Archive for the ‘tribe’ Category

Thoughts and lessons learned while reading “Bangs & Whimpers: Stories about the end of the world” edited by James Frenkel.

Warning: Spoiler Alerts!  So don’t get all nasty, I gave you a warning.  I summarize the basic premise of some of the stories to help me remember their points.  You have been warned. SPOILER ALERTS BELOW!

The Nine Billion Names of God by Arthur C. Clarke:  Just because lone self-proclaimed wise men are on the top of a mountain in the middle of the Himalayas doesn’t mean that they actually know what they are talking about.  Even if they have done it for centuries.   Also, who would sign up for the apocalypse?  Why would one ask God to quit?  Mr. Clarke, no surprise here, gives a solid plausible explanation to these questions.

Killing the Morrow by Robert Reed :  One man trusts his gut when all around him, including himself, falls to mind control. Aliens attack my osmosis.

We Can Get Them for you Wholesale by Neil Gaiman:  I enjoyed watching Gaiman lets his sense of dark comedy flow free. In his graphic novels, I am use to him getting more burdened down with obscurity.  A vain man  unknowingly hires other-being mercenaries to kill us all.

Not with a Bang by Howard Fast:  A wonderfully comic piece of how one sensible man reacts when the sun gets dramatically snuffed out like a candle.

Lost and Found by Connie Willis :Explains why it would be bad if the Holy Grail had been in Russia during the 1950’s.

The Wind and the Rain by Robert Silverber:  I really like the narrator’s angle to a common warning.  Think Inconvinet truth with the cold amusement of a perspective millions of years later.

Expendable by Philip K Dick: What a wonderful imagination on that man.  Would the spiders and the ants and the feral cats mourn our passing?

Finis by Frank L. Pollack:  The world burns quickly and two people kiss.

A Guide to Virtual Death by J.G. Ballard: More of a warning than a record of Humanity’s willingness to create their own end.

Emissary from a Green and Yellow World by Robert Sheckley: I really liked this one.  A wonderful comedic commentary of what makes Humans so wonderful and horrible at the same time.

The Portable Phonograph by Walter Van Tilburg Clark: Once we are barely holding on, living in caves, we will lament for the  beautiful things once-made my man.  Duh.

Fermi and Frost by Frederik Pohl: How the shit would play out in Iceland.  Well thought out scenario.  Good example of how to logically think out a world.

Ultimate Construction by C.C. Shackleton: At 2 pages long, the definition of how to switch-it up at the end.  Sandcastles made of sand might not be a bad idea when we know everything is going to melt anyway.

The Manhattan Phone Book (abridged) by James Tiptee Jr:  Lame.  It turns out to be a lecture to the reader on how the apocalypse won’t really be that fun, because, you know, of all the death also you, the reader, will probably die. WHATEVVVVER!!!!

The Man who Walked Home by James Thurber: I did not understand half of what was happening, but a wonderful story of the birth of faith and ghosts in the machines of science.

Interview with a Lemming by James Thurber: Great example of how to write a short, very short, story that is meant to only set up the end.  Makes you question the role of basic assumptions and how they lead to different logics.

The Last Question by Issac Asimov:  The end is very far out indeed.   Very very very far out.  Like a billion years far out.  Who else better to pull that off but the master?

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Many years ago I was a Park Ranger at Chaco Canyon in New Mexico.   In my mind, Chaco Canyon is the most impressive Native American Ruins in the United States.  I feel it is sad that every school kid in america does not know the story of Chaco.  The Anasazi built a great trading network across the South West, with Chaco as its central trading hub.  And then one day they left.    There is debate of where they went, many would say (and I agree) that they became the Pueblo people of the SouthWest.  

Another great debate about Chaco is WHY they left.  If they became the Pueblo, then the equivalent of what they did would be if we, in modern America, decided to abandon our legal system, our education system, our monetary system, our transportation system, and went and lived in the woods like the uni-bomber.   What would make a society throw away everything they had built? 

There is no evidence of  war on ascale that would take to decimate a society.  There is no evidence of mass plague.  There is some evidence of drought, but not on a scale that we would expect would cause mass starvation.

On the summer solstice, it appears the sun does not move for three days.  For those skywatchers this would have been signficant.  A common Native American belief is that on the summer solstice, the sun goes into his house and decides if his people are worthy of another year of life.   If the sun decides his people do not deserve another day, he stays in his house, which would mean endless summer, which for those living in the SouthWest, would really suck.

The Dine’ people tell stories of how the Anasazi were punished by the gods because of their immoral lifestyle, just like we think orgies helped bring down the Romans.   I suspect an “immoral lifestyle” in the SouthWest is the waste of precious resources. 

My guess, and others as well, is that drought caused the abandonment of Chaco Canyon, but not because the loss of crops forced the people out, but the people interpreted the drought as they should leave, that the life they were living was not approved.  Which in a way it wouldn’t have been, as more and more people lived in the desert city, then the resources would have been maxed out.    I don’t think we today are capable of doing what the Anasazi did.   Al Gore might win an Oscar for An Inconvient Truth, but little else changes. 

So, if I am right, which is a big if, then Anasazi, as a society, volunteered to create their own Apocalypse.  Which is either extremely noble or stupid, depending how one looks at it.

A report on what the Pueblo Ruins look like has already been commented on in a previous post.  This post is more about getting to the ruins and comments on the surrounding area.

The ruins I went to 7 years ago were NOT Pueblo Canyon, they were the appropriately named Devil’s Chasm Ruins.  The two sets of ruins are relatively close to each other (I would need to consult a topo map to determine how far, but the drive to the head of each trail is 2.9 miles apart.)  Devil’s Chasm is a much more difficult, even though a shorter hike.

We met a Park Ranger in the ruins and spoke with him for a while.  He mentioned another set of ruins called Cold Spring Ruins, which is his favorite, but according to the Ranger they are hard to find and many people don’t find them.   The fact that there are separate awesome places for a post-apocalypse desert bunker so close to together emphasizes how the area is a decent place to start rebuilding.

The drive in is around 24 miles down a dirt road off of HWY188 (the road between Globe and Roosevelt Lake).   On the dirt road you cross a river three times.  The fact there is such easy water to find in the area is awesome.  You pass (I think) two ranches and multiple cow pens.  I would assume the family’s that live in these two ranches are a hearty bunch.

Below: Crossing a river on the drive in.
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Despite the fact you cross the river three times I think my Honda civic could make it the first 20.5 miles.  However, I am not sure what the parking would be like.  The last 4 miles on most definitely needs 4WD, even better if you have high-clearance.    Here is the link to what I thought were the best directions to Pueblo Canyon.

On the plane ride back from New York two weeks back I read The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson about an 1840’s outbreak of cholera in London, England. I had picked it up to see how a society deals with a widespread and mysterious threat. Of the multiple potential causes of the apocalypse I think a fast-moving virus outbreak is my leading contender for most likely cause of the fall of modern-living.  At least the fear of it could cause the greatest media hysteria and therefore become the most likely self-fulfilling prophecy.  The fear of a fast spreading disease strikes a deep frigtening cord among humans (See 28 weeks later) because it has the most unknowns. Where did the disease come from? How far will the disease spread? How is it being spread?

1840’s London had even more unknowns when dealing with viruses, I wanted to read about people’s reactions and what role fear plays in destruction.  One of the things that struck me, was how willing people were to help out their neighbors.  Even though they did not know what was killing people, even though they suspected it had to dow with something in the air (it wasn’t, it was the water) the people still ventured out to help and console their neighbors.

One of the givens the preppers (and most post-apocalyptic movies) assume is when society is faced with a great struggle, we will turn on ourselves.  Thunderdome teaches that the end times will be a dog-eat-dog world.   I have been debating this given.  The world’s most recent disaster, Japan, has multiple stories of communities coming together.  This article in particular has been bouncing around in my head.

I realize anecdotal evidence could point to both people helping and hurting each other in crisis.  Also an earthquake, or a flood, is different that a fundamental break down in society.  After all, once the waters recede, our assumption is that we will need to rebuild.  Usually humans assume they are facing one freak occurrence and not an entire breakdown of everything.  The mindset to survive in the long-term might be different from surviving what is perceived as a shorter problem.

On the other hand, when civil society crumbles, we are most likely not going to clearly see this as the end.  Hopefully, we will have built enough survival bonds during the first few emergencies with others that by the time the end of society is obvious those bonds will be strong enough to sustain us.  I certainly hope so.

Once our bomb shelter’s food supplies run out and we crawl out to make tribes will it be better to be a jack of all trades or master of one?

After the weak are gone I would expect those that are left roaming will have certain basic skills; how to start a fire, how to build a shelter, how to trap, skin, prep and cook animals in the wild, and how to fish to name a few.
However, those with more specific skills will be in greater demand and will be able to pick the tribe they want to belong to.

Based on hours of movie watching, along with reading one of the Godfathers of the survivialist movement, Mel Tappan, the most obvious answer for the most useful skill needed is someone who knows how to use a gun. However, is it really that hard to use a gun and know how to clean it? I suspect any military trainer would tell you that using a gun on the firing range and using it in an actual combat situation is a far different thing. After all, that is why all that time is spent on military training. 

Two comments, I bet bullets will be scarce after the apocalypse, so we won’t be inclined to fire willy-nilly.  Plus, those who survive the first couple of gunfights will have the skills to know how to use a gun in a gunfight. So my thinking is someone who knows how to use a gun, while being extremely useful in the apocalypse, will be one of those skills that everyone, or at least many people have, and it won’t be a skill that sets one apart.

So what will be the skills that makes one more valuable? Obvious choice is doctor. Would it really be that hard to be a doctor in a post-apocalyptic world? I mean we are not going to be able to treat people for cancer, or perform triple heart bypass surgery, or take x-rays or a thousand other things. Would a doctor just be anyone who happened to stockpile a pile of antibiotics. Note to self: stockpile antibiotics. What is the expiration date for antibiotics? What else could a doctor treat after the end of the world?

MacGyver would be also awesome to be. But chops like that would take a lifetime to gain, no? One can’t just go out and become a whiz at figuring out how to make a high dense bomb out of baking soda, ritz crackers, and toothpaste overnight.

Back to my original question, master of all trades of master of one? Master of one will make you more valuable for a tribe, and secure your position among the tribe you like. However, you got to survive long enough first to find the tribes that are out there. Plus master of the skills that will be the most prized are skills that must be gained over many years  So master of many is the way to go for now. Or maybe I should become a quack medicine man.

Below: My neighbor working a pinata, is a great example of a man with both many and specific skills. Primarily, he can fix anything with wheels. Here he is working a pinata.
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The last temporary visit of the local library yielded some useful videos on how to prepare for Humanity’s waterloo.

There were two decent videos on how to build an enviromental house.  From what I have seen so far, the community of people preparing for civilization’s curtains tend to be a conservative bunch.  One place where the preppers and the far left overlaps is Extreme Pro-Green Building. After all, surviving on your own is the goal of both groups. And I tend to like it when extremes meet.

Back to point of this post, the library had two decent videos on how to build green, a lot of the techniques might be good to know once the giant wire spider stops giving us it’s venom. They were a good start for me on how to approach the learning construction task. I really have trouble with hammers.

Building with awareness the construction of a hybrid home is a good overview of the considersations one might consider.

Building Green Hosted by Kevin Contreras goes into much more detail.  With four discs he walks through multiple aspects of building green during all stages on construction.

These wonderful shots of abandoned buildings in Detroit got me thinking. While Detroit died the Sun-belt bloomed. Maybe it is our time in Phoenix?

Some idiots who count money for a living think my town is the unhappiest place to be in America.  Well, frak them.

Maybe I am just being defensive.   When National Geographic depicted their version of the end they gave Phoenix central billing.  

Phoenix gets a rough rap.  (Everyone brings up the water issue.  Me, I hope the tropics move north.)

When I manage to put my own baggage aside I can admit that the largest piece of concrete in the SouthWest might have problems when the grid fails and things go to shit-fan fast. Our greatest advantage is that everyone expects us to fail.  The rats will run out of the sinking ship fast, and therefore hopefully the idiots will consider us collateral damage and leave us alone.  This is fine by me.

AZ-SouthSide has got more than one might thing going for it at the end of the rat race. To name a few: Ancient canals, plump cactus, stockpiles of guns at Apache Junction, multiple stripmalls, along with good places to hide and wait near the drying remains of Roosevelt lake.   Plus no tsunamis, major earthquakes, floods, 0r tornadoes.