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Tough Questions: If You Had to Do Something Every Day for a Year that You Don’t Already Do, What Would You Pick?

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Every week we ask everyone who hangs out around here to answer a tough question. This week:

If You Had to Do Something Every Day for a Year that You Don’t Already Do, What Would You Pick?

Rules are simple: When are you gonna finally shape up? This tough question forces you to collect your aspirations and put them into one actionable damn thing. What would you fix about the crumbling house that is your life, if you had to pick one daily thing? Would you do good deeds? Or would you at least stop doing evil ones as often? Look, it’s rough out there. You don’t know my life.

Alex Russell

Pete Holmes (comedian, TV host, and fictional advertizing baby) often talks about the idea that to create an hour of stand up you only need to write a minute a day. It’s an easy idea, but we’re all terrible at compartmentalizing ourselves. We don’t think in chunks; we think in finish lines. I would want to write one joke every day. I’m a weird obsessive about stand up comedy and I liked the (VERY, VERY) brief experiences I had trying to sell my own bullshit on a microphone. A kick in the ass every day to do some more would do me some good and a lot of audiences a whole lotta bad.

Jonathan May

Since there’s no way I’m going to start doing CrossFit or yoga on the regular, I’m going to have to go with prank-calling people from the payphone in the mall. The calls will be short, so I really just need a little spare change every day. Now you may say, “Jon, the mall isn’t open every day,” and you would be right. So on days following holidays, I would make up the calls I’d missed. Heading into my thirties, it seems like I should pick something more sensible like doing crunches or household chores, but honestly, this will be much better for the soul.

Andrew Findlay

I would go to bed by 10:30 every weeknight. This is just the lamest personal goal ever, but six hours versus eight hours of sleep makes a huge difference in overall levels of happiness and effectiveness in life. The problem is, I never, ever recognize that at 10:3011:30, or 12:30. It always seems like reading a little bit more, watching some television, or wasting time on the internet will make my life better, then I wake up very sad in the morning. Seeing as how the phrasing of the question is if you had to, this unfortunate pattern probably won’t change anytime soon.

Austin Duck

If there was something I could commit to for a year but haven’t yet, it’d definitely be doing something every day that I’m proud of. I spend so much time making stupid fucking mistakes, but if I could exercise, read, and write every day (if I had the fucking willpower), I’d love to commit to it. 

Brent Hopkins

The one thing I would commit to would be some flavor of art. As a kid I always wanted to learn an instrument but after failing repeatedly I completely gave it up and it has been a chip on my shoulder for years. With the time to do it every day, I think I could will myself to stop being awful and at least learn something simple to play like the recorder or ukulele. That being said, I am also terrible at general art, so I wouldn’t mind learning to draw or learning to paint either. I like solo relaxing activities so these would meld best with my personality.

Mike Hannemann

The easy answer here is exercise. But if I went with the easy answer, this wouldn’t be a tough question.  I would probably commit to reading War & Peace, every day, for 30 minutes. Being able to claim that I have read that monstrous tome has been on my bucket list for years. However, when a book has over 130 characters and you’re used to consuming media with a character called “The Ice King,” this can be extremely daunting. At the end of the day, doing this every day for a year may not get me to the end of the seventh longest novel ever written, but maybe I’d be able to tell who at least four of the characters are. That’s something I can’t boast about the recent season of The Walking Dead.

Scott Phillips

I read every single day. No, I’m not talking about Twitter and Facebook and other internet material, I’m talking biographies and a lot of nonfiction books. As a career sports writer, I tend to be fascinated by nonfiction writing because I want to mold my writing to emulate some of my favorite authors that have followed sports teams or athletes like Jeff Pearlman, Jack McCallum, or David Halberstam.

But between my job(s), my social life, and those nonfiction entries it doesn’t leave me a lot of time to read great works of fiction. I wish I read fiction every single day; it pains me deeply that I don’t. Most of my fiction reading comes in the form of the television shows that I digest while I work around the house or to give myself a break from writing or researching. I would love to dive into George R.R. Martin or Stephen King, or even re-discover Tolkien after my childhood hobbit fixation.

So I know I could easily commit to reading great works of fiction every day for a year, I just wish there was more time in a day.

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Tough Questions: If You Had to Use AOL Instant Messenger in 2014, What Would Your Screen Name Be?

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Every Monday we ask everyone who hangs out around here to answer a tough question. This week:

If You Had to Use AOL Instant Messenger in 2014, What Would Your Name Be?

Rules are simple: Imagine a world where everyone is back on AIM. It’s easy, if you try. Imagine conducting every important conversation (and let’s be honest, every not-at-all important conversation) with someone named SoxGuy2020 or xXQTAngelXx. We were really, really close to that reality until Google replaced AIM. We almost lived in an even dumber world than we do now. If AIM had crushed Google in the battle for relevancy, who would you be in 2014?

Alex Russell

I have no shame about my absurd choice of alex is so loud in my teenage years. It is amazing to me how long I once agonized over this concept. Now, I’m just Alex Russell. That’s boring. That’s simple. That isn’t an unfunny joke, like I like so much! RussellAndFlow, clearly.

Jonathan May

My screen name back in the day was thenjonsays, the concept of which I shamefully stole from a friend in high school. If AIM were alive and kicking now, I would probably go with whydidn’tyoujusttextme or markwahlberginfear. The more that I look at screen names though, the more I think they’re a precursor to hashtags. You try to evoke a whole mood in a hashtag, and the screen name was, like, your total identity on AIM. Yeah, you thought you were funny too in the late 90s.

Andrew Findlay

My AIM name would be mygchatnameisafindlay.recess@gmail.com, and whenever anyone messaged me I would reply with a frowny emoji and wait for them to contact me on a non-defunct messaging service.

It’s dead – leave it buried. Although it was beautiful while it lasted. My first substantive conversations with my current wife took place on AIM, and nearly every member of our generation is an amazing typist because they practiced on AIM for at least an hour every day during high school.

Alex Marino

xXxDaTaGuY03xXx

Because I work in data analysis and I graduated high school in 2003. And if you don’t have your birth or high school graduation year in your AIM screen name you’re a basic bitch. Throw triple Xs on the beginning and end (before the landmark Vin Diesel film) because people need to know how fucking cool and edgy I am.

Austin Duck

TQ: I would stick with my screen name from the way-way back: ADCloWnLoVE. Sure, the Insane Clown Posse have come out as closet Christians hiding behind some super-bizarre carnival misdirection, but shit. I grew my heart on clown love. (Note: This is not an endorsement of the Insane Clown Posse or its music).

Brent Hopkins

Not sure what he means by had to use AIM in 2014. I still am logged onto AIM 24/7/365. I also am on ICQ at all times as well. Screen name: Soulcalibur74, ICQ 161590484. Feel free to message me. If I were to change the screen name, though, I would go with my adult movie name obviously… Onyx Monolith. I am not a discreet man.

Tough Questions: What’s the Best Drink You’ve Ever Made Yourself?

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Every Monday we ask everyone who hangs out around here to answer a tough question. This week:

What’s the Best Drink You’ve Ever Made Yourself?

Rules are simple: Everyone has a story about some damn mixologist putting egg whites and little bits of tractor tire together to form the absolute best thing you have to try, but can you do it yourself? When you’re left to your own devices at home, what can you do with just bottles and glassware? What does the mad scientist within come up with you let ’em out?

Alex Russell

The best drink is three fingers of bourbon, two ice cubes, and a light pour of water. That’s the best drink, but there are times when bourbon and water will not achieve your goals. There are times that call for something sweet. One wintry night in Illinois we had nothing except root beer and Southern Comfort. There are a lot of ways to use Southern Comfort, but root beer is not traditionally one of them. We made the best of what we had and someone said “hey, I can’t believe there’s SoCo in this.” That’s the origin story of…

I Can’t Believe It’s Not SoCo (But It Is)

  • 1 part Southern Comfort (100 proof or standard are both fine)
  • 2 parts root beer (any brand)
  • Scoop of vanilla ice cream
  • Shot of caramel syrup (optional)

Mix the liquids without ice. Add the ice cream and drizzle the syrup over everything. It’s sweet — definitely too sweet — so make sure that’s the goal for whatever weird night you’re having.

Brent Hopkins

The best drink I ever made happened about a year ago in a bar in Korea. One of my acquaintances was having a birthday party and in Korea, you tend to buy the cake while you’re out as opposed to getting it well in advance like most folks do in the States. This was pretty late in the evening and for some reason the bakery owner gave us some non-alcoholic sparkling wine/champagne to help along the celebration.

The drink we concocted felt like a terrible idea at the time but turned into probably the best mixed drink I have had that will never be on any menu. The simple recipe:

  • 2 shots of Agavero tequila liqueur
  • About half a glass of sweet alcoholic or non-alcoholic sparkling wine
  • A slice of lemon or lime
  • Ice

Agavero is the best liqueur I have ever had and it goes down smoother than Bailey’s. Rosé would be a great choice for the wine, though if you don’t like sweet a drier sparkling wine would curb the sweetness of the Agavero nicely. We used lemon because limes are hard to come by in Korea. One more thing: This is not a  shot. There is no reason to drink it warm, though you could as it is extremely easy on the palette.

That’s it and it was one of the only times people I know who HATE tequila were completely okay sitting and having a glass.

Jonathan May

It’s a well-established truth that Southerners enjoy their sweet tea, and I have not come before you today, blessed children, to dispel such a central tenet of the Southern way of life. So, here and now is the quintessential sweet iced tea recipe. First, put about half a gallon of water on the stove to boil. As the water heats, take a gallon pitcher and add two cups of sugar (white, brown [I use brown]), then four large iced tea bags. Drizzle about two tablespoons of sorghum molasses over the sugar. After the water reaches boiling, pour it in slowly over the tea bags and sugar and stir with a wooden spoon. Then just cover and let the whole thing sit for about 20-30 minutes. Afterward just remove the tea bags after squeezing them out with a spoon on the inside of the pitcher and stir in cold water from the tap to just below the gallon line. Now, don’t get me twisted–this is seriously sweet tea. Like pancake-syrup sweet. But if you want something to mix with a little whiskey on a hot summer night, there’s nothing better.

Andrew Findlay

I would call myself a mixologist if that weren’t just the ugliest word with the most ridiculous associations. Point is, I put different liquors together a lot. After making myself what has to be at least a few hundred Manhattans, Martinis, Old Fashioneds and Sidecars, I, like a chef that no longer follows recipes, struck out on my own bibulous odyssey. The key is simplicity: You have your base liquor, your modifying liquor, your pinch, and your garnish. You can do a little bit more, but too much will ruin the drink. Take the Manhattan (absolute king of mixed drinks; in bars, order this drink to find out how good the bar is). In a Manhattan, the base liquor is rye whiskey, the modifying liquor is sweet vermouth, the pinch is one or two dashes of bitters, and the garnish is a cherry. I’ve been playing with this general philosophy of simplicity, and it has yielded some interesting stuff (the Get Off My Plane: Green Hat Gin, lemon lavender syrup, habanero bitters, lemon peel) and some horrifying stuff (the St. Petersburg: white wine, vodka, St. Germain, and olives). The drink I’m proudest of is the New Fashioned.

The New Fashioned
 
  • 4 oz Jim Beam
  • 1 oz simple sugar (put equal parts by volume sugar and water in a glass, microwave it for a minute, stir it around)
  • All the juice from half a lemon
  • 4 dashes Fee Brothers Aromatic Bitters

Pour all of these ingredients over ice in a shaker, then use a long mixing spoon to mix them until all contents are cold. Finally, serve it in an Old Fashioned glass with the ice still in it or straight up in a martini glass, your choice. This recipe makes enough for two, so if you have someone to share it with, congratulations, and if not, at least you’re about to be drunk.

Sugar cuts the bite of the Beam, lemon is never bad with whiskey, and the cinnamon in the Fee Brothers bitters carries some transmutative properties, because its alchemy transforms Jim Beam into a fancy drink. I love this recipe so much because the base liquor costs under twenty dollars. The worst part of making cocktails for yourself is that after you make three or four, half your expensive bottle of booze is gone. This recipe keeps the assault on your wallet to a minimum.

Alex Marino

One year a shitty retail job kept me away from home for Thanksgiving. I spent it with some friends of friends and holy shit, did they like to drink. One of our meal courses was a tray of shots. When I first arrived at the dinner I was told I had to make myself a “creamsicle.”

Creamsicle

  • Pinnacle Whipped Cream vodka
  • Orange soda

That’s it.  And it’s fucking delicious and tastes exactly like a creamsicle.  I didn’t come up with that myself because I retired from trying to invent drinks when I was 18 and decided to see what a “vodka gogurt” tasted like.

Tough Questions: What’s the Most You’ve Ever Lost on a Bet?

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Every Monday we ask everyone who hangs out around here to answer a tough question. This week:

What’s the Most You’ve Ever Lost on a Bet?

Rules are simple: we want to know, what’s the most you’ve ever lost… on a coin toss? Or anything, really. But that’s the line from the thing. You know, the thing?

It can be any kind of bet, but what did you put up that you can’t take back?

Alex Russell

I proposed this question this week because Vegas is on my mind. I go every year, but I am absolutely not “Vegas Guy.” It’s a rotten town that is wonderful in a very specific way, but I have a bad habit of giving back whatever I win before I leave. This trip I managed to double down and look really, really dumb as I did it at a blackjack table. It was impressive in a stupid sort of way, but that definitely could not last. I handed it all back half a day later in about five minutes. The $200-up, $200-down movement was awesome – in the actual definition of awesome. Maybe that’s not a lot of money, but it’s definitely quick.

Brent Hopkins

I am not really much of a gambler I (I am tight with money, as they say) so I don’t tend to lose anything monetary when I do choose to bet. I would say the biggest thing I have lost on a bet is my pride as a gamer, but that comes with being a blowhard and a highly competitive person.

Austin Duck

I don’t really bet money on things; I lost $10 in elementary school betting on the New England Patriots in a Super Bowl and, since then, eh. Not for me.

Jonathan May

Though not often a betting man, I am occasionally cajoled into such an enterprise, often to prove some kind of point or to hold something really lame at stake. In this case, it was a bet I actually won. The year: 1993. The place: Bulawayo Baptist Church, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. I was bet by one of the sixth graders that I couldn’t eat a lemon, peel and all. At stake was $5, a terrific sum. Ice cream danced in my eyes. So I ate the whole damn thing, there, in the fellowship hall in front of twenty or so kids. It was easily the worst decision I’ve ever made. I gained $5 that day, and later ice cream, but I gave up my third-grade dignity then. I didn’t know what a metaphor was then, but I sure do now. A lemon is a lemon is a lemon.

Andrew Findlay

I went to a Tunica casino with a wallet filled with one hundred dollars. I left that Tunica casino with a wallet.

Mike Hannemann

I’m not a betting man – never have been. I went to Las Vegas once, for a bachelor party. It was pretty standard fare, one night was spent just gambling. We all found our own game and many of us went our separate ways. I found myself at the blackjack table. After $200 lost, I had to quit. I had hit my allotted budget for gambling. Before I could leave, an older man next to me handed me a $20 chip and said he’d teach me how to play. Two hours and a ton of luck later, I was up $400. I was ecstatic. I wisely decided to leave at that point, paid the guy back with an equal chip and strode back to the hotel room. The final table I passed was Casino War. $20 a hand. I paused for only a moment. Less than 30 minutes later, I had lost all $400 and was ready to murder someone.

Tough Questions: What’s the Weirdest Place You’ve Ended Up on a Trip?

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Every Monday we ask everyone who hangs out around here to answer a tough question. This week:

What’s the Weirdest Place You’ve Ended Up on a Trip?

Rules are simple: Where did you end up when you didn’t mean to go anywhere? We’ve all ended up in weird places – like a cookout with an ex or Iowa – but the weirdest of them all are the unexpected ones. Where were you most surprised to find yourself, and how many goats were there with you?

Alex Russell

I went to London for a month in 2005, supposedly to learn how to teach middle school. I guess I did that, but I also spent a lot of that January in the pub you can see in the opening credits of Black Books. I was there with some people I knew and some I didn’t and we managed to make friends with the staff of the pub. It was a weird experience, because usually when I travel I keep to myself. This time, though, a spunky British lesbian and a gruff bartender became my travel companions for a really weird week. I still remember ordering a boilermaker (there are many ways to order one, but I wanted a shot of whiskey dropped in a beer) and having to explain what I meant to the guy. I spent a lot of time apologizing for being American, but never more than when he asked me plainly: “Why can’t you Americans just drink?

Brent Hopkins

The weirdest place I ended up on a trip had to have been when I went to Cambodia and ended up at a private house party. I was traveling with my friend Sara and we had a really nice tour guide to help us get to all the sites (the killing fields are more depressing than you’d imagine and Angkor Wat is far more impressive). He was a fascinating guy and told us about his life and how being a tour guide had allowed him to buy some land and start building his own house for his family. I really wanted to to drink palm wine, but we found it a bit hard to come by so on the last day we were there he invited us to his still-under-construction abode. This was far from the main tourist drag we had been on and he picked up a special treat for us when we were on the way… grilled dog. The meat was pretty good, though it wasn’t the first time I had dog, and I got quite drunk sitting outside with about 25 to 30 people for an impromptu housewarming.

Austin Duck

The strangest, most surreal place I’ve ever ended up on a trip was a Denny’s in Orlando, FL. Ena had never been to Disney World as a child so, right before she graduated college, we took a bus down, rented a cheap motel, and went to Disney and Universal. And here’s the bitch of it: The Atlanta bus station–with shoeless children eating nacho cheese from plastic containers with forks–was not the weirdest place. The Greyhound bus, where, as soon as we boarded (and sat next to the toilet because there were three of us), a toothless woman threw in a styrofoam cup, rendering it completely useless and, for the next eight hours, we were tasked with denying desperate customers their bathroom privileges… this wasn’t the weirdest. No, the weirdest was, after taking the “convenient shuttle” from our hotel to Disney (2 hrs), after wading through oceans of children so Ena could have the prototypical American experience, after It’s a Small World and The Haunted Mansion (sans Eddie Murphy) and Pirates of the Caribbean and a $15 burger and fries and the 100+ degree heat with full humidity and after waiting in a parking lot for an hour for that fucking shuttle to take us back to our hotel, we stumbled, numb, into Denny’s in some kind of psychedelic/psychotic daze, laughing through course after course of over-salted, brown food, me in a ridiculous Hawaiian shirt, Ena in shock at the heat and the awfulness that is Orlando, the waiters and residents of Kissimmee or wherever the fuck we were just staring at us… We definitely brought the weirdness–after all, it was just Denny’s–but, nevertheless.

Jonathan May

In 2010, I went to LA to visit my friend Cody with my friends Jenny and Ben. I love LA. The great people, all the great shows, Korean BBQ. But inevitably, I’m drawn inland toward Joshua Tree National Park. So we went. Cody’s family had a house there outside the national park. Now, the desert has always been one of my ideal landscapes. I love the hot and cold, the weird creatures, the rock formations; hence, I love Joshua Tree. Well, in the town of Joshua Tree (population 7,414 as of the 2010 Census), there happens to be one world famous museum. I had no idea such a thing existed, there on the outskirts of the brutal California desert, on the edge of the civilized world. But lo, on the rim of the city, off the highway, is the World Famous Crochet Museum. The two photos cannot possible illustrate how small this thing is. Literally three people, and no more, can fit inside. And inside? Inside?! Stuffed to the brim with crocheted objects, including the pictured taco (a personal favorite). I literally stood outside the small green building, looking around, hoping we were too far from LA to be Punk’d. It’s a surreal place to be in the middle of so much harshness.

crochet tacoworld famous crochet museum

Andrew Findlay

The weirdest place I ever ended up was the catacombs underneath Paris. I can’t really say “ended up” as if I didn’t plan to go there – it’s a major tourist attraction. It’s also creepy as hell. The quick history is that the limestone used to build Paris was mostly mined from underneath the city itself, a practice which continued until streets started falling into the tunnels honeycombing the city. The city leaders made further mining illegal, but still had all these tunnels, all these people, and all these overflowing cemeteries. Instead of exhuming old corpses and burying new ones ad infinitum, whoever was running Paris at the time decided to just toss all the old bones into the old mining tunnels. In recent years, it has become a tourist attraction, and people organize and manage upkeep for all that calcium. There are skulls stacked in artistic arrangements. Walls of bones. It is creepy to be shuffling through the tight, cramped underground of one of the most famous cities in the world, and it is doubly creepy to be surrounded by the remains who used to walk, live, and breathe just like you. Seriously – a cemetery is just a bunch of stone and memories. Being hemmed in on all sides by human remains is a completely different psychological experience, and the catacombs are one of the weirdest places I have ever been.

Mike Hannemann

I wasn’t the most traditional college student. I missed out on a lot of milestones that you see cliched in movies – most notably the road trip. I never really take vacations that aren’t somehow family related. I left the state for weddings but never had an epic Spring Break or drove to x place to see y event. The closest I have, after reflecting on it, is Wisconsin Dells. Yeah, that crappy water resort north of Chicago that families go to. A group of friends decided it would be a great place to go for a weekend in the summer. Hindsight is 20/20. The highlight of the trip took place after 60 minutes and one game of Drinking Mario Party. Turns out the area didn’t really sell beer after 10 and we were desperately low. People drinking eight beers in an hour will have that outcome. We asked the receptionist at our hotel if anywhere was selling beer and she said yes. A gas station. Two miles away. With no cabs to be found, we decided to walk it. Now, as I mentioned, eight beers in an hour will have another outcome: You’ll desperately need to relieve yourself. As we reached a breaking point, we walked past a tourist attraction with large recreations of historical monuments. This all builds to the weirdest place I ended up on a trip: peeing on the leg of a replica of the Trojan Horse, towering above me.

Alex Marino

Tanzania is a weird place. I loved the two weeks I spent there back in 2007 but in retrospect it was such a crazy experience. If you ever get the chance to go you MUST go to Zanzibar. It’s an island just off the coast of Dar es Salaam. We spent a few days at a coastal town called Jambiani. “Town” might be too nice of a word. It was basically three hut-lined streets going north/south with some bungalows on the beachfront. My friend and I went on a quest to find booze which turned out to be especially difficult. A local identified with our struggle and said he knew a place to get us booze. He demanded we call him “Flea” and lead us down a weaving pathway of identical huts. We ended up in this little courtyard with a large pile of rocks stacked four feet high in the middle of it. He told us we had to wait there as he went into his friend’s house to get us the booze. He then proceeded to reach into the pile of rocks and pull out an empty bottle to put our booze in. At that point we had to politely tell him that getting us booze and putting it in a used empty bottle pulled from a pile of rocks was not okay.

Tough Questions: What’s the Worst Thing You’ve Ever Eaten in a Restaurant?

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Every Monday we ask everyone who hangs out around here to answer a tough question. This week:

What’s the Worst Thing You’ve Ever Eaten in a Restaurant?

Rules are simple: What’s the worst of the worst? Everyone had that phase as a kid where you filled a glass with all the grossest stuff in the kitchen and dared your friend to drink it for a dollar, but then they didn’t want to so you drank it yourself? Nope? Just me? Anyway, what is that one special absolute worst dish you’ve ever been served by a supposed professional?

Alex Russell

I can eat just about anything, but I can’t eat mayo. It’s everything: the texture, the smell, the taste, everything. It’s almost “food-hack” at this point to hate mayo, but I stand my ground that this is something I cannot abide. Every time I order anything that might even conceivably have mayo on it as an option I essentially plead for them to not put any on it. Asking for no mayo seems to activate some secret bonus round of mayo in which you win the mayo lotto and get six times the mayo it would be reasonable to get. At a Hardee’s in Peoria once I got a burger that was more mayo than not mayo. It was mayonnaise that maybe, if you held it right, could hold beef and bread.

Brent Hopkins

I think the worst thing I have eaten in a restaurant is something called Gaebul (개불in Korean) which is a pretty common seafood dish. It is served raw with salt and sesame oil and it looks a lot like a dog’s penis. The full creature is disturbing enough, but the sliced bits are considerably worse to prepare your mouth for as they still move and are a two-tone wonder of brown and blood-red. The texture is somewhat crunchy (imagine constantly biting through the skin of an apple) and tough, and it is supposedly good for a man’s sexual stamina. I have had this on multiple occasions (not gonna turn down free stamina) and probably will have it again in the future, having just moved to a coastal city. But man, it just isn’t something I would like to see on a plate, ever. Pics are included of before and prepared[Editor’s note: GROSS WARNING.]

Jonathan May

I visited my sister in Vancouver, BC, Canada last July while she was working there in her third of three years. We had a great time exploring the city, taking pictures of ourselves with the city’s faux terracotta Chinese statues. But one day, two of my sister’s Chinese friends (a married couple) took us to lunch in the Chinese mall. We were the only white people in the restaurant for sure, probably the entire mall. They asked us what we liked and then proceeded to order, quickly, in Chinese. Pots of deliciously hot white rice arrived, followed by plates of curried chicken, garlic noodles with black bean curd, and shredded lamb. I was quickly overwhelmed by the intense and glorious flavors raving inside me. But halfway through the meal, a plate of thick, bone-white slivers arrived in a light sauce without explanation. The couple looked expectantly at me and my sister. “Beef lung,” the wife said. “You’ll like.” Horrified, I saw my hand clutching the chopsticks, picking one of the biggest, whitest, most unnatural pieces from the pile, and stuffing it in my mouth. It felt like my tongue was wrestling a stingray. I was sure I would vomit right there onto the table. But I didn’t. After my sister ate a piece as well, the couple, satisfied, returned to their meal.

Andrew Findlay

This is not a story about something that tastes bad. This is a story about poor choices and dire consequences. It’s not so much what the food tasted like as what it did to me. I was in Switzerland last summer, and Switzerland is the home of fondue. I ate like three buckets of fondue during the few days I stayed there. I do not know this for sure, but I’m close to certain that the Swiss don’t pasteurize some of their cheese. The cheese tasted pretty good, and the only drawback at the time was feeling like you’d eaten about 10 pizzas after the meal. The aftermath was horrendous. Something was living in and feeding on that cheese as I ate it. Something colonized my insides so thoroughly and with such reckless abandon that it fundamentally severed any link between my intestines and proper function. Right before a 13-hour plane ride home. On which the only movie available was The Hobbit. I spent half a day in a tube of misery and despair, I hate The Hobbit more than I already would have, and I couldn’t eat solid food for about a week.

Mike Hannemann

Red Robin is a wonderful establishment. Let’s preface my experience with that. I used to eat there once every two weeks when I was working out in the suburbs. Until one day. And I haven’t been back since. In high school and college, I always resisted peer pressure. I didn’t drink or anything until I was ready to. But, for some reason, I gave into it when it came to The Wiseguy. The Wiseguy was a “special” burger that month (and I use the word “special” very loosely here) that was only offered for a limited time. It was a cheeseburger that had cheddar and mozzarella cheese, marinara sauce, pepperoni slices, and three fried mozzarella sticks sandwiched together. I was convinced by co-workers that this was going to be the best burger I’d ever eaten. It resulted in a weekend of being violently sick and a lifelong distrust for one of America’s more popular restaurant chains.

Alex Marino

If anyone here has tried Balut, they win.

As for me, I fucking love sushi. Whenever I’m home I make sure to go to my family’s favorite sushi spot with my dad and devour more rolls than is permitted by the FDA. One time we put in an order for so many rolls that the waitress asked if more people would be joining us. We’ve tried almost every piece of sushi on the menu but there’s only one I’ll never have again: eel roe with a raw egg yolk on top. I don’t know what possessed my dad and me to believe we were some kind of Japanese Rocky but it was a nightmarish mistake. As soon as the roll was brought to us we knew it was going to be terrible but we had made our bed and now we had to lay in it. We decided to eat it first because if we looked at it any longer we weren’t going to make it. Eggs, slime, salt, seaweed, and rice just don’t mesh well. I gagged a little as I forced it down and my dad was stone-faced as always. The only thing he said about it was “We won’t be ordering that again.”

Tough Questions: What’s the Dumbest Thing You’ve Done to Yourself Lately?

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Every Monday we ask everyone who hangs out around here to answer a tough question. This week:

What’s the Dumbest Thing You’ve Done to Yourself Lately?

Rules are simple: everyone does stupid things and everyone does things that aren’t in their own best interest, but when have you last combined the two mistakes to form a delicious fusion mistake? You do it to yourself, you do, and that’s what really hurts.

Alex Russell

I went to Dallas last weekend on a last-minute trip. I booked the tickets just a few days before leaving because I originally wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to go or not. In my haste to do so I apparently booked a trip that left Chicago on February 20th and returned from Dallas on March 24th. I discovered this when the helpful woman at the Spirit Airlines desk alerted me to what month it is. Turns out that I don’t know what month it is, and Delta Airlines was happy to take $200 from me to fix my stupid mistake. I briefly considered lying when retelling this to make myself look better, but no, I sincerely just booked the stupidest plane ticket of all time. No need to sugarcoat it. I can’t believe I can dress myself (most days, kinda, debatable).

Scott Phillips

I’ve done some stupid stuff in my life. Most of it as a result of drinking. But since I’ve slowed that down and started to become an adult, my dumbest thing I did was probably go through this ridiculous Chicago winter without a hat and gloves. I got a new winter coat courtesy of my girlfriend and I never decided it would be necessary to cover my hands and head for the rest of winter. Which was really smart, because it’s February 26th and we STILL had subzero temperatures when I left the house this morning. Definitely not the brightest move in my book, but now it’s nearly March and I’m too stubborn to get them at this point.

Austin Duck

Recently, shit got real, and I started smoking again. Worst. Mistake. Ever.

Alex Marino

Thrillist put out a list of the best pizza places in Chicago by neighborhood and I was dumb enough to read all the idiot fucking Yelp reviews about them. Yelp reviews are the smallest step above right-wing blog comments sections except I rely on Yelp for restaurant ideas while comments sections are mostly avoidable. I read this one particular review that gave a place two stars because it wasn’t as good as the pizza they grew up with in NYC and what they had when they traveled to Italy. The person that wrote it should have their Yelp posting privileges revoked by court order, their computer thrown off the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and the pieces of the computer baked into a thin crust pizza they can shove up their ass.

Brent Hopkins

I think if there was a way to win the tough question I actually may win this one. The dumbest thing I did to myself happened right before I came home from Korea and I was going to my new job to maybe meet my new employers. I was cleanly shaven and honestly fresh to death, as they say, but I had one problem… My nose. Specifically, my nose hairs had grown to unruly lengths as my trimmer had broken and I hadn’t picked up another one. I was alone in my apartment and — I have no idea why I thought this was a good idea — I decided that the best way to to handle the problem was to channel my inner military tactician and “burn the fields,” so to speak. I grabbed a lighter and proceeded to burn the nose hairs in one nostril and then, as the smell of seared hair filled my nasal passage, I dropped the lighter and said “What the hell is wrong with you? Are you an idiot?” Luckily, I managed to hit only the nostril and didn’t sear off my eyebrows, but I had the smell of cooked nose hairs for a few hours to remind me that spending that much time alone can be dangerous to your health.

Jonathan May

Of the myriad dumb things I’ve done to myself recently, I’d have to say pissing off the checkout lady at my regular Walgreens takes the cake. I simply asked if they had more iced tea, but after ten minutes of searching, she said she could look in the back. As I was on my way to school, I blurted out, “No thanks, I’m in a hurry.” I realized as I said it that I had officially pissed her off. A blizzard passed between us in those ten seconds following. Fuck, I thought. So now I have to go to Walgreens the night before, when all the weirdos are out.

Andrew Findlay

I recently went to a movie downtown. Finding parking in DC is usually mildly time-consuming, not terrible. I found a likely spot, left my car, and walked away as I pulled up the parking meter phone app. When I clicked “pay,” the program said “parking not available in this location at this time.” I have no idea why this information simply made me shrug my shoulders and keep walking to the movies, but it did. Come time to go home, my car is gone. My wife calls the number on the parking meter, and the dispatch lady tells us it was deposited at 10th and G, a block away from where we are standing. We walk down a ways, find it, and there’s a 100 dollar ticket for parking in a rush hour lane, a 100 dollar charge for the tow, and a pink sheet itemizing the damage the tow truck did to my car. You know the amazing scene in Forrest Gump where he tells Jenny that he’s not a smart man, but he knows what love is? The first part of that, only the first part, was playing on repeat in my head for a while after that night.

Mike Hannemann

The dumbest thing I’ve done to myself lately was to take what I like to refer to as an “unfamiliar bus.” The bus is terrifying to me, but I figured what the hell, I can do this. I decided that I would take a bus route home from work, rather than the train, so I could stop off at a Best Buy to get a new video game. I had the entire thing planned out hours beforehand (I Googled several routes) and knew what I was going to do. Then I ended up on the wrong bus. So I got off after one stop and got on another one. It was also the wrong bus. Five minutes later I realized this and got on another bus. Spoiler alert: It was not the right bus. After a total of five buses I got where I was going. The best part of the story is that, at 30, I got this lost trying to buy a Donkey Kong game. At the very least, I earned the adult equivalent of a participation ribbon.

Tough Questions: What Do you Keep Recommending that No One Will Believe is Good?

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Every Monday we ask everyone who hangs out around here to answer a tough question. This week:

What Do You Keep Recommending that No One Will Believe is Good?

Rules are simple: what do you find yourself telling every person you come across to check out that no one will listen to you about? What would totally be someone’s favorite show/book/movie/Chinese food menu item that’s being overlooked?

Mike Hannemann

The thing I love that I find myself never able to convince anyone is good is the tacos at Burger King. I normally hate the guy that goes to a Mexican restaurant and orders a burger but these are LEGIT. They cost $1.19 for two and yet no one takes the chance despite my urging. They’re fried, filled with a meat-like substance, a half piece of Kraft american cheese, and a slice of lettuce, all topped with a weird taco sauce. I can’t explain why they’re amazing. I can’t explain how an airplane flies, either. I just know two things: a plane can fly and these tacos are good.

Alex Marino

I swear if you’re still using that shitty shower head that was there when you moved in you need to get rid of that shit right now. Get on Amazon and order yourself one of these. Yes, it’s expensive. Yes, it’s completely worth it. You’ve probably spent $100 on some shitty sweater you wear once every few weeks. Why not spend that on something you do every day? Instead of a shower just being that thing you do before you go to work, you actually enjoy it. You’re fucking WELCOME.

Alex Russell

The funniest thing you don’t listen to is My Brother, My Brother and Me. It’s a podcast on the Maximum Fun podcast network that’s hosted by three brothers. They answer questions from Yahoo! Answers and from people who email them their pressing questions. Want to know what to do if you think you’re in love with a goose? Need to learn to box but refuse to learn how to block? Unsure if shoplifting is really illegal? You need to listen to the brothers. I’ve suggested this to every single person I’ve met that likes comedy in the last two years. “You need to listen to this podcast” is tantamount to asking someone for both of their kidneys, but seriously check out the sampler

Austin Duck

Poetry.

Andrew Findlay

I have been asking my coworkers to watch Breaking Bad for a year and a half. To my knowledge, only one has taken me up on the offer. This is frustrating. The worst part is that a guy I work closely with kept recommending The Wire to me, and I kept recommending Breaking Bad to him. We would have arguments over which was better without us having seen an episode of the show we were putting in second place. I have since watched all 60 episodes of The Wire, and he has not watched the pilot of Breaking Bad. I’m sure everyone believes it’s good, but a disheartening number of people don’t believe it’s good enough to actually sit down and watch.

Brent Hopkins

The thing that I always recommend to other people that no one seems to think is good is a series called The Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson. This is a fantasy series that keeps you engaged from start to finish and has enough twists and turns to keep you in the dark until the final few pages. There is plenty of action, romance, and mystery in these books and it was one of the best things I read over the last year. I am not necessarily huge into fantasy but I found myself reading until I passed out with my Nook on my chest. I have quite a few friends I think would love it when they started it but they always come up with other things they need to do. READ THIS SERIES, SERIOUSLY!

Jonathan May

Two words: Big Love. That Bill Paxton love-bonanza had its crazy ups and downs. Even Chloë Sevigny described the fourth season (of five) as a telenovela. But fuck if I didn’t cry consistently during the last episode. This show, as Stefon from Saturday Night Live would say, has everything: polygamy, Jeanne Tripplehorn, home goods superstores, Memphian Ginnifer Goodwin, Indian casinos, conversations with God, running for State office, and polygamy (you have to say it at least twice). But no one, besides me and my friend Kyle, seems to have given this gem the time of day. It’s only five seasons, people. I get that polygamy and Mormonism are “sensitive” topics, but the character arcs you experience are incredible. I was blown away by how the women ended up. Utterly blown away. So watch it.

Tough Questions: What’s the Worst Movie that You Love?

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Every Monday we ask everyone who hangs out around here to answer a tough question. This week?

What’s the Worst Movie that You Love?

Rules are simple: “worst” means the one the critics hated the most. We’re using Rotten Tomatoes for critics, and we want to know your great shame. What’s that one movie that you love and defend constantly? What is your guilty pleasure that really ain’t so guilty in your eyes?

Austin Duck

Unfortunately, I’m not really a movie guy. I used to be, but my wife’s not that into them, so I don’t see new movies very often. My favorite bad movie is easily Pacific Rim. Now, I know it was a steaming pile of crap, but it was one of the most exceptional dumps I’ve ever seen. Watching a movie like that, you can so clearly see directorial intention, it’s exciting. You see a man who, known for quality and intelligence in film, tries to make the perfect dinosaurs vs. robots movie. And he does. There’s not one saccharine-y second wasted in that movie; from the building of the universe, the establishment of the problem, the execution, it’s perfectly articulated. And while a lot of people trash it for failing to transcend its genre, I disagree. Well, I don’t disagree that it didn’t transcend its genre, but I don’t think it was about that. It perfected the genre and, as such, created a work from which the Syfy network might never recover.

Rotten Tomatoes: 71% (!)

Mike Hannemann

It was a December night. I was at a Target. Not one close to home – it was one by my office in Naperville, IL. It should be noted that this was a good hour’s drive on the highway away from my apartment on the south side of Chicago. I saw a DVD for a movie I had never seen before. I purchased it immediately and I will never be able to explain my reasoning. It sat on my DVD shelf for about two weeks. I never gave it a second thought, let alone expressed any desire to watch it. Christmas came and went, and I found myself alone in my apartment Christmas night with a bottle of Scotch. This was the only time I ever watched Paul Blart: Mall Cop. But it was glorious.

Rotten Tomatoes: 33%

Alex Marino

If you’re not down with Hook you can go to hell. Dustin Hoffman puts on one of the greatest villain performances of all time. There’s no green screen or camera tricks, just elaborate sets and memorable moments. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been drunk at a bar and have awkwardly quoted this movie only to have no one recognize it. It’s basically the perfect movie when you’re 14. So all the 14-year-olds out there reading this should really see it.

Rotten Tomatoes: 31%

Alex Russell

There’s only one answer to this: Pootie Tang. This movie is misunderstood. If you really read about people’s response to this movie they are furious about it. It’s a weird homage of a movie made out of love for a long-gone genre at the time. It’s all about the character Pootie Tang who is supposed to represent a kind of cool that’s unobtainable. I have no problem with someone not getting what they were trying to do with a movie where the greatest line is “Sine your pitty on the runny kine” but you know, not everything is for everyone. Y’all just need to get slapped with a belt.

Rotten Tomatoes: 29%

Andrew Findlay

There isn’t so much a single terrible movie that has won my heart, more a genre. G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra stands as one of the greatest ambassadors of that genre: the stupid action movie. I respect and understand Tycho’s response to this kind of movie, but if there are enough explosions I honestly do not care. The plot is weak and the dialogue is shitty? They use bionic suits to jump through an occupied trolley, your argument is invalid. This reasoning extends to most kung-fu movies as well. Oh, this plot has been done a quintillion times before? Who cares, that dude just got kicked in the face, and it was awesome.

Rotten Tomatoes: 35%

Brent Hopkins

I actually have two terrible movies that I love but I chose the one with the worse score on Rotten Tomatoes. The two movies are 1997’s Volcano and 2002’s Juwanna Mann. Guess which is lower rated based on the titles with a chart-searing 10% compared to 44%?

Juwanna Mann is a film I saw in theaters in 2002 with a bunch of my friends and a visitor named Alex whom you may have heard of [Editor’s note: Alex Russell, on here, sadly. I want to deny this, but cannot.]. This film came out after Eddie Murphy popularized the multiple characters played by a single actor in The Nutty Professor. The story is extremely simple: It follows a basketball superstar who is kicked out of the league in his prime and loses everything. This would be a normally sad tale except he is the stereotypical jock archetype who is rude and misogynistic. With no place else to go he decides to conjure up the character Juwanna Mann to play basketball in the women’s professional league and all sorts of hilarity ensues. I know in my heart that jokes didn’t actually ensue but I loved watching this movie because it is a black film (Kevin Pollak being the only white actor of note in it) and I watched it with a few white friends and an Asian friend of mine. I found myself laughing extremely hard because of the sheer amount of awkwardness caused by jokes. My friends looked genuinely uncomfortable because I could see a laugh start to form on their lips but the immediate reaction after that was… is it racist if I laugh? I am sure this makes me a terrible person but I still have fond memories anytime it happens to be on TBS and I let it play in the background.

Rotten Tomatoes: 10%

Scott Phillips

The Brothers Solomon is my favorite bad movie to watch. It’s so stupid, it’s somehow funny to me. This film bombed so badly that it has a 15% score on Rotten Tomatoes, recouped only $900,000 of its $10 million budget in theaters, and is the first movie that Richard Roeper ever walked out on.

I can see why people would hate this movie, though. Most of the comedy bits could potentially work in an extended Funny or Die bit, but they’ve spliced about 10 of those ideas together to form this movie.

Ever wonder how funny a scene would be if two brothers were racing to the hospital to see their dying father only to stop at a video store — because it’s on the way to the hospital — to dispute a late fee for the movie Ulee’s Gold [Editor’s note: 94% on Rotten Tomatoes. Certified fresh.]? This movie has that in there.

Ever wonder how funny a scene would be if two brothers wrote a prolonged apology via SkyText from a plane? This movie has that in there.

And so you get my point. There’s some amusing stuff in here — that is just downright weird — and for whatever reason I’ve never been able to shake it. Most of it makes me laugh, for some reason?

The opening credits are fantastic, so that doesn’t hurt.

But fuck Richard Roeper. That dude doesn’t hold a candle to Siskel or Ebert so his opinion means pretty much nothing anyways.

Rotten Tomatoes: 15%