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The Colony TV Series
The Colony TV Series

Aired on the Discovery Channel

I was jonesing for more Walking Dead after I finished watching season 3. I couldn't wait for season 4, so in desperation, I followed the "More like..." links and stumbled upon this TV show. It's a reality series that aired before the outbreak. Each season confronted the participants with an end of the world scenario (unknown catastrophe in Season 1, disease in Season 2) and set them loose. I went in with very low expectations and was pleasantly surprised. I'm shocked that I haven't heard more about this and that it lasted only two seasons.

Before I set forth on a glowing review, let me get the negative out of the way:

  1. Too many useful people on each team.

    In season 1, the least useful person was the marine biologists and I'd still want her on my team. At least in season 2 they had a fashion model who was mostly useless. In real life, out of 10 people, you'd be doing good if 2 of them had useful skills and no more than 5 were dead weight.

  2. The show glosses over the team formation stage.

    I cannot blame the show for this, you have to have a good group to make for interesting TV. In real life, though, the team formation stage is the most critical. Many times teams fell apart or were dysfunctional. The bonding that happens (or not) on first contact is very important. I did like that they subjected the participants to sleep deprivation, hunger and other taxing situations before the show started.

  3. I wish my TEotWaWKI experience was sponsored by Harbor Freight.

    This is a Season 1 issue. It seamed like when they needed a tool, a Harbor Freight labelled crate containing the object just happened to be laying around. At least in the second season, they had to do some serious foraging to find their tools.

These are nitpicks. This show is informative, teaches many helpful skills and it was dramatic. Yes, I know this is a staged show and that the participants are truly not in danger (well maybe not, I read that season 3 has been postponed due to the death of a participant), but some of the emotional scenes ring true with me. Here's why you should watch the show:

  1. How to establish a fresh water supply

    As Mr. Grylls showed us in his Man vs. Wild series, fresh water is a key ingredient to survival. Both seasons showed the participants initially struggling with this. Where do you find it? How do you get it back to the shelter? Once there, how do you make it safe to drink? The answer to that last question alone makes this show worthwhile.

  2. How to generate electricity

    To electrify or not was a source for debate throughout TEotWaWKI. The infrastructure needed even for a minimal flow of current mitigates against mobility. It doesn't make sense if your shelter will be temporary and your mode of transportation is by foot or bike. Also, if you're able to scrounge supplies and aren't making things from scratch, your demand for juice won't be as strong. When you do find yourself in a situation requiring a regular supply, though, both seasons demonstrate how you can create your own and store it.

  3. How to work with butt-heads

    Michael from Season 1 is a classic case. He is defensive and quick to see insult in just about everything you say. It would be tempting to give him the boot. But he has an array of skills that would be most useful. Suck it up and see what you can do to put those like him at ease.

These are just a few. They also cover food gathering, security and other useful tidbits. And let me reiterate the drama. From losing team members to the stress from hunger and sleep deprivation, this is good TV.

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Ever Since the World Ended
Ever Since the World Ended

Directed by Calum Grant and Joshua Atesh Litle

This is an independent movie about the survivors rebuilding life in the San Francisco area. It is a well-written and haunting story. While it posits a plague as the agent of TEotWaWKI, the lessons and outcomes are universal.

The Generational Gap

Every time someone else's parent starts telling me about the past, they start crying. That's bullshit. I don't wanna hear your sob stories, I've been living with them. It's almost like you adults are the kids now. They want it the way it was. I think it's a bunch of fucking adults who are still strung out on the idea of what the world used to be. Personally, it's over, if you ask me.

With each passing year, the percentage of people with no memory of Before increases. This is bound to have a serious impact on society. When the last of us are gone, the end of the world will be just another story in the history books.

Justice

Who's going to give up their time to watch this guy?

Exile now seems to make sense, not like the vague concept it was Before. With so few people left, jail guard duty is a waste, a huge opportunity cost. The demand for the death penalty is stronger now.

No Leeway for Bad Luck

It seems more real than it ever did before, more vivid. Before in the world there was so much going on that you were bathed in noise and constant input. There are so few people left that when someone dies, they really die, the silence is that much more profound. But you're used to it.

In this story, someone dies of an infected gunshot wound to the leg, mention is made of a burst appendix. The little shit can get you now. With so few of us left, each is a serious loss. This is why I have such misgivings about the death penalty.

#

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Looking back through my journal of the time from outbreak through that first winter has been a difficult task. So much pain and misery. However, I remember this morning with a bit of fondness. I woke up from my first real sleep since the SHTF.

Day 6

The buildings soak in the rays of the rising sun, reflecting back on my billboard perch across the road. The arches, the red-headed little girl and the ubiquitous source of caffeine. I hate the sameness of fast food architecture, but today it gives me comfort. The memory of my boys whooping it up at an indoor play place, the half eaten cheese burger instantly forgotten; the early mornings before work, when I'd be the only customer and could hear the staccato Spanish ricocheting from the kitchen.

Those buildings look like they're ready to greet the day's customers, but none will be coming. None who I can see, anyways. There are a few zombies moving about like pinballs unsure which way is down, but no one else. There certainly were, though, and not too long ago.

The cars tell the story, map the river bed of the highway that separates those buildings from me. Jammed together, some driven off to the side, run out of gas or vainly trying to bypass everyone else. They would have been smart to just stay put inside, locking the doors, hunkered down. Appears like most got out and hoofed it. Most, but not all. I see a few cars rocking, a zed caught inside, I'm sure. Well I won't come a knocking.

Glad I wasn't here to witness it. I've seen enough already. Could use a sausage, egg and cheese, though. Will have to settle for beef jerky and some raisins.

Trenton was a mess. I'm not far from Philly, which is probably worse.

How much longer until I get home?

1

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Found my journals that I kept starting right after the outbreak until things finally calmed down. It's difficult to re-read this: so much misery, so many things I'd've done different. As I comb through this, I'll post the interesting bits.

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The old man cranes as far back as his stiff neck will allow to watch the V of geese fly north, honking all the way to the horizon. There are only a fews days a year like this, perfect for the hunt. Enough wind to bring the scent, not so much to cover the groans. It dipped below freezing last night, yet warmed up sufficiently to get the prey moving again.

He turns his attention back to the dog. No commands are needed as the man slowly walks into the forrest’s verge, the dog moving back and forth a little ways ahead. Deeper into the woods, the dog picks up a scent and stops. The prey comes stumbling out of the shadows, letting loose a throaty moan. Again, no commands as the dog leads the quarry obliquely across his line of sight. The old man raises his rifle and takes aim. Exhales. Slowly squeezes the trigger. A rose blooms square in the forehead. It’s a kill.

Only then does he allow himself to appreciate her long, blonde hair and blue eyes.

#

The building doesn’t have a sign, not like the old days when marketing was king. It’s a sturdy cube, probably a Mexican restaurant before the war since it looks vaguely like the Alamo.

The old man guides his truck to its usual spot in a gale of dust. The dog follows him inside.

“Got a fresh one this mornin’, Sheriff.” He signals the bartender.

“Crap!” Burns himself with spilt coffee. “I didn’t hear the alarm go out. Who do we have mobilized?”

“No one, it’s not an outbreak. Hey, Dan, what’s the special today?”

“You sure?”

“Venison stew”

“What?”

“Again?”

“Gotta make do with what we have, Bill. Baked some nice crusty bread to go with it, though.” He pulls two drafts, the first one in a bowl for the dog.

The lawman bangs his fist on the bar. “OK, time out, Colonel, I think a possible outbreak is far more important than your damned supper, sir.”

“Sorry, yes, I found her out at the end of Willis Ford Road. Scoured the woods, we found nothing.” In an aside, “Get me a bowl with lots of bread.” Louder, “I think it was just a case of bad luck. Look, I got her picture.”

“It, goddammit, Bill. Don’t humanize the thing, it’s hard enough putting them down without--” he glances at the phone, “Oh, fuck me, that’s Deena, LuAnn’s kid.” With head in hands, “I hate this job. She filed a missing persons report last night. I told her the girl probably ran off with her boyfriend.”

“Sheriff, I can have my wife break the news to LuAnn, they’re cousins.”

“No, no,” he sighs, “Thanks, Dan. I appreciate it, We’ll take care of it. Need to figure out how the kid got infected. Colonel, tell me you didn't burn the body.”

“Nope, I alerted the ME to send some boys out to retrieve her. ” The old man's thirst is great tonight, he quickly signals for a refill. "Myra said she'd give me a call once she's had a look."

Dan slides the steaming bowl, "If it's not an outbreak, how in the hell did the girl get infected?"

"Good question," the old man says through a mouthful of bread. "Perhaps she was hunting blackberries and stumbled on a twitcher."

"I thought you said there's nothing out there," the Sheriff clearly irked.

Bill puts his spoon down, "Listen, I said I didn't find anything. That doesn't mean there ain't something 10 years old out there, unable to move, just a pair of jaws in a bramble somewhere, waiting to snare passing flesh."

His phone vibrates across the bar, rattling his fork. "Yes? OK, I'll be there. Give me about 15 minutes." He shovels 3 quick spoonfuls into his mouth. "The zed's on the slab, ready for an examination. Care to come with me?"

The Sheriff mulls for a second, "This is still an Undead Control case, right?"

"Unless the ME brings something to light, it is."

"Well, I'd like to help, but I better talk to LuAnn first." The lawman returns to his coffee.

"Sure thing," he leaves some bills on the bar and turns to head out.

“You coming back tonight? We’re going to tap our first batch of bourbon.”

“Count me in,” said the old man.

#

The woman is dressed as if for a trip to the moon. You can't be too safe.

The old man sports only a face mask and that just to mask the stench. He doesn't get too close, though.

"Well, she's definitely a zombie."

He recrosses his arms and arches an eyebrow.

"I know, I didn't need to tell you that. Look here, though, this is where the infection started." The doctor lifts up the right shoulder to show the back of the upper arm. "Chewed right down to the bone."

"So it was a twitcher."

"Yes. The DNA in the virus shows first generation. She got bit by an old one. Also, the nature of the wound indicates she was unconscious."

The door bangs open, announcing the Sheriff's entry.

"Nice shiner," jabs the old man.

"LuAnn was understandably unhappy."

The doctor looking up from her work, "Sheriff, not a good idea to be in here with an open wound."

"I'll just stay over here. What did I miss."

"Not much beyond the obvious, I was just about to point out that this may be a case for you." Both men edge closer.

"As I was saying, bruising around her neck is consistent with strangulation. There's still some residual heat in her core. I'd guess time of infection was within 24 hours and reanimation within 6."

"Never heard of a twitcher grabbing with its hands."

"Well no, but another human, eh?" The Doctor lifts up the other arm to show additional bruising. "These are classic marks of an abuse victim. What do you know about this girl, Sheriff?"

"Only what LuAnn told me. She was none too happy with the boyfriend and quite frustrated that Deana couldn't see through him."

"So is that a positive ID?"

"Yes, I showed LuAnn the picture Bill took of her. Well, a part of it. This is definitely Deena Lynne Martin."

The old man leans in, "So, doc, how do you see this playing out?"

"Well, this is just speculation until I can analyze additional material, but it appears she lost consciousness due to strangling and was thought to be dead. A vehicle would have been needed to cart her body out to those woods. It was pure dumb luck that she was dumped near a twitcher. It's also clear that she had been killed, she would not have animated." The doctor begins to clean up.

"I'd say we better find that boyfriend of hers, Sheriff."

"We? You still in this even though it's back in my jurisdiction?"

"I want to see this finished, that's all." The old man grabs his hat. "So where can we find him?"

"He's vacated his place, packed up and gone according to the landlord. I'm guessing he's heading west, to get lost in the mountains. I put the word out. We should hear something soon." The law man nods towards the doctor. "Thanks, Myra."

"No problem, just let me know if you find a crime scene."

#

The patrol car growls to a stop next to the faded yellow arches, across the street from the motel. He watches as the well used pick-up truck pulls into a spot outside the front desk, as if to check in.

The old man is inside for just a minute or two. He tips his hat as he comes back out: Yup, the boyfriend is here. The Sheriff checks his piece one more time, then holsters it as he gets out.

He looks both ways before crossing, old habits die hard, and trots over. The old man has his eyes closed, breathing slowly and deeply. He's been through this before, knows the routine and sticks with it.

As the Sheriff raises his hand to knock on the door, a six inch hole explodes out of its center, throwing him back several feet. And another one takes out the door knob, sending the old man scrambling to get away.

The sound of another round being shucked slips out of the room. The old man goes to a knee and readies. What remains of the door flies open and then disintegrates. The shotgun's barrel leading the man taking his last steps.

#

The old man let the sip of the bourbon linger on his tongue. He stares at the glass, nods, then puts it back on the table.

"I didn't want it to end this way," says the old man, exhaling.

"What? That I survived?" The Sheriff winces as he signals the bartender for two more fingers.

"Of course not. I've resigned myself to being stuck with you for quite some time to come. I'd rather that the boy didn't have to die."

"You had no choice, besides, this is the best possible outcome," responds the sheriff.

"How can you say that? There's so few of us left that the loss of even a lowlife like him cannot be a good thing." The old man takes another sip and savors it for a while.

"I doubt the boy would have been thinking the same thing had he been able to get a bead on you."

The bourbon slides smoothly down his throat, tracing lines as it warms everything it touches. "I don't doubt that at all." The old man digs into the bowl of peanuts. "What in the hell were you thinking, just walking up to the door like that. Don't you remember anything from your academy days?"

"You do realize I wasn't a cop Before."

"Fair enough. I wasn't in the military Before, either."

The silence stretches, but comfortably so, "Good thing that vest of yours didn't have an expiration date."

"Funny thing is, it did, about a year back."

"That is funny." The old man leans forward. "Well, here's to Deena, rest in peace."

The glasses clink.

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Carriers
Carriers

directed by David Pastor and Alex Pastor.

This movie somehow slipped beneath my radar. I only just caught it on NetFlix. How can this be? It's a great example of behavior during an end of the world event; in this case, a world ravaged by disease. We join the story after the initial catastrophe and follow four characters during the aftermath. What we witness is a good reason why you should focus on the basics before the poop hits the fan.

Why survive?

When you could meet your demise each day, you stop thinking about the long term. Merely surviving becomes the goal rather than a means to achieve one. You don't want to make it to the promised land only to look around and ask, "What do I do now?" Why do you want to survive?

A survival goal is intensely personal. It could be a desire to make the world a better place for all or just for your children, or even to find a peaceful home where you can indulge in your love for books. Only you can pass judgement on your goal. Is it something for which you're willing to struggle mightily over a potentially lengthy period of time?

What are you willing do or not do?

This is the end of the world. You're going to be in situations completely unlike those you faced before. You're not going to resolve issues by email or scheduling a meeting. Violence may very well be on the agenda. What are you going to do?

As with goals, what means you find acceptable is a personal decision. I'm not going to tell you that you should be able to kill another human being or abandon people that could negatively impact your chances of survival. What I'm telling you is to decide what's on the table ahead of time.

You don't want to make these decisions in a critical situation. If killing another human being is off the table, that's OK. The ability to act immediately in a critical situation based on this prior understanding could be enough to save your life.

Find like-minded companions

These are personal decisions, but they should be discussed openly among your party. Everyone should be roughly on the same page. Radically divergent goals and acceptable means will lead either to the break up of the party or disaster in an encounter with hostiles.

How not to do it.

SPOILER ALERT!

The party we follow in Carriers got it all wrong:

  • They had their rules about interacting with the infected, but one would not abide by them. The rules were so strict that when she herself became infected, she hid that fact.
  • Their rules dictated that they kick out infected members. Seems logical, but not so easy to implement when it gets down to it.
  • The party had a goal, but in the end it seemed hardly worth the price the remaining members had paid.

This is a must see. The heartrending decisions are just the kind of thing you need to consider while you're not under pressure to do so.

5

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Zed House

The house creaked in the wind, a tree tapped a metronome against the rotting clapboards.

"Burn it down."

"What?"

"You heard me, burn it to the ground."

The boss stared at the building for a few seconds, then shook his head. "And waste what could be reclaimed? Why would I want to do that?"

The old man pointed, "Z for Zed. That's how we marked infected houses back when we thought the outbreak could be contained."

"That was nearly a decade ago. Even if something's still there, it's got to be so desiccated that it's immobile. The copper alone is worth the risk."

The old man flicked his toothpick at the house as he turned to walk away, "I won't allow it, not worth the risk."

"Wait a minute here! This is not a military operation and, anyways, Colonel, last time I checked, you're retired. Your presence here is purely consultative."

He took a step back as the old man advanced on him, ready to cut loose. "What the f...," the Colonel stopped, reconsidered, looking at the house again. "I guess it doesn't matter what I say, you'd come back tonight on your own even if I could terminate the project."

"Well...," he took off his cap and looked down at the brim. "It would make my life easier if you signed off on this."

"John, you're mother would kill me if anything happened to you. I'll sign off, but only if we do this by the book."

The kid put his hat back on, resuming his role as boss, "Fine by me."

#

Clearing a house of the undead is like a slow motion SWAT operation. Zed behaves predictably, so it's best to take your time. One man kicked the door down while another set the clacker, then they retreated.

"If they're ambulatory, this shouldn't take long. I imagine they're hungry. We'll give it five minutes." The old man's eyes never left the doorway. The dust cloud that seemed to be all that was left of the front door billowed out onto the porch, dissipating in the breeze.

"OK, you know the drill. Let's do it!"

Four men ambled up the steps, one kneeling to turn off the clacker. Two broke left while the other pair kept watch just inside the door, eyeing the stairs. The shouts of "Clear!" following the pair around the ground floor. A shot rang out, quickly followed by the all clear.

The old man and the boss entered the house. "Was that a live one?"

"No, just wanted to make sure."

"Cool. Let's get the basement. John, you stay here, make sure nothing comes down those stairs. The crew can wait outside, off the porch."

The team was already at work by the time the old man made it to the kitchen. More dust and a jawbone lying on the floor. A skeletal arm, its hand grasping a coffee mug, was still on the table. The urge for some caffeine suddenly strong.

The all clear sounded from below and a rattle/bang from the cellar door out back.

#

John was halfway up the stairs by then, taking careful steps, his semi-automatic at the ready.

He could could see her from the top of the staircase, through the open doorway. She lay on the bed in what must have been her finest dress. She didn't move.

He stepped into the room, checking the four corners as the Colonel taught him. Stillness, nothing moved but the motes floating through the window pane divided beams of light.

The floor creaked as he moved. She had to have known, if she was still animated. The pendent on her necklace rested on the leather taut across her chest. Coated in dust, it didn't sparkle, but it still caught his practiced eye. He stepped towards her.

Who are you? What happened? You had time to prepare, there's no sign of a rush. Was it poison? He reached for the necklace.

"You either hate me or you're a dumb piece of shit."

The boy recoiled, letting out a shout. "What the fuck? It ain't moving without a good dose of WD-40. Don't go scaring me like that, you crazy mother fucker."

"You think?" The old man tapped the head with the barrel of his rifle. The eyes shot open, jaw snapping. His shot exploded in the room, shaking dust loose from everywhere. The top half of the skull gone.

He turned and walked out. "I want half of what you get for that necklace."

###

Here's another Col. Drinkmore short story: Who Is He?

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I'm a firm believer that the government is the only vehicle that allows the people to act as a whole. The CDC is the federal government at its best and their post, Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse, is evidence of that.

CDC: Get a kit, make a plan, be prepared
CDC: Get a kit, make a plan, be prepared

This is good advice. My only complaint is there is no mention of weapons, nor how to assume a more active defense against zombies. However, given the mission of the CDC, I understand.

READ THIS NOW!

2

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The Official Underground 2012 Doomsday Survival Handbook by W. H. Mumfrey
The Official Underground 2012 Doomsday Survival Handbook by W. H. Mumfrey

by W. H. Mumfrey

I really wanted to like this book. My daughter bought it for me as a birthday present. I was touched that she takes my interest in the subject of TEotWaWKI survival seriously. I am also fascinated by the Mayan prophesy that the world will end on December 21, 2012, despite that god awful movie. This should have been a sure hit.

And it was, for the first half of the book. The author surveys the various end-of-times prophesies in world history and then explores the Mayan story. This is a worthwhile read. I especially like the section on how to become an effective prophet. Hysterical, yet true. If only Mr. Mumfrey left it at this.

  1. Where was the editor?

    Nothing kills a book faster for me than poorly written prose. I can understand the occasional error, but, c'mon! Doing so repeatedly kills your credibility.

    When it comes to acts of barbarity, few can surpass those that profess sanctity.

    Who is for people and That is for things. Ugh!

  2. What's with the militant vegetarianism?

    Yes, that's right. In a book about the end of the world, the author repeatedly pokes those who eat meat.

    The term cognitive dissonance is used to explain the uncomfortable feeling caused by holding two contradictory ideas at the same time, such as . . . believing in animal rights, but eating meat.

    and

    Do you give a moment's thought to the concentration camp living conditions and terror-stricken deaths of the animals you eat?

    Perhaps there might be some gray area between the two extremes of vegetarianism and industrial food production?

  3. The lost focus dooms the book.

    After the great start, the author then outlines what it would take to survive the end of the world. OK, fine, but he delves into every possible scenario. You can't do that in a single book, much less the final 100 pages of this one. While I give him kudos for exploring how to live in the new world as we will know it, does he really have to tell us how to setup a government and start a new religion? I understand he's trying to humorous here, but there's far too many books out there already that map out these survival techniques. This just makes him one of a crowd.

So, read this if 2012 is of great interest to you. Do take notes because there is some good advice here (Mormons are required by their religion to stock up on supplies for the end of the world. I'm just saying.). You can tune out after 100 pages or so, though.

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Frozen Movie Poster
Frozen

directed by Adam Green

What a humdinger of a movie this is. My expectations were low: obviously low budget, a no-name cast and some of the special effects were, well, not so special, but, DAMN, it told a great story.

The premise is simple. Three kids talk their way onto a ski lift for one last run, only to get stuck aloft with no hope of rescue for days since the resort is closed during the week. This is another one of those little TEotWaWKIs of which I wrote recently. They were so focused on getting one more go at the slopes that they lost track of what was truly at stake. They had plenty of warning. The operator told them a storm was coming. The lifts were obviously empty for quite some time. And one of them was a beginner. Ah, but kids always think they're invincible.

The movie also raises another issue to consider. What if your only apparent option is one that involves a serious chance of death? Do you wait as long as possible to see if any other opportunities arise? But what if your energy is waning? The longer you wait, the less likely you'll succeed. This is a tough call and harkens back to our discussion of time scale in my review of the TV show After Armageddon. If you're 100% certain rescue will come in the morning, you'll wait, but what if you're wrong?

Do watch this movie. It will scare the crap out of you. Make sure you're bundled up, though, the story seeps into bones like a deep chill. And don't be the last one on the lift.