Time for your weekly edition of the Defector Funbag. Got something on your mind? Email the Funbag. And buy Drew’s book, The Night The Lights Went Out, while you’re at it. Today, we’re talking about voice-to-text, the death of comedy films, preferred stats, and more.
News alert: I won’t be able to do the Funbag next week, which means this column will be in the hands of our intern, Kathryn Xu, who is half as old as the lot of you and twice as shrewd. Email the Kathrynbag here and she’ll answer your questions with equal parts thoroughness and black humor.
On a definitely unrelated note to me being off Funbag duties next week, submissions for the 2022 edition of Why Your Team Sucks are still, miraculously, open. [Car dealer voice] But they won’t stay open long, so email us here and let the hate flow through you. BONUS: If you’re a fan of one of the lame teams like Jacksonville, your entry gets extra consideration, mostly because I usually don’t get many Jacksonville entries of any sort.
And now … your letters:
Why are button fly pants presented as some type of fancier option? This shit is annoying.
Wait, are button flies still a thing? I haven’t encountered a button fly out in the wild since like 1992, back when Levi’s spent their entire advertising budget making them look cooler than they ever had a right to be. I never bought button fly jeans back then because, as Evan notes, they were a pain in the ass. It was well worth risking a nasty case of zipdick to eschew button flies, and that remains true to this day. In fact, I now barely ever wear pants that require a fly of ANY kind, because I am a creature of the athleisure revolution.
To that end, allow me to state the leading thesis of this week’s Funbag now, which is that lightweight activewear is the most important invention of your lifetime and mine.
Now you might be saying to yourself BUT DREW THE INTERNET, to which I would respond that we, as a species, ruined the popular internet roughly 15 years into its inception. More important, the internet is nowhere near as comfortable as a good pair of track pants. I feel uncomfortable most of the time I’m online. Not so for a pair of mesh shorts. You see my point? Thank you.
When I was growing up, every pair of sweatpants had fabric that was half-an-inch thick and cuffs on the bottom that cut off blood flow to your feet within 20 minutes. It was like wearing a live dog. Jeans were more comfortable than sweatpants back then, which is saying a lot given that jeans are roughly as breathable as a house built underwater. Sweatshirts weren’t much better back in middle school, either. They were comfortable for a few minutes only to turn into one of those old timey neck-down steam baths that Bugs Bunny locked Elmer Fudd inside of.
But in 2022, innovations in lightweight fabrics and labor exploitation in Southeast Asia have opened up a whole new genre of wardrobe that was heretofore unavailable to you and me. Activewear is so goddamn comfortable, AND it makes me look like a pro athlete getting off the team bus. That’s a win-win. I now own exactly zero pair of khakis and couldn’t be happier about it. I only have to wear jeans a handful of times a year. The rest of the time I reside in optimal comfort and therefore can never have a bad day.
Your average Wall Street Journal op-ed writer loses sleep at night over this. OMIGOD THE PEOPLE IN COACH ON MY DELTA SHUTTLE TO NEW YORK WERE ALL DRESSED LIKE SLOBS!, they write every summer. But their concerns are even more dated than my musical tastes. The rest of us are living our best lives every day outfitted in haute sneakers, mesh pants, and 100 percent polyester tops that wick away every last trace of sweat from the body. This is a miracle. Don’t discount it. If you forced me to choose between my iPhone and living life in a shitty pair of Wranglers again, I wouldn’t hesitate for a second.
While we’re here: Pants that have hooks in front instead of buttons? Get the fuck out. What is this, Tammany Hall in 1902?
Should there be an Oscar category for Best Comedy, or would that open up a rabbit hole for action/adventure, sci-fi, etc?
There should absolutely be a Best Comedy Oscar. Not only would it do the job that the Academy’s ill-fated Best Popular Movie category intended to do, but it would also help a movie genre that’s in dire shape right now. The only comedy in the current top 10 releases of 2022 is a fucking Minions movie. In fact, I went back through the past 10 years of domestic grosses and found exactly ONE live-action comedy in the top 10 grossers that wasn’t animated and/or targeted exclusively at families. That movie was Ted. It came out in 2012. The last great comedy I saw in a theater was The Nice Guys (not interested if you disagree), and that film had to be disguised as an action movie to even get made. The last grownup comedy film to get a toehold in pop culture was The Hangover, which has aged horribly. Before that, it was Borat, which was made in 2006.
It’s no secret that Hollywood phased out filmed comedies a while back because sci-fi films and family films had much broader appeal overseas. But the land has become so fallow that even FINDING nominees for a Best Comedy Oscar right now would be nearly impossible. The Academy would have to go the Golden Globes route and nominate musicals and/or movies like Knives Out where the comedy, while high quality, isn’t the main selling point. But it’s still worth them spotlighting comedies in a ceremony where comedy has long gotten fucked over in favor of more serious, boring fare. It’d be a chance to, if not revive comedy, at least give studios and producers some incentive to make more of them.
I grew up with iconic, quotable movie comedies. Even the SHITTY comedies often had reference value long after viewing, but now I don’t get any live-action comedies of any kind. So instead of quoting Trading Places, my kids just quote shitty memes to one another. I keep trying to get them to watch Fletch and they have no interest. This is unacceptable. I accept that society changes over time, and that Remember When remains the lowest form of conversation. But it’s never a good thing when an art form goes extinct. Without big screen comedies, all of the jokes are left to a hodgepodge of TV shows, random dickheads online (that’s me), and standup comedians who long ago decided that if they can’t tell one racist joke, they’ll just tell every racist joke. I don’t find this development encouraging, nor should you. The Oscars are barely relevant anymore, and they’d find a way to fuck up Best Comedy if they implemented it, but it’s still worth a shot. We need more John Landis and less Max Landis.
Paul’s take about Radiohead from last week’s Funbag is fucking atrocious. Radiohead is a perfectly fine band, but at no point in the entirety of their existence have they been THE biggest band in the world. It’s just a bad take by someone who clearly has a tenuous grip on reality.
Bands that (have always) rock(ed) more and are (have always been) bigger than Radiohead:
-Red Hot Chili Peppers (I don’t even really like the Chili Peppers, but they have certainly always been bigger than Radiohead)
Anyways, Paul is insane.
Defector commenters also took umbrage with that claim a week ago, because Radiohead is clearly a niche band with limited global appeal. Everyone knows that. See the evidence for yourself!
Pretty sure Robert’s take here is informed by the fact that he, himself, does not like Radiohead. And congrats to him for harboring a take (“Mew mew Radiohead is for nerds!”) that’s only slightly younger than “MTV should play videos again!” A Best Comedy Oscar is waiting for you in the mailbox, amigo.
I have no interest in litigating what constitutes the “biggest” band on Earth, but I don’t think it’s insane to put Radiohead in consideration. If I had told you that Kasabian, this week’s halftime act, had that honor, you’d be right to assail me. But Radiohead? Fuck off, man. Look at the other bands Robert mentioned up above. I like Foo Fighters, and they’ve definitely sold more albums than Radiohead. They’ve also been making the same album over and over again since 1997. Green Day hasn’t been relevant since the Bush administration. The Killers are an early-aughts nostalgia act. Muse is a band that keeps trying to rip off OK Computer and failing in comically histrionic ways. And the Red Hot Chili Peppers are older than death itself. Meanwhile, Radiohead can dust off “Bodysnatchers” and out-rock the shit out of all them in a tidy four minutes flat. And I thought I was the boomer round these parts. Stop embarrassing yourselves.
Are the Amish a cult?
No, the Amish are legit. Sure, they have plenty of ugly skeletons hiding in the barn, but that’s what MAKES you a legit religion worldwide. Ask any Catholic.
I heard you and Roth talking a few months ago about what you think would be the one thing you could do in pro sports, but they were all offensive things. If you were put in one of the major professional sports leagues, what do you think would be the easiest defensive stat for you to earn (strikeout, tackle, save, interception, etc.)? I think the hardest would have to be strikeout right? Easiest maybe a tackle?
If it’s one of those tackles where you touch a guy after he’s already fallen, so that he technically counts as down, I guess that would be “easy.” It would still require me to play pro football though, which would be an instant death sentence. Elsewhere, a strikeout would be impossible. Fielding a grounder without shitting my pants is also unlikely. I’d tell you that I could catch a pop fly, but my little league career vehemently disproves that.
That means that the only defensive stat I could ever earn as a fish-out-of-water in the big leagues… is a defensive rebound. Not a TOUGH defensive rebound, mind you. I’m not gonna be able to box out Joel Embiid for that shit. However, I could simply spend every game lingering on the periphery of the action (so as not to get hurt), and then have an errant three-pointer serendipitously come my way. That’s how, like, B.J. Armstrong got rebounds. I could do that. Fans would be in awe.
Do you ever comment your shits and pisses? Sometimes I’ll say aloud to myself, “Time for poo number two,” or “Third time’s a charm!” when I’m getting ready to let loose. Or I’ll just say “Good piss” to myself during a particularly relieving session.
I don’t get that verbose. I’m too busy doing the work of shitting. Also, I need people to HEAR my one-liners, which means I save all of my defecatory analysis for when I come out of the bathroom. That’s when I tell my family, “The toilet was angry today, my friends,” or “The fuck did I just eat?” But alone on the can, a simple “Christ” is about all I have to offer.
Pissing is a slightly different matter, as I have a weak bladder. I also have a weak stream to go with that weak bladder, so we’re talking about some high quality living in the Magary bathroom. As such, I will talk out loud while pissing, usually in the form of coaching my dick to piss right. If the piss is slow out of the gate, I’ll throw out an exasperated, “Come ON.” If the stream is strong and consistent, I’ll give my dick a “Now that’s more like it!” for positive reinforcement. Aren’t you glad you now know all of this?
Now that I’ve emerged from the black hole that can come with having multiple kids under the age of five, I’m ready to start catching on some of the best shows that I missed during my hiatus. Considering the last shows I watched were The Sopranos and Breaking Bad, what are the Top 10 Drew Rankings of shows from the last seven or eight years that are must-see? I’m trying to avoid the chaff and get right to the best of the best.
I’m a lousy person to ask for suggestions. This is because once I had more free time, I started watching more movies instead of TV shows, because movies are awesome and require less of a time commitment than TV shows do. That’s quality value, and I remain a value seeker. So any list of TV recs you get from me is bound to have glaring omissions. These are the best ten shows I’ve watched in the past decade, but that probably also means they’re the ONLY ten shows I’ve watched in that timespan:
- The Americans
- Boardwalk Empire (if that doesn’t count as too old, although it likely does)
- Stranger Things
- The Outsider
- American Vandal (first season)
- The Queen’s Gambit
- The Mandalorian
I wish I had more esoteric suggestions for you, but I don’t. When it comes to TV, I follow the crowd like everyone else does.
Do you have any stats that you pay too much attention to in any sports? I have obsessively followed team assists per field goal made in the NBA after first coming across it in some basketblog years ago. It doesn’t necessarily correspond to success: this year the Warriors finished first and won the title, but last year the Bucks won it all despite being 26th in that category. I don’t know why I care but I still look at assists and field goals every single time I look at a NBA box score. In baseball I always go right to the starter’s game score, which was never the most meaningful stat and is less and less relevant in today’s game. Do you have any go-to stats that you always check despite them not really reflecting the quality of a team or player?
Why yes, and they’re all in baseball. That’s right, friends: I’m the guy who still thinks batting averages are important. In fact, the only baseball stats I pay attention to are the ones that mattered back in 1987: average, HRs, RBIs, wins, saves, ERA, and strikeouts.
The majority of those stats are functionally useless compared to more accurate measurements like OBP+, WAR, and what have you. But my childlike brain still gravitates toward old man baseball stats anyway. Part of that is nostalgia: little Drew staring at box scores in the agate section of the Star-Tribune and taking them as gospel. Those are the stats I grew up with and am therefore conditioned to treat with more import than the ones that came into fashion after I myself stopped being a devout baseball fan. But also, it’s just EASIER, at least for me, to worship the dumb stats. I don’t have to teach myself anything new. I don’t have to change my historical frame of reference. I can just sit there like a moron and believe that a pitcher who wins 20 games kicks ass because he started 20 whole wins. I find being stupid in this manner highly enjoyable. The world asks me to think too much about everything else anyway.
I don’t use voice-to-text at all for any reason. Not sure why, but I just don’t prefer it. My wife, however, utilizes it as much as she can. I got to thinking today when she was having a text conversation with her family that she often ends her messages with an exclamation point or question mark… but speaks in a monotone when dictating. I find this somewhat psychopathic but maybe that’s just me. What do you think? Should most people dictate excitedly with an exclamation point or with inquisitive inflection with a question mark?
No, because your idiot phone won’t glean those inflection points. In order for a computer to understand what you’re saying, you have to speak to it in computer-ese. Take it from a guy who’s been on hold with his insurance company many times. If your voice quivers ONCE while delivering information to an automated entity, or if a fucking mosquito lands 12 feet away, the entire system breaks down. So that’s why Matt’s wife here uses a monotone when giving voice commands. It’s also why, with one exception, I never use voice commands myself. I never have Siri on. I don’t own an Alexa. When I accidentally hit the Voice Command on my steering wheel and the car display goes “BLEEP! STATE YOUR INTENTIONS TO ME,” I let out a big loud FUCK and then crash the car. I do not like talking, so any tech that demands I talk more is right out.
Except for the TV remote. Searching for movies/TV shows using the voice prompt on Google TV is so much better than doing a text search, I can’t believe that text searches with your remote were ever a thing. Sometimes I’m 20 characters deep before I notice that I fucked up the fifth character. A rough moment.
As a fellow Minnesota Sports Fan, I’ve pretty much politely ignored the NBA since my dad swore off the Wolves when KG left. Now I get semi-regular access to tickets, but haven’t learned anything new about basketball since I was six. Is there some sort of primer to talking about basketball now so that I can wisely talk about outstanding perimeter D and switching on mismatches without hitting the books? Barring that, is there something I can say about pretty much every player that’ll make it sound like I’ve seen a regular season game in the last five years?
Do you really wanna fake it? Does it matter? Who do you need to impress with your counterfeit basketball takes anyway? Some dickhead in the next row over? If I were you, I’d glory in my ignorance. I’d tell people the story of my Wolves fan rebirth, and then ask them stupid questions so that I can get back up to a reasonable speed. Basketball-knowers LOVE dispensing their wisdom upon hapless bystanders anyway, so you’re a perfect target for all of their fartsniffing. Let them guide you, instead of puffing your chest and trying to blend in by cribbing takes from old FreeDarko blog posts.
There’s also a very good chance that you’ve retained more NBA knowledge than you realize. You’re not a complete rookie. You know the rules of the game already. You know that making more shots than you miss is good. You know that Chris Paul can’t win jack shit. You know all of that. I don’t watch anywhere near as much NBA basketball as I used to, but whenever I do watch it now, I can get back onto the bike pretty quickly. All the shit I learned from watching so much basketball as a kid comes back. No reason why it can’t do the same for you. Also, you’ll learn more BY watching current games anyway. On your own. It’s not as if your aptitude for learning ceased to exist the second you turned legal drinking age. Trust yourself to learn more about the game as you go.
Also, read Defector’s NBA coverage. That sounds like a cheap plug but I swear I’m a much smarter basketball fan right now thanks to posts like this. Burneko and company know their shit. Frankly, they’re making me look bad.
Daytime talk shows of the 90s were a necessary evil. We needed the likes of Ricki Lake, Jerry Springer and their studio audiences to expose the fringe lunatics to society. Today, the crazies can just post on Facebook, get a million followers, and infect the whole world, unchecked.
This is true, but I’d like to take Zach’s letter solely to Remember Some Talk Show Hosts. Remember when Jenny Jones got a gay man murdered? And remember when Rosie O’Donnell had her own daytime show and always joked about how she wanted to marry Tom Cruise? Every time I peeked into my college dorm’s common room at 2 p.m., two pieces of white trash would be pulling each other’s hair out over the paternity test results Maury Povich just revealed to them. Daytime TV in the 1990s made NO sense at all.
As I have gotten further into my 30s, I’m noticing a mental shift where I am finding a little more comfort in not knowing things. I’ve always found myself curious by nature, and enjoy learning the how or why behind a lot of what’s going around. Maybe it’s the feeling of awed insignificance brought forth after viewing the images from the Webb Telescope, but as you’ve gotten older do you find it easier to accept that you don’t need to know everything and to just let life be to a certain degree?
Oh, of course. Hell, every Funbag column this year has included a treatise from me on the joys of being an idiot. You, as an individual, only have so much control over world events, and only so much emotional capacity. So it’s inevitable that the news of the day will always overwhelm you if you pay too close attention to it. It’ll make you more knowledgeable, of course. But it’ll also amplify the disconnect between how much information you’re absorbing and how much of it you can psychologically tolerate. Rusty Foster put it succinctly to the Columbia Journalism Review two weeks ago:
You need breaks. I don’t think people are really meant to engage with the whole world. It is exhausting.
It’s not shallow to say this. It’s recognition of your limits, and it’s an act of basic self-care to accept that you cannot care about every single goddamn thing that happens out there. To paraphrase the old Metallica song, you cannot insist that the weight of the world be on your shoulders. It’ll crush you every time if you do. You should still be a good person, obviously. But it’s also OK to shrink your radius down, so that the world’s evils don’t act as a raging tide that swallows up all of the immediate good that you see and feel. You need balance.
And there’s great joy in acknowledging your own cosmic insignificance. The reason I loved reading Ulysses was specifically because it was, at least in my (two!) readings, a big fucking joke of a book. James Joyce picked out a single day in the life of an unremarkable man, blew it up to epic proportions, and in the process illustrated how nothing and everything are one in the same. That’s you. You occupy an infinitesimal part of the universe and an infinitesimal speck of time within the life of that universe. And yet everything you see and hear and feel is its own vast, spectacular universe. You are everyone and no one. You are everywhere, and nowhere. You are Darkman. That’s the mindfuck, but it’s a REALLY fucking cool one, because it frees you of obligations you can’t possibly fulfill. And that is why athleisure is so great to wear.
Email of the week!
I was reminded recently of “Oh Say Can You Sing?”, a truly baffling collection of “Music Recordings” from mid-00’s MLB stars that no one would ever want. Just look at this tracklist: Jeff Conine singing “Plush”; Omar Vizquel covering the goddamn Goo Goo Dolls; and two original hip-hop tracks from Jimmy Rollins and Coco Crisp! The hits keep comin’! My question: Who and what would be featured on 2022’s “Oh Say Can You Sing Vol. II: Sing Harder”?
Holy shit, Aubrey Huff sings on this thing! Terrifying.