Improvised Apocalypse Arsenal Part 2: Self Defense

I’ve been musing more on the ‘Improvised Apocalypse Arsenal’ concept that I introduced on Saturday. I think I have more posts in me on the subject.  Sorry. 
Today I’d like to talk about ‘Self Defense.’  No, not ‘self defense’ as in having weapons with you — I would categorize that as ‘defense of self through self offense.’  When the shit comes down. whether it be ravenous undead, Mad Max type wastelanders armed with hand-made crossbows, feral children with tooth and nail or mutants with super powers, you are going to want something to protect yourself from harm — a barrier between you and danger that can be as big as a castle or as small as a shield improvised from a trash can lid.  Self protection becomes doubly important in an ‘infection’ scenario — when the bite of one zombie = eventual zombification, then taking pains not to get bitten seems a worthwhile investment.

It’s just a matter of time…

1) Don’t get out of the car: Is this good advice?  I don’t know.  I guess it depends. The good thing about the car is that you can lock yourself inside of it and drive away.  And maybe you’ll have some bottled water, road flares or a blanket in the trunk. But when the apocalypse comes (and come it will), the roads are going to be jammed with bumper-to-bumper vehicles, each containing a happy-meal for the undead, mutants or cannibals in the form of a commuter who is probably armed only with a smart phone and a coffee.  Easy pickings.
Also, most cars have a lot of glass, so, unless you are moving down the road at considerable speed, any determined adversary who can pick up a rock or other window smasher is going to eventually get you.  The car is also a crappy place to hide; anything taller than a schnauzer is going to see you trying to hunker down in the driver’s seat of your Corolla.  Be smart.  Know when to make a break and hoof it.  I suppose there are exceptions — if you have a helicopter instead of a car, you can thumb your nose at the proles stuck on the freeway below, but what goes up must eventually come down (and, if the apocalypse scenario is flying monkeys or fire breathing dragons, perhaps up in the air is the last place you want to be).
Max Brooks recommends vehicles like armored cars and the like, but good luck in getting your hands on one of those.  If you try to jack the dudes who work for the armored car company, they will just shoot you; end of your story, or maybe they will just smile and wave at you through the bullet proof glass as the rabid mole rats or whatever rip you apart.

Zombies: more persistent than Amway people.

2. Don’t go outside: Good advice? Again, it depends.  If you are shopping at ‘The Sunglasses Hut’ and suddenly the irradiated ghouls attack, unless you can lock down the whole mall immediately, get your ass out of there.  If the threat is outside and you are inside, that’s probably more good than bad — figure out where they are going to get in and either barricade or surrender indefensible parts of the territory.  But always leave yourself an exit! That upstairs bedroom might seem like a good place to hide, but if they are coming in the bedroom door can you go out the window?  Have an exit strategy.
 Also: how defensible and well supplied is this place you want to call home?  Shopping malls seem to be a movie favorite for zombie survival, but Hollywood has some peculiar ideas about the defensibility of a mall… too much glass and not enough moats and machine-gun nests for my taste. Most malls seem to be a good source for stylish clothing, designer purses and jewelry, but these items are going to be less useful than shotguns, iodine and canned beans, which, in my experience, are left for more prosaic shopping destinations to provide.  Some place like Wal-mart might be better, but those big box stores are also going to be ground zero for infection as panicking suburbanites pack in there, trying to grab all the toaster pastries and bottled water that they can fit into their mini-vans.
The last urban high school I taught in might have made a pretty good fortress.  The kitchen was provided with industrial sized cans of cling peaches and fruit cocktail. The pre-war building had thick walls and bars on the windows. The nurses office had at least some medical supplies. There might have even still been some dated supplies* in the fallout shelter. Best of all, it was a run-down place with an undesirable zipcode, so few people are going to contest you for it’s ownership.

3) Learn from the ancestors: Time was, our ancestors defended themselves by scampering up a tree.  And a tree still makes a good refuge… consider the dog and squirrel.  If dogs had hands instead of paws, squirrels would have been wiped out years ago.

4) Clothes make the man: We need to divide this into sub-categories:

Survival skills for post-collapse America!

4a) Hooray for the SCA: I never did the SCA thing, myself.  When I heard of it, I envisioned people in armor whacking each other with blunted weapons, which seemed to me like a very good way to train for many possible versions of the apocalypse. Unfortunately, most SCAers seem to spend most of their time wandering the Ren Faire in floppy hats, bodices and cloaks; garments that offer little or no protection from bites, claws or bullets and probably are impossible to run or climb a chain link fence in. If you an SCAer, leave the pirate costume in the closet and stick with the chain mail instead. Accessorize that battle armor with a decidedly non-period shotgun and replace the rattan sword with a machete or baseball bat. Armor will slow you down, however, so stay close to a vehicle in case you need to make a quick get away.

Dress for success

4b) Road Warrior: Leather motorcycle gear is probably a good choice – a nice compromise between protection and maintaining a decent movement rate. Stylish AND lots of zippered pockets for extra ammo, etc. Plus it makes you look like a tough guy… and, in case you dress for the apocalypse on a day when it fails to come about, you can just tell people that you are on your way to Sturgis. Accessorize with boots, leather gloves and helmet.  Leather won’t stop a bullet, but it will probably slow down the teeth and claws of the undead or offer at least some protection from the teeth of rabid doberman pinchers.

Kelley was a badass, no doubt.

4c: The Sporting Life: Football players wear shoulder pads that would make damn good protection while battling other post-apocalyptic warriors armed with chains, boards studded with nails, lead pipes, etc.  Lacrosse helmets offer great impact protection and high visibility — probably as good or better than those buckets most SCAers wear on their heads. Hockey offers shin guards, elbow protection, knee protection and gauntlets.  Baseball offers the ever important groin protection: preserve your ability to repopulate the earth! About the only thing I can’t see being that useful are those giant shin guards that Cricket players wear — maybe if the apocalypse involves low-to-the-ground attackers like prairie dogs.

4d: Full Metal Jacket: Modern body armor, made for the military and law enforcement, offers medieval style protection with less weight, easy on-easy off velcro fasteners PLUS it is the only garment that can have a chance of stopping a bullet.  Unfortunately, it is also expensive.
For those of us on a budget, I suppose there is the Ned Kelley “Hillbilly armor” option.  A few visits to the scrap yard and hardware store, a few hours with the blow torch and pop-rivet gun and maybe you, too, can walk through a hail of bullets like Kelley.

He who smelt it, dealt it.

4e: Hazmat: To be truly prepared, you gotta figure out a way of getting at least one of those Hazmat suits and masks into your life in case the future apocalypse involves contagion, chemical menace or similar. The problem is, of course, that unless you KNOW that the risk is and what form it will take (is a painter’s particle mask sufficient?  Or are you going to need the full body condom with bottled O2?) and you know exactly when to put your gear on, you are either limited to living your life like ‘The Boy in the Plastic Bubble’ (i.e.: assume 24-7 that you are under attack from some sort of unseen chemical or biological menace and spend your life inside a giant zip-lock bag — sorry; I’d almost rather be dead than succumb to that level of paranoia) or hope for an early warning from the CDC. Perhaps a few filter masks and latex gloves in the glove compartment couldn’t hurt…

4f: Less is More: I envision that the future might belong to the fit and athletic practitioners of the art of parkour. Dressed, at most, in Adidas, jeans and a hoodie, they seem to effortlessly leap from parapet to fence to rooftop, always one step ahead and out of reach of whatever menace the apocalypse holds.  I envy them and wish them well; the future probably belongs to them.

*On a dare I once ate some “survival biscuits” that we found sealed in tin cans in an abandoned building. I think they dated back to when Nixon was in the Whitehouse. They were dry and tasteless; like Saltines without salt.

What’s in your Improvised Apocalypse Arsenal?

School of Hard Knocks

Last night I watched about 1/2 of ‘Battle Royale,’ a circa 2000 Japanese movie/novel that some say inspired the more highbrow novel, The Hunger Games. The basic premise is that in the near future, the school kids of Japan start to behave so badly that the adults decide to pass a ‘Battle Royale’ law in which classes of kids are chosen at random and dropped on an uninhabited island where they have to battle one another to the death.  Each student is given a bag that contains food, water, a map and one weapon. The weapon is chosen at random; it might be an Uzi or it might be a spork. In addition, the students are fitted with explosive collars and certain regions of the island will randomly be chosen to become “get out of here NOW or your head will explode” zones to keep the kids moving around. I don’t know how it all turned out because I was tired and I couldn’t bring myself to keep watching it — maybe I’ll finish it when I am less tired.  It’s not as unwatchable as some Japanese popular cinema, but the acting conventions of Japanese popular cinema are something I think I just don’t get. People are always convulsing with anger, fear or sadness which usually involves screaming through clenched teeth, doubling over like they have been hit in the stomach and having their eyes bug out… in short, they behave like cartoon characters.  This Gaijin just doesn’t get it and will leave it to the bloggers who are Japan-o-philes to explain.

The genius of having the kids get random weapons, however, is hard to ignore. Which made me want to wonder, with my morning coffee, about the question, “When the shit hits the fan (be it attack of space aliens, the rising of the disenfranchised classes, zombie outbreak, etc., take your pick), how are YOU going to defend yourself?”

1) Guns are the obvious choice, especially if you live in the US where there seem to be as many guns as people.  Unfortunately, unless you are a concealed carrier of weapons or in a job that gives ready access to guns (like law enforcement or working in ‘Firearms’ at Bass Pro Shop), you are only likely to have your guns with you if you know the shit is about to come down or you are at home (or wherever you keep your gun(s) if you have them).

My sidearm of choice would be my .38 Special revolver or a shotgun (only because I am familiar with these tools), but people who are into guns will probably have Glocks with 30 round magazines and semi-auto rifles illegally modified to class 3 status with 75+ round drum magazines, so my shootin’ irons are probably woefully outclassed and I’ll be dead in the first few minutes.

The Decider.

Speaking of gun porn, if one had to choose just one gun, you might want to go for the Kel-Tec shotgun. It features twin magazines that hold 6 shells each, so you could load one with buckshot and the other with slugs and then blast away, switching back and forth with buckshot for close range and slugs for further away.  Plus it looks like it’s from the future. Kel-tec says the ejection port is underneath so southpaws won’t have it ejecting spent shells into their face. $800.00 MSRP means it’s not the most expensive option, either. 

The good news is that if you live in the US, guns are cheap and easy to get, so you can easily add a .380 to your wardrobe, a pump shotgun to your hall closet and a 9mm to your nightstand.  The bad news is that if you live in the US, guns are cheap and easy to get, so when the shit goes down we will all probably be shooting each other.  We won’t have to wait for the zombies to kill us; our neighbors will probably shoot us because we look a little off or we were about to grab the last pack of Twinkies from the floor of the looted Wal-Mart.

2) The kitchen provides a lot of potential improvised weaponry. My first impulse is to grab a “chef’s knife” with as long a blade as I could find, perhaps 8″ or more.  I like the chef’s knife because it could be used to stab or slash and has a little more reach than the paring knife or cleaver. Since it’s made for chopping, the blade has a little more heft than some of the longer knives.  AVOID the wavy bladed bread knife.  It looks like it would hurt like hell (and it probably would if your enemy just stood there and let you saw at him) but the blade is usually too thin to stand up to living sinew and bone (which is a lot tougher than cooked meat).  Let some other fool take the bread-knife. Remember, although a lot of people show up in emergency rooms with cuts from bread knives every day, those wounds are always self inflicted by bagel eaters who are too lazy to get out a cutting board (yes, I have thought about this… wait, don’t look at me like that…).

Whacking someone with an iron skillet seem like a no-brainer (get it?), but the cast iron skillet has become a relic of a bygone era in many US kitchens, probably because you can’t just stick ’em in the dishwasher, so unless you are in the kitchen of a foodie or a southerner, the likelyhood of finding a plain old iron skillet is greatly reduced.  The problem with the iron skillet is that it is damned awkward to wave around… in order to do damage with it, you are going to need a lot of wind up for your swing, and the short handle combined with the big round pan makes it just too damn top heavy. These space-age material pots and pans usually have all the disadvantages of the iron skillet (awkward shape and you need a lot of swinging room) with none of the heft; I’d leave ’em on the shelf unless you really have no better options. Rolling pins seem like a good idea, but they are usually too light to give a good whack. I’d probably grab a meat tenderizer mallet instead, although, honestly, go for the chef’s knife if you can.

People in the movies often seem to throw hot water or coffee on an attacker, but, honestly, unless you standing right beside the stove and the liquid is REALLY fucking hot, you really can’t make this your battle plan.  It’s also  a one shot weapon — afterwards, you are just a guy holding an empty carafe and facing an enraged and wet opponent.

Be nice to the groundskeeper; maybe he’ll let you live.

3) The garden shed / storage area provides some very good options.  Baseball bats, axes/hatchets or a machete might be my first choice, but a shovel shouldn’t be underestimated. Erich Maria Remarque discussed the possibilities of the shovel as an effective hand-to-hand weapon in ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ (go for the throat with it!).

I’d take the hardwood ‘Louisville Slugger’ over those $100.00 aluminum bats simply because I remember seeing a kid in grade school take a whack at a phone pole with an aluminum bat and bending the thing in half… and he wasn’t that strong a kid. Remember that you can also use the bat as a baton in close quarters — a good poke in the gut with 3 feet of ash or hickory is going to slow most tough guys down, although you should swing for the head if it’s a zombie situation.

Axes or crowbars are also good for getting through doors, windows, etc., in a hurry when you don’t have a key.  Speaking of axes — why are there so many ‘fire axes’ in office buildings in movies?  I’ve been in hundreds of office buildings in real life and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a fire axe just hanging on the wall, but in every movie it seems the hero is always breaking the glass and grabbing that bright red axe when he needs to do some chopping.  Fucking Hollywood bullshit is what that is.


Speaking of Hollywood, LEAVE the chainsaw in the garage for some Tobe Hooper fan-boy to take. Chainsaw injuries are horrific, but are, as far as I know, almost always self inflicted accidents.  The chainsaw is only dangerous when it is running… and while it is running it is so fucking noisy that you might as well tie bells all over yourself to tell the zombies, “Here comes dinner!”  If you switch it off, good luck in starting it when the shit hits the fan; your opponent will have chewed out your throat or stabbed you 100 times with a pointed stick before you can get it started.  I’m no Hercules but I can cut tree trunks lying on the ground all afternoon with a chainsaw, but when I have to reach out from my body to get the high branches, I’m exhausted in about ten minutes… imagine trying to hit a moving target with that thing?  And, if you are dealing with an infection situation, do you really want all that blood flying around?

I hope my little essay has helped you consider YOUR apocalypse plan.  Remember, we don’t know what form it will take or when it will come, but unless Murphy’s Law is wrong, we know it’s coming so BE PREPARED!

All in a day’s work

I work most of the week as a ‘business analyst’ which is a fancy way of saying that I do a lot of different things while sitting at a desk. I research new vendors/suppliers, place and track orders with existing vendors, confirm that invoices for equipment or services that have been received can be paid, etc., plus anything else that needs doing, including writing process, procedure and policy documents.  Some of it is boring and most of it is mundane, but the people are great… and a good relationship with my fellow employees means a lot to me.

“I searched for ‘Pussy Riot’ and this was what I got.”

Every week I get a ‘web use report’ emailed automatically from some bit of software in our network that I think is supposed to keep people from surfing the face-tubes or the you-books all day long. This shows me, with colorful pie-graphs, which users are downloading viruses or pornography or making hacking related searches or violence related searches.  Unfortunately, the software is usually quite tone-deaf — recently it exploded because nearly half of the people on the network viewed something related to ‘PUSSY RIOT.’  I suppose pornography buffs would have been disappointed when the ‘Pussy Riot’ search returned pictures of three fully dressed women sitting in a fish tank enclosure in a Russian court room.  I also get alerts for ‘hacking related’ search terms whenever one of the engineers that work here read something online about ‘Cracking.’ Unfortunately, the software doesn’t know the difference between ‘how to go about cracking a password’ and ‘Lab studies of stress cracking in polycarbonate widgets.’ Plus there are other funny ones, like when it flagged someone’s search for ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.’  Apparently, ‘teen’ and ‘teenage’ search terms are always flagged because pornographers like those key words — go figure. Usually, the searches that people at my workplace do are disappointingly mundane.  I guess I’m supposed to just make sure no one is doing searches like, “How to build a pipe bomb” or “What gun is best for going on a shooting spree?” and watch out for obvious and outrageous policy violations.  

In other job news, there may soon be an opening in the Maryland Legislature for a Republican delegate, so if you are between positions and live in Maryland, consider sending in your resume.  Delegate Don Dwyer was piloting a motorboat while shitfaced drunk and crashed his boat into another boat, injuring a total of 6 people (including himself). His re-election was considered a slam dunk up until he went sailing with ‘Capn’ Morgan.’ Dwyer is famous for being a vocal opponent to same sex marriage, because, in the delegate’s opinion, it “hurts children.” Ironically, several of the injured in the boat that the drunken Dwyer crashed into were children, so I would have to point out that it looks to me as if drunken state delegates piloting speed boats are probably more of a danger to the health of children than gay people getting married. 

Brain Eater

Yesterday I posted a pic of a monster I am working up; today I have a revised image.  It’s a little smaller and is more ‘dug in’ to the victim’s brain, using 1/2 of it’s eight tentacles to grasp the victim by the throat and sticking tentacles in the ears and mouth to ‘pull the strings’ on the person it is controlling… leaving 4 tentacles free to attack the next victim.

Edit: Better yet!  Jon C. asked me if I had ever seen the old horror movie, “Fiend without a Face.”  I have not, but check it out… brains crawling around like inch worms:

Videodrome (1983)

In David Cronenberg’s film, Videodrome (1983), an ethically challenged cable news station manager is becoming addicted to snuff film videos, and, while watching them and fondling a Walther PPK pistol (James Bond’s gun), he discovers that a vaginal-like slot has appeared in his stomach. So he does what any reasonable person would do in that situation — he begins to nuzzle the strange opening with the barrel of his weapon, finally jamming the whole pistol and hand in there (which seems to be either painful or orgasmic)… and losing his pistol when his stomach vagina suddenly dissapears.

Given that he has made ‘body horror’ films like Dead Ringers, Naked Lunch and Videodrome, I wonder if Cronenberg’s mother read things like Kafka’s Metamorphosis to him when he was in utero.

Despite the datedness of some of the technology (pirate video involving Betamax tapes and cable scramblers), the movie was great. The wikipedia entry calls it “techno-surrealist” (which is pretty apt) and it’s interesting to try and go back to when “cyborgism” and William Gibson techno novels were still new concepts. The paranoia in this film would make Phillip K. Dick proud. Debbie Harry is great as a seductress/masochist and there was a lot of wierd shit in it, which allowed me to forgive the clunky dialogue. Plus there is an exploding hand that blows a perfectly timed escape hole in the back wall of a store that is like a cartoon — funny and wierd. The protagonist escapes through the hole into a street full of people who are ignoring the fact that a wall just exploded and a dude with a vagina in his stomach came running out. Perhaps that kind of stuff happens pretty often in Toronto. James Woods stars as the stomach-vaginaed Max Renn.

End of the World Poll

It has all got to come to an end eventually, right?

I started a poll to find out which apocalypse readers would prefer; please choose from the broad categories listed, or, if none of them tickle your fancy, add suggestions below.

I’ve grown just a little tired of zombies now that they have started showing up in mattress store advertisements, but I might also be suffering from “If other people like it I no longer should” syndrome… deep down, I suspect I will always love the shuffling hordes of undead… so I think ‘zombie apocalypse’ would be my favorite. But maybe I just want to shoot people but not have to feel bad about it (“Hey, I didn’t kill them… they were already dead!”).

Alien invasions / triffids / Terminators, etc., have a lot of appeal, especially if accompanied by desperate fighting on the part of a rag tag band of plucky survivors. And, fuck it, I realized I left ‘robots from the future’ off the poll, but now that someone has voted (me), Blogger tells me that I cannot edit the poll. Dammit! Perhaps ‘robots from the future’ could be assumed under triffids/sleestaks, etc., or ‘space invaders.’ I probably should have included ‘computer goes beserk/Y2k/Skynet’ and ‘robots from the future’ could be included in that…

Rapture / sun going nova, etc., don’t appeal to me because, well, no one gets out of it alive and the whole thing is just over. I saw some film about a nuclear bomb going off when I was a kid and at the end of the movie everyone is just lying around dying with their hair and teeth falling out — not how I envisioned the end of days. That movie still gives me the creeps; I wish I could figure out what it was so I could watch it again.

So, how about you? What is your favorite ‘END TIMES’ scenario?


A sad day. I found out ‘maximalism,’ as a word, has already existed and was used as a negative term for novels by Pynchon and David Foster Wallace by some tight assed English guy. Here I thought a friend of mine and I had invented the term years ago while we were bullshitting about an art exhibit where every sense of the visitor would be employed… i.e.: you would simultaneously smell a rotting carcass, look at a painting or photo or video, listen to someone pounding on a sheet of metal with a live cat as someone else beat you on the ass with a hairbrush as you ate gummy worms dipped in yoghurt and hot sauce — smell, touch, taste, sight and sound all rolled into one motherfucking brain beating experience. Add strobe lights and a fog machine. Guaranteed to turn your brain to shit from over stimulation. Turns out some writer beat us to the punch.

Let that be a lesson to me. Never hesitate to pull the trigger and get it documented as soon as possible.

I was going to use ‘maximalism’ as the title for a comic book I was working on — a tongue in cheek acknowledgement of art school pretensions and too many hours in art history lectures. Now I find out it is old hat.

Baboons with pet dogs

Baboons kidnap the puppies of feral dogs and raise them as family members so the dogs can help guard the baboons.

I am getting old

I was visiting my parent’s house in Saint Louis a week ago and noticed a copy of AARP magazine on the table. (AARP is the “American Association of Retired Persons” (or something like that)). The magazine, by itself, was not surprising. My father finally retired and he likes to look through magazines while sipping his morning coffee.

But I was alarmed to see Han Solo on the cover:

Desperate for attention, Glenn Beck sinks to a new low

Glenn Beck apparently saw all of the headlines about the attack in Norway by Anders Breivik and said to himself, “How can I get in on some of that attention?” Well, he gave it his best shot by comparing the people who got slaughtered at the Utoeye camp to ‘The Hitler Youth,‘ provoking hoped for howls of outrage from all over and once again getting his own name into the headlines.

“There was a shooting at a political camp, which sounds a little like the Hitler Youth, or whatever,” Beck said. “I mean, who does a camp for kids that’s all about politics? Disturbing,” Would he had made the same statement if the shooting had occurred at one of the youth camps sponsored by Beck’s own 9/12 organization in which instructors provide “heritage-based education for youth, with special focus on the Constitution and the Founding generation”?

“I’m thinking about killing Glenn Beck, and I’m wondering if I could kill him myself, or if I would need to hire somebody to do it. … No, I think I could. I think he could be looking me in the eye, you know, and I could just be choking the life out. Is this wrong?…” (now, now, put your righteous indignation away; for context, check #3 here)