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Funbag

Where Are All The Squirrel Skeletons?

2:06 PM EDT on August 8, 2023

WASHINGTON, DC - April 7: The fossilized 36 million-year-old skeleton of a tree squirrel known as Douglassciurus jeffersoni is on display as part of the "Objects of Wonder" exhibit at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. Paleontologist Gene Hunt, pictured, said it's one of the most complete prehistoric squirrel skeletons ever discovered. (By John Kelly/The Washington Post)
John Kelly/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Time for your weekly edition of the Defector Funbag. Got something on your mind? Email the Funbag. Drew's off this week. Today, we're talking about weirdness, bass, media literacy, and more.

I joined Defector full-time about six months ago, but because of the monster that is Normal Gossip, I haven’t had much of a chance to spend time with the staff or write very much for the site. So I was thrilled when Barry asked me to fill in for this week’s Funbag on my first week back from tour. No one signed up for a subscription at this site to read me talking about lefty guitar and squirrel remains, but that’s what you’re getting! Once I’m done with this, I’m going back to sleep. 

Ariel: 

Yes, I do have something on my mind.  For years I have had this on my mind.

Where are all the squirrel skeletons?

Tons of squirrels.  No skeletons.  They're not burying them in squirrel graves, you can dig up your yard to see.

This is such an important question. I have also wondered where all the dead birds are. A few months ago, I planted some dahlias in a patch in front of my house. Picture me digging little holes and planting my little sprouts, happy as a clam, when I came upon the corpse of a bird just chilling right where I was about to plant my flower. I didn’t touch it even though I wanted to. I just carefully planted my bulbs around the bird’s carcass and hoped that its decomposing remains would feed my flowers as they grew. 

My hypothesis is that the little animals can sense when the time is near and that’s when they take themselves to a nice, dark little place to say goodbye. So … the skeletons are probably under bushes. 

John:

After the experience of producing Normal Gossip, do you find that you now look at people differently? Or did you always suspect that seemingly-normal people were secretly participating in all kinds of crazy drama?

We have this segment at the end of all our live shows where we invite people to anonymously text their secrets to us and then I read them out loud. I’m always shocked by how deranged the secrets are. Some of my favorites: We had someone who confessed to peeing her pants while on a first date (while holding hands with her date!), someone who was obsessed with the “boys in girl pants” Xanga page as a pre-teen and who didn’t know what to do with those feelings, and someone who routinely steals a block of cheese from the grocery store and calls it their “pocket cheese.”

I love every single one of these secrets and the effect of reading all of them at once is a reminder of how deeply wacky everybody is on the inside. Before I produced this show, I think I thought my own weirdness was unique, but I’ve realized that people are so much weirder than we give ourselves credit for. 

Paul: 

When preparing a meal for yourself and your lady (thinking only you two and not the kids) do you have a cadence you follow? I'm not sure if it's because my wife is a lefty or she usually sits to my left at the table typically but I ALWAYS prepare her plate to the left of the two I'm working on. Am I an insane person?

Don't worry, if necessary I do the switcheroo so she gets the prettier plate, presentation is important.

As the lefty in my relationship, I have to say I commend your consideration. Reflecting on my own cooking workflow, I realized that I always prepare my own plate on the left, but I sit to the right of my husband when we’re sitting on the couch. When I take our plates back to the kitchen for refills, I always hold my own plate in my left hand so I remember whose is whose. I would diagnose your behavior not as insanity, but as a sympathetic leftiness that indicates your deep empathy for your wife (not unlike when men gain weight while their wives are pregnant). Consider kicking with your left foot next time you play soccer—you might get lucky. 

Padraic:

How long do you think it would take a real guitarist to learn how to play the guitar reversed?

I’m not entirely sure what distinguishes a “real” guitarist from a fake (or regular?) guitarist, but my guess would be about 1–3 months. 

There are two major hurdles in learning a string instrument: learning the shapes of chords (and the theory behind them) and the physical work of developing your hand muscles, calluses, and muscle memory. The former is the heavier lift, but I think once you have it down, mirroring it shouldn’t be all too complicated. It would just be a matter of practicing and building up your opposite hand strength. 

All that being said, I would probably not count myself a “real” guitarist, so maybe my estimate is off. Since you reminded me of him, I’d like to tell you about my first and only guitar teacher. He was an old man who smelled like tobacco and was missing half of all three of his fretting fingers, which were on his right hand because he also played reverse. Playing reverse was helpful for me because I could copy him without doing reversey math in my head. He was also Melissa Etheridge’s guitar teacher, which is a fun fact I like to share whenever I see her name, and often when I don't. After two years of lessons with him, my family moved away and I took my education into my own hands, which is to say that I played through three different Green Day song books in my bedroom. I can’t really play anything anymore except for a perfectly fine rendition of “Good Riddance.” 

Peter: 

Is bass the worst instrument to play in a band?  You never get to shine, you’re just there in the background, nobody knows you’re there until you’re not and even then they can’t put their finger on what’s missing.  You’re the bay leaf in the stew that is the band.  What’s even a fun song to play bass in?  Walk on the wild side?  Ramble on? 

I disagree! Since apparently this Funbag is all about my musical history, I will now reveal that I played electric bass in jazz band in high school as well as the double bass in a pop punk bluegrass cover band one summer. I picked up the bass because someone was already on guitar, and bass is famously the same first four strings as guitar so it was easy enough to switch, and I could practice at home without buying a new instrument. SO, here are my thoughts on your question. 

You are right that bass rarely gets the chance to shine in a band, unless you’ve got a gnarly solo or your name is Flea. But I’d argue that’s also true of every rhythm instrument. When I played rhythm guitar in bands, I was struck by how my parts would blend into the larger band, almost disappearing under the collective sound. One of my teachers told me once that the point was less to be heard by the audience (which yes, is great, good, fun, etc), and more to be heard by your bandmates. Ultimately the job of the rhythm section is to keep rhythm for each other and the rest of the band. You’re creating something together that you couldn’t make individually, and that’s so cool. If your goal is to be the star of the show, I think that’s a fundamentally different endeavor. 

That being said, there definitely are some fun bass songs. One of my favorites was Simon and Garfunkel’s “The 59th Street Bridge Song.” 

Addison:

What is your most ornery old man pet peeves?

What do people do that drives you crazy but, when you complain about it, you sound like “old man yells at cloud”

Mine is that I hate when people take out their phones to videotape concerts or fireworks or other such things.

The video will be bad. You will NEVER watch it again, and you have reduced your experience to watching your own video of it because you are looking at your phone for framing. In addition, a bunch of other dudes around you are filming it. Just search for their videos on YouTube.

To add to this, I am a stadium seat vendor (selling drinks in stadiums) and I always feel this pressure to not obstruct their video.

I am out here trying to do commissioned based sales and I feel like I am messing up your stupid video.

Oh man, I have so many. 

  1. My biggest “kids these days” complaint is that I don’t think a lot of young people understand how to critically engage with culture! Moral and ethical righteousness is not the same thing as aesthetic quality. Sometimes they overlap, but they often do not. The first example that comes to mind is when people complained that White Lotus was just telling the stories of rich white people. Um ... yeah, that’s the point. Sometimes a character in a film or novel is “bad,” but that doesn’t mean that the art is promoting that. Sometimes it’s even critiquing that. This isn’t specific to any generation, but it feels like a particularly internet-pilled brainworm that haunts younger people who have gotten their 101-level critical theory education from the internet.
  2. It makes me nuts when people don’t walk in a straight line on the sidewalk or follow road rules while walking (slow people keep to the right, pass on the left!). When I see someone meandering on the sidewalk in a way that prohibits passing, I can almost guarantee it’s because they’re looking at their phone while walking. People always think they can walk and text and it won’t make them walk any different. It’s not true!!!! Keep it moving. 
  3. Unless you have a connection to catch in less than 30 minutes, there is no need to stand up on the plane as soon as you land. It’s going to be OK. 

Cooper: 

Growing up my dad always hated overhead light (e.g. recessed lighting) and would come into the room, flick off the switch and replace the light from a lamp.  I just recently went to my brother’s house and he did the same thing.  He’s 48 yrs old, six years my elder and my question is:  is this an old man thing? Or just hereditary in my family?  

I have to tell you, your father and brother are right. If this is genetic, it is genetically good sense. It is certainly not an old-man thing because too many men in my life clearly have no problem with drowning out their eyeballs with bright light. Overhead light is horrific. It’s too bright, it’s too loud on the senses, and it makes any room look sterile. Consider buying 3-5 Ikea FADO lamps and placing them around your house for soft, unintrusive light all through the evening hours, and for bonus points, get the smart bulbs so you can tweak the warmth. 

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