Issue 23   05/01/20


  • Hot Boy Summer
  • Book Report: Far Too Much Cormac McCarthy
  • The Dark Secret of Animal Crossing Zoology
  • What I Wrote This Week Was Too Sad so Instead I Made a Matt Spradling Alignment Chart

  • Tips for Socially Distanced Running
  • Testosteronie
  • Dear Sam
  • Office Chart

Hot Boy Summer

Boy-level contributor Matt Spradling

I, like many of you, have encountered something strange over the last year or so. No, I don't mean the icky body stuff from China, or even the disorienting experience of finding myself either an inch taller or shorter than usual almost daily upon entering my kitchen and seemingly at random, and also not the really sweet body stuff from China. No, I'm referring to the hot girl summer.

You've heard of this - your friend ditches a date because she's busy learning the full choreography of the "Oops I Did It Again" video with full replica costume? Hot girl summer. Ditching the sunscreen because Steve is already out on the waves and melanoma is a winter malady? Hot girl summer. Going horseback riding on a Thursday evening with an exam on Friday because it's not even summer? Yes, still hot girl summer.

You see, the hot girl summer is not confined by the feeble Western calendar, or even constrained by the corporeal form of the (by definition hot) girl in question - no, dear reader, it is more than that, it is a state of being, a summer of the soul, and it stinks of stale vodka sweat and cheeto dust but also freedom - pure ideological freedom. What started as a radio hit by Houston rapper Megan Thee Stallion has evolved into a cultural awakening, the logical conclusion of over a dozen philosophies and the unscrewing of the lynchpin which manacled a generation's sticky, club-stamped wrists.

Naturally, upon learning of this I became first envious and then indignant: why should I be nominally outright restricted from the last of the 2010s' great achievements? Why should I, the white man, not experience such an unfettering of the so-stiff mind and spirit? In which dark and dusty corner of the zeitgeist was I to find my own deliverance of equal or greater value - my hot boy summer?

But what truly sets apart the boys and girls in a clear and measurable way during a time in which gender debates prove so derisive? Is it, perhaps, the ability to beat me up? No, that category is potentially highly inclusive. A propensity for drinking, or specific taste in alcohol? Again, no (source: instagram, and also reality.) I needed something truly polarizing, a benchmark which splits hard lines without settling into lazy and outdated stereotypes, something evocative yet data-driven.

That benchmark was Cormac McCarthy.

Admittedly, a sample size of roughly a dozen subjects is atypically small; however, the Newsletter's zero-tolerance stance on doing actual work has been well-established and I don't intend to infringe upon my own traditions in this economy. So we're left with who I happen to know, and we're left with Cormac McCarthy, an author who I repeatedly find adored by the men I know who have tried him but reviled by the women I know with no currently known exceptions.

Granted, this is typically discovered in regards to The Road specifically because it is the most prominent to spot on bookshelves and probably the most widely known and read. I would argue, however, that this is fine for my purposes because while The Road is unique in being the only speculative novel of McCarthy's mainstream works, it is perhaps the purest distillation of his style and probably the most extreme, so it's a good stress test.

Regardless of the details, my dusty path to salvation was clear and laid out before me, and I had little choice but to begin my hot night of the boy soul:

Book Report: Far Too Much Cormac McCarthy

Friend with unemployment benefits-level contributor Matt Spradling

Prior to this by several years I'd already read The Road and Blood Meridian, which, woof. Those two vary wildly in terms of accessibility but not in terms of how weird they feel to read on the bus every day. Just real breezy summer reads, good for pairing with mimosas. Perhaps I was already near to my ultimate goal. And so, I read these four books in as many weeks.

No Country For Old Men

This, it turns out, was originally begun as a screenplay before changing to a novel, and then when it was made into a Coen brothers film the year after publication was adapted almost shot for shot, so I already knew the gist of it. From what I've read about him, it doesn't seem like McCarthy ever lived in Texas for a significant amount of time, but if that's the case then it's bizarre how accurately he gets the old-timer lingo and carriage. My grandpa was a sheriff in the West Texas town both my parents are from for most of his life so it was strange reading a sort of facsimile of that as arguably the main character. I guess this alongside The Grapes of Wrath forms a sort of heritage vignette for my family, although this makes for a fairly gruesome entry on that shelf.

I actually highly recommend this one. It flies by and isn't as rough around the edges as other McCarthy novels or even incredibly bleak - just pretty bleak. Plus I think the "good old boy" cut of person is something we definitely tend to lump into a box along with a lot of preconceived notions, but Sheriff Bell's portrayal sheds a lot of light into this and is probably far more relatable than you'd guess.

All The Pretty Horses

With my warm-up out of the way, and already slipping into that family accent that always lurks down beneath the surface of everyone, replete with rustic aphorisms, I was ready to begin my work in earnest. No longer did I plan which book I was going to read next; my new weekly habit was to sidle up to that dimly-lit M shelf in Book People and just see which one fell off onto me.

I think it's fair to refer to the Border Trilogy (of which this is the first entry) as the Emo Cowboy trilogy. 16-year old friends around 1940 or so decide they could use a change of scenery and run away to Mexico where deadly hijinks bookend a part two that paints a surprisingly lovely portrait of life on a hacienda breaking horses for a meager living, with a dash of steamy farm romance to boot. One of those books that is profoundly moving but not for any particular or traceable reason. It was also at this point in my journey I remembered I've been a horse girl deep down ever since The Two Towers came out in 2002.

The Crossing

I'm wearing boots now, which I work to keep clean. I drive up and down the lilting curves of North Lamar with detached peace. It's fine if dust blows in through the windows and it's fine that it's too hot for the month that it is and I don't care which song comes on next. I no longer care if a sentence goes on walkabout and quotation marks are a forgotten dream. I feel deep in my bones that it is good for wounds to rub dirt into them. Life is tenuous but good. Suspiciously good.

This book has almost no connection with All The Pretty Horses except that they're structured very similarly: a stoic, angsty young man who's good with horses travels to Mexico (the representation of death/unconscious/chaos/the lower half of the wheel of universal story structure if you subscribe to Dan Harmon's Channel 101 which is a super good read if you're interested in storytelling in any capacity) where he gets in over his head before wandering aimlessly for a long time and eventually returning to America changed. Drags more than the first book but also has a wolf in it.

Cities Of The Plain

I no longer mind if my boots get beaten up. I do what I do, but how long can it last? What before was loved now poses veiled threats, and what is loved now is profoundly unknowable and intractable beneath hazy neon signage. The world is changing and the world is shrinking as it dries up, encroaching upon what green lands are left between the dust and the asphalt, a cataclysmic erasure before God and everyone.

A landscape of low shacks of tin and cratewood here on the outskirts of the city. Barren dirt and gravel lots and beyond them the plains of sage and creosote. Roosters are calling and the air smells of burning charcoal. I take my bearings by the gray light to the east and set out toward the city. In the cold dawn the lights are still burning out there under the dark cape of the mountains with that precious insularity common to cities of the desert. A man is coming down the road driving a donkey piled high with firewood. In the distance the churchbells begin. The man smiles at me a sly smile. As if we know a secret between us, we two. Something of age and youth and their claims and the justice of those claims. And of the claims upon them. The world past, the world to come. Their common transiencies. Above all a knowing deep in the bone that beauty and loss are one.

I am stabbed through the gut in a fight I started with good reason but also no reason at all. It is here, bleeding through my hands into the wet dirt, that it finds me at the last: hot boy summer. I die at peace and with a Lone Star in my gnarled hand.

The Dark Secret of Animal Crossing Zoology

Muckraker-level contributor Marina Martinez

I normally hate when people try ruining my good wholesome fun with highly implausible conspiracy theories that hint at dark, creepypasta undertones. Like, let me enjoy my pastel cartoon about love and friendship without getting weird, Gerald. I mention this because, regretfully, I have to ruin something near and dear to every Switch owner during this trying time: Animal Crossing. Well maybe 'ruin' is a bit extreme, but I am going to spend the following paragraphs pointing out some really unsettling things that will make you rethink the premise and ultimate goal of the game. So...buckle up.

Look, you and I both know that a large percentage of our collective mental health has been hinging on Animal Crossing: New Horizons since the game was released over a month ago on March 20. In case you've somehow managed to escape the latest New Horizons craze, the premise is basically this: you've signed up to settle an uninhabited island in the hemisphere of your choosing with some talking animals, and somehow you're suckered into establishing, running, and improving the island and subsequent community by yourself. I apologize if that description comes off sounding negative - I absolutely love it. My island, Bean Port, has a lovely residential district, a flag of Karl Marx, an exotic fruit orchard, and a community park, none of which could've been possible if I didn't rule my island with an iron fist and a tarantula-filled inventory. In the past few weeks, I have grown quite fond of all of my fellow Bean Portians, but there's one fact I can't ignore. One that haunts me.

My villagers, who wear clothes and live in houses and speak English, aren't the only animals on the island. [insert LOST dramatic cliffhanger music sting]

One enjoyable aspect of the game is collecting wildlife specimens from around your environment and donating them to the museum, run by the love of my life, Blathers the owl. He is afraid of insects and apparently has enough doctorates to identify said insects - as well as various fish, fossils, and works of art you can donate - on sight while also single-handedly running the whole dang museum. It's a very cute and scientifically-worthy endeavor, this museum, but there's something distinctly off about it all. Namely, the fossil wing (which is also the basement - they are not trying to be subtle with how creepy you should find this).

Let me preface this by saying that I have a degree (somehow) from studying a lot of evolution-related stuff, so it made me very happy to see that the initially sketchy museum basement was laid out like a giant phylogenetic tree of sorts. Basically, every fossil that you find and donate is displayed from the oldest fossils - the largest common genetic denominators - and trickles down the eras and taxa to present-day species, displaying all sorts of vertebrates and dinosaurs and a really cool mosquito trapped in some amber along the way. In short, Blathers and the game designers did their research and it's cool as all get out. The room off to the side even has a cool walk-through feature that displays the ancestors of all the species of villagers you might have on your island and how they all branched out as they evolved. There's a blank spot at the end where you can stand, representing homo sapien. Science! Love it! Right?


I have purchased both an anatomical model and skeleton from Nook's Cranny in the past month for my cool in-home science lab, but I realized something troubling. My purchases, much like the other items and furniture in the game, look nearly identical to their real-life equivalents. But the museum made the clear statement that I, the stylized cartoon villager, am what a human looks like in Animal Crossing. But if I'M human...what monstrosities stare at me from along the walls of my lab? Am I human or...something else? Homo floresiensis????

I warned you. I warned you.

I have in my house currently: a hamster cage (including active lil hamster on a wheel), a birdcage (a cute lil parrot I've named Alfred), a cat tree (sans cat), and a litter box (sans the stuff you find in litter boxes). Some of my current villagers are: a hamster (that is probably a Redditor), 4 different birds (not including Blathers, a possible conspirator), and a cat (whom I love). Do you? See? The problem?? We're in a classic 'Goofy and Pluto are both dogs in the same universe' scenario: why has this fun, easy-going children's game gifted me fun, anthropomorphic friends while simultaneously giving me canonical proof that their species also exist as the less evolved pets we know and love? Why declare that I, the Resident Representative of Bean Port, am human via super cool museum exhibit, but then turn around and sell me scientifically accurate models that are a foot taller and have actual hands and not just spheres that can grasp things somehow? WHAT IS THE TRUTH HERE???

By the time you're reading this, it is entirely possible that Tom Nook has already found me and eliminated the threat. It's possible that you're next because you now know too much. He doesn't want the truth getting out, and frankly, I don't blame him. How is he supposed to lure more unsuspecting people to deserted islands all over the world and trick them into a cycle of debt that only ends once he builds you a basement, probably to reenact the Saw franchise in? Knowing this, knowing that a Japanese raccoon dog/trickster spirit is hunting me down with a Remington 7600, I still think it's important that you consider the implications of what I've laid out before you. I don't know whether New Horizons exists in some sort of alternate universe, or whether it's some sort of post-apocalyptic future dystopia disguised as a utopia (which is maybe the plot of Adventure Time? I've never seen the show). Maybe Tom Nook is actually an alien that has us all under some psychic trance while he conducts experiments and he made one too many mistakes. There's no way to be sure. All I know is that I'm not the first person to have this realization, I hope I won't be the last, and that this would be an excellent addition to the Night at the Museum cinematic universe. Don't fear the unknown, and don't keep quiet about what you've witnessed today. Even the villagers know something is up. Nook can't keep us all quiet forever.

What I Wrote This Week Was Too Sad so Instead I Made a Matt Spradling Alignment Chart

Waffle Good-level contributor Sam Strohmeyer

Tips for Socially Distanced Running

Interloper-level contributor Louisa Diaz

Recently Matt asked me for some advice to help him deal with strangers running too close to him. As a fellow recreational runner, I offered to give him some pointers and subsequently test and review a few new strategies for forced distancing on the streets. This was supposed to be that review. That is until I discovered FIFA on my Nintendo switch.

First, some background: my sweet boyfriend, Jordan, bought this switch for the purpose of playing Animal Crossing (I think at this point we can agree this was a reasonable and completely justifiable purchase.) Since then I have commandeered his island and turned his avatar into a likeness of myself. I have also learned to make hedges, and have been using that power for evil, but that is a story for another day.

This weekend, in the spirit of lightheartedness and in an attempt to play something wholesome together, Jordan and I played FIFA. His was a team with yellow jerseys, and the announcers kept screaming "Dybalaaa!", which is apparently a person. My team wore red and I sipped grapefruit juice and gin. I know a lot about a number of professional sports, but soccer is not one of them. With that in mind and as a complete affront to all of Matt's refined sensibilities, I present you with a comprehensive review of soccer as a game, seen through the clear and unbiased lens of FIFA for Nintendo.

First and most problematic, offsides. I was called for it frequently, and yet no one cared to explain to me why my striker couldn't hang out with the other team's goalie and ask him about his grandmother's traditional Portuguese recipes. I thought this game was supposed to bridge international borders!

Secondly, tackling. It seems straightforward enough: you have the ball and I want it, so I take it at any cost. Apparently there are a lot of costs associated with doing this, like being removed from the game. It seems a lot of celebratory tackling goes unpunished amid a chorus of "GOAL GOAL GOAL." Perhaps I should try shouting that when I slide gracefully into the legs of a player who has already passed the ball.

Use of hands. I can't use them? Fine. But don't muddy the waters by letting the opposing team chuck the ball over their heads from the sideline every time I arc it into the stands. Let the good people keep it for godssake! We all know the best part of anyone's childhood is getting the wind knocked out of them by a highly inflated ball composed of small octagons in front of a live TV audience. The very least we can do is let the kid keep the ball.

If no one can use their hands, the goalie shouldn't be able to either. Give that man a bat.

In conclusion, FIFA for Nintendo, and therefore soccer as whole, is inherently flawed for the reasons outlined above, but is a reasonably good time. Especially if you are a man. I hear the pay is good.

12 Radical Tips For Increasing Testosterone

Gladiator-level contributor Mattt Spradman

What's up, dude? Ready for a new lease on life? Ready to get ripped, take charge, and say look at me now Deborah without crying? Then buckle up, but don't, because seatbelts are for the weak, and that's not you anymore. Now you are the unweak.

  1. First thing's first: NEVER refer to it as testosteronie. Each instance of this will set you back 3-5 days' progress. I called it that day one and my buddy Derrick did not like it.
  2. Diet: increase consumption of dietary fats, lean protein, and nuts? Nope. Don't believe what you read. Eat KFC or Chili's every day. Drink only enough water to survive for vague training purposes. Hit on the Chili's host regardless of gender for vague training purposes.
  3. Exercise regularly, but not too regularly. You're in charge here. Keep your foolish body off balance by never settling into an identifiable schedule.
  4. Do push-ups and don't do anything that isn't push-ups. If you have enough vigor and virility, the effects of your push-ups will trickle down through the entire body. 
  5. Remember, quantity over quality. Listen to your soul, not "experts." Flopping, twisting, and bending only engages more of your body per up pushed.
  6. While you're spending more time on the ground, sprinkle diatomaceous earth around your home for two reasons. First, living in dirt will help you tap into your primal unconscious nature. Second, this will keep bugs out, and hunting bugs is for cats, obvious low-T animals. Just go ahead and get a dog and go ahead and stop bathing (•_•)(•_•)>⌐■-■ (⌐■_■)
  7. Now you should start to see immediate results with these strategies, so at this point, you should already be seeing results with these strategies. Your family and friends may notice the change in you too with these strategies, but don't worry if they seem concerned. They don't understand you or know what's best for you; they don't bear the weight of your golf shirts and they don't know what it's like to be appointed by GOD as the decision maker.
  8. Make smoothies every day. Include things like milk, nuts, diatomaceous earth, and whichever fresh vegs are best to prominently display in your shopping bag. Remember to discuss their health benefits with the scared cashier while subtly flexing.
  9. If your wife tells you she's worried about you, that's code for "keep going and no need to communicate."
  10. Boosting testosterone is all about successfully overcoming challenges. Set yourself goals that you can smash every day. Maybe that means getting crazy and doing one extra push-up (11), or taking your car apart. Easter is coming up; go on a rampage and get all the eggs.
  11. Talk deeper and louder. If the whole convenience store doesn't know what type of vape refill you're getting, you're doing it wrong. Look up special exercises that will get you shredded in your deep throat.
  12. At this point you will have alienated your family who has most likely moved out. This is normal and natural and don't get hung up on it. In fact, it's a sign you're on the right path. The righteous path. Now is your time to shine even though you don't have a job and you don't know the password to the account you use to pay your mortgage.

Wow, what a week. Week One was all about forming new habits and laying the groundwork for your impending successes. Come back for Week Two where we'll discuss attorneys, decorative Hemingway, and the single most important, oft-overlooked thing: spending an hour a day exposing your testicles to a large screen playing footage of wild animals killing and devouring prey. Ciao, bros. 

Dear Sam

Deer-level contributor Sam Strohmeyer

Dear Sam,

I'm struggling to cope with the uncertainty about when and how things will return to "normal." How can I learn to deal with the unknown?

Worried in Washington

Dear Worried,

The good news is that nothing was ever certain and we were just operating under the illusion that it was. Or maybe that's the bad news? It's definitely news either way. Go ahead and stop reading the news. Read this instead.

Happy Hunting! *wink*



Dear Sam,

My roommate eats all of my cheese. I've confronted him several times but he doesn't seem to care. How can I get him to leave my cheddar alone?

Dairy-lover in Denver

Dear Dairy Lover,

You're going to have to break him mentally, emotionally and physically if you really want him to stop. The excess cheese he's eating will probably take care of the physical part so that's easy. I think pouring a crockpot of hot queso on him in the middle of the night should take care of the other two.

Gouda Luck!



Dear Sam,

What is the meaning of life?

Existential in England

Dear Existential,

The meaning of life is to share the gifts you've been given, whatever they may be, with the world in order to offset the suffering that burdens us all. And also to watch this lovely Korean woman do simple daily activities.

Stay grounded, friend!


Office Chart

Moby - Pale Horses

I don't listen to much Moby anymore, but this album, Wait for Me, is some of my favorite (mostly) ambient music and it wasn't on spotify for a while but it is now. I normally don't care much about ambient music but this material finds a way to hook me by the emotions, like a nice sunset, or a big fucking hook. Great for sci-fi moods and working late at night.  -Matt

Laura Stevenson - Living Room, NY

Do you ever hear a song and immediately think to yourself, oh, this is my shit? This song is gorgeous and warm and the way Laura's voice and guitar combine gives me goosebumps every time. It's about wanting to be with the one you love after a long separation so if you are living that reality right now be ready to have a good sob sesh.  -Sam

The National - Baby We'll Be Fine

This week's Sad Banger is my favorite older (kinda) National song. As an album, I think Alligator is great at having some quintessential National lyrics that seem like nonsense on paper but manage to be very evocative of a particular mood when performed (also see "Geese of Beverly Road".) And while we're at it I guess it's also the quintessential album for white-dude-who's-angsty-about-his-middle-class-office-job lyrics that are somehow endearing.  -Matt

Beach Bunny - Dream Boy

Listening to Beach Bunny often feels like being transported into a cinematic version of your teen years, like if John Hughes had written/directed your sophomore year of high school. He left all of the angst in the script but he added a romantic plotline that didn't happen in real life because you spent most of that year hand-writing Doctor Who fanfiction and eating raw cookie dough.  -Sam

Hozier - Shrike

tbh I was originally going to go with "Common Tongue" but there were no good live performances of it on youtube.  -Matt

Car Seat Headrest - My Boy (Twin Fantasy)

Alex went to sleep drunk too early to submit anything tonight so this is dedicated to him.  -Matt

Dixie Chicks - Gaslighter

Friends, it's time we started talking about the Dixie Chicks again. Their music provides many life lessons, like how you sometimes need to make mistakes to find your true path and how if a man hits you, you can and should murder him. "Gaslighter" teaches us that revenge is best served as a chart-topping comeback single.  -Sam 

Sia - Chandelier

"I'm gonna fly like a bird from the night" are you fucking kidding me write that on my tits with a sharpie and run me over with your car.  -Matt

Ena Da - Cowboy Rap

Here it is, y'all! THE song of summer 2020. I can't wait to blast this with the wind in my hair, going 90 MPH as I ride side saddle on my horse, Joshua.  -Sam

The Strokes - At The Door

It took a bit before I came to like the new Strokes album (he said like someone who knew more than five Strokes songs before) but I loved this one immediately and the video is gorgeous. I re-downloaded Destiny 2 this week because I'm a masochist and the album makes for a good soundtrack while staring at beautiful loading screens for ten minutes between rounds of getting bullied by teens.  -Matt


Banner - Stanley Donwood & Dr. Tchock - The King of Limbs Newspaper pages 12-13

Salad - the porn meme

Alignment chart - the meme-maker thing was trash so Sam literally made this from scratch and she is a god

Hozier tumblr