Pretty Sure Shakespeare Knew About Us September 2, 2013 1:17 PM   Subscribe

Ryan North's To Be or Not To Be, choose-your-own-adventure book about Hamlet, just came out! And hey, what's that on page 357? Could that be a reference to Metafilter? Yes, yes it could be!

Pg. 357 is an acknowledgements page. Metafilter is the first entity acknowledged as helping out with the book. Specifically, North refers to the infamous "how to dispose of a body" AskMe.
posted by meese to MetaFilter-Related at 1:17 PM (47 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

Beat me to it!

Also the book is very entertaining and everyone should buy it and then hide it from your significant other because they will STEAL IT and giggle incessantly and refuse to tell you what's so funny because they don't want to spoil it.
posted by dismas at 1:23 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


That infamous post is the first hit on Google for "how to dispose of a body". Here's the comment itself for the uninitiated.
posted by double block and bleed at 1:41 PM on September 2, 2013


Did anyone else get the feeling that Archer consulted this comment for their "Lo Scandalo" episode?
posted by Navelgazer at 2:00 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's funny that one of the most widely-known AskMe questions, both inside the community and outside, would be deleted within a minute of posting today. I'm sure that has been pointed out before, but it's the first time I noticed.
posted by supercres at 2:32 PM on September 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


If you dig through the early history of AskMe it's quite shocking to see how blatantly it does not meet the current guidelines. It's also instructive for folks who think the current standards are too draconian and should be relaxed.
posted by Rock Steady at 3:09 PM on September 2, 2013


A clogged drain is how Dennis Nilsen was caught. Just sayin'.

I mean, think about the kind of stuff that reliably clogs up the works: Hair and fat are pretty high on that list. A whole body's worth? Forget it.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:26 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


...also written by Frank Warren for attention
posted by Renoroc at 5:41 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


For someone who is so sensitive I can barely get through reading the original comment without gagging, I have used my favorite phrase "You can cut a body into 6 pieces faster than you think" a surprising number of times in conversation.

(Okay, only twice, but they were both pretty memorable...especially when I had to explain it.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 6:33 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Why would it be deleted? it's not chatfilter, and it's a question that can be answered.
posted by zarq at 7:01 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


See? We are useful.
posted by The Whelk at 7:44 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I always figured that "I was just curious" falls under chatfilter-- I've heard the mods describe valid Ask questions as "a problem to be solved". Now if the poster had said, "I'm writing a novel, and..."
posted by supercres at 7:45 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Why would it be deleted? it's not chatfilter, and it's a question that can be answered.

Would love to hear the mods weigh in on this one. I think it would be deleted today. Not necessarily a bad thing.
posted by lalex at 8:04 PM on September 2, 2013


I don't see anything in the faq that says you're required to justify why you're asking a question. Lots of questions, that one included, are perfectly answerable, yet abstract.
posted by zarq at 8:38 PM on September 2, 2013


Huh, I think it might be allowed today if it had the "I am writing a novel and..." clause, but otherwise it'd be deleted?
posted by lalex at 8:44 PM on September 2, 2013


There is so much bad advice in that thread I kinda wish it would get asked again.
posted by Mitheral at 9:01 PM on September 2, 2013


As written, I'd nix it today as sort of overtly chatty—it's pretty broad what-if stuff, not some sort of focused "help me figure out this specific situation". That said, it could be rewritten to stand okay, though the "no reason, just curious, no specifics" presentation of the original suggests the asker didn't have some more specific notion in mind that they'd be ready and able to winnow the original problematic draft down to.

The real sticky question is more one of whether scarabic's answer would stick around in some notional better-constructed version of the question.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:14 PM on September 2, 2013


When trying to construct an AskMetafilter question, first be smart from the very beginning....
posted by The Whelk at 9:32 PM on September 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


I need to dispose of a body. This is NOT a hypothetical question or chatfilter. I am NOT writing a novel or short story. Please be specific. Also, please advise on whether I should be stupid or smart from the very beginning, although it's probably a bit late for the second option. TIA
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:26 PM on September 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


So, is it just me or does anyone else doubt the veracity of scarabic's answer? Every step in the process creates more forensic evidence and scatters it across more of your life (house, car, etc.) Also, if your odds of being caught burying someone in the woods are 1 in 100, making six trips to six different woods now makes you odds something like 1 in 17.

It's almost like he's actually a forensic detective trying to make his job easier.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 10:28 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I am often amazed at how often on Metafilter the best (or close enough) comment appears so quickly after the OP goes up. But honestly, the quickness, the comprehensiveness, the sheer invention of scarabic's response leaves me breathless.
posted by Catchfire at 10:29 PM on September 2, 2013


It wasn't a great answer because it's the best way to dispose of a body. It's a great answer because he made it sound like he did it on a weekly basis.

He hasn't posted anything since 2011...
posted by double block and bleed at 5:29 AM on September 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


zarq: Why would it be deleted? it's not chatfilter, and it's a question that can be answered.

It's possible to frame a hypothetical question in such a way that it will not get deleted, but a surefire way to get it nixed is to specify that you are just curious. The easiest way is the notional novel, but an argument between friends, a bet with a significant other, &c. will also work.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:53 AM on September 3, 2013


Rock Steady: "It's possible to frame a hypothetical question in such a way that it will not get deleted, but a surefire way to get it nixed is to specify that you are just curious."

That seems odd, though. No? Half the questions on AskMe are probably asked simply because someone is curious. not because they have a specific problem that needs fixing.
posted by zarq at 6:08 AM on September 3, 2013


cortex: "That said, it could be rewritten to stand okay, though the "no reason, just curious, no specifics" presentation of the original suggests the asker didn't have some more specific notion in mind that they'd be ready and able to winnow the original problematic draft down to."

I guess I'm a little hazy on the definition of chatfilter, then. I know it's been debated to death here and the FAQ is really helpful, but could I trouble you to help clarify this for me?

So, the faq talks about specific instances that essentially turn a question into "I wanna talk about X." But it also says, "Put another way "...if your motivation for asking the question is 'I would like to participate in a discussion about X,' then you shouldn't be doing it in AskMe. If your motivation is 'I would like others to explain X to me,' then you're probably OK."" Which makes perfect sense.

BUT, the question "If you killed somebody, how would you dispose of the body without getting caught?" seems like it fits the latter, not the former. ashbury wants people to explain a way a body could be disposed of without getting caught.

The "I am just curious" bit seems like something any of us might throw in to prevent the police showing up at our door with a shovel and a pair of handcuffs.

I feel like I'm missing something from your explanation, but don't understand what.
posted by zarq at 6:23 AM on September 3, 2013


The real sticky question is more one of whether scarabic's answer would stick around in some notional better-constructed version of the question.

Out of curiousity, what would be the problem with scarabic's answer? Too helpful?
posted by corb at 6:26 AM on September 3, 2013


Chatfilter is, like a lot of stuff here (and here arises again the idea that Guideline Moose, not Rule Wolf, is the site's adjudicative spirit animal) something that gets interpreted on a spectrum and based on a few things. The "discuss" vs. "explain" thing is a good way to address some of the broader distinctions that come into play with using Ask for solving problems rather than just BSing about stuff, but it's neither a sufficient nor really even a necessary condition for something to be problematic because of chattiness.

the question "If you killed somebody, how would you dispose of the body without getting caught?" seems like it fits the latter

Sure, but:

1. The rest of the framing reiterates the "just askin', no real reason" angle and undermines any notional specific reason for asking or constrained domain of useful answers; looking at the forest instead of the trees, it's very much in the vein of "just everybody talk about your body-burying ideas, this could be fun" rather than anything more purpose-driven.

2. There are "explain this to me" questions that still come off plenty chatty, along of course with plenty of "explain this to me" questions that aren't so problematic. The overall tone and context and structure of the question matters a lot here; as we've said who knows how many times in the past, presentation matters.

Out of curiousity, what would be the problem with scarabic's answer? Too helpful?

Too clearly performance art, mostly. It's an artifact of where Ask was in early days; people were basically importing discursive mores from the blue and to some extent the grey, which was totally understandable as a phenomenon but became clearly unworkable in the long run as Ask's novelty as a place to sort of post question-shaped posts without links wore off and the subsite's strengths and capacity for utility started to shine.

I love scarabic's answer, as it landed in that question, I love Stan Chin's immediate response, I love that it's become a bit of site lore, but really it's a whole exchange built perfectly for a thread on the blue about body disposal theories or creepyfic or so on and not so much for an actual question to ask and an answer to give on the green.

So it's hard to just dissect it out of context. It was a very clever product of good timing in the face of an opportunity with the state of the site. Whether and how he would rewrite it for modern Ask as a something with a little more citation and a little less breathless, dazzling out-of-nowhere assuredness is a complicated question.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:34 AM on September 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


cortex: the idea that Guideline Moose, not Rule Wolf, is the site's adjudicative spirit animal

I love you, cortex.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:44 AM on September 3, 2013 [14 favorites]


The Amazon "Search Inside This Book" just happens to include page 357 btw.
posted by pharm at 7:46 AM on September 3, 2013


Seriously, this "cutting a body up" actually happened in my town in England. Warning - this is pretty gruesome - Teenager guilty of 'body parts' murder. Clearly not yet at Scarbic's level of post-mortem deconstruction.
posted by marienbad at 9:25 AM on September 3, 2013


MetaFilter: We Are Useful.
posted by Mister_A at 9:48 AM on September 3, 2013


Hair and fat are pretty high on that list. A whole body's worth? Forget it.

Hair can sometimes clog a home's internal drainage, yes. But the fat that normally winds up clogging drains and sewers though is the liquid used in cooking that gets dumped and then congeals. Congealed cooking fat, soap, and foreign debris like rags or paper towels are usually the biggest culprits.

Food is also a problem. Nilsen sounds to have been flushing chopped up pieces of human flesh in the toilet, which would be like letting cooking scraps wash down the kitchen sink. This would be a problem, but sarabic suggested an industrial-blended-slurry-directly-into-the-sewer-line approach. Knowing a little bit about sewers, scarabic's approach checks out as something that would definitely work better than what Nilsen did. It likely would not lead to any particularly bad blockages if done in batches, with water flushed through after, as he suggests.

Although I would suggest anyone trying such a thing to make sure they have a snake on hand, just in case. You can't be too careful, can you?
posted by Hoopo at 10:19 AM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


It would have been more interesting if the question was "How do I dispose of my own body?".
posted by blue_beetle at 12:54 PM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Posted by CVecna.
posted by The Whelk at 2:12 PM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Dear AskMe. I'm looking for ideas on how to keep my phylactery safe from pesky adventurers. I've got a dwarven miner available for macro traps but I still need some ideas for more insidious small scale protections. [more inside] (of course)
posted by Mitheral at 2:37 PM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


You do what Volermort should have done, attach that last bit of your soul to the Voyager spacecraft and watch it fly out of the solar system.
posted by The Whelk at 2:43 PM on September 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Although I would suggest anyone trying such a thing to make sure they have a snake on hand, just in case.

WHY NOT JUST FEED THEM TO THE SNAKE DUH
posted by Sys Rq at 4:14 PM on September 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


zarq: I don't see anything in the faq that says you're required to justify why you're asking a question. Lots of questions, that one included, are perfectly answerable, yet abstract.

I had a mod request to alter this question so that it included the "problem to be solved" / reason I was asking the question. Initially I had nothing in the "more inside" space.
posted by cairdeas at 5:55 PM on September 3, 2013


You do what Volermort should have done, attach that last bit of your soul to the Voyager spacecraft and watch it fly out of the solar system.

How awesome would the Harry Potter story have been if there'd been a section where the Order of the Phoenix had to learn (or invent?) a ritual for summoning a craft from outer space?
posted by straight at 6:20 PM on September 3, 2013


NASA + magic = warp drive
posted by amtho at 12:26 AM on September 4, 2013


Breaking Bad has rendered scarabic's answer moot, I fear.
posted by flabdablet at 12:50 AM on September 4, 2013


Mythbuster's Breaking Bad episode has rendered Breaking Bad's moot-rendering of scarabic's answer moot.

But combine the Breaking Bad method and scarabic's, and you're probably onto something.
posted by meese at 10:56 AM on September 4, 2013


Hoopo: Although I would suggest anyone trying such a thing to make sure they have a snake on hand, just in case.

If they had a snake, couldn't they just slip the snake into the victim's bed and bit the victim? Then the snake would take the blame, and they don't have to dispose of the body at all.
posted by wenestvedt at 11:21 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Actually, the answer is pigs.

And that's not just from Snatch, either. The answer is pigs, and killing people that the cops just don't give too much of a fuck about.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:43 AM on September 4, 2013


combine the Breaking Bad method and scarabic's, and you're probably onto something

Mmmmm. Special fish sauce.
posted by flabdablet at 11:50 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I need to dispose of a body.

DTMFA.
posted by mrbill at 2:47 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


It would have been more interesting if the question was "How do I dispose of my own body?".

This one sort of counts, no? (It's asking for a relative, but it's a living relative.)

Anyway, I'm going to justify my chatfilter-just-wondering-ask-me's as "Ryan North is writing a novel, 9 years from now."
posted by kagredon at 4:32 PM on September 4, 2013


Then the snake would take the blame, and they don't have to dispose of the body at all.

True, but ownership of rare venomous snakes can be a sure giveaway as to the identity of the perpetrator, and you could wind up in court on criminal negligence or something similar even if they don't catch on to the murder. So you would want to go with something local or native to the area, like perhaps the dreaded sewer snake (also known as the "plumber's snake") that can be found in virtually any city's sewer system even though they rarely come up into peoples' houses. The danger of course is getting into the sewer and catching one without getting bit, and as you can see from the diagram they have very smelly bodies that might alert the victim to their presence.
posted by Hoopo at 1:49 PM on September 10, 2013


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