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Funbag

You’re Gonna Be In This Goddamn Metaverse Whether You Like It Or Not

Attendee uses a virtual-reality headset, at the VR/360° Filmmaking Masterclass For Women- Industry Night on January 28, 2022 in Nairobi. - The VR/360° Filmmaking Masterclass For Women is dedicated to strengthening the creative economy in different sectors in Kenya. The project consists mainly of training & workshops for creatives and related events. (Photo by Simon MAINA / AFP) (Photo by SIMON MAINA/AFP via Getty Images)
Simon Maina/AFP via Getty Images

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 band names, the normal internet, rich guys with petty grievances, and more.

Your letters:

Jack:

I think the metaverse sounds deeply dumb. But I just had a conversation with one of my younger (35) work colleagues about all of the research he is doing, stocks he is buying, and money he is otherwise committing to make sure he doesn’t miss out on the ground floor of it. WTF, man. I thought this was all a joke we could use to dunk on Zuckerberg. We’re not really going to end up in the OASIS from Ready Player One, are we?

We probably are, yes. If you read Defector, you’ve been treated to coverage of what is easily the worst attempt at creating a metaverse. But Facebook has a shitload more money, infrastructure, and technological savvy than Color Star. AND they’re even more shameless, which has no small appeal to an American populace, myself included, that abandoned its dignity a while ago. This is the part where I tell you I’ve been Oculus-curious now for like five years.

At some point, Facebook and other companies will refine the virtual reality experience so that it feels not only natural to throw on one of those headsets, but also quite pleasant. I can join the fun and laugh at every shitty mockup of the metaverse I’ve ever seen, but those mockups are just that. They’ll get better, and if you’re still not tempted to enter the OASIS once they do, then you’ll be forced to do so. I know because I have to use QR code menus now. Annoying. History is charted by the people who have money. And what the people with money want right now is fake money and a fake VR world to spend that money in. Thanks to the pandemic, they already have a head start on people shuttering themselves, so it’s not absurd to think they’ll eventually succeed in making their products, under the “metaverse” banner, the default outside world to many people.

Yes, that sounds dumb. I’m like, “Why the fuck would I ever attend a virtual meet-and-greet when I could simply go to a real one?” Then again, it was me in 1997 asking, “Pfft, why would I ever use this email crap when I could just call people?” And it was me in 2004 asking, “Why would I look at the internet on my phone when I could do it on my desktop?” And it was me, again, in 2008 asking, “Why would I type 140 characters into this little box when I could just have a blog instead?” You get the idea. I’ve lived long enough to know that when established institutions commit to an idea, that idea becomes popular reality, regardless of the idea’s utility.

So get all your laughs in now. In a few years, you’ll be using your virtual phone to scan a virtual QR code in a virtual sandwich shop with your virtual assistant and paying for it all in Fangcoin. And it’ll all seem perfectly normal. Jokes like that “Fangcoin” one you just read will feel irrelevant and stale. Unlike now, when it’s easily the funniest thing ever.

Peter:

I get it for the regular season, but why is playoff OT timed???

I don’t know. I got nothing. I guess the NFL has separate OT periods as a “break” for players, but the rest period between regulation and overtime is what? Three minutes? It’s not like hockey where there’s a four-day break to resurface the stupid ice between each overtime period. In football, they just go. You play until the term “sudden death” becomes literal, which I like because long intermissions make me want to go to bed.

So I’d be in favor of making playoff overtime untimed, except there’s not much urgent need to do so. Five playoff games since the merger have required double overtime. [Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the number of 2OT games.] In one of them, the second overtime lasted a single play, and here it is. That game probably should have greater prominence in the collective football memory, given that Carolina made it all the way to the Super Bowl after Steve Smith’s 2OT walk-off. But it doesn’t, so tough shit for the Panthers.

Evan:

Goddamn, these football games not starting at 8pm is a fucking blessing.

I was just thinking that over the weekend! Those playoff doubleheaders that start at 3 p.m.? HEAVEN. I can gorge on football—really GOOD football this year, too!—and then go nightie-night at the appropriate time. This schedule suits my dad hours perfectly. Makes me feel like I live on the West Coast. No wonder all the assholes that live there always look so refreshed.

Matt:

How important is a band’s name to its success? If a band has a phenomenal name, does that carry them through mediocre music? What about a band that has a horrible name (say something like Dysmorphic Vagina)—would they ever stand a chance?

With apologies to my friend Kyle Ryan at the Band Name Bureau, band names are essentially irrelevant. Bono just said he hates U2’s name, even though that was probably Bono just doing his Simple Irish Lad routine. But look around at the rest of history and you’ll find bands with names that all but asked for failure. U2 IS a stupid band name. Same with Green Day, whose lead singer ALSO said he thought his band’s name sucked. Same with The Beatles, The Doors, Pearl Jam, Bon Jovi, etc etc. I love Bob Mould. He coined the band name Sugar by noticing a sugar packet in a diner and deciding that was good enough. And it was, because if you make good music, your band’s name BECOMES cool by association. And then your band gets super old and its name becomes embarrassing for entirely different reasons.

The only band that ever REALLY did itself a disservice with a terrible name is Diarrhea Planet. It’s a hilarious name. For, like, a day. After that it becomes a thing you have to explain over and over.

Justin:

I’ve been a homeowner for almost seven years and I am still insanely shitty when it comes to being handy around the house. Even minor projects like swapping out a thermostat or fixing a leaky faucet become these overwhelming tasks that fill me with existential despair. I come from a family of mostly blue collar people so I can’t blame genetics or environment. What’s the deal here? And any advice on how I could become marginally handy enough to avoid embarrassment?

YOUTUBE! Youtube. Yewchube. Something in your house is fucked? Go to Youtube, amigo. I learned how to replace an electric scooter battery from there. I also search Youtube videos anytime I can’t quite parse the instructions in an owner’s manual. Inevitably, I’ll find some enterprising fellow who will teach me how to inflate a Coleman SaluSpa tub in under 10 minutes. Do I watch ALL 10 minutes of that video? No. I fast forward right to the part that addresses where I became confused by the manual. And then I’m good to go. You don’t need a pickup truck or be born in a fucking steel mill to be a handy person. It’s just like anything else: You merely have to learn. And when it comes to house projects, you have no shortage of people online willing to teach you.

There’s a lot of horrible shit on the internet. It’s often my job to show you where it’s horrible, and which horrible people are involved. But then there’s the Normal Internet, which is a wonderworld of useful home improvement advice, good recipe ideas, book recs, and answers to nearly any practical question you have about anything at all. I’ve joked to my family that Google killed dinner conversation because anytime someone at the table asks an open question, all we gotta do is look up the answer instead of workshopping one as a group. What used to be a 15-minute odyssey to remember the name of the actor who played the evil Sergeant Major Dickerson in Good Morning Vietnam (it was J.T. Walsh!) instead ends in five seconds. If you’re a billion years old and you call TikTok “the TikTok,” you could see this as an unwelcome development in human interaction. But it also happens to be FUCKING AMAZING. I can’t believe we have instant access to all this information, and to strangers out in the ether who want to help you and not simply troll the fuck out of you, but we do. It’s a miracle.

And you should never be afraid to use it. I Google pretty much any problem that comes up in my house: busted toilets, dirty coffee machines, how to raise my 15-year-old but still get in my daily nap … you name it! It’s all there, and there’s so much of it. You need some decent Google Fu to get what you’re looking for. But hey, you already found THIS site now, didn’t you?

Bruiser:

A Mark question: Is Schlereth the Jackson of terrible football color commentary, or is Jackson the Schlereth of terrible basketball color commentary?

They’re different animals. Jackson is a dour, joyless shithead who disapproves of everything he sees. Schlereth clearly loves football, even in its modern incarnation. He’s also a corny fuckhead with a busted faucet for a mouth. I hope he loses a bottle of his hot sauce up his own ass.

Evan:

Not sure if you’ve done an escape room before, but who solves it first? The group able to communicate or the person by themselves able to thing uninterrupted?

I’ve never done a real-life escape room before, even though I play escape room games on my phone all the time. It’s my preferred genre of video game. So if you dropped me into a real escape room, I’d get hard as a rock. But I’d want to be the ONLY person to solve it. I don’t wanna be stuck in there with, like, my friends. I don’t wanna hear their suggestions for what one clue might mean. “This red key probably opens the blue chest!” You fucking moron. Do red and blue look like the same color to you? Go sit in the corner and stop fucking talking. I certainly don’t want my friends SOLVING any part of the escape room. That’s for me to do, not them. I’m the genius here.

I like teamwork in certain instances—lifting heavy objects, taking care of children, starting media companies, etc—but there are other instances where I want to work alone. VERY alone. I don’t even like people in the same ROOM with me for certain things. This is true when I cook, and when I write novels, and when I’m thinking dirty thoughts. I already know that busting out of an escape room would also be one such instance.

YOU: But Drew, I really did an escape room with some friends and it was so much fun!

Don’t care. Your friends would piss me off.

Ian:

Why do I still have to press ‘shift’ on a keyboard to get to a question mark? This morning I was writing a message to a colleague in a popular workplace chat app, and I accidentally added a forward slash to the end of my question. Are we just going to live with this inefficient status quo because it’s firmly embedded in our brains? Would the price of undoing our collective muscle memory be too high to justify a simple change? What would it take to get everyone to agree to this common sense update to an obsolete system?

I’d support switching the question mark and the forward slash on a keyboard, most definitely. Like other writers have demanded, I also want an em-dash key. I’m a big em dash pervert. It’s so much more elegant than parentheses—use parentheses too often and your copy looks like a mess—plus it gives the reader a mental breath. Whenever I use an em dash in my tweets, those tweets look WAY cooler. By contrast, my editor, Barry Petchesky, loves en-dashes and lecturing people on their proper usage. Barry, no one cares about your stupid en-dashes. Just use a hyphen like the rest of us. [Ed. note: It’s an entirely different thing!!]

Know what else I’d like on a standard QWERTY keyboard? A music note symbol. I have my reasons.

HALFTIME!

Jeff:

I’m a shitty reader. It’s not a literacy issue – I can read – but it takes me FOREVER to finish books. A huge part of my problem is making time for it. But even when I’m really enjoying a book and reading as much as I can whenever I can, it typically takes me a couple of months. How the fuck do all these humblebragging assholes finish books in a few days? Are they liars? Do they read 22 hours a day? Or am I just dumb?

You’re not dumb. I am also a slow reader. Get me a Harry Potter book and I can breeze through it in a couple of days. But for an actual book, I often need weeks, if not a couple of months. I wish I read a little faster—I’m a writer after all; reading tends to help with that particular craft—but I understand my limits and I remind myself that just because I read slower doesn’t mean I read POORLY.

I spent last year reading van Gogh’s biography. And I mean ALL of last year. It’s 1,500 pages long, which I probably should have checked before I hit BUY THIS BOOK on my Kindle, but alas. The book is definitive, and so well-researched as to be awe-inspiring. Read every detail of van Gogh’s life and you come to understand precisely why his family, along with nearly everyone else he encountered, couldn’t stand him. Then you learn more about his mental illness (potentially the result of a condition known as temporal lobe epilepsy) and watch his mind deteriorate in real time, and you get a firm understanding both of why he acted the way he did and how, in part, his irreplaceable genius came to form. Nobody painted harder than that van Gogh. He moved his brush so violently that it frightened observers. This mania was the byproduct of his ailments and alcoholism, and it spurred a lifelong habit of re-engineering memories into fantasy, and then desperately attempting to recreate those memories both through his work and through his dealings with his family and friends.

He succeeded on only one of those fronts, and that success only arrived after he was accidentally shot to death by some local teens. I know what it’s like to want life to conform to your imagination, and how it feels when it refuses to. I know the despair. I can’t know the depths of his despair—he had anxiety attacks that often left him terrified to leave his room, or to even speak—but I know the genesis of it quite intimately. Now I can look at van Gogh’s art and know, roughly, what period of life the painting came from, what he was trying to accomplish with that painting, and whether or not he succeeded (along with whether or not HE felt he succeeded). I’m a smarter person for having read that book, and I’m glad I did. If it took a goddamn year to do it, so be it. Read what you can and don’t worry about the rest.

Grant:

What is the Defector position on staff wearing its own merch? Do some (all?) co-owners wear the gear? Or is it implicitly frowned upon – as comical as a band rocking out Madison Square Garden all clad in their own T-shirts? And what is the position regarding the wearing of the dead site’s gear?

I wear Defector crap around. I also have a Defector sticker on my car. We have subscriptions and merch to sell, you know. Plus our site is cool. I don’t feel like a loser when I do it. I’m a dad. How much lamer can I become, really?

I have an old Deadspin shirt I only work out in, but I’d wear it outside if it were in decent shape for it. And I wouldn’t begrudge any of my colleagues if they wore old merch out in public. We did good work when we were there. We should be proud of it.

Gray:

Is there a more baffling person in the NFL than Arthur Smith? If my father founded FedEx, and had more than five billion dollars, the last thing I would do is waste 100 hours a week coaching the Atlanta Falcons. How does he explain to his three kids that he has to miss ballet recitals, and life in general, for absolutely no good reason? I don’t know the perfect job for the son of a billionaire, but I can think of plenty of better ones than middling football coach. 

You’re underestimating the allure of being the head coach of an NFL team. How many fans out there fantasize about holding one of those jobs, even when they know all of the work it entails? It’s a fucking dream job to anyone who loves the sport, and I have little doubt that Arthur Smith loves football. Yeah he’s the son of a billionaire and could fuck off to an island for the rest of his life if he wanted to. But that gets boring, and even rich dipshits need to feel useful and productive. It’s a learned instinct (more on that in a second). If you were a failson, would you want to be only a failson your whole life, or would you rather try to make a name for yourself? I have no interest in turning Smith’s chosen vocation into some kind of bullshit Horatio Alger tale, but I get why he’s motivated be something other than a useless pud.

And at least he didn’t decide to become a shitposter with his free time. That’s something Roth wrote about last week. “This is what I wonder about: how Aaron Rodgers can be so unhappy even after getting everything he says he wants,” he said. The reason Rodgers is so unhappy, apart from the fact that he’s a relentless dickhead, is because he equates unhappiness with productivity. This is something ingrained in the American workforce: that you can’t succeed without pain. You have to sacrifice things: money, time, your physical well-being, etc. The idea that you can succeed and be happy simultaneously is a grand lie, and you’d be a fool to believe it. Having it all is an impossibility, and more important, it SHOULD be.

So here we have a cadre of insanely rich white guys whose lives are virtually free of conflict, but who all believe they NEED conflict in order to thrive. So, lacking any other avenue, they invent adversity—along with enemies perpetrating that adversity—and then invest all of their character into overcoming it. It’s a metaverse of a different kind. If I were President, I would plaster signs all around our wealthiest neighborhoods that said You don’t have to fight so hard. It would accomplish nothing.

So that’s why Arthur Smith is an NFL coach. He’s not all that great at it.

Mike:

My mother, a longtime hearing aid user, was referred for cochlear ear implants. Like a good son, I have now provided her with my vast resources on the subject (read: I bought her your book). Anything else about the implant you’d like to share? Anything from the cutting room floor? 

It can’t hear guitars. I discovered this when I went to two rock concerts this fall. At live shows, I plug my good ear but keep the implant on, which means the implant is doing a lot of the heavy lifting. The first concert I went to was Bob Mould. Bob’s guitar broke during the set, but I couldn’t tell. I only knew the sound of the guitar had gone out whenever Bob looked back to his tech for help. The implant never clued me in.

Then I went to Mastodon a few weeks later. Their guitars worked, and they were real fucking loud. But the implant got way more of the bass and drums. I took the plug out of my good ear for a second to hear what I was missing, and it was a good amount. It was still the best concert I’d ever been to, but it was clear that cochlear implants have their limits when it comes to hearing music, especially in guitars. A bit cruel for me, but I got used to it. I listen to music on a Bluetooth speaker downstairs when I’m playing video games, and that speaker is always stationed to the left of me, where the good ear is. One time I experimented and moved the speaker to my right, and the guitars faded out of the song. Pretty wild shit!

Anyway, that’s my advice for Mike’s mother, who is almost certainly into Mastodon.

Tyler:

How differently do the last two decades of the NFL play out if the big call in the Tuck Rule Game is ruled the fumble that we all know it was, no matter what the rule said? Tom Brady doesn’t win the Super Bowl that year, or win the Super Bowl MVP, and also doesn’t have the mystique of starting his career with 10 straight postseason wins and three Super Bowls. Do the Patriots even keep him in that case, or do they stick with Drew Bledsoe and capitalize on Brady’s trade value based on his regular season (and if he’s traded to an NFC team, there is no Brady/Manning rivalry)?

Tom Brady still would have become Tom Brady. The six other Super Bowls he won give you a pretty good idea of what kind of player he was, regardless of the rulebook and/or shitty officiating. It’s much more interesting to wonder what the past two decades would be like had Brady never existed at all. Think of all the Super Bowls that Ben Roethlisberger would have lost.

Scott:

In your last Funbag, you said that leftover pasta sucks. I must vehemently disagree with this godawful take. Leftover pasta is fantastic! The sauce gets extra time to soak into the noodles, and often the sauce itself gets better after a day or two in the fridge. Leftover pasta also microwaves better than most other leftovers. But you don’t even need to microwave it! A few bites of cold pasta with the fridge door open is a great, filling, I’m-not-really-snacking-because-I-didn’t actually-leave-the-fridge snack. I intentionally make the entire box of pasta every time so there will be leftovers. Furthermore, if I make something for my kids and they don’t eat it, leftover pasta comes to the rescue again as a substitute meal that does not come in nugget form. I usually have at least a grudging respect for your opinions I disagree with but this, sir, has crossed a line.

I have a golden rule for this column, which is to never answer a question just to make fun of it. But Scott, you’re an unrefined jackass. Leftover pasta is gluey, tasteless dogshit. I wouldn’t feed it to Putin.

Email of the week!

David:

This Christmas I took the family to Disneyland. We have five kids, but only took the younger three who had never been. With two days at two parks it easily came out to $1,200 spent on admission, food, clothes, souvenirs. My last trip to Disney was in 2002. It was basically Disney only. Now it’s every media enterprise under the sun and I was absolutely shocked by it.

Here’s my question: Considering my 25 years as a parent of five, how much have I spent on the properties, enterprises, brands, features now owned by Disney. I’m talking Disney, Pixar, Star Wars, Marvel, MGM-Fox movies, toys, products — even if I spent those dollars before George Lucas and others sold the brands to the Mouse. And yes, I am including all the ESPN, ESPN+, Disney Plus, National Geographic magazines and Hulu subscriptions I’ve spent in 25 years.

By my math it’s at least $75,000—but others I’ve asked think that’s probably higher. 

It’s a million dollars. All of your moneys. We all actually work FOR Disney.