Ask Alex - May 19, 2017
Welcome back to "Ask Alex", where I answer all of your stupid questions with even dumber answers. Have a question you need answered? Tweet it, email it or submit it here and I will get to it (maybe) next week.
Welcome to this week’s Ask Alex! Before I start, I am going to turn the tables and pose a question for you! In a couple of weeks, I am going to be indisposed for most of an entire week and unable to write. I can either a) just skip that week and pick up the following week, or b) deputize one or more people to answer questions on my behalf. Which do we think sounds better, and if it is the latter, who do you think I should draft? Comment, email, or Tweet me with your suggestions...
On to your questions! There is a lot to cover this week, including crazy women, reality TV, Daryl's college plans, career advice, avocados and Rex's Big Break. So, let's get started!
Submitted by: Hair
Why are women crazy?
Have you ever tried to date a man? You’d be crazy, too.
How can a reasonably responsible adult reach maturity and still not understand the importance of and/or technique required to get all of their pee into a toilet? It’s not like the target is that small, guys. You spend your entire lives throwing trash at imaginary basketball hoops disguised as waste baskets, but can’t be troubled to learn how to consistently pee in a two foot circle 18 inches away?
You all think it is totally normal to “adjust” yourself in public, to hang out doing nothing other than resting your hands in your pants, wear Axe body spray and blow terrible burp breath after belching. And the manspreading? Seriously, it’s not working...we don’t think your penis is really that big, bro.
And in order to perpetuate the species, we need to somehow put up with you...if you don’t think you’d go a little crazy, you’re fooling yourself.
I’m not trying to pretend that women don’t have their own idiosyncrasies (hi, I hold several degrees but still need a friend to take me to the bathroom…) but it seems to me like the man-pots are ignoring their own blackness in throwing accusations at the lady-kettles.
That said, I have often thought that you can explain at least 92% of humanity if you keep two simple facts in mind:
Submitted by: CDP
What is the correct ranking of Alaska-based Discovery Channel shows from just trashy (Alaskan Bush People) to kind of 21st Century Walden (the last Alaskans).
The entire premise of your question is garbage and I reject it...Alaskan Bush People “trashy”?!?! How dare, you, sir...what holy hell could have afflicted you so badly as to make your standards of television so indefensibly outrageous?!?! I am LITERALLY shaking with outrage right now.
*Two hours later*
OK, I have settled down and I am ready to write again. First, it is worth noting once again how many shows Discovery has based in Alaska. They have no fewer than nine Discovery Channel reality shows that are full-time Alaska based, employing what I believe to be 40% of Alaska’s eligible workforce. That is not even the whole picture, since Life Below Zero (“Sue Aikens Mansplains Everything”), Ice Road Truckers, Alaska State Troopers, Alaska’s Ultimate Bush Pilots, Slednecks, Wild West Alaska, Out of the Wild, Alaskan Women Looking for Love (which technically took place in Miami but was absolutely the trashiest of all of these shows), Mountain Men, Tougher in Alaska, Mounted in Alaska (get your mind out of the gutter, it is about taxidermy you perv!), Yukon River Run, Coast Guard Alaska, Big Hair Alaska and at least one season of Ax Men all either appear on other networks or no longer appear on television. Shows like Dirty Jobs, Dual Survival, Dude You’re Screwed, Frozen Planet and Great Bear Stakeout may all be in Alaska at times, but aren’t really based anywhere.
If we stop and take a second, let’s remember that the population of Alaska is about 700,000...if we assume that every one of these shows introduced us to an average of 20 Alaskans (it is probably more, but we’ll go with that) then nearly 1 in 1,500 Alaskans has appeared on a reality television show. I am going to go ahead and guess that this far and away dwarfs the likelihood of a resident of any other state appearing on a TV show. I would guess that California (where probably at least 60% of reality shows are based and cast) may be close, but to reach the same proportion of residents as we get from Alaska, you’d need over 25,000 Californians to have appeared on a reality show. It is a staggering number.
That settled, I’m going to go through the nine currently airing shows, from best to worst.
1) Alaskan Bush People - There are so many reasons why this is the single best terrible show on television. Let’s start with the obvious: they are all actors who live nearby and are spotted in town talking on cell phones regularly. If they spend any time on their “homestead” at all, it is pretty limited. And if it weren’t, it would almost certainly be a combination of child abuse and super-weird cult formation.
I’m also not sure that they are all actually related...the kids look very little alike, and none of them look like the parents. Shit, they all have different accents!!! They also tend to ruin most everything they do: their boats sink regularly, their houses get ransacked by bears and a lot of their grand ideas tend to collapse into the swamp. This might be because Billy comes down with a sudden disk-slip or a “spring flu” every time there is any actual work to be done. Noah thinks he is a weird cross between Cyrano de Bergerac, Thomas Edison and P.T. Barnum. Matt is most definitely a serial killer. Bam needs to lighten up, like a lot. Bear is a seven year old in a 30 year old’s body. Ami forgot to brush her teeth for like 25 years. They got braces to fix Gabe’s barely-crooked teeth and yet won’t get Birdie’s hideous front tooth fixed and she would be so darn cute if they did!!!
But obviously, the very best reason is Raindrop, which should be no surprise coming from the founding member of #TeamRainy. They claim that she is like 14, but that doesn’t seem right...she looks like a really gorgeous 19, she doesn’t talk like someone that young, and there appear to be baby pictures of her when her sister (who is allegedly 8 years older) seems to be a toddler. Frankly, I can’t understand why the show isn’t mostly about her, with the rest of them appearing just as "Holy shit, where did she come from?" background. In fact I would like to re-propose two separate spin-offs starring Rainy. In the first, she wakes up one day, announces “You people are fucking insane!” and moves to New York to be a model. I’ll tell you about the second in a minute...
2) Alaska: The Last Frontier - You probably know this as “Jewel’s Family’s Show”. It features her brother, sister-in-law, Father, Aunt and Uncle, and some cousins. It can actually sort of be a snooze, and it casually hides the fact that they are basically pretty rich (and not just from the show, or from the prodigal daughter - they are large landowners and have timber and cattle interests as well.) So, why does it earn the #2 spot on my list? Because of the most adorably crunchy non-hipsters on the planet, Eve and Eivan (Eivan is Jewel’s cousin). These are the people that organic, free-range, vegan, fair-trade artisanal vegetable growing hipsters all across America imagine themselves as, only with worse plumbing.
Which gets to my second Rainy spinoff: Rainy leaves the Wolfpack and moves in with Eve and Eivan as their surrogate little sister/nanny. She helps with the kids, but also pitches in with the hunting and fishing, appears on the cooking show (it’s in development) and befriends the animals. In exchange, she gets to live closer to a real place, go to an actual school and learn about what it is like to live with normal people. Bonus: Jewel comes to visit and steals her away to Los Angeles to become a model.
Hey...guess what? You can stay on the Homestead with them if you’d like!
3) Gold Rush - The Gang that Can’t Shoot Straight! The never-ending adventures of the Hoffman crew as they try and try and try again to find some gold in the wilderness that they are so totally close to getting if only they can just get that goddamn wash plant to run for more than seven minutes. The show has gotten a little more boring as they have actually gotten better at finding gold and stopped talking constantly about The Glory Hole, but they still manage to get themselves upside down and twisted sideways trying to do what an unintelligible Dutchman and a pouty teenager seem to have very little trouble doing regularly. Nothing will ever top Jack’s great getaway on the excavator in Season 2…
My biggest question here, other than “Why don’t we get more Bailey?” is about the economics of the whole operation. They love to get all excited about things like “There’s a MILLION DOLLARS in there” but compared to the scope and cost of their operations, it is hard to see how they make any money (other than, obviously, being on a TV show). Take the Hoffman’s best season, for example, where they found like $3 million in gold (minus the $450,000 they had to pay the land owner). But to do that, they needed two bulldozers (that they bought for $125k each) a couple of excavators, four dump truck, giant pumps, a massive wash plant that cost like half a million bucks, fuel to run all of that equipment all day and night and the compensation for 10 guys for four months. That doesn’t even begin to get into the question of how you get fuel and food for those ten guys all the way out to Buttfuck, AK in the first place and where the random pieces of highly specialized equipment that they find on every show come from. If I didn’t know better, I’d think that it wasn’t very realistic at all!!!
4) Bering Sea Gold - There are two kinds of people on this show. First, there are people who never, ever find any gold. Second, there is Sean Pomrenke, the prison-going, bar-fighting, Emily-banging, disk-slipping man’s man that they call Mr. Gold. The real star of this show, though, is Nome, AK’s status as a desolate, barren, end-of-the-line hell hole. A friend once told me, after living in the northwest, “Everyone I ever met on their way to Alaska was running from something,” and judging by this show, Nome is where they end up when they have run out of other places in Alaska to run to.
5) Yukon Men - I’m not sure what the purpose of this show is, to be honest. It is where I learned what a Fish Wheel is, so that’s good. And they spend a lot of time talking about dogs, so that’s good, too. Joey Zuray could be Lou Diamond Phillips son, and Courtney Agnes is kind of a boss, too, so maybe there is more going on here than I am giving it credit for. Also, I am wondering how subsistence livers can be that fat..?
6) The Last Alaskans - Why are they the last Alaskans? We've already met literally hundreds of other Alaskans, all gainfully employed in the state's second largest industry: reality television. And, if the gold shows are to be believed, lots of people are still moving to Alaska ever day to see if they can find their own Glory Hole somewhere in the wilderness. I can't really see how this is any different that Yukon Men, but it's got fewer dogs, so it comes in one spot below.
7) Edge of Alaska - This show is kinda weird, and thoroughly contrived. The premise seems to be that this tiny town near the interior Canadian border is torn apart by one guy seeking to modernize the town as a tourist destination. Lots of contrived conflict and poorly acted reality ensues. No one ever stops to ask two really key questions. First, why would anyone want to come and visit McCarthy, Alaska? It is accessible only by a 60 mile gravel road that is not maintained in winter and and it’s major tourist attractions include “being on the way to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park” and old, condemned copper mines. So, basically, Disneyworld!
8) Deadliest Catch (and Dungeon Cove) - Meh. This is kind of the Grandfather of “Dangerous Job Reality TV” but I never really got into it. Just a bunch of smelly guys living on miserable boats. The show would be dramatically improved with the addition of angry whales intent on gaining vengeance.
Also, crab is tasteless and thoroughly overrated...come at me bro.
9) Buying Alaska - It’s like House Hunters (which is far and away the most hate-watched show on television) except every home comes with 22 acres and instead of running water, you get a grizzly bear. Which reminds me of a joke...if you are being chased by a bear, how can you tell whether it is a Grizzly bear or a Black Bear? Easy...you climb a tree. If the bear comes up the tree and eats you, it was a Black Bear. But Grizzlies can’t climb trees, so if it knocks the tree over and eats you, it was a Grizzly.
Submitted by: Timothy E. Miller
If you saw Robyn and I talking about the hypothetical presidential run, would you accept a nomination to be my Treasurer?"
Treasurer of the campaign? Or Secretary of the Treasury? I don’t want a temporary job dialing for cash from fat cat donors just to be first in line for a potential appointment should this long-shot campaign succeed. But if you win (or if Robyn wins, since she is clearly the top of the ticket) I’ll take the Secretary of the Treasury job. The pay cut would be a pain in the ass, but I’d justify it by the ability to make serious bank when I’m done. Tim Geithner was one of the poorest Treasury Secretaries on record (his last pre-Treasury salary was a paltry $411,000) but rolled right into an MD job at Warburg Pincus, a book deal and six figure speaking fees. The Secretary may be underpaid, but the job dramatically increases one’s earning potential immediately afterwards.
This is some good career advice, by the way: you better have a really good reason to take a pay cut. If you are switching jobs and switching firms and they are going to pay you less, then the job is almost certainly a step backwards and you should be wary. And if it’s not a step backwards...why are you getting paid less? You’re not worth any less than you are today, and in fact you may be worth more.
Not that there are no good reasons to take a pay cut; in fact there are many. Just as one example, a very good friend of mine just left her job as an Associate for a top tier law firm to take a job as the General Counsel or a small biotech, a move that included a pretty big pay cut (almost $100,000). But she did it because she didn’t really want to be a partner (and wasn’t sure they would make her one), didn’t want to work the hours she was working and wanted to travel less. So, in giving up the money, she got a much less stressful environment, a much better schedule, and an office right near her house (also equity, but ignore that for now:-)). The key point being that she is not trying to take a step back in hopes of taking two steps forward, she is taking a left hand turn into an entirely different direction.
So, let that be a lesson to you, kids...don’t take a pay cut unless you know exactly why it is that you’re being paid less and you are very consciously trying to get away from doing those things.
Submitted by: Anonymous
I just found out that I am getting my first big promotion in a couple of months. It comes with a big raise and I’m not sure what I should prioritize with that raise. Help me, Alex!
Definitely better drugs. What is the point of getting a raise if you’re not gonna use it to buy a better cut of cocaine?!?
What perfect timing, two money and career questions in a row! It’s almost as if I order these questions in a way that makes them tell a continuing story…
Not to sound redundant, but you should prioritize it based on your priorities (SWIDT?). Most likely, you have some personal list of wants and needs that may include a bigger house or apartment (either buying or renting), or a car or new clothes or a vacation or whatever. I can’t tell you which of those things matters most to you, so I can’t tell you what you should spend your increased salary on. Nor did you include anything about debts, current expenses vs. the size of the raise, etc...so, I will limit this to broad ideas.
As a general rule, if you aren’t saving enough (or anything), this is a great time to fix that. If your salary is going to go up by $1,000 a month, then increasing your savings by $500 still means that you will get a $500 raise in discretionary income. It is the least painful time to do so, since it doesn’t involve elimination of any current spending.
Basic thought process, though. First, if you are not taking advantage of any company-match for a 401K or 403B plan, you should fix that immediately. That is salary that you or foregoing, and you should capture that. It may well make sense to up your retirement contributions by even more than that, but at a minimum that makes sense for almost everyone.
Second, tackle bad debts. If you are carrying interest-paying credit card debt or personal loans, pay those down as quickly and as aggressively as you can. It is good for your credit, it is good for your financial safety and it is a good way to prepare yourself to tackle bigger and more beneficial commitments in the future. Bonus, in doing so, you will cut down on interest payments and minimum payments and free up even more cash flow, which sort of leverages up your raise.
Third, work on an emergency fund. Financial planners are all over the place on this and suggest that most people aim to hold anywhere from 2-12 months of expenses in a no-risk cash account, but the specifics are less important than the existence. You sound young, employable and likely without too many dependents, so you probably don’t need more than a couple of months, but if you can put yourself in a position to survive 3-4 months without drawing any kind of a salary or depleting other savings, you will be in pretty good shape.
After that, tackle the big things! Thinking of buying a house? Start diverting some portion of the raise into a savings account for a down payment. Want to buy a car? Maybe you can assign a portion of that raise to take on a car payment. Have some dental work you’ve been putting off? Take care of that!
I tend to be a pretty responsible spender: I save a lot before I start spending money on stupid shit. But don’t be afraid to spoil yourself a little bit. You’ve worked hard and done well to earn the promotion and the raise, and you are entitled to waste some of it even if you are intent on being a grown-up. Whether that means taking a big trip, buying a super expensive bag or shoes, blowing an absurd sum on a fancy dinner...whatever it is, live a little, you’ve earned it!
Submitted by: Gringo Suave
There are two Western Civ classes that I have to take in order to graduate. They are at the Community College Level. If I run out of financial aid...I would rather pay for [Community College] classes out of pocket than [Four-year college] classes. Should I just concentrate on my [college] classes and leave the Western Civ classes until the end?
I feel like you have kind of answered your own question here. Sketch out your schedule to complete your degree requirements and figure out whether or not all of the classes fit in. If they don’t, you know which ones to take elsewhere.
As background, Daryl served in the Army when he was younger, and is now attending college in preparation for his post-Army career. He has completed his Associate's degree at a Community College (Congrats, Daryl!) and has just been accepted as a Junior in a four year college. He asks this question in reference to mapping out his course load to complete his bachelor's degree in political science. The requirements are broken down into classes that have to be taken at the school issuing the degree (which cost about $1,500 each) and classes that can be taken at a Community College and transferred ($300 each).
First of all, it is fun to note that I was a PoliSci major, which totally explains how I have worked in private equity since the day I graduated...right?
It seems like you should be able to tell now, though. Just take stock of the graduation requirements, map out when you will take all of those classes and see if you can fit them all into your financial aid package. If not, then take those two for the short money and pay for the more expensive ones with your financial aid. I have a bunch more questions about the nature and type of financial aid and your capacity to pay out of pocket, but I will leave those for another time:-).
Submitted by: The Irreverent
From peas in guacamole-gate to avocados oppressing millennials, why has the lowly, delicious fruit come to symbolize cultural/economic gap?
This is a good question...avocados do seem to have been at the center of a whole bunch of controversies of late. To recap, Australian Tim Gurner (who is unquestionably a talented entrepreneur with a mostly self-made fortune of near $350 million dollars) suggested that the reason Millennials are not getting ahead financially is because they eat Avocado Toast and drink coffee from Starbucks.
Putting aside the obvious - that young people do often spend money on frivolous things - it is utterly preposterous to suggest that a couple of dollars a day is a more important economic drag than massive student loan debt and a series of policies that make houses substantially more expensive than they were for previous generations AND makes rent more expensive on a relative basis (artificially low interest rates, government-backed mortgages, strict environmental and zoning laws, slow permitting of new home construction…)
Also, there were an alarming number of people in my timeline who didn’t seem to know what avocado toast is...how is that possible? For starters, it’s not like it is a newfangled, cutting-edge culinary invention, it’s been a pretty normal snack for like 40 years. And second, it’s avocado spread on toast, it’s not that fucking confusing.
“Bertha, have you heard of this crazy new thing the kids are drinking? They call it ‘chocolate milk’.”
“Chocolate milk, Seymour, what on earth is that?!?!? Is it a Google Computer thing?”
“I believe it is some kind of sorcery or smart phone pad thing. It makes brown cows give brown milk. It probably comes from the World Wide Intertwitter thingy Book.”
“Maybe they feed cocoa leave to the cows to get the milk that way? I’ll send an email from our shared Compuserve account to Kathy and ask.”
“Whatever it is, it’s the reason these kids today can’t get ahead like we did. By the way, did both pension checks and our Social Security come in? We have to pay the property tax bill...the bill keeps going up because this house is now worth so much goddamn money and they only let us poor old folks skip out on half the bill! And I want to go to the doctor 11 times next month for $5 copays because I am lonely and he gives me lollipops.”
I’m not real sure that there is a specific reason, other than sheer happenstance, that avocados have been at the center of so many interesting stories. I do know that their rising cost is probably a sign that younger people eat a lot more avocados than their parents did, mostly because they are really good for you and taste delicious. In other words, because they are better foods than the jello molds and ham salad that old people ate when they were younger.
But one thing that I think we can all agree on: putting peas in your guacamole is a crime against humanity and should be punishable by death.
Submitted by: Lunatic Rex
My question was more about being excited about being invited onto a show to talk about my memoir. Something like “I’m going on a radio show on Monday, what should I wear?”
Space Ghost Jimmy wants to know if this is a question or a story.
This is really just a shameless plug for Rex’s witty, interesting and downright fun memoir, unfolding in bi-weekly parts as we speak (that link is to the seventh installment, which has links to the first six).
Rex is going to appear with George Templeton and Krayon Pundit on Foreign Matters this coming Monday, May 22 at 10:00 p.m. on Vigilant Liberty Radio to talk about this and anything else that comes up. If you want to make a cranky, cantankerous old man swell up with mushy love, just ask him about his wife;-).
And, is there really anything else to wear other than your dress uniform? I mean, either that or nothing.
Submitted by: Patriot Musket
Will [David] Clarke change to a straw hat when he moves to DC?
Unless he changes into manacles and an orange jumpsuit, he will be improperly dressed. I can think of almost no one in public service who is more of a lecherous cancer on America than David Clarke (other contenders: Anthony Weiner, Joe Arpaio, Dennis Hastert, Fred Richmond).
David Clarke is the tough-talking Law-and-Order sheriff of Milwaukee County who rose to fame by being an unabashed supporter of Donald Trump and consistently shouting things far below the dignity of his office. Not surprisingly, Donald Trump loves him, cites him repeatedly as evidence that he is loved by “the blacks”, and just rewarded him with a job as the Assistant Director of Homeland Security. There don’t seem to be many people in Milwaukee upset to see him go...and, in fact, there seem to be a lot of people wondering whether he even remembers where his office is.
He also, to Musket’s question, inexplicably wears a cowboy hat wherever he goes. It is part of his childish need to play dress-up in a manner that makes him seem like someone he clearly is not. I don’t know how or why this became his thing, but he is from the Davy Crocket school of “If you are gonna be known for something, be known for your stupid hat” school of thought. He’s the Lisa Loeb of stupid racist sheriffs, only instead of wearing the same pair of glasses for 25 years and singing angsty songs about reluctant boyfriends, he wears a cowboy hat and shouts about poor oppressed police officers and lazy black people.
He is also currently being sued for harassing a private citizen (who’s crime was criticizing Clarke’s Dallas Cowboys jersey) and for instructing his staff to abuse inmates in jails. An infant may have died because the mother gave birth alone in her cell without assistance. Oh, and this is super cute: he may have ordered his employees to turn off the tap water in a mentally-ill man’s cell for a week, causing him to die of dehydration. But, you know, “tough on crime” and Blue Lives Matter and all that.
I famous hat wearers for a second. There is Lincoln and his stovepipe, and the aforementioned King of the Wild Frontier. Speedy Gonzalez and his sombrero - wait, can a cartoon character be a racial slur, because I think Speedy may have been one. Oh, who am I kidding, of course a cartoon can be a racial slur.
Yasser Arafat had a pretty famous hat, and so did Gilligan, but only one of them ever won a Nobel Peace Prize. Indiana Jones had a really famous hate, as did Charlie Chaplin and they both had their own interesting Nazi ties. In fact, has there ever been a more retroactively unfortunate fashion choice than Charlie Chaplin’s mustache? (Quick, someone find me an early Three Stooges clip where Moe sports a Ho Chi Ming beard!)
What was I talking about again?
Oh, right, what a total dirtball David Clarke is! Let’s go back to the harassing of a private citizen. Clarke was on a plane in January wearing a Dallas Cowboy’s jersey (which is, I believe, punishable by death in Wisconsin during the playoffs). A random passenger shook his head at Clarke’s attire. After trying to confront him on the plane, Clarke ordered six officers and two German Shepherds to take the man off the plane, detain him and (Clarke’s actual words) “interview him, but not arrest him ‘unless he becomes an asshole with your guys’. Question for him is why he said anything to me? Why didn’t he just keep his mouth shut?”
It should be worth noting that Clarke has largely confirmed this story. So, he either still thinks that this is a legitimate use of police resources and a reasonable reaction, or he knows it isn’t and just doesn’t even care to hide it. Either way, it might be a good time to remind you that Donald Trump is going to give him control of a Department with 240,000 employees and a whole bunch of tanks, helicopters and other things that no thinking person would ever let David Clarke anywhere near.
Hmm...it’s almost like someone tried to warn you once about Donald Trump’s fitness as an executive...
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Just a gaggle of people from all over who have similar interests and loud opinions mixed with a dose of humor. We met on Twitter.