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Funbag

This Stupid Oven Is The Juicero Of TV Dinners

12:41 PM EDT on April 18, 2023

Bettmann via Getty Images

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 dad slides, perp walks, sharts, highway billboards for adult video stores, and more.

Your letters:

Gretchen:

I'm sure that most folks here have cut the cord, so they have probably missed the relentless cable advertising for what appears to be the Juicero of countertop convection ovens, Tovala. This thing's existence lodged in my consciousness because it was advertising in Spanish on otherwise English-language cable channels (probably something under the Discovery umbrella). On a scale of one to Theranos, how much of a scam is this thing?

I was fascinated by the Tovala because I couldn’t figure out if the food they were cooking in the ads came with the oven or not. It does … [Dr. Evil voice] for a hefty ransom. Whoever came up with the Tovala was like, “What if we did HelloFresh, but you also had to get a shitty Hamilton Beach toaster oven to make everything?” ABRACADABRA! Silicon Valley magic happened just like that. I know that I love to pay a subscription fee to make my own sad TV dinner every night. Now I can! HAPPY HAPPY JOY JOY.

To directly answer Gretchen’s question, of course the Tovala is a scam. I’m sure the smart oven works. I’m sure the food is edible. Modern industrial scams aren’t quite that blatant. The whole deal with 21st-century marketing is—and you know this already if you’ve read this website—convincing people that a new product is a revolutionary sea change from its predecessors. In the case of Tovala, I’m supposed to believe that a meal service can save me time coming up with ideas for dinner, even though I can clip and bookmark recipes instead. And I’m supposed to believe that their glorified microwave is somehow the perfect vessel for preparing this food even though I already own a stove, an oven, and an independent toaster oven.

I’m not so disconnected from reality that I’m unaware of the dinner plight for working parents. If you work full-time, it’s a burden to think up an idea for dinner that every agrees on, to buy the groceries, and then to prepare it … all while you’re kids are screaming I’M HUNGRY at the top of their lungs. I’ve been there. But I’ve also used meal kits services to alleviate this problem and found them all but useless. You get a giant fucking box that has every ingredient, down to a single scallion, individually wrapped. I could hear future whales choking to death as I unboxed all of this shit. You get a recipe that sounds good on paper but isn’t quite what you REALLY wanted. You still have to chop and cook everything, and the end result is the kind of shit you’d eat at a mid-level wedding. All to save five minutes.

This kind of sales job goes back way before Silicon Valley infused it with tech jargon, we get it package copy, and sans serif fonts. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been subjected to ads hawking wares that promise to make your life easier. You’ll save so much time if you buy this or do that. And what I’ve learned after being a domesticated creature for 20 years is that the busywork is the point. I’m glad I did all that cooking and cleaning and whatever else. It’s 100 percent the reason our youngest kid wants to be a chef one day (and also a stand-up comedian, and a graphic designer, and also a ninja). I’m not HAPPY I always had to do that shit, but nobody said that being an adult was gonna be all sunshine and rainbows. It’s supposed to be arduous. You’re supposed to feel the weight of responsibility on you, so that you can learn to handle it. Otherwise you’re just gonna be a fucking child, and I’ve had enough of America’s grown-ups acting like kids out there. So fuck the smart oven. You and I can figure out dinner ourselves.

David:

Have you seen the Oofos ad starring Alex Smith? With his still-mangled leg? Even though we know that it was a horrendous injury, are you at all surprised that it looks like THAT now?

I’m not surprised it looks like that now because the Commanders routinely tweeted out pictures of it after JJ Watt destroyed it. They tweeted the leg when it was bound up in erector set scaffolding, looking like some David Cronenberg shit. They tweeted it when Smith was rehabbing and could successfully step onto a phone book for the first time. They tweeted it when he was back in uniform and able to play (kinda) football again. They did this as a form of inspiration porn. They wanted you excited for Alex Smith and his used chew toy of a leg to face NFL defenses again. See, the Commanders weren’t just about financial malfeasance and Bachelor Party Tuesdays at the office! They were also people: horrible, awful people.

But I only wanna goof on Alex Smith so much. He’s not ashamed of his leg, and that’s a good thing. Representation matters, etc. More important, he discovered those ugly-ass Oofos, which I also wear. Not to brag, but I was into these slides way before all of the ugly dad shoe brands—Oofos, Hoka, New Balance, Balenciaga—became red-hot in the marketplace. Due to my own crippling injuries, I’m pickier about shoes than Cher Horowitz. I had to research which slides would offer me the most support for my back, and then I had to research where I could get them. That’s how I ended at a random-ass running supplies emporium on the local strip, paying way too fucking much money for a pair of slides that made my family wince anytime I put them on my feet. But they didn't hurt to wear, which is more than I can say of 99.9 percent of shoes on sale. I was happy.

So I imagine my surprise when I started seeing OTHER people—actual people, not helpless gimps like me and Alex Smith—gallivanting about in these bad boys. How dare all of you. These shoes aren’t supposed to be cool. They’re orthopedic flip-flops that may as well have BOOMER etched into the sides. People see me in these slides and they know that I’m the kind of suburbanite who checks the CONTACTLESS DELIVERY box on every Seamless order. But you motherfuckers ruined them! Now everyone thinks I’m some tryhard who wears chunky soles just to fit in and also pretends to like Big Thief. UNTRUE ON ALL COUNTS. If the rest of you start getting cochlear implants just to brag about it, I’m gonna pull a JJ Watt on YOUR legs.

Brian:

What’s a new Boston hot take from your Spring Break trip that the rest of the world needs to hear? We know you already know Boston sports fans are awful, the coffee sucks, the people are rude and drive like idiots, and everyone here is still convinced it's the center of the universe.

For a long time, I’ve actually considered Boston to be, despite its sports fans, a perfectly good city. Good food, fun shit to do, etc. I have family in Boston, so I’ve always had a barely discernible soft spot for it.

But when I spent some time back there earlier this month, I realized—or maybe remembered is the right word here—that it’s really not that great of a town. This probably hit me when we arrived at our Airbnb, had to go on a grocery run after unloading, and then went on a drive that was absolutely fucking harrowing. The grocery store was a mile away. But of course, Boston’s roads were laid out by a colonist with no eyeballs and half a brain, so the mere act of driving that mile involved me navigating a series of side roads, alleys, nine-street intersections, frontage roads, and highway on-ramps that take you directly to Portsmouth with no way of turning around. This is the kind of city where your GPS somehow gets more confused than you do. I fucking hate this place ran on a loop through my head, and we hadn’t even started our vacation yet.

Then I was reminded that there actually ISN’T anything to do in Boston. There are some nice museums in Boston, but every city has those. Ditto the parks. There are 5,000 colleges, which is exciting if you’re a college student but not if you’re a grown adult. Every restaurant is a chance to talk yourself into paying $23 for fried clam strips. The aquarium is an overpriced stroller parade. The skyline is roughly as interesting as Hartford’s. And every colonial tourist attraction is a gift shop. There’s nothing to fucking do in Boston. It’s Baltimore with shittier weather. No one should ever visit it for pleasure, and they don’t. I will cut and paste this into the Patriots season preview in August. Moving on…

Shane:

Your perp walk: would you be flashing a smile? Or look glum? Or have a jacket over your head? Would you want it unannounced in the early morning, or advance notice? Would you want to keep a photo of your perp walk in your office (assuming you beat the charges)?

Knowing me, I’d want it over and done with as quickly as possible. No smiling, because that makes you looks like a troll. No jacket over my head, because everyone knows who’s being arrested anyway. No press if I can avoid it.

I know all of this from experience. I was arrested in 2009 for DUI and I was lucky enough, depending on how you define “luck,” that I was pinched in the middle of the night, with no one else around. I wasn't famous enough at the time (and most likely am not famous enough now) for it to be a cause célèbre. But even if I’d been America’s Favorite Blogger back then, I definitely wouldn’t have pulled a Nixon and hammed up my own apprehending. I was fucking embarrassed. Ashamed. Angry at myself. And I should have been. So I was glad that all of that happened under cover of darkness, and I’d still want that to be the case if I ever got arrested again.

Unless the charges were horseshit. If the charges were phony, I’d be like DO YOU KNOW WHO THE FUCK I AM, MISTER DISTRICT ATTORNEY?! YOU JUST COST YOURSELF RE-ELECTION, MOTHERFUCKER! LEMME GET MY PHONE OUT SO THAT MY 170,000 TWITTER FOLLOWERS CAN WATCH INJUSTICE PLAY OUT IN REAL TIME. ATTICA! ATTICA! ATTICA! Then I’d be found guilty and given the firing squad.

Aaron:

Just had my yearly shart after walking the dog. Nothing felt off. I just let one rip and then it was bad. I don't think the shit breached through the underwear to my pants, so my question is: does sharting count as shitting your pants, or can I keep telling people I haven't shit my pants since college? 

Nuh uh. You shit your pants, brother. If you shit someplace you didn’t mean to, and you soiled a garment? That counts as an official pantshitting. *BANGS GAVEL* Perp walk for you. I’ve had those same moments where I’ve let out a fart, felt something slip out and thought to myself, “Well, at least I caught between in my buttcheeks before it could go any further.” But then I rush to the toilet and the shame arises. I know what I just did, even if no one else does. I saved my undies, but not my dignity. Same goes for you, especially if you did indeed lose a pair of undies in the crossfire. Underpants are still pants of a kind, and you still shit them. But I won’t tell anybody.

HALFTIME!

Jim:

It's bullshit how much of Sunday afternoon/evening/night is just getting ready for Monday. Between making lunches for me AND the kids, collecting trash/sorting recycling to take to the street (Monday morning is trash day of course!), making sure the weekend's laundry is somewhat organized for the week, and bathing the kids… the latter hours of Sunday are a total wash. It seems like there is no end of mundane shit that I have to do before the week begins. How do I get my Sunday nights back from the grips of BIG CHORE?

By waiting for football season to return. In all seriousness, the specter of Monday has ruined Sunday nights for the bulk of my lifetime. Even when I was a kid, I had to spend Sunday nights doing all of the tedious homework that I had put off all weekend long. In college, Sunday night cram sessions acted almost as payback for all of the drinking I’d done the three (OK, four) nights prior. In my 20s, Sunday was a 24-hour window to nurse a hangover. And then marriage came along and I lost custody of my weekends to my own children, same as Jim up there has.

Only now, with all of my kids over age of 11, have I managed to reclaim Sundays for myself. During the NFL season, I can watch SNF without anyone harping on me to do shit. In the offseason, my wife and I can make a proper Sunday dinner for everyone. Monday still looms, but my kids have WAY worse Mondays than I do. I get to stay home and write this column every Monday. By contrast, my kids have to trudge to school and deal with school bullshit. I can see the dread in their eyes every Sunday night. I feel for them, given that they won’t get any let-up until they’re my age, at the soonest. But also, I AM my age, which means that Sundays are strictly a them problem. TOUGH TITTY, KIDS. You guys go study for that AP exam; I’ll be over here watching the NBA playoffs. I win.

Susan:

Each March for the past few years, my husband and I have driven from our home in Albuquerque to Memphis, where his parents still live. Door to door it’s 16 hours, and we break it up by stopping overnight in various odd places in between. This most recent trip, I couldn’t stop thinking about the highway adult shops located in rural places along I-40. Who goes to these? The most obvious answer would be truckers, but it's not like they don't have phones to watch porn. So why would they need a physical store?

Well look, why do some people still listen to vinyl, hmm? Sometimes you need the physical copy of Surprise Anal Creampie 6 to appreciate the artist’s vision fully. Or, more likely, these are stores that cater to impoverished (and horny) elderly people: people who either can’t afford the internet or simply don’t know how to find porn on it.

Either way, it’s extremely fun to drive hundreds of miles across rural America and see the occasional “Marko’s Adult Video Emporium Exit 42” billboard spring up along the highway, replete with an over made-up blonde staring lasciviously down on every car, ready to get down. I’ve seen that kind of billboard in just about every state in this blessed union. Every time I see one, I’m superficially like AHAHA the gun boys need their VHS porn. But secretly, the tween inside of me remembers every daring excursion he made into the adult section of the video store, and every filthy Chasey Lain tape he ever rented, and he thinks to himself Yeah I could go for some of that. Then I pass a “Fentanyl Mata” billboard after another quarter-mile and my mind shifts again.

David:

Back in the olden days, if I was watching an amazing sporting event or a great TV show and nature called, I’d just hold it in until there was a break in the action. There was more than one occasion where I’d be pacing around trying to ignore the growing pressure on my bladder wall, and then running down the hall to the bathroom when there was a chance. I say this because, as 40-something year old guy, I still do this shit. I fall into whatever I'm watching, waiting for a break in the action to go tap a kidney, when I realize, "Whoa, I really have to take a leak.” It's so incredibly stupid, because I have a pause button now. Does this ever happen to you?

Oh yeah. When it’s a live sporting event, I HATE pausing the action, even though I have a DVR. I have to be watching a game at the same time as everyone else, which is irrational given that I am almost always watching that game alone. And if I’m into a really good movie or a TV show, I hate tearing myself away from it just for a bathroom break. (My wife will also audibly groan if we’re watching something together and I interrupt it.) So yeah, I’ll forgo the pause button in favor of holding it while my bladder swells up like a fucking microwaved Stay Puft.

This represents one of the few times I’m actually willing to forgo a trip to the pisser. Normally I make a beeline to the toilet the second I get the slightest of urges, a problem that I’ve documented online so extensively that it’s become a bit much. I’m currently on my 8,000th different gameplan to tame my overactive urinary habits, and it’s working just about better than any other method I’ve tried. But I’ll spare you the details of that, both out of common courtesy and to avoid jinxing myself. Suffice it to say I’d have none of these problems if every day consisted of nothing but the close final two minutes of 720 concurrent NBA playoff games.

Cory:

Do you feel like you’ve gotten dumber in the last three to four years? I feel like I have. For instance, I used to find joy in reading longform, in-depth journalism. These days, it just turns me off, for the most part. Or, I used to pour over large amounts of data, like NFL stats or census bureau data, just to find something to learn. Can't be bothered to care any longer. I still read books and such, and literally just finished Heat 2 per your recommendation, but for the most part, after work I just want to turn off my brain and watch sitcoms until I fall asleep. Just feels like I don't want to learn much of anything these days. Anyone else feel like this?

Oh yeah, that’s just a natural byproduct of middle age. If you have to commute, work, and raise kids all day long, you’re not gonna want to do anything mentally laborious once you’ve reached Miller Time. You’re gonna want to drink and stare at a wall. I also don’t read a huge amount of longform journalism these days; the fact that my industry has been decimated makes it hard to simply find it anyway. I don’t want to read news about All Of The Problems because I just spend the whole day dealing with the world’s bullshit. I crack open a book and my middle school brain instantly cries out for sleep. I just wanna take a load off, and I do.

You and I have to be careful not to let this go too far, though. A lot of the aforementioned Problems originate from a powerful class of older Americans who clearly have no interest in learning anything. All you gotta do is look at the current trans panic being stoked by conservatives (and their liberal enablers) to recognize a bunch of people who are set in their ways and have zero interest in learning about other people when they can simply cry out I CAN’T USE PRONOUNS TO USE ANYMORE! instead … all so that they can continue being the same stupid assholes that they’ve always been. I’d prefer to not become that sort of old person, and you can legit become more prone to Alzheimer’s and dementia if you don’t keep your mind sharp and alert. That’s why I still read articles, look at art, watch serious TV shows and movies (I haven’t watched a sitcom regularly since like Parks & Rec), and play Scrabble on my phone all the time. I don’t wanna become a racist houseplant. I still have shit I wanna do with my life, so I have to make an effort even when I don’t want to.

When I was a kid, I used to see this ad for Depends undergarments starring a former actress named June Allyson. I remember Allyson smiling at the camera in this ad and gleefully telling the audience at home, “Never stop learning!” Back then, I was like hahaha that lady shits her pants. But A) I have shit my pants, so I’m one to talk, and B) She was right. That stupid ad has been stuck in my head for decades now. A sign from God, or from the Kimberly-Clark Corporation. Either way, June Allyson’s lesson still a vital thing to remember as you get older and the urge to stupefy yourself grows.

Dave:

Everything I've seen about the non-exclusive franchise tag just says "two first-round picks" as compensation. Say you're the Colts. What's stopping you from trading back to a QB-needy team in the teens for some Day 2 picks and players, then trading back again to the Chiefs or someone else at the back half of the first for more picks. Then they swap first rounders in 2024 with an elite team likely to be picking late and picking up some more assets, finally shipping those two late first-rounders as the required compensation for signing Lamar? Everybody wins!

I looked at the part of the CBA that lays out the rules for franchise tags and there doesn’t appear to be anything prohibiting teams from charging ahead with Dave’s plan. HOWEVER, I doubt any team would deliberately water down their own draft haul to sign Jackson when the Ravens still hold the right to match any offer sheet he signs with another team. The Colts could wheel and deal their way down from the 4 slot to the 32 slot and still end up without Jackson, and then what? They’d be FUCKED, that’s what. And now I’d like them to do exactly that.

Email of the week!

Chris:

Last summer my cousin a few states away from me was getting married, so I took the opportunity to load the family into the car for a classic summer road trip. In addition to my wife and two-year-old son, my mother was joining us. She and my dad had taken me and my brother on many similar road trips when we were kids, so I was excited for things to come full circle and have her as a passenger on a trip that I was leading. The trip down to the wedding was uneventful, but things got interesting quickly on the drive home. About three hours into the drive, my mom asked if we could make a bathroom stop. She had asked pretty calmly, but as we approached the exit, she made it clear that time was becoming of the essence.

I quickly found the closest gas station, parked, and got out of the car to attend to my son in his car seat. My mom had also gotten out of the car, but was just standing frozen right outside her door. When I asked why she wasn’t heading to the bathroom, she just nervously replied “I’m not sure if I can.” Before I could inquire about what was wrong, my question was preemptively answered when I heard the sound of a giant wet lump of human excrement hitting the asphalt. I glanced down, and it looked as if someone had heaved a softball made of shit at the ground.

I glanced at my mom, and fortunately, despite her dropping a huge bomb through her shorts, she wasn’t totally covered in filth. I handed her the baby wipes that we had for my son. After she cleaned off some splatter that had gotten on her legs, she was in good enough shape to head into the convenience store bathroom and change into some clothes that she’d grabbed from her luggage. She insisted that I follow closely behind her on the way into the store to shield others from seeing any spots she might have missed. I browsed the aisles a bit while my mom cleaned herself up and threw away the bottom half of her clothes. I think I eventually bought some gum, but I’m still kicking myself for not buying the whole family t-shirts emblazoned with the name of the random small town that we’d stopped in. It's not often that the world hands you the perfect souvenir to commemorate an event like this, and I totally dropped the ball.

You see? NEVER STOP LEARNING.

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