Archive for 16/03/2009

Pour ceux qui aiment le ska (tout le monde, bien sûr)

Made in Tokyo.

Spécial dédicace eSM

In his just-published book, Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life, best-selling author Neil Strauss schools us on what to do, if everything suddenly goes to hell. Strauss has spent the last several years training to become a full-fledged survivalist — learning how to live off the land with D.I.Y. weapons, homemade solar stills, debris huts, and hot-wired cars. He talks to Danger Room about how he got his new skills. And in an exclusive video, Strauss shows what to do, if you really need a knife — and all you have is a cigarette.

Next is an interview between Neil Strauss and Danger Room reporter:

DR: At the top of the new book, you introduce us to Mad Dog, a guy who can « chop wood, make fire, forge weapons, kill his own food, and defend himself with his bare hands. In other words, he could survive on his own, without AT&T, without Exxon, with McDonald’s, without Wal-Mart, without two and a half centuries of American civilization and industry. » When did you decide that you wanted to be like Mad Dog, instead of like Mystery? And why did you decide that living with the help of modern government and society was such a bad thing?

NS: There’s school and then there’s life. And the former doesn’t really prepare you for the latter. So I sought out people like Mystery and Mad Dog – experts in their respective fields – to teach me the skills and elements of my own life that were lacking.

As for when I decided to learn to be independent of the system, I think it happened over the last eight years, watching helplessly as everything that we thought could never happen in America suddenly started happening. So I decided to take control over my own life, and become as self-sufficient, independent, skilled, and experienced as I could. That journey still continues today.

DR: So what skills did you start getting first? And what’s the « philosophy of the sphincter? »

NS: Originally, I fell in with a group of people known as PTs [« permanent travelers »], who have made themselves citizens of not any particular country but of the world. So I began by getting a second passport and setting up a backup life offshore.

Then I turned to the survivalists, who told me I needed to start with an “urban survival kit,” which they defined as a cell phone, an ATM card, and a pistol. And since I only had two of those three things, I learned to shoot at a place called Gunsite, which is where I learned the philosophy of the sphincter.

The basic idea is that, in a high-pressure situation, the first thing that happens is people get nervous and uptight. And as soon as your sphincter tightens, as the metaphor goes, it cuts off circulation to your brain. So one of the best survival skills you can have is the ability to quickly and coolly assess a situation rather than panicking and doing something stupid.

DR: Guns are nice. But let’s say you don’t have a sidearm handy. What kind of weapons can you make yourself, in a hurry?

NS: I learned how to use my hands, knives, and bottles. But the class of people who may be best at turning limited resources into dangerous weapons are prisoners. So, mostly from them (and from a martial arts expert named Tom Kier), I learned how to turn ordinary objects like cigarettes and credit cards into knives.

When you discover how easy it is to make weapons, you realize how useless the security measures in airports are. For example, you can’t bring a snow globe on an airplane, but you can bring a knife sharpener, which can easily be used to turn items in the gift store into knives.

Oh, and by the way, guns aren’t nice…

DR: Let’s say you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere. And there’s no food or water in sight. What are some things you can do or build, to survive?

NS: As part of my training, I actually went into the woods with nothing but a knife and experienced this. For food, you can forage for edible plants (or, if necessary for your survival, animals). For water, you can create a solar still, which creates water through condensation — or you can get water through wild grape vine and certain other plants. For fire, the technique of rubbing sticks together really works if you understand and practice the technique properly. And for shelter and warmth, you can build a debris hut out of sticks, dead leaves, and grass. That’s basically all you need to survive.

DR: Sounds like if you’re a country boy, you’re in pretty good shape if things ever go to hell. Anything us city kids bring to the game?

NS: That’s a good point. A lot of the wilderness survival skills I learned don’t take into account that, in America today, there’s little actual wilderness left. So I took a class called Urban Escape and Evasion. As the teacher put it, “Once you learn lockpicking, the world is your oyster.” He also taught car hot-wiring, evading pursuit vehicles, and, as an exam, handcuffed me, put me in a trunk, and told me I had to escape.

It was one of the coolest classes I’ve taken in my life. If I’d known these skills in high school, I definitely would have been expelled.

DR: It seems like the quest to become the ultimate girl-catcher and the quest to become a bona-fide survivalist are both, ultimately, about the same thing: Power. And control over your own life.

NS: That’s true about having control over my own life. It was about getting over my own fears, whether of women or of all the newspaper headlines about the economy and terrorism and crime. I didn’t want to feel helpless in the face of things that terrified me just because I didn’t understand them. So I decided to understand them.

As for power, that sounds like something insecure people seek in order to gain superiority over others. People who have actual confidence don’t need to prove themselves in that way. So what I’ve really sought, in both books and in life, has been that confidence, which is best achieved through experience and, if all goes well, success.

DR: You start out the book in a downright apocalyptic mood. Since then, the Dow has probably fallen a couple of billion points. Are you still feeling gloomy?

NS: Actually, I feel much less gloomy and anxiety-ridden than when I began the book. What most of us fear is the unknown, and we fret about what’s going to happen. So I took each worst-case scenario to the extreme, and experienced many of the things that used to make me anxious.

For example, to get disaster, emergency, and stress experience, I became an EMT and joined a search-and-rescue team. So when disasters happen now, instead of running away, I’m running towards them and trying to take the skills I learned and be of some use to the community. I think that, if there’s a silver lining in the dark cloud that is the economy right now, it’s that hard times bring people closer together. Now is the time to get to know your neighbors. You never know when you may need them.