elysium, fringe, the apocalypse, etc

Lately I have been watching the fifth season of Fringe, and then yesterday Brendan and I went to see Elysium. So I was thinking I might like to write a post about how interesting I find post-apocalyptic narratives these days, but then I realized that it’s been over five years and I never updated you all on this.

Would it surprise you to know that I don’t really think about the apocalypse much anymore? And that when I do think about it, it doesn’t really bother me? It doesn’t surprise me at all, because now I know that that months-long period of gripping fear was caused solely by my having gone off my anti-depressants.

I was going to tell you what happened two months after I wrote that post to make me go back on my meds, but I don’t really want to talk about it. I don’t even like to think about it. Don’t freak out; it’s not like I punched anyone or ran naked through the streets or anything. I didn’t have to be restrained or hospitalized or put on suicide watch. I just had to start taking my medication again. And I did.

2007-2008 was the second time in my adult life I’ve tried to see if I might not need medication, and it was worse than the first by a long shot. I won’t do it again. Now I look at my pills as something I have to take to be alive, just like if I had a heart condition or an endocrine disorder. My brain chemistry is faulty, so I take medication for it, and I will do so for the rest of my life. And that’s okay.

I guess I do think about the apocalypse some these days. It’s hard not to. Our consumption-heavy, disposable way of life isn’t sustainable, and it’s breaking down. People who don’t want us to look into alternative energy sources, reduce our dependence on oil or change the way we produce food are still in power, and it will take a long time to change that. We’re starting to turn it around a little, but ultimately I think it’s too late.

Besides my mental health, there are a couple of other reasons why the apocalypse doesn’t bother me as much. The first one is that I’m less alone than I was before. I live with Brendan, I have friends I see pretty often, and my sister and her husband live nearby. If some apocalyptic shit went down in Austin, there are plenty of people with whom I could band together to find food and water, fight roving bands of looters, and keep each other from being killed for a tank of gas.

The second reason is that I’m stronger now. I’ve been working out! I do this regimen where I go for walks on some days and do strength training on others. Eight weeks of strength training means that I’ve started to see changes in myself. I can lift two ten-pound dumbbells over my head repeatedly! I can do twelve prisoner squats in a row! I can plank for twenty whole seconds! I also get less winded every time, so that’s a good sign. Anyway, if the apocalypse comes, I might be pretty good at kicking and punching people until they stop trying to kill me for a tank of gas.

The third reason ties into some of the post-apocalyptic things I’ve been watching lately. I won’t spoil Elysium for you, but I will tell you that I didn’t love all of it. I thought the good characters were boring and undefined, the bad characters were two-dimensionally evil instead of being evil for a reason (a pet peeve of mine), and a couple of actors delivered their lines in a stilted way that made them hard to understand. Worst of all, Neil Blomkamp hit the emotional notes in the narrative so hard that they stopped working on me. One of the first things I learned in my college beginning fiction class is that if you hit the reader over the head with what they’re supposed to feel in a story, they can see that it’s the author saying HEY, I WANT YOU TO FEEL THIS, OKAY? and it pulls them out of the story. If it’s more subtle, then the reader is feeling what the characters feel, not what the author wants them to feel. I know that summer movies aren’t known for their subtlety, but since I liked District 9, I’d been expecting more from Blomkamp.

What I did like about Elysium was that in the absence of widely available consumer products, people on Earth appropriated whatever technology they could find to meet their needs. All the cars and laptops in the movie were old, but had been retrofitted with miscellaneous new parts. The cars were like that in the future portions of Looper, too. And I’m only two episodes into season 5 of Fringe, but they’ve already watched an old Betamax tape to learn how to fight the people who have taken over Earth.

I’ve talked to some people who say that governments, corporations, and other organizations are going to find a way to prevent societal collapse. A few of them genuinely believe it, and a few others have said, “I have to believe that, otherwise I’ll go crazy.” Well, I don’t really believe it. Large systems with lots of people tend to move slowly, and as I said before, I think it might be too late for slow-to-implement solutions. So it inspires me to see stories in which marginalized people are able to use what they have in order to overcome obstacles.

(I know that Fringe and Looper don’t fall into the believable-collapse category, but Elysium sort of does, and I’ve found the way people appropriate old technology in all three to be believable.)

So, the third reason. I’ve been making a lot of stuff lately. You guys already know that I sew and knit and make jewelry, but now I also work with wood and concrete! I don’t know how good I am at that stuff so far, but I do my best, and sometimes I even make something nice.

Last weekend I was at a friend’s party, and he was showing me his workshop. He makes swords and does all kinds of things with stones and minerals, and his tools were similar to those I’d used when I worked at the jewelry studio, so of course I was fascinated. We were talking about rock tumblers, and I said that I really wanted one, but they’re kind of expensive. “You could make one yourself,” he said. “There are schematics all over the internet.”

“Oh,” I said, “I don’t know if I could do all that.” Then I paused, and said, “Wait a minute. Of course I could.”

“Yeah, she can make anything,” Brendan said.

I can make anything. Give me an idea, some supplies, and maybe a diagram and instructions if it’s new to me, and I can do it. When the apocalypse comes, I’ll make some bows and arrows and slingshots and rig up a device to get fresh water. So, I’m not worried. I’ll be fine as long as the pharmacies stay open.

4 thoughts on “elysium, fringe, the apocalypse, etc

  1. Being and feeling self-sufficient to at least some degree is why I encourage folks to get crafty. Even if you dont’ think you’re creative, you can probably follow instructions to make something and then as you get more and more comfortable with making things by instructions, you’re more likely to go “off pattern” and create something new. It’s all about developing skills.

    And if I ever get caught in an apocalypse, you are one of the people I’d prefer to be with because I think your skillset would increase our chance of survival.

    And, did you see these? http://www.fastcodesign.com/1673298/17-haunting-dioramas-of-a-post-apocalyptic-world#2

  2. Around here we joke about Zombie Apocalypse a lot. However, I find myself thinking about survival planning a little more often than “just joking” levels. Though I’ve yet to act on them except for putting together first aid kits for the cars.

    It’s interesting that we’re at a place in our society that collectively we’re all thinking about the end of the world. There’s movies and books and TV shows and magazines…it’s everywhere. A few days ago Chris picked up “Offgrid” magazine at the grocery store.

    The one thing I wish would change both in my mind and in the media is the notion that we’ll have to protect ourselves & resources from other people. I believe that people will band together and help each other. That’s what we do and what we’ve always done. Sure, there will always be people that will fall outside of this, but the vast majority of people are good. I think apocalypse will bring people together.

  3. Still waiting to see the results of your shoe-making. Cobbling? I guess you’d be a cobbler if you made your own shoes. Be a cobbler.

  4. “To my great surprise, he didn’t tell me he didn’t want to talk about it, and he didn’t tell me my fears were unfounded. Instead he listened, and asked questions, and was generally sympathetic to what I was going through. I guess I don’t give my friends enough credit.”

    This kind of thing has happened to me too, when I’ve finally told friends what I’ve dealt with or am dealing with. No judgement, just understanding and empathy. I need to get over my obsession with how flawed I am/was/perceived myself to be/was/am and keep admitting that my true friends love me for who I am no matter what. The hardest thing for the last two years, as you know, is that my closest friends and ones who I’d trust with telling more crap to (you are one) live so far away. Or, I live far from them. It’s so important to have a job, and I’m damn lucky I got one, and you’ve been through too much searching and grief on that end, but I remember how hard it was to leave, particularly since it is still hard to be away (tears). And there are some stories that really deserve to be heard face to face, not in email or over the phone or even really via skype.
    Also, my sister and I have talked about how we need a family plan of what to do if something horrible happens and we can’t get in touch via phone or something. Like when my brother woke up a few blocks from the Twin Towers to people fleeing dust covered down the street and when I was in Madrid starting a semester. We don’t have a plan yet and it is scary because we are so far away and would rather be together if it all goes down. It’s a reality in Syria for two years now, and that reality for families/friends is a perspective I can’t even imagine. Also, I worry about our family pets. http://www.cnn.com/2012/08/30/living/mnn-pets-emergency-plan/index.html?iid=article_sidebar Again, I just worry – haven’t taken proper steps…

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