Sunday Advice Column #20

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As I write this, I wonder why anyone would listen to me. The one metric this culture respects is the unbacked-by-gold coin of this realm. I have little of it. I am not the strongest. I have spent many years weak. I am sullen and have what used to be called the philosopher’s melancholy.

Yet I receive messages and emails from people, sometimes strangers, saying this thing or that I wrote helped them. It’s always the advice I was most worried to give. The honest words. The hard words. These are the only ones that matter. To improve is not easy. It’s why so many of us wake up fatter and dumber.

I’ve had enough and I think many of you have as well. It’s time for each of us to make an effort to become better. I am not a naturally great specimen by any measure, but I am becoming stronger and smarter everyday. It can be done. I am doing it. You can do it.

The three things you can do now are work on your finances, work on your health, work on your thoughts.

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Get a plan to get out of debt. I like Dave Ramsey’s. It worked for me and it will work for you. Don’t let his Evangelicalism be a barrier. My wife and I paid off around $60K in debt in about 18 months and we are basically heathens. She just bought an Audi Q5 and paid cash for it. It can be done.

Take your health in your hands. For diet, simply eliminate the shittiest foods from your life. You already know what they are. I recommend either plant-based or paleo. Don’t concern yourself with organics if you can’t afford it. Just eat simpler food. Cook it yourself. If you are fat and you don’t want to be, eat less. If you are skinny and you don’t want to be, eat more. Everything else is marketing.

For exercise do something you enjoy that’s challenging. Get a friend and do Wendler 5/3/1 or Starting Strength. You will get stronger and leaner. I have always liked Crossfit. The workouts are available for free online and there is an ocean of information online about what to do if you don’t have equipment or understand the exercises. Buy a kettlebell and do Pavel’s Simple & Sinister program. Start today.

For books, read what inspires. Choose classics. Choose books about war. Choose books in the Western canon. Read philosophy. There is literally a podcast or iTunesU class for almost everything worth reading. Biographies of people who have done what you wish to do are tremendous. They show what can be done and how to do it. So many great men and women have risen from greater depths than you have ever seen. Don’t read books that teach you to be a victim. Avoid anything that tells you you’re ok as you are. You are not. No one is.

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Do these things with people you love. Talk about your experiences. Spread strength. If you are having trouble doing these things, reach out to other people who are doing them. The people I have the most sympathy for are parents. Your time is precious and these things are harder to do when time and attention are short, but they are more important for you to do than anyone else. Your children learn how to live through you and they will do what you do. Share this with them and they will be stronger. That’s the point of all this.

If you object to the language of strength or strength as a goal, then go your own way and see how it works out, but do not infect others with your weakness. It’s hard enough to make progress without the cries of the sparrow hearted in your ears. Sit this one out.

Now your silly questions.

What are the best “poop spots” in Union Square (San Francisco)? 

Hotels are generally well kept. Walk right in with confidence and no one will stop you. If they do, say “I don’t think I can make it to my room, where are the bathrooms on this floor?”

How many pets are too many?

You shouldn’t have more pets than you can afford vet bills for. My little goblins have cost us a small fortune in upkeep and if we had kids, they probably wouldn’t be going to college because of them.

What should I do with an extra $500 per month raise?

If you have any consumer or student debt, you should drop this money right on it. The best way I’ve found to free yourself from the usurious devils plaguing all of us is the simple snowball method. $500 is huge and can make a major dent in anyone’s debt.

If you don’t have debt, resist boosting up your standard of living for at least one year. One area where Dave Ramsey and I differ is thinking about the importance of training for the apocalypse.

If I suddenly had $500 more a month, I would put half of it into an IRA or something like that (just in case the apocalypse doesn’t happen) and put the other half into weapons acquisition and martial arts training. It should be noted I have no kids, no great responsibilities, and believe the world is going to be in severe civil strife soon. Your mileage may vary.

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Is it normal for my boyfriend to go out to lunch alone with other women?

I don’t know him, but if you are concerned, keep your eyes open. Don’t be crazy, but don’t be unaware either.

Lately I’ve been hating all of my clothes. Cut and color don’t really interest me too much right now, I’m more interested in texture, which most likely means less plain cotton and more stuff like hemp, wool and linen. Any ideas how to find this kind of stuff or define a style around it? 
A mens designer I really like that’s very focused on texture is N.I.C.E. Collective. They have a slightly dark future vibe, without being too tech dorky. The fit is very good and the quality is excellent. I like their jackets and sweaters most. Their pants can be a little goofy looking.
Clothing stores that focus on quality materials, like Standard & Strange, have good stuff too. Fortunately, men’s workwear fashion is sort of all the rage right now. It will look good for decades after the soft handed and bearded have moved on to whatever new sartorial hell the cabal of witches in charge of fashion come up with.
For inspiration, do what Mrs. Lott does. Make pinterest boards of interesting looks you like and try to recreate them. Finally, remember the words of wisdom told to Don Cheadle’s character in Boogie Nights by Luis Guzman’s character: “wear what you dig.”
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The hotness.
I feel like I’m shaming people who play Pokemon Go by poking fun at them in group conversation or social media (people I would never suspect cared about video games keep surprising me by admitting they play). Am I a jaded asshole who should lighten up?
If you bothered to read the intro, you can probably guess where I naturally stand on this phenomenon. However, my friend Nate’s experience with his children has dramatically shifted my perspective on it. I don’t plan on ever playing it because I suspect it angers the gods, but here are his enlightening comments to me, unedited:
I’d love to take you to task on Pokemon Go for your Sunday column. If this doesn’t really fit the bill, no big deal if you don’t use it… I did not care for Pokemon Go until the day I took my kids to a park near my house to try it out. Instead of hanging out at one spot in the park (the playground) like we do 90% of the time, the game brought us down several paths we had never taken and to four different educational sign posts (yay, prairie-dogs!).
All the while, we were running across other teenagers and adults playing the game. We gave everyone the obligatory “poke-nod” along the way. IMO, these are the two great aspects of the game, exploring and social interaction. Adults that don’t play games “seriously” might scoff at me referring to those terms in regards to people staring at their phones in public, however those of us who enjoy games as our primary source of entertainment, normally interact with others over headsets and explore make-believe lands.
Pokemon Go takes these aspects of games and changes everything. It’s so new and unique that it’s taken the world by storm and made a serious impact on society around the world. As someone who has come out as a hater in regards to Pokemon Go this week, please elaborate as to why watching others get enjoyment by staring at their phones in public is upsetting to you. As a gaming nerd, your blogpost made you sound like an old man that was mad about rock n roll…
Nate’s assessment of my old man disapproval is accurate. I would prefer his clan to be involved with more useful activities like axe throwing and pushups, but I don’t have a good reason to hate on what he’s doing, beyond an unfounded (though not unproven) suspicion it may be weakening civilization in some way. He is very smart and has more gamer credibility than anyone I know. I like what he says here and I too am a fan of prairie dogs.
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One thing I will note, I believe we will eventually see advertisements and shit next to the creatures and that will be a big bummer. It’s no different than the internet now, I guess, but I’d hate for young minds to have any more brainwashing from the McNugget peddlers.
Make sure you check out his excellent YouTube gaming show. This episode is about Pokemon. Here’s his website, too: gamescomicsandculture.wordpress.com.
I love staying current; I feel it’s important to know what’s going on in the world and to form a well rounded opinion… but God damnit, is reading the news depressing. It seems like every time I take breaks from reading it I feel less angry or sad about the state of things, but as I said above, there’s nothing like a good NYTimes with coffee… So, what to do? To read or not to read?
The news is the primary tool of political indoctrination and we no longer have an impartial fourth estate. Just look at how the Huffington Post and Breitbart cover the same story on any given day. But I do agree that staying current is good. Quickly read a few takes on the same story, completely avoid the comments section, and put faith in your own lived experience to sort out how you should feel. If you start to feel hopeless, unplug for a few days.
The world will burn without you.
What is the most satisfying passive-aggressive thing you have ever done to a really mean or rude person?
I put some pubes in someone’s drink once back when I was a bartender. I have no regrets.
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2 Comments

  1. Having pets you can afford is a great limit. But one should also consider things like:
    Disaster planning- Can you evacuate them all?
    If owner(s) were to die or a divorce- Can one owner care for all of them alone, in regards to time and/or money? Who would take all your pets if both owners would pass?

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