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.
Happy Friday, all, and Happy Summer!!! I am still working through old questions, so I have two this week from Daryl, one of which is about music from the 80’s, and one about Boston history. After that, I tackle a couple more from last month's #MisfitMischief (tonight around 7:30 EDT!) about food (common theme), coping mechanisms and Middle Eastern Fashion…spoiler: Alex hates underwear!
Let’s get to it.
Submitted by: Gringo Suave
What is your favorite Culture Club song?
Daryl, I have some bad news for you, and really for just about everyone who grew up and/or came of age during the British new wave/synth pop invasion of the 1980’s. Culture Club sucks. They sucked at the time, you should have all known it and you should all feel some sense of collective shame now at your oversight.
Here is my biggest question about Culture Club: why do they have a drummer? Seriously, listen to anything they recorded and try to find an actual drum...it is a lot harder than you think. OK, that is an exaggeration, a whole bunch of their songs have actual drums. But an awful lot also rely on drum machines, that toxic ear-cancer that infects so much of the dreadful schlock that cursed popular airwaves between 1981 and 1987.
The answer is that I don’t have a favorite Culture Club song (although my children do own a chameleon, so…) Their music is boring, poorly-produced, thin and not terribly interesting. As much as any other popular band I can think of, they are a case of style over substance, existing mostly because of the temporally outrageous dress and antics of their under-talented lead singer, antics that seem campy and quaint today. It’s like someone took The Cure, removed everything that was good about The Cure, and then replaced Robert Smith’s hair with a really stupid hat.
I guess they are relevant because they are indicative of the times, but do we really need to spend a whole lot of time memorializing the half-decade long clown show that existed after Talking Heads and The Clash but before U2 and Guns N Roses? Culture Club isn’t more historically representative of the times than, say, The Backstreet Boys...and I don’t see Millennials holding on to the ridiculous notion that they are still worth listening to.
N*Sync, on the other hand...
Did you throw a chest of tea overboard into Boston Harbor?
This may also come as a surprise, Daryl, but I am 34 years old, and was therefore not yet born in 1773 when the Boston Tea Party took place. I have, however, been to the museum, where they let your throw fake tea into the harbor, so I guess in that sense I have…
That is, if you are coming to Boston, a surprisingly cool museum. It is over near the Boston Harbor Hotel and the Children’s Museum, and the whole tour takes maybe an hour, but it is really interactive and interesting. It is not worth scheduling a whole day around, but it is definitely a good take-in.
Funniest part of the Tea Party...it is the most important single event in the lead-up to the Revolution, it is widely studied, broadly taught and well-understood by every school child in America. It was a super big deal at the time, and has been ever since...and yet no one thought to write down where it actually happened!
It is broadly believed to have taken place at Griffin’s Wharf, although that fact is somewhat disputed. Which is only somewhat helpful anyway, as Griffin’s Wharf is long gone, torn down and filled in a hundred years ago as part of one of many landfill projects in Boston (fun fact: South Boston, East Boston, Charlestown, Back Back and the South End are all largely landfill. Watch this, it’s fascinating. Another fun fact: I live in a part that is NOT landfill, and there is your one clue to “Where’s Alex?” for the day.)
To make matters even more fun, there doesn’t seem to be a great record of exactly where Griffin’s Wharf was, either, so modern historians are left with “It was probably near the foot of Pearl Street” (currently, a Thai restaurant and hair salon across The Greenway from the Intercontinental Hotel).
So, yes, in a city that celebrate its history and still sports a number of buildings and other structures that have been standing for a couple hundred years, we seem to have lost our most noteworthy place.
Also, the Battle of Bunker Hill wasn’t fought on Bunker Hill, but whatevs.
Submitted by: Lady Catherine
Why do people like caramel corn?
Um...how about cuz it's delicious?!?! Have you no respect for State Fairs? Or for Crackerjack, which is so important to baseball that they put it right there in the Baseball Song and baseball is basically The Statue of Liberty’s favorite sport!?!?
In a decade in which Salted Caramel has emerged as a key new flavor featured prominently in cookies, ice cream and various other confections, it seems apropos that we celebrate the salty, caramelly mother of that flavor. High end restaurants now sell salted caramel mousse, or creme brulee for like $18, but boardwalks and county fairs across America still churn out its inspiration by the $3 bucketful.
Since I have already covered some Boston History today, let’s take a detour 1,000 miles west to my other favorite city, The Second City: Chicago, IL.
WAIT...quick trivia!!! What is the windiest major city in North America?
Answer: Boston, MA (I’m setting the definition of “major” as being “bigger than Lubbock, TX or Rochester, MN”.)
Anyway, caramel corn, like a lot of really great things (including Ferris Wheels and Pabst Blue Ribbon!) was invented for the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. While most great things in Illinois come from about two miles west of Jackson Park, the World’s Fair is a really remarkable achievement and a testament to the ability of pre-1900 Chicago to build magnificently grand things in almost impossibly short periods of time. In 1850, Chicago had 4,000 residents. 10 years later, it had exploded to 30,000 and by 1890, it had 1.1 million, despite nearly burning to the ground in 1871. The city would triple in size again over the next 40 years. America has seen nothing like that before or since.
In this same spirit, organizers and builders of the fair, led by Daniel Burnham and Frederick Law Olmstead, took an empty parcel of lakefront and turned it into a 600 acre metropolis in less than two years, despite an abnormally cold and snowy winter. Like its host, The White City emerged from nothing to become the nation’s focal point in seemingly the blink of an eye. The fair took up residence in the summer of 1893 and entertained nearly 27 million people during its existence (US Population in 1893: probably a shade under 70 million).
On October 9th alone, the fair counted 751,026 admissions, which made it America’s fifth largest city on that day, behind only New York, Chicago, Brooklyn and Philadelphia. Even in 2017, that would be America’s 18th largest city - bigger than Detroit, smaller than Charlotte.
Today, the fair is probably most noted for its two most memorable subplots: the assassination of Mayor Carter Henry Harrison and the subsequent discovery of the activities of Henry Webster Mudgett, aka Dr. H. H. Holmes. All of this is pretty well narrated in Devil in The White City, the extraordinary historical work by Erik Larson that is today’s “Alex’s Book Recommendation”. Really, I promise...it’s an incredibly engrossing book about Chicago, the Fair, Holmes and the eventual assassination of Harrison. 11/10, highly recommended.
Submitted by: Mike Out Yonder
How many raisins does it take to make the best oatmeal raisin cookie? Show your work.
Raisins are foul abominations of decrepit fruit made by people whose conscience is as black as a serial killer. I bet H. H. Holmes loved raisins. I’ve been over this like 100 times...there are at least a dozen great things to do with a grape - eat it, put it in a salad, freeze it and use it to chill wine, make jelly, jam, juice, wine...WINE!!! - why on earth would you dry it out until it is a rodent-turd sized piece of sour rubbery horror?!
And if you have already accidentally ruined your grapes by leaving them out in the sun for a week, why on earth would you double down on your mistake by ruining a perfectly good cookie?!?! Frankly, adding oatmeal to a cookie is kinda stupid, but I can live with that if you get the rest of the recipe right (hint...yes chocolate chips, no raisins). But compounding your minor oatmeal mistake with a catastrophic raisin poisoning? You oughta be thrown out of the kitchen for that, and I am not entirely sure that the death penalty should be off the table.
So the best oatmeal raisin cookie has zero raisins, no oatmeal and a whole bunch of chocolate chips. I can’t believe you would even ask me this...maybe you should sit in your corner and think about what you have done.
Submitted by: Hoss Fuentes
The best way of coping in these trying times: 1.) Demon rum 2.) Screaming goat videos 3.) Cheesing
Hmm...I am not really sure what “cheesing” is, so I will Google it. Oh, look, Urban Dictionary has an entry this should help...OH HOLY HELL WHAT THE FUCK HAVE YOU DONE TO ME YOU DERANGED BASTARD?!?!?
OK, if I am being honest, I was a little disappointed because I actually expected the UD definition of cheesing to be a lot creepier than it was. I mean, part of the reason I do this is so people can ask me totally off-the-wall questions that make me cringe but demand my attention before I gasp in horror. You know, like following @nochiefs on Twitter. And cheesing is a pretty fun one that I am glad you asked about, but I was honestly hoping it would be something really, really off the wall.
I actually can’t even figure out if cheesing is a real thing, or just something that Trey Parker and Matt Stone made up for an episode of South Park. I guess the brilliance of South Park is that it really could go either way...I mean, I don’t think you can get high by sniffing cat urine, but it probably wouldn’t be the weirdest thing that anyone ever got stoned off of (did you know that you can actually shoot cheese? If heroin has lost its effectiveness, an addict can mix it with a warm, soft-fat cheese like brie and shoot it for a much more intense high...it is pretty well covered in most biographies of Keith Richards).
I think that you all know me well enough to know my answer to this...it’s always going to be the demon rum for me. Or, more specifically, the demon vodka, which I don’t really consider a demon at all, but rather an angelic force for good bestowed upon humanity by Bacchus at the benevolent request of Aphrodite in hopes that all humans would be able to see their potential mates as being as beautiful as she was. Also, whoever the god of dancing was probably helped out, too.
But, as long as I have covered Keith Richards and the Demon Life (rum, whatever) let’s all take a minute to appreciate this non-famous Rolling Stones gem which is both a precursor to grunge, and contains the sublime “One day I woke up to find, lying in the bed next to mine, someone that broke me up with the corner of her smile...”
Submitted by: Poochini
Do those Saudi guys wear underwear under those togas?
Well, if it is Prince Fahad Al Saud, I am going to choose to think that he doesn’t, because that guy is pretty hot. I know the King just reshuffled his household and named a new heir, but he should probably go back and make sure that Fahad has an appropriately prominent and hopefully shirtless role.
The answer seems to be that guys wear pretty much what you wear under their Thobe...boxers, a T-shirt and possible shorts or pants. Women seem to vary a little more in what they wear under an Abaya, with the most conservative women wearing another full length dress on the off chance that their Abaya moves a bit in the wind and exposes a seductive ankle or a flirtatious wrist. A more open-minded woman may wear shorts or jeans or something equally comfortable, or maybe just her underwear.
I’m not going anywhere that I have to wear a fucking potato sack by law, so we can rule that out right off the bat, but if I did, I’m not wearing anything under it. As long as I am being oppressed by a backwards culture of knuckle dragging woman-haters, I am at least going to be pretty comfortable while I do it, and that means letting my lady bits get as much air in that blast furnace as possible.
While we are on the subject, underwear is totally overrated. It’s just an extra garment that I have to buy and wash and put away and remember to put on just so I can worry about making sure that it is not leaving annoying visible lines. Outside of its ornamental benefits in situations where the visual effect is a key part of a desired aesthetic;-), it is much more hassle than benefit.
I know there are alleged hygiene benefits, but I am pretty dubious of the validity of that defense. If you really stop and think about it, what benefit exactly is your underwear providing? Is it dramatically more sanitary than the insides of your skirt? I find that hard to believe. I’ll admit that, even though I can rationally tell you it is not needed, I always wear underwear with pants because it seems like I should. But skirts? Meh...I mean, more often than not, yes, but if I don’t have any clean ones, or maybe they are all in the laundry and I don’t feel like walking down the hall to get one…
Also I have a couple of dresses that show every tiny little underwear line. One is a very Asian silk/satin-looking, high-collared, floor-length dress with a very aggressive thigh slit that is an absolute knockout, and I also have a couple of snug jersey dresses that are super comfortable and adorable, but are a nightmare with any underwear at all. None of them are a threat to flash anybody anything that I don’t mean to flash them. So with those, I’m going to skip the underwear and not wear a bra either because wearing any underwear is just going to draw attention to the fact that I am wearing it, and what is the point of having no boobs if you can't eschew those wicked chest harnesses now and again?
So, to wrap up this non-sequitur...Saudi guys are almost certainly wearing underwear. Your wife or girlfriend? Maybe not.
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.