Doomsday Preppers: Big Al

They’re back! NatGeo has renewed Doomsday Preppers for a second season, and the interweb seems to enjoy my commentaries, so let’s get started.The season premieres with a look at a fellow called ‘Big Al’ from Nashville. The show says he’s a musician (who in Nashville isn’t?), but I’m going to guess that’s code for producer or maybe songwriter. We get to hear a little bit of some modern-country guy singing a novelty song about preppin’ (you can hear the whole thing here), and then Big Al starts on about how in all his studies of Russia, he’s terrified of nuclear war. It’s a valid concern; I certainly don’t want my gross body to be intraconverted into light and energy anytime soon, but I’m not sure we should be looking at Russia in this case. Sure, Putin has the makings of a Mark II Stalin, but if you’re worried about stray nukes, be worried about semi-rogue states with something to prove (Iran, N.Korea, etc.).
Mr. Al says that in his worst-case scenario, the missiles will start a-flying right after a “run on the dollar, closing banks, and the fall of the stock market”. Apparently, he thinks that Russia will only push the button once they’re absolutely sure our economy has fatally weakened. In the event that these red flags appear, Al’s plan is to hop in his van and bug out 1,800 miles to his mountain hideout, which actually looks nice, sitting on 40 acres up in the mountains somewhere. But his “underground house without windows” is a different story. Like most of this show’s homemade underground retreats, it’s pretty ugly and Hoarders-y. Al says he “prefers not to use” the word ‘bunker’, but apparently has no problem going on and singing songs about his ‘bunker stew’. He claims to have 1,500 cans of food, 1,000 gallons of local spring water (I’m wondering how he gets it into the bunker?), and five tons of firewood stored up, because—get this—he spends three full months out of each year ‘practice living’ underground.
Right after that fascinating development, the narrator informs us that isolation can lead to “acute anxiety, hallucinations, paranoia, and uncontrollable rage or fear”. Well, that’s definitely going to color our impression of Big Al for the rest of the segment. Well-played, producers.

Now, what does Big Al do while he’s shut himself away underground for a season? Chops firewood and watches movies about the Motherland. I guess at some point in all this obsessive Russophilia, he learns about Ivan’s fifty-year-old hydrogen bomb, the Tsar Bomba. Well, that gets him all worried that there’s another one out there just waiting to be dropped on us, and so something something gamma radiation. Now, if you’re somehow lacking, Our Culture’s answer is almost surely going to be, ‘buy stuff to feel better!’ And sure enough, Big Al buys himself a big steel tube to be an “annex” for his bunker. Well, that apparently alleviates his worry, and he gets so excited he spraypaints the name of the bomb he’s afraid of on the side. For some reason. Of course, the producers never tell us the name of the bomb, so it just looks like he’s writing nonsense on the tank.
Anyway, this season the show has added a degree of superfluous quantitative-ness to the ‘expert’ analysis. Five categories (water, food, shelter, security, and ‘x-factor’ which I guess is just miscellaneous attributes), 0-20 in each one for a total possible score of 100. He gets a score of 69, which the experts say computes to equal one year initial survival time. What this really means is, The Points Don’t Matter.

In Al’s submitted post-filming update segment, he seems to have had an epiphany and decides that  he needs to really work on his health, and learning some skills to work with his hands to “be able to build things…instead of focusing on things that can be purchased”, which is a good lesson to be learned. Of course, if all these preppers learned that it’s mostly what’s between yer ears and not what you’ve spent on Stuff, the ‘experts’ would be out of a job.

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19 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Marcsi on 20 November, 2012 at 20:14

    Hah, I love that the fireplace smoke can go out of the bunker… so…. radioactivity sure will find its way, haha, very smart…

    Reply

    • well im glad you had some fun with me first of all i built the place in 1982 didnt pay to have it done the producers butchered me.yea i know im a fat man but im in the gym 6 days a week glad you are a oerfect specimen and no i dont focus on the russians. but the whole world situation hows bout 16 trillion we owe to start ..how many ranchers go up in smoke each year didnt think bout that did you forest fires? thanks for the musician jab been a drummer for 43 years lets hear you play buddy ! so anyway its o.k. to be mean to a fat person thats not an ism anyway i bet im a whole lot nicer than you. but thats o.k. you can hide behind a keyboard and take people apart but you know what im sure id much rather be me than you at least ive done something rather than comment on others p. s. i canseal my chimney when i have too im not as stupid as youd think thanx fat al

      Reply

  2. Posted by Jennifer Moore on 23 November, 2012 at 17:29

    Big Al, I have watched a marathon of the show today. I feel your segment has been the best so far. The most realistic threat as well. I did think of the fireplace only because we have one in our home, but didn’t think too much into it. I just found this show and I am totally hooked, actually your show was the first I have seen. So, keep doing what you are doing, don’t worry about what others think!

    Reply

    • Ma’am, please understand that while I am _not_ Big Al, I do greatly appreciate your thoughtful and well-written comment. Thanks for reading!

      Reply

  3. The interweb enjoys your commentaries because it’s the only review that I’ve found isn’t a soundbyte press release or a string of two sentence responses on a forum.

    Your commentaries have gotten longer as the show as gone on, so I appreciate that you actually give enough space for some room for thought, offering an actual framework of ideas, alongside the more typical criticism. The links you embed (ex. SODIS, Appleseed, Tsar Bomba, etc) add more of an annotation style than just mere opinion that is found elsewhere.

    I’m also surprised to see how many of the show participants have shown up to respond to your commentaries.

    Reply

  4. Posted by Brian on 30 November, 2012 at 09:25

    Hi Al! Wish I had your bunker! Where do I get the lyrics to the song? I keep singing the parts I’ve heard over and over. I’m a retired drummer of 29 years (still fully employed in my day job) and my prepper buddy is a retired guitarist.

    Reply

    • Hi Brian (please understand that I am not any of the people I write about here–why would they refer to themselves in the third-person???). The youtube link to the full song is in the third sentence of this post (I’ve bolded it); I had no problems understanding all the words. Maybe you and your prepper buddy could do a Battle of the Prepper Bands vs. Big Al and his musicians?

      Reply

    • Posted by Al Sostrin on 8 December, 2012 at 20:13

      the full song is available at

      Reply

  5. Posted by Brian on 17 December, 2012 at 15:29

    Cool! My buddy hates country sounding tunes though. But I think I can get him to like this one in time. He’s more Prepper than I am even.

    Reply

    • I don’t like modern country either, Brian, but this tune’s hook is like the H-bomb of earworms…once you hear it, good luck getting it out of your head!

      Reply

  6. Posted by Timmy on 29 December, 2012 at 22:30

    People keep addressing Big Al because he posted here on your page. Or someone claiming to be him anyway… ie “allen sostrin”. You seem oblivious to this…?

    Reply

    • Timmy, it’s not just Big Al; I’ve received comments from a number of folks featured on the show. Now, why people keep addressing their comments to the show’s Preppers instead of myself is beyond me. I guess folks think the Preppers are writing analyses of their own segments and referring to themselves in the third person. ?

      Reply

  7. Posted by allen sostrin on 6 January, 2013 at 10:40

    believe me i am big al and its not a porn collection they areactually movies like rambo you know all kinds of cool shit. and when its 70 below outside i love my place even more any way workin out drinking lots of water and chillin like a villian thanks and keep on preppin the one and only big fookin al

    Reply

  8. Posted by Mira on 24 May, 2013 at 15:11

    Big Al you rock, I love your Astro van, I used to have one too, your fan from Finland 😉

    Reply

  9. RIght on there Big al, just one thing, your NOT crazy. just wish I had the money to build my own bunker, hahahha does a tent count ? I can bring guns and food to the party.
    P.S. love the song, you need to market that one bigtime.

    Reply

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