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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Mailbag December 20, 2012

I asked, you provided.  Here is the first edition of the mailbag.  If you have question you want answered, IM me on Facebook, or send it to  These are real questions from real people.

I'll take some third party advice-ongoing debate in our home.  Should we get Pete (ed. not his real name) a cell phone. I won't say who, but one adult in the house says yes and one says no. -R.B., Lexington

I'll start by saying that my parenting advice is worth what you pay for it. I don't know how to parent, so I talk to my kids like little adults who I happen to have a little power over and hope that works. It usually doesn't. They don't do anything I tell them to and my son says "screwed" and "sucks" a lot.  I'm a shitty parent. Fortunately for everyone involved, my wife is a better parent than me, and she has recently covered the ground I am about to cover with you.

I have some inside information here. Pete is a fifth grade boy. As fifth grade boys go, he is a pretty good kid. Here's what you do.  Get a cheap cell phone you can add to your plan. Let him use it for your convenience first. Tell him it is not his, it is yours. When it is good for him to have it, give it to him. Remind him that it is your cell phone that you are letting him use. Don't hand it to him to use around the house to text buddies or call girls or whatever it is he actually wants to do with the phone. Give it to him when you are separated or when you might need to get in touch with him right away. 

See how it progresses.  The greatest chance is that he'll lose it at some point (He's a 10 year old boy, after all) and that probably forestalls your argument for another year (tell him this ahead of time).  If he does well, get him his own phone for fifth grade graduation.  You'll probably want him to have one in middle school anyway.

One last thing.  No 11 or 12 year-old needs a data plan.

What's your position on manscaping? R.H, Pamama

I'm not sure what all this question is meant to encompass. For the sake of accuracy, I'll break it into three categories: head, torso and junk.

We'll start with the admission that you're talking to a 41 year old guy who can occasionally see his own eyebrows. Combing them back is like cleaning up puke with a dry mop.  I shave them down to non-eyesight level. When it impacts the looks of your face, it is easy.  Get rid it, all of it.  Be handsome, or at least as handsome as your own personal mug can be.  Like is too short to have hair coming out of visible orifices. Unless you have Alec Baldwin-type confidence, you need to take care of anything visible going on with your ears or nose. I get the eyebrows trimmed up as well, because if I don't I look like Wilfred Brimley.  Your mileage may vary.

Chest and back are dictated by one thing. Your social circle.  Literally and figuratively, which pool are you most likely to be swimming in this summer? A shaving choice that goes over well at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas will likely get you ridiculed (at least behind your hairy ass back) around a bunch of 45 year olds at the local country club. In the end, you probably look more attractive shorn, but you just have to balance that against how much you want to be "that guy". If you are a 30 year-old bodybuilder, shaving probably won't make you "that guy", you'll just be "a guy" among the people you are around.  But if you are hanging around me and I notice your chest stubble, I'm making a mental note of it even if I'm not crushing you to your face.

Before shaving his pubes, every guy should ask himself one simple question.  "Am I about to shoot a porn scene?". If you cannot answer that question in the affirmative, put the razor down.

In sum, from top to bottom, it is: always, sometimes, almost never.

How do you get someone to stop saying "cool beans"? Intervention? Tough love? C.K., Lex
This one is easy and my answer foolproof. Start calling this person "cool beans" to her (I hope it is a her) face. Don't say it only in response to a "cool beans" or you'll sound sarcastic.  From now on, that is just her name.When she asks why, say very pleasantly, "Because you always say 'cool beans'". Don't make it sound like a bad thing, but don't stop doing it until she takes the phrase out of her vocabulary. I guarantee she'll quit before you do.
Is it pass-aggressive? Sure.  But that shit will work.

How do kids balance school work and sports? D.G., Baton Rouge, La.
By doing what interests them.  If this means throwing themselves into sports and other competitive pursuits while doing the bare minimum in school, that's fine. Before you quit reading, hear me out.

Before 9th grade, school doesn't count.  We try to tell ourselves otherwise, but its the truth. All we should worry about up to that point is developing study habits and making sure they don't fall behind. If your kids are in advanced classes, they need to perform well enough to stay in them. If they are in regular classes, they need to avoid being sent to remedial ones. There is no such thing as a permanent record, and middle school is pretty much like taking the bar exam.  It is something people have to do now because we had to do it.

Conversely, everything you do in youth sports matters. One, kids are building memories.  It might be the only chance they get on an athletic field. I sucked at high school sports, but I can remember every game I played in football and basketball.  Other than chemistry, where I had one of the best high school teachers who ever lived, I have almost no memory of being in a high school class at all. In general, I remember the guys I played sports much more fondly than the people in my classes. We weren't necessarily the best of friends, but we have more to talk about now.

Second, athletically builds on what has happened before. Teachers know the reputations of a very few kids when they get to high school. Usually if your reputation precedes you, that's a bad thing. Coaches know almost every kid by the time they hit the door, especially the ones who are supposed to make a difference.

Sports keep kid healthy, which is probably a bigger concern these days than keeping them smart. I'd rather my kids have to make up some ground academically in high school and college than be on their way to diabetes and other health related problems.  

Finally, and most importantly, there is this. Ultimately, almost no kid works so hard in sports that he or she ignores school. Of all the kids I grew up with, I can only think of one whose singular devotion to athletics messed him up in school. Granted, I knew a lot of good athletes who were crappy students, but one thing had nothing to do with the other.  What I saw a lot more of were guys who studied hard to stay eligible, people who learned to compete on the field then decided to compete in the classroom, kids who stayed out of trouble by going to practice and games and ended up in college rather than jail, and some who got to a junior college to play a sport and ultimately ended up with a free ride somewhere. Tons.

Should Lane Kiffin be drawn or quartered? R.T., Lexington

If all the Presidents in history had a Royal Rumble style brawl, who would win? Caveat: they're each the age and physical condition of their respective inaugurations, with all the contemporary medical advantages that might imply. Caveat 2: they all desperately want to win (so no one avoids fighting Lincoln out of respect) J.P, Lex
First of all, the best part about this would be if they all just appeared out of thin air and had only a couple minutes to assess the situation.  Every President before about 1950 would be shocked to see Obama there, and guys like George Washington might piss their pants. 
As for who would win, I think you have to look at three factors. Age when they went into office, athletic and/or military experience and the year in which they took office. On the latter point, here is my thinking. We generally accept that we as a human race are better at some things now than we were years ago.  Basketball, tennis, computers. 
But there are some things we've surely gotten worse at. Upper and middle class white landowners are probably noticeably shittier at fighting than our forefathers.  We just don't do it much. I think anyone from about 1900 on gets his ass kicked pretty quick. Not just FDR. Everyone. If skinny ass Lincoln takes on beefy Clinton in a bare knuckle brawl, Lincoln drops him in one punch. Dude probably wrestled a bear at one point in his life. 
This knocks out JFK, who at 43 was the youngest guy elected. Gerald Ford, who played center for Michigan and was a pretty big son of a bitch, might be the exception here, but since he was 61 when he took office, that probably does him in too.
I could take a racist stand here about Obama and black guys being better at boxing. There isn't any need to, though.  Barry O doesn't last five minutes.  We aren't talking about passive racism and fear taking hold.  We're talking overt, 1950s Ole Miss style, crazy assed racism from some of these early year guys. 
I think your favorites come down to two guys.  James Polk was one tough motherfucker. How tough? Polk showed up in Danville, Kentucky in 1812, ailing from urinary stones. You know who removed them? Dr. Ephraim McDowell. You know what he used for anesthetic? Brandy. The operation left him sterile (Polk, not McDowell), and he drank brandy beforehand. You want to fight him to the death? I don't.  Polk, a former militia colonel, was 49 when he took office. Relatively young. But Polk was also in poor health.  In fact, he died of cholera shortly after his first and only term.
That leaves one guy. Ulysses S. Grant.  Grant was 46 when elected, at the time the youngest President in history. A West Point graduate, he was of course the most famous Union General in the Civil War. I'm pretty sure Grant knew five ways to kill a man with his bare hands. He's the guy.

I'll get to more questions as soon as I can.  Wanted to get this out. 

Follow me on Twitter @AlexScutchfield 


Greg Edwards said...

Manscaping......I just....well...I can't......

Just curious.....where do you stand on head shaving? Thinking of forgoing the inevitable...!!

Scutch said...

I am a huge fan of head shaving. The minute I lose anything other than my temples, I am going bald as an egg.

Herzig Family said...

The Presedential brawl: Now that was some interesting logic. I can tell you had some fun with that one. I have to say though, you gave up on ol' Gerald too quickly. Yeah he was 61, but he had that "old-man strength" and confidence that certain old dudes carry around with them that even makes the toughest MMA fighter think twice when he sees one of these tough's get pissed. A Big Ten center was used to smashing guys around on a daily basis and doing it while bloody and in big-time pain. And I didn't see a mention of Eisenhower. Now granted the 1900 cut off immediatley put him out the running in your logic, but he was one tough mother if any of his biographies were correct. I suspect though, he might be too much of an intellectual though and Grant probably would have taken him out before he completed his analysis of the situation. Going with a guy as the winner who was a leader and survivor of the toughest and most brutal war the US has ever endured was a wise choice. Those poor bastards endured the worst of conditions and every illness under the sun and still got up the next moring to hike 15 miles wearing bug infested wool clothes in the summer heat of Virginia and then building a make-shift bridge to cross a river while also digging a half a mile of trench for protection only to then enter a three day battle 30 minutes later. Not only doing that for several years but figuring out how to lead men to do it consistently for many, many months through many states and fighting next to their side definitely gives the dude a leg-up in my book. Good choice.