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What Makes A Power Ballad?

Guns N Roses
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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 book, The Night The Lights Went Out, while you’re at it. Today, we're talking about poster frames, moving to Australia, whizzing outside, and more.

Your letters:


Is Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” a power ballad? I say yes, but none of these 50+ year olds (I am 37) at this cookout agree with me. They say it doesn’t have an electric guitar or guitar solo, so it’s disqualified. I think they are morons. Also, please share your top five power ballads.

I’m with the geezers on this one. That’s no slight on Bonnie Tyler’s masterwork, but a power ballad is any ballad performed by a rock artist (one who’s usually looking to make the pop charts for extra cash), hence the “power” part of the term. Does this make “Heaven” by Warrant a manlier song than “Total Eclipse of the Heart”? Nope. But the rules of the '80s are the rules of the '80s. A power ballad must serve as an exception to your normal, musically belligerent output. Now, here are my top 11 power ballads of all time. They will not surprise you in the least:

  1. “Patience,” GNR
  2. “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Queen
  3. “Fade to Black,” Metallica
  4. “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” GNR
  5. “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” Poison (A short time ago I thought to myself, “This is actually a country song.” I immediately tossed that thought into a bonfire.)
  6. “Don’t Follow,” Alice in Chains
  7. “True Love Waits,” Radiohead
  8. “Love Song,” Tesla
  9. “Ride On,” AC/DC
  10. “What It Takes,” Aerosmith
  11. “Ballad of Jayne,” LA Guns

I would’ve put “Stairway to Heaven” on here, but I’m not quite old enough for it to have been a formative part of my adolescence. Also, I’ve slow-danced to that song before. No middle schooler knows what to do when a power ballad turns on the riffs. They’re like, Oh I guess we’ll just switch over to regular dancing now.


My local indie theater is showing the documentary Menus-Plaisirs - Les Troisgros. It's four hours long, and about a family that runs a three Michelin star restaurant in the French countryside. I’m a foodie, but four hours is a big ask. Do I go see this? Not sure I'll have another chance to see it on the big screen, but four hours! Starts at 7PM on a Monday night, if that changes anything.

I don’t have it in me to complain about long runtimes for theatrical releases anymore, because it’s not as if filmmakers—be it studio or indie—are gonna listen. Also, there are movies out there that justify going long. Kevin Costner hasn’t directed any of them, but other auteurs have the formula nailed down. I watched Killers of the Flower Moon, which runs three-and-a-half hours, in the theater. It was fucking great. I didn’t get up to piss once, which is roughly about as likely as me being able to dunk a basketball. I also watched Sergio Leone’s incredible Once Upon A Time in America (four hours) in a single sitting at home. Zero fat on it. If a movie’s good, then the runtime is what it is. So take a chance and go see the foodie doc on the big screen. It’s not like the Feds will ransack your house if the experience doesn’t live up to the billing.

I’ve written about this before, but I’ve recently experienced a rebirth in my movie buff-age ever since my kids have gotten older (and ever since SFGate started routinely sending me to screenings). For well over a decade, I never saw movies for grownups in the theater. I never had time, and my default was always that I’d rather just watch movies at home anyway. That’s something that Hit Man director Richard Linklater noted in a recent interview (his Hit Man, which went straight to Netflix, is a shitload of fun, by the way). Most big name directors fetishize having their movies be seen on the biggest screen possible, when the reality is that their work will, by and large, end up being watched on a television. And it’s real easy, as a consumer, to convince yourself that the only differences between your house and a movie theater are conveniences and price. Lord knows that’s what I believed.

I was wrong. I went on a run of screenings and WHOA HEY, turns out that the theatrical experience is still as satisfying as it was when I was a kid, perhaps even more so. You get to laugh out loud with a bunch of strangers when Joaquin Phoenix’s haughty Napoleon complains, “My wife is a slut.” Plus the seats at most theaters recline now! That’s a big deal for all the dads out there.

So if there’s a movie coming out that I’m dying to see, I now try to see it in theaters before falling back to ordering it on demand. The big screen makes any movie, even an average one, a full star better than it would have been otherwise. Take it from me, The Movie Piggy.


Friends of ours are requesting a refund from their preschool because they found out that the teacher who would change their two-year-old daughter’s diaper is male. We think this is crazy, especially because there are so few preschools and it is so hard to get in to one. Are they being crazy?

All things being equal, I’m always suspicious of grown men around children. That said, you’d be surprised how willing I was to abandon such fears when my kids were little and someone else was willing to take them off of my hands for me. Parenting made me tired, cranky, and hungry. In that state, a stranger with candy was a fucking godsend. You mean this guy is gonna take my kid in his van and then drop her off a week later? Where do I sign? So while I understand David’s friends being reticent to leave their toddler in the care of an unknown man, space at a decent preschool is indeed at a premium. You gotta hop on that shit if it’s there. Practicality will make monsters of us all.


Why did Marty and Doc even need to go to the future in Back to the Future II? All Doc had to do is tell Marty in 1985: "Hey keep an eye on your kids." Marty had 30 years to avoid screwing them up. And failing that, he still had a time machine just in case anything went haywire. Seems like a plot hole.

I’ll be honest, I haven’t watched either of the Back to the Future sequels since I saw them in theaters, which was 35 years ago. I remember liking both movies, and I remember the hoverboard. That’s about it. There’s zero chance I watch either movie ever again. Why bother when the original is flawless?

My apologies if that was a non-answer, but Justin’s complaint could apply to just about any sequel that has ever existed. You’re extracting a second story from an original story that, if executed well, needed nothing else added on. That’s an unnatural storytelling process that inevitably lends itself to plot holes. Very rarely does a sequel stand on its own, the way that this website does. Critics are calling Defector “even better than Deadspin” and “funnily, achingly human.”


How has there not been a Hater's book review of Mike Florio's Christmas novel, On Our Way Home?

Because, in an upset, I’m not that mean. Florio is, without question, the worst Vikings fan who has ever lived. He even quotes fucking Big Cat while penning dogshit speculative posts about them. He may as well be a Packers fan and get it over with.

But I’m text friends with Florio, and I don’t wanna dump on his side projects when they clearly mean a lot to him. I’ve even given Florio advice on self-publishing his novels, because anyone who’s ever earnestly tried their hand at a novel has my respect. I also like that Florio still has the heart of a blogger, putting on his lawyer hat and churning out posts as best he can even when there’s nothing to write about. I told Tommy Craggs all of this a year ago and he looked like he wanted to run me over with his car. I get Craggs’s side of the matter, but I’m inclined to cut Florio a break on his fiction exploits regardless.

For real though, I’ll never read a fucking thing he writes about the Vikings ever again.


My wife and I are both stuck in middle-management jobs. With the oldest leaving for college, we decided we could move if the right opportunity came along. Well, connections have now landed me an offer to work for three years in your homeland of Australia. We hosted exchange students from Oz in the past and visited last year, so we know the lay of the land a bit. Still, every logical alarm is flashing that it's a bad long-term idea: selling our house, changing careers again, leaving our daughter to fend for herself (although her grandparents are still nearby), navigating two countries' worth of insurance, taxes, and all that. But we desperately need a life shake-up. In three years, I'm probably looking at the end of a contract that may not be renewed, with nowhere to live (housing is attached to the job), and with one kid's college loans going into repayment and two more on deck. Am I crazy for wanting to do it anyway? My wife is fully onboard, for what it's worth.

PS: If you respond to this email (not even publicly, necessarily), I will upgrade my Defector subscription so I can ask all the commenting lawyers for advice on the logistics of our potential move. 

For those who don’t know, I was born in Australia, although my family left there well before I was even a year old. When Trump was elected in 2016, my wife and I toyed with the idea of moving Down Under to get away from America’s bullshit. I remained eligible to renew my Aussie passport anytime I pleased, and my children were all young enough at the time to also qualify for citizenship. But we bagged on the plan for a number of reasons, nearly all of them logistical. It’s not easy to pack up and move somewhere that’s a 22-hour flight away from everyone else you know and love. So we tightened our search down to two much closer areas: Pennsylvania and Connecticut. We even toured houses in both places. Neither quite did the job.

Australia, despite its numerous shortcomings (racism, more deranged billionaires, everything on fire all of the time), probably would have given us more of what we wanted. But again, Australia is located in Australia. So here we remain, living in an expensive American burb where every driver is a raging asshole, mostly because we’re too lazy to live anywhere else.

But unlike Jon, I didn’t have a cushy job offer waiting for me in Australia, I didn’t have the specter of both unemployment and eviction hanging over me, and (at the time) I didn’t have kids who were poised to leave the house anyway. With my own oldest kid off to college in August, my wife and I need to get serious about our empty nest plans. I want to finish out my life living somewhere more tranquil, be it in the U.S. or otherwise. That means more scouting trips are in the offing, because scouting trips work.

I know that you, Jon, visited Australia recently. But you’re gonna have to go back one more time and check it out as a prospective citizen and not just as a tourist. Drive through neighborhoods. Visit open houses. See if you can really picture yourself living there. Because at one point, I was damn near convinced that my family and I should move closer to my parents and sister in Connecticut. Then we started touring hoods and I remembered, “Hey wait a second, I fucking hated living in New England,” and that was that.



My wife and I are in the market for a new car. We’re hoping to go electric and weighing our options. We got a few quotes that were a stretch budget-wise, then we checked Tesla out of morbid curiosity. They were like half the price. But neither of us could bear the idea of driving around in an Elon-mobile. My question, is there a deal that would make you ever buy a product at a killer price, even if the public face of the company is a ghoul?

This is an extremely timely question, given that my review of the Cybertruck goes live at SFGate next week. You already know that the Cybertruck is ugly, and that parts of it straight up don’t work. But it’s also comfortable, has great pickup, and maneuvers surprisingly well. I’m wagering that normal Teslas do likewise, yeah? In that case, I don’t think I’d scoff at buying a normal, boring Model 3 if I needed one.

Because lord knows I’ve taken advantage from deals offered from other billionaire scum. I still shop at Amazon all the time. I use Google for nearly all of my tech needs. I eat at Chick-Fil-A. When Apple puts AI into its next software update, I’ll download it. I make a lot of decidedly un-woke purchasing decisions. That’s pretty much unavoidable in this country, where the most basic necessities (cars, fuel, food, electricity) are controlled by a cadre of evil masterminds.

So what’s one more dollar thrown a Lex Luthor’s way? If I stage a one-man boycott of Tesla and then go buy a Volkswagen instead … well that’s not exactly evening the score. I can’t control how the sausage is made, I can only control which sausage I choose to eat. That’s true for you as well. So if you can get a sweet deal on a Tesla, and you like the car, go for it. Just don’t get a vanity plate that says NO GAS or whatever. I’ll key your shit if you do that.


So I'll be upfront: this is a subtweet. I'm currently watching Remember Some Guys, and Lauren's Freedom of Choice poster is breaking me. This poster has, I'm pretty sure, been in the background of most of her livestreams. It's eye-catching, it has interesting dimensions, it has a compelling message. But it's spurring the most paternalistic of paternal urges. And those urges are, specifically, to BUY HER A FUCKING FRAME. It seems insane to me that this bothers me so much, but I will absolutely organize the sickos to pitch in for a custom frame for Lauren.

I’ve been on God knows how many Zoom calls with Lauren and her lack of frames has never bothered me, because A) I am not the RoomRater loser, and B) Lauren is single. If you’re young, single, and have roommates, I don’t expect you to have framed posters adorning every wall in your apartment. You’re still in that gray area between college kid and serious adult, which means that you get to still keep a few dorm-room habits. I have some framed posters in my office after I redecorated the joint to look more professional, but I only made that effort a couple of years ago. I am 47 years old. Wind the clock back 20 years and I would’ve had zero problem taping a Winston Wolfe poster to my studio wall.

However, it’s only fair to allow Lauren herself a rebuttal to this friendly broadside. Here now is her reply to Alex’s email:

Hi Alex! First off, you're totally right that this poster freaking rules. It's from an early '90s compilation album benefiting Planned Parenthood that features such covers as Sonic Youth doing "Ça plane pour moi" and Mudhoney doing "Pump It Up." I was so taken by the photography from this album—both the pastel style and the overwhelming collage of post-punk artifacts—that I tracked down a copy of this poster that was being sold by a used bookstore in Spain, and I managed to get it sent to New York after some choppy Spanish emails sent to a woman named Ana. It reminds me of my childhood bedroom, which I decorated with posters given to me by guys at Dearborn Music once their respective albums' release cycles ended, and I think it looks lovely in this corner next to Vasily Kandinsky's Dominant Curve.

Kandinsky, too, is unframed. In fact, my bedroom is covered with posters and prints, and absolutely none of them are framed. Perhaps you find this unbecoming of a 29-year-old, but I call it savvy efficiency informed by an adulthood of transitory living spaces. By my count, from 2013 to 2020 I called 10 different bedrooms home. Each time, with the help of my father, I took everything I wanted to own, packed it into a car, and hauled it somewhere else. I have been lucky enough to now be settled in the same apartment for four years, going on five, but as someone who has never hired movers, the exertion of those days still weighs on my mind. I refuse to add to my two crates of vinyl. I will always choose the library over bookstores. I attempt a "one in, one out" principle when it comes to buying clothes. Life is easier when it all fits into the back of one Ford Explorer, and the flexibility of unframed posters remains too alluring for me to upgrade to the permanence of frames. If you want to get them for me, you better be prepared to lug them around Brooklyn whenever you're called upon.


This is at least the second time you’ve said the Carolina Panthers have a terrible color scheme. Their uniforms aren’t even the worst use of teal in the league (Titans) and the logo isn’t even the worst in the division (Falcons). Not all of us can have purple pants and a badass horn on our helmets. They already have the worst owner in the league, we don’t need the logo and colors bagged on, too.

Calm down there, Xing. I’m not trying to single you guys out. In fact, I’d prefer the Carolina Panthers be good, because shitty teams suck to watch. So I may as well prefer that they also look good as well. Don’t you see? I am ragging on the Panthers because I only want the best for them. Now, will they ever be the best as long as David Tepper is the owner? Not a chance. But they could at least spruce up the color scheme while they’re busy going 3-14 every year.


I love stand-up comedy. I listen to stand up on the satellite radio in my wife's car, we watch Netflix and HBO specials (John Early's being the greatest) and listen to podcasts with comedians like Comedy Bang Bang and Good One. At the same time, we never go to see stand up in the real world. Not a single open mic, showcase, comedy drag bingo, nothing. Can we love this art form and almost never support the live events?

That depends on where you live. When my wife and I lived in New York, we went to the Comedy Cellar on multiple occasions, because it was a cheap date that featured some of the best comedians in the city, if not the country, working the stage. And it was only a subway ride away. Then we moved to the DC burbs and seeing live standup become much more of an effort. To get our fix, we either have to go into DC and book seats at the Improv, or we have to pay out the nose for a national headliner. We saw John Mulaney live over a year ago and tickets for all five of us ran four figures. These were just regular tickets, mind you. They didn’t come with a free steak dinner and Mulaney personally valet-ing our car. Tickets to Nate Bargatze were similarly pricey, enough so that we passed on buying them.

I don’t think this qualifies as a moral failing on our part. It’s just hard to see good standup live where we live, and it’d be even harder if we lived out in the countryside. That doesn’t mean we’re failures as patrons of the arts. You can still support your favorite standup by watching their specials, buying their merch, and (ugh) listening to their podcasts. Nothing beats seeing them live, but this is another instance where practicality often forces the issue. I feel guilty now. Maybe I should refinance my house and buy those Bargatze tickets.


Yesterday's Funbag reminded me of this horrifying thing I saw in Istanbul a few years ago: a bag of mixed nuts that included pistachios....WITH THEIR SHELLS STILL ON. It was so shocking and weird I had to take a photo of it:

As the husband of a half-Armenian woman, this is yet another strike against Turkey. You’re on notice, Erdoğan.


I’ve started going number one almost exclusively outside of my back patio. I live alone and my backyard is enclosed, so there’s no chance of anyone seeing me. I can’t explain why I do this. Is this weird? 

Between us, no. Frankly, that sounds like heaven. Pissing out in the open is one of the biggest perks of being a man. May as well take advantage of it if you can, especially if you’re shitfaced!

Email of the week!


In the early 80s, when I was around eight years old, my family moved to another state and I started a new school. One morning, I wasn’t feeling particularly well, but my mom told me I was fine (I was the youngest of four, so there were a lot of competing priorities) and sent me on my way

As I progressed through the school day, I started feeling worse, especially in my stomach. Nevertheless, I made it to recess and saw a bunch of kids rolling down a hill, which to my young self seemed like fun and a great way to calm an upset stomach.

This turned out to be a tragic error as I quickly shat my pants.

I knew what I’d done, but stood still in the hopes the ground beneath my feet would give way and swallow me whole. A kind (or more likely horrified) teacher must have seen the panicked look in my eyes, and they brought me to the school nurse’s office. As my pants, underwear, and socks were not salvageable, I was given a child-sized johnny to wear. The school then called my parents so they could pick up their feces-covered offspring

Unfortunately this was pre-cell phones, so communication was more difficult than it is today. As I was later told, the school repeatedly called my parents and emergency contacts to no avail (my Mom was out running errands for my siblings and setting up a new home and my Dad, who was an environmental engineer, couldn’t be reached in the field). At one point, I recall the school principal coming to the nurse’s office, looking at me, and asking the nurse, “When will this kid be outta here?” Finally, someone reached my Mom who quickly got me.

My parents bought beepers the next day.


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