Ask Alex - February 2, 2018
Welcome back to "Ask Alex", where I answer all of your stupid questions with even dumber answers. Have a question you need answered? Tweet it, email it or submit it here and I will get to it (maybe) next week.
Well, you sure are in for a treat this week, because Alex is going off on some tangents. You’ll learn about the history of tampons to start off with, and then all sorts of terrible things about Philadelphia, combined with a little bit of boxing history. I name my Groundhog Killing All-Star team, discuss tax cut survival techniques, give you a little bit of a walk down Rihanna lane, and then finally go over some basics on talking about prior relationships with your significant others.
Happy reading, and for those asking, Patriots 31-13...two best players on the field are wearing #12 and #87 in white and that will be enough to overcome an otherwise superior Philladelphia roster.
Submitted by: Nutella Riot
Is it wrong to steal tampons from a cashier-less Amazon Go store? Put another way, why on earth would I steal tampons? Also, is this a situation where a citizen’s arrest is proper? Also, why would I arrest myself for stealing tampons?
Stealing is wrong. I’ll grant the Jean Valjean exception, but stealing things you don’t need to survive is wrong.
I can think of several reasons why you might steal tampons, though. I mean, you may have your period, for one. I’m pretty sure that guys can have babies now, if Vox is to be believed, and that means you can get periods. AND GOOD FUCKING LUCK WITH THAT.
Or you may be stealing them for someone else who has her period. I dunno...maybe you are broke, or homeless or in some other kinds of dire straits, and your wife or girlfriend or other kind of acquaintance is in need. Not to be too serious, but homeless shelters (especially ones who cater to women) are always in need of feminine hygiene products...it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to realize how indescribably horrible it would be to have your period while homeless and without any access. That’s my PSA for the day.
You are also getting a history lesson on tampons, because women have been menstruating since as long as there have been humans, and they have been seeking ways to mitigate the grossness of that since about four minutes after the first human woman got her first period. The ancient Egyptians used a variety of (mostly disgusting) substances to treat a number of different gynecological problems, and those are the first records we have of women inserting non-body parts into their vaginas.
The ancient Greeks were also users of various vaginal insertions, although it is unclear whether or not they did so to stop vaginal bleeding. (The confusion is related to a translation of the word “motos” from Hippocrates works). 4th Century Indians used tampons made of rock salt and oil, which may not be super effective in stopping bleeding, but would likely work really well as a contraceptive (salt is a spermicide). But, um, it kinda sounds like it would sting, maybe?
There is better evidence that women in ancient Japan used paper tampons held in place by a bandage. Sadly, they had some serious absorption issues and needed to be changed 10-12 times a day, which is...not ideal. In slightly later Europe, there are some scholars who believe that the plant Blood Moss got its name not, as is sometimes believed, from its efficacy as a battlefield dressing, but by its usage by menstruating women.
That is also where the history of the tampon starts to intertwine with the history of battlefield dressings even more closely, and that relationship continues throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. And no, I don’t find it at all coincidental that we are talking about both gunshot wounds and menstruation...
As early as the 19th century, small plugs of cotton or linen were commonly used by military doctors to plug bullet holes, and also seem to have begun gaining popularity with women. It is not at all clear whether this idea was first used as a battlefield medical device or a feminine hygiene product. But eventually, there came about two different varieties of medical products intended specifically for stopping menstrual bleeding: one with an applicator and one without (o.b. is from the German for “no pad”).
There were, of course, objections, because you simply can’t talk about women’s vaginas without drawing some sort of pearl clutching from an old man somewhere. Religious leaders thought that they would make girls prone to “erotic feelings”, and sometimes warned parents that their daughters hymens would be broken if they used tampons. And, like, what man would ever take her then, amirite?
These sorts of nonsensical objections lasted until about World War 2, when huge numbers of women joined the workforce, and it simply wasn’t practical to try and manage a period for the suddenly large number of working women. This is, of course, a sort of modern irony: tampons are one of the great liberating, feminist inventions of the last two centuries, and yet there is now a branch of feminism that views “free bleeding” as a somehow women-friendly idea.
Beyond the obvious, there are a lot of uses for tampons, and a lot of reasons you may be stealing them. They make good emergency bandages (sterile, packaged in waterproof sleeves, ultra absorbent), or bloody nose stoppers. There are rumors that Army Medics often carry them in their medi kits to stop bleeding until better help can be obtained. They can filter sediment or floating particulates out of dirty water in a pinch. Combined with a drop of chapstick or petroleum jelly, they can be torn apart and used as a fantastic fire tinder. In fact, I kinda wonder if survivalists should sort of always carry a couple with them for emergencies...
All of which means, that no, you should not arrest someone (including yourself) for stealing tampons. They are a legit miracle of science, a wonder product that has dramatically improved the lives of women and that provide real benefits to soldiers in war zones and people trying to survive in dangerous, unforgiving places. I mean, yea, you should pay for them, and they aren’t quite as important as Valjean’s bread was, but there is a good chance that the person stealing that tampon has a really good use for it...
Submitted by: TJWFW
Next week, the Super Bowl will result in one of two outcomes: SJW outrage or Tom Brady Tears. Both are beautiful to think about, so who should I cheer for in the Puppy Bowl?
The Mastiffs. You should always root for the biggest dogs possible, because big dogs are better dogs. I mean, it’s perfectly logical, right? If puppies are good (duh) then more puppies are better. And you can’t get more puppy than a Mastiff! I’m not sure that they have the speed or the intelligence to beat the German Shepherds, but if they can get an early lead, grind the clock and let their superior size wear down the German’s front, they can win the game.
Funny story. One of my kids (Twin #1) loves German Shepherds, mostly because of Chase from Paw Patrol. I mean, she LOVES them, so much so that once at about age 4 she saw one about 50 yards away and started excitedly screaming “Mommy! Daddy! A German! A German!” Which made me really glad that there are no Mexican Shepherds, because that would have been super awkward…
Much more importantly, there is a game at hand, and your rooting interests should be pretty obvious. Sure, everyone is tired of seeing Tom Brady win Super Bowls...I get it, watching the same brilliance over and over again gets a little boring. As great as A Tale of Two Cities is, you would get a little tired of it if you were never allowed to read another book. Likewise, Casablanca might start to get tiresome if you were never allowed to watch another movie.
Former player and current announcer Gary Lineker once said of soccer “Football is a simple game; 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans win.” And to some extent, that is what the NFL has become for the last several years. Impossibly athletic men carry out remarkable feats of running, leaping, throwing and catching and then the other team does something stupid and the Patriots win. It is probably really frustrating for the rest of you to watch.
But let’s be real here, are you going to root for a team from Philadelphia? They booed Santa Claus. They put batteries into snowballs and throw them from the upper deck. They once cheered because a rival player who had the audacity to beat them too many times lay motionless and temporarily paralyzed on the field. They punch police horses. Who punches a horse?! You have to be a really unique blend of drunk, stupid and asshole to punch a horse. But apparently not unique enough that it didn’t happen in two consecutive weeks…
These, however, are just individual anecdotes that are embarrassing to people from Philadelphia, but can be passed off as non-representative of Eagles fans. You know what can’t, though? The jail in the stadium! Fans at Eagles games were so drunken, lawless and despicable for so long that the city felt the need to construct a jail in the stadium along with a courtroom with a permanently-assigned Common Pleas court Judge to handle the huge volume of offenses during games.
Also, my husband’s father told me a story once about a bus trip with a bunch of Flyers fans (he has a cousin who lives in Woodbury, NJ) to see a game in Washington against the Capitals that would make the brothers at Delta Tau Chi squeamish. The aggregate Canadian Club consumption was eye-opening.
As much as it pains you, then, the choice is rather obvious...on the one side we have the global, economically vibrant center of medicine and education, led by it’s legendary, nearly godlike Quarterback with the square jaw, supermodel wife and impeccable fashion sense. On the other, a bunch of scrapple-eating, Yuengling-swigging, cheesesteak lovers. OK, props on the cheesesteaks, cuz those things are awesome.
One last fact. OK, two last facts...the first is that @shannityshair is an Eagles fan, and that alone should be enough to turn you onto #TeamTouchdownTommy. Second, the Eagles’ name was inspired by the eagle on the National Recovery Administration posters during the New Deal. The Eagles are literally a celebration of Federal overreach, the authoritarian boot of big government and the republic-destroying idea that government “ought to be doing something”.
You need to make a choice, man. You’re either a free-thinking, liberty-loving Patriot, or a battery-throwing, authority-loving, deep state Eagle.
WAIT!!! Hold on...I forgot Philadelphia’s greatest crime…
In one of the great civic tragedies in American history, the city installed a statue to a fictional boxer, Rocky Balboa, as its most recognizable landmark in 1980. It then took a full twenty-five years before they found the time to put up a statue of their actual son, the great Joe Frazier. Even when they did, the only man to ever sting The Butterfly in his prime, the undersized, tough-as-nails Smokin’ Joe is relegated to some random corner of the city while the fantastical movie character (c’mon...a white, American heavyweight champ?) gets the most prominent spot in the city. Where are your priorities, Philly?
[Also...on Ali-Frazier, recommended reading.]
Submitted by: Anonymous
What’s been your secret to surviving the tax cut? I’ve relied a lot on canned food storage and home-brew fuels. But I don’t know how long I can hold out...
Well, it’s been rough. The intermittent electricity I can deal with, but the roving bands of feral dogs have been a real drag. I mean, I am running low on ammunition, and the zombie army hasn’t even arrived here yet! If they don’t raise our taxes soon, I don’t think I am going to make it to spring.
Let me run down the list of life-threatening afflictions that have arisen since this anti-humanity #GOPTaxScam:
So, you can see, this tax cut has really, really impacted me.
The truth is that the tax cuts are not that big a deal. Democrats are, of course, hyperventilating over their own fantasy-filled doomsday scenarios. But this is pretty typical progressive stuff - changes to any government program, no matter how small, will literally leave people dying in the streets. And since they convinced themselves that this was nothing but a naked cash grab for the rich, they are totally flabbergasted that lower-income workers would be happy about getting a tax decrease at all.
They are also pissed that the tax benefits seem targeted to leave out high-earning people in higher-tax states, which obviously targets Blue States disproportionately, but even this is based on some fuzzy math. There are definitely people who may see a tax increase because they are losing some of their mortgage and SALT deductions, but those will be pretty few and far between. If, for example, you like in a state with a 5% state income tax and you are in the highest Federal bracket (39.6%), the impact of the decrease in rates will almost certainly be greater than the impact on the lost deduction on your income tax. And if it isn’t, the net increase is probably going to be really, really small. One further fact mitigating this, those blue states tend to have higher incomes and costs of living, so they benefit from the decreased marginal rates more than the red states that suffer less from caps on SALT and mortgage interest deductions.
At the same time, Republicans are overselling it, too. It certainly is a nice short term bump in disposable income for workers - who doesn’t want a bigger paycheck next week? - but the promises of economic stimulus are pretty consistently overblown. Shit, I had a guy try and drop the Laffer Curve in my mentions earlier this week, who pretty clearly had only a very limited understanding of the Laffer Curve. If you’re using dubious, mis-applied economic theory to sell your ideas, well, your ideas are probably kinda weak.
And the celebration of every small bonus or raise that gets given out as if it is due entirely to tax cuts (and not general tightening of the labor market) is a bit much, too. The cut in the corporate rates is clearly a factor - but it was likely more of an excuse than an impetus. There is just no way that anyone would have gotten a raise if companies weren’t worried about retaining and attracting workers in a low-unemployment environment. To ignore this is simply ignoring the decision-making process at most every firm in the capitalist world. The tax cut just gave them an occasion to put it in a press release and get a little goodwill out of it.
That, however, is not the real problem that the proponents of this tax cut are conveniently ignoring. Much like the Bush tax cuts before them, the Trump tax cuts simply postpone your tax liability until another day. You see, when an entity has an unlimited ability to borrow, taxes don’t matter nearly as much as spending matters. Every dollar that the Federal Government spends has to be paid for by taxpayers at some point. In your state budget, it likely needs to be paid for in the year that it is spent, but at the Federal level, it can be paid for whenever they get around to it (or whenever lenders run out of patience and stop lending the Treasury money). Taxes, therefore, are an arbitrary amount that the government elects to collect this year...spending is a record of the amounts that they have to collect at some point.
For politicians, cutting taxes is the single easiest thing they can do, and not something you should ever give them much credit for. While Democrats are trying to make it an issue this year, there has never been a sane person upset that their own taxes were cut. Cutting spending, on the other hand, requires some serious political heavy-lifting...every line of the massive Federal budget has a constituency, and telling them “No” is anathema to everything politicians stand for.
All of which is super off-topic, of course, but what can I say...sometimes I get off-topic.
Submitted by: Buckley Roberts
So, to my question -- my wife and I (we’ve been married a long time, by the way) have never talked about past relationships. I think I mentioned a college girlfriend by name once, and I know that she dated “a tall guy from Ohio,” but that’s it. Oh, she knows about the woman I “dated” (more like friends with benefits) in grad school because they were friends and worked together, but even that we’ve never, ever talked about.
I’m comfortable with not talking about it and I think she is too. But I’m curious -- is that normal? Is that healthy? What do other couples do? Can talking -- or not talking -- about it cause problems? If we talk about it how much should we reveal? I sure don’t have anything to brag about, and the only thing I’m ashamed of is the one girlfriend who I dumped in a most cowardly and dishonorable way. (It was a bad situation and at the time it seemed like the moral equivalent of chewing my own arm off to escape a trap.)
I’d like to hear what you have to say on the subject.
I’ll answer all of those questions individually, but the short answer is: whatever works for you. There is no such thing as a “normal” relationship...every one is unique and will work or not work based on unique factors and circumstances.
Is it normal? Probably not...at least avoiding the subject entirely is not normal. I don’t think most people hand over a detailed anthology of their past relationships, but it is pretty typical that you have talked a little bit about the important relationships in your past.
I have actually talked about this, or similar things, with a good number of people on Twitter, mostly women, and reached out for some input this week as well. As expected, the approaches are really all over the place (honestly, people tell me EVERYTHING). One woman, married at least 20 years at this point, began dating her husband really young and couldn’t imagine knowing that he or she had been with someone else. Another, also married over 20 years, told me that she is a little bit ashamed of some of the things she did before she was married and would never, ever give her husband all of the details. My experience is that her husband would probably be a lot less phased by it than she thinks he would, but I get the desire to minimize her own history. I heard a lot of "he/she has a general idea, and none of it is a secret, but we don't talk about every little detail." That seems to be the default.
I would say that I am at the other end of the spectrum, I don’t have any secrets from my husband...it’s not in my nature. He knows about everyone I have ever dated seriously, and all of my super slutty non-dating adventures, too;-). There is one ex-boyfriend that he is super jealous of, but that's a long story (and also kind of a joke).
That’s the good news...anything can work if you have the right people. The bad news is that any approach can be a mistake, too, although I feel like it is more likely to be a mistake in a bad relationship. Either someone gets weirdly suspicious over their partner’s past, or discovers a sexual or relationship history that they didn’t know of and can’t think of their partner the same way again. All of those, though, I think are just the excuse used to ruin a relationship that wasn’t salvageable to begin with. If one of you leaves the other because you found out they slept with another person before you dated...well, you probably had other issues.
And yes, talking or not talking could cause problems...it just depends on you and your wife. In the end, it only matters if one of you thinks that it matters and wants to talk about it. You may just not care, or you may actively want to NOT know...either one can make sense in its own way. I can see a couple of sources of trouble here: either one of you wants to know and the other doesn't want to talk about it, or you reveal too much. Even if you did want to know, maybe you only want to know names, timeframes and the rough reason for the breakup...not necessarily every guy she took home from a bar on a random Saturday.
I know that sounds like kind of a nothing answer, but I really don’t think there is a universal answer to this question. I guess I feel like you answered your own question...you are comfortable not talking about it and so is she. So what is the point of bringing it up? Certainly there is a chance that it is just a really fun discussion about terrible dating stories that you both laugh at intensely. But there is also a chance that one of your learns something you don’t want to know. I mean, clearly, you have some kind of a working assumption of how many guys your wife was with before you, and when...but maybe you are way off in that assumption. There could be real ramifications to finding out. At this point, unless it is causing some kind of friction in your marriage (which is doesn’t sound like), I’d just leave it be.
Funny story, though...I met my husband through my pretend sister. We had a lot of starts and stops in the early part of our relationship (all on me...it was a weird time for me. He is a saint whose patience with me was much more than I deserve) but were were exclusively and seriously dating by about the middle of 2006. Very, very early on, I met all of his local friends, including his very, very good friend Ally, whom he told me, in the interest of full disclosure, that he had dated in their late teens (so, like 10 years prior).
That sort of thing doesn’t really bother me, and Ally was engaged at the time to another of his best friends, which made it all seem perfectly tame. I mean, if her fiance was cool with it, why wouldn’t I be? Skip ahead a year or so, after their wedding, and I offhandedly asked him “How long did you guys date?”...thinking it was like a couple of months.
“Oh, about two years.” Two years?!?!? Say what?! Granted, it was their senior year of high school and freshman year of college (during which they were almost as far away as two people can possibly be while remaining in the continental United States), but still...I was a little taken aback by that. I mean, two years is “your mothers are starting to think you are getting married” territory... By that point, I knew him and both her and her now-husband well enough to not be actually bothered by it, but I feel like I would have approached meeting her very differently if I thought it had been that serious a relationship.
OK, this answer is too long, so I will stop with the stories, but if you dig through my Twitter history, you can find a recap of a potentially dreadful Suburban Moms Girls Night Out that ended at a Chinese food restaurant with several of my husband's ex-girlfriends telling teenage stories...which was awesome.
Submitted by: Mo-Lock, the Destroyer (via Lady Catherine)
Who's murdering the groundhog this year?
How much ground could a groundhog hog if a groundhog could hog ground? What, you didn’t realize that groundhogs and woodchucks are the same animal? Well, they are. They are the same vile, fat, disease-ridden, crop-eating, foundation-weakening rodents…
The obvious answer here is that experienced groundhog murderer Bill DeBlasio is the guy for the job. On this day in 2014, DeBlasio “accidentally” dropped a groudhog during a Groundhog Day celebration. A full nine-months later, the zoo where the groundhog lived quietly released a mysterious statement claiming that the groundhog had died just a week after the incident of “acute internal injuries”. Sounds like it was, I dunno, hurt in a fall!!! The zoo tried to claim that the animal died of old age, but Alex Jones thinks differently, and James O’Keefe was recently spotted near the zoo with a GoPro…
Adding to the intrigue, while organizers claimed that the groundhog at the event was the legendary Staten Island Chuck, they later admitted that, no, it had in fact been a stand-in named Charlotte (Chuck and the previous mayor, Michael Bloomberg, had a contentious relationship that organizers feared would carry over to DeBlasio). And Charlotte wasn’t nearly old enough to have died of any old age!!!
My only fear is that DeBlasio knows we are onto him, and he is trying to lay low until the heat dies down a bit. He has avoided the ceremony for four straight years now, almost certainly to keep the authorities at bay in their dragnet to untie the massive groundhog murdering ring that he is likely the kingpin of. There are just too many eyes on him to murder the groundhog this year without drawing unwanted attention to himself.
Never fear, though, because I have another candidate who I think can get the job done. While he doesn’t have any direct experience killing groundhogs, he certainly has a lot of experience studying the species. And he is an extraordinarily willing, if under-talented killer of rodents, so I foresee no trouble in him adapting his gopher-killing skills to groundhogs. So, yes, Bill Murray, hopefully with some help from D’Annunzio, is your guy...
One final question on Groundhog Day. Why is “six more weeks of winter” the lesser of the two outcomes? This is not a bad thing, people. The groundhog lives in Pennsylvania...when do they think spring comes to Pennsylvania?!?! Certainly not by Presidents Day. If spring really does show up in six weeks (the day before St. Patrick’s Day) it’d be a goddamn miracle of global warming that would thrill residents of the Northeast to no end. Shit, we’re not that far from Pennsylvania, and we’ll be lucky to see consistent signs of spring a full month after that.
Alex’s random old song of the week
Submitted by: Just Sean
What’s your Secret Society’s anthem?
We’re making this a question this week, because it is related.
During #MisfitMischief last Friday, we were talking about secret society meetings, in mocking the GOP’s absurd tizzy of the FBI Secret Society texts from earlier that week. I suggested to a couple Tweeps (January Jess and WinsomeBulldog were the most eager) that we maybe oughta start a secret society that plots world domination and eats Nutella straight from the jar. Mostly the latter.
If we are going to do that, though, we are going to need a soundtrack, right? Sadly, there are no good songs about Nutella, which seems like a massive cultural oversight. Like, Rihanna couldn’t have worked it into a verse of Umbrella somewhere?
That gets me onto the subject of Rihanna, who I love. And you are wrong if you don’t. She’s objectively the greatest hit-maker in the history of pop music, and has produced work of a remarkable musical diversity. I can’t pick Umbrella though, because it is lyrically lazy (c’mon...she stretched the word into an extra syllable for no reason!). And I can’t pick Love on the Brain, which is the best song she has ever made, because that stretches even my loose definition of “old”. I’m tempted to pick We Found Love, which has both a refreshingly positive message and the best club dance beat anyone has put into a pop song, um, ever. But, it gets a little repetitive and never quite lives up to that electric opening thump of the synthesizers…
All of which is just an excuse for me to link to more Rihanna songs, because every one of you has known where I was headed the second I mentioned her three paragraphs ago. Ri-ri has, of course, turned out the absolute perfect anthem for a secret society of women intent on taking over the world.
Bitch Better Have My Money
2/4/2018 05:03:29 pm
Alex, I can't begin to express how much I enjoyed and appreciate your response. I am amazed at the number and variety of subjects that you write about, and I can't imagine how you find the time and energy to do the research that this must require. (Or maybe you just know everything about everything?)
2/6/2018 12:25:30 pm
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Just a gaggle of people from all over who have similar interests and loud opinions mixed with a dose of humor. We met on Twitter.