Video Digest: May 25, 2007

Rescue tips for the rest of us: How to save yourself from drowning in freezing water; how to beat a rip tide; how to forage for food in the woods; how to survive a bear attack; how to be a lunatic.

Living in San Francisco means constant reminders that the Big One could come at any time. This year marked the 101st anniversary of the Great Quake, when a 7.8 exploded along the San Andreas Fault, leveling the city and igniting a massive fire when the shaking stopped. Many of my non-Californian relatives don’t understand how anyone can live in a state so prone to natural disasters; the proper response to this, of course, is to ask them how long hurricane season in the Gulf of Mexico lasts.

Location regardless, we’re all subject to the whims of nature, and nature is not always cuddly animals and pretty landscapes. Come to think of it, everything has the potential to kill you. Here are some helpful videos for when you need to defend yourself against the elements.

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For example, say you’re strolling along a frozen lake on a lovely winter day. Your mother always warned you to stay off the thin ice, but now you’re an adult, and you can walk where you want—until you step onto a particularly weak spot and fall into the water. Learn how to avoid becoming a human ice cube with this wholesome young man.

I lived on California’s central coast for 12 years, and as many warnings about earthquakes as we got, they were nothing compared to the importance of learning about rip tides. For the landlocked, a rip tide—or rip current as it’s properly known—is water that flows very quickly from shore to sea, underneath the regular current. Get caught in a rip tide and you can be pulled under the water and out to sea before you have time to shout for help. I lived less than a mile from the beach for a decade, but the rip tide danger was so great we could never ever swim there. However, you can save yourself. Here, two girls and several Barbie dolls teach you exactly what to do.

Ever dreamed of hiking in the wilderness, seeing plants and animals close up, and when hunger strikes, casually plucking a few leaves and having a tasty snack? I’m too afraid I’ll mistake the one-spore-can-kill-a-man mushroom for the safe one, so I generally keep my wilderness hikes to the seedier parts of the Mission.

Grizzly bears used to roam the California wilderness, and though now the only grizzly in the state you’ll find is on the flag, there are plenty of other kinds of bears to attack a wayward human. So, how do you survive a bear attack? (Note: not entirely work-safe.)

The survivalist stereotype is a crazy bearded guy holed up in backwoods Montana with too many firearms, ready to face the New World Order in the ultimate showdown, but so far none of these videos have featured any wackos. Well, here’s your payoff: Louis Theroux explores the wild world of true American survivalists. Some are neo-Nazis, some are former hippies turned isolationists, and some are utterly lovable. When the next big quake detaches California from the continent, I’ll be voting for secession. Right after I finish canning the produce and locking the rifles in the panic room.

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