Issue 1 - 12/10/18


  • You Can Just Make Your Own French Toast
  • Secret Menu Coffee 
  • Sam Reviews: Liverpool Football Club
  • Matt Reviews: Stardew Valley 
  • Poem: "For the Man on the Go"
  • Is Arthur C. Clarke Good? Genuinely Asking 
  • Horoscopes 
  • Office Chart

You Can Just Make Your Own French Toast

Ascendant-level contributor Matt Spradling

Genius is a funny thing. Sometimes it strikes from nowhere, right when it's most needed, a miracle to dig you out of a hole. Sometimes it happens in private with no stakes at all, and feels a bit wasted. I think that's what Twitter was intended for before your libertarian, techie church counselor got it in their considerable grasp. Have it, Jeremy.

But more often it comes as a product of dedication, a breakthrough shifting quickly but quietly into place that you only notice when you've been living and breathing your mastery of choice. Sometimes it simply doesn't come, but when it does, it makes the sweat and tears more than worth it. Aches become a source of defiant pride, shoulders roll back, and the knowledge that you're going to swat ten hours of well-earned sleep that night arrives as surely as those invasive Asian ladybugs that keep swarming in your room and that presumably have done right away with the ladybugs of your childhood which maybe isn't cool but you know times have changed so you accept them with the poise and grit afforded by age. 

Precisely this is the light I catch in my mom's eye when rounding the kitchen the day after Thanksgiving. Among the flotsam of the season, bits and pieces of leftovers that no longer appear to fit together in any discernible pattern, she stands brandishing a twist-tied bag of brioche like a gold-panner on the verge of being disappointed one too many times to go on any longer. I stop. Nebulous algebras resolving in her head, she speaks casually. "I have these rolls we didn't use up," she begins. The normally Disneaen birds are silent outside. "I think I'll try using them to make French toast."

It's pretty simple, dip bread into your beat-egg mix of vanilla, cinnamon, milk and whatnot, then cook on a greased, nonstick griddle until said pioneers are as browned as is desired. Throw in some blueberries or pumpkin if you're trying to impress a lady, or serve it with a separate glaze; turns out that citrus and powdered sugar mix nicely for this. My Lyft driver, Ronald, says that goals should be specific and attainable, so start simple.

Johannes Gutenberg created the printing press in 1439, Martin Luther got rowdy in 1517, and this is pretty much like those even though you won't learn about it in high school German. A Newsletter: Because some things slipped through the cracks of high school German.

Secret Menu Coffee

Ascendant-level contributor Matt Spradling

Friend once took a girl to a secret bar. That one under that hostel with the sliding bookcase bit, you know. Imagine being the concierge there. Wouldn't know if the shifty leather fellow loping in is going to require actual work from you or just that you meet him halfway in an exchange which seems like it should be fairly specific but for which there is actually no playbook. Umm, is it, the? Yeah mate. Still open, wink? Sure bud. Imagine having to watch scared college kids acting suave and aloof before mucking up sliding a door open, 65 times a night. Would you forget that most bookcases are stationary? Must've been that one that had a stroke at the central library last month. And the bystanders were all thirsty. Anyway my friend made her cry later.

The Big Mood: 32oz of iced latte with an extra shot and an extra helping of the darkest chocolate flavor in the vicinity. Sort of a gateway into secret menu coffee, spanning the gap between typical and profane through sheer force of will. Get two. 

Spy vs Spy: Matcha americano. Those really aren't supposed to mix, y'know. Like Serbs and multiple eagles. Which was there first? Which has the right? You're not here to ask questions, you're here to make a statement.

The Interloper: Identify the barista who seems most likely to have a hip-flask (there's always one). The rest will follow naturally. This is best for not during peak rush, or also in the middle of peak rush. 

The Rodeo: You know how Cesar Millan interacts with dodgy mutts? You'll need to channel that because you can't throw any doubt into this endeavor. Equal parts almond milk, soy milk, coconut milk, oat milk, equal parts chocolate, vanilla, hazelnut, dark chocolate, white chocolate, caramel, pumpkin, peppermint. It's like seeing a new color for the first time and then promptly forgetting. Remember The Fourth Kind? Similar to that in terms of nature, quality, and significant risk of exacerbating psychological conditions. 

The Gift of the Magi: Careful, boy. Latte but made with pomegranate blueberry mix instead of milk. See, it's purple and also nobody gets what they want. Will ingratiate you to the staff for life, though. Via respect or fear I can't say. Ask for extra but don't specify what.

The Sin: Could be referring to anything, really. Sort of a dealer's choice situation but ensuring you get the truly choicest things instead of simply the easiest to make. 

Sam Reviews: Liverpool Football Club

Seneschal-level contributor Sam Strohmeyer

In this segment of A Newsletter I will review the things Matt likes but I do not fully understand. Will this be good or bad for our relationship? Only time will tell.

Anyone who knows Matt Spradling knows he loves Liverpool Football Club. I am sure he loves it because he talks about it a lot and sometimes it makes him cry. Don't edit that out, Matt. The people deserve to know.

I've been watching their matches with him for a couple years now and I've learned a lot. I can recognize the players and what position they play, I have a tentative grasp of how the game works, and I can read Matt's body language well enough to understand if the game is going well or if I'm asking too many questions. The only thing I still have yet to figure out is what "offside" means. I watched several Youtube videos on the subject and I am convinced it is not real. When I told Matt this he looked very tired. 

My first and most important observation about Liverpool is that the players are endearing. Firmino with his blindingly white teeth, Milner with his shark eyes, and Van Dijk with his weird chin beard all seem like good boys. And then there's Mo Salah. I want to pick him up and put him in my pocket.

I've never been a sports person, except for in fifth grade when I was really into my local hockey team. But I was 10 and had a huge crush on one of the players (Jake, #15, dreamy) so I'm not sure if that counts. So the feeling of rooting for a team is fairly new to me. It's fun to watch a game and feel like your team are the good guys who really deserve to win. Do all people feel like that when they watch sports? Does everyone think of their team as the underdog on the righteous path to victory? Has Matt just done a remarkably good job of brainwashing me? Yeah, that might be it.

I do have some complaints though. The games are too tense. How am I supposed to sit with that level of suspense for a whole 90 minutes? Has anyone considered shortening the length of the games? I will be writing to FIFA about this. And while we're on the subject, FIFA the video game is no good. Sometimes Matt plays it instead of watching cat videos with me and that is unacceptable.

Also, Matt likes to listen to this post-match podcast and the Liverpool accents of the hosts are completely unintelligible to me. I genuinely cannot understand them and it makes my head hurt. Is that offensive?

Anyway, I give Liverpool Football Club 4 out of 5 stars. I'm not always entirely sure what is happening during the games but I've learned a lot and I've clearly bought in to the narrative. I even agreed to hang a picture of Jurgen Klopp in our apartment. God help me.

Matt Reviews: Stardew Valley

Ascendant-level contributor Matt Spradling

In this reactionary segment, I will review things that Sam likes but I do not fully understand. Will this become increasingly alienating to our readers? What readers?

In December 2017, I bought Sam the game Stardew Valley. I didn't know much about it, but since our anniversary, her birthday, and Christmas line up like Orion's rapidly emaciating belt, I have to make some bold decisions vis-à-vis thoughtful gifts. 

My initial understanding was that it's sort of like Animal Crossing. I also do not know Animal Crossing. My understanding was that Animal Crossing is sort of like Harvest Moon. My understanding is that Harvest Moon is less killing terrorists with horse glitch exploits (you know, every other game, am I right concerned parents) and more feeding horses good treats while occasionally and accidentally doing Mean Girls with villagers. 

Point being, anyone who's ever told Sam "catch" while not necessarily even brandishing a projectile knows that she prefers a more idyllic existence than what reality, to it's shame, often has to offer, and Stardew Valley, to it's credit, seems to successfully pick up the slack in that regard. 

The primary objective seems to be to farm politely. The colors are pretty, the music relaxing, and the seasons extant. It starts with the death of your grandfather, which is a bummer, but it seems to be quickly forgotten, which is also a bummer now that I write it. There are many other villagers with specific information and personalities, and they don't fight you or scheme so much as they'd be really happy if you remembered their birthday, which seems wholesome from the passenger seat but is actually kind of the opposite of escapism. You can date literally everyone available before choosing who to marry and no one gets mad, which is I guess progressive? She married the doctor who proposes to you in the hot air balloon, and like yeah, god knows I would too. 

The best features seem to be the acquiring and naming of all manner of animals, though mainly chickens and cows. This is actually quite fulfilling - you're not stuck with their responsibilities like with real pets and you can just load the last save if something erroneous happens to your favorite cat.

It seems like it could be an admittedly pastoral horrorscape if being detail-oriented taxes energy from you and/or if your social anxiety extends to pixels. But, if that's no sweat for you, it offers a lot in the way of wholesome agriculture and revitalizing a town by way of a jesus complex which is ironic given the difficult fishing mechanic I hear much complaining about.

On a scale of 0-1 chickens, I give Stardew Valley .75 chickens, which is good for a score but bad for a chicken.

Poem: "For the Man on the Go"

Outrider-level contributor Dalton Allen

Turn left;

No, left.

Is Arthur C. Clarke Good? Genuinely Asking

Ascendant-level contributor Matt Spradling

This week on Genuinely Asking, we're looking at sci-fi legend Arthur C. Clarke. I've read a lot of him, but I'm not really sure why.

The way I see it, there are more or less two categories of books you'll read. One is the books you read because they're significant, high-brow, properly edifying - you know, Russians. The other is romance and fantasy/sci-fi. I won't get into your grandparents' whole-ass shelf of lawyer dramas because I want to establish this theory before I break it.

Sci-fi in particular is the branch of type two that occasionally endeavors to break into category one. Works of sci-fi, naturally forward-facing, often use the future to provide commentary on the present. The genre has a long and storied pedigree, but the most recognizable period tends to be the "golden age" authors roundabout the 60's and 70's - your Asimovs, Bradburys, Heinleins, and Clarkes. With a multitude of novels including Childhood's End and 2001: A Space Odyssey, Clarke's tenuous brainchild with Stanley Kubrick, reading Clarke certainly feels pretty damn category one-ish.

But guys - it gets buckwild. Have you seen 2001? You know how it's often held aloft as one of the greatest achievements in film? You know how it also ends with a ten minute acid trip and some kind of unexplained star-baby that guys at bars will try to explain to you but don't listen to them? That actually matches the reading experience pretty well. In 2010: Odyssey Two (the sequel novel), said star-baby becomes a ghost that sets off a nuke above earth and then turns Jupiter into a goddam star to help Europa get good. Childhood's End is a brilliant early take on alien occupation that helped to spark my love for astronomy and sci-fi itself, along with Douglas Adams, and it also ends with a commune of telepathic children partying on the beach.

Easily my favorite quandary, though, comes from Rendezvous with Rama. As an otherwise relatable and admirable ship captain goes about conducting the most important mission in human history, he leans back and muses about life aboard spaceships, specifically how he thinks women probably shouldn't be taken along because - and this is pretty much verbatim - the various effects of zero-G on their bodies are far too distracting for their male shipmates. So yeah, I know the first half of that sentiment is bad in a more traditional way, but I need us to focus on that latter half. I don't know what to say other than that I'm thrilled and would be more thrilled to see some of young Arthur's diagrams explaining whatever effects he's envisioning, and what expression he had on his face while doing so.

It should also be mentioned that Clarke was a gay man living in Sri Lanka and going absolutely HAM on the local scuba scene. Is that enough to pardon this particular indiscretion? Beats the fuck out of me.

Any insight? Please let us know.


LEOS - Don't do it

CAPRICORNS - Go get em champ and we'll go get Cici's afterwards

DJ'S - Do not pass go dear god do not collect $200 

RAVENCLAWS - Seek therapy

PISCES - Stay away from anyone else you've seen reading horoscopes

DIABETICS - You are most attractive to: those people going slow with headphones in that you have to get around and inevitably scare  

Office Chart

Paradis - Instantane

EL VY - Need a Friend

Menahan Street Band - The Contender

Sampha - Blood on Me

SBTRKT - Hold On

LCD Soundsystem - 45:33 - Prince Language Remix

Poppy - Girls In Bikinis

Lisa Hannigan - Swan