Issue 17 - 07/08/19


  • How to Run 
  • Dear Sam 
  • Is Sahara Good? An Analysis 
  • Introducing: INFINITY JETS 
  • Plug: DAMS 
  • Office Chart

How to Run

Magistrate-level contributor Matt Spradling

Running's weird, isn't it? When you look at it from the outside and stripped of like cultural context and experience or whatever, you're essentially going around in big circles really fast, over and over again for days or weeks or months, forcing your various body parts and systems to physically adapt in order to better withstand the pointless flogging you're subjecting them to. But if this is arbitrary then all of life is arbitrary which is a line I feel like I've been writing far too often lately.

In high school I used to run mostly because I'd always done it and it was fun to be in the park at night and it was fun to be good at something. In college I ran off and on as more of a counterbalance to less healthy lifestyle changes and also to manage anxiety. Then last year I tried to run again but run machine broke (heart was fucked) and I couldn't so I didn't.

Pictured: heart circa 2018

Then after the run machine got fixed around the holidays, I still didn't really get back into it mostly because I'd fallen out of the habit. Lately, however, probably due to equal parts depression and boredom and fear of aging and nostalgia for summer now that I'm working full time with no breaks, I've been back at it. Here's some expert tips or whatever.

DO: Stretch. I never stretch, and that might be why I look like an adolescent giraffe piƱata held together through tensely wound duct tape. Works for me fine in terms of running, though, so who knows. Also I've read that you shouldn't stretch before, only after, so there's one excuse. But also it's really boring. Maybe don't stretch.

DON'T: Expect it to be fun at first. That doesn't sell it very well, but hey. For me it doesn't get fun until I start seeing noticeable improvements, and that might not happen until the tenth time out. You have to figure out other ways to find it rewarding at first when it's a torturous slog, like thinking of it as penance for your various sins. It's basically catholicism but if god was six pack abs.

DO: Run outside vs on a treadmill. I mean, whatever works, but for me getting outside is much more fun. Con: it's fucking hot. Pro: get a tan. Con: pavement is harder on your knees. Pro: exploring/changes of scenery. Con: you might get run over. Pro: you might not get run over. Con: It would seem most homeowners in Hyde Park are either 4' tall or never use their own sidewalks because I spend half my energy ducking under low-hanging greenery to the point where I might as well just bear-crawl for a couple of blocks. Pro: I'm really good at dodging things with my face now.

DON'T: Try to go without walking. It's like sets on a weight bench. Efficient interval training is going until your heart rate gets to (I think) 85% and then resting until it drops to (I think) like 65% and just going back and forth as long as you can. Plus since the activity is literally called running, walking is sort of a power move, although the jury is still out as to whether stumbling half blind down the street gasping for breath constitutes BDE. I think it does.

DO: Run on the left side of the street. You're not a vehicle (not yet) so if you're going to be on a collision course with cars, it may as well be with the ones that you can see coming. Do be prepared, though: the more efficiently you hone your system for staying out of the way, weaving around parked cars and throwing dodgy looks around like you're having 'Nam flashbacks, the more likely you are to pass women walking down the very middle of the street talking loudly on the phone and not looking at anything, as though nature herself is mocking your caution. 

DON'T: Give other runners thumbs-ups. I really don't know why this is a Don't, but I did it last week whilst deep in the throws of a heat stroke and the guy passing me gave a prolonged and dramatic "Are you kidding me?" as he trailed off behind me and I still have no idea what the issue was and am pretty certain he's going to kill me in my sleep soon. 

DO: Listen to music. Sometimes it's motivating but it's more-so just something to pay attention to. Sometimes not listening to anything for a half-hour is meditative but I'm here to run away from my problems, not address them. Recommend a cheap old iPod shuffle that clips to your shorts and bobby-pinning the headphones to your collar so they don't pull out. To be honest it took me a decade to figure that one out. 

DON'T: Worry about what other people think of you. Haha just kidding that's impossible. Good luck idiot. 

EDIT - I've been informed by astute readers that women probably do not want to listen to music while running outside. I admit I wasn't taking gender and gender-specific concerns into account even a little bit. I will say that being scared while running might be ubiquitous because I know that when I hear the slightest noise I always assume somebody is running up to strangle me. That said, obviously it's very different for women and it pays to remember that. 

Here are some more tips from me, gender expert:

DO: Get really good at punching?

DON'T: Hey maybe this is a bad idea.

DO: Carry a whip?

DON'T: Hey I'm not really a gender expert.

DO: Hey that was just a joke I started and now I don't know how to finish this.

DON'T: Oh god I'm stuck.

DO: Ok look - I think this is one of those things where there's not really anything to do except be thoughtful and generous to each other regardless of who each other is.

DON'T: Like, it sucks for everyone. Going out in public in general sucks. Running sucks more. And it sucks more for women for a variety of obvious reasons, but it sucks for guys too, not to take the focus away. If I am running down the street and a woman is going the same way, it sucks for her because this big lanky creature is sprinting up behind her which is unsettling, and it sucks for me because there's not a good way to pass people without scaring them unless you can cross to the other side. I don't know.



DO: Hey does someone else want to write this?

Dear Sam

Boba-Fett-but-a-Mermaid-level contributor Sam Strohmeyer

Dear Sam,

How do I fulfill my dream of opening up my own Chili's?


Ambitious in Austin

Hi Ambitious,

Okay so you can't open a new Chili's. They were placed on this earth before mankind and they will exist long after we are gone. But you can take over a pre-existing Chili's if you play your cards right. The first thing you need to do is go to sleep. All the best dreams happen when you're sleeping. I recommend taking a benadryl and hitting the hay at about 7:30 pm CST. Once you're asleep you can lucid dream yourself all the way over to 45th and Lamar and defeat the manager, Darien, in a duel. Take his corpse to the top of the Chili's and raise it above your head. The townsfolk will gather outside and they will tremble in awe of your power. Congratulations! You did it! You killed Darien. Oh god, you killed Darien. He was your brother and you killed him! Was it worth it? Was it worth your brother's life?!

Dear Sam,

How do I, a straight, white, American male, accessorize without showing the slightest amount of vulnerability?


Dull on Duval Street

Hello Dull,

You have a couple options here. The first and easiest option is to get yourself this 100% genuine leather Ed Hardy bracelet. You're gonna want to grab that bad boy quick because it's bound to sell out as soon as this Newsletter is posted. If the bracelet is feeling right (and how could it not) go ahead and get the matching messenger bag. Keep a copy of... I was trying to think of a book that would commonly be found in an Ed Hardy bag but of course no book has ever been inside an Ed Hardy bag duh.

Your second option is to train a bird to follow you around and land on your arm. "Birds are the only accessory I'd ever be caught dead with" - Tommy Lee Jones, a man who has famously never felt an ounce of vulnerability.

Is Sahara Good? An Analysis

Sometimes I do this thing where I think of time as like a film reel, where each moment is a frame. I think about how if I was dimensionally unbound and jumping all over the place in terms of time, it wouldn't feel any different in the first-person experience because each moment/frame is built on the context of the frames adjacent to it. I could've just flashed into this moment and be leaving after a split second, but this moment feels uninterrupted because my brain in my body at this linear moment is doing nothing but building off the previous linear moments, inextricably tied to the cause-and-effect chain. Anyway, my point is it's weird how many disparate moments in my life involve the film Sahara.

This was previously titled "do me a favor: watch sahara and tell me if it's good because I am blinded by nostalgia and genuinely can't tell," but I thought I'd put some more work into it than that.

Here's my contention: Sahara is a twin film to National Treasure. Sahara is better than National Treasure. People generally speak fondly of National Treasure - not like it's great, but kind of film's version of the lovable dumb uncle we haven't seen in a decade since they showed up to our tenth birthday party to make hot dogs.

So basically, people like National Treasure, Sahara is better than National Treasure, yet Sahara is never spoken of. I think this is an injustice.

"Twin films" are those movies that come out around the same time and are really similar and you definitely notice but don't really know what to make of it. It's thought that this sometimes happens due to industry espionage, movement of employees between studios, a script getting taken in two different directions, sometimes just sheer coincidence, etc. Think Olympus Has Fallen and White House Down, Despicable Me and Megamind, The Road and The Book of Eli, The Prestige and The Illusionist, Deep Impact and Armageddon, Oblivion and After Earth, etc. etc.

I'd argue that Sahara and National Treasure can be included in this list. The two films released within a year of each other, begin with a lost ship carrying treasure from a classic American war, follow a rag-tag duo of male adventurers/treasure hunters whose paths converge with an attractive female straight-man (straight-woman?) as they track down their white-whale treasure using cryptic historic clues. Authority figures above them think they're crazy but they push on undeterred, thwart the local bad guys, and find their lost riches and romance along the way.

Sahara does every aspect of this better. Granted, some of it is down to genre preference; if you prefer cheesy tux-and-bow-tie heists and museums to desert gunfights and boat explosions, you may prefer National Treasure. If you prefer fun and humor, you may prefer Sahara.


Diane Kruger in National Treasure is given absolutely no purpose other than to be eye-candy and act surprised whenever Nicolas Cage does something witty. We don't really know what her job is from the outset, and if she just wasn't involved at all, nothing would change except there would be no forced romance subplot.

Penelope Cruz in Sahara, on the other hand, is arguably the main character. We begin with her, a WHO doctor, uncovering and following a plague. She happens to cross paths with Matty MC and Steve Zahn and they travel together a bit before separating to cure a plague and hunt lost treasure, respectively, but ultimately our treasure hunters realize their plot is way less important and go find the doctor to help save the world.

We're definitely talking about a pre-McConaissance Matty MC, but in the best way possible. He's exactly what the literary character of Dirk Pitt requires - sort of a roughneck American James BondxIndiana Jones, unapologetic in his bravado and yet unambiguously the good guy at every turn. Captain Texas, basically.

Nicolas Cage on the other hand, though lovable, brings awkwardness to an already awkwardly written character. He comes off as more or less crazy but in a ruins-your-party-experience-because-you're-so-uncomfortable way, not simply an eccentric lone wolf.

Steve Zahn out-sidekicks Rusty whoever in pretty much every way. In Sahara, we see the natural and tight bond that has existed between the duo for a long time and we enjoy every glimpse we see into their relationship. Al is an effective and entertaining team member, while Rusty alternates between savant and liability and the rules governing which he's going to be in any given situation are never made clear. Watching National Treasure shortly after, much of the humor feels like Big Bang Theory in comparison. And I'm not blaming this stiltedness on Disney - Disney produced an adventure masterpiece in the first Pirates of the Caribbean, but that's a matter for a different article or three.

I could keep the comparisons going but you get the point.

Story Structure 

One extremely oversimplified way to think about story patterns is that there are two types: the one-off and the episodic. Think of the one-off as a standalone film or book - the protagonist faces a problem/call to adventure, overcomes challenges, grows along the way, and uses their newfound knowledge/understanding/powers/tools to fix what the original problem was and live happily ever after.

Think of the episodic as a sitcom episode: something out of the ordinary happens in our characters' lives, aspects of certain characters' personalities are explored, goals are achieved, lessons learned, different relationships explored, but in the end, everything settles back to pretty much normal and the next episode will begin fresh, with characters perhaps having grown, but circumstances more or less the same. We begin and end in stasis.

National Treasure is a one-off, while Sahara follows episodic logic (I don't think sequels were planned and it's not married to the book series, though maybe they influenced the world - I think it's just how Sahara was written.) Neither better or worse, but different, and as you may have guessed, I'd argue Sahara fits its format better.

National Treasure should in theory be largely centered on Ben Gates' personal journey, overcoming the mockery his family has faced, excising his demons, using his unique abilities to win the day, etc. whatever. But we don't go on that journey with him. He's static. He doesn't change, the only tough decision he really makes is to steal the Declaration, but it happens so early that we wouldn't know if this was a break from his normal character or not. The first sequence with adult Ben is his team finding the trail to the treasure, so there's no journey to sympathize with about like not knowing if it's real or not - we already see that it's real, so the rest is just him coming up against strangers we don't care about and them not believing him and us not caring that they don't believe him. By the end of the film he is essentially unchanged, but his eccentricities have been rewarded with money and a hot girlfriend. Not the worst, but not a great character arc.

Sahara on the other hand uses its episodic format to good effect. This is a day in the life for these guys, and we enjoy the ride and want to go on another one when it's over. Dirk Pitt doesn't have some deeply embedded insecurity or bone to pick - he just has this boat he's wanted to try to find for a long time. We see him and his friends contextualized in the work they do in the world of NUMA (there is some great and efficient world-building done), and meanwhile we have the monster-of-the-week plot happening with the plague, and then we watch as the two plots converge. In the end, the day is saved, the mcguffin is found, and our protagonist relaxes on the beach before getting on to the next adventure. It's not necessarily more ambitious than what National Treasure is trying to do, but it does it properly and satisfyingly. Pitt doesn't undergo any more personal growth than Gates does, but it isn't a glaring absence.

In the end, I think National Treasure takes itself very seriously when it really shouldn't, while Sahara takes itself an appropriate level of seriousness. Look at the differences in the soundtracks of the two.

I could go on but hey I just wrote two and a half pages about Sahara in 2019 so I'm going to go outside now. Because Sahara makes me want to go outside, you know, how fun summer adventure movies are supposed to do, unlike National Treasure which is I guess a Fall adventure movie? Which came out in June. Boy I sure love when my heroes wear sweaters and go to Philadelphia in the daytime.


Sahara is a great movie.

Slightly longer verdict: Sahara is what National Treasure wishes it was.

Unnecessary verdict: Everyone should watch Sahara.

Unfair verdict: If you don't like Sahara then you hate summer and also fun and also bring me a pizza.

Introducing: INFINITY JETS

Magistrate-level contributor Matt Spradling, Brewmaster-level contributor Alex Speed

Welcome to INFINITY JETS, an Infinite Jest book club held every weekend at the Chili's at 45th and Lamar, and if anyone suggests this is done ironically, they will be swiftly and summarily waterboarded using napkins and an el royale margarita which is technically a party foul under Chili's law but our guy Casey likes us and will turn a blind eye to our dark corner booth. 

I agreed to read the book on the condition that I only refer to it as INFINITY JETS, hence the name, and you will be expected to as well.

We currently boast four members, or five if you include Gibson (Best Boy) who is not currently allowed inside because he got way too drunk.

Swing by, skype in, keep us in your thoughts and prayers. Read the book as well and write in with your thoughts. I'm 150 pages in and have no idea how I feel about it. I think that's sort of the point? It's a hard book to say anything about without feeling pretentious. 

Plug: DAMS

Friend-of-the-Newsletter and one half of DAMS Dalton Allen (technically an outrider-level contributor as per Issue 1, though I'm not sure he knows about it) has released a new short film in follow-up to 2017 SXSW Film Festival entrant "Beach Day." 

"Mull Dull Hungry" defies description. Some things are to be watched not with the head, but with the heart. 

And while you're at it, wash away the blood and dirt but not the tears with the original, "Beach Day." It's short. I know you're busy. You workaholic. Your family misses you. Your son has grown so old. 

Office Chart

Thom Yorke - Traffic

Thom Yorke - Twist

Chuck Berry - Too Much Monkey Business

The Avett Brothers - No Hard Feelings

The Beatles - I Want To Hold Your Hand

Conor Oberst - Lenders in the Temple

The Strokes - What Ever Happened?

Arctic Monkeys - Leave Before The Lights Come On

Lou Reed - Hangin' 'Round

Head East - Never Been Any Reason 



Banner: art by Stanley Donwood & Dr. Tchock for Anima by Thom Yorke

Matty MC: years of neglect beneath a dirt pile in the collective unconscious 

The INFINITY JETS logo came from this search result