Sunday Advice Column #45


A conversation I have and overhear more than I’d like to these days begins with the question, “what shows are you watching?” I’ll concede that television is certainly better than it has ever been and films have little to recommend them if you’re looking for something more than bumbling dudes chasing Mary Sues. Hollywood is putting out little besides super hero garbage.

There was only one film from 2016 I enjoyed: Rogue One. There were a few others I saw last year, like Green Room and Mr. Fantastic, I liked quite a bit, but they were a little older and they were the exception.

Television had a lot more going for it. Stranger Things was fun. Westworld was perhaps the most thoughtful of the year. Atlanta was weird and original. Vikings continues to interest me due to its smart mix of theology and super hot actors axe murdering each other.

Not one of these shows stands up to HBO’s Band of Brothers. I spent the weekend re-watching this masterful series for the first time since it came out and I was once again deeply moved by the story. That we live in a country where men (and women) like this lived should make us all proud. I don’t know how we could let anyone live in anything less than luxury after they fought at Bastogne.

Some of the special effects, especially the arial shots, are a little dated, but the combat scenes still feel tense and real (I of course have no experience, but the veterans who were there frequently remark on the accuracy of the series, along with the excellent Saving Private Ryan’s action). The costuming and prop departments for this show did one of the greatest jobs of all time and the actors are across the board excellent.

There are so many young Hollywood faces in this show that I forgot about. Simon Pegg (Shawn of the Dead), Michael Fassbender, Jimmy Fallon, Tom Hardy, James McAvoy, Ron Livingston (Office Space), Donnie Wahlberg, and the dude who plays Abraham in The Walking Dead all do tremendous work bringing this story to life.

As solid as they are, it’s the interviews with the real men who were there that make this series truly great. Seeing an old Airborne soldier hold back tears as he remembers the loss of his best friends should be more than enough to prevent any spoiled American loser from ever trafficking in neo-Nazi or Commie bullshit. But we have a weak society now and so we have to endure these chinless white Nationalists and their equally abhorrent gimme-gimme communist sympathizing enemies.

What the fuck happened to us?

When you hear some orange douche fanboys shouting about making America great again, the actions of the men of Easy company are what their efforts should be measured against. When  someone cries out for a safe space, they should consider how safe a man who lost his legs in a foxhole fighting Nazis felt.

One of my favorite things about this show, and something I hope to increasingly emulate in my own life, is strong silence. Every time a soldier would get separated from the rest of his men, he’d see some ghastly shit or have to beat a German to death with his rifle. If he was lucky enough to make it back to his company, nothing was said. What happened became the past and surviving was its own reward. Now we have attention addicts (myself included) tweeting and posting about every inconvenience they suffer. It’s embarrassing and we should all be ashamed.

Now I know Band of Brothers is ultimately just a show, but what separates it from all the dragon and zombie nonsense we consume is that it actually happened. Most of you probably have time to watch this show again. Just skip whatever network nonsense you’re hooked on and do it. I recommend purging your schedule of any undead fair AMC puts out. If you’re actually productive in your life and don’t have time for TV, just watch a little bit of We Stand Alone Together, the documentary with interviews from the men of Easy company. It’s intense, but it’s worth it.

On to the silliness.

If you were given 1 billion dollars and one week to spend it, what would you buy or use it for? 

I would buy an entire small rural town somewhere and prepare it to be the greatest food hub and militia site in the country. I’d invite the best people I know to live there in exchange for their contributions to the good of the community. For the record, guitar playing, poetry writing and mural painting do not count as contributing. Nor does anything for which you earn a college degree ending in the word “studies.”

Think Red Dawn meets Omnivore’s Dilemma.

What habit has saved you the largest amount of money? 

Not eating out. Having recipes, a food budget, and making time to cook at home is huge. It’s far less expensive than eating out (which we still do, but it’s a treat) and way healthier, which will save you money on medical expenses down the road. You also feel better, which makes you more productive.

If you were reincarnated, what would you like to be? 

Myself with 20/20 eyesight and no asthma. Or a bald eagle.

What would you tell yourself 5 years ago? 

Read Dave Ramsey’s book and raise your freelance rates earlier. And put more money on the 2016 presidential election, Rousey vs Nunes, and the first McGregor vs Diaz fight. You were right about all of them.

What is the biggest mindfuck ever?

Right now in America I think it’s probably broke people with massive college debt telling young people to go to college and get in massive debt because it will help them. This shit is absurd. Don’t ever take advice from people who aren’t getting the results you want.

I’ve been thinking about the college debt thing a lot lately. It’s nuts that the government will lend an 18 year old $100K for a dubious education and not lend them money for a house or condo. For most people, being able to own some property and build equity will do them a lot more good than a four year vacation where they attempt to “find themselves.”

A lot of people make the mistake of equating education with college attendance. I learned more by reading and watching documentaries than I ever did at college, and I went to a top ten school. People always like to say “but yeah, you like to learn.” That’s my point. If you like to learn you will. If you don’t care to learn, sitting in a classroom surfing the web isn’t going to improve your intelligence. Learning is like fitness. You get out what you put in.

Imagine how mad you’d be if you spent $100K on a personal trainer and then four years later you still had a dad bod. You’d be furious.

What I’d like to see is all public funding for college be cut in half. That money should go to trade schools and assistance programs for the purchase of single family homes in reasonably priced areas (not lottery style speculation). A plumber with a house paid off by 30 is going to be way happier and more productive than some debt-slave Buzzfeed writer or waiter/musician renting in their forties. Every single stat backs that up.

But what about arts education, you ask? Does everyone need to be blue collar? No. There were incredible artists before governments paid for people to pretend to be artists. Humans are naturally creative and are going to make art regardless.

What I’d like to see is whatever money we put into adult arts programs be funneled into exposing children to art and music. I think the funding that goes to bullshit art no one actually likes would be much better spent teaching little kids how to play instruments and draw. It improves their brains and if they have real talent, they will pursue it. If they don’t have talent, we should be real with them. We don’t need any more Yoko Onos.

For the record, I kind of like Yoko Ono’s weird shit, but one is enough. Yoko Uno.

What is the best habit you’ve taken up from another person? 

Years ago I had a friend who called bullshit on bottled water. He was so right. I drink from the tap or from my Alex Jones style water filter if I’m at home. The amount of money I’ve saved and trash I’ve kept out of the ocean is considerable. Fuck bottled water.






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