Best Of


  • Jock Jams: Hope and Memory // Issue 6
  • Alex Reviews: All 24 Versions of "Life is a Highway" Currently Available on Spotify // Issue 5
  • Life is Terrible, Y'all // Issue 8
  • Fuck It // Issue 6
  • Top 5 Cola-Based Rituals (Presented With Author Commentary) // Issue 26
  • Sam Reviews: The Way Matt Eats String Cheese // Issue 2
  • Matt Reviews: The Way Sam Eats String Cheese // Issue 2
  • Andrew Reviews: Women // Issue 4
  • QUIZ: Which Witch Will You Become When We All Inevitably Run Off Into the Woods to Escape Society? // Issue 25
  • A Functional Member of Society // Issue 7
  • Rating the Middle-Aged Men Who Try to Add Me on Social Media // Issue 26
  • You Can Just Do Things // Issue 14
  • Order With Dom // Issue 15
  • QUIZ: Choose Some Ways to Die and We'll Tell You Which FRIENDS Character is Your Mom // Issue 7
  • Some Things That Can Happen During Surgery // Issue 3
  • Mormon Authors // Issue 2
  • Ode to the Giant Googly Eyes I Attached to My Bedroom Door // Issue 26
  • On Anxiety // Issue 24
  • Cookie Recipe // Issue 18
  • Abyssal Miscellanea: A Bestiary of Second-Rate Entities Omitted from Lovecraftian Canon // Issue 7
  • Spare a Thought for Ugly Animals // Issue 26
  • The World and Also Life Is Mostly Meaningless // Issue 21
  • Announcement: I Have Decided to Become One With the Sea // Issue 25
  • You've Been Putting the Wrong Gems In Your Mouth - And That's a Good Thing // Issue 19
  • Alex's Weekly Restaurant Roundup: My Uncle Fil's House // Issue 12

Jock Jams: Hope and Memory

Ascendant-level contributor Matt Spradling // Issue 6

Listen to this song while you read this. YouTube link. Spotify link. Whatever's easiest. It's very important. Ideally, please just listen to this on repeat any time you read the newsletter, but it is also specifically relevant at this point in time.

When I was a kid, like 6-12 or so, my church hosted an Upward Basketball league. It deserves an entire article to itself, but this story concerns only one piece of that star-spangled puzzle: the run-out.

The run-out was fucking wild. In this saturday morning league, crammed into a small, two-half-court church gym that smelled like rubber and decades-old coffee and elderly relatives gathered to watch variously athletic kids thrash about, the introductions were the main event. The four teams playing in the same time slot were fetched and led into the prep room, silent in the dark like paratroopers anxiously awaiting the green light over Normandy. Through the door ahead, we'd see the lights outside go down, sending the butterflies in our gatorade-roiled stomachs into a fevered frenzy.

Then that fucking song starts blasting and you feel what it is to be alive, the fear of the flesh, the visions of glory, the righteous bloodlust.

An anonymous door-warden starts going HAM on a smoke machine, obscuring the court ahead and filling the prep room with the scent of fire and mayhem. In the booth one room over, the announcer, the arbiter of our minute lives for the foreseeable future, begins his Delphic tirade which inevitably and irresistibly culminates in the calling of names. Foot by foot the line moves forward, one by one you receive the divine call to step forth, stand up and be counted amongst your peers. As the line turns the final corner, you see the doorway flashing and yawning, your friends being swept beyond, until you are three away, two away, and then you feel the desperate lack of separation between you and open space, the rush of air as your name is called but it doesn't sound like your name, it sounds like someone else who was once you but no longer exists, and you are moving despite yourself, doing the unthinkable because there is simply no alternative, your feeble body forfeit to the sound and the fury.

A fact: It's hard to see with a spotlight on you. The brilliant, strobing light falling through its color spectrum contrasted with the utter darkness. Even if it's not shining straight into your eyes, the swimming shadows and dancing edges spilling around you make it difficult to parse your surroundings. The messages your eyes send to your brain become less Edward Hopper and more Jackson Pollock.

Another fact: If your team was playing on the right-hand court, the run-out was very brief, because the benches were directly ahead. You'd kind of go past into the middle because it's hard to make a show of running ten feet. A low-risk/low-reward ordeal. Alternatively, if your team was playing on the left-hand court, your run-out was considerably more involved. This maneuver required you to emerge, find your bearings mid-stride, discern the place in the center of the court where there was a surprisingly small break in between the benches consisting of folding chairs, thread that needle, and then find an apt place to stick the landing. Let's call it high-risk/high-reward, or at least more so than the alternative. Actually, I'm not sure what the reward is in that formula, but the risk should be increasingly clear.

A final fact: Occasionally, some coaches would have cups of coffee waiting for them on their chair at the end of their bench.

Now, dear reader, kindly take these disparate facts, place them in an uncovered pot with two cups of water not quite boiling, stir until mixed, and let sit for a minute before consuming. Careful: contents may be impossible to live down.

I don't actually have too much memory of The Fall, and what remains is likely imagined in retrospect rather than genuine, like a mugging victim struggling to describe their assailant through hazy barriers of shock and adrenaline. I remember the coffee did spill on me, adding insult more so than any scalding injury, don't worry. I don't remember the immediate reaction of the room. Did I simply dip under the spotlight, there one moment and gone the next from the crowd's perspective? Or did the spotlight stay fixed to me, the crowd clearly able to watch a lanky kid just fucking eating it? Did the kids keep coming after, jumping over my bent body to avoid causing a sticky pile-up, or did the announcer fall into a stunned silence, nothing moving, just Jock Jams blasting into a still, dark gym, not quite concealing the sound of sobbing?

I remember I couldn't play at first, and I remember the hallway outside where we examined the welt on my shin that I think is still probably the worst knock I've ever had. I remember the polite applause as I eventually returned to the court mid-game. I had a job to do, after all. I remember the benches were spread much farther apart from that day on, perhaps my only lasting legacy.

To this day, I can't help but get hyped when that song comes on. But then, 20 seconds in, when the perennial and inevitable question is asked, I solemnly lower my gaze.

I wasn't ready for this.

Alex Reviews: All 24 Versions of "Life is a Highway" Currently Available on Spotify

Provost-level contributor Alex Speed // Issue 5

These are all real-life songs available for listening on a playlist I made.

Life is a Highway - Rascal Flatts: This is the OG song that asks the questions we all have wondered privately. Is life a highway? Am I gonna ride it? If so, for how long? Will Someone be going my way? Good stuff. Great stuff.

Life is a Highway - From "Cars" Soundtrack - Rascal Flatts: Yeah this is the same song, but like the cover on this version is pretty cool. That red car - Lightning McQueen. Pretty cool, pretty cool.

Life is a Highway - Tom Cochrane: Supposedly this is the original and the Rascal Flatts version is a cover? Even if that's true (and I'm not convinced it is) this "Tom Cochrane" character should surrender to the voice of the people. The cheering thunderous voice of the masses begging for more Rascal Flatts.

Life is a Highway - Remastered Version - Rascal Flatts: You know how people make sequels and there's not even any story it's just very obviously some executive trying to make a money grab?

Life is a Highway - Home Free: I think I, like most good Americans, try to forget there was a weird craze for a cappella groups somewhere in the early/mid 2010's. This version is the example of why we should all choose to forget this unfortunate time.

Life is a Highway - Chris LeDoux: Hey look I get that this was like a funny bit, but do I really have to listen to all of these? This is just the same song but it feels like it was made by some random republican in his garage with too much access to MIDI instruments.

Life is a Highway - The Madhatters: Okay remember what I said about the whole a capella thing? This one is worse and kind of makes me think that maybe we shouldn't try to forget it happened, you know, like wars and stuff.

Life is a Highway - Kidz Bop Kids: I dunno, generally I think children singing is really creepy but for some reason it's kinda working for me here.

Life is a Highway (Explicit) - DJ Crazy J Rodriguez: It seems like this would be a weird country rap version but it is just the exact same as number 1.

Life is a Highway - Six: You guys know how I feel about a capella groups, right? The further down this list we get the worse these versions get. It's astounding. What sort of horrible things did I do in a past life that have led to me writing reviews of different version of Life is a Highway? Whatever I did, this is too severe a punishment.

Life is a Highway - Juice Music: I've noticed that people take a lot of pride in the little yell thing at the beginning of the song. This song has the most intense "wwhhooooo-yyeeaahh."

Life is a Highway (Crossfit Workout Mix) - CrossFit Junkies:

Life is a Highway - Andrew Butcher: This guy seems like he's trying his best, and I admire that.

Life is a Highway - Pickin' On Series: Oh shit, this is pretty cool. Nice bluegrass vibe is much less abrasive than people doing different shades of "Ye-haws."

Life is a Highway - Lost In Time: They somehow made it sound like this version was recorded in my Oklahoma cousin's basement somewhere in the back half of 1986. First version with female lead vocals though, pretty cool.

Life is a Highway - The Nashville Riders: This version's vocals sound like someone is being shown a video of their deepest fears whilst he sings a cover of a song he neither likes nor dislikes. 6 potential hostage situations/10.

Life is a Highway - The New Country All-Stars: I'm gonna level with you guys, I think this group was lying about their name.

Life is a Highway - The Superstarz Kidz: The person singing this is very clearly in at least his thirties? I don't really hear any children on the track despite the album cover being a trio of Bratz dolls.

Life is a Highway - Wild Stylerz: This is the worst one. Beware.

Life is a Highway - Looking for Treble: Oh for fuck's sake.

Life is a Highway - Luke Marsden: This version sounds like I am the only person in the vast variability of the internet to ever hear this random guy play a song into his laptop. I guess there's a weird sort of hope in that. The idea of putting out a creative endeavor that one day has the ability to be heard by people you didn't anticipate. But also, this guy shouldn't be releasing music.

Life is a Highway - Dynamite: "Hey Dale, do you and the boys want to take our hogs down to my buddy's shed? He just bought a keyboard and a laptop with GarageBand."

Life is Like a Highway - Rebound: This is not Life is a Highway, just an impostor.

Life is a Highway (Cars) - 8-Bit Misfits: Another really cool song. Some sort of like 8-bit techno instrumental that reminds you the melody and everything is pretty catchy. No mentions of highways though. 8 state troopers pulling me over for using my laptop while driving/10.

Life is Terrible, Y'all

Seneschal-level contributor Sam Strohmeyer // Issue 8

I try to be thoughtful of others and go out of my way to accommodate strangers. That's why it has always made me bonkers in yonkers when people in public spaces are inconsiderate or just plain oblivious. You will find no better place to witness instances of this than in the magical realm that we mortals call Public Transportation. It is here where I regularly encounter my worst enemy, The Person Whose Backpack Needs a Whole Damn Seat To Itself. I've found this behavior unacceptable. I would never say anything because I am no bark AND no bite to my very core, but I have thought daggers at the people who do this.

I got on the bus one day this fall after having just left work. I organize and carry out events for a living and on event days I am my Best Self. I am confident and professional and have no less than three Mac adaptors and one roll of scotch tape on me at all times. (I only needed the tape once but the pride of being able to pull that sucker out of my bag in front of a frantic tape-desperate professor will comfort me for years to come.)

This day I was in my post-successful-event high and wearing my brand new Anthropologie dress that I got for 70% off. 70 PERCENT OFF, FRIEND. I was "feeling myself" as the kids say. I made my way onto the extremely crowded bus and spotted the only open seat. I started to sit when I realized the man in the adjoining seat was slumped over and muttering to himself.

Standing it is, then.

As the bus continued, a few people got off and I was able to grab an aisle seat next to a woman a few feet away, diligently ignoring the now loudly muttering man. I was in the middle of a heated group text about which member of the friend group correlated to which Sex and the City character. This was difficult because only one of us had ever seen the show. I was crafting my argument against being cast as Samantha (I mean, it's just too easy) when I feel someone grab my shoulder. I looked up to see the muttering man now standing over me.

He said, "I love you."

I said, "uh, um?"

He braced his other arm against the back of the seat in front of me and leaned in. He tried to kiss me. I turned away but he kept trying. I couldn't get out of my seat. I felt his breath in my hair. I couldn't remember how to make noise. He kept trying. I slumped down in my seat and practically rolled onto the woman next to me.

The other passengers realized what was happening and started shouting. They pulled him off of me and pushed him out the doors.

"Are you okay?" "Yes." Please stop looking at me. Everyone is looking at me. Wait, I should thank everyone for helping me. Yeah, I need to say thank you. I don't know how to say it. My face is on fire.

I wanted to sink into the floor. I wanted to burn my 70% off Anthropologie dress. I wanted to crawl out of my skin.

I got on the bus the next day after leaving work. It was not an event day. I was not my Best Self. I scanned the seats and found what I was looking for: a pair all to myself. I sat down and tried to look normal. I didn't remember how to do that. Other passengers started to pile in and I was suddenly terrified that someone would sit next to me. What if I'm trapped here? What if he shows up? I put my backpack on the seat.

What I'm trying to tell you is that sometimes a backpack does need to have a whole damn seat to itself.

"Some things are harder for some people than they are for others."

Hank Green said that in a Vlogbrothers video a few years ago and it has stuck with me ever since. Sometimes things that might seem simple and good to you might be complicated and harmful to others. This sounds so obvious as I'm typing it now but I don't think it's something that most people have internalized and let permeate their worldview. This is an essential lesson to learn because life. Is. Terrible. Life is fucking TERRIBLE, y'all. Like, it's also beautiful and wonderful and full of incredible joy and hope. But it is also rife with suffering and despair and emptiness. No one is exempt. We have to be able to look at each other struggle and understand that we are witnessing another human who is navigating this great and awful existence and doing the best they can.

I've thought about this every day since I put my backpack on that bus seat. I think about it when someone is unkind to me. I even think about the muttering man and how he ended up on a city bus, alone, so clearly ill. I'm not trying to excuse harmful behavior. I'm just trying to remember the context. And it is sad.

I hope I can remember this lesson on the hard days and the impatient days and the wonderful days too. I hope I can have a little more empathy for those who drive me crazy. But I know I won't always because this life is terrible and it will be too hard. And in the aftermath of those days, the days I am not my best, I hope I can have compassion for myself.

I hope you can, too.

Fuck It

Ascendant-level contributor Matt Spradling // Issue 6

I've been listening a lot to a band called Car Seat Headrest because Alex made me until Stockholm syndrome set in. One of their songs is called "Fill in the Blank." You can watch it here. It's great, there's a synth solo and a maraca and everything.

It's more or less about depression, but unless you paid attention to the lyrics or were familiar with the band, that might not be particularly apparent. It's pretty upbeat - it's actually its album's opener - and sounds more motivational and energizing than anything else.

For the first ⅔ of the song, the chorus is this: You have no right to be depressed, you haven't tried hard enough to like it / Haven't seen enough of this world yet, but it hurts / Well, stop your whining, try again, no one wants to cause you pain / They're just trying to let some air in, but you hold your breath

But then for the last go-around, it changes to this: I've got a right to be depressed, I've given every inch I have to fight it / I have seen too much of this world, yes, and it hurts / I will never see the light that I've seen shining in your eyes / You just want to see me naked, so I hold my breath

In this song, and probably in most songs similar to this, the first parts of the song feel like they're about what's being struggled with and what feels insurmountable, and then the climax of the song is the realization or the overcoming of said hurdle or celebratory or whatever. But here, the journey of the lyrics start at "Just keep going even when you're down and you'll find happiness" and end up at "Fuck it, that doesn't work, I'm depressed." Most of us probably interpret that as a descending path rather than the ascending path that it sounds like.

Thing is - have you ever been depressed? Of course you have, even dogs get depressed and they're the best of us. Maybe some people embrace it pretty quickly, and maybe some people just try to muscle through it forever. And maybe a lot of people get through it that way. But something really insidious that seems unique to things like depression and anxiety is that they're vague, gradual, and different for everyone. When you have a fever, you get concrete evidence confirming what you're feeling. Depression? Not so much. It's not on/off, it's more, everyone has bad feelings so these are normal; I have these specific problems that I'm having trouble with, so they're the source; I must not be living healthily enough and that's why I'm out of it; I'm not trying enough things and that's why I'm not looking forward to anything, etc. And those are all true. Etc. And etc. the next day. And etc. the next day. And they're still all true. And etc. the next day.

You know how headphones get tangled in pockets? It's not one single thing - they start in a nice loop, and then get bent this way, but the loop is still clear, and then gets bent under that way, and the loop is inverted, and then gets pulled out this way, and you can still trace the steps back to an untangled state but it's no longer visible, and then it keeps going. Each of the steps are very simple, but the result is a tangle you don't know where to start with. There's a breaking point at which you give up trying to unspool it like normal and start the autopsy to work the knot out.

Is there some sort of honor in not quitting your untangling process, trying to muscle through it, especially in that stoic masculine kind of way? Sure. I think the intentions are good. It's a fighting spirit. Maybe it's natural. Maybe it's faith. Or maybe it's just a fear of vulnerability. But, if at the end of the day it's about problem solving, trying to walk through a wall rather than changing course and finding a door is not admirable, it's rolling a natural 1 on an intelligence check. It's ok, it happens.

I don't mean to get all chicken soup for the teen soul. Point is, it's about understanding the reality of the situation, which I guess is to say honesty. And yeah, if we jump to "depression¯\_(ツ)_/¯" at the drop of a hat without trying to fix it, then maybe that's premature and an excuse and avoidance. I don't think most people do that, but I think a lot of people are scared of being perceived (or perceiving themselves) as doing that. And that keeps us from the crucial pivot yet another day.

But when we finally sit and take an honest inventory, maybe fueled by a rare dash of self-assurance, and realize we have done our damnedest and that dog just don't hunt, that's not giving up; it's going to sleep after a 16-hour shift, it's pulling over to stretch because your legs are numb, it's calling a painting finished because it has to be finished at some point and frankly it looks pretty good. It's an enormous and rejuvenating relief, and one you've come by honestly. It feels a lot like that Car Seat performance.

Top 5 Cola-Based Rituals (Presented With Author Commentary)

Google docs voyeur-level contributor Matt Spradling,
Anonymous dingo-level contributor Andrew Piotrowski // Issue 26

A couple weeks ago I was out running through Hyde Park where the heat-stroke hallucinations smell like money. It's a neighborhood that keeps you on your toes because you constantly have to choose between running on sidewalks which are trimmed for 5-foot tall people, uneven, and frequently nonexistent, or running in the road where people like to operate heavy machinery with their eyes closed. I've gotten pretty good at it in the past seven years, but thankfully covid added the intense zombie-dodging DLC to keep things fresh.

On this particular outing, I saw a child yelling on the sidewalk several houses ahead, so I crossed the street, but stayed in the street because there were zombies on the opposite sidewalk too. The aforementioned child was playing while his presumed mother watered the lawn, which at 5 in the afternoon is maybe a questionable activity, but I'm no homeowner (sobs in 27). As I passed, the yelling child hailed me without missing a beat in his yelling. He was clearly excited but also young enough that I could only make out every third or fourth word. Here is the transcript of our public yelling conversation while I was also hyperventilating:

CHILD: We (child) (child) (child) and (child) exploded!

NERVOUS YOUNG MAN: Oh yeah? Pretty cool!

C: And (child) (child) with coke and (child) (child)

NYM: Really? Coke? Yum!

C: (child) (child) (child) (child) and it exploded in my mom's face!

NYM: Oh, sounds like a fun time!

MOTHER: [stares, potentially perceiving NYM's response as an unfortunate double-entendre]

C: (child) (child) (child) (child) (child)

M: Tell him to have a good run!

C: Have a good run!

NYM: You too!

I had been considering asking the mother to have mercy on my sweaty soul and spray me with her hose so that I could feel again, but thought better of it and departed. I didn't think much about the incident at the time because I was drowning in an adrenaline wave-pool after having been forced to interact in any way with any other human, but later it struck me as curious; what was this strange child doing with coke? What had he caused to explode, and with such mirth? Was this cause for future concern? I don't like it when conflicts happen on my running route because I remember them forever like a fitful elephant. Not three blocks down from the house where this story takes place is the home of a man who yelled at me once in 2014 and I still think about it every day.

Three days later I passed this way again from across the street at roughly the same time of day, and this time went unnoticed. I heard the mother yell at the boy - apparently straight-up named Maximus - to clean up the coke before he went inside, while this Maximus wheeled about like a little dark-haired von Trapp. I stopped, and through the fog of hot death hotly thought some hot thoughts: anybody named Maximus is invariably a warlock; warlocks perform rituals; regardless of what dark purposes he was using the coke for, his trials were repetitious and clinical; therefore, this unsettling boy must be planning something nefarious, powerful, and messy, and he must be opposed lest the neighborhood fall victim to his sticky menace.

Since that day, I've devoted my clearly flourishing life to uncovering the arcane secrets locked away in the secret Coca-Cola family formula, and spilt every drop of blood, sweat, and the coke from flag-mart at my disposal so that I have a chance at winning this acidic arms race. Here are the preliminary results of my grueling studies thus far:

RITUAL NAME: "Flavor Explosion, Corrosion Erosion" COMPONENTS: Coke, Toothbrush, Stick or Rod, Gloves (optional). PURPOSE: Breathes necromantic life into malfunctioning car batteries. STEPS: Best performed before the front door of the Czech Stop in West while concerned onlookers shuffle by. Wait until the sun is at its zenith and raise the car's hood. Prop it open with a stick so that it doesn't kill you. Praise the sun (she's a good girl.) Imbue the coke with the power of the sun by holding it aloft with both hands for one minute while someone nearby plays Jimmy Buffet, mocking you with all the ways their car battery is not malfunctioning. Gently pour coke over the affected battery terminals, then thoroughly brush them. What happens then is whatever you deserve.

I am writing because I found the above account in an abandoned journal inside of a ravaged Coca-Cola factory. While the apocalypse has yet to take us into her withered bosom, I cannot help but be haunted by the interaction detailed by the uncredited author. As such, I've decided to try and continue their work to the best of my ability. Listed below is my first attempt at unlocking the mystic properties of Coca-Cola. If the ritual claims my life, so be it; I am simply recording the process in the hopes that someone else will be wiser than myself and my mysterious predecessor.

RITUAL NAME: "Flowing Path of Cola" COMPONENTS: Coke, Bamboo Shoots, Folding Fans, Snake Charmer's Flute. PURPOSE: Creates a sticky trail on the ground for multiple purposes, ex: slowing down a pursuer or attempting an army of ants. STEPS: Wait for the high heat of summer's day and align the bamboo shoots to direct the path of the Coca-Cola's flow. Gently pour, picturing the gentle tug of gravity and manifesting it in the fluid movement of the Cola. If necessary, guide gravity's hand by using the fans to motivate the Cola. As the Cola finds its path, lament to the universe the loss of this Cola as it is contaminated by the ground; this lamentation should be no shorter than three minutes but no longer than eight hours. Gently segue into a celebration as the Cola dries, leaving behind the desired viscous booby-trap. Praise the sun again.

IMPORTANT: BE S_RE N_T TO A___M__ T_I_ W_IL_ ______.............

[the rest of the note is indecipherable]

I added a ritual
Is the ruined note "be sure to drink your ovaltine"
I decided to channel Fallout 4 energy for my ritual
That's appropriate
Your turn
Oh god
Are we creating new narratives and authors for each ritual like a matryoshka doll of meta narrative or just adding to the already existing lists
Ooo, I'm going to use that line
I was thinking the former but this is your baby
What's a fancy term for squirt bottle
I don't think there is one

Dearest Sandarella,

I fear the worst. Three weeks trapped here and I have yet to find any way out of this infernal soda factory. And if I do escape, what then? I hear the buzzards call for me above the roiling wastelands beyond these walls.

In my initial searches I happened upon a journal lost to time, sticky and gnarled, like a feral child. I'm not sure what purpose it was created for, but I feel compelled to take up the fallen and, again, very sticky gauntlet of those who preceded me here, come what may. If there is no hope of escape from this labyrinth by conventional means, perhaps the darkness will grant me a boon. I record here my perverse findings and my regrettable place in this accursed matryoshka doll of meta-narrative.

RITUAL NAME: "Ignea Azalea" COMPONENTS: America's Favorite Coca-Cola, Squirting Distribution Apparatus, Azaleas or Bergenias, Live Earth. PURPOSE: Accelerates the growth of certain species of plant life to an exponential and frankly irresponsible extent. Resulting plants will be strong enough to crack foundations and smother all other plant life in the area. STEPS: Curse the Coca-Cola by first sacrificing some of it - pour it into a circle with a five-foot radius. Spin a bottle in the center of this circle, and set off in the direction the bottle points. Eventually you will find the sprouting form of a viable plant. Fill a squirty-vessel with the cursed good fluid and shake it thrice. It may now be used to fertilize plants until they grow into mighty abominations in mockery of creation and natural order. Spritz your plant of choice at morning, noon, and night.

Coca Cola Spells

Using soda for bad work

This is a haiku

Ritual name: "Turn

Enemies into Statues"

Components: Cola

Purpose: Get revenge

On the wizard who cursed me

To speak in haiku

Steps: Pour Cola on

Head of wizard who cursed me

Then hit him with can

Oh thank God, it worked. I can't believe that I've been speaking in haiku for three hundred years. Luckily I found this bizarre recipe book(?) buried in a time capsule outside of the elementary school. The plaque says it was buried forty years ago, which is weird because it seems a lot more battered than forty years would suggest. Maybe this book has a bit more of a story to it than the time capsule says it does.

Oh well, I'm not gonna worry that much about it. It looks kinda cool, I bet I could take it to Half Price Books and sell it for weed cash. God, what an amazing time we live in! I'm so happy I survived the Salem Witch trials to join a modern league of magic-users surviving in the modern era where I can sell books for weed.

I did one
It's beautiful
I'm writing the new hit YA modern fantasy series
Also I'm not gonna tell you what to do, but I feel like the last ritual needs to come full circle
Maybe the POV of the mom or kid
Well you made #4 a bit of a curveball
I made a curveball? Who the fuck is Sandarella?
I don't know

Police Evidence: Item #377802 - Entered 06-02-2036 - Journal

Partial transcription of contents:

We are close. If my brood performs the sacred rites but once more, then it shall be time. We will finally be able to take the form of that strange young man - the one the prophecies have foretold. The prophecies that said... we will need to steal his identity, so that we can... commandeer a righteous newsletter... to... ensure the protection in 16 years' time of... President Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

Here is that ritual because I forget it a lot.

RITUAL NAME: "Sweet Treat, Identity Yeet" COMPONENTS: Coke; Son; Rope; Innocent, Handsome, Ripped, Beloved, Successful Young Man/Hero. PURPOSE: A ritual to, uh, bodysnatch that handsome tall cool guy with one of our own who will masquerade as this extremely charismatic and well-endowed cool dude and eventually save the life of Mr. President Dale Earnhardt, Jr. But it will also be this rounded time travel thing where he will have been that awesome young man from the start and they are the same person but neither know it and all the math and stuff works out. It's an extremely specific ritual and to be honest we never really believed there would be a use for it. STEPS: Bind the cool awesome man with rope and use coke and mentos to waterboard him a little bit and that's actually it.

Dear Diary:

Maximus had that nightmare again last night. The one where he's a warlock who performs rituals based on different applications of Coca-Cola, then discovers and rediscovers the spellbook in different reincarnations. I'm probably letting him drink too much soda during the day. And in the morning. And before bed.

Maybe him yelling at that innocent young man on the sidewalk should have been the wake-up call my lax parenting needed.

Or maybe I just need a cigarette.

I've decided this article is now a criticism of Maximus's mother
A four-page knife wound straight to the heart of the zeitgeist

Sam Reviews: The Way Matt Eats String Cheese

Seneschal-level contributor Sam Strohmeyer // Issue 2

Buckle up y'all. This one is wild.

What I am about to tell you will forever change how you view Matthew Spradling.

I don't remember how it came up, but earlier this year I discovered that Matt eats string cheese by biting into it. Whole. This was immediately offensive to me. I would have felt the same way if he had bitten into a Kit Kat bar without breaking off a section or if he had punched an elderly person and also their elderly dog. But this was only the beginning.

Matt didn't know you were supposed to peel it apart.

Reader, I know how you're feeling because I felt it too: shock, horror, and the urgent desire to be single.

I asked him why he thought it was called string cheese then. He said the shape was like a string. You know, how string is shaped like a five inch long cylinder. I was silent. It got worse.

Matt's face is mirroring mine, contorted in disbelief. He. Doesn't. Believe. Me. He is still skeptical. It's been months since this revelation and when the topic comes up we resume our stare-down, equally exasperated. After many therapy sessions (s/o to my therapist, Jenny), I've come to understand this rift will never be bridged and I can love Matt anyway. It's hard but relationships are hard sometimes. Only very rarely this hard. This is really a one in a million case.

Anyway, I rate Matt's understanding of string cheese a -10/10. I'm sorry I've let you in on this dark secret. I can ask Jenny for therapist recommendations for you. Text me.

Matt Reviews: The Way Sam Eats String Cheese

Ascendant-level contributor Matt Spradling // Issue 2

This won't be a long entry. When you have both god and history on your side, I think it often pays to be quiet. Study. Learn. Be thankful.

I won't contest that string cheese is supposed to be eaten by doing that thing where you tear off thin, ragged strands that fill your mouth up to about 2% capacity. I might've done months ago, but it would be a fool's errand given the actual bag in my fridge right now which is labeled "string cheese" and which bears a logo depicting this, shall we say, strategy. For a while I thought this must be a very long-term joke being played on, if not Sam, her ancestors or perhaps the younger brother of the inventor of cheese sticks. Patient Zero for ridiculous practices are nearly always younger siblings. But no, regardless of original intention, string cheese is clearly a thing now.

My contention is that while it is a way to eat it, it is in fact the worst way to eat it. There are some snacks that are difficult to eat whole/bite directly. A cheese stick is not one of them. It's the diameter of about a nickel and has the consistency of, well, cheese. You can down it in three bites, two when desperate, one when bored. Was the peeling method developed for starving kids in old-timey schools that had to split a single stick eleven ways? For those with no teeth? Is there a subset of the population I live in privileged ignorance of that must compulsively find a use for both hands while eating? Also, as someone who wasn't blessed with a high tolerance for chewing noises, discovering a habit that multiplies the duration of snack times is sort of like noticing a unit on waterboarding in your class syllabus.

That's my piece. I want children out there who may feel confused or even endangered to know that they aren't alone. I rate the peeling method 1 strand out of I guess 13 strands.

Andrew Reviews: Women

Five-stars-on-Yelp-level contributor Andrew Lucas Piotrowski // Issue 4

Disclaimer: the following review is written from the perspective of an incredibly gay cisgender man, who will certainly do his very best to avoid falling into the trappings of traditional cissexist gender stereotypes. However, this is an absurdist editorial written for a subpar newsletter, so please forgive any jokes based on these outdated generalizations.

Women are icky. Full stop. Quite frankly, I don't understand the fascination with their bits and bobs, and for the most part, I would not even consider allowing one into my Jesus-only zones.

However, I must admit that they have some aesthetic aspects that are not completely without merit, so without further ado or cliches, but with plenty of badly formatted journalism, here's some review categories that might elucidate my opinions on the "fairer" sex.

Aesthetic: The feminine aesthetic is not something that I actually have a problem with. I, like most men I know, have a pair of hoop earrings inlaid with the word "femme," which I keep in the medicine cabinet with the rest of my earrings and some of my other hygiene products. The societal concept of womanhood certainly has its ups and downs, but for the most part, it includes being able to enjoy health and beauty products that men would be ridiculed for wearing. This is obviously a construct of a patriarchal society which only serves to punish men for femininity and shame women for "shallowness" or "frivolity." In any case, I find myself at the delicious corner of "male privilege" and "confident enough to use whatever products I want," so I rate this category 4 out of 5.

Panache: I don't know what this word means, and suggested the category as a joke. However, it has the word "pan" in it, which means bread in Spanish. Many well-known bakeries are either named after or were founded by women, so I rate this category a question mark out of exclamation point.

Je ne sais quoi: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Taste: I confess, I am probably not the best judge for this category, as I've tasted very few women compared to the number of men I've tasted. My most recent woman-tasting was at a very fun Halloween kickback, where we played a form of beer pong where the penalty for losing a cup on your side of the table was that the player must complete a predetermined dare, printed on coaster-like cards for exactly this purpose. One of the dares I had to complete for losing a cup required me to make-out with my (consenting) opponent, who happened to be a lovely woman. She said I was a very good kisser, and used my teeth well. I was wearing kitty-cat face paint, which left a black smudge on her cheek. The dares on the cards were rated green to yellow to red depending on the life-altering severity of the dare. Therefore, I rate this category green out of green.

Horsepower: Unfortunately for women, men have been historically allowed to own more horses. However, my mission is to review women, not men, so the objective horsepower of women would probably allow them to pull a lot of carts, considering the strength women have had to summon to resist the urge to punch every wannabe sexual predator on the street. I rate this category Seabiscuit out of Secretariat.

Save-ability in a house fire: I am a Very Strong Boy, with Big Beefy Thighs and Tasty Shoulders, so I am not especially frightened of my ability to lift women. Plus, I'm told that in situations of extreme duress, one can typically perform unimaginable physical feats, like when moms lift cars off of toddlers or when women in sororities listen to college-aged boys tell stories at house parties. If the fire were to happen at such a house party, I am confident that every woman in the house would be delighted at the opportunity to politely rain-check those conversations due to impending immolation. I rate this category 1/1.

QUIZ: Which Witch Will You Become When We All Inevitably Run Off Into the Woods to Escape Society?

GM-level contributor Marina Martinez // Issue 25

(Anybody can be a witch, Chad, chill out.)

1. What's your favorite drink?

a. A simple cup of herbal tea

b. Hot chocolate with cinnamon

c. Water (but with ice, it just hits different)

d. The hot blood of my enemies

e. Does Gogurt count as a drink or is that a liquidy food?

2. Which of these aesthetics speaks to you?

a. Sunlight streaming through the trees lighting a forest path at dawn, songbirds singing merrily in the yard as they hunt for worms after a light rain, wildflowers pressed between the pages of a cookbook

b. The smell of freshly baked bread, a warm hug, the giddy feeling of making a loved one laugh

c. Heat waves on pavement, a sticky table outside a crowded coffee shop, wearing black in during the middle of summer because you're not a wimp

d. The smell of gunpowder and gasoline, a cane that has a blade hidden in it, secret passages in an old castle, a cask of a vintage wine down in my basement come on just follow me it's right down here!

e. Just some sort of Ghibli movie - the color palette, the big goopy water physics, the magical realism

3. Why are you fleeing society, anyway?

a. We're destroying the planet! Well, we aren't, corporations and billionaires are responsible for the majority of the pollution and they blame it on us, but I still feel a little guilty! I could probably sort my recycling better!

b. I'm so tired of all the injustice. There are so many marginalized communities that nobody seems to care about no matter how many GoFundMe pages I share. I feel like I'm screaming into a void, especially with family. I don't know how to make people care about other people.

c. Honestly I'm just so busy worrying all the time - side effect of me being a perfectionist with acute anxiety - and I just need a break? I have a very public job and my boss must think I like working with people, but no! It'd be nice to maybe not be sweaty for...ten minutes?

d. Do you know how filled with rage I am? I log onto Twitter for five minutes and my vision is red. If I have to stay here and pay rent to my thief landlord for one more month I cannot be held responsible for my actions. Even memes can't save me now.

e. I'm not really sure, actually. It's just...have you noticed that more and more people are joining covens recently? I asked around - it's not just my friend group. Witchcraft is just taking over people's interests overnight like K-pop or Animal Crossing or TikTok. I have serious FOMO rn.

4. What's your favorite witchy film from the 90s?

a. Scooby-Doo and the Witch's Ghost - I think about this song at least once a month.

b. Halloweentown - it's very cheesy and family friendly but also strangely charming. The sequels got weird, but the original is still a classic!

c. Hocus Pocus - I too would probably fuck up and summon a great evil, I get it. Plus...talking cat!

d. Practical Magic - a coven of powerful women fighting back against abusers and also margaritas are involved, need I say more?

e. Sabrina the Teenage Witch - I know it's not a movie but Melissa Joan Hart and that cat puppet were my everything.

5. Which of these is your dream home (in the woods)?

a. A treehouse but like a whole village in the trees

b. A small but cozy cottage with a big kitchen and a warm hearth

c. Maybe like a renovated greenhouse, or some place with a jacuzzi or spa.

d. A bunker with at least three secure exits and a wine cellar and/or wet bar

e. A tent, but one of those 'glamping' tents

6. How do you sort your books?

a. By subject, like you're supposed to?

b. They're not really 'sorted' so much as 'in random stacks scattered around my house'.

c. I have all the spines facing backwards so it's like a fun treasure hunt whenever I'm looking for something specific. On second thought, it's not that fun. Why did I do this.

d. By color. Fight me.

e. Well the series are all kept together but then everything else is just sort of a free for all? I had them sorted by author name originally but then I kept buying more books and not reading them so your guess is as good as mine, pal.

7. What kind of potato are you?

a. The most excellent boiled potato

b. Garlic mashed potato

c. Loaded baked potato

d. Just a raw potato, full of potential

e. French fries or tater tots, something greasy to ease the ache in my soul (lol jk)

8. If you had to listen to only one Hozier song for the rest of time, which one would it be?

a. Work Song

b. From Eden

c. Sunlight


e. Take Me To Church

9. What D&D class would you be?

a. Druid

b. Cleric

c. Wizard

d. Barbarian

e. NPC. Also this question is bard erasure and I won't stand for it.

10. The most important question to any quiz - what's your favorite color?

a. Green, I guess.

b. Oh nooooo I like so many colors though. All of them together? Which is probably...brown.

c. uhhhhhhhHHHHHHH yellow.

d. Are you fucking kidding me. Red, like my vision rn.

e. You could've asked any question to gain further insight into my personality and you chose to ask a mundane question about color. Whoop-dee-doo, I dunno, rainbow. Please, I just want a result and this definitely isn't helping anyone.


Tally up your answers:

Mostly A: Witch of the Woods

Good news - running off into the woods may not have been your original plan, but you're the most prepared for this out of everyone, like Katniss in the first Hunger Games book. You might not remember to take all the plants you've accumulated with you, but you'll know enough about caring for them to set up and lead the sustainable farm that your coven will set up. Congratulations, you have a necessary skill and any coven would be lucky to have you! Your power will come up from Mother Earth, and the fungi you command will consume the rich and the transphobes.

Mostly B: The Good Witch

You're a particularly good finder - you finally found a way to be the permanent mom friend! Your ideas of witchcraft have been extremely romanticized, but your kind heart will strengthen your power and that of your coven. We're all extremely unprepared to live off of the grid, but you're a natural empath with a big heart and a comfy shoulder to lean on. For once, you don't mind bearing the emotional weight of an entire group - this time it was a choice and it actually doesn't feel like a burden! Your magic, although most suitable for physical healing, will be subtle but strong with emotions as well, binding your coven together.

Mostly C: The Phoenix

Your anxiety burns with the heat of a thousand stars, but don't worry, this is actually good news! Yes, you'll need a little while to gather your strength back, but the woods will be so rejuvenating that you'll practically feel like a new person. You'll gain a renewed sense of purpose, and before you know it you'll be soaring high. The motivation, enthusiasm, and energy you have from this new, free life will inspire those around you; you'll be a boon to your coven. Your magic will be a positive guiding force in those around you, and you'll be able to influence feelings and luck.

Mostly D: Witch of Sticks and Stones

Your anger is what has fueled you up until this point, but there won't be need for rage so much anymore. Instead, you'll find yourself channeling your righteous fury into the need to protect. Words have hurt you, but now you'll have the capacity to break bone if need be (but hopefully not, we're trying to be peaceful, here). Your magic will lend itself to fortifying wards, defending against harm, and protecting your coven.

Mostly E: You're not a witch at all!

Listen - it's not your fault, but nothing is stopping you from running off into the woods anyway to live your dream. You can still respect the culture and the lifestyle, that way it's not appropriation! This is your chance to be the grounding force, the control group, in this brave new world. Every group needs a token muggle, after all, and there are few things more powerful than being underestimated.

A Functional Member of Society

Provost-level contributor Alex Speed // Issue 7

For most of my life I've been a garbage person. You know the type. I've had beer for breakfast. I've told myself rinsing bowls off in the sink counts as washing them. If I wake up really thirsty in the middle of the night I cup my hands together and drink out of the faucet. One time I bought a $1 slice of pizza at 7/11 and the guy at the counter gave me two slices - it was the best day of my life.

I recently started working in an office again. Like a real life "I get up really early and spend essentially my whole day there and I come home to my dog who is very confused as to where I've been all day and why I smell like red wine now" job. I'm trying to adopt good habits like waking up way earlier than I need to so I can "ramp up to my day." Not a fan.

My dog does this very specific thing whenever I leave in the morning. I have to sort of trick him by playing with him, then taking him outside, then putting out his food before I shut the door to the backyard and leave for my desk filled day. Whenever I'm shutting the door, my dog does the exact same motion. He rears his head back from his food bowl and looks back at me like a pool noodle when you're trying to force it back into that weird plastic container at your aunt's house. This usually hurts me and I have to call to him as I leave: "I love you, I'll be back later." I know he can't understand me - he's a fucking dog. But, dammit I miss him.

I feel like what I'm learning about being a functional member of society (warning this isn't the normal sort of funny shit you probably expect from newsletter) is that choosing to participate also means choosing to let go of what you previously found as meaningful. If I had my way I would just stay in bed with my dog watching Downton Abbey until we melted into my faux memory foam mattress like a cheap 80's horror movie - but in this instance that's really all we want. Complete absorption into passive, minimally invasive, non-choosing existence.

That's what it's like to be a functional (more like fucktional! Ha!) member of society.

Rating the Middle-Aged Men Who Try to Add Me on Social Media

Disaccharide sucrose-level contributor Sam Strohmeyer // Issue 26


Jeffrey is getting a low rating because it's clear we have nothing in common and I'm a people-who-say-godfearing-fearing individual 🌹. He gets some credit for "kindly" asking people not to catfish him. Oh, Jeffrey. I'm praying for you.


I sent this screenshot to Matt and he immediately knew our relationship was in jeopardy. His name is Humphrey Jackett for christsake. A king among men if there ever was one. Maximum points, obviously. #futureMrsJackett


Jordan sent a friend request and messaged me at the same time. A little forward, honestly. Definitely too forward for a married man with pictures of his wife on his profile.


I like that Michael is upfront about what he's looking for but having two first names is suspicious for sure. He's also going to lose points because he looks a bit too much like my dad.


Sylvester is one of my faves. $700 a week? I had a hard time turning this one down, not gonna lie. He also looks a bit like he belongs in The Hobbit. How whimsical!


Iré has a heart of gold. Perhaps he's mistaken me for one of the orphans in one of the orphanage homes he gives money to? Anyway, it's really cool he wants to help people financially with nothing in return. Nothing at all. Just a helpful guy.

You Can Just Do Things

Ascendant-level contributor Matt Spradling // Issue 14

Was at Bennu Friday, having coffee on the patio like people do sometimes when they're trying to be a fancy movie person or vape. It was fine, I don't know, 6/10, but then a bird falls out of the sky dead like. Just bounces off a table like a ping pong ball after your dog's been at it. Misses a guy sitting there by about a foot. We make eye contact for a moment. What happens to you when you start your day that way? I wouldn't feel at all safe if I were him and I had to fly that afternoon. Like some daft avian Final Destination. We both leave.

You can just do things. Yeah? Yeah. I don't know how to phrase this not like a particularly inane stoner so bear with me. You can actually kind of just do anything you want? Did I miss a class on that in like 6th grade? Was that the plot to the first Assassin's Creed?

Starting at what is more or less my first office job has given me the realisation that business are kind of just people gathering in a room because they decided to do something and other people in other rooms have made plans involving said thing and if it stopped working for some reason then we would all just go find some other place to do some other thing and you're never really trapped or locked into anything as much as you might think. I know that's kind of I'm-14-and-this-is-deep but it's also technically true and serves as a good counterbalance to the opposite extreme which is paralyzing.

Maybe I'm just uppity after successfully moving jobs. Maybe I've caught a nihilistic case of capitalism after founding Pawscars which is both absurd and sure to be financially lucrative. Maybe I'm going through an extended and early mid-life crisis. Maybe someone spiked one of the cold brew pitchers in the work fridge with drugs. If so, sorry not sorry, police.

I don't know what the lesson is here. I guess keeping your agency in mind is empowering, and keeping an eye out for opportunities to throw it around a little can bear lots of random juicy fruit. Go find a dog. Dig up a plant and replant it a foot away to assert dominance over insects. Make a deal with apartment neighbors to knock out the walls separating you and construct a massive blanket fort. Order a pizza for your grandparents. Go outside.

Order With Dom

Ascendant-level contributor Matt Spradling // Issue 15

Chapter 1

I scowl with frustration at myself in the mirror. Damn my hair - it just won't behave, and damn Katherine Kavanagh for being ill and subjecting me to this ordeal. I should be studying for my final exams, which are next week, yet here I am trying to brush my hair into submission. I must not sleep with it wet. I must not sleep with it wet. Reciting this mantra several times, I attempt, once more, to bring it under control with the brush. I roll my eyes in exasperation and gaze at the pale, brown-haired girl with blue eyes too big for her face staring back at me, and give up. My only option is to restrain my wayward hair in a ponytail and hope that I look semi presentable.

Kate is my roommate, and she has chosen today of all days to succumb to the flu. Therefore, she cannot attend the interview she'd arranged to do, with some mega-industrialist tycoon I've never heard of, for the student newspaper. So I have been volunteered. I have final exams to cram for, one essay to finish, and I'm supposed to be working this afternoon, but no - today I have to drive a hundred and sixty-five miles to downtown Seattle in order to meet the enigmatic CEO of Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc. As an exceptional entrepreneur and major benefactor of our University, his time is extraordinarily precious - much more precious than mine - but he has granted Kate an interview. A real coup, she tells me. Damn her extra-curricular activities.

Chapter 3

My stomach scowls with consternation. Damn my goddamn internet. My week has been a whirlwind, and my weekend thus far has provided no respite. I sit at my computer trying to order something healthy from the Healthy Something store because I'm just in such a hurry for tonight, but damn my internet.

I look at the clock - 6:49 and 27 - no - 28 seconds. I shut my laptop like a window to a better future and whip out my phone. The Domino's Pizza app is there, inevitable, and I open it like a window to my Domino's pizza app. I guess tonight will just have to be a pizza night. 

The interface is painfully familiar as I swipe down to find my Easy Order - all too easy - but something is off. Something new. Someone new.

An AI interface to assist with pizza ordering? Well, this is the future, I laugh to myself, hard, too hard, far too hard, several orders of magnitude too hard.

I send through my Easy Order as per usual and fetch my shoes and keys to go pick it up. The one lesson my grandfather taught me is to never have anything delivered. He died of a preventable and treatable illness, but my family inherited enough of his frugally saved money to live comfortably for a week or two.

Chapter 6

The now-familiar, inscrutable, frustrating, utterly domineering face stares back at me, all white-on-red confidence and unblinking eyes. 

The storm pouring over the window in front of me mirrors the tears pouring over my big dumb face. I'm crying because I'm super sad about all the messed-up crud that happened to me in chapters 4 and 5. I'm sad because it was super bad and I like to be happy but I'm not so I'm not.

"Fuck you, Todd," I scream as I bring a careless fist down onto my keyboard. Why couldn't he just slice the chicken? The rain does not cease. Eventually I look up. I've idled so long that the chat function has seemingly auto-replied. What can I assist you with? it asks. He asks.

I stare like a deer in headlights but that wants to get hit. My fingers tremble - damn my typos - as I type: I nneed to no be alone.

I wait. After a moment, Dom replies. I know.

Chapter 10

QUIZ: Choose Some Ways to Die and We'll Tell You Which FRIENDS Character is Your Mom

Seneschal-level contributor Sam Strohmeyer // Issue 7

You're cruising on the Atlantic when your ship tragically hits an iceberg. Would you rather...

  1. Slowly sink to the murky depths

  2. Get too chilly on the lifeboat

  3. Be a midnight snack for a sweet sharky boy

You're hiking in a deserted forest and realize you've lost the trail and all hope. Would you rather...

  1. Pick a fight with a fluffy grizzly bear

  2. Poke an angry bee hive with a stick

  3. Try out a handful of those bright orange mushrooms you saw all the animals avoiding

You're on a flight to live your #bestlife in Cabo. Would you rather...

  1. Choke on the too salty peanuts

  2. Have one too many G&Ts and hit your head in the lavatory

  3. Get sucked out of a window and fly like a bird till the end

Your mom is... ROSS!!! Everyone's mom is Ross now. I dare you to check. You're going to call her in a minute and she's going to pick up the phone and scream, "WE WERE ON A BREAK!" She will be insufferable until you can lift the curse.

QUIZ: Answer three random questions and we will tell you how to lift the curse that turned your mom into Ross

What's your Hogwarts house?

  1. Hufflepuff

  2. Gryffindor

  3. Ravenclaw

  4. Slytherin

Which #millennial snack is your go to?

  1. Rainbow bagel

  2. Avocado toast

  3. Sharp cupcake

  4. Eel head pizza cup

How many times have you been visited by the one who follows the river and speaks only in riddles?

  1. 7

  2. 12

  3. Who told you?!

  4. d̸̡͇̻̰̞͚̒͌̃́̀̐̉̅̕̚͜o̶̲̜̪̳̠̒͛͌́̀̒́͑́ ̴̯̣͖̔̐͂ṅ̶͈̜̟͓̥͊͗̈͘o̸̹̹͓͌͑̑̌́̅͋̈̂͝t̷̡͖͚̝̞̜͈̱͍͑̓̈́̏̂̍̑ ̵̧̨̠͖̩̖̪͇͕̏̀͒͘a̵͔̫͔̯̪̓̒͂̒̔̈̒͑͝s̷̘̬̋̓̔̈́̄͛̍̚̚k̷̪͖̥̄̏̿̂͛̒̌͊̐́ ̴̧̻̳͔̀̍̃͂̑̀̚̚q̵̧̡̛͚͚͇̿̾̓͋͒͜͝u̵̟̾̀̑̏͊̇̏ę̵̲̻̰̒́̉͂̇͗͘s̵̢͉̗̦͒̃̎͝ṯ̶͒̌͒ĩ̸̢̖̟̪̈́̾͠o̸̡̯̬̯̻͚͔͚̣̪̽̔̂̽̍̋n̷̛͍͎̮̰͎̫̟̬̿͂̈́͗̀͒̈̎͝s̴̡̛̰̙̬̱̮̓̉͋͑̈́̆͘͝͝ͅͅ ̵͖̝́̅͑̓͘͝ẙ̶̢̦̖͐̒̎ő̶̜̦̈́̃͑̍̕ư̶̼͎͊̈́͋̋͂̓̈́͆̈́ ̶̛̬̪͙̠̜̪̙͇̊̈́̃̏̎̅͌̕͝d̷͚̮̗̞͍͚̎͆̿͋͂̂͆͘͝o̵͕̙̺̭͕̹̖̦̍̆̌ ̴̲̤̠̌̈́́͑̊͗͝ṋ̵͔̦̄̀͊͒̕͘ͅö̶̳͚̪́͆̏̃͜t̴̯̟̱̬̹̣̽͗ͅ ̴͍̩̲̬͖̭̀̓̇̐̄̒̃̔̽͜ẃ̵̼̘̰̈́̍͘à̷̛̺̘ń̴̡̻̝͖͕͌̔̾̿̌̕͠ͅẗ̵̮͉̮͈͙̰̼̺̲́͆̄͂̅͜ ̵̥̥͓͐̕t̵͖͂͌̓͋͂̓́ḧ̷̡͚͖̼̳̼̬̉̚͜ē̶̡̯̪̘͍̭ ̶̝͍͈͖̻̖̱͇̞̽̿̏̍́̈̕͘͜͝ã̴̘̼̯͈̹͕̰͉̏̊͛̏̾̂̈̿͜ͅn̷̨̢͍͎̣͈̹͉̮͚̒͆̚ş̴̥̝̩̂̎͐w̴̗̲̩̙̻͙͈̃̓̔͛͜͠ȩ̴̧̛̠̯͖̺͚r̶͕̭̣̥͙͕͓͚̩̽͆̃̐͒́͆̓̾̉ṣ̸̙̳̮̖̲͝ ̶̢̛͉̠̙̗̈͗̎̊̍͑t̶̢̻̞̹͙́̈́̉͆̿̒͛̕͝ô̶̜͉̣̝̻̩̘̄ͅ

Okay, I don't know how to lift the curse! I don't even know how to lift my own curse! I can only communicate via this quiz format and let me tell you, it is HELL. Maybe having Ross as your mom will be fun! She can tell you all about dinosaurs and have a pet monkey. I mean, she will be just insufferable 90% of the time but it could be worse.

Ugh, FINE! I might know a guy who can help you.

QUIZ: Can we guess which ancient wizard can lift your curse based on your top three favorite Ariana Grande songs?

What is your favorite song from Dangerous Woman?

  1. Dangerous Woman

  2. Into You

  3. Side to Side

What is your favorite song from Sweetener?

  1. No Tears Left to Cry

  2. God Is a Woman

  3. Breathin

What is your favorite song from Thank U, Next?

  1. Thank U, Next?

  2. Imagine

  3. 7 Rings

His name is Rudlefund the Righteous and you'll find him in the smallest cave between the Forest of White Wind and the Tower of Marlug the Fair. Oh, and sometimes he hangs out at Bennu. You'll have to bring him a cassette of some Ariana Grande songs to get him to help you because he's crazy about her but he stopped understanding technology in early 1981. Please don't tell him I sent you.

Some Things That Can Happen During Surgery 

Ascendant-level contributor Matt Spradling // Issue 3

Sometimes surgery is a thing that happens. Maybe you need it or maybe you are considering it just for fun. Regardless, here are some things that you may want to take into account before letting the anesthesia rip.

  1. All the other patients are really old. Maybe this is more specific to heart surgery, but when after several appointments the next youngest person you've shared a waiting room with is roughly 70, you start to wonder if you are actually 70 as well, and just kind of forgot, which is easier to do when you're 70. This is not all bad, but is also not great.
  2. Nurses, as a rule, are your age but more successful and attractive, so it gets a little depressing to meet a lot of them. We don't ever see them because they're always in hospitals. But that also accounts for the flip-side, which is that they seem generally unhappy because they spend their lives working 12-hour shifts in hospitals, so it's kind of an everybody-loses scenario.
  3. Hospital elevators are really slow. Defo not a big deal, and strangely fun if you're a Mass Effect fan.
  4. Hospital gowns are more confusing than they are unpleasant. I was in one for 24 hours and still have no idea how they're intended to work. Also the pattern was closer to camouflage than sterile white or whatever. Seems like a good way to lose patients.
  5. Sometimes nurses like to talk to you about how you're wrong about weather while they torture you in the arm for ten minutes under the guise of drawing blood. This process does entail taking your blood and putting it somewhere that is not inside your body which is inherently the main thing humans try to avoid.
  6. I know an anesthesiologist who is a great person, but sometimes your anesthesiologist will be a man whose name is basically a daft mispronunciation of Nietzsche and whose undertaker-like demeanor and slow ghoulish eyes promise he'll leave the drip on a little heavy so you'll have time to snuggle while you're out.
  7. Getting wheeled on your bed through crowded hallways is more or less the most ridiculous experience even without people looking at you confused as though it was your choice to be doing something so ridiculous.
  8. Usually surgery means you suddenly find yourself in a big room with spectator windows while every appendage gets things attached to it and doctors shave your body hair in weird ways. Probably fun if you like to imagine yourself as a race car getting worked on by a pit crew but I was neither blessed nor cursed with such a kink.
  9. Sometimes the last thing you're told before being knocked unconscious for the first time is "you're young so we're just going to give you an extra heavy dose. Bye!" I don't think nurses are supposed to say bye.
  10. Upon waking, your initial sensation will be that of having deepthroated an animatronic horse, because you basically have.
  11. If your surgery involves groin incisions, nurses will come by and ask to see your "groin spot" every hour and it won't be at all how you might've imagined in middle school.
  12. You won't get any sleep because hospital beds are what they are, your heart is like hey they just punched a hole in me, maybe stay alert and don't let literally the worst thing happen again, and then, just in case, somebody comes in once an hour every hour throughout the night. Sometimes this is to change the trash. Sometimes this is to weigh you at a confusing time as though they're suddenly worried they either took something out they weren't supposed to or left something in they weren't supposed to. Sometimes there isn't anything to do apparently so a man you've never seen before just tells you he'll be back at 5:00, then when he returns he does an EKG but also hooks it up to your kneecaps, giving the distinct impression that he neither works there nor knows anything about EKG's or even really human anatomy.
  13. Actually I used to deliver food to hospitals frequently and they do in fact let just anyone stroll in most of the time. Once, a nurse ordered their food to a specific room, but when I got there there was only a patient alone in bed. I asked if they ordered food and that old man turned and gave me the blankest look I've ever received and I still think about it frequently. But yeah I defo had time to do a quick made-up test on his knees before anyone would've noticed. I wonder if that's how some people become doctors, like showing up to a game without a ticket but slightly higher stakes.
  14. Apparently it's a rule that you have to be discharged via wheelchair even if you can walk fine. The result is that you, a young person, get pushed around by an old volunteer who god bless her could definitely use a ride more than you and it's even more absurd than the rolling bed bit.
  15. Then you get to sleep and have other people lift things for you for a week and that's pretty ace.

5/10, pending continued vitality

Mormon Authors

Ascendant-level contributor Matt Spradling // Issue 2

On Halloween I took a Lyft along with two women. I sat in the front and they sat in the back. This was partly because they were discussing something, but also because I've developed a talent for deflecting the tension that usually accompanies riding in silence beside a rideshare driver. This one had no intentions of succumbing to our party's simple tactics. After a distressing minute of chuckling, he exclaims with a thick Guinean accent that I, Matt, have two wives. Nah, we answer. I am a lucky man to, he insists, have two wives. Nah, we answer. I am a blessed brother, he informs me. Nah, we answer as I reciprocate a fist-bump, the underlying communication of which is please see fit to end this pain and also keep your eyes on the road on which you are in fact driving. Which is the first wife and which is the second wife, he asks. That one's first, we agree, but nah. I am blessed because my wives don't fight, he suggests. Well, yeah, we answer, but nah. His wives fight all the time, he confides. Ah, we commiserate, but nah. I ask if he has any pets. This man who holds our lives in his hands has no pets but two wives in Guinea. I talk to him about Naby Keita because if you know one soccer player from every country, it guarantees you at least two minutes of emergency conversation with any and all rideshare drivers. This man solves my word-maze in twenty seconds flat and then reverts to his default state of chuckling in, frustratingly, apparent disbelief about my wives until the conclusion of our dark odyssey. I leave five stars because I'm a millennial and therefore consider service industry feedback to be an all-or-nothing choice between "kindly refrained from doing premeditated murder on me or mine" (five stars) and "actually committed premeditated murder against me or mine" (three stars). Besides, I shudder to think of how many children he's supporting.

What's up with Mormon authors? It seems like a whole thing, doesn't it? For starters, you've got Orson Scott Card, about whom you may remember from the whole Ender's Game movie boycott thing. The issue at hand was gay marriage and what related organizations he may or may not provide financial or ideological support to. Turns out this is in fact religiously motivated for him as he is Mormon, and a particularly outspoken one. Like, just opinions out the wazoo, for fun. Youtube him, it's wild.

So that's that - except it doesn't end up as simple as usual, because his writing (at least Speaker for the Dead which I recently read) is not just excellent, but rife with the exact kind of thoughtful insight into human nature and frankly progressive spirit that you'd think would serve to thwart bigotry, not forward it or even tolerate it. So that's my confusion: it's one thing when chik-fil-a makes dope milkshakes, as hateful owner agendas understandably do very little to affect sugary recipe quality, but given this particular literary point of data, it's difficult to fathom how a mind can espouse what it does in that book and simultaneously be anything other than socially progressive and deferential towards that which is not understood. And I think that runs a lot deeper than "I loved what he said here, so he should surely agree with me on most other things as well," although I guess some amount of that sort of bias is easy to let slip.

I guess there's a lot to unpack there. I didn't mean to make this a one-entry category - it turns out fantasy juggernaut Brandon Sanderson is Mormon, although he seems to be pretty universally liked and also much more open-minded about public discourse, compromise, and reconciliation (which I guess is to say separation) between government and religion. Plus, in fairness, what Sanderson I've read doesn't delve deeply enough to risk unearthing such contradictions as Card. Also of note is Stephanie Meyer. I guess I don't have anything to say about her other than that it makes sense that the only person who could write Twilight is someone with extensive personal experience in sniffing out the scraps of erotic intrigue that fall through the floorboards of cold hard abstinence. Which, like, isn't the worst thing to hand to middle schoolers, when you think about it.

I guess it was finding that all of these authors were out of the temple-garment closet in close succession that made it feel like something of a pattern to me, but I'm mainly concerned about Card here. I would jump at the opportunity to have lunch with the guy purely because I'm dying for answers vis-à-vis the whole being-super-thoughtful-and-insightful-except-for-this-one-big-red-flag quandary. I really can't parse it. It's like that episode of Community in which Troy and Jeff find the secret garden with the trampoline but then the caretaker turns out to be super racist at the end, but more so and without the subtle hints. Now maybe more thorough research would help, but that would be veering precariously close to work, and that's not what this newsletter is about. From what I have gathered from interviews on the topic, though, it sort of seems like he acknowledges his opinions are purely theological and I'm not sure he necessarily supports anti-gay organizations or legislation (and to be clear, abstaining from a shitty thing is not the same as opposing a shitty thing, it's sometimes just passively shitty rather than actively shitty, which is still, in fact, shitty). Or maybe he totally does; I made my stance on work here pretty clear.

What's the point of all this? I don't know. Did this just become a Genuinely Asking segment? Sure. What do you do when you've got a nice warm slice of universe pie cut out and ready to go and then some guy with terrible facial hair sneezes on it? Can you separate an artist from their art? Even when said art isn't, say, some cliche-lathered love song but a full-bodied, deep dive into their own mind and understanding? Is it because Mormonism is, to whatever degree, more cult-like than mainstream Christianity and therefore otherwise-bright minds are more likely to remain stuck in what they were born into even though it otherwise wouldn't be for them? Is that entire framing belittling to religion in general? Sorry, if so. I'm not particularly concerned about religion anymore and certainly am not trying to attack it.

Am I worried that, through Card, I'm eating food that tastes healthy but is, beneath perception, contaminated and harmful to ingest? What does it say about my confidence in my agency and mindfulness that that is even potentially a worry of mine? Twilight readers, did Stepho make y'all feel this way a decade ago? But I guess there's some evidence for this as I spend about 15% of my waking life with a Newsboys song stuck in my head even though I haven't really listened to them in well over a decade.

Or is it perfectly reasonable that such competing approaches to life as Card's can coexist in the same mind and not constantly inform each other (whether through cognitive dissonance or simply by not overlapping), and am I just thrown off by the reminder that things I don't understand or like are alive and well, sometimes in minds brighter than my own, like an in-similar-circumstances-that-could've-been-me scenario? You could've been Mormon. You could've been given two wives. But that wouldn't excuse you from any harm you caused as a result. Is anyone still reading this? A Newsletter: for publicizing shallow existential misgivings. Try it today!

Ode to the Giant Googly Eyes I Attached to My Bedroom Door

Ionic pentagonal-level contributor Andrew Piotrowski // Issue 26

To call my door a treat would be a lie

Though none could fault the benefits inside

My chamber, which renowned for sultry feats

Lacks luster if just closed door one meets

I shan't bore thee with litany of woe

Such tacky ruminating I forego

I know inside my bedroom all will see

How cool my games and posters and such be

Alas if glimpsed from living room afar

The door seems just, if likened to a car,

A beige sedan with little in the tank

That breaks down twixt the groc'ry store and bank

But in my sacred heart of hearts I know

That on the other side; another show

Again; an auto metaphor will do

A Firebird, with racing stripes of blue

"But how," I think, "could I hope to portray

The wonderland a doorknob turn away?"

The door, still unadorned, just seems to mock

With paint as white and boring as a sock

This cursed mission haunted every hour

The decorating failure turned me sour

My steps grew heavy and my shoulders weak

When at my dour door I dared to peek

As months went by with no relief to find

And dreary door relentless on my mind

One weekend in pursuit of merry days

I took a mini-road trip with my gays

To shop and eat and frolic were our goals

And after shoving lunch into our holes

To Half-Price Books we ventured, but too soon

For, much to our dismay, 'twas closed til noon

Beleaguered and distraught we headed north

With quarter-hour to kill, we ventured forth

When God Above Himself birthed unto man

The craft store owned by maiden fair, Joann

Agog, aghast, we wandered aisles filled

With arts and crafts for wizened hands to build

While searching for a time-fulfilling prize

My gaze was fixed upon a pair of eyes

For dollars two and pennies, ninety-nine

This pair of eyes was destined to be mine

The panacea for my old despair

Was sent to me, this wondrous googly pair

On Anxiety

Journeyman-level contributor Sam Strohmeyer // Issue 24

For nearly ten years I have been operating under the idea that my anxiety disorder was something I could, with enough effort, win. Like I was running a race and if I could push myself hard enough I would start clearing hurdles instead of tripping on them and eventually cross the finish line with my brain all fixed.

The more progress I made, the more confident I was that I was almost finished and the more devastated I was when I hit a setback. I coordinate events for a living and sometimes that looks like standing in front of an audience of 60 silent and staring academics and trying to figure out why the projector isn't working, ten minutes after the lecture was supposed to begin. On that day I eventually fixed the problem and after exiting the venue all I could think was, "I've failed." I wasn't bothered by the projector not working; God created projectors to punish me, a fact I accepted long ago. I was upset that I felt anxiety, the emotion I have been trying my damnedest to kill since 2011. It didn't occur to me in that moment that the anxiety I felt was entirely justified. Any time it popped up for me was a defeat in my eyes.

Emotions are messages. Anxiety is a message that something is wrong; a signal to be alert and aware. It's extremely useful and in small doses very good at keeping us alive. Some of us just have a little too much of it and wowza doth my cup runneth over. When the anxiety signal is in overdrive and there isn't an obvious cause, like getting chased by a lion or something, our minds create stories to bridge the gap between how we feel and the reality we are experiencing. That's how you end up standing in your bathroom at 4:00 am, inspecting the ceiling to make sure the air conditioner isn't going to fall through and kill your boyfriend while he's in the shower.

I used to be so confused and surprised by what my mind assigned all my excess anxiety to but I've found the common denominator: control. If the problem my anxiety is tied to is that the air conditioner is going to fall out of the ceiling, I can call the apartment maintenance man to fix it. If the problem my anxiety is assigned to is that I didn't lock the door, I can check that I locked it. And check again. And maybe a third time to be safe. The door, the air conditioner, those aren't the sources of anxiety. The anxiety was there already and my mind created stories in an attempt to make the anxiety make sense and give me relief via the sense of control I feel from checking.

See? I get it. I know my mind's little tricky tricks. Years of therapy and experience have given me a greater understanding of myself than I ever imagined I could have. I've become aware of my patterns and have all kinds of words to describe my thoughts and feelings. But seeing it and understanding it doesn't make the feeling go away. I know. I was shocked, too.

I got back into bed after examining the bathroom ceiling that night and said to myself, "I thought we didn't do this anymore." And my mind, trying her goddamn best to help, replied, "Matt is going to die. We should probably check the ceiling again." I knew that wasn't true, so I resisted the urge to get up, but I wasn't able to go back to sleep.

I hate writing about this. The second I sat down to start I developed a chic, full-body sweat tuxedo under my clothes. This feels way too vulnerable for me. But I'm doing it because I feel the need to share what I've just recently come to accept and what has been helping me in these hard times: I'm never going to perfect this. Perfection doesn't exist. There is no finish line. There's progress to be made and coping strategies to learn and work to be done, sure. But by accepting that I am not going to "master" my anxiety, by taking that responsibility off my shoulders, I can have some compassion for myself. I can experience highs and lows knowing that I am on a lifelong journey and that things will continue to change and I will continue to grow.

And if you're like me, and a global pandemic has recently started to make things really hard, please remember it doesn't mean you've failed.

Cookie Recipe

Teutonic-level contributor Matt Spradling // Issue 18


For the cookies:

1 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour.

I remember the first time I saw a cookie.

Overcast skies and dying tree leaves bordered my view of the yard of the house I grew up in from ages four to ten. It was fall. Hence the dying leaves and also the overcast skies, although overcast skies can potentially happen pretty much any time of year.

But I didn't know that. Not really. I was just a dumb kid back then. Back before. Back when then.

1/2 teaspoon baking powder - I recommend aluminum free.

Just so dumb. Such a dumb.

Far too dumb.

1/8 teaspoon baking soda.

I met my husband in middle school, but neither of us knew it at the time. I was too committed to the game. I didn't have time for love.

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt.

In high school we had some classes together - classes such as art, Spanish, Serman, French, calculus, pre-calculus, algebra, algebra two, geometry, physics, chemistry, chemistry two, English, psychology, English two, English three, athletics.

Physical education, English four, choir, band, more athletics, more band, theatre, theatre three, American history, world history, American government, European history, more physical education, romantic literature, art two, microeconomics, home economics, macroeconomics, environmental science, and also more as well.

1/2 cup unsalted butter - (1 stick), at room temperature.

I was so dumb then.

We were so dumb.

3/4 cup granulated sugar.

When the war started, at first we weren't sure what we were going to do.

2 tablespoons light cream cheese - (1 ounce) (do not use fat free - you will need 1, 8-ounce brick of cream cheese total for the recipe).

The Korean War (in South Korean Korean: 한국전쟁; Hanja: 韓國戰爭; RR: Hanguk Jeonjaeng, "Korean War"; in North Korean Korean: 조국해방전쟁; Hanja: 祖國解放戰爭; MR: Choguk haebang chŏnjaeng, "Fatherland: Liberation War"; 25 June 1950 - 27 July 1953)[41][42][c] was a war between North Korea (with the support of China and the Soviet Union) and South Korea (with the support of the United Nations, with the principal support from the United States (US)).

The war began on 25 June 1950 when North Korea invaded South Korea[44][45] following a series of clashes along the border.[46][47]

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract.

As a product of the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States, Korea had been split into two sovereign states in 1948 with the border set at the 38th parallel. A socialist state was established in the north under the communist leadership of Kim Il-sung and a capitalist state in the south under the anti-communist leadership of Syngman Rhee.

Both governments of the two new Korean states claimed to be the sole legitimate government of all of Korea, and neither accepted the border as permanent. The conflict escalated into warfare when North Korean military (KPA) forces-supported by the Soviet Union and China-crossed the border and advanced into South Korea on 25 June 1950.[48]

The United Nations Security Council authorized the formation of the United Nations Command and the dispatch of forces to Korea[49]to repel what was recognized as a North Korean invasion.[50][51] Twenty-one countries of the United Nations eventually contributed to the UN force, with the United States providing around 90% of the military personnel.[52]

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest.

After the first two months of war, the ill-equipped and underprepared South Korean Army (ROKA) and the US forces rapidly dispatched to Korea were on the point of defeat, forced back to a small area behind a defensive line known as the Pusan Perimeter. In September 1950, an amphibious UN counter-offensive was launched at Incheon, and cut off many KPA troops in South Korea. Those who escaped envelopment and capture were forced back north. UN forces invaded North Korea in October 1950 and moved rapidly towards the Yalu River-the border with China-but on 19 October 1950, Chinese forces of the People's Volunteer Army (PVA) crossed the Yalu and entered the war.[48] The surprise Chinese intervention triggered a retreat of UN forces back below the 38th Parallel by late December.

1 large egg - at room temperature.

In these and subsequent battles, Seoul changed hands four times, and the last two years of fighting became a war of attrition, with the front line close to the 38th Parallel. 

The war in the air, however, was never a stalemate. North Korea was subject to a massive bombing campaign. Jet fighters confronted each other in air-to-air combat for the first time in history, and Soviet pilots covertly flew in defense of their communist allies.

For the frosting:

7 ounces light cream cheese, - use the remaining cream cheese that you did not put in the cookies above.

The fighting ended on 27 July 1953, when the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed. The agreement created the Korean Demilitarized Zone(DMZ) to separate North and South Korea, and allowed the return of prisoners. However, no peace treaty was ever signed, and the two Koreas are technically still at war, engaged in a frozen conflict.[53][54]

In April 2018, the leaders of North and South Korea met at the DMZ[55] and agreed to work towards a treaty to formally end the Korean War.[56]

And also like MASH.

1-2 teaspoons milk - any kind you like.

When I got the news that he'd kersploded, I didn't eat cookies for a full year. It was just too painful. And also he could not eat cookies either because he had kersploded in his body.

But not his spirit.

I knew his spirit was unkersploded.

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract.

About 100 grams of gunpowder.

1 cup powdered sugar.


Dirt from the country you were born in.



Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a silp-mat.

Clear a couple dozen square feet of contiguous space on the ground. Avoid carpet.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the whole wheat pastry flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

Form a pentagram using the gunpowder and lavender mixed together.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, and cream cheese until light and fluffy, about 3 full minutes, stopping to scrape down the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla extract, lemon zest, and egg, stopping to scrape down the bowl again. With the mixer running on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture, beating just until incorporated.

Using your dirt, create ovals which trace the orbit of the inner planets at the current time within the pentagram. It's ok if they run outside the edges of the pentagram but the bulk of them should be contained within.

With a small cookie scoop or spoon, scoop the dough by tablespoonfuls and roll into a ball. Place 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet. With your fingers, lightly press the cookie balls to a 1/4-inch thickness. If the dough is sticky, dampen your fingers slightly.

Place the fruit within the patterns in whatever arrangement feels best, then light that mother up. Just make it pop. There will be smoke.

Bake the cookies for 9 minutes, until the edges barely begin to brown. Let cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then gently transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

The fruit should remain cool to the touch but seem significantly heavier.

Meanwhile, make the cream cheese frosting: In a medium mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese on medium speed for 2 minutes, until smooth. Reduce the mixer speed to low, beat in 1 teaspoon milk and vanilla extract until combined. With the mixer running gradually add the powdered sugar. Once the powdered sugar is incorporated, increase the mixer speed to high and beat for 1 full minute. Add additional milk, 1 teaspoon at at a time, if you desire a thinner frosting consistency.

Spread the frosting over the cookies, then top with fresh fruit. Enjoy!

Consume the fragments of the soul of my dead husband. I need as many people as possible to do this so that his essence may continue. Please do this.

Make extra and share with friends, family, and even coworkers!

His hands were always so warm and strong yet gentle and also really dirty all the time when he'd hold me and it got my shirt all dirty but I never cared because boy I loved hands.

Abyssal Miscellanea: A Bestiary of Second-Rate Entities Omitted from Lovecraftian Canon

Ascendant-level contributor Matt Spradling // Issue 7

The Colour out of the Dishwasher - Between 1972 and 1984, nearly two dozen cases were documented concerning the emergence of a color from household dishwasher appliances, all in the region between the Eastern shore of the Mississippi River around Illinois and Lake Erie. Homeowners reported that late at night after light-to-medium washing cycles, strange, unearthly hues would appear to leak and glow around the appliance. Although none could describe what the colors were, most corroborated that the colors seemed to be affected by the type of foods being washed off of the dishware inside. Italian seemed to trend towards the warmer end of the spectrum, seafood towards the colder. 6 documented fatalities.

The Blackpool Friend - Regarded by many as an Irish urban legend, it's said that many a tourist taking a ferry across the way for day-trips to the Blackpool area has encountered a past acquaintance that insists on spending the entire day with them and from whom it is impossible to politely get away. After returning home, victims forget all features of this entity and realize they never knew them beforehand, either. Especially fond of that Ferris wheel.

The Mince Pie in the Wallpaper - Said to gradually appear in the rough form of a mince pie in the patterns of cork wallpaper, especially in the bedrooms of adolescents. Many claim to have undertaken a discourse with the pie, usually concluding with the pie either revealing the date on which the subject lost or will lose their virginity, or else revealing the word "yes," an answer to the question of, all subjects agreed, though they did not ask, whether or not Santa exists. All subjects of the latter variety without exception were driven insane and died prematurely of unknown causes on Christmas day. 

Broth Faeries - Bone, Chicken & Vegetable - Particularly difficult to avoid, these entities appear wherever hot soup exists, except they don't appear as they are invisible and indeed cannot actually interact with our plane at all. Nonetheless, they are wont to splash around in the soup as best they can and treat it more or less like a spa, leaving once the soup is consumed or the heat exhausted. The chicken broth variety are the most common and are especially fond of bubbles. The vegetable broth variety approach the ordeal rather stoically but still do enjoy themselves. The bone broth variety, however, are profoundly and singularly unpleasant. They are intensely territorial and will claim the soup as their own, following it defiantly into the consumer's body and ultimately infesting their bones. It is unknown what long-term effects, if any, exist, but once there, they never leave. Are passed onto offspring ad infinitum.

The Disparaging Darkness - In a B&B in Innsmouth, visitors in the 1990's frequently complained of a disembodied voice from an unseen source deriding and personally insulting them when trying to sleep at night. These days it has become something of a tourist attraction. The entity is not shy, but, exasperated from the demands of supernatural enthusiasts and masochists, has taken to mostly complaining about the results of Rupaul's Drag Race.

The Wet Dreams in the Boarding School - No additional information

Room-Temperature Air - No additional information

The Smell out of Space - N ddtnl nfrmtn

The Secret Boy in the Not-Secret Cave - NNNN

Spare a Thought for Ugly Animals

Winsome-level contributor Matt Spradling // Issue 26

We already know that attractive people receive preferential treatment in various ways, but what about attractive animals? How many of us have been inundated with campaigns and fundraisers attempting to save the provocative polar bear, the luring leopard, the glamorous gorilla, the comely crocodile, the inviting irrawaddy dolphin, or of course, the winsome whale?

I'm concerned about the state of my targeted ads after this.

But what about the creatures differently blessed with coolness and beauty, those almost certain to never grace the cover of Zoobooks Magazine?

Here is a brief guide on how to give some much-needed attention to the more homely of our friends from across the nature!

Elephant Seal - Now these are like normal seals but with a huge... sock hanging off their face. Unlike more standard seals, these bad boys need a relative excess of starchy carbs in their diet which are hard to find in the ocean, so be sure to bring a spare plate of pasta with you next time you head to the beach. Remember to make it al dente!

Aye-Aye - Perhaps the creepiest-looking of all, these are sort of like if my cat had babies with a sleep paralysis demon. Consequently, they feed on dreams to survive! Isn't that adorable? Specifically nightmares. Trick is, they don't really understand, so you have to lure them into your sleeping chambers with more conventional means (animal crackers under your pillow) and they'll just sort of absorb your dark energy (lick your sweat) while they're around. Remember to really bunker down under your covers so as to best bring about the heat-fear. Fun!

Star-Nosed Mole - Can you imagine playing The Last Of Us, going on a walk to clear your fear-addled head, and seeing one of these fungus-faced abominations, I mean friends, skulking towards you? Hooray! The deal with these girls is that they're very very shy, and will just hide to death underground. It's actually our responsibility to go down there and feed and water them two or three times a day. Their holes are incredibly narrow and 1-2 dozen meters deep, so, start working on your climbing ability and hope you're not claustrophobic. It's like the Pits of Hathsin but instead of geodes you get true love!

Blobfish - So these are actually somewhat disturbing to view, so take a moment to assess your level of emotional buoyancy before looking them up. Outside of deep water, these sort of look like a cross between Mr. Saturn from Smash Bros. and the merman from Cabin In The Woods. There's actually nothing humans can do for these grim puppies and they know it. It's in everyone's best interest to punt them back into the briny depths where they can lead their lives in dark, relative peace.

California Condor - You're probably pretty familiar with these, but look again! Yeah! Those! Uh-oh! When I was a kid we went on the Jaws ride at Universal Studios and there was a bit where the boat goes into a flooded barn thing(??) to hide from it(??) and then they somehow use pyrotechnics to burn it to death(??) but then it shows back up with charred flesh, specifically, presumably, to terrify any children that were still clinging to the gory vestiges of their sanity. Anyway, these birds sort of remind me of my oldest foe! Now, you're also probably familiar with what condors eat: large carrion. Do you know what qualifies as large carrion? Potentially you! When you feel the time is right, be mindful of where you lay your defeated form to rest and you may make a condor's week. Pack on the pounds beforehand too!

The World and Also Life Is Mostly Meaningless

Load-bearing contributor Alex Speed // Issue 21


I am sitting in my parents' backyard in one of those red plastic lawn chairs. It is a little past nine o'clock in the evening and I have built a fire because it is cold in mid-April (the planet is dying). The temperature is just so that I can wear the white pullover from Target I found in one of the closets here and sit next to the fire without being too hot or too cold. My phone is playing songs that I will recommend Matt put into this week's playlist and I feel mostly content in the midst of a very stressful, not-so-fun time. I, as I typically do because I'm an insane person, gave myself three matches to start this fire. I got it to really catch on the second so I ended up just sort of sacrificing the third match to the flames which for some reason really bummed me out.

Earlier I went for a very long drive through the town I grew up in. I passed the kinda racist high school, the field we used to break stuff in, and pulled in to the park where one time I dove into the very shallow pond in my underwear because I lost a bet. I felt like the guy in Up when he has the montage showing how his neighborhood has changed, but in this instance I was the one that had changed and this small north Texas town had stayed impressively the same. It gave me that really gross nostalgic-but-I-don't-know-what-for feeling. I had the following epiphany that in articulation makes me sound like a big dumb idiot but at the time felt meaningful: everything is meaningless and the only thing that matters is drinking beer on your porch with your friends. I refuse to elaborate on this and if you disagree with me you are wrong and also I hate you.

A Small Elaboration: The town I grew up in objectively sucks but I am one of those very sad peaked-in-high-school people. I had a great time just hanging out with people and doing dumb dares and drinking Coors Lite in secret with my friends. Now, in the absence of these people, I have a more objective view of this place and how the pond I jumped into is gross, the high school is too close to the highway, and that field we used to break stuff in is maybe the meeting place of a low-stakes sex cult. My only takeaway from this is that if you are going to invest in your happiness it should be done by investing in yourself but also the people you choose to build your life around (that's the big dumb idiot part).

In conclusion I will be assembling a small group of people I enjoy to start a commune in the woods where we drink Coors Lite and do dares and stuff. If you would like to apply, just email me at

Announcement: I Have Decided to Become One With the Sea

Barnacle-level contributor Sam Strohmeyer // Issue 25

Dearest family, friends, colleagues, and arch nemeses,

When I'm really overwhelmed by the world and all its seemingly insurmountable obstacles, I hide in the darkest, quietest place I can find and imagine I'm floating in the middle of the deep blue, silent ocean, with miles of briny water above and below me. I have the opposite of thalassophobia, basically. To be submerged in pelagic depths is the truest peace I can envision.

The obstacles of the world seem rather more obstacle-y, lately, and I've come to the conclusion that it's time I make my dream a reality. I am writing to inform you it is time that I leave the world of the walking and join my begilled brothers and sisters in the deep blue.

My plan is as follows: I will walk directly into the ocean and live there. That's it. I may join a pack of dolphins if they're chill. Ideally I will eventually team up with a blue whale, the largest of all of earth's creatures, ever, and therefore the best, and swim at a leisurely four miles per hour at her side. She will sing her sorrowful song and I will feel it move through me, vibrating every cell in my body, shaking out all the debris from my soul into the murky depths where it will sink to the sandy bottom and decompose, fading from existence in both the physical realm and my memory. You just can't get anything like that on land, folks!

Will I miss all of you? No. But I will miss most of you, probably. Matt, I know you will commandeer a mighty vessel, fit for the raging waves, and hunt me down with a custom human-harpoon. It's gonna be the hottest foreplay. And yeah, I know that's basically the plot of the greatest American erotic novel of all time: Moby Dick. But guess what? I haven't read it so this technically isn't plagiarism. Come at me, Herman.

So this is farewell. Take care of yourselves. Follow your dreams. Accept your body. Sing a secret to the moon. Punch a cop. And when you miss me, stand on the shore at sunset and train your gaze on the horizon. If it's meant to be, and if you deserve it, you'll catch a glimpse of my majestic and naked form soaring out of the water.

You've Been Putting the Wrong Gems In Your Mouth - And That's a Good Thing

Paranorovirus-level contributor Matt Spradling // Issue 19

We've absolutely all heard about how putting gems in your mouth grants various restorative properties.

In Modern America, before we learn how to ride a bike we learn about how Topaz will make our fingers stronger; before we learn to multiply in math class, we learn that Diamond multiplies the intensity of pilate sessions; before we learn the satisfaction of a hard day's work, we learn that Rubies open more doors than money ever could.

This is all True. But is it Good?

Yes. But is it right?

In today's culture of Political Correctness Run Amok And Then Inverted And Forced To Consume Its Own Twin In Utero In Order To Absorb Its Powers And Survive Until Birth On The Oilfields Of West Texas, a righteously indignant minority of brave voices has served as faithful sirens guiding us through the fogs of Youth and Benighted Post-Youth: the Betty Remington International Gem Hoarding And Monopolizing Yearly Outing Unless Nobody Goes, or BRIGHAMYOUNG (no relation).

BRIGHAMYOUNG endeavors to free us from having hands that are bound together to our other hands using manacles that have gems on them but they're the wrong gems.

We say, "Hey, what's up, I'm Merrick, and I don't know what sex is, but I sure know that Amethyst will serve as a bezoar in toxin-ingestion emergencies," and they say, "Fuck you, idiot, Amethyst is for tax-evasion purposes only."

We say "Oh hey, I'm Winfrey, and I actually know everything there is to know in the world of mainstream gems, I just wish there was more," and they say, "Fuck you, Winfrey, I bet you didn't know that grinding up whatever that green one is and spreading it over your body will make all your acne fucking explode."

These are exactly and also precisely the brave and intelligent voices We need right now precisely and also exactly because they're not intelligent. They're actually pretty dumb and vulgar and only dumb people are vulgar.

But they are brave, and we need bravery right now. We need bravery right now to tell your boss, "Hey, I don't know how to drive a lawnmower, so I guess I'll use scissors." We need bravery right now to tell your crush, "Hey, I don't know how ice cream is made, but I know how it ends up."

So keep using the wrong gems for the wrong things, and keep getting told about it by the likes of BRIGHAMYOUNG and their equivalents corresponding to other examples of things.

Keep being a patriot. 

Alex Makes Your Life Better with Good Advice That Is Not Bad

Brewmaster-level contributor Alex Speed // Issue 12

How was your Valentine's Day? Did you go to dinner but it sucked because you forgot to consult Austin's sole authority on unique eateries ( it me )? I bet you did something stupid like go to a building with a waiter and a kitchen and a menu that has at least five things. I bet your date looked into your big dumb eyes and said "This is great, but I don't at all feel the sweet, sweet thrill of teetering on the edge of death during this frankly bland and cliche meal experience." I'm sure you looked down at the loop of rusted barbed wire you had fashioned into an engagement ring and decided - not this time.

Don't let this happen to you again, reader! Take heed of my advice!

Alex's Weekly Restaurant Roundup: My Uncle Fil's House

The thing about my Uncle Fil's house is that it is no longer technically considered a building by the City of Austin. The whole place is a group of mostly standing walls tied together with worn out t-shirts from Grateful Dead shows that nobody remembers. Fil himself is a business man (the kind who sells crack) who prides himself on thinking outside the box (mostly because the crack has ruined his ability to think anywhere else). Fil is a weird guy, but he has lived in Texas long enough to thoroughly believe in southern hospitality so if you show up to his house he will probably offer you some tea or crackers or something (Do not eat these, they will be riddled with the crack that isn't good enough for Fil to sell) and that sounds like a restaurant to me.

My Uncle Fil's house is a great place to enjoy your next Valentine's Day dinner. Fil is a real romantic and will ramble on and on about how important love is, the lessons he has learned about sustaining a healthy marriage, and how the Earth is really flat and that heliocentric ideology is brainwashing propaganda put worth by the lizard people who control NASA. I would recommend trying to book reservations now, because it will take you a seriously long time to figure out where this place is. I will offer you one clue to help in your search for what will undoubtedly be next year's hot V-day spot: