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Funbag

The Best Reason To Have Kids Is To Play With All Their Crap

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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 new book, The Night The Lights Went Out, while you’re at it. Today, we’re talking about major awards, state pride, turkey bacon, and more.

Your letters:

Joey:

Do you have a ranking of kids toys that still rule as an adult? I got my oldest a wooden train set for Christmas. She is still wayyyy to young to be able to like, build a track, but I loved these things as a kid and was super excited to bust that bad boy open and start building. I can’t be the only one who buys toys for their kids because I find them fun too, right? Or am I a weirdo, there is no ranking, and I would be better suited scamming out NFTs on Twitter?

I love those tracks! When my oldest son was little, he was bonkers for trains. He wore train jammies and watched Chuggington on a loop. I read train books to him. On weekends, he’d ask to go railfanning (he’d even use the word “railfanning”), so I’d take him to train stations and railyards so he could check out every type of train car passing by. One time we drove to Union Station in downtown D.C., parked in the upper garage, and stayed IN the garage to watch the Amtrak trains come and go down below. I took him to the train museum in any city we visited. I bought him Amtrak tickets to BWI and back. Not because we had a flight, but just for the ride.

And, of course, we played with trains. Anytime he saw a new Thomas train in the Barnes & Noble kids section, he’d ask to spend his own money on it. He kept all the tracks in a plastic bin downstairs and all the trains in another. Then we’d spend hours in the basement cooking up elaborate tracks and position two ramps facing one another so that our Thomas trains could smash into one another. I loved it. I still have video of us playing trains down there, and I watch them whenever I wanna smile.

He turns 13 in two days, and he’s not as into trains as he used to be. Not at all, really. We sold or gave away most of the boy’s train toys, with his blessing. He won’t wear train jammies to bed anymore. He never watches Thomas. He’s grown up now. I only get flashes of the boy he once was, and I’m grateful whenever I get them. My memories of his train days are perhaps far more vivid than his own. He’s got other shit to do nowadays, but I miss train time with him. It was quality bonding, but also the trains themselves kicked major ass.

Fortunately, I have another son who’s not quite as grown-up yet, and he’s horny for Nerf guns. He’s even got a Nerf Gatling gun, with a big-ass barrel that can shoot foam bullets with terrifying efficiency. You could wipe out a whole city of toy soldiers with this bad boy, if it didn’t jam every five seconds (all battery-operated Nerf guns jam, all the time). We have Nerf wars where I hide in one corner with a single shooter and he hides in the other, and then we try to kill each other. That too, is also excellent. I take my aim super serious and everything. I don’t wanna lose. I can’t lose. Now that we’ve been face to face, if I’m there and I gotta put him away, I won’t like it. But I tell you, if it’s between him and some poor bastard whose wife he’s gonna turn into a Nerf widow … brother, he is going down

Justin:

I have a plaque from an award I received back in 2015 hanging up on my cubicle wall for some cool stuff I did on the job. It’s a rather prestigious award (at least in my field) and something I’m proud of. However, lately I’ve been considering if it’s time to take it down. It’s not like I hung it up to show it off; it’s just that it’s an award I received for work I did so where the hell else would it go? But I’m starting to think that 2015 was kind of a long time ago now and I’m not even doing the same work I was back then. Is it time for it to go in a box in the basement or do I hang that sucker proudly until I retire or die?

So it’s just a plaque? It’s not a sexy leg lamp? Pity.

I’d mothball it. You know you won it. That’s more than enough. You don’t need a plaque sitting out in plain sight to make the achievement more vivid or memorable. If someone at my office kept their Employee Of May 2015 up on their cubicle wall, for non-ironic purposes, I’d think to myself, “That guy’s a fucking loser.” I’m not saying that anyone is saying that about you right now, Justin. Your colleagues are definitely not huddling in the kitchen going, “You know he’s STILL got that plaque up? And his lunch always smells like he brought it in from the coroner’s office.” That would be rude.

I work from home, so I could, in theory, litter the joint with the many, many awards I have won over the course of my distinguished writing career (Kissing Suzy Kolber won three Weblog awards!). None of my co-workers would see it outside of the occasional Zoom, and no one cares how anyone else looks on Zoom. The only person that comes into my office regularly is my wife, who always offers to open the windows upon entry because she thinks it smells too much like me in here. She’d give me plenty of shit if I hung a bunch of Blogger of the Year certificates all over the walls, but she’s long been accustomed to my particular brand of egomania, so it wouldn’t be THAT big of a deal if I went for it.

I don’t. I just did an inventory of my office. Here’s a quick list of all the work-related mementos I keep out in the open:

  • Stacks of my books (mostly because I have nowhere else to put them, although I sometimes like to crack open Point B for kicks)
  • A letter I got from Megan Greenwell when she left Deadspin
  • A letter I got from Jay Willis after he got a job at GQ
  • An old, unopened box of Moss’ Magic Crunch cereal that a reader sent me (thank you)
  • A Deadspin Award statue, even though I never technically won one
  • A framed poster of an alternate cover for The Postmortal designed by U-South Carolina Jessica Lang (not the actress) in 2013 as part of a student design competition that she won. For a long time I had this poster taped to my wall, and then I decided to frame it. You can see the scotch tape still affixed to each corner.

That’s all I got. It’s not a bad haul, but it’s not exactly the back wall of a surgeon’s office. I have no way of saying this without coming off as one of those performatively humble athletes/politicians/actors you see profiled every week (“Jennifer Lawrence doesn’t even KNOW where her Oscar statue is!”), but I don’t give a shit about most work awards and souvenirs. That Postmortal cover is an exception, because it’s a cool design and because it absolutely fucking rules to write a novel that 7,000 freshmen are assigned as a common read two years after it’s been published. Otherwise, the shit I do keep lying around is almost entirely because it’s personal. Everything else is unimportant, especially when I compare it to doing the work itself, and the memory of watching that work pay off. That’s more deeply satisfying to me than a plaque, or an honorary degree, or the Heisman Trophy. I don’t need tangible reminders of a job well done.

But if I ever win an Oscar, you better believe I’m mounting that fucker on the hood of my Tucson.

Daniel:

When in a condiment’s life cycle do you start storing it upside down? Honey is one where this happens almost immediately; ketchup depends on whether it’s a glass or plastic situation (and whether it’ll topple over when the fridge opens).

You don’t need to store ketchup upside down anymore because Heinz sells every bottle with the cap on the bottom. (Many honey bottles also have this feature, but I’m too stupid to buy them.) You can still buy the original glass bottle if you’re some kind of deranged purist, but I haven’t seen a glass Heinz bottle in an American home since 1992.

As for the rest, I start storing condiments upside down after the following two things have occurred:

  1. I squeeze the bottle and get a fart of air instead of a steady stream of condiment goodness
  2. I need more than one (1) shake to get the rest to the bottom

If I have to shake that bottle more than once to get anything out, we must enter The Upside Down. I do this with shampoo too, by the way. If I can’t get that shit out, I turn it over. Then, when it fails after that, I put some water in it, swirl it around, and get a few extra shampoo cycles out of it. It’s the championship way of doing business.

Jared:

I’m living outside of New York State for the first time in my life, and living in North Carolina, which seems to be in that class of states that includes California, Texas, and your beloved Maryland in putting their state flag and outline on every available surface and body part. The idea of state pride is very foreign to me as a New Yorker. I grew up in NYC, went to college upstate, and moved back to the city afterwards, and I don’t think I ever heard anyone earnestly express pride in being a resident or native of the entire state of New York. So who’s weird here: New York for possibly being the only state without a sense of state pride, or people from other states for making an arbitrary, sub-national political boundary part of their identity?

I’m just imagining a New York State fanboy right now and dying laughing. He’s got his pickup truck customized with New York’s state flag pattern. He’s a football booster at every SUNY college. He thinks one place in Utica makes the finest barbecue in the world. This would be an amusing person, just running around and screaming EXCELSIOR whenever New Paltz tops a Fortune list for Best Places To Live and what not.

New York State is something of an anomaly because it has no definitive state U, and because New York City so thoroughly dominates it. I understand why there’s no visible state pride there, because its identity is fractured. That’s not true of Texas, which VERY much has an identity and won’t let you forget it. Some states, like the aforementioned Texas, have earned their hilariously open pride because they really are distinctive. Others… like, uh, Maryland … have not. Again, I have no clue why the Maryland flag is all over the goddamn place here. It’s an ugly flag. And why the fuck isn’t there a crab on it?

Will:

My girlfriend and I have been together nine years and living together for seven. When I talk to my neighbors or other new acquaintances they will often ask how my “wife” is doing, even though we have never claimed to be married and have no intentions of doing so. I usually don’t bother correcting them when they say this because I don’t want to invite further questions on the topic and never know when someone will be weird about unmarried cohabitation. Is it ok to go along with their assumption, or am I stealing “wife guy” valor if I don’t correct them?

Depending on where you live, they might be assuming correctly. A small number of states still have common-law marriages, which means that you’re treated by the law as married if you’ve lived together for X amount of years. So you might have yourself a wife even if you didn’t technically ask for one. If you ever break up, one of you might be on the hook for your apartment lease! TERRIFYING.

But let’s say you don’t live in a state that has common-law marriages. In that case, you’re still proceeding correctly. No official husband will care. Your girlfriend is essentially your wife in every other capacity anyway, so it makes sense for people to assume it and for you to play along. The only reason to correct them is if you were some kind of freakshow marriage atheist who routinely lectures others that marriage is an outdated and oppressive institution. OK, buddy. Point taken. But also: Shut the fuck up.

HALFTIME!

Michael:

I wish John Madden could explain this to me, but since I’ve got you instead, I was hoping you could answer a basic football question: Why do so many plays get snapped right before the play clock hits zero? I understand in scenarios when the offense wants to burn clock, and situations when there are multiple pre-snap things to do, but on the average play, it just seems like a massive advantage for the defensive line (in terms of jumping the snap) and negates the entire point of cadences, etc. This seems to happen a billion times per game, and it’s always confounded me. Of course, it’s possible I’m just dumb.

As I understand it, quarterbacks run the play clock all the way down so that they hear every defensive audible and force the defense to show its absolute final look before the snap. If running it down were a significant advantage for the defensive line, offenses would never do it. But it’s clearly not, so they do. As a former O-lineman, I can tell you that holding your stance at the line of scrimmage is fucking AGONY, but I suspect it’s less of a burden for world-class guards who squat 700 pounds on a Tuesday.

I may as well use this email as a jumping-off point to complain that, more than ever, refs are letting offenses go a beat after the play clock hits zero. You know the formal process by now: The back judge sees the play clock hit zero, then looks to see if the ball has been snapped. If it hasn’t, then they toss the flag. I have no fucking idea what the back judges in these playoffs have been doing between staring at the clock and checking that ball, but they’ve sure been taking their sweet-ass time to do it. Maybe they’re stealing a quick moment to check their email. All I know is that I saw at least 50 missed delay calls (NOTE: number exaggerated). This process is a failure.

So here’s what you do instead: You get a buzzer. Possibly a siren too, but a buzzer works well for our purposes. When the play clock hits zero, the buzzer sounds real fucking loud. No more counting on the back judge and his leisurely grace period. The buzzer goes off and everyone knows that you done fucked up. THERE. Problem solved. When the play clock runs out in basketball, what happens? A fucking buzzer! I see no reason why this should be any different.

This is not a new idea. Shit, Florio suggested it over a decade ago. But it is way, way overdue. I’m sick of the NFL’s prehistoric way of noting the time.

Kyle:

What are your thoughts on turkey bacon? I think as a bacon replacement, it fails horribly. But, treated as its own food or breakfast meat, I prefer it over bacon or sausage in the morning. Start it in a cold pan (which is the best way to start bacon, in my opinion), make it as crispy as wanted, and throw it on your morning breakfast sandwich and you won’t miss bacon. The anti-bacon discourse on the other week’s Funbag was fun because bacon is an overrated meat. 

I’m not gonna get into an argument over bacon itself because bacon is tasty and that’s that. But I’m all too familiar with turkey bacon because for 14 years starting in 1995, I never ate beef or pork or any other red meat. I only ate poultry and fish. So I treated myself to every turkey-fied form of meat that existed: turkey burgers, turkey chili, turkey ham, turkey salami, and, of course, turkey bacon. That was my treat to myself, so I indulged frequently.

But turkey bacon is not as good as regular bacon, and it’s not terribly interesting on its own terms. I wish it were, but it’s not. Once I went back to red meat in 2010, I knew immediately what I had been missing that whole time. The difference was both intimate and profound. Turkey bacon tastes like your old man accidentally killing your dog and then trying to replace him with a lookalike before you get back home.

The irony is that I was a half-assed vegetarian BEFORE state-of-the-art fake meat came around. I now enjoy making Beyond burgers at home MORE than regular burgers, mostly because plant-based beef contains 670,000 grams of sodium in every patty, which suits my palate nicely. But every other meat disguised as another meat remains an inferior product. Even if I make like Kyle and try to enjoy turkey bacon like it’s some magically separate product from the genuine article, it’s still forgettable. Here now ends our bacon discourse.

Gareth:

Are there any completely inconsequential lines from movies or TV that, for whatever reason, are lodged in your memory for eternity? The reason I ask is that I recently realized that almost every time I do laundry – at some point in the process – I will mutter the line “You said ‘wet shirt don’t break’ not ‘piss shirt bend bars'” to myself. That line comes from the Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson Western/Comedy Shanghai Noon (2000) – a movie I only saw once, over 20 years ago.

My entire thought process is a bazaar of such needless references. Most of them from The Fugitive. I’m hardly alone, as you can see here.

I retain SOME control over my mind, but other times it’s an unreliable beast. I cannot always control what it chooses to retain and what it doesn’t. If it wants to whisper in my ear, “Oh, we’re eatin’ oranges and makin’ IDs,” six times an hour, that’s what it’s gonna do. I just watched Fury Road again, because it’s the right move, and now all I hear in my head is Immortan Joe looking at Nux from his car and growling, “Mediocre!” There are worse brainworms out there.

Evan:

With the millions that Amazon is paying to try, is “stat that” gonna happen?

No. Fuck that stupid ad.

John:

Do you think we’ll ever get a Google Street View but at night?

No. Daytime Street View isn’t even all that useful. I can count on my hand the number of times I’ve used it, and here are the ways I have done so:

  • Check out my own house to make sure it looks cool on there
  • Hope that, by looking at the Street View, I’ll be able to recognize the place I’m going to once I’m there (this has rarely, if ever, proven effective)
  • I look at Street View in an exotic place to pretend like I’m physically there (this is never effective). I’d like on open world video game where I can just walk around present day Tokyo for a bit and do nothing else.

A more poorly lit version of Street View isn’t gonna have much utility past that. Also, it’s creepy enough when I see the Google mapping car driving around my neighborhood by day. At night, I’m calling the po-po on it. OFFICER, ARREST THAT CARTOGRAPHER.

JJ:

How violent/messy is the actual day-to-day Star Wars universe? Like, nearly every scene we see in the movies and on the Disney+ shows involve people firing blasters, ships crashing, etc., but is the usual rigmarole on, say, Tatooine or Naboo all that dramatic? Are we just seeing the sizzle but not showing the steak? 

Correct. They left out all the boring shit for the movies and shows. Do you REALLY want to see Rey’s day-to-day existence as a junk scavenger on Jakku? Actually, that was the coolest part of Force Awakens, so ignore me there. Let’s go ahead and greenlight a reboot of Gerry, only set on Tatooine. It could get real weird.

Because this franchise requires SOMETHING different. My youngest son just told me that The Book of Boba Fett wildly improves after the first episode, but A) I don’t believe him, B) I can’t betray my own catty take regardless of that awful show, and C) even if that show did improve, it still would be under the same bland circumstances that all franchises are limited to now. They didn’t hire David Lynch to direct episode two or anything. It’s like McDonald’s. You buy the product for its consistency. Surprises are unwelcome and, as such, nonexistent.

Jack:

I’m a fellow Single Sided Deaf buddy! I’m now 32 and I have had total sensorineural hearing loss on my left side for three years now. No trauma, no known event, I literally woke up one day and felt off and found out a month later after taking Flonase unsuccessfully that, hey! I was now deaf! My question to you is, what’s your funniest instance of lacking echolocation? For me is when I come home from work, say hi to my wife, she says hi beside me in the living room, and I waltz past her to the kitchen having no clue where she is. Second is when someone at work calls my name and I freeze and look around like a scene in a thriller where someone looks for the person about to murder them.

For the fully-eared reading this, “echolocation” is your ability to locate sound. With only one ear, you have no echolocation, thus you have no idea if that oncoming truck is gonna hit you from behind or give you the T-bone.

I lost my echolocation in 2018 but had it essentially restored 10 months later thanks to a cochlear implant on the right side of my head. Before that implant, I had to grapple with my new disability and the fact that I was utterly unable to tell, at any given moment, where my kids were in the house. Or my wife. If they called to me from upstairs, they could have been in the basement for all I could discern. I wish I could tell you hilarity ensued, but it didn’t, largely because I spent that period alternating between confusion and rage.

I will tell you this, though: It’s both surprising and, in retrospect, quite amusing when you have no idea where the fuck your dog is when he’s barking. I would’ve had better luck finding Carmen Sandiego.

MNB:

Remember those Planet Earth DVDs? Those were cool. What’s your favorite?

I never had it on DVD. I just watched it on the DVR. While EXTREMELY drunk. The one with the mountains was my favorite, hands down. You want my attention? Get a mountain. The jungle one was the worst. Jungles are boring.

Email of the week!

Steven:

I have a confession/compliment to make…sometimes I stockpile Jambaroos, Funbags (sometimes ones from years ago if I’m caught up) and read them while high as shit.. I sit down on purpose, puffpuffpass to myself and then snuggle down like a dickhead for a hour or two of your meanderings. For fun. The fuck is wrong with me? For whatever reason I think I get more audible laughs and notice more nuance or whatever. But I never read anything else that way. I definitely wouldn’t and couldn’t read a book blazed and even Twitter/Reddit is tough because I can’t really focus on anything.

That’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.