The very fact that this can be so easily estimated just makes me go ‘Ugh!’: It’s prepping-by-numbers; it’s like saying, ‘If you want to be ‘indie’, just buy x, y, and z!’ There is more than one way to ‘be prepared’ for unseen situations, and believe it or not, sometimes it has nothing to do with how much stuff you’ve bought.
Anyway, instead of being stuck in his apartment, Brian sells apparently all of his belongings for $75,000, and uses the money to buy an RV and 50 acres in New York. Awesome!, now I’m interested. Is he going to be a mobile, nomadic rubbertramp with the NY land as a home base? Is he going to use the RV as temporary housing while he builds his offgrid earthship?
Nope. He’s going to get a Columbian mailorder bride, bring her to Boston, and then whisk her off in the RV to the property in NY. Whoah-oh, culture-shock time!!!
Brian says he really likes this girl because “her culture’s way of life is already well-suited to prepping”. I hope that’s so, because I don’t see Brian doing much in the way of growing potatoes or raising goats and chickens. But apparently, the idea of ‘prepping’ is a foreign concept to Tatiana because back in Columbia, it’s ‘bad times all the times’! So, when the WW3 bullets start flying and she has to hit the ground, she should be right back in her element?

They do some target practice…shooting bananas. Way to waste food, bro.
The experts give them a 43 (including 4 points—a new low—on food storage), computed to eight weeks initial survival time. Now, we know the points don’t matter, but it still seems a little harsh.
In their post-filming update, we learn that they’re now married, and they’re planning to move into the RV in NY in a matter of days. Good luck, guys.