Issue 13 - 04/15/19


  • Experiment: Becoming a Morning Person Using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • 3 Things I Learned from Years of Working at a Corporate Coffee Shop
  • Game of Thrones Bingo but It's Parcheesi
  • Interview with the Sampire
  • Plug: "The Perfect PokéRap"

  • Office Chart

Experiment: Becoming a Morning Person Using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Ascendant-level contributor Matt Spradling

In recent years, the number of which I prefer not to say, I've worked off and on at a coffee shop. While working at this coffee shop, I have been a Night Person, as closing shifts roughly run from 1:30-9:30pm, and I'm someone who needs to have work at the beginning of the day and personal time at the end of the day, so I've simply stayed up very late. I don't know if this arose naturally or out of some protest against adulthood, but here I am in 2019, a "perfectly" "well-adjusted" and "productive" "citizen."

Next week, however, I am starting a new job, the hours of which are even earlier than a standard 9-5. Therefore, I am going to have to become a Morning Person. I have at no point in my life successfully been a Morning Person. Every morning in middle and high school I wished death upon whoever was responsible for that schedule and upon myself. In college I put less effort into classes than I did into scheduling no classes earlier than 11. For one week in 2013 I attempted to wake up at 6am and run every morning, but on day 6 I found myself tempted to run into traffic so that I could lie on the ground for a little while.

Given my body's historic and deeply ingrained lack of malleability in this area, I think it's fair to say I'll have to resort to methods more heavy duty than usual. Enter cognitive behavioral therapy.

There are several different types of behavioral therapy. Upon reviewing them, I've decided, why choose one when I could try all of them at once? That way one will be sure to take. Adhering to the scientific method, this experiment will proceed thusly:

  1. Google the scientific method
  2. Question: how do awake?
  3. Research: google behavioral therapy
  4. Hypothesis: one method will work, and if not, I can give this to my doctor and have her knock me out with a shoe
  5. Expirement: google how to spell expierment
  6. Experiment: construct and execute experiment (see below)
  7. Analyze (see if I'm now normal)
  8. Conclusion ("I am now normal" or "I am going to die")
  9. Shoe

Now for the experiment itself. The first type of behavioral therapy is, well, the self-titled debut album. Described thusly by google's literal first hit,

"Cognitive behavioral therapy is extremely popular. It combines behavioral therapy with cognitive therapy. Treatment is centered around how someone's thoughts and beliefs influence their actions and moods. It often focuses on a person's current problems and how to solve them. The long-term goal is to change a person's thinking and behavioral patterns to healthier ones." 

Basically, 1. Think about it for a minute and 2. Cut the shit. For this portion of the experiment, I will spend five minutes a day thinking about how much I love waking up early and why or why not this is true and how quickly I am going insane.

The second type seems similar at first but has one key difference. Described thusly again by google's first hit,

"Cognitive behavioral play therapy is commonly used with children. By watching children play, therapists are able to gain insight into what a child is uncomfortable expressing or unable to express. Children may be able to choose their own toys and play freely. They might be asked to draw a picture or use toys to create scenes in a sandbox. Therapists may teach parents how to use play to improve communication with their children."

Is this clearly intended for subjects younger than 25? Yes. Do I still have a scientific responsibility to cover this method? Yes. Yes? Yes. For this portion, every day I will film myself performing one of the listed activities (e.g. playing, drawing, using a sandbox), review the footage, and determine what relevant insights can be gleaned.

The third type will probably be slightly less confusing to an outside observer. Described thusly by guess which hit on google

"System desensitization relies heavily on classical conditioning. It's often used to treat phobias. People are taught to replace a fear response to a phobia with relaxation responses. A person is first taught relaxation and breathing techniques. Once mastered, the therapist will slowly expose them to their fear in heightened doses while they practice these techniques." 

It's not that I'm afraid of waking up early and being tired, is it? Well, I guess it's possible. Actually yeah I definitely am. Alright. So for this I'll need to get into breathing and relaxation, which is fine because I've practiced meditation and breathing quite a bit before, I just never do it. So, each morning when I wake from my nightmares into a living nightmare and think oh no I'm awake oh no, I'll meditate and breathe for five minutes and measure whether it makes a difference or if I just fall asleep sitting up.

The fourth and final type, aversion therapy, is arguably the real meat of this enterprise. Described etc. etc. 

"Aversion therapy is often used to treat problems such as substance abuse and alcoholism. It works by teaching people to associate a stimulus that's desirable but unhealthy with an extremely unpleasant stimulus. The unpleasant stimulus may be something that causes discomfort. For example, a therapist may teach you to associate alcohol with an unpleasant memory." 

The desired but unhealthy stimulus in this scenario is, I guess, staying up past a predetermined and rigid bedtime. As such, anytime I find myself up past this time, I must immerse myself in my worst memory: Liverpool 0-2 Chelsea, April 27, 2014.

As all four of these strategies are undertaken in tandem, I will record them here and present my findings in a later issue. If this turns out to be the final issue, assume I was committed to a mental institution after being found lying on the floor screaming Why, Fernando? while videos of myself scribbling inane pictures play on my phone beside me. They say the one who performs the experiment should also be the experiment. I may be conflating high school chemistry with Game of Thrones, but I think we can all agree, dear god, let's move on.

3 Things I Learned from Years of Working at a Corporate Coffee Shop

Ascendant-level contributor Matt Spradling

My time here is up, my work pants are permanently wet, and my non-slips haven't been identifiable as shoes since September. I'd like to think it wasn't wasted and that I have some wisdom to pass on, but I am not particularly confident about that. I didn't outline this or anything. I'm just going to start and see what happens and maybe get very sad. Let's go!

1: Life is Acting

Cool, depressing. If you've ever worked anywhere customer service-related, or just heavy with interacting in general, you'll know that sometimes you can't be Yourself because Yourself wants to go sleep on the wet floor behind the mop sink in a heap and pray for it to end but you can't reveal this to the starry-eyed child asking you for a wholesome tasty treat because then Yourself would be responsible for inflicting psychological trauma upon an innocent life. So you act. Is it lying? You could make an argument for that. Is it necessary? Absolutely. Shouldn't you try never to lie? I hope not because then we're fucked.

Sometimes this lying is about the mood you're in, e.g. not depressing happy people. Sometimes this lying is about restraint, e.g. not giving any indication to someone who is being a wet, inhuman collection of waste that you consider them to be a wet, inhuman collection of waste. Sometimes this lying is about tricking yourself, which brings us to:

2: Life is Method Acting

Angsty, I know, but I think this makes sense: our bodies affect our minds, and what we do affects what we feel and think. You know how smiling is supposed to trick your brain into feeling happy? It doesn't work when I make my cat smile but there's still probably something to it. Anyway, if you get really good at this acting and being happy and calm and professional all the time, this sometimes tamps down your actual emotions thoroughly enough that you forget about them. You truly become Service Bot 3000 and you forget your middle name because it is not on the contact sheet and you forget the place you grew up because that was Before.

3: This is Problematic

When you do this regularly enough, lines start to blur. If you don't act like yourself for large chunks of the day, then who you are eventually starts to change as well, and it's probably not something you're watching out for. Of course, my experience was with an incorporated chain, which is presumably much different than an independent one in that you're supposed to have a personality while maintaining a blank dress code, never discussing or responding to anything related to politics, never making any joke that could be conceivably offensive to someone (in a literal way, not a shitty I-want-to-keep-being-racist-but-now-there-are-consequences way), never showing displeasure towards people actively antagonizing you, apologizing and taking blame reflexively and no matter what, and sending problems up the ladder rather than bringing them to a conclusion yourself. Can you imagine if that was all the time and not just at work? It'd break any non-psychopath.

Like I said, presumably this is slightly different at independent establishments or places where perfect sterile service simply isn't expected, like bars, or all of England. But it's ok that they're gruff sometimes; think of it as, one, you know they're being honest, and two, it's protective of their mental health. For example, that study about how faking emotions while at work leads to higher rates of drinking. But they also get more tips at bars, so what the hell.

I guess if there's a takeaway, it's this: if it ever feels like your server or barista or cashier or someone is a little fake or forced or stiff, it's not that they're deceiving you or trying to play you or lazy, they're just doing what they have to do and it's quite hard and they probably do actually like you but there's a layer of two or three other worries and strains that creates a separation for them. You don't get a free pass to switch off your empathy because of someone's job or perceived vibe. You can get through a lunch break with your empathy bumpers up and active and still be able to relax in the process. In fact, it'll actually help. Also don't do that thing where you joke about something being free if it doesn't scan properly. We keep a list of your names for when the revolution comes. 

Game of Thrones Bingo but It's Parcheesi

Ascendant-level contributor Matt Spradling

You know how with popular shows like Game of Thrones, people will play bingo or make dead lists or something to guess what's going to happen and compete with one another and use that to drink or make out or something? Well the final season of Game of Thrones arrives tomorrow (at the time of writing this) and we just plowed through all of season 7 and are both hyped and very very seriously depressed. So, what better way to mark the occasion and prepare than to make a cute little bingo card? Except the Newsletter team is committed to innovation and exhaustive lessons in nihilism, so instead of bingo, it's parcheesi, and also I've never played parcheesi. I have a page open from which one may theoretically learn to play parcheesi, but I'm about one and a half drinks past the Ballmer Peak. Nonetheless, here's what I've got.

Started making it, had a breakdown, bon appetit.

In parcheesi, you use pieces and also dice which in my opinion is too many moving parts. You start by placing your pieces in your circle, then upon rolling a five (either individual or between the two dice) may move a piece onto the track or whatever. You then move these pieces around as governed by, I'm sure, plenty more rules. Hey, this is similar to Wahoo, a game my grandpa handcrafted game boards for.

My concept at this point is that each player chooses four (is it four? Yeah let's go with four) characters and represents each with a specific piece. Mark them or print out little faces to tape atop them. Care for them like a Home Ec. project. Love them. Then, in place of dice rolls, story events will be listed and used to move the characters if they apply to them.

The rules talk a lot about blue spaces and cream spaces but we're doing this without a board so I guess I'll just say we keep score as a number and odd numbers are blue (safe?) and even numbers are cream (fucking the wild west?) There's also some bits about a Red Path which I'll just take to be metaphorical like the dark side in Star Wars. Utilizing this may increase your chances of winning, but you'll have to live with it. Wait, this is exactly like Wahoo. WTF, grandpa.

There is also a bit about blockades and how if two of your pieces are on the same space, no one can pass it. This is admittedly pretty sweet. Other than that, it's just get your pieces back to your home space. Let's simplify and call it 10 points. Going by my Wahoo experience, there's more about having to hit just the right amount to get home or else having to apply the points elsewhere, but

I don't know man

Choosing characters will come last, so now it's time to pre-determine the point events:

  • Dies (2 pts. I guess) 
  • Becomes undead (2 pts.) 
  • Gets verifiably drunk (1 pt.) 
  • Gets laid (2 pts.) 
  • Gets gay-laid (3 pts.) 
  • Personally fights an ice spider (2 pts.) 
  • Uses the word "inconceivable" (1 pt.) 
  • We see their booty parts (1 pt.) 
  • Is shown shaving for some reason (1 pt. If male / 3 pts. If female) 
  • Spikes the camera (5 pts.) 
  • Sharpens their weapon while delivering dramatic dialogue (1 pt.) 
  • Camera focuses on their fly footwear (1 pt.) 
  • Uses the word "cock" (1 pt.) 
  • Uses the word "footjob" (3 pts.) 
  • Involved in product placement (2 pts.) 
  • Bran wargs into them (3 pts.) 
  • Contracts a preventable disease for which they were not vaccinated (1 pt.) 
  • Comes into contact with any nipple for any reason (1 pt.) 
  • Kills themselves after seeing someone or something that is technically naked (2 pts.) 
  • Sees Ed Sheeran alive or wight (1 pt.) 
  • Kills Ed Sheeran (3pts.) 
  • The last shot of the entire series is a freeze-frame close-up of this character gleefully riding a dragon like the end of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (10 pts.)

For my characters, I choose:


Ghost, goddammit 

The dragon that is alive but not Drogon

No, that's too many non-humans to stand a chance - 


George R.R. Martin

If you can beat me I will buy you a pizza but will grumble about it the whole time if your character selections are not of equal difficulty level.

Interview with the Sampire

Ascendant-level contributor Matt Spradling, 

Seneschal-level contributor Sam Strohmeyer

Sam continues to stockpile and horde her horoscope-related powers. She's keeping them in our closet. There's an iridescent green glow at night that keeps me awake and all our clothes smell faintly of gunpowder. She won't tell me why she is doing this but every time I ask I have a dream that night about having one less toe than in the dream from the night before. Again in lieu of one of her columns, I sat down with the Nightpoet to discuss her work.

Matt: When did you start learning your skills?

Sam: When did you learn how to be? When did you first feel the sun on your face, the ground beneath your feet? When did you first meet Fear? What did She whisper in your ear?

M: Most analysts conclude that you are responsible for roughly ⅔ of Newsletter's views. What effect has this unexpected fame had on your life? Do fans ever reach out to you?

S: What is life if not unexpected fame? Before we are born we know not of the expectations laid before us on our path. To enter this mortal realm is to be saddled with need. There is no escape.

M: Well that's pretty bleak. Could you describe this mortal realm? What does it have to say about my secret problem?

S: I think we're done here.

M: Great! What flavor of ice cream do you think you'd be?

S: Strawberry. But like artificial strawberry. You know the milkshakes at P. Terry's? I'd be that.

M: We have a reader-submitted question here: wait, no this is just Alex asking about drugs again. Here's one: "Where do horses go after they die?"

S: Die? Die?! You let them cloud your judgement. To be still is to move. To rot is to grow. Have you seen a body, Matthew? Have you looked upon God?

M: Excuse me, I need to go throw up.

S: Oh that's just your Body making room for the Truth! I'll get you some Tums.

Plug: "The Perfect PokéRap"

This is a video recently made by Brian David Gilbert of Polygon. The Newsletter doesn't usually simply plug other miscellaneous things, but I don't see why it shouldn't, and this is the place to start. Possibly my favorite video on all of YouTube, it's remarkably crafted, heartfelt, and if BDG ever sees this, I'm going to say it: he owes me a dollar.

Office Chart

Mitski - Your Best American Girl

Mitski - A Pearl

Billie Eilish - bad guy

Billie Eilish - bury a friend

MARINA - Happy


Arctic Monkeys - Do Me a Favour

1 Trait Danger - Interlude 1 / Saturday's for the Boys (Saturday Is for the Boys) / Connected Schenectady / On the Run from Cosset



Car Seat Headrest: "How to Leave Town"

The actual final frame of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, God help us