“There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.”

― Frank Herbert

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

National Geographic's "Live Free or Die."



I suppose, if you had to categorize the lifestyle here, it would be "primitive."

There really are people who want to live in the "mountain man era" or "the stone age" and I guess they are entitled to try it if they want to.

This show is about trying to do that.  Being something of an eccentric myself, I hesitate to throw stones.  There would be a degree of "the pot calling the kettle black" in that.

Still, to be honest,  Nat Geo is doing another "Doomsday Prepper" thing here. They look for the most bizarre, outlandish people to film.  There's the wanna be mountain man, who lives in the Georgia swamps.  He says he's been drinking the swamp water for years without ill effect.  I cry "B.S." on that one, even Les Stroud met a hideous fate with parasites in the Georgia swamp and he boiled his water, something that the character in the picture above does on a hit or miss basis if at all.

I also think there's something in the "screw loose" department about a guy who wears his Daniel Boone fur hat every second of the day.  His red trapper coat is right out of  Backwoodsman magazine. Maybe he's trying to recreate that life style and if he wants to, so be it. It's his life. But he's no survivalist.

Then there's the hippy couple, and I confess I liked them.  I have no idea how they pay the taxes on their land, but they seem pretty content living off grid with just about zero amenities. I wouldn't mind having them on the next mountain.  I wouldn't want "Mountain Man" anywhere within a 100 miles of my house.

Then there's the fellow who lives a primitive hunter life style in California.  Harmless, but I doubt that with the drought out there, he's "sustainable."  People who eat rats as the primary staple of their diet don't have good teeth, so he's getting some veggies and vitamins from somewhere. Maybe a future show will tell how.

Finally, there's stone age man. He lives in the Blue Ridge just up from me.  What is it about the Blue Ridge mountains that attract all these strange people? Even if I accept I am one of them, I at least have a foot in the modern world. This Stone Age hunter fellow lives in a grass and leaf shack, at a higher elevation than I do. He apparently subsists on squirrels, beans and rice.  I don't particularly think I'd want him living near me.  I think he's like Trapper Man,  he's one beer short of a six pack.

Maybe I was put off by the cheesy, pseudo hillbilly music the producers elected to use for a background. None of these individuals have anything at all to do with mountain people, so why the banjo's, dulcimers, and drums throbbing away all through the show?

Again, if somebody wants to go that route, it's their right.  Looks like a hell of a miserable life all around, and I have some doubts about the complete authenticity of the presentation, but I could be wrong.

27 comments:

  1. Sounds like I made a good decision to record it and plan on watching it later.

    Now I'll just simply delete it and spend that hour on something more productive.

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    1. You might want to watch it and see what you think. I thought it was bizarre but that's just me.

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  2. Our conservation agent told us of an incident where another agent was wearing a coon skin hat and a great horned own swooped out of the trees and tried to attack what it thought was a raccoon. It broke the agent's neck and killed him. I always think about this when I see those caps now.

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    1. That would be a strange way to go. I haven't seen anybody wearing a Daniel Boone coon skin cap in a long time, but then, this guy on the show was strange in a lot more ways than that.

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  3. Hey Harry,

    (captaincrunch)

    I am glad I missed that show.

    On my travels I met many 'off the gridders' in West Texas. Most are mundane average people that for whatever reason want to live off the grid. Some of them out there are kinda crazy, but for the most part its about living an independent lifestyle of freedom.

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    1. Check out the show. I bet you haven't met many people like California Primitive Hunter or Blue Ridge Cave Man. The Trapper guy, maybe, except for the affectation of his wardrobe, etc. The only people I saw who could be called "normal" in any respect was the hippie couple. These people, for the most part, aren't just wanting to live off grid, they want to recreate a specific period from history. It would be like you dressing up like a cowboy and riding around on a horse, on your own little ranch with no modern conveniences.

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  4. I guess I missed it, but its TV. Remember its pure theater, as in make belief and entertainment, the operative word is SHOW, reality is not even a close second.

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    1. True, but these people are really living this life style. All of them have been doing this for a long time, which is why they were selected for the show.

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  5. Yeah, I'm the anon who mentioned it yesterday, hoping it would be better. A lot of 'nutz' on that show. Durn it. It looks like next week, Trapper Dude looks like his house burnt down.

    I will give the show one thumbs up, they didn't shy away from showing animal butchering. Making meat is a skill, going from pictures of dead animal on ground to skillet really does skip a lot of steps.

    I'll give it one more show and then decide.

    Looks like 'Fat Guys In the Woods' is my only repeat customer then, at least so far.

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    1. I'm glad you told me about it, and I'd have missed it otherwise. I don't know if I will watch it again. I can't see how I can learn much from it because I'm not going to be doing bows or trapping, but still....

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  6. We watched it. *sigh* the CA guy only does that 3 months out of the year..so that would explain his perfect teeth.
    The Hippie couple...I hate to see what would crawl out of that guys hair...ick! Take a bath dude.
    The blue ridge man...who tatoos across their nose?
    The swamp man- senior and I agreed about the water..
    My take on all these shows..if you are so dang hungry then ask the camera crew for food...I am sure they aren't having to squash rats for breakfast....

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    1. That pretty well sums it up. What I mainly carried away from the show was a reinforced belief that there are some very strange people out there.

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  7. I watched it for about 30 minutes! My BS meter was spiking.

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    1. Mine too. I watched the whole thing and it just got stranger and stranger. If I watch that show I may get scared of living up here! :-0

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  8. Harry eccentric? Nah...you're too well read for that label. And besides, Lots of regular folks would like to live like you do. I know I would. And if I ever made it on the discovery channel, there wouldn't be any background music from "deliverance". --Troy

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    1. Oh, I know I have some quirks, but I am relatively harmless. I don't care what they say down at the Sheriff's Department. They just don't know the real me.

      :-)

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  9. johnny carson occasionally asked a guest what period of history they would pick to live in if they got the chance. i told my husband i don't want to live anywhere or time without penicillin and its cousins!! swamp water, indeed!
    deb h.

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    1. It's nice to have medicines, sure enough. As I get older l appreciate them more and more.

      That guy was surely blowing smoke about sometimes drinking unboiled swamp water. Les Stroud filmed an episode in the Georgia swamps, boiled his water conscientiously, and still got a hideous parasite infection that was extremely difficult to eradicate.

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  10. Just another knock at self-sufficiency while trying to create "characters". The Georgia "trapper" was the worst except that I can't even imagine living in a brush pile like one of the contrived characters. I've been trapping in Georgia for over 45 years (I wrote the trapping regulations in 1974 and specifically required trappers to be armed as a thumb in the eye of anti-gun nuts and yes I'm in Kennesaw) and any trapper attempting to use the rusted POS traps shown on the show should be horse whipped. As far as drinking the swamp water, the idiot is drinking water from where he caught a beaver whose waste is the source of Giardia. Better tape this guy cause he ain't going to be around long.

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    1. I think Nat Geo is missing the boat when they go out and find all these wing nut types. The basic idea, people living a self sufficient life style, is a good one and there's a lot of interest in that these days. But they have to take it to the extremes and that really denigrates the entire concept.

      I've spent a lot of time in the "anus orbis" regions of the world, and I know that water is dangerous stuff, even when the locals can drink it and nobody in South Georgia drinks unfiltered or untreated swamp water, I'm sure. Except Trapper Man. I remember drinking orange soda pop and beer, exclusively for about two weeks when I was doing a job in Eastern Turkey. They had a cholera epidemic going on at the time. To this day orange soda makes me feel queasy and I'm not a big beer drinker. Too much of a good thing.

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  11. I caught the rerun of the first episode last night and was disappointed. Did not even finish watching it. It seems they can't help but dumb down the whole thing with some phoney narrative for a 12 yr old audience. But I guess the stuff sells as they keep using the same formula including the same voice-overs for all those shows. Perhaps I am just jaded as I can't seem to find much I care for on TV these days.

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    1. I didn't watch the second one. I thought, when I heard of it, that it might have potential. "Ice Lake Rebels" for instance, was a good show and I liked "Where the Wild Men Are". But this particular show is too "made up." I'm glad I had the opportunity to see the first one though, in case it had turned out to be good.

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  12. I watch briefly every now and then. It's a pretty harmless show but after a few minutes it just starts to grate on me. I wasn't sure why, but then it occurred to me that it's just a kids show like cowboy shows and Disney stories in the 1960's (yeah I'm old, but the reruns are still on). These people are not self sufficient and not off the grid. They actually seem rather weak, silly, and dependent. The characters wear custom costumes just like you'd expect for a kids show about mountain men. There are glimpses throughout of tools bought at a local big box store. They seem to be completely ill prepared and without skills. When they make or build things it's always like they are playing. For people that are self sufficient they have tons of time to play around and try hair brained ideas. They appear to be well nourished even though their, hunting, farming and gathering is rudimentary at best. Trips to Whole Foods are probably bi-weekly. As for being off the grid it's obvious as hell that they are totally connected and in the case of the older guys they are probably getting a pension from somewhere and being Daniel Boone impersonators is a retirement hobby. The couple "homesteading" (yeah right) near Asheville NC seems nice, but c'mon. You can bet there is an old Subaru or Volvo parked somewhere and an iPhone and laptop tucked away somewhere in the cabin. "Mom? Yes, the camera guys are gone. We need a little money to upgrade my phone and fix the Subaru. Nat Geo said we might get in another show! NO we are not going to get jobs! CLICK!" Not off the grid. They then drive 40 miles into Asheville to get her birth control prescription and go to some wanna be hippy event. None of these people are off grid. They are surrounded by smart phones, laptops, HD cameras, etc. One short walk to some vehicle or neighbor that has a vehicle, water and electricity. Having crappy stuff and trying to build half-assed things in your yard (or on public land) doesn't make you self sufficient or off the grid. There are people like that in every suburban neighborhood. Furthermore burning wood and shitting anywhere you want is not environmentally conscious. If everyone burnt wood we'd never see the sky and all have lung disease. I remember Flagstaff AZ before they passed stove regulations. On a still winter day you couldn't see a quarter mile because of the good ol' fashioned stoves. This is just a little entertainment show about people that like to tinker around in the woods. In some ways it is actually detrimental, because the lifestyles presented are environmentally deficient and the individuals are, in reality, as dependent on technology and modern infrastructure as anyone. Given illness or injury they will whip out a cell phone and call rescue to come get them at the end of the gravel road on a snowy night. Courtesy of the people that pay taxes.

    The sad part is that Nat Geo has the resources and reach to actually educate people about real skills for sustainable, environmentally conscious living instead of these contrived characters. There are interesting and knowledgeable people that don't wear costumes and actually live off the grid that could provide compelling entertainment and relate useful information.

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    1. It does appeal to kids, for the reasons you enumerated. I watched it once or twice and decided it was way too "make believe" for me. Most of the shows I watch on National Geographic, Animal Planet, History Channel or Discovery have some direct relevance to getting along up here on the mountain. This particular show didn't offer anything.

      You will remember, I'm sure, how a few years ago these channels put out some real quality docu-dramas on things like Super Volcano's, Comets, etc. Now it's all schlock.

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  13. I do remember that Nat Geo had some good shows. Occasionally they still do. I think I came across as kinda harsh in my review of "Live Free or Die." I don't dislike the people or producers. If it inspires kids and others to like the outdoors and try new things that's good. I just think it shouldn't be portrayed as "reality" or "self-sufficient." It's light entertainment, almost fictional, and should be on the Disney Channel or similar entertainment channel. It's just so goofy. None of these people seem prepared for any sort of adversity such as a natural disaster or even a severe winter storm. They just piddle around trying to do different little projects, costumes, tattoos and hair styles. Like I said, they all probably rely on cell phones, old beater vehicles, or the kindness of friends and family. The truly self-sufficient have the resources to weather through extended isolation in relative comfort and security. I don't consider myself anything close to being a prepper, but common sense dictates that all of us (if financially able) should be prepared for a natural disaster (hurricane, ice storm, etc.) and get by without help for a couple weeks. A hundred years ago this was just an accepted part of life and you had plenty of fuel and a stocked pantry. It's important and simple to do. Couple years ago, due to a severe winter storm, I had to use my emergency food, fuel, water, and electricity. I was quite comfy and spent my time helping neighbors. Mine was the only house with lights on. Yet, Nat Geo and some of the other networks always take sensible emergency preparation to a ridiculous level (ever seen "Doomsday Castle"?) and average people end up thinking being prepared is silly tv show stuff. Thanks for having this topic on your blog!

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  14. I see now Tony and Amelia have a Dodge diesel truck on which they spent all of their money. How does one maintain a truck, pay registration, insurance, etc. with no job, zero money, and obviously no mechanical skills (they called a mechanic for a dead battery!)? Their agricultural/gathering ventures seem to yield barely enough to feed a mouse, so they are either on food stamps or mom and dad are kicking in money. In the winter they'll be pumping 40lbs a day of small particulate carcinogens into the atmosphere from their wood fire. So, what differentiates this couple from any other low income couple living in NC? They are anything but self-sufficient or environmentally friendly. Looks to me like they just want to goof around all day pretending to be self sufficient. How they hell do they keep their clothes spotless while supposedly "homesteading?" All of this would be fine if there wasn't an air of self-righteousness surrounding their lifestyle.

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  15. I understand the desire for a simple, self-sufficient, life with nature. However, in the trendy "re-wilding" television reality shows and even in "Mother Earth News" (which I like to flip through) the use and romance of wood burning stoves and fireplaces is mentioned throughout as an example of getting back to nature and simpler times. I like wood fires every now and then too and they are essential in an emergency. However if a homesteader thinks wood is getting back to nature they might as well live next to a Chinese power plant. On a planet with 7 billion ppl if wood was the fuel we'd all die at 40 without ever seeing the blue sky. The following is a brief description of wood smoke followed by a mostly complete list of the chemicals therein:

    "Burning 1 kilogram of wood produced as much as 160 micrograms of total dioxins. This result was obtained when various specimens of wood were burned in different stoves. Soot was collected and analyzed by well-designed and documented procedures. Tetrachlorinated, hexachlorinated, heptachlorinated, octachlorinated dioxins were present. The isomers of the dioxins were separated and quantitated. The highly chlorinated dioxins were the major components. In the soot from a series of experiments, their total content ranged from 10 to 167 mg/kg of fuel. The total yields of tetrachlorinated dioxins (TCDDs) ranged from 0.1 to 7.8 mg/kg of fuel."

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