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Funbag

I Am Officially Powerless To Stop My Kids

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Time for your weekly edition of the Defector Funbag. Got something on your mind? Email the Funbag. And buy Drew’s novel, Point B, while you’re at it. Today, we’re talking about mugs cakes, vanity plates, anal goo, sponges, pretending to be drunk, and more.

Your letters:

Nick:

If you could go back and do it over, would you be generally more permissive or more strict with your kids? Or would you not change your philosophy much at all? I’ve got a kid just turning one, and an idea in mind of being more disciplined at first, then giving them more freedom as they earn it. I figure that’s easier than the other way around, which would be being permissive early, then trying to put in more restrictions as they get older. Yes, I have no idea what I’m doing.

No parent does. Anyway, your instincts are correct. Better to start off restrictive and then let out the leash as your kid demonstrates that they can take care of themself and set their own limits. Christ, I’ve started sounding just like the parenting books I read. Fucking horrible. I used to ROCK once, you know. I swear.

Anyway, my wife and I learned about setting limits the hard way during the pandemic. In the summer of 2020, we let our daughter (14 at the time) have her phone whenever she wanted, all day and night. She took full advantage and the result was a fucking disaster. I’m not sure the girl slept at all for, like, three months. And even in daytime, the girl would break contain. We’d scroll through her photos and see selfies she took with her friends, inside, maskless.

So my wife and I tacked back toward shore. We restricted her visits with friends and put in hard phone hours, the latter move being one we should have done in the very beginning. This transition sucked. Imagine you’re a teenager and you’ve had both your digital and you analog social lives put in the dirt. You’d rebel. You’re DESIGNED to rebel. Our girl did. And you can only do so much to stop a teenager from defying you. Once your kid figures out you don’t have much real power to stop them, that’s when you’re fucked.

My wife and I eventually had to hide ALL the devices in the house at night because if we didn’t, the girl would just stay up late and use any other device she spotted unattended. She knew all our passcodes, even when we changed them. She even figured out a way to jailbreak out of her school-issue Chromebook to get onto Insta, so we had to confiscate that every night, too. Every time I knocked on her door to play phone cop, I’d get a “Can I have it for another hour?” or “Why do you have to take it?” Took me months to learn that answering either of those questions was a waste of time. You just have to be firm and consistent.

And we were. After a quarantine’s worth of struggling for power, we eased into a détente. Nowadays, when I go and ask the girl for her phone and laptop (it’s like a scene in any action movie where the hitman gives up five guns before entering the boss’s den, and then has to be nudged to give up the final gun he has tucked inside an ankle holster), she complies without putting up a fight. She’s been so disciplined about it, in fact, that she wrote me and my wife a letter—she spent three hours on it and asked some of her friends to help edit it—about why she deserved to have her phone hours re-extended. It was REALLY well done. I was like Goddamn, this girl makes some good points. Our new restrictions had cost her the only time she could have with her friends during the pandemic, and may have cost her one or two friends outright as her lack of availability caused them to drift away.

So my wife and I sat down with our daughter and did some collective bargaining. If she did more activities outside of using her phone, she’d get more phone time. She agreed and got herself a babysitting job, like, a day later. Now that’s some goddamn motivation.

My point is that you’ll always be searching for the right balance of being a hardass and being a permissive jackass raising a brainless idiot. Throw in this fucking pandemic and it only makes your job harder as you go along. Nick here is oddly fortunate in that his kid is one, and 1-year-olds are already restricted by the fact that they are one. But eventually you have to start dealing with your kids as people and not as helpless little creatures, and you’ll never get it exactly right. The most important thing is that you try.

Matt:

Why are actors so bad at playing drunk? I’ve seen the archetypal slurring of words, giggling and swaying hundreds of times and it’s always bad.

I don’t agree with you. I hated Leaving Las Vegas, but I was very much convinced that Nicolas Cage’s character was an alcoholic while I was watching it. Also, I’m watching Deadwood for the first time and EVERY character on that show is shitfaced all day long, true to the era that show depicts. And who can forget Gabby Johnson’s rousing speech to the citizenry of Rock Ridge in their darkest hour? Not I.

Drunks come in all forms. I’ve watched plenty of TV shows and movies where the characters are functional alcoholics who don’t slur their words or do any of that parody drunk shit. They just pull a Roger Sterling and treat being drunk as their permanent state of being. I know real drinkers like that. I WAS a real drinker like that. And the times I got too loaded, which were many, I had no sense of how clearly other people could tell I was drunk. I was too busy ripping my shirt off and shouting I FEEL FUCKING GREAT! to be like You know, my body language is probably giving off heavy signs of intoxication right now! There were only four occasions back in my drinking days when I knew, even in the fog, that I’d had too much:

1. I would barf.

2. I would spill my drink.

3. I would be arrested.

4. I would suffer a horrific brain injury.

That’s it. That’s the list. Every other time, I thought I was the most charming man in the world. It was only after I sobered up and people said to me, “You were out of control,” that I became even remotely aware.

So imagine you’re an actor being asked to play a drunk person. You can either draw on your own experience being drunk, which you either forgot a lot of, or which your memories of are WRONG. Or you can BE drunk on the set, Method style. You would think that the latter option would ensure total accuracy. Turns out you’d be wrong, and probably drunk yourself. Ask Oscar Isaac!

For his birthday, a few days earlier, Isaac had been given a bottle of Basil Hayden’s bourbon. He started sipping early. “We were shooting in the Village, and the guy who had been teaching me guitar lived over the old Gaslight Cafe. So at lunch I went over there, had a little smoke, feeling good…” So the day went, until it came time to go back to the set and work. “I look at the bottle and I’m like, ‘Yeesh. I drank the whole thing!’” he recalls. “Remember, I’m not a huge drinker. I didn’t drink until I was 25 years old.” The scene that evening was a short one in which Llewyn is thrown out of the Gaslight and up against a car. “We did the first take, and that’s the last thing I remember,” he says. “I have flashes of people putting clothes on me, and then I’m waking up in my bed, all my clothes on.”

Not long after he woke, he says, the phone rang. It was Joel Coen.

“Hey, man,” said Isaac tentatively.

“Hey,” said Coen. “So…I’m 100 percent sure it would have been better if you hadn’t been sloshed when we shot that.”

“Oh man, I had no idea how much I had to drink,” Isaac told him. Coen started laughing.

I don’t believe Isaac had no clue how much he drank that day. You can lose track of how much you’ve had if you’re drinking from a keg, or you’re throwing down cocktails of unknown strength. But if you have a fucking whole bottle of bourbon on you? You know. The bottle tells you exactly how much you’ve had. What I’m saying here is that OSCAR ISAAC IS A DECEITFUL LUSH. He also eventually, and soberly (I presume), nailed his shitfaced lines in the finished product. Playing a drunk is fucking hard. If you think most actors suck at it, well then that’s the reason why.

Gary:

What’s worse? Really needing to take a shit and being two minutes from a toilet, or really needing to take a piss and being 20 minutes away from relief?

The latter. I’ve been abused by my own needy bladder for my entire life, so I’m better equipped to hold a shit than I am a piss. But really, your question is a moot one because in both instances, you KNOW how long you have to hold it. The worst moments are when you don’t know where to find a toilet or when you’ll find one. That’s when the possibility of shitting yourself becomes all too real. If I have to piss or shit when I’m on the road and I see a sign that says GAS/FOOD 2 MILES, I know that there’s an endgame to my misery. But if I see no signs at all, mile after mile, or we’re stuck in a traffic stoppage with no shoulder access of any kind, that’s when I silently freak out.

We were on the road the other week, driving from South Carolina back to Maryland. We had to stop for lunch, and I had to piss real bad. So I got off 95 and pulled into a Popeyes, where I sprinted to the door only to discover that it was locked. Due to COVID, only the drive-through was open. Same with the Wendy’s just next door. I have never been so angry at restaurants being so responsible. I was like CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS SHIT? when it was very much a believable occurrence. No matter. My dick was gonna blow apart. I drove to a Bojangles further down the road and they were all the way open for my needs. I had sweat clean through my mask by the time I finally got to piss.

So toilet angst is 100 percent dependent not on time, but on certainty.

David:

Something I’ve long wondered about: let’s say you have raw chicken sitting in a bowl marinating. When you go to clean the bowl with soap and a sponge, doesn’t the sponge get all the raw chicken juice on it? Isn’t the sponge now compromised? Won’t the sponge, if used again, just transfer all that raw chicken juice to the next thing you are cleaning with it?

Why yes, it will. Sponges are proven to be filthy, which is why my wife runs ours through the dishwasher every night along with all the normal dishes. However, the dish brush, which is what I use to scrub and rinse dishes, stays in the sink all night long. So we probably haven’t accomplished much with our chicken juice precautions.

I regret nothing. I haven’t gotten food poisoning since 1995, and I’ll be goddamned if I ever abandon my trusted dish brush and latex gloves. My parents still wash all their dishes using a plain old sponge. When I ask for a dish brush, they look at me like I’m the insane one. Then they offer me a piece of steel wool that hasn’t been used since 1974. I’M NOT THE CRAZY ONE HERE MA EVERYONE ELSE USES DISH BRUSHES NOW.

HALFTIME!

Travis:

I’m currently on a Zoom call for work in which I surreptitiously muted myself to let out a huge fart. Letting that fart out in an actual meeting would literally ruin my career. I then realized that I have not had to hold in a fart for over a year! Do I have the ability anymore? What is going to happen in the post-Covid world when we have to observe basic social norms and hygiene standards? Will it even be possible?

It will indeed be possible. Just because you were in quarantine doesn’t mean you forgot how to hold in a fart, or put your pants on, or tie your shoes, or any other basic shit. Some customs will change once the pandemic ends. A lot of people will probably still wear masks and/or shy away from shaking hands etc. But none of our collective behavior will change because functional adults forgot HOW to wear a dress shirt or whatever. We’re not infants. We’re not that fucking helpless. Travis, I believe that you will be largely able to control your farts in The After. I believe in you and your butt.

Though, to paint the clearest possible picture, I myself have muted Zoom calls to fart, and then doubled back to make sure that I really DID mute myself. It’s like patting myself down before I leave my house to make sure I have my wallet. There’s always a shred of needless doubt in there. Annoying.

Also, and I’m not alone on this, I have had to urgently shit during nearly EVERY important Zoom call I’ve had during the pandemic. I never remember to empty my rectum before the call. Then I get on the horn with President Biden to discuss subsidies to encourage better drunken acting in American movies, and suddenly my ass starts moaning for attention. I can’t always pause these calls. I gotta hold it. And it’s not fun to hash out the marketing strategy for a new book while you’re dying to get off the line and scamper to the toilet. That is a DISTRACTION and my butt should apologize to me anytime it occurs.

Jimal:

When you walk down stairs, while either barefoot or when wearing socks, do you wrap your toes around the nosing of the stair treads?

No. If I’m walking on a rocky slope or something, I’ll dig my toes into my shoes. It does nothing.

Terry:

Driving around Albuquerque today my wife found herself behind this car with this vanity license plate. She said it was a sweet little old lady in the driver’s seat. We are completely flummoxed as to what the plate could mean other than the obvious “anal goo.” I’ve been wracking my brain all day trying to come up with *anything* else, but I’ve failed. Is there something obvious I’m missing? Or was my wife just driving behind a nasty grandma? A nil goo? Analog 00?

I don’t think it’s a vanity plate. I checked the website of New Mexico’s DMV. New Mexico offers drivers a special Chile Capital Of the World license plate, which is silly given that New Mexico’s everyday license plate template is arguably the best in the nation. You can get this chile plate personalized, but you don’t HAVE to. The state’s DMV has the right to reject any vanity plate if “the division finds it to be derogatory or obscene.” And if there’s one thing I know about governmental bureaucracy, it’s that their definition for what constitutes “obscene” is EXTREMELY broad.

So maybe ANAL GOO slipped through. Or perhaps the driver’s name is Anlgoo and she comes from Papua New Guinea, in which case you should feel ashamed of yourself for making ass jokes. Or maybe the plate is a failed attempt at some other message: AN LAGOON, ANAL GO!, ANALOGIES OOH!, And Now Let’s Go Out Overthrowing, etc.

But I’ve been tricked by false vanity plates before. I’ve been at a stoplight, desperate to interpret the 10LVES plate in front of me, like I’m a contestant on Bumper Stumpers. And then I realize it’s just a randomly issued license plate number. The average vanity plate holder WANTS you to know what their plate is saying. That’s the whole reason to have a vanity plate to begin with. You pony up an extra $100 to be known as DR COCK to fellow motorists. I see none of that in ANLGOO. Either that’s a regular plate, some dumb inside joke, or the driver is just a fucking imbecile.

Jonathan:

What is the best “take the field/court” moments in sports? Is it the football team emerging from a smoke-filled tunnel with pyrotechnics blasting off to either side? Is it an enrobed boxer’s slow walk to the ring with his trainer and staff trailing behind? Is it basketball players being called to the floor one at a time by the stadium announcer? For my money, it’s hard to beat hockey. There’s something about the team hitting the ice at full gallop while a foghorn blares that’s hard to replicate in other venues.

It’s pro wrestling. You get your own music. You get your own kickass graphics on the display behind you. You get to ride into the arena in a fucking tank if you want. And, best of all, your entrance can come at ANY time. It can even come in the middle of another wrestler’s match. BAH GAWD THAT’S JONATHAN’S MUSIC, etc. I watched a shitload of pro wrestling when I was a kid, and I remember the entrances as much as the matches themselves. Ric Flair walking out to the 2001 music (it’s actually a Strauss composition). Randy Savage coming out to “Pomp and Circumstance.” No other sport comes close to that shit.

I daydreamed entrances for my own wrestling character. I thought about becoming Drew “The Devastator” Magary and coming out to “Orion” by Metallica. I also cooked up the idea to be part of a naked, masked tag team called The Stripper and The Naked Fighter. My thinking was that no one would ever beat us because they would be psyched out having to wrestle a couple of naked dudes. Also, the ladies in attendance would be turned on. I did not share this tag team idea with any close friends of mine, or with anyone else for that matter. I daydreamed about the wrestling part, too. But mostly, I was all about the ring entrance. For me, it’s about THE SPECTACLE.

Honorary mention here to the country introductions at the Olympics. Every athlete at the opening ceremony looks so proud, and so ready to be horny. Gotta be a nice moment.

Peter:

Who invented the mug cake? Can you provide a name and address so that I can hunt them down and kill them? I just made the house a “no mug cake” house and suddenly Dad is a colossal prick. I don’t even understand the appeal. “What if I told you could have all the mess of making cupcakes for an end result that tastes half as good? Oh and clean up will take multiple trips through the dishwasher. You’ll be better off throwing the mug away.”

We had a mug cake phase early in the pandemic. In fact, when my son turned eight in April 2020, he asked his big sister to make him a mug cake instead of asking my wife and me to make him a normal, big cake. It was fucking awesome. Instead of laboring to make a hobo’s replica of a Giant sheet cake, our daughter just nuked some eggs and flour and cocoa together for like a minute and the boy was ELATED. He didn’t eat the whole mug cake, but that was fine because we could just throw that shit away. Then we soaked the mugs and the cakey residue came off with my handy dish brush with a little bit of elbow grease. Very efficient.

Do mug cakes taste better than regular cakes? Fuck and no, they don’t. I thought a mug cake might have some lava cake action going on in the interior, but no. It’s just dryass cake from top to bottom. You gotta add a shitload of ice cream to make it work. I am not above such measures. So we’re talking about a cake that fails to deliver flavor-wise, but spares me a bunch of kitchen labor AND encourages my oldest kid to cook on her own. The positives outweigh the negatives in the end. For my own birthday, though, you better believe we’re doing babycakes instead.

Brian:

If you drank half a 5-Hour Energy shot, would you get the full effect for 2.5 hours, or half the effect for the whole five-hour period? Could you even tell the difference?

5-Hour Energy is coffee for angry realtors.  I don’t trust it.  Drink half a bottle instead of a full one and you induce the birth of a marginally smaller tumor in your pancreas.

Jed:

I recently bought a loaf of pumpernickel bread at the bakery in my local grocery store (see the picture below). I didn’t think anything of its packaging until I got it home and went to make a sandwich. As you can see, the tapered end of the bread points out of the bag, and the larger, better-sized slices are at the bottom of the loaf. I had to reach past a good seven slices of bread to get a pair big enough to make a sandwich with. What the hell kind of chicanery is this? Is there a reason BIG BAKERY wants to make it harder to make a sandwich?

Oh, my grocery store bags bread the same way.  One time I got bold and took the entire loaf out, turned it around, and slid it back in.  I never did that again, because I’m lazy and I enjoy complaining.

Email of the week!

Brandon:

I saw Frozen II in theaters 31 times. I know. This sounds insane. But you have to understand a few things: (1) I had AMC A-List, so it cost me almost nothing; (2) it’s a brisk hour-forty-five so it made a great time-killer; and (3) the movie is good! It’s fun and visually stunning and the songs kick ass! And also I had a ton of free time because my partner of eight years, who is a performer, was out of town on a six-month cruise ship gig. So yeah, maybe that had a little bit to do with it. (She caught the movie on one of their port days and agreed that it was good, but still expressed severe concern for my mental state.)

At first it was genuine enjoyment of the film paired with restlessness and boredom in my social life that was driving my repeat viewings, but I admit that once I hit double digits the sense of chasing a record started to take over and it got a bit out of hand. To conserve my A-List reservations, I started sneaking into showings of Frozen II after seeing other flicks. On two separate occasions, I saw F2 three times in one night — once in multiple theaters. It had become an endurance race. One time I even paid to see it at a Regal.

But despite the madness, the truth is that I just plain loved this movie. “Show Yourself” is one of the greatest musical sequences ever committed to film, and I wanted to stand and applaud it every single time. And every time the credits rolled, I thought to myself, “Hell yeah, I wanna see that again!” I think my favorite viewing was around the 25 mark. I had an evening flight to visit my partner on the cruise, so I took a 90-minute bus ride to the only nearby theater with a morning showing. Whether anticipating a weeklong Frozen II withdrawal, worried it would be gone from theaters when I returned, or simply emotional from looking forward to seeing my girlfriend after months of distance, I have rarely been so wrapped up in the experience of watching a film. I wept, early and often, at moments that were already memorized in the marrow of my bones. Judge all you want, but it was wonderful.

I saw Frozen II for the 31st time in February 2020. A few weeks later, I was working from home, suspending my AMC A-List, and praying my partner made it home safely from — Jesus Christ! — the cruise ship (she did). It was one of the last movies I ever saw in a theater, and I’m not sure when I will again. Looking back, I don’t regret a single one of those 31 viewings. I’ve seen Jurassic Park (my favorite film and one I don’t think anyone will judge me for watching over and over) at least a hundred times across the years, but only a half dozen of those were on a big screen. You better believe I’d trade in every small-screen viewing for the full theatrical version in a heartbeat, especially now that I can’t take that experience for granted.

I guess I don’t really have a question that requires a response. I just wanted to share my magical journey and live my truth. Like Elsa. Man, I miss the movies.

As do I, but not quite THAT much.