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The World Will Drown In Cheap Toys

A toy vendor is selling toys in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on February 28, 2024. (Photo by Thilina Kaluthotage/NurPhoto)
Thilina Kaluthotage/NurPhoto

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 styrofoam, cleanliness, peanut butter, urgent pissing, and more.

Your letters:


What item sold at the Dollar Tree do you think has the highest profit margin? Everything costs a buck, so there must be some item that they are just crushing it on.

Toys. Every toy at Dollar Tree—or anywhere, really—is made of 0.3 cents' worth of plastic. They all cost more to ship from China than they do to manufacture. And they’re not even good toys. They’re the kind of shit you get from the prize counter when you only have 10 tickets in Skeeball winnings. These are toys that are designed to be thrown away and then choke a shark to death.

I’ve bought these toys. Many of them. Even the ones that cost more than a dollar are just as wasteful. I look back at my parenting career and I know that I am one of the reasons that our oceans are dying. You already know that disposable diapers are horrible for the environment, but toys are probably even worse. My wife and I cleaned out most of our kiddie toys years ago and our basement is still overstuffed with plastic cars, trains, boats, Nerf guns, games, balls, consoles, and stuffed animals. We try to pass these toys onto any young parents we know (or we donate them) but, like every other household, we still get stuck with a significant amount of dead inventory.

I’d be OK with killing off the planet if it was in service of manufacturing real-deal Megatron figures from 1984. That was a kick-ass toy. But no! No, we’re all gonna die because we made too many Cozy Coupes. This offends me as someone who was raised in the upper middle class. I want the legacy of mankind’s self-immolation to be one of good taste.


I found the Funbag where you mentioned Cannibal Corpse lead singer Chris Barnes as the least intelligible singer. Listening to a couple of the Corpse's songs I wondered, why even bother writing lyrics, let alone doing whatever it is that Chris does? Just be an instrumental death metal band. His 'singing' adds nothing and is buried in the mix anyway so, why bother?

Some of my favorite artists, Bob Mould in particular, mix their vocals way down in a lot of tracks so that they don’t overwhelm the guitars. A death metal band like Cannibal Corpse is no different. The Cookie Monster vocals are pretty dull if you’re a casual listenener. But for fans, Barnes’s dulcet tones add another, vital layer of menace to the thrash cake. Even if you can’t understand the lyrics as Barnes is singing them, you KNOW that they’re evil. You know he’s not singing about picking wildflowers. That’s important for any band that wants to scare you with their music. Go 100 percent instrumental and suddenly you’re an art metal band, which isn’t mean enough.

Also, CC diehards can still pore over the lyrics on the sleeve to get their fill of torture, dismemberment, and necrophilia. That’s what keeps them coming back … FROM THE GRAVE! EEEEE HEEHEEHEEHEEHEE!!!!!


Fabien Frankel, an actor on House of the Dragon, has been getting harassed online for the character he plays. The character is a real dirtbag and the actor has given an exceptional performance. Are people really this stupid to not separate characters from actors? This wouldn’t be the first time this has happened, even in the fictional works of George R.R. Martin. Pretty sure I learned this rare skill when I was about three years old. 

Yes, people are that stupid. At least Frankel is being harassed for playing a rotten character and not for being a female Ghostbuster, but his plight remains typical in fanboy culture. People get overly attached to a fictional universe because they grew up watching it, or because they want to live in that world and not in this one, or because they have nothing better to do, or all three. And the internet makes it a million times easier to live in that headspace, because you can find other deranged fansites, message boards, and cosplay outlets to stoke your obsession.

The result is that otherwise sensible people end up being unable to cleanly discern art from reality. Some paste-eater wants the Avengers to be real, so he goes ahead and acts as if they are. And Disney isn’t gonna be like, “Whoa hey wait a second there, Bub. You should probably get yourself a real hobby instead of watching our movies!” They don’t care if you develop an unhealthy fixation on their product, so long as you buy it. Same as any other big, naughty business out there. That’s why the Drew McWeenys of the world—guys who actively defend the likes of Marvel despite the fact that they don’t work for them—are so pathetic. These nerds don’t know how to be proper nerds. They only know how to jerk off production executives from afar in exchange for clout.

These people like to think they’re exerting a positive influence over filmmakers in Hollywood, but the opposite is true. Your typical fanboy wants to see something they’ve already seen, which makes life easier for studios but constricts the actual writers and directors to the extent that the most imaginative thing they’re allowed to do is be like, “What if the Batmobile was just like, a souped-up old car?” And then they have to account for all of the approvalists out there who only like a movie or show if it adheres to certain moral guidelines. You think Yorgos Extremelygreekeos makes Poor Things by drawing inspiration from all of these demanding, unimaginative fuckheads? Of course not. There’s no collaboration to be had in that dynamic. Artists have to draw influence from somewhere—usually other artists—but they have to use that inspiration to make work that stands on its own. That can’t happen if they have to constantly look over their shoulder, afraid that they’ll get death threats if they dare to cast Chris Evans as a rapist.

I’d like to think that 2023, one of the best movie years of my lifetime, helped to reduce fanboy input into what studios make going forward. But then I look at the top five grossers for 2024 and all of them are sequels. One of those sequels—Dune 2—is very good, but it’s still a story that’s been told many times over. So the fuck factory is still up and running, but you and I can at least view it, and its devotees, through a properly critical lens now. Nerds aren’t cute anymore. They haven’t been since the 1990s, really. So I’m ready to clown on all of them. If you’re a grown adult who feels the need to vociferously defend (or attack) the cast and crew of The Acolyte because you think that’s a worthy cause, you are a fucking loser. I don’t want shit to do with you.

Slappin’ Hams:

I have a confession to make: I secretly love Styrofoam cups. I went into an old-school deli the other day and ordered a sandwich and a lemonade, and the cashier kindly directed me to the cups next to the soda dispenser. I paused for a second when I saw those unholy, gleaming white cups waiting for me. The progressive in me was disgusted, but the selfish, greedy shithead side of me was so excited. I knew that lemonade was going to stay ICE FUCKING COLD. That Styrofoam somehow makes the beverage taste better than it actually is. I now find myself craving to return to that deli, just to be able to wash down a sandwich with a soft drink from those Earth-sodomizing cups. I don’t think I’ll even go through the figurative finger-wagging dialogue in my own head. I’ll just rub my hands together and take unashamed delight in that cup. I await annihilation from the commenters. Watch out how you respond, lest you be drug down with me. 

I don’t require styrofoam to keep my drink cold, because I fill that cup with enough ice to preserve a transplanted organ for 24 hours. Or I just use my knockoff Yeti, which also does the job. If styrofoam is my only option, I’m displeased, and not even for woke reasons. I don’t like the sound of it squeaking against the other cups in the stack. I don’t like the taste of it on my tongue. And I don’t like the bulk. Same deal with styrofoam takeout containers. They’re ugly, and the fastening tab always breaks within one second of use. So I can’t ride with you here, Hamboy.

But I DO love an ice-cold beverage. My wife, who’s half-German, does not. If you ever travel to Europe, you’ll notice that people over there actually don’t like drinks that are too cold. Fill a German’s glass with ice and they’ll react with abject horror. They wanted that Diet Coke tepid, dammit! NEIN IST GUT! My older son has inherited this, which means that both he and my wife look on in bafflement whenever I head to the freezer and start shoveling ice into my fake Yeti. Look at the grotesque American, their faces say, needing his water to be cool and refreshing on a hot day. You’re goddamn right I do. LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT, BABY.


My wife and I recently welcomed our third child into the world, and I have a question about clutter: how much of it is acceptable to you in your house? With three kids all under 10, it is a Sisyphean task trying to keep the house tidy. We do what we can, but there is just a baseline of clutter. Nothing is dirty mind you, just stuff: toys, folded hampers of laundry to put away, the never ending cycle of dishes, books, various devices, etc. How much is acceptable to you before you get twitchy?

Again I must point out that my wife is half-German, which means that she will not tolerate a mess in her home. When she met me, she had to wean me off of my sloppiest bachelor habits: leaving dishes unwashed, never doing my laundry, never scrubbing the toilet, saving half-drunk beers for the next day. Then we had kids and she enforced clean floors in every room save for the basement, which she deemed a more acceptable place for clutter. I’ve pretty much fallen in lockstep, to the point where I can’t tolerate shit left on the floor or in the sink. This is especially true now that my kids are old enough to pick up after themselves. Sometimes I’ll come down in the morning to a couple of plates encrusted with dried ketchup from a midnight snack, and I am NOT happy about it. I was more chill about clutter back when the kids were little, because you can only do so much. But now? Fuck that shit. I want this place looking spiffy. Not for mom. For me.

So James, my answer is that clutter is acceptable on shelves and in any non-bedroom where only the kids hang out. After that, you have to crack the whip (i.e. pick it up yourself while cursing your children under your breath).



Got into an argument with my old man and a few friends regarding if you could hit a 70 mph fastball right now in three tries without a warmup. Everyone said yes, but I think they are so far removed from live batting there is not a chance it happens. For reference, the old man is 72, and text correspondents are 34, 35, 40 and 69. 

Yeah come on. I used to hit the batting cages at Milford Amusement Center (RIP) with my best friend when we were bored back in the 1990s, and the highest-speed cage had the machines set to 70 mph. I couldn’t even see the fucking ball before it had passed me. After that I went right back to the 45 mph cage. Even there, I wasn’t exactly staging a home run derby. This was when I was in peak athletic shape, too. I could bench a decent amount, run 10 miles at a clip, all that. It didn’t matter. Hitting a baseball is its own skill, and I’ve never had it. Most people don’t.


Have you ever dipped a double stuff Oreo in peanut butter? You’re welcome. What’s your decadent food concoction?

Who are you talking to, Peter? Huh? You’re not talking to Jack LaLanne III here. I’ve been dipping Oreos in peanut butter since before you were a layer of crème in your old man’s ballbag! I love peanut butter, and I love it even more in other stuff. So junior-high me was always excited to jab an Oreo down into the family jar of Skippy. Then the cookie would break off and I’d have to clean up the evidence (eat it) before my mom found it. Always use a knife, America.

My stoner food habits have waned since then, but I still try to work peanut butter in where I can get it. For dessert, sometimes I melt some in the microwave and then drop a scoop of ice cream on top of it. This one simple food hack can boost your IQ by nearly 20 points!

Also, I put jam in my yogurt. A lot of it. Why am I trusting Dannon to put enough fruit on the bottom when I can dump half a jar of Bonne Maman into that fucker?


With the Donald Sterling Hulu series out now, is it a question of if Jerry Jones will get a biopic or when? Is there some other major franchise owner that’s going to get one first?

The Double J is already getting his own Netflix show, à la Quarterback. Will it be a warts-and-all portrait of a ruthless, handsy oilman who burned the Cowboys to the ground, built them back up into a champion, and then burned it all down again? You already know the answer. An entire episode will be devoted to that one time Jerry made a side deal with Pepsi. [Cris Collinsworth being interviewed by someone behind the camera] "You have to understand that, you didn’t just DO that if you were an NFL owner. That move really changed the course of the National Football League. Other owners were forced to say to each other, 'Hey, this Jerry Jones is out on control, but he might also be onto something here.'"


I propose each ballpark have cherry day. Replace all sunflower seeds with cherries for the day. Players are gnawing cherry pits and spitting all over the dugout. Tell me this is a good idea.  

I’m down. Like divorce, cherries are expensive but worth it. I sure as hell like them more than sunflower seeds in the husk. I don’t wanna crack those things open myself. What am I, in occupational therapy? That’s bullshit. At least when I buy whole peanuts, there are big fat peanuts inside the shell. Meanwhile, a sunflower seed is the size of an ant. That’s way too much work just to eat a salad garnish. So swap those seeds out with cherries and I’d grow a Louisville Slugger in my cargo shorts. The shitters at Nats Park would be backed up for months afterward, but that’s MLB’s problem and not mine.

By the way, the first time I ate sunflower seeds from a bag I didn’t know that you were supposed to remove the husk before eating them, so I ended up chewing a big wad of masticated shells for like an hour. I got 5,000 percent of my RDA of fiber that day.


You and I are close in age, and I imagine our parents are as well. My 76-year-old father called me today distraught, horrified at the increasing likelihood of a second Trump term. He is sickened at and terrified of the country his only child and only grandchild will inherit. He’s heartbroken given how many of our relatives were murdered in the Holocaust. “What did they die for?! Grandpa and Grandma lived such hard lives… and to get to this?” he cried, incredulously. I’m a psychiatrist and part of my job is to help people cope with the beautiful struggle that is life. If it were one of my patients, I feel like I’d know what to say. But when it was my dad calling, this strong man who I’ve always admired and sought advice and reassurance from, I found myself at a loss. Any words of wisdom?

I remember when Trump first got elected, my own father was surprised at how distraught I was. This shit wasn’t new to him. He’d already lived through the bomb, JFK’s assassination, and Nixon. So Trump winning was just a fresh round of bullshit for him.

Now that I’ve lived (and survived, although barely) through that first Trump term, I’ve acquired some of that wizened jadedness. I fucking hate doomers, but I’m also not some innocent fawn who’s like, “What’s become of my dear America?” I know shit’s fucked here. Trump winning again would just be further proof of it. So if that happens, I’ll have to take cold comfort in knowing it won’t be my first rodeo. Then I’ll accept that I only have so much control over the world, and seek real comfort in my work and in my family. Everyone has two worlds they live in: the actual world, and then the little community they’ve made for themselves. When one of those worlds gets all weird, you seek shelter in the other … a deep, underground shelter made of reinforced steel and stocked with five years’ worth of canned goods and analog pornography.


As a famous author, I am sure you are approached all the time to write blurbs for other writers. What is the etiquette/process of that? Do you ever say no? What happens when you are asked to blurb a book you don't really care for?

If you’ve ever published a book, you’ve gotten blurb requests via your agent, your publisher, and any number of PR firms. Blurbs are essentially worthless when it comes to selling books, but they excite distributors, which in turn spurs them to give that book better store placement, more internal marketing, and other forms of promotional muscle. So they remain obligatory, and every author out there has to go through the process of emailing every other author and agent to get one.

I’ve done this six times now, and it never stops feeling like an imposition. In return, I get a mountain of galleys, the bulk of which I don’t bother to read. I’ve read some of these galleys and blurbed them. But if I read one I dislike or don’t want to finish, I either ignore the blurb request (more or less the expected outcome for pretty much everyone involved) or I say, “I don’t like this” to whoever passed the book along.

The most notable time the latter happened is when I was sent Gavin McInnes’s autobiography. You probably know McInnes now as a Proud Boys founder and world-class asshole. But before all that he founded Vice magazine, and his life story—published well before the birth of Trumpism—was about how he went from humble Canadian beginnings to the bad boy of indie journalism. I knew nothing about McInnes before cracking the book open, and the first half of it was genuinely interesting, mostly because McInnes described working summers up in Northern Canada, where mosquitoes eat people whole.

Then the book got into his rise to infamy, with the second half consisting pretty much entirely of stories about McInnes and “Bullshitter Shane” (you now know him as Shane Smith, the former Vice CEO who looted the joint) cruising around New York to piss off squares and fuck everything in sight. You learn vital things about how much McInnes loves ankle socks, and about that one time he shoved his lady’s head into the toilet. That’s where I bailed. I didn’t like this guy, and I like him even less these days.


Paul Simon sings in Kodachrome: “When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school/It’s a wonder I can think at all” and Bruce Springsteen sings in No Surrender: “Well, we busted out of class/Had to get away from those fools/We learned more from a three-minute record, baby/Then we ever learned in school.” You now have a daughter who is a high school grad. What song lyrics deploring formal education would you have shared as a commencement speaker? 

Anything I picked would have made her squirm, and rightfully so. When I think of Fuck School anthems I think of “School’s Out,” “Smokin’ in the Boys Room,” “Fight For Your Right To Party,” and “Constructive Summer” by The Hold Steady (“Raise a toast to Saint Joe Strummer/It think he might have been our only decent teacher”). I quote any of that at a grad ceremony in 2024 and the cries of “NARC!” would drown out the rest of my speech. It’s a lock. I saw the "Homerpalooza" episode of The Simpsons. I know the deal.

Email of the week!


In high school, I played cello in the local youth symphony. We usually practiced at an all girls' Catholic school, but would occasionally practice at a public school approximately 20 minutes away from St. Teresa's. One Sunday, my mom told me we were rehearsing at the first place (this was 2004, so I had no smartphone to check), but she was wrong. Thus, I ended up getting to St. Teresa's half an hour late. 

By the time I arrived, I had to piss urgently. But the conductor was not exactly kind to latecomers, so I decided I needed to tough it out before I could relieve myself. The next hour was excruciating. My bladder's status messages went from Important to Urgent to "Core Explosion. Repent Sins." I did everything I could to distract myself from my agony: tap my feet, clench/unclench my fists, rock back and forth. Finally, the normal break time arrived at 3:00. But we had begun practicing a new piece that afternoon, and other bandmembers had questions. And the conductor had problems with how certain sections were playing their parts. So we rehearsed another 15 minutes. I silently cursed the orchestra, the conductor, the composer, the concept of music itself. 

Finally, FINALLY, after approximately 75 minutes of brutal piss pain, we took a break. But my trials weren't quite over. There was only one men's room in the entire school. Third floor. Elevator nowhere in sight. I trudged up two flights of stairs. Every step felt like a boxer was using my bladder as a punching bag. At long last, I made it to a urinal. It HURT to piss. It felt like someone was shoving a tiny knife up my dick hole. Twice, I had to stop peeing and gasp from the pain. After two solid minutes of piss, I finished. Not because I'd emptied my bladder but because it felt like my urethra was on fire. But my bladder felt better. 

St. Teresa's, Sibelius, and conductor [redacted] all owe me money if I ever get bladder cancer.

I support your case.

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