Issue 20 - 04/10/20
Contents UnStUcK iN tImE
- A Meditative Exercise
- A Lyrical Analysis of "Life is a Highway"
- True Love Never Dies
- Ask Sam: Pandemic Pandemonium
- Thoughts from Places: Inside
- The Best and Most Fun Article Ever
- Office Chart
A Meditative Exercise
Ascendant-level contributor Matt Spradling
You're on the beach at night. The waves are gently crashing. The nearest human-made lights are far behind you; only the moon and stars are left, bringing the lulling surf to a soft glow like the mood lighting in a fancy bath, but the things it leaves in its wake are the jetsam of undersea ecosystems and lost treasures rather than bits of dog poop you got on you on the playground slide because you're an idiot.
Feel the sand beneath you, a warm cushion. Listen to the ebb and flow of the water stretching infinitely away from you. Contemplate the celestial bodies above where other life may exist an impossible distance away and from which we at some point originated. Contemplate the ocean teeming with unseen life, the primordial depths of which gave rise to living organisms as we know them on earth. At this intersection of all that was and all that will be, you are here in the present and you are alone.
Listen to the waves sliding up the beach, then back down again, then back up, then back down in perpetuity. These are your thoughts, arising out of the depths of your unconscious to skate briefly across the beach of your awareness. You see them and acknowledge them but do not engage with them, only observing, and they pass back away just as quickly as they appeared. This wave is the anxiety you feel about how you left something at work. This wave is the things you've been meaning to put on your grocery list because you keep forgetting. This wave - why, this wave has left a gift behind. What is that? Is it a beautiful starfish? No, it seems to be too large, and it's moving, undulating its grim fleshy form unnaturally over the sands in your direction, one glistening appendage at a time. You remain still as it draws near, trembling from the exertion, and as it raises one of these appendages, the color of dead flesh, to reveal the semblance of a face with small black eyes and a long fold where a mouth must be. Brine and seaweed spills forth as it opens and speaks your name, low and guttural. It knows about your hit and run from when you were 17. That man died. You try to rise but you remain locked in your meditative pose, back straight and hands peacefully receptive. It draws closer and wraps a thick tendril around your ankle, cold and covered with rough suctions. It begins to pull you towards the surf, shockingly strong, unrelentingly and irresistibly strong as death itself but worse, the sand scraping your skin as you slide on your back, unable still to move, until the serene waves begin to lap over you, and still it takes you on until the water overwhelms you, until the waves give way to weak undercurrents and then to nothing at all but the cold and the pressure, unable to breathe and unable to die as the once comforting moonlight above fades forever, dragged ever downward by the beast Xerxes.
See the fish swimming in and out of sight, strange and luminescent as you are wrangled through the black abyss. Observe without interacting. This one is a memory of a TV show you enjoyed yesterday and the urge to watch more. That one is the anxiety you feel about how when you are guarded you feel like a boring blank slate but when you live outside yourself you could be making an ass out of yourself and wouldn't be quick to realize. That one there is the lock combination to your changing room lock from 7th grade. Pay attention to your senses, what you see, hear, and smell around you, gradually and naturally letting your focus drift back and forth between what is physically around you and your cycling thoughts, and in this way come to a place of harmony within your world.
A Lyrical Analysis of "Life is a Highway"
Liberator-level contributor Matt Spradling
Back in Issue 5, professional contributor and noted patriot Alex Speed reviewed all 24 versions of "Life is a Highway" currently available on Spotify. The result was unenviable.
And therefore a complete success.
That was an issue I was happy to leave in the past, but something about it has nonetheless stuck with me; a notion in the back of my mind, arising sometimes at the darkest point of the night, and other times interrupting moments of joy; a whisper; a promise; a threat? We won't hesitate to break down the garden gate - there's not much time left today.
This haunting reached a fever pitch in February, and since then I've lost 30 pounds, had a weeks-long fever, forgotten the joy of the taste of food, and become winded at the slightest exertion. Some days there is nothing but the voice. As such, I have no choice but to dig deeper. There is no way to get out except for by the way of going through and by getting out that way - Winston Churchill, speed demon.
"Life's like a road that you travel on" Already this gives me pause. This is simultaneously the simplest possible start and somehow feels completely inane. Are there roads not for traveling? Such roads must then be metaphorical in nature, representing, what, life? Which would give us "Life's like a road that represents life." I'm on board.
"When there's one day here and the next day gone" They already gave up. It's the second line and Mr. Thomas Cochrane has left me alone in the wasteland. This is like when I worked at the university writing center advising students and sometimes a line would stop me in my tracks and I truly didn't know where to start unpacking it. A lost traveler. Lost on a road of sorts. The road kind.
"Sometimes you bend, sometimes you stand, sometimes you turn your back to the wind" Why not switch stand and bend so that bend can rhyme with wind? Anyway, this is actually a great line. It reinforces the utter disorientation being communicated and also there is also wind.
"There's a world outside every darkened door where the blues won't haunt you anymore" So the first part of this strikes me as ominous - a darkened door (??) beyond which is... something. But then the second part promises relief, a sweet release from a depressed and haunted life. Wait, is this about suicide? A passage through the darkness that will relieve you of your wordly pains?
"Where the brave are free and lovers soar, come ride with me to the distant shore" Well, that seals it because there's no other plausible explanation for that. Death at the very least. We are passing from this weary world into the hopeful nightfall of the afterlife. And then there it is:
"We won't hesitate to break down the garden gate, there's not much time left today" The pieces begin to fit into place. In this new grim light, the menacing tone of these words find purchase. We're not passing like Galadriel into West, no, we're storming the gates of Hell.
"Life is a highway, I want to ride it all night long, if you're going my way, I want to drive it all night long" Upon hitting the chorus I've been charged with an irresistible urge, and that is to depose Fidel Castro.
"Through all these cities and all these towns, it's in my blood and it's all around" I feel it in my soul that this song was created as a trigger for CIA sleeper agents, trained and brainwashed to overthrow and kill if necessary the wartime leader of Cuba.
"I love you now like I loved you then, this is the road and these are the hands" This is the road and these are the hands.
"From Mozambique to those Memphis nights, the Khyber Pass to Vancouver's lights, you're in my blood, I'm not a lonely man, I'll be there when the light comes on" Released carelessly upon the world to flip the switch every time an unsuspecting sleeper cell watches Cars with their children (or on their own).
"Life is a highway, Well, I want to ride it all night long, If you're going my way, I want to drive it all night long, Gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme, yeah, Life is a highway, Well, I want to ride it all night long, yeah, If you're going my way, I want to drive it all night long"
It was at this point I felt the last vestiges of control over my own soul slipping away and had to cut the project short lest I become one more pawn in this game of violence and guile. This was only from reading the words closely - if I had been listening to the song aloud on repeat to perform this analysis, I shudder to think how much stronger the effect would have been. I hate to leave something unfinished, but I need to get some fresh air.
True Love Never Dies (I'm Still Single Though - True Love isn't Real to Begin With)
Beyblade-level contributor Alex Speed
Well well well. If it isn't a reader of Newsletter. As I'm sure everyone is aware, Newsletter ended when Matthew and I had a very dramatic falling out revolving mostly around his refusal to share the $1.46 in ad revenue Newsletter had earned. He claimed he needed the entirety of the money to "pay for server costs" and to "get his cat out of prison." So I did what any patriot would do and burned his house down.
I then remember he lives in an apartment on Duval and I burned down a farmhouse in Oklahoma so the likelihood of it affecting him was pretty low. To be fair It did sort of awaken something in me - more on that later.
Anyway I was lying in bed trying not to die to death from coronavirus when "The Boys Are Back In Town" came booming through the walls. Matt was standing outside with a boombox in one hand and seventy-three cents in the other. It was time to get this show back on the road.
And with that here is my Review Of Cuba.
Wow. Holy shit. The Big Apple. There are so many flowers here because everyone in Cuba famously donates their human remains to be turned into compost and mulch. There is not a single creepy graveyard in Cuba because the remains of the dead are all around you in the form of flowers!
Immediately upon landing in Cuba I was given $10,000 cash and the keys to a 1960's corvette. I assume this is just what happens when you show up for the first time? Pretty cool way to welcome new guests, Cuba!
I refused to learn the language of Cuba, or even to learn which language they spoke there. This was a power move because I am an American and a patriot and I stand by that and my country even when I am abroad.
Initially people were put off by me barging into every room screaming "I'm an American" and then trying very hard to convince people I knew what the bay of pigs was (which, side-note, I do know what that is because I am very smart and know things about history). Eventually though I got them with the Ol' Texas charm and they politely put me in prison for 18 months.
All in all I would say Cuba is like pretty cool. Definitely a cool place to go if you want to gain an in-depth knowledge of the prison systems of other countries! If I had to assign it a number value I would give it Red Wine out of Grain Alcohol (figure that one out, idiot).
Ask Sam: Pandemic Pandemonium
Hexagon-level contributor Sam Strohmeyer
I started seeing someone right before all this corona mess. How do I keep the relationship progressing without sending nudes?
You're right to resist sending nudes. Nudes are OUT. Extreme emotional vulnerability is IN. There is nothing sexier in the year of our lord 2020 than receiving an instagram DM from your lover that dives deep into their feelings about that time their dad ran over their cat. Ugh, I'm hot and bothered just thinking about it!
How do I know if the full moon charged my crystals?
I have a lot of rage built up towards my employer for being so unempathetic during this difficult time and I'm worried I will bring those feelings back to work with me if we ever come off of unpaid furlough. How can I deal with those emotions so that I can successfully get my job back?
That really sucks. I think the answer to your problem, like the answer to most problems, is witchcraft. Go ahead and put a curse on the company, the CEO and also the President because why not. They earned this consequence when they put you on unpaid furlough. Once you've brought those powerful assholes to their knees you will find it much easier to cope with your negative emotions towards them.
P.S. You know what one of my favorite types of witchcraft is? Organizing labor unions.
I'm stuck quarantining with my parents. Any advice on how to get through the days?
Going Crazy Greg Clemens
It's difficult to transition into an adult-to-adult relationship with your parents in the best of times. It takes communication and boundaries, things we don't have time for in the midst of pandemic-forced cohabitation. The simplest solution is to compete against your parents in a series of mental and physical trials so that they respect your authority as the alpha of the house. Here are a list of doctor-recommended challenges:
Strength contest: each family member attempts to lift the kitchen table over their heads and the person able to hold it there the longest wins.
Mental strength contest: gather everyone into one room and turn on Macklemore at full volume. Last person to tap out wins.
Intelligence contest: everyone says their favorite book. If their favorite book is something real smart like Proust or Anne of Green Gables they win.
Emotional Intelligence contest: y'all will just know who wins this one.
May the odds be ever in your favor,
I have a splinter. How do I tell my wife?
I'll just tell her for you. Hey Alisha? Nic has a splinter and he doesn't want to tell you for some reason. How is everything going? I'm doing pretty good. I made chana masala tonight and it was just okay. Miss you guys!
Thoughts From Places: Inside
Excalibur-level contributor Sam Strohmeyer
Matt makes a sound when he's about to talk to me. It's not quite clearing his throat but it's similar. I know the difference between the throat-clearing sound and the talking-to-me sound and I know I know it because I am pulled out of my thoughts when he makes the talking to me sound. I didn't know I knew but I do.
I can't read a book without noticing how many pages I've read and thinking about how many pages I will read in this sitting and about how much of the book that is and how much of the book I have left to read.
I think being made into a woman really messed me up. Like, before I was a woman I was a little wrinkly baby and I asked for what I wanted with shrill cries and I got it. And then the world decided I was a woman and taunted me about it and now, in the midst of a global pandemic in which many will lose their lives, livelihoods and loved ones, I am near panic because I am afraid of gaining weight in quarantine because if I gain weight I will not be a good woman anymore. Yuck!
Spending more time (almost all the time) with Matt is good because he's thoughtful and sweet and refers to his arms as his "kitten lifters" but we have challenging moments. I once walked in on him doing nothing but listening to an hour long recording of "an old box fan." What am I supposed to do with that? And also he reads and works out all. The. Time. What does he need all that information for? Why is he getting so strong? What is he planning? If you know please tell me.
I have a new emotional support daydream and it is this: I live in a cottage that is both by the sea and by the mountains and on the prairie. My cottage is filled with mismatched tea cups and mysterious books and smells really good, like clothes you've dried on the line on a sunny but cool day. I have a garden next to my cottage and it is filled with flowers and vegetables in no discernible pattern but it is discernible to me because it is mine and I planted everything that grows there. I walk around my garden in a long flowing dress and I never put on makeup or a bra but I always look beautiful. A chicken sleeps in my bed with me. I have many chickens but Gretchen is my best girl and instead of staying in the garden all day she follows me around everywhere I go. I also have two goats and two sheep and they are named Grandpa Joe, Grandma Josephine, Grandpa George and Grandma Georgina, obviously. Every Sunday I travel to the town three miles down the road and across the river and share what I've grown with the people there and Joe Biden doesn't exist.
The Best and Most Fun Article Ever
Nondenominational-level contributor Matt Spradling
Hey there. Why don't you have a seat.
This is where I was going to put the greatest article ever written. It was unbelievable and was destined to revolutionize online publishing and become the first newsletter article to ever be considered for the Pulitzer.
But ya'll hurt Bernie, so now instead of the greatest article ever written, we get a talking to. I don't like it. You don't like it. So let's take a moment to think about what we've done.
Please still plan on voting in the presidential election. Is Biden among the worst Democratic candidates put up since I've been alive? Maybe. But doing literally anything other than voting for him in November is saying you don't mind if the current administration stays in office, the ramifications of which are currently impossible to overstate.
The Democratic party has done an incredible job of alienating a generation of voters this election and last, and there will be more change to keep fighting for in the future. But that happens in the off-season and during primaries, not by sitting out election day and not by writing in a throwaway vote. The whole lesser-of-two-evils thing sucks but is sometimes necessary, and that's where we find ourselves at the moment. Everybody dreams of scoring the winning goal, nobody dreams about making a save to keep from going down 2-0 when already down 1-0, but watching the tapes back later, how we reacted when we were down often proves to be the most pivotal part. I'm sorry I only know how to think in soccer metaphors.
Here's a random reddit post from someone who is a better writer than I am:
Either Trump or Biden will be president. That is a factual statement, hedge around it or ignore it, but it's real.
So you want reasons to vote?
"If we do not win, I will strongly support the Democratic nominee...and hope and believe that others feel exactly the same way. Donald Trump must be defeated."
This should be highlighted by the fact that he's an independent running as a Dem, he understands splitting the vote is disastrous. For example blaming Nader for putting Bush in office. We could have had Gore, a guy obsessed with climate change... instead we got Bush and he fucked the middle east for a generation yet again.
Trump winning means a 7-2 supreme court.
The rest of your life every interpretation of the supreme court would be decided by a super-majority of hyper conservatives. This is an unbelievable boon for anyone trying to regress our nation.
Roe v Wade will fall. Many states already are pushing through laws intentionally violating it to go to the supreme court. That will be decided during the next 4 years. This election decides how that likely ends.
Imagine the joy on McConnell's face as he signs in RBG's replacement. Imagine the bullshit impotent reddit outrage where we call for signatures about it. That's the future where Trump wins. Think about this.
Trump's crimes will remain protected behind the office of the presidency.
Currently many groups want to rip Trump to shreds for lawbreaking. The state of New York for example. He is currently protected by his office however, and they cannot touch him.
Stripping away that office means that rotten bastard spends the rest of his life in court, watching everything he's built be torn down around him.
Leaving him in office means he'll go most of the rest of his life protected. And with his position set, his predecessor will simply cover for him.
As someone who wants this fuck brought to justice, this matters to me.
Trump being re-elected validates his appointments and actions.
We have a literal fucking white nationalist in the white house, he had advisers who harrassed shooting victims, and gave a racist drug addict the fucking medal of freedom.
This is what you're signing off on helping him get elected. And again, one of the two will win, not helping one is helping the other. That's math, like it or not.
He's currently fucking everything about the pandemic up.
With that heading do you think I mean him downplaying the pandemic causing his supporters to refuse to take it seriously, the theft of medical supplies from hospitals, or stealing from our international allies, or did you think I meant him removing all oversight from the bailout funds so he can do with them what he wants?
The fact that during a fucking pandemic we can't guess which scandal is under this heading should itself be a bit of a warning, no?
The GOP (and foreign groups who support Trump) want to drive down turnout.
Seriously, the GOP's whole strategy is getting you not to vote. They fight against registration, they fight against more voting centers. Their whole battle is to keep you from voting.
Why in the fuck would the right choice be to help them?
They know a low turn out is the only way to win. Conservatives are a minority of the population, but they vote consistently. So getting you to stay home is how they win.
If your analysis of a situation ends with you doing exactly what the people trying to oppose your ideals wants you to do... including foreign groups... that's something you need to think about. They're not on your side, why obey them?
Him winning validates it all.
It tells our international allies that Trump wasn't a mistake, he is America now. America is now a nation not to be trusted, not looked to. It is closer to Russia than Germany internationally.
It shows that all of us on the internet are just noise. Our petitions? Our marches? Irrelevant fucking hippies, just a noisy fringe. Not actual Americans. Real Americans are like those folks on T_D calling low-t soyboys like you cucks.
That's what you're showing the world.
Biden isn't as bad as the internet has convinced you he is.
He's not my first... or second or third... choice. However there is a lot on his platform I don't hate. $15 minimum wage? Getting rid of death penalty? Eliminate private prisons? Some government funded college?
Again, certainly isn't my favored candidate. My personal political position is left to the point that I feel most businesses considered "essential" right now should very likely be nationalized because clearly it's essential for the security of the nation. Healthcare, internet, power, water, etc.
So he's sure as shit not perfect. But he is better.
And once more, because any response is going to inevitably avoid this simple reality: Either Biden or Trump WILL be president. Two possible futures, no more or less. No debate on that fact.
If you're discouraging people from voting for Biden, you are campaigning for Trump. They're the same thing.
If you want to talk about the morality of it, you should think about the people your inaction hurts. Because that is still a choice you've made to help keep Trump in office. Exactly like the GOP wants you to.
Dad-level contributor Madison Bailey
Aries & Taurus - Happy Birthday, Idiots. Bet when you picked your birthday 20+ years ago you didn't think about the 2020 end of the world predictions in March-May. Spring is supposed to be the best! Not too hot, not too cold, all you need is a light jacket! SIKE you have to spend your birthday alone actually answering all of those hbd calls and texts because everyone knows you have nothing better to do. Hope you enjoy last min Amazon gifts carrying COVID-19 a la Anthrax-2001 or, more likely, no gifts at all. Honestly, this may be your best birthday yet because you'll have no expectations and therefore won't be inevitably disappointed. Don't forget to shame everyone into feeling badly for you.
Gemini - Make sure to take some time for yourself, Gemini. After being cooped up for the past month you haven't been able to explore all of your personalities, having to stick to your true self instead :/ Zoom some people so you can show off how well you're doing.
Cancer - Chill tf out dude. You've been so focused on being "productive" you haven't been able to finish that show you started in January and now have stress breakouts. I promise it'll all be okay if you lay on the couch and don't speak to anyone for a full 24 hours.
Leo - Isolation has been tough - your partner isn't doing a whole lot to inflate your already giant ego. Make sure to pick a fight to assert dominance and provide some entertainment. If you haven't cut off the sleeves of an old t-shirt to make a tank top yet, are you really succeeding? Do that, too.
Virgo - Does anyone actually know a Virgo? They wouldn't read this, so if you do, tell them they're f***ed.
Libra - How are you so dang good at this? On the outside, you're doing alllll the things: sanitizing, chilling out, masking, relaxing, staying cool, shooting some b-ball for exercise... yet, there's still something missing. Did you lose your soul? When did you lose control? If you stop doing these things, will your life fall apart? Probably. Just focus. Maybe reach out to your bro for support.
Scorpio - You are THRIVING. You've always been a loner and this is what you've been preparing for your whole life. There's no need for human contact because you have everything you need. You're the one hoarding all of the toilet paper. You TOLD everyone this was going to happen. Stay in your bunker doing research to freak yourself out. That's the only way to get through this.
Sagittarius - Probably time to refund those plane tickets you bought a month ago because they were SO CHEAP due to this virus that definitely wouldn't affect you or still be a thing by the time your trip rolled around. Instead, rent an AirBnB, invite 10ish of your friends (CDC guidelines aren't important) since you have extra ca$h laying around unlike the rest of us. You're really just providing charity at this point. Thank you.
Capricorn - Times of uncertainty are the worst for you, Cap. Set some short term goals to keep you from having a mental breakdown. For example, post Instagram stories documenting every detail of your day. Show the world how to cook a healthy meal, organize efficiently, flex a matching lounge set, and dance to that super popular TikTok song. This isn't what the world wants right now, it's what it NEEDS.
Aquarius - The only person you have to talk to right now is your cat and it's starting to get really annoying that she's not listening. You've also raised $726 for PPE at your local hospital, but they told you they can't accept donations in the form of JC Penny gift cards or IOUs (you needed to pay your rent, okay???) which is honestly just disrespectful at this point and pissing you off more than your cat. Screw the hospital and buy yourself some slippers at JC Penny.
Pisces - How many times have you opened Instagram today? You know you're a sucker for those targeted ads and should probably not be online shopping when you don't have a paycheck right now. Maybe put a time limit on screen time and learn how to read a physical book or something. Also that psychic that said you were going to get into a tragic accident this month is most likely wrong, right?
K.K. Slider bar mitzvah impersonator-level contributor Matt Spradling
Instead of linking spotify playlists which I'm pretty sure are just for me, I'm instead going to start using youtube links to include quality music videos, dope live performances, etc. because nothing matters.
John Prine - Crazy as a Loon
Fare thee well. Prine sort of feels like a musical grandfather - the songwriter all your favorite songwriters looked up to. This is the song of his that has stuck with me over the years and is possibly the first actual country song I allowed myself to like.
Frank Ocean - Solo
What can you say about Frank? Maybe not much other than God give me his voice. There's a purity and sweetness to his tracks. Fresh sheets and buttered toast and all that.
Vulfpeck - Animal Spirits
Pure musicianship. This show is more or less the most energetic and joyful thing I've seen in months. Via Alex.
M. Ward - Torch
Quality new release from the Monster of Folk. If you're not familiar with M. Ward, extended isolation is the perfect time to sift through his catalogue. Casts spells with his finger-picking.
Car Seat Headrest - Martin
About the upcoming new album, Will Toledo wrote: "I was listening less and less to albums and more and more to individual songs, songs from all over the place, every few days finding a new one that seemed to have a special energy. I thought that if I could make an album full of songs that had a special energy, each one unique and different in its vision, then that would be a good thing." To me that just sounds like a dumb roundabout way of saying "what if they were all bangers".
Car Seat Headrest - Vincent
One of those that took time to click but has been my chief commute staple since January. A shining example of slowly building rhythms and bursting, gratifying choruses, although the official video is strangely abridged.
Phoebe Bridgers - Garden Song
Sam insists this song is about murdering your nazi neighbor and burying them in your garden but at any rate I find the stuttering sound soft and soothing.
Mick Gordon - Rip & Tear
The 2016 remake of the game Doom has been a quality outlet for pent up rage and violence during this time. It's like $10. Do recommend.
Arcade Fire - Creature Comfort
Honestly I hated Arcade Fire's last album and feel they've been on a steady decline for a while, if not forever. This song is undeniably groovy though. I might just be a sucker for synths. What can I say, Hot Fuss was big when I was in middle school.
Conor Oberst - Till St. Dymphna Kicks Us Out
One of my favorites from Conor's most recent bout of solo work. Great in both its stripped down, truly solo version from Ruminations and its full-band version from the Felice Brothers-backed subsequent project Salutations.
Also, Samurai-level contributor Sam Strohmeyer has crafted a playlist titled good brain chemicals which she promises elicits exactly that. Give it a spin if my dirges about alcoholism aren't your particular Friday afternoon taste.