Saturday, October 24, 2009

Survivin' with Stroud, Ragin' with Rollins

A Survivorman marathon on a rainy Saturday afternoon finds me watching Les Stroud demonstrate his MacGyver like survival skills through the sundry jungle/desert/mountain locations he throws himself into.

For those not clued into this world, Canadian Les Stroud is deposited into various survival situations and left to fend for himself for seven days with just the equipment that any hiker, boater, mountain climber, plane crash victim, etc. might have with them (plus his trusty harmonica). Sometimes he's left with a broken down car or the fuselage of a plane. Once, he floated into the wilderness in a hot air balloon. Les operates all the cameras during these seven days as he devises ways in which to get food/water/shelter and avoid spiders, snakes, tigers, foot rot, diarrhea, heat, cold, snow, rain, etc.

Stroud only filmed three seasons worth of these hour-long shows before tiring of the misery (and I guess there's only so many ways you can make starting a fire interesting). Still, Les is the man - he beats Man Vs. Wild's Bear all to hell in the purity of his work (he's not nearly as showy).

But after having watched every episode countless times, I'd still be a goner were I left in these situations in real life. I just don't pay attention to the important things. Mostly, I watch to see what commercials play during the show. And to count the number of times Les repeats "Here I am, surviving in the [Amazon Jungle|Australian Outback|South Seas Deserted Island|Alaskan Wilderness]."

Today, the Survivorman marathon was showing on the Discovery Channel (it also plays on the National Geographic and Science Channels). No ads for camping gear or other outdoorsy/survival stuff; instead, we got life insurance and food/drink pitches. Frankly, I invariably take Stroud's lessons the wrong way. For instance, when Les contracted diarrhea on the one occasion he couldn't scare up a fire to boil the nasty looking water he was eventually forced to drink, I just got jealous that it made him so regular.

And like that, the Survivor marathon is over.

During Mr. Stroud's adventures, I loaded up my iTunes with a bunch of Henry Rollins Spoken Word releases I discovered I didn't already have (including a reading of his seminal book on the good ol' days with Black Flag, Get in the Van). Now I'm enjoying listening to his world view while Penn State beats up on Michigan.

Rollins is one of my personal heroes and I don't even much care for his music, certainly not for his poetry and his acting makes Ice-T seem like Brando. I liked Black Flag okay, though he was a late comer to that band and didn't contribute to their best music, in my opinion. The stuff he puts out with the Rollins Band is sort of speed metal and the lyrics and tone reflect more on his poetry than on his spoken word stuff and the diaries he's published. And it's the latter two things that I love so much.

It's hard to describe the Rollins spoken word shtick - sort of a melding of audio blog/diary, political stand-up comedy, and raging angry everyman rants, with a healthy dollop of self-deprecating humor included in each serving. Henry is an interesting cat. Self educated, he's a voracious reader who delves into the details of every major issue of the day, depressingly well prepared to defend his opinion. We see eye-to-eye on a lot of things, but certainly not everything. Henry's way over-disciplined in pretty much all aspects of his life, but he's never boring. If you're interested, I recommend checking out his catalog on his 2/13/61 web site.