Monday, February 18, 2013

Who is ready for the collapse of society?

For a brief period, peaking around Christmas, I was a full-blown "prepper." 

"Prepper" is what people preparing for a collapse civilized society following a massive natural or man-made disaster call themselves. In short, you store food, learn to protect it and learn how to get along without electricity. It was the last part that appeals to the Boy Scout in me. It's scary to think about how much we depend on societal systems, electricity, plumbing, water, WiFi, telephone.

I started by watching episode after episode of Doomsday Preppers on National Geographic Channel. That show taught me several things: everyone should have a "bugout bag," a short-notice survival bag; real preppers have enough money to buy and hide a steel "bugout shelter on their property;" wives placate their crazy husbands; and the television experts never think anyone is prepared enough.

To compliment my television tutorials I started reading Emergency by Neil Strauss. Strauss, a hot shot music writer, describes his growing concern about being ill-equip to deal with what may lay around the corner and his efforts rectify that. It's a digestible view into the preppers, survivalists and perpetual traveler movements.

My increasing awareness led my to a Army Surplus store to do a little Christmas shopping. I was also spending spare brainwaves thinking about: Where I'd go if Folsom Dam collapsed? How long would it take for the cavalry to come? Is my home in the flood area?

Katrina was a real scare for many people. Many within the movement point to it as evidence of the government's inability to tackle disasters and evidence of how quickly the looters will come for your food stockpile.

I since finished the book and eased up my on preps. Not because I'm ready, but in part because I have a little more faith in man than most of those people. Super Storm Sandy showed the depth of American's compassion and empathy. If one area of the country is threatened, there are plenty of people in a position to rush in to help... unless its a total economic collapse, then I'll meet you at Black Rock City.


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Going back to Burning Man, unsure about pen

As spring approaches, I know at least one thing I'll be doing this summer. I'm going back to Burning Man. I'm convinced I can get it right.

I bought a ticket and the majority of the people I camped with last year are coming back, so that is all settled. The open question is whether I go as a journalist or just go as a mission in self discovery. (Truth: It's always a little of both).

Last year, I wrote a piece for The Root magazine on diversity at Burning Man. It's a fine piece and I'm happy I did it, but the technical issues that I had to be overcome to file without leaving the desert were pretty significant.

It basically took big chunks of two days to produce: one day interviewing, writing, shooting and editing pictures and one day trying to get a WiFi signal strong enough to send words and pictures out then having to go back to the WiFi to answer editing questions.

For the most part, Burning Man is a low tech environmental. They don't provide WiFi and phone signals are spotty at best. The WiFi that is there is provided by people just like me who do it to do it. Most take advantage of the lack of connectivity. It's one week where you can tell your boss that "no you won't be checking emails" while your away. It's amazing how much freer one's mind is when our real-world work lives, bills and pressures are told to take a vacation. We - myself included - make fun of people who walk around hoping to get one bar of phone signal so they can get a text message.

But the writer in me enjoyed trying to translate experiences into words. Burning Man is filled with so much going on it a writer's dream and nightmare. Part of me wants to explore other mediums. I'd love to get behind the mic at the Burning Man radio station. I started performing one-man improv shows with a megaphone and I've toyed with video.

Of my videos my 2011 is by far the most popular before the word "chick" is in the title.

If you have Burning Man stories ideas, I'd love to have them. Even better would be ideas for outlets that will pay me for those words.