The Ask Master

Is there any real practical advantage to wearing a baseball cap backward?

Doctor Demento

That's right, kids, the Dr. Demento. See the benefits that accrue to the intellectually questing, restless-minded Ask Master reader? Already, you're practically rubbing shoulders with Dr. Demento. In two months, you'll probably be tossing back highballs with Justine Bateman on a luxury yacht somewhere in the Lesser Antilles.

Who's Dr. Demento? For those of you who weren't huddled in a terrified ball in middle school, Dr. Demento—through a syndicated radio program possibly best described as a musical version of Mad magazine—provided at least a generation and a half of intellectually precocious, socially inept youths (such as your correspondent) with an all-too-brief weekly respite from their daily regimen of taunting, rejection, and vicious beatings at the hands of more popular, athletic classmates.

But all that goes to answer your question, and you didn't write in, so let's get back to the Doctor's. There is, or was, at least one practical benefit to the backward cap: If you happen to practice a profession (such as roofing houses) that involves working outdoors with your face mostly turned down toward the work at hand, you'll find that the back of your neck is at considerably greater risk of sunburn than your face. Turning your ball-cap around reduces this risk.

The astute observer will note that many who wear their baseball caps backward do not work in the roofing industry (or indeed, in any other discernible profession) and do not spend the greater portion of their time looking downward (because they're either scanning the horizon for babes or staring into space like gap-toothed morons). These people are known as jocks, a species more familiar with roofies than roofing, and their reasons for wearing the backward cap are twofold:

First, the wearing of the baseball cap and other athletic apparel is designed to signify that they are strong fellows capable of attracting and defending a mate.

However, since participation in athletics is often identified with self-discipline (and even, in some misguided 19th- century works, with a sense of morality), the jock reverses his cap to signify his defiance in the face of fun-constricting rules—hoary, pettifogging axioms such as, "Don't rape your date."

Thus, like the penetrating reek of the rutting skunk, the jock's headgear serves as a warning to potential victims. To the wary (and possibly asthmatic) young intellectual, the backward cap sends a powerful message: This individual has nothing of interest to contribute to your ongoing debate on the comparative merits of relativity vs. quantum electrodynamics. Also, he probably wants to kick your ass. Avoid him.

Is "the actor sometimes credited as Katherine MacGregor" (who played Harriet Oleson on Little House on the Prairie) actually a man?

—Little House Lover

No, dude, just smoke a little bit of the crack at first to see how strong it is; then smoke the whole rock, after you're sure you can handle it.

Seriously, I don't know where you people get this stuff. I suppose it's amusing to imagine that Ronald Reagan's favorite TV drama featured a prepubescent transvestite, but not that amusing. To set the record straight: Many theatrical types, especially the ones that wear a lot of black and corner you about Beckett at cocktail parties, now use "actor" as a gender-neutral term.

"The actor sometimes credited as Katherine MacGregor" is called that because she is also the actor at other times credited as Katherine McGregor, with no "a" in the "Mc." That's it. No conspiracy. Sheesh.

BUTTER BATTLE UPDATE

We have a winner! You may recall that in the June 27 edition, I confessed to being stumped by the question of why butter is shaped differently from region to region. While a number of readers weighed in with wildly improbable, unsubstantiated answers (the Western states are hotter than the East? You've clearly never spent a summer in Baltimore), only Bruce Greeley of the Fall City Library came up with a plausible answer and provided a source to back it up. Citing David Feldman's 1991 opus, "Do Penguins Have Knees?" Bruce replies:

"'Until recent times, dairies were local or regional in their distribution . . . what the industry refers to as the "Western-style stick" developed out of local custom. [Later,] when the behemoth dairy companies attained national distribution, they soon found that it was easier to reconfigure their molds than it was to change consumers' preferences.'"

It's reasonable to believe that small local dairies might well have made butter in varying shapes—after all, who really cares? Nevertheless, once people become acclimated to a product in a certain form, they may resist change vehemently. The megadairies, probably wisely (c.f. "New Coke"), elected to go with the flow.

In recognition of his ability to read and write above a sixth-grade level, Bruce and a friend will soon be enjoying a delicious steak under the stars at fabulous Sam's Steakhouse (unless, of course, they're vegetarians, and it rains, in which case they'll be sullenly munching French fries at a table by the kitchen). Bon appetit!

Write the askmaster@seattleweekly.com or Ask Master, Seattle Weekly, 1008 Western Ave., Suite 300, Seattle, WA 98104.

 
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