Man reading an upside down book
Illustration by Lia Kantrowitz
Health

Confessions of a Terrible Reader

Time for your weekly edition of the Funbag. Today, we're talking about cards, dares, hitchhiking, tortillas, and more.
January 7, 2020, 7:11pm

Got something on your mind? Email the Funbag. Your letters:

Andy:

Is reading a hobby?

Oh yeah. Definitely. I tell people that COOKING is a hobby of mine, as if whipping up a bunch of cookies from a Pillsbury ready-made dough tube is somehow the pursuit of a craftsman. But reading is a hobby, especially when dead tree books have to compete for your attention alongside now infinite alternative entertainment options. My wife tears through books as a matter of routine. In fact, her reading habits put mine to shame. I am professional writer, but here I confess that I am a HORRIBLE reader. I always have been. You can count the number of books I read per year on two hands. When people talk to me about other writers, they assume I know who those writers are. Most of the time, I don’t. Sometimes I have to fake like I know. "I’m familiar with them," etc. It’s embarrassing. I am like Eddie Van Halen in my consumption of peer-related works.

I wish I read better and, given that this is the New Year, I harangue myself to be better about this. Then I crack open a book and I’m asleep five minutes later. To be a voracious reader, you have to put in time and care, like a fucking dork. That’s a dedicated hobby. I haven’t earned the right to give my reading hobby status because I’m too busy looking at screenshots of some fucking terrible Bret Stephens column instead. My oldest son also hates reading and I tell him, "Hey look, I hated reading when I was in school too, but I’m a writer now!" casually omitting the key detail that I STILL approach reading like I’m being forced to eat my green beans. This is not a healthy approach to reading, especially since I write books and have even been known to LIKE them.

Please note that I am a surprise exception here. The advent of the Internet hasn’t cannibalized book sales. In fact, book sales have gone UP in recent years, even if said book sales might include those of Triggered by four-star loser Donald Trump Jr. People still can read and still do. Old ladies still gather for their weekly book club meeting to discuss Jodi Picoult for five minutes before moving on to trashing their neighbors. That one guy who’s always pretending to read Infinite Jest will still be sitting across from you on the F train. A distant relative will still get you a hardcover copy of Tom Brokaw’s The Greatest Generation next Christmas even though you didn’t ask for it. Reading lives, and I’d tell you that I’m gonna try harder to be part of it. But I also know that I still haven’t watched Killing Eve and will probably get to that first.

Rick:

Why don’t bathrooms pipe in white noise? I think that hearing static/birds chirping or whatever would be so much better than nothing with the sound of Doug the HR guy empty his bowels after a night of tacos and beer. Am I wrong?

I’ve been in bathrooms that play music. It’s pleasant but it’s not like the dulcet vocals of Martin Page will drown out the sound of a dude next to you shitting his brains out while he’s simultaneously blasting Joe Rogan’s podcast without headphones on. I don’t think piping in Augusta National-style birdsongs and rock garden noises will help much either. To properly counter a neighboring anal holocaust, they’d have to blast Pantera or something. Even if you like Pantera, that’s probably still not conducive to smooth bowel evacuation.

Furthermore, white noise costs money to install, and your area’s public pool shitter doesn’t have money for a Sonos in its operating budget. Thus, you get reverent silence that’s positively aching to be breached by the loudest poopers among us. Your only recourse is to shit with your Air Pods still in. It’s the hip thing to do in 2020.

Josh:

Isn't it time we collectively stood up to Big Card? Every damned card now costs $8.99 and plays the Macarena when you open it or shoots a fucking confetti cannon. I saw a Mother's Day card that actually contained a packet of flower seeds (and of course cost nine bucks). There used to be at least a decent offering of $3 or $4 cards without complex add-ons, until the vast Hallmark Takeover eliminated those options. I just want to buy a fucking folded piece of paper with some flowery or mildly humorous words that convey the message "I didn't forget your birthday this year."

The way you stand up to Big Card is by getting an e-card instead. The existence of e-cards is almost certainly the reason why Hallmark had to clear out all the cheap For Grandma cards on the rack and replace them with music chip cards that deliver exactly ONE "oh that’s funny" moment upon opening before becoming a sonic blight upon the landscape not unlike "Fight Song." That’s how they make up for greeting card piracy. I bought one of these cards for my wife a few months ago and my kids seized upon it, opening it all the time in a deliberate attempt to drive us nuts. They succeeded. I’ll never buy that kind of card again.

Greeting cards, as a rule, are a needless part of special occasions. Sometimes you get a greeting card as a prelude to an actual gift when the gift itself will do. Sometimes you get a greeting card in lieu of a gift. I have pulled this move more than once, because I am old and cheap and lazy. God only knows how many hectares of forest have been decimated to accommodate what is an essentially thoughtless ritual. Just call someone. Phone calls SUCK (as we speak, my desire for full-time employment is actively butting heads with my desire to never talk to anyone on the phone, ever), but the fact that they suck means you made a tangible sacrifice in calling your mother and listening to her drone on about where she ate out for dinner last Friday. That’s good enough. If you’re the kind of analog fetishist who still believes in the power of a handwritten note, you’re also the kind of person who probably owns monogrammed stationery. Just use that.

Pierre-Luc:

On our way back to Montreal, we started debating how long one could stick his head out of the car window while speeding on the highway. My friend bet me a donut that I wouldn't last 30 seconds. No brainer, right? I lasted close to a minute. I remember the wind burning my cheeks raw, losing the ability to move my lips and, atrociously, my brain being squashed by claws of ice. It was hell. As reliable as Tim Hortons is, I didn't really enjoy my maple glazed donut. What's the stupidest dare and ensuing pitiful reward have you ever taken? You can blame it on youth/alcohol/a girl to impress or all of the above.

I ate an entire jalapeno in one bite in the school cafeteria to impress the seniors on my high school football team. I choked it down, waited a beat, and then my face exploded. Snot and barf everywhere. All the girls were horrified. All the guys were laughing their asses off, and not in a friendly way. Keep in mind that this was a basic jalapeno. This wasn’t a ghost pepper, or any other extremely Scoville-forward vegetable that could put you in the hospital. And yet it still ruined me. I’m the kinda white guy who goes to Popeye’s and they give me the mild chicken without even asking me if that’s my preference (surprise… it is!). So it stands to reason that I would be unable to tolerate the official pepper of fast casual Tex-Mex food. But I took the dare and that, apparently, was as bold as my suburban ass ever did or ever will get. My friends on the football team nicknamed me Jalapeno but didn’t like me any more than they did before I took the bait.

Also, one time I murdered a shrimp boat captain because he was my lover’s ex-husband. Got away with it, too.

Louis:

Does Donald Trump know how to use chopsticks? There is no chance in hell right?

Nope. He’s definitely used them as a prop to make a mustache and talk in pidgin English, though. That bits SLAYS with his kids.

Ryan:

Do people still hitchhike?

The answer is yes, but fewer people do it now than they used to. If you were a child of the 80s, as I was, you were taught that if you hitchhike, anyone who picks up is a lock to rape, torture, and murder you, not necessarily in that order. 80% of all horror movies were based on terrible shit happening to hitchers. The truth is that hitchhikers do not make up a disproportionate amount of crime victims on the road, not even back in the '70s heyday of that lifestyle, but that hasn’t dissuaded people from avoiding the practice. Also, Uber exists now, and what is Uber but commoditized hitchhiking? Same threat to your body and life, only other people get to make money off it! I’m surprised Uber’s main menu doesn’t include GAS, GRASS, and ASS buttons.

But people still do hitchhike, particularly if they’re poor and destitute. In fact, according to the Vox article linked above, it’s still legal to hitch a ride in Michigan, Alaska, Missouri, Wyoming, and South Dakota. So if you’re in the mood for adventure AND you enjoy freezing your nuts off, those five states have you covered. I had an old Deadspin colleague who I won’t name here (it was Patrick Redford!) who told us he was planning on hitching somewhere recently, and all of us were like ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR FUCKING MIND?! What if you get picked up by a stranger with candy? What if the stranger smokes MARIJUANA? Pretty scary shit!

Steven:

When a recipe calls for a can of beans that’s been “drained and rinsed,” what’s your move? Personally, I might half-assedly drain the can over the sink, using the top of the can as a strainer. But that’s only if I’m concerned about the volume of liquid throwing off the dish, which is maybe 30% of the time. And rinsing? FUCK rinsing. I want every drop of bean flavor possible.

Oh I never rinse beans. Fuck that. I also never rinse rice even though the package says to do it and even though rice has serious potential as a food poisoning agent. My fear of death is always overruled by my need to avoid extra housework. Also, "dirty rice" is a delicacy in Cajun country, or so I’ve been told. So I leave it dirty. One time I tried rinsing dried lentils before cooking them, without realizing that rinsing would cause them to stick together like set cement. Had to fucking chisel those lentils out of my strainer with a knife to get them back in the pot. Never again.

So I’m like you with canned beans. Either I drain them using the can lid (PRO TIP: stop the can opener just short of taking the lid clean off and then you can drain the can and lift the lid up to empty the can afterward, without ever having that lid come all the way off and endanger you with its terrifying, razor-sharp edges), or I just dump everything in, liquid and all. That bean juice tends to be thick, so it comes in handy for stews and what not. Mmmmmm… bean juice.

HALFTIME!

Brian:

My buddy Big Rick West Virginia (his name is important, in that it definitely should affect how seriously you take his opinion) commented on Facebook yesterday with what might be either the stupidest or most brilliant idea ever: the least boring candidate wins every presidential election. Going back over the last dozen-plus, it's pretty wild how much he doesn't seem to be wrong. My question is two-sided: 1) how much of this is hindsight, and 2) can any candidate be less boring than Trump?

I agree with Big Rick West Virginia. Trump was more interesting than Hillary Clinton. Obama was more interesting than both Romney and John McCain. Bush was, somehow, more interesting than either John Kerry or Al Gore. I think being an illiterate war puppet helped his cause on both those fronts. Bill Clinton was more interesting than both Bob Dole (who was already dead by the time he ran in 1996) and Bush’s old man. You live in a mediaocracy, so it makes perfect sense that the more telegenic candidate would get more attention and consideration from voters than some charmless pud like Al Gore. This has been the case ever since Kennedy dunked Richard Nixon into the toilet during their debates in 1960.

The funny thing is that neither party LIKES this trend. Every election cycle, they still wanna push whatever cardboard cutout dipshit they can find wandering the halls of Congress to run, because they believe voters want stability in the form of someone who looks like they belong in an ad for Fidelity investments. That’s how you end up having to care about some dude named Charl Whitebutt every election cycle. Voters don’t want that shit. They wanna be entertained, and who’s more entertaining than a serial fraudster who never knows how to end a sentence? NO ONE, I tell you.

That said, I do think there could be a candidate less boring than Trump in 2020. That might just be standard liberal wishful thinking, but Trump is an incumbent and incumbents are inherently boring. Trump himself is an EXTREMELY boring man. As David Roth has noted many times, there’s nothing intriguing lurking beneath his surface. His act wore thin even before he became president. What you see is what you get, and you’ve seen so, so, so much of it over the past four years. Only the 35% of Americans who have succumbed to neofascist brain disease still think that shit is new and fresh. For the rest of us, fucking Ed Sheeran would be a more exciting alternative candidate. The Democratic field may have its fair share of old nutcases and wannabe oil lobbyists, but some of them are still more exciting than Ed Sheeran.

But again, that tilts toward wishful thinking. We’re firmly into the dystopia now, which means we aren’t going back. It means that from now on, people will likely only accept presidents who are even crazier and more desperate for attention than Trump. Like his kids.

Patrick:

Throwing a home run hit by the visiting team back is trashy, right?

It’s fucking stupid. You just got a free ball. They use 120 of those for every single game. They don’t need it back, and it’s not like the Yankees are gonna be psyched out because Milt in the bleachers divested himself of a lifetime souvenir. Their home run still counts. The visiting team doesn’t notice your bullshit as much as you think they do. MLB owners laugh at your naiveté. Keep the stupid ball.

Sam:

I've got to call bullshit on some of my friends. It seems that after any of my friends consume some mouth-burning, sweat inducing food, they all talk about their post-shit nightmares. Their assholes burned during their morning after shit. However, I've never had this experience. Is this all a lie, or do I have an indestructible gastrointestinal tract?

I can tell you from firsthand experience that this is NOT a lie. When people tell you that they experienced rectal dysfunction thanks to a pot of five-alarm chili, believe them. As for you, I’d tell you that you have some kind of magical cast iron tummy. You know who else has that superpower? Literally everyone who lives outside of North America and Europe. If you’re reared on spicy shit and your body is capable of producing melanin, chances are your spice tolerance is higher than the average Ohioan’s.

Matthew:

If there was a biopic about you, how often would you watch it? You’d presumably watch an early cut of Magary so the studio could say they had your blessing, but what beyond that?

I’d never watch it. I may have a massive ego but, counterintuitively, that ego is actually what would prevent me from tolerating a biopic of myself. All I would do is bitch about everything they got wrong. I’d be pissed they didn’t let me write, direct, and star in it. "Rainn Wilson as me? Are they fucking kidding?" The only thing I’d watch is my mailbox for the royalty check to come in, and then I’d bitch that the check wasn’t big enough.

It’s a predictable irony that I wrote at Deadspin for over a decade, and in that time exhausted miles of column space bitching out other columnists and reporters for getting stories wrong, while at the same time IMMEDIATELY dismissing anything written about me as invalid the second I came across anything that I deemed to be untrue or inappropriately critical. I’m just like every other shitbag I rag on, and I’m probably the last to know it.

So I’d rather just watch the biopic of myself I have running in my head. Same goes if 60 Minutes ever profiled me. I still have daydreams about Lesley Stahl or some other octocentagenarian introducing me by being like, "He’s sold over 500 million books and solved global warming, but Drew Magary isn’t quite finished yet." But if they profiled me for real I know they’d just fuck it all up.

I can watch my Chopped episode50 times though. And I have.

Peter:

Am I missing something about corn tortillas? They fall apart the second you fold them or bit into them and all the filling falls out, they don't taste particularly good. I'll take a flour tortilla any day. Am I wrong?

You are, but don’t take it from me. Take it from everyone living south of Kansas who’s about to hunt you down and beat the shit out of you to get the message across more clearly.

The reason you hate corn tortillas is likely because (foodie pedant alert!) you’re eating shitty ones. Like those Mission brand ones you buy at the store? They’re crap. They fall apart not because they’re corn tortillas, but because they’re made of old cardboard. Fresh ones are a whole other thing, especially when they’re used for enchiladas and other tasty dishes. You and I are conditioned to like flour tortillas more (I like both kinds) because those are the ones you get at Taco Bell etc, and because the mass-produced ones hold up better than their corn siblings.

I love a good, calorie-sodden flour tortilla. I love gettin’ my chew on, and I love it the bunched ends of a burrito, when the grease has all pooled at the bottom and the tortilla had has absorbed all of its un-nutrients. That’s my kinda shit. But corn tortillas are also perfect. If you go to any somewhat authentic Mexican joint that serves them doubled up for carne asada tacos, you’ll come back to them. You’ll see the light, amigo. If you don’t, well shit that just means more for me.

William:

In basketball, is it an “And One" before you shoot the free throw, or does it only become one if you make it? I was sure it was the former, but then I heard an announcer say “And one, if he makes the free throw."

In my mind, it’s an And One the second the foul is called. Not everyone is gonna agree with that, but I always cry out AND ONE when the ref gives the signal. This is because the "one," to me, is the free throw. You get one free throw to go with your basket. If you don’t sink that free throw, well then that’s your fault for being Ben Simmons. You blew the and one. It’s still an and one; you just wasted it. If you DO sink the free throw, you completed the process of the and one. I’m not gonna scream the phrase out AGAIN, but at least you did your job.

Douglas:

If you could grow an extra set of arms (and your brain would develop the extra dexterity to use them effectively), would you do it? You would be a freak, and you would have to have custom shirts and jackets, but think how useful it could be.

I do not want extra arms. I could have used them back when my kids were all six and under, when I had to change diapers and wash bottles and pay bills and eat crackers all at the same time. But now? No need. I can’t even drink anymore so it’s not like I require an extra arm to hold my beer. I need one arm for holding my phone and that’s about it. The other one I’ll happily donate to Rick Allen of Def Leppard or something. I don’t wanna be a lamer version of Doc Ock. Everyone would stare and no one would be impressed.

Matt:

I'm in an overly contentious argument with a friend about fruit salad. Does fruit salad have syrup/dressing on it? Or does chopped mixed fruit qualify as a fruit salad?

I don’t think I’ve ever had a dressed fruit salad, unless you count adding a sugar and maybe a bit of water to underwhelming chopped berries to help them taste like something. Otherwise, a fruit salad to me is just a bunch of chopped-up fruit with nothing else on it. I don’t need some hoity-toity balsamic glaze to make it an Official Salad. I’m not even gonna eat the thing anyway. I only have eyes for the bowl of barbecue potato chips at the other end of the spread.

Rob:

If you were one of the big Marvel (or any other huge fanbase) movie stars, How long would it take for those large ComicCon type panels to get really old? Would you be appreciative of being a big star, or would it become soul sucking to placate like that?

I think the first panel is fun for roughly five minutes, and after that it becomes a wait in a doctor’s office.

Email of the week!

Dennis:

You know this napkin. This fucking napkin. It's the kind you find on the countertop at your local pizza shop. They're cheap, thin (is there such a thing as half a ply?) and come in tall, spring-loaded dispensers. They even have a name: the tall-fold. You have used twenty-seven of these nearly useless things to keep your fingers semi-clean while eating a single slice. If you're like, "I dunno those napkins aren't so bad," then I don't know what to say to you. My question is what to do with the dirty ones mid-meal. They're not designed to lay on your lap, proper-style, and the places where you encounter them aren't like that anyway. But it seems gross to leave them out in full view. I find myself balling them up and storing them between my legs. But that's a whole different kind of nasty. I'm also palpably afraid someone will use their cell phone to record my hands making all those crotch trips. I really don't need to be in a viral video right now. Your advice would be appreciated.

Leave them in full view. The kinda place that uses those napkins probably isn’t gonna frown at you littering a table with them.

This article originally appeared on VICE US.